Sarah Jane Humke

The life of a traveling, reading, writing, spining and knitting shepherdess.

Underground February 25, 2012

Sorry for the radio silence of late.  The job has finally kicked into gear and I was out and about most of last week.  Also, my apartment in Ames is partially underground.  I don’t know if this is the reason that the internet has been slow for the past few days or if there is just some dork trying to download porn ahead of me or something, but it has been twitchy enough that just getting my emails has been a challenge some days let alone posting a big, long blog post!

So when I got back to the farm Friday I had a fun pile of mail waiting for me.  Most of it was too banal for you my dear readers, but there was one piece that I thought that y’all should have a look at because it is beautiful.  It was a lovely birthday present from Jon at Easyknits.

It is the first edition of his Spin Love fiber club.  Isn’t it lovely?!?!?  Honestly, I don’t think that I will ever be a good enough photographer to be able to capture these colors with all the intensity they possess.   Both of the braids are 100% New Zealand Polworth wool and are soft and squishy.  I am really looking forward to spinning these, though I feel I should really come up with aplan for them first!

My little Traveler wheel is going to be getting some more miles put on it in the next few weeks as I plan on taking it back and forth with me to Ames.  I don’t have a lot to do there at night since I don’t really know anyone in town anymore so I can see me getting alot of spinning and knitting done in the next few months!

In other news, I have ordered new glasses and contacts for the first time in a few years this past week.  I’ve needed to do this for a while now, but I wanted to wait until I had a regular paycheck coming in before I got them.  I’ve not worn contacts regularly for the past several years (read 10+) so the options out there have really changed a lot!  I guess this means that I will have to start paying more attention to my eyebrows than I do now as my current glasses more or less completely obscure them from sight!


Random Bits February 4, 2012

I’m really loving these printed bags as well as these.  The second bag would be especially great for an emergency knitting/crocheting kit for the car:-)

This article made me weep, in a good way.

I’ve been watching Round the Twist with Carin as a knitting compliment.  I don’t know if the video aspect really helps it all that much as I pretty much treat it as a podcast.  However, the episodes are reasonably short (around the 20 minute mark) and while she doesn’t have quite the energy that a lot of the podcasts and video casts do with two people, it is still worth watching/listening to.

I got some roving from BugSnugger at Sticks and String and it is perfectly luscious stuff.  Totally check out her shop! (Don’t worry, you’ll hear more about this as I am getting ready to start spinning it. However, I have a manic kitten that is making it nearly impossible to do as she is ATTACKING anything that moves!)

I have a metal candle topper that is sort of like this that I love to death!  I’ve had it for years and years and I got it at either Michaels or JoAnns and it really helps if you burn the jar type candles as it limits the amount of oxygen available to the candle, thus making an even flame.

The Decorah (as in Iowa) Bald Eagle cam is weirdly engrossing.  There are really a lot of Bald Eagles roaming around the Midwest now, a huge change from my childhood when a Bald Eagle siting made the evening news it was so rare.  We have a couple of eagles roaming around this area and I’ve seen them as close as the outside of our grove.   They like to hang around water usually, but are pretty adaptable and will eat road kill as well as fresh kills.

This is just fantastic.  I sometimes don’t agree with what Dan Savage writes, but in my opinion, he has handled this exchange wonderfully.  I do think that he could have been a little more fair to the parents, who are just doing what they think is best for their child but I understand that originally this was a private exchange between him and this 17 year-old girl.  The teen years aren’t easy for anyone and especially for someone whose parents are suddenly ashamed of who she is.  That shits not easy for anyone, no matter how old they are!

A word to the wise: Be careful when snuggling an animal who, in normal situations, shows playfulness or affection by headbutting.  Owww!

Edited to Add: I was such a spaz when I wrote this!  I forgot to mention that EasyKnits is having a fiber (or more likely Fibre since he is in the UK) club called The Spin Love Club.  It is done on a month by month basis, so no need to pony a ton of cash up front for it.  There will be 2 separate braids of fiber for a total of 200 grams and they are dyed differently but in the same color palate so they are fraternal twins.   This could be very, very fun for a 2 or 4 ply yarn to have totally differently dyed wools to start with that are in the same colors!  I’m really looking forward to seeing my first batch of it!



