Archive

Yarn

I’m told I’m a fast knitter.

I might be, but If you really want to see fast knitting, you should go watch some version of this video.

Hazel Tindall is not just the world’s fastest knitter but she is an amazing fair isle designer. As you can read here, she has been knitting fair isle all her life.

During our trip to Shetland, we got a chance to visit with her. She was kind enough to bring samples of her knitting. She also had her Jamieson & Smith colourbox challenge piece with her and she let us all cut a piece of the neck and arm hole steels!!

IMG_5495

I couldn’t help myself. I asked her how long it took her to knit this vest. Her answer?

“Well, I knit this at 6 min/row and there are 106 rows to the armhole” (actually it may have been 104 rows but that is just a rounding error).

Let’s do the arithmetic, shall we?

6 x 106 = 636 minutes =~10.5 hours

I’m sure my parents will be happy to hear that I can still flex my college education to do important math like this!

Hazel was so gracious. She gave us some knitting tips, answered many of my insane questions (like, “what do you do in the winter when it’s dark outside all the time? do you knit like 12 hours a day!?!? (that would be a vest a day, btw)”, etc.). So much fun.

You may recognize the knitting we are cutting in Jamieson & Smith’s blog post about the Cunningburgh Show! Despite our scissor-work, the vest was a trophy winner. Congratulations, Hazel!!

I cannot believe that I did not take photos of the knitting samples Hazel brought for us. I was way too busy looking at the samples and checking out the patterns and colors. My Shetland trip roommate to the rescue, though, with the shot below:

IMG_0574(Photo by H. Bliss)

The samples were amazing. Knitting was, of course, fantastic — evenly tensioned (all you have to do is look at the reverse side of the knitting), use of color was beautiful, and there was just one wonderful thing after another.

There was one sweater that really caught my attention though, mostly because it was a bit different than anything else in the suitcase, and I swore the yarn felt different than the other items (other than that it was knit out of DK). I loved how there were some cable panels at the waist for shaping, and the yarns were clearly natural colors. (You can pick it out in the photo above, right?)

It’s the Hamnafield Cardigan. (The moorit cardigan in the bottom left corner in the photo above, with the color work yoke.) It’s the cardigan that Hazel designed and knitted for Shetland Wool Week last year — and the pattern has just come out. It is knit out of wool from sheep on Foula.

IMG_0920This is how close I got to Foula. I know about Foula because I hiked as far as I could go to the ocean in Walls and I saw an island off the coast — and I looked at the map. I had put it on my  “next time in Shetland, I would like to” list because it sounds like birding on the island would be pretty interesting. I also liked the description that I found on the Web about Foula: It is “one of Great Britain’s most remote permanently inhabited islands,” according to the modern version of Encyclopedia Brittanica (Wikipedia, I mean).

Of course, after speaking with Ronnie Eunson about natural colored sheep (and now that I know there’s YARN on that island) I doubly want to go.

How could I have possibly not heard about this yarn? Clearly I am slacking in my yarn trolling duties.

Remember that I said meeting the incredibly fiber artists and having access to the Internet was “killing” me?

Well, this may have arrived in New York City last week thanks to that beautiful cardigan and the Internet:

IMG_5632

And it contained this:

IMG_5633

That’s right. It’s Yarn from Foula.

IMG_5634

This package is from my “new person I want to meet”, Magnus Holbourn. You can find him online too at http://www.foulawool.co.uk. I have enough yarn to knit the Hamnafield Cardigan.

I think I need a couple extra sets of arms — or try to catch Hazel in speed — with all the knitting I have planned for the fall.

Hazel is a huge inspiration. So was Elizabeth Johnston, and more about what happened when I met her in the next post!

With all the sheep walking about, was I tempted by their fleece or yarn?

IMG_0939

Not really.

But traveling with 12 other knitters, who were all wearing beautiful handknits? Killer. Being connected via Internet during the trip (as bad as connections were), pretty bad. Meeting with incredible artists on Shetland? Even worse.

I only brought one sweater to Shetland with me, which I finished on the trip and wore almost every single day.  This is the Northmavine Hoody by Kate Davies from her book, Colours of Shetland. I knit the sweater with the exact yarn and colors given in the pattern, something I rarely do,

IMG_5460

but after going to Northmavine (Eshaness), I was very glad that I did. I feel like I know exactly why Kate Davies chose these colors.

