Have Ewe Any Wool?

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Retreat Details - Part I

I have never been to a Knitting and Spinning Retreat before, so when this opportunity came up, I grabbed it. My only "fear" was that it was in January. In the DC area, January can be full of surprises....January 1996 comes to mind with our record snowfalls. As it turned out, the "nasty" weather made its appearance on Thursday....a full day before my trip and on Friday, the roads were clear and the temp was in the 40's - PERFECT!

There were no specific "teachers" scheduled for the weekend, just a bunch of "fiberholics" with lots of skills to share with each other. A couple of weeks before the retreat, it was noted that there would be an informal class on how to make a toe up sock.....yahoo! All that we need to contribute was a bit of $$ to cover the cost of printing the instructions - no problem!

I made a mental list of what I wanted to learn:
  • How to Navajo ply
  • How to knit a "toe-up" sock
  • How to make a center-pull ball of yarn
In preparation for my trip, I had to make sure that "Lennie II" (my Lendrum double treadle folding wheel) had plenty of empty bobbins so I could get some serious spinning done. I took this opportunity to ply some singles that had been "languishing" on my spare bobbins - and thus "free up" a couple of bobbins for the weekend! The wool is generic colored wool that I'd purchased from Little Barn eons ago. It mainly dark blue with threads of various shades of red throughout that really give it depth. I've very pleased with the resulting yarn. This skein is 4.9 oz. and is probably a DK to light worsted in weight.

I KNOW I bought a pound of the wool...I just need to find the rest of it - spun or not! Some had been spun earlier - I've been "hauling around" the finished skeins as samples for various demos. I can't quite remember if I spun it all up or not. I need to get the skeins and possibly remaining roving all in one place - a pound of yarn can be used for any number of projects. One more reason to keep my "organizing" resolution - finding lost yarn and roving!

I left work a little early on Friday so Lynn and I could get a good start and I wouldn't have to drive in the dark - I hate driving in the dark when I'm not sure where I'm going. It only took about 2 hrs. to drive from here to Black Rock Retreat near Lancaster, PA. We were about the 4th or 5th persons to arrive. After checking in, I setup my wheel and put out the snacks I brought to share in the main hall. While we were awaiting the rest of the "retreaters", I happened to catch a beautiful sunset. The first photo (left) doesn't quite capture the full beauty of the sunset. In the second photo (right), I had zoomed in and happily discovered that it provided a much more accurate view of the beautiful sunset.

Soon, the room was a sea of Spinning wheels, spinners, knitters, and all things fiber. Everyone was so nice - and we all shared a love of fiber animals, spinning, knitting.....basically any fiber related hobby. It definitely felt like home! (We even had a fireplace - a definite plus in the Winter!)

Now it's confession time. Remember the "yarn and fiber" diet I resolved to be on for the month of January? Well, I did fine until Cyndy brought out her gorgeous natural colored Alpaca Roving. Not only did she set the bin of fiber near me, but she gave me about an ounce to try spinning. It spun like a dream and I produced a "mini-skein" in no time. It was too much for me to resist. I rarely get the opportunity to get Alpaca - and the price was very reasonable. So.....I "had" to get some. I was VERY good and did not buy any yarn - even though there were lovely yarns to purchase as well!

Monday, January 21, 2008

What a Fabulous Retreat!

Wow! Simply, Wow!

The retreat was fabulous! The Lancaster Spinner's and Weaver's Guild is an absolutely awesome group of fiber folks. They were so welcoming and fun to be around! There were several other folks from outside the guild as well, so Lynn and I were not the only non-guild attendees. One girl came all the way from Oregon. You KNOW it's a great retreat when someone travels literally across the country to attend!

I learned so much and made so many new friends....I didn't want the weekend to end! The food was fantastic as well - Tina and the guild made a fabulous choice by selecting Black Rock Retreat! I can't wait till next year so I can do it again!

Details and photos to follow in a later post....

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Let it Snow...Let it Snow....Let it Snow!

We finally got some snow here - and it's gorgeous! It was quite warm (mid 30's), so it was lovely while the snow was falling. My dog and I really enjoyed our walk today - we both love to walk in freshly fallen snow - it's so beautiful and pure!

I couldn't resist taking a few pictures from the front and the back of my house. We got a total of 5 inches before the drizzly rain started (yuck!). The commute tomorrow morning will be pretty ugly....especially since the temperature will be dropping overnight.

