Blogs I Love

Here are five more blogs I enjoy and read regularly.

Kate Larson Textiles – fiber arts and sometimes lambs!

Randall Smoot – culture, politics and history

Drinkers With Writing Problems – humorous and interesting things

Unraveled – The Ravelry Blog, all cool tips and new things to try with yarn

The Yarn Harlot – fiber arts and humor

Please comment with your favorites or your own blog.  I’m always looking for new things worth reading.

And a picture for fiber lovers

Rolags!

Finished – The Biggest Entrelac In The World

It’s done!  Celebrate with me!

The early days.

In the beginning
In the beginning

Here is a picture before completion.  You see why it may be the biggest entrelac piece in the world.

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This is Noro Nadeshiko yarn.

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Shown on a large couch before blocking.  It got bigger after blocking.
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Nadeshiko is fuzzy even before blocking!

Blocking changes the texture completely.

Everything flattens out in blocking.

I am taping a guest spot about entrelac today for a TV show about fiber arts. Stay tuned for more details on how to watch my episode.

My favorite pattern and all the specifics about this project are on my Ravelry page.

In the meantime, please cast on your own entrelac piece.  It’s very easy, just follow the pattern.

Comment to let me know how you like this shawl.

Book Review – Mini Habits

Stephen Guise has written a very powerful little book.  Mini Habits is a quick read about how to get big results from small life changes.

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Mr. Guise details how habits are formed.  There is a chapter on motivation vs. willpower, and then a lot of information on how to implement mini habits.

My favorite recommendation from this book is “make your habits stupid small”.  Even I can do something difficult for one minute.  The hardest part is getting started, right?  Once I have a minute in, it’s easier to add another.

Other good advice includes “if you feel strong resistance, back off and go smaller”.  And “be happy with all progress”.  These both ease pressure when making changes, and that’s clearly a positive thing.

The principles in this book have helped me create a habit of flossing daily.  I was terribly lazy about this before, and I noticed a big change at my last dental appointment.  It was quick and easy to get my teeth cleaned, instead of the usual rather torturous experience.  It worked!

To build my new habit I used brushing my teeth in the morning as a cue.  Immediately after brushing I got out the floss.  I told myself I only had to floss two teeth, but of course, it was simple to just do them all.  It’s become routine and easy now.  It takes less than 90 seconds and makes me feel great.  I am doing something good for myself, and ensuring I’ll hold on to my teeth for a long time!  No one ever said “I wish I hadn’t taken care of my teeth”, right?

Stephen also has a blog that’s worth following, he is an interesting and intelligent guy.  He recently published a post entitled “Why Mini Habits Is the Greatest Personal Development Strategy Ever”.  Read it.

Reading this book can help you improve in any area.  Habits can be created around your health, work and even parenting.  Do yourself a favor and give this book a few hours of your time.  I think you’ll be glad you did.

And here’s a fiber picture for the addicts.

Production For The Indiana State Fair Is Ramping Up
Production for the Indiana State Fair is ramping up.  These are worsted weight superwash merino yarns that will not be in the Etsy store.  You can purchase by emailing me at http://www.indigokittyknits.com.  $20 includes shipping in the continental US.

 

A Better Way To Grow Vegetables

A few months ago my Costco member’s magazine contained an article about a Minnesota horticulturist who has developed a whole new way of gardening.

Joel Karsten spent 22 years in his own garden experimenting with growing vegetables and flowers in straw bales.

Does that sound crazy?  It did to me at first.  After learning more about it, I’ve decided to give it a try in my own garden this year.

Mr. Karsen has written several books about straw bale gardening.  He says the advantages include:

  • High yields
  • No weeding and less overall labor
  • Easier for older or disabled gardeners
  • Poor soil is no problem
  • Extends the growing season by weeks
  • Can be conventional or organic
  • Can go anywhere, even on balconies or driveway
  • Cats enjoy them too – this is my own personal advantage
MoonshadowTent
From The Dirt I Occupy blog.  A beautiful kitty in an elaborate tunnel.  My row covers are much simpler than this.

Mr. Karsten advises starting small, and states that four bales per person is a good idea.  I purchased twelve bales at my local home and garden store, at $4.98 each, the best price I could find.  That is an investment of $59.76.

After placing the bales in your desired location you condition them for 12 days.  This consists of sprinkling fertilizer and water on the bales.  The specific amount of fertilizer used depends on whether you are using organic or conventional.  I went conventional this first year.

