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For all the joys of fiber work perhaps this is the most joyous of all. Go from raw fleece to a finished knit dress all in one day! Slow down my rapidly beating fiber heart.

First start with raw fleece. In order to pick out 100%  of the absolutely best fibers for this project lay out the entire fleece on the floor in the shape of the sheep. Select a small amount of fiber that has neither too much, nor too little crimp, is neither too close to the sunburned tips, nor too close to the butt. Make sure you know the orientation of your selected bit of fiber. It should go from tips to butt without including either of those things. Remember, we only need a thimble full of fleece.

Take down a measuring cup and fill it with hot water and a tiny, tiny dab of soap. Gently swish your little bit of fiber in the water by slipping in one end. Remove. Then slip the other end in. Remove the fiber and gently wring squeeze all water out of it. Let it dry by lightly swinging it through the air.

If you are arthritic, please take your arthritis medicine now.

Once dry use either a dog or cat flicker brush and with quick wrist snapping motions open the lock of fiber. Next get out your spindle and spin 1, 200 yards (1097 meters) of very, very, very thin thread the type of which even a spider would envy. Wrap your new thread into a teeny-tiny ball.

With 000000 # needles….ooh! Don’t have those? Not to worry. Take 4 match sticks. Don’t cheat and use the long ones for lighting fireplaces. With regular match sticks and a sharp razor blade gently plane them until they are round. Carefully remove match head while doing this. These are your knitting needles.

Now you are ready to knit this dress, with waist shaping:

tiny knit dress by jessie driscoll

While I am poking fun at magazine writing above, this is an actual tiny knit dress by the talented Jessie Driscoll. The pattern, yes there is a real pattern, can be found in Ply  Magazine

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Spin the Tail of the Dog

It was bound to happen. Only a matter of time really until I caught up Yarn Rascal’s tail in my spinning fiber.

yarn rascal tail and unspun fiber

Can you tell which is the tail and which is the fiber? Yes his tail (on the right) has very nearly the same consistency as unspun merino fiber. In fact his nickname is Woolly Bear because his hair all over his body is like sheep wool in consistency. He must be brushed and combed out every day between full grooming sessions (much to his dismay).

Yarn Rascal sits right next to me hip-to-hip when I am spinning. He has earned the title of Spinning Manager. After all, everything I’ve spun so far has gone to him, so he thinks it’s his from start to finish.

While I try to keep the fiber wrapped around my wrist when spinning I don’t always succeed because I become quite hot and the hand holding the fiber starts to sweat. (If you are ever cold just wrap fiber around your wrists and neck–don’t even ask about how I know the neck thing– and you will heat up very quickly.) When my hand becomes over heated I unwrap the fiber from my wrist and let it lay by my side on top of Yarn Rascal and his tail.

Yarn Rascal is a sunny personality guy. If his eyes are open there’s a good chance his tail is wagging. Because the consistency of the fiber and his tail are so similar the fiber grabs onto it and becomes one with the tail. The first few times I didn’t catch the melding of the two quickly enough and Yarn Rascal was beside himself with delight (excessive, over-the-top tail wagging) as both the fiber and his tail raised together toward my hand to be spun. I was not over the edge with delight over this. It meant spinning was finished until I detached fiber and tail, then brushed his tail to make sure I had gotten all the fiber out of it.

In addition to spinning, I’ve just completed a large shawl that I want to rave about in my next post. I have also been knitting a cowl that I have now ripped back twice. It includes short rows in its design and I’ve gotten myself lost twice now. I think I’ve worked out how not to mess up this next time but it is starting to feel like one of my masochistic knitting projects.

Tomorrow is oral surgery so I should be out of things for the entire day.

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And so it snowed. We received 7 inches (18 cm) last night into this morning. I am a snow lover so I don’t mind at all that our first snow fall was this early. Today it is melting.

Since the weather is this chilly, I thought it might be a good time to explain the references I’ve made to my haircut. I razored the back and the sides, leaving just a small very short amount on top. I did this for a number of reasons, not the least of which are the hot flashes I get from my breast cancer medication. The hot flashes are the worse right where I shaved off most of my hair. It does help not having a lot of hair in that area of my head. I also did it because I am tired of good hair days and bad hair days and having to spend time drying and styling it. I wanted to be free of all that. Finally, at 62, I feel the freedom and the power that comes from wearing what I want and not being dictated to by fashion magazines.

