Two Left Needles

Knitting, spinning and dyeing
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May 2006 - Posts


It's the first weekend in a long time that we've had the luxury of really lounging and enjoying a full day. We tried out a new breakfast place, wandered the mall, saw our first full price movie in years (The DaVinci Code, courtesy of a wedding gift certificate), and then went out for dinner. Sea bass. Yum. It's been a while since we've had a day like that. I was thinking it's been since finding out we were gonna be laid off about a year ago, but more likely it's been since we bought the house (2.5 years). Mortgages change lifestyles, eh?

At the mall, they had posterboards announcing new residences/condos they were building next to the mall and the new Neiman Marcus. Residences. Practically in the mall. Who would want to live next to the mall??? It boggles my mind.


We visited Gram before the wedding. I mentioned that my birthday was coming up and she asked how old I was gonna be.

Me: I'm gonna be 34.

Gram: Oh, you're getting old!

Hahaha, thanks, Gram.

It's been a while since we took photos with Gram:

us n gram

One with her almost smiling (with a hint of mischief):

scott and gram

Gram's been doing a lot better recently which has been great. We asked Gram to take our photo, and this was the best one:

ready to party

We cracked up. She kept cutting Scott's head off. She'd start out okay but then her arms would slowly lower while she was taking the photo, or they'd angle down when she clicked. Scott said she was always cutting something out of photos ever since he's known her. Hehe.

Scott was happy to sneak in these with his suit:


He hates "shoes" (dress shoes) and has been trying to wear sneakers with his suit for as long as I've known him. He wore shoes for our wedding but then changed to black sneaks for the reception. You pick your battles, right?

The wedding was for a family friend that I haven't seen since high school. His family surprised us by driving 2 hours to come to my high school graduation! The next day we moved and I then went off to college and between one thing then another, I haven't seen them since. Fast forward 16 years. What a trip! The youngest was 4 when I last saw him; it took a while to get over the fact that he and his next older brother were adults, all grown up! Time warp, my brain had trouble catching up. Surreal. In the midst of all the change, some things haven't changed. They're still a great group of people, good hearts.

They told me I haven't changed at all. Dude, I so don't get carded (all the time) now! :P

Just one photo from the wedding:

chocolate fountain

Chocolate fountain. 'Nuff said.


I spent more time frogging than knitting this weekend, turning the White and Black Merino Sweater into this:

recycled yarn

The yarn is a very soft and cushy merino that was a shame to waste. Because of the stripes, though, many of these bundles are pretty small, and I had to toss at least a full ball's worth of yarn. Still, I have hopes of giving this yarn purpose.


I had my first spinning lesson Monday morning. It's one of the few things for which I would sacrifice getting to sleep in. (If you don't know me, that's saying a lot.) Barbara Clorite-Ventura from BASD spent a couple of hours with me. We covered a lot of ground, which is probably best left for another post. Almost as helpful as all the tips and new things I learned  was hearing that I'm doing pretty well.

Spinning is an inherently tactile endeavor. I think it's harder to communicate qualities of fiber and spun yarn through photos than it is knitted items. Maybe it's because we have a broader base of comparison for knitted items and commercial yarns. Not only can we compare fit and style to other garments, but we have a fairly common vocabulary in many commercial yarns. We've touched that Debbie Bliss or Noro or Brown Sheep yarn, we know how it feels, we've probably seen sample swatches, knitted garments, or even used these yarns ourselves. We can take photos of someone's knitted project and imagine it three-dimensionally, and possibly even tactilely.

On the other hand, we have less experience with spun yarn. How does it feel? How does it behave? Or even, what is good spun yarn? What is better spun yarn? What makes it good yarn? Without a basis for comparison, a common vocabulary, or perhaps, years of experience, it's harder to gauge through a photo. Ergo, harder for me to know how I'm doing. Maybe it's just me, though. What's your experience?

Thanks for the early birthday wishes! I'm thinking a contest is in order. My actual birthday is next week.

I was unclear in my last post. The early birthday present is indeed a camera, but the photo in yesterday's post was of our old camera, which has served us well for years. Here's the new camera showing the old camera showing the new camera:

Ye olde faithful

Uh, what?

And the new camera, penny for scale above and below because the new camera is so freakin' small!

new camera

The new camera rocks! It's eminently portable, sleek, has a cool screen and lots of features:

new camera

And, it takes some damned good photos. I played around with the auto macro setting in the fading evening light:

HPY lace, plied


and then in the morning with better light:

A Touch of Twist rambouillet/silk

and was floored with what it did in bright sunlight at lunch:

Hand Maiden Seasilk

If you click these to see the larger versions you will be amazed at the detail!

FBS - in progress

A close up:

FBS - in progress - closeup

and a super close up:

FBS - in progress - super closeup

With the old camera I had to manually set the focus on the macro setting and often take several photos to get a good clear one. With the new camera, in the sunlight it took these on the first try. With less lit conditions I will have to fiddle a bit to get good pictures (since it only has an auto macro mode, I can't tell it what to focus on). Worst case, I'll take everything to work to photograph at lunchtime. Hey, they already think I've gone over the edge with the spinning and knitting, what's one more step?

The camera takes 6MB images, surprisingly good videos, is easy to use, and wasn't too expensive. Obviously, macro does extremely well, especially in well lit conditions, and the software that comes with is really, really great. In short, I definitely recommend it.

