Tuesday, August 31, 2010

These are a Few of my Favorite Things

Inspiration hit….with the help of some fiber friends. A month ago, I bought not quite 2 yards of a cotton fabric with a sheepy print (see my blog entry July 30
). At the time of purchase I was without any idea as to what to do with the fabric. A few days later my friend, Gladys S., suggested making an apron.

Brilliant! I love aprons. And just recently my friend, Marty F., offered to make me an apron. The stars were aligned in my favor! I gave the fabric to Marty and she promptly made me two aprons.

It didn’t take me long to get it dirty. I made a peach pie on Sunday. The peaches this year have been especially delicious. This was my second peach pie of the season. I shared the pie with friends.

My friend, Sylvia VM., took a picture of me in one of my sheep aprons, holding my fabulous pie, standing next to my adorable dog, Toby.

A new apron, fresh pie, my dog….all in the company of some wonderful fiber friends. These are a few of my favorite things.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Events Updates

I love to go to fiber events, whether I am teaching classes, taking classes or just fiber hunting. On my website, I list the upcoming fiber events where I’ll be teaching. Today I just made a couple of additions to that list. Some of these events are brand new, some I’ve attended before and thoroughly enjoyed!

Here are the new additions to my events list:

I’m teaching a “Learn to Knit” class at Interquilten,
a quilt shop in Interlochen, Michigan. Classes are on three consecutive Wednesdays (September 8, 15, and 22, 2010), 6-7pm. Contact the store to register.

The “First Annual Fall Fiber Retreat”. This is a weekend event scheduled for November 19 – 21, 2010 at the Lake Louise Methodist Camp near Boyne Falls, Michigan. Pippa Jones is organizing this new event. She’s asked me to teach “Variations on Long Draw” and “I-Cord Edges and More!” You can contact Pippa via email,

My friend, Carol Wagner (of Hidden Valley Farm and Woolen Mill
), asked me to participate in the “Winter Weekend Warmup” in Greenbay, Wisconsin, February 4-6, 2011. I believe that knitting socks will be the event theme. We haven’t decided yet what exactly I’ll be teaching. Contact Carol for more information, hvfarmwoolenmill@lakefield.net

One event that is not yet on my list is another visit to the Manasota Weavers Guild in Sarasota, Florida. The workshops will either be in December 2010 or March 2011. I was there this year in February and had a swell time! I’ll post details as I learn them.

The workshops that I’ll be teaching at the Duluth Art Institute
(April 30, May 1, 2011) have been decided upon: “Spinning with Commercial Yarns”, “Plying for Texture”, and “Spinning with Silk Hankies”. I taught at the DAI in late April 2009. Not surprising for Duluth, Minnesota at that time of year, we had a snow storm! Other than that, it was a most wonderful experience and I do look forward to returning to that event. You can call the DAI business office to register, (218) 733-7560.

For a list of these events (with contact information) and others I’ll be attending, take a look at the events schedule page of my website

No matter where you find your fiber fun, I hope you make the most out of it!

Spin on! Knit on!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Constraints and Creativity

On Sunday, August 1, 2010, I started three knitting projects: a pair of socks, a shawl, and an afghan. Well, I finished knitting the afghan just before the Michigan Fiber Festival, and Tuesday I finished weaving in the yarn ends. (I’m still mulling over the cuff edge of the socks, and I’ve knitted about 15 inches on the shawl.)

The afghan is knitted from some brushed mohair yarns that have been in my stash for awhile. I used five colors: light purple, an orangey red, a raspberry red, a gold, and the fifth color is really 4 very thin brushed kid mohair yarns held together and knitted as one (orange, dark purple, lilac, and brown) that created a sort of “raisin” color. The other yarns are either “La Gran” or La Gran-like.

The construction is simple: garter stitch edges, with the body of the afghan knitted in the classic “feather and fan” pattern (multiples of 18 sts):

Row 1: knit
Row 2: purl
Row 3: *K2tog three times, (yo, k1) six times, K2tog three times*, rep from * to *.
Row 4: purl

I created “stripes” of color, with each stripe equal to one 4-row repeat of the feather and fan.

