Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Blue Ridge Folklife Festival.

On Saturday, me and my parents (and a family friend) went to the Blue Ridge Folklife Festival, which is held every year at Ferrum College. I love stuff like this anyway, and my dad had got me even more excited about it because he's wanted to go for years but this was the first time he had been.

It was so much fun! They have scheduled events all during the day: demonstrations of old crafts, mule jumps, horse pulls, coon dog races and treeing contests, etc. And there was constantly music playing, because there are four stage areas with bluegrass music, gospel bluegrass, and storytelling.

We spent most of the day in the "farm museum" area, where there are all these beautiful historically accurate buildings, though we did wander across the road to the campus side for a little while.

I was in yarn heaven, you guys. :) It's been really convenient that just around the time I started getting interested in spinning and dyeing, I've had a couple of chances to go places where these things are being done.

There was a booth set up where a couple of women were naturally dyeing yarn in pots over wood fires. They also had some yarn examples hanging up with labels showing what they were dyed with. Aren't the colors gorgeous? I especially love the two on the left: the first one was dyed with sumac (which we have an abundance of on our farm) and the next one with pokeberry (which is also very common around here).

That's more pokeberry dyeing in the pot on the right.

There was also someone at that booth spinning on a wheel and a drop spindle. {You see those baskets of pretty yarn on the table? One skein of a pretty grey came home with me, hopefully to be made into a Miss Marple scarf.}

Later on in the day, we went to the college's fitness center where they had crafts set up. This lady, who teaches spinning, was using her spinning wheel. I talked to her for quite a while and asked some questions, and she showed me how to use a drop spindle. Of course, Youtube videos are helpful, but there's something even better about seeing someone spin in person. It helped things click, I think. {Yesterday I practiced with my spindle more and figured out that part of my problem was that I wasn't drafting out the fiber enough, which is why my "yarn" was so thick and wasn't holding twist. Anyway, I finally got some thinner yarn after practicing a bit more!} She also gave me some websites to buy fiber and recommendations on what sort of fiber are best for beginners.

Though we heard snatches of music all day, we stopped once to listen to a band that is based in my hometown. They recently won a competition for being the best bluegrass group in the state (and the banjo player is a history professor at the community college I attended). They were really good!

Walking through, we saw some sheep herding. We also saw a bit of the show featuring Gracie, a mischievous mule who can do all sorts of tricks. This is her playing basketball. :)

It was cool and cloudy all day, but thankfully it didn't rain on us at all while we were there. A lot of the leaves have fell lately with the rain and wind, but there were still some really pretty trees in the area.

We saw most of the horse pull. If you're like me and didn't really know what this was, it's an event where teams of huge draft horses compete to see who can pull the most weight.

They start off with the metal sled below, which weighs a ton, with a bit of added weight (those concrete blocks inside). I think they started off with about 2500 pounds? When we left, they had worked their way up to 5500 pounds, and I heard someone say later that some of the lighter teams had stopped at 6500 but others were going to keep going.

It's amazing how these strong horses are.

We caught the very end of the coon dog race across the pond. A zip line drags something raccoon-scented (no real raccoon required) across and the dog that reaches it at the other side first wins. The one in the orange collar below barked and howled excitedly all the way across. :)

We missed the antique car show. We were going to walk through on our way out, but nearly all of the cars had already left. We did get to see a couple of gorgeous 1940 vehicles up close in another area.

It was a lovely day. There was a lot of walking and standing, so I came home fairly exhausted, smelling like wood smoke and funnel cakes (me and Dad split one). A strange but comforting combination. :) Days like this make me feel so thankful to be born in such a neat place.

Until next time,

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fall fun.

I know...it doesn't get much nerdier than this. I carved Cary Grant into a pumpkin.
This isn't as completely random as it sounds- let me explain my thought process. :)
I had a few things I wanted to do this fall, and one of them was to carve a pumpkin. I think I might have done this once as a kid...I have vague memories of it. But I wanted to do it again this year. Then I saw this contest, and I figured I might as well do something a little unusual and enter it in the contest since I was going to carve one anyway.
Halloween makes me think of creepy Hitchcock films. I thought about carving his face, but that was way too complicated. I started thinking about some of my favorite Hitchcock films. Like North by Northwest (I know it's not exactly one of his scarier movies, but it's still really good). And you know how NbN has that famous scene where poor Cary Grant gets shot at, crop dusted, practically ran over, and nearly exploded, all while looking extremely dapper in a suit? Good grief, if anyone deserves to have his likeness carved into a pumpkin, it's him. :)
And that's how the Cary Grant pumpkin came about.

Carving the pumpkin was fun, and less messy than I expected it to be. Trying to get pictures of it was the interesting part, though. Imagine me walking around the yard at dark, toting a surprisingly heavy pumpkin (with two unlit candles inside), my camera, and one of those things you light a grill with. I'm glad I got the pictures that night, though. Because now, a couple of days later, those thin sections between the airplane wings are getting sadly droopy.

By the way, the candles inside that pumpkin were these beeswax candles me and my mom made. I saw this tutorial a while back, and being smitten with anything even remotely yellow-ish, decided to give it a try. Besides, candles just seem perfect for fall, right? {My dad is a beekeeper but didn't have any wax available yet, so we got some from a bee-ish supply store. We used three pounds and came out with about seven candles.}

The candles turned out really pretty, though they don't have much smell (they smell a bit like honey after they've been lit for about an hour). Also, they made a huge mess. It was our first time making candles, but we learned a lot. :) Like, most importantly, cover the kitchen counter with newspaper or something. We're still scraping off wax. And if you heat the wax in an old crock pot type thing, it heats it evenly and safely but also takes forever. And it takes a lot of coordination to pour out melted wax.

