New Yarns at the Alpaca Festival

Booth at the alpaca festivalAt this recent MD Alpaca Festival, November 12 and 13, at the Howard County fair grounds, I introduced some new yarns and had a sale for old yarns.  Since I am running this little company by myself, I cannot do everything.  So I decided that in order to GROW as a company and try new things, I’ll have to let some things go for a while.  Everyone LOVED my sale on Semi-Solids and Multi-colored yarns.  I sold more than half of them.

My new yarns were Alpaca-Silk, Cashmere-Silk, 100% Merino, and fingering yarns in 80% wool, 20% nylon. new yarns and samples

Solids and gradient sets in the booth

These new yarns generated interest but not many sales so I am adding them to my store.

After about 12 months of feeling like a zombie about the business because of so many family health issues, I am finally ready to put energy into ColorStorms. (My mother is finally doing better!)  I have to give some credit to my new neighbor Terri, who came over one day to give me lots of input. Terri and I are walking buddies, and we soon discovered she likes to knit too.  We started a neighborhood knitting group and she has greatly supported my business this past month.  Not only did she help me dye the new fingering color “Western Horizon”, but she spent all of Saturday with me at the booth!

CHANGES:  After trying out Alpaca-Silk, Cashmere-Silk, 100% Merino, and fingering yarns, I have decided to definitely open a new line of fingering yarns.  I’ll continue offering the worsted yarns too, but perhaps only in solids and gradients for now.  The merino-tencil base is still available and it dyes beautifully so I’ll continue that. The alpaca-wool is harder to find now; my sources are drying up.  Should I replace it with something similar?  I will if I can, especially if I can find a local source.  I am presently looking for a local and cheaper source of yarns so I can lower my prices. And I’m working toward dyeing bigger lots of yarn so I can lower my prices.

Lots of interest was generated for a Dye Seminar as well.  So I am actively putting that together.  I’m looking to do that in late May. When I have a firm date, I’ll post it.  Here you can see details of what your day would look like at a 6-Hour Hands-on Dye Seminar with me.

Natural Dyeing Workshop

9am

Begin simmering black walnuts and madder root

While those are simmering:

Lesson on HOW to natural dye: preparation of materials, mordanting, etc

Perpare apple bark

Lesson on TECHNIQUES to prepare yarn

Prepare yarn (already mordanted) for various forms of multi-colored or solid color dyeing.

10am

Start the apple bark simmering

The black walnuts and madder root cool down.

We will dye:

Logwood and cochineal

11am

Apple bark cools down

We prepare pokeberries and discuss that technique.

We will dye:

Fuschia with pokeberries

Red with pokeberries

12pm

Lunch break

Lesson on how to dye blue with black beans

1pm

Dye the black walnuts, madder root

Dye some more of the Logwood and cochineal for a multi

Lesson about dyeing with turmeric and how to choose colors

2pm

Make turmeric dye

Dye some of the blue hanks into turmeric

Due some of the madder root yarn in the turmeric

Dye some of the blue hanks into apple bark dye

Dye some of the pokeberry yarns into apple bark

3pm

End

Everyone takes home 1 solid and 1 multi (2 -50g hanks of fingering weight wool- 400 yards total) and a pattern

Yarn is from a Franklin Cone, 75% wool, 25 % nylon, machine washable

 

Seminar at the MD Alpaca Guild

It was nice to be invited back to talk about natural dyes again.  This time I focused on blues made with black beans, showing off the lovely fleece I wrote in an earlier post. I also discussed dyeing with black walnuts, since they are all over the ground now!  It’s a wonderful time of year to gather a potful and simmer them.  Not only do you get some lovely free brown dye, but the kitchen and house smells wonderful- if you like fresh earthy nutty smells.

natural dye seminar IMG_1064

The folks there asked lots of good questions, like how to make gradients (I could discuss that one) and how do the size of alpaca microns affect the absorption of dye (I didn’t know the answer to that one.)