IMG_0931

Handknits from this collection was particularly popular. I also had the Northmavine Hap from this collection, knit out of all the natural colors of Shetland sheep represented by J&S Supreme Jumper Weight. I had made this slightly larger so I can wear it like a true hap shawl (wrapped around and tied in the back), and I wore this shawl quite a bit as well.

IMG_5373

(Photo of my shawl taken at Clove Cottages in High Falls, NY)

Another traveler in this group had a gorgeous Puffin Sweater. I do not think the photos do this sweater justice. It is an absolutely stunning design. And yes, I’m going to knit it,

IMG_5607

..along with perhaps almost everyone else on the trip. I’m not changing the colors on this sweater either…because well, puffins!

We were traveling with Gudrun Durham (nee Johnston), so her designs were of course very well represented. I had my absolute favorite shawl with me, her design, Flukra (now I know how to pronounce it — “fluck-ra”). I felt slightly weird that this shawl was knit out of merino/silk! I will have to make this again in Shetland wool. 

flukra

(Flukra knit out of Hedgehog Fibres Silk/Merino Lace in Grit — a club color way so it is, unfortunately, OOAK!)

Several knitters had Gudrun’s Mystery Knit Along shawls, Havra (mine, still unfinished…)

IMG_5231

(Havra, in Wollmeise 100% in Safran, Sternschnuppe and Campari Piccolo)

I didn’t bring mine but someone also had a Laar:

laar

(my Laar, knit in Wollmeise Lacegarn, Magnolie Dark)

and there were several Audrey in Unsts (which, mine is now gone and I have the yarn to knit another).

IMG_9040

(my Audrey in A Verb For Keeping Warm Annapurna in Indigo Blue Sky — how I loved that sweater.)

Another popular purchase on this trip was yarn to knit Burrafirth out of her Shetland Trader 2 collection (I’m knitting mine out of GASP non-Shetland, non-wool yarn — this is French Market Fibers Uptown Sock in Gelato, 2 dye lots of Midnight on the Moonwalk and Olive Salad)

IMG_5540

…and yarn to make Nikka Vord, my version in the same yarn as the pattern (Jamieson’s DK) but a combination of different natural sheep colors.

IMG_5605

Of course, can’t forget what Mary Jane Mucklestone made me do (more yarn, more Jamieson & Smith 2-ply Jumper Weight but more about that when I talk about the fair isle knits we ran into on this trip.)

See what happened? It wasn’t the sheep. That is, until Uradale. I was “chatting” with Deb Robson via the Internet. She knew I was in Shetland, and she was telling me a bit about her encounters with the Shetland Organics movement (Her trip to Shetland last year can be found on her blog here), of which Uradale is a participating croft. Then she told me that the Shetland Organics yarns are (and I quote her here very loosely, sorry Deb) one of her favorite yarns, not just from Shetland but globally.

IMG_1124

Well? What am I to do!? The sheep there were gorgeous, the fleece was beautiful, and I had someone who would know about these things basically telling me that I should get my hands on this yarn. (Which you, too, can be convinced, link is here)

So I did.

IMG_5541

Then, of course, there was the dinner with Hazel Tindall. She brought along for us a suitcase full of her work. I am remiss in not having taken good photos of her beautiful sweaters, and pillows, and hats, but it’s because I was too busy listening to her talking about them. Well, of course, one sweater really caught my eye. So I asked about it.

And I did something about it. But more about that next time!

IMG_0953

(Photo: at Eshaness)

One of my friends said, “I didn’t know there are pilgrimages in World of Yarn (WoY)”.

I didn’t know, either.

But, I would have to say Shetland, with its strong tradition in fair isle sweaters, lace shawls and the sheep, has to rank as one of the top 10 “WoY” pilgrimage destinations.

I have wanted to go to the Shetland Islands for a very long time. And, I am lucky enough to say that I have just returned from a marvelous trip.

IMG_1227 (Photo: Mary Jane knitting her latest fair isle hat. Pattern to be released soon, right, MJ?)

Knitting designers/gurus Gudrun Johnston and Mary Jane Mucklestone started running these fiber-centric tours to Shetland last summer. The moment the notice for this year’s trip was mailed out, I had my deposit down and flights purchased.

