Wolf Ridge Weekender

January 2016 feels like a lifetime ago for so many reasons. My kiddos were four years younger. Moose was practically still a pup at just 3 years old. We drove a car we no longer own. Lived in a house we sold almost 2 years ago. Bear was not even a twinkle in his mama’s eye yet. So many of those familiar aspects of daily life have changed. When I stop to really think about it, it is truly astonishing.

But it was in January 2016 that my family and I took a little drive… to Montana.

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And this little farm.

Wolf Ridge Icelandics is just outside of Yellowstone National Park and my husband arranged for a stop on the way toward the park where we planned to (and did!) frolic among the wolves and bison and elk and ermine and dippers of Yellowstone. Some of the pictures are missing from the blog post — I’m not quite sure what’s going on with that — but if you’d like to read the original post, it’s right here.

We didn’t go to find the wildlife, however, until I found some special yarn.

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I had to really dig back to figure out what I’d planned to make with this yarn originally. Turns out I’d intended to knit Andrea Mowry’s White Pine. I started it at one point, but something about it didn’t *click*. The yarn actually sat wound into cakes for a year or more after I abandoned the project as I turned over and over in my mind the options I had and went about the business of other things.

At the beginning of this year, however, I decided it was time to start knitting sweater quantities from my stash. Something about spinning and then knitting my Tecumseh sweater¬†ingrained in me the idea that if I could spin and knit this huge cozy sweater, then I could knit any sweater — from millspun or handspun yarn. It was time to stop putting off all those projects for the perfect set of circumstances, the perfectly fit body, the perfect everything, and just knit them up, wear them, and have fun with it.

And thus when our January trip to Missouri to visit Mr. KS’ family was coming up, I grabbed those caked skeins, knit up a swatch, and cast-on before we left so I could knit on the 10+ hour drive.

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And when it became clear that spinning was not going to work during our visit with the needs of the puppy, the time not spent running about with the dogs was spent like this…

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With needles in hand and Weekender inches adding up.

And by the time I got home, I was on to the sleeves.img_5613-1

There’s something to be said for that much driving and down time while visiting when it comes to progress on a big stockinette project like this. And for those wondering, you do knit the body of this design inside out so even though you get the reverse stockinette style in the finished sweater, it’s more accessible for those who are less smitten with purling. I bound off on February 4th, just one month and one day after starting it. Especially considering the mega amounts of positive ease involved, I’m pretty ecstatic with that timeline!

With all the sickness in the house this month (today we do all feel like we’ve turned a corner toward feeling normal, though — hooray!), I don’t have any modeled images of it on me, but so that I could share it without further delay, I snapped some pictures on my dressform this morning.

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It does look like what it is… a giant boxy sweater!

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The drop shoulder design really makes the body & upper arm areas extra roomy.

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¬†And I cannot get the color picked up properly with the camera so you’ll have to take my word for it that the light heathery-ness of the color with varying hues of white to a mid-brown have a depth that is just scrumptious. About halfway through I panicked that the yarn was too light for this sweater, but I actually think it worked out wonderfully. And it is plenty warm which is perfect for I intend to throw it on for shoulder season hiking out on the trail.

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And when I see it and when I wear it, I’m so glad to be able to reach back in my memory to that other lifetime. To the ermine hopping across the road and the wolves we had such amazing looks at in the Lamar Valley to the coyote trotting along the road to the kids in the super deep snow up in the mountains, and the little farm nestled up against the mountains where a flock of Icelandic sheep live.

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Memories in a sweater — is there a better way to capture them?

Wolf Ridge Icelandics, the Handspun

If you remember back to my family’s Yellowstone National Park trip in January, you’ll recall that I got to stop at this lovely sheep ranch just outside the park, Wolf Ridge Lamb & Wool Co which is home to the Wolf Ridge Icelandics flock.

img_2190And it was here that I got my trip souvenirs, some yarn and this…

img_2192Icelandic lamb roving, in the coffee or “moorit” color. I picked up a nice 8oz bag of this soft, gorgeous wool and got to work straight away with my wheel in our hotel room in Montana.

img_2160-2I managed to finish the first half of the wool while on vacation…

img_2218And the last half I wrapped up a couple weeks later at home.

Then — as is often the case — I talked myself into doing some other singles spinning before plying these bobbins together. Of course, when the time came to ply I had help…

img_2354Poor Moose gets a little discombobulated when I move my wheel into the kitchen as he can’t then easily sleep between the wheel and my chair or keep an eye on me from the couch. Poor guy! The struggle is real!

