A Pre-Tour de Fleece Parade

It’s true, the Tour de Fleece started last Saturday and while I failed to manage to get a pre-Tour post together of my goals, I am spinning away these days and trying my best to keep up with my amazing teammates on Team Three Waters Farm. It’s such an inspiring team and I’m so humbled to be in their numbers!

In any case, I thought that before I started sharing what I’m currently spinning, it might be a good idea to clear the decks and share what I actually managed to finish before the Tour de Fleece started. You see, I went on a bit of a spinning tear just before the tour started. It began with a push to empty bobbins by finishing up two longer standing WIPs and then morphed into digging into my stash of “other” preps.  A couple quick “freestyle supported long draw” spins happened and then a day of finishing. And these are the fruits of those labors!

First, I have a very special spin to share.

img_1945 This skein is Three Waters Farm’s Giant Celosia on a 60/40 Polwarth/Tussah Silk base and the singles were entirely spindle spun. It took me just a couple weeks less than a full year to complete start to finish. I tried something new this time. Using the bobbin winder and weaving bobbins I got for my loom, as I filled spindles I would occasionally wind them off onto weaving bobbins. When I came to the end of my singles, this made it easy as pie to pop them on my AkerKate and ply with my wheel. I will definitely be doing this again as I found it super motivating!

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This was my take everywhere project the past year. I look at this skein and I think back to all the winter evenings in the kitchen spinning here and there while waiting for the water to boil and the moments out in nature spinning for a few moments while my family explored out on the trail as I sat and rested. It’s…. it’s a special skein to my heart. It’s fingering weight, I believe, and in that 300-400yard realm if I had to guess.

Next, another special skein. My first ever skein with my Jensen Tina 2.

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It’s Three Waters Farm Merry Poppies and it’s on the 40/40/20 Merino/Superwash Merino/Tussah Silk base. It’s spun as a 2-ply fingering weight yarn.

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It’s merry and it’s divine.

These were the two spins I needed to finish up to clear off my bobbins and knowing I only have a few days and feeling an urge to flex those freestyle supported long draw muscles again, I went to my stash…

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And found these 4oz of rolags in the Cape Cod colorway from Bumblebee Acres. Because of how these rolags are rolled with varying bands of fibers as you spin them, I find a pretty “freestyle” supported long draw to work nicely.

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I have to admit that I really enjoy this type of spinning and the resulting yarns I can create with it.

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It doesn’t have as much spring as an unsupported long draw, but it’s still got a lot of energy & life in it.

And I had enough time before the TdF kick-off for one more spin, so I went to my stash and found 2 – 4oz batts in the Inspired colorway from Classy Squid Fiber Co. They went from this…

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To this…

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I’d originally bought the batts with the intention of spinning like colors together in a big gradient, but when I started spinning for no real reason I just felt like jumbling all the colors together.

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So I did and I love the results. It’s squishy and colorful and just fun. When I came to the end of the bobbin, I found that the first bit of spinning was a little lighter than the rest and it was also entirely yellow and orange. Rather than have a weird monotone section on the skein, I broke it into two mini-skeins…

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I don’t really have a plan for this set…

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But I’m sure I’ll think of something.

And with this beautiful round of stash enhancement tucked away and shared with you, it’s time to get back to my current WIPs. There may just be 20oz of fiber already in progress… more on that soon!

Balancing Plans and Inspiration

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that I am at my best with my craft when I listen as much as I plan. Like many, I usually have a plan — what I want to work on and what I want to accomplish and a general timeline for those things. Like maybe fewer, I am someone who tends to stick to those plans. More importantly, though, over the years I’ve learned to always proceed with balance in mind. There has to be a balance between the plan at hand and where curiosity and inspiration takes me.

This week, my wheel and I weren’t connecting as much as I thought. I love the project I’m working on…

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It’s the February Top of the Month Club from Three Waters Farm and I really truly absolutely adore it. I broke it into 4 roughly equal lengthwise pieces and I’m planning to chain ply it. I think it’s going to be a true stunner.

But…

You knew there was a “but” coming, didn’t you?

For a multitude of reasons, I just wasn’t getting the time I’d hoped for with the wheel and when I did, I was tired and we just weren’t clicking.

I turned instead to an experiment I started a few weeks ago: the Turkish spindle.

I’ve been hot and cold with Turkish spindles. Really, spindle spinning finally made sense to me for the first time about 2 and a half years ago with a Turkish spindle, but I have struggled to find the Turkish spindles that I want to spin with regularly. I have bought and subsequently sold or gifted away at least 5 different “Turks” since I first started spinning with them in 2015. I’ve been through a number of very nice ones from very skilled spindle makers, but they just weren’t it.

