Special wheel

I don’t appear to have talked about my newest wheel!

It is from Seth Golding at Golding Fiber Tools, his Folding Travel Wheel.  It has all the wonderful craftsmanship of his father Tom’s full size wheel in a slightly smaller size and the ability to fold down and be taken places.  Also a slightly lighter price tag.

I had wanted a Golding wheel for a while, and decided that I needed something special to mark the 20 year anniversary of my losing my health.  Since learning to spin was something I gained from becoming disabled, a special wheel seemed like an appropriate celebration.  My husband agreed to afford a full size wheel, but then the travel wheels came out.  I had also wanted a wheel that was easier to take with to festivals and classes occasionally.  My Mazurka is light and moves around easily, but isn’t designed for travel.  So I could get two things I wanted – a Golding wheel and a wheel designed for traveling with in one package!  I ordered one of the first made.

Golding folded

folded Golding travel wheel

It came folded, and was very easy to unfold and set up.

Golding upright

Golding Travel wheel set up

The woods used are cherry and walnut.  Has a built in Kate for plying, changing ratios is very easy, with fantastic diagrams in the manual.  The ball bearings are sealed or self lubricating – no oiling, ever!  It’s double-treadle and is incredibly smooth.  The treadles are large, which is very nice.  And shows the beautiful wood used.

Golding woodgrain

treadles, Cherry wood


It’s fairly heavy, roughly 15 pounds.  This makes it heavier than my Mazurka, but also means it’s nice and sturdy for traveling.  The carving is beautiful as well.

Golding Wheel carving

carving detail

It’s a pleasure to spin on, a very special wheel indeed!




A Very Special Shawl

As part of some work I was commissioned by my mom for Christmas gifts, I was asked to do some socks for a particular friend of the family.  This was one of the family friends that I have very fond memories of growing up, so I knew I wanted to not just do socks, but special socks.  After presenting some options to my mom, she picked out a pattern and the yarns, and I sat down to work.

Only, it didn’t.  There was an issue with the pattern that I had problems resolving.  So I adapted it, but there were additional issues with the yarn.  Though the same brand and type of sock yarn, one of the yarns was just enough thinner to create a problem in the color work.  So I adapted again and started over.  Again.  And again.  It just didn’t seem to work.  Rather, it worked, but I wasn’t happy with it for some reason.  Usually I’ll get to a point when starting socks where I say “yup, this is right”.  It didn’t happen.  I kept having doubts, including about the fit.  The whole project just didn’t feel right.  I pondered it and consulted with my mom, and we agreed to change the product to a shawl, design to be my choosing.

A shawl or capelet would need less shaping, and be free of some of the other problems I became concerned with about the socks.  So I started looking through my stitch books, and quickly made some decisions on how to start.  I knew I wanted top down, and I knew I wanted circle, like the mandalas she was so fond of, but open in the front for ease of wear.

I decided I wanted to start with the blue I had.  And turtles.



The lighting where this picture was taken makes this appear more purple than it is.  I had to do some adapting because I wanted the turtles facing up, and I was knitting top down.  So I had to start knitting from the head, rather than the tail like the stitch pattern I had.  I also knew that I wanted to do most of my increases by the end of this section.

I also had a red, and had seen a green I thought would go with them nicely.  I knew that just the blue and red would not be enough if I was doing a solid pattern, rather than lace.  I wanted hearts, and I wanted trees.  I decided to do the hearts first.  Some pointing up, some pointing down.





As I was finishing this up, I realized I was running out of yarn, but I also liked the idea of the hearts going into the green, and the trees, which I knew this friend loved.




apple tree

apple tree


The green panel I knew I wanted to be mirrored more or less from one side to the other, so I reversed the order of the trees.  This gave me an additional problem of a set of stitches in the center back, and what to do with them.  I combined a couple of stitch patterns and came up with this.

center panel

center panel


As I was knitting the tree panel, I realized it wasn’t going to be quite as long as I thought it should be, so I went in search of another yarn, thinking that purple would be a good thing to go it.  I did not find a solid at my local yarn shop, but I did find a variegated that tied the other colors together.  I decided that I wanted a slightly lacy pattern for the bottom panel, but then realized that I wanted the trees to have roots, so I threw some of those in.






I liked a “flame” lace pattern, that could also be reversed for a different look, and that’s what I finished with.




