wool, cotton, clay

So much work is going on around here. I've had more projects on my mind and at my fingertips that I can keep up with, and I love it. There is sewing and quilting and knitting scattered all over the house and though I'm sure my husband isn't thrilled about it, I sure am. Things have obviously been quiet here on the blog, but I have some big, big goals for my little one-woman shop HEM this spring, I am chugging along trying to make them a reality. I'll be sending out the announcements through the HEM newsletter, so if you're not included there and you'd like to be, be sure to sign up. (The newsletter only goes out a few times a year, so you won't be inundated, I promise.)

And now, on to some snippets of the latest:

1.) The Queen is Dead, Long Live the Queen.

I completely unraveled my Aureus in one fell swoop, sitting on the floor one weekend morning in early February. It took quite a lot longer than I thought it would - I hadn't really planned on doing that this particular morning, when I found myself sitting there, cup of tea steaming, my new ball winder turning - but it felt really good. For the next few weeks I mostly worked feverishly on re-knitting that yarn into a Uniform cardigan, which is now an actual sweater that I have worn twice already. I still hate the color, but I'm happy with both the fit and my modifications; and it's made me extremely excited about my next Uniform, already underway in a neutral alpaca/wool yarn.

2.) New quilts are happening!

After a long, long long too long hiatus, I finally got back to some quality hand quilting time. Friends of ours just had their first baby and I took the opportunity to create something that had been floating around in my head for quite some time. I'm absolutely in love with the finished product and I am so, so excited to show it to you. This design will be up in the shop later this spring, along with two other quilts currently in production, and I'm happy to say that the reason you're seeing me less around here because I'm doing more of that. It's been too long, and it's good to be back.

3.) Local shopping goodness.

That lovely skein in the last photo is a ball of Columbia by our local Oregon Imperial Yarns. As I've mentioned before, my goal for this year is to use more local, sustainable fibers, and Imperial Ranch certainly fits the bill. I'm so excited about this yarn. It's woolen-spun, a soft pearly grey and it is giving me joy just by sitting there waiting for me to swatch with it. I'm planning to redeem myself on Michele Wang's patterns and knit myself a lovely Stonecutter for next winter with this. Since leaving California for Oregon we occasionally experience actual cold and it's high time for some refined replacements for my ragged sweatshirt.


I am HONORED to be a part of a month of giving on the blog of my beautiful friend, Vibeke, at abutterflyinmyhair. In honor of her 40th birthday, this lovely woman is sharing a month of talented women makers and I am deeply touched to be a part of it. I'll be giving away the handthrown stoneware mug in the above photos. To enter, visit Vibeke's blog tomorrow, March 15th, and leave a comment on the post - but be sure to visit all month long, both for a chance to win some incredible treasures and to get introduced to some incredibly talented creative people. Vibeke's blog has been one of my favorite for years; she is a thoughtful, generous, appreciative, joyful soul and her blog showcases and supports artists and makers from around the world. I'm thrilled to be a part of the giveaway and to publicly wish the happiest of birthdays to my dear, wonderful friend.


meet the girls

Well, not the girls - they won't be making an internet debut today (or ever) - but my girls. Shit, that's the same thing, isn't it? MOVING ON. Meet my trusty steeds, my constant companions: my "new" bicycles.

A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, I told you about the new bicycles we were building. Bikes are a big part of our life around here, and in our recent throw-caution-to-the-wind, quit-my-job, move-across-state-lines-without-housing adventure we also decided to improve on our bike situation. It was a big financial decision to make and I was nervous about making it, but I'm incredibly glad we did. 

So without further ado I present my two, new(ish), beautiful bicycles. They are two very different ladies with two very different personalities and functions. And I absolutely love them both.

