Pogona After One Week

Because it’s been a busy holiday week (hope your’s wasn’t too busy!), I am not as far along on my pogona as I would like.

pogona in progress

This cormo is blowing my mind. It’s gorgeous, and with the alpaca, it is just downright decadent.

pogona in progress 2

I am doing the white in Fibonacci stripes, separated by two-row stripes of gray. I think the color contrast just adds to the texture of the piece.

It might bee 100 degrees out now, but I can’t wait to try this shawl on. Knitting this out of my handspun has convinced me that it’s worth spending more time spinning so I can knit with handspun more often.

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Baby Knitting and Webcam Photos

The problem with trying to blog near the winter solstice and working an 8 to 5 is that there isn’t much time to take pictures. And these days, blogs need pictures, but since I don’t have currently have a personal life during daylight hours, tonight we’re having fun with webcam photos!

heatingpad
Yes, I’m even wearing a heating pad, because my neck has a couple of giant knots in it hurts like the dickens.

highshot
Here’s a shot with with better light, where I just look tired. Growing a person is hard work. Did I mention I’m pregnant? I can’t remember, but if not, I’m almost 21 weeks! To celebrate, let’s talk about knitting baby things.

garterstitchvice
This is a Garter Stitch Baby Kimono in progress, knit in Vice Yarns Plain Jane. Click the link, because my webcam is not doing the colors justice. This sweater is going to be bright. I’ll never lose my baby when he or she is wearing this sweater. We’ll all be so distracted by this sweater, we won’t be able to divert our eyes.

Not everything I’m knitting for the baby is quite so loud. I’m working on a blanket, which I feel is an obligatory project for a baby, even though I’m not really the biggest blanket-knitting fan. It’ll be cute and totally worth it once it’s finished, but I am certainly not going to be the kind of knitting mother than knits her child many or large blankets.

The only other thing I’ve knit for the baby is a cabled Sunnyside Cardigan out of cormo yarn that I spun. The roving was my Juniper Moon Farm Spinner’s Share that I spun way before there was any thought of a baby. (This picture is also form October, hence the absence of webcam-ness.)

sunnyside
The sweater is still in this state, ends not woven in, buttons in a ziplock back next to it in a drawer. I still have 4+ months to finish it, right?

I’m trying to add to my list of baby things to make. Since this little one is due midspring, I am thinking I’ll need some hats and booties for cold mornings and evenings, but nothing too heavy. Is there anything else I should plan on making? I have to confess I love making sweaters, especially wee ones, but I realize that an April baby only needs so many sweaters. What are your favorite baby knits?

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Cormo and Cormo and Spinning

I have a set of pictures that might look fairly deceiving.


A pile of cormo top for spinning.


Some cormo yarn in the process of being spun.


The body of a cormo sweater.

Oh what progress can a girl make in a day!

Except that these are two different projects. The sweater is already spun Cormo yarn came from a sale at Juniper Moon Farm, while stuff I am spinning was my 2011 spinners share from the same farm. It’s delightful to work with. These two are both my first cormo projects, and I am completely in love with the fiber. It makes me want fleeces.

Well, that’s not new, everything makes me want fleeces. The only reason I don’t have more fleeces is that I don’t have a drum carder, or the patience to use hand cards day in and day out. Otherwise, my apartment would need no furniture because we would just luxuriate on fleeces instead.

mmmm…Sheepy.

Seriuosly though, I just figured out why I don’t spin more. You see, I used to have my wheel set up by my desk. My desk chair was the perfect height for keeping good posture and still spinning for hours. Except I never sit at my desk after dinner unless I have a major deadline. (After dinner is when most of the fiber progress happens around here.) And if I am at my desk facing a deadline, it is not usually spinning related. (To be fair, I have never had a spinning deadline, but I am looking to change all that.) No, after dinner, on any normal night, I am on my seat on the sofa, watching something British on the TeeVee. I can’t spin on the sofa, it’s too low and cushy, which are great qualities, I feel, in a sofa, but not so much for a spinning perch.

