Exploring the world of fiber, one draft at a time

My posting can be as frequent or infrequent as my spinning, so be as patient as that fiber, sitting in my stash.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Yarnspinnerstales Christmas Podcasts

This month's two podcasts come as a set-and are chocked full of holiday music. If you are in the mood for traditions and some of yarnspinners tales, check out the Christmas 2007 Traditional podcast. Be sure though to also check out the Non Traditional Christmas podcast, for some music that should put a smile on your face. As usual, the podcasts can be found here or clicking the link on the right side of this blog.

Happy Holidays everyone!


Saturday, December 15, 2007

The only Christmas knitting

This is the only Christmas knitting this year, a stocking for a customer's new grandchild:

This is about the sixth stocking I have knit and I think I am finally over my infatuation with them. I was knitting this one to a specific size, and had problems acheiving that size. After getting about 1/3 of the way through the first try, I knew it was just too large, and I started completely over with smaller needles. This one is just a smidge too large, and the next (she has another grandchild due in Jan) I made a note to use the a size smaller yet.

A second reason for starting over was that I had attempted to try a design with three colors instead of just two, and felt hopelessly tangled all the time and finally decided that was just too much stress knitting. So I went back to a basic two color stranding. Maybe another time, when I do not feel so much deadline pressure.

It feel very strange to knit a sock flat, yet, I tried starting this stocking in the round (the pattern recommends flat knitting) and gave up because I could see that the further I got down into the sock, the more difficult it would be to pull yarn for stranding and keep it moderately untangled. I gave up that idea, and knit it flat as suggested in the pattern. There's another reason I am glad I did that. This is knit in stockinette stitch and curls in on itself. There's no way the stocking would look good without a good pressing to stop the curl. Pressing this out before seaming had the same miraculousness to it as blocking lace, the stocking really became a nice piece of knitting, once the acrylic had been pressed.

Here's what I did this year with the two stockings I have knit for myself:

They are so large that they seem out of proportion just hanging from the mantle. This seemed like a fun solution.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Angora podcast

A new podcast for you, the link is here or click on the link to my podcasts in the side bar.

It's all about angora bunnies in this month's second podcast. In the first part I explain just how I harvest the fur from this lovely French angora buck. In the second part, I talk about one of my favorite subjects, raising an angora as a pet. It's a fiber bearing animal and it sits in your lap. What better pet could there be for a spinner.

In between there are some fun songs, all about, what else, rabbits.

Enjoy and talk to you in December, with lots of music for you to listen to as you maybe spin, or probably knit on those have to be done Christmas socks.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Blue Thingy?

I spent several hours browsing in our local Peddlers Mall, a large building full of booths rented by vendors selling just about anything. Lots of flea market type items. While going through a stack of linens (where I found a lovely linen/lace hanky for .50) I came across this:

The seller had only marked the tag as "Blue Thing .50" At first glance of course I thought napkin or doily. It's made of a stiff linen fabric. But after playing with it, I discovered it did this:

OK I know in my years of perusing woman's craft magazines, or mail order catalogs, I have seen this, but right now I am clueless as to what it is for! I am sure there is someone out there in blogland that knows, however, that someone probably is not reading my blog LOL.
However, if you think you know it's purpose in life, or better yet, have an internet link to an explanation, please leave me a comment with that information. For once in my life, I am not going to just google it, I do not even want to think what hits I would get for a 'blue thing' search.

Friday, November 16, 2007

New Podcast is available

I have posted the November Spin In podcast and it is available here

The spin in podcasts, which will alternate with the technical spinning podcasts, have music and stories for you to listen to while you spin. So grab your favorite spinning tool and fiber and join me as I spin some yarn and tell you some tales.

Hopefully the subscribe button on the website is working also, which will allow you to subscribe to ITunes and all sorts of other podcast catching software. Give it a try and let me know if there are any problems.


Monday, November 12, 2007

Dyeing inspirations

The colors around me this time of the year always make me want to dye yarn. So I thought I would include a few photos here for inspiration.

These are the leaves on my smoke tree:

I think what I really want is a knitted fabric that looks like these leaves. Not in an intarsia sort of design, where the colors are in specific shapes, but in a mottled blending of the greens and purples. I think those vivid stripes of leaf veins would need to be part of the concept too.

Here's just a general autumn color photo.

There's something about that maple tree that appeals to my dyer's eye. In real life, the coloration is very pastel which I liked even better. Here in the photo, I have darkened the color to be more visible.
Finally, wouldn't this vivid black be a great color to contrast with all those fall tones:

I love the black wooly worms found in my area. Don't ask me what that predicts for the winter! I can see no difference in the thickness of their coats from one fall to the next. Given that our winter weather can vary wildly, somehow I do not think these are 'official' winter predicting wooly worms. Nice color though, that's for sure.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Sock club and naked necks

My one LYS is hosting a sock knitting club once a month and I got to go for the first time on Thursday. We paid a small fee for the 2 hours of instruction, and pattern, plus a discount on the required yarn. I got to meet about 15 new knitters and really enjoyed the opportunity for a knitting night out.

The designer of the sock, and instructor is Elise Williams. I know she has a blog, but did not put that on the design page, maybe I will get the link at another time. She is really doing this very locally, although a few of her closer friends there are goading her to put the socks into a pattern book. The pattern is held exclusive to the sock club members for three months and then put for sale at the yarn shop. I love the fact that here and probably all over the world there are knitters doing exactly this same thing, designing and teaching small projects locally. They get the self esteem boost of seeing something they created enjoyed by other knitters, and we get the fun of yet another wonderful sock pattern.

I have realized that although a sock can be knitted from a basic pattern, the fun of knitting socks comes from two things, variations in the sock pattern, and a lovely yarn. Since the yarn companies have caught on to knitters love of sock yarn, the supply of yummy yarn for socks is now amazing. I think knitting socks is here for the long haul, and not just a knitting whim and I think as long as there are knitters making socks, there will be new and interesting patterns evolving also.

