Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Surprise! Look what is happening.....

Look at this!

We are having lambs again! For the past few years, The Farmer has been bringing in new bloodlines and breeds of sheep to our flock. First was a big Polypay from the University of Wisconsin. Next, over two years, he purchased 2 Dorset ram lambs from a farm in Pennsylvania. Their father was from Australia! The miracles of AI (artificial insemination) and airplanes! And this spring, he purchased another Polypay from the University of Wisconsin. 

Good genetics, although expensive, is one of the easiest way to improve a flock. Because our product is meat, we look for good carcass quality and prolificacy. And so here you have it - lambs in the late summer. 

When the first ones were born, we were a bit surprised. Usually we will have a couple of late summer lambs but this year, there is more than a handful. 

Last night I was lucky to be close by when this pair of twins was born. The mother was incredibly attentive, cleaning them off. They were up quickly. By tomorrow, they will be running so fast that we won't be able to catch them. And they don't have to contend with the snow. We will see how fast they grow and if there are any specific problems to deal with compared to lambing in the winter. 

It is sweet to hear the little lambs voices talking to their mamas out in the pasture. 

Thanks everyone for entering the Wendy Bernard Stitch Dictionary giveaway. Lisa is the winner and I have contacted her. Hopefully I will find some more nice books to share with you all this fall. 

I hope you all are enjoying the last few fleeting weeks of summer. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Wendy Bernard's Knitting All Around Stitch Book Review + Giveaway

I must say, I have been slacking in the Book Review department this year. I think I have been pre-occupied with my own book project. And honestly, I am not finding as many new books that I think you all will be interested in. Perhaps it is book burn-out for me.... but if you know of any books you think I might enjoy and want to share, please send me a note. 

In April, I received Wendy Bernard's The Knitting All Around Stitch Book and I have been meaning to share it with all of you. It was published in April but for me, knitting season is over in April. I decided to hold it back because knitting season is coming up SOON. This is a good book! 

This is the second "Stitch Dictionary" in Wendy's book writing career. She is also the author of the blog Knit and Tonic and the author of 3 "Custom Knits" books all published by STC. It is a follow-up to Up, Down, All-Around Stitch Dictionary. I love this book! If I were at the beginning of my Knitwear Design career, I would have been overjoyed to have this book in my arsenal of stitch books. 

The premise of The Knitting All Around Stitch Dictionary is that each stitch photographed includes directions in both Chart Form and Written Out

Besides having instructions both written out and charted, each stitch pattern gives instructions for beginning at the top of a project and at the bottom of the project. This concept makes a knitwear designer's pattern swatching and writing chores so much easier. 

The stitches are photographed very appealingly, aren't they? Types of stitches include, mosaics, knits and purls, lace, cables, and "fancy". 

I also like the portability and usability factor of the spiral binding. It seems very sturdy so that you can easily tote it around in your bag and not ruin it.  I've had lots of experience with ruining books in my knitting bag so I appreciate this attention to such detail. (You should see my shredded "Mon Tricot" Stitch Dictionaries.)

I've photographed my favorite stitches from the book and shared them here but let me tell you, there is so much more in it. 

There are also basic patterns given, including this cute hat. These patterns give a beginning designer a basis to try out different stitches on. Nice. 

And this chapter called Designs from Scratch which helps beginning designers or those who want to customize patterns.  

So here is what I have for one lucky reader today....... their very own copy of The Knitting All Around Stitch Dictionary

To enter, answer the following question in the comments section of this blog post. 

What do you have plans to knit this coming autumn/winter? OR What are your favorite kinds of stitches to knit? 

U.S. addresses only. And make sure you leave an easy way to get a hold of you - email, Rav id, or Blogger id. Contest ends Sunday August 21st at 11:59 p.m. Good luck everyone! 

Contest is over. Lisa has won and been contacted. Thanks for everyone's interest!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Bountiful Blooms of Summer


With Wednesday's and Saturday's rain (HOORAY!), my zinnias and snapdragons woke up. I picked all of the flowers that were on the plants and filled the house with bouquets. The more I pick, the more the plants will bloom. I will just keep picking and picking. My garden has also been producing haricot verts, zucchini, summer squash, cukes, basil, and parlsey. Most of the garden is planted to flowers though. Sunflowers are a few weeks away but they are growing fast now that there is a bit of moisture in the ground. It is amazing how much change happens when plants that are starved for water get it.

A couple weeks ago, I re-planted some rows of sunflowers for the third time. I don't know if it was lack of water or the birds but I had very poor germination this year. I hope they will sprout and there will be time before frost for them to bloom. 

