Wednesday, July 20, 2016

my cladonia shawl

Once upon a time (2013) , in a land far far away (Nashville), I succumbed to a spell cast by a dyer (Denise of Lost City Knits). Although foresworn to never buy single skeins just because they are pretty, especially never if they look questionable next to  my skin, the spell was strong.  A skein of yarn, so soft, so golden that it glowed, bearing the fairytale name Rumplestilskin came home with me. The skein lived happily. Though not ever after.
Peering deep into the bottomless pattern wishing well (Ravelry ), I was entranced by  Cladonia. So many Cladonia shawls, some solids with contrasting lace trim. My gold could be the trim, and cast no sallowness on my flesh! But what yarn was worthy of the golden skein?
Two months later, I was teaching at Fiber College of Maine, near Swans Island Yarn, with its busy fairy dyemothers. I was overcwhelmed with options in their shop,when my fellow teacher Kirsten Kapur herself, selected a yellowy grey and declared it the Cladonia-est in all the many shelves. (She later admitted she was just worried about time and chose it randomly- but I like to think it was alchemy.)
 When 2014 rolled around, I cast on, taking my shawl WIP  far and wide. The shawl went back to Maine, to the Hudson Valley, to New York City, to Indiana, Vermont, New Jersey, to Delaware and Washington and Long Island and Rhode Island and Nash Island... . So many many islands..though none tropical, which made the shawl very very sad...oh wait, that was ME .........
Cladonia became The Project to Work On Between Other projects.  I tired of grey, breaking out the Rumplestilskin for stripes.  In 2015, the Cladonia had a no-growth spell. I knit, it stayed the same size.  In  2016, the Cladonia grew and grew. If not the fastest Cladonia, then maybe it would be the largest one in all the knitting land.

I crossed the enchanted eyelets row between stockinette and lace border in May. It went quickly, buoyed by my fairy knitting god mother (the designer herself) who reassured (knocked me upside the head)  when I had my inevitable freakout on the 14th of 16 lace rows, that row 3 looked weird and maybe I should rip it all back.  Kirsten pointed out that the stitch count and pattern would be a hot mess if I had skipped YO's.   (DUH!)
I started to cast off..and the lovely glowing golden skein ceased being endless. I visited my collection of leftover fingering weight yarns.  Don't you all save your leftover skeins , in the YouNeverKnow box? and chose a Lisa Souza  vermillion from this project for that last row with its picot and looped detailing.  That is how my shawl shall live. Blocked, and happily every after.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

nash island roundup & shearing 2016

At the very end of May,  the Nash Island roundup and shearing. Downeast, Maine.
 It's my favorite day of spring. It's beautiful, it's elemental, it's timeless, it's all about community and fiber and friends and work, and the light and smells.  I shoot sheep shots and hold lambs and I am pretty sure, smile all day. Here's the Nash Island flock's history.
6 am-ish, dawn, by the dock on the mainland. No one but the sheep live on Nash, we ride out on lobster boats.
It gets festive quickly, with about 25 or so family members and friends of the Wakemans (who own the island) and Jani Estell (who manages the flock) bustling down to the harbor with coolers of food for the potluck lunch, shearing gear, and many layers of clothes and boots. The year's clip is what Jani spins in her Starcoft Fiber Mill to make yarn.  The island has no docks, we clamber into smaller boats when we get close to shore, ferry over and hop out in shallow water.  This year's crew includes knitwear designers wearing plenty of handknits. L to R on the boat: Gudrun Johnston, Carrie Bostick Hoge, Sarah "FiberTrek" Hunt* and Mary Jane Mucklestone**.  (I don't know what  great hat Gudrun has on, but Sarah is wearing a Rivington Cowl designed by Kirsten Kapur, who is also aboard).
You don't see many sheep at first--the island is hilly and the sheep are shy. Plenty of gulls swooping and calling, though.
And the views are stunning, though quickly eclipsed by the irresistible lambs.
Everyone gathers around the camp (the solitary building on the island) while Alfie Wakeman lays out the plan for roundup, assigning areas of the island to small squads.  The next generation of Wakemans, on the left, work hard . Wren Wakeman, in overalls, joins her mom Eleni(on the right in blue), and two other women, as shearer.
My squad (mid island,cough mid aged women) are assigned an area where we squat in tall grass or on hillsides, slowly creeping forward till all the sheep have been spotted and nudged toward a ridge of the island. On a cue, we all stand up and make ourselves large, then converge running  behind the flock, toward a corral. I am amazed, every time, that this works, and works well.The sheep run noisily into the corral by the water, and the gulls scream overhead, warning us off their nests..
It takes some shoving and catching and chasing, but the end fence piece of the corral finishes pushing the sheep into the pen, where they stay, just till sheared. The other 364 days of the year they roam free, grazing on seaweed and grass.
The first order of the day is sorting all the lambs out from the adults, and getting them into their own pen. This is the first time they'll be counted this year. They all call for their moms, it's very noisy and a little sad.Thought that one in the middle right seems smiley...
To separate the lambs, 3 people are in the corral quickly handing out lambs to the rest of us. We run a  parade down the hillside, over and over till all 80 lambs are moved to their own pen. It is the very best part of the day.  The lamb poo that inevitably covers your shirt is your merit badge.Here's Grant Estell doing double lamb duty. (no pun intended).
Knitwear designers wearing lambs. Gudrun on the left, and Kirsten on the right.
Pretty sure Kirsten was trying to sneak this one home with her. 

