Point Me

Last fall, I found some absolutely lovely yarn from a local dyer. Knitterly Things (Julia) usually dyes self-striping sock yarn, but she also makes semi-solids. And she sometimes has some with sparkle. She had a trunk show at my LYS (local yarn store), and hanging on the rack was a gorgeous non-traditional Christmas colorway. Lo and behold, there was also a tonal with sparkle that matched the red in the striping colorway.

Both skeins of yarn jumped into my basket. I just knew that they had to be used together in something. And I knew it should be a shawl. Striping yarns are not used nearly as often in shawls as in socks, in part because the stripes will change widths as the shawl shaping develops.

Shawl wrapped around dressmaker dummy.
Large size. Knitterly Things Vesper Sock Yarn and Glitterful Sock Yarn

With some thought, I realized that one way to mitigate the effect of the shaping on the stripes was to use the striping yarn for only half of the row. I also knew that I wanted something that wouldnt require knitters to be constantly referencing charts or written stitch patterns. It had to be easy to work and keep track of while in a social setting, but not just mindless miles of plain stockinette or garter stitch.

Originally, my plan was to make the pattern available for Local Yarn Store Day, which is sponsored by TNNA (The National Needlearts Association). LYS Day encourages fibercrafters to frequent local independent businesses instead of national chains, online-only retailers and big box stores. My pattern, while written originally for Knitterly Things yarn, will work with so many of the hand-dyed yarns that are a staple of the LYS. I would encourage knitters to shop their LYS, find something they loved, and make something beautiful from it.

I swatched. I drafted instructions. I computed yarn use for two sizes. Because while I love a huge shawl, not everyone wants something that will envelop them completely. I worked up references for stitch counts to appeal to the obsessive counters out there. I found someone to test knit/verify the pattern. I finished my prototype and started one of the other size. Everything was going swimmingly.

And then everything was locked down.

One by one, states started signing Shelter in Place orders, closing non-essential businesses. Yarncrafting events of all kinds were cancelled, from social events at individual stores, to regional fiber festivals, to weekend conventions. Dyers who had exhibit space booked and merchandise dyed and ready to display (and more importantly, sell) suddenly had no place to vend their wares. LYS Day 2020 was rescheduled from April to September.

My shawl is still a celebration of the artists and businesspeople who are the lifeblood of the yarn world: independent dyers and LYS owners. Things are hard for them right now. Many have implemented online sales, some for the first time. They are finding creative ways to get yarn into the hands of knitters, crocheters and weavers. If your LYS has done that, or if you are lucky enough that they still have doors open to customers as usual, I strongly encourage you to buy yarn that speaks to you and says it wants to be this shawl. Otherwise, shop your yarn stash – I know you have one. But then when things return to normal, replace those skeins by buying from your LYS.

I’ll link to a few dyers who make lovely things that I know work in this pattern. All three of them were scheduled to exhibit at events that were cancelled, so they have yarn available and ready to ship.

Pattern: Point Me To An LYS, available on Ravelry

Knitterly Things, large sample used Vesper striping sock yarn in Holiday Magic and Glitterful sock yarn in Holly Berry Red

Leading Men Fiber Arts, small sample used Show Stopper in Gothic Queen and Longstocking

BlackCat Fibers, large sample (still on needles) using Nomad Sock in To Venus and Back, Russet, Night Swimming and Toxic

Rolling River Stripes

Finally I can share with you my latest pattern for Sugar Bush Yarns. It’s for a brand new yarn, Blaze. Which is why I haven’t been able to talk about it. Confidentiality and all that, you know.

Rolling River is a shawl/ruana that’s worked modularly: several pieces made the same way and joined. When laid out, it’s a big “U” shape. But don’t worry, it’s flexible enough that it can be worn like a rectangular/crescent shawl. Or you can play around with the buttons on it to make it behave in totally different ways. (That’s the next post… stay tuned.)

Today, our focus is going to be on matching the colors. Blaze is a striping yarn, which means that you get all sorts of colors in your project without needing to do any work other than to keep knitting (or crocheting, or weaving…). But I know there are knitters out there who are a little compulsive and will want things to line up. Here’s what to do.

Pull out your copy of the pattern and you’ll see that the instructions say to knit 2 central triangles, 2 left triangles and 2 right triangles. Those are then joined to make 2 long ruana sides, which are themselves joined with the back panel.

The easy part: match the two central triangles to each other. In a nutshell, you’ll knit one, then start the other one at the same point of the color striping repeat.

Then it gets a little weird.

You’ll want to work the Left and Right triangles so that they pair up as a Right and a Left. BUT when we assemble them, the pair will be split up onto the 2 separate sides of the ruana.

Shawl with modules labeled
Modules labeled

This photo is the prototype ruana pinned out while blocking. I have added text to indicate which triangle is which, so you can see how they match.