So Novembers sock club sock is called the Bramble Soxx. Here is a photo of the very tiny beginning achieved while I was there:

The yarn is really interesting. As you can see in the photo it is called Soxx Appeal and is by Knit One Crochet Too. It is 96% superwash merino, 3% nylon and 1% elastic. That 1% makes the yarn surprisingly springy and it is also very soft. It's going to be a very comfortable pair of socks.

The pattern shows the sock knitted in stripes, achieved by using three colors of the yarn and changing periodically to create the look of self striping yarn. I choose however to buy one ball of variegated and will use that in the cuff, heel and toe and knit the main body of the sock in the solid green. I really like the green color, I usually do not care for lighter shades of green, being more of a forest green type of girl, but this soft light moss stays far enough away from glaring lime green or pastel baby green for me to really like it.

The bramble part of the pattern is on the cuff and is an alternating groups of make 3 bumps. This also then involves the slow process of K3 together, so knitting the pattern on the cuff is challenging. However that is perfect for this sock knitter, it gives me the challenge right up front while I am still thrilled with starting a new pattern and using a new yarn. After that thrill is gone, laugh, I get to zoom through regular knitting of the sock. I will even avoid one sock syndrom, by putting the regular knitting part on two circs, once the cuff is complete.

We discovered while knitting that the pattern was emerging on the 'inside' of the sock, which really worried a few of the knitters. Elise explained that once the cuff was complete, the sock should be turned inside out and the rest of the knitted worked (after all, the mind boggles at trying to turn a heel, inside out) I can not resist though a slight change in the pattern and plan to knit the sock with extra length right after the cuff and then wear the sock with the cuff turned down. I think it will be really cute that way.

Now my challenge is to try and finish the socks before Dec 13th, the date of the next sock club meeting.

I am sure the naked neck part of the title caught a few eyes. I have a totally non fiber bit of news to share, and that is I got my long hair cut on Thursday, and had enough length to donate it to the Locks for Love wig program. My hair is shorter than I have had it for almost 20 years! But it was worth it. I laughed though that evening, walking out of the knit shop and realizing for the first time in years, my neck was cold! All to better, because that means I will enjoy my knit scarves all the more this winter.


Saturday, October 27, 2007

YST Episode 1 Combing Shetland Fleece

My first spinning podcast for you is about combing with large 5 pitch combs and can be found here.

These are definately the perfectly scary looking fiber processing tools for Halloween! Listen in as I explain in detail about how I use these to comb top from a Shetland fleece and enjoy some special halloween music.

Here's a few pictures for those that really need a visual along with the verbal :)

Indigo Hound five pitch base held combs, showing how I attach the base to my picnic table bench with the C clamp and then have the comb in the base, held with the dowel, teeth up.
The next photo shows the shetland locks loaded on the base comb, and the comb turned so the teeth face sideways. The hand held comb in being passed through the fiber, teeth pointed down with a small bite of fiber being combed.

This final photo shows the comb with the most fiber now place in the base help with the teeth up. The top is being gently pulled from the puff of combed fiber. No diz is being used for this top.

Please feel free to leave me comments here about the podcast, and until I get the one click subscribe button on my podcast page, you can catch future podcasts by either checking here, or putting into ITunes subscribe: http://yarnspinnerstales.libsyn.com/rss
Thanks for listening!

Podcasting 101

Read me first, if you are totally clueless on what I mean by podcasts. If you are already totally into the IPods and know they can bring you things beyond music, then all you really need to know is that Yarnspinnerstales.com is now the official site for my podcasting. Two podcasts have been posted and more will be on the way, because I have found I love the whole process of bringing them to you. Go to Itunes now, and in the advanced area, under subscribe to a podcast, type in yarnspinnerstales.libsyn.com/rss

OK now that the geeks have gone, lets talk simple basic podcast stuff so you can get into the fun also.

First, what is a podcast? Think computerize radio show, only on a topic you totally love. Like knitting: Cast-On or Science: TWIS (This Week in Science) or how about someone reading a story to you: EscapePod or now spinning: yarnspinnerstales. If this sounds fun, then read on.

Next, how do you listen to these podcasts? First you find them (more on that in a minute) and then you use your computer's media player, to play them. This is one of two ways to listen to them. Doing it this way means you will sit at your computer and listen to it as it plays. That can be just fine, if you have a reason to be at your computer anywhere from 15-45 minutes. Laptops are good for this scenario, play the podcast with the laptop nearby and knit while you listen. But most people find they prefer to listen to podcasts away from the computer and that does involve a portable MP3 player such as an IPod, or Sansa player. It means that instead of just clicking on the little podcast icon, you will right click on it instead, opening the box of choices and choosing either Send to...(and sending it to your portable device attached and ready at your computer) or Save Target as... and put it on your computers hard drive in a place you can find it again, such as your documents. Once it is on your computer, again you can open your media player and listen to it as you want, or right click on the MP3 icon for the show and send it to your portable player.

One little hint, podcasts range any where from 5 minutes to an hour. It takes a very long time to download a podcast generally on dialup. If you can at all get access to DSL be sure to use that for podcast downloads.

How do you find podcasts? Well, start with Google with a specific type of search, say for example, gardening podcasts. What you will often find in the first page of the search are web sites that are pod catchers. Podcast Alley is a big podcatcher and yahoo and ITunes have podcast listings. Check them all out because not every podcast will show on every catcher. Once you find ones you like ITunes (free download) is a great way to automatically 'catch' any new ones that come out for those. You subscribe to the podcast generally by going to the website, and clicking on subscribe to the podcast. However, before you start doing that, you have to have something in place for the podcast to go to, and that is why people use ITunes, or set up Yahoo to send those subscriptions.

