Saturday, December 30, 2006

A Clean Start

I managed to be home these last two days in a because I scheduled myself off, today because I awoke this morning to 12" of fresh snow.  Another snow day!  What to do? was one of those days when I had the urge to organize.  I never know when one of these is coming, and I am thinking that maybe year end is my excuse today.  First...the drawers in the little chest that sits next to my rocker.  Filled with old yarn labels, snippets of yarns, empty needle packages and literally stuffed with scads of circular needles...these were my first targets.  I dragged out the tape measure and needle gauge and set about putting all the circs back into their original packages, tossed the trash, put all the stitch markers back in the goody bag...and horror of all horrors, went searching for all the missing pieces of the two sets of Denise circulars.  (Note to self:  never, never, never buy another 16" size US 9 own 6 already.)

Finding this too satisfying to describe, I then headed upstairs to fiber world.  Picture a 48" square table with drum carder and baskets of dyed fibers and rovings for blending...and then picture the entire room with scraps of same all over it...not quite like confetti, but close.  Monte and I have compared notes about the other associated side effect of all this spinning stuff...finding sparkly dust bunnies all over the house (or hanging off my socks like little hitch hikers). 

Two hours later, I had put all freshly washed fleeces into bags, picked up all knitting mags and patterns that were strewn all around and organized them, and (ta da!) rinsed and blocked the Charlotte's Web shawl from last winter's group project with Joan and Linda.  It's made of several colors of Koigu handpainted yarns...a couple of solids and the rest variegated...and I must admit to being quite taken with it even though it was a nasty pattern to try to decipher. 

Last, but not least...I gave myself permission to stand at the ball winder and dismantled UFOs that I fearlessly admitted would never be anything but UFOs...sigh...and that felt good...I feel like I'm ready to face a new year of knitting.  How about you?  Do you have a year end knitting ritual?  --Martie

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Lucy in the Snow with Diamonds

Well, she doesn't really have diamonds, but the little snow crystals that clung to her wool were beautiful as I was taking her pictures this morning.Img_0128
She's rather on the petite side...I have the water heater turned up to scalding to wash fleeces and I think it may have caused her to felt smaller and faster than I had planned. She stands 9" high and is approximately the same in diameter.  A sweet size if you're not planning to drag all your projects with you.  I abandoned the plan for the knitted/felted flowers and vine...I decided they'd be too much for her small stature to carry.

The storm finally came, and we got close to a foot of snow here at home.  I haven't seen such a snowfall in years.  Today truly does feel like the first day of winter!

I'll close with a photo of my one and only holiday decoration here at home.  The Sunflowers and I wish you all a safe and happy holiday season...and happy knitting!  ---MartieImg_0129

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Waiting for the storm

There is a big snow storm's just not clear it's coming to Taos.  I bolted out of bed at 5:30 this morning, flew out the front door to see a winter wonderland...only to find the same patches of snow leftover from the last snowfall, a couple of weeks ago.  The national weather service is billing this as a significant winter storm...great for those of us who are able to stay near home, not great for our holiday visitors who may be traveling this way. 

Since I reported in last, 22 scarves were shipped from our shop to the St. Elizabeth's Homeless Shelter in Santa Fe.  Thanks to those of you who so generously donated to this annual event.  There may not be much snow, but it certainly is cold...and a warm scarf will be loved by the recipient.

It's been busy at the shop the last couple of weeks.   New yarns have come in, which causes a domino effect sometimes; the last few shipments received have caused us to move and rearrange several sections of the shop.  We put some more yarns on sale...see our website SALE page for more info on these.  We've also added a sign up block on the What's New page of our if you're not already, please take a minute to sign up for our e-mailing list.   

Today I hope to finish the latest version of the Lucy Bag.  This one is being knit of Brown Sheep Worsted weight in three colors.  I'm thinking about using one of the Noni patterns for knitted, felted, flowers to spruce it up a little.  I'll post a picture soon as I finish.  The Lucy bag is always fun.  While working on this one, I've been thinking this could be a great way to use up all the odds and ends of Brown Sheep yarns I have stashed...just random stripes, with no particular plan. My favorite projects always seem to be those using scraps.

A visitor from Boulder recently sent me these pictures, captured, no doubt, from somewhere on the internet.  I don't know who to credit them to, or in what context they were published, but thought it would be fun to share them with you.Motorcycle_cozy
If any of you knows something about these, please let me know.The picture of the knitted cover on the tank makes me think of the Snug Buggy


Project in Albquerque.  Please refer to our archives for more information on that project...wherein small squares are to be assembled


to make a cover for a Volkswagen and subsequently auctioned off to benefit a women's shelter in the Albuquerque area.


Our Sunflower Bennie is now back...she was gone for a few weeks, after suffering the unexpected loss of her father.    The pain of her loss affected all of us in a way I don't have words to explain.  It is not my story to tell, but to say it is great to have her back with us.  --Martie

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Success (no knitting content)

Img_0100 I got word today our humble little tree took a winning bid of $300!!  Woo hoo!  Again, these funds will go directly to New Mexico Canine Rescue and Safeguard, a NO-kill rehabilitation facility for homeless and abused dogs.  Anyone interested in making a donation to this deserving organization may do so as follows:

New Mexico Canine Rescue and Safeguard, P.O. Box 2739, Ranchos de Taos, NM  87557

They are a 501(C)3 corporation and your donations are tax deductible.  If you would, please mention we sent you.  Thanks. 

Please remember that even the smallest donation helps cover food and medical expenses for these poor dogs who, for whatever reason, have gotten a lousy deal in their lives so far...and with our help, will go on to good homes and have the lives they deserve. 

