Meet the Animals + Something Special for YOU

As I mentioned in my post about all of this year’s changes, we went from living on a small rental in Los Angeles to a 5-acre property in Tennessee. By far, the most FUN part of this entire process of change has been adopting and raising farm animals. I will leave the birds for my next post (although to my great surprise, the birds give us more entertainment than even our house pets).

We started with 5 wool sheep, and then, for my birthday, added a pair of Nigerian dwarf goats. I will not write too much in this post, as I am sure you’ll find the photos much more entertaining. The important things to know are that the sheep are a Bluefaced Leicester/Shetland/Cotswold mix, which my spinning friends tell me is going to make some lovely yarn, and were about 6 months old when we got them and are now, as of this writing, nearing their first birthday. Sheep are not easy, and if anyone is interested, I can do another post about all the things we have learned so far about raising them, but I really do enjoy our new life. Despite the hard, and often dirty work, going out to the barn to take care of the animals is one of my favorite parts of the day.

5 lambs having a little snack after arriving at their forever home
Front row, right to left: Freckles, Roman, and Nona. In the back – a little black sheep named Molly and Mr. Percy, a proper English gentleman …when he’s not begging for grain that is.
It took us awhile to get paddocks set up and to learn how to herd the sheep where they need to go. At first, there were days we had to pick them up and carry them – just a little morning workout.
The horned ones… I always thought it was just rams who have horns, but ewes can have them too. Molly and Mr. Percy just wouldn’t look the same without them!
If one takes off running, most likely they will all follow. Sheep love to be together. A sheep thing that is sometimes annoying, and other times, super helpful! 🙂
Enjoying the summer pastures. Truly a sheep’s happy place.
After shearing. Yes, we did it ourselves, and yes, it is SO HARD! My husband and I were quite proud of ourselves when we finished Mr. Percy and Roman.

And the goats… what can I say except that they are as people-loving, cuddly and fun as they look!

Happy birthday to me! Graham really does love cuddles and being held.
Leia loves cuddles too, and if I’m sitting down, will jump right into my lap.
One day when we were out and about, we left them to roam in the yard. When I came inside a few minutes to cool off, look who showed up at the front door!
My baby nephew thinks the goats are pretty funny too.
Leia is our female – and she’ll be a good mama some day. She doesn’t tolerate nonsense.
Graham: the sweetest, most lovable little goat I’ve ever met! He does try to eat my clothes however…
It’s true: goats really do love a nibble of just about everything!

This has all been a huge learning process for us. We did lots of reading and research before buying our animals so that we’d know how to keep them healthy and happy. It has been so fun and rewarding, but I always feel like I have so much left to learn. Next up is learning to process wool and spin it. I hope you enjoyed meeting our ruminants, and I will do another post soon about our birds.

I can’t yet sell any of my own fiber, but if you’re in holiday shopping mode, I do have a little treat for you. Lovecrafts.com gave me a discount code for my blog readers: Use EKB2019 to get 15% off orders over $10 (excluding PDF patterns, sale items & value packs). One use per customer, valid until December 31, 2019.

(And if anyone is wondering, I don’t make commissions from any sales, this is just a treat they are letting me offer you!) Please enjoy – their site has goodies for knitters, crocheters, quilters, and cross stitch and embroidery.

#WhyIMake

Earlier this week, LoveCrafts.com asked me to participate in their blogger awards (The Crafties) by writing about #whyimake. At first glance, it seemed like there are so many reasons why I’m a maker, so how to condense them into one post? But after looking back over how I became a maker and thinking about why I’m still doing it, I realized why I make is actually quite simple. Here is my story of how I started and why I will always be a maker.

I have always been a creative person. As a young girl, I loved to draw, and then as a teen, dreamed of becoming a fashion designer. My sketches of dream outfits from that time are still tucked away in my studio. When I was in high school, I got serious about taking art classes, drawing, painting, and preparing my portfolio for art school. I ended up going to school for graphic design and loved my college courses.