In any case, I finally got around to plying a week or so ago and it was even more spectacular than I could have imagined.

img_2350Normally I work with hand-dyed top which is obviously gorgeous, so it’s a little unusual for me to work with this much more subtle, single color, rustic type yarn on my wheel. There’s absolutely no way my camera could possibly do this skein justice, but of course I’ll try anyway.

skein1In its finished form it’s a whopping skein of fingering weight yarn (at least for me) as it is just shy of 650yards.

detI’m usually one who is quick to critique my work, especially when it comes to spinning. I will be honest here though — there isn’t one aspect of this yarn that I don’t love. The spinning isn’t technically perfect, but it looks so incredibly natural and right to me.

free detAs I said, you can’t really see the depth of color in this yarn with the camera, but suffice to say that in my hands there is this subtle luster to this yarn that looks almost like a hint of gold.

*sigh*

I so wish you could see it in person as it certainly takes my breath away.

I’ve certainly been thinking about its destiny, too. I see it eventually becoming a shawl or scarf. Fantoosh! by Kate Davies has caught my eye as has Anne Hanson’s Wheaten. Or maybe Gudrun Johnston’s Halligarth. In my mind, I definitely am imagining some sort of classic lace scarf or shawl, but I’ll have some time to ponder as I’ve got a number of items on the ‘ol to-knit list ahead of this one. I’m thinking I may just have to make some time for it this summer, though. This lovely yarn is too good to hang out in my stash for long.

A Sheep Ranch & Our Weird, Weird World

If you didn’t already know, my husband is very good at planning vacations. He plans 99% of our trips, usually with Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C options throughout to insure they run smoothly even when they, you know, don’t run smoothly. In addition, when he does his research and planning he demonstrates incredible skill in his ability to create a trip that includes something fun and special for everyone. For me, this usually involves some sort of unique fiber arts experience and our trip to Yellowstone was no different.

Just about 40 miles north of our hotel in Gardiner, Montana, set back off the winding roads of Paradise Valley lies Wolf Ridge Lamb & Wool Co., which specializes in Icelandic sheep. My husband contacted the ranch before our trip about visiting the yarn room and he received a very kind note telling us to just call when we were in the area and we’d set up an appointment.

I’m always a little nervous on these fibery adventures because you really never know what you’re going to find. I had an idea of what they had to offer based on their website so I was hopeful, but nothing could have prepared me for this.

img_2190This picturesque little haven nestled in the mountains. And the yarn room?

img_1935 I can only say, “WOW!” The yarns were beautiful, the fiber was absolutely lovely, and Barb — that’s her in the photo — could not have been any nicer. To say I was a kid in a candy store would be the understatement of the century. I picked up a sweater quantity of Paradise Aran in the softest light brown color with the hopes that it’ll maybe turn into Andrea Mowry’s new White Pine sweater, but I’m flexible on what it becomes.

img_2194It’s just gorgeous and will undoubtedly make lovely sweater someday.

In addition, I grabbed an 8oz bag of roving to spin.

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It’s lamb’s wool & is incredibly soft.

img_1997-2And that very night I started spinning (that was part of my husband’s plan, too). It’s a sumptuous rich chocolate color. Barb assured me that she was just a phone call or email away if I found myself in need of anything else and you can believe I took some notes for future stash potential.

The following morning we awoke early and got into the park before the sun rose with the high hopes of seeing the main attraction for us this trip — wolves. Yes, believe it or not, the fiber & yarn was not the main event for everyone. In any case, the day after visiting Wolf Ridge Icelandics, what did we see?

Wolves. On a ridge.

The photo is quite blurry because this time they were very far away and Mr. Knitting Sarah was snapping the photo with his phone through a spotting scope, but we saw them. Once they crossed over the back side of the ridge we knew we’d be back the following day to try to catch a better look.

In the mean time, we enjoyed seeing a sleepy Bighorn Sheep in the snow…

and a river that had 3 or 4 American Dippers, dipping away.

They may not look all that special, but for those who aren’t birders, American Dippers are North America’s only aquatic songbirds. They sing and dance and bob up and down (or dip) on the rocks or ice of fast-moving mountain streams…

Sometimes they stomp their feet…

And then eventually they dive into the water…

Where they grab little bugs to eat. I managed to see 4 “life birds” — Barrow’s Goldeneye, Grey-Crowned Rosy Finches, Lewis’s Woodpecker, and Bohemian Waxwings — but watching the Dippers was definitely a highlight of the trip for me. While I’ve seen them before, I’ve never had the luxury of really watching them for a long time as I was able to here.

As we wound our way back toward Gardiner, we made a stop to walk the Mammoth Hot Springs…

Where the kids learned that it’s a really strange world out there.

Where hot springs sometimes melt the parking lot and start bubbling up through the asphalt…

img_1989And even in the most hostile environments, life finds a way.

Tomorrow, I’ll share the results of the next day’s search for wolves, my thoughts on driving through mountains with a compact front-wheel drive car in the snow, a terrifying traffic jam, a very brave hike, and some more spinning.

Stay tuned!