Have Ewe Any Wool?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Interesting Socks

Wow...I had no idea that the "Happy Choices" from Plymouth Yarns would produce such fun socks! I kept looking at the "flat" of pre-knitted and dyed "yarny goodness" calling to me from the shelves at Nature's Yarns wondering just what it would look like once "deconstructed" and knit into socks.

Thankfully, Brenda, a friend of mine, knit up a sock and partial sock from two of the "flats" of yarn. They're amazing! I just love how they knit up and find them to be quite attractive. Now, I'm thinking that I just may need to purchase one of them....to add to my stash! LOL!

I have finally managed to turn the heel on my second "Dark Chocolate Raspberry" sock. I'm ready to pick up stitches on the gusset. I'm real anxious to start on the foot so I can see if my choice of increasing the needle size to a size 1 will produce the right depth of heel for me. If it is, then I'll need to do the odious task of ripping out the first sock (that had been done on the size 0's) and re-knitting them on size 1's.

I have also completed another set of booties. These were delivered to a friend of mine this past Sunday at her baby shower. I used Dale of Norway Baby Ull - a 100% Merino wool. It's so soft and will definitely cuddle the little one with scrumptious softness.

I haven't even started working on the April Block of the Month...I'm so far behind! I also need to tally up my total yardage knit for April - I've been keeping track of the amount of yarn I've knit this year.

Oh...a couple of posts ago, I referenced a picture as that of a "Red Bud" Tree. Now that the "Red Bud" trees are blooming, I realize that I goofed. I'm not sure what type of tree is shown in my earlier post, but I definitely like the blooms on it! Obviously, I'm not a botanist or biologist! This is what a red bud tree actually looks like. I hope I didn't confuse anyone with my earlier faux pas!

Finally, here's the "full bloom" photo of the cherry tree in my front yard. I took this photo at the end of last week. This week, the petals have started dropping so fast that it's created a pink carpet on my front walk. The April showers we're getting makes it slick....and makes it stick to the shoes as well!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Easter Blessings and Some Knitting Progress

Easter Blessings...

This year, I had a fabulous Easter....and received a surprise Easter Blessing! As I was leaving church on Sunday morning, I spotted a familiar face standing behind our pastors. It was Paw Lay and her family! My church had helped sponsor her family when they arrived here from Burma via Thailand. They were granted asylum here and we all pitched in to help them acclimate to their new home and get settled in to life in the US.

I haven't seen Paw Lay or her family for about 2 years. Once they'd completed ESL classes and adapted to life here in the US, they moved to Utica, NY where there is another large Burmese community. I have really missed them, so it was a fabulous surprise when they drove down in their own car to visit all of us on Easter Sunday!

The boys have grown so much! It seems like they left for NY as little boys and came back as young men! They're such a beautiful family. Adele is standing with them on the left. The funniest part of this picture is that I had just got a new cell phone and wasn't sure where the camera function was so I could take a picture. Thit Tu took a quick look at my phone and showed me the path to the camera function! (And to think that just three years ago I was showing them how to do something!)

Their ability to adapt to life here in the US is phenomenal! When they arrived here, they had never used a dishwasher, freezer, electric stove, microwave or many of the other conveniences we all take for granted. It's been just under 3 year since they'd arrived, but you'd never know they hadn't lived here their entire lives!


I haven't completed as much knitting as I would like, but I have finished a few small projects. First off, I've completed 2 additional dish rags. That makes a total of 3 for my mom for Mother's Day. It seems a bit lame to give her something to do housework with, but she really like the hand crafted dish rags, so that makes it special.

I've also completed one pair of booties for Destiknits "Spring for Babies KAL/CAL". I still plan to complete a few more as well as some matching hats. These will be sent to one of the many local charities that provides hand knit goodies to new moms.

I finally finished the first of the "Dark Chocolate Raspberry" socks and decided that the distance from the bottom of the cuff to the bottom of the heel is just too short. I'm going to do the second sock on size 1's instead of size 0's and see if that will correct the problem. Then, I'll rip out the first sock and reknit it on size 1's. Argh! What a pain!

Knitting Tip...

Ah...I have a knitting tip to share from my friend Melinda.

Now that Easter is over, ever wonder what to do with all those plastic eggs that had once contained candy and treats? If your house is like mine, they seem to multiply year after year. They CAN be the perfect knitting gadget.

The little eggs are the perfect size to hold a mini-ball of sock yarn. Once you've finished a pair of socks, or any other knitting project, create a little ball of the yarn used, pop it in a plastic egg, label it, and pop it into your knitting basket. Voila! Now you have the perfect container for your "mending yarn" - useful for darning socks or making other repairs to your knitted garments. It will keep your "mending yarn" dust and tangle free in an easy to store container! How cool is that?

