Call Him Ishmael

minerva
Minerva says hey.

At the start of the New Year, I made a decision about my 2013 knitting. I wanted to knit as many sweaters as possible. I wanted to broaden my sweater construction technique. It only takes a quick look at my pattern page to notice that I am a top-down raglan sort of girl. Now, I love a top-down raglan. The math is relatively easy for this English major, the shoulders fit without too much trouble, and I don’t spend too days cursing at my darning needle trying to seam the damn thing. (I have nothing against seaming. I think it is amazing when done well–I just don’t do it enough to do it well, so I take it very seriously when I do it.) In my quest to learn different knitting techniques for sweaters, I decided that knitting a sweater per month sounded reasonable. I queued up a bunch of sweaters I thought I would like to knit this year, evaluated them all, and decided I could certainly knit one each in 30 days or so. (I may or may not have been crazy. You’ll notice, it’s well into March and this is the first time you, dear reader, are hearing anything of it.)

In January, I knit Abigal, which I still don’t have good pictures of. It’s a great, quick knit, for a fingering weight sweater. The weight is perfect, but it has this nasty habit of slipping off my slopy, round shoulders. I am wondering if blocking the collar out more would perhaps make it a bit more sturdy? (My other solution has to pin it in place at work with a brooch on one side and my name tag on the other.) You’ll notice the Abigail is a top-down raglan. But it was a quick knit and I got a deal on the yarn. Happy birthday me. I finished it early, so I decided to start on a new sweater for Brock since he’s wearing holes through the elbows of his Cobblestone every other week. Speaking of, if anyone has some brown, not to reddish suede I could use for elbow patches, I am in the market, as it were.

Having finished the Abigail cardigan early, I cast on for Ishmael Sweater in January and worked on it during the entire month of February. It took me until last night to finish it. Five days late isn’t anything, especially for such a large sweater.

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I don’t know how many of you have met Brock, but he’s not exactly small. 6’3″ and lanky as all get out.

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I added four inches to length all around.

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I also knit it a slightly tighter gauge than the pattern called for since he is firmly between sizes.

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The back detail floors me. It’s such a lovely touch (even with my mis-crossed cable that yes, I noticed, but decided to hell with it, and moved on.)

I’ll tell you a secret about the yarn. I dyed it myself, of course, in a color to Brock’s specifications, but the yarn isn’t something I have ever worked with before. It’s plain old Lionbrand Fisherman’s Wool. Talk about a bargain. To be honest, I wasn’t sure how much I trusted this yarn, but I have to say I really enjoyed knitting with it–and doesn’t it dye superbly? Brock wears his sweaters hard, so I will keep you updated with how well it wears.

I just cast on for Tule which I fell in love with the second I laid my hands on the new Knitpicks catalog. (You’ll notice that while Tule is top-down, it is a round yoke pullover, and not a raglan like the last two, so I really am doing something new, I promise.) Something snapped and I ordered the Aloft yarn immediately. I am secretly hoping I have enough yarn left to knit a cute little cowl.

I have been harboring the desire to design a sock weight summer tee with puffed sleeves, which may or may not have anything to do with me having just reread Anne of Green Gables, but am too chicken to start it just yet.

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Winter WoolFest 2012

Just thought I would nip in real quick and let everyone know that I will be one of the Vendors at Winter WoolFest 2012 in Wamego, KS. I will have everything you see listed in my shop, and hopefully a few extra special items that I will have time to make once the Christmas knitting is over.

I am also teaching the Cottage Knitting class, so if you want to learn more about lever knitting, I am your gal.

And, a sneak peak at what I have been up to with my silk.

There is a couple handfuls of the cocoons dyed to match some alpaca roving. This has since been blended on my hackle and spun. I will ply tomorrow and show off the finished product then. (You know, something to look forward to.)

I am off to nurse my silk blisters and work on my gifts. (The gift knitting will end someday, I promise.)

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Silk for Christmas

I received a very generous, very luxurious early Christmas present on Sunday.

A baggie full of silk! Pictured above is a stack of silk hankies (mawata). I haven’t weighted it, but I believe it’s about 40g or so–or a projects worth.

It’s all undyed. I haven’t quite figured out how I might like to dye it just yet. Probably because it’s so much fun to just look at and play with. I couldn’t keep myself from drafting a layer or two.


I now realize that undyed silk is difficult to photograph, but if nothing else, you can see the difference in texture between the the drafted hankie and the flattened one. If the sparkle isn’t hurting your eyes, that is.

