That’s a Week Excuse

It snowed again last night, which is not at all unusual for March/April, and is still inexplicably heartbreaking. I got up, took one look at it, thought about what this all means to spring and hope and then I thought “What do I care. I am going to Texas.”  In three days I will get on a plane and I will go somewhere that the sun is shining and it is warm and flowers are blooming (maybe even the bluebonnets which is very exciting) and I will walk outside and not once while I am there, will I think of knitted accessories in their capacity to prevent frostbite.

I thought this, gleefully and happily, as I drank coffee – cheerfully raising my cup to the snow in as much of a of “screw you” gesture as one can manage with coffee in one hand and knitting in the other. (I have been practicing this particular gesture with those exact items in my hands for some decades now, and it’s actually pretty solid.) I thought about how nice it will be to see my Texas friends and some of my colleagues, and reflected that this event is one of my favourites every year, only made more perfect by the fact that this year, I’m home in time for Elliot’s 2nd birthday, which is the Monday after DFW.

In that exact moment -two things happened.  I imagined how cute he was going to look opening his presents and wearing his new birthday sweater, and suddenly realized that if I was looking forward to seeing him when I got back and that I was also looking forward to DFW in just a few days, that this actually meant whatever idea I had about there being buckets of time to get his sweater knit might be crazier than a bag of wet weasels.

I have been looking at the yarn for his sweater for about three weeks now – and I keep thinking about what a little sweater it is, and how it’s going to be so fast and I don’t have to worry, and now, suddenly, I think I have to worry, or at least start knitting. I’ve got seven days to whack together a sweater.

I should at least make a swatch today.

And then she said

I don’t know if all of you know this, but the comments on blog posts (at least here) are, generally speaking- better than the post itself.  I don’t know how it happened, but there’s a lot of cleverness and entertainment going on in there. Over the years, I’ve come to believe that if one person types it, at least 20 people were thinking it, so let’s see what’s happening down there, shall we?

Elizabeth wrote: I confess that even though I teach stranded knitting, I’ve never knitted a pair of stranded socks. I guess I’m concerned that they won’t have the necessary elasticity.

I think lots of sock knitters (me included sometimes) more than occasionally rely on stretch in a knit to achieve fit, and get used to that. For example, short row heeled socks are often a poor fit for people with a high instep, simply because there’s less fabric present than with a flap heel. That’s just a fact. When I say that though, a whole bunch of knitters line up and say “nuh-uh. I have a high instep and I ONLY knit short row heels and they fit bloody great actually.” Then I look at those (very nice) socks, and low and behold, they’re knit at a looseish gauge that allows for heaps of stretch and that’s how they’re getting fit in the instep – the fabric is often quite stretched through that section. Nothing wrong with this as a strategy, except it stops working when you’re knitting stranded socks. Elizabeth is right – there is less stretch in a pair of colourwork socks like these, so you have to make sure that they actually fit – and it helps to consider a flap heel. (Insert lecture here about gauge. I won’t type it, you already know.)

Jeremy writes: I am going to get that pattern. I always sweat out the amount of yarn I have when I knit socks because I have US size 12 feet. (11.5 inches). 

Smart -I’ve got loads left, so this is totally a good big foot strategy. Ken’s feet aren’t quite as bit as yours, but I have 68/100g left of the grey, 60/100g of the white and 25/50g of the red.  I could make a whole other pair out of my leftovers.

Tracy B (and Charissa echoed her) said ” I’m just wondering though – would the decreases on the bottom of the heel bother a person? It’s almost like a seam right there.”

I don’t think so.  It’s not big at all, and after a wear or two will fade into the work – plus it falls right into the little arch of your foot, so it’s not like you’re really standing on it.  I freakin’ love it.  Plus, we’re all not as princess-and-the-pea as we think we are.  All commercial socks/hose/tights have a seam or two, and most of us wear them every day. (Well, not me.) Ken’s as fussy as they come that way, he’s the type of guy who’s had to excuse himself from a meeting to cut the tag off a shirt because he simply can’t go on, and I’m not worried this will bother him in the slightest.  I’ll let you know though.

