This Old Dog Part II

Along with pushing myself to learn new techniques in my hobbies, I’ve been pushing myself in other ways. Last weekend was all about stepping outside my comfort zone.

First off, I climbed a 30-foot rock wall, ziplined through giant evergreens, and crossed seemingly endless chasms. OK, maybe it wasn’t quite that death-defying, but it was pretty scary.

My sister-in-law—who is obviously way more adventuresome than I—wanted to do the Zip Wild Challenge Course at Northwest Trek for her birthday. And yes it’s just as terrifying as it sounds; it was also amazingly fun. I spent a few hours in the treetops, pushing myself beyond my capabilites, and laughing with a bunch of great women.

I believe I am the black spot in the very center. Thanks Holly for taking the photos.

That sounds like plenty for one weekend, but that was just the start. I bought the MR a glass blowing class for Valentine’s Day, and it was getting ready to expire. He suggested company would be nice, and I again faced my fears. You see, I’ve always been kind of klutzy. If an accident is going to happen, it’ll probably happen to me. I’ve been known to reach out and touch things without thinking. I came home from my one glass-fusing class with plenty of cuts and burns. But anything for my guy.

So Sunday found us at the Redmond School of Glass ready for our lesson.  We could make a glass float or a glass ornament in whatever color we chose. The instructors demonstrated the steps and then carefully walked each student through the process.

Working counter-clockwise from the top right, first we rolled the molten glass in colored glass, then heated it in the furnace, repeated the process, shaped and blew, and ta-da an ornament was born. The MR took a video of me, so you get his smiley face this time.

Hot? Yes. A little intense? Yes.  Very cool? Yes.

We had a great time. The MR’s first ornament broke as the instructor removed it from the tube, so he got twice the experience. It was a very fun afternoon. And yesterday on the way home from work, the MR picked up these beauties.

I’m not sure if they’ll make it on the tree—it’s always my favorite ones that get broken when it takes a tumble. For now, they’re at home on the dining room table.

What new adventures have you started on?

By the by, we also ran on down to Oregon this week to pick up Baby Girl. Year two of college is over, and she’s home for a minute before heading overseas to study this summer. Enough time to recover from finals, do a little shopping, take some photos for Mom, and laugh at Dad’s jokes. If a week’s all we’ve got, we’ll take it. Fun to have our baby home.

 

 

 

This Old Dog

We’ve all heard the saying:

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

But me and a friend of mine were chit-chatting the other day remembering just how good our little Cocoa-bean was for grumpy old Bogart. He’d never understood the pleasure of a good hello, ear rub, greeting. You could scratch his belly—sure—but he just wanted to play ball or frisbee. All this social stuff was beyond him, until that silly puppy came along and wanted to be petted all the time. In his old age, he decided a little attention could be nice.

All that is a long, round-about way of saying this old crafter can learn a thing or two. You see, I’ve been knitting and crocheting for close to 40 years or more. I’ve made sweaters and snowflakes, hats and mittens, socks and blankets. I’ve got this stuff down, right? But no, people are always coming up with new ideas, new designs, new stitches, new methods, and I don’t want to be left behind.

So I’ve been on a bit of a binge lately—a book buying binge, and I thought I’d share a few of my recent projects.

 

Let’s start with Blueprint Crochet Sweaters by Robyn Chachula. The book came out in 2013, so it’s not new, but I’d checked it out from the library on a whim and been blown away by the patterns. They were just so intriguing. At first glance, I had no idea how they were creating these stitches or how to replicate them.

To be honest, I’m not usually that keen on crochet for sweaters. They tend to be a bit bulkier than I like and just don’t have the drape of a knit garment. But these were very unusual. I loved the cranberry cardigan, and was surprised to learn a whole different type of stitch I’d never heard of. The linked double treble crochet is like the marriage of regular crochet and tunisian crochet. It creates a very nice band with beautiful texture. Coupled with open work crosses, I thought it would make a great summer cadigan for our chilly evenings.

