Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Flower of the Rarest; Flowers of the Fairest!

I grew up Catholic and attended parochial schools throughout my grade school and high school years. I probably got a good education (other than the 3rd grade teacher from hell), but I was a reasonably bright, but lazy kid who got B+ grades without lifting a finger. I'm neither bragging nor complaining, just stating the facts as I recall them. One of the things that I always remember was the May altar. Students and teachers (and probably parents as I know now) brought in great armloads of garden flowers to decorate the 'Mary side' of the church. It was many years before I could stand the scent of lilacs, so prevalent were they in those heady days of spring when we would rather be out on the playground than attending daily Mass.

Now I love lilacs, though they have come and gone in my North Carolina mountain garden. I recently dug up some starts and distributed them to friends. But in those Ohio May days, it was lilacs, tulips, probably daffodils, even small bunches of Lilies of the Valley - though somehow I always liked their super sweet scent.

Here is a look at my garden from the front porch to the car, a distance of about 15 feet! I didn't go any farther and get my shoes wet! Just to the east of the door I have an overlarge American Holly, currently buzzing with bees, a very bedraggled rhododrendren and a lovely azalea, currently in full bloom in this remarkable orchid color. I love it!.

In the borders I have a healthy stand of day lilies, old fashioned orange 'road lilies' in the back with Stella d'Oros in the front. I always leave a space for annuals in the front. Early in the spring and late in the fall, it's pansy time, with their sweet little faces. Later I'll put wax begonias (or something similar) there as they get a bit of sun in that spot.

When I moved into this house, my neighbors gifted me with a number of plants including a white hydrangea and the aforementioned lilacs. Right now the hydrangea blooms are still green but in just a few days, they'll be white and fluffy. Here they are before they go bananas.

This spring we planted 6 blueberries on the hill to the west of the house. We'll be picking off the blossoms this year, but next summer we might have berries on our cereal. The red raspberries flourished last summer and they have come back nicely. I have a good stand of natives and a nice stand of 'modern' razzles. But they are at the back door, so I won't tell you about them.

Official fiber content:
I have spun everyday in April, in keeping with my Ravelry pledge, but I have been very bad at photographing my work and reporting my production. Just this very morning, I rinsed 6 lengths of roving (for the Etsy shop) and a skein of yarn (for me!) - about 70 yards - Hope it is enough for a hat!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Phat Fiber Box - I got mine!

As I posted recently, I was a contributor to the April Phat Fiber sample box. The theme was green, so I sent in about 50 samples of my bronze green colorway and they are popping up all over the blogoshere in other peoples' box reports. It has been super fun and interesting to see how other folks interpreted the Green theme, by both color and eco-friendly fiber.

I opened my box to find a lovely fabric bag, perfect for storing goodies, though I have not put it to work just yet. Delightfully hand made, It may well be pressed into service to carry the kind of small project that can fit in a brief case - socks, perhaps? Inside were a number of goodies - a stitch marker in a great sock size, a sweet sheepy tag, a PhatFiber Button and a number of business card with tempting offers!

The fiber was really fun to examine. From the braid of 'mint julep' tencel (], the 'Green Eire' merino-silk-firestar hank of roving from Corgi Hill Farm (with candy treats!) to the Hydra colorway dollop of merino/bamboo roving ( these are fibers that I don't spin regularly, so I will need to spin these with some attention. Now the blue and green mini-batts from and the sweet Peeps roving from are the kind of wool and mohair that I have plenty of practice on, though I will still spin them with a project in mind. Let't not forget Cinderella Salad from - A sweet pink carded mini-batt on its way to becoming tweed.

Perhaps I was the most charmed by the Merino/seacell top from The colorway English Garden is lovely and the little box it camed packed in is pretty sweet in it's own right. Another fiber I don't spin a lot of, this is just the thing!

