The Saturday Update: Weeks 51 & 52

Can you believe it, this most horrible of years is almost behind us. Whew! I am planning to do an overview of the whole terrible year next week, but right now let’s talk about the Christmas crafting.

Hannah: did you all have fun? I got new toys, tore open presents that weren’t mine and played with all of the papers after presents were opened. It was great!!

I have been crafting along for weeks and not talking about any of it because… presents!! Now that everything has been safely sent off and received here is the whole present overview.

Knitting

I knitted some super warm socks for my sister, made a little mouse for a cousin (with a sweater for him to wear on cold nights raiding the pantry), and a couple of Christmas gnomes for another cousin. The socks are Snowshoe (Emily Foden) socks, the Little Mouse in a Sweater is another Claire Garland design, and the gnomes are Here We Gnome Again by Sarah Schira.

Quilting

I have been working in the evenings on an art quilt that is a present for one of my sons. This son likes to fly fish, so the quilt is a good fit for him. I started the quilt in the spring, but put it away for a few months because of Hannah action that was going on while I was working on the quilt. Now that she is a little older I’m having more success working in the sewing room, but it is still a little stressful.

Hannah: I’m quality help!!

Hannah is still involved in every thing that I’m doing. She bounces around the room climbing in the garden shelves, pulling scraps of fabric out of the trash, stealing the pin cushion, tunneling under loose fabric left out, and closely watching every move of the sewing machine. In situations like these safety protocols are everything: I turn off the sewing machine every time I get up from it and place the steam iron behind a closed door while I’m not using it. Okay, I unplug the iron too. Hannah is really clever at getting into things… Thankfully she understands that she can’t get up on the ironing board now. She also will settle down and nap in artfully placed open boxes with tissue paper in them.

Finally, late Christmas Eve, Hannah and I got the quilt top finished. Oh, you can’t see the quilt’s features with Miss Hannah all over it? It’s hard to make out because it is upside down? Let me show off some of the details…

There is a fisherman casting his lure out over the water with the fish leaping up on the next panel to bite it. There are little bear cubs and a moose walking through aspen trees. Altogether the quilt is a four block wall hanging that I hope will look nice in my son’s new home. I still need to get this quilt top assembled with the batting and the backing, and then there needs to be lots and lots of quilting as I outline each of the little pieces of fabric. I told my son that the quilt is coming, and it (Hannah willing) should be done in another couple of months. This quilt is a Pine Needles (McKenna Ryan) design and its name is Calling Me Home.

Sliptravaganza

I’ve been working on Slipstravaganza for so long I have kind of stopped talking about it as it slipped into the background. In the wee hours of Christmas morning I finally finished casting off the shawl and took a fast snapshot of it in the dim light of my bedroom. Look at all that texture and detail!! Today I blocked it (with Hannah’s help) and as soon as it dries it is going to become my main winter wrap! This is a huge shawl, very showy, but also extremely comfy to wear because of the shape. Did I mention that the white main color yarn is a cashmere blend? This is just perfect for snuggling on cold winter days.

This shawl is made of yarns that I have loved and hoarded for years. Really, I have held onto a couple of these skeins for a decade because the exact right project never came around… when I love a yarn it has to go to a project worthy of it, right?! The pink yarn was bought several years ago on a trip to the Estes Park Wool Market in Estes Park, Colorado. Every time I look at it I smile thinking about the sheep and alpaca I saw that day, not to mention lamb barbeque, cinnamon pecans, and a fabulous day in the mountains! The gold yarn is a silk/yak/merino blend that I bought at a pop-up shop set up in a Boulder, Colorado yarn store that is now closed. I learned to spin and weave in that shop (Shuttles, Spindles & Skeins) and this special yarn is forever linked to that store. Also, I just love the glow of this gold yarn!! The purple I bought in a shop in Arvada, Colorado while visiting yarn stores along the front range of the Rockies as I participated in Yarn Along the Rockies, an annual shop hop in my area of the state of Colorado. How much fun a shop hop is… you pile into cars with your friends, throw caution to the winds as you use Google Maps to navigate through shadowed mountain roads and strange towns to discover a new gem of a yarn store. Inevitably you end up at a great lunch location to swap stories and shopping scores with your friends before heading out again on the hop. Good times!! Needing a yarn to pull these three together I bought two skeins online at Hue Loco (Loveland, Colorado) earlier this year. This shawl is something of a celebration of my well fed and nourished yarn stash as it also showcases the Colorado fiber artists whose work it incorporates. How ironic, at the end of this year that I have spent isolating alone with my pandemic kitten, I have completed this knitted piece of wearable art made from the yarns of my state, acquired as I traveled around it in happier days before I was diagnosed with my autoimmune diseases and Covid-19 appeared in our world. Soft and warm, heavy with happy memories, I am armored against the world outside.

