knitting

  • Field Trip! Kathy of Wynham Farms with gotmygoat Goes to Africa

    I am delighted to share this guest blog post from Kathy Martin of Wynham Farms. Kathy raises Angora goats in Sequim, WA and she recently took a trip of a lifetime! Grab a cup of tea and enjoy a few moments of armchair traveling through Africa, visiting fiber farms, mills and weavers.

    So here I am, a semi-retired fiber farmer and fiber artist, thinking that my travelling days were relegated  to sane, safe stateside trips when Linda Cortright of Wild Fibers Magazine created a tour that could not be ignored: Angora goat farms, a mohair mill, a silk farm, sisal weavers, mohair weavers along with the beauty of the land and wildlife in South Africa and Swaziland. Could I challenge myself to 40+ hours of travel from WA state to another hemisphere? Could I leave my Angora goat farm, Great Danes, spinning wheels, triangle looms and comfort for the relative unknown?

    Swaziland Dancers.

    First, I should explain that Linda Cortright is not just the owner/journalist of a prime periodical, but she is a world traveler who meticulously checks out the potential journeys for Wild Fibers’ tours. Her small groups of 10-12 travelers enjoy safety, adventure, history, other cultures, fine lodgings – all of which she has researched and visited ahead of time. I had joined Linda on her first tour to the Falkland Islands in 2015 so I knew I would be well taken care of.

    This 15-day tour started out in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, close to the very tip of the continent. The group of 11 visited the Nelson Mandela Textile Arts Centre with interesting displays of  African weavings and beadwork.

    95 kg mohair bump

    On to the showroom of Mohair South Africa Ltd which produces ~50% of the world’s mohair, obviously dedicated to the advancement of the mohair industry. I have to interject with a link to a video “Mohair South Africa, Weaving Stories for a Lifetime”.  The video was filmed mostly at Wheatlands, a vast working farm that is steeped in 8 generations of family history which we called home for 2 nights. Prior to Wheatlands we visited Erekroon, a smaller farm of 17,000 acres (!) with about 1,000 Angora goats and 500 Merino sheep. Be still, my heart!

    While in Port Elizabeth we also visited a mohair processing mill. The scouring conveyor belt and the water conservation systems were impressive. There were hundreds of barrels full of freshly carded mohair. It would’ve been hard to sneak out some when the bumps alone weigh 95 kg (210 pounds). The spinning/weaving buildings on site were very high tech with tests being run on the yarns as they were being spun and with onsite laboratories to further test quality. I understood the quality control necessary after hearing that their custom orders were placed by fashion industry’s leaders such as Chanel. Glad they had an outlet with Oddments which I could afford!

    One of Adele's Ladies inspecting yarn.

    I will jump ahead here past the awesome hikes and unique landscapes of the Karoo, formed millions of years ago. Onto the awesomeness of Adele’s Mohair, a designer extraordinaire of knitting yarns. Adele ventured into the industry in 1983, educating and employing the rural women of the Xhosa tribe, and keeping in mind sustainability of the land. Again, be still my heart!

    Our next fiber related visit was at the Piggs Peak Craft Centre in Swaziland where we were welcomed by native dancers. The craft center not only had roadside shelters for smaller entrepreneurs but also housed the showrooms for Coral Stephens Weaving and for Tintsaba, both endeavors aimed at educating and employing local, rural women. We were honored to tour the studios of both art houses.

    Sisal baskets.

    Tintsaba Master Weavers showed us how their amazing baskets, home décor and jewelry are made from Sisal. The agave plants producing Sisal fibers grow wild and are harvested by industrious women who must have fingers of Superwoman strength. After stripping the leaves and drying the fibrous strands, the dyeing is done in rustic wood burning vats. These lovely women shared their trade in a special workshop with the Wild Fibers’ group, teaching us that their skills were not learned overnight. I will not be hired.

    Coral Stephens Weaving Studio uses mohair, raffia, cotton and silk to make outstanding home décor items, drapes, carpets and tapestries. We watched the labor intensive picking and hand carding of the mohair prior to spinning using pieced-together spinning wheels some of which might have been bicycles in their earlier days. The yarn is then dyed in wood burning, huge pots using very scientific measurements so that there are enough skeins of one colorway for their extra large weavings. One room alone must have had over 20 enormous looms, manual not machine driven.

    Coral Stephens curtains.

    The last of our fiber tours was taken at the African Silk Farm after spending several days on game drives. The farm grows its own mulberry leaves to feed the worms and macadamia nuts to feed its visitors. There were several outbuildings with windows for our viewing pleasures: moths into eggs into caterpillars into cocoons. I was pleased to see how easy they made it seem to gently cut the cocoon, releasing the live larvae to continue its life, and then winding the silk strands before spinning. What lovely garments and bedding tempted us!