Just this last week I received this in a message from NMCR&S:

Lastly, some "un named" animal activist people brought me a little
emaciated Pit Bull early this week.  He had spent his life chained to
an atv with no shelter, starving right in full view of animal
control, right on a busy road.  He's *never* been fed.  His little
feet are flat and practically boneless from no nutrition when he was
growing up and he looks a little bit crazy right now.  He has scars
on his head and I don't even want to think about that right now after
my experience with Screech. 
(NOTE: Screech was a Pit Bull NMCR&S saved after his owner shot him in the head, after he had tired of abusing the poor dog.) So, the vigilante angels took over and
into New Mexico Canine he came.  He would have frozen to the ground
this week wondering why his humans didn't want him near them and by
the fire; no doubt about it.  It gives me so much joy in my life to
be able to offer refuge to creatures like that.  And, it's because of
people like you that I am able to carry on this work. 

I'm going to end this posting with a picture I took last week of our two dogs, Meika and Behr.  Behr was rescued from a breeding kennel at age 3 and came to us five years ago, short on love but with a heart as big as all outdoors.  Meika was a 7 mo. old "reject" from another breeding kennel (don't let her hear that...she thinks she's a princess).  I can't imagine our lives without these two! --Martie


Sunday, December 3, 2006

Holiday season

Img_0096_2 Needless to say, it has been too long between postings.  It's just that time of year.  I tried to post from home last week during the storm, but my satellite was coated with so much ice I couldn't download photos to make it interesting. 

By now, our storm of last week has become a national story.  What was pretty here turned into a monster as it moved eastward.  We got about 4" of snow here at home (we're at 7,900 ft. above Arroyo Seco).  I got to indulge one of my favorite winter past times...seeing who has been out running around in the snow while we were all sleeping.  I usually only find rabbit prints, but it never ceases to be fun for me.  On Thursday morning I found these tracks from someone who had fun racing down my otherwise pristine driveway.  And P.S.:  it was -15F that morning.

Friday night brought the Festival of Trees and Wreaths sponsored by our local newspaper.  It was quite an event!  I believe there were 40+ trees and wreaths for auction, all benefiting many of the well-deserving non-profit groups here in Taos.  Last I saw, our tree had a generous bid on it by one of our customers...but not sure if she was the final recipient or not.  While it was small and humble by comparison to the many decorated with fabulous, no doubt expensive, had a quality of love to it that was unmistakable.  I took a few pictures to share with you.Img_0087 It had clear glass globes, sort of pearlescent, with paw prints painted in gold.  The piece de resistance was the little bags, knitted of yarn with a slight sparkle, embroidered 1-24 for advent.  I baked dog cookies, shaped like little bones, and one was in each pocket.  Next to the tree was a note to Santa Paws, with a container of dog cookies for him and his reindogs.  Img_0091 I have to tell you something funny...between Sat a.m. when we decorated the tree and Friday evening's auction, someone had taken half the cookies for Santa Paws.  We had a good laugh, wondering how many actually made it home to someone's dog and how many were eaten by humans who didn't get it.  At least they were probably tasty, made with cheese and bacon drippings and lots of good grains and whole wheat flour.  I am sure they were full of good fiber.  :0)Img_0090_1

What about knitting?  Well, I'll be mailing a box of scarves for the homeless to Santa Fe on Dec. 12, so I'm knitting as many scarves as I can between now and then.  We've had a number of great scarves donated already and I'm so pleased at the support we always get from all of you.  Thank you so much.  Getting to know you and share with you is one of the greatest parts of being in this business.  ---Martie

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

More wool!

In my book, a fresh fleece is a wonderful thing.  The caveat here is that this is a CLEAN fleece, one from a spinner's flock, not just any old fleece.  I have a lot to say about "any old fleeces", and if you've been spinning more than a short while, you probably do, too.  A gifted fleece full of vege matter and stickers, or worse yet moths or eggs, falls smack into the category of Sometimes Free Costs Too Much.  Unless you are postively desperate, it is not worth all the time it takes to make this wool useable (if this is even possible).When I was a beginning spinner, people were happy to give me their old fleeces...some wonderful, some with debris, some with moths, and some with grease so old it was beyond redemption.  Alas, I learned the hard way. It always brings to mind the old computer programming term: garbage in, garbage out.

Yesterday the mail brought two bags of this beautiful is Wensleydale wool, and chock full of curls.Img_0083  I apologize that part of this is in shadow, I'm still learning about using a camera.  What I wanted you to see is what the wool looks like when it comes from the shepherd; the fleece is usually wrapped in a specific way and tied, often times done for display for judging.  You don't see the dirty tips (if there are any), just the yummy underside, all pretty and inviting.

What happens next?  Well, I recently discovered that some fleeces purchased in the late summer were harboring little creatures...moth eggs and larvae...luckily I had twist-tied these bags closed when I received them.  Well, shame on me for not taking precaution, reputable grower or all fleeces from this day forward will do their time in my freezer before entering the general population.  Forty eight hours in, twenty four hours out, twenty four hours back in, just for good measure.  There are probably as many theories on this as there are fleeces, but this is mine, and I'm sticking to it. If you're not already thinking in these can do this with yarns that you think may be suspect...just pop them in a plastic bag and freeze them.  This is especially something to consider when someone gifts you yarn that has been stuffed in a closet somewhere for eons...better to be safe than sorry.

From the freezer, these girls will be washed, dyed, and spun into what I call "Twisted in Taos", one of our lines of Homegrown Handspun.  Speaking of dyeing...when I was out in the yard this morning, trying to take a good picture of the fleece, I found this Chamisa bush in its last days of fall...Img_0086 blossoms still intact but the color mostly gone.  For those of you who aren't familiar, Chamisa (also known as Rabbit Brush) is a very common dyestuff for shades of yellow, and often times the yellow that is overdyed with indigo for shades of green.  It has (again, IMHO) a ghastly smell when being boiled but sure does make a nice color. 

