Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Knitting Bags and Blooming Irises

Busy, Busy, Busy -
I took off to VA Beach last week to visit my sister. I drove down from Richmond by the scenic route keeping my eyes open for interesting things I might want to stop at on the way home. I spotted a couple of feed-and-seed stores and a hardware store that appeared to have a nice sized plant nursery at the side, and a couple of concrete places having gardening accents out front. I spent three days visiting my sister and was able to see her two daughters, a grand-daughter, and a great grand-son, Cody. The girls, Cody, and I went to pick strawberries on Thursday afternoon. There were several fields open for picking, or pre-picked strawberries and we found one field open with pre-picked fresh asparagus. The asparagus looked good enough to eat right there, long tender shoots with tight tips that were so beautiful they would make a gorgeous floral arrangement. Bet you can't guess what desert was at dinner that night…and the next, and the next and, for breakfast too.

On the way home I stopped at the places I'd sighted on the way down. I bought a large healthy looking Astilbe to go in amongst other plants so they will offer it a bit of shade. They get morning sun but only in the early morning. At the next stop I purchased a beautiful new bird-bath to replace the old one. Over the years the old one had developed a hairline crack causing the water to seep from it daily. This one has a glaze applied and providing we remember to turn the top over to prevent water from freezing in it this winter, we should be able to enjoy it for a long-long time.

The irises are really popping now so I'll share a few more pictures with you. I wish I could post one of each however that isn't practical so I'll do a random thing using some of my favorites, both historic and modern day iris. The vegetable garden is popping too, with weeds. I have to get out and weed providing the rain lets up long enough. The broccoli is getting tall and the cauliflower is already showing the signs of a head. The Purple Top turnip greens need to be thinned and picked, and potatoes need feeding.
Daughter of Stars (2000) - A modern Space-Age Iris
Rajah (1942) - Historic Iris
Dear little Dari spent most of the weekend with Papa Rō and me. We had such a good time; she's growing up so fast. On Sunday when I wanted to knit for a bit, I asked if she wanted some yarn and needles to play with while I was knitting. Certainly, I had already bought needles (for when she is five and I teach her to knit) and so I took out a pair and found a ball of heavy weight, colorful yarn for her to use. It was so much fun watching her little hands and fingers wrapping and twisting the yarn around the needle. I'm sure in her little 'three year old mind' that her project looked just as beautiful as Grand-mama's.

My niece loved the bag I made for her. I forgot to make a photo after I finished felting, lining, and adding the snap on the inside. It turned out nice and I loved the lime green and cream colors together. I liked just a bit having the mitered bag for my sister finished so I took it with me to complete while I was there. As luck would have it, I failed to pick up the additional yarn and so had to bring it back home to complete. It is ready to felt once I devise a gusset for the sides and bottom and some straps to go over the shoulder. I'm thinking once I have the gusset knitted and in place that I should be able to pick up stitches on each side and knit an S-strap using the navy yarn. I'll try to remember to snap a couple of photos of it.

Today I must work on the newsletter for our Iris Society and get it in the post tomorrow after I go for my PET scan. (Yes, its that time again, four months since the last one. I'm looking forward to having it and being given another clear report.) Garden tours are to start next week-end and the news must go out. Our garden is scheduled for the 17th this year but I'm very much afraid our bloom will be on the down-side by then. This has been an early bloom season and that along with the rain, I fear our garden will not be much to look at this year. Meanwhile just look at some that are blooming now.
Up to Snuff(1998)
Jessie's Song (1979)

Friday, April 18, 2008

What's Blooming in the Iris Gardens Today

Let me show you some more irises. They are opening right now at a rate of one or two a day but the closer we get to Mother's Day, the faster they will begin to open; too many to post. The Mother's Day thing is iffy, but our garden usually peaks bloom during the first two weeks of May therefore I use that as a timeline for talking about the iris. Yesterday we had one of my favorite to open and I love the name of it, 'Let's Elope'.
Look at the beautiful colors in the blossom, doesn't it make you want to snatch it away from the garden, elope with it. This is an intermediate bearded iris and it blooms on and on in our garden; we have several clumps because I love it so. DH keeps commenting that most of it has to go, he needs the room for other irises that are in pots waiting for a place to be planted in the ground. At the time we moved here, three years ago, we moved over five-hundred. They have grown into large clumps and have to be divided but we've also added a large number of iris to the garden that have been given to us by dear friends as well as from the Presby Historical Iris Gardens in New Jersey. Here's a picture of 'Can-Can', hybridized in the 50's and reminding me very much of the modern day 'Can-Can Dancer' which will bloom later in the season and I'll try to remember and post a photo of that particular one when it blooms. 'Can-Can Dancer' is one of my favorite iris because of it's unique coloring and just enough ruffling to make it stand out. Although the two have similar names and similar colors, they are not closely related.