    The 15 days sped by in a whirlwind of fibers and African wild animals seen without cages or moats. A truly Wild Fiber adventure which I consider my Trip of a Lifetime.

    I learned so much and am so thankful to Kathy for sharing her adventure with us. Africa is not a destination that I immediately associate with fiber! If you want to get some mohair of your own, or explore Kathy's shop full of locks and handspun yarn, you can find  Wynham Farms with gotmygoat on FiberCrafty!

  • Faces of FiberCrafty: Alicia Baines of APLCrafts Handmade

    We hope that you enjoy this series featuring interviews with FiberCrafty shop owners. Our goal is to give you a little peek behind the scenes and a chance to learn more about our talented business owners.

    Today's post features Alicia Baines of APLCrafts Handmade based in La Vergne, TN.  I learned a couple of new things about Alicia and hope you do, too!

    Tell us a little bit about you. Where are you from, what crafts do you enjoy, what is your background, do you have any pets, etc? I'm originally from New Haven, CT and have been living in middle TN for almost 14 years now. I've always enjoyed crochet as my first love even though knitting has kind of taken over for now as it's still pretty new in my life. I enjoy gardening even though I'm not very good at it.

    Romantic Endeavor is a fingering weight polwarth with 437 yards.

    What is the name of your shop? Is there a story behind the name? APLCrafts. It is named so because I have no talent in names so as many small business owners do, I chose my formal initials.

    How long have you had your business? I've had APLCrafts for 3 years. I've dyed yarn for 1.

    What kind of products do you specialize in? Hand dyed yarn. I love working with Merino, and Polwarth yarns.

    Every story has a beginning, how did your business get started? My story begins at the end of 18 years as a professional baker and food service worker. It's rough on your body and I found I couldn't do it anymore so I turned to the one thing that has always been with me. Yarn.

    Mysticxian is a rich blue DK weight superwash Polwarth with 246 yards

    Do you have a favorite pattern that shows off your products? I recently made the Susan Scarf for my best friend using For the Love of a Mermaid. I think it worked up beautifully.

    Blue Christmas is a gorgeous new colorway with sparkle! Fingering weight in 75% superwash merino, 20% nylon and 5% Lurex. 437 yards

    What else would you like to share? I've dipped my toes into crochet design and have a few patterns available on Ravelry. I've also this year started a podcast. It's very new but it's my own little corner of the world and I'm enjoying the process.

    What's your favorite feature or part of FiberCrafty (as a shopper or shop owner)?  As a shopper I like the many filter options in the search bar. As a shop owner I love and appreciate how easily I can adjust my inventory, and keep information if I'm out of stock so I don't have to re-write my listings.

    Alicia, thank you for sharing about yourself and a glimpse into your life! I didn't know you had crochet designs and enjoyed looking at your patterns. The Dragonfly Meets Butterfly shawl is exquisite! Alicia's products can be found for sale in her FiberCrafty shop, APLCrafts Handmade.

     

  • Knitting Math: Calculating Cast on Stitches

    Please check out the companion video to this blog post!

    I was planning a rectangular shawl project called Mini Bubbles but I wanted to make it wider and knit it horizontally, rather than vertically. Fortunately, someone had already knit the same shawl using the same yarn and was kind enough to include enough information that I was able to use for my calculations.

    The other knitter cast on 123 stitches and her finished measurement was 31" wide.  I wanted

    These are some of the bubbles that I have opened.

    my shawl to be closer to 54 inches wide. This is a shawl that will be heavily blocked so I knew there is a little wiggle room on the width.

    First I needed to determine her gauge, or stitches per inch. The standby, of course, is to knit a gauge swatch. But for a shawl where measurements don't need to be exact, I am using the existing project's stitches per inch information.

    Stitches per Inch Formula: Total # of Stitches/Total # Inches = # Stitches per Inch

    She cast on 123 stitches and the finished project was 31" wide.  Using the formula, I calculated the following: 123 stitches/31 inches = 3.97 stitches per inch

    Total Stitches Needed Formula: Stitches per Inch X Desired Inched = Total Stitches Needed

    I want my shawl to be about 54 inches wide so I needed to use this next formula and figure out how many stitches are needed: 54 Inches X 3.97 Stitches per Inch = 214.38 Stitches

    Knowing that I need to round the number to the nearest whole number (I won't be casting on .38 stitches) and the pattern for the shawl has a certain number of stitches, I needed to do some more math!

