Posts Tagged ‘Rhinebeck’

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.



October 19, 2012

No, we don’t have icicles here yet.  A killing frost and appropriately chilly mornings, but no icicles.   Whether it was the change of season or the vacation (yes, Mr. Owl and I checked out for a bit), the reset button has done its job.

The knitting mojo is back, and not a nanosecond too soon.  Count on a few skeins of Birte to cure whatever ails you.

In the meantime, I am attacking the runway full of projects waiting for blocking.  Which brings us to the icicles:  the Oslo Walk Shawl

Oslo Walk Shawl by Susanna IC

from Susanna IC.  The yarn is special.  It is my friend Nancy Zeller of Long Ridge Farm‘s first attempt at semi-solid dyeing.  Her results on this 100% silk were spectacular.  All she needed was a nice piece to show it off.

The shawl was

Miyuki 8/0 beads

originally featured in a spread in Interweave Knits about contrasts in knitting.  I went a different direction, using this finer cobweb silk and 8/0 taupe lined crystal AB Miyuki beads from Twisted Sistah Beads.  The breeze and sun co-opted my efforts to capture them

A shallow beaded crescent

winking on the edging.  Use your imagination:  Ice crystals on pewter.

Project marriage score: 9

Modifications: none

Needles:US 7 for CO and BO, US 5 for knitting, .5mm crochet

Use a .5mm crochet hook for these

hook for beading

You’ll find the shawl and the yarn at the Long Ridge Farm booth in Building A at Rhinebeck this weekend.  Scads more of my knitting will be at the Spirit Trail Fiberworks booth, also in Building A.  Maybe you’ll find me there, too.

Keep your eyes peeled for owls  😉


October 18, 2011

The key to a day-trip: tickets to Sesame Street Live.  For Darling Bebe and Mr. Owl, that is.  Add a full tank of gas and your best gal pal, and it really doesn’t matter where you’re going.  When there are sheep and yarn at the journey’s end, so much the better.

It's all about the sheep

And so, after a three-year hiatus, KnittingKittens and I found ourselves baa-aaack among the sheepy crowds at Rhinebeck on Saturday.   A lot has changed about the way we attend these sorts of events.  Looking back five years, we would

Teeswater, anyone?

have passed right by the sheep breeds barn and probably even remarked that it was wasted space.  Perish the thought today.  Neither of us is satisfied seeing “wool” on a skein or hank anymore.  We want to know what kind of wool.  And for that, we have to thank our Clara.

Clara "The Yarn Whisperer" Parkes

Clara Parkes, that is.  Call her The Yarn Whisperer, or whatever you wish – she was there with smiles and a Sharpie to sign copies of the freshly minted Knitter’s Book of Socks.  You may not think you’re interested in what Clara is writing about on a given day.  Until you read what she has written.  And then you are sucked into knowing a lot about that thing, and liking it.  That is the Mystery of Clara’s Writing.  I look forward to at least a greater appreciation for footwear from it.  Pick up a copy and find out for yourself.

Briar Rose Fibers and camera-shy Chris

Without Clara’s Knitter’s Book of Wool, I probably would not have met Chris at Briar Rose Fibers, the dyer responsible for one of my favorite yarns of all time: Glory Days, a DK-weight BFL that does everything you ask of it.  You’re going to see more of it here in the near future.

Long Ridge Farm Cobweb Lace - Pewter

Another of my favorite shepherdesses, Nancy Zeller at Long Ridge Farm, brought something new:  her cobweb silk dyed semi-solid.  IRL, this Pewter colorway looks like molten metal.  She thinks I bought it to be nice.  I bought it because it is stunning.  And I cannot believe it is her first foray into dyeing semi-solids.  With any luck, she will have more at her booth at the Fiber Festival of New England.

Owl shawls are all around!

