Saturday, March 28, 2015

Lucy, Knit Repair, and Re-Mastering a Technique

I’d like to share three vignettes today.


Every Spring since 2008, I have purchased raw fleeces from Marie Glaesseman. She and her husband have a small flock of mixed breed sheep. They live near Duluth. They care for their animals. The fleeces are sheared well. Then they are skirted well. The result is beautiful, healthy, fun-to-work-with wool.

Every Spring since 2008, I have purchased Lucy’s fleece. Lucy is a mix of Romney, Corriedale, and Border Leicester: a truly lovely medium grey fleece with wavy, long locks . But Lucy is no more. Marie informed me that Lucy died this winter. I am sad. I have spun and knitted a lot of Lucy’s wool. I have shared Lucy’s wool in many workshops. I have just a bit of last year’s wool left. I will make something special with it. For myself.

Knit Repair

My friend, Sylvia VM, recently asked me to get her out of a knitting jam. She’s working on a knit-in-the-round sweater with an intriguing cable pattern going up the front and back. Somehow, 8 stitches dropped off the needle. Those stitches unraveled about 6-8 rows. She wanted me to fix it. I said sure. I started messing with it and then started getting a headache. Some of the dropped stitches had unraveled just a couple rows, while others unraveled 8 rows. There were a couple of moving 3-stitch cables. Gah!

I very quickly suggested that she just rip out the sweater 8 rounds and re-knit. Now, this would not have been a problem for me. I’m a pretty fast knitter, and ripping out is not the psychological trauma for me that is for some. Sylvia was appalled. She pointed out that she’d added the sleeves, and that each round was now over 300 stitches. OK, no ripping.

I’m not sure what exactly happened next. Sylvia said something that woke up my brain. It instantly became clear to me that all I had to do was unravel all 8 stitches all the way down to the 8th round. Then I simply re-knit each horizontal strand, following the cable pattern, starting with the bottom most strand. It took less than 5 minutes to fix the problem.

And then it occurred to me that I could use a similar approach to mending a hole in an Aran cabled sweater that has been sitting in my To-Do pile for way too long. I will make the hole bigger, take some spare yarn, and knit the first row with one strand of yarn, leaving long ends on both left and right for weaving in ends. Cut the yarn. Knit the second row with a second strand. And so forth. Of course, this is currently a mental exercise. We’ll see if theory and reality agree.

Re-Mastering a Technique

I’m working on a couple articles for Spin-Off magazine for their Fall 2015 issue. One article is a how-to about a couple of gently textured yarns. These yarns are spun from regular Z-spun singles. The plying causes the texture.

I’ve been making these yarns for years. And I’ve taught these techniques in many workshops. And I use them in my knit designs. I thought I’d just sit down and spin a few new samples of the yarns.

For some reason, I could not make one of them work (I’m being vague on purpose). I ended up spinning and plying FIVE crappy skeins of yarn. Five! I tried changing all sorts of things: the thickness of the singles, the amount of twist in singles, the wheel I used for the singles as well as for the plying. I re-read my old notes. I looked at my previous samples and knitted items. Why was I able to make this yarn then but not now?

I am happy to report that I had a breakthrough and figured it out. The plying required a strong take-up tension, but I was going overboard. When I reduced the take-up tension a very small amount, all was right with the world. And this yarn. Thank goodness!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Out of Hibernation

This winter has been cold. Really, really cold. I love winter. I love snow. But as my friend, Sylvia, says, the cold has been “inconvenient”. So, I’ve holed up at home more than I normally would. I felt a bit frozen, figuratively speaking. But now is seems that Spring may actually arrive. It's time to wake up.

While it was so cold, I got a good amount of work done, but I wasn’t blogging. I am thrilled that I’m getting more teaching and writing work. Assuming this keeps up, I suspect I won’t be able to blog as often as I’d like.

Things are happening and I want to share. For one thing, I had another article published in Spin-Off (Spring 2015): “Rug Hooking With Stash. Something Old, Something New.” I blogged last November about this project. Here’s a picture of the rug. I took this one. I must say that Spin-Off did a much better job with the photography.


I’ve got more writing for Spin-Off to do. That’s a good thing. More on that later.

I do want to mention some upcoming fiber events. Yes, I’m teaching at these events. But so are many other wonderful fiber arts instructors. If you’ve got an urge to travel for a fiber fix, try out one of these:

Interlochen College of Creative Arts is sponsoring a number of Spring and Summer fiber workshops as part of their Adult Arts Programs. I’m teaching spinning in May and August, but there are also other workshops in knitting, weaving, felting, and dyeing. And, yes, there are classes in many other art forms. Check it out!

Spring Fiber Fling is a weekend event at a charming church camp in Pickford, Michigan. That’s in the Upper Peninsula. The event is held the weekend after Mother’s Day, May 15-17. You can find a pdf of the brochure on the Facebook page of the Country Spinners & Bridge Shuttlers Guild  I’m teaching two half-day workshops: “The Surprising Yarn-Over” and “Ply This Way, Ply That Way”.

Later in May, I travel to Burlington, Ontario to be part of “Panoply”, the Ontario Handweavers & Spinners Conference. This event holds two “firsts” for me: my first teaching gig outside the USA, and my first time as a keynote speaker. Oh, and I’m teaching a new workshop: “Spinning Wools of North America”.

June 5-7, I’ll be teaching at the Michigan League of Handweavers Summer Conference  “Spinning With Silk Hankies” and “Spinning and Knitting Goat Fibers”. While I’m there, I may well take the opportunity to take a class from the wonderful Kate Larson.

In July, I travel to Pennsylvania for the Mid Atlantic Fiber Association 2015 Conference. I’m teaching “Playing With Plying”. I’ve taught at MAFA a couple times and have enjoyed it. The line up of instructors this year is impressive. I’d be tempted to attend this event to take classes if I weren’t scheduled to teach!

August is the month for the Michigan Fiber Festival. I’m scheduled to teach “Spinning & Knitting Energized Singles”, “Beginning Spinning on the Wheel”, “Mechanics of Your Wheel”, and “Variations on Short Draw.” Registration is not open yet, but will be soon.

And September is the month for the Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival. I’m breathlessly waiting to hear what workshops of mine they’ve chosen.

In October, I travel to Chautauqua, New York for my first time at the Eastern Great Lakes Fiber Conference. I’m teaching “Beginning Spinning on the Wheel” and “Spinning With Commercial Yarns”. Hey, any festival with “Great Lakes” in the title has got to be awesome. Right?

So, you see I’m busy. I’ll do my best to avoid letting my blog languish.