Color Inspiration

Color Inspiration from the Garden

The end of Summer is full of color inspiration and beautiful produce from the garden. On a short holiday trip to piedmont I rediscovered one of nature’s most inspiring color combinations, red and green…or in this case fuchsia and pale yellow-green in the wonderful hull of the Cranberry Bean.

A beautiful Cranberry Bean growing in our friend's garden near the town of Crodo in Piedmont.

A beautiful Borlotti (aka Cranberry) Bean growing in our friend’s garden near the town of Crodo in Piedmont.

Borlotti or Cranberry?

In Italian it’s the Borlotti Bean and in English the Cranberry Bean, but this bean by any name is still stunningly beautiful! Now open up the Borlotti bean hull and what do you find:

Here are the empty Borlotti Bean hulls and you can see why they're also called 'Cranberry' what an amazing dark fuchsia against the startlingly pale interior!

Here are the empty Borlotti Bean hulls and you can see why they’re also called ‘Cranberry’ what an amazing dark fuchsia against the startlingly pale interior!

Inside is the deliciously creamy-nutty flavored bean itself. Not quite as vivid as it's outer shell it's still lovely.

Inside is the deliciously creamy-nutty flavored bean itself. Not quite as vivid as it’s outer shell it’s still lovely.

Now, what to do with this wonderful color inspiration from the garden? It just so happened that, when we went on vacation to Piedmont, my right wrist and shoulder had begun to bother me with the tale-tale signs of a RSI…bummer! I decided to take a project-free vacation and packed no knitting and no spinning, determined to rest my right arm. After coming home and spending another week in stretching, yoga and using a heated massager borrowed from my kind neighbor (and not knitting and not spinning). I was feeling a bit better but not much.

 

Long-draw to the rescue!

Then it came to me, I would experiment with ‘long-draw’ fiber drafting where I could use my very sound and un-irritated left arm and hand with minimal effort from my right. Long-draw and You Tube to the rescue! After watching two very helpful videos – one by Spindlicity, with multiple fiber types and approaches, and another by Long Draw John, with a focus on using merino roving – I was ready to try the challenge. I decided to card up a few rolags: blending some roving from my wool box stash: fuchsia, red and pink for one set and pale yellow, blue and white for the other. Voilà! My color inspiration from the garden turned into my first long-draw skein 🙂

Here's my Long Draw Bean Skein inspired by the beautiful colors of the Borlotti Bean hull.

Here’s my Long Draw Bean Skein inspired by the beautiful colors of the Borlotti Bean hull.

A Bean Bag!

What to make with this scant 40 meters of yarn? It had to be something quick and easy on larger diameter needles. Something that wouldn’t aggravate my irritated appendage but still satisfy my stymied creative energy. I found the perfect solution in what I decided to call my ‘bean bag’! A wonderful bag pattern by VERONIKA just called for a stockinette or garter stitch rectangle with a width length ratio of 1:3. I washed and dried my skein and cast on 25 stitches on U.S. #8’s and got going. The very fast (and wrist friendly) result was this little bag that’s just the right size to hold two little balls of sock yarn!

My Borlotti Bean Bag with an antique shell button and an I-cord strap will be a great way to take summer's color inspiration from the garden on into the cold Lombard winter!

My Borlotti Bean Bag with an antique shell button and an I-cord strap will be a great way to take summer’s color inspiration from the garden on into the cold Lombard winter!

 
Last but not least, a little more color inspiration from the beautiful landscape of Piedmont’s Val Formazza:

A Great End of Summer Offer

Stripes and Lace

Here’s a great opportunity to have what I think of as one of this summer’s “must have” knitting patterns for free from now through Sept. 7th! This tee showcases a mix of stripes and lace that can be either elegant or spirited depending on your color choices. Now’s your chance to get started on a wonderful End of Summer project and take a look at some of the other wonderful Jenjoyce Design patterns. Happy wool-working!

Jenjoyce Design's Penny Candy Tee!

Jenjoyce Design’s Penny Candy Tee!

Free through September 7th

“Dear Knitters ~~ Do you love stripes? Do you love lace? Do you love to wear light-weight hand-knits in the sunshine? Would you like to put them all together in a cute sweater for you, for your daughter, or grand-daughter, niece, or friend? Great, because from now (officially Labor Day weekend) through the first week of September ~~ September 7th ~~ I am offering to gift this pattern to all who participate in the promotion.” – to find out how, click on the link below:

http://jenjoycedesign.com/2014/08/29/for-knitters-penny-candy-tee-end-of-summer-promotion/

California Design meets Italian Wool

California design meets Italian wool - JenJoyce and Oropa make a great match!

