Friday, May 8, 2015

What have I been doing?

It's been a long, cool spring here in Kentucky, but based on our 86 degrees today, I'm guessing we're straight into summer now. These poppies have lived here longer than we have and seem to be spreading their happy color around to more planting beds. I've always yearned for those lovely pink poppies, but have been unsuccessful at getting them established here.

(recently sewn tops - still hanging in the studio)
I know lots of folks who are participating in MeMadeMay. Though I am not one of them, I could be, because I've been on a sewing binge that has lasted for a while. The new Bernina has encouraged me to attempt making myself some new, simple garments. My most troublesome issue with sewing is choosing the correct pattern size. Somehow, my measurements don't fall into one specific size range, but more likely will involve three different sizes! As a result, I've discovered the wisdom of making a "muslin" before cutting into the expensive Liberty fabric. My muslin is not usually an actual piece of muslin fabric, but rather an inexpensive piece of fabric that I can possibly wear, if by some miracle my first attempt actually fits me well enough that I can wear it for barn chores or garden work.
(Scout -original version - not my color, but will work for barn chores)
I've been inspired of late to analyze my (so called) wardrobe of clothing by Karen Templer (Fringe Association) and Ellen Mason (Odacier), among others, and from my reading and embracing some of the wisdom from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I recently went through my clothing and purged all that did not fit, was too shabby for even barn work or for whatever reason, I just never seemed to wear. Needless to say, there is not much left. I'm actually okay with having not much left. It kinda feels good to only have things I really like to choose from when I'm getting dressed. The whole exercise helped me to focus on what I need and which styles I prefer. My daily outfit is usually jeans and a tee-shirt because it suits my life here on the farm. When it's hot, I wear shorter pants and sleeveless tops. When it's cold, I add wool socks and sweaters to the uniform. Lately, I've been inclined to wear cotton or linen blouses or tops, rather than tees and so the things I've been sewing are mostly tops, with a few tunics added. (I do love the idea of wearing tunics over jeans or leggings in the winter.) At this point, I've made three different Wiksten Tovas, three Grainline Scouts and three from Butterick B5356.  The Scout woven tee is a super simple pattern that fits great. The original version has very short sleeves. I made two more versions; one in a print with a longer short sleeve and a natural linen one with 3/4 sleeves that I love for a little dressier look. I can highly recommend it.
(Wiksten Tova)
I've been seeing Wiksten Tovas all over the place for years and finally decided to give it a try. It takes a little finessing to get that inset sewn in just right and I was marginally successful on two and finally got it just right on the one above. I think I've got the confidence to make one in my Liberty Tana Lawn now!

The Butterick pattern was surprisingly my favorite. I've made it in tunic and top lengths and really like the ease of it. I tapered the sleeves some, but otherwise the medium fits me perfectly. The sleeves and the yoke are of one piece, so construction is really simple.

(Butterick B5356)
Next up, I have a few pieces of fabric that want to be sewn into Wiksten Tanks.  I unsuccessfully attempted making a real muslin of the tank last summer, but with my new-found confidence, I'm going to give it another go. Wish me luck!

What else have I been up to? Knitting, of course. I knitted two hats for the Fringe Hatalong No. 2 (which I'll try to get photos of for next time), finished up my Kate Daviess Peerie Flooers. Then I fell down the rabbit hole that Maya pushed me into! If you've been shopping for cotton clothesline lately, I expect you know what I mean.  Those baskets are so easy and addictive.  You just can't stop making them!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

A spell of smalls

(Green grass and dirty sheep!)
Well, yes, I've actually made it back to this little neglected space. It seems as though my current life revolves around doctor appointments, blood work appointments and physical therapy sessions, so there's not so much interesting blog fodder these days, but I'm hopeful that the day will come when I can call myself a full time shepherd again, instead of a rather passive observer of my husband doing my work.

As promised, I do have a few small knitting projects to show. I had a spell of hat knitting before I went in for surgery and it would appear that my box of finished smalls is well stocked. My "finished smalls" consists of a large box full of hats, scarves, cowls, mittens and mitts that can be offered for sale, if I'm doing a fiber festival or opened for the perusal of children and grandchildren, so they may choose something they would be willing to wear. I've discovered this is the best way to insure that what I gift to my grandkids is actually liked and worn, rather than conveniently lost or stuffed in the back of their sock drawers! I consider this a double win for me because I love knitting smalls and don't feel the necessity for having a recipient in mind when I feel the urge to knit yet another hat!

