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Five months after we got Yarn Rascal I initiated The Golden Paw Award. The award is given for rascal behavior that goes above and beyond what is usual. This time Yarn Rascal really outdid himself and so he gets a Golden Paw.

Picture2

Yarn Rascal has a sunny personality. But his sun really shines when he is doing something he is not suppose to be doing. It goes beyond just delight, he is besides himself with ecstasy.

In February I had extensive oral surgery on the same day there was a SuperFull Moon and an evening snow storm moving in. Yarn Rascal is affected by full moons and snow storms. He gets very excited, happy beyond description, and loses all self-control. To have both happening at the same time is akin to disaster.

It was 10 hours after my oral surgery and I was still bleeding quite a bit and in a good amount of pain when Yarn Rascal just couldn’t contain himself any longer. I had decided to use the tea bag remedy to staunch the bleeding. (Wet a tea bag of black tea and put it on the bleeding area applying pressure. The tannic acid in black tea shrinks and closes the small blood vessels and stops the bleeding.) I was also in pain with my neck, shoulders and upper back so I decided to do a gentle yoga stretch to relieve the discomfort while waiting for the tea bag to work.

 I went into the bedroom where it was quiet. The Skipper was glued to the basketball games on tv in the living room and Yarn Rascal was nowhere to be seen. That last fact  should have raised alarm bells in me. I sat on the floor and eased myself into a yoga position that resembled badly tangled yarn. I was reassuring myself that my shoulders were not going to dislocate when the thundering of little feet came down the hall. Yarn Rascal, running at full tilt, tail flying behind him wagging for all it was worth, came tearing into the room with my hand knit corriedale sock clamped in his mouth, made two 360s around me and raced back out. My natural instinct to tense up kicked in and the new pain that shot up my neck and across my upper back was phenomenal.

I managed to untangle myself with maximum pain and went in search of Yarn Rascal. Yarn Rascal does not like corriedale. Merino is one of his great loves so I couldn’t quite comprehend what he was doing with this particular sock nor how he got at it.

Moving like the hunchback of Notre Dame and with the wadded tea bags in my mouth I went in search of Yarn Rascal. In the living room as still as a statue was The Skipper. It was hard to see whether he was breathing or not, but I could tell he was alive because his eyeballs were roaming over the television screen.

Trying to keep the pressure on the wad of tea bags while not letting them fall from my mouth I tried to say “Help me get the dog.”  It came out “Hef me gef fa dog.” The eyeballs didn’t even stutter as they watched the tv. Before I could get another sentence out, Yarn Rascal came rushing down the stairs with the corriedale sock and the infernal sock attached to its dpns in his mouth.  Streaming behind him was the infernal sock’s yarn.

I took up my best linebacker stance to grab the little imp, but Yarn Rascal is a stellar running back. He can fake out any NFL defensive player. Naturally, as he whizzed by I missed. However, the infernal sock’s yarn caught on The Skipper’s recliner and the next sounds I heard were thwang and snap. I can’t begin to tell you how much I hate it when I have to join in yarn and on the infernal sock there is no good place to make such a join.

I attempted a hunchback version of a run to get the dog while I remembered that on the instructions regarding post oral surgery I was to rest. I was not to run, exercise, bend over, or lift anything. I was going to die.

I finally trapped Yarn Rascal in the craft room. His tail wagged so hard his whole body followed suit. Super full moon, snow storm, knitting and yarn that mommy didn’t want him to have, what more could one dog ask for?

That’s why this Golden Paw Award is for Yarn Rascal.

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If you love a big cozy shawl then Sprig of Hope shawl is a must knit.

sprig of hope hand knit shawl

The lace pattern is bold enough to be visible and not  get lost amid a yarn with multiple colors in it. I used Madeline Tosh DK with size US 8 (5 mm) circular needles. The colorway is Firewood. I loved the knitting and the lace edging is simple to follow. It is a delightfully cozy shawl and I love wrapping myself up in it on cold nights.

I would like to say that the knitting gods left me alone during this knit but that would not be the truth. When I completely finished the shawl and laid it out for blocking I realized I’d dropped a stockinette stitch. How I managed this is a wonder. It should have been immediately recognizable while I was knitting. But the gods had other plans.

Wanting to impale myself on my knitting needles I ran through the other options I had.  First, my perfectionist self said let the shawl dry then rip it back the full two-thirds to where the mistake was and reknit from there. This thought stayed with me for quite awhile as I stared at the dropped stitch. It turned what was to be a relaxing day into one where my blood pressure pounded at my temples.

Next came the small voice of sanity. Fix the mistake by using a crochet needle to weave the dropped stitch up and then securely sew the free loop to the back of the shawl. It took me all of 15 minutes to do this and the mistake is not visible from the front nor is the sewing obvious in the back. Even better, it is not a weak point in the knitting. I’ve been wearing the shawl often and it is still holding strong.

The next picture has nothing to do with the shawl. It is Yarn Rascal in his holiday bow-tie.

yarn rascal in holiday bow tie

What he is staring at is The Skipper who came in to the room holding a skein of merino yarn that Yarn Rascal hadn’t molested seen yet. It was to be one of his holiday presents. Let’s just say he got that particular present early.

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Good Sock Yarns

I’ve been down my rabbit hole lately researching different breeds of sheep and the wool they produce. I’ve been reading The Fleece and Fiber Source Book. It contains information on over 200 breeds of sheep and their wool. You see, I’ve discovered that the much heralded merino wool is not good sturdy yarn for socks even if it is blended with nylon. In short, it doesn’t wear well. It is not suited to the job. Then why, you might ask, do all fingering and sock yarns feature merino. That’s business ladies and gentlemen. The manufacturers sell you on what they know to be not up to the task so that it wears out quickly and SURPRISE you have to come back for more. Built in obsolescence.

I spend a lot of time knitting socks, especially for The Skipper. I hate it when I spend that much time on a project for it to last barely one season. Thus my search for better sock yarns.

I found that socks fall into three categories. The durable and hard wearing that are worn with boots or hiking shoes, the everyday ones worn with regular shoes, and luxury ones usually reserved for bed or times when you need comforting in your soul. Merino fits the last category and while it is often blended with nylon, nylon does not wear as well or as long as silk. So if it is a luxury sock that will be lightly worn go for a merino silk blend.

The softer the fiber the more pilling and wear will occur. In short it is more fragile. Merino falls into this category. I won’t bore you with micron counts or staple lengths or amount of crimp. But all three factors affect the sturdiness of a yarn.

If you are going for a boot sock Romney may be your best bet but with a few caveats. First, it easily felts. Second, it is not highly elastic. Third, the yarn is not super lofty. But for durability it is great.

Thinking of an every day sock? You have a number of choices: Bluefaced Leicester, Wensleydale, Leicester Longwool, Columbia, Polwarth, Corriedale, and Cheviot. Look for a tight twist with at least 3 plys. The tighter the twist the more durable the yarn.

Finally, the very last thing you should do with any hand knit sock is walk around the house in it without some kind of footwear on. Walking only in your socks causes greater wear and tear on the fabric than wearing them with shoes. Who knew?

 

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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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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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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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