I knitted a few rows last night while I was making dinner on the second half of the mitered bag and again after our game of Scrabble. What a pitiful game that was, not a fun at all because we played the entire game having to make three-lettered words. It isn't too unusual for one or the other of us to have all vowels or all consonants throughout most of the game, but it was unusual for both of us to play the first half of the game with barely any vowels and the last part without any consonants; our combined score was less than 450 points (pitiful). Jazz was playing on the radio and we had a glass of wine so it was still an enjoyable evening being together.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Tencel & Cotton Fiber Yarn Ever So Soft and Bearded Iris Bloom

Wo unto our garden; we had a 29° temperature last night and frost this morning. DH is fearful the iris got 'cold hurt'. The plants are just putting up bloom stalks and they are ever so tender. This, on top of the rain we've just had causing some 'rot', and the 'leaf spot' is setting in. Work, work, and more work. Worry, worry, and more worry. But just you wait, in a few weeks it will be beauty, joy, and happiness as we walk out and see an array of beautiful purples, blues, yellows, orange, pink, white, lavender, black, deep, deep red and everything in-between; about two more weeks and we should have a good showing. Right now the intermediate iris are beginning to blossom. Lilac Point and Bottled Sunshine are both beauties and are both blooming as well as Blessed Again.

Our first tall bearded historic iris, Purissima (1924), is in bloom and is ever so white against the brick of the house. Purissima is a very important specimen in the iris world for it was one of the first true white iris recognized for breeding and is still being used to breed our modern day white iris. To me, this old, somewhat dog eared iris is just as beautiful as our modern day ruffled ones.

The iris beds are weeded, some new plants have been added to the perennial beds we put in last year, and yesterday DH tilled a new bed for me. Today I will purchase edging for the bed, then we'll add some compost, top soil and fertilizer, and then add the plants. I can't wait to get it planted and know I'll have something in bloom next year when the irises are showing.

Later today I am going to visit two on my wonderful gardening club friends. They are older ladies and no longer able to drive and do the things they used to do. Both have been mentors to me over the years and I love them dearly. While I'm there I plan to dig Vinca Major to use as a ground cover on the bank in front or our house. I love Vinca Major as a ground cover; it spreads quickly, is evergreen, blooms beautiful blue flowers and will allow the lawn mower to keep it intact without becoming un-attractive.

Last night I went to 'knit night' in the village and worked on the mitered bag I'm knitting for a sister. When I got home I decided to finish up the one side and be ready to start on the other side this morning. I cast on 128 stitches for this square. It is so big, larger than I actually would like it to be. Probably 100 stitches would have been more the size I'm looking for once it has been felted. Tonight I want to pull out my patterns and find a summer shell that I can use Classic Elite Premier yarn for knitting it. Premier is a 50 % cotton and 50 % tencel yarn and is ever so soft. It was one of the yarns I tasted at the Yarn Tasting on Sunday then when I saw all the colors at Holly Springs last night I decided I had to knit a shell with it. Tencel is made from wood pulp cellulose and it said to be as soft as silk, as strong as polyester, cool as linen, warm as wool and as absorbent as cotton. That’s hitting near perfect for a fiber isn't it? I plan to choose a beautiful mocha brown color.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Yarn Tasting, Needle Flicking, & A Great Weekend At The Graves

I spent a great weekend at Graves Mountain Lodge with a group ladies belonging to the River City Knitting Guild; what fun it was. We arrived at the lodge for an early breakfast on Saturday morning, followed by a few hours of free knitting time. It's only fair to say, we didn't get a lots of knitting accomplished because it was so great to be with friends sharing chatter and giggles. Our quarters for the outing were set high on the side of the mountain with a breath taking view below. PHOTO Everything was so green and lush from the recent rains and the apple trees were in full blossom, what beauty to behold. It was a warm and beautiful day and so many of us spent our time on the long front porches in our rocking chairs knitting while others chose to sit inside away from the many bumble bees that were taking flight. I actually enjoy watching the bees since there was so much nature food available and they were not interested in people. PHOTO I understand the importance of bumble bee pollination since we, the people, have more or less destroyed the honey bees with our chemicals and poisons. I love knowing I have bees and worms and even some bugs in my gardens. I also have birds, lots of them, and rabbits and an occasional deer; all are good things to my way of thinking.

