home again

I'm back home after a week in Yorkshire visiting the Rowan Mill.  It was a magnificent trip, beyond my expectations, and over the next few weeks I can't wait to share some photos and experiences.  But right now I'm just catching up with my husband and home and do realize I've got a little blog business too.  I have almost 600 comments from the last yarn giveaway and I need a little bit of time to sort through.  I thought it was something that I could do when I was away but there was absolutely no time, we were kept busy!  Choosing a winner takes more time than you think.  I use random.org but often when I choose a winner there is no contact info and after I do a search with no luck, I have to re-choose.  But this time it looks like everyone has given me all that so that will make it easy.  Give me a day or two.

Back at home, this morning I could hardly wait to walk in the garden.  Only 8 days away but everything has been growing like crazy.  The tomatoes and sunflowers have grown at least a foot and are now nearly as tall as me, the roses are on their first re-bloom, the beefsteak tomatoes are ripening (BLT's tonight, yay!) and the weeds are baaaack!  Yes, I know, California is like no other place in the world and our growing season is pretty incredible.  But remember we start early here, and by late August my garden will start looking tired, and by the end of September, it will be utterly exhausted.  But for now, it's amazing.

I'll be back soon and announce the winner.


Making kits

Last week I was having coffee with my knitting friend Leah, yarnsytlist on Rav.  While we were sipping and knitting I was lamenting over my unwieldy stash when she volunteered to come over and help me make some sense of it.  At first I was embarrassed, I didn't really want anyone to see how out of control it had become, but she is sweet and non-judgmental and had a great idea to make kits.  She came over and WE MADE KITS!  Awesome kits from my own stash!  It took us two full afternoons to plow through it all, and all the work has paid off.  My stash is now organized into kit projects and I love it!  In fact, it was so successful, Leah went home and made kits from her stash!  Here's what we did:

First was to take out all the stash, but only the stash that enough yardage to make a sweater or other project.  The singles and partials were already arranged by color and divided into 4 bins, so this was just for yarn with multiple skeins.

Next we took out my favorite knitting books. For me it was all my Rowan magazines, the Rowan Studios and all my Kim Hargreaves books, plus a few other random books I love like Botanical Knits I and II. 

After that it was just a case of matching yarn to pattern making sure I had enough yardage and that the gauge and drape would work.  This isn't as easy as you might think and we had to spend a lot of time leafing through the books.  It was really helpful having Leah with me, I don't know if I could have finished it without her. Leah knows my knitting style and what I like and what will look good on me so we were able to go through it and decide fairly quickly, still I found it exhausting!

After we chose the pattern, I went online and printed out the picture of each pattern, then wrote the pattern name, the book source and page number on the picture.  The next step was to get large 1 gallon zip lock bags and jumbo 2.5 gallon bags.  Then it's just putting the yarn in with the picture and info, closing it up, and over two days we managed to make 16 kits. 

OK, so I'm a bit embarrassed I have all this yarn; but I'll tell you how I acquired it all.  For some reason, when a yarn was discontinued and gone half off, I thought I had to buy it in every color way.  I am proud to say I don't do that anymore, not for a year or more. I simply couldn't store anymore or imagine how I could possibly knit it over a lifetime.  I have slowly whittled away at my stash and determined to keep it under control.  Now, I do admit that I will be buying a little more in a month or so.  I've seen a preview of the yarns coming out for fall and there is no way I am NOT going to buy some of it.  There is some really gorgeous yarn that I know I won't be able to pass up, so I'm not going to!  But in the meantime, I absolutely love what we were able to do and now have a sleek and organized way to pick out my next project, and it's right at my fingertips. 

I cleared out two shelves in my sewing room to accommodate my new kits.
I added a picture with the pertinent info to each bag of yarn to make it easy to choose the next project.

Here are a few of my KITS:

I'm using Rowan Felted tweed in yellow to make another Easy Folded Poncho.  I wear my blue one all the time and love this particular project for knitting in the movie theater.  Felted Tweed is really easy to touch knit in the dark, as long as it's stockinette.

I made one kit for baby using Big Bad Wool Weepaca for the Fireside Cardigan.  I bought this at Stitches West and next time I need a baby sweater, I have one all ready to go!

I have enough Pure Wool Worsted in Moonstone to make this adorable poncho by Martin Storey.

There is a bag of Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino in a steely blue that will make a beautiful Autumn's End, a lacy pullover from the first Botanical Knits book.  I've had my eye on this for a long time.

I'm also making something from the new Botanical Book II.  I actually knit Bare Branches last year but it was for testing only and had to send it back to the designer.  I loved it too much and knew I would have to make one for me.  I'll also be using what she recommends in the book, Rowan Felted Tweed Aran.

I've been collecting bits of Rowan Angora Haze and other beautiful yarns to make this sweet little sweater from the Little Star book.  I have no little girl to knit for at this time, but I am so in love with this sweater I must make it anyway!   Charlotte by Marie Wallin, what little girl wouldn't love this?

