We’re working on our second Yarn Love Club (you can still get the first one here). While we’re not quite ready to reveal the details of our next shipment, we can introduce you to the designer of the pattern for the next shipment.
Stay tuned to learn more about our next Yarn Love Club Shipment!
Sit & Knit ….What images do these words evoke for you?
Katharine Hepburn-esque beauty married to needle & yarn?
Or maybe you walk through your idyllic life wearing a gorgeous Fair Isle tam plus a glorious Shetland sweater?
Perhaps your favorite knitting group friends come to mind?
I often feel more and more stress as the end of December approaches. Have I purchased gifts for my family that they will like? What will my children remember about their childhood Christmases? Should I attempt to Martha Stewart the Christmas meal or should I keep it simple? Did I walk out the door with the hem of my skirt tucked into my underwear or is it really that cold outside?
Although for the moment I’m immersed in the bustle of holiday preparation, soon it will pass. I know I’ll be ready for a small project & the camaraderie of my knitting friends. I hope you will be, too. This year, I’m kicking off a Sit & Knit right after the end of the winter holidays.
Why? Because I need a break.
Because I need to set aside time to chat with my friends.
Because I am running out of handknit socks, and I can’t wear my knit pattern samples. (Doesn’t everyone have this problem?)
I hope you will join me for an unusual Sit & Knit….because otherwise I will be chatting to myself (and they lock people up for that!). The Yarn Love Sit & Knit will have multiple facets – you choose which ones you will participate in. Best of all, it’s just for fun. No deadlines. No stress. And if you run into a problem working through the pattern, we’ll be here to help you out.
The knit-a-long. We’re voting right now on what pattern we’ll knit together. Cast your vote, then cast on with us! All the pattern choices are small accessories so we can maintain our sanity post-holidays. Cast your vote, and you can help me re-establish a decent handknit sock wardrobe again!
- We’re fun. And who couldn’t use a little more fun?
- Get help if you need it from myself or other knitters
- Discount codes for the Yarn Love. That means if you need the pattern or some yarn, you’ll save some moolah!
- KAL Exclusive Colorway: I’ll be releasing this the first week of January.
- We’ll also provide encouragement/dire warnings so that you actually finish.
It has been suggested that we do a read-a-long with our knit-a-long. I’m totally game. I’m addicted to listening to audiobooks while I dye yarn. That means your yarn is extraordinarily well-read even before it arrives on your doorstep.
- Virtual escape into wonderful readerly adventures.
- Tell yourself/family/significant other you can do something other than knit.
- Fabulous discussion of plot, characters and more.
Ok, I admit it. This idea came to me right after Baking Day….somewhere between the 4th & 25th piece of Honey Vanilla Caramel that I ate. If you, like me, perhaps ate a few a lot too many cookies this celebratory season you may find that you’re a little more, ah, padded than you prefer to be.
If you’re up for a doable fitness challenge, this group is for you. I’m committing to doing a 15 minute ab workout every weekday for the entire month of January. I want you to workout with me because I really have no willpower when it comes to working out. I’m not a total flake – I can be very committed and very determined, but just not when it comes to biceps, and triceps, and quads, and whatnots.
The workout is simple, if you have a floor and eyeballs, you can do it. (Ok, you have to have some abs that are ready for toning. And please make sure you’re healthy enough for moderate exercise!) It takes about 15 minutes, and seems to actually work. Great abs (or non-saggy, baggy, post-kids midsections) here we come!
- Trimmer waist & a fit, fabulous you!
- Get rid of all those cookies we baked/ate/loved.
- Motivation – I’ll be there for you, if you’ll be there for me.
- Show your spouse/family/significant other/pet that you actually do something other than knit.
This past week has been extremely busy – the Yarn Sale of the Century really kept me (and I suspect you!) on my toes. I’ve been spending nearly every waking moment packing yarn, shipping yarn, dyeing yarn, photographing yarn, and listing yarn. Rinse, repeat. It’s been great.
