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Archive for May, 2011


High fiber diet…

Dear Jan,

Perhaps you ate burgers and brats over the holiday weekend, but I had a diet very high in fiber.  It featured a mixed blend in a (nearly) finished object, a lovely mousse of fiber puffs, and some silky smooth iced Tee.

18.jpgHave I mentioned how wonderful Berroco Blackstone Tweed is between your fingers?  The blend of wool, mohair, and angora is super soft.  You’d think I would have finished Hazelnuss long ago.  Well, she is all done except the weaving in of ends and adding of buttons.  Here is her neckline – I added a row of crab stitch (single crochet done from left to right, backwards kind of) to the recommended row of single crochet.  I think the improvised edge (shown on the right side) is much nicer.  The fit is fine on this sweater, but the photos I took to show the fit were not.  I’ll make sure and get some better ones when I have her really truly complete.

142.jpg152.jpgFor an airy little confection, feast your eyes on those fibers I was washing the other day, now all combed up and ready to be spun.  The Suffolk (grey) really could have used another wash to get a bit more grease out – it is kind of sticky and resisted combing, but oh, is it spinning up nicely to a super-fine singles.  I’m still deciding on whether it wants to be 2 or 3 ply.  The Welsh Mountain (black) is sturdy but silky, softer than I expected, and the Dorset Horn combed out so easily, with very little waste.

39.jpg 53.jpgNext on the menu was some Teeswater roving – what smooth and silky stuff this was!  And can you believe that luster?  I spun a fairly fine single planning to use a chain-plying method to make a 3-ply.  In this method, also known as Navajo-plying, you make what amounts to a chain of loops like slip stitch in crochet except each loop is as long as you can make it. This allows you to get 3 plies off a single bobbin and works great – except that this time the yarn didn’t want to bend!  Instead of disappearing into the yarn, each chain intersection popped apart.

132.jpg161.jpgI switched to 2-ply, winding some of the singles off onto a spare bobbin and then plying them back on each other.  The 2-ply is on the left and the 3-ply on the right – you can see how much rounder the 3-ply is and how the 2-ply doesn’t control the singles as well so there is more halo.  Each has their own charm.

25.jpgAs does Selkie.

Have a productive and short week!

Love,

Ellen

Cleaning up my act…

Dear Jan,

I know you are endlessly fascinated with my fiber processing posts, so here, for your pleasure, a new take on fleece washing.

I’m continuing with the Rare Breeds Challenge via the Spin Doctor podcast, and I have all these little samples of fleece to process.  Recently, I heard a debate over which scouring (grease and filth soap) agents were best, and someone mentioned that plain old really hot water did an equivalent job.  I loved the simplicity, so set out to try a few of my samples with this approach.

121.jpgWe have here (top to bottom) Dorset Horn, Suffolk, and Welsh Mountain, ranging from most to least greasy and a fair approximation of the range of fleeces I’m likely to wash.  All I did was fill the bowls with very hot tap water, submerge the fleece, then top them up with boiling water from the tea kettle.  Soak a bit, remove and drain the fleeces a bit, repeat.  The last of 3 times, I actually put the bowl in the sink, then poured an entire kettle of boiling water right into the middle of the fleece, causing the steaming water to flow through the fiber and over the edge of the bowl.

131.jpg141.jpg111.jpgIt seemed fairly successful, the fibers remain fluffy (not felted, as some may have worried about what with flowing water and all), and if it weren’t for kiddens opening the bathroom door, opening the shower door, and dragging the newly washed fluff around the house, we’d all be pretty happy.

17.jpg(Here is the chief culprit (Poison has mastered doorknobs), trying to escape my wrath by looking adorable and performing party tricks like walking on the frame of our canopy bed.  It worked.)

20.jpg24.jpg43.jpgI did finish up a sample skein last night – this one is Clun Forest.  What an incredibly filthy fleece – look at the garbage in there as I lash it onto the mini-combs.  And the grit in the lap cloth (even some tiny pebbles!) that fell out as I combed.

38.jpg52.jpg72.jpg8.jpgOne-two-three-four passes and it transformed into a gorgeous white puff, though, which spun like a dream right off the mini-combs.  I chain-plied it to an incredibly elastic 3-ply.  This would make awesome gloves.  I may need to order some more fleece, but I’ll ask them to try to find a sheep that doesn’t roll around in the dirt so much!

