Archives for posts with tag: wool

Sooo my trip planning is going kind of poorly. One of the airlines I have tickets with (Siem Reap Airways) got blacklisted by the EU for inadequate safety standards and suspended all flights about 6 days after I bought the tickets. Supposedly we can still fly with their parent carrier (but is that any better?) And then tonight, at Stitch ‘n’ Bitch, I broke my glasses! The earpiece just snapped right off. We’re leaving on Monday and tomorrow and Friday we’re supposed to get 6-12 inches of snow, so I’m not sure I want to venture out to the optometrist until the weekend. Not sure what to do about this, and I can’t find my spares. For the moment, I’m supergluing the broken pair back together. Things are not going well!

But I do have something knitting-related that I’m happy about, at least. More than one thing, but I don’t know how many of them I’ll get a chance to write up before I go.

Some background: my absolute favorite mittens are my Bird in Hand mittens (pattern available here.) The only problem is that when it gets down to below zero, like it was here in Madison the other day,

stranded worsted weight knit at a fingering weight gauge, while plenty warm, just isn’t quite warm enough. I wanted a pair of thrummed mittens like the ones I made Rahul (see the guts? I didn’t have a picture of them last time)

but I also wanted to wear my favorite mittens.

So I decided to retrofit my mitts with afterthought thrums!

They are invisible from the outside (aside from the mitten looking a little puffy, and fitting tighter than it used to) and super warm.

Here’s how to do it:
Gather your supplies:

  • one pair of stranded mittens, preferably a pair with more ease in them than mine have,
  • a couple of ounces of nice woolly roving, matching or not–mine is indigo and osage-dyed Corriedale from Handspun by Stefania, and really I should have used the random bright pink and orange roving I have lying around that I’ll never make anything with, rather than the expensive natural-dyed stuff, but I couldn’t resist the matching green. Whatever color you pick, it won’t show. The important thing is that the fibers should be at least a couple of inches long, and have some crimp, so they’ll stay in the mitten. There was a thread on Ravelry about thrummed mittens where someone suggested cashmere thrums. This is a bad idea, because down fibers are so short, they’ll never stay in place. You want something where you can pull off a decent-sized lock.
  • a crochet hook of a decent size (I don’t know much about crochet hook sizing, but I think I used a G hook. Something a reasonable size for worsted-weight yarn)

Turn the mitten inside out.

Pull off a piece of wool about the width of your finger and a few inches long. This is your thrum.

Stick your crochet hook under a couple of floats. Do not go through the main part of the knitted fabric, just under the floats.

Fold the thrum in half and loop the middle over the crochet hook (sorry, this is a little blurry, but you get the idea).

Use the crochet hook to pull the center of the thrum under the floats.

Now go over the floats with the crochet hook and grab the tail ends of the thrum with it…

And pull these through the loop formed by the folded middle of the thrum.

Voila, a thrum attached invisibly to the inside of the mitten, after the fact!

Continue to attach thrums evenly across the back of the fabric so you have a nice woolly layer. I have a short attention span and a lot of Christmas knitting to do, so my mittens are still pretty much in the partially-thrummed state you see below, but it has really improved their insulating powers. (For one mitt. I have part of one mitt thrummed. But on Monday I will be in a place where it’s 80 degrees out, so I’m not in a huge hurry to get this done.)

Pretty awesome, right?

I hope this trick is useful to my fellow knitters in similarly fiercely cold climates!

So before I go on to talk about some more spinning stuff, I’d like to ask you to take a look at my friend Fee’s new Etsy shop, saibhriot.etsy.com, to see if anything catches your eye. As she blogged about here, her husband, who is only 35 years old, recently discovered that he has a tumor in his colon and will need to have an operation very soon to have it removed. They’re still waiting to hear about whether it’s malignant, and her friends in the Bloomington knitting community are all wishing the best for them. Fee opened up her Etsy shop to raise money for medical bills, so I wanted to help spread the word… she currently has some very nice original artwork (some knitting-related!), a knitting pattern, and a handknit cowl for sale. I hope you see something in her shop you might like.