So what did I do?

Wait for it….

………

I sat on a pillow. And it was perfect!

I don’t know why it took me two years to think of putting a throw pillow under my bum, but there you go. Now all I want to do after dinner is spin. Of course, I don’t have anything dyed the right color, and dyeing can take days, but I’ve had this cormo share for a year, and it hadn’t told me what color it wanted to be yet, so I hadn’t dyed it, and I have never spun natural white fiber. Saturday I was itching to spin something and I had been working on that oh so cushy sweater, so I grabbed it on a whim and gave it a whirl. It started to speak to me then. This cormo wants to be a thin, dk-ish weight, three ply yarn, but it hasn’t decided on a color yet. I thought I would get bored with spinning the undyed stuff, but it looks so nice on the bobbin, and splitting it into one ounce little chunks makes me feel like I am spinning waaaay faster than I am–and I am having a blast.

Something happens when I start really getting into what I am working on. I start thinking big–huge even. Like, I should start a regular line of handspun yarns. Not like the one I have now, where I hand paint 100g of fiber and then spin it up into a ooak 100g skein. I am talking buying a fleece and spinning that into a whole fleece’s worth of yarn. And then selling that, dyed in upon request. I mean, I’ve already wanted to start processing fleeces and selling hand processed spinning fiber to spinners, and I sell mill-spun yarn to knitters and crocheters, but why not start and line of handspun? From types of wool that aren’t merino? (Nothing wrong w/ merino, most of my mill-spun yarn is merino, it’s just so ubiquitous, and frankly, not my favorite to spin.) And better yet, why not buy from local (meaning midwest–since that’s the region of the country I am from) farmers? Cause then I could help advertise those farms as well?

Sweet.

Let’s do it.

Only problem?

Still don’t have a drum carder. But I’m working on it.

I am still working out the wheres and the whyfores, but this is the sort of business I saw my one-lady yarn dyeing company evolve into eventually–I just forgot about it a little bit over the last two years.

I have been doing a lot of business soul-searching lately–a lot of realizing that I need to put a whole lot more energy into this machine if it’s going to keep on rolling. I am excited to do it, but it’s going to take some time to work out. So don’t expect a bunch of different stuff up tomorrow, but just know, I’m working on it.

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Mid Summer Pursuits

Did I mention I started a new job? A real permanent job? I honestly can’t remember. It’s a great job with an unambiguous title: Retail Coordinator. And I get to work for Kansas–not the government, which is all around pretty good in my book–but folks it’s a lot to learn and take over all at once. I can’t sleep at night my mind is so busy processing it all. I don’t feel rushed or panicked or unhappy–quite the opposite really–I am just behind–through no fault of my own. But the catching up is taking most of my brain power, and I forget to start writing a blog post until 5 minutes before it’s time to leave for work, and we’ve all seen how well that has been working out.

The rest of my energies have gone into the following pursuits:


These peaches became ice cream. I have been experimenting with ice cream making this week, which I have never ever made before. See, I used to be baker, but then I gave up wheat (and sugar, but am less strict about this)* and baking was no longer an option unless I wanted to spend a fortune on nut flours. Ladies and gentlemen, these last few months have seen me pretty much the definition of broke. Broker than I have ever been. Nothing was purchased that was not a necessity, and fancy flour-substitutes are the definition of luxury. Given dietary restrictions, I made my ice cream with cream, evaporated milk and peaches soaked in a couple teaspoons of honey. It was good, and now it was gone. Alas, no photographs were taken of the final product, but I will be continuing to experiment.

Tonight I attempted to make Mocha Gelato, but I am pretty sure I didn’t let the mixture cool enough before churning it. The upside is that with very few ingredients, milk, honey, cocoa, instant espresso, vanilla, I created a really great tasting chocolate / coffee soup that I am freezing never-the-less hoping it doesn’t turn into ice. Less sugary substance is better. Next, I really want to attempt making ice cream from coconut milk and get rid of the dairy all together. I don’t have trouble with dairy, but I know folks who do, and I think it would be fun. Plus, I. Love. Coconut.

