This is mostly a knitting blog. Sometimes pictures of things I've made, sometimes not. I'm a guy who knits, I usually attend a men's stitch 'n' bitch on Monday nights, and I prefer natural fibres to artificial ones. I have a love-hate relationship with bamboo yarns: I love what they can do and how they look, I hate how they are made. I've been knitting since about 2003, though I really didn't get into it until 2005, while convelescing with a broken leg. I must have discovered something good, 'cause I'm still knitting years later.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Not in My Life

The preparations for the big move to New Orleans procede apace, and I am aware that money is really tight right now. Sure I saved up some money, but things like this always cost more than one ever anticipates. I was discussing this with a friend, and she suggested that I sell some of my yarn.

Let me repeat that: She said, "Sell some of your yarn on Etsy or E-bay."

That would be like selling my sister into whoredom. It won't happen. Ever. On really intense days, the yarn is my Precious.

Ash nazg gimbatul, Ash nazg thrakatuluk, Agh burzum-ishi krimpatul

I would be quite willing to fall into Mount Doom to protect it. Seriously. I've spent a long time amassing my yarn stash. I plan on knitting all of it before I die. I think when I do, I'll become a Buddha.
I've invested a lot of time and energy into my stash. Thirty bins, that's quite a bit for only 11 years of knittery. I sometimes have no idea what I'm going to do with it all, and other times I know what I want to do with every single skein, hank, and ball. There are bags in there of matching skeins to make sweaters (like I'll need them in Louisiana), hats, scarves, lace projects (which are a bit beyond me because I'm not as much of a hotshot knitter as I pretend to be). Sometimes I've bought yarn because the colour appealed to me, or the fibre, or because I was in a strange town and wanted to buy some yarn to remember it by. Or the wonderful skeins I bought on my last trip to the Pacific Northwest in 2013. I got some good stuff on that trip, and I've even knit some of it up!

But selling my yarn is not in the picture right now. I want to shop my stash while I'm living in New Orleans, especially since neither of the local stores carry Tosh, or Shibui, or Baah. And I know I have those in my stash, and will be able to knit some of them while I'm down south. Or I can always contact my Boston knitters to get me what I need!

Saturday, December 12, 2015


I have been neglecting my knitting.
I have been neglecting my blog.
I have been neglecting my yarn stash.
I have been neglecting my yarn stores.

In two weeks I will be moving to New Orleans. I'm packed, ready to go. I need to wash the sheets and a few sundries, but I could actually load the truck today and leave. Except for the part about not being able to afford the truck til I get my last two paycheques. "It's the little things that get you when you're not paying attention" (credit: Jim Infantino and Jim's Big Ego).

I actually have not knit a stitch in 15 days (as of this writing). Not even at knit-night, which I attended last night. I got there a bit late, but never actually pulled my knitting from my backpack. I'm not sure what's going on. Maybe because where I'm staying I have internet, something I haven't had for the last four-and-a-half years. Maybe it's because my clock radio is packed and I can't listen to NPR while I've got the needles in my hands. Maybe the constant tension headache has me realising that my tension will be affected (see what I did there?).

I am feeling conflicting emotions (does anyone remember that song by Split Enz?). I am excited and happy because Brandon and I will finally be together, in the same state, the same city, the same house. I feel like I might be establishing a home, for the first time in, well, more years than I care to think about. We have a wicked pissah apartment (it's only a block from Bornside Yarns!), with two bedrooms (we can have guests!), with a washer and dryer (no more hunting for quarters!), and a dishwasher (no more dishpan hands!). We're talking about getting a cat (me! a cat! whodathunkit?). My friend Rachael is having a really hard time wrapping her mind around the idea that I want a cat. I'm happy and I feel like dancing. Hell, I even have my own version of a happy dance. I do it every now and then when I think about our life together in New Orleans, a town I've almost moved to several times over the last 20 years (but never did, because of commitments back in Boston).

I'm also feeling rather blue. And not Betty Draper's. I'm leaving a city that has been my home for five decades. I'm leaving behind friends, colleagues, and people I love with an intensity so fierce that it sometimes hurts. I realised that I am leaving the city I love to be with the man I love. And I am beginning to understand the dilemma of the Little Mermaid (the Hans Christian Anderson original, not that travesty by Disney). Nothing worth having is without a price. I can have my much loved home town. I can have my beloved companion. I cannot have both. I've waited a long time for someone like Brandon to come into my life. I've made my choice, I'm making my peace with it. I remind myself that Helen Keller once said, "Life is a daring adventure, or it is nothing."

But my knitting lies neglected. Not forgotten, no, because I carry two projects in my backpack all the time. There's even a box of stuff labeled, Current Projects. It's a lie. I opened it, hoping to find some current projects, and there was nothing in it that I have actually worked on in over a year. Some UFOs, sure, but nothing that could with any honesty be called "current". What the hell was I thinking?

My knitting lies neglected, and I don't have the energy to pick it up and work on it. Maybe I'll feel better if I pick it up. Maybe I don't want to. Feel better, I mean. Maybe I need to feel the sadness that comes from contemplating a 1400 mile move, to a new state, a new city, a new home. And when I get on the road, I can shake these blues, maybe leave them behind. I'll pick up needles and yarn, and knit withe passion and fervor.

