read my profile
sign my guestbook
Interests: Knitting, art and design, computer games, music and comics/manga/anime. NERD!
Expertise: I'm an artist. Which means I enjoy a lucrative career in the "office support staff" field.
Message: message me
Website: visit my website
|It's-August, and fiber freaks North of Boston know what that means: It's time for the Newburyport Spinners' annual Fiber Revival, a small-scale one-day fiber festival held on the beautiful Spencer-Pierce-Little Farm owned by Historic New England. The humidity let up today so the weather was sunny and cool at the farm, and there were plenty of trees for people to set up their spinning wheels or just flop down on picnic blankets with their knitting and crochet. I've been looking forward to this for months. My sister bailed on going with me as originally planned so I hopped in the car and took the scenic route straight up Route 1A alone. My sister took the bus to the mall so she could stock up on Boney Bunch Halloween collectibles at the Yankee Candle store. Sheesh. Going alone wasn't as much fun as having someone to sit and knit with; I decided at the last minute not to bring a chair and knitting because I didn't want to sit there alone, and once I got to the farm I regretted it. But the weather was fine, the setting was beautiful, the fiber and friendly fiber folk were plentiful so I had a great time.|
The festival started at 9:00 am. I arrived at ten and spinners had already set up in groups under the shady trees. That made me wish I'd brought my wheel but without someone to join me, I didn't feel like lugging it in and setting up. The admission fee for Historic New England was $6 and it granted access to the grounds but not the whole house tour. Because of the festival today, however, they gave free tours of the first floor of the house.
Once I got there the first thing I did was seek out the Spunky Eclectic booth. I've admired Amy King's blog for several years and coveted several things on her online shop so I was excited to be able to shop with her since I don't see a trip to Maine in my immediate future...not that I have anything against Maine. It's hard to grab a spot in her Spunky Club so my mission was to pick up some of her fabulous wool. there was so much spinning fiber to choose from it was hard to narrow it down unless I wanted to drain my bank account. I ultimately decided that I didn't want to do that so I picked up some BFL in a colorway called Sex On The Beach. Love it! The name immediately made me think of Sex On The Beach shooters that I drank in college (long ago...so long ago...) and that made me chuckle. I have to be honest here: as much as I wanted some of her fiber, I first made a beeline to some adorable project bags that were hanging up in the back of her shop. I love handbags/totes/pouches/sacks, etc. I'm a Bag 'Ho. Seriously, it's a real problem. I handled several Greensleeves spindles but I forced myself to put them back. Ultimately I spent $50 total on a tall (spindle?) bag, a small zippered pouch for stitch markers and such, and a braid of fiber. Patting myself on the back because I hadn't gone overboard, I moved on to the other vendors.
I love seeing the owners of the LYSs I frequent. The gals from Yarns In The Farms greeted me warmly, which was nice. There were only a handful of vendors and as I moved through them all I realized I was being pulled towards the spinning fiber rather than the yarn. I have a ton of both at home already, but the call of the spinning goddess was too strong today. I next explored another online shop and blog I visit regularly: The Woolen Rabbit. I was intrigued by a woman walking away from her shop with a big clear bag stuffed with natural-colored fiber, I picked up an identical bag and--Wow! It was so soft and fluffly, like buttah! It was a Romney wool and alpaca blend. An eight-ounce bag was only $15. The natural color was gorgeous, but then I spotted the bag full of natural black wool and alpaca. I don't have any black fiber so I knew at that moment that this bag was coming home with me.
The Merlin Tree brought some adorable little spinning wheels with them. So light and portable! The treadles are in the shape of bare feet! They came in natural, red, and blue. I was tempted by the blue one but reason and budget restrictions prevailed in the end. There were so many spinning wheels for sale the chance to try them out was irresistible. What a great way to try the different types of wheels. There was dog fiber, sheep fiber, alpaca fiber, even sparkly fiber!
One thing I love about Fiber Revival is the setting. I love visiting the animals that live in comfortable "retirement" on the farm, all of them MSPCA rescues. This year there was a new little fella, a four-month-old baby goat. His name is Appleton! He was very friendly and eagerly accepted pats on the head and random gifts of carrots. There were a few sheep, an 18-year-old horse that had been worked very hard all his life and is now being well-cared-for, several chickens, goats, and the Biggest. Freakin'. Hog. I've ever seen in my life. I thought he was a cow from behind at first.
