the Intrepid Fiberwizard

adventures in spinning, knitting, gardening and life

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A Day to Celebrate

Yesterday was a very special day here at Crown Mountain Farms.......
the handsome guy in the photo is Klaus ( my sweetheart) - and for the few of you who have had the pleasure of speaking with him on the phone, you would know that he is a native to Germany (that wonderful rich accent of his, gives him away every time - grin)
He's lived full time in the United States for many years, and made his home here with me...... AND, he is now an official US Citizen ! He was sworn in yesterday, so it is finally official.


Much celebrating going on here. And although my dear pal Amanda suggested we celebrate with hot dogs and apple pie, (which was a great idea btw) we dined last night in a lovely local restaurant on a thick sirloin with gorgonzola crust and martinis. (apple pie to come this weekend when I have time to bake)
The ceremony was actually quite simple, yet given the magnitude of this event, very profound. At one point they showed a video that played the song "Proud to be an American" - with incredible photos of our America. I loved this song when it was written shortly after 911, and it is even more emotionally touching now.
Indeed, he is very proud - as am I. This is a great country that we live in, and so often I take for granted all the freedom we have.... not so today. Let's all send up a rowdy cheer of hurrah for Klaus - and remember that we were fortunate to be born here.

Amid all the splendor of these recent events, I have also been spinning and knitting. Here's a tiny bit of eye candy - (sorry about the blurry photos, the sun hasn't shown its face very often these past few days.... and they are even predicting snow for tonight. wow.)

I finished spinning up these two new colorways for our Sock Hop yarn -

Do you Wanna Dance (and to see even BETTER photos of this particular colorway, click on the link to Amanda's blog above.... she spun it up as well - and took way better photos of her work - grin)

Here's yet another new colorway - Glad All Over

I think that this is my most favorite yarn thus far. The rich greens and subtle tans are reminiscent of the moss on trees, deep in the forest. (and yes, I held back two skeins of this one to knit a pair of socks for my daughter who went gaa-gaa over this color :-)

Currently on my wheel tonight is some of the singles for the colorway "Happy Together" I am anxious to see how the brilliant yellow/blue/white and subtle greens look when plyed. I need to spin up the second 8 ounces before I will know..... I'll keep you posted.

Monday, February 26, 2007

February - 007 snapshot

February:A time of birth and renewal. Beginnings. This is the month of my birth, and signifies the promise of spring yet to come. Pictured here are the buds of our magnolia trees, forming during the harsh cold reality of a February day. The sky is deep blue, yet the air is chilly. The rains pound down most days, and yet these blossoms are growing. Quietly, steadfast. They thrive beneath their protective outer coats.. and await the warming days of spring.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The socks are Bloomin'

The sun has peeked out for the first time in what feels like weeks - so I thought that I would snap a quick photo of my Bloomin' Feet Sock in progress.
Guess what? yup - it's got cables (grin)
I'm using a pattern from the books Socks Socks Socks - called Tipsy Knitter,
The design was taken from Barbara Walker's Second Treasury of knitting, a pattern called Tilting Ladder. It will most likely turn out to be a slouch sock, as the lace/cable combo doesn't make for a very tight fit.. This particular pattern holds great appeal because I have to pay attention for every single row. The combination of lace with alternating cables shows the yarn quite well - don't ya think?

I am heading out today to stock up at the grocery store - the weather forecasters are saying that the sun won't last, and that snow levels are dropping. We could be in for another storm (but then again... who knows) Yesterday was full of bizarre changes - from rain to sun, then rain to ice pellets. Temperatures dropping ten degrees in a matter of minutes. Not quite a typical February.
Friday I am going to spend a day of 'girl time' with my oldest daughter in Seattle. It's my birthday. What better way to celebrate than being with one of the very best parts of my life. Although you might think it's impossible, my love for my daughters grows every year. I watch them creating their lives, full of joy and excitement and I could not possibly be more proud. When she asked me what I wanted for my birthday, it was an easy answer.. just to spend time with her.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Enchanted by Cables

