Saturday, September 16, 2017

Fleece, wool mills, and Mike Rowe

Today is Saturday. As I was eating my cereal,  I found dirty jobs with Mike Rowe. This episode was of particular interest to me. The Ohio Valley Natural Fibers was featured. OVNF is a woolen mill that is still cranking out yarn.  There was a bit of history,  some safety talks, and a lot of wooly goodness.

The machines they use (like many of the small woolen mills today, or so it seems) are turn-of-the-century.   Last century.  The point where I tuned in was when the fiber was coming out of a carding machine in that very thick fluffy roving that we have all seen in the ads for the very lush and cushy arm knit afghan.

I can imagine I probably missed seeing a sheep being sheared, the fleeces being washed after skirting.  There might have been more but maybe not. I found it just after the first commercial break. 

The machinery is huge, noisy and covered in fluff and oil or grease.  All machines need maintenance now and again.   I learned that from my husband long before we ever got married.   These are no different. Sadly though the wool fibers and the grease/oil don't work well together.  A surprisingly small clump (less than a gram from the looks of it) can stop  the machines quick,  faster than the stop button. 

It is also easy to see why there was so much child labor in the spinning mills. There are spaces that are very small for full grown adults but small children fit fine.  Thank God the machines have been redesigned. Thank God labor laws and safety regulations are in place to protect people.  While these machines are not retrofitted for safety, I don't think they are running as fast as they did when new.

But back to the yarn.  The fleeces are removed from the sheep, skirted (remove the parts that won't ever come clean and sweet smelling), possibly washed and dried possibly not.  The locks or maybe whole fleeces are placed by large armsful into the carding machine.  A very basic idea of a carding machine is the cat slicker brush we use on our pets minus the balls on the ends of the bristles. The fleeces are combed or brushed, depends on your point of view. This will align the fibers.  The fibers are then gathered into the fluffy rope of roving.  This roving was then fed into another machine that made the single plies we are familiar with.   This process was not explained well, but it appeared that the roving was divided into smaller sections of roving before being drawn out and twisted.  Each spool of singles was placed in yet another machine that spun the singles together.  Yarn is born.

How do we get the various yarns?  The amount of twist in the singles determines how fluid the final yarn will be in addition to how tight or loose the plying is.  So light twist plus very fine singles is a delicate yarn.  A high twist on more robust singles will give you a hard wearing and hard  to full yarn.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

A Year of Stitches Week 34

A Year of Stitches

For the knit stitch this week, I choose something easy.  Elongated lace.

This is a used with any number of stitches.

Cast on 20 sts.

K 3 rows of garter stitch

*Insert needle in first st, wrap yarn 3 times around needle, complete stitch.  Rep this for each stitch.

Insert needle in the first loop on the needle, drop other two wraps, complete stitch.  Rep this for each stitch.

K 3 rows of garter stitch.

Rep all instructions from * until desired length is reached.

For the crochet stitch this week, I choose again something easy. Rippled Single Crochet

As with the knit sticht this has no multiple. 

Ch 21.

R1:  SC In the 2nd ch and each ch across.

R2:  Ch 1, sc In first sc, fpsc around all sc until the end, sc in last sc.

R3: Ch 1, sc in first sc, bpsc around all sc until the end, sc in last sc.

Rep R2 & R3 until desired length is reached.

To Knot or Not to Knot

Knots. We all use them.  Many have specific uses.  Let's start with knots that are officially allowed in knitting and crocheting.  A slip knot.   The fasten off.   Those are it. 

We all use the slip knot to start knitting and crocheting, mostly. It's a very useful thing.  I have also tried it when doing color work to add in the new color so the loose end doesn't pull through and cause a dropped stitch.   This wouldn't happen if I made sure to leave a tail 6-8 inches long for weaving in.   I'm human and sometimes don't do everything the way I should.  But really, did you ever consider 2 inches to be that important?  I use this for more than crochet and knit.   I have used it to hang my solar clothes dryer (read washline).  I have used it to tie my fruit trees and vining plants to stakes and

The fasten off is the ending of knitting and crocheting.   The last loop has a 6 - 8 inch tail pulled thru.  Is it a knot or not?  I'm not sure either way.

Ends,  whether it's a color change or adding a new ball of yarn, are to be woven in.  No exceptions. I understand some of the reasoning.  No one wants the princess and the pea syndrome going on in their clothes.  But more importantly, if you use a slippery yarn, think the abundance of acrylic soft yarns on the market,  silk yarn,  llama and alpaca yarns, you definitely need to be careful about not knotting and cutting. I've seen firsthand how those yarns loosen up through use and washing and then come apart.  For this situation I bend the rules a bit.I use a square knot and then weave in the ends after splitting the plies.

