Felted Slippers - one last time.

After my last round of making felted slippers, I swore I'd never make them again. It's sooooo foolish to knit a great big item, throw it into the washer and pull out a considerably smaller item, isn't it? Seems backwards, yes?

However, dear darling hubby's slippers quit on him, and I can't stand for my dear darling husband to have cold feet.... soooo....

Another pair is born!  Fiber Trends "Felt Clogs" by Bev Galeskas.
The obligatory "before felting" shot -

In setting up the obligatory "after felting shot," this little cutie pie felt certain that dh's feet were splayed just for her. Or was it the camera? Whichever, she appeared out of nowhere and took her seat, pretty as you please. She's so spoiled.

OK, got her shooed away, and the other little cutie pie showed up. What's with these dogs?

OK, HERE is the obligatory "after felting shot" complete with the pattern for scale. I needle-felted the hearts, and in the process, discovered that needle felting isn't my craft. I'll stick with knitting.

As you can plainly see in the photos, we have hardwood floors, and I didn't want dear darling hubby to slip, so I sewed bits of leather to the bottoms. We have a Tandy store here in town, and it has a scrap bin, so I was able to buy scraps for $2. The two pieces of leather don't match, but dh doesn't care, and neither do I. These pieces were smooth on one side, and suede on the other side - I sewed them suede side out. DH reports that they are super grippy and no worries about slipping. Added bonus - they can be worn for quick trips out into the garage or yard. Looks like they've already taken a couple of these trips, eh?

This is a completely genius pattern. It works up so nicely! And fast, too.

I'd like to share with you a couple of tricks I've discovered, while making oodles of pairs of these clogs. First, make a photo copy. Black out all of the instructions which don't pertain to the size you are making. Careful now, as it's not always easy to tell which parts to mark out until you've read that entire line.

Here, you can see my heavily marked up page. Yes, it's blurred - buy your own pattern!!!

The highlights are to indicate where the pattern shifts from one type of thing to another. See, this pattern is quite repetitive, but not forever. You do the same thing for a number of rows, then you do a special row, then you do a different thing for a number of rows. This is what makes the pattern so completely wonderful. Marking up the pattern makes it much easier to follow, and to remember where the special, shaping rows are.

Next, circle the middle stitches. You can see part of my pattern below. In the upper margin, I wrote the word, middle, and circled it in purple ink. This is to remind me that the parts of the pattern which are circled in purple ink are the middle (middle of the toe) stitches. If you put a stitch marker before and after this middle stitch, then it makes everything so much simpler when it comes to knitting the upper.
See, the pattern will say to knit howevermanystitches, increase, knit some stitches, increase, knit some stitches, then "m1, k1, m1" - the "k1" here is your middle stitch. The first howevermany is a large number of stitches, but the "increase, knit, increase, knit" isn't very many at all, less than 10 in each case.

I don't mind counting up to 10, but I don't want to count the large number, especially if I'm knitting at a coffee shop or something (mistakes!!!), so I count backwards from the middle stitch, and then place a temporary stitch marker. I knit to the temporary marker, then do the middle increases, and so on. Get it?

If you count backwards from the middle stitch, it's so much easier than counting forward from where you are in the knitting. The same goes for the other side of the middle stitch - each row ends with something like "m1, k1, m1, k1." There's no sense in counting out 45 stitches when all you really need to do is to knit up to the last two stitches, then m1 k1 m1 k1. Get it?

This probably makes no sense to those of you who aren't knitting these slippers, but it makes perfect sense when you are knitting! This little trick turns this project from an - Only knit when you have quiet and privacy project - to a - Knit while participating in lively conversation project. Anyway, I find that this little tip makes all the difference.

Also, I've circled the stitch numbers in pencil. It's nice to stop and check every now and then. I've also circled the special rows - more incentive to stop and follow the instructions, rather than just knit and knit...