I have long wished to knit a cabled sweater. Many moons ago, I purchased a copy of the book Viking Patterns for Knitting by Elsebeth Lavold. I would linger over the photos and dream about the day I would be able to understand the small hieroglyphics .
The day has arrived.
I have been knitting cables like a woman possessed! Here's a sock knit from Do You Wanna Dance Sock Hop Yarn - knit up in Rib and Cable pattern by Nancy Bush.
And I am working on a wild pattern that includes cables for my Bloomin Feet Sock swap ( that's a post all unto itself soon)

Perhaps I could back up for a moment here and share yet another class I took at the Madrona Fiber Arts Fair.... yes - another one (actually there is yet one more, after this, that I will share at some future date.. ahem) The class was titled "Morphing Cables" with Fiona Ellis.
What did I learn? (you mean aside from the fact that I can make very ugly class samples?) I learned that I have absolutely no desire to become a designer. The class was very free-form, and many students simply took off with their designs. Not so, this wizard. I just messed about a bit, moving one stitch over 3 (not so pretty) moving one stitch across row after row (also not too pretty) etc. Ultimately I came to appreciate and love my knitting books even more! You might also notice in the photo that the sample is off the needles, and momentarily going to be ripped out!

And here, I have evidence that I spent a bit of time in our fiber booth (hee hee) a blogging friend, Marisol, stopped by to say hello - and Klaus snapped this photo of us. It's one of my favorite parts of fiber fairs (to have people stop by and say hi) - me? I'm the red-head wearing the swallowtail shawl.

Once we got home from the show, I awaited a special order that I had placed ...... it arrived about a week ago (could you hear the loud applause all across the land?) - I ordered this dk weight merino to be hand dyed by Jessie (the queen of subtle dyeing!) The color has been difficult to photograph in its true likeness - I would call it a dusty rose, or maybe even a soft raspberry sherbet... whichever - it's glorious.

I quickly got out my ball winder, made cakes of four skeins, and cast on for the sweater that is featured on the book's cover. It is knit with size 4 and size 5 needles.
The more I knit with it, the more I love it. I wanted soft changes in the color, that would move throughout the sweater, adding depth to the eye. And Jessie gave me exactly what I had hoped for. Isn't it wonderful! Jessie has a great blog, and also an online store, A Piece of Vermont. Hop on over and check out her yarns.

In order to avoid becoming marooned on the fabled "Sleeve Island", I started the sleeves first! I've completed even more than this photo shows - and am only about 20 rows from finishing both sleeves. I'm hoping to begin the front of the sweater later on today.

Celtic cables have captured me with their charm.

On a final, yet unrelated note: SusannaHansson (who taught the Lapland Mittens class) has announced that she will be teaching this class at Webs (in Massachusetts) in Sept. 2007, and perhaps even at Stitches East. She will also be at the Nordic Knitting Conference in Seattle, as I mentioned on my earlier post. This is an amazing class - I highly recommend it!

Monday, February 12, 2007

A Beautiful Gift and Bloomin' Feet

Not too long ago, I was doing my typical late evening stroll through blogland... and I happened to make a comment on a friend's blog. Much to my great surprise, I was her 10,000 th commenter. Can you believe it, ten thousand comments.. now that deserves a big round of applause - way to go Carole! If you have never seen her blog, hop on over there - she's great!

Carole wrote me a wonderful note, and said that I could expect a gift in the near future...... well, it's arrived! Check it out - (and check out the little black ears and big green eyes looking all 'innocent' in the background... )
4 oz. Natural Colored Navajo-Churro roving
some adorable sweeties (seasonally apropos of course)
a fabulous smelling soap called "Happy Together" (which made me giggle, given my current infatuation with 60's songs!)
And a dramatic yarn made of 60/40 mohair-wool in a fabulous natural dye called Charcol.
Carole, thank you so very much. Your creativity and care in the selection of these luscious goodies has given me a big smile. 10,000 comments - you go girl!

