Monstrous piles of alpaca fiber

Shearing Alpacas
This is a fun one that I just didn’t post at the time. In July we visited Oregon and while there, helped my in-laws shear their two alpacas.  Sal and Pepe had been growing their coats for over a year, so as my title suggests, the day ended with ginormous piles of alpaca fiber. Enough to make any spinner drool. I was SO excited to not only see this process happen, but help with it.

Here’s Sal and Pepe, getting a little nervous about being herded into a smaller pen. The goats were curious as well…what was about to happen to their fearless pair of leaders?
Shearing Alpacas
Shearing Alpacas
We started with shots of sedative from the local vet. The previous shearing was sans sedative, and according to R., Sal and Pepe do not take kindly to shearing while sober. Pepe really fought the sedative this time, but eventually even he nodded off. We laid each in turn on the shearing table, restrained their legs against errant kicks, and got to work. None of us have much shearing experience but thanks to a few youtube tutorials the night before, I think we did a pretty solid job.
Shearing Alpacas
Shearing Alpacas

Underneath all that fiber was a very petite pair of alpacas!

Shearing Alpacas
Shearing Alpacas

The goats eventually lost interest and started climbing on farm machinery.
Shearing Alpacas

I worked at skirting for most of the afternoon. The place I send fiber for processing, like most mills, charges a steep fee if they have to skirt your fiber for you. I wasn’t sure how clean was “clean enough” so I just kept clipping. Even after all the waste – due to skirting and perhaps inexpert clipping on our part – there was nearly 7 pounds of fiber per alpaca.
Shearing Alpacas
Shearing Alpacas

The next morning I walked into UPS holding these bags and they helped me smush them up and ship them off to Mill Creek Fiber Works. I like a little bit of wool mixed in with my alpaca, so Sal is mixed with 30% merino and Pepe with 30% pygora. The mill owner, Kate, is awesome. She rushed the order and got it to me in Ohio in time for our move to Mexico.

Including everything – shipping, wool additions, blending – the final roving cost works out to about $21/lb. Not cheap, but still less than half of what it costs to buy alpaca roving retail. Of course, I am not the one paying for the care of these alpacas either…if I were it might make the DIY cost equal to retail. I’m very thankful to have in-laws who raise alpacas and don’t have need for the fiber…as if I needed any more proof that I married the right person.

And now for the picture I promised – monstrous piles:

PicMonkey Collage


Camera-less blog post #2

I’m learning how un-fun blogging is when there’s no camera around. Sigh. It’s probably time that I gave up my phone-that-only-calls-people and just got a smartphone. The cameras on those things just keep getting better and better.


At a party this winter someone saw my phone (see above) and asked, “So do you feel jealous of people with smartphones, or just self-righteous?” It was a martini-induced zinger that made me laugh. I mean….who goes this long without a little self-righteousness? Mostly I’m just worried that a smartphone’s GPS will erode my navigation abilities the way cellphones made me forget all phone numbers. I take my spatial memory very seriously because it’s about the only kind I have.

I also fear getting sucked into smartphone-usage like this:

phoneBut since I’m not so principled as to avoid mooching off friends’ smartphones (“can you look up a number/address/knitting pattern for me?”) I may have stumbled into dreaded technology-hypocrite territory:


No camera means I can’t show you pictures of our big Wednesday snowfall, which is too bad because for some reason it was an especially pretty one. However I do have a few pictures of FO’s thanks to Christine: Scrap Hat #1, Handspun Socks, and Scrap Hat #2. Plus a nice portrait of Samson 😉

HatTwo SocksOne YHFiveBack


When it’s 8 degrees Fahrenheit out….

…this is the most lucrative bit of cat real estate in the apartment.
UntitledThey love the warmth of the pilot light. It also provides a nice vantage point for spying on a brown Boston terrier who we’re dog-sitting. He is very cute and nice, but he and the cats aren’t quite sure about each other.

UntitledEdith took her own safety very seriously at the beginning, and for the first time ever I found her perched on top of the shower door.

If you were caught up in Storm Hercules, I hope you’re safe and warm. We didn’t get too much snow here – maybe 8 inches with some drifting – but it was incredibly cold out. My walk in the snow didn’t last long.

UntitledSo…naturally I worked on some knitting and sewing. The sockyarn that I spun up this fall yielded a pair of Christmas socks for my mom and there was still enough left over to make myself a pair. I’m finishing up the second one now. I also started working on a new quilt. Kind of a wonky chevron thing to use up a bunch of scraps. Did you have any snow day projects?



Slowing the process

I think I’ve talked on here before about feeling like I need to slow down production on the handknits….it came up again the other day. I was trying to rearrange the pile of sweaters in such a way that the dresser would close, I realized that if I keep knitting garments at this rate I’ll own over 50 sweaters by the time I’ve 50. I do not want, not to mention need, anywhere close to that many.

It’s a strange notion – slowing down a hobby – when all you want to do in the beginning is knit faster!faster! You make yourself enough hats that you can wear a different one every day of the week, then saturate your friends and family until you fear they might be starting to dread your presents. And then you move on to projects that take longer, like sweaters. But because fit is tricky (and Goodwill has an alarming quantity of handknits) I’ve never quite felt comfortable gifting sweaters to anyone but my mother.

My friend suggested making more socks. They wear out more reliably and require replacements. For the first time in a long while I have some socks on the needles.

There’s pattern design, which I’ve done a little of. It’s so much trial and error for me that it takes about three times as long to make something. Spinning the yarn up yourself also significantly extends a project’s timeline.