California design meets Italian wool – JenJoyce and Oropa make a great match!

A tale of two valleys…

Just one ridge over from Pettinago where I went to the spinning workshop and looking down at the border between Piedmont and Val d’Aosta, is Oropa, home of the famous sanctuary of the black madonna that sits above the city of Biella but still well below the crown of the surrounding alps. Sheep that were shorn this spring are grazing on the hillsides while, in the Biellese Valley, a wool cooperative is processing the fleece into a yarn that will be named after the National Park and Sanctuary where they graze: Oropa.

Meanwhile, in California, somewhere in the green between the Sonoma and Napa Valleys, in the shade of the pines, a designer is knitting gauge swatches, thinking and writing instructions for candy striped socks that can start at the ankle and end at the toe without ever breaking the yarn. She’s testing the different sizes and designing a version that is an adorable pair of picot-trimmed baby booties. These are “Penny Candy Socks”.

A tale of two valleys - from Sonoma to Oropa

A tale of two valleys – from Sonoma to Oropa

They came together in my living room, on Lago Maggiore’s shores and in Gemonio’s piazza…

My Penny Candy Socks: "Licorice Whip" in Oropa 1 ply: Aosta Black and Grigio Perla

My Penny Candy Socks: “Licorice Whip” in Oropa 1 ply: Aosta Black and Grigio Perla

If you make these with the magic loop and split the skeins, a sock and the yarn fits in your purse and goes anywhere! When California Design meets Italian Wool they make a great pair!

Happy wool-working!

Going a’ roving into new territory!

A dash of South African Mohair, a pinch of Extra Fine Merino, a little bit of of Lincoln Lustre, and a touch of Grey/Brown Jacob…yes, I couldn’t help myself! Spinning fever just crashed into interesting new fibers to be discovered and…I ordered a little ‘wool tasting’ menu of the Wool Box’s latest offerings! The great thing is that it costs so little that I don’t even have to feel guilty (besides, it’s not like I ordered them all! Just a smidge of those four to see what they’re like :).

Check out the sheep!

Wonderful new roving from the woolbox

The little ‘Jacob’ on the end is so cute! What will the wool be like? I can’t wait to find out…

Here’s the text that I translated from The Wool Box Blog…I’m looking forward to learning about these different sheep and wool almost as much as I’m looking forward to my small package of new roving….almost:

Lincoln Lustre, Falkland Fleece, Blufaced Leicester, UK grey/brown Jacob wool, Extrafine Merinos.

This could be a series of tongue twisters or passwords known only to members of a secret society.

But really, these are just the names of our freshest ‘tops’ that have just arrived and are ready to be spun.

Saying that these fibers are rare would be an understatement. We challenge you to find similar range, 100% made in Italy and especially at these prices.

Week after week we’ll take you on a journey of discovery, learning about these ovine breeds and the special qualities of these fibers, offering you the possibility to create absolutely unique yarns, entering the exclusive domain of those trendsetters on the new frontier of luxury.

Can you spin? Great; for you this represents a unique opportunity to try new fibers that otherwise you might never have known.

Don’t know how to spin? No problem. We can teach you!

You don’t want to spin but you want to work with these exclusive fibers? Wonderful, just let us know and we’ll spin up a custom blend just for you.

In short, there’s something for everyone. For more information write to: info@thewoolbox.it

Loaves and Knitting

Loafing around in the morning…

Ahh, I just popped this loaf of bread in the oven and I can already smell it baking. Breakfast will be served (with butter and cherry jam) in a half hour!

Cherry-peach preserves are ready to eat as soon as this loaf comes out of the oven!

Cherry-peach preserves are ready to eat as soon as this loaf comes out of the oven!

…and then ready, set, KNIT (my first commission!)

I received my first knitting commission last week for three (!) pairs of my workman’s gloves. I’m so excited! I’ve always knit for my family but this is an adventure in long-distance fitting as well – all three pairs of hands are in Texas at the moment.

ready, set, KNIT! Everything is set up for my first commissioned knitting project.

ready, set, KNIT! Everything is set up for my first commissioned knitting project.

 

This yarn is made from a mix of Suffolk wool from Umbria together with wools from Biella and Abruzzo. Made with natural, undyed fleece accented with flecks of marigold, grass green, fuchsia and pewter. Shearing year 2011. It’s the perfect weight for accessories such as gloves, hats, cardigans or scarves. Very durable and one of my favorites.

