Fleece hunt part 2

So I’m now in contact with that place that may have Shetlands and they do have them.  I’m still not entirely sure that this will work out.  We’re having pricing issues.

She quoted a price of $1/ounce.  Too expensive for me.  I politely declined.  She replied that she’d found that price online but was open to negotiation and would match any price I found.  I sent back that I was hoping for $10/lb and mentioned several factors that affect pricing.  I didn’t mention that I could fairly easily find $5/lb if I went looking.  I’m waiting for a reply.  She did mention that she was having houseguests this weekend so may be too busy to reply until Monday.

I have the suspicion that she’s not a spinner.  Or at least has never sold or bought fleece.  That’s fine.  I have no problem with going out there and accessing her fleece and then setting a price.  But she’s going to have to be ok with that price possibly being low.

The fleeces in question have been in vacuum bags, stored for 1-2 years.  In theory, this is good.  There should not be bug problems.  On the other hand, just where have they been stored?  In a basement or climate controlled room?  That would be ideal.  Out in the barn or a shed?  That brings up a bunch of potential problems.  Lanolin melting and resettling in the heat of the summer is a major one.  While Shetlands are on the low end for lanolin, it’s much harder to removed resettled lanolin.  Condensation on the plastic bags causing felting is another.

I’m happy to give advice on how to improve her fleeces.  Coating to cut down on VM.  How and where to sell (online, the local market is nearly non-existant.)  Better storage practices, if that is an issue.  How to find a shearer if that is an issue.  Possibly shearing earlier if the shetland rise is an issue.

These are all things that can only be accessed in person and that an inexperienced shepherd, especially one that doesn’t spin, wouldn’t know.  I only know because I’ve done extensive research on sheep and fleeces.  I’m curious that way.

In any case, if this fall through and we can’t agree on price, then I’m done searching for local fleece.  I’ll buy online until such time as my husband feels comfortable extending his range.  Which is once we get a new car.  Which is not in the near term plans.

I’m tired of this yearly hunt.  I despise making phone calls and email is only slightly better. I’m always afraid of offending the other person when they are a stranger.  There’s no tone of voice to tell me if I’m going wrong.  I try to be always be polite but my polite and their polite might be different things.

So cross your fingers for me that this goes well.  Hopefully I’ll be able to show off some Shetland fleeces in a few weeks.  Even if I can’t wash for another month and half – too cold outside.


On the hunt for fleece

Once again I’m on the hunt for raw fleece.  Last year, I had communication issues with the shepherd I had been going to so had to hunt down a new source.  I had planned on going back to the new place again this year during an open house she hosts.  I went to her website to double check the date and discovered that she’d sold all her sheep last July.


This means I need a new source.  I am limited in how far from home I can go.  My chauffeur (my husband since I don’t drive) is only willing to drive so far.  I’ve been searching online on and off for more than a week.  I started with my state’s breeder association.  The problem is that several of the breeders in my range are breeding commercial or suffolk/hampshire/down breeds.  Perfectly good wool but too coarse for my tastes.  Others only have longwools (or at least only list longwools) which are also not to my taste.

So I’ve ranged out in my search.  I’ve tried looking for farms in my county, by town/village names, gone through many websites just looking for the location only to find it’s not in my range.  I finally found one, through a CSA website, that may have shetlands.  I emailed them, waited over a week now, and had no response.  I think sheep breeders come in two varieties – the ones that answer email promptly and the ones that touch their computer maybe twice a year.  My first shepherd was of the second variety and it seems this new one is the same.  Tomorrow I’m going to call them on the phone.  I expect I’ll have to leave a message and wait for a call back.

I’ve got some back up places.  Two are just outside my range and one is a fair distance away.  I’ve found more farther away but I’d only be able to talk my husband into driving to one of those if I absolutely cannot find anything closer.

As much as I’d prefer to buy local, I may end up having to buy online.  I’m just leery of it.  I like to get my hands in the wool and see what it feels like to me.  Someone can say it’s soft but my skin may disagree.  I also like to see what I am buying.  I know I can look at pictures but all too often those are staged to show the best parts.  I want to see it all.

If anyone knows of fine wool sheep in Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, please let me know.

This and That

I dyed the yarn as planned on Tuesday and I have to say I’m quite pleased with the colors.