But graphic design in college is not the same as graphic design in the corporate world, and I have to be honest and admit that after graduation, I was not happy as a working graphic designer. I felt chained to my computer all the time, and so many days it felt like there was no creativity or making in my day at all. I would come home from work feeling drained, read fashion magazines, or just go shopping. This was not fulfilling at all, but it certainly filled the house with stuff and drained my bank account!

After I became a stay-at-home mom, we moved to Los Angeles when my son was 9 months and my daughter was two, and as you can imagine, it was a hard adjustment. A year later, I was still feeling lonely in the large city, and then my father died very suddenly. I found myself in the lowest, most painful time in my life to date. I felt trapped at home with the all the challenges that come with mothering two toddlers, a continent away from all our family and closest friends, and of course, the shock and grief of losing a parent. When someone from church asked me if I’d like to come to her little fiber group and learn to crochet, I figured I had nothing to lose by trying, so I went.

It sounds dramatic, but it was a life-changing night for me. I went home from that first meeting and stayed up until the wee hours practicing because I desperately wanted to make sure I wouldn’t forget how to do it by the next day. It is hard to put into words how important it was that I didn’t forget how to do it, because a whole week until our next meeting felt like such a long time!

I consider learning to crochet to be when I truly became a maker. It was the first night since my dad had died that I was able to get my mind engaged and enthusiastic with something. Crocheting made me excited, and it didn’t even matter what I was working on. I was as excited and energized to work on that first hole-y, uneven little dishcloth then as I am to work on a beautiful, complicated shawl or sweater now. I would sit and crochet anytime I was feeling sad or when I couldn’t sleep, and sure enough, after working on a project, I’d feel worlds better. To me, this is what it means to be a maker – enjoying the process of learning and of creating with your hands. The end result is just the cherry on top.

I’m a maker because I love to explore and learn, then translate what I’ve learned into a beautiful piece made by hand. People love to ask designers where their inspiration comes from, and I know I’m only one of many when I say, “Everywhere!” That may sound vague, but it is a true statement because there is always something new to learn or explore. The endless possibilities are what keep it exciting and fulfilling. There are so many studies about the the great mental benefits of knitting and crocheting, but I think those things are the side effects of what is really going on, which is experiencing the joy of learning and creating. Whether it’s focusing on a new stitch pattern or technique, or listening to an audiobook or podcast while I’m meditatively stitching a simple pattern, I love that feeling of having my mind engaged. It energizes me just thinking about what new project to start or what country’s textile tradition I can explore next. It’s exciting to buy a different fiber or even just use a color combination I’ve never tried before.

I have also realized that being a maker leaves me fulfilled and satisfied, and being a consumer, whether of things or entertainment or both, does not. I no longer have the craving to constantly shop and buy new things all the time because I am satisfied with the process of making. (Except for yarn and books – but you saw that coming!) Advertising doesn’t lure me the way it used to either because as a maker, I’ve learned to appreciate true value. I am also much less inclined to waste time getting sucked into Netflix or social media (and then being angry at myself after) unless I am working on a project. If I spend an evening watching Netflix while knitting or crocheting, my mind has still been engaged with my hands, and it still feels fulfilling. (So no judgment here on a good Netflix binge, but please let me have a project in my lap at all times!)

I love that this competition is not called “why I’m a knitter” or “why I’m a crocheter”, but is focused on why we are “makers”. You can always enjoy being a maker, even if you get tired of a certain craft or medium for a time. I’ve discovered that if I’m feeling bored or out of the mood with my craft, it is usually because I’m no longer learning, and once I fix that problem, the excitement returns. Since that first night I learned to crochet (and to knit shortly thereafter), there have been very few days I don’t spend at least a few minutes working on a project.

I still want to learn to needlepoint, to quilt, to spin, to weave…let’s be honest, that list will probably just keep getting longer! But whatever my craft of the moment is, I will always be making because it fulfills and excites me. I am a lifelong learner, and therefore a lifelong maker.

All of us have our own stories about how we became makers, and I’d love to hear yours. Thanks for reading mine, and please leave yours in the comments. If you want to keep up with what catches my eye, as well as my latest works in progress, check me out on Ravelry and Instagram. Special thanks to Lovecrafts.com for nominating me to participate in their blogger awards contest!