I no longer dye with natural dyes, but I enjoy having this one bush in my is one of the hallmarks of impending fall that I enjoy. 

To all of you, wherever you are, I wish you a safe and happy Thanksgiving!  --Martie

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Drive Through

Since returning from my trip, I feel like I've had little of interest to share with you.  I have been in vacation recovery...getting back in some sort of routine and making some plans for the next few months.  I finished both pairs of mosaic mitts and enough of the Malabrigo sweater to discover that yet AGAIN, I am off gauge and will need to pull it out and start over.  Sometimes I get so frustrated, I actually wonder if I should just knit shapeless things, or sweaters only for donations, so I don't have to worry who it fits.  In fact, because of my frustration over this, I picked up some handspun yarn and have knit two very plain triangle shawls while I cooled off.  I used the Prairie Shawl pattern from Cheryl Oberle's Folk Shawls book.  I highly recommend if you want to just knit and not have to think so much.  These shawls will be sent to Dulaan Project for next year's distribution in Mongolia.

I have one last bit of my trip to share with you.   I have debated sharing this with you, but it is so heavy on my mind, I am hoping that doing so will help me get over it.  While driving across the desert of California, we pulled off in Barstow for gasoline and a coffee at the Starbucks nearest the freeway.  Cimg0606 As we got out of our truck, this VERY personable fellow came up to say hello.  In fact, not only did he say hello, he nudged my hand hardCimg0605.  I petted him and asked him who he belonged to.  He had no collar.

I asked the staff of Starbucks if they knew who he belonged to, and they told me he had been living there for some time.  Apparently several people had tried to load him into their cars to take him home, but he resisted.  Instead, they bought him fast food hamburgers to help him get by.  The staff at the fast food places in this little mall named him Drive Through.

As we walked back outside, another truck drove in.  He immediately approached, but the man who got out of it just ignored him.  Then he settled into this pose, watching the driveway.  I realized then that whoever had dumped him probably had driven a pickup truck, and he was still there, waiting for that same person to come back to get him.  With a heart of gold, this wonderful dog loved that person enough to believe it was all a mistake. 

I know there are sad animal stories anywhere you live...they certainly abound here in northern New Mexico.  This holiday season, Taos Sunflower is sponsoring a tree at the 2006 Annual Festival of Trees and Wreaths here in town.  100% of the money our tree is auctioned for will be donated to New Mexico Canine Safeguard and Rescue, a no-kill shelter here in town.  I hope that wherever he is now, Drive Through is enjoying some love and comfort...and I hope whoever dumped him isn't. ---Martie

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A Good Trip

Tomorrow begins our drive home to Taos.  It has been a great trip, exploring new areas, tripping down memory lane a little bit, and chasing fall colors.  Driving from Oakland to San Diego along old Hwy. 101, I saw sites I recall from my childhood, especially the rolling hills with oak trees, occasionally adorned with cattle grazing happily. Gone for good are the miles of Burma Shave signs that entertained me in those days.  New to my eyes were the miles of vineyards growing along this same corridor.  Most of these vines were in the process of changing into their fall colors, with shades changing from greens to yellows to golds.  It wasn't possible to stop to take a photograph to share with you, so instead I offer you a photo of my Malabrigo sweater (color: Rhodesian) that I was working on as we were driving.Cimg0583

The bag is my new favorite knitting bag, purchased from Catfish Studio at the Taos Wool Festival.  It is hand felted fabric (not knitted and fulled).  I needed another knitting bag about as much as I need more yarn, but I just couldn't resist, and after all, we really should support great craftspeople whenever possible, right?

And the mitts?  Well, I finished two pair, and in taking a picture to show you, so you'd really believe me, I managed to get my finger into most of the you'll have to take my word for it.  They are very fun and the Kacha Kacha helping me keep track of rows made the second pair happen in good time.  I highly recommend these for a fun knit for yourself or a really nice gift for someone special.  One pair took three balls of Julia, with enough left over for a good start on a second pair. ---Martie

Saturday, October 21, 2006

On the Road Again

Greetings from sunny downtown Oakland, California.  I have snapped a photo to show you the view from my hotel desk, and that pesky flash went off again (despite best efforts to smother it).  Anyway, you get the idea. Cimg0578_3 This is the hotel that hosted Stitches West (the big consumer knitting show hosted by XRX) for many years, before the conference outgrew the location. 

This week has been quite an adventure.  Mr. Sunflower and I left Taos on Monday afternoon, and have done our best (up until yesterday) to avoid major roads and populated areas.  In an effort to chase fall colors, we headed out through Colorado, crossed Utah and then central Nevada, mostly along US Hwy 50, aptly billed as the "Loneliest Road in America".  This was one of, if not THE, first interstate highways built by the Eisenhower administration after WWII.  It is a two lane road with few towns along the way...and not very large ones, at that.  The glory of this for us was having expansive views and little traffic for almost three days, and the reassurance that not every square inch of this beautiful country has been subdivided and overpopulated.