The alpaca guild is also the group that hosts the Maryland Alpaca Festival.  This link brings you information on the guild as well as the Festival. Located at the Howard County Fairgrounds, it’s on November 12 and 13.

http://www.marylandalpacas.org/

I’ll be there again this year, with my gradient and solid yarns, along with some interesting multi-colored yarns.  A new pattern too.  Hope to see you!

sweater pocket detail

As far as my sweater vest goes, I was able to get the pockets sewn up, the shoulder seams sewn, and the hood started.  I’m half way through that, knitting while taking my mom to her doctors and procedures at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore yesterday.  (She IS a little better by the way!)  My new goal with the vest is to finish the hood by Sunday night, and pick up the stitches for the arm hole edges.  I can knit all the edges on this vest while reading tpocket up closeo Bethany over the next weeks….yes home school is starting again on Monday!!  Bethany is 15 now and we have dozens of wonderful novels to read together this year.

arm holes and partial hood

By the way, that last photo does show the color better than the other pictures.  It is a pretty shade of grey, with blue edges.

Hope you all are enjoying the last of these hot summer days.  Do you like it when school starts up or not?

 

Front and Back of Sweater Vest Done!

Fresh out of the blocking bucket!Fronts and Back of Sweater Vest
When the variations of grey started happening, they were sudden and hard to control.  The image in the middle is the left vest.  I knit that one first.  When the yarn ran out and I couldn’t find more dark yarn I wasn’t sure what to do.  In the end I tried to pull it off by echoing some sudden changes in the right vest as well.Sweater Vests front

 

 

 

 

 

In this detail you can see the front pocket since the greys are different.  There is some darker yarn there…..where was it when I needed it to finish the left front?
Front Detail

Olympic Progress

I finished the back of the blue and grey sweater vest, then had to put it aside to finish these beauties:  Martha’s little shrug, made with “Tempting Ewe So DK and Sparkly”.  The pattern is called “Entrechat.”  I’ve made this shrug twice now and love it.  All in one piece it’s magical the way it comes together.

Martha's Shrug
At the same time I began the process of dyeing a Suri alpaca fleece in 4 shades of blue.  I’m giving a natural dyeing talk at the Maryland Alpaca guild soon, so I wanted to get the fleece dyed and dry.  I love the curly, shiny shades of blue and can’t wait to spin it.Suri Alpaca dyed with black beans

 

 

 

.Next I dyed a Huacaya alpaca fleece.  It started a dark brown color.  I took half of it and dyed it with pokeberries to give it a red-brown shade.  You can see the un-dyed brown on the left, and the brown dyed in pokeberries on the right. Toward the bottom is a bag of carded dyed Huacaya.
huacaya alpaca dyed with pokeberries

 

 

 

 

 

Eudora's Pillow

 

The next project that needed my attention was this pillow for Eudora, my god-daughter.  She and her sister are moving back to Nigeria.  What knitted gift could I give her that would be meaningful in a country near the Equator?  We agreed on a pillow!  This pattern is called “Penelope’s Pillows”.  I used a soft self-striping Woolwinders yarn called “Stonehedge Crazy.”  It was very fun to work with and has the appearance of homespun yarn.  Striped with it is a black wool called “Julia.”  The black strips are garter stitch, and knit with a size 5 needle.  The colored stripes have twice as many stitches and are knit with a size 7.  The pillow back is the same except that the colored stripes have the same number of stitches so they don’t have that gathered look.  This pillow was a bit of a challenge in that I kept forgetting to switch needles for each stripe, so it took longer than it needed to.
2 fronts of the vestFinally, two days after the Olympics started, I was able to go back to the sweater vest.  It was hard to get back into it, but how could one not be encouraged by those hard-working athletes?  Now that I’m more than half way through the 2nd sweater front, I can’t wait to finish.  I’ll keep working on it steadily for sure.  Will I have it done by closing Olympic ceremonies?  Probably not.  I’ll award myself a bronze medal if I can at least get the hood mostly done.  But with this dye talk I’m giving on Sunday, and various family and friend obligations (happy ones!) I cannot sit in front of the TV for 5 more days knitting non-stop.  Oh well.  I’ll do my best.

