Monday, November 19, 2012

Fingerless Mitts

Here they are!! Finished fingerless mitts!! They are a touch big but will be very warm due to all the stranding. The pattern I used is called "Ravens in the Snow". It can be found on Ravelry. It was a fun knit. I did make a couple of changes. Instead of finishing the mitt top and thumb with a garter stitch border (per pattern) I opted to finish both with a k2,p2 ribbing instead. I then bound off in pattern with the contrasting color. When I was picking up stitches for the thumb I picked up 4 extra stitches instead of the 2 the pattern called for. This closed up the gusset gap very nicely. These extra stitches were decreased out a row later. I had messed up the colorwork pattern on the cuff of one mitt but was able to fix my mistake with duplicate stitch. I finished both mitts by blocking with steam.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Ravens in the Snow

Thought I would share the progress I'm making on my fingerless mitts. Only five more rows to go before I get to put stitches on a holder for the thumb.

The first photo is of the mitt front.....the second of the thumb gusset (isn't it pretty!)......the last one of the mitt back.

I have learned so much with this project. I have learned how to do a lifted increase using two different colors. I have learned how to do a two color long-tail cast on. Most important of all, I think, is that I learned how to read a chart for stranded colorwork that includes a thumb gusset. The book "Charts Made Simple" was a huge help. It explained all the empty squares on either side of the gusset near the bottom. If the stitches were actually charted then they would look distorted, something that really made sense once I got into the actual knitting of the gusset itself. That's when I could see the relation of everything and the chart really made sense.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Something Shiny

Not really but it has the same way of distracting you. That one pattern that no matter how hard you try you keep thinking of it.......dreaming of it.......seeing it everywhere. The only way to get any piece is to cave and cast on. Oh the exquisite joy of casting on and knitting those first few rows. It's so incredibly satisfying you start to wonder why you bother to have chocolate stashed all over the house. It's so hypnotic that you find yourself knitting the night away......even though you were utterly exhausted only hours earlier. That is this pattern....something shiny. :)

The pattern Is "Ravens in the Snow". The yarn being used is handspun. The cream colored (natural color) is a shetland/alpaca blend. The blue is a hand-dyed shetland. The knitting is fun. Just challenging enough to hold my attention but not so challenging that it has the ability to become frustrating. I've learned so much.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Suri, suri, and more suri

 .....with a bit of shetland thrown in.  Thought I would share photos of  my latest spin/knit projects. The first couple of photos are of Olivia. Olivia is knit from suri alpaca yarn. Her nose is needle-felted using suri alpaca and she is stuffed with alpaca fiber (huacaya). Olivia has button joints (except for her head) and is a whopping 4" tall sitting.

Her little sweater was knit using a few different sample skeins of hand-dyed shetland wool. The sweater has a crocheted trim on it and closes with a small heart shaped button. Her bow was also knit from hand-dyed shetland.

While Olivia is not perfect, she was a really fun knit. She now resides in a small square display case.

The next photos are of the Raha scarf I knit for a friend. It is a piece of Estonian lace. Suri alpaca hand-spun yarn in natural colors was used for it. I chose to make the ends assymetrical to "match" the assymetrical coloring of the scarf itself. It blocked beautifully. Has lovely drape. And my friend absolutely adores it. Especially since the fiber is from some of her beautiful suri alpacas.

The last two photos are of a small neck scarf that I made for a friend. This one was a learning experience for me. I learned that while 100% suri handspun yarn is a dream to work with, it has no give. None whatsoever. Which meant the finished neck scarf didn't block out like I was hoping it
would. The points got lost. Even though I wasn't real pleased with the way the neck scarf turned out, the recipient of it absolutely loved it.....and that's the important thing. :)


Sunday, September 30, 2012

So busy!!!!

