yarn stories

Adventures in Lexington KY

Bourbon, Yarn, and Christmas lights…..

woodford reserve barrel room

The husband an I made the short couple hour drive up to Lexington KY form Knoxville this weekend for his birthday. He’s a bourbon enthusiast, so am I even though we all know I prefer gin when I spin but that’s big bourbon country. We spent a wonderful weekend on a bus tour of the bourbon trail which is nestled in history and the extensive horse farms. We also caught a late show from one of our favorite comics. Of course this trip wasn’t without the fair share of yarn. It was freezing cold so I had much opportunity to bundle up in some of my favorite knitted items as well as a good bit of car knitting for our Outlander Yarn along in our facebook group. I also had a couple yarn shops down town that I wanted to scope out and we were lucky that both were close to where we were staying. Magpie yarns was a lovely little shop with in walking distance of main street and the college district. They had a lovely selection of pretty yarns and pattern samples made up. I bought a really pretty skein of yarn from a local dyer that I plan to use for a pattern I’ve been dreaming up using a skein of bright indie dyed yarn along side the new natural colored yarns we’ve been spinning for the natural collection that will be coming out with “ The domestic engineer” a fantastic business out of Atlanta. The next day we went to Rebelle yarns which I’d been really exciting about visiting because with their fun indie and local selection and slogan “ reinventing domesticity” and cute pink trimmed shop I knew it would be a great place to hang out. I got some lovely dyed falkland wool from “ Deviant Fibers” a local dyer and one of the owners of the shop. For those of you who aren’t impressed with how fun a bourbon tour could be it really was a ton of fun. We visited Buffalo Trace, Wild Turkey and Woodford Reserve. The distilleries were so old and had so much history and they were all surrounded by these huge horse farms which was something I’d never seen. Now we’re back home and back to reality but that’s not bad news because we’ve got christmas parties and preschool pagents to go to. I hope you’re having a great holiday season in whatever adventures you find.

All About That Llama!

llama fest
Our aothor at a local llama fest 

Our aothor at a local llama fest 

Since Erin has put up a few videos about llama fiber I thought it would be cool to learn a little bit about this amazing fiber.  I first learned about what I think are amazing properties of wool reading the Clara Parkes book "The Knitter's Book of Wool".  I highly suggest reading it if you are into that sort of thing, it is readily available on amazon.  It's the hippie/nerd combination in  me that likes to know this type of information so I can kind of reflect a little about the animal while I spin some yarn or knit up a project with it.  Don't get any ideas in your head of me wearing a flower crown and spinning naked in a field of flowers or something.  I usually just pick up a bunch of fiber and admire it for what it is and then spin and continue on with my latest binge-worthy show on Netflix. I love sci-fi fantasy so you can picture me spinning to Game of Thrones!  (Ugh when will that last season be out already?)   Anyways here is a list of the super neat qualities of llama fiber!

It's hollow which means two things....its very warm and pound for pound it will outperform wool in the warmth category.  Basically it's lighter and warmer than wool.  It's kind of like the difference between worsted and woolen prep yarn.  Woolen is looser and has air pockets when spun and is therefore a little warmer because it can trap body heat. 

It has a lower natural scale and therefore has a low prickle factor for next to skin use.  Scales are also what will cause a fiber to felt and or shrink with washing and agitation because they hook together on themselves.  These scales are the reason why we now have the super wash wool products on the market today, to prevent the felting.  Super washing is a process where the wool is washed in either acid to remove the scales or in resin to coat it and mat it down.  This takes away the prickle factor of wool and also prevents it from shrinking.  As with anything it seems in life with the positive comes the negative.  The wool will not wick moisture as well as it should because the surface of the fiber has been altered and it looses durability.  With llama because if its low scale you don't have to process away the scales so it keeps its natural wicking properties and is highly durable. 

Llama fiber also does not have lanolin like wool does so it doesn't carry a natural odor or pick up environmental odors.  This means if you are careful with any garments or products you make out of llama yarn you also don't need to launder them as often.  When you do wash it, it can be done in low heat with mild detergent and it will readily air dry.  This makes it better for our environment using less water, cooler water, and no dryer.