Unfortunately, I managed to strain my back again in the process.  Different part of the back than the previous strain and I know exactly when it happened.  I was fishing the blue-green yarn out of the dyepot and it came up in one big clump.  Instead of dropping it back in and poking around until I found the 3 separate skeins I just lifted the whole mass up to let it drain.  This meant I was holding several pounds of weight as high as I could reach while leaning forward a little.  Very bad idea.  Fortunately, it’s not a very bad strain and it already feels better.  But it does mean knitting is off the schedule until late next week.

It’s annoying to lose all that knitting time but honestly, I probably wasn’t going to knit much early next week anyway.  My husband and I share a birthday, which falls on Tuesday.  He took Monday – Wednesday off from work.  We’ve not yet made plans but history tells me I likely wouldn’t have a lot of knitting time while he’s home.

I’ve been filling my time going through old (mostly Victorian) knitting books on pdf.  I’ve transcribed/translated some d’oyleys (doily) and counterpane squares as well as a few stitch patterns.  I did a whole set of stitch patterns that had no pics.  I’ve no idea what they will look like but they’re all pretty simple.  It’s amazing how many of these old books have no pics at all.  You just knit and hope it comes out ok.  Even large items, like sweaters, petticoats, waistcoats don’t have pics.  That’s an awful lot of knitting to do on trust and hope.

Of course, photography was still pretty rare at that time and I imagine drawing knitting was a specialized skill, plus it probably added cost to print either one in the books.  It’s just interesting to me that back then people thought nothing of knitting from a pattern without a picture of any kind and these days, if there’s no picture or a bad one, no one wants to knit the pattern, no matter how amazing the pattern may be.  Even the colors of the yarn in the picture can affect someone’s willingness to knit a pattern in today’s world.

I use the word pattern a bit loosely in some of these cases.  Today’s patterns are detailed and exact.  Clothing patterns are graded to allow you to make the size you want.  Those old pattern leave a lot up for interpretation and usually are just one size.  It’s up to you to alter it to fit.  Keep in mind that there was no pic so you don’t know what it’s supposed to look like.  I’ve no idea how one would do it.

Still, for all the flaws and differences, it’s quite fascinating to see what people were knitting and a challenge to read the pattern and try to imagine what the item should look like.

French Quilt Shawl Part 2

Today I started the third octagon for the French Quilt Shawl.  Since this is the third of three I figured it was about time I went stash diving for the next color.

I dug around but didn’t find anything appropriate in the right amount of yarn.  You’d think with a stash the size of mine it would be easy but nope.  So then I turned to my “to be dyed” stash and came up with these:


I’ll dye the blue to purple and the whitish to something blue-green/teal which will be for the connecting bits and the border.  I’m hoping to have enough of the blue turned purple for the edging. (There’s more of both of these yarns.)

Here’s my terrible, a two-year-old could do better, quick drawing of the colors of the finished shawl.


Pathetic, isn’t it? Drawing is not one of my skills.

Anyway, there will be 3 octagons in each color, arranged checkerboard fashion.  The connecting bits in the middle are squares and all of these pieces are sewn together.  There are triangle bits to fill in the edges except for the corners which are left unfilled. Then there’s a border which is sewn on and an edging as well, also sewn on.  I may or may not alter one or both of those to be knitted on.

Now these octagon have turned out bigger than expected as well as used more yarn than expected.  I know from experience that borders and edgings take more yarn than you’d think.  I may end up leaving off the edging, depending on how much yarn is left.


These are the two finished and blocked octagons.  Badly and unevenly blocked.  Mostly I just wanted to make it easier to sew together/pick up stitches.  And get an idea of what size they will be.  It’ll all get blocked again once finished.

They are about 15 inches across.  So two wide is 30 inches and 3 long is 45 inches.  I can expect to add another 8-10 inches per side with the border and edging.  So 50 inches wide and 65 inches long.  So much for not making a blanket.  It’ll at least be lapghan sized.

I’ll probably dye the yarn tomorrow.  It’ll take me most of the week (4 days on average so far) to knit the third octagon.  By then the dyed yarn will be dry and I can start the next three.

In other news, there was sweater knitting over the weekend.  I’m pretty sure I’m going to run out of yarn before the body is finished.  Not to worry.  That just means I need to spin and dye more.  I have plenty of the fiber.  When I have to set that sweater aside to wait for yarn, I’ll start the colorwork sweater.  And maybe one of the other sweaters I have planned.  Colorwork may not be good tv knitting.

French Quilt Shawl



The first octagon finished and blocked for my French Quilt shawl, adapted from a counterpane pattern in Weldon’s Practical Needlework.