And now - I begin to move my thoughts forward to a sweet new sock swap, run by Amanda - 2007 Bloomin' Feet. I have selected the yarn I will use, since my pal is a 'jewel-tone' kind of gal (so it appears from her blog).
Here it is, in all it's glory - lounging lazily on my window sill - it must be a summer sort of yarn, since it loves the sunlight (and photos so poorly in the shade). It definitely is not shy - as it shouts boldly.. "pick me" from the pile of choices. This nice springy yarn reminds me alot of the BlueMoonFiberArts line - it is a three ply sport weight, and almost springs out of my hand. It's a new line of sock yarns that we are carrying on our website, hand dyed by local artist Pat Fly of Angora Valley Fibers. The colorway is called Rainier.
I haven't yet chosen the pattern I will use. I'm considering "Monkey Socks" or a feather-type pattern, or maybe a cable/rib design... I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Madrona Fiber Arts: Modular Knitting

Ginger Luters taught a great class at Madrona Fiber Arts. Her designs are fabulous - her choice of color incredible. She made it look so easy. And she also communicated her skill in a simple, concise way.
I was motivated to take this class because of this:

Yup - left over bits of skeins that continue to grow in my basket - eventually I will have leftovers of all the Sock Hop Yarn colors after I have made all my socks.. (at least that is my hope). But what to do with them? Read along and you'll see.

Ginger's class was chock full of information. We learned many of the types of modular knits fabric. I shot photos of a few of her pieces. Aren't they lovely?

While I am not able to go into all the techniques (you'll need to take her class or perhaps buy her book) I can share a few of the really ugly things I made during class.... (I had already ripped apart most of them before I realized I should take a blog photo - oopps)
We made garter stitch squares that magically attached to each other, stockingette squares that seemed to bloom out in all directions, and even a few triangles. (yeah - I know, I probably could have chosen better colors to mix - but you get the idea. We learned a great technique to make stockingette squares really square - and learned when to use a cable cast on instead of long tail (and why). There was so much information that finally made sense to me. I had purchased the book awhile ago, but had not fully comprehended it.

So I came home, ripped out all the other really ugly squares I made in class and began to play.
In the back of my mind, a design for a Sock Hop Afghan was taking form. I've gotten a small start on it - and the jury is still out as to whether it will be one of those funky-ugly things that I hide whenever company comes over, or will it be an astoundingly creative show piece..??? I plan on continuing to add to it as I finish spinning all the colors. I'm rather amazed at how different this yarn looks when knit in mitered squares versus knit as socks. (note to self: write down the pattern I made up for this afghan - so that I will be able to keep adding to it in another month or two)
What's your vote? thumbs up or down?

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Madrona Fiber Arts: Color Progression in Plying

Back to the excitement of my classes at Madrona Fiber Arts.
I was fortunate enough to take a class with Judith MacKenzie-McCuinn. She is a master in fiber arts. If you ever have the opportunity to take any class with her at all - just take it :-)
This class taught us the effect of colors on each other when they are blended in different ratios. Judith had us select three colorways to work with, and encouraged us to choose at least one that made us a bit uncomfortable (as in out of our normal range of taste).
I selected a deep burgandy, a lilac, and a shocking electric pink (yes the pink was my discomfort place)
We spun fine singles of each colorway and then began to blend them according to her directions. We made various three ply yarns :

first three of the burgandy singles were plyed together,
then two burgandysingles were combined with one lilac single,
and then two lilac singles and one burgandy single.

As you can see, the color tonality of the yarn changes relative to the number of singles used of each colorway.

We then did the same with the second colorway (lilac in my case)

and then with the third colorway (shocking pink)

As a final step, I blended one strand of each - burgandy, lilac, and pink. I ended up liking this one best of all - and have had fun contemplating whether or not I might be able to dye up some fiber to create this colorway (so far it hasn't come to me...)

