Tour de Fleece – Gérardmer / Mulhouse

first single on the cop

After my first day spinning, I was sure I’d need to buy more fiber to get me through the event. HA! Sure enough work intervened and my Tour de Fleece progress has been slow. I spin while waiting for the  toast to toast, the dryer to ‘ding’, or for the computer to boot up. I can’t tell how much gets spun during these “sprints” so I was completely surprised when the last bit of fluff passed through my drafting hand and onto the cop this morning. Huzzah!

Having the extra incentive to spin and get more practice is already paying off. Although it’s not particularly neat, I’m definitely getting better at winding the cop. I did not have the singles slipping off this time, much to my poor spindle’s relief. 🙂 Also – I did not have to “park and draft” as much as my last spinning project, and every movement felt more fluid.


single resting on tennis ballThere it is: my “Gérardmer / Mulhouse”  is resting now on a tennis ball. Time to break out the second batt!


Ranch to Skein

Ranch of the Oaks

In may I was lucky enough to visit  Ranch of the Oaks  with my friend Sara and her parents. It was such a treat! We met alpacas, sheep, guinea hens, a pack of doofy dogs,  and got a tour of the fiber mill. Turns out Ranch of the Oaks gets a lot of raw fiber from Eugene, OR!  The owners Mette and Tom were so warm, and made alpaca ranching look like a piece of cake.

photo 5 (1)

photo 3 (2)

photo 2 (2)

Ranch of the Oaks

Ranch of the Oaks

Ranch of the Oaks

After meeting all the ‘pacas and feeding them carrots, it was really neat to get a bag of fiber with the name of the fleece ‘donor’ on each bag. I was so excited to spin the fiber, but didn’t have my spindle with me, so Tom gave me a DIY spindle made out of two CDs and a dowel. (Worked great!)

Ranch of the Oaks

I found the alpaca fiber just a bit harder to spin than wool. I think that’s because I’m a beginner, and because in a fit of frugality I got a bag of fiber odds and ends. It’s all soft and lovely but some  is sliver, some pencil roving, and some silky grey tufts of fiber that slip apart  if they don’t get enough twist. It was a bit tricky to get a drafting rhythm going with all the different fiber densities.

I divided the bag of fiber in half: one half grey and black fluff, one half all black fluff. When I plied it together, I got a nifty barber pole effect.

Ranch of the Oaks Alpaca Fiber

And there is 260 yards of handspun alpaca! Wahoo!

Now, what to knit with it?

Down the Rabbit Hole . . .

spinning and stash audit part 1 003

Hello readers, it’s been a while! Almost an entire a year, but it doesn’t feel that much has changed since that time. I’m still crafting daily, though it’s mostly knitting projects for broadcast on Culture of CraftingHowever, in a moment of weakness (read on) I bought a drop spindle and four ounces of delicious Blue Faced Leicester fiber. I am hooked.

I love to knit and crochet, but spinning was – in my mind – a step over the edge. I know it seems a very vague line to draw, but I’ve met spinners and they are nutty. One such spinner was spinning cobweb lace yarn, that she was planning on weaving into a delightfully intricate bookmark. Once you can make your own yarn, what’s to stop you from raising your own sheep?!

In my right mind, I may never have bought a spindle and fiber batt. But circumstances being what they were,  I couldn’t really avoid it. My friend Nikki and I went to the Renaissance Pleasure Faire and I was in heaven. There were friendly, funny people in full costume everywhere, hamming it up and swapping historical footnotes. Nikki’s friend works for the fair as a Pike Man  so we got to meet some of the more permanent fair characters. Here I am in a helmet, holding a broadsword, and getting a demo on pre-Enlightenment warfare. Yes, that historian is drinking a beer.

Renaissance Pleasure Faire

Spirits were high, beer was flowing and I was ready to don a wimple and go back to simpler times when we reached the Royale Hare’s booth. The ladies were very knowledgeable, the wool was so fluffy and inviting, and I crossed over.

As I write this, my spindle is completely full of a pretty grey lace/bulky weight single ply. I think the next step is to take the ‘cop’ off and keep spinning until I’ve got enough to ply them together. . . . ? We’ll see where this goes.

Wishful thinking . . .

Snowflake sweater

This week the house was visited by a persistent swarm of Argentinian ants, shortly thereafter summer arrived.  I’ve already got a sunburn and a heat rash, and now there are sporadic wild fires reported on the radio along with all of the usual traffic surprises like stalled cars, stray dogs, errant mattresses, tires and avocados.

Meanwhile I’m working on the yoke of a top-down wool sweater. The pattern is  “Snowflake” by my new favorite design duo,  Tin Can Knits.

Granny Squares

granny squares

I don’t usually crochet because 1) I can’t make anything wearable out of crochet and 2) it uses up 20% more yarn than knitting. But I have a vision of a crocheted afghan, inspired by sunflowers. Or a laptop case. Or maybe a set of coasters. I should probably calculate how much yarn I’ll need, but why let reality interfere with a perfectly delightful idea?