For now, though, my knitting lies neglected.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Fiber Festival of New England

This past weekend my long time friend Lisa and I trekked out to Springfield, MA for the Fiber Festival of New England. I'd never been (last year I had a commitment that weekend), and I must say, we had a terrific time. One of the best things about living in the Northeast is that we have a regular diet of sheep and wool festivals. I'd been told that this particular S&WF was small, and perhaps not worth the visit. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Unlike the New Hampshire S&WF and Rhinebeck, this was held indoors. At the same venue where our Great Commonwealth holds the Big E (more or less a state fair) in early fall, this occupied one building on the fairgrounds. A big building. Huge. Ginourmous. Wicked big. And a good thing, too, since there were hundreds of yarn vendors, fibre animals galore, spinners, weavers, demonstrations, and food that was, well, not to put too fine a point on it, vomitrocious. But other than that, it was an excellent day of yarn, alpacas, sheep, and bunnies. And hats.

Lisa modelling a felted hat with needle-felted bunny,
by Laurel Ledge Farm Fibers. Alas, she did not buy it.
There were alpacas galore, lots of angora bunnies, a few sheep, and only one llama. Well, three llamas, a mother and two juveniles, one of which insisted on nursing, even though it looked quite past the age for nursing. But what do I know from llamas?
A llama Mama, with her babies. Love her noble Roman nose!

This wee sheep we saw was a mixed breed of Soay and something else.
I wish I'd thought to photograph the sign.
I still think my favourites are the alpacas, though. They have such pretty faces, more cute and cuddly than llamas. Apparently, they're more agreeable than llamas, too.
Recently sheared alpacas. I love that there are all sorts of colours in this herd.
And we saw a demonstration of shearing an angora bunny. Apparently, most angoras shed their fur, which is combed on a regular basis. But German Angoras need to be clipped.
While it is standard to shear bunnies every 90 days, this bunny, shaved a few weeks ago, was sheared
as a demonstration. The fur is too short to spin, so it will be used for felting.
The pink thing in the left foreground is a jacket for the bunny to wear after shearing.
After wandering through the beasties, and not buying any yarn (so difficult, because it was so beautiful!), we wandered through the bags of fleeces for sale. Since neither one of us can spin, we didn't buy one, but so many of them were so pretty, and it was really cool to feel the difference between sheep's wool, mohair from goats, and the very soft hair from alpacas.
Giant bag o' fleece!
We finally made it to the big room where the yarn was being kept! Oh boy! Oh boy! Oh boy! It was divided into two sections, East and West, and I'll keep you from guessing: we never really explored the west side of the room, since we were exhausted by the time we finished the east side, and we were both plum out of cash at that point. And hungry. Let's face it, the food just sucked. But before we motored to Northampton for a delicious repast, we visited a bunch of yarn vendors!

The yarns of the Jan Marek Raczkowski Studio. Alas, still no website.

I love the yarns of A Hundred Ravens. I didn't buy anything this time around,
but took pictures of some of their colourways for a future project.
I spent a good long time speaking with the dyer, and as soon as I can afford it,
I shall buy some of their gorgeous yarns.
The Periwinkle Sheep had some absolutely wonderful yarns,
saturated colours, and made me part with some of my cash.
Periwinkle had on display this shawl, which caught my fancy, so I got yarns to make it.
This is Death of the Moon, by Josh Ryks. It can be bought on Ravelry.
I shall buy it and make it for someone for next Christmas. 
The other thing of note we saw while at the FFofNE was a sheep shearing demonstration. I'd seen one a couple years ago, but it's always interesting to see one again.

It was very cool to watch while the sheep was sheared. He actually almost never moved his legs, but rotated the sheep around while he sheared it.

I had such a terrific time at the Fiber Festival, and only bought seven skeins of yarn, a subject for another post.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

When Dreams Go Up In Smoke

I had planned to go to the New York Sheep and Wool Festival (also known as Rhinebeck) this year. I had saved up some money, and made plans with a friend to leave on Friday after work, and to attend the festival all day on Saturday and Sunday. Alas, the well laid plans of mice and men oft gang awry. The money I'd saved had to be spent on a pressing bill (rent), and my friend who was to drive is attending a hand-fasting. It seems some friends of his pushed their hand-fasting up to October from June because one of them has developed an aggressive type of brain cancer and, well, autumn hand-fastings are so lovely when the leaves in New England are in full colour. So I have no ride and I have no money, and it is not a new realisation that I have too much yarn (as I pack for my move to New Orleans come December or January). If I believed that the Universe had agency, I would believe that the Universe just said, “Ha!” to me (actually, it's more like the Universe said, “Fuck you!” but I don't use language like that, or at least not too often.) One of the reasons I don't believe in karma, however much I like the idea, is that I refuse to grant agency to the Universe. The Universe doesn't much care if you're a nice person or a douche; any comeuppance you get isn't because of karma.

But this is a blog about yarn and knitting and fibre, not about theology (and man! did I do a metric shit-tonne of theology when I was in divinity school!). I'm missing Rhinebeck and there isn't much I can do about it right now. So I need to pull up my big-boy pants and get the fuck over it. There. I'm over it.

