Have Ewe Any Wool?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Incredibly Awesome Nancy Bush

This week, at Nature's Yarns, they're hosting a number of classes taught by Nancy Bush. Wow! What a fascinating and talented woman she is! I've been fortunate enough to attend two of her classes: "Nordic Color - An Inlay Technique from Estonia" and the demo "Haapsalu Sewn on Lace Border". I am planning to attend a third class tomorrow - "Estonian Cast Ons". I only wish I'd had the time to take "An Overture to Estonian Lace" and "As the Heel Turns" as well. I heard those classes were fabulous as well!

Nancy is the author of several books, including "Knitted Lace of Estonia", "Knitting on the Road", "Knitting Vintage Socks", "Folk Socks", and "Folk Knitting in Estonia". I know I have three of these books....and quite possibly 4 of them....but for some reason, I just can't put my finger on any of them! (I've since gone out and purchased another copy of "Knitted Lace of Estonia" so I can get it autographed by her.)

Oh, my. Nancy is a fabulous teacher - I learned so much in the classes. She's extremely knowledgeable on the techniques used in Estonia and provided a wealth of information about Estonian history as well as exceptional detail and samples of Estonian knitting. The amount of research that she's done, her personal design and teaching skills, as well the "hands-on" training she's had with the Estonian knitters provided an treasure chest of information for all of us! (Prior to this class, I had had thought that Estonia was a county or province in a larger country - I was totally clueless that it was a country!)

In the "Nordic Color" class, I learned the Estonian inlay technique as well as two types of cast ons - the Continental Cast-on and a variation of the same. It was awesome! I'd never truly mastered the Continental Cast-on before the class yesterday. Sure, I'd tried it and done it....once! But it hadn't stuck with me. However, Nancy's method of instruction "cemented" this skill in my head....and I was able to repeat it again at home!

For inspiration, Nancy showed us a lovely assortment of gloves and socks using the inlay technique. She graciously posed with some of the exquisite gloves. I never really thought I'd even consider making gloves, but seeing these has somewhat changed my mind. I'm starting to think that everyone needs an elaborate pair of gloves in their wardrobe!

Here's the start of the sampler I'd made in her class. This used the inlay technique, which in itself was fascinating. It's an awesome way to add color to a project! I tried using both a single strand and double strand of yarn for the inlay. I definitely prefer the look of the double strand for this project. Of course, if I do this on gloves, it will be done with a much smaller needle and result in a more elegant result - hopefully more like the gloves Nancy is holding

I finished my sampler this evening after dinner. All I need to do now is weave in the ends (currently stuffed inside) and voila - I'll have an iPod case....or at the very least, a pretty sampler to look at. It's a very quick knit - and MUCH easier than embroidering or "knitting with color"! (Did you happen to notice that the colors I used in the sampler pretty much match the colors of the sock yarn I bought at the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival? Funny thing about purple and fuchsia!)

The demo of the sewn on Haapsula Lace border was fascinating too. The technique was absolutely intriguing! It results in a very elegant lace edging that wouldn't be quite as beautiful had you simply picked up the edge stitches and "knitted it on". I took copious notes and intend to make use of this skill in the near future. It's a fabulous way to add a border. The tips that Nancy provided will really make it easy to do! In addition to learning the technique, we got to ogle and fondle a number of lovely Estonian lace shawls....which provided added inspiration!

I didn't want either class to end! If you ever get a chance to take one of Nancy's classes, by all means, do it! You'll truly enjoy it and you'll learn so much! That being said, I can't wait for my next class with Nancy! Thankfully, I only have to wait until tomorrow!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival

This weekend, it was time for another fiber festival - the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival. It's held annually in Clarke County and is a great venue. The festival is small enough not be be totally overwhelming, yet large enough to attract high quality hand-crafted goods, yarns, fibers, and fiber animals.

The drive to and from the festival is always a treat. The fall colors are finally starting to come out, so the travels up and down the mountains to get to the festival are even more picturesque than usual. I just love the quite serenity of the countryside and the majesty of the mountains.