Bales are ready for planting on day 12.  I goofed up my conditioning, so I planted around day 15.  Schedule interruptions are no problem, you just pick up where you left off.

I planted purchased tomato plants on April 17, very early for central Indiana, but we’ve had a very warm spring.

The book describes how to create a little greenhouse in the event of cold weather.  It’s easy and inexpensive, and requires no tools except perhaps clothespins.  I did this when my temps went below 50F at night.  They’ve gone as low as 27F with no problem.  The decomposing bales generate enough heat to keep things above freezing inside the covering.

I’m writing this on April 27, and three of my four tomato plants have flower buds.  None had buds when I purchased.  This is quite robust growth.  My plants are almost as tall the the first line of the trellis I made according to instructions in the book.  This is all remarkable for tomatoes in central Indiana in April.

I also planted twelve lettuce and one parsley plant.  They’ve grown quickly and are in excellent condition.  This is a romaine type.

The nicest lettuce I've ever grown.
The nicest lettuce I’ve ever grown.

There have been a few wheat seedlings on my straw bales, it’s no problem to just pull them out.  I’ve also seen some cool mushrooms, which are completely normal.

You can also plant seeds, be sure to use the type of planting medium he recommends.  I used seed starting medium on some bales and had problems keeping them moist enough.  Seedlings are finally sprouting.

All in all, this seems like a spectacular method of producing vegetables in the home garden.

I don’t think it’s much more expensive than traditional gardening. After factoring in the time saved weeding, watering (he instructs us use soaker hoses on times across the bales, which I’ve done) and the extended growing season I think it’s money well spent.

The book I bought is Straw Bale Gardens Complete, the latest in the series.  It’s available everywhere.  Here’s a link to Amazon for your convenience.  I don’t get anything for sending you to Amazon.

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There is a Facebook group for straw bale gardeners too.  Join me there.

There is a closed group too.  If you’d like to be added contact me via the comments below and I’ll add you.

Watch for more reporting on how my garden fares over the summer.  Happy gardening to you, no matter what method you use this year.

 

10 Reasons To Love Rolags

 

pink rolags

Rolags are small hand blended rolls of fiber ready to spin from either end. I love them a lot and here are some reasons why.

 1.  They are great for beginning spinners.  You don’t have a big bundle of fiber to manage.  Roving and batts can feel like a huge, unwieldy chunk in your hand.  Tearing them down sometimes feels a bit sacrilegious, or maybe you aren’t quite confident in your joining skills yet (although the answer to that is practice!).  At my January spinning retreat we were all laughing about the way I hold a bundle of fiber.  I admitted I hold my bundle “like an animal” and people laughed and denied it, but I was telling the truth.

2.  Rolags are easy to spin on a hand spindle or wheel.

3.  You can create a very unique yarn by spinning two different sets of rolags and plying them.  We all spin because we want to make something unique, right?  Rolags make that so easy.

4.   There don’t seem to be any ugly rolags.  As an experiment, I’ve purposely tried to make ghastly combinations.  I’ve blended colors that brought some very unpleasant images to mind, and they turn out fabulously.  I just don’t think is possible to make unsightly rolags.

5.  They spin up quickly and who doesn’t love instant gratification?  I know I do, and I’m certain that everyone can see a time and place for it.  Sometimes we want a big complex project that really grows our skills and sometimes we want candy – a project that is pretty and easy and gives us quick and beautiful results.  Rolags are for the times you want candy.

6.  They are unique combinations of fiber that are difficult to get in any other way.  You can get this if you work with batts, which brings you back to that big bundle of fiber to handle.  Rolags are different than batts in other ways, you can better see what is coming with rolags.  Don’t get me wrong, batts have their uses, and I love them.  But rolags are much easier to spin, and you get beautiful blends of gorgeous fibers in them, just like in a batt.

7.  You can buy or make ones that are sparkly.  Many of us love a little sparkle once in a while.  If you don’t, no problem, just buy or make yours tinsel-free.

 

brown rolags

I personally love it sparkly.

8.  You can experiment with expensive fibers without spending a lot of money.  Since rolags are made in small amounts you can play with things like camel, yak, and quiviut without breaking the bank.  That’s always nice.

9.  You can get color combinations that are impossible to achieve by dyeing roving.  Rolags are made from fibers dyed previously, so you get cool striping effects and can blend colors that would make a mud color if you painted them on the same roving.

