Tuesday, October 27, 2009

171 Yards of Handspun Merlot

Last spring while visiting my Mom in western Nebraska, we checked out a new fiber farm nearby, Red Barn Fiber Processing. It's a venture opened by a "retired" couple on a few acres of Nebraska farm ground. They raise llamas (and had plans to add yak and alpaca to the farm once the newly planted pastures could sustain a larger herd); offer all the various steps involved in fiber processing; and have a small store in the old farm house where they sell roving and hanks of small batch machine and handspun yarns. Susan, the owner, was working on carding a small batch of wool/silk blend fiber when we stopped. She was so kind to (in a very grandmotherly way) entertain my girls, showing them what she was doing with her bag of newly cleaned wool and the little drum carder, while Mom and I drooled browsed through the shop. Because she rocks, my Mom treated me to a couple hanks of yumminess before we left. Including one that recently become this lovely hand rolled ball...

It's 171 yards (2.4 oz) of handspun Merino wool. The tag calls it "red heather" but all I can think about when I look at it is a big glass of red wine. It's wonderfully soft and I'm itching to give it purpose. I'm leaning towards using it to make a lacy scarf. I really like the Juliet Scarf pattern (Ravelry link) that is featured in Knitting Little Luxuries: Beautiful Accessories to Knit, a book that may find it's way into my library this winter. (I have quite the list of books started to add to the library. YIKES!) Several of the comments on Ravelry point to this pattern as being a good choice for venturing into the lace world...which I find a bit scary, you know with all that stitch counting and all.

I'm curious dear knitters, if you had this yarn sitting in your stash, what would it inspire you to knit?


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Chocalate Chip Cookies, now gluten free...

For the most part switching to a gluten free diet has been relatively painless. And considering how MUCH BETTER I FEEL (not to mention the 7 pounds that have suddenly gone missing) making a few dietary changes has been little more than that...changes.

On a day to day basis it's been easy switching to gluten free pastas and simply eliminating bread from my diet. Thankfully several varieties of Chex cereal are now gluten free which keeps breakfast easy. We've discovered which gluten free flours work good in our most commonly eaten homemade "bread" foods...mainly pancakes, waffles, and oatmeal muffins...but this weekend I wanted to branch out a bit. I've been craving a little sweet treat...mostly in the form of COOKIES...and well, I can no longer depend on the bakery or the coffee shop to be sources for my cravings. (And I'm not big on store bought sweets.)

I was a little hesitant to try making homemade cookies with gluten free flours because the last thing you want to do is have a bad experience with a favorite old recipe. But I bit the bullet and decided CCCs were as good a place to start as any.

I was pretty excited when first the dough passed the finger swipe taste test...

Then I was a little nervous as the cookies spread out a lot thinner than normal during baking...

But over-all, our tried and true family recipe delivered as expected...

I plan to make a few changes for batch #2. (Whenever that may be.) The cookies seemed to spread less during baking with each new pan of dough balls, so I am wondering if allowing the dough to rest a bit after mixing but before baking may help. I also think I need to use a bit more Xantham Gum as these fellows ended up being FRAGILE, which has made for 2 happy pooches as they have been (one more than once occasion) benefactors of a fallen cookie chunk.

Next on the gluten-free-baked-goods-with-which-to-experiment list...scones!


Friday, October 23, 2009

Fabulously Fun Friday...

This week has been full of new adventures and surprises and good news (that I can't actually share until later next week), and at this moment I am totally crashing from it all. I have been so focused on my little web redesign project over here, and my new blogging adventure over here (and playing on Photoshop creating graphics for it all), that I haven't had much time or energy devoted to thinking about posts here or here. And honestly, I'm a bit burnt out on the web at the moment.

So this afternoon after I wash the dishes that have been left neglected in the kitchen sink and vacuum the dog hair covered floor, I'm going to pick up my equally neglected knitting needles to cast on a new project...and possibly sneak in a nap.

For now, dear readers, let me leave you with a little taste of Iowa fall. Our trees and bushes are a glow with color thanks to the recent cooler temps and yesterday's rain made everything POP!

