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Pattern:  Seeded Mitts by Heidi Buekelman, Yarn:  Happy Feet by Plymouth, dyed by ME

This was my first experiment in self striping yarn.  My mama-in-law asked for some nice sock yarn for Christmas and so I decided that was an excuse to dye some nice sock yarn for her.  Happy Feet is my favorite base.  I have seen it dyed up by many dyers and I just love it.  I love the way it takes the color, I like knitting it and it makes me happy.

So I did some research and it seems that in order to dye something that will self stripe for a sock, you need a section of yarn about 30 inches long.  In otherwords, each 30 inch section you dye equals one row of your sock.  Fingerless mitts are about the same as a sock, so this means that for each of the stripes you see, I had about 3+ yards of that color.

How do you accomplish that?  It is MANY steps.  Not hard, but fiddly for sure.  I used a warping board because I have one.  A warping board (if you have never heard of one) is a giant peg board used by weavers for measuring out warp ends for weaving.  I put my original skein on the swift and wrapped it round and round the pegs to make a new giant skein and added lots of ties with scrap yarn to keep it from getting tangled.

My warping board is big enough that I could make a new loop of yarn that when I stretched it out it was about 5 yards.  (Imagine a letter O that you grab from both sides and pull apart to make a big squished loop.)  I have a huge long table at the Dye Lab at work.  I soaked the skein in citric acid and then I laid the skein on top of plastic wrap the whole length of the table.  The dye is Dharma Acid dyes added with a sponge brush.  4 bright colors mixed half and half with grey.  On the table I painted it in 4 quarters – pink, green, red, blue.

Once the yarn was saturated with the dye then I folded the saran wrap over the sides toward the center and rolled the whole thing up like a snail shell.  Pop it in to a ziploc bag (unsealed) and into a large steamer pot for about 1/2 hour.  You can tell when the dyes are set when the liquid in the ziploc is basically clear.  Then I pulled it out and tried very much to ignore it while it cooled off.  After rinsing and hanging to dry in the shower then it was time to re-skein once again.  This time I stretched it between two chairs in the dining room and walked between them winding it on to my niddy-noddy.  The niddy-noddy makes a skein that fits back on the swift and from there I could wind it in to a ball for knitting.  Each stripe is about 4 knitted rows.  Once I got going it was so fun to knit that these mitts took me just a couple of days of the polar vortex weekend to finish.

Nuts, huh?  Totally super cool yarn is completely worth it.

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1.  A couple more fun finished objects for the holidays.  The woven piece is a camera strap and two more octopi hats.

2.  The high temperature here today was -20 degrees.  It was beautifully bright and sunny, but with the windchill it felt something like 45 degrees below zero.  That is just crazy.  If you throw a cup of coffee in to the air it instantly freezes and patters down on to the ground as snow.  (I am not kidding)

3.  Just to prove that it is indeed a small world sometimes, I wanted to share an email that I got over the holidays.

I just happened upon your lovely blog while researching for my familys upcoming 150th anniversary and I immediately recognised an image of our family ribbons on your post, Exquisite Trims: Passamaneria Valmar.  The two ribbons he showed you are in fact created in my familys factory, Julien Faure of St. Etienne and not in Italy, these are two of the more well known designs. Our company is 5th generation artisans and is one of the only remaining silk ribbon companies still in operation as many have been forced to close after the World Wards due to changing fashions and economic constraints.  I’ve been creating jewellery from antique salesmans samples so I’ve gotten to know the archives pretty well….each ribbon is a miniature work of art!
How cool is that?  Ruth and I have emailed a little back and forth and I am super impressed that she found me and my ribbons and recognized them.  What a neat connection to have!  You should go and visit Rubanesque, her etsy shop, where she does beautiful things with samples and scraps of the ribbons.

PicMonkey Collage


The end of 2013 was just a whirlwind for us.  Events for work, fast flying trips, broken refrigerators, presents to finish, too much nose blowing. There wasn’t much to write about because we were too busy just getting through it.  These are a few snapshots from our trip to SD for the holidays.  For the most part the weather was lovely while we were there, the company was the very best and the vacation was a much needed reset.

PicMonkey Collage2One of my sisters spent the holidays with the other half of her family, so we spent Christmas eve sending her Jello Salad recipes. She was asked to be in charge of the Jello Salad for Christmas Eve dinner, so we wanted to make sure that she had an adequate supply of recipes to choose from.  These are treasures from my great-grandmothers’ recipe boxes/books.  Some are so horrible sounding we could only just laugh.


