Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Down To The Wire

Stephanie wrote:

This time of year can be busy and hectic, at times a blur. We run from one thing to another, barely taking time to savor the moment.

Even with all the planning and preparation we're busy down to the last minute. And then it's here.

My own holiday preparations are still in the making. I've had to call in reinforcements. My sister is here baking cookies and bringing order to my chaotic household. We secured a tree. It waits outside for us to clear a space. All in good time.

I continue to knit and make progress on my list of holiday gifts. I have resigned myself to the fact that not everything will be completed in time for the opening of gifts. But there is something to be said for gifting a ball of yarn with a promise for what it will become. And then the knitting will be easy, done out in the open with no pretense of secrecy.

Just the other day I experienced a knitter's rush. I've been hard at work on several Cairn hats. It's been fun to sift and sort through stash, playing with different colors to toss together in a hat. I knew I was cutting it close with this one. I had estimated the yardage of the contrast yarn but wasn't sure if I had quite enough.

As I worked through the crown decreases the ball dwindled before my eyes. But I kept knitting. At one point I was called away on an errand and had to leave my knitting behind. I hated to leave - the suspense was killing me. Would I have enough yarn?




This time the knitting goddess smiled on me. Yes, I had enough, just enough. There were only inches to spare. I couldn't have cut this one any closer. I topped off the hat with a feeling of accomplishment - and relief.

We've been fortunate here in New England. There's nothing like a good storm to provide a festive atmosphere.



Winter white . . .



. . . with a splash of color.

No matter how you mark this time of year, be sure to enjoy the season and savor the moments.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Simple Life

Stephanie wrote:

I try to lead a simple life as much as possible. My kitchen is not full of gadgets, and I have a cell phone only because my kids insist on being in constant communication.

And I try to keep the holidays simple. Granted my long list of holiday knitting projects may not appear to be simple, but for me it's much easier than a trip to the mall. The mere thought of going near a major retail outlet this time of year is sure to bring on a migraine.

This week when my teenage daughter said she wanted to knit a holiday gift for her friend, I was feeling mighty proud. After years and years of watching me knit gifts, she was going to do the same. If my kids have learned nothing else from me, at least they've learned how to knit.

Imagine my dismay when said daughter presented me with this tangled mess.


And this isn't the worst of it. This is how it looked after I had spent a considerable amount of time following various twists and turns. You'll notice it was so bad I had to start from the other end and work my way through the tangles.

The real kicker in all of this is that I had suggested she put the skein on a swift and use the ball winder. While I may not have kitchen gadgets, I do have yarn gadgets. When she handed off the mess, I asked about the swift and ball winder. It turns out she used the back of a chair - which is fine. But then she took the skein off the chair and that's when the whole process went awry. I'm just glad she had enough sense to give me the tangled mess before she took a scissors to it. With a little more time I'll have it all sorted out.

I continue to make progress on the Red Scarf (deadline is just around the corner) and have started a pair of Felt Clogs for my son's birthday next week. I have outfitted the entire family a couple of times around with these clogs but have yet to make a pair for myself. One of these days . . .

And when no one is looking, I work on various secret projects.


The beginning for a couple of projects.

While almost everything is still in some form of production, I have completed a couple of items. My favorite project this holiday season is Cairn. It's quick and clever. The color work is achieved by slipping stitches so you never work with more than one color on each round. Believe me, it's sure to impress the recipient.

Thanks to everyone who responded with comments to the last contest. Fresh ideas full of creativity and inspiration are always welcome. The winner of the winter installment of our Four Seasons Mitten Club is Kate. Congratulations!

Before I head off to select the colors for my next Cairn, I leave you with this.




I love the dark days leading up to the winter solstice. During this busy season I make time for lighting candles and quiet reflection.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Scarf On The Go

Stephanie wrote:

This time of year, with so many knitting projects in the works, I'm forced to maximize my knitting time. I'm sure those of you who knit for the holidays can relate.

I find myself getting up extra early to grab some quiet, secret knitting time. And I stay up later on the other end of the day to knit just one more row - or twelve.