I can't believe how long it has been since I last posted (June!!). Things have been so busy around here. Seems like summer has gone by in a blink of the eye. Hay has been brought in (and is slowly being put up in the barn). Wood has been delivered (and still needs to be split and stacked in the woodshed). My new Suri boys were brough home yesterday (already posted about that) and are settling in nicely. I've become an aspiring spindle maker. Not only can my spindles be found in my etsy shop, but they can also be found at a local shop (COLCA Fashions) that sells very beautiful alpaca clothing, accessories, fiber, and yarn. Added bonus of visiting the can also visit with a few of the hundred Suri Alpacas that live there. The new cria are super cute, too.  :)             

Currently I made 3 types of spindles....akha spindles, navajo spindles, and Svan spindles. The akha and Svan spindles can be found in my etsy shop and the local shop. The navajo spindles are only available locally. Didn't want to have to deal with shipping them due to their size.
  How did I get started in spindle making? Well, there were a few reasons. One was the lack of options for some of the the navajo. And then when I did find a navajo spindle I liked, it arrived with the shaft broken in several different places. Although the maker did send another one (which arrived with a slightly warped shaft), there was no way I was going to go through the expense and hassle of trying to obtain a second one (which I really wanted). So I blew off the dust on my navajo weaving book (which gave very brief instructions on how to make a navajo spindle) and proceeded to make my own.....of which I'm really happy with. I was able to find a local source that carries a wonderful selection of wood and discovered that I really enjoyed making them.
The other reason (and the biggest) for my venturing into spindle making....I got tired of being told "no custom orders". Or of having to wait weeks on end for a spindle only to find out that what is being shipped isn't what you had ordered. The biggest culprit......having to deal with spindle makers who will only put up a couple of spindles for sale and then enjoy watching as potential buyers fight over them. I have even come across particular spindle makers who not only encourage this type of behavior, but think it's very amusing. Then there are those spindle makers who decide that they are so good that they can choose who they want to sell to. And I mustn't forget those spindle makers who feel they are so superior that they won't bother responding to an inquiry. You would think that spindle makers would want to make their product as accessible and affordable as possible.  I mean, really, to sell a drop spindle with a very pronounced wobble for $150......what are they thinking????? And what was the person who purchased it thinking??  "I got a ------- spindle!!" Really?? Is owning a spindle due to the name really worth paying that much for an inferior spindle?? And that is why I decided to try my hand at making spindles anyway.
The akha spindles came around because the only maker I found was in Canada. So I did some research, studied all the photos and videos I could find.......and my version of the akha was born. I like having a point on one end so I can use it supported instead of suspended like it is traditionally used. It's a very fun spindle to use and made spinning cotton a dream!
The Svan spindle was a custom request from a spinner in Ireland. She had recently visited Georgia (the country not the state) and fell in love with the supported spindles they were using. She sent me a photo and the Svan was born. I have to admit, that even though this is a rather large spindle (14" long), I really love using it. It's a dream to spin on and can easily hold 2 ounces of fiber. It's  amazing how often I reach for mine....and mine is the proto-type!! The Svans I make now have a slenderer tip for flicking and seem to spin forever. While mine does seem like it wants to spin forever, the flicking tip isn't as slender. I've been toying with the idea of going back and re-working that.
Since I have started my adventures in spindle making, I have acquired a scroll saw (which I love using) and a mini-lathe. I'm currently in the process of setting up a small wood working area in the barn so I can start learning how to use my mini lathe. I can't wait to start turning my own spindles! I have also dabbled with hand carving and am in the process of finishing up my first hand carved phang. I can say for sure that I won't be offering up any hand carved spindles for sale. It's just way too labor (and time) intensive. I just had the very strong desire to make a phang spindle by hand. I chose to carve mine out of hemlock because it is a fairly soft wood and easy to work with (relatively speaking).

Aramus and Porthos.......

.....are my new Suri alpaca boys. They were brought home yesterday afternoon. After the initial "meet and greet" with the rest of the group, they spent the rest of the afternoon chasing kittens in the barnyard. They are very curious about everything!! They will spend the next week in the barnyard getting to know their new home....and me!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

In Full Bloom (photo intense)

 It's been super rainy around here with cooler temperatures....and the gardens have been loving it. Things are in full bloom around here. It's so pretty to look at.

This climbing rose started out as two teacup rose bushes. Unfortunately they didn't make it through one hard winter, but the root stock did. Which ended up being climbers. My hubby put two slightly curved iron trellises in this year to help tame the roses. They wanted to "reach out and touch you" every time you walked by. The two trellises together measure about 6' high and 4' wide.....and are nearly covered. The rose bushes have just taken off and are now filled with small red roses. Really pretty!! Surprisingly the columbine that has decided to make its home at the base of the rose bushes is thriving as well.

Wish I could say that things are all peaches and cream in my garden, but they are not. A pesky pocket gopher has decided to move in. So far he has eaten my larkspur plant (only left two small leaves and a few buds), and the complete root system off of two hollyhock plants. I have replaced the lost plants and so far they have been left alone. Looks like he has now taken up residence in the irises. So far all the plants are intact. Hopefully we can get rid of him before he does any more damage.

