Archive for the ‘Knitting’ Category

You have to admire an expert sheep shearer who knows exactly what he’s doing. Firm but gentle, so nobody gets excited.

I think this sheep was more anxious about her audience than she was about being sheared.

Sheepshearing1 SheepSheering2 Sheep Sheering 4 Sheep Sheering3 SheepSheering5 SheepSheering6

It’s amazing to me how little of the sheep’s skin/hide seems to get a pass from the clippers. It’s probably my imagination, but watching the shearer, it looks as though he knows where all the sheep’s hidden zippers are. Make a pass here, a pass there, and voila! Naked sheep. Ready to go Boundin’. 

Image from Pixar short Boundin’. Image retrieved from metatube.com

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Imperial Yarn, I am taking this opportunity to publicly applaud you for two things you are doing right.

Thing 1: The way you tie your tags

The tags are securely attached, but with a firm bow, not a knot. That means I don’t have to trim with a scissors. That’s a little bit more yarn that doesn’t go to waste. I don’t always have the patience, or even the ability to untie the knots that yarn companies use to bind their hanks together.


Thing 2: Tags that can be re-purposed

I greatly appreciate it when companies make thoughtful choices with their packaging. Some sort of label or tag is necessary when selling commercial yarn. Ball bands are secure and provide lots of surface area for printing text and images, but they’re fragile and easy to lose. And they really have no utility once they’ve been removed. Tags are often not much better, in my opinion, as they are too stiff to roll up and stuff into the center of a yarn cake and too small to be re-purposed as anything else. Plus, a lot of yarn companies (hello Quince and Co.) attach them to their hanks with such long loops of yarn attached that they seem to be promoting this tangling problem.

Imperial Yarn uses nice large tags, bound closely to their hanks, so they don’t tangle.  And those tags are exactly the right size and thickness to serve as coasters. I don’t know about you, but I think a home can never have too many coasters. My knitting is usually accompanied by a drink of some kind: hot tea or wine in in the winter, a cold beer or iced tea in the summer.  As an added bonus, knitters like me are littering their homes with free advertising for Imperial Yarns. A complete win-win, in my opinion.



Hats off to you, Imperial Yarn.

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Peter Pan busting out a joyous crow. He must have just finished knitting that tunic.

It’s time to crow.

I’ve made astounding progress this summer on my self-assigned warm weather tops knitting project . At the beginning of June, I posted about the first two completed tops:

#1 Austin Tee by Jean Chung

#2 Bonny by tincanknits

Since then I’ve powered my way through two more:

#3 Still Waters by Julie Tujorman

Knitted in Louet Euroflax sport. This tunic is light to wear and the lace panels on the sides and sleeves provide lots of, um, airflow. I usually pair this top with a cotton tank underneath. My husband likes it paired with a sports bra. That last has only happened once, on a very warm and rainy day. I’m pleased to report that this linen dried out very quickly after getting soaked in a mad dash across the Sherwin Williams parking lot.

#4 Sterling Peplum by Klever Knits 

Knitted using Hempathy, a yarn I’ve heard nothing but good things about. The day I finished this tank I put it on and wore it out to dinner with my husband. It’s a bit prickly next to skin right now, but will probably soften up a lot with repeated washing.


Fun to wear but sooo much stockinette

After all that stockinette I needed to take a break and knit some lace. So I threw myself upon Red Rock Canyon by Romi Hill with slavering glee.  I inhaled that lace.

Knitted using two hanks of Fish Belly Fiber Works yarn I won at Zombie Knitpocalypse

It wasn’t enough lace. I needed more lace. So much more lace.

So I cast on Evenstar Shawl by Susan Pandorf.

10% down. Lots and lots of fine lace to go.

This one should last me for a while.

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I attended the Zombie Knitpocalypse retreat this past weekend. There are so many things I could talk about (it was a joyous experience). And I met so many wonderful new people.  However, the thing that’s tickling my brain right now is yarn –specifically, crazy colorway names.

