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, August 29

Stash for sale!

Hello my friends all over the U.S. and elsewhere! I will be selling handspun yarn soon, but am going to start off by getting rid of some of my huge stash of purchased yarn! I will be adding other things to my Esty site (vtknitboy), which is not up quite yet, and am opening up a Paypal account, which should be operating in 3-5 days. If you want to purchase any of this-at this point I'd take a check (and send out the yarn once the check clears).

Note to Vermont knitters on Ravelry's Vermont Knitters group: you have first dibs! If you want any and are going to the Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival on Saturday, September 6th, I'll bring it and you'll save on shipping! Shipping is $4.50 for up to a pound. I'll let you know what it is for a skein or two, although I'd prefer to sell each color as a group. I'll sell the entire lot for $85! That's 2,165+ yards!

First batch up is Vermont wool, and Vermont wool/mohair blend. This yarn was spun by Green Mountain Spinnery about 8 years ago, but has been stored safely with no moths or yarn deterioration. I just washed all the skeins, and have re-skeined them. The yarn is a singles yarn. Some of it is slightly thick and thin, but the majority of it (90%+) is worsted weight to maybe slightly heavier worsted weight.

All this wool is from a woman who lives in Morrisville, Vermont, from her sheep and mohair goats.

White Vermont wool: 12 oz approx 660 yards $30This yarn is very soft, light and lofty, some thick and thin. Will dye easily, and probably felt well too! Great for socks, hats, mittens.

Grey Vermont wool with about 15% mohair: 16 oz. approx 890 yards $40 (PLUS 170+ yards skein that is slightly bulkier)
I made a sweater out of some of this yarn 8 years ago, and it's warm, soft, and a little fuzzy from the mohair. One of my "comfy" sweaters!

Red: Grey Vermont wool with 15% mohair, overdyed with red: 6.65 oz approx 365 yards $16.

Enough for a pair of socks, or maybe a hat and small mittens? Or buy it and add as an accent yarn with the grey.

Green: the same white yarn dyed in a pale, lovely green. 4.6 oz approx 250 yards, $10. Soft and light! Nice for socks.

Thanks for checking out this stuff. I'll have more up later. Email me or comment here with any questions.

Have a great day!

Friday, August 22

Spinning for Socks

In the past week I've been spinning a number of samples for socks. My goal is to get the sock yarn in the range of 6-8 stitches per inch. Following are some of the samples and some notes on the various fibers plied together in the yarn. I will be knitting them up over the next couple of days.

I spun up a couple ounces of white Shetland top I got at Paradise Fibers. This is fabulous top! It glides super, and drafts wonderfully--soft yet strong. Not hairy like some Shetlands, but also not downy. I then spun up smaller samples of various fiber.

Click on all pics to enlarge them...Sorry that some of them are a bit blurry!

Sample number one: The first is the blue-turquoise-green-purple roving of fine Merino. I got this at the Mens' Spring Knitting Retreat in Easton that I went to in May.

This roving was a bit compacted and I spent a lot of time attenuating the fiber so that it would draft easier. I first broke the roving into strips lengthwise, then attenuated them. I really love the colors, although they don't show up very well against the white Shetland. (I did another sample with this and dark wool with mohair, where the colors stand out much better.)

Sample number two was plied with some of the light gray alpaca I also got at the Spring Retreat, this was from the Alpacas of Easton I blogged about it May. This alpaca is super silky, and yields a thin yarn that is easy to draft. This plied up into a nice soft yarn.

Sample three I plied with some dark brown llama I got from our friends Chris & Leigh at Mountainshadow Farm. It has a different texture than alpaca--I describe it as more like hair--but it is as warm as alpaca; about 8 times warmer than wool. It makes nice sock yarn!

I did another sock yarn out of some black Shetland I bought years ago from Maple Ridge Shetland Farm in Randolph, Vermont years ago. My friend Joanne at Pine Ledge Studio in Fairfax, Vermont hand carded it for me, along with some gray, off white, and fawnish color. I plied this with some of the dark brown llama from Mountainshadow Farm. This is a bit more rugged than alpaca yarn--I overplied it on purpose to yield a nicely balanced, but firm sock yarn. This is the heaviest weight of all the yarns I did for this study.

