Farewell, Quietude

It’s been a longer than normal lapse between posts here. Truth be told, there’s just been a lot happening here. We reached our necessary hours for our homeschool and are marching toward wrapping up our main subjects. I joined a local Rotary club in January and I’ve been helping to organize a fundraiser event at the end of this month. We’re planning and organizing an upcoming vacation. We’ve been attending puppy manners classes with the Bear and working hard to drive home good manners in him as he’s topped 70lbs at his ripe old age of 5.5 months (we’re being told he may not reach full-size until 18months). And a bunch of other things are in the works. Suffice to say, we’ve had a lot of things in motion at the same time and it’s left me with little extra energy.

Perhaps as significant has been that we’ve started to see a real shift toward spring. Granted you wouldn’t know it today as we awoke to 6 or 8″ of fresh snow yesterday and then it rained ice all day. Walking the dog and shoveling was sort of like what I would imagine microdermabrasion to be like, but less pleasant. Alas, spring is springing even if there is currently fresh snow on the ground. The birds are coming back and singing their hearts out. And while I love the birds and all the sounds of nature and the life that is present in summer, there is always a part of me that feels wildly overwhelmed this time of year. Don’t get me wrong, it has been a long winter here and I’m ready for the warmth of the sun, the birds singing me awake each morning, and being able to just go out and enjoy the fresh air without my protective layers of wool and down. As an introvert through and through, though, I am always a little sad when the quiet respite of winter and all its solitude is ending for the season and a little overwhelmed by the constant busy-ness of spring. But I digress.

As a family, we have managed to enjoy some fresh air and, of course, the blues and neutrals of this time of year are beautiful.

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Even if the wind off the icy water is still awfully brisk.

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And this guy is pretty happy with the change in the weather. He is not a huge fan of the bitter cold or the deep snow, so we will often let him stay home if it’s not weather he’ll enjoy, but he loves the cool days where he can get a good hike in.img_6606We’ve been taking Bear out whenever we can, too. With his heavy coat he is much more of a lover of winter and we’ve been taking advantage of that and exposing him to new a lot of new experiences while the trails are still relatively people-free. We’ve been working through a fear stage with him — basically if he’s not familiar with something, he is afraid and barks at it. We’re told it’s very normal at his age and thanks to some guidance in our manners class and a whole lot of time and patience, he’s been showing remarkable improvement and is growing in confidence daily.

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All that work is pretty exhausting for li’l Bear though.

On one of our hikes, we spotted this guy….

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Oh, how I do love a good porcupine sighting!

And on another…

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Moose looked particularly stoic and handsome.

And after one very rainy walk…

Bear did a pretty epic impersonation of Puss in Boots. He wound up getting a bath after this that he did not like at all, but upon his release from the bathroom, he then got wildly excited when Moose jumped in the tub and requested a bath for himself. I was soaked and ready for a nap after that.

 I’ve still found time for some knitting and I’ve been wholly addicted to my latest sweater knit, Tanis Lavallee’s French Braid Cardigan.

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Usually I steer clear of variegated yarn with cables, but I had a feeling this one would be all right.

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And I adore it. I mean, just look at that main cable! The yarn is also a Tanis Fiber Arts creation, their Pure Wash Worsted in the Driftwood colorway. I bought it a while back on a whim during one of their Boxing Day sales and I am really overly excited about the fact that it is working so well with this pattern. The construction is unique in that you are working the front panel right along with the rest of the sweater. It’s the first knit in a long time that I will actually cut time out of my spinning for the pure joy of working on it. 57650553472__a8880bf4-358c-4e93-8de4-05fe07760452

I even snuck a glorious 30minutes of this with the sweater and my boys one morning when Mr. Knitting Sarah had to work early this week. It was incredible.

I have been spinning as well. One project is under wraps as it’s a test spin to check out a colorway and I’m nearly done with it. It involves some attempts to take some video while I spin, so it’s been touch and go time-wise as I work with moody lighting situations. My other main project has been spinning singles for the chain plying Skill Builder in the Three Waters Farm group and I just finished them up last night!

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I have to double check, but I’m fairly certain this is the March TWF Top of the Month Club colorway, Spring Loves Caprice. I’m very much looking forward to plying this soon!

