Another Day, Another Mason Jar Cozy

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It’s full-on summertime now. The garden has exploded with new offerings each day, my job is to try and keep up. Two thirds of the garlic has been dug, we’re dipping into the potato rows for early sampling, some of the cabbage is about ready, peppers are ripening, and basketfuls of beans are the norm every other day from here on out. The tomatoes are coming along, but nothing ripe just yet. Peas, radish, and the first planting of lettuce are done. Kale and collards are producing nicely, and cucumbers are on the vine. We'll pick the first few any day now. There is quite a bit more to report, but that is a brief run down. I’ve been terrible about posting garden updates this year. The trouble is that I seem to only have time to post here about once a week now, and if each time I sat down to write it wound up being a weekly garden update, that would bore me to tears and I can’t imagine would do much for you either. But I do hope to properly update before the month is out. As is the case with these things, a new gardening season brings with many new lessons that are worth noting.

July in the shade has been a success so far. There is still plenty to do beyond the shade tree, but I am finding my way there often. I’ve been knitting - hats, mason jar cozies... little things. Knitting small in the summer keeps the warm wool off your lap, and an added bonus is that you can knit a new item in one or two days time. So I get up early, do my work around the house, garden, and desk, then I take some time for a whole lot of nothing but listening to the birds and watching the butterflies dance about. If I had a hammock I’d work a nap into the equation.
Our garden porch has evolved and expanded into a well-functioning summer kitchen which has quickly become my favorite room in the house. All 6x8 feet of it. A full tour and discussion of creating such a space (can even be in the garage or basement) will be shared in Harvest, but I’ve been spending so much time here lately it’s showing up in quite a few photos. So, welcome to the summer kitchen! The tiniest corner of our home with the most activity.
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I can hear the chickens waking up so it’s time to open their coop for the day. There is laundry to do and I’d like to get an hour or two in the garden before the heat becomes too much. There is a fridge to clean out and the blueberry farm opens at 8am. True to form, everything I’d like to accomplish in a day is best taken care of by 10am. (Considering the heat and when my energy levels are highest.) Too bad I'm not great at multi-tasking. I’ll do my best, and stay on task until late morning, at which point I’ll scrap all unfinished chores and plans, find my way to the shade, and perhaps enjoy one of those summertime naps. At the very least, I’ll knit the afternoon away. You know what they say, another day, another mason jar cozy.

I Knit a Shawl (then I entered it in a fair!)

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It all started when I saw Renee's post featuring her mother's incredible shawl. Now that was a shawl, I thought. 

I sensed a shawl was destined to be my first 'big' knitting project, but so many of the patterns I came across were kind of tiny. Like little capelets for your shoulders. Cute, but I'm too practical for cute. When a cool October morning sends a chill through me, I want to fully wrap myself in a layer of soft wool. A wee little capelet wouldn't bring the level of cozy I was looking for. 

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But as soon as I saw Karen's shawl, I knew. And the yarn she chose!! Well, I had to find some of that too. Thankfully, my local yarn shop carried it so I didn't have to look far. I peeked at the very pattern Karen used, but my skill set didn't seem to be a match for it just yet. I looked around on Ravelry and stumbled upon the Harry Shawl. Perfect! I loved the stitching, particularly that is wasn't too lacy - I do love lacy shawls - but true to form, I was going for warmth over style.

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I don't have my knitting vocabulary down well enough yet to tell you the ins and outs of this pattern, other than to say I thought it was fairly simple. My brain works in its own special way however and I had to discard the written instructions at a certain point and just go with how the picture looked and how the stitches flowed as I was knitting. I don't now what this intuitive method would be called, but I've applied it to sewing before as well.

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Adam gave me my first sewing machine for my 29th birthday. Up until that point I hadn't really sewn anything since eighth grade home ec class, but I was thrilled to sew simple projects - as wonky as they were sure to be. Just a few months passed and a friend asked if I would help sew the costumes for her daughter's school production of Alice in Wonderland.

Uhh... what!?

