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.

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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:

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And of course there’s this:

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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!

IMG_4387Do you set intentions for your crafting at the beginning of the year?

(I refuse to call them resolutions.)

I have three this year. One of them is very specific, one of them is grand, and one of them is pretty generic.

Intention #1: 2015 is the Year of Accessories!!

I like to knit garments. Large shawls, sweaters….something I can wear. I don’t do home goods, I’m not much of a sock knitter (or mitts knitter…you know, that second of a pair thing)..and I usually don’t knit hats unless I am cold, or in need of a quick gift.

This year, one of my intentions is to knit accessories — hats, shawls, cowls, mittens, fingerless mitts and socks. Relatively quick knits, easily gift-able, not much monkeying with fit. And most importantly, the knitting is easy to transport and easy to work on in small stretches of free time I may be able to eke out.

With that in mind, the first finished object(s) of the year is a hat and a pair of mittens. It was hard to resist the urge to cast on for a sweater — but these are for me, In delicious, oh-not-so-very-practical-for-a-dog-owner of beautiful clotted cream colored cormo. The yarn: Clara Yarn Cormo 1.0. “I’m cutting it too close” panic made me snatch up a few extra skeins on a Ravelry destash, and I am very glad for it. The hat pattern is the ever-classic Koolhaas by Jared Flood. I don’t think I will ever get sick of knitting this hat pattern. The mittens, not a perfect match but I think in the same family with twisted rib, is Grove, also by Jared Flood.

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You can bring on the snow now!

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She’s a rescue with a questionable birth date. So, I picked today, a bit more than eight and a half years ago when she came to me, to be her birthday-ish. It’s not a date I picked out of the air — I did ask my vet to take a guess based on her x-ray (she was going under to get spayed anyway, I got her hips radiographed).

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I call her clown girl because she used to be a funny little thing, with big ears that she could barely hold up and her antics. She would be offended, since she is really a Very Serious Border Collie…you know.

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Gone are the days Lucy would sneak into Finn’s crate with a roll of toilet paper and shred it. I would have been fooled (NOT), little girl, had you not been standing by his crate smiling. Now she’s got jobs every day, the most important of which is to make sure her old and deaf brother is awakened before each walk. He does seem to hear her bark. She goes right up to him and barks in his face, when I ask her “where’s Finn?”

Lucylu’s most prominent feature has been her big, triangular ears. But I think if you ask her, she would tell you that her proudest feature is her tail. Because her tail is magnificent. It’s fluffy, it’s expressive, and she is more than happy (I mean, if you are an attractive male dog) to fan it out and show it to you. She is a flirt. Unless the dog tries to take the relationship to the next level in which case she will rip his face off. Practically.

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This year has been a big year for Lucy. She is not trained to the gills like Finn is. Her temperament did not require her human to go nuts. I know this bit of deficit though …So, it should not have surprised anyone that I didn’t let her off leash for over a year that we were frequenting the sheep farm down in Maryland. But earlier this year, she fully earned her right. She isn’t allowed to go in to “work” the sheep quite yet, it’s still a bit too exciting, but she can be trusted not to try to sneak through the fence, or climb a tree to catch a guinea hen (she will tree them all and then come back proud). She can go adventuring and swimming to her heart’s content. And she comes when she is called — at top speed. (Well, 99% of the time. Except when she took off after some deer and kept with them for many many minutes.)

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I cannot believe that she is nine. I still think of her as my puppy. But like her human, there are some grey hairs showing up, and her sleep is getting deeper (as in, she closes her eyes and her ears are not at full attention).

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Happy happy birthday, Lucy. I so love the “big” dog you have become!

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.

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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.

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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,

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…and of course I love pockets!

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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…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:

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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.

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I met Brooke Sinnes from Sincere Sheep at Madrona in 2013. You can read more about what she does and her philosophy here, but I would say she was one of the early birds in bringing the whole “local” thing to yarn. I’ve knit with one of her yarns, Equity Sport, which is 100% Rambouillet (the dark grey background is Equity Sport; the stripes are Cephalopod Yarns Bugga) which is bouncy and wearing well so far.

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I was chatting with Brooke about whether she had dyed rovings in stock, and she just happened to mention that she had some beautiful natural colored rovings. And then she said the magic words.

“I have some cormo cashmere blend from California.”

I almost fell off my chair. She said two of my favorite words next to each other…cormo and cashmere. I had to get some, of course.

And it came, recently (there may have been some charcoal grey merino/mohair fiber in my box too. What can I say? Fiber is cheaper than shoes):

Mmmmmmmm.

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I love how Brooke tells you exactly where her fiber comes from. The cormo in this yarn is sourced from Cormo Sheep & Wool Farm in Orland, CA and the cashmere from Cashmere Kids in Castro Valley, CA. The fiber was processed at Morro Fleece Works. This fiber is as California as it can get.

It went immediately on the wheel. I wanted to make a bouncy yarn that would give me great stitch definition — I knew exactly what I wanted to knit with it, and I just needed to create the yarn.

I knew this was easier said than done. I am a much more experienced knitter than I am a spinner, and I get in trouble when I know EXACTLY how I want the yarn to turn out. One of these days, my hands will catch up with my brain.  I knew enough, at this point, that I wanted to spin this fiber worsted, and I wanted to make a 3-ply, sport weight yarn.

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I am very glad that I have some cormo-mileage under my belt. I have also spun a little bit of 100% cashmere, enough to know how the fiber feels as it is going on the wheel. The cormo, I know, needs a lot of twist in it, as it needs to contain the “POOF” energy that the fine crimp in the fiber will exert on the yarn. This cormo/cashmere roving is spinning like cormo, which should not be surprising, but my hands also detect the fine down-like feel of cashmere as i am creating the singles. It’s divine.

I let the 3 bobbins of singles rest, and the yarn is finally plied. I probably should have spun all the singles that I wanted for this yarn first, but I couldn’t help it. I needed to see the yarn.

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And here it is. It is squishy and bouncy. I can definitely feel the cashmere, especially if I feel this yarn along with some 100% cormo handspun that I have. Cormo is wonderful, but the bit of cashmere in the fiber makes this yarn absolutely special.

I have told myself that I am not allowed to cast on with this until the entire 900 yards for the intended project is spun….it’s going to be hard…I might have to swatch…..

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