The fiber is very resilient so it doesn't pill or mat.  That means its functionality is very high.  When garments or materials wear its usually because there is a coating or layering (like the super wash resin)  that wears away after a period of time.  With llama fiber there is no process and therefore there is no functional fatigue, or rather it takes a very very long time or rough treatment for it to wear out. 

Llama fiber also carries little to no static electricity. 

Please don't take this as me bashing wool products.  Wool is the first fiber I fell in love with after learning about all of its super cool qualities.  The nerd in me will always go out and learn as much as I can about whatever it is I'm doing at the moment.  This moment I just happen to be spinning llama.  I still love wool and always will.  I hope you all learned something new today and it encourages you all to go and find out about whatever fibers you happen to be using in your crafty lives. 

llama yarn

Alpaca Shearing Day at Thistle Creek Alpacas!

Saturday May 19th I was fortunate enough to participate in the yearly alpaca shearing day at a local alpaca farm, Thistle Creek Alpacas.  I was nervous going in even with the years of horse experience I have under my belt because I had no idea what to expect.  I had never been around these fluffy animals before.  Can I just say if you like farm life and animals and you ever have the opportunity to go help out at an event like this I highly recommend it!  Once I got in the swing of things after a few rounds of an alpaca at my station I was in hog heaven! The owners of the farm, Jeanne and Grant Lang put the call out to their friends and family on the Thistle Creek Facebook page looking for volunteers.  Even if I wasn't a spinner I would have gone because have you seen how adorable alpacas are?  So Thistle Creek Alpacas is a 7 acre urban farm nestled in a little town outside of Buffalo NY called East Aurora.  That day we sheared 72 alpacas!  Well Joshua Klein the alpaca shearer did the shearing.  He was incredible to watch.  You could see the utmost care and respect he had for these animals and their safety and for our safety as well.  I used to groom dogs but obviously alpacas are a whole different ball game. I was just fascinated by the whole process.  He had 2 shearing stations set up about 6 feet apart.  While he was working on an alpaca at one station, volunteers were prepping another at the other station.  First step was to make sure your station was as clean as possible.  The didn't want any fiber left from the previous alpaca shorn at the station because of color and micron differences.  Then a fluffy alpaca was brought over.  Each of their legs had to be tied just above what I would think is equivalent to our ankle. These ties were attached to a pulley system that when pulled splayed the alpacas' legs out and brought the animal safely to the ground.  It looked like mid-evil torture but it is absolutely humane and for the alpaca's safety.  They have such thick coats that the shears have to have very long sharp teeth on them to cut through.  If an alpaca was able to struggle it would be very easy for it's skin to get caught in those teeth and get a horrible cut.  Once the alpaca was secure Josh and his assistant who was there to hold and maneuver the animal into the appropriate positions started.  The volunteers were there to move the fleece as it was coming off the alpaca and keep it in one piece.  This is called the first cut or the blanket.  It includes the back and sides of the alpaca.  This is the softest fiber and can be made in to yarn for items to be worn next to the skin.  The second cut is the neck and the legs.  It is a little coarser so it is generally used for felting projects. The rest that is cut after this is discarded.  Thistle Creek sends its fiber to a mill in Pennsylvania to be processed into yarn so the blanket is collected on a large sheet of brown paper, wrapped, and labelled with the alpaca's name.  The second cut is collected in a small garbage bag and also labelled.  Before it is sent off Jeanne skirts each fleece and removes any guard hairs which would be undesirable in yarns.  I told her that I would love to come and help with that process so I can learn how to skirt a fleece.  All in it was a wonderful day's work.  I really enjoyed seeing the whole process through.  Josh the shearer was just amazing.  He learned his trade from real deal Aussie sheep shearers in New Zealand.  He travels around the country doing his work following the shearing season through out the year. 

     You can check out Thistle Creek Alpacas on their Facebook page of the same name. 

 

White alpacas waiting for their haircut!
Brown alpacas watching us shear!

Yarn Fest 2018 in Buffalo NY!

