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March 2009

Backward seasons...

P1060061 After a warm sunny reprieve, it is back to the cold damp days of a New England spring.  No matter.  During the late winter months, as the days grow longer and brighter, my indoor garden begins to set buds.  By March, the orchids begin to bloom.  Yesterday, I counted over a dozen plants blooming or soon to be.  The jasmine is at it's peak, the fragrance overwhelming.  There is an amaryllis that surprised me this year, it's red blossoms showing themselves through the branches of a smallish tree.  The hibiscus that I cut back severely, just before bringing it indoors last fall has forgiven me and although still nearly devoid of greenery, has begun to bloom with dozens of buds coming along behind.  Come May, when the outdoor canopy leafs out, it will be dark indoors, fall to my indoor garden.  









Saturday was one of those perfect days, where everything falls together.  At 6:30 am there was a heavy fog blanketing the coast, early spring cool and with a light breeze.  I'd be traveling across several coastal bridges.  The magic of driving up into the clouds hadn't escaped my imagination.  Two hours later, I left my car in a parking lot and joined Cindy for the drive south. We were headed to one of my favorite places on earth, to do one of my favorite things.  By 10 am we were setting up our spinning wheels in the visitor's center at the Sachuest Point Wildlife Refuge, one of my old stomping grounds.  Bliss.  We settled in to spend the day spinning (demonstrating), chatting with the visitor's, admiring the photographic talent of David Farmer and best of all, walking within the refuge.  Early in the afternoon the sun peaked through and I set out through the thicket for the rocky cliffs and cove I love so well. 



I was on a mission. 


Lucky for me that Sunday was a rainy day. 


ten minutes (for Tuesday)

P1060068  It has been a long time since I shared my Ten Minutes a Day projects.  This one has held my interest for a while.  Last October, I came across some merino roving I'd had for a while.. probably longer than that, and decided to toss a pound or so into the dye pot.  Something came up, maybe a phone call, who knows, and I promptly forgot about it.  It merrily cooked away and by the time I remembered, it was a touch overdone.  Not badly, but I'm not a fan of overcooked merino.  Been there, done that, years ago. What I am a big fan of, are my carders.  Love them.  If I wasn't a fan before the three days I spent with Deb Menz at SOAR, I was when I left.  Now, I'm a carding fool.  Nothing is safe.


See, it isn't really too bad.  But it sure is nicer after a run through the carder.  To it, I added a lovely hand-dyed mohair blend I had kicking around.


and that + that = this...


Here, I'll open the batt up a bit to show you what's inside.


My carder is close enough to the kitchen that most of the carding is done while I wait for my coffee to brew in the morning.  Seriously, before coffee. 

Spinning the singles, that's hit or miss.  Whenever I can sit down for a few minutes, I tear off a strip from a batt and spin it up.  Less than 10 minutes.


in the eye of the beholder

Symplocarpus foetidus..

If you aren't afraid of getting your feet muddy, and maybe even your knees, take an early spring tromp into the wettest, swampiest spots you know and see if you can spot the graceful curve of the Skunk Cabbage spathe. 


The chartreuse and burgundy spikes peak up through mud and mulch, the only brightly colored plant brave enough to show itself this early.  It would be easy pickings if it weren't for its peculiar defense, the odor for which it is named.

I found an interesting explanation for its early arrival on Wikipedia. 

Skunk cabbage is notable for its ability to generate temperatures of up to 15-35°C above air temperature by cyanide resistant cellular respiration in order to melt its way through frozen ground, placing it among a small group of plants exhibiting thermogenesis. Although flowering whilst there is still snow and ice on the ground it is successfully pollinated by early insects that also emerge at this time.

One of the memories I have of my Grandmother, is her use of skunk cabbage in her beautiful ikebana treasured it not for its strange ability, but rather for its lovely shape and colour. 

Garter Yoke Cardigan


The day was warm enough to walk with only a swear and scarf.  A good day to finally get a picture of the Garter Yoke Cardigan.  Well, there were a few snow flurries that passed through.


I'd change a few things if I were to knit this again. 

  • First, I'd eliminate the waist shaping.  Especially with the extra length I had added.  The sweater would be more flattering if it were not quite so fitted, or... if I'd lose that 10 pounds I've added this winter.  After the picture was taken I walked a mile and a half. 
  • I would also make the button bands wider.  The buttons I used were big. I used only five. 
  • I'd make the yoke longer.  I like the yoke detailing and with my build, there is too much distance between the yoke and ermmm... my shelf. 

