Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Thank you 2013

I have always loved calendars. I love picking one out each year. Writing special events and appointments down, I keep it in a spot I will always notice. A few years ago I started a New Year's Eve tradition: I take down my calendar and go over the year just lived. And this year, 2013, was one for the books. I don't think I've had so much excitement, or extended my family, and felt so loved as I have in this year.

January~ As Jubal and I continued to plan our wedding, I also worked on dye samples, new yarns, and figuring out how to build up my Etsy shop from part-time to full-time. And it was during this month that I was given a tremendous opportunity to teach at Squam Artworkshops :: Taproot Gathering that took place this past September. The year certainly started off with a bang.


February~ More wedding planning took place, and I became most obsessed with wedding flowers and table settings. I always knew the obsession would kick in, but I tried hard to keep it at bay. Then it was all I could think about. Pretty boring for anyone who had spent time with me, as all I had were flowers on the brain. We did take some time away from the Maine winter too, and I traveled with Jubal to his hometown in California to see his family and so he could attend a work training. Spending time in the Bay Area and with his family is always such a treat, and I know I am so lucky to be able to do this. 


March~  Became a bit of a flurry of shopping, meeting with wedding vendors, packing for a three-month trip, and checking out. Sweet, sweet bliss mixed with excitement for the coming month, mixed with anxiety about the Big Day and our crazy retreat. It was also a month of parties, get-togethers, last days at my part-time job, birthday dinners, and such an unreal feeling.

April~ The first of April started with celebration of welcoming family and friends as they trickled in from all over to help us celebrate our day. On April 6th, Jubal and I married, and the following day we left Maine to spend our honeymoon in a cottage on the west coast of Ireland. 

We found our way to our cottage that first day, lit the first peat fire in our stove, and took a nap while the harrowing west wind came over the bog. We were so struck with how surreal it felt to have arrived. We made it through dating and finding each other, deciding to marry, planning a home, planning the wedding, and now planning this trip. We were exhausted, and I don't remember when I'd slept so well as I did when we had first arrived to the cottage with the red door in Doonagore village, near Doolin. 


(wedding photos: Jennifer Searles Dumont

May~ We found our groove and delighted in driving all over Ireland to visit pubs, shops, museums, farms, random castles appearing on the horizon, and much much, so much to our pure delight, we witnessed the Burren come alive with the most sweet and delicate wild orchids. Such a treasure and blessing to witness such natural beauty.

We made new friends and spent time with old ones. Everywhere we went, we were our own version of a sponge -- soaking up every detail, color, historical fact, vernacular, dessert, and sounds that we could. 

June~ It started to sink in we had to leave at the end of the month. I packed even more in including a trip to the middle of the Aran Islands. I cannot pick one amazing moment of those three months. But if I had to, if I really did, it would be that side trip to Inis MeƔin.


Leaving at the end of the month, I looked back on all that we had done, but mostly on all that I had thought about. I left feeling so grateful, refreshed, and inspired to do so many things on our return. The thing is, as much as we both were ready to go home to our home, our island, our state, our families -- we so badly wanted to stay. It was a very weird place to be. It was my fourth trip to Ireland, and each time I've gone, I didn't want to leave. But this time, this time, I felt such a strange pull that was ten times stronger than the last trip. I think it had something to do with living so near to that ancient bog that had seen and held so much. 

July~ We settled right back in and it felt as if we had never left. Getting back to our familiar things felt very sweet. I saw friends, family, and took a watercolor class at a nearby farm. Jubal got right back to work and even traveled for a bit. I returned to Medomak for my fourth year to teach fiber arts classes with my good friends. It was a wonderful week, as always.


August~ Jubal had to travel again for work, and I became more used to taking care of things in his absence. We held a yard sale. I harvested my first indigo crop of the year and held a small indigo dyeing party. My sister, mom, and two good friends came to learn about the process and dye a few pieces -- something I look forward to doing again next year. It was a lot of fun, and I look forward to taking advantage of our garden beds and the Peaks Community Garden to grow more dye plants. Also, my youngest niece came for a sleepover for the first time. We had the best time, and I didn't want her to leave.

September~ My interest in foraging for mushrooms flourished, and a new obsession was born. Jubal and I attended a fun fungi fair in north-central Massachusetts to learn more. Then I packed up my pots, samples, books, aprons, and nerves and drove deep into the New Hampshire woods to teach natural dyeing at the Squam Art Workshops. It was a wonderful time of self-discovery, new friendships, and explorations. I also forged a new connection for a project that I've been working on since, and which I hope to share more about in the future. I attended the Common Ground Fair (again) where I picked out two fleeces for myself and pumpkins for Jubal. He makes a killer pumpkin pie. My oldest nephew came to stay for a sleepover for the first time, I taught him how to skirt a fleece, and he taught us how to pick up a chicken. We adopted two hens from neighbors the week before, and we didn't have much of a clue. I also held my first natural dye workshop at the house, which was a lot of fun.

