Spring Forward

5 Feb
I have been looking at what I’ve been dyeing lately, and noticing a theme. That theme is green.
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I think my subconscious is telling me something. I mean, I am getting my gardening bug right now and trying to seed all of the starter veggies. I’m trying to grow all of the leafy greens. I just ordered a book from the library about how to cook with all of those leafy greens I’m trying to grow. I’m trying to remember that eventually my lawn will be green again (not for very long since it also turns brown in the summer, but hey, let’s focus). There are things I love about all of the seasons, I think, but with spring coming on the horizon, the halfway point between the solstice and the equinox just passing, I think I might be a little more obsessed than usual.
I’ve never been much of one for green in general–I tend toward purple and neutrals–but right now, today, I think green is my favorite color.

One Thousand Tales

30 Jan

Once upon a time, I started a business, and I had a lot of fun with it. I dyed wool however I wanted. I played around. I experimented. Then, when the work had reached a modest level of success and I certain level of experience, I decided I wanted to try to take it a step further.

I began adding repeatable colorways–a whole library of them, and I had special conditions for those, too. I had to enjoy repeating them. Those, too, were also modestly successful.

But then…. I don’t know. I got settled, I guess. With a library of dyed to order fibers and clubs, I mostly just started dyeing when other people told me to, taking less risk with “on spec” dyeing, and I lost my way on my path.

So lately, I’ve been finding my way back.

Mmmm... made from scraps of superfine merino.

Mmmm… a test dye made from scraps of superfine merino.

The grouping I call “One Thousand Tales” (because I must name everything) are one of a kind colorways. They involve custom paint patterning, often custom blends of colors, and I have no intention of trying to repeat them (even if I could). Now, something might come along later that looks similar–and maybe I’ll start grouping them together for those who want more combo-spin opportunities or increasing the size of my canvas for sweater-sized spins, but, really, it’s about me and my canvas of wool. It’s about getting back to the “art” in my fiber artist, because too many times last year I made choices that made me feel like a production facility, and there’s nothing wrong with that–many dyers I admire can do just that–it’s just not what I’m looking for in myself and my business and it began to cause burn-out.

And it’s fun, laying out several colors, and a couple of “canvases” of fiber before me, and both of them turning out completely different based the combination of colors I choose, the pattern that I paint on the yarn–just a lot of fun.

I was going to do a two ply, but then decided to do an n-ply because it was spinning up so fine.

I was going to do a two ply, but then decided to do an n-ply because it was spinning up so fine.

The hardest part is not keeping them all for myself.

Mine, mine, mine!

Mine, mine, mine!

Hope Springs Eternal

28 Jan

I always plant my seeds too early. I did it last year, in front of the southern facing window, and by the time it was warm enough to consider outdoor planting, I had these long, leggy things that strung out like their supposed selves as marionettes. My snow peas had already begun producing pods.

But, in the end, I really enjoy starting my seeds. I love watching them poke out of the dirt, and I have such a large amount of seeds available, that if the first set doesn’t thrive, I have plenty left over to try again.

So a few days ago, I seeded some lettuce and Swiss chard. It’s my hope that come late February or March, I’ll be able to plant them outside in our southern-facing garden bed. Later in the year–May or June–that bed will be claimed for the tomatoes and pepper start, but until then, it seems like the best place to get some cool season greens going. It’s our second growing season living here, and while we have an amazing 400 square foot bed out back, we’ve learned that it gets just enough shade not to be ideal until spring fully and truly arrives.

Among my early plantings, This morning I began a set of herbs that will eventually go into outdoor pots.

We moved our existing sets of herbs up to the patio to help protect it from frost, but we forgot the other danger to my herbs:

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They’re now covered, but coupled with an unseasonable winter cold that hit us in December, they’re looking very, very sad now. If they come back in the spring, I have ideas on where to transplant them (spoiler: it won’t be in a chook-accessible location).

Soon, I’m going to start some leeks, onions, and maybe baby bok choy. I was out in our big vegetable garden earlier, and found some leek seedlings from last year’s set had popped up! I may carefully dig those out and bring them inside. All of the beds need a tilling before we’re ready to keep anything in them. Maybe we’ll get to that in a weekend or two….

(Cross-posted from our homesteading blog, Hen & Thistle.)

Routines and a Cleaner House

27 Jan

I think most of us want to keep a cleaner house than we do–not necessarily a spotless house, but definitely cleaner. Some of that is societal pressure, and some of it is–well, I’m a recovering slob.

I’ve never kept a spotless house, and I don’t think I ever will (not enough pleasure or joy in it to bother), but keeping up with the Hen & Thistle has had its own challenges. Besides the cats, who make a lot of mess themselves, but I’ve been dealing with for 20 years, we suddenly had chickens and a yard, and the main thoroughfare between them into the house was usually covered in dirt, mud, grass, and occasionally bird poo.

Not pretty–and not easy to keep up with, especially when you’re already not the sort of person who aspires to clean on a regular basis. Over fall and winter, though, I’ve been building up a routine to help keep the house, if not clean, then at least cleaner.

It started with vacuuming.* Our hotspot in the house is the dining room, which opens to the patio and is the aforementioned thoroughfare of disgusting. In addition, the cat boxes live in a corner of that room, which is its own freakshow. So the dining room gets vacuumed more than any other part of the house–two or three times a week now. Just the dining room. I find if I can keep that area mostly clean, the rest of the house stays cleaner because there’s less tracking about.

