Me, Again

Hello blog readers, those that remain or those that have stumbled by anew. It’s been nearly a year since my last post and I have no idea how to really discuss that much time in one post, so I won’t even try, but a few stand-out things (some good, some sad) have occurred that I am compelled to share.

1) My Hatchling is now two-and-a-quarter years old! He’s so much bigger than he was in the last post, yet amazingly that sweater I knit him still fits– the magic of knitwear!

2) I’ve picked up embroidery as a new hobby (y’know, in my spare time) and I really love it. It’s like coloring with string! So much quicker and satisfying in a way that knitting is not, sometimes. There will be more on this later.

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CozyBlue stitch club pattern

3) Now for some sad news: I’ve decided to close Sweet Sheep’s doors. I’ve been taking on more responsibility at work and it was too much to grow my career while juggling a side hustle and trying to maximize family time (and maybe occasionally relaxing). It really breaks my heart to admit defeat on this, and I’m harboring a secret hope that I can open and develop new products again someday, but I’m grudgingly accepting that now is not that time. I appreciate all of the  encouragement and support over the past 4 years, it has been a really wonderful experience.

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4) Even sadder news: Just a week ago, we had to say goodbye to my sweet, sassy Calypso. She’s been featured on this blog throughout the years. She was my “heart cat”, as they say, the first cat that was all mine after college. She kept me company when I lived hours/flights away from all family and friends at my first job in Florida, moved into 8 different apartments in 5 states, was there for my first real relationships and meeting the Fiasco and getting married and having our first child. She was with me for 11 really formative years and it’s so strange and sad to be without her. She became suddenly very sick, though, and went through a ton of stuff over the past 6 months: pancreatitis, feeding tube, kidney issues, severe anemia, breathing problems, probable diabetes, possible heart disease, etc. and it was time to give up and let her go. It was not easy.

5) And now to elevate the mood a bit… last night I met the Yarn Harlot and she signed the book she wrote that taught me to make socks and now MY KNITTING LIFE IS COMPLETE. She taught a class called “Knit Smart” at the Stitchery (a great sewing/knitting workshop space in Portsmouth, RI where I learned to embroider) and she was so funny and as honest and clever as she seems on the blog and it was incredible how fast 3 hours spent talking about yarn and gauge swatches and running markers and how to count rows and needle sizes and selvedges etc. flew by. A non-knitter would never understand because I almost don’t even get it but all I know is that it’s restored my knitting mojo and I want to be more mindful of my creative life, and keeping up with this blog is part of that.

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Obsession is normal, indeed.

I post frequently on Instagram but it’s not quite the same as blogging, so here we go again! If you’re still active in knitting blogland, please comment. If you don’t blog yourself but have a favorite blog or three to recommend, please do. I’d like to rebuild the list of who I follow and cultivate a sense of community here again, as I’ve truly missed it.

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Still Chugging Along

I’m still here, still pregnant, still slowly working on tiny baby knits. Thus, I finished a pair of (rather large) baby socks!

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Not-so-tiny booties.

I made these socks to match the Newborn Vertebrae cardi I finished last month. I took a wild guess at the number of stitches to cast on (40) and the lengths of all the various bits. I figure if they’re too big, they’ll fit eventually, and I used them basically as a gauge swatch to figure out how big to make a coordinating hat.

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Coordinating hat.

Since my gauge on the foot of the socks was 8 sts/in, I cast on 104 sts for the rolled stockinette brim of the hat, then increased to 112 sts for the body. This should give me a 14″ circumference hat when all is said and done. That might be a tad large for a newborn head, which is said to be about 14″ and I usually like negative ease in hats, but he should grow into it in time for cooler weather in the fall. Knitting for someone who doesn’t yet exist in a measurable way is hard, yo.

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Calypso demonstrating her impressive size.

Speaking of measurable sizes, at 39 weeks the Hatchling is supposedly the size of a domestic shorthair cat. How freaking terrifying is that, right? Let’s hope the cat in question was not quite as chubby as Calypso above!

