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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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Remember that beautiful yarn from Elsawool that I was scared to dye (but did)? It has now been knitted with natural white and natural dark grey cormo yarn into a sweater.

The pattern is Ravello by Isabell Kraemer, a casual stripy number in fingering weight yarn.

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I wanted a sweater that I will reach for all the time…I seem to love stripes, and knit in a light weight yarn, this ought to be a 3 season sweater. The sleeves are bracelet length, a bit on the shorter side, so I don’t have to worry about them getting in the way as I knock about. There’s absolutely no shaping in the body, so this will be a true sweatshirt replacement.

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It’s a beautiful summer day outside, so I will have to put this sweater in a closet for now and wait for a bit of cool weather.

I am particularly excited about the single red stripe on the sleeve…

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…which was only added because I was too anxious to see what the watermelon red yarn would look like knitted up against the dark grey. And it looks just like Neapolitan Ice Cream!

Now I think I will concentrate on some garments I can wear in warmer weather!

I love natural colored wool yarn. But once in a while, I like not-so-naturally-occurring-on-sheep colors as well.

I have been “stalking” a sweater, Ravello by Isabell Kraemer, since it was published in August of last year. It’s striped, which I love, has a boat neck, which I find flattering, and the sweater looks nice and casual and cool. (Probably 100% due to the styling, but what can I say? I am gullible.)

I have been wearing my stripy sweater that I knit last year to death this spring. It’s Breton by Jared Flood, knit in Sweet Fiber Yarns Cormo, which was a limited run yarn. The cormo is light in weight, it is perfectly warm but not hot, and I have washed and re-washed (gently in wool wash) without too much effect on the sweater. (I have had to re-seam the arms a couple of times and have now re-seamed the arms on with sock yarn — the woolen spun cormo just isn’t strong enough for all the activity that this sweater is getting, I’m afraid.)

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I wanted to make another cormo striped sweater. I had the natural white and natural dark grey cormo in woolen spun fingering from Elsawool. Ideally, I think I would have knit the sweater in white and 2 shades of the natural grey. But how about color? What if I introduced a color in this sweater?

I decided that color was exactly what I wanted. And I wanted….RED.

I have dabbled in dyeing my own yarn periodically with food-safe dyes (Kool-aid and food coloring). I felt strange — a mix of trepidation and even a bit of guilt — for taking one of my favorite fibers, in its pristine creamy white, and introducing color from an artificial drink to it. But dye the yarn I did.

There are many resources on the Internet (Knitty article here, a palette of colors and formulae here). All the articles use 1 packet of unsweetened Kool-aid for every 1oz of fiber. Some suggest using a water and vinegar solution and some say that the citric acid present already in Kool-aid is enough for the color to set.

I presoaked the yarn in a vinegar solution, and I also added vinegar in the water bath….because I have, in the past, tinkered with the color on the fly using food dye. (The creamy cormo yarn is beautiful, isn’t it? Looks like the perfect Somen soaking in my sink.)

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The concoction for my precious cormo yarn was mostly Bing Cherry Kool-aid (which is a deeper red), with some Cherry Kool-aid (which is the color of the jug that comes crashing out of walls in commercials for Hawaiian Punch) to brighten the red a little, and a little bit of Americolor super red (the dye that’s in my cupboard for red velvet cake, a bit more brick than the kiddie red of the Kool-aid). The food coloring I added once the yarn was already in the dye bath, because in the past this has produced a bit of that “kettle dyed” effect.

I love watching the dye bath go clear as the color is transferred to the yarn. Here’s the concoction that sort of looks like some sort of a sick spaghetti!

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And here is the result.

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I will be using it along with the natural dark grey and the cream for the stripes.

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It sort of looks like Neapolitan ice cream, doesn’t it?

Happy New Year!!!!

What did you put on your needles on January 1? I cast on a few things, but I started one very special project. It’s very meaningful to me because it uses two skeins of my handspun, one that shows how the fiber won, and one that shows that I learned a lesson from the first mistake. Appropriate for the New Year, right?

IMG_9797When I first started spinning, this is what I envisioned: Pick out beautiful fiber from a top producer, spin it better than any machine could, and knit it into a garment that I would either wear forever or gift, beribboned and opened to lots of Oooos and Aaaahs.

THEY say that to be an expert at something, you need to put in 10,000 hours. (Malcolm Gladwell? Although it seems the 10k hours concept has been around a long time).

Having started spinning in earnest (OK, in a panic since I had signed up for a seminar with Maggie Casey at Maryland Sheep and Wool and didn’t want to appear like I knew nothing) in April, I am very far away from expert.

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Imagine, as a beginner spinner, encountering cormo combed top for the first time. It’s like ice cream, vanilla and chocolate. Combed to perfection, there it sat in beautiful coiled loops at the Roclans Farm booth at Maryland Sheep and Wool. I had just taken my first spinning seminar.

It really looks like it would be easy to spin. I mean, it’s practically spun! This was the state of my brain as I purchased my fluff from Kate.

I had big plans. So, when I started spinning the brown beauty, I wasn’t really held back by the fact that the singles would sort of pull apart relatively easily (first warning sign). I chalked it up to being a beginner, and mindful of the “one big mistake beginner spinners make is over twisting” lesson that I was taught, I spun lots of it. Over 3,000 yards of singles, to be precise. I plied it, the yarn looked OK. Maybe a bit uneven, but charmingly so. I was optimistic.

Then, it went though a soak. And the fibers went…..BOOOOOINNNNNG!!!!! I now had 1500 yards of loosely spun, loosely plied yarn. This was a total rookie mistake. Cormo has a tight crimp and once soaking took some of the spinning twist out of the yarn and “livened up” the crimp in the fiber, it became very obvious that I should have spun this fiber with a lot more twist.

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It wasn’t many weeks after this incident that I learned that cormo isn’t exactly a beginner’s fiber. I think one should try as many things as possible, and don’t let things intimidate. Perhaps not 1.500 yards worth though!

The imperfect spinning on my yarn did nothing to prevent me from knitting this yarn up, and I modified the original pattern to make sure that the delicate lace was framed in solid garter — I did not want too many areas on this shawl where the integrity of the shawl was dependent on too many single stranded sections on this garment. The resulting shawl is soft, bouncy, yummy, and warm. The shawl is a modified version of Gudrun Johnston’s Flukra.

IMG_9086I was a little wiser by the time I recovered from my less than perfect first cormo spin. I decided to make a 3-ply sport weight yarn, worsted spun of course from the white top. By this time, I had purchased a flyer for my wheel with higher ratios — so it was easier to make sure I was introducing more twist into the singles. I let it rest a few days, and made sure that when I was tying off the skein to leave plenty of room for the fiber to expand.

This end product definitely looks better, and I’m happy with this yarn:

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I knew right away that I wanted to use the white and the brown together in a project, and as I saw many beautiful versions roll off my knitting group members’ needles, I knew that I wanted to make a Brooklet by Cecily Glowik MacDonald. I wanted the solid portion to be nice and cushy, while I wanted the lace layer to be properly blocked.

It’s a long cowl, which I can wear as a single, double or a triple loop. I’m sure I will get a lot of wear out of it!

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