Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Sunflowers Beginning to Bloom and New Things Around Here

It's been quiet here, hasn't it? No, I haven't disappeared..... I've just been enjoying the last days of summer. Julia went back to school today. She is beginning a new school and we have our fingers and toes crossed that it will work out okay. 

Now it is time for me to play catch-up - here on the blog and in real life. I've got so many ideas simmering in my head and I hope I can accomplish just some of them. That is the good thing about taking time off - the ideas percolate and when you begin again, you are fresh and new.

We have had an unusually cool summer. My garden tomatoes got the "blight" and I think I may not even plant any next year. It is so disappointing - the 4th year in a row. Otherwise my garden has done really well. The zinnias recovered from the black spot (thank you copper fungicide). It is about to be stunningly beautiful with the arrival of all colors and shapes of sunflowers. 

I've been doing a lot of crewel embroidery this summer - at the Farmers Markets, in the evenings and when traveling. Here is a project I am almost done with - it is an off-shoot of my summer Crewel Embroidery class and my Craftsy on-line "Stitch It with Wool" class. Link for the class on my left sidebar.

Here is a close-up of some of the motifs and stitches. I am thinking of turning this into a "pattern/pdf." Would anyone be interested? 

What do you think? It was a very fun project to do - playing with stitches and colors and making up all kinds of variations. This piece will be sewn into a pillow for the porch.

How is everyone handling the bounty of late summer? Pickling anyone? Baking? Preserving? Would love to hear. 

I love a good "fruit crisp" and I am always trying new recipes looking for the perfect combo of crunch and fruit. This one looks intriguing.

While we are talking about fruit - I'm going to break out the tart pan and make this peach tart. I made it a few years ago and it was very tasty.

Anyone going to the Brimfield Antique Market next week? I will be although still not sure what day. Here's the info you need

I'll be back with more regular posts in September. To end today, here's a few photos of the kittens we raised which have moved onto new homes. I know you all love a kitty photo or two. 

Mama Petunia and kitten snoozing

Snuggling on my felted wool coasters

Pile of three

In deep sleep

Sneak peeking

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Fabric Print Class Photos

I taught my first fabric printing class last Saturday. It was a beautiful late summer day - not at all hot - just gorgeous. We spent the day in my studio making art and printing fabric. What a fabulous way to spend a day.

I am not known for fabric printing - my following is knitters mostly. It is difficult to develop a new following. How do I get the word out there? It is a problem that I will have to work on and try to figure out. 

I had one student named Louise for the day and the day was a good one. I have had Louise in a knitting class and so I knew that we would have fun. She is incredibly creative and colorful and a very talented knitter and embroiderer. I could have cancelled the class for lack of interest but instead I chose to see how the class went so that if I did run it again, it would be better. The first time with any class is difficult.

The photos below show some of the progress Louise made. I learned how I should adapt the class for more students and how to time everything better. It was a day full of learning for me and Louise! 

Thank you Louise for coming to the farm. I can't wait to see the finished tablecloth you began. I will look forward to teaching others this technique.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Old Friends + An Old Recipe

This summer, I've had a chance to reconnect with some very old friends. I'm not much for keeping in touch. I never have been. The Farmer and I are always so busy keeping up with what we have going on and we never make the time. It's not one of my better traits but it is who I am. 

A couple weeks ago, Julia and I headed off to New Jersey for a family reunion of sorts. My sisters and I threw a party for our Mom who is having a big birthday soon. I had the chance to see so many friends from my childhood and it was quite fun to hear what everyone is up to and to see the parents of my childhood friends that are still in my Mom's fantastic circle of friendship and family. 

Life throws you many curveballs and life has not turned out the way my teenage friends and I ever thought it would. We all have our independent and family challenges and I think about them often as things happen in their lives (even if I never write, never call - ooohhh Kristin!). I think back to the innocent days of our teenage life and how we used to dream about everything that was before us. The beauty of youth - all the possibilities and none of the cares of adulthood - it is a wonderful thing, isn't it? I see my newly 16 year old Julia going through this now with everything possible. It is fun to watch her travel this journey, listen to her dreams, and wonder how it will all end up. 