It’s not all goats and politics around here! January 3, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sarah Jane Humke @ 9:44 am
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I’ve not just been feeding baby goats and learning about Iowan politics lately.  I’ve also been spinning!  You might remember me posting about the Easyknits dyed Merino that I was spinning into (really) fine singles.  Well, I filled three bobbins with that wool and plied them together to make a really lush, soft and just yummy yarn.  This is the kind of yarn that gets stuffed down shirt fronts at knitting events.  Really, it’s that good.  It ended-up being really well-balanced as well after I plied it which was sort-of a first for me.  The only disappointment for me?  The red in the dyed wool ended-up being a lovely shade of pink in the finished yarn.  Had I anticipated this happening, I probably would have just pulled it out and held onto it for another project.  What I did instead was to simply take the finished yarn with the pink in it and skeined it separately.

Please excuse the flashes of gold, pieces of a Christmas bow were the only thing that I had handy to mark the meterage onto that was waterproof!

These skeins are a nice 3-ply DK weight yarn totaling a little over 640 meters total.

The two all blue/grey skeins were each 150 meters for 300 meters total.

The two pink/blue skeins totaled about 340 meters.

I have immediate plans for the two blue/grey skeins while I am still pondering the fate of the pink/blue skeins.  They may end-up being made into something for a certain blue-eyed and blonde Finn that I happen to know:-)

The pictures that I took don’t honestly do the skeins justice.  However, I was battling 30mph wind gusts, sub-freezing wind-chill and the fact that the sun was departing the sky rapidly in order to get these photographed.

Now, just so you don’t miss a day of goat-y goodness here is a completely dorky picture of me feeding the baby in the middle of the night.  In the cold.  And the dark.  I have finally figured out how to hold the kid, feed it, and take a picture with my iPhone.  Or scratch my nose.


Elf on Strike December 22, 2011

So I have started my spinning again.  I couldn’t for the first few weeks that I was here because the wheel was in transport.  Then once it got here I needed to find the rest of the bits of it as they were packed away in the bewilderingly labeled boxes.  By the time that I finally found them, it was time for Christmas knitting and crochet!


Which I am now avoiding by spinning.

I had a hard time deciding what I was going to spin but finally I settled on this:


It’s from Easyknits and it’s called Winter Berry.  It’s 80% Superfine Merino and 20% Black Diamond (Carbonized Bamboo).  I think that this was a club fiber and it is really lovely to spin.  My night-time photo doesn’t show it very well, but it’s a lovely blend of grey, a dusky blue and red.


So, you might be wondering, what is it that has me avoiding it so strongly?  It is this:

Yes, this is the “Cars” themed blanket that seems like A.) it sucks down yarn faster than a cargo van sucks down gas driving into a 30mph headwind B.) it is doomed in its current incarnation (mostly because of A.).  I started on this blanket in my usual fashion which in this case meant asking my mom how big a 3-4 year-old is.  I asked her because she’s had 2 of them and I’ve had none at this point.  After getting to see said child this week, I realized that this blanket would (in its current incarnation) be too large for him to carry.  Doh.  A shocking lack of knowledge about small children strikes again!

In completely unrelated news (other than, you know, it’s the Christmas season thus winter here in the Northern Hemisphere) it snowed last night.

This is one of those pretty, white dusting snows rather than the last one which was just confused rain.

Snow makes everything prettier, even Micheal!

The view of town.

Have a great day!


Gift Ideas for the Holiday Season Approaching like an Out-Of-Control Mack Truck November 5, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sarah Jane Humke @ 3:35 pm
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So, Christmas time is here again and if you’re struggling to find presents for some of the people in your life, let me make a few suggestions of things that I have found to be wonderful.  These are all things that I have either used myself or friends of mine have used and really liked.  Just to be clear, I am not getting any money or products from any of the companies that I am posting here.*  This is just stuff that I like.  However, if any of them wanted to send me products for say, review, I would be more than glad to have them:-)

For Everyone

Land’s End totes.  I’m pretty sure that I have written about my addiction to Land’s End Totes before but I can’t make a list like this without putting them at the top of it.  These are great for both men or women or even kids!  I’ve had the small one personalized with the name of the recipient before and then filled it with smaller gifts and candy.  This personalized present went over really well.  The extra-large bags would even be big enough to take the place of a toy box in a child’s bedroom.  I cannot recommend these totes strongly enough for pretty much everyone.  That and the service that I have consistently gotten from the employee’s at this company really make me want to keep going back to them for everything.