Take the matching a step further by working the join bands to match. That’s a little easier: if working in the order indicated in the pattern, work the first band of Side 1 (in the blue box) and the second band of Side 2 (in the yellow box) to match.

Shawl with modules and strips identified
One side, two side,
Yellow side, blue side.

The yarn requirements listed in the pattern are those for getting it knitted. Period. If you want to match the stripes, I highly recommend picking up an extra skein.

It’s Been a While


Has it really been over three years since I updated? Yikes.

A lot has changed in that time.

  • The yarn store where I work was sold. I stayed on with the new owners as an instructor and shop help.
  • Car Guy and I continued our trend of making our corner of the world a little more environmentally friendly by installing a geothermal HVAC system in the house and getting an electric vehicle. Because the car charger is on the meter with the solar panels, we can argue that it’s a solar powered car.
  • I’ve cut back a lot on my canning. We have so much from a few years ago that is still on the shelves that I just can’t justify doing any more until we eat through that. Haven’t had as much time to can, either, with the following couple of points taking up more of my time.
  • I earned a Knitting Instructor Certification from the Craft Yarn Council of America. For anyone considering teaching yarn craft (they have knit and crochet programs), do it! It really got me to look at how to pass on my knitting knowledge, and I think it has helped improve my students’ experiences.
  • And finally, I’ve established a relationship with Sugar Bush Yarns as a designer. My first design with them was released this spring (Piece of My Heart) and the second is due out soon. In fact, that pattern will be the subject of a couple more posts as I share some tips for different ways to wear it.

So you may have noticed from that list that my focus has shifted from cooking, canning, and gardening to knitting. This blog is going to shift focus, too. If that interests you, please stick around. But I understand if that’s not your thing.

I hope to see you again in a few days with an update on my current projects!

Busy busy busy

I have a few too many irons in the fire right now, and unfortunately this one is the one that is being neglected.

I’m bird-sitting my parents’ lovebird while they are on vacation with my Niblings. The bird has laid 4 eggs in the 2 weeks she’s been here.

My latest original knitting design is knitted, but getting the pattern and charts together from my notes seems to take as long as knitting it did.

Fermenting is fun! A few new sauerkrauts have come off my fermentation table, including a Carrot Cake Kraut that included pecans, raisins and cinnamon. That jar became Carrot Cake Kraut Muffins. Delish!

The local farmers market started yesterday, a couple of weeks earlier than last year. 

Gardening is proceeding. I planted the flower starts I got at the market yesterday, along with some of the flowers I started from seed and the cucumbers I started. More planting this afternoon. 

Garden Update, late April

When last we chatted about the garden, I had finished moving around the dirt and rocks that was delivered. That’s all structure and aesthetic enhancements. What else is going on?

I have 4 boot trays and starter “greenhouses” full of seed starts. Luckily, I found some great tracking sheets at Botanical Interests, for easily logging the things in those trays.

Some things are going gangbusters, like the okra, cucumbers, and summer squash. In fact I had to take the lid off that tray because the seedlings were pushing at it already. Tomorrow’s to-do list includes moving those into peat pots so they have a little more room.

But the tomatoes aren’t looking too hot. I started making sure I have full-spectrum lights aimed at the tomato tray during the day, because there isn’t necessarily much sun getting to it. And I want lots of tomatoes for canning this summer! Really. It’s why I started seeds for the following tomato varieties:

  • Cherry Sweetie: red cherry tomato for eating in salads, plain, or pickling whole
  • Golden Rave: yellow Romanita type for eating raw or making chutney
  • Chocolate Cherry: purple/black cherry tomato for eating plain or in salads
  • Tumbling Tom Yellow: yellow cherry tomato
  • Costoluto Genovese: red tomato for sauce or canning whole
  • Cherokee Purple: multi-purpose purple heirloom tomato
  • Brandywine: heirloom multi-purpose tomato
  • Amish Paste: red heirloom type for sauce, paste or salsa

More later in the season on tomato chutney, tomato jam and homemade ketchup.

Next year I’ll have some rhubarb to pick, because I planted 10 last week. There’s one that came up from last year, out of I think 3 that I planted. I should probably move it, becase it’s in the middle of what’s now the asparagus bed.

Radishes, kohlrabi, turnips, spinach, beets and snap peas have all poked their little heads above ground in the garden beds.

Flower starts so far include marigolds, sunflowers and Gaillardia. The marigolds are supposed to help keep nemotodes away from garden veg. Gaillardia are perennials and will attract hummingbirds, butterflies and other pollinators. And sunflowers are just cool. I’m also hoping that they’ll give the squirrels something to eat instead of the garden veg.

Sorry, no pic. Sometime in the next week, we’ll have some sun and I’ll get out with the camera. But there’s not much going on outdoors yet. The average last frost date here is May 2, so it’s considered “safe” to plant out the starts after the 15th or so.