All together:




One of the things that happens when knitting for other people is sometimes you’re never really sure what the person thinks about it.  I thought that this friend would like the creation, and my mother also thought she would really like it.  A couple of days ago I got a really lovely letter saying that she’s worn it almost constantly since she got it, and how much she really loves it.  One thing that I did not know, was how much she loves turtles, it simply seemed right when I made that first decision.  I hadn’t been thinking about her home town Sacred Heart when I decided on the hearts either.

It came together in what seemed a haphazard way, but ended up being just ideal!


Ravellenic Games challenge – Two At A Time socks!

Well, the Games are over, both the Olympic and the Ravellenic, so I’m no longer knitting like a maniac.  I decided to challenge myself, do two pairs of socks during, and try two-at-a-time socks for the first time.

I normally knit my socks on two circular needles, and while you can do two at a time on one circular, I decided against that.  They can also be done on double-pointed needles, and as I understand it, every other stitch is a separate sock; so stitch one is sock one, stitch two is sock two, stitch three is sock one again and so on.  When you’re done, you merely pull one finished sock out of the other!  Of course if you mess up *one* stitch, you have two socks bound together.  I had also heard it said that it is helpful to do socks of different colors, so there’s additional visual cues.  This is a challenge I *might* try someday.

For the way I was doing my socks, you can separate the yarn into two separate balls, or you can knit from both the outside and the inside strand of a center pull ball/cake.  I chose to do the inside/outside method, though there’s more to pay attention to in yarn tangling.  It’s easier to use the same amount of yarn and just keep knitting than trying to get equal amounts of yarn into two balls, which is totally possible, it’s just different areas of “fiddly”.

So, my start:

my start of two at a time socks


It’s a little washed out, but it’s a beautiful color called “Velvet Port”, the yarn is Dream in Color, their Smooshy yarn.  The pattern is a smocked ribbing pattern called Victorian Birdcage by Cat Bordhi in her Sweet Tomato Heel e-book collection (it appears to be for sale individually on Ravelry too).

Why would someone want to do two socks at the same time?  It’s the same amount of knitting so you don’t really get things done faster in terms of numbers of hours knitting, it might even be a smidge slower with making sure the yarn doesn’t get tangled and moments of “where am I” while doing the work.  The two biggest reasons I can think of is that you get both socks done at the same time.  Sometimes when you finish one sock, there’s an “ugh, I have to do *another* one” feeling.  I don’t often get that feeling, but have.  Some folks get that feeling a lot.  It’s “done” so time to move on!  By doing two at once when you finish the first sock, you’re also finishing the second, so the pair feels more like one project than two.  The other big reason is yarn usage.  Most skeins of sock yarn today have plenty of yardage, no need to worry about running out doing a pair.  But if you’re doing long socks, or a pattern that takes up a lot of yarn, or are just “knitting until satisfied with length” there can be some anxiety about having enough yarn, or getting the sock legs the same length, that kind of thing.  By doing both at once, you’re on the same row on both socks at the same time.  So the length will be the same, the amount of yarn used will be the same (as long as you’re doing the same pattern on both socks), and you can use up the yarn without wondering how much you have to leave for the second sock.

I finished my first pair in a week.  It didn’t take me long to get the hang of what I was doing, or to start giving myself nerve damage in my left index finger.  A band-aid was sufficient padding that I could continue and not hurt myself (injuries while doing “sedate” crafts is a *whole* other subject!).

For my second pair I decided to just wing it (not the best idea it turned out) and try Cat’s padded Sweet Tomato Heel, which uses a slip every other stitch method to create a cushier heel.

The heel is started there, but you can’t see it very well, you can see the rope twist I was doing for the front decoration.  And yes, that’s a twist tie.  A trick if you find you get gaps is to place a stitch on a holder of some type (I used safety pins, couldn’t find a fourth for some reason so used the tie) and leave it until you’re done with the heel.  Then work it up and put in place on your needles to continue knitting.

These also took me a week, even though I had to rip out part of it and add more stitches.  I would have been better off picking a pattern and following it, but ultimately the socks were wearable, and so “count” for the challenge:

Both socks for the challenge


Photographing socks on your own feet is difficult, I’ve had some success using my tripod, but didn’t turn out this time.  I’m happy with them especially the smocked ribbing (smocking is the carrying yarn in front to make a pattern).

