Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Off the Beaten Path--another Wisconsin Shop

Somewhere in the midst of my notes I forgot to blog about the last stop on our yarn safari, Off the Beaten Path Yarnhouse in Monona. Carol and I had a great time here, chatting with Karen, the owner, and browsing through the rooms of beautiful fiber. The special focus of this shop is natural fiber of all kinds and offerings of local artists. We were impressed by their wide range of natural fibers (95% of their offerings), the friendly atmosphere, and their commitment to global charities and causes.

Carol tried on one of the shawls in the Relaxing Room.

Among the patterns I purchased was Sonoma Shawl by Oat Couture. I like the sample in the shop, knit with sport weight yarn, a size for a petite person like me.

I also bought

  • Flirty Tank by Y2knit
  • Heartbeat Sweater by Just One More Row

We watched Karen upack boxes of new inventory.
I'm sure Carol and I will visit Off the Beaten Path again the next time we go on Yarn Safari in Wisconsin. It is a wonderful shop and definitely worth a visit.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

One More Wisconsin Shop

I'm reverting back to late May when my husband and I went for our annual trip to Door County WI. I've said for the past 20 years that the only thing lacking here is a great knitting shop. Meet Red Sock Yarns and owner Jenny Ribbens. (920+868+5700) The shop is located on the north end of Fish Creek in the shops that are across from the school. Jenny is a friendly and knowledgeable shop owner and the selection of high quality yarns is amazing. My husband relaxed in one of the comfortable chairs near the door while Jenny took me on a tour around the shop. Despite the fact that the shop had only been open for 4 weeks, there are quite a few samples to showcase the varied yarns. I bought the book Knit One Below by Elise Duvekot.

Since the boys have grown and no longer vacation with us we've been staying at Fernwood Farms Suites. Owners Bill and Linda Kelly are like old friends. We call this our Door County home and I'm sure you can see why.

Usually we visit Door County the first week in June so we were ahead of our usual time. Although it was chilly and rainy much of the time we did get to see the cherry orchards in bloom. That was a beautiful sight!

There were many white trillium in bloom, sometimes carpeting the forest floor. One day we were biking along Timberline Road when I screeched my bicycle to a halt. A mature bald eagle was soaring about 30 feet above us and several others were nearby. You will have to believe me (or use a magnifying glass) because this is the photo I got after scrambling to get my camera out of the zippered pouch. I guess my future is not in nature photography. We've seen many bald eagles but this is only the second time we've seen one when we weren't going to a specific place along a river to view them.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Madison Yarn Cruising Part 2

This day could be described as a Delicious Fiber Sandwich--two yarn shops with a filling of coffee and Trader Joe's.

After a leisurely rising and enjoying the morning peace of the lake, Carol and I set out for The Knitting Tree. This cozy and bustling shop is located in a residential area of Madison, not far from Trader Joe's. The shop owner was very friendly, as were the other patrons of the shop. We both bought Malabrigo Sock Yarn and received a free pattern, Shimmer Scarf. Later on we saw a variation of this scarf at every shop we visited. I fell in love with one of the samples in the shop, a cropped sweater (Berocco pattern) in a beautiful pale greenish-gray cotton with a nubby texture. I would have purchased the pattern except it was done in pieces with a lot of sewing up. I believe I can achieve the same effect in the round, probably top down. Just a few days before our visit, The Knitting Tree had hosted Scottish designer Ysolda Teague and they had signed copies of her new book Whimsical Little Knits for sale. Had I not already bought a copy the week before, one of these would have been amongst my purchases. I did buy two beautiful skeins of Arucania Fingering weight.

Needing some sustanance after The Knitting Tree, we headed to Ancora Coffee Shop, right across the street from Trader Joe's. I had THE BEST LATTE ever and purchased beans to bring home to my coffee lovin' husband.

Then we crossed the street to Trader Joe's. Trader Joe's is my favorite place to shop for groceries, although I am also fond of my local grocer, Lindy's. It is my surpreme food fantasy that a Trader Joe's will open up near us. It may seem silly to go grocery shopping when on vacation but since there is no Trader Joe's near us, I am reduced to drastic measures. Do I like Nature's Path Flax Plus? YES! Other favorites are the trail mixes with almonds and dried berries, Irish Breakfast Tea, raisins, and other assorted cereals.

