Hey, what happened to all of my knitting needles?

Having dyed the most scrumptious yarn ever, I began the hunt for the correct size needles to cast on and knit a cowl to dye for. Little problem, people: I seem to be missing the correct size tips for the project in mind. In fact, there seem to quite a few needles and tips missing… you know what happened next. I went on a UFO hunt.

OK, if you are reading this blog post looking for information on extra-terrestrials, go away. Once I posted an article titled “UFO Hunt” to this blog and generated a lot of activity and even a couple of messages signaling how disappointed people were with the “click-bait” false advertising. Go away right now. I’m not saying that I don’t believe in life out there in the universe, I just want to find the black hole UFO’s that have sucked down those needles!

Oh dear. After about a half hour of tossing the stash and going through baskets, bags, and looking in the car (Hey, you can’t expect me to be caught without something to knit. I always travel with a project!), the following UFO’s were located.

Unfinished Mitts
These mitts came out of one of my project bags. The pink mitts just need their thumbs and finishing, and it looks like I hated thumbs so much I cast on another pair of mitts. Don’t ask. There were two pairs of needles here. 
Unfinished Cowl
and out of another bag came this cowl. OK, it was in the car. Under a blanket. Sorry little guy, I’ll finish you up too. Another needle found, but not the size I’m looking for.
Unfinished Shawl
Wow, I totally forgot about this shawl. This is a Benevolence Shawl that I was knitting in a cotton and alpaca mix yarn for summer. Technically, I still have a week of summer left. Don’t think I’ll make it…
Unfinished Sweater
More needles! This is the start of the Guernsey Pullover from the latest issue of Vogue Knitting. I started it in a rush of longing for fall color during a rainy afternoon. There were several needles in the bin with the sweater, including the size that I needed. Gee, this is going to be a great sweater. It would be nice to get it done before the snow arrives…
Unfinished Shawl
I’m still cranking away on the Jujuy Shawl too. I’m just getting to a wedge that will be all pink… I can’t wait to see what that will look like. 

Well, no wonder I seem to be missing needles. Here they are, all hard at work supporting fiber art life forms struggling to get born.  I need a new queue just to decide which UFO to knit first. I thought about putting the names of the projects on slips of paper in a jar, and then I would just pull out the name of the next project that would get finished. Maybe I should have two jars; one for large projects (sweaters and shawls) and one for small ones (mitts and cowl). Hey, that actually might be a good idea. I could knit small projects on sunny days and large ones on rainy days. It could be a plan. I could even have a jar with the names of projects waiting to be started. Oops. I suddenly had a visual of slips jar hopping from the “waiting” to the “UFO” jars. Might be a problem.

Forget the jars. Don’t you want to know what did I did? I cast on the new alpaca cowl onto those size 6 needles I was hunting for, of course. I have knit for three days like a demon and I’m now coming down the home stretch. Doesn’t it look nice?

Unfinished Cowl
This is the cowl that I was just starting in my last post about crock pot dyeing. Last one started, it will be the first one finished. Typical. Isn’t that why we all have UFOs?

OK, this isn’t a queue, but it is a list of all these poor, neglected UFOs. Here are their project notes on Ravelry:

  1. Scleroderma Mitts – my notes include the pattern.
  2. Hawkshaw Cowl
  3. Benevolence Shawl
  4.  Guernsey Pullover
  5. Alpaca Berry Cowl – my notes include the pattern

Have a good weekend everyone. Hope you all get some knitting done!

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Alpaca Blues: Knits from the Crockpot

I was so happy with the yarn and the sample I  made from my first crock pot dyeing adventure I was empowered to gather up my courage to dye some more yarn. Two more projects have emerged from the crock pot.

A bit of heaven for the head: A few weeks ago I tied together the leftovers of bulky huacaya alpaca left over from earlier hat and mitts and dyed them a darker indigo using the same infusion and no-stir method I employed the first time around. The yarn was nice, but blotchy, so I overdyed it with a little more indigo to even it out. This week I knitted the yarn into a hat. What do you think?

Hat
Here is the hat. Kind of manly, isn’t it? (Okay, that isn’t a shock as this is an adaptation of the Man Hat by Haven Ashley), but I like the feel of it on my head so I started to think about how to infuse a little cute factor…
Yarn and Hat
I had this much yarn left. Hmmm…
Rosette on Hat
Bam! Knitted rosette is just the solution that I was looking for. I found the pattern for this one in Knitting in the Details by Louisa Harding. I’m debating attaching a bead or button to the middle of the rosette. How about something that looks like a bone button? If you are looking for more details the project is here on Ravelry.

The yummiest cowl ever: that went so well I plugged in the pot and added two skeins of premium sport weight alpaca from Alta Vida Alpacas. I have to be honest here; this is the yummiest fiber I have ever handled and it was a little stressful to wet it down, pour some vinegar over it and add the dye. Still, what could go wrong? Worst case, I decided I would just call up Cari at Alta Vida Alpacas and offer to pay for the yarn. There. What’s to worry about?

