Monthly Archives: March 2011

Color scheme

I struggle with color use a lot, everything from painting rooms to getting dressed in the morning. The problem is I want to use ALL THE COLORS. Frequently I want to use them all at once. It probably wasn’t until I took costume design in college that I started to appreciate choosing color schemes. And I still struggle with limiting myself when I have ALL THE COLORS available to be used! At least I’ve figured out not to wear my orange sweater with the plum colored pants.

I knew I needed to be careful about this when planning my new e-book. If you look at collections of patterns, even those loosely tied together like a single issue of a magazine, you’ll see they have some constants running throughout the colors. Even when the theme isn’t “every project is PINK!” they’ll use similar color shades or values of brightness to make the collection cohesive. I knew I needed to control my urge to use ALL THE COLORS if I wanted some of that cohesiveness.

time on my hands yarn

All the yarn for my projects (minus one shades-of-white skein that’s being dyed an should arrive soon!) are here. The colors I’ve chosen clearly aren’t all the same. And yes, I seem to be on a green-and-purple kick these days (even more-so then you may realize) But I like how I’ve chosen complementary shades that all play nicely together. Two shades of purple, two of green, some neutral browns, tans, and whites, with just a little blue. I especially like how the mini mochi ties the blue and the browns together. Three of my projects are two-color (some stripes, some stranded, and some layered) which will further tie everything together (I hope)

Almost time

I was SO excited to start my garden seeds last weekend! Then I pulled out my seed box to get my winter squashes going and discovered I had used up the last of several packets of seeds last year and forgotten about it. I thought I had more tomato seeds, more winter squash, more snap beans – but apparently not. So Neil and I made up a list of all the things we wanted to grow and trekked to the feed store (it’s not really a trek, it’s one of the closest stores to our house. But it felt like a trek for some reason)

2011 seeds

Just as I was about to rip open the bag of soil and get started, I thought to check the calender one last time. The problem with northern VT is that our last frost dates are pretty far into what the rest of the world considers spring. I love the Freeze Climatology info put together by NOAA. They don’t just give you an average last frost date but explain the medians, percentiles, and extremes.

The earliest I’m supposed to start any of these seeds is 6 weeks before last frost. That means I’m not starting anything until April 9th. I made myself a timeline so I won’t forget, or try to get a head start again next weekend:

April 9th (6 weeks to last(hopefully!) frost):
Start cabbages, broccoli, marigolds

April 16th:
Start melons, indoor start flowers

April 23rd (4 weeks before last frost):
Start winter squashes, start tomatoes

April 30th:
Start cucumbers, summer squash
Move broccoli and cabbage seedlings to green house
Direct seed lettuce, spinach, chard (may not be needed, the ones in my cold frame look like they survived!)

May 7th:
Direct seed snap peas, spread wildflower seed? – assuming the weather’s cooperating…

May 14th (1 week before last frost):
start strawflowers, columbine inside

May 21st:
Direct seed bush beans, dry beans, sunflowers, snapdragons
Transplant most veggies and flowers

June 4th (2 weeks after last frost):
Direct seed sweet corn, edemame, basil

June 11th:
Transplant tomatoes

Why no, I don’t leave for the whole weekend very often in the spring, do I? May 21st will be the big weekend, the rest of these are fairly quick tasks. But as soon as all this $*(#&! snow melts we need to get started on preparing the front yard. We have to fix the giant (150 year old pine tree stump sized) divots so the land can be brush hogged once a year before we put the wildflower seed down. And I have plans for a fenced in front yard this year. I’m going to let the chickens free range wherever they want, and fence them OUT of the human areas so hopefully there will be less poop on the patio.

I’ll be putting the tomatoes outside every day the temps reach 65 or more, but I always bring them inside at night. I did this until the middle of June last year (putting them in bigger pots when needed) and oh boy did they TAKE OFF. Much better then trying to nurse them along outside in the cold.

Earth hour

Neil and I participated in Earth Hour last saturday. I always liked power outages as a kid, so maybe I don’t need much excuse to sit around playing card games by candle light. But I also like the idea of global sustainability. And while burning that many candles every night probably isn’t very sustainable in itself I hope that the more people hear about earth hour the more they’ll think about what else they can do.

earth hour 2011

Neil and I already keep all our entertainment system stuff plugged into a power strip which lets us kill all those vampire charges* with just one button, and we’re changing over to CFLs as our old bulbs die. In spite of being surrounded by springs welling up out of the ground we use water saving washers and shower heads (and have milk jugs in the toilet reservoirs.

I’m always looking for more environmental friendly changes we can make, both easy and complex! So I like that the WWF is pushing people to think beyond just the 60 minutes without lights.

*I love this phrase, it’s such a succinct way of summing up all the electricity used by thing even when they’re turned off.