Since I completed the challenge I set for myself I got “medals”:

The winter Games are coming, I’ll be participating again I believe!


To Block or not Block…

Often a question knitters ask!  The finishing of a project – putting parts together, weaving in ends, and blocking the item into shape is something that many, though not all, people see as a chore.

What is blocking?  Basically it’s taking your item and wetting or merely dampening it, then placing it in shape to dry.  Washing your item after you get all the ends worked in and such is a good idea anyway, it’s probably not as clean as you might think, and doing the washing and shaping will make the item look nicer much of the time.  For sweaters (which I have yet to knit) with parts, blocking the parts before putting it together can help with that step, with everything in the shape and size it should be.  But what most people envision as “blocking” is taking an item and stretching it out and pinning it.  With lace… this is necessary to have a nice looking final product.

Lace is in many ways magical.  It does strange things while you’re knitting it, and most of the time it simply looks like a mess, or at the very least, unimpressive.  This is a small shawl I knit recently:

Quilla shawl unblocked

unblocked Quilla shawl

Okay, not the best picture but you can clearly see how the edges are curled up, and it doesn’t really look like much.

So I blocked it.  I had forgotten how much I really dislike blocking lace.  I don’t have a great place to do it, and it hurts my back (again probably because I don’t have a great place to do the deed), which is a fair part of the dislike.  I’m pondering changes so it’s not such problem for me.  Anyway, I pinned it outstretched, then dampened it and let it dry.  The result:

blocked quilla shawl

Closer view of Quilla

I was neglectful in that second one and some of the tips are folded under, but you can better see the lace definition.  These are actually fairly poor pictures of this pattern, which is Quilla by Susanna IC, available at Windy Valley Muskox.  There are much better pictures of the pattern there, I used a lighter yarn, and did not do the beading.  It’s a fun and easy little shawl to do!

So… to block or not block?  Most items (other than dishrags and such)? Block.  Non-lace items can merely be put into shape without pinning probably.  Lace of course needs the blocking to really show itself.  My biggest suggestion?  If you yourself don’t like blocking, ask at your local yarn shop (should you have one or more of those) if they offer that service.  Some do offer finishing services for a fee.  Or involve friends in your fibery endeavors and see if there’s someone who enjoys the process!



New member of the spindle family!

Thursday of last week someone mentioned on the forum I’m on for fiber tools made by Golding Fiber Tools that he had up a special edition spindle made from 2800 year old Russian Bog Oak!  I quickly snapped one up, my love of his spindles and my love of old, ancient things making it far too tempting.

Bog oak, or any bog wood, comes from wood that has been preserved in peat bogs around the world.  It can be hundreds or thousands of years old, and is darkened from the conditions that have preserved it.

This spindle came with a copy of the certificate of age, stating that it’s Radiocarbon date is 2840 years old, plus or minus fifty years.  It’s 2″ diameter, with a walnut shaft and bronze alloy ring, for a weight of 0.46 ounces.  It will be great for fine fibers, and fit right in with my other three spindles from him!

Russian Bog Oak spindle

spindle, certificate in background


Russian Bog Oak spindle closeup

spindle closeup


underside of spindle

underside of spindle



Tour de Fleece spinning

On Ravelry they hold, during the Tour de France, an event called the Tour De Fleece, where folks can join teams of all kinds and participate in challenges and celebrate the challenge of the bike event.  I decided to participate this year, and use it as an excuse to spin up some of the samples that I’ve been sitting on. 

I started with guanaco that I’ve been sitting on for quite a while, intimidated by it’s fineness and expense.  Guanaco is a South American camelid, similar to llamas and alpacas, with finer fiber, though not as fine as the vicuña.  The fiber I have is a beautiful natural cinnamon color

singles from the guanaco

Guanaco singles on my Golding

Above you can see the fiber and the Golding spindle I was working on.  I did singles in three “batches” on the spindle, winding into a ball, joining the new “batch” into the same ball.  I then took the ball and using my winder, made a center-pull ball.  This was scary, as singles can tangle *very* easily, and this was a fine fiber, so the possibility of the center collapsing into a knotted mess was… high.  A rolled up piece of paper that would expand as the center did helped.

Guanaco center pull singles ball

I then used both ends to wind a plying ball.

