Posts Tagged ‘wool’


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.



March 16, 2011

If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.

Kilkenny Cowl

That credo prevails in my knitting.  Thus, my recent frogging and complete re-start of the Quince & Co. Kilkenny Cowl.  I was not pleased at the Knitting Time Lost.  And having knitted what is essentially the body of a sport-weight sweater ~ twice ~ I was bored.

Chickadee in Gingerbread

When I was finished knitting, I liked it.

Now that it’s blocked ~ it is delicious.

The difference is all in the blocking.

I’m rather finicky about blocking cowls.  In order to get the shape I want without a crease, it involves working in three dimensions.  Often, inverting my trusty old tin vase works fine, but this one took a modicum of creativity.

I put a sleeping pillow into a large plastic bag, lining the inside with tall pieces of recycled cardboard.  After soaking the cowl in Eucalan, I blotted it, then put the bagged pillow/cardboard inside the cowl to hold it up.  I pinned the cowl into the plastic and cardboard where the ribbing and the knitting meet ~ not at the bind-off: I did not want the edge to develop points.  (Yes, I thought about photographing this, but it was not aesthetically pleasing and looked rather jury-rigged.)

Toasty Gingerbread

This allowed the cowl to dry quickly, suspended gently, with no creases.

The Quince & Co. Chickadee in Gingerbread blocked out wonderfully without any special pinning out ~ the lace sectioned opened nicely.  The yarn bloomed and softened a bit.  The colorway looks a little washed out in these photos ~ it is richer IRL.

For the record, although I did not stretch this in any way, the yarn did relax for a much larger circumference after pinning.

Finished dimensions:  Height: 14.5 inches   Circumference: 38 inches.  Used 3.5 skeins.

Project marriage score: 9.5

No cable needle needed

This version of the cowl includes eight chart repeats, not seven, so that I can pull it up over my head in case of need.  (Thanks for that suggestion, Luann!)  My row gauge tends to always be shorter than my stitch gauge, so the additional repeat compensates, too.  And, BTW, I knitted the whole thing without a cable needle.  About time I learned how to do that …

I am rapidly entering the WIP wilderness where it may be awhile before I have much to show you.  There’s a little personal designing going on for this month’s Babydoll Southdown wool-along.  We’ll see where that goes.  If it’s worth looking at, I’ll show you.  If it’s not, I’ll probably show you anyway.

Fenced in

February 18, 2011

Living in New England means snow.  We’ve had more than ample proof of that, with a healthy over-under pool going on when it might all be gone.  (At this point, I’m in for Easter – bearing in mind that it’s the latest Easter can be …)  I have a lot of hair, and one of the few things I hate about it is when it gets snowy wet.

Fenced In, in Romney

That won’t be a problem now that I have Fenced In.  I chose this terrific one-skein pattern by Tracey Kay for my bulky Romney yarn for this month’s wool-along in the Knitter’s Book of Wool group on Ravelry.  I was looking for a project with enough texture to show off the properties of this very smooth wool, and the reverse stockinette background was just the right canvas.  I also wanted something simple enough where the tonal variations in the colorway did not detract from the finished product.

In addition, I’ve been enjoying the many variations of cabling without a cable needle.  This project gave me more good practice.

Standing out in sharp relief

It was a wicked fast knit — just four days from cast-on to bind-off.  That is, after all, one of the benefits of working with bulky yarn ~ something I rarely do these days.  I used all but 2 yards of my 90-yard skein from Foxhill Farm in Lee, Mass., to make the small adult size with no modifications.

Project marriage score: 9.5  (Yes, this is something new.  I may as well start scoring the matches.)

Probably the most interesting observation from the month’s exercise was how unwilling the yarn was to become saturated with water.  It just didn’t want to get really wet, and took a good soak.   I blocked it over an inverted vase with a couple of plastic grocery bags on the top to provide some height/ventilation and prevent creasing.

I can’t decide which is better:

  1. having a really warm hat that will keep my hair dry
  2. actually completing our wool-along project on time two months in a row

Before you start applauding … if you’re keeping score at home, you know that I am still working on last February’s project … which, in all fairness, I did not start until months later … but still.


January 25, 2011

What do you get when you have a Finnsheep, a French rabbit and a pattern called Holland?

I know, I know, it sounds like a joke from a bygone era.

To answer the question ~ you get this wonderful melange.  Added bonus:  you actually finish your monthly wool-along project within the specified month!

