Monday, February 28, 2011

Luxury Knitting

For “show & tell” at a recent meeting of the Northland Weaving and Fiber Arts Guild, my friend, Molly L., showed some of the loot she’d gotten at Convergence
(the Handweavers Guild of America biennial conference; in 2010 it was held in Albuquerque, NM).

One of the items she’d picked up at the conference was a single ball of 100% qiviuk (the down from Musk Ox) lace-weight yarn in a lovely deep eggplant color. She asked the guild members for ideas for this most luxurious of yarns.

Marty F. promptly spoke up, “I think you should get Amy to knit you something from it!”

And I said, “Oh, yeah!! I’d love to knit you a scarf!” Molly immediately handed me the ball of yarn. Oohhhh…..Aahhhh….

I then spent awhile trying to decide what exactly to knit. Since I wasn’t selling the scarf, I realized I didn’t have to design the scarf; I could use someone else’s pattern. So, I looked through my lace book library. This seemed like a good time to dive into the book by Nancy Bush, Knitted Lace of Estonia. Nancy Bush is a renowned knit designer, best known for her fabulous sock patterns, and she’s the owner of The Wooly West
. I took a 2-day workshop on Estonian knitting from her a number of years ago, and really wanted to follow up on some of the techniques we’d covered.

Now, here’s my chance. The yarn is “Qiviuk”, by Windy Valley Muskox in Alaska, 1 ounce (28.5 grams), approximately 218 yards, color 3007. Here’s a picture of the pattern I’ll be using, the “Raha Scarf”, and the ball of yarn.

How lucky am I that I get to knit a scarf out of qiviuk? And I didn’t even have to buy the yarn! I am lucky lucky lucky.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Cool Buttons!

I’ve been warned by many people to avoid buttons that are too dramatic. What could be worse than lovingly handspinning some yarn, designing a unique sweater, meticulously knitting that sweater, only to have someone say, “Cool buttons!”

But I happen to like cool buttons.

is nearly done. I have only to knit the buttonhole band. But to do that, I must decide on the buttons so that I know how big to make the buttonholes and where to put them in the band.

I have a pretty nice button collection. In fact, I’m rather smugly proud of it. When I started this sweater, I just assumed that I’d be able to find some Tattoo-worthy buttons within my collection. But upon examination of my button stash, I found none that seemed just right.

So, last week I made a trip to one of the local yarn shops, Yarn Quest
. They have a substantial button collection. And, as it happened, they had a sale on buttons that day. 25% off! Who could resist? I couldn’t. I bought four sets of buttons (spending my entire cash budget for the day!).

Still, I could not decide on the buttons for the Tattoo sweater. I asked several fiber friends for advice. That advice was mixed and it all left me ambivalent about my choices. As work on Tattoo has progress and it has become a more completed look, my personal preference about the buttons has changed. Last night, as I got so close to the end of the project, I think I finally decided on the right buttons. But instead of just telling you which buttons I decided upon, I’ll show you all my choices. Here’s a picture of all the buttons I seriously considered (on a background of the left front of the sweater):

My absolute favorites were these metal-and-enamel buttons. Problem is….I only have 2 of these buttons. But aren’t they cool? Very Art Nouveau!

And, I found the color of the petoskey stone buttons to be perfect, but I am quite put off by the gold toned rim:

I bought these square buttons a few years back at the Michigan Fiber Festival. I thought they were ugly but so unusual that I had to have them. Close, but no cigar:

I adore these buttons that I got at Yarn Quest. I think they look fine, but there are only 3 of them. I may put them on a hat made from the yarn left over from the Tattoo sweater. I can’t quite tell what’s on these buttons. Sorta fishy, sorta shellfishy, sorta mermaid…but not:

These buttons look like some animal horn material, but I’m pretty sure they’re plastic. They were very high in the running for placement on the sweater:

I liked these metal buttons, but no one else did. And, they are on the small side:

Here is an interesting metal button that has been in my stash for awhile; I think they originally belonged to my grandmother. These were the choice of many of my friends. And, I do like them. I wouldn’t complain…..

However, I finally decided on these fused glass buttons. They did not appeal to anyone else. When I first started Tattoo, these buttons were low on the list, but as I added more of the duplicate stitch embellishments, these buttons spoke to me. Oh, and these buttons were already in my stash…

What do you think? Have I made the right decision? Or, have I gone horribly wrong in my choice of buttons?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

It's My Birthday and I'll Card if I Want To

I celebrated my birthday earlier this week by spending some time with my drum carder. Well, first, I did some hand combing. Ok. Let me back up:

2007: I bought the fleece; a lovely light brown merinoX from a sheep named “Babes”. I got this fleece from my friend, Tina Ulbrick of Ewephoria Farm
. She is a wonderful shepherd and fiber artist who now raises corriedale sheep. Here’s a picture of a bit of raw fleece:

2008: I washed the fleece.