I have another batch of samples drying, but I just did little bits. I'll post later about them.

Oh! I did have some fun with cashmere! Here are pics of the 100% cashmere yarn, and one small ball of cashmere plied with the Shetland. It's the small white ball of yarn in the bottom left of the picture--below the dark alpaca/llama yarn. Note that I overplied the cashmere on purpose. Down fibers like this and others tend to relax drastically after washing. In this case it was overplied, but relaxed into a just barely balanced yarn!

Some of the things to think about when spinning fibers that you are going to ply together are: fiber length, twist, and compatibility. The various fibers should be similar in length as possible. The longer the fiber, the less twist to get the yarn you want. I mean this in general. There are always variants and different ways to achieve different results. So, one example of not too compatible fibers would be cashmere and Lincoln wool. Cashmere is very short, about .5-1.75" and Lincoln wool averages about 7 inches! The problem that arises when plying these together is that there needs to be an incredible amount of twist in the Lincoln to come close to the twist in the cashmere. Thus, the Lincoln would be almost entirely unspun when plied with the cashmere. Okay, so these are kind of at both ends of the spectrum. But hopefully you see the point.

So, for the samples:
In sample number one, I could create a better yarn by spinning the Shetland thinner and with more twist. The colorful merino is a much finer fiber, and spun up thinner naturally. It had more twist in my sample, so the Shetland in between the twist bumps is looser.

In sample two: it worked out well. The alpaca and the Shetland were similar.

In sample three: it worked out well. The alpaca and the llama are similar.

It didn't work out so well having the cashmere plied with the Shetland. The Shetland is very loose--and in between the bumps in the twist of cashmere, it's pretty loose. I could overcompensate for this by spinning the Shetland very thin and tight, because the cashmere must be spun thin and with lots of twist to yield a nice yarn. I could spin it with less twist, but I think that it would shed and or pill a lot due to the ends being loose. Although, the yarn is super soft, it's not the best fit.

As far as compatibility, plying cashmere with any of the above isn't the best use of the fiber. It's expensive, and has a short length, so would best be matched up with another short fiber. In this case it would be better to blend cashmere with another base fiber, therefore lending softness to the final product.

Alpaca and most wools are pretty compatible in fiber length, so I think any of these will be good sock yarns. Plus, alpaca lends a great warmth factor to the yarn.

So, I try to match fiber as closely as possible in similar lengths and twist required for a good yarn, and that's why sampling is so much fun! I get to see what goes well with what.

Someone asked me if it was possible to ply from a single. Yes! I use this technique frequently when I want to spin up small amounts fiber. It's really easy. Just spin whatever you want onto one bobbin. Then, using a ballwinder, wind up into a ball. Have your wheel all ready to ply, and carefully take the ball of yarn off the ballwinder. Keep a couple of fingers inside the hole of the ball! Now, gather up the inner and outer ends of the ball, and keep two or three fingers inside the ball of yarn--creating enough tension between your fingers to keep the ball stable, but not so tight that you can't get the single yarn to unwind.

Tie the two ends up to the leader from your bobbin, and ply! There you go. When the ball starts getting loose and starts to collapse, insert another finger into the ball. Keep tension even on the yarn between the ball and the bobbin.

That's all for now!

Thursday, August 14

Spinning Updates...the quest for lace continues!

So, I've been spinning up a storm lately! Lots of alpaca, Merino, Cormo, Shetland, and alpaca/Merino blends, and today I started on some cashmere. My next post will be about the joy of spinning cashmere!

According to standard WPI (wraps per inch) charts, I'm spinning lace and fingering weight yarn, with some sport weight. One of my goals is to get about 800 yards of lace for some future project (I joined a shawl KAL), so part of this spinning has been to play around with getting lace yarn and also sock yarn (which in some cases is interchangeable). I sampled a standard purchased sockweight yarn and I got 21 WPI with it, so I'm pretty close to it in my spinning.