I've been trying my hand at some knitting that isn't sweaters, even though I have designated October as Sweater Month. Mostly because I am dreading doing a swatch for the lovely green Malabrigo Rios. It's another time I need to pull up my big-boy pants and just do it. Maybe tomorrow. But right now I'm making a cowl for my friend Dolci, using the lovely yarn I got at the New Hampshire Sheep and Wool Festival this past spring. It's Blue Face Leicester, from Marek Raczkowski Studio studios in Connecticut. He doesn't have a website, but there is a Ravelry page. It knits up quite nicely! I think it's going to be a lovely cowl when done. I'm using the Scalloped Wave pattern by Kelsey Saari, which I found on Ravelry. It is basically feather-and-fan done as a cowl, and right now it doesn't look like anything. Since I bought this yarn months ago, with no particular purpose in mind, I'm knitting my stash!
It doesn't look like much of anything right now, but then I've only done one repeat of the pattern.
I've also started a hat for Brandon's step-father. He likes blue, so a bit of Police Box Rios will make a good hat. I'm using a fleur-de-lys pattern in purl stitches against the stockinette, which I got from Baske fleur-de-lys Mittens pattern, by Niclole Hindes. It's a pattern I bought on Ravelry a few years ago, but have never knit (in my long list of patterns I'm going to try someday!). I've been knitting cowls in the round recently and it's become a habit that when I've got the yarn in the purl position, I'm going to make a yarn over. So far I've only had to tink back once. But it was for almost all the stitches I'd cast on. I must be very careful not to make that mistake again. Right now it looks like two inches of ribbing, but when it actually looks like a fleur-de-lys hat, I'll take a picture.

I had the shocking realisation this week that except for a couple hats and cowls I want to make, my Christmas and Reunion knitting is almost done. Except for Brad's sweater, pesky thing. But fat yarn on fat needles! It'll knit up in no time!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

October is Sweater Month

If it's October, it's sweater month! Both time to start wearing them and time to start knitting them!

Okay, it might not quite be cold enough to wear sweaters. October isn't what it used to be. But I decided that it would be a great month to make some sweaters. I am determined to make one and finish one, and maybe, if I'm lucky, make another. And believe me, I have the yarn to do it!

So last year I started a sweater for my friend Brad. He's tall, 6 feet 5 inches tall. We're talking about miles and miles of stockinette. For whatever reason, I didn't finish this sweater, but the yarn, the needles, and most of the back panel are still here, quietly mocking me. Another sweater I want to make is one for my friend Troy, who is a red head, and who likes green. And yes, the yarn is bought and ready. And if I have time, I'd like to make one for myself, because I bought some gorgeous yarn this summer, and I want to think it will take less room in my life if it's a sweater in my drawer rather than a collection of hanks sitting in a bin.

This does not mean that I am stopping making various Christmas presents, or the last four hats in my Hats for the Homeless series (more on that in another post). Those are the travel projects, the ones that will fit in my bag. Sweaters are at-home knitting, since I don't want to lug that much yarn in my backpack every day.

Brad's sweater is in Lamb's Pride bulky, a mix of 85% wool and 15 % mohair. I chose the colourway Denim, because he said he wanted a blue sweater. You can see in the photo how far I've gotten, and I can assure you that it is coming along quite nicely. The pattern is Easy Bulky Sweater by Yankee Knitter. I've made it before, but I like it, and it's a good solid and very warm sweater that works well for most men.

The sweater for Troy is in Malabrigo Rios, pure superwash Merino. The colourway is Ivy, and the pattern I chose is Flax, by Tin Can Knits (I got it as a free pattern on Ravelry). It's a top-down pattern, knit without seams. I've finished five sweaters in my day, and all of them were done as panels that needed to be sewn together when all was said and knitted. I've never done this, and I'm pretty excited to get started on it.

If I have time to make a second sweater (because the above is only one-and-a-half sweaters, since Brad's is more or less half done already), I want to make the Flax sweater for myself, using Donegal Tweed by Tahki, in a deep blue colourway. I bought this yarn being thoroughly enchanted by the colour and the feel of the yarn, and while I have made two sweaters for myself using bulky weight yarns, and would like to make something that isn't quite so warm. Those bulky sweaters are so warm that I don't feel like I need to wear a coat over them, even when it's wicked cold outside (as we say around here).

Sweaters are such a serious time commitment. I've figured it takes me about six to nine hours to make a hat, about 15 to 25 hours to make a scarf (depending on length, number of stitches, and complexity), and about 60 hours to make a bulky sweater. I reckon it will be about 70 or 80 to make a worsted weight sweater. But I am up for the challenge. I will admit, with some embarrassment that it's always exciting to cast on a sweater, but the stick-to-itiveness of finishing one can be daunting. Sweaters, while most easily knit at home, are best knit while attending knit-night, for support and encouragement from one's fellow knitters. Maybe I'll do both, and bring them with me sometimes to the open knit at my LYS.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Greater Boston Yarn Crawl and Rude Reality

The GreaterBoston Yarn Crawl occurred a couple of weekends ago. The original post I had planned and which I wrote in my head talked about how I couldn't afford to buy more yarn, that I now had 30 large bins to house my yarn stash, that I will have to move all these bins, and store them in a house that will have living space of about 1000 square feet (well, I hope it's that large), and that I hadn't really knit up anything from the yarn I got at last year's Yarn Crawl (except for those two skeins of Art Yarn that I got at the Creative Warehouse, but the rest of the yarn is still in my stash). Let's face it: The last thing I need is more damn yarn.

That is the post I planned to write. Rude Reality, however, had quite a different agenda for me, alas. Nicole and I visited a grand total of six yarn stores, beginning Friday night. I was so good. At the Stitch House in Dorchester, the MadTosh was on sale for $18 a skein, and I bought nary a bit. I looked at it. I felt it. I weighed the merits of one colour over another. But none of it came home with me. I must also admit here, if I am to be honest, that I have a fair amount of Tosh in my stash, since I bought most of what was on offer when the beloved and much lamented Windsor Button Shop closed its doors a couple years ago.

