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Sunday, February 01, 2015

My Favorite Hat

Well, maybe not my very favorite. Pretty close to my favorite. Dear to my heart. 

A few years ago, I designed a hat after one I saw on TV. On a Real Housewives show. (Yeah, I know. I gave up the Housewives not long after, and I am happier for it.) I didn't know who made the hat, and I couldn't get a picture that showed details, but there were some features I responded to: a folded up brim, a slightly peaked top, and its bright orange color. I'm not even sure it was a knit hat. It's possible that it was made from wool felt or some type of fleece. Still, the general shape called to me. I grabbed orange stash yarn in two weights and cast on. This never, ever happens, but I landed on something that pleased me almost immediately. I made one specific, significant design choice dictated by where I live, frigid, windy, wintery Chicago. I decided the the band should be permanently double thickness to keep the wearers' ears warm, and it is the only slightly challenging part of making it. Since I had two weights of yarns, I wrote the pattern for both. I ended up giving away one of the prototype hats, and I've since knit a few more, but I had yet to make the pattern legible for anyone who wasn't me. Well, as the snow is currently blowing and drifting to heights nearing my ear lobes, that's all about to change. I am tweaking the pattern for yarns in my Fleur de Fiber line, and the Notting Hill Hunting Hat will soon be finished! Stay tuned!

Fleur de Fiber Great Lakes Worsted Gray in Punky Rooster

Making Moments Momentous

In these gray, cold days of winter, after the holiday decorations have been put away, and before the first crocuses push through their blankets of dirt and snow, one has to seek light and color. Nordic and Scandinavian cultures do this brilliantly, and the more I learn about them, the more I appreciate how they find the bright moments in the long winter days. 

In Denmark, they embrace hygge, which can't be translated, but is embodied by the absence of anything unsettling or annoying. The dark is chased with candles, the cold is held off with soft blankets and cozy wraps.  

The Swedes have fika, both a verb and noun that means a coffee break with friends, coworkers or family. It's similar to the English tea, but with a social bent.

Working at home, as I do, I am often alone, so no one to fika with. It doesn't stop me from taking some time to brew a proper pot of tea (or make a cappuccino with my Italian stovetop moka pot) and savor the ritual. I have been burning more candles, even during the day, and I have a pile of chenille blankets, wraps, and handknit shawls on the sofa where I often sit working on paperwork or sample knits. These cold, wet, dark days need all the warmth and brightening I can muster. 


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Weaving: The Ins and Outs

I've been planning a project for some time. Inspired, as I often am, by the work of Alabama Chanin, I had a vision in my head for a stool embellished with woven cotton jersey pulls. While I would have been satisfied with a normal, easy-to-find, garden variety kitchen stool, I had hopes of finding a more interesting piece. I was hoping for an industrial piece with, ideally, a pierced metal seat. I hadn't begun an active search, but it was always lurking back-of-mind. This summer, my new neighbors had a porch sale, and when I looked out the window to survey the goods, sitting there was exactly the stool I had in mind. Score! A few weeks back, Alabama Chanin had a big sale, and I was able to pick up balls of cotton pulls at a great price. Today, I embarked on my non-traditional weaving project. Practically instant gratification, months in the making! 


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!