Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Rose City Yarn Crawl 2015: My Bag Overfloweth

Now that I've told you all about it, what did I buy? (Answer: probably too much, but what's a fiber-lovin' girl to do?) I did try to keep to the parameters of locally made, hard to find, or interesting fibers. The two zauberballs are really the only exceptions, but I'd never purchased one before so I'm calling it good.

I was super excited to finally meet 'The Spinsters' behind Spincycle Yarns at For Yarn's Sake in Beaverton on Saturday afternoon. I've been stalking following their instagram since I participated in the Pine Bough KAL and just love their yarn, colors and process. Those three skeins of Knit Fast Die Young are slated for a macro lace shawl, but I may find something else I love more between now and then. The two skeins of Dyed in the Wool in the colorway July, July won out over Salty Dog only because it's my birthday month. They'll be paired with some Pepperberry to make the Dynastid cowl...I don't love bugs, but for whatever reason, this beetle-laden cowl is asking to be made.

Yarntastic in Sellwood was our other Friday night stop, and I picked up This cushy single ply by Abstract Fiber in the colorway Lichen, and a skein of sock yarn by Nerd Girl in the colorway Grimm. Fun Portland connections all around.

 This loop pouch, hand-made by Portlander Queen Bee, is a heavy duty canvas project bag. Along with some Blissfull Knits sock yarn in the color way Chamber of Secrets (50/50 silk and wool, and so luscious) and a Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks that Rock in the colorway Saturday Market-I left Twisted a happy girl.

 Pearl Fiber Arts located in, you guessed it, The Pearl was hosting a couple of local artists so it was really fun to chat with them about their process. This coral gradient kit by Thoroughly Thwacked will look beautiful knit up into the shell-patterned cowl feautured in their front window. Alexandra of Alexandra's Crafts was there and I had a great time talking with her about her color process. This sock yarn is Black Butte in Stained Glass, but she also has a line called La Grande, which was a fun connection to my hometown. I love that they really are targeting tourists and people who want to knit something with yarn made by a local artisan. Their inventory was very heavy with Northwest yarns.
Close Knit on NE Alberta was a cute shop, and I picked up the yarn to go with the Yarn Crawl pattern for that store. Extra, by Blue Sky Alpaca will make the fun, striped Kumori Cowl.

In Multnomah Village, we went to Northwest Wools and I picked up these two skeins of Autumn Winds by lotus yarns in a pretty purple and grey to make this sweet dress for baby Stella. She was a fairly good traveler...for a three month old.

Black Trillium fibers were featured in a trunk show at Knitting Bee in outer SW Portland (Washington County) and it is just beautiful! That skein of charcoal grey laceweight was a whopping 1450 yards-enough to make a shawl with just one skein. And a Crazy Zauberball for good measure. With the Trillium, I'm planning on a color block or striped shawl using the two different weights (fingering and lace). There are tons of patterns online for the zauberball, so I'll tackle that when I get there.

At Dublin Bay in the Pearl, I found Hedgehog Fibers Sock Yarn and Solstice Camel-Silk blend. See that beautiful golden halo? Camel. And it's so soft. Some 'Wool Fat' soap and dpn's rounded out that stop.

 At Happy Knits, I saw two bags I'd been looking at online for awhile, so it was time... Fringe Supply Co. and Knit Picks are the sources online but it was nice to see them in person first.
My stop at Knit Purl on Friday night yielded this bright pink lace-weight (looks more red in the photo) skein of 100% silk.  It was definitely the most special (some might say expensive, but that's just a word, really...) yarn I purchased. The colorway is Torchere. Because giving it a fancy french name makes you feel less guilty about the cost. I love the trend toward neon colors. This Merino Light hand-dyed is Madeline Tosh's 'Edison Bulb'.

Have you ever participated in the Yarn Crawl? What were some of your most treasured finds? How did you strategize? Any regrets? (I have none) I did make myself completely address and organize my stash before heading out, but that's for another post.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Rose City Yarn Crawl 2015

Last year, I happened to have a trip scheduled in Portland for the same weekend as the Rose City Yarn Crawl. I had never heard of it before, and didn't end up having time to go into any stores other than a quick step into Knit Purl (still one of my favorites after this trip).