Stitch House, Dorchester. All the Madeline Tosh!

On Saturday morning, Nicole and I got an early start on the Crawl. We were going to get our Passports stamped, pick up some free patterns, and enter the drawing for the big baskets of goodies that most of the stores were raffling off. This is where Reality got rude. The first store we hit was the Iron Horse, in Natick. I love this store, and it's the first time I'd visited it since last year's Yarn Crawl. Not having a car makes it difficult to get there. The owner and her colleague remembered me, and gave us a very warm welcome. On Saturday Berroco yarns were on sale. I decided to buy some Ultra Alpaca, a 50-50 blend of wool and alpaca. But I couldn't find a green I liked, so I got the Vintage. As I sit writing this, I looked at the fibre content and discovered that it is 52% acrylic. I don't knit with acrylic, and so I will see if I can sell, trade, or gift this yarn, and I'll get something else. I'd like to make the Deathflake* hat pattern (free on Ravelry) for a friend. But now I see I'll be getting some other yarn. I still like Iron Horse. It's not their fault that they don't know my prejudice against artificial fibres, and my fault that I didn't check the fibre content before I bought the yarn.
Iron Horse, Natick. I love this store, even though I didn't get what I wanted.

The next stop on our itinerary was the Black Sheep Knitting in Newton. Beautiful yarns, a kick-ass raffle basket, but I didn't buy any yarn there. I did, however, enable someone to buy lots of yarn, discussing what colours a boy would want to wear in a hat. That was a lot of fun. If I can't buy yarn for myself, I'm always happy to help someone else buy yarn.
Baah Yarn at Black Sheep Knitting. This is a great yarn to work with.

We moved on to the Creative Warehouse next. There are some lovely yarns there, but again, I didn't buy any yarn. But I saw some stuff I would like to go back and checkout some time. The crew there is friendly, and Nicole and I fell in love with an expensive skein of yarn ($104) to make a shawl. I liked the blue, she liked the red. We'll save our pennies to buy it some day.

The penultimate stop was the Island Yarn Company, in Waltham. The GPS took us there via back roads, including one unpaved road that was hell on our bladders. But Island Yarn is wonderful! A good selection of yarn there is dyed by the owner, and yes, I did buy two skeins of chunky yarn. The gorgeous Tanzaneta blue yarn, and the yarn designed for this year's Crawl, as yet unnamed, known as GBY2015. I got the chunky weight, and it reminds me of the latter moments of a sunset, right before night falls.

Our final stop was Mind's Eye Yarns in Cambridge. I have loved this store for many years, and when I lived in Somerville, it was always my go-to store for just about anything I needed, knit-related. I bought a small kit of Malabrigo lace weight, three skeins pre-packaged with a pattern. This was a special sale item for the weekend, and the colours I got were orange, red, and black. I'm thinking a cowl for a friend, done as a gradient. The Plymouth yarn was on sale for Saturday, and if I'd had more money, I would have bought some of the deep, dark blue. It was so pretty. But I suppose I have enough blue yarn. There was a new alpaca/merino blend in natural shades there, but it was a bit too pricey for me, and it can wait until I am a bit more flush before I add it to my stash.

Several of the stores had visiting yarn companies giving trunk shows. The only one that really piqued my interest was Toil and Trouble, from Salem, MA, at Mind's Eye. She had some beautiful hand dyed yarns on display, and again, I wish I had more money, so I could have bought her out.
Toil and Trouble yarns, at Mind's Eye. 
I can't wait to add these to my stash. 
I might even knit them up!

I guess I could say it was a successful Crawl, in one way, since I scored some beautiful skeins of yarn. It was not a successful Crawl in another, since I had not intended to buy any yarn at all, and only went with Nicole to keep her company. Really, though, who am I kidding? There was absolutely no way I was going to go on a yarn crawl through some of the best stores in the Boston area without buying any yarn. As they say, “Don't pee on my back and tell me it's raining.”

*There is also the Deathflake 2 pattern.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Oops! I did it again!

Some days it doesn't matter how bearish one might be, one is really like Brittney Spears. I have a couple days off from work because of Rosh HaShannah, the Jewish New Year (Happy 5776!). I thought I'd do a little work around my room, organising yarn, putting books on the shelves, hoovering the rugs, putting the yarn in zip loc baggies, and so on. Then I uncovered the new bin I'd bought a few weeks back to hold my new yarn, and began filling it. And filling it, and filling it. Until it overflowed. Oh dear. As dear Brittney would say, "Oops, I did it again!" I need another damn bin.

My yarn acquisition is definitely getting the better of me. Because I really need to buy a new bin or two to handle the yarn I've got sitting on the bed. And on the sofa. And on the desk. And on the bureau. Oh, and I need to store the yarns I got while in New Orleans; they're still in my suitcase. I think I'm up to 28 or 29 bins. I might as well make it an even 30. Don't let's even talk about the Christmas ornaments I've been collecting for the last four years, even though I haven't put up a Christmas tree since 2008 (because, you know, this is a blog about knitting and yarn, not Christmas ornaments). I don't even want to think about the Greater Boston Yarn Crawl that's coming up this week. I need to sit in a lotus position and chant, "I don't need more yarn, ohm. I don't need more yarn, ohm." *le sigh* Of course, I won't need more yarn until I become a Buddha, and I don't think I can become a Buddha until I knit my entire stash. On the other hand, if I've achieved SABLE, then I might live forever trying to become a Buddha!