Speaking of booths, it’s been a long while and many models since I’ve seen the Spirit Trail Fiberworks booth in person.  Look – in the foreground is the green Phoenix Rising I knit in Nona, and just behind it, the Juneberry Triangle in Birte.  Holy Owl Box, Batman!  There

Wispy and Hawthorne, too

are Owl knits all over the place.  Look at that wall – the Wispy Cardi I just finished hanging next to Hawthorne in yummy scrumptious Lyra  ~ the same Hawthorne I had around my neck!    It is fun to see your knits “in the wild” as it were.  And even better to see your Knitter’s Review pals from the Eastern Seaboard in person.  (Yes, Lanea, Marfa, Shelia, Purlewe, Jane and Sandy, I’m talking about you!)

Llamas on parade

Where else but Rhinebeck would you have a sudden outbreak of Llama parade?  I don’t know whether it was a formal organized thing, but the crowd just parted and there they were, llama after llama ~ sorry, no red pajamas ~ marching around the fairgrounds.

The place where

The Sanguine Gryphon check-out line

the marching came to a dead halt – reportedly for two hours or more – was out behind Barn 29.  This was the check-out line for The Sanguine Gryphon.  Many festival vendors complained that their credit-card transactions were running terribly slowly.  But two hours in line?  To buy yarn?  (Which is not to say that I do not have or enjoy knitting with TSG ~ I have it and I do.  I did not, however, invest that much tick-tock-tick-tock time to obtain it.)

Like mother, like daughter

What Nutmeg Owl did buy was the single must-have: replacements for our Shepherd’s Flock shearling slippers so that Darling Bebe and I can have toasty toes all winter.

Goal: a getaway day with my BFF, to see friends and fibers.

Mission accomplished.


October 10, 2010

In my hectic breadwinner/mommy world, I’ve come to find great satisfaction in small projects.  They are manageable, produce near-instant gratification, and allow me an illusion of control in my utterly not-so universe.  They also let me “taste” yarns without major investment.  While I’m the first one to point out on these pages the idiot mistakes and experiments I make (and learn from) along the way, I’m pretty confident in my skills.  Even so, I’m honored when a professional asks me to knit for them.

Somehow, in the space of three weeks, I’ve managed to produce two samples for Spirit Trail Fiberworks.  Wanna see them for yourself?  Visit Building A-4 at the New York Sheep and Wool Festival, aka Rhinebeck.

Hawthorne from Twist Collective, Fall 2010 – 186 g of Lyra in Appalachia

Hawthorne in Lyra

Major modification: Lace section knitted on US 7 Addi Lace, garter short-rows on US 9 Addi Turbos.  Although I did swatch this, I found great disparity between the density of the lace section on the size needle that the pattern advised.

Lace section on US 7

The lace section was just too airy, even without blocking.  In a perfect world (one without so many WIPs occupying my too-many needles) , I would have used an Addi Turbo or even Inox for the lace section, but I didn’t have any available.  I am finding that the Lace version’s finish results in a somewhat tighter gauge than the slicker Turbo finish.  In any case, I wanted this yarn to open up to its glorious smooshy self in the garter portion, so I knitted the last row of the lace chart onto the US 9 and proceeded from there.

As a result, I wound up using one skein of Lyra instead of two.  If you’re a thrifty knitter, this is a good thing, but I advise strong caution, because if your gauge is different, it could turn out the other way.

Lyra - in Appalachia

My recommendation: get two skeins to be safe  and you’ll have ample left over for another project to use for this delicious yarn.  From a “project marriage” perspective, this is a match made in heaven.

Blocking note: In trying to match the schematic,  think I blocked this a little bit too aggressively.  It has beautiful drape, but if I were doing it again, I would concentrate on pinning the points.  It is, after all, a wrap – not a fitted garment.  We learn.

Wast Side Shawl by ShetlandTrader / Gudrun Johnston in Ixchel, 125 g (one skein), Blueberry Fields

Design detail - Wast Side Shawl

I committed no modifications to this pattern.  Knitted on Inox US 2.5 needles.  I love it when a designer puts a neat little feature into a pattern.  Through my own idiocy, I wound up knitting the border 1 1/2 times ~ by the time I was done, I was really done.

