Friday, September 19, 2014

Pickling, Fermenting + A Fantastic Giveaway

First off - don't forget the Craftsy sale going on now. It is a great opportunity to sign up for my class or many of the other classes. 

Here is the link to the sale:

Have you noticed how much interest there is in preserving veggies and fruits these days? When I was a kid, my Mom and Gram used to make jams and jellies out of whatever fruits we had too many of. My grandmother did some other preserving but I must admit, I never paid much attention. On the Christmas eve dinner table there was always a relish tray filled with watermelon rind pickles and bread and butter pickles. 

A couple years ago, I started making dill pickles. My family is crazy over dill pickles and the two of them can eat a jar in an evening. I had a glut of cukes in my garden so I got busy preserving them. My friend Kay who is a Master Preserver of fruits and veggies answered my questions. I found this recipe called Blue Ribbon Dill Pickles that looked good and discovered it was really easy to put up jars and jars of cukes. And once I had the jars, it was really economical.

I must say, my family is now addicted to these pickles. This year, I decided to branch out and made some classic Bread and Butter Pickles and one called Olive Oil Pickles (the jury is still out on that one so I won't share the recipe yet - they are aging). 

For the last couple weeks, I have spent hours pickling and preserving. I feel like an official Yankee farm woman putting up the harvest. It has been fun because it is something different to do and not drudgery (yet). My goal was to fill every canning jar I had (and I had a lot squirreled away in the basement) and I can happily say, my job is complete. 

These are my favorite, indispensable tools. If you are going to get into pickling, I highly suggest a jar lifter (so you don't burn yourself) and a wide mouth funnel. Both these tools make it so much easier.  

A couple weeks ago, I was rearranging things in our dirt floor basement looking for those jars and I discovered a large gallon glass jar with a big opening in it. I have always wanted to try lacto-fermented pickles. We love the ones we buy from our friends at Real Pickles. I called my friends at Storey Publishing and had them send some preserving books my way. Here are the fantastic books Storey sent me to review - all by Sherry Brooks Vinton

The first recipe I have tried is called Classic Crock Pickles. Sherry's instructions were precise although fermenting cucumbers and any fruit is a bit like a science experiment. Here's what my gallon jar looks like. Sherry suggests weighting down the veggies with a quart jar filled with water. 

The photo above is on Day One. I covered the jar up with a tea towel as she suggested (shown below). 

This is after a week of fermentation. The liquid is starting to get cloudy. As the scum appears, I skim it off. I'm not sure how long the process will take but next week, I'll start tasting the pickles. 


I will not process these fermented pickles because the heat will take away the healthful benefits of the fermentation (you can read about that here). I will keep them in the fridge. Next up is some sauerkraut. Not too much - just a little to have this winter. 

If you are interested and live close to Boston, check out the Boston Fermentation Festival on September 27th and 28th. Wow! Who was to know there are pickling retreats and events - and I thought it was only the knitters who were obsessive! The keynote speaker is Sandor Katz, the world's most renowned "fermentation revivalist." Check out his own website called Wild Fermentation here.

So here is what I have for you all today courtesy of the fine folks at Storey Publishing. One lucky winner will get a set of Sherry's 3 Preserving the Harvest books - Put Em Up, Put Em Up Fruits, and The Preserving Answer Book. Thank you Storey! Here's how you enter.....

Answer the following question in the comments section:

Tell me about your pickling or canning likes and hates? Do you do it? Is it too much bother? What recipes might you like? Did you grow up on homemade preserves? Pickles? Lacto-fermented or vinegar? Chutney? Jam? Jelly? Favorite books?

Contest ends at 11:59 p.m. September 22nd. US Addresses Only Please. 
Don't forget to leave an easy way to get a hold of you - blogger id, email, or Rav id. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Good Morning from The Farm + Huge Craftsy Class Sale

Thanks everyone for the heartfelt comments on yesterday's post. I really appreciate everyone's input. One comment struck me that a reader added to the discussion and said she doesn't comment anymore because she reads blogs on her ipad and she hates to type on it. I am with you on that. The ipad is so convenient for browsing but give me a keyboard anyday so I can bang away quickly on it. I think I am guilty of the same. If I am ordering anything on-line, I do it on my computer. No patience for that little screen keyboard (just saying Apple).

Now that Julia is back to school and on the bus very early, I've had a chance to go outside and experience the glorious autumn early morning light. I love this time of year when the sun starts getting at a lower angle in the sky. The beautiful natural colors start taking on that gorgeous autumn glow. 

Here is one of the little sheds that I have surrounded with hostas. It is filled with some odds and ends. It was Julia's playhouse when she was little but now is a catchall. Every morning the light is just spectacular around it and the hosta blooms dance in the air. The photo doesn't do it justice. 