October~ For 20 years I have dreamed about learning to play the fiddle. I finally decided it was about time I try. We took a small road trip up north to visit friends, and did more mushroom foraging, and it was particularly fun for Jubal as he had never been that far north in Maine. I spent more time with family and friends too.


November~ We took another road trip, but this time to Prince Edward Island. A wonderful scenic trip and more time with family and friends. Also this month, I hit an all time record high for sales in my etsy shop.

December~ Early on in this month I decided to spend more time trying to take things slow. The holiday season can make me feel crazy, stressed and like I'm not doing enough. I made a conscious decision to do less in the way of my shop and blogging so that I could do more in the way of creating more holiday cheer around our home and make time for friends and family. I wanted to soak up every moment of December by watching Christmas movies, listening to music, baking, trying new holiday crafting projects, and taking more time to really enjoy a season that could whirl right by.


Looking back on my year, I feel I am so blessed, and am inspired to unfold even more possibilities for 2014. 

And speaking of 2014, I'm so happy to share with you some fun plans I have in store for my shop, 44 Clovers, my blog which will soon be a website that Jubal's been building, and workshops that will be on offer here on Peaks, local shops in Portland, and beyond.    

Thank you, 2013, and all that you've blessed me with. 

ox, r

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

December; Slowing it Way Down.

I really do enjoy the month of December but holy cow can it fill up! It's only the 10th and it feels like a whole month has passed. It hits like clockwork, December 1st rolls around and all I can think about is chocolate and mint. All the time. Then one day I woke up and I needed to have this. 

I knew all I would need is peppermint candies, my favorite chocolate, and my mom's brownie recipe. It's smashing the peppermint pieces up real tiny and adding some yummy chocolate chunks in any brownie recipe that will make you real happy. I need to make these again real soon. 

I had a great dinner date with one of my best friends, Bristol early last week. She suggested a place I hadn't been yet, The Empire, Chinese Kitchen. Something I rarely do anymore is walk around Portland. But this night I knew I needed to and I was so glad I did. 

And this dish, this dish here, crispy pork bun. I just could not resist. It was heaven. Also, I haven't eaten so much in these last ten days.

Last week while packing for a quick trip to Michigan for a family wedding, I came up with a new idea to help make this month feel less hectic and more enjoyable. Knitting, stitching, and dyeing has been one of my most favorite things to do and has been the main focus of my work as of late. Because I love doing all these things and more, I find it can be so easy for my mind to go over board and before I know it, I've set insane expectations for myself and my shop. A few weeks ago for the Black Friday Shopping Weekend, I took a bit of a risk and put a huge sale on for my etsy shop. The response actually blew me away. It was very successful for me and the goals I set for myself. I felt motivated even further for the month of December. However, I felt like some thing was still missing. During that time I started to figure out how to plan and implement a creative line and schedule for releasing items. In the end, I knew I wanted to feel less hectic and more on top of things so that I could relax and sit back and enjoy the holidays and other life happenings. Not looking for perfect here, just time and space to do other things that matter just as much and that can fuel me completely. Things like painting my kitchen and entire downstairs, more time with friends and family, reading and playing the fiddle, and painting. 

Insert here very quick, super fun and ultra efficient trip to Michigan and back. Last Thursday Jubal and I left for a family wedding. As Jubal's family is far flung, any chance we get to spend time with any of his family is gold to both of us. I know I am a very fortunate girl to have married into such a fun loving bunch! We explored a tiny bit but mostly hung out, practiced a few surprise musical numbers for the happy couple, and caught up. I got to spend time with each person which was my favorite part of the whole weekend. And all the cake. 

Lights of Detroit. 

Crazy light tunnel at the Detroit airport.

Layered cookies served with cream AND milk. They had me at "cream and milk"

The happy couple cutting their delicious 3 different layered cake....

To which we ALL enjoyed immensely! 

All weekend I thought about the muppets. We all had rooms in a line next to each other. There was even a murphy bed in someone's room and at one point during our musical practice, someone shouted, "we should take this on the road!" 

So last night, we did just that, watched the Great Muppet Capper. It was shorter than I remember and now I know where my childhood fascination of fancy telephones came from. 

