June 24, 2015

A Little Drama and Queen

Let me begin this post with a disclaimer:  What you are about to witness may be more than you, as a knitter, can handle.  It's ugly. It's really ugly. So, discretion is advised.

I made a mistake.  I have my suspicions that this mistake is the result of a child picking up my knitting from my desk, saying "This is so pretty! Can I have it?" and then promptly dropping 10 stitches and unraveling them for about 6 rows OF LACE. However, it's either a mistake I made in the first place, or a mistake that I made in the second, but it's mine and there it is. Two stitches worked wrongly, five inches down. It hardly looks like any distance at all in the photo.

I posted a pic on Instagram. There was commiseration. On Facebook, my friends agreed that it was "hardly noticeable". Knowing that we were going to be talking MAJOR knitting surgery, I was willing to go with that--for a while--and make the resolution to just leave it alone.

Have I ever told you about how I am a type A personality on speed? For 24 hours, that part of my overachiever, uncompromising brain has been needling me.  Pecking at me. Taunting me.  Reminding me every time I pass this project that I would never wear it without feeling subconscious about that barely noticeable mistake.  All that work would just collect dust on a shelf in the closet. The voice was, actually, right. I wouldn't wear it. Finally, I couldn't take it anymore and I caved.  I caved BIG TIME! Heck, I only have to tink back a few stitches for five inches. Cake, right?

I got out the surgical tools.  I hunted down the locking stitch markers and, when I didn't have enough of those, I substituted safety pins. (Not having enough locking stitch markers for this should have been a flashing neon sign that this was going to be a bad idea.)  And then I tinked one section down, a stitch at a time, carefully capturing the innocent stitches with markers, until I got to the offending row.  And it looked like this.

Not so bad, right?  But, allow me to interrupt this tale of woe to say that, at this point in the narrative, once again my life is like the lyrics of the Queen song Rain Must Fall:

You lead a fairy tale existence
But into every life a little rain must fall

Others seem to think
You are over dramatising
Problems at work
So it's hardly surprising
There's little you can do
To alter their opinions
You want a clean reputation
But now you're facing complications
'Cos into every life a little rain must fall

And because my life is like a Queen song, in order to fix this tiny mistake that involved a misplaced yarn over and a misplaced K2tog, I realized that I had to go bigger and just let the complications begin, and suddenly we aren't talking about "a little rain"; we are talking about a typhoon.  

I took out 2 more sections. Because why? Because. It's lace. That's why. There is really no way to just tink down a few stitches, as if you have been doing a S2KP2SO. It's intertwined. It's all friggin' connected. So, if you are faint of heart, you may want to close your eyes and scroll past these next pictures.

And then it was fixed.  My mistake was fixed! The type A side of my brain did a little happy dance and the entire rest of my brain looked at the remaining disaster before me that had to be rebuilt, one stitch at a time, and fainted. Dead away. Fainted. 

Although those two little mistakes were fixed, the amount of re-working to get back five inches of interconnected strands of yarn that make a pattern with carefully aligned holes that it was going to take was quickly becoming exponentially complicated.

Now I'll bet that, like me, you are thinking "Holy crap! This is not going to end well!"  The logical part of my brain was chanting "Frog it! Frog it!" The type A--obviously NOT the logical side--was countering with "There's no going back now. Just focus and fix it." (Leave it to the type A to get level headed now, right?) I am at this point feeling just a bit schizophrenic with all of this back and forth in my brain and the words "I think you broke it"  just sort of slipped out in a whisper.

But then, a miracle happened!  I had re-worked an entire repeat.  And then another. (I know you can't tell so you'll just have to trust me one this one.) Two repeats!

And then I became the Little Engine That Could ("I think I can. I think I can.)  And 1.5 hours later before I knew it, I was one (count it, ONE!) more repeat up.  However, I was still about 3 inches shy of my goal and, with an extremely audible sigh, I resigned myself to just calling it a day and ripping back.  After all, I had CLEARLY forgotten one of the basic tenets of knitting: Pride goeth before the frogging.  So while you are relaxing with your own project, I'll be here, humbly re-working 3 inches of lace, kicking myself for having made such a rookie mistake.