What a baby I am. The yarn came out fine.

Yarn
Look, look! Not as blotchy as the first dye batch, but still pretty darn appealing. I’m keeping notes about the dye amounts and temperatures in the pot to get a handle on this. It’s fun; just like keeping a science notebook again. 🙂
Swatch and notebook
Since I’m recording notes about the dye efforts in the notebook I planned out the cowl I want to knit in the same location. I am making a cowl like an earlier one I made in this sport weight alpaca yarn. Here is the swatch that I posted about earlier (link at the top of this post); by laying it over the original cowl I was able to figure out the stitch count to make this one. If you’re interested the original cowl is this one on Ravelry.
Knitting
I cast on Friday using the directions for a Moebius cast on by Cat Bhordi online. Since this is a moebius the knitting started in the middle of the garter section and both edges of the cowl get knitted at the same time. I’m in the blackberry stitch now; at the top of the picture the berries are “up” and at the bottom they are “down”. Fun, huh. This yarn is just yummy; it is developing a little bloom as I work. I’m writing down the pattern as I go so I can get it written up when I’m done. What do you all think of my fun little notebook?

I’ve run out of alpaca to dye, but I found some white handspun last night that is temping me. Time to plug in the crock pot again. Wait. I have an old vegetable steamer. Maybe I should paint the yarn this time and put it into the steamer…

Oh, I am having fun now!

Have a good weekend everyone.

Note: I feel that I should mention that I have two crock pots: one is for cooking, and the other is for dyeing. They are in different colors and left in different places so I don’t get them mixed up. If I use the veggie steamer it will be joining the dye crockpot in the garage and won’t be used for cooking any more. Best to always use an abundance of caution.

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…).

 

Alpaca Days

My friends at Alta Vida Alpacas have gotten the first mill run of yarn made from their animals back. Woohoo!! It is Christmas in May! Cari Corley (of AVA) gave me samples to be knit up to help establish some critical characteristics of the yarn: mostly she is concerned with how the knitted fabric will wear, its gauge and the hand of the knitted fabric. They have two types of alpaca on the ranch, Suri and Huacaya, and the sample packages that she passed over the Starbuck’s table to me contained undyed yarn made from both alpaca types. Knit some stuff with this, she said. Like I said, Christmas in May. I quickly stuffed the bags into my knitting tote before she could take them back.

Huacaya alpaca
Look at this guy! The fiber he (she?) produces is to dye for. That’s right, this  fiber will take dye like a charm. The yarn is white right now, but it won’t stay that way for long now that the yarn has arrived.

She gave me some unbelievable Huacaya yarn in a light bulky weight. We decided to knit it into a hat, and the pattern that her husband Dan chose is the Man Hat by Haven Ashley. I knitted it up in a jiffy (OK, it took an evening…) and this is what I got.

As soon as I finished the hat I shot off a selfie of the finished product to Cari. Poor light, yummy hat.

The light isn’t great on this shot because it was late at night (Hello…Midnight Knitter here!) but you can see the details of the hat. I added four rows of K1, P1 ribbing at the bottom as I wasn’t too sure about the elasticity of the yarn. As it turns out, it was not a problem at all. The yarn maintains shape really well and shows the stitch definition through a slight halo. On my head it feels like a cloud of soft warmth. Forget Man Hat; I want this hat. How about dyed a nice red? Should I add a pom pom? A crocheted flower?

There was enough yarn left over from the hat make a mitt (one, only one…) using the same stitch pattern and gauge. Here is the finished set:

Hat and MItt
I need to talk Cari out of enough yarn to make the second mitt… The mitt that I have is like heaven on my hand. 🙂 Ravelry notes are here for the hat and the mitt.

Once I had made the hat (actually, I made a second hat of another run of the bulky yarn that was processed a little differently so that the two yarns could be compared to each other) and the mitt it was time to take on the other yarn that was given to me, a sport weight silky and shiny yarn made from Suri alpaca.

Lace
I decided that this yarn cried out to be made into lace. Since the ranch has pines on the hill by the house I chose the stitch pattern “Fir Cone”. Cool pattern, huh!
Scarf
The yarn is turning into a 7 inch wide scarf that is a joy to knit; once again I’m coming up short on yarn and will have to talk to Cari to get some more so that it can be finished. How long should this scarf be? I’m thinking 60″, but I would love some input.

I steamed the lace to block it a little for the pictures and an amazing thing happened: the yarn bloomed, lost some shine, bulked out a little as it fluffed, and moved way up the softness chart.

Maybe Cari won’t make me give this stuff back.

What color should I dye my new set of alpaca accessories?

 

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!