And basically that's it! OK there will be a number of details that may stump you as you start out, but you will learn. Listen first on your computer, learn how to save it on your hard drive, learn how to set up a podcatcher for your subscriptions, and you will soon have so much to listen to, you'll think that it be worth your while to knit for three days straight. Oh well, a girl can dream can't she?


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

What a Difference a Needle Makes

If you are one of the power, know everything sock knitters, you can mosey on to another block, this one won't interest you. All socks are basically toe increases, length of foot knitting, turn a heel and round and round knitting for the cuff. And most sock knitters can take yarn and needles and turn out pairs of socks that are basically the same size. But if you are like me, where every sock you make is another potential surprise, you may enjoy the tale of these two socks. Both pair are based on the basic sock knitting concepts with 64 total stitches, 32 for the instep concept.
Both socks are knit from handspun yarn, something I talk about doing all the time but in truth have rarely done. There's so many wonderful sock yarns available, and I get the satisfaction of buying yarn for a pair of socks every time I go to a yarn store. So in truth, I have made very few socks from my handspun yarn. These's though are both my handspun yarn.

Both patterns are from a yahoo group called six socks. The blue lacey pair is knit in handspun wool koolaid dyed and were knit with the two socks two circs method. The circular needles used were size 3. They turned out to be a great fit both in and out of my shoes. The wildly colored striped pair were knit with size 0 DPN, knitting one sock at a time. The 'fabric' of the sock is practically already felted, it is so densely packed. They too feel wonderful on my feet, however, they have to be a house sock, the dense fabric will not fit into any shoe. Maybe a boot or clog, but definately not a shoe.

The whole point to this blog is to show that really other than the lacey pattern over the instep of the one pair, there are no other variables to account for such a wildly varying size in the two pairs except for the size of the needles. The size 3 is the right size for the gist of my handspun yarn, whereas the size 0, a 'normal' size for most sock knitting, packs so many rows into the sock that is becomes a different fabric altogether. And that makes a size difference in the actual sock itself. It may not be evident in the photo above, but the stripe socks seem three size larger then the blue socks. They are looser on my foot but not the 'hey these socks are giant' that they look when off the foot. Here's a picture to prove that.

I believe all of these is the result of Murphy's law of the sheep. You know, those bouncy skittery critters that may behave, may flock or may run. Take one of them and all is controllable. Add another, and another, especially in stripes, and things end up out of control. These striped socks just have too much of the sheep in them.

One more thing, I would like to say is I love the cuff concept on the striped socks. It's fun to do and really a different look from other handknit sock patterns. You do it by casting on with yarn that has been used for knitting the last row of the top of the sock (obviously this is only going to work if you are knitting toe up). I used 16 cast on stitches. You just do garter stitch back and forth on those 16 stitches and each time you are at the sock live stitches you knit two together to attach the cuff. Once all the live stitches are used, you can cast off and sew the two cuff edges together. Or you can do as I did, which was pick up the other edge's knit bumps and do a three needle bind off with the two edges. One small end to weave in, and you are done.

The pattern, if made in regular sock yarn can be a great one for using up odds and ends of sock yarn. It is especially cute when done in a childs size, with really tiny bits of leftover sock yarn. You don't even have to be anal like me and make them match :) However I may recommend that you either be a much better sock yarn spinner than I, or use commercial, 'under control' yarn.


Thursday, October 04, 2007

Vacation shopping

I just got back from four days in Destin Florida, a wonderful vacation from work and home duties. We went to the beach, ate some memorable meals, met up with one of hubby's old friends and of course, went shopping. In fact one of the first things I did, after unpacking and unwinding, was to check the phone book for knitting store(s).

It occurred to me, once I was home that maybe I could have checked Ravelry for that information also. I really didn't think of it at the time, I was only using a public computer to occasionally check email. However I just went to Ravelry right now to see if it would have been a possibility. First I clicked people thinking maybe a listing might be there, but that doesn't exist (yet). Then I searched the forum board for Destin, and got (gasp) over 8400 hits. Well, turns out the top hits were correct, but the rest seem to be picking up something else, un Destin like related. However there was the name and address listed in one post of a yarn store in Destin, so there you go, it could work. Turns out it was a store not in the phone book either, so, either it was small enough not to want to pay the yellow pages cost, or no longer in business. Since I am not in Destin anymore (sigh) I can not say which.

But the good old non geeky method of the yellow pages did work, and I found a wonderful yarn store callled Unwind. If you get to Florida, look the up in the phone book and go. Technically, they are in Fort Walton Beach, but that's not far to drive and there was a fantastic coffee shop next door too (is that a given for a yarn store location? What comes first, the coffee shop or the yarn shop!)

Enough chat, first picture is the bag of purchases from Unwind. I only do this because really a bag so small should not cost so much LOL. I have a coffee mug beside it for sizing.

So What's in The Bag?

First a rainy afternoon of pleasure:

I love anniversary issues of magazines, almost as I love the premiers issues. If it says, 'first issue ever' I usually buy it, as well as any anniversary issues. I have been saving this as I said for an afternoon on the front porch with a cup of coffee. I hope it is as good as it promises.

And for many many hours of knitting pleasure, this is in the bag:

This is lace weight yarn of a brand I had not seen before. It is Jojoland label and is called Harmony. It is 100% wool and very soft in the skein. This 50g ball has 880 yards, so it's an amazingly thin two ply yarn. Size 0 is the recommended needle! However knit on a larger size will look airy and lacy too I imagine. It's going in my stash to wait for the right shawl or stole pattern. Oh, I must go now and put that in my stash on Ravelry, and I even have a picture to include this time! Meanwhile, if this link works, here are some photos of projects shown on Ravelry with this yarn.

But wait there's more in the bag, however it will remain a mystery for many months! That's because I know who reads my blog LOL. Someday the mystery will be revealed.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007


I'm in Ravelry! My screen name is Lussina. Look me up when you get there.