I've lined them all up here for you to see just how amazing the progression is.
It was a delightful class - filled with fun engaging people. I enjoyed myself immensely - and wish it could have gone on all day.**

There were some other fun tidbits of wisdom that I gathered during class (as is always the case when you take a class from Judith.
Judith showed us a technique for spinning from "top" so that we never have to "split" the roving again (or pre-draft). Judith described the fact that top is often difficult to spin fine because the fibers are not "compacted" enough. She demonstrated how to compress the top by rolling it between the palms of our hands - thus making a dense tube to spin from. This technique involved much laughter - licking on ones' palms to add moisture and then a tiny bit of disbelief... but try it. You will be totally amazed. (and you'll never have to do any of that splitting or pre-drafting again when you spin top.) It's amazing. (as Judith normally is)

here's the pre-compressed top (in it's normal state when we buy it:

here is me rolling it between my palms to compress it . I've spared you the licking-of-the-palms-photo - (smile)

and here is what it looks like with one end of the top "compacted".

Judith also mentioned to us that one end of "top" is easier to spin from than the other. You can discern this by gently tugging on one end of the top (before you compact it) and then the other. The fibers will pull out easier from one end. This should be the end we spin from.
So I encourage you to try your own little experiment. Take some top, and just spin from it (without splitting or pre-drafting).
Next take a small bit of top and compact it as I have shown here - and spin again (without changing any settings on your wheel) .Viola!

Last but not least, I picked up a cool new "toy" - Judith has come out with a line of dyes that have no known toxicity*. This is very important to us and our environment. Here is a picture of the kit:
It is called "Mother MacKenzie's Miracle Dyes". We hope to be selling them on our website soon.
From these nine colors, you can create a huge number of colorways by blending the powdered dyes in various ratios.
I also picked up a book that has been produced by Linda Jacobs (of Cedar Hill Fiber Farm in Suquamish WA) that is a guide for the blending ratios. I am keeping my fingers crossed for good luck that I might be able to persuade Linda to allow us to sell her marvelous book as well.
I haven't had a chance to try out these dyes yet, but I will - and I'll keep you posted.
All these colors were made with the nine dye pots pictured in the photo. amazing.

Last (but not least) there was someone special in a few of my
classes (including this one) and she even signed my copy of her book!
She is even more delightful and funny in person than she is in her books (can you believe it?!)

*edited to note: although there is no "known" toxicity in this type of dyes, please use common sense and caution. ALL dyes can be toxic in powdered format (even so-called natural ones) if they are inhaled into your lungs - wear rubber gloves, and wear a dust mask/respirator at all times when using any type of dyes.
** although I have given you quite a nice sample of what we did in Judith's class, there was alot more information that was taught than what I have presented here in this tiny post. Take this class. I learned so very much more than what I have shared here.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

We interrupt our regularly scheduled blog post for..

a CMF announcement !
Alright, all you superwash afficianados, there are ten new colorways that will be available for sale in a few hours. (in fiber form naturally)... all you wonderful Sock Hop Yarn friends will have to wait a little bit longer.
Here they are:
Chain of Fools - a brilliant mix of Chartreuse and orange

Do You Wanna Dance - this one we've seen a glimpse of before
and I have also spun some up, and am knitting with it. Here's my samples in progress..

Ebony and Ivory - this may look a bit like "do you believe in Magic" colorway; yet it's not dyed in the same manner at all. The proof will be in the spin and knit (and I've not had time to do it yet) - and there is a possibility this color will be soon be deleted from the line up. yet the way it is supposed to look is like a black and white version of Big Yellow Taxi - more striped, less tweedy. We shall see!

Glad All Over - this one was created at the request of Theresa.. she had asked me for one that is mostly greens - I was so excited about how this came out that I immediately began to spin it! I just began the second bobbin full, so there's been no plying yet- stay tuned. Thus far it is looking like rich earthy moss. (just what I wanted)

Happy Together - several shades of gold and light blue

Let's Hang On - just a wild and crazy mix of golden brown, pinks and blues.

Magic Carpet Ride - this color make me think of ancient persian carpets... all burgandy, deep green and tan

Secret Agent Man - dark smokey grey, a dash of rose - and some deep olive greens.

Spirit in the Sky
- I made this colorway especially for Carole - a dramatic splash of reds (yay) brilliant yellow, and orange - (Carole and I both luvs us the reds!)

You Baby - vivid robin's egg blue and a rich earthy brown

So there you have it. Hop on over to our website - they are now ready for purchase :-)
We return you now to our regularly scheduled program... the classes at Madrona Fiber Arts Festival.