Victoria (and Bridget) and probably a bunch of you because knitters are obsessed with this say: ” I just wish you had posted a picture of the inside of the socks so we could see how you stranded them.”

What, I ask you, is with knitters wanting to see the inside of stuff. I mean – I always want to see the inside too, but why do you think we are so weird about it? I’m not convinced it’s about construction – how we stranded them, or whatever, because I’ve heard knitters judge their work by the inside as well as the outside – like whatever amazing thing they’ve wrought on the public side doesn’t count unless it’s just as nice in secret.  We are an odd bunch, I tell you that, but I am with you – so here:

This should answer the question from Jan who said “I’m wondering about what you did about the floats? Did you catch every single stitch? I could see catching every 3 or so stitches on a hat, but in a sock , especially at the foot, it seems even short floats would catch toes and add to the general discomfort–”

As you can see, I certainly didn’t catch every one – that’s a recipe for a lack of stretch,  and a dimpled, inflexible fabric.  I only caught the floats once in the repeat – there’s a spot where the float goes seven stitches, and I caught it in the centre of that – and at the time I knew I didn’t have to do that either, but felt compelled.  You’d need freakishly tiny toes to worry about catching them.  The floats lie flat, and aren’t loops at all.

Pamela says “Do you block your socks in sock blockers or just smooth them out?”

I just smooth them out. They get a nice bath in the sink with slightly warm water and the wool wash currently in rotation. (Usually Soak or Eucalan.) When it’s been in there about 20 minutes, I give them a gentle tug in all directions to encourage things to even out, and then I gently squeeze them, roll them up in a towel and step on it a few times, then lay them flat to dry, pushing them into shape. Usually I come back once or twice while they’re drying to move them around a bit and rearrange things so that I don’t get fold lines. (This is almost always a failure, and doesn’t matter.)

Everyone in the whole world “Warm water holy crap Steph what the hell is wrong with you and I would be totally worried those socks would turn pink when you soak them in water especially warm, what the ^%&^%$# is wrong with you risking socks that way?”

Here’s the thing – before I do any colourwork of any kind, even if I have absolutely no concerns about gauge – I always, every time, I swear…. knit a swatch. At the very least I do a little stripey one, with all the colours in it, and then (always, every time, without fail) I wash that swatch.  I treat it exactly like it’s going to be treated in the warm, damp environment of shoes or boots.  The thing is this:  Before I give it this much of my one wild and precious life to a project, I want to know ahead of time if that dye bleeds. If the swatch can’t handle life, then the socks won’t – and they won’t get knit, at least, not out of that yarn.  I can treat the socks the way I do, because I treated the swatch the way I did. I’ve got confidence, or at least what passes for the knitters version of it.

So there you have it, a little Q&A – now if you’ll excuse me, it’s Taco Thursday (I know, wrong day of the week, we do things our own way here) and I’ve got an almost two year old grandson waiting for me. (And the tacos.)

Three for Three or Four

This year’s self-imposed-sock-club continues to be a big fat win.  I finished January’s on time, as unlikely as that seemed, and then February’s were done before February was too. (Though I didn’t manage either time to post about them within the right month, so I’m giving myself two extra points for this one.)

March’s socks have slid along rather quietly under the radar. I didn’t post about them because they were Ken’s Birthday socks – though I’ve only just finished them now. (Two points deducted.) I was hoping to surprise him, but snapped on his birthday and gave him an unfinished sock – just before the toe.  I’d been knitting along at a pretty good pace, but as I got closer to the end of the sock I started to worry that they weren’t going to fit. This is an ongoing problem I have with socks for people with large feet. I’ve got small ones myself, and I’m accustomed to knitting for me, so when I cast on the appropriate number for a big guy, I spend the whole knitting trip spreading the work out on my leg every hour or so and saying “Really? That can’t be right.” I decided not to take any chances with Ken’s, and stopped knitting a day or two before his birthday so he could try them (it) on before I went any farther.