We had a bit of a rough night last night as poor Bear had an upset stomach, so he and I were up every couple hours to make a trip outside. Poor guy! We are both pretty tuckered and I’m hoping for a quiet weekend ahead with some relaxing walks, easy on the chores, and with a fair bit of relaxation. I’m not sure, frankly, if it would be better just to get out there and embrace the spring time hubbub in a baptism of fire or if easing my way into it is better. Whatever the case, time and seasons and all the changes that are coming will keep on coming. I will do my best to meet them, to bid a graceful farewell to the quietude of winter and the embrace all that is on the horizon. Thankfully, I’ve got a killer knit and some colorful spins to help ease me through the transition.

 

Spring in Wisconsin

Just a couple days ago I was sharing images of sunshine and open water and praising the oh-so-glorious vitamin D rich day. And this morning, we awoke to this…

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That’s a solid 8″ of fresh snow (our neighbor measured!), the first 2″ of which turned into ultra-compacted slush when it hit the warm-ish spring ground. I know because my son and I shoveled it! Fellow snow aficionados out there will know that snow that has a layer of slush next to the ground is the toughest to move because not only is it heavy, but it also likes to stick to your shovel. This means that with every scoop and dump of the shovel, you need to add a “thump” as you need to smack the shovel against the ground to get the sticky bottom layer of snow off.

This could have taken a very long span of back-breaking labor which my son & I were settling in for, but for our wonderful, wonderful neighbor who came over and helped us dig out with his snowblower, a fact for which I will forever be grateful. Coincidentally, I am pretty sure the time has come for a snow blower to reside in my own garage, even if just for the couple times a year we have this kind of snow. That heavy snow is just… heavy and I’m not the youngster I once was!

In any case, if this isn’t exciting enough for mid-April, we are bracing ourselves for the potential of 9-12″ more between now and Monday morning. I’m happy to share that I did manage to run to the grocery store yesterday and grab the couple of essentials we were low on, so beyond clearing the driveway so Mr. Knitting Sarah can get back home after work and possibly filling bird feeders, I will be cozying up at home. Welcome to spring in Wisconsin!

I’m prepared, of course. I’ve got my new Making magazine to peruse…

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And just a few rows left in my special handspun knitting project…

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Isn’t that border looking nice?!

And then I’ll be digging in to a new spinning project. Long draw is on my agenda, but I may spin up a quick worsted weight single first to get reacquainted with that slow treadle on the big whorl speed before getting back into the long draw. I’ve got a new technique I’m going to try with it and I’ve been looking forward to it for a long time, so I’m very excited to get spinning!

While I’m sipping hot coffee out of the wind and snow, I haven’t forgotten the Peregrine Falcons on the nest I shared in my last post. This kind of weather is hard on this little family…

imageAs evidenced by this snapshot of  poor bird around 11pm last night. I usually turn the live feed on in the morning while I wake up and get ready and this morning through the snow I watched this exceptional pair of birds make the quickest tag-off on the eggs I’ve ever witnessed. I heard one of them call from off screen, the bird on the eggs called back, took off, and less than 5 second later the second bird was settled down on the eggs.

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Such good parents already! Send warm thoughts their way — they are going to need them tonight!

Stay warm, stay dry, stay safe, my friends!

Busy as a Bee

As spring slowly starts to wake-up here, we’re treated too all the glorious signs of spring. My spinning wheel overlooks our Nanking cherry bushes which have bloomed and I’m lucky in that as I spin I get to watch bees as they float from flower to flower. I can’t help but relate to the bees. As the days grow in length, the sun climbs higher in the sky, and the temperatures warm up I’m invigorated and am compelled to flit about, making plans, and trying to make the most of each sunny afternoon. In bursts I’ve started cleaning up the yard and making plans for some improvements. The cleaning products have been inventories and lists for a nice thorough spring clean for the house have been drawn up. I’ve put off mowing the lawn, but that will have to be addressed sooner than later, too.