Lotta asked, "Could you please add a feature to your blog that would enable us to touch all the yarn in the pictures? :)"

Man, wouldn't that be awesome?!? Except, imagine all the drool that would be on everyone's knitted projects... Eeeeewwwwwww...

early birthday gift

I don't know why, but I'm really excited about my birthday this year. In the past I've always wanted to do something, have a party, get together with friends. "I'm turning 3 to the 3rd!" "Big 3-Oh!" "2 to the 5th!" "33 - palindrome!" The parties never materialized. One by one my closest friends have been moving out of town, and it's been a long while since I've felt up to organizing a gathering.

Last year was the first birthday I spent with my family since leaving for college. It was really great. My sister baked my favorite chocolate log roll cake and managed to surprise me with it! My niece and I tried to convince each other on the best way to cut the cake. This is the size piece she wanted:

Birthday Cake 2005

This is closer to the size I wanted (and got; she was not happy):

Negotiating slice size

I taught her to knit:

My first knit!

And we all waited (more or less) patiently for my nephew to arrive. He didn't. Until after I left. Phooey.


This year? No party plans. I think we'll go out to eat, maybe all-you-can-eat sushi. Maybe elsewhere, too! I'll play with my early birthday present. (Here's another hint:)

Ye olde faithful

And I'll chuckle every time Scott says, "Happy early Birthday!"

My early birthday present from Scott arrived today! I'm thrilled and can't wait to try it out tomorrow.

Here's a(n obscure) hint:

beaded stitch marker

Any guesses??

The Grafton Fibers batt is spun up; there will be plying this weekend, oh yes. And another wedding to go to. Thank goodness for long weekends!

Speaking of which, Wednesday morning I convinced myself that it was Friday. Bad sign, right? And throughout the day, I found myself lapsing into delusion. "Oh, I can put that in the trash, they'll pick it up tonight." Nope, they do that on Friday. "Oo, I can stay up late tonight!" Nope, it's a work night. "Ahh, the end of the week." Not. Don't you hate when that happens?

I'm glad to see I'm not the only one trying to move things. hpny is right, though, knitting by thought does bypass the tactile enjoyment. Just because you can doesn't mean you should. I should have said cleaning dishes by thought. Or mowing grass by thought. Doing laundry by thought. Building SQL Server Reporting Services reports by thought. Oh wait, that last is mostly true...

Working on the sample batt opened me up to working on the A Touch of Twist rambouillet/silk (left):

Rambouillet/silk, Grafton Fibers merino

When I finished a bobbin (close enough, I was getting stir crazy), I decided to play with the merino Grafton Fibers batt I bought at Spa Knit and Spin in February. I had been wary of it all this time, not knowing how to spin it. I searched for examples online and found few photos. I think the answer to how is: however you want. Me, I tore strips about 2" wide and spun from one end, moving left to right across the end, pinching and pulling (short draw?). It mostly worked fine, though the ends of the strips and joining new strips got kinda hairy. Once I finish the second half batt I'll be ready to ply.

And by ready to ply, I mean ready to apply my new plying skillz (well, probably still 'skills' at this point).

I was frustrated with my last plying attempt. Carole had directed me to Claudia's post on plying and I found it very helpful.

What I needed, though, was practice. I had 2 skeins of laceweight singles from that I was not digging.

HPY laceweight yarn

I decided to ply them to make a sturdier yarn that I might like.

(The astute among you will be doing some quick mental calculations. 2 skeins, 850 yards each. That's a lot of yards. That's a lot of yards.)

I ran each skein through the wheel to add twist. I had a lot of fiddliness problems with my wheel, which frustrated me and made me generally unhappy. Also, my drive band broke and I think it was my third attempt at replacing it that worked. I also went a little crazy after a while. Spinning fiber into yarn is one thing. Usually soft fibers, usually relaxing. Methodically passing (not especially soft) yarn onto a bobbin very slowly while my wheel stuck its tongue out at me is quite another. It's a good recipe for mild insanity.

Plying said yarn, though, on same fickle wheel, that's a great recipe for total insanity!

I will say this: It gave me a lot of practice plying. Without the work of making a lot of singles. And I do think I like the plied yarn better:

HPY lace, plied
Skeins were plied from right to left; I think there is some improvement

The skeins need to be washed to relax the singles into their new configuration. I can't bear to (look at them) do it just yet. Soon, we shall know if the mild twitches I've acquired were worth it.

FBS is growing:

FBS - in progress

Supposedly, seasilk carries some kind of vitamin E health benefit that can be absorbed through the skin through wearing. I don't know if I'm just a skeptic, cynical or jaded, but it seems... well, farfetched is too strong a word, but you get what I mean. There's a part of me that's open to it, though. The part that believes in aliens and magic and telekinesis (even if I will never be able to knit by thought)*. Hey, if it works, that's great, I'm all for it. And if I have to believe for it to work, then I suppose much of it will be lost on me.

Whether or not it heals or restores, it does feel wonderful flowing through my fingers. I'm enjoying the fabric that's being created, the play of colors, the drape and stitch definition. Every few inches I stop to stretch it out over my lap to admire the emerging pattern.

* How many of you tried to move things as a kid?? Or more importantly, how many of you succeeded???