See how I assume that you are already on the waiting list :) What? You are not one of the 19,000 still on the waiting list? Never heard of Ravelry? Then you have probably not been reading the knitting blogs, because _everyone_ that gets on Ravelry, raves about it.

Ravelry is the newest free knitting/crochet community, with a wonderful improvement. It has the groups for discussions, but it also has an ever growing data base of information. The concept came out of one programmers frustration of trying to google for specific projects for specific yarns. The idea of putting all that information in one spot with one powerful search function was born.

Ravelry encourages you to use your own space to catalog your yarns and projects. The data entry is quick and easy. I used a MP3 recorder to do a verbal running commentary as I went through my boxes, and then transcribed that information by listening and typing into the data base. The only thing that slows the process is including a picture. So right now my data base does not have photos of anything. But I plan to update that as I have time because the photos are the best part of Ravelry. Talk about eye candy! Picture after picture of glorious knitted projects, yummy yarns, and faces of knitters from all over the world.

I have already used the powerful search function with great success. I have an opportunity to buy a hand painted yarn called Kauni. I had heard that there is a KAL cardigan out of that brand of yarn. I entered Kauni into the search box, and got three hits, each a different gist of that yarn. In a spot beside that was a clickable link that said for example, 10 projects. When I clicked that link I was shown the 10 projects posted in Ravelry out of Kauni yarn. Perfect assistance in deciding just what type of project to plan with the yarn.

So the pictures make all the difference and that is why I need to get mine on there too.

Not in Ravelry yet? Here's a hint I wished I had thought of before I got there. Go ahead and do the stash inventory and post the pictures on Flickr. Flickr is now a part of Yahoo, so if you have a Yahoo ID, you will have a Flickr ID. All pictures used on Ravelry are stored permently on Flickr under your ID. That way you have control when you want to remove everything, or change it. Say you are showing progress on a knitting project, just update the photo from your picture on Flickr. Since the photo taking, and uploading are the only tedious part I see to the whole concept, a head start is a very good idea. Your pictures will be there and waiting when you finally walk through the Ravelry door.

Meanwhile, keep knitting, because soon your will want to be showing off your wonderful work on Ravelry.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Finally a FLAK

Zooooommmmm!!! That's the sound of my upload of pictures now that I have DSL!

A bit of history on this project. FLAK stands for Follow the Leader Aran Knitalong, and it was a yahoo group hosted by Janet Szabo. The knitalong was in 2005 and I had decided to do a sweater for hubby. It was to be a surprise, so when we started out with the measuring bits, I used one of his sweaters in the drawer. We started knitting with a swatch of course. Then the actual starting point of the sweater was the saddles. I remember feeling so in control, back when I was just working on that tiny bit of knitting!

Soon we were picking up stiches for the back, and zooming along with the cabling. It was a good challenge, it was interesting knitting, and as long as I only knit in the winter, the wool felt wonderful as I knit.

Then it was flipped over and the same repeated on the front, working the neck line, and downward. More of the same, fun knitting. Remember, I am knitting on straights, so I have pieces of the sweater, joined at the top but not the sides. I knit each sleeve by picking up stitches along the shoulder and knitting downward, again on straight needles.

By now, the project was long past the date that it was to be a surprise present. I had the two sleeves down to where I had hoped to start the ribbing. Although I had not sewn anything together, I decided it was time to actually have hubby put the thing on.

And discovered it was too small, especially to wear over a shirt. When he asked me how I had gotten the measurements, I showed him the sweater in his drawer I had used and he informed me he hadn't worn that one for years.


So many months ago I wrote a post on here about just how I planned to increase the size on the sweater without ripping out anything I had already done. Instead of sewing the side seams together, I knit them together, along with a strip of additional moss pattern, adding about 1.5 inches to each side. It's certainly not a 'pretty' solution, it is an obvious join along the side of the sweater. But it's within the character of the pattern, since moss stitch is used between the cable stitches.

Oh and for the record, men have arms much longer than evolution says they should have. I knit on those two sleeves _forever_! The original stopping point came to about his elbows and the sleeve was too tight to be comfortable. So I continued the idea of a strip of moss stitches right on under the armhole and down the sleeve. Made it seem more intentional. Once I got the sleeve joined but still only to the elbow, I then put the sleeve on a circular needle and continued on forever (or so it seemed) until I could do some ribbing.

Final work included the ribbing around the neckline, and at the bottom. Here is a knitting mystery. The ribbing on the neck and sleeves are done with the same size needle as the bottom ribbing of the body of the sweater. Yet I got ruffling on the body of the sweater, and a nice tight ribbing on the sleeve and neckline. I used a needle size smaller than the body of the sweater. The only explanation I have for it is that the bottom ribbing was stretched more as I worked on it. I am not happy with the way the bottom ribbing looks, but I do like the rest of the sweater. It has not been washed yet, and I am hoping that even though I plan to hand wash it gently, that I can add a bit more force to the sudsing of the ribbing and help it draw in some. That may not happen, and I will let it be a live and learn lesson. I do not plan to take that ribbing out, unless hubby mentions that he doesn't like it either, and will not wear the sweater because of it.

I promise I will never ever make another sweater for hubby, but somehow I bet I do not keep that promise! Sometime in the future, there will be another knitalong that I will just have to join.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

State Fair 2007 skeins

It's that time of the year again, and I managed to get four skeins of yarn spun to put in the state fair. As usual, I learned several things while getting these skeins ready for entry.

1. I really can not spin a competition quality yarn when using home prepped fiber. This is shown by the BL/Cormo skein below, it is just not up to the level of spinning that is expected by the judge. I am only stating this based on past judgings, however it was useful for me to realize that I am wiser to use commercially made roving for better spinning in all my state fair skeins from now on.