She wouldn't let me wiggle my way out of it and before I could escape down the rabbit hole I was knee deep in blue sequined and white satin fabric, cutting out pattern pieces and hoping to turn it all into a tuxedo jacket - tails and all. Only the sparkliest, fanciest of costumes would do for the Mad Hatter.

Oh my word did I ever have a time of it. After much wrangling and far too many four letter words, I finally just stopped everything and tossed the instructions. Instead of those pesky step by step details, I thought about how garments are made... I wear them every day for goodness sake! So... a sleeve should be pinned like this, not because the instructions say so but because that is what it looks like on the shirt I'm wearing... lapels - well, i don't have too many of those but let's take a look at one of Adam's suits - ahh, yes - that's how you do a lapel!... pockets, we all have pockets - they should sit like so... and that logic my friends is how I wound up making my first and only tuxedo jacket. 



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When I got stuck a few times on this shawl I used the same method. Instructions were cast aside and I just thought about how the shape should come together with the relatively few types of stitches needed. And somehow, voila! We have ourselves a shawl. 

{Ravelry notes.}

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Early in the summer I got the idea that it would be fun to enter something in one of the country fairs in my area. This shawl had come off the needles in late June, so it seemed like a good candidate for my entry. Sure, I kinda felt like I had no business entering a fair when I can still count on one hand the number of things I've knitted. But you know... why not... fairs are fun and I'd like to hang out with folks who enter handmade or homegrown wares in the country fair. So off to the fair we went!

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I love small country fairs so much. The animals, the colors, the late summer sunshine. My very favorite part was hanging out near the animals on Sunday evening. It was the last day of the fair and the animals were all being moved to their trailers while the pens were broken down. Seeing young folks tend to their animals with incredible strength and care (it turns out those 600 pound cows really do not want to go back in the trailers), with manure caked boots and sun-kissed shoulders... it's difficult to explain, but there was just something about watching this kind of work that made me feel at peace. Witnessing the ability and selflessness these young adults and children displayed was comforting. I could have watched them forever. 

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Eventually I went to collect my shawl from a barn that held all kinds of crafts and blue ribbon vegetables. What a sight! I always think of the gardeners in Wallace and Gromit when visiting all those award winning vegetables. 

Speaking of blue ribbons, much to my surprise...

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... well, how about that.  What an exciting day at the fair. 

From My Knitting Journal


On a long wintry road trip I cast on a simple ribbed scarf after realizing that the yarn I had packed for my first Honey Cowl attempt was all wrong. It's a good thing I learned early on the ever-important knitting rule of always having a back up project on hand, especially when traveling. 

And so, I'd knit a few rows... talk to my family... knit a few rows... stare at the moose in the middle of the road... knit a few rows... look out the windshield and pretend we could actually see through all the drifting snow...

Surely, with twenty hours ahead of us in the car I could finish a simple scarf.


Twenty hours in the car and I had about 4 inches of scarf to show for it. This scarf felt like more of a slow torture than a sweet meditation. 




It just never seems to gain any momentum. I mean, it is. I'm close to the finish line now, but the slow to measure progress has done little for keeping me motivated.

I felt (still feel) like the grandmother in that children's book who knits and knits and knits until her home is filled with this blanket (was it a blanket?)  and it eventually spills out the front door and rolls down the hills and lanes into town... am I remembering this book right? I can't think of the name of it now.


This scarf has traveled through four states, two book clubs, three homeschool co-op days, and at least one movie. Since casting on I've begun and completed five other projects!

Clearly it is not holding my attention.  I'll finish it, but man this is a slow ride. 


The latest of the other projects to come off the needles has been a second honey cowl and a third hat. I've decided that I learn so much when I knit a pattern multiple times with various yarns, adjusting needle sizes, etc. I've also learned (from one of you helpful readers) that I was knitting backwards... backwards! Can you imagine!? 

