To read more posts...leave a comment...and to mark your location:

Posts are in reverse chronological order. To read beyond the visible posts, click on "older posts" at the very bottom of the page or click on specific months/days in the left margin.

Feel free to leave a comment at the end of any of the posts.

I'd love it if you scrolled down to the bottom of the page and marked your location on the map!

Friday, May 30

Mark Your Spot!

map has been relocated to bottom of blog page...

Thursday, May 29


The weather in Vermont is finicky. Last night we had a fire in our soapstone woodstove, and there were frost/freeze warnings; today it's 76 and I have some fans on and the windows open! Ice Age and Global Warming?!

Here are some pics for Barb in Clearwater, Florida. I've known
her for many years, as she was a member of the spinning guild I (uh hum...) sometimes attend (I've been a member for over 15 years), and summered here in Vermont and wintered in Clearwater. Maybe 3 or 4 years ago she and her husband Fred moved down there permanently.

They do have
children who live in Vermont, so I hope to run into them sometime. She said that she is homesick for Vermont, so I thought I'd put up some pics from today...I hope she doesn't get more homesick! As always, clickety to embiggen!
(the pics)

Project Updates:
The Dr. G's vest is going along slowly. I keep getting sidetracked with other projects. I just
need to sit down and finish one thing at a time, instead of having 7 or 8 projects going on! The pattern is really easy, and the handspun (mine) corriedale has lovely jewel tones in it. The sunlight really highlights it.

The silk lace yarn: It was my mom's birthday yesterday, and as I had not figured out exactly what I was going to get for her, it all came out well, as in our phone conversation she said she'd love a scarf! The colors will look great on her, and I started the feather and fan pattern as a swatch. I'm going to show it to her on Saturday and see if she likes it.

I haven't touched the sun ray shawl since Easton.

New Stuff:

I got four lovely fleece samples of Huacaya Alpacas from Maple who
with her husband Howes owns North Star Alpacas in Michigan. I met her on Rav, and got into a conversation about crimp versus elasticity/memory (my mis-speak). I asked her to send me some samples, and she did! Most of the alpaca that I have spun had little crimp--none that I could see, and I wonder if the roving process removes it. She stated that Alpaca breeders have been trying to breed more crimp and elasticity (my take on it) into the breeds--that's great, especially from a handspinner's perspective.

I fell in love with the samples! Two white, a brown, and a fawn color. Each one is just a lock, but I was amazed to see how much yarn I got out of one lock! The first sample was Orion, a two year old male, with a really nice silky, dark brown fleece. I flicked the lock, and it fluffed up about threefold. I separated it in half. The first section I pulled into an 18" roving. While alpaca is not "greasy", it still has a slightly greasy feel to it. This was not washed, and was very clean, without any grass or vegetation in it. The "greasiness" (I use the term lightly--it's not greasy like wool), kept the fiber together as I was drafting it, and the long fiber length (about 4-5 inches) made it quite easy to draw into a thread thread.

The second part of the lock I spun right from the lock. To do this, angle the side of the lock toward the leader from your wheel while treadling, and let the end of the fibers catch onto the twist in the leader. Once it's connected, start pulling out from the lock.

One tip: it's better to pull the fibers out from the lock versus pulling back with the hand holding the lock because the fiber will end up bunching in your hand. This is true when spinning short-draw too.

The second alpaca sample I spun was Pollux, a two year old boy, with a lovely white fleece. This lock was beautiful too. Not quite as silky as Orion, but still delightful. Pollux was easier to spin a bit thicker, but as you can see in the sample swatch, both plied yarns came out to 7 sts per inch using #3 needles. Note, I got 9 yards of 2-ply yarn out of each lock!

More later...

Saturday, May 24

Colorways, Navajo plying, and projects

Just a quick update on the yarn from the alpaca roving I wrote about in my last post. I have around 1,000 yards, with 6 oz left to spin. Here's a picture of one of the skeins that has been wound on my ball winder. I usually don't ball my yarn up until I'm really ready to use it, but I am dying to knit a sample from it! The skeins came out really light and airy, and have a WPI of 21 (wraps per inch for you non-spinners). I think it will make fabulous socks! I have enough to also do a scarf. With the extra left on one bobbin, I plied it with some extra wool I had on another bobbin from the Dr. G's Vest I spun the yarn for (mentioned in a previous blog...)