Once you get your pattern all marked up, put the copy back into the plastic sleeve, behind your original. You'll still want to look at the photos as you are knitting. I move a Post-it Note along the pattern, so I can keep up with which line I'm supposed to be on.

Another hint is that if you goof up the stitch counts, it really doesn't matter - you are going to felt the things! So, just fix the math on the next round and continue on your merry way. If you were supposed to decrease on the knit row, but you forgot, then decrease on the purl row. Honestly, it won't matter in the end, and it makes no sense to rip out when no one will ever know but you, and you'll forget.

When I made my very first pair I followed the directions for knitting the soles, which means that I knitted the soles with a slit up the middle. However, when I knitted all subsequent pairs, I made a significant change in how I make the soles - I do the "turkish cast on" and then knit the soles in one piece, rather than going back and sewing up the seam on the very bottom. I find that this makes it much neater, and for me much easier, in the long run. You have to alternate between knit and purl in order to end up with garter stitch, but I still like it so much better than going back and sewing up the sole.

OK, now, it's official. I'm never making another pair of these slippers, ever again. This time, I mean it. Really.


We won at the ABR Fall Fest!

We won again!

You know, I really like entering fiber competitions. I wouldn't have predicted it, as I'm not an overly competitive person, but really, I do like fiber competitions. I like the "grade sheet" that you get back from the judge - telling you where you can improve.

Grace and I entered items in the latest ABR Fall Festival (that's Alpaca Breeders of the Rockies), and we won 3 first place ribbons, and I also won "People's Choice" for one of my entries! Wha Hoo! The award for People's Choice is a ribbon *and* this - ... but, I get ahead of myself.

Grace entered her three ply alpaca skein, you saw it here, and you read about it here, and here. She won first place again! Way to go, Grace!

I entered this tiny skein - I spun this out of an alpaca-silk mix which is sooooooooo delightful that it practically spins itself! In order to enter, the skein has to be 50 yards - this skein measures 55 yards, believe it or not. It's so tiny! I can't wait to spin the rest!

I used a teeny, jewel spindle -
and I used my favorite method of spinning, Tammy Rizzo's Navajo Ply on the Fly.

As an aside - the case for this product makes a perfect spindle case! I have plenty enough room for an ounce or more of fiber and spindles. I can drop it into my knitting bag without getting fluff all over everything. I wish that we could just buy these cases without having to damage our knees, first. Have you ever wanted to put a sticky note on such a product which reads, "So sorry about your knee. If you have no interest in re-using the case, then please call me because I'd like to have it." Imagine all of the cool packages we could obtain in this way? Sorry - I digress.

Back to the topic, heh heh heh. I won first place *and* people's choice for this little skein. I'm really happy to win people's choice, as it comes with a real prize - a gift subscription to any Interweave magazine. Last year, I won two people's choice awards, so I asked for Spin-Off and Knitter's. This year - which to ask for? Decisions... maybe I'll get Piecework?

I also entered my big honkin' alpaca doiley, and it won first place, too. It was my "summer project" and every time I look at it, I have so many nice memories. It took me practically the whole summer to complete, and I dragged it around with me to so many places.

Mostly, I knitted it here, on the bench that my darling husband built for me. This was such a nice way to start the day - with my coffee, on my bench, listening to the birds, knitting and knitting.

I also knitted at the HARP - and at the Fourth of July fireworks celebration - Just *thinking* about this doiley triggers a particular memory - oh, this was just TOO CUTE. See, my darling daughters are also jugglers, and as we were waiting for dark, and the fireworks to begin, I knitted and they juggled.

This little boy was entranced. He couldn't stop staring! After a while, he showed us HIS tricks!
Look! No Hands! What a cutie! My daughters insist that it was their juggling which threw him into a fit of showing off, but you and I both know that it was the knitting.

Here is the doiley, pinned out to block. You might look at it and say, "doiley" but I look at it and say, Summer Memories...

