Monday, March 31, 2008

congratulations, adam!

Adam finished his dissertation and we're heading to Portland, Oregon tomorrow for his defense. I'm so happy for him and now he will have more time to work on his wood lathe...he is learning how to turn wood bowls, and I can't wait to see what he creates! I'm also really excited to visit Portland...I miss that wonderful city!

I am hoping to do a lot of knitting on the airplane. I've almost finished knitting my bitter orange yarn into a plain garter stitch scarf (inspired by a similar scarf by jared at brooklyntweed), and now I think I'm going to make a Baby Surprise Jacket with my handspun bark yarn. Next up is the Minimalist Cardigan, which will definitely satisfy my current desire to make a sweater (which I haven't done in years), and I know it is something I will actually wear for a change! And on the sewing front, I can't wait to make some things with this new fabric line, Cake Rock Beach...I really want to make these pillows, and I have some other ideas up my sleeve too!

I have to quell some of my creative urges for a while though, because now that Adam is done with his dissertation, it is my turn to finish mine!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

bitter orange

The last few Pigeonroof rovings that I have spun have been so beautiful as yarn that I am hesitant to knit with them. I'd rather just look at them! This one is different. It's colorway "bitter orange" in 80% merino and 20% tussah silk. I really loved the color of this one and was excited to spin it. But I'm not happy with my spinning at all! I was trying to spin a thicker yarn, but this one just seems dense and it isn't very pretty to look at. I'm also not as even of a spinner when I try to spin thicker (I think in the future I'm going to stop trying - I'll just 3-ply my thin singles if I want a thicker yarn). Plus it is very barber-poley, which I'm not so crazy about in a yarn.

And I learned something about myself. When I am not 100% satisfied with a yarn, I just want to knit it right away! So I discovered a way to get myself to knit more: spin yarns that I'm unhappy with! Just kidding, I won't do that, but check out how amazingly gorgeous the bitter orange is in this knitted garter stitch swatch I made.

I LOVE it. It's tweedy and interesting and it drapes really well (because of the silk)...and I love all the colors. Now I just have to figure out what I'm going to make with it. Unfortunately I only have about 200 yards, which isn't a whole lot. I'm really anxious to knit with it though, so hopefully I'll figure out something good.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

finished quilt!

As promised, here is my finished quilt! Like I said before, I am really happy with it, and still amazed that I did such an extensive sewing project. I quilted it in a diamond pattern, the same way it was done in the book where I got the instructions for making this quilt (Last Minute Patchwork + Quilted Gifts). Some of the quilting lines are a little wobbly, mainly due to my beginning sewing skills. My really old crappy sewing machine didn't help much walking foot fell off more than a dozen times during the quilting, so there was a lot of stopping, carefully trying to put it back on, and getting everything lined up again so there was no obvious gap in the quilting line. I would love to get a new sewing machine some day.

I did a double-fold binding, which involves hand sewing the entire binding onto the back of the quilt. I was dreading this part because I've always heard how time consuming it is, but it was my favorite part of the whole process! I really liked the slow precise hand sewing, and it was the only part of the process where I felt somewhat in control. It didn't even take that long...basically two nights of sewing. Look how cute my little polka-dotted binding is.

Making a quilt was on my "life list," or list of things to do during my lifetime. It is always such a good feeling when I actually accomplish one of these things. And the greatest part is that I really want to keep making quilts, so this definitely will not be a one-time thing. In fact, I just bought some gorgeous fabric for my next project! There will definitely be some hand-quilting in my future too, since I enjoyed the hand sewing so much.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

bark handspun

I finished spinning yet another Pigeonroof roving. It is one of the two I talked about here... 80%merino, 20% tussah silk dyed in colorway "bark." It was a really subtle roving, which suits me well...I'm still not a huge fan of wildly variegated yarns, and it spun into a gorgeous yarn with a slight shine from the silk.