I Miss Time

I do not have nearly enough time, lately. I miss it. Time and I have never had a really great relationship, to be honest. Once in college before a deadline I lamented to my friend “Why does time hate me?!?!” and he very sagely replied, “Time does not hate you, dear, it’s just indifferent to your plight.” That stuck with me. Time and I have been so rocky in the past that I actually tattooed a quote from a poem about time onto my body as a reminder that it is not my enemy, it is a gift, and it connects us all.

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“That which sings and contemplates in you is still dwelling within the bounds of that first moment which scattered the stars into space.” – Kahlil Gibran

That said, I could really use a little more time to knit, spin, and relax. Seeing everybody’s pretty bobbins or knitting projects on Instagram and blogs is just making me sad these days because all I can think is WHEN DO THEY FIND THE TIME?! My life has been work, home, dinner, an hour to do things, sleep, then repeat for a while now. I squeeze in a little knitting here and there but if it’s anything that requires thought, the project stalls out waiting for me to have time to pay attention.

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Newborn Vertebrae, click for project page.

Since this tiny baby cardi was all stockinette, I made great progress on it early in the week, finishing the body and the bottom hem. All that remains are the sleeves and picking up stitches for the border. It’s been like that since Tuesday, since both of those actions require a little thought on my part, and I just don’t have the energy for it by the end of the day…

All I’ve managed to do after work this week is wash and fold the gigantic mountain of clothes we received for the Hatchling at our first baby shower last weekend. Both cats showed quite an interest in the proceedings, it’s going to be hilarious to watch their reactions when the kid is actually here. We are having another shower this weekend, and another at the end of May, and while we are extremely lucky to receive so much love and generosity, I’m getting a little worried about where we will possibly store all the baby stuff. IT’S SO MUCH STUFF, GUYS. We should’ve rented a bigger apartment…

So apparently all I want out of life right now is a little more space and time. You know, just the basic cosmic stuff of the universe. Easy peasy. And I’m sure there are experienced parents out there laughing their heads off at my bemoaning a lack of time before the kid is even here. I know, I know, it’s just going to get worse…

Getting Antsy

Spinning has been on my mind a lot lately, even if it hasn’t been actually in my hands. For one, I set a goal back in January that I wanted to finish all my in-progress spinning projects by June. (Cue maniacal laughter.) This goal has helped my pick up my spindles more often, but I haven’t finished a single skein yet. (Sigh.)

For another, the Completely Twisted and Arbitrary SAL group on Ravelry is having a “Crazy Yarn A-long” challenge and I’m itching to play. I started some art yarn ages ago that I’d like to finish. Since I’ve only spun one 4 oz single so far, the other 4+ oz single will count for this challenge. I’m planning a stacked yarn so all the craziness will happen during the plying stage, which seems like it’ll be fun.

Finally, I know I haven’t been spinning enough lately when I see some pretty fiber on Etsy and go MINE, MINE, MINE without a second thought.

That lovely piece of fluff is a ‘Yarnicorn’ batt from Classy Squid Fiber Co.  on Etsy. It’s a delightful mix of superfine Merino wool, Mulberry, Tussah, and Sari silks, mohair, firestar, nylon, silk noil, and angelina. Basically, a candy-colored kitchen sink of a batt that I cannot wait to spin. I’m metaphorically dangling it in front of my face so I hurry-up-and-finish the spin that’s been occupying my wheel since October.

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I Shall Spin Midnight, click for project page.

This spin is essentially the polar opposite of the new batt. It’s 8 oz of Merino/silk blend dyed a uniform black by Louet. I began it when my husband’s Nana passed away, as a way to think about her through craft. Then I got pregnant and we packed and moved and unpacked and it sat, and sat, and sat. It’s going to make a lovely, fingering-weight 2-ply yarn when it’s done but I’m just barely halfway through. I am making a bold April goal right now: I will finish this spin AND the new Yarnicorn batt by the end of the month. And then I’ll finish my art yarn by the end of the challenge (May 15). WATCH ME, WORLD.