One of the interesting things to note is the various characteristics of different fibers. Mainly, how much the yarn fluffs up after washing in the skein. I always wash my yarn after I've plied it--I skein it up and soak it in hot, soapy water, then a moderately hot rinse (soak), then spin it in the washing machine, then let it air dry. In almost all cases, the yarn fluffed up after washing and drying. Some fibers, like Cormo, for instance fluff up really well. Others, like Lincoln, not so much.

One of my projects was from my friend Maple at North Star Alpacas in Michigan. This was 4 oz of a blend from Indy, which is 74% alpaca, 1% mohair, and 25% Merino, I think. I have two skeins total of 475 yards/4.9 oz/1550 ypp (yards per pound) at 24 WPI. I see this as fabulous sock yarn! With alpaca being roughly 8 times warmer than wool, this blend will make nice, lightweight socks. All in white! I spin the singles with a modified supported longdraw, which incorporates a lot of air into them, and get the firmness and strength via plying. (Aside: I think it's funny when people refer to a single as a "one-ply". Doesn't it take two to ply?!) Yes, those are Tigger's feet in the picture! He likes to "help" spinning, knitting, and picturing.

Another white project! lol. I have bags of white alpaca and brown llama from our friends Chris and Leigh from a couple of years ago, and since I did a major reorganizing of the contents of the fiber room this week, I decided it was time to start using up what I have. I ended up with 233 yards/2.8 oz/1330 ypp at 20 WPI. Really great for more socks!

On to the fiber with some color! lol. I have a couple of Shetland fleeces I bought years ago, and my friend Joanne carded it all for me. I have 4 different colors: a very creamy off-white, a light grey, this one (light grayish brown), and a dark brown. Click here for Shetland color chart.

I have 11 oz of this color, and spun up a small sample of it. I think it would fall under light grayish brown. The fiber has a long staple, is hairy, like mohair, and stretches easily, gliding for a good long draw. Unfortunately, because it's so springy and hairy, I was getting lots of neps in it-- the hair curls up and snags, kind of like a pill on a sweater but it's tangled up in what I'm spinning. Also, little bits of more downy stuff would just come off, so I needed to be fastidious and pick them out. The sample came out about 19 WPI.

The black in picture on the left is a lambswool I was also sampling to see how it would make as lace yarn. It's soft and springy, and a little hairy. I might have problems knitting with it, especially at night, as I won't see the stitches very well. But it would make a nice lace shawl. The knit swatch was made from the first Shetland lace attempt (19 WPI), which is at the bottom of the swatch, and the black lambswool (18 WPI) at the top of the swatch.

I wasn't happy with the diameter of the first Shetland lace attempt, so i did another couple of 1/2 bobbins, and really tried to go for a super thin single. I plied it and washed it, and the lace is pretty nice. This skein (both pics are the same one) weighs 1.5 oz, there are 210 yards, and came out to 23 WPI, so this was my best attempt at lace! It comes out to about 2240 ypp, so much closer to the 2600 ypp standard lace weight.

One note about preparing fibers for lace spinning: It is really important to have very well prepared fiber. The thinner the roving, the better chance of achieving thinner singles. In all cases I attenuated the roving by splitting it into thinner strips lengthwise, then attenuated each strip before spinning it. In the case of the Shetland, it was carded into shorter batts (a square, versus a roving, which is a continuous "rope") and I broke it into short sections then attenuated them. The Shetland also had a habit of nepping, so I had to very lightly attenuate it, but ended up leaving it thicker than other fiber. This reduced the neps and yielded a better single.

There are a couple things here: spinning fiber finely, and spinning fine fiber (also finely). It is possible to spin average wool and other fibers thinly, but the thinner the fiber diameter (Merino being the finest wool), technically one should be able to achieve a much thinner yarn the finer the fiber...

There are other ways to spin fiber fine. One way is to spin from the individual lock, which has been washed, dried, and is then flicked with a little brush which opens up the fiber into a fan-shaped lock. One spins off the corner, and it is easy to spin a super thin single. Best info on this is Margaret Stove's book: "Handspinning, Dyeing & Working with Merino & Superfine Wools". She signed my book in a workshop I took with her in February 1999!


Wednesday, August 6

Tea for two...or two hundred!