Anyway, far off in Madison, I’ve been spinning and spinning. When I went to California over the summer, my dad and stepmom and I had a really wonderful day in Point Reyes–we saw fawns and tiny songbirds in the marsh, and had the good fortune to watch a whale playing in the waves, very close by, for probably a good hour. In Point Reyes Station, we stopped in at Black Mountain Weavers, where I bought a 3 oz. bump of locally dyed mohair-wool roving. It was all kinds of colors all carded together, and I was very curious to see how it would spin up; the base color was a warm mahogany brown, but shot through with streaks of bright red and blue and yellow and purple.

As it turned out, it was fun to spin–the fibers were slightly coarse and drafted smoothly with just a little coaxing. It spun up into a really interesting tweed with a lot of visual depth. (I’m taking Abby’s definition, because she’s the expert, but it doesn’t have neps/flecks in it, so I would have called it more of a heather.) From far away, it reads as brown:


When you look a little closer, though, you can see the streaks of brighter colors in the yarn. Mohair takes dye really well, and I’m assuming the really shiny bright colors are from the mohair part of the blend:

Here’s a picture of the singles on the bobbin.

It’s about 12-13 wpi, so more or less a sport weight yarn, with a shiny, slightly fuzzy surface. I treated this as an experimental sampler, so most of this is spun worsted, short forward draw, but other parts are spun over the fold or long draw. It’s about 136 yards total. (Honestly, I don’t quite understand how people can charge so little when they sell their handspun! Maybe I’m doing it wrong, but it takes me hours to spin up even this much yarn, and it’s not a large amount.)

Also, I think I discovered what kind of spinning wheel I have! I bought it used at Yarns Unlimited–someone was selling a couple of old spinning wheels, but the shop owners didn’t know that much about them. A patron at the shop told me she thought it was an Ashford Wee Peggy, but I think that’s just based on the fact that it’s a castle wheel. When you look closely, it doesn’t look too much like the wheel in the photos on that page.

However, browsing through that page about New Zealand-built spinning wheels, this castle wheel, by H. H. Napier/Glenfield Industries, caught my eye. It says this type of wheel was made on Auckland’s North Shore in the 1960s. Look at this and compare the shape and placement of the mother-of-all, treadle, legs, etc., even the spokes on the wheel. Doesn’t it look just like mine? I love the fact that his initials are H. H. too.

It doesn’t help me too much with the things I was wondering about–where to get extra bobbins, for example. I have two bobbins and one of them has a pretty small whorl, so it spins at a fairly high ratio (good for finer yarns) and gets less use than the slower bobbin. I’d like at least one more larger bobbin–actually, I would really like to have at least four bobbins so I can do a three-ply easily, but judging by the paucity of information on the internet about this wheel, I don’t think I’m going to have too much luck with finding extras. I’m also mildly curious about how much my wheel is worth, in case I decide to trade it in one day for a wheel with easily available spare parts.

More stuff in my setup: You can see my orifice hook dangling from the wheel in the picture above. I use a Dritz loop turner for the purpose and I love it–it has a little latch over the hook that works perfectly for grabbing onto the leader. Also, I just put on a new drive band, made of a long strand of Plymouth Encore tied in three places. I read somewhere that jelly yarns make nice drive bands, so maybe one of these days I’ll try that out.

I own one spinning book: Maggie Casey’s Start Spinning. I also checked out the Alden Amos Big Book of Handspinning and Teach Yourself Visually Handspinning from the library. Of the three, I think Teach Yourself Visually is my favorite; in addition to the absolute basics about wheel and spindle spinning (like in the Maggie Casey book, which is an excellent introduction to spinning), it gets into some slightly more advanced (but still practical) information–construction of novelty yarns using different plying effects, and appropriate methods for spinning different types of fibers, like cotton, vicuna, and angora. Alden Amos is amusingly opinionated, kind of the Elizabeth Zimmermann of spinning, but the book gets very technical about things like mathematically figuring out slippage percentages in a double drive wheel system–not the type of information I personally was looking for, but great for a certain very select audience.