Upcoming projects (as always, click on the pics for a larger view)

Silk Lace: At the knitting retreat we had a schwag* event where you pick numbers and
the lowest numbers get to pick first, etc. I was number 12 out of 20 something because I was a "Chatty-Cathy", so I missed out on some really great stuff, although what I got was wonderful too.

I picked out a skein of Cherry Tree Hill cascade lace (1,000 yards of 100% silk) in a beautiful Martha's
Vineyard colorway with purples, blues, and greens. (Funny how all three things I got at the Retreat have the same colors! Just different shades and blends.) The silk makes the colors shimmer. I have no idea exactly what I'm going to do with it.

Soysilk: This was a lovely gift for being a workshop presenter. It's 50/50 s
oysilk and merino. It's called Karaoke, in the Mermaid colorway, with plum, seaweed green and some light olive greens (others may say teals, purples and blues, but I'm blue/green colorblind, so what do I know!). I pulled the roving into 2 long strips, then broke just one into 4 more. I spent some time attenuating just one strip--the "silk" feels just like real silk, has the same shimmer, and has the same "tacky" feeling from being dyed, ie., it clumps some. This made attenuating a bit of fun. Not! But, the time I spent attenuating (also called predrafting) was well worth the effort. The fiber drafted well when I spun it, and I spun enough to make a sample swatch.

I really wanted to maintain the colors in the plying, so I spun up a bit on just one bobbin, then I Navajo plied the single, with my wheel set at moderate uptake, I treadled verrrryyyyyyy sllllooooowwwwly.... Navajo plying turns a single ply into a 3-ply. I
t's like finger crocheting. You pull out a loop from the main "line" about 10-20", or shorter (when pulled out, the loop now has two "sides"), the leader then wraps around the two "sides", thus making a 3-ply. This takes a LOT of practice! If you treadle too fast, it's just a harsh, tight and overplied yarn. I really wanted this to be soft, and to maintain the color changes at the same time. One hard part is to ensure that where the loop meets the next loop that there is not an overlap, because you can see this. Navajo plying (in my opinion) works better on thinner yarn because the "join" is less obvious. For a lesson and video clip go here: navajo plying.

I knitted up a 4" x 8" swatch, using a modified basket weave. Mine was 3 sts edging, then *(k2, p3)* repeat between * * to last 3 sts, then 3 st edging; next row: maintaining 3 st edgings, *(p3,k2)* repeat to last 3 sts, do 3 st edging. Repeat rows 1 & 2, then do row 1 again. On the next row (row 6), do a purl row (this is the back side). Then repeat the first 5 rows, but switch the k2, p3 to p2, k3, thus offsetting the sts. On the 12th row do a purl row. Anywho, you probably get it by now!

The purl row creates a pull on the front, so that the knit blocks on the right side pop out, and almost have a convex curve. It's cool!

I plan on doing at least a scarf with this. I think it's 8 oz.

Superfine Merino Top: The last stash I got at the retreat was 7 oz of superfine dyed merino top in a green/blue colorway. This one has more greens and blues in it than the other two stashes, with some purple. I haven't spun up
any of this yet, but have attenuated a couple of strips. More later!

*for a history of "schwag" go here: schwag

Thursday, May 22

A Lesson in Washing Handspun (or garments)

Many people have asked how I wash my fiber and yarn. I basically use the same process for washing either small amounts of fleece, or washing my skeins. Let's use the alpaca yarn I just spun from the beautiful roving I bought at Alpacas of Easton (AOE) on the alpaca farm field trip mentioned below (during the Men's Spring Knitting Retreat).

As always, click on the pics for a larger view!

Here's a shot of the roving before spinning. It feels like a silky, soft, light cloud! Kate (of AOE) had white and grey alpaca blended to yield this very beautiful white with silver/grey. The second shot is two of the skeins right after winding on my skein winder. I usually wind the plied yarn from the bobbin onto a niddy-noddy, but this time I wound it right on the skein winder. I set the winder at about 58" circumference, wound it, then multiplied the number of strands times 60 (inches), then divided by 36 for yards. The two skeins came out to be roughly 800 yards. I was going to do a 3-ply, as I was spinning it almost laceweight, but I was spinning pretty fast, using a long-draw which morphed into a quick back draw. When I started plying the 3-ply I realized it was going to be heavier than I wanted (I picture socks and a scarf out of this), so I switched to a 2-ply.

