28 November 2006

I'm a sucker for a fellow researcher..

To steal blatantly from Cate because I'm almost entirely brain dead at the moment:

So there's this guy who's doing a panel at the MLA, and he's checking to see how a meme or, depending on how you look at it, a chain letter, moves through the blogosphere. We knitters have a rather populous corner of the blogosphere, and one that I think routinely buffaloes those who attempt to study blogs and blogging. Who are all these knitters and what do they want? (Wool.) If blogging is concerned with social change, what the hell are all these people doing talking about yarn? (We'll get back to you when the plans for world domination are available in pdf format.)

Anyway, Jody explains it all in a way that is far more interesting and complete than I have the patience for, but do please play. All you need to do is mention and link to the project, beg ask others to participate, and then ping technocrati. Let's show the MLA a little knitting mojo, eh?
Now go out and propogate thyself on the world.

27 November 2006

"It's been one week since you looked at me.."

I had a longer than usual long weekend due to the added bonus of today off. That is undoubtedly the reason I've mostly "caught up" with the holiday knitting.

I've finished the back and one sleeve of the Tied Up Tee and have the other sleeve about a third done. The pieces are a little wonky in the pictures because they curl really terribly so it's difficult to get them to lie flat for pictures.

My camera has decided to switch itself inexplicably into "no flash" mode and I haven't had the motivation to switch it back, which might be for the best with the Rowan River Tape. I apparently can't hold still while taking pictures though, so the first two are a bit blurry. The last one has both the best stitch definition and the best color.

I'm hopeful to have the second sleeve finished by this weekend so I can block all the pieces and sew it together this weekend. That will leave just one more garment and one last sock to do in the last twenty-something days of December. Should be do-able.

26 November 2006

T is for..

Tupperware. And Thanksgiving leftovers. But mostly tupperware (and at least one Pyrex). Even when it's not tupperware, but instead some other more easily available imitation. I usually package up the leftovers from our dinners to take in as lunches since we usually don't eat as much as we make and it's cheaper to take leftovers than buy frozen lunches.

The one on the top left is the Pyrex and has leftover sloppy joe meat from dinner Wednesday. The one below that and at least one of the two in the next stack are leftover chicken & rice from dinner a week or so ago. The one that's not chicken & rice is leftover pasta and sauce from dinner last Saturday.

The other five are all soup with dumplings* made from fresh turkey stock (made from the carcas from Thanksgiving plus the carcas from a turkey we made about a month ago and a small chicken from longer ago) yesterday. The four little ones on top are mostly broth from the same soup that will likely get used in other things rather than eaten as broth or soup.

The soup is more or less usual for us for the days following Thanksgiving, but it was a little more welcome this year than usual because Jack ended up with a pretty debilitating head cold Wednesday & Thursday. We slept at least 12 to 14 hours Thursday into Friday, and at least 12 hours each Friday & Saturday nights, which seems to have mostly knocked out the cold and prevented me from getting it.

* Jack's family makes what he calls "knifla", which is essentially a larger version of spaetzle, as dumplings. They're pr'bly the best dumplings I've ever had and I really love soup with them. It's basically a very wet "dough" made from eggs and flour and then cut with a knife into the simmering broth. They soak up the flavor from the soup and the longer they sit in the soup, the better they are, so the leftovers are usually far better than the soup on the first run (which isn't bad itself).

25 November 2006


Cathy asked what the Breedswap project that I did the Clun Forest research for was. In a nutshell, it's a project being run by some folks on the Spindlers YahooGroups list to create for the participants a resource notebook that will contain research and fiber samples from 32 different breeds. The following is from the introductory email announcing the project and inviting participants:

Here's what you will be expected to contribute:

1) An information sheet on the breed you are signed up for. I will collect the information and have them printed and copied so all the sheets in the notebook will have the same format. See below for the information required. Please be as complete as possible.

2) For each participant, an envelope with one yard of yarn you have spun, and one lock of *washed* fiber. The lock of fiber should NOT be carded or combed. With full participation, this will be 32 yards.