Many, many of you have asked if I really have over 30 pounds of tea. Well, at one time I did have over 40+, but that was over a year ago. I used to compile it all on an Excel spreadsheet, but that just got too time-consuming. So now I just guesstimate.

To give you all some idea of some of the tea I really do have, I took the liberty to start cleaning out my stash and reorganizing the cupboards. Note that the tea has been "spilling" out onto the shelves, in the extra sink, on get the picture!

Almost all of the tea packets have 4 oz of tea in them. Maybe 20 or so have less than 2 oz; and the larger jars have anywhere from 2-8 oz, depending on how much tea is left in each container.

I emptied most of the tea out of the huge cupboard over the refrigerator. (top picture)
The shelves are about 30" deep, so I have been able to stash lots of tea up there!

In the next two pictures are most of the bagged tea and medicinal teas (echinacea, colds, sore throat tea, etc.) in the left picture, a smaller side cupboard; and in the right picture, the cupboard is devoted mostly to sencha and shincha (first sencha of the year, from Japan).

Next four pics:

First pic: Group picture of most of the rest of my tea.
Second picture: green teas, white teas, needle teas.

Third picture: oolongs, special china blacks, yunnans and gold teas; Assam, Ceylon, and Darjeeling teas.

Last pic: Flavored black teas, decafs, and in the back: chai teas.

I also have a number of pu-er teas, and samples from tea companies that I will be sampling and reviewing shortly!

Just thought I'd share!

Tuesday, August 5

And the Wheel Keeps on Turning, Turning...Summer Stash Bustin'!

No knitting. No swatching. No tea reviews. In the last week I've just been spinning. Spinning up a storm! I wrote a couple posts ago about this being the Summer of Stash Busting--knitting with yarns that I have stock-piled, and spinning yarn out of the stash of rovings and batts (rectangular sections of carded fiber).

Over the last week I spun up 600 yards (4.75 oz) of Lincoln/silk blend roving from something I bought way back at SOAR at Smuggler's Notch, Vermont in 1996; 475 yards (3.1 oz) of Cormo almost-lace my friend Joanne at Pine Ledge Studio carded with perfection for me over 8 years ago; 380 yards (4.1 oz) of alpaca/merino/silk roving from the Men's Spring Knitting Retreat in Easton, New York in May; and 255 yards (3 oz) of dark brown alpaca from my friend Maple at North Star Alpacas in Michigan.

First four pics are of the Lincoln/silk blend...
click on for larger view...

top pic is of the attenuated fiber
next pic is of the first attempt balled up
third pic is a close up of the second attempt of lace, next to the control lace yarn
last pic of this project is of the finished skein

The Lincoln/silk blend was fun at times to spin. I have oodles of it, about 12 oz, and spun up the best of it in this skein. I had to pre-draft it (attenuate it to make it easier to spin), as it was sitting around in a bag in our fiber room for years, which compacted the fiber in places. Lincoln is a long, shiny, hairy sheep fiber, very durable and strong, but not too soft. The silk blended in with it adds more sheen and shine, and some softness. My pile of this was a mixture of part rovings, which were kind of snarly (from the Lincoln), and some larger sections that I think were "clouds" which is kind of like a batt, but thinner.

I spun up about an ounce of the stuff, trying to achieve lace-weight yarn, but it was late at night and my spinning got worse as the night went on. I plied it from a single that I balled up on my ball winder, using the end from the center of the ball and the end from the outside of the ball to yield a two-ply. I washed it up, let it dry overnight. See the pic of it at the right. It's about twice as thick as my true lace sample I had hanging from my wheel, so I spent the second night spinning up another 4.75 oz onto two bobbins.

My second attempt (the third pic) was closer to the true lace, but I'm pretty happy with it, as the fiber just got more wiry the thinner I spun it. I could have spun it a bit thinner, but I think it would have been termed "iron yarn" at that point!

The second spinning project was the Cormo, a supersoft sheepwool, that I think is 3/4 Merino, which is the softest sheep fiber. Cormo is typically white, and yields a brilliantly white yarn, although I believe there are now black and possibly gray Cormo sheep. I think that it is spongier than Merino, is extremely soft and is great for against-the-skin garments, but like Merino, it also felts easily.

