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  • Seed Saver Cowl

    Here's an easy, mindful & meditative make. My favorite kind. I whipped up two in one week (!) -- gave one to my mom because she is great and kept the other. I really enjoyed my time with this project as both my early morning stitches, to awaken and mentally prepare for the day ahead, and as soothing, late evening decompression-knitting. It's a pattern that asks just enough of your skill and attention, but not too much. If you're a newer knitter, this will get you very comfortable with simple increases & decreases, while still allowing you to enjoy your work. A veteran stitcher? Then it's simplicity is here just in time to save your holiday sanity. Whew!

    In this very wearable accessory, tidy rows of seed stitch anchor bands of gathered stockinette (aka ruching). It's the perfect project to showboat that extra special skein of uniquely hand dyed yarn -- that one of a kind yarnicorn you found at a fiber festival or on vacation. The overall shape of this cowl is almost like you cut the top and the bottom thirds off of a circle. Its "middle of a bubble" shape makes it drape and lay just right when worn. Knit one (or two!) for yourself, and/or as a quick and lovely gift that is sure to delight.

    P.S. Have you ever looked into seed saving? Do you already do it? I'm a backyard gardener, and the overall theme I had in mind for this design was the cycle of planting, growth and decline in gardening. I find participating in this cycle as a gardener very grounding. Anyway, as I knit, I kept coming back to questions I had about seed saving, and seeds in general. I thought about how I have to explain to my kids why many of the seeds from food we buy at the store won't necessarily grow more food for us if we just stick them in the dirt. I thought about heirloom plants, the relatively modern practice of buying new seeds each season (though don't get me wrong, I love a good seed catalogue), and of seed saving rights and legality (and the fact that that's a thing)... One of my favorite aspects of knitting, and I'm sure I'm not alone in this, is the potential for "AHA!" moments, or even just the quieter moments of understanding that come about from spending quiet time in this active, meditative state. My main AHA! moment knitting this cowl was that I should be a seed saver, not a seed buyer. Knitting this little accessory inspired a change in the way I want to grow food for my family, and a new challenge for me as a gardener!

    What might it inspire for you?

    MATERIALS

    - One skein Blue Highway Hand Dyes TexRanch WORSTED or approximately 225 yards of lovely and special worsted weight yarn.

    - US size 7 24" circular needle... Use a US size 6 if you tend to knit very loose (the yardage is close on this one). Tread lightly if you knit tight and usually to go up a needle size... you've been warned ;-)

    - one stitch marker

    GAUGE

    - Don't stress too much over this, but DO see the above note on needle size. My finished/blocked gauge was 4 sts per inch in seed stitch; 5 sts per inch in stockinette. 

    FINISHED DIMENSIONS

    - Blocked, laying flat and dry, loosely pulled into shape, cowl measures: 14" across at top (approx. 28" diameter); 16" across at bottom (approx. 32" diameter); 18" across at middle (approx. 36" diameter).

    PATTERN

    Take a deep breath. Get comfy.

    Cast on 129 stitches (bottom edge of cowl). Join for knitting in the round, and place stitch marker to mark beginning/end.

    Rounds 1-5: Work seed stitch (k1, p1). (Rows 2 & 4 will begin with p1 and end with k1.)

    Round 6/first increase round: (k3, kfb) to final stitch, k1 (161 total sts).

    Rounds 7-10: Knit.

    Round 11/first decrease round: (k2, k2tog) to final stitch, k1 (121 total sts).

    Rounds 12-15: Work seed stitch (k1, p1). (Rounds 13 & 15 will begin with p1 and end with k1.)

    Round 16/increase round: (k1, kfb) to last stitch, k1 (181 total sts).

    Rounds 17-22: Knit.

    Round 23/decrease round: (k1, k2tog) to last stitch, k1 (121 total sts).

    Rounds 24-27: Work seed stitch. (Rounds 25 & 27 will begin with p1 and end with k1.)

    Round 28: Repeat round 16 (increase round, ends with 181 sts).

    Rounds 29-34: Knit. 

    Round 35: Repeat round 23 (decrease round, ends with 121 sts).

    Rounds 36-39: Work seed stitch. (Rounds 37 & 39 will begin with p1 and end with k1.)

    Round 40: Repeat round 16 (increase round).

    Rounds 41-46: Knit. 

    Round 47: Repeat round 23 (decrease round).

    Rounds 48 - 51: Work seed stitch. (Rounds 49 & 51 will begin with p1 and end with k1.)

    Round 52/final increase round: (k3, kfb) to last stitch, k1 (151 total sts)

    Rounds 53 - 56: Knit. 

    Round 57/final decrease round: (k1, k2tog) to last stitch, k1 (101 total sts).

    Rounds 58 - 61: Work seed stitch. (Rounds 59 & 61 will begin with p1 and end with k1.)

    Bind off all stitches, knitwise.

    Weave in ends.

    Block. Here's what I do: Soak in lukewarm water with a no-rinse soap for hand knits. Squeeze out water very gently, then roll the cowl up in a dry towel and step on it to remove excess moisture. Lay flat to dry, gently patting into shape. Rotate from time to time as it dries, to prevent fold lines.

    Wear it! Gift it! Feel accomplished and unique.

  • Bradway Shawl in TexRanch WORSTED

    Bradway Shawl in TexRanch WORSTED

    This sort of knit is definitely my jam! Most of it, I completed as a passenger on summer drives. It's pretty huge, which I like, but the pattern could be easily modified to shorten any or all of the sections to make it suit your preference. Following the pattern exactly required 4 skeins of my TexRanch WORSTED -- 2 in the main color, and 1 each of the contrast colors. However, I barely broke into that second skein of the main color, so you could very easily leave of a few rows of one or both garter stitch sections and make this a 3 skein project. 