This year, I demo'd spinning once again with the Blue Ridge Spinners and Weavers Guild. I had a lot of fun. A couple of young children (both about 4 yrs. old) tried their hand at spinning on my wheel - you can never start too young! I taught another participant how to drop spindle spin - and now she's hooked! (Our group had spindle spinning starter kits for sale at the festival complete with a spindle, instructions, and a bit of wool.)

While I was spinning, I happened to look up and noticed that someone had brought their llama into the building. This graceful creature posed very nicely for me. (This is in sharp contrast to my usual experience - whenever I'd get out the camera for a llama or alpaca photo, they turn their backs - EVERY TIME!!!!) This guy was MUCH more cooperative - though it was probably due to the fact that he was on a lead and really couldn't turn away easily rather than actual cooperation.

I visited a bit with Ellen and Kathy (Almosta Ranch Alpacas), a couple of my guild buddies from the Lancaster Spinners and Weavers Guild. I generally get to see them when they come down our way for festivals or when I head up their way for Spinning/Weaving retreats. They both had their "furry friends" with them. Both rabbits are Satin Angoras...and oooh, so soft! The one on the left hasn't had the fur "harvested" yet. The bunny on the right has been harvested, and as a result, isn't as beautiful as normal. However, I thought it was interesting to see the contrast in the two bunnies - sort of a "before and after" view. Of course I picked up some bunny fluff! It's wonderful stuff!I'm still trying to master spinning angora woth my wheel - it's quite a bit more difficult to spin than wool - it's very light and very slick.

In addition to the spinning and weaving demos, our guild had a number of gorgeous items for sale. There were hand knit bags, hand dyed yarn, hand spun yarn, hand woven scarves, handwoven shawls, hand woven towels, hand knit sweaters, baby items......you name it! Of course, I had to buy some goodies!

I pretty much cleaned Dail out of all of her luscious alpaca. All of it is hand-dyed baby alpaca. It's incredibly soft and absolutely to die for! Aren't the colors lovely?

I also purchased a gorgeous woven scarf and some elegant placemats - also crafted by my fellow guild members. There's something very special about hand crafted items. There's a human connection that's missing in the mass produced goods. Sigh....

Oh, speaking of Dail's alpacas, it was her alpaca fiber that we used for both the warp and the weft of the shawl we raffled off. All the fiber was from two of her 'boys' - Rob and Cody. Several of us spun the weft for the shawl (myself included) and two of our weavers, Beth and Sandy, wove it into the beautiful shawl shown in the picture on the left. The winner of the shawl is pictured in the photo on the right with Beth (one of the weavers). The shawl is truly a local product from start to finish. It was composed of local fiber and crafted by local fiber artists - how cool is that?

And the shopping continues.....
I picked up some yarn from Gretchen and Sue at "Solitude" - one of my favorite vendors of local wool and fiber. Since the weather is turning cold, I had warm woolly socks on the brain. I got 4 skins of Suffolk and Dorset yarn - PERFECT for boot socks! I decided on Purple, Fuschia, Teal, and Natural for the colorways. I've already wound up the purple - it's ready to go! The socks should knit up in no time at all as this is a rather bulky yarn compared to my usual sock yarn.

Of course, I couldn't resist some lovely fleeces either. I bought 2 natural white fleeces. The first fleece is from a lamb named "Q-Tip". He's 1/2 Finn, 1/4 Romney, 1/8 Border Leicester, and 1/8 Corriedale - check out the gorgeous sheen and crimp of the locks! The second fleece is from a Rambouillet ewe and a 1/2 Finn, 1/4 Romney, 1/8 Border Leicester, and 1/8 Corriedale Ram. Both are absolutely beautiful and have a fabulous crimp to the wool. This will produce a nice soft and springy yarn...whenever I get around to washing and carding it. (I'm sure DH is anxiously awaiting the smell of wool being washed....LOL!)

I picked up a bit of roving from various farms("Flock Bronsanas" (shetland), Roclans , Flying Fibers (BFL and Mosham), and Gurdy Run Farm (wool/mohair)) and a couple of patterns from Y2Knit while I was there as well. At the Barefoot Spinner's booth, I picked up a pound of lovely roving that I plan to spin and then weave into a shawl. This is, as soon as I get my scarf off of the loom....and the roving spun up! Maureen has a fabulous eye for color...and this roving is no exception! The colors are absolutely gorgeous(photo on left).