But I've got plans! I've got big plans! I've acquired some kick-ass patterns for next year's knitting. And I've even been choosing the yarns from my stash that I want to use. I'm really really really going to try to stick with stash yarn! Really! Unless I discover I don't have the right colour (not everyone wants to wear blue). Or the right fibre (because some people are allergic to wool, but not alpaca). Through the good offices of Ravelry, I've gotten the following patterns: Ho'okipa shawl; Inland Sea; and Twin Leaf (all available on Ravelry!). I've got my knitting set out for me once I finally finish this year's holiday knits.

Now, off to Boutique Target so I can buy more bins. Because I'm damn sure going to do it again.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

New Orleans' Yarn Haul

I'm back in New Orleans for an extra long weekend (five whole days!), and of course I made a trip to the Quarter Stitch and to Bornside Yarns. Because when there are two yarn stores within walking distance, it's a clever thing to visit both. Of course, they're in opposite directions, but that didn't matter at all. Since I've been to the Quarter Stitch so many times, a couple of the people who work there remember me, and that's really nice. I got to hear about Jen's trip to Ireland working as a crewhand on a sailing ship, and the different things going on in town. At Bornside Yarns, the owner didn't quite remember me, but after I supplied a couple hints, she sort of did. We got to talking about things to do in New Orleans, Unitarians, Catholic churches, and things to do around the year. In all, both were very good visits.

At Quarter Stitch, I picked up some Malabrigo Rios.
One skein of Azul Profundo to make a hat.

Two skeins of Bobby Blue, to make a shawlette.

At Bornside Yarns, I got more yarn!

 One skein each of undyed Plymouth Homstead Yarns, in brown and white.

Two skeins of Wisdom Yarns' Poems Silk, 75%wool and 25% silk.
Not sure yet what this will become, but it's soft and lovely, and shimmers.

On the whole, some really good haul for a few hours' shopping at two really lovely yarn stores.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Dying and Margaritas

A week ago, with the temperature reaching about 88 and high humidity, Mirabel, Huw, and I got together to dye yarn. All I can say about the experience is, "Wot larks!"

Using eco-friendly dyes from Greener Shades, we dyed eight skeins for me, two for Huw, and three for Mirabel. It was a long day, starting at 10:00 am, ending well after 10:00 pm, included lunch and a dinner of lobster (for them, since I'm a kosher vegetarian), and delicious corn on the cob, the first I've had this summer. I think I got home just after midnight. And it was awesomely fun!

My skeins were one skein of Alpaca, two of Corriedale wool, three of Romney wool, and one of wool of unknown sheep breeds. Mirabel had a cotton bouclé yarn, that was dyed a colour that could only be described as “puke yellow”. It was seriously ugly. Huw's yarn was two HUGE skeins of white wool, of unknown sheep breeds, that he got for free years ago, which had been languishing in his stash for many years.

First we tied the yarn with fine cotton string, making sure that the loops were large enough for the dye to reach the yarn after it expanded in the dye pots. Next we soaked the yarn in hot water, letting it get thoroughly soaked. While the yarns were soaking, and the instructions noted that alpaca needs to soak longer than sheep's wool, and that these dyes were best on animal fibres, rather than vegetable fibres. This would later prove out as Mirabel's cotton didn't hold the dye, and we noted that while the cotton strings binding our yarn became dyed, they didn't absorb the dyes as well as the animal fibres. Live and learn, eh?
 Mirabel is getting some of my Romney yarn ready to soak. The yarn was rich in lanolin, and the dying instructions said it would dye better without lanolin, so we washed it well before putting it in the dye liquor. I had, however, had to cut about four inches off the skein, and we dyed that, lanolin and all, and it seemed to come out fine. I think if I have lanolin rich yarns again, I'm just going to dye them as they are. 

When the yarns were completely soaked, we prepared the dyes. Mirabel says herself that she is not a scientific dyer, carefully measuring the dyes to achieve a specific colour. We decided we wanted very saturated colours, so we poured the entire contents of each phial into the mixing cups. By day's end, we had used the Ruby Red, the Fire Red, the Amethyst Purple, the Amazon Green, the Sunrise Yellow, and had mixed the River Blue and Coral Reef Aqua together. We left the Midnight Black, and Sunset Orange for another day. I also want to note that during the dying process, that when the yarn reached a certain temperature, which we gauged by how much steam was coming off the pots (hey, I said we weren't scientific, and the description of the steam was taken from the instructions that came with the dyes), we added some citric acid, which intensified the colours of the yarns. We did test for pH., using strips, to determine a rough estimate of base/acidity of our dyes.

The steam is rising and we know that the water is damn hot.
We started with the Amazon green, dyeing my alpaca first, and the Ruby red, which I used for the Corriedale and one skein of the Romney. Since stove-top space was limited, we only dyed two colours at the same time (mostly, though we finessed that later). When I pulled the alpaca out of the dye pot, Mirabel decided to try dying the cotton yarn, even though these dyes are not formulated for vegetable fibres. No one wanted to dye anything else green, so it was worth a shot. We rinsed the alpaca and almost no dye coloured the water, but when it finally ran clear, it was a gorgeous dark pine green.
Alpaca yarn in the dye bath.
Next we pulled the red yarns out of the pot. The dye liquor had been completely absorbed, and again the water ran clear after only a couple of rinsings. This surprised us, since we thought we'd lose a bit more colour through rinsing than we actually did. The saturation was intense, and it was interesting to note that even though the Corriedale and the Romney had sat in the same pot for the same length of time, there was a slight, but notable difference in the colour of these yarns, which I had expected, since the fibres had come from different breeds.