I knew that I knit differently than how many other people knit, but I was always told "that's okay, just as long as you always knit that way, your work will come out fine." So I never bothered to do it any differently. But then one of you explained that the "v" in the stockinette stitch will lay flatter/nicer/prettier if I knit "this way." (And then it was explained exactly how to knit correctly). 


I thought it was going to be so hard to relearn, but it wasn't! Sure, it took a little focus as old habits can be hard to break, but I kept my attention on the task and the very next project (the brown hat above) knit up so much nicer than my previous green hat

I owe a few proper pics of these latest knits but my go-to-knit-model is currently wrapped up in a tremendous amount of research on Frederick Douglas. Another time. 


After knitting the first Honey Cowl in Cascade 220 Superwash, I was eager to cast on another. I can't seem to get enough of the spongy texture of the Honey Cowl stitch and the Superwash was really lovely to work with. One day I was in the area of a new to me yarn store and stopped in to see if they had any of the same yarn. They didn't, but I was told Ella Rae Superwash was a comparable choice so I picked up a few colors and was excited to get going. 


At first it seemed to knit up just the same as the Cascade Superwash, but after a few inches into the project I could tell it just wasn't. This yarn was not nearly as soft as Cascade and it didn't quite have the same loft which resulted in a slightly lacy stitch. The weight is the same between the two yarns and there is only a one yard difference between the two so I can't get my mind around why the thickness feels so different from one to the next. The Ella Rae wasn't terrible, and I could see why it would be sold as a "comparable" yarn to Cascade, but it certainly didn't duplicate my first cowl experience. 

Oh! And the color... it's so hard to photograph but it is the prettiest, warmest blue with a touch of green (#130, Bermuda). It reminds me so much of the tiny bathroom in our old house. That was the best blue color for walls, never leaving a room feeling cold as blue walls can sometimes do. (Covington Blue by Benjamin Moore.)






There are so many knitting type odds and ends to share today. I don't even have Ravelry notes yet for the new cowl and hat, I'll wait until I can get a few proper photos of them.

A package came in the mail recently that contained "fresh from the farm" yarn from a sweet lady that asked if I'd barter workshop enrollment for some of their yarn. Oh yes! Yes I will!!

This is seriously some of the nicest (if not the nicest) yarn I have ever touched. She even sent a pretty hat pattern and many samples of wool-friendly soap. Our resident Border Collie is quite smitten with all of the wool coming into the house these days. 

I'm not sure yet what I'll make with this yarn (aside from the hat pattern that came with it), but it does hold a front and center spot in my stash now. What a treat this is going to be to work with. 








Later today or tomorrow I need to get into the kitchen and make up another batch of Renee's lotion. Hand lotion is a staple in my knitting tool kit as I cannot tolerate knitting with dry hands. Given the winter months and my hands being in and out of dish water all day, I sure can use a dab every few hours throughout each day. And especially when I sit down to knit, lotion is a must. 

Emily and I made a batch (it might have been a double batch) about one year ago and our supply is just finishing up. It stayed perfectly fresh at room temperature through all the seasons and provided a rich and emollient lotion for my very active hands. I think this may be the first lotion recipe I've made that worked so well I'll be making it a second time. 

Well, I think that about sums up the happenings from my knitting journal these days. If you have any thoughts on what to make with this new yarn, please do share. I would love something particularly special for the Blueberry Vintage, of which there is 308 worsted yards.  Such a generously sized skein of wool/alpaca yarn. 

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I hope you are having a wonderful week and have adjusted to the time change without a hitch. (I'm just putting that out there for those of us in need... ahem.)

Off the Needles (!!!)


Do you know how long I've waited to say those words? 

Well, in truth I've had a few things come off the needles over the years, but they weren't projects that went beyond rows and rows of simple garter stitch. Kind of ho-hum. (Still practical, and I do wear every one of those things.)

But you know, I'm slowly growing as a knitter these days. Forever trying to expand my skill set, I'm even casting off my own projects instead of handing them to my daughter to cast off. Turns out it's not that hard at all! 