And then there’s the arena that is my craft. True to form, I’m busy as a bee in that department, too. Let’s start with knitting, shall we?

img_2971My beautiful Veleta top just needs to be seamed. From Louet’s wonderful Spring Collection, this is knit in Louet’s Euroflax Sport. Since machine washing drastically softens the linen, I ran this through my washer on the delicate cycle before pinning it out to dry on the blocking matts. It’s well on it’s way to being soft as butter. I’m hoping to steal an hour or so to sew it up this weekend.

img_2964And I’m past the gusset shaping of my second handspun sock. This has been my during school/at the playground/in the car project, so I haven’t been moving too too quickly on it, but I’m getting there. It’s such a fun knit for me as I watch my handspun labors take shape that I’m honestly in no rush to finish this project.

img_2969And then I have this project waiting in the wings. I had hoped to knit up a sweater with my giant 1100 yard fingering weight skein of handspun from last month for the Laura Aylor SAL + KAL in the Three Waters Farm Ravelry Group, but I’ve accepted that time is not on my side at the moment. The pattern was a little more complex than was realistic for the spring and summer for me so as I’m desperate to participate, I started thinking about what else I could make. After my daughter stole my fingerless mitts on one of our last hikes, I found the adorable Spiced Cocoa mitts and this yarn that I spun a couple months ago. If I make the small, they’ll be a little big for her, but since she’s growing like a weed that’s probably for the best. She’s OKed the project (it’s important to get permission with an 8-year-old diva), so all that’s left to do is wind the yarn and get started.

In my spinning world, I got some very exciting news this week. Akerworks is developing a new Flat Pack Lazy Kate and I was chosen to be one of the testers for it! I invested in some Akerworks Flat Pack Bobbins when my hubby got me the travel bag for my wheel and I’ve been really, really impressed with the quality as well as how much room they save me so when I saw this Kate in the works I jumped on that sign-up sheet & crossed my fingers and toes. They said they are making them to order right now, but that I should see it sometime in the next couple weeks. I’ll be focusing my review and thoughts in the testing thread while I put it through its paces, but rest assured that a full review will be available in due time.

As you can imagine, while I wait for the Kate to arrive I’m on a mission to spin singles for plying!

img_2967I’ve already got this March Top of the Month Club “Spring Spirit” from Three Waters Farm all set for its Navajo plying.

img_2968And yesterday I wrapped up my singles for the January Top of the Month Club (which I put off forever) “Birds in Holly” — it’s destined for a simple 2-ply.

img_2966And I immediately started in on my April Top of the Month Club “Storm Cloud Over Flowers” — this is the first month I had the Silk Club and I’m loving it. I tempted fate a little by pulling out my Very Fast Flyer for this spin. I’ve been what feels like a little slow on the learning curve for this flyer and while this spin definitely has parts that could be more perfect (that aren’t in this photo), the over-twisting issues I had last time and the feeling that I was either a) just holding on for dear life or b) fighting against the wheel — those feelings are all but gone. Not totally, but for the most part I started to feel the right balance and rhythm  with this flyer and that… well, it felt really good. I’ve also been using my little Akerworks Hedgehog Threader as I find it a little easier to use than the Lendrum issued one. Plus, it’s a hedgehog.

img_2965I did a little work on my spindle project today, too. If I hadn’t mentioned it, I picked up these rolag/punis from Naturally Knitty last summer. I love the colors! I’m still pretty slow with my spindles, but I’m certainly practicing!

I’ve also got more than a couple sewing projects that I need to get working on, but let’s not dive down that rabbit hole just now. For now, the sun is shining & warm and this bee’s got some work to do.

That Silver Lining

There’s a delicate dance for all of us who rely on natural light for photographs. For small projects like socks or handspun skeins of yarn I can get a decent photo in almost any weather, but sweaters and larger shawls are more complicated. For me, if I want to get a picture of the whole project that requires larger than about a 2’x2′ space, I need decent weather so I can snap the photo outside. This April in Wisconsin has involved a lot of snow and rain and raining ice and sleet, often in quick succession. It usually does, but ideally there’s a bit more sunshine in between so I can sneak outside to snap some quick photos. I bring this up because I’ve got a sweater & a shawl all ready to share with you and I’m waiting, ever so impatiently, for a break in the weather. Soon, my friends, soon.

In the mean time, I thought I’d share a WIP update because I’ve been attempting to lurch forward a bit in what I’m working on.

I’m ecstatic to report that last night I wrapped up my Three Waters Farm March Top of the Month Club braid.

img_2786Named “Spring Spirit” this certainly is made up of many of the colors I see out my window (although it’s missing the white snow — lol!). I see irises and green grass and the tulips leaves and the first crocuses of the year. I did some playing with the length of color repeats on this spin & plan to n-ply it. If I get the yardage I need, I’m thinking this will be earmarked for a Quaker Lines shawl. With just 4oz and making a 3-ply, I’m not confident I’ll have the yardage though, so we’ll have to wait and see.

