In which we discuss the craziness that has been our lives in the last month, fiber classes, fiber judging, birdies at our feeders, finally seeing signs of spring in Minnesota, Yarnover and Fiber Fest, visiting family and friends, healthy animals, paying taxes, wearing jelly beans and harvesting golf balls.
Patterns of Our Lives:
It turns out that when you let a month slip past between recording sessions, one’s life patterns get pretty complicated. Jan in particular has been crazy busy. Not that we’re saying that her past is checkered, but it is highly patterned! We slipped in some microphone time right in the middle of the Yarnover/StevenBe Fiber Fest weekend for Ellen and Jan’s schedule of volunteer duty at the MAPACA weekend show - and we amazed each other with how much had happened since we last spoke.
Ellen saw two snowstorms, despite the suggestion of the calendar that spring should have arrived in Minneapolis. At least when the snow melted, the grass was green. And at least she doesn’t live in Duluth, where they got 28″ compared to the mere 16″ in the Twin Cities. Luckily, she records from the bedroom in the basement and was covered in warm fleece - 16 samples of rare breed samples that she got washed up while snowbound. She recommends Synthrapol as an excellent fleece scour - low sudsing and boy, does it get that fleece clean.
Both twins have been seeing lots of birds at their feeders (Ellen’s juncoes needed snow shoes as they foraged on the ground during one of those storms, sinking in up to their bellies). Jan has heard and seen evidence of pileated woodpeckers in her woods - that is a serious bird.
Another serious bird, Jan’s broody hen, is brooding golf balls no more. It turns out that a little airing of her behind by being kept in a wire cage for a couple of days cooled her down and got her interested in hanging out with her barnyard buddies once more.
Yoda is blowing his down coat, and Jan is picking it up off the fence-line as it turns out to be quite soft. Who knew Yoda was a cashmere goat? (Editors note: any goat can produce cashmere - it simply refers to the fineness of the undercoat.) Jan does know that Finnsheep will make a great addition to the farm and is eagerly anticipating the arrival of her reserved ewe lambs. If only Valor, her ram, knew about the impending arrival, he’d be eagerly anticipating them, too, but he will have to be patient! Jan is making her final choices and may end up with one grey, one white, one black, and one brown - a spinner’s dream.
Easter Sunday was warm and sunny in Minnesota and Ellen and Wilson went walking in the woods, their way of recognizing the season of rebirth. Ellen wore jelly beans - socks that were cranked by her buddy, Lisa, in Knit Picks Felici sock yarn in the colorway, Jelly Bean. Jan had family in for a fitting dinner - leg of lamb. Hmmm, more anticipating of a flock of sheep on the farm!
Jan also had a house party of 8 total for a weekend of good food, good drink, and amazement that friends who met almost 25 years ago all looked exactly as they did when they all taught at the West Point U.S. Military Academy. Maybe if you drink enough…
She’s also been spinning more alpaca samples, hosting other guests, working on a conference for women veterans, and teaching knitting classes at Flying Fibers. And making Ellen feel like a lazy lout, but actually, Ellen is OK with that.
Jan took part in an alpaca handling clinic with Marty McGee Bennett, the alpaca whisperer, from the sound of it. She then acted as judging scribe at the MAPACA (mid-atlantic alpaca association) Jubilee. We may need to send Jan some earplugs to keep her brains from oozing out of her ears - how can one head absorb all that new knowledge without something giving?
Phew, can we get to the knitting now?
On the Runway:
Ellen continues on Forever in the Forest and is well into tier 19 of about 21. She is also working on the second of a second pair of socks in her own design out of ModeKnit Yarns ModeSock. She hopes the pattern will be available soon. And she knit on Many Moments of Grace, her reproduction of the Bohus Stickning design, Rimfrost while recording the show. She returned to her Chain Mail gloves. The first is done, with all the gussets that Ellen loves (on the thumb, between the fingers). She will carefully knit the second according to her notes and write up the pattern at the same time (at least that is what she intends). And this being Yarnover/Fiber Fest weekend, she has a class project going now, too - a colorwork hat designed in a great class with Mary Scott Huff, stand up comic and colorwork designer.
In between all of her activity, Jan has been continuing to work on Reposo, her version of Carol Feller’s Siesta sweater in Louisa Harding Grace Silk & Wool. She has also gotten a new pair of socks started in Zitron Trekking 75/25 superwash/polyamide, colorway 006, a barber-poling mix of blues, lime and purple. Jan reports that the Karbonz 1.5s she is knitting them with aren’t her favorites as she does not like the the join between tip and shaft of the needle. She won’t be using them after these socks. She’s doing the socks in a staggered all over cable pattern, toe up as she is wont to do. (Ellen loving some archaic English here.)
Bitten by our Knittin’:
Ellen discovered, make that re-discovered, that lace knitting goes much better during the day when one is alert than at night when one is drowsy. She discovered, make that re-discovered, this by knitting lace when it was night and she was drowsy. Perhaps you figured that out? At any rate, she notes that when knitting entrelac, if you fail to do the joining stitch at the edge of your module, you don’t get a coherent piece, you get little flaps.
Ellen also knit a cowl-sized swatch, which later became a gaiter-sized gaiter, the appropriate sized project for the amount of yarn which she had. As she knit the “swatch” while practicing ergonomic walking knitting in Carson Demer’s Fiber Fest class on that topic, she wasn’t really discouraged. (Carson Demers - a physical therapist who doesn’t tell you to stop knitting because your knitting is hurting you. Instead, he helps you knit with less damage to your body and hunts for other things in your life for you to change. Because he knows not knitting will hurt even more!)
