Here I go!

While my vacation didn’t seem overly relaxing at the time, I think it did its job, because I’ve recently gotten a nice surge of  motivation and thrift. August is going to be about TCB and self-denial, which, I have to admit, are actually two of my favorite things.

I’m starting a new 40 BAGS, and I’m also dedicated crossing off a dozen outstanding projects from my Überlist by the end of the month, so I’ll have a clean slate for September to enjoy Birdy’s birthday (and mine!) and prep for Yarn School. I’m also committed to avoiding any unnecessary spending this month. I’m going to work hard to eat up the freezer, destash, and finally get around to selling the baby gear we’ve outgrown.

Realizing my eyes are always bigger than my productivity, I brainstormed some techniques to subvert procrastination and distraction. The most challenging and probably most effective one will be avoiding internet browsing (even “research”) before 6pm and only checking email, etc. hourly, instead of leaving it open in the background all day. That also pretty much means I have to turn off wireless on my ipad to eliminate the siren song of notices. Judging by that day without electricity last month, the internet is definitely the most powerful vacuum in my procrastination vortex.

I’m also hosting a ravelry knitalong for my Daisy Cloche (more on that tomorrow!)–please join the group if you’re interested.

I finished the single I started on the last day of Tour de Fleece. The bobbin filled up while I still had a little blub of fiber left, so I crammed it on, treadling like mad against the pressure of the flyer rubbing against the bobbin. I actually had to move my yarn guide so it fed the last of the fiber onto the bobbin’s groove.  Assuming I bang out my To-do list, I’ll ply it tonight. Hooray!

Tour de Fleece, Days 7 – 9; and vacation!

Before leaving for vacation, I managed to ply the last exhausted singles (2 x 4oz of Laura’s Pygoras Shetland) from my failed 2012 Tour de Fleece. My modest goal this year was simply to finish what I started back in 2012. What will it be? Who knows. The important thing is that it’s out of my spinning basket.

Vacation was fun, but not exactly relaxing. Two full days of international travel (including a grueling 26 hours, 4 flights, and 3 customs on the return leg, plus an extra 2 hours, thanks to a lost bag with our car keys in it) with a 22-month-old was, ahem, perhaps somewhat ill-advised. Twyla picked up a cold on the flight in that got all of us sick and lost us a couple of days of touristy fun. And grandpa’s house–which is undergoing renovations and will be fucking amazing when it’s finished–is currently a bit terrifying for the parents of a very mobile and fearless toddler, what with the plugged-in, ferociously bladed power tools scattered everywhere and the unfenced swimming pool and old skool approach to babyproofing (which is to say, not babyproofing). My dad’s constant indoor smoking was ready fuel for bickering.

(And then there’s the way I always, despite my best intentions, turn into a peevish, bratty 16-year-old asshole in the presence of my parents. I know this behavior is a common affliction, but it doesn’t make me hate myself less for it or prevent me from falling prey. When you’re actually a grownup, you have the self-awareness to be disgusted with yourself, even if you’re powerless to cut it out. When you’re acting like a peevish, bratty 16-year-old asshole, a genuine teenage cluelessness would be far more pleasant than guilty 40-something angst.)

The highlight of the trip for me was a party out in the quincho, the expansive outdoor barbecue that is the gem of the property. Their quincho is vast, more like a hotel patio than a home barbecue, with a long tiled bar, bamboo ceiling, a wood-fired grill, a huge gas grill, a charcoal grill, a smoker, a wood-fired pizza oven, plus an American fridge/freezer and a deep fryer, from which emerged endless baskets of tortilla chips and french fries. We grilled meat in the Chilean fashion, with popping rock salt over a wood fired grill. My dad invited friends, and everyone was warm and welcoming and we all ate and drank and chatted, and Birdy got to play with other kiddies.

The highlight for Twyla was probably playing with my dad’s dog Gringo, he of the handspun dog fur hat, who is just as tolerant as Georgie with Twyla’s pulling and prodding. At one point, I found her astride him like a horse, hugging his neck. She was also fond of the slide.

After badgering my dad into driving us, I discovered that I much prefer the panoramic views of the Andes from a great distance than from close up, with the dozens of steep, tight, harrowing switchbacks that left me green and weeping internally (and later, splashed by a 3-part waterfall of baby vomit–I wasn’t the only one getting green).