Each night at the retreat Megan and Amy held a drawing,  giving  away massive amounts of yarn, fiber, tools, and other notions, donated by the retreat sponsors. While listening to the giveaways, I noticed that there seems to be a growing trend for wild and creative colorway names, many of which seem more like mini stories than simple descriptions of the colors.

Leading Men Fiber Arts has some amusing offerings.

Thus with a kiss I die

Fable Fibers is no slouch either.

I Choo-Choo-Choose You

However, Kirbywirby Yarns‘s colorways blow everyone else out of the water:

Rocking by banana clip

Rockin my banana clip to the nkotb concert


70s afghan

The ’70s called, they want their afghan colors back


pass the rave

Pass the Rave Hairspray please, my bangs aren’t high enough



Messin’ With Sasquatch

Now of course, this set my own crazy little brain humming. Kirbywirby has already managed to take this idea up to 10. How could I take it to 11 or 12?

And then I remembered an amusing little web site called They Fight Crime.  (Sadly, the  web site is now defunct, but the original content has been kept alive by Paul Makepeace.)

Imagine, if you will, a series of yarn colorways inspired (and named for) unlikely superhero pairings in the style of They Fight Crime:

  • “He’s a one-legged white trash rock star looking for a cure to the poison coursing through his veins. She’s a time-travelling Buddhist opera singer with a knack for trouble. They fight crime!”
  • “He’s a genetically engineered shark-wrestling waffle chef who hangs with the wrong crowd. She’s a sarcastic foul-mouthed traffic cop with an incredible destiny. They fight crime!”
  • “He’s a lounge-singing ninja astronaut from a doomed world. She’s a bloodthirsty goth widow looking for love in all the wrong places. They fight crime!”
  • “He’s a bookish overambitious paramedic searching for his wife’s true killer. She’s a pregnant green-skinned widow living homeless in New York’s sewers. They fight crime!”

Would you buy that? I know I would.

The realist in me realizes that there’s probably an upper limit of 10 words or so before a colorway name is too long.

I’m not listening to her right now.

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I spent much of my free time during the summer of 2012 knitting the Rocky Coast cardigan. I knitted two of them, one in crunchy Shetland wool (for my sister), and another in a lovely alpaca/wool/silk blend (for me). The trouble was, once I was done knitting them there was nothing for me to do but admire them. I tried wearing my cardigan to work one day late in August, trusting to the office air conditioning to make it bearable. I was determined and I wore that cardigan all day long, even on a trek across campus to an unexpected lunch meeting. I sweltered and suffered, but I persevered. Darn it, I wanted to wear my new cardigan.

This summer, I’ve decided to make summer-friendly knits my top priority. So far, I’ve finished two new tops, and I have my sights set on three more.

Finished Tops

#1  Austin Tee by Jean Chung

The original pattern calls for Cascade Yarns Ultra Pima Fine, a 100% cotton yarn. I decided to use Classic Elite Yarns Cerro, a cotton/alpaca blend.

I love the texture of this top, with its modest mesh and fake-out cables. Well, semi-modest mesh. After trying it on I have decided that a tank top is needed underneath. Unless I’m feeling like an exhibitionista.

Austin Tee by Jean Chung

#2  Bonny by tincanknits

I used SweetGeorgia Yarns Merino Silk Lace and I think this tank came out a bit on the small side. I knitted the medium size. Definitely wearable. I’m tempted, however to knit another one with a slightly thicker laceweight yarn so that I have something with a little more drape. This dress dummy has nice abs, but I can always use a little more camouflage.

Bonny by tincanknits

Next Up

Still Waters by Julie Turjoman. I’ve got this one on the needles right now. I’m knitting this with Louet Euroflax Sport.

Linum Tee, byBristol Ivy. I picked up some appropriate yarn at Yarnover in April.

Sterling Peplum by Klever Knits. I’ve got some purple Hempathy ready to go.