The Yarn Sale of the Century was caused by a studio-wide Yarn Love destash. The studio is a part of my home, although it has always occupied it’s own distinct locations. Working from home isn’t always the easiest arrangement (And many adults tend to regard business done from home as mere “hobby” type work….) but I think it’s worthwhile. Integrating work and family feels much more holistic than the severe segregation/compartmentalization that many adults in modern America are forced into. Yes, we do step on each other’s toes from time-to-time, but my children know in a concrete way, what the work of Yarn Love is.
I like that.
That same integration is making for quite the remodel upheaval which spurred the Yarn Love destash. We’re changing the way we live in our house, and one of the areas that’s being moved happens to be the Yarn Love office and supply closet. This closet is one of two main storage areas for the business….and holds all the odds & ends skeins which were a part of the sale.
So at the conclusion of the Yarn Sale of the Century, I’d like to personally thank you, for helping me clean up the Yarn Love supply closet and make the move into the new storage area much tidier. Plus, you all are the best customers and yarn-friends a girl could have. Enjoy your yarn!
Want a peek at what we’re up to?
Here’s the new, modular Yarn Love desk in progress. (I swear this will be a desk – it really will!)
And here’s the inspiration. We only have a half wall, so ours will be shorter & the mirror image of this set-up…..but otherwise very similar.
Despite the general cacophony that we call life here at Villa Franceschi and Studio Yarn Love, Fletch is thriving. (Fletch being the baby bird rescued off the sidewalk a week and a half ago.) So here are some more pictures for all you bird lovers to look at.
(Even if you’re not a bird lover, it is pretty fascinating to watch how fast a baby bird grows and changes.)
Fletch is getting to be big. Overnight he’s gone from the “floppy neck” baby stage to being able to sit up and hop around on his own. I’ve moved him from a small 8 x 8 in box to a much larger 12 X 12 in. box. He likes to show off and has spent all day roosting on the edge of the diaper-lined bowl “nest” I’ve made for him just to prove how grown up he is.
There’s a three day gap in my photos here. We have a lot going on in our family this spring, and I didn’t get photos taken as I intended. You can see he’s got a lot more feathers now, but still shows a lot of translucent skin. No, that’s not a horrible tumor on his neck, it’s his crop. He’s just been fed and it’s full of food. He’s laying against the wall of his “nest” and can’t support his head on his own.
One day since the last picture. His feathers are noticeably thicker and he’s starting to really use his legs. Despite how spindly they are, he totters around his nest and generally gets himself tangled up a lot. Notice his tail feathers just starting to come in?
Fletch 16-18 Days
This is Fletch today. Despite the fact that he was doing a fantastic drunken-sailor imitation all day yesterday, he can now sit up and hop on his own today. I switched him to a box that is 50% bigger, so that when he hops out of his “nest” he has room to move. So far, he’s shown off all day by sitting on the edge of his nest and pooping into his nest.
This is a big departure from his MO all previous days. Robins are apparently born with the instinct to turn and poo along the outer rim of the nest when they’re young, so the parents can flick the poo onto the ground & keep the nest clean. Perhaps we’ve entered into the rebellious teenage phase?
If you hadn’t already guessed, birds are messy. That’s 8 hours worth of bird poo.
In non-bird related news I’m busily knitting and dyeing. Sock club yarns will go out early next week, and I have four pattern deadlines in the next two weeks. Lots of excitement around the Villa and Studio this week – it must be spring!
It’s spring. Love is in the air or so they say. Around here it’s likely to be allergens, rain, and birds. Oh, and those helicopter things maple trees drop. We have those by the millions. That’s probably why while I was out on a walk with my kiddos I discovered an orphaned baby bird on the sidewalk. (I reference the birds here, not the helicopters.)
He had fallen from his nest and was lying injured on the sidewalk. He narrowly missed an unhappy demise via scooter (two of my kids were scootering & somehow missed him) and I nearly ran him over with the stroller. Not an auspicious start!
Ordinarily, I am not the type of person who adopts strays. We have fish. They are lovely fish…and with a young family they’re about what I can keep up with. I am apparently not the type of person who can leave a teeny, tiny bird alone and orphaned on the sidewalk either.
