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Finding Your Joy!

Joy is not the same as happiness. Joy is in the small moments. It is in the smell of cinnamon almonds and kettle corn. It is in the turning of the fall leaves.  It is in the light playing off the Potomac as you are crossing over it.  It is in the feel of a great yarn like our Zephyrette. It is in the feeling you get when you start a new project OR when you finish one. It is in the sound of the trick-or-treaters at your door, the cute ones, not the teenagers (LOL). It is a feeling of connection with other people and with nature. It is the feeling that all is right in your world, right now.

These last few weeks, I wrote about overcoming overwhelm at these shows.  I realized just recently, that I need to regain my joy at fiber shows. And I am writing today because I have come to understand that maybe you need to find that joy as well.  If you want an additional help for defeating overwhelm, I made an organizer for you that you can get here.  And while I don’t know if I have all the answers for finding joy instead of overwhelm, I think this is a start.

Before I was a vendor, I would go to these shows as a buyer and a looky-loo and a participant. And it is true that there are a lot of people and a lot of activities and a lot of things to buy. There are things to eat and drink and there are animals and fleeces, too.  There is a lot.

Now that I am a seller at these shows, my perspective is a little different.  There is all of that still and there is my color work that I have up on my wall for you to look at and hopefully to take home with you.  But, I think today I will peel back the curtain and let you know that I have felt myself losing the joy at shows. You know that’s hard to write, because I love what I do. I love to make beautiful color combinations. I love packing up the yarn and roving and putting it up on the grid wall. I love to have you look at what I’ve been making for you. But I feel my joy starts to dissipate as I respond to people telling me that they are overwhelmed or that they just got here and have to look around first or that they are on a fiber diet. I start to take on those feelings too.

My message to you today is this: when you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed at a show, stop and take a moment.  Maybe go outside and sit for a minute. Maybe go into that empty booth instead of the one with the line and take a moment to appreciate the work that artist has done. Even if it isn’t anything you want or need, that person has brought it there for you to admire.

I’m asking you to do something not only for me but for all the other artists at the show. Just tell us something good. Tell us that you love our colors. Tell us that you appreciate what we are doing. Tell us that you love that shawl. That kind of interaction will build us up.

And I promise to you that I will do the same. I will complement your sweater or shawl. I will appreciate the colors you put together. Together we can spread that joy throughout the show. We, artists, don’t expect you to buy something at everyone’s booth. Of course, I hope you will find something that you love in my booth. But don’t make an excuse, just say thank you.

And what about that family that is walking too slowly or that person who just stopped dead in her tracks? Spread the joy with them too. Complement them, don’t get angry. It’s supposed to be a fun day not a stressful one. Say a kind word to that person or admire their hat or sweater or shawl that they have made.  Feel that connection to the artists, fiber farmers and creatives who are out for a day of joy at the fiber festival. And of course, come by our booth and say Hi! It will be one of the joys in my day!

 

 

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Sock Blanks: What Are They? Why Would I Use Them?

Hot Fuschia Sock Blank

Let’s talk about sock blanks.

What are they?  A sock blank is a pre-knit fabric that is then used in an entirely different way than it’s first rendition.  It is not a sock. It is not in the shape of a sock. It is a rectangular shape.  Does that make sense?

Why are they call “sock blanks”? I think this name was originally coined by the manufacturers of these fabrics.  They were made with sock weight yarn for the hand dyer to dye, paint, or print onto.  And there simply hasn’t been a change in name and really there should be. I think there would be less confusion that way.

How do they come? There are “double” sock blanks and “single” sock blanks.  Doubles are made with 2 threads in each stitch. Singles have just 1 thread in each stitch.

What can I do with a double? With a double you can knit Two at a Time socks. This way you will get matching socks. You can also just reknit the blank, holding the yarn double to make a cowl or scarf.  If you don’t know how to make socks TAAT,  then you can knit with one of the threads and you will ball up the other one as you go along.  And if you do this you can make socks, scarves or shawls with the single thread.

What can I do with a single? You can reknit this fabric into anything you desire; a cowl, scarf, shawl or even a cardigan.

How do I work with the blank? There is a “live” end that unravels and the cast on edge that doesn’t unravel.  So work from the live end. Unravel the stitches as you knit your new garment.

Why would I do this? I hate to rip out knitting!  Well the fun part about knitting with sock blanks is that it is a mystery. Your finished product will NOT look like the original.  If the sock is dyed in a gradient fashion, it will stay a gradient but will have some striping in it. If it is printed or dyed with a pattern, that pattern will not be maintained.  You will have a more spreckled, freckled look to your finished product.  What I love about these fabrics is that as I knit, the new fabric is coming into focus. It is becoming its own new fabric. This mysterious nature keeps me knitting.  I want to see what will happen next.

