Category Archives: Fiber Artistry and Equipment

Productivity

The short spring of this weekend allowed Jim to take a 175 mile motorcycle ride.  While he was out enjoying the weather in a way he enjoys, I got to work outside, which I enjoy.  My chickens’ run expanded from 50 linear feet to 175 linear feet.  The main body of the run more than doubled and I created a 6 foot wide attached run that goes down one of the long sides of the garden.  My hope is that they will help keep the weeds and bugs down from that difficult to mow area.

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The main body of the run now also provides a fence half way along one of the shorter sides of the garden and gives them access to a pile of old compost.  They spent a good portion of the afternoon dust bathing in that pile and digging for bugs.  I wonder how long it will take them to make this area barren of grass too.  Putting weeds from the garden will be a much shorter walk now.

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After coming in totally worn out, I stopped and unpacked my new spinning wheel.  I was so glad to see that as a folding wheel, it came mostly assembled and already packed in its travel bag.  There was very little assembly to do and I was soon able to take it for a short spin with a bit of undyed Shetland wool.  There are 4 ounces of it to be spun, dyed and turned into something beautiful.

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I love life on our mountain farm.

“Uncle” already

Will it never end?  Winter that is.  The predicted winter storm has already started, several hours before anticipated and it did not start as rain as predicted, but rather a slushy mix of precipitation.

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When I went over to check egg production progess for the day, I don’t want them to freeze as the temperature falls, this is where I found all of the hens.  Huddled under the coop wondering when this cold white stuff is ever going to end.  At least with the lengthening days, their production is up a bit, getting an average of 6 per day instead of the 4 from mid winter.

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The newbies are now a week and a day old and are starting to show signs of tail and wing feathers.  The more feathers they grow, the less I worry about the loss of power killing their heat lamp.

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I didn’t get around to my laundry and dishwasher detergent making session a couple of weeks ago, just made my lotion bars, but this morning, I realized that I was seriously low on laundry soap and out of dishwasher detergent, so I pulled out the recipes and went to work.  I was surprised and pleased after finishing it and calculating the cost, to find that it will cost me less than $.06 per load for laundry and about $.07 per load for the dishwasher.  Since I make my own soap, I know what goes into it and added to it only washing soda, baking soda, and borax for the laundry powder, I have an economical product that lacks any of the sketchy ingredients and it is safe for the front loading HE washer.  The dishwashing powder costs slightly more per load as the citric acid is a tad pricey, but that mix is only borax, washing soda, citric acid and salt, again an economical product without the sketchy ingredients and safe for the dishwasher and the septic tank.  Yes, the process takes about 10 minutes because I have to hand grate the bar soap, but I have a huge jar stored on the mudroom shelf, plus a small container on the washer and one to take to my son next month and I only made half of the recipe.

As the temperature is falling, the stew is simmering, I’m going to light the woodstove and fireplace and sit back and see if I can finish the second sleeve of my Estelle sweater that I am knitting of Quince and Co. Lark yarn.

I can’t spin as I packed up my wheel and shipped her off to her new home in Michigan and my new one won’t be in until late in the week.

Life is an adventure on our mountain farm.

 

 

Solo Time

Today is a beautiful springlike day after snow day before yesterday.  The snow is gone, the day is warm and dry.  The kind of day that Jim has been wishing for all winter.  He was up as soon as it warmed and dressed to ride.  He took off on his motorcycle for a “long” ride and I was left to do whatever I wished.

Today is the day the new yarn and fabric store opened in the nearby town, so for me it was a day to explore.  Lunch alone at Panera, reading, then across the road to the new shop to check it out.  After that excursion, I was off to my favorite local shop to sit with friends and knit.

My current projects, since I finished the baby sweater and delivered it to the Mom to be, but failed to photograph first, are still the Honey Cowl of Green Dragon Terminator in Heatwave color.

