“The Speed of Sound”

I’m calling this pattern “The Speed of Sound” in honor of the handsome llama who donated the fleece, Mach One of Llama Dreams Argentines.

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The fiber is wonderful to work with, not at all like llama I’ve spun before, but it does have the camelid characteristics of being heavier than wool with a magnificent drape but little “memory.”

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This shawl is not large, but it is very warm! It hangs to mid-back on me and that’s plenty.

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The semi-crescent shape makes it naturally want to wrap around the neck in soft folds. Held in place with a pin or shawl stick, it’s perfect over or under a jacket during this season of layers.

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I separated the colors before spinning and created a graduated pattern – my favorite!

It was very interesting to see how different the fibers of each color were, even though this was all one fleece. The white wanted to spin the finest, while the grays got progressively more coarse (it’s all relative – none of the fibers are really “coarse” except in relation to each other) as they got darker. The very darkest gray would have been happier spun up as a worsted weight two-ply, which is what I’ll do for the next project.

Stay tuned…

Have you tried Argentine Llama yet?

A(nother) Sneak Peek

20150915_185634That’s the first bobbin of the epic project that I’ve been working on, but, sadly, not blogging about. Time has gotten away from me and I haven’t been taking as many pictures as I should have been.

What’s on the bobbin? I’m glad you asked! It’s Argentine Llama from right here in Oregon, just over the mountains from here. The wonderful llama who donated this fiber is Argentine Mach One, or Machie to his family:

Mach OneI’ll be posting in detail about Machie and friends another day, but I will say that you don’t know llama until you’ve felt Argentine llama! The only llama fiber I’d had any experience with is the coarse, hairy, nasty stuff I’m sure you’ve all seen. There’s really no comparison with Argentine llama fiber – it feels like a cross between alpaca and silk. Really.

So the Sweatshop Girls brought home a car full and got to work. I decided to separate the colors from Mach’s fleece and carded and spun them up separately. I’ve finished a small shawl and am working on a lacey scarf. Pics to follow later in the week!

Catching Up

The Summer of 2015 has been the busiest yet in this little Oregon town.

Remember the fleece sale back in February? Well, we hauled all that alpaca and wool off to the Snow Peak Fiber Mill here in Lebanon, Oregon and Kathy worked her magic and turned it into 36 pounds of the most wonderful sliver for spinning –

Sliver CollageClockwise from upper left: light gray, dark gray, creamy white and dark brown. Please forgive the crappy cell phone pics – more will be added as we start to spin up all this wool-y goodness!

Not pictured is a creamy/gold batch that has a bit of Honey Silk added.

And here is my personal favorite –

BlackjackBlack fleece is impossible to photograph, so you’ll have to trust me when I say that this alpaca fleece is as black as black can be – not a hint of red highlights or a brown tip to be found. Blackjack’s fleece was combined with a 20% dyed black bamboo and 10% dyed black superfine Merino for a sliver that is, well, let’s just say I doubt I’ll be sharing this batch with anyone else 🙂 JK, girls! I might have some to spare after I spin enough for a sweater for myself…Maybe.

The Sweatshop Girls have all been very busy this Summer, hence the lack of posts. We made a trip over the mountains and met some new friends, leading to a Great Fiber Adventure that I’ll be writing about very soon.

We also had a Dye Day (where, oh where, did I stash those photos?) and have been making soap, as time and weather allow, for the Holiday craft shows coming up very soon.

I’ve also started a blog for The Sweatshop Girls and hope to entice Awana and Jean into posting because this isn’t all about me. Really 🙂

Stay tuned for more updates and some current events – the weather has turned here and Autumn is on her way, “forcing” us to come inside as dusk comes earlier every day and bake bread, spin and knit late into the evening…

Next pattern in the works

Way back in September Awana, Jean and I went to an annual Dye Day event and turned this –

Corrie Undyed

1800 yards Corridale handspun, light worsted weight. Maybe the most boring spinning project I’ve ever done.

Shades of Autumn orangey goodness. Three skeins were an odd tangerine color as a result of being first into the dye pot (more on that project another day.) A bit of brown and a bit more red were added until the perfect color began to emerge.