Because I like to be ready to hop right into my next spin, before finishing it up I managed to prep my January Top of the Month Club braids, also from Three Waters Farm.

img_2776I’ve been aiming to stay up to date with my club subscription and so far this is the only one I haven’t spun. You know me, I’m not big on loose ends, so to ease my own mind I really had to make this spin happen. There’s an extremely talented spinner named Karen in the Three Waters Farm Ravelry group who is famous for her gorgeous barberpoley skeins and a while back she was kind enough to share how she preps her yarn for maximum barberpoles. I was really indecisive about how to handle this gorgeous colorway, named “Birds in Holly”, so to end my own over-thinking I decided to try my hand at her technique. To see why I’m interested in trying Karen’s technique, please check out her handspun in her Etsy shop. In addition to her handspun yarn, she also has some cute stitch markers and select spinning tools for sale.

This morning after my morning yoga I got right to this new project.

img_2787I’d considered spinning it a little heavier and this Rambouillet is definitely going to be a bit more substantial than the Falkland of ‘Spring Spirit’, but this weight feels right to me so I’m just going with it. I adore the colors already.

In my knitting, I’ve forbidden myself from starting any of the FOUR projects I’m itching to cast-on until I finish my Veleta top from the new Louet Spring Collection. Both sides are knitted identically and I’m a little over halfway through the big stockinette block of the second side.

img_2778So motivated, I even made myself an Americano yesterday after lunch for a little extra boost. As I knew I would, I’m really enjoying knitting with Louet’s Euroflax Sport. I chose to knit this top in Heron Grey with the bottom lace accent in Cream. It has a very old world feel to it that I truly adore.

Last, but certainly not least, I’ve been plugging away at my spindle spinning project.

img_2788I’m definitely still learning how to use this tool efficiently, but I’m very happy to be making progress on this previously stalled out fiber. I’ve been aiming to spin up between 1/2 of a rolag and one full one each day and that seems to be do-able for me.

As I continue to wait for the weather to behave so I can share those FOs, I’ll just keep on keepin’ on with my WIPs as I always do. I suppose the silver lining of the uncooperative weather is that we tend to stay a little closer to home, so I have a tiny bit more time with my knitting & spinning. As I watch the fine snow that is falling outside change to rain and then to ice pellets and then back to snow, I’m going to just keep telling myself to think of that silver lining. Yes, I’m just going to knit & spin my way to more agreeable weather.

Blooms

I had a wonderful end to the week yesterday with a couple really fun classes at Firefly Fibers. Days like yesterday remind me how much I will miss teaching. I am not kidding when I say I have the best students on Earth!

When I got home from work I took the pup out for a few rounds of fetch. I discovered that while I was away, the sun & warmth — not to mention the last few days of rain — allowed a few of our perennials to bloom. I am still waiting on our irises, plum tree, & quince tree, but I do have some blooms to share with you today.

20130504-190423.jpgA tulip that is almost open. My dear pup actually nipped the only open tulip as I was walking up to it — he’s lucky he’s cute!

20130504-190414.jpgThose hyacinths I posted a week or two ago are wide open, so open they are almost waning.

20130504-190406.jpgThe forsythia is blindingly yellow.

20130504-190354.jpgAnd my favourite, the Nanking cherry bushes. I love these dainty little blossoms. I kind of wish they would stay like this all summer.

More life is waking up every day. Today I heard chimney swifts over the house for the first time — a true sign that warm weather is here. Their chittering is an unmistakable sign of spring.  I hung my hummingbird feeder & put out the bird bath. There are bees buzzing around the blossoms and the grass is growing. The only question that is up in the air… when will I need to break out the lawnmower?

Happy Spring!

Tug of War

This last weekend was the first we’ve had that was truly spring-like. Warm & sunny all in the same day. Twice in a row. Needless to say it was incredible & we stayed very busy. On Saturday, the kids & I biked to the library for the first time this year & ate popsicles and played outside until they were exhausted. It was perfect!

