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Sunday, February 5


I best be blogging! Life finds me on twitter--developing relationships with so many fabulous people. Sales of yarn have been wonderful, thank you to my followers. Yarn listings don't even make it to my etsy site, but I will be listing about 14 handspun, handknit hats in the next day or so. Then I will be working on getting another batch of handspun ready for sale.

Until then keep warm this mild winter!

Tuesday, August 16

To Blog.....or not to blog? Or, Adventures in Spindling

"You never blog!" "When is your next blog update?" Just two of the comments I've heard regarding my zzzzzzzzz blog. Sigh. It's hard to keep up with so many social networking platforms. What are the best formats to share my passions with people? I've been hiding mostly on Twitter--I follow so many wonderful people--knitters, spinners, fiber dyers, tea lovers, and people with many other similar interests. It's quick. And very easy. Little snippets of what I'm doing. But it's hard to get a lot of details out in 140 characters! I know, there are functions such as Twitlonger, but you get what I mean.  Facebook is my second option. But it's more time consuming, and harder to quickly upload pics of what I'm doing. The blog. Updating the blog takes the most time, and it's kinda static. Just a snapshot of what I was doing at a moment in my life.

So, what should I do? 
Russian style support spindle
I am leaning toward using the blog for projects. How I approach a project from start to finish. My thoughts, ideas, considerations entailed in how I do "my thing". More of a quasi quarterly newsletter. For example, I'm currently knitting an afghan, the Tree of Life designed by Nicky Epstein blogged about by Tina--AKA arizonaknitter on twitter. (The afghan I'm doing is the third picture down in the linked page.) I started with alpaca fiber generously gifted by AlpacaFarmGirl on twitter. I spun the fiber, then dyed the skeins in pale chestnut and pale green, with a couple transition skeins of chestnut/green. Pics of the process can be found on my Facebook page, Chrisinvermont, picture album Tree of Life afghan. Anywho, it's in-progress, and representative of the types of things that I will blog about in detail; including pics, resources, tips, etc.

Drop Spindling
Tibetan style support spindle
This has been a summer for trying out new fiber skills. For many years I've resisted the urge to spin on a drop spindle. It's too slow, it's hard on the arms, why would anyone bother?

Then it hit me. I decided it would enhance my general fiber skills and round out my repertoire. It's portable. I can carry a small spindle with me just about anywhere. Little bits spindled here and there add up. I'm not always into knitting everywhere I go, and it's fun to have a variety of things to do. Although I'm not certain I can bring a Takli on a plane...

I've been watching dozens of videos of people spindling. In Peru, Ecuador, Chile. I find it so fascinating. (One of my favorites, the one with the Navajo spinner/weaver Clara Sherman, bring tears to my eyes! So much knowledge, passion, experience in her hands!) Watching these videos ignited my interest in finally really applying myself to learning to spindle.

Akha spindle
So, do I buy just one spindle? NO! I now have a collection.

*A Takli--a short, thin spindle with a brass whorl on the bottom (picture at top is of my cotton spinning on Takli). The Takli originated in India, and is primarily used for spinning cotton. Here's a video on Takli spinning--> Takli Spinning Video link.

*A Russian-style support spindle (second picture). I purchased mine on Etsy from SpinDizzyChick. Love it.

*A Tibetan style support spindle (third picture) purchased from NealBrand on Etsy

*An Akha spindle for drop spinning cotton (fourth picture). I realized after watching the Akha woman spinning for like a dozen times, I was doing it different from how she was doing it. I should wind the yarn on the top portion, so I will be able to use the bottom for the twist motion.

Oh, and a Turkish spindle from ThreadsThruTime, also on Etsy. Lol. So many options!

I mastered all of these in about a week. Each one is different in ease, function, and use. More about these in the future!

If you want to keep up-to-date on what I'm doing, follow me on Twitter, or friend me on Facebook! I am carding, spinning and dyeing fiber blended with bunny fiber from my zoo! I will be listing some skeins & hats for sale soon!

And we went to York, Maine...

Saturday, November 27

On to Winter...

Oh my. I've been so bad at updating this blog! My apologies. It's kind of hard keeping up-to-date with my Facebook page, Twitter (vtknitboy), emails, my etsy site, and the blog! Twitter has been fabulous--I've made dozens of contacts and friends. Many have purchased my handspun yarn, so my focus has been to keep posting new yarns, pics, etc., there. Sales on Etsy have been slow, but I've sold many more skeins just listing on my Facebook page!

Little Annabelle-nippy-diva, my REW (red eyed white) German Angora, grows about an inch a day! Here's her updated pic. Check out my last post for the July pic.

Sorry this is short, but I just wanted to update the blog. I hope to become a bit more consistent on doing more posts. I've been asked by friends on twitter to post recipes, so that may become a standard.

Hope you all had a safe and joyous Thanksgiving!


Saturday, July 3

Hoppy 4th!

I couldn't resist! Ya'll have met Torto & Nuit, now meet Chessie. My new, chestnut French Angora! He's just 4 months old, and he's a sweetie.

