Blanket Love 10


I’ve completely fallen for my zigzag blanket. I don’t know whether it’s the change of seasons that’s made me so in love with knitting it or all the work I have piled up that it provides such a welcome break from, but all I want to do is knit this blanket.


Blanket knitting and I have a history. I started my first blanket back when I was in grad school. It was a feather and fan pattern my aunt gave me. I can still remember the pleasing rhythm of working the stitches and watching the pattern emerge. I kept it in a pile by my sofa, and whenever I needed a break from reading, I’d pick it up and knit a few rows. I’m not sure what happened, especially since I so distinctly remember enjoying knitting it, but at some point I abandoned it and gave it to my aunt to finish.

There have been any number of crochet blankets I’ve started over the years. Squares for several of them are piled in one closet or another, still waiting to fulfill their destiny.

There is also the 2016 Geek-A-Long blanket. That one is actively in progress, but since I’m working it square by square and each square takes a couple of days, it’s coming along in fits and starts.

There is Vivid too. I love that one! One time when I was caught up in a frenzy of blanket lust, I started knitting Vivid squares. They are super fun squares to knit, but starting each one is fiddly, and I think that eventually slowed my momentum to the point that there is still no finished Vivid in my life.

So . . . I love blankets, I love the idea of blankets, I love starting blankets, I love working on blankets. But I don’t tend to finish blankets.


I’m wondering if things might be different this time.

Picking each successive stripe color is definitely spurring me on.


I have quite a few skeins of Cascade 220 Superwash in my stash, and I treated myself to a small shopping spree at Eat. Sleep. Knit. earlier today. I’m claiming temporary insanity from having to work all weekend.

Who knows what will happen. At least for now, though, happiness is a zigzag blanket.

And this amazing October weather.


Fall Is In The Air 12


Are you feeling the fall where you are? We spent the weekend running around here and there and loving the nip in the air.

I bound off the sleeves for Paul’s sweater (finally!) as we drove.


On Saturday, we got to visit this year’s goat babies at Good Fibrations. Their pals gave us the fiber I’ve been using to knit the sweater.


You can see the leaves coming down in their pasture. This is across the border from us in North Carolina, and fall seems to be a little further along there than it is at our place.

I took this picture along our driveway during my lunchtime walk today. The leaves are just starting to turn. I love the woodpecker tree on the right. And can you believe the sky?


Here’s more fabulousness from North Carolina. I can’t remember what the plant in the foreground is called, but I need to find out. That’s pink muhly grass in the foreground. It and the bush behind it with the purple berries made my heart ache they were putting on such a show.


The bush with the purple berries is called a beautyberry. Look at the color of those berries! I’m wondering if it could be preserved in dyeing. I haven’t found an answer yet although I did learn that the beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) is a natural insect repellent, apparently comparable to DEET in effectiveness.


The cooler temps have spurred Paul to start bringing firewood up from the shed.


And they’ve made me pull out the crockpot.


And start another blanket.



Something New 10


The mountains of Northeast Tennessee are wildly alive. Every single day, some new face of nature shows itself.

In the beginning I wanted to know about everything, immediately. Which tree was the hemlock that was used to build our house? Which were the tulip poplar and the sourwood the bees love? Where could I find the plantain? We might need a  a poultice!

It’s been a process, but tree by tree and plant by plant, we’ve been getting acquainted. For the most part, I’ve learned to be patient and take the lessons as they come. But every now and then, something happens, like the goldenrod this year. It’s been insane. Fabulous, blinding yellow! Everywhere!!


I knew the time to try my hand at natural dyeing had come.



I decided it would be fun to throw several different types of fiber into my dye pot. I wanted to use some of the Border Leicester top that was a Christmas gift last year from my dear friend, Pam. I also wanted to try dyeing some thread, so I ordered some Dye-lishus cotton from New World Textiles. I had some Lion Brand Fishermen’s Wool and some Plymouth Galway Worsted yarn on hand, so I grabbed those, and I even tossed in a piece of cotton dish towel, just to see what would happen.

The first step was to scour everything and then to mordant all but the Dye-lishus thread. I used alum as a mordant and just followed the directions in Chris McLaughlin’s A Garden to Dye For.

The best part was making the dye bath.



You’re really not supposed to do this in your kitchen . . .


