You Can Comb Fiber in My Bed

Fiber mania hits a new high—or low, depending on how you look at it. I actually sat in bed one night last week (PJs and all) and combed some washed-but-still-manky Shetland locks to get the dirt and VM out of the tips.

Though I put a cloth on my lap and attempted to keep the mess under control, there were still crumbles in the bed.

Let’s hear it for spouses that understand the insanity that is fiber addiction.

July 29, 2013 at 10:49 am 7 comments

Odorific Alpaca

Yes, I do seem to luck into a lot of fiber, but it all seems to be troubled fiber. Challenging fiber. Not precisely cream-of-the-crop fiber.

Take my alpaca fiber. (No, really. Someone take it off my hands.) I was gifted with pounds and pounds of the softest, cleanest alpaca wool in a most interesting shade of reddish-brown. I seriously think it may be an entire alpaca fleece. Had it smelled like alpaca sweat, alpaca spit, or excrement of alpaca, I would have been delighted. But no. It smelled like MOTHBALLS.

Yes, someone committed the crime of putting mothballs into the bags with the wool. (Actually, I think that’s both a crime and a mortal sin.)

I aired the wool in net bags outside for weeks and the smell did improve greatly. Instead of being able to smell it across the room, I now had to plunge my face into the bag to detect residual mothball. But, since I’m a gal that likes to get her nose up close and personal with the wool, residual wasn’t good enough.

Then I had the idea to blend it with some of my white Shetland. Yes! No smell to the yarn other than the gentle wool smell. But I wasn’t really happy with the color blend. So, next step: DYE!

Here’s the before picture. Shetland on the left, Alpaca on the right, and 3 mini-hanks of blended, quick-spun yarn.


I don’t have much to choose from in my dye stash right now. What I do have is some Wilton cake frosting dye in Moss Green, and 2 colors left from my Landscapes dyes from Australia: a dark purple and a kind of raspberry red. And, here are the finished products:


“Wait!” you say, “Why are there 4 yarn samples now?” You, my friends, are very observant! Please ignore the puny bit of green yarn on the left. That was a little white/grey yarn I stuck in the green dye at the last minute, just out of curiosity. The real show is on the right side.The red looks better in real life than it does in this photo. The purple is a bit strange looking since it turned out purple and brown. The green is not bad if you don’t mind a color like day-old guacamole.

So, I don’t know. I do want to blend the Alpaca, but maybe not with white. At least my odorific Alpaca is finally useable. Until the moths show up!

July 15, 2013 at 10:17 pm 5 comments

DIY Lazy Kate and Lazy Spinner

I don’t want to admit to how many years it’s taken me to complete two of these skeins of yarn.


Suffice it to say there was a long intermission, with not enough popcorn and soda, in the middle. It all started with some very dirty Shetland wool that came from a sheep named Cocoa. My sister had lucked into several Shetland fleeces for $5 each, right off the sheep, and she split them with me. Note: $5 per fleece, not $5 per pound. Hard to resist, right?


Mmmm, crimpy goodness!

Now, fast forward through the washing and the hours (and hours and hours) of picking out vegetable matter. There was a reason the price was $5 per fleece. These Shetlands were more or less pets who must have had their hay dumped onto them, not next to them. Anyway, I chose out the best bits of wool, picked, carded and spun—again, over the course of years—two ultra-full bobbins.


The goal: 2-ply natural brown yarn. Only problem was that I still hadn’t found a real lazy kate within my budget. And despite finding several really good plans for building a kate, nothing had materialized. Apparently it takes more than just finding the plans to make it happen. Who knew?

So, I channeled all my pinch-penny, make-do German ancestors and devised my own lazy kate in 10 minutes. For free. Voila:


Cardboard box? Check.
Two size 8 steel knitting needles? Check.
Tensioning device? No, but I could have tipped the box a wee bit to add a little tension. I could have also added a piece of string connecting the two bobbins with a loop to add tension. As it was, my singles were pretty thin and I wanted to avoid breakage.

