Monday, September 28, 2009

Alpacas and Charlotte's Babies...

If you were watching the Alpaca Cam yesterday, you may have seen the alpacas greeting me as I arrived at the ranch.

I got my spinning set up and started work on the orange-rust hand-dyed alpaca I was working on the day before. The alpacas had visitors of all ages during the day.

As I was spinning, I would occasionally have a tiny spider drop from the tent that was providing protection from the sun. I wondered if they were Charlotte's babies. I lifted each on carefully to the ground. After the third or fourth one, I wondered if they were coming to check out my technique. The German word for spider is Spinne, which comes from the verb spinnen, meaning "to spin." (Spinnen also means "to be crazy." 'Nuff said.) Spiders are fantastic spinners, with a singles that's even and strong.

The two alpaca ranches participating in Alpaca Days, Blue Moon Ranch and Alpacas at Sundance Ranch, had products for sale. These were spun either by a company in Salt Lake City called Spinderella, or by my friends Linda and...Linda. Charlotte and her babies were not involved.

Linda and Linda had hats, purses, scarves, sweaters socks and other items made from alpaca fiber. They also had spinning fiber and finished yarn, some of it hand-dyed. Business was good. In the photo above, Linda is explaining something about alpaca fiber to a customer.

By about 2:30 PM I had finished the alpaca I was spinning. Today I plied it on itself, using the method where you use your ball winder to make a center-pull ball and then pull from the inside and the outside at the same time to make a 2-ply yarn. I was pleased that, by concentrating, I could make a fairly balanced yarn. I counted every time my left foot went down (I have a double-treadle wheel). One-two-three, and then I fed the plied yarn to the orifice. I think the penny coordinates well with the yarn. Actually, I'm using that for scale. (I noticed the spinners on Ravelry do that.)

I haven't washed it yet to set the twist, but I wanted to get a photo.

Here's what I started spinning yesterday afternoon (above). I put on another bobbin and started with the caramel-colored alpaca. I'm finding it easier to spin. It doesn't have all the slubs and little odd spots that was in the hand-dyed, which was made from some less even fiber, which makes it interesting and fun to spin--but challenging.

This photo shows a complete alpaca fleece, called a blanket. It was laid out so people could see what it looks like after shearing and before processing. See, alpacas can make blankets, too!

Well, I had to show you something of the gorgeous foliage in my backyard. Nights are cool and days are warm, but we are supposed to have precipitation and cold--maybe snow at our elevation--about Wednesday.

What's on my needles? Still frantically trying to finish up the EZ leggings (AKA "Nethergarments"). I'm on the waist ribbing. I have to do a few rows, then make eyelets for a tie.

What's on my iPod? Still listening to Lorna Doone...about Chapter 20 or so now...and the KP Podcasts, of course. I need to download some Sticks and String and It's a Purl, Man. I'm getting behind.

DH is staining the deck in front, rushing to get done before it snows. Rocky and Sunny are relaxing after the walk we went on. I'm sitting here with a nice cuppa tea before we go to the theater tonight to see A Chorus Line down in Salt Lake City. Happy knitting/spinning, etc. --P

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sipalu Bag Wins First Prize at Great Basin Fiber Arts Fair

I couldn't believe my Sipalu Bag took first prize!