Knitting camp registration

Registration is open for summer knitting camp! Specifically Vermont Knit and Fiber Camp 2011 (we have a wiki, we’re so official) I love knitting camp, it’s basically a great big, weekend long, knitting group. We sit around the fire with like minded people who don’t complain that you’ve been knitting, and talking about knitting, all weekend. I went last year, and the very first year it was held. It’s been oddly cool both years (even for August in VT) but that just means I haven’t felt guilty about passing on the swimming, boating, and hiking in favor of knitting and spinning.

kettle pond

The site at Kettle Pond state park is beautiful, the car camping is easy (drive up sites, lean-to’s for shelter, and a shower just down the road) and the company is always splendid! At $17.50 for three days and three nights you really can’t beat the price. So if you’re in the area, or want to come to VT for the weekend of August 12-15, please sign up! If you have questions check out the Wiki for more details, and registration info, or just ask me!

night at camp
(I can’t wait for summer)

playing with photoshop

One* good thing has come from the daylight savings jump. The light when I get home after work is just perfect for photo shoots. With the light dusting of snow we got the other day I decided I wasn’t going to get a nicer looking (mud is rarely pretty) late-spring chance.

out take

But this wasn’t a photo shoot for a new pattern. Instead it’s the first of a series of older patterns I need to re-shoot. The photos for La Moelle were taken two cameras ago, and the resolution is lousy. At least one or two of them may actually have been old cell phone photos – from before the days of a 5MP camera in your smart phone.

Along with the new camera I got last fall and the nice tripod my mom gave me over the winter there’s one more thing that’s pushed me into this. Neil** and I got a copy of Adobe Creative Suite. So now I can do crazy things, like adjust the lighting, swap the colors, or make the whole photo look old.

playing with pictures

But the ability to just make the photos look much nicer – without looking edited – is my favorite bit.
Now I’m beginning to teach myself a little Illustrator (for things like header graphics and schematics) and after that there will be some In Design. I know I could hire a professional for this, but I’ve always enjoyed the layout portion of making my patterns and I have enough of an artistic streak to want to make my own graphics. I also have friends with lots of creative suite experience that I can call up and say “HEEEELP!!” if I need to. One of my major goals for 2011 will be to get all my older patterns re-formatted, re-photographed, and even re-knit if necessary. So stay tuned for some re-release announcements.

*I’m still getting up in the dark, so I’m still unhappy about the change.
**Neil’s a student – that helped a LOT.

Dulce de Leche

Dulce de Leche
My little green buttons finally arrived!

dulce with tea

Which means I had a little photo shoot with my finished Dulce de Leche sweater.

dulce 3

I used Valley Yarns Charlemont (from webs) for this sweater – a machine washable silk and wool blend. I needed JUST BARELY more than 2 skeins. Seriously, I think I used about 6 yards of the final skein to finish up the crochet edging and sew on the buttons. I used a fingering weight yarn knit up at 5 sts to the inch, so it’s a very economical sweater even if you wanted to use a really pricey sock yarn – which Charlemont really isn’t. It is a nice yarn with excellent drape and very soft. It worked pretty well at this gauge, although I think the yarn called for in the pattern may be a little heavier weight.

dulce back

I followed the pattern as written! (crazy talk!) The row gauge is important for this sweater and at one point I was working three separate sets of instructions (bust shaping, placket shaping, and body shaping) at the same time. The directions are very clear – and they do say right at the start that you’ll either need multiple row counters or a spare sheet of paper to keep track. I used the spare sheet of paper, assigned each row a number, and wrote what needed to happen on that row. Having done that in advance knitting it up was quite easy – but I have to say this pattern is more complex than the finished sweater looks.

dulce out for the evening

This is the first sweater I’ve worked with the sleeves picked up at the top and worked down using short row shoulders. The technique is very clearly explained and was a lot of fun to work up. I definitely think I’ll try this again sometime. I like how it can be worn demurely with the buttons done up and a camisole; or with the buttons undone for more, um, exposure.

sassy dulce

In fact I love this little sweater so much I’m having to strongly resist the urge to cast on a similar one RIGHT NOW. Maybe Mata Hari or Promenade could be next? But I’m sticking to my resolution to finish two sweaters before casting on the next one. So I have to finish either the peace fleece sweater or gwendolyn next…

Maple Syrup!!

Sunday we recovered from our long weekend by taking full advantage of one of Vermont’s best traditions: Maple Syrup Open House weekend. One weekend during sugaring season sugarmakers* open their houses to the public for tastings and tours.

6 sugar houses

I call this the day I see if I can drink maple syrup until it comes out my ears. This year we visited 6 sugarhouses just in our little 3 town area. I have a pretty high tolerance for maple syrup (maybe from drinking when my dad made it as a kid growing up?) although not as high as the guy who showed us the coffee mug he keeps next to his boiler and tops up regularly! Anyway, Lamoille county may not be known for much, but my neighbors make a lot of maple syrup up here. Maybe it’s because we’re further north (longer sugaring season) then some parts of Vermont, but still have more of our forests then the highly agricultural Franklin county and the northeast kingdom? That’s my guess anyway.

making syrup

All the commercial sugarhouses are using some variation of these big, steel boilers. Three we saw are actually still wood fired while the rest use oil. Some have RO (reverse osmosis) machines to remove some water before starting, others have steam pipes to steam off extra water before starting to boil. Either way it takes 40-43 gallons of sap to create a single gallon of maple syrup. Given that I consumed almost 16 ounces on Sunday – that’s a lot of sap!