I fill up a sink with warm to hot water. I use natural, environmentally-friendly dishwashing soap. There are a variety of efficient and effective soaps out there, including Dawn, and other things that cut some of the grease. I tend to buy more natural dishsoaps, but buy whatever meets your financial
and personal needs. With wool, I use a hotter water temp to cut some of the grease, but with alpaca and llama I use moderately warm to hot, right out of the tap. Alpaca has no lanolin, and is relatively cleaner than wool, and the roving I purchased had very little vegetable matter in it (grass/hay).

Add the soap to the water, I only use about 1/8th of a cup. I don't even measure it. The dirtier the fiber, more I'd use. I just squirt some in, let it foam a bit, then shut off the water. I then add the skeins to the sink, submerging it a couple times to ensure that it gets fully wet. Alpaca (and angora bunny) don't absorb it as quickly as wool, so I just gently push it down a couple of times.

Then, just let it soak for about 20 minutes.

To drain and rinse:
I push the fiber to the side of the sink, and pull the plug in the drain slowly. I usually don't lift the skeins out of the water, as the heavy weight can drag/pull on the fiber. I use this same method f
or washing fiber, skeins, and garments.

After the water drains out, still holding the fiber to the side, I gently squeeze the fiber trying to get as much water out as possible. You can either lift it out of the sink, supported by both hands, and put it into a bowl/container, or keep it to the side of the sink, refill the sink with warm water. Try to keep the water temp roughly the same
as the last soak water. The only caveat of this is you hope the water coming right out of the tap is about the same as the soak water--not really cold or really hot. So, for a newbie, I'd recommend taking the fiber out of the sink to refill.

Refill the sink, add the skeins again, and gently submerge. Let it soak for about 10 minutes or so. This alpaca was really clean. If your fiber is dirtier or dyed, lengthen the soak and rinse cycles.

Remove, using same method above in the soak phase (gently squeeze out as much water as you can). For garments, I roll in a towel, absorbing more moisture. For skeins, I put in the washing machine (yes!) but ONLY ON SPIN!! Tres importante! If your machine has only spin-with-spray feature, do not use this. No spray/spritzing. I let it spin for only about 10-15 seconds.

Remove the skeins from the washing machine, then gently "snap" the skein between my hands (no pic, as I couldn't do this and take the pic). Rotate the skein 1/4 around
in your hand, therefore snapping (gently) at another section of the skein.

Drying: Weighting the skein. One note, a lot of people were taught to do this in the '70s and '80s by "hanging a can of soup"
(or another weight) on the skein. I do not recommend this! There are specific uses for this, mainly for setting the twist for singles, and for weaving.

The purpose for weighting the skein was to set the twist and to achieve a more balanced ply. Many of us, in early spinning, were not the best plyers. The main problem with this is that the weight can stretch and break the fibers. Another problem is that I think it leads us to not learn how to achieve a balanced ply. If you are must do this, I would recommend that you take the weight off from the skein after a couple of hours, and check the skein's twist. Okay, enough of this soapbox!

I believe that roughly 10% of the twist comes out in the wash, so to speak. The twist relaxes and is distributed over a longer length of the plied yarn. When I teach someone how to spin, I try to emphasize that a skein (before washing) can have about a 1 1/2 extra twist (in the skein), and that will most likely end up pretty balanced. You can use this as a guide to figure out if you are overplying or not. Of course, different fiber reacts differently.

After gently snapping the skein, I hang over a clothes rack, or doorknob. Because of the trip to
the washing machine, there is very little moisture in the skein. I will readjust the skein a couple times over the next 8 hours, so that the weight is redistributed during the drying process. Most of my skeins dry overnight.

Tip: I do not ball up the yarn until I am ready to use it. I find that the twist stays in better. One off-topic note, but kind of related, I do not use a steam iron over a towel to block my garments. This works well for showing/displaying, however I find that a thorough wash of the garment, then flat blocking works better.