Single Ply Spin Yarn Decision

Once upon a time in the summer of 2012 a priest in Ohio, named Kathleen, gave my daughter, Rebecca, a silver fleece.  Kathleen’s husband had a flock of 80 sheep, so perhaps this was not a great sacrifice, but it was still a lovely gift.   With similar kindness, Rebecca shared it with me!

Looking at the long wavy locks, we knew it was not going to make soft-on-the-skin sweaters, but needed to be some kind of outer wear.   Rebecca spun her half “in the grease” (https://osbornfiber.com/?s=in+the+grease) and made a lovely shawl (https://osbornfiber.com/2012/09/)  She did not dye it, but rather left it the natural grey.

On the other hand, I immediately washed and dyed my half with black beans.  I was pleased at the grey blue color that resulted.  After experimenting with it, I decided I liked it best left as a single ply yarn.  So I spun all of it single ply and managed to get a rather decent 1150 yards of worsted.  It was a bit unbalanced, but not horrible.  It sat for 4 years on a desk in my craft room, waiting for its turn.  (4 years?!  I had not realized the yarn had sat that long until I looked up Rebecca’s post about her half.)

After Rebecca finished her shawl, she gave me the rest of the silver fleece.  I immediately washed and dye it as well, but for whatever reason, the dye didn’t take very well.  I don’t know why.  Maybe the black beans I used that time were old.  I did not spin it, but rather let it sit in a bag, also waiting its turn….

blue and grey single plyFinally June 2016 I decided it was time to work with that old silver thing.  I drum carded and spun the plain silver, trying to copy what I had done 4 years ago.  On paper and with the bare eye, they looked similar.
Facts: blue yarn: 622g and 1150 yards
grey yarn:  618g and 1040 yards

Since they looked similar, I hoped to put them together into the same project.  But how? What project would suit the yarn?  Because the yarn is single ply, I figured I would make a vest, since single ply doesn’t wear well on sleeves.  I had plenty of yarn to play with, so I swatched and looked at patterns.  Eventually I picked out the Hooded Cable Vest from Vogue Early Fall 2016.  However, I did not like the lozenge-shaped accent cable, so I changed that to something called “Linked Ribs”, taken from my “365 Stiches a Year Perpetual Calendar.”  (April 26)

silver fleece swatch

 

Here is my swatch in its entirety, after blocking.  I started on the left and finished right, changing needle sizes and patters until I had figured out what to do.

Part 1:  I tried two mitered squares, thinking first that I might try a mitered square project.  Both are knit with the blue yarn.  (Apology: the individual pictures are turned the other way- right to left.)

square #1Rebecca had suggested it because she had read that a mitered square might help balance an unbalanced single.  It made sense to me.

The first picture shows a garter-stitch mitered square with size 7 needles.

The second one shows a mix of garter and straight stitches, using size 6 needles.  Hmmm. I didn’t really like it.

Square #2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
blue cables

Part 2: I started experimenting with straight stitches and the cabled vest pattern.  First I knit with the blue again, then I started striping the blue and the grey.

 

blue and grey stripedHmm…..I didn’t like the striping much.

 

 

 

straight stitches

2 yarns held together

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part 3: I decided to see what it would look like if I knit with size 9 needles, holding both yarns together.  Bleuk.

 

 

Part 4: Finally, I widened the swatch and went down another needle size.  With size US 5 needles, I striped a bit more with both colors in straight stitches.  Nope.  It was nasty.  Face reality, Linda.  Even though the yarns look similar, they are not!!  What do you expect?  You are not an expert spinner.  You spun them 4 years apart; they are different.  And wow, those yarns do not look good striped.  They fight each other.  But I really liked the blue knit by itself.  Sooooo, maybe I would like the grey by itself too!  And maybe they would look nice NEXT to each other!  So I tried blue cables with grey straight stitches on the outside, and grey cables with blue stitches on the outside.

grey next to blueHey, that looks pretty good!

