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(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,

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

the knitting tradition,

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

and the current craft industry as it stands today.

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(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.

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

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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IMG_9040I’ve loved this sweater the moment the pattern was published, back in 2009. I purchased many sweater quantities of yarn with this sweater in mind. But for some reason, I haven’t knit this sweater, until now.

I finished this sweater a few weeks ago, but it wasn’t until this weekend that I finally replaced the initial set of buttons I had on this sweater.

IMG_9041The sweater is Audrey in Unst by Gudrun Johnston, published in Twist Collective in Fall 2009. It is a very popular pattern, with more than 1,000 projects posted in Ravelry.

I made only a few modifications to this cardigan.

  1. Cast on the ribbing using a tubular cast on (and here’a link to my favorite instructions by Ysolda Teague);
  2. Cast off the sleeves using a matching tubular cast off (and link to TechKnitter’s instructions)
  3. Lengthened the body by 1.5″

Very minor for me. I used indigo dyed yarn, A Verb For Keeping Warm’s Annapurna. I love the little speckles of white, and I love how this makes this cardi look like a little jean jacket.

I think I need this sweater in a multitude of colors! (I think pale dove grey next.)

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sandness Sometimes, a new design comes out and it does not matter that I have a million projects on the needles, or looming deadlines. The perfect yarn is in stash, the needles are free (or I will free them).

It needs to be cast on.
This happens to me about once a year. It usually wreaks havoc in my well planned and organized knitting life. And generally, I really know I have no business casting on this new project.
sandness 1This happened to me when Wool People 5 came out. Curse you Jared Flood. Many gorgeous designs, as usual, and accessories heavy. And in the middle of all the shawls, one spoke to me. It wasn’t the runaway most popular shawl of the collection on Ravelry, but to me, it was perfection.
I had been Golluming my Malabrigo Finito in natural for the perfect, cozy shawl. It started screaming at me from its nesting place. Because the yarn totally knew it needed to be made into this shawl.
Not difficult, not lacy, not a project that can only be knit by a maestro.
But knit in a cream, round yarn, there was no fudging in knitting this thing. The construction is classic Shetland. The wave pattern in the edging had to be blocked out evenly. It appealed to the OCD part of me.
sandness 2I love the waves, but I also sigh in content as I look at the transition point from the triangular body to the edging. It’s so pretty.
I was wrapped in it for most of my time at Squam, dragging it from place to place like Linus and his blanket. It smells of the fireplace we had going in our cabin every night. I made the large size, with 1/2 a repeat omitted mostly because it was already huge (finished block size is 38.5″ deep by 79″ wide) and to ensure that I had enough yarn left over to make the hat cousin, Norby. (I haven’t made this yet….and yet another Brooklyntweed collection, from Wool People 2.)
Sometimes, you just have to do it. You know the feeling, right?
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Me!

I love light weight sweaters that I can wear all year long. (Hmm. Maybe this is why I love shawls so much) Knitting sweaters out of laceweight? Outside of some periods in my life when I weirdly rationalized that knitting complex cabled sweaters out of laceweight was economical from a yarn $ used/time metric, (logically, it makes sense. But we all know that these projects are very likely to end up in the UFO pile), I haven’t ventured into laceweight sweater crafting in quite some time.

Well. I’ve finished a laceweight sweater. It is out of Wollmeise Lacegarn, so it is a heavy lace (and some may say it’s really fingering), but it is laceweight nonetheless.

The sweater is Laar, by Gudrun Johnston.

I love Gudrun Johnston’s designs because there seems to always be an element of the classic Shetland in her designs. I’ve written about Flukra, which may be the single most worn shawl in my wardrobe (I really need to knit another), and I have been swatching for Audrey In Unst for months now. (OT, but should I knit it in DK or fingering? That is the question.)

I have been staring at Laar for about a year. The one thing that held me back was that I was convinced that this sweater was way too girly for me. It’s got an empire waist, pleats at the waist, picot edging, a lace bodice….all kinds of girly.

But I decided a bit of girly would be good in my wardrobe, but since I am no longer a young girly, I decided to modify it a bit. (OK, maybe a lot.)