Our last stop of the day was Lakeside Fibers. Lakeside Fibers shares a building with large coffee shop tucked into the back of the meandering store. They have a fine selection of yarns. The big wagon wheel display in the front room catches the eye as you walk in the door. We were too full of Ancora coffee to contemplate another cup, but the coffee ambience was good. I didn't make any purchases here but Carol bought a few things.

By the end of the day the back of my car was filled with coffee beans, Trader Joe's, and wool. What a treat for the senses!

A Weekend of Piping Competition and Knitting

On Saturday our band, Celtic Cross Pipes and Drums, competed in our largest competition of the season, the St. Andrews Highland Games in Oakbrook (Chicago). The area, like most of the Midwest, was wet and muddy from the storms that have passed through recently. With temperatures in the 90's, we all cleansed our pores in a big way. Wearing wool kilts, thick wool hose, wool caps, and shirt with tie in hot humid weather could be called insanity, but we call it piping. [Digression: At least there were no cicadas as there were two years ago. After their 17 year hibernation underground they were out and about in swarms. The sound of our drones must have been like their mating call as they were very attracted to the pipes, landing on us, crawling up our limbs, etc. That competition was like one of the levels of Dante's Inferno.] This year the GOOD NEWS is that our band took second place in our level. We were 1st in piping and drumming but placed 4th in ensemble. That brought us to second place. Although it is more fun to be first, second is very respectable and we were pleased overall. Our next competition is in September in Waukesha WI. Next Sunday we have a parade in Marseilles IL. I'm hoping the 90 degree heat abates by then.

After an exhausting and dehydrating Saturday (left at 7:15 AM and arrived home at 10 PM) I didn't make it up in time for 8:30 AM church. We went to the 11 AM service, the more contemporary one, which was interesting since we haven't done that in a while. We saw people there we have never seen before. In fact, we could almost be in a different congregation altogether. Afterwards we went out for breakfast/brunch at The Denhart Baking Company , a delightful establishment that is located right on the Square in Washington. Both the food and service were great, and as for the atmosphere, what could be more fun than an old bank building, lovingly restored with creaky wood floors, a vault, and teller window (to pay your bill)? The prices are very reasonable also. On Friday night we went with friends, Carol and Dave, to dinner in the C-Note Pub, also part of the Denhart establishment. Bob and I love the sweet potato fries. We both had reuben sandwiches with the sweet potato fries. Yum. Kudos to Tom and Judy Gross for restoring this area of our town square.
In the afternoon I listened to my iPod while doing some alterations on Liesl, the cardigan I made from Ysolda Teague's pattern. I shortened it by about two inches. That was easy. Then I decided to add buttonholes. The original pattern has buttonholes knitted in as you work from the top down. I wasn't sure I wanted buttonholes or where I wanted them so I left them out.

My method was as follows:

I used a two-stitch I-cord border. Along the two front borders and using a needle two sizes smaller I picked up stitches at a rate of 3 to 4; that is, pick up 3, skip one. I then attached the I-cord border: Cast on two stitches. *Knit one, slip one, knit next stitch from border, PSSO. Slip two stitches back to left needle. Repeat from* I worked the left side first as this would be the side where the buttons would be. I tried it on at this point and like the way the border looked and the way it keeps the front corner from sagging down so far. That looks cute on Ysolda but not so cute on me.
On the Right Front border I marked where my two buttonholes would be. I picked up the border stitches and adjusted the second buttonhole to align with a place where I was skipping a stitch in the pick. When I came to the two marked spots I knit two rows of I-cord without attaching to the border. This made a nice snug buttonhole for my large buttons.
The buttons are not matching and I like that. I just dive into my jars of old buttons and find two similar buttons, same size but not matchy-matchy. Usually I put buttons in odd numbers but two looked best on this garment. When sewing the button on the lacy fabric it really helps to put a smaller button on the back side of the fabric to hold it securely.

Although I used cotton and short sleeves for my lacy sweater, it is amazingly warm. I know I will enjoy it this summer and beyond, especially in air conditioning. Liesl was a very quick knit. From the photos on Ravelry it looks good on a wide range of sizes. The sizing is very forgiving, too. My size small/med works on my size 8 figure and also on my sister's friend Melody. (see last two photos) who is about a 10/12. The longer length was perfect on her. I could easily make one in a few days now that I know the length I prefer and some tricks for the borders.