The thing is though, projects I've got on my 'to make' list are the projects all of you (my knitty blogging friends) have already made. The very projects I've been dreaming about making for years but lacked the know how. You'll understand that my reveals are going to be a little like watching re-runs of the Brady Bunch or something. Still awesome, but nothing original. That's okay.


Remember the sampler scarf? I finished it, then promptly frogged the whole thing. I can tell I'm going to be one of those knitters that isn't afraid to rip a whole project apart, either for the sake of getting it just right or to reclaim incredible yarn that perhaps wasn't the perfect fit for a project, after all.

Such was the case with the Quince Puffin I chose for that sampler scarf. I knew this going into the project, but I just wanted to knit with something that felt amazing, regardless. As I expected, the finished scarf was just a little bit too puffy and heavy. Not being able to envision proper usage from this scarf (made of such lovely yarn), the whole thing was taken apart. I still have the photos and the experience of learning something new, but now I've also got that great yarn back too. 


A few weeks ago some of you were talking about (and knitting) the Honey Cowl - how pretty it was! Immediately I looked up the pattern and as I read through it, I thought I could manage a go at it. So I cast on... in a yarn that was entirely wrong it turned out. Clearly I'm still learning about these things. It didn't go well and my cowl looked messy and droopy and the yarn kept splitting. Not feeling the love, I did what I seem to do best - I tore it out. 

Being on a long road trip, I had planned well and packed supplies for a back-up project. So I began knitting a ribbed scarf and put the idea of a Honey Cowl on the back burner. The ribbed scarf isn't quite done yet, but it is such a pretty thing I'll be sure to share it when it is. 

After we returned home I couldn't quite get the Honey Cowl out of my mind. A trip to the local yarn store was in order... and I brought your yarn suggestions along with me! One of you mentioned Cascade 220 was your "workhorse." I felt like I needed a good workhorse after my disappointing first attempt so I was on the lookout. 


Cascade 220 was well represented at this store and a little stock up took place. As soon as I returned home, Honey Cowl number two was on the needles. This yarn worked perfectly, even though I had to go a needle size bigger (based on what I had available), and I happily knit knit knit the week away. What an easy to work with, buttery kind of yarn Cascade 220 is. I'm learning so much from you!

Edited: I just checked my notes... I did not go a needle size bigger. For some reason I thought the pattern called for size 7. Nope, size 8, just as I used. ;)

Honey Cowl is a super fun knit. The stitches are rather architectural looking as they come together, feeling three dimensional and spongy. Very cozy.

Last night I had myself a date with a few You Tube knitting videos so I could cast off independently, which happened successfully! (I figured it would have been bad parenting to wake Emily so she could cast off for me.)


Today, warm and toasty in my new cowl (thank you Emily for letting me snap a few pics), all I want to do is cast on another. But I know the ribbed scarf should be finished first. I also want to give the world of knitted hats a go, Emily did pick out a special yarn during our visit to Purl Soho that would be just perfect.

Think I'm ready for a hat...? (Gratefully accepting positive knitting mojo. xo)


I'll be sure to get on Ravelry soon so I can share project details with you. I'm actually there already, but I don't have a single thing posted yet. My profile isn't even set up. Sorry to be so boring over there, one thing at a time. 

On Becoming a Knitter


It is finally happening friends! If you've followed along here for some time now, you probably know I've always loved yarn and the idea of knitting. I've even dabbled in it a bit here and there, but not to the point of great skill or confidence. Anything beyond a simple garter stitch confused me, let alone pattern reading. I couldn't increase or decrease, and forget about casting off... somebody else (my daughter) would do that for me. 


You see, knitting doesn't come easily for my brain, which prefers to work in more flowy, idea oriented ways. Focusing on steps and details proves challenging for me (which is why writing out actual recipes is the hardest part of my work... but I do get it done, somehow). I suppose this is why knitting simple scarves in garter stitch appealed to me for so long, it doesn't get more easy breezy than that - allowing me to maintain a day-dreamy creative state all the while. 

Sounds good... except it's so boring!

And, I love yarn as much as I love fabric so I really need to know what to do with it. 