Though it was winter there, it was very mild–the coldest days were in the high 40s but felt warmer with the sun, and the warmest days were in the 70s–we probably would have been in the pool on that sunny Saturday if we weren’t all sick.

The citrus trees were laden with oranges and tangerines, and even the pepper plants leftover from summer were still producing, so we got to have my mom’s famous grilled cheese with peppers.

We also got enough cool days that I still got to bundle up Birdy in her current batch of hand knits one more time before she outgrows them. Of course, all the Chileans were bundled up like it was freezing. It was adorable. Next time we visit (I’ll make sure Twyla’s had swimming lessons, so I can breathe), we’ll go in December or January, so we can escape the Kansas winter and enjoy the warm South American summer by the pool, under the palm trees, sipping Piscola. Between the pool, the quincho, the playground, and the orchard, I suspect we’ll never want to leave the property.

After the punishing return trip, we took the day off to catch up on sleep (it turns out that with a lap child, you definitely do not sleep on the plane, even when they do) and to do almost nothing. But on Sunday, the last day of Tour de Fleece, I dutifully pulled out one last batch of fiber, some moody green wool top I died for Woolfest a couple years ago but liked so well I decided to keep it for myself.

I fluffed it up across its width and then just spun it like a batt. I’m about halfway through, and though Tour de Fleece is officially over, I’m actually still working on it a bit each day. After plying all those old, lifeless singles, I’m determined to ply this one while it’s still fresh.

Tour de Fleece 2014, Days 5-6

Plied another comatose 2-year-old single from Tour de Fleece 2012. I’ll tell you what. Plying stagnant singles is no fun, but I’m glad to get this out of my spinning basket, and I’m pleased with the end product. From Hello Yarn “Flora,” a Yarn School colorway. About 200 yards. No idea yet what it will be.

Today was equal parts TCB (taxes, mainly–still months before my extension expires!) and enjoying the season.

I really dig our “pool house,” screen tent we set up around the kiddie pool. I don’t know whether I’m happier hiding from the flies during the day or the mosquitoes at night, but already I’m spending hours more outdoors, conveniently shielded from the pitfalls of backyard life.

While Twyla wants to explore the rest of the yard, especially when Georgie’s there, I’d just as soon park my ass in the pool house all afternoon, cooling my feet in her inflatable pool.

Besides keeping the kiddie pool clean so much longer, it’s 100-odd square feet of breezy, shaded, nearly bug- and completely chicken-free bliss.

If you have backyard chickens that free range, you know that backyard chickens mean color and charm, but also lots of poop and even more flies. Throw in a neglected mulberry tree, and I’m making a market in flypaper. In addition to the pesky byproducts, the accidental rooster is increasingly becoming a big pain in my butthole, occasionally charging me and crowing enthusiastically at all hours, like one of those annoying high-strung dogs that barks constantly and for no reason. With the wind the right way, his muffled 3am cries frequently enter or interrupt my dreams as someone screaming bloody murder. (This is undoubtedly enhanced by my bedtime dose of True Blood.)

While I haven’t yet decided whether Francis the rooster gets to stick around, I am enjoying having a little flock again, especially now that one of the girls has started pumping out wee eggs. Once I have a dozen, I’m going to make a tray of miniature deviled eggs.

While the showy but useless rooster was an accident, when I picked out this batch of chickens, I threw my usual pragmatism out the window and deliberately chose one purely for beauty: Pee-wee, a Polish Crested, who was plucked bald in the brooder but now happily holds her own. She’s so fun to watch, the spunky runt of the flock, charging around with her fancy hat flopping about.

Wee Pee-wee:

My favorite phase, the Mohawk:

Tonight’s spin: plying the final two corpses from TdF 2012, both Laura’s Pygoras Shetland roving:


Tour de Fleece, Days 2 – 4

Day 2 was plying the singles from the first day into a big, bouncy skein. The merino really fluffed up, so it was a little bulkier than I intended, but still worked out for my purposes, a transitional row between 2 commercial yarns in my mitered square baby blanket, which was getting overburdened with solids.

I’ve got an extra 2.5 ounces of yarn left, so maybe a hat or a baby sweater yoke?