While it is summer and ice cream making is the appropriate thing to do, I have been doing all sorts of inappropriate things with wool.


Like knitting sweaters in 100+ degree heat.

I finished the body of the surfer tee, and only have (cap) sleeves to knit and the neckline to clean up. I knit a size I thought I might shrink down to by October and it fits perfectly now. It will still look good on me in October if I continue losing weight at this rate. After that, I will probably rip it out and knit a different sweater, because knitting sweaters is fun and I have been impressing msyself with my new ultra-economic ways.

At the same time, I have been working on my sister’s belated birthday gift.

It’s a laptop cozy for her new computer that she is taking to CHINA. With fang buttons. She will love this. Even if knitting in garter stitch for that long was a horrible idea.

Then I started a completely insane project for July.

A thick, worsted weight cabled sweater. It’s already warm in my lap, but the squishiness of the cables and the roundness of the yarn and the fact that I will have the perfect sweater finished by the time I actually need it this year when the weather turns keeps my needles going. The sweater was in the most recent WEBS catalog I received, and when I saw it, I knew it was what my Cormo Rusticus (100% cormo) yarn would become. The sweater is Pearl Street Pullover, and the yarn was a one off, but I bet they might have something fun a Juniper Moon Farm.

Thursday I try my hand a teaching my first sock knitting class. Wish me luck.

* I keep meaning to write a short post about how, after half a decade of struggling with my weight, I am finally losing it again. The easiest way to say it is that I gave up grains (yes grains, not just wheat) and sugar. I don’t think that blog post is ever going to happen in a way that I will be satisfied with. I don’t think food should be religion, and every time I try I sound like gluten-free evangelist. If you want to know how I modified my lifestyle and am losing weight, check out Mark’s Daily Apple. The lifestyle that website describes is pretty close to what I am doing, and full of great information.

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Handmade Cyber Monday Haul

Last Monday morning, I sat down to work on my blog post for the day and edit some pictures for the etsy shop, but when I pulled up my etsy account, I got a little side tracked by the wonderful sales my online fibery friends had going.

Fiber Blending

First, I am in the process of putting together materials to work on my very own homemade hackle.. I have the fiber blending bug. Plus, there is just something so charming and nice about spinning with hand pulled roving. Since a drum carder is out of the question at the moment (where would I put it?), a hackle and hand cards are what I have to work with. Now, I normally prefer to dye my own stuff, but I came across this little bundle of mohair locks

and couldn’t quite resist. This mohair comes from MacGregor Hollow Farm. I plan on returning to perhaps purchase some undyed locks in the future.

A little more definition in this photo. I love how brilliant the color is, and I have some purple firestar that would complement it very nicely.

Sheep Shopping

Next, I have been thinking about what kind of sheep I would like to raise on the Future Fantasy Farm. I have been reading a little about Romeldales and California Variegated Mutant. I like that they are a rare breed. They are supposed to have really nice fleeces, and the CVMs have those adorable little badger faces. To find out for myself, I went looking for a little bit of fleece to test out. (Still thinking about purchasing a whole fleece in the spring) I found someone, namely Stella’s Fiber Farm on etsy who was selling only an ounce of CVM fleece.

It arrived on Saturday. I washed it immediately, and this is what it looks like now

A great big pile of fluff.

The fiber is finer than I expected it to be. For some reason, even though I had read in both The Knitter’s Book of Wool and The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook that CVM was a fine fiber, I still expected it to be closer to a medium wool. I was dead wrong. This fiber is fine fine fine. When I was at shepherding camp, I picked a merino fleece (as in prepping the fiber) and I swear this is finer. Of course, I know nothing about the sheep this fiber came from. The staple isn’t very long, and it doesn’t seem to me, to be in the greatest condition, but I am going to card it and play with today anyway.

Speaking of shepherding camp, when I was at Juniper Moon Farm last month, this one gigantic braid of roving kept catching my eye. It’s dyed in bright amazon rain forest Macaw type colors and did I mention it’s gigantic?

