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There’s something I just love about small, local fiber festivals. Many somethings.

It’s easy to get close to the action.

We watched two or three sheep shearings over the course of the afternoon, marveling at the shearer’s facility with each animal. He must have thighs of steel! We had a front row seat each and every time, because there were no other rows.

At the outdoor pavilion watching a master at work.

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The vendors feel comfortable enough with their audience to sell joke items as well as the serious stuff.

We’re all neighbors here (roughly speaking). A vendor can put something like this out and feel pretty certain that everyone will get the joke. And some folks may even be tickled enough to fork over a few dollars for a “fancy” stick.

Now that's luxury.

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The animals seem relaxed 

The human visitors come to visit the animals in calm trickles, not floods. Probably a more relaxing experience for everybody.

Sleepy lambies.

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Jacob charmers in the barn at Shepherds Harvest.

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At the craft demos, you can hear what’s going on.

No need to strain to hear the instructors. And it’s easy to ask questions too.

Here we were watching a team processing flax from start to finish.

Whacking flax to remove the woody outer bits and expose the linen fibers within.

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Hard at work spinning flax into gold…err…linen yarn.

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You might be standing right there when they break the world record for distance in long-draw spinning

Like, right next to them.  Well, ok, they didn’t break a record on this day; not even their own personal best. But it was fun to watch them try.

Spinning really, really, really long draw on a great wheel. Requires a partner to keep the wheel going.

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And best of all, all of this entertainment was mine for free (after paying $5 for parking).

A Trip to Yarnover

Yesterday I traveled up to Yarnover in the Twin Cities with a few of my knitting pals.

Three cheers for carpooling: Let me start off by saying how wonderful it is to have people with whom I can carpool to such events. We had lovely company to chat with, there and back again (although we were considerably more awake on the way home). So much better than dragging myself out of bed for a 2-hour coffee-fueled trek up the Twin Cities by myself.

Providing entertainment for the locals: I can see why Yarnover keeps returning to Hopkins High School for this event year after year. It’s a modern high school with lots of conveniences, including plentiful bathrooms, large classrooms, and even a snack counter. I was very glad of that snack counter, where I bought breakfast as soon as we arrived. Due to the time of year, we share the high school with hordes of students who are there for weekend basketball practice. It’s no problem, though. The students, when they pass by, gawp at the unaccustomed crowds of middle-aged women populating the halls of their school and show tolerant interest in the rainbow of sheepy goods for sale at the vendor stalls. They know we’re only a temporary infestation and are content to be amused by us.

Fiber acquisition accomplished: My shopping mission for Yarnover this year was to build up my stash of hand-dyed fiber for spinning. I read an inspiring article in a recent issue of Spin Off magazine that talked about combining complementary braids of fiber in all sorts of different ways to produce gorgeous color effects. I want to do some experimenting, but need to make sure I have options in my stash first. Last time I looked I realized that I’d spun through most of my colorful braids and now had mostly neutrals and natural colors. I more than remedied that problem at the Yarnover marketplace.

Keys to the kingdom: I took two half-day classes from Amy Herzog: Knit to Flatter and Mindful Mods. We talked in detail about body types and the kinds of details in a knitted garment that can help to make a body look more proportional. I tend to be a bit bottom heavy and learned more about the types of necklines and design features that can emphasize my shoulders  to create more balance. Broader necklines and more detailing around the neckline (such as colorwork yokes) would work very well for me. We also learned a great deal about how to take a commercial pattern and alter it to fit your own body’s measurements. How to pick the right base size and how to make simple adjustments. I, for example, often need to a slightly shorter underarm-to-waist section than most patterns use. My arms tend to be a little shorter too. I now know how to add bust darts to a garment (although I’ll probably never need them for myself. Both classes were extremely useful and I highly recommend them if you’re interested in taking your sweater knitting to the next level. A fellow classmate said she felt as if Amy had given her “the keys to the kingdom.” I quite agree.

Here in Minnesota mother nature has it in for us. She really does. She likes to tease us with a few days of 50s and 60s, followed by a week of heavy wet snow, high winds, and temps in the 20s and 30s. Rinse and repeat.

