Rockin’ the Wool Market

What a great day I had Saturday at the Estes Park Wool Market with my BKB Deb. I have gone almost every year to this event for at least 20 years. I sat at my first spinning wheel here, bought my first fleece here, met friends, networked, and enjoyed close encounters with a lot of the critters that produce the wool/fiber that I play with as I spin, knit, dye and weave.

Girl kissing goat.
I don’t recommend kissing the animals, but sometimes it is so darn hard to not want to hug them and scratch behind their ears. Look at what happened while I was lining up this shot of a pigmy angora goat. A little girl leaned in and I had the shot.

Okay, to be honest, it is hard to ever have a bad day up in the Colorado Mountains, especially when the temperature down on the plains is a scorching mid 90’s °F. Estes Park is located in the Colorado Mountains right at the door of Rocky Mountain National Park, and is a great 90 minute drive for me from my home in Aurora.

Rocky Mountain National Park
Deb and I drove into Rocky Mountain National Park after finishing up at the Wool Market where I got this shot. It was a prefect, perfect, blue sky day.

Deb and I arrived early in the morning at the Wool Market with a definite agenda… buy yarn from Western Sky Knits! Seriously, we made a beeline for that booth as soon as we arrived. The call of fabulous yarn is pretty hard to ignore.

WSK yarn.
See this? A seriously ambitious yarn haul.

I had gone online the night before and made myself a shopping list. I wanted the black, grey, and raspberry yarns as stables for the stash. I had my heart set on more sock kits (cute yarn with the perfect little coordinating skein for the heel and toe) and some brightly colored yarn that would be stripy when knitted for arm warmers and socks. I wanted another speckled yarn to finish putting together a Speckle and Pop shawl. I desperately needed some more painted yarn for another Close to You shawl; one is not enough of these babies. July is right around the corner and I have the Christmas knitting list already fleshed out. I’ve been off the sock knitting pace, but with the right yarn I’m pretty sure that the afterburners will fire and I’ll be mass producing a stack of them before the first snow flake flies. Then there was the yarn kit to make a Faraway, So Close shawl in colors that I know several members of my family will love.

Anyway, some serious yarn shopping occurred. We actually went to the booth twice as I thought it might be a good idea to make one last call there just in case I was missing something… I’m not being defensive, really I’m not. I need all of this yarn desperately, and I’m not apologizing for my addiction one little, tiny, bit. I don’t have a problem, there is no problem here, move along…

Picture
Then there was this picture. You know that this came home with me too. The title is “High Strung”

After touring all of the other vendors it was out for yummy food (lamb kibbe salad and funnel cake!!) that was eaten up on the bleachers in one of the animal barns. As soon as lunch was over we stashed stuff in Deb’s car and then toured the animal pens.

Paco-Vicunas
Not only were there sheep and goats, but also more exotic animals like these paco-vicunas…
Bunny
…and this English angora bunny. Doesn’t he look like he wants all that fur off right away so I can spin it? 

After looking at all the animals we were drawn to some pens of alpacas with fleeces and yarn for sale. Oh, my goodness. There was a perfect, perfect rose grey alpaca fleece that was really nice (but not perfect: it was a second year fleece and grade 2, but really clean) that I just couldn’t resist. My spinning wheel has really been whining lately for some attention. I should just give it some of what it needs. MacKenzie loves fleeces…

Alpaca fleece.
The yarn from this fleece will be just amazing. I can’t wait to get going on it.

I wonder how well this fleece will take dye? I’m thinking sport/DK weight yarn that will be natural, pink, gold, and purple that can be used for colorwork mitts, hats, cowls…

and a little blanket for MacKenzie too, maybe… I know that he will be helping me do all of this.

Have a great week everyone. You can probably guess what I’ll be doing. 🙂

Advertisements

Shawls Update: Good Dog and Bad Cats

Two shawls got finished last week. Check this out:

Shawl #1: Putting on the Dog

My friend Deb had a dog named Jake who was really special. She saved his fur for years when she brushed him, and earlier this year I spun some of the dog down into yarn. I blogged about Jake and the spinning here and this post showed the final yarn.