I have a complete row of Verbena Bonariensis. It is one of those that really thrive on hard picking. I love how the blooms dance above the plants and how it is so delicate and airy. 

It seems like my end of summers every year here at the farm are devoted to flowers and my garden. When I am in the garden in the early evening, the sheep are usually beginning to move around and start grazing. 

I really enjoy growing flowers, picking them, keeping them in vases around the house, bringing them to friends. I do not think I am alone in my love for flowers. Am I? The colors - the shapes - the promise of beauty - the life and death of a flower and a garden - I do not take them for granted. Sometimes I think I must be a bit crazy - growing, picking, plopping them in vases for no one to see but the three of us. But they make me happy - so happy. 

This year I grew snapdragons for the first time. They are so old-fashioned looking, aren't they? They do look good in vases and I think they will keep producing through September. The plants look good and full so I hope there are more flowers to come. I purchase most of my flower plants from Walker Farm in Dummerston, VT (I call it Insta-Garden) except for my sunflowers which I sow directly in the ground. They only had 2 colors of snaps left when I went in June but next year I may grow some other colors.  This is a very dark red that is quite dramatic but difficult to get a good photo

Thanks everyone for the entries in the Kaffe Fassett Bold Blooms Book Giveaway. I had 74 entries which is good for the end of summer when folks are away from their computers. FYI, the most favorited flower of all the contestants was the peony. I guess that is no surprise. 

I have notified the winner Helen Mathey Horn and am waiting to hear from her now. 

I hope you all are enjoying the last fleeting days of summer. Only 2 weeks til Julia starts school again. And then the race begins! It is her last year of High School. Where did the time go? 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Bold Blooms - Kaffe's New Book + A Giveaway

It isn't often that I get really excited to crack open a new book. Last week, a package arrived from STC with a review copy of Kaffe Fassett's new book Bold Blooms: Quilts and Other Works Celebrating Flowers. I had high hopes. I was not disappointed. THIS BOOK IS AWESOME!

I'm sure all of you are familiar with Kaffe Fassett. If you aren't, go check out his website where you can learn more. Kaffe (rhymes with safe) is probably the most prolific and talented living textile artists living today. He has authored so many books and designed so many fabrics, needlepoints, sweaters, yarns and more that it makes my head spin. His artwork also includes gorgeous paintings and mosaics. Kaffe travels extensively throughout the world spreading his love of color and pattern. If you ever have a chance to see him speak, GO! You will leave inspired. Here is a link to his biography. He is a testament to the phrase "Do what you love." Born in 1937, he should be an inspiration to us all. I know he is for me. 

So onto his newest book Bold Blooms: Quilts and Other Works Celebrating Flowers. This one is a beauty. Look at this stunning cover. 

I really do love this book. Sometimes I look at books in a jaded way considering I write them too. But this one is extraordinary. It begins with an entire section where Kaffe shares how he designs. From his incredible fabrics, his large paintings, his quilt designs, even how he arranges flowers - he tells the reader how he does it. What a fun look into his creative process. I found this section the most interesting part of the book and you might too! This chapter adds another dimension to the book - one that makes it even more inspirational. 

The rest of the chapters in the book are organized around color themes and Kaffe's flower arrangements. The stunning photography was done by Debbie Patterson. Each floral arrangement served as an inspiration for at least one quilt design and one needlepoint project. 

Each chapter also includes a two page spread of favorite photos, vases, and art that inspire Kaffe. More stunning photography.

Bold Blooms is PACKED with 18 quilt designs. Kaffe used not only his own designed fabrics but pieces from his vast stash of fabrics collected on his worldly travels. It is nice to see that he has a fabric stash too and that he pulled it out to add to these quilts. Sometimes I think that some of his books are all about selling the next line of fabrics. There is nothing wrong with that. But this book - Bold Blooms - with the large number of quilts seems to me to be more than just a promotional project. It is a book that speaks more to the creativity of quilting. And that is a good thing. 

I also love that each chapter features a needlepoint pillow project. It is great to see needlepoint back again and featured like this. Maybe more people will pick it up. Let's hope. Here is one of my favorites pillows inspired by the flower arrangement above. 

And another needlepoint pillow. 

I like the graphic quality of the needlepoint designs. They have a little less shading and less fussiness - more approachable for the beginning needlepoint stitcher. You can see many of Kaffe's past needlepoint designs on Ehrman's website where they are sold as kits here. I am not sure if these new pillows from this book will be sold as kits. 

With each quilt design comes a story about its beginnings. This one is incredible. It is done with fussy cutting. A real work of art. And the story behind it so fun - about the collaboration. You'll have to get the book to read about it.  

