Saturday, September 17, 2016

Ah, September!

Try to remember the kind of September
When life was slow and oh, so mellow.
Try to remember the kind of September
When grass was green and grain was yellow.

from The Fantastiks, lyrics by Tom Jones

It happens every year. September rolls around, the air cools a bit, the light is golden, everything seems to be in sharper definition, and I find myself surprised and delighted that I love September so much.

The Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival was last weekend. I couldn’t find time to blog before that weekend, because it takes so much time to prepare for workshops (preparing and gathering handouts, fibers, yarns, equipment, tools, sundry supplies). And the days immediately following the Festival were filled with catch-up chores (laundry, cleaning, answering emails, grocery shopping, and cooking). I now finally have time to write!

I do love teaching workshops at fiber festivals. I get energized and inspired by the students and their questions and ideas. I end up coming home with an impossible-to-accomplish list of things I want to work on IMMEDIATELY.

For example, I taught a 2-day workshop, “Spinning Wools of North America”. I’ve taught this workshop a couple of times, but this was the first time I included some Debouillet wool that I’d gotten from a rancher in New Mexico. I received a pound of raw wool just days before leaving for the festival. I washed up 8 ounces of it and took it to share with the students. It turned out to be fantastic wool. Very soft, lovely crimp, with a respectable staple length. (This is a hard-to-come-by wool. I noticed an ad on a Facebook group and pounced! Joe Ward is the rancher. He lives in Roswell, NM. Other than Facebook, he has no on-line presence.) So now I want to IMMEDIATELY wash the rest of the wool, card it, spin it, and knit up sample swatches.

Also, in that workshop, I show students some knitted swatches from 12 different wool breeds. I made 2 swatches from each breed; I washed 1 swatch and fulled/felted the other to demonstrate that some wools felt and shrink a lot and others do not. Now, I only had one example from each breed, essentially twelve single-case studies (n=1), not a perfectly convincing experiment. But I now have some Navajo Churro wool from three different sources, some lamb and some adult, and several natural colors. I want to IMMEDIATELY do another felting experiment with all the samples of Churro that I have to see if they all behave as the first one that I did. By the way, in my original experiment, the Churro shrunk and felted more than any of the other breeds tested.

On Friday I taught “Spinning & Knitting Energized Singles”. This is one of the first workshops that I created – over 10 years ago. I have loads of samples and finished items to show students. But every time I teach this workshop, I want to IMMEDIATELY make more energized projects. I really want to make a sweater with the body of the sweater knitted with balanced yarns and the cuffs and collar worked with energized yarns.

On Sunday morning I taught my “Circles & Polygons” class – a knitting workshop in which we knit a medallion that I’ve created inspired by the state stone of Michigan, the Petoskey stone. I am currently in the middle of making a Petoskey stone poncho using this medallion strategy. But I still want to IMMEDIATELY start working on another project, perhaps a pillow (that’ll look like a rock!).

On Sunday afternoon I taught “Variations on Long Draw” to a full house. I teach this workshop a lot. Earlier this year I bought a fleece from Marie Glaesemann in Duluth. The sheep’s name is “Baby”. Baby is a mixed breed sheep: Romney x Corriedale x Lincoln x Ile de France. The fleece contains several shades of gray. It is lovely. I had this fleeced washed, so I could have students use it for learning how to hand card rolags. It turned out to be an absolutely perfect fleece for hand carding. So now I want to IMMEDIATELY card up enough of it to spin a lovely woolen yarn for a snuggly soft and warm vest. For me.

After I finished teaching on Sunday I strolled over to visit with Henry and Roy Clemes. I’d had a breakfast chat with Henry that morning about blending boards. So I had to have a look. You guessed it; I came home with a blending board and I also promised Henry that I would teach a workshop on using blending boards at next year’s Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival … and he will supply boards for the students to use! I just love collaboration! So now I want to IMMEDIATELY spend hours and days playing with my new blending board.