Since the deadline for the Red Scarf Project is rapidly approaching, that project is getting lots of attention. I've set aside my Waffle Rib Socks in favor of the red scarf. Now the scarf goes everywhere with me.

And it's the perfect project to kill time - a one row pattern over and over and over. But already I feel like I've fallen into a hole with this project. I keep knitting and knitting, visibly reducing the size of the ball of yarn. But the scarf doesn't seem to get any longer. How can that be? I'm trying not to dwell on it. I said I will knit until the yarn is gone. As long as the ball gets smaller, I know I'm on the right track.

The scarf made a trip to the skating rink.



The kids and I go ice skating every week. This week I sacrificed my ice time so I could work on the scarf. The kids were bummed I wasn't skating, so next time I'll have to be out on the ice. Maybe I can skate and knit at the same time.

And for a bit of culture the scarf went to a play.



For once I had the benefit of a well lit set.

Thanks to all who posted comments and entered the contest. What an ambitious, creative bunch! If you haven't done so already, there's still time to enter. Post a comment and tell us what you're knitting for the holidays. If you don't knit for the holidays, let us know what you're currently working on. The winner receives the winter installment of the Four Seasons Mitten Club. But hurry - the deadline is Sunday, December 6.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Red Scarf Project and Contest

Stephanie wrote:

Every year I try to knit a few things for charitable organizations. A few days ago I was taking stock of my charity knitting and couldn't think of one thing I had knit for charity during the last year. Not good. I vowed to knit something for charity before the end of the year.

Along comes Anne with her Red Scarf KAL (Ravelry link). Anne is knitting a scarf and hosting a KAL for the Red Scarf Project. This project, spearheaded by Norma, donates red scarves to foster kids in college who no longer have a family support network. This year the Project is behind schedule in collecting donations. I've knit for this unique, worthwhile cause in the past and am on board to knit again.

You might want to check out the KAL - there's a prize involved. Pick up your needles, red yarn and get to work. The deadline is December 15.

My knitting progress has been piecemeal. I always envision hours of uninterrupted knitting time over a long holiday weekend, but it never happens.

I did manage to dump my stash and choose a selection of yarns that will make their way into holiday gifts. And I found red yarn for a scarf. While my list of holiday knitting may seem daunting, I find it reassuring to at least know what I'm up against.

I have given Bittersweet some attention.



I'm ready to turn the heel and get on with it.

It's that time of year when we think of knitting gifts. Since I'm always looking for new project ideas, I've decided to run a contest. Leave a comment with what's on your list for holiday knitting. If you don't knit for the holidays, mention what you're currently working on. The winner, chosen at random, will receive the winter installment of our mitten club. The contest closes on Sunday, December 6.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Enter To Win

Stephanie wrote:

In case you missed them, I want to clue you in to a couple of contests running right now.

First up Wendy Johnson has a contest to name a mitten pattern. The mitten is the winter installment of our Four Seasons Mitten Club. Pop on over and check out the design. If you have an idea for a name, be sure to post it to Wendy's comments. If your suggestion is selected, you win a kit for the mittens. The deadline for entries is noon EST on Sunday, November 29.

Next is a contest being run by Susan Gibbs and Juniper Moon Farm. Susan offers a Shepherding Camp at her farm in Virginia. Shepherding Camp is an opportunity to hang out on the farm and see what shepherding life is like. Susan is giving away a Shepherding Camp Weekend for two. Go here to read all the details and enter to win. But hurry - Susan will be picking the winner this Thursday.

Time for a project update.


Waffle Rib Socks almost ready for the heel flap. Since this picture was taken the flap has been knit, the heel turned and stitches picked up.

From the dye pot.


Celestial in an array of seasonal colors.

Be sure to stay tuned as we'll be running a contest of our own in the near future.



Sunday, November 22, 2009

Club News

Stephanie wrote:

We've been cooking up a little something here at Dye Dreams and have expanded our Four Seasons concept to include mittens. Announcing the Four Seasons Mitten Club.