Here’s where the constraints come in. My first constraint: how much of each color was available. I had 10 skeins of the light purple, but only 1-3 skeins of the other colors. So, the light purple is the “background” or main color and I needed to be conservative on how much gold to use (only 1 skein).

My second constraint was self-imposed. I decided to maintain a color sequence of the non-main colors: A) orangey red, B) raisin, C) gold, then D) raspberry red.

I love the challenge of creating something new and interesting within constraints. I allowed myself to play with how many stripes and how thick the stripes could be. Knitting this afghan reminded me of my days long ago as a dance student at the University of Utah. We had composition & improvisation classes nearly every semester for four years. This afghan was like a slow growing improvisation within the color constraints that I had.

I found myself thinking really no more than 4 or 5 stripes in advance. I allowed myself to “go with the flow”, yet maintain the color sequence. Here’s the stripe order, with the main color (light purple) identified as “O” and the other colors identified by their letters as listed above. There are five “repeats” of the sequence of colors (A,B,C,D), but each “repeat” varies with the amount of “O” interspersed and how much of each color I used:


I rather like the regimented-to-irregular composition that resulted. Here’s a picture of the stripe sequence of the afghan:

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Photos from Michigan Fiber Festival 2010

Five full days at the Michigan Fiber Festival!

When I arrived on Wednesday, I took a picture of the gate to the Allegan County Fairgrounds.

Wednesday afternoon, I taught a class on I-cords. In this class, we knit a sample version of a wrist wrap pattern that incorporates I-cords on all edges. One workshop participant had her daughter with her. The daughter was quite taken by one pair of wrist wraps that I’d brought as samples. You can find a free copy of the wrist wrap pattern as a pdf file on my website.

On Friday, a photographer from the Kalamazoo Gazette took pictures at the festival, including some pictures of me teaching beginning spinning. I insisted that his photos make me look 20 pounds thinner. That didn’t happen. Take a look.

Friday was also the day that the vendors open for business. I promptly went to Carol Wagner’s booth, Hidden Valley Farm and Woolen Mill. With Carol was her friend and Spinner Extraordinaire, Laurie Boyer. Laurie spins the most amazing art yarns. One of the yarns she had for sale this year incorporated q-tips! Can you believe it?! Her most stunning yarn this year was a skein of yarn that had been wrapped multiple times and then had cut-aways. Spooky but spectacular! I covet her yarns.

A close up:

The many steps:

Saturday morning I took a class from Galina Khmeleva, “Handspinning Orenburg Style”. Great class. I am taking to heart her advice of practicing at least 15 minutes a day. She says it’ll take about 2 weeks of this daily practice to develop some proficiency. Hmmm….

I had time to visit the barns on Saturday afternoon. Pygora goats were the featured fiber animal at this year’s festival. They are really really cute. Here’s a picture that shows off the beautiful coat of a couple pygora goats from Great Lakes Pygora .

I stayed with the pygora theme on Sunday, taking Patsy Zawistoski’s class, “Positively Pygora”. Another great class! We got a good look at all three types of pygora fleeces.

Type A (rather like kid mohair)

Type B (more like cashmere)

Type C (even more like cashmere, but way more guard hair)

Sunday afternoon, there was a new event at the festival: a sheep costume parade. I got one picture and then the batteries in my camera died.

Next year, next year….

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

All Aboard for Allegan!

The Michigan Fiber Festival is just around the corner. Yippee!

Let me be plain: I love this event. I know that the weather in August can be a challenge, but this summer has already been so hot and so humid that I’m psychologically prepared for these conditions to continue. (My advice: Wear linen; it dries so quickly.) All kinds of fiber animals. Loads and loads of fiber vendors. Fiber arts, fleece, and skein competitions. The Allegan county fairgrounds are classically Midwestern and bucolic. And who isn’t charmed by the sheep dog demonstrations?