Eddie Bauer Favorite Tee’s.  Eddie Bauer is another company that makes things that last.  As I write this, I’m wearing a long-sleeved shirt that I got from Eddie Bauer in high school (which was a while ago y’all) and no-one looking at it would ever guess that.  It hasn’t dated style-wise and there’s not a part of it that looks faded or worn in anything close to the (oh God) 15+ years old that it must be.  I’ve given Eddie Bauer bedding as a gift and it is still in use and still looks good 10+ years later.  The Eddie Bauer Long Sleeved Tee’s are one of the staples of my wardrobe, something that I wear on a daily basis.  Usually with an Eddie Bauer Men’s Fleece Vest over the top of it for greater warmth (and more pockets!).

Now, I know that I have mentioned these folks before, but they deserve another mention.  Queen Bee Creations.  I am still getting compliments on my Christmas present truckette purse from at least 3 years ago.  I use it pretty much daily and it still looks nearly new.   And I’m not one of those women who babies her purse.  Un-uh.  It has been thrown and shoved and stepped-on and wadded-up and shoved in other luggage.  Still, I get stopped by strangers on the street (for real) asking where I got my purse.  This isn’t some “it” purse of the season (Are “they” even still doing that? Clearly I am not a fashionista [like you couldn’t already tell that from the above choices!]) but if you chose one of their bags it will be well made and stand-up to nearly anything you throw at it.  I’ve taken this bag on lots of trips and on forays into some kinda dodgy places and I wasn’t too worried about my bag getting nabbed as it has securely sew-on seatbelt webbing straps that are long enough to go across your body.  There’s no way a would be thief would be able to grab your purse and have the straps break off.  It would take some pretty serious cutting at which point I would hope that you would hit him with it! I also have the Poppy Trucker which I am currently using for job interviews (it matches the interview outfit:-)) and it’s held-up as well as the purse has (though it hasn’t gotten nearly as much use…)

Kershaw Scallion Plain Edge Folding Knife.  I know, it is probably a little weird to be going from a purse to a pocket knife, but hey, that’s who I am!  I’ve had this knife for at least 8 years now.  I carried-it on a daily basis when I was working in the greenhouse and it got used a lot.  I’ve gotten a lot of compliments from guys when I pull it out to cut something and not those, “oh isn’t it cute she carries a pocket knife,” kind of compliments rather ones more like, “nice knife, where did you get that?” or even better, “wow, I have one just like that!”.  I see that they sell a version in pink now so if you have a slightly more girly girl who you think needs a good solid knife, she has one that the guys will give back for sure!  Personally, I would love the red version as I have nearly lost this green one in foliage a number of times (and I just love red!).

While I am on the “sharps” part of the list I would be seriously remiss if I didn’t mention Slip N Snip Folding Scissors.  This company has been making these in the USA for years now (I remember my Grandpa carrying these in his store when I was a little girl) and they are still making an excellent product.  I’ve taken these through many security lines at airports just sort of attached to my key chain.  Since they don’t look like anything exciting when they are folded-up going through an x-ray, I never had any problems with them even when they were confiscating the little tiny Swiss Army knives.  They are sturdy and fold-up smoothly every time, even after years of use.  These would make a fantastic stocking stuffer for everyone except small children (there are pointy, sharp bits) and can be found on Amazon.

Sheepskin slippers from either Land’s End or L.L. Bean.  Yeah, they are pricey, but they last for years and years (assuming the dog doesn’t take a liking to them!) and enable you to lower the temperature in the house.  If your feet are warm, the rest of you will be a lot warmer too!  And who doesn’t like the gift of lower heating bills!  One brand that I would not suggest is Ugg brand slippers.  If you have an adolescent that is begging for Uggs, don’t try to cheap out of it by buying them slippers instead of the boots.  They will not get it that they are slippers and will wear them outdoors, thus ruining them.  Trust me on this, I worked in shoe retail for a Holiday season and I saw more than one pair brought back in which this happened.  Uggs are much more expensive than the two that I already named and not particularly better quality.  They are not worth the extra money.