And it’s perfect because the vest pattern is written this way…..with cables in the middle and plain panels on the outside.

 

 

ribbing in 2 colorsNow the truth is, I tried one more thing.  Again I was fooled into thinking that my yarns were similar enough to knit side by side IN THE SAME PATTERN.  That did not work.  Here you can see some ribbing I tried, alternating the colors.  The grey is definitely thinner.  If I had continued, and tried to knit the entire back of the sweater in these alternating colors, it would have been a mess.

swatch held up to the lightHeld up to the light, you can see the difference in the yarns.  This convinced me to go back to the previous idea of knitting the cables in one color and the side panels in the other.

project startedBut which one should be where?  My husband, Cliff, suggested that I use the thicker blue yarn for the plain outer panels, and the thinner grey yarn for the cables…..the very last example in my swatch.  I didn’t like this idea because I loved the blue color better and wanted to use it for the pretty cables.  Sigh.  But he was right.  And it looks great now.  Yay!!  I’m liking it now!

back of sweater nearly done

I’ll show you more pictures when I’m all done.  It’s great fun to knit!  No sleeves, but yikes, there are pockets and a hood.

My goal:  to get it done by the end of the Olympics!

Favorite Scarf Ever

That’s the title of this little gem, written by Lisa Bruce, and given to me by a friend at the MD Central Knitting Guild. (They meet on the 3rd Wed. of every month, by the way, at the senior center in Laurel. I’ve been going for 3 years now, and found that it’s a very strong group!)

Detail

Favorite Scarf Ever

It is knit with yarn that my daughter, Leah, gave me for my birthday this year. A lovely silk and bamboo mix….I called it an adult rainbow color. I loved looking at and holding it. And then I decided this pattern was perfect for it.

 

After blocking it, I sewed the ends together to make a little infinity scarf. Yay for short and sweet and portable projects.

Wearing the scarfback view

Summer Honesty

If you follow my business and posts, you notice that I don’t write much.  I ENJOY dyeing yarn VERY much, and I LOVE to knit, but I don’t have a deep need to write about it.  I’m coming clean, being honest here:  I don’t really like to write posts.  Since it’s important in this business, I’m trying; and I figure the only way I’m going to have any success with this (or sanity) is to be honest about it.  There it is; thanks for “listening.”

Here’s what I’ve been up to since the pink lace shawl: “Two-Color Triangle”

Two-Color Triangle Shawl

From the Spring/Summer 2016 Vogue Knitting mag.

First I spun a 4oz Tempting Ewe bag from Clover Hill yarns.  454 yards of 2-ply fingering weight yarn.  It’s the lighter-colored yarn in the picture.

Secondly I put some Wild Rose Suri Alpaca lace weight yarn (a gift from my youngest daughter, Bethany) with a hank of Wildfoot wool sock yarn, left over from another project.

The yarn I spun along with the combination of Suri Alpaca and wool made the two yarns needed for this interesting and fun shawl.

close up

close up

I’m also working on a baby blanket and a scarf.  I’ll write briefly about those too since I’m nearly done.

 

I’ve been dyeing some gorgeous stuff, but nothing new yet…..soon…..and now the function to add pictures is not working, so I can’t even show you what I dyed.  Sigh…..I’ll keep working on it.

 

Lace Shawl Done

shawl detailsPlease recall from my “Epic Travel and Summer Knitting” post how much I enjoyed working on the pink lace shawl.  What lovely yarn and WHAT an incredible pattern by Rebecca Osborn!  In the beginning, I worked on it at 5am in the morning before the family awoke, so I could focus on the intricate stitches.  July 25th I cast on and worked steadily until October.  After a break to work on samples and Christmas gifts, I picked up the project again in December, finally finishing it at the end of January.