I even had the yarn in my stash—or so I thought. I’d picked up some great bargains at Vogue Knitting Live in Seattle a few years back and lost the tag on some tencel/linen in a beautiful red. It was listed online as 1450 yards per skein, so I’d be set. Unfortunately, I somehow had purchased half a skein, so now I have the better part of the front and back of my cardigan done with no sleeves or button band and discontinued yarn.

I’ve been pouting/ I mean thinking about how to proceed, and so the partial sweater has sat on the dining room table for more than a week. We have company coming, so I’ll just have to rip it out. But next time I will weigh that random yarn from my stash to get a better idea of what I’m working with.

Key words, next time, sadly I had another stash issue all at the same time. The lovely cotton table runner I made up is about a foot too short to hang off the ends of the table. Queue more pouting and frustration. I came up with all sorts of ideas. I could buy contrasting yarn, rip out a yard, add a different color for interest, and then finish it off as planned. But my local shop didn’t have any that I thought would work in the right weight, and color, and twist, and material. I told the MR my woes, and he said just make it shorter.

I remember flying into a tizzy when we centered the guest bed under the windows and could no longer open the closet doors. I had visions of adding a panel to make it look like we have three windows over the bed, moving the wall sconces, and maybe adding a new window eventually. The MR suggested tilting the bed just a smidge away from the wall, so you can open the door. Sometimes he’s so smart, and the simple answer is the best.

Back around the holidays, I bought Knitting Fresh Brioche by Nancy Marchant. If you’re into two-color brioche and you love the idea of patterning with this technique, this is the book for you. Nancy Marchant is a master of this stitch, amazingly creative, and a great teacher. I knitted up a modified Ring of Fire cowl for the shop to show how marrying two very different colors can change the look of each. Using the stitch patterns, I’ve designed a sweater, and many of the people on my Christmas list received mug cozies. I’ll warn you, brioche can be addicting. This is another book that’s been out for awhile, but I think it’s great.

Now, I was surprised to find myself buying A Garden of Shawls by Karen Whooley. But I’d been listening to a podcast (The Yarniacs) and the host told how she’d used a shawl as a blanket when traveling on an airplane. The shawl fit into a sandwich bag and was at the ready in her purse in any situation. A had some laceweight yarn I’d been holding on to, and me and the MR are always on a plane somewhere. Then I listened to another great podcast (Yarn Thing with Marly Bird) interview with Karen Whooley about her new book. She was from the Seattle-area, maybe she’d want to come out to our shop, maybe her shawls were just what I needed.

This is not an amazing technique book; it’s not teaching you a slew of new stitches; it’s a collection of very pretty shawls. I made the Ecliptic in Juniper Moon Farms Findley Dapple (a yarn from my stash that actually had enough yardage). The directions are great and the chart was easy to follow. Now, on my travels, I have a lovely, lightweight shawl to throw on over my sundress to make me church appropriate.

There are at least two other patterns—Enchantment and Briar—that are totally calling my name. How many cathedrals are we going to visit this summer? I’ll need something to cover my shoulders during those starlight dinners.

The last book I’m going talk about today is Self-Striping Yarn Studio by Carol J. Sulcoski. This book is less about new stitches and more about using some of the amazing new yarns to their best advantage. Sulcoski talks about the different types of self-striping yarns and what they mean for you. She discusses common problems, how to solve them, and then offers an array of patterns to showcase these beautiful yarns. Thumbing through the book just now, I saw a sweet baby sweater that I need to make.

I’ve been working on the Hexagon Sweater off-and-on for a bit. I started with some yarn where the repeat was too short and I ended up with hexagons all looking a bit muddled and much the same. Then I moved on to a longer run yarn where the motifs where brown, brown, brown, red, green, green, green, blue… Let’s just say not that appealing.

