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Posts from March 2009

It's Like Watching Yarn Dry

Inspired by this beautiful scarf, I joined Funky Carolina's Scrappy Club.  Each month Carrie sends a mix of handpainted fiber scraps totaling 4 ounces.  Oh the joy of opening those packages.  They are like bags of brightly colored Easter eggs - or maybe the mad love child of Easter eggs and cotton candy.

To Ply or Not to Ply

Upon receiving these packages (two packages came at once - 8 oz. of fluffy goodness), there is nothing for a spinner to do but get them on the wheel.  Meals, laundry, spouse, children?  They must wait for the fiber to have its moment. 

After two evenings of spinning I find myself with 600+ yards of techicolor singles.  Oh the bliss.

The Singles, They Are Drying

Now, if only they'd dry.

Sneak Peek

Yarn 4 Socks Design

A few months ago Valerie from Yarn 4 Socks asked me to design a pattern for their April Sock Club.  I had the pleasure of working with lovely yarn dyed by Jodi of Avery Allison Yarns.  It's not too late to join the club.  There are still a few spots left.



Introducing the Dorothea Beanie.  Embellished with leaves and twisted stitches it is named jointly in honor of one of my favorite Aunts, and Dorothea Lange.  

My Aunt Dorothy was the youngest of 8 children, born in 1916 to my great grandparents, successful Austrian immigrants.  She was a woman who was unafraid to try new things and challenge convention. Defying her father, a man of his era who believed that women didn't need a college education, she left home and enrolled in Wellsley.  (Her older sister Mary managed the family finances in those days and quietly paid for her tuition.)  Later Dorothy tried to enlist as a nurse during World War Two, this time her defiance of her father's wishes were thwarted by the family doctor who declared her to have heart issues that would prevent her from serving.  It was years later that she discovered the lie. 

Aunt Dorothy was only 12 years older than my mom and more like an older sister to her than an Aunt.  My mother spent as much time as she could with Dorothy and her sisters.  Their home was filled with creativity.  They were skilled weavers, knitters, crocheters, seamstresses, gardeners and flower arrangers.  My childhood memories of going to "the farm", the antique filled home of Dorothy and her two sisters, are full of joy and excitement.  There was always something interesting to explore and the conversation was never dull.   

Dorothea Hat

Dorothea Lange was an inspiring photographer whose moving photos from the American West during the depression are as relevant today as they were 75 years ago.  She is probably best known for her photograph "Migrant Mother".  Durring WW2 she cronicled the plight of Japanese Americans and their relocation to interment camps.  The faces of her subjects help us to understand the human side of these very difficult times. 

Dorothea Hat Top


Finished Measurements: 
Circumference 17” relaxed, will stretch to accommodate up to a 23” head.  For a larger hat adjust the gauge.
Brim to the top of the crown 7.5”.  Instructions are given for making a longer hat. 

Needles:  US 4 (3.5mm) or size to obtain gauge.  You may use DPN’s or Circulars whichever is your preference for working in the round.

Gauge:   26 stitches and 38 rounds = 4”/10cm

Artyarns Supermerino, 100% Superwash Merino, 104 yds/95m per 50 gram skein.  Color # 234 – 2 skeins.  (I used about 1/4 of the second skein.)

Additional Materials: 

Cable Needle
Tapestry needle
9 Place markers

See it on Ravelry

Price:  $6.00 US

Seed Starting A Mini Tutorial

If you're like me, March finds you dreaming of bountiful summer gardens.  When my kids were younger we had huge veggie gardens filled with everything from leeks, to tomatillos, potatoes to kale.  Peas, peppers, lettuce and tomatoes were our constant staples. 

The Lad in the Garden

The Lad circa 1995.

In recent years the craziness of teen schedules & too much travel at the wrong time of year have left me with little time to start our beloved kitchen garden.  I refuse to see another summer pass without that moment when I bite into the first sun warmed tomato freshly plucked from the vine.  And so, today I started my seeds. 

If you are planning on starting your garden from seed this year, here are some tricks and techniques I've learned over the years.

Seed Starting 101


  1. Seeds
  2. Seed starting "mini greenhouse" with cell packs, a bottom tray that has no holes, and a clear plastic lid.
  3. Seed starting mix (make sure this is not a heavy potting soil.)
  4. Milled Sphagnum Moss
  5. Spray bottle
  6. Plant markers
  7. Empty yogurt container

Some large seeds like peas & beans or early greens like spinach and lettuces may be seeded directly in the garden.  This tutorial is for starting seeds indoors.

Seed Starting 101

Start with clean seed trays.  If you are reusing old trays, sterilize them in a mixture of water and bleach. 

The type of soil you choose to start your seeds in is critical.  Look for a light potting mix.  You will find bags of "seed starting mix" in your local garden center.  These are designed to be light enough for tender young roots to penetrate and they will hold just the right balance of air and moisture. 

Bottom Watering

Fill the cell packs with the seed starting mix, pressing the mix gently into each cell.  Place the cells packs into a container filled with about 1.5" of water.  (I use my kitchen sink for this.)  This allows the water to wick up from the bottom.  Let the tray soak, you want the soil to feel like a damp sponge.  I leave my cells in the sink throughout the seeding process in order to contain the mess.

