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Monthly Archives: March 2014

I had fun processing Cambridge’s fleece. (My first full raw fleece!)

I had fun spinning Cambridge’s fleece.

I had fun making Cambridge fleece into a delicate wisp of a shawl.

How is Cambridge coming along as a sweater, you ask?

Well, splendidly. (I think; so far, etc. with all the caveats.)

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The dark bits of Cambridge that I processed and spun into the grey yarn of a million shades, I was convinced, needed to be a swingy cardigan. I didn’t spin the yarn with too much twist, mostly because her fleece didn’t need it, but also because I wanted to try to make the yarn as airy as possible…there’s nothing worse to me than a sweater that is so heavy in weight that it hangs like a sack from the shoulder seams no matter what you do…and I didn’t think the long wool would be best served spun woolen. (Which I actually may change my mind about, see the P.S. below.)

I wanted a pattern that had a bit more going on than just a plain stockinette sweater, and I made up my mind that Norah Gaughan’s Kingscot (which appeared in Twist Collective Winter 2008) was just the thing. It’s got a very pretty cable and bobble pattern on the front in a diamond pattern, and while the shape was swingy, the back was ribbing which I thought would provide a better fit.

I knew somewhere deep in my brain that the stitch pattern may not show as well with this yarn, and if I wanted the cardigan to be all about the cabling motif, I was better served using a crisper yarn with tighter twist.

Of course I ignored this instinct because I wanted to make this cardigan with this yarn. “Want” in this case totally trumped the logic.

I’m not sure if I am right, or if, ultimately I’m going to be not so right. Not yet, anyway.

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I have a vision for what I want this sweater to be. My gauge was wildly different though, and as this was handspun, so I knew it wasn’t going to be as consistent in gauge as much as a commercial yarn would be. And, I wanted to make sure that while I kept the major design points of the garment, I wanted it to fit me well. This all meant some big modifications. Don’t be scared! This can be done.

So…what were the important things about this sweater for me?

1. The A-line of the body of the sweater. This shape, in my opinion, can be really difficult. I have seen the fly away cardigan that is too tight on a body, and that is not very flattering (unless you are pregnant. I love fly away cardi’s on pregnant women). I needed enough fabric in the front so that even if there were only 3 buttons on the top that it would not gape open in the middle. I trusted that Norah, who has designed gazillion sweaters, had this in mind and that there was a reason that the back was ribbed….so I kept the ribbing pattern in the back.

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2. I did modify the stockinette to ribbing ratio all over the sweater. I could see how, with a tighter twist yarn that you’d need the dramatic decreasing between the ribbing and the stockinette, but I didn’t think I needed quite so much with my yarn. (And I tested this with swatching.)

3. I loved the design on the front of the cardigan. While I toyed with changing the size of the bobbles (to something a bit more pronounced), but in the end stuck with the instructions as written. I’m not sure why I thought I needed to fool with this.

This is where I am now. I couldn’t “see” the sweater as it came off the needles, so I ended up blocking it to the schematic for my size to see how the fabric looked.

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I think I am cautiously optimistic.

Some people, I think, would be bothered by what appears to be subtle color blocking within the garment. I actually am not bothered by it much, because Cambridge is pretty spotty and I love that one sheep can produce so many shades of grey. The sweater is so…HER! So much so that if Cambridge were a human, I’d give her this cardigan.

I am knitting the sleeves now, and I don’t envision any changes except that I may have to do some math to make sure the sleeve cap fits properly…not a big deal. Knit fabric is really flexible!

I also envision changing the button band from as written. While the knitted then sewn on button band is a beautiful, elongating detail on the sample sweater, my seamstress hands (or lack there of) started twitching so I will most likely be picking up the button band along the edge of the sweater and keeping that in a 2×2 rib as the most of the ribbing on the cardigan. And, don’t be surprised if I change the 1×1 twisted rib on the neckline to a 2×2 rib as well for consistency.

Hopefully, the next Cambridge update will be about a finished cardigan!

