Posts Tagged ‘cashmere’


January 30, 2014

Newsflash:  The shoemaker’s child is no longer barefoot.  But I’m not quite ready to tell you about that, because it involves actually committing knitting to a form another human could decipher and reproduce.  No sense telling you about it if I can’t tell you how to make it.

Daisy Hat turned ruby

Daisy Hat turned ruby

In the meantime, I have made good on my promise and followed up the Daisy Hat with another for L., this time in the most scrumptious cashmere it could only be called Elysium.  The colorway is Ruby, from the Spirit Trail Fiberworks 2012 Knitting Club. It is the warmest, most beautiful glowing red; it could easily be a bouquet of roses, given where we are on the calendar.

The specs are virtually identical to its predecessor, with only the yarn changing.

Detail - faux cable and lace

Detail – faux cable and lace

Pattern:  Daisy Hat by Irina Dmitrieva

Size: Large, but knitted with DK weight instead of worsted

Needles:  Addi Turbo US 2 and US 1

Yarn: Spirit Trail Fiberworks Elysium, a special yarn for its 2012 Knitting Club, 100% cashmere, 1 skein

The finished hat weighed 39 g with 15 g remaining.

Project marriage score: 9, based on delight of the recipient

My campaign to establish something approximating order in our shoebox house is spreading to my knitting.  However, everything in my world cannot, in fact, be cured with a basket.

There will be frogging.  Widespread frogging.  A few are projects that I do intend to make at some point, but not right now.  At least one has been in time out for awhile because I lack the brain power to focus properly.  Time to rip that out, too.  It’s not the yarn’s fault or the designer’s.  Just knitterly distraction.  Little things, those I can handle right now. I feel a hat obsession coming on, largely owing to spending too much time outdoors with only one properly warm hand-knitted chapeau.

And in spite of having created something special just for her, Darling Girl is already clamoring for Maman to make something else.  Immediately.  She is relentless.  (Wonder where she gets that from?)

Time to reclaim some needles.


Daisy chain

January 8, 2014

I am blessed to know fantastic women.  Smart women.  Funny women.  Talented women.  Above all, generous women.

I don’t know all of them as well as I would like.  In some cases, I simply know they are wonderful.

This story starts with L.  We have moved in parallel circles for many years, but we are barely acquainted.  Nonetheless, her recent cancer diagnosis caused me great sadness.  Word that she was leaving nothing to time and toxic medication, and instead, shaving her head clean of her long dark hair added to the shock.  I wanted to do something for this woman I hardly know, but it needed to be something worth doing.

Which brings me to Jane.  She is one of those very special women.  Being around Jane is like finding instant calm ~ instant transportation to a warm hearth somewhere you’ve not been to, but know you like very much to sit ’round.  Jane fought cancer and won.  She is comfortable discussing it on her blog and with others.  So I asked her, “What can I make?  What did you get, or wish you had, that made things one bit better?”

Jane told me of a cashmere cap knitted for her by Jennifer.  “It’s something no one thinks of – when you go to sleep at night, your head is exposed, and it’s cold.  I wore it to sleep, and around the house.  I still wear it.”  That cashmere hat is one of Jane’s most prized possessions, made for her with love from one of nature’s warmest and softest fibers by the hands of a friend who dyed it, too.

Of course, there was perfect symmetry in Jennifer having made it.  My good friend always overwhelms me by simply thinking of me, not to mention the unexpected gestures, big and small, that come my way from her Virginia home where Spirit Trail Fiberworks is located.  She does this while managing her business and raising two outstanding young people.  (Small wonder I stay up into the owl hours to finish booth samples for her.)

So I knew what to make.  Next, what yarn to use?

A harder question than it might seem, given that there are many colors one would not choose for a person who is not well.  Of course, one of the advantages of having a *cough cough* virtual yarn shop in your

Great Northern Yarns Chamonix - mink + cashmere

Great Northern Yarns Chamonix – mink + cashmere

house is that there’s plenty to shop from.  Which is where Luann comes in.  The skein of Great Northern Yarn Chamonix (color is true in project photo, not skein) was my “sherpa reward” for driving some of her stash to the Knitter’s Review Retreat last year.  Using yarn from the older sister I never had whose life and mine have been intertwined in more ways than coincidence could explain just fit.

