The Wensleydales.

The last legs of my little Louet breed-specific spinning adventure are the Wensleydales, both sliver and top.  I first spun with Wensleydale wool earlier this year with a roving a friend purchased at a local farm.  My first foray into longwool, it kind of blew my mind. I found myself taking a long time with it as it took me a fair bit of time just to wrap my head around how long that staple length was. It also just wows me that unlike many breeds which date back very far into history with many pieces of their genetic puzzle unknown, the Wensleydale breed can be traced directly to the Leicester ram and Teeswater ewe that started the line in 1838. I find the simplicity of the history to be as elegant as the yarn I spin from the wool.

Having had a bit of experience with this type of wool, I knew that I wanted to spin both the Louet Wensleydale Sliver and Wensleydale Top the same way — in a roughly sport-weight 3ply using the Navajo plying method. I knew from my Shetland Sliver & Top experiment what the differences would be like between the two different preps. In fact, I was completely ready to delight in the unique skeins that were coming my way.

It wouldn’t be a proper end to this breed specific spinning adventure, however, without including a little something new. An unknown. So, I pulled out the lace flyer for my wheel. I’ve had my wheel a few years now and I’ve been learning and expanding my skills slowly, but surely. Previous to this project, I had tried my lace flyer exactly once for about 3minutes before I tucked it back into storage. That flyer was too fast for me! I’m happy to report today that ‘was’ — past tense — is the accurate tense. I made it through both 7oz bags of Wensleydale sliver & top singles using the lace flyer. Not only did I make it through, I enjoyed it. I am more than a bit chuffed at this accomplishment. And the yarn even turned out great. Double chuffed.

First, the sliver.

Wens Sliver no tagThe snowy white sliver is just a light, gorgeous dream.

Wens Sliver CloseIt has a hint of drape, but its most prevalent quality is that it is airy. Delicate.  I can see it shining as a simple shawl.

The top is denser, of course…Wens Top skeinAnd has drape to spare.

Wens Top CloseIt has more of a creamy color and is much silkier to the touch. I see this skein making any intricate lace shawl look amazing.

Wens TogetherBoth of these lovely skeins were an absolute delight to spin, especially with the lace flyer. The fibers flew through my hands both into singles and while plying. I don’t think I can pick favourites, but of this entire breed specific journey, I have to say that this pair of Wensleydales rank very high on my list. The experience of spinning these Wensleydale is actually somewhat hard for me to put into words. I love that — as I said earlier — it is so simple. The long staple length, the fast flyer. It is just an elegant process producing a beautiful yarn. From start to finish, I give the Louet Wensleydale sliver and top both an A+.

A Local Wensleydale

There are some projects that take a wee bit longer than I anticipate. For Christmas I received a beautiful 7oz of locally sourced Wensleydale wool available from the Moches Farm in Colgate, Wisconsin.20131221-145759.jpgA gorgeous natural ivory-white, this was like getting a little cloud for a gift. Do you see how it clearly says ‘7oz’ on the label? Despite having the label right there with it the whole time and the fact that it was clearly 7oz, for some reason I had it in my head that this was 4oz. When the singles weren’t done in a weekend, I re-checked the label to find my mistake. Somehow this was a set-back in my creative process and this turned into a slow-going spin.

This was my very first foray in spinning a longwool. I have to admit, I found it really enjoyable.

20140214-091120.jpgAs recommended by numerous resources, I opted for a lightweight worsted spun 3ply and I can already see that the drape will be amazing.

wensleydale jenniferIt is slightly more uneven & a smidge heavier than I was hoping. Both characteristics I attribute to my first run with a longwool — it took me a bit to get used to that longer staple length. Overall, though I am in love with this yarn. And I think I have just the right pattern for it… now, just to wash & dry it so I can get knitting!

Forty Bags of Popcorn & Sweet Surprises

What was I up to last night?  Oh, I was popping popcorn.

20140214-091955.jpgForty bags of popcorn for Valentine’s Day treats for both my kids’ class parties. I usually make up for my lack of cutesy class treats with extra frosting on the cupcakes, but we’ve been trying to eat healthier at our house lately and I thought it important to stay true to the habit. So I popped forty bags worth of popcorn. To try to keep it fun, I hid one Hershey’s Kiss in the middle of each bag. I told the kids to tell their friends that there is a special surprise in each bag. I am delighted to report they are more excited for this party favor than the mounds of frosting that eclipsed the cupcakes I’ve made previously. Talk about a coup!