At my friend Jerry's booth, Wool Junction, I bought one of her hooked rug canvases, "Tree of Life", as well as a kit for hooking an adorable sheep wall hanging. It's small enough that even as a beginner, I should be able to complete it before next spring. She has a lovely array of canvases and kits....if only I had the time to do more!!!

After returning home, I had a peaceful evening....walking my dog and enjoying the gorgeous sunset. All in all, it was a fabulous day!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Rhinebeck! (aka "The Polar Belt")

Brrrrr! The weather was unseasonably cold in Rhinebeck for the NY Sheep and Wool Festival. I helped a friend and her daughter with their booth - Misty Mountain Farm. We unloaded the trailer on Thursday night after their long trip north. The trip took an additional 2 1/2 hrs. as they encountered snow through Pennsylvania that stuck with them nearly all the way to Rhinebeck. And to think, this is ONLY mid-October!

Oh...there was one additional challenge - I had managed to find a motel for us that was very basic! It was clean, but it was lacking in many amenities....and even some "essentials"....like good seals around the doors or a working heat system. We didn't freeze - there was a portable space heater that heated the room. However, when I walked in, the room temp was well below 55 degrees! Our living quarters were definitely an "adventure" - and very different from the published descriptions and photos!

This was the first time I've "experienced" the full festival - from setup to shut-down. I have renewed appreciation for all of the vendors and the efforts that go into the preparation, setup, and take-down - as well as the exhausting festival days. I always knew it was hard work and very exhausting, but I really didn't appreciate how hard or how exhausting it was until I experienced it first hand. It all started with an empty building........

We unloaded the trailer on Thursday night...just to get everything in place and ready for the final setup on Friday. The hall was pretty empty when we started - only a couple of vendors had dropped off their wares. In the pictures below, you can see a happy Leanna in the empty trailer and our preliminary layout inside the building.

Friday, we put the finishing touches on the booth and finished the setup - ready for the masses on Saturday! Quite the transformation, eh?

My friend, Amy, was helping out at the Spirit Trail booth. I snapped a quick photo of her busily working on their booth setup. She was also marketing her fabulous project bags. I managed to get a set of them for myself in the perfect colorway - purple and teal! Now I have a matching small and large bags!

On Saturday, it was quite cold outside - the early morning sun did nothing to warm you and the breezes chilled you to the bone!!! However, inside the booth, we were so busy that I actually broke a sweat! It was unbelievably crowded. Things really didn't settle down until about 5 pm. Even though it was extremely busy and exhausting, I had a fabulous time. There's something invigorating about "playing" with yarn and fiber and chatting with customers that love it just as much as you do.

Since it was so chilly out, we got to enjoy seeing all the fabulous hand knit hats, scarves, shawls, and sweaters that we generally miss at the Maryland Sheep and Wool because the weather is usually a bit too warm. I saw so many fabulous sweaters - full of color, Celtic knots, and seemingly endless combinations of color and texture! Talk about inspiration overload!

As an added bonus to all the fun I had this past weekend, I got to meet a couple of my on-line friends from Ravelry. It was awesome meeting them in person!

One of my favorite "projects" this year was the sweet needle felted sheep that one of the festival attendees created in the workshop she took. I met the girl teaching the class earlier in the weekend - and she has relatives that live near me in VA. Talk about a small world!

I didn't get to take very many photos of the festival...and I didn't think to take a photo when all the crowds were there. Actually, I really didn't have time to think about it, let alone actually take a picture! I ended the festival and cleanup viewing a fabulous sunset. These photos don't quite capture the full beauty of it, but I think you get the idea.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Magic Arrow Scarf is FINALLY Finished!

Wow...the "Magic Arrow Scarf" I've been knitting out of Furnace Mountain alpaca has taken forever to knit! But now, it's finally done! It's developed into quite a long scarf - using the full 355 yards of yarn in the lacy pattern. I did make a bit of a mistake with it, though. I had several "false starts" when I began knitting it, and as a result, I totally forgot to edge it with 2 rows of knitting when I made the final attempt. As a result, I had to forgo the edging at the other end as I must have symmetry! The scarf feels absolutely divine - it's so soft! This project makes it a grand total of 3 finished objects this past week! Wahoo!