Shawl detailsLace ShawlThe yarn: 100% superfine alpaca, pink, light, and soft. “Lace-a-licious!” is printed on the J. Knits tag, and this well describes the yarn.  In addition, it held up  to the rigors of lace work. 

 

The pattern: “Tongues of Fire” was written by Rebecca in 2012 for her year long liturgical series.  This pattern reflects images, feelings, and ideas surrounding Pentecost.  The intrepid knitter begins at the very bottom point of the shawl, then is directed to begin the main body of the shawl with “Main Chart 1.”  Rebecca has charts and written directions to lead the way, step by step.  Eventually you knit charts 1-8 which give you the diamond shape you saw in my earlier post.

Here you can see the very top of the shawl with the detail of the dove from from chart 8.  lace details

Next, charts 9-11 carefully directed me to knit each side of the diamond so as to create 2 “wings”.  This gives it the final shape of a triangle shawl.   By this time I could knit the thing in front of the TV with family in the same room.

I think it’s important to say, that before one attempts such a project, one must be comfortable with reading lace on your needles.  Forget the Rescue Line.  When you have 400 stitches of cobweb lace on your needles, you aren’t going to rip back, even with a Rescue Line.  No way.  You learn to read your lace and fix mistakes as you go.  That’s the only way.  I’ve got mistakes in this gorgeous piece of knitting, but only God can see them.  I learned to fudge missed yarn overs and re-work K2tog several rows deep.  As long as it was close, I let it be.  Its the only way.  Perfectionists, don’t attempt this pattern.  If you doubt yourself or your skills on advanced knitting work, don’t attempt this pattern.  But if you are ready to embrace a wonderful challenge and aren’t afraid to fudge things when necessary, “Tongues of Fire” will hold your attention!  I can’t wait until this spring to wear it!

Shawl details

 

 

 

Maryland Alpaca Festival is ready to go!!

After 2 months of hard work and LOTS of dyeing, my dining room table is full of gradients.  I focused on the gradient sets this time, making 60 new sets to add to the dozen I already had.  Yes, stock was low and it was time to get to work!

We’re ready for to set up the booth at the Maryland Alpaca Festival!!

gradient setsboxes of singles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

purple pansies gradient

 

 

 

One Day Later:
The booth is set up and ready to go! Thank you VERY much to Cliff, my husband, who dragged in tables and boxes full of yarn and set up the cages…… and to Bethany, my daughter, who helped me set with the artsy fartsy chore of hanging yarn. I made her move yarn twice and she was about ready to throw things at me….but she didn’t. 🙂

boothbooth

Epic Travel and Summer Knitting

My mother’s condition is the same, but she’s home now and the family has adjusted to taking care of her.  She lives in an apartment attached to my brother’s house, 150 paces away.  So the 3 households share our lives pretty closely.  I have not minded my little daily part of taking care of Mom,  and slowly I’ve been taking up the reins of ColorStorms again.  I’m ready to talk about my epic summer trip, and there are dye pots bubbling in the kitchen!

Looking back now toward my cross country trip, I realize that I AM letting that trip go, and appreciating my life in MD.  It was hard though, because I LOVED that vacation!  Or was it that I enjoyed getting away and disliked facing what awaited me at home?  Perhaps some of both.  Bethany, my youngest daughter, came with me.  At 14 years of age, she was great company.  Together we slogged through over 7,000 miles, boring hotel rooms, a flat tire, and some pretty fun sight seeing.

Bethany in Charleston, WV

I counted on some unique knitting time.  I brought 2 knitting projects with me.  One that was easy to knit but involved 12 colors:

The Parcheesi Afghan.(http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/search#query=parcheesi%20afghan)

What fun this has been!  Composed entirely of garter stitches on size 4 needles , the log cabin technique is a favorite of mine.  While knitting this project I can converse, watch TV, and read.  Easy, easy, easy.  But not boring because of all the color changes.  I began this project on New Year’s Day 2015, and the goal is to finish it by December 31 of same year.