Because I am the shy type (painfully so), the pictures of my hair cut are not my face. The two pictures represent what my hair looks like as I had my stylist put together a detail from each picture.

The back and sides of my head look like this picture.

hair cut 2

Yes, shaved very close like that.

The top of my head looks like this:

haircut 1

Basically the cut is wash and wear. It’s cut so that it falls right into place. But because a good portion of the head is shaved, I do need to wear hats in the colder weather. So I added to my hat collection.

The recent hat I just finished knitting is called Shear by Brooklyn Tweed knit in Arbor colorway Sashiko.

shear hat brooklyn tweed knit hat

It was a fun hat to knit and I am enjoying wearing it. Arbor is Targhee wool, not neck soft, but I really like it for this hat. The pattern and suggested wool go together perfectly.

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Knit and Spin

Things have been busy here and there are still many balls up in the air, so to speak. I caught some upper respiratory bug in September and it has made a home in the left lung which has been compromised by my mastectomy treatments. I’ve tried everything in the homeopathic line to get rid of it but nothing has worked. So today I start the antibiotics prescribed by my doctor. The doctors weren’t kidding when they said that removing lymph nodes would compromise my immune system forever and that the radiation treatments would continue to take its toll on my left lung in the long term.

On top of it all, my camera’s battery has died a seemingly permanent death and I need to find a replacement. So the following pictures were taken with my phone.

hand knitted sock

This is one of the socks I knit The Skipper just last year. I honestly believe if I were to knit socks for a bear the socks would be in better shape at the end of one year than The Skipper’s. The man is just tough on socks. He said he “really liked these socks especially the color.” I remember the yarn was Lorna’s Laces but I can’t quiet recall the colorway. Neptune? Peacock? Something like that bought many years ago. I will have to do a search on the internet.

While I am knitting (a hat for myself since I razored all my hair) I am also very deep into spinning.

hand spun merino wool yarn

The bottom skein is the very first thing I ever spun. The top skein is the latest. 112 yards (102 m) of true fingering weight yarn. Spun and plied all on my spindle. While the spinning is looking better and the drafting is going better, I have yet to put it to the ultimate test and knit it. I am going to do that with this latest skein. I am curious to know how much is biased and how much is balanced. There are areas where it was over spun and over plied, but I am hoping they evened out some during the setting of the twist.

Yarn Rascal is thrilled with the spinning. Whenever I take up the spindle he sits close besides me and watches intently. I always spin a little ball of yarn for him and he gets so delighted when I give it to him. He has quite the little stash of hand spun.

I am off to scour the internet for The Skipper’s sock color.

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I’ve been rather busy recuperating from a little set-to with a Great Blue Heron. This one is not Hank. I haven’t seen Hank for at least a year now. No, this one is the most arrogant, defiant, and aggressive heron I’ve come across and he has decimated the fish and frog life in our pond. Mind you, most of the fish in the pond were raised by hand by me and had bred generation after generation. They were truly beautiful to watch. That’s all gone now.

The moment I saw this heron carefully stalking in the water of the pond I was on him in a flash. I ran down to the pond to scare him away and instead he stood his ground in the middle of the pond. It was impossible to reach him without going in myself. I also noticed that he must have been there for some time since the fish population was already half of what it was.

We had had a wind storm the night before and numerous dead tree branches and limbs were scattered about the yard. I found a nice long big one, hefted it up and used it to span the distance between me and the heron. I gave him a good poke with it. He jumped out of the pond and landed beside me. That’s when things went, shall we say, downhill for me.

I dropped the branch basically because I couldn’t hold it any longer. I turned to the heron got up is his face and said “Get out of here!” He didn’t even flinch. That should have been clue number two that I was dealing with an insane brash bird. Instead, thinking of all the fish the little pig ate while being mindful that this is a federally protected species, I shoved him and said “Go on!” That’s when he counter attacked. He sliced open a long deep line on my left arm; the side of my mastectomy. I am not suppose to even get scratches on the arm because I have no immune protection in it since I have no lymph nodes there. I lost my temper.