    My pattern repeat is a Multiple of 15 plus a fixed number of 18 stitches. The 18 stitches is only counted one time but the rest of the stitches need to be divisible by 15. For example: 15 + 18 = 33 30 + 18 = 48 45 + 18 = 63 ? + 18 = 214.38* We need to figure out how many multiples of 15 are needed. * We will drop the .38 because we rounded down.

    Refined Total Stitches Formula: Total Number of Stitches - Fixed Number of Stitches = ?/15 = Approximate Multiplier

    214 - 18 = 196 196/15 = 13.06*

    Final Total Stitches Formula: Multiplier x Pattern Repeat Multiple = Pattern Repeat Number of Stitches Pattern Repeat Number of Stitches + Fixed Number of Stitches = Final Total Number Stitches

    Now we can determine that 13 x 15 = 195 + 18 = 213 Stitches.

    Quick Check Formula: # of stitches to cast on /# stitches per inch = Should Equal Original measurement goal

    To do a quick check, let's divide 213 by our original Stitches Per Inch Calculation. We should Get something close to 54 inches, my original goal.

    213 / 3.97 = 53.65

    Looks great!

     

  • A Little Gift: Earbud Pocket

    A few years ago I saw a pattern for an earbud pouch and knew I needed to make it. In my house with one teenager and one almost teenager, they are essential. My husband and I also use them a lot. This is perfect for a quick gift, something that can be used and a stash buster!

    This is the first I made with minor mods.

    I made the Earbud Pouch by Mary Keenan. In the last few weeks the link to the pattern changed to Unavailable but it is actually still out there (you can find it on my project page, as of now the link works). The only mod I made was to cast on bottom up instead of from the cuff. I had a limited bit of yarn and wanted to make sure I wouldn’t run out.

    After using the pouch for a bit, I realized I wanted to make some tweaks. I wanted it to be a tiny bit roomier and bottom of the pouch to be wider but still have a gentle curve for aesthetics.

    A side by side comparison, original on the left, modified on the right.

    Here is the end result. It takes very little yarn and knits up quickly! I used fingering weight yarn but really any yarn would work. I suspect I will be making this again with worsted or DK and will report back, of course. That might need some stitch number changes. If you haven’t tried the Turkish Cast On, this is a great time to learn something new! If you mess up you haven’t lost much since the project is small. Unless of course you are scrambling to get final gift knitting done, stick with what you know. I haven’t decided if I prefer it to Judy’s Magic Cast on but I find it easier to remember.

    Earbud Pocket

    You can see the slight difference in shape.

    It's about 3" wide and 2 3/4" tall.

    You need about 6 grams or 20 yards of fingering weight yarn. Size US1 or US1.5 circular needles

    Setup: Using magic loop* and Judy’s Magic Cast On OR the Turkish Cast On, cast on 44 stitches (22 on each needle).

    Increase Rounds: Round 1: K Round 2: K1, M1R, K to 1 stitch on needle, M1L, K1. Repeat on second needle. Repeat rounds 1 and 2 three times total until 56 stitches are on the needles.

    Knit every round for 1 inch.

    Decrease rounds: Round 1: K1, SSK, K to 3 stitches on the needle, K2tog, K1. Repeat on second needle. Round 2: K Repeat rounds 1 and 2 four times total until 40 stitches are on the needles.

    Cuff and Bind Off: Every round: K2, P2 across needle ending on K2. Repeat on second needle. Repeat for a total of 6 rounds. Bind Off using suspended bind off in pattern (meaning knit each knit stitch and purl each purl stitch). Weave in ends.

    *If you prefer to use DPNs instead of magic loop, divide the stitches across 4 DPN needles (11 on each at cast on) and use a marker for beginning of round. End of Needle refers to the end of the 2nd needle.

    The modified pocket!

    I hope that you will enjoy this little pattern! I didn’t  test this pattern so if you need help or clarification in any way, please let me know. It may be that I need to tweak the directions and others will benefit too.

    One final comment, I first heard about this pattern on the One Twisted Tree blog, written by Danie, which I remembered but not the details.  I went back and looked at that post after writing this and realized that, without intention, my mods and "pattern" were extremely similar to those that Danie made! So, hats off to the original designer and a thank you to Danie for planting the seed. Great minds think alike!

    Knit and Rock on!

  • Project Round Up

    Summer is winding down and I am starting to think about the next projects I want on my needles. But let’s keep it real… I am pretty much ALWAYS thinking about my next projects!

