Archive for November, 2015

All the Fluff

I started spinning a little bit, a few years ago, but it never became a habit.  I eventually destroyed my old spindle, but I kept coming across my fiber stash.  I used up a fair amount of it when I made my “Thrums of Doom” mittens.

Thrums in progress

These were such a success that Abby claimed them for herself.  I’m sure she didn’t take them to Senegal, but I don’t know where they ended up.

but I still have a fair amount of alpaca fiber and jacob/alpaca blended fiber left over.  Every so often I’ve thought about starting it up again, but I was worried about destroying another spindle.  I really do tend to do better with keeping ‘nice things’ than I do with ‘perfectly servicable’ ones.  But still, start up costs for (essentially) a new craft are high, and hard to justify.  Every so often I’d look.

Oh, my, the pretty!


A while ago I happened upon Alphyn Trading on Etsy.  Seeing all the pretty things in this shop got me thinking (semi) seriously about spinning again.

OK, the spindle is pretty enough with my inexpert product picture, but just take a look at it in decent light (photo below downloaded from the shop)

Alphyn Geode

She had it listed as “Agate Geode Slice Sandalwood”.  Visit her shop for a lot of gorgeous and amazingly well priced spindles.  Many of them are under $20.  She has top  whorl, bottom whorl and supported spindles for sale.

My skills are not good enough to really know a ‘good’ spindle from the action, but with the minimal experience I had (from a few years back) I was able to produce reasonably fine and even singles in no time.  That’s even with the visible irregularities of the whorl, it’s balanced very well.

If you’re at all curious about spinning this shop is more than worth checking out.

Blog Contests and Giveaways

I entered a “Name the Pattern” contest for Michelle’s Assortment (6 December).  The prize is a copy of the pattern in question.


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Happy Thanksgiving

A happy holiday wish to all of my fellow countrymen.

Dottie is home for the holiday, and Abby plans to call or Facetime from Senegal (assuming the Senegalese phone network and/or the Peace Corps Training Center’s wifi network cooperate).  We will be having dinner with Steve’s family today, and lunch with mine tomorrow.

Tomorrow is also ‘buy nothing’ day in our household.  This is a tradition we’ve been following for about fifteen years.  I think we’ve broken it twice – once, years ago,  because we would have run out of gas otherwise, once last year because Dottie needed antibiotics.  Not a bad record at all.

Of course, this year some retailers are joining in, starting with REI.  Here’s a list for your approval.

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Problem Solved

Some time ago I described a painful beading incident which occurred when I was working on the Belle Greene shawl.  I’m now working another beaded pattern,  the Diamonds in the Ruff collar (from Defarge Does Shakespeare).  This is the project which called for the Bead Biz purchase at the Alpaca Festival.  Once again, I’m working with small beads and a really tiny crochet hook.  I’ve made two changes in the process, which help with both speed and safety.

First of all, rather than working the stitch and then threading it through a bead, I’m just beading the unworked stitch and slipping it to the right hand needle.  As long as I do it consistently it works beautifully.

Secondly, I’ve got a new crochet hook.  One with a soft  grip and, more importantly…

beaded hook

Comet wanted to cuddle with the pattern

covered hook

Therefore, camera time

…it has a cover. Now, as long as I cap it before putting it away, there will be no more ‘painful incidents’, even if the cats do knock my project bag on the floor.

You can never be too careful.

But, seriously, it’s a stunning design, and I’m enjoying working on it when I stop the cat from lying on it.

In addition to the seed beads, I’ve gotten the ribbon and some focal beads for finishing


I think it’s going to be stunning.  Now, if I can just be sure to finish by Christmas…

Blog Giveaways

I didn’t win the “Wonder Clips” from A Simple Homestead, the luxury yarn basket from Expression Fiber Arts or the pattern and yarn from Aroha Knits.  I did win the Arciform sweater pattern from Aphaia.

I entered the Expression Fiber Arts November/December yarn basket drawing (15 December) and the Knitting Pipeline drawing for Wool Baby Patterns ebook (26 November).

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Governor Hogan Letter

Posted today via USPS.  I do not expect a reply from the governor, but your comments are welcomed.

Governor Hogan,

I am writing to you today about your public request that the federal government not send Syrian refugees to Maryland in the interests of safety. I want you to understand that your request itself makes me feel less safe.

My great grandparents on my mothers side are what we today would call ‘economic refugees’. They were Jews who came to this great country in search of a better life. They came to Ellis Island, and my grandmother grew up in New York City, surrounded by other Jewish immigrants. They were not ‘safe’ people. My grandmother used to tell stories of her childhood. There was a particular member of a Jewish gang who used to make it very clear to her that if anyone bothered her or her parents, she should go to him. He did not make her feel safe either.

So I acknowledge that people fleeing harsh regimes and coming to our country will include trouble makers, and even criminals. That’s not the point.

The point is that I’ve spent my entire life in Maryland, as has my husband. We live in one of the most diverse school districts in Howard County. The elementary school where our children went had children who had been born in countries all over the world. Children whose parents spoke over a hundred different languages, and who came from at least forty different countries. I have never been afraid of these children, or their families. They are a vital, and celebrated, part of our community.

Please bear in mind that, while it is possible that some of the terrorists who took part of that horrible attack on Paris, it is known that many of them were French citizens. Citizens so alienated from their own country that they did this hateful thing.

Today as I was walking past the high school my children attended, I saw a young woman wearing a headscarf, t-shirt and bluejeans. I couldn’t claim to know her precise ethnicity, but she is presumably of middle eastern origin. She was in a group of peers, all laughing and being comfortable together. Her friends clearly don’t fear her, nor she them. I wonder if she has any brothers, the high school years are such a vulnerable age for boys. I wonder if her parents are as comfortable with American culture. I wonder where her extended family is, and whether they might some day reach out to this girls parents for a safe haven. I wonder if the parents will be forced to turn them away.