(Actually, I have a note to add: after reading some of the reviews of the Teach Yourself Visually Handspinning book, I’m starting to doubt whether it’s a good source of information. Since I haven’t compared all the different types of wheels personally, or tried the methods the author suggests for certain types of spinning, I can’t speak to those criticisms personally, but one of those negative reviewers seems pretty knowledgeable and pretty certain about what’s wrong with the book.)

So here’s yet more yarn I spun up. This is the 4 oz. of indigo-dyed Coopworth from Handspun by Stefania I bought at the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival. It was such a dream to work with, smooth and easy to spin, I couldn’t stop working with it…

It started as roving:

Z-spun singles were not enough, so I made them into an S-twisted two-ply:

And then the two-ply was not enough, so I plied it again, with a Z twist, making it into my first cabled yarn:

Gorgeous, isn’t it? In some lights it reads with a greenish tint, almost teal, while in full natural sunlight it looks closer to a pure, cool blue between cornflower and cobalt.

I have about 93 yards of it. I kind of wanted to do a cabled hat to take advantage of the roundness of the yarn, but I don’t think I have enough yarn for that… what to do? Perhaps colorwork, or a contrasting brim? I have some cabled Di Ve’ Zenith in frosty gray that might work in terms of texture and weight. Or I could just start with cables from the top down and see what happens–perhaps it’s enough, if I use large enough needles.

I’ve been so obsessed with spinning fibers on Etsy lately. I keep clicking around and putting things in my cart and then taking them back out again. But I couldn’t resist buying this champagne-colored baby camel-tussah silk fiber when I saw it on sale:

I hadn’t spun with it before; I was pretty much 100% inspired by rainydaygoods’ post about her little glowing camel-silk sample from A Verb for Keeping Warm. (And also the incredible sensual pleasure of seeing and touching Handmaiden Camelspin.) Coming off my experience with spinning buffalo fiber, I was a little afraid I wouldn’t be up to the task of spinning it.

But as it turns out, it is the dreamiest stuff I’ve ever touched. Fluffy and buttery soft, it’s easy to draft, and it wants to be spun fine and smooth and even. I worked up a tiny sample skein and then a little sample lace swatch from that, on size 6’s:

After petting the swatch for a while, I shook myself back to my senses and went back to finishing the bulkier yarns I had on my wheel (spinning some BFL, sampling the CSA fiber from Four Crows Farm, spinning up a rainbow tweed batt I bought in Point Reyes)… but I’m saving the camel-silk for a spinning treat for myself. Once I finish all the faster spinning, I’ll settle down to the hours and hours of creamy laceweight camel-silk. And I’ll have to come up with a perfect pattern for Camelspin, both store-bought and handspun.

From my copy of Dairy Goat Journal, I’ve learned so much about wattles in the past couple of days. I basically knew what they were before, but not so many details…

  • “Wattles on dairy goats are hair-covered appendages of flesh hanging from the throat area of a goat” (OK, this much I knew already)
  • Goats can have either one or two wattles, and like the appendix, they serve no purpose. They can grow in many places–cheeks, shoulders, and even dangling from the ears, like earrings.
  • Registered Nubian does show better without wattles, so they are typically cut off or rubber-banded at birth to remove them
  • They can appear in any breed of dairy goat, including Alpines, La Manchas, Nigerians, Oberhasli, Nubians, Saanens, Sables, and Toggenburgs
  • Wattles on a dairy goat are apparently an indicator for good milk production potential! According to the Journal of Dairy Science, “…heterozygous polled goats or those with wattles are more prolific than horned animals or without wattles.”
  • Goats can sometimes develop wattle cysts, but these are benign and non-contagious

Now you know, too, and knowing’s half the battle.

