I love to snuggle up in a blanket on cool mornings while I sip my coffee and write or on summer evenings while sipping tea on the porch listening to the crickets. I have a small purple blanket I often use for this purpose. However, I’ve been wanting something heavier, sheepier, something I can wear while pouring that second cup of coffee or the walk back to my house from Mom’s.
I also have a tote of scrap yarns from spinning tests, left over projects, and that ever present “what was I thinking” yarn. Since I’m in need of a serious stash busting and I want a specific item I decided to put the two together with my own variation of the sweater vest I knitted up a few months ago.
I’ve managed to whittle down my stash to just a few yarn I really love and have project appropriate amounts of in stock.
To keep my yarn thickness consistent I held multiple strands together. At first every time I changed yarn I was dropping the yarn, picking up the next strand, and weaving in as I went. That got to be too much work. Enter the magic knot. It’s not something I would use on my shawls or socks, but for this project it’s perfect.
I still have a ways to go on my shawl blanket. But it should be done in the next week or two. I’m so looking forward to snuggling up in it.
Until next time,
Get creative, bust those stashes, and
Craft No Harm,
PS. I’d love to see some other stash busting, so feel free to post in the comments!
It feels so good to be over my aching back and up to spinning and knitting. Shearing season has started and I’m very excited about this year’s fleeces. So, without further adu, let’s jump into what I’ve been up to this past week!
Off The Wheel
I’m working on Charlemagne’s fleece. I’ve gotten his kempy britches all spun up into a three ply. For britch it’s not THAT bad. I’ve spun it in the grease, and just as it came off him – freckles, stains, and all. I ended up with right at a thousand yards.
I’ve also spun up a few fleece samples from this year’s shearing so far. Lilly has given us a beautiful fleece. It’s pretty dirty, and the spine fleece is worthless due to her being so short, but the dominant fleece from the sides is lovely.
Minerva is my surprise fleece star this year. She’s a whopping thirty five pounds after shearing and gave us a pound of Smokey black and silver wool. I was not expecting this at all. Her texture is similar to her grandfather’s Charlemagne’s, but she inherited the Merino softness from her grandmother Buttercup. I’ll be spinning this myself and then putting it in the shop. It is pretty high in vm, and it’s going to nep in a drum carder. I’m looking forward to her fleeces in years to come as she lightens up. She’s SO PRETTY!
On the Wheel
Charlemange’s 2016 dominant fleece in on the wheel currently. I’m working on a two ply light fingering weight yarn. It’s mostly white, but I’m allowing the dark bits just to sit in wherever they pop up. With all the bamboo sprouting I’m going to test some and maybe dye it a turkey red. That should knit up nicely. I’ve just washed it in hot water at 165 degrees and nothing else. I seem to be anti washing lately… except for Lilly’s fleece.
On the Needles
I ended up with five skeins of Charlemagne’s britch yarn. Each skein is about two hundred fifty yards. So, I’m making a wrap sweater for this spring and next fall. Not only did I spin it in the grease, I decided to be crazy and knit it in the grease. I washed up a swatch sample, counted, and now I’m knitting. It’s really kind of gross, but at the same time enjoyable. My hands are getting very soft, too. It squeaks on the metal needles. I think next time I decide to do something like this I’ll soak the fleece in cold water first. Grease minus dirt and a little less smell sounds good.
I also made a new shawl this past week. It’s Wendy’s Fern Shawl off of Ravelry. Great pattern, totally free. I used this green Romney yarn I made years ago when I was first learning to spin and dye. The spinning, or I should say plying isn’t my best. I dyed it with copper pennies and carrot tops with a splash of spinach. It’s bright. I think I may over dye with walnuts in a gradient. Or just leave it until this fall and see if someone picks it up at a festival. Either way, it was a pleasure to make at each step.
On the Sheep
I managed to shear Lilly, Minerva, and Night this past week. I’m hoping to shear Daisy this coming week. Lilly was pretty chill by the end of the process. She stomped her foot more than once, but as soon as the grain came out all was forgiven. Minerva left me with a swollen eye. Yep. That’s right. A thirty five pound ewe lamb decked me. Her Aunt Dagney would have been proud. I was dreading shearing Night. She’s a bit off, and frankly a little crazy. But she was actually very well behaved. She actually is friendlier with me now. I guess it was bonding time? Who knows. Sheep are funny that way.