The hummingbirds have been absolutely loving the garden. All their favorite flowers are now in full bloom. It's amazing to watch them go from flower to flower. Some afternoon I will spend some time outside with my camera and see if I can't get some nice photos of the hummingbirds while they are feeding. The past week it's been too wet and too overcast to really be spending any time outside.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The wonderful world of spindles.......

Bead spindle with myrtle wood bowl spindles that is!!! I know it's been a while....okay a long time.....since I've last posted, but I've been enjoying my foray into the world of support spindles. It all started out innocently enough. Watch a few videos on youtube........sow the seeds of more those seeds have taken off and are starting to a few more videos. Boom!! Before you know it those tiny seeds of fascination are running rampant and you just have to give it a try yourself.

Orenburg Russian Spindle
Santos Rosewood Tabachek Russian Spindle
Now to look for a spindle. There are so many to choose from!! Which one do you start with? Some spinners will tell you to start with a tibetan. It's easier. Others will tell you to start with a Russian. It's easier. Me. How did I decide? That was simple. I liked how the Russian spindle looked and I was able to find one that really appealed to me. Hence, my Tabachek Russian spindle made from Santos Rosewood. Really beautiful spindle! Feels wonderful in my hand and spins like a dream! Unfortunately that wasn't the support spindle that I started playing with. The first support spindle I played with was a bead spindle I made using a bamboo skewer (and not a very straight one at that) and a few beads that I had laying around (pictured above with a myrtle wood dish that I found at the local thrift shop for a quarter).

While the first support spindle I had purchased was my Tabachek it took a while for it to arrive since it was coming from Canada. I was getting antsy and really wanted to try my hand at support spindling. After all, by this time I had watched literally hours of video on how to do it. So the bead spindle was born. It was a great thing to play with and learn on. By the time my Tabachek arrived I was more than ready to try my new skills out on a Russian spindle. Spent hours with my new Tabachek. The first ounce spun up rather quickly and I was real pleased with how it turned out. The second ounce is still a work in progress. You see, I had caught the dreaded bug "spindle-itis" and just had to add a few more support spindles to the ones I already had.

Enid Ashcroft Tibetan Spindle
The next spindle to join my small, but growing collection, was my Orenburg spindle. I was browsing threads on one of my Ravelry groups when I came across a thread on the Orenburg museum. While I was reading it I came across a post that was offering up traditional Orenburg spindles as a way of fund-raising for the museum. Well that really peaked my interest. So I did a little bit of research and decided that I simply had to have an Orenburg spindle of my own. I have to confess that I was a touch disappointed when my Orenburg spindle did arrive. It was very rough and the fiber kept getting caught on the it didn't spin very well. The rough part was a rather easy fix. Spent some time going over the spindle with steel wool until it was satiny smooth. Then I stained it with a light colored stain to protect the wood and give it a touch of color. It still didn't want to spin very well so my hubby took a look at it. Turned out there was a couple of burrs on the metal tip. He smoothed them out and now it spins like a dream.  :,)

The next spindle that was added to my growing collection was a tibetan spindle that was made by Enid Ashcroft. It is an absolutely beautiful spindle and spins like a dervish! It has got the longest spin time of any of my support spindles....close to 45 seconds naked. The whorl and matching lap bowl are made of spalted beech. The shaft is made from African Blackwood. While it is a beautiful spindle to look at and spin on, I find that I actually have a preference for Russian spindles and wanted another one.

GrippingYarn Ebony Rose Spindle
Well, the next spindle to find its way home wasn't another Russian spindle, but a beautiful ebony Rose spindle made by GrippingYarn. I had heard about her spindles on Ravelry and had browsed her site several times. The Rose really caught my eye. It is actually a hybrid spindle. A cross between a Russian spindle (bottom half of spindle) and a French spindle (top half of spindle). What makes the Rose so unique is that you can use it as more than a support spindle. You can use it as a hand-held spindle and , if you purchase the copper cap, as a drop spindle. I also love the sleek shape of it. The top of the shaft has a corkscrew type groove in it (typically found on the tops of French spindles) that your single falls into and makes spinning off the tip so much easier. I like to use it as a hand-held spindle when I'm first starting off and creating my leader. Once my leader is created and I have the beginnings of a cop then I prefer using it as a support spindle. I find it easy to flick and it has a nice spin time. I can spend hours spinning with it. It's that effortless. I did try spinning with it using the copper cap as a drop spindle. I really prefer to use it either hand-held or supported.

