Knitting in the garden of my mind

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Baby Goat Knitting!

As you might have guessed if you’ve been reading my blog, I’m a bit spring-dazed at the moment! Here’s another happy spring knitting moment to make your heart sing!

Newly planted bok choi starts at Learning Gardens Laboratory, where I work!

Newly planted bok choi starts at Learning Gardens Laboratory, where I work!

Here in the Portland where winter is dark and rainy and seems to inhabit our very souls.  The only thing I’m really good for in winter time is knitting, crafting, making fires in the living room, and drinking hot chocolate made from goat’s milk.

So  when Spring is finally here, we crawl out of our caves, cower in the sunlight for a while, our hands over our eyes, and marvel at the fact that there is life outside our own houses.  When we finally are able to see past the brightness, we find that we are surrounded by a world full of newness.  Flowers bloom everywhere- trees, fields, beds, hedgerows, and in between the cracks in the sidewalk.  In our gardens, plants begin to grow and we are able to eat fresh salads again.  And for goat owners everywhere, spring means the return of baby goats to our lives.

Our milking matriarch, Darlin', being a darling

Our milking matriarch, Darlin’, being a darling

I am part of a goat milking cooperative in NE Portland.  We have 3 goats, one of which is in milk right now.  They are Mini La Mancha goats, which means that they are a cross between a the full-size La Mancha milking breed and the miniature Nigerian Dwarf milking breed.  They are all family, a momma and two daughters from different years. They are the sweetest, most friendly creatures I’ve ever met!  At least twice a week I go over to their house to play with them, milk their matriarch, Darlin’, and feed and water them.  Sometimes, I take them for walks around the neighborhood so that they can get fresh greens to eat.  They’re quite famous in the neighborhood, and there must be thousands of pictures of them out on walks on computers and cameras all over portland. They are loving, curious, and sensitive creatures. As you can tell, I LOVE my goats!

Well, this weekend, while I was off galavanting along the Oregon coast, our pregnant momma, Callie, gave birth to her first kids!  And they are the cutest things I have ever seen!


They are a boy, with the long ears (Nigerian Dwarf genes) and a little girl with short La Mancha ears.  As of this morning when I took these pictures, they are 3 days old!

At this morning’s milking, when I went to put the babies out of the birthing pen/ milking stall so that I could milk their grandmother, Darlin’, they started jumping around, hopping over the rocks, and running around the yard with the chickens and their aunt, Lil’ Kim.  But despite the warmness of the morning, they were both shivering slightly.  I picked them up, snuggling them to stay warm, but I can’t just hold them all day!  Which reminded me of something I have heard about, something that sounds possibly cuter than little baby sweaters– baby goat sweaters…

…yes I did write that.

Fias Co Farms, a reputable milking goat husbandry website, recommends that when baby goats are born when it is still cold, that they need a bit more warmth until they have their first layer of baby fat.  So they designed THESE!

The pictures on the website are complete with goat sweater instructions. Oh my oh my, I think I’ve got to make some for my goats!   What if I made them and put goats on their goat sweaters!  Ideas abound… I’m thinking acrylic wool for maximum wear and washing.  I’m thinking kelley green for land, blue for sky, and white for clouds, and little frolicking goats.

Do let me know if you all want to see more goat pictures!  But for now, I’ll leave you with a video Eric and I took a few years back from the first few minutes of our baby goat’s first time outside. And they start hopping around!  They were about 5 days old…

goat babies cuddling in a box

You have to go to Vimeo to check it out, but its definitely worth it!


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Buy hyacinths to feed thy soul…

Today is the day to celebrate hyacinths, those bulbs which pack such a lot of delicious smell into their tiny, but plentiful flowers.

Common Hyacinth (Hyacinthus orientalis)

Native to the mediterranean area near modern day Turkey and the Middle East, today’s beautiful Hyacinth flowers get their name from a beautiful, yet vein young Greek man long ago.  The story goes that Hyacinth was a man loved and looked up to Apollo, the Greek god of the sun. Apollo taught Hyacinth many things, including archery, discus, music, and the art of divination. One day, Apollo and Hyacinth were throwing discus together.  When Apollo threw the discus, Hyacinth ran to catch it, wanting to impress his beloved god.  But the force of the discus knocked him to the ground, killing him.  Apollo refused to let Hades, the god of the underworld, take Hyacinth away and instead made a purple flower from his spilled blood.  Now Hyacinth makes an appearance throughout the world each year just as Apollo’s sun comes back to us after winter’s end, the love continues on.