They (it) fit beautifully, so I pressed on.  The pattern for this elegant pair is Vägvarda (I had to google how to do the umlaut.) The yarn’s West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4-ply (again, I’m working through a stash of it I bought to do Cameron’s socks and some of Elliot’s ornaments.  It’s really nice, so I don’t mind) for the grey (Poppy Seed) and white (Milk Bottle.) The red’s Drops Fabel #106 (super sexy name) because WYS didn’t quite have the red I wanted.  For anybody keeping score – I used a 2.25mm needle, which is my standard for socks.

I loved knitting these.  What do you think it is that makes colourwork knitting seem to go so much faster than regular knitting? It can’t actually be faster, I know that’s not possible. I’m pretty comfortable knitting with one strand in each hand, so I do power through pretty quickly, but it seems to me that it comes of the needles faster than anything else. Is it because you’re following a chart? Ticking off one row after the other, with a concrete way to see how far you’ve come, and how far you have to go? And if that’s true, how come it doesn’t work for lace?

One last picture of this charming pair, this time of the clever and tidy gusset decreases, here positioned on the bottom of the foot. (A standard sock decreases by two stitches every other row on the gusset. Those decreases, as this sock proves, can go anywhere, as long as the sock gets smaller in circumference where the foot does.)

I lied, here’s one more –  this one that I snapped with my phone yesterday, before I finished. I’m posting it because here, one sock’s been blocked and the other – not. (That was so Ken could try on the first one.)  I hear so many knitters say that their colourwork looks shabby, and I’ve even seen people rip it out for looking shabby, and I just wanted to show you the difference a little swim and tidy up makes.  See? More than any other kind of knitting, blocking is important for colourwork. You really can’t tell if you suck before it hits the water.

Another bonus today – more socks, bringing this year’s total to four. I keep a pair of simple socks in my bag, knitting from the pattern I keep in my head. Yarn: Land Jawoll Color “Aktion” in the colourway fetchingly named 132.0265. Pattern: my own plain vanilla sock from Knitting Rules. (The only truly useful book I’ve ever written.)

 

I keep this knitting – plain socks, in my bag all the time – pulling it out when I’m on the subway, in a queue, at dinner, in meetings, walking down the street (when it’s not winter.) I beaver away at them here and there, and then every so often, when I’m least expecting it, a pair of socks falls off of me.

Peace out, see you in a day or two, and know that while knitting improves with practice, it remains really freakin’ tricky to take pictures of your own feet even after years of yoga and  trying.

Analepsis Is Not a Disease

Here I am, sitting at my desk, about to go properly deep into my inboxes. While I worked a little bit every day that we were away in Lake Louise it wasn’t enough to stop the inbox glacier from creeping ever larger, and today I’ve made coffee, set everything to “ignore” (including the house, which looks like a stampede of bison went through) and put my phone in a drawer.  Me and this inbox are going to tango till one of us drops, and it’s not going to be me. Before that particular dance starts though, a quick waltz with you lot. I keep saying to myself that I’ll blog as soon as I’m done with (insert absolutely unfinishable task here) so today I’m reversing it. You first, then once more into the breach, dear friends.

When last we saw our heroine, she was sitting in a hotel room, tapping out a blog post surrounded by skis and mohair, a combination that isn’t nearly as odd as it sounds, despite the infrequency of the mix.

My complete inability to demonstrate any sort of monogamy to a knitting project continues unabated, and so I’d taken five (5) projects with us for a seven (7) day holiday. Just think about that for a minute.  That means I thought I’d finish almost a project a day, while skiing six hours a day. I took two pairs of socks, a sweater (adult, only half way through the front) a cowl and a shawl. (The shawl and sweater never even made it out of the suitcase.) Both pairs of socks saw active duty (still in progress please stand by) and the cowl sort of turned into two cowls and I finished one on the flight on the way there, and almost the other.

Yarn: Canon Hand Dyes, Ombre Cowl Kit in Agatha Lace (70% mohair, 30% silk) Pattern, Ombre Cowl Hood.

Other than the part where I left a muppet’s worth of mohair fuzz everywhere I went, I loved making that cowl so much that the minute I finished (and despite having another two projects with me on the plane) I started another smaller one with the leftovers from the first one. It won’t be as big as the first, but still a proper cowl, I think.