Even better than the hankies though is the clump of cocoons.

Tiny bundles of miles and miles of silk, ready to be thrown in the dye pot by the handful.

Then blended wit some alpaca on my hackle.

Thank you C for the lovely gift!

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Building a Hackle

For about a month now, I have been determined to make my own hackle. A hackle is a tool for blending spinning fiber and/or for pulling your own roving out of fleece. Unfortunately, all the lovely professionally made ones have giant metal tines which made me uncomfortable. Four inch tall sharp metal spikes and five year old fingers just do not mix in my mind. Of course, the all powerful internet had the answer, in the form of a Homemade Hackle Tutorial. All told, I spent about $15. You could spend less if you already have clamps. (I find that folks don’t tend to give women tools as gifts like they do men. I think this is a small mistake. But now I can add clamps to small collection of hammer, screw driver, and needle nose pliers.)

My supplies: six hair picks, about a dozen screws (you can see size and type in the picture. My dad, whose hand will be featured in this post, said those would be best, I don’t know why), two medium size spring clamps, a washer to use as a diz once the hackle is complete, and a piece of scrap wood. You want to use a good hard wood. My dad just happened to have a perfect size piece of poplar laying around because he does a bit of carpentry here and there. We also discussed buying a piece of oak from the big box hardware store–about $5-$7–which we would have to cut to size. If you live in a place with actual lumber yards, or know a carpentry enthusiast, you might be able to find something extra cheap or free.


Measuring to center the picks on the wood.


We used a power drill to pre-drill holes in both wood and picks. When it came time to add the screws, the torque on the drill was too powerful and kept throwing the pick on the floor, so we ended up using a socket wrench. It didn’t really take any longer than a drill would have.


It would have been better if you could find all large picks so you could have two screws per pick. The ones with only one screw tend to be a bit less stable, though they still work just fine.


Clamped to the kitchen table. Loading the hackle for the first time with some local mystery fleece. My first ball of roving was a little rough, but I improved as the day went on. (For instance, I think it’s better to load the hackle in layers rather than clumps.)


My first little bump of handpulled roving. I made my hackle big enough to do about an ounce at a time, and I made three ounces of this blend yesterday. It’s the local mystery wool, some white alpaca, the merino/silk top I was bored with (much more fun to me in this form, for the record), my purple mohair locks and some purple firestar.

I am hoping for a arty-tweedy sort of yarn, which I was dreaming about weaving with last night, even though I don’t have a loom. I’ll post an update as soon as it’s spun!

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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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December Spinning Complements

When I launched the idea of Spinning Complements last week, I didn’t expect them to sell on the same day. However, since they did I thought I would make an extra special December edition.

Up in the etsy shop right now.

This month I am featuring a blend of 70% Merino and 30% Tussah silk. It’s gorgeous, fluffy, and oh so soft. Done up in teal, ice blue, and grey I give you both night and day of an outdoor ice skating rink.

3.5 oz individually or 7 oz of spinning fun together.

Happy December!

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Big Update

I have been working hard over the past few days to build the inventory back up in the shop after my sneak attack. Five new items are up today, and a couple of things that are waiting to dry and be photographed. My favorite is the top you see pictured above. It is the most gorgeous blue face Leicester and silk spinning fiber. It’s so shiny and soft I want to keep it for myself.

This week has been kind of crazy. On top of the sneak attack and spending all day Wednesday dyeing, I turned in my essay on Tuesday and had it critiqued on Thursday, both of which were nerve-wracking. Everything went really well, and I felt silly for getting nervous, but it always happens before a workshop, and it wears me out.

I got a little creative with my hand carders, and blended some silk with a little bit of the white alpaca roving I have laying around, and it got really, really fluffy. And then I spun it, and it was still really, really fluffy. It looks ridiculous and soft. I will take a picture when there is enough to photograph. For now, I am am attempting to finish my Mondo Cable Jacket, because the plan was to wear the jacket when I go to Denver to visit my sister, Audrey….Which is six days away. I am kind of behind. I still have most of a sleeve to knit as well the collar, so I am about two weeks away from finishing with the way my schedule is going. Two weeks . . . six days. I can do it. I might not sleep, but I can do it.

Oh, and did I mention I learned to crochet on Sunday? Have I actually crocheted anything yet? Nope. But I have a skein of yarn with a crochet hook in it sitting in my knitting basket. I call that progress.

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