I was also tickled to see an article in DGJ about a visit to Capriole Goat Farm, located near Bloomington and a regular with tasty cheeses at the Bloomington farmer’s market.

Anyway, on to less wattley topics. Here’s the final installment of my posts about the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival: what I ended up buying. I pretty much limited myself to the two stalls I’d been looking forward to since seeing them at The Fiber Event in Greencastle, IN: Briar Rose Fibers for yarn, and Handspun by Stefania for roving. There were a lot of really tempting things to look at, though–Wisconsin is home to many fiber-related companies, including Babe’s Fiber Garden (home of cheap PVC spinning wheels), Blackberry Ridge Woolen Mills (home of squishy, wooly yarn), and Kimmet Croft Fibers, home of the Fairy Hare yarn officially sanctioned for use in the reproduction Bohus sweaters in Poems of Color. (It’s also home to Elizabeth Zimmermann/Meg Swansen’s Schoolhouse Press, but they weren’t at the festival, sadly.)

So one unplanned purchase was about 1/2 ounce of purple wool, a little sample from a local fiber CSA called Four Crows Farm, just to see how it spins up:

Egged on/enabled/encouraged by Mary, I got 600 yards of Briar Rose Celebration, a DK-weight merino-bamboo blend. Yes, it does look pretty much exactly like the yarn I used for my Shetland Triangle. But they’re good colors. Rose, peach, gold. I’m not sure what to make with this yet, though.

A 478-yard mega-hank of Briar Rose Sonoma, a bulky weight wool. My skein is beautiful deep reds, rusts, and browns with a little shot of olive:


I’m thinking I’ll make a quick-knit striped pullover with this and the leftover brown yarn from my Leaf Lace Pullover.

And a few balls of roving from Handspun by Stefania. I was all excited when I walked in because I had been really looking forward to their booth, and they were right by the door of the first barn. But then I ended up kind of peeved because I took a photo, intending to blog about how awesome their roving is and how pretty all the naturally dyed colors are together, but when the flash went off, Stefania’s husband’s head whipped around, he told me sternly that they had “had too many problems in the past” with people taking photos of their booth, said I needed to ask before taking photos in the festival, and made me delete the photo I had taken from my camera. I can’t imagine what kind of issues they’ve had in the past with this–I would imagine that photos and positive word of mouth in the blogosphere would only have done them good. Instead they get me being cranky about it all (but they still made the sale) and nobody on the internet gets to see the vast and lovely variety of roving, kits, and handspun yarn at their stall.

Anyway, weirdness about photos aside, I’ve really liked spinning their roving in the past (previous skeins here and here) and here’s what I ended up with this time:


The sunlight kind of washed out the colors of the greens for the most part, but there’s one plain spring green ball (8 oz.) that was in the end-of-lot 20% discount bin, and the ball in the bottom photo that’s a slightly more olive-toned green shot through with gold silk (7.7 oz. Corriedale and silk dyed in osage and indigo).  Bouncy, soft, and very lustrous, though I don’t know how much of the shine is the silk. My plan is to make a two-ply of these two fibers and make an actual handspun sweater out of this. Wish me luck.

The blue ball of roving is 4 oz. of Coopworth dyed in indigo to what I thought was a medium blue, but seems quite a lot darker now that it’s at home and on the bobbin. I was thinking I would make some kind of winter accessories with this handspun–mittens, hat, or scarf. It’s soft, lustrous, and has a nice long staple of about 6 inches–easy to spin, though a little pre-drafting helps.

More pictures from the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival:

A baby lamb, born the day before! CUTE! Also covered with an alarming number of flies. NOT SO CUTE!



In the shearing demo area, a man with a spectacular amount of raw fleece in a couple of giant plastic bags:

Some sheep with lovely natural-colored wool

Sheep who did NOT want to go home

We wandered into the 4-H judging barn, where the judges would stride up and down and say things like “This is a fine example of a Lincoln ewe, good volume in the hindquarters, good muscle, nice and square, but if I were going to change something, I’d want to see a bit more femininity in the haunches.” They all looked like just plain sheep to me. Perhaps one day I’ll be a connoisseur. (Though I generally disapprove of breeding animals for form, a la the AKC, maybe it’s different for sheep, more functionally based? Who knows. Perhaps my Sheep! magazine will tell me.)