A few weeks ago, I was ordered something for my wheel or loom from The Woolery and noticed they now carry a few Jenkins Turkish spindles. I’ve heard nothing but good about these and have long assumed if there’s a Turkish spindles that I’m going to get along with long-term, it might just be one made by Jenkins. One thing about spindles over the years is how to interpret the word-of-mouth skinny on them and these babies get nothing but praise. I hopped on The Woolery’s online chat — oh how handy that is! — and I explained what spindles — weight and makers — I like and asked which version of Jenkins they recommend I try. I really wasn’t sure how I should compare them to my beloved top-whorls and sometimes it just helps to ask, you know? I got some great advice, ordered an 18 gram Aegean and a 22 gram Lark. Reassured by the online help I received, I figured if one of those 2 wasn’t my jam, none would be. The beautiful thing about spindles is that if you take good care of them, they really do hold their value and reselling is a breeze.

I got them, I played with them a bit, and instantly loved how they spin. Great news, right?! Even better, it’s reignited my interest in a spindle spinning WIP I’ve had on a low simmer for a while (I’m all about getting through the WIPs lately!).

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This photo shows the Aegean on the right and the Lark on the left. The arms on the Aegean are thinner and wider, giving it a very balanced, spin, but the spin is not especially tight. Think more whimsy, less zoom. The Lark’s arms are more compact and a bit thicker and, as I understand it, was actually designed for tighter spaces, like public transit. Personally, I just love it’s fast, tight spin.

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Yes, it’s undeniably my favorite. As I’ve added yarn to the Aegean, it’s grown on me and I do intend to keep both for the long haul, but the 22 gram Lark has certainly captured my heart. It’s a lot like when I discovered the Bosworth top-whorl short shaft in the 22-25 gram range. It just fits and I love it. And I’ve been spending time daily in my kitchen — where I love to spindle spin — watching the birds, hanging with Moose, and spinning.

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Moose has enjoyed the quality nap time.

This week I also revisited a hibernating WIP, my handpusn Brillig. I started it back last fall and got behind on it and then distracted from it. It’s a long story as to why, but I ripped it back, rewound the yarn so I wouldn’t have to knit from the kinky bits of yarn that had sat on my needles for months and started fresh…

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Simply put, I am so adoring working on it. It is as scrumptious as a knit can get.

So there you have it. Sure, I had planned to finish that bulky sweater and wheel spin this past week, but this is where my inspiration took me. In the grand crafty balancing act, I think I’m crushing it. Sometimes the thing that keeps us going, that keeps us moving forward, if the freedom to veer off the plan. Balancing the plan and inspiration is the name of the game, my friends!

An Ordinary Extraordinary Week

Sometimes you go into a week a with the best intentions of accomplishing a particular list of tasks. This week my crafty to-do list looked like this:

  1. Finish Fairbanks Pullover
  2. Finish Top of the Month Club singles from Three Waters Farm
  3. Start plying purple handspun weaving project (on Lendrum)
  4. Make fauxlags and start learning long draw
  5. Wash, dry, and photograph handspun Find Your Fade

And, my friends, I completed one and a half of these tasks!

It was the first week back to school for us, so that always makes for being extra busy organizing and convincing at least one of the kids at any moment to focus and stay on target with studies. That in turn changes my energy levels by the end of the day and often results in a little improvisation on the crafty front. It’s knitting and spinning in real life, you know?

After school, the first distraction I had can be summed up in one word: spindles. Upon returning from vacation and checking out all the AMAZING posts in the #wemakeyarn event on Instagram, I found a couple people who had taken up the issue of the “wheel” prompt as being a little exclusive of those who spin only with spindles. Of course, that was not our intent at all. In fact, my partner in this endeavor, Mary Ann at Three Waters Farm, was actually the person who encouraged me to pick up the spindle again after only moderate success and helped me to find the right spindles for me and really, truly find my spindle love. And now, I carry a spindle with me almost everywhere I go!

In any case, I’d only brought my spindles on vacation and was kind of on a roll. Add to that the conversation about spindle spinning on Instagram and I was inspired to just kept going…

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Spindle spinning is perfect for so many situations and school with the kids is one of them. I did go back and review Abby Franquemont’s Respect the Spindle DVD, just to see if there was anything I was forgetting or anything I could glean since I now have a little more experience. It can be a challenge to find really good quality spindle instruction if you don’t have access to a teacher locally, but this video is definitely quite good.

I also became curious about Turkish spindles again. I’ve used them in the past, but I’ve just never found the Turkish spindle for me. I’ve tried 3D printed ones and larger wooden ones and teeny tiny wooden ones and while I could spin with them and they are absolutely fine tools, they just weren’t the right fit for me.

I’ve always wondered about Jenkins Turkish spindles as I have only ever hear raves about them and noticed that The Woolery carries them now. Granted, these don’t have the sweet little individualized designs on them that many Jenkins spindles to, I thought it was worth trying. I hopped on the online chat with The Woolery and picked the brain of one of their resident spindle spinners to see if they could offer any advice on these and help me crack the code and find a “turk” that really fit me.