It’s not lovely. But it also wasn’t $50-$80 and it got the job done fantastically. Plus it’s 100% recyclable and reusable. She’s not lazy kate, she’s environmental activist kate.

In fact, kate has issued a challenge to me: finish the next skein of yarn in less than 3 years. Like, before she falls apart.

• tess •

July 7, 2013 at 4:09 pm 3 comments

Colorwork Sock Chugging Along

It’s been awhile since I posted pics of my sock class project, the Bosnian slipper sock. I’m getting close to the heel on this toe-up sock and I’ve hit that invisible fear barrier. The one that says, “Sure, you’ve done OK up to now (not counting starting over several times), but you’re totally going to screw up the heel.”  So, I’ve been spinning some lovely brown Shetland fleece instead.

Here’s how the sock looks so far. The sole:


The top (think cheesy noodles!):


And the guts of my colorwork:


If you’re thinking the toe looks weird, I would agree. It’s called a Bosnian toe (appropriate to a Bosnian sock, eh?) and it’s nothing more than a rectangle, from which you pick up the appropriate number of stitches on each of the four sides to start the body of the sock. As mentioned in a previous post, it’s part of a Craftsy online class called Knit Sock Workshop.

Best part so far: I taught myself to knit with one color yarn in one hand (continental style) and the other color in the other hand (English style) at the same time. {insert fireworks here.}  My method involved lots of “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…”

Now I just need a motivation boost to get back into my class video and start that heel. What do you do to get past that fear of messing up when learning a new technique?

• tess •

July 1, 2013 at 10:27 pm 4 comments

2,045 Yards of Super Fine

When I saw this beauty listed on the JoAnn website, and it was on sale, AND shipping was only $0.01, I knew my Mother’s Day gift was as good as bought. Ka-ching!


100% virgin wool yarn…Who knew it came by the thousands of yards?!?


It gave me a total Pippin moment.


Even finicky Dobby approves. (It does match his eyes, after all)


Now I just have to figure out what to do with it. It’s a good problem to have. :-)

• tess •

June 13, 2013 at 8:42 pm 2 comments

Let’s Make a Deal

Of all the wisdom imparted to me by my mom, there was one thing I think she missed–or I might not have been listening. Here it is:

Life is All About Trade-offs

(To be honest, Mom did say “No one said life was going to be fair” and that’s certainly a corollary!)

Think about the things we trade off every day:

  • Fashion vs. comfort
  • Time working vs. time with family
  • Time with family vs. me time
  • Doughnut vs. swimsuit

Recently the fam sat down and made a list of needful and wantful expenses for the summer. Sadly the needful side of the list was really long. And then, last Friday, we had to add one more item when my exhaust system sprang a leak. Clarification: my CAR’s exhaust system sprang a leak. If you’ve suffered through this, you know the symptom. A previously quiet car suddenly sounds like it has several Harley engines propelling it down the street.

It’s not dangerous, it’s just embarrassing to me. But not for my daughter, who giggles every time I accelerate from a stop.

But it really got me thinking about trade-offs. What am I willing to forgo to stop sounding like the hot rod from hell? Would I give up a home improvement project? A summer trip? Buying yarn?

Here’s a hint: You’ll hear me coming from blocks away, and you’ll know me by the yarn trailing out the car windows.

• tess •

Yarn Hot Rod

June 5, 2013 at 4:29 pm 4 comments

Rip-it! Rip-it!

Spring is the time when the frogs return and I’m suffering from a plague. Not of frogs, but of frogging.

Inspired by one of my knitting/blogging heroes, Mary Scott Huff, I am learning stranded colorwork. I am also learning toe-up sock knitting. Both at the same time. Considering that any new technique will inevitably require at least two tries, plus an extra try to get the size/gauge right, I think I am now at my limit for starting over. Yup. Nothing but smooth sailing for this sock!

