Archive for April, 2011

Opus 2011

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

Last October I started playing around with layering hues of dye on roving to form interesting gradients. One of the first colorways to come about from this experimentation was a gradient spanning a deep bluish plum (Damson) through raspberry and copper all the way to gold. The rich colors seemed to call for silk so I dyed it on 80% merino/20% silk.  This would become the standard fiber for most of the layered gradients.  It was autumn and the colors of this gradient reflected all the richness of this time of year without being too staid and traditional. I dyed up an even dozen rovings – it seemed like a good round number and even dyelot of items…and then something happened.

I wanted it. Now, I understand how being a dyer works. I dye yarns and fibers and then send them on their way to fiber artists who will create something wonderfully beautiful and unique. A work of art. Something I can’t begin to imagine when I’m dyeing it up since it comes from their imagination, not mine. I’m good with this. In fact, I’m more than good. I adore this arrangement since I often get to see these beautiful works of art, which are pure inspiration for me. I love this part of my job! So, when I have an urge to grab something coming out of the dye studio and hoard it all to myself, I can usually talk myself back from the edge by reminding myself of all these job benefits. Not this time. I wanted this Damson to Gold gradient. Badly. With an urgency that I thought might be life crushing if I didn’t have it. So I kept it. Not just one braid but FOUR. Well, I reasoned with myself, if I was going to fall down I might as well make it a spectacular swan dive.

As soon as the 2010 festival season ended, I started spinning it up. Technically, I didn’t even wait for the end of the festivals since I started spinning it at a trunk show at the Knitters Mercantile in Columbus, Ohio. I was a spinner possessed. I spun through one gradient braid on Saturday and a second one the next day. I couldn’t stop. There was something hypnotizing about the gradual changing of colors loading onto the bobbin. I plied these first two plies together and ended up with an 8 ounce skein of 1075 yards of a heavy laceweight/light fingering weight yarn. I blocked the skein and set it on a shelf in the dye studio where I could look at it while dyeing and waited for it to tell me what it wanted to become.  Meanwhile I spun and plied the third and fourth braids of fiber.  A total of 2225 yards.

It really seemed to call out for a circular shawl.  We had just purchased an antique circular quartersawn oak table for the brick and mortar store I was hoping to open.  I could envision  a circular shawl draped over this table in the store as a model.  But which pattern?  There are several beautiful designs available for circular shawls but the one I fell in love with was Susan Pandorf’s Evenstar pattern .  I started knitting mid-November and worked on it exclusively for the next four and a half months.  The pattern is beautifully written with large charts and line by line directions so the knitter can chose whichever they are most comfortable using.  The stitch pattern changes several times throughout the shawl and are timed so that everytime I started to get bored, the stitches would change and suddenly I was working on a whole new project.  It was the longest I’ve ever worked on a single project – a long term relationship as it were.

All good things must come to an end, as they say.  A couple of weeks ago, two days before our first festival, the Greencastle Fiber Event, I cast off the last stitch and blocked the shawl.

Now don’t get me wrong – I am infatuated with the shawl.  But I’m also a little blue.  Down in the dumps.  Melancholic.  My long term relationship is over and there is simply nothing to be done.  Nothing except…cast on a cute little Baby Surprise Jacket in that fingering weight single ply I spun up a month ago.  A short sweet project.  Sort of a brief summer romance to recover and get back into the swing of things – a project on the rebound as it were.  I feel better already!

Home Again, Home Again (Jiggedy Jig)

Sunday, April 17th, 2011

Well, I rolled into Cincinnati last night around midnight, dragged myself into the house and promptly went to sleep.  The festival came to a close yesterday at 5pm.  The booth that had taken 9 hours to set up, was broken down by Ellie and myself in 2 hours.  By 7:30, we were on the road for home.  These festivals are always such a whirlwind of fun and energy!

Sorry to say that there are no photos of the finished booth – my camera is on the fritz.  I suspect it is the battery not holding a charge.  I need to see about ordering another one this evening.  In the meantime, here’s a photo of me drop spindling that Gina was kind enough to send to me.  I thought you might enjoy seeing the crazy necklace of pencil roving!!

The Greencastle Fiber Event (Greencastle, Indiana) is weighted heavily towards spinning (more so than most festivals we vend at).  There are many many wonderful spinners at this festival, but there are also many folks who get bitten by the spinning bug here and would love to give it a whirl (pun intended).  So I grabbed a bag of pencil roving and purchased a  Bare Bones spindle (by Greensleeves) and started an impromptu demo outside of our booth.  It’s actually a means of relaxation for me and takes the edge off my nervous energy when I’m at a festival.  Plus, folks walking by seem to get a charge out of watching the fiber being drawn out and twisted into a thin thread.  Enough so that, at times, there were quite a few folks gathered around and the local spinning guild asked if they could send people interested in drop spindling over to watch.  I even got to teach a few new spinners!