2. High heat and tight stretching while drying really does a better job at setting the twist, especially on merino. And getting the twist firmly set is important in order to have a nice cooperative two yard skein. That is the required put up for the competition, and two yards of a handspun yarn that still wants to kink is unruly.

First up, the skein I love the best and hope is a first place winner:

This was spun from a shetland roving and was a joy to spin. It's a lovely light reddish brown color, not easy to capture in a photo. I have at least a pound more of the roving, and plan to spin enough of this same yarn for a shawl.

Now the hated, required merino skein:

Every year I feel I have spun a better skein than before, and every year, the skein looks terrible after washing. This year I solved that problem by first placing the skein in boiling (yes!) water until wet, let hang and drip for several minutes until cool enough to handle and then stretched it on a plastic pipe niddy noddy I have made. I put that in front of a fan and let dry. The twist is definately set, and the yarn did not 'poof' as it usually has in the past. So once again, I am hoping that I have spun a better merino skein than in year's past.
This is the skein that disappointed me:

This is a Border Leicester/Cormo mix fleece I bought last April. It is a lovely silver gray color, and feels soft as a fleece. I washed the fleece, picked the fibers and drum carded batts to spin. It was nice spinning, although I ended up being a 'picky' spinner and removing any bits and bumps in the batt as I came to them. Still the yarn looks very 'handspun' with thick and thin spots and bumps. It is a perfectly servicable yarn, would make a lovely outer wear type outfit (it's scratchier as a yarn than the fiber). But on the whole I do not feel it is competition quality, although I did decide to put it in as an entry.
Finally my experimental skein:

This is a 50/50 cotton wool roving I purchased last December. I hate spinning cotton, I was hoping that the addition of 50% wool would ease some of that hate. But it didn't. I had to spin this with about a quarter inch draft zone, tedious, time consuming and I really don't like the yarn after all is said and done. I have another 6 oz left of this roving, I am not sure if I will spin the rest or not. This skein also got dropped into a pot of boiling water, which promptly removed a bunch of dye. I actually had wondered if the cotton would change color, since it was suppose to be natural colored cotton. But with the addition of the wool, which could not have been the same color as the cotton must have meant that they had to dye the fiber to get a solid color. The skein did not change color all that much, in spite of the dye bleeding off. After the skein cooled a bit I stretched it on the plastic niddy noddy to dry. But unlike the merino, it didn't set the twist quite completely, and my two yard skein had a bit of twisting. That shows just how over twisted I was getting the original spinning, with my inchworm drafting. It was an interesting experiment, which is something I still like to do with my spinning. It would be much too boring to just spin the easy stuff.
And speaking of boring, I hope I haven't bored you as much as I do Barker, while I spin:

Ah the joy of dog days!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Dog days and deadlines

It's officially too hot to be comfortable outside, the first really for this year. Not unexpected of course being August. My dog looks at me like I am crazy when I open the door to offer the wide outdoors to him, he's just as much a creature of comfort as I am. Two times a year I make it a point to just shut the doors of the house for a full weekend and do nothing but knit or spin. Once in the middle of winter, usually right after the holidays, and once in the dead heat/humidity of our summers.

Besides I truly needed this uninterrupted weekend of fiber. Oh not for stress relief, no, it's purely a deadline thing. I did it again, waited until too close to the state fair to get everything ready that I so enthusiastically predicted I would have completed when I submitted the entries last June. Oh I certainly could let the fair go by without taking my entries in. Especially this year, in their eyes I was a senior citizen and did not have to pay any entry fees! But the challenge always gets in my mind, and I can not be at peace unless I try to get as many ready as possible.

Consequently, I have been spinning for several hours this morning, and knitting for two hours before finally deciding my hands needed a break (which actually typing feels almost therapeutic at this point, lots of stretching and flexing). I will do the same tomorrow and any time that I have off during the next week, until I finally have to submit my items Sunday, Aug12th.

There will be pictures, I promise. Just not in this post.

Meanwhile, I discovered something else yesterday that just needed to be shared. I went to my local library and found out I really do not own every knitting book printed (HA!) My bookshelves only look like I do. I was able to find five knitting books to check out. I informed the library clerk at the desk that it was going to be a very hot weekend and that I had no intention of stepping outdoors, as an explanation for the five books. She didn't seem impressed. Maybe she had to work this weekend, which would make me grumpy too.

Here's a bit of digression, which will be an explanation of why I chose several of the books. I recently, thanks to Bravo TV channel and DVD recorder, recorded two seasons of Project Runway. I found myself totally hooked on this show. I avoid all reality or competition shows, but this one hooked me. It's mostly because the challenges are very good, and designers all have their unique take on the challenge and because of very good taping and editing the end results are always a wonderful piece of eye candy as they models walk down the runway. Of course the show gets into the real life bickering that reality TV is all about. What I hadn't realized would hook me is that really does give one a feel for the participates personalities and really adds interest to the show. The whole surprise of this for me was just how interested I have become in the actual process of design, fashion, and creativity as it relates to the fashion industry. Heaven help me, I even went and bought the recent Vogue magazine, and read it for exactly what they intended, looking at every ad to see the designers name, and just what they were featuring this fall. BTW, one designer showed everything in what looked like hand knitted fabric. Once you stop looking at the 90 lb string bean woman, and only look at the clothes, Vogue can actually be quite interesting.

Coming from that angle it is no wonder the book Couture Knits by Jean Moss caught my eye. One thing I learned from Project Runway is that only certain licensed (in Paris) designers can call their creations a couture fashion. The implication is that the design is one of a kind, and hand made, generally with many fastidious details such as beads. Even if Jean Moss has not carried the true couture concept, I believe she has captured the essence that knitting can truly be designed to be unique, and fashionable beyond just your standard cardigan.

