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It’s 5am on a Saturday, and I Have Been Awake for Ages

Good morning all. How are you this lovely, cold Saturday morning. I am sitting in bed, in the dark, because I have very successfully woken myself. The last time the baby woke up to eat, about an hour and a half ago, he woke me up out of the middle of a sleep cycle. To avoid falling asleep while I was feeding him, I started thinking about work–well, apparently nothing gets my blood boiling in the pre-dawn hours than thinking about things I can’t do anything about until Monday.(He, of course, ate and went back to sleep immediately.) Next time, I am going to try to think about something more fun, like flowers or yarn.

It’s November 15th, and for the first time ever, I am keeping up with Nanowrimo. Usually by now I have completely given up on the whole endeavor. My first weekend in November is notoriously busy, and so I always start out the month a few days behind on my word count, and then I never catch up, and by the beginning of the second week I am too daunted by the sheer volume of words I am missing, and instead of writing for writing’s sake for the rest of the month, I just give up on the whole enterprise completely and for the rest of the year the only thing I write are blog posts and grocery lists.

Considering I have a degree in creative writing, this is pretty embarrassing.

This year, I decided I was really going to finish. I didn’t have a story idea until the last minute, and I have done absolutely zero planning. I’ve always been a fly by the seat of my pants sort of writer anyway, so this whole making stuff up as I go along and having no plan is fun. Not sure how much substance my story has, but that’s not the point right now. The point is to write everyday, and that’s what I’m doing.

Only took 2 1/2 years after graduating to get my writing mojo back.

Now that I am writing everyday though, my other work is slowing down a little bit. After finally finishing Brock and Felix’s Flax sweaters last week, I had a small bout of startitis and cast on Wheaton which I think is too gorgeous for words. I am knitting the worsted weight scarf version, because while I think this pattern is stunning, I am also aware that I have a very short attention span for knitting anything that turns out to be a rectangle. But I think a blanket, or even a stole in this pattern would be the epitome of luxury.

I am also working on a pair of mittens for Brock. I am using Skinny Fit Mitts as a template because I like the cable pattern on them a lot, but the pattern was written for someone with tiny hands, so not only am I changing it up by making them flip-tops, I am also having to lengthen and widen the thumb gusset, lengthen the hand and figure my own decreases for top.

And since it is supposed to snow today, I really need to make Felix a pair of mittens. I am just going to use my chunk wool and knit him a pair of thumbless mittens. That should be quick, and I hope to do it this afternoon after I finish my word count.

What are you working on?

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New Class! Knitting a Top-Down Raglan Sweater

Knitting a Top-Down Raglan Sweater
$60
September 15, 22, 29 Oct 6, 13, 20 (Monday nights)
6:30-8:30 pm
Memorial Hall at Potwin Presbyterian Church
Maximum of 5 students

We will be knitting Flax by TinCanKnits, which is a simple top-down raglan sweater – great for men, women, or children. We will talk about gauge, how fabric behaves, seamless sweater construction, and fit. I will provide printed materials with information on how to knit a top-down raglan that fits. Techniques covered include: knitting a flat gauge swatch “in the round”, raglan shaping, increasing, decreasing, knitting in the round on circular needles, magic loop, and double pointed needles (optional.)

Materials:
Flax is a free downloadable pattern, but student must download from the following link:
ravelry.com/patterns/library/flax
Enough worsted weight yarn to knit a sweater in your chosen size
1 Set size 8 32″ circular needles (or size to match gauge)
1 set size 7 32″ ciruclar needles (or size to match gauge)
tape measure
scissors
waste yarn
darning needle
4-8 stitch markers
Optional:
double pointed needles for knitting sleeves
pen
highlighter

email me at tinydinostudios at gmail dot com to sign up!

See you there!

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Undyed Stuff

My work tends to get the most attention when it’s bright and loud and saturated with color. I know in most cases, that’s what the Tiny Dino Studios brand is known for. I also happen to really love working with natural fibers and fibers from different breeds. Knowing there different fleece characteristics across different breeds and then actually exploring some of those differences for myself are two very different things.