One new spinner, Gee Gee, was a nearby vendor (Soft Stuff)  who makes the most wonderful vintage aprons from the 1920’s – 1940’s.    As truly wonderful as those aprons were (and believe me when I tell you they are fascinating since Gee Gee doesn’t just professionally sew them, she also researches and knows the history behind each style), the bamboo/cotton pillowcases were simply too much for me to resist.  She was completely sold out of all but the model!  I ordered a pair and I expect I’ll likely turn right around and order quite a few more pairs as well, they are that luxurious!!  Anyhow, Gee Gee was there with her daughter, who was vending in the adjacent booth (Westfield Woolies).   She’s starting classes soon in Ovine Midwifery so that she can help when there are difficulties with the births of the lambs on her daughter’s farm.  Her daughter owns a Cormo and Border Leicester sheep farm and was selling wonderful fleeces – I picked up a large (9 pound) Cormo x Border Leicester that was Brown and Grey (unbelievably soft) that I dropped off to Ginny at Ohio Vally Processing to have made into roving.

There are so many wonderful unusual fleeces at the festivals where we vend that I’m thinking of making it a point of purchasing several at each show and dropping them off to Ginny (Ohio Valley is only ca. 40 minutes from me – how crazy convenient is that????) and then offering these spinning fibers (dyed and undyed) to spinners.   Any takers?


Friday, April 15th, 2011

We managed to get the booth set up, just like I knew we would.  It’s a bit like magic:

Complete disarray the morning before completing setup – a complete chaotic state of inventory in bins stacked everywhere! At this point we had the grids up and the sock yarn on posts (back wall of booth), but that was all. :

Ellie unpacking inventory:

Coming down the home stretch and loading baskets of pencil roving:

We didn’t actually get a picture of the finished booth yet since the festival organizers let customers in about 30 minutes early.  We were all set up, but with no time to spare for photos.  I’ll get a quick photo tomorrow morning before we open.

To Market To Market…

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

Ellie and I just checked into our hotel this evening at 9:30pm – we left Cincinnati at 11am this morning and haven’t stopped running. – There is an edge of excitement in the air.  Like opening day or the first day of a holiday.  As of today, festival season officially begins for us.  We brought enough inventory to fill 2 full booths (we only have a single booth here).   So the trick is how to make everything fit!  Booth set up for this festival is split between Thursday afternoon and Friday morning, so currently we are only half set up.  I’m one of those folks who like the satisfaction of completing a task once it’s started so it’s an odd feeling to simply walk out of the building at closing time with the booth only mid-setup.  There are bins of unpacked fiber and yarn everywhere!!  Total chaos! Somehow, we’re going to create the illusion of a mini store front by tomorrow at 1pm with something resembling order…my brain can never wrap itself around this concept, even though we do it show after show.   All the vendors do.  It’s something magical.

I wanted to take pics of the setup to show a behind the scenes peek at what goes on and all the madness, but my camera was packed deep into the luggage (not very useful there), so I had to wait until we unpacked tonight at the hotel.  I’ll take it with me  tomorrow for the second half of set up and if I’m the least bit still alive in the evening, I’ll post a quick blog with some photos.


Sunday, April 10th, 2011

Today I’m working on a paradox…but before we go there, I want to thank everyone who left a comment.  I recognized the names of many friends and even a few new ones, which is beyond exciting for me!!  I also feel a bit more comfortable giving a shout-out into the ether of the web, so expect more frequent posts (I’m aiming for Thursday and Sunday blogging).

So, using the random number generator (RNG) found here , it came up with the number 9, which corresponds to Junipero!!  (crowd goes wild with applause!)  Junipero – drop me an email at and I’ll set up a coupon code for you.

My paradox?  Well, it’s a plant-eating tiger…better known as a Bengal Herbivore.   Last autumn, I fell hard for the Stephen West design, Herbivore.

So when a friend of mine, Bill, knit one , I knew it was just a matter of time before I had to have one too. Bill knit his in the Northwoods BATIK colorway on foot notes yarn, which seems quite an herivore-y color .

Northwoods BATIK colorway

In fact the colors remind me of the light and shadows found deep in a forest. I love the concept of a medley of greens and browns with this design. I just knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I was going to make mine in a colorway containing lots of lush greens.