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I’m thankful that household heating technology has progressed to the point where we don’t have to worry about scrubbing wood, coal and oil smoke off our walls and ceilings every spring.  We still burn non-renewable resources, so our heat isn’t “clean,” but at least my furnace doesn’t coat my abode with layers of grime.

For me, spring cleaning involves just a few specific tasks:

  • Footwear shuffling: summer sandals come out of their designated basement tub, winter shoes go in.
  • Moving the bikes and lawn mower into the garage for easy access. The car is exiled to the driveway until the first snow.
  • Washing the woolens.
Knitted hats and mittens, plus a couple non-woolen gloves, drying in the sun.

Knitted hats and mittens, plus a couple non-woolen gloves, drying in the sun.

I used to be able to get the woolen washing done in one batch. These days, it takes multiple batches.

Now that the hats and mittens are done, it’s time to tackle scarves and cowls. Sweaters to follow. I want everything clean before I put it away for the season. Moths love nothing better than dirty wool.

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My Saturday at the Shepherd’s Harvest Wool Festival in Lake Elmo, MN.

Rabbit Agility, it’s a thing.  4-H shows off the skills of their highly-trained rabbit athletes. They all seem to like to hide in the tunnel at the end of the course. 20140522-092403-33843080.jpg

Spinning wheels galore.  I had plans to try out that great wheel, but never got around to it. Next time… 20140522-092431-33871222.jpg

Luscious yarns and kits. I managed to be really good this time and didn’t buy much yarn. Just a couple of hanks from a favorite vendor, Winterwind Farm, who sells CVM blends. 20140522-092500-33900394.jpg   20140522-092457-33897497.jpg   20140522-092502-33902176.jpg

The grand prize for rebranding . Because anything that says “Cashmere” has to be a luxury good. 20140522-092503-33903042.jpg

Where I went a little crazy, was in buying fleeces. Pretty, pretty fleeces. Nice presentation too. It looks like they climbed a tall ladder and snipped a bit of cloud out of the sky, then wound it up and plopped it into a basket. I started with just one, but then ended up winning a couple more in the silent auction. I honestly didn’t expect to win either of them.




I wonder what breed of sheep this is?



This male llama had to be kept penned separately from the herd. He was also the only one who hadn’t been sheared. A bit aggressive perhaps?



Mama goat and her two kids, I assume?



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Today is day 7 of Knitting and Crochet Blog Week. The topic of the day is Looking Backward, Looking Forward.

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I have three fleeces, three luscious fleeces

Bought at a festival last night

A Jacob, a Corriedale, and a Rambouillet-cross

I’ve got my work cut out for me, all right.

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Honestly, that’s as much of my knitting and spinning future as I can foresee. I have three fleeces sitting in my living room. I need to skirt, sort and clean them so I can get them out of my living room.

This is not crafty ambition. This is physical necessity.

Thankfully today is a sunny day, perfect weather for fleece sorting out on the lawn.

I’m starting with the Jacob first. It’s the cleanest.

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Welcome to day six of Knitting and Crochet Blog Week.

For today’s topic, I am writing about a knitter I admire: Alice Starmore.

Alice Starmore’s work is true art. Her patterns are not only lovely, they also seem to express ideas. They have a voice and story inside them.

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A Brief History of Alice

Alice Starmore was born in Scotland on the Hebridean island of Lewis. Her family worked as fishermen and spoke Gaelic at home.

Garenin Black House Village, Isle Of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, Scotland Image from http://wallpaperweb.org

In 1975, she became a professional textile designer, her work heavily influenced by the fiber crafting traditions of her home. She immersed herself in the textile traditions of Scandinavia and began to write books of knitwear patterns. Her first book, Scandinavian Knitwear, was published in 1981. This book was followed by 17 others, as well as variety of other publications.

Today, Alice Starmore is world-renown as a knitting expert. Her books on Fair Isle and Aran knitting are regarded as standards in the literature.

In particular, this book.

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How I Came to Love Alice’s Work e subjects, and she has taught and lectured extensively throughout Britain, Europe and the USA.