The yarns were interesting as well. Giffordables sent a very generous hank of handspun wool/silk in shades of green - destined to become a stripe in a BoyFriend hat. From Katsara Yarns I found a mini-skein of organically grown cotton dyed in muted shades of greens and rose. Rachel, aka my8kidsmom contributed a space-dyed skein of wool in greens and reds. More fabulous dyeing from in a blue/green sport weight yarn. TwiceShearedSheep contributed a mini skein of laceweight merino in a paleblue that coordinated nicely with the sport weight. Hmmmm....How many strands of the laceweight will I need to make them work together? CoolClimates sent a bit of yarn in her Lilac Festival colorway - just the thing as my lilacs are in full bloom.

The box smelled great, thanks to a sample bar of Peppermint soap from SmokyMtnsApothecary. Finally, a mini-KIP bag from ruddawg - one of her sock KIP bags will soon be mine.

Just one more thing - a mix of fibers that FarmGirlChic calls 'Ticking' -wool and mohair locks in cream, grey and pale blue mixed with bits of cotton fabric and thread. I'll be interested in seeing what other 'phatties' do with it.

Last comment - This was fun! The small amounts of fibers that I don't regularly spin will be good for my intentional spinning resolution for 2009. As I spin these sample fibers and knit the yarns, I'll share my progrss right here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day Everyday

What can I do every single day to make the Earth a better place? How can I leave our little blue planet better than I found it?

I try to live a green life. I'm not off the grid by any means. I live in the city, so I can walk to many destinations that I frequent - the library, restaurants, an organic grocery. Last evening I walked to the movie theatre - it was sort of chilly, but only about a mile and I knew that I could catch a ride home with Jonathan. Not a great big deal, but better than driving and a bit of exercise. I am replacing my regular light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs and LCDs. My general thriftiness and greenliness go together nicely sometimes.

This summer I am expanding my garden to grow more food, lessening that carbon footprint. But in this area that involves a water use trade off, so I'll be working on the rain catchment system. Perhaps our spring rains will continue?

I read some instructions about solar dyeing the other day. Instead of using the stove or the crockpot, how about a bit of black plastic? Will buying black plastic bags hurt my credibility, not to mention my budget?

Drying clothing outdoors has a certain appeal, at least for sheets, towel, socks, T-shirts, etc. I just have to figure out the best site in my not-so-big city yard.

Asheville has an excellent curbside recycling program, so my cans, bottles and paper stay out of the landfill. My composter works hard to keep the garden happy - and gives me interesting volunteer plants.

What else can I do? Other than remember to bring my reusable grocery bags more often?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Maya Angelou in Mars Hill

I was fortunate enough to hear Dr. Maya Angelou when she spoke at Mars Hill College last Thursday evening. She is a remarkable woman. In her 70's, she sang, told stories, read a few of her poems and spoke to the assembled students, faculty, staff and community members. Her theme was, 'be the rainbow in somebody's cloud.' The things that you do - big or small - can make a difference in people's lives, even if you are not fully aware of it at the time. I was touched and inspired and very glad that I took advantage.

I participated in the PhatFiber Sampler box for April. I sent in about 50 samples of hand dyed fiber as well as about 1/2 dozen patterns for the knitter's boxes. April's theme was 'green' - either color or earth-friendly so I dyed and made up packages of my colorway 'Bronze Green,' one of my best-selling colors. I got my contributor box yesterday, but my camera batteries were most dead, so I am not blogging about that. Perhaps tomorrow! Fine goodies

On the dance front, I called the contra dance at the Greensboro Grange on Saturday night with DotDotDash, one of my favorite regional bands. They gave me their new CD! I love that dance community. They are not a big dance (75 or so people that night) that was established by the late Gene Hubert and a group of friends (including me!) back in the late 80's or early 90's. Since I live in Asheville now, I don't get down there much, so I'm always pleasantly surprised how it has continued on with many of the sdame core group, but with new people all the time. Just a mile of so from Guilford College, a number of students are regular dancers there.