Have a great week, everyone!!

Please stay safe.

Read a little, knit a little, and garden like your heart can’t live without it.

And wear your mask!!

Embracing the Sock Blank

Last month I went to the Estes Park Wool Market and scored some great additions for the stash; most intriguing were the sock blanks that I found in the Bonkers Handmade Originals booth. They were single stranded, so suitable for mismatched mitts and socks, or maybe for a little shawl. Hmm…  I bought two of them.

Sock Blank and Mitt
You know that I had to cast on right away. Look, look: a mitt! I started knitting right off the blank and thought that the kink in the yarn would contribute to the funkiness. OK, the fabric is wonky, but I like it. It’s rustic, right?

I have to be honest here. As soon as I had satisfied my burning curiosity about how the yarn would knit up I stuffed the project into a bag where it languished out of sight for a few weeks.

Then I went up to Shuttles, Spindles & Skeins in Boulder Colorado three weeks ago to get some more bobbins for my current weaving project and I saw these stacked in a pile of yumminess right by the front door:

Sock Blanks
Oh, my goodness. Look at those colors! These babies are from The Hummingbird Moon. You know that I was unable to resist casting on a sock right away since I am completely lacking in will power. Luckily I have several pairs of 2.25mm needles hanging out in my knitting bag.

Sock Blank
This sock blank was single stranded, so I knew that my pair of socks wouldn’t be an exact match, but after the first rush of knitting had worn off I took a better look at the blank to see if I could understand the dyeing pattern.  Hey, look at that! The blank had been folded lengthwise at the midpoint and the two halves are mirror images of each other. There must be a way to get two matching socks from this blank.

Cutting the sock blank.
I cut the blank at the midpoint, pulled out a long runner, cut it off and I had the two halves separated. Easy, peasy. I wound the bottom half into a ball using my ball winder.  Because of the way the blank was dyed the yarn that I wanted to start the new sock with (the bottom of the blank) was on the outside of the ball of wound yarn.

Ball of yarn and the blank.
Since I had already started one sock from the blank I had to cast on the second sock off the ball of yarn onto ANOTHER set of needles (hey, I’m an addict. I have lots and lots of needles…) and as soon as I had the second sock (from the ball of yarn) the same length as the first one I transferred it to the needles the first sock was on.

TAAT socks and patient cat.
Bam! I now had TAAT socks going on one set of needles. As always, MacKenzie was supervising my work.

Socks
From then on I worked off the ball and my half-blank. Look at how well the socks are matching up. I want to mention that if I had figured out the dye pattern sooner I could have wound both halves of the blank into balls; to make matching socks the trick would have been to knit from the outside of one ball and the inside of the other.

I did run into some issues when I got to the heel gussets; I had to use an extra needle (one for each sock heel) to handle all of the stitches during the gusset decreases. Once the stitch number was down to a reasonable number I was able to transfer stitches back to the original needles and finished up with no problems.

Finished Socks.
These are the first TAAT socks that I have ever done. I just love them! This simple vanilla sock pattern is Dave by Rachel Coopey. My Ravelry notes are here.

Flush with the success of the socks I pulled back out the mitts that I had started with the first sock blank that I got from Bonkers. This blank didn’t have a reversed dye pattern so I just went ahead and made mitts that are complementary but not identical.

Mitts
Here they are. These two will play well together but aren’t perfect matches. The fabric is a little funky so I put them into the sink this afternoon to soak for a while to see if the knitting will even out. They fit well when I try them on, so I’m sure all will be well after blocking. I haven’t woven in the ends yet as I thought that might be better done after blocking. My Ravelry notes are here.