maple history

There’s a maple syrup outlet on the main road that doesn’t have much in the way of tours, but has a great self-guided history display showing old taps, old buckets, a plank from a maple tree with many old tap holes… They also have maple cotton candy, maple creemees (soft serve ice cream) and maple donuts available to buy.

maple products

I was really happy to spend a sunny spring day bumping over the muddy, rutted roads to visit sugarhouses. Neil asked every sugar maker the same question – to explain what the difference was between RO machines and the alternatives. We made a game of comparing the answers each gave us. My favorite was from the guy who gave us the most detail. He talked about how each sugar bush will produce a unique flavor. The trees are growing in unique soil, with a mineral balance, water, sunlight, and tree mixture that no other sugar bush has. And so each creates its own unique flavor (there’s a wine term “terroir” which I’ve heard applied to tomatoes as well. So why not maple syrup?) Apparently the osmosis process removes some of those unique characteristics with the water, so the syrup boiled from that concentrated sap will have a more generic taste. He said this even while admitting he was planning to get an RO machine eventually. He explained that the process yields diminishing returns the more you concentrate the sap – so going from 2% sugar to 4-6% gives a greater return on investment then running the sap up to 20% sugar before boiling it.

All this gave me yet another reason to buy from local producers instead of bulk processors whenever possible! You know, besides my desire to support my neighbors so those sugar bushes covering the hillsides stick around.

*not all of them, Neil and I have counted 5 sugarhouses between us and the main road and none of them took part.

playing catch up

It’s been a long couple of days – Neil and I headed into Portland Maine late last week for a funeral in his family. These things are always rough, but I think everyone is coping as well as we can hope to. We did have a chance to take a break friday afternoon. We ate lunch on a patio in the warm, sunny weather – visiting with relatives including a niece we’d never met. I ducked into KnitWits which is a lovely little LYS that carries all the yarns by Quince & Co. We re-visited several of the local micro-brew restaurants over the weekend, Sebago, Gritty’s, and Sea Dog.

Now I’m trying to catch up with real life. I spent all morning on work e-mails, and now I’ll spend all lunch break on knitting stuff. But I want to say thanks to everyone who left comments, suggestions, and feedback on the e-book idea. It’s great to read about other’s experiences. I’m sure there will be more details soon. I’m hoping to have everything ready for release by this fall – exactly when will depend on what other opportunities come my way.

e-book thoughts

I think I’ve dropped enough hints recently – I’m definitely doing this e-book thing! But I’m still not sure of all the details, so I thought I’d ask you (and you) for opinions! Because what is the internet good for if not sharing ideas and opinions, right? This idea came to me in the shower one evening (all at once as if it dropped from the sky, or possibly the shower head) The collection will be patterns all about hands – gloves, mittens, fingerless mitts, and wrist warmers. They’ll all be tied to the central theme of time: times of day, types of clocks, that sort of thing. There will be the Tea Time mitts and Grandfather Clock gloves. The working title (I feel really clever about this one) is Time on my Hands. It’s especially funny since that’s something I rarely have extra of! So that’s about all I know. Ok, not true – I actually have all eight designs already sketched out, some yarns chosen from my stash, and other yarns (and buttons!) headed my way through the mail. Really, the design part of this is pretty well in hand*

pattern mosaic

What I’m still researching, thinking about, and mulling over is the best way to release the e-book. I know that when everything is finished I’d like to have the patterns available either for individual download or as a set in e-book form. Ravelry has some great features for this (not the least of which is being able to sell patterns to people without accounts) and you may know about Ysolda’s Whimsical Little Knits and Romi’s 7 Small Shawls – both books are available either as complete e-books or as single pattern PDF downloads.
What I’m considering is how to release the patterns. I could wait until I have all 8 patterns ready to go, and release the book as a complete set. I might show sneak-peak photos in the lead up but no patterns would be available until everything is ready. Another option is to wait until I have everything ready to go, and then do a pattern release once a week (once a day, every other week, or something) Yet another thing I’m considering is working the patterns up one at a time, through the knitting, photography, layout and tech editing – and then releasing each as soon as it’s finished. This would result in a pattern a month – give or take a few weeks depending on how complicated each one is. Options one and two keep the cohesiveness of the book together while option three might mean the first few designs could earn some money to cover the tech editing, layout, etc… expenses of the final ones.
If I go with options 2 or 3 I could also offer the complete collection in advance. The complete e-book will cost less than buying each pattern individually. Offering it in advance would give people who love hand patterns a way to buy in early – they’d provide support towards finishing the collection (like a knitting pattern CSA). And they would get each PDF as soon as it’s released without having to wait for the rest of the collection or spend extra money.
What do you think? Do you like one idea best? Have you ever bought patterns released in a compilation in one of these ways? Seen another designer with a similar project? Concerns? Suggestions? I’m open to suggestions!

*I do love puns.


Sometimes, when I don’t know what to say,

myles on guard

you just get a rooster-at-sunset photo instead. The birds have been venturing outside to play in the muddy driveway. I think Myles is waiting outside for the guineas to go in. Sadly for him, the guineas don’t think they’re part of his flock…