Time for me to go roll around – Wilson wants to go on a bike ride before it starts raining again.

Love,

Ellen

Cleveland Rocks!!!

Hey, Jan,

15.jpgIt sure was fun to spend the weekend in Cleveland with you.  And all the rest of the family.  After our visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame I have been breaking out in song all week.

22.jpgThe memories of Craig and Lauren tearing up during their wedding ceremony are so wonderful.  And seeing another joyous ceremony presided over by Patty brought back wonderful memories of Karen and Brandon’s day.

32.jpgBecause I know our readers enjoy the mushy pictures of you and Dale, I’ve included one from the reception.  Such lovebirds!

71.jpg61.jpgAnd more birds in our neighborhood.  Wilson calls them tiny dinosaurs.  This is why we keep the kiddens safely cuddled in our arms and away from the fearsome geese.

42.jpg51.jpgNow I’m back into the work week, trying to fit some knitting and spinning into the evenings.  I finished the second sleeve to my Hazelnuss on the way home from the airport.  And Monday night was blocking night.  That is two sleeves stacked for steam blocking, so they will be identical in size.

16.jpg23.jpgAnd I’ve gotten some wool washed up – the breed is Clun Forest, and from the amount of filth in the fleece I’m pretty sure they just roll around on the floor of the forest.  Happily, the fleece washes up and then combs out quite nicely.  I have about an ounce to play with, and now that it is clean it looks like it will be a nice spin.

Time for me to spin off to bed, though.  I hope your week in San Diego is going well!

Love,

Ellen

Yikes! I’m Not Ready

Dear Ellen,

dsc02719.JPGdsc02721.JPGI’m supposed to be almost packed for the wedding, but as you can tell I’ve been spending my time catching up elsewhere.  I have to get busy.  At least the shrug is knit and blocked, but not seamed.  I do love the way the fabric turned out.  Worst case, I’ll use the mending kit from the hotel room.  You can take pictures so I can post an FO picture later — probably much later as I’ll leave the wedding and head straight to San Diego for a week of meetings.  See you soon!!!

Love, Jan

Step Up to Better Beer

dsc02709.JPGDear Ellen,

Well, stepping up to better beer is a very good idea, don’t you think?  I’ll tell you that it was good idea for us to meet some new friends in Lancaster at the Lancaster Brewing Company.  Ed and Ellen are building a home near ours with the same builder.  We had lots to talk about.  Coincidentally, much was centered on the quality of the dsc02706.JPGdsc02708.JPGfine beer and food that we enjoyed while visiting this fine establishment.  When you visit we will make sure to put LBC on our agenda.  Their sampler tray (13 5 oz. samples for $15) was VERY enjoyable and the Amish Four Grain was one of my favorites.

Love, Jan

Knitting for Little Ones

Dear Ellen,

dsc02718.JPGI’m having quite a good time knitting up a little pair of overalls for a good friend’s baby due in July.  I am truly enjoying it — the pattern is sweet (will be smocked at the top and at the leg edges), the yarn is wonderful (Crazy Monkey Gorilla Toes in Pretty Ribbons), and best yet Carolyn and Don have been trying to have a child for years so there is lots of joy in every stitch.  The pattern has fixed length straps, but I’m going to modify that so she can use these over several sizes.  More to come.

dsc02723.JPGOn a less pleasurable note, it turns out I’ve knit some socks for a young girl.  I don’t know which young girl, but I do know it’s not me.  Remember the Cushy Cables Socks?  Well, the label does say handwash, but I’ve become so cavalier about throwing my socks in the washer, it didn’t even register.  The socks are still quite lovely — and even cushier!  But now I’d say they should fit about a 5-8 year old who has REALLY loose shoes…or they’d be great slipper socks or bed socks for a little one who can’t keep her feet warm.  Maybe even a tiny adult…maybe I’ll bring them to Sock Summit to see if anyone we come across fits the bill.  The picture shows them against medium sized sock blockers.  Sigh!  I did get to wear them once…and they were SO comfortable.  I’ll use Socrates again, but will pay heed to the handwash instructions.

Love, Jan

In Bruges

dsc02635.JPG…okay, so it wasn’t Bruges, but it was close.

