Counting Blessings.

The kids and I decorated for Christmas yesterday. I know, I know, it’s early! I don’t really have any Thanksgiving decor though so putting up Christmas felt like the festive thing to do. As soon as I started bringing up boxes, the kids went bananas for it, so it was a total win.

Having done most of the cleaning yesterday, I took an hour or so this morning to dust and give a little shine to my spinning wheels and spindles. My holiday company will start arriving today so this was my last opportunity to do so before things got busy. The sun slowly came up. Big, fat snow globe flakes of snow started to fall. In that quiet moment, I took a deep breath and counted my blessings. I am thankful. For family. For friends. For my home. For the cold November blue skies. For the sun shining. For the big, fat snow globe flakes of snow. For my beautiful spinning wheels. For the friends I’ve made through craft and all I’ve been able to learn from it. For all the experiences of the past year. I’m just so very thankful.

This Thanksgiving I hope that you each get a quiet moment to take a deep breath and count your blessings, too. Some days they are harder to see, some days they are as blinding as the morning sun, but they are there. And they are many.

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That’s OK. That is life.

I had high hopes for keeping up during the Tour de Fleece this year, but as it so often goes, life happens and things don’t always work out according to plan. And that’s OK. That is life. Time spent away from this space and goals unmet in the TDF were time traded for adventures with my family and that is always a trade I am happy to make.

I am glad to have taken this hike…

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Where the woods broke open to reveal a pond with a perfectly reflected sky…

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After which my foursome squeezed onto a bench and ate peanut butter crackers in the sunshine. Mr. Knitting Sarah tried to extol the virtue of trying new things by creating and eating a cheese & peanut butter cracker. It was not a good example, but I applaud his effort and his optimism.

I would not have rather been spinning than take this hike…

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Even though I lost a couple pints of blood to mosquitoes despite being covered in deet. I saw these beauties…

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And then found myself here…

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How could I complain?

We spent a week with family celebrating my dad’s 75th birthday with salmon fishing on the Big Water and loads of fireworks. And I did a bit of spindle spinning…

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And we ended our week in another heavenly spot, just a few miles from home…

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In the tall grasses teeming with monarch butterflies…

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And wildflowers…

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And puddles with more perfect reflections of the billowy clouds delivering rain everywhere by where we stood. We even got to share a few minutes with a Black-billed Cuckoo, a rarity for our area and a true beauty with its mysterious chortling song and bewitching red eye-ring.

Somewhere along the way, I spun…

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At a park while my girl swam…

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In the evening while we watched movies…

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And in my little spinning corner in our room while the coffee held out and Moose grabbed some extra z’s in the mornings.

And I made a bit of yarn this Tour de Fleece, even if I haven’t been the world’s best record keeper of it…

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This pile, plus another 3 skeins that were just washed and set this afternoon. Don’t fret, I’ll introduce you to each skein just as soon as they are all dry and I can take proper glamour shots of them, to let them sing their own individual multi-colored glories.

There are also some singles that I’m plying now that I’d hoped to finish yesterday. But the trail had called and I had listened, twice. And that’s OK. That is life.

And I wouldn’t rather have that skein of yarn a day earlier. I’d have missed this moment captured by Mr. Knitting Sarah…

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While we walked along a breezy trail watching Pied-billed Grebes and talking about how best to prepare our kids for their futures. Sure, the Tour de Fleece ended yesterday and I missed plying that last skein, but I can finish it today. It may not be the TDF any longer, but that’s OK. That is life. And the trade-offs I made, I will always be happy to make.

The First Spin

As you all well know, a bit over a week ago my Schacht-Reeves arrived on my doorstep in two very large boxes. Of course, as is only right, we’ve been spending the last week or so getting to know each other.

Do you hear angels singing a glorious chorus when you see it, too?

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Or is that just me?

I’ve been sharing progress shots as the spinning of my very first project was happening, but I thought it would be fun to bring it all back and show the full project unfold in one post.

It all started with the wheel, of course (cue angels singing), and this braid of BFL from Three Waters Farm.

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Named “Lost in the Rain,” this is one of those super special colorways that I added to my stash simply because it was so pretty and I knew one day, I would spin some magic with it. My first spin with my Schacht-Reeves seemed like just the ticket.