     Yarn Fest is yep you guessed it, a yarn and fiber sale hosted by the Knitting Guild of Greater Buffalo every year.  According to their Facebook event page it is a "Premiere event for those loving yarn and fiber related items."  That's pretty much me.  So I went this year for my first time.  It was an awesome display of mostly yarn and some fiber by talented indie dyers and spinners form New York State and Pennsylvania. The bulk of the event took place in one of the meeting rooms at the Hyatt Place Hotel in Amherst, NY.  But my favorite part of the event was just outside in the parking lot.  There was a yarn truck!  I just think that is the coolest thing.  Maybe I live a sheltered life over here to 1. get that excited over a traveling yarn truck and 2. not know that they existed.  The truck is owned by buffalo native Jenna of Knitbuffalo.  She's an extremely talented knitter, spinner, dyer, and all around sweet girl.  I took a few photos in the truck but it was a little tricky because there were so many people clamoring to get in and shop.  Check her out on her website .  It has all her events listed so if you're ever in the area you can go see her in person.  She told me a secret that I can't divulge about one of my very favorite knitwear designers coming to Rhinebeck this year and possibly doing a small local event with her just prior.  That will also be posted on her events page closer to the Rhinebeck Fiber Festival.  If you're interested in online shopping for her squishy goodies take a peek at the site !  I'm a huge Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan and she had a few colorways named with quotes from the show. I love finding a fiber friend who has the same geeky interests as me.

     Moving along inside there was a table set up for people interested in joining the Knitting Guild of Greater Buffalo.  I've been told they have something like 200 members which totally intimidates my introverted self so I did not check them out.  I should though because resources!  Then in the next room over was the main part of the event.  There were many vendors set up with such beautiful yarns and fiber.  I purchased a beautiful skein of a lusterous alpaca blend in a dark navy color from Golden Oak Farm.  The yarn base is called Astral and every single colorway they had it in was gorgeous.  I had a hard time picking just the one.  You can check them out at www.alpacasetc.net.  It came with a one skein pattern for a cowl that I can't wait to knit up.  I have to finish the mkal I'm currently working on though first.  And I also purchased a stunning skein of hand dyed roving from The Spinning Bunny.  Is roving in a skein?  The color is called Aurora Borealis and it is to die for.  I can't wait to spin it up into some chunky art yarn and weave something with it. Click here for the Spinning bunny etsy shop.  

click picture to grab this great free pattern.  I would recommend any of the bulky weight or chunky weight yarn from our site.  

click picture to grab this great free pattern.  I would recommend any of the bulky weight or chunky weight yarn from our site.  

     There were just so many beautiful yarns and fibers there.  There was even one woman selling chicken items there...like chicken feathers in a mason jar with a chicken-y print fabric on the lid.  And she was selling pictures of her chickens as well.  My mom used to have a chicken theme in her kitchen when I was growing up and I almost bought a jar of feathers as a joke gift for her for Mother's Day...I decided to be a good daughter and get her a flamingo shaped bird house to hang in her garden instead.  

     All in all I think it was a very successful event. I love supporting the fiber community and small businesses.  I hope you all can go and enjoy fiber related events in your community and support people doing what they love!  Plus you never know what goodies you will find.  There are so many talented people out there in the fiber world that are hidden gems.  Go out and find them!

 

 

Outside the Knit Buffalo Yarn Truck!
So much fun yarn and fiber products packed into the truck.
I couldn't contain my excitement.

Knox rocks, the Retropolitan craft fair, and The Maker City

Greetings Fellow Yarnies and Fiber Friends,

It's been a busy spring so far, We've been working hard on our new additions to our signature line featuring rustic solids and small farm fibers as well as getting ready for some great pop up shops at smart and Becker gallery and the Retropolitan  Craft fair.  The fair was today and we had a great turn out.  I was joined by one of our featured artist from Black berry patch homestead ( hint hint there will be more of her yarns that sold out in record time hitting our site soon) and we were busy spinning and talking to people all day.  This really was  a great event.  Here are some highlights and some of my favorite yarn and textile artist I got to hang out with there.  Enjoy

click logo to see site. Smart and Becker Gallery and Makers Space

click logo to see site. Smart and Becker Gallery and Makers Space

click that image for a link Embordoriy kits from Hopebrodory 

click that image for a link Embordoriy kits from Hopebrodory 

  My New Friend Miss Jenni B click the photo to check out her weavings on instagram and inquire about them...