I feel that Hyacinths are the essence of Springtime, they come up just when it begins and reminds us of the wonders of the awakening of our senses as the world comes alive around us. I love the smell of this vibrant little plant, and find myself picking them every spring to bring inside.  Their blooms will last quite a while and fill whatever space they inhabit with a sweet smell, which reminds me of the excitement of the later days of spring when the whole world smells of Lilac.

IMG_0692Common Hyacinth is quite a popular spring flower, but whenever I think of Hyacinth, I think of the little tiny flowers which come up in strange places, planted there years ago by someone whose yard looked a little different than the one that now exists in the same space.  Their little blue pearls of petal cluster up the tiny stalks like dew drops, or, like I thought when I was little, like candy drops.  These are Grape Hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum), which is actually rather distantly related to it odorous neighbor. They are part of the Lily family and only get their name from their slight resemblance to Hyacinths.  I love the delicate nature of these little flowers.  They would do well as a knitting pattern on a deicate pair of spring gloves or on a hat that also had a snowdrop pattern on them.  I also love their wildness, growing wherever they seem to please, disguising their location in the grass until their little blooms emerge.

Que Sera by throughtheloops on  Flickr

Que Sera by throughtheloops on Flickr

Knitting Ideas

Because Hyacinths are such a symbol of springtime, I feel like they would do well on all sorts of spring knitwear.  I think of the first cotton clothing of the year, soft and light.  I think of lighter colors, brighter colors, lace patterns.  I think of delicate little knits, feminine knits.  One pattern in particular I am thinking of is Que Sera by Kirsten Kapur. I love the playful bright color and lacey pattern of the cardigan! However, when I think about the myth that goes along with Hyacinth’s name, I think of love and friendship, passion and legacy.  I imagine something dramatic, sweeping, eye catching. Perhaps a shawl, dark purple in color with a repeating hyacinth pattern on it.  As usual, I went to Ravelry and typed in “Hyacinth” to see what I could find.  It seems many other people have found inspiration in Hyacinths as well.  There are some really beautiful patterns, most of which take their inspiration from the light purple color of the traditional plants.  Here are a few that I really liked- a pretty lace shawl pattern, a light cardigan with a lace hyacinth pattern around the edges, and an awesome pair of ankle length socks with hyacinths on them!  Also really liked the little knitted grape hyacinth pattern!

Which brings me to today’s poem…

It is a very old and beautiful poem by a medieval Persian poet, Saadi Shirazi.  Hyacinths are still used as table settings during the Persian New Year celebrations.  The poem translates…

If of thy mortal goods thou art bereft,
And from thy slender store two loaves alone to thee are left,
Sell one, and with the dole
Buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.


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Bound for the Oregon Coast!

Friday night, after a beautiful sunny day and lovely evening potluck with friends, my boyfriend, Eric, and I decided to make an impromptu trip out to the Oregon coast!  We packed our backpacks quickly, booked a hotel room in Seaside, Oregon, and hit Hwy 26 at about 10:30 PM!  The next morning, we parked the truck at a beach front park and hit the Ecola State Park trail that runs along Tillamook Head.  The trail runs through Pacific coast rainforest, which was complete with fog from the ocean interspersed with beautiful, bright sunshine!  We camped overnight at a backpacker camp in the park, and kept heading south to Cannon Beach the next day.  This is a map of our adventure that I made on State Park Hiking Map

We had a wonderful time!  The trail we took, passing by ocean cliffs and old growth forest, passed us back in time to walk in the footsteps of the Native Americans of the area as well as Sacajawea and Clark (from the Lewis and Clark cross-continental expedition of 1804-1806), who crossed the area in 1806 to buy blubber from a whale stranded on what is now Cannon Beach.  Clark said of the area, ““I behold the grandest and most pleasing prospect which my eyes ever surveyed” (Quote found here).

Knitting Ideas

The nights on the trail were chilly, with a bit of due in the air and the days were hot, clear, and dry.  All this change in weather meant that Eric and I had to layer up at night!  That said, with all the weight of food and tent, stove and sleeping bags we wanted clothing that was light, versatile, and warm, while also breathing. For these reasons, the fibers I will always take with me while heading into the woods are wool and silk.

