Summer of Love Part 2 and SewSpun’s Yarn

I received my 2nd Summer of Love package yesterday from Piney, not my real swap partner’s name.

Missing from this picture is a book titled Knit Noel because it was the first thing I snatched from the box. It wasn’t until I finished taking pictures of all the goodies that I realized the book was still laying on my desk open to the page of the Christmas Tree Skirt design. (My design of a Christmas Tree Skirt is still undergoing the embellishment phase.)

About those goodies – boy, did I receive a bunch of them!

First up is the roving.

It is 100% Merino wool dyed in bright green and yellow with a smattering of royal blue. All the roving that I have – and I have an amount that is bordering on too much roving – is undyed. I refused to purchase any of the dyed rovings because I was certain that I would fall victim to the rationalization of buying roving just because it’s pretty. I hope this gorgeous roving doesn’t push me down the slippery slope.

Here’s a look at the non-fibery goodies Piney included: a needle gauge keychain, K2tog magnet which has been relocated to my fridge door, and chocolate wrapped in tin foil.

The unwrapped chocolate:

Lastly, I unwrapped the yarn:

It is 100% wool named Taos from Crystal Palace Yarns. The color is a mix of blues and greens: my favorite color combination.

Thank you so much, Piney!

Two days before I received Piney’s package, I got a box filled with yarn from Mandy of SewSpun. Since she had chosen the name I had suggested for her blue-green handspun yarn, Lady of the Water, I won the contest and received one skein of yarn as the prize. Much to my surprise, I found two skeins of yarn inside the box.

The cream yarn cake was handspun by Mandy from undyed wool roving. The red skein was commercially-spun, but hand dyed by Mandy.

Thank you, Mandy!

A Tree Ate my Homework

How come things like this never happened when I prayed for them hours before a report due date?

Sunday night, a huge thunderstorm came through the area (I live in PA).

My neighbor had been contemplating cutting his maple tree down, since it was showing signs of decay.
He wasn’t quick enough. Mother Nature decided to help him along.

The crack came first. Then, a few minutes later, another gust of wind came through and hoisted the big branch a few feet to the right of the break.

The branch fell onto our cable line, snapping it in two. We lost TV and Internet service for two days.

It also got tangled into my rose bush. My neighbor spent a good hour trying to extract most of the smaller branches from the bush. I think he is more attached to the rose bush than I am. Ever since I started draping the long branches on his ranch-style fence, he’s doted on it.

Though it was annoying to not have TV or Internet, I remain grateful that the tree landed in our yards and not on our houses.

During the silence, I managed to get some knitting and spinning done. I’ll tell you more about that later this week. I also received wonderful goodies from Mandy of Sew Spun and my Summer of Love swap partner. Pictures coming tomorrow.

Last Night’s Storm and Other Pics

The storms started rolling into the area around 4 pm yesterday. While looking out the kitchen window, I notice how stunning the clouds looked. I ran and got my camera.

Can you see the bird flying to safety?

As pretty as the storm was to watch, I would have been upset had it not watered my garden sufficiently and had it not broke the heat wave. The storm did not disappoint. Jake and I were able to take a longer walk than usual due to the cooler temperatures. I plan to do absolutely nothing in my garden this afternoon. Nothing but sit underneath the oak tree and read a book.

Speaking of the oak tree, I took photos of it in Spring when it was in full bloom. Recently, I had one of the photos developed and framed.

I’m thinking of hanging it in our bedroom (We have a total of 3 pictures in the bedroom right now. Maybe another photo will help it to not look so sparse. I’m not much for the minimalist look.)

And because I couldn’t resist, I had a picture of my favorite lilac bush blown up.

I feel a bit silly hanging pictures that I’ve taken of our garden on our walls, but I’m sick and tired of looking at bare walls. Something had to be done.

Trashing my Good Reputation

I wasn’t going to tell you. I was going to keep my reputation for being a slow but accurate knitter.

Me? I don’t make mistakes. All my projects turn out perfectly.

Then, I remembered how much I loved to read about other people’s blunders. It always makes me feel more relaxed and at home. It’s like I tell Dan all the time: misery loves company. He is trained to tell me that he feels awful when I’m sick.

So, in the hopes that I can trash my good reputation, allow me to flaunt the latest mistakes which I made on my woven pillow.

First, I did not make a gauge. It is the first cardinal rule Knitters are taught. I ignored it. In my defense, I was stuck in that 12-hour car ride without proper measuring tools or blocking tools.

Second, I did not remember the concept of weaving two colors. One side of my pillow should have had all blue strips while the 2nd side should have had all cream strips. If you recall, I had mingled the colors.

Finally, I made the biggest mistake of all. I forgot to insert a pillow into my pillow cover. I had it all seamed up. It was finished. It looked great, ignoring the fact that it wasn’t a perfect square. Then, I started to turn it over and realized that it was a bit flat. Dan was a witness to what happened next. He looked over at me while I had my face buried in the pillow cover, half laughing and half weeping. He tried to comfort me by reminding me the pillow cover was merely a prototype. “You was planning on reknitting it anyway”, he said. I only laughed harder.