Since no nest was apparent and no parent birds were about, I decided to see if I could revive the baby, figuring due to his injury from the fall, the extent of what I could do was make him more comfy in his final hours.
But Fletch is resilient. Despite being 2-3 days old when he fell from his nest, being injured, cold and hungry for a long time, he pulled through. He even made it when a severe thunderstorm knocked out our power for 24 hours, which left him without his necessary heating pad. He’s growing, his eyes have opened, and his feathers are coming in.
So meet Fletch, a baby North American Robin who is now about 8-9 days old. He’s nearly 50% bigger than the day we found him and enjoys long naps on his cloth diaper lined “nest” and eating softened cat food. He’s strong enough to chirp and even does so in his sleep. If I feed him, he’ll curl up in my palm and go to sleep.
Here are progression pictures of him with my estimate of how old he is. Fair warning, baby birds are pretty ugly. He’s growing less ugly, but when I first found him he was a translucent pink, covered in a fine fuzz, and extremely floppy….which makes it hard to take cute pictures. Just think of these pics as an educational experience.
Truth be told, he’s quite fascinating to watch in person. He grows and changes visibly each day.
Fletch 3-4 Days Old
Fletch two days after we found him. It took me this long to be confident that he wasn’t going to die. His body mass is a little bigger than a quarter here.Most of the debris you see around him is tidbits of food. He’s a messy, messy eater.
Fletch 5-6 Days Old
Fletch the next day. He’s bigger and he’s now able to open his eyes. His feathers are a touch longer around his wings, and beginning to appear down his back. He’s able to move more and has better control over his neck. Still messy, though.
Fletch 6-7 Days Old
This is Fletch last night. He’s substantially bigger than when we first found him – I estimate 40%. In one sitting he eats as much now as he did his first day with us. He can now stretch his wings out, and use his legs to move. He can also sit in a roosting position. Still really, really messy.
Welcome aboard the crazy Yarn Love wagon, Fletch. I sure hope the internet is right when it says you can learn to fly from watching other birds. I can feed you, but you’re on your own with the flying, little buddy.
P.S. I’ve categorized this post as a work in progress. Baby birds, like fledgling knitting projects are an ever-changing experience.
Once upon a time, there were two girls. Ladies, really, because they were all grown up with young kiddos of their own. They “met” via an online forum concerned with all things related to cloth diapers. They might have been a little odd, but they derived great pleasure from wrapping cloth around baby bums, topping them with conscientiously knitted woolen soakers, (Think underwear-esque diaper cover here.) and sending them off to explore the wide and wondrous world.
Their friendship grew, and so did their obsession with the wool. Soon they stopped knitting woolen diaper covers and started selling dyed yarn. Soon after that they started dyeing and selling their woolen wares under the same banner.
Time passed, and even though they eventually reverted to selling their yarny goodness from separate stores (It’s quite hard to run a business when the business partners live in different parts of the country.) their friendship and affection remained.
I am the short half of this duo, and Sharon, the Yarnista behind Three Irish Girls is the tall half. She’s paid me the highest compliment one dyer can pay another – she’s knitting a baby blanket for her coming Shamrock with my yarn.
Dear little Shamrock and Sharon – I hope you always find yourself wrapped in love and sincere affection.
Do you ever find yourself wondering why you don’t fit into a radically different category than the one you usually occupy? For instance, if you were a petite but mightily curvy woman born & raised in the Midwest you might find yourself wondering (many times, on multiple occasions, over a fairly decent spread of time) why you weren’t Japanese.
No, I’m not crazy. And I furthermore blame the Japanese people for my self-perception issues. Why? Because of things like this:
And this dress:
And if that weren’t enough, the things they do with knit & crochet blow me away. If only I had a few dozen more hours per day to spend sewing, knitting and crafting crazy-cool Japanese crafts!
Now you know….the secret & somewhat silly thoughts of a midwestern girl. I even have a pinboard devoted to “Japanese Inspiration” over on Pinterest. I’m YarnLove over there, in case you’re in the mood to oggle my pins.