I had a wonderful time at the wedding this weekend, though I'm sure I was foolish at least a half dozen times or more.

The wedding was at Hammond Castle in Gloucester, MA. Yup, a castle!

Hammond Castle

We took advantage of the scenic photo spot (above left archway). It's a bit overcast (was supposed to be raining all day) so the color is a bit washed out, but look, it's right on the water!

Hammond Castle - Me n Scott

We clean up good, hunh?

No castle is complete without a moat and drawbridge:

Hammond Castle - moat and bridge

Inside, after passing through a series of hallways and stairs... the ceremony was performed here:

Hammond Castle - interior

followed by reception.


Hammond Castle - interior

and Impressive interior:

Hammond Castle - interior

Post ceremony happy hour on the grassy terrace, which overlooked an expansive... thing of water... bay? Ocean? No photos of the water to share, just the castle exterior:

Hammon Castle - outside

Look, we're so happy! Doesn't she look fab?

With the bride

Look, I'm so happy dancing!


Me and Scott with the newlyweds:

Us with the bride and groom

I had the honors of being the first to tell the groom that his wife was calling.

My legs are sore today. From all that dancing. And it hurts to laugh. Is that sad or what?

Enablers all! Hehe. My eye is on a Patrick Green Fancicard, which is even more expensive than the Fricke/Strauch I had been looking at. My reasoning: I'd prefer to buy one carder that will last me a good long while. I'm afraid that if I got a Louet I will want to upgrade too soon. I'd like to card in silk with merino, cashmere, alpaca, yak... and the Fancicard is supposedly very good at handling the exotics. Gotta save those pennies. I might be picking up some part time programming work, though. And my birthday is around the corner (2 weeks!) so if I have any discipline (not likely) I might be able to put a few bucks towards one.

The sun is out today (yay!!!) so I took a few pictures.

At the spin-in last week I spun my sunfires blue faced leicester:


The plan is to navajo ply and possibly make socks.

Progress on Honeymoon Cami is slow because I can't knit while spinning:

Honeymoon Cami - in progress

I added a few inches at The Fabric Place Knit Club last night.

Last night I also wanted to start the Flower Basket Shawl with this:

Hand Maiden Silk/Seacell

but forgot to wind it before leaving home. Doh. It's Hand Maiden silk/seacell, and it has a lovely soft hand with nice shine. I bought it (and a coupla other goodies) half off at a yarn store closing sale a few weeks ago. Skeined up it looks like:

Hand Maiden Silk/Seacell

I love seeing the transformation from skein to ball to knitted item in handpainted yarns.

The beginnings of FBS:

Flower Basket Shawl - started

I'm hoping that this one skein will be enough (~550 yards) but I think a shawlette would be fine, too.

Off to a wedding!

In the comments, Dianna said, "Your house must look like a fiberaholic's heaven! You are a temptress!"

Why thank you. :)

You should have seen my living room yesterday before I cleaned it. I should have taken photos. The big fiber basket by the wheel was overflowing (I could curl up in this basket), there was a pile of blue and purple merino I was spinning into laceweight, there was the bag of most of my dyed fiber from MDS&W, the bag of rambouillet and rambouillet/silk, the box of alpaca/llama that shipped with my wheel, the bag of cormo fleece, the corriedale fleece that I washed the other night spread out to dry, another pile of purples blue faced leicester drafted but not spun, and some random knitting projects on the sofa. Everywhere you looked, fiber. And that's not even my yarn room. I had to move a lot of it into the yarn room because, while Scott is very understanding and supportive, he is seriously conflicted. While he loves that I have all this fiber I love everywhere (seriously, he's happy for me because he'd love to have animals everywhere), the sight gives him the heebie jeebies. I'm trying to keep it down to the big basket and maybe a small pile of working fiber next to the wheel. It's so hard. Fiber migrates! It roams! It doesn't believe in borders or limitations. It begs to be admired. Petted. Imagined. Transformed.

*     *     *

At MDS&W, still glowing with the excitement of trying the 24" Cherry Schacht-Reeves, I called Scott and bubbled through an explanation of the experience and description of the wheel, how it would be my next wheel. Some day. Not now. Of course.

Says he, "Why don't you get it?"

Says I (in shock), "Uhhhhh, 'cuz it costs $1200. And I got 2 wheels in like 5 months."

Says he, "So?"

Says I (still in shock), "Weellll, what I really want is a drum carder. It might cost like $900."

Says he, "Oh."

Says I, "Wait, you're okay with me buying a third wheel now that costs $1200 but you're not okay with me getting a $900 drum carder?"

Says he, "The wheel looks cool."

See, it's the kind of wheel he thought I was getting when I said "I'm getting a wheel", and I've disappointed him. Twice. So buying a third wheel, as long as it's cool and traditional looking, fine and dandy. But a drum carder, not so cool and pretty darned expensive! Imagine that.

This is the same guy who has no problem paying $2500 for a huuuuge HDTV, but has almost insurmountable reservations about paying $13/month for TiVo.

Hmm. I'm beginning to wonder if I should have bought that wheel afterall.

Thanks for your enthusiasm over Hansel & Gretal! I plan to write up the pattern and post it soon.

