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:
I’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!
Valentine’s Day found Awana and I doing one of our favorite things – visiting a local farm to buy wool –
I 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!
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.
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.
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.We bought six Shetland fleeces, four white, one shades of gray and one as black as sheep’s wool can possibly be –
“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!
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 –
Any 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 –
Knit 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.
Summer is all over but the shouting and we’ve been busy, busy, busy here at SODesigns!
Just got an update from our favorite designer, Natalia Fedner – the dress with the angora yarn has recently been tried on by not one, not two, but three entertainment industry heavy hitters! Here’s another look if you missed it the first time –
Meanwhile, back at the Studio – we’ve moved! The space above the yarn shop proved to be too small for three people to work in and so we put Jean on the hunt for a larger space that’s closer to her house. Less than 24 hours later we were looking at the perfect space and moving in as quick as we could. Jean makes shit happen!
Now the Sweatshop Girls are hot and heavy into production for the upcoming Craft Faire Season – we’re booked for six weekends in a row November thru early December. Schedule to follow. These particular shows are geared towards people looking for Holiday gifts so we’re churning out goods as fast as we can – no fleece or stuff to spin for these shows except packaged as gifts for knitters and spinners.
An interesting conversation the other day:
Jean: I think we need more fiber to spin if we’re going to make enough stuff for all the shows…
Awana: Yes! We don’t have much wool laying around do we?
Me: ::blink blink::
J: Where do you two usually get your wool? We have to watch the costs and it has to be locally sourced.
A: I dunno – Sofia, where do you get your Romney wool?
Me: Well…I generally just open this here bin and fish out what I want. If it’s not there I look in this bin. And this box, which is full of alpaca fleece. Or this bin, full of angora fiber. Or this bag here – more Romney. This bag is Scottish Blackface wool. Over here we have some commercial stuff, firestar, silk, even a bit of Quiviut…
Them: ::blink blink::
Me: I think we have plenty of fiber for what we’re doing 🙂
Pictures to follow – the new Studio has WiFi, so expect updates to appear in a more timely manner…
I’m having a lot of trouble composing regular posts for this here blog. Time is just flying by, the ideas and inspiration coming fast and furious. I find myself with no time at the end of the day to even get the laundry and dishes washed, much less compose a coherent blog post! These updates will (hopefully) fill in the blanks between FOs and document some important ideas before they are lost to the ether. I do read back over past posts on occasion 🙂
Last weekend found Sabu and I in Yachats with some free time. We walked on several beaches, including this particular spot where the sand appeared to be black. Upon closer inspection I discovered that it wasn’t sand at all but tiny little stones, worn smooth by the sea. I took several pictures and collected some especially pretty samples for inspiration later. It was warm behind the rocks and Sabu decided to lay on her back while I mucked about taking pictures and sifting through the fascinating rocks.
The weather was perfect and I got some great pictures which I’ll post tomorrow.
Awana came over and we did some Project Planning. Whenever we get together the new ideas flow fast and furious. Thankfully I take notes 🙂
The regular Wednesday night gathering at Knitty Gritty was even more exciting than usual. Kristin brought a hooked rug to work on and was instantly besieged with questions. Silly girl! She thought since the majority of us bring knitting or crochet projects to work on that we would have no interest in rug hooking. Ha ha! By the time it was over she had agreed to teach a two-day class and had six signed up. More on that when it happens in May.
Thursday was Laundry Day and I spent the evening at the Laun-dro-mat, washing fabric, felting sweaters and washing clothes for like three hours 😦 It’s all done now, but I hate such an ordinary thing taking so much valuable time.
Many new ideas swirling around my head and I hope to bring them to fruition soon. I’ve always been interested in rug hooking but figured it wouldn’t fit into my already tight “hobby” schedule. Now that I know someone who can guide me, well, it’s become a bit of an obsession. Being a drafter by trade, it just seems logical to design my own patterns and fill Towanda with hand made rugs. I may have lost my mind (again) but it feels like a good fit with the other things I like to do and there’s plenty of wool fabric in The Stash that can be dyed and used up. Seems like kismet, right?
Don’t tell me if you think I’m crazy 🙂