It’s so big I had to wrap it around itself to get a good picture–mostly of the colors–I admit. As soon as I read about the Juniper Moon Cyber Monday sale, I went over and snapped this baby up. It is nearly 8 oz of the strongest, crunchiest medium grade wool I have handled in a while. I keep thinking of navajo-plying it and knitting a big cabled gansey to wear outside in the cold to help out on the farm. Now, I know it’s not enough to make a gansey for me, but if it could only be part of a gansey, the technicolor parrot dye job would still just make my day every day.

Supporting Local Shops

I made my way back to etsy with the notion of supporting one my local sellers. I headed over to Lori Warren’s shop Blushing Ewe and purchased a gorgeous Merino/Silk batt.


(This is one of Lori’s photos from the listing, used completely without permission, because I have already pulled this batt into roving and half spun it up. Pictures of the yarn to come. Plus, this photo is much better quality than any of mine today.)

Lori does a beautiful job of combining texture and color in her spinning fibers. She is also very helpful when a newbie spinner like me starts asking questions about technique and blending. (She even let me come pick this up form her house instead of shipping it–since we live about three miles apart–and I got to see her Cricket loom. Now I must have one myself.) Plus, I unfurled the batt after it sat on my desk for a couple days thinking I just wanted to admire the layers of merino, silk, and firestar. Before I knew it, I had pulled it out into a great big ball of roving and was spinning it up.

I love the contrasting textures available in hand blended fibers over tops where everything is combed together. For instance, I bought this gorgeous merino/silk top which I dyed up and put in the shop. I am in the midst of spinning up a little bit to bolster the handspun section over at Tiny Dino Studios, and it’s just kind of, eh. I mean, it’s gorgeous fiber. It’s soft and fluffy and has an amazing hand, and I know there are some folks out there who just swoon over the ability to spin those two fibers together in a well-combed top. I am not one of them. I am much more excited about the crunchy medium wool stuff. Give me texture over softeness any day–and I realize this is not necessarily a very popular position, so somebody please take this merino and silk top off my hands!

Merry Christmas

Finally, my self-indulgent splurge was another skein of sock yarn for myself. A Christmas present of sorts.

I am calling it my sparkle yarn. Hot pink and black, self striping sock yarn with little flecks of sparkle here and there. It’s like Laurel from Spinning Fates was reading my mind when she dyed this yarn. I applaud her clairvoyance. And I can’t wait for January and the chance to cast-on.

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Something New

I have never used lace weight before. For some reason I just never really thought about giving it a second thought. But when I was at Juniper Moon Farm for shepherding camp, there was a great big bowl of their new yarn line in the living room, and I could not put the Findley lace weight yarn down. Inspired thus, I came home and procured myself two skeins of merino lace yarn. (Pictured above. Dyed myself, of course, is my favorite wintery plum color.)

My plan is to someday, make this sweater. Because I am nothing if not ambitious. No lace bookmarks or skinny little scarves for me. Give me all or give me nothing, apparently.

Have you done anything with lace?

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A Little Taste of Shepherding Camp, In Pictures

I made it home from from Shepherding Camp at Juniper Moon Farm last night. I had the best time hanging out with Susan and Zac (Caroline was sick for most of the weekend, but is on the mend) and my fellow campers as we learned about taking care of sheep. I learned to trim hooves, worm, herd, separate flocks, and how to build a fence or two. The best part is, I get to go back in April for shepherding camp 102 when all the ewes we put in with Solomon, this year’s ram, should be in the midst of lambing. SO EXCITING.

Just as an intro, here are a few of the pictures I took while I was there.

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FIber Arts Bazaar

I was on TV! We were advertising the fiber arts bazaar this weekend. I was the one behind the wheel.

The weather guy kept saying it was 27 outside, but I am pretty sure it was 27 inside. I am still wearing two pairs of socks. Though I do hope everyone enjoyed my red toenails.