2009: I hand combed some of the fleece. Then I drum carded that combed fiber. Then I spun some of the drumcarded fiber. I made 3 yarns each of different thicknesses. The thickest yarn averages 48.6 yards per ounce; the medium yarn averages 83.9 yards per ounce; the thinest yarn averages 150 yards per ounce.

Here’s a picture I took last year of the yarn:

What fleece I hadn’t combed has been sitting in its own private plastic bin in my office. I have a 8 X 11.5 purple sign on it: BABES.

About 10 days ago, that bin started talking to me…..first at a whisper, then with an inside voice, finally yelling at me: I WANT TO BE YARN!

So, I got to work. In two evenings, I finished hand combing the washed wool….except for one chunk that was too tacky to easily hand comb.

AN ASIDE: I have had great success washing greasy fleeces such as merino with Dawn and very very hot water. But I had been persuaded by a friend to try Meadows Fibermaster on part of this fleece. Perhaps this wool wash is good for less greasy fleeces, but it left my merino too tacky to process further. So, I still have a bit of Babes to re-wash. Here’s a picture of that washed-but-not-washed fiber:

For my birthday, I took all the bits of hand combed top and put them though my drumcarder (Pat Green Deb’s Delicate Deluxe). The only reason I carded the already combed fiber was to even out the color; there had been some variation in the brown throughout the fleece and I wanted the final yarn to be even in color.

Here’s a picture of a big pile o’ carded batts:

A WORD ON MY CARDING TECHNIQUE: I must say upfront that I am no drumcarding expert. Despite reading everything I could get my hands on, and watching reputable videos of master carders, I struggled for quite awhile before I was able to card to my satisfaction. There are some important tips that most folks know: 1. card slowly….more slowly than you think you should. 2. don’t put too much fiber on the intake tray; you should be able to see through the fiber to the tray. I follow these tips religiously.

Now, most folks also suggest preparing the fiber before carding it. I’ve most often heard that the fiber should be opened or spread out sideways. I’ve tried this. It doesn’t seem to work for me; the fiber tends to buckle and tug as it moves from the intake tray under the lickerin drum. I hate that!

One day, I decided to draft my fiber LENGTHWISE, just as I do before I spin. Oh, what a difference! My fiber carded smoothly with absolutely no buckling. Now I use this pre-drafting technique all the time when I card.

BACK TO BABES: My goal is to spin up the rest of the fleece as I’d done before: some thin, some medium, some thick. I plan to make a shawl of the three yarns, using the thick yarn for the area directly over the shoulders, and then the medium yarn further out, and the thin yarn for a lovely lacey border.

Can I complete the shawl before June? That’s when I want it as a sample for a workshop I’ll be teaching at “Northern Wefts”, the Midwest Weavers Conference in Hancock, Michigan.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

"Smarty", the Inkle Guardian Sheep

I have been making progress on my inke weaving. I’m in pause mode right now as I allow a friend to use my inkle loom for a bit.

I can create about an 8-foot long inkle band on my Schacht inkle loom
. That’s more than enough length for my planned dog leashes. So, I’ve decided that with each band I will make a dog leash and a bookmark. Yesterday I took a picture of my bookmarks to date:

For some reason, I was compelled to put a little sheep in the picture. This particular sheep was a gift from my sister, Meg. When I looked at this picture this morning, two thoughts popped into my head: 1) It kinda looks to me like the sheep is guarding the inkle bands, and 2) the sheep should be named “Smarty”.

I love it when things just pop into my head: creativity with no effort! I have no idea where the idea for “Smarty” came from….

But, I suspect that the “guarding” thought occurred because of a recent discussion thread on the Yahoo group, Spin-List
. Lately, there has been a lot of discussion about Livestock Guardian Dogs. I have found this discussion very informative and very fascinating. I don’t own livestock; I don’t own a guardian dog; but I do like the idea of a quadruped guardian helper.

Anyway, the sheep in the picture will now and forevermore be known as “Smarty”, the Inkle Guardian Sheep.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Tattoo Update

It’s worth mentioning that the sun was out this morning. In this area at this time of year, we can go for a loooonnng while with cloud covered skies. I took advantage of this natural light by taking some pictures in the one room in my house with south-facing windows (my office). A few pics of my “Tattoo” sweater were in the bunch (see blog entry, January 23, 2011

I decided to limit the knit-purl pattern to just the right front, leaving the left front plain. I may add partial outlines in duplicate stitch to a few of the diamonds on the right front.