It was bliss. Plain knitting, round and round, no pattern no fuss, 2 strands held together… It was knitting as comforting and cozy as a cup of hot soup.  I breezed through it completely, and it turns out it was perfect ski knitting.  The needles were big and blunt, and the yarn light as a cloud, so I felt fine about asking Joe to carry it in his pocket so that I had it to knit during skiing.  I worked on it at lunch, on the gondola, the lifts (if it was warm enough to take my hands out of my mittens.)

Upon reflection, it was this knitting/skiing combination that made it possible for me to finish any knitting at all, and I feel sure that if I cared less about the well-being of my husband, and worried less about the catastrophic consequences of him taking a spill down a mountain with Signature stiletto needles in his pocket, I probably could have finished the socks too.

Feel the love, Joe.

Where to?

Whoosh, I’m back on other side of the continent, for the third time in four weeks though I didn’t make it as far as I have the other two times.  First there was Madrona in Seattle, and then I was back for the Strung Along Retreat and now – hold on. Let’s back up. I’ve known for a while that if I’m not careful to keep a firm grip on my schedule these few weeks it will all turn into a nightmare rather than an intense phase, so let me try to keep it all in order, and let’s do it on the basis of what I was knitting when.  We’re all really knit-centric anyway, it probably matters more than location.

So, first I was knitting gnome socks – that was Madrona, and I was knitting them because it was Cameron’s birthday, and he’d been gone for several months, working far away. He got this idea to combine his birthday with a homecoming party, and somewhere along there it became a Gnomecoming party (don’t ask, the man appreciates a pun more than I do, and that’s saying something.) The minute I heard Gnome I was on it, thanks to this pattern.

Well, you’ll notice that mine is quite different than that one, so maybe it’s more like thanks to the inspiration of that pattern.  It comes in a women’s medium, and Cam’s a men’s large, so there was some upsizing involved. Also (and here’s sentence I never thought I would type) there was a few too many gnomes on those other socks for my liking, so I reduced the gnome intensity. Also, Cam likes stripes.

The yarn is West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4 ply (a favourite of mine, especially for nice solids.) Most impressive about these socks is that not only did I trot them all over Madrona -but I managed to finish them before the party, and I had a few minutes to make appropriate wrapping arrangements. (Full disclosure. I finished at 1am the night before, which is technically the day of, but I don’t think so because then I went to bed.)

It turns out gnome wrapping paper to put your gnome socks in is harder than you think, so I drew some.  I feel like leaping on a theme is always best – and these count as my February socks, so I’m two months into my own little sock club, and doing fine.

Next, I was off to the retreat and so I wound some…

Actually – I can’t tell you that now.  Joe and I are on holiday in Lake Louise, and I just bugged him to get ready to go ski, and now he’s ready and I’m typing, and that doesn’t seem totally fair – so off we go. We had such a gorgeous day yesterday, and today we’re both pretty excited to get to the mountains.  Stand by.

(Or sit by, it’s easier to knit that way.)

 

Randomly on a Tuesday

1. I have no idea what happened to the last 2 weeks.

2. That’s a lie. There’s just been so much that I find myself ready to quote Inigo Montoya. “Let me explain… No, there is too much. Let me sum up.”

3. I have been to Seattle and back for the last Madrona, and I did it all in snowstorms everywhere I went.  (It was appropriate somehow that the weather was so dramatic, I felt like there should be some reflection of how significant it was to me that the event was ending after 20 years.)  I’ve been lucky enough to be going to that for 15 years or so, and I owe Suzanne more than I can say. She was my role model for how I’ve run my business for years, and I’m so grateful we’re friends so that even though Madrona’s over, my relationship with Suzanne isn’t.

3. Usually at Madrona, I organize and MC the Teacher Talent Show but this year I also took part and that’s enough said about that, except anyone who was there should be able to tell you A) that it was absolutely epic. B) That I am never, ever doing anything like that again. C) That what happens at Madrona stays at Madrona and there’s a media ban, so you’ll just have to wonder forever now.

4. I finished the Jacob project, and I love it desperately. Let’s recap, shall we? I started with a little Jacob fleece that Judith gave me, and sorted it into it’s component colours.