Along this same theme, another book that caught my eye was The Art of Knitting by Francoise Tellier-loumagne. Translated from French this book is mostly full page close up pictures of the stitches, textures and surfaces of actual knitting. These photos are often accompanied by photos from nature that the knitting mimics. It is a 300 page book thick with visual images, that can inspire any designer.

The rest of the knitting books are truly just for browsing as I take a break from my fiber over the next three weeks. There is the Mason Dixon Knitting, that I have thumbed through now and again, but never sat to read the included stories. There is Holiday Knits, more daydreams than actual plans for holiday gifts, but who knows, I may find a project or two to tackle before the holidays. Three renewals, three weeks each, gives me nine weeks to get something done! And finally there is Knitting Tips and Trade Secrets, which I wanted to take some time to see if it is worth adding to my own personal library.

But mostly I will truly cherish the hour that I grab now and then with my early morning cup of coffee, as I turn each page and absorb the whole idea of actually designing fashion that just happens to come from my knitting needles, and not my sewing machine.


Friday, July 06, 2007

Summer knitting

I have recently been surprised to discover something about myself and knitting: I knit more in the summer than the winter. This is the opposite of many knitters I know. Now I will admit that my summer knitting is not heavy wool, and I have had no desire to pick up the unfinished wool sweater over these last two months. But I have done quite a bit of knitting, and have found that it is comfortable for me to do so. I have had many pleasant mornings on my front porch knitting a few rows or our recent very hot afternoons, in my air conditioned living room.

Last Friday I started a new lace project: Mystery Shawl #3. Never mind I never finished #2. I will get to that eventually. I decided to start on this one and try and use the weekly release of the clues to keep me motivated to finish this shawl. I have better luck that way, as is proved by the unfinished second shawl. So from now under the end of Aug I will be counting stitches, probably frogging stitches and then expectantly blocking this lovely lacework. That's when the true mystery of the lace is revealed. There is nothing like stretching that large scrunched up lace into a beautiful lacy wonder.

A few statistics and a picture of the completed first clue:

Yarn: Peruvian Collection Baby Cashmere from Knit Picks 60% alpaca, 30% merino and 10% cashmere in color slate.

Needles: Addi circular in size 3.0 mm

Now on to the completed project: The Sweater Everyone Hates But Me

I decided back on mother's day, when at a local yarn store with my daughter that I wanted to knit something fast and for me. I fell in love with one of their shop displays of a sleeveless top knitted in a deep black chunky yarn. They could not really say 'use this pattern' though for the display, so I had my daughter, who is better at the designing on the needle thing, take a good long look at it. Then I took a wild guess as to the amount of yarn I need, and made the purchase. I had two reasons to want this top, it would be a fast knit, and it would be in a deep black. I have never knit myself something to wear in black yet, because it is such a hard color to knit with, especially pattern work. The yarn was very textural so I knew if I just did a stockinette or garter stitch, I would have achieved lots of texture, with no pattern knitting. Couple that with the fast knit concept and it seemed a very good thing to me.

So I was sold on the idea from the beginning.

After I got the yarn home, I started going through my vast knitting library for a possible pattern. I about gave up hope and figured I would have to design on the fly, until I finally hit a possibility. In Sally Melville's second book The Purl Stitch I found a design for a sleeveless top done in a chunky yarn. Bingo! I did a swatch, found my choice of needles to be too large, and so ripped it out and went down two sizes to a size 8 needle and hit the gauge of the project exactly.

I was ready to knit.

OK there is a fast knit, and there is 'fast knit'. I am not sure how I thought I could knit a tank top in one weekend. It just doesn't happen like that for me like some knitters. In short my fast knit took five weeks to knit. Really, that's fast for me!

Here's some details: Yarn: Ironstone Yarns Island Cotton 69% cotton, 31% rayon.

Needles: plain old metal straight needles from my stash, size 8.

And a picture of the finished top:

Why do I say that everyone hates it but me? Quick, as a knitter, what is your first response to super bulky cotton yarn?
If you said: Isn't it too heavy, isn't it too hot? you answered just as has every other knitter that saw me knitting on this project. The only exception is my non knitting hubby, who only said, hmmm. He was probably thinking it would be too heavy and too hot, but knew if he said so, I'd end up in a bad mood all weekend.
And my answer is yes, it is heavy, but really in a sort of curl up into something soft and nice sort of way. It probably will be much too hot to wear in 90 degree 98% humidity type summer day. But there's tons of other times that it will work great, air conditioned environments, spring and fall type days, and even gasp, winter, under a jacket.
In short, I truly do like the way it feels on me, and it was a blast to knit. The yarn had a very different hand to it than normal cotton. So often when one knits with a cotton yarn it feels hard and square, like crochet cotton. This felt like a bulky spun wool, only with a solidness that wool will not ever achieve.
And it's black. It looks dressy with white slacks but probably will look good with jeans too. I loved the pattern so much, that I will be watching for a non cotton dressy type yarn to make another one.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Do you want a haircut with that?

This is the story of the first of three fleeces I recently purchased. We made our yearly day trip to the Fiber Fair at Greencastle, Indiana April 13th. I had a wonderful day and spent many hours looking at the booths. I found that due to my overly saturated spinning stash, I really had no interest in the wide variety of dyed fibers, or alpaca fleeces. The fresh wool fleeces however, still drew my creative interest. I just can not avoid them! In no time at all, my hands where soft with fresh lanolin, and smelling of sheep. I am laughable in my pursuit of what I want to work up into yarn, rapidly covering every vendor there to do a quick scan of every available raw fleece. I soon realize I am going to have to tell my hubby that I will be buying three instead of the 'one' I had solemnly suggested would be my day's purchases. And I did buy three, one because I love the fleece type and have purchased from that vendor every year, and one just because I had never heard of the sheep breed. They are later stories. For now, this is the story of the third fleece, a shetland of the deepest black that I have seen outside of the Black Welsh Mountain sheep breed. It had to come home with me. It weighed 2.3 pounds and was costly as raw fleece goes, at $10/pound. However, as I worked with it, I can say I probably only picked out a dozen pieces of straw, it was an amazingly clean fleece and worth the price.

