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Rhinebeck 2012

October 23, 2012

I’m definitely out of the habit of bringing cameras to sheep fairs – I think I’ve posted so many photos over the years that the weight of a camera, not to mention the challenge of photographing things when jammed into a crowd, has made me glad to drop the plan.  I took a few photos this year with my phone, though, which might be fun.

The first one I took was of a Soay sheep, not something I’ve run across before.  Too bad it didn’t come out too well…

Emmy got a monkey in a palm tree from the balloon man.

We visited the Roosevelt estate, saw an exhibit of photos and audio, stopped by the gravesite, and looked at the outside of the house.

The weather was great this year, if a little warm, and the row of trees right at the nexus of the fairgrounds (near the food) was beautiful.  I felt happy every time I looked at them.

I bought just a few things.  Soay roving from Spirit Trail (it seems to have been a day for running across Soay stuff), an eight-ounce hank of pretty yak/merino/silk spinning fiber from the Sheep Shed, a four-ounce braid of merino/silk spinning fiber from the Tsarina of Tsocks, and some things from Lisa Souza:  one hank of cashmere/silk yarn in the Casbah colorway (must become something to go around my neck), four ounces of BFL fiber in Joseph’s Coat for something bright, and a skein of Sock! in North Sea for socks for Emmy.

It was a good weekend.

From sheep to shawl

May 7, 2012

Yesterday four of us from my local spinning group did one of those insane things called a Sheep to Shawl competition, at Maryland Sheep and Wool.  Here is how it works.

You leave your house at 0-dark:30 to be able to drive into the fairgrounds and unload much equipment (including a warped loom) into a tent and get your car back out again, and be at the figurative starting line at 8am.

At 8am, the shearer you’ve recruited comes and grabs the sheep you’ve recruited and drags her off to be sheared.  You follow.  When the judge has examined the newly shorn sheep and the pile of greasy fleece and given approval, you grab that fleece and shove it in a basket and run for your battle stations.

After that, it’s nose to the figurative greasy grindstone for a couple of hours.

We chose to flick the locks and spin them that way.  The team beside us (who were the winners and obviously were total pros at this) all sat down on their mat and began carding like madwomen, until they had enough rolags to produce the entire quantity of weft they needed.

We brought antique Canadian production wheels, and made a gesture toward costuming with blue skirts, white shirts, shawls, and straw hats.  You can see a few pictures of us at work here, and I hope there will be more to be found.

Here’s one someone just sent me!  Thanks!

I did get a picture of our finished product before we turned it in.  We placed fifth out of seven which is not bad for novices I think.  We got lots of ideas for what to do differently, by watching the teams who did better.  If you give us a week to recover, you might hear us say we want to do it again!

My homemade bobbin winder

January 28, 2012

While we wait for Jan to come home from Hawaii with some beautiful photos, I thought I’d post pictures of my homemade bobbin winder.  While I’d love to have one of those Swedish things with the tapered metal shaft, I can’t bring myself to pay $80 for one, so after the loom came to live with me a year ago I set about improvising a way to wind bobbins.

The Swedish winders remind me of nothing so much as the hand drills my dad had in his tool box, to use when an electric drill would be overkill, so I possessed myself of one of them ahead of time.  Everything else, I had around the house.

The dowel is 1/4 inch.  I’d love to get a fatter one and sand it to taper, but that’s not on the short term action list!  The C clamp was already here because I use it with my English combs.  The piece of wood was painted by Emmy at some point.

I started by drilling holes on the handle into the wood to attach it.  Because of the tapered shaping of the handle, I put a shim under one of the screws to get it to be steady.

I put some electrical tape on the end of the dowel up against the drill chuck, so I could ram the bobbin onto something to hold it in place.

At the other end is a rubber grommet that I push tightly against the bobbin to assist it in staying put instead of revolving uselessly on the dowel.

By paying close attention to what I’m doing, and adjusting the tension on the drive band of the wheel I’m winding off of, I can get some reasonably well packed singles.  This bobbin is one of my Kromski ones that works on my tensioned kate, but I can also wind onto large-size plastic storage bobbins.

For winding the small bobbins for the boat shuttles, I’ve turned to a $6 battery-powered drink mixer that I got on Amazon (I saw this tip on someone’s blog somewhere), but this works well for everything else.

Knitting, Spindling and Playing with Fleece

November 27, 2011

(… welcome to our new home.  Not sure how much action there will be here, but at least we aren’t going to be forcing Liz to pay hosting fees for us anymore!)

Jan here–Welcome to the new KnitMe home!

I am going to start my posts off  by giving you a galloping run-through of my knitting year. Mostly it was about pushing boundaries and learning new things.

This spring I did some…um…educational knitting.