Holland Cowl - blocking

Our Knitter’s Book of Wool wool-along yarn was Finn.  Back in November, I picked up this blend of Finn and angora from Point of View Farm.  Although labeled worsted-weight, it was decidedly thick-and-thin, and really rather bulky in places.  Thus, I sought a cowl pattern that was more sculptural than defined, and that would accommodate the 103 yards in the hank.

Holland Cowl fit the bill.  Written for just 60 yards, I could play around with extra repeats and work the shaping I like, rather than making a neck tube.

Holland Cowl - modeled

Mods: Worked first 4 pattern repeats on US 9, then 1 repeat on US 10 and the final repeat on US 10.5.  Used Russian lace bind-off for stretch.

It was clear that the yarn was happier with the larger needle sizes.  Not that the 9 was bad – it will keep close to the neck at the top, and I knew the yarn would relax some with a bath. There was some VM (vegetable matter, to muggles), but it was easily removed and emblematic of how “close the the sheep” the yarn is.

The cowl-blocker

I know there are a lot of questions out there about how to block cowls to keep them from creasing.  I have found that using this old metal vase is perfect. For blocking cowls that are graduated at the bottom, I turn it upside-down (as photographed above).  For those with a defined edging that might need some pinning out, I stand it upright (as at left), stuff a couple of plastic bags around the sides to pad to suit my needs, and then pin out the bottom on the blocking board.  Voila!

I am glad that most of the breed-specific yarn I have stashed  in anticipation of upcoming wool-alongs is not blended with other fiber.  I love angora, and I really like what it did to this yarn.  But I do feel that I took away from the all-Finn experience in doing so, and hope to revisit this yarn based on my pals’ many joyous comments.  On the other hand, the soaking led to a more cohesive yarn in the final product, complete with a slight angora halo and wonderful smooshiness.  Just what’s needed in the brief wake between New England snowstorms.


October 7, 2010

I have always had an instinctive dislike for the “acquirers” out there.  You know, the people who go to an event like Rhinebeck with a wheeled suitcase, sharp elbows flying, complete disregard for the people around them in their mad dash to get their hands on X.

That’s not to say that there aren’t yarns out there that I have, and continue to covet.  But the F5-F5-F5 insanity involved in obtaining a special yarn is just not for me, and I get claustrophobic and really, really nasty in a real-life crowd of that ilk.

SHELTER - Button Jar

Thus, my complete surprise and wonder to have ferreted out SHELTER, the new yarn from Jared Flood/Brooklyn Tweed on the day of its release.  It was pure accident.

Pure, wonderful, serendipitous accident.

If you’ve been reading along with me, you know I’m part of a posse who have spent the year exploring the wonders of wool described in the Knitter’s Book of Wool.  Not just “wool,” but breed-specific wool.  If you’re not playing along at home, compare it to chocolate.  All chocolate is not alike.  If you prefer Vosges Red Fire to a Hershey’s Kiss, you get my drift.  Sometimes a Kiss will do.  But once you’ve had Red Fire …

Whoops. Digression over.

SHELTER is a blend of Columbia and Targhee, grown in America and spun in America.  Clara’s piece in Knitter’s Review today gives you the 4-1-1.

SHELTER - Thistle

My SHELTER arrived yesterday.  It is both spongy and doughy in the nicest sort of way.  It has substance and loft.  Looking at it up close, the blend of colors is genius.  Even its name says something to me ~ not surprising in the BrooklynTweed ethic.

As an unabashed wool-sniffer, I am with my cult leader in finding the scent of it a little out-of-kilter.  It’s certainly pleasant, but not the whiff of sheep that I expect and enjoy from my wool.  But that nitpicking aside, SHELTER is something really special.

The Button Jar will become a pair of Woodruff Mittens and probably a cowl, too.  Thistle, which is deeper and richer IRL, is a merry color.  It will become the Terra shawl.  It’s going to be a few days before I can cake it and cast on.

But I’m sooooooooooooooo glad I got there in time to put some in my own hands.  Just this once.  And I neither threw an elbow nor hit that refresh key, either.


July 20, 2010

In the wake of my last (hopefully) thought-provoking, but not really cheery post, time to take a happier track.  Make that, joyous.

Generally speaking, knitters are some of the nicest people in the world.  In my experience, we operate on a “pay it forward” sort of system, reaching out to assist one another or treat one another at any random turn.  Early deposits in the karma bank, so to speak.