June 22, 2015

Fiber Heaven on the Horizon

Y'all know that I travel around the Southeast and vend at a few select fiber festivals every year.  A very few festivals.  I am SUPER picky about where I go and how my brand is promoted.  You've also seen my yarn, and probably drooled over it, dreamt about making things with it, squeezing it, cuddling up with it at night in place of a pillow ... And you know that I teach knitting classes here and there (most recently at Revival Yarns in Athens, GA).  So you know you can take my professional word for it when I say that if you don't round up that crafting group and hustle your cookies to the Georgia Fiber Fest in Columbus, GA in September, you will be missing out on THE fiber festival of the year in the Southeastern U.S.  I mean it.  I'm saying that because I wouldn't sponsor a show that I didn't think was a primo experience for yarnies and fiber fanatics. (I'm pretty tight fisted cautious with my moolah.) I am so excited about this show that I have already started stocking up bases, sewing project bags, and ordering knitting needles! There will definitely be some festival-exclusive colorways in my booth, and a little birdie would like to suggest that I will be debuting my first-ever line of grown-on-my-farm fingering weight yarn!

Friends, let me tell you a little bit about the Georgia Fiber Fest. It will be held in the Columbus Convention & Trade Center.  If you have never been to the Columbus Convention & Trade Center, you are missing an experience of a lifetime.

Not only is it surrounded by picturesque riverside walking/biking trails, but the place is a revamped Civil War ironworks.  Right down to the iron-tainted bricks, the original smelting vats of monstrous size in the main hall, the immense skylight windows, and the train tracks, this place is Southern American history meets fiber fantasy land. And the BEST part, if you are a frequenter of fiber festivals, is that there are no outside tents, you are not shopping in an agricultural barn with a dirt floor and 80% humidity, and there is AIR CONDITIONING.

Not only is it surrounded by picturesque riverside walking/biking trails, but the place is a revamped Civil War ironworks.  Right down to the iron-tainted bricks, the original smelting vats of monstrous size in the main hall, the immense skylight windows, and the train tracks, this place is Southern American history meets fiber fantasy land. And the BEST part, if you are a frequenter of fiber festivals, is that there are no outside tents, you are not shopping in an agricultural barn with a dirt floor and 80% humidity, and there is AIR CONDITIONING.

Oh, wait, and did I mention that the gazillion classes taught by well-know artists (myself included) are in classrooms with real walls--not bed sheets or cubicle walls or barn stall walls, but REAL walls in rooms with doors so that you don't have to listen to what's going on in the class next door while your try to concentrate. This year, we also have a first: Saturday morning classes for kids! Teenager Kirsten Flannery is teaching "Just for Kids: Beginning Drop Spindle" and "Just for Kids: Woven Bookmark Bracelets"

Our guest speaker, Pam Powers, is also doing a workshop or two.

You might know her (PSQUARED on RAVELRY) from her fabulous designs on Ravelry.  She's also the designer of Nora's Sweater, which was the cover for Interweave Knits (2009), as well as having designed for Twist Collective, Belle Armoire, and Apronology. She also has a new book out, and I am sure that she will be happy to autograph your copy:

About those vendors ... Last year there were 40+ booth spaces filled with fibery goodness; this year's vendors are just beginning to get posted on the website, and we expect to have a very full marketplace, especially since we've moved classes upstairs and added about 25 more booth spaces. You will want to HURRY and sign up if you want to be a vendor because we are nearly out of booth spaces.  Last year there was even a yarn truck, and I do believe it will be back again.

There's a fiber arts contest. There's a fashion show--they make the vendors and the teachers model for you, so it's a hoot!

Oh, and a fabulous catered dinner with a speaker (Pam Powers) that anyone is welcome to attend and a fashion show--bring your knitting or crochet because it's totally social acceptable to knit/crochet at the dinner table. I know I will be. You can dine with teachers, vendors, and designers (like me) and it's not like one of those chintzy dinners, either--the courses just keep coming and the wait staff is amazing!

If your Honey is a history buff and he feels like he needs you to drag him along, there's also a museum on property so he can leave you with the credit card to shop in peace, and there's a quaintly restored historic downtown area to explore because you might need a little extra time to stuff all those bags of fiber heaven in the trunk. Did I mention that the convention center used to be an iron factory and there's an operational train attached to it?

