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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

I've got it made

There's nary a day that passes that I don't make something. Today that "something" is two cups of tea, a turkey sandwich and the bed, none of which really count, but since tonight is my weekly knitting group, more making will happen. I also ate baked oatmeal for breakfast, which I made last night. I've been keeping track, and between knitting, dyeing, and cooking, I have made something each day since the new year began. I've also been making lots of plans for other projects, as one does. I ordered some more sewing patterns and some delightful fabric that was on sale. Those "making" plans, they are lofty!

Last year I vowed to not buy any mass manufactured clothing. I wasn't entirely successful, but I did pretty well. I bought zero pieces of what I consider "disposable" clothing: no new tees from big box stores, no new flannel pajama sets, which are a bit of an addiction for me. I did buy a number of pieces from Trashy Diva (all on sale, some significantly so), and I bought quite a few pieces of merino wool Icebreaker clothing, which have gone into regular rotation both on the road and at home. Yes, both companies manufacture in China, which I don't love, but we Americans aren't generally ready to pay the prices for goods made on our shores, so we limit ourselves. I did buy a domestically made piece from Alabama Chanin's machine-stitched line, and I bought a pair of socks from the Alabama Chanin/Billy Reid collaboration. When I was in Mexico, I bought several inexpensive embroidered cotton blouses out of necessity, because the temps were higher than expected. Not perfect, but better than years past.

In December, I sold several pieces of clothing and some boots to a resale store and pocketed $250. I am starting a large cull of the closet. Some things will find ther ways to various online marketplaces (the ones that may sell for enough to justify the headache), some are going on a garage sale pile, and some are going to the charity box. I have so much, and I am trying to separate me from my stuff. Stuff I love--or feel attached to, or use, or that I feel I may use--can stay. Stuff I would likely turn around and buy again can stay. Everything else is up for review. What am I making? Space. Room. Opportunities.

What am I not giving up? With rare exceptions, my knitting books. I plan to keep 90-99% of them. I like them. I page through them. I think about them. While I wish every book had a download code (electronic patterns are so helpful), I'm not about to dump my books. In fact, I am going to get some new shelves to organize them. It's a desperate need, and one I feel justified in.

So, again, I've made some plans I may not be able to fulfill, but I was able to use last year's goals as a touchstone. I knew when I broke my rules. I knew breaking my rules meant it was easier to break them again. But I'm giving myself some room for mistakes and room to grow.


Monday, January 12, 2015

Holding on a While Longer

It seems that each Christmas, I get at least one poinsettia with the intention of keeping it alive throughout the year. I have yet to be successful. This year, however, on the day when all the other Christmas trim has gone back into storage, my poinsettia is thriving. (My Christmas cactus, well, that's another story.) I could take a picture of my plant, but instead, I am casting back to Halloween, when I snapped this picture of a colossal bush taken outside of Cholula, Puebla, Mexico. Living in Chicago as I do, I marveled at it growing outside, given that all my experience with it is as delicate hothouse flower. 

It may have been my favorite day in what was an incredible week. After dining--literally--roadside at a family-run stand (and eating Mamelas Banderas so delicious, I still crave them), we drove out toward a plot of land owned by Community Links International, which is associated with Frog Tree Yarns. They are building a casa and a permaculture food forest as a model for future projects. As we drove along, the volcano obliged us by sending up puffs of steam and ash just as we were passing through the decorated gate of the town.

We spent the early afternoon wandering the local cemetery, which was being readied for the Dia de Los Muertos, and then knitting in the casa, enjoying the volcano's show, and listening to the pops of the chapulines (grasshoppers) as they pounced from corn stalk to cornstalk. 

Remembering that warm, wonderful day is one way I have of facing the next two or three months of the icy, cold, wet, and gray that stretches out before me. My own bottle tree in my backyard may be covered with snow (though not quite so much, as this photo is from last winter)...

...I can think of the light shining through the bottles in the casa wall and dream of the sun.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Back on the Horse

Despite my best efforts to blog more, I was defeated by a glitchy app that ceased to allow me access to my own blog. Sometimes it's the tiny things that get in your way. I have dumped that app (which I was using because Blogger itself was not behaving, either), and have downloaded the Blogger app. Let's see how this goes!

I was carried along by the holiday spirit quite nicely this season. I made quite a few gifts, and while time intensive, it gave me such a warm feeling. I made quite a few ornaments for family members, and I intend to keep the tradition going next year. In fact, I got a jump and made some of the parts for next year's gifts already! I married a few different patterns to make them, including Anna Hrachovec's darling Mochi Mochi. There were snowmen, a cat, trees (bedecked with knit-in bead ornaments), and acorns. Why acorns? Because I like them, that's why. I kept a list of who got what's so I can avoid duplication in the future. I kept congratulating myself about that, and then I almost deleted the document from my tablet. Whoops.

Tonight I cast on the last holiday-related item for the year, and is plan to finish it and away it will go with all of the other Christmas things until next December.

So, here is wishing for a bright, successful, healthy, happy 2015. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Make Do and Mend

I know this was an old motto that made the rounds quite a bit in 2012 and 2013. Well, I am a bit behind. I've been looking at my clothing (which is everywhere since we have such poor clothing storage in our house), and given the wealth of options, combined with how little I actually need to wear attractive clothing (the Dungeon does not have a dress code), I am going to try to not buy any clothes in 2014. I will allow myself handmade items, and things I am not capable of making (underthings, etc.). We'll see how that goes. I have tons of fabric to make things like skirts, several Alabama Chanin kits, and yarn, yarn, yarn for years. I could be setting myself up for magnificent failure or laying the groundwork for creative growth and skill development. As emails arrive, I will be unsubscribing from lots of clothing email lists to avoid temptation. 