So all of this was on my mind when I was at the local thriftstore and came across a wool/cashmere Max Mara sweater, knit top-down with a seamless yoked construction. A couple thousand yards of cashmere blend for $3. YES PLEASE.

sweaterI’ve frogged all but one of the sleeves, and am busy working on a seed stitch infinity scarf. The yarn is unbelievably soft. It’s all on sz. 1 needles so it’ll probably take me….oh two years. If recycling yarn is something you’re interested in trying, I recommend this post from weebleknits. She covers all of the dos and don’ts and even includes some photos of what to look for.

All of this hunting for ways to slow things down may have tempted fate, because this morning when I was reorganizing some spaces in the bedroom I made a HORRIBLE discovery. The stuff of knitting nightmares.


MOTHS!!!! Dozens of holes in my handspun sweater…so many that most of it was a complete loss. I salvaged what I could and swept up the revolting pile of what I can only guess is moth poop.


Yuck. Undoing sweaters because they’re half-eaten wasn’t how I hoped to reverse my accumulation of sweaters. I think the handspun was especially attractive for the larvae because I haven’t found them in anything else. Of course to be safe the freezer is now full of yarn and fiber, and there’s another bag waiting on deck for it’s turn. It’s always disturbing to find an infestation…all the more so when it’s in your handknits.

a summer’s worth of knitting

When we got back from Thailand there were some new programs and projects waiting for me at the office. I always think of summer as catch-up time at work – kind of peaceful, maybe a walk at lunch – but for the past month my inner self was doing this most days.  At night there was time for knitting (while watching Netflix’s Orange is the New Black…best show I’ve seen in a while), but not blogging.

So now I have a bit of a backlog. Bear with me.

Oh, but first, a Thailand-food-collage. Because I might get around to posting more of a recap, but if all you see is the food then you’ve seen some of the best Thailand has to offer. The food experience there totally makes the 26 hour combined flights worth it. Clockwise from the top left corner: papaya salad, fresh fruit, pineapple fried rice, dragonfruit, $4 worth of awesome dinner, latte, tabletop make-your-own soup, street noodles, steamed buns, and mangosteens.


Now we can move on to the knitting. First, a swiss-cheese like Summit Scarf that I knit from Three Waters Farm handspun (a birthday gift from Christine). I did a provisional cast-on and grafted the ends together to make an infinity loop. This is a great pattern for handspun…it makes a little bit go a long way.

collage of Summit Scarf, knit from handspun

And then on those long Thai train rides, I worked on a new pattern design that borrows from Teddywidder, but is a grandpa-style cardigan with a shawl collar. I’ve named her Sheboygan, and I have to say that the yarn (Phatastic from Skeinny Dipping) is the perfect pairing. It’s worsted spun so it offers warmth without a lot of weight.



And last…the second edition of my Pomme de Pin Cardigan. The first time around I was trying to make something shorter that I could wear with dresses. I had doubts about the final product but decided to weave in the ends and wear it to the office, where my coworker gushed over the yarn color but described the style as, “kind of 90s” (which she said with a touch of pity and a hint of disdain. Dammit. I knew it. I went home that night and frogged everything except the sleeves. Here’s what I frogged…


…and here’s the longer, sleeker remake.


Birthday present


A pet-filled bed isn’t always the most comfortable. But it can be pretty cute.

The sun has shifted enough in the sky that it’s pouring in the windows before the alarm goes off. That’s a sign that spring is here even though there’s still snow piles outside. This weekend we’ll move the bed to its “summer spot” on the opposite wall.

This weekend I should also get my birthday present in the mail. A hint…it goes with this big box of roving.


GAhhhh it looks so nice! Two years ago I bought big ropes of Corriedale at Rhinebeck and then last year a friend sent me birthday alpaca. I knew they’d make a great blend, but I didn’t want to hand-card it all together…that’d be a nightmare.

When I posted the math from my last mill processing purchase, Kate commented from California:


Kate was right. I messaged several folks on etsy asking how much they would charge to card and blend the two fibers, and Kate’s prices were the best (even accounting for shipping to California). She was easy to work with and the fiber looks absolutely beautiful. So if you have any fiber processing work to do I highly recommend her and Mill Creek Fiber Works.

Goodbye two thousand and twelve

I’m a few days late in putting together my salute to 2012, a year not terribly different from 2011. It was our coasting-comfortable year – same job for me, same apartment, same program for R – a welcome respite after so much change the two years before and what I’m sure is more change to come in 2013.

Compared to 2011, there was not quite as much experimentation in the kitchen this year. There was more sewing though, inspired by my trip to the fashion district of L.A. in early spring. Some mittens, a couple of dresses, a maxi skirt, two shirts, and my biggest accomplishment with the sewing machine: the chevron baby quilt.

2012: Year in Review

Still a lot of knitting. I think Holl was my favorite FO of 2012. I published two hat patterns – Joyride and Ryegrass – and my goal is to do more of that in 2013.

2012: Year in Review

We did a little more traveling in 2012 – Ohio to the park where I found Sam, Oregon, South Carolina, Cape Cod, Los Angeles. Everyone splurges on something, and R. and I have talked about how we’d rather have a tinier house in the future if it meant we could afford more travel (tinier house, but still yard enough for some sheep 😉
2012: Year in Review

Much love to you and yours in the coming year! I’ll sign out with one more photo collage, this one of the person (and pets) that make this space a home.

2012: Year in Review