Don’t forget the workshops
! Workshops start on Wednesday, August 18 and continue through Sunday. The Festival itself opens to the public on Saturday and Sunday.

I’ll be teaching on Wednesday (“Spinning With Silk Hankies” and “I-Cord Edges and More!”), Thursday (“Slip Stitch Knitting”), and Friday (“Beginning Spinning”). I know that my Friday class is filled, and the Thursday class is nearly filled. But there is still room in the Wednesday classes. And I love both those half-day workshops. I’ve been crazy about I-cords for years; I incorporate them into a significant number of my designs.

This is the first year I’ve been offering the silk hankies workshop. The more I work with silk hankies, the more I like them! I especially like that they make great yarns whether you use high twist, low twist, or even no twist!

And silk takes color so beautifully! I’m not a dyer, so I buy silk hankies already dyed by artists who know what they’re doing. Two of my favorite sources of dyed silk hankies are Bonkers Handmade Originals
and River’s Edge Fiber Arts. I’ll be using hankies from both these sources in my workshop next Wednesday. Here’s a picture of some silk hankies and some things you can spin from them.

So, here’s hoping you can join the fun in Allegan and further hoping that the weather is kind to us.

Friday, August 6, 2010

A Great Wheel

Yesterday, my good friend, Gladys Strong, delivered her great wheel to my house. Gladys has been working as a fiber artist most of her life, and she’s now well past 80 years old. Lately, she’s decided to downsize her considerable collection of equipment and materials. And she offered me her great wheel and several pounds of cotton and flax for spinning. I am honored. It is a beautiful wheel. It was made for her by Joseph Danhoffer in 1986. I believe Gladys was living in Virginia at the time. Now, she lives in Lake Leelanau with her daughter and son-in-law. Her son-in-law, Joe, was kind enough to use his van to deliver the wheel to my house.

I didn’t have much to offer in exchange. But I did send Gladys and Joe home with some fresh chives, thyme, basil, parsley, and tomatoes from my garden.

Now, I must live up to this magnificent gift and hone my skills at quill spinning. Here’s a picture of the wheel.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

How Many Projects Can You Start in a Day?

I don’t know what got into me. Typically, I work on just one knitting project at a time. I enjoy the journey from beginning to middle to end. But on Sunday, some bug attacked me and I started three knitting projects.

It was getting late in the day, and I was watching TV (on the computer). Since I’d finished spinning “Sylvia”, I had a strong urge to make a swatch from that yarn. The size 1 (US) needles worked well to create a snug feeling fabric. I got 15 sts per 2 inches. A good gauge. Then I started to consider a sock pattern. I have a very old pair of commercially made socks that I’d always wanted to duplicate. So, I spent some time examining that pair of socks and writing down its pattern. But I couldn’t decide what to do with the cuff of the sock. I want to create a scalloped edge of some sort, but nothing struck me right away. So, I put that project aside. Here’s a picture of the swatch (30 sts knitted in the round):

Next, I started work on a shawl. This is a pattern that I created a number of years ago, and I’m just now getting around to writing up the pattern (“Dream Shawl”). This triangular shawl is knitted from the lower corner to the top edge. The lower corner starts with I-cord fringe, and I needed a picture of that beginning for the pattern. So, I pulled out some grey Cascade 220 and knitted the I-cord fringe. But it was too late in the day (not good lighting) to take a picture, so I put that project aside. I did take some pictures yesterday. Here’s one:

Still feeling the urge to knit the night away, I decided to start an afghan from a large stash of brushed mohair yarns that I’ve been collecting for years. I wanted to remind myself of the important strategies for knitting mohair in preparation for the goat fibers workshop I’m teaching at Rhinebeck in October. This has been a fun project. I’m using the old standby, “feather and fan”, in stripes of colors. The fun thing about knitting stripes is that the upcoming color tends to encourage me to knit more, faster, and longer. So, I get done faster. Here’s a picture of the afghan in progress:

Three projects started. Which will I finish first?