I will be at the bazaar tonight and tomorrow at Potwin Presbyterian Church in Topeka.
Friday from 5-9
Saturday from 9-4

We will have demonstrations all day Saturday, including me doing my best at some armpit knitting action, which should be hilarious.

Also, I have put my etsy shop on vacation until I return from Shepherding camp on Nov. 14th. I won’t be taking my computer along with me, but keep an eye on my twitter feed. If my phone works out on the farm, I will be tweeting.

And for you Nanowrimo-ers out there, I am running right on schedule with just under 7000 words so far, and it seems like I am cooking up some scandal.

See you in Potwin!

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Hand-Spun! . . . and a whole lot more

055
200 yards worsted weight hand-spun wool

I am thrilled to announce that I am adding a line of hand-spun yarn to my etsy shop! The first addition is pictured above and more are on their way. I have been spinning all day long. I find the motion of spinning a deeply soothing exercise now that I have the hang of it. Because of that, I have been spending a lot of time at my wheel. So much time that there is no way I could ever knit all of the yarn I have been spinning. (Well, I probably could but I would really like to avoid having my apartment over flow with yarn the way cartoon laundry rooms do with soap suds.)

The summer is winding down. I have been finished with school for about three months now. Athrun started Kindergarten on Tuesday, and I have had zero luck finding a job outside the coffee shop, particularly a job I feel like I can really do well. This summer has been full of waffling back and forth on the issue: Do I find an office job that pays a little bit more and allows me to sleep like a regular human being or do I concentrate on growing my own business ventures and creating a job for myself? Do I find a job where I might have to cancel on Shephreding Camp (because did I mention I am going!) or do I stick with the coffee shop and work toward my goal of starting my own farm, possibly fiber csa, sometime within the next decade or do I go try my luck as an administrative assistant or a customer service rep?

To tell the truth, as ready as I am to be the coffee shop customer instead of the barista, I also want to have the opportunity to participate in 2012 season with Growing Growers so I can learn more about growing food out on my Future Fantasy Farm and meet the really great farmer’s who live in my area. I can’t tell you how drawn I am to the idea of participating in that program, but concerns about money kick in just like they always do. The basic concern being that I could really use some more of it. The temptation of money has pulled me back and forth over the past three months, but the strangest thing pointed me in what I feel is the right direction about two weeks ago. The complete lack of money for the right thing.

Not far from my apartment, there is a great shopping center which is mostly full of small, local businesses. One of these, a coffee shop that has always struggled (and was never open when I could go there, might I add) closed down. It’s a cute shop space, and if you’re from Topeka, you know which one I mean. It was all wood with big windows, a nice bar with a little seating downstairs, with a homey upstairs. I noticed the closed for good sign one morning on my way to work while filling up my gas tank. All I could think was “STUDIO SPACE!” and that’s pretty much all I thought the rest of the day.

The downstairs, with some renovation would make a really cute yarn shop, which Topeka is sorely lacking. And upstairs would be the perfect classroom space. You could hold small knitting/spinning classes and maybe even some dyeing lessons. It would small, cute, cozy, a gathering space even. Maybe I would keep the espresso machine. Everything a yarn shop should be. I could see it perfectly, but I knew the rent on that place would be more than I currently pay for where I am living, and nobody is giving out business loans–especially to a girl who already has a little debt and barely-above-minimum-wage job–but the motivating thought the past few weeks is that I can get there.

I don’t necessarily need the rented studio space, but it might be a stepping stone somewhere along the line. Right now I don’t really know. All I do know is that I am putting myself full-steam back into Tiny Dino Studios and going where it takes me. (I am hoping this means more blog posts as well as more products.)

I have some hand-knit samples worked up, but the photography hasn’t quite worked out yet. I almost feel like I need a dress form. But one, dress forms are expensive, two, most of the modern ones are ugly, so I would want to find a vintage one, which is probably even more expensive, and three, I have a very small apartment and finding a place for it might be a problem. All that aside, if you know of someone who has a nice vintage dress form along these lines, I would be happy to make them an offer.