BUT.....by tomorrow afternoon, it will be warmer (40's???) - which is great as I'll be heading up north to Lancaster, PA for a knitting and spinning retreat with the Lancaster Spinner's and Weaver's Guild. The retreat center we're staying at has some wonderful trails and is gorgeous when covered in snow. The organizer of the retreat e-mailed to say that they were getting a little snow today, so the setting will be absolutely picture perfect.

The roads should be fine tomorrow afternoon for traveling, but there's more snow expected on Saturday (at least around here). But then, Sunday should be great for travel once again. I can't wait! My poor little car will be so overloaded with everything "fiber" - spinning wheels, looms, yarn, knitting needles....and of course, I need to leave room for my friend Lynn and all her gear as well!

There are two things that I hope to learn this weekend - Navajo plying and "Toe up" socks. One of the girls is teaching a class on the Toe Up socks, so that's a confirmed "class". As for the Navajo plying technique, I'm SURE there will be someone there that knows how to do it! The rest of the time I'll spend knitting and spinning and chatting....and of course, working in a bit of Yoga!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Knitting Progress

I actually finished a UFO! And it was one that was destined for "permanent time out" as I was quite frustrated with it! Remember the "Sweater Socks" (aka "Half Cable Socks") I was making but found that the socks were VERY different sized? It was probablybecause one was made in Feb/March and the second sock didn't even get started until Nov/Dec. I must have been more relaxed when I started the first sock. ARGH! I was so frustrated! PLUS...I really didn't like the toe decrease that the pattern used.

The socks were cuddly and soft - perfect for my daughter to keep her feet warm while watching TV or studying....if it weren't for the "defects"! I had hoped to surprise her for Christmas, but after finishing both sock, I was too disappointed with the results to send them to her. She was here this weekend, so I had her try them on. She thought they were great and said she definitely was interested in them. It was obvious that the tighter sock fit her foot better, so I'd only have to re-knit the foot of the first sock. Next, we discussed the rather ugly (in my opinion) toe decrease. She agreed...it was too pointy and "odd" looking and we opted to another toe finish.

Bottom line....I frogged the toe of the "tighter" sock last night, re-knit it with the decrease on the sides and grafted the final 8 stitches. She then tried them on - PERFECT!!!! This morning, I got up early and frogged the "looser" sock back to the heel gusset and reworked it to match the one I "refinished" last night. I'm quite pleased with how they turned out...and they're a perfect fit! (It really helps to have the intended recipient nearby to "try them on" - LOL!)

I'm just thankful that they're quick "bedsocks" - cast on 40 stitches and away you go! The thick yarn, large needle size (US 5), and low number of stitches made this "re-work" possible....and saved a UFO from "permanent time out"! Now may daughter gets to take a cozy pair of handknit socks back to chilly Michigan tomorrow morning!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Christmas Surprises!

And the Christmas celebration continues.....

I got the best present - a visit from my daughter! Wahoo! It's a belated Christmas celebration, but definitely just as festive. The hard part is cramming a lot of catching up and mother-daughter moments into just a couple of days.

She brought me some fabulous hand dyed yarn from "Woven Art" - a wonderful shop in East Lansing that I have the pleasure of visiting about 1 1/2 years ago. Nancy (the shop owner)is a very talented fiber artist and extremely pleasant. Her shop is very comfortable and welcoming with lots of fabulous yarns and fibers to choose from. It's definitely a "must visit" if you're ever in the Lansing/East Lansing, MI area.
My wonderful daughter remembered how much I loved Nancy's shop....especially the hand-dyed yarns, so she selected some special yarns just for me. The color way is comprised of varied hues of purple...definitely a favorite in this house! In addition to the fabulous color, these skeins are quite large - 350 yards each! The yarn is a worsted weight and a fiber content of 55% Mohair and 45% wool. I think it will make a stunning shawl - especially with the subtle shading variations. With a total of 700 yards of yarn to work with, I can make just about any shawl that I want!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Happy St. Distaff's Day!

It's St. Distaff's Day, the day after the Feast of the Epiphany which marks the end of the 12 Days of Christmas. St. Distaff's Day falls on January 7th. It's the first day "back to work" after all the Christmas festivities and obligations. For women, this generally meant a return to spinning - as that was one of the usual duties. I think it's wonderful that there's a special day in honor of spinners!