So back to work, my latest line of Scrappie Bears. Knitted from a variety of hand spun wool fibers, and various dye methods such as koolaids, plant dyes and acid dyes.  

The newest additions for the holidays. Balsam bellied birds. I made several last year using a different sewing method and more embellishments. This year I went a slightly different route and made more using the machine and adding a scoop of dried balsam inside the bellies. I'm offering them in groups.

Latest hat on offer knit from a hand spun merino and other fibers and dyed with acid dyes.

My pine studies. How I loved doing these and really look forward to doing more embroideries very soon. 

That was just a little distraction of my latest additions to the shop. That decision I mentioned came about from doing something that I do well, over load myself. It's so easy isn't it? Too bad that our minds much less the hours in the day can not keep up with all of the thoughts and ideas that excite and thrill us and keep us going. But thankfully, I write every single one of them down. But I usually don't need to because if I don't make them come to life, they do become loud enough in my mind and sometimes visiting me in my dreams if I don't make them come to life. 

Back in November, I came across a link through soulemama talking about making our holidays less hectic. I followed the link to here where I found Laura and a 28 day challenge to slow down your holiday season and enjoy it more with your loved ones. Every day I've been receiving an email from her with a new challenge and it is always very simple like Light a candle, know how you want to feel, read a holiday story. Now I don't have kids, but that's ok, the days when it's about kids, I like to think anyway what I would do if I did have kids. There's nothing really to each challenge except taking a few moments every day to think. That's when one day last week, a tuesday or wednesday I think, we received the challenge of taking 3 things off your to-do list. I thought 3 THINGS?? WHY NOT 1? Then before I knew it, it wasn't hard after all. Because I work for myself and LOVE the work I do~ creating and thinking and creating more, trying not to do that or some of that was harder than you might think. I have to say, I am really good at putting off regular house cleaning so I can create more and though I'm the only one it seems to bother, it has been on my mind~ how I need to spread out everything I want to do. Then a thought popped into my head. The thought of not adding any more to the shop or blogging for the month of December. It took only a few minutes for me to realize it's just what I wanted to do. But not so I could do less but so I could form a new discipline in making room for other things. 

It has felt like a weight has been lifted. I've been trying to figure out how to fit it ALL in. And now I've found a way to simply make room for more with out going insane. 

So with all this said, my shop will still be open all through December and beyond. I'll post again in my blog in January. And between now and then I'll be working on several new projects such as;

dyeing (w/ barks, mixing orange, my fermented lichens!!) ~spinning (my brown Icelandic, white Finn and Shetland fleeces!) ~ Putting together classes (dyeing class collaborations at our favorite Portland crating spots) ~self maintenance (walking, yoga, pilates, fiddle, painting)~ and a very special project like none other that I've tackled before which I can share later. 

I'm really excited about this coming month and all the possibilities. Keep your eye out in January for fresh Maine raised and plant dyed yarns and new class offerings!

Do you want to stretch out the season and make it last? Try taking 3 things off your list too and see how it makes you feel. I'd love to hear what those things are if and how if makes you feel in the end.

Happy Holidays and until Next Year!

ox, r

Monday, November 25, 2013

Slipped Gears; day dreaming with lichens, family, and baby booties.

I say 'day dreaming with' because in these joyous moments of new lichen dye discoveries, seeing a growing rooster, and talking with my sisters, I'm day dreaming too. Mostly about new projects, some very big and some very small, on the horizon. Day dreaming is fun and it's useful! I should know, I've been doing it all my life. And here I am. Inside my very day dream I've had since I was in Mrs. Veno's 1st grade class. The first teacher who wrote my name on the board. I was caught talking in the bathroom which meant I was not paying attention when she told us during our bathroom break there was to be no talking.  What I remember most about that year was with every report card, was sent home a disapproving note to my parents; "rachel day dreams too much." I didn't really know what fuss was all about. I just knew it was so much more fun to be thinking about milk weed pods and why that silk was so silky. And why was goldenrod so yellow.

On and off for about a week now I've felt myself happily gliding into a holiday mode. Day dreaming about the meals, plans, projects I'll create. Just when I feel I've established a nice buttoned up, all my ducks in a row house is cleaned and projects are complete organized routine, that's when it happens. A gear slips. I get so excited about an idea and before I know it I've collected all 24 of my dye books for note writing. Or I've started sorting my yarn again and five ideas emerge.  I end up pacing trying to decide what to start first and why it's more important than the others. I bring down 3 prepared embroidery projects, 2 knitting projects and park myself to watch my latest series and then the cat starts begging to be brushed by pulling my arm towards her with her too hard to see and too sharp to tolerate claws.  So, this past week, I glided and floated happily along enjoying what ever came my way. It was quiet and restful as I did a lot of sitting back, thinking and planning.