I love fall...and as I look at the window today at the bright orange maple in our back yard, the fire red bush over at our neighbors, or the lovely soft green moss on the bark ofthe big old tree closest to our house...there really is no question as to why.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

For the love of fabric...

There are many great advantages to living in a small town. Advantages that keep us here despite the struggles we've had with finding career opportunities for Scott. One of those advantages for me is personally knowing the owners of the local quilt shop, Grinnell FiberWorks.

Imagine my excitement when I found out that the shop was looking for some very part-time help...just after I had decided that I needed to pursue an additional, yet flexible, part-time job to help fill in some of the financial gaps in our budget. And imagine how much my excitement doubled after I offered to help maintain/grow some of the shop's online presence and had that offer accepted with open arms! (I knew all these years of casually playing around here on-line would eventually come in handy for something besides my own personal entertainment!)

While my hours at the shop are few at the moment, when I am there it means I get to be surrounded by this...

And this...

And pretty pieced things like this...

And because I'm helping maintain the website, the Facebook Fan page, and write for the shop's new blog, I get to lug my camera into the shop on a regular basis to photograph it all!

How lucky am I?


Monday, October 19, 2009

We have thumbs!

As a new knitter, I still get VERY excited when I tackle a new knitting skill. This post is brought to you by thumbs!

It only took me 9 months after first picking up the needles to FINALLY make myself a pair of fingerless mitts beyond that first cotton pair knit flat and sewn together with a simple hole for the thumb. Why is that? I mean why do we often put making ourselves something last on the list?

The yarns are some "leftovers" that have been just hanging out in my stash. The mocha twist brown is Wool of the Andes from KnitPicks leftover from another pair of mitts I made and gave away last spring. The Spice and Onyx are Lamb's Pride from Brown Sheep Co. left from my felted stripped tote.

My new mitts have come in very handy with the cooler fall weather that has been gracing us as of late...though today was once again flip-flop and short sleeve weather. (At least for me...maybe not for everyone...but I have a hard time letting go of my flip-flops each fall.)

What have I casted on the needles now that my mitts are done? Nothing. I'm kinda stuck. I have yarn that was bought to make felted hot pads, but I'm not feeling very inspired to knit them up at the moment. I'm itchin' to make my first pair of socks...yet I have no sock yarn in the house...or small double points for that matter. Guess who needs to go shopping? (Unfortunately the knitting budget doesn't necessarily agree with that sentiment. Sigh.)

Also, I'd like to thank Eskimimi Knits for inspiring me to change how I think about photographing my knitting projects. It's fun and clean and really lets the object of focus pop. Yea!


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Spreading the Wealth...

I'm so excited to share with you my most recent news! After 5 years of blogging, countless hours playing around on facebook, and more than a few more trying to weave my way through the world of Photoshop, I'm finally getting the opportunity to put the skills and knowledge I've picked up along the way to use for something besides my own entertainment. Woo Hoo!

A friend of mine (and her mother) own the local independent quilt shop, Grinnell FiberWorks. I was so excited when the shop opened 4 years ago. GFW is a contemporary quilt store that carries a large selection of batiks, along with other contemporary fabrics, a Kona cotton solids, fun patterns, books, and lots of embellishment products including a dedicated beading station. Whenever I need a little eye candy for inspiration (or fabric of course) I stop in to check out what's new and catch up with Melissa. And anytime my Mom, my friend Jen, or my friend Sarah come to town for a visit, a stop by the shop is ALWAYS on our to do list.

Week before last I was having coffee with Melissa to catch up after the birth of her 3rd daughter (bless her...3 kids under the age of 5 and running a small business...impressive) and mentioned that I was thinking of finding an extra part time job. She then mentioned she was looking for some extra part time help at the shop. Convenient! After a bit more discussion not only am I looking forward to picking up some hours at the shop, I've wiggled my way into the position of web/social media girl. Double score for me!!!

I got to work this weekend and would like to announce that the new Grinnell FiberWorks Blog and GFW facebook Fan Page are up and running. You can also find us on Flickr, though I have yet to get some photos posted to the photostream. I plan to be down at the shop this week shooting while the girls are getting ready to head the the AQS Quilt Expo in Des Moines later this month. I'm anticipating lots of yummy photo ops!