All these IMMEDIATE urges will have to wait just a bit, because on Monday, on my way to Manitowoc to catch the ferry I stopped by Carol Wagner’s place (Hidden Valley Farm & Woolen Mill) in Valders. She had offered to give me a bunch of bell peppers from her over producing garden. When I stopped at her place, she not only gave me a bunch of peppers, but also a large quantity of broccoli, some cherry tomatoes, a most beautiful eggplant, and a couple of frozen lamb chops. Holy Cow!

Well, you have to make hay while the sun shines. And you have to cook vegetables before they go bad. First off: broccoli-cheddar cheese soup. That took care of the broccoli. Next: Baba Ganouj (I used the recipe in the Moosewood Cookbook). That took care of the eggplant. Then two days of making and canning tomato-vegetable juice. That took care of most of the peppers. Today I have a stock pot on the stove, making chicken stock, using another pepper. Tomorrow I’ll make chicken burrito filling, using the last pepper. I am currently eating some delicious foods. I hope you are jealous.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

September Begins With Wisconsin and Ends With Ohio

September is a wonderful fiber month. Next week, I’ll be headed to Jefferson, Wisconsin for the 15th annual Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival. This event is always held the weekend after Labor Day, this year September 8-11. There are now workshops starting on Thursday and continuing through Sunday, with vendors, competitions, demonstrations, and exhibits on Friday through Sunday. Oh, don’t forget the Hall of Breeds, the Lambing Barn, and the Stock Dog Trials. And I always look forward to having at least one lamb bratwurst.

I will be teaching a two-day version of “Spinning Wools of North America” on Thursday and Friday. Then on Saturday I teach “Spinning & Knitting Energized Singles”. Sunday’s classes include “Circles & Polygons” (a knitting workshop inspired by Petoskey stones) and “Variations on Long Draw”. All these workshops are so much fun for me. It is my plan to make them fun for all involved!

At the very end of the month, I travel to Archbold, Ohio (in Northwest Ohio) to teach at the Fiber Arts Festival at Sauder Village, an historic village and farm. Last year was the inaugural year for this event, and I am delighted that I was asked back for this year. I hope to have more time to explore the village. Last year I picked up some terrific herbs and spices in the village Herb Shop. I look forward to stopping by there again.

Workshops are offered on Friday and Saturday, September 30 and October 1. I will be teaching “Diversity of Wool” Friday morning and “Beginning Spindle Spinning” in the afternoon. On Saturday, I will be teaching “Plying Balanced Yarns” in the morning and “Mechanics of Your Wheel” in the afternoon. There will also be vendors and demonstrations on Saturday and Sunday, open to the public.

A wonderful way to begin and end the month of September, don’t you think?

Saturday, August 27, 2016

New Arrival

The Fall 2016 issue of Spin Off magazine arrived in the mail this week.
In addition to a number of fabulous articles about spindles, it contains the fifth installment of my “Ask a Spinning Teacher” column. This time I wrote about how numbers are used to characterize thickness of fiber and yarn. I like numbers, so I had fun writing this article.
You can get a print edition of the magazine here.

You can get a digital edition of the magazine here.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Allegan is Always Amazing

It was a whirlwind trip to the Michigan Fiber Festival this year. I left early Wednesday morning amid local torrential rains which forced me to drive well below the speed limit until I got south of US10. It had been very dry here for weeks so we desperately needed the rain – just not that morning. I was worried that I wouldn’t get to the fairgrounds in time to teach my afternoon class, thinking that perhaps I should have driven down the previous day so as to avoid this anxiety. It didn’t help that I spilled coffee on my white cotton pants even before I left the driveway. So, I wasted some time changing clothes. Then I promptly spilled more coffee on my shirt and pants. No going back that time; I just taught in spotted clothes on Wednesday afternoon. Oh, I threw away the offending (leaking) travel mug.

Wednesday’s class, Mechanics of Your Wheel, was delightful. As was Thursday’s class, Beginning Spinning on the Wheel, and Friday’s class, Spinning Wools of North America. I am always grateful for the warmth and attentiveness of the folks who take my workshops. I came home inspired and invigorated.