The last spindle to join my small collection is yet another bead spindle that I made for myself on Mother's Day. All my support spindles had fiber on them and I was in the mood to play with a support spindle. So I made a new one.  :,) This one has stone bead in the center with a metal bead on either side. The shaft is a bit larger than a bamboo skewer and not as long (about 9" from tip to tip). It also weighs more....about 3/4 of an ounce. Once again I chose something to use as a shaft (chopstick) that wasn't very straight so the finished spindle has a pretty good wobble when you are using it. Still spins pretty darn good considering.

Of course this isn't the end of my support spindle acquisition. On its way are two more lovely Tabachek Russian spindles in walnut. One is a 'regular' spindle, the other a plying spindle. I love my first Tabachek so much that I just had to have at least one more. Here's the thing with Tabachek spindles case you decide that you just have to have one as well......they are very difficult to find. As of the writing of this post, Mr. Tabachek hasn't been in his workshop since last August due to health issues. So once the very few Tabachek spindles that are still available are gone that's it until Mr. Tabachek health issues have been resolved and he is able to return to his beloved workroom.

Now if you find that the Rose is rather appealing and is calling your name, then do look up GrippingYarn and browse her site. Her spindles are absolutely stunning and a dream to spin with. I have recently placed an order with her for two more being another Rose spindle, the other a Russian spindle. I know. I'm bad. I simply can't help myself.  :,) I find support spindling to be utterly and totally relaxing, fun, and very addictive!!

home-made stone bead spindle

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

April Showers..........

........bring really dramatic April rainbows! Here is a picture of a double rainbow that appeared after a thunderstorm rolled through. You can barely see the colors of the second rainbow in the upper left hand corner of the photo. I know. It's probably just the reflection of the main rainbow off of water crystals or something like that. Either way it was very,very pretty.  The colors were really bright, vibrant, and clear. If you look real close at the trees at the bottom of the rainbow, you can actually see the rainbow through the trees. It was really amazing to see. I was out in the rain taking photos because it was just so spectacular. Well worth days of rain and the season's first thunderstorm.

It's been quite some time since I've posted on my blog. Things got kinda crazy around here.....both with my kids and with the farm. The shearer for the camelids came. Only had one llama sheared this year. I opted to hold off on having any of the alpaca done. I'm curious to see what they look like with two years growth on them. Besides their fiber just looked really short. Even the shearer thought they looked short. So he had an easy day with us. Trimming toe nails and trimming teeth on those that needed it.

I was hoping to have started shearing my sheep by now. Unfortunately it's on hold until all my clipper blades come back from the sharpener....who has had them for closes to a month now. When we checked on them we were told that he's been too busy to even look at them.....and are we in a hurry for them? We only have sheep starting to roo out!! His response..... "well, I will try to have them done and ready for you to pick up in about two weeks." Two weeks!!! I'm afraid that by then most of my fleeces will be hanging off of trees, fence posts, and anything else the sheep can rub against. I've been toying with the idea of roo'ing my sheep by hand....but they aren't real crazy about standing still and having me pull their fleece out. I've been picking on poor Charlie. He's ready though. He's roo'ed out his head and is working on his neck.  There are two or three others who are like Charlie. The rest, thankfully, are still in full fleece and aren't showing any signs of roo'ing.

Onto spinning.....been playing with my Jenkins Delight turkish spindle. I'm in the process of spinning up 4 ounces of a merino/tussah silk blend (colorway - Autumn) on it. Pictured is my first two cops already wound into center pull balls ready for spindle with another cop in progress, and the fiber I'm spinning. Below is pictured my first skein of yarn. I plyed it on my Spindlewood square drop spindle. There is about 304 yards of a fine fingering weight 2-ply yarn. The skein weighs one ounce. Needless to say, I'm real pleased with the yardage. I've already got another center pull ball ready and am working on another nice sized cop. I know I can fit more fiber on my spindle than what I do. The problem is it starts to feel too heavy and I feel like I'm either putting too much twist into my single......or it's getting heavier in size. So I tend to spin smaller amounts. I feel it keeps my yarn more even and the spinning is more enjoyable for me. I'm hoping to end up with enough yardage for a pretty lace shawl.