Hmmm....what to start next? I believe I'm going to start a cardigan out of Brown Sheep Serendipity Tweed (60% cotton and 40% wool)in the Poinsettia color way. It should be a quick knit and will be a much needed addition to my fall wardrobe!

Next, it's off to Rhinebeck, NY for the New York Sheep and Wool Festival. I can't wait! I'll be helping Linda and Leanna of Misty Mountain Farm with their booth. It should be a lot of fun!
(Hopefully, working at the show will keep me from spending too much on yarn and fiber....I'll be shopping for others in the short amount of time I'll have available for shopping!)

Hmmm.....I wonder if we'll get the first frost while I'm gone....rendering these lovely persimmons edible. I guess I'll just have to wait and see! (By the way, the leaves in the background are from another tree - the persimmon tree itself is virtually devoid of leaves.)

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Giant Sock

I've had a lot of fun with the MA group on Ravelry, and our latest project/exchange is no different! We're making Christmas Stockings for each other...and then stuffing them with 24 small gifts - similar to an Advent Calendar.

I chose to do the Two Old Bags "Felted Christmas Stocking" pattern. I must admit, this is the LARGEST sock I've ever knit! The dimensions are:
  • 25" (top of sock to base of foot)
  • 10" (across the leg)
  • 17" (heel to tip of the toe)
It will be felted, so I'm anxious to see how much it felts. I know how Patons yarn felts (very tight) and Cascade 220 (somewhat tight), but I've never felted the Knit Picks "Wool of the Andes".

On Saturday, one of the shop customers had some miniature mittens she'd made. Just for grins, we laid her little mittens out on top of the stocking. Each of the miniature mittens is only 2" long. On top of the stocking, the mittens looked so small! They are absolutely dwarfed!

Speaking of socks, I've finally finished my Austermann socks. Thankfully, they look to be pretty much a perfect match! (That's a good thing - I really don't like "fraternal socks". ) The "striping" has grown on me as I knitted these - at first, I wasn't keen on it. But now, after seeing how they look, I'm quite pleased.

I cast on another pair right away....this time, I'm using a skein of "On Line" in blues, greens, and gold. It appears to be rather stripey, but I think it will be OK.

Oh, I did manage to do some work on my own with my circular sock machine. I had to remove the waste yarn setup that I'd done in class and re-do it. Traveling home with the machine, I'd managed to tangle things up a bit. I did the setup myself and then did about 7 inches of straight knitting to check out the operation of all the needles. I then attempted to start the ribbing. DOH! I forgot to bring the yarn up onto the ribbing needles before I started up again! ARGH! I was so excited about working on it that I "rushed forward" and managed to mess it all up...again! Oh, well. I'll keep at it, and eventually I'll get it down to a science!

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to meet Joanne Seif, the author of "Knit Green". She's a very talented knitter and quite interesting. She has a great way of recounting her adventures so you feel like you we right there with her. She traveled all the way from snow covered Winnipeg,Canada to visit Nature's Yarns to teach a class and sign her latest book. (I have a copy of her previous book, "Fiber Gathering", as well.) Unfortunately, I didn't have enough time to spare to take her class, so I'll have to be content with our brief chat and the copy of her book.

Notice that the vest she's sporting is one of the lovely projects that she has included in "Knit Green". She couldn't have chosen a more perfect colorway! I just love the two toned purple! In addition, did you notice something else? She's a leftie like me! How cool is that?

Fall is finally here and the leaves have started to turn. So, in honor of Joanne's visit from Canada, I'm dedicating today's nature picture to her - a colorful maple leaf.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Fibery Weekend

I kicked off my fiber filled weekend last Friday evening with several hours of spinning and chatting. I got together with my friend, Elizabeth and we were joined by Leslie...another spinner. The best part of the evening (aside from the fabulous company and all the time spent spinning) was that I finally got to see Elizabeth's fabulous spinning wheels.

Her first wheel, a Peacock, is an adorable little wheel that I believe hasn't been produced for quite a few years. It's adorable! It comes apart for easy storage in a suitcase. How cool is that?