*This post was started weeks ago, but due to technical difficulties it’s just now getting finished and posted. Now to figure out how to replace a charging port…
I am blessed with three good barn cats. They do their job and are sociable with people as well as the sheep. I fact, they often nap with the ewes and out tom Clive loves to go out to the big field with the flock on a sunny day. So, with the cold weather we’ve kept them in carriers in the house at night. The strange thing: we’ve heard a lot of bumps under the house.
Now, bumps under the house are normal when Otis, the resident possum, is doing his cat impression at night. He and Sophie the cat are besties. But this is something larger, and well, doesn’t smell like Otis. All the critters have been on edge and I’ve been bracing myself, concerned the foxes had made a new den. But no. It’s a big orange cat tramping around, looking for food. Now that the mystery is solved I can rest a little netter and concentrate on my night knitting.
On the Wheel
My piles of Romney fleeces are spinning up nicely. Spinning in the grease means no prep time. Usually I spin up a pound of prepared with plying included in fourteen to fifteen hours (and I’ve done it in a single insane day). When I spin in the grease my average is half a pound in eighteen hours. However, it usually takes me about twice that long to really prep the fibers. So, with the massive cold front still clinging to the country, it’s enjoyable to not scour.
Off the wheel
I completed my mitten spinning! I wasn’t sure about mixing the courser Targhee and Jacob wool with my gorgeous fawn alpaca. But I’m truly pleased. The alpaca really softened up what is traditionally sock yarn in my house.I had planned to felt, but it’s thick, warm, and comfortable just like it is.
Since the mitten yarn came out so nice I dug out the coveted Hopkins fluff left over from combing on my viking combs. Most people toss it, but, well, that’s not my style. I picked through it to get out the neps and noils, then got busy with the hand carders. I’m even more pleased with the softness of this yarn. I may snag Go Lightly’s fleece this year from my neighbor. He’s Hopkins’s son and the fleece is very similar. In short, I want to reproduce this blend for both color and texture.
On the Needles
I’m finishing up my mittens. Honestly, I’m not sure what to knit next. I know I’ll need a sweater next year, and maybe a hooded cowl, but otherwise the household is set on knit wear for a few years barring mice and moths. And, I’ve got to concentrate on spinning and weaving along with up coming farm work for spring.
Off the Needles
I made two new hats for chores. They’re leftovers from other past projects. I didn’t use a pattern. Both are knitted flat and then stitched up the side. My ears are much happier!
Out of the Pot
Last autumn when it was Kavass making season I tried dyeing with beets. I crave a red dye that’s deep and substantial. However, beets are not a color fast dye. So now I have a three pound Jacob fleece with a weird yellowish cast coupled with pink streaks. Not good.
Last week I pulled out my dye pot and cherry koolaid. Can I just say “Yummy”? I’m calling it Cherry Cola Float. The red with hints of the Jacob browns with just hints of pinks and whites is so lovely. With the puni style rolags I added a touch of firestar. When I’m done working up this batch they’ll being the Etsy shop. I’m thinking next is green, or yellow. I feel a soda themed color way collection coming on!
My little wrap is off the loom.
I’m warping for a double width throw blanket. Frankly, I AM NERVOUS. This is my first time using only my best handspun to double width. But hey, slow and steady wins the race, and that’s my plan.
The problem with perfect fleeces or “Did you have to tell me that?”
If you’ve been following this blog then you know I have a policy of no fleece left behind. Simply stated there are no trash fleeces in my world. However, like so many sectors of Western culture, wool processing has become severely detached from reality. There’s an unvoiced expectation that raw fleeces are fluffy, free from vegetable matter, long in staple legnth, and cheap. Any other fleece is simply unworkable and unworthy. This puts pressure on both the producer and the sheep. Remember the sheep? You know, those cute prey animals we’ve bred to produce wool, some to the point of wool blindness? Those darling lambs who love nothing more than to play in brambles and don’t mind sleeping in their own berries? Those cuddle bugs that burp fermented grass and smell, well, like a barnyard? Yep, they’re pretty gross when it comes to personal hygiene.
The reality of keeping sheep coated, changing those coats four times a year, and acting in best interest of the sheep is more complex. Have you ever tried to dress a toddler that doesn’t want to be dressed? Now imagine that toddler is the same weight as you, or more. Ever dressed a two hundred pound toddler? I have. It’s not exactly easy. Then there’s the ethical considerations of adding weight and heat to an animal in the summer along with increased risk of injury if the coat fails (fancy a broken leg anyone?). Or, you can just leave the sheep on pasture away from the hay and hope they aren’t eaten or just horrifically mauled. So, that leaves the majority of fleeces with higher vm than most drum carders can handle with just a pass or two.
