Spinning from commercial top that has been hand dyed is so very fun, but I was really excited last week when I was handed a bag of raw alpaca! You can’t just throw this on the wheel, but going through all the steps to get it spinnable was an exciting new adventure that I have been wanting to take.

Here is the filthy, matted alpaca right out of the plastic grocery bag –

The Fraggle was very excited about helping me load it into a mesh bag for washing.

Now, I have been told that you don’t have to wash alpaca, but this stuff is filthy – even dirtier than I at first suspected, as you will soon see.

Pressing it into the soapy water.

And leaving it to soak. I did squish it around gently a little bit because my mesh bag is only mesh on one side and that was impeding the water movement.

Once I was ready to rinse, I took it out of the bag so that I could be sure to get the soap out. It was pretty matted together and I only lost the tiniest bit of fiber in the water. The rinse water looked pretty clear at this point, so I laid it out to dry.

Pictured is half of the four ounces. I did it in two batches.

After a very long wait it was ready to card. I know, I know. Alpaca should be combed. But I have carders, so that is what I used. If you want me to do it right, send me a pair of combs.

During the carding process, my lap got so very dirty! All of the vegetable matter and dirt that didn’t get washed out just fell into my lap. I was very glad that I had washed it at this point, even if I didn’t do a thorough job. I can’t imagine how dirty I would have gotten if I had just spun it dirty. Look at that!

Kind of gross, right? I had to go bathe when I was done!

Even now, as I am spinning it, I am picking out bits of grass and stickers and dirt is falling on the floor.

I am disappointed in the quality of this fiber. I don’t know what alpaca is supposed to look like, but I doubt that a good batch has this much guard hair or short unusable bits. I understand the dirt and VM, I am not really talking about that. Is there anybody out there that can educate me? I know that when you buy a wool fleece it comes in one, sheep shaped piece, right? I expected alpaca to as well, but what I got seemed more like the sweepings from a barber shop floor. It was free, and I won’t complain. It is also a great experience and I still have high hopes for the yarn (2 ply laceweight alpaca? Oh, yeah.).

As I spin and knit this fiber up, I am sure that I will have more to say about this experience. So far, however, I think I prefer getting the pretty commercial top all prepared, dyed, and ready to spin.

Making Repairs

It takes a little longer for the cool weather to hit us here in Central California. I jealously watch as all my bloggy friends from around the country pull out their handknits and sport gorgeous sweaters, hats, and mittens in late September while I am still sweating my summer away. I yearn for Autumn’s chill long into the month of October as the sun still beats down upon me. But, now, finally, at last! The cooler weather arrived! It is only 79 degrees here this day! Out come all the gorgeous woolens! The handknit masterpieces of last winter and even winters before.

Alas, some things did not fare well over the summer. Remember this Wispy?

Oh, shoot! I knit this when I was cameraless, and all I have is this awful photo booth picture. Sorry!

Anywho – I wore that thing to death last winter, even though I have reservations about it’s flattering shape (or lack therof). I love this little shrug. It is absolutely delicious! Apparently the moths agree.

That is one shoulder. This is the other (the faint of heart should look away) –

I apologize for the ghastly imagery.

Imagine how my heart sank at the sight! I think I may have shed a tear or two (or three or four). There were also a few tiny holes along the ribbed edge.

It was quite a shock, and somewhat puzzling, too. This sweater was packed away in a box of woolen wonderfuls, yet it is the only item that shows moth damage. I guess they just love the Malabrigo (who can blame them, really?). There are a couple of sweaters that I would have just tossed out -it would have hurt a little, sure, but I don’t love everything that I have ever knit, not really (don’t tell that grey sweater, it would break her heart, but she really is quite expendable). But, this was one of the favorites, the one that my kids will think of when they remember me at my funeral – “I miss Mama already! She always wore that unflattering pink shrug, remember? She was so crazy about that bright, ugly thing!”

So, I pulled up my big girl undies and set out to save my beloved sweaterlette. The first step is always the hardest – I cut away some of the fabric to make a neater hole to mend. I may have held my breath and said a prayer or two while I snipped away at my knitting.

Then, following my darning procedure (explained here) I patched that ugly hole, taking care to catch any live loops and working well into good fabric to prevent any dropped stitches.