Post MDS&W, I felt overwhelmed by my fiber options and had a hard time figuring out what I wanted to spin. So many great choices, but also so many not-to-be-wasted choices as well. I didn't want to fritter away the cormo/alpaca or merino/silk, or (gasp) the cashmere/silk, but I wasn't in the mood to be overly focused and attentive to do these fibers justice. In the end, a non MDS&W blended batt pulled me off the fence:

Samples from The Artful Ewe
dyed mohair locks, dyed silk, dyed corriedale cross / silk

Pretty colors, no?

The batt (on the right) was a sample that came with my Forsyth combs that I ordered a few weeks ago from Heidi at The Artful Ewe:

Forsth combs
Forsyth double row combs, purchased on June's recommendation

scary sharp combs + I'm a klutz = recipe for blood shed   o.O

Heidi's prices on the combs and clamp are the best I've seen. The clamp was back ordered so I asked her to hold the order, and while waiting, I succumbed to several pounds of sale-priced natural blue faced leicester and corriedale cross. And cashmere:

Cashmere from The Artful Ewe
sooo soooft

And then forgot. Until I got back from MDS&W and got an email that my order was ready. Heh. I have a lot of fiber.

Heidi was great to work with, and included generous samples to accompany my generous order. :) In addition to the above, she sent:

Samples from The Artful Ewe
alpaca, yak, camel and Eucalan in baggies; corriedale cross, merino/alpaca and alpaca/blue faced leicester sample card

Cotton samples from The Artful Ewe
Pima and Acaia cotton

Cotton from The Artful Ewe
West Texas cotton

She also tempted me with these photos of her hand dyed fibers:

Handdyed fibers, The Artful Ewe
woah, fiber does grow on trees!

Handdyed silk, The Artful Ewe
hand dyed silk

And my jaw literally dropped to the floor when she told me this was the view out her front door:

Gorgeous view, The Artful Ewe

Sooo jealous.

Heidi has a workshop / dye studio and her shop reminded me of London-Wul in New Brunswick where another Heidi taught me to spin last fall. I wished I lived closer!

Incidentally, London-Wul Heidi has started a blog and is having an amazing contest. Go check it out! See, I'm sharing the love. It means less chance for me to win, so if you win, throw me a bone.

Speaking of new blogs, Lucy at Mind's Eye Yarns in Cambridge started up a blog and etsy store. You might know Lucy from her appearance on the Harlots' blog. Last week I was in town for a doctor's appointment and decided to take advantage of city-proximity and stopped in for their weekly spin-in. I had a lovely time! It was my first time hanging out with my wheel. BASD meetings have always had some kind of workshop so it's never been just hanging out. I liked just hanging out.

So yeah, the spinning. A simple 2 ply with the corriedale cross/silk batt:

Dyed Corriedale X and silk, 2ply

A little overplied, but pretty. I enjoyed drafting, and I enjoyed not worrying about what I was making. I also liked spinning semi-woollen from a batt. It was less work than spinning from top. It's fired up my enthusiasm for a drum carder.

After the batt, I sampled some rambouillet (at top):

sampling silk, cormo, rambouillet
from top to bottom: fiery rambouillet from Touch of Twist; dyed cormo from Winterhaven Fiber Farm, and Interlacements dyed silk

The rambouillet was soft as a 2 ply laceweight, but felt rougher as the weight increased. Surprised me.

The cormo has nice bounce and because of the neppiness is uneven. I still need to experiment to find the right grist.

The silk was spindle spun while at MDS&W. I think I want to spin up some fingering weight for a lace shawl. I'd also like to try some silk singles.

Post fiery rambouillet, I jumped on the rambouillet/silk, which was so much softer:


It's a joy to spin.

What's that in the bushes?

Hansel & Gretal

They look like socks! They look kinda familiar...

Hansel & Gretal

...but what are those white spots?

Hansel & Gretal


Hansel & Gretal
Started: 4/22/06
Finished: 5/6/06
Pattern: my own
Yarn: Danette Taylor's superwash merino in ... Seaweed?
Needles: #4
Notes: My Sockapaloooza pal was Molly of The Wild Swan. I wanted to personalize her socks so I read through her blog for ideas. When she signed up, she listed jewel tones first, and I happened to have the perfect jewel toned yarn. I had a hard time with the pattern until I read in her very first post that she loved fairy tales. An idea was born.

I don't know how I chose Hansel & Gretal, but once it got in my head, it wouldn't leave. I began thinking of ways to conceptualize the story, to symbolically represent it in socks. The breadcrumbs in the path were what I remembered most. Actually, I had to hunt down the fairy tale online to make sure I was remembering it correctly.

From breadcrumbs to path in the woods; it was a creative challenge I enjoyed from start to finish. I adapted the path from a pattern book, and out of trial and error grew the trees. I knit the second sock to be symmetrical:

Hansel & Gretal

and the path continued into the twisted stitch ribbing. The cast off edge was sewn to look seamless:

Hansel & Gretal

The final touch, the breadcrumbs, were stitched in place haphazardly:

Hansel & Gretal

as if dropped and eaten by birds.