I still have two blanks to play with, but as of today I have absolutely no projects on my needles at all; MacKenzie’s WIP basket is empty again. It’s kind of crushing. I have the yarn for three sweaters all lined up, but I’m torn about which one to start on. Should I start the artsy Stephen West Marled Magic sweater that will be very labor intensive, or should I just go for the easy knitting of another drijfhout in a single color? Then there is the crazy colored yarn that I bought for that I See Spring sweater by Joji Locatelli…

Time to start winding yarn. Good thing I am a knitting addict with a lot of needles on hand!

Crawling Along the Rockies…

It’s been a while since my last post. It has been really busy: more doctor appointments, a new drug (CellCept) to adjust to, and an infection that just refuses to die no matter how many antibiotics I swallow. I’m working hard at knitting up mitts and writing patterns for Alpaca Farm Days. The garden is suffering in the heat and cries to be watered. I’m way behind on my book reading. The cats are shedding in the heat and coating the house with hair. Then there was Yarn Along the Rockies

What is Yarn Along the Rockies you ask?

Just the biggest event of the knitting calendar year in this part of the world!  We are talking about  a yarn tour with a tote bag, a passport, free goodies and patterns. A chance to meet new friends, crawl along with old ones, and visit unique yarn stores with unknown, hidden but possibly fabulous treasures. If ever there was a time to learn how to use the GPS function of your cell phone, this was it!

The event is held over 9 days and involves 23 yarn shops up and down the front range of Colorado. One shop is up in the mountains. There are people who manage to complete the tour in the first weekend by driving like maniacs and dashing in and out of stores without really looking at the goodies. Whatever. I am not one of those folk. I wanted to savor the tour, discover new yarns and patterns,  make new friends, and locate some great stores. I split the tour into 4 different sections and drove a different section each day. Here’s how Yarn Along the Rockies works:

Passport.
Every participant of the tour carries a passport with them. Each yarn store stamps the passport when you arrive in their shop. Most of the stores had a free pattern for a knitted project and several also gifted us with goodies like stamps, stitch markers, and coupons. At the end of the tour the passport is left with the last store to enter it into the drawing for the five grand prizes. (Baskets with hundreds of dollars of yarns and notions!!)

Bag with buttons
Almost every person on the crawl had one of these canvas tote bags. Each shop gave us a button to put on the bag to record our progress. Cool! A lot of us bought things and stuffed them into the bags while we worked our way along the tour. Even more cool!!

Stitch markers.
You also received stitch markers at each 6th shop. The green marker was for completing the tour. If all this wasn’t enough incentive to lure knitters onto the tour there were also drawings for gift baskets stuffed with yarn, patterns and goodies at each individual shop. 

You can see how I got pulled into this. This isn’t a yarn crawl, it’s an adventure!! I tried to make a shopping plan for myself; I took patterns for future projects with me and decided on a shopping budget. Whatever. Sometimes it is best to just surrender to the experience. Here is what I ended up with.

Yarn
I found this Serenity by Zen Yarn Garden at Mew Mew’s Yarn Shop. This is DK weight cashmere/merino yarn that is just begging to become winter fingerless mitts. Can’t you just feel the cashmere through the computer screen? This yarn feels wonderful!! I feel better about winter already. 🙂

Shelter Yarn
I could not walk out of Fancy Tiger Crafts without some of this Shelter by Brooklyn Tweed. I’m going to knit a winter sweater for myself that will be warm and wonderfully comfy. I decided on the Daelyn Pullover for my pattern.

Yarn and mitt pattern
The cute pattern for Tea Time MItts was a free one at Needleworks by Holly Berry if you bought the silk/wool blend yarn. Of course I bought it!

Sock yarn.
My last stop on the tour was Shuttles, Spindles and Skeins in Boulder, Colorado where I found a big display of MJ Yarns. The display was enough to stop me in my tracks. This stuff is Opulent Fingering yarn. Cashmere, check! Nylon, check! Happy feet this winter, check! This put me over my budget, but I’m talking about my (poor, blue colored, Raynaud’s suffering) feet here, people! Socks happen!!

So that was the tour. 9 days. 23 shops. 2 tanks of gas and a shopping budget blown to bits.