This Father's Day ended with calls from two of our three sons and long conversations with both. Son #2 already talked to us for an hour earlier this week. After the phone battery died we started watching The Dark Knight (yea Netflix!). We're not big Batman fans but we wanted to see Heath Ledger's final role. He's good, but as a Crazy Man, Jack Nicholson still beats all.

Friday, June 12, 2009

On Yarn Safari in Wisconsin

I have so much blogging fodder on my hands right now that I might as well plunge in and not worry about the order of events. My friend Carol invited me to spend a few days with her mother and daughter at her parents' cabin in southern Wisconsin. The area around Madison is a knitter's mecca with several lovely yarn shops, each with its own particular flavor and style. But first, let's stop in downtown Stoughton at a wonderful Norwegian Bakery that has been in operation since 1949. Fosdal Home Bakery has the most amazing cookies and I'm sure everything else is wonderful also. My favorite cookies were the fruit bars and ice box. The fruit bars were spicy, chewy, and had raisins in them. They were rather like an old fashioned molasses cookie. Delicious! You can also special order Norwegian specialties such as rosettes, krumkaka, sandbakkels, fattigman, berlinerkranser, and lefse. Grab lunch here if you like. Carol is guarding the decorated cookie case.

Down a few doors from Fosdal's is Woodland Studios where you will find an array of knitting wools, silks, cottons, and supplies in addition to frames, jewelry, and other local arts. The owner was especially helpful when we found her kits for a ponchito, her own design using Ozark Handspun and Farmhouse Lumpy Bumpy. We spent quite a lot of time here and both of us purchased wool and patterns. Unfortunately, I did not take photos here, which is a shame, because it is definitely a shop worth visiting. The town of Stoughton is worth visiting with its shops and Scandinavian flavor.

The Sow's Ear has it all, touching all the senses with its color, texture, aromas, and sounds. Located in Verona WI, outside of Madison, this shop is in an old Victorian house, much like the one we lived in for 25 years, so I suppose that is why I immediately felt at home there. The front veranda has chairs for sittin' and knittin'. Roses and peonies spill out over the front. Tables on the lawn sport colorful umbrellas to shade folks as they eat, sip, and knit. We met a woman and little boy with a Japanese Chin puppy. Carol has one of these dogs so of course, a photo shoot was in order. Inside the house we were greeted by a friendly group of ladies sitting around a big wooden table knitting. They knit here every Thursday morning. I asked their permission to photograph for my blog and they said, "Sure, we love to be in things!" Comfortable sofas and chairs are on the periphery of the room. The Sow's Ear serves Ancora Coffee, the best in Madison (more on that later) and wonderful sandwiches. After spending quite some time wandering through the several rooms of yarns we settled down for sandwiches (tuna for me, chicken for Carol) both served on baquettes with a side salad. I think we spent about 3 hours in this shop. Truthfully, we could have stayed all day! We met two other knitters, Molly and Doreen, who I need to look up on Ravelry. Folks in Verona are mighty fortunate to have this yarn shop in their midst and they seem to know it. Everyone we talked to sang the praises of this shop.

What could make a day of Yarn Safari more perfect than ending it with piping on the lake?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A Wee Bit of Scotland and Piping

We just returned from our annual Door County WI trip but before posting about that I want to share one more Scotland photo. This final photo is one that I really love because I have seen this view many times on my visits.

This is the pastoral scene as one looks out from the back of Marsie's house. She lives on the edge of an estate (subdivision in the US.)

The following photos are from the Springfield IL St. Andrews Highland Games on May 16. In the first photo Pipe Major Kevin Nickerson is tuning my pipes. In the second photo, Scott McCauley from Chicago Midlothian Scottish Pipe Band is helping our pipers tune.

It takes a while to tune a pipe band and tuning never really ends. The chanters need to be tuned, note to note, and then the three drones on each set of pipes. All have to be in tune with the other pipes in the band. We are tuning right up until we march into the competition circle. In the last photo we are in the competition circle playing our medley: Stornaway Bay, High Road to Gairloch, Teribus, and The Sweet Maid of Glendaruel.

Our next competition is this Saturday, June 6, in Milwaukee WI. We have a big practice lined up for Thursday night.

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