So when I was visiting Baby Girl back in April, I picked up a skein of Cascade sock yarn at Cozy a new yarn shop in Eugene. This yarn is (like Goldilocks would say) just right. In a variety of colors, each motif is turning out a little different. I decided an allover pattern might be a little much, so I’m using Cedar House sock yarn in a lovely muted rust for the back and sleeves (from Quintessential Knits). Maybe I’ll have this done by the end of the month to show you. I just need to be a little more monogamous in my crafting.

While maybe you don’t have an incredible urge to buy a bunch of knitting or crochet books, I do hope you’ll try something new today. You can listen to a new podcast, read a new blog, try a new recipe, walk a new path, shake things up a little.

Tried anything new lately?

For the local yarn shop tour, I added something new to my resume and designed a shawlette. I was rather pleased with the results. The Shoulder Stripe Shawlette pattern is available on Ravelry or at Quintessential Knits here in little old Duvall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Duvall Bag Ladies

I’m super excited to share this post with you today. We have bag ladies in Duvall.

Now you may be saying, “Kim homelessness is nothing to get excited about. Let’s have some compassion.” And I’d totally agree with you, because it’s not those kind of bag ladies. Sandy, a local woman and recent retiree, saw stories of women recycling plastic bags into sleeping mats for the homeless. I saw those stories too and said wow, isn’t that nice. But the difference between Sandy and me is that she decided to mobilize local efforts and take on this problem as well. She is a woman of action.

She talked to the local grocery stores to gather bags from their recycle bins. She contacted the local yarn shop—Quintessential Knits—and has enlisted willing volunteers to crochet mats. At the store, she has a basket of prepared bag yarn ready to be crocheted up. And she has friends who work with the homeless at local camps and in the soup kitchens who are able to distribute the finished sleeping mats.

So last Tuesday, I came home from knit group with a bag of plastic yarn and a mission. The first set of mats will be handed out this week.

bl-mats

I went through my drawer of bags and whipped up some yarn of my own. The mats are light-weight and compact. And the store bags add color and interest.

bl-bag-close-up

While I’m opposed to plastic bags in general; let’s face it; they’re everywhere. It takes about 600 bags to make one mat. Maybe these mats will keep at least a few from blowing around parking lots and polluting our oceans. And perhaps they’ll give homeless people a bit of comfort knowing someone cared enough to make one just for them.

You can find out more information about the Duvall Bag Ladies by contacting Sandy at DuvallBagLadies @gmail.com

When Sweet Miss was in high school, she was part of the Random Acts of Kindness club, and they had t-shirts saying “Be the Difference You Want to See in the World.” That’s a wonderful saying to take to heart.

How are you making a difference in the world?

By the way, Baby Girl did make it back to school yesterday. The snow and ice that hit Oregon over the weekend left many travellers stranded. When Portland and Eugene airports closed, one of BG’s friends wound up at SeaTac, so she even had company on the road. Hoping for safe travels for all the kids going back to school.

And Then There Was June

I was at a BBQ last weekend when a friend asked how it was going with Baby Girl home from college. Well honey that’s just the start. June has been a month of changes around here. Not tear off the lower deck, reside the girls’ wing, resurface the floors, move tons of dirt and build retention walls changes.

It’s the MR takes a four-month leave of absence from work, it’s celebrate Sweet Miss’ graduation from college, it’s welcome Baby Girl home from her freshman year away at school, and enjoy two weeks of company kind of change. My day times of solitude have turned into a houseful overnight. Oh, and did I mention Cocoa doesn’t quite know how to behave like a dog now that she’s an only? She doesn’t want to hunt mice on her own; I have to show her how to fetch the ball. Sleeping alone is scary, and are you sure 2:30 isn’t an appropriate time to get up for the day?

Maybe that’s why I’ve only posted a few times this month. I was thinking about it. The blog is really my “thing”, so I try not to let it impact the family too much. I usually take pictures and write posts when the MR is at work and the girls are at school or off with friends. Suddenly, with so much family time, I need to rethink my schedule. It’s all an adjustment. And to be honest, I’m really happy not to have work men here all hours of the day and night. It’s nice to just be family.