September 12 and 13 were the dates for the Great Basin Fiber Arts Fair in South Jordan, Utah. I went to see my friend Linda's exhibit. (She's the one of the friends who raises alpacas.) I gave a ride to my friend Joanie and her daughter Kristi, who are both avid knitters. My Kromski Sonata rode in the back. My plan was to sit and spin for a while with Linda. I also took along the skein of yarn I had just finished using the hand-painted roving from Greenwood Fiber Works so I could show it to her. I was using my Sipalu Bag as a purse.
On my way in through the gate, they took away my yarn and my bag, insisting I enter them in the competitions, which were set up in different categories. I dumped all of my purse stuff into my knitting bag, filled out the forms, and left them there. Linda's DH, Mike, said he would pick them up for me Sunday afternoon. There were a lot of great vendors, including the aforementioned Greenwood Fiber Works.
I went to Linda's today to spin for a while and see her two new babies. That's when I found out that my Sipalu Bag had won first prize in it's category, which was items knit from commercial yarns. Of course, at the time I dropped it off, they didn't have much in that category. Still, the judging form had some nice comments, including what a lovely design it was and how nice the colorway was. Of course, I had nothing to do with the design and colorway, other than choosing to buy the kit. I'm sure if they hadn't thought the workmanship had been any good, it wouldn't have won, though. This was what I got in addition to the ribbon:

Won't this be nice for my knitting? It was donated by Three Wishes, which is where my wheel and lots of my spinning fiber came from. My skein of yarn took a 4th place, with some nice comments about the Navajo plying, and some constructive suggestions about the spinning, which was irregular in some places. The judge wrote that she would like to see what I can do after another year of spinning.
Back to activities at Linda's. I got to see the new babies. So far, there are three: two girls and a boy, one each in black, white and sort of a caramel color. Here's the white baby, less than 2 weeks old:

Linda also showed me her new swift, made for her by her DH, Mike.

The base is from a fan. Mike is handy when it comes to making things. Linda also had a boo-boo in a finished shawl she wanted me to fix before she sent it to it's intended recipient, a new mother and baby. A join had apparently come apart with washing.
When I got back from Linda's I just had time for lunch before my friend Marianne came to practice German with me. We eat Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake) and knit while conversing in German. It's good to keep in practice, because we don't often get a chance here in the US. Marianne is making progress on her pullover, which is a Swedish pattern (she's from Sweden) with some yarn substitutions.

I made some progress on my EZ leggings, too. They should be ready to wear soon. I'm doing the waist shaping.

In non-knitting/spinning news, DH had his birthday on Saturday. He was delighted with the new indoor herb garden I got for him as a present. I don't think I've ever been so successful in choosing a good present for him. He couldn't wait to set it up.

Besides the KP podcast, which I like to listen to again and again, I have Lorna Doone on my iPod from It has been a busy week, and it's nice to have some down time. But tomorrow is knitting group, and it's at my house this time. Happy knitting! --P
P.S.: Please excuse the dog butts in the photos. It happens.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Finished Landscape Shawl! Extra Post!

I had to show it off!

I couldn't wait until next week's blog to show off my Landscape Shawl! I'm so excited that it's done.
In case you didn't see what I started with, here's a review:

The fiber, Coopworth that had been hand dyed, with all kinds of colorful second cuts and stuff in it.

The singles on my wheel.

Two and a half pounds of spun yarn!
Yes, I'm hooked! I'm finally a spinner. From loose fiber to finished project, I did it all...well, all except the dying. Wait until you see my Kool-Aid dyed fiber project. But that's for another day. Happy knitting and spinning, everyone! --P

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

More Fiber Fun!

Saturday I went to the Great Basin Fiber Arts Festival in South Jordan, Utah. I didn't take any photos! I can't believe it! I was too busy.
I spent some time in Linda's booth, spinning. Here's the fiber I was working on. It's pumpkin-colored merino and silk that I bought at Three Wishes.

Here's what I'm getting with it for singles:

It's a little harder to spin evenly than the straight merino was. BTW, they took away my skein of hand-painted merino AND my Sipalu Bag (my purse!) to enter in the competitions. I don't think I won anything because I haven't heard, but Linda's husband, Mike, said he would pick up the skein and the bag Sunday afternoon.
Well, of course, I was bad again! The people from Greenwood Fiber Works were there with their gorgeous braids of hand-painted merino. I couldn't resist, because I had so much fun with the first braid, which was the "Mountain Air" colorway. The new one is "Enchanted." I might as well send them my whole Social Security check and tell them just to throw at me whatever they want!