In other news, I spent much of the weekend sorting through cloth diapers and baby clothes that friends and coworkers have generously given us. Tiny baby things are so tiny, and the cats were highly amused. Darwin loves laundry in general, but he seemed to especially love lounging on the wool diaper covers. Calypso looked just a tad bit concerned, like she can tell something is up but has no clue WTF it might be… June/July should be interesting for all of us!

Farmfest and Follies

First, a bit of news: Sweet Sheep Body Shoppe will be vending at Mount Hope Farm’s Farmfest event TOMORROW, Saturday 10/31 from 9am – 2pm in Bristol, RI. It’s a beautiful site with lots of harvest and Halloween fun planned, come say hi! Now, onto the follies.

Farmfest and Folly| Woolen Diversions

A gradient emergency!

This morning, I very nearly ripped my Norby & Pease hat back to the brim, despite being close to done. I had 5 shades of gradient yarn to use and 5 garter ridges to knit before beginning crown decreases, except I had miscounted and thought there were only 4 garter ridges, and started the gradient in the brim. I KNOW, TOTALLY DUMB, RIGHT?! In this case, I could either: 1) do one fewer pattern repeat and have a shorter hat, 2) rip back to the brim and leave that part solid, or 3) as my friend Katy so helpfully suggested, use a bit of the yarn I just bought at Rhinebeck which very nearly matches what would be the next shade in the gradient. KATY, YOU ARE A GENIUS.

I think I’ll try the hat on later and see if I can deal with it shorter, and if not, I’ll probably use a bit of the O-wool shown to fill in the last color. Or, I might just repeat the final gradient color throughout the crown shaping. WHAT WOULD YOU GUYS DO? #overthinkingthis

Bye, bye, Babe.

In other news, there’s a very good chance we’ll be moving to a smaller apartment in the near future, so a massive destash is in order. One thing I’m letting go of is my first wheel, the Babe Double Treadle Production. I’ve had it since 2012, it’s a great starter wheel and its Irish tension makes it good for plying. It’s also very lightweight and travels well because it is made of PVC. It retails for $320, I’m asking $225 or best offer. In addition to the wheel, check out my Ravelry trade page for lots of lovely yarns. I literally exported my yarn stash to a spreadsheet and ruthlessly went through highlighting items for destash: anything without a concrete plan or an unhealthy level of emotional attachment had to go.

Farmfest and Folly | Woolen Diversions

It’s a sunbeam party.

The kitties approve of my destash plan. Less yarn in the house means more room for lounging.

Happy weekend!

Five Things Friday

Since I have absolutely zero FO’s and no actual knitting or spinning progress to show you (actually less than what I showed Wednesday since I bit the bullet and frogged back that green sock), I figured I’d share 5 random things that are making me happy today.

1) I’m really intrigued by this Kelbourne Woolens Mystery KAL:

Image copyright Kelbourne Woolens. Click for blog post.

I’m not usually a fan of mystery KALs, and I need another shawl (ok, project) like I need a hole in the head, but I like the the patterns that resulted from the previous two MKALs (here and here) and I’m intrigued by the yarn they’re promoting: The Fibre Company Meadow, a laceweight blend of Merino wool, llama, silk, and linen. Also, hyndrangeas are my favorite flower. I think I’m grasping for excuses here…

2) This recipe for a Paleo rhubarb clafoutis is absolutely scrummy, and super simple to make. Most Paleo-fied desserts are shockingly high in fat and calories, but this one is comparatively easy on the metabolism. You mix eggs, almond milk, almond meal/flour, coconut sugar, and fruit (I’ve used both rhubarb and strawberries) and bake it into a delicious little bread-pudding-like treat. The recipe serves 8, and each serving contains 173 cals, 10g fat, 17 g carbs, 11.5 g sugar, and 6.5 g protein. I occasionally double the serving and have it for breakfast topped with blueberries. Yum!