So here’s the wrap up of our June.

We started the month of with Sweet Red Gems (more prosaically known as currants) and ended the month with a whole bevy of fruit in Garden & Orchard Updates.  We’ve eaten currants and chicken, currant shortbread bars, currant crisp, and I’m still dreaming of those currant chocolate cupcakes—I have a thing for chocolate. I do believe my family may be getting tired of currants. Don’t worry, we have apples, and plums, and blueberries to come.

Garden Plums & Valley

Me and the MR’s folks even made it to the berry farm down the road for some luscious raspberries. Lemon-currant-raspberry popsicles are on the menu. And the tiny baby beets I saved from critters were quite tasty in last night’s salad. Remember when I talked about the seed exchange and the farmer who grew giant, striped pumpkins? Well, that just might be in our future, too.

J Pumpkin Starts

While this house is open, and pretty, and comfortable inside, our eyes are constantly drawn to the outside, to the view, to the mountains, and trees, and river with its valley. That’s why I post pictures of Summer Storms, and clouds, and birds, and sunsets.

Storm Rainbow

And that’s one reason why we spend so much time out on the deck, The MR bought some new outdoor seating, and I added A Little Color, a Little Softness in the form of pillows. I know I promised a tutorial. Instead, it was so easy, I was inspired to buy more fabric for more pillows. A tutorial is in the future; hold your horses.

Outdoor Seating 2

I thought my sewing was going to be limited to pillows for a while, but no. Remember the blanket I made for Sweet Miss? (Check out A Piece of My Heart.) Her blanket looks lovely.

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Her blanket was in response to the one I made for Baby Girl when she graduated from high schoo. This blanket looks well loved. It’s supposed to symbolize a hug from home, so I guess she missed me now and then.

J Blanket Collage

I bought some more yarn and will be seaming the hexagons together this time. Sweet Miss’ blanket is mostly wool and made up of smaller motifs, so I’m hoping it’ll stand up better to use.

And finally, I shared some weeds from my yard in Simply Pretty.

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I remember when me and the MR moved into our first house. We met the older lady who lived across the street and I complimented her on the stand of pink flowers growing next to the mailboxes in her yard. She tossed my compliment aside and said she called them Myong’s weeds. She’d received some from another neighbor and they were trying to take over. We’ve had poppies scattered across the back yard in stands, crocosmia clumps spreading next to the fence, and yes, Myong’s weeds (better known as rose campion) filling in neglected corners. I saw some campion at the top of the driveway; maybe I’ll add some more beatuiful weeds to the meadow.

Early this month, we were focused on visiting Sweet Miss and celebrating her graduation along with The Fella’s.

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We really are quite proud of these two. It’s been four years of hard work, and they have a bright future ahead of them.

While Sweet Miss has been exploring Scandanavia with a high school chum, Baby Girl has been taking classes and found a summer job. The MR has lots of projects for his time off, and I’ve been working on all sorts of things on the agenda.

It’s been a good month.

How was your June?

 

March Marches On

No matter how much you want time to stand still, it just keeps marching on. With spring just around the corner, and the girls headed home for spring break—sort of—March was a month of anticipation.

We celebrated birthdays, and Easter, and knitting in https://bigwhitehouseonthehill.wordpress.com/2016/03/25/a-little-of-this-a-little-of-that-2/. And by the by, Sweet Miss’ received a pair of socks from the Easter bunny that were fabulous, if I do say so myself. (And yes, she did make it back from Ireland with lots of stories safe and sound.)

MMO SM Socks

Hard to believe, but we bought original artwork in March for the entry alcove in https://bigwhitehouseonthehill.wordpress.com/2016/03/11/now-thats-art/. Papa Willy was nonplussed, but I really like it.  I’d love to say we’ve balanced it out with other fabulous pieces, but this isn’t a movie it’s real life.