Then I carded those on my little carder, making batts that fit into my plan of a gradient.

Then I spun them up into  2-ply yarns, a tiny bit heavier than lacewight.

Mission accomplished, I chose a pattern that would let me use every inch – in this case, working from the top-down, with a variable number of repeats so I could adjust to the yarn amount, and even a border pattern that I thought would look just fine with a few more or less rows.  Dover Castle.

I can’t tell you how well it came together -and how quickly, and how much I nailed the landing.  I finished with about 30cm of yarn left.

It was like a poem.  I love it when a project goes to plan, and this one did, from beginning to end.  Here’s the shawl – finished, but pre-block.

Then, having arrived at Madrona, I blocked it on my hotel room bed (slept in the other half, I’m not very big and I’m an edge sleeper) and voila!

I was so delighted with it.  As a few of you predicted, it was Judith’s birthday present – and such a lovely circular gift.  She gave me the fleece, I gave her the shawl, and we both got what we wanted in the end, I had such a good time playing with that fleece – it made me want another one.

5. I am not sure why I don’t feel bad about giving her the shawl.  I love that thing, but was quite content to see it on her shoulders.

6. Maybe I am a better person than I thought.

7. Wouldn’t that be nice.

8. I finished two other projects but I’ll show you later. I don’t want to upstage the shawl. (I also did a whole lot of other stuff. You’ll see.)

9. I leave for Port Ludlow in the morning – and we’ve got one spot left at the Spring Retreat. (Technically we were full, but then there was a cancellation and now we’ve got one spot again.) If you are a last minute type, here’s your big chance.

10. There’s also a spot at the Learn to Spin Workshop on Friday. You can sign up just for that if you like – and we can loan you a wheel. It’s at Port Ludlow from 9-4, we provide lunch, and Judith will teach you to spin. (I think Judith could teach a porpoise to spin in a 6 hour class, you’ll do really well.)

11. Probably not a porpoise.

12. Maybe a porcupine.

Fate, Tempted

You know, it is hard to know how to blog a project when it’s all going really well.  I mean, could there possibly be anything more boring to read about than a piece of knitting that has no problems? Such is the case with the Dover Castle Shawl.

Actually, let me be clear. It’s not just that this thing has no problems – It’s that it is all going so swimmingly that I cannot even dream up a bit of dramatic interest. Nothing, except for yesterday I sneezed and dropped a stitch, and then I picked it back up again.  It’s hardly the plot for a blog post. Not only is it all going beautifully, but since this shawl starts small and gets bigger, I didn’t see the reason for a swatch. The shawl can be the swatch, I reckoned, and I’m not shirking.  I know that if you’ve ever been in a class with me I’ve likely told you that there’s not very many times when I don’t consider skipping the swatch a dereliction of knitterly duty, but here, we have one of them.  I could just start, I figured, and rip it out if the gauge wasn’t right, when the shawl was swatch-sized, and I’m happy to block things on the needles, so I knew I wouldn’t get a surprise there – and since I made the yarn myself, I know there can’t be a surprise. I’d normally warn you here -that the swatch is as much a talent show, or an interview as it is a gauge test – there’s many ways a yarn can be wrong for a project that go far, far beyond the number of stitches per 10cm, let me tell you that. Here it was designed by me to be perfect for this purpose, and since I washed it after spinning and before knitting, I know that it won’t bloom or change with washing after, like a lot of commercial yarns can. The point is, I blew off the gauge swatch, and then the gauge was as perfect as a poem.

Even better, I was hoping I’d be able to make this a little bigger than the pattern calls for – it suggests seven repeats of the main chart before moving to the edging, and I just finished number eight – and haven’t even moved onto another colour yet. Really, short of the thing spontaneously bursting into flames (unlikely, since wool is flame retardant and self-extinguishing) I really can’t see anything going wrong at all…

There. I said it.

PS. If anybody is on the fence, a few spots for our Spring Retreat remain. Send me an email if you’ve got questions. We’d love to have you. (InfoATstrungalongDOTca)

Well There Now

I know, I know. I absolutely remember what I said about knitting with grey this time of year just a few days ago, but surely, the rule (that I made) can be broken by me at any moment I see fit, and surely, surely, it was not intended for spectacularly perfect little skeins of yarn like this.