These are just my thoughts, no right or wrong (except for stretching the fiber with the soup can!).

I hope this helps some of you out there!

Tuesday, May 20

Men's Spring Knitting Retreat

Wow. Although I could try, there aren't enough accurate, descriptive words to encompass the feelings and emotions I have from attending the retreat this past weekend. Others may try, but they will fail! Seriously, check out a couple of these blogs Sean's Soapbox (boston sean), Kenny from Houston, for other recaps and some feelings about the weekend. I'll add more links and pics later on as they appear.

Condensed short path: Kyle from CA led me to Ravelry, which led me to line A: the Vt. Knitters Group, which led me to meeting 4 other Vermont gay guys who knit, which led to a Vermont Men's Knit Group (no real group name exists at this time); at the same time, line B (from rav) led to the Men Who Knit group, and the development of the Men's Spring Knitting Retreat which was held at Easton Mountain Resort in Easton, New York. Please check out their website and learn more about them. Let me say, it was a great location, the staff was great, the food was good-to-great, and, as their website states, it was a "haven where people can explore the integration of body, mind, heart and spirit." That is an understatement.

Special thanks to Joe and Ted for all their hard work, time and energy, and love and sharing! Monday was like an e-mail lovefest! Between the dozens of e-mails just on my end, and all the posts on Rav, I think many of us were suffering from knitting and male knitting/spinning camaraderie withdrawal! I agree.

I'll post more later. I just wanted to get something up, with some pics. Note: as always, click on the pics to go to the larger view.

Top pic:
One of the lovely green mountains surrounding the retreat.

Second from top: day old baby alpaca! So soft and warm.!
Third from top:
Kate from Alpacas of Easton, baby paca
and mommy paca.
Fourth from top: Kate, mommy, and baby, again...
Fifth from top: Two of my many new BFF's: Left, Kenny from Houston, me in the center, and right is Jim from Hudson, New York. Both soooo sweet and lovable! (Yes, my partner was there

I wanted to make sure I included enough pics of the Alpaca trip, because Ted did not get to go and missed out on seeing these cuties! (the pacas....)

Pics of the retreat:

(Below at right) These pics are from the night of the "fashion" show. Note, lower case F in fashion, and light use
of the concept of show! Seriously, just kidding. There were lots of super nice designs and great work by many of the guys. It was our attempt at mocking such lovelies as Miss Banks and such.

Sorry the pics are so
dark. It was a kind of dark location. Some of the pics I took across the room and in the center and they turned out dark, others I took from right in front of me and they came out much better.

The pic at right is a partial group shot of the circle. I can't tell who all of them are from this shot, but I think they are Bob from Tampa, I know Joe and Sean are in there, can't quite make out the others.

I'll have to add more tomorrow. Hope you enjoyed this recap. I, as most of the other guys, am looking forward to continuing to develop these wonderful relationships formed at the retreat. As I said earlier, I am blessed, humbled and enriched by meeting these fabulous guys!

Happy knitting!

Monday, May 12

A Worthy Cause

Now, I'm not traditionally big on writing about causes, only because there are just way too many out there to consider. Plus, my funds are pretty tight at this point in my life! What better time to start using up all the yarn and roving stash I have eating up space in the house! Anywho, a friend of mine told me about Kirsten, a knitting woman who's father passed away. He had Alzheimer's Disease.

Now that I'm well past 40 I have started thinking about these types of diseases, ie., Parkinson's and Alzheim
er's. They are both terrible things, and place such a burden on family and friends, especially the spouse, who must alter their lives to provide total physical and medical attention.

I've been deriving much pleasure from the interconnectiveness of this small world we are in; through my GLBT knit list, and especially through I've met many wonderful and talented people, including finding other gay men who knit, right here in Vermont! (A post about our little group will appear magically here tomorrow!) I've been blessed with many new friends, not only in Vermont, but in the US and Canada. In my hope to share some of my talents and interests (and a bit of money), I donated to the Dr. G's Alzheimer's Disease Fund. Just $10 is enough, but I'm sure they'd accept more if you can spare it!