Cherry Trees...

Finally, I thought I'd share a few photos of my cherry tree blossoms over the past week. They're almost at full bloom right now, but it's quite rainy and I'm afraid that I may miss out on the peak.

Start of week

Mid week

More mid week



Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Spring is FINALLY Here!

It seems like winter has been lingering and hanging in there, but I do believe that Spring is FINALLY truly here. I've found several indicators that it's finally here. Unfortunately, I noticed that literally overnight, the dandelions have bloomed!

This past weekend, I caught this beautiful weeping cherry in full bloom. I've never seen one quite this large, so that was a real treat! Then today, I spotted this growth on a tree stump along the trails. I was quite pleased with the detail that I managed to capture!

Check out the top of this poor pine tree! It's thoroughly overladen with pine cones. In the full view, you can see the poor tree straining to stay upright under the weight of it's load. (The pictures are a bit dark - be sure to click on the picture to see a closeup for a better view. It's a very full tree!)

My friends, Dave and Tina, the lucky owners of that beautiful weeping cherry tree, definitely have a green thumb. Check out the size of the lemon on their little lemon tree. And there are numerous new buds as well! The tree "winters" inside where it is nurtured and kept warm, but still...I find it truly amazing to find a lemon that large on a tree that small this far north! Amazing!

This has to be my favorite springtime view - the buds and flowers of the Red Bud tree. I think they're just beautiful. I'm thinking about trying to felt a flower that emulates the beauty of these flowers. That way I can preserve the simple beauty of these flowers all year round.

Knitting Progress...

And now, here's and update on the knitting progress. The finished dish cloth is made from the standard kitchen cotton, Sugar 'n Cream. It's a bit hard on the hands to knit with cotton, but on the bamboo needles, it's not too bad.

I've nearly finished the first "Dark Chocolate Raspberry" sock. I'm using "OnLine" yarn for the first time and I really like working with it. It's very soft - nothing like the harshness of Opal or some of the Sockotta. It's not quite as soft as Lorna's Laces, but it's right up there in softness.


Sunday, April 05, 2009

Solitude Farm

What a fabulous evening! Gretchen and Sue of Solitude presented an awesome program that was both educational and inspiring to a combined meeting of the Purls of Distinction knitting guild my church's stitchery group at Holy Cross Lutheran Church on March 25th. They brought TONS of yarn, patterns, and samples...and of course provided us with lots of information and background on the various types of wool they use in their yarns.

Gretchen and Sue are Shepherds, hand spinners, and knitters. They purchase wool from several groups of local farmers. These are generally small farms, all of which produce great wool. One of the main focuses of their business is to highlight and promote the local sheep and farms and create a market for the fine yarns that can be produced from these fabulous wools.

Gretchen and Sue's wealth of knowledge about the various breeds was amazing. I love learning about the various sheep, the type of wool they produce, and the type of projects that are best suited for their wool. The part that I find most amazing is that the wool for all of the yarns come from locally raised wool. How cool is that? Just a few miles away is a virtual "supermarket" of woolly goodness!

Of course, as a general fiberholic and knitter, I took copious notes during their presentation and hope to share some of the knowledge I gained by presenting it here.

Seeking Out the Fleece....
On shearing day, they go out to the individual farms to examine and inspect the fleeces. They check several things about the fleece, including the following:
  1. color
  2. staple length
  3. the amount of vm (vegetable matter)
  4. strength of the locks
  5. checking locks for breaks
  6. luster
  7. crimp
  8. amount of second cuts
Fleece Purchase and Wool Preparation
Once they've determined that the wool is up to the quality and type that they need, the fleeces are purchased. Sue then washes each fleece by hand. This process is continual and she tends to have many large buckets of wool being washed or several pounds laid out to dry year round. The cleaned wool is then labeled (where it came from and the type of breed) and once they have enough for a batch, it's sent off to be spun into yarn at a fiber mill. All the batches are small - generally between 70 and 200 lbs. of washed wool.

After the Mill
Once the wool has been spun into yarn, Gretchen begins her magic - the dyeing process. She has a fabulous eye for color, and I definitely consider her a "Master Dyer". Not all the yarn is dyed - she does leave some in natural colors. She can dye a maximum of 4 lbs. of yarn at a time - approximately 16 skeins. These limited quantities make it very important that you select all the yarn you'll need for your project at that time. It also makes the yarn unique - no two dye lots will be exactly alike!