  1. Decreased the pleating at the waist. I wasn’t sure if a baby-doll shape would look good on me, so I wanted the sweater to have more of an A-line silhouette. This had one very positive effect of decreasing the amount of stockinette fabric I had to knit.
  2. Increased the garter edging after the picot. I thought that this would take the emphasis off the picots as it became a smaller part of the overall edging. This also let me raise the neckline a bit, and also gave me a bit more stable edging to help the fabric from curling up at the bottom.
  3. Increased the length of the stockinette portion of the sweater. I’ve noticed that Gudrun seems to like cropped sweaters. I have a longer torso, so I wanted to make sure that the sweater came to slightly below my hip bone.
  4. Increased the twisted rib in between the stockinette and the lace portions of the sweater. I just thought this looked better 🙂
  5. Increased the lace panel portion of the sweater in order to make a deeper armhole. I think the style of this sweater was for the sleeves to be very fitted. I do not like being constricted in the underarm area, nor do I like tight sleeves. So while I kept the construction of the short rowed sleeve cap, I made the sleeves a lot more relaxed. I am actually quite picky about this and have a tendency, if I am to rip back a sweater to redo something about it, to make sure the sleeves fit properly.
  6. Picot bind-off on the buttonhole panel. I just thought it was strange that this was the only edge that was showing on the sweater without a picot edging.

I have yet to road test this sweater, but I think I like my new girly addition to my wardrobe!!

When it comes to yarn, I’m pretty fickle.

My love for Sanguine Gryphon Gaia Lace has been pretty well documented. I still love it, and happily bring this yarn out of my stash for deserving patterns. In fact, I recently finished the Romi Hill shawl that I wrote about, in Gaia Lace in Owlets, which is a beautiful silver grey. I was a good girl — only modified the pattern slightly by beading the bind off. I have yet to wear this shawl, since the yarn and the beading combination makes this shawl pretty dressy.

My first foray into blogging about knitting was about Wollmeise so my partiality to Claudia’s beautiful colors is also no secret. I am about to cast on a project in Lacegarn, which I will talk about at some point…and I have Cookie A’s Conic on my needles right now in 100% Merino in Ruby Thursday, which is a really pretty red.

I think I may have a new favorite indie dyer. French Market Fibers. Of course, it appears that I have fallen in love with another dyer whose yarn is tough to get. I have two finished objects out of Margaret’s lovely yarn that I wanted to talk about…

First, the secret test knit I wrote about last time. You can see the shawl all crumpled up in the group photo. It’s BooKnits Almost Autumn. It’s a wonderful pattern, slightly different from Bev’s usual designs and it is lace all over. I made mine out of French Market Fibers Mohair Lace in Spanish Moss.  I was a bit of a rogue test knitter (!) and omitted the beads. I wanted this shawl to be ethereal and…well.. look like Spanish Moss. The photo doesn’t quite do justice to the beautiful and subtle colors in the yarn (look really closely — there are hints of pink, green, grey…) The shawl is about to board a transatlantic flight, to be worn by a friend at a wedding, in which she is a guest. I hope I get the shawl back!

The second project is a sweater that I just finished knitting and is currently being blocked. It’s Levenwick by Gudrun Johnston. It was part of Brooklyntweed’s Wool People I, and has been in my queue since it first came out. I made mine out of French Market Fibers Merino Worsted in Wrought Iron. I cannot wait to get this sweater off the blocking boards. I had originally ordered this yarn from Margaret with thoughts of making something else, but as soon as I opened my package, I knew that it would be perfect for this sweater. The body of the sweater is knit in reverse stockinette — which makes the fabric look woven. It’s really perfect for a subtly variegated yarn, I think. The color is sort of purply and grey and black and lovely. I ran out of yarn so I couldn’t make the pocket for this, but I think it keeps the lines simple and very work worthy. I plan on wearing this with a shawl pin to close at the neck until I see Jennie at Rhinebeck so she can make me the perfect buttons for the sweater.

What’s new on your needles, now that the weather is turning a bit more sweater-worthy?