Site Housekeeping

Plans…. a mini rant

This is the part I hate. Trying to get into a real, predictable groove and have real content. Not just dinner pics when I a) have something semi-interesting for dinner, and b) remember to take pics. And c) when Car Guy doesn’t laugh at me for taking pics.

What I’m thinking of doing is having a couple of “real” posts with honest to goodness text a couple of times a week, and any dinner photo posts will be gravy, so to speak. (mmmm….. gravy…. *Homer drool*) If I can get disciplined about it, I’ll even try to do specific types of posts on specific days of the week, so regular readers know when canning recipes will be coming up.

Sound good?

Now I just need to schedule time to pull out the computer and type stuff up.

Dinner, April 25, 2016

Sautéed swai filets, served over spinach and mushrooms, topped with grilled pineapple and a dab of Dixie Relish. Homemade zesty pickled beets and a simple cucumber and cherry tomato salad on the side.

Dinner, April 24, 2016

After almost a week of uninspired menus and several days that were Festival of Leftovers, finally, a decent meal.

Turkey meatloaf topped with sautéed onion, mushrooms and peppers, roasted butternut squash, and homemade pickled beets. Tomato jam added to meatloaf at the table.

Well, There Are Rocks

Building my garden bed

Thousands and thousands of rocks.


No, I didn’t actually count them. But on Tuesday (April 19), I took delivery of 4 yards of garden soil and a ton of assorted cobblestone.

In other words, dirt and rocks.

Last summer, which was the first that I had a garden, I had things pretty squished in one of those pre-packaged 4×4 raised bed kits, a few deck containers, and a couple of beds in the front yard that are really probably better used as flower beds. But I had a total blast being able to bring buckets of fresh produce into my kitchen, mere yards from where they were grown. I got a little carried away ordering seeds from a couple of seed companies.

So I decided that this year, I’d go big or go home. Even though this is home.

That’s butterfly weed, still dormant.

You know what I mean.

Last weekend, we borrowed my parents’ truck to pick up lumber, and we built a really big raised bed. The basic footprint is 10×20 feet, though there is a 2-foot “hallway” running up the middle of it. We built it from 2×6 lumber, so it’s deeper than the other bed. No way in heck was I going to try to get bags of soil from a garden center to fill it.

Enter Main’s Landscape Supply. Order placed Monday, delivered Tuesday, and then it was just a day and a half of pretty constant work with my shovel and the wheelbarrow.

Why not bagged dirt? Wouldn’t that be easier and more convenient? Well, I guess. Sure, it can be lugged around and emptied right where one needs it. But let’s take a look at the math. The large bags of soil at garden centers are 2 cubic feet, and around $7. (Prices vary, but that’s a decent estimate for garden soil with compost, etc., but no chemical fertilizers or plant food mixed in.) A yard of soil is one cubic yard, which works out to 27 cubic feet. I needed 4 yards. That’s 108 cubic feet, or 54 2-foot bags. At $7 each, it comes to $378. Plus tax. Plus delivery or multiple trips to the garden center.

Yeah, no.

For less than that, I got my dirt, delivered. AND a literal ton (that’s 2000 pounds) of rocks to edge beds and things. So I had to move it around myself. That was my workout for Tuesday and Wednesday.

There you have it. The garden. Nothing in it yet, but we’re not to our average last frost date here. My sun room has a table full of seedlings started to fill it up: sweet peppers, 3 kinds of hot peppers, eggplant, 8 kinds of tomatoes, cucumbers, okra, and 3 kinds of squash. Plus seeds for other things that will be direct-sown: green and yellow beans, kale, 2 kinds of beets, several kinds of radishes, kohlrabi, carrots, sugar snap peas, turnips, spinach, and lettuce. Some of those direct-sow items that can handle the chill have already been planted in last year’s beds. Ten new rhubarb plants and 10 asparagus crowns went into their beds, too. (I love that I can say I have a rhubarb bed, even if I won’t be able to harvest any real quantities until 2018.)

Car Guy and I got the last of the soil off the pile and into the beds on Wednesday, just in time for some rain overnight and the next day. There’s some poultry fencing up on the 2 long sides of the garden, but I have to move it around and figure out how to keep it from sagging too badly.

img_0475That’s the veg covered. What about flowers? Oh, those are coming. The seedling trays include starts of Lobelia, daisies, Penstemon, Gaillardia, sunflowers and marigolds. Plus I’ll be direct-planting zinnias, cosmos, four o’clocks, gladiolas, dahlias, Liatris and hollyhocks. One of the new small flower beds was planted with a shade-friendly mix of lily of the valley and bleeding heart.

Today, Car Guy used the last of the rocks to build downspout extension supports that are a little better looking than the old bricks we used to use. With the bed edgings made of the same stones, they actually blend in. Even if I do think they look a little like burial cairns.

I cannot wait to start harvesting!

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