This week I will be posting our first Meet The Staff post on the blog as well as doing our first product highlight. And of course, a jump into the blog world wouldn't be complete without a few giveaways and goodies...so make sure you update your RSS readers/feeds and check in with us often!

Next on the agenda...a redesign for the website. I think the challenge will be figuring out how to get the design in my head translated to the screen within the limitations of the web page management system in use. How I do love a good challenge.


Friday, October 16, 2009


I love the movie You've Got Mail. (I've watched it well over a handful of times. Too many to count.) I mean besides the fact it's a sweet romantic comedy starring two great actors, it's full of great lines. So many times I think about how those lines apply to my own life. Like when Kathleen (played by Meg Ryan) writes in her email to Joe (played by Tom Hanks):

Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life. Well, valuable, but small. And sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven't been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn't it be the other way around? I don’t really want an answer. I just want to send this cosmic question out into the void. So goodnight, dear void.

That same question has been on my mind a lot lately. And like Kathleen, I'm not necessarily expecting to find an answer anytime soon, but it doesn't mean I don't still wonder...


Fabulously Fun Friday...

Today's Fab Fun Friday is brought to you by Danbo.

Who is Danbo you ask?

This is Danbo...

Apparently Danbo (aka Danboard) is a character from the popular Japanese series Yotsuba&!. (Sometimes not having cable puts us a little behind the times, and having not really gotten into the Japanese anime scene would be one of those areas in which we are totally out of the loop.) Amazon Japan latched onto Danbo and viola...world wide stardom for a little robot made out of boxes.

I love pretty pictures and so last week sometime I added a Flickr gadget to my iGoogle page. What could be more fun than a rotating collage of the day's top interesting photos? I often find myself memorized by the beauty.

One day several of the tiny boxes featured this photo. (Sorry, couldn't include it here...you know, being write protected and all.) Over the next several days I started to notice more photos of this cute little box robot. And thanks to the creative minds who have given Danbo personality and adventures through their photography, I have fallen in love.

(Go ahead, go to Flickr and search Danbo and then tell me you didn't also smile at all his adventures.)

Of course my love for Danbo may have never been if it characters like Wall-E, the Tweenbots, and R2D2 hadn't already softened my heart. I guess it should come as no surprise given my attraction to electronic gadgets. What's not to love about a gadget with a persona?

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna head over to ebay and see what it would set me back to order my own mini Danbo. I can see it now...yoga Danbo...knitting Danbo...oh the possibilities!


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Are You Sure This is October...

We had to break out the box of cold weather gear this past weekend.

And much to our surprise, even though it only stuck around for a few hours, we had our first snow of the season on Saturday.

Let's see what Lexi thinks of this sudden change in the weather...

Actually I am the one probably having the hardest time adjusting. Partially because I'm not ready to be cold all the time (which as stingy as we are with the heat around here, winter = cold all the time) and partially because fall is my favorite time of the year and I'm sad to see it slipping away so quickly this year. Hopefully the weather man is right and we get to revisit the 60s and 70s this weekend!


Tuesday, October 13, 2009


I'm wondering today why it's so hard for so many of us, myself included, to simply, graciously accept a compliment when offered? I'm sure there are many theories....we tend to be overly critical of ourselves, we're taught not to be overly proud as not to seem self-centered, yadda, yadda, yadda. Whatever the reason, it's too bad that as a general rule for some of us it's easy to receive words of criticism than of compliment.

Today I got an email with a short, but heart-felt, compliment that brought tears to my eyes. One of those compliments that while being a lift at a time when I really need some words of support, I at the same time wonder what I have "really" done to deserve such lovely words. Surely the complimenter was sugar coating things a bit...right? At least that's what I hear that little voice in the back of my head whispering. I want to tell that little voice to shut the hell up and just be thankful for the kind words.

If nothing else, the past couple years have been "character building." (At least that's what I try telling myself in an attempt to find a little silver lining.) I don't always feel like I have handled it all very well. But then again, I get to spend 24/7 with my thoughts, so my vantage point may be a bit skewed. I'm so thankful that through it all I have been fortunate to have an amazing support network who have helped me to see in myself what others see. After all, aren't compliments reflections of how we present ourself to the world around us? Sometimes getting to see ourselves as other see us is just what's needed to keep on keeping on.