Guanaco plying ball being made

Guanaco plying ball being made

This made the plying a lot easier because I did not have to manage the center pull ball from collapsing on itself and the singles tangling.  I could have also divided the singles into two balls and either plied directly from them or made a plying ball, but doing it this way while a bit scarier and taking a bit more time also allowed me to use all of the singles, with nothing left over because there was more yardage on one.  Measuring weight will get one close, but since this is hand spun and I’m not perfect with my spinning, there will be variances in thickness, and that will usually give at least some variance in yardage if measuring by weight. 

I plied this on the same spindle.  Normally I’d used a heavier spindle but I thought I would try it.  I was really pleased with the results.  This hasn’t been “finished” yet, meaning it hasn’t been washed, so it may change slightly when I do.   The niddy noddy I still use is one my father made me when I first started spinning.  It’s simple, and since the shaft is hard for me to grip I will tape cardboard around it to help, but it works like it should!

Guanaco skeined

Guanaco being skeined


Skein of guanaco

Skein of guanaco

Guanaco close up

Guanaco close up

This was one ounce of fiber, spun fine (there’s a dime with the skein for comparison).  It made up about 150 yards.  It was lovely to spin, and was really just a “blob” of fiber, not a particular prep, so some of the unevenness could have been dealt with if I had slowed down a little bit more.  It’s certainly a fiber that I will indulge myself with again!

After the guanaco, I moved on to a Blue Faced Leicester and silk blend.  It’s 85% BFL and 15% silk. 



The actual color was very hard to capture on this one.  It’s most accurately the browner parts that you see, though I would still call it mostly grey.  I spun it on the same spindle, though with this fiber I took care to do it slowly so I could smooth it down as I spun, using a lot of park-and-draft.  I wound it off into a single ball as before and then made a center pull ball.  This I plied on my heavier Golding.  I was having a bad fibro day when I plied it and completely spaced out making a plying ball until I was part way through plying from the center pull.  I considered stopping and going back, but pressed on.  It wasn’t terrible and while next time I will try to remember the ball, (the extra time it takes to make one is totally worth it) I am very pleased with the results.


BFL/tussah spun up

BFL/tussah closer

BFL/tussah closer

I am actually more pleased with this than the guanaco!  There will certainly be more of this in my future.  There was also one ounce of this, and it worked up to about 134 yards.  This is also “unfinished” at this point, and may change slightly once washed.

I have also started a silk and linen 50/50 blend, that I am actually really disliking.  I guess I’m a critter fiber kind of gal!  I may decide to not finish that because I think little fine flax fibers are aggravating my allergies.  I do like linen, but I haven’t spun it much.  There’s so many different things out there that I don’t see any point in fighting with something I dislike.  However I’ll try another technique or two and see if we can come to an agreement, at least for the ounce that I have.

USOC and Ravelry

I thought I would weigh in on the story that’s gone “viral”, about the US Olympic Committee sending a “cease and desist” letter to the owners of the fiber arts website community Ravelry, about  an event that they’ve held the last three years in conjunction with the Olympic Games.  The event is named “Ravelympics” and there are events held for people to challenge themselves while enjoying the challenges of the Olympic athletes of their respective nations. 

Many years ago the US Congress established the USOC and gave them the “Olympic” Trademark.  Yes, the word.  In The Amateur Sports Act of 1978, and signed into law by then-President Jimmy Carter.  Since then the organization has gone after businesses that have had the world “Olympic” in their name since before that was granted, forced the Olympics of the Mind to change its name (now known as the Oddessy of the Mind I believe), and generally been what many people see as a bully about it all.  There is a *lot* of money involved in the “Olympic brand”, and there are some high-paid salaries as well.  So a good portion of it is certainly about profit.  Yes, it’s not a for-profit organization, but corportate sponsers profit from the association, and certainly those in the organization with rather large salaries do.  But also… apparently if a person or organization has a trademark, if they *don’t* go after every. single. possible. violation. they find, they lose the right to defend it at all.  Or at very least it greatly weakens their position if they do take someone to court.   Chalk that up to common sense is rare in the legal system.  They are not the only Olympic Committee to do this.  Happened in Canada, and apparently this year “London 2012” is forbidden to be used in the UK.  Mostly this applies to any business or commercial purposes.  A private person holding a private party is not of concern, but a business holding a party, even if they aren’t profiting, falls under potential threat I guess. 