3) For each participant, a baggie containing one ounce of washed fiber. (This may also be prepared by carding or combing, but it isn't necessary.) With full participation, this will be 32 baggies.

4) Money for expenses; $10.00 per person to cover postage, copying costs, the cost of notebooks and index pages.

5) Optional: a picture of a sheep of the breed you were assigned.

Here's what you will end up with:

1) A printed copy of each sample sheet with a lock of fiber and a piece of yarn attached. You will receive these in a notebook with a printed cover and printed indices.

2) A set of baggies with one ounce of fiber to spin for each breed represented in the swap.
Each participant volunteered for one or more breeds they'd be willing to research and contribute the fiber for, and based on what people were willing to contribute, the organizers assigned the following breeds: Polwarth, CVM, Perendale, Navajo Churro, Corriedale, Jacob, Blue Faced Leicester, Icelandic, Cotswold, Romney, Ramboulliet, Gotland, Cormo, Montadale, Cheviot, Shetland, Clun Forest, Lincoln, Gulf Coast, Border Leicester, Finn, Leicester Longwool X, Hog Island, Dorset, Columbia, Suffolk, California Red, Polypay, Coopworth, English Leicester, Merino, and Targhee. I don't know all of those, but thanks to Carol, I now have a copy of In Sheep's Clothing, so I'm planning to read up on some of the ones I don't know before the binders are complete.

And at the moment, I'm behind in getting the fleece prepared. I have the washed locks, they just need to be sorted and put into baggies. I sent the fleece to be processed and didn't hear anything from the mill for several weeks. When I called to inquire that they'd at least gotten the fleece, they told me it would be about another month before they could get the processed fleece back to me. Assuming they stick to that estimate, I should be fine. If they push for more time then, though, I'm going to have to figure out where to get two plus pounds of processed Clun Forest fleece on very short notice. *sigh*

20 November 2006

How do you spell "relief"?


It's a terrible picture - washed out, off color and slanted because I took it from the side of the bed - but it's the front of the Tied Up Tee, wet and pseudo-blocked. It measures 19 inches across the bottom hem (not counting the curve) and 12 inches from hem (not counting the curve) to the start of the arm hole. The only measurement that's not to the letter is the arm hole - it comes in at 9 inches instead of 8 - but that's the one that's most easily adjusted.

Edited to add: I just went to wind a new skein of the Rowan River Tape so that I could use the remains of the two partial skeins to do the arm split on the back and realized that the front of the Tied Up Tee took about 2.5 skeins. Assuming the back will take slightly more and that each sleeve will take slightly less, I should have as many as four spare skeins (I have 12 total) once I'm finished.. Which means I can pr'bly make the Mikado Ribbon Gloves (after the holidays, that is). Neat.

I wet blocked Breezy Cables while I was at it and it stretched out enough, but hopefully not too much. I'm still torn on whether I should machine wash it before I gift it, just to be sure it won't do anything odd the first time it's washed, but at the moment I'm taking it in small steps.

Also added: I'm also contemplating using some green merino stuff I got awhile back in a trade to make a scarf of some sort for a silent auction for HCWR, but I'd have to find a good lace scarf pattern that's not Branching Out as I made one of those in some yellow merino stuff last year for this auction.

19 November 2006

Gauge woes..

I finished the first of the father socks...

This is a good and fine thing. Assuming that my gauge with this yarn has now stabilized. Because in examining the son pair, I discovered that my gauge was apparently noticeably tighter for the second sock..

Fortunately, I will have enough of this yarn left after finishing the second father sock to make another son sock if I decide that the difference is too noticeable to give the pair as a gift. It's not really noticeable unless you have them one on top of the other, specifically with the smaller one on top and then you notice that it's about half an inch shorter and about a quarter inch narrower. *sigh*

This may be due to the issues I was am having with the Tied Up Tee. I've decided, however, to proceed with completing the front (I'm working on the shoulders and should finish the front tonight) and then blocking it, and possibly washing it, to see how it wears. I *think* I have enough of the yarn that if I decide after blocking/washing, I need to remake the front to different specs, I'll have enough. Maybe.

