Knit Girllls Gradient

November 26th, 2012

A while back, Leslie and Laura (of the KnitGirllls podcast) asked if I would be interested in creating a gradient for a spin-a-long for their podcast. I’ll hold on while you run over and check it out…

I loved the idea so we penned it into the the dye studio schedule. Laura and Leslie both were so patient since the schedule is planned out several months in advance and even with heavy creative rescheduling, there was still a long wait – thanks guys!

I wanted to do something that would reflect their friendship as well as be meaningful for the podcast that they created. We’ve had a couple of email conferences as well as a face-to-face at Rhinebeck. We decided that it had to have that vibrant KnitGirllls blue that the KnitGirllls is written in at the top of their podcast. Then I noodled…and pondered…and painted (yes, I paint out color for gradients)…and schemed. Lots of pretty gradients, but nothing seemed personal or dramatic or beyond the commonplace.

So I emailed them for some help, asking what their favorite colors were. Laura likes violet – easy peasy to put with cerulean blue and make them play nice together since they are both cool colors. Leslie, however, likes red – a warm color. A challenge! A zing of color unexpectedness in a gradient! I proposed it to our dye team – there was gasps of surprise and mutters of ‘Are you kidding?’ This color combination breaks quite a few of our ‘rules’ in the studio.

I persevered, though, with conviction that we could do it. And we did! Three full days of formulating the colors. Brutal discarding of uncooperative colors that refused to play nice with each other (blues and reds I’m looking at you!). Finally, we decided on a true red (not an orange-y red, but a blood red) to a violet and on to a cerulean blue. It’s intense and interesting and the colors all flow very well, highlighting and complimenting one another.

This gradient will go live for preorders on the usual batchannel on December 1st at 1:00pm. You won’t see the gradient until December 1st – before then this link will simply take you to the homepage, where other very nice goodies are available to tempt you. The KnitGirllls gradient (rouge-violet-cerulean) will be available in unlimited quantities until December 8th at 1:00pm, when we will close it (all good things must come to an end…sob!). Hope you all enjoy it as much as we all did here creating and dyeing it up!

One Small Step

November 25th, 2012

I finished the Meret (mystery beret) – wahoo! First item in the destash list! A whole 2.6 ounces (yes, I’m counting tenths of an ounce -hey! every little bit counts towards 20 pounds, right?)

More importantly, one happy (but bored to be modelling) 10-year old this winter!

Matching mittens cast on and started:

11-24-12 Talley: 0 pounds 2.6 ounces Fiber/Yarn lost on the stash diet!

Hasta La Vista, Baby

November 24th, 2012

There is no more room. I mean none. nothing. nada…I don’t really remember how it happened, but somehow my personal yarn and fiber stash is now overflowing it’s allotted space.

I wasn’t too worried – I mean, really, any collection worth it’s salt is supposed to grow, right? And you could look at it as research for the business (which is how I spin it to my husband – this seems to calm him down when the enormity of the ‘research materials’ frighten him). But, this growth is a tad excessive – I’m using the term ‘tad’ rather loosely, in the same way you might say the Plague killed a tad of the population.

So my ever-supportive husband put yet another storage case together to house the yarn and fiber which no longer fit into either the stash room or the other storage cases in our sitting room. The idea is that we would then be able to walk across the bedroom without having to navigate around multiple (think 18 here) large baskets/boxes/bowls of the currently homeless stash research materials.

I spent an afternoon organizing everything and filling up the bins in the storage case…by 4:00 I came to the realization that there was no way it was all going to fit. Don’t get me wrong – it holds A LOT of yarn and fiber – these (now empty) baskets were full prior to the storage case.

But with the storage case loaded, there still is this

and this

and this

and this

These are what is left after the the remainder of the stash is organized into bins in the storage room or the dual storage cases in the master bedroom. Something has to give…there are no more walls to put up storage cases. My yarn and fiber collection is over-weight. It needs to be pared down. No mercy. So, I’ve decided what it needs is some tough love. It needs to go on a diet.

So, I’ve decided to lose 20 pounds of stash by the beginning of festival season (Mid-April). I know it sounds like a big number (and it is), but that includes finishing off existing projects (at least 2 projects are sweaters so I can likely count on them for around 4 pounds combined). Models for Fiber Optic counts, as does Christmas presents, as does non-knit items, like woven or crochet items. Pretty much anyknitting/weaving/whatever that results in a finished item and gets the yarn/fiber out of my storage bins counts. Even so, I know it’s a bit of a ‘stretch goal’ – I’ll be happy if we can simply fit all the yarn and fiber into the storage cases – we’ll see how this shapes up by April! I’ll try and keep a running tally at the end of each post of how much stash is ‘outta here’. Wish me luck!

11-24-12 Talley: 0 pounds 0 ounces Fiber/Yarn lost on the stash diet!