We tried to feed our carrot tops to these sheep but they were pretty “meh” about it.

Carrots? meh.

One of the highlights of the day was seeing some sheepdog herding trials. It was one of the most wonderful things I’ve ever seen. This border collie (I think his name was Ben) was having the time of its life herding these ducks around the pen–slinking around, eye-stalking, running around the edges and chasing them through tubes and over stairs and between traffic cones. It was hilarious (watching birds run is inherently funny) and heartwarming at the same time, seeing this dog doing what he was born to do. (More or less. I bet he would have preferred sheep.)

Look at him on his belly, watching them run.


Good boy, Ben!

WordPress just ate my goddamn post so I’ll just tell you that I went to the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival today with Mary (aka turtleknitter) and had a great time. More details later, when I stop being pissed off. (Note to self: never, ever click the “Toggle fullscreen preview” button. It will delete your entire post and the “autosave draft” function is apparently completely meaningless)

Anyway, a few photos that require little explanation…
Here’s Mary in front of the barns.

I finished my Cherry cardigan and wore it today! Buttons: 5/8″ gray shell. I’ll have to take some better photos later. But you can kind of see it in these two photos… me petting a giant fluffy bunny:

and me and Mary and some mohair:

Here is a strange Christian wool vendor proclaiming “No sales on Sundays.” I got used to the blue laws in Indiana prohibiting the sale of alcohol on Sundays, but I’ve never seen Sabbathday restrictions on wool sales before.

A sheep in a jacket.

A scary devil sheep (actually a four-horned Jacob, I think)

A tiny pocket sheep (actually a Shetland). WANT!

Here are some freebies I got from one of the booths.

From left to right: Sheep!, Dairy Goat Journal, and Backyard Poultry. Dairy Goat Journal has some especially inviting stories this month–let’s take a closer look:

  • Make Goat Cheese Easily
  • Nubian Judging Quiz
  • What Are Wattles?

Babies first, then snakes!

Pattern: Baby Sweater on Two Needles (February), from Elizabeth Zimmermann‘s Knitter’s Almanac

Yarn used: 2 skeins Nashua Cilantro in Geranium, snagged for $5 a skein from the bargain bin at Uncommon Threads

Needles used: US size 9/5.5 mm

Started: December 5, 2007

Finished: Knitting finished December 8, 2007; ends woven in and snaps attached December 12, 2007

Size: All measurements taken pre-blocking: 8.5″ long from neck to hem, 22″ chest, armholes approx. 7.5″ around, garter yoke approximately 3″ long, yoke worked to length of 5″ before separating sleeves from body

Mods: I ran out of yarn, so I knit the body first, noticed I was running short, and knit only 3 garter ridges before binding off (the pattern calls for 1″ of garter stitch at the border). I bound off the sleeves immediately, rather than knitting sleeves, due to the extreme yarn shortage, so it has cap sleeves rather than long ones–I toyed with the idea of getting another skein of Cilantro mail-order, but decided that this wasn’t going to be worn for warmth anyway, so the short sleeves would be OK.

I also used 4 pearl snaps in the yoke rather than buttons, for fear that the recipient would tear off sewn buttons and eat them. Hopefully the snaps will stay put. They had to be applied with a hammer! I have never hammered a knitted object before, and it was kind of fun.

(When I was going through my button box to find the snaps, I found these sushi buttons I bought from Reprodepot and realized they would have been adorable on this sweater! If only they made sushi snaps.)

Notes: This sweater is so adorable I can’t stand it. I want to make a giant baby sweater (as unappealing as that name sounds) for myself sometime.