One of the students in Friday’s class told me she’d downloaded my Interweave videos. When she mentioned that, I got a bit nervous. Then she told me the worsted spinning video was great and that she’s watched it at least 10 times. Holy Hannah! She made my day, my week, my year! What a weight off my shoulders. I’d been fretting those videos for quite some time.

I had the pleasure of dining on Thursday night with Patsy and Rich Zawistoski and Kathleen Blake. They are all terrific dinner companions. We ate at the Grill House, just south of Allegan. I had the batter fried cod, which was just excellent!

I didn’t take any photos on this trip, but you can find lots of comments and photos on the Festival’s Facebook page.

Because I returned home Friday, I missed all the animal and competition action that happened on Saturday and Sunday. That’s not all I missed, however. On Saturday, there was a tornado warning that required all festival attendees to take shelter in the restrooms for an hour or so. No tornado damage was done and all were safe. In contrast, I hear that the weather on Sunday was near perfect. Oh, I wish I could have been there the whole weekend, even for the tornado warning.

I did get to shop a bit on Friday. With limited funds, I purchased some Eucalan, some lovely Teeswater wool roving, and some washed Navajo Churro fleece. I also picked up fleeces that I’d had Carol Wagner of Hidden Valley Farm & Woolen Mill card into roving for me. Earlier this year, I had bought 3 fleeces from Marie Glaesemann in Duluth, and at that time I had Carol just wash “Baby”, a Romney x Corriedale x Lincoln x Ile de France mix. I’ve been using this lovely wool in multiple shades of grey for classes that involve hand combing and hand carding. The other two fleeces – “Choco”, a Romney x Corriedale x Merino mix, and “Boy”, a Romney x Corriedale x Ile de France mix – I had carded into roving. And they are lovely!

So, with my annual Michigan Fiber Festival fix taken care of, I can now look forward to my September travels. More on those in the next blog.

Friday, August 12, 2016

My House is a Very Very Very Fine House

A couple years ago, my friend Dick Mann asked me if I’d ever want to be a home owner again. I told him I’m still working on getting rid of debt, but, yeah, I’d like to have my own home again. He told me of a lot he owns near his house. He offered to build a house – with my input – and then sell it to me. Woah! Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Well, I’ve known Dick for about 10 years. We used to be neighbors. And I do a good amount of dog sitting for him (his dog, Mari, has spent the past several winters with me while Dick and his wife Jill spend time in Guatemala).

Now, Dick is a master plumber and has been working construction his whole life. He is good. Very good. And frugal. And Jill knows a great deal about interior work. They met when they were both working at Home Depot.
Dick Mann, Master Constructor
Jill Mann, Master Decision Maker
We sat down a couple of times to hammer out a floor plan. He got that formalized. Dick and I spent one day at Menards picking out siding, roofing, doors, kitchen and bath cabinets. Later, Jill helped me pick out lighting fixtures and flooring and sinks. And then I needed to make decisions about faucets. And appliances. And paint.

Anyway, Dick broke ground for this house last fall. Here’s a picture of the house from last week.

Since I was allowed considerable input on the plan, I tried to make the most of it. I really wanted to have a house that minimized the use of fossil fuels. So, the primary source of heat will be a wood stove. But there’ll be electric baseboard heat as back up. All appliances are electric. I’m hoping that someday I’ll be able to afford to incorporate solar or wind generated electricity. I saw an interesting Facebook post recently about some new roof top wind turbines that I will keep my eye on.

I also plan to have the yard be completely No Mow. But I need a section to be dog-friendly “lawn”. I’ve found the solution through the Benzie Conservation District. They sell seed for an “Eco Turf Grass”. Here’s their description: “Slow-growing, deep-rooted fescues as an alternative to traditional mixes. No intense watering, mowing or fertilizing. Choose not to mow and enjoy a soft look lawn. One pound covers 200 square feet.” They sell the seed for $8 per pound. I also plan to buy native trees and shrubs though the BCD.