© Susan Pandorf

© Susan Pandorf


During this trip, I had on a very thin silk long-sleeve shirt, which I often wear for hiking.  It breathes wonderfully and is super light and airy in the hot of the day, but keeps me toasty warm at night.  You can see it as the purple shirt I am wearing in the pictures below.   I would love to design a lovely knit thermal made of lace-weight silk. I might even make it with needle sizes slightly larger, 3 or 4, so that there was more of a sheer effect. Maybe it could be slightly looser to give a drapey effect. It would flow with me, keeping me cool and warm in turn, while not taking up much bulk in my bag.  This idea reminds me of Bilbo’s Mithril vest in The Lord of the Rings.  For those of you unfamiliar with the Mithril, it is a material that is soft, flowing, silvery, beautiful, but more tough than any other substance in JRR Tolkien’s Middle Earth. I am not the first person to use mithril as a muse, while not made of silk, Susan Pandorf has already made a beautiful vest design based on this mythical metal-like substance.

My beloved sweater

My beloved shawl-neck sweater


I also brough with me an old sweater that I made for myself when I still lived and worked on sailboats.  It is made of Green Mountain Spinnery’s Mountain Mohair in Claret.  Its beautiful wool, soft too, and has worn well over the years.  It is a worsted weight and fabulously warm!  It has kept me from getting chilly through many days of work, both on land and at sea.  Sadly, I have very few pictures of me wearing it- this is from four years ago, right after a first met Eric!  The sweater is a simple design, a drop shoulder with a closely-knit shawl neck collar to keep the wind at bay. It was my first sweater ever, and I would make another one in a heartbeat.

Wool is wonderful for any occasion, but it is especially a great fiber for workwear.  I love simple sweater designs such as mine which are beautiful because of their timeless functionality and the beauty of the work that they allow to be possible.  A good sweater or hat that keeps you warm and dry will keep you happy even in the dreariest of conditions.  I’ve been brainstorming some other designs for workwear, based on my own experiences as a trail worker, farmer, hiker, sailor, and outdoor lover.

© Pierrot Yarns (Gosyo Co., Ltd.)

© Pierrot Yarns (Gosyo Co., Ltd.)

Some of my ideas include a big, flat, back map pocket such as you might find in old Filson woolies, a nice, cozy vest made of thick wool with a soft neck lining that will be great for more winterish hiking strenuous hiking when a coat is too heavy and warm,  I would love to figure out a way, also to create slits in the side of a sweater similar to my down jacket, which is made for winter sporting. It turns out, there are many hiker-knitters in the world!  I’ve been lusting after a few outdoor-friendly garments for a while.  These include a hiker’s waistcoat by the Fibre Company, the awesome Cowichan style shawl-neck vest featured, and a cute, but warm kid’s vest which could easily be converted for more adult size children such as myself!

Below is a little snippet of how great our trip was!  Look for all the wonderful signs of spring!  Tomorrow, after a little rest, I will get back in to my spring flower posts.  Until then, happy knitting!  (And for some of you, Happy Easter, too!)




Ode to Dandelions

Dandelion (Taraxacum officionale)

IMG_0595Yesterday, while out for a walk, I took a picture of some dandelions just emerging from the green grass.  I liked the way their little flowers dotted the green in a random, yet repeating pattern. It made me think of dotted patterns in sweaters and wonder whether I could create some similar seemingly random pattern.

This ever present flower is one of the most prolific plants in the world.  It is so prolific that botanists have a hard time figuring out where it came from in the first place.  It has taken over so readily in every place it goes that is as if it was always there, a bright dot of sunshine reflected back off of the earth.

When I was a child, there was a field behind my grandmother’s farmhouse that was completely full of dandelion heads in the springtime.  The soil in that field must have been rich because the dandelion flowers were robust and tall, their bright domed heads quilting the entire field in gold.  I used to go down into the field on sunny days and pick the long stalks until I couldn’t hold anymore in my hands.  I remember feeling like I was holding sunshine.  The bright yellow pollen coated my hands, my knees, sometimes my face.  Once inside however, the dandelions lost their shine quickly.  A jar of water couldn’t fool them into believing they were still in that field basking under the open sunlight.  In some way, that is the beauty of dandelions, they don’t last. They are a fleeting joy.

A field of blooming dandelions creates a sea of yellow in a pasture in Barre, Vt., Friday, May 8, 1998. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

A field of blooming dandelions creates a sea of yellow in a pasture in Barre, Vt., Friday, May 8, 1998. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

As you can tell, I love dandelions.  I know my feelings aren’t shared by many who battle endlessly to remove dandelions from their yards and flower beds.  What is it that frustrates people so much about their little yellow heads and puffy seeds?  They are smart little plants, digging deep into the soil to hold on against eviction.  They are able to access water and nutrients far below the surface that many other plants can’t get to.  That is why you often see their leaves still green even when the rest of the field of grass is dry and browned.  Their seed dispersal is equally brilliant and beautiful.  Like many other Asteraceae species, Dandelions use wind to move from place to place, a method called anemochory.  By attaching tiny puffballs to the ends of the seeds, they are able to travel long distances.