I have two lots of Rowan Tweed DK, both in greeny blue shades.  One will be Cherie by Kim Hargreaves from the old Vintage Knits book and one of my all time favorite knitting books.  The other one will be Wade by Lisa Richardson from Magazine 52.


My Kidsilk Haze projects, of course there will always be a few of those:  Charcoal gray for the Looped Stitch Collar by Sarah Hatton.  Also a new color, Strawberry for the Bow Cardigan from an early Studio.

Phew!  I'm done! My kits are ready to go and I'm feeling ORGANIZED!  My "knitting salon" was a total mess for a few days, but now it's neat and tidy again.   For the time being.  

These jumbo 2.5 gal. Hefty bags were perfect for the larger projects
Bye for now and thanks for reading!

Leah's blog, The Yarn Stylist


KAL Progress

Hi there!  How are you doing on the Rowan KAL Mystery Afghan?  We have all the clues now and for us behinders, we have one month to catch up, and yeah, I need that month!  While I was happily knitting away, I did get distracted about mid-way and went to some other knitting.  Kidsilk Haze is always the culprit.  But I knew I would come back and now I'm happily back on track.

I did go rogue on a few, personalizing it a bit.  I am sentimental and I dream that one day I will be cuddling with a grandchild and looking for the Owls, Lace Kisses and Little Donuts.  Oh, one can dream!

I made some a few owlies, adapted from this free pattern.
 This one I call "Napa Stripes".  
It was invented when we were driving to Napa for lunch.
I had the yarn, I had the needles, but I had no pattern!

Three of my favorites!
I love knitting French Plait.  Five more to do!

Dots and Dashes was perhaps the easiest one.  I like easy.
OK, so I have one epic fail.  It was too short so I added garter rows!  I'm using it, NO ONE in my family will notice!

I decided to follow Anne's advice and re-block all my squares.  I wanted them to be 8" square and my knitting was not quite perfect enough to fit those dimensions without blocking them correctly.  Here's what I did:  I pinned them to 8x8" on my foam blocking boards.  I had to stretch most of them lengthwise and squish them widthwise to fit those dimensions.  Some of them, like the two above, were a bit rumply.  Next I put them on the grass and doused them with my sprinkler nozzle until they were soaked through.  Then I put them in a shady place and patted them to shape and allowed them to air dry.  Even the most rumply ones patted into shape and looked fine.  I don't know why I was so surprised when they ALL dried to perfect 8" squares.  I have 36 squares now, so just 12 more to go!  I'm really looking forward to seeing all the finished afghans!

I have some exciting news! I have a long plane ride today, and while you're reading this I am on my way to Holmfirth, England, the HQ of Rowan Yarns.  All of the Rowan ambassadors, 14 of us from around the world, will meet at the mill for 5 days of knitting bliss.  None of us have met each other in person, but virtually we know each other pretty well.  I cannot tell you how excited I am to meet in person the other ambassadors, meet the Rowan staff and designers and visit the mill, I don't think I've ever been more excited about a trip!  My dear husband will be a knitting widow for the week and stay home and tend to the garden and the golf.

I've planned several posts while I'm gone.  Come back next week and see how my girlfriend and I found a brilliant way to control our stash by making kits!  I've also got a Very Berry post in store and will definitely be making a Postcards From Holmfirth post!  Bye for now!  PS, don't forget to enter my 5th blogversary giveaway!

The Links

It's never to late to start the afghan.  Download the free patterns here.
Machine washable Rowan Pure Wool Worsted is fantastic to knit.
Boye Blocking squares, I found them at Wallmart.  I love them.

Blogversary Giveaway!

Hello!  I have a super giveaway for you this week and it's my best giveaway ever!  I've gathered together a selection of my favorite Rowan yarns in my favorite colors, all to celebrate Knitionary's 5th blogversary and 3,000 Facebook likes!  Hurrah!

(7/3, edited to add, a winner has been selected and comments are closed.)

All the yarns are current season.  Let me take you through them from left to right.  The links take you to the Rowan site for more detailed info.

Handknit Cotton is 100% cotton, knits up as a light worsted weight, comes in terrific colors and is very very easy on the hands while knitting.  I've knit countless summer sweaters with this.  Machine washable.

Alpaca Colour is next, in a pretty mid-gray and knits to a dk weight.  It's spun from 100% baby alpaca and just might be the softest knitting yarn you will ever get your hands on.  I am knitting a scarf with this at this time.

Amazing Fine Art in my favorite mid blue.  FA is an elegant mix of merino wool, kid mohair, silk and polyamide.  Hand dyed and an absolute joy to knit.  One skein is enough to make one fantastic pair of socks.

My desert island yarn, and my hands down favorite yarn ever made, the great Kidsilk Haze.  To know it is to love it, but I warn you, you must be a little patient with it at first.  It's as fine as spider's silk and can look at little daunting.  Stick with it and I promise that your patience will be rewarded when a gossamer cloud of kid mohair and silk emerges from your needles.

