December 13, 2009

A few weeks ago my mother gave me my grandmother’s engagement ring because it no longer fit her own finger.  My mother’s fingers had become arthritic with age.  She can’t open a jar or thread a needle.  Her hands looked the way I remembered my grandmother’s own hands.  My mother said that my grandmother had been proud of her hands and took good care of her nails.  She said my grandmother would have liked to see me wear the ring because I had such nice hands.  I remembered visiting my grandmother in the nursing home and giving her manicures.  She would comment on how I should take better care of my own nails.  So, I tried with varying degrees of success.

Doing handwork helps me keep my nails in good shape.  Already, there are rings in my jewelry box that no longer fit.  I expect that the day will come that my hands will swell and my fingers twist.   But meanwhile, I am grateful for these hands – hands that can still knit, spin and type.


November 23, 2009
I am in the middle of a kitchen renovation and life is upside down.  There is dust where there used to be fluffs of fiber.  I’m renovating this kitchen because I will probably live  in this house for a good while longer and the kitchen is way overdue for a facelift. 
There is a place called Juniper Farm. It is near Charlottesville, Va.    Susie is the shepherd.  She raises cormo sheep and angora goats.   I spent half of last winter online, following her flock , socializing with other fans of the farm on the ravelry forums and watching the lambcam obsessively for sightings of baby goats.  I bought a share in the Spring shearing and the Fall shearing too. My spring yarn arrived a few weeks ago.  I wanted to dye it a deep blueberry or maybe eggplant and was experimenting to get just the right shade.  Now I’ll have to wait until I have a kitchen again.  
Although I’ve lived in the city for my entire life,  I’ve always imagined that one day I’d have a life in the country. I’ve dreamed about making a life on a farm with sheep and a few other fiber animals.  The other night I realized that I have had this fantasy for long time. That’s me more than thirty years ago, near Charlottesville, Va.   I wonder how close I was then to where Susie’s farm is today?  I never imagined that one day a sheep farm could be as close as a click of the mouse.  

Knitting in the Car

November 8, 2009

I e-mailed a friend that I had the best lunch hour – in my car.  She wrote back that that must have been uncomfortable but clearly I made the best of the situation.  

I love knitting in the car.  The window acts like greenhouse glass  warming the space.  I control the climate by opening the window.  I feel like I’m in a cocoon.  I push the seat back, put on NPR and am able to focus in a way I can’t anywhere else. 

And I think I have a great view. 



Swatching, Gauge and needles

November 2, 2009

Swatch I started asking questions last week and am again floored by what I don’t know and what I should consider.  Consider this:  different manfacturers’ knitting needles, label ed the same size, are not created equal.  I discovered this when diligently swatching a new yarn.   How could it possibly be that a size 4 needle and a size 6 needle give virtually the same number of stitches per inch?   After much frustration,  I got out my trusty needle gauge and discovered the nasty truth.  This is one more reason why we need to swatch!   You just can’t trust that going up or down a size will get the result you anticipated.   

To complicate it even more, I learned why it is recommended that you swatch with the type on needle you will use for the project.   You may have planned to use Lantern Moon circulars and because the straights are staring you in the face you decide to swatch with these.   Aha!  What you may not have realized is that you may get a different gauge on straight needles because you knit and purl for stockinette.

And don’t forget that a swatch is not complete until you’ve finished the wool but blocking it as you would the finished project.

Socks Rules!

October 26, 2009

First SocksI finished my first pair of socks and was asked to make another pair.  How hard could it be to add cables, I thought.  And make them a bit bigger?  Use a different yarn?

I decided to do some research.  Little did I know what a can of worms I was about to open.   I began doubting what I thought Ithought I knew.  So,  I instead of a kol, this is a write along – wol.  

