Monday, September 30, 2013

I visited a yarn store but bought no yarn

It's true. Last Saturday I went to Simply Socks to pick up some US1 needles (I bought square ones - I think I like them). And despite the plethora of color, managed to get out of the store with only one other purchase: a new knitting bag...

... to replace the old one.

A few days before, I stopped at Sarah Jane's and also did not purchase any yarn, but that was because they are sadly closing their doors and it was the last week of their going-out-of-business sale and everything was very picked over.

And now that I think of it, I also stopped at Joann, but all their DPNs are bamboo, which I don't like, and I don't care for most of their yarn, so again, no yarn was purchased.

Of course, sometimes I go to a non-yarn store like Tuesday Morning, looking for something non-knitting related like a corn cutter, and walk out with $40 worth of sock yarn.

The colors are weird, but it was ON SALE. How could I resist?

Monday, September 23, 2013

How does this happen?

To contribute to getting my knitting mojo back, I decided to designate Mondays as Fiber Day. Today was the first Fiber Day, and it didn't go quite as I expected. For one thing, I had trouble giving myself *permission* to just knit or spin. For another, the fiber goddesses seemed to be against me.

For example, I have been struggling with this one pair of socks off and on for *months*. Yesterday I failed to negotiate the heel turn, so one goal for today was to get past that and onto the leg of the sock. There was some tinking and some cursing, but I finally got past the heel. I wanted to switch from the circs to my trusty US1 DPNs, but. they. were. missing. Seriously. Where could they be? The last place I remember knitting outside the home was at the dyeing workshop, so I shot off an email to the Big Red Barn. Alas, no needles. Then I found the package I usually keep them in - empty - which makes me think they must be around here somewhere. I'm sure they will show up right after I purchase some new ones.

That was okay - on to the next goal for today: finishing the edging on the armholes of my SO's vest. Problem number one was the number of stitches to be picked up - my sweater had a lot more than the pattern indicated. I decided that was okay because the pattern had instructed to knit for x number of inches, not x number of rows, so it was natural that the count might be off. I began picking up stitches, only to realize that one front was longer than the other, by 2 or 3 rows. Hmmm. Is that a big deal? Correcting would involve removing the edging that encircles the neckline, fronts, and bottom of the vest, an edging I have already done and redone several times, and undoing the three-needle bindoffs at the shoulders. I decided to forge ahead, but you know what happened: I knit and knit, all the while knowing in the back of my mind that I would eventually rip out today's work and the edging and the three-needle bindoffs, and tink back the one front so that it matches the other. I haven't actually done that yet, but I know I will because otherwise every time I look at that vest, I will see those extra rows mocking me.

To attempt to spin after all that would be pushing my luck.

Not-so-lazy Susan

Since I removed the old clematis by the front door and its replacement is "sleeping" (first year sleep, second year creep, third year leap), the trellis needed something temporary this summer. Enter the black-eyed Susan *vine*. This is an annual that grows so fast you can practically watch it. I planted the seeds a bit late, but it still managed to cover the trellis, and then some.

This variety is the classic one, with sweet yellow-orange faces. I also planted a "blushing" variety in the hanging planter you see there, but neglected it too much, so no blooms.

Since the new clematis is the kind one cuts back each year, I may just continue these in the porch planter. I have dark red coleus there as well, and the clematis blossoms will be dark red, so they will be a nice contrast. But it is a good thing black-eyed Susan vines are annuals, or we might have a problem.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Autumn ritual

In Fort Wayne, the third weekend in September is (mostly) reserved for the Johnny Appleseed Festival. While there are other events occurring around town, JA attracts the biggest crowds. The trick is to arrive early and leave once you can no longer maneuver the packed walkways. Or when you realize you have passed the same vendors for the third time.

In spite of the military encampment, the demonstrations, the period clothing, the traditional folk music, etc., JA is really an opportunity to spend money. There is plenty of food - ham and beans, corn bread, chicken, buffalo, caramel apples, apple petals, apple dumplings, apple fritters, apple butter, etc. - and plenty of handmade crafts. In the past, I have come home with handmade brooms, hand-dyed and handspun yarn, roving, pottery, handwoven placemats, etc. Not all at one time, though, as I limit myself to one or two purchases. But this means perusing *everything* before I make my decision. This year it was one of the first things I saw, a mini chip and dip bowl, by a potter who is retiring.

My SO and I took the granddaughter. Usually we park in a free lot, which means a long walk just to get to the festival itself, but this year we opted to pay $5 to park right next to it. We dragged her around and around in her little red wagon. She got her face painted and "won" a piece of stick candy and played on the swings and I bought her a wooden bead bracelet. Lucky girl gets to go back today with her cousin, but Grandma has had enough for one year.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Sunday, September 15, 2013

To dye for

Saturday I went to a natural dyeing workshop at the Big Red Barn. This event was less hands-on that the previous dyeing workshop I attended, but that was because dyeing with natural materials is more involved and time-consuming in a hurry-up-and-wait kind of way. Sort of like making mozzarella cheese (which I thought I blogged about but cannot find the post).