Now when I was learning,  I didn't know about the rules.  Very little was written in the old instruction book I was working from about finishing techniques.  Did I use knots? You bet.  I used a lot of granny knots (square knots done wrong).  I fastened off with not just a single pull through of the end but 5 or 6.  Since I didn't get to wear anything I made, it didn't matter. Barbie and company didn't care about comfort.  At least they didn't say anything.

When I finally learned about weaving in the ends, I was terrible at it.  Very thick seams at the ends because it was easy to run the end in thru there going only one direction.  Needless to say I had a lot of ends popping through.  I had bunches of unattractive seams that were uncomfortable.

Slowly over the years, I found more books I could read about technique and try to revise my ways of doing things that I found unsatisfactory.  Elizabeth Zimmerman both did and did not say a lot about finishing in very few words.  Her admonition was to have the inside of a garment as neat and tidy and beautiful as the outside.  I don't remember seeing any diagrams, drawings or photos of what to do.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Update to Masters Crochet Level 1

My gauge has changed quite a bit over the years.  Or maybe I never really tried to get gauge according to yarn labels....My stitches are definitely shorter than required.  To this end, I have purchased several hooks.  I have a G6, a G7 and a Bates H8 and a set of bamboo hooks that came with a crochet magazine, Simply Crochet Issue 58.  I also added from my tool stash E4, F5 in both Boye and Bates and an I9 in Boye. 

My crocheting was usually done to suit my choice for the hand in the fabric I was creating and I did some math to get the heights needed for garments.  Most of my crochet over the years, however, has been for blankets, toys and other things where gauge didn't really matter unless I really had to have the finished size required.

I have worked many times on certain swatches to get the gauge required.  Being at a community fair while working on some of this was not probably the smartest choice I made recently.  The distractions didn't help me to achieve my goals but did let me gain a potential new teaching spot and meet some wonderful new women. 

I also had to add 2 skeins of yarn in 2 different colors for the colorwork swatches.  I added a baby yellow from craftsmart.  Think baked yellow cake color when it's cut.  I also added a mint green from Red Heart.  Both of these keep within the color rules and  proper weight.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


I've been reading a publication called the fishwrapper.  This is a local to me publication that reminds me of the feel-good emails that we have all received ad nauseum at one time or another.  It's filled with anecdotes, stories and help wanted ads.  However, there are some genuine gems in there. Recently, the topic was success.

Several things in this are things that apply to our knitting and crocheting.

1.  Success is when you look back at your life, and more specifically your knitting and crocheting, and the memories make you smile.

2.  Top 3 tips to success: Read something no one else is reading, think something no one else is thinking, do something no one else is doing.  Instead of being a trend follower, YOU could be starting the trends.

3.  You don't have to be a professional to be successful.  Google and Apple were started by amateurs.  Professionals build the Titanic.  Your skills are great for what you are currently doing.  Add to them as you want to do other things.

4.  Stop complaining about life and your projects and start celebrating it and them.  If you have done the best you can with the tools and skills at your disposal, celebrate!

5.  Other cultures can teach us many things.  There's various color work techniques named for their specific regions.  There are lace techniques also named for their regions.  There are even various animal and plant fibers that are unknown to us or that are in the realm of legend because they are hard to get for whatever reason.  We need to share with others our own skills and possibly tools and materials when we visit another region.  Just as the regions we visit will share with us. 
6.  Live the life you want to be seen in.  This follows the line of thinking of being a living sermon.  As an example, I want to be known as a knitter and crocheter.  I, therefore, take a knitting or crochet project with me many places.  I work on that thing when I wait for something to happen, long line in the grocery store? I knit on a simple something until it's my turn to unload the cart. Waiting for a train? I can get in a few stitches.  When I was younger and my sons were in school, I had my kids with me as I dropped them from one thing to another throughout the week and had my project with me and for sports seasons a huge batch of healthy cookies for whatever team they were in.