If you have someone on your list who just loves Christmas and really does the decorating and the whole shebang, then I would suggest Rubbermaid Roughneck Storage Boxes.  I can hear you rolling your eyes at me, but really, these bad boys really stand-up to everything you can throw at them year after year.  As someone who has made two international moves I can testify to how well they survive.  Don’t skimp and get the cheaper ones as they will crack and break eventually, trust me on this!  Now they are making a Roughneck Sheds and I have a feeling that I would like them as well.  Sigh…

Reisenthel Bags.  Another bag company that I’ve talked about before, but really, when you use two of their products on a daily basis, you really should be talking about them!  I have the All Rounder in (I think) Large.  I use it as my carry-on bag for flying.  It’s large enough to fit my laptop (and all the wires and crap that comes with it), my camera and a couple of extra lenses, a small pile of magazines and books for reading, and all the other assorted travel crap that you need.  It’s padded so that even if it gets slammed by a neighboring roll aboard in the overhead, your laptop will still work when you get there.  The strap is sturdy and the padded bit has some rubberized stuff on it so that it doesn’t slip off your shoulder.  Excellent, excellent bag.  This is another bag that has gotten a lot of use and does not show it at all.  I also use the Mini Maxi for shopping.  It’s big enough that it holds a lot but sturdy enough that you don’t feel like the seams are going to come out of it carrying your shopping home.  Since it rolls up into a nice little packet, this bag would make a great stocking stuffer!

Source Sports Sandals Classic.  I bought a pair of these at least 7 years ago and they are still going strong.  More importantly, they don’t smell strong!  One of the reviewer’s on the site mentioned that theirs had a, “Great vanilla smell even after 3 years!”.  Mine don’t smell like vanilla, but they don’t smell like ass either!  One of the unique features of these sandals is that they come with a green dot on the bottom of them.  The warranty on these sandals is 2 years plus up to an additional 2 years if the green dot is still visible so that folks who don’t do heavy-duty hiking in them will have a longer warranty than those that are harder on them.  I still have the green dot on the bottom of mine, and I wore them A LOT when I lived in Florida and they were pretty much all I wore in the summer in the UK too! I think that you would have to be doing some pretty serious hiking on a daily basis in order to wear out the green dot before 2 years was up.

Charities that I think use the money effectively are Doctors Without Borders, Heifer International, The Salvation Army and Habitat for Humanity.  If you have someone who really does have everything, before you buy the next gimmicky adult toy at the department store, think about taking that money and giving it to a worthwhile charity.  A donation that is non-specific as to where it goes does the most to help these organizations get goods and services to the people most in need.  Besides, even if they don’t like it, they aren’t about to complain about it to anyone:-)

So I don’t have any of these but they are so cute I just have to share (and would like them myself!). This print and this print and this calendar all from the talented artist Katie Vernon on Etsy.    I think that these minimalist fairy tale prints by Christian Jackson are amazing and would be a really cool alternative to some of the hyper-saccharin children’s decor there is out there.  Or even for some adults!  And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Aardvark Press manifestos.  Kill your TV indeed!

Charmin to Go.This is a total stocking stuffer, but I have to mention it especially since it appears that you can get a pack of 24 for $21.99 on Amazon!  One for everyone’s stockings right now!!!!

For Pet Owners

Marchioro Clipper Carriers.  Great pet carriers that stand up to abuse.  A handful of mine have been in daily use, and you couldn’t tell the difference from the ones that are only occasionally used.  They don’t come with the bolts that some airlines (I’m looking at you United!) require now, but they do have bolt holes under the snaps and you can pick-up the bolts cheaply enough if you are flying.  These crates don’t fall apart like some that I’ve dealt with and are excellent for daily use.

