Snow on Daffodils, Local Fiber, & Territorial Flickers

You probably won’t find it hard to believe that here at Casa Knitting Sarah we are early risers. I’ve been a little off with the move and the new house and not yet sleeping quite right so occasionally I’ve been sleeping in until — gasp! — 6 or 6:30am which seems awfully crazy late to me. Yesterday, I awoke a little before 6 while Mr Knitting Sarah was getting ready for work. He was kind enough to bring me a cup of coffee in bed and I thought, “Hey, I haven’t had a slow morning since the end of February. I’m going to do a little reading and sip this coffee and have a nice slow start to my Saturday.” The mister took off and I heard my son downstairs taking his shower. And then it happened.

This insanely loud, jackhammer-like hammering erupted.

It felt like the house was shaking (it wasn’t) and I leapt from my bed thinking of all the things that could be about to explode in the house. Was it the boiler about to blow? Or the sump pump erupting? What about the water heater? Didn’t the realtor say sometimes after a house has been sitting empty the sediments settle and make the water heater die? Did she say it would blow up or just leak? The hammering stopped and started a couple times and I realized it sounded higher up and on the back side of the house so I threw on a robe so I could go investigate.

I took Moose with me so I wouldn’t be alone in whatever horror I was about to behold and as we walked out the door and looked up I saw a flash of dark wings. I thought I saw the creature fly to the neighbors’ house. So I walked toward the front yard to get a better look– still in my bathrobe and barefoot in the 30degree weather, of course. And then I saw it. A Flicker popped its head out of the gutter and then started hammering away in there. It did that a couple times and then flew on and I heard it doing the same thing a couple houses down. Delighted no explosion from my new house was imminent and slightly frozen, I went back inside, did a quick search, and discovered that these birds — and all woodpeckers — commonly do this. Sometimes it’s for bugs or food, sometimes they are trying to make a space for a nest, and sometimes they just like making a loud noise to proclaim to the world that this is their territory. Considering that we have no exposed wood on the house and likely the same Flicker spent all day Friday calling from one of our backyard trees, I’m thinking the last option is most likely. Well, thank you, Mr Neighborhood Flicker, for scaring the crap out of me. I hope you really like your territory here!

Of course at this point, my slow morning idea of coffee in bed was pretty much out the window so I got dressed and did a little spinning with my coffee instead. I’ve got at least 3 projects worth of singles full and ready to ply, but I’ve been working on finishing up this yak+silk from Classy Squid Fiber Co

And I did finally finish it last night. Yay! I’ll have a plying party this week, for sure!

I’m getting used to spinning in my new super wonderfully comfortable chair. It sounds a little ridiculous to talk about it like it a legitimate adjustment, but it’s been a process for me. Instead of sitting up over my wheel from the barstool-type height I’m used to, I’m now at a “normal chair level,” but leaning way back. I learned the hard way that if the wheel is in the wrong place, it can make my knees or ankles sore. In the right position it feels totally fine, but I have to get that feel for where the right position is.  I also discovered that spinning with consistency is going to be a little different, too. I’m used to being able to see what’s coming up on the bobbin easily as I was always looking down on it and now I can’t see it well without reshuffling myself up to see it so I need to be a bit more vigilant in watching the fiber before it hits the bobbin and in paying attention with my tactile senses. I’m not sure how consistent this spin will be, but I’ll get there with practice.

In other news this past week, on a rainy Wednesday we made our first visit to neighboring Stevens Point that was not just driving through Stevens Point. ‘Point’, as it’s commonly referred to, is home to one of the campuses for the University of Wisconsin system and we opted to see what their Museum of Natural History had to offer. It’s awesome and was a huge hit with the kids. We had a very yummy lunch at Habibi’s Gyros and Kabob house — falafel for the win! — and then I was treated to a visit to the Wisconsin Wool Exchange. This shop is quite seriously one of the friendliest LYSs that I’ve even been to and the staff was super attentive even though they had a full house knitting away for a charity event. If you’re in the area, I recommend following their facebook page to stay apprised of their very active goings-on and checking them out. It’s a little shop, but everything they stock is locally produced which I think is just super cool. I picked up these three balls of hand-dyed roving…

They are very reminiscent of the colors I’ve been seeing a lot this spring and I just couldn’t resist. The current plan is to spin them as separate singles and then ply them together as a three ply. I think it’s going to be gorgeous! We also picked up the softest ever teddy bear for our girl. It’s made of alpaca and is so soft she named it “Silk.” For our boy, we purchased some Alpaca Poop. That’s what the tag said anyway when really it was chocolate covered peanuts. He was delighted. In fact, we all were with this stop!