I signed up for a house tour and because I had an hour to wait I hit the vendor booths one more time. Specifically, I hit Spunky Eclectic one more time. I was tempted by her sportweight hand-dyed in the pink/chocolate/white Neopolitan colorway, but since I'm still drowning in sock yarn from the Blue Moon Fiber Arts club I haven't finished yet, I put it down. I had too much sock/sport yarn, I told myself. So I picked up the Greensleeves spindles again. This time, reason be damned! I have several drop spindles already but each one really is a unique work of art. I was torn between a larger spindle in purpleheart and a smaller one in a red and natural checkerboard pattern. The purpleheart was larger and heavy and I like smaller spindles because I want to spin finer yarn so I settled on the checkerboard, which is the Tomfoolery model. As I walked up to Amy to pay, the irony of my buying another spindle hit me. I've been criticizing my sister all week because she's on her annual "I have to buy more Boney Bunch collectibles before they're gone this season" tangent. If you're not familiar with the Boney Bunch, they're a collection of skeleton candle holders dressed in Victorian costume that the Yankee Candle Company rolls out every Halloween season. Each year the models are new, for that year only, and every year they end up on Ebay at inflated prices literally as soon as Yankee Candle puts them out. So it occurred to me as I bought yet another spindle, that I've been kidding my sister for buying something that looks the same as all the other things she has that it looks like, that serves the same function as all those other things. I also bought a small $3 bag of cotton in a subtle cinnamon color. I don't have a tahkli spindle but the color really grabbed my attention.
This year there was an added special event on the farm--a vintage baseball game! Men in Period costume played three games following the rules from 1861 (no mitts). Go Ipswich Brewers!
All in all it was a great day. I met Amy King, author of Spin Control and dyer extraordinaire. I don't know what I'm more jealous of, her incredible dying skills or her awesome tatts!
There were curious, smiling alpacas.
There were chickens...
I ended my drive in the country with a stop at Tendercrop Farms and their awesome indoor farm stand. It's like a supermarket. I bought some of their own fresh veggies and some rice so I could make a veggie stir fry for dinner tonight. I was going to keep it healthy until I saw this:
Pineapple Chipotle salsa, sitting next to the gi-normous bags of round tortilla chips. I love the round ones! I think we all know what I'm having for dinner tonight.
| Have you ever wondered what it was like to knit and spin in way back in 1630? There are many times when I sit at my spinning wheel when I'll give a thought to spinners past, and the irony is not lost on me. Spinning for most of us today is a hobby, an indulgence, even. Our survival, and that of our families and communities, isn't dependent upon how much yarn we can produce or how fast we can make something warm wit it. Spinning wheels are no longer a necessity, but a luxury--let's face it, they're not cheap. Ravelry and craft blogs everywhere are full of good-natured complaints about busy folks (especially those who are parents) trying to find a little quiet time so they can knit and spin. |
I love the display pictured here of the tools and work typically found in a colonial home, courtesy of my trip back in time, right in my own hometown! There's an open-air museum in Salem, Massachusetts that's been operating for the better part of 80 years that recreates what life was like for the original Puritan colonists in the early 1600s. Salem Pioneer Village 1630 is a collection of reproduction houses nestled in a beautiful wooded area of a city park where visitors can interact with actors portraying farmers, housewives, blacksmiths, etc. Actually, the blacksmith is an actual blacksmith who will happily give you a demonstration on smithing in his tiny shop. In later years Pioneer Village seems to have survived on a wing and a prayer. Built in 1930, it operated successfully for decades before the non-profit that owned it shut it down. The city of Salem bought it a few years ago and it reopened to the public, while its staffing and operation are handled by a local college. I was curious to see the houses and costumed interpreters so I walked over to the village on Saturday.
The houses are grouped together in a beautiful, cool wooded area. It was a hot day and the shade was a relief. Stepping over the little wooden bridge really was like stepping back in time. The first person I came across was this good gentlewoman: My eyes were drawn to a basket in front of her that contained knitting needles and a strip of knitted fabric. She sold me a ticket and I realized I was the only visitor in the village. I don't know about you, but I hate being the only person on a tour. Do you remain silent and nod and listen? Do you act like you're having a conversation with a friend? Awkward. She approached two young men and asked them which one wanted to guide me. They both kind of mumbled and looked expectantly at each other. Several uncomfortable seconds ensued. Awkward. Finally one dude spoke up and my tour began.