As always, one of the best parts of getting away from home means taking far too many knitting projects and still worrying I won't have enough to keep myself busy.  Just as we were leaving town, Interweave Knits' new special publication on Holiday Knits came out and I fell in love with the Mosaic Mitts (designed by Sandy Cushman).  Early Monday morning, before leaving town, I burgled my own shop and took a skein of almost every color of Kristin Nicholas' beautiful yarn, Julia.  Armed with size 4 double point needles, I set about my plan of knocking out many pairs of these in a short period of time to bring home to amaze my staff and customers.  HA!  Is the pattern easy? Yes, but probably it would be nice if you have a basic understanding of what mosaic knitting is.  Did I screw it up?  Yes.  Did I get lots done?  Well...I've finished three mitts since Monday, so you might say my goal hasn't been met.  But here's the deal (in self defense)...I forgot to use my Kacha Kacha, which turns out to be the key to success here, especially if you're knitting while looking out the car windows and ooooohing and awwwwwwing over scenery.  My rythm turned out to be something like this:  knit on the mitts most of the day, get to the motel, find the screw-ups, spend the evening tearing them out and re-knitting them.  When the first full pair was finally completed, I was so proud I could've burst, and then, saw the MISTAKES...but being the Princess of Rationalization, I have concluded the following:  how can I spend my time in the shop reassuring YOU that it's OK to make mistakes, that the knitting police won't come knocking at your door, and THEN go about making perfect projects?  :0) So here's a picture of pair #1, having lunch at the Moab Diner in Moab, Utah.  For those of you who've never visited Moab, it's red rock country, and I snapped a quicky to give you a teensy visual.Cimg0566 Cimg0568 Moab was a favorite haunt of Edward Abbey, of The Monkey Wrench Gang fame, for those of you who may remember this.  It's also an epicenter for lots of outdoors enthusiasts...river rafters, hikers, bicyclists, you name it.  This photo does it little justice.

Day #3 brought us safely into Placerville, where Monte and I stayed last June for Camp Pluckyfluff (see our archives if you want to read about this).  We happily moved in to my #1 favorite B&B in the entire universe, the historic Albert Shafsky House.Albert_shafsky_house  Our hosts Rita and Stephanie graciously let me snag this picture from the website, so I could share it with you.  Located one block (on foot) from historic downtown Placerville, this home is not only beautiful, but Rita and Stephanie are so nice, you'll end up not wanting to leave.  I know this, because it's happened to me, twice now...and here's the plan.  Next time, I'm coming back just to hang out and rest and hope to get some time to visit with them, if I can, and not worry about what else I do in town.  If you're traveling to this part of the world, I highly recommend you stay with them...the breakfasts, alone, are enough reason, and everything else is just plain icing on the cake.

Remember my posting on Love at First Sight?  Well, look who I picked up while I was in Placerville...I am in love all over again.  Today, while visiting the Deep Color studio in Kensington (near Berkeley),Cimg0573 I found a book that may help me figure out her age and history.  I have decided I love her no matter what her age...(and speaking of age, if you're of the middle age group and need a good laugh, I would like to recommend Nora Ephron's new book, I Feel Bad About My Neck).

And now, to work on Mitt #4...Martie

Monday, October 9, 2006

After the festival

Liz_at_wool_festival_2 Dear Friends:  The 23rd Annual Wool Festival is now officially history.  Unfortunately, it ended up being a somewhat cold and very rainy weekend, and I heard this morning some of the vendors even had to move their tents to escape drainage issues.  The Sunflowers and I hit the park first thing on Saturday morning and had a grand time, buying as much as we could before heading back to Seco to open our shop.  This morning my friend Liz sent me this picture, taken by Taos News at the festival this weekend.  There she is, looking adorable in her handknits (as usual)...enjoying her 15 minutes of Taos fame...   :0)

The Handspun Heaven classes were a big hit...and soon as we have information on the possibility of sceduling a future class, I'll post it on the website.  To those of you who visited us over the past week, we thank you very much for coming to see us.  It is always great to see familiar faces and make new friends, and we appreciate your business.  In this time of predatory catalogs and web shops, it's even more important to support local yarn shops.

We hope you enjoyed your time in Taos!  --Martie

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Celebrating Fall

Greetings...if you're looking for a posting about a knitting project, this isn't it. I hope you'll stay with me, though, as I share with you a most wonderful day.

Yesterday the Sunflowers and I took the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad from Antonito to Chama.  The trip starts at 10:00 a.m. and ends in Chama around 4:30, with a stop mid-way for lunch.  (They bus you back to your car in Antonito afterward.)  This historic, narrow-gauge, train took us 64 miles through many elevations and different types of ecosystems, from sage covered prairie through different levels of forests.  We saw fall colors at their best, some that have already seen their best, and large patches of snow at the highest of elevations from a recent storm.Cimg0532  Cimg0519

Here are some sample pics: one of Joan, enjoying the colors from the "tailgate", and a peek at some of the stands of aspen we saw in all their glory. 

I said this posting had nothing to do with knitting.  That's not really true, as it turns out.  We spent the day knitting as the train ambled its course (we never go anywhere without a project).  Sometimes we'd pause to take photos, sometimes to ooooh and awwwww over the scenery, and a few times I saw some of the others resting their heads on the window sills, just staring and day dreaming.  A day like this was so full of happiness and inspiration, I'm guessing at least a few knitting projects will sprout as a result!

Should you find yourself interested in this trip, please see the railway's website: for more information.  They close this next weekend, but if all things work out, we hope they'll make it for another season.  Theirs is a thin thread they hang by.Cimg0563..with little advertising budget, and some limited funding from the state, they are very dependent on donations and riders to keep them going. 

Our parting shot...we are looking forward to seeing many of you this week and coming weekend during the much anticipated Taos Wool Festival (#23!).  Travel safely and enjoy the colors...

Martie & The Sunflowers

Bennie, Lorraine, Joan, Connie and yours truly

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Closer to Heaven...

The final countdown to Wool Festival is 10 days...and in only a week from tomorrow, Handspun Heaven class #1 takes place.  For those of you who have politely signed up without having seen an actual class sample, feast your eyes:Handspun_heaven_finished_front

Handspun_heaven_finished_back_view and please give a hand to the reluctant model, Ingrid, who has just written me an e-mail threatening me if I post her picture here.  I think she looks great.