Jean waving her magic, er, spoon, over the dye pot

Jean waving her magic, er, spoon, over the dye pot

It was a group effort as everyone was lifting off lids and exclaiming over the colors as they simmered. Should have gotten a total Pounds of Yarn & Fiber Dyed that day, but sadly we were all so busy talking it was impossible.

Anyway. The yarn is nice and bouncy, light worsted weight and I knew I wanted to design and knit a simple shawl, putting the yarn on display to its best advantage.

I have always been enamored of the Hap* Shawl – that most practical of shawls, able to stand up to daily use over or under a coat or just tossed about the shoulders on a chilly morning, comforting and finally worn out with love and decided this would be my goal.

I prefer to knit a shawl from the top down, starting with 13 or so stitches and keeping a few edge stitches in garter to avoid that annoying tendency to curl. Having sold all of the Stash Shawls I had on hand during the blitz of craft faires the Sweatshop Girls attended before the Holidays, I knew it needed to work up fast because we’ve applied to a couple more coming up very soon, so a US #10.5 needle was chosen and off I went.

This is the end result blocking on the floor of the Studio –

About 600 yards total

About 600 yards total

The center is plain garter stitch with two Ostrich Plumes repeats giving that wonderful wavy edge. The final two rows and bind off were worked plain with a yarn from the same dye pot that started out a natural gray.

A closer look at the wavy edge before blocking –

20150219_193608Sitting atop a pile of freshly-washed Shetland fleece from Whistlestop Shetlands and a fab hard plastic strainer thing that warrants a post of its own.

You might have noticed the blotches of white here and there, a consequence of having the ties a bit too tight in places – the dye couldn’t penetrate to the center of the skeins in those places. While some see this as a flaw, I see it as an Artful Variation, something you just don’t get with factory yarn 🙂

I’ve had it in mind to publish a group of patterns detailing the construction and use of the Hap shawl for some time now. What say you?

* Hap is a general term for a cover-up to keep warm. Traditional Shetland Hap shawls are square in shape, with the “half-hap” being half a square, making this shawl technically a half-hap.

First wool sale of the season

Valentine’s Day found Awana and I doing one of our favorite things – visiting a local farm to buy wool –

2015 Wool Sale FlyerI was under the impression that the sale would involve last year’s fleeces in order to clean out the barns for the new shearing, but most of the fleeces were fresh off the sheep, Bide-a-Wee having sheared the week before. The weather here in Oregon has been crazy mild – we’ve already got Spring flowers blooming and the trees are leafing out.

There are few things in life I like more than a freshly-shorn sheep’s fleece!

Navajo-Churro Ram

Navajo-Churro Ram Photo used by permission of Bide-a-Wee Farm

I met Karen from Bide-a-Wee Farm many years ago, in a muddy field outside Scio, Oregon, back when there were actually sheep at the Lamb & Wool Show. Up to that point I had not spun any Jacob wool and only one Navajo-Churro fleece, which was hairy and horrible and colored my opinion of NC fleece for a couple of years.

Jacob Ram

Jacob Ram Photo used by permission of Bide-a-Wee Farm

That year I bought three small Jacob fleeces and one shockingly soft Navajo-Churro. All four fleeces were amazingly soft and I enjoyed every minute working with them. Whenever someone asks me about Jacob or Navajo-Churro fleece I direct them to Bide-a-Wee Farm.

Baling twine wreath and Karen's cool dred-lock hat

Baling twine wreath and Karen’s cool dred-lock hat

This year we bought three Jacob fleeces and one Jacob/Border Leicester cross fleece. All are multi-colored and soft, soft, soft!

Awana introduced me to Brandy of Whistlestop Shetlands a couple of years ago. I had bought several of her fleeces over the years but never met her in person.Riding ShotgunWe bought six Shetland fleeces, four white, one shades of gray and one as black as sheep’s wool can possibly be –

20150215_131430“What,” you may ask, “are you going to do with all that wool?” Good question! This time we had a plan. Not that we don’t usually have a plan, but THIS time we had a Real Plan – to purchase enough fine wool from shepherds we know to combine with alpaca we already had to make large enough batches to take to our local mill for blending and carding into sliver for spinning.