Photo from FastPaleo.com

3) This article from Cool Green Science delves into the details of why being in nature makes us happy. The isolation of people, especially kids, from nature is something I really worry about as an ecologist/conservationist/Earth-conscious human and I’m stoked that people are doing work to provide hard evidence about why it’s important for us to have regular experiences outside of climate-controlled walls and glass windows. In particular, the article writes “Numerous studies suggest that recent increases in the levels of mental disorders globally are tied to increasing urbanization and people’s decreasing exposure to nature.” Now doesn’t that sound like something we should care about?

4) On that note, I’m going camping this weekend and am ridiculously excited about it! Even though it’ll be chilly at night, I can’t wait to be OUTSIDE, in the WOODS, for multiple days IN A ROW, with actual honest-to-goodness, in-person FRIENDS! (That sentence, right there, is a reminder of how isolated I usually am from friends, the outdoors, and leisure time.)

5) And finally, I leave you with this random photo of my fluff-tastic Darwin, posing in an awfully majestic manner.

My fuzzy little man.

Have a happy weekend, friends!

Nothing to See Here

Thanks for all your well-wishes regarding my back pain! I have to say, I’m highly amused that so many of you thought I was referring to my knitting when I said I ‘popped a rib’. I’m less amused that after working several inches of tubular bind off on the neckline of my Cypress vest, I realized I did, indeed, mess it up: I dropped a stitch. It’s one stitch, and it will be on the back side of the neckline fabric, but it will be right in front of the sweater, so I’m currently debating the horrendous idea of untinking several inches of tubular bind off (which involves undoing kitchener stitch and catching slipped stitches in the right order) with the merits of just leaving it be and sewing it down later.

Then, when I went to work on my MalMarch Sundry shawl, I realized that I had made a mistake in the slipped garter stitch several rows back, so tinking or laddering down will need to happen there, as well.

Finally, I have not yet tried to spin my MalMarch Nube project as the long draw motions would likely irritate my back. I saw an osteopath yesteday, and while he didn’t want to listen to me about the previous treatment I’d received for the problem and he did an awful lot of mansplaining, whatever trigger point therapy and back-cracking he did must have helped because the pain is about 80% better. (Yay!) Instead, I am now entertaining a wicked sore throat that makes me sound like an elderly, life-long smoker. It’s herbal tea and honey and gargling with salt water all day for me.

So there went the last few days of March and with them went any chance of finishing up either of my Malabrigo March goals or one more First Quarter project. I just can’t win this week. I’ll leave you with this photo of Calypso, which purrrfectly captures how I feel.

A strange mix of stoic and defeated.

April happens to be my least favorite month (I’m always so stressed in April, I have no idea why) but I’m determined to remain hopeful that things will look up soon!

All The (Pretty) Things

I’m taking a page from Truly Myrtle‘s book and sharing a few sort-of-random things this Friday evening.

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Dyeing!

Dyeing has been on my mind lately. (Also probably Truly Myrtle’s fault!) I have several skeins of the above lovely, naturally grey/brown yak/silk fiber that I plan to use in a Salted pullover. However, I’m not a fan of uniform colors in my knitting and I love the speckled look of the plain stockinette sections of the sweater sample, so I thought I’d dye one skein and see if I could achieve a similarly subtle variegation. I took a stab with a depth of shade of 0.25 of Turquoise and I submerged the yarn in the dyepot all twisted up in the hank, as shown above, with the idea that the twisted bits would act as a resist and prevent the dye from completely penetrating the whole skein. It’s simmering as I write and I keep peeking in the pot, but I don’t think my plan is working. It’s looking pretty saturated and dark and the dye bath is not exhausting… sigh. I suppose that’s why we practice!

All The (Dyeable) Things | Woolen Diversions

BMFA Twisted, colorway Aurora Borealis

My next Grand Plan is to overdye two skeins of BMFA Twisted. It feels blasphemous to overdye Tina’s gorgeous handiwork, especially since I do really love the color, but my stash lacks sweater quantities of yarn, and two skeins of this is just enough to make a Cypress vest/pullover in my size:

Cypress vest by Jared Flood. Copyright Brooklyn Tweed/Jared Flood. Click for pattern page.