No, that's not spaghetti sauce, that's Corriedale and Romney yarns soaking in the dye liquor!
After a quick break for lunch, we prepared the purple dye for the remaining Romney skeins, and Mirabel took her cotton yarn out of the dye. As she rinsed it, the colour washed away, and she could see the original colour beneath the green. She tried to give it a soak with white vinegar, but that seemed to make things worse. Even though we were pretty certain that cotton wouldn't well absorb this particular dye, she decided to try overdying it with the yellow dye.

While these were dying, Huw and I tied off his rather large skeins, and began soaking them to prepare them to dye. After we removed the Romney from the purple dye, it was time for a dinner break. It's really amazing how tiring and hunger-inducing dying can be, though maybe it was the heat, since even though the air conditioners were working, the kitchen was as hot as the hinges of Hell.
Here, I'm squeezing the excess water out of the purple Romney, before putting it on the drying rack. To the immediate right, you can see the green cotton yarn of Mirabel's that rinsed out even after mordant had been added.
Between finishing my skeins and dying Huw's, we had Margaritas. Because nothing says madcap like a bit of tipsy dying.
Margaritas for everyone!
We plan to get together again in September for more dying, though this time we really do plan on using indigo. I'm already thinking of amassing a small stash of undyed yarns for this venture!
One green Alpaca; one red Romney; two red Corriedales; three purple Romneys

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Lady Dye Yarns

When I was a small child, my parents had a recording of Barbra Streisand singing to Chopin's Minute Waltz. I can barely remember the words, but thanks to the magic of Google, I found them.
I have got a minute, just a little minute
I have only got a minute, just a minute
I have only got a minute that is all the time
I have to sing this tiny minute waltz

It isn't easy but I'll try it then
I've gotta say goodbye but first I'll take a minute
And put in it every note that Chopin wrote
And I shall sing the little minute waltz
(Words by Don Harper, music by Frederic Chopin)

There are more verses, but these suit my purpose. My friend Diane Ivey, of Lady Dye Yarns, and a consumate dyer, is going to a major trade show, and has asked her friends to knit up samples for her to take with her. I volunteered. I received four skeins of fingering weight yarn, blue, green, orange, and pink. Fingering weight. Allow me to let that sink into your brain. 
I usually don't go any finer than DK, sport if I absolutely have to. But fingering. Yeah. I have big ol' clumsy man-hands. Tiny needles give me cramps. But with the instructions in my e-mail telling me to make something(s) using two skeins and to keep two skeins, I accepted the challenge. It did not help that I was on vacation last week and did not leave myself much time to knit. Now that I'm home, I've been desperately searching for patterns to use with fingering weight, while keeping an eye on the calendar. I have thirteen days to make this. I've got twelve. I can do it in twelve. If I can find a pattern. Eleven. I am down now to eleven days to make what I'm going to make, and I have finally found a pattern that might work: Lefties, by Martina Behm. The pattern is written so one may use up leftovers from skeins previously worked. But I think I'll just dive in here and make it with all brand-new, never-used-before yarn.
This was taken from Martina Behm's Ravelry page.

It's this, or a feather-and-fan scarf. 

Yeah, right.

This is Diane's yarn. I'm not sure of the fibre content, but it sure is pretty.

Another view of the gorgeous colours.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Farmers' Market, Provincetown

So a wonderful week was spent in Provincetown, where I got some knitting done (though not the amount I had hoped, considering all the yarn I brought with me). I did finish a hat, and I got a bit done on a cowl, but I brought four skeins of Cascade Superwash 128 and circular and DPNs to work on a hat project I've got going on (more about that later, when I have more than two hats to show off for all my labour). But vacation time isn't always the best knitting time, and I like to listen to the radio while I knit (NPR junkie here), and sometimes where I'm sitting (like, on the deck), just doesn't get the best reception.

Whatever. What I was really waiting for during this entire week was the Farmers' Market that is held here on Saturdays. I usually arrive on Sunday, so I have to go the entire week before it manifests. Today there was someone selling the most gorgeous corn on the cob and blueberries, someone selling imported Italian olive oils (from Toscana and Puglia) and aged balsamic vinegars, and someone selling artisan breads. And of course, someone selling yarn!

There was a tent from Biltmore Wool Barn, in Brewster, MA. I cannot find a website, but the phone is on the sign below.

There were many skeins from which to choose, and I tried very hard to limit myself in my selection this year.

With a good selection of Blue Face Leicester, Merino, Silk, and blends of all of the afore mentioned, it was very hard to make a selection this year. 
I got this with a project for my friend Adrienne in mind. She loves this colour, and she lives in Provincetown, and in fact, it's at her house where I'm staying. I'd love to say I made something with yarn from her town's Farmers' Market. This is 60% merino and 40% silk, 520 yards, 9 ounces.

This I got for Brandon's mum. She loves blues and browns, and i think I have something to mix with this at home. It is 100% Blue Face Leicester, and is a superwash yarn. With 430 yards, and 4.6 ounces, I think I can get something pretty out of it. The picture does not do it justice, it is a beautiful golden-brown colour.