Do you remember when I painted my studio door this crazy bright yellow color? I love it. So cheerful. 


This year, I planted morning glories on both sides of the door. They are growing haphazardly around the door along strings. Every few days I have to rein them into the string set up. I think I will do this every year. I love how the dark blue of the Grandpa Ott morning glory bounces off the yellow color.

Here is a jumble of color in the little garden outside the studio.

Today, I am announcing the big Fall Craftsy sale. All classes are on sale for up to 50% off. Have you been thinking about learning Crewel Embroidery this winter? Maybe you used to do it and want to start stitching again? Here's your chance. CLICK HERE TO RECEIVE THE DISCOUNT. My class is called Stitch It with Wool: Crewel Embroidery

Craftsy is a great organization for me to be affiliated with. Not only are their classes stellar but they give me the opportunity to earn some extra money by helping them promote their classes. I am very thankful for that opportunity because I have learned so much from the different classes I have watched. So know that by clicking my link, you are also helping me to support my family with a bit of extra revenue. And you get to learn something too.

Thanks everyone again for your kind words and encouragement on the blog.  


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Regia Design Line Winners, Update, Sunflowers + Thoughts

I've picked the winners of the new Regia Design Line Sock Yarn and have been in touch with them. Congrats to all six of you who won enough yarn for a pair of handknit socks. I'll be shipping the yarn out when I receive your shipping addresses. 

Just an update on where to buy the new Design Line Kristin Nicholas Ikat Inspired sock yarn. I've discovered that The Web•sters in Oregon has all my sock yarn available on-line including the older Garden Effects colors. You can check them out here. Also, just an FYI - the yarn is a 50 gram ball (230 yards) so you will need 2 balls for a pair of socks. Check it out here. Many local yarnstores have also stocked the yarn so check with them if you are lucky enough to have one in your neck of the woods.

Here at the farm, the autumn garden is happening. Weeds are everywhere. Some annuals are finished doing their thing and have given up. Others keep putting out the blooms, even if they are lying down on the ground sideways. Most of the veggies are over but I've still got beautiful kale and swisschard to enjoy this autumn. 


I seeded the sunflowers in two batches (not until late June and then July) and the first seeding is almost kaput. The second seeding, unfortunately, got walloped in a freaky rainstorm 2 Saturdays ago. Some of them fell over. I thought they would pop back up but some are down and out. That's the hazards of farming and gardening. It's amazing though, the plants that fell down - like these -

continue to bloom albeit a bit oddly coming up off the dirt. Makes for some curly stems but the bees and the birds don't care. 

These are Autumn Beauties from the first seeding. They are long season but worth the wait. Some are probably 11 feet tall. Stunning. Here are some other beauties.....

I realized not long ago that I have barely taken a photo of Julia since Christmas. She doesn't like to have her photo taken anymore. Gone are those days of cute little kid shots here on the blog! My baby has grown up. I began this blog in 2006 when she was a mere 8 years old. Now she is 16. Where did the time go? A few weeks ago, she was outside with me cuddling with Tommie and I got some nice shots of her. She is back to her old school - the new one didn't work out. It has been a tumultuous couple of weeks for all of us. But she is happy again now. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

I'm not sure about you but I have noticed the blog world changing. So many of the older original bloggers have either stopped or have turned their blogs into more money-generating sites. The newer bloggers seem to be all about brands and promoting themselves. There is nothing wrong with looking for money because we all have to make a living - me included. As family life and work commitments change, a blog has to change. It has to fit into the blog-writer's life. Jane of Yarnstorm has stopped writing her original blog and is moving into publishing. She has started a new blog which is looking quite great. Find it here. Soulemama is taking advertising and editing a beautiful magazine. Alicia is still faithfully updating even though her life must be super busy with a little one. Gale Zucker is re-committing to blogging as are her friends. Susan's blog keeps getting better.

I am wondering what you all are thinking? Do you read blogs anymore? Do you only read through Facebook? Are you only looking at Pinterest and Instagram these days? I'm trying to figure out where to go with this blog myself. I think about it all the time to tell you the truth. I stepped back in August to see if I wanted to continue. It takes a lot of time and effort and sometimes there is very little reward for the effort. I consider my reward to be comments, readership, purchases of my patterns, yarns, books, and kits. Just when I thought you all had stopped reading, I do a giveaway and get 200+ comments. Wow - thanks for that. At least I know you are out there. I loved reading what you all are planning to knit or stitch this fall. Many hours spent with yarn and needles, sewing machines, and fabrics. Hours spent making gifts for family and friends and new babes. What could be better?