The only place in my world where spring has officially come to stay is on my Ravelry queue.

Green Apple, by Amy Palmer

The Summer issue of KnitScene is going to land in my mail box any day now and it’s this pattern that has me on tenterhooks. This drapey, crisscross backed tank tickles all my warm weather knitting pleasure centers. Wearable simplicity in the front,  serious drama in the back.

The pattern calls for Berroco Folio™, an alpaca/rayon blend. I’ll have to keep that in mind when choosing a yarn. Nothing with too much structure. I need fiber that just wants to hang and slither.

Photo by Knitscene/Harper Point Photography. Used with permission. As seen on Ravelry.

Reflectance by Inna M.

Can you tell I have a thing for dramatic details? Number two in my list is a luxurious silk top knitted in lace weight yarn. And just look at that sophisticated use of color work. I mean really, look at it. That’s what I call a killer detail. It just makes the pattern sing.

Here’s one more thing to love. It’s a free pattern! The original was in Russian, but thankfully for me, there is an English translation. Here’s hoping the translation is well done, because I really, really, really want to knit this top.

Used with permission. As seen on Ravelry.

Serendipity (the cardigan and the pullover) by Jodie Gordon Lucas

I honestly don’t know which one of these I like more, the cardigan or the pullover.  Both feature a cunning octagon design and approachable raglan sleeves.

And get this: Both patterns are written such that you can use any yarn weight you choose. The pattern comes with worksheets that will guide you through calculations based on your yarn weight, gauge, size, etc…

I know, I know. Technically such worksheets shouldn’t be necessary and knitters should be able and willing to do their own calculations. But I appreciate a designer who’s willing to help her users along. This sort of pattern could be a good confidence-builder for a knitter who isn’t sure if they’re ready to do the math.

Used with permission. As seen on Ravelry.

Used with permission. As seen on Ravelry.

Seaboard by Tanis Lavallee

An airy, lightweight tank. Perfect for someone with a small bust (like me) and toned arms to show off (which are on my to-do list). If only knitting built arm muscle. Maybe if i did it while standing and wearing wrist weights.

This pattern calls for lace weight merino. Excellent! I have some lovely stuff in my stash just begging to become this tank.

Used with permission. As seen on Ravelry.

Last year around this time I made a commitment to avoid hoarding crafting magazines. I don’t want to become one of those little old ladies who can’t let go of her stuff. A person who lives in a house full of old copies of Interweave Knits, but has no friends because she doesn’t have enough clearance around her door to admit visitors.

Nope, that won’t be me.

Last year, my pal Carina of Hakelmonster blog proposed a crafting magazine swap. A truly awesome idea. I sent her a pile of English language knitting magazines from my stash. She sent me some very interesting German-language magazines–not the kind of things one can find at the local Barnes and Noble.

Would anybody like to do another swap with me? It’s all about sharing and cultural exchange. Ideally, I’m looking for someone overseas who has access to different magazines than we have here in the U.S.  If you’d like to swap, just leave a comment and let me know.

It’s amazing how fiber choice and spinning technique can change the appearance of your finished yarn.

Both of these yarns were dyed by the same dyer (Into the Whirled) in the same colorway (The Woods).

Both were spun from carded roving. But what a difference these other characteristics make:

                               Yarn 1                                      Yarn 2

Fiber                       Merino/SW Merino/Silk              Masham wool

Spinning style       Worsted                                    Semi-woolen (I think)

Plying                     Chain (3-ply)                             2-ply

Weight                    Fingering/sport                          Aran/bulky

The shine of the silk really comes through in yarn 1. All of the colors seem extra-vibrant.

In yarn 2, all of the colors seem warmer and more muted.

Fascinating, don’t you think?

* Disclaimer: I only spun yarn 1. Yarn 2 came to my happy hands from a fellow spinner who was cleaning out her stash.

I drove down to Madison to join my mother at the Madison Knitters Guild Knit In. She had volunteered to serve as vendor coordinator. I volunteered to serve as her minion. All day Friday we scurried around, helping to orient the vendors, answering questions and directing them to their reserved booths. That evening we retired to the Clarion Hotel lobby for a welcome glass of complementary wine.