Striped Directions Wrap

striped directions scarf
Striped Directions Scarf

I am so happy to finally be publishing designs again! I got obsessed with slip stitch knitting several years ago, and have been working on a series of designs using this technique. I am seeing more and more of it everywhere, but when I initially started, I remember friends commenting they’d never seen some of the stitch patterns I was doing.

I really love slip stitch knitting because it allows you to play with color without doing stranded knitting such as Fair Isle. Carrying the floats requires you to be careful with your tension or the knitting will pucker, but slip stitch knitting doesn’t have this issue.

Slip stitch knitting is also known as mosaic knitting because it uses the same technique of working with two colors of yarn, but only knitting with one color every two rows, and slipping stitches in the alternate color to create patterns.

My new design uses garter st and a very simple slip stitch pattern to create perpendicular stripes. I used a fractal spun yarn and a semi-solid to create this scarf. You could also use handspun or gradient yarns, or even solids that have good contrast. This is a really great stashbuster project because you only need 400-600 yards each of two colors of yarn. I used a semi-solid and a fractal spun, but this would lend itself to so many different combinations! I am excited to make more different versions myself.

I feel like celebrating, as it has been so long since I published, and it’s a beautiful October day, and fall knitting season is here! I also really want to say thank you to everyone who reads this blog, supports me as a designer, and has very patiently continued to do so while I was in the middle of major life change and MIA for awhile.

As my thanks to you, I am running a promotion for all my patterns for the month of October. When you spend $15 on my patterns, get $5 off (at checkout on Ravelry) with fallknitekb. And please tag me on Instagram with #elizabethkaybooth or post in my group on Ravelry when you make one of my patterns so I can see your take on it. There is nothing more rewarding as a designer than to see other people enjoy my work and to see what colors and personal touches you bring to it!

For anyone interested, here is my Ravelry store: https://www.ravelry.com/designers/elizabeth-kay-booth

Happy fall my friends! More good things to come very soon!

Wrapping Up a Decade (aka Where Have I Been?!)

Greetings to you all, and here’s hoping that you’re still here and didn’t give up on me! 🙂 I will try to make up for my VERY long absence with the story of my very eventful year. I did not intend to let 8+ months go by without posting, and in fact, when I did last post, I hadn’t a clue yet as to all the craziness this year would bring. If you follow me on Instagram, then you already have a number of clues as to all the change in my life, but even so, you may still find the full story entertaining.

The long and short of it is that we moved from Los Angeles to a 5-acre property in Tennessee. I haven’t had such a crazy year since 11 years ago when we moved to CA from Ohio (and that was a story too, but we’ll save it for another time). As those of you who have been reading my blog for awhile know, I am a CA girl at heart. Nothing speaks to my soul like the ocean… except for yarn of course! You can imagine the emotions and difficulty of making such a life-changing, drastic decision!

If you’re wondering why, you’re in good company. I think many of our family and friends found it surprising since we were there for so long, and happily so. But simply put, CA changed quite a bit in the time we were there, and still is changing. Unfortunately, the changes are not for the better. The biggest problem is the insane real estate, which in turn causes the quality of living to go down. An example is the house we were renting for 10 years, which was listed on Zillow for $400k when we moved in, and barely a decade later, is now up to $800k. Our landlord did not make improvements during those 10 years other than to deal with emergencies. But aside from painting the walls and getting rid of the carpet that was there before we even moved in, to my knowledge, she was not planning on doing much else before putting it back on the market for $1000 more per month than what we were paying. (To be fair, I want to say that I am NOT insulting my landlord, as she was actually a very good one! This is just the sad reality of LA real estate.)

On a personal note, we also found it increasingly difficult to be across the country from our families. Flying is expensive, stressful and just plain inconvenient! My sisters and I planned a surprise birthday party for my mom’s 70th birthday in January (feel free to wish her a happy birthday even in August). 🙂 Due to cancelled flights and delays, even with an extra day between when we left Burbank and her party, we barely made it. When we originally moved to CA, we had planned to come back east once a year to see our families, but because of conflicting schedules and the large expense, this often did not happen.