10.  They expand your horizons as a fiber artist by introducing you to new fibers.  You’ll never know if you love camel, rose fiber or llama if you don’t work with it, right?  Rolags are one of the few ways you can play with unusual fibers.  One of the reasons we spin is to grow and learn, and trying new fibers feeds this.

11.  Bonus Reason – Wool rolags are wonderful for hand felting.  They can be torn apart to separate the colors, or unrolled and used as is for a more free form work.  And you thought rolags were just for spinners.

multicolored rolags

I hope I’ve convinced you to give rolags a try.  You can find them all over Etsy and, if you are lucky, at your local fiber festivals.  Here are the rolags currently available in my Etsy shop in case you are in the mood for a bit of fiber porn.

I’d love to hear about your experiences spinning rolags or about your plans to do so, please comment below to share them with me.

 

Indiana Spinning Retreat In May 2016


Because I enjoyed my recent spinning retreat, I’m organizing another one, and you can attend!

Date:  May 20 – 22, 2016

Location:  Oakwood Retreat Center at Rainbow Farm, near Muncie, Indiana

Cost:  Approximately $200 includes two nights shared room and meals as follows – dinner Friday, three meals Saturday and breakfast and lunch Sunday.  A 50% deposit is due at the time of registration, the remainder is due on April 15.  Single rooms are available for a slight upcharge.

I recently met someone who attended an event there.  She loved the food, said it was largely organic and really wonderful.

Everyone is welcome, you do not need to be a spinner.  Come with your knitting, crochet, embroidery, hand quilting, whatever project you’d enjoy working on.  At the retreat I attended in January I spun and also finished a knitting project.

Don’t spin, but want to learn?  I’ll be happy to give you a lesson.  Spindles will be available and you can try my wheel too.

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A Yarn I Spun At The January Retreat

I’ll update this post with more details as the date nears.  Right now there are spots for over 20 attendees.  But they are filling up, so make your plans to attend.

Contact me at indigokittyknits@gmail.com to reserve your spot.

 

 

 

Five Things I Want To Create in 2016 – And Free Shipping

My fiber plans for 2016 include these five projects.

Driftwood Socks

Driftwood Socks
Driftwood Socks

I am still working (slowly) on these socks.  They were started in September, it’s now February.  Not a lot of progress lately since I had to knit the biggest entrelac in the world in the meantime.

Rogue Wave Wrap

rogue wave
From Ravelry.com

I’ve been dying to make a freeform project, and this pattern from Jane Thornley looks perfect.  It’s designed for any gauge yarn.  I plan to use some hand spun art yarns in this project, along with leftovers and things I’ve been holding onto because they are so “special”.  This includes yarns that I only have one skein of, so cannot do a big project with them on their own.

Super Easy Handspun Scarf

super easy handspun scarf
From Ravelry.com

In an effort to improve my crochet skills, I’ll probably attempt this one before the larger scarf below.

Supersized See My Stitches Scarf 

supersize my stitches
From Ravelry.com

This cool crochet pattern is perfect for super bulky handspun.  I plan to dye a couple of rovings and spin them into super bulky art yarn for this project.

Jeck Socks

jeck socks
From Ravelry.com

I like the look of these easy socks.  They seem nicely fitting and good for hand dyed yarn.  I’m always looking for sock patterns that break up pooling and blotchiness that can occur when knitting with hand dyed sock yarns. I will probably use a Turkish Toe and Cat Bordhi’s Sweet Tomato heel, I enjoy knitting them and the fit works for me.

One thing I really like about the Turkish Toe is that it’s seamless, that makes it comfortable and sturdy.

I usually knit 3.5 repeats of the heel on 1/2 the stitches, rather than recommended 3/4 of the stitches, because I’m too lazy to move the stitches around on my circular needles when it’s time to do the heel.

Yes, I use circulars for socks, and almost everything else.  I like that I can’t drop or lose them, and I find DPNs clumsy and hard to hold on to.

I’m sure I’ll also knit headbands and cowls and lots more this year.

You can see all my finished and ongoing projects here on my Ravelry page.

What fiber adventures are you planning this year?  Comment and let me know!

As a reminder, get free shipping when you purchase two or more spinning fibers from our Etsy Store.  Use coupon code FREESHIP2FIBERS.  Free shipping ends Feb. 29, 2016.

Here’s a little eye candy from the shop.

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