There's been a bit of drama, with Torto (another buck) stamping his feet in his cage, and marking my hand all up with his scent glands under his chin! Both "old" rabbits are very excited to smell another bunny in the garage. I got Chessie on Sunday 6/27, and they were a bit agitated. Running back and forth in their cages, climbing up on the inside wall to smell better, and making all sorts of noises! Luckily, things have calmed down quite a bit. I now feed or visit (pet) Torto FIRST, and take care of all of his needs, then Nuit, THEN I visit with Chessie. That way Torto doesn't smell him on my hand. It seems to be working.

I am getting one more rabbit, in about 8 weeks. A white German angora. Hopefully a doe, for breeding later. Here's a pic of a young one.

Off to blend some more batts of fiber for spinning into yarn. I will update later with pics. You can see other pics at my twitpics account at Twitpics. It's a little slow, but you an scroll down for other pics.

Thursday, May 6

On to May...

Right. Time to update the old blog. It's been languishing the past, oh, 4 months. Now that I am officially selling handspun yarn, handknit items, and soon--carded batts of fiber, I think it's time to dust off the blog.

About three months ago I purchased two adorable French Angora bunnies. A silver-gray doe (Nuit Noire), and a light cream-color buck, Primo Torto. Over the past months I've noticed that they have developed personalities. Nuit (I call her New-ee) is a bit timid, but will always come right up to the door to say hi to me. Torto is very gregarious. He hops right up to the door before I even unlatch it, and insists that I rub his nose/head before anything else occurs. They are about 3/4 through their first fiber shedding, and I've been combing it versus shearing it. As a handspinner, I find sheared bunny fiber tends to have coarse ends where cut. Combing or brushing ensures a better spinning fiber.

French Angora bunnies are smaller than the English/Giant breeds, and therefore have less yearly fiber yield. However, I think I'm going to get at least one, as the fiber yield can be anywhere from 1-3 lbs per year--which is 2-3x more than FA yield.

I finally got new yarns and some knitted hats on my etsy site. Even made 2 sales in the past week! I'm very excited, as I hope this leads to Vtknitboy on Etsy becoming a larger part of my life.

Will try to post more often, as I will be listing yarn, knitwear, and batts (to spin) later!


Tuesday, January 12

Vtknitboy is still alive!

I hope the New Year finds you in good health, and bringing you lots of joy!

I wanted to do a quick blog update. I've been so busy: spinning, knitting, establishing wonderful connections with people: knitters, spinners, eco-friendly people, and many more diverse, talented people....on twitter. Yes. On twitter. It's a super way to meet like-minded people--or those of differing viewpoints; which can lead to learning & growth.

Some big news, for me at least...

I will be starting an angora rabbitry in February! Finally, vtknitboy will have a source for wonderful, soft, warm angora fiber! I will be starting with two French angora babies! I'm pretty excited. They will provide lots of lovely angora bunny fiber--and lots of pics for my blog.

I'm starting with two...or three. Hopefully the middle one in the pic on the right. And perhaps the fawn colored one below it, and maybe the black one above it! Aren't they the cutest things?!

I will use the fiber for spinning for sale as yarn or knit up as garments. This will be available on my etsy site

You can see some of the items at the left of this post.

So, in the meantime, have a great winter--I will be updating this more frequently!

I'm vtknitboy on twitter. Please follow me if you are on twitter. I will be updating spinning, knitting and other things on there.


Thursday, August 6

Alpaca Bunny Smackdown...the results!

First, I'm on Etsy! (My handspun yarn is finally available for you to purchase!) Etsy is a wonderful site where people can buy or sell items that have some aspect of handmade to the products. I'm mostly interested in spinning fiber (to buy and to sell), and I have a lot of items to list. Right now I have four items listed, with about 100+ to go! Please visit me at Vtknitboy on Etsy! -->click here.

Smackdown '09
I'm not sure how to start this post. I woke up one morning to see a bunch of tweets on my tweetdeck (a free program that makes following lots of people on Twitter easier) mentioning me, @vtknitboy! It seems that two of my tweeps (twitter friends, ala "peeps" = online friends) were kind of having a little online back and forth about which fiber was softer: alpaca or angora bunny (can be confusing--prior name for mohair goat was angora goat).

I'm like, ut oh! They wanted me to be an objective judge and help them decide which one was softer. Yikes! The pressure! The conflict! The tension mounted.

The participants and their owners:
Kathryn in Colorado (@alpacamundo on twitter) raises alpacas. Lynn in Ohio (@sheepmama on twitter) raises angora bunnies. They decided to send each other, and me, 1/4 oz of fiber from one of their animals. The task was to spin it (and perhaps knit a swatch with it) and come to a conclusion as to which was softer. I noted that Kathryn's blog had a post about the smackdown where she used the term "better". To me, this was beyond what the purpose of the smackdown was, because the term could include everything from fiber strength, usage, wearability, etc. In my mind, I am just judging these two fibers based on softness. And, before I hear rumblings from the "losing" side, the results here are just for these fiber samples--they are not blanket statements about the entire breed of angora bunnies or alpacas!