That’s the little Jacob from two posts ago – spun up in entirety, into five gorgeous little skeins that are exactly as I imagined them. (If a little plumper than I intended, after their baths.) Each is a two ply, somewhere between a laceweight and a fingering, and since they’re all from the same sheep, they make a lovely gradient, of sorts.

The big skein of cream is about 180m, and each of the smaller greys are about 70m, near as I can figure it. That gives me a little less yarn to work with than I had planned, just 480m (that fleece was really tiny) and means my original plan isn’t going to work. I’ve tried about a hundred times to convince myself that 480 and 530 are just about the same in terms of meterage,  but they’re not and it won’t work, and that’s okay, because they’re so lovely it was easy to come up with another plan. (I use the word “easy” here to mean that it was a two hour Ravelry search and involved the wits, skills and experience of six or seven knitters dedicated to the hunt to work it out, which is pretty easy considering how picky I was. Shawl hunts can be epic.)

This afternoon, after I finish all my work (or as much as seems reasonable, considering the unending nature of it all) I’m giving up on cleaning the kitchen, casting on for Dover Castle, in sublime grey, and suddenly, it seems like the most perfect colour. Just look at those skeins.

 

Under the Wire

With my plan for the Self-Imposed Sock Club in place for this year, at the beginning of January I dutifully went to the downstairs Stash Cupboard, and pulled a bag. That’s how it works, the Sock Club, I’ve got everything all sorted into bags, ready to go, and on the first of every month I am reaching in, pulling a bag, and whatever that is, that’s what I’m going to knit. No swapsies, no takebacks, no do-overs. The rules are the rules. I meant it too, except for one thing. I went to the cupboard, reached in, and pulled out this.

Never mind what the pattern was, it doesn’t matter. I looked at that grey, I looked outside at the grey, I thought about the long dark tea-time of the soul that is January, and I thought about my friend Denny, who always says not to knit too much grey in the Winter because it’s just too hard on your heart, and knitters…. I swapped it. I took that bag and I shoved it bag in the cupboard and I pulled another one, and then put that back and then I kept going until I got something that made me want to live a little.

Spring Forward is the pattern, an oldie but a goodie (11 years!) it never stops pleasing me, this one. Looks fancy but is easy to memorize, and travels well as a result. It went most places with me this January.

The yarn is Valley Yarns Charlemont, a standby sock favourite of mine. Wool and silk make it warm and soft, and the silk and nylon mean it wears well.   This one’s the hand-dyed variety – a long defunct colourway, sadly.  It reminds me of tulips and pink hyacinths and other promises the spring holds, once we trudge through January. (And February, and March, and probably April.)

It was a pleasure knitting them – so much so, that this morning, it being the first of February I marched gleefully to the cupboard, pulled a bag, looked at what was inside, looked at what was outside (which is another unbelievably cold day, even for here) and tossed it back again. There will be February Sock Club Socks, and they’ll be worth braving the cold for,  but it’s my club, and I make the rules. I’m off to the yarn store.

PS. Because one of you will ask, the tea towel in the pictures (I’m using it as a spinning cloth at present, so it was handy for the pictures) is from Tilly Flop.  I found two of them in my stocking this year, courtesy of Ken Santa Claus. I love them.

What the heart wants

I am sure that this has happened to you with yarn, and maybe (whether you are a spinner or not) maybe this has happened to you with a fleece. You are minding your own business, living the cheery life of a textile artist, surrounded with all the yarn (and maybe fiber) that you could ever want (or more) and one day, there it is. Yarn, or fleece or fiber or whatever it is, leaps into your life and proclaims a destiny mingled with your own.

This happened to me a while back, at a retreat at Port Ludlow, when I was helping Judith to spread about thirty (30) fleeces out onto tables, so that she could acquaint some knitters and spinners (and proto-spinners) with various different kinds of beast – so they could learn the differences between them, tell which kinds were good, and generally huff a some wool fumes. I was taking the fleeces from the bags, and Judith was directing me. “That one’s a long wool” she said, waving a hand at the fleece in my hands “put it with the Leicester.” I did that, and then reached into the bag for the next one.