We rounded out our day with a little jaunt to the Schmeeckle Reserve which is home to the Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame and many wonderful trails. The rain tapered off while we checked out their little museum and we went on a dark and moody hike…

The trail system is fantastic in this spot, well-marked and easy to follow. It’s just perfect for families and when kids need to get out and run around and explore. I have to say, all the hikes in this area are still so striking to me. The huge pines mixed in with the deciduous trees. The red granite paths where I’m used to sandstone or limestone. And just the overall size and depth of these forests really takes my breath away.

And as I finish meandering through my thoughts of this week, I’ll leave you with one last image…

Snow on our daffodils.

Thursday it snowed and we had about a half inch that stuck around until mid-day Friday. If it’s going to snow at the end of April, clearly this fiber artist needs to work faster at her craft.

On Expanding One’s Comfort Zone

From the very beginning, I’ve been a spinner very much on a mission to create even, well-balanced yarn. You know, the kind that maybe could almost be mistaken for commercial yarn, but with a hint more personality. I’ve only rarely been drawn to art yarns, so the idea of creating textured yarns has never really had much draw for me. And then I started following Amanada from Classy Squid Fiber Co. on Instagram.

I picked up a couple 2oz batts from her for last year’s Tour de Fleece and while I loved the colors, I’ll admit I struggled a little with the texture in the batts because I really didn’t know how to handle them. I love the finished skein…

CSFC wholeAnd did a decent job of accepting the texture while I spun…

CSFC detBut it was kind of a struggle for me as I sort of fought against what the batt was to try to make the nice, smooth yarn I’d grown used to spinning. I knew I liked spinning batts, but in this spin I also managed to figure out that the finished products of these batts were never going to be those smooth & even skeins. It was pretty clear that while this first skein was a hit for me, I definitely needed to find a better way to approach them in future projects.

As the days & weeks & months went by, I watched Amanda do these crazy & beautiful things with texture. Sure, some of it is probably beyond where I would take my spinning, but watching the textures she invites into her spinning made me start reevaluate my own comfort zone.  Maybe it was less about changing my technique and more about changing my expectations and my vision for what her batts would become. Maybe it was about relaxing into the texture. And that’s what I resolved to try with my next Classy Squid Fiber Co batt.

I picked this 2oz “Japanese Garden” batt to take with me on our Yellowstone trip.

from csfc
Photo used with permission of Classy Squid Fiber Co.

I wanted to spin up this little batt as a stand-alone 2-ply, so I knew it would be a great quick spin. And it was!

img_2160-2I split it in half and whipped it up in just a few hours. It’s worth noting that my daughter loved helping me organize the fluffy lengths that I split the fiber into. It was so soft, in fact, she couldn’t resist “reorganizing” it for me multiple times based on how poofy it was — that, in her humble opinion, made more sense than to organize it by color. But I digress.

As I spun, I really relaxed. When some texture came up in the fiber, I let that flow into the yarn. I still spun fairly evenly, but I let those little hiccoughs of texture have their place in the yarn, too. It was 2parts thrilling, 98parts terrifying for me, but when all was said & done…

skeinI fell in love with this little skein!

outofskeinIt’s 185yards of 2-ply fingering weight yarn that sings with little flecks of sparkles and noils and all sorts of goodies.

extra detailThere are uneven spots that I left there ON PURPOSE. It’s so weird.

pretty detailAnd so awesome.

I have more Classy Squid Fiber Co. batts in my stash and I will definitely be employing this same approach with them in the future. It turns out that in spinning, as in life, expanding your comfort zone can indeed by 2parts thrilling and 98parts terrifying, but the exercise can often have some really wonderful results.

Wolves and a Dash of Mountain Shenanigans

Because we came looking for wolves, upon our arrival we asked in the visitor center where to start looking for them in this huge, huge park that is largely inaccessible this time of year. Lucky for us — and I suppose for them, as well — a couple days earlier one pack had taken down an elk in a spot that was within eye-sight of the road. We were given a brief description of the place and were told, “Just look for the line of spotting scopes and the buses for wildlife tours.” And it was very true — as long as you knew the general area and were out early in the morning, if the wolves were visible you’d see a line of spotting scopes set up, usually in front of a couple buses. And because we’re all kindred spirits in our search for wolves in the crisp mountain air, if you weren’t one of the first to be set-up many would be very kind in sharing what they were seeing.