The rest of the the upstairs–living room, hallway, office–see the vacuum once or twice a week, depending on how things are looking and if company is coming over. Usually on Mondays and Fridays.

So far, this has been mostly successful. Things still get out of control now and again, but not nearly as badly or as for long.

Bolstered by this, I’ve begun adding the kitchen to the rotation. Let’s not talk about how often the kitchen wasn’t swept. Seriously. Let’s talk about, instead, how it’s been swept more often this January than in the previous 13 months combined.

Yeah.

Anyway, I’ve added sweeping the kitchen floor to the rotation–about twice a week. I also go over it with the wetjet Swiffer every other week or so (more if it needs it, and my threshold for “needs” is pretty high). Still, it’s getting–and beginning to stay–clean(er).

I think I’d like to add the bathroom to the rotation next. Or maybe the kitchen counters. I haven’t decided yet–it won’t happen until after the first week of February, though. I have family visiting and I don’t want to try beginning a new routine around that.

Still, I think this “adding one new thing” to the rotation about once a month is the way to go for me. Suddenly becoming a clean freak overnight has never worked, and hey, any improvement, is still improvement.

Do you have any tips or tricks for keeping a routine? It doesn’t have to be  about cleaning. It just came to mind as I was sweeping this morning.
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*Technically, I think getting laundry and cat boxes on a regular schedule came first, but we’re talking surfaces right now.

Spun: Finn(ished)

22 Jan

Sometimes, there are dumb little walls that get into my head. For example, I started spinning with hand-painted fiber, and for a while my brain had simply divided that you spin wool one of two ways:

1) Dyed.
2) Natural.

Only in the last couple of months did it actually occur to me that I could spin natural wool into yarn and then dye it. That’s right, if it started out as natural colored yarn, I could also change it after it became yarn.

I know, I know. I got over it. But then I also started thinking about bigger projects and stashing and what if I stockpiled some handspun yarn bases that I could dye later, when I knew what was to become of it? (I mean, once I’ve used up all my commercial undyed wools. Really.)

And while I feel like I got there completely backwards, I now have 8oz (480 yards) of some really nice 2-ply sport-weight Finn wool. This was actually my first Finn spin, too. I like it. I thought it might be scratchy, but it has softened up a bit after setting.

Please excuse the messy patio.

Please excuse the messy patio.

I’m not sure what it will eventually grow up to be. It might end up in the shop after I dye it up, or maybe I’ll keep it for my greedy little hands.

And there will be more yarn bases in my future. I just got a nice little shipment in of new fibers to try that I’m excited about–organic polwarth, organic merino, shetland–oh my!

Knitted: The Pink Sweater

20 Jan

In May or June of 2012, while on a sweater kick, I started the pink sweater. I even got most of the way through it–all I had left was picking up 100-something stitches and knitting the collar. Then I’d be able to weave in all the ends, block it, and wear–

Wait, I did say June, right?

It seemed like too much to bother with at the onset of summer, so I set it aside. By the time cooler weather rolled around, we were in the process of buying a house, packing things up, moving house, and then… well, it’s been a year and we’re still unpacking.

Which is to say, the sweater languished in a box.

So come January, 2014 (that’s now!) and I’m trying to knit my way through stash, and I find the one lone skein of yarn from the sweater, and think “that would make a great hat!” Or, you know, I could finish the sweater.

In an unusual fit of good sense, I decided to go with the latter.

I clearly find this bamboo behind me to be suspicious.

I clearly find this bamboo behind me to be suspicious.

And in the space of a few hours, I had a sweater.

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The collar that took 18 months. Or an evening. It just depends on how you look at it.

While we were out taking pictures, we discovered that so much of our yard is under construction, that it can be hard to find a good staging area that doesn’t… well, look like it’s under construction.

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There is the chicken coop, which believe it or not has just turned the corner from “worse before it gets better.” I don’t think the chickens feel that way, though.

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The vegetable plot behind me will be rife with luscious green in a few months. I hope. The area off to me right will eventually be lush with berry bushes and ground cover… if the chickens let it be so.

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Last year, that big dirt hole had squash growing in it. Hopefully, it’ll have something in it again, and maybe we’ll add some decorative edging… maybe.

I don’t think that the yard will suddenly be done one day in a flash of determination, but eventually–someday–all of these WIPs will transform, too. Just maybe not in the middle of winter.

(Pattern and yarn details.)

Knitted: Two Year Baktus

16 Jan
Two years ago, I spun a lovely 2-ply polwarth in a variety of blues and turquoises. Then I hung on to it for another year, and made a pair of fingerless gloves.
2014-01-14 12.10.41But little gloves take up a tiny bit of yarn for me, so I was left with a cake of yarn that looked like it had been hardly touched for the next year….

What was I take make of this remaining yarn? A hat? A cowl? There was maybe 250-300 yards left. I wanted to use it all.

And then the answer came.

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2014-01-14 12.08.11The Baktus formula uses weight as its measurement. Knit with increases until you’re halfway through the weight. Knit with deceases until you get back to the same amount of stitches you started with.

This one is actually true to color.

This one is actually true to color.

I always err on the side of paranoid, especially with my handspun (and even more so with my early handspun, which this was), so I started the decreases a touch early.

But it looks like it turned out almost perfect.

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While it’s not exactly my plan this year to use up all of my stash handspun, I love having that partial ball that’s been hanging around finally transformed into something functional and beautiful.

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