Once again, Terri Ranck has blown our socks off with her intuitive design process. I am so envious of her knitting friends who get to share her energy on a weekly basis...and am actively trying to figure out how to capture her and move her to Taos...   :0)

Both Handspun Heaven classes are filled for next week, but Terri will be teaching it again, either this winter or next spring...we will let you know when we pick a date.  The handspinners will need lots of time to replenish the stash for the next class...each one of a kind skein has lots of time invested in it.

And speaking of handspinners...I am proud to announce we are nurturing a new one in our midst...Bernadette (aka Bennie)...who has just joined our staff (another round of applause, please).  A relatively new knitter, Bennie's many artistic talents are evident in her self-taught, creative knitting pieces, and we can only guess that the best is yet to come.  She took a beginning spinning class a mere month ago (with Sunflower Lisa) and is already making awesome please welcome her, when you stop in next, and look for her postings here on our blog soon.  ---Martie

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Missing Blogger

My apologies for the gaps in time between our postings these days.  Fall, my favorite time of year, always ends up being the busiest time.  Also I don't write as often as I could because I worry I'll bore you with whining about time passing too quickly and always feeling behind the eight ball.  So having said that, forgive me the following...

Time has been a popular topic for several of us lately.  Have you ever noticed that other peoples' time seems more expansive than yours?  I am a faithful reader of the wonderful blog from Finland, Dances with Wools (, and I let myself get swept up in the fantasy that this wonderful woman does nothing but knit and spin, all day long.  I long for the hours she spends, quietly knitting by her lake or woodstove.  I long for the serenity she appears to have cornered.  I fantasize that I am cranking out lace shawls and beautiful knee socks at the (perceived) rate she does.  When I get really overwhelmed, I long for the days when I had nothing to do but stay home and spin and knit all day.

Then I remember that this woman has three teenage daughters, a husband, pets, and undoubtedly has to go to town to shop, make meals, and clean a house like the rest of us.  And while she may be an expert knitter, knitting lace still takes time, no matter how awesome you are, and she really doesn't probably crank these out on a weekly basis, as per my fantasies.  Last, but not least, I remind myself that when I had nothing to do but spin, weave, knit, read, nap and whatever else all day long, I was BORED, because I lacked the stimulation that having the shop and so many wonderful, creative people to share it with has provided.  So dang!  Where's the balance?

Cimg0478_1Speaking of someone who gets lots of projects finished, here's a picture of my friend Nancy.  She kept coming in and buying oodles of skeins of Debbie Bliss' Baby Cashmerino, and I was wondering what the heck she was doing with all of it.  She appeared the other day with this gorgeous baby afghan as proof she's not just stuffing the sofa with it.  As is always the case, the photo doesn't let you see how absolutely precious this was.  It was crocheted using a pattern we don't carry (one of those on page flyer patterns from Hobby Lobby, sorry, can't recall the company or name).  I'm sure you all know this, but you can click on these pictures I post and see them in larger format; perhaps then you can see the delicate colors she has chosen for this.

I have managed to squeeze in some knitting after my hours at the spinning wheel each evening...and here's my latest creation, my "play" sweater for winter made of the new yarn from Berroco, Keltic.  The way it changes colors keeps me interested and the knitting is fast and easy.  This is my favorite all time sweater pattern, the Neck Down Pullover from Knitting Pure & Simple.  I decided, since fall is already definitely in the air, to add a turtleneck (comfort for my chins) and lots of ribbing on the cuffs to keep the warm in.  A blend of wool and acrylic, I think this will be the perfect sweater for me, not too hot.


The newsletter is almost done.  With any luck at all, it will be on our website by Tuesday.  I'll be sure and let you know, if you aren't already on our e-mailing list.  For those of you coming for Wool Festival, please make note of our special hours for that weekend.

Before I forget...Terri Ranck's class has now exploded into two classes, one on Thursday 10/5 and the second on Friday 10/6.  If you haven't registered yet and are still trying to decide, this is my final warning that you probably should decide soon, because we won't be scheduling a third class!  ---Martie

Monday, August 28, 2006

The gate is locked...

and I am thrilled to be home, behind it, for two whole days without leaving the premises.  Today I've been washing wool madly, have the dyepots going, and am sneaking in rows of knitting on a handspun shawl when I should probably be finding something more productive to do.  It has been at least three weeks since I've had two consecutive days at home...and I couldn't be more excited.

Monte and I ventured up to Durango last Monday, checked ourselves into the historic Strater Hotel and spent all spare moments knitting.  It was a great treat.  We found the new (one year old) yarn shop, YARN, and enjoyed a visit there (oh, do I love buying yarn in other peoples' shops!).  We blissed out in good restaurants and drove home the next day...a spectacular drive after all the rain we've had this summer.  If you're headed to Durango, I highly recommend you visit YARN and be sure to say I sent you.  I think you'll be pleased.  Oh...and don't miss a treat at Coldstone Creamery.  Monte took me there for my first time.  I am grateful there isn't one in Taos...I'd be buying bigger sizes, for sure.

I spoke with Terri Ranck today about her class sample for the Handspun Heaven class...she sent me a sneak peek which I'll share with you.  Handspun_heaven_in_progress Terri assures me the techniques aren't nearly as complicated as they look here...I am beside myself with excitement to see the finished project.  There's one space left in her October 5 class and then we'll start taking names for a second class, if there are more takers.  I have to start taking my vitamins so I can hold up through all this excitement right on top of the Wool Festival!         ---Martie

Friday, August 18, 2006

Catching up

Greetings!  It has been too long between postings, and I apologize.  Two of us out of town, one of us off in a writing workshop...we're just a busy bunch of Sunflowers.  Encinitas_pics_305_016 Photo is the scene of part of my mis-spent youth.   :0)

Since I wrote last...I have been to CA to visit my family.  While there, the ocean temps were record highs, so I actually dared to go to the beach (complete with boogie board) and for the first time in well over 20 years, went swimming in the ocean.  It was glorious!  Also I must add here that I wasn't the only overweight and out of shape person on the beach in a bathing I actually think I could do this again sometime.  (At least the Decency Police didn't arrive and arrest me, so I took this as a good sign.)