November 22nd, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you are relaxing with your loved ones today. We are in the midst of preparing the feast (with the much loved help of our children) – too much fun! I love the chaotic craziness in the house today with all the kids overdosing on the excitement (and desserts) that today brings.

I turned the stash a couple days ago (found lots of items that I had completely forgotten about) and came across this at the bottom.

12 ounces of ashland bay merino in the daffodil colorway. It’s from the original batch of this colorway, which came out quite vibrant and not as blended as the current offering. It has a bit of a retro-40s feel to it. Fun!

The roving became this:

which turned into this:

12 ounces and 495 yards of aran-weight yarn destined to be a Meret and a pair of mittens (personal pattern – generic kids mitten pattern).

Houston, We Have A Problem

November 20th, 2012

Sometimes, my best laid plans are viciously torn asunder by the spinning fates waylaid. I finished spinning the 2nd ply of cashmere/silk and, on Saturday afternoon, proceeded to ply them together into a lovely 2-ply yarn. Throughout the plying, I was mesmerized by the light glinting off the silk and enchanted by the luxuriousness of the cashmere. I spent the entire process lost in my dreams of how elegant a midnight blue Faberge cowl with pearls was going to look at Christmas. The yarn looked a little thin when I was plying – more like a fingering weight, but I easily convinced myself that it was because I’ve never worked with cashmere and maybe it just didn’t look as ‘fluffy’ as wool. That could happen…right? RIGHT?

Well, the yarn didn’t just look thin – it was thin. About twice as thin as I had hoped. Now this is completely my fault – I didn’t test spin (shhh – I never do) which is a total slap in the face to Murphy, but it actually works well the majority of the time. I spin for enjoyment and am (usually) quite happy with whatever skein comes off the wheel – there is so much uniqueness that goes into each skein of yarn – a one of a kind work of art – that I simply try to relax my type A personality, go with the fiber flow, and let the yarn become what it wants to be naturally.

But…and this is big…I don’t usually spin with a project in mind. Rather, I spin and then let the handspun tell me what it would like to become. I’m pretty sure this is where I took a left-hook swipe at fate and got smacked down big-time. With this yarn I wanted a specific weight (sport-worsted) and yardage (ca.150 yards) for my Faberge cowl. What I ended up with Saturday afternoon was a light fingering weight yarn that was 310 yards. Now don’t get me wrong – the yarn is pretty. But it’s clearly not going to work for what I wanted. I thought about knitting a different project, but either the yardage was wrong for the project or the projects were for hard-wearing items (like mittens), which wouldn’t stand up well if knit in cashmere.

So last night I did the only thing I could think of and sent the skein back through the spinning wheel, adding left handed (plying) twist to it. Then I wound a center-pull ball and did an andean ply (of the already 2-ply yarn) to give a cabled yarn that was worsted weight and 150 yards. I love it!!! One small victory over the Moirai. I’m hoping that the cabled yarn will work out even better since cashmere has such a short staple length and the extra plying should hold the fibers better and help to keep it from pilling.

I know it’s difficult to see, what with the shine from the silk and the intense color, but if you look closely at the twist in this photo it looks like a cable rather than a simple twist. This skein took 4 ounces of the 50% cashmere/50% silk fiber or two 2-ounce braids.

At the moment, I’m waiting on an order of these beads. Go ahead and take a peak – I’ll wait. Aren’t they lovely? So, while these beads aren’t technically the type called for, they are the same size. The only thing I’m a bit concerned with is the hole size. Keeping my fingers crossed. So, at the moment I have a few days on my hands without anything on the needles OR the spinning wheel – oh, what is a girl to do????? I think I’ll go stash diving – maybe find a lone skein to make a hat or some mittens for my little folks…maybe some fiber I’ve never tried…an old project that was never finished? Who knows, at the very least I’ll turn the stash over and see what happens…

Off the needles

November 16th, 2012

I tell you honestly that on the needles, this Color Affection shawl doesn’t look/feel/act like something with an EIGHT FOOT wingspan. It feels like a normal shawl…albeit it took an awful long time to knit across one of the border rows. I cast on for the Color Affection shawl in the Reno airport while I was waiting for my friend Toni on the way to SOAR a few weeks ago. Since then, this has been my only fiber-related project. I know a few weeks isn’t a long time, but as far as being faithful to a single project, this is pretty much a lifetime and a half for me. Yesterday I finished casting off (a two day process because of the few hundred stitches in the border – sorry, I don’t know exactly how many – I didn’t count), washed, and blocked it out.

I love it! I love the Texas-sized wingspan with the bold architectural lines. I’m enchanted by the way that the colors in all three gradients play with each other, changing colors and how up close they look so much bolder and stronger than when you take a couple steps back and see how they softly shift from cream at the top to darker, richer shades around the border.

I’m dreaming of curling up under this wrap with one (or two, three…maybe all four) of my children this winter and reading bedtime stories.