This house business is a big deal. I’m not sure when it’ll be ready, but I expect to move in before the snow falls. I’m anxious about finances. I think I’ll need to find some part-time local work to supplement my teaching/writing income. And I’m not ashamed to ask for help. I’d be ever so grateful for any assistance offered. Think of it as investing in a guest room when you want to visit this lovely corner of Michigan. Yes, that’s an invitation to visit.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

2 X 30 = 60

In the Dog Days of Summer, let the second half of my journey begin! Here is the seventh sock pattern in my series of twelve. They all are to help me celebrate My Year of Being 60. The featured stitch pattern has a 2-stitch repeat. Thirty repeats of a 2-stitch pattern equals 60 stitches total.

This pattern was the toughest decision so far. With just 2 stitches, a lot can happen: you can twist stitches (mini-cables), you can knit lace, you can slip stitches, you can create ribbing. My first idea was to create a broken rib pattern, interrupted with the occasional garter ridge. Here is the stitch pattern that I came up with for this first idea:

Rounds 1-3: *p1, k1; rep around.
Round 4: knit.
Round 5: purl.
Round 6: knit.
Rounds 7-13: *k1, p1; rep around.
Round 14: knit.
Round 15: purl.
Round 16 knit.
I really liked this sweet, simple pattern. But my head got so distracted by so many other 2-stitch patterns. It got me thinking of trying to write a booklet of just 2-stitch patterns. Actually, just thinking about it now, my head nearly explodes with ideas. (I love that about knitting!)

Anyway, I put this pattern aside for something else. Besides this 60-stitch sock journey, I’ve been spending time this year playing with combinations of lace and slipped stitches. I thought this 2x30 sock would be a good opportunity to create such a pattern. So, that’s what I did.

The yarn I used was a birthday gift from my friend Sylvia. It’s “Pakokku Sock yarn” by ITW ( The color is “As You Wish”. The yarn is 75% superwash merino and 25% nylon (the yarn tag does suggest handwashing). The skein has ~460 yards and 3.5 ounces. So, one skein is all you need. I got my gauge (7 ½ sts per inch, 12 rounds per inch) using US size 1 (2.25 mm) needles in the pattern stitch (see below).

Loosely CO 60 sts. I used a long tail cast on, with US size 3 (3.25 mm), then changed to US size 1 (2.25mm) for the sock. I used a set of 4 double pointed needles and distributed the stitches so that there were 20 sts on Needle 1, 20 sts on Needle 2, and 20 sts on Needle 3.

Round 1: *k2, p2; rep from * around.

Repeat Round 1 until cuff measures 2 inches. Then, knit 1 round.

Round 1: *k1, sl1wyif; rep from * around.
Rounds 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12: knit.
Round 3: *sl1wyif, k1; rep from * around.
Round 5: *yo, k2tog; rep from * around.
Round 7: *sl1wyif, k1; rep from * around.
Round 9: *k1, sl1wyif; rep from * around.
Round 11: *ssk, yo; rep from * around.

Repeat these 12 rounds until sock measures ~6 inches, end having finished a Round 12. (Note: sl1wyif = slip 1 stitch purlwise with yarn in front)

Heel Flap:
Knit the first 14 stitches on Needle 1. Place the next 30 sts onto 2 needles. Slip the last 16 stitches from Needle 3 onto Needle 1. The heel flap is worked flat on the 30 sts on Needle 1. The 30 sts on the other two needles constitute the instep.

Row 1 (WS): sl1, purl to end.
Row 2: s1wyib; *sl1wyif, k1; rep from * to end.
Row 3: sl1, purl to end.
Row 4: sl1wyib; *k1, sl1wyif; rep from * to last stitch, k1.

Repeat Rows 1-4 until heel flap is approximately 2 inches long, end having finished a Row 1 or Row 3. (Note: sl1wyib = slip 1 stitch purlwise with the yarn in back)

Heel Turn:
The turned heel is made up of “short rows” with decreases. This process shapes the heel. As a result, for each row you will work a different number of stitches, and you will end up with fewer total stitches than you started with.

Row 1 (RS): sl1, k16, ssk, k1, turn work.
Row 2: sl1, p5, p2tog, p1, turn work.
Row 3: sl1, k to 1 st before “gap”, ssk, K1, turn work.
Row 4: sl1, p to 1 st before “gap”, p2tog, P1, turn work.