This turned out much larger and used more yarn than anticipated.  I estimate that I can make 3 more in this yarn.  I had planned on 8.  But I now think 8 might be too big.  I think 2 more, for a total of 3 is better and I’ll have to find a new yarn to do 3 more in for a grand total of 6, laid out in a checkerboard.

I had debated doing half octagons and having the shawl be one and a half octagons wide but I don’t think that will look good.

Then I’ll have to find a third color for the in-between bits and the border and edging (or perhaps a fourth color for those.)

This is turning into a bigger project than I thought it would be.  Luckily, the octagons are fairly easy.  I’ve done 31 of 54 rows of the next one just today.  I’m up to 128 stitches per round and it’ll grow to 224 stitches per round so the rest will take a bit longer.

I’m still quite excited about this project despite the issues and despite my dislike of repeating my knitting.  Somehow these octagons don’t feel repetitive.  And there is the satisfaction of finished objects as each part is completed.


Sweater (re)designing

In the last post I showed two sweaters I had just bought and unraveled.  The black is washed and dry (I’m not going to bother showing it.)  The hot pink has been dyed and it turned out beautifully.

I found a colorwork pattern in a magazine that I love but I don’t love the sweater design.  So I decided to adapt the colorwork to fit my favorite raglan sweater pattern.

And so began two days of so much math and melted brain.  I swatched first.


The yarn turned out to be around worsted weight. Once I had the stitches per inch and rows per inch I used the pattern generator and got my pattern.  The I started trying to adjust the colorwork pattern.  I quickly realized that it wasn’t going to work if I wanted the pattern to match up at the increases.  So I researched circular yoke sweaters and figured out how many increases in a row and how many increase rows.  The I started trying to figure out how many repeats and here’s where it all went wrong.  If I had just remembered that I’d changed to circular yoke rather than raglan, I’d have been done with this in hours.  Instead I kept trying to figure out how to make the raglan increase line fit with the repeat count and find a total stitch count that was neither too large or two small.   The problem was that 9 repeats was the perfect fit around the body and I could not get an odd number of repeats to work.

Finally, on day 2, I remembered the circular yoke and then getting 9 repeats to work was easy.  I wrote out my notes for the sweater and went back to the colorwork chart.  A couple hours of rearranging and finalizing where the increase rows would go and a bit of complete redesign of some motifs and I finally got it. Printed everything out and it’s all ready to go.  On the plus side, 2 days of (re)design gave the yarn time to dry so I have that all caked up and ready to go as well.  I have yet to figure out the sleeve decreases but I just can’t face more math right now.  I have time to figure that out.

On breaks from the math, I knit on the French Quilt Shawl hexagon.  I’m just a few rows from finishing the first one.  And today I finally knit more on my second sweater, the one from handspun Corriedale.  I hadn’t touched it in over a month because of back pain issues.  I got 4 rows done during one of today’s Nascar races.

New Swatch and some misc


Japanese Knitting Stitch Bible pattern #43

So I did need an extra stitch.  But I only need it for one row so in the future I could borrow it from the edge stitches.  I wouldn’t need it at all if I was knitting in the round.


The first octagon in progress for my French Quilt shawl, adapted from a counterpane pattern in Weldon’s Practical Needlework.  By adapted, I mean not as big.  I’m estimating two rows and 4 columns of octagons, plus the little squares and triangles to fill in the gaps.  There is also a border and an edging.  An interesting though occurred to me while I was knitting this.  I could substitute any doily or round pattern, as long as I could block it into a octagon.  The gap filling bits could be anything I like as well.  I may play with this concept in the future.

I also went thrifting this past weekend.  I found 4 sweaters – 2 cobweb weight men’s merinos in green and brown plus 2 heavier weight sweaters.  I estimate sport to dk weight, both in lambswool.

Both are already unraveled and the black is washed.  I’m planning on dyeing the hot pink.  It’s not my color and is even brighter than it looks in the pic.  I’m thinking about some shade of purple or a toned down red/pink.  I want it to stay fairly light as I want to pair it with the black for a colorwork sweater.  Those vertical stripes on the black sweater were a pain.  Thankfully they were only on the front.  The good news is that they were intarsia and the yarn was not cut.  The bad news is that the yarns were twisted together at every color change on every row.  So I had to untwist them.  It took forever.

My Olympic spinning plans have gone right out the window.  I have spun a little but not nearly as much as I had planned.  I keep getting distracted.  But I am accomplishing things and I’m happy.  That’s all that really matters.