Oh. It's pretty comfy. Maybe dogs aren't that bad after all...
MacKenzie really liked the finished yarn (which Deb named PuppyPaca)
Shawl in Tree
Look! Here is the finished shawl made with the PuppyPaca. Didn’t it turn out great?
Deb Modeling her Shawl
Here is Deb modeling the finished product. I think that the green really complements the homespun.

Deb has begun her own blog recently where she writes about greyhounds, gardening, and, what else, knitting!! You can visit her site, The Greyt Knitting Frenzy, and see her post about the shawl here.

Shawl #2: Bad Cats

I finished knitting my Random Act of Color shawl late last week and wet blocked it Saturday morning. I really liked how it turn out. Here’s some pics of the final product.

Shawl
Look at how great the colors turned out together. I love the lace, the texture, the colors; a great addition to my cool weather wardrobe.
Edging and Beads
The beads and the edging are nice details, don’t you think?

What I’m not showing in the pictures is the fact that one of my bad, bad, cats got a claw stuck in the shawl (it was safe on the table at the time…), dragged it through the house and managed to pull a TEN FOOT snag of yarn out. Really. I’m not exaggerating. I found it in a crumpled heap at the bottom of the stairs. The cats were hiding.

Damaged Shawl
Proof of cat badness. This is the yarn that I haven’t been able to work back into the shawl.

The pull goes across almost the entire width of the shawl in the final purple lace section. The yarn didn’t get cut, but I’m not too sure how to repair this. I dreamed last night about cutting off the lower section of the shawl, picking up the stitches at the start of the purple section and then re-knitting the last sections. This morning I work up and thought, “Kitchener stitch!” I’m not quite sure how I’m going to deal with this. There may be a way to gradually work the yarn back into the shawl, but I have to balance time vs. frustration. For now I’ve packed it away (to keep it safe from cats and scissors) and moved on to other knitting projects.

You know, knit through all crisis…

MacKenzie Speaks: Abandoned in the Yard

The Mother of Cats has been so boring lately… all she does is spin yarn! The spinning wheel doesn’t like me to mess with it, so my brother and I have been left outside to entertain ourselves.  Alone. In the gardens. It is so hot even the bugs are hiding…

Cat
It could be worse I guess. While she’s inside I have unlimited access to the swinging garden chair. 🙂

My brother Yellow Boy has been sleeping in Darwin’s Garden under the butterfly bush. He’s counting the days until it blooms and the butterflies arrive.

Yellow cat
Was that a butterfly?

The Mother of Cats did take some breaks to work in the gardens. Lots and lots of weeds have been pulled. Some new flowers got planted. She accidentally sprayed Yellow Boy with water. I think it was an accident.

Purple blooms
The purple spiky plant in Darwin’s Garden finally bloomed this week.  Someone, please, tell her the name of this plant!! I don’t think “Darwin’s Bane” is a good name. 
Angelica
She ripped out more of the purple plants and moved over some of this pink angelica. Good luck angelica. Only the strong survive in Darwin’s Garden.

Finally she got the spinning done. Hey, she has been spinning that dog! We have been shoved outside so she could spend time with dog hair? Abandoned for a DOG!! What is up with that!!

I have to admit that this yarn smells pretty interesting.
I do have to admit that this yarn smells pretty interesting…
Yarn
…and the final product (she calls it PuppyPaca) looks pretty good.
Oh. It's pretty comfy. Maybe dogs aren't that bad after all...
Oh. It’s actually pretty comfy. Maybe dogs aren’t that bad after all…

The finished yarn was taken to her friend Deb today and we were left alone again. What is up with all this feline neglect? When will I get the doggy yarn back to sleep on? There was a hailstorm while she was gone and Yellow Boy wailed (not a brave one, that boy) and hid under the bed. The purple plants in Darwin’s Garden all got knocked down…

That's right!
…but she doesn’t call it Darwin’s Garden for nothing. My money is still on the purple spiky plant. Tough luck angelica. 