Ixchel in Blueberry Fields

My fault, not Gudrun’s.  Because of the unique pick-up that allows you to then have live stitches to build the rest of the shawl, you get this very pretty row of twisted stitches (running across the middle of the detail photo).  I love its delicacy and how it plays to the color.  The 100% alpaca will keep a neck nice and toasty, too.  Although Jen calls this yarn a DK/sport, for lace purposes, it really knitted up as a fingering weight.

For sake of a full-view photo ...

The last photo I post only for the sake of having a view of the full piece.  It was during the Owl-hours of the night and neither lighting nor color correction were my friend.

Unblocked dimensions: 36 in wide x 16 in deep

Blocked dimensions: 48 in x 19 in

If you can believe it, there are two more shawls waiting for blocking … but that will have to wait a few days.  For now, I’m calling this a wrap.

Happy Trail

October 1, 2010

As things at work continue to spin out of control, knitting remains my little oasis.  Especially because of the enjoyment I’ve received from the Spirit Trail Fiberworks yarn that’s been on the needles.  You probably won’t hear much from me in the next couple of weeks, so for your Friday Eye Candy, a glimpse of what’s making me happy.  However fleetingly.

Hawthorne in Lyra

Any normal person would question the wisdom of trying to block something during a monsoon when the air feels wetter than the rain.  With the “blocking bed” cleared for visitors next week, the clock is ticking toward Rhinebeck, and I needed to get

Colorway: Appalachia

Hawthorne blocked.

Somewhere during the Owl-hours of the night, I came to the conclusion that the measurements in the schematic depend heavily not on stitch gauge, but on row gauge.  Granted, this is a drapey sort of

Lace at proper density

wrap, so gauge in and of itself is more a guideline than de rigeur.  In order to achieve a lace section that matched the density of the pattern photographs (and wasn’t too airy), I had to take my needle size down, then bump up a couple of needle sizes for the garter section to take advantage of the smooshiness that makes Lyra special.  With that said, I could not quite achieve the exact schematic measurements shown in the pattern.  I think it matters not.  I also find the colorway very hard to capture accurately.  The robin’s egg blue is cool; with the warm browns the camera does not know what to do.  The top photo is most accurate.

Wast Side Shawl in Ixchel

Meanwhile OTN is Wast Side Shawl in Ixchel.  It’s progressing merrily.  A lesson learned from this fingering-weight alpaca: the colors on the hank don’t tell the story.  I was kind of, “Mehhh,” when I opened it up.  It just looked very variegated, not one of my

Blueberry or lavender? You decide.

favorite things.  While working the seemingly endless border, it started growing on me.  Now that I’m knitting an actual “field,” as opposed to working on 20 stitches at a time, it screams “MONET!”  While it’s called Blueberry Fields, I would call it Lavender Fields – it is the shades on my French lavender in the garden.

Now, if someone would just turn off the typhoon …

Tails, I lose

September 23, 2010

Gauge and lace.  I’ve come to believe them non sequiturs of the first degree.

I swatch.  But time after time, those stockinette swatches lie.  I’ve learned a few things along the way, though.

The finish on your needles matters.  I like fast needles.  Really fast needles.  It doesn’t matter what fiber I’m knitting with, the slicker the better.  Because I knit a lot of lace, I do have a lot of Addi Lace needles for their pointier tips.  I’m not fond of the more grippy finish on them, but I’ve found it wears off a little over time.  Still, it makes a difference in my gauge.  A US 4 Addi Turbo does not yield the same gauge as a US 4 Addi Lace when I’m doing the swatching.  The finish on the needles makes a difference.

I used to like it when a designer would give me gauge in stockinette (or even the dreaded garter).  I’ll be dogboned, but time and again, I’m finding it’s not an accurate way for me to see where my lace knitting will be.  I suppose it may be the anticipation of casting on a new project or something, but my swatches are always tighter than my actual knitting with the same needles and yarn.  Especially lace.  Just maybe it has to do with the fact that I’m more relaxed knitting lace than anything else – I dunno.

It. Is. Making. Me. Mental.

