The eight-pound fleece which Caroline and I are splitting came from Sheep #412, as the envelope tucked in the bag informed us. Four-Twelve (a merino/rambouillet cross) spread out nicely on my floor for admiration, and we were surprised to discover that it had a bitty white streak in one corner. We’re going to keep that separate, though there might only be enough for a bit of duplicate stitch on our finished projects.

whole_fleece

Four-Twelve was a coated sheep and the fleece had already been skirted, thank goodness, so there wasn’t much to pick out or discard. It smelled sheepy, but not dirty or disgusting. We gently loaded lingerie bags, filled the sink with hot water and Scour, and started the washing process (which is mostly a waiting process). Each batch took three washes and a rinse, then we laid it all out to dry upstairs… except for one of the bags, which we put on the sweater-rack in the dryer, because we were really impatient to try it out.

fleece_rolags_cards

I spun a couple of rolags into a quick sample of chain-plyed yarn, soft and bouncy and poofy, and I’m pretty sure that the eventual yarn will be a true three-ply. This seems like it will be perfect for the sweater I have in mind – something like Alpengluhen, October Frost, Jackaroo or the Stonecutters Cardigan – a nice round three-ply yarn will be great for stitch definition and cables.

fleece_rolags_sample1

Once all the fleece is dry, I’ll be spending lots and lots of time with the drum carder. Making a few rolags to test out the fibre is one thing, but there’s no way I’m hand-carding half a fleece!

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Hello, friends! It has been a while, hasn’t it? I’ve been super-busy! Most of the year so far has been swallowed up by the process of packing, cleaning, fixing, selling one house, and moving into another. Whooo! But now that is pretty much taken care of. The mountain house has been sold, and while I miss it, I know it was the right decision. The new house is lovely, but a time-consuming work in progress as I unpack and arrange everything just so. But today I took a break from all of that and went to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival with a friend.

We bought a fleece.

2016MDSW_with_fleece

I hadn’t had plans to buy anything in particular; packing up my yarn to move had helped me realize that my hobby has become more about collecting yarn and fibre than actually doing anything with it, and that’s not the road I want to go down. So I haven’t actually purchased any yarn since my birthday in January, when I bought just one 50g skein of white sock yarn for a specific project and purpose. It’s not that I was opposed to buying something today, it’s just that I wasn’t planning to. I was open to the possibilities, of course.

So we went into the fleece show and sale, and were ooh-ing and ahh-ing over one too-expensive merino cross in particular, when a lovely volunteer whose Ravelry name I promptly forgot (sorry!) came over to ask if we had any questions. The next thing we knew, we were following her all over the barn, sticking our hands into giant bags of fleeces and discussing their relative merits… and then we found The One.

It’s an eight-pound merino/rambouillet cross, it’s a lovely dark brown with silvery bits, and it was in our budget. So we bought it. I took a couple more pictures after I got it home:

2016MDSW_fleece1

2016MDSW_fleece2

Anyway, we dropped the fleece off in the car and did a bit more shopping, and then I tried out my camera’s zoom lens on the herding demonstrations. I think it worked pretty well:

2016MDSW_herding1

2016MDSW_herding2

2016MDSW_herding3

We couldn’t hear a word of the explanations, but it was still really cool to watch the dogs happily doing their work. They’re obviously having a great time out there; border collies need to have a job and these dogs were just so eager to get out and do what they were meant to do. At times I could swear they were laughing at the sheep!

The fleece-cleaning will begin in a couple of weeks, and then we’ll decide whether we’re going to comb or card. Our goal is to have it all ready for the Tour de Fleece in July – how great will it be to do the TdF with an actual fleece this year?

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Over on Ravelry, the Remrants group is hosting a Colour Your Winter Craft-A-Long challenge – to finish a colourwork pattern before 31 March. Works-in-progress are acceptable entries, but I decided to start my year off with the challenge of designing a new hat in four shades of DK-weight yarn: brown, tan, red, and light blue.

My first attempt at two-colour ribbing didn’t have a nice edge, so I started over. My second attempt curled up far too much, so I started over. For the third attempt, I changed tactics and tried a two-colour brioche rib, a technique that’s completely new to me. Unfortunately, the instructions I found had left out a bit of important information, which is that even on knit rows, stitches are slipped with the yarn in front. So I started over. Again.

20160110_brioche_fail

The fourth try was the charm, and I have some two-colour brioche on the needles now. It’s reversible, so my plan is to knit enough to have a fold-up brim, which allows for the wearer to adjust the length of the hat…

20160111_brioche_win

…but my gauge for the width was totally off, and I think the finished hat might end up being two or three inches too large for my small head. That’s okay, because I’d wanted to write the pattern for two sizes, so I guess this one is going to be the larger. I’m also planning to design and knit a matching set of fingerless gloves and/or mittens!