They took me, and 12 other knitters on a week-long journey through the islands, enjoying the fantastic landscape,

IMG_0949

(Photo: Da Grind o’ da Navir in Eshaness)

the knitting tradition,

IMG_1076

(Photo: Beautiful handspun, handknit sweater by Elizabeth Johnston)

and the current craft industry as it stands today.

IMG_5464

(Photo: The beautiful studio of Morwenna Garrick, a textile designer)

We were based at the gorgeous Burrastow House, in Walls, where we were spoiled by Pierre’s fabulous cooking.

IMG_0927

We saw a lot, crafted a lot, and had a grand time. More about the sheep we met during out Shetland adventure next time.

Here is a very very specific intention.

2015 Intention #3: Process my Australian fiber into finished garments.

What does this mean? I was thinking about some of my fiber that I have on hand. And, I’ve come to realize that I may have a bit of a “thing” about Australian sheep and Australian dyers.

Here’s what I mean.

I recently had a chance to get my hands (well, and purchase) this.

image

Meet “Agitator”, a ram that lives in Tasmania with the Venters family, owners of the Liberton Correidale flock. Or rather, meet the Grand Champion Fleece from the 2014 National Agricultural International Livesotck Expo (NAILE) held in Kentucky in November. “Grand Champion Fleece” means that this fleece beat out every single fleece that was entered in the show. Not so shabby. It happens that this fleece came to the US via Geof Rueppert, of Rueppert’s Corriedales. Who I happen to know, and who happened to have gotten charged with selling the three fleeces entered into the NAILE show. Sensing a once in a lifetime-like opportunity, I jumped on it. This fleece needs to get spun. And knit. (…and spun and knit and spun and knit. There is A LOT of wool here.)

Combed, he looks like this:

image

And of course there’s this:

image

As you all know, I have a special place in my heart for cormo. I’ve spun beautiful cormo from a flock in Maryland, and I’ve spun beautiful cormo from a now disbanded flock in California. But cormo is from Australia. So, when I asked Kylie Gusset of ms.gusset/TON OF WOOL if she would dye some fiber for me and she agreed…I was very happy. First of all, not only is it cormo but it is CORMO from the Downie family in Tasmania. Combed top. Custom dyed. And it is dyed not some flat color, but a complex multi red (gasp, it’s not orange!?).  I know exactly what needs to happen to this fiber. I need to make squishy, round sweater yarn. And knit it.

And let’s not forget this:

image

I happened on Southern Cross Fibre because (don’t laugh) the logo was a border collie with a boomerang in his mouth. When I started bopping around the Internet and Ravelry to see if I could sample some of this fiber — because, I reasoned, who would have a logo like that and not be a killer dyer — I learned that David’s colors are one of the most sought after. Luckily, I have been able to buy some fiber through the monthly semi-solid updates, Ravelry destash (for non-Ravelry people — this is a person-to-person trade/sale of fibers and yarns through Ravelry, it is a great resource for some very specific yarns or hard to find items), and other avenues. I am most excited to try spinning David’s colors on Australian Bond — which is an Australian Merino/Lincoln cross which should be very similar to Corriedale.

Or this:

image

I met this ram, Martin, as a yearling ram at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival in May 2014. The fleece on the hoof was absolutely gorgeous. Grey, springy, fine crimp. And when I asked Terry Mendenhall about him, she mentioned that she had his hogget fleece still for sale. Well? Can’t you imagine what happened? I bought it. You may be asking, “why is this an Aussie fiber”? This merino ram is a result of genetics imported from Australia. The Mendenhalls have imported the genetics because they like the characteristics of a particular merino flock in Australia — long staple length, excellent yield. And I thought, absolutely gorgeous. The fleece was pin drafted into lovely coils by Shari at Morro Fleeceworks.

So you see. I have some beautiful Australian fiber to play with this year!

I know a few knitters who do not have Work In Process (WIP) projects or UnFinished Objects (UFOs) lying around the house. And I know knitters who have WIPs and UFOs in dark corners of their closets.

I admit. I have more than my fair share of WIPs and UFOs. Some live in variety of states in their baskets and armchairs around places where I normally sit, some live in their relatively organized state of dormant-ness in cabinets. They have all been abandoned for one reason or another.