I’ll figure out a better plan down the road.


Something about working with plants growing just a few steps beyond my door made the whole experience feel kind of magical.

Here’s how things looked straight out of the pot.


That was last night.

Here’s everything today after having time to dry.



I’m in love with the Border Leicester top. It took the color beautifully.


The yarn is a little lighter than I’d like, and there are some spots where the dye didn’t take as well as it did elsewhere, so I’ll need to work on that.


I’ll also need to figure out how to get better results with the cotton thread. It ended up a dull, tan-ish color–okay for some things, but not what I was hoping for.

Bottom line: this was big time fun and an excellent jumping off point for a new project I’m anxious to begin!

I’m going to be doing a stitch along with Bradie, whose Healing Handcrafting blog has become one of my absolute favorites. Bradie has written beautifully about the process here and here, and I will be posting about my own progress soon. In the meantime let me recommend the book we’re using for inspiration. It’s Slow Stitch: Mindful and Contemplative Textile Art by Claire Wellesley-Smith. Both the writing and the photographs are something to be savored.


That’s my little hank of hand-dyed thread on top.


Anyone in Boston? 2

This poor person. Don’t you know exactly how he feels? Maybe we could at least meet him at Simon’s and commiserate over a cup of coffee.

Lucky girlfriend, huh?


Instructions for living a life . . . * 2

I’m trying to live deliberately these days. There’s so much to be swept up in. I know you know what I mean. World things, family things, living life things . . .  It can be overwhelming. I’m looking for solid ground.

Knitting is solid ground. I’m slowly making progress on the sleeves of Paul’s sweater. I love thinking of his arms wrapped in these stitches I’ve put together, one after another, so carefully.


Recently, I was with some people dear to me, and the situation was stressful, tense. There was waiting involved. I picked up these sleeves and started to knit, and the effect was remarkable. The energy in the room changed for all of us. I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t experienced it first hand, but my knitting was like a spell that suddenly allowed us all to relax. I was aware of the change as it was happening. We were all watching my hands knit one stitch, and one stitch, and one stitch, and we began to be soothed. Knitting has that power.

Homemade buttermilk biscuits are also solid ground.


Baking these required just enough focus to make the demands of the moment more powerful than all the other places my mind wanted to go. Eating them reminded me of my grandmother. Sharing them with Paul made me happy. That was enough.

Another thing I think will be grounding is starting to do some natural dyeing. I’ve been anxious to try this for quite a while. The process interests me, and I like the idea of becoming more intimate with the plants and trees that are everywhere around us on the mountain. The goldenrod is practically insisting that the time is right. It’s in full, crazy bloom at the moment and is everywhere.

I ordered some books last week.


And today we went to the flea market to look for inexpensive, non-reactive pots and other tools I’ll need.


It must have been my lucky day because I found three pots, two stainless steel and one enamel, along with some tongs and a stainless steel colander.


Dogs may be the most solid ground of all. How can you have any doubt about where you stand when you’re with a dog?


In many ways blogging is also grounding. It’s what I thought of when I read Mary Oliver’s “Instructions for living a life”:

 Pay attention.

Be astonished.

Tell about it.

If you have any suggestions for staying grounded, I’d love to hear them. Please post a comment or email me at


*From “Sometimes” in Red Bird: Poems by Mary Oliver

In honor of the first day of Autumn . . . 6

In honor of the first day of Autumn, I made blackberry buttermilk cake for lunch. It was this recipe, but with blackberries. It was very good.


I was out of town for awhile. There was knitting and beer drinking in a hotel.


There was knitting and coffee drinking in a couple of different airports.


There was knitting on airplanes.


There’s been some reading.


I’ve also learned a few things. Did you know that the poet Marvin Bell has a son who’s a song writer? His name is Nathan. One interesting (if not particularly well written) article claims he “may be the Woody Guthrie we need in the age of globalization.” More research is definitely in order.

I also came across the work of Lisa Anne Auerbach. Who knew?

The well is a little dry at the moment, so I’m trying to fill it up. Hopefully, I’ll have more to say soon. In the meantime, thank goodness for knitting. Be well, my friends. Knit on.

Yarn: The Movie 6

I am so psyched!



There’s an interesting article about Yarn: The Movie here.