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • The PuppyPaca is a 50/50 blend of dog down and alpaca. You can learn more about the yarn in this earlier post about Jake and the project to make some yarn from his fur. The final yarn (460 yards) is approximately sport weight. Deb plans to knit a small shawl.
  • If you know the name of Darwin’s Bane, please let me know!!
  • No cats whatsoever were harmed during this week (well, Yellow Boy did get a bath…).

 

Putting On The Dog

This is Jake.

Dog
Isn’t this the sweetest face you ever saw?

Jake was the much loved pet of my knitting friend Deb, and he passed over the rainbow bridge some time back, but due to the foresight of Deb a fairly large bag of his leavings remain. Deb saved the handfuls of fur that she brushed out when he was shedding, and a few weeks ago she passed the bag of doggie down to me to see if I could spin it.

Here’s the problem with dog fur. There are actually two types of hair in that coat: the guard hairs are the beautiful shiny coat that we see, and underneath there is a layer of fluffy undercoat; short, not so shiny, and very warm. While the soft and glossy guard hairs seem like they would spin up into yarn, they are actually too slick and stiff to behave themselves in yarn. They spring right out of the plies and poke like crazy. Bad dog!!

The saved fur that Deb gave me contained a lot of the undercoat layer, but the strands were really kind of short. I decided that the best thing to do would be to pull out as much of the locks of guard hair as I could (sorry Jake!) and then blend the remaining hair/down mixture with another longer fiber like wool or alpaca. Deb liked the look of Jake mixed with alpaca, so that’s what we did.

Alpaca
I had a buff colored alpaca fleece in my stash, so I opened up the locks and ran it through my drum carder to make batts. I split each batt, weighed the amount of fiber and put it into a labeled storage container.
Dog fur
I then cleaned up and made matching containers of dog down (with some guard hairs) that would allow me to create 50/50 blended batts on my drum carder with the alpaca and the dog. Good plan, right?
Loading dog down onto drum carder
To do the blending I took a matched set of alpaca and dog containers to the drug carder to make a new 50/50 batt. The alpaca loaded right onto the drum of the carder with few problems. Jake, however, was too short to feed in so I manually loaded him onto the large drum just like I would if I was working with a blending board. I alternated the alpaca and dog to create layers of each in the batt.
Cat meets dog
MacKenzie was pretty interested in the dog down!
Finished batt
Here’s the final carded product of alpaca/dog blend. The sprig on the batt is cat mint because, well, doesn’t it seem appropriate?

The carding has been going slowly because it has been raining off and on for several days, and if it isn’t warm enough my hands get all cranky. I wanted to work outside as there was waste dropping out of the fibers as I worked; best to keep all that out of the house! I finally got several batts finished late last week and the spinning began.

Drafting
Because the alpaca has longer fiber than the dog down it is really helping me with the spinning. There’s dog down in that drafting triangle but it’s behaving itself very nicely. I am spinning the singles pretty fine (for me); the finished two ply yarn will be between fingering and sport weight.
Singles
Here’s the first yarn on the bobbin. You can just seen the cinnamon colored dog escaping the twisted ply. This yarn will have a halo for sure, but I’m hoping that it won’t shed too badly.

I took the bobbin of yarn to knitting this week to show to Deb, and we pulled off enough to make her a sample of two ply yarn that is about 10 meters long so she can see how it knits. She’s looking at shawl patterns while I continue to spin Jake’s fur into yarn. It’s kind of exciting. We are debating what to call the yarn.

Alpaca-Arf? DoggiePac?

I think that Deb is settling into calling it PuppyPaca.

Beautiful Jake. Forever in Deb’s heart, and soon to be a fabulous shawl.

 

Snowfling Mitts are done!!

…and for the first time in quite a while it isn’t going to snow this weekend. Figures, but who am I to complain. Check these babies out!

Snowfling Mitts
These mitts fit perfectly, are very cushy and warm, and I am so happy with how they came out!
Lining of mitts
and they are lined!! I used superwash merino sock yarn for the lining. 