That’s when it happened. I pulled out the next fleece, and it was a little one (I like the wee ones, for starters) and I think that as I lifted it from the bag, I knew.  I might have even made a little noise. A sort of involuntary “Oh…” and Judith looked over to see what I’d found, and she smiled.  “Isn’t that a perfect little Jacob?” she said, and I mumbled something like “Oh yes it is perfect…” and then somehow, I put it down on the table and went back to my work.  It was too late though.  The heart wants what the heart wants, and I wanted that. Never mind that it was not mine. Never mind that it was not for sale. Never mind that it belonged to Judith and that she loved it too. I wanted it with a burning passion, and in my mind I knew what it could be. I could see it, entire. In the two seconds that I’d had that fleece in my hands, I had already fully realized it’s destiny, and it was with me.

I have a weakness for Jacob fleeces.  Not all of them, but… most, to be fair.  I find the idea of one sheep with several colours on them really fetching, and the wee spotty sheep with their charming horns are right up my alley. They look wild and a little sketchy, and I love that too. I thought about all of that, and I thought about how to get that fleece from Judith, but I didn’t.  It was hers, not mine, and I even helped her bundle it up neatly at the end of the evening, though not before a bit of a cuddle.

Fast forward to the next retreat, when Judith arrived and began unpacking a thousand things from her car,  and she thrust a soft package, neatly wrapped with gold paper into my hands.  My heart skipped a beat as I hefted it. I peeked in the corner, and lo – it was the Jacob. Freshly washed – because Judith knows you’re not supposed to take raw fleece across the border.  She said she could see from the look on my face when I first spotted it that it was an accident of fate that it was in her stash and not mine. I think I kissed her.

I brought that little fleece home, and it and I spent some time in the backyard. It took the better part of an afternoon, but I sorted it – lock by lock, into all of its individual colours. Locks that were white, ones that were darkest brown, and then the ones that were grey, or a mix.

Then into the house – and over the course of several days (in which I had the entire dining room jacob-ified) I ran all of it through my little drum carder, and made batts.

When I was done, I had five shades of Jacob – ranging from cream to chocolate, and I started getting organized to spin them all up. Then The Rally happened, and then after that I broke my wrist, and then Christmas and I didn’t exactly forget that I had the Jacob, but I didn’t move it to the top of the pile either. Last week I was tidying the stash (I watched that Marie Kondo show and the reverberations were felt all through the house) and there it was. All the Jacob, in sweet little batts, and my heart skipped a beat, and I moved it back to the dining room. (The astute among you will note that this action thoroughly undid any impact Marie Kondo had on that room, because I’ve watched that whole series, and she never has an allowance for fleece in the dining room, carded or not.)

The largest grouping, the cream (there were four batts of that, and only two of the four other shades) is now all spun up.

And I plied it, and it’s now about 180m of a really lovely laceweight.

I’ve started the next shade – and if all goes well, I’ll have it all done by the end of the week. (Or tomorrow. I’m a little obsessed.)

I think I know just what it’s going to be too – and I’ve known since the minute I saw that fleece. The heart wants what the heart wants. I’m so glad Judith knows that.

As an aside (and since it’s those retreats that brought that gorgeous thing into my life) it’s my pleasure (and Debbi’s too) to let you know that the Spring Strung Along Retreat is open for registration.  There’s details here – and we’re doing something a little different this time.  Our June retreat is the only one that doesn’t have spinning, and the November retreat is already full (so’s June, just about) so this one is the only Retreat with room still, but we know that many of you would love to come, but don’t know how to spin, so we’ve got you. The day before the retreat proper begins, Judith will be teaching an optional “learn to spin” workshop. It’s suitable for rank beginners with no idea what they’re doing, and by the end of that day – you’ll have skills enough to take you through the rest of the retreat quite easily.  There’s limited space in that workshop, but if that sounds good to you, give that page a read, and send us an email. We’ll get you all sorted. (There’s room without the workshop if you already sort of know how to spin, of course.)

Now off I go.  It’s a snow day, and my wheel beckons.