Tuesday, May 5, 2015

I wish to go to the Festival!

IMG_5873 The Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival was just lovely this year. We had fantastic weather. This year, Steven was visiting from Austin and my whole family went because they didn’t want to miss a single moment with him. We knew it was going to be a great day when (a) we got a fantastic parking space close to the entrance, and (b) this was on the car right next to us:  IMG_5866

Somehow I didn’t take very many photos this year. Too busy shopping, perhaps? We took a break for lunch on “the grassy knoll” (as Kris calls it). I happened to sit next to Sasha Torres from Sheepspot, whom I recognized from her newsletter. She used to do the podcast SpinDoctor (which I miss) and now she’s selling small-batch, breed-specific yarns. You can see the pile of fleeces she bought earlier in the day piled up behind us – these will end up on her website. She let me snap a lock of something (a breed that started with a “t” with which I wasn’t familiar) and I heard the “ping” – that was pretty cool! Here are Caitlin, Sasha, and me:

IMG_5885 My first purchase of the day was enough fiber to spin yarn for a sweater. I got it at Sweitzer’s Fiber Mill, which is located not too far away in Seven Valleys, PA. I will try to organize a field trip for our knit group to go tour the mill sometime this summer – they were very open to the idea. I LOVE touring places (remember when Julie and I went to the Kraemer mill? SO FUN!).IMG_5880 I saw a huge bag of gorgeous greyish fiber streaked with various other muted colors, and just loved it. I asked what it was (it was labeled by price but not content) and was told (somewhat sheepishly) that it was mill leftovers that they carded together. I asked if it was wool. “Yes,” she said “but a bunch of different breeds.” I said “it’s so soft!” and she said it had some alpaca in it, too – but more wool than alpaca. By this time I was sold and I bought 24 ounces. I think this will end up being way more than I need for a sweater, but that gives me plenty for sampling and swatching. IMG_5945 I also found some buttons that go with this fiber PERFECTLY – they are from Dimensions and they are raku. This is a type of ceramic firing. There are 6 buttons:


After that, I saw an opening to slip into the Into the Whirled booth, and I took it. Last year, Caitlin and I admired their batts – but I didn’t purchase one because I felt I didn’t deserve it somehow. Well, I’ve spun a LOT of yarn this past year and so I bought myself a batt! Isn’t it pretty? I purposely DID NOT buy the green and turquoise one I initially picked up. These are colors my mom will like, and I have in mind making a Clockwork or Spectra or something like that for her. IMG_5930 Also, this batt is made of Falkland fiber, which I’ve never spun. So, instant self-enablement. See how I did that?


After lunch, we made our way through some of the barns. That’s where I found Gale’s Art. I wanted to check out her hand painted, hand printed sock blanks. Sock blanks first appeared some years ago, and I wasn’t intrigued at all. But Gale takes them to a new level. They are so beautiful to begin with, and then you unravel them to make a sock that is really unique. Susan B. Anderson kept instagramming hers as she knit them, which is how I got hooked (you can see photos in this blog post). Here is the one I bought (selected by Boy 1 – this will become socks for him):IMG_5936 I don’t know how she makes these. The background is hand-painted, I suppose… but how she gets the print quite like that I don’t know. Maybe some kind of resist technique? IMG_5938 It sure is beautiful.

Then we all headed over to the Bartlettyarns tent. This is where I got the blue yarn last year that just became the super warm cardigan (with the too-short sleeves that need to be fixed before next winter). He makes lots of gorgeous heathered yarns and I thought S1 would dig them. She did! We bought enough of this to make her a sweater. This is the sportweight yarn – it should knit a thinner, drapier sweater than the blue one I just finished. A cone is 4 skeins. I thought I needed 5 skeins, so I bought a cone plus one skein. It pleases me to have purchased a cone of yarn. IMG_5925 I thought I was done shopping then, but I succumbed to one more delight: a silk hanky. I have never knit or spun a silk hanky but I’m game to try.IMG_5942 This thing has lots of layers, kind of like phyllo dough. You pull them apart and then work with the fiber. This is from Briar Rose Fibers (this was her first time at MDSW, but I’d seen her stuff at Sock Summit 2009 and Rhinebeck). Gorgeous. This time I DID buy my favorite color palette. Caitlin said “but it’s such a great version of those colors!” and that’s all it took… IMG_5944Despite buying a lot of grey fluff, I came home with a rainbow of colors. Here’s the loot all together: IMG_5951Steven did some shopping, too, but in an entirely different palette. Here’s his haul:  IMG_5934 Pretty different, huh?! I didn’t even realize Spirit Trail Fiberworks sold grey yarn. But Steven found it!