There are also the issues that have made the news about conditions in LA, such as typhus in the LA courthouse. Whenever my husband and I discussed long-term future plans, we could never quite see ourselves staying in LA forever. It was becoming increasingly apparent that our time there was played out, and that there were so many things we wanted to do that just can’t be done in the cramped big city. As much as we absolutely loved living there, we realized we are happiest being surrounded by nature and practicing mindful living. We came to the conclusion that we would have a better future elsewhere.

Which brings us to Tennessee. I’m not sure how most people think of Tennessee, but my sister has lived here for a long time, so to me, it is a place of family and beautiful forests and mountains. We didn’t want to move anywhere too far north because we are definitely NOT cold-weather people, but we wanted to live somewhere within driving distance of our families. We also wanted to buy a house with a significant amount of land because we knew part of our desired change was to have animals and to grow some of our own food.

And so began our search for the right property. We came as a family in February to view houses, and we did indeed find our dream house. It was the right price, and everything we thought we wanted. But having done cross-country moves a number of times in my life now, I am here to tell you that no matter how smooth things seem to be going, moving is a beast and will never go according to plan, no matter how well you try to prepare yourself. In our case, because of timing, we chose to do a 60 day close, and set about packing and preparing for the big moving day. The mortgage people and our real estate agent periodically checked in with us to let us know we were moving ahead and all was well. Paperwork was being signed, and our anticipation of closing day was increasing with every week.

But 3 weeks before closing, as we were Konmari-ing our house for the 100th time, our realtor called us with the worst news you can ever hear when you’re buying a house: we might lose it. The current owners had committed fraud, and had a $50,000 lien on the house, which they had failed to mention on any of the paperwork. And so for two nerve-wracking weeks, we checked in with our agent daily to see if they had found a way to clear the title of the house. And for those two weeks, there was almost no communication from the seller’s agent and we had no idea if we should keep packing or how to formulate a backup plan.

If WE broke contract, the sellers would keep the earnest money we had put toward the house, which felt grossly unfair, given that they were the criminals, and we had done nothing wrong. But if we didn’t somehow get out of the contract, then we would lose more money waiting around and paying for the flight and hotel to show up at closing. Ultimately, the two real estate agents managed to convince them to sign documents of mutual cancellation. We lost the $1000 we had spent on home inspections, radon tests, etc., and our right to sue them in the future, but we were free to go find another house and we were entitled to get our earnest money back.

I won’t bore you with all the details of how we found another house, but the important part of this story is that everything turned out better in the end. Sometimes there is more than one dream house for you my friends, and the second one is even better! The first house was a beautiful brick home and had everything we could have wanted in the house itself. But to live the life we were envisioning, we would have had to buy fencing for the entire property, build a barn, and plant trees. The thought of building it all from just grass into what we wanted was appealing in a way. But when it fell through and we came across the property that is now our home, we realized what a huge value it is to already have what we need. Trees take many years to grow, and our current property is full of them. There is a barn just the right size, a separate work cabin, and pastures that are already fenced and gated. And in addition to all those benefits, the interest rates went down by a few points during the time all of the issues I described were happening. In the end, I am very grateful things worked out the way they did because we got much more for the money, and the property we ended up buying was ready to go for our new life.

And what is our new life? My Instagram followers already have a pretty good idea, but for those of you who haven’t seen my posts, the fact that we need a barn may have clued you in. 🙂 We bought five lambs less than a month after our closing, and so as you might imagine, our life in Tennessee is quite different from what it was in LA. (In fact, I’ve taken to calling myself a shepherdess because that’s what I am, and it does sound nice, doesn’t it?!) Some days, given where we were living and where we are now, it is still hard to believe our new life, but on the other hand, given our long-standing love for animals, it’s not so surprising.

