Posts for : October 2016

“Time is contagious . . . Everybody’s getting old” 3


Hello, my friends. If we were standing face-to-face, this would be one of those days when we just looked at each other, shook our heads, and then burst out laughing. Know what I mean?

The only thing that makes a lot of sense in my life right now is the zigzag blanket. I’ve been knitting on it constantly.


Paul’s sweater is ready to be finished.


I intend to seam it up and add the neck any day now, but there keeps being the world and the work and the million stressful things, and I just keep needing to knit the zigzag blanket.

Happily, there was fiber guild last weekend, so I was able to socialize with the zigzag blanket in tow. In addition to seeing my people, I got some excellent blanket knitting advice from Teddy.


He was so tired by the time he finished wedging himself between Cari and me to offer his views on color selection that he had to collapse on Cari’s lap and take a nap.


Another happy thing is that three books I preordered forever ago have all come in the mail. People Knitting has incredible photos as I expected it would. I haven’t had a chance to dive into Mary Oliver’s Upstream or The Hidden Life of Trees yet, but it’s nice having them nearby for whenever that elusive free moment comes. I’m especially excited about The Hidden Life of Trees. I wrote about it here if you’re interested.


One of the things I’ve wanted to share with you when I finally got around to posting is this article about Lars Rains. He’s a former New York cop who is really into knitting! He published a book called Modern Lopi last year, and the designs in it look incredible. I especially like Hildur. There’s something about the way the neck is worked that seriously appeals to me.

The other thing I wanted to mention is the Dyeing Now project. This is the coolest thing! The centerpiece is a book published in the early 20th century called Vegetable Dyes. It was written by Ethel Mairet who was a pioneering weaver but also did tons of experimenting with natural dyeing. The book is a catalog of all of this with instructions on how to duplicate Mairet’s results. It was apparently one of the first books on natural dyeing to reach a wide audience. The point of the Dyeing Now project is for contemporary dyers to prepare samples of dyed fiber using Mairet’s recipes. Anyone can participate! The instructions are on the Ditchling Museum website here.

Sorry for the rambling post. I hope to make more sense again some day. Today’s title is from Damien Rice’s song “Coconut Skins.”


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.