In full view of our down the hill neighbors who were sitting on their deck avidly watching, the heron and I began to wrestle. I went for his long neck determined to make him cough up every one of my fish that he ate. He ducked and smacked me with his large wing right in the face. He used his beak again to slice another line in my left arm, as if he intuitively knew that was my weaker side. I decided to play linebacker and lunged to tackle him. He moved and flew up and away. I, on the other hand, having missed the tackle landed in the pond, my left arm covered in mud, blood, and whatever else one can find in a pond.

To make a long story short. I came back to the house. The Skipper was very concerned when he saw me. We had no hydrogen peroxide to clean the wound on my arm or the scratches on my face. My left eye was puffing up with a slight bruise. So I had to pour rubbing alcohol into the wound on my arm. To say it hurt would be an understatement. It was like going through surgery without anesthesia.

Finally I decided I need a doctor to see to the wound. I couldn’t stop the bleeding, though at first I thought this was a plus as it would clean out the wound. Not wanting the ER I went to the local urgent care two towns over. The Skipper took me. When we walked in I could tell that because of how I looked they thought this was some domestic abuse incident. It took me a bit to get them to believe that no, it wasn’t domestic abuse. I had gone toe to toe with a heron over pond fish.

When I told them I had the mastectomy and how many lymph nodes I was missing on the arm with the slice, they became very quiet and intense. The upshot was a ton of cleaning and closing the arm wound, ice pack for the eye, a tetanus shot with whooping cough thrown in in my right arm, and while I was there I got the flu shot in my derriere.

By the time I left with my heavily bandaged left arm, a right arm that was in searing pain courtesy of the tetanus shot, and a derriere that was not comfortable to sit on I was pretty much done for the day.

While waiting for the wound to heal I haven’t been able to do much spinning or knitting. The left arm experienced some swelling, but the tight bandages kept it to a minimum. I’m healing nicely and thought I might start knitting again today and see how the left arm responds. I thought this while looking out the window of the now decimated pond. While I was watching guess who flew in? He’s back. Knitting has been put on hold while I try and figure out how I am going to murder deter this bird.

 

 

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Add To Your Stash

I’m upset today and just had to share.

I just read the newsletter from Miss Babs Yarns. It seems the price of yarn is about to take a steep increase no matter where you buy. Extreme drought in Australia and South Africa has led merino sheep farmers to severely cull their herds. Hence, the merino supply is drastically limited while demand is still high.

Further, for US knitters, higher tariffs on things such as silk, cashmere, and dyes will also increase the cost for a skein of yarn dramatically.

I guess the only advice I can give is stock up now, replenish the stash while prices are still reasonable.

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My anxiety level is at the high end of the spectrum. The cats’ health, my parents’ health, my cancer check up tomorrow all keep the needle pinned at the critical end of the anxiety gauge.

So I had my hairdresser shave my head. I didn’t shave it bald, but very close. The kind of close you see some models wearing. It was liberating. I can’t tell you how relieved I am not to have to fuss with it every morning. But now I need winter hats. So I’ve found a pattern and bought the yarn. I also found a cowl and bought both the pattern and the yarn. These two are in addition to the summer sweater pattern and yarn I bought to confuse the knitting gods that be into bringing on autumn. (I tell you if I could be hooked up to some electrodes my anxiety would power New York City for a week.)

I don’t need any of these extra knitting projects. I have enough WIPs laying around to occupy me. There’s the infernal sock, the I-don’t-need-another-shawl, a scarf made of yarn I hate, and the why couldn’t I just have followed the pattern scarf that I am now trying to figure out the number of short-rows needed to finish it.

On top of all this The Skipper just informed me his sister is coming tomorrow and is staying 3 or 4 days. She lives in Maryland. The house is a disaster area. It’s going to remain a disaster unless a tornado whips itself up and carries away all the things that are laying around where they are not supposed to be and just leaves behind bare walls.

Oh by the way I did this at two am this morning:

hand spun merino

35 yards. I still need a lot of practice but it is at least something.

 

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Oh Ye Knitting Gods

My friend Salpal knows well how my life works and the dysfunctional relationship I have to the knitting gods that be. She accurately, I believe, pointed out that now the winter sweater is done we are sure to have an extended summer courtesy of the way my life works. She is right.

Today I woke up to find the weather guys are predicting extreme heat warnings for the next 3 days at least. I dislike summer and the thought that we are going back into that heat and humidity is daunting.