And one last fall-ish thing we've done lately...we used apples we bought in the mountains to make cider. We spent a fun evening with my cousin and his wife and their children, using this very old cider mill/press that has been passed down through the family. :) It was a very interesting (and sticky) experience! Apparently I was really young the last time we did this (I don't remember it).

{My cousin's wife Jennifer took these two photos. She joked about me blogging about the cider pressing, so I really hope she doesn't mind that I used a couple of her pictures. :)}

What festive fall things have you done lately?

Until next time,

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A trip to the mountains.

Last week me and my parents took our annual day trip to the mountains. It was a lovely day...we visited old favorite places and a few new places, too. The weather was beautiful and the leaves were starting to turn and the air smelled like apples (well, near the many places selling apples, that is :).

This is the view from Lover's Leap.

And this was the view from Rocky Knob, where we ate a sort-of picnic lunch.

We stopped at Mabry Mill and walked around. Every year, I take the same picture of the mill. I forgot to this year, though. It was a bit more crowded than usual, even though there weren't any special events or demonstrations happening.

My parents only agreed to pose for this picture when I gave in to a picture in front of one of the wagons. {We have pictures and home videos of me and my brother sitting on the wagons when we were little. I was whining in the video because I didn't like being up so high. Finally I said in an exasperated voice, "Get me off this thing!" Except I was a Southern four year old so it's more like "dis dang."}

While we were in Meadows of Dan we made a couple more stops. Of course, there was Nancy's Fudge. It's the most heavenly smelling store ever. :) There was a church group there so it was extremely crowded, but thankfully we know exactly what we want (just plain chocolate fudge for me, please).

Mom spotted a little bookstore that we had never seen before, and I'm so glad we went in because everything in the store was 50% off (and they already had great prices on new and used books). I got a book of letters from Father Christmas that J.R.R. Tolkien wrote to his children. And, more importantly, this 1945 edition of Pride and Prejudice, which just so happens to be my favorite book. :)

Other than the somewhat smudgy cover, it's in beautiful condition. And I got it for $1.

We also went to Greenberry House, a lovely yarn shop. Where I live, my yarn options are pretty much limited to Hobby Lobby, unless I order online. So it was amazing to visit a place that sells so much handspun and/or hand-dyed yarn. The owner showed us part of a fleece and answered a few questions I had about spinning and such. It was nice to meet someone who spins and dyes and does things like that that I want to learn.

It took me forever to narrow down what I wanted. :) But I finally decided on this gorgeous golden yellow yarn. I think it's probably my favorite yarn I've bought so far...of course I haven't actually used it yet, but I sure do love to look at it. :) I'm still trying to find the perfect pattern for it. I'm leaning towards the Honey Cowl (which I'm knitting now with other yarn), though it won't be 11 inches because I don't have quite that much yarn.

I also got this light green yarn, which will probably end up as a hat or a pair of fingerless gloves. (It's not washed out like the photos seem.)

Until next time,

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Penelope scarf.

I have always longed for a Penelope scarf. This scarf is one of the major reasons why I decided to learn how to knit over a year ago...I came across a free pattern for it. If you had told me when I started knitting last August that I would have this scarf in a little over a year, I would have laughed. :) The pattern seemed impossibly difficult then.

Over the summer I found some Bamboo Ewe (55% bamboo, 45% wool) on clearance at Hobby Lobby. I got three skeins each of the prettiest colors: a dark purple and a light green. I think I subconsciously chose those two because I knew they were practically identical to the colors of Penelope's movie scarf.

I finally got up enough courage towards the end of July to start knitting the scarf.

This is by far my favorite thing I've ever knitted. :) It was my first project involving more than one color of yarn. It was a bit time-consuming (it took me about 2.5 months, though I did stop working on it for a couple of weeks to do other projects, like the baby blanket), but the pattern was actually simple once you get past the idea of dropping stitches on purpose. {That part was terrifying for the first 1/4 or so.}

At first it bugged me that the scarf wasn't going to be identical to the movie one. The biggest difference is that my scarf is very textured. The black parts where you drop down to create the hexagons make the green and purple bubble out. The movie scarf is completely smooth...I think it's probably done all in stockinette stitch with intarsia. Basically, this way is easier and quicker. Also, the pattern calls for sportweight yarn, but I used worsted, so my hexagons are much bigger than in the movie scarf. I am glad that the colors are pretty much identical, though. The purple in my scarf really has a bit more pink in it than the pictures show...it's just hard to photograph.

It's knit in the round, on circular needles. I started off on my cheap eBay needles (which I had already used with my hat), and about halfway in, the plastic cord broke where it joined one of the needles. Discovery: cheap needles from eBay are fine when it comes to straight or DPNs. But be careful of circulars. I switched over to my size 8 metal DPNs, but it wasn't working out. First of all I really dislike metal needles, but the bigger problem was that my tension was off. The rows knitted on DPNs looked obviously different. So I had to order another size 8 16" circular needle from Etsy, because none of the local stores sell that size (they hardly carry any 16" circulars). Finally, when they arrived I could get back to knitting on the scarf.

I ended up using two skeins each of the Bamboo Ewe (the colors were Grape and Sprout, if you're wondering). For the black, I used about 3/4 a skein of I Love This Wool! in black, of course. The scarf came out to be about 10 inches wide. I didn't measure the length but you can see it below. It's very bulky and heavy, which also means it's very warm. :)

I love how quirky the scarf is. I knitted on it in public a lot this summer (at the farmer's market with my parents), and it got lots of positive attention. Mostly people couldn't figure out why it was a tube if it was a scarf, so I repeatedly explained that when I was finished I was going to sew up the ends. :)

It reminds me a bit of a stained glass window. I can't wait until it's cool enough to wear it.

Until next time,