My personal opinion is that no one is going to confused the “Ravelympics” with the real deal, and to want them to change their name is silly.  But that’s for attorneys to decide.  Unlike what some Ravelry users feel (though not the majority by any means) renaming the event is not the end of the world, and the USOC did not ask that the event not be held, merely that the name(s) be changed, and had some possibly legitimate concerns about actual trademark violations in the form of patterns that were being sold (that I did not investigate).  Yes, the rings are off-limits.  Again, possibly silly, but… I’m not going to get all up in arms about it. 

However.  It was not just a “we think these things violate our trademark, change x, y, and z.”  The letter went on to express very clearly that the events being held “denigrates” the athletes and their training and efforts.  This is a quote from the letter:

 The athletes of Team USA have usually spent the better part of their entire lives training for the opportunity to compete at the Olympic Games and represent their country in a sport that means everything to them. For many, the Olympics represent the pinnacle of their sporting career. Over more than a century, the Olympic Games have brought athletes around the world together to compete in an event that has come to mean much more than just a competition between the world’s best athletes. The Olympic Games represent ideals that go beyond sport to encompass culture and education, tolerance and respect, world peace and harmony.

The USOC is responsible for preserving the Olympic Movement and its ideals within the United States. Part of that responsibility is to ensure that Olympic trademarks, imagery and terminology are protected and given the appropriate respect. We believe using the name “Ravelympics” for a competition that involves an afghan marathon, scarf hockey and sweater triathlon, among others, tends to denigrate the true nature of the Olympic Games. In a sense, it is disrespectful to our country’s finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work.

So… people coming together to challenge themselves with their *own* set of skills to appreciate the sets of skills of the athletes is insulting, and not recognizing of their hard work.  Even though the event actually encourages watching the Olympics, when the audience is down.  I, like many others, was insulted.  Many took it in light that fiber arts are see (particularly in the US) as “women’s pasttimes”.  In particular “old lady pastimes”.   And that our art is not generally seen as useful (“you *know* you can buy socks at Walmart right?”) so for some it stung in to ways, an insult both to the art/craft, and to it or themselves in terms of devaluing “women’s work”.  I did not necessarily take it that way, but still, it was insulting.

I am not, nor will I ever be, an Olympic athlete.  I can appreciate the dedication and training that goes into being such, or any athlete for that matter.  But that does NOT mean that they are in any way “better” than I, or a group of crafters in general are.  They are at the top of their field, so are some of these crafters.  Some people talking about this matter suggested that crafters were actually better than a bunch of sports people, and I do not believe that to be true either.  One is not better than the other, they are different.  Both have good and bad people involved.  There are athletes that try to gain an advantage by using drugs, there are crafters who copy other people’s patterns and sell them as their own, or cut patterns they want out of library books, even steal from craft shows.  Crafters are not inherently more or less noble than any other group.  We can produce pretty and/or useful products, even donate them to charity (many often do).  Athletes answer society’s need for entertainment, and even (in my opinion) perhaps answer a deep need for “tribal” identity and “warfare”.  Many also do things for various charities.  If modern society were to go belly up, both groups would potentially have useful things to bring to a survival table.  So… one not better than the other.  Think of how many more people would find it absurd if it was the other way around, if it was being said that a bunch of sports folks getting together to put forth their best efforts against each other denigrates a group of artists coming together to challenge themselves?

So the outcry began.  Blogs, Facebook posts, tweets.  NPR picked it up.   The thread on Ravelry where the letter was posted so folks would be aware of what was going on grew faster than it could be read.  Some folks discovered that the person’s whose name was on the letter was basically a summer intern.  Which made some people even more angry, and others wonder why he was allowed to put his name on the letters, and did anyone supervising him actually check to see what he was saying?  There were (and still are) calls for The Colbert Report and The Daily Show to pick it up.  There were people criticising the outcry too.  Some said folks did not have the right to be offended.  Even that the owner of Ravelry had gotten what was coming to him by way of the C&D letter.  I agreed with the folks calling for cooler heads to prevail, as some of the comments, particularly against the poor law clerk summer intern, were over the top.  I wanted to see what would come of the whole affair.  I said that I was offended, and I would write some letters, but I waited to see.  I was curious if this was someone who had overstepped their bounds in being insulting in a C&D letter, or… what. 