Saturday noon, only four hours after our big and heavy breakfast, we were tracking down the mountain for lunch and another home-cooked meal ending with apple cobbler à la mode - yum –yum. We then had to make an effort to get back up the mountain to our lodging and work-room. I was totally exhausted and wobbled into a chair and didn't move for a couple of hours. During the afternoon many of us participated in a short workshop on Intarsia Knitting offered by Pat Kirkland from The Yarn Barn in Andersonville, VA ( Pat brought lots and lots of goodies with her from her shop including a ton of gorgeous sweaters and jackets she has knitted. Pat designs patterns for the larger woman so anyone needing a large size like 2,3,4 X, this is a place you should be able to find something you will just love. Pat brought yarn (loads of all lines of Nora) and patterns, books, and needles and best of all, her knowledge of knitting. There was also a few other vendors with everything from wonderful lotion and skin care to handmade soaps, unusual jewelry, and stitch markers.
Again there was free time for knitting so most of us brought the rocking chairs from our rooms out on the porch and rocked, knitted and sipped a glass of wine or some other spirit until dinner time. At the bottom of the mountain flows the Rose River and up the opposite side of the mountain are beautiful farms with lots of cattle and apple orchids; I could have sat there the entire day and evening giving up lunch and dinner just to enjoy the fresh air and beauty of a warm spring day in the mountains.
DH and I have hiked the Rose River trails before in our younger days and we've hiked the Old Rag Mountain in this area several times.

After another big meal on Saturday night, all us women put on our jimmies and met in the common room reserved for us for a pajama party. We knitted as we got to know one another better. There was loads of food (I didn't touch it after all the food I'd already eaten throughout the day) and drink. I had another glass of wine and went to bed leaving my roommate at the party. DH and I had tickets for the opera on Friday night and it was near mid-night time we drove home from the city. I had everything packed and ready to go but still had to get up at five o'clock to get to the lodge in time for breakfast. Sleep was ever so good Saturday night.

After breakfast on Sunday morning the weather begin to turn cold. We went back to our building to have a Yarn Tasting. Doesn't it look yummy? The yarn was from MFYS and Sharon did a fantastic job of presenting it. There were silks, linens, and cottons, yarns made from milk products, corn, bamboo, and from shrimp and crab shells. Sharon was introducing us to Spring and Green (Organic) yarns. Isn't it amazing what things are sometimes made of?
After lunch it was time to travel home. I think everyone had a wonderful time although most of us didn't accomplish much knitting. We learned to put names and faces together and made new friends. We relaxed and enjoyed the beauty of nature's surroundings and everyone forgot about their diets. How often will you find twenty-five women together at one time and every one of them has forgotten the word 'diet'? But – I bet all twenty-five of us haven't had it to far away from our minds today, I haven't.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Airline Out Of Business...And It Rains.....I Need Something Pleasant To Happen!

I finished the shoulder shawl I was knitting using the Carat yarn; just need to bind off and weave in the ends. I love the drape of the shawl and I'm going to enjoy wearing it around my shoulders. I love the golden thread that goes throughout it, just enough to make it interesting yet not flashy.

And another bag made for a niece except for adding the lining. I love this lime green don't you?

And here is the Fidget I've been enjoying.
Yesterday I woke, made coffee and turned on the TV to catch the morning news. The first item on was another airline has gone under, the third in a week. What stuck me was, it was the airline my friend and I have tickets to fly to Knitters Connection in June. It is the only non-stop flight out of Richmond and the only flight that don't go around-the-world to get you there. Now searching for a 'cheap' flight has begun and with the price of gas I don't think we are going to find a really 'cheap' fare. There is one good thing about the situation and that is, I can choose a later return flight. I have signed up to take Cat Brodhis' Magic of Moebius class on Friday and was going to have to miss most of the afternoon session in order to catch the flight back to Richmond. My traveling companion didn't realize the close time schedule when she booked our flight and made the hotel arrangements. I was really disappointed that I wasn't going to be able to attend the entire afternoon session. This is the first big knitting function I've attended and want to get as much from it as I can. I may yet decide to attend the entire Stitches East this fall.

We've had rain, rain, rain, for most of last week and its still raining. We are less than an inch catching up from last summers drought; for that we can be thankful. On the other side, if we continue to get rain our iris will begin to rot in the ground, especially in this Powhatan hard clay. We have amended the soil and amended it again and continue to amend but it takes a long time to turn poor soil into something rich and beautiful. A few years ago when the National Iris Convention was held in the Northern VA area there was a year with lots of rain in the spring. I remember driving up to take a load of home baked goodies to one of the homes to be on tour. The goodies were to be used to help feed several bus loads of people over several days. After placing the bake goods inside we were invited to see the gardens. The lady who's home we were at was sick at heart and once we walked into her beautiful gardens I could understand why. As we entered her gardens, the smell of iris rot touched your nostrils. Iris were rotting in the ground and the foliage falling over at ground level where the rot had taken its toll. It was a sad thing to see and heartbreaking for this lady who had spent two years preparing for this event.