This is Jeanine. Jeanine the Mean Cream Machine. Jeanine is a single speed, hand-built, custom Mission Bicycle. (Look, she and I are internet famous!) She’s a warm cream color with silver components, black bullhorn handlebars and a bling-y gold Japanese Izumi chain. She’s aggressive. She’s extremely light, quick and responsive. And she is so sexy. This is a bike I had dreamed of building for some time, and I have to tell you, from the very first night I rode her home from the shop I couldn’t believe I waited so long. I was head over heels that first ride. Full disclosure: my husband works for Mission Bicycle. That said, I would have absolutely zero qualms about telling you if I didn’t like this bike. But I just can’t tell you that. I love this bike. I designed it, I actually built it with my own two hands (with Kai’s help, of course) I think she’s gorgeous AND really good at her job. While Kai has worked for this company for a long time, I rode a different brand - a Jamis Coda - for four years before I made the leap. Even then, I took convincing. But now? I'll say it again: I absolutely can't believe it took me so long. I think it gives Kai's boss real pleasure to say "I told you so," because you know what, he did. And he was so right. This bike is a true joy to ride. She's my two-wheeled, leg-powered version of sports car. 

For getting around the city, Jeanine is my wonderwoman.

Then there's Goldielocks. Goldie is a Velo Orange Polyvalent frame built up with a beautiful Brooks saddle, drop handlebars, and 650b wheels. (Since this photo was taken I've also added a front rack to carry my awesome ILE bag.) Goldie was built with summer bike touring / bike camping in mind; as you can see from the photos, the geometry of this bike is more relaxed, allowing for more control when the frame is weighed down with bags full of camping gear. Goldie is going to rock my world this summer when the rains abate and Kai and I head out on the trails to spend our weekends off the beaten path.

It feels like good timing to finally write about these two lovely ladies because I am finally back to bike commuting. Riding to work is not new to me; I rode my bike to work every day for last 4 years in San Francisco. But I’m ashamed to say I’ve been driving to work here in Portland since early November. I did not move to the most bike-friendly city in the whole US just to become a car commuter!

However, this commute is substantially different. When I first started bike commuting, I had a 5 mile downhill jaunt to my office on Market Street. Then the gods of favor smiled on me and I started working less than 2 miles from our apartment – a much more hilly route, but super quick and easy no matter which way you slice it. That's true commuter happiness, friends.

This time, my commute is almost 24 miles. That’s a hair shy of 12 miles each way. And while I said that the East side of Portland is relatively flat, the same is not true of the West side. This ride is intense, and it's leaving my legs pretty rubbery at the end of the day. On the way in to the office I climb a little over 1,000 feet. It takes an hour and 6 minutes at my absolute fastest, and an hour twenty on an average day.

But it's also a lovely ride, down quiet residential streets, over one of Portland's many bridges across the Willamette river, through the bustle of downtown, up through mountainous Forest Park, and finally the last several miles along a separated bike path that ends practically right at my office door. The views are incredible, the weather has almost entirely cooperated, and I'm easily ten times more awake when I arrive this way. Plus, when this is your commute, who needs the gym? I'm sticking with it.

Jeanine and I on our first ride to work together, back in San Francisco.
Goldielocks and I on our first ride, the epic car-free adventure around Oregon's Crater Lake.

If you know me at all, you've heard this a thousand times, but it bears repeating: happiness is pedal-powered two wheels, friends. A bike ride is a guaranteed mood elevator. It's a guaranteed free parking spot right out front. A bike is an adventuremobile, a community creator, a joy making machine. Becoming a cyclist has been one of the biggest positive changes of my life, and I encourage everyone and anyone to try it. You won't regret it.


finally, a knitting win

At last my Textured Shawl (which was once a Camelia Shawl) is blocked and off the needles. I basically haven't taken it off my neck since; I'm so happy with it. The yarn is deliciously soft and warm, and I was able to make it big enough that it feels luxurious wrapped around my neck, but not big enough to be in the way.

There are more details on my Ravelry page if you want the specs, but I basically increased the number of repeats for both stockinette stitch and the textured stitch and did two bands of each instead of three. I wanted wider bands of textured stitch, and I wanted a less striped look. It's the first time I "named" a project on Ravelry, and I called it Portland's Grey Skies. From the photos I'm sure you can see why.

If I knit this again - and I hope to - I would increase the width of the textured bands even more. I would love to have another version of this in an even heavier, more rustic yarn, something like Karen Templer's version, which I adore. It seems like a good opportunity to try out Imperial Yarn's Columbia, which I've been interested in using. Imperial Yarn is a family run, USA wool producer right here in Oregon. It's my goal moving forward to be more mindful of where my fiber comes from, so I'm better educated about what the process is like for the animal, the people, and the environment involved in producing it. It's not necessarily an easy goal, but I think it's a exciting one.