NTA Painting in Place

And the painting over our bed looks lovely—especially when I make our bed. I would definitely order from abroad again, but I’d be certain to factor in the extra cost of having a piece mounted. Check out https://bigwhitehouseonthehill.wordpress.com/2016/03/21/a-matter-of-scale/ for more details.

S Pic Closer

Moving outdoors, we looked at the lovely https://bigwhitehouseonthehill.wordpress.com/2016/03/07/blossom-time/ in the orchard. It’s just such a beautiful time of year.

BT Orchard Blooms

And the blossoms of the past with a whole lot of patience and the support of a paint stirrer resulted in https://bigwhitehouseonthehill.wordpress.com/2016/03/14/anticipation-rewarded/. We grew lemons in Washington state.  OK, so they’re were grown inside, and it took over a year, but we grew lemons in Washington state.

AR Lemons

That’s edible lemons that we ate with chicken and in a lovely lemon pie. It’s these little miracles that can change lives.

Speaking of miracles, I want to tell you that the seeds I planted the other day have sprouted, my garden is covered in the green of new growth. I want to tell you that, but I’d be lying.  It’s only been a couple of days; give me a break. I’m crossing my fingers and looking forward to a great season in the garden. Optimism is half the battle for https://bigwhitehouseonthehill.wordpress.com/?p=6873&preview=true.

And now for the https://bigwhitehouseonthehill.wordpress.com/2016/03/04/magic-powder/ post.  I received a lot of interest from South America with this post, don’t ask me why, apparently they have a problem with ripped jeans, too.  I’m still meaning to check out the CD tutorial; maybe it’ll happen next week.

Hope your March was filled with time with family, celebration, the promise of spring, and the joy of living.

 


 

 

A Little of This, A Little of That

It’s just been one of those weeks.  Our sweet girlies are on spring break, and they’ve brought a whirlwind of excitement with them.  While I love having kids home, a whole lot of other stuff goes on hold.

We’ve been out to dinner five times, headed to the mall three times, and sent Sweet Miss and her Fella off to Ireland.

SM & F

We celebrated Baby Girl’s golden birthday at a Japanese steak house with six teenage girls and have had kids over on multiple nights.

ALT Cake

We’ve spent hours in meetings, at the mall, and explored the architecture exhibit at the Bellevue Art Museum.  (Baby Girl’s professor told her class they’d never be great architects without studying other architects work; she’s a very wise woman.)

Me & BG

That’s a lot more than our usual low-key week.  Oh and this weekend it’s Easter, and we’re teaching Sunday school and then driving Baby Girl down to the bus station for the ride back to school.  (Note to self: don’t wait till the last minute to see if you can catch a ride with a friend when Easter and spring break coincide.)

The MR finished painting upstairs—but it’s a mess—so let’s aim on photos for next week.  We still have a pile of pavers to move down in the garden and the bird netting enclosure in the orchard is only half-way done.  Measure twice, cut once is such a good rule.

 

So what do you write about when there’s nothing to write about?  Knitting of course.  I finished BG’s poncho, and can I say Alpaca is lovely to work with.  This is Two Harbors Poncho by Sarah Smuland in Blue Sky Alpaca’s Extra (a 50/50 fine wool and baby alpaca blend).

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Baby Girl looks great, and this pattern knits up really quickly in this cushy, bulky yarn.  My only caution is that it’s knit from side-to-side—something I failed to notice before I made my gauge swatch.  My gauge may be a little off, but this will keep my baby cozy while she’s off at school.

If you’ve read my knitting posts in the past, you’ll know I’m a huge proponent of blocking your finished product.  Here’s a pair of socks I finished recently.

ALT Sock Collage

I was excited to try “Magic Loop”, two-at-a-time socks for the first time and made up Felicia Lo’s Park City Socks in Intrepid Otter sock yarn.  By the by, it’s the Piano Man colorway cause who doesn’t enjoy a little Billy Joel? What I want you to notice is the huge difference between the blocked and unblocked socks.  Taking that extra step makes a huge difference. The lace pattern truly shines with a little blocking.