Flexi Retractable Leashes.  Another one that I use many times a day.  I really couldn’t believe the difference between this retractable lead and a cheaper one that I got in the US.  Yes, they are more expensive.  Yes they are worth it.  The mechanism in these leads is much faster and smoother than other leads that I’ve used.  It has been dropped, kicked, dragged and thrown (extra bad dog day there) and it still works as well as the day I got it.  I have the Classic Long Large for Malcolm but it looks like they have an option to customize the leads now for an extra special gift!

Birkenstock Garden Clogs.  These are fan-freaking-tastic when you have to run out with the dog for the umpteenth time in an evening.  The ones that I linked to aren’t exactly the same as the pair that I’ve had for 4 or 5 years now, but they are similar enough that I think that this is just the newest styling of the ones that I have.  These clogs combine the comfort that you expect from Birkenstocks with the durability and water resistance of a garden clog.  The shoes are fairly tall, so that even if you step in a bit of mud or water, it doesn’t get up in your socks.  I wore these sometimes to walk the dogs in, they are that comfy.  There are only a few downsides to these shoes really.  First off they will make your feet really sweaty if you wear them in hot weather.  Secondly, they aren’t great in snow.  You will get snowy socks if you wear them in the white stuff.  And lastly, my dogs seem to like to chew on them:-P

SmartyKat Super Scratcher.  Will help to save furniture while making happy cats.  Who doesn’t like that?

For all Fiber Freaks (Spinners, Knitters and Hookers)

The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook by Carol Ekarius and Deborah Robson.   In a world becoming increasingly specialized, folks in the fiber arts should know where their fiber is coming from.  The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook is really essential reading for anyone wanting a better understanding of the materials that they are working with, or really anyone interested in fiber animals!  If the fiber artist in your life doesn’t yet have this book then you have at least one Christmas gift for them this year.  Really, it’s a no-brainer.  It’s a big, beautiful book that is destined to be a classic!  Go get it now.  Seriously people, get it.

All Wound Up: The Yarn Harlot Writes for a Spin.  I will be honest here.  I’ve not yet read this book.  However, I have read everything else that she has published in the knitting genera and I feel reasonably confident that this book is just as excellent as all her previous books have been.  Plus, this is one that I want for Christmas!!

Hefty One-Zip Jumbo Bags.  These are 2.5 gallon zippered plastic bags.  That’s big enough to get most of a sweater in progress in.  Or a lot of roving or yarn.  Love, love love these bags.  Unfortunately, it seems that at least around here (meaning in all the places I’ve lived and visited in the US) the only place that I’ve been able to find them are at Target.  It’s not that I don’t love Target, it’s just that it would be nice if these were in every grocery store and big box store like the rest of the Hefty line.  And yes, I really have given these as gifts.

If you like the idea of a surprise of different yarns and goodies arriving for the knitter or spinner, then the Phat Fiber Mystery Box would be perfect!  Each month there is a different theme and oodles of indie dyers, fiber producers, and folks that make knitting and spinning accessories send in samples of their products that fit the theme for the month.  Not every box is filled with the same producers (that would be a lot of samples for one indie producer to come up with!) but they are all little representatives of what they can make.  There is a yarn only box, a fiber only box and a mixed box.  I got one of the mixed boxes for Christmas last year and it was so much fun!  The only problem with this present is that you do have to stalk it a bit in order to get one.  However, they do let you sign-up for a newsletter to let you know when the boxes are going on sale and what the themes are and things like that, so it’s not like stalking a particular color of Wollmeise!

For someone who wants to feel like they are a part of where their fiber or yarn comes from, there is Juniper Moon Farm’s CSA program.  They had the first fiber CSA in the country.  When you buy a share you get percentage off in their shop, invitation to the Shearing Day Celebration as well as either yarn or rovings of your choice.   This isn’t the “cheapest” way to get yarn or rovings, but it is one of the more interesting ways.  Personally, I like it better than having a star named after me or something like that!

For Spinners

J&S Shetland Combed Tops or an actual Shetland Fleece hand-picked by Oliver for your favorite spinner.  If you are living in the UK or Europe, you could order a raw Shetland Fleece to be picked-out by Oliver for your special someone.  If you live elsewhere, you will have to order their combed tops as they won’t mail a raw fleece out of Europe due to international restrictions.  However, the tops at J&S are lovely and a real treat to work with.  Order the Superfine white for an extra special treat!