Days 3-4 were almost scuttled by a storm that mostly missed us, but still left us without electricity for 24 hours. I managed to get in a bit of spinning before we went black Monday night and after we powered back up Tuesday night. No spinning during the day. We spent the daylight hours outdoors, enjoying the break from technology and television. We put up a screen tent around the kiddie pool, added some chairs for us and a wee picnic table for Twyla, and kicked back with our feet in the pool, enjoying the breeze and conversation in a mostly bug-free paradise. Sadly, by mid-morning, many of our neighbors had already fired up their generators, spoiling the quiet.

Days 3 & 4, I plied a fine single from 2012 Tour de Fleece, an ABC Ranch merino/silk single. I was cursing it when I plied it, and almost considered putting the rest of the fiber in the destash pile. Then I reminded myself that it was my own fault for waiting TWO YEARS to ply it, and that I should give it a chance to rebound in the bath.

I had to run part of the bobbin through twice because the first day’s work did not have half the twist it needed. But after evening it out and giving it a hot bath, it plumped up to a nice bouncy, soft, richy saturated skein. Definitely a keeper in the end, and I’m glad I have more of the fiber.

Tour de Fleece 2014, Day 1

I’m going to try to make a better go at Tour de Fleece this year. Last year was a bust– I only made it about a week before crapping out. This year, I’m going on vacation in the middle of it, and I definitely won’t bring anything bulkier than a spindle all the way to South America. But while I’m here, I’m going to strive to do something every day.

Yesterday was this:

4 ounces of hand-dyed merino roving from Laura’s Pygoras, which I bought at Yarn School.

I spun up this:

The plan is to ply it and get about a worsted to use as a transitional color in a my mitered square blanket. I’m kind of rusty, so fingers crossed.

Daisy Cloche KAL and culling the Yarn School stable

Twyla was born a couple months before Literary Knits hit the shelf. Right around publication, Wiley (the publisher) did a bunch of reorganizing, so most of my pre-publication contacts disappeared. Between the kiddo and losing my editorial anchor, my paper baby was kind of left to fend for itself as the struggle to adapt to my human baby occupied most of my mind and time. Months whizzed by, and suddenly my new book is not so new.

This is all to say that with the amazing but confounding time vacuum that is motherhood, along with all the usual demands of running The Harveyville Project, and what felt like a crippling parade of animal crises over the last year, I’ve rather neglected Literary Knits, a book that I relished writing and that I’m terribly proud of.

When I decided to plunge into almost 2 years of untouched ravelry emails, I discovered the lion’s share of pattern questions were about the Daisy Cloche. It’s a fairly advanced pattern to begin: it has an allover pattern stitch worked with short rows, a lot of switching between needle sizes, and repeated binding off and picking up. On top of that, it has errata (the PU numbers of the concentric circles were off a stitch–luckily, brought to my attention early).

Many questions were basic knitting definitions/techniques (e.g., working in pattern or binding off in pattern), but there were a few problems I just couldn’t visualize without reviewing the pattern pretty closely. It’s way too late to help out the few angry knitters who I inadvertently neglected in ’13, but I can help out future knitters who might want to make one of my favorite patterns, and hopefully redeem poor Daisy’s reputation in the process.

Since it’s been almost 3 years since the last time I knit Daisy (it was the first pattern I wrote for the book), I decided to knit it again myself to figure out where the pattern is vexing.  And so that I make good use of what I learn while it’s still fresh in my mind, I’m going to host a Daisy Cloche knitalong this August (I’m going on vacation in July, and you know how swamped you always are in the weeks before vacation, especially when you’re self-employed). I just created a ravelry group for Literary Knits. If you’re interested in the Daisy Cloche Knitalong, or if you’ve made any patterns from the book, please join and share your Literary Knits FO with the group!

(BTW, it’s embarrassing how my mind handles criticism. My first impression was of a sea of angry emails about the hat. I even hid from my ravelry mail for a couple more weeks. But when I actually began to review them all to compile a precise list of problems, I discovered it was actually just a handful of criticisms–and just one that was marginally nasty–and another handful of fairly straightforward questions. Funny how your mind will give one snide critical comment so much more weight than a lot of glowing comments and a few friendly questions…. Which is, I suppose, why people always say not to read comments.)

In other news, I have a 7 used spinning wheels & a used carder on etsy right now. I’ve decided I should be a real grownup businessperson and only keep current models I actually sell in my Fiber School lineup, so I’m dispatching everything else. Poof! If you’re local, you can pick it up and save the shipping (email me to make arrangements so I can cancel the listing; I’ll also knock off an extra 5% if you pay cash).