You all should know enough about me by now to know that YES, they are wool sheep! (Would a knitter/crocheter want any other kind??) But the details are that they are a mix of Bluefaced leicester, Shetland and Cotswold. We have three ewes and two rams, and in a future post, I’ll introduce you to them by name, with photos. They are all siblings, so the rams are wethered, but I do hope at some point to breed the ewes because who wouldn’t want to have baby lambs running around? In addition to the sheep, we are raising 5 chicks – each a different breed. We also hatched Guinea fowl, and the day we saw them come out of the eggs was one of the most fun days of the summer.

As you might imagine, there is so much I am not including in this post, such as our weeklong drive from Los Angeles to Nashville, with our rescue cats and dog in tow. We drove through five states I had never seen, and every day was new scenery. Moving has so many moving parts, and timing is everything! By the time the truck arrived to load our stuff, and we drove those 2,000+ miles, and made it through closing day, it felt as though we’d had to align every grain of sand on the beach into the proper order just to be able to call this house ours. And as much as I miss being able to take my kids to the beach every week during the summer, I’m excited about our future here.

Over the course of this summer, I have already had visits from both of my sisters and met my 2 1/2 year-old nephew for the first time. My husband was able to drive to see his entire family. I drove to Columbus with my kids to celebrate a dear friend’s 80th birthday on a June Saturday, and his wedding the very next day. I not only learned what predator-proof fencing is, I learned to put it up. (And those of you who already raise animals and don’t even think about these things – it’s OK, you may laugh!) Soon our sheep will need to be sheared, and then the wool will need to be processed before it can be spun, so I still have much learning left to do.

I am still designing patterns, and I have a few almost ready for release. I am also still working on my book of slip-stitch patterns which was started over 3 years ago. I am seeing the technique more and more, but I remember fellow knitters in LA seeing me working on these patterns and remarking how they hadn’t seen the stitches I was doing, so that tells you how long these designs have been in the works! If I’m being honest, pattern writing is extremely difficult, and I just couldn’t concentrate on it this year. I very carefully packed my WIP’s and notes, and brought them with me on our journey because I wasn’t taking any chances on the movers losing them. I hope you will enjoy seeing new work from me, and that you won’t mind too terribly if this blog changes a bit to include posts about my hands-on education in sheep-tending and fiber processing.

I hope you all are having a good year, regardless of whether it includes major life change or is life as usual. Thanks for reading my story – I know this post is quite long. Photos of sheep and other treats coming your way soon! And if anyone is in the house-hunting process, please don’t let my story scare you. Our realtor told us that in his decades of experience with house closings, this is the first time he had ever seen this happen. I wouldn’t want to deal with it again, but it really did turn out for the best, and I wouldn’t trade where we are now!

Finished: Antonio’s Blanket

Louver panes baby blanket size

There are so many things I love about living in LA. But I miss my sisters and family terribly, especially at the holidays. I have two nephews I haven’t yet had a chance to meet, although I hope to put that right very soon. 🙂

One of my great joys in life is to pick something to make when my sisters have a baby. As you might know from reading my blog for awhile, I have a preference for making baby blankets.

 

Louver Panes blanket

My choice for my newest nephew Antonio is a fun one. I went with a mix of blues with black trim, and resized this pattern into a baby blanket.

Louver Panes baby blanket

I am very wary of making blankets that have squares to seam together at the end. I once made a mitered square blanket that, no joke, took me longer to seam together and weave in ends than it did to knit the squares. The only reason I saw 100’s through to the end was because most of the squares are picked up and knit, no seaming, so it wasn’t quite so bad.

But back to this one, the seaming was very simple, and the squares themselves are big enough that it was actually fun putting it together sort of like a puzzle. I will not make a blanket with tiny mitered squares again, but I wouldn’t mind doing a full size version of this one for our home.

Louver Panes baby blanket

My Best Knitting Discovery

As a designer, I think I probably do more swatching (and ripping out), than the average knitter. Part of figuring out a design is to experiment, and I accept this as part of the job. Deborah Newton is a big proponent of swatching for fun and says this is the most important stage of her design process.