IMG_5909 We also had a fantastic demo from The Drafting Zone person about how a walking wheel works. I have seen these used several times but never understood it until now. This woman gave such an amazingly clear explanation that I dragged Steven and Caitlin back there to hear it again.


And you know what? The chakra is just a mini-version of the walking wheel laid flat:IMG_5906 We also saw an angora rabbit being spun into yarn while the bunny rested peacefully on the spinner’s lap. This trick always impresses me:


They also had baby bunnies – just two weeks old and their eyes still shut! IMG_5895

It was another great year at the festival.


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Crazy Cat Leftovers

IMG_5849Strictly speaking, I don’t consider yarn left over from a project to be stash. At least, it’s not capital-S Stash. Leftover yarn loses its urgency for me – it doesn’t NEED to be knit, I don’t really feel guilty about having it… it’s just there. IMG_5850But seriously, my leftover sock yarn is quite a lot of yarn and it’s starting to occupy real space. I do have plans to start a sock yarn blanket one day, but in the meantime, I thought I’d dash off a pair of socks. Boy 1 is still consuming socks quickly and he loves these. So they are his! They are plain vanilla, top-down socks with an eye-of-partridge heel and graduated toe. They weigh 76 grams.


Keeping with the “use it up” theme, I have made another cat hat using the “Are you kitten me?” pattern. Like the first one, I used Cascade 220 Superwash from my knit group’s share bag (left over from blanket projects). The only difference is that this kitty is kind of greige instead of light grey. This color is called “doeskin heather” and is really a lovely neutral between tan and grey. The finished hat weighs 51 grams.IMG_5854 I’ll set this aside and take it to Knitters’ Day Out 2015 this September. We always knit donation hats as part of our registration fee. This was the perfect project to work on during spring music concerts. The light yarn is easy enough to knit in low light situations, and there is a lot of knitting round and round on a circular needle. I did everything but the ribbing and duplicate stitch in school auditoriums.IMG_0725

In other news, we are less than one week away from the 2015 Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival! The website has been completely redone and is easy to navigate, so take a peek if you haven’t in a while. I’m planning to go on Saturday with my entire family plus special out-of-state guest Steven, who hasn’t been to MDSW since 2005. That’s him above, with Boy 2. I love this photo. Do you see a famous knitter in the background? Yup, that’s Stephanie Pearl McPhee, and I Kinneared her before she coined the term. I was too shy to go up and talk to her, so I told Steven to stand there with the baby so I could take her picture.

Who knows what will happen this year?!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Handspun – trickier than it seems

I am trying to knit with my handspun more. It helps me learn what I like (so I can spin more of it) and how much I need (so I can acquire fiber in appropriate amounts). I’m terrible at both of those things right now, but I have to trust that I’ll improve with practice. (Are you sensing a theme here? I’m trying to spend more time practicing the things I want to get better at!)

Last October during Spinzilla, I spun this fiber into this yarn:IMG_4451


At some point, I ran across this shawl in Ravelry (click through), which I thought made excellent use of a gradient yarn with long changes. I decided to jump right in and make it. The pattern is Cladonia and calls for two colors of yarn, but I just ignore all that. I also think I’ll ignore the loopy edging.

The first part of the shawl is just a stockinette crescent. Pretty easy. I swatched a little, decided on a US 7 needle, and cast on.

But look… I guess I don’t have a true gradient yarn. There is a rather abrupt change between the pink and the teal that gives this a “fruit slice” look:IMG_5843 Today I realized that I really want the gradient look, so I’m going to rip back. I think if I start the shawl with the teal part, it will fit my vision much better. Look at the cake (this is just the first yarn cake… I haven’t wound the second one yet). Do you agree?


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Swatching and thinking…

Sometimes I think I spend as much time thinking about knitting sweaters as actually knitting sweaters. I have to keep reminding myself that I knit quite a lot of socks before I understood fit well and nailed it almost every time. (I just peeked at Ravelry and OMG I have knit 136 pairs of socks!!!)