Now that I'm looking at this picture, I believe that none of these hats have had a bath and a little blocking. That would certainly smooth things out a little, but I like all of them, nonetheless. Starting at the top is the Audrey hat that was part of Karen Templer's (Fringe Association) Hatalong #1. (She's planning a second Hatalong to start this week.) I used some of the Shalasdair Naturally yarn that I brought back from the Isle of Skye, Scotland last September. It's a nice, sturdy kind of yarn that will hold up well. The pattern is fun, with just enough going on to keep it from being boring. The black marled hat (Imperial Yarn Anna) can also be credited to  Karen's influence. It's the Stadium hat and it's a free pattern on her blog. I love this thick, 70% Columbia wool, 30% American cotton yarn. It has a bit of a rustic look that suits me. The multi-striped hat is from a bag of bits and pieces of handspun, naturally dyed yarn that I bought somewhere last fall (maybe Rhinebeck? - wish I could remember). I loved the colors, especially that weird pea green, and wanted to use all the colors to make something I would enjoy wearing. This was strictly and grab and knit project, no planning which colors should be used in which order. I used the same basic pattern as the Stadium hat and it worked out fine. The last hat is a little of my own Tanglewood Farm wool/alpaca blend yarn from 2 years ago, with a tiny bit of my own handspun used as the edging. I used Ann Budd's The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns to come up with the simple hat pattern.

I confess to having several (many!) other projects still on the needles. My Hitchhiker is languishing in time out right now because I made the mistake of knitting on it at times during my hospital stay when I felt unwell. Now, I have some sort of weird mental association with feeling poorly and knitting on Hitchhiker and every time I pick it up to knit on it, I get a bad feeling! I'll just have to wait a little while till that wears off. I did knit the Nordic Wind shawl, after reading about it on the Woolful blog and their Ravelry page for the KAL. I missed getting the small batch farm lopi that was part of the KAL kit, but bought the pattern and used some unspun Icelandic I already had that came from Schoolhouse Press (I think I should get extra credit for using stash!). This shawl was a fast knit and the unspun Icelandic is enjoyable and interesting to handle. If you tug the tiniest bit too much, it drifts apart, but spit splicing was made for this stuff and it takes only an instant to be knitting on your way again with rejoined fiber. The nature of Icelandic wool is warm and insulating, yet the finished shawl is light as a feather (mine weighs 4 1/8 ounces). A quick wash and light blocking softened the wool into something I know I'll be wearing for years to come. .

Next time, I'll have a few finished sewing projects. I seem to have an overwhelming urge to sew right now. I've had great fun picking patterns and fabric, which is at least half the fun, right?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Still here

(The Purple Martins have just arrived, so spring is truly here!)
Well, it's been "interesting" (interesting in that way one tries to describe something difficult to describe).  When last I posted, I was psyching myself up for knee surgery and keeping busy with my to-do lists and the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. (I know I'm not the only woman who feels compelled to do a bit of cleaning and organizing before surgery or going on a long trip, just in case something should go awry.) I worked diligently on my list until the last few weeks before and then lost my motivation. The sheep shearer came two days before my surgery and suddenly I had a big stack of fleeces (on top of the ones from last year that had still not been processed!) and I was completely overwhelmed.

 The surgery went very well and according to the doctors and physical therapists, I was the poster child for making outstanding progress. On the fourth day after surgery, I was transferred to a rehab facility to begin intensive physical therapy and that's when things got more complicated. I was only there one day when I woke up with a pulmonary embolism (blood clot in my lung) and another clot in my leg. Within minutes after I mentioned to the nurse that I was having some difficulty breathing, I was in an ambulance being rushed back to the hospital. Honestly, I did not know how serious things were until days later. I spent two days immobilized while I was pumped full of Heparin and then Coumadin (blood thinning medications). I finally got to come home after ten days of being hospitalized for a surgery that some folks come home from after only one day. Obviously, that was not how I planned for it to go!

(Some of my beautiful flowers)

There were some bright spots. I loved the nurses and staff at St. Joseph East Hospital. They were so sweet and kind to me and so considerate of not just my physical well-being, but also my emotional state. I truly felt they went above and beyond to help me be as comfortable as possible. Secondly, thanks to loving and caring family and friends, I was surrounded with flowers that caused everyone who came into my room to comment on how lovely they were and how cheerful they made the room feel. Mike brought freshly cut daffodils from home every day, so I would not miss out on spring blossoming at the farm. Friends came to visit, bringing special treats and spending time knitting and talking. Other friends sent cards, texts and emails to let me know they were thinking of me. I feel as though I learned some valuable lessons on how true friends show their love and concern. You have no idea how much the smallest gesture means until you are on the receiving end. I feel truly blessed to have people in my life who are willing to show they care about me.

(The view I wake up to at home)
I've never been so happy to be at home and in my own bed. When Mike drove me home from the hospital, the first thing we did was drive right by the house and up to the barn, so I could see all of the girls! I'm not allowed to be in the field with the sheep quite yet, but I visit with them at the gate every day. Now that they are all shorn, the little girls look almost grown up. They still run up to me (the main reason I'm not allowed inside the gate!), but if I see them out grazing in the field, it is more difficult to tell them apart from the adults. I know I made the right decision to not have any lambs born this year, but I really miss them and hope to be able to have at least a few next year.

(Miss Midgie and the Littles playing conquer the mineral feeder!)
I hope to get back to this space much more often now. I've been knitting and before the hospital, I managed to sew a little. I have big plans to use this time of restricted activity to sew and knit without feeling guilty that I should be cleaning out the barn or turning over garden beds or working on the multitude of the physically strenuous jobs that are waiting on me. They will just have to wait.