I'm glad so many enjoyed NH Sheep & Wool. Me, not so much. I don't know if it was the weather, the cold, the lake-like puddles, or the fact that I had already seen many of the vendors and that I wasn't going to buy anything because, well, because of the obvious. Maybe it was because I was already feeling out of sorts, between work, Gram, and sundry odds and ends. I'm glad I went, though. I saw Pam at her booth and Barbara with the fleeces, and enjoyed looking at the show and sale fleeces, seeing some new breeds (CVM for one), and being able to talk to Scott about fleece characteristics as if I knew something. (He was not so interested, though possibly somewhat impressed.) I also enjoyed seeing Erin and Cheryl, Carole and Stitchy, and meeting Kathy and Laurie. Sadly, I wasn't in a very social mood. I was happy wearing my yellow rain boots for the second time, and I was happy eating lobster rolls. Yup, plural. One for lunch, and one for the road. I even sang a lobster roll happy song on the way to the car. I was also happy to hang out with Scott on a mini road trip. Or is that Mini road trip? Driving conditions were suboptimal, but we did end up having a good time together.

Over the weekend I tried my hand at washing some corriedale fleece. It was very clean and actually much nicer than I expected, once I opened it up. I tried a couple of methods, and overall, I'd have to say it was a sad exercise in repetition and inefficiency. In all I washed less than a pound, maybe 2/3 pound, at least twice. My methods were based on my own ingenuity as well as various instructions on the Internet, including Fiber Fool Kristi and Divergent Threads. What went wrong?

Well, the first method (my so-called ingenuity) involved sandwiching fiber in those plastic mesh sheets you use for making tissue box covers. Interesting idea, not so useful in practice. I could only wash small amounts, and the sheets didn't fit well into my hot water containers. On the plus side, the locks and fiber orientation were maintained and the fleece came out very clean.

The second method involved a mesh laundry bag. The problem: I overstuffed and soaked it in containers that were too small. Hence, when I thought I was done, I found I was very wrong and had to go through a second washing with half again as much. It was a long night.

Washed Corriedale fleece
crappy rainy New England weather makes for crappy photos; the washed fleece is whiter than it looks above

Despite the multiple washings and rinsings, I don't think the fiber felted. I tried combing some tonight but it didn't go as expected. I think I need to read up on combing some more.

I've also been doing a bit of spinning, more on that tomorrow.

Some good news: Scott started his new job today! We're very excited and relieved. His commute is TWICE as long as mine (ie, 12 minutes), but he does get to wear jeans to work. It's been a stressful many months since we were laid off so this is a good change.

Life is a bit hectic and probably won't go back to normal for a little while.

In good news, Gram is doing better. She fell several weeks ago, went into the hospital and then a nursing home where we thought she'd stay. But between a reduction in some medication and recovery from an infection, she's bounced back to better than she has been in months. She's moving around, she's not falling asleep, she's making conversation and jokes, she's a whole new woman. For now she's back at her apartment. It's good to see her doing better. She had a very sudden downturn for a while and now this sudden upturn. I haven't caught up yet! Thanks so much to everyone who sent well wishes and warm words, they were very much appreciated.

Here's the promised photo of the cormo fleece from MDS&W. Well, a lock. It's not the best pic; I'm still waiting for the sun to come out so I can take some more photos. Enough with the rain!

Cormo fleece

Have a great day!

It's late so I'm going to try to keep this brief.

The Haul

I warned you earlier in the week that I spent an obscene amount of money at MDS&W. If you're uncomfortable with that sort of thing, read no further. If, however, you lust after lovely handdyed and luxury fibers, and are happy to drool on your keyboard, read on.

Chasing Rainbows Dyeworks, purchased from Carolina Homespun:

Chasing Rainbows Dyeworks

I've been lusting after CRD's stuff for a little while now. Once I realized Carolina Homespun carried it, I made a beeline. It was tough to pick colors and to limit my purchase. Stuff adds up fast.

merino/silk in Lagoon:

Chasing Rainbows Dyeworks, silk/merino in Lagoon

cashmere/silk in Mendocino Hedges:

Chasing Rainbows Dyeworks, cashmere/silk in Mendocino Hedges

Blue Moon Fiber Arts, merino/tencel in Purple Rain, puchased from The Fold:

Blue Moon Fiber Arts, merino/tencel in Purple Rain

I saw the piles of STR but I have 2 skeins that have yet to become socks, so I chose to try out their dyed fiber instead. Call me crazy.

Happy Hippie, optim in Free Love, purchased from Coughlin's Homespun Yarns:

Happy Hippie, optim in Free Love

Optim is stretched merino and is said to be as soft (or almost as soft?) as cashmere. Nice stuff.

Cloverleaf Farms, merino/silk in 2 colorways:

Cloverleaf Farms, merino/silk

The plan is to ply one strand of each and make something like a shawl. The colors are really gorgeous and I think they'll blend nicely together.

Foxhill Farm, cormo/alpaca:

Foxhill Farm, cormo/alpaca

Very nice, soft. Same vendor as my cormo fleece (yep, I still owe you a picture).

Winterhaven Fiber Farm, cormo in Autumn:

Winterhaven Fiber Farm, cormo in

Not as soft as the Foxhill Farm stuff, but the colors are beautiful, richer than in the photo. Preparation is a little neppy, but it's also soft and springy.

Morehouse Farm Merino, lace merino:

Morehouse Farm Merino, lace merino

I had no idea the stuff was so soft, I couldn't resist. It's the only skein I brought back.

