Sunday, January 31, 2010

More Ketchup, Please

Er, Catch-up, that is!

One of the things I've been meaning to do is show you some of the goodies I got way back at the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival last October.

First up is this delicious ice-cream sundae. No, wait, that's not it at all, though I think it may be just as delicious.

It's actually three of my festival finds. The bowl is a ceramic yarn bowl, by Elisa Dasher of Honeysuckle Pottery in Keymar, Maryland. I've been curious about these yarn bowls for a while, with the notch to feed the yarn through while the ball rests in the bowl. After trying it out, I can attest the the fact that they do work. The ball of yarn stays clean and in one place, instead of rolling off the couch and all over the floor. And the bowl is a beautiful piece of handmade stoneware, enjoyable in itself. Elisa won't be at the Shenandoah Festival next year, but it appears she's planning to be at the marvelous Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival in the spring.

That fluffy confection in the bowl is not ice cream but a one-ounce ball of pygora spinning fiber. It came from one of the farms participating in a Loudoun Valley Pygora, it seems, is a type of goat, a pygmy version of the angora goats who give us mohair. I believe it's a fairly rare breed, at least so far. My reading tells me that these little guys produce different types of fiber. Depending on the individual, it can be mohair-like, cashmere-like, or a combination of the two. And just look at this stuff! I'm looking forward to spinning a sample to see what it's like.

The "spoon" is actually a hand-made miniature nostepinne, carved of mulberry wood, from Terry Selser in DeRidder, Louisiana, via the Lagniappe Fiber booth. It's just a wee little thing for winding small balls of fine yarn. While this isn't a challenge that I've had very often, how could I resist it? The carving at the top kind of reminds me of an old-fashioned clothespin.

Also at the Lagniappe Fiber booth, my fiber-sampling curiosity led me to buy some Cheviot fleece from Nightsong Farms, in Dry Creek, Louisiana. This is a strong, springy type of wool. I'm not sure what I will do with it, other than get acquainted, but it may be a good wool to blend with other types to give them that springy, lofty quality. And I did love these rich colors. The one on the left is natural, and the one on the right is dyed.

One thing I do know exactly what to do with is this sweater quantity of roving from the lovely and accommodating Dalis Davidson at Dancing Leaf Farm in Barnesville, Maryland. This is the Briar Patch colorway, which I'd been looking for and hoping to find at her booth for the last couple of festival seasons. I'd once seen a sample of it spun up at a shop and loved the colors. I finally got smart and contacted her ahead of time, whereupon she dyed a batch just for me and brought it along to the Shenandoah Festival.

And last, but not least, while our friend Puff the Magic Rabbit was not at Shenandoah, some of her fiber most certainly was. Look at this gorgeous stuff. It's a merino/kid mohair blend called Electra Blue. (I wonder if Electra is one of the goats?) I came home with six ounces. This will have to be spun and knitted into something delicate and beautiful, worthy of such fiber.

And people wonder why I love these festivals. :)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Wait, I Just Blinked

... and now it's January, for goodness' sake.

I really can't explain how that happened. Perhaps like Snow White I pricked my finger on a spindle and fell into an enchanted sleep. Well, if that's the case, let me show you a few of the things that have been going on all this time in my dreams.

We enjoyed Thanksgiving with a crowd at the home of my bubbly-sister-in-law. I was delighted to see my trim-athletic-dad wearing his sweater. He'd only been waiting for cold enough weather. And I'm so happy with how well it fits!

As you can see, the poochie knows who the soft touch is. She's rightly judged that any treat my Dad has, she will soon get to share.

Like half the East Coast, we got buried deeply in snow, a week before Christmas.

I'm glad to say this is not my car buried in a snowdrift, but this is what it was like. We weren't going anywhere for a few days.

That took a real bite out of my Christmas shopping time and I had to run hard from then on to catch up and be ready in time.

We had a lovely time celebrating the holidays, though. It's always wonderful when the frenzy of preparation is over and we can just relax and enjoy some time together.

And, though I didn't have time to go all-out, I did manage to eke out a few knitted presents.

After the Fall Fiber Festival, in Montpelier, I got busy right away on spinning my finds. So as the holidays approached, I had half-pound batches of worsted-to-chunky weight yarn spun from two beautiful colorways of a 50/50 wool-mohair blend from Kid Hollow Farm, in Free Union, Virginia. The dark one is Northern Lights, and the gray-lavender one is called Violet-Turquoise Spot.

I knit each colorway into a scarf, one for my tall-elegant-mom and one for my trim-athletic-dad, using a simple mistake-rib stitch pattern. Those scarves turned out to be nicer than I could even imagine. Before I had six inches done, I was noticing what a beautiful drape the knitted fabric had, thick as it was. The mohair in the blend really gave it a lovely fluid quality.

Unfortunately, in my rush to get them done and wrapped, I neglected to take pictures of the finished items. I have high hopes, though, of seeing them in use at some point. If so, I shall immediately pounce with my camera.

I also knit a hat and gloves for my Mom, in Noro's Cash Island. It's a double-knitting weight yarn of wool with 30% cashmere, strengthened by just a bit of nylon. And of course, it has those amazing color transitions that make Noro yarns fascinating to knit. The hat is a simple beret, which I also forgot to photograph, but I did get a picture of the gloves.

That was exciting; it's the first time I've knit a pair of gloves, with all those little fingers. I was relieved that they actually came out the right shape. In fact, I was unsure enough that I wrapped them and put them under the tree without first weaving in the ends. That was just in case, once they were tried on, I needed to ravel the ends of the fingers to adjust the fit!

And I knitted the wool I dyed with Kool-Aid into a bright, cheerful scarf for my little niecey. This is the first project for which I dyed the locks, hand-carded the wool, spun the yarn, and designed and knit the scarf. And when she wears it, she can point to the stripes and say, "this is Tropical Punch, this is Kickin' Kiwi-Lime, ..."

I really had a good time with it. But don't say anything, it will just encourage me. :)