IMG_5634I bought a swatching skein of Quince & Co. Chickadee while I was at Twisted in Portland last month. This is 100% American wool in a springy, tight-twist sport weight. I knew that S1 wanted her next sweater to be in a skinnier-than-worsted yarn, so this was a good contender. Plus, it comes in 55 colors! This one is Malbec.IMG_5834It knits up beautifully. I washed and measured the swatch, and put the numbers into the CustomFit website. Once S1 decides what her next sweater will be, I’ll be ready to match pattern to swatch to measurements and generate a pattern.

First, though, I want to take care of another knitting request. When I was home last Christmas, my mother asked me to knit her the Sebasco vest. Some of her friends have it and she likes it. When I realized it was available as a CustomFit pattern, I printed out a measurement sheet and took her measurements. The original pattern calls for Berroco Ultra Alpaca, a 50/50 wool/alpaca yarn in worsted weight. That will be entirely too warm for my mom in Texas, so from the beginning I thought about subbing yarn. For a while I thought I’d use Shelter. But when I saw how beautifully S1’s Cushing Isle sweater was wearing, I thought about using Silky Wool. And when Silky Wool went on sale at the WEBS Anniversary Sale again, it seemed like a sign. I consulted with Mom; she selected a few colors she liked: Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool - 56Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool - 58Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool - 83

Then I took a look at the measurements I made in December. That’s when I started to pull my hair out. Given how different my initial measurements were from the Twisted version, I distrusted the ones I took of mom. I checked the CustomFit website to see if I could send her to a CustomFit LYS to be measured… but alas, in Texas the only two shops are in Midland and Katy. Not convenient to Georgetown at all.

So I went to Plan B, which was to forget about CustomFit. Sebasco was available as a regular pattern before it was added to CustomFit, and I had a copy of it (my mom’s friend gave it to her). I tried to do the usual math magic I do when I’m subbing in a yarn with a different gauge than the one in the pattern. The only problem was that I needed something between two sizes that were pretty far apart, and the lengths didn’t add up right at all.

Then I went to Plan C, which was: TOTALLY MAKE IT ALL UP. More specifically, I looked at 3 sets of CustomFit numbers. I considered the difference between my first numbers and my Twisted numbers, and then I (sometimes) adjusted mom’s numbers to make a 4th set. Mostly I changed the upper torso and the armhole to waist and hip measurements. I took a deep breath, plugged the numbers into the website, and generated a CustomFit Sebasco pattern. Then I ordered 5 skeins of yarn. (I picked the green, because I love that kind of green.)

Then, because the pattern says that the Daisy Stitch border needs to be worked on larger needles than the rest (in stockinette), I grabbed some of the Blackcurrent Silky Wool I had left over from S1’s sweater and swatched: IMG_5838That daisy stitch is a bugger to work. It looks nice, but what a pain!!! Again I questioned the wisdom of continuing with this project. But I will forge ahead. Both swatches use a US 4 on the stockinette. The one on the left is a US 6 on the daisy, and the one on the right is US 7. I’m going with the US 7.IMG_5842 I can’t help but notice that not a ton of people have made this pattern in Ravelry. And many of them complain about how hard the daisy stitch is to work. Wish me luck, people.

Thursday, April 16, 2015


Windy day!

starshower1 I knit this little confection so quickly that I didn’t even have time to tell you about it before it was done. This is Starshower, a pattern that keeps showing up on my Ravelry feed. The designer describes it as a “shawl-cowl hybrid,” and I really think we need a special name for it. It begins with a garter tab (so it’s not too tight) and the beginning knit flat like a semi-circular shawl; later it is joined and finished in the round. It goes over your head like a cowl but hangs like a perfectly draped shawl. It’s genius!


I intended to get this started at home and take it with me to work on the flight to Portland. I find that I appreciate having some interesting knitting for the plane and something different for the conference (something dead easy, like vanilla socks). This was meant to be the interesting airplane project, but it was so interesting that I finished it before leaving home. Oops! Here’s how it looks folded flat:IMG_5825I tugged it a bit so you can see where the neck opening is. Here it is folded a different way:


The yarn is Cephalopod Yarns Skinny Bugga, a 80/10/10 fingering yarn. I originally bought this skein along with two others at MDSW ‘12, intending to make the Color Affection shawl. That was on Saturday. Early Sunday morning, I was notified that I had won a drawing for a trio of laceweight Yet from Miss Babs, and I ended up making the shawl from that (I wear it all the time – I wore it yesterday!). After finally realizing that I probably won’t knit another Color Affection, I decided this yarn was up for grabs.

starshower3I’m really glad I used it for this. I’ve already worn it once this week (this time of year is perfect for lightweight accessories) and I think I’ll get a lot of use out of it. My finished garment weighs 98 grams. The skein was a generous 113 g, so I have a bit left.

