Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Yettlest Pumpchin

My son is four, and he's the tallest kid in his class. He's talkative and sociable. But the way he talks is so sweet that it often makes people melt. There are so many words he still can't say right. When he says "Mom, I want to tell you sumpin (something)," I secretly hope that he'd keep saying just like that.

Last Friday afternoon when I went to his preschool to pick him up, he was listening to a story called "The Littlest Pumpkin." In it, the littlest pumpkin at the pumpkin farm was left alone on the Halloween night, since no one wanted her. On Sunday, when we went Pumpkin Patching, he was determined to find "the Yettlest Pumpchin" and take her home.

The Yettlest Pumpchin was nowhere to be found.

"I don't think this is the yettlest," says Mitch.

"I found them! Five of them!"

The littlest pumpkins proudly came home with Mitch, and are now in his room.

There were several fiber-related fun at the Tolay Pumpkin Patch in Petaluma too. Two spinners at the Wyammy Ranch booth, and one of them was very young and very experienced, expertly spinning silk. I got to talk with Joann, Wyammy Ranch's owner. I think I bought her dyed romney last year at the Sebastopol Apple Festival.

Mitch also got to try felting.

I should tell you that I've started spinning Erin's alpaca last Saturday at our Knit Night. It's heavenly, not a hint of guard hair, and I was so desperate to spin it I was taking the fiber right off the carders!

Now a dilemma.... I just read in the spinning book that since alpaca has no elasticity, in order to avoid the garment to sag, you should blend some wool into alpaca. Hmmm. I don't have any sheep fleece that matches this sweet coco brown color. What to do? Oh yeah, another visit to the pumpkin patch, obviously!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Spinning in Public (sort of)

There were two hours of phone meetings that I didn't have to run scheduled on my calendar today. I've found last year that knitting while on the phone is a very effective way to listen attentively, and actually get something out of it. But my WIP is a lace scarf, which I mess up too often even when I don't have any distractions. I didn't want to cast on a new, simpler project, as my current mission is to reduce UFOs. So, instead of knitting, I spun. Yup, in my office.

Luckily many of my team members telecommute, and I sit in a corner cube. My Joy is so compact and discreet in its bag, and the building security didn't stop me :-) I spun happily for two hours (not the alpaca though), feeling my stress level going down like the sand in the hourglass. Watching rain falling on the hill, thinking that this would make the grueling conference calls worthwhile. Well, almost.

It's quite interesting that, Stefaneener, the author of one of my daily reads, just posted on her blog about how soothing it has been for her to spin every evening. In fact, all of the spinners I know have said the same. Spinning saves me.

I was only joking when I said I wanted to bring my wheel to the office. Now that I've actually done it, I'm no longer joking. I think I will do this again, as a part of taking care of myself. I'm sure my listening skill will improve. I might even start listening to myself more.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


I've washed some of the alpaca Erin brought back from McMinnville, OR, for which trip report we still anxiously await. Hint, hint.

(A lock of alpaca on my palm -- see how fine it is!)

I don't know much about the alpaca fiber, so I did some research -- to wash or not to wash and how. Many online sites state that since alpaca fiber doesn't have any lanolin, it doesn't get dirty and many prefer to spin unwashed. If you decide to wash before spinning, the method is pretty much the same with sheep's fleece, but more emphasis on "gentle." No need to scour, again because there's no grease in the fiber.

So I took just a handful from one of two ziplock bags, hand-picked the vegetable matters, and gently lied them over the sink-full of soapy water. I did try carding them to remove the VM, but soon realized that carding really isn't necessary -- the fiber is well aligned, and intact. The VMs are pretty large (and very little questionable contents) and are easy to pick out.

And after sorting out the fiber I thought was just a handful, it expanded -- fluffed up, it's a lot of fiber. Gently swished it in the water, and after a while the water was cloudy-brown. It's fine sand/dust that was in the fiber, that settled down at the bottom of the sink. I think it was a good idea to wash it first.

While washing it, the fiber looked so much like fine hair -- of a read head -- maybe of a child. It was eely! At the wet state, it's all tangly and unruly, and I can now sympathize mothers with fine, long-haired girls! So I gave it a little fiber softener, hoping that it would help detangling. No whining from the alpaca, lucky for me.

Now it's all nicely dried and gently teased by hand, sitting on my kitchen counter. I have to run my fingers through it whenever I walk by. I've been resisting with all my might to spin it -- I have tasked myself to finish some knitting UFOs before I can start spinning it. Now I am on the Brooke's Column of Leaves scarf. If I can knit three leaves an evening, I should be able to get to the alpaca this weekend! See, it's a carrot dangling in front of my nose. It's really hard as I'm not a good lace knitter, and this is a complicated pattern -- well, to me at least. Luckily this is in alpaca too, and makes me fancy about how wonderful spinning the read head alpaca would be!

Pretty fall colors -- We drove to Calistoga on Sunday.

We drove behind a truck with a full-load of grapes through St. Helena. Hmmm, Cabernet or Pinot? Can you see them?

It was quite a sight to witness the bouncing piles of grapes right in front of us!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Fiber Souvenir

So here's the fiber souvenir that Erin brought to treat me for her kids baby-sitting Mitch last Saturday. This feels so wrong -- scoring yarn and alpaca for doing NOTHING?! But of course I'm loving it. (The photo doesn't do justice to the fleece -- it's beautiful and sooooft) It's a first shearing of a young alpaca.

She made the right choice to buy a raw fleece for me, not processed rovings, as I've been wanting to experience the whole process -- alpaca to shawl. I just hope that my skill is up to spinning alpaca.

I am looking forward to reading her post about the alpaca farm she visited! I want to fantasize more about owning a farm. Anyone have a spare land lying around? :-)

I've finished a pair of kid's mittens.

These are for my son's preschool teacher -- she's been asking for them for her nephew. I've improvised the pattern, as you can see from the rather uneven result! I used the leftover yarn from Mitch's mittens and hat, plus from Knitpicks Parade sock yarn. It's just too bad that they discontinued this yarn, as I love it... Very easy to work with, and produces great socks (and mittens)!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Everybody Wants Fingerless Mittens

The number of visitors to our blog who's after "fingerless mittens" patterns has not decreased. Many reach to Liz' post after googling "fingerless mittens handcuffs flat knit" or very similar combinations. And of course, there are several visitors who were obviously after some very different destinations -- "woman in handcuffs." Just imagine the frustration and irritation our site must have caused to this poor guy. Someone needs to knit real handcuffs and post it, wearing them! Any volunteers?

Just some pointers to the knitters who came after fingerless mittens --

Magknits has a nice pattern called Lucky K8, which I do plan to knit sometime.
Knitty has a popular pattern, Fetching.
There is a beautiful pattern in the book called "Folk Style," which I've bought recently, along with the brand-spanking new "The Best of Interweave Knits."
I actually am in search of a child's mitten pattern that uses DPNs and knitted round, as opposed to many visitors who are looking to knit in flat. I don't like sewing with mattress stitch, and I try to avoid it as much as I can. Any leads?

I finally have a real FO with my handspun -- other than the wacky FO of the pirate's blankie! I have many WIP with my yarn, but it feels great to finally finish one.

With my mint-green superwash I spun a while ago. The socks have the "rustic" look, and very comfy. I just love them.

With US 2 DPNs, casted on 48, 4 x 2 ribs with some cables on the cuffs. It's my own design, although I'm sure there are similar patterns!

I need to cast on! I'm just not sure what. I have so many things I want to knit.