It isn’t that great of a patching job, but it makes it wearable and that is enough for me. I don’t really wear it out, anyway. And since I couldn’t get a good picture, here is another bad one –

The smaller holes were much easier, just duplicate stitched over the one or two stitches that had been munched away, again catching any live stitches. I can see them, but once they pill up like the rest of the sweater, they won’t be so noticeable.

So, all is well once again, but I will definitely be rethinking my method of summer storage for my winter lovelies.

Dale & Dolly – A Wheel for Spinning Part 1

Tuesday Funnies!

“Dale and Dolly” is the collaborative work of The Bookworm and I. After I sketch out my idea in goofy little stick figures and scrawled lines of dialog, I hand it over to my twelve year old daughter who works her magic. Her attention to detail and sense of humor make this comic strip what it is and I give her all the credit for this amazing series.  

Spinning Rainbows

Draped over my shoulders right now is the most awesome thing that I have made yet. It is a rainbow of lace, spun, designed, and knit by me. I am so excited about this shawl!

It started out like this –

This is Renee’s 12 Color Rainbow on Mystic MCN Roving from Family Pendragon. Beautiful, yes? Yes.

And a very pleasurable spin it was! I separated out the colors and spun all of one color before moving to the next, being careful to blend the transitions evenly, for a gradient rainbow. The yarn is exquisite light fingering singles in a gorgeous riot of color. (Ravelry page here with notes on the spinning)

I agonized over what to knit with it. I really wanted a half-circle shawl that would accentuate the rainbow, but I couldn’t find just the right one. Then I remembered my handy Elizabeth Zimmerman book collection and inspiration just started coming in waves! I looked up the formula for her Pi Shawl and adjusted it to make a half-circle. It was laughably simple once I got going (seriously – so very simple!).

Once I got the shaping figured out, it was just a matter of choosing lace patterns to knit in the arches between the increase rows. Out came all of my lace stitch dictionaries (and quite a bit of Amazon dreaming, I admit! Oh, what I wouldn’t give for some Barbara Walker treasuries!) and I started knitting. The end result? Fabulous! (if I do say so myself) (Ravelry Project Page here)

I didn’t plan too much at once, just letting myself create over the course of the project. Each time I came to an increase row, I sought out the next lace insert, poring over my lace volumes anew.

The only thing that I really knew was that I wanted scalloped edges, so “Feather and Fan” was the obvious choice for the border.

The other goal was to knit a different stitch for each color. This worked out until the rows exceeded 300 stitches and the color repeats shortened to one inch, but by that time I was ready to start the scalloped edge anyway, so it worked out.

Among the many pleasing bits in this project is the lovely fact that the colors cooperated so well, leaving the dark purple for the bind off. I love the dark edge. Perfect.

Another thing that I love is the way that the various lace patterns work together in a pleasing way, even though I didn’t plan them. I was a little concerned that my haphazard method was going to produce something that looked, well, haphazard. On the contrary, I think it looks pretty good, and there are very few things that I would change (one of them being that I wish the orange section was less geometrical and looked more like leaves, as I imagined that it would). The yellow section is inspired by the Kai Mei socks, altered to make an all-over pattern, and the orange section I totally made up myself. For the other patterns I used Vogue Knitting Stitchionary vol 5 for guidance, but tweaking it to my liking along the way.

It is quite a thrill to start with a wad of wool and turn it into something so lovely, and even more thrilling to start with a plan and actually accomplish the goal almost perfectly.

And, though all the girls are vying for ownership, I think this one is for me.

Dale & Dolly – Spinning Pt. 3

Tuesday Funnies!

“Dale and Dolly” is the collaborative work of The Bookworm and I. After I sketch out my idea in goofy little stick figures and scrawled lines of dialog, I hand it over to my twelve year old daughter who works her magic. Her attention to detail and sense of humor make this comic strip what it is and I give her all the credit for this amazing series.  


This morning as I sipped my steaming mug of coffee and listened to the sounds of people awakening upstairs (thumping, crashing, yelling, a few giggles, and, inexplicably because we don’t have a pet crow, a bunch of cawing), I got out my iPad and tried to squeeze in a little blog reading. And once again, I ran into a little frustration called, “I wish I had more time to comment here, but I must keep moving or I won’t get to read them all”-itis.