We took about 25 pounds of wool to the Snow Peak Fiber Mill here in Lebanon back in September. The wool was nice, Romney and Romney crosses mostly, but it wasn’t fine wool and it was dirty, so dirty we feared Kathy wouldn’t take it unless we washed it first, but she said it was fine (for the record, it was dirty, not poopy – we skirted very well 🙂 ) and would be ready in a couple of months.

A couple of months went by and the call finally came in. Three huge boxes of the most fabulous sliver, one a lovely cream color and the other two the medium gray I love so much.

We’ve been spinning it up a bit at a time, loving every minute and decided we were never going to be able to process all the alpaca fleece laying around and the search for the perfect blend-able wool began. It’s not as easy as it sounds because the wool has to have similar staple length and crimp as the alpaca, and we wanted to match colors as much as possible so as not to end up with a muddy brown that nobody likes.

Most of the blends will be about 50/50 wool & alpaca, but one batch will have silk added and one very special batch will be mostly alpaca with only a bit of wool and bamboo. The black fleece is from a male called Blackjack and it is a True Black and it’s mine, all mine!

Updates as events unfold…

UPDATE: Finally tally for this shipment to the mill is 41.5 pounds! Pictures when it comes back in a month or two. We can’t wait to get spinning!

 

Let’s talk about copyright

Copyright is a hot topic with crafters and likely to raise the hackles of some of my readers but I feel compelled to share my views on the matter after an incident at Knit Night yesterday.

One of the regulars, I’ll call her Twit because sharing her real name here would not be nice, was showing off a hat she’d knit and discussing making more for sale. One of the other regulars, who knits and sells her own hats at craft faires around the area, questioned the origin of the hat pattern.

“It’s a free pattern on Ravelry. Cute, right? Everyone loves it so I should be able to sell a bunch of them!” Twit was quite pleased with herself.

“Uh…just because the pattern is free doesn’t mean you can knit up a bunch and sell them…” began T.

“Oh, come on! You sell hats, don’t you?” Twit asked.

“I do sell hats, but each one is my own pattern and I would never even consider selling a hat made from someone else’s pattern – it’s a violation of copyright,” T responded.

At this point my ears perked up and I zeroed in on the conversation. I design, write and publish knitting patterns, so I have a vested interest in what people think about this subject.

“It’s not a violation of copyright because I’m not selling the actual pattern,” replied Twit, a smug smile on her face. “I won’t be selling the pattern, just the hats, besides my nerd husband deals with open-source software and he says it’s just fine…” or words to that effect. WTF her husband’s hobby has to do with copying a published pattern (whether offered for free or not) is unclear.

T was dumbfounded. Her mouth was actually hanging open and this is a woman who is rarely at a loss for words. The whole room was electrified, all eyes darting between the two. Or maybe it was just they could all feel my hackles rising.

“True, the actual pattern is the copyrighted item,” I said, “but making hats from someone else’s pattern and selling them as your own with no credit, attribution or payment to the author is a violation of my understanding of Fair Use. It also depends on the copyright notice on the pattern itself…”

“If a pattern is offered for free on Ravelry I can do whatever I want to. It’s not like I’ll be making a million dollars from it!” Twit retorted.

“No,” I said, “you won’t be making a million dollars, but why should you profit from someone else’s hard work? Personally, I offer free patterns that clearly state on the copyright notice that they may not be used for profit but may be copied so long as the copyright remains intact. I also state that if the knitter has any questions they can email me. I’ve had people write that they wanted to knit 5 items and sell them at a church fundraiser and I’m happy for them to do it. I’ve had people ask to use my pattern to teach a class and I give permission for that. I DO NOT give permission for someone to knit 50 items from my pattern and sell them for their own personal profit and I doubt you’ll find another designer willing to do it but you could always email the author and ask,” came out in a rush because I could see she was winding up to defend her position.

For the record, the pattern is Regina (Ravelry link) by Carina Spenser and has a copyright notice that reads: “Copyright 2011 by Carina Spenser | www.carinaspencer.com* | Not for commercial use” at the bottom of each page. This, IMHO, is very clear – this author does not give you permission to use her pattern to make money for yourself. As if that weren’t clear enough (and it’s obviously not clear to a certain Twit) there’s a box at the end of the pattern with the following (bold mine):

TERMS & CONDITIONS
© 2011 Carina Spencer. All rights reserved. Pattern
is not to be reprinted, reproduced, or distributed
without permission from the designer. Items
created from this pattern are not to be sold for
profit without a license, but are always allowed for
use in trades and craft swaps.
LICENSING
If you are interested in knitting this pattern for resale
or charity fund raising information on cottage
industry licensing is available.