Jan learned that if one doesn’t knit much, the chance to be bitten by it is slim.
Finely or Finally Knit:
And that gaiter-sized gaiter - also finished, in less than a day thanks to bulky yarn (Sirdar Click Chunky) and not that much of it. Because of the limited yarn, Ellen worked her chosen pattern, Mary Lou Egan’s Miss Gulch without the edging and with a much shorter cast-on and with a shorter pattern repeat. It’s a small Gulch, so she has called it Gully.
Jan knit a potholder. That’s nice, Jan.
Ready to Wear:
The Paving Mitts pattern is published! Thanks to test crocheters, Cindi (cperrine) and Vicky (vicksbear) who made beautiful samples and helped me improve the pattern. And to unofficial test crocheter Lisa (turbogal), who has made two pair of the mitts already.
The pattern is in Tunisian crochet simple stitch in the round, a natural for fingerless mitts. Worked in two colors, one tonal and one variegated, an effect of tiny colorful pavers laid in even rows is created. A perfect project for using up leftover sock yarn! It requires a double ended hook. The pattern includes useful links to techniques needed to complete mitts including Tunisian crochet techniques and crab stitch or reverse single crochet.
5 Minute Interview:
Dr. Yarn returns. We aren’t sure about his advice on substituting yarns…it just doesn’t jive with all that we’ve been told by other experts. Wait, what am I saying? I mean, it’s Dr. Yarn, it must be right. Right?
Ellen continues to spin her top top from All For the Love of Yarn in 80:20 merino:silk in the colorway Greek Mythology. Spinning a sock yarn with laceweight plies does take time. She is in her final ounce of four, then for some plying fun. This just might not be a simple 4-ply!
Jan spun up alpaca samples she was judging for the MAPACA Jubiliee show, and despite the crush to get them done, found it very rewarding to be able to compare the spinning scores to the scores which the actual fleeces earned in the show.
Ellen discussed what a quilted fleece is, and Jan explained why it is a defect in fleeces to be commercially processed. This excessive quilted appearance to the fleece (where the dark fibers are shorter than the white or vice versa), occurring after the first shearing, is something a hand spinner can deal with by separating the colors, but in a commercial process, the disparate fiber lengths would result in a lower quality product or lower yield. Ellen found the term in an article on Jacob sheep by Alison Pacuska in the 2nd issue of Ply magazine.
All the talk of quilts reminded Jan of the term, cotting, which refers to the matting together of a fleece during growth, such that it sticks firmly together and becomes difficult to process.
Jan provided the embellishment for the week - the amazing ceramic work of Charan Sachar at Creative with Clay. He is a clay artisan who has recently learned to knit and is very clever. His homemade swift is very ingenious and very inexpensive. And his pottery — oh my, it is fantastic. His patterns are inspired by Indian textiles and embroidery as well as the henna tattoo tradition. His process if really cool — www.youtube.com/watch?v=r4v2JcZ1g18 — like decorating a cake, but it’s clay. Jan bought one of his cheese/butter holders to use as a notions tray on my end table and he’s pondering how he would make his version of a yarn bowl. Beautiful colors and textured patterns, check him out at his blog and his Etsy shop. Through May 21st using the code TWINSET will get you a 15% discount on beautiful ceramic art. (If TWINSET doesn’t work, try TwinSet.)
Ellen fell prey to i-device gaming this time - 2048 is fun to play for a bit, but it may be time for her to delete it.
This one stolen shamelessly from a recent KnitSpot newsletter - using oatmeal canisters or bread crumb or potato chip cans to hold the ends of a cowl open and prevent creases during blocking. Jan suggested that if one wanted the cowl stretched, one could suspend it from a short length of pipe and weight it with a water bottle.
You May Already be a Wiener!
Both Jan and Ellen admit to a lack of focus on their dolls for the Living Doll KAL. Jan’s version of her daughter, Marie, does have a head now. Ellen’s dolls at least have yarn chosen for them. Check out the Twinset Designs Ravelry group where we are creating little living dolls from Mary, Millie, and Morgan. the KAL will end with the Summer Solstice, and the prize will be a Susan B. Anderson pattern (single pattern) of the winner’s choice along with a copy of the Pam Allen book, Scarf Style.
The Fashion Forecast is for continuation of fiber season. For Ellen, this means Shepherd’s Harvest. For Jan, it means continuing her crazy schedule - she will be teaching a couple of classes at Flying Fibers
- May 15 — Toe Up Socks, using her Fast Baby Booties pattern (a freebie!) (the pattern, not the class)
- May 22 — Control Your Colors, working with variegated yarn for planned color pooling
She’ll also be attending (and hopefully showing little alpaca in) the PAOBA (Pennsylvania Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association) show on 9-11 May at the York County Fairgrounds; and she’ll be having Shearing Day at Fair Winds Farms on May 27. Then June 6-8 she’ll be in Pittsburgh for the PA Women Veterans Seminar.
The first TwinSet Summer Camp is a go - from July 11-13 near Havre de Grace, Maryland. It will be smashing, with camp songs and crafts and swimming and hiking and you don’t have to do any of that if you’d rather knit! Sunday afternoon we will all visit the farm which is less than an hour from camp. Information is on the retreat page at the Twinset Designs Ravelry group. We are still finalizing cost details, so no registration form yet, but watch this space for it!
Enjoy the show!