  My New Friend Miss Jenni B click the photo to check out her weavings on instagram and inquire about them...

Knoxville is known as " the maker city" for it's thriving artisan comunity, I"m excited to anncounce that CHY has been accepted in the official directory.  Click the button below to check out our page and many others!

Tips for Knitting with Handspun yarn

I love knitting with handspun yarn.  Each peice is uniquie and the yarn just has a denser squishier feel to it than most commercial yarn you can find.  I also feel that most people who enjoy knitting with hand spun yarn are looking for a one of a kind item that may not follow a pattern to the letter. Here are some tips I have developed for pattern adaptation or selection while working with different types of handspan yarn.  

handspan spacebuns hat

 

  • Slight range in gage, I would say most of my yarns fall somewhere between Worsted an heavy worsted.  even yarns that aren't the extreme "thick and thin" art yarn varieties do tend to vary slightly in gage especially if they re single ply.  I find that this lets me attempt a wider variety of patterns. This comes into play if I'm using a pattern search engine such as Revelry to find a pattern.  if I'm thinking about a pattern that calls for worsted weight and I think my handspan may be slightly on the heavy worsted side I will accommodate by casting on a few less stitches.  Of course make sure if you are increasing or decreasing the number of stitches that it is done in even numbers and that it won't effect a more complicated cable or color aspect.  
  • Drape of final fabric. Same as with commercial yarns if you are using a yarn with silk, flax or cotton it's going to have a more relaxed drape than something that has a sparingly quality such as wool.  Some handspun especially two ply may be stiffer than commercial weight yarns. This would be great for something like a hat or bag or accessory with a definite shape and back bone but might be detrimental if you wanting the final outcome to have a certain hang to it.  I have found this to be less the case for single ply handspun or yarn made of of the above mentioned fibers.  
  • Don't be scared of single ply handspan.  I happen to love single ply yarn it is especially handy with handspan because you can make the most of a costly fiber by getting double the yardage.  I find that you shouldn't judge it from how it looks as a ball. the yarn may appear to vary in gage but I find that as it knits into a fabric it looks much more uniform while still retaining a rustic charm that is the hallmark of handspan yarn.  After all if you wanted it to look just like something you could pick up at any store why would you be going through the trouble and expense or using handspan yarn.  
  • Mix it with commercial yarn.  If you find a skein of handspan yarn that is truly one of a kind and absolutely have to have it for you stash don't be dismayed.  Find a commercially spun yarn of similar weight and texture and use the handspan as an accent, trim or color blocking element.  This is cost effective and really showcases your unique yarn find.  
silk lace

Most of all just enjoy the knitting experience.  It's not that often that you get to make something for our self out of yarn that once a pile of fluff not that long ago.  You can't expect it to behave or turn out like something mass produced.  You can make it at challenging or as simple as you want.  I find with handspun sometimes the most simple of patterns can be the most gratifying because they are the simplest.  

Also join my coupon list for early news and deeper discounts than are offered anywhere else.  

 

new years , simple, luxe, knitting

While impressive patterns and sweater knitting has it's appeal, sometimes you just have to accept that you need to make something simple.  Upon arrival in our new lives I was very excited to get going again with my business. I'd really missed it, the creative planning and the feeling of accomplishment but I was total brain dead.  I feel like this winter has been really tough on most people I know.  My friends in WA state have literally been snowed into their houses for around a month.  I can't even imagine being trapped in a house with my kids for that long.  I have put my handspun sweater on the shelf and have been diligently working on projects people have been requesting.  I had started to notice a theme, they were all cute, practical and multifunction  accessories.  

spinning fiber

I have been making "messy bun hats" and "Toeless Yoga socks" They both keep you warm and feeling comforted while hopefully lifting your spirits a little.  I know with the new year people are  normally trying to be healthy and thrifty so this seemed like the perfect time for affordable easy care items.  I know my personal new years resolution was pretty simple.  It was to stop caring around a dirty diaper bag ( really a travel toiletries bag) and carry an actual grown up lady purse.  I managed to accomplish it  by jan 1st  and have been happier every time I pick up my new purse( lets be real new from the back of my closet).  So that's been my theme so far this year is self acceptance and  spending a little extra money and time on simple hardworking luxuries.  I got my hair dyed by an actual professional so that my roots will hopefully look more rock and roll and less tired mom.  Between that and some new t shirts curtesy of Etsy and Target and some new make up from a friend's website I'm hopefully looking more like a person.  So that was my new leaf for the new year, sounds kind of vain I know but damn it I needed a little more vanity in my life after two babies and an epic move.  