    Finished Have you ever seen Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries on Netflix? I kindof want to be her when I

    I don't know, I think Miss Fisher would wear this well!

    grow up. She's smart, ahead of her time and has impeccable fashion sense. Last year I took a screenshot of an outfit she was wearing and thought “someone needs to dye yarn inspired by this”. Earlier this spring when I was at the Carolina Fiber Fest, I spied a mini skein set in the same colors. It was called Miss Fisher and I believe it was fate. I knit that set up into the Genesis Wrap by lolodidit and I love it. There are quite a few mix and match mini skeins listed on FiberCrafty that could be used in this pattern!

    In the Works

    I have started the 6th and final wedge of the Imagine When shawl!

    I have been working almost exclusively on my Imagine When by Joji Locatelli. I am using some handspun that I finished in October 2015 during Spinzilla. I am in LOVE with this project. My brother, Walter and his wife Amy gifted the fiber to me for my birthday (let’s give credit where it is due, it was totally Amy, my brother didn’t have anything to do with it). I would have never picked out this braid out but I adore it. Isn’t it funny how that happens? This pattern is a perfect match for handspun and highlights the color changes. This yarn would also be stunning with this pattern!

    I also started the Aurelia Cowl by Hillary Smith Callis. This is a gift for my mom and I am hoping

    This yarn from The Spun Bunny is perfect with the Aurelia Cowl.

    she doesn’t read this. The yarn came from The Spun Bunny and it is lovely to work with! I really like a round, firm yarn and this is just the ticket. Marissa, proprietress of The Spun Bunny, has a number of skeins dyed up with a similar effect that would work well with this pattern, or any of the the other Yarniad “scowls”!

    On my spinning wheel, I have a braid of stunning fiber from Shari of ShariArts. It is 50% Merino, 25% Silk and 25% Bamboo. It is so amazing to work with and I am able to spin it so smoothly and finely. I am fractal spinning and can’t wait to see how it turns out!

    Gorgeous blend of 50% merino, 25% bamboo, 25% silk. I love the pops of apricot.

    In the Queue I have my eye on a couple of projects to start next! I really want to make a pouf. My desk is a little tall and I am a little short so I need something to rest my feet on. Right now I am winging it with a plastic box but a pouf would be perfect! I have quite a bit of brightly colored acrylic that I am thinking about using and I must be feeling brave because I think I am going to wing it <gasp!>. I think I will crochet it and that should give me the flexibility to make it as wide and tall as I want so that it will fit under my desk nicely. I’ll keep you posted on this one since it will be experimental!

    Indigo Dragonfly yarn, the small bit will be the tassels.

    I also have some yarn that I purchased last year from the Ottawa Knitters Guild Vendor Night. I was on my way to Ottawa for a business trip (pre-FiberCrafty) and saw in my Instagram feed that the vendor night was happening THAT NIGHT. Fate! I bought some yarn from Indigo Dragonfly and have one skein left. I also have 13 grams left of another skein that compliments it beautifully and I wanted to use them together. The plan is to make the Stormy Sky Shawl and use the complimentary yarn for the tassels. If I have enough, perhaps a stripe as well. This pattern would be great with any single skein of sock yarn!

    Finally, I really want to make some gloves! I love my dog but I hate to be cold and I am her primary walker. I have some Silver Spun yarn in my stash. Have you heard of this? It has silver spun INTO the fibers. It helps with warmth and connectivity so you can use your phone if needed. It also have some other health benefits for diabetics and arthritis but I don’t know as much about that. Silver Spun also has some Spandex in it for elasticity. The Connectivity Gloves were designed for this yarn and the Worsted yarn layer will really help keep my hands warm. I’m small and can’t wait to have some quality gloves that fit me well. One of the FiberCrafty shop owners is dying some yarn for me to coordinate with the Silver Spun. I will certainly report back on this project!

    Are always planning projects ahead? What projects are you currently thinking about?

  • Fixing Mistakes

    We all have that little voice in our heads. You know the one… It is so easy to tune out or brush aside.  I have made it a personal goal to actually listen when I hear it, but it doesn’t always work. Especially when I’m knitting.

    See that section that's a little too wide?

    I have been working on the Imagine When shawl by Joji Locatelli. I have had this in my queue for a long time and was finally able to cast on. The handspun I'm using and the pattern seems to be a perfect pairing.  Without giving anything away… the shawl is worked in sections and there are evenly spaced eyelet rows.  I had finished one section and was moving on to the next but it just didn’t look right. The spacing between the eyelet rows seemed too large.  I decided to look at a picture and thought, well, it will all work out. (you have never said that to yourself while knitting have you…) Sure enough, a few rows later, I realized I had started knitting section 3 and switched to section 4 of the pattern! No wonder it didn’t look right! One of the biggest challenges for new knitters, is finding and fixing mistakes so documenting this process seemed like a helpful task.