I hope you and yours are enjoying the autumn weather. It is splendid, isn't it? Would love to hear your comments about blog reading if you have time. I'm sure other blog writers will love to hear too. 

p.s. I'm not thinking about stopping this thing - I'm just curious as to your thoughts and where your on-line priorities are now. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

New Design Line Sock Yarn from Kristin Nicholas/Regia + Giveaway

Attn Facebook Blog Readers - To enter this contest you must enter your comment on blog comments, not the Facebook hi-jacked blog post. Go to Thanks!

I have a passion for ethnic handmade fabrics whether they are woven, knit, embroidered or hand-dyed. When I was in college, I learned an intricate dye technique called Ikat Dyeing. For those not familiar with Ikat, the warp is wound for the loom and then the threads are dyed in a particular pattern. The warp is then used to dress the loom and the threads are woven into a beautiful fabric. It is rather painstaking, to say the least. After I dyed and wove a few pieces of ikat fabric, I realized the skill it takes to produce the incredible patterning of these fabrics. 

Above is a photo from the Author Susan Meller's website and newish book Silk and Cotton (which I'm asking for as a birthday gift M & J!) of hand-dyed IKAT fabric on a loom. Isn't it incredible? If you have time and the interest, check out Susan's website full of gorgeous fabrics. There are some beautiful hand-dyed and woven ikat fabrics here

When Regia asked me to design another collection of colors for sock yarn, we began with the idea of ikat fabric. Although this sock yarn is spun and dyed in a factory, it has the shifted, mottled look of ikat. There are 6 colors in this line and you can see them knit into socks below. 

Here is a photo of how the yarn looks in a ball. As you knit, an ikat inspired pattern will appear on your knit fabric. How very cool. Below you can see the 6 colors without the balls bands. I have included the names and numbers too in case you would like to order them.

Check your local yarn store for the new colors. They have been shipping in the US since August. 

To celebrate the world-wide launch of these 6 new shades, I am hosting a giveaway. SIX lucky readers will win 2 skeins of the new Kristin Nicholas Design Line - enough yarn for a pair of socks.

Here's how to enter the contest....

Answer the following question in the comments...... Facebook readers, please go to my blog, don't comment on Facebook. Type in on your browser to get to the blog to comment. Thanks!

What are your upcoming crafting, stitching, knitting or creative plans for this fall?

Contest ends at 11:59 p.m. Monday September 15th. 
US and Canadian addresses only. 

Please leave an easy way to get a hold of you - Rav id, blogger id, or email. Thanks for entering everyone.  Good luck

Don't forget to check out the new Regia Kristin Nicholas Design Line colors at your local yarn store. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Brimfield Inspiration

I had a great day last Friday at the Brimfield Flea Market. It was ridiculously hot and humid and melty. Luckily I got there as the show opened and escaped before the crowds and the heat became unbearable.

Gone are my days of spending money at Brimfield. Mostly, I go for the inspiration. I get lots of ideas from old things for my current work. Today I am going to share photos of what I found inspiring or interesting. There are of course a few sheep related things, farm related, color ideas, and other things I like. I hope you like the virtual Brimfield tour. I've added commentary when appropriate.

This was a lovely embroidered penny rug:


Loved this crazy paisley pattern on a vintage dress:


 I wonder if when I am gone, my oil paints and brushes will end up at a flea market?

Another textile mill bites the dust. The sign for Wyandotte Mill of Pittsfield was for sale at Brimfield. It made me so sad, considering I worked at a mill called Warley Worsted Mills in Lowell, MA.

I am glad I don't have to use this kind of washing machine: 

A gorgeous iron door stop in the shape of a ram:

This oval box with sheep and people on the lid was large, exquisite and expensive:


While we are talking farm animals, I loved this metal chicken cut-out:

I have never noticed ironstone like this with a stippled design. There was a large collection that was quite beautiful. This site has lots of it. No wonder I liked it - very expensive.

I loved this china pattern with the fluted edges and relief:

There was a man from Africa with some gorgeous textiles. This piece is made entirely of beads. The house and checked motif is quite graphic and beautiful:

He also had this beautiful indigo blue and white fabric I think made with a mud resist:

Loved this embroidered gameboard:

This pillowcase was velvet and the wool stitching was tufted and then shaped with scissors. I am working on a piece using a similar embroidery technique so this was fun to see: 

This next series of photos are of the thing I found that was the most stunning and memorable. It was an embroidered single bed quilt. It was glumped in the back of a car. It was a crazy patchwork of embroidery on white fabric. I loved the spontaneous quality of the stitching. I wish I had taken more photos but since I wasn't going to buy it (for sale for $295), I stopped after 5. 

