Sheep and Swatches

February 12, 2015 - 12:30 pm

A couple weeks ago we visited our friend Alice Mattson at Reflection Farm and took several hundred pics of her beautiful lambs and their mamas, as well as the dogs who keep them safe. The full set is here, and highlights below:


Only a couple hours old.


Took him out into the sun for a better pic.


The colorful flock racing for the barn.


It’s a lamb rainbow!


Thor with one of his charges behind him


Alice teaching Rainy some manners


Rainy, the new guardian dog. She’s Thor’s little sister.


Thor being inspected by a youngster with CVM markings.


Who then raced straight back to momma!


Aaaah, comfort. 

And I’ve been watching for a new pattern. What do you think this wants to be when it grows up?

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Find me at Madrona this weekend and I’ll tell you all about it. 🙂


December 3, 2014 - 4:17 pm

Drive-by post today to share progress on the first Curl I’m knitting: Icterine. It is made of gigantic braided cables:


I started with leftover BFL-silk, the first part of which was used for the DK weight Viburni:

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Then kept knitting:

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And knitting: 

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Until I ran out of yarn. Fortunately I have a lot more of the fiber, since this didn’t turn out to be enough scary wrap thing for what I wanted. So I spun a bit more, finished the yarn to be sure I had spun matcning yarn, and knit that bit into the scarf. I’m going to start spinning up the rest Right now.


Kerry Hill

May 31, 2011 - 8:58 pm

I received a box of rare breed fiber from sarahw this Saturday; she offered some samples form fleeces she has on Ravelry.

First off, look at these guys, they’re adorable!



I like this fiber.  A lot.  Enough that I’ve reached out to the only farm in the US with any Kerry Hill bloodlines; they are trying to breed up from AI, and currently have some 75% animals.  It’s difficult to get fleece from the UK, because it must be quite thoroughly washed to make it through customs.

Here are the first few samples I spun up:


I also included a handful of unprocessed fiber, a nest of combed sliver and a rolag form the waste of that combing in the picture.

The sample in the upper left is spun long draw from carded combing waste.  The little one on top of the washed fiber was finger spun right out of the bag when I first opened it.  The rest were spun from combed sliver in various ways: some worsted, some woolen, some two ply, some three ply, and at various thicknesses.

I only tried a little bit as laceweight.  The sample fleece I have has very little crimp, so spun tightly it turns into wire, and spun loosely the laceweight drifts apart.  You can see what I managed across the top of the combed samples; it just about completely untwisted in the bath.  In the thicker singles, though, the scales on the wool seem very grabby.  Even the carded fiber wanted to pull itself into a tight, smooth single.

As soon as it hit the water of the finishing bath it poofed out into a fluffy, springy yarn.  I can’t really tell the worsted from the long draw samples after their bath.  I can pick carded fiber sample mostly because it’s the longest, but I can see that it’s slightly more uneven than the other bits.  I still like the little fingerspun bit the best, but it was pleasant to spin and has a very soft, springy character.

I will also say it wants to felt like a stone.  I didn’t give it any agitation in the bath, and it was still sticking to itself.

I want MOAR!  What possessed me to purchase a box full of unobtanium?

Swatchy Swatch

April 8, 2011 - 12:19 pm

Today’s telephone time crafting has been swatching Henrietta.  My goal is to end up with a shoulder wrap thing, with alternating swaths of stockinette and lace, set off by garter ridges.  There have been a number of patterns lately that use this technique to good effect.


I started on US 6’s, which is the blue/green swatch on the right.  I liked it, but I wanted to see what a larger needle would look like, so I switched to US 10’s.  Holey Moley.  It looks like lace!  It has the right character for the rough handspun look I was imagining.  And it will knit so quickly!!

Both of these swatches are 21 sts across.  The one on US 10’s is 40 rows.  The one on US 6’s is 56.  If I wanted a sweater, I’d go with the 6’s.  Since I want a lacy wrap, it’s the 10’s all the way.  The swatch is .4 oz, so roughly 1/10th of the yarn I have.  I’m going to play with some designs, but I’m thinking I will be hard pressed to get a decent wrap out of that.  Maybe an Elizabethan collar sort of thing, that wraps around neck and shoulders.

No yarn was cut in the making of these swatches.  🙂  I cast-off the first swatch, looped the last stitch around the whole swatch and snugged it down, and cast-on for the second.  There’s a small puff of yarn left after the second swatch, which is mostly out of frame on the bottom of the picture, which I dealt with the same way.