P.S. As many of you know, hand combing takes out all the short fibers out of the fleece as you create top (the ice cream fluff in the first link at the top of the post). We did take what was left over and put it through a drum carder to create rolags, which I spun woolen and 3-plied into an aran weight yarn.

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It was really soft, and really airy. Soft enough for a pair of wristlets, which has been keeping Cambridge’s Shepherdess warm this past winter.

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You know, this is all to make sure that Cambridge was always on Lee’s mind so she got some good grain this winter! And, it looks like she’s getting a bit lighter so I will be looking forward to what her fleece looks like come shearing in November! (Of course I will be peeking a lot sooner than November!)

Of course I have a photo:

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I think that Lucy’s greatest joy is to run. She is built like a runner, and when she is seriously running, she puts down her ears close to her head to make herself aerodynamic and just takes off. This, along with her very healthy prey drive, has kept her on leash in most circumstances.

We have been going down regularly to Maryland to Shepherd’s Hey Farm now, and slowly Lucy has been gaining more freedom.

I decided, this trip, that I would try to see if Lucy can be allowed off lead in the unfenced areas of the farm, when there was enough distance between Lucy and obvious distractions (like sheep).

IMG_0336Finn has been off lead on this property for some time now, mostly because he will always check in to see where I am, and while he is deaf, he is 99% trustworthy. He did take off and tree a cat recently, but he is good, even around sheep (if there is a barrier between him and the sheep).

Lucy had a wonderful couple of days while there was snow cover. It was really easy to spot her, there were not too many critters to distract her, and all was well.

All is well always, of course, until it isn’t.

The other day, I was walking toward the barn in the morning, with Lucy and Finn in tow. I unclipped them, without giving it too much thought, since our every day walks to the barn off leash had gone well. There is one area where we usually see many deer in the evenings. As we rounded the hill, I saw a herd of deer — about 10 heads — at the same time Lucy saw them.

“LUCY, COME!”

I saw her make a decision to blow me off, and off she went. I had to make a decision quickly about what to do — I chose to make sure I put Finn on lead before I started off in the direction where Lucy had taken off. I thought that if Finn took off after the deer, it would be harder to get him back as he cannot hear. Calling Lucy’s name all the while, just hoping that her radar ears will hear my voice in the background so that as she raced top speed through the hundreds of acres of fields and woods, that she would not get too lost.

I was petrified. I tried to keep my voice really upbeat, all the while thinking, “I AM GOING TO KILL YOU BUT PLEASE COME BACK SO I CAN KILL YOU.”

Finn and I jogged down the muddy path in the general direction that Lucy had taken off. I wanted to find a high point so that Lucy could hear me.

We bush-whacked through a patch of woods, and then I saw her. about 300 yards away in an open field, wearing back and forth at top speed trying to keep 3 does together. 2 does peeled off into the woods, and Lucy put on the after burners after the one that she had picked to be her chosen deer.

I was screaming her name at the top of my lungs. (Of course she didn’t even glance at me.)

Over the hill she went. Finn and I went up the slip slippery muddy hill, and stood on top of the hill.

I don’t know how many times I called her name, but I was just hoping that she heard.

Then I saw a small black and white dot, no deer around it, in the field on the far side of the fenced in field we usually go to. It was too far away for me to see which way the head was turned, but it was not moving.

I tried again, “LUCY COME!”

And then the dot started coming toward me. It disappeared into the woods, but I was sure it was coming nearer.

“LUCY COME, GOOD GIRL LUCY!”

I’m sure it only took about a minute, but I must have repeated that about 30 times. And then I saw her coming out of the woods.

Still at top speed, muddy, with her tongue down to her knees, with a bloody leg.

No deer parts in her mouth.

I praised her. She was all wags, as if to say, “I just wanted to stretch my legs a little.” I was so glad she heard me and she came. But, the leash went on, and we headed to the barn. I’m not sure who was covered in more mud…. Lucy, or me and Finn!

Disaster averted, thank goodness.

PS FInn had a bit of an adventure as well, as he got to help move sheep for shearing. He was so proud of himself.