A few months ago, I did my latest round of culling these WIPs and UFOs. I think what I have now on my hands are projects that I want to finish. (Oh and yes, it felt so good to just throw away that Kaffe Fassett intarsia cardigan in fingering weight cotton.) Some are a bit daunting — one sleeve left to go on Alice Starmore’s Mary Tudor sweater that I abandoned in 1998, for example — and some are not so daunting.

Intention #2 for 2015: Along with all Crafters, world wide. Finish those WIPs and UFOs!!!

I bet this is a pretty popular intention at the start of the year. I have been trying to be at it so far this month though, and have made pretty good progress on several projects.

Like…My brother-in-law’s cashmere fisherman’s cardigan.

image

My BIL is not a big person. But you know what? He is still man-sized. Which is (thankfully) bigger than me by more than a couple of inches in every dimension, making this sweater infinitely larger than what I want to knit. On top of that, he was SO EXCITED for a hand knit sweater, running out to go get the yarn, and the buttons. To boot, his mother is a tailor, making him rather particular regarding details on his clothing. Which just increases the stress level for me. But this needs to be completed. I need it off my plate.

image

Or, this sweater. I’m almost finished, but it’s a turtleneck sweater in chain plied merino (um, shall we call it a single season sweater?). The yarn is beautiful….FAR by Woolfolk. (Read more about Woolfolk here — I think it’s a great story). And the pattern is frankensteined out of Adara by Michelle Wang (for the beautiful color work and the “feel” for the sweater) and Blank Canvas by Ysolda Teague (for the fit. This is a WONDERFUL pattern to have on hand for a great raglan/saddle shoulder worked in the round).

image

Or, remember this shawl? It’s the project that I said would be the “NEXT POST” back in…August and because I didn’t finish, made me go on a hiatus on this blog. Knit out of laceweight yarn that I handspun from a gorgeous Hedgehog Fibres batt.

image_medium2

Or this color work vest, Barrington Vest by Jared Flood, out of Brooklyn Tweed LOFT  which would be a welcome addition to my work wardrobe!

These are just a few examples. I would love these garments as finished objects, and I intend to finish them this year. This is one of the reasons why 2015 Intention #1 was accessories-centric — I have plenty of BIG projects already in progress. (And projects that I don’t….hate!)

Here’s to clearing off some of these works in process off my To Do list!

One of the favorite things about knitting for me is the whole process of matching the right yarn to the right garment. When it goes right, I feel like it is Christmas…when it goes wrong….well…I can usually tell before I finish so I can rip it out!

When Clara Parkes decided to make a bit of yarn, I was excited. She has touched, smelled and swatched more yarns than anyone I can think of (her Craftsy class, here) — so I knew she would create yarns that would be fun to knit.

IMG_2986

First came Clara Yarn Cormo 1.0. Good thing I had spun some cormo and knew that the yarn would be deceptive in the skein. This yarn was 4 plies of worsted spun goodness waiting to be knit….but I knew it was going to do the “boooinnnggg”/blooming thing once the crimp of the fiber was allowed to do its thing. Of course I swatched….I thought I wanted some sort of a pattern stitch, since this was a yarn created for great stitch definition,  but I knew I wanted at least part of the fabric to be an homage to the bounciness of the yarn. In my mind, there is one fabric that showcases the best of what wool can be in a fabric….I’m very biased here..garter stitch.

I did cast this yarn on in a different sweater than the one I ended up with at first. I had about half of the sweater knit before I decided that I needed something else. (The best thing about knitting is that you can change your mind mid-course!)

Then I saw it…Carrie Bostick Hoge, a designer I admired for the designs for Quince & Co., published Madder Anthology. One of the sweaters in this collection was a garter stitch cardigan that featured Indian Cross Stitch at the cuffs, collars and the edge of pockets. Perfect! Of course, I monkeyed with the pattern a little, mostly for gauge difference, but I am happy with the result.

Here it is, The Beatrice Cardigan in Clara Yarn Cormo 1.0. In the gorgeous creamy white of the cormo sheep from Montana that this yarn is made of.

IMG_0819

The sweater is totally wearable. The garter stitch fabric is perfect for this round, bouncy yarn and the Indian Cross Stitch adds a nice non-cable, non-lace accent,

IMG_4012

…and of course I love pockets!