So what does this have to do with knitting?

I find that all my patterns and ideas come from observing the natural world around me, and the dandelion is by no means an exception!

Not only do dandelions have amazing color to them, but they have a lot we can learn from them in terms of pattern. First, the whorl shape of their leaves is not only beautiful, but smart.  It covers the most ground area while still maintaining a pattern.  Imagine a hat made in the pattern of the dandelion leaves!  Well, after a quick search on Ravelry, I found that someone already has made one… and its really beautiful!  You can see it here.  What about the puffy down of the mature dandelion seeds?  Think of the glorious angora hats that could be made!  Or the pretty seed pattern that could be put on cuffs and yokes! Another idea I have is the carpeting of color that I remember from that field in my childhood. I imagine a thick yarn, bright in color, something that has hints of other colors popping through like the grass did below the bright flower heads.  Think of the deep tap root of the dandelion- its nutritious, languid and tough.  I can imagine a long slinky shawl made of flax or linen, tough, yet graceful.

As I mentioned before, I am not the only one who finds inspiration the this magical little flower. I found several other beautiful patterns on Ravelry by simply typing in the word “Dandelion”.  Here are a few- the gorgeous shawlette which is pictured, a nicely patterned top, a little knitted dandelion puff!

A poem to send you on your way…

As promised, here is today’s poem written by a true friend of flowers, Emily Dickinson.

The Dandelion’s Pallid Tube

The Dandelion’s pallid tube
Astonishes the Grass,
And Winter instantly becomes
An infinite Alas —

The tube uplifts a signal Bud
And then a shouting Flower, —
The Proclamation of the Suns
That sepulture is o’er.

Dandelions alive in the frosty dead of winter

Dandelions alive in the frosty dead of winter

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Spring Is Here!

Spring has come full blast to Portland!  Everywhere are flowers blooming and bees buzzing.  This morning, my boyfriend brought me some daffodils that he picked along his walk to my house. Aren’t they beautiful?

Eric's Daffodils

I find such inspration for my knitting in springtime- bold beautiful colors in flowers, leaves shooting up through soil and out of branches, the sun coming out, the contrast of light and dark in the clouds, the days getting longer.  Spring is one of my favorite seasons because I love to see the world waking up again.   Even my goat seems more vibrant, she’s been giving me a half gallon of milk twice a day!  I feel somehow that my mind also comes to life again and sprouts bright and lively flowers.  It is a time for creation, for dreaming deeply and largely, for celebrating the sun returning to the northern hemisphere!

And so for the next few days I’m going to be posting pictures of the beautiful patterns in the spring plants in the Northwest.  As any good botanist, I’ll be documenting where I found them, what their scientific name is, and I’ll include a poem that related to the picture or plant.  There are so many wonderful ones to share!

Enjoy and Happy Spring!

 Peach Blossoms (Prunus persica)

IMG_0593This fruit bearing tree produces some of the most vibrant of blooms in the spring!  Inside each pink petaled flower lies the potential for sweet enjoyment in a few months.  We may not get many peaches here in Portland due to leaf curl, but we still get to enjoy these luscious blooms!  And then get our peaches from the trees of the Columbia Gorge…

Knitting Inspration

I feel inspired by the texture of the blossoms, they’re soft and light, bright flowers floating at eye-level in an overwhelming numbers.  The whole tree is coated in them!  I love the bright colors, the pinks and oranges, and the faint smell of pollen and nectar that wafts the air near these trees. It always feels as though the air around fruit trees is alive with buzzing.  In this way, these beautiful trees are an important part of our ecosystems.  They are intricately connected and necessary. And just as Li-Young Lee talks about in the poem below, I love their potential for turning, later in the year, into a completely different type of delight!

From Blossoms
by Li-Young Lee
From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.
From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.
O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.
There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.
(Reprinted from The Poetry Foundation)
Happy Knitting!  If you don’t see your favorite flower in the poll below, write me a comment! I love to hear from you, and who knows, I might even write a post about that type of flower!

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Two Weeks of Knitting Bliss!

Last night, I finished up my second to last term of graduate school!  I turned in my papers, went to my last class of the term, and went out with friends to celebrate.  After eleven weeks of lots of work, it feels great to be done!

What am I going to school for, you ask?