What's new...well, the fall and winter yarns are starting to arrive.  I'm almost finished with a neck down pullover out of Celtic, Berroco's new tweed yarn in a wonderful blend of wool and acrylic.  I'm also finishing the latest Clapotis (, see their archive for shawls and scarves).  It's super heavy and purposely big, so I can wrap up in it this fall and winter. It's taking 10 skeins of vintage Iro from Noro.  I love knitting this pattern so's my "mindless" knitting project to fall back on when I'm out of all my other mindless projects (I ONLY knit mindless projects at this point in life). 

The village of Arroyo Seco is about to celebrate its 200th birthday.  The official celebration is being held on Saturday, September 2 (Labor Day weekend).  If you're in town, stop by and say hi.  Everyone in the village is participating.  There will be games for the kids down at the old elementary school, musicians and demonstrations of arts and crafts all around the village.  We'll be having a spinning and knitting demonstration,  starting the process with a raw fleece.  I had hoped to have a loom ready to demonstrate on, but alas, mine's not in running order at this time.  There will be a slide show of historic photos going all day in the old/new building just next door to us, and the church is having a special mass at 9:00 a.m., to be followed by a procession and blessing of the village.  Food by our great restaurants...just bring yourselves and plan to spend the day.

Heavy on my mind:

Wool Festival is only 7 WEEKS AWAY.  I am in shock about how fast summer has passed.  My mom used to say "the hurrier I go, the behinder I get".  I feel that way about you?  We are starting to see the first teensy signs of fall in the air...and last night the local television station informed us that in another inch or so, we will have recorded more rain this summer than any other since they've been keeping weather records.   A far cry from this past winter, our driest winter in 102 years!

Classes coming:  Thursday, October 5:  Handspun Heaven with Terri Ranck.  Monday, October 9:  Tie One On with Terri Ranck.  See our What's New page on our website for more info on these.  I spoke with Terri a few days ago...she's knitting the class sample for Handspun Heaven...she's hardly sleeping because she's so involved in this project.  I am worried we're going to have to send the Wool Police to go and get it from her...

Taos Camp Pluckyfluff is booked!!!!  Write this down on your calendar...Lexi Boeger is coming to Taos Sunflower to share her MANY wonderful spinning techniques on Thursday and Friday, October  4 and 5, 2007.  These are the two days preceeding the annual Taos Wool Festival next year.  If you're already a spinner and have a desire to add to your skills and bring some long lost fun to your spinning, you won't want to miss this workshop.  If you aren't a spinner but want to be...then now is the time to start spinning and this class will be perfect timing for you and your sweet beginner spinning skills.  Contact the shop to be put on a waiting list...specifics on class fee, time, etc. will be posted by early October.  This is a special event and we are lucky to be able to have Lexi come to Taos...come join the fun!   ----Martie

Monday, August 7, 2006

Handspun Heaven

Last month, our honorary Sunflower, Terri Ranck, was here to teach her always popular "Tie One On" class.  When Terri's here, it's always like a party in the shop.  She has such creative vision and loves the colors and textures so much, we practically tear the store apart playing "what if you put this with that????"  I'm telling you, dear knitters, it's almost too much fun to be legal.

So this last visit, Terri discovered some of our newest additions to Taos Sunflower...or own handspun yarns.  She took some of our ever popular Malabrigo merino wool and assorted handspuns, and in less than two days had started a sweater (of her own design, of course) she referred to as Handspun Heaven.  Handspun_heaven1 I want to say right here that the pictures I'm including don't do this work justice.  Terri had some brilliant ideas about using the handspun Handspun_heaven2 so as to maximize the yardage available and leave the yarns shown to their best advantage.  This has now spawned a new class, aptly named Handspun Heaven, which is happening on Thursday before Wool Festival (October 5, 9:30-4:00).  For more information, see the "What's New" page on our website.  At this writing, we are close to filling this class...but don't despair...maybe we can talk Terri into teaching it twice that week!

Terri is going to make a sample for her class, and soon as possible, we'll post pictures here to give you an idea of what you'll be learning to do.  For time considerations, the class will help you design your own shawl using the glorious, textured, handspun yarns you'll find at the shop.  I'm hoping I can sneak into this class, too! ---Martie

Monday, July 31, 2006

Home Sweet Home

Today is a day at home...and despite having slept in late, I'm optimistic about what might get done today.  Last evening I managed an hour upstairs (the land of wools, wheels, and yarns) and was able to pick up and organize a little, in anticipation of today's dreamed of productivity.  It's a double-edged sword...when I'm madly creating, things go flying all over, with no cares of picking up.  Then when I'm ready to start on a new tangent, I'm clogged (mentally) by my own clutter. 

I have long intended to share with you our summer's tenants on the porch at the shop.  They are a small but sociable family of barn swallows.  This is the first year they've been with us...usually we host pigeons (don't get me started on that subject) and what I think are little finches.  Last week I climbed a ladder to try to get a close up of the barn swallow nest which I will now share with you:Cimg0438

I now understand the old saying about feathering your nest...theirs is a mud base (barely visible) and the top is gloriously adorned with the most delightful feathers (origin unknown...anyone have an idea?).  Their creativity and willingness to share their family with us has even caused me to overlook (forgive) the mess that lies beneath...

So the next time you're feeling guilty about all the yarn or fiber you've amassed, just're actually feathering your nest...----Martie 

Sunday, July 23, 2006


I fear I am a woman possessed...every hour not spent working in the shop, eating, or sleeping is spent designing and spinning new yarns.  My latest ensemble, which I've named "Garden Party", is now in the shop on display (and for sale).  It is a bundle of four coordinated yarns, hand dyed mohairs and wools with lots of goodies inserted to make it special.  Cimg0428 I think of these bundles as the artistic seed for a project...use them alone or add to the mix to make more yardage for a one of a kind project.