It's about 360 yards, 4.1 ounces, and once again it fluffed up into a really soft squishy yarn. Back in my spinning heyday (just over 5 years ago when I lived in Moscow, Idaho), I never spun yarns like this...I mainly spun drapey, very fine yarns with a looser ply. It is probably partly because I am spinning a lot of merino these days, which is really springy, and partly because I've been making a conscious effort to ply tighter. I'm really really happy with my current spinning though, and it is very knitting-friendly (though obviously I haven't even been knitting with it!), so I guess I'm just going to keep it up. I did recently buy some chocolate brown bombyx silk, which I can't wait to spin, and that will be a nice change of pace from all this fluffy merino.

Anyway, stay tuned (my two readers!) because my quilt is officially finished, and I will try to get some decent pictures this weekend and post it. It turned out really great, and I'm so glad that I did the whole process myself instead of having someone else quilt it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

work in progress

Not a whole lot is going on here, and I have no finished projects to show. Most of my free time has been spent working on my quilt, which I spent all of last weekend machine quilting. I got the binding attached yesterday night, and now I just have to hand-finish the binding by blind stitching it onto the back of the quilt. There have been many points during the process where I've said "I'm never doing this again," like when my walking foot fell off of my sewing machine for the 20th time, and when my quilting lines seemed just a little too wobbly. But now that it is almost done and I realize that it actually looks pretty good, I can't wait to do it again! I have a couple small projects in mind.

The daffodils are from Adam. It always amazes me how much something so simple, like a vase of flowers, can brighten my mood! When we lived in Portland, I had fresh flowers in my house almost all the time. But here, it is really difficult to find nice flowers...and there aren't any growing outside yet since we're still buried under snow.

This is pretty much the only knitting work in progress I have going on these days. The photo is blurry, but I'm not going to take the time to re-photograph it until it is done! It's a hydrangea lace scarf in malabrigo lace, probably the softest yarn I've ever felt. I'm actually not so crazy about the lace pattern (though I do love hydrangeas!)...I grabbed the pattern and the yarn one day at Webs when I was in a hurry (code for Adam wanted to leave). They had a sample of this scarf knit in this yarn and it was gorgeous and soft. I probably could have found or designed a pattern I like more, but I'm happy enough to do something fairly mindless and I figure you can't go wrong with malabrigo lace!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

dried garlic

Our supply of garlic was getting completely out of control. Not only did we have the garlic from our winter CSA share, but we also had our own crop of garlic...about 50 heads that we planted during our last fall in Portland that were harvested by my brother about a month after we moved to New Hampshire. Well, now it is getting warm and inevitably some of our garlic has started to sprout a little and we had to find a way to preserve it.

Adam came up with the idea of putting it in the food dehydrator and making little dried slivers of garlic. We are storing it in the freezer to further its shelf-life. At first I wasn't quite sure what to do with dried garlic, but I was making a recipe the other day that called for garlic powder and I don't have any because I typically prefer to use fresh garlic. I figured I'd give the dried garlic a chance and Adam ground some in a mortar & pestle into the finest most wonderfully fragrant golden garlic powder I have ever seen. It probably comes as no surprise that freshly ground garlic powder is far superior to anything that has been sitting in a jar for months or years...but really, this stuff is amazing!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

tote bag

This is a prototype tote bag that I made last Saturday. I had this red fabric from Kirin & Co. that I didn't have any plans for. It came in some packs of small pieces of assorted fabric that I bought specifically for the blue ginkgo and birch forest fabrics that I used in my pillow and quilt. I also have a piece of green ginkgo fabric that I plan to make a tote bag from, but I thought I'd make this red one first so I could refine my techniques for the next one!

I roughly used the tutorial on super eggplant, except when I sewed the lining into the bag I just topstitched instead of doing the crazy inside-out thing. Mainly because I was lazy and also worried that I'd end up with handles stuck between the lining and the outside of the bag, or something crazy like that.

The brown fabric is linen & cotton, as is Lara's fabric, so it has a nice texture to it. I messed up one of the corners, but it doesn't bother me too much, and overall I think the bag looks really nice! It reminds me of summer though, so I'm having trouble using it now (it's too cheerful for March!)...but I'll get over it.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

vermont gold

On Sunday, I helped inaugurate the 2008 maple sugaring season out at the farm. We tapped about 60 more maple trees (they had already tapped a bunch a few days prior), and then spent the whole afternoon collecting sap to bring down to the sugar shack.