And on our second day wolf watching, we certainly got very lucky. When we arrived one pack — The Mollies — was about a half mile away, in clear view tramping around and playing as canines do. A short while later, two wolves broke from the pack and made their way back to the fallen elk where they chased the magpies and ravens off and scrounged for a few last pieces.

As they did so, they’d take break now and then to howl back and forth with the rest of the pack.

Now we stood about a half mile from the main group and the two on the elk. While it felt very safe with the couple dozen people around, it didn’t escape myself or my husband that we were awfully close to these wild wolves.

Putting aside my innate distrust of wildlife, I watched in awe.

I’d seen packs of coyotes and heard both wolves and coyotes howl, but never like this. It wasn’t where they all get together and howl in a group as they are often depicted. Instead these wolves were clearly “talking” back and forth. Having a conversation while a mile apart. It was incredible.

For the most part, while we wildlife watched it was cold — in the teens & 20sF — and that’s a little brisk for standing still even for the winter hardened, fully equipped Wisconsinites that we are. I was very happy to have finished my Connectivity Gloves before the trip. They were actually quite a bit warmer than I expected and they absolutely saved my fingers when snapping photos with my phone.

img_2182As I mentioned before the trip, I purchased this kit from Feel Good Yarn Co and the fingertips of these have SilverSpun yarn making them compatible with my smartphone.

img_2181-1Plus, I really love the look of the two-tones of grey (I selected Storm Cloud & Silver Dust for my kit). For those interested, the pattern — by Mari Chiba — is extremely well written and easy to follow and it’s free on Knitty.

Because of the cold, throughout the wildlife portions of our trip we let the kids hang out and read in the car, calling them out to see things when we had good views. They were exceptionally patient, so as a treat we drove further on into the mountains to find fresh snow in which they could play. At home we’d been having an unseasonably warm winter and had very little snow, so having a foot of powdery snow to romp in was hugely exciting. We did a little searching and found a good spot, not far but far enough from where we’d viewed some bison and a couple moose and the kids were elated.

It’s a national park so Moose wasn’t allowed to play with the kiddos away from the road or parking lots, but he dutifully watched over his people as they built snow forts and played until they were too cold to play any more.

That is, of course, when he wasn’t posing majestically for photos.

We also embarked on a few short hikes including one up to Wraith Falls.

img_2021As was only right, there were more snowy shenanigans along the way. It was a nice short hike and because it’s rather popular, the snow was packed down so the hiking wasn’t hard.

img_2031Of course the waterfall was mostly frozen and dimly lit snuggled into a little fold in the hills as it was, but it was rewarding nonetheless.

And when you’re 8 and tired halfway through the hike…

img_2038Dad is always there to help you polar bear slide down the hillside safely.

Now it’s worthwhile to share that I was not super comfortable with the wintry mountain driving in our compact front-wheel drive car. True, we put new snow tires on before the trip and true we had everything we possibly could need to survive should — worst case scenario — we get stuck overnight in a ditch somewhere, but while the road through the Lamar Valley isn’t bad, there are slick spots and icy runs. For a fair bit of the time I was kind of a hot mess about it even though I did a decent job of just being quiet and letting Mr. Knitting Sarah focus on the roads Thankfully among his many talents he’s an excellent winter driver.

No moment was more harrowing for me, however, than a certain bison traffic jam.

I admit this doesn’t look bad, but there were moments when these behemoths were surrounding our car at which point I just put my head in my shawl and stopped looking. Logically I know these bison were not a threat, but a couple years ago I witnessed one get cranky with an unsuspecting Chevy Malibu in front of us in the Black Hills and take a swing with his horns at the car’s quarter panel. To this day, close proximity to these guys reminds me of that and kind of makes me squirm in my seat. Eventually they crossed the 2-lane bridge farther down the road and we got around them without incident.