This year, shortly after Stella was born, I looked up this year's dates and realized that it coincided with a weekend that J was scheduled to be off, save one night. Huzzah! A quick text to my partner in crime, plus a plea to my mother to fill the gap of evening childcare, and we were slated to attend the weekend-long event with her best friend.

The yarn crawl consists of fifteen local yarn stores that apply to be included, with a passport to be stamped and a free pattern with purchase at each stop. There is a mystery knitalong that precedes the event (spoiler alert: It was kind of granny and neither of us completed it) and each shop has their own huge prize basket to be entered for and there is a grand prize for one lucky crawler that visits all fifteen shops.  I think that with an extra full day for shopping and one less infant, we'll be able to hit all fifteen next year, but this year I was happy to get to the ones we did.

Of the fifteen, we went to Twisted, For Yarn's Sake, Yarntastic! Fiber Arts, Pearl Fiber Arts, Close Knit, Northwest Wools, Knitting Bee, Dublin Bay, Happy Knits, Knit Purl, The Black Sheep and Yarnia.  All but Yarnia and The Black Sheep resulted in my yarn crawl bag getting fuller and my wallet a little lighter.

An obvious joy of the trip was to be able to touch and see, and swoon over, all the beautiful yarns but what was really fun was seeing how differently the shops were set up. Learning what aesthetics I really like and how it makes the most sense to set up a shop, what brands would be awesome to carry, what ones missed the mark, the list goes on. It was a great trip to help solidify our hopes for a future yarn store, and to narrow down our vision.

Starting on Friday afternoon when we rolled into town, we visited Knit Purl which was just a few blocks from our hotel, and then grabbed some dinner at Tasty 'n Alder before picking up her friend and her infant son and heading to Yarntastic!, her friend's most visited local store. Both resulted in fun purchases and a great start to our crawl. Miss Stella was proving to be a somewhat unhappy participant and we headed back to the hotel for what would prove to be her first time sleeping through the night.

Saturday morning we grabbed breakfast in the hotel restaurant in time to hit Knit Purl (her friend hadn't been yet for the crawl) when it opened at nine. Except that it didn't open until ten. So we walked toward the Pearl and the next store on our agenda for the day, which also opened at ten. By the time we got to the furthest store, Dublin Bay, it was just opening. I really liked the layout of the shop, including a semi-secluded area with cushy seating for knitters, a fireplace and a TV queued up with Downton Abbey. Next we went to Pearl Fiber Arts, where there were two trunk shows (Thoroughly Thwacked of Hillsboro and Alexandra's Crafts out of Silverton) and they also had a pretty big supply of this huge (with a huge pricetag) yarn used to make rugs, poufs and squishy throws.

By the time we were headed back to Knit Purl, we decided to make our scheduled stop at Blue Star Donuts, where I indulged in a Lemon Poppyseed Buttermilk Donut. So delicious. A stop at Starbucks where there was available seating to feed and change the babes and we were off to Knit Purl at last. I ogled the Woolfolk and Pepperberry displays once more and we were off to the West side stores.

I love KnitPurl's clean, crisp displays and signage
Knitting Bee, located in outer Northwest Portland on Barnes Road proved to be a really pleasant surprise. With great signage, a trunk show for Black Trillium Fibers and excellent staff, I had a great time in the store. Next we headed to Hillsboro to visit The Black Sheep. It's kind of a tricky location in the lower level of a three story townhouse and I ended up nursing Stella who was fairly inconsolable instead of looking at the yarn. I can't say that I really missed anything and don't know that I'd go back but that could totally be due to the crying baby and lack of time to look around.

It was late afternoon by then and we were all fading fast, so we grabbed a late lunch/dinner before going to For Yarn's Sake in Beaverton, which I had been particularly look forward to because the Spinsters of Spincycle yarns were holding a trunk show there. I was not disappointed-they're just as nice and passionate about their product as I hoped they'd be. I was so excited to meet them that I didn't get a photo. That store definitely got the lion's share of my yarn dollars. They had a really big selection, the trunk show was huge and their staff was super friendly.