When you’ve gone to all that hard work, it pays to finish strong.

Have a blessed holiday weekend.  “He has risen.He has risen, indeed.”

Next week, I’ll say goodbye to my sweet girlies and be back with gardening, or house stuff, or knitting, or maybe chocolate cake—you just never know around here.

 

 

 

 

A Creative Weekend

There’s just something about a sunny day that lifts your spirits and brightens your outlook.  Life in general just looks a little rosier. Perhaps it boosts your creativity, too.

With a few days of sunshine amidst the gloom, I’ve been enjoying making all sorts of things.  When we were visiting Sweet Miss and Baby Girl earlier this month, we went to the store for weather stripping and wool socks and somehow  wound up surrounded by Christmas decorations.

Sweet Miss was holding up cheap stockings, and I was saying “Oh, I can make those.”  Why do I say these things?  I had plenty of red flannel, red felt, and red velvet to choose from.  A quick online search and I found free patterns for stockings with fancy curly toes and pointy trim.  Since I was making six of them and embroidering names, I decided a simpler version might be the wiser choice.

I used the pattern from Fleece Fun and got to work.  Maybe I should have watched the tutorial, but eventually I ended up with these for Sweet Miss’ mantel.

Stockings

I’m rather sad that I don’t get to show off all the embroidery, but initials will have to do for privacy’s sake.  Since I used felt, I decided a rustic raw edge would fit perfectly.  It’s fun to think of my girls decorating their own space for the holidays.

There was a definite holiday theme to my creativity.  My sweet sister-in-law has introduced our family to the idea of making a holiday craft when we gather together on Thanksgiving.  This new idea has stuck over the years. Since I am hosting, I decided I should put together a craft, too.  I was looking at wool and silk roving at work (I’m putting in a couple afternoons a week at the local yarn shop) and did another computer search to get some ideas.  Simple and easy are the key words.

Echoes of a Dream designed beautiful angels from roving we could whip up in minutes.  I loved the sheen of the silk roving.  Unfortunately, my first attempt was a flop.  The white silk roving just doesn’t have enough body to hold the shape of the ornament.  So I bought some vibrant hand-dyed roving with plenty of loft.  It worked up beautifully.  With a lot of back combing, I managed to get the silk angel to work, but wool is a lot less hassle.

Roving Angels

I followed Echoes of a Dream’s directions exactly except for placing the wings first and then the arms.  I find that I like making the angel with its face up, so it can smile at me.  Let’s hope my Thanksgiving guests are up for the challenge.

If you’re local, I’m offering a make-and-take class at Quintessential Knits on Saturday, December 5, from noon till 2 pm.  For $5 you’ll be able to take home a lovely ornament for your tree.  Just remember your comb if you’d prefer white over vibrant angels.

All this craftiness doesn’t have to take place at home.  For years I’ve wanted to attend a Paint & Sip event, and Friday I finally got the chance. From across the room, when you squint just the right way, my holiday forest doesn’t look half bad.

Painting

It was a fun evening with friends offered through our local art center.  I was surprised to see how very different each person’s painting turned out.  It was as if we were all painting a different variety of tree.

I have turkeys to roast, beds to make, and rooms to air out.  Hoping to be back on Wednesday with a Thanksgiving greeting, but if not I hope you’re holiday is filled with love and the joy of friends and family.

P.S.  This is a freebie cooking tip for everyone getting ready for turkey day. Toasting your flour on the stovetop over low heat for half an hour turns it a wonderful brown and gives great color and flavor to the gravy.  I’ve always disliked the anemic look of poultry gravy.  If you’re gluten-free don’t use potato flour—it’ll just taste and smell like burnt french fries.

Are you getting ready for the holiday season? Does sunshine get your creative juices flowing?