When my sisters and my friends were growing up, we were in a 4-H Club called The Tasty Basters. Mom was the intrepid leader. So much of my teenage life revolved around making things for 4-H to enter in the County 4-H Fair and then later at the State level. All summer, I would sew, quilt, and embroider to get things ready for entry (I did not knit back then). Now when I think back on it, it was a lovely way to spend a summer. I used to set my sewing machine up outside and sew in the shade of the dogwood tree so that I wouldn't waste my time and be productive while still enjoying the outdoors. Sounds a bit nutty now for a teenager to be doing that but I still love to sit outside and stitch or knit. 

Food and baked goods always seemed to be part of our teenage good times equation. (We were the Tasty Basters - clever huh? - basting fabrics, basting threads, tasting everything.) I was talking with my friend Laura at the party and we were reminiscing about recipes we used to bake (there wasn't much cooking - it was mostly baking sweet treats). She said that most of the recipes her Mom and Grandmom used to cook and bake have disappeared sadly. 

Because food is such a legacy to family life (at least ours and possibly to yours), I came home and dug out my old handwritten recipe loose leaf book to see if I could find some of those old favorites and maybe recover some of Laura's family's lost recipes. 

This book has traveled with me through teen years, to college, and then to every home I have lived in. I look through it and see the phases of my life - places I have lived, people who I've met. It is a rather remarkable slice of my life. Thank goodness I still have it, even it is falling apart and has a burned cover.

Laura's Mom used to make Hermit Bars which were legendary. I can still remember the taste of these things - the softness of the bar with the spices and raisins and nuts adding to the baked goodness. The aroma when you walked into their home as a batch was coming out of the oven. This morning, I dug around and found a hand-written card with the recipe that Laura sent to me when I was living in Colorado going to grad school. It is the recipe which I am sharing here with you today. 

Mrs. T's Spicy Hermit Bars

2 cups raisins
1/2 cup butter (we used margarine in the old days)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cover raisins with water and simmer for 15 minutes. Drain and let cool. 

Cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. 

Sift dry ingredients including spices together. Add to the creamed butter mixture. Add cooled raisins and chopped nuts. Fold in thoroughly. Pour into greased and floured 9 x 13" pan. 

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool in pan. Cut into squares. See how long they last. YUM.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

How is Your Summer Going?

Good morning all. We've been busy here trying to fit everything in and I haven't had spare time to be blogging. Hope you all understand. Julia has a couple more weeks off and we will be out and about, doing farmers markets, visiting family and friends - just what summer is about. 

Julia turned 16 in July and I can't believe how fast those years have gone. We have celebrated several times - one of the perks of being an only and having a summer birthday!

We have launched 9 beautiful little kittens into the world, finding them great homes. So sorry to see them go!


Julia has met Derek Hough TWICE. What a sweet man.

I've been back and forth to Detroit PBS to tape Season Six of Knit and Crochet Now. Fun trip!  I think the new season will launch in February.

I've been doing a lot of Crewel Embroidery - fitting it in with my travels. Here are a couple of progress shots on a colorful piece I am working on now.

I've got a very small class happening this Saturday on Fabric Printing. Should be fun and creative. I'll try to take some photos of the work we do. I'll be back more in the fall to this space - for now I have to enjoy the couple of short weeks before the chaos of normal life begins again! You can catch up with me on Instagram where I've been posting shots of kittens, flowers, and whatever else it is I find inspiring. I hope you too are enjoying your summer.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014


Mittens and the kittens
The word community seems to be such a popular term these days. Here at the farm, we have some real community going on in cat world. We have 2 litters of kittens and 2 moms. The litters have now combined and both the moms take turns nursing the kittens. 

Petunia and the kittens
This sharing of the love, the milk, and the parental responsibilities has really been something to see and learn from for all of us. Human kind should take some lessons from cats.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Color By Kristin On Sale at Webs

Just popping in very quickly to let you know that my Color By Kristin Wool/Mohair/Alpaca is now on sale at Webs. Hop on over to check out all the beautiful colors and plan your next knitting project. 

Perhaps you own my books Color By Kristin and Kristin Knits and have been dying to make one or two of the projects. Here's your chance to purchase at a great discount. The two books are available signed in my web shop

If you are thinking anything at all about knitting with this lovely blend, I urge to purchase it now because it may never be available again. Just saying! Again - here is the link.

