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Archive for September, 2014


Lost in the woods…again…

Dear Jan,

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Theoretically, the Lost in the Woods knitting retreats are about knitting, but I’m here to tell you they are about color.

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And more color.

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Well, maybe some knitting…

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…as long as you include lots of color.

Love,

Ellen

From the top, now…

Dear Jan,

In just over two weeks, I’ve gone from top to bottom with this cowl.  Bottom, that is, if the last thing you do with a knitted item is block it.  Top, because that is what I started with – a beautiful hand dyed top from Rain City Fiber Arts .

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This superwash Merino/Cashmere/Nylon (80:10:10) top was beautifully prepared.  I was able to do a long draw woolen draft to create an air singles.  I had broken the braid into 3 equal pieces, spun them up and then plied them together with a bit more twist in the plying than needed to evenly balance the yarn, a typical approach for a woolen yarn*.

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With the hope of giving this to a friend on September 21st, I needed a quick knit.  The softness of the yarn said “cowl”; need-it-quick said “existing and straightforward pattern”.  The #11 Eyelet Cowl by Cathy Carron (gotta love those evocative Vogue Knitting pattern names, this one from VK Holiday 2009) was just right, and the simple design was wonderful for this handspun.

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The reverse of the fabric is just as attractive as the purported public side – it has me thinking about design possibilities for this simple welted eyelet fabric.

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With a steam blocking on the hotel room ironing board (hover, never press!), I finished it well ahead of my deadline.   All of 45 minutes!

Love,

Ellen

*To be technical, this would count as a semi-woolen given that I spun from a combed top rather than a batt or roving.

Lost in the woods…

Dear Jan,

It took nearly a decade to knit.  I think it deserves some exposure on the blog.

I’m talking, of course, about my version of the wonderful Forest Path Stole by Faina Letoutchaia, from Interweave Knits, Summer 2003.

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I knit mine in Misti Alpaca laceweight, most of which was a gift from daughter Karen.  Most, not all, because I lost the start of this project while visiting Niagara Falls on our 25th wedding anniversary trip.  Unhappy loss, but happily I had only brought a ball or two along on the road so this stole has lots of gift yarn love in it, plus another ball or so to supplement.

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Were I to knit this again, I would have started out with needles like Addi Turbo Lace circulars. The blunt bamboo circulars I was using are probably much of the reason I both hated working the nupps in the lily-of-the-valley motifs and also put it down not to pick it up again for about 7 years.  I might have worked it in a lighter color, too, making it easier on the eyes to work the detail.  That said, this late summer, deep in the shade green is right down my alley and so will get a lot of use in my wardrobe.

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Of course, now that it is back home from the state fair (where it won a 3rd place ribbon!), the temperatures have gone up and I likely won’t want to wear it for a while. I’m pretty sure, though, that  I’ll be able to wear it before we hit that decade mark.

Love,

Ellen

Pennywise, pound of fleece foolish…

Hey, Jan,

I hate to waste good wool.  I used to hate to waste wool, period, and that is how I learned the difference between good wool and not-so-good-well-let’s-admit-it-actually-bad wool.

Case in point – remember that I bought two Columbia fleeces several years back?  Big Columbia fleeces – something like 11-12 pounds each.  I stored them in the garage, and mice nested in one.  Maybe both, actually, I just can’t quite remember.  I do recall sorting the wool into 2 piles – a keeper pile and a toss pile.  I processed the keeper by hand, and a lovely blue sweater was the long term result.  The toss pile I bagged for later use as mulch.

Then I got an idea.  I was sending another fleece in to be processed, why not sort the toss bag into “hopeless” and “gee, maybe this can be salvaged” fiber.  Can’t processors do magic?  When it came back, there was still a lot of veg matter in the fiber, in very tiny bits, but my naive heart kept insisting it would spin out.

Fast forward a couple of years and much more experience in spinning.  I’ve realized there is lots of really nice fiber out there.  Fiber that doesn’t need excessive effort to turn out decent yarn.  And this fiber, now that I returned to it to spin, well, it was giving me decidedly dirty yarn no matter how much effort I put into it.

First I spun it fine.  Yuck.

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Then I spun it finer, hoping that would release more of the VM.  It did, but it still looked yucky to me.

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Besides, I had a heck of a lot of fleece to spin at such a fine gauge.  I would rather spend my spinning hours enjoying the process.  Especially when, for just a few dollars investment rather than a few dozen hours investment, I can have all the clean fiber to spin that I could want.

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Rather than beat myself up for foolishly paying to process such a dirty pile of fleece, I’m congratulating my good judgment on not continuing forward with this misguided thriftiness.

Good judgment, you know, comes from experience.

Experience, you know, comes from bad judgment.

May you learn from my experience!

Love,

Ellen

Episode 46 — They Say We’re Crazy (but we have a good time)


In which we discuss trips to the ball game, trips to Sweden, trips to France, trips to the state fair, trips up north and trips to DC and we get plenty tripped up trying to explain an improvement on last episode’s slick trick.  Much other merriment ensues.

Be sure to check out Cat Bordhi’s new book, Versatildes – a New Landscape for Knitters. And the new Frog Tree yarn, Llambrosia. I checked with Jim Petkiewicz of Frog Tree Yarn and the pronunciation is as we suggested – think llama, not lamb.

Patterns of Our Lives:

Dale took Jan out to the ballpark for a minor league game that featured cheap beer and a winning team. Wilson took Ellen out for Vietnamese food and jazz piano. Both husbands win major points.

Jan wins major crazy points – she is going back to work! She’ll announce the actual position later, but it is a dream position for her, one of two jobs for which she said she’d consider coming out of retirement. It will keep her in Washington, DC during the week, away from farm and family, but she will be able to fund some farm improvements and give Dale flexibility to pursue his own dreams.