Now that everyone has been fed and is upstairs getting dressed, making beds, and still cawing (?), I thought I would try to get a blog post written. But I have a bunch of random bits on my mind, all inspired from fellow bloggers. I thought, “Maybe I should just go and find all those posts that I wanted to comment on, and comment on them”, but that would take too much time. Then I thought, “Maybe I should blog about my inability to join in the community”, but that is kind of discouraging. So, here is my weird answer to this connundrum. A blog post about blog posts.

These are the blogs that I read because they are great, but everyone already reads them, so it is silly to even mention them –

  1. Yarn Harlot 
  2. Never Not Knitting
  3. Knitbot
  4. The Panopticon
  5. Cookie A
  6. Crazy Aunt Purl

These are the blogs that I hope you read because they are lovely, or informative, or creative, or wonderful in some way – (knitting, spinning, or at least yarn related)

  1. Wild Faerie Caps
  2. Oh! Baby O!
  3. Cosymakes
  4. Sand and Sky Creations
  5. The Sweaty Knitter
  6. Verdigris Knits
  7. Knitting in Flashes
  8. All Tangled Up (hmm, can’t get the link to work, but my reader picks it up just fine. weird)
  9. Knitting Kninja
  10. The Knit Princess
  11. R1-K1-Spin
  12. Not Your Average Crochet
  13. Knitting Interrupted
  14. Grumperina
  15. Peacefully Knitting
  16. Knitting Ventures
  17. Fickle Knitter
  18. Caffinated Yarn
  19. The Ravell’d Sleeve
  20. Nishikot
  21. Agujas

I also follow some humorous blogs for the fun of it –

  1. Meanest Mommy
  2. Honest Toddler
  3. XKCD
  4. Ironic Mom
  5. Blimey Cow
  6. Crappy Pictures

And some more good ones that aren’t really knitting or humor, but I love the authors and the things that they write –

  1. Audaciter Matris
  2. She Learns as She Goes

So, you see now why I don’t comment (“caw! caw!” what are they doing up there?), even though I would love to tell Melissa (Wild Faerie Caps) that I am super jealous of her drum carder and that her spinning is inspiring. I would also tell Cosy that her studio is looking awesome and that I wish that I lived closer because I would totally be there, and I would comment on Emily’s recent post (here) to say that all of her spinning is so incredible and today’s socks are no exception. Hannah is blending her crochet and knitting blogs together and I think it is wonderful and I would let her know that, while I don’t crochet if I can get around it, I enjoy all of her posts regardless of the craft she is featuring. I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

All of that to say, my Dear Fellow Bloggers, is that if you haven’t heard from me in a while it is not my absence that is the problem. Rather, I think it is the crows upstairs! (caw! caw!)

Didn’t see your blog here? Well that could be because I just moved all my reading to a new blog reader and I may have lost you in the shuffle. Or perhaps I haven’t seen it yet. I’d love to add you to my morning ritual. Leave a link in the comments and I’ll check it out – I will even try to leave a comment every now and then! 🙂


EDITED TO ADD – I knew that I would forget someone! Sorry guys! These are great blogs, too –

1. Fiber Crush
2. Confessions of a Yarn Addict
3. Colour Cottage

Dale & Dolly – Spinning Pt. 2

Tuesday Funnies!
“Dale and Dolly” is the collaborative work of The Bookworm and I. After I sketch out my idea in goofy little stick figures and scrawled lines of dialog, I hand it over to my twelve year old daughter who works her magic. Her attention to detail and sense of humor make this comic strip what it is and I give her all the credit for this amazing series.  

You Know You Knit Too Much When…

We were headed home after a long day of grocery shopping and errand running. The kids were tired and a little grumpy. I heard bickering in the back seat. “What is the problem back there?” I asked glancing in the rear view mirror.

“She won’t let me look at the book,” The Munchkin complained. “And now there is nothing for me to look at!”

“Nonsense!” I declared. “Look out the window and what do you see? I see grapevines and mailboxes! I see clouds and, oh! look at those great big houses over there! I wonder if that big, huge one only has two or three people living in it. What do you think?”

After a little speculation about what one would use 5000 square feet for (mind you, we are a family of 8 living in 1100 square feet!), The Boy piped up,

“Mama! I bet they have a whole room for the yarn stash!”

I love that boy! 🙂