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I’ll be perfectly honest with you because we’re friends here, and I’m a firm believer in the importance of honesty. The double drive has had a learning curve accompanying it. As I mentioned when I first shared the wheel, having been a Scotch tension girl since I started spinning, the double drive kind of confused me in the set-up. And then it took some getting used to just to get spinning. It got easier with time…

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But the further I got along in the project…

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Well, I started to get a little sloppy with it.  There were some over-twisting issues that plagued me and as the bobbin filled I had a harder and harder time making a neat bobbin and keeping the whole process balanced.

You can see my… ‘opportunities’ in the finished skein…

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The yarn is less consistent than my norm…

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And despite a warm water bath, so you can still see some of that extra twist lingering. I could have weighted the skein while it dried to take some of that twist out or even just run it back through the wheel, but I opted not to. It’s not so over-the-top that it won’t knit nicely and I can always choose to knit something more heavy wearing to take full advantage of that extra strength provided by the uber twist present.

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It’s a pretty skein regardless and at somewhere between 300-400 yards of fingering weight yarn, I’ll have lots of options for how to use it.

There’s no good way to show it in photos, but I can definitely see and feel the point in the plying where the double drive and I stopped talking past each other and started to speak the same language. What I’ve learned is that where the Scotch tension is very direct, double drive is a bit more nuanced. With Scotch tension, as the bobbin fills, you adjust the tension incrementally as you go to keep the uptake where you want it. With my Lendrum, this tends to translate to many small increases on the tension over the course of a spin allowing me to maintain more or less the same rhythm and speed throughout.

With the double drive, it’s so much more subtle. So far, what I’m finding is that it’s actually your hands and feet making minute changes throughout the spin much more than any adjustments to the wheel. Attention to keeping that harmony between your hands & feet and the wheel is of paramount importance. Exactly like the different set-ups achieve the same goal, you need a slightly different approach to make the spin go smoothly. Recognizing that I had to be attentive to different tells within the spin was my “a-ha” moment. It came about three-quarters through the plying of the Lost in the Rain spin, where, of course, you can’t see it.

But the next spin…

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I think you really can see the difference, don’t you? The bobbin is wound more smoothly, the over-twisting isn’t present, the singles are pretty consistent. All in all, it just looks more balanced. And this spin is being spun on the biggest whorl available, moving relatively slowly with both feet on my giant single treadle to keeps things nice and smooth. This is especially noteworthy because these heavier spins are much more challenging for me, so to get them this consistent is an accomplishment even on my Lendrum, let alone a wheel I’ve had for a little over a week.

And thus, the first spin on my Schacht-Reeves is done and the second is well on its way. The lessons continue to be learned, the familiarity continues to grow, the knowledge reaches new depths. On and on, the new wheel spins!

A Touch of Green

When I looked back to see which edition of Three Waters Farm Top of the Month Club the fiber I’m about to share with you was, I was thinking, “I remember the green was the key. It must have been that time of year when we’re thirsting for green.” To me, in Wisconsin, that means March.

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Photo courtesy of Three Waters Farm

In North Carolina, where Mary Ann dyes this fiber though, it appears it’s February! February’s “A Touch of Green” on 100% Corriedale is the spin I’m going to share with you today. It’s long overdue as this was the first spin in our new home which we moved into in April. The singles were done shortly after the move and the plying… I’m not sure exactly when I got to them, but I do know it was before the Tour de Fleece. In any case, long overdue. Indeed.

I really wanted to try something different with this braid, so I split it up for a “gimp” yarn. Very simply put this yarn is comprised of 2-plies with one ply being half the size of the other (spinning friends, it’s on page 119 of Sarah Anderson’s The Spinner’s Book of Yarn Designs if you want to see the recipe I followed) . In this image the fiber for this spin is the fluff on the computer.

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As you can see, I pulled out all the bright green and a bit of the blues tagged along for one ply and the rest — the fiber in the bowl — was set aside for the other ply.

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I did a sample of this type of yarn last year in my one fiber six ways experiment and I’ve been really wanting to try it again on a larger scale. For me, I think this is a really fun technical challenge. It’s one thing to spin a 2-ply yarn that has equal plies (or thereabouts), but to try to get 2-plies that are specifically different… well, I find that it really pushes me to be more attentive and to have better control over what I’m creating. In the grand scale, these skills definitely help me to spin the yarn I want not just in this spin, but any spin so I consider it a very worthy undertaking.