What to do!
Grab a lock of your fleece and a hand carder, or a dog slicker if you’re starting out.
Place the carder on your lap.
Now it’s just like brushing hair. Start at the tips, and work up.
When you get past the middle, turn the lock around and do the same on that end.
Or watch me do it on YouTube for a bit more details:
*Yes, there are cats in the house since it’s extremely cold. Lily’s fleece is being used for personal garments, so I’m not concerned about contamination. My studio is animal free!
That’s it. Once you’ve done every lock your fleece is ready to card or spin from the fold. You’ll loose some wool, but if you’re paying a fraction of the cost, or nothing, it’s worth it. I’ve done this on fleeces less than two inches in staple length. Yes, there were a few sailor impressions along the way, but it was worth the time and skint knuckle. Here’s a pro tip: don’t attempt this before coffee or four a.m.
And that’s it for this Wednesday! Don’t be afraid of those lower end fleeces with real potential. A little work, a little patience, and you’ll be amazed what you end up with!
Unfortunately, I didn’t get this week’s Friday’s Flock posting done because I rehomed a whopping thirty one ducks to a farm in Dixon, Tennessee. It was sweet seeing them meet the other geese and ducks, and a relief that the feed bill is essentially cut in two. My remaining six duck hens are with the chickens, and the drake is now bunking with the geese. Hopefully this way I’ll get to enjoy the eggs, and not have them breeding like, well, ducks all over the farm. But, I did make progress on the knitting and spinning projects.
On the Wheel
I’m still spinning Romney in the grease. In fact, I found another fleece in my studio in what I thought was an empty bin. However, the carding on the alpaca and wool mittens is coming along well. Originally, the plan was for seventy percent wool and thirty percent alpaca. Then I realized i want them even warmer. So, it’s a fifty fifty blend. I ran out of jacob wool, so instead I’m finishing up with black targee. It’s not as soft, and boy is it high in vm. But the color matches, and it should felt nicely. It goes on the wheel this evening!
On the Needles
My mom loves handspun socks for slippers around the house. I wanted to have them done last week, but it didn’t happen. Between hay runs, freezing weather, a ewe coming up pregnant, Christmas dinner, moving into the main house for the remainder of the winter, and ducks, they just didn’t get done. Oh, and they needed resizing in the toe. Like, serious resizing. We got a good laugh. So, this one is almost done, and then it’s mitten time!
Off the Needles
Technically, this was done last Monday. However, it was a gift and a surprise. It was supposed to be a sheep, but I think it’s more bear than sheep. I’ve never made a stuffed animal before. Not bad for a first go. It was fun to make, and maybe there will be more in the future. Maybe. But he is super cute.
On the Loom
I did get the loom warped! This time I’m making a wrap. It’s acrylic, but this piece needs to be washable. It’s just a simple tabby weave, and it’s coming along quickly.
Well, I’m off on another hay run and to muck the stalls.
Until next time,
In all you do, craft no harm.
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This past week I made the Sacre Couer shawl by Nim Teasdale. It’s a free pattern on Ravelry. I actually started this shawl in August, but lacking yarn, I had to make it a spinning project before it could continue as a knitting project.
Week before last I finally got around to spinning up enough yarn to finish my little shawllette. When I sat down to finish I discovered a dropped stitch that wasn’t easily corrected. I also decided to change the colorway. So, I embraced my inner Kermit and frogged the whole thing, and bought some beads. This is my first beaded project.
The pattern is very flexible. It’s designed to make anything from a small shawllette or scarf to a full cuddle up with a throw sized shawl. Since this piece was always destined for the Etsy shop, I decided on a shawllette / scarf size.
There are two options for the cast on. The first is a garter tab, which is not my style. The second is to cast on nine stitches. So, me and the Old Norwegian cast on got busy. The beginning section sets up the correct number of stitches to begin knitting the Arch Lace section. This is one area where the shawl is flexible. I like the fact there is a chart of how many set up stitches you need before knitting the first lace chart. It took the math out, and that’s always nice.
The Arch Lace section was easy to knit through while watching a documentary on the christening of Edward, the Boy King. I did two complete repeats, and then the first eight rows again before moving onto the Stain Glass lace chart.