So there you have it. Just a short six months from starting and finishing both a cardigan and shawl, and then frogging them both, I finally have one finished object I love. Let's hope this trend continues - I'm over the knit it and hate it phase. Onward and upward!


simple tricks for happy people

I am a list maker. Always have been, always will be.

The problem with listmaking is that it never ends. Things get crossed off, sure, but never as quickly as they get added on. As someone with a habit of feeling perpetually bad about all the things I've yet to accomplish, listmaking can be a not-so-positive activity for me.

But recently, at the suggestion of my husband, I turned the list on its head: I made a list of things I've done so far in 2015, instead of the ever-growing list of things to do. And friends, it was magical. Before the end of the first month of this year, I'd read two really good books, completed two knit pieces, and sewn my first garment. When I focus on them that way - instead of the list of posts I've yet to write, including about one of those knits and the garment - it felt really good. So good, in fact, that I'm determined to keep it up.

So here's to list making backwards: the done instead of the to-do.

Some notes on our January:

One of those really beautiful books I read was Lila by Marilynne Robinson. I can't possibly do it justice telling you about it. Please just go read it.

Second, we spent most of the last month listening to Sigur Ros' Valtari. Not a new album, obviously, but so perfectly paired to the dark skies and falling water of January that I couldn't help but mention it to you. A good book, incredible music and a cup of tea and I think we'll all survive til Springtime. 


brooklyn tweed favorites

I want to thank everyone for their input after my weekend tirade… I was so grateful to hear from each of you. I have many thoughts and will definitely be doing a follow up post. But I thought we’d all benefit (maybe myself most of all) from a little more light-hearted post today. Let’s go back to talking about knitting, shall we?

As you surely already know, the BT Winter 15 collection launched this week. I love all things BT, and if time and money were limitless I would own a closet of handknit BT sweaters. So I thought now would be as good a time as any to review some of my favorite BT sweaters, because they are always and inevitably the bulk of my knit wish-list, aka my ravelry queue.


This piece is easily my favorite from the new collection. Remember how I said I really need that boxy stockinette sweater? This one just went right to the top of the list. I love the neutral version and I'm imagining it in an ombre, Cast Iron to Fossil gradation. Honestly though, with the way BT's colors all compliment each other, I think the good-looking possibilities for this simple beauty are nearly endless.

Have you every seen a more cozy looking cowl? This feels like an excellent remedy for how chilly our apartment can be when it's really cold outside. The weather is in the mid-30s today (I know, warm for a lot of you folks, but cold for us!) and I'm daydreaming about wearing this while I curl up on my couch and drink tea.

I love the construction of this piece; I'm so intrigued. It's just enough detail to keep it interesting but not too much for me to handle. Plus there's that fit I love: "generous postitive ease" and a high-low hem. 

This sweater is so my style - similar to the fit of Natsuma with even more positive ease, that high-low hem, simple with just a enough beautiful little details. Yes, please, sign me up. (Photo by the awesome Jaime of Fancy Tiger Crafts. I really love her version.)


I know everyone and their mother is in love with this pattern, and I am too. It’s not the right length for me, but the back design and shaping look like they would lend themselves perfectly to elongating this shape out into an A-line, mid-thigh brushing top layer. Can you imagine it 10-12 inches longer? Because I can, and I think it's killer.

I really believe there is no such thing as too many cardigans, especially in fingering weight wool. I can also always get behind menswear as inspiriation for clothing pieces. There's a reason they photographed this sweater over a button-up shirt: it looks so damn good.

I love the delicate all-over texture of this piece. I also love that it is made seamlessly - a construction method I've yet to try, but would love to do someday, especially because blocking and seaming are the two hardest parts of knitting for me to get excited about.

How beautiful is that cabled edge? So delicate, so pretty. This photo belongs to Ashley Yousling, the incredible woman behind Woolful. I actually first saw this garment via a Fringe Association post about Ashley and I haven't gotten it out of my head since.

This is literally just the tip of the iceberg and I could go on forever about BT patterns that I love. There are so many more that I'd want to make someday - but I thought I'd limit it for both your sake and mine. This post doesn't even touch the lovely accessory patterns they have, not to mention all the sweaters I want to make for Kai, or other people I know. One sweater at a time though, I suppose...