Grace's Chullo Hat


Grace got this hat kit (from Knitpicks) and jumped right in. Never mind that she'd never done any colorwork before, never mind that *I* haven't done any color work before - she simply loved this pattern and couldn't wait to get started.

It took her about a week from start to finish.

She didn't like the way the applied I-cord was written in the pattern, so she figured out a different way of doing it. (Please, disregard the un-worked-in ends - these were taken care of after the pix were taken. oops)
This was a "choose your own adventure" sort of pattern, and according to Grace, it was fun to work.

It came out great, don't you think?

Emma's "Jayne Hat"

My 13yo daughter designed and knitted this hat - it's a Jayne Hat, which is from a television program called Firefly.

In the television program, Jayne Cobb's mother knits a hat and sends it to him. It's a pretty goofy hat - not very well knitted, and made out of some rather garish colors. Jayne exclaims, "Pretty Cunnin', doncha think?" So, my daughter refers to this as her Cunnin' hat.

It's supposed to have the strings hanging - this is not a failure-to-work-in-the-ends, heh heh heh.

"Man walks down the street, wearing a hat like that, you know he ain't afraid of anything!"

Long Live Jayne!

Anastasia's socks are delivered!

Today, I drove down to my friend's house, and visited with her mother in law, Anastasia, aka Annie. 

Anastasia is in her mid 80's.  She grew up on a sheep ranch, and she married a sheep rancher, so she continued with sheep.  Her sheep days ended in 1972 with the last 4 suffolk sheep on their ranch.  These are the sheep which were shorn, and whose wool my friend showed to me in the barn, and which I took home and washed and spun and knitted the socks.

Annie is trememdously homesick and nostalgic for her days as a sheep rancher...

So, first, I showed Annie a hearty handful of old skanky wool, which she immediately recognized and said that there's more in yet a different out-building on the ranch.  (Yay!) She immediately offered me all the wool I wanted because she's an unbelievably nice lady.

Then, I showed her some of the same wool, which I had washed, and she exclaimed that she had done the same thing in 1972 - she had washed some of the wool, dried it, and made the wreath on her kitchen wall, and that the 2 bells on the wreath were from her last sheep.  (She also said that at one time, they had 700+ sheep, 300+ of which all wore bells!  Imagine how wonderful that must have sounded!!!  She told a great story about the bells.  Seeing the bells on that wreath made a tear come to my eye.  Imagine - over 300 belled sheep, pouring out of the barn on a winter morning!)

Next, I pulled out my trusty drop spindle and showed her that I spun the wool on a drop spindle, and I pulled out a skein of yarn to show her the yarn.  Actually, the skein was a 2 ply which I decided wouldn't work for the socks, but still, it told the story.  She held the skein with wonder.

Finally, I pulled out the socks and said, "And, I knitted these socks for YOU, with the wool from your sheep!"  

Oh Me Oh My, I'll never forget the look on her face.  She threw her arms out wide and exclaimed, "For me?" 

She absolutely loves her socks!  She said that she's going to hang them on her wall, and I insisted that she must wear her socks, that this is the whole point!  I think I'm going to knit a tiny pair, have them shadow box framed so that she can hang those on her wall, and wear the wearable pair.

We had a lovely, long conversation about her life with sheep, and her various experiences with her husband and her son and their sheep ranch.  What a great day.

Anyway, I just wanted to share this story.  I'm pleased.

Edited on March 14 to add - 
You might like to read a little more of the history of Anastasia's socks.  

Anastasia's Socks are Finished!

Remember when I told you about finding wool in a barn - wool which was shorn from the sheep, way back in 1972? Well, that project is finished!

Please welcome Anastasia's socks into the world. I'm thrilled with myself!

Close up view of the front -

- and the back -

- and the upper edge of the front -

- and the upper edge of the back.
(I have no idea why these last two uploaded rotated. They are properly oriented in my computer... annoying...)