The labels have been a work in progress as the business has grown. The current labels contain a wealth of information that was not included just a couple of years ago. They not only indicate the usual (weight, yardage, recommended needle size, and gauge), but they're also include information about the wool itself - the breed(s), the characteristics, as well as the name of the farm(s) the wool came from. They've even added a list of projects that the yarn is best suited for.

Spinning Definitions
Woolen spun - carded, fibers go all over. This yarn is loftier and warmer.
Worsted spun - all the fibers are parallel

About the Yarns - based on the Breeds
Suffolk and Dorset blend - The Suffolk sheep have black faces and white wool. When they're born, they're all black. The Dorset is short. The yarn created from the blend of these is lofty and springy. This yarn is a 3 ply blended with nylon - the perfect sock yarn.

Romney - These sheep produce a lustrous long wool. Typically, they have to be shorn every 9 month. This wool is stronger and a bit wider in diameter and has an "S" shaped crimp. The longwools, like the Romney, need less twist and therefore produce a soft yarn. There are two natural colors - a blend of the whites and a blend of the greys. Projects made with Romney have a beautiful drape. When Gretchen dyes the white, she gets a lustrous yarn with very bright colors. When she dyes the greys, the resultant yarn has more of a heathered look.

Icelandic - The Icelandic sheep have a double coated fleece. The sheep are short and stocky with square faces. Generally, they're sheared twice a year. Gretchen and Sue generally buy the fall shearing. The yarn itself is crafted with both the long and short fibers spun together.

Border Leicester and Leicester Longwools - These are like the sheep in the movie, "Babe". Both the Border Leicester and the Leicester Longwools have lustrous wool but the sheep look very different. Of course, I think both breeds are very cute. The yarns made with a combination of these wools were either left natural or dyed with natural dyes - such as Black Walnut (which is light-fast), Logwood, and Brazilwood, just to name a few. The beauty with natural dyed wool is that if it does fade, it fades true to color.

Clun Forest - The Clun Forest sheep are cute little sheep with ears that stick straight up. These sheep are a meat bread, but they have very soft and spongy wool as well. The yarns they offer are blended with about 20% alpaca and are great for baby items.

Corriedale - These are a medium wool sheep. The Corriedale is a full range wool suitable for many projects. It's spongy and VERY crimpy - ideal for a Fisherman's Sweater! This is in sharp contrast to the Icelandic that has almost no crimp. The crimp gives wool it's memory.

Tunis - These sheep are red when they're born. As the mature, their wool changes to white, though their faces and legs will remain red. These are sheared once a year. The Tunis sheep used to roam the White House lawn back in the day. The yarns that Gretchen and Sue have crafted are blended with some red alpaca for color.

Tunis Romney Cross - One of the yarns they offered is a cross-breed of Tunis and Romney. The yarn knits well, but may be a bit on the scratchy side....probably more suited for outerwear or a vest.

Karakul - The Karakul are a wonderful felting wool and comes in a variety of natural colors - including grey, white, and black. The lambs are born black and curly and the majority of the black comes from the lambs. The wool is double coated and is a bit hairy and scratchy. It does not have much elasticity on its own. The yarn is a bit coarse, but perfectly suited for rugs and felting.

Merino Silk blend - The final yarn was made from a blend of the ultra soft Merino wool and silk. The yarns from this are 3 ply. when they plyed three different shades of grey and then overdyed, it produced some wonderful marled colorways.

I took a couple of shots of the table to try to give you an idea of the variety of yarn types and colors that were available.

I did my bit to stimulate the local economy...I purchased MORE than my share of these fabulous yarns. I don't have any specific plans for most of my purchases, but I do have a few definite projects in mind:
  • Icelandic - a knitted cap with the Solitude Pattern OR perhaps a cardigan from Japanese Inspired Knits.
  • Corriedale - I purchased the hat kit....purple hat with a white band.
  • Border Leicester/Leicester Longwools in natural dyed colors - an interesting wrap of some sort.

Saturday, April 04, 2009


I've been working on a very long post, but I've been a bit short of time this week so it's not quite complete. Hopefully, I'll finish it off this weekend. It's been quite a while since I've posted, so I thought I'd catch you all up on my knitting progress....which has been somewhat limited these past few weeks!

DH is such a sweetie! He found a really awesome T-shirt for me as a "just because" gift. I love it!

I'm planning to wear it today. I can't wait until "Talk like a pirate" day this fall as this is the perfect shirt for the day!

On the knitting front, I've been busy making dish cloths. I'd made one for a dish cloth swap and liked the pattern so well that I decided to make a few more. The pattern is the "Pi Openwork Dishcloth" and is very simple. I've also finished the cuff on the first sock of my "Dark Chocolate Raspberry" socks.