MacKenzie Speaks: Three UFO are Done!

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Cat
The Mother of Cats says it is fall now, but it is still nice and warm out here in the garden. I love the garden.
Leaves
The leaves on the maple tree are starting to turn funny colors, so maybe she is right about fall. Look at that!

The weather has been cooler this week and she has been sitting outside with us knitting away on the projects that she is calling the UFO pile. Yellow Boy is worried that UFOs are a new kind of bug, and has been hunting for them at the back of the house, but I’m pretty sure it’s stuff with yarn. I love yarn!

Hawkshaw Cowl
This thing called a cowl was done first. I really like this yarn… so cushy to squish with my paws, and the absolutely best chomping size. She calls it worsted. Whatever.
Cat
The finished cowl is just the right size for a little sleeping pad. For some reason she took it away from me and put it into a storage box to wait for winter. Bad, Mother of Cats, bad!!  

She has also been knitting some of the nice yarn that came from Alta Vida Alpacas. She dyed this yarn in her crock pot, and no matter how many times I visit her in the knitting chair she absolutely, positively will not let me play with it. She says that it is special. Hey, I’m special! I think that she needs to pays better attention to her priorities. Cats should come first!

Alpaca Cowl
So, the cowl got done without much help from me. It’s a Moebius, what ever that is. She says it means that as you hang it around your human neck and fold it the little blackberries are all facing up.
Cat paw on yarn
I like the little blackberries….
Cat snoozing on cowl
They are really, really nice and soft to take a snooze on. I need lots of sleep. Taking care of the Mother of Cats is exhausting.

Finally today she got a third project finished and took it outside to take her little pictures. Yellow Boy and I were completely ignored while she tried hanging her shawl in different places in the yard. She hung it in the tree, on the fence, across the garden bench, and on the deck. I’d like to mention that the deck is totally my territory…

Shawl
I tried to help her as much as I could. It’s not my fault that she tripped over me by the tree: she should be more careful! I tried to help her arrange the shawl on this garden bench, but she chased me away and put one of the stupid garden plants there instead. 
Close-up of Lace
Then she put it on the deck for a shot of the lace. Do you see my paw? No, you don’t. She wouldn’t let me stand on it. Don’t you think that this shawl would look better with a cat?
Shawl and Cat
There. That’s what I’m talking about. Don’t I look nice?

She is so happy to have these projects done and has been collecting up all the knitting needles back into their storage cases again. I’m so glad that I could help her. I’m such a good boy!

Can I have a cookie now?

The Mother of Cats would like to mention that the the project notes for her little UFOs can be found on Ravelry:

 

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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.

Seven Happy Shawls

Okay, July was a month that I am glad to see go out the door. I did have some great moments in the month; my sister and niece came to visit, I worked at the summer camp at Alta Vida Alpacas, and I spun my friend Deb’s beloved Jake dog into yarn. Good highlights!

Collage of July
Highlights of July. In the group photo of my family we are (clockwise from the top left) me, my cousin Ruth Ann, my sister Selma, and my niece Melissa.

On the flip side, I lost a war with an invasive weed in one of my gardens and my autoimmune conditions went into high gear. For the first time ever I was unable to sleep due to pain (what is up with my joints and muscles?!), gastritis returned after being good for two years, my Sjogren’s flared (!!) and my lips turned blue. Ugh. I blame the heat and the sun.

Now it is August, I’m on oxygen full time, meds have been changed, and I’m in need of a little cheer. Shawls, I need shawls!! The way things are going right now I want to be wrapped in color. Shawls will give me color, texture, lots of mindless knitting, and defiance in the face of medical adversity. I hit the stash, printed patterns from Ravelry, made my shopping list and when I went on the knitting road trip with my peeps last week I scored everything I needed. May I present to you, Seven Happy Shawls…

Shawls and Yarn
Shawl patterns matched with my yarn. Top row: Antkarkis Shawl (photo credit to Janina Kallio)  Middle row: Rainbow Warrior (photo credit to Casapinka) Bottom Row: A Random Act of Color (photo credit to Mina Phillip)

How is this for cheerful defiance! I was really torn about which one to start on, but I’m leaning towards Antarktis.

Shawls and Yarn
Shawls and yarn match by column from left to right. Far left column: Exploration Station (photo credit to westknits). Left middle column: Jujuy (photo credit to Rafael Delceggio) Middle right column: Tamdou (photo credit to Melanie Berg). Right column: The Miller’s Daughter (photo credit to Melanie Berg).

More defiance. This should keep me going in good cheer until the end of the year. I’m torn about the order to knit them; they are all just too yummy for words.

Shawl Kits
Here they are: seven shawls all kitted up waiting to go. I put the pattern into the box with each yarn, and I’ve already wound the yarn for the top three shawl contenders.

All right August, I am ready for you. Let’s go!!

Notes:

  • My Ravelry queue can be located here if you would like more information about these patterns and the yarns that I have selected.
  • I downloaded Fotor for Windows to make some photo collages instead of posting a million pictures. What do you think? I think that you can also make stuff online. It was free, free, free!!

 

Alpaca Dreams: Mill Bag #1

Several weeks ago my friends at Alta Vida Alpacas gave me a few skeins of the yarn made in the first mill run of their fiber. I knit some hats and a pair of mitts with the bulky yarn that came from their Huacaya alpaca, and put off working with the sport weight Suri alpaca yarn for a couple of weeks. This was the yarn that they labeled Mill Bag #1: it was soft, slinky, amazing. It just had to be knit in some type of lace pattern, but what?