Last evening I had the rare good fortune to call with Cailen Campbell and the Gypsy Hicks - He was in fine form as usual. MJ was taping, so we should see a YouTube video before too long. The dance was very crowded, but the music was excellent and the energy high! My job was to keep the dances small (like 1 square foot per person!) but varied. I also wanted to keep thing simple enough so I could stop calling and people could hear Cailen and the other gypsies (or are they hicks?). Gave me a chance to knit - just a boyfriend hat, so not a lot of thinking involved!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Weekend: Spinning, Dyeing and Flowers

I have had a delightful long weekend with almost no commitments, except the small goals that I have set for myself. Lots of dyeing and considerable spinning, including taking a look at my needs of color and fiber. I recently bought 3 pounds of mohair locks from Sandy, a remarkable woman who raises remarkable angora goats who produce fabulous fiber. This evening I will dye the last of it so that I can continue to sell dyed locks in my Etsy store.

I also dyed a lot of roving for the B&M stores - the bonbons and grab bags have been selling like mad, so I have been dyeing, making up the grab bags and small 'bonbons,' little snails of roving in one-ounce increments and delivering the goods.

I've also been taking photographs, to get a bit ahead for my shop. While I was in the studio I carded fiber for spinning multi-color yarns and spun a good bit. Spinning yarn everyday to meet the Ravelry challenge has not been at all difficult. I have been watching a BBC miniseries, Cranford. The only thing missing is a bit of English dance - must not have had an ECD consultant on the production staff.

Did I clean a lot of 'stuff' out of the basement? Yes - I threw away things, put stuff in a box for Goodwill, did the laundry that had been piling up, broke down boxes for recycling. I was only a start.

I have a rigid heddle loom that I have not used in years. It is a very nice 32" Beka on a stand. Cherry wood, 3 heddles and it is an older one, that my research tells me that it is one of the 'good ones.' But I have emotional baggage tied up in it more than anything else - I really wanted to be a weaver, but after a few years and a number of projects (mostly scarves) I found I didn't truly enjoy the process. After spending a day at the computer, I didn't want to spend time hunched over a hot loom. I have since been given a 4 harness table loom, that I haven't touched either, so I do believe it is time to a more enthusiastic weaver. Then I can get rid of the cones of cotton yarns that I will no longer need. If and when I want to use the table loom, I will buy the yarns I want for that project.

After a rainy Friday and chilly grey, threatening Saturday, Sunday dawned sunny and beautiful. I washed sweaters and dried the on the deck along with the freshly dyed mohair. I took a long walk that included an adjacent neighborhood that has a number of competitive gardeners and the UNCA Botanical Gardens. Lilacs and tulips are in full bloom along with the white trillium, Virginia bluebells and columbine. All in all, a lovely day after such gloomy weather.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Snowy Hyacinths; Creamy Yarns

Spring snow continues with my sweet little flowers getting snowed upon as you see here. These are tiny grape hyacinths planted around the base of a Korean dogwood in my front yard. I snapped the picture on my way out the door this morning. With a bit of luck the white stuff will be gone for good later today.

Spinning everyday continues as I ply up the creamy white singles that I have been filling my bobbins with. I didn't count the yardage as it always changes after it is washed, so I see no sense in counting the wraps around the niddy noddy. I'll forget the number anyway. My guess is about 120 yards. There is at least that much still on the bobbins. This is why I love my Louet - great, big bobbins!

My 1996 Toyota Tacoma truck is in the hospital today for a clutch transplant. Only a mere 215,786 miles, so it still has a lot of traveling left to do.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Monday's Yarn - and not too much of it!

It's not really cheating. I did spin last night for about 15 minutes. Plain vanilla wool yarn from roving - Maybe an ounce. About as little as you can do and still say, 'I spun today.'

Granted, I worked from about 9am until 9 pm. Between getting ready to teach my regular Tuesday classes (and finishing the unit on the course management system) I had a Creating your Own Primary Sources workshop for the student teachers. They are doing a fine job - very interesting projects across the curriculum.

I was also getting ready for a snow day, that didn't happen. These chilly tulips are in front of the education building here in Mars Hill. After blowing snow all evening, we had NO accumulation, at least in Asheville. That nice warm earth just melted it away. It's still chilly and we may still get more snow, but I think I'll make it through. I didn't cover any of my flowers. You've got to be tough to come up early. The first of the lilacs are out, the day lilies are up and the dogwoods are getting ready to bloom. They may get zapped, but I am not too worried, as it is supposed to be 50 tomorrow. Like I said, you gotta be tough!