So back to the yarn.  The yoga socks are made from commercially spun hand dyed yarn, They are beautiful and soft while having just a touch of nylon for durability and easy care.  I know I always hate to have cold feet at the end of a yoga session but bare feet are a must for not slipping.  Also in SC I know most people refuse to stop wearing they're flip flips regardless of season.  

yoga socks

The hats are also from a nice wool acrylic blend so that they can be easily hand washed and are affordable.  The messy bun has become the fashion staple of the hurried mom or pumpkin spice latte carrying 20 something alike.  While it is the perfect solution to many bad hair days it's not so practical if it's cold and you can't wear a hat.  So this is the perfect solution.  There are many different types for sale I found this pattern and thought it was simple and would be comfortable and look nice with many different outfits with out looking to over done.  

ponytail winter hat

Not that I've forgotten about handspun, When I got my shop back up I included "freezing fog" a silky soft merino wool and camel hair blend.  due to it's high end fibers it's very lux while still being understated and clean at the same time.  It would look great knit into a simple scarf for cowl and worn with a brightly colored jacket to beat the winter blues.  

camel hair wool yarn freezing fog

Tips for Beginning knitters ( that I wish I'd had)

I'm writing this blog basically as a letter to one of my good friends who is a beginner.  As I was compiling a list of all of the random things I wish I'd known I figured other people might benefit too so now it's a blog instead of an email.  

There are so many different approaches to knitting.  I think most people learn like I did, by having someone let you watch what they are doing and try to copy a few stitches.  Then we all progress into the inevitable scarf.  My first scarf was very long and very blue and was entirely stockinette stitch and rolled up constantly(I had no clue blocking was a thing).  It was very Dr. Seuss I don't even know what happened to it. I even mastered knitting in the round without much supervision.  My first sweater as mentioned in my first blog post was a disaster.  I knit the whole thing on giant long straight needles like some sort of a cartoon charter and then I used the cheapest ( not very exciting yarn) all in one color from my local yarn store sadly it was dk weight so it took forever.  It also had to be totally sewn together at the end which is how the sleeves got put on upside down making it the bat wing sweater.  From that one project I can already come up with a whole list of things that I wish someone had told me.  

  • Look into interchangeable tip circular needles.  I knit the bat wing sweater all on super giant straights.  It was breaking my wrist by the end and kept wanting to pop off.  Interchangeable circulars knit just like straights no pattern changing but all of the weight is on the cord and it doesn't pop off the needles