This is her blogsite, Through the Loops, and the link to the donation area is on the right. Here are some pics of what i spun up, and the beginning of the vest! Click on for a larger view...

Thanks for caring!

Tea Review: Japanese Shincha, Hibiki-An

Similar to Beaujolais nouveau, shincha is the first japanese sencha of the season. Typically only the first week or two of picking the new, bright green shoots, shincha is a must have for tea connoisseurs! In my journey through teas, I have gone from first flush Darjeelings of the season, which are light, fruity, and slightly acidic, to various first picks of Assam, Ceylon, and China greens. However, to cup a shincha is to embark on a blissful journey of fresh, green delight!

My two selections are from hibiki-an from Japan. The first (I haven't tried yet) is Farmer's Shin
cha. Available at $26 for 5.64oz. They shipped it in two small, sealed bags. This is great, as it will only last for a month or so before degrading after opening. Once opened, it needs to be stored in a tightly sealed jar, out of light and heat sources. When shincha is processed, it goes through five stages: steaming, drying, shaping, sorting leaves and stems, and drying. The tea leaves that don't go through the final two finishing processes, sorting and drying, are called "Aracha", which means unaffected or minimally processed. Japanese tea farmers have been enjoying "Aracha" for many years - it is the traditional drink for farmers. "Aracha" contains stems, known as "Karigane" and therefore has a natural unprocessed taste. "Karigane" tea stems also make the tea more sweet in flavor.

The second tea, which I tried, is Shincha Fukamushi. It was available at 2.82 oz for $21. I've seen shincha prices vary from $18 to $38+ per oz, so this is on the low side, but still very high quality. When I cut the bag open, I immediately could smell the green, fresh, smell. This tea had almost a minty hint to it! The leaves were a very nice, dark emerald green.

I steeped it in my cute steeper, which holds an amazing 18oz, which is 3 tea cups worth. I usually use 1.5 teaspoons of tea, and do two infusions per batch. I steeped each infusion for 30 seconds, which were combined in the beaker. The infusion was a medium-light green. Very typical of shincha. The fragrance was very grassy and fresh. I was salivating over this one!

The liquor was amazing. A nice contrast of grassy, mellow, with a nice blend of bitterness. I used 180 degree water, but I think it was a bit too hot. It was more bitter than mellow. Shincha, and most senchas, typically are more mellow with slightly cooler
water. 170-176 should be fine. The second batch I steeped, which was the 3rd and 4th infusions, I used 170 degrees. Again, I steeped each infusion for just 30 seconds. This round was much smoother! Very nice and crisp. The sweetness was more pronounced, yet still crisp. Unfortunately, by this time the fragrance was gone. But very enjoyable. I highly recommend this tea! You can find it at

Thursday, May 8

Why I Heart Vermont!

The pics say it all!

Spinning Notes

Okay, so here are some pics of me spinning. (note: click on the pics for larger viewing.) Don't laugh! It's in our TV room, which is kind of getting cluttered with all my STUFF. It's not in our cleaner living room, so most of the mess is in here. You'll see lots of knitting and spinning stuff around me. It's like my throne room! Lol. And, it's about 11:30 or midnight, and I think i was watching Indiana returns or something political. Note our beloved rescue kitty Tigger, who is perched on the table next to the wheel--the flyer is spinning--hence the blurred shot. He'll sit there for hours, occasionally swiping at the moving parts of the wheel, or he'll try to bit the knot of the drive band whipping by...

The fiber is something I bought probably 7 or 8 years ago. Now that I'm fundless I'm
trying to use up what I have. I bought 1 pound of the corriedale wool with the pretty colors. The single is coming out mostly blueish, with some nice reds and other colors here and there. I also have 8 oz of light grey merino with silk noils.

I have the damnest time with blogger, trying to get the pics to go where i want them! The pics have a mind of their own. It
doesn't matter if i choose no format, or even a format. Anyone with blogger have an idea how to place these wherever you want? Maybe I have to have more text than pics so that the text flows around the pics. I'll just have to type more. Oh, I see, if there is enough text to go around all the pics I can place them on the right...duh...