Also, this yarn smells GREAT. It has that slightly sheepy (in a good way) scent that usually indicates minimal processing. It reminds me of how Bartlettyarns and Clara Yarn smell. All day long, I get little whiffs that make me smile.

Here are the three skeins I meant to make Color Affection with – the middle one is now Starshower:


If you like this thing, you will also like Adama, a similar style worked in worsted weight yarn. I might try making it from some handspun.

One final word: this pattern was expertly written and edited. After griping about some of the patterns I’ve made this year, I want to give credit where credit is due. I would not hesitate to make another design by Hilary Smith Callis. She knows what she’s doing.

Friday, April 10, 2015

CustomFit Stonington and Twisted PDX

grey1As you know, I was following Amy Herzog back when she was writing Fit to Flatter on her blog. That eventually grew into a Craftsy class, the book Knit to Flatter, and the whole MakeWearLove/CustomFit empire. In fact, Amy has just published her second book, Knit Wear Love.blue1cropI’ve knit three sweaters using the CustomFit system – two for me and one for S1. The ones for me are good, but not awesome. I began considering that perhaps my measurements were a bit off. There are now a number of LYSs that have been trained to do CustomFit measurements. One of those shops is Twisted, in Portland (OR). I was there for some work meetings last month, so I  decided to make an appointment at Twisted.

20150328_151743 I worked with these two fabulous women, Taunia (left) and Arwen. They are like reference librarians, except instead of working with information, they talk about yarn, sweater construction, and measurements. They carefully perused my Ravelry photos of CF sweaters and we diagnosed them thoroughly before measuring.

Do you think my new numbers are different from my original ones? Oh yes they are. How different? Take a look:

upper torso circumference


bust circumference


waist circumference


high-hip circumference


medium-hip circumference


low-hip circumference


tunic circumference


waist to high-hip


waist to medium-hip


waist to low-hip


waist to tunic


waist to armhole-shaping


armhole depth


bicep circumference


elbow circumference


forearm circumference


wrist circumference


short sleeve to armhole


elbow sleeve to armhole


3/4 sleeve to armhole


long sleeve to armhole


I highlighted the two most important numbers: upper torso and long sleeve. Note that they measured my upper torso a full 1.5” smaller than my original number. They really pull that tape measure tight for this measurement. Also note how weird my sleeve measurements are, especially the long sleeve. Again, they really started measuring from right up in my armpit, which is not really how the web video tells you to do it (there’s a whole bit about the top of your camisole and a string…it’s weird). So I should be knitting my long sleeve a couple inches longer than I have. Note how big the difference is on the 3/4 sleeve – that explains why the sleeves came out so much shorter than I expected on the grey sweater.

HMMMMMM.blue2I’m not sure how well you can see this in the photos, but the sleeves on this Stonington that I just finished are kinda short. I kept tugging them down while we were taking pictures, but they kept creeping up. They really do need another 2”.blue5 I’m considering taking the sweater apart and reknitting the sleeves. I have plenty of yarn - I used under 4 skeins and have 3 left! I think ripping the seams out will be the biggest pain… but it will take less time than reknitting an entire sweater. Also, I used the alternating cable cast-on at the cuffs and it is a bit tight. I’d prefer the regular longtail for more stretchiness.

blue4 Of course, what I really want to do is start a whole new sweater. I have several to knit in the coming months, but I need to procure yarn for S1 and my mom. I have two sweater quantities of yarn for myself, but I need to figure out what to make.

First, I have this Quince & Co. Lark. I started to make a Sprig but it came out all wrong. I’ve ripped that out, and reskeined and refreshed the yarn. It’s ready to wind again.


And second, I have this Saco River Dyehouse Lopi that I got through a Kickstarter campaign. It is 70% alpaca and 30% wool. The blend is tricky – that’s a LOT of alpaca and it will want to grow.P1010766

The colors of these two yarns look very similar here, but the Lark is a bright emerald and the Saco is more of a muted aqua.