Sahana's Embroidery and The Kittens

Around here at the farmhouse, it has been all about the kittens. We have 9 sweet little things that are growing so fast. I've been posting photos of them on FB and Instagram if you want to see more - links on my sidebar. 

The kittens are almost ready to fly the coop and we will miss them but we have found good homes for 7 of them and I have my fingers crossed, we will find a couple more nice families for the remaining 2.  Little people, little animals - they all grow so fast, don't they?

A few weeks ago I introduced some new easy, beginning stitching kits. I designed these to be quick to make and approachable for beginning stitchers - either kids or adults. I often overdesign things and make them more complicated than most folks want so it was a challenge to keep things simple. I love how they came out. The kit is a printed, colorful linen/cotton fabric panel including instructions. The stitchers adds their own combination of embroidery stitches to each piece.

I ran into some friends at the library a few weeks ago. Rashmee (the Mom) told me how she was doing lots of knitting and stitching with her two daughters this summer. I asked her if the kids might like to try the new kits. The next day, I dropped the fabric and instructions off at their home. 

The next week at the library, Sahana (the younger of the two girls - I think she is 7 or 8) was waiting there with her finished embroidery. Her Mom said she did it all herself - picked out the colors of floss and did it all. Sahana definitely has talent in her fingers, doesn't she? Lilah, Sahana's sister is working on the bird kit and I can't wait to see what she does with it.

I love that kids are still learning embroidery and crafts that many people think of as "lost". I know it takes the guiding hand of an elder person to sometimes introduce the child to a craft. I think this is so important and all of us older folks need to keep spreading the crafting word - whether it is through a new product or a quick lesson - or just knitting and stitching in public. 

I hope your summer is going well. We have had a stretch of great weather and everything is growing - sheep, flowers, veggies, grass, hay, and kittens. Have a nice weekend everyone.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Grilled Pitas Stuffed with Spiced Lamb - Yummy New Recipe

It’s always fun to find a recipe that is like nothing you have ever seen or eaten before. This recipe is adapted from the July 2014 issue of Bon Appetit Magazine. I saw the recipe, read it and said - that can't work. I see a lot of lamb recipes and I had never seen anything like this. I tweaked it a bit and here you go.

The preparation is easy - mix up some ground lamb with spices. Smoosh the lamb mix inside some round pita bread. Grill it over a hot fire. Serve it with our favorite yogurt sauce for dipping.

These would work as an appetizer too - Cut the grilled and stuffed pitas into triangles and pass them with the dipping sauce as a finger food.

1 pound Leyden Glen ground lamb
1 small onion, grated finely on a box grater
1 garlic clove put through a garlic press
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. olive oil
4 medium pita breads (I used the Sahara brand)

Mix all ingredients except pita bread in a bowl and let set for an hour or overnight.

About an hour before grilling, cut around the outside of each pita so they form a half open clamshell. Divide the ground meat mixture in 4 and using your fingers, smoosh the meat into the pitas, pushing it into all the crevices. The meat should be pushed to the edges of the pita - kind of like an oreo cookie. Press down on them and cover with plastic wrap until ready to grill.

Light the grill and preheat it to high. Brush both sides of each stuffed pita with a little olive oil. Grill the pitas for about 5 minutes per side until the meat is cooked through. You should have grill marks like on the photo. Serve with yogurt sauce for dipping and a green salad.

Favorite Yogurt Sauce

1 cup (8 oz) yogurt - regular or Greek
juice of half lemon
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. kosher salt
pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and let sit to combine the flavors.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Sunflowers and Checks - New Fabric Design on Spoonflower + Printing Fabric Class


Popping in to share a new fabric design I have just made for sale on my Spoonflower shop. It is called Sunflowers and Checks and it is a large scale pattern available in 4 colorways.

I have printed it myself for our summer table as you can see below.

Last weekend, the students at the class were curious about how Spoonflower works. Here's how it goes. 
1. I design the fabric, using drawings, hand-painting techniques, and my computer.
2. I upload the design to Spoonflower in as many color combinations as I have the time for. 
3. You go to the Shop Section on my Spoonflower shop and purchase the fabric.
4. You can choose from among 10 different fabrics, including combed cotton, Kona cotton, cotton poplin, silks, and my favorite linen/cotton canvas which works great for tablecoverings.