For this project I wanted something simple and  floral. I found a great photo tutorial for these sunburst granny squares on Wise Craft. After playing around with different stitch combinations, I settled on a granny square made of half-double crochet (top) rather than double crochet (bottom). Using half doubles you wind up with a petite yet dense granny square.

However, my squares are a little sloppy on account of how I’m joining each round and changing colors. It’s not that big of a deal, but more research needs to be done before I can add my granny squares to the vast and colorful sea of granny squares on  Pinterest.

Just keep knitting, just keep knitting . . .

Carson by Romi Hill

It’s been way too long since my last post. So much has happened in that time, but I don’t think it’s worth recapitulating. Now only the most distilled experiences of last year will be related to you as fun and pertinent anecdotes.

I took a break from knitting a couple weeks ago, but I am back at it. I love my job, but it is very stressful. After we returned from  the TNNA winter trade show and Stitches West, I was on yarn/fiber/knitting overwhelm. I had to put all of my crafting supplies out of sight, because just looking at yarn reminded me of all the work ahead.

But it was just a brief knitting hiatus, and I am back at it. Right now I’m knitting “Carson” by Romi Hill in two broody colors of Neighborhood Fiber Co. Studio Sock. (The clicking action on my orange counter is so satisfying, but I have to fight the urge to click it unnecessarily because it only goes in one direction. )

I survived Yarn Crawl LA 2013, but I don’t want sum up this event, or my experience as an event planner in general, before securing all the loose ends. However, I will say this: at one point all I “needed” was a festive noisemaker of some kind to complete my to-do list. I stood transfixed in Daiso, unable to choose between jingle bells or some whistling-hammer-thingy. It felt to me like everything was riding on this detail.  I can’t tell if this illustrates one of the seven habits of highly effective event planners, or why I should not be put in charge of planning stuff.

My First Sweater: DROPS 97-18 Tailored Cardigan

A couple of months ago I discovered Julie’s blog, Knitting At Large,  which offers pointers on modifying sweater patterns to fit plus-size figures. Julie is a real hoot and her plus-size knitting adventures have inspired me to finally cast on my first sweater.

First Sweater Pattern: For my first sweater I went with the  DROPS 97-18 Tailored Cardigan: a v-neck cardigan with set-in sleeves. This  pattern is sized from XS  to XXL, and it’s available for free from DROPS Design.

Here it is modeled by a robust Scandinavian co-ed.

I decided on a pieced sweater,  rather than one knitted in-the-round,  because I thought it might be easier to make modifications in the exact spots that need them.  Even though this pattern is not exactly a beginner sweater, what with all the seaming and button holes, I know I will wear it more than a knitted pullover.The set-in sleeves will add more structure to my rounded shoulders and help balance my figure. I can see it worn over a crisp collared blouse, or a floral dress.

First Sweater Yarn: For my yarn, I went with Dale of Norway ‘Daletta’. It’s a 4ply fingering weight wool that knits up with clear stitch definition. I was totally surprised by how soft it knits up, since it feels crunchy, and a little scratchy on the ball.  I found a rich olive green shade at Velona’s Needlecraft for a very reasonable price. (Color 7476)

First Sweater Modifications: If there’s one thing I’ve picked up from Julie’s blog, it’s the importance of studying the pattern schematic, and figuring out a schematic for your own body.  This particular schematic offers several points of reference which will enable me to figure out how many decreases/increases to add in to make the sweater fit just right.

I certainly don’t want a sweater with extra fabric in the wrong places, especially since I’m already certain I need to buy more yarn. (Doh!)

I just began the decreases for the waist shaping and I’m almost through the first ball of yarn.

Local Relics

A couple Mondays ago, the La Habra Heights Shooter’s Club went out for its first official photo field trip. We just go around the neighborhood and take pictures of local features. There’s an old horse arena in our area that reminds me of ancient standing stones. Of course, it doesn’t take much to make me “discover” potential pre-historic relics . . . I have an active imagination.

dinosaur trees

Archaeopteryx Nest

You can find an interactive map of megaliths here. Or, check out Megalithia for moreinformation about standing stones and other pre-historic landscaping.

Happy Blogiversary, Gingerknitters!

I’m the kind of person who buys all the accoutrements to begin a new hobby before I determine if I like it or not. I bought a zippy new swimsuit, swim cap and sassy pink goggles before I realized I don’t really like water-boarding myself –  aka “swimming laps”. (I can’t really even put the swim cap on right, that should have been the first clue.) Before I tried a simple log cabin quilt, I cut out enough squares for a giant coverlet only to discover I couldn’t cut (or sew) a straight line to save my life. Given my streak, I don’t why I decided to keep a web log. After all, it’s needier than a houseplant.

I think it was Ruthie who said, “You know what?! We need to start a blog!” And thus Gingerknitters coalesced. 


How does one celebrate a blogiversary? Maybe next year I’ll plan a giveaway, or knit along, or something more engaging. Tonight’s festivities are pretty mellow: a fat stack of library books, a brand new box of yarn, swatching and some Parliament Funkadelic.


swatch for my turnip hat project

yarn box burglar

Thanks for reading, here’s to another year!