(If you’re not that interested, you can skip to the bottom for my knitting update!)

lglsign-gh5Well, for the past two years, I’ve been going to school to get my Master’s in Leadership for Sustainability Education at Portland State University.  Sustainability Education translates to developing a wide variety knowledge and skills that will help to  make our world a more ecologically, socially, and economically sustainable. I use sustainability education as the base for my teaching philosophy at my work as a garden educator, at Learning Gardens Lab, which is connected to a public middle school in SE Portland. I teach 6th graders, college students, community members, just about anyone who shows up to the garden, about how to care for and create connection with the land around them.

So now you know what I do when I don’t have needles in my hands!

Now I have almost two weeks off to bathe in the unusual Portland sunshine, read all the books I’ve had to put aside for my schoolwork, and work on my many many knitting projects and dreams!  I’m working on several things right now, all of them sweaters.

Here’s the project I’m almost finished with…

I’m working on a really great cardigan project right now using scrap yarn. I’ve completed the body and am working on the sleeves. I’m excited to finish and parade it around!  It’s based on the Shalom cardigan that has been sweeping through Ravelry for the past few years.  Its a great simple design which, because it is free, easy to read, and does not take much wool, has been translated into many versatile, beautiful, and unique projects by the crafty knitters of ravlery.

Photo on 2013-03-23 at 10.20 #3My version, which is made of some very old Noro Kureyon and an extra skein of the Cascade Ecological Wool that I used to make a beautiful cowl-neck sweater in the fall.  I like designs that have bright colors that have been subdued in someway, I always feel like this reminds me of what colors in nature look like, bright flowers against the brown of the soil or brightly colored autumn leaves against the mute colors of the tree’s bark.  I think because of this, I might call this sweater Autumn’s Rest.

I decided that for the yoke of the sweater, instead of simply doing the twisted rib that is so characteristic of the cardigan, that I would also make the rib corrugated (in other words, I am using two alternating colors).  The effect is a bright, colorful yoke with that is somewhat subdued by the constancy of the brown throughout.

Also, in addition to the changes made to the yoke, I also added some slit pockets as a sort of experiment.  I wanted to see how they would turn out!  They have a vertical corrugated rib that I grafted to the body of the sweater with live stitches.  I haven’t finished out the pockets yet, but the insides are going to be made of the Kureyon.

Currently, I’m working on the sleeves!  I’m really hoping that I am going to be able to get at least 3/4 length sleeves out of this.

Photo on 2013-03-23 at 10.28 #3As for the buttons, I’ve designed it to have buttons all the way down, but haven’t made any button holes…. because I’m making loops and toggles!  I’ll hopefully make the loops out of the Eco wool, if I have enough.  As for the toggles, I’m not sure yet, I’m thinking of pieces of wood? Or maybe think of something else that I can make, possibly out of bakeable clay.

What do you think so far?  I’d love any and all feedback or ideas!

Please check back soon! I am currently working on plans for a new line of knitwear this is strongly influenced by the beauty of the gardens at this time of year.  I’m looking forward to sharing it with you all.  And as always, I’d love to hear from you!

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Commencement Post

Hello world!  Here I am!

I’m starting this blog to write each week about my craft projects, which are mostly knitting related.  Over time, these knitting projects are going to transition into my own designs, which are all in sketch and dream form at the moment.

I’m excited!  I love to write, I love to dream, I love to knit, this is going to be the perfect place to let all those things intermingle!

ImageJust this week I started a new sweater for a lovely friend.  Its my first commisioned piece and I feel really good about it!

I’m making her the Trefoil Sweater by Gudrun Johnston.  It comes from November Knits, a collection by Kate Gagnon Osborn and Courtney Kelley.

The sweater is pretty simple, but has some traditional elements of a raglan fair-isle sweater.  For instance, the sweater is knitted from the bottom up with steeks and worked in the round.  There are even pockets that are steeked!  That’s what sold me on the sweater, I’m a sucker for a sweater that keeps my hands warm too!

This is my swatch of the colors I’ve decided to use.  I wanted to mute out the sweater a little bit while still keeping the playfulness of it.  So far I love working with the Shetland Spindrift!  Its soft, workable, and with the finger two-ply it comes out with such a nice smooth looking finish.  It really makes the colors pop.  I’m wondering how this Shetland Spindrift would felt… well, I’ll have to save that for another project.  Maybe I’ll felt this swatch when I’m done to see what it looks like…

So far, I’m only about 20 rounds past the ribbing.  But its lovely soft and each round begs me to knit the next one.  I look forward to updating how its going as well as sharing some of my other projects and adventures!

Until next time…