In addition to colossal heaps of popcorn, this week’s free time has been focused mostly on writing an article that is due shortly. It’s a multi-day process for me — write, revise, revise, revise. It’s such a welcome challenge, a process I actually really enjoy.  In addition to writing and popcorn, it’s been a real hodge-podge of happenings.

I had noticed a friend from the blog posted up her snow dyed yarn on the Today on *your* needles… thread on Ravelry and as I had one bare skein in storage I decided to give it a go with the kids. We called it a ‘yarn experiment’ — I let the kids pick the Kool-Aide, scoop the snow, and apply the ‘dye.’

20140214-104555.jpgI have never dyed anything before and didn’t really expect much beyond the excitement of the kids’ enthusiasm of which there was tons.

I am calling it a semi-success…

20140214-092146.jpgI can only speculate, but I think my snow melted too slowly, so the dye ended up applied very unevenly. Ultimately I ended up giving the yarn a dunk & quick soak in the melted snow just to give it a little… something.

20140214-092132.jpgThere are a couple spots I’m not wild about, but for the most part I kind of like the light grey-blue hues with purple-y undertones. Most importantly though, I love that my kids love it. That’s the yarn they dyed and they think it’s so cool. At the end of the day, I’m happy with that no matter what the yarn looks like.

It even inspired my 6year old to pick her needles back up. Without me knowing, she got her Annie & the Swiss Cheese Scarf book and the bag of knitting I put together for her a while back and she started working on it. There were some serious frustrations followed by…

20140214-092056.jpgReal. Live. Little Girl. Stitches.

Little girl & I are very tickled by this. She wants to set up a knitting date for us. Granted I would be perfectly happy if my kids never wanted to knit a stitch, but that being said I’m not sure it gets much better than this moment.

In smaller news, I finally got some buttons for my Tallin

20140214-092116.jpgNothing fancy, but they match and that’s really all I needed.

I’m also hoping to get back to this gorgeous spinning project…

20140214-092027.jpgThe beautiful Wensleydale.

And in a moment of excitement I pre-washed this amazing yarn from the Snowfling Mitts kit from Tanis Fiber Arts….

20140214-092012.jpgI have such a weak spot for colorwork and apparently an even weaker spot for the lovely yarns of Tanis Fiber Arts. My poor wallet. My fortunate hands.

I also wound this fab skein…

20140214-092208.jpgThis will be my next pair of socks — Dyeabolical Strong Arm Skinny in the Flowershop Inferno colorway. I think they are going to make a beautiful pair of Hermione’s Everyday Socks. This has been such a popular pattern in the Socks with Sarah KAL that I just have to give it a try.

First though, I’ll have to finish up these beauties…

20140214-092157.jpgCustom Toe-Up Socks in Sheepish Yarn Co‘s BFL Sock in the Cedarburg Winery colorway. Sheepish Yarn Co is a brand new dye house from the Milwaukee area and can be purchased through the lovely Cream City Yarn’s online shop. I’m just loving working with this beautiful yarn and the vibrant magenta has been perfect for getting me in the spirit of Valentine’s Day this week.

Magenta socks, project planning, yarn experiments, writing, and forty bags of popcorn with a hidden kiss inside. This life, it’s never dull. It’s never what I expect. But it’s always full of sweet surprises.

Today on my needles…

I managed to push through the gusset shaping last night *yawn*….

20140131-171829.jpgBut it was worth it because I am loving these socks and very excited to be in the home stretch.

I also rewarded myself with a little time at my wheel…

WensleydaleThis is some natural Wensleydale that was a gift from a dear friend. It is just perfect. Snowy, beautiful, & perfect.

The wheel is away for tonight, so off I go to work on those cuffs…

What’s on your needles?  I’d love to see! Share a photo on the Friends of Knitting Sarah Ravelry Group ‘Today on *your* needles? thread!

A Special Gift

I have completely succumbed to the awful cold my kids had earlier in the week. Really, it was only a matter of time. You can only be coughed on in the face while zippering a kid so many times before illness is inevitable.

A friend was kind enough to brave my current state this morning to surprise my kids with spectacular gifts that they LOVE.

And even a special gift for me…

20131221-145759.jpg7oz of heaven.

I am just researching it now – the history, how to spin it, etc. – so I will have more details soon. For now though, just trust me when I say it is amazing – almost as amazing as the lady who gave it me and the short visit we got to have this morning.

Thanks, Jennifer! You spoil us FAR too much. And you are the awesome-est.