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This is the official end of 2015 tallying-up post!


Incoming fibre:

None. Zero, zip, zilch. That took a lot of willpower!

Outgoing fibre:
4 ounces Bonkers merino-tencel, spun into 250 yards of two-ply
4 ounces Bullens Wullens merino-silk-bamboo, spun into 105 squooshy yards of chain-ply
4 ounces Rambouillet, spun up forever ago, finally chain-plied into 268 yards
quite a lot of mystery wool, spun longdraw, 922 yards of two-ply

12 oz plus however much mystery wool there is; I didn’t weigh it.

20150711_tdf15_plying


Incoming yarn:
1 ball Cascade 220 Superwash in gray (220)
2 balls Jo Sharp Silkroad DK Tweed in Serpentine (294)
2 balls Jo Sharp Silkroad DK Tweed in Peppercorn (294)

5 balls / 808 yards

Outgoing yarn:
1 ball Cascade 220 Superwash, Dave’s Hat (220)
.66 ball Lily Sugar & Cream in Pink Camo for a washcloth (100)
1 ball Knit Picks Andean Treasure for Stef’s Handwarmers (110)
1.5 balls Jo Sharp Classic DK wool for my own handwarmers (160)
2 balls Patons Kroy in Summer Moss Jacquard, sold (332)
2 balls “Starry Night” handspun given to Mom (256)
.33 ball Knit Picks Andean Treasure and half a ball each of gray and white Cascade 220 Superwash for Michael’s Bicolour Hat (37, 220)
2 balls Noro Silk Garden sock for the Rhinebeck Shawl (656)
1 skein handspun merino/silk for Mom to make a hat for Grandma (170)
2 balls Jo Sharp Silkroad DK Tweed in Peppercorn, Michael’s new Fleeps (294)
1 ball Berroco Sox for a pair of mindless stockinette socks (440)
1 ball Loops & Threads Impeccable for the Such a Square afghan (192)

16.5 balls / 3187 yards

Plus, Dad gave me this awesome yarn bowl:
dad_yarnbowl1


The Year in Crafting:
I feel really good about my projects this year! I got a lot done. They’re all together on a 2015 Projects page.

Favourite project:
It was a tossup between the Bicolour Hat and this, but I gotta say… it’s the Schultertuch. I loved making it! I still don’t know when or how or where to wear it, but it’s gorgeous and I love just looking at it.

schultertuch_finished


Patterns Published:
Only one this year, the Carved Lines Armwarmers – I’m really happy with the shape of these! I have a bunch of ideas for new patterns too, including a colourwork hat that I charted out a few weeks ago, lacy socks, cabled socks, mittens… it’s a long list!

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Michael had mentioned that his Fleeps were starting to get thin in places again, and after Thanksgiving I took them home with me for their third repair job… which was really just a sneaky excuse to take some measurements and observations so I could knit him new ones. I worked from my notes from his first gloves, combined with the constructive feedback that he’d provided and checking to see where the old ones had worn out.

The new ones have longer thumbs to prevent a gap, seed stitch flaps rather than ribbed so they won’t pull in quite as much over time, and duplicate stitch reinforcements at all the corners where the flaps attach to the body of the gloves. It looks as if the mitten-top is crooked, but they’re lined up with the hands rather than the wrists, so they fall straight when the gloves are actually on.

michaels_second_fleeps

They’re also a grayer kind of gray; his first pair was a darker gray with red tweedy flecks, but I couldn’t find the darker colourway. The yarn is Jo Sharp Silk Road DK Tweed, which wasn’t available in the US for a while but now WEBS is carrying it again. I used Peppercorn for Michael’s Fleeps, and bought two balls of Serpentine for another future pair.

I used a combination of the Cigar and Gnomittens patterns, adjusted for the shape and size of his wrists and hands. Both patterns are free, but I found that they needed quite a bit of customization to make them fit perfectly. The cuffs would have been too large around as the patterns are written, so I took some stitches out of them, and then had to add width back in for the hands. I was very glad to have taken such careful notes on the first pair; it made it much easier to make the second set fit to perfection as well.

The gloves were done enough for me to wrap them up and give them to him on Christmas Eve, but I hadn’t had the chance to sew on the snap-magnets (which is the most annoying, fiddly part of the whole project). I’ll do that today, and then they’ll be the last project on the books for 2015!

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I started these socks back in January, and worked on them here and there without too much dedication. Although they came with me to many places, I neglected them in favour of other things. But then I had to attend a few long and boring meetings in an auditorium, and no one on the stage could see what I was doing, so I knit and knit and knit… and by late October I’d finished the first sock.

Then, I got a short-notice call that there would be a showing at my house, so I had to clear out for an hour. The yarn came with me, and I’d gotten halfway through the ribbing at the cuff before going home. A weekend of train rides followed, and with nothing else to do but knit, I charged through the leg of the second sock.