Of course, some of the frogging is due to my inability to just follow a pattern as written (this applies to recipes as well). The pattern is for a Bosnian slipper sock, and it is part of a Craftsy class called Knit Sock Workshop. The colorwork pattern provided for the sock is a simple geometric stripe/diamond design–perfect for beginners. But, of course, why should I put all that time into a geometric design when I don’t really like it? I much prefer curves and organic shapes.

So, I scoured Pinterest and started collecting charted designs. And then I had to take it a step further and mash ideas together using Excel spreadsheets to chart variation upon variation. And I finally designed a very nice swirl, took up my size 3 DPNs and blasted through the first 4 rounds of the body (the basic toe with increases was already done in a solid color).

Now, the beauty of the toe-up sock is that you can actually stick your toe into it as you progress to check the size. With each round I knitted onto the body of the sock, I felt more apprehensive about the size. So, I did it. I spread out the stitches on the needles and slipped my bare toes into the end.

Not big. HUGE.

So, frogging I will go. I may have to drop down a needle size (yikes! size 2 toothpicks!) and I am also switching to a more simple charted design, one that will be easier to alter to the new dimensions. I’m calling it “noodles.” I hope frogs don’t like noodles.

Old and new design charts

Just before frogging. Old design chart in blue and white. New noodles chart in green and white.

May 30, 2013 at 8:20 pm 2 comments

Rhubarb aka Pie Plant

Outside it’s cool and rainy. Inside, the oven is 400 degrees F and the first cobbler of the season is bubbling away.

For the past couple of weeks, every time I pass the rhubarb plants I’ve been like the witch eyeing up Hansel and Gretel: fat enough to eat yet? Today the answer was “yes!”

Recently I found out that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s misadventure with pie-making in “The First Four Years” involved rhubarb. In the book, Laura calls it “pie plant,” but it’s rhubarb. If you remember back to the story, Laura–a new wife–is cooking for the threshing crew, and forgets to add sugar to the pie. Hello, sour.

If you’d like to check out my favorite rhubarb cobbler recipe, it’s in one of my old blog posts:

And, since there’s no sun for a photo today, I’ll share a photo I took of a cobbler from seasons past.

• tess •


May 22, 2013 at 7:48 pm Leave a comment

Blackberry Lilies

These are the lilies that Tess grew.

These are the lilies that came from the seeds that came from mom’s garden that tess grew.

They came from the seeds
that sat in the pantry
(for a year or two),
not expected to grow,
they were bid adieu,
in dirt that was poor
they did make-do,
lay fallow year 1
made foliage year 2
now look at the flowers!

…that tess grew.

September 3, 2011 at 3:08 pm 1 comment

Tale of the Fuzzy Lime Poncho

In the beginning, there was the yarn. Clearance priced, bright green and fuzzy. And upon huge bamboo needles, I created an expansive rectangle with several dropped stitches and a bind-off just a wee bit tighter than optimal. (It was the beginning, after all.)

The expansive rectangle became the first item of clothing made by me upon knitting needles, thanks to a free Lion-brand yarn pattern.

Eventually, I fixed theholes left from the dropped stitches. Well, not exactly fixed. More like camouflaged. But I was never quite happy with the length. Should have made the expansive rectangle even more expansive.

So, I recently said to myself, “Self, it’s time to fish or cut bait on this poncho. Fix it or Goodwill it.” I put it on for one last time and melted once more into its unbearably fuzzy warmth. (No, literally, I melted. It is summer, after all.) And I concluded that it was worth saving.

Out came the leftover green yarn and leftover complimentary lavender. Out came the crochet hooks. Round and round I circled the bottom edge, making it up as I went, while the yarn added a couple of inches to the overall length.

So, here it is, being modeled by my front steps. On a scale of 1 – 10 where 1 = Frankenponcho and 10 = Work of Art, what do you think?

• tess •

August 8, 2011 at 9:40 am 1 comment

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