Spring is arriving in Kentucky by fits and starts. We've had some days in the 70's already, but it's going to be cold for Easter - fairly typical weather around here. I'm enjoying watching the grass turn a little greener every day and waiting for the forsythia bushes by the barn to bloom. Our Purple Martin familes have returned and will be building their nests soon. There is evidence of life being renewed all around us.

I want to say thank you to all who have not forgotten my little blog, even though I've been very neglectful as of late. I'll be back early next week with some knitting and sewing to show.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Checking in - finally!

*(Won't be long till shearing time-I'm trying to ignore the vegetable matter)
Apparently, I decided to take a break from blogging, though it was not a conscious decision, as such.  I've considered coming to this space at least once a day and then somehow never made it. It's not that I've been particularly busy, though life on the farm never seems to be really slow. I've been thinking a lot and that takes a fair amount of energy!

The holidays are behind me and right now, it seems that they barely happened. No more shortened work weeks for Mike and I can feel what is left of January and February stretching out before me.  At the moment I have a to-do list that needs to be accomplished before mid-March. It's a long list, to be sure, but there is plenty of motivation to get things done. I'm currently scheduled for knee surgery on March 16 and will be physically out of commission from my regular life for at least a few months (no driving for 6 weeks! Is that even possible?). I don't have an accurate picture of what those months will look like, except that there will be plenty of physical therapy.

I am one of those (among many thousands) who recently read a little book titled 'The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up'. (Ha-evidently, I'm not alone. Amazon is currently out-of-stock!) I'll admit to some skeptical eye-rolling while reading it, but something about it has lit a fire under me. I've been on a mission to clean out, sort, purge, donate, organize and dispose of an untold amount of stuff.  It started with the decision to move my dye room out of the studio and into a storage room in the barn.  I didn't feel free to make a mess with dyeing in the studio. I was afraid of spilling dye on the tile floors (for the record, I hate tile floors-they are deadly to glass bottles and my back). In order for the move to take place, I first had to empty the storage room. If I'd known how bad that would be, I might not have suggested it in the first place! Now that it's mostly done, I can say it was a good thing. I've been forced to sort through pictures, much ephemera from both mine and Mike's past lives, thousands of photos and stuff that should have been never put in there in the first place. I told friends before the holidays that what I truly wanted for Christmas was a dumpster! (That didn't happen.) Mike moved the big commercial stainless steel sink from the studio and installed it in the barn dye room.  I've repainted the walls, scrubbed the floor, brought in shelving, moved all my dye-stuffs, undyed yarn and brought in last year's fleeces (which are also on the list to be taken to the mill before March 16). As I told my friend, Diane, I can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear because it is, after all, a room in the barn and so I'm going to feel free to make many messes in it!

Another activity that has been occupying me is sewing. Just before the holidays, I bought a new Bernina and have taken a few classes at Q-Quilt First Kentucky. It's been fun to get back into sewing.  I haven't felt a great deal of confidence and the new machine has been slightly intimidating, but I'm starting to feel more comfortable with her and ready to get started making myself some clothes. I'm a terrible clothes shopper, hate going to the mall, never know what size to order on-line, so this seems like a totally reasonable pursuit!

*(Aslan is on the job!)
Animal-wise there is nothing new around the farm. Well, except for Mike declaring all-out-war on the starlings that are determined to nest in our barn and all the farm equipment. He's gone from boarding up every opening possible, to covering the tractors and bobcat with bird netting, trying to shoot them (they are much too clever) to now having a recording of starling distress calls and hawks screaming that plays 24/7 in the barn. I worried that the other animals would be as disturbed as I am by hearing it, but they seem to pay absolutely no attention to it. Even the chickens and peacock seem oblivious (though to be fair, chickens are often oblivious). I'll let you know how this plan plays out!

*(Carson loves napping in the studio bathroom sink)
 Instagram is my new best friend. I nearly always have my phone with me while I'm feeding and I take pictures all the time. They are not beautiful pictures, but do depict every day happenings here. It's a little dose of instant gratification to post something and see what other folks are up to in their daily lives. You can follow me by clicking on the link on the sidebar and see what the animals are doing nearly every day.

*(Carson is also on the job-when he's not napping!)
On the knitting front, I have a few things that I need to take photos of before I can post. Post-surgery should allow me plenty of knitting time, so am thinking of something big I can work on start-to-finish, maybe an aran sweater. I've been enjoying keeping up with Karen Templer of Fringe Supply Co, working on the KAL for her Amanda sweater. Her sweater is gorgeous and is just the kind of sweater I know I would wear forever. Often, I have difficulty staying faithful to a big project, so we'll see how that unfolds.

So, that's a bit of a catch-up.You see, you haven't missed much by my not being here for a while! I'll try to make things a little more interesting before I'm back here again.

*Just in cast you were wondering, none of these photos have anything to do with this post.  I just thought you all might like to see a few of the usual suspects.