Several work-meetings and one long drive up to Vermont later, and I grafted the toe of the second sock just in time to get this project onto the 2015 list!

mindless_stockinette2

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I seem to be turning into one of Mom’s “enablers”. First, I gave her the Starry Night yarn, which was some of my early handspun, from which she knit a beautiful hat for herself. She took my leftovers from the twins’ sweaters to make hats for them, and the remains of the yarn I used for her gloves to knit a replacement for the one she’d misplaced (which is sure to turn up, now).

After Thanksgiving, she asked me if I had any handspun yarn that would be good for knitting a hat for Grandma – something neutral but not gray, something that would go with any colour coat. I dug through the stash and came up with something good… and then I realized that I’d never taken a picture of the yarn! So, to rectify that mistake, here is the original merino-silk blend of fibre from Lovesticks, in the colourway “Beyond the Garden Gate,” that I bought from another Raveler’s destash back in 2009:

Lovesticks Merino-Silk Blend

Here is the finished yarn, 170 yards of a three-ply that looks like a light worsted weight. It’s reasonably well-balanced, but almost certainly needs a bath before Mom can knit with it. I found a simple top-down hat pattern to be sure that she won’t run out of yarn before running out of hat, and I can’t wait to see the finished project! This is a win all around: I get yarn out of my stash, Mom gets to knit with my handspun, and Grandma gets a new hat that can be from both of us.

20151212_handspun

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Knitting the bicolour hat went quite a bit faster once I transferred it from the DPNs over to a 16″ circular, though my colourwork tension still leaves something to be desired. There’s a little bit of a difference where I switched needles, but blocking helped make it look less obvious. Something to note for next time: even if you’re not using the most ideal needles, stick with them for the rest of the project.

(Did anyone else hate having to change pens in the middle of an essay? I never liked to see half a page written in one shade of blue, and the other half written in another shade.)

20151120_bicolour_hat_blocking

This project’s trial and error has taught me a lot about designing colourwork hats, and I will definitely be putting the lessons learned to good effect the next time. The lined brim came out exactly how I had envisioned it, but the ‘seam’ where each round ends and the next begins is not something I’d expected. A solid colour at that junction would have hidden it better. It took me a few attempts to figure out how the crown of the hat should come together, and I’m happy with how it looks – although I think I might need a larger model head! I have my fingers crossed that it will fit Michael’s head perfectly, and I’ll find out in just a few days when I see him at Thanksgiving.

20151122_bicolour_hat_finished

Since I only used about half of each ball of yarn to make this hat, I’m planning to make another in a slightly different pattern. I have lots of other partial balls of Cascade 220 left over from a number of previous hats, and I’m thinking about branching out into something with more than just two colours in the future!

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Well, I didn’t get to go to Rhinebeck after all – but the house is on the market, and the shawl is complete! I’m so pleased with how it came out. The border is just a simple repeat of (sc, ch1), with two sc/ch1 pairs in the gaps between scallops, to keep it from ruffling up too much. Stretching the shawl out dry seemed to flatten out the fabric reasonably well, but I think it would look even better after a bath and firm blocking.

schultertuch_finished

It didn’t take long to memorize the pattern, though I do still have to pay more attention to crochet than to knitting. The shawl was done in just a month of crocheting in my spare time, of which I had less than usual thanks to working on the house. I’d say that’s a pretty quick project! Here’s a closeup of the stitch pattern:

schultertuch_closeup

Noro being Noro, I’d expected a few knots. I wasn’t disappointed; there was one in each of the two balls. That led to some interesting colour-swapping and lots of ends to weave in, but the rows were so long by the end that I don’t think it’s noticeable. On the last row, I measured out how much yarn it took to work one of the fan shapes, and then the rest of the yarn, because I wasn’t sure I was going to make it – but there was just enough.

schultertuch_leftover

The next question is, how and when do I even wear the thing? I really enjoyed making it, but will I actually wear it? We shall see!

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Although I’m still not sure if I’ll be able to go to Rhinebeck this year, I’m working on the shawl anyway! The rows are getting longer, but as I’m starting to memorize the pattern, I can put on a football game and crochet away. Well, sort of – crochet does seem to take more of my attention than knitting does, since the next stitch could literally go anywhere.

schultertuch2

The pattern is easy to get the hang of, though obviously the finished shawl is going to need some firm blocking to really show it off. All lace is wrinkly, but the thick-and-thin Noro is exacerbating the rumpled look here. I love how the colours are playing out, though!

My to-do list for the upcoming three-day weekend is very long, mostly pertaining to getting the house ready for sale, but I’m hoping to get some solid crocheting time in as well. Part of what will determine if I can run off to New York for a weekend is getting through that to-do list…

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