Enjoying some wine at the Clarion while waiting for Patty Lyons' keynote. #mkg2015

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We shared the lobby with a large crowd of folks who were there to attend a model train show. They beat us to the lobby and the wine, being chronically on-time, as train enthusiasts are known to be.

The Clarion gathering room. Full of knitters and train enthusiasts. What a wonderful place to be. #mkgknitin2015

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After our refreshment, we headed over to listen to Patty Lyons’ keynote speech. What a hoot!

Patty's keynote is the place to be. It's cold outside but it's warm and wooly in here. #mkgknitin2015

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Patty. Our feature teacher. A giant in the knitting world but itty bitty in real life. #mkgknitin2015

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She gave a talk about the importance of knitting gauge swatches.

Yeah. I've been there. #mkgknitin2015

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Gauge swatch: also known as the lying liar who lies to us.

Gauge tragedies in mohair are particularly painful. #mkgknitin2015

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While we were there we got to enjoy some awesome knitwear creations close-up.

THIS is the way to accessorize your hand knits. #mkgknitin2015

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I need me these clogs.

Knit stitch clogs spotted at #mkgknitin2015

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The next day, I thew myself into classes. I took two classes from Mary Germain (she of the fabulous color work sweater below).  One class was devoted to different kinds of Latvian mitten cuffs: scalloped braid, twisted garter, and garter colorwork.

Mary Germain showing off some intricate Latvian cuffs. #mkgknitin2015

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The other class was all about Estonian lace. Here’s my pitiful first attempt at nupps. Gack!

My Estonian lace border and center smaller. All joined. The sewing up was pretty easy. The rest needs work. #mkgknitin2015

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Now this is what I’m talkin’ about. Now those are nupps.

Ooh. Floaty clouds of Estonian wonderfullness. At Mary Germain's afternoon class's. #mkgknitin2015

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During my breaks I shopped feverishly. There were so many wonderful vendors. Mom told me they had twice as many this year as last.

@javajennie selling tempting bags at the Knit In. She offers "java" in many serving sizes. All highly caffeinated. #mkgknitin2015

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Did you forget needles for your KnitIn class? You can get extras at Johnny Skein's booth. #mkgknitin2015

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No worries. Galpaca brought the honey. #mkgknitin2015

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This guy makes the most awesome felted flowers and killer hats.

Spry Whimsy making felted flowers. Live at the Knit In. #mkgknitin2015

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Later that night I met up with some friends for dinner at Grandpa’s Pizza on Willy St., followed by a trip to the Old Sugar Distillery. So many tasty new places have popped up in Madison since I moved away.

Tasty Honey Cap at Old Sugar Distillery. Plus knitting. #widn #mkgknitin2015 tagging @ra_krieg @ballke @soxtherapist

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Later that evening, I joined other knitters in the Clarion Lobby for more knitting and carousing. These knitters really know how to carouse. Jammies and all.

Patty Lyons in her knit-dorable flannel sheep jammies. #mkgknitin2015

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On Saturday, more classes. This time an all day class on Latvian mittens.

My completed mini Latvian mitten with thumb. I just need to sew up the cuff with the picot edge. #mkgknitin2015

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A lively string band spiced things up in the common area at lunch time. I wish they had been there on Saturday too.

String band livening up lunch time at the Knit In. They should definitely have them back next year. #mkgknitin2015

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A wonderful trip. I’ll definitely come back to the Knit In in future years.

I’ve been meaning to blog about my new Raspberry Stripes Cardigan. But this cardigan just doesn’t want to hold still. All it wants to do is go out to dinner, attend a concert, go for a walk, and even do chores around the house. Couldn’t get near it with a camera.

I love its drapey simplicity

The pattern is Caramel by Isabell Kraemer. The basic cardigan is pretty simple, but it has spawned all sorts of wild and inspiring variations.

My inspiration for this particular color combination came from memories of my recent visit to Eugene, OR. If you go there, you must buy the berries. Ever seen three colors of raspberries in one stall? Each stripe of this cardigan is the color of one type of natural raspberry: red, black (purple) and golden.

Yarns Used:

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