Ellen spent a lovely Northwoods knitting retreat with several knitting buddies. The weekend featured a visit to Lucette, Paul Bunyan’s sweetheart and a swim, a hike, great food, and lots of knitting.

Wilson continued competition in the great spouse category by volunteering to go to the MN State Fair. Turbogal’s TwinSet Living Dolls won a blue ribbon – check them out in the Ravelry group. Best food – Hot Waffle Ice Cream Sandwich. Get one next year!

Ellen got to visit yarn stores represent her company at the World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden. The yarn stores in town included Ljundqvist‘s and Garnverket. The yarns she picked up at the Phildar store in Versailles, France, later in the visit, were Phildar’s Laine Mohair Soie and Laine Cachemire Soie.
Finely or Finally Knit:

Jan was the winner in this category, but only by a tiny cosmetic puff. Really, it is almost embarrassing that she considers it a complete object. On the other hand, Ellen had nothing to show in this category herself, so perhaps she should be grateful.

On the Runway:

Jan is making good headway on her Bohus reproduction (with some customization of the colors) which she is calling her Fog Lights sweater; the original design is the Green Mist pullover by Kerstin Olson. She has finished the sleeves and is nearly done with the body, then on to the steeking and the button bands.

Ellen left her Bohus reproduction (Many Moments of Grace, a reproduction of the Rimfrost design) at home as she didn’t want to risk losing it, but a trip to Sweden demanded some Bohus knitting so she started a Wild Apple tam instead. She got some progress in on her Crazy Vanilla Socks out of Schoppelwolle Crazy Zauberball sock yarn, worked on size 0 needles in a plain stockinette stitch and a Cat Bordhi Sweet Tomato Heel (not to mention the tubular cast on). She is well into the leg of the second sock.

Jan continues working on some very colorful socks out of Fluormania – wildly neon! She is also working on a design for the Yarn Barn in San Antonia for their 2014 Hill Country Yarn Crawl. It is a hooded scarf with lots of options for wearing it.

Ellen is being a rebellious student and has started on the knitting of her Shirley Paden Design Along sweater, Scotch Tango.

Bitten by our Knittin’:

It turns out that knitting in the daytime when your body is in another time zone means you are likely to get bitten by your knittin’. Ellen had hoped to finish her Bohus tam while traveling in Sweden, but had to frog back after misreading the chart.

Design Principles

The Shirley Paden Design-along 4 is continuing well. Ellen discusses the challenges of laying out Fair Isle designs and calculating yarn amounts needed – complicated by a limited supply of a key color of yarn. Sometimes constraints are excellent stimuli of design innovation. At least that’s what we’re saying now.

Design Aesthetic – Anna Dalvi’s Mystic Shawls. Here is the TwinSet Technical Review(TM)

1) Good overview for each pattern — CHECK.
2) Written Instructions — Nope. This isn’t the book for you right now if you can’t read charts. BUT, take a look at it anyway. It’s going to make you want to learn how.
3) Charted Instructions — In my book, the clearest instructions, they are often advanced, but they are clear…CHECK.
4) Words of caution/Tips/Tricks — Anna does a nice job warning us wear you need to be particularly careful. And her instructions regarding set up and inclusion of charts is solid.
5) Photography Styling — Very nice. You can see how these shawls could be part of your wardrobe.
6) Photography Clarity — Excellent closeups of detail and birds’ eye view of completed shawl

Embellishments

Ellen mentions and Jan recommends checking out the creative endeavor of Sarah aka swenstea on Ravelry – a nascent fiber show called Fiber Trek. Episode One features Starcroft Fiber Mill and Mary Jane Mucklestone. Great stuff. Jan also recommends de-embellishing. She is doing the minimalist challenge – trying to delete one item from her home the first of a month, two the second, three the third and so on. It is motivating her to finally get rid of some things that have just been cluttering up the joint.

Fun Fur

Because Jan doesn’t have enough on her plate, she is taking part in the Soak photo-a-day challenge.

Slick Tricks:

As is so often the case, we learn improvements to our tricks from our listeners. Diane from Kenosha, WI pointed us to the excellent Techknitter(TM) blog post on flat knitting swatches for garments worked in the round which is a clear improvement over Ellen’s technique shared last episode.

You May Already be a Wiener!

Just mention on the forum thread which of the Mystic Shawl designs you’d like to knit. Check them out on Ravelry, tell us which one you’d knit first in our forum, and you will be entered into a competition for an e-copy of the book donated by Cooperative Press.

We just closed a similar contest for the Dishcloth Diva Knits Again e-book – congratulations zelator!

And, we are hosting a

Cleaning off the Needles KAL/CAL! Your project must be a WIP as of July 10, 2014 and must be off the needles by midnight of the Autumnal Equinox, 22 September. There will be prizes, including stitch markers donated by lotsofhermies and a project bag and yarn just like the ones from TwinSet Sumer Camp AND a pattern up to $7 value donated by DCAlaneknits. Check out the thread on our Ravelry group. Fashion Forecast Ellen gets to go to Ely - a space opened up for the Sisu Lost in the Woods Knitting Retreat. Jan is looking forward to chauffeuring Louise and her mom to the Knitting Pipeline Maine Retreat in late September. They will visit Boston, Philly, and even Fair Winds Farm. And Jan is joining the Flying Fibers team for Spinzilla. Don't forget the TwinSet Living Doll Tour! Check out the thread in the Twinset Designs Ravelry group for info on how you can have the toddler twin dolls visit you! Enjoy the show!