A Touch of Twist, rambouillet/silk:

A Touch of Twist, rambouillet/silk

purty, ain't it?

and rambouillet:

A Touch of Twist, rambouillet

It's on fire! I haven't spun with rambouillet yet, looking forward to seeing how these spin up.

Liberton Corriedales, corriedale fleece:

Liberton Corriedales, corriedale fleece

At $5 per pound, I couldn't resist. Good practice for the cormo fleece. They had some yarns processed from their corriedale from 2 different processors, and one of them was so soft, I really wanted to bring some home. Really wanted. Gotta limit the yarn intake. Sigh.

Besides the above, also picked up a mess of stuff at Little Barn. Their luxury stuff was discounted about 25%, so I got some cashmere, yak, merino 125's...

Okay, some observations:

  • hmm, you think I like red?
  • hmm, you think I like silk?
  • hmm, you think I lost my mind?

Man, I came home yesterday and conked out. Woke up to wash up and was sure I'd be up all night but conked out again. Woke up this morning half asleep. Guess I was tired.

Photos of the MDS&W stash will have to wait because: [drumroll]

my Sockapaloooza socks came in!

Sockapaloooza socks

Rhonda from NC knit me a pair of cute Regia cotton socks in pretty summery colors. They feature lace detailing on the sides with complementing eye of partridge (that's what it's called, right?) heels:

Sockapaloooza socks

They're a bit big for me, but I know who they will be just right for.

Sockapaloooza socks

Look how closely the stripes match up:

Sockapaloooza socks

Thanks so much, Rhonda!

She also included 3 oz of blended Corriedale / Romney / Lincoln / Mohair / Tussah Silk / Flash from her friend Melissa. Lovely colors:

Sockapaloooza gift

Thank you!

Where do I begin?

Trying to tell the story of my experience at Maryland Sheep and Wool is like trying to sum up summer vacation in 5 minutes, or like the Harlot recounting her book travels in one post. Brace yourself.


4:30 am: Scott and I left to meet up with Barbara and Pam. Yep, the same Barbara from BASD who taught me how to make boucle and who machined socks at Spa; a very knowledgeable spinner and lover of all things fleece. Pam I met for the first time; she owns The Fiber Studio up in NH, 15 minutes from this weekend's NH Sheep and Wool Festival (she'll have a booth so go say hi). Scott drove home.

6:00 am: Barbara, Pam and I hit the road. Well, sorta. I slept. I heard there was very little traffic. (Stop rolling your eyes, I drove a shift in the afternoon.)

We arrived in MD 9 hours later. Not bad! Most of the trip was slept away or spent driving, so there was very little knitting time. All that careful project planning.

The evening was spent relaxing. Ahhhh.


We arrived at the fair grounds by 9 am and headed straight for the Fleece Show area in the Main Exhibition Hall, a HUGE building soon to be filled to the brim with vendors and yarn and fiber. I nearly fell over. Instead, I started hopping around in excitement. Some vendors were setting up, some booths were empty. [picture me hopping from foot to foot clapping my hands]

Barbara was volunteering at the Fleece Show and Sale, and I hadn't heard back from the T-shirt sales volunteer coordinator, so I offered my hands to the Fleece Show folks. A really nice bunch of people. Really.

I walked through the grounds while they got set up, and OH. MY. GOD. I think photos will help here (taken Saturday morning before the rush). There was the Main Exhibition Hall, with two aisles:

Main Exhibition Hall

Main Exhibition Hall

There were 3+ barns full of vendors. There were tents along several of the main pathways. The slogan for MDSW should be, "Wait! There's more!"

Everywhere you turned, Color. Fiber. Yarn. I began to understand why I'd been seeing "MD$&W" on blogs. I'm lucky (or am I?) my credit card didn't melt.

Some things that caught my eye:

A walkway with tents:

Grounds pre-rush

Long line o' folks waiting to buy T-shirts (see the first white building after the hearts? That's where the line starts):

T-shirt sales line

Little Barn and their mountains o' fiber:

Little Barn

Lots of Chasing Rainbows Dyeworks at Carolina Homespun:

Chasing Rainbow Dyeworks at Carolina Homespun

Gorgeous Golding spindles:

Golding spindles

Beautiful handdyed yarns:


Another booth of beautiful handdyed yarns:


Lovely Shelridge Farm yarns:

Shelridge Farm



Delicious and soft Three Waters Farm handspuns and handdyed yarns:

Three Waters Farm

Beautiful lace in a booth:

incredible lace

And more:

incredible lace

Morehouse Farm Merino (oh so soft):

Morehouse Farm Merino

Tess' Designer Yarns (unfortunately, washed out colors in the photo but gorgeous in person and constant lines; this is one colorway display, there were many more):

Tess' Designer Yarns

Beautifully rich colors of Brooks Farm:

Brooks Farm Fibers


Brooks Farm Fibers

Lots of Socks That Rock at The Fold (gone by noon) where Dagmar stopped me to say hi (hi Dagmar!):

STR galore

More to the left:

STR galore

Phew. Are ya pooped too? Back to our narrative.

Meanwhile, the Fleece Show folks were preparing to receive fleeces for show and/or sale. All kinds. I was mostly tied to the computer, whizzing through the database, adding registrations, printing records, finding info. As a web developer computers were second hand, but as a new spinner the whole fleece thing was a mystery. In fact, I had never seen a fleece before so I looked on with curiosity and clicked away.