Repeat rows 3 and 4 until 18 sts remain, having finished a row 4.

Next row: sl1, knit across.

Pick up and knit 18 sts along the right side of the heel flap. To do this, insert right needle under the first edge stitch (under both strands of the stitch), wrap the working yarn around the needle, and pull a stitch through (one stitch has now been picked up and knitted). Repeat this process until 18 stitches have been picked up.

Slip the following 30 sts onto one needle. These stitches constitute the instep of the sock. Work these 30 sts following Round 1 of the instep pattern (see below).

Pick up and knit 18 sts along the left side of the heel flap.

Onto this same needle, knit the next 9 stitches (from the remaining heel stitches). Slip the remaining 9 heel stitches onto Needle 1 (with the right side gusset).

You now have 27 sts on Needle 1, 30 sts on Needle 2, and 27 sts on Needle 3. The middle of the heel falls between Needle 3 and Needle 1. Consider this point to be the beginning of the round.

Round 1: On Needle 1, k to last 3 sts, k2tog, k1. On Needle 2, work as established in instep pattern. On Needle 3, k1, ssk, k to end.

Round 2: On Needle 1, knit. On Needle 2, work as established in instep pattern. On Needle 3, knit.

Rep Rounds 1 & 2 until there are 15 sts on both Needles 1 and 3 (60 sts total).

Instep Stitch Pattern (worked on Needle 2):

Round 1: *k1, sl1wyif; rep from * to end of needle.
Rounds 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12: knit.
Round 3: *sl1wyif, k1; rep from * to end of needle.
Round 5: *yo, k2tog; rep from * to end of needle.
Round 7: *sl1wyif, k1; rep from * to end of needle.
Round 9: *k1, sl1wyif; rep from * to end of needle.
Round 11: *ssk, yo; rep from * to end of needle.

After completing all the gusset decreases, continue working even, and continue repeating the instep pattern for as long as you want. I worked five repeats of the pattern plus rounds 1-3. Then I continued in st st. Begin the toe when foot of sock measures 2 ½ inches short of foot length.

The toe is 30 Rounds total.

This toe is shaped so that it gradually narrows. To achieve this effect, you will work a “Decrease Round” more frequently as the toe progresses.

Perform a Decrease Round on Rounds 1, 6, 10, 14, 17, 20, 23, 25, 27, 29, and 30. On all other rounds, work even.

Decrease Round: On Needle 1, knit to last 3 sts, k2tog, k1. On Needle 2, k1, ssk, knit to last 3 sts, k2tog, k1. On Needle 3, k1, ssk, k to end.

At this point, there will be 4 sts on Needle 1, 8 sts on Needle 2, and 4 sts on Needle 3. Now, knit the next 4 sts onto Needle 3, leaving 8 sts on Needle 2 and 8 sts on Needle 3.

Graft the toe using the Kitchener stitch:

Cut the working yarn, leaving a 20 inch or longer tail. Thread this tail through a darning needle. Orient the sock so that the 2 needles are horizontal, the instep side of the sock is facing you, and the working yarn is coming off the right side of the needle in the back.

Step 1: Insert darning needle into the first stitch on the front needle as if to knit, pull the yarn through and slip this stitch off the needle. Insert darning needle into the next stitch on the front needle as if to purl, pull the yarn through and leave this stitch on the needle.
Step 2: Insert darning needle into the first stitch on the back needle as if to purl, pull the yarn through and slip this stitch off the needle. Insert darning needle into the next stitch on the back needle as if to knit, pull the yarn through and leave this stitch on the needle.

Repeat Steps 1 and 2 until all stitches have been worked and slipped off the needles.

Weave in all ends.

If you have any questions – or if you find any mistakes – you can either leave a comment on this blog page or email me: or

This pattern is free, but it is still copyrighted. So, feel free share a copy of this pattern or knit these socks, but please do not sell the pattern or sell socks made from this pattern. Thank you.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016


Wow! They do exist! In May, I flew out to Fort Collins to shoot some videos for Interweave. And now those videos are available.

F+W provided the images here for promotional purposes.

I would love to hear what you think. You can contact me at