I hope you enjoyed your virtual trip through my eyes of Brimfield 2014.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Sunflower Closeups on Embroidered Fabrics

I've been all about the sunflowers ever since they began blooming. I love this time of year. For several years, we grew a field of sunflowers and sold them by the side of the road. Life has gotten busier as our Leyden Glen Lamb biz needs more time. Three years ago, we scaled the sunflower field back replacing the sunflowers with hay. I now grow the sunflowers in my veggie garden. The neighbors can't enjoy them like they used to on the busy road, but I can keep sharing them here with you all.

Today, I bring you close-ups of individual blooms. I hope this series will inspire you to plant your own sunflowers - or paint them, or stitch them, knit them, crochet them, or have a bouquet from the grocery store in your kitchen. Sunflowers bring such joy, don't they?
Several years ago, I did a similar feature photographing single blooms on Indian block-print fabrics. This year, since it is all about embroidery with the release of my book Colorful Stitchery later in the month, I photographed my blooms on embroidered fabrics in my textile collection. (Signed copies of Colorful Stitchery available Sept. 21st in my webshop here.)

These are the sunflowers that are blooming in the garden this week. There will be more varieties to come which I hope to have time to photograph. I have given you the name of each of the flowers, if I can determine them. Some were self-seeded. This year I bought most of my sunflowers from Sunflower Selections out of California. They are the retail arm of NuFlowersLLC which is the lifework of Dr. Tom Heaton. How interesting to spend a lifetime breeding sunflowers! Packages are a little large (100 seeds each) so you could share with a friend. I did fill in with some varieties from Johnny's Selected Seeds - including Autumn Beauty and Sungold (not yet blooming).  

Here we go.... enjoy the close-ups!

Joker - I love this flower because it is very prolific with many flowers on a single plant. Flowers vary in size with first one about 7 inches and smaller side shoots about 4-5". The photograph shows a large top flower as it is beginning to make seeds. Many, many flowers per plant. Photographed on Indian patchwork embroidery.

Orange Ruffles - This is a new one this year for me. It has long slim petals. Around the disk, there are small little petals that are quite frilly. Very pretty and delicate. Branching and multiple flowers per plant. Photographed on a mirrored embroidered piece from India.

Greenburst - Another new one for me. There is a small center of pretty green surrounded by a fluffy large center. On the outside there are long petals. Lots of blooms on one stalk and as with all branching sunflowers, the first top bloom is the largest. Photographed on a suzani embroidery.

Starburst Panache - Another fluffy sunflower but this one is all orange. The center is speckled with rust. Branching habit too so lots of flowers from one plant. Photographed on a piece of Indian embroidery.

Procut BiColor - The Pro Cut series of sunflowers are what professional growers supply to florists and grocery stores. They are available in 11 colors. This one is called BiColor with petals two toned with rust closer to the center disk and yellow on the outside. The disk is brown. Photographed on a piece of embroidery from Uzbekistan.

Autumn Beauty - We have been growing this variety purchased from Johnny's for years and years. It is a longer season variety (over 90 days to bloom) and the colors are varied. If you only want to grow one variety, this would be my choice. They get very tall and branch like crazy. They make a nice hedge or barrier. Colors range from lemon, gold, brown, rust, red and bi-colored. This is the first Autumn Beauty to bloom and it is a light lemon with reddish variegation close to the center disk. Autumn Beauties are not pollenless so expect pollen dripping on your tables if you are a neat freak.  Photographed on a piece of Indian shisha embroidery.


Moulin Rouge - This sunflower is a stunner because no one expects a maroon sunflower, do they? They are a bit delicate so do not travel well. I assume that is why you barely ever see them available at stores. Very tall. Short season, meaning quick to bloom (about 65 days). Branching habit with many blooms per plant. I love this flower. Photographed on another piece of Indian embroidery with mirrors.


Stella Gold - I found this sunflower variety years ago and then it disappeared. I was so happy to find it again last year from Sunflower Selections. I love the quirkiness of this flower - the long slim petals on the dark, large disk. Non-branching meaning only one flower per stalk but worth it because it is so oddly beautiful. 

This last sunflower reminds me of classic sunflowers. It is from a plant that self-seeded in my garden, hence no name. This plant just keeps putting out the flowers. As you can see, there is pollen dripping out of the center outer ring. Photographed on a piece of cross-stitch I found at a yard sale. From the motifs, I assume it is probably from a Slavic country.

I hope I will have time to capture more photos to share with you all as the other varieties I planted bloom. BTW, you can buy PDF's for knit and crochet sunflowers on my on-line store - here and here. My sunflowers even inspired me to write a book called 50 Sunflowers to Knit, Crochet and Felt.