Here's a picture of the fleece, straight off of the sheep:

And a picture of a few of the locks. Look at the lovely length and crimp.

But did you also see the brown tips? I found this a bit confusing, if the fleece was so clean, it must have been a coated sheep, yet the brown tips seem to indicate to me that the sheep was in the sun, causing that sunburning of the tips. The tips were certainly dry and coarse as if affected by the sun.

Now here's a bit of advice you will not hear from many fiberholics. Do not _ever_ tempt the fibers fates by saying you will _never_ do something. The trickster coyote of whatever existing fiber deities heard me when I said I would never bother with the time consuming task of cutting tips off of every lock. Ahh but I had spun fleece with these dead tips in place before. Yes it gives an interesting tweedy look to the yarn, yes it makes the yarn uniquely handspun, but, there was this fleece that I purchased specifically for the hope of a very black lace weight yarn. Why would I want those tips there? I could hear the trickster coyote baying his laugh, as I sat for two lovely spring mornings, CUTTING OFF EVERY TIP I COULD FIND!

Actually it was delightful work, and one of the main reasons I wrote the previous post about the enviable chance to enjoy several wonderful spring days at my country place. And the final results really did make a big difference.

I spent three days washing the fleece, a third at a time, a process I also enjoy. The fleece fluffed up into lovely black puffs with occasional gray strands, but no dead brown in sight.

The next part of my processing is to decide what needs to be done to spin the yarn I want. I could take a washed lock, and draft straight from that, but an experimental try at that showed that with regular frequency, a tiny bump, a nub of fiber would draft out too. And spinning fine lace weight would really show those nubs. Carding would only incorporate them into the batt, so that left no choice but to comb the fiber creating top. I have very large combs good for the coarser fibers, but this shetland is so fine, I decided to use my smaller hand combs.

At the top of this next photo is a lock of the washed fiber, and below that is the fiber loaded onto the combs.

The next photo shows the fiber combed and partially pulled from the comb. Above the combs is a long drafted piece of top, ready to spin.

Finally in this last photo, a two ply sample of the yarn, spun on a drop spindle. The yarn came off slightly under plied, but balanced.

I do not intend to spin the yarn on a drop spindle, I only used that for a sampling. The rest of the fleece will be spun on my Ashford wheel with the lace flyer. The yarn may even end of thinner, as I am a better spinner on the wheel, than the drop spindle.
Finally, a photo of the waste from the combs. You can see the short cut areas in the fleece, which was causing the nubs.

I am saving all of this waste, because when one combs a fleece there is a very large percentage of waste. I am not sure whether I will spin this alone for a nubby yarn or blend it with something else, or just use it for stuffing. Time to play and experiment will make that decision.
Turning this shetland wool from raw fleece into lace yarn will be a long and slow process. Of course I could have just purchased something dyed and ready to spin. All of you reading this already know that is not why I am doing this. When I finally hold the black lace shawl I see in my mind made from this fleece, I will remember each and every fun part of the process. It is the process that gives me the pleasure, and just adds to the pleasure of the shawl around my shoulders.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Envy Me

I must admit, I tend to be a bit of a curmudgeon about people gushing that I am lucky to live in the country. It's not a fair assumption, but they just seem so clueless about what life is all about, so far from the city. I want to tell them to come and clean the barn or weed my garden, but instead I smile, nod, and say I enjoy it.

Today however, I will allow all the gushing you want. I have been enjoying two picture perfect country life days, and will be the first to admit that it is enviable.

First off, the weather has been that perfection that only comes in spring and fall, here in the Midwest. Perfect cloudless skies, perfect temp, slight breeze, warm sun, spring popping up all over. It's the type of weather that lets you smile while working, or daydreaming in the sun. The colors are straight out of the Crayola box, sky blue and grass green. Maybe it's that specific angle of the sun this time of the year, that gives us those perfect colors. More likely it's the fact that there's no humidity to cloud the sky and change the colors.

Birdsong, all day long. Full of variety, full of life. Bees buzz by too busy to be a stinging threat. And yes, at one magical moment, the apple blossoms floated off the tree and on the breeze.

It's like being in a movie.

I may be gracious about allowing you your envy, because I was able to stop and enjoy the magical moments. Oh, sure I had mowing to do, but I also had several hours of enjoyment as I worked on skirting and sorting fleeces. I sat in the sun, violets blooming beside my chair. The air smelled wonderfully sheepy, as I sorted. My hands were full of lanolin. My mind was occupied with the amazing yarns that these fleeces will create. It will always be one of my more favorite tasks in this fiber craft.

And like a true restful retreat, I had a few days off and time to just soak up those sunny rays. Time off from my job, time off from the endless upkeep of the summer in the country, time off from the cold and rain of winter. Combine that with the joy of the fiber, and yes, I live an enviable life.


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Hizzah! She knits again

That rumor you heard, that I hadn't picked up knitting needles for months...well, yep it was true. And if there has been no knitting, or spinning going on here, well then there was no blogging.

I hope that is to be changed now. I have actually picked up my needles again, and knitted. Someday that means there will be a photo of a finished product. Here's the fun part. I have started up on a mystery shawl that I stopped working on at least a year ago. The original mystery part of it was that the clues would come out periodically to be knitted as they arrived. That didn't happen, and I have all the clues in a folder, so now the mystery was, could I figure out where I quit knitting! It's lace work and I have a photocopy of the chart on a metal board, with the magnet under the line I am knitting. Can you believe, after a year of sitting in a knitting bag, that that magnet never moved? Well, I am deciding to believe it! And picked up the pattern from that point. Since the knitting is all squished onto a circular needle, and since I am very lazy about taking knitting off needles and onto a yarn line to look at it, I may end up with a funky part of the pattern in the shawl. So be it. I am knitting it for my knitting pleasure not for close up inspections.

