I Love Blog Followers

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Dear blog followers,

I love having you around. You make me feel listened-to.  I hope you stick around and that I can continue to entertain you.  * Warning: I talk about knitting a lot. I hope that’s what you signed up for.*

I’d like to pay tribute to a random sampling of my most recent followers. Check out their blogs. You might find a new favorite.

Bridgewater Crafts: This designer recently released a very beginner-friendly dishcloth pattern. I haven’t looked at the pattern (it’s paid) but it’s nice to see a designer taking something as simple as a dishcloth seriously enough to have the pattern tech-edited.

A Nerdy Crocheter: If I knew how to crochet, I would totally make this Sunburst Baby Blanket.  She’s selling it on Etsy for $19.99, which seems like far too little money for something so pretty, in my opinion.

Missy’s Crafty Mess: It’s the end of August and, I don’t know about you, but I’m in firm denial that there is any such thing as winter. Psychologically, I can work around this denial by telling myself that the sweaters, shawls and mitts on my needles are meant for crisp autumn mornings or for camping in the mountains. Missy doesn’t seem to have this problem. In the middle of summer she’s posting pictures of balaclavas and referring to winter as an impending event. I don’t know if that’s practical or depressing. None the less, she seems to be a balaclava knitting machine.

Flip Coast Creations: This crafter finds excuses to craft things out of any material to-hand. On a recent glamping trip (glam camping),  they made their own wooden spatula and a truly cunning whittled Gandalf-stick. That’s talent!

Yarnover Recap in Photos

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Last weekend, Mom and I made the joyful trek up to Yarnover.

We shopped.

Adorable felted ride-em horsies

Adorable felted ride-em horsies

We took a Fearless Two Color Mittens Class from Mary Scott Huff. Mary started out the class with a simple exercise in stranded color work for those who needed a review  or for those (like me) who had never tried it at all. The “fearless” aspect of this class was definitely for me. I took this class so I could conquer my personal “Dr. Strangelove” in knitting (i.e., “How I learned to stop worrying love the [fill in knitting-related fear]”).

Mary's a live wire and very entertaining.

Mary’s a live wire and very entertaining.

Here's my first attempt at Norwegian stranded color work. A few rows later, I learned why it's so important to keep your floats loose. This sucker was puckered.

Here’s my first attempt at Norwegian stranded color work. A few rows later, I learned why it’s so important to keep your floats loose. This sucker was puckered.

Later on, Mary passed out her Nordica pattern for us to try. Here was my first try:

I made it about halfway through the mitten when I finally had to acknowledge that I was knitting WAY too loosely. In my effort to keep my floats loose I was knitting everything like rubber-girl.  So I ripped back.

I made it about halfway through the mitten when I finally had to acknowledge that I was knitting WAY too loosely. In my effort to keep my floats loose I was knitting everything like rubber-girl. So I ripped back.

I tried again with firmer tension and smaller needles and got this:

Mitten #1, minus the thumb. It fits. Huzzah!

Mitten #1, minus the thumb. It fits. Huzzah!

 

We took a break at lunch to wolf down some food and chat with friends from my local knitting group. Everyone talked about their morning classes and the classes they were planning to take in the afternoon. I found myself wishing I could undergo a few rounds of cellular mitosis right then and there so that I could take everyone else’s classes as well as my own.

In the afternoon, Mom and I also took a Spinning and Plying Cabled Yarns class with Francine Ruiter. My first-time results were semi-successful.

Francine getting things started. We're all itching to spin.

Francine getting things started. We’re all itching to spin.

YO7

My cabled yarn on the bobbin.

Mom working on her singles. She's shy, so you only get to see her cute smile.

Mom working on her singles. She’s internet-shy, so you only get to see her cute smile.

My cabled yarn finished. If you look closely, there are certain sections of it that seem to have the visual characteristics of a cabled yarn. But not all. Sigh. Must practice.

My cabled yarn finished. If you look closely, there are certain sections of it that seem to have the visual characteristics of a cabled yarn. But not all. Sigh. Must practice.