The few things that kept me busy:

My latest lichen jars. While in Prince Edward Island a weekends ago visiting my husband's aunt, I discovered this lichen, Lobaria pulmonaria. Also know as tree lung wart. I found two slightly different shapes of it but looking very similar in two different spots. I harvested maybe a fourth of what I saw. Back home, I set up my ammonia method for fermentation. Within a day the liquid turned a bright orange. I'm have some left in my bag that I will also try with the boil water method. Reading in my lichen books, this is suppose to give a dye ranging from peach to orange with the boil water method or BWM. It doesn't say anything about the ammonia method but I'm trying it anyway. I also tried the orchil acid test by dipping an exposed inner white flesh edge of the lichen in bleach. If there is orchil acid, the white bit will turn pink to red. It did nothing and stayed white. So I thought I would continue to experiment anyway. When I actually dye with this lichen, I will of course post results. Look how orange it is!

Speaking of day dreams, back in 2006 I first opened up my etsy shop. Back then it was Bosco44. Named after my sweet dog I had as a kid. Etsy has been changing a lot over the last few years, increasing all that you can do and how you manage. There are tiny companies and studios all around the world doing the etsy thing full time. I manage my shop completely by myself. I am the sole creator for everything in the shop. A while ago while checking out my shop stats, I realized that my biggest year for sales was 2009. I remember thinking to myself, "ok, this needs to turn around now and I need to surpass these numbers soon." It had been too long. I then noticed that since 2010, my views, listing favorites, and sales have slowly but steady climbed. Then I noticed the third thing. Since the time I left my full time working for someone else grind at the end of August 2012, sales have doubled, shop and listing views have doubled, and my favorites have more than tripled. 

This past week hit a special mark for me reaching the first time since 2009 when I had a serious influx for sales during this particular season. I hit my fourth sale of the month pushing me into beating my highest sales year from 2009 going over by 4 sales so far. 

In this little package was my first rainbow roving. You can see the whole series there at the shop. Having 3 orders in a week really did a lot for my self esteem I have to say. And to wake up on a Sunday morning to be greeted with a notification on my phone or to hear that heavenly "CHA-CHING!!" from my phone or ipad while cooking or tending to other things, there's nothing like it.  

My sisters and I try to get together often usually meeting at one of their houses for an afternoon with our lunches and knitting. It had been a little bit since I had been to this sister's house and had forgotten about just how fast chickens grow. I took a few minutes checking out their coop set up. They have roughly 8 or 9 (?) chickens now and they all look good. Like tweens sporting their new haircuts and outfits just before the 7th grade. In that stage of still cute and nearing handsome adulthood. But more on the cute side. And wanting to be noticed. 

Check out Ralphie's du. The rooster. 

I collect clothes lines, remember. I can't help it. I see one and my phone is clicking away before I've thought about it. 

I love this window door thing and the hanging feeder. 

So here I was just kind of slowly day dreaming about next steps in life and I found myself sorting all my natural dye samples from classes and workshops I've taught. I've had this sweet little pile of kid mohair and silk yarn that I've been r e l i s h i n g in experimenting with. I realized I had just about all the colors of the rainbow plus brown. 

And as always, working with mohair always makes me think of baby booties. For a few years now, I've been knitting several pairs for my shop, friends and family with what ever mohair I have. I've been using this pattern. It's so easy and I've made so so many. I love knitting it because it's very quick and you kind of knit a tiny ravioli to start- by double knitting. Can I call that double knitting? It's ok, correct me if I'm wrong. 

As the yarn is SO tiny and strand like, not like the old mohair I use to work with that had a sizable loft to it. I used US 1 double pointed needles. This is also the first time I've knitted this pattern with stripes. It was interesting and I figured it out along the way. 

They are just too CUTE! and I'm pretty happy with the colors. Which include from toe to cuff- all dyed with plant dyes by me, madder root light, madder root dark, goldenrod, onion skins (the green!) garden grown indigo, indigo extract, logwood purple, alkanet, lichen, and black walnut. I still have plenty of sample yarn left over so it's very possible I'll be knitting a pair for the shop. Maybe slightly bigger as these could be for a newborn. But these little things will be tucked away for when the time is real.

Obligatory cat picture. A very friendly wandering cat I noticed from my window while washing dishes who in my mind is named Henry.  

Thanksgiving and Chanukah is this week. As you celebrate how ever you do this coming holiday season, do your self a great big favor and take time out to just day dream. Look out a window and just let your mind go. And do it often.  

ox, r