Sunday, October 31, 2010

Finishing frenzy

I finished these mitts, but perhaps I went to fast.
Rushing to finish a project has been a weakness of mine, and this is best seen in the thumb of the mittens above, which I'm not showing of course.  Trying to finish up, I made the final thumb a tad too small, which means I'll be undoing and  redoing it.  Which means that technically they aren't finished.

This kind of final push can ruin projects, especially when I'm spinning.  Usually, the yarn gets thicker the more pressed I feel to reach my goal.  It is something I'm learning to control. I remind myself the process is what is important, the joy and calm of spinning and knitting.  None of my projects really ever go "fast" and these leftover yarn mittens are probably the quickest "idea to finished object" thing I can do--mainly because the yarn is spun.  So much starts from a fleece and builds outward.

So tomorrow, I'll be picking out some stitches and fixing that thumb. A bother, but also a way to bring the lesson home so maybe I'll remember not to do it next time.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Apples of my eye

These apples where the result of Office Foraging.
Urban Homesteader, an excellent book, talks about urban foraging--the practice of picking fruit from public greenways--you know that strip down the middle of the road that is often planted.  The authors grow vegetables in the strip in front of their house, not something I would do though I might grow pole beans over my mailbox.  Anyhow, after reading this, I started eyeing apple trees on the way home through my suburb, wondering if I could talk my husband into helping me pick the fruit so I could make apple butter. 

Fortunately, I discovered something even better than urban foraging: office foraging.  That beautiful bag of apples shown above was excess from a co-worker's parents who happen to have a hobby orchard.  So I was able to make apple butter without climbing a ladder.  I just had to lug a full shopping bag down to my car.

Those apples were delicious, by the way . I saved a few out to eat for lunch.  And the apple butter is excellent.  I brought a pot load (literally) home and cooked it down to 1/3 with lots of cinnamon.  Yum. Most of it is in the freezer, with one container left out for immediate consumption.
Finishing these socks was postponed when I ran out of yarn.  I quickly spun some more.

I also finally finished the green bamboo/merino socks and I'm looking forward to the temperature dropping so I can wear them.  Or maybe I'll just wear them tomorrow.  I'd like to get a sock wardrobe going, but with everything else I'm doing, it's not happening too soon.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A soothing North Country autumn

One stranded mitten knit, one to go.  Sorry, I didn't take any leaf pictures to show you.
Traveling to see family and foliage, we drove back to the North Country just in time to enjoy the Nor'easter that hit those parts.  At first, I was concerned the rain and wind would ruin the leaf experience.  It wouldn't be the picture perfect time I'd originally expected from earlier weather reports. 

But who needs perfection?  As we drove along back roads in the Southern Adirondacks, we found something different: Against the dreary, drizzly gray sky, the golds and reds seemed to glow from within. There was a mood to it, a special beauty--a texture even--that I can carry in my head.  This was an exceptionally lovely fall for me, soothing and pleasant in ways that I can't completely explain.We drove up narrow roads lined with golden leaved trees, and looking into the woods, there was a depths of golds and reds shadowless and bright in the dim light.

During our ride we did a little foraging--stopping at a farmer's market and farms we knew of for maple syrup, aged cheddar and some frozen grass fed lamb and beef to fill up our cooler for the dash home. So we'll have a little bit of the north country with us, either splashed on our oatmeal or sizzling on the grill. 

Oh, and yes, I did pick up some fleece. What else would I do?

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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Wheat has a flavor

A Cormo fleece was dyed two shades and then blended to make this batt.
For years, wheat was this bland thing I made taste better by adding ingredients like maple syrup or cinnamon to my bread and cocoa to my cookies.  Last Saturday my electric wheat grinder arrived at my doorstep and I ran several cups of organic wheat berries through it.  Surprise! Wheat does have a flavor.

Lately, I had been noticing an odd sharp flavor in my store bought pre-ground wheat, which is why I decided to go ahead and buy a flour mill.  It is a logical extension to all the hand processing I do with wool. Why not process my food too?  I bought an electric one, since I read that wheat can be tough to grind by hand.

The flavor of freshly ground wheat is mild and sweet.  It's a flavor not present in even the best quality flour.  I liken the flavor to the difference between buying fresh-from-the-cow milk vs. homogenized store milk.  The flavor finds its way into the bread too! It is really quite delicious.

The picture at the top is my latest carding project, which of course turns into a spinning project etc.  I dyed four pounds of Cormo wool from a sheep named Rachel. One-half lilac, the other half is Raspberry and now I'm blending the two fifty/fifty to make the batts shown.  I just started spinning and I think I'm going to go for a light fingering weight wool.  Yes, I'll be doing this FOREVER.  The batts alone will take time--think .8 ounce batts.  I have 64 ounces of picked fiber which means I'll be making 80 batts!  This is the kind of thing that makes me w wish arithmetic wasn't so final with its answers. I wonder how many yards I will end out with?

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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Stashmonster rears her locky head

This is the first clip of Linus, an Angora kid at Tall Grass Farm
I don't need a big festival like Rhinebeck to come home with a bags and bags of stash.  In fact, I do better at the small fairs where I get to talking with people I've known for years and end out walking away with some bags of their products.  One of the beauties of living in the Midwest are all the cozy little fiber festivals, such as my all time favorite at Tall Grass Farm.  They have one twice a year, so Saturday I was attending the Fall Fiber Jubilee.

Naturally, I had to spend some time over in the barn where the Tall Grass Angora Goats are being sheared.  That's where my friend Elaine sets up her Coed Mawr Woolen Mill booth.  We had a lot of catching up to do as I missed the spring fling, so here we are chatting up a storm in her booth full of the colorful fibers she cards herself at her mill.  I ended out with three bags full.

This blend of Targhee, Angelina and Tencel will be socks oneday.
 During this chat, I spotted a bag full of kid mohair, shown at the top of the page.  What I loved about this one is it has three shades--dark grey, silver gray and white.  This just caught my eye and I know it will be a puzzle as I decide what to make. I love a challenge.  Tall Grass Farm has lovely fleece, and for those of you who like it processed you can go up in their store and find fabulous yarns, rovings, blends and more.

This Coed Mawr mix of Corriedal and Mohair ought to make some interesting socks.

Stopping in to see Mary Wallace of White Dove Farm was a must.  I've purchased some of the most lovely Corriedale Wool from her (soon to star in a dyeing project to create an Alice Starmore design).  I once used three consecutive years of one of her ewes named Winken to knit a king sized blanket. Mary is quite the fiber artist herself and has some gorgeous felted scarves and other items.  She's also going to be on the Earth, Wood and Fire Artist Tour which will be October 23 & 24.  Wisconsin artist studios will be open around Wisconsin and it sounds to me like way to get a start on holiday shopping and purchase handmade gifts (if you aren't making them all yourself).

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