My Landscape Shawl is blocking. My lace-blocking wires came yesterday. I can't wait to wear it, and it has started getting cold here. While I had the Kookaburra Wool Wash made up, I used it to wash a Fair Isle pullover vest and a sleeveless cardi to get them ready for winter. The scent of the Wool Wash is all over the house now!
What's on my needles? I'm back to working on DH's Fair Isle sleeveless cardi (maybe for Christmas, if I can get it done before the second thumb surgery) and my EZ leggings for winter. If I have time, I'll try to finish up my Oregon socks, which are coming along.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Fiber, Fiber, Fiber...My Head is Spinning!

As you may know, I was camping last week and along with the hiking, I got some knitting and spinning done. If you look at my last blog, you'll see photos of my camping experience. I have finished the spinning project that I was working on during the time in the mountains. This is my first multi-colored spinning project.

This is the fiber I started with. It's hand-dyed merino from Greenwood Fiber Works.

Here's what it looked like on the wheel. I had no control over what colors went into the yarn, other than picking out a colorway I liked, but I could make the sections of color longer or shorter by drafting.

I also could combine the colors while drafting or plying. I chose Navajo plying because it keeps the colors together, rather than combining them barber-pole fashion. Navajo plying is sort of like making a long crochet chain, except that you make the loops fairly long, and you're adding twist as you work. Because you're working with one strand of yarn, the colors tend to stay together, except where the singles change from one color to another. After plying, I wound my yarn onto the niddy noddy DH made for me out of pvc pipe.

I tied it with figure-eights in four places, washed it in Kookaburra Wool Wash and hung it in the shade to dry.
In other activities, we had our annual geology hike just above Salt Lake City on Labor Day. Here's what you could see:

DH is on the far right. He's a geologist (retired), and every year he leads a group of hikers from the Park City Mountain Sports Club to learn about regional geology. Yes, that is a wolf to his left. She belongs to a friend of ours who hikes with us, the tall man in the hat.

What's on my needles? Still my Landscape Shawl with my hand-spun Coopworth. The yarn is fairly lumpy. I could have made smoother yarn, but at this point in my spinning, I would have had to card it, and would have lost all the little bits of color, which are actually second cuts, little bits of fiber that result from the shearer going back over part of the sheep already shorn. I'm making progress on my shawl!

What's on my earbuds? I'm currently listening to Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte on my iPod, downloaded from for free. (Thank you, librivox!) As always, I have KP podcasts on my little MP3 player and am anxiously awaiting new ones.

I'm looking forward to finishing my Landscape Shawl and a new spinning project. The area fiber fest, Great Basin Fiber Arts Festival, is coming up next weekend, as well as the open house at the Blue Moon Ranch alpaca farm (which belongs to one of the Lindas) the following weekend. I'm going to take my wheel and spin alpaca fiber. Life is good.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Washington Lake Camping, Spinning and Knitting

We're back, the dogs are pooped and the trailer is back in its storage space. We had a wonderful time, a perfect end to a wonderful summer. While we were camping, my SIL, Eileen, showed me her Aran cardi, which is on her needles right now. Here it is. She is using HW City Tweed in Romance.

HW City Tweed

Eileen is a wonderful knitter. She knits "English style," but is as fast as I am, even on ribbing. She puts the long, straight needle under her right arm. She and I bought yarn for our Aran cardis on Inish Mor while we were there on a hiking trip several years ago. We had fun in the yarn shop, while our DHs (who are brothers) cooled their heels outside. The shop also sold sweaters to tourists. The proprietor was excited to have people come into her store who actually knit! Eileen bought green, and I bought blue. (You can see my blue cardi in my photos.) I made mine for myself, and she made her green cardi for a friend. Then she wanted one for herself. She checked out my City Tweed DK and decided to try the HW, since the recommended gauge matched what she needed. I think the bright color suits her, and the cables show up well.
I've been trying to be good and finish up some UFOs, but I took along the yarn that I spun from hand-dyed Coopworth. I had 2 1/2 lbs to start with, and I spun it all! (See my last post.) I wanted to make a swatch for the Landscape Shawl from Fiber Trends, so I was just going to have a go using my new Zephyrs. Well, my first swatch absolutely hit gauge, even though I was guessing as to which yarn size my finished yarn was and what size needles to use. My swatch was so pretty, I couldn't resist. I CO the Landscape. Well, it only takes 2 sts to CO, so I couldn't leave it there. Here's what I have now:

Speaking of spinning, I took my wheel camping with me for the first time. We went up to the Uintas (mountains in eastern Utah) a day before our scheduled camping trip with BIL, SIL and two other couples. We had reservations at Washington Lake starting Monday, so we stopped at a campground called "Cobble Rest" overnight. Our campsite had a lovely stream, so in the evening, DH and I took our olives, wine and my Kromski Sonata spinning wheel down to the beach for an enjoyable couple of hours.

If you look closely, you can see my wine class in the pocket of my chair. The fiber I'm using came from a place called "Greenwood Fiber Works," and is hand-dyed merino. It comes in a long braid.

Here's what it looks like on my WooLee Winder:

While we were at Washington Lake, I brought out my wheel again. Even though I was tired after hiking, I still had energy to spin. I discovered that the wheel, when placed on the bench of the picnic table in the campsite, was the perfect height for spinning. Plus I had a great view of the lake from there.

Here's what the lake looked like late in the day:

We did more than sit around. We went on a hike every day and ended each day with a communal dinner with the other three couples and their dogs. The last full day, DH, the dogs and I took a hike alone, while several others of our group enjoyed the fishing. We had some great views from our lunch site. Here is DH sharing his lunch with Rocky and Sunny:

We took a lot of photos, including these of Rocky and Sunny. Here's Rocky, right after swimming, posing by one of the many lakes in the Uintas:

He's saying, "Look, a bird." That's Rocky! Birds, sticks, balls and squeeky toys! Sunny had a good swim, too. She mostly likes chasing things that are alive, so she can change their status. But she'll go after a stick in the water if she thinks she can get it before Rocky does.

What's on my needles? Well, besides the Landscape Shawl, the usual. I got a little more done on the Oregon socks while we were driving. Now I'm working full time on my Landscape Shawl. And looking at the photos of our fun trip.
Happy knitting!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Fantastic Fiber Fun

As you read this, I am in the high Uinta Mountains of Utah, hiking my little feet off, knitting at high altitude (pant, pant) and enjoying time with friends, one of whom is a knitter. I hope to post photos next week. In the meantime, let me show you what I've been up to since finishing the Moebius classes:

Remember the pile of Coopworth fiber I had?

This stuff was fun to work with, but full of lovely clumps of stuff. Of course, my yarn ended up full of stuff, too. On top of that, my spinning was uneven. I have some stuff that's kinked up. Some of is was overspun and some was overplied. That's great, if it's intentional. It wasn't. I still have a lot to learn. However, I enjoyed spinning it, and lots of it is close to what I wanted. I made more progress after getting my WooLee Winder:

I plan on making The Landscape Shawl from Fiber Trends. You can see it here. I think this pattern will be very forgiving, and the variations in the yarn should make it more interesting, rather than to detract from the design.

What's on my needles? Well, mostly the same. I finished my Moebius scarf and Trifold Bowl, which I posted about last week. I'm still working on my Oregon socks, put a few rows on the shell to go with my CLC and "thought" about picking up DH's sleeveless cardi. If I CO for a swatch for my Landscape Shawl, am I backsliding? Does it count if it's just a swatch? Hmmm. Well, if so, I think my UFO KAL buddies will forgive me. In the meantime, here's something of a preview of what I'll be surrounded with. This is Crystal Lake, not Washington Lake, but it's in the Uintas, so you get the idea. Until next week, happy knitting!