In the meantime, I pulled out a beautiful spindle crafted by Tom Forrester that I purchased out at SOAR and some fluff that I had begun spinning while vending at the market. The market slows way down when the students are in class so there is plenty of time to socialize with other vendors, hang out, and buy fun fiber toys like this one. Can you see the lovely wood burning in the whorl? I’m completely taken with the detail on the small spider…and when you give it a spin, the spider web looks like a spiral spinning outwards from the center. Aside from being perfectly balanced (which it is), and finely crafted (which it also is), it’s a complete joy just to watch it turn.

The fiber on the spindle is 50% cashmere/50% silk that is a new (for us) fiber. It’s luxuriously soft and sparkly and I’m enjoying the spinning of it immensely. It has a bit of French talc in it to help the shorter staple length of the cashmere draft easily and evenly with the longer staple length of the silk. The majority of the time, you wouldn’t know it was even there, but occasionally a ultra-fine powder can be seen, which should wash out during the blocking. It comes in 2 ounce braids and will be offered for the first time in this Saturday’s online store update. I’m spinning a 2-ply sport weight yarn that I’m planning on using to knit the Faberge Cowl for the holidays. I have one of the plies completed and ready in a plying ball – it looks so luxurious and fancy!

I’m currently searching out small pearl beads that will work well with the vibrant blue and provide an elegant foil against the deep blue shimmer of the yarn.

Affectionately Yours

November 13th, 2012

I’ve had my eye on the pattern, Color Affection by Veera Välimäki, for a while now. I’m not sure why I’m so late to the party, except that life this year has been quite busy. I had planned on casting on for this project in May – had my 3 skeins of Foot Notes yarn all picked out and set aside. Then my friend, Pam, came to a festival and asked if I could recommend a set of colors for her to knit up her own color affection shawl. Knowing it was going to be a while before I could find time to work on this and wanting very badly to see how the colors played out, I showed her the three skeins I thought worked well together. She cast on, knit her shawl, gave me a sheet of stitch counts for keeping track of increases, went to Meg’s knitting camp and took 8th place with the shawl in the fashion show – yes, she’s THAT fabulous a knitter. It worked out very well for both of us since I got to see how the colors worked up – exactly as I envisioned.

In June, I started thinking about the Color Affection shawl again and running different color combinations around in my mind – mostly while I was production dyeing. Random fact about production dyeing – you do A LOT of day dreaming. So after knitting the color affection in my head in dozens of different colors, I thought it might be fun to see how the colors play out in this pattern if gradients were used. The following photos are the color affection currently on my needles.

The knitty-gritty details for those inquiring minds: one braid each Chocolate to Dusty Aqua, Holly to Ebony, and Smoke on the Water. Each was divided in half lengthwise, spun, and 2-plied to give a fingering-weight yarn of 425 – 470 yards. All skeins were knitted beginning at the end lightest in color. Main color: Holly to Ebony. Contrasting color 1: Smoke on the Water, Contrasting color 2: Chocolate to Dusty Aqua.

I ended up making the shawl quite a bit larger than the pattern called for since I wanted to include most of the gradient. It’s still on the needles (I’m working on the border currently) so I don’t actually have a concrete idea of how large it is going to be – I’m trying to convince myself that it doesn’t matter if it turns out blanketing the majority of Cincinnati. Since it will (mostly) be a store model, it only needs to fit inside the booth. Right? Hoping to cast off later this week – if you can’t find me, I’ll be the one pinned under the giant color affection blanket shawl.

The Calm Before The Storm

October 19th, 2012

We got a bit of a late start heading out to Rhinebeck for the New York Sheep and Wool festival this past Wednesday. Actually, most of the drive was at night with only the semi-trailers for company on the roads. Not the best venue for interesting photos or blog-fodder!

So today, I present the the calm of yesterday morning when we arrived at the fairgrounds. Dawn broke with one of those ideal picture-perfect autumn days in the Hudson Valley that Norman Rockwell loved to paint. Crisp, clear, sunny morning. Unbelievably vibrant autumn leaves. The smell of fall hanging rich in the air. This photo will be impossible to take on Friday – there will be dozens of trucks and trailers unloading sheep and merchandise into every building on the grounds. There will be hundreds of vendors who have become friends through the venues who haven’t seen each other for the whole year. Lots of excitement, hugs and squeals. But Thursday morning, this scene is tranquil and calm.

Almost all the other vendors will set up on the Friday, the day before the festival. But the festival organizers will actually allow vendors to set up on Thursday, which is what we prefer.

The pace is a little more relaxed and if something in the set-up throws you a curve, there’s another whole day to make it right. The fairgrounds early Thursday morning have an ethereal quality which is in sharp contrast to the bustling activity which the crowds of knitters, spinners, weavers and other fiber enthusiasts will bring in just 2 days!

Building C, where the Fiber Optic booth is located, is empty now…but just give us a few hours (and a pot of coffee, please!).

Opus 2011

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)

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?