It took me awhile to decide how to shape the arm and cap of the sleeves. I referred back to a wonderful article, “Set-In Sleeves – a love affair”, by Pam Allen. This article was published in the Winter 2007 issue of Interweave Knits. It is a nicely laid out explanation of how to calculate the shape of a sleeve cap so that it fits the armhole properly.

I wanted a shallow set-in sleeve, with plenty of ease. I won’t really know if I succeeded until I try sewing the sleeve into the armhole. I plan to try that later today.

One other decision I made about the sleeve was to have a diagonal change from Lucy + Lacy marl yarn to just Lacy yarn. I don’t do a lot of intarsia knitting, so I got out the Vogue Knitting book, aka my “knitting bible”, to remind myself how to twist the color changes on the back side of the fabric. It was way easier than I expected. I will probably add a small amount of embellishment to the sleeves. Ideas are still percolating.

Here’s a shot of the sleeves.

So far, I’m thrilled with how the sweater is turning out. I’ve done some swatching of collar ideas, but I still have to decide how to construct the button band and the buttonhole band. Can’t do that until I decide which buttons to use. That’s a topic for another blog entry….

By the way, the sun is not out right now. It’s grey, and snowing (despite the forecast for a “slim chance of snow” on the radio!).

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

New Boot Sock Knitter

Pat Petrovich took my boot sock class at Interquilten last month. Prior to that, she’d started, but never finished, several socks. She completed her first sock during the class. And yesterday, she emailed me a picture of her completed PAIR of socks. Brava to Pat!

Here is “Pat’s Purple Pair”:

She’s now in the process of making another pair…and another. And then some mittens. I’m so happy to have helped Pat on her way to becoming an inveterate sock knitter! You can hear more directly from Pat at her blog.

This month, I’m teaching “Learn to Knit” at Interquilten. Three sessions, on three consecutive Mondays at 6pm, starting on February 14. What better way to spend Valentine’s day! Contact Tawni if you are interested in the class: , or call 231-276-9100.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Lucy's Warning

After the previous post about the Bubbles Brigade, I emailed Lucy Neatby to let her know about our bunch of scarf knitters. And I got a response. She wanted to post a comment on this blog site, but was stymied somehow. So she emailed me directly. Here's what she had to say:

“So glad that you are all having fun with the Bubbles Scarf. The addition of Champagne is inspired. Although I have been heard to say ‘Friends don't let friends drink and double-knit!’

“Happy happy stitches to you all.”

I’m wondering if anyone else has tried to leave a comment on my blog posts without success. If that describes you, please email me; perhaps I can figure out what the hang up is. or

Aside from the Bubbles scarf, I am making grand progress on the Tattoo sweater, and I have indeed kept up with my resolution to weave one inkle band a week. I won’t be able to keep that up, however, because I’m lending my inkle loom to a friend for a month or so. Pictures soon.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Bubbles Brigade Begins!

For Christmas, Sylvia invited some of her more adventurous knitting friends to join her in the “Bubbles Brigade”. She gave each Brigade member a kit for Lucy Neatby’s Bubbles Scarf, accompanied by this note:

“You are a member of the Bubbles Brigade. All meetings are called when necessary and knitting strategy is planned over a bottle of champagne.”

The Brigade includes: Sylvia, Joan, Carol, Gerrie, Marty, Cynthia, and me.

Lucy Neatby, as you may know, is a renowned knit designer and instructor. If you haven’t yet, you must visit Lucy’s website. And I strongly encourage you to check out her blog, “Happy Stitches”. And, hey, take a class from her too!

You will quickly see that she’s crazy about double knitting. Her Bubbles Scarf is a fantastically clever example of this intriguing technique.

Now, none of the members of the BB had tried double knitting prior to this project. But we are all game! My first effort at the scarf was a few weeks ago, when I started the swatch. I got up to row 6, then I put it aside for other, more pressing projects. Because this is the first time I’ve tried double knitting, it took a fair amount of concentration. But I can see that with practice it will become more natural and logical.

The first “official” meeting of the Bubbles Brigade was earlier this week at Gerrie’s house. The meeting began with the obligatory toasting with champagne.

Then a lunch of chili and cornbread. Dessert was cookies from Mary’s Kitchen Port in Traverse City. Then we knitted. And knitted some more.

Of all the members, Sylvia has made the most progress on her scarf. She graciously shared many of her hints and tips (i.e., mistakes) with those of us taking up the rear.

Sylvia’s accomplishment:

Joan’s beginnings:

Gerrie’s start:

I’m headed to Mischicot, Wisconsin for the weekend. For travel knitting, I’m taking my “Tattoo” sweater with me. When I return, I promise to spend some time knitting bubbles…and maybe drinking some bubbles too.