Every quarter members will receive the yarn and pattern for a pair of mittens. The pattern designers are Wendy D. Johnson, Janel Laidman, Beth Brown-Reinsel and Donna Kay.

We are very excited about this project. We've been working with the designers to select the yarn and an exclusive colorway for each pattern. The designers will offer interesting, varied patterns. Like socks, mittens make a great portable project. It will be lots of fun.

Speaking of clubs we've also opened up our Four Seasons Sock Club for 2010. The designers for the Sock Club include Anne Hanson, Ann Budd and JC Briar. Again, there will be a variety of fibers with an exclusive colorway. These designers are sure to provide a nice selection of sock patterns.

News from the needles . . . I'm cruising along on the foot of my Bittersweet Socks, watching the twists and turns unfold. I had lots of unexpected waiting time the last few days so I also made progress on my Waffle Rib Socks (Ravelry link). Sorry I don't have pictures of either - those will have to wait until next time.

Last month I was at Fruitlands Museum. In addition to an interesting program on Shakers, Transcendentalists and Native Americans we got to view an exhibit of Joseph Wheelwright's Tree Figures entitled Branching Out.




In motion, ready to swoop down and grab you.


The lookout in a field.


A towering figure . . .


. . . with roots for hair.

Incredible works of art. However, they are not meant to last. The trees are not treated and will weather naturally. From the Fruitlands website, ". . . there is a creeping sense that when we turn our backs on them they move." And that's exactly how I felt.

Finally, this piece.



I couldn't resist this face. Or is it a mask? Blank yet expressive.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Balancing Act

Stephanie wrote:

At the end of last week I found myself without a small, portable knitting project. I had finished the Smockies fingerless mitts and didn't have a sock project underway. I felt lost. How could I leave the house without a project in my bag?

I quickly remedied the situation and cast on this sock.



This is the beginning of Bittersweet Socks, the fall installment of our Four Seasons Sock Club. Wendy Johnson designed this cable pattern of twists and turns. I've knit a bit more since taking this picture and am enjoying the design. However, this may not be the best project to carry around with me while I wait in line or at the doctor's office. The chart and needle size changes require more mental power than I usually have in those situations.

My solution - cast on a second sock project.


I can easily carry this project around and work on it without having to think. It's an embellished rib sock - perfect for kiling time while I wait.


The yarn is Dream Sox Mulled Wine, and the pattern is Waffle Rib from Sensational Knitted Socks. The color is more accurate in this picture. I like the way this is knitting up with just a bit of texture.

Now I have some balance with my sock projects. One to while away time and one to make me think.

Part of balancing everything else in my life includes keeping my family happy. Food usually does the trick.



Homemade bagels hot from the oven. Who could resist?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

All Thumbs

Stephanie wrote:

The pace around here hasn't slowed down one bit. We've been busy filling orders, re-stocking inventory.

And shipping the fall edition of our Four Seasons Sock Club. Wendy Johnson designed the sock for our fall installment and recently posted about it on her blog. The colorway is all about fall, and the yarn is Luster Sox, 100% bluefaced leicester. This yarn is one of my favorites for socks, but it works up well for other projects too - neck warmers, scarves etc. We are still taking orders for the fall sock club - you can find it here.

Our website was down earlier this week but is up and running again. The situation has been dealt with and hopefully that's the end of it. One of the frustrations in life is dealing with problems that you, alone, can't fix.

Knitting progress has been slow. I'm still finishing up these fingerless mitts that will be gifted. My goal is to mail them by the end of the week.


Here is mitt the second minus the thumb. This pattern uses an Elizabeth Zimmermann thumb technique which I think is written up in Knitting Without Tears.


See the small bit of contrast yarn? First, knit a specified number of stitches (this patterns calls for 9) with contrast yarn. Return those stitches to the left hand needle. Continue knitting with working yarn as if nothing had happened. Finish mitt. Now it's time to knit the thumb.


Remove the contrast yarn and pick up the exposed stitches.


