Adventures in flora, fauna, food, and the great unknown.

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Last year, we missed the prime of summer in the Pioneer Valley, instead enjoying the beauty of Ireland. (Amazingly, I have still not finished editing all of the photos from that trip, although I’m nearly finished.) This year, we stayed put—and folks, it was gorgeous.


As usual, we spent a fair bit of time hiking around Mount Toby—a favorite with us because it’s virtually in our backyard. It’s been nice to visit repeatedly, to gain a certain familiarity with the trails there, so that individual rocks and trees start to feel familiar, making the forest feel like an extension of our own home.


I think our favorite discovery was Cranberry Pond, a lovely little kettle pond that we’d seen on the trail map but had always just hiked past on our way to other areas of the reservation. In addition to the numerous sunning turtles and swimming fish, we found ample evidence of beaver excavation (although, alas, no beavers) and witnessed a stunning aerial display from a red-winged blackbird. It’s a lovely little spot in the early summer, and I’m sure it’s equally stunning in other seasons.

Cranberry Pond panorama

I went on adventure of a very different nature later in the summer. I’m lucky enough to live near what has to be one of the better yarn stores in the world, Webs, and in August I took a class there in which I learned how to spin on a drop spindle. Our instructor, Ashley Flagg, was fantastic (and I think something of a kindred spirit, as wool-people often are)—and although I still have a long way to go, I was really pleased with my first (and second!) full skein of yarn. (It is yearning to become a squishy cowl, but the twins need to become triplets before this dream can be realized.)

First skein of yarn

I also managed to finish my second sweater (pattern here). It was slow going for a while, as the fabric was extremely stiff and hurt my hands, but the end result is just so warm and cozy—perfect for crisp autumn days of apple-picking—and I’ve been wearing it nearly constantly ever since the weather started to turn cool.


One of the loveliest things about the valley is the morning fog—sometimes so thick that the rising sun could be mistaken for the moon. Such a view can definitely make training runs a little less onerous on brisk mornings, when it would be so much easier to hide in bed under the warmth of the covers (even when there are already other sources of motivation).

Valley fog, morning

Even though autumn is once again upon us, there is still green to be found in small corners.


But in the wider world, the hue of the landscape is clearly undergoing its annual transformation.

View from Mount Toby

Somehow, my blog posts always seem to be punctuated with seasonal changes—probably because I am so lax in my writing. But I am fortunate enough to be going to Rhinebeck, New York, next weekend for the annual Sheep and Wool Festival, so with any luck I will have tons of photographs of sweet-eyed woolly creatures to show off very soon.

View from Mount Toby

Autumn in New England just cannot be beat. And so much the better when one gets to spend it warmed by hand-knit woolens.


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Knitting hearts and love

May in western Massachusetts felt quite a bit like summer, with a bunch of high-80s and low-90s days, so when the weather cooled off again, I think it tricked my brain into thinking the worst was over. (Summer is not my favorite of the seasons. It’s not conducive to knitting!) July has reminded me what a fool I’ve been, and between the warm days and evening oven use, our apartment is feeling pretty stuff these days. And it’s a shame, too, because I have a really pretty sweater that I am just dying to wear.


I love how the cables mimic little hearts.


The cables on the front mirror those in the back. And you can’t tell here, but those buttons are quite pretty.

Yup, it’s I Heart Cardigans, finally completed (back in early June, actually). I am crazy proud of it—it’s my first sweater, four months in the making. A lot of time and love went into this. I was more patient with this project than I have ever been—totally comfortable with each stitch taking as much time as was needed—and the result is an extremely wearable and, dare I say it, quite attractive sweater. I’m a sucker for cables, and these are some real beauties.

In the time since, my needles haven’t exactly been quiet. I’ve cast on for two other sweaters—one light and airy (Tule), one bulky and warm (Campus Jacket)—and have finished two shawls. One is a gift that I won’t post here, but the other was entirely selfish; I wanted something hand-knit to bring with me on an upcoming weekend trip to see family, and I’ve been hoarding a few hanks of luscious, self-striping shawl yarn for myself.


My peacock shawl—basic stockinette with a garter-stitch border, knit with Caterpillargreen Yarns MCN fingering shawl stripe.


The “peacock” colorway is something of a muted rainbow. Just lovely.

I was working on this project in late June when the Supreme Court of the United States made its decision regarding marriage equality. Given that, the nature of the colorway, and the fact that this is based on Tanis’s Prism Shawl pattern (while also being a complete copycat of her project)*, I like to think of this as my marriage-equality shawl. It will be so nice to be able to make that association every time I wear this in the years to come, a pleasant memory knit up into the fabric of a shawl.

I hope to make decent progress on Tule while traveling this weekend—how nice to have a sweater project that is also extremely portable and good summer knitting! But that doesn’t mean I’m still not looking forward to surrounding myself in layers of wool during the cooler days of fall.

*Okay, this post is clearly a bit Tanis-obsessed, but I swear I’m not stalking her or anything. (Even if I did snag some sock yarn from her recently, too. That one-day-only “cosmic” colorway was just too delicious to pass up.)

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The obstinate sock

I’ve been knitting a sock. A pretty, blue and white and gray sock. The cardigan I started in February is no longer especially portable, and its cables require a certain amount of active attention. Vanilla socks are small and light, require little concentration, and are an extremely practical thing to knit (I’m going to need more socks eventually anyway, right?)—and besides, I already had a bunch of much-neglected sock yarn in the stash.

Knitting a sock was the perfect solution to a problem I barely even knew that I had. Dull meetings became a joy. Endless grocery lines became opportunities. Life was good.

The aforementioned cardigan, at a much earlier stage.

The aforementioned cardigan, at a much earlier stage.

But it’s been fits and starts. The first time through, I quickly became frustrated with the damage that gradually revealed itself in the yarn, strands half worn away—so I ditched those parts and started again with a different, solid-colored yarn for the toe. That yarn was somewhat damaged too (insects be damned), so I taught myself how to splice the ends together, making an invisible join at the weak points.

Vanilla sock, iteration number two.

Vanilla sock, iteration number two.

I knit ten inches of sock-mark-two before realizing that in my attempt to make a foot-sleeve large enough for my ungainly hobbit feet, I had instead made one that was vaguely… baggy. And that simply would not do. A sock, especially a hand-knit sock, should stretch gently over its intended foot—not cover it halfheartedly like some sort of sack.

For a few days after that, the sock and I weren’t on speaking terms. But Wednesday night, while M was out, the sock and I had a heart to heart, made up, and started over again, together—this time four stitches slimmer. Here’s hoping that the third time’s the charm.

* * *

Postscript: It wasn’t. Foolishly believing that, surely, I must know the pattern backwards and forwards by this point, I forged blindly ahead, forgetting entirely about the increases and decreases surrounding the heel area, as well as about an inch of the foot length. Suitably chastened, I ripped back to before the heel. The saga of the most basic sock in the world, and my apparent inability to complete it, continues.