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Fixing Mistakes

Fixing Mistakes

Have you ever realized just how hard it is to proofread your own work? When I was teaching, I would suggest that the kids read their work backwards, word by word. Because we already know what it is we wanted to say, but did we really say it? That’s the tricky part. Now that I’m designing shawls and other knitwear, I think that I’ve gone over it all with a fine tooth comb, but every once in a while I write the wrong symbol. (Have you noticed how knitting patterns really are written in a different language?) So with my new shawl there is typo that will change the look of the shawl. At the end of each row I wrote “k2, kfb”. That’s wrong, because I had a yarn over increase, not that Kfb increase. So if you have the Raddiant Shawl pattern, please make that change on your pattern. 


At Rhinebeck, I ran into Lar Rains. He is the designer of the Exponential Shawl. He also had a pretty significant omission in this pattern. I have the errata for anyone who has bought this pattern. Unfortunately, I don’t know who you are. So please email me at goat…… and I’ll send you the fix for this kit.

Photo by Gale Zucker
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Finding Your Joy!

Joy is not the same as happiness. Joy is in the small moments. It is in the smell of cinnamon almonds and kettle corn. It is in the turning of the fall leaves.  It is in the light playing off the Potomac as you are crossing over it.  It is in the feel of a great yarn like our Zephyrette. It is in the feeling you get when you start a new project OR when you finish one. It is in the sound of the trick-or-treaters at your door, the cute ones, not the teenagers (LOL). It is a feeling of connection with other people and with nature. It is the feeling that all is right in your world, right now.

 
Last week, I wrote about overcoming overwhelm at these shows.  I realized just recently, that I need to regain my joy at fiber shows. And I am writing today because I have come to understand that maybe you need to find that joy as well.  And while I don’t know if I have all the answers for finding joy instead of overwhelm, I think this is a start. 
 
Before I was a vendor, I would go to these shows as a buyer and a looky-loo and a participant. And it is true that there are a lot of people and a lot of activities and a lot of things to buy. There are things to eat and drink and there are animals and fleeces, too.  There is a lot. 

 
Now that I am a seller at these shows, my perspective is a little different.  There is all of that still and there is my color work that I have up on my wall for you to look at and hopefully to take home with you.  But, I think today I will peel back the curtain and let you know that I have felt myself losing the joy at shows. You know that’s hard to write, because I love what I do. I love to make beautiful color combinations. I love packing up the yarn and roving and putting it up on the grid wall. I love to have you look at what I’ve been making for you. But I feel my joy starts to dissipate as I respond to people telling me that they are overwhelmed or that they just got here and have to look around first or that they are on a fiber diet. I start to take on those feelings too. 
 
My message to you today is this: when you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed at a show, stop and take a moment.  Maybe go outside and sit for a minute. Maybe go into that empty booth instead of the one with the line and take a moment to appreciate the work that artist has done. Even if it isn’t anything you want or need, that person has brought it there for you to admire.

I’m asking you to do something not only for me but for all the other artists at the show. Just tell us something good. Tell us that you love our colors. Tell us that you appreciate what we are doing. Tell us that you love that shawl. That kind of interaction will build us up.
 
And I promise to you that I will do the same. I will complement your sweater or shawl. I will appreciate the colors you put together. Together we can spread that joy throughout the show. We, artists, don’t expect you to buy something at everyone’s booth. Of course, I hope you will find something that you love in my booth. But don’t make an excuse, just say thank you.

And what about that family that is walking too slowly or that person who just stopped dead in her tracks? Spread the joy with them too. Complement them, don’t get angry. It’s supposed to be a fun day not a stressful one. Say a kind word to that person or admire their hat or sweater or shawl that they have made.  Feel that connection to the artists, fiber farmers and creatives who are out for a day of joy at the fiber festival. And of course, come by our booth and say Hi! It will be one of the joys in my day!

 Rhinebeck is in just a few days on October 21 and 22. There’s nothing like Rhinebeck and we can’t wait to be back again this year. We are in Building A. The weather is usually fantastic! Everyone is out in their special Rhinebeck sweaters. The food is good and diverse.  If you haven’t gone, you really need to put this festival on your bucket list, because it is just that good.  

New shawl kit includes 5 mini skeins and pattern $35 This the Summer Berry Gradient Set

And if you can’t get to any of these festivals and you see something here that you want to add to your collection, just send me a message and let me know. I can send you a skein or two.  I won’t be putting these skeins up on the website until after these shows. 

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Correcting Mistakes

Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again,

this time more intelligently.

Henry Ford

It was brought to my attention that one of our patterns had a couple of flaws in it. Thanks Anja! That pattern has been out in the world for a couple of years. I wonder why I’m only hearing about it now. I hope people have it in the knitting queue, rather than in their trash heap.  I’m so glad that I was able to find out about the error and fix it.