Monday, April 6, 2009

April Challenge: Yarn Everyday

Though not one to engage in online group activity too often (my distance grad school cured me of any chat needs I may have had), I find myself joining in to the Ravelry group, Yarn Everyday, challenging me (well, us) to make a bit of yarn each day and document the process. here I go!

April 1 - Spun and plied the lovely blue-green yarn you see here from Falklands wool roving that I dyed myself in an unnamed blue/green/touch of lavender colorway. I wanted to test the spin-ability of the Falklands roving. Its similar to a Corriedale - reasonably fine, but puffy - It really blooms when washed. I got 135 yards out of 4 ounces - about a bulky weight - just what I like for my hats!

April 2 - dyed Mohair locks in vermilion and gold for my Etsy shop. They have been a good seller - so much so that I think I'll buy another mohair fleece from Sandy to dye some more. I find I don't really love to spin the curls, but I love the sheen that mohair adds to my wool yarns.

April 3 & 4 - Not a lot of spinning time, so I grabbed about a dozen balls of single yarn leftover from my spinning projects and have been spinning them up to use as stripes and accents. These mini skeins range from 4 to 15 yards - at least so far. Makes yarn and de-clutters the studio. What's not to love!?

April 5 & 6 Dyeing in the double crock pots. Last evening I made the 'Saturn' Colorway and this morning it was reds for the grab bags. The Grove Arcade shop is OUT and I won't get back there for a couple days.

So far, I have done something to make yarn everyday. I'm teaching tonight until 9, so I may just spin the creamy natural roving that seems to sell about as fast as I can get it spun, plied, washed, tagged and delivered.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Get Phat!

Phat Fiber, that is. I just sent off my box of samples to be included in the PhatFiber box, scored by some number of lucky people mid-month via the PhatFiber Etsy shop. I made up cute little 1/2 ounce baggies of 2 of my favorite colorways. Since the April theme was 'green' - I chose the color route (vs. the eco route) and sent in Bronze Green (like this<-) and Beach Glass samples. I included a coupon good for a free pattern with purchase. We will see how it does - this is a slow time of year, so I shall see if this generates any business for my shop. I am totally looking forward to receiving a box of my own.

Coming up - This weekend I'll be calling a dance in Sautee GA. Although this is another one of those 'whatever was I thinking' gigs, my hosts, Donna anad Charles are lovely people and I am looking forward to seeing them.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Nasheville Playford Ball: Dancing & Knitting

Last weekend marked the 28th annual PlayfordBall in Nashville, TN. Bare Necessities played and Joseph Pimentel led the dances. I am a relatively new English Country Dancer (just 2 years or regular dancing and 20 years of very occasional ECD) and this was my 2nd trip to Nashville. One year later, I am a much better dancer, paying close attention to the dances themselves instead of just getting lost in the flow. Here are just a few pictures of the people I spent a bit of time with. Since I danced EVERY SINGLE DANCE, I wasn't taking too many pictures. I danced with both men and women and after my recent experience in the gender-neutral environment at the Sun Assembly dance,I found myself easily taking on either role, even swapping roles alternate times through the dance.

I did a good bit of knitting while on the road, knitting one Windy City hat and 2 1/2 color change hats. They are coming out very well, though I need to find the appropriate amount of fiber/yarn to make a single hat from a single skein. I knit a beret of Hacho, a sample for Asheville homecrafts, then pulled it out as it was a rather poor imitation of a beret. Back to square one!

Not much of a shopper and without my own wheels, I did not shop for yarn, but I did hit a rather large thrift store where I scored an extra large crockpot to more than double my crockpot dyeing capacity. Already put to use (twice), I got over my essential cheapiosity and paid all of $8.99, having refised to pay more than 5 bucks for crockpots in the past. Since I got my earlier one at least 3 years ago for about $1.50 at a yard sale, I figure I can amortize the investment without too much difficulty.