There is also more parking than you can shake a stick at--covered parking by the way, plus on-the-street parking--and restaurants and hotels (you will want to make those reservations early because the hotels also fill up fast!), and a park that's part of the venue ...

I am going to go right out on that limb and say that this festival, though only 3 years old, is right up there with SAFF and Stitches South.  Heck, you might as well just think of the Georgia Fiber Fest as your up close and personal Etsy (as in handcraft artisans galore), only WAAAAAAY better!

I think it is also pertinent to mention that this is the ONLY fiber fest in Georgia of its kind--I'm talking to you Florida, South & North Carolina, and Alabama.  Now that Stitches has moved to Nashville, that festival is more than just a hike for most of us, and it would be just plain crazy not to  shop locally.

So, check out the website:  http://www.gafiberfest.com and start making plans to visit, take classes, and fill that stash cabinet to overflowing because you know how you can't pass up a good fiber festival! There's a mile-long list of classes available, so check those out as well when you get to the main page.

It's time that this well-kept Southern secret got out, so share with your crafty friends and make your plans.  You can find this event on FB, Instagram, and Twitter.

June 19, 2015

Spinning My Wheels

June is half over and I feel like I'm just spinning my wheels.  I finished a new pattern test knit, The Market Shawl, but I can't seem to get the time to photograph it so that I can post the pattern.  I have a new lace sweater design (it's fabulous in ever sense of the word!) but I'm just not making as much progress as I'd like there, either.  Those Jaywalkers have me in a tizzy, too.  At some point toward the beginning of the sock, I neglected to work 3 stitches together.  I have tinked back on that section 3 times now, repaired it, and worked it back to the current round, and it still looks wonky.  (Sigh.)  I had gotten halfway through my Pi Shawl for this year, and then the 2nd skein turned out to be in a different dye lot than the first--like they ran out of dye on the assembly line!--so I had to help Malabrigo out and re-dye it to sort of match--at least that's finally ready to go.  I've knit the back panel for a 2nd test knit for a fall/winter cardi that I've designed, but then it's gotten WAY TOO HOT to be working up a wool sweater, so that's just sitting there, taunting me.

I'm blaming my lack of progress on Mother Nature.  She can't seem to get her act together this year, and it's creating a phenomenally large amount of work for me.  Phenomenally large.

The garden is threatening to just flat out die on me.  What the heck?!  May was a drought. Hot, dry, ground cracked like we hadn't had water in 7 years. Then 2 weeks of reasonable weather with rain. Then, out of the blue, we get 3 weeks of no rain and 100 degree F. temperatures?! I've run the well dry nearly every day trying to keep the broccoli, tomatoes, corn, potatoes, and garlic from burning up.  I think the corn, potatoes, and the garlic are going to lose the fight. Even those 1/2 dollar-sized blackberries are beginning to get scorch marks.  On top of that, we have the lambs.  I have always wanted lambs. It's a quaint bit of whimsy until you have them.

(Puck--front--& Pippi at 1 week)
3 have been no trouble at all, but the rejected one has been all kinds of a mess.  It's like having someone drop a newborn on your doorstep when you are in your 40s, and I have determined that this is not a scenario that suits me well.  Fortunately, we've moved past the 3 a.m. feedings; but now that Puck's 2 weeks old, we've moved into the toddler phase and he has a difficult time staying still. There's and awful lot of chewing on things, jumping, running, and leaping. His mother, Blanche, is the worst mother in the history of sheep. The absolute worst.  Not only does she still try to kill him, even through the fence, when I put him in the makeshift pasture pen that we have for him, which is next to hers so he can play with his sister, but now his sister Pippi has started acting like the bully that her mother is. This is nothing compared to the fact that he's had scours since day 3 and spent 48 hours in the vet emergency hospital (large animal emergency hospitals are NOT cheap, by the way) because his immune system didn't develop like it should have (because his mother is an embarrassment to nature and wouldn't feed him or cooperate on the milking front), so he almost died.  Now we are having to give him injections twice daily to build his immune system.  Meanwhile, he still has scours a bit, and he's eating me out of house and home!  The other twins, our unexpectedly grey and black twins, Bonnie & Clyde, are doing well, though the girl is a bit small and I have some concerns about that.  This lamb business has become a full-time job.

