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10 Great Gifts for the Shepherd in Your Life

Here are some great gifts that I would love to have.

1. Muck or Bogs boots–These are not only necessary when it is rainy, muddy and snowy, but you will be in STYLE while farming!!

2. Hand knit hat– If you don’t knit, then ask a friend to make one for you. This one is made from my Puck’s Choice yarn which is naturally charcoal yarn made from Puck’s fleece (border leicester), Stripes (Angora Goat) and a black alpaca fleece from VA. Each skein has 200 yards, enough for a hat. We sell it for $22 per skein.

 

handknit hat

3. Carthart overalls and jacket– This is absolutely necessary in the winter. These are so thick that you stay warm and dry in the worst weather.


4. Handwarmer packs– Cold hands make working outside really hard. And there is always outside work to do in the winter.

5. Premier feeder–I really need a bunch of these so that I stop getting “in the way” when feeding really hungry sheep and goats. Premier1 sells plans for these.

 

6. Rocky coats–These coats are durable and colorful.  Rocky makes coats in a number of sizes that just fit sheep better.  Our Cormos are covered year round so that we have the whitest, cleanest fleeces.  See Demi in the back? She is sporting a wonder Rocky Sheep Cover.

breeding group

 

7. Field Guide to Fiber–This is a small field guide that you can use when you are dreaming about your future flock. There is great information about so many breeds, their history, fiber types and great pictures.

8. Heated water buckets–an absolute must have in the winter here in the East. This is about the limit of what I can carry.

9. Lambing Supply Bucket–This is a great starter kit for your first lambing or kidding season. It is available from Sheepmen Supply here in Frederick, MD but they do ship all over the country.

 

10. Animal Care Class at FGF–We do offer sheep and goat care classes here at the farm. Our next session is January 25th in the afternoon. If you take some time to learn, you will be prepared to have your own flock.

twins 75 76

Wishing you a fantastic holiday season from all of us at Flying Goat Farm!

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Swatching and Stash Appreciation

stitch samples

Do you swatch? I hear all the time that people do not like to swatch so they don’t swatch.  I suppose if you are making a shawl or scarf that doesn’t need to be a particular size you don’t need to. Or if you buy the yarn that the pattern says to use, you don’t need to. Or if you have a head, feet or hands that are “normal” size for most hats, socks or mittens, you wouldn’t need to.  But if you are making a fitted garment, like a sweater or using custom spun yarn from a farm or if you are “shopping” in your stash, you need to swatch.

But if you are like me, swatching can save you time and heartache in the end.  I do have a small stash, but more importantly, since my yarn is custom spun, I have yarns that aren’t the same as the yarns you can get at your LYS or craft store.  I want to use it and I want to share it. So I need to make sure that I know what it will do and how it will knit up.  Sorry crocheters, I really can’t figure out crocheting. I need to know what special mojo my yarns have so that I can share them with the world.  So I must swatch.

yarn swatch

For my famous Celtic Cardigan, I wanted to use my Fernham’s Choice yarn. It is a 80/20 blend of Blue Faced Leicester and kid mohair. It is a wonderful squishy worsted weight yarn, perfect for a warn cardigan.  The pattern called for 18 stitches/26 rows + 4 inches on size 8 needles in the stockinette stitch. and each cable had it’s own gauge as well.  I swatched and swatched until I got that gauge, but the needle size was different.  If I hadn’t figured that out, I would have ended up with a sweater that was totally the wrong size.  Even with this swatching, when I started knitting in earnest, my gauge loosened and I ended up  about 6 inches too wide. This would have been devastating if I wasn’t already having to take out the sweater for the million other things I didn’t like about my knitting.

The lesson for me is to swatch before I make any larger project.  I will also be swatching for my customers, in order to get a good idea of the gauge for my custom yarns.  What I like to do is to make a 5 inch square that is surrounded by about a half inch border of seed stitch with a 4 inch area of stockinette. To determine needle size, I use a spinner’s control card to get an idea of the WIP (wraps per inch) which I can then translate to the standard yarn language of lace, fingering, sport, dk, worsted, etc.  That gives me an appropriate needle size to use for my swatch.  If I start to knit and find that the needle size isn’t quite right, I simply take note of that for my swatch tag and change the needle up or down.spinner's control card

 

So when you see my gauge on the labels that is your jumping off place.  Each knitter has their own “gauge” as well.  Are you a tight or loose knitter? So you throw (English) or pick (Continental)?  After some time knitting, you will know your knitting “handicap”. At the trunk show recently, a group of knitters came into the shop. They began to talk about going up or down a needle size (or two) from the posted gauge of a yarn.  I haven’t gotten to that point yet. I do know I’m on the tighter end of knitting.