Besides, I may have the luck to be picking up right where I left off.

So now that the knitting is back in my blood, what's on the agenda? I have a pair of socks to finish, a sweater almost done, and this shawl. Dare I set a deadline for them? I'm way past the deadline of being able to use them this winter (laugh), so I guess next fall is the option.

That's why I love this hobby. Nothing ever 'spoils' if you are slow in working with it. Ok Ok, yes the moths could munch on it, but generally, you put a knitting needle and yarn down, you could pick it up again years later. And maybe even know where you left off.


Thursday, January 18, 2007


I have been mulling this post in my head for the last day or so, and it has taken several directions before I have finally decided just what I was trying to say.

The thoughts all started because of a big time consuming project that I have been tackling this month. I am finally sorting through the inventory of my dad's stamp business, with the intention of selling what I do not want and putting what I want to keep into archival safety.

Now this in itself does not relate to this fiber blog. What I discovered about my two major hobbies does belong here, and that is why I am writing this post today.

The stamp project has been fun, and very time consuming. OK so far that description could fit any fiber art hobby too. The stamp project will eventually produce something I will enjoy years to come, and maybe some income. Again, a similiar statement could be made to any fiber art.
Finally, I will only have to do this stamp project once.

And here is where the two hobbies diverge. It is this divergence that I have been thinking about. Why would I not say that I will only knit this scarf once, or spin this yarn once. On the surface it sounds like that is a true statement. Each skein of yarn is unique and producing it 'exactly' as a manufacturer would, is just not possible for me. Yet what I would say is that I spun ten skeins of that romney wool yarn and imply that not only did I do it over and over again, but that I would continue to do it until the wool was gone. Then I would pick up another wool and spin some more. All of this implies it is _not_ a one time project.

I am not talking about one time projects in the sense that I will never touch another stamp again, or never pick up wool and spin again. What I am talking about is the essence of the final result of the project. I will not have to do this major sorting again. I may do something else stamp related, but not this project. It's a project that has the 'magic' of being a once a lifetime thing to do.

I do not look at my knitting and spinning in the same way. I see those as something I will do over and over during my life. There can be 'once in a lifetime' type fiber arts projects. Certainly a major needleart work of museum quality, or heirloom sewing or a weaving of the finest silk or linen meant to last several lifetimes. These are not on my fiber agenda though. Instead I have the knitting that gets worn now, and worn out. I have the spinning that is for fun or education, and will never be used in a project. Or I have the combination of spinning and then knitting with the yarn knowing full well that I will do the exact same thing again once that project is complete.

The biggest difference I can see in the two hobbies is the concept of manufacturing. I collect stamps, I do not manufacture them. I manufacture yarn and sweaters, but I do not collect them. All of the sudden the two statements show the opposites they represent, and with that they show the balance they have created in my life. I now realize why such two divergent hobbies have been such an important role in my life. They create a balance in my life. And that is a very good thing indeed. Whether I am talking about the physical, spiritual, social or work the most important need in any of these areas in my life is balance. I've worked on that concept all of my adult life. And this week I have just realized that I had applied it to my hobbies without realizing it.

So when you find yourself grumpy because you have to yet again pick up those knitting needles or fiber for your project, here is my suggestion. Collect something. OK I strongly recommend that you do not consider your stash of yarn a collection. It's too demanding to be manufactured into something. That's not a collection. No, a collection needs to be something totally without use, and totally enjoyable when you look at it. It should bring some kind of good memory with it. And after you have spent a good amount of time collecting and organizing, you will find yourself eager again to pick up those knitting needles. You need the balance.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Christmas stitching 2006

It is a telling fact, that I have not blogged since mid Nov. That's par for my life that time of year. All of my normal routines get put on hold, except for my job. Stitching gets packed up, books get cleaned up from my comfy chair and tucked back into the bookcase. Clutter gets scooped up and put away, and out comes Christmas.

There are times when I get angry that society seems to demand that women put their lives on hold for the six weeks of those major holidays. And there are times when I am so happy to be celebrating with family and friends again. The fact is that every year I make it a point to make those family and friends the focus of my life, and that can not be a bad thing.

So I had a lovely holiday, and was able to set the pace of the celebrations to my speed. I managed to keep the weight off that I had lost pre holidays, and that was a major victory for me too.

Now the decorations are tucked back into their storage spot under the stairway, and the books are starting to stack up again next to my chair. I have brought out some socks to knit, and life has resume a somewhat normal routine again.

I had the pleasure of making two Christmas gifts this year, and I enjoyed doing both. The first was a small cross stitch kit of a Christmas teddy bear, for my mom who is a teddy bear collector. The kits are really nice, small enough that I did the stitching in about three weeks, and complete enough that they include the mat and glass frame. I have not done cross stitch for several years, and I enjoyed it. Here is a picture:

The second item that I made was knitted and for my daughter and son-in-law. They are owners of three sweet hedgehogs, and when I saw the pattern for a knitted hedgehog, I knew I would have to make them one.

This about the size of a basketball, and not really what the designer originally wrote in the pattern. That's because the original pattern was made mostly with wool and then felted drastically after knitting. My daughter has a true allergy to wool, so I used handspun alpaca and silk yarn for the body. And even after three agitations in the washing machine, this hedgehog was not going to felt down to any smaller size. Consequently, the eyelash yarn that is representing the quills looks a bit sparse, and not close and fluffly like the original pattern. However, the whole hedgehog is very soft and huggable, and is a perfect pillow for the bed. It is loved by my daughter and I had a great time making it. Even my dog thought it was wonderful, although the gleam in his eyes was because he thought I was making him the biggest, bestest chew toy ever. Sorry Barker, this one was gifted.