From 12 to 5 it was a madhouse, a seemingly never-ending line of exhibitors with bagged fleeces. All told, about 500 fleeces and 100 exhibitors! It was great fun being in the thick of things, even if at an armslength and in front of a computer screen.

At 4 I left to meet Sheila of Wool2Dye4, one of the Dye-O-Rama sponsors who was taking a class. We had sent a few emails back and forth and when we realized we were both going to be at MDSW, we had to meet. We walked through the grounds and chatted, while all around us were more vendors setting up.

I headed back to the Fleece Show to find Judith McKenzie McCuin and Lois Geer judging fleeces. Another mystery! What makes a good fleece? So many breeds and characteristics. How do they keep it straight?

Post dinner break I got the chance to walk with Judith while she judged and I listened to her running commentary on fleece qualities and expected characteristics for each breed. Incredible! Judith is a real teacher who was happy to share her knowledge. I soaked it up. I learned about cotting, yolk stains, breaks, ram fleeces (man, what an odor, I recoil at the memory); saw examples of poor skirting, inconsistent crimping across the fleece, excessive belly wool. Saw some mighty fine fleeces, too! Border Leicesters, Karakuls, Jacobs, Shetlands with their double coats, Lincolns, Merinos... All the while putting away fleeces that didn't win and moving winning fleeces to be judged later for Best in Show awards. It was an incredible opportunity!

I asked around for what breed would make good lace weight yarn, since that's my latest spinning obsession. Cormo was recommended to me by several people. I hadn't tried Cormo before so I eyed the Cormo fleeces. Expensive. But oh so pretty.

As the night wore on I started dancing around. That's what I do when I get tired at night. Don't you? There were cries of "give her more work!" I guess most people don't dance when tired.

We didn't leave until 10 pm and man, I was pooped but elated. I had been in the thick of things, part of the team! Surrounded by friendly fiber loving folks, some of whom had sheep of their own (Rose, one of the volunteers, won 2nd prize for one of her fleeces!). I experienced fleece judging first hand and learned a LOT about fleeces and sheep! And I got a free T-shirt for volunteering. :)


Fleece Show and Sale

We arrived early again before the Fleece Sale began. What can I say, I bought a fleece. A Cormo! But not just any Cormo. THE Cormo:

Grand Champion Fleece

The best Cormo out there happened to win Grand Champion Best in Show. Can you believe it?? The exhibitor was Alice Field of Foxhill Farm in Lee, MA, who also had a booth. Man, this fleece is a Beaut. In all ways. Almost no vegetable matter. Incredibly even crimp. Nice luster. Each lock is, in a word, amazing. I'll take photos tomorrow. Promise. Actually, I split the fleece, since 7 pounds seemed like more lace than I could spin in my lifetime, hehe. My mind still reels. Grand Champion fleece! Wheeeeee!!!

I helped out again at the Fleece Sale, organized the tables as fleeces sold, answered the easy questions and passed off the harder questions to Rose. Thanks, Rose! A little after noon when things slowed down I wandered out and watched a sheep shearing demonstration. Fascinating. And a little after 1:30 made my way to the blogger gathering. I said hello to Cara, and was found by Pixie with her cute T-shirt and her friend Lauren.

Me 'n' Pixie

Judy came by with her sister Linda, and we oohed and aahed over Eunny's latest creation.

Me 'n' Judy

The party broke up early and I happily hung out with Judy and Linda for a while longer. I pushed some lovely Cormo/Alpaca (same vendor as my Cormo fleece!) on Judy and picked some up for myself. For practice. ;) We admired Brooks Farm yarns while Linda valiantly resisted its siren call. We stopped at The Merlin Tree where I got to try out the Hitchhiker wheel and meet Dave, its creator. Judy was a test spinner for the Hitchhiker, how cool is that? Dave is a fun guy.

Everywhere were sheepy cries and baaa's (actually, sounded more like meeehhhhh's; I practiced). Everywhere there had been people. I had heard MDSW was elbow-to-elbow crowded, and when I saw the crowds, I was not impressed. It wasn't a throng. It wasn't Tokyo's Shinjuku with its insane waves of pedestrians flooding into intersections. But when I tried to move. through. the. crowds. of. peo. ple. like. mud. so. slow. With so much to see, it was step step step, stop, step, stop, step step, stop. It's like cars passing an accident, everyone slows down and there's no getting past. Well, less gory, of course. It wore me out. I couldn't bear to take any photos once the crowds showed up. Not of the packed booths, not of the masses.

I did take a couple of sheepy pics for my niece:

Some sheepies

A barn

and this big guy caught my eye:


I eventually found Barbara and Pam at the Spin-In, where I won a mug for being the first to complete a Word Search. :)


We slept in. Aaaaahhhhh.

Once on the grounds, I hung out with Barbara while she skirted a couple of fleeces she had picked up and had a nice leisurely time hanging out and learning more about fleeces and the skirting process. A sheep-raising family stopped by and asked her opinion of a couple of fleeces. A man stopped by with part of his new great wheel and asked her if it was complete. I began to think we should have opened a booth a la Peanuts: "The Spinning Doctor Is In, Spinning Help $5" (inflation).