Most of the trees are hooked up to tubes that all drain into huge 250 gallon collecting tanks, but a number of trees are still done with the old fashioned bucket hanging from a tree. Most of the trees with buckets are along the road, but it is really difficult to climb up the huge pile of snow on the side of the road (all the while risking the chance that you'll fall through the thin icy layer on top and end up waist-high in a snow drift!) and make your way to the buckets, empty them into your bigger bucket, then make your way back down the snow drift...without spilling too much sap!

All in all, we gathered almost 600 gallons of sap, which sounds like a lot, but with a ratio of 40 gallons of sap to every one gallon of maple syrup, that is only enough for about 15 gallons of syrup! But the sugaring season has just begun, and the sap is likely to flow like crazy this week since we are expected to have daytime temperatures above freezing for the rest of the week.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

green tea

Above is another roving I was lucky enough to get from Pigeonroof Studios. It is 3.9 ounces of organic merino dyed in colorway "Green Tea." It had every shade of green from minty green to olive green, several shades of brown, including some reddish-brown, and even a couple tiny patches of blue. Pretty amazing. The whole time I was spinning the singles, I was worried about how all those colors would blend together...but I am SO happy with the final yarn, I can't stop looking at it.

I spun it really fine (I ended up getting over 400 yards of yarn from this 3.9 ounce roving), and the organic merino is so springy and soft that it fluffed up into an amazing squishy yarn. It would be perfect for socks, but I'm just not sure yet what it will become. Obviously I haven't been spending much time knitting these I'll have to work on that. I just can't stop spinning!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

signs of spring

I spent four hours today in the greenhouse at Fat Rooster Farm, planting radicchio, basil, escarole, chard, bok choy, parsley, artichokes, spinach, arugula, and cabbage. They have also already started 21,000 onion seeds! It was so wonderful to spend some time in a sunny, hot greenhouse today! It was over 100 degrees in there, which felt really really nice.

Also at the farm...more than 20 lambs have been born over the past couple weeks! They are so curious, and entertaining to watch. My favorite is this little reddish lamb below (I guess I can relate...I have red hair too).

These two (my reddish lamb and another with reddish legs) were definitely interested in me, and the it was easier to get pictures of them than the rest of the lambs running around like crazy! There was a really cute black lamb that I wanted to get a picture of...but he was uncooperative.

So, it seems like spring really is on its way! (Finally!)

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

march vegetables

We got our March CSA box last weekend, and I'm happy that we got 8 pounds of carrots and 8 pounds of beets! I am falling behind a little bit on the potatoes...they are gorgeous potatoes, but it is hard for us (a family of 2) to eat 10 pounds of potatoes in a month! I can hardly wait any longer for spring to come...and spring produce. Somewhere beneath the snow there are wild leeks in the woods behind my house, and morel-hunting to be done...and all those wonderful spring salad greens that are probably starting to grow in greenhouses as we speak. We have two more months of winter CSA vegetables, but I bet we will start getting some early spring produce next month...I hope! It is rainy and windy today, and just generally bleak outside. Not a very likely day for me to be thinking of spring...but I guess it is the kind of day that makes me long for spring!

Monday, March 3, 2008

some alpaca spinning

I am amassing quite the collection of handspun yarn, and I really need to start knitting with some of it! For some reason, spinning has been very therapeutic to me lately so I've been spending more time spinning than anything else.

These two yarns are from amazing batts I purchased from Loop. The brown yarn was spun from batts called "Butterscotch Sundae." It is three colors of baby alpaca: Dark brown, light brown, and white, topped off with some gold tussah silk. I love what silk does to yarn...the beautiful glowing quality that it gives. The brown skeins are spun pretty fine...a little heavier than true laceweight yarn, and I have no plans for it yet.

The green skein below is from Loop batts named "Sour Apple." It is a blend of 50% gray and green alpaca with 50% green bamboo and a touch of tussah silk and silk noil. It is a silky, drapey, and strong light worsted weight yarn...and I love the color! For some reason I think it would make a beautiful throw pillow cover. I was thinking of using it as the weft in a piece of woven fabric that I could make into the front of a pillow cover. My thought is that it would be really pretty aside my birch forest pillow on the bed that will (someday) be home to my quilt.