Parcheesi Blanket

I stuffed my car trunk with all needed colors….hand dyes from The Sanguine Gryphon and Larika, hand spun and naturally dyed yarn from ? (I seemed to have lost those labels on the road trip), and finally some Baby Cashmerino from Debbie Bliss when I ran out of Sanguine Gryphon yarn.  I have expanded the afghan and made it into a blanket for my colorful bedroom.

Expanded blanket

The other project was completely opposite.  The Tongues of Fire shawl by Rebecca Osborn (available at her website Osborn Fiber Studios and on Ravelry), requires only one 4 oz hank of cobweb lace yarn (1200yards.) (http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/tongues-of-fire-2)

I used a superfine alpaca from J. Knits.  This project I saved for early morning knitting….just me, my coffee and this pattern.

tongues of fire beginning

progress on tongues of fire

Back to the driving, the first 4 days, I traveled from Maryland to West Virginia to Illinois to Kansas and to Denver.  In Denver lives my sister-in-law, Kathy, another knitting enthusiast and fabulous test knitter for ColorStorms.  She gave Bethany and I hospitality for 3 days.  We visited Estes Park and Red Rocks.  In Estes Park, we bought some yarn from a little knitting store called Stichin’ Den.  I bought some locally dyed (MJ Yarns) polwarth/silk in sport weight.  The gal at the store asked me if I wanted her to make one into a skein?

Yes!  I answered, and started a swatch on the way home.  Once in a while one has to start knitting bought yarn right away!  By the end of the day I had cast on for a project called “Boneset Vest”  by E.J. Slayton.

Vest

After the lovely stay with Kathy and her husband John, the 4 of us carried on together (in 2 cars) to California, by way of Utah then Nevada….and Jimmy Dean Yarn Store!  It was great to have company on the road; we shared many happy pit stops and meals together.

By the time I made it all the way across the country to Reno, Nevada, I had a vision to express at Jimmy Dean’s.  I had driven by:

Red Rocks

 

 

layers of brown,

 

and layers of tans,

l

Nevadalayers of greens and yellows……

 

 

 

 

 

Nevada

plus there were little pink and yellow flowers once in a while……mountain flowers cascade yarn

 

and I somehow wanted to blend those colors into a knitting project!

 

The great variety of yarn from Cascade that Jimmy Bean had in his shop, allowed me to pick colors that echoed my vision.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After that, Kathy, John, Bethany and I were treated with a tour of the vast warehouse housing stock not yet in their store room. From that I picked a lovely self-striping yarn Germany called Schoppel.  Sigh…..I was in knitting heaven…..and I walked out of there glowing!

Schoppel yarn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once in California, there was a family reunion, lots of sight seeing, eating, knitting, pictures, and we had a FUN FUN time together.  Below is Bethany and Naomi on a California beach.Aptos Beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the way home, Leah joined Bethany and I. Leah is my middle daughter and old enough to drive. So it was delightful to take my turn as a passenger.  We drove from Aptos California to Yosemite, then on to Nevada and Yellowstone.

Leah in Utah

After 4 days in Yellowstone, we traveled through Wyoming where we had our flat tire.  A lovely lady named Diane at the Wheeling Tire Center kept us company while the Sonata got a new “shoe.”  On to North Dakota we drove.  Finally from Iowa to Illinois and Ohio to Maryland, we made it home at last.  The trip took 22 days!  It turns out that I love to drive and love to just take each day as it comes.  I never knew where we were going until I pulled out my big binder of hotel reservations and plotted our course for the day.

Our favorite stay (other than the beach house with family in California) was at the Absaroka Lodge near the northern entrance of Yellowstone National Park.  Each morning there I woke up at about 6am and made my coffee while the girls slept.  Then I carefully and quietly pulled out the bed spread to the balcony which overlooked Yellowstone River and gorge.  I brought my coffee, my muffin, my lace knitting and my Bible.  I prayed and knit and gazed at some of the most amazing scenery.  It was a trip to remember.

 

View from Absaroka Lodge