Sunday is usually our family day, but this week my husband volunteered to cover part of a shift for a co-worker who had a make-up game to coach. We decided to each take a kid — my husband taking my daughter to work with him leaving me to hang with our son.  At my boy’s request, we started our day by taking our Moose to the dog park. It was very wet from all the rain we’ve had this spring, but wet shoes dry and labs sure do like the water! As soon as Moose saw open water he bounded into it with glee — it was so fun to watch the sheer joy of this pup on his first swim of the year.

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This isn’t the best photo, but you get the idea.

Less fun is the endearing way he is compelled to run back to us after each dive and shake off right next to us, but it is the lone curse of this dog — that I will be wet and filthy pretty much all summer long. He’s lucky he’s so cute & sweet!

20130429-135946.jpgReally, could you be upset with this face?

If the happy dog wasn’t enough, my son & I each managed to almost step on a snake at the park — one Common Garter snake & one Brown snake. My son is crazy for snakes, so these close encounters equaled major excitement for us.  Apparently the dog park had something for everyone this gorgeous Sunday morning!

After a stop for ice cream & a tour of the local pet store we arrived back home & my son opted to ride his scooter for a while. I wandered through my yard & gardens partly to make a mental to-do list for this spring, partly to see what perennials were popping up. I am always excited when my perennials begin sprouting for the year — many of them I have received as hand-me-downs & cuttings from friends that I have split & distributed throughout the yard over the years. In this way, it’s not just lovely plants waking up — like so many things in this life these plants remind me of special people & times in my life so I hold each of them very dear. I snapped some photos to share, of course.

20130428-183126.jpgHyacinth that my husband bought for me a couple anniversaries ago.

20130429-114729.jpgRhubarb that we planted when my daughter was a toddler.

20130429-114743.jpgThis lilac was one of the very first things we planted in our yard when we moved in. It has struggled — as do many things in our yard thanks to a giant black walnut tree on the property line (it isn’t ours — we love the shade, not so much the toxic roots & leaves).

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We have loads of gooseberry bushes which produce fruit prolifically. Mind the giant thorns though — my son kindly removed one from my leg before I noticed and promptly charged me $1 for the service. I happily paid as I surely would have been in a lot of pain shortly had he not caught it. Besides, he’s saving up for a pet tortoise… or snake… or a trip to Central America.

20130429-114827.jpgThese are daylilies and irises are from an dear friend who shared loads of plants with me when she remodeled her backyard.

20130429-114843.jpgAnd our honeysuckle vine that has overtaken an arbor that arches over our front walk. It blooms beautifully — sometimes twice — & the hummingbirds love it. It needs some pruning though, to be sure!

I was delighted to see lots tulips I transplanted coming up in their new locations as well as a sedum I split to multiple new spots last fall. I started a rather large-scale landscaping project with this plant last fall. It was originally just a lone potted sedum given to me as a house-warming gift and now it is about a dozen thriving plantings — hopefully more later this year. I can’t wait to finish this project, it’s going to look lovely, I just know it! I already took care of pruning back our plum and quince trees as well as our cherry bushes. I tidied up our daisy & tiger-lily bed (although they will probably need to be split, too). Mostly just the larger scale mulching project, switching over to summer-time bird feeders, and bringing out our over-the-deck-rail planters remain. I have some ideas for raspberry patch expansion & a mini-wildflower field, but I don’t want to get too ahead of myself!

In the meantime when I’ve not been working in the gardens, I’ve been clicking away. I’ve finished some swatches for an upcoming class as well as my MerryKAL Chrimstas ball for April. I’ve also been cruising through the final leg of my Sixareen Cape. All this nice weather has made me think about a project I just barely started last month though… Bristol Ivy’s Kit Camisole in Quince & Co. Sparrow.

20130429-144429.jpgI love the timeless features of the design & so far I’ve been very impressed with Quince & Co’s linen. I haven’t used much linen in my day, but this one is quite lovely — soft and not prone to splitting.

 We are expecting more rain & cooler weather again the latter half of this week — it seems despite all the springing around us Mother Nature is still a bit torn between winter & summer — the tug-of-war we call spring. I am torn as well… quite torn, actually. In the time I’m not working in the garden should I finish up my cool weather knitting (I feel so close!) or spring into the warmer weather items so they are ready for summer? Or maybe just plug away at both? I think there will be a tug-of-war on my needles, too.