Mini carders.  These are from P&M Woolcraft a lovely company based in Milton Keynes, England.  I’m sure that these must be available somewhere else too, but I’ve yet to find them.  If you do, please let me know in the comments!  Even if you do have to order them from England, the folks at P&M are wonderful to work with and will get your order shipped-out as quickly as humanly possible!

A subscription to Spin-Off magazine.  Duh.

For Knitters and Crocheters

Easyknits Yarn.  Jon makes lovely yarns.  If you aren’t sure what color to get the knitter or crocheter in your life order them a few months of one of Jon’s yarn clubs.  There is the Sock Club which comes in different fiber flavors that you can choose from or the Shawl Club which comes with a sushi roll.  Both clubs get patterns and goodies to go along with the yarn chosen that month.  Since it is a month to month club, you can get as many months as you would like rather than having to get a years club (which can get a little pricey!).  The colors are always new and Jon tries really hard to find fun new extras to put in the packages.  Much better than a wine-of-the-month club (though that could be nice too I suppose…)  Jon has also rolled-out (after much annoying prodding from me and others:-)) his Little Guys line, which is a set of 5-20 gram mini skeins all in a color family ready for color work or for a sock yarn blanket or beekeeper’s quilt.  These would make an excellent gift for someone working on either of these projects! (Which I am….)

Patterns from Dutch Knitting Design.  Marleen has tons of patterns available in English and really I cannot praise them enough.  Her patterns are thoughtfully worded and graphed.  Marleen tries to use commonly available yarns (she has a collection of Noro designs as well as a bunch of patterns in Kidsilk Haze) so that you aren’t running around trying to find a yarn at your LYS that simply isn’t available except in one corner of Mongolia (y’all know what I’m talking about here!)

A set of needles from Signature Needle Arts.  This is not one to surprise your knitter with as these puppies are A.) sort of customized and B.) really not cheap.  I don’t own a pair myself but I know a few folks that do, a couple of them knit for a living, and they all love them.  They also do Gift Certificates if you still want to surprise them on the big day and then they can choose the needles that they want themselves.

Pretty much anything from Succaplokki.  This artist is located in Finland and make all the Knitting Accessories from recycled plastic.  There are Needle Sizers in all sorts of shapes, Stitch Markers, Mitten and Sock Blockers as well as Gauge Checkers.  The products are all well made and packaged in funky recycled papers and packaging.  All are very fun and would make great stocking stuffers!

The Quizzical Owl has all sorts of quirky jewelery and stitch markers from Legos and well pretty much anything little and fun that Alex finds interesting!  If you want something that you don’t see in her shop, she is more than willing to make custom items!

Subscriptions to either (or both!) Interweave Knits or Interweave Crochet.  Double duh.

Posh Folks

For the folks on your list who only want really luxe, high-end stuff might I suggest a key ring from Tiffany’s.  I got one of these as a graduation from high school gift and I still have it and use it.  One of the things that they don’t tell you is that if you lose the little ball on the end of it (there was an incident in Mobile, Alabama after their Mardi Gras and silver beads on the sidewalk everywhere) they will replace it.  At least when I went in to get it replaced, it was free.  They just gave me another one.  No questions and no issues at all.  And, best of all, it still comes in that little blue box with all the trimmings!

*I have gotten presents in the past from Jon of Easyknits and Marleen of Dutch Knitting Design as I am friends with both but I am not receiving anything for this post nor was I asked to promote their products.  I just really like their stuff!!!


Adventures in Moving: Day 3 September 14, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sarah Jane Humke @ 2:07 pm
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6:30am Milo the insane cat wakes me up with scratching and meowing at the bedroom door.  She is definitely freaked out by this move.  Hopefully the movers will be able to clear the spare bedroom completely today so that I could open up the attic for her to go up into.  The attic is her favorite place in the world and where she feels safest.  And where I know she won’t be tempted to dart out the front door in a frenzy of fear.

9am Movers are here again.  I feel as though they will finish quite early today as they are whipping through what is left quite quickly.