Even so, I have had two recent occasions to be flat-out bowled over and virtually speechless at the generosity of my fellow knitters.

As mentioned last week, Minh-of-the-legendary-stash somehow pulled my name to win her blog contest.  This is what showed up chez Owl:

Christmas in July

Two skeins of Green Mountain Spinnery New Mexico Organic.  The label of  this DK-weight wool says it is soft enough for baby or next-to-skin wear.  They are not kidding.  This is quite likely the softest wool I have ever touched.  And Minh well knows my fondness for GMS yarn (since I’ve relieved her stash of some before).  Speaking of that – and of generosity, this is also the place to mention that the last time I bought yarn from Minh for a Knitter’s Review contribution, I purchased five skeins and she sent six.  But I digress …

In the center, that is indeed Wollmeise.  The stuff that has knitters and yarn collectors in quite a tizzy.  And it’s in my favorite colors. 

(I. Am. Dumbfounded.)

And, finally, SweetGeorgiaYarns Silk Lamb Lace in Honey Fig.  A double skein, no less.

“Thank you!” seems oddly inadequate.

So, too, with my swap partner TulipLynn in the Sundara Yarn Love Spring Swap on ravelry.  This is the part where I am rather embarrassed at my own performance.  I had never participated in a swap like this before, and I really didn’t know whether (or how far) people went over-the-top.  So my well-intentioned but straight-along-the lines package seems terribly miserly by comparison to this:

TulipLynn's Sundara Swap

A pretty brown Julip bag, a tin of clever knitting notions from SlippedStitchStudios, the most cunning little mini crochet hook, and a skein of Sundara Sock in Hyacinth.

In retrospect, I think I have it figured out now: it’s like The Law of Sock Yarn.  Sock yarn doesn’t count in stash.  Or at least that’s what I’ve always been told.  That must also be the case with various little gifties one squirrels away for another knitter’s rainy day.  Thus, it doesn’t “count” per se.

Now I know better.

I’m still rather speechless, though.

When it works

June 23, 2010

Salvia and phlox paniculata "David"

The garden is running two weeks early this season, and in desperate need of upkeep.  Sadly,  there’s been precious little knitting in my world of late.  And the runway is full of a seemingly endless backlog of fully knitted objects that just need a little finishing or blocking or photography.  Problem is, that finishing or blocking or photography takes thought, brain-space or planning.  Sigh. Lest thinking about it make me start getting annoyed with, let’s turn our attention to Serious Project Happiness …


May I present Ishbel by Ysolda Teague?  Completed and blocked in time to wear to a recent evening event, I am absolutely thrilled with it.  When I talk about a successful marriage of pattern and yarn, this is what I mean.  Loved the yarn ~ Sundara

Ishbel up close

Sock in Black over Violet.  Loved the pattern ~ perfect charting for brain-addled Owl.  In spite of the fact that I had gauge and still ran out of yarn before its actual finish, I’m delighted with it.

Bliss to knit.  Bliss to wear.

I can’t ask for more than that.

C is for …

June 2, 2010

Soujourner Sheep Coopworth

… California Red, Coopworth, Cotswold and more.  All found at the Massachusetts Sheep and Woolcraft Festival.

Just look at all of this Coopworth fleece and yarn, produced by Woolies of Shirkshire Farm in Conway, Mass.  And all of those colors?  Entirely plant-dyed by Diane Roeder of Sojourner Sheep.  The Coopworth skein that came home with me was dyed with cosmos and cochineal, and is the same tomato-bisque shade as the wound skein in the foreground.

Cotswold at rest

The brief distance between sheep and yarn was on display for all.  As a knitter, there’s a certain connection I get from seeing the material I use here on the sheep, then just a few yards away …

River Valley Farm Cotswold

… its processed and (sometimes) dyed final state, ready to become whatever it is the Yarn Goddess inspires me to make of it.  This is not the stuff of the big yarn houses, but an all-too-brief connection to the knitters who came before us, who raised the sheep, spun the yarn and clothed themselves.

River Valley Farm California Red

The Cotswold and this undyed California Red were both produced by River Valley Farm in Lenox, Mass., which specializes in unique sheep breeds.  The California Red will become a set of Sweet Fern Mitts from the Knitter’s Book of Wool, as my purchases are all intended to dovetail with the ongoing KBOW wool-along on Knitter’s Review and Ravelry.