Bonnie--back--& Clyde at 3 days old
I've also been busy in the yarn realm.  I am SOOOOOOO excited that I finally got the bags of fleece out of the laundry room and on their way to Echoview Fiber Mill where, come September, they will be coming back to me in single ply, fingering weight skeins (think Tosh Merino Light) to be dyed and sold in the shop.  I decided to blend Oliver (Finn) with Stella and Blanche (Corriedale/Finn) for some super squishy yarn that works well for all sorts of projects. Cha-ching! Check that life goal off the bucket list!  From field to dye pot, I've "grown" my own yarn! Of course, I'm not waiting until September to add new yarn to the shop, so if you haven't been by the online shop, today would be a great day to do so.  I've added new colorways of Velvet as sort of an early fall preview (Badlands, Burlesque, and Davy Jones). They are quite stunning, if I do say so myself.



Davy Jones
And there's the summer only line of Calliope, which is a fingering weight 100% unscoured/unbleached raw silk in some very pretty colors. I'll be putting just one or two more colors into the shop next week, but then that will be it for that line for the summer because it's getting difficult for me to get it from my supplier already to restock the colorways that have been selling out. So, you will want to get some of that before it's gone, too.




French Lilac


And while we are on the subject of yarn and spinning wheels, I had a request from a friend to post some pictures of my two spinning wheels, so here they are:

circa 1810 flax wheel

Kromski Sonata

Single Ply Silk/Wool Handspun
Of course, I haven't had any time AT ALL this year to spin on either wheel except to work up and dye 500 yards of llama/alpaca/merino for my mom for Mother's Day.  My wheels give me those sad puppy eyes every time I walk into my studio.

June 13, 2015

How Time Flies!

It feels like it's been about a bazillion years since my last post, but in reality it has only been just over a month.  There's been soooooo much going on here at Cedar Hill Farm that every morning I wake up exhausted and every night I go to bed exhausted.  It's mentally taxing (I've scored right at 2, 200 essays--7 & 10--for the Pearson PARCC test in the last 4 weeks and with about a 1% exception, it has really been a rough experience in the gross illiteracy of an entire generation).

My sister underwent some extensive surgery a few days ago. That was more physically traumatic than expected, I think, and they sent her home without even having been at the hospital for a full 24 hours, though they probably should have kept her there for at least a week. Hospital overcrowding thanks to, I imagine, the current health care system, sends her home and puts her in jeopardy of life-threatening complications.  I'm not there, I'm here though I would've been there if she wanted me to be, so for me it's all a waiting game to see what details I get passed along to me.

The second oldest kid was inducted into the Boy Scout honor society, The Order of the Arrow. He's almost to the point of starting his Eagle project, and it stresses me out just thinking about having that on the horizon. He's been at Scout camp since Memorial Day as a camp counselor, but that's been such a drama because the executive in charge of the camp is, well, just plain incompetent with expletives, and has pretty much ruined the camp experience altogether for not just my son, but also for much of the staff (which has quit and walked off the job only 1/4 into the camp season), so he's on the fence (and has his mother stressed out about it to the maximum levels) about staying or just saying that he gave it a the ol' college try and coming home.  It's sad when one individual without a clue is able to single-handedly ruin an institution that teenagers have looked forward to attending for generations. Really sad. The oldest kid graduated from high school and had his Eagle Scout ceremony within a 24-hour span during Memorial Day weekend. The youngest kid went to basketball camp and has been grumping around because her mother is making her continue her violin lessons through the summer, and our pool isn't open yet, though she has re-discovered her love of art and is doing some pretty darned amazing portraits for an 11 year-old.

One sheep, Blanche, went into labor in the wee hours of the morning last week, and then promptly abandoned one of her twins to die in the field.  Fortunately, I found it in time to save it, and so we have had Puck, the male of the twin set, pretty much living on the front porch and in the dog pen in the kitchen for the last week.  The 3 am feedings have just about killed me, but we are finally not having to feed him through the night.  Just about.