10:30am Ventured out from the bedroom hole-up during the guys break.  The house feels unnaturally hollow and echo-y.  Malcolm luxuriated in being able to really stretch out and pranced about a bit to celebrate. I forget that he’s not ever seen the house empty.

11:30am Realized that one of the big problems with wrapping everything so thoroughly is that it is going to be wickedly difficult to tell what’s what at a glance and also how heavy it would be.  Also, how fragile it will be.  They are putting my massive clay pots into boxes.  Hmmm.

Noon  Now I get why people always talk about losing items during a move.  This is the first move that I’ve not packed for myself and already I am missing several things.  I’m sure it will only get worse.

12:45pm The movers are gone.  The fit the last of the items into their big truck and left.  The house seems very, very big suddenly.  Malcolm’s crate is gone, so he is a free range chicken for a while so to speak.


Tomorrow I am planning on heading into the city to see Jon of EasyKnits one more time and to kind of, I don’t know, say goodbye to London.






Woolfest Week August 17, 2011

Malin, Barbro and Tini all flew to London to join me in an adventure up to the Lakes District to attend Woolfest in June (BTW, there is a picture of the 4 of us in the photo gallery on the Woolfest site:-)).  The day that everyone flew-in was pretty laid-back.  Lots of knitting and a little bit of drum carding!

Tini making batts

Thursday we left bright and early for “The North” (that’s what all the signs say when you are heading North here).  The car was well packed and the journey took less time than expected due to lack of traffic.  I kinda decided that the ladies needed to visit Hill Top, Beatrix Potter’s home.  A visit to the Lakes District isn’t really complete without it in my opinion because of all the work that she did in preserving the area and the famous Herdwick Sheep breed.   

On the way to the cottage, we saw some of these lovely rare sheep doing their thing in a field with a handy parking area so we could stop and take some pictures.

I also caught a shot of the elusive Malin on holiday:-)

We then went to find our cottage, which was sort-of on the other side of the mountains.  However, it was a great deal for the 4 of us so we weren’t in the mood to complain too much:-)  When we got there, after a really lovely drive through the District, we found fresh scones with clotted cream and a bottle of wine in the fridge to greet us! The cottage had 2 bedrooms, a sitting room and kitchen and a bathroom.  Really, it was just about perfect for the 4 of us for the weekend!

The sitting room (you can't see the fireplace but there was one!)

The Kitchen

Bedroom #1 with the beautiful stone wall

Bedroom #2

That night we went down the road to a local pub and got fish and chips for dinner then came back and knit around the fireplace until bed.  The next morning we were all up bright and early in order to get into the festival first thing.  We got there before it opened and waited in que with a lot of other lovely fiber folks from all over the country.  One of them took a lovely photo of the 4 of us.

All of us were wearing the mini shawls that I had been knitting in the weeks prior.  From left to right:  Barbro in her Alyssum designed by Marleen knitted in Noro Kureyon Sock, Tini in her Peacock Shawlette by Kitman Figueroa in Wollmeise Twin (that ironically she had given me a few years prior!) Me in my Simple Things by Mary-Heather Cogar in Skein Queen Entwist  and Malin in her Holden Shawlette by Mindy Wilkes in Easyknits Twinkle.

Once we were inside, it was a mad rush to the fleece tables.  Now really, how often do you read about a mad rush to fleece tables??  Oh how I love wool festivals!  As you can imagine, there wasn’t a whole lot of picture-taking going on as the fleece area was decimated pretty quickly and we were all surrounded by 2-3′ bumpers of bags of raw wool:-)  I got (ahem) rather a lot of fleeces and the ladies got a few too.  I think that at one point we had 20 fleeces in the back of the car!  Here is a picture of us on the 2nd day at one of the fleece sorting tables:

Special thanks to Knit Magazine for sharing this photo with us. You can also find us on page 47 of issue #40:-) (Yes, we are everywhere looking like we are having fun!)

After we had done a thorough going through of all the fleeces we started taking in the actual event.  Not a lot of pictures of this either as there was a lot of fondling of yarn and wool and oohing and ahhing over the different types and colors of yarns and equipment for sale.  We met-up for lunch as we had brought sandwiches and fruit because I remembered how long the ques were at the food places years past.  After lunch, we all moseyed off in our own directions again, meeting-up randomly throughout the venue.  At the end of the day we all went to the Spin-in where we had dinner and met a lot of new folks.