Pamudom and her icelandic laceweight

Speaking of which, we did try to have a meet-up.  On the upside, a few of us managed to find each other, in spite of our designated vendor having canceled.   Fellow KBOW fans, you would not believe the incredibly even spinning that pamudom did in this skein of Icelandic laceweight – the May wool-along fiber.  Wow. It was especially nice to meet Malone in person, and to again visit with KRR mainstay Noallatin.

4-H breed primers

Of course, the local 4-H helped out, too, with these primers about each sheep breed – sort of a KBOW tutorial for those who left their copies at home.  Along these lines, some wonderful Icelandic and Jacob also made their way into my shopping bag, as well as perennial partner-in-crime KnittingKittens’. Just planning ahead for another month, Clara.

Darling Bebe's swag

Of course, Darling Bebe is never far from mind, so this swag came home, too.  Her first pair of Shepherd’s Flock shearling slippers, just like Owl’s.  No reason to have chilly piggies in our house.  As an aside, if you suffer from cold toes, these are quite simply the best thing on earth.

Obama waits for his haircut

All in all, it was a wonderful, decided-at-the-last-minute getaway day.  Who can help smiling surrounded by animals like this angora goat named Obama?

Care package

April 10, 2010

Some people just know things. This has happened time and again with Luann.

It’s been a difficult few days week to say the least.  As a barometer: I have not touched my needles.  In. A. Week.

So you cannot imagine my delight when an utterly unexpected package appeared on the doorstep this morning.

Care package

A Namaste Buddy bag, a bronze Owl of Minerva, and to satisfy my inner yarn geek, yarns samples from Garthenor Organic Pure Wool.  I wouldn’t be giving up secrets when I say that Luann is a Namaste devotee – particularly since she’s so good at pointing out how easy it is to remove spit-up, applesauce and other toddler detritus from the “pleather.”  It’s my first piece of Namaste and me likey.

You probably wouldn’t be surprised if I also told you that Greek versions of Athena’s Owl, the source from which Minerva’s owl is derived, are tucked in random corners of my house.  Which makes this piece from the British Museum all the more dear to me.

Owl of Minerva

That, and the fact that Luann just knew.

Hope and glory

March 17, 2010

Hope sprouts eternal!

Following the weekend’s torrential rains, Darling Bebe and I found these yesterday!  New word of the day:  Crocus.  I remember stealing an October naptime to drop 100 bulbs from White Flower Farm in the ground, knowing how just-plain HAPPY crocus make me.  It was a most worthwhile investment of mommy time.

And another cause for hope, joy and celebration:  I am one week away from YarnoraMama! This holiday is neither state nor federal, but better than either one because daycare is open.  More on that forthcoming, but you’re welcome to take your guesses.

And here’s the glory part:

Glorious Vines

Glorious Vines, properly named Knitspot’s Ivy Vines cowl made from Briar Rose Fiber’s Glory Days, as my first completed object for this month’s BFL-along.  (Blue Faced Leicester, for muggles.)  This one’s just for me.  (I gifted away all but one cowl.)

Lest I fail to mention the particulars:  US 3 and US 4 Addi Turbo needles, using magic loop technique.

Modification: Knitted the bottom section in the Large size, then decreased to the Small for the neck to keep it close and prevent flopping.

This yarn is a simple pleasure to knit with.  While Clara has a range of lovely terms for evaluating wool, mine are a little less descriptive – but certainly rapturous to compensate.  It’s wonderful workhorse wool. Not too sticky, plied well so it does now split, softens and blocks beautifully.

Upper "vine" detail

I’m one of the lucky people who can wear pretty much any wool next-to-skin (I love the feel of Shetland on skin …), and while I know there can be significant variation in the softness of any yarns of the same breed owing to the spinning and dyeing process, this qualifies as softer than many commercially available comparable yarns, like Jaeger Merino DK or Louet Gems – both of which are staples in my “workhorse wool” category.

Glorious Vines - bottom detail

I’d have to call the unnamed colorway, “Ocean.”  It is the same ever-changing deep blue-green.  Also, IRL, as opposed to the photo, the color is more cohesive and significantly less stripey.  As I’ve discovered with its companion piece (more to come), it also withstands a horrific amount of frogging and reknitting without showing evidence.  And with each 500-yard skein running about $30, it is affordable hand-dyed luxury – without a single knot.  I probably embarrassed myself squeezing and sniffing the skein when I bought it and summarily enabled convinced Luann that she needed to have some, too.  No apologies for that now!

Friends don’t let friends miss out on special yarn.

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