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It is coming along nicely, though I found a dropped stitch while I was at his shop and now have to decide how to deal with it.  And my other project is Estelle of Quince and Co. Lark in Delft color.  The body is finished on it and I’m working on one sleeve.  That leaves the other sleeve and the feather and fan front bands.  I am beginning to think it may not get worn this year, but it will be put away for the next cold winter.

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I am considering selling my Ashford Kiwi 2 spinning wheel for a Kromski Sonata that I can pack up and take to the weekly spinning group.  I’m not addicted enough to own more than one wheel.  I was hoping when I got to the Green Dragon Shop to knit that David had not sold all of the fiber he took to Hawk’s Nest last week, he had one I really wanted, but my road trip there didn’t happen as I remembered an appointment that interfered, but alas, he sold every roving he took with him.  Maybe in the fall.

 

The Return of Winter

Spring is coming, we know it is by the flocks of robins, the few springlike days we have had in the past couple of weeks.  The past two days have exceeded 60ºf ), absolutely delightful weather.  The weather encouraged outdoor time, to clean the chicken coop, to give them free range time, and to allow Jim to take a jaunt on his motorcycle.

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Yesterday afternoon it clouded up and by evening, it was a steady cold rain with the temperatures beginning to drop to the current 28º (-2º) and headed for tonight’s 8º (-13.33º).

By the time I awoke this morning, the rain had turned to sleet, then snow.  The snow is falling steadily and accumulating.

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The weather prognosticators are warning us of 6 to 12″ of snow, depending on which source you choose to believe.  I’m hoping for a much lower amount and a return to the weather of the weekend, but it looks like winter is back and here to stay for at least another week.  I’m ready to do more than think about the spring garden.  Instead, I will knit and spin, make a warm comforting stew for supper and sit tight.

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What I’m knitting, Beaucoup in Happy Feet, a light baby sweater for a spring baby, and Honey Cowl of Green Dragon Terminator color is Heat Wave.

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Make It Better

As I sold all of my interchangeable knitting needles and ordered fixed circular knitting needles, I needed storage.  Interchangeables come in clever compact cases that hold the tips and the cables, but fixed circulars come in individual packages and when they arrive, I will have 2 lengths of 10 sizes, a potential snake’s nest if put in a basket.  I have spent a couple of hours searching through Etsy looking for a solution.  I know what I want, something that resembles a CD case and I was willing to pay someone else to design and make it, but I couldn’t find anything that wasn’t either a roll or much larger than I desired.

My other desire was a means to make my favorite go to bag more organized.

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This bag is a leather tote from Duluth Trading Company, it is my travel tote, my knitting bag, carries my wallet, tablet, notepad, small case with lotion bar, lip balm, comb, pens, camera, and a shawl or scarf.  The bag is 12 x 4 x 13.5 with a zipped top.  Because of its size, it swallows my tiny wallet and keys.  One of my friends used to have a business making bags and she put a liner in them that had pockets around the perimeter.  I sew, but my machine isn’t heavy enough to sew through the liner and the leather.  After approaching this friend, she agreed to help me sew the lining in if I made what I wanted.

Today turned into a craft day as I tackled these two problems after some planning last night and a trip to the fabric store today.

First, I tackled the liner.  I bought a firm drapery fabric, measured twice, cut once and formed just what I wanted.  It is temporarily basted into the bag until I can get with my friend to sew it in place.

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The other project was accomplished with quilting quarters, scraps from the bag liner, and a few inches of synthetic leather.  I still need to sew the button and leather loop on, but it is colorful and I think will fulfill my needs.  The supplies for both projects ended up costing less than a needle case on Etsy that would have been less satisfactory to me.

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Neglecting friends

As I have posted before, we don’t travel much, but somehow have found ourselves away from home as a couple for more than 40 days this past year, plus another couple of weeks where I alone went to help out one or the other of our kids for a few days to a week.  This has cut into my friend time.  My friend time is going to Knit Night on Wednesday night or Spunsters (my spinning group) on Thursday afternoon.  This week we aren’t snowed in, we aren’t away from home and I committed to going to both groups and enjoying the company of those friends.