I hope you are inspired to do some swatching before starting that sweater or using that luxury yarn like our Zephyrette.  What have you learned about your knitting style through swatching? Do you have a swatching (or not swatching) story to share? I’d love to read your stories and learn for you too!!

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A Year of Stash Appreciation

A Year of Stash Appreciation

The theme of my blog this year is a celebration of your stash. I want you to get to know what is in your stash. I will also teach you about the types of fibers and what kinds of patterns and projects will match the yarn you have. You will find information about animal fibers, plant fibers, and fiber blends of all kinds. I will be writing about how to most effectively use your hand dyes and semi-solids.

Here is the first installment:

What Kind of Stasher Are You?

 

What kind of stasher are you? Whether you use yarn, fabric, beads or paper, your art requires supplies. How do you handle your stash?

  • Type 1—Do you only buy materials for your current project so you don’t have a stash or any UFO’s (unfinished objects)?

  • Type 2—Do you try to only buy for a current project but look forward to your next project while you’re working on your current one? So you have no stash to speak of and only 1 or 2 UFO’s.

  • Type 3—Do you only buy materials for current and future projects? You like to get the supplies and pattern together then you know you have everything for the pattern. You have a small to medium stash, some UFO’s.  All your materials are matched with a pattern for easy access to the next project

  • Type 4—Do you buy the materials you like and don’t worry about which pattern it will go with? You know that eventually a project will emerge for the supplies.  You have a medium to large stash and some UFO’s that you work on industriously to complete.

  • Type 5— Do you buy anything and everything that calls to you? The yarn or cloth speaks to you and you listen.  You have a large stash that you sometimes feel guilty about. But you also get a lot of creative satisfaction when you visit and pet your yarns, beads, and textiles.

 

I am a Type 4. I do have a medium stash of beads, quilting fabric AND yarn.  I try to just buy for projects but I also buy materials that call my name.  Since I’ve founded Flying Goat Farm, I have not bought ANY quilting fabric.  I haven’t sewn either.  I do hope to get back into my sewing room soon and finish one or two of the 8 unfinished quilting projects.  OK….maybe now that I think about it I’m a Type 5!

Leave a comment here or on Facebook to tell me what stash you collect and what type of stasher you are!!

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Purple Munsell Exercises

This is the last of my exercises in the Munsell Color book. I have learned a lot doing these exercises. Probably more importantly is that these exercises have trained my color “eye”.  There were three exercises, “purple”, “red-purple”, and “blue purple”.   You can see from these photos that there are various concentrations of red and blue in these 3 color exercises.   Here is what I started with today.

 

5rp pre5p pre

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next,I sorted out the most gray of the chips. These belong on the value scale. Next I matched the color chips to the saturation of the gray chip.  Unfortunately, I’m missing one chip….I did look and look, but it vanished….

5rp

5p

 

 

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Green Color Exercises

 

green munsell1

It’s been awhile since I pulled out my Munsell Student Color Book.  There is a green exercise though.  So I pulled apart my color chips and pulled out the mounting paper.  I have to tell you that I was rusty. I found that when doing these exercises it is easier to compare one or two chips. Does this one have more gray or more pure hue.  Then I can place them in the correct place.

green munsell 2

 

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Magic Numbers, Pooling and My New Pink Cowl

It all started with too many snow days in a row. I had this knitting book that I bought last summer and it’s been sitting on my shelf. I had opened it a couple of times but just looked so complicated that after flipping through page after page of beautiful hand knit tunics, hats, scarves and sweaters, it would go back to the shelf.  Last Friday, I took it off the shelf. I armed myself with post-its, a highlighter and the desire to learn more about knitting.  The book is Artful Color, Mindful Knits: The DEFINITIVE guide to working with Hand-Dyed Yarns but Laura Militzer Bryant.