Vintage Werekink w/ skeinwinder frame (needs dowels) & 3 2-speed bobbins, $275.


Red Louet S17 with skeinwinder and 3 bobbins, $325


Unfinished Ashford Kiwi with jumbo flyer and 3 jumbo bobbins and kate (plus original flyer but not bobbins), $275.

Fricke Signature Carder

Fricke Signature drum carder, $400

Fricke Folding Double Treadle

Fricke folding double treadle with 4 bobbins and kate, $375.

Fricke e-spinner

Fricke e-spinner with foot pedal, 4 bobbins, and kate, $365

Clemes Modern Wheel

Clemes Modern Wheel with 3 bobbins, $335

Gringo Hats: Done and Done!

Happily, the Gringo yarn was much more pleasant to knit than the hated Gringo fiber was to spin. John Horigan’s Exeter, with its allover ribbing and simple but handsome crown was a good, masculine match for the fuzzy dog yarn. I had almost enough leftover to make Twyla a matching hat, so I ended up frogging the crown of my dad’s hat and pulling back an inch to finish hers, since I figured he’d get a kick out of having matching hats to show off to his friends over our vacation (we’re going to Chile!–my parents have a place there). I used US4 needles and cast on 80 sts for Dad’s and 64 sts for Birdy’s.

The best laid plans


I had big plans for a massive surge of productivity in this, the last week before Ron gets home from tour. I was going to start on my shiny new work routine. I even made a spiffy banner to reinforce it (no, that wasn’t pure procrastination; okay, yes, it was). I was going to finish all my half-finished projects so I could look like a TCB badass. But the water had other plans for me.

Instead of whining about losing the whole week to the relentless flow of water into my basement and the battle against moisture, mildew and despair, I’m gonna focus on the bright side:

  • I finally cleaned and sorted a bunch of boxes of junk from the boiler room! Now I have buckets of plumbing supplies and buckets of electrical supplies, and the mouldering boxes and all the useless crap collecting dust and spiders is mostly gone!
  • Ditto the galley storage area. I’ve ditched a good 6 trash bags altogether, plus  a couple bags for Goodwill  and a fair amount of recycling. Take that, water! Try to disrupt my 40 Bags progress, will you? Ha!
  • I finally made a short leader hose for the submersible pump.
  • While I was at it, I hooked up a hose extender with a splitter with big, easy-to-turn levers for each tap. One goes to the courtyard and one goes out to the barn.
  • The weather, when it’s not storming, has been delightful! 70s and sunshine and puffy clouds, in June! No AC yet, barely any fans. I don’t usually turn on the AC this early, but I usually want to.
  • And when it is storming, it’s dramatic! Hours of breathtaking lightning last night, two trees knocked out over the weekend (neither of which I’m crying over–well, except the cleaning them up part).
  • The cooler weather has kept the inevitable flies at bay
  • I don’t have to fret about the sheep or chickens being too hot. (Although the barnyard is a fucking bog & I feel awful for the poor sheep.  At least I mucked out the barn before all the rain. The barn has Stable-Grid, so it can get muddy from traffic, but it drains, so it doesn’t get spongy and gross. I should just buy a hundred bucks’ worth every year and put it in a little patch at at time. The way time flies, the barn yard would be draining beautifully before I know it. Hm. Seriously, I should do that.)
  • I hired someone to cut down the trees felled by the storms and drag them to a burn pile–and learned that one of the trees (a plum) was highly toxic to sheep and cordoned it off with a scrap of fencing off before my two remaining sheep could eat it all up and die a horrible death from cyanosis. Whew! (No, that’s not what did in Mr. Shivers. The plum was out front, far from his little nibbly mouth. And I think cyanosis leaves clearer evidence.)

If you’re curious about the 40 Bags in 40 Days thing, go here. It was for Lent, so the official challenge is probably over, but I’m working on my own timetable.


And if you want to be a big nerd like me and make yourself a sticker chart, I’ve set up a template to print stickers on those ubiquitous return address labels, using the garbage bag graphic and the idea from White House Black Shutters. If you prefer a plain chart, she has one you can download; I like ticking off the numbers.

This pdf includes a numbered sticker chart and a sheet of labels, and a link to the WHBS post about it: 40 bags stickers and charts.