Pics at right: first one is of the white Cormo batt
Second one is a shot of the attenuated fiber

Third pic is a shot of the spinning
Fourth pic in this group is of the two skeins of Cormo yarn


The third spinning project was the alpaca/merino/silk roving I got at the Knitter's Retreat, and was really fun and easy to spin. It is a luscious yarn, and I can't wait to knit it up! Maybe socks...

The dark alpaca from Maple in Michigan was fun, easy, and quick to spin up. I spun it all up last night, plied it today, and washed/soaked it and it's drying right now. The true weight of the skein may be a little lighter, as it is still slightly damp. I absolutely love the dark color of it, I believe it is from an alpaca named Polaris--I'll have to check!

More later! Have fun...

Friday, August 1

An Ode to Old Friends (longterm, that is!)

I mentioned on Plurk last week that I was off on a pilgrimage to my childhood village--Huntington, Vermont. Unfortunately I neglected to take pictures of the town: it's a little village in a valley in the mid-mountain area between the foothills and the higher peaks of the Green Mountains. It's south of Richmond, kind of north and east of Hinesburg, and west of Duxbury. Camel's Hump, the 3rd highest mountain in Vermont is mostly situated in Huntington. The "wrong view" of the Hump, as seen on the Vermont quarter in the U.S. State Quarter Series, is in Duxbury (the view you would get on Interstate 89 coming north from southern and central Vermont). Don't ask--it's a touchy subject!

Anywho, when I lived there from age 4 to 18 (I turned 18 in October 1981), the population was roughly 800-1,100. Now it is over 1,800! Phew--population boom! My father worked for IBM way back then, and my mom and dad saved a clipping from the Burlington Free Press--an article stating that Huntington was bound to become a 'bedroom community for IBM'. Lol. I didn't enjoy it much as a kid--I wanted to be from a big city like the ones we saw on tv. I also didn't want to be taken as an uneducated redneck--and times when we would go "into town" (which meant Burlington) were painful, especially in the winter, as we'd be wearing those big ol' Sorels (heavy Canadian-made winter boots with felted liners) or 'Pacs' (as the green rubber/plastic boots were called back then) as Huntington had tons of snow, and people in Burlington would be wearing sneakers! lol. This was before the Interstate System was built in Vermont. I think we got the Interstate in 1973 or 1974.

Pics in this post: click on for larger view

--top: pic of huntington
--Joyce modeling my merino/alpaca/cashmere lace shawl.
--Kim, who is laid up with a knee operation. HER kitty loves
to sit in her lap! (note: our kitty will only do this if we have paper on our lap).

--The mosaic vase picture Joyce made for my 40th

Back to our story. I do, however, have very fond memories of my neighbor Kim, and her mother, Joyce. Our houses were about 20' apart in the front, but we had about an acre of land in the back. I spent a lot of time hanging out over at their house. Joyce was like another mom to me, but also more of a friend. She was into plants, tea (Woohoo! And you wonder where I got it from?!), all kinds of crafts: knitting, crocheting, etc. And these days she's into folk-art painting, needle felting, mosaics, and way more wicked cool stuff. Oh, she's over, well--let's say she's over 60 something--spry as a hen, and way more energy than most people I know!

Kim was like another sister to me. We still have a deep friendship, and try to keep in touch with each other. Joyce and Kim have been to our house in Jericho, and J and me make a visit usually once a year, around the fall, to see them.

For my 40th birthday (5 years ago), Joyce made me a mosaic of a vase with roses! It's really fabulous. See pic at right.

I'm just blessed that we have stayed in touch with each other, and can share old times, and continue with newness in our lives.

I wanted to add that I neglected to put a paragraph in this post along the lines of "It took driving 'cross country in 1987 and spending a short time in LA for me to appreciate Vermont and many aspects of living in Vermont. While J and me do travel around a bit, we always enjoy coming back to Vermont. It has changed a lot in the past 20 years, and I'm also a bit older, but at this point in my life I have learned to appreciate many things that I didn't before."