Monday, July 18, 2011

One Gorgeous Skein

Mary Spanos just sent me this skein she spun from some of my fiber from Dubose in May. Mary couldn't make it to Dubose as she had planned this year, so Mary Kaiser took her my OOAK hank of "Blue Smoke" superwash bfl and this is what she spun from it. Gad zooks! Anybody want to wager a guess as to how many yards are in this skein? It's in line to become a lace stole at this point. Now I want to see the stole!

Mary is a Textile Anthropologist at the University of South Alabama, working primarily in Native American textiles. You can read more about her here. She has recreated some of the clothing worn by local tribes. And she's a consumate spinner with the most amazing skill and aesthetic.

This fiber was dyed in an immersion bath. Those of you who will be in my Harrisville Class two weeks from today, we'll be working with this particular technique on this exact fiber. I love it because there is no repeat pattern...color hits entirely at random. It can be so subtle, even subtler than this, or much wilder. It's all in the hand of the dyer.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Fern Spiral Socks

Fern Spiral Socks
 I had so much fun designing fingerless gloves that I completely forgot about socks. Me? Forget about socks? Pish. Anyway, here's my new sock pattern, Fern Spiral Socks. It's a mate to my Fern Spiral Fingerless Gloves. You can buy this pattern at my Ravelry Store even if you aren't a member of Ravelry. Purchase gives you immediate access to a downloadable PDF! Cool, huh. Of course you can buy it at my Etsy Store too, but you'll have to wait for me to email you the PDF. I love the Ravelry Store.

Like my Fern Spiral and Spiraling Leaves Fingerless Gloves, the spiral pattern twists in opposite directions on each sock for a mirror image effect. This is a very fun sock to knit. I knit mine with Ashland Bay La Grande 100% superwash merino sportweight yarn. If you are a handspinner, you would shoot for a wpi of 16. Yarn buyers, look on your yarn labels for a recommended gauge in stockinette of 6 1/2 sts per inch on US 2/2.75mm. Some great yarn subs are Shi Bui Sock, Dream in Color Smooshy, anything dyed on Louet Gems or La Grande. I dyed mine with eucalyptus leaves and madder root, au naturel.
If you have tiny or narrow feet, you can knit the sock with finer yarn on US 0/2.00mm or US1/2.75mm needles. As shown, these socks fit a women's medium to large foot.

I wrote this pattern for double pointed needles because it is the best way to keep track of your lace pattern. That makes this very user friendly to those who are new to lace in the round. We like user friendly.


Fern Spiral Fingerless Gloves

A Perfect Knight

I know a lot of you have been following Zel's progress, so here's a current Zel update. Yes, she still needs a home. No, it can't be ours. But I have definitely had a good time knowing and training this gregarious and happy little dog.  Every time I have worked with a shelter or rescue dog I can't help but look for each one's particular talents. And although most dogs adopted here in Franklin County, TN end up as family animals, there is still room to put these talents to work to some degree. Zel is kind of like a knight on horseback, charging off to slay dragons. If you are familiar with the personalities represented in the tarot, you might call her the Knight of Wands. Always ready for adventure, new experiences, travel. Not your sit at home kinda gal, at least not till adventures have been had and it's time to rest up for the next one. I think she'd make a great police dog, a cadaver dog, or an agent for the DEA. She'd love the job and is definitely trainable. Nothing escapes her attention and she's learned that she's happiest as a team player, though she still needs to be reminded of such.

On the 4th of July, I took Zel to our Sewanee Mutt Show. It's one of those Andy of Mayberry type events, full of nice folks with their kids and dogs. Tiny children dress to match their pooches and parade around the ring for prizes. It's always so amazing how well behaved the dogs are at this event and I think that they actually really enjoy it. So I dressed Zel up to look her best in these lovely grandes fleurs. Zel was great both in and out of the ring. As she paraded around, children reached out to her, a sea of little hands, and she licked them all as she passed. She made quite a splash, but nobody took the plunge to take her home.