Which is why, it is still a bit of a surprise to me that I didn’t. In fact I didn’t even pick a colorway with ANY green in it. Huh. Go figure. Not only doesn’t this colorway contain any green, if you were to look at any color wheel,  this colorway falls nearly as FAR AWAY (with the exception of red) from green as you can possibly get. The colors in my Herbivore took an abrupt turn from green last autumn, while driving to the New York Sheep and Wool festival in Rhinebeck. Our route takes us through the middle of the Hudson Vally. In the high season of Autumn. When the trees are cloaked in all their glorious autumn colors. Blame it on homesickness (this is where I grew up), but by the time we arrived at the fairgrounds, I was determined to knit up an Herbivore in similar colors to those Hudson Valley autumn leaves.

Bengal BATIK colorway

My color choice? Bengal BATIK… since then, it has been the source of much amusement by knitting muggles (and other knitters, truth be told) that I chose a carnivorous colorway (Bengal) for such plant-themed scarf!  Even after explaining the whole autumn tree idea, this small scarf always brought forth little giggles from folks who were familiar with the project.

I’ve been putting in minutes here and there on this scarf throughout the autumn and winter months (soccer and basketball games, school events, a few minutes over coffee in the mornings, that sort of thing). After a few mis-starts, which I seem to require before I ‘get’ how the stitches work in the pattern, I settled into the project nicely. A few minutes here…a few minutes there, without much effort and before I knew it, it was complete. I bound off, folded it up nicely and put it away without blocking it.  And promptly forgot about it.

Until yesterday when I took stock of the models on hand for the festival season. I retrieved this project (and a couple of others, which I’ll get to in later posts), blocked it, and fell in love with the design and the Hudson Valley colors all over again.  I’m all kinds of infatuated with how the colors interact with the stitch architecture.  It’s kind of like finding $20 in your winter coat. Or (I hope) like winning a $20 gift certificate.   This colorway is designed to knit up in a medley of random muted golds, nutmeg browns, and espresso with pops of orange.

So during these cool summer nights and on into autumn, go ahead and laugh if you must, but I’ll have my love to keep me warm!

Let’s get this rolling with some yarn and fiber!

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

It’s been a while since I last tried keeping everyone up to date using a blog. I’ve got to admit that communicating in the Fiber Optic Fans group on ravelry has a much more intimate and friendly feel to it for me than blogging does. I think it has something to do with the idea of writing an entire monologue and sending it out into the world without any two-way conversation. I feel a bit like the zealot that stands on the corner professing, ‘Repent – the end of the world is near!’  No one ever talks to him and he simply keeps monologuing.  So, I thought we might ease into this whole blogging thing together, you and I. I’ll even offer up a little spinning/knitting incentive to get you motivated! Simply leave a comment on today’s entry so it feels a bit more like a conversation. Everyone leaving a comment by April 9th (2 days from now) will be entered into a drawing for a $20 gift certificate to Fiber Optic Yarns.

So, want to see my new toy? Here she is:

I actually bought this Lendrum Saxony CPW from Toni Neil (The Fold) a year and a half ago but have been terrified to refinish it myself so it has sat unused, which is a very sad thing. So I finally came to my senses and sought out someone who could finish it for me. Three weeks ago I dropped it off at Ellie’s so that Bob, who has a lot more experience refinishing furniture, could put a hand rubbed tung oil finish on it for me. Yesterday afternoon I went to retrieve it and was completely floored by how deep and beautiful the wood grain had become!

This wheel is the cherry version. It also comes in maple and walnut. I love all these woods, but cherry is my favorite! One of the drawbacks with cherry wood, though, is that it can, and often does, have a lot of sap wood, which shows up as pale tan stripes against the deeper richer heart wood. Imagine my surprise, then, to find that the sap wood is nearly nonexistent – just beautiful heartwood throughout!  This is just one more attention to detail that Gord pays to these beautiful wheels.  Oh – you want to see the spinning I’ve initiated her with?

It’s the mixed-BFL/silk tops dyed up in the Jade colorway for the March 2011 fiber club.  It’s been several weeks since I’ve got some time to relax in the evenings and spin – so, really, how could I resist a new wheel and my fave current fiber?  I’ve got big plans for this fiber.  I’ve been talking with folks on ravelry who adore and are very proficient at spinning boucle (loopy) yarns and they are very interested to see if a boucle yarn can be made using a navajo-ply.  So stay tuned for either a new spinning technique or a tangled mess!  Only time will tell…