And these two were headed by way shortly after…

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On the left is a 0.63oz Bigleaf Maple Aegean and on the right a 0.77oz Rambutan Lark. I’m still getting a feel for them, to be sure — the inconsistent yarn is a testament to that fact — but I’m really enjoying getting to know these lovely, well-balanced spindles. I think I can see a future with them — hooray!

The one item I did check off the list was finishing the Top of the Month Club singles.

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I’ll be chain plying them shortly with my Lendrum after they’ve had a nice rest (and I get the wheel set-up).

The other item I sort of half finished was I did wash and dry my Find Your Fade. I’ll admit, I’m seriously taken with this project. I mean, there are not only a lot of hours knitting in it, but also it is wholly handspun and it turned out so much better than I ever hoped it could. I will try not to get too precious about the photography, but it’s going to be very hard not to because I am compelled to do it full justice.

In other distractions, istead of prepping fauxlags so I could start the harrowing journey of teaching myself long draw, I decided I would start first by getting a feel for the Schacht Reeves’ big whorl.

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I have only done light weight plied yarns with this wheel thus far and it’s time to start branching out! Again, this is not the most consistent — it’ll definitely be a thick & thin — and I’m concerned there’s too much twist to leave it a single, but I think I’m going to go for it anyway.  The fiber is 100% Rambouillet from Three Waters Farm in the Spring Lamb colorway. It is positively spring!

I set aside my Fairbanks Pullover for a spell to work on another pair of Snowfling Mittens.

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Tanis LaVallee’s stranded, lined mittens are hands-down (ha!) my favorites. I love them so much, I’ve made 2 sets and I have yarn for two more pairs not including the ones I’ve started here. They are actually my mittens of choice even in our sub zero winter temps…

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As you can see in this snapshot my hubby grabbed of me out at Necedah Wildlife Refuge last week. They keep my fingers nice and warm always, even when in these extremely cold snaps we’ve been having.

They served me yesterday, as well, when we went down to the Buena Vista Grasslands hoping to catch a glimpse of Short-Eared Owls. The thing about viewing Short-Eared Owls is there is a really short window to see them each day — they come out at dusk and you just have 45minutes to an hour to see them before you lose the light this time of year. But to see them, in my opinion, is one of the beautiful events to witness in nature.

I’ve seen them once before, also in the dead of winter, in a field a half hour or so from our old house. We saw 3-4 birds. At Buena Vista last night, this was the scene as the sun set in the West…

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And night rose in the East…

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And on this quiet dirt road, 3 vehicles quietly pulled to the side of the road, their occupants grabbed their optics or cameras and exited into the 8°F air careful not to slam any doors, and watched the graceful, lilting flight of 8-10 Short-Eared Owls as they hunted, courted, and scanned the fields on either side of that otherwise unassuming dirt road, sometimes flying close enough that I could see them without the help of my optics. My husband tried to snap photos, but he doesn’t have equipment to catch birds in motion…

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So this will have to do for you, my friends.

Maybe it’s because the only time to really see these birds is during the Golden Hour so they positively glow. Maybe it’s because their flight is like a dance — their wings shaped almost like a bat, but they exhibit so much grace and agility in the air that it’s hard to believe they are of this Earth. Whatever the reason, to see this many individual birds so surrounding us, with many more in fields further away was… it was as it always is, breathtaking.

And just like that, another week has passed. Full of distractions and changes in plans, the simple pleasures, the new challenges, the breathtaking beauty these are the thingsthat make up this life I lead. All in all, it’s been just another wonderfully ordinary extraordinary week in the life of Knitting Sarah.

 

 

 

 

Places You Can Spin

It was a little over a year ago that I really started to deep dive into spindle spinning. My hip was giving me some trouble and sitting at my wheel was uncomfortable and I was not in a position to get a different wheel, so a very wise person said, “Sarah, have you tried the spindle?” And the rest, as you know, is history. This week, I was reminded why that simple question was instrumental in changing the course of my everyday life. Because, you see, I now carry a spindle almost everywhere with me. I still bring knitting, of course, but there are certain moods and certain spots that are more favorable for one or the other. And this week, it was all about my best spindle spinning spot yet.

Can you believe it?

I was able to sit up on a ledge, so I had a long area in which my spindle could drop. Right next to the waterfall, the kids playing below in some puddles and Mr KS lounging and photographing on some rocks up above. It was just grand and in this moment and in this place, the spindle was just the perfect match.

And the spinning was pretty sweet, too. They are lightly textured rolags so they are super fun to knit with little slubs spun into them. I’m trying very hard to get this spin done and spindles emptied before the Tour de Fleece opens at the beginning of July and this day of spindling definitely helped.