Dorothy 8

The fiber retreat on Roan Mountain was wonderful beyond words. Beyond pictures even. I don’t have a single one. I did return with something I want to show you, though.

Meet Dorothy.


In the immortal words of Brenda Dayne:

We are saving the world from mass production–one sweater, one sock, and one voodoo doll at a time.

I think Dorothy might be the next step in my personal textile revolution.


Randomly, on a Thursday 8

Finns Hat

This has been a banner week for communication. Sometimes it seems impossible to accomplish anything when it involves appealing to far-away people I don’t know for a response. It can feel like my phone calls and emails are just wafting off into the void. The last few days have been different, though.

One communication success didn’t have anything to do with knitting, but I’ll tell you about it anyway. I wanted to express my views on a particular situation to the mayor’s office. I couldn’t find an email address and so resorted to calling, thinking I’d either reach an administrative assistant who’d just mark down my position on a list or, worse, that my call would be routed into voicemail hell. As it turned out, I did have to leave a message, but to my huge surprise, the mayor himself called me back not twenty minutes later! Can you believe it? I was blown away. We talked for about ten minutes. He gave me some suggestions about additional people to contact, and I walked away a happy citizen. Imagine that.

There have been a number of other minor communication successes, but the really fun one you might actually be interested in has to do with knitting. I’m teaching a class on double knitting at the upcoming Knotty Ladies Fiber Retreat on Roan Mountain. I’ve been enjoying poking around trying to figure out how the popularity of the process evolved in recent times, and I kept running into a significant gap.

Double Knitting

There aren’t a ton of resources available on double knitting, but up until the late 80’s, it seems like everything out there proceeded on the assumption that the technique must be accomplished in a particular way. If you know about double knitting, the “way” is with the knit or purl one and then slip one method. This allows you to do things like work a tube with two straight needles or to make a piece of flat knitting that has two layers. It gets the job done, but because it takes two passes to complete each round, it’s slow.

The modern way of doing things is to knit each side (of the tube or of the double-thick flat piece) simultaneously. It’s much quicker and more efficient. I learned this method from Alasdair Post-Quinn. His book and his Craftsy class are amazing resources.

DK Books

Anyway, as I perused some of the earlier explanations of double knitting, I started wondering if Alasdair was the first to use this modern method. Before his book, the most comprehensive examination of the topic was Beverly Royce’s book, Notes on Double Knitting, and she does things the old way.

So I sent Alasdair an email last night via his website and figured, not that that was the end of it, but that it would be at least a week or maybe even a month or more before I heard back. The man has a full-time, non-knitting job, plus he writes and travels all over the place to teach classes.

Well, guess what. First thing this morning, I had an information packed response from him that was just as helpful and nice as you could ever hope to get. It absolutely made my day.

In case you’re still following along with the technical end of this and are interested, the short version of the answer he gave me was that he wasn’t the first to use the modern method, but that the earliest source to which he could trace it didn’t present it with the sort of fanfare you’d expect to accompany a true innovation. This makes him think that someone, somewhere must have introduced this technique before. The other things published around the same time as the article Alasdair mentions and those that immediately precede it all seem to teach the old method, though, so it appears we’ve still got a missing link. But thanks to Alasdair’s terrific response, it’s a little gap in my understanding of the timeline now rather than a massive, gnarly one.

If you’re not interested in double knitting, this is probably a pretty boring blog post. But maybe the take-away can be that, every now and then, reaching out to someone in the public sphere for direction or information can actually produce real results.

Checks and Balances

In other news, I’m still working like a maniac and just getting my knitting in where I can. I’m almost finished with the front of Paul’s Checks and Balances sweater, and then I’ll just need to do the sleeves and join everything together.

I also started a double knit hat for my godson who left for his freshman year at TCU this week. That’s it in the photo at the top of this post. Since there’s about a 101% chance Finn doesn’t read the blog, I’m not at all worried about spoiling the surprise.

Poor Alice is moulting.


Augie is pretty much living in this blanket pile because of the crazy thunderstorms we’ve been having . . .


Everyone thinks they’d feel better about the weather if they could mooch some homemade ice cream.

Ice Cream

The garden is winding down.


And there were peanut butter cookies.

PB Cookies

That’s it for now. Knit on, my friends!

%d bloggers like this: