Life moves so quickly by…we had our first few snow flurries yesterday in my neck of the woods. I feel so grateful that our fall here in Minnesota has been so warm and long (if a little dry) this year, but hunkering down for months of cold and dark is always a little painful. In summer months we have daylight till almost ten at night, but we do pay for it starting about now. As always, life has been busy and I have lots to share…
Our chocolate lab Fred is one year old today. We’ve had him since January, and is is fully embedded as a member of our family. He still likes to chew up anything left laying around, but is starting to settle down a bit, and is pretty well trained (completely potty-wise, 90% on the obedience). Here he is trying to lick peanut butter off his nose. I wonder what diabolical puppy mama would have put that there?
Going back a bit, I attended a knitting retreat the weekend before Halloween. It was just for a couple of days, but it was a much-needed get-away, and I had the chance to catch up with some dear knitting friends I hadn’t seen in a while. New this year for this particular retreat, we had the opportunity to visit an alpaca farm. Thanks to Riverside Suri Alpacas, we got to go meet some of these sweet silly animals and even hand-feed and pet some (they actually don’t really like being touched, but can be bribed with food).
I love this next picture because you can see the baby cria nursing from its mama in the background.
This retreat is one that I’ve attended several other times in the past – it’s called Minnesota Knitters’ Days and is held at a retreat center in southeast Minnesota. This year, Candace Eisner Strick was our instructor – as she has once or twice in the past – and I love that lady. She is so smart, and hilariously funny. She comes up with great ideas and is fun to listen to. Here she is with her sister and an uncommonly friendly alpaca. Candace, forgive me for putting up your photo without express permission, but you look so sweet here, and it’s not a close-up so I hope you don’t mind.
Candace has a new self-published book of socks out, and she has a novel new way of attacking heels and toes. For quite some time, I’ve been so happy with my standard short-row method that I’ve been loathe to try other “new” ones, but since I was there and since it was Candace, I gave hers a go. I actually like it! Enough, anyway, that I am willing to finish a pair this way and see how they wear before I make any further judgement, but from me that is saying a lot. Candace had asked us to work the new method as a swatch with bigger yarn, but I figured I’d be happier jumping right in, and now I have a sock almost done – this photo was taken right after I came home.
If you like knitting socks, and want to try short-row heels and toes that don’t involve the old wrap-and-turn method, Strickly Socks might just be the book for you!
On the way home from my retreat, I stopped briefly in Red Wing to shop for little souvenirs for my girls and to check out the shoe outlet, where I took a picture with the world’s largest boot. Not a great picture, but I snapped it myself with my phone as quickly as I could so as not to attract attention. It really is a huge leather boot. Red Wing’s claim to fame!
When I came home, all that I’d left behind was waiting for me and it was time to catch up. We jumped right in to Halloween (Joe got the girls started carving pumpkins and I got home just in time to help finish up and clean up the mess!) This year I had a little purple princess and a leopard. The night before Halloween, I let them try on their costumes, and the leopard had fun sneaking up on and pouncing on the princess, who did a great job pretending not to know she was about to be attacked.
Halloween itself was a magical night – the weather was relatively warm and we stayed out for hours. There were more kids than usual in the neighborhood, and it felt like a movie set or a Norman Rockwell painting. We made a pack with our close neighbors and it could not have gone better. The girls were quite pleased with their candy haul!
There goes that sneaky leopard again…
This next part really should be its own separate post, but time is short so I’m just going to get on with it. This last spring at Shepherd’s Harvest festival, I took a class on processing raw fleece into yarn, and bought three fleeces at the silent auction there. (Actually I bought four in my zeal to make sure I got “enough” but came to my senses and managed to sell one off to a classmate before leaving for the day). I’m still in the midst of processing all that wool, but am making steady progress. It is quite time consuming, and while I am learning a lot in the process and enjoying it, I’m not sure I will be so eager to do all the work myself in the future. Here are 933 yards of about worsted-weight 4-ply yarn that I spun from a Columbia fleece after washing and carding into rolags.