Daisy Hat

Daisy Hat

The pattern marriage was simple: Daisy Hat by Irina Dmitrieva.  The pattern is written for a worsted-weight yarn on small needles.  I was knitting for a not-petite person, but one with no hair.  A head with no hair is far smaller than one with hair.

So I improvised.

Crowning the daisy chain

Crowning the daisy chain

The Chamonix – 70% mink, 30% cashmere – lacked much of anything in the way of natural elasticity.  It is a DK weight.  So I made the large size using this finer yarn and took the needles down to a US 1 and US 2 Addi Turbo.  It pretty much knitted itself while I got out of the way.  And after a bath, it softened and fluffed up just like Clara said it would.

Within a week of receiving her hat, L. was wearing it to work.  In addition to the most lovely note, she called me.  She talked about how good it felt.  The Yarn Goddess apparently smiled on the endeavor: my improvisation fit as if it was bespoken.

STF Elysium 100% cashmere in Ruby

STF Elysium 100% cashmere in Ruby

I asked if she’d like another.

It’ll be finished in the next day or so.

All because I know fantastic women.

Rhinebeck YarnoraMama!

October 24, 2012

It has been far too long since Luann and I have celebrated a YarnoraMama.  Life, work, kids, you name it:  It all gets in the way.  So when the opportunity arose to take her to her first Rhinebeck, it seemed like the right time to see if the cosmic forces would align to allow YarnoraMama IV to happen.

They did.

Dutchess County Fairgrounds – aka “Rhinebeck”

So I could allow her to experience this.  This captures what’s in my mind when I think of Rhinebeck.  I’ve been there in pouring rain, wicked wind and bright sun ~ sometimes several of those in one day.  But this is the quintessential fall-in-New-England event and it should look just like this.

A Teeswater poses prettily

One cannot justify driving 100 miles to a sheep and wool festival without properly admiring the sheep, of course.  The young people, most involved in 4-H, work very hard to raise and show these animals when their friends are off doing teen

Everything you need to know … well, not quite

and ‘tween things.  They know more about these sheep than I ever will.  We owe it to them to start with a visit to the Breed barn to see their ribbons and displays.  After all, without them, there is no knitting.  And fact of the matter, if you were to break down my yarn purchases of the past three years, an astounding percentage come from small farms raising special breeds as I have joined others exploring what makes each special on the needles in the Knitters Book of Wool woolalong inspired by our fearless leader, Clara Parkes.

A Soay sheep from Ashford, CT

I suppose in some respects it’s not fair to take a first-timer on a guided tour of this mother-of-all-sheep-festivals (a superlative shared with Maryland Sheep and Wool, of course.  I’ll let the experts fight over the true winner there.).  There is something to be said for arriving and being immediately lost in a sea of jostling knitters with pointy elbows, all searching for that perfect skein.  Maybe it’s not fair to have removed the “overwhelm” from the equation.

Eight warm legs and eight socks displayed. Where’s Miss Muffet?

However, there is certainly much to be said for attending Rhinebeck on Sunday.  The crowds are significantly smaller, and it is a far more pleasant experience.  Fewer people dragging rolling suitcases indiscriminately over toes and strollers jamming up the aisles.  (I, for one, would never have brought Darling Bebe.  Nope.)  To be sure, there was still

Of course there were owls!

enough to look at to go into sensory overload.  From potters and button-makers to the incomparable Shepherd’s Flock slippers to LYS bringing their wares on the road and independent dyers like Spirit Trail Fiberworks, where we found our peeps with Jennifer’s

Gratuitous (lousy) shot of Mountain Ash shawl knitted for the booth last spring

gorgeous wares.

This was akin to having dessert before dinner, for we will all be together at the Knitter’s Review Retreat in a mere three weeks.  The friends who have showered me with virtual hugs over the past few months were generous with the real thing in person.  I have missed them so.