I have my comfort zone wools for spinning, Falkland in any form, and Merino I like, but as long as it’s not top (because I am picky.) Alpaca is fun and different. And just generic American Wool is fun and durable and soft. This is what I spin most often because it’s what the people around me produce or sell, so it’s easy to come by. But I have been trying to branch out a bit.

I’ve been working through some Cormo, which is lovely to spin. It’s soft, but not so soft it doesn’t have any durability. It’s my favorite parts of Corriedale with the best parts of Merino thrown in. Then, I received my Tunis roving back from the mill. Tunis is a little coarser, and you can feel the difference between a mediumwool sheep and a finewool sheep when you hold a skein of Cormo in one hand and a skein of Tunis in the other. And yet, they are both soft. Perhaps it’s just the way I spun it (worsted, chain-plied, heavy fingering weight) but I can hold it up to my neck and it doesn’t prickle. And though it has less crimp than the Cormo, the Tunis feels distinctly springy–like it’s got the energy to paint the town red while the Cormo wants to eat bon-bons while reclining on a silk settee.

The color is vastly different as well. Tunis is known as a red sheep, and while the wool is not actually red, it has a peachy, kind of antiqued white color to it.

Tunis_Handspun_Yarn
It’s hard to see on it’s own. In this photo (which is too bright, I will give you) the skein just kind of looks to me like a skein of springy undyed wool.

But when you sit it next to the Cormo, you can really see the difference.
Tunis_next_to_cormo
The Tunis is on the left. The Cormo is on the right. Please study carefully, there will be an exam.

Then, I received this in the mail yesterday:
Rambouillet_Lock

That is a lock of Rambouillet. I purchased a 10 oz bag on Etsy last week and it is gorgeous. As you can tell from the veg matter in the photo, this lock is unwashed–unwashed! Look how gorgeously white and crimpy that is! I am very excited. This is possibly the softest lock I have held in my hand ever. And the locks were so beautiful, I couldn’t quite bring myself to break them up by throwing them in a big tub to soak.

washingwool
To keep the lock integrity as much as possible, I am using the Yarn Harlot’s method for stove top wool washing.

Updates when it’s clean!

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Tunis Roving is Here!

braidoftunisroving Buy This Here!

I think I mentioned awhile ago that I had purchased some wool from a local rancher and sent it to The Shepherd’s Mill here in Kansas. Well, I just got it back and I love it!

It’s Tunis wool. It’s been minimally processed so it has a great sproingy hand along with a little bit of vegetable manner and just a hint of lanolin smell. mmmmmmmm Sheepy.

A little bit about Tunis:
Tunis is a medium wool sheep with modest crimp. (my Tunis has more crimp than usual and has been bred for fineness). There is some faint lustre, but Tunis is known for it’s peachy overtones. Fine grade Tunis (like what you see pictured) is good for next to skin wear and for midrange garments as well. Tunis does not felt easy. Overall, it’s a pretty durable wool. It would make a really great fisherman’s sweater. And I currently have four pounds of it undyed and available to for sale up on the etsy site so you can do just that.

tunislock
The stable length is about 4.5 inches, and I did my best to capture the crimp definition in this photo. (Before I sent this to the mill, it looked more like Corriedale lock than the pictures of Tunis I’ve seen in books.)

tunisbraidupclose

I am going to go spin some right now!

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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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Priorities


I am swatching for a belated birthday gifts. I just bought buttons for it this evening. The buttons are great, the buying buttons at Joanns was not a pleasant experience. It reinforced my dire longing to have a really good local yarn / craft shop so that I never have to ever enter Joanns again.


Alpaca yarn I finished spinning yesterday. 7 oz / 200g of blacker than black DK weight yarn. What should I do with it?


I finished my Ginny Weasley socks! I love them.

I have about 1000 projects I would like be working on, but these are my priorities right now. What are you working on?

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A Peak

I have been busy busy busy what with preparations for the farmer’s market and the spate of special orders I have had lately. While I have some fun blog posts brewing, today I thought I would share a bit of what I have been working on.


Some local Lincoln roving drying on the balcony


Some bulky singles hand spun from Falkland wool.


Another skein of hand spun. This thick n think yarn out of Corriedale cross.

What are you up to?

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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.