Hand-dyeing is what I do.  It is my passion.  I love when the colors make a pattern similar to ikat weaving.  I did have an understanding that the patterning was a result of the number of stitches, but I thought it was a fluke or serendipity.  Well, it’s not. This book teaches you to understand the way a yarn has been dyed, whether it is dyed across like stripes on the skein or whether it has been dyed around where the skein is dipped into successive dye pots to achieve color.  Of course there are many more techniques to get color on the skein but these two are the ones that produce the most noticeable patterning.  Sometimes when you buy skeins the dyers have kept the skein as it was out of the pot. There it is easy to see the color transitions and to understand how it was dyed. However there are other dyers, myself included, who reskein the yarn to show the interactions of the colors.

Very simply, to determine the magic number of your yarn, you need to determine the repeat. Then you need to swatch. This will help you determine how much yarn you use in each stitch. Of course this number will change with needle size and yarn weight. You do a simple calculation to get your magic number on that yarn, with that stitch and those needles.  A knitter can stack colors, make the colors zig-zag, or spiral with a few minor tweaks to the magic number.

Here is my yarn: it’s magic number is 73. This is our BFL DK yarn in Amsterdam Tulip colorway using a size 8 needle about 4.5 stitches per inch.

BFL DK Amsterdam Tulip 200 yd per skein $22
BFL DK Amsterdam Tulip 200 yd per skein $22

 

sample measuring repeat

 

 

 

In the first experiment I used half magic number of 36.5 +1.5 for 38 stitches across. I used a fisherman rib (k1, p1). The result was different on each side and really striking.  The fabric was a bit heavy though and I knew I wouldn’t be happy with it, so I ripped it out.

 

right side sample

sample back side

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then I decided to do a ribbed lace pattern with 8 rows of stockingette between the ribs.  I used double the magic number + 2 and knit in the round.  The pattern is a bit more mixed, however there is a spiral pattern going on in the colors.  This cowl actually took 1.5 skeins about 300 yards. When you start your next skein, you need to match new yarn to the same place in the repeat, so that you don’t disrupt the pattern.  This took me a bit of time but I was really pleased with the results.

cowl3

cowl 1

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5 YR Munsell Color Exercise

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Here are all the color chips. This photo does not do justice to the colors. It is a dark dreary day and it’s hard to get a good photo.
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Here are the chips all in their proper place. As you can see I’m missing one piece. But the kit only says there will be 24 chips and that’s what I have….

The red-yellow cards have so many brown or so called “neutrals” in them. The darker shades of red-yellow go immediately into the brown territory. Mahagony, tan, beige, leathers, tobacco. Also most skin tones are in the red-yellow family.

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Color–Part 3 VALUE

No doubt! Value is the hardest color dimension to talk about. I have found that seeing the value of color is a learned skill. It is hard to differentiate and so it is very frustrating.  Value is the lightness or darkness of the color, it is also is a measure of color purity and saturation.  Here is the gray scale that is used to help determine the value of a hue. While it is relatively easy to see the differences in value between white, gray and black, it is not so easy to see the value of colors. The color itself skews our perception of the value. Some hues like yellow are more likely to be at the top end of the scale, while purple is more likely to be at the darker end of the scale.

 

 

The human eye can see about 5 steps of this scale. The “pure” white, “pure” black, neutral gray and a step between those 3 values. In the real world, there are many more nuances of value. When I was learning about value, one strategy that helped was to squint or partially closed your eyes and look at the yarn, fabric, or photo and the value would be easier to see. The squinting reduces the number of color sensitive cells (cones) that are activated, while the cells that perceive light (rods) are still activated. Try this with a favorite photograph and see if you can differentiate among the values in that photograph.

There are a couple of “tricks” that we can use today.  One is the computer.  You can take a photo and change it to a black and white photo.  Also you can use red or green plastic ……to see the value differences.

 

 

If you are intrigued and would like to learn more, register for my color class on September 6th at 1pm.  Go to the fiber class page to register.  We will be doing lots of experiments to train our eyes to be better color detectors.

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Color Exercise–Red

red

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Here are all the color chips in the exercise
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I start the exercise by finding all the chips that are “shades”. That means that they have varying amounts of grey mixed with the color. I line these up from lightest to darkest
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Then I begin to match the value of the chips on the left and put those in order from least amount of red to most amount of red. Do you see my mistake? I couldn’t figure out where that one chip went….until….
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I checked the pure hue from the first color wheel exercise. I was able to see that I had the wrong chip in the 5R space and I could move the one pesky chip into the correct spot. I am getting better at seeing the differences in the chips. In order to get better at seeing color, you have to train your eyes.