While the lambs are tended to and then released to wander baaaaing for their moms, the shearing starts up. Wren Wakeman, above, grabs a sheep to shear
Lily Wakeman and her cousin spend the day wrestling and carrying sheep over to the shearers, keeping order by the gate, and sitting them up for shearing (here, by Donna). You can see how much lanolin is in the fleece, by how shiny Donna's hand gets.
Sarah's job, upper left, is to catch the sheared fleeces, pull off the daggy parts, and then toss the fleece onto the skirting table, where a group of us stand ready to quickly pick out any seaweed or grass.  Jani (upper right) oversees and grades the fleece, calling out "Yarn", "Fog (her fabulous airy fingering weight lamb yarn)","Handspin" , the categories. The skirted fleeces are rolled into towering burlap bags- or if handspin quality, lovingly protected in bedsheets. You cannot imagine how much light gets bounced down and then back up off these fleeces. Or how easily our hands get sunburned, but soooo soft, covered in the oils from the sheep. This year's skirting table crew looked stylish, though, right?
It's noisy, and fun, and hard work and so so beautiful.
The lambs, who have all been released from counting and ministrations,  gather around our feet, looking sweet and baaaa-ing their little heads off, waiting to be reunited with their shorn moms.
There's a potluck lunch break that rivals any fine restaurant, and time to take a quick snooze on the warm beach stones. Or, as Kirsten did, break out your spindle and do the irresistible,  as a handspinner surrounded by pure fresh fluff. (For the record, I lay down and close my eyes on the warm stones).
By late afternoon, the skirting table has a mountain of discarded wool bits, Jani triumphs as the last of 111 sheep are shorn, and Mary Jane and Grant tie closed giant bags of fleece.
Back down to the boats we go.
This time the bags and rolls of fleeces get ferried out to the lobster boats, followed by us.
 Back on the mainland dock, waiting for the truck to take the fleeces to the Starcroft Mill. That's a Stopover sweater on Kirsten, and Sarah's wearing a gorgeous Cockatoo Brae knit in Starcroft Tide wool, from the island sheep.

Pretty much a perfect day. This is the 4th year I've helped at the roundup & shearing on Nash, the 4th year I've photographed it, and the 4th year that I am sure no imagery or recording can really capture it. But I'll keep trying. 
Here's a Yankee magazine story that narrates the day well. 
If you have a chance, try to knit with some of the Starcroft yarn, it is special and soft and strong -and even  if you didn't  meet the sheep and  know the story, as a knitter you'd know it by the feel. 
*Check out Sarah's Fiber Trek TV YouTube channel for her adventures with all things sheep. I'm so happy to have met her. And you should see her knitting, I did a poor job of documenting all the great sweaters on the island that day.

** Mary Jane is wearing her Nash Island sweater, based on a traditional style, you can't get a better match than that. Another sweater that I didn't manage to show much of. Grrrr.  She often designs with Jani's yarn.  (Among many other wonderful things, Mary Jane designed the Stopover, which was my island wear choice for the day.)

Thursday, June 16, 2016

finding models to pose for you

Follow my blog with Bloglovin(a quick post till I catch up with myself!)
Steph, a professional model I adore working with.
I was interviewed by Abby Glassenberg for her Craft Industry Alliance blog, about finding and working with models. It's a really good helpful piece.. As is Abby's newsletter, helpful and interesting. If you own or are considering having any kind of a small handmade/crafty related business, you want to subscribe. (it pops up when you follow that link to her blog).
FYI Steph , above, is wearing  the Tobay Top from the Tahki Sea Breezes collection.
Josephine, a real person model I also truly adore.  