Elizabeth's "work-horse" is the Wee Peggy - another wheel that's no longer manufactured. I love the lines and size of this wheel - it's beautiful! I'd never seen a Wee Peggy in real life, I'd only heard about them or heard about people searching for them, so this was quite a thrill.

The wheel spins beautifully too....check out the very luscious yarn that she's created! Elizabeth has spun thin enough for sock yarn. I can't wait to see what they'll look like!

Leslie spent time bouncing between spinning and carding. She had what we think is a about pound of Icelandic that needed carding. The thought of carding that much at one time was unbearable, so that's why she bounced between the two tasks....spinning and carding. She completed a number of fiber "puffs" throughout the evening and definitely made some good progress on the mound of carding. The color is just gorgeous - check out the silvery shimmer!

I brought "Louie"...my Louet S-77, to spin with - it's the larger wheel behind Elizabeth's Peacock wheel in the earlier photos. I love to spin on this wheel! The bobbins are a good size - and it spins like a dream. I'm definitely partial to wheels that have lathed woodwork. I feel that the spindles and grooves give the wheel elegance and visually portray the craftsmanship that goes into each wheel. I'm nearly done spinning the Merino or BFL (can't remember which it is) that I purchased a few years ago at Montpelier. It's a blend of grey, white, and purple (of course!). All told, I have about a pound of it, but have yet to decide on a project.

Saturday, at the shop, I was met with TONS of inspiration! My friend Gretchen stopped in with not one, but two gorgeous shawls. I feel like such a piker....I have so many projects on the needles, and not a single one completed!

The green shawl is made from Skacel Schoppel Wolle "Zauberball" which has very long color repeats that gently fade into one another. It really makes a stunning shawl! The pattern she used was "Aestlight Shawl" by Gudrun Johnston. I love it!

The stunning pink shawl is the "Pinwheel Shawl/Stole" by Two Old Bags. I had seen this one earlier in "unblocked" form. After blocking, it's quite lovely. Another gorgeous finished object Gretchen! I'm so jealous!

My friend Janet stopped in as well. She showed me the most darling purse that she'd made. I think it's just gorgeous! It's in the Loop-d-Loop Volume 2 pattern book from Tahki. (Yes....I confess....I rushed right out and ordered a copy of it - it should arrive any day now!)

On Sunday, I was off to Frederick, MD for lessons on how to knit with my Antique LeGare cirular sock machine. I learned so much! It was a private lesson, so I was able to get all my questions asked and learn at my own pace. Stephanie (the instructor) was a fabulous teacher! It was a very full and fulfilling day!

Here's my "setup" for the class showing my machine and the knitting that I did while in class. It was amazing! A pair of socks will knit up quite fast.....once I get the hang of it! I definitely need a bit more practice.

The sock knitting machines are absolutely fascinating. As I worked through each part of a sock, I marveled at the ingenuity of the designer of these machines. Imagine deciding to create a machine that will knit simply by turning the crank and then figuring out how to manipulate it in order to create heels and toes. Amazing. Absolutely amazing. These machines are definitely marvels of engineering!

During the lessons, Stephanie's cats liked to hang out and keep an eye on things. They also loved to just "wander by" in hopes of gaining some attention - they were very sweet and ultra friendly. They also LOVED to pose for pictures....or would just put themselves in cute poses to make you WANT to take pictures! LOL! Chester was definitely a good lounger - always making himself comfortable on the nearest chair. He even moved onto my chair when I got up to take a picture of my setup!

Obie just loves to drape himself on the top of a chair, or anything that will give him a "bird's eye view" of the room. In typical cat style, he's actually making sure that I understand that he is the "king of his domain". Finally, there was Butch. He liked to wander about or sun himself on the bench in the front foyer. He'd occasionally roam about just to make sure nothing had changed since the last time he'd wandered by.

Like many of us, Stephanie is not only a knitter, but a spinner as well. She has one of the new SpinOlution spinning wheels, "The Bee". This is their traveling wheel. It's a very interesting design and rather unusual. This folds up and can be carried in what looks a lot like a rectangular canvas tool bag.

I wish every weekend could be full of knitting and spinning adventures! I'll need to work on that....