However, I think I may have come up with a plan to confuse or at least perplex the knitting gods that be. There is a summer sweater I had tagged as interesting and was going to make next year. The sweater is Jushi. (I’ve tried to upload a picture of it but for some reason I can’t. Oh ye knitting gods!) I ordered the yarn. I may even have found the needle size and type it calls for in my needle stash. I’m thinking that if I start on this sweater the knitting gods will lighten up on the weather and let us transition nicely into autumn and cooler weather.

There are things that I need to work out with this sweater. Namely the neck opening and the depth of the V as I would like the V to be the front and not the back. This is where my mastectomy comes into play. The V can’t be too deep and reveal cleavage I don’t have. Nor can the width of the neck be so wide as to reveal my bra straps, though I did try to buy the prettiest mastectomy bras they had.

After finishing Carbeth I just wanted to knit a small project that’s become known as “those infernal socks”. More about these beauties later.

In the meanwhile, I am babysitting two cats for my neighbors. One of the cats is very sick and dying. My neighbor can’t bring herself to putting it down. I love animals and can’t stand to see them suffer. The sick cat can only be left alone for two hours at a time. I over see the cats until Thursday. Then I get a few days break and she goes away for two weeks. My nerves are already frayed over this, though she keeps telling me it is okay if the cat dies while she is gone. Watching something die is not my idea of okay.

Between the cats, figuring out the new summer sweater, the infernal socks, and an appointment with my cancer doctor to see if anything new has turned up my rope is pretty well frayed at the moment.

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The Carbeth sweater is done and I couldn’t be happier with it.

carbeth sweater knit

I made it with 4 inches (10 cm) of ease and it fits perfectly with the shirts I will wear underneath it.

I love my winter clothes to be oversized and cuddly. This sweater fits the bill. I used 16 skeins of Buachaille in the Haar colorway. I love the yarn and so does Yarn Rascal. Yarn Rascal hates being wet but he had no problem rolling around in my wet sweater while it was blocking. Hence I had to move the blocking to a table in the garage where Yarn Rascal is not allowed.

Naturally the day I chose to block became oppressively humid which lasted for another 4 days interspersed with rain. Despite all that the blocking went well. I also discovered that Chippy, the zen yoga chipmunk, seems to be getting himself all snuggled in in the garage for the winter. I haven’t told The Skipper and I won’t. Chippy has hidden nuts in my gardening gloves and in the pocket of my outdoor work shirt. I’m leaving them there so I bought a new pair of gloves and another shirt. It was time for new ones anyway.

Back to the sweater. The only thing I altered was the body length. This is going to be my go to sweater all winter long. I love it.

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Even though it has been hot and humid beyond all reason I have still been playing with my yarn.

First up the Carbeth is almost finished.

knitting carbeth sweater

I know, what is that big hole if it is almost finished? That is the underarm section that needs grafting together. I must admit I stopped and put this aside for a few days while I pondered whether to do Kitchener Stitch or a three-needle bind off. What I finally realized is that the holes were not going to close on their own and I had to make a choice. Since the sweater is knit holding the yarn double so the closing needs tobe done holding the yarn double. I felt Kitchener wouldn’t work for me so I went with the three-needle bind off. It looks good.

The trouble is that either side of the bind off are holes that need to be sewn together. I thought a simple mattress stitch would work well and it would if the stitches on either side were not so large and out of shape. I ended up mattress stitching what I could and then sewing the remaining holes shut so it looked like a neat underarm. I have four more yarn segments to weave in and the sweater is ready for blocking.

I have also been playing with my spinning. My latest is definitely in the category of yarn and is almost dead on in terms of the size I want.

spinning yarn tibetan spindle

I wound this into a little ball and am going to make a second spindle full then ply them together. I don’t know what I will knit out of it, but I am going to knit it up even if it is just a square. If it comes out nice I might frame it as my first actual spun yarn and date it.

On my list of things to buy is a knitty noddy so I can get some sort of count on the yardage. I also need a wpi (wrap per inch) tool to get a handle on the weight of the yarn. I am going for fingering but I might be in the DK territory.

I can’t explain my passion for spinning. Just that every time I spin with the spindle my soul sings. It has been a very, very long time since I have experienced such a feeling and I am so glad that I finally got the nerve to give it a try. Of course I am still very much learning, reading and watching YouTube videos, yet the pleasure and peace I get from it is well worth all the research and attempts.

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