The last weeks, our friend and Honorary Sunflower Terri Ranck was in Taos for some vacation and teaching time.  She taught her popular "Tie One On" class, and yet a new group of enthusiastic knitters is now launched to make their own unique garments based on Terri's techniques.  While she was in town, we made her swoon with our handspun yarns, and she's gone back to Texas, working on a design and plan for a class using these yarns, to be held this fall.  Dates and information on Terri's classes will be posted on our website's "What's New" page tomorrow (Monday 7/24).  We think you'll love what she's up to and will not want to miss this class.  (

A while back I posted a query about favorite knitting books...well...the votes were cast.  Here's what we came up with:

The Principles of Knitting by June Hemmons Hiatt received the most passionate recommendation.

Knitting in America came in second, for its  beauty and inspiration.

I could not make myself pick one favorite (see how I am?) but would have to say anything by Elizabeth Zimmerman makes me feel free.   Thanks to those of you who participated!


P.S.  I've added a few of my favorite sites...check  them out when you have time!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Change of Heart

Have you ever started a project and then decided it was the wrong job for the yarn?  Well, that's what happened to my Spring Socks.  I finished one sock and while I loved it, I knew that the yarn was too fragile for socks, at least the kind of wear I put them through.  So, back to the drawing board.  I ended up deciding to knit yet another Clapotis (see archives, under shawls and scarves) by Kate Gilbert.  Here's my photo of how it turned out...please note I haven't finished dropping all the stitches yet, so it will have more texture when I do. Cimg0420

If you haven't knitted the Clapotis yet, get ready for some big fun.  It is knit on the diagonal, and assisted by lots of stitch markers, every so many rows you drop a stitch, which then gets pulled to make that wonderful open look and makes you look like some kind of knitting genius.  All of the Sunflowers have knitted them many times...they are luscious in Kureyon, Silk Garden, Silver Thaw (those self striping yarns really show off the design) and Lorraine's most recent favorite, Misti Alpaca Lace Weight.  Make them wide for shawls (the design hangs on your shoulders nicely) or make them narrower, as I have for this sock.  Happy knitting!  ---Martie   

PS  My apologies for my photographer (rather, lack of) skills...the colors look a little washed out.  However, in my defense..the scarf was knitted in three color progressions, from dark to light...                                             

Friday, July 7, 2006

Love at first sight

Historic_placerville_ca When Monte and I were visiting Placerville during camp weekend, we meandered through the many shops and antique stores in the historic district.  I had made a pact with myself that I wouldn't buy anything I couldn't carry home...which, if you knew how I can accumulate things, was almost like saying I wouldn't buy ANYTHING.  And so I went, with the best of intentions...

Until I saw her.  She was window dressing in an antique shop...sitting there all all pretty and round and antique oak spinning wheel.  My heart flew to her and we both knew it was meant to be.  Next to her was her friend, the antique skein winder.  Oh, what a pair they were, just teasing me. 

However...Monte and I had just gone through hell and back trying to get our own spinning wheels packed and shipped to camp from Taos, so I knew what the problems with getting these two home would be...and apparently, so did the shop owner.  I tried and tried, but couldn't get him to budge on helping me with crating and freighting them to Taos.  I left town with a feeling of unfinished business. 

Then the dreams this little wheel NEEDED to be with me.  I simply had no way to do it, I said.  Then came the stronger message:  this wheel was once loved and used by someone, and when she (most likely) died, her family didn't care about it.  This was the message that really wrenched my heart.  Have you ever felt like that about something?  I have a kitchen and home stocked with what I like to refer to as "rescued" items...mostly useable...some of my kitchen utensils go back to early 1800s.  (I guess it's my concern that I will die and no one will love my things in the generations to come.)

Yesterday I learned that a friend in the area would gladly store the wheel for me until I could drive out to pick it.  JOY!  I just called and found out that the wheel AND the winder are still there...waiting for me as I hoped they would be.  I wish I had a picture to share with you, but I don't.  I'll post one in the fall when we reunite in Placerville...and now my heart feels fulfilled, until my next little love affair!  ---Martie

Tuesday, July 4, 2006

Small village...big party

By the time most of you read this, you will have already enjoyed your 4th of July holiday.  This year, Connie and Lorraine and I decided to keep the shop open and witness the highlight of Arroyo Seco's year, the annual 4th of July parade.  Cimg0411_2 We closed the shop just as the parade started, and I dutifully toted the camera, to chronicle this event for those of you who couldn't attend.  Here's a little of how it went...first came the conquerers, in full regalia... (forgive the head).  Next came some otherCimg0397_1  localsCimg0393, out enjoying their truck (notice the head has now been joined by The Hat, and if you look closely, even HE isn't happy about it, me thinks).  There were some entries with kids in them, but to be honest with you, it was getting pretty crowded on the front lines and I was rapidly losing ground and couldn't get pictures of them.  My friends from Morningstar Farm, our neighborhood source of great organic produce, came by (note The Hat is now gaining ground).Cimg0403   Then I saw my neighbor, Gilbert Varos, and wanted to get a great picture of him atop his trusty steed, only to end up with a) a picture of the headless horseman and b) yet another person who found it comfortable to just snug right in in front of me:Cimg0409

Oh she of little patience!  OK, I admit it.  It's why I generally stay away from crowds.  But hey, it's just a parade (a quote from a friend of mine, who caught me whining about the crowd dynamics), and it was pretty darned cute to see all the little kids, in or out of the parade, especially when the candy started flying.  It's one of those things that makes you just plain proud and thrilled to live in a small town where events like these can still happen.  Oh...and before I forget...the last entry in the parade (poetic justice, I say):Cimg0410

Note to file:  if you wear a hat, you won't get so wet.  Maybe The Hat knew something we didn't.