We romped a bit more and then grabbed an early dinner so the kids could enjoy some pool time back at the hotel. As chief Moose-sitter during the kids’ pool time, I was able to do some spinning (Mr. Knitting Sarah volunteered to supervise the kids — he’d planned that out, too). As we wrapped up our time in Yellowstone I managed to finish half of my roving from Wolf Ridge Icelandics (on the left) as well as singles from a small 2.20z batt from Classy Squid Fiber Co.

img_2160-2I had a number of spinning options because this being my first trip with my wheel I’d packed way too much, but when I finished half of my Icelandic roving and knew I couldn’t finish the other half before it was time to pack up again, I selected this batt called “Japanese Garden.” It was small enough that I knew I could finish the singles before it was time to go so it seemed like a perfect little addition to my vacation crafting. I divided it in half and then created roughly 3″ wide strips just to make it easier to handle. My daughter was totally enamored with them and had a blast petting and handing them to me was I whipped through them. For me, I tried to embrace instead of fight the textural qualities of the batt. In the past, I’ve tried to treat batts like top and worked to eliminate the slubs, but after watching Amanda’s spins on Instagram (she’s the lady behind Classy Squid Fiber Co) I really wanted to let these unique fibers sing. More on those results soon…

I’ll be wrapping up our time in Yellowstone tomorrow with a final spectacular hike and more knitting on the road, as well as some final thoughts from the experience.

Stay tuned!

TdF Week 2, Recap (belated)

I’m officially a whole week late posting these photos, but that’s life sometimes isn’t it? Especially in summer things get so busy and I’m of the school of thought that sometimes it’s good to just be busy doing stuff, living life. A big reason I love my blog is that I don’t punch a clock here — I try very hard to be timely with posts and keep fresh writing & photographs coming, but I can also let life unfold and enjoy experiences that come my way and while I do the blog can wait a bit. And I thank all of you for hanging with me through it all!

So at long last, I’m sitting down to share my week two skeins from the Tour de Fleece — I won’t beat around the bush, but let me just take you right into introductions with my four new handspun skeins.

First up was a gradient from Northbound Knitting. This BFL/Silk top was named Moonlight.

nbkmoonlight I spun and n-plied it into about 170yds of roughly sport weight yarn. I LOVE the cool blues and greys and purples.

nbkmoonlightdetThis was the first NorthBound Knitting fiber I’ve ever spun and I really could not tell from the braid exactly how this would turn out, but I really adore this yarn. It is gorgeous and I’m forever assured that Lisa at NorthBound Knitting dyes amazing fiber (not that I ever doubted it). My only regret is that I didn’t manage to eek out a little more yardage in the spinning process, but considering the yardage I’ve got this skein will undoubtedly make a lovely Zuzu’s Petals  one day.

My next skein I spun from a couple batts from Classy Squid Fiber Co. I caught wind of this shop via Handmade by Stefanie and grabbed a little over 4oz (2 batts of 2+oz) of the Cloudy with a Chance of BFL colorway.

CSFC wholeI’m relatively new to handling batts and this project was a real treat. The rich mix of black, grey, and navy with little punches of color were really inspiring.

CSFC detIt’s not the most even yarn I’ve spun and I only produced about 275yds of a 2-ply heavy sport weight yarn with these batts, but they are so very special for how unique they turned out.

CSFO detI just love how different this skein is from all my other skeins and I’m really, really, really looking forward to grabbing another couple batts from this shop when the ‘ol budget allows.

Next, I have another gradient from Northbound Knitting. This time the colorway Stormy Skies was dyed on llama top. It was another that I didn’t quite get how it’d look when I spun it, especially since I’d only spun once before with llama.

nbkllamadet

As with the skein of NBK that I mentioned earlier in this post, I’m ready to blindly trust Lisa from Northbound Knitting with her dyeing inspirations. This colorway is a neutral that is 100% to-die-for.

nbkllama

It turned out to be a DK-ish weight and I got about 144yards of n-plied yarn. It feels substantial in my hand so it’s kind of hard to believe it’s only 144yards, but I counted the yardage twice and that’s all she wrote. I’m afraid it might make finding the “right” pattern a little difficult, but I’m confident it’s out there and I’ll find it. Eventually.

And last, but certainly not least, I have something completely different. After spinning a fair bit of neutral & tonal fibers, my June Fiber Club installment arrived from Cloudlover.

IMG_9964And I knew I had to spin it immediately.

cloudlover O'ahudetAnd I did.

I got about 345 yards of a roughly sport weight (maybe DK, I haven’t checked since washing) yarn in this BFL wool. It’s probably one of the most even, professional looking skeins I’ve ever spun and I’m most definitely going to go for socks with this yarn.

Cloudlover O'ahuIt’s so bright and fun. I foresee this yarn and the future socks I intend to make as a major pick-me-up in the dead of winter.

As you might expect, I’m going to be a little behind in sharing my week 3 spins, too, but they’ll be worth the wait. Some fun brights and firsts are in the works and I could not be happier with the progress I’ve made as a spinner during this Tour. Here’s the the Tour de Fleece for getting me inspired and motivated to finish strong!