Cotton Glace is another beautiful 100% cotton summer yarn.  Both the Handknit Cotton and Glace take dyes beautifully and are available in lots of clear bright summer colors.  This knits to a sport weight and is also machine washable.  There is a lot of support for this old favorite in the new Spring/Summer Magazine 55.

Purelife Revive has been around for a few years but is new to me.  It's a blend of recycled cotton, silk and viscose and has an earthy feel while still being easy to knit and easy on the hands.  It's a great tweedy option for summer and for those who are allergic to wool.  I was surprised how much I loved it.  I'm making Guido for my son with this (Mag. 55) and also made a little doll sweater. 

So what can you do with single skeins?  Besides just messing around with them, you could actually made something useful!  The Fine Art will make one awesome pair of socks.  You can make a cravat or scarflette from the KSH.  Here is my free pattern for Little Wing, a dolly sweater that uses just one skein of Revive.  The pattern would also work for the Handknit Cotton and if you were really into dolly knits you could make Snickerdoodle with the Glace and the Alpaca.  Or you could do anything darn thing you want and simply play around with them and find out why I love them so much.

Here's how to enter:  Become a follower of Knitionary, anyway you choose, such as Facebook, Bloglovin', etc.  I know there's lots of ways to follow, then leave a comment and tell me how you follow.  Make sure I know how to contact you if you win.  As in, share your Rav name or email or something!  If you want a second chance at winning, leave a comment on Knitionary's Facebook page.  Good luck and thanks for reading!  I'll keep this contest open for about a week.


lobster fest

We consider ourselves very lucky to have friends who are gracious and innovative hosts.  When Carole and Bill invited us over for bocce ball and lobster, we knew it would be a fun evening and couldn't say yes fast enough.  The weather was picture perfect, the setting sublime, and the menu was simple perfection.  Let me share a fun evening with you!

We've been having so much fun playing bocce ball.  We have several friends who have installed courts.  It seems like it's pretty popular around here.  I never remember any private bocce ball courts until the last half dozen years or so.  Most courts have ground granite and oyster shells for their surface, but this is an artificial surface, more like a tennis court surface.  Bocce courts are a beautiful feature for a back yard and don't take up as much space as a tennis court and is more fun to play as more people can be involved.  Plus no special clothes and you don't get sweaty! 

I first played Petanque (the French version of the game) in the south of France a few years ago.  A friend organized a 2 day tournament for the 50 plus friends who had gathered in Collioure, a small town in the south of France near the border of Spain.   A mutual friend was having a significant birthday and decided he would celebrate it in Collioure.  Be forewarned, if you decide to have a destination birthday, be prepared that everyone will accept!  I only tell you about this petanque tournament because my husband and I won!  Me, non-sporty me, actually won!  This is the first sports tournament I have ever won and I was positively giddy! 

The landscape surrounding our friend's bocce court is dotted with Coastal Live Oaks, natives to California and one of my favorite trees.  We had an incredible 400 year old live oak in the back yard of our previous home.  I miss that magnificent guy.  To complete the setting, recently planted Iceberg roses, olive trees, lemons and limes are just getting a footing.  Chairs and tables with umbrellas provide seating on either side of the court because there's plenty of down time in the game.  Our hosts brought wine and appetizers to the court and we played for about an hour before it was time for our lobster fest.

Expert advice from Carole.
Time to eat!

Our hosts went to the fish market that morning and chose their lobsters 
 and asked that they be cooked and ready to be picked up at a certain time later that evening.  
When it was time for the pick up, you bring a cooler with some heated gel packs inside, 
bring them home and serve them up.  Yep, that's it!  
I could not have been more surprised when Carole 
opened the cooler and there they were, hot and ready to go!
Sour Cream Coleslaw, recipe below.

My plate was gorgeous.

Eating lobster is messy business. A plastic tablecloth, paper bibs and these cute paper place mats are a must!

My husband and I went berry picking earlier this week so I brought the dessert.  I'll post my pie recipe soon.


Corn on the Cob
Sour Cream Coleslaw

Ollalieberry Pie

Carole's Sour Cream Coleslaw was delicious and I asked for the recipe.  It's from the Gourmet's Menu Cookbook, c. 1963

Finely shred 1 head of cabbage, arrange it in a heap on a chilled platter, and cover with thin slices of peeled tomato.

To 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise add 1 tablespoon each of celery, pimento, green onion, and chervil, all finely chopped.  Stir in 2 scant teaspoons chili powder and 1/2 cup sour cream.  Pour this dressing over the tomatoes and cabbage and chill the slaw thoroughly.

My hostess said I could take home the shells to make stock.
 Five quarts are now in the freezer.
I see a lobster bisque dinner party in my future!

The links!

And now for some knitting!  Week 8, Ripple Cable, is up for the Mystery Afghan KAL.  Week 9, Cable Trim is also up.  Then we have a few weeks to catch up before finishing.  Umm, I am going to need a few more weeks, how about you?  I've got a looooong plane trip this week and am planning to bring this with me.  More about that trip later!  Very excited!