IMG_4074

Then came the second yarn,  Romeldale (aka California Variegated Mutant or CVM)1.0. in three glorious natural colors. I love spinning Romeldale. (OK, OK, I love spinning cormo, too.) I had a sneak peak of this yarn…I wasn’t able to guess the breed, but I knew the yarn was woolen spun. It was lofty and delicious….and slightly lighter weight yarn than Cormo 1.0.  I knew as soon as I saw the colors that I had to make a colorwork yoke sweater, something that would really show off the beautiful colors.

IMG_3675

I didn’t really have to think too hard. This yarn was going to become Grettir by Jared Flood.

I added some shaping along the princess seam line as I now do with most of my sweaters (thanks, Amy Herzog!), changed the yoke from 4 colors to 3, but other than that, this sweater was knit as instructed.

IMG_0794

Only nature can take browns and make them glorious like this.

IMG_0787

This sweater is a bit less dressy than my Beatrice, which is completely work worthy, but I will very likely be living in this sweater this winter.

I know I haven’t written lately, but that is what happens when you declare the next post to be about a garment that is still on the needles!!! I’ll get back to that handspun shawl after Christmas knitting.

Tour de Fleece is currently ongoing.

What’s Tour de Fleece (TdF)? It’s the fiber world’s answer to Tour de France. Spinners all over are pedaling on their spinning wheels as world class cyclists as they tackle Tour de France. We mimick the rest days, the “challenge” days, and set a goal of basically spinning every day during the month of July.

I’ve been spinning along, although I’m not sure if I’m consciously spinning any more or less than normal. I have been trying to do something different everyday, switching up fibers and methods of spinning, and trying to really consciously spin. Which is my goal for this TdF — I am trying to get closer to being able to visualize the final garment, pick the right fiber, and spin the right yarn.

IMG_3487

Believe it or not, this is a lot harder than it seems. I am still feeling my way, and still cannot look at/handle a fleece (raw or prepped), and have confidence knowing what it should become.

There are many kinds of fiber crafters. People who identify themselves as Spinners, Weavers, Knitters…and there are those who can do it all.

I am most definitely a knitter first and foremost. I love the whole process. Handling yarn and knowing what it needs to be….or visualizing a garment and going in search of the perfect yarn. I do, most definitely, over complicate the process, but for me, there’s nothing like creating THE perfect knitted garment for the intended wearer.

Spinning fits well into this because it gives me the illusion of being able to dictate this process just a bit more. There are now fibers and preparations that I think are better suited for a mill produced yarn. I have become even pickier (if that was possible at all) in my yarn purchases. It excites me that the yarn market seems to have started the process of evolving into breed specific yarns and I think there are more knowledge out there, thanks to people who are passionate about this writing about it and producing very special yarns.

Back to TdF. I’ve been spinning!

Of course, I’ve been spinning some of the lovely cormo/cashmere. I’m trying to spin about 900+ yards of 3-ply sport weight for a Stonecrop. I think the garter lace body on this would be perfect for a round, squishy heaven of a nicely spun cormo. Add the cashmere and I can feel snuggling into it as it starts to get nippy outside.

IMG_3524

I have also spun some Romeldale-x fleece from Shepherd’s Hey Farm. The ewe’s name is Molé, and I’ve washed and hand combed her fleece (she was much smaller than Cambridge!). So far, I’ve spun some 2-ply fingering.

IMG_3515

…and I’ve cast on. It is going to become a Hitofude (by the way, this is pronounced He-Toe-Foo-Day, and means  “one brushstroke” in Japanese). I couldn’t decide whether I wanted a shawl or a sweater first out of this yarn, and I think this is a nice compromise. This pattern is a runaway hit, and there are 1,522 of these swingy cardigans on Ravelry, one of which is on my needles:

IMG_3542

I also finished spinning from a corriedale batt from Hedgehog Fibres that I began spinning last month. This was a big spin, and will be the topic of my next post. It’s the green/gold/lavender yarn that is pictured at the top of this post, and this has been cast on into a large square shawl which, I am hoping, will fully showcase the glorious colors of this fiber.

And, I’ve also spun some 3-ply aran weight yarn, spun woolen, in happy shades of orange. I spun this to have a bit of a break from the skinny stuff I’ve been spinning, but it will make a nice warm fluffy hat.

IMG_3526