That night we pretty much crashed at the cottage, admiring each others purchases and (trying) to pack all the fleeces into bags and such.

Saturday was a more leisurely morning as we didn’t feel the need to be at the grounds first thing.  We drove in and stayed until a little after noon, meeting up with some friends and checking out some things that we may have missed the first day.  That afternoon we went to the main Lakeland shop in Windermere for a late lunch and to do a little shopping.  On our way back to the cottage, we found another perfect spot to take some photos of Herdys with a parking spot nearby.

When we got back to the cottage, Malin realized that she had dropped her Holden shawlette on the ground during our Herdy stop.  So, into the car Malin and I went to rescue the shawl.  However, we decided to take a different route back that I had vetoed the first time it was suggested by the GPS unit as it just looked kinda crazy.  It was.  Malin was taking pictures of it all and even did a video at one point to capture the full insanity of it.  To say that it was some of the more interesting driving that I have ever done (and I have done some interesting driving in my life!) would be a gross understatement.  There was a warning of a 30% incline and decline on this road before we even got to the fun parts:-)  This road over 2 mountain passes was a single lane track for the vast majority of it with Herdwicks roaming on all sides and water flowing freely to boot.  There were numerous times where I wasn’t sure where the road went because we were doing 30% up and a corkscrew at the same time.  Oh, and since we were on top of the mountain was really, really foggy at some points!  I didn’t take any photos (that would have been suicide [no rails between us and 100′ drops]) but Malin did and when she has a chance to sort through them and send me some, I will post them here…

Anyway, the rescue party made it over the mountains and found the shawl right where it was thought to be and took the much less exciting route back to the cottage again as it was starting to get dark.

The next day we got up fairly early as we needed to get Tini to her flight home and we still had a full car to pack!  However, Malin and I are pros at packing my Toyota and we managed to get all 20+ fleeces plus baggage for 4 women into the car while still being able to see out the back window.  There was yarn in every nook and cranny though!  We drove back to the London area with plenty of time for Tini to make her flight out of Luton.  The rest of us then went back to the Old Chapel and unpacked the car, much to the amusement of the hubby.

The next day we drove down to the University of Southampton’s Knitting Reference Library.  This was seriously cool, as they have a large collection of knitting books and patterns from about as far back as written knitting patterns go.  Barbro did an excellent blog post about it here but I also took some pictures.

The older magazines were amongst the most interesting

It's interesting to see how Vouge Knitting has changed!

Some of the ads were so cute!

Love the graphics on some of the covers

The ads for wartime knitting sort of blew my mind. Some of them admitted that folks couldn't get their product but said that when they could again they should use their coupons to buy their wool because it re-knit the best!


There were lots of war-time patterns.  Many of them showed how to best re-use wool from a worn-out sweater or dress.  By the end of the war, these patterns were using fabric sewn in to make up for the lack of both yarn and fabric available.  Malin has an excellent picture here showing how the magazines also had to get smaller over a very short period of time due to paper rationing.


This is how we spent most of the afternoon:

The collection is pretty big and quite well-organized.

All of these are knitting or knitting related books

More knitting related books and magazines (in the archival boxes)

One view of the pattern collection

Another view of the pattern collection. It may not look that impressive, but most of those boxes were full and heavy with a LOT of old patterns.

The next day the 3 of us went into London on the train.  First we went to the Camden Markets, which I had never been to before.  Then, in the afternoon we went to Jon of Easyknits house for some retail therapy and Pimm’s!  I didn’t take any photos of all of this (sorry) but Barbro was a regular little Robert Capa so you should check out this blog post of her’s.

That night we came home on the train with many more goodies and very, very tired.  The next day was sort-of a free day.  Malin and Barbro’s flights left in the afternoon, so that left the morning for some kool-aid dyeing and fleece skirting in the courtyard and packing of course!  That afternoon I dropped the ladies off at Heathrow for their flights home with full (though not overly heavy) bags and lots of pictures on their cameras.