But back to the conversation last night.

“It’s a free pattern and I can do whatever I want!” Twit insisted.

“It’s just not right,” T replied, “no matter how you look at it, it’s stealing and you won’t find me selling hats designed by anyone but myself.”

“Oh, that’s just ridiculous…my husband…”

“Right!” I interrupted, “it’s only a MORAL crime, so it doesn’t matter!” Oh, I was fuming. Sadly, this went right over Twit’s head but shut up the rest of the room. We had a little discussion in one corner while Twit went on and on about how many of these hats she was going to make but I knew if I didn’t step back I would likely cause a scene that wouldn’t soon be forgotten and I really like most everyone in the room.

All that being said, here are my views on copyright and fair use:

I will knit an item for another person, for pay, from a published pattern, but only if they buy the pattern. Before y’all start flooding my inbox with requests, be warned that I have many conditions when knitting for others that have nothing to do with the complexity of the pattern and I don’t come cheap 🙂 I have knit for cash, but the first stipulation is that the item is not being sold and the pattern was acquired legally. No exceptions. Ever.

I have a clearly worded copyright notice on all my patterns. If you buy a pattern from me, you are welcome to knit up the item as many times as you like for yourself, friends and family, so long as you’re not making money doing it. If you are knitting for cash, I ask that you purchase the pattern for each item knit for sale. It’s only fair and right.

If you’re knitting items for charity or fund raising (not your Vacation Fund raising, mind) please drop me a note and I’ll likely give you permission.

If you want to use my pattern to teach a class, please drop me a note and I’ll likely give permission.

If you want to buy one of my patterns and make a dozen copies to sell in your shop, I do not give permission and hope you get shingles.

If you buy one of my patterns, make 50 items and sell them for a bunch of money in any venue I will be very angry when I find out (and the knitting community really isn’t all that big) and will use every resource at my command to force you to see the error of your ways. Yes, I will take you to court, I will shame you in the knitting community, I will destroy your reputation. If you’re going to make money selling knitted goods, get permission or use your own designs.

If that makes me a hardass, so be it. I put hours and hours into each design. I have 20 years of knitting & designing experience. It’s not just my hobby, but a real side-line that I hope to turn into my main job some day soon. You wouldn’t let me come into your office and steal cash from you, so why should I sit back and let someone steal from me?

Rant over.

* Do follow the link – Carina’s designs are just lovely!

Starting to roll…

After taking a much-needed week off from the world, we’re back in the saddle and moving forward with 2015 goals, one of which is to get all of my knitting patterns revised, updated and back online for sale. To that end, two free patterns magically (re) appeared on the Starting Over Designs website on a brand new Free Patterns page with links to download them from Ravelry (no, you don’t have to be a member of Ravelry to get the downloads, but, really, if you’re a knitter you should belong to Ravelry. Srsly.)

The first is a simple neckwarmer pattern –

First WimpleAny yarn, any gauge, make it loose like the model above…er…the neckwarmer is loose, not the model…uh…or make it fit snugly. Either version (and there’s also instructions for a ribbed version – pics if you knit it up and I’ll post with full credit here, please?) has a flared lower end that fits over the shoulders and stays in place under your coat.

Also up is a cuff-down short-row heel sock pattern  –

SR Heels 1Knit in worsted weight yarn, these socks are a great introduction to the short-row heel and won’t take forever to finish. I always shudder when a prospective sock knitting student expresses their desire to knit socks with “sock yarn,” especially if they’ve never knit with DPNs because it takes freakin’ forever to knit a pair of socks on US#0 needles and if you’re learning the techniques for the first time as well, you’re setting yourself up for an exercise in frustration.

While I’m expounding on socks, let me just say that I knit my socks very tightly and I do it for a reason: back in the early days of my sock knitting career I was learning what gauge was all about (self-taught, not a knitting teacher as far as the eye could see) and what worked for my particular feet and like most newbies I used the gauge and needle size printed on the yarn ball band as a guide.