It was a great day, and now I'm home, preparing to grill dinner and have a rousing evening starting a new shawl from "Knitting with a Smile".  To all of you, my best wishes...isn't it good to be free.    Martie

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Fahrenheit 451

For those of you who aren't familiar, Fahrenheit 451 is the Ray Bradbury tale about a futuristic society that bans books, encouraging society members to have large television panels on their walls to pipe in the "party line".  The movie, made in 1967, was on TV the other night, and I couldn't help but rewatch it.  Julie Christie plays dual roles; the detached wife of one of the "firemen", and the neighbor who seeks the company of the same fireman, curious as to how he can burn books each day and not wonder what he's missing.  (Eventually he comes over to her side and starts hiding and reading them...only to end up, at the end of the movie, seeking solace with "the book people" encampment of refugees whose lives have been dedicated to memorizing the text of his/her favorite book, in order to pass it on in an oral tradition to future generations.)

What on earth am I talking about this for?  Because I'm one of those people who can't own enough books, not unlike many of you.  I have them piled in bookshelves, lying sideways on the shelves where they no longer fit, in stacks on my nightstand, on the floor next to the bed, on the kitchen tables, and yea, on the treads of my treadmill (now you have a clearer picture of my exercise program, as well). 

Watching this movie brought the question to mind:  if I narrowed it down to knitting books only and could only have one, which would it be?  I love all things from Elizabeth Zimmerman.  Mary Thomas's Knitting Book is another favorite.  Sally Melville's books will always be good to have on one's shelf, beginner or not.  My latest conquest from our shelf:  "Knitting with a Smile", by Inger Fredholm, sharing a rich history of Swedish knitting and photos of Sweden that make me want to book a flight.

So, my fellow knitter, I ask you:  if you could only keep one knitting book, which would it be????  I'll spend some time on this and let you know what I've decided, but am truly curious about your responses.   If you'd like to comment back to this posting, please do.  Otherwise feel free to e-mail your response to me at the shop:  Please put "451 answer" in the subject line.  Looking forward to hearing from you...I'll post the results on July 15!


Spring socks

I have long been intrigued with the socks in the Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook where the dyer merely spotted roving with dye vs. totally covering all the white fibers.  I found some Merino roving recently and decided to give it a try...but heavy hand that I have, I ended up with more dye in the roving than I should have, so contrast between light skein and dark skein isn't as obvious as I'd like.  I spun this wool on my Rio Grande wheel, in a two ply that seems to want to be knitted on 2.25 (metric) needles.Cimg0386 I am a woman possessed...I started these at bedtime and stayed up too late to get this far enough along to share with you.  In case the color doesn't come through well, these colors are the fresh green of spring and the color of the wild Rocky Mountain Iris that, on a good year, bloom profusely in selected meadows around Taos.  ---Martie

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Camp Report

Scene_of_camp_pluckyfluffWith the best of memories and tired to the bone, Monte and I returned from CA and Camp Pluckyfluff Monday evening.  On a scale of 1-10, I rate this trip a 10+. 

We arrived in Sacramento last Thursday afternoon and in our trusty rental car, headed east to Placerville.  We arrived at our B&B, the historic Albert Schafsky house (circa 1902).  Our hosts, Rita and Stephanie, have three guest rooms in this gloriously loved and restored Victorian home.  We had the two upstairs bedrooms, as well as our own private sitting room.  Rita made THE best breakfasts and while many might have been full all day afterward, we shamelessly ate our way around town anyway (more on that later).

Fibers_at_camp_pluckyfluff We had Friday to knock around town and then arrived at Camp Pluckyfluff early Saturday morning.  Our teacher and host, Lexi Boeger, is just the most unassuming, sharing, and bright young woman.  She has started a revolution and I couldn't be happier to be one of her foot soldiers.  The workshop was held on the patio of another historic building, located on her family's winery, the Boeger Winery.  Lunches were artistically created by her friend, Steve, and served under the canopy of an ancient fig tree.  It was bliss, the entire way around.  I'll try to stuff some pictures in here to give you an idea of what we enjoyed.  We spent our days watching Lexi and having her coach us in her fun techniques, including adding little goodies to our yarns.  After spending years and years of spinning yarns to be uniform in appearance, this was the kick I needed to make my spinning fun again!  Lexi and I discussed holding a Camp Pluckyfluff here in Taos; I'm thinking next spring.  I'll keep you posted and if you're interested, let me know so I can start keeping a list of those interested.  You must have basic spinning skills (spinning & plying) but this will give you permission to set yourself free and take your spinning to an entirely different level!Lunch_at_camp_pluckyfluffLexi_spinning_happilyLexi_carding_a_batt

For those of you who haven't had the good fortune to visit Placerville, it's nestled in the Sierra foothills approximately 60 miles east of Sacramento, and southwest of Lake Tahoe.  This adorable town has a rich history, dating back to the California gold rush.  The historic district, walking distance from our B&B, boasts an awesome yarn shop (Lofty Lou's), a huge bead shop, the oldest continuously operating hardware store west of the Mississippi, antique shops, and restaurants galore.  We had a great salad lunch at the Courtyard Cafe, next to the historic Carey House Hotel (scene of Monte's French soda).  That evening we had a fresh seafood dinner at Powell's, and the rest of our evenings were spent at the Buttercup Pantry Restaurant.  The Buttercup serves old fashioned home cooking and THE most yummy home baked pies.  I snapped a photo on our last evening to remember them by...I had to leave town while I could still fit into my clothes! ---Martie