The houses were sparsely furnished, and most of them were a single room with a loft above. One house contained a variety of knitting and spinning tools that took up two walls of the single room. The items in the picture at the top of this post were grouped on a simple wooden table by the door, while a great wheel, cards, basket of roving and other items were set against the opposite wall. With only one room to eat, sleep and live in (though I suppose you could stow a couple of kids up in the loft), a colonial housewife would have to cook over an open fire, walk on a dirt floor, and set up her spinning wheel in very close quarters to make enough yarn and get enough knitting done before winter hit. And the winters hit the colonists hard.
On my way out I had to ask the colonial housewife what she was knitting. She pulled it out and instinctively began to knit a row--a woman after my own heart! She was knitting a long strip of grey wool, about 8 stitches across and several inches long. The wool was not handspun. She explained that she was knitting stocking holders. The strips were wrapped under the top of someone's stockings and tied in a bow to prevent someone's stockings from falling down, thus exposing bare leg. All three guides expressed horror at the mere thought of such a scandal!
Call me a big ol' history nerd if you want, but I enjoyed my visit. Later this summer the village is holding Ladies Day, where they will teach open-hearth cooking as well as spinning. I'm definitely going back for that! I'd love to learn how to use the "old-fashioned" style of spinning wheel as opposed to my model, which has the double treadles in front of the wheel. It wouldn't hurt to get some general pointers, either.
There's only one month left until Fiber Revival 2011 in Newbury, MA. I first attended Fiber Revival in 2009, but skipped last year's event when I was in the middle of getting ready to buy a condo, move, and dealing with mortgage application headaches. Happily that's all behind me and I'm looking forward to going this year, especially since Joppa Fine Foods from Newburyport is going to be selling food. And best of all, Spunky Eclectic, aka Amy King, will be there. Did you hear me? Spunky's gonna be there! I love her book Spin Control but I don't have any of her fiber so I'm looking forward to picking up a braid or two. Now if only a spot in her fiber club would open...
It's July, so that means...CHRISTMAS KNITTING! This year I'm making it up to the family members I screwed over last year, knitting-wise: my siblings. As I write this my Knit Picks order is on its way. I have to be a little hush-hush about the project for now in case my sister reads this, but let's just say it's one of Spillyjane's awesome patterns. Oh, OK, it's this: linky Lyn, don't click on this link!
|Because that's all I know how to sew so far. :)|
The fabric is "Neptune" by Thomas Paul for Duralee. It looks black here but it's actually a crisp, gorgeous navy. (Stupid iPhone photography, I really should look for the cord that plugs my digital camera into my computer...)
| Three months after the North Shore Yarn Crawl, I'm still on a Noro kick. Despite the huge amount of yarn I purchased on the crawl, I went back to Creative Yarns in Beverly, MA a week later and picked up 12 balls of Noro Kureyon so I could make sweater #4 in Noro's Catwalk 2 pattern collection. I've been slowly knitting the back of the sweater ever since, even through the hot summer days that have finally arrived. Of course as I type that, it's rainy and cold here, and will remain so for the next three days. Tuesday was sunny, warm and beautiful, however, so I was in the mood to drive up to Newburyport to do a little shopping and relaxing by the Merrimac River. |
Newburyport is one the places I like to visit when I want a day to myself or to recharge my batteries. Its beautiful brick Federal architecture and riverside location always put me in a good mood. The revitalized downtown is filled with quaint shops and terrific restaurants, and a few years ago the town built a boardwalk along the river. Since I'm on a staycation this week I wanted to take at least one local road trip just so I'd feel like I actually went somewhere on my vacation. Whenever I'm in town there are two places that are regular--no--mandatory stops for me: Jabberwocky Books and A Loom With A View, the local yarn store. I never miss a chance to visit these stores and I never leave either of them empty-handed. My mission was to pick up a copy of Knit Noro published by Vogue Knitting. Loom's newsletter came out recently to let everyone know they were carrying it, and that one of their employees, Cheryl Kubat, had a pattern published in the book. It took just a quick flip through the book for me to decide it was worth buying. Beautifully photographed, the styling and models set against vintage wallpaper and antique furniture reminded me of Rowan's aesthetic, but was a welcome change from some of the harshly lit, plain staging that Noro uses in many of its pattern collections. This is a Vogue publication and their imprint really comes through here. There are a lot of sweaters and vests, and several hats and scarves as well, plus a stunning pair of gloves. My original plan was to pick up the book only and not spend a lot of money (I know, I always say that!) but once I saw how gorgeous the chevron scarf was, I had to pick up the yarn to knit it. And that canvas totebag with the nautical fabric caught my eye as well. Since I'm a raging bagaholic, that had to come home with me, too. Once I decided to buy the bag, I figured I may as well buy the needles to make the scarf, and to go down to the boardwalk and knit by the water for a while.