    Colors I used: Palo Duro (red), Barely (light pink), Amarillo by mornin (brown).

    Find the pattern here: Bradway Shawl by Shannon Cook on Ravelry.

  • Slow Fashion October

    Are you following along and/or participating? If not, jump over here for all you need to know. In a nutshell, Nashville's Karen Templer of Fringe Association is building the conversation about slow fashion -- mindfulness about where our clothes (and the materials that make them) come from. 

    I am so ready to jump back into this convo that, for me, started in college. Joshua (then partner in crime/now husband) and I talked a lot back then about conspicuous consumption, our motives for buying each thing and the weight of consumer choices in society. We read Ishmael and some Derrick Jensen and MAN. We were all fired up for change. Ha! Of course, we had nothing but time for those conversations, and an in-person community that shared our sense of urgency about shaping the adult world we were about to become part of. Fast-forward 15 years or so, and things have changed a bit -- time flies, there are fewer of these talks, and that politically charged group of friends has spread across the country (still being awesome, I might add!).

    Last year, when I started dyeing yarn with plants and began to plug into this online community of conscientious makers, listening to Woolful, and following folks like Karen of Fringe (linked above), A Verb for Keeping Warm, Fibershed, Botanical Colors and SO MANY other creative and inspirational individuals, I realized that the consumer choices conversation is far from over. I'd taken a bit of a life break from it, but now I am here and ready to actively participate again.

    From the Fringe Association blog:

    “Week” 1,  October 1-4: YOU
    First let’s introduce ourselves: Where are you at with all this / What first got you interested in Slow Fashion / What are your skills / What do you hope to get out of Slow Fashion October / What are your personal goals for the month / Do you have a special project you plan to tackle this month?

    • To add to what I've shared above, I will say that, as a mom of 3 young kids, starting a small home business, trying to grow food and make things and teach things and do things... it's easy to take the cheap & convenient road where fashion is concerned. Often, that road leads to Target (where very little that ends up in my cart would pass the self-righteous scrutiny of my 20 year old self. Haha!) But really - I have no idea where Target garments come from, and would be willing to bet that those who made them were not paid a living wage, to say the least. So, one of my personal goals: Don't buy clothes at Target (or at any other super-convenient place that sells garments of questionable origins). A related goal: Go through the closeted bins of outgrown kids clothes and make sure those that can be used by my younger kids are being used. I will also aim to shop thrift and consignment shops more often (something I already do, but could do more). Another goal, accomplished yesterday: Go through my yarn stash and remember/re-plan garment projects for the family. Several sweater quantities of yarn exist in there that were purchased for just that - sweaters. I will make a plan to make them happen!

    • My special project for the month is a Riverbend Cardigan for myself, in Brooklyn Tweed Quarry. I looooove this yarn, purchased and shipped oh-so quickly from fibrespace. I will confess that I have another BT sweater cast on in Shelter, and I hope to make some progress on that one, too (with a goal of finishing before Christmas). Am I the only knitter who's been knitting for 10+ years and has not made more than one thing for her spouse? I love you Josh.

    More from Fringe:

    Week 2, October 5-11: SMALL
    handmade / living with less / quality over quantity / capsule wardrobe / indie fashion / small-batch makers / sustainability

    • My thoughts here stray a bit outside of fashion into the world of things because last year, we moved from a small, older home on the east coast to a much larger, newer home in the Houston area. All the houses out here are pretty huge, comparatively. Ours is far from the hugest, but when we moved our smaller home stuff in here... well, there is a lot of empty space. Relating to "living with less" and "quality over quantity," I am reminding myself that empty home space is not a bad thing. I am kicking to the curb that impulse to fill my house with "stuff," so that it looks more like the other houses out here. Josh and I both want most of the things in our home to have a story, or to support small-batch makers and/or sustainable/eco-concious businesses, wherever possible. Speaking of which, here are just a few small-batch makers from my Texas neighborhood:
    • http://www.recoopdesigns.com -- We don't have any dining room furninture b/c the dining room in our old home was converted into my son's bedroom... I resolve to not buy just any old table until we can afford one of these. I love their light fixtures, too.
    • http://www.pinemills.com -- Talented makers near where my parents live. We have some of their dinnerware, and I love it. It is beautiful and substantial, and it lasts.
    • http://www.folkfibers.com -- One day. One of these quilts. One day. (P.S. Check out her instagram feed if you're not already following. It's lovely.)
    • http://www.independencefarmsteadfibers.com -- This mill just opened last year, a couple of hours from me! I am hoping to move more and more of Blue Highway yarn production here, as I grow. I am committed to US fiber and US milling already, but the closer the better, and Dawn at Independence does a fantastic job.
    • Back to fashion and as for a capsule wardrobe, I will say that I, like many thousands of others, read the KonMari. Last year, I went through my closet and donated all that didn't serve a clear purpose or "spark joy." I'm enjoying having fewer clothes to launder! And I've done a pretty good job at not reaccumulating clothes. I do however have a stash of fabric, and another goal of mine for the month is to go through that and remember the garments I meant to sew. I know a couple of Scout Tee's are in the queue, with some Cotton + Steel and other fabrics I bought last year. I'm new to sewing, and I need to do some research on fabric sources that are in line with slow fashion values... Any one reading this have advice on that front?

    So, there you go! All caught up on my Slow Fashion blogging. Other topics for the month include LOVED, WORN and KNOWN. I will try to check back in again with my thoughts on those, but you can follow me on instagram for more frequent check-ins than occur here.

    Peace!