Wednesday, January 15, 2014

North to Alaska!

Most folks make plans to head south at this time of year. Not me. A week from today I’ll be flying to Anchorage, Alaska to teach 2 ½ days of workshops for the Anchorage Weavers and Spinners Guild

Spinning With Silk Hankies

Creating the Yarn You Want

Blending Colors at the Wheel

I’m not even remotely concerned about the weather.’s 10-day forecast for Anchorage predicts higher temperatures (and likely rain) than for here in Lake Ann, Michigan

I am looking forward to experiencing fewer daylight hours. (On my “bucket list” is to spend the winter solstice north of the Arctic Circle.) According to the Astronomical Applications Department of the U.S. Naval Observatory, Anchorage gets about 7 hours of daylight at this time of year (compared to 9 ½ hours here in Lake Ann). 

Because it’s winter, many of the tourist-y things I’d like to do are unavailable (day cruise, railroad trip, day hikes). I do, however, hope to go to the Musk Ox Farm and I hope to visit a few museums.

I am especially looking forward to making new fiber friends in Alaska. The best part of my work travels!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Winter Wonderland

Most of the country is in a serious deep freeze right now. And it’s cold here too, but because of the proximity to Lake Michigan, it’s not as cold as other spots. We have plenty of lake effect snow, which I love. I also love the moderating effect that Lake Michigan has on our winter temperatures. Just two reasons (out of many) why Lake Michigan is my favorite body of water.

I ventured outside only once yesterday: to shovel the front walk and to check the mailbox. Today the temperature has risen to a respectable 8degF, but the wind is so strong that it feels as if it’s whipping the snow into shards of glass. Not comfortable. But I still need to go out to shovel the front walk and to check the mailbox.

When inside, I am warm and can enjoy the view of the winter wonderland surrounding the house. Perfect for spinning.

Last October, my friend, Elizabeth K, helped me get my knitting patterns up on Ravelry. In exchange, I offered to do some spinning for her. She had in mind a sweet vest pattern (the Fibre Company’s “Hiker’s Waistcoat", a free download). I showed her some wool I had in my stash. It’s roving that I’d had carded (by Hidden Valley Farm & Woolen Mill) from Lucy’s 2013 fleece. Lucy is a mixed-breed sheep from Marie Glaesemann’s farm in Duluth, Minnesota. I’ve had the good fortune to get Lucy’s fleece for several years in a row. It’s a beautiful, medium grey, medium strength wool with a bit of shine. And it’s a pleasure to work with.

So, I’m enjoying spinning up a heavy-worsted weight, 2-ply yarn for Elizabeth. Because this yarn will be for a specific project, I am trying especially hard to be consistent in my spinning. I first made sample skeins at two different thicknesses to see which would work best for the vest pattern. After deciding on the thicker of the two samples skeins, I started the full project. Now I’ve finished one complete skein (it’s still drying so I’m not sure how many yards there are), and I’ve started on the second. The pattern requires a total of 900 yards. And I’ll still have plenty of Lucy’s wool left over so that I can make something for myself!

I can’t imagine a better beginning to 2014 than spinning Lucy.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year Fiber Resolutions

2013 was a good fiber year for me. It’s not because I did more teaching and traveling (which I did, I’m happy to report). It’s not because I published something (which I did; see the Winter 2013 issue of PLY magazine). It’s not because I got more fiber arts equipment and supplies (which I did: a couple new looms, stuff to start rug hooking, loads of fiber to spin).

It’s because my brain went wild! Starting last January, I started to explore knit stitch patterns with a fresh set of eyes. And that took me places I never expected to go. I fell in love with knitting anew. I think of 2013 as My Year of the Knit Stitch and the Purl Stitch.

I want to be as excited about 2014 as I was about 2013. So, I’m formalizing some fiber resolutions. Right here, right now.

In 2014, I do hereby resolve to:

I. weave useful objects on each of my five looms. I’ve already got a table runner started on the rigid heddle loom.

II. finish all current knitting works in progress.

1) I’m nearly done with a shawl that I’m knitting out of merino/silk lace-weight yarn. It needs a bit of finishing, then blocking. I also resolve to write up and make available the pattern for this shawl which is tentatively titled, “Curvy Corner Shawl”.

2) I’ve got the back of a sweater knitted out of some lovely Briar Rose Fibers yarn. I can’t help myself; I’m fiddling with the pattern a bit.

3) In November I spun up a goodly amount of 3-ply yarn from some lovely roving that I’d purchased in October. I got the roving from Edie Bowles of Spinning Moon Farm.  She called it “sea turtle”; it’s a lovely blend of about 30% mohair and 70% BFL X Dorset wool. The shine of the mohair is obvious. Here’s a picture of the last bit of roving before I finished spinning:

And here’s a picture of the yarn. I wish my camera could do it justice. I simply couldn’t get the subtle colors of this yarn to come out right in a picture.

I ended up spinning 6 skeins, for a total of approximately 1380 yards, 29 oz; so averaging 47.6 yards per ounce, or about 761 yards per pound. I had hoped to have enough for a big, seriously cabled cardigan, but I don’t think I do. Instead, I’m planning to make a vest: a long, swing-y, cabled vest. I’ve already got ideas for the overall design and which cables to use.

4) I have a pair of socks in progress. I started these socks in late 2012. I stalled out on these socks in early 2013. I’ve got 1 and ½ socks done. I will finish them in 2014.

5) I really need some new slippers. I’ve been meaning to make some for quite awhile. I finally got around to winding up some yarn. Now I need to knit and felt some slippers.

(back to the resolutions…)

III. try my hand at rug hooking with my handspun yarns. I’ve got the hooking frame, I’ve got the hook. I’ve got the fabric. And I’ve got the yarns. I’m thinking of making a chair mat in an odd stripe pattern. Wish me luck.

IV. spin enough 4-ply yarn (not cabled) to make a substantial knitting project.

V. write more blog entries than in 2013.

VI. write more articles for publication.

VII. self-publish at least 2 knitting patterns.

OK. I’d better stop now, before I get too crazy. I want to stand proud at the year-end reckoning.