My plan is to unravel the swatch, and start the FO with the small skein, then shift to the larger skeins that are actually fractal spun.  I believe the shorter repeat in the small skein spun from two ends of a short repeat ply will work well in the smaller start section of a shawl.  It will still be stripey.  I’m thinking start with the pink end then work through the green, followed by the pinker end of skein B worked through to the dark end of skein A on the bottom.  I’m not committed to that yet, though.

Henrietta and the Strawberries

April 6, 2011 - 5:01 pm

Strawberries are perverse plants.

Last spring I built them a lovely mound.  I amended the soil.  I planted 4 varieties developed in the region, mixing ever-bearing and June bearing so we would have a big initial crop and then a constant small supply.  I trimmed their runners, so the mother plants would focus on their own roots rather than offsets.  We let each plant set a few fruits, but plucked most of the flowers.

And then suddenly it was winter before it had ever really been Fall.  I never put them properly to bed; I just left them to their own devices.  Today I perhaps reaped the rewards of my inattention, except I prefer to believe it’s their perversity, not my lack of care, that made such a mess.

They had, somehow, migrated.  Instead of neat little offset rows of plants, they were scattered about with big empty spots and over-tight spacings.  This could have been the work of raccoons going after grubs.  It could have been the work of the cats and dog.  But I think it’s the plants.  They had also set a bumper crop offsets on the driveway and brick paths.  Lots of perfectly good dirt, but nooooo, let’s set down roots between these two bricks!  grrr.

All is now orderly in strawberryland again.  Runners are trimmed back to the mothers so I can weed around them, and all the weeds are removed.  The volunteer poppies and parsley have been heeled in elsewhere in the garden.  The offsets are re-planted in the inexplicable bare spots.  All that remains is a good feeding and some mulch, and they should be good for the season.

It felt good to be out digging in the little plot of Earth that’s mine to tend.  I had a very grumpy day, but there is something relaxing and, well, grounding about tending the land.  Even though it was cold, even though there’s now hail coming down and I’m still shivering, it was good.  I’m still a bit down and disheartened, but no longer ready to chew nails and snap at people.  I feel much more at peace and ready to face the things that must be dealt with.


In other news, Henrietta is all spun up, plyed, and awaiting finishing.  250 yds (unfinished) of worsted-ish yarn from 4 oz.  I’m pleased.  🙂  As ever it’s shockingly darker than I expected, but I like it.  I want to try to make a wrap of some kind, but I believe it will need to be mixed with another fiber; 250 yds isn’t a lot to work with, and I expect to lose at least 10% in the finishing.


The tags are for me to remember what end to start from when knitting, since I set up what should end up being gradual color shifts.  I racked my brain trying to come up with a way to mark the yarn that would survive a fulling, and then realized I have plenty of scrap fabric and a laundry marking pen.  I made up tags, lettered them sequentially (writing on satin is hard!)  and tied them to the starting ends of the skeins, so I’ll know where to begin when I start knitting, no matter how long the yarn marinates.

It ended up that my first ply– the one that was split as a single length of the braid– is much shorter than the second ply.  I *think* this is because I slipped into semi-worsted point of contact spinning, rather than the honest long draw I was doing on the first ply.  Semi-worsted is much more well suited to cuddling on the couch watching tv.  🙂

La Push retreat with Judith MacKenzie

April 1, 2011 - 10:29 am

On Sunday after brunch I left for this retreat.  It’s now Friday, the official retreat is over, and I’m here on my own for a day, expecting Zack and David tonight.  To say I’m missing them would be putting it mildly.  I kept rolling over in bed last night expecting the weight of a cat on the covers, expecting David beside me, and feeling little jolts when neither of those things were true.  It’s a good vacation in the sense that I’m definitely ready to be heading home.  I love my everyday life, and I miss it.

The weekend should be lots of fun, though.  There are many things to explore here on the reservation, and other places to go on the Peninsula.  There’s a wood carvers studio, and some other tribal arts centers I expect Zachary will appreciate.  The opportunities for stunning photography should please David.

The drive out here was so much fun!  I carpooled with Heather, who makes a wonderful companion.  She is wheat and cow dairy free, so my gluten free needs are easy for her to understand.  We also seem to be able to talk and talk and talk and laugh and talk some more, and never tire of each others company.  Five days of togetherness in unfamiliar and intense surroundings is challenging, but we were as delighted with each other at the end of the trip as at the beginning.  I’m so glad she’s moved here, so close to me!  I look forward to friendship and fiber arts collaboration for years to come.