I used a hugely modified version of Nancy Bush's "Chalet Socks" from the book, Folk Socks. I liked the basic pattern, but my stitch gauge was vastly different from the one needed for the Chalet Sock. Also, I wanted to knit the socks toe-up, and I didn't want to use twisted stitches because I was afraid that the socks wouldn't stretch enough with the twisted stitches, so I basically had to graph the stitch pattern over again.

I knit them toe up, and I decided to use that Genius Cat Bordhi's advice and knit an afterthought leg! What a concept! *smack forehead* Of course! Why not!

Ladies and Gentlemen - try this. It really works well. Once you wrap your brain around the idea, it really makes sense. Here are the photos -
- knit from toe up - increase for toe, knit straight for the foot, decrease for the heel.
- kitchener the heel shut if you make the heel like I did - the exact opposite (almost) of the toe. You could do a 6 point decrease and cinch it shut, like the point of a hat, if you prefer.
- thread the needles in through the appropriate rows of stitches
- closer view
- snip the stitch and pick the row out
- ready to knit the leg.

This project represents many firsts for me.

For the first time, ever, I washed wool - wait, that doesn't sound right, I've been washing wool all of my life. What I mean is that I washed it straight off of the sheep's back, and this was not as much work as I had feared, actually.

For the first time, ever, I brushed, and carded, and combed and teased locks of wool, because up to now, I'd only used roving. I even made rolags! (I'll tell you more about how I made fake rolags in a future post.)

For the first time, ever, I spun from a rolag. Let me tell you something, this is a wonderful thing! I REALLY like my little rolags!

For the first time, ever, I knitted traveling stitches, and you want to know something - it's easy peasy. I love traveling stitches and will certainly do lots more. Actually, this is a lie, now that I think about it, as the Spider's legs are traveling stitches..... OK, so this is the first time I've done any sort of patterning with traveling stitches, and I really like it!!!

For the first time, ever, I ran out of yarn towards the end of a project and said to myself, "Oh my, I've run out. Let me spin some more!" I spun for about 15-20 minutes, and got back to my knitting, and completed the socks. Ha!

For the first time, ever, I knitted two socks off of one ball of yarn. Oh, I've done it this way before by winding enough yarn for each sock into its own ball, but this time, I pulled from the inside and from the outside at the same time, and I saved my sanity by employing this one simple trick - rather than pull both in the same direction, and therefore, ending up with a twined mess, I simply pulled in either direction.

Most importantly, for the first time, ever, I knitted something out of my hand spun yarn. I think I'm hooked! Time to dig out those skeins and get knitting!!!


Odds and Ends

This post contains a variety of fiber and non fiber information - just so you know, lol.


First of all - I really like these pens, Pilot Varsity Fountain Pens.But hate the idea that they are made to be thrown away. When mine ran out of ink, I decided to experiment, and guess what? It worked! I gently pulled out the nib with a pair of needle nose pliers, refilled it, stuck the nib back in and - It works great!

Truth be told, when pulling the nib out, it actually POPS out, flinging teeny tiny little ink splatters everywhere. The subsequent times I refilled it, I wrapped the pen in an old rag, and then pulled the nib out, grasping the rag and the nib in the pliers. This works great, and kept the ink splatters in the rag and not all over me, the table, the floor... The pen seems no worse for wear, and I think that I can go on refilling it forever. These pens are GREAT - wonderful nib, no leaks whatsoever, light weight - I could go on and on, but I won't - let's just say that I really like these pens!


Next - Someone JUST sent me this link - to Brio Mec - click here. Get a set and start building spinning tools! (3 links)


Next item - I'm spinning like crazy on my Bicycle Wheel Spinning Wheel - you know, that's a cumbersome name - what is a better one? Hmmm... Great Bike wheel? Walking Bike Wheel? Bike Spindle Wheel? Weird Wheel? One of my friends refers to it as "your contraption."

Gotta think of something! Or, maybe I should just stick with "Contraption?"