I’m definitely on a learning curve, and this first batch is a little on the greasy side. I didn’t understand at first just how very hot the water needed to be, and how much detergent was necessary. Also, I think I put too much wool in at once and let some of it sit too long, so the water cooled off and the grease stuck back on the wool. I realized this after most of the fleece was carded, and I was trying to spin it. Still, this yarn is just fine, if a bit rustic. I will knit myself a sweater out of it (once it has marinated in stash for a bit) and I’m sure I’ll wear it with pride It is quite lovely and squishy. There is still a good portion of that fleece waiting to be re-washed the right way – I’ve done a few batches that came out much cleaner and happier, and I’m going to spin them worsted this time for smoother, longer-wearing yarn – probably at a finer weight. Like I said, this could be its own post.
While I’m at it, I may as well show you this 441 yards of 3-ply yarn made from a shetland fleece I bought the same day. It is slightly lighter weight than the cream colored yarn above, but close enough that I could possible combine the two in a sweater (or multiple sweaters) if I wanted to do some natural colorwork. This batch was also early on the learning curve, but it makes me happy when I look at it. Really, I must do a post about the process start-to-finish at some point.
In case there is any doubt that I am a sock-a-holic, here is another toe that I started, just to make sure I had a steady supply of mindless knitting on hand…
One never can have too many socks at the ready for a sudden long car ride, meeting, or random span of waiting time. Almost right after I knit this one up, Joe said something that took me completely aback. He mentioned that he might like to start wearing hand knit socks to work. This is the man who has never been interested in wearing handknits, with the exception of the felted clogs which he wears constantly during the winter at home, and has worn out the leather soles of one pair and is well into his second. I was thrown for a surprised loop! And, silly, wonderful man, he noted that he’s probably need several pairs. I told him we’d start with one pair, but I’d happily put him in the rotation for new socks if he liked. He only wants plain dark colors, but I will cast on a pair soon and set aside the wild ones for myself till his are done.
And back to the girls…something I’ve been meaning to mention that has been taking up a lot of our time and energy – the girls have both joined the Girl Scouts this fall. Julie was invited to join an existing troop of Brownies, which meant that Sophie was very eager to join a troop too. I showed up at the organizational meeting and somehow managed to put my hand up and become her troop leader. I walked out of that meeting stunned and wondering what the heck I had gotten myself into, but at this point, I am very excited about the whole thing – it is going to be a fun adventure. Luckily, Julie’s troop leader is awesome and has been very helpful and supportive so far, plus I have a really nice co-leader who seems to fit really well with me – I like doing the behind-the-scenes organizational stuff, she is great with the kids at the meetings. Let me just say that this volunteer gig takes a LOT of time between training, troop leader meetings, actual girl scout meetings, communicating with parents, and lots of little planning and paperwork bits. Now you know what I’ve been doing with the time I would have spent blogging!
Last week, Julie’s troop had a field trip to tour the Wells Fargo bank in downtown Minneapolis. The bank has a little museum there where the kids learned about the original Wells Fargo stagecoach business in the 1800s, among other things, and then they got to go behind the teller counter and see currencies from different countries and collect a bunch of free lollipops.
I volunteered as a chaperone, so Sophie got to put on her Daisy uniform and come along for the ride. I know I’m not going to like every experience I have as a Girl Scout mom, but so far I’m all over it. I love the values, especially the all-inclusiveness – unlike the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts clearly state that they don’t discriminate on anyone for sexual orientation or religion, among other things. And yes, we’ll be selling cookies in February.
The ladies with whom I work out most week days have started our knitting group back up after a summer-long hiatus. We do a lot of talking and just a little knitting, but they are learning! Here you can get a peek of my latest finished project – it’s a beaded shawl of my own design and that I think will get its own blog post hopefully soon!
And here is a sneak peek of my next non-sock project – I’m just in the swatching stage for a sweater out of the Silky Wool yarn that’s been marinating in my stash since Julie was a toddler…it’s lovely yarn, and its time has come.
Whew! More to come….