She and I stopped in Port Gamble at the Artful Ewe on the way, and had tea at the Tea Room.  I purchased some tealy green locks from a local Romney cross sheep to spin.  Heather walked around touching things and cooing.  We pet Grace, I gave Heidi lots of hugs, and we got back on the road to La Push.

The retreat has been fascinating.  There were delightful people, good food, and of course lots of spinning!  I spent most of the week working on my woolen spinning, with occasional breaks for some “comfort” spinning of fine worsted yarn.  I spun several hundred yards of silk for the progressive yarn project, and I’m looking forward to making more so I can start the plying.

I learned the yarn I want to spin: fluffy, airy, diaphanous woolen yarn, is best accomplished with down breed sheep.  The first time I sat down with Judith on Tuesday to talk about what I wanted to work on I showed her a little sample that was the closest I’ve ever gotten to what I want, and she said, “Oh!  You’re using wool form the wrong sheep!  Here, try this,” and handed me a length of Columbia roving.  The sky opened and the clouds parted and five minutes later I had a sample of exactly what I’ve been trying fruitlessly to produce for several months.

I also confirmed that I’m really really allergic to lanolin.  I spun some of the locks I’d picked up from Heidi, working on making the “wolf yarn” on Judith’s A Spinner’s Toolbox video, and after about 15 minutes my forearms were red and splotchy.  No more lanolin for me.  🙁

It was an interesting exercise, even though I had to quit.  If I work further on this yarn, I will focus on spinning the fine core yarn, and add fluff where possible, rather than focusing on the fluff.  Even though the fluff is the goal, the fine yarn core is the structure of the yarn.  Spinning it from the back of my hand as Judith demonstrates is HARD!  I believe that will be the key, however.

I do not believe wolf yarn is on my quest for fluffy diaphanous yarn.  I like the order of the Columbia far more than the chaos of the wolf yarn.  I need to spin and knit enough of each to be certain how it looks in the finished product, but I’m virtually certain from what I see in the yarn.  It’s an interesting, challenging exercise, however, and worth pursuing for that reason.

On Wednesday, Judith gave us a length of Rambouillet mixed with Mohair to spin woolen.  I hated this.  Hate hate hate with the heat of a thousand suns.  It was difficult to draft, and nearly impossible to join when it broke, which was frequently.  I persevered, however, and by dinner time I had a hundred yards or so of finished woolen yarn.  Ugh.  It was No Fun.

Just before dinner on Wednesday, we started lichen dye pots.  This was nifty!  I love the colors that were produced.  Judith put in samples of her Rambouillet, and I tossed in the Columbia and Rambouillet/Mohair blend as well.  She pulled out little skeinlets every few minutes as the dye bath started simmering so we could see the progress of the dye.

At the end of the retreat yesterday, Judith sent me home with all the samples, which was a delightful gift!  The downside of this is the icky factor.  I do not like icky stuff, and the slimy yarn matted with lichen definitely twigged my icky nerve.  Heather is happy to dye me up more, however, should I wish, and no one else at the retreat seemed to mind handling the finished yarn.  I believe this is my own personal foible, and reinforces my belief that while I am intellectually interested in how dyeing works and I very much appreciate the product, I have zero interest in going through the process myself.  I am so glad there are folks who want to dye!

The other highlight yesterday was spinning bison down.  Judith had some bison roving, and oh was it delicious.  We had also spun up a sample of bison/silk.  I hope I have enough of these, perhaps plied up with some plain silk, to make something.

This is far from all we did and saw during the retreat.  Judith had many things for us to sample, including several different silks and cashmere.  Mmmm, cashmere.  She showed us yarn from paper, and some finished products and swatches from the yarn.  One of the participants taught folks traditional cedar weaving.  We saw whales on the last day, while sitting down for breakfast with one of the tribe elders.  I look forward to the next time I can do something like this!

The Oceanside Resort itself is a mixed bag.  The setting is amazing!  My room looks out over the ocean.  The view is spectacular, and it’s certainly a secluded retreat.  My room is decently appointed, with a usable kitchen.

For the money I’m spending, however, I expect more service than is provided.  I’m on my sixth day here, and have not had any maid service in the room.  I asked one of the room cleaners for clean towels yesterday, and was sullenly directed to a service building at the other side of the retreat.  I walked around the building until I found an open roll-up door to a sort of garage room, and had to shout to get someone’s attention, who was not at all friendly about the towel exchange.  I had to give her my room number to be allowed to take extra towels beyond the two provided so that the three of us can all shower tomorrow.