Rather than remove the contrast yarn in one fell swoop, I worked stitch by stitch and put each one on a needle right away. These stitches are small, and I didn't want them to scoot away from me. I was left with a beautiful thumb opening. All that's left is to pick up a couple of additional stitches on the ends and knit up the thumb.

The first mitt is almost complete except for the finishing details.


These mitts are worked wrong side out. Mitts are turned right side out after knitting. Now it's time for the fun part - smocking. Using beads or contrasting yarn, pull ribs together and attach. I'm working on my first column of beads here. The second column of beads will be staggered with the first to create the smocking effect.


I have fond childhood memories of smocked dresses. My aunt was an excellent seamstress and even made matching smocked doll dresses. The beads give this smocking an elegant touch.

The pattern is appropriately named Smockies; the yarn is Reynolds Whiskey, color 053 from stash. Using stash is good.



The last couple of months have been a flurry of activity - at times a blur. As I gaze out on naked trees with just a few oaks hanging on to their leaves, I recall the warmer, more colorful days of fall.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Website Down

Wahh! Our website is down and the master of such things has not been able to correct the situation. Thanks to all of you who have sent us notes to let us know. Hopefully we'll be up and running again soon.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Survivors

Stephanie wrote:

Mona and I are still picking up the pieces from Stitches East. It was our third event in four weekends - a crazy, busy time for us. October was a marathon of fiber events, and we lived to tell about it.

For many years Stitches East was held in Baltimore, but this year it moved to Hartford. Now Hartford is practically in our backyard so the change of venue was an easy trip for us.

We arrived on Thursday morning to a jumble of boxes and bins.


After several hours of work and lots of rearranging our booth was presentable and ready for public viewing.


Convention center lighting is pathetic at best so you'll have to excuse the poorly lit shots.

Our inventory had been hit hard during the previous two shows, and we were concerned about being able to fill a double booth. We managed to spread everything out, and it wasn't as sparse as I had imagined it would be.

There was a bit of a draft in our booth so one of the first things I did was weave in the ends on my Harmonia's Rings Cowl.



I wore this for one or two days and received lots of compliments. It was just the thing I needed to keep the chill off my neck.


I'm in love with the beaded edge.

Having an event like this so close to home was a great opportunity for many of our friends to come for a day or the entire weekend. Stitches East offers a chance to take classes, browse the marketplace and hang out with other knitters. And don't forget the never-ending parade of beautiful knit garments - everything from wild and crazy to striking and sophisticated. An event like this is not lacking for inspiration.

Thanks to all of our friends, old and new, who stopped by to chat. That's why we keep the extra chairs handy.

For me the down side of these events was the lack of knitting time. I may have knit a bit in Vermont, but I did not knit one stitch the whole weekend in Rhinebeck. I managed only a couple of sock rounds at Stitches East.

While I feel I've earned the right to sit and knit uninterrupted for a couple of days, my schedule won't allow that. However, I did manage to start a new project.


I lost my fingerless mitts in Vermont and started a replacement pair. Then I had the realization that I owe a special someone a birthday gift this coming Saturday. These are destined to be gifted. While they don't look like much right now, they have a little something extra in the finishing. All will be revealed.

Finally, my color inspiration for the week.



Fingerling potatoes - almost too pretty to eat. This was the last week of our farmers' market, and it will be missed. The seasons they are a-changin'.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Rhinebeck

Stephanie wrote:

We're back from Rhinebeck. What a whirlwind weekend!

On Saturday the mobs invaded before our booth was completely organized. The booth was packed all day long as in "take a number" packed. I know many people took one look at the close quarters and decided to come back on Sunday.

Mona and I did our best to move everyone through the check out process as quickly as possible and at the same time restock inventory.

Our booth was in a horse stall in a barn. It was a crisp fall day. One of the challenges was keeping warm. The benefit of having so many people in our booth was the extra body heat. I was dressed in various layers, but the one thing that helped me the most was my Hoarfrost Neck Warmer.

Sunday the weather was not as nice - damp, rainy and still chilly. The crowd was not as large, but we had a steady stream of people in and out.

Time for taking pictures was at a premium, but I did manage a couple shots toward the end of the weekend.