After that we headed back toward Portland and Northwest Wools in Multnomah Village. It was a fairly small store but, again, the staff was enthusiastic about their product and knowledgeable. For the last stop of the night, we headed to Yarnia, which is a really cool concept that could be a fun part of a bigger yarn shop, but I left feeling pretty meh. The idea is that they have large cones of different fibers and colors that you can custom mix to make your own multi-strand yarn and pay by the ounce or pound. It was fairly empty with only one other set of crawlers yet no employees came to talk to me, our stop there was in the early evening and the lighting was terrible-almost bar lighting so you couldn't see what the true colors would be, and the employee that did chat with my friend didn't seem to have a lot of information about where the fibers came from. Because it's just multiple strands together, not a stranded yarn that's then worsted, it would be nearly impossible to crochet and pick up all the strands, and hard for knitting.

awesome concept, not my favorite execution
Back to the hotel to put a finally sleeping Stella to bed, a chance to admire our haul so far, room service late dinner and then to bed ourselves.

I got to breakfast with old friends the next morning, my bestie even brought her kids who I didn't get to see last time I visited, and then I met back with my fellow crawlers for a final day of shopping at two more stores; Happy Knits on SE Hawthorne and Close Knit in Northeast Portland. Happy Knits was one of my favorite stops with a really great selection, happy staff and a couch in the back that proved perfect for a stop to feed Stella (again, some more). We ended on Alberta at Close Knit where I picked up the yarn for their crawl pattern submission and then lunch at Bunk for a cuban sandwich before the final reward of my first visit to Salt & Straw (Lumberjack Stack and Honey Lavendar in a waffle cone, thanks for asking!)

Then it was back to reality, and the babe slept almost the entire way home after crying as if her seat were made of flames during the actual crawl. A good time was had by all, and I'm already thinking about next year...after I use the yarn I purchased this year, of course. It was so nice to get home and have the kids excited to see me. A weekend away always gives me the chance to appreciate my family a little more because it's too easy to get bogged down in the everyday.

Wondering what goodies I got? That post is coming at you at 6am tomorrow!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Still Sally

I'm just going to pretend like there hasn't been a four month break in posting and pick up where I am today.
Miss Stella June just one week old. Photo by Gigi Hickman Photography

The fam just before Stella joined the ranks. Photo by Gigi Hickman Photography
Adding baby girl on November 30th made me mom to four, she is a fantastic baby but I had a much harder time with my recovery this time around both emotionally and physically (especially in hindsight).

After that first six whirlwind weeks, I slipped back into my old shoes pretty comfortably; feeding my brood, driving a monster SUV, wearing uggs and leggings (and not just in the privacy of my own home), reading a great book here and there, working on shedding those pesky lbs once and forever, pretending like there'll be a day when I run long distances again, knitting some really fun new things...and finally drinking wine again. Oh vino, how I missed you.
My first day as the mama of a baby girl.
One of my favorite projects was this Pine Bough Cowl knit with Pepperberry Cashmere and Spincycle Dyed in the Wool which was a KAL that started the day after Christmas and was my first real colorwork project. You already know I'm a huge fan of Heidi's cashmere, but it was even more beautiful when worked with the changing colors of the spincycle. That vibrant green just popped as the background to the motif worked in rusted rainbow. After being super intimidated by it for too long, I am now a huge fan of stranded color work! You can bet I've added quite a few projects to my queue.

Last month, I was chosen by Melanie Berg as one of the test knitters for her new shawl pattern The Joker and the Thief using a gradient of our choice. The pattern was knit with Sunshine Yarns, so we had the chance to work with Dani of Sunshine Yarns to pick our own. I love Melanie's aesthetic. I never thought I'd be a shawl knitter, but she has absolutely changed that for me.

This yarn was so wonderful to work with and it was dyed just for me! I said I wanted the finished piece to feel like a day at the beach and she worked her magic-it's gorgeous.

All of Melanie's patterns have great lines, are clean, and can be styled in a number of ways with a million color combinations that somehow all end up looking absolutely stunning. Now that I've knit one, I want to knit them all. She recently released a knew set of patterns, Five Shawls, which are all knit in Owl by Quince & Co.
I finished The Joker and the Thief late last night. The two things I like least about knitting are seaming and weaving in ends but, alas, they are necessary evils if you want pieces that are actually finished. So for the next hour or so, I'll be tangled up in blue, and then it's off to soak and block and I'll photograph the finished shawl.