Shopped out, I decided to try a few wheels and see the animals. At The Yarn Barn, I talked to the very friendly and informative Jim, and tried the Kromski Symphony (niiice), 24" Schacht-Reeves (niiiiiiice), 30" Schacht-Reeves (niiiice), Lendrum Saxony (niiiice) and Kromski Minstrel (niice). Guess which will be my next wheel. ;) No no, not any time soon. Just sayin'.

I drew a crowd while "demo-ing" and heard a few parents explain "look, she's making yarn". A mother and daughter stopped by and I ended up pulling out my own spindle to show them how they could park and draft to start off. The girl was 8-10 years old and looked like she really wanted to learn to spin. She and I were both happy when my mini-demonstration changed the mood from "I don't know, honey" to "Well, let's look into getting a spindle, then!"

I ended the day walking through the barns and seeing the sheepies, and happily recognizing Jacobs, merinos, Romneys, Leicesters... well, when they were not shorn.

It was "See you next year!" to the Fleece Show volunteers and we were all happy to hear that! They're not a blogreading bunch, but in case they find their way here, thank you to Linda, Rose, Michelle, Carol, Judith, Lois and everyone else who made my weekend so memorable! I stink at names so I'm sorry if I left yours out.


It was obscene seeing just how much fiber I bought. Packing it in the car and unpacking it when Scott met me just off the Pike were, uh, moments I wish I could have shrunk and hid the haul. I did manage to limit yarn purchases to just 1 skein of Morehouse Farm Merino. That wasn't a big help, though.

It's good to be home! I'm not quite back yet. It's surreal, like Alice falling into another world and her life changing, expanding with every experience. My world has expanded. If I didn't volunteer I would have left MDSW thinking it was an incredible shopping experience and chance to meet a few folks and learn some sheepy things. I wouldn't feel the pull to make the 9 hour drive year after year. Volunteering and making new friends made all the difference for me. I'm looking forward to doing it again! (But, ahem, buying less.)

Oh yeah. All that knitting and spinning I thought I'd have time for? Ha ha ha. Hardly.

Thanks for your enthusiasm over h&g! I took notes while working on sock 2 in the hopes of writing up a pattern.

I've been trying to figure out what projects to bring to MD. 20-22 hours in a car, 4 nights and 3 days at a festival. That's a lot of time. Not that I can knit that long... can you? Plus, I get carsick. And sleepy. :) I can sleep about anywhere. I'm gifted that way.

Projects, meh, I'm probably bringing way too much. And the wrong things.

My Addi's from Jeff Wonderland came in (yay!) so I've resuscitated my Jaywalkers (gosh I miss that morning light). The needles are European size 1's and 2's, which means they're between American 1's and 2's, and 2's and 3's. Which means they're bigger than what I was using; which means who knows what will happen to the fit? Who knows?? Not me. We'll just have to see, now won't we???

Yes, you've figured me out. I'm tired.

If you're going to MDSW, hope to see you there! If not, be back Tuesday!

The knitting is done! Socks have been washed and are drying. Not long now.

Here's where they were last night:

h&g - almost done!

Can't wait to send them off!

Here are the rest of the "also ran" trees. After the two initial and unsuccessful tries, I tried reversing the direction:

h&g tree attempt #3
kinda bush-like

and then switched gears. Knit-purl tree:

h&g tree attempt #4
too Christmas-y; also, looks better with a stockinette ground

Lace tree:

h&g tree attempt #5
blech; didn't bother finishing the top

Finally I went back to the bush-like one and added a trunk:

h&g tree attempt #6

I was originally going for pine forest. I don't know if the Black Forest is pine or not, but in my head it is. Ah, well. Close enough.

I have to tell you this. When I was a kid growing up in Toronto suburbs, birthday cakes were delicious Black Forest cakes bought from some yummy cake shop. Sweet but not too sweet. Chocolate shavings, just enough whipped cream, cherry on top. Moist. Light. I always looked forward to birthdays, mine, my brother's, my sister's. Loved those Black Forest cakes. Every time I hear Black Forest, be it Germany, ham or cake, I think of those birthday cakes and smile.

Only the ribbing left on h&g, and only the realization that after the ribbing I would still have to sew the bind off before washing it made me put down the sticks and back away from the knitting. Sleepy, bleary eyed, making mistakes. A good time to stop.

To distract you, here are some photos from the backburner. First, Stripey number plied up:

stripey number 2 ply

stripey number 2 ply

I just couldn't capture the colors, where are the purples? It's lovely colors like the dyed fiber, but it just looks blue here. At least you can see the yarn.

And the plied Sunfires silk as well:

handdyed silk - sunfires

It was only an ounce, not much at all. Too bad I didn't dye up more of that.

Speaking of silk, some lovely Interlacements rovings from eBay:

Interlacements silk

There's tons of it, and I want to go spin it!

Last, the handspun socks I worked on while listening to the Yarn Harlot:

handspun socks

This is the second yarn I spun on my (first) wheel, way back in February. Which I rushed through to clear up bobbins before my first official BASD meeting. Hehe. Plying took a lot longer than I thought. Still does.

Speaking of plying, Carole led me to Claudia's post about plying (good stuff), and now I realize that, since the stripey number had been sitting on bobbins for almost 2 weeks, they lost their energy and that's why it seemed I was overplying them. I wasn't. I picked up some pointers that I'm anxious to try out. Post Sockapaloooza. Almost done!