What am I going to do with an empty and completely enclosed pillow cover?

It might make a lovely trivet, but I can’t bring myself to felt it.

Alpaca Fleeces and Sammy the Cat

In the past week, I have purchased an amazing amount of fleece: over 2.25 pounds. I am still reeling from the experience and lapse in sanity. 

WHAT was I thinking? I’m not exactly sure, but I will try to communicate my train of thought.

My 1st attempt of spinning was from Corriedale roving that had been sitting in my cedar closet for about 5 years. The years had not been kind to it; time had compacted the fibers into a very flat disk. The roving measured approximately 4 inches in width. These two facts meant that I had to do a lot of pre-drafting. Additional drafting had to be done as it was being spun onto my Ashford spindle.

My 2nd and current attempt at spinning is from Shetland roving. This roving is soft and lofty. More importantly, it was carded into pencil roving, roving that is approximately 1 inch wide. My first thought when I received it was that I won’t have to do any pre-drafting. Wrong. I still do though it has been greatly reduced. Pre-drafting consists of just teasing the fibers further apart so that the yarn can be spun thinner than the initial carded 1-inch width.

These two wools have been great to work with as a beginner spinner. Yet, my favorite wool is alpaca. It’s heaven in your hands. My entire reason for spinning was so that I could eventually spin my own alpaca. There you have it: Reason #1.

Reason #2: If there is no amount of carding that can eliminate pre-drafting, why not skip the step altogether? Why not indeed. So, I did my research. Come to find out – it is possible to eliminate the carding process with certain fibers. Alpaca is one of those fibers that can be spun straight from the locks (sections pulled off of a fleece).

Reason #3: I love to take something and strip it down to the basics. In design work, I start with a blank piece of paper and a pencil. In gardening, I start with seeds or bulbs. Short of shearing the animal yourself, the closest I can get to the basics of wool is to purchase the fleece and start from scratch.

Reason #4: It’s Maple’s fault. She wooed me. I was browsing through her Etsy store to purchase yarn for my swap partner and I came across her listings for alpaca roving and raw fleece. Her description of Sunshine’s fleece grabbed my attention. “By the way, this fleece has hardly any vegetation in it. I am going to spin this without further preparation, like carding or combing. Because it is crimpy and long this is easily spun.”

So, my 1st purchase of raw alpaca fleece was from Maple of North Star Alpacas. Here are pictures of the raw fleece she sent me.

Sunshine

A lock of Sunshine: Do you see how it changes from cream to fawn and back to cream?

Polaris

On Sunday, I received a call from my local alpaca farmer. She invited me to come out and see the bounty from her latest shearing.

As I was walking towards her house on the farm, I was greeted by Sammy.

I heard Sammy’s greeting of Meow, Meow before I even saw him. Walking swiftly to me was an orange tabby cat. I knelt down to meet him and he bowed his head so I could scratch his ears. I spent the next several minutes taking photos of Sammy and petting him. What a sweet cat!

Show and Tell of Shearing

Though I had no plans to purchase anything more than a sampling of fibers totaling one pound. I came home with two pounds. What can I say? I have no will power.

Buddy, the blind alpaca, before any processing

Buddy after shaking (to remove the vegetation) and carding (to blend in the sun-dried tips)

Magnum whose fiber is red!

Dan commented that Magnum’s fiber looked eerily like my hair.

And more goodies starting from the top right and working clockwise: Cream alpaca blended with brown alpaca roving, Dark grey – almost black alpaca roving, undyed silk roving, and lastly brown alpaca roving.

Oh, yes, I have enough fiber and roving to last me for many months. I am NOT allowed to purchase anymore no matter how pretty it is.

Which begs the question, how am I coming along on that Shetland roving? Well, I still have 4 more ounces in my cedar closet, untouched. On the positive side, I am making mean work of the roving upstairs.

I LOVE my new spindle. It spins and spins. I highly recommend Jenkins Woodworking.

A Cheery Apron

Within Ravelry, I am in a group called Sew Obsessed. Obviously, it’s for knitters/crocheters who love to sew in their spare time. Recently, there was a call for an apron swap. I have still not had a chance to make myself another apron, so I thought this would be the perfect motivation to not only make myself a new apron but to also make an apron for someone else. I could share the love, so to speak. Though I have not even started to make an apron for either, I received an apron from my swap partner yesterday.

It’s so bright and cheery. When I pulled it out of the package, I smiled.

Though I only expected the apron, my swap partner Betty included many goodies from the kitchen friendly to the taste-bud friendly:

A card
A card set
4 dishcloths
2 cutting boards
Candy fruit slices
Dark Chocolate with orange flavoring
Orange scented candle

Thank you so much, Betty!

Faithful readers, I know I promised alpaca fleece, more Sammy and a custom knitting bag, but household chores are calling me. I have ignored them too long. Plus, I would like to eat homemade food tonight. I’m thinking potato soup. I have some pork stock that should provide a great building block. I will try and post again tomorrow with the fleece pictures.

Until then, here’s a sneak peak of how the woven pillow is turning out.