These mitts are the Snowfling Mitts by Tanis Lavallee. The MJ Yarns American Worsted (the purple painted yarn) was just a little bit smaller in diameter then the Malabrigo Rios (black), so I carried the black yarn in my right hand and the purple in my left while I was knitting the pattern. Since the stitches knit with the left hand are a little larger it all worked out to make a balanced fabric. The American Worsted yarn had a little more twist to it and seemed to be denser, which helped make these mitts really nice and cushy inside where the stands are located. So happy with how it came out. There is just enough room for me to slip a hand warmer into the mitt if I need it.

Here are my project details and notes on Ravelry.

In the middle of the week I mowed my lawn for the very first time this year and took out the lawn furniture. This is a major event; spring has arrived!!

Back yard
Doesn’t this look promising? You wouldn’t know it to look at it but two days before this there was snow all over the grass…  Tomorrow I may go to the nursery to buy some hanging plants for the deck. I’m hopeful that we are done with the snow, but it could still happen. I’m keeping those mittens out for a few weeks before I pack them away to wait the the fall’s first snow.
Drum Carder
Since it was so nice outside I set my drum carder up on the patio table and began working on an alpaca fleece that I’ve been wanting to spin. This fleece is just wonderful. It is sooo soft and the locks opened like a dream. It was a joy to feed it into the carder. 
Cat asleep in alpaca fleece
MacKenzie likes it too!

I’m so happy carding this alpaca I was motivated today to go digging in the fleece stash and found two different wool fleeces that are just amazing grey colors. Wow, my spinning wheel is going to be really, really happy. There is some serious spinning coming his way. I hope that the nice weather holds so I can do most of this carding outside.

Have a great weekend everyone. Happy Mother’s Day!

 

 

Running with my Peeps

If there is a downside to being consumed by a love of all things fiber it is this: it is way too easy to stay at home for days on end knitting, weaving, spinning and just playing in the stash. If it wasn’t for social obligations (my knitting group!) and a need to go grocery shopping from time to time I could stay home happily for endless blocks of time.

Really, that probably isn’t all that healthy. How nice I also get to toddle off to Kaiser on a regular basis to give blood, pick up prescriptions, and to breathe into machines that measure my lung function. 🙂

Okay, enough of that. This is about knitting and all things fiber after all. I’m talking about the major outing that I took last Friday to go to the Interweave Yarn Fest in Loveland, Colorado. I didn’t sign up for any of the workshops this year (but maybe next year!), but I felt that I absolutely had to go up to hit the Marketplace and to meet up with my friends from Alta Vida Alpacas.

You know, a huge marketplace filled with vendors carrying everything your fiber-loving heart can desire is a dangerous place. I handled it by cruising through the whole place and picking up cards from the vendors that stole my heart. I took a little coffee break with the cards, gave myself a little talking to while checking patterns on Ravelry, and then waded back into the marketplace to spend money. This is what happened:

Beads
Hand blown glass beads to make more stitch markers. Guess what people are getting for Christmas this year? These beads are made by a local artist, Bernadette Fuentes. Here is her shop on Etsy.
Project Bag
I’m also giving some of these small project bags suitable for sock and mitt knitting. The strap allows the bag to hang on your wrist while the yarn is safely contained in the bag by the cinched cord. There are also little pockets in the bag for stitch markers and other small essentials. Perfect for knitting while on the go (and waiting to see your doctor…). If you can’t read the card in the picture these bags are by Slipped Stitch Studios.
Roving
Yak and silk handpainted roving. OMG!! I think that they had me at yak!
Roving
Yep. They had me. I had to bring home 4 ounces of the crocus and twilight colorways. These 50/50 yak/silk rovings are by Greenwood Fiberworks.
Button
Then I had to face the great existential question of the fiber day: should I spend $50 dollars for a very special button? These unbelievable objects of beauty are made by Jodie McDougall. Here is her Etsy shop.
Yarn
I was starting to lose a little steam but pulled it together to get these three skeins of baby alpaca and silk from Lisa Souza. The depth of color and feel of these skeins is just amazing. I plan to make an Exploration Station and am still on the hunt for a cream colored silk/alpaca yarn to go with them.
Shawl Pin
I closed out my shopping with this wonderful saggar shawl pin from LickinFlames. The colors are perfect for that shawl that will eventually be made from the Lisa Souza yarns.
Cards
Here are all the cards. I’m saving them with my shopping scores.