I played with different ideas and lace patterns, and finally settled on making a scarf in fir cone pattern. You can check out my early efforts at my earlier post Alpaca Days; I finally finished the scarf last week and with no further ado, here it is…

 

Scarf
Here she is in all her glory hanging on my front tree. The yarn gives this scarf an amazing feel.
Stitch detail
Here’s a close-up of the fir cone stitch.

I still had a half skein of the yarn left after finishing the scarf; just enough to make a swatch for another scarf/cowl idea. Cari from Alta Vida foolishly told me I could dye the yarn if I wanted. Hmmm… how brave did I feel? I decided that I was only a little bit brave, but I did want to see how the fiber looked with some color variation. I decided to kettle dye the yarn with my Gaywool indigo colored dye.

Dyeing yarn
I put the soaked yarn into a crockpot and added a dilute dye solution in several different spots with a syringe. After the first infusions of color had spread through the yarn (and the temperature was close to the simmer) I added a second round of dye solution infusions. See, not very brave. Some variation in color, but only with one color in the pot. Call me a dye baby…
Dyed Yarn
Here is the finished yarn. By the time the yarn was all dry I had decided to make a swatch of a moebius scarf pattern that I had knitted before in a variegated yarn. Cari and I had talked about a scarf that could also be a cowl. This might be the ticket if the yarn looked nice in the pattern.
Knitted Fabric
Swatch! Look at how cool the color is: just a little pooling.  Since this is a swatch for a moebius I did a provisional CO in the middle of the central garter area, and then knit one side “up” and the other side “down”.
Trinity Stitch
There is trinity stitch on both sides of the scarf/cowl. This is the “up” side…
Wrong side of trinity stitch
…and this is the “down” side showing the wrong side of the trinity stitch.

The yarn is just crisp enough to make the little bobbles in the trinity stitch pop up while still feeling incredibly soft. I think the two sides of the pattern look kind of cool and complementary (and luckily for me, so did Cari!), and as the cowl will be folded and doubled around the wearer’s head both sides of the pattern will be visible no matter how it is folded. The beauty of a moebius is that there is no wrong side and you can just put it on and rock it.

Cari gave me two more skeins of Mill Bag #1 yarn to make the full cowl. I get to dye them, too.

Gosh, this is going to be fun to knit.

Alpaca
Alpacas: You all take good care of that fiber, you hear?

They just sheared their alpacas two weekends ago. I wonder how long it will take for the new batch of yarn to come back from the mill?

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?

 

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.

 

 

 

Alpaca Farm Days at Alta Vida Alpacas

A few months ago I ran into someone I knew from my last job, Cari Corley, while cruising the booths at the Interweave Yarn Fest. What a shock; she had an alpaca ranch!! She practically had me at hello; a few minutes into the conversation I had volunteered a set of drop spindles and offered to help at her summer camp for special needs kids. The summer camp was great. One thing has led to another over the last few months. I began to design and knit mitts for them and we have plans for many other patterns and projects. Cari had me put the dates for Alpaca Farm Days into my calendar and I began to realize that this was an event.

Cat at Comptuter
Last week Cari and I worked late into the night while we edited the patterns for our mitts via e-mail. MacKenzie was extremely helpful during this editing process…

Last weekend was Alpaca Farm Days. Oh, my goodness!! Who knew that events such as this existed?

This really was farm days!! The Corleys had a sign out on the highway inviting people to visit the ranch. There was a steady stream of cars onto the property
This really was farm days!! The Corleys had a sign out on the highway inviting people to visit the ranch. There was a steady stream of cars onto the property bringing loads of friends and strangers who wanted to see the animals. This pen contains “the boys”, the young male alpacas who aren’t yet ready to mix things up with the stud males. The black and white llama is their guard animal.
stuff
There was a sweet little shelter and farm store that offered information about alpacas, bags of alpaca food, and alpaca-related products for sale such as yarn, scarfs and hats. There were little kits with yarn and beads made up with the patterns that Cari and I had created along with knitted samples. There was also home-baked cookies and free water for all.
Boys and alpaca
The pasture containing the alpaca moms and crias was open for everyone to enter. For all the kids it was a dream come true!
Girl feeding alpaca
The kids all bought little bags of alpaca food…
stuff
which was greatly appreciated by the animals! There is a sheep pushing in for her share too in this picture. Why did I not get taken to event like this while I was a child. This is way better then a petting zoo!

The two days were extremely busy. While the kids fed and petted the alpaca the adults asked questions about alpacas. Many were interested in how to acquire their own stock. Others wanted to find out about alpaca yarn, fleece and finished products such as the woven scarfs and the knitted mitts. I sold my first mitt and pattern, and gave my name to the knitter in case she needs help. The little stuffed toy alpacas were all sold out and many people took away wicker balls full of alpaca fiber for birds to use as nesting material in their yards.

Everyone learned more about the ranch and Alpaca Partners. It was extremely successful (but tiring!). At the end of the day Sunday Cari began to talk about organizing Saturday morning craft days and holding another farm day event in a couple of months when the weather get colder and we begin to near the holidays. That is the best part about Alta Vida Alpacas; not only are they raising alpacas as a business, there is a serious commitment to serving and interacting with the community.

Oh, boy! I took home a case of fabulous yarn to start knitting more mitts.

Time to cast on. Fall is coming fast!