The walls seem not to be insulated at all; someone checking into the room next door at 11 or so last night, not being particularly loud, just walking back and forth getting stuff up from the car and settled, kept me up for the better part of an hour.  Folks who had rooms on the lower floor complained that they could hear everything going on in the room above.

The office is only open from 8 am to 8 pm, and that’s the only place on the resort property with access to a phone or internet.  Outside of those hours it’s necessary to drive a 40 minute round trip to Forks.  This would not be so bad if there were cell phone service, but there is not.  I do appreciate the solitude of the setting, but would still like to be able to check in with the folks I care about to make sure they are ok, and have some way for them to reach me.

I have most of today on my own.  I’m hoping to get more rest, to make progress on a Secret Knitting project, and to at least get a good start at spinning the Abby Batt “Peace Flag.” First, though, I’m going to head over to the office to check email and post this entry.  I’ll add pics and links next week when I have better Internet access.

Henrietta spins!

March 26, 2011 - 8:55 am

I’m not certain if it was Stacey’s intention, but the name Henrietta and the merry mottled colors of this braid remind me of a book my Granny read me as a kid, The Tale of Henrietta Hen.  I purchased the braid on a complete whim, after finding out from David that he & Stacey had been friends many years ago.

Here’s the braid:


And an illustration from the book:


So not a complete match for colors, but a reminder, one of the other.  This braid is dyed on a striped base; it’s dark and light BFL.  That means the singles will barberpole naturally.  The braid also progresses from mostly light at one end to mostly dark at the other.  I have been reading a lot about fractal spinning, where you make one ply of a full color transition and then the other plys are splits, and wanted to try that.  I decided to split the brain in half, and then split one of the halves in thirds.


It didn’t quite work out that way; I ended up with uneven initial splits when I weighed them, so I took a fourth split off the single, and ended up with these:


The small split on the right in the basket has less of the dark color; it’s the final piece.  I kept weighing it as I was splitting it to make certain I ended up with equal weights.

These are put up as crocheted crochet chains, btw.  I find this a tidy way to store them, and easier to work from than the long ropes.  I make a crochet chain, and then make a crochet chain from that, starting from the same end I started the first chain.  That way as I pull the thinner chain to spin it, I’m also pulling the second level chain.  Maybe this makes sense.  It works well for me.  🙂


I’ve started spinning, and I love it.  Watching the colors transition is enchanting.  I’m working on a low twist fluffy long draw, aiming for a sport to worsted-ish weight two ply.  I keep plying the yarn back on itself to see what it looks like, and I’m happy with the yarn so far.


I’ll see what sort of yardage I get.  I would like to make this into a little semi-circular shoulder wrap.  If I don’t have enough from this braid, I may stripe it with another Stacey braid called “Wine Stains.”  We’ll see!



January 15, 2011 - 1:11 am

I purchased my first wheel second hand about a year ago, and it was an old cantankerous thing that had seen more than its share of abuse. The day it made me cry, not because I wasn’t getting a technique I was practicing, but because the wheel kept binding on the frame and screeching to a halt, I knew I had to either quit spinning or buy a new tool. For the holidays this year, after everyone else’s gifts were settled, I bought myself a Kromski Minstrel, and she has opened up the joy if spinning to me in a way I had only glimpsed before.

I am wandering around lost in a world of strange terminology and unfamiliar concepts, but loving every moment. There is so much knowledge, but so few references that are approachable as a new person. It’s both fascinating and intimidating.

My first goal was to make fine laceweight yarn, and I’ve pretty much mastered that. Since I got the wheel, though, I’ve been branching out. David bought some yak down for me to spin when we got the wheel. He wants a yak scarf. I wanted a fluffy yarn for that, so taught myself long draw, and made it into a fulled single. It’s a delicious, squishy, fluffy skein now, and I’m working on the design for it. I am captivated with the idea of spinning diaphanous woolen yarns.


Last night I tore up 4 oz of roving from DragonFibers, sorting it by color, and then mussing up the fiber, first making pseudo-rolags but then tearing it up and crossing the fibers every which way and spinning the random bits as the presented themselves. I filled two bobbins with what is probably a couple hundred yards of single. My plan is to run it back through the wheel and attenuate the really chunky bits, then ply it with some purple lace weight.


I have an idea of having it start out fine but then get progressively chunkier, and knitting it in pattern that follows the yarn; first a fine pretty lace pattern, expanding into a bigger and bigger pattern as the shawl expands. I want to design the yarn and a pattern for Melissa; a half circle shawlette. I want to evoke dragonflies with the project.

I like this idea of spinning, designing a pattern, and knitting a project inspired by a person. Melissa is first. I think there will be others.