The issue is that I just can’t see myself wearing such a multicolored garment. I have some Silver Grey dye that I think will darken the colors up just enough to make them cohesive enough for a garment, while preserving some variegation. (If anybody has some tips on how best to go about achieving this goal, I’m all ears!) I’m not sure what’s gotten hold of me lately but I want a sweater, and I want it now, so Cypress it is.

All The (Pretty) Things | Woolen Diversions

Sweet, sweet Darwin.

All The (Pretty) Things | Woolen Diversions

Stoic Calypso.

I’ve been continuing to practice with my new camera. I love it. I’ve taken a truly absurd number of cat photos over the last few days. Oh well! I suppose I’m just another stereotype after all.

All The (Pretty) Things | Woolen Diversions

Forthcoming fall scents!

I’ve been a busy bee preparing fall fragrances for Sweet Sheep Body Shoppe. Some of them should go up this weekend after our farmer’s market tomorrow. If you live in or near Rhode Island, come visit the Mount Hope Farmer’s Market in Bristol, we’ll be there from 9am – 1pm (on Saturday 9/20)!

And now for the most random of the things I wanted to share this evening: as you may or may not know, I’ve been a big fan of Jason Mraz’s music for over a decade (yikes). Much of my down time during 2003 was spent watching ad nauseum when I should’ve been sleeping grainy video clips of his small time performances in a coffeehouse in California. His voice and musical style are just… incomparable. There’s nothing quite like his mysic: a little bit of twang, a little bit of soul, a little bit of 70’s rock, a little bit of cheesiness, a ton of lyrical wordplay, and a whole lot of talent.

All The (Pretty) Things | Woolen Diversions

That fuzzy man on stage is Mr. Jason Mraz.

When a friend from grad school had an extra ticket to a show I hadn’t even known was happening I jumped all over the chance to see my long-time-love. He has a new album out that he wrote with an all-girl folk band, Raining Jane. I wasn’t sure how I felt about the band change at first but after seeing the show, I love it. He said about the collaboration that he had needed a change, he was dealing with some writer’s block and he would’ve put out a record either way but that he’s so grateful they agreed to work with him because they were what he needed to produce music that “filled his heart”. It’s interesting to think of artists we admire dealing with creative burnout. If you have Amazon Prime, there are several of Jason’s albums available for free download. His newest one, Yes!, is the one with Raining Jane and it is worth every penny of the $6.99 that Amazon is currently charging. Below you’ll find a ‘short film’ which is essentially 3 continuous music videos in one. They perfectly represent the dreamy quality of this new album, and I’ve never seen someone make a whole mini movie out of their videos before. Check it out!

While I’m super excited about the new direction his music is taking, I’ll always love him best when it’s just him and his guitar. But I suppose that’s enough fangirlin’ for one night. I could go on, but I’ll spare you (unless you want more info, just let me know). Plus, I’ve got a few hours worth of Jason to watch and a dyepot to check up on. Happy Friday!

WIPWed #65: New Toy Joy

While the blog’s been a little quiet lately, I’ve been quite busy with Sweet Sheep shows, work, and grownup things like buying a new car (since ours was totaled) and official name changes (since the Fiasco and I got married and are combining our last names into one). In the midst of all the Important Things To Do, I’ve been riding a wave of creativity that has had my head going in a million directions at once: swatching! designing! new lotion scents! new product lines! dyeing! sweater-cast-on-ing! and last but not least, photography!

WIPWed #64: New Toy Joy | Woolen Diversions

Meet my new toy! Canon Rebel T3i

You might have noticed that the quality of photos on the blog has dropped since August, due to my Canon point-and-shoot dying a slow and agonizing death all summer that ended unfortunately while we were away in Costa Rica. Since good photos are such an integral part of blogging, designing, and selling products online, I figured it was finally time to spend the extra money and invest in a for-serious SLR camera.

WIPWed #65: New Toy Joy | Woolen Diversions

Darwin, looking sulky.