Anyway, it's working out great! I've built a simple frame so that it can rest on a table
which allows me to spin in the house, as it's getting pretty cold in the garage. When I'm not using it, I push it to the center of the table, but when I use it, I pull it right up close to the edge, which is why I have these big honkin' clamps, clamped onto the back of the stand - - to weigh it down so that I don't pull it onto the floor.

I think that I've figured out the whole business about how to "balance" the spindle. I don't know if this is the correct terminology, but what I mean is that I have figured out how to keep everything straight without all of those zip ties, which I employed to keep the needle in the head, as it wanted to scoot out of one side or the other. I have learned that you have to get the spindle in line with the wheel, you have to adjust the tilt of the needle, and you have to adjust spindle to be perpendicular with the plane of the wheel.

This last one eluded me, because my spindle isn't perpendicular to the head, and while I knew it - I could see that it wasn't straight - you can see that it isn't straight - I just wasn't thinking about it, know what I mean?Now, I stick a folded up piece of paper - vaguely wedge shaped - into the works and the very slightest adjustment is all it really takes to get everything all in order. I use a bare-naked knitting needle and it works just fine. It just spins and spins like a good little spindle should.

Here are some other tricks that I've picked up along the way.
  • I've moved the wheel and the spindle away from each other, to a distance of about 45 inches - hub to spindle - and this gives me a nice, long "pull" before I run out of arm length. For whatever reason, this gives me pleasure. Compare the photo above to this one. The short distance works well, but I get more satisfaction out of having a long length. Of course, this means that I have to turn the wheel more often in the "adding twist" phase, but...
  • ...a friend is going to help me figure out how to add a Miner's Head to the works, which ought to cure this problem.

  • I use a big, giant, pinch clamp (I don't know the actual name of this device - it's like a huge clothes pin) to get the head arranged properly, because the head just slides around for easy, minute, adjustments. Once I get it how I like it, I clamp it down with a "C" clamp, aka "G" clamp which holds it steady while I spin.

  • Pony lacing works great for the drive band. The other stuff works well, but it continually stretches and doesn't quite go back to its original length. The Pony lacing works perfectly. I just knot it - I haven't tried the little connector thingie that comes with the lacing. It costs $1.27 per pack, and it looks like it will last for a really long time. I've spun LOTS on the band which I have now, and it's showing no signs of wear at all.
  • I moved the spindle up, and the wheel down, and I really like this arrangement. How I had it originally, made it hard to wind the spun yarn onto the spindle, and just felt backwards. Now, it feels right.
  • This frame works well, too. I haven't ever pulled it over - haven't even come close - but, you know, just in case... These clamps give me more confidence. There's NO WAY that I'm going to pull it over now!
  • I don't use a whorl any longer - I just wind everything onto the knitting needle in a wide, back and forth pattern. This seems to hold down the vibration. The spindle vibrated quite a lot with the whorl, and with the yarn wound in a tight pattern. The wide pattern seems to solve this problem. Of course, when I change something, I generally change 8 different things, so I'm never really sure which of the changes wrought the improvement.
  • I tried a heavier spindle (quarter inch steel rod) and while it didn't seem to vibrate, it was so heavy that it was hard to turn, although I'm not terribly sure that this issue was real or imagined. Need more data.
  • Next, I tried a fiber glass rod - left over from a broken bicycle safety flag, and I think that this would work - light, but stiff - but I'd need to make another head, as it's a smidge too large to fit through the knitting-needle-sized hole, and I got too impatient and want to spin, not experiment! Besides, I moved out of the garage, and into the basement, and that was just too much running back and forth. Maybe I'll figure out a different spindle next summer, when I can move my experimental unit back into the garage.
Cost so far - let's see.... about $1.25 for the bolts to hold the stand together, about $1.27 for the package of Pony Lacing, and about $2.00 for the steel rod which I am probably not going to use anyway. So, out of pocket is so far, approximately, $4.50. Not bad!