Stella is holding out for Christmas, I think, with her twins.  We fully expected her to deliver last week, but she's still laying there in the shade (she got moved to the unused dog pen so that she won't be tempted to leave a lamb to die in a field) looking like she swallowed an elephant or two.

The barn project is on hold while we repair all of the pool landscaping.  We have an above-ground pool that is sitting in a hole in the ground to make it less above ground, and all the rain that we got over the winter caused the retaining wall to collapse, so we have spent the last 3 weeks digging that out, putting in a new super-duty retaining wall, and now, as the forecast finally reaches the mid-90s for the next several days (add about 60% humidity to that temperature), we are to the point where we are finishing up the deck.  Weather permitting, we might get to take a dip in the pool this weekend.
The garden has been a trauma.  First it was too cold but very wet and, although I didn't lose anything to frost this time, I did lose the entire sugar snap pea crop and most of the onions--I think as a combo of bad seed and too much rain.  Just about the time it came to planting the majority of the garden, the rain went away and was replaced by full sun, no rain, and temps hot enough to crack the ground.  Every other day I was running the well dry to keep the plants from shriveling to dust.  Consequently, the corn is also not very promising.

1/2 Dollar-sized Blackberry
Flip side: we are overrun by gigantic blackberries--some the size of half dollars!--raspberries, and a good many blueberries.  I've already put up 2 batches of blackberry jam and 5 quarts in the freezer plus what we've eaten.  I'm picking about a 1/2 gallon every other day of the blackberries, which is fabulous!  The beans are almost ready to pick and the tomatoes--all of which I grew from seed (I'm so incredibly proud of that!!) and which number about 80--are sporting their first tiny tomatoes. The bell peppers, however, seem to be in a perpetual limbo and are healthy but not growing at all.  I'm completely stumped. My cauliflower and broccoli crop looks to be incredibly promising, though (knock on wood) only time and hopefully not too much rain will result in something worth putting in the freezer.

I've finished a new shawl pattern, so that's blocking today and then when there are pictures, I'll have that out on Ravelry and Craftsy.  Although I enjoyed the success of having a sweater pattern on the front cover of Knit Picks Spring garment collection a few months ago, the resulting backlash from a numerical error in one line of the printed pattern, and then a technical error with their electronic pattern pdf, has left me a bit shell shocked.  There are apparently many very angry women out there that I think probably can't be helped by knitting alone, all of whom were given my email address by Knit Picks to vent their frustrations. There's a purpose for giving a customer the designer's email address, and it is NOT, I repeat NOT, for the purpose of demanding a yarn refund with profanity or making threats of violence against the publishing company and the designer because, well, once the designer hands it over to the editor and publisher, the whole thing is literally out of her control.  Oh, and they also don't give the customer the designer's email address for the purpose of demanding that the pattern be re-written to the customer's personal specifications ASAP because she didn't like the bust size options, the needle size, or the yarn selection for which the pattern was written. Seriously, it isn't. So, even though I am about to start on a new sweater design, I am thinking that I will keep this one and the one that I'm in the middle of doing the second test knit for to self-publish at my leisure.

I've also added a new line of yarn to the shop--well, "new" for this year, but I try to carry it just in the summer months. Calliope 100% silk is now available, though I'm running out about as quickly as I can get it dyed and posted, which is always a good thing.  I've gotten a bit more in, so a few more skeins will be going into the shop, probably this weekend, but my supplier underestimated the popularity of this base so I've got some on backorder until later next week. Additional color ways will hopefully find their way to the shop by the end of next week.

French Lilac
Blue Agave

And did I mention that I am on the promotions team for the Georgia Fiber Fest this year in Columbus, Georgia (Sept. 10-12). It will be at the Columbus Convention Center again--love that venue!!!--and I'll be sharing all the details with you in my next post.

Again, I will be teaching a few classes.  If you are attending and you always wanted to learn to knit socks 2-at-a-time, this is your chance!  I'm also doing a forward, backward, and sideways knitting class (one of my favorites to teach!) and a class about lace edgings. Class sign up is on the website (www.gafiberfest.com). Admission to the market (I'll have a booth there, too, right at the front entrance so you can't miss me!) is FREE.

Okay, so that's all for now.  I hope we'e gotten caught up.  See you on the knit side!


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