Pixie Doll Auction – Ends tomorrow night!

Here’s your chance to get a custom hand-knit Pixie doll made by yours truly, and to also support my kids’ school. I have no desire to sell these myself, but I’ve made 3 of them as gifts (see photos in this post, and you can search my previous posts as well) and now I’ve donated one to our school auction. It didn’t sell at the actual event, so it’s been posted online through tomorrow night. No one has bid on it yet, and the starting price is just a tiny bit more than an American Girl Doll… way less than the actual value. I actually don’t care how much it sells for, I just want it to sell for our school, so I’d be happy with the opening bid! I’ll be donating all of the time and material costs myself… and I’ll also ship it to you for free!

Screen Shot 2014-03-05 at 3.29.46 PM

Here’s the link to bid: https://www.biddingforgood.com/auction/item/item.action?id=210573275

And a full description of the outfits from this PDF: pixie-auction-description

ps. If you choose the outfit with the ballet leotard… I will throw in a crochet tu-tu as well, which I just figured out how to make. :-)

rainbow fish cuffs

I finished knitting the Crofton cuffs from my handspun 15.5 micron merino yarn. I ended up working the pattern backwards, because I knew I wanted the blue-green yarn to be on the cuff part, and that was the only way I could assure that it worked out that way. I also knit quite a few extra rows throughout, since i have enormous hands, and I wanted them to fit me, well, like a glove. I really love them, but I must admit that they look a bit like rainbow fish, both because of the color gradient and the seedstitch “scales”, and I’m not sure how I feel about that:

handspun, knit rainbow crofton cuffs

And the fishy lookalike:

520_Boesemani_Rainbowfish_Melanotaenia_boesemani.e

However, this merino is SO devinely soft, especially on the stockinette portion covering my hands, and I’m really craving a sweater that looks and feels just like this:

sweater-cuff

But spinning that much yarn, and making the color changes come out so well, especially across 2 sleeves, feels pretty daunting. Not to mention the fact that I have yet to knit an adult sweater. But, oh, I want one so very much. You just have to feel this yarn to know what I mean. It’s like smooshy, fluffy velvet. Maybe I should do a poncho with a turtleneck instead? That would be less ambitious, and I wouldn’t have to worry about color changes.

new spinning territory

I’ve ventured into new spinning territory on 2 recent projects. The first was a challenge to myself to spin it as finely as I could, for my weaving friend who also likes to dye her own yarn. I used superwash merino and I even spun it traditionally worsted… no predrafting… using a forward short draw drafting method. The result was about 250 yards of 2-ply yarn, somewhere between lace and fingering weight. I’m quite proud of it, but it felt like it took forever. I stretched out the process over a couple of weeks, because my fingers would get quickly tired of holding back such thin singles.

handspun fingering superwash merino yarn

As soon as I got it off the wheel, I moved right into a treat for myself that I’ve been very impatient to start spinning… some hand-painted Australian merino from Woolgatherings that my sweet Papa gave me for Christmas. He’s been reading my blog, so he knew EXACTLY what I would like. ;-) I don’t know if it’s because I was more excited about the fiber, or if it was more interesting to spin because I couldn’t wait to see how the colors turned out, or if it’s because I’m realizing that I just enjoy spinning thicker yarn more, but this took me less than two days. I decided to leave it as single-ply, another first, so that also cut the time in half, and I spun it mostly with a short backward draw. I felted it a bit on purpose during washing it, since I heard that will help give singles more strength. The result was about 210 yards of DK/Worsted weight, which I can’t wait to knit into these Crofton cuffs for myself. I like the version with the seed stitch tops, and I’m excited to see how they will stripe.

single-handspun-austalian-merino

Now, for a little small talk about the weather: We were the lucky recipients of a layer of freezing rain on top of our 5 inches of snow last night, and it’s like an ice-skating rink out there. No snow play for the kids today I’m afraid. THEY are telling us it will start to melt this afternoon, and then we’ll have constant rain in our foreseeable future… so we are getting very nervous about flooding. But at least the chickens will be happy to come out of hibernation. They’ve got to be getting stir crazy up there in their coop. But they are still laying eggs for us, so I guess they can’t be too miserable. Sweet little chooks.