FYI Josephine is wearing  Holland, a fab sweater design from Maureen Clark of Green Mountain Spinnery. Rav linked from pattern name

I hope you find the article useful-or at least interesting! It's kind of fun to know the details of other peoples' work, even if you have no need to hire a model evah. 
I should be back in this space soon with lots of swoon-y sheep and lamb photos from the Nash Island shearing earlier this month, and blab and other yarn-related  goodness I have been up to. Like,... um, knitting.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

my noncho

Nope. It's not a poncho. Just don't call it a poncho.
Last month, the confluence of a gift of beautiful yarn from Barcelona, a craving for some mindless knitting,  desire of a wrap-like garment that was secured on the shoulder but wasn't a big blanket thing (see my links at the end)--and a couple of long uninterrupted knitting opps all came together.
I didn't achieve ombre -you need to actually blend the changing colors to make that happen- but I'm pleased enough with my colorblocking  softened by carrying a strand of laceweight merino along through three different skeins of DK weight alpaca.
The button!  Also a from- Barcelona gift. It's just for decoration. A finishing touch. Helps me to find the right orientation when flinging it over your head. I want to be all je ne sais quois- not some dork lost  in my noncho trying to find the front end up, as I toss it on.
I felt like I had a knitting success but I wasn't sure I had a style success until Yliana commented that if I couldn't find it around the house, it might be because she stops by and sneaks it out to wear it next fall, when the weather gets cool. Sweet words from my sometime-skeptical-of -the-knits 21 year old photo helper, right?

Details-  3 skeins of alpaca DK weight (each approx 230 yards) and 1 skein of Anzula Wash My Lace laceweight merino.  Knit on size 10.5 US needles, in a big rectangle, with a 3" border of beaded rib on each end, and a 4 stitch border on the long edges. After blocking, about 24" x 55"-ish, folded in half and sewn on one edge, leaving  a 12" opening. I decided the reverse stockinette side had a more woven look so I called it the right side.

If you want to knit one, I don't think the dimensions are all that strict, nor the stitch pattern you choose. You could buy some inexpensive jersey fabric and make a mockup to see what size works for you. I just wouldn't  want the knit fabric too loose, or saggy- or too dense and stiff.  Go for it!

I'm not sure I have this concept entirely out of my system! Check out L'Enveloppe , Petal Capelet,
The llama II, Gale and if I can find that saved search with other not-quite-sweaters/not-quite-shawls, poncho-like garments, I'll share that too.....

PS Photos by the entry to Knit New Haven, my LYS. 

Sunday, May 01, 2016

'tis the season! CT Sheep & Wool Festival

It's that time of year, to see all our favorite fuzzy faces and appreciate their fiber. For us, the Ct Sheep and Wool festival starts the spring and fair season. It's just a teeny little fiber festival, a mere smidge of a gathering. But it means winter is done.
My report:  Purple is big this year, no surprise there. The vendors here are smaller farms and local or regional dyers. I always admire  Tidal Yarns skeins. I love her patterns, too. There was a pullover sample at her booth I spent some time admiring *. You know how you look and think "ooh nice" but then the next day you're thinking " oooh nice and I really want to knit's stuck in my head....". Even though I've got my knitting pretty well planned out for the short term.  Note to self: follow her to another fair and do it.
There was some herding, of sheep.  And of a four year old.
My fave thing this year was Dancing Stick Man, and the dude who pulled the string as he played banjo.
The banjo playing was at one of our fave booths too- old timey stuff including what sister Lulu, who joined the fair-going expedition, called folk art and little spirit jugs. Many had faces on them, or tiny paintings.  You'll find a couple in our flower garden, if it ever gets warm enough to plant.
There was also  the Wearing of the Amazing Knits, Folks in Renaissance Clothes Doing Impossibly Intricate Needlework, Spinning In Group Formation, Shearing Demos and Really Good Buttons, along with all of the above. Want my 2¢ Get out to some up and coming fairs .
- Maryland Sheep and Wool  May 7 & 8  --the big mama of east coast spring festivals

- Shepherds Harvest in Minnesota May 13-15 -  worth the trip from wherever you are

- New Hampshire Sheep & Woool Festival - May 14 & 15 - bring a sweater! it's in the woods- my memory of my two visits to this one is brrrrrr! and also- beautiful yarns & sheep

- Massachusetts Sheep and Woolcraft Fair May 28 & 29th-- super charming

Taking a curtsy before we leave. Hope to catch you sipping lemonade and watching the sheep smile back sometime soon.