For anyone who might be wondering, for a year or so I had an empty water bottle that I used to transport my spindle project, something super cheap I got on clearance at a local box store. And this spring I upgraded to this…

The other bottle had a huge top and this one is a little more easily portable because the top isn’t quite so bulky. In any case, since I’m often around water, this protects my spinning if I should drop it and it keeps it dry. It has plenty of room — You can’s tell from the photo, but I actually have 2 Golding Ring Spindles and 4 rolags in this thing. I usually don’t carry a ton because I’m not a super fast spindler, but after almost burning through my usual 2 rolags last time we hit the trail I took 4 along with me on our latest outing.

The best part, however, is that it fits right in my backpack side pocket.

If you happen to run into a lady on the trail or around town with this set-up happening, it’s most likely me. Or someone else who is very brilliant and fashionable. OK, I’m kind of joking there, but seriously give anyone you see with a bottle of spindles a hi-five for me because they clearly deserve it.

So if you’re wondering if you should pick up a spindle — whether you aren’t a spinner or you’re proficient with the wheel –I’m thinking the answer might be yes. Because it’s a pretty fantastic way to spend a few hours in a beautiful spot where ever you might be!

Works in Progress

This morning I managed to successfully talk myself out of attempting to sew two new dresses before next weekend. It was no small feat as it’s always in the last month or so of winter that I start dreaming pretty hard of spring and summer and I start shopping for a piece or two to add to my warm weather wardrobe. This year my goal is that instead of buying that new dress or two, that I sew them. You know, I want to actually do the thing I keep telling myself year after year that I’m going to do, but never get to. This year I have the patterns and I’ve already started printing and cutting out said patterns. I’ve got a stash of fabric I actually really, really like and most of the thread I’ll need. The sewing area in the basement was tidied during our staycation last week. All I have to do is figure out a chair and set up the ironing board. I’ve never been so ready.

All that said, after I’d printed out two new patterns this morning, I came to the cold, hard realization that I’ve got a number of works in progress and before I take on more projects and make a mess in a new area of the house, I really need to trim that WIP list down. Additionally, the original idea to make the deadline that I finish two dresses by next Saturday was a little outlandish. I’m not a very speedy sewist and the idea of setting a goal that pushes me time-wise seems wholly unwise. I’ve always made sewing projects something I need to rush through and the whole point of the sewing area is to alleviate that urgency in the process so it might be more enjoyable. Apply brakes… now.

So what am I working on? Well, remember this photo…

img_5655Yes, well, I have not yet started plying these. That needs to happen.

And before I can ply, I need to wrap up my last singles spin….

img_5672I’m about one-third of the way through the second 2oz of this project. It shouldn’t take too long on the Very Fast Flyer, but still it needs to happen so that I can start the plying extravaganza.

I’m also working on my second project for the Three Waters Farm Susan Ashcroft SAL+KAL…

img_5675This is a Yarn Optimizer knitted in my own Three Waters Farm handspun yarn. The photo is deceptive as it’ll eventually be blocked out into a rectangular cowl — you’ll see, it’s going to be very cool.

As we’ve been working on getting back on track with our menu planning and cooking from the pantry instead of the processed heat & eat meals we’d been defaulting to with the busy holidays, I’ve been spending more time in the kitchen and thus my kitchen spinning has come back into play.

img_5677My friend gave me this awesome little spindle basket that I’ve learned to keep stocked with a spindle project. She got it for me with the idea that I could use it on the trail or when I take the kiddos outside in nice weather to run around. I’m sure I will use it for that also, but it’s perfect for this purpose, too. Kitchen spindling might sound a little weird, but I’ve really come love it since taking up spindling more seriously last year. My hip makes transitioning from sitting to standing painful sometimes, so I often just choose to remain standing if I might have to be up & down a lot. Spindle spinning is the perfect solution for me as I wait for a tray of cookies to bake or the potatoes to boil. It’s quiet & meditative & passes the time and it’s easy to set down and pick up as timers go off and other things need attention. I don’t know if kitchen spindling is a thing out there that normal people do, but if you’re a spindle spinner I highly encourage you to keep a kit in your kitchen. I think you’ll love it!

But I digress.

And last, but not least, I have my re-imagined first pair of sock for the Sock with Sarah KAL going…

img_5673I picked this yarn up over the Thanksgiving holiday at Spin of Door County thinking I’d make some socks for my daughter. Instead, I’m using the yarn pour moi (shhh! don’t tell!). I can sense they will be very addictive. I’ve so been in that potato chip knitting kind of mood lately and these fit that perfectly.

When I write it all out, it doesn’t seem so overwhelming. So maybe I can treat myself to one sewn dress? I suppose we should see how the day (and the coming week) shapes up. The good news is I’m poised to make a real go and that summer wardrobe and, as always, there’s not a shortage of works in progress around here.