I left Yarnover feeling jazzed about the new techniques I’d learned, particularly the Norwegian stranded color work.

I think my Ravelry favorites are about to be flooded with color work projects.

Win a Color Affection Shawl and Benefit Your Local Animal Shelter

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There’s a shelter pet out there who wants to meet you

I know because I have two shelter cats at home. They cuddle with me when I have a cold, defend our domain from crows and ladybugs, and in general do everything they can to be members of the pride.

Orion, a shy, cuddle-monkey we adopted from Paws and Claws three years ago.

Orion, a shy cuddle-monkey we adopted from Paws and Claws three years ago.

I love pet adoption and I love animals. But I can’t take them all home, and neither can you. That’s why animal shelters, like my local Paws and Claws animal shelter, are so important. They have the will and the means to do what no individual can accomplish. They make it their mission to:

  • Rescue and care for lost or abandoned animals
  • Seek adoptive homes
  • Promote responsible companion animal care.

They make the world a better place.

Enter to win this hand-knitted shawl by making a donation to your local animal shelter

I decided I wanted to do something to give back to my local animal shelter through my love of knitting. And I wanted to give other people a chance to take part to help make a greater impact.

So I decided to knit a shawl. And I’m offering that shawl in a prize drawing for people who choose to join me in supporting animal shelters.

About the shawl

This colorful, stylish shawl was hand-knitted by me using a combination of local fibers:

Shawl draped

shawl on bushes

The pattern is Color Affection by Veera Välimäki. The shawl took approximately 20-30 hours to knit. It would make a gorgeous accessory for you, or for someone special in your life.

How to enter the shawl drawing

1) Make a donation to your local animal shelter. Here’s a link to my local Paws and Claws animal shelter donation page.

2) Leave a comment. Come back to this blog post and leave a comment telling me:

  • You made a donation to an animal shelter.  You don’t have to tell me how much.
  • Tell me about the intended recipient of the shawl (Will it be for you? You mom? Your dentist?). Alternatively, tell me a cute pet story.

I’m doing this on the honor system, however I reserve the right to disqualify any entry that doesn’t follow the rules or that I deem “fishy.”

Entries will be accepted April 8-May 6, 2014.  There will be one entry per person, no matter how much you choose to donate. The winner will be drawn randomly using a random number generator. I will contact the winner via email and will announce the winner here on this blog the week of May 6, 2014.

This is a prize drawing where everybody wins

Even if you don’t win the shawl, you’ll still win because you donated money that will help companion animals in need. Animals like:

  • Good-Time Charlie, who wants to run, and jump, and play, and lick your face, all at once.
  • Harley, a charming girl who enjoys drinking from the faucet

Your entry and donation will make a difference, no matter what.

Other ways you can help

If you don’t wish to participate in the drawing, you can still contribute to this campaign. Tell your friends. Share a link on Facebook.

Good-time Charlie, a dog who was just adopted at Paws and Claws.

Good-time Charlie, a dog who was just adopted at Paws and Claws.

Woopi, a cat currently available for adoption at Paws and Claws (as of 4/3/14)

Woopi, a cat currently available for adoption at Paws and Claws (as of 4/3/14)

And if you have animal companions at home, give them a scritch for me.

Spinning My Own (Much Smaller) Great White Bale

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This year, I’m doing something about my fleece stash. Specifically, I’m going to do something about the washed and unwashed fleece stuffed into the corners of my craft room. Here are the rules:

  • If a fleece is unwashed, I will wash it! All the spinning blogs are telling me how dangerous it is to store it dirty.
  • If a fleece is unprocessed, I will process it. This might mean hand carding (I don’t have a machine) or simply arranging the fiber appropriately for spinning from the lock. Maybe I’ll learn to comb fleece. Maybe I’ll resort to sending my fleece to a mill for processing.
  • If washed fleece is unspun, I will spin it. Not that there is really any special urgency after I get it all washed up, but I need to prove to myself that I can make yarn from raw fleece–a mental hurdle I mean to conquer.
  • Once my fleece is spun, I will knit with it. A sweater from raw fleece, I’m bound and determined.