You know, working out of your home – even when you have dedicated studio space – while balancing the needs of your family is a challenge. Many indie artists face this challenge everyday. For me some days are quite hard – the business must wait because my children need me. This can cause me stress and frustration as my deadlines and daily strategies are altered or disappear all together. Other days we all work in harmony and I make great yarny accomplishments! They are satisfied with their work and play, and I accomplish what must be done and more. As an indie artisan, I feel the tug of many tasks that need my attention. I make lots of lists in order to a.) remember everything and b.) prioritize my tasks c.) ensure both the household and the business is running smoothly.
To me, this is the heart of being an indie artisan. Bringing my career, and money making pursuits, into harmony with my life and my family. I feel this indie life is a great blessing to myself and to my family even while it is one of the most challenging pursuits of my life to date.
Case in point: I am currently working on a tight deadline for publishing two patterns. Contracts have been signed, and my professional image as a designer is riding on me getting my patterns and samples in on time. Due to the crazy forces of mid-winter holiday madness, I had 5 pattern deadlines changed by the publishers during the month of December. Even though I have been working days, nights and weekends on these two particular patterns, I had to write for an extension.
I felt terrible. I felt unprofessional. Luckily, the project is not as time-sensitive as most & the publisher granted me a bit of extra time to get everything in order. It was a huge weight off my shoulders, but I’m still working like mad.
Yesterday, I looked downstairs as I was cleaning up from breakfast to see my youngest son (16 months) playing with my yarn cakes for this pattern sample. We’re talking custom spun yarn that I’ve hand-dyed and hand-wound and are integral to this project which I’ve been trying not to stress over.
And I smiled. Because my yarn was ok. My pattern and sample are progressing daily. And my baby found joy in something I created.This is why I am indie.
I love Oreos. They’re the perfect cookie. Crisp and chocolaty with a sweet creamy middle. I even like to frost them with peanut butter, dunk them in milk and then eat them. I have many fond memories of eating Oreos.
Of course when you have a wheat allergy it really cuts down on the enjoyment aspect of Oreos. There’s nothing like the promise of a gut-wrenching stomachache to put a damper on the lovely tradition of consuming to0 many sweet, chocolaty calories.
I don’t have a wheat allergy, but my husband does and it’s just mean to sit there and eat treats in front of him. Luckily, I ran across this recipe for Faux-Reos from King Arthur Flour and converted the recipe to be wheat free. (That link will take you to the regular, wheat filled recipe. See, I love you no matter what you eat!) I made them last night…..amazing. So go ahead, grab the peanut butter and milk and remind yourself just why Oreos are so stinkin’ tasty.
(8 oz of Charlotte Bronte, worsted dyed in the new colorway Stallion were present in my kitchen during the making of these tasty concoctions. Knitting content = filled!)
Gluten Free Faux-Reo Cookies
Before you get started, if you don’t have the extra Dutched (yes, that is the correct term – who knew you could be extra Dutch past tense?) a.k.a. black cocoa powder or they won’t turn out right. I used a mix of 2 parts black to 1 part regular cocoa powder (60%) and they were delicious. And when I did comparative shopping, King Arthur had it the cheapest. Also, if you have extra finely ground, dark roast coffee you can use it in place of the espresso powder or leave it out. It’s tasty but this recipe is so chocolaty that the coffee isn’t a dominant flavor.
1 c. + 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
3/4 c. butter (room temp)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1 large egg
1 Tablespoon cold water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. non wheat flour*
1 1/2 teaspoons Xanthan gum
1/2 c. black cocoa powder
1/4 c. cocoa powder
2 1/2 c. confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
1/2 c. vegetable shortening (you want the regular “white” kind)
2 teaspoons cold water
1.) Preheat your oven to 325. Lightly grease your cookie sheets – it took 3 1/2 sheets to bake the full batch.
2.) Beat together the butter, sugar, salt and espresso powder. Feel free to sample this concoction – it’s yummy.
3.) Beat in the egg,water, and vanilla. Then add the cocoa powders, wheat free flour and xanthan gum. The dough will be stiff. (There’s no leavening in these cookies. You can stop worrying about forgetting it now.)