I would be remiss if I did not tell you about one “find” from one of

Cashmere Crepe by Still River Mill

my favorite luxury yarn sources.  I have written before about Still River Mill, which spins for many area farms and also produces small batches of its own fibers.  Meet Cashmere Crepe:  Fair-trade cashmere.  Cashmere Crepe is the result of a program by USAID to help develop the economy of Afghanistan.  As such, this NGO trained more than 200,000 goat herders on the value of cashmere from their flocks,

Cashmere Crepe – 120 yards, fingering wt, 100% cashmere

and how to properly harvest the fiber.  The result is this fingering-weight 100% cashmere in 25g skeins, with 120 yards.  It sells retail for $18.  That’s a little more expensive than the other cashmere SRM offers, but considering the goal of the project and the distance it traveled to get to here, it’s not an inordinately large price tag to make a pair of fingerless mitts or a sweet cowl from a single skein.   Cashmere Crepe is not on the SRM website yet ~ look for it at their booth at the Fiber Festival of New England (a terrific indoor event!) or drop them a line at and tell them I sent you.

At Rhinebeck, I reach a point of fiber saturation.  There is a moment where I can’t look at or appreciate another thing.  It’s the place Luann and I reach at the same time.

In all, Luann and I spent four glorious hours in the car together (how often do you say that about four hours in the car going anywhere?).  I took her to Owl Manor so she could see the world’s largest blue tarp ~ and bear witness that I am not having a bad dream that won’t let me wake up.  We saw gorgeous rolling countryside, glorious autumn foliage and bucolic Connecticut villages.  We caught up with the things that a couple of busy moms with “balance issues” need to do.

The only downside: facing work on Monday.

Countdown to the Knitter’s Review Retreat has begun!

* Apologies for lousy photography.  Leaving the plastic over the new iPhone camera lens and flash didn’t really help.

102 and counting

May 17, 2011

There is an undeniable feeling of celebration every time the Connecticut Sheep, Wool & Fiber Festival rolls around.  Think about it: in its 102nd year, we are talking about a truly enduring industry.  Yarn shops may come and go, but the shepherds, mills and fiber they produce exist far beyond trends.  As the first event of the year in New England, there is an almost-giddiness in the air: winter is over; festival season has started.

I Made It With Wool!

April chose its last day to demonstrate why it is “the cruelest month,” with grey skies and blustery wind.  That said, the whole event seemed a bit subdued.  Several regular vendors were notably absent, and the crowds ~ well, there wasn’t a crowd.  The weather may have encouraged early attendees to scurry home rather than linger listening to music and watching sheep-dog trials.  Or see the adorable contestants in the “I Made It With Wool competition” ~ like the grand prize winner from Still River Mill.  A felted juice box?  Genius.  Don’t look for this Owl to execute anything half as clever come Halloween.

The Painted Sheep painted yarn

Our good friend Kris of The Painted Sheep had a standing-room-only crowd craning necks to hear her demo on dyeing yarn.  Armed with soda bottles of color, she makes it all look so easy … but ask anyone who’s ever tried at home: coming up with harmonious colorways is not for the faint of heart.

Still River Mill Summer Breeze

My “find” of the festival this year came again from Still River Mill.  This local operation spins for scores of small fiber-producers across New England and beyond.  Because of that, they don’t go to a lot of shows, feeling that to do so, they would be “competing” for

What you need on a summer's night

business against their own customers.  But Still River Mill has its own unique fiber blends ~ and this year, they brought an extraordinary new entrant to the market:  Summer Breeze.  This fingering-weight boasts 40% linen, 40% cashmere and 20% seacell.  It fine yet soft and strong and just begs to becoming that all-summer sweater or shawl to ward off the evening chill.

Dirty Water DyeWorks

If I told you that I was somehow seduced yet again by BFL, you regular readers would hardly be surprised.  I can’t keep my hands off the stuff.  It just knits like butter for me.  So when our friends at Dirty Water DyeWorks, who provided us with lovely skeins of their Julia yarn at the KR Retreat, had a bushel of BFL sock yarn in discontinued colors, I was rather ~ ahem ~ powerless to resist.   Frankly, I thought I showed admirable restraint in sticking to two projects’ worth.  And it was discounted.  So there.

Digression: I am noting the absence of a LYS more acutely as the days go by.  There is no browsing, squeezing and sniffing of yarn to be done.  While positive on the pocket book, it is nonetheless missed.

Nubian goat

There were plenty of animal cuties on the grounds, to be sure.  This little Nubian goat was the most charming little flirt … and it seems that every year there is more alpaca of both the live and spun varieties.

