Friday, June 25, 2010

It's been a disaster of a week for my crafting, but a good week for adventures. I thought I'd share with you a handful of photos from our hot air balloon ride this early morning in Taos ...

It's the most peaceful thing in the world to float through in the air in a hot air balloon.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer Solstice Dress

Just in time for the solstice, I sewed myself a fiery sundress in "Pompeian Red" linen.

I was just winging it: I traced out an A-line skirt, adjusted the back darts, added a bodice panel, sewed in a zipper down the back seam, and then fashioned triangles for the top.

The triangles turned out a little more risque than I intended. Also, the back darts are uneven. And it's unlined. And the zipper's a bit off. But I'm going to wear it anyways.

I'm trying to think about my sewn garments as learning pieces at this point rather than stress about their imperfections. It's hard, though. I'm used to being a perfectionist with my knitting, and it's tough learning to be a beginner again.

But I do genuinely want to get good at this, so I am working on keeping my perfectionist mind at bay. And in this case, I'm pretty damn pleased with what I worked out!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

growing madder

Today was a gardening day. I thought I'd share with you the full extent of my dye garden: one rambling madder plant

Last spring, I had exceedingly ambitious plans for a dye garden. I planted woad, lady's bedstraw, madder, kota, and dyer's coreopsis. Between the arid air, the harsh sun, and the insects, only a single madder plant made it to maturity.

But that one plant is thriving. It survived last summer and stayed green through the winter freezes, and it's been growing like mad (ha!) this spring and summer.

It's completely filled the whiskey barrel and is overflowing with spindly stalks and scratchy leaves. I must say, it's not a very appealing plant. But it makes my heart swell when I peek underneath the plant and see those ruddy roots, knowing that they'll one day be simmered up into a earthy brew of orange dye:

Madder plants need to be at least three years old before you can harvest them for the roots, so this plant has one more year to go. I'm trying to encourage the stems to set more roots by layering them under the soil here and there where they flop on the ground. With luck, I'll have madder for years to come!

Monday, June 14, 2010


Mountain Man and I took ourselves on a wee roadtrip adventure last week: climbing in Southern California, drinking lattes in L.A., camping in the desert northeast of Las Vegas, taking in the beauty of Zion and the Grand Canyon, hiking in Flagstaff, and finally descending home into the heat of the low desert.

Joshua Trees at dawn

As you can imagine, with that much driving, there was much knitting. I finished a secret and substantial project on the drive to L.A., and after that I worked on an experimental shawl in fawn alpaca.

Knitting at the Grand Canyon

During the trip, I felt like I was bursting with scenes and stories to share, but now that I'm back, those thoughts have quieted down. What I'm really left with is a strong impression of the desert color palette - blue sky, pink rocks, green vegetation - and a sense of peacefulness. I'd like to be better at "unplugging" like that even when I'm home.

Colorado River from the Navajo Bridge

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Sea Urchin - Pattern

[Note: you can download this pattern as a PDF by clicking here]

Whimsical, bobbled sea urchin
, knit in soft wool and felted into a sturdy and intriguing ovoid, about the size of the palm of your hand. Use it as a pincushion, toy, or displayable curiosity.


: 15-20 yards of Cascade Ecological Wool (100% wool, 250g/478yds), color 8010 (note: both worsted and bulky weight yarn will work in this pattern)
US 10.5 (6.5 mm) double pointed needles
: tapestry needle; stuffing (wool roving, fabric scraps, synthetic filling, etc.)


14 stitches and 18 rows = 4" (gauge measured before felting)
: Finished, stuffed sea urchin is approximately 3.5" across and 2.25" high

B3 = 3-stitch bobble: K1,P1,K1 into next stitch; turn and K3; turn and Sl1-K2tog-PSSO
B4 = 4-stitch bobble: K1,P1,K1,P1 into next stitch; turn and K4; turn and Sl1-K2tog-PSSO
K = knit
K2tog = knit two together
Kfb = knit into the front and back of the next stitch
P = purl
PSSO = pass slipped stitch(es) over the knit stitch
Sl = slip knitwise


Cast on 14 stitches. Divide stitches among 3 double-pointed needles and join in a circle.Round 1: Knit

Round 2: [K1, Kfb] 7 times (21 stitches)

Round 3: Knit

Round 4: [K2, Kfb] 7 times (28 stitches)

Round 5: Knit

Round 6: [K3, Kfb] 7 times (35 stitches)

Rounds 7, 9, 11: K3, [B4, K6] 4 times, B4, K3

Rounds 8, 10, 12: Knit

Round 13: K3, [B3, K6] 4 times, B3, K3

Round 14: K2, [Sl1, K2tog, PSSO, K4] 4 times, Sl1, K2tog, PSSO, K2 (25 stitches)

Round 15: K2, [B3, K4] 4 times, B3, K2

Round 16: Knit

Round 17: K2, [B3, K4] 4 times, B3, K2

Round 18: K1, [Sl1, K2tog, PSSO, K2] 4 times, Sl1, K2tog, PSSO, K1 (15 stitches)

Round 19: K1, [B3, K2] 4 times, B3, K1

Round 20: [Sl1, K2tog, PSSO] 5 times (5 stitches)

Break yarn, leaving a 6" tail. Thread yarn tail on a tapestry needle and draw through remaining stitches. Sew in ends.

Felt the sea urchin by machine (toss into a hot or warm wash) or by hand (soak in hot water with a dash of soap and gently rub with your hands). When it's felted to your desired dimensions, rinse and let dry.

Stuff the sea urchin. To close the opening at the bottom, thread about 8" of yarn onto your tapestry needle and take small running stitches around the opening. Pull tightly to close the hole. Tie the ends of the yarn in a knot and hide them inside the sea urchin.


Saturday, June 05, 2010

Sea Urchin

Feeling whimsical, I knit myself a sea urchin pincushion.

Conceived, knit, felted, and finished in a couple of hours.

Free pattern to come in the next few days ...

Tuesday, June 01, 2010


I sewed myself a dress this weekend. Not my off-the-cuff primitive feed sacks of the past, but a real frock!

Sort of real, at least. It was my "swatch dress," my vehicle for learning how to set zippers and fit patterns, in a simple cotton muslin. It was definitely a learning experience. I can't even begin to tell you how many seams I had to rip, how many curses I uttered over the zipper, and how close I came to throwing it out in a fit of fury. But, however slowly, it came together.

It's amateurish, and, admittedly, not the most flattering garment (in such a crisp fabric, it puffs out like a balloon below the bodice!). But I learned a lot and expect to wear it anyways, and the next one that I make will go twice as well. If you're interested, the pattern is Cynthia Rowley, Simplicity 2587.

In other swatching news, I've been testing out a couple of yarns to make another version of my Vermont shawl. These are the base yarns for swatching. The final yarn will, of course, be a lovely green.