I was first introduced to Alice Starmore’s work while searching for boyfriend sweater patterns. I drooled over several gorgeous cabled sweaters, but wisely decided to tackle a simpler project. I was ambitious as heck, when it came to my knitting, but not deluded. I still have a few of those patterns in my “some day” pile.  I’ll know when I’m ready.

The patterns I’m really enchanted by, though, even more than the cables, are the colorwork. I’m just blown away.

Lindisfarne Sweater by Alice Starmore, as seen on Ravelry and in The Celtic Collection.

Oregon Vest by Alice Starmore as seen on https://www.virtualyarns.com


This last December I happened up on a copy of The Celtic Collection in a Friends of the Library shop. I snapped it up. I had no immediate intention to knit anything from it, it was just something I had to have. A piece of raw inspiration to feed my creativity. Like a book of Da Vinci sketches or a print of Monet’s water lilies. I read the book in bed, some nights, lost in the world trapped between the pages.

A Tribute to Alice Starmore’s Work…in Lego

It may seem a bit odd to pay tribute to this artist’s work in a non-fiber medium. But I was fascinated to see how well the intricate Fair Isle patterns could be translated into rows of colored PVC bricks.

I started with one of the simplest patterns in The Celtic Collection, a child’s sweater called Ardagh. 

Ardagh Child's Sweater in Celtic Fretwork. Photo of page 47 of The Celtic Colelction.

Ardagh Child’s Sweater in Celtic Fretwork. Photo of page 47 of The Celtic Colelction.

I chose a small section of Chart A for my experiment.

Child's sweater

I used a combination of different types of tiles and plates. I tried to choose colors close to the yarn colors used in the sweater. Some color matches were better than others due to the colors available in our home Lego supply.

Next, I tackled a slightly more complex pattern, the Kells sweater.

Kells sweater by Alice Starmore, as seen on page 50 of The Celtic Collection.

Kells sweater by Alice Starmore, as seen on page 50 of The Celtic Collection.

I chose a small section of the Chart that showed the intersection of four multicolored diamonds. I ran into difficulties with my color selection, but eventually produced this:

Adult sweater

Early on, I attempted to render one of the more complex Fair Isle sweaters in Lego, but had to quit due to a shortage of pink and purple plates.

So What Was the Point of This?

I won’t deny it, I spent an entire Saturday afternoon playing with Legos. Playing with legos and not knitting.

What I learned is that Legos can provide a very useful medium for trying out new patterns and color combinations. It doesn’t necessarily take less time than swatching. In fact, it probably takes a lot more time. But the advantage is that you can reuse Legos over and over in infinite combinations. And you’re not limited by the colors of yarn you happen to have on hand, only the colors of your Legos.

It’s true that, in this experiment, I ran into some issues with the colors in my Lego supply. But that was because I had not planned to use Legos in this way. The Lego collection belongs to my husband. He buys his bricks with shape in mind more than color. Were I to invest a little money, I could amass a collection of colored plates and bricks exclusively for color work experimentation. And baby, you’d better believe me when I say, there are lots of options out there. Take a web-walk over to Bricklink sometime.

Not Done Playing Yet

I recently took a class in Norwegian stranded color work and am absolutely obsessed with Selbuvotter mittens. This is, perhaps, a better application of Lego experimentation than the Alice Starmore sweaters. One could actually construct a complete mock-up of a mitten (minus thumb) in Lego before knitting it.

Also, perhaps more helpfully, one can play around with various different motifs in a very modular way, swapping things around until you get a sequence that pleases you.

Here's a current experiment in progress.

Here’s a current experiment in progress.

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It’s almost summer and wool festival season is upon us. In fact, I’m going to one this weekend: Shepherd’s Harvest. 

Today’s Knitting and Crochet Blog Week topic is “Something Different.” So I thought I’d try my hand at creating a game.

Wool Festival Bingo

Challenge your fiber buddies to a game the next time you attend a festival.

Consider making things interesting with a wager.


Let the games begin!

May the odds be ever in your favor. 

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