Alterations that I made:
  • I shaped the sleeves.  From the elbow down I decreased two stitches along the inside "seam" every six rows. 
  • That waist shaping.. it would have been even more pronounced but I only did two decreases and spaced them further apart.
  • The neck.. it is higher than as written by about seven rounds. I also stepped down several needle sizes on the extra rows.  One thing about the neckline of this sweater, it is not easy to find an appropriate shirt.  A turtleneck would be perfect, but I rarely wear them.  Best choice underneath, nothing.  Seriously.  The drape is better as well as the neck line.  Not today, it was too cold to walk afterward without a coat or a shirt underneath.  I wanted to walk and wore a long sleeved tee.


The specs:
  • Pattern: Garter Yoke Cardigan, by Melissa LaBarre, in Knit1 magazine, Fall/Winter 2008.
  • Needles: #5 for the top yoke and cuffs, #8 for all the rest
  • Yarn: All Wool ( a yarn I trying out for Ball and Skein ), worsted wt., hand-dyed for this sweater.   I'm unsure of the yardage, somewhere in the 1250 area is my best guess.
  • Buttons: I have no idea were I found them except to tell you I had them stashed away in my button box.  They are tagua nut, carved and dyed. I absolutely love them.


tricked out

Last November I wrote a post about Dave Paul and The Merlin Tree's newest addition to the HitchHiker line. The picture was of a prototype, first stage R&D.  Tonight, I get this from Dave..

Custom Built DT HitchHiker - hand rubbed colonial red frame with spaulted maple accents, 4 ratios, noise dampening package, on-board lazy kate and needle-nose oil bottle.


Saturday, Chris and I went through some of our spaulted maple pieces and found a beautiful piece to match the wood I'd already used on my custom HitchHiker.  Sunday morning we headed over to visit Dave and Kathy.  We had coffee and visited, catching up a bit before ending up in the shop.  Then tonight... Wow!  That was fast!  Someone's been playing around.  That drive wheel is not the 14:1 I left it with. 

It still needs a bit of finish work.  What a pleasure it will be to see the details in that wood pop when the finish is rubbed on.  Thanks, Dave.

walk with me wednesday

... out of winter and into spring.

I hear it everywhere.  The casual hello at the market, the how are you doing at the post office, my mom on the phone, everywhere it follows with,  it feels like spring.  Rubbing it in, she goes on to tell me the aconite in her yard are nearly over, the snowdrops already gone .  It's hard to imagine looking out my windows.  But, the sap is flowing and last Sunday saw the start of boiling.  I hear from neighbors that it will be a good year.  Perfect weather.  Sugaring and spring go together.

There is another harbinger of spring and I can see them by the change of color down by the pond.


The light these days is so bright on the snow that I've taken to wearing sun glasses.  It is impossible to get a picture that doesn't feel too purple, too blue, to bright, to contrasty.  With the snow crusting, I decide to walk to the dam without snowshoes.  It was almost hard enough, not quite. 


Breaking through a crust is hard work, especially when you find yourself up to your knees, even thigh deep in the snow.  Too late to turn back, I walk on, a few steps on top giving me confidence, the next few crashing through.   This kind of walk is exhausting but I'm on a mission.  In my pocket are pruners and over my shoulder a large bag.


The pussy willows are out.   


These are the males.  Until recently, I didn't now that the stems that I cut, the bushes bearing the furry little pussy willows, were the males. 

next up

P1060013 With the Garter Yoke Cardi off the needles, it was time to go through the stash to see if something caught my imagination.  I'd planned to start an asymmetrical vest that would use about 500 yards of a heavy worsted.  Sounded perfect for a handspun wool mohair blend I'd spun years ago, probably during my first year spinning.  I found it in a bin, with a bit already knitted, some project rejected, but never frogged.  

P1060010 When I'd finished digging through, I had pulled out nine smallish skeins, more than I'd thought I had.  I ran it onto the skein winder to check the yardage and came up with 1008 yards.  That's enough to really DO something.  The yarn is rustic, and a little over-spun.  I checked my gauge on #8 and #9 needles and started flipping through my patterns.  Then I remembered Cheryl and the beautiful hand-spun February Lady's Sweater she knit and wore to SOAR last fall.  Take a look at her modeling the sweater and I bet you'll want one too. 

Zak and I wound the yarn into balls. 


I've decided to knit it using a size smaller than I usual but knit on #9 needles.  The pattern calls for somewhere between 950 - 1050 yards.  Fingers crossed.