Governor Hogan, this is why your ‘request’ makes me feel unsafe. It is a message to muslim immigrants that they are not wanted. It also feeds into the “Great Satan” propaganda of islamic extremists. They say that America makes war on Islam. When you say you deny refugees entry to our state, it feels as though you are feeding hatred, both the hatred of the jihadists abroad, who will take any excuse to hate America more, and the hatred of bigots at home, who feel that anyone with brown skin is inherently unclean and unsafe.

Remember how, after 9/11, we all said that if we let the terrorists force us to change the way we live, then we let them win? I feel as though you’ve just told them that, in Maryland, they’ve won.

Please rethink your position, and take a stand for principle and courage. Let Maryland take as many refugees as we can, and let them know that, once they make it here, they’re home.


Lise Mendel

Also, I’ve heard that politicians are swayed by numbers more than eloquence.  Even if you’re not confident in your ability to be convincing, please write anyone who represents you who has been making similar pronouncements.

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My Weekend with Pictures


I experimented with my phone’s “panoramic” feature here

The festival was delightful.  It’s held in the same space as the Sheep and Wool festival, but at only 6 years old it hasn’t ‘grown into’ it yet.  Many of the vendors are housed within the buildings, some share barn space with livestock.



The alpaca by herself was named Luna.  One of the other two was called Teddy.  The bunny (from Akers farm) reacted by petting to grooming itself. I don’t know enough about rabbits to know if this was a happy or dismayed reaction.

I had a nice conversation with one of the Akers farms vendors about angora as a fiber.  It seems to have more of a halo than mohair, and she tells me it’s nowhere near as nasty to frog.  Anyone have any experience?


I also saw a nice drum carder demo (alpaca, not angora) at the Spinning Mill booth.

Spinning Mill


Naturally there was awesome yarn.  Much of it was from Maryland farmers, but there were plenty of other yarn vendors as well.

Grey Meadows

Grey Meadows Buck's YarnThis backlit picture is the Grey Meadows Alpaca Farm booth.  Each skein is labeled with the name of the animal who provided the fiber.  I got a skein from Buck .  200 yards of a skinny sport/heavy fingering.  I don’t know where that’s destined to go, but who can resist when you know their names?

IAstral also purchased a skein of Astral yarn, but I managed to lose the receipt so I don’t know what booth it case from.  That one is a mixture of Alpaca, wool and Tencel.  It’s a lovely grey, and I have some wool-tencel yarn which coordinates nicely.  I’m thinking a shawl/mitts set is in the future…

Non-Yarn Goods

I also picked up a string of beads which coordinates beautifully with some pink  laceweight I got in a yarn grab bag from Knitpicks.

Bead Blitz

I got amazing chocolate from Parfections , both ghost pepper bark and coffee crunch bark, and some roasted pecans.  Very good stuff.

Whole Experience

I ended up spending a couple of hours each day at the festival.  I scouted on Saturday and got the Astral yarn, then came back on Sunday when I realized that I needed just the right beads for the lace project (and because that skein of ‘Buck’s yarn’ was calling to me.

Fiber festivals are the best place to show off your yarnwork.  I got lots of compliments on the Tam of Rassilon on Saturday, and on the Belle Greene shawl on Sunday.  The shawl led to a recommendation to find Tudor Roses, which sounds delightful.

The low point came on Saturday, when I wandered into a swap meet of some sort, and encountered some people who were shockingly bad tempered in contrast.  I think it just goes to show that people are nicer when they’re doing something associated with something they love.

It was a really lovely time overall.  I would have loved to be able to strut my stuff in a skein and garment competition, but they didn’t have the volunteer power to run one this year.  If you’d like to change that (or even just to find out more before next years festival) check out the Facebook group.

Closing image – some lovely felted hats from the Wild Rose Suri Ranch:

Wild Rose

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Nothing to See Here, Move Along

This is another of my infrequent posts about depression.  It will be quite morbid in parts (literally so, as it involves thinking about death in general, and suicide in particular).  This is a heads up to those who might be triggered by such thoughts that you might want to skip this post.

To my family and friends, no worries.  I’m not in a bad place, just noodling around.  This was mostly inspired by Podcastle Miniature 85: So Inflamed I Have Left and Podcastle 389: Old Foss is the Name of his Cat.  The stories are sad, and thought provoking, and what follows are some thoughts they have provoked.

If that’s not what you want to read, I’ll be going to the Maryland Alpaca Festival today, so expect more  friendly, yarn centered posts soon.


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Quick Tip

I’ve been working on the cricket sweater for my husband, and I’ve run into a snag.

The instructions say to knit a certain length from the beginning of the armhole decreases.  If I’d been thinking, I’d have run a lifeline through the row before starting that decrease, but I wasn’t thinking.  So I went back and marked it up afterwards.


I worked the yarn behind the same row of stitches. Later on I had to go back and re position it, because I had wandered to the adjoining row.

This gave me a very clear line to measure to.


Here you can see what I meant by wandering to the next row. You can also see how easy it is to get the measurement.

Since the armhole hadn’t reached the right depth, I left the marking yarn where it was.  I knotted both ends so that I don’t have to worry about it coming out on it’s own, or about cutting it out when it’s done.

Marked fixed

Still not ‘perfect’, but I can tell what I’m doing with it much better than without it.

  Blog Contests and Giveaways

I entered the drawing for Unexpected Cables on the Mindy Wilkes Designs blog (19 November).

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