Dear Ellen,

dsc02601.JPGdsc02616.JPGI spent last week in Europe as U.S. representative to the NATO Command Control Consultation Board.  It sounds pretty fancy-pants, and I have to admit the simultaneous translations via earwig is pretty cool, but the board sessions quickly become very dry and, yes, boring.  On the other hand, Brussels is very interesting!  Great scenery, great food, great chocolate…all in great supply.  The Grand Place was having a plant sale that added some great color to our photos.  We ate in a restaurant with a sheep mosaic on its walls.  dsc02618.JPGdsc02608.JPGOn our walkabouts we came across really cool costume ideas…and the infamous mannequin pis.  You can find this little guy made out of chocolate, various gummy candies and imprinted on everything from beer steins to mouse pads. 

dsc02716.JPGdsc02717.JPGAs usual, I did some knitting on the airplane…finished up the first sock of a pair based on the flame stitch pattern.  It has some “love” in it…a clever term a friend uses to refer to mistakes that she has decided can go uncorrected.  The pattern was tricky to convert to a full chart and I was tired.  No one will really notice.  I was glad to get home, but I head out again on Friday for Ohio…the second sock will get some good attention on that trip!

Love, Jan

Galloping through the month…with Dr. Yarn!

Dear Jan,
picture-12.pngThis weekend seemed a bit empty with no major horse race to follow.  I guess the horses deserve a week off before they have to run the Preakness, but after all the colorful silks and beautiful animals of last weekend, this weekend could have seemed a bit dull.  Luckily, Dr. Yarn entertained me with some news about the future of the Derby,  and how it may involve knitters.

Our font of wisdom reports:

___________________________________________

To my editors at TwinSet:

This  letter came from Lexington, KY, so it deserves an answer while the Kentucky Derby is still fresh in our minds.
Q. Is there any truth in the rumor that the rose blanket used for the winner of the Kentucky Derby will be changed to a knitted blanket of poppies next year?
A. It wasn’t supposed to get out yet but Wikileaks has no shame.  There has been a lot of high-level talk about it, and I must admit I have been contacted.  Roses have been associated with the Derby for 127 years, and now many are thinking we need a change. Some say  the rose blanket got started from the War of the Roses, but that was a long time ago and we can’t be certain.

Because we have had so many other wars recently, I think knitted poppies, like those from Flanders Field, would take the Kentucky Derby in a new direction. Horses and wars have a long association (wouldn’t the Derby be interesting if the jockeys had to ride inside the horse, like they did in the Trojan War?  or how about in full armour as in the medieval wars?). Please don’t say I said so, but a blanket of knitted poppies has a good chance of needling its way in.

Do keep this special intelligence under your hat (knitted, of course) for a while.

Dr. Yarn

______________________________________

Hmm, this may prove to be as controversial as Dr. Yarn’s last column, in which he advocates a catch-and-release program for wool moths.  Please remember I am merely the messenger!

Love,

Ellen

Almost a Reality

Dear Ellen,

dsc02654.JPGFeel free to skip over this post if you are particularly susceptible to envy.  Just remember that we want to share this with all of our friends and family and maybe you won’t feel too badly about it.

Love, Jan

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May Flowers

Dear Ellen,

dscf1255.JPGdscf1247.JPGdscf1277.JPGI’ve had the good fortune of seeing my offspring a few times this month.  Allen brought Libby down to Fair Winds so we could meet her and have a picnic together.  We liked her quite a lot.  She fit right in and seemed to enjoy dscf1246.JPGdscf1245.JPGdscf1257.JPGthe hiking about the woods as much as we did.  I love seeing the woods wake up from their winter nap.  Everything is quite green with loads of May Apples and ferns, and if you watch, a few jacks-in-the pulpit.  Lots of violets are out there too…as well as some other creatures.  Allen and Dale had quite a good deal of fun pulling vines out of trees.

dsc02596.JPGbright-eyes.jpgprofile-view.jpgMarie and Heidi made it to Alexandria a few times this month.  One visit was just in time to catch Allen here and to have Mother’s Day breakfast together — on Saturday since I was leaving for Europe in the afternoon.  Marie shared these cute photos of the baby for whom she knit her first “more than a garter stitch scarf” project.  I think she did a great job and the baby seems quite happy to wear her sunny bonnet.

I’ll pop up a few more posts this week…quite the backlog as I’ve been so busy the last few weeks.

Love, Jan