I left out a stitch in 2 rows. An incorrect number of stitches is a fatal error. The cowl would get smaller and smaller. Not a great design for a cowl, right? Now it has been fixed.   And it is ready to be released out into the world.  

Click here for revised pattern for Rivulet Cowl. Yes, even if you don’t already own that pattern, you can click too and get a fun cowl pattern to knit. Think of it as a great Valentine’s gift!

  Click here to buy Zephyrette, our exclusive luscious blend of alpaca, silk and cashmere, for this pattern. 

 

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What’s Your Preference? Cowl or Scarf?

I am a cowl girl. Yes, I spelled it right.  I prefer cowls over scarves.

Collection of cowls made in Zephyrette

Where does that preference come from? As a weaver, I made a TON of scarves. They are linear. They are finite. They are fun. They can show off your dyeing, your yarn choice and your skill at a weave structure.  But they fall off. They are always slipping to one side or the other. They are like snakes in the way that they can just slide off your neck and the next thing you know they are on the floor, under your seat, around the corner you just turned.  

Handwoven scarves

Cowls are like close friends. They envelop you. They warm you. They comfort you. Some may say that they can strangle you or be too cloying.  But I think they are the best.

And I like to knit in the round. I prefer it actually to the monotonous back and forth, back and forth that knitting flat requires.  Even when knitting flat, I use circular needles. They are comforting. They seem more secure to me. Not once have I lost stitches off the end of a circular needle.  So for all those reasons I’m a cowl girl.

What about you? Cowl or scarf? What is your preference? 

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Is swatching a dirty word?

Do you do it? Or do you just dive right into a project?

Newest swatch for handspun sweater made with BFLXCormo lamb fleeces
As many of you know, I started this journey as a weaver.  How closely you set your threads is the key to getting the fabric that you want.  And once you know that you can build the rest of your calculations and get your yarn on the loom.  But knitting isn’t quite like that is it?  Most of us try to match the yarn in the pattern and if that yarn isn’t available in your collection or in your yarn store? What then? Some of my friends, and you know who you are dive right in with enthusiasm and the dream of a great new garment, but as they knit they realize, hey this is just too big or this is just too small.  A shawl, a cowl or a scarf can be very forgiving. They don’t have to be a particular size.  But what if you want to make gloves, mittens, socks or a sweater, fit does matter.  

I’ve been having yarn spun for me for several years now. And one thing I know for sure is that a small mill spun yarn is very hard to get spun in those classic sizes of DK or worsted or sport. I can get a yarn that is on the line between DK and worsted. I can get a yarn that is between sport and fingering.  So how are you supposed to use these yarns to make a published pattern?

You need to swatch! And you need to swatch any particular stitches that are in your pattern.  If your sweater has a cable, swatch it. If your sweater is in a basket stitch or a double moss stitch, swatch it.  What I hear people saying is, it takes time!! It takes extra yarn!! And you may be perfectly lucky and your garment may turn out the right size and shape without it. But what if it doesn’t? Then how much time have your wasted? How much material have your wasted? Will you rip it out or will you just set it aside in disgust?  

Here is my current long term project. I want to make my first handspun sweater.  I have a pattern in mind. It is a cardigan. It has double moss stitch as the body and the sleeves are cabled.  I am using 2 lamb fleeces from my Blue Faced Leicester/Cormo crossed ewes.  And I need to figure out if I want a 2 or 3 ply yarn.  So I need to sample the yarn AND the sweater.  And I need to determine the best way to process this fleece, whther to card or comb.  This past Crafternoon, I knit my swatch out of 3 ply. I was also able to really get a grip on how to spin these fleeces to minimize the noils and bits of chaff. I am combing the wool and then spinning off the combs.

Fleece on the combs ready to be spun
And as you can see, the resulting yarn (on the right) is turning out more lustrous and smooth than the carded yarn on the left. 
left side is carded fleece and right side is combed fleece
So please, spend the time to swatch. You will be a happier knitter.   
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Banish This Word in the New Year

At this time of year, I like many people are thinking about their word of the year. It is a North Star or value or resolution. It marks how you want to spend your year. That is all good and I do come up with my word of the year each January.

But I want to talk to you about banishing a word this year. Let’s banish the word….stash. I’ve spoken to many of you in person about ejecting this word and concept from your vocabulary. When I hear people talking about their stash it is not out of pride. I don’t hear “You should see my stash! It is lovely.” More often I hear, “I can’t buy anything until I use my stash.” It is said in a kind of Eeyore voice. It is said with shame. Let’s banish that word! Let’s trash the shame!