Picking the colors was hard. It's always hard when standing face-to-face with a whole wall of Noro staring back at you. The lady who helped me--and I'm sorry that I didn't get her name, she may have been the owner--gave me some great advice: go with a lot of contrast. I know the palette I usually gravitate towards, whether I do it consciously or not, such as chocolates, wines, magentas, etc. , and I wanted to go against my grain this time. "Trust the colors," the saleslady told me, anticipating a variety of combinations. And that's what I love about Noro, the colors always work, no matter what's being combined or contrasted. In the end I chose color #226, which goes from shocking pink to red to dark blue and purple as my first color. For my second I picked #270, which stood out with its fluorescent yellow and electric blue shades that melt into a deep, rich gold before trailing off into green tea and peach tones. So far I haven't been disappointed with the color play. I left A Loom With A View relieved of more money than I anticipated, but I felt elated, because making stuff makes me happy. I had a whole new book full of great projects and the materials to get started on one right away. Of course a fabulous bag will put me over the moon any day!
I love serendipity, and I love a good coincidence, too. I found a nice bench in the shade on the riverwalk, opened my book to the chevron scarf and got my tools out. No sooner had I finished the cast-on row when a woman passing by stopped and exclaimed, "Someone's knitting my scarf!" I asked her if she was the designer and sure enough, she was! I met Cheryl minutes after buying the book! How many people can say they met a designer published in a nationally distributed book while they're knitting her pattern-besides me?! I'm talking random run-in, not at a class, knitting conference or book signing. Talk about weird! But it was really cool! Cheryl was nice and wanted to see what colors I was using. We chatted for a couple of minutes before she continued on her way and I started the first row.
Trust the colors: It's two days later and I have two feet of scarf knitted. This pattern is extremely easy and the scarf look deceptively complicated. It's going to be super-long and slightly felted. Fabulous!
I'm still working in the sadly named #4. I have about 6 inches left on the back before moving on to the sides, etc. This is color #149, taupes, charcoals and cream colors. I'm not giving up on it but I was eager to move into some non-neutrals for a while. It's ok, I'm sure I'll be knitting this sweater for a while.
In case anyone's interested in movie recommendations, I saw two this week. Strangely, both starred James McAvoy. The Conspirator is a fact-based movie about the lone female prisoner accused of plotting to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. On a more cerebral note, the second was X-Men: First Class. ;0 James McAvoy might be my new celebrity crush.
|Dawn broke this morning to a gorgeous sunny day. There's even a little breeze. It's a far cry from last night, when|
a devestating and deadly tornado struck Western Massachusetts. I walked to and from work yesterday and made it into my front door right as the lightning started. I spent a mildly anxious night in front of the tv as the local news weather teams informed us that the whole state was under a state of emergency and a tornado watch. Afraid to go to bed until the watch was lifted, I didn't change into my pajamas, kept a flashlight and cellphone handy, and put the dog's leash by the couch in case all of us, dog included, needed to run down to the basement. Luckily my region was spared a tornado and went through some pretty intense but nondamaging lightning storms. The same can't be said for Springfield and the other towns that took a direct hit from at least two confirmed tornadoes. Fortunately the governer, FEMA, the Red Cross and the National Guard are all on the scene working toward a speedy recovery and to restore life back to normal. I'm thinking the recent crazy weather nationwide is a sign of how this year's entire hurricane season is going to go and to that end, made a $10 donation to the Red Cross to help my neighbors to the west. Please consider doing the same if anyone in your area is similarly affected, and as the summer progresses, let's hope it won't be necessary.
Hopefully the weather will calm down now. For a while it seemed like nice weather would never get here. Now that the temperatures are in the 70s and 80s , it looks like spring passed us right by. We went from the worst--and by that I mean snowiest--winter I've experienced since moving to Massachusetts almost 9 years ago (though I can't complain about the snow days off of work) to hot, humid days of summer. I don't do a lot of knitting when it's hot out. I usually work on socks during the summer, but this year I'm not in the mood, even though I received the delightful Cookie A.'s new book Sock Knit Love for my birthday last February and have been dying to use up some of my Blue Moon Fiber Arts yarn stash. For the moment, Cookie's book has been supplanted by the equally delightful Lexie Barnes's book Sew What: Bags and a few random beginner sewing patterns I'm hoping to work through over the summer. Lately though, it's been one giant pillow-making festival around here, a festival I like to call Pillowpalooza. Before I get started let me apologize for the quality of my iPhone photographs.