Now, I am off to do some yoga, which is my other new project: losing all the weight I gained when I went back to school–which is a whole other blog post.

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I Have Been Listening To a Lot of David Bowie and Other Ruminations

The song “Starman” by David Bowie has been stuck in my head for weeks now, and I have only just got around to digging up all the David Bowie files on my computer. So, my title is kind of a lie, I haven’t really been listening to David Bowie, just the facsimile of him that runs through my head.¬† I am not sure what took me so long, other than I just didn’t like any of my media players. I recently ordered one of the new Zune HDs (but have heard nothing from Zune about when it will be shipped, so whether I will actually be receiving this device at the marvelous sale price it was at last weekend is yet to be determined), so I downloaded the Zune software. I actually really like it. iTunes and I have never really got on, it might be because I have no patience with apple software. I know I might be in the minority here, but it is counter-intuitive to me, having always used a PC. (And I love my asus laptop with a strength of emotion that might not be healthy for a piece of equipment I will most likely have to replace in a couple of years.) All of that to say that I dug up my nearly complete David Bowie library, and after admiring the staggering amount of amazingly rockin’ live albums he has, I found the classic, original The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust in an attempt to relish in the greatness, and perhaps get that song out of my head for a little while, as great as it is. And then I listened to it. . .

And I just can’t help but apply the chorus to my life as it is right now. I am interpreting the star man being afraid of blowing our minds but knowing¬† it’s all worthwhile, as a little bit of a personal message for me right here right now, no matter what anybody else thinks it should be about.

One of my major goals this year was to go into business for myself. Three weeks ago, I opened my etsy store, and even though I have not made a sale just yet, I have been dyeing and promoting and slowly working to get over my internet shyness. It has been going well, I feel, and I know it is only a matter of time before I am making regular sales and am making enough money to put back into sustaining my business. I do know that I am not going to be making enough money to support myself from Etsy anytime soon, but I am working on it.

Aside from the fiber arts, my other passion is writing. It is what I am going to school and getting into major debt for. I cannot remember a time in my life when I was not writing in some way, shape, or form. And though the last couple of years have been rather tumultuous with me personally what with getting divorced and basically starting from scratch like I did when I was eighteen and moving out on my own for the first time, and I did not write as much, I am finally finding some equilibrium. The compulsion to write a lot has returned full-force. It turns out I have a lot to say.

One of the major things I have learned though all of the previously mentioned tumult is how to allow myself a voice. In other words, the things that have terrified me about writing in the past, like sending out query letters and promoting myself and *gasp* actually letting people other than the chosen few read my work do not scare me any longer. (At least not to the debilitating extent that they used to do so.)

A major factor in this is that I am fed up with my day job. It is not any worse than any other job where one works for other people and sometimes works too often. This is common, and for a lot of people, it is waaaay too much to ask, which is why they work for themselves. I am there. I fantasize daily about working from home: about working on my latest essay while the steamer is setting the dye on the yarn.

Then today, the wonderful Susan Gibbs from Juniper Moon Farm, where I am a shareholder, posted this to her blog. Go take a look, and I know the pictures of the sheep and goats and puppies are distracting, but please come back. I will wait.

……

….

….

So, like Susan, I knew exactly what that sign was talking about too. It was my message from the Star Man. Write more. Get published. Get out of this place (I was checking my reader at work, I will freely admit) and do something that doesn’t stain your fingers brown! (If you are a new reader, I manage a coffee shop.)

It just so happens that Tuesday, my first essay for my essay-writing class is due. I have had this essay in my head for a couple of months now, but had not given myself the time to just sit down and write it. But tonight, I sat down and did it. I finished my first draft. While there is a ton of work to do before it is fit to even be turned in for workshop, it feels so good to finish my first piece since November. And I know right now, that even in this rough state, this one is publishable.

I can do this.

I have no idea when I will really be able to work from home, or if I will find a job (with benefits and/or a sustainable salary) outside the coffee shop before that happens, but I do know that I can get the writing done until then. And really, after a few years of feeling really down on myself and my ability to create, that is all I need.

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