Having shopped to my heart’s content I moved out into the atrium to find a comfy chair to knit in while I waited for my friends from Alta Vida Alpacas to get out of their workshops. It was wonderful. Fellow knitters stopped to ask about my Joker and the Thief shawl, and I talked to many people about the hand knits that they wore. I made new friends. I could feel myself recharging with inspiration and enthusiasm as each new person stopped to knit and/or talk with me. Sometimes it is easy to forget that each one of us solitary crafters are members of a huge community, but Friday afternoon as the community flowed around me I was at home with my peeps. What a wonderful, wonderful experience.

Eventually I caught up with my friends: we ate more hummus than is wise and swapped stories, observations, and revelations from the Yarn Fest.  They had just submitted their first batch of fiber to the mill and we made plans for the yarn that will arrive in a few weeks. The online store launch is right around the corner. It is only a few months to the next summer camp; this year we will focus on weaving.

Finally, long after dark I headed home full of energy and plans. I hugged my new fiber finds as I went into the house. What a great outing. What a wonderful time I had. What a wonderful experience with other people who share my interests.

It is good to be with your peeps.

 

 

 

Off My Wheel: Snowfling Yarn

I am still fired up with creative energy. I have been knitting mitts like crazy (boring… I keep making the same mitt pattern over and over in different color yarns. I’ll post a picture when I get a stack of them done!) and got the warp all wound for the dishtowels that I want to weave (yeah – that is another basically boring picture so I’ll just skip post it too…) and even pulled the loom out. I had to move the (sad, neglected and agitated) spinning wheel to get to the loom, and it was hard to not notice that the bobbin on the wheel was half full. I’d started spinning this yarn in early November but put it away when Christmas makes got in the way. The fiber is pretty cool; it is from one giant batt that I had bought last year at the Interweave Yarn Fest. No wonder that wheel is cranky! The batt was his birthday present and I never took the time to finish spinning it.

I sat down yesterday and finished spinning and plying the fiber from the batt. It made two big skeins of worsted weight yarn.

Skeins of yarn
Looking good!! This yarn is pretty hardy – the fiber is a little on the coarse side. The upper skein is a little more orange then the lower one, but they both have a lot of character.
Yarn
See what I mean. I just love the play of the different colors in the final yarn.

I decided that it is a good yarn for outerwear. Since I just froze my fingers while shoveling snow after the last storm (The Snowpacolypse) I am really focused on warm mittens and mitts for my hands. Last week I bought several mitten/mitt patterns on Ravelry, and looking at this yarn I decided that it wanted to become Snowfling MItts. Seriously, that happy color would make rocking snowflakes against a dark background!! Off to dig in the yarn stash I went.

I found three different colors of grey homespun yarn that would work for the project. Here they are:

Charcoal and colored yarns
Contender #1. A nice charcoal yarn made from a sheep named Misty. It is a pretty good match in size but not as crispy a yarn as the colored one.
Grey and colored yarns
This light grey yarn is extremely soft and squishy. It is from the last fleece of a special sheep named Lily. I love the color, but it won’t work for the background against the bright yarn. There is a big difference in the feel of the yarns too.
Black and colored yarn
Bingo! This is it. This black yarn is pretty crisp and hardy feeling and is almost the same weight as the colored yarn. The sheep was the Grand Champion at the Western National Stock Show one year. Beautiful color, long locks of wool, but not as soft a fleece as was expected. It is, however, the exact match to this colorful yarn. 

I just put the spinning wheel away. Today he had lots and lots of exercise. Tomorrow I will wash the new yarn (maybe it will soften up a little?) and get the loom pulled out. Time to warp! Hopefully I’ll get the loom ready for weaving before that yarn is done drying.