 Part One  –  TOE AND FOOT

To be continued

Blue Ridge Yarns  – Footprints  2 ply superwash merino            
My gauge.  7 sts. to inch          
The cicumference of his foot  9 inches            
Multiply gauge by measurement = 63            
Calculate 10% and 15% = 6.3 and 9.45            
Subtract answer to find range of stitches for sock foot = 56.7 to 53.55            
This number is an estimate of how many stitches I’ll need for the circumference of the foot.  The beauty of a toe-up sock is that you can try it on.  The sock should be just a bit snug.  I wanted to calculate the number of stitches I’d need on the needles for these socks because they will have a cable pattern with a repeat of 6 + 2.              
TOE AND FOOT     Some patterns recommend casting on about 1/2 the number of stitches required for the foot. In this case it would be between 28 & 26 stitches.  Other patterns begin by casting on 14 stitches instead.  I chose this method and liked that the toe starts out very narrow because it has less bulk.             
I like to use a figure- 8 or Turkish cast on. I also like double pointed needles. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0jdVx6qIJA            
Knit across each row once.            
On next row, round 3, divide work onto 3 double-pointed needles:            
Round 3   n1  ( holds stitches for top of foot from big toe to little toe) knit across 13 sts.            
    n2 ( holds 1/2 stitches for sole – from little toe to midway) knit across 7 sts.            
    n3 ( holds 1/2 stitches for sole – from midway back to big toe) knit across remaining 6 sts.            
Hook on a marker between 1st and last stitch as a reminder of where round begins.        
Round 4 and every EVEN round, increase as written.  Now there are lots of ways to make one or increase, but I like a bar increase as it makes a nice tidy eyelet.            
I recommend checking  out Annie Modesitt for lots of info about increases. n1 k1, increase 1 knit across top of foot to 2nd to last stitch on needle, increase 1 , k1.            
  n2 k1, increase 1 , knit end            
  n3 k across sole to 2nd to the last stitch on needle, increase 1 , k1.            
Continue increasing until the toe wedge fits snugly and neatly around the toes. If it does, the toe is complete. If not ,then do another round of increases or fudge the number of increases until there are the number of stitches necessary to compete the pattern.**            
 At this point, you might change the yarn color or begin pattern.  This sock was worked on 26 stitches for the instep and 27 on the sole.              
**If the pattern repeat you want for the sock is not be divisible by the number of stitches on n1,  choose the number of stitches you’ll need. For example, a cable based on a  p2 k4 rib,  would need a multiple of 6 + 2 stitches to complete the repeat.  If there are 26 stitches across the top of the foot ( needle 1) , then there would be 4 repeats with 2 stitches left over. Perfect!  But, if there were 28 stitches planned for the top of the foot, then there are 4 repeats,  with 4 left over and this doesn’t work as elegantly.  The number of increases needs to be adjusted.  Possible solutions would be to skip the last 2 increases only on the top of the foot or to continue increase rounds until there are  32 stitches on needle 1.Continue rounds in stockinette stitch on needles 2 and 3 and begin pattern on needle 1 as follows:Pattern

row 1:  *p2, k4*repeat 4x, end p2

row 2:   *p2, k4*repeat 4x, end p2

row 3:   *p2, k4*repeat 4x, end p2

row 4:   *p2, cable 4, repeat 4x, end p2 

Repeat these 4 rows on n1 and stockinette stitch on n2 and n3 until work measures about 3 inches.

To Be Continued –  The heel.


Rhinebeck 2009

October 20, 2009

We were sure that this was going to be  a soaking wet cold weekend from beginning to end.  But if it ever poured, it must have been when we were indoors, taking classes or  petting the sheep, goats, alpacas and llamas, or chatting with the farmers or roaming the aisles filled with vendors with more goodies for sale than I could have ever imagined.  This was my first NYS Sheep and Wool Festival and I was not to be disappointed. 

rhinebeck using windows 049


We arrived early Friday for a class with Annie Modesitt called Cable Mania.  She taught us how to design and work several different cables without using a cable needle.  This class was right up my alley because I can be pretty klutzy and usually spend considerable time either looking for a misplaced needle or picking up the one I’ve dropped.  Combine this with having to manipulate multiple  double-pointed needles and what should be relaxing quickly becomes juggling 101.  Annie is a great entertainer and educator. She has a  unique teaching style that  made it easy for me to memorize how to make the stitches quickly.   I’ve been wanting to make a pair of socks for my BF, and now I’m confident enough  to design them with cables too.  We’ll be taking Annie’s  Increase and Decrease class on Sunday morning.

Before we left the festival on Friday, we watched the vendors loading in and setting up. It was then I realized that even though I loved to shop, at this event I might just drop first. 

Susie had made arrangements for a group of her ravelry fans to stay at a rented house near the fairgrounds.  Her farm is Juniper Moon Farm, fiberfarm.com. It  is the 1st CSA (community supported agriculture) that is fiber based.  Previously the farm name was Martha’s Vineyard Fiber Farm / Hudson Valley Fiber Farm.  Her new logo is tres-cool and we can’t wait to see new products that feature it.  We had a blast eating, imbibing and chatting with many people I’d only met online.  We love Susie and her yarn.  I received my Spring 2009 Share  in the mail last week. I planned to check out what other fair-goers were wearing for pattern inspiration.  At the party, a fellow shareholder was already knitting the mohair-cormo blend and it looked beautiful. 