 

I propose that we use the word, “collection” instead. You are the curator. It is your collection. Each skein and ball that is in your collection was lovingly acquired. Some with a specific project in mind and others just thrilled you with color or texture or softness. I think that if we change our language, we can change our outlook or attitude about the yarn that we have collected. We will be able to see those threads in a different light. We may even go through them and realize, “Hey! I’ve grown out of using this yarn, or this color!” Those parts of your collection can be donated or gifted. You have the power to make the choices, after all it is YOUR collection.

This year, let’s make the commitment to value our collections, to explore them anew and discover what you love about them and which ones need to find a new home. Let’s find some new ways of using what we have and making room to buy new skeins to augment the collection. If you would like to explore your collection in an organized way, you can subscribe to our Color Explorer eCourse. It is a 4 lesson course that helps you look at your collection from the viewpoint of color and allows you to make choices about what stays and what need to be removed from your collection.

What do you think? 

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The Health and Wellness Benefits of Knitting and Crochet

colorwork mittens

It’s a proven fact. There is research. Yes, knitting and crochet does in fact enhance your health and well being.  I know that when I am feeling low and tired, but still feel the need to “do” something, I take out my project bag and knit a few stitches or rows or repeats. I also take my knitting to meetings. Keeping my hands busy with knitting does keep my mind focused on during this meeting.  Thankfully my boss is not bothered by this, in fact she does put out crafts and fiddles to keep hands busy and minds available for learning.  I do have to say that I usually take “brainless” knitting that I can do without following a chart or thinking too much about what is being made. 

I’ve noticed an uptick in the number of women, children and men who are knitting and crocheting, especially in the age range from 25-35. We even had a young man (13?) search us out at 3 fiber festivals this fall to buy yarn and roving. I can’t wait to see what he makes with his collection. So you can imagin how really happy I am to see a great article and a new book on the subject. 

 

Here is what I’ve learned so far:

  • Repetitive motion induces a kind of relaxed state that is similar to the deep relaxation you feel after meditation or yoga
  • Knitting and crochet, after learned, will decrease your heart rate and blood pressure.  It also reduces your level of cortisol, which is the hormone that gets released when you are under stress. 
  • Studies are now showing that knitting and crocheting may reduce your chances of suffering from dementia. 
  • An added benefit is that you are making tangible object so that your feelings of self esteem and accomplishment are increased.  
  • Knitting and crochet are now being used in therapy programs for eating disorders and smoking cessation. These therapies work because of the relaxation and because your mind is focusing on something other than your addiction.  
  • Knitting and crochet groups are popping up all around as the number of fiber crafters goes up. The benefit of adding social interaction while knitting is another added benefit.
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Yarn Weights and Measures: What Do They All Mean?

grist1
I’ve been thinking a lot about what all those ways that yarn manufacturers, including myself, categorize the yarn.  There are so many ways of speaking about the size of the yarn. The standard yarn weight information is set up in a table with discreet squares. But I’ve been studying this lately and I’ve noticed that there is overlap,  a lot of overlap among the yarn weights. So it seems to me that this is really a continuum. Just look at the info about YPP, yards per pound, the overlap here is really large. Why is that? It has to do with the spinning process.

yarn weights

Was it spun in a woolen way with lots of air and softly spongy and so it has a bigger diameter? Or was it spun in a worsted way which compacts the fibers and aligns them all in one direction and so it appears thinnner. These two yarns could have the same YPP but a different grist or appearance and they will behave very differently. So use these as a guide, but the ultimate test is your own swatch. These two yarns were both supposed to be a DK weight. But the diameter is SOOOOO different. They knit up differently too. The green one knits like a lace weight yarn. It is our Heritage BFL yarn. And the turquoise yarn is Fingal’s and truly knits like a DK yarn. It is also made with BFL wool and both were made at the same mill.  Go figure!!

grist2

This really comes into play when you are wanting to make that special sweater. You are wanting to use yarn from your stash, not go out and buy the yarn that the designer used. Or maybe that yarn isn’t available anywhere near you. This is when those standard yarn weights become important. And even more important than that, is to knit up a swatch. Not only a stockinette swatch but also a swatch in pattern.

 

But is a swatch important when it is for a garment that doesn’t fit your body, like a shawl or a cowl? Well, I think getting the gauge close is important so that the stitches look the same. You may not need to get it “exactly” right if it isn’t going to “fit” your body. What is important to do is to check the size of the finished project, because many times the photographs used in the pattern, may be on a mannequin and not a person. It may be made for an extremely small or large person, someone whose body is vastly different than yours.  Sometimes making a swatch seems like wasting your time and a waste of yarn. You will probably only need 25-50 yards for a swatch. It will reduce the chance that you would need to frog your project.  I think it is important to make sure that the stitches look right. You may be a looser knitter than the designer or vice versa. So changing your needle size will be just what you need to get your swatch to look like the picture. Those are important questions to answer and it is worth the time to figure this out before you jump into your garment.