Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Dyeing up a Storm

I have been handpainting rovings lately, which is great fun! I absolutely love playing with new colors and imagining how they will look when they are finished and spun into yarn.

Here are some photos of the latest batch.

Shamrock - merino/mohair

Merino/Kid Mohair (70/30) in "Shamrock"

Chestnut - merino/mohair

Merino/Kid Mohair (70/30) in "Chestnut"

Tourmaline - merino/silk

Merino/Tussah Silk (80/20) in "Tourmaline"

Bryce Canyon - merino/silk

Merino/Tussah (80/20) in "Bryce Canyon"

Ribbon Rock Turquoise - BFL

Bluefaced Leicester in "Ribbon Rock Turquoise"

Desert Sandstone - BFL

Bluefaced Leicester in "Desert Sandstone"

Sorbet - BFL

Bluefaced Leicester in "Sorbet"

<Topaz - BFL

Bluefaced Leicester in "Topaz"

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Happy Thanksgiving! My sweetie and I are planning to spend the weekend relaxing at home. I have already pulled out a few knitting projects that I hope to spend the majority of my time working on. One of my current projects is the Ivy League Vest by Eunny Jang from the Winter 2007 Interweave Knits. It is my first large-project attempt at Fair Isle knitting, and I must say that I am enjoying it. I picked this project because I wanted to learn how to steek my knitting, though now that I have cast on the front neck steek I am feeling a bit nervous about wielding a pair of sharp scissors near my precious hand knit garment. I am confident, however, that I will be able to muster the courage to press on once the excitement of having a finished garment hits.

Ivy League Vest

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Ravelympics 2008


Whew! Seventeen knitting-packed days can be so exhausting! But also so enjoyable! This year was the inaugural year of the Ravelympics, and I very much enjoyed knitting and watching the Summer Olympics with all of my knitting sisters and brothers around the globe. I entered two projects in the challenge - the handspun lace curtain that I am knitting for our west-facing kitchen window (Event: WIP Wrestling) and an asymmetrical neck cozy for my friend Sarah (Event: Gift Knits Pentathlon).

Handspun Curtain

Asymmetrical Neck Cozy

I worked on both of these projects throughout the games. I suspected from the outset that I would not have enough yarn left to finish the curtain, but I knit on until the very end. Now I think that even if I had had the proper yardage, I would not have been able to finish such a big project in such a short time frame. It doesn't help that the lace pattern has a 16 row repeat that, for some reason, is all but impossible for me to memorize! Anyway, it was great to work on this project, which had been hibernating for some time. Even though I didn't finish it, I am optimistic that I will finish it soon. [Note: the curtain is about 2 1/2 times the length that it was in the above photo.]

The asymmetrical neck cozy was such a relaxing project. My friend Sarah came to visit a couple of months ago, and she asked if I would knit her something from a skein of my handdyed superfine merino yarn that she purchased. I was elated to make her a neck cozy, in part because I love knitting for other people! Also, she lives in the D.C. area, and winter can be quite cold. My hope is that the cozy will make the chilly weather a little more tolerable. I finished knitting the cozy only two days before the closing ceremonies, and I still had to decide on a button. After some thought, I decided to make a "thumbprint" button out of polymer clay. My friend, Barbara, was really the inspiration behind the button. She has been making polymer clay buttons like crazy over the past several months. In fact, Barabara and I have joined forces, and are now offering her buttons on our Etsy site. I baked the clay, glazed the button and finished sewing on the button with about 36 hours to go before the closing ceremonies.

I found the entire Ravelympics experience to be very enjoyable, and I am already looking forward to the 2010 games in London, England. Perhaps I will be there in person, knitting in tow.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Antique Spinning Wheel

This summer, a long-time friend of my mother's sold her house house. My mom helped her to clean out some storage on the property, and unearthed this spinning wheel in the process. The wheel was in pieces. My mom brought it home and carefully cleaned the years of accumulated dust and lanolin off of it.

Antique Spinning Wheel

We visited my parents in early August for my brother's wedding, and my sweetie spent most of his free time working on the wheel. At the end of our stay, I was able to spin some bluefaced leicester roving on it! My mom's friend thinks that this wheel is at least 100 years old. It was passed down to her from her mother-in-law who did not spin, and she feels that it must have been her grandmother-in-law's or her great-grand-mother-in-law's. Considering the age of the wheel, the parts are in good shape. The wheel includes three leather pieces on the footman, which were brittle, and so we replaced them with some leather from my grandfather. I have three scotch tension spinning wheels, and so I am not at all familiar with the double drive system, but we were able to use some candle wicking (thanks Dad!) to rig up the double drive band. Though the ratio was better suited for spinning chunky yarns (I prefer to spin fine yarns), it was really fun to spin on this historic artifact. We all kept wishing that the wheel could talk because we are certain that it has a rich history to tell. If you know anything about this spinning wheel, please contact me!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Orange County Fair

Mid-summer in the OC means that it is fair time again. We always look forward to the fair and enjoy going to see the animal barns and the Home Arts building. For the first time ever, I entered some of my handspinning and knitting into the arts and crafts competition. And I won! I can hardly believe it! In fact, I received 2-1st place ribbons, 1-2nd place ribbon, and the Division Winner award for handspinning! I am over the moon with excitement! I feel very honored that my work made the cut. I am currently writing up the pattern for the handspun hat, and will make it available through Etsy and Ravelry once it is completed.

Here is the hat - 1st place and Division winner!