When I try to envision the perfect home for Zel, I keep coming back to one thing. She loves to play rough. This can be a good thing if you have another dog who needs a hard-playing companion. This is not such a good thing if you aren't strong enough to handle her. She needs a lot of exercise. This is a good thing if you are a runner or bicyclist (she loves to run beside my husbands mountain bike, on lead). Not so good if you want a couch potato dog for the kids to use as a pillow. When she's feeling her oats she tries to get her way by going into an alligator roll. So she'd be perfect for a closet alligator handler.

But I have to say that this girl has really made progress. Thanks to the help of Lucia Dale and her obedient pit/greyhound mix Star, we have both learned a lot about working as a team. Zel and Star have had some great play days at Lucia's house (Star likes to play rough too) and some really nice long obedient walks together. And she's been such a good girl. Thanks so much, Lucia! I've had so much to learn, since Monk has spoiled me rotten! Zel isn't the only one that needs a new bag of tricks.

Here's Zel's Petfinder Page if you'd like to learn more about her.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Something Primal

Spinning fibers into yarn is one of the most ancient crafts. In these days of easy access to anything and everything we don't often put a lot of thought to our first ancestors, who developed this craft before the written word. Yesterday as I was spinning, I wandered back in time to try to imagine how the first thread, yarn, rope was spun.

Usually the first image I get is that of someone rolling hairs against a surface and discovering twist. I guess this is because I have a dog, and I perform this motion on a daily basis. I've even make short lengths of yarn for dog owners from their pets fur in this manner, usually at dog parks where I never have a spindle handy. But there are other ways to discover the strength of twist. Have you ever broken off a twig of something like mulberry or maple and had the bast fibers in the bark hang up on you? You start twisting and twisting to break the stem and it just gets stronger and stronger. I even picked a long blade of Johnson grass last weekend as a makeshift leash for Monk when we found ourselves at the 4th of July street dance without a regular leash. That's one tough grass, but it's tougher when twisted. And imagine being the first to pull on a silk cocoon to find that, unlike spider webs, the fibers didn't break. How did that happen? Did one fall from a tree into a cooking vat and start to expand? Stew spoiled, most beautiful fiber in the world discovered.

All this is fascinating in its own right, but what really impressed me was the fact that before twist was discovered, clothing and binding came from the hides of animals (paper too). Imagine how many animals were spared when humans found other sources of food and clothing. This very discovery was the beginning of conscious civilization. No wonder spinning, knitting and other fiber arts bring us back to our core, help us be present, centered, help us feel like we're really accomplishing something tangible.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Harrisville: August 1-5, 2011

Just want to get the word out that there are still some openings in my Harrisville Designs "Dye, Spin, Knit" workshop August 1-5. This is a rare opportunity due to this slower than slow year for us all. This class is usually full in December with a waiting list. But this is a different kind of year. If you've wanted to join us and haven't been able to get in these past years, give it a try. Call the Weaving Center at 603 827-3996 to make your reservation.

This year we're going to have the opportunity to do a little immersion dyeing. In past years we haven't been able to swing this, but I think we can do it this year because I will have the marvelous assistance of Jan Quarles who has been in this class as a participant for all but one of my 5 years. We'll also work a little bit with fleece this year...a touch of curly fleece, the kind that makes great tailspun and curly lock-spun yarns. They are amazing dyed both in immersion and by direct application, so you'll get to try something new in addition to discovering and experimenting with many ways to use handpainted rovings in your spinning.

It's a one of a kind experience too. Great company, laid back atmos, historical setting, great food. And long uninterrupted hours of fiber play. mmmmmmmmmmmm. Remember that this is mainly a spinning and dyeing class. You should know how to spin and be comfortable spinning a stable yarn on either a spindle or wheel. You don't need a lick of dye experience. You'll get that when you come. Knitting is just an adjunct to yarn if you are a weaver or crocheter, hooker or felter, you can get a lot out of this class and even try your yarns and fibers in your favorite medium. I like to think of my class as having enough structure to keep you going but not so much to hold you back:-).