On Knit Night, we meet at a local coffee shop, they kindly let us take over a huge table from about 5 pm until we go home.  Most of us buy dinner, we sit and socialize, share patterns, trade yarn, tell tales and knit.  The core group is the same with assorted others that come when they can and we always have a good time.  A couple of the husbands will come and sit off at another table and read or if our group isn’t too big or too naughty, may sit with us for a while.

The Spunsters, meet in a conference room at the local library.  Some bring their wheels, some knit or crochet, do finish work on weaving projects or just sit and visit.  This group is at the mercy of the conference room use and sometimes we convene at someone’s home for a potluck.

Both groups challenge me to keep learning the fiber crafts and to improve my skills and socialize.  The spinning group has many fiber raisers and we help out during shearing times which is a season that is starting.

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My current spinning project is a full pound of undyed Sheltland Wool.  I don’t know what it will become.  We will have to see how many yards of yarn it becomes then I will decide and dye it for a handknit, homespun project.

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My current knitting project is a cardigan sweater for me, the pattern is Estelle from Quince and Co. with their Lark yarn in Delft blue.  This is a cute pattern with a ribbed empire waist and feather and fan bands down the front and as a bottom band.  Their yarn is a delight to knit.

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Then queued up is a cowl, either the Honey Cowl or the Basic Lace Cowl from this Unplanned Peacock dk weight in Botanical colorway which I bought after one of my knitting friends and I saw a very colorful weather map of the potential winter storm aimed at us.  We enjoyed a playful banter with Natasha, the owner/dyer of the yarn about the beautiful colors.

It is great to reconnect after a fall and winter of absence and sporadic opportunities to see these friends.

Fiber Arts and Needles

Knitters and spinners are picky about their equipment.  They find what they like and are ardent supporters of their favorites.  Sometimes it takes a while to settle into what “works” best for them.

I am no exception.  When I was just picking up knitting again, I would buy inexpensive needles in the size I needed for the project at hand.  As I got to be a better knitter, I learned that better needles lasted longer and were smoother to use, but I have never been a fan of metal needles, they make my hands hurt and have an off odor.  I also have learned that I prefer the shorter 3-4 inch length tips to the longer 5-6 inch one again as they don’t seem to aggravate my arthritis in my hands as much.  One of the products that has come out in more recent years are needles with interchangeable tips so that you need fewer needles and can change the cord to suit the project.  I loved interchangeable tips until my hand strength lessened due to age and the aforementioned arthritis and I could no longer tighten the connectors enough to even knit through a single row on a sweater without them coming partially or fully unscrewed.  Reluctantly, I advertised and sold my interchangeable sets on the social network for lovers of needle crafts, Ravelry.  I have thought about this problem more and more in the past year and have wondered why the designers of this style needle don’t use reverse threaded connectors, so that as you knit, you automatically tighten rather than loosen the connection.

The problem has sent me off in search of non metal, 3-4″ fixed circular needles in a size small enough to make a hat and long enough to knit a sweater or do the magic loop technique to close up the top of a hat.  The funds from selling my beloved interchangeables will just cover the needles in the most common sizes I use in two lengths, so now instead of having one compact case of tips and cables, I will have a basket full of needles.

The hand issues have also forced me to seek crochet hooks with larger shafts or the Clover brand that has the butterscotch colored flattened plastic handle with a thumb pad.

I have never gotten adept at using double pointed needles and have told my daughter that I would teach her to use them, but I feel like I’m playing pick up sticks with them.

It is all our different opinions that keep the companies in business.  Now I’m off to find an Etsy shop that sells a circular needle case that isn’t notebook sized to store my fixed circulars in once they come.  And to work on my sweater with the craft store metal needle with long tips until my new ones come..

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The pattern is Estelle, the yarn Quince and Co. Lark in Delft.  At least I can still knit.