This year has brought many changes and improvements to our little homeschool, a new homeschool co-op being one of those things. We are having such a wonderful time there, and much to my surprise I've been able to take a class, a knitting class

This class and its wonderful teacher have changed everything for me. All the You Tube videos in the world couldn't help me learn certain skills, but sitting beside Cecilia for the last eight (or so) Wednesday mornings has taught me more about knitting than I've learned from the internet and books in over five years. Pattern reading, stitch markers, row counters, etc., I get it now.

What I needed was a teacher right beside me.

Plus, Cecilia tells me that my (very awkward and, um... unique) way of knitting looks "elegant." Who knew!?


Funny thing about my desire to move beyond scarves - the project Cecilia had me learn more skills on was indeed a scarf. A sampler scarf! Let me tell you, if your knitting skills are in the beginning stages as mine are (although I'm pretty sure I'm the last creative type blogger on her way to becoming a proficient knitter), a sampler scarf is a great idea. 


Basically, there are eight different "samples" in this pattern, each separated by six rows of garter stitch (I can do that!), they string together to make one beautiful scarf. Done in a knitting group setting the idea is to knit one section per week, taking your time, learning as you go. I cast on in a bulkier yarn than the pattern called for but I had my heart set on using it and Cecilia helped me adjust my needle size accordingly. The yarn I am using is wool so the scarf is a little squiggly and scrunchy right now, but once it is finished and blocked all should be properly shaped. 

Something about this sampler approach has allowed me to be incredibly patient. I can't tell you how many times I'd be within a few rows of finishing a section, messing up, and tearing out that section to start over. No big deal. Practice, practice, practice. And if I couldn't get it by Tuesday night, I knew I'd be seeing Cecilia the following morning. It's funny how each and every time I was stuck, I'd sit beside her for ten minutes of instruction and would be right back on track. There have been many small victories over the last couple of months. 


{The ever tricky "lacey" pattern. It's more delicate and airy in a less bulky yarn.}


There was the one "lacey" pattern that really had me stuck in between knitting classes. I instagramed about it and my talented friend Sophia offered to walk me through the process. Through a loooong series of amazing texts, I got it! She even drew diagrams and took pictures and texted those to me. Unbelievably helpful. 


So, I continued on and have knit five sections so far. The remaining three sections are super tricky and I'm not sure I'll include them in this go around or if I'll just finish the scarf with a repeat of a few of the sections I've already done. 


{The "spiral" section.}


{On the right, the yummy "fair isle" yarn. }

Meanwhile, I love the spiral section so much that I've decided to knit an entire scarf from it using smaller needles and a finer yarn. This yarn is adorable because it naturally knits up in a fair isle pattern. That's probably cheating but I'm all about baby-steps right now. I wish I could show you a picture of its progress but I recently took out all twenty inches that had been knit... a big oops took place... and I'm not skilled enough yet to 'fix it' when it comes to this sort of pattern. Someday. (I'm about to start over on that scarf and will share it when it's done.)




Also, I cast on a stripey afghan (using washing machine friendly acrylic yarn) that will be knit entirely in a simple garter stitch. I chose a jewel-toned rainbow of yarn colors, plus some black for accents.

After learning a few intricate patterns and stitches, I quickly realized that I needed to have a project on hand requiring very little focus and attention, just knitting. After all, it's the holidays and there are countless hours of sappy Christmas movies to watch on The Hallmark Channel... oh yes, I just admitted that out loud. ;)

I wish I could offer a link to the sampler pattern but it is not online that I know of. For now, I'm celebrating these baby steps with gratitude for Cecilia, Sophia, and all you crafty knitting ladies who have inspired me over the years more than you'll ever know.

As I wrap this up, may I ask you a question? For you more experienced knitters, if you have a favorite yarn, book, website, pattern (especially for beginners), please share in the comments. Your resources are much appreciated. 

(Emphasis on favorite yarns, of course.) 

Winter is long and I do believe this will be the one where many pretty things finally come off the needles.