And that’s where this shawl took a left turn. Well, specifically it took a left turn at a downhill gallop heading into a fence with a busted bridle at row nine. No matter how many times I knitted and frogged, I just couldn’t get it to work. It became a jumbled mess. I even frogged out the Stain Glass section twice and started again. Finally I decided to stop before building a bonfire, dancing about like a mad woman, and using the pattern instructions to light shawl and knitting needles ablaze.
I finished out the piece to row nine, and used a 3/5 picot bind off. Then I blocked the entire piece, and breathed a happy sigh of relief.
Good Parts and Lessons
I really do like the way this came out. I do plan to use the pattern again, up to row nine, that is. I’m wondering if there is a misprint in the pattern. Overall, it’s well written. I printed the pattern off ages ago, so it’s very possible it’s been corrected. Or, it could just be a case of my dyslexia kicking in, which is very possible.
It was also good to try beading. Beading definitely slows knitting down. It basically doubles the time. So, unless it’s a wedding piece, beads just aren’t happening in my studio. If you do bead work, bless you. You’re a more patient soul than mine.
My big take away is the next time I decide to do a lace pattern I’ll use an acrylic test yarn before breaking open my handspun. Test knits aren’t just for designing. Fortunately everything turned out well and this lesson wasn’t too costly.
In all you do, craft no harm
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We had four inches of rain over this past week, and almost three were over a twenty four hour period. The entire homestead quickly went from damp to soggy to a trees floating through the front yard and wading through squelching mud. I’ve gotten lots of spinning and knitting done this week!
My current sweaters are rather breezy commercially produced cotton. So, with over fifty pounds of white Romney wool in my studio and another twenty in the barn I decided knitting a sweater for myself is in order. It’s spinning up into a soft aran weight three ply. Once I have enough yarn for a decently long sweater with a shawl collar I’ll put this fleece on my combs and make yarn for the Etsy shop. I plan to spin Romney for the next several weeks, so there won’t be too much to report for the next thirty pounds of spinning.
In addition to the three ply I’ve spun up some hanks of two ply sport as a gift. One of the mini hanks is dyed using marigolds.
I’ve also been spinning up random bits of fleeces that I’m finding here and there. Any fluff bits less than half a pound are getting stuffed into a bag. I plan to just put it all randomly through the drum carder when I get a few pounds. It’s destined to be brilliant or shear madness.
I do plan on squeezing in some Targee alpaca blend this week. I desperately need new mittens for morning chores. I’m hoping with the Targee it felts easily and with the alpaca it keeps me warm.
Off the Needles
My Sacre Couer shawl is finally knitted up and finished! I had to frog out the original work due to a dropped stitch. I tried to fix it, but if you’ve ever tried to fix a dropped stitch in a complicated lace knitting pattern, then you understand why sometimes you need to just love Kermit. I was going to just rip back to the mistake, but then I began looking at my color palette and decided to just start over knitting from the beginning, with bead work. I’m glad I did. I’ll be reviewing this pattern next week. It’s a beautiful shawlette, but it definitely had difficulties.
I also finished another project this week, but I have to wait until next week to show it since it’s a gift. But it sure is cute!
On the Needles
I have one sock left to finish up this weekend for tomorrow. It’s just a pair of plain basic socks knitted up on dpn’s. The wool is squishy Jacob. I don’t remember who it is, but I’m think it may be Charlemagne Bolivar’s. I do know these socks are not fancy, but they are super comfy and warm. I may make a new pair for myself, too.
Dyed in the Wool
I’ve continued dying locks this week. Well, I continued until the rain turned or spring muddy and we stopped using piped water until it clears up again. As soon as I have decent light again the locks will go in the Etsy shop, too. And when the water clears up I’ll be finally rinsing that last batch of lavender dyed locks that sitting under the kitchen bench.
This week has been a productive one, even with the weather. Yes, chores in the cold rain aren’t fun, but it has set me thinking on how people traditionally dressed in wool on farms, and what items I can incorporate into a modern style. I have man-made winter and rain clothing, but it never keeps me as warm and dry as my wool. Even the manufactured items I favor tend to be all wool or all cotton.
As much as dealing with this deluge is unpleasant, the water will keep the pasture in shape, providing green grass this spring. I’m thankful for the squelching mud and extra mucking, because it’s the cycle of nature that allows my flock to thrive and keep me warm and dry.