This yarn is made from a mix of Suffolk wool from Umbria together with wools from Biella and Abruzzo. Made with natural, undyed fleece accented with flecks of marigold, grass green, fuchsia and pewter, it’s the perfect weight for accessories such as gloves, hats, cardigans or scarves. Interestingly it’s both durable and luxurious, truly one of my favorites.

I have the first set of measurements, the pair I made to use as a model and 3 skeins of The Wool Box’s Morron Bouton, which is really what makes these gloves work.

I’m going to try and write my first pattern as well. I think I’ll need it if I’m going to knit three different sizes… We’ll see. Anyway, time to stop blogging and start knitting.

Happy wool-working!

 

 

Springing Towards Summer

Robin's Striped Hetty - I hope it still fits her in the Autumn!

Robin’s Striped Hetty – I hope it still fits her in the Autumn!

Striping it up!

Although I finished this a few weeks ago it was a job to get my girl to model it. She loves the top but, as evidenced by the day lily in her hair, summer weather has finally arrived in northern Italy and all she want’s to wear right now are sleeveless tank-tops. Then there was getting her to stop ‘modeling’; it’s hard not to laugh when she arches her eyebrows and puts her hand on her hip! Meanwhile, I did love Sarah Wright’s pattern, which was a good size for my 6-year-old. One of the advantages of top-down patterns for kids is that, If she get’s any taller, I can always pick up the bottom stitches and keep going. The decision to make stripes was inspired by Jenjoyce Designs’ Pin-Striped Sweater Tees (which I’m happy to say now has a pattern available). Over all I’m happy with how it came out, I’m only a tiny bit disappointed at how evident the increases are below the blue stripe at the waist although that’s due to the smoothness of the yarn rather than any problem with the pattern.

Coming to terms with super soft…once again

It is really, wonderfully soft. Even though this is super wash, I’ve had such bad luck with this yarn pilling (and I’m not the only one), that I’m going to keep washing by hand in cold to see if that helps. A polar opposite of the Morron Bouton that I used to make my husband’s Workman’s Gloves and Hybrid Highland Hose, I can’t recommend Lana Gatto Super Soft for anything you want to keep for a long time or that has to take wear and tear (i.e. forget it for aran sweaters or socks); although it’s not a heritage knitting yarn, it’s a fine choice for fun-colored, low-wear accessories, children’s or infant patterns that are fast to knit up and that only need to look good for a single season.

Robin's Striped Hetty in Process and Complete.

Robin’s Striped Hetty in Process and Complete.

Too hot to handle? Knitting with wool in warm weather.

I really love to knit and so I don’t want to stop when the weather warms up, nor do I want to have a big pile of wool in my lap. But I love wool! Cotton is okay and I love those cotton/wool/silk blends by Noro but there’s no match for the lofty, soft, inviting (and very forgiving) stretchy-ness of wool.

Of course, Lombardy isn’t Texas, so the summer at it’s worst here is like an early June day in Dallas. Here you want a little something to cover your shoulders when the sun goes down even in August. So, what about wool? My husband has a summer wool suit and he says that in Italian they call summer-weight wool ‘lana fresca’. It’s lovely, it doesn’t crease and it’s light as a feather. So, that got me thinking and clicking. On a lark I googled ‘wool t-shirts’. Wow, too cool, they make them! It turns out that wool is the new fiber of choice for hikers, runners and bikers, even in the summer! There was a really funny blog here by a guy who tested a woolen t-shirt for two weeks to see if it would start to smell:

http://www.outsideonline.com/blog/outdoor-gear/two-weeks-one-wool-shirt.html

and another more straight forward review by a cyclist in Texas:

http://jimsbikeblog.wordpress.com/2011/08/18/wearing-wool-in-high-summer/

Well, I’m not planning to make any long cycling trips but as I searched I was looking for a some information that wasn’t pitching a product or an organization and I found this tidbit in: Encyclopedia of Deserts

“Wool is the best fabric choice in the desert environment. Nomadic Bedouins in the Middle East wear loose wool garments year-round…therefore, for hiking in the desert a loosely knit wool sweater is a better clothing choice than a cotton sweatshirt. ” (p. 123)

Okay, so I’m not going to go hiking in the desert wearing a new IBEX wool t-shirt…but, although the idea of knitting a t-shirt is tempting, I think I’ll start by knitting a nice lacy light weight something to throw over my shoulders. I like that word my husband taught me, ‘lana fresca’ – refreshing/fresh wool.

Now for the fun part: choosing a which pattern and which wool!