Success builds confidence

A few days ago, I posted about the lace cowl that I was knitting and feeling good about finally successfully completing such a project for the first time.

That success and a desire to have another knit hat for winter, urged me to design and knit a hat using the same lace pattern in the body of the hat. The yarn for the cowl was too thin for a warm hat, so I held a strand of it together with a strand of Green Dragon Sock yarn in one of the colors in the cowl yarn and set to work Sunday night.

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The lower picture is in daylight and shows off the true colors.

The hat was completed in a day. Now before I can post a pattern, I either have to determine that the lace pattern is open source or get permission from the cowl designer to use her lace pattern in my design.

I am pleased with the finished hat and that it’s colors will blend with the cowl and with another triangular scarf  that I knit a couple of years ago.

If the rest of the winter remains as cold as the past few weeks, I am sure it will get much use, alternating it with my Ruby hat and scarf and my homespun hat and scarf.

Next up is a cardigan of Quince andCo. Lark in Delft color way yarn and one of their patterns, Estella. Love, love their yarn.

Success

Yesterday it snowed off and on all day.  The forecast had been for light snow showers to begin in the late afternoon and end shortly after dark.  It started just as I was coming in from the chicken chores, having finally lured them out of their coop with warm mash and fresh straw over the snow.  This allowed for some much needed coop “cleaning.”  It snowed hard for a couple of hours, depositing a new inch or so on the snow remaining from a few days before and then we had snow showers through out the day.  Nothing was accumulating on the roads so we didn’t worry about leaving the mountain.  Just at sunset, the sun peeked out of the broken clouds while it was showering and I stood on the back deck in the 28°f temperature to see if we would have a snowbow.

As it appeared to be clearing, we decided to travel about 20 miles to the Mall to see American Hustle, feeling safe that the roads would be okay on the way home.  The movie was pretty good, hubby liked it a lot and when it was over we exited the multiplex theater to find a mini blizzard going on.  The roads were covered with about 2-3 inches of new snow and it was coming down so fast it was hard to see the road.  This is the mountains and most folks up here have either all wheel drive or 4 wheel drive if they are permanent residents, but it is also the area of the state’s largest university and it seems that most of the students have cars and many of them are not appropriate for snow driving in the mountains.  Even town is not level with rises and dips and as we drove through on our way back to the main highway out to our home, we watched as people, mostly college students slid around corners, fishtailed trying to climb the rises and slid as they foolishly applied brakes going down hill then applied them more firmly to thwart their slide, which caused more sliding.

Once on the main road for the last 12 miles, the road goes up two mountains and through two passes and this is where it got really dicey.  There were cars that couldn’t make it up and had slid into the guardrail, some sideways, some spun around in the wrong direction, some perpendicular to the road.  There were people with 4 wheel or all wheel drive that thought they were invulnerable and were passing each other and driving by the spinouts too quickly and following each other too closely.  It was a terrifying ride, even as the passenger in hubby’s Xterra with the 4 wheel drive on.  When we got to the last 2 miles, going up the mountain on which we live, there were only 2 sets of tracks.  We made it home safely, but very tense.

To unwind, I chose to work on the lace cowl that I posted about a few days ago.  I never thought that I would say that knitting lace would help me unwind, but I had added stitch markers after each lace repeat after “tinking” two half rows and it was going along smoothly.  I finished all but the last three rows, staying up way past my bedtime.

Today is supposed to be warmer, the sun is out and the wind is calming.  After chicken chores which involved more new straw to coax them out to the snow and preparing breakfast for me, feeding the dogs and starting some laundry, I have knit the last 3 rows and bound off.  I am stoked, this is the first time ever that I have successfully finished an entire lace project of any complexity and it is beautiful. It still needs to be blocked but I can’t wait to show it off.
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From this

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To this

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and finally to this. Now I feel confident and am thinking about trying to create a hat to go with it using the same lace pattern.