How much did your spinning wheel cost?

Here are a few nice youtube videos
Lovely Music! This one has an accelerator head, but it's almost out of the frame.
Spinning Cotton - accelerator head - close up on the accelerator at about time 1:30
Nice, from different angles.

National Alpaca Farm Day

This was my second time participating in National Alpaca Farm Day, and once again, I had a wonderful time. There was so much to do! So many activities! So much to see!

Here are some highlights -

First of all,
Phil and Allie welcomed everyone to their farm in their friendly way.

Phil spoke to visitors about how to raise alpacas, and taught folks about how to select the right alpacas when buying. Phil and Allie have lots of alpacas for sale - if you are interested in buying, you should contact them at their web page, Eyedazzler Alpacas - gosh, they have some beautiful animals for sale! Click here for more information about sale animals.

One of the day's activities was that visitors could have their photo taken with an alpaca, and could lead the alpaca on halter. My daughter, Emma, was the official alpaca wrangler, and she had a great time.This was loads of fun for all who participated.

There were also many demonstrations -
Pat demonstrated wet-felting alpaca fibers, and...
Karin demonstrated needle felting. She also let some folks help her out - just take a look at this enthusiastic young needle felter.

There were other demonstrations, too.

Julie and Sharron demonstrated spinning on the wheel,
Men seemed particularly interested in the spinning wheels. Julie does a good job explaining what all of the parts do.

Julie and Sharron also taught visitors how to spin, here you can see Sharron helping a student, and Julie is giving her some pointers, too.

I demonstrated drop spindling,
and I taught quite a few students, too. I LOVE the look of concentration on the students' faces!

As an aside - for all of you spinning teachers - Allie has some alpaca roving which was a side-by-side mixture of black and white. If you enlarge the photo below, you can see it wrapped around my arm. This day's spinning students learned amazingly quickly, and I an certain that it is because of this "skunk stripe" roving - the students could easily see the twist, and understand the concept of twist and of keeping it out of the drafting zone.

The speed at which these students picked up spinning was completely amazing! I'll never teach spinning without it.
I tried to teach this alpaca how to spin, and while she was very interested, she didn't really take to this new skill. Alpacas are such curious little creatures, it appears that they hang on your every word. It is very satisfying.

By the way, how did my baby daughter end up so tall?

I also ran the "till" as all of the items you see on the tables and shelves, as well as all of the spinning wheels, were for sale. We sold roving, fleeces, dyes, spinning wheels (Ashford, Louet, Schacht and Majacraft), handknitted items, knitting and crochet kits (coffee cup cuffs, cell phone holders, scarves), and balls of yarn. If you are interested in any of it, email me at thomases2000@yahoo.com and I'll send more info.

But, that's not all -
Peggy had a dye studio set up in one of the alpaca pens,
and demonstrated dyeing -
Peggy teaches precision dyeing methods - here are two of her Triads. This is a very precise, very accurate method of mixing dyes, and by learning how to do it, you can match any color you want to - you know, sort of like the guy does down at the paint store. You can see a better picture of one of Peggy's triads here, Triad Photo.

Peggy (in the black shirt), discussing her methods of dyeing with one of the Farm Day Visitors. If you want more info, email me, and I'll put you in touch with Peggy.

WAIT! I'm not done!

All visitors to farm day were treated to a lovely lunch of Aji de Gallina - a Peruvian chicken stew. Oh my goodness, this stuff was Completely Yummy. As you can see, I cleaned my plate!

To top it all off, Jack the barn cat did his part -He hung around, looking handsome,and he entertained the younguns. He is the friendliest cat!

BUT - the best of all - Take a look at Homeschooling in Action - -

Homeschooling at its very finest - go to an Alpaca farm for a day, thinking that you are going to wrangle alpacas, and end up learning about dye chemistry, proper use of various measuring devices, and laboratory safety. I love it when this happens.

Life just doesn't get any better.
Thanks Peggy.