FO: brown alpaca.

Victory. 208 yards of 2-ply worsted weight rub-on-your-face-because-it-is-so-soft alpaca. I am so pleased with the result, and I can’t wait to show it to the friend who requested this spin!

And here’s a progress shot of the cowl — I’ve completed the neck decrease row, and now I’m increasing for the raglan neck/sleeves. Still in love with this. Tuesday is my non-campus day, so while I do have plans to do quite a bit of reading, I’m also planning lunch with a friend, a decent walk with Boh, and a trip to the farm.

waiting (for alpaca).

I am so impatient when it comes to handspun yarn. I hang it in the kitchen, on a hook over the sink that I imagine was intended for a planter, and I touch it every time I walk by. Which is a lot. Dry faster! I want to skein you up and admire you! Alas, the alpaca is still quite damp, but even now, I am starting to get a sense for the finished yarn, and I’m quite happy with the angle of the twist in the ply. It is still hard to tell exactly how soft this is going to be, but it feels lofty. Monday is my busy, all-day-on-campus day this semester, so maybe by the time I get home this evening, the alpaca will be dry.

I am also waiting for the coffee to be ready. (Or I was, when I took the picture. I’m now enjoying the first few sips from my mug.) Oh, Monday.

Hope your week is off to a good start!

charging/recharging.

So, school started on Wednesday. And even though I only had a few obligations on campus, and managed to can and cowl on Thursday (see what I did there? OED, here I come) the start of the semester is emotionally exhausting — something about trying to get comfortable in a slightly different routine. With all this in mind, my friend J. and I planned an afternoon hike, and it was just the kind of recharging we needed.

We headed out of town just after five, and hiked a nearby four-mile loop as we enjoyed the evening light. This really is my backyard — closer than my yoga teacher’s home studio, which is in one of the next towns over. Boh and I need to do this more.

When Boh and I returned, I made this colorful meal — nothing more than a bunch of farm veggies sauteed. I added some leftover rice from the fridge and it sopped up some of the broth created by the fresh tomatoes, and then I stirred in chunks of goat cheese feta to add a creamy texture. Super good, and just what I needed after that hike. This is the thing about cooking from a farm share — veggies that were harvested this week (often in the hours just before the afternoon member pick-up) are so full of flavor and earthy sweetness that you don’t have to do much of anything to them to make something absolutely delicious.

In between finishing one book and starting another, I inched towards the decrease row at the neckline of idlewood. Another inch or so and I’ll be there. I need to wind up another skein of yarn!

This morning, I worked on plying two bobbins of that super soft natural brown alpaca together. I tried to underply a bit, with the idea that a less tightly plied yarn would allow more a soft, alpaca-y halo in the finished yarn. It is soaking right now, so we’ll see how it turns out. On today’s agenda? Brunch with the boy, an afternoon birthday celebration near the lake, and a whole lot of reading/prepping for the week in between. Happy Sunday!

canning/cowling.

On Wednesday night, I blanched, peeled, and cored about a gallon and a half of paste tomatoes. And then I went to bed, more tired from the start of the semester than from the hour and a half of tomato labor! Thursday morning, before I put the water on for coffee, I filled my canning pot, gathered together some jars and lids, and set to sterilizing. 4 quarts and 2 pints of tomatoes had been raw-packed and processed (45 mins in the water bath, according to the scanned cookbook page my parents sent me, complete with my mom’s tiny, perfect notations about the number of tomatoes that fit in a pint or quart jar — love it) by mid-morning. I’m hoping to do this again next week if there are still tomatoes to pick when I head out to the farm on Tuesday.

I’ve also been cowling, which is how I’m referring (aloud, to no one in particular) to the act of knitting the cowl portion of idlewood. I am in love with the way this fabric feels and drapes in this gauge. I think I’ve got about ten inches, so I’m about two-thirds of the way there. If I can finish a book this morning, I’m going to let myself watch last night’s episode of Project Runway and do some cowling. Happy Friday!