Preparing for the National tour is not an easy task. It involves planting a few hundred iris from all over the country, some old, some new, and some seedlings that have yet to be named. The rhizomes are sent to the Iris Society Chapter hosting the convention two years prior to the event. Members who have agreed to 'Host' for the convention then plant the rhizomes in the their garden and are responsible for taking care of the plants and maintaining their beds for the next two years. Generally it takes two years for an iris to have good bloom. This lady put hour upon hour into reworking her gardens and planting the display beds. She had nursed the iris that first fall and through the first winter, through the spring rains, summer droughts, and then through another fall and winter to have the best show possible when the buses arrived. She had worried about disease, insects, too little rain, too much rain, and keeping wandering animals out of the gardens. Everything was looking beautiful until the 'ROT' struck, what a disappointment for her. But the show had to go on, and it did, and although there was lots of rot there were still hundreds of beautiful blooms to enjoy in her garden.

Today our plants are looking healthy and growing quickly. We've agreed to open our gardens for our local chapter this year and so we are already holding our breath that the weather will cooperate with us and that we will have a 'rainbow' of color to offer when the garden is opened.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Vegetables, Iris, and Lots of Knitting

What a wonderful week I've had. On Monday night I met with my Monday night knit group and we actually accomplished a good bit of knitting. Donna is still working on the afghan for her niece and Nora was working on a new afghan for a granddaughter. Pat and Bonnie were each working on an intarsia bag and I begin knitting the Widget using some Lily Chin yarn that I bought especially for that pattern. On Tuesday night I knitted at my LYS and again I worked on the Widget, finishing it off while there. We had a variety of project going at this knit night. Dolores and Glen were both working on their Nicky Epstein Bags (mine is still 'in the bag'), Cindy was working on a new lace shawl pattern, Kathy was designing and knitting a hat using 'Scarlet Fleece', a line of yarn that she's launching. We had a few new ladies in the group, one a teenager. She was knitting on her first sweater and it really looked good, nice straight rows and tight neat stitches, she is going to become a good knitter I think. One of the other ladies was also knitting a sweaters and one a child's sweater, the other was working on a beautiful afghan.

I bought some Marks & Kattens Carat yarn, a gorgeous ribbon yarn with yellow and soft blue/green ribbons and a gold thread running through them. I've already started a should shawl with it that I can tuck around my neck and wear with a pair of jeans. Next weekend my Knitting Guild is having a weekend at Graves Mountain Lodge in Syria, VA; a wonderful place to go for a quiet and restful weekend. I'm afraid that won't apply to our group; I'm expecting lots of talk, giggling, and knitting to be taking place. I'm not sure what I will be taking to knit on but know it has to be a no-brainer since I need to have quiet to knit anything with a detailed stitch pattern. My memory doesn't serve me as well as it use to. I have a mitered purse started for a sister and I bought some of Iris Scheriere's hand-painted silk Artyarn to knit one of her modular scarf's. She has created some of the most beautiful colors and the silk has a really nice feel to it, good for spring wear.

Our dwarf bearded iris bloom is in progress and we're busy weeding, digging, and planting in the iris and the vegetable gardens. This weeks rain has slowed us down but we've still be able to manage at least an hour or so outside each day. Look at this beautiful little iris. It's name is Pilgrims Choice and was hybridized by a wonderful man, Mr. Anthony Willott, whom we met at the National Convention a few years ago. It is one of my very favorite of the dwarf bearded iris because of its unique grey color. Next to bloom will be the intermediate iris and then the tall bearded. That’s when our gardens are alive with the 'Rainbow Flower'; all the colors of the rainbow can be found in an iris garden when it is in bloom. The tall bearded generally peak about Mother's Day then we will have some bloom on into mid-June.

In the vegetable garden the strawberries are blooming and the purple top turnips are up. Seed potatoes are in the ground and cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, and a few herbs. By mid-month I hope it will be warm enough to plant beans, green, string, or snap, what ever you choose to call them in your part of the county. To me they are green beans, having strings that should be removed, and you snap them into small pieces to cook. I can't wait to have them fresh from the garden and perhaps as early as July I'll have some new potatoes to cook on top of them and a fresh tomato too.


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DH'S Cardigan

Ruffled Shawl

Ruffled Shawl
Knitted Prayer Shawl with Crochet Ruffle

Knitting Class

Knitting Class
Teaching Co-workers to Knit

Wave & Shell Shawl

Wave & Shell Shawl

Plum WIne (SDB-Iris) 04/01/07

Plum WIne (SDB-Iris) 04/01/07

Chemo Hat

Chemo Hat
Chemo Hat

Chemo Hat

Chemo Hat
Peaches & Cream Yarn

Felted Hats

Felted Hats
Gray Hat Before Felting

Felted Hat

Felted Hat
Gray Hat After Felting

Baby's Hat

Baby's Hat
Dariana's Hat