I made very few gifts this year (because I am working on a book and that takes more time than you think it will.)  A few have not yet been distributed (so they will wait for another post.)  My niece and nephew got this pair of hats.  Both from patterns I made up, but the tractors came from here and the octopus from here.  (The octopus is really clever and my first ever time following a crochet pattern.)

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Hope you all had a lovely wrap up to 2013 and you are starting 2014 on the right foot.




IMG_9462The Thief


Digitally printed fabric with hand embroidery

This piece was my contribution to the art auction in my hometown.  They do a fundraiser every year with a silent auction of 8×8 inch pieces.  The artists are kept anonymous until after the event, so I have been keeping this one under wraps.

This is a collaboration with my mom.  She snapped this photo of one of her neighbor deer. This particular deer had been recently snacking at the neighbors pear tree so I made the repeat pattern behind her with pears and flowers.  I embroidered with shiny rayon thread to addd texture to her nose and ears and then gave her extra thick eyelashes.  I love the “who me?” expression that mom captured.


Several major projects just wrapped up for me and I am finally feeling like I can come up for air a little bit. Last weekend we spent a day buying a new car.  Why does that always take an entire day to accomplish?  It’s bright orange.  Because it’s fun.  And we got a manual transmission, which is super hard to find.  The really nice guy at the car dealership was pretty dumbfounded when I told him that I could drive a stick.  :)  I am voting that we name her Clementine.

This is not my actual car, but mine’s just like this.

Yesterday we raked a bunch of leaves (many of them were orange) and made a trip to our favorite games store.  I have mentioned this before, but I love board games.  We have good friends that we play with very often and we have a gaming “rule” that we always choose the same color for our piece. Mostly it’s for our own sanity, you have to be able to remember who it is that you are ganging up on (green) or who always wins (red).  I am always orange or yellow, depending on what the game has.  We got a copy  of the new Firefly board game.  (Because we are big geeks, I know.)  It has BOTH orange and yellow pieces.  We are totally going to be messed up.


We played a game last night and it is pretty fun and especially so if you are a fan of the show.  The rules have a little ambiguity unfortunately, so we will be having some house rules discussion before we play again.

It was a cold and windy night, so we decided to make soup for dinner.  I saw a tweet from someone about making roasted carrot soup and one of my favorite lunch places makes a curried carrot soup that is amazing.  So we made roasted curry carrot soup.  So yummy (and very orange).

Curried Carrot Soup

2 lbs of carrots

3 small onions

3 inch piece of fresh ginger

3 endives

4 cloves of garlic

1/3 c cider vinegar

1/3 c olive oil

1 tbsp curry powder

1/2 tsp sea salt

vegetable broth

1/3 c heavy cream

Chop all of the vegetables into large chunks.  Put them in a large baking dish.  Combine olive oil, vinegar, curry powder and salt and pour it over the veggies.  Stir to coat them.  Roast at 450 for about 1/2 hour.  Transfer all of the contents of the baking dish to a large soup pot.  Add vegetable broth until the veggies are just covered and simmer for about 1/2 hour, until the carrots are very soft.  Puree. (we use an immersion blender).  You can add a little extra broth depending on how thick you like your soup and then finish by stirring in the heavy cream.

I know the endive is kind of a goofy ingredient.  We started with another recipe to get the proportions of everything and it called for endive.  They had them at the grocery store, so we got them.  I think you could add celery or leeks or leave them out completely and all would work.

Super simple, nicely sweet/spicy.  I am sure you could also add coconut milk instead of cream and it would be equally tasty.  We had it with bread and sharp cheddar cheese.




Pappa Pomodoro is a specialty of the region of Tuscany that we were visiting and I completely fell in love.  It is a simple tomato basil soup with the addition of bread which is simmered in the soup to make a thick hearty porridge-like texture.  If that doesn’t sound wonderful to you, just trust me.  In some places it is served slightly spicy and sometimes just plain.  We sampled several varieties.  It is the ultimate in fresh and flavorful comfort food.  When we got back from the trip, I knew I had to find a recipe and capture this before I forgot what it tasted like.

This is my very slight variation on a recipe I found from Jamie Oliver.

Pappa Pomodoro

2-3 cups chopped tomatoes – Jamie uses cherry tomatoes, I used romas from the Farmers Market chopped into quarters or big chunks.