Spoonflower pricing is actually quite reasonable for what you are ordering - short run designer fabric. If you are looking for a bargain - that is not what they are selling. This is limited run fabrics printed only for you. It is an incredible concept and product.

I am so happy to be able to sell my fabric designs to you via Spoonflower. Chances of me being picked up as a fabric designer are slim so now I can do it myself.

Speaking of printing fabric - I have a Simple Fabric Printing Class here at the Farm on August 16. Check it out here. 

This is what you will make, design and print with. 

You will learn about designing fabric, working with color, using fabric paints, and more. You will make something similar to this. 

It will be a super fun way to spend a summer day with me and other like minded individuals here at our farm. Hope to see you here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Battling Blackspot + A Metaphor for Life

It is very hot and humid here - in the 90's and it makes me pretty miserable. I wonder how people make it through the summers in New Orleans and Florida or nearer to the equator. I suppose they are just used to the heat. I do not think I can ever become used it to it.

Every year I plant several rows of zinnias in my veggie/cutting garden (I grow the Benary's variety). They never seem to bloom until late August but this year, they started early. I was pleasantly surprised and happy. Two weeks ago, I noticed they had black spots which is nothing new. But it seemed worse - maybe because there are so many more rows (there are 7 this year in a new spot in the garden - yes I try to rotate). I researched a little and found that I should pull all the black spotted and diseased leaves off the plants. It has been a big job because there were so many rows but Round 1 is done. The diseased parts of the plant cannot go in the compost - they must be thrown into the trash. I went to the Farmers Coop yesterday and they suggested spraying with an organic fungicide called Copper Fungicide. I also added some Azomite (a trace mineral supplement that I discovered last year) to the soil around them. Fingers crossed.

This morning I finished picking all the diseased leaves off and sprayed them all. I am supposed to spray again in 7 to 14 days. The very helpful woman in the plant department told me not to give up, that zinnias are susceptible to black spot and that they would recover. I hope so because I so enjoy the time of year when I harvest the zinnias and place them in vases all over the house. I'll keep you posted.

As I am out in the garden weeding or picking off diseased leaves, my mind wanders and compares the struggles in gardening to the struggles in life. Resilience is one of those qualities that I find so important being an artist and self-employed person. Resilience is also necessary as a gardener or farmer - nature throws so much at you. Resilience is also a term used when talking about the qualities of wool - the ability to bounce back and not lose shape. It is just as important to be resilient as a parent. There are so many ways I could take this blog post but I think I will stop now because I may make myself feel down and may just stop what I do. I am at a cross-roads right now in my work. I have to decide which way to turn. I am not good at decisions like this because I am interested in too many things and want to try new things and become good at them. But I need to make a living and there are all those monetary challenges that are not easy and I wish I didn't have to think about but I do. That is life. Luckily, The Farmer keeps on in the same path - he calls himself the tortoise and me the hare and it is so true. (This post by Niamh Shields is good.)

Tomorrow Julia will turn 16 years old. We are going to have a little picnic at a friend's pond. She has orchestrated it herself and planned the menu - lamburgers, hamburgers (because our friends don't eat lamb), green salad, another kind of salad (still to be decided), and a chocolate cake with ice cream. I suggested this Chocolate and Zucchini Cake and she amazingly agreed.  It is a nice cake - not too sweet, no icing, and perfect to take along in a picnic basket.

Sixteen is an interesting age. I never know whether I am going to get a "Mom, you are so dumb, what were you thinking?" response or a "That sounds awesome" response. I think that is healthy though. This is Julia's first summer without a summer school program and although I thought she would be bored to death, she is keeping herself very occupied reading lots of books and resting up for next year. She needs the rest because she is beginning a new school (a local technical school) and I think it is going to be very difficult for her. I cannot believe she is 16 and that we have gotten this far. 

I just finished reading Molly Wizenberg's new book Delancey which I very much enjoyed - it did not end the way I thought it would but that was good. Did you read her first book A Homemade Life? It was very good - mostly about life, family, and how food was the common thread. Now I am beginning Cold Antler Farm by blogger Jenna Woginrich. I wasn't so sure I was going to like it because I am pretty close to farm life and often find these kinds of books walk around the truth of what it really is like to live with animals. But so far, so good. I'm enjoying it. I also enjoyed Kristin Kimball's The Dirty Life because it was real. I am not a fast reader but keep at a book, sometimes taking more than a month to finish. It is hard for me to sit still and read because I keep thinking of all that needs to be done. 