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You can clearly see the bobbins are different weights for the singles here, right? Probably because this was a full 4oz braid of fiber instead of the sample I did a year ago, I wasn’t quite as exact in the size of my plies, but I didn’t do half bad either. I did use my Spinner’s Control Card throughout — a tool that I always have around when I’m trying to get a specific weight yarn. For a long time I thought spinner’s just eyeballed everything and were just kind of magicians. While many do, you certainly can help your “aim” and teach for tactile senses a lot  about spinning by using good tools.

In any case, I really do think the finished yarn is lovely.

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It’s not technically a spiral yarn, but I love the swirling look of a good gimp yarn.

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I could have given this skein a bit more twist, I think, but… well, hindsight is always 20/20. There’s always a little something I’d change and that turns into an experiment the next time I spin up a skein. That’s the nature of learning and improving, right? Building on your skills and learning as you go. One thing I wouldn’t change is how I handled the colors. I think that bright green as the lighter ply makes this yarn. It makes it unique and fun and utterly my own.

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The finished skein is roughly 160yards of DK weight yarn. I haven’t yet settled on what I’d like to do with it. According to the blurb about it in Sarah Anderson’s book, it’s supposed to be a good option for socks. I don’t know, do I dare trying to eek out some shorties with this? I’m fairly certain I don’t have enough yardage, but it might be worth a try. Or shall I go the safe route and knit up a quick hat or mitts? I’ve got a few other projects on the needles, so I will let this one ruminate. I certainly won’t mind dreaming over this “touch of green” for a while.

Luxury of Luxuries

As y’all know, I really like to sample different blends and breeds in my spinning. The variety keeps me fresh and inspired and challenged so I try to get my hands on a bit of everything and to switch things up a lot. Last fall, I’d been reading a lot about yak + silk blends and hearing good things from spinning friends, but I wasn’t quite ready to go there. Yak can be pricey and I was really conscious of that fact. Sometimes I can use the novelty of a fiber as an excuse to spend the extra cash to try it out, but with yak I was just holding back because it was a big investment for a fiber I wasn’t 100% sure I’d like spinning.

And then right before Christmas, I found this braid in the Classy Squid Fiber Co shop

Photo courtesy of Classy Squid Fiber Co.

At just 2oz, it was a pretty safe, inexpensive trial run. Or so I thought.

I started spinning this fiber pretty shortly after receiving it…

And it was really a wow. The green was such a vibrant hue, especially at the end of December that I was totally smitten.

The fiber base itself was also a huge wow.

The yak is naturally brown, so when paired with the silk it creates this incredible mix of effervescence and earthiness. It wanted to spin super light in my hands and I wasn’t going to argue. By the time I was halfway through my 2oz, I knew that 1) that it was not going to work plied with the fiber I’d purchased it to ply with and 2) that I was going to need more because 2oz was just not going to cut it.

I contacted Amanda, the talented lady behind Classy Squid Fiber Co, and asked if it would be possible to special order another 2oz. Since this braid had been listed as limited edition, I knew her response could go either way. She got back to me promptly and let me know that she could indeed do a special order, but that she’d be dyeing from memory as this was a one of a kind and would I be OK with that? My intention was to get another 2oz and then ply the two together so I knew they didn’t have to be exact. I went with it.

When the special order was ready to go, Amanda had gone ahead and dyed 2-2oz braids instead of one and I gladly snapped both up.

Sometime shortly after our move, I managed to finish up the 6oz of super fine singles. I found the plying a little challenging. I could not for the life of me get a feel for how much twist felt right in the plied yarn. I was a little under-twisted I think early on. And then there was a section where I was kind of over-twisted. By the end I think I had it, but it was certainly a roller coaster of not knowing — the fiber was new to me, the spinning chair was still brand new, and the position I was plying in was different, too. I did my best and stayed hopeful that it would all even out in the finishing.

Oh, and it really did.

This photo shows the greens a little better, but the camera just cannot capture exactly how energetic this green is. The skein itself is 6.1oz and about 20wraps per inch landing it squarely in the lace weight category. The best part though? 650yards! I’m slightly shy on official yardage, but based on the other project notes on Ravelry I think I should be just fine making what I think will be fabulous, an Everly Shawl.

So it goes that a harmless little 2oz braid of fiber, purchased out of sheer curiosity & because it happened to be just a taste of the fiber base turned into a 6oz, 650yard luxury of luxuries. And now it’s a pretty little skein destined to be a fantastic shawl. So goes the life of a spinner and the wheel keeps on spinning toward the next inspiration, challenge, and curiosity.

 

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.