7.  Don't always listen accurately to people.  Yes, you saw that correctly.  There is a story of an old donkey.  One day the farmer decided the donkey was going to die soon and he would give the inevitable a hand.  The farmer pushed the tired old donkey into an unused dry well.  He had a neighbor helping him to fill in the well.  Shovelful by shovelful, the donkey was being covered.  Naturally the old donkey was confused by this dirt.  He's shake the dirt off and step up on the pile.  The farmer and neighbor yelled at the donkey to quit that and stay put.  But being old the donkey didn't quite catch the words and it made him mad about the dirt they kept tossing on him.  More and more the dirt filled the well.  More and more the donkey shook off the dirt and stepped up.    Now the donkey could see daylight filling the well and hear the yelling but still couldn't quite understand the words.  He thought to himself "I really have to get out of this hole, they need me.  Just listen to the yelling."  Suddenly he steps out of the well because there was enough dirt that the well was filled.  The farmer said to the donkey "Why aren't you dead?  You were on your last breath last night."  The donkey said in reply "Last night I felt that no one needed me anymore and I was heartbroken.  Today I fell in a hole and you and the neighbor were shouting encouragement to me and giving me more and more dirt to stand on to climb slowly to the top.

So the morals to this story are 1) Don't always listen to naysayers.  If you really want to do complicated lace or color-work as a beginner, go for it but follow #2.  2) Slow and steady will get you to your desired destination.  Go slow and keep trying.  3) Choose to hear encouragement even in the face of criticism.  If someone says terrible things, chalk it up to they're having a bad day and don't let it bring you down.  OR, find a message in it that can inspire improvement.  Your stitches are wonky.  Lesson learned that maybe blocking would help.  Your color choice is horrible.  Lesson here is that the observer doesn't like those colors but you do or the recipient does.  Tough cookies on them.

Monday, August 7, 2017


In the beginning of May, I wrote how I found more wips in the search for a camera.  Well, I have been clearing up my studio in an effort to get organized.  This is an ongoing job I think.  But in this effort, I have found still more WIPS.  I'm kind of amazed by this truthfully.  I really thought I had them all corralled or put away.

So I have added 2 purple shawls of my own design, one knit and one crochet.  I have added a crocodile stitch crochet shrug, also my own design.  As I finish these and have the patterns written and tech edited, I will be creating a designer page for these to be published.  There's also the coat I started before the church carnival.  I have another sweater that might get frogged and put back in stash.  There are also 4 afghans, 1 in pinks and creams that just needs the joining finished, 1 in light blues that needs joining, 1 in cotton that should be joined but might be better not joined and instead used as dishcloths and the 4th is one in the blue/purple family of colors that is in super bulky yarns and is one very large granny square.  I really want the afghans finished since when they are done, they can find homes with others.

I might cry if I find more wips.  This is getting ridiculous.  I wish I could catch the finishing bug rather than the starting bug.  Maybe I will have to put myself on a strict schedule and work to a deadline.  Are there any answers to this???  I don't have them, if there are.  Maybe I need to reinstitute Finishing Friday for myself. 

Pictures may or may not come.  I'm having trouble with my phone's camera.  There's something to be said for not letting your phone fall into water.

Friday, July 28, 2017

I've decided to go for my masters

I've thought long about this step.  I think it will help me be a better teacher.  I think it will help me be a better knitter and crocheter. 

Which master level 1 am I starting with??? 

Musical ching a ring as Danny Kaye would say in movies like White Christmas.

Dun du du du (imagine the musical notes since I can't figure that part out)


I have picked my yarn.  I have my hook selection made.  I have my stitch and written work packet downloaded and printed.  I have a basket to contain this.  I have the materials for creating the binder as directed almost complete.  I'll be using an acrylic worsted weight yarn per directives, Lion Brand, Vanna's Choice in ice blue.  This might not be the actual name, but that is the color as it appears to me.  Probably I should have lined my basket (a wicker picnic basket) but not happening at this point.  My hooks will be Boye in a variety of sizes that will be changed as needed to get the gauge requested.  I will also be using a metal yarn needle to weave ends where needed or directed to. 

Now that the church carnival is over I can fully concentrate on it.  I'll post my progress as I make any without giving away the program.  Always a tricky job for those who attempt it, I think.  I will also be resuming as I indicated the year of stitches.  I love charts, now if only there were a standard knit chart font or symbol set the way there is for crochet

Have you gone through the CGOA masters program?  Let me know your thoughts.  What did you learn?  What did you think you knew but learned a lot about? 

I'm also working ahead on my online classes.  Yes I did say that a year ago.  However, there was a serious illness and a death in the family of my camera man and things fell by the wayside.  In the parable of what fits in the jar, I was not one of his big rocks, I'm sand.  Find the story here for those who don't know it.  What are your rocks?  Mine would be my husband, sons, daughters in law, grandchildren, parents in law and siblings.