    Once I have figured out there is a mistake that needs to be fixed, I follow this general process. This might not be for everyone but fixing mistakes is a chore and I should clarify that I mostly use this process on garter or stockinette. If it is lace, that’s a whole different story.

    Find the last known correct row. In this case, the pattern is a 12 row repeat and I made a mistake on row 7 of the pattern. So I needed to rip back to row 6. To find row 6, I look for a row that has an easily identifiable pattern or increase and count from there.  In this example, the last correct row with eyelets was row 7.  So I found the top of an eyelet and counted from Row 7-12 and then 1-6 to find row 6 (remember this is a 12 row pattern). I counted twice, just to make sure.  Row 6 is where I need to rip back to.

    Find the last known correct row, put on your readers and start counting.

    Pick up the right leg of each stitch. The blocking pins are just holding the fabric for the picture.

    Pick up stitches on last correct row. I prefer not to rip back and have a lot of live stitches so I take another needle, or use the same one my project is on, and pick up the right leg of each stitch across the row.  Usually this is not difficult but sometimes because of stitch patterns, there can be a few stitches that are harder to read. But if you have 110 stitches and you can grab 107 correctly, that’s a win!  If there are stitches that are “wonky”, I might mark them with a stitch marker.

    Rip back, carefully. Remember that some stitches are harder to read? Sometimes there are some issues, perhaps you picked up a stitch in the row below or above. Perhaps the yarn got caught under the needle cable. You can use stitch markers to catch any precarious loops or mark issues to address in the next step.

    Sometimes the yarn gets caught under the cable.

    Check your stitches. For my own mental health, take a few extra minutes and just slip each stitch from the left to the right needle.  This way I can catch any twisted stitches or other issues that need to be corrected. It doesn’t take long and helps prevent other potential issues.

    I should clarify that before I embark on this process, I try to make sure there is enough time to finish, have stitch markers on hand and the ability to focus.

    How about you? Do you like to live on the edge and just rip or do you take a more methodical approach?

  • Learning About Rug Yarn

    When I started down the path of FiberCrafty, I considered myself pretty educated in the fiber world. But as shops started adding products to FiberCrafty, I began seeing things I wasn’t familiar with. Turns out I was pretty educated in my own little corner of the fiber world but not in the fiber world at large.  

    Knitted rug by Julie from Alpacamom.com

    Rug yarn made appearances in the Brigadoon Fiber Farm and Alpacamom.com shops and sparked my curiosity. Then it showed up again in the Wynham Farms with GotMyGoat shop.  I guessed that since I didn’t know much about it, there were others in the same boat. So I started asking questions to see what I could learn.

    It seems obvious, right? Its RUG yarn. But what does that mean?  It means it is really ideal for sturdy, heavy duty projects like rugs (told you!), pillow coverings, large blankets, poufs (you have probably seen those knitted floor cushions or foot rests), totes or baskets. It uses much larger needles or hooks or can also be woven.

    Crocheted pouf by Kathy at Wynham Farms

    Julie of Alpacamom.com provided a really great description.

    “Rug yarns are spun around a cotton or jute core and they are considered "core spun" which means that the fibers are literally wrapped around the core and not traditionally plied. Because of that, the fibers don't have to be uniform in length or micron and that's why a lot of growers use their lower grade fibers for rug yarn. They can be spun with a variety of fibers and the mill I use likes to add a little bit of merino to my alpaca to help hold the slippery fibers in place. The rug yarns that I have aren't suitable to be worn next to the skin. They make wonderfully durable yet soft and comfortable mats and rugs, table runners, baskets and purses. I've knitted it, crocheted it and woven it. If knitting or crocheting you need a pretty big needle...18-50 needles and a "P" hook I think is what I used.”

    Core spun yarns can vary from next to skin and delicate to coarse and rugged and not all core spun yarns are rug yarns. When using rug yarn it is so much bulkier that a 2’x3’ rug might use around 100 yards.  Items made with rug yarn can often be considered easy care and may be vacuumed or shaken or maybe even hosed off.  Kathy, of Wynham Farms with GotMyGoat cautions that it can be harder on your hands and wrists since it is bulky and heavier than mill or handspun yarn.

    Rug being woven by Julie from Alpacamom.com

    It sounds like a very versatile product that opens new doors for creating things!  I would love to make a small poof to use as a footrest under my desk. If you have ever used rug yarn, what did you make with it? Share pictures in the Facebook Group or on Instagram! If you have never used it, does this give you some ideas? Let us know what you would make!

    Knitted rug by Kathy at Wynham Farms

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