Dyeing roving and yarn is just plain fun. That is, if your idea of fun is gathering wild materials like pokeweed and golden rod and bindweed (yes, it has a use!) or not-so-wild marigolds. And if your idea of fun is watching over bubbling (and sometimes stinky) cauldrons of goop. And if your idea of fun is things that don't turn out how you would expect.

Pokeberries cooking on left, yarn in vinegar mordant on the right

The final color of the wool depends on so many things: the source of the wool (we used sheep and alpaca), the original color of the wool (some of our alpaca was naturally gray), the mordant to preprocess the yarn (we used alum for all but the pokeweed which used vinegar), the amount of dye released by the plants, the amount of time the wool is soaked in the dye bath, and probably a few other criteria I can't recall. In my case, the goldenrod on sheep wool turned out much brighter than I expected, the bindweed on alpaca much more drab, and the pokeweed on wool yarn about what I expected.

Mmmm, raspberry!

One technique we attempted was a "rainbow pot". Madder and walnuts were wrapped in cheesecloth bags and marigold left loose; the dye materials were layered with yarn multiple times and the pot slowly heated on the stove.

Cheesecloth bags of dye materials at top, marigold blossoms below

The expectation was multicolored yarn, but the colors blended to produce a lovely pumpkin with spots of red.

Pumpkin spice

The properly equipped dye "kitchen" (don't use your real kitchen) is preferably outside or in a drafty building like a barn, has one or more burners, a water source, and lots of old pots and pans and wooden spoons and rubber gloves. A while back I had visions of equipping my garage in such a way, and those dreams are rising once again.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The 'Limelight' of my life

This 'Limelight' hydrangea has been just outstanding this year. My sister-in-law works in a New England farm stand where, among other things, they grow and sell their own flowers. While we were visiting, the rafters were teeming with upside down flowers, drying. Among them were hydrangeas, and I thought, I could do that, but where to hang them in my house? A little research reveals that one may leave the blossoms to dry on the plant. So that is what I am doing.

Friday, September 13, 2013

In training

Sometimes one is tempted to preserve one's knitting, but when it comes to cotton dishcloths, I use them until they start to give out.

Doesn't quite look like the original, does it?

Knitting dishcloths is also a good way to get one's knitting mojo back after a summer break. The projects are small and useful and not wool. I made three replacements, one for general use and two for backups for when company comes.

Ninepatch, double moss stitch, ball band

The ninepatch and ball band ones are from Mason-Dixon Knitting, the double moss stitch just your run-of-the-mill bordered-with-garter square. All are in Lion Brand cotton.

The wash mitt I made my SO has seen its better days as well.

So I also whipped up a new one of those.

More double moss stich

NOW I think I am ready to get back into knitting. (It helps that the garden is winding down.)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Best all-purpose casserole recipe in the world

A while back, a friend gave me a recipe (no idea where she got it - maybe she made it up herself). I have never made it to her specifications because the thing is just so modifiable. And I make it a lot because it is so easy and allows me to use up foodstuffs that are not getting eaten any other way. Here is today's version:

  • 2 c. vegetable stock (that has been in the freezer since god knows when)
  • 1/4 c. butter
  • 1 c. medium brown rice
  • Some chopped green pepper and onions that have been in the freezer since the summer of the Worst CSA in the World
  • Some tomatoes from the garden, because I can't stand to eat any more salsa
  • An entire bunch of cilantro that has been languishing on the counter, because I can't stand to eat any more salsa
  • A can of black beans

Preheat oven to 350.

Bring stock and butter to a boil in a saucepan.

Place rice in 3-quart casserole (one that has a lid). Top with green pepper, onions, and tomatoes. Gently pour the stock and butter over all. Cover and bake for 45-60 minutes.

Remove from oven and stir in black beans and cilantro. Return to oven for 15 minutes.


Tonight I ate mine with tortilla chips I found in the cupboard, because I can't stand to eat any more salsa.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The long haul

Where's my ride?

My daughter and I took the granddaughter (who is not quite three) on a road trip to meet her great grandfather and other assorted relatives that live in the Boston area.

Are we there yet?

It was granddaughter's first long drive, first time in a hotel, first visit to the beach, first meeting of cousins her age from my side of the family. There were a few meltdowns (a spectacular one at Trader Joe's in Peabody and an interminable one on I-90, all the way from Boston to Albany), but in general, she was quite the trooper as we dragged her here, there, and everywhere.

Stylin' the rest stop

She must have been having fun because she did not want to go home. The grown-ups were more than ready for their own beds, though. Once back in the Fort, I told my daughter, Let's do this again... in about three years.

Road warrior