In knitting news, I have two sweaters on needles that are bottom up, and both are resting at the armpit stage, waiting for sleeves. I really should knit sleeves first, I think, to avoid this inevitable stalling point. I am also doing Ysolda's Follow Your Arrow KAL, which could be loads of fun. I picked my yarn: 

It's Fleur de Fiber Aries Oceanus in a Potlucky colorway that layers taupe shades over turquoise. It was an option I attempted for a custom colorway that ended up going in a different direction. I still love it and may add it to the regular line-up.



Monday, November 25, 2013


Oh, look what the mail lady brought! A few years ago I bought some dark fleece (a Sally Bill Special!) from Lopez Island Fibers, but I never got around to having it processed. Then, this year, I got some white and some light gray (also Sally Bills), and I sent all three of them of to Taylored Fibers in Quilcene, WA. Today, the resulting roving arrived. Each color produced 3-4 luscious, squishy, still a tiny bit sheepy rolls roving. (It was 13.1 lbs. of raw fleece. I think I got around 9.5-10 back. I need to weigh it on something more nuanced than a bathroom scale.) I'm not sure my spinning skills are up to the quality of the fleece, but there are three sheep to whom I owe my best effort. That's a lot of roving, right? So exciting!


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Same Only Different

I have long been wanting to add some heavier weight yarns to the Fleur de Fiber roster. A few challenges stood in my way. The highest hurdle is that I have limits to the amount of one yarn I can dye at one time. That means it can be a challenge to dye a sweater's worth in one go. (It's not impossible, just a bit challenging.) 

I think I've found some heavier-weight yarns I like well enough to move forward. One of the most exciting things about them is that they are grown, processed and milled in the US. I love that. As a fiber lover, I realistically know that the medium I love has environmental impacts. We all love superwash yarns. They're great for socks, baby things, and the like. Superwash takes dye in a way that makes it shine. You can get subtle shading effects that are impossible in untreated fiber. It all makes good sense. Think of superwash like hair conditioner, which smoothes the scales on your hair and creates a sleeker surface to reflect light, only in a longer-lasting fashion. (Be aware, though, when washing your superwash garments, it is a process, and it can--eventually--wear off if you wash your garments a lot. I still hand wash most garments, and if I do machine wash, I do it on delicate, in cold, with the same wool wash I use to wash and rinse dyed yarns. Better safe than sorry, and while it's a bit more work, compared to the work I put into knitting my garments, it's a drop in the bucket. But I digress.) Superwash is a chemical process. I have no idea what it is, and I've been told almost all of it happens in China. (Even yarn grown and spun here, if it's superwash, probably took a round trip cruise to China.) I will still love--and dye--yarns that come from other places, but if I can find quality products closer to home, it feels good. (I try to do some due diligence, but it isn't easy or transparent. One of the most interesting things I ever heard was that the "Buy Local" label doesn't tell the whole story. The example was lamb. New Zealand lamb could have a smaller carbon footprint than lamb grown a few states away, depending on what they're fed, how much irrigation is required, etc. we can drive ourselves mad trying to figure it all out.)

At a little test, this week I will be listing fraternal twin skeins in the etsy store. One is natural white, one natural gray. They go in the pot together, and they take the color quite differently. Some pairs are very contrasted, others are closer, but they are fun paired in striped garments. I am writing up a simple hat pattern that makes great use of the twins' uniqueness. Plus, you can get 2-3 hats (depending on size) for the pair! 


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Fallen and Boiled

Fall arrived here with a vengeance. I was holding out on turning on the boiler as long as I could. Then I got a nasty 24-hour bug--the fever and chills kind. As soon as I was able to rouse myself to get to the thermostat, I flipped the switch. Heat, glorious heat, bubbled forth from the radiators for two days, then nothing. We'd already had the boiler serviced, and even though we knew she was on her last legs, the tech thought we could get another year, maybe two. Ahem. So, we went without heat for two days waiting for service. I watched the temperature drop and drop until this morning, when it was actually warmer outside than inside. (I was wearing many, many layers of fleece and knitwear, and I know I looked ridiculous, but I was glad to have it. i was also glad for the hot water bottle that I tucked next to my poor cat, who was not the least bit pleased by the chilly turn in his environment.) To make along story short, we have a new boiler, and got rid of not one, but two, old ones. (The old, original cast iron boiler was still down there, and it had to go. It was in the way and time marches forward. Ciao, baby.) 

When things were chilly,  in an attempt to generate as much heat as possible, I cooked and oven roasted things most of the day. I made a curried pumpkin, acorn squash, butternut squash, apple, coconut soup that was pretty wonderful. I roasted the sugar pie pumpkins, and they yielded a good helping of seeds, so I tried a recipe that called for boiling them for ten minutes before roasting them. When you stir a pot full of pumpkin seeds, they line up quite prettily, wouldn't you agree? 

They didn't get crispy like I'd hoped, and I blame the boiling or the fact that I baked them on parchment paper, so I'll have to try it again without the paper. More experimentation is needed. Fortunately, it's pumpkin season!