I’ve spent spare moments over the last couple of weeks doing some research and trying to figure out what I wanted in a camera, whether used or new was a better deal, and just what all those abbreviations and numbers really meant (still working on that bit).

WIPWed #65: New Toy Joy | Woolen Diversions

The tip of Calypso’s nose.

I found Audry’s knitwear photography blog series to be extremely helpful in providing some context and examples for what all the numbers mean and what a good camera is. I also read lots (and lots) of CNET reviews and spent far too much time on tech sites like bhphotovideo.com and Adorama.com, where I ultimately placed my order. Adorama had a great deal on what is essentially the entry level version of the higher quality camera that Audry uses, that also included a bag, an extra battery, a remote trigger, a basic 18 – 55 mm lens, a lens filter, screen protector, SD card, and a couple other things I can’t remember at the moment.

WIPWed #65: New Toy Joy | Woolen Diversions

My crazy-eyed-super-psyched face.

Basically, it was a new-hobby-in-a-box for cheaper than I could put together buying a used camera and the lens and accessories separately. To top it off, it arrived in 2 days, yay instant gratification! I’m really looking forward to getting to know all the ins and outs of this whole thing. I’ve loved photography forever (my first job was working in the photo lab at CVS) and have always wanted to improve my skills. Photography is one of my favorite art forms and I can’t wait to see what I can create with a decent piece of equipment!

Anyway, I’ve also been knitting (cue crappy photos again).

WIPWed #65: New Toy Joy | Woolen Diversions

BMFA De-Vine in Pond Scum. Click for project page.

I randomly decided to revive my hibernating Cedar Grove Shawl. It’s dropped down into the 50s and 60s here so it’s about that time where I’m too cold in short sleeves but not yet ready to commit to wearing jackets again. That’s when a big bulky shawl comes in handy as outerwear. I’m about 60% done with this and just broke into the second skein.

WIPWed #64: New Toy Joy | Woolen Diversions

CY Traveller in Hobart, IN. Click for project page.

I’ve also finally started my Honey Cowl. I’m a few more inches in than this now and it’s going quite swimmingly. The slipped stitch pattern is a real comfort to work, especially in a fun rainbow-y yarn. I’ve used the same stitch on a design in the works (sneak peak below) and plan to incorporate it into some socks, as well.

WIPWed #65: New Toy Joy | Woolen Diversions

Oh, the gorgeous up-close rainbow.

What have you been working on lately? Any new hobbies vying for your attention? Check out more WIPs at Tamis Amis!

My Feelings Exactly

Ever wonder what cats do when you’re at work all day? I had a chance to see firsthand as I spent the first of a few upcoming vacation days cleaning house and waiting for my friends to show up. Here’s what the cats did:

Calypso, more-or-less conked out.

Darwin, in his favorite belly-to-the-wall lounging position

I think they had the right idea. I was a fairly busy bee most of the day but I did get to spend a solid couple of hours finishing The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (fabulous, heartwrenching book, btw). I can’t remember the last time I had that much guilt-free time to just sit, by myself, and quietly read. It was nice and probably good to get it in now before my friends and I get to where we’re going: a 10-years-since-we-met-Cornell-‘family’-reunion in Cape Cod. I can’t wait to see everyone for longer than the timespan of a wedding! So far, we’ve all gathered together from our various corners of the country once every year since graduation. I love that.

In knitting news, I’ve been doing my best to work on my Zombie Shawl but life has been intervening. I’m hoping I find time to catch up with things this week. I think I’m going to go with the darker colorway for the lace, thanks for chiming in! Since I have no knitting to show you, have some pretty yarn:

The lovely folks at The Verdant Gryphon periodically get together to have ‘drunken dye parties’ and then sell the resulting skeins as special, one-off colorways. I had not yet purchased one but was very happy to win this fun skein of Bugga in a lottery on Ravelry!

Happy Friday, everyone. 🙂 My your weekend be as chillaxing as my cats’ weekends will likely be.