My yarns are the two on the outsides (1st and 2nd place, respectively). My friend Pam won 1st place in the exotic fibers category for her beautiful handspun yarn (in the middle).
Handspun yarn

In addition to the awards, I was able to track down a farmer who had some wool for sale. On our final visit to the fair, we walked through the animal barns yet again. This time, we met Jennifer from Hillside Cottage in Norco, California who was changing the coats on her Angora goats. I bought 8 ounces of yummy merino/mohair/angora (50/30/20) roving from her. Hillside Cottage raises each of these animals themselves, and this roving has a lovely oatmeal color. I am really looking forward to spinning it up. I think that I will spin a lace yarn and make a Pi Shawl (a la Elizabeth Zimmermann).

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Spinning with Friends

Yesterday, my friends Lori and Karen hosted spinning at Lori's house to celebrate my recent wedding. We had a great time! I always feel so inspired by other spinners! The weather was lovely, and Lori's garden was in full bloom. We enjoyed a few hours of spinning, and lunch in the garden (including Margie's homegrown tomatoes, Lori's pasta salad with fresh herbs, and Karen's wonderful cake - yummy!). Thanks so much, Lori and Karen!

Spinning at Lori’s

Friday, June 20, 2008

Sheep in Brief

I was raised in a sleepy little corner of the eastern foothills of the Cascade Mountain Range in Washington state. Recently my parents were given a collection of letters and canceled checks that were the property of Bill Dill, a former resident of this area at the turn of the last century. These papers chronicle a portion of his life in the valley. I was very pleased when my father told me that Mr. Dill had raised sheep on his land. In fact, he had quite a large herd. Some of the papers indicate that he once sold over 100 sheep to another farmer in the area. Through these letters and checks we also learned that one of the other homesteads in the area was the home of the sheep shearer. The shearer was paid much less than $1 per sheep, which is amazing considering that this work was done without the benefit of electricity!

Another gem from this collection of antique letters is the legibility of the postmarks. Though today the notion of having a post office in this remote section of the valley is silly (except to my father, who would be the most obvious postmaster, mail carrier, and top customer), the very lengthy travel times in the early 1900's necessitated a post office and general store in this area.

Brief Postmark

Maybe my days spent playing in these woods and fields where Mr. Dill's sheep once grazed somehow imparted upon me a love of all things wool. At least that is how I will think of it.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sweetheart knitting

This Valentine's Day I will be giving my sweetie the gift of handknitted goodness. He has been patiently hinting for a couple of months now that he would like a knitted hat made from my handspun yarn. After his initial hint, I spent some time looking through my ever-expanding stash of handspun yarns. Nothing jumped out at me as the perfect yarn for his hat, either because the yarn was too scratchy or the colors didn't seem quite right. At this point, I simply shrugged and thought that sometime in the future I would dye and spin something especially for him. To my surprise, last week he mentioned that he liked a skein of merino/cashmere/angora/tussah silk handspun (one ply is merino/cashmere/angora (60/20/20) and one ply is merino/tussah silk (80/20)) that I had hanging up to dry. Determined to have this hat finished by Valentine's Day, I quickly set to work combing through my collection of recent knitting magazines for an interesting pattern. Within minutes I had settled upon the Koolhaas Hat designed by Jared Flood that appeared in the Holiday 2007 issue of Interweave Knits. I like that this hat pattern has a connection to architecture in my native Washington state, and I like the way that the stitch pattern complements the fuzziness of the angora halo.

Koolhaas Hat

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Snow on Christmas

We decided in early December to try to make it up to my hometown in eastern Washington state for the holidays this year. It turned out that our procrastination actually made the trip a bit more interesting. We weren't able to find a flight for the final leg of our journey north, so we opted to take the train from Seattle to my hometown. It was such a fun a relaxing ride. It was snowing for a good portion of the evening trip, which made the train ride all the more enchanting.

It continued to snow every other day or so during our stay, which made the mountainscape where my parents live into a beautiful winter wonderland. The dry, cold air was a refreshing change from the monotony of the weather here in southern California.

I spent a good deal of time knitting and spinning during the trip. I knit 1/2 of a pair of socks (fortunately it was the second half!) for my sweetie for Christmas. I dyed the superwash bluefaced leicester wool using the hot pour technique and about 4 different colors of green dye. I like the subtle pattern that emerged as I worked up from the toe.

green socks

I also made a hat out of seven different colors of my handspun yarn. My hope was that the colors would grade into one another, which to some extent, I think was accomplished. In any case, the hat is very comfy and warm, and will be a nice addition to my winter wardrobe.

Handspun hat

Finally, I started to knit the second half of another pair of socks that have been in the works for quite some time now (see this post for more details). I enjoy working the lace pattern on the top of the sock, but it does require a fair amount of attention, which isn't really the best kind of knitting for busy family holiday time. I did have to tear back a couple of times, but oh well!

In between all of my knitting and time spent with family, I managed to squeeze in enough time to spin several skeins of worsted weight yarn. I spun undyed fibers with the intention of coloring them with natural dyes (e.g., lichen and wine), upon my return to California. Here is how they turned out:

Lichen and Wine Yarn

From top to bottom:
Bluefaced Leicester, dyed with lichen (Alectoria sarmentosa)
Merino/Bombyx (50/50), dyed with lichen (Alectoria sarmentosa)
Merino/Bombyx (50/50), dyed with red wine
Merino/Mohair (70/30), dyed with red wine