Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Alpaca yarn and yarn and yarn

My brother has an alpaca farm in Troy, Idaho, about 20 minutes away from me, where my three alpacas live, thanks to him! Well, until he took me to an alpaca show in western Washington state about 6 years ago, I never knew about alpacas. What wonderful animals. They are so gentle and their fiber is absolutely to die for! Here's a picture of a few this summer, taken a month after they were sheared.

I'm fortunate because he "lets" me help him when I can, especially when it comes to shearing days. And we work ogether to plan what to do with the fiber. We've had some fiber spun into yarn at a local mill and we've had roving made at ME2 Farm in Colville, Washington. I met Jayne, the owner, at a Fuzzy Bunz show two years ago, and although she owns no alpacas, she impressed me with her knowledge. I think she has learned to appreciate alpaca fiber as she has worked with ours. She likes to "know" the animals whose fiber she is processing, so I always try to provide pictures. This year, she said she just loved the fiber from Missy, my strange fiber huacaya.

So, last week, my brother imported some baby alpaca yarn from his South American supplier, who guarantees that his yarn is "real, true alpaca." Many folks don't know that in South American, they can claim that yarn or other articles made from only 80 percent alpaca is 100 percent alpaca! That's why the quality, especially of alpaca clothing from South America, can be itchy--something you don't get with true, 100 percent alpaca.

Anyway, this yarn was in scrumptuous colors--I just wanted to touch, hold, inhale! it! I had used some of the same yarn last year to knit the Evelyn Clark's Swallotail Shawl from Interweave Knits.

I have so much yarn now--at least 4 projects on needles--and at least 4 or 5 more planned, but I think I NEED some of this new alpaca yarn--maybe I'll try an entralac sock pattern I've been looking at from the Interweave Sock.
Such yarn hoarders we knitters are--but it's because we can't resist the colors and feels of the yarn. There's never enough time to use all the yarn we want (or that we have!) But, that's what the future's for, right?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Woolgatherers on the Palouse

I belong to this neat group of folks who spin, knit, weave, dye and have all sots of fun with fiber, on and off animals! They all live around the Palouse area of Moscow, ID. Check out the Woolgatherer's website http://palousefibers.org
The website is fairly new, so stop back again, and if you live in our area, come to a meeting. We love new folks!

At our last meeting, we decided that we needed to do something to contribute to our community. After many suggestions, we decided that we would knit baby caps and blankets. And at least four of us have started!

So what size is a baby cap?? We heard that we should knit them to fit a grapefruit!

Many of the pattern books I had for babies had the "old, traditional" baby hats with ribbons around the neck. Nah! We're going to make caps more interesting than that, and we're not going to stick to the pink and blue--no gender identification for us!

I did find some nice patterns in some of the magazines I had around. One was topped with an i-cord that you tied and it looks pretty cute. I'll have to remember to take some pictures.

One of the problems that we forsaw was that these caps will have to be easily washed and dried! So many of us knit with mohair and alpaca and wools and other natural fiber blends, that we'll have to dig deep into our stashes to find the appropriate yarns for these caps--that, and visit Goodwill, perhaps! But it will be fun.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Hooked on Hats

Hats have never been my particular favorite thing to knit. I don't wear hats myself. I've been more into scarves and socks!

But, a fellow "Woolgatherer" from the Palouse [I'll talk about this group in another blog] is a wonderful pattern maker--the pattern for a three-tiered hats is her design, which I was able to purchase from her before she had time to commit to a publisher. I made one of these hats early in December and sold it at the Winter Market in Moscow, ID. It was made from autumn-like colors in an alpaca/silk/wood blend yarn (Cascade Dolce).

The hat is knit, on circulars--first the layer (closest to one's eyes) using one color with the final row in the middle color. Then you begin the second layer, work it until it is a certain length, and join to the first layer using a three-needle join. The two layers then are continued with the final layer in the third color. After the third layer is a certain length, it is joined to the first two and completed! It has bobbles and lacy patterns; it fits nice and snug; and the alpaca yarn makes it silky, soft, and warm without being too hot.

So much fun, I quickly made more. My quilting group--the Purple Paisley Quilters at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Palouse--has a yearly Holiday Bazaar, where I sold another two and got an order for three more! Ah ha! Other people like them, too. One "customer/friend" went to the local yarn store with me where we played around with combinations of colors until she found ideal colors for her and for her sister-in-law. The colors weren't what I would have chosen, but the hats turned out great and one was picked up Christmas Eve/day for delivery later!

Another of the ordered hats was delivered to a friend Christmas Eve; sadly, it was still damp from being blocked. I told my friend (I'll call her Xy) to put it on a heating vent or somewhere to dry. She placed it in front of her fireplace. Unfortunately, someone turned the heat up and the hat got partially charred! Xy was afraid to tell me at first, but finally confessed. She's such a friend, that I simply replaced her hat.

Ok, I'm hooked. The hats are so much fun to make. More Dolce and some Ultra Alpaca (Berocco)!

But Xy had another friend who saw the hat and wanted one for herself. By then, I had another five hats made and two of them contained blue, which was what the friend had in mind for the main color. I left the five with Xy and two weeks later, she had sold four of them and ordered a fifth! This one is for a male, so I'll have to leave off the bobbles and make the patterns "less lacier." It will be fun to see how he likes it.

I can usually finish layer or two a night--sitting in my comfortable chair in front of the TV with a good Netflix movie!

And here are two recommendations for feel-good, but not "girly" films, to knit by:

  • "The Milagro Beanfield Wars"--a 1988 film directed by Robert Redford, full of magical realism with a young Christopher Walken as a villain.

  • "Neverwas"--I'd like to buy this to have and watch on those days when I need to just feel happier~!

Sadly (ha ha), now, I'll simply have to go buy more alpaca yarn. Someday, I'll make one to keep for myself!