Good thing I am a process knitter.  Because I’m looking at this:

Wast Side border

This is the utterly ingenious start of Gudrun Johnston’s Wast Side Shawl, a model for Spirit Trail Fiberworks for Rhinebeck.  It flies like the wind and is as addictive as sea-salt-and-vinegar kettle chips.  Only problem is, it’s already long enough to be a tablecloth and I’m only halfway done.

Ruh roh, R’Astro.

Furthermore, I know that the composition of the lovely Ixchel (colorway Blueberry Fields), is 100% prime alpaca.  I have long been a bit of an alpacaholic.  Alpaca lacks natural elasticity.  When you block it, it has no memory to bounce back.  This is a good thing when it comes to blocking lace.  But this is unblocked, knitted on good old US 5 Inox circs.

(I had a full collection of Inox circulars before Addi Turbos were available.  While the cords may not be as flexible as I would like, the tips are sharp and they’re slick as snot.  I am not a needle snob: they are a tool that I reach for when the fiber isn’t so fine as to snag on the joins.)

With nothing but the prospect of Knitting Time Lost hanging in the balance, I grabbed some smaller needles.  Inox calls them US 3, but they are really US 2.5 (or 3 mm).  Time for the dime test.

Heads and tails

On the “heads” side, the border on US 5.  Note how the dime is smaller than the two yarn-overs.  for “tails,” the same stitches on US 2.5.  The dime is larger than the same yarn-overs.

Verdict:  The frogs are serenading me.

Spirit Trail Fiberworks Ixchel - Blueberry Fields

In the cosmic sitcom I’m dubiously starring in, this fits perfectly.  My word to describe work is “untenable.”  After a few truly horrific days (where among other things, I learned by being screamed at, that no, it is not permissible for me to actually leave my office for something other people call a “lunch hour” one time in two weeks), I haven’t mustered the energy to clear the blocking bed for the parade of FOs on the runway.

It’s not that I will mind having to reknit what I’ve done so far:  Shetland Trader patterns are wonderful and the colorway has a real Monet thing going on.  It’s the Knitting Time Lost.  And the lesson learned: jigger it however you have to, but start swatching the actual lace pattern instead of some other well-intentioned stitch.


September 10, 2010

In the midst of an otherwise Murphy-esque week, a Priority Mail envelope arrived at my house.

There was no note, but I recognized the return address all too well.

And inside, were two hanks of almost indescribable smooshiness.  If I were a good blogger, I’d have taken some pictures.

Nope, I was so excited to touch this that after throwing Darling Bebe in her bed 40 seconds after putting Darling Bebe to bed, the swift and winder were a-crankin’.

Spirit Trail Fiberworks Lyra in Appalachia

Meet Lyra, a 50% alpaca/30% merino/20% silk blend in light worsted weight from Spirit Trail Fiberworks, shown here in colorway Appalachia.

I wanted to fill a bathtub with it and roll around in it.


My unwritten but understood and accepted assignment:  Hawthorne from Twist Collective for Jennifer’s booth for Rhinebeck.

In fact, as soon as I got the cakes off the winder, I set to swatching.

Looking back, I suppose that’s where things started going awry.  I’ve noticed that I have this tendency to swatch very differently from how I actually knit. My knitting seems to be more relaxed.  And gauge?  Well, if my observation holds any truth, you can just imagine its effect. If I were a good blogger, you would see a picture of this. Right.

US 9?  Sure, my gauge was just a little tighter than the pattern called for, allowing for some relaxing after a soak.

I duly cast on the 311 stitches and got going.

Post-swatching, pre-frogging Hawthorne

Holey lacecaps, Batman!  Loose and drapey is one thing … this was NOT what the designer had in mind.  Not well photographed, but suffice it to say, you don’t want to see through every single stitch.

Oooookay then.  Back to the US 7s I wanted to use in the first place.  After frogging it all.  And casting on another 311 stitches.

While I do not tend to favor variegated colorways, this one is really subtle, and I think it will be gorgeous.  Frankly, I didn’t really mind having to redo what I’d started, other than having committed Knitting Time Lost.  It just prolonged what I think is going to be a passionately hedonistic experience.

Jennifer might have to pry it out of my cold dead hands.

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.

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