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Twins bound by a love of knitting talk about knitting and more.

Archive for August, 2012


What do crop art, fancy pigeons, and butter sculptures have in common?

Dear Jan,

I’m sure you know that the Minnesota State Fair is the answer to the question above.

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The crop art was outstanding this year.  Not only are the sentiments expressed in the senior division winner*, “November”, fully resonant with my views,…

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…but the detail, all executed in seeds, resonates with my love of precision work.

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And the art of brewing resonates, too!  New this year in the Ag Building, flights of local craft beers.  Wilson drank the sweet ones, I drank the hoppy ones, and we both enjoyed it very much.

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Part of the art of sculpting a bust of one of our galaxy of Princesses Kay of the Milky Way (the title is shared by about a dozen young dairy farmers), is keeping your model from having a literally frozen smile.  It doesn’t live up to my butter sculpture expectations, nor yours, I’m sure.  The annual butter cow at the Ohio State Fair is higher on my list, topped only by the one time appearance of the butter computer programmer.

I hope I have feigned enough interest in non-woolen aspects of the fair to be polite.  Let’s get on to why we are really here.

First, a banner year for firsts for me! I received 3 first place ribbons, one each for my Greek Swan and  Kai It, You’ll Like It socks…

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and one for my fingering weight yarn spun out of bison down.

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My apologies for the photos through glass.  I couldn’t help myself showing the full skein of yarn as it is my first ever spinning ribbon.  The yarn is a 2-ply spun from 50 g of bison down in a semi-woolen method.  It is yummy soft - I suspect that once the judge touched it s/he was under its spell and any spinning defects were not noticed.

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I did win 5 other ribbons - my handspun sweater, two more pairs of socks (big for me - previously my socks weren’t even good enough to judge!), my beaded wristers, and the Gima sweater all placed.  I believe I cover every place from 1st to 5th this year.  :-)

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Returning to the wooly pursuits, Wilson was a good sport and let me linger in the sheep barn where we saw Columbias and Lincoln Longwools and some other curly, oh, wait, that was in the pigeon barn.  We learned that they now are breeding pigeons to look like miniature sheep.  I believe that is what the breed standard says -  “feather structure similar to the lock structure of a Romney lamb”.

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Perhaps that isn’t 100% accurate, but I am 100% sure that this would be a stunning colorway.  Look at that teal around her neck, combined with the black and grey curls.

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And yet another colorway with eyes - this tan bunny whose ears glow so sweetly rosy behind the elegant two tone fur.  Erica, I hope you are taking notes.

After visiting the bunnies, we headed on home to plan for next year’s entries.

I’ll share another animal inspired yarn in a natural colorway in my next post. Until then, Happy Labor Day!

Love,

Ellen

*Laura Melnick’s comment on the upcoming state constitution amendments.  Two amendments - one against gay marriage and one that would change all sorts of voting procedures, all making it harder for legitimate voters to vote and none of which have any evidence that they are needed to decrease fraud.  Fraud which is nearly non-existent in MN.  So, thanks, Laura, for the humorous support for No votes on both!

Images from June

Dear Ellen,

I’ll never catch up with blog posts if I don’t cheat a bit…herewith, images from June during which I retired, we celebrated mightily, the magic shawl of joy was created and I found farm life to be just the ticket, even when it almost got washed away in one heck of a rain storm.  Ruby slept through it all.

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Love, Jan

Splash…

Dear Jan,

I may have fallen into a very fast flowing river.

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Yarn: 5-ply handspun Columba wool, woolen spun

Dye: Gaywool in color Aster

Method: Kettle-dyed

I believe I will soon be drowning in another fiber passion.

(Come on it, the water’s fine!)

Love,

Ellen

A fair start…

Dear Jan,

Erica’s comment on the last post reminded me that indeed I intended to enter a skein of my Columbia yarn in the state fair.  That meant a rush job on washing was needed.  No problem there, some good swishing in a sink with a gentle shampoo, lots of squishing and squeezing to full the yarn together, thwacking it and rolling it in a towel and we were almost ready.  Almost.  It wouldn’t do to deliver it in its still damp state, but I only had a few hours to get her nice and dry.

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Have I mentioned how much I love the warming drawer on our relatively new range?  Gentle heat, the drawer cracked for circulation, and it was all dried up, lickety split.

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I reskeined it for beauty and delivered it along with my other entries last Sunday.

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I’m very happy with the washed yarn.  SO sproingy!

I’ll let our readers in on what I did with the rest of those skeins very soon.  I am afraid it has turned out to be a treacherous undertaking…

Love,

Ellen

Starting the weekend with some finishes…

Hi, Jan,

Technically, I started the week with the admiration of this first finish - Lisa’s Swirl Spiral Scarf, during our Monday knit night. Yes, it is as luscious as it looks.

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She knit it out of Jade Sapphire cashmere, after all.  I’ll be dropping it off at the state fair this weekend for her as she is traveling, along with my Greek Swan which I finished well in time to medal for the Ravellenic Games.