Now I need to search Ravelry for some patterns to use on these gorgeous yarns. I cannot wait to knit with them!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

A Tangled Web

Yesterday, before going to work, and after getting home, I spent six-and-a-half hours untangling a single skein of yarn. I bought this yarn during the Greater Boston Yarn Crawl back in September. It's a lovely wool, black and blue, my favourite colours. I didn't open the hanks to check them, foolish me. One hank is fine. The other was, well, calling it a mess is not really accurate. It was just pitiful.

 This is the offending yarn, all rolled up in a ball, next to the unoffending hank. It's Artyarns, Zara Hand-Dyed. It's merino wool from Italy.

My friend Bee is a yarn whisperer. She's probably the best person I know who can disentangle  yarn problems. But I have to admit that I did pretty well today on my own. Even though I used more than six hours of my life that I will never get back. But I'm not bitter. Much.

Of course, six-and-a-half hours of untangling yarn leaves me wanting a stiff drink, but I shall forebear and leave the vanilla vodka bottle, the one I received as a gift two years ago, yet unopened.

I will cast on this yarn and start the next iteration of the Spiral Staircase Shawl. I think it will work well, because the colour lines are long before they change. It would probably work better in stockinette, but I'm going all out garter with these shawls.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Water, Water, Everywhere. . .

I finished a project the other night, the fourth iteration of the Spiral Staircase shawl. This one in Mad Color Fiber Arts sport weight, called Wicked. The colourway is Rock Lobster. I love the way it looks in real life, with bits and pieces of lighter and darker red. I want to knit with this yarn again. Luckily I bought several skeins of her stuff at the New Hampshire Sheep &Wool Festival!

After I finished that, I sat on my bed with the contents of two bins emptied over the comforter. I looked, I prodded, I felt and sniffed and held various colours up to the light. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. I looked at the pile of yarn in front of me and cried, "Oh no! I. Have. Nothing. To. Knit!" No, seriously, I have nothing to knit! All that yarn and nothing to knit! Yarn, yarn everywhere, and not a string to knit!

OK, seriously, I have plenty of things I can knit. I just don't feel like knitting them right now. Sweaters? It's too hot. Another Spiral Stair? Um, can I do something different before I do the fifth iteration of that? The awesome hats for a couple I know whose marriage is now recognised in their home state? Yeah, but the pattern is a finicky Fair Isle, and I want to be wide awake when I attempt it. Besides, in order to do it I have to do some (cue scary music) math! Math is hard!

Later. . . .

OK, I've cast on the hats I'm making for my newly recognised married friends. Doing the math is a lot easier than I thought it would be. I mean, 96 stitches divided by 24 is. . . 4! Easier than I thought, especially when I used my trusty phone calculator. Phew. Besides, I can do the ribbing and the foundation before I start the persnickety Fair Isle stuff. Well, it's not really Fair Isle, and more like stranded knitting because it isn't a traditional Fair Isle pattern of circles and squares. It's bears! I'm making the Polar Bear Hat, by Susan J. Flanders, and which is distributed by Three Kittens Designs, which can be found on Ravelry. I'm making Grizzly Bears instead of Polar Bears, because I have brown yarn, rather than white. Besides, my friends are more like Grizzlies at this point than Polar Bears. I'm using MadTosh Vintage, in colours Celadon and Betty Draper's Blues for the hats, and Whiskey Barrel for the bears. I'll post some pictures when I have more than some ribbing (because, you know, 2x2 ribbing is SOOOO interesting to look at!).

Much later. . . .

These are the colours I'm using for the hats.
Betty Draper's Blues, Whiskey Barrel, and Celadon.

These are the hats so far. I'm making the ribbing with US 6 needles, the stockinette part on US 7 needles, and the stranded knitting part with US 8 needles. Which is why I can have both hats going at the same time (never mind that I have multiple sets of all three sizes).
At the top of the celadon hat, you can see the beginnings of the bears' feet. There will be four bears walking around this hat. As with all stranded knitting, it's always a question if the finished product will fit an adult head. You see, these two guys who are getting these hats are on-line friends, whom I've never met in meat-space. But I love an adventure, and adventures in knitting are the best kind!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Because Knitting Isn't Weird Enough

Because knitting isn't weird enough.

Recently I've become interested in making soap. A few years ago I found a book in a used book store and idly picked it up. I read through it, but most of the soaps were made with tallow, and I'm a vegetarian so I wasn't quite interested in making them. I certainly would want to put the little bunny logo on my soaps that indicate that no animals were harmed in the manufacturing of my product.

And then I discovered one of the recipes was for a pure olive oil Castilian soap. And I decided that I had to make my own soap. Because I love olive oil soap. Years ago, I used to buy a large square bar of olive oil soap from France. It was huge, and I could barely hold it in my hand. A single bar lasted several months, and I used it for everything: washing my self, my hair, as shaving cream. Sure, it makes you smell like a salad, but it's so good for your skin.

There are several items I need to buy: an accurate scale that can be reset to zero; dishwasher-safe buckets and pitchers; spoons that won't dissolve when stirring lye mixtures; safety goggles and rubber gloves; a large plastic mold for the initial pouring; a kitchen where I can do all this, because with the piles of mail my roommate keeps on our kitchen table, I'll never be able to do this work at home. And I want to try my hand at milling the soap, grating it down after it's been made, to create a hand-milled soap, where I can add things like ground up lilacs, or a bit of vanilla fragrance. At this rate, I'll be wanting to make my own bread (in the oven, not in a bread maker), and keeping chickens out back for the fresh eggs.