What more could any shopping knitter hope for? Oh yeah. The drawing for the grand prize is tomorrow. What will I do with all that yarn if I win?

Hey everyone. I’ll have a big giveaway!! Keep your fingers crossed for me. 🙂

 

 

 

Spin the Camelids!!

Saturday was a huge outing for me and my spinning wheel. The wheel has been sulking for weeks, but when I strapped it into the car Friday night it perked right up. Saturday morning we headed up to Boulder, Colorado for a class in how to prepare, spin and blend camelid fibers. We started out with half an hour of travel time to spare. Right. We got caught in traffic (An accident? Construction? I never figured it out, but we were stuck on the road for more than a half hour…), struggled to find a parking spot with enough space to allow me to safely pull the wheel out of the car, and then when I finally got the wheel safely to the ground it immediately fell apart.  Parts rolled away across the asphalt. Sigh. Not the best of beginnings.

Look, any day spent in Boulder (which is right at the foot of the Rocky Mountains) is a good day.  I patched the wheel back together and rolled off towards the class with excitement in my heart. The wheel was almost besides itself in anticipation of meeting other members of its species. We were late, but Boulder is one of those places where time is sort of flexible. This was going to be a day in the shadow of the Rockies spent in a yarn store (Shuttles, Spindles & Skeins) spinning exotic fibers with other people who think it is more important to have cool homemade yarn than a new car. In other words, a seriously good time!! OK, I’m a little bit of a fiber geek, but let me tell you, on Saturday I was with my peeps!!

Spinning Book
This class was taught by Chris Switzer who raises these animals (with her husband) on their ranch in the mountains north of Boulder. In the class we learned how to prep, blend, and spin all of these fibers.

Camel fiber
Camel!! This was prepared roving as the fleece is FULL of nasty and pokey undesirable guard hairs. This camel was a dream to spin. I’m in love. I need to get me some of this!!

Chris also had bison fiber for us to spin. Very nice. Very soft. A ton of work to prepare as the original fleece is uber hairy. You will never look favorably on hay and vegetable matter again after a few hours struggling to get it out of the undercoat that is the spinnable fiber. Chris’s advice: if someone offers to gift you with a bison fleece, decline. 🙂

Fleece
Alpaca fiber prep entailed steps that I didn’t anticipate. You need to de-hair the fleece  before you open the locks for carding. Carding has to be done very gently using fine carders. Washing is optional before spinning unless it is obviously dirty (well, they are animals…) This alpaca fleece has some guard hairs that can be seen at the tips of the locks. If you grasp the hairs and hold the lock in your other hand they can just be pulled out.

Guard hairs from alpaca fleece.
Here’s the hair pulled from three of the locks. Once removed the fiber in the locks can be gently opened up from the base.

Alpaca
Look at all the colors of natural alpaca!

Me spinning
By the end of the class my spinning wheel had fallen in love with me again. New parts are now on order.

I really learned a lot. Suddenly I feel like I could successfully spin that paco-vicuna that I bought two years ago. My spinning wheel is practically hopping up and down to get started (even though it really needs its new part installed before we do that; right now the flyer falls off without warning). I felt so positive about all of this I pulled down the alpaca fleece that I had stored in the garage since 2007 (gasp!) and took a really good look at it.

Alpaca fleece
Look at these locks! There doesn’t seem to be very many guard hairs at all. Woohoo!! It is so clean that I won’t need to wash it before spinning. The locks I pulled out to open fluffed right out into a little rolag. I think I was very lucky in this purchase as I didn’t really know what I was doing when I bought this fleece.  

The fleece is mostly light caramel colored with some cream patches. I may even play with dyeing it. Chris really stressed being gentle in the preparation of these fibers since they are easily broken, and favored hand carders and spindles, but I’m going to made the drum carder work somehow. I’ll be using the spinning wheel, too, as with my scleroderma-hands the less I stress them the better it is. Still, I feel empowered to experiment and super-soft yarn of the paco-vicuna and alpaca variety is right around the corner. Thanks Chris! It was a great class!

Cat on fleece.
Of course I’ll have to spin while the cats are outside. MacKenzie moved into my fleece about 2 minutes after I pulled it from the storage crate. 🙂