Liza Prior Lucy is Kaffe's co-author. She coordinates the construction of the quilt after Kaffe has planned it. What a job. Liza also owns Glorious Color - the quilting fabric on-line retailer. Busy lady. Here is another quilt from the book that I really like. 

I love this next quilt - combining jugs and flowers. So fun. (And that needlepoint chair is to die for. Instrux aren't included for that though.)

This quilt is one of my favorites. 

The back of the book gives all the how-to to make most of the projects in the book. 

If you are a fan of Kaffe's, I am sure you have already pre-ordered the book. If you aren't a fan, I highly suggest you add this book to your collection. Even if you do not make anything from it, I am positive you will turn to it for inspiration over and over. 

Great job Kaffe and Liza and Debbie. Bold Blooms launches in mid-September from STC Craft.

Here's what I have for one lucky reader - their very own copy of Bold Blooms sent to you from the publisher STC Craft upon publication. Here's how you enter......

Answer the following question in the comments section....

Tell me about your favorite flower that you immortalize in art, bouquets, your home. Or tell me a story about your love affair with Kaffe's work. 

Contest ends Monday August 15th at 11:59 p.m. U.S. Addresses only please. Make sure you leave an easy way to get a hold of you - blogger id, Rav id, or email. Good luck everyone!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Rain + Other Tidbits

Rain. It is a beautiful thing. We have been in a drought this summer as you probably have heard. It has made gardening and farming very difficult. All over our Pioneer Valley, farmers are losing their crops because their source of irrigation has dried up. Our hay crop, which is what the sheep eat in the winter, has been incredibly slim. We are waiting to see what happens during this end of summer season. Then Mark will count the bales and figure out how many animals the crop will feed over the winter. Every morning he looks at the Drought Monitor

This is the first time we have experienced drought like this in our farming years. We have always felt so bad for farmers in Texas and Australia (and other places) when we hear about drought in other places. Livestock needs to be fed and drought often forces farmers and ranchers to sell much of their stock because there is no way to feed the animals. It must be heart wrenching. We are hoping we do not have to sell too many animals but only time will tell. 

Yesterday we had a very good rain. It thundered in the morning and then it poured and poured. I put a little video up on my IG account here of the rain. By the end of the day, the sun had come out. My garden - which is heavily mulched with cardboard and a very thick layer of mulch hay, perked up immediately. I think the sunflowers grew 6" in a day. This morning the fields outside our house looked a little greener. The lambs are growing very slowly this year because the grass is slim. 

Today and tomorrow are incredibly humid and way up in the 90's. I worked in the garden some until I thought I would pass out. The rest of the day was spent in the basement sewing a duvet cover for my upcoming book. Here are the colors of Kona Cotton I have chosen. It is turning out pretty. I am going to design the backing fabric and have it printed by Spoonflower. 

Beau and Sadie had their fur trimmed. They were so miserable with the heat. They look like Labs now, don't they? They just turned one year old. Boy, I hope they calm down soon because they are destructo-matics. You can see the stuffing from their dog beds in front of them on the stone. Not much is safe from them. They took up gardening last week and let's just say, they aren't very good at it. 

Pop back in tomorrow. I have something new to show you. 

Friday, August 05, 2016

Fabric Printing + Embroidery Class Wrap Up - Day Two

Day Two of the Fabric Printing + Embroidery Retreat was all about embroidery. On Day One, the students had designed their base cloth. They printed their motifs on 100% linen fabric using motifs they designed. 

We spent the morning learning embroidery stitches and practicing each one. I added to the mix by demonstrating many more possibilities. It was a good morning. 

We had a lovely lunch on the porch. It included a zucchini frittata with eggs from my chickens. Don't you love the embroidered potholder that my little 8 year old friend Sasha made me. Overnight we had rain and it perked up the garden. Thank goodness because it was much needed. 

All afternoon the students worked on pieces. They talked about what stitches they would add when they got home too. It was a real learning day. 

Here are some of the process shots from the day. 

Here are the printed and embroidered pieces with their design influence. The book is Lee's inspiration via Angie Lewin's book called Angie Lewin: Plants and Places

Amy's Mid-Century Modern inspiration:

Lauren's Scandinavian fabric inspiration: 

It was a great time. Such good work happened. I love watching students progress and the delight they have in learning. AND the surprise that they have done such a great job. Here is a not so good photo of the group with their printed bags. 

I hope to repeat the class again next year. If you want to be alerted to the upcoming classes, make sure you sign up for my Newsletter on the top right of this blog. 

There is one more Creative Retreat this year. It is a Knitting, Steeking, and Embroidery on Knits Class and it is September 24/25. Check it out here. There are a few spaces available. Come join the fun. Considering the weather, the leaves will be changing by then.