A Birthday Pie

This weekend, we hosted a mini get-together to celebrate a friend’s birthday. I was supposed to cook a chocolate cake.

Saturday morning, just back from my walk with Jake, I decided the last thing I wanted to do was bake a cake. Cakes aren’t cool and refreshing. It wasn’t even 10 am and I was already searching for a bucket of ice water to dunk my head in. Jake was laying next to me panting. He couldn’t believe I was thinking of turning the oven on.

So, I compromised and dyed my hands red in the process.

I bought 2 lbs of Washington red cherries (sweet) and made a cherry pie based on Martha Stewart’s recipe.

I made a few changes. I swapped out arrowroot for the cornstarch and apple cider vinegar for the lemon juice. I eliminate the egg wash and extra sugar because I prefer the natural look. Plus, since my cherries were ripe and very sweet all on their own, I used a little bit less sugar than called for, probably about 2 tbsp less.

It was yummy.

Now, truly, I have so much more to tell you. For starters, I received a super cute apron in the apron swap I’m participating. Next, I ordered and received a new purse designed specifically for knitters. Then, I can’t wait to show you the lovely, raw, alpaca fleeces I purchased. Finally, I have to introduce you to the friendliest cat I’ve ever met. (Thankfully, Jake wasn’t with me. He thinks cats were put on this earth to be chased.)

His name is Sammy.

I’ll post pictures and an explanation later this week. Hope you are having a great day!

Keeping My Needles

I had boasted before our trip to Tennessee that if I didn’t complete the last tie of my knitted tree skirt, someone could take away my needles.

You’ll have to pry them from my dead, cold hands first. I’m keeping my needles.

Not only did I finish knitting the last tie of my tree skirt, I knit another i-cord (that will become a bow on one of the white ties) and I started and finished knitting a pillow cover. Perhaps I should be stuck in a car for 22 hours at least once a month. I would knit more than I usually do.

The final tie:

The i-cord:

The odd-shaped pillow cover:

The reason for its odd shape is so that I can weave the knitted strips together like a basket. I’m not sure if this crazy idea will work or not. It popped into my head. I was stuck in a car with no book to read (I had finished it), no more ties to knit and nowhere to lean my head for a nap. It seemed perfectly rational at the time. Of course, walking home also seemed perfectly reasonable. I take back what I said earlier. It would not be good if I was stuck in a car once a month for 22 hours.

Did you notice something else about the pillow besides the odd shape?
The cream yarn is my 1st handspun yarn.

Vacation Knitting

Because I love the “Wouldn’t You Like to be Knitting Here?” series by Knitting Dragonflies, I am borrowing it.

Wouldn’t you like to knit here?

I can testify that it is lovely, since this is the view from Dan’s grandparent’s deck where we spent the long holiday weekend.

We did many wonderful things while we were in Tennessee:
*Visit with family.
*Visit with more family (Hi, Tim!) in Knoxville.
*Take a tour of the lake on a pontoon boat.
*Eat blueberry pancakes.
*Take a walk around the neighborhood after a good rain.
*Watch the men set off fireworks in the backyard.
*Knit.
*Spin.
*Relax.

Yet, my most prized memory is teaching one of Dan’s younger cousin how to knit.

Miss E with her new scarflette.

Miss E is 8 years old and loves to make crafts. She had been wanting to learn how to knit, but did not have anybody to teach her. I was thrilled to able to pass on the gift to one so enthusiastic to learn. Miss E’s mother kept thanking me for taking the time to teach her. Truly, it was I who was thankful to be able to teach Miss E. I even sent her home with her own set of bamboo needles and yarn.

The specs on Miss E’s scarflette:
1 ball of Lion Brand Landscapes
Size 10.5 needles
The instructions: Cast on 10 stitches.
Knit in garter stitch until only a little bit of yarn is remaining.
Bind off all stitches.
Weave in the ends.
Sew one button on. No buttonhole is necessary due to the nature of the large stitches.

Happy Independence Day!

I hope you have a wonderful day celebrating our country’s independence! (Unless of course, you don’t live in the States. Then, I just wish you an ordinary but still wonderful day. Grin.)

Dan and I leave for Tennessee tomorrow morning. His father and paternal grandparents live in a large house on a lake in Talbott, TN (little town outside of Knoxville). It should be a relaxing weekend, minus the 11-hour drive … for one of us. The other one will be knitting.

Have you ever seen the Lion Brand’s “So much yarn, so little time” tote bag? Huge, right? Mine is stuffed to the gills with knitting needles, yarn, roving, spindle, and notions. The plan is to finish knitting my Christmas tree skirt. I only have one white tie left to knit. If I can’t finish one tie in 22 hours, someone should take the pointy sticks away from me.

Speaking of my tree skirt, I started playing around with more ways to decorate it. I wanted the embellishment to be non-breakable, flat in dimension and durable, since presents will be stacked upon it year after year. Plus, it needs to withstand abuse from children, pets, and the stifling heat (or freezing cold temperatures) found in our attic.

What do you think?

As you can see, I dipped into my button stash.

PS. The cookies are lemon almond cookies (with a Hershey’s kiss inside), drizzled with white chocolate. Even Dan liked them.