I hope you all are enjoying the summer days in the Northern Hemisphere. Stay cool. And in case you were wondering, we have nine summer kittens. I'll be posting more photos of them soon.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Crewel Embroidery Class, Samplers + News!

I made it through the first Crewel Embroidery Retreat of the year. It was the first time I taught this particular class in-studio and there is always a learning curve for me. I had a small group of very nice students and we had a fun day stitching together. I am thankful they were patient with me.

I taught 18 Crewel Embroidery Stitches - none of which are included in my on-line Craftsy class. I wasn't sure we could fit them all in but we did. They were quick studies. 


We even had enough time to transfer the bag design to fabric. We used the Sulky transfer pens. These things are great - especially when working with dark colors. You trace over what you want to transfer and your tracing becomes an iron-on transfer (you have to use a reverse image though depending on your design). Everyone left with a piece of linen in a color of their own choosing with their design on it and they could begin stitching that evening, if they weren't too pooped. 

This move for me into teaching Crewel Embroidery and developing stitching kits has been a bit of a gamble. I am not at all known in the stitching world.  When I first wrote Colorful Stitchery which was published by Storey in 2006, I thought that all knitters stitched just like me and that they would follow and perhaps purchase Colorful Stitchery. I was so wrong. A lot of knitters want to knit and are not interested in learning hand embroidery. Me, I like to dabble in many crafts - with the common design thread being COLOR.

As the years have passed since Colorful Stitchery was published, there is more and more interest in hand embroidery and sewing. I am hoping I can pick up somewhat of a following in that world. There are a lot of good stitching blogs out there - I have some on my sidebar - and I will try to add some more soon to the sidebar. If you know of any more that you enjoy, I would love to know about them. Leave them in the comments or send me an email, if you wouldn't mind. 

I have some rather exciting news for you all today - Colorful Stitchery is being re-published this September by Roost Books. It has been completely re-designed and looks really fresh and new. Do you know Roost Books? They are doing some very nice books. I am very thankful to them for taking a chance on me with January's upcoming Crafting a Colorful Home and Colorful Stitchery. If you already own it, you won't need to buy it because there are no new projects... unless of course, you want the new version. Here is the cover - isn't it pretty?

The cool thing for me is having CS out there again will bring me to the new group of stitchers who were not making things in 2006. The DIY culture is so big now - and still growing. It is a very exciting time to be involved in this movement. Speaking of movements - do you know about The Slow Stitching Movement? It is being launched by Mark Lipinski who is a blogger, podcaster, and mover and shaker in the quilt world. Check it out and sign up for Mark's daily blog if you like. 

Since this post is looking rather blue today, I'll close with a photo of the Blueberry Bonanza Bars which I made for my students. The recipe is from Farmgirl Susan of Farmgirl Fare and here is the link. Very delicious with a crunchy oat-ey crust. Next time, I would cut back a tad bit on the sugar. Since blueberry season is coming here soon, I bet I will make these again.

I hope you all have a great week. If you didn't see the new stitching kits for beginners and kids last week, check them out here.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Students Coming + New Kits are Up on My Website

Here is a bouquet of helianthus that I picked last night from my garden. I love this plant - it puts out so many beautiful little blooms. I've been doing a little series on my Instagram feed called #bouquetaday. I'll try to keep it up as all the blossoms keep appearing. Here's my Instagram feed. Sheep and lambs in the winter, flowers in the summer. That's what I seem to be about.

I'm still preparing for the first students coming to the farm tomorrow to learn Crewel Embroidery! All the things I wanted to get done won't happen. So many goals and so little time. At least the floors are all washed. That was a job in itself. 

Can't get to the farm - check out my On-Line Crewel Embroidery Class - link on left sidebar.

If you have been following along this week, just want to let you know all the new Vintage Country Embroidery Kits are now up on my website and available for sale. They are $9.95 plus shipping and are also available as a set of 4 for $35.00. Here is the link to my embroidery supply page.

If you are an international customer, please order through my Etsy site as it is functional for overseas customers. Here is that link.