Edited because in my hurry to get out of the house to see The Golden Compass (it was OK, but how could they have left out that vital last scene from the book?), I forgot to add my notes about the pattern and the yarn.

The pattern, though pithy, shouldn’t cause anyone any great distress if they understand the basic concept of a top-down sweater. The only puzzling thing was the “pick up 4×7 stitches” instruction. Apparently, this just means to pick up 7 stitches 4 times–14 stitches under each arm.

Stitch markers can be easily employed with the gull stitch pattern, and I recommend it. After knitting across the entire body of the sweater only to find my stitch count was off at the very end of the row, I put in a marker at every repeat and found the going much easier. The only problem was that I used rubber bands, and they have a maddening tendency to get stuck to the needle or cable and slide under the stitches. I clearly need to invest in some more “real” stitch markers.

The yarn, a matte cotton-acrylic blend, was a dream to work with–thick, round, bouncy,  with great stitch definition, and stretchy beyond the point of Rowan Calmer and into bungee cord territory. You can see that the stretchiness exacerbated some tension issues in my garter stitch, but I don’t care–I’d definitely work with it again.

The light these days is not so great, so the red didn’t come out very true in my photos. It’s a bright cheerful red. The last picture is probably the best.

Here is the sweater, fetchingly modeled on my balcony by a bottle of laundry detergent.

My cousin is adopting a one-year-old baby girl from China in the next month or so, so I’m sending the sweater along with the rest of the Christmas presents for the family. Hopefully it will fit the recipient at least as well as it fits the laundry detergent. I don’t know much about babies, but the CYC seems to think it should fit a size 2 baby, whatever that means. She’s small for her age, so I’m hoping she is size 2 or smaller.

Anyway–I have another Kureopatora’s Snake completed! This one will go to my dad for Christmas. I’ll do another photoshoot with the snake scarf modeled before I send it off–just wanted to put up a few pictures in the meantime. As I predicted, fewer colors work best in this pattern. Last time, I used Plymouth Boku in mixed reds and there were just too many colors in it–this time, I used Patons SWS in Natural Slate, and couldn’t be happier with the results. Look at how gorgeous and elegant this is! I totally love it.

Or something, anyway. You’d think all the yarn in the world had been discontinued. Here’s one installment of the stashy goodness I picked up in California:

Classic Elite Tapestry

6 skeins of Classic Elite Tapestry, part of a Marvelous Mukluks kit (also including a pattern, a postcard with pictures of mukluks, a basket, and a crusty, ancient single-use package of wool wash). Grand total: $5! Found in a thrift store on California Avenue in Palo Alto. I think I’m going to use this for mittens, like maybe a pair of Elli’s herringbone Pom mittens. Not sure how much yarn it will really take, but I’ll find out the hard way, I guess.

(Speaking of which, here’s a picture of how far I got on my second Selbuvotter mitten before running out of CC yarn.

selbuvotter

Now I have to place another Knit Picks order so I can get my $2 skein of Telemark!)

Here’s a whole slew of pictures of a skein of Chameleon Colorworks Twinkle Toes in “October.” I don’t even want to knit with this yarn, it’s so beautiful. It looks much paler than the online pictures I’ve seen of this colorway. So many lovely, warm colors in the skein, and that great Tencel shine. I would have called this Nectarine or Rose Gold rather than October. I associate October with stronger, darker reds and browns and brighter yellows and oranges than this.

I bought it at Imagiknit in San Francisco, and I think, if I can bear to, I’ll make a small lace shawl out of it.

I picked up this tiny bundle of Habu XS-45 20/3 bamboo laceweight at Stash Yarns. It looks like pure spun silver:

I plan to make a Swallowtail shawl out of it.

(I’m having a hard time thinking of casting on for either of these right now because I have this terrible, greedy fear of giving away the finished object.)

One more thing. Meet You Bastard.

you bastard scarf

Also, this is Sasha, the cat I helped cat-sit. Look how flat his teary-eyed face is! Awww. He’s the most beautiful of all. Sasha