Doesn't this look cozy and inviting?


This is a yurt made by Mehmet Girgic, a Turkish feltmaker. Mona and I had heard Mehmet speak last spring at a Common Cod Fiber Guild meeting. Mehmet uses natural dyes to dye the wool that he then uses for his felting projects. He creates some beautiful, impressive pieces.

This little boy was so cute.


He was taking Rosie for a walk and paused just long enough for me to take a picture. He couldn't stand still and was rocking back and forth on his heels. Rosie is one strong, sturdy gal.

The view as seen from the back of the barn we were in.


A splash of fall color.

At the end of the day on Sunday the sun decided to make an appearance.



Everyone was busy packing up, getting ready to hit the road. For us that meant a trip home in snow.

Thanks to everyone who came out and visited our booth. As always it was fun to meet so many creative and inspiring people. Special thanks to Nancy for stopping by to show off her Jalapeno Sunrise (ravelry link).

We're not done yet. Mona and I have just a couple of days to catch our breath before heading down to Hartford later this week for Stitches East. The fun continues . . .

Monday, October 12, 2009

Crazy For Cowls

Stephanie wrote:

The weather and season are an open invitation to knit as much as I possibly can. I'm happy to report that I've made significant progress on the Harmonia's Rings Cowl.


Using Cat Bordhi's Moebius Cast On this cowl is worked outward from the center. I completed the top half and am now working my way down to the bottom. This pattern is designed by Sivia Harding, and she includes instructions on Ravelry for making it a bit longer. In just a few rows I'll try it on and see if I want to make it longer. I've been feeling chilled the last couple of days (no, I haven't turned on the heat yet) so longer seems like a good option.


The top edge is finished off with the half beaded picot bind off. I love the sparkly accent of the beads against the Celestial Charcoal.

In other news . . . this can mean only one thing.


I must confess that I've already started not only another project but another cowl - this time using Celestial Rust.


This wee bit is the beginning of Soft Cables Moebius. Unlike Harmonia's Rings this cowl is knit flat. Note the contrasting yarn of the provisional cast on. The moebius twist is made when joining the two ends.

While doing a quick inspection of my pathetic yard and plants I spotted a few remaining blueberries on our bush.



Usually the squirrels raid this bush before we get to eat any berries. This time they left us a couple of crumbs.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Wet And Woolly

Stephanie wrote:

Mona and I are back from a weekend in Vermont. This year the Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival was held at a new location in Tunbridge, VT. The setting, fall colors and crowds were all spectacular. The weather was spectacular too, but in a different way.

The rain started on Friday night and continued throughout the day on Saturday. At times there were sheets of rain pounding the roof of the building we were in. Mud, muck and puddles everywhere. We could have used a boat.

But that didn't keep the crowds away. The building we were in was busy all day long. The aisles were full of people young and old. At times our booth was packed to capacity.

When I saw the rain on Saturday morning, I envisioned lots of knitting time - whiling away hours in our booth. As it turned out I had very little knitting time all weekend. Since I have no knitting progress to report, this will be a post in pictures.


The Tunbridge Fairgrounds - dark and dank.


The fairgrounds are nestled in a bowl surrounded by hills. On Saturday the trees were shrouded in fog and mist. Even with the damp conditions the scenery was beautiful.


Sunday morning the sun slowly broke through the clouds to burn off the mist. By afternoon the sun was out in full force making for an enjoyable fall afternoon.

Inside we had delightful neighbors with a cute display.


High View Farm and Will-Ewe Farm had people thinking ahead to the holidays.


Who could resist this cute, plump snow woolie?


Or this sheep?

Mona and I did make time to visit the animals in the barns.


This goat was kind enough to pose.


And so did this llama.

One of my favorites - the border collies.


I love to watch the herding demonstrations but didn't get a chance this time - too busy to break away from the booth.


Resting between herding demonstrations.

And we couldn't miss this.


The mascot for Now and Zen Yarns greeted everyone entering the booth.




We survived the wet weather and had a great time in Tunbridge. There's nothing like a fall weekend in Vermont.