What has any of this to do with knitting? Well, absolutely nothing. It's just a bee I've got in my bonnet. But if I made my own soaps, I'd have the perfect excuse to knit up a bunch of wash cloths to give to friends along with a bar of home-made soap, with various logos like Daleks, or bears, or fleurs-de-lys knit into them to delight the recipients. I've got a lot of cotton yarn in my stash! I've seen the patterns on Ravelry! I could wrap the soap in the wash cloth that I'd knit!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Yarns to Dye For!

One of the things I've been interested in for a while is dying. Come July, I'm going to get my chance to try my hand at it. Huw's friend Mirabel is a dyer, and uses natural plant dyes rather than chemical dyes. I think we'll be using indigo and maybe woad. One of them, I've heard, needs what is known to dyers as a "piss-bath" and I'm sure if that's true, it will all be so very charming.


I've been scouring my stash for any undyed yarns I might have. I've found quite a few, but these nine are the ones I think I'll bring with me to dye.

A few years ago, I signed up for a yarn CSA out of Martha's Vineyard, which has since relocated to Virginia as Juniper Moon Farm. At the end of the season, I got two skeins of Romney and four skeins of Corriedale.

These are the Romney skeins. The yarn is beautiful, but not particularly soft. I need to do some research about Romney yarn, and what it might be best used for.

These are the four skeins of Corriedale. I don't think I've ever knit with Corriedale before, so I'm looking forward to making something interesting with these once they're dyed.

In 2007 I visited a friend in Bellingham, WA, and on a trip to Orcas Island, we passed a sheep farm and I bought these two skeins. I wish I'd also bought the natural brown yarn, but I was limited in funds. These are from Coffelt's Farm from the island, and I've carried them with me a long time, and a long way. While I know these are wool, I'm not sure from which breed, and the website doesn't mention which breed they use for the wool, though there are Romney, Dorset, Coopworth, and Texal on the farm.

At a recent craft fair, I got this sport weight skein of alpaca yarn. It's from Sunny Knoll Farm in New Hampshire. I don't know much about this yarn, only that I've been told that alpaca accepts dye beautifully, and that it will look good when done.

I will continue to look through my stash to see if I have other undyed skeins of yarn. I know that I have a few skeins of Cascade Epiphany, a discontinued line, in a mustard yellow. Mirabel tells me that this can be overdyed, and if I can find it, I'll bring it with me. I only bought it because the yarn had been discontinued and I knew that when my LYS was soldout, it would be out of reach forever.

Saturday, June 6, 2015


This is my third attempt in a week to write a blog post. The computer ate my previous efforts (it crashed and refused to yield up my efforts when I got the damn thing running again). So much is going on that I'll just write a miscelany.

Item the First
I finished the third effort at the Spiral Stair Shawl. This one is in a blend of merino and mohair and was hand dyed by my friend Lucy. I think it came out well, and the other morning, I cast on the fourth effort at this shawl.

It's a crappy picture, but it's the only one I have of this iteration of the shawl.

Item the Second
I have been moving my bins of yarn to the basement of my friends Laura and Bill. I sublet from my roommate, and he is in danger of being evicted. If he goes, I go. So I'm getting the important stuff out of the house before the landlord gets the chance to leave it on the sidewalk. So far there are about 19 bins of yarn that have been moved. There are still 8 in my room, but a lot of the yarn in these particular bins needs to be put into ziploc baggies. I am currently out of baggies and don't plan a trip to La Boutique Target (that's French) until later this weekend. Then I'll finish bagging, and then I'll finish moving the bins. I'm keeping the yarn for the next 10 or so projects, but what'll I do when those are all knit up? Of course, their front door is a climb of about 30 steps up from the street, and then when in the house, one must navigate down a narrow set of steps to the basement. It's always an adventure!

Item the Third
One of the things I found whilst bagging my yarn is this sweater I began sometime between 2005 and 2007. The back panel is done, and about half of the front. It's in Berocco's Peruvia, and I think at some point I might even pick it up again and finish it. I kind of remembered it was floating around somewhere, but I wasn't quite sure where. I'm glad I found it.
It's a Gurnsey by Yankee Knits, the ribbed sections are actually in black alpaca.

Item the Fourth
I am a yarn whore. I know this. Gods below! I have 26 bins of yarn, and I need to buy yet another to fit all the yarn I got when I was at the NH Sheep and Wool Festival. My friend Huw sent me this picture, and I quite agree.

Item the Fifth
About ten days ago I hit a patch of not knowing what to knit. I had just finished a project, and while I have a long list of projects I want to get done, I couldn't decide which one. I cast on three different ones, and they are still sitting by my bed, the stitches cast on and nothing more accomplished. What I finally realised was that I really wanted to knit with the Mad Color yarn I'd gotten at NHS&W. Dyed a vibrant red, Rock Lobster, it's a Blue Face Leicester wool that is lovely to work with. I only wish it were a slightly heavier yarn, since I'm knitting on US size 3 needles, which is about as small as my paws can handle. But I'm loving the texture and colour variation, and the soft feel of it.
This is the fourth edition of this shawl that I am making for all the women on my holiday list this year. This is three-and-a-half repeats of the pattern.

Item the Sixth
I am looking for patterns for a cowl for my friend Dolci. I made a New Bittersweet Cowl for her sister, but I am reluctant to make the same pattern, since the second time usually looks better than the first attempt. I need to hit up Ravelry today. I think that will be very pleasant.