  • Check out the Knit picks website.  Yes I know I'm a small business who sells yarn telling you to go to another website to buy yarn. I sell handspun yarn, they sell the best deal on commercial yarn I've ever seen. So it's really apples and oranges.  I sure hope you love my handspun and buy it and make beautiful things out of it, but that doesn't at all take away the need to have professional commercial yarn to buy. They are a north west company that works directly with the yarn and fiber producers and cut out the middle man. I have never gotten anything from them at I was anything less than thrilled with and the prices are so good it really makes it hard to shop at a local yarn shop.( which kind of makes me sad).  There is no excuse to buy yarn from craft stores unless it's the Lillys cream in sugar cotton(which I love and is another story for another day).  They also sell the most fabulous wood needles and sets(also really cheap) I've ever seen. Also they have a really cute podcast if you're into that sort of thing.  I made a really fabulous sweater with my handspun as the trim and then ordered this great blue tweed from knit picks.  I think I had $30 in the whole thing(minus my handspun) I would encourage you if you fall in love with some really cool handspun and don't know what to make out of it, find the closet gage and buy some cool neutrals from knitpicks and go to town.  I have some really fun neon handspun that I plan on paring with some soft black yarn from KP and making stripy arm warmers.  
  • Find the best needles for you.  Some people knit really tight so metal tipped needles work best. Others (like me) knit really loose.  This is why I'm obsessed with the wood needles from KP not only do they feel great to use but they really help to keep the yarn on the needles.
  • Don't start out with cheap acrylic, it's really slippy get some nice wool or at least a blend. Same for cotton, linen silk etc. It doesn't have the stretch of wool or alpaca so the drape can be a bit harder if your'e starting out.
  • Don't knit your first larger item on any yarn smaller than worsted weight, it will take forever and you'll get burned out.  I would suggest getting something variegated so you can use one yarn but it changes colors for you .   
  • Join Ravelry!!!!! I had no clue this was a thing till one of my best friends(thanks Jamie) told me about it and it changed my life. It's a social media site for yarn people. You can search a huge pattern data base so if you have a weird amount of yarn you can search by weight (under advanced search ) and find what you can make out of it.  You can meet other people who are as excited about yarn as you( because let's face it your loved ones probably think you're a bit of a freak) Also you can search your area and find a local knitting group. 
  • Join a local knitting group!! Even if you don't like people and you prefer to be a hermit. Just do it.  I think most people in Stitch and Bitch groups are hermits who don't like people so you can all hang out and drink and eat and knit and talk about how much you don't like people together.  Also you will make friends which is hard to do as a grown up. They are also the single best place to learn things while having fun.  Thats where I learned pretty much everything I just typed. So hop on revelry an find a group.  Even if it doesn't look that exciting on the web, my group doesn't post hardly anything on Ravelry but I looked them up on facebook and they have a very nice facebook group and that's how we met. I never would have found them with out searching groups on Ravelry.  

Ok I think that's enough for now.  I"m sure I"ll come up with more things I wish I had known next time I'm washing my hair because that's the only time my brain works these days(thanks kids) 

www.ravelry.com

www.knitpicks.com

Please let me know if I left anything out

Happy knitting, now get you're self some nice yarn and have some fun. Remember a handspun/knitpicks infinity scarf always looks great.  

The start of a yarn obsession

I learned how to knit in college, I always joke that besides learning how to properly pencil my eyebrows that it was one of the most used skills I picked up in my 4 years at College of Charleston ( besides my two college degrees of course) 

IMG_1429.PNG

One of my roommates was from Maine and her sister worked in a yarn store there and she was always knitting in the common room. I become completely enamored with learning how since it was something I always wanted to learn but no one close to me could teach me.  So it began, with super slick super cheap yarn and some equally slick metal needles.  Unfortunately I'm also a really loose knitter so my first project became " the magnificent trapazoid" I kept it in my car as a dust rag for many years for sentimental reasons.  During finals my senior year, I was a double major so I was twice as crazy I attempted to knit my first sweater.  This also ended up being a disaster.  I picked a pattern that had to be totally sewn together after and then I knitted it on giant straight needles and it was dk weight.  Many years later I found out I sewed the sleeves on upside down which had a very attractive bat wing affect.  I'm sure all of this has now put great faith and reassurance in you that I am a crafts person with discerning taste and ability.  Well fear not , I have continued to knit and join knitting groups and even met some ladies with actual spinning wheels in the great northwest where such hipster things are actually available and readily talked about.  The first time I ever felt handspun yarn it was all over. Not that I don't love ready made yarn, but handspun is so dense and just asked to be held and squished and always creates something special.  Not to mention it opens a whole pandoras box of learning about different types of fiber.    So this is a very long way to say, I'm really excited about this website, business, adventure.   My goal is to provide what it is I'm always looking for when I go into a yarn store "that something unique and special and locally made" .  I hope that one of these skeins of yarn speaks to you and you feel compelled to make it into something special no matter how simple or complex.  I know I put a lot into each and everyone and they are all unique in they're own way.  I will also have a select group of handmade items that are mostly inspired by whatever nerdy obsession i'm currently into.  With two babies a healthy dose of escapism is always welcome right? On that note I may need to go re watch "stranger things" on netflx to make sure someone didn't have something cool and knitted that needs to be created..... Maybe Barb had a heinous 80's headband or something. (just kidding,  maybe)