FO: hemlock ring.

First, the answer to the blocking dilemma: blocking trumps civilized meals at the table. I opted not to use pins — the ecowool was sticky enough that it seemed to stay where I pulled/tugged it, probably thanks to gravity, as most of the “petals” were hanging off the table. Despite rolling the blanket in a towel before laying it out to dry, I had to periodically wipe up puddles from beneath the petals.  Because this is a wedding gift, I decided not to spread it out again to photograph it — that just seemed like a recipe for a blanket covered in Boh-hair. So here’s a shot of the finished hemlock ring, folded and draped over a chair in the kitchen:

I am thrilled with how this turned out. Plus, I learned new things about lace knitting, casting on, and binding off, and I reclaimed some lace knitting confidence after my ishbel fail. Victory! I used just under 1.5 skeins of Cascade Ecowool (using US 10.5 needles as called for in the pattern) and I made the regular size, binding off at the marked row on the chart. And with the kitchen table back, I made pizza for dinner last night.

This is a tomato, basil, and mozzarella pizza — no sauce, just some olive oil brushed on underneath the toppings. This is might be my new favorite pizza combination — the tomatoes were so sweet — almost caramelized by the heat of the oven.

In the land of tomatoes, want to see what I have planned in the kitchen for tonight, tomorrow, and/or Friday?

Time to can some tomatoes! I’ve never done this before, and I’m psyched. My mom emailed me her recipe for sauce and scanned in her handwritten notes about canning whole tomatoes. I remember her doing this when I was little, and I am looking forward to having my own jars of tomatoes I picked on my shelves!

Also, my fridge was so colorful after I unloaded yesterday’s haul from the farm that I just had to take a picture. I also opened the fridge door and pulled out the drawers so that the boy could admire everything from the rainbow of goodness inside to the adorableness of the baby eggplants.

Last picture today: year three, day one. Me and my goofy grin are off to campus soon. A big year begins. But first, I’m going to knit another inch of that big, happy cowl-neck.

idlewood; or, crazy for cowlneck, day 1.

I’d initially intended for my next post to be about blocking the hemlock ring. But that will have to wait until tomorrow. Why, you ask? Because last night I fell hard. For a sweater.

Have you seen this absolutely swoonworthy new design by Cecily Glowik MacDonald? I am in love. I immediately started looking through my stash for appropriate yarns and yardages. Beaverslide? Nope, not tweedy enough. Peace Fleece? Not drapey enough. And then I remembered this deliciously soft natural grey cormo from the Elsa Wool Company in Colorado. I purchased six squishy skeins in the fall of 2007 at the Taos Wool Festival, and I’ve been saving it for the right project. I think this is it. I checked the (handwritten) label, and found that the weight and yardage matched the yarn in the pattern.

So I swatched as I sipped my morning coffee, and began daydreaming of a cozy grey big-cowled tunic-y sweater. And suddenly the fact that the semester starts tomorrow didn’t seem quite so bad. I mean, this is the perfect sweater to be a hip-yet-studious grad student. Right? This sweater will actually help me with my preparation for my comprehensive exams. Right?

My swatch was close enough to the called for gauge, so I washed it, set it out to dry, and then cast on for the cowl neck. This pattern calls for using larger needles than you’d think would be appropriate for the yarn, and because of this, the drape is fabulous.

Boh is not impressed.

So here I am, twenty-four hours after I first laid eyes on Idlewood: an inch or so into the cowl neck, and a tiny bit more relaxed about the craziness that begins tomorrow.

hemlock blob, boh, buttons.

A podcast, an episode of Project Runway, and two mugs of coffee later, I present to you my hemlock ring, in blob form, and I love it. Now, where am I going to block this thing?

Boh has no idea.