The blue pillow is my first pillow since 7th-grade Home Ec. class. It's a wonderful beginner pattern with an envelope-style back for easy removal. I use a Brother c6000i electronic sewing machine. The blue and brown floral fabric is cotton from JoAnn's and cost $1.99 a yard. For my next pillow projects I upgraded to Duralee's upholstery-weight fabric, and I love the results. This is a cotton/linen blend, a little heavier than quilting cotton. On the downside, it frays easily so I needed to interlock the seams with a zigzag stitch, but it's worth it. The yellow fabric is called Stockholm and the bird fabric is called Perch, both by Thomas Paul for Duralee. I have a few sewing projects planned for the next few months, provided my rudimentary sewing skills are up to the task. The first one is--no surprise--more pillows, a pair of them to be extact, for my brother who lives by the ocean. I'm using a gorgeous crisp white cotton/linen blend (I can't remember if it's Duralee) with bold navy blue seashells all over it. His birthday is in July so I'll present these to him then. They'll contrast nicely with his new dark red leather sofa.
Next up will be a roman shade for the weird, highly placed window above my bed. The one that freaks me out because I can't shake the feeling that the next-door neighbors can look down into it and see me in my bedroom. (My bathroom has a similar window above the shower/tub. Don't get me started.) The bedroom window has a little half-roman blind on it when from I bought my condo. Here's hoping I can read the Sewing Pattern For Dummies. I also want to try my hand at something a little more difficult such as pajama bottoms. I chose a cute brown, white and mustard floral print from Hawthorne Threads. It's an ambitious plan; I know I'll get my brother's pillows done. After that I hope to move on to some new projects.
In honor of sewers everywhere, beginner or not, I now present my Summer Of Sewing Top Five list. These are new finds, great resources, and helpful sources of information that I have recently discovered, or rediscovered since my first, brief sewing jag in 2007. Some of the sources I discovered at that time have sadly disappeared (I'm looking at you,Repro Depot and Besty Ross Sewing Patterns) but some new favorites have appeared to fill the void:
5. Zimmans Fabrics Located in Lynn, Massachusetts, this family-owned store has been a Boston-area institution for 100 years. People have been flocking here since most women did their own household sewing. Famous for their below-retail prices and a bargain basement, Zimmans is a destination for professional designers and home sewers alike. I scored some Marimekko fabric for $34 a yard--pretty steep, I thought, until I researched it online and found that their fabrics sell for at least $45 a yard. Their custom-upholstery business and high-end furniture are on the spendy side, but it's fun to wander through all three floors and the bargain basement. Old school at its best!
4. Collete Patterns I recently discovered this site through a link on Amy Karol's Angry Chicken blog. Cute patterns, free tips and tricks emailed right to your door (you know what I mean) and a beginner-friendly blog. They've put a free pattern up on their site to download for an adorable sleeveless top. This brings me to:
3. Amy Karol I discovered Angry Chicken a few years ago and have recently rediscovered the wit and wisdom of Amy Karol. Hands down, she gets my vote for Best.Blog.Name. Ever. Ditto on the tips, tricks and crafty pr0n. Plus, she now has not one but two awesome books.
2. Lotta Jansdotter God bless the Scandanavians and their exquisite design sense. Without them, what would the rest of us do when we needed some cute and kicky home accents? I've been buying her stationary for years, totally unaware that she is a fabric designer/sewing book author/home decorating expert. Check out her webiste--go on! The bright and festive front page alone will put you in a good mood for the rest of the day. Resist her shop if you dare!
And my number-one favorite sewing resource is *drum roll please*...
1. Purl Soho Fate may have consipred to keep us apart in person, but thanks to their one-stop online shop for all things stitchy, I can place an order for anything I want anytime I want. A mere week isn't too long to wait for crafty goodness to come in the mail. They didn't exist back in the '90s when I lived in NY. Even if they had, I was too young and hip to sew and knit ;0 ...but I'm sure a visit to such a store would have converted me. I've been a loyal knitting customer for years but their extensive selection of everything from yarn crafts to sewing and fabrics and embroidery has earned them a permanent place in my heart. Right now I'm waiting for my order of some discounted Japanese fabrics and my Lotta jandsdotter book to come, and I think it may be waiting for me when I get home tonight. :) One day I'll get back to NYC, and Purl is going to be my first stop!