Speaking of tangles, my mom came two weeks ago and helped me corral my crazy yarn hoard stash once and for all (or for now). I can't wait to show you my bonus room because it's gone from the dumping grounds of which we did not speak to an organized guest room/office/crafting wonderland. All of my yarn is now sorted, labeled and contained so that it's easily accessible and I can actually see what I have. Which is a lot. And that is a very good thing. Have you tackled any big projects in your organizational life lately?

The weekend of March 6-8 I'm headed to the Rose City Yarn Crawl with a girlfriend and I'm trying to go with a short list of projects for which I can buy yarn so I don't succumb to the swoon-worthy displays and buy all of the things. Stay tuned...

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Saturday Sweet Tooth

Most weekend mornings, I take time to make a hot breakfast ranging from pancakes to egg dishes. This week, H's writing prompt was to wax poetic about his favorite breakfast and he chose pancakes, saying he 'mostly ate them at his granny's' -um, okay, we'll just forget about the 30+ weekends a year that I make them at our house. Not that I'm keeping score, because in the contest of mom vs granny when it comes to who's more awesome, mom will usually lose.

Childish feelings aside, Friday night I got these oatmeal pancakes started. It had been a long time since I'd made them-maybe even since we lived in Massachusetts, but I remembered them as being a super hearty breakfast option passed to me from my sister. Oats and buttermilk (or a buttermilk substitute-this is a great resource and I always use either the vinegar or greek yogurt method) are left to comingle in the fridge overnight. The addition of a scant amount of flour, some eggs and oil the next morning make for a fairly liquid batter, so let the edges set completely before you flip them.

You can serve them, as the recipe dictates, with warm chunky applesauce or drizzle with maple syrup. I had some applesauce I'd made and frozen last year, but served it on the side and the kids loved them. There is no added sugar in the actual batter, so you have complete control over that aspect with the amount of syrup you use.

I love that these are really filling with just one good luncheon-plate sized pancake, but still also very satisfying for that Saturday morning sweet tooth. (Someday I'll remember to photograph the pancakes either as I'm drizzling on the syrup, or just before. That day was not yesterday.)

Overnight Oats Buttermilk Pancakes

2 Cups Old Fashioned Oats
3 Cups of Buttermilk
1/2 c. flour (I used whole wheat-I love Prairie Gold by Wheat Montana, which is non-GMO and a light color, for things like pancakes because it lends to a lighter-colored end result.)
1 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
2 eggs lightly beaten
1/4 c. vegetable oil (or coconut or olive oil to make whole-food friendly-depending on the brand, you will taste both of these oils, so consider that in your end result wishes)

Mix oats and buttermilk together in a bowl and store covered in the fridge overnight.

The next morning, mix the dry ingredients together and then add the egg/oil mixture. Finally, stir in the oats and buttermilk until a uniform consistency.

Cook pancakes in a heated griddle over medium heat, waiting until the edges are set before flipping, and serve with applesauce for a fall treat, or alternate toppings of your choice. With oatmeal as the base, the flavor combinations are endless!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Child's Play

Last week I was doing my daily cleaning out of the backpacks and I flipped through the stack in Charlie's folder to see if there was anything that would make the cut into the 'I may keep this forever' stack instead of being recycled immediately.

First, I saw this photo:

Super cute, right? A new little kinder drawing about his experiences on the school playground, lots of detail and appropriate colors; all the hallmarks of a maturing artiste.

I continued to flip through the stack and physically startled when I happened upon this gem:

What the french?! What in the world is going through his mind?! Is he a budding psychopath? Just...what?! I took a moment and paused. 'Hey, Char-what's this picture about?'

Here's his explanation (I made him re-explain for me to record it):

A giant grizzly bear (that I didn't have time to color in all the way) who he's fighting with his brother and dad in order to protect his baby brother in the tree is so much better than what I'd been thinking. It's what happens when we apply adult thinking and experiences to what we see little kids doing. Still probably a little more gory that is optimal, but more indicative of a healthy imagination than a Dexter-esque future. Save your worries for another day, mama. Simmer down.