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This hat, knit from a kit of merino/angora yarn hand-dyed by Solveig Gustafson to reproduce the original colors used in  Bohus Stickning haute couture knitwear, is in the original Bohus design Large Swan by Karin Ivarsson.

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Solveig has had kits available for The Swan for sometime now, but the Large Swan, a more complex design though still relatively simple by Bohus standards, has only recently been recreated.

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Another finish, just taken care of this morning, is all of the plying from those many storage bobbins of Columbia fleece singles.  Here is what I learned from all of this spinning:

  • Resting singles on storage bobbins is so helpful.  They are so much easier to handle after letting the twist set up for a while.
  • At 5 plies, the yarn is beautifully round and even (grist average over 14 skeins is 977 yds/lb with a standard deviation of 56 yds/lb).
  • I could have put more twist in the singles and would have been able to get an even tighter twist in the yarn, but it is sproingy as is.
  • Fiber prep is very important.  Second cuts and sections with significant vegetable matter must be culled mercilessly before washing and a second culling before carding.  It just isn’t worth saving a bit of fiber to have to fight with nepps and bits in the spinning.  Virtually every time I had an issue drafting, I could chalk it up to this sort of irregularity in the fiber.
  • When one hits a nepp in spinning, especially long draw woolen, just leave it.  I tore a bunch of them out, despite having heard Judith MacKenzie say to leave them, thinking it would make the yarn better.  It didn’t - it left a ratty bit in the singles.  I belive much of this will disappear when I wash and full the yarn, but next time I’m leaving them alone.

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Total yardage is 2,452 yds, plenty for a cabled sweater and the hat to go with it! The yarn isn’t finished completely.  There is still the washing and setting of the twist, and I believe I am going to kettle dye the whole bunch, too.

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I have another finish that makes me kind of sad - the finish of my row crops garden by this guy.  Yes, we have our very own grizzlyhog* (probably a whole den of them as I’ve seen two at once cavorting in the back yard).   Got any spare wolves you could send my way?

Love,

Ellen

* A groundhog** of unusual size.

** AKA woodchuck.

*** AKA whistle pig.

Max the Wonder Dog

He came to us in 2001, probably about a year to a year and a half old, off the streets of Naples.  Every day he was with us he showed us unconditional love.  He moved with us from Europe, to northern Virginia, to Norfolk, to Colorado, back to Virginia and finally to the farm where he loved to run and lie in the sun.  Today cancer caught up with him and we had to say goodbye.  We laid him to rest in one of his favorite spots.  We already miss him so much…the sweetest dog ever…the best dog ever.

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Sleep in peace, Max.  Good boy.

The power of the purl…

Dear Jan,

My Greek Swan, a Bohus reproduction of the Large Swan design, is coming along swimmingly, as befits a project inspired by waterfowl.

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Also fitting, given the sculptural beauty of a swan gliding across the water, is the way the many purl stitches in this design carve a 3-dimensional shape into the fabric.   Each feather motif pops forward because it is outlined by purl stitches.

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More purls surround the motifs that recall swan’s feet.  That the yarn used in the feet is  slightly heavier weight 100% wool yarn, rather than the angora/wool blend of the rest of the hat, further enhances the effect.

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My goal is to finish this up before the last swimming event is over, so I’ll sign off now and get on with it.  I hope you are making equally good progress on your Ravellenic projects!

Love,

Ellen

Say Hello to the Girls

Dear Ellen,

It seems the last six weeks went by so quickly — maybe because so much of it was spent sleeping.  No kidding, when we didn’t have something that had to get done (like tend to guests or drive to DC for Navy outprocessing appointments) I slept between 10 and 14 hours a day.  I’ve checked with several other friends who have retired from active duty in recent years and they too found a need to sleep for long stretches for weeks and even months before they finally “woke up” and felt rested. I think one reason is that for our entire military careers we are always on ready alert — that adrenaline is almost non-stop and we go into deep sleep deprivation as a result.  Doesn’t that inspire confidence in your senior military leadership for you?  Good.

I won’t say I feel totally rested yet, but I am a LOT closer!  I actually feel an urge to start tending to things I’ve been meaning to do for weeks.  Things like answering e-mail and writing thank you notes…and yes, even posting on our blog.  Dale is encouraging me to take more time as I start stepping towards reinvention, and I’ll do that, but I am going to start taking some small steps.  This post is one.  I’ll add more in the coming days to try to give a sense of what’s gone on in our lives the last 2 months and the knitting and fiber related activities in which I’ve indulged.  Don’t expect the coverage to be complete or chronological.  Hopefully it will be somewhat entertaining.

1-july-2012.jpgAnother reason I feel compelled to start posting is that I have to introduce you to the newest seven members of our family.  Only one has a name so far (Pinto — she has the biggest white spots and is in the picture at the top left and also the one to the right of it), but the rest will reveal their personalities in due course.  They love being held and stroked and it is so nice to just watch them scratch about their coop while making contented clucking sounds.  They are about 9 weeks old — will develop their colors more fully with each molt and should start laying sometime in October though some may start earlier.  No rooster, so my sleep should be able to continue uninterrupted.

Love, Jan