frozen-snow

chicken igloo

I know we have nothing on the rest of the country, but 4 inches of snow last night (and more expected tonight) is very rare for us, and not seen before by our 2 sweet hens. When it started yesterday afternoon, they were hiding in the bushes, and I ended up having to carry them across the yard to their coop when it was time for bed… there was no way they were crossing it themselves. Their little coop looks like an igloo this morning:

chicken coop covered in snow

and they seem to have no intention of leaving it so far, snuggled up together upstairs:

hens snowed in coop

My other kids, however, are very much enjoying it… and the chance to miss school today:

kids-in-snow

Secret Christmas Projects Revealed

Happy New Year!!! For all of you who thought my whole crafting world revolves around spinning yarn right now… well… you’re not completely wrong, but I have been actually making some things out of some of that yarn as well, so it’s time to share with you the Christmas presents I’ve been working on:

First, here is what the handspun “imperfect” suri baby alpaca yarn turned into: an infinity scarf for my lovely bestest friend since elementary school. I used a free pattern from Ravelry, but I can’t find the link anymore, so here are the basics:

size 13 (US) circular needles w/40″ cable
CO 108 stitches, join in the round, add a stitch marker
odd rows: *YO, k2tog* repeat to the end of that round
even rows: knit to the end of the round
the pattern calls for 200 yards bulky weight yarn, which will give you about 35 rows but I only had about 150 yards, and I got 25 rows. So I think you can just keep going to make it as wide as you want…. just make sure you have enough yarn leftover to bind off.
Bind off VERY loosely. I did *k2tog through the back loops, slip the right needle stitch back to the left needle*, repeat to the end.

It was a very quick, fun knitting project, and I think it looks gorgeous on her (or maybe it’s her that makes it look gorgeous?):

handspun suri baby alpaca infinity scarf

Next, another crochet pokemon character, Umbreon and Ultraball (pattern adapted from this one) for my niece who loves all things Pokemon as much as my kids. I’m especially proud of these because I handspun all of the yarn out of merino, dyed the yellow and red wool myself with food colors (not the black… I had an Anne of Green Gables moment trying to dye black… it turned out green!), and needle-felted the eyes and yellow details… a new experience for me… so fun and easy! And I love how it makes the detailing look like it was “painted” on with thick fuzzy paint. Lola decided to photo bomb this one:

crochet-pokemon-umbreon-ultraball

And finally, here is my third Pixie doll I’ve made for another of my nieces… who has been coveting her sister’s. I made her hair a bit more layered, and used “shimmery” Suncatcher green eyes. She has a pink leotard peeking out under her dress, so she can dance a ballet at a moment’s notice!

knitted-pixie-doll-green-eyes

And now back to my current spinning endeavors: I’m learning to spin long-draw woolen yarn! After my experiment with “messy” spinning on the baby suri alpaca, I wanted to explore the best method for the softest, lightest yarn possible, in order to bring out the best of this 50/50 superfine merino and angora handpainted roving that I bought from The Fiber Imp on Etsy. My Sweet Prince gave me some hand carders for Christmas, so I’ve been learning to make rolags, which are really the only way to achieve a true woolen long-draw. I’m definitely still a beginner, but I’m finding it SO fun, and very quick to spin this way. And the results are so soft and light and airy. Since I’m learning to embrace the whole imperfect process of spinning, I’m feeling much braver, and having a lot more fun! Here are my first attempts. Maybe I should treat myself to my own infinity scarf now?