We were back at the Fairgrounds early Saturday and barely out of the parking lot when we heard the shepherd’s whistle. The dog trials were in full swing. We watched in awe as the sheepdog listened to the commands and moved the sheep around the fields and gates and into the pen.  We decided that we wanted to see more animals and headed to the barns. 

Sheep had long ago won a special place in my heart  but my friend was more partial to the goats.  We chatted with owners of many different breeds and also learned about the featured breed, Leicester Longwool.    rhinebeck using windows 054The cool thing about this breed is their historic significance.  They were developed in the late 18th century by Robert Bakewell.  His work with breeding animals influenced great men like Charles Darwin and Gregor Mendel.  George Washington was also interested in his ideas and Leicester Longwools grazed at Mount Vernon.   Other breeds such as the Border Leicester, Coopworth and Corriedate were created from Leicester stock.     In the 1920’s or 1930’s the breed died out in the U.S.  When the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation wanted a historic breed for the historic area, they choose the Leicester Longwool.  The Foundation started a flock in 1990 with animals they imported from Tasmania and continue to help this breed survive in the U.S. today.

As a new spinner, I want  to learn about different fibers that are available for spinning .  I decided that Leiscester Longwool would be the perfect souvenir for this event and made a mental note to buy some before I went home.  It will be interesting to play with fiber from some of the closely related breeds at some future date to see what the similarities and differences there may be.  Or maybe this is the start of a new tradition.  The NYS Sheep and Wool website has posted the 2010 featured breed as Amerrican Oxford.

We went to the sheep auction.  My friend wondered if the auctioneer was speaking the same language as us or if he had developed an abbreviated version.   I overheard this conversation fragment, ” If it has four legs, I can’t bring it home .”   I am sorry to say that I can’t bring it home because I live in Brooklyn and we are currently not zoned for livestock.   Is there hope for me?

But there was lots I could bring home and, after taking Annie’s class, finding the perfect sock yarn for my BF was high on my list.   I chose Blue Ridge Yarns Footprints – a superwash merinos multi-color yarn that comes packed with a 100 yd. skein in a coordinating color.  I plan to use the more solid olive green for the toes. I’ll knit the socks from the toe up and I can’t wait to cast on.   We oggled and stroked an alphabet of exotic fibers from  alpaca, buffalo, camel to yak.  

One of the highlights of the afternoon was listening to Linda Ligon, founder of Interweave Press, speak about how the fiber world has changed since she started her company more than 30 years ago.   At one time, I had 20 years of Handwoven on my bookshelf and am a big fan.  She is one of America’s leading authorities on the evolution of the domestic fiber industry. She said that the interest in knitting over the past six years has contributed to a resurgence in interest in spinning and weaving.  I’m thinking that because knitting is so accessible it may very well be the gateway drug to fiber addiction!  She was asked why she thought so many people seemed to prefer synthetic fibers to natural fibers.  A self proclaimed fiber snob, she said that synthetic fibers have a place in the world too and keep people in the Guatemalan Highlands warm, and bring smile to children’s faces when they receive brightly colored sweaters to wear.  There is a place in the world for synthetics too.

We were on our way out of the fair around closing time when we realized that the artichoke line was no longer LONG.  So. we snagged a french style one and we recommend it heartily.  It was just the right amount of snack to give us the energy to continue on to the Ravelry party. 

And boy, does Ravelry know how to throw a party. The heated tents were packed with ravelers.  If the number of ravelers attending the party Saturday night was any indication of the health of fiber craft in New York, then it is in great shape. 

Thanks to ravelry.com for a terrific party and all the vendors who provided prizes and goodies for the guests. 


Sssh, don’t tell BB that we had fun meeting Bob. ravelry's Bob



We were late again for class on Sunday, but soon settled in to learn what  Annie  Modesitt  would teach us in the  Increase and Decreases class.  She provided clear instructions, and demonstrated with style and theatrical flair.  We knit and practiced in order to reinforce the newly learned material.  But even if we hadn’t, her hand-out perfectly reiterated what we learned in class, so there would be no chance that we wouldn’t  be able to duplicate the stitches in the future.  I felt privileged to be in her class. I am a quirky continental knitter, and it has suited me fine because it was fast.  I’d developed my own strategies for interpreting stitch directions and relied on what I could see in order to knit a stitch “open” instead of twisted.   Before I met Annie, I’d wondered if I’d be instructed to knit differently.  As it turns out – I could not have been farther from the truth.   She was non-judgemental and worked with me and I don’t think I knit so strangely anymore.  I am glad I’ve stick to my guns, because she taught me that there is no wrong way to knit.   I can’t wait for time to read her  book “Confessions of a Knitting Heretic” .  