Lynn (bunny sample) sent a lovely 1/4 oz of Nougat, a gorgeous chocolate agouti. Dark brown tips fade to caramel with a steel stripe and silver roots. Nougat is a Satin angora. Lynn's blog is here -->blog.

Kathryn sent a sample of Kocoa Moon. Kocoa is a lovely medium brown alpaca. Info and pics
are on this blog: click here. Kathryn's blog is here.

Another involved party is @alpacafarmgirl, also known as Katy. Katy raises alpacas in Alabama and I have been lucky to receive some of the finest fleece from her 'pacas. Very nice. She has been involved in this smackdown by organizing little yarn/fiber giveaways all week! You can read about her and enter the contest for a free skein of alpaca yarn here.

So, we have lovely fiber, lovely people. Based on this test, and softness alone, the winner is...

Before I get to that, here are some pics of the fiber, spinning, skeined and a knit swatch.

Alpaca pre-washing. Washed, air dried & lightly carded. Spinning sample.

Bunny precarding (no washing). Lightly carded on handcarder. Spinning sample.

Alpaca spun sample (top), Bunny sample (bottom). Same. One strand of each.

Knit sample 'paca on bottom, bunny top. Close-up of 'paca. Close-up of 'paca w/ bunny halo.

Close-up of bunny. Closer close-up. Sample wraps per inch, showing bunny halo.

Technically, from a micron count perspective, angora bunny wool is softer than alpaca.The alpaca sampled was Huacaya, which runs from 14-27 microns; with Royal alpaca 14-20.9, and Strong being 27.7. Angora bunnies rate a 13. I pulled this info from the Internet, so if you, the reader, has more updated information, please pass it on to me. Now, had the sample been Suri alpaca, things might be different. They rate 10-15.

Micron Count:
Vicuna 6-10, Suri alpaca 10-15, qiviut 11-13, angora bunny 13, Huacaya royal 14-20.9, cashmere 15-19, yak down 15-19, Quanaco 16-18, merino sheep 17-23 (but i saw one reference of 12-20), Baby Huacaya 21-22.9, Strong Huacaya 27.

So, as you see, micron count varies quite a bit in alpaca breeds, but I am under the impression that bunnies are pretty consistent. I am not sure which section of Huacaya this sample was from.

As an aside, I'm not an expert on either of these breeds, so please let me know if any of this information is inaccurate or needs updating.

Bunny wool needs LOTS of twist to it! It's so dang slippery, even a slightly over-plied sample can slide right out of the twist! I highly recommend really overplying the singles, then ply with about 20% more twist than you think you need. Really. I plied this sample maybe 10% overplied and it ended up relaxing to about 20-30% less twist in the ply. I ended up adding more twist to the sample later on.

More twist and the spinning technique will affect how much the angora yarn will halo. My sample has a good 1/2" halo already! Now, I did spin both sample supported longdraw, which means that it's lighter and airier than shortdraw spun, which would be tighter and more fiber ends would be caught up in the twist. I prefer longdraw because I feel for the most part that the yarn is bouncier, lighter and has more character--but that's just one perspective.

Angora yarn ended up at 22-24 WPI (wraps per inch=see the photo of the bunny yarn wrapped around the yarn needle.), the alpaca 22 WPI. The beauty of both of these fibers is that they can be spun even thinner than this without losing softness.

Alpaca is much stronger than angora. Possibly 3-4 times more. So from a usage perspective, blending some angora with alpaca would be lovely, and I'd add in 20% merino or other soft wool to give the resulting yarn more elasticity and stretch.

One aspect of this particular alpaca sample was it had a lot of VM (vegetation matter) in it; ie., lots of pieces of hay, etc. I don't have a drum carder, so it took a lot of effort to remove as much of the VM as I could. This affected the softness factor somewhat.

I did learn through the 'paca grapevine, that breeders are now focusing on getting more elasticity in the fiber through breeding. Sometimes garments made from 100% alpaca yarn can "grow" on you. However, this can be reduced by utilizing stitch patterns that break up the vertical lines. For example, a basketweave stitch, or a ribbed stitch would pull the garment back to the original shape better.

So, the result...

Angora "wins" by a hare! However, both fibers could be worn against the skin if needed. One plus is both fibers are incredibly warm, anywhere from 2-6 times warmer than wool. (But seriously, once you get past twice as warm, I couldn't tell the difference.) Both fibers are absolutely divine! A little angora goes a long way. One would need only 10% to feel the softness of the angora, and would easily contribute more warmth. I would love a garment made from 60% alpaca, 20% angora, and 20% merino. That would be ideal for socks. For me, a sweater would only need 20% angora, 80% soft wool to make it incredibly warmer than a wool sweater, and with either fiber, a lightweight sweater made out of sockweight yarn would be far warmer than a heavy wool sweater.

As far as the sample/smackdown, these are just my observations, feelings, and reaction.

I would like to thank Lynn (@sheepmama) and Kathryn (@alpacamundo) for thinking this up, and Katy (@alpacafarmgirl) for promoting it on her blog, and organizing the giveaway contests!

Cheers to all! And a special thanks to Kocoa Moon and Nougat! You guys (gals) rock!

Vtknitboy (Chris)