4.) Use a teaspoon cookie scoop (or make 2 t. sized balls) to scoop out the dough and place them 1.5 – 2 inches apart on the greased cookie sheets. Use a flat bottomed glass slicked with a light coating of canola oil to flatten the cookies to 1/8 inch thickness.
They’ll be flat. Really flat. But it will work. I promise. Just think of how thin and crispy Oreos are and squish away. The evener, the better. Look past the plate of baked cookies to see that corner of unbaked ones – see they’re super flat, but delicious!
5.) Bake for 17-20 minutes. I recommend trying a 1/2 sheet to begin with. You want them to be just so; set but not overly done. They will come out set, but a little flexible and that’s ok. You’ve overdone them if they break instead of coming off the cookie sheet.
6.) Get the cookies off the sheet almost immediately. They’re crisp and delicate. Cool them on a clean counter or cooling rack.A really thin spatula helps get these babies off the sheet.
7.) Assemble the filling while the rest of the batch bakes. That way you can frost the cool cookies while the rest bake.
To assemble the frosting, beat the shortening and powdered sugar on low until it starts to stick together. (It will take quite a bit of beating, and you’ll be tempted to think I’m lying to you about it coming together, but I’m not.) Add the water and bea until smooth.
8.) “Frost” the underside of a cookie with 2.5 -3 teaspoons of filling. Squish another cookie on top until it sticks, being careful not to break it. I use “frost” loosely, because I made 3 small balls of filling and used my fingers to squish them into an even layer between the cookies. My 6 year olds loved helping with this and squishing the cookies with the glass. Apparently, squishing food with impunity is very satisfying to young kids.
9.) Eat these babies and enjoy. They’re rich, buttery and amazing. Plus, since they’re wheat free that means they’ll be just as crisp tomorrow and the day after.
Flour note – I use a mix of 2 parts superfine brown rice flour + 2/3 part potato starch + 1/3 part tapioca flour/starch. You can get superfine rice flour from Authentic Foods or by processing regular brown rice flour in a VitaMix for 60 seconds. You need a high-powered blender to get the flour fine enough – my KitchenAid blender doesn’t cut it.
Wednesday Morning Coffee ™
f you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed a recurring theme. Every Wednesday morning, I post about what cup of coffee I’m enjoying. Since I am pregnant, I severely curtail caffeine intake. This puts quite a dent in a coffee lover’s drinking habits, as you might imagine. I limit myself to 3 cups of 100% decaf coffee per week. If you’re also a coffee lover you might be thinking, “What’s the point? Decaf coffee has no FLAVOR!!!!” And in most cases you’d be right. Caffeine is a flavor enhancer, and when removed from products (i.e. Coffee, Coke, etc.) a sensitive nose can literally smell the difference.
Thankfully, about a year ago I got into roasting my own coffee. I’m a bit of a food hedonist – I simply love great food – and do a lot of cooking and baking. (Not to mention brewing my own beer, and roasting my own coffee….) I discovered that you can roast your own coffee beans very easily with only a small investment of $$$. All you really need is a cheap air popcorn popper, a little info on what to look for when you’re roasting coffee, and green beans. The taste difference between freshly roasted beans and the ones you buy in the store is incredible. Almost like a completely different product!
If you want to roast your own coffee or just learn more, go see the great folks over at Sweet Maria’s. They have an amazing amount of information on their site, plus everything you need to roast your own coffee.
New Yarn – just shipped
I have a rather sizeable shipment of yarn going out to EatSleepKnit today. It’s a big box full of Elizabeth Bennet loveliness. Erin and her helpers stock every single color I dye on this spectacular base, so if you’re in the mood for an elegant shawl, sinfully decadent socks, or a whisper light cardigan go see their selection.
Elizabeth Bennet: 65% superwash merino/20% bamboo rayon/15% silk. 50 grams, 195 yards. Fingering weight. Recommended needles US 0-3.
I’m off – to an appointment this morning & then back into the studio to dye yarn this afternoon!