Anyway, the fiber is really long, which is great for doing a wicked long draw. It will probably fluff up a bit after
plying and washing (I always wash my skeins after plying and letting them rest). So, I'm spinning for sockweight yarn. I was getting kind of tired last night when I started the second bobbin, which i got 1/2 filled, but my spinning started to suck. It was getting down to laceweight and thinner. One thing I've noted, since I've been spinning so much thinner yarn lately, it's very hard to get back to spinning the way I did in the first couple years of spinning. I've been spinning for over 15 years now. When I attended SOAR '96 or '97 in Smugglers' Notch, Vermont, I took a workshop with the fabulous and talented Rita Buchanan. It was "spinning bulky yarns". What a hoot!

ETA: pic of the two skeins I plied last night. At the right, you can see how the color of the plied yarn is mostly blueish green now. It's wet, but I am hoping it is less blue than green. I have a really cool vest I want to make with it. Vermont Gay Men's Knit Group tomorrow! More on that later...

Have a great day and enjoy the pics!

Tuesday, May 6

Spring's Eternal Bliss...or something like that!

It's a lovely day in NW Vermont. Almost 70 degrees f. Here's a little snapshot off of one of our need-to-be-replaced decks... In the background are some birch trees I let grow about 4 years ago. They create a nice light backdrop for the flowering crab tree. The leaves are burgundy red on one side and a coppery tone on the other. They pale to a greenish color in the summer. The blossoms are a light pink. We have another one that stays red/bronze all year, and the blossoms are a darker red. Picture in a couple days when it flowers.

Two or three years ago we had a heavy March snowstorm that broke off the center right leading branch. You can see about 40% up from the bottom the tree now kind of goes to the left. some branches are filling out in the middle and there is one leader that may strengthen....

Spinning: here is a pic of the last three things I spun. Left: is the shetland I got from Carolina Homespun. Really nice. Long fibers, spun up really stretchy, and fluffed up after the wash. In this case, I found that I could spin it thinner than the desired end result. In the middle is the merino/alpaca blend. I got that at Paradise Fibers. It is 70/30 merino/alpaca. I have enough for socks....yum! The skein on the right is the romney wool/angora bunny blend. Maybe only 20% bunny, but it's REALLY soft! I have about 8 oz of each of the fibers.

Blogging: Oh! What to do?! I emailed Zhenya about all the wonderful things in life I want to blog about: knitting, spinning, cooking, Zen, being gay and alcoholic in Vermont, etc. Each one in itself is time consuming. Oh wait! I also have to spend the time DOING the things! Lol. I'll try to do a short blurb about each one, if there's anything going on about it.

Have a great day!

Sunday, May 4

May in Vermont

Two weeks ago it was 82 degrees here in northwest Vermont. Today it was 60. Kind of springlike, but it's damp and cold. Like our trip to Portland, Oregon in November '07. The trees are budding, the daffodils are gone by, and it's just about time for J. to do the first lawn mowing. I cook. He mows. And takes care of the compost for our organic garden! (He does eat well, I must say.)

Tonight I made a Thai/Indian dish. Curried broccoli and Quorn (vegetarian fake chicken breast-type food...yum) with organic golden rose short grain rice and red quinoa. I used Indian curry from our trip to India in '06, Thai green curry paste, and some of my homemade yogurt. It was yummy.

Knitting updates:

  • Audacity yarn from blackbunny (rav): it's part of a fund raiser for my guy Barack. It's 100% superwash merino, yummy feel and yummy colors! I was planning on making socks from it, but i have several pairs of socks planned/done and maybe I'll do a scarf. Was goggling scarf patterns last night. Just need to find the coolest one!

  • Sun ray shawl (1950's dinner cloth/tea table garment in shawl disguise). I'm only on row 98 of 7 billion! Seriously, there are about 260 rows. But, the stitches are increased by 1/3 for each section. I just went from about 213 sts to 640! So each row will now take 3 times longer to do.

Other things:

The Men's Spring Knitting Retreat in Easton, NY is only a couple weeks away! I can't wait! Gay male knitters! Whoo hoo! Joe and Ted have done a lot of work for this. I'm teaching a short workshop on spinning cotton. Joe, Ted, Dan O. and Mr. DV are attending. Such esteemed people with loads of talent! I'm honored and humbled--to share my knowledge and to learn from them.

Off for now, gotta load up pics. more later...