But I'm remaining optimistic that remaking the front won't be necessary because that would put me rather farther behind on the holiday knitting and I've been doing so well on that so far that it'd be a shame to tarnish such a good year.

I also got buttons for Breezy Cables, but I think I'll block it first. I'm trying to decide if I want to actually block it or just throw it in the wash (it's washable wool) so I can see how it will wash before I give it to the recipient. I'm alternatively afraid that washing it will stretch it out *a lot* and that it will shrink it (wool in the washing machine.. *shudder*), and I'm even moderately concerned that washing it will have no effect at all because I do want it to stretch out *a smidge*.
*sigh* One of these days I'll be a really good knitter.

14 November 2006

Clun Forest Research for Breedswap

Right then, as promised (and do please remember I did admit that this wasn't the *best* example of my scholarly work!)..

1) BREED DESCRIPTION. This should include a description of what the sheep in this breed look like and their genetic composition.

Clun Forest originated as a breed in southwest Shropshire, near the forest whose name it bears, descending from a variety of mountain and moorland sheep that ranged over an area that has been described as one of the wildest and most desolate regions in England up to the middle of the 16th century. Their ancestors were commonly small and reddish brown in color with prominent eyes and may originally have been bred by pastoral or semi-nomadic shepherds as many as 1,000 years ago.

As the English economy shifted away from wool production toward more demand for meat in the mid-19th century, commercial flocks were often drained of breeding stock, which shepherds often replaced by introducing mountain ewes to their flocks. This practice resulted in vast genetic diversity in the modern breed, and is likely responsible for the continuation of those attributes which make the Clun Forest so desirable – adaptable, hardy, prolific, and content to forage for the bulk of its food. By the mid-20th century, Clun Forest was the third most numerous pure breed in Britain.

Clun Forest were first imported to the American continent in 1970 by Tony Turner, who brought in 2 rams and 39 ewes from Ray Williams, and sheep from Tony’s first flock were purchased by United States breeders at the 1973 Nova Scotia Sheep Fair in Truro. North American acceptance of the breed, however, was slowed by the lack of University sponsorship & promotion and a general lack of interest in grassland farming. Nonetheless, Angus Rouse of Nova Scotia secured two additional importations of Clun Forest after Tony which helped secure the breed in North America. In recent years, severe restrictions on the importation of livestock from overseas have prompted breeders to import Clun Forest semen from Europe in order to expand the genetic base of American flocks.

The first documented description of the modern Clun Forest breed is from the middle of the 19th century and describes them as white-faced and hornless. More recent descriptions, from the breed’s “Golden Age” between 1950 and 1970, reference the distinct woolen top knot, brown face with wide-set eyes, and small-to-medium ears held upright. The breed has changed little since its Golden Age, though modern Clun Forest may have slightly higher-set ears and darker brown faces. The typical Clun Forest ewe weighs between 130 and 160 pounds, with rams only slightly heavier – between 175 and 200 pounds.

The standard for Clun Forest as determined by the North American Clun Forest Association is as follows:

Head and Face
  • A clean open faced sheep ranging from tan to black; top of head nicely covered and free from dark wool.
  • Not to long and carried high.
  • Strong, muscular neck, lengthy good back, deep rib, strong loin, good hock, deep and well-rounded thighs, good through heart, strong bone, standing square on its legs.
  • Fairly free from wool from hock and knee down.
  • A tight fleece, fine texture, free from kemp and dark or gray wool.
  • A nice pink or red skin, free from black or blue spots.
A sheep which meets you with a good head and a bold walk, that stands squarely on its legs, with plenty of heart girth and a good constitution.
2) FIBER CHARACTERISTICS: This should include, as a minimum, staple length and crimps per inch. Also include diameter or count (if known), whether the fleece you are using came from a lamb, hogget or mature sheep, and whatever else you can think of.

Clun Forest fleeces – usually about 6 to 8 pounds when mature – are considered the finest fleece produced in Great Britain. They are consistent from neck to britch, with little or none of the variance common among other fleeces. Fleeces are essentially free from black or kempy fibers and are easily worked by handspinners, especially beginners, due to their density and