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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!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Itchy and Scratchy

I am not the Simps0ns fan that my husband is, but the pets' names have always cracked me up, so I co-opted them for this post.

As part of the giant stash categorization project, I am making a discovery: I am leaning toward the rough stuff. I think I can track it back to the Rise of the Icelandic Sweater a few years ago, when Lopi started arriving at the house in boxes and envelopes. (Don't know how they got my address...) Then, when I went to Finland and Estonia, aside from the yarns used for Haapsalu Shawls (which doesn't come from Estonia anymore, anyway), all of the yarns I got were hearty, rustic ones. I got Finnish wools from Rihivilla in Helsinki, both in natural and naturally dyed colors. I picked up some Aade (very much like or perhaps the same as Kauni) in Estonia, as well as some unlabeled yarn in gorgeous, saturated shades from a vendor at the White Lady Days Festival. There are still bits of VM in that, but it doesn't bother me at all. I also got some small skeins of naturally dyed wool from Villjandi at a shop in Tallinn. All of them are deliciously crunchy, scrunchy, and rustic. Some of them still even smell sheepy. Yum. 

In case there's any curiosity about it, the sheepiest thing discovered in the stash dive is some Peace Fleece. Whoo, baby, that stuff is still redolent with eau de barnyard. 

One thing Cat Bordhi does at her retreats is invite Debbie and Maxine of Island Fibers over to set up shop for an afternoon. They weave, spin, dye, knit, and sell fabulous yarns and fibers. I have a bit of a collection from them. In a previous year, I bought a sweater quantity of worsted weight for an Icelandic-style sweater. I also got some dark Sally Bill special fleece. This year, I added to the fleece collection with some white and tan Sally Bill, which is all going to a processor in Washington to be turned into roving. I also picked up sport weight yarn to make Gudrun Johnston's Bressay Dress


I need to get this stash project done so I can get back to knitting!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Chicago Woman Crushed in Basement, Pictures at 10

So, I have a lot things on the to-do list in my head, not the least of which is to stash wrangle. Not everything is "stashed" on Ravelry, and some of what is stashed isn't photographed or isn't properly identified as to location. I'd love to get that fixed. If I do, it would help me to stash shop more efficiently. I know that I probably have just the right yarn for almost any project right downstairs, but I have either forgotten about it or can't locate it. There was a time when I knew it all, where it came from, when I got it, etc. That time has passed. It also means that some pretty great yarns are finding their way to the "Will sell or Trade" page. Seriously, some pretty wonderful stuff, like Socks That Rock and a bunch if indie dyer things. It's not that I dislike them (well, I bought them, didn't I?!), but I know I will never get to them. Someone else should have a crack. I wish I were organizing the containers more strategically, but I am in "get it done" mode, which applies to photos, as well. Quick and dirty. I may go back and refine at a later date, once the beast is tamed. There is one tippy stack of tubs taller than I am at the moment, and, under the right (wrong?) circumstances, my demise, should it occur, could be reported as a freak accident on the 6 o'clock news.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Many Happy Returns

On Saturday I returned from my last scheduled trip of the year. (At first I was excited about having a stretch of time at home, but, three days later, I am already getting eager to put something else on my calendar!) This was my fifth annual trip to San Juan Island for one of Cat Bordhi's knitting retreats. 

The journey started with a day in Seattle. I know Seattle has a horrid reputation for being a rainy, dreary place, and while it does rain, it doesn't usually RAIN. (The Killing, much as I loved the show, was more than a little liberal with its rain machines, and has helped contribute to the misinformation.) Well, just to prove me wrong, it was a record-breaking day of precipitation, quashing some plans to run about. I did, however, get to see my friend, David, and deliver these sweaters for his new fraternal twin baby girls. I dyed and knit them with my own Fleur de Fiber Amelie, a merino and silk blend. They're so squishy and soft that I used the leftover green and purple yarn to make myself a striped Hitchhiker, which served me well on the trip.

Cat's retreat was, as always, a lot of fun. This year her focus was Felfs, which are knit, felted footwear. I made a pair using local wool from the San Juan Islands, and I love them. Since the e-book hasn't been published yet, I will wait to post a picture. I really like them, and plan to craft multiple pairs. They are so fast and fun to make--great gift knitting for others, or yourself.

On Wednesday, six of us went out on a whale watch on the Peregrine with Captain Jim Maya and naturalist Jeanne Hyde. I'd gone out with them before, and they really are fantastic. They both know the area very well, and they are passionate about the wildlife. Two years ago, we saw 37 different whales, each identifiable by their dorsal fins and saddle patches, and we thought that was a blue ribbon day. This time, we saw all three resident pods, 81 Orcas! We were also joined by two humpbacks as well as some Dall's porpoises. There was a point at which there were whales in every direction. It was fabulous. Since Captain Jim only takes six passengers, it is a very intimate, personal experience, and if you are ever on the island, look him up. He's listed as Maya's Westside Charters.

It was rainy and gray most of the first three days, but Thursday was quite lovely, and I spent some time lying in the sun on the dock at the resort. The government shutdown closed the park and beach I had planned to go to, so this was the next best thing.