Surprisingly (to me) an apology came:

Statement Update:

“As a follow-up to our previous statement on this subject, we would again like to apologize to the members of the Ravelry community. While we stand by our obligation to protect the marks and terms associated with the Olympic and Paralympic Movements in the United States, we sincerely regret the use of insensitive terms in relation to the actions of a group that was clearly not intending to denigrate or disrespect the Olympic Movement. We hope you’ll accept this apology and continue to support the Olympic Games.”

Statement from USOC Chief Communications and Public Affairs Officer Patrick Sandusky:

“Thanks to all of you who have posted, tweeted, emailed and called regarding the letter sent to the organizers of the Ravelympics.

Like you, we are extremely passionate about what we do. And, as you may know, the United States Olympic Committee is a non-profit entity, and our Olympic team receives no government funding. We are totally dependent on our sponsors, who pay for the right to associate with the Olympic Movement, as well as our generous donors to bring Team USA to the Games.

The letter sent to the organizers of the Ravelympics was a standard-form cease and desist letter that explained why we need to protect our trademarks in legal terms. Rest assured, as an organization that has many passionate knitters, we never intended to make this a personal attack on the knitting community or to suggest that knitters are not supportive of Team USA.

We apologize for any insult and appreciate your support. We embrace hand-crafted American goods as we currently have the Annin Flagmakers of New Jersey stitching a custom-made American flag to accompany our team to the Olympic Games in London. To show our support of the Ravelry community, we would welcome any handmade items that you would like to create to travel with, and motivate, our team at the 2012 Games.”

Just a day after the hubub started!  I was somewhat impressed.  I was less impressed because the original also stated something along the lines of “hey if you want to send us knitted stuff to travel with the athletes, go ahead!” in a manner that came across of “we’re sorry you’re mad, you can send us free stuff!”  It did not appeal to many others either.  So the apologies were edited and updated and then Patrick Sandusky spent a lot of time on Twitter personally responding to people.  Which I think shows a lot of class, at least on his part!

So as someone who was offended and irritated, I have been appeased.  I also hope that the intern learned from this and it will not negatively impact him long term.  More, I hope that it will get the USOC to reconsider making insulting remarks in their “standard C&D letters” (they can think what they want, of course, just keep things polite in official communication).   There is no word yet (and likely won’t be for more weeks) on if “Ravelympics” really is a violation and if the name will change.  And it looked like there might even be some openness to considering some sort of relationship between the Olympic Games and the portion of Ravelry who likes to celebrate along with in the future.  Time will tell.  I certainly didn’t even begin to scratch the surface of reading all the blogs and posts and things on the matter.  Others can go find stuff if they wish to, as well as other fibery issues associated with this Olympics (search Woolsack project if interested).  Since I did post a bit here and there, I thought I would throw my 2 cents out there. 

I do intend to watch the Olympics and enjoy the events that I watch, and not let the issue sully my enjoyment any longer!

Manx Loaghtan and Shetland

I’ve joined a Spinner’s Study group on Ravelry, which has two fibers each month that members can work with and report back on.  This month one of the breeds is the Manx Loaghtan, a rare breed used for both meat and fleece, which is a moorit (brown) color.  They’re a nifty looking breed, check out the Manx Loaghtan Sheep Breeders Group!

I got a few ounces of prepared fleece from Hilltop Cloud in the UK.  It got here surprisingly fast, was unperfumed (always important to me), and was lovely in color and squishiness!

My first thought was that I would spin it up for socks, but decided that I would divide it up and spin it a few different ways to see how it behaved.  In other words, do something akin to an actual study.  I sat down one morning and divided it up and started spinning.  I’ve done up one sample, a bit thicker than I’ve been doing lately.  The result:

Manx Loaghtan yarn

Manx Loaghtan yarn spun from top on wheel, with Quarter for reference.

It did not turn out very even, but I’m quite pleased with it regardless.  It’s both dense and squishy, and would make a beautiful sweater or vest.  The quarter is placed for reference.  It was a top preparation, and I spun it “combination draw” which was a bit of short, a bit of long, some fiddling.   I ended up with roughly 32 and a half yards of this two ply, weight roughly 3/4 of an ounce.  The above yarn is “finished”, has been washed and set. I’ve also been spindle spinning some Shetland that I picked up at the Shepherd’s Harvest Festival and I took pictures of it at the same time. Shetland yarn

I’ve been happy with the way this is turning out, and may make a shawl out of it.  I have two finished skeins so far, and am working on a third, which may finish up the 6 ounces that I bought. 