Yesterday afternoon,  I quickly added a fourth (red) button to my Shalom, and then swapped out the less matchy orange button (second from the top) in order to make this wearable, and quick. See, yesterday was cold and rainy, and, let’s face it, rather unproductive. A coffee shop work plan took shape, and I decided that I needed to be able to wear Shalom. I think I will eventually swap out the orange buttons for red ones, but this worked wonderfully for yesterday’s coffee shop work date (followed by a french-fries-with-delicious-dipping-sauces-reward-for-reading date). Here are a few more Shalom pictures! (Tough to take good photos in artificial light. The blurry ones are my favorites.)

Back to the pile of reading!

perfect.

This arrived in the mail on Wednesday accompanied by a note that said, “When I saw the logo on the mug, I immediately thought, Rooster needs to have this!” This dear, dear friend (and non-knitter) knows me well. And apparently has been visiting MD S&W with his family for years. (Thanks, Champ.)

No new knitting or spinning progress to report. I was out of town again this weekend for some super productive meetings, and I am scrambling to feel ready for the semester, which begins on Wednesday. I have, however, been queuing and ogling patterns and projects on ravelry, which is something I do when I feel like I don’t have time to actually knit and spin. Hoping to make time on this rainy Sunday for something woolly.

I made another batch of granola this morning — something I do almost weekly — and thought to snap a picture. Also, last week’s sunflower is starting to droop.

I still think she’s lovely. And that’s what I’ve got for you today. More soon!

beginning the bind-off.

This is going to take awhile, but boy, is it ever pretty! The knitted bind-off option for the hemlock ring involves a repeat that includes turning your work, and then knitting and purling into one stitch several times to create that lovely loop. Then you turn back and bind off those stitches, and continue on to the next grouping. Slow, but worth it, I think.

Also, last night we had a super easy, super delicious meal, completely inspired by this tomato tart over at inoakpark. I followed the recipe that K. links to, though I used slightly less butter in my crust, and didn’t need the additional tbsp of water. Also, I only slathered whole grain spicy mustard on half of the dough, as the boy is not a huge fan. I used mozzarella instead of goat cheese, fresh flat-leaf parsley for the herbs, and tucked a few stray rounds of zucchini into the gaps left by my tomato slices. The dough took less than ten minutes to make, and requires no resting time. Thirty minutes after that, this deliciousness came out of the oven. I’m not ashamed to say we polished off the entire tart. I will be making this again.

yesterday, produce. today, productivity.

And that’s just what was left on the counter when I thought to grab my camera. The first raspberries and blackberries have ripened, so we were able to pick 1 pint yesterday. I also brought home a handful of deep sweet red peppers, a baby eggplant, cucumbers, zucchini, orange and yellow carrots, pink and orange beets, rosemary, parsley, and spring onions. (I chose to load up on the heartier stuff this week rather than go the lettuce/cabbage/salad mix route, but all of that deliciousness was available as well!)

I tried out a recipe for onion biscuits from a favorite cookbook of mine (Recipes from America’s Small Farms), but these were only okay. (I still highly recommend this cookbook.) Part of my frustration stems from the fact that I didn’t watch these carefully and they turned out a bit too golden. (Multitasking while baking a new-to-me recipe is clearly not a good idea.) But beyond that, these were too harsh and onion-y, and I cut back on the onion in the recipe. I think these need some cheese, or even something sweeter, like a touch of honey, to counter the super strong onion-y taste. (And I love onions.) I was going for a kind of summery biscuit dinner, so I made a very light tomato sauce with zucchini, squash, fennel, onion, and basil to pour over these. The sauce was delicious, but not an awesome match for these biscuits. You win some, you lose some, right?

Boh, on the other hand, won big yesterday. I picked up a trachea while restocking on Boh’s food at the natural pet supply store in town, and he spent the afternoon working his way through it. Cheap, fun for him to eat and play with, and a natural source of glucosamine. Triple win.

I spun a bit more of the brown alpaca yesterday, and I’m almost through the second three ounces. Plying soon, but probably not today.

My morning has already involved a heavy dose of this, and it is time to get back to it.