Two to a Cell

Once your soil is moist enough, place the seeds on top of the mix in the cells.  Depending on the size of the seeds, you will place anywhere from two to six seeds in each cell.  Once they have germinated, you will thin them to one seedling per cell.  It is rare to get 100% germination, so this insures that you will get at least one plant per cell.

Milled Sphagnum

In the photo above you see my favorite seed starting ingredient.  Milled sphagnum moss has a naturally occurring anti-fungal agent that prevents the dreaded "damp off".  Damp off is a fungus that rots young seedlings where the stem meets the soil, killing the plant.


Dust the tops of the tray with milled sphagnum. 
The size of your seeds will determine how thick to make your layer of sphagnum.  A good rule of thumb for starting seeds is to cover them to a depth of 2-4 times the thickness of the seed.

A Gentle Shower

Now that your seeds are so nicely tucked into their cells, give them a gentle shower with a spray bottle.  You do not want to flood them here.  Dumping water from a watering can will disrupt your seeds and most likely add too much water to the trays.  The mix is already moist from the bottom watering you did earlier.  The idea here is to moisten the milled sphagnum and water the seeds in so that they make good contact with the planing medium.

Yogurt Markers

Carefully remove the cell packs from the sink and place them in the tray.  Since standard plant markers won't fit under the clear plastic lid of your mini greenhouse, cut an empty yogurt container into strips.  Use a waterproof marker to write the names of your plants on the strips.  Place these mini markers in the appropriate cells and put the lid on your tray.

Lid On

The lid helps speed germination by creating a warm moist environment, the optimal conditions for germination of most vegetable seeds.
  Until germination the amount of light is not critical.  Place the tray away from direct sunlight to eliminate the risk of frying the seeds.  Things can really heat up under that lid.  Check daily for moisture and germination.  Keep the planing medium as moist as a damp sponge - NOT SOGGY. 

Once your seeds have germinated remove the lid and place them in a sunny window.  Your seedlings need a lot of light at this point.  You will know if your seedlings are not getting enough light if they become tall and thin (known as leggy).  Short fat seedlings are healthy seedlings.

I'll try to do another tutorial on the care of your seedlings once mine germinate.
Happy Planting!

Happy Pi Day!!

Pi Day

As their father and I spread copious amounts of mulch on the gardens today, the girls walked to town to buy the ingredients for our annual Pi Day pie.  IJK, who loves to cook, got right to work baking when they returned.  This pie will be a wonderful reward for a hard day of slinging mulch.

Dorothea Hat

I've been doing a lot of knitting that I can't share on the blog, but along the way I did manage to throw in a new hat design that I can show.  I've named the hat "Dorothea" after Dorothea Lange who's moving photos from the depression are favorites of mine.  My son is working on an English project based on the "Grapes of Wrath".  As a result that era, it's music and images have been a theme in our house this week.


The pattern for Dorothea should be ready by mid week.  It is worked in worsted weight yarn from the bottom up.  You may use dpn's or circular needles for the project.

Off to check on that pie.
Happy Pi Day!

A Fool For Stripes

I love knitting striped garments.  They give the knitter the mindlessness of stockinette (necessary on evenings when the brain has checked out for the day) along with the interest of playing with color (one of my favorite things in this whole wide world to do).

Coffee Not Photos

Don't let The Lad's face deceive you in this photo.  He loves his new vest.  It was a rough day when we took the photos.  At 3:00 in the afternoon he was still coffee-less.  Such is the life of a teen who gets up too late to have his morning cuppa and make it to school on time.  Since he shares his mother's caffeine addiction this meant he had a nasty headache.

A Vest for a Lad

I've visited the new Lion Brand Yarn Studio a few times recently and have become a devotee of the huge skeins of Fisherman's Wool.  This vest used about half of one of those skeins along with 1.5 skeins of Lion Wool in the Lemongrass colorway.  This translates to a vest for under $20.  (The Lion Wool was purchased on sale.)  With the leftovers I'll be making a vest for DD#1.  When she saw her brother's she insisted on one of her own; hip length with a little waist shaping.

Lad in Need of a Haircut Models Vest

I consider myself very lucky that my kids are so happy to wear handknits.  They've even had friends make requests that I knit items for them.  My standard response is that I will teach the individual to knit so that he or she may make their own hat, vest, cardigan, etc.   So far I've only had one taker, but I have dreams of starting a knitting revolution among the local teens.  Considering my own childern refuse to learn, I've got a long way to go.

The Lad's Vest


  Lion Brand Fisherman's Wool in Nature's Brown 1/2 skein & Lion Wool in Lemongrass 1 1/2 skeins
Pattern:  None, but there are a ton of wonderful vest patterns out there that are very much like this one.
Needles:  US 8/5.0mm
Notes:  I added a few stitches after knitting the ribbing which makes the bottom of the vest nip in a bit.  I wouldn't do this again.  I don't like the way the vest fits at the bottom.  Also, I didn't plan very well at the neckline.  I knew all along that the neck band would be worked in the brown yarn.  Next time I would divide for the neck in the middle of a brown stripe to give the neck a cleaner finish. 

Here's the vest on Ravelry.