My socks were successful for three wearings and then the bottom of the heel just gave out. Just. Gave. Out. Gone. All that knitting wasted.

A bit of time under my Thinking Cap and I came to the conclusion that, for me, socks need to be knit quite firmly or they will wear out on the bottom of the heel and at the point of my big toe. The simplest way to get the gauge that works for me is to knit worsted weight  yarn on a US#3 needle. The resulting fabric is firm and wears very well. My skin can’t be seen through the fabric when the socks are on my feet and I think this is the most important requirement when knitting socks you want to last awhile.

Now, I’ve been told that my sock knitting gauge is “constipated,” and it’s fine for you to believe that and to scoff, but in the end, I’ve had some of my wool socks for the better part of ten years now and they’re still going strong. Can you say the same?

Where was I? Oh, yes! When I teach a sock knitting class I encourage my students to knit the first pair for themselves using worsted weight yarn and a US#3 needle. The “course” is three classes spaced a week apart and the final class is spent with finishing and discussing changes to be made to future socks to make them even more custom fitted. I have been known to write up a personalized pattern for those who have hard-to-fit feet because I believe the whole point of knitting socks is to have warm feet, but more importantly, the socks should fit their intended feet perfectly.

There are few things in life more enjoyable than custom wool socks on a cold Winter day.

Designer Update

2014 was certainly a busy year for our favorite designer, Natalia Fedner. As I hinted before, the Black dress with my fabulous handspun angora yarn was tried on by some Hollywood heavy hitters and it finally saw its Red Carpet debut at the American Horror Story Freakshow premiere back in October adorning the beautiful Naomi Grossman:

Empress 1

 

Empress 3My handspun yarn has been up close and personal with an IMDb 2014 Top 10 Star! That’s right, my yarn has adorned the ass of the famous!

Yeah, I rock 😉

Natalia has been very busy designing with new methods and materials and clothing more celebrities. Do check out her Instagram and Facebook page.

I’m sure we’ll be hearing about Natalia and Naomi a lot in 2015!

Craft Faire in Roseburg

The Sweatshop Girls were in Roseburg over the weekend at the Douglas County Fairgrounds for the Business and Professional Women Craft Fair. It was a very long, but very productive weekend.

Being the official Spokes Dog for the Sweatshop Girls, Sabu had a prime spot after setup on Friday night –

20141031_212123It was a lovely time and we met many fantastic people, including roughly half the members of the Umpqua Weavers and Spinners Guild. We’re planning a day trip some time soon after the Holidays to visit all our new friends and acquire some fiber for next year’s projects. Oh, yes, we do have some big plans!

The show was well attended and we hear the Christmas Show is even busier. Maybe next year 🙂 Our lovely sewn bags got their fair share of attention, but sadly (or maybe not so sadly – we’re rather attached to them) we brought them all home with us –

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAA shawl and two hand-knit hats went to new homes and the soap and lotions were popular.

Here is a sneak peek at some of the things we’ll have on display at the next show –

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAWe have a nice selection of handspun yarns and the Break-all-the-Rules hat in kit form with pattern and handspun yarns –

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAWe have handmade goat’s milk soaps and lotions as well as gifts for the knitter or spinner in your life.

If you’re in the Yachats, OR area next weekend, stop by the Crafts on the Coast Holiday Arts & Crafts Fair. Held each year at Yachats Commons, Hwy 101 & W 5th, the hours are Saturday 10 a.m. -5 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m. -4 p.m.

No trip to a new town is complete without a stop at the local dog park. Happy Tails did not disappoint –

Happy Tails RoseburgIt’s a lovely park in a wooded setting with many oak trees and old fire hydrants scattered throughout. Sabu appreciated the hilly terrain and numerous trees to pee around – Happy Tails Roseburg 2The bricks were inscribed with the names of beloved pets and were a nice touch –

Happy Tails Roseburg 3We stayed at the dog-friendly Windmill Inn, which was just lovely! We recommend it if you’re visiting the area or just passing through.

Now we recover and get ready for next week’s show!

First Show of the Season!

lEGION sALEThe Holiday Season is upon us and the Sweatshop Girls will be in Newport tomorrow at Legion Post 116. If you’re in the area, stop by and say “hey!” while you check out the local crafters!