Many of you have probably heard about Clara Parkes and her Great White Bale. 

In 2013, I procured a very special, 676-pound bale of superfine Saxon Merino—my Great White Bale—and took it to mills and dyers around the country to see what we could do with it.

Nestled in the corner of my craft room, I have my very own great white bale: a creamy white Texel fleece I purchased and split with my mother. I’m starting with this one because mom already took care of the washing for both of us. She even sorted it into three categories for me:

  • Best quality
  • Belly Wool (check for tenderness)
  • Fluff

Best mom ever.

This weekend I spent hours flicking the locks, then hand carding the locks into rolags.

texel 2

A large bundle of fluffy rolags now rests next to the couch by the wheel. Ready to spin.

texel 1

A Handspun Ishbel Shawl

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At last count, the Ishbel shawl by Ysolda Teague boasted 12,819 projects on Ravelry. As Ravelry patterns go, it’s a lacy little juggernaut.

Now there’s an amusing mental image. Sadly, when you Google “Juggernaut” and “Lace” you don’t get in image of this guy draped in Shetland lace.

Juggernaut (X-Men)

But you do get this image of a Marie Antoinette-like figure in court robes. Not quite so threatening, but those side panniers could probably take out a whole crowd of nobles if she turned around suddenly.

I digress.

On Sunday, I cast on Ms. Teague’s oh-so-popular shawl. And yesterday I finished it. Eight days for a lace shawl. That’s some kind of record for me. I chose a hank of my precious hand-spun lace weight yarn for this project.

Hand spun 2-ply lace weight. 4 oz. 890 yards.  Polwarth and Silk. Roving purchased from the Gilded Lily (Judith McKenzie’s shop) at Black Sheep Gathering 2013.

I blocked the shawl yesterday afternoon and it dried in just a few hours. I always forget how quickly fine yarns can dry.  Tips of the lace were blocked pretty severely to get the proper leafy effect.

On Top of Mount Wooly

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Jacob sheep. Evelyn Simak [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

On Top of Mount Wooly

On top of Mount Wooly

All covered with sheep

I lost my sock needle

Getting out of my Jeep

*

It rolled off my lap

And onto the floor

And then my poor needle

Rolled right out the door

*

It rolled to the pasture

And under a fence

Then under the hooves

Of a ruminant defense

*

I howled in frustration

I stamped and I stormed

Then I ran from the ruminants

So I wouldn’t get horned

*

I went back to the car

And took up my sock

With only four needles

I could still make it work  [Brooklyn accent here]

*

Driving away from Mount Wooly

I began to regroup

And vowed that next time

I’d try Magic Loop

Buying Yarn is an Expensive Habit

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Buying yarn is an expensive habit. Oh yes. It’s so easy to stash up, to buy more at a faster rate than I will ever knit.

I used to be frustrated by my stash. It was a stash composed of lots of single hanks, with the occasional two-hank set. Never enough to make a sweater or other large project. I could be queen of hats and socks. Not a throne I want.

Lately my yarn buying has taken a “practical” turn. Practical is the nice word for it. Somehow an idea wormed its way into my noggin that the solution to my problem was simply to start buying sweater quantities of yarn.

You can see where this is going.

My stash now contains a several sweater quantities of yarn. I have all sorts of plans for that yarn. But these sweater piles are balanced on top of all the stash I had before. Those onesie, twosie hanks didn’t mysteriously go away. And I don’t want them to go away. I love them all.

My craft room, it doth overflow.

I begin to understand the impulse to have a de-stashing sale. It’s like an adoption drive, but for yarn instead of kittens. Soft and cuddly yarn looking for a forever home.

Part of me wants to ask the buyers to write essays. Or perform feats of strength to prove their commitment. Will they love the yarn as much as I do?