Most importantly, I picked up my new copy of the Connecticut Sheep Breeders Association directory, an invaluable resource for locally sourcing breeds of wool for our KBOW wool-along.

The skies opened up to bright sunshine later in the day.  By then, we had decamped for the massive lunch spread at Rein’s Deli.  A wonderful start to a new festival season any way you look at it.

We have winners!

May 13, 2010

In the brief moment before the alarm went off this morning, I was dreaming of yarn. That much I know.  Couldn’t tell you what yarn, but I was in a happy place.

I had this whole silly little construct in my brain.  After breakfast, Darling Bebe would draw out winners names and clever Owl would snap some shots and post them, thus satisfying those of you who would like to see more of her.

That was before, “Want Mommy to make me raisin bran!” somehow transformed into a bowl hurled across the room leaving dripping bran flakes in its wake.  Sigh.

Back to that happy place, if only in my head, please.

So, one work day later, having just had to change sheets because little Houdini decided to remove her sleepsack and pajamas and pee all over the bed, and now with the bedding in the washer:  I held a drawing with my low-tech little identical strips of paper.

I believe in buying local when I can, so both prizes come from one of my favorite local enterprises:  Still River Mill.  This mill processes micro-batches of wonderful fiber.  They do  but a few shows a year, because they feel that they would be “competing” against their customers if they did more. Look for them at Rhinebeck.  They are worth it.

Still River Mill Cashmere

For my former student Debbie, who turned into quite the lace maven, a skein of laceweight 2-ply 100% cashmere in a lovely shade of orchid (that sadly, was not captured well by the camera).  Not purple, not pink, perhaps kind of mauve.  You could make a Pretty Thing cowl or another one-skein project with your 200 yards.  I know you’re going to LOVE playing with this.

Still River Mill Yakaboo

My dear Nanci-with-an-i will be the recipient of this skein of Yakaboo: 40% yak, 40% merino and 20% bamboo.  200 yards of laceweight softness in its natural shade for some little mitts or a little cowl or whatever makes your needles sing.  Like so many of you who visit my owl box, Nanci has a way of owlways lifting me up or making me tear up.  She just knows stuff.

I truly appreciated all of your comments as I look forward.  They will help me to frame and shape what I write about.  More coming, including a book review, so stay tuned.

Wherever you are, I hope your happy place is more real than just inside your head.

Dratted pearls

April 5, 2010

Dratted Pearls

NOTE:  Readers should see comment post below from the designer on 6/22/10.  Sometimes projects don’t work for a host of reasons.  In this instance, it was a combination of factors – including the yarn itself.  The pattern is quite pretty, and has been popular among many knitters I know who are not counted among the 88 others who posted the project on ravelry.  It did not work for me.  I do regret any personal hurt that may have been caused by my feedback.  Such was not intended.

~ NutmegOwl

What kind of knitter fails to find joy in a project that involves aran-weight cashmere in a gorgeous color?

That would be me.

But Drifted Pearls is finished (and gifted to Mom).  And I’m. Finished. With. It.

I’ve said it before, but I need to vent say it again: today, anyone can self-publish a pattern.  That’s great.  But the usability of that pattern matters.  If you’re going to use a chart with non-standard symbols and expect knitters to embrace it, take a lesson from the unrivaled Anne Hanson of Knitspot.  Put the symbol key and stitch glossary on the same pageDon’t ask me to turn your pattern into an arts-and-crafts project to make it usable.

Put a different way – I shouldn’t have to spread three pages out across my lap to knit a neckwarmer.  And I shouldn’t have to do it so you could put waaaaaaay too much space on a page in a transparent effort to look oh-so-clean-and-fresh.

Dratted Pearls and pleats

It’s official: said project shall henceforth be referred to as Dratted Pearls.  It has been found guilty, and receives my personal F-word:  Fiddly. I shall not count the ways.

Want more heresy?  Yes, this is cashmere we’re talking about.  Plymouth Yarns Royal Cashmere to be precise.  It was dying to split; only my Addi Lace needles and sharp tips prevented it.  Sure, it got softer with wet-blocking.  But this yarn does not  leave room for anything but absolute precision in a field of stockinette.  Not at all.

As for the other colorway that I had set aside to make one for me, there’s a world of other patterns out there that deserves my limited knitting time a whole lot more.  And plenty of wonderful cashmere from School Products marinating in my stash just waiting for some attention and a warm bath to banish its spinning oil.  I’ll happily knit with that any day of the week.  Royal cashmere my foot.