I am not sure how yarn companies decide what needle size to suggest on their ball bands, but it often functions as a starting point for me. If I’m starting a new project, and I’m not sure what needle size I want to use, I start swatching with the suggested needle size and then go up or down based on what fabric that makes and what kind of fabric I’m trying to achieve.

Recently, I did a bunch of swatching with different yarns, and I started noticing a pattern. I realized that no matter the thickness of the yarn or the fiber type, every single swatch came out much more drapey when I went up a needle size or two from what is on the ball band. And I realized almost every knitted piece I’ve been most happy with has always been using a bigger needle size than what is on the ball band.

These two swatches are done in chunky yarn with the same number of stitches. One is knit on size 11’s, and the other on size 17, and you can see the difference in drape. I liked what I was getting on the 11’s until I did the one on 17’s. Now the swatch done on 11’s feels and looks very stiff to me.

Again, both swatches have the same number of stitches, just different sizes. This is a sport weight yarn done on size 6 and size 8. Again, I am happier with the drape of the swatch done on the larger size.

You get the idea – same number of stitches, this is double stranded done on sizes 7 and 11. This one surprised me – I really loved the first swatch done on smaller needles, and was considering just going with that. But when I did the second swatch, I realized what a difference in drape there was, and if I were to make a sweater out of this, I would definitely go with the larger needles.

This would be the best tip I could offer fellow knitters: don’t be afraid to go up a needle size or more to get the best possible drape in your fabric. In all of these swatches, and usually in most of the projects I’m happiest with, the best drape has come from using needles at least 1 or 2 sizes larger than what is recommended on the ball band of the yarn. If you can spare the time, even if you like the swatch results, try it on larger needles and compare your swatches because you might be pleasantly surprised.

 

Facing Down an Old WIP

Louisa Harding Amitola, Herringbone Lace WrapThis project is probably one of the oldest WIPs I had sitting in the back of my closet. I started it 4 or 5 years ago, and knitted far with it. As in, it calls for 3 skeins of yarn, and I knitted through 2 before I quit working on it.

Louisa Harding Amitola, Herringbone Lace Wrap

This was one of those projects where I loved the pattern, loved the yarn, and because I loved them both so much, I wanted perfection. I’m sure you know what is coming. I made a mistake pretty early on, but didn’t notice it until I had knit several more inches. I pushed myself to just live with a mistake. Then I made more mistakes, and the whole thing just started to annoy me by the time I started the second skein.

Louisa Harding Amitola, Herringbone Lace Wrap

By the time I was finishing that skein, I was majorly irritated with myself and wishing I had just frogged it when I noticed the first mistake. But of course, being 2/3 done with it, at this point, I REALLY didn’t want to frog it, so I did what most of us do in such situations and decided to just shelve it for awhile.

Louisa Harding Amitola, Herringbone Lace Wrap

You know how it is, we always think if we put it aside for awhile, our mistakes will disappear by magic, or at least not bother us so much when we pull it back out after awhile. It turns out in this instance “awhile” was 4+ years, and when I pulled it back out over the summer, the mistakes were still there and glaringly obvious.

Louisa Harding Amitola, Herringbone Lace Wrap

Of course, there are two ways this can go when you’re in this situation: you can frog the whole thing and start over or you can frog it and repurpose the yarn for a different project. It really comes down to how passionate you feel about the pattern at hand. I decided to do the first because from the start, I loved THIS yarn with THIS pattern.

Louisa Harding Amitola, Herringbone Lace Wrap

I am happy to say that when a project has had such a long timeout, it is much less painful to just frog the whole thing and pretend you’re starting something brand new, which you almost are. When I picked it up again, I had all the excitement and drive that comes with starting a new project, and I made the most of it. The bonus to restarting is that it does go much faster the second time around. I knit the entire wrap in the course of a few months, mistake-free, and I am very happy with the results, which you can see in these photos. I hope you enjoyed reading about the process, and that you’ll be encouraged to face whatever projects have been hiding in your closet for the same reasons. It really won’t be as bad as you think! 🙂

Pattern
Yarn: Louisa Harding Amitola