The following websites have some fabulous information and background on this special day:

The Book of Days - January 7


St. Distaff's Day - marking the end of the Christmas break

I found both of these sites full of very interesting history. It's fascinating!

How are you celebrating St. Distaff's Day?

I started celebrating on Saturday - I spun some gorgeous purple and grey roving I purchased at the Montpelier Fiber Festival in early October. I love the subtle color changes between the light purple and grey....I think the yarn will be fabulous! I believe I have a total of 2 lbs of this, so I should have enough for whatever I decide to make. I'm hoping to spin some more tonight!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Progress - Knitting and Resolutions

It's Day 6 of 2008 and all my resolutions are going well. So far, so good! I haven't broken any of them yet. The "organizing" one is a bit slow...I'm not accomplishing as much as I'd like, but I am making progress!

On the knitting front, I have finished the fingerless gloves using my friend Jayme's pattern - another of her fabulous designs! I love how they turned out, and they're my first cable project! The yarn is "Simply Shetland". The only thing I wasn't pleased with was how I did the thumb increase on the second one. I managed to goof up a few stitches, but I managed to drop them and "re-knit" them. After I bound off and tucked all the ends in, I found that I had 3 other stitches that were incorrect - two knit stitches should be purls and one of the purls should be a knit. Grrrrr!!!!! The good news is that you REALLY have to be close to the thumb to see the errors, so it's really not worth undoing the bind-off and fixing it. (These are "fresh" off the needles - they haven't yet been washed - they should "bloom" a bit after washing.)

I also completed a rather unique felted bag for Nature's Yarns. It's the "Vesuvius Felted Bag" by Christie Furber. It was a very quick knit and felted quite nicely. The only thing I didn't like was how the fringe on the "handles" felted. Fringe doesn't look "pleasing" to me after it's felted. If I were to make this bag again, I would probably add the fringe AFTER felting, or put a "cover" over each set of fringe to minimize the felting.

Before felting.

I used 4 different colors of "Aussi Wool" 100% Australian wool - Seafoam for the bottom of the bag and the remaining colors for each of the 3 sides - Limeade, Amethyst, and Azalea. I had nearly half a skein of each color left over - perhaps even enough to make a second bag? I thought the bag was rather cute - it's pyramid shaped with long I-cord "handles". It's held shut by the multi-colored ring - you just need to slide it out of the way to access the interior of the bag.

After felting.

This is my latest sock project - I just love the colors! The yarn is wonderful as well - it's the Lana Grossa Meilenweit Yarn in the "Meeting" style. It's wonderful to work with and has gorgeous colors! Again, I used my favorite (and most often used) pattern, "Hellen's Favorite Socks" from Fiber Trends. I've finished the heel shaping on the first sock and am about 10 rows into the foot of the sock...wahoo! New socks on the horizon!

The red tube "attached" to my sock is a wonderful gadget - it helps protect your double pointed needles from breaking as well as helps keep your sock ON the needles as it "travels" in your knitting bag. I highly recommend the "DP Wip Tubes" to anyone who uses double points!

Oh...don't forget, tomorrow is St. Distaff's Day! It's the first day after the Feast of the Epiphany. More about this tomorrow......

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New Year's Day - 2008

So far, so good on the resolutions!

I started my new year with a fabulous New Year’s Day Yoga class – “Jump Start Your New Year With Yoga” – the class description said “Wring out the old and breathe in the new” – what a great way to welcome the year! In addition to the 2 hour workshop, I did 20 minutes of “legs up the wall” - very relaxing and rejuvenating!

I did very well on all of the “diets” as well – yarn, fiber, and food! The yoga session also reinforced my last resolution – it was almost as though they’d read it! The centering at the beginning of the workshop addressed the very same issues!

I ended my New Years Celebration at the Tuesday knitting/spinning group. Only a few folks turned out, but it was great to get some knitting done! I completed the heel of my latest sock – and I’m ready to pick up for the gusset – wahoo! (The sock yarn is from my stash….just in case you’re wondering.) Hmmmm……I just realized that I need to add my sock project to Ravelry…..as well as the fingerless gloves I finished last week! Pictures will be forthcoming….the laptop is still crying its “death knell” and it’s a royal pain to put them on my desktop. Hopefully, the laptop will be restored to good health by the end of next weekend so I can get caught up on all the photos!