As a point of interest, both the Shetland and the Manx Loaghtan were wound on the same niddy noddy, but the below picture shows how much more “spring” the Manx has!

Shetland and Manx yarns

Manx Loaghtan has more “spring” than the shetland!

The Manx Loaghtan is on the right and the Shetland is on the left. 

The next I plan to do with the Manx is a sock weight.  Hopefully I’ll get to that in the next week!

Cocoon to Scarf

Last year at the 2011 Shepherd’s Harvest Festival I picked up some silk cocoons to see how I felt about processing them.  I actually kind of enjoyed it, and mentioned what I was doing to a relative, who asked me to make a scarf, starting with the cocoons.  I did not document the entire process terribly well, but here is what I have!

I got cocoons with the stifled “worm” inside, and just barely simmered in a solution of water, Orvus paste, and washing soda to remove the “gum”, or sericin, that holds it together.  Cocoons in the pot, you can see darker brown showing through, that’s the pupae inside:

Then I rinsed them.  You can see more “bug” now.

Doing it this way makes a bit more of a mess than taking each cocoon out of the pot and spreading open before rinsing, but this made it easier for me to handle.  In the picture above you can see cocoons in various states of falling apart (it’s also easier if you take the cocoons out before that point, but I’m early in the learning curve).  Pupa:

With spread cocoon:


It was interesting to see the different stages they were at, some were just “blobs” of various sizes others had little nubs left of (or developing into) legs.  To get really nice mawata, or hankies, a frame is used.  I just spread them out by hand, stacking one on top of another, then letting dry.

When ready to spin, I then pulled off a single cocoon and pulled it out further, then spun, mixing in shredded mylar film in silver for the accent to this yarn. Two bobbins of singles were spun, then they were plied together.

I then wound off the plies into a ball for knitting!

The above was a test knit, the finished scarf was somewhat narrower.  I did a second batch to get some more length, too.  The sparkly stuff gets everywhere.  I mean everywhere.  Not crazy about using it again!  The scarf needed to tie in with a silk coat, which had stripes of silver in it, and so doing this was easier than trying to dye the silk to match, especially match something I did not have in front of me.  I got better at the method of spreading them out as time went on and probably eventually I’ll get or make a frame.  I did have some pictures of the finished scarf, but I was even more unsatisfied with them than the above photo so I didn’t include one.   I’ll include one later!

Ready to be Warm All Winter!

Warning – the writing in this post may be sub-par.  Having a lot of difficulties with cognitive function today it seems, but I’ve put this off long enough.

Winter is on it’s way, though we’ve been giving a small reprieve for the last few days.  In between the things that have been commissioned I took a few days to do something for myself for cold weather.

Warm All Winter hooded cowl

This is Cat Bordhi’s Warm All Winter hooded cowl, made with Angel’s Kiss bulky yarn, 60% alpaca, 40% merino wool.  Angel’s Kiss is a Wisconsin company that uses 100% US Alpaca, spins the yarn in the US,  and only sells through stores. While I’m not at all against spending money on things non-local, even non-US, I like options that will support smaller scale producers in the area!  This yarn has a wonderful feel to it, and the hooded cowl was easy to work up.   When Yarnology in Winona, MN posted that it was going on sale I immediately thought that it might be perfect for this!  At the shop, once handled, it was going into my stash regardless.

The bottom part around the face can be pulled down and the hood pushed back.  While I managed to figure out the timer on my camera again, I was not particularly photogenic, so how it can be worn is best shown by going to see the pattern on Cat’s site!

I also used a cable needle-less cabling technique that I’ve seen a few places, but this last time sat down and worked with it using the tutorial from Grumperina.  Even though I’m still practicing, it’s certainly not any slower than moving stitches to a separate needle and moving them around.

The opening for the face is actually made by cutting and unravelling one partial row of yarn after the rest is done.  As you knit the rows where that happens, lifelines are put in, then when ready the needle(s) go back and *gasp* a small snip is made.  It was my first time doing this (I also have not done “regular” steeking) and so was a little traumatic, but worked out just like it was supposed to!  The ball of yarn is then reattached as normal and knitting proceeds!  The video tutorial (link included in the pattern) was a great help, and with a little more practice I will be able to cut my knitting – intentionally – with confidence.