Thank you to all of you out there who have played a part in keeping me going through it all. Thanks for your kind words of support and encouragement. For listening to my rants and manic moments of panic. For the hand me down clothes for the girls and grocery gift cards and the random thoughtful somethings offered "just because." And for the compliments that have given me hope and confidence to maybe, just maybe, I'm doing ok at this little thing called life.

A big round of hugs for everyone!


Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Christmas Light...

Thanks everyone for your guesses! The correct answer is a Christmas light bulb...the big old fat ones. I got the idea to make a fabric string of "lights" for a little extra holiday cheer around here this year. After a couple attempts, the prototype below is my favorite.

(I'm thinking the finished project might need a little glitter glue sparkle too.)

Of course, when I get the finished project presentable, I'll share some photos.


Friday, October 9, 2009

What Do You See...

I need your help. Take a quick look and tell me what you think this looks like.

Just leave me a comment with your first impression.

Do it NOW. (Pleeeeeeze!)



Fabulously Fun Friday...

It's Friday...already...again!

(Not that I'm complaining, just wondering where the time does go?!?!)

Today's Fab Fun Friday is dedicated to knitting. Specifically knitting beyond woolen mittens, hats, gloves, scarves, sweaters and the such.

Dedicated to things like speed knitting! The next new Olympic sport maybe? Laugh all you want Doubty Mustafas, but do you hold a Guinness World Record? Miriam Tegels does for being the world's fastest knitter.

Can you imagine? I mean seriously, how amazing is that? Give it up knitters, you know there's a little voice in your head somewhere wondering, "How fast I could be if I trained?" At which point I practically laugh out loud at my inner thoughts and go YEAH RIGHT! For starters I'm a thrower, not a picker. (Not to be confused with picking and flicking...which is TOTALLY unrelated!) I'm pretty sure that fact would affect my maximum SPM potential.

Speed knitting not your thing?

How about poetry?

Grab some yarn. A lot of it! It's gonna take a bit more than a few skeins to come anywhere close to out doing giant hand-knit poem unveiled by The Poetry Society in London this week. (I think they should use that thing to have the world's biggest slumber party utilizing only one shared blanket.)

Looking for a smaller project that offers a little fun that could make a huge difference in some one's life? (Maybe even someone you know.) How about knitted boobs? Created by a breast cancer survivor looking to share with other women some of the love and support she found as she traveled her cancer journey, Tit Bits offers a knitted alternative to more "traditional" prosthetic breast options. (The instructions for making Tit Bits can also be found at Knitty.) I love it when someone makes it their mission to bring a little fun into life when faced with a very serious and scary journey. After all, sometimes laughter really is some of the best medicine around.

Happy Friday all!


LOVEly Colors...

Inspired by a cute Valentine idea given to the girls last February from our friends in Ord and an overflowing bucket of crayons, we have been making LOVEly colors this week. It's a great way to make worn down crayons "new" again and the girls love having a crafty project with which they can help.

First we peel crayons. And peel crayons. And PEEL crayons. (I'm pretty sure those papers are better wrapped these days because I remember crayon paper practically falling off when I was a kid.) I am amazed at how long Brea can sit and do nothing but peel crayons. She can often outlast me!

Once the crayons are peeled, we break them up to fit in the molds.

After a short time in the oven melting, followed by a thorough cooling on the counter, we get these...

See, aren't they lovely?

Making them is kinda addictive...and we have A LOT of crayons left, which means we can melt to our hearts content. (Hahaha...) I actually bagged some up with cute little labels and took them down to see if we could sell a few at the local crafter's consignment shop. At $3 a bag I thought they might appeal to a few grandma's looking for goodies for their little sweeties. And if they do, maybe we can go enjoy a sweet treat to reward all our peeling.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Last winter, as I was very first dipping my toes into the vast ocean that is the knitting/yarn world, I ordered Leigh Radford's book OneSkein with my first yarn order from KnitPicks. I'm convinced that both that book AND discovering KnitPicks are HUGE factors in being quickly, painlessly, and completely sucked into the knitting universe.