Just for funs : although I rarely miss a year of this festival, I sometimes skip blogging about it. oops! my first visit to this festival 11 years ago , back when my blog was a secret and I was purposefully posting small not terribly well made photos, to keep it separate from my professional commercial work (why? insanity??!!) . And also another,  sunshiney  lovely year there, on the blog seven years ago.

* so this pullover? It was worsted or DK weight looking, nice deep raglan sleeves, boxy cut, slightly scooped neck and an inset pocket (with contrast lining, I just love that)  on one side of the lower front. It was shown with color blocking near the lower quarter of the body but it'd be charming solid....

Thursday, April 28, 2016

an art piece for the Leonardo Challange

"Looking Up from the Bottom of the World" 8x8" mixed media
My piece for this year's Leonardo Challenge at the Eli Whitney Museum in New Haven. It's an annual fundraiser for the scholarship fund for this quirky, smart , innovative institution that celebrates creativity, design  and science.

Each year there's a tool or pricnciple selected, that Leonado Davinci used, and artists are asked to create and donate piece that speaks to it, uses it, or interprets it. This year, the item is a lens. Here's what the call for art said:
The Lens
The arc of a raindrop on a leaf magnifies its veins and our understanding of seeing.
Egyptian artisans mimicked the curve of eyes in glass to give their statues uncanny spirit. Assyrians in Nimrud may have used a rock crystal to concentrate the sun’s rays into a spot of fire. In the Middle Ages, the polymath Abas ibn Firnas crafted reading stones of glass. Refined lenses awakened the sciences, explorations and arts of the Renaissance.
You may have explored the ancient wonders of lenses amongst your grandmother’s treasures: a magic lantern, a stereoscope, opera glasses or a slide projector. Now there are Apps for those. We take and manipulate more pictures each day through the tiny lenses of phones than the entire pre-digital century captured. We alter the focus of eyes with surgery and their hues with contacts in designer colors. We may not now see the lenses through which we see everything.

Then there's a fabulous and delicious party and silent auction while all the work is hung on the museum walls, and you wander around amazed at how other peoples' minds work and make bids. (It's tonight April 28th  if you are local, hurry).

Obviously a photographer can donate a straight-up photo but I like to stretch myself a little and make sure it's a challenge. 
If I'd had another free afternoon, I was going to paint the outer sides of the box frame a deeper blue also, to mimic some of the blue windows I was taken with in Israel. Windows are the home's eye to outside...I had to use one of the glass evil eye beads I'd haggled over in a market there and I like to incorporate something with yarn or fiber every I made the little amulet with yarn, teeny pompoms and a tassel.  I am particularly pleased with the tassel, I do hope someone compliments it.
In knitting news- my car ride to Maryland and back last weekend mostly as a passenger, along with a long day as a ballot tender at my local primary polling place allowed me to crank out more than 2/3 of my Noncho. I was hoping the yarns would look less color-blocky and more ombre-ish by having the second yarn the same through all three...but I think you don't get ombre without doing the real ombre work blending of adjacent colors. These are more like tidy neighbors. Should be a FO soon. It's all flying by the seat of my pants but to be honest, I'm loving just cranking the stockinette with a teeny edging  this week. Hope your knitting is also bringing you joy!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

into the blue knitting

If you read my last five posts, especially this one, you're not at all surprised that I want to only knit blue yarn.  With impeccable timing, I was gifted  two skeins of beautiful DK alpaca from Barcelona, last week. In shades of blue. I have two long car rides this weekend,  and a long day of sitting as a polling registrar for the primary election on Tuesday.  This is a big delicious serving of knitting time, for me. The universe is obviously sending me a message: new project.
From front to back: 2 skeins of All You Knit is Love Knitwise yarn from Barcelona.  Center top is what's left from skein of Shibui Alpaca, so happy my LYS had this so I could dive in.  Left rear, a Anzula laceweight,  not alpaca and also not blue, but it's playing along well. 
This is going to be my noncho  (a secured wrap...not a poncho).