Calling an audible

January 25, 2010

I know, I know.  I said I’d next be casting on for Citron or a wonderful Ysolda hat.  I lied.  Actually, a LYS sale made me lie.  I was diverted by Plymouth Yarns Royal Cashmere – the right gauge for Drifted Pearls and at 50% off.

In my household, we refer to this as “Calling an audible.”  It most often occurs in restaurants, where at the last second, someone changes what they thought they would order.  I’ve wanted to make one of these for Mom, and with the right yardage in this beautiful color, I had to get it OTN.

Yikes. Perhaps I’ve been knitting too much lace lately, but I tried to use the written instructions and messed myself up terribly.  Though I had gauge, I bumped down a couple of needle sizes because I didn’t like the way this was coming together. 

Drifted Pearls

Project details: Drifted Pearls in Plymouth Yarns Royal Cashmere.  2 sk.  Needles:  US 7 and and US5 Addi Lace.  The yarn wants to split, but the Addis and I won’t let it.  The first skein got me 14″ from cast-on edge.

A plea to designers from one who does plenty of document layout and publishing: If you are going to use a chart, and use funky symbols in said chart, please will you lay out your pattern so that the chart key and the chart are on the same page?

Owl Mods: print an extra copy of your pattern and cut it up so you can actually read chart and symbols on ONE PAGE.  I almost titled the project “Dratted Pearls.”

I have more yarn in a different color to make one for myself – if I still choose when I’m done – and I may make the pearled bottom deeper, as some have recommended.  We shall see when I have Mom’s more-petite version done to wrap around my less-statuesque neck.

By the time you read this, I will be trying to get through airport security with needles.  Thus, you won’t have anything to read for awhile.  This project will stay home.  Look for Citron pix when I come back.

Happy knitting – hope your place is a warm place, wherever you are.

Pre-retreat treat!

October 27, 2009

(Say that five times fast!)

Little pre-planned outings are special events that become mileposts for me as I seek balance in my full-time-working-mommy life.  The events matter much less than the companyAny fiber-related event or destination will do, something to look forward to while I seem to endlessly paddle against the tide trying to catch up with everything.

Such is the case with Stitches East, which moved to my backyard for a three-year cycle.  I attended it nine years ago, when I was a new knitter.  Then, I took some (very large) classes, which were a disappointment, as the organizers had not yet put skill levels on each class, leading to finishing classes where everyone was held back at the mercy of those who did not know how to cast on.  That has changed over the years, but I have, too.  Simply put: I’m in a different place now.  I’m not the knitter for whom the event is held.  Knitter’s Magazine isn’t written for me.  ‘Nuff said.

Back to the company.  Knitter’s Review Retreat pal NanciKnits drove up for a  much-anticipated overnight visit.  We lunched leisurely with my SnB gal pals, then visited the marketplace en masse, collectively lowering the average age of participants by a decade.  About 30% of the vendors were LYS, and there was plenty of volume to be had.  Tucked into various unique places were some special finds for the more discriminating knitter.  (As of this writing, only one of the following was yet listed in the ravelry yarn database.  I guess they really were finds!) Thanks to the proliferation of one-skein projects out there, there’s plenty one can do with a one-skein “yarn-tasting.”


Fleece Artist Blue Face Leicester Worsted

Fleece Artist Blue Face Leicester Worsted


Fleece Artist Blue Face Leicester Aran, found at Great Adirondack Yarns booth:  Squooshy deluxe.  FA offers BFL in a number of weights. The semi-solid deep green is as saturated as any I’ve seen, without having that “color-not-found-in-nature” look that sometimes results from hand-dyeing.

DyeDreams Bunny Sox

DyeDreams Bunny Sox

DyeDreams Bunny Sox:  I first encountered DyeDreams at the Connecticut Sheep and Wool festival.  This is a brand-new line, featuring 25% angora.  I am a sucker for angora.  This has a lovely halo even before meeting up with water.   The Grape colorway is a subtle semi-solid without any jarring notes.