I am not a sweater knitter. So I started the year by knitting the wonderful Burnside Vest. There are so many sizes in the directions that it was easy to convert the DK pattern to Lambs Pride worsted in Sandy Heather (right). I promptly learned how much a heavy, softly spun singles in a dense fisherman’s stitch pattern, knitted at the recommended ball band gauge, can grow… and grow.

So I reknitted, same yarn (in Golden Oak) and same pattern conversion, but using needles two sizes smaller than the ball band recommendation. The red sweater is my everyday comfortable turtleneck. The negative ease gives the vest a pleasant body hugging fit, and the gorgeous gansey pattern pops.

After making knitting progress, I pushed my spinning horizons.

I worked the exercises in the Fine Spinning Workbook  by Liz Lovick. I spun Romney roving dyed by a local indie dyer. I figured it was high time I learned park & draft, and I spun and plied the singles with some of my beautiful  Bosworth  spindles.

After several sessions of  being a tense and overthinking klutz,  I relaxed (score a major lesson from the workbook!), and found that I too, could spin a variety of thicknesses.

Handspun Romney various thickness

From cushy fat…


Cushy fat Romney

To fair-to-middlin’ midweight…

Fair to middling skinny

To some really, Really, REALLY  skinny singles…

Skinny Romney singles

…which I have not yet mustered the nerve to ply, because she who plies it will have to knit it. Someday.

Next I put my new skills to work for the 2011 Tour de Fleece.

Since the hardest thing for me to learn from the workbook exercies had been to spin a thick singles,  I decided to spin fat yarn from skinny yarn fiber for the Tour. My fiber was Brown Sheep 100% wool Mill Ends from Detta’s Spindle, and again I used my spindles. The wool is very fine, perfect for laceweight, but but a challenge to spin thick and still retain softness. My smooth-spinning Bossies helped a lot. I made…

Singles for a marled yarn…

…and a heathered 2-ply yarn from a more thoroughly color-blended section of the roving.

It worked! I can do it! I will go back to the workbook and focus on the fine spinning another day. Meanwhile…

The payoff is:  A cushy handspun hat and neckscarf.

I knitted them in two days in December, using the Design Your Own Hats pattern available from Northern Lace’s Ravelry store. Bring on the cold! I am going to love wearing this.

Hat and scarf from TdF handspun

In addition to knitting, I played with fleece.

This summer I washed several fleeces of new-to-me sheep  breeds. The transformation from more or less grimy outdoor animal coat to shining wool is always amazing, but by far the most ethereal  was the Jacob lamb from Lazy Pi Farm. I laid out the intact fleece on the kitchen floor, and kept the  locks in strict order as I washed and dried them. The delicate lamb curls, the subtle shifting colors, and the translucent glow make this fleece a piece of art. It needs no embellishment.

Entry 400 360! and Maryland Sheep and Wool

June 6, 2011

Due to blog move and housecleaning, not entry 400 anymore… all previous citations of comment numbers of entry numbers are now inaccurate…

Another Sheep and Wool has come and gone. I bought just a few things, I tried to be very good this year.

In back, 8 ounces of BFL/tussah from Bullen’s Woolens. I bought some of this last year and it’s lovely, I had to have more. Then, one 4 ounce braid of, yes, BFL from Mss Babs. I would have bought a second one if she’d had a match but that was the only one. One skein of sock yarn that I bought at Cloverhill – I think it’s Unique Sheep but I don’t remember for sure. It has a cute little line drawing of a sheep in purple on the label. And there is a lock of the fleece I bought, a five pound silver Border Leicester. I’m washing and combing it myself, it was a very good price too.
This was the top item on my shopping list, a purpleheart boat shuttle from the Bosworths.

It has a lovely, slightly matte finish compared to my two Leclerc shuttles, and some weight to it.
I went a little crazy and entered five things in the skein and garment competition. It’s a good thing I did. The two best spinners I know from around here didn’t enter anything this year.
My last entry, almost an afterthought, was a skein of 2 ply in a sort of laceweight, spun from wool given to me by a friend in my spinning group. It gave me FITS plying because there was so much of it and it stuck together so much, but when it was done it looked pretty good so I threw it in the dyepot on Wednesday and submitted it on Friday. They do like to get things made from Maryland wool.

A skein I’d been planning all along to submit was my three ply worsted weight wool made from a blend of natural dark and light BFL. I really spun three ply with this, I didn’t cheat and navajo ply for no particular reason other than convenience. I knew it was a nice skein but I didn’t know it’d get Best Handspun Skein.

My Lissajous socks from handspun got a blue ribbon in their category too! And I got a white ribbon for another skein I put in. This year I decided to stick to handspun.