3 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly

a large handful of fresh basil leaves

olive oil

salt & pepper

a large can of diced tomatoes (28 oz)

2-3 cups of stale ciabatta bread, chopped/ripped into bite-sized pieces

crushed red pepper (optional)

Chop the roma tomatoes into large chunks (or use cherry tomatoes and slash the skins so they don’t “pop”).  Place those on a large, rimmed baking sheet, drizzle generously with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.  Add one of the garlic cloves and rip up a small batch of basil leaves and sprinkle them over the top.  Roast these tomatoes at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.  Meanwhile, add a generous couple of tablespoons of olive oil to a large pot and saute the remaining garlic for just a couple of minutes over medium heat. Rip up the rest of the basil leaves and add them to the pot.  Add the canned tomatoes and then fill the can with water and add that.  Bring to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes.  Finally add the bread and the tray of roasted tomatoes, scraping it with a rubber spatula to get all of the juices and oil. If you want to add a little red pepper, this would be the place to do it. I didn’t make the spicy version (yet), but I think a scant 1/4 tsp would be about right.  Simmer this for about 10 more minutes until the bread is very soft.  Then give it a good stir to break up the bread and get a thick porridge kind of texture.  Depending on how you feel about tomato skins, you can also puree this a little bit with a hand-blender to chop up some of the larger pieces.  This is served with a little fresh basil over the top and an extra drizzle of olive oil.  So very very good.  We had this the other night with some sliced pears, cheese and a glass of wine.

I didn’t take a photo of it, but this is a photo from Trattoria Omero, an excellent restaurant who introduced me to this dish.


The Passamaneria Valmar is a tiny gem of a shop that carries an amazing selection of specialty trims.  Ribbons, cording, tassels, fringe – you name it and they have some.  The shelves literally go from floor to ceiling.  (Be sure to click on these panorama shots to see them larger in more detail.)  The shopkeeper and I didn’t have a lot of vocabulary in common, but when he saw the kinds of ribbons I was admiring, he started pulling out the ones that he thought were real treasures.  The two pieces I got he tells me were woven in Florence in the 50′s.

photo(5)Both are woven from silk and metallic threads (each is about 1.5 inches wide)  The blue and silver one is very shimmery and the cords on the black and brown one are thick silk cords that are couched on the top of the weave.  They are beautiful pieces and the photo doesn’t do justice at all to the rich colors (silk is too shiny to photograph well.)



Fondazione Lisio is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the traditions of of weaving silk velvet and brocade on jacquard looms, which are probably two of the most intricate and fascinating techniques I have ever seen woven.  We were very fortunate to have one of the fantastic and very knowledgable instructors, Julie Holyoke, who was willing to give us a guided tour of the school while there were about 10 students working on the looms.  The girl pictured above was creating a velvet.  The loom is two “stories” high (you can see the ladder to the top level in the photos below).  The students plot out a pattern and then key it into the cardboard punch cards, which are a very simple kind of computer program which helps the loom know which threads to move up and down for each row of the pattern.  We talked to one of the students who was making her punch cards that day and she was concentrating very hard to make sure she kept them in the right order.  On this loom, the warp threads are all on individual spools because when weaving a velvet, you need to be able to pull up the extra warp to make the velvet pile.  For each row of velvet, the weaver inserts a tiny brass slat that pulls up the warp threads to make a loop of a certain height.  A few rows are woven to hold them in place and then the weaver runs a razor blade along the top of the metal slat and hand cuts each row of pile.  You can see a photo on their website here.  Seriously.


The students were all young and most were there filling some kind of course requirement for their college program.  I didn’t talk to many of them as they were very busy working, but they come from all over the world to study at Lisio.  The photos below are fabrics made at the school.  The top left was the last bit of a commission they had done for Versailles.  They had a sketch and had reproduced a textile that had been worn out or damaged.  This was also a cut velvet, but the background was solid silver threads.  If you got at the right angle to look at the piece, it was like a mirror.  The velvet pattern was in a sky blue over top of the silver background.  The bottom left was a bag woven for Fendi.  The Lisio has a great partnership with Fendi to make an exclusive woven purse for them every year.  This one in the photo was woven with silk, raffia and brocaded flowers and others had feathers and all kinds of other fanciful designs.  Fendi has an awesome video here and you can watch the weaver cutting the velvet.  I saw the weaver working on next year’s Fendi bag, but I am sworn to secrecy.  ;)


We just returned from a truly remarkable vacation in Florence, Italy and London, England.  I am very fortunate to be married to an amazing guy who is interested in almost anything I am enthusiastic about, so we spent a great deal of this trip doing things that had to do with art.  It all started with an invitation from two dear friends who were planning their own trip to Florence and asked us to join them there if we were planning a trip in that part of the world anyway.  We had already decided to go to England this fall since we have family there, and so the trip to Italy was an easy yes.  My friend Cy studied in Florence and it has become a second home for him.  So we got to see not the tourist’s view of Florence (although we did that a little bit too) but the artist’s view of Florence.

There is too much to talk about in one post, so I just want to give you a taste of what’s to come.

What am I forgetting?