Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Pile O' Shetland

Last year, I knitted a wall hanging, “Petosegay – Sunbeams of Promise”. It’s based on the structure of the Petoskey stone, the state stone of Michigan (see my website for more details). Since I was a kid, I’ve been fascinated with this stone that is found mostly in northwestern lower Michigan. That’s where I live.

My friend, Judy M. had given me eleven (!) raw shetland fleeces – FREE! My first impression of them was: What wonderful Petoskey stone colors! I spent a couple afternoons picking over the fleeces (removing VM and second cuts). Then I sent the fleeces to Stonehedge Fiber Mill. When I got the fleeces back, I spun one skein of each color. Then I devised a way to knit a Petoskey stone “medallion”. After several medallions, I constructed a wall hanging.

I submitted that wall hanging to “Fiber Celebration 2009”, a fiber arts show in Colorado, sponsored by the Northern Colorado Weavers Guild. The piece won The Knitters Guild Association (TKGA) award. Here’s a picture of the wall hanging.

My intention had always been to create a series of Petoskey stone projects. To increase my shetland stash, I spent much of my time at fiber festivals last summer seeking out more shetland rovings.

Then I spent about 6 months spinning yarns for more Petoskey projects. Last week, I finished the 20th skein (!). This afternoon, I reskeined all the yarns into 2-yard skeins so I can easily measure their length and weight.

Here’s the pile o’ yarn (photo'd on my front porch):

I will spend my summer travel time knitting more Petoskey medallions that will be made into a scarf, an afghan, a purse, and a pillow (and maybe more!)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Slip Stitch Afghan

I am all for knitting techniques that are easy to do but result in something that looks intricate or intriguing. And I love texture. That’s why I’m crazy for slip stitches.

Last weekend I was in Columbus, Ohio to teach some workshops at Knitters Connection
. (It was a great knitting conference! There were workshops by many renowned knitting instructors and designers over 4 days; special presentations in the evenings, and a Knitters Market with about 30 wonderful vendors. I do hope to return there next year.)

One of the workshops I taught was on slip stitch knitting. In advance of that trip, I knitted an afghan in a slip stitch called “Speckle Rib” that I found in the Harmony Guide to Knitting Stitches (the older version, Lyric Books Ltd, 1983; not the newer version published by Interweave Press).

The older Harmony Guides are terrific sources of slip stitch patterns. Over the years, I’ve knitted innumerable swatches and many many slip stitch projects from these books, yet I still find surprises and new knitting delights in these books. The reason for this continuing novelty may be due to the inherent limitation of putting pictures and instruction on paper; I have found that most of the stitch pattern pictures do not do the stitches justice. The textural and 3-dimensional features of the stitches don’t show up well in photographs. You have to touch them (or, even better, knit them) to appreciate their virtues.

So, it’s easy to overlook a stitch pattern because of a bland picture. Such was the case with the “Speckle Rib”. But I’m sure happy that I finally gave it a try. I am delighted with the result of this stitch in this afghan. It was especially effective for combining yarns of various colors. I knitted this afghan from 6 colors of a yummy wool-alpaca yarn, Berroco “Cuzco”, that I bought in Madison, Wisconsin in September 2008 when I was there as a presenter for the Madison Knitters Guild. I got the yarn at a delightful shop, Lakeside Fibers.
If you’re ever in Madison, check it out!

Here are two pictures of the afghan.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Cormo, Come Home!

Here’s the back story. At last year’s Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival,
I made a quick perusal of the sheep fleeces that were up for judging. One fleece stood out: an immaculately clean and well sheared Cormo fleece. It had been submitted by Jill Johnson of RiverWinds Farm . At the 2008 WSWF I’d purchased some yummy Cormo top from her, so I already knew her fiber was great.

I wanted that fleece. Not only was it beautiful, but it ended up winning the grand prize in the fleece competition. I really wanted that fleece. But I hesitated…..and someone else got it. D**n!

I thought about that fleece many times over the following months. I regretted my hesitation; I wished I had bought that fleece. I promised myself I would not make that mistake again.

Fast forward eight months. In May 2010, I drove up to Pickford, Michigan in the Upper Peninsula for the Spring Fiber Fling. It was a delightful event. About 100 people attended. There were workshops on Saturday and Sunday. And there were about ten fiber vendors.

One of the vendors, Joanne Dufour from Bark River, MI, I had met the previous October in a workshop I taught in Sault Ste Marie. She’s a delightful lady. We have a dance background in common (she still teaches dance). And she raises alpacas. In October, I’d purchased 4 ounces of some alpaca roving in a lovely pale fawn color (I’ve spun up half of it into a lace-weight yarn plied with silk thread). At the Spring Fiber Fling, she had her rovings and other items for sale. She encouraged me to fondle a particular combed top that was a blend of alpaca and Cormo wool.

Not just any Cormo, mind you!

It turned out that Joanne had purchased that dreamy Cormo fleece that won the grand prize at the 2009 WSWF. I could not believe my luck. After months of wistful reminiscences, I had the chance to own some of that gorgeous Cormo fleece. I bought 4 ounces. I set it aside to spin for myself. And I started that indulgent spinning last night. My goal is a fingering weight, softly spun yarn that I will knit into a lacey shawl. I will treasure each moment of spinning and knitting and wearing this fiber. Mine, all mine!

Here’s a picture of some of the top and the spun reference sample.