I put a shawl in the handspun shawls category too, but let me tell you, competition in that category is fierce! There were what seemed like dozens of lace shawls, made from both handspun and commercial yarn – shawls everywhere.

One of the weaving prizes went to this lovely jacket. You may be able to see that the yoke is felted.

We had a very nice time this year. We arrived right at 9, so there was a period of maybe 30 minutes when we could just walk through the main building and look around. I think having that calm time at the beginning made the whole day seem relaxed.

Show, no tell…

March 23, 2011


Falkland 2 ply:

Flax! sort of…

Some knitting

September 17, 2010

Once Jan started with her flax spinning series, I just wanted to let those be out there for awhile without jumping to the head of the screen.

But there has been knitting here. I am shockingly behind on showing what I’ve knitted this year so let’s catch up.

A long time ago I showed a partly knit Azami. Not long after I took those pictures I went and read the part of the pattern where the hood is knitted in, and realized I’d overlooked that the edging of the hood goes down all the way down into the neckline, thus producing the V shape that was puzzlingly absent from what I had already done. So I ripped out the back neck and finished it with the same lace that would have been knitted on as the base of the hood, then put a garter border on the front neck, using some short rows to make it shaped correctly without it being attached to a hood. It’s a pretty sweater that I’ll start wearing as soon as the weather allows for long sleeves.

I finished this in June. Wow, that feels like a long time ago. The yarn was Nashua Handknits Creative Focus Linen, which is 50/50 cotton and linen. I was hoping to be able to machine wash and dry this, so it would not become stiff, but when I washed and dried my swatch, it shrank up vertically to an alarming degree, so I’m going to have to find another way to make sure this doesn’t turn into burlap.

I never did post much of anything here about Cable and Lattice. This was a Vermont Fiber Designs pattern that I have had for ages, set aside with some Cascade 220 that I bought especially for it. I finally finished it this April. I hope we have cold enough weather that I can get some wear out of it.

I submitted this to the skein and garment competition but they did not like my sleeve seams. Which I can understand, as doing mattress stitch on reverse-stockinette is a thankless job. Any brilliant ideas on how to make attractive seams in reverse-stockinette fabric?

I finished this in April, but I started it in December. There’s no good reason it took so long, as it was not a difficult pattern. I guess there were just too many other projects happening.

After getting these projects off my lap I was able to embark on some summer knitting.
Rosemary started releasing a series of small shawls, intended to be made with a skein of sock yarn. I liked the first one, Merope, so much that I knitted it in less than three weeks. I had just spun four ounces of delicious bluefaced leicester and tussah fiber from Wool Gatherings that I got from my local yarn shop’s MS&W stock, which was just about fingering weight, and I couldn’t wait to knit with it. Here it is, photographed with the Frederic Bordua wheel that spun the yarn.


The pattern was cleverly designed, beginning at the bottom point and creating its border points by increasing and decreasing within the border pattern while at the same time increasing the center section to grow the triangle. It may not have been ideal for a variegated yarn, but frankly, nobody has to like it but me, and I do. It’s a nice size to tie around my shoulders if the office is cold.

Emmy is growing and it’s time for another hoodie. She likes her clothes big and roomy, so I got a copy of the classic Wonderful Wallaby pattern – it has sizes from toddler to big adult, so I’ll be able to make her sweaters from this as long as she’s willing to wear handknits. She wanted it in her school colors, so while that makes somewhat unfortunate knitting for me, it’ll make her wear it more! And really this is the nicest orange I have ever seen. It’s Cascade 220, in the colors “tangerine heather” and “jet heather” and it’s working up quite nicely. The body is complete to the armholes and awaiting the sleeves.

This project sat around most of the summer because for quite awhile it was just too hot to think of picking up worsted weight wool, but now it’s moving along again.

I was kind of pleased to see that the way they do the front pocket was quite similar to the way I threw a front pocket on her blue hoodie some time ago.

Since mid summer I’ve been working on the intricate Lissajous knee socks, by Cookie A. from the first issue of Twist Collective. They were something I put off starting because they use twisted stitches (twists on every row, ouch!), but at last their beauty overcame my desire to avoid twisted stitches. I had some handspun that I’ve been saving for knee socks for quite awhile now – some Lisa Souza bluefaced leicester fiber in the Peacock color – so I set off.

They do take time.

Some parts hurt my hands to knit, and I can’t do too much at once, but for the most part it isn’t too bad. I can’t do it without a cable needle because the stitches have to be twisted, which I can’t do correctly without a cable needle. Still, I have one entire sock done and about 1/3 of the second.

There was a short trip to Quebec in the summer, accompanied by some spinning wheel action, but that will have to wait for another day.

Oh, yeah, and the haircut people keep asking about:


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