handspun woolen long draw merino and angora yarn

Embracing Imperfection

This is a tough one for me. I’m pretty sure I was born a perfectionist… born first, of course. I can spend hours, even days, lamenting the smallest of mistakes I’ve made. And even when I’ve been able to adopt a wider perspective and accept that life is full of both good and bad, joy and heartache, it’s still the hope of things becoming better, or more perfect, that gets me through the tough times. But what if sometimes what is imperfect, full of “mistakes,” is really the very best thing? I’m currently having this epiphany because of a spinning project I’m working on. I’ve been experimenting off and on with the undyed suri baby alpaca I bought from Woolgatherings when I first started learning to spin, but now that I want to use the rest for a secret Christmas project, it hasn’t been cooperating. Or maybe it has, but I haven’t been happy with the results. I tried spinning it worsted with pre-drafting, like I’ve been doing with the merino, and it looks good, maybe even close to “perfection,” but it feels pretty dense and tight, and doesn’t at all do justice to the wonderfully silky, soft raw fiber. So I started to play with it, open it up, muss it up in my hands, spin it this way and that to see how to best achieve the maximum amount of softness. I settled on spinning it from the fold, to acheive a bouncier, semi-worsted density, and I just mussed the heck out of it, before and during spinning. I let it go pretty much wherever it wanted, with lots of slubs and thicker and thinner parts. I tried to channel my daughter by delighting in the “fuzzy” parts. I then tried several dyeing experiments with it, wanting to find the “perfect” color for my project, but none of them seemed quite right, so I guess it just wants to stay its own “perfectly” natural creamy white.

Here is the result… completely imperfect, and incredibly soft, warm, light and silky. It’s been a joy to knit with.

handspun baby suri alpaca yarn

So here are my thoughts about how this relates to my life, and the Christmas holidays in general: So many of us long for perfection in this season. We all want the perfect presents for everyone, perfect decorations, perfect family dynamics, perfect peace for all. But in reality, this season is always VERY imperfect. It can have its magical, joyful, loving moments, but it can also be melancholy, stressful, lonely, and full of pain and longing for those we have lost. In my experience, there have been many Christmases surrounded by loss, and many people I know have been surrounded by sadness and loss this season as well. Our family is not immune. This morning, I sat wrapping Christmas presents next to the cage of our remaining guinea pig, Tornado, as I watched her life slip away. She has been sick, but I wonder if her immune system was also weakened by loneliness after the loss of her sister a couple of months ago.

It seems appropriate that today is the shortest day, the longest night of the year. But, as my Mom reminded me this morning, there is also hope in knowing that the days will start to get longer from here on out. My favorite Christmas songs are those that capture that feeling… of sadness, longing, hope and joy… all in one. My favorite band, Over the Rhine, put out a Christmas album several years back called “The Darkest Night of the Year”, and this year they are giving away a digital version of their latest Christmas album, also full of this kind of music (possibly my favorite Christmas album ever), “Snow Angels” to their supporters and friends, so I wanted to share the download link with you, my dear readers and friends, in the hope that their music can help you embrace whatever you may be feeling and experiencing this season… both the darkness and the light… and in so doing, your hearts might be warmer, more imperfectly perfect, and filled with peace.

Merry Christmas to all.

christmas tree angel

peach melba australian merino

This has been a very busy month, so I haven’t really had time to blog… and I also haven’t wanted to give up any of my spare crafting time. I have some secret Christmas projects going, but I just had to take a tiny bit of time to post about this amazing fiber from Woolgatherings that I am spinning at the moment. I am absolutely in love with the hand-painted colorway, and it’s very surprising to me, since I’m not usually an orange / yellow person, but I really find this combination deliciously mouthwatering. It reminds me of something like a peach melba, and I’m having a hard time not putting it in my mouth… I feel like a toddler! Plus, the fiber is Australian Merino, at 15.5 microns, it’s even softer than superfine merino. It feels like velvet, and I’m very glad I didn’t try dyeing it myself… I’m sure I would have felted the whole batch in a heartbeat.

woolgatherings hand-painted australian merino being handspun

Something about the colors just make my heart happy, like a gorgeous sunrise or sunset, and it’s been brightening my dark, cold, December days just to spin it! Maybe it also helps that it’s from Australia… where it is Summer now… as well as reminding me of the flower arrangements at my sister-in-law’s wedding this summer. As my mother-in-law was arranging them, and my other sister-in-law was putting the finishing touches on her bouquet, the beauty of it all almost brought tears to my eyes.

Here it is as a single.

woolgatherings hand painted hand-spun single

I had a hard time deciding whether to leave it single, try to keep the colors together when plying, or to mix up the colors as much as possible as a 2-ply. I decided on the last option… with a little help from the kids: “mix it up!” And Mae helped spin some of it, as well as a ply quite a bit of it. So here’s our Australian merino peach melba velvet tiger! What should it turn into next?

 woolgatherings hand-painted australian merino handspun 2-ply.