After class, we visited more animals. Did you know that  llamas and alpacas are the same genus – lama, with one L?  We couldn’t seem to leave the alpaca and llama barn.  The owners of Creekside Acres Fiberfarm in Pleasant Valley and Dakota Ridge Farm in Ballston Spa were especially generous with information.    My friend and I are still trying to decide if we had to chose between lamas , which we ‘d want to own.  She is leaning towards the llamas and I am leaning towards the alpacas.  One owner likened their personality to that of cats – they are independant and smart, gentle and curious at the same time.  They are also so very very soft and have the most amazing ears. I was near to tears when one of the ladies, brought  two of her alpacas out on the halter for a walk. They have a beautiful gait and are so elegant and dear.  On our third trip back into the barn for more communing with the animals, we bought fiber.   I got some gorgeous black alpaca roving to spin.   It will be a way to remember the experiences of the day and is a small way to support the small farms.    llama    Without which Rhinebeck would not be what it is today.










October 12, 2009

Judith Mackenzie McCuin, writes in The Intentional Spinner: A Holistic Approach to Making Yarn that Sarah Natani, a Navajo weaver, tells her students that a spinner is  “just like Spider Woman. Everything She touches changes and She touches everything.”  Judith asks that we remember Spider Woman, and watch what happens to the twist as we use our tools – everything from ball and bobbin winders to knitting needles and whether or not we carry the yarn in our right or left hand.  She suggests we swatch and watch what happens.  Sounds like an experiment.

Spider Rock

Spider Rock, home of Spider Woman

I got out a two-ply bulky handspun  and cast on.  I knit a dozen rows continental, a dozen English and a dozen continental again.  Judith said that yarns plied S or to left, will tighten when knit in the continental manner  and the twist will relax when carried in the right hand as when knitting English.  The experiment did not get the expected result.  My continental stitches were consistently looser than the English stitches.  I definitely carry the yarn with less tension in the left hand than when wrapping with the right.  So, I will continue to spin Z and ply S. 

As a new spinner, I am spinning to improve my skill and trust that the finished yarn will tell me what it wants to become.    The thick and thin merinos I spun and plied bloomed beautifully.  It will be too warm for wearing, so  I think  I will save  it  for weaving.  I can imagine it mixed with other yarns , sett loosely and woven in plain weave.   It will be an opportunity to test another of  Judith’s theories that if both the warp and weft are spun in the same direction, the yarns will lock together to make a strong but lightweight fabric.    Which is exactly what I would want in a blanket.

Hello world! First Sunday in October

October 4, 2009

Oh my.  This has been a productive weekend.  Welcome to Sunday, and a new page.  Thanks to a little ram named Ramblin’ Bawb and his family of friends, I too am off exploring new horizons.  There will be a big learning curve here but that means there will be adventures to share.

My mom used to say when the cat’s away, the mice play.  Well, when the BF is out of town, I get to be BEE and be busy. 

This weekend I’ve been making yarn and dyeing. I am a new spinner and have a brand new Lendrum DT.  

Good Omen - The Spider that came with the Wheel

Good Omen - The Spider that came with the Wheel

My goal is to learn to spin consistently enough so that I am confident enough to get a Spring 2010 Spinner’s share from MV Fiberfarm instead of yarn.    I’ve been practicing with merinos and I think I finally have enough plied wool to plan a project.  It is so yummy soft and natural but I don’t think for long! 

This weekend I finally put the skills I learned at ProChem last spring to the test.  I made up 1% solutions of primary red, blue and yellow as well as fuschia, turquoise and black.  Whew!  Talk about a learning curve.  I failed math in high school but mastered moving decimal points this weekend!  I am now an avid fan of the metric system – made much easier by using metric measuring equipment.  I’m sample dyeing eight skeins, so I’ll have some secondary colors too.

This experiment has shed MUCH light on mixing color.   There’s a rainbow drying in the kitchen.  It is a sunny Sunday here in Brooklyn.