Still River Mill Stampede

Still River Mill Stampede

Still River Mill Stampede: Still River Mill is a working mill here in Connecticut that custom-spins just about anything.  They have a terrific reputation, and spin for many of the small local farms.  I would pose that their own yarns are just special.  Stampede is a fingering-weight that is 40% bison down, 45% cashmere and 15% quiviut.  It is like touching a cloud.  I think this may become Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s Pretty Thing.

Still River Mill Harmony

Still River Mill Harmony

Still River Mill Harmony: This yarn says “fluid” like nothing else I’ve touched in a long time.  30% cashmere, 30% silk, 40% 150S merino.  Put together, this yarn has both loft and silkiness in the skein.  I strongly suspect incredible drape when knitted up.

That’s all for yarn, but I was thrilled when my pals spotted these:

Nutmeg owl beads

Nutmeg owl beads

glass Nutmeg owls for NutmegOwl!  Undoubtedly, I will impose on the talents of BFF KnittingKittens to turn some into stitch markers, and perhaps a little charm to hang around my neck.  If you spot it out and about in the fiber world, you will have spotted me.

As interesting as the marketplace was, the real highlight of the day was DISH-ing with Clara Parkes, NanciKnits, KnittingKittens and Melissa Morgan-Oakes at dinner in Hartford.  I’ve said this before, I’ll say it again, even though it makes Melissa blush: taking a 2-at-a-time class with her at least year’s KR Retreat gave me new skills that have changed my knitting, and my students’ knitting.   We were out to celebrate the release of Clara’s Knitter’s Book of Wool as a warm-up for our reunion next month at the 2009 KRR.  (The book sold out before Clara’s book signing was even half-over!)  Digression, but important: This book is a love letter to wool.  If you recognize wool as the foundation fiber of what you do, this is a must-own.  And that’s before you look at some of the patterns written by designer royalty.

Judging from the smiles, you can see we had a wonderful time.  It was exactly what we all needed to tide us over until next month.

GalPals dinner

Having your DISH and eating it, too!



Mostly cloudy

June 26, 2009

I have not been anyone you’d want to spend time with this week.  For now, I’m blaming the weather.  We are sprouting webbing between the toes.  And I have been irritatedAnnoyed.  Not good company.  If you don’t have something nice to say …

So it’s time to make my own sunshine.

First, some additions to stash. I generally walk far behind bandwagons, whether it’s Clapotis, FLS, or any other oh-t00-hot online knitting discovery.

Sundara Silk Lace

Sundara Silk Lace

I usually can’t be bothered by all the fuss.  So you may be surprised by these.  Yes, it’s Sundara.  No, I did not engage in the monthly free-for-all, nor did I commit to a club.  I came across it on Ravelry’s ISO and Destash group – a very dangerous place for one to troll when one is looking for mood-enhancers.  The Silk Lace is called Mahogany over Marmalade, and

Sundara Fingering Silky Merino

Sundara Fingering Silky Merino

falls into my very favorite color range. The Fingering SilkyMerino is called Caramel Apple and involves russet and pale green – an unusual mix that works beautifully.  It is more squishy than I can begin to tell you.  So make your own sensory picture and give it a Charmin squeeze along with me.

Oh, and then I forgot to post this a couple of weeks ago.  This is 70% mink, 30% cashmere from Great Northern YarnsClara reviewed it, and I bit.  Not something I usually do, but it

Mink cashmere

Mink cashmere

was sometime unusual to try.  Based on my experience with cashmere – and Clara’s sage advice – I have a strong feeling that this is going to bloom like nobody’s business when it’s had its warm bath.

Let me say here and now that I am not interested in a debate about animal care.  I made my own consumer decision and I am fine with it.

As far as actual knitting: GetZiggy is finished and just needs seaming.  Hedgerow Mitts are done up to the thumbs, 2AAT, Blossom moving again with smaller needles.

Katie Bell's Baby Cardi

Katie Bell's Baby Cardi

Of course, the best ray of sunshine is the Darling Bebe.  She is able to make me smile like nobody’s business – and everything else just falls away.  When she got her little mitts on the Katie Bell Baby Cardi – still unblocked, I might add – I couldn’t just take it away.  So here she is in all of her mosquito-bitten (yes, that’s what’s on the bridge of her nose) glory.

And of course, it took all of two minutes for her to start to suck on those little pearl buttons.

You are my Sunshine ...

You are my Sunshine ...

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