(I plan on talking about my KnitPicks love later...but first...LEIGH love!)

Growing up I will admit, I wasn't interested in knitting or crocheting mainly because I associated the crafts with big, chunky, ill fitting yarn wear, variegated afghans, and doilies. Let's just say I'm not a doily girl. And while my Mom LOVES variegated yarns, I just don't. (Yet.)

So opening up Leigh's book was like a breath of fresh air. Any of you who have seen her work know what I mean. On one hand she has some lovely "traditional" knits. Simple designs. Timeless even. On the other hand she also offers modern (yet still timeless and simple) twists that i ADORE.

(Are you getting the idea how much I love this woman's designs? Plus her book design/layout, the photography, EVERYTHING is major eye candy.)

I immediately fell in love with the Felted Striped Tote included in OneSkein. Even though I had yet to knit anything but a straight swatch of natural cotton garter stick fabric, I put the tote on my short list of future projects. In March while visiting my Mom for spring break in Nebraska, we ventured to the Brown Sheep Co. Factory store (a short 20 minute drive from my Mom's house!) and my Mom treated me to the yarn needed to make the bag. (And another book by Leigh, AlterKnits Felt. LOVE!)

After a long summer of HOT knitting (Serious, who thought knitting a sizable wool bag was a good idea for a summer project? Live and learn I guess.) and then a few weeks of stalling because I was too nervous to actually DO the felting process...my tote is done! I'm so in love with it. And I TOTALLY think I could become a felting addict.

Here it is finished, pre-felted. I wish I would have photographed it next to something to indicate it's size pre-felting. Suffice it to say just for giggles when I finished the knitting (before I sewed up the bottom) I slipped it on as a tank-top...and I'm not a petite girl.

A little close up of the knitted in handles...one of my favorite features of the design.

And the finished project stuffed full of some of my favorite things.

I'm super excited to start showing it off now that it's finally completely dry following felting on Monday. The long time knitters in the seniors yoga class I teach 3 mornings a week are very anxious to give me their critique too. (LOVE that two of my loves, yoga and knitting, cross over each other A LOT during those morning gatherings.)

I see that Leigh just put out a new book, One More Skein. Guess what will be shortly joining my already sizable library? (Books. Who doesn't love books?)

As for my next felting project...I have yarn in queue to make some of the hot pads in AlterKnits Felt. I've already warned my experienced knitters pool that I will be tapping their knowledge to help me through the instructions for making the polka dotted design and my first try at knitting an i-cord edge.


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Lexi's Nebraska Adventure...

Lexi wrote an essay for a contest sponsored by Subway and National Geographic this past week. She walked it to the post office window herself on Saturday to make sure it got postmarked on time. In 100 words (or less) she was to tell about her favorite adventure, past or future. She choose to write about her and Scott's trip to the Scotts Bluff National Monument last March when we visited my Mom over spring break. As always she did a wonderful job, taking care to re-write a nice copy from her first rough draft on which I corrected a few misspelled words. (She doesn't have many of those these days!)

Grand prize in the contest is a family vacation (for 4...lucky for us we only number 4...it would suck to draw straws to see who had to stay home) to ALASKA! We're not holding our breath in wait...but we did have fun at the dinner table talking about what it would be like IF we were to win. Such imaginations those girls of ours have!


Friday, October 2, 2009

Fabulously Fun Friday...

No yoga or knitting today...but oh the fun!

I have over the past 2 years had the privileged to get to know, spend time with, and even lend a helping hand to a group of artists who are working on a collaborative art adventure called Tiny Circus. You can read about what they do on their website so I won't go into detail here. Basically their focus is teaching about (which has included a fair amount of learning about) how anyone can be part of collaborative art creation. They have chosen stop-motion animation as their medium.

Here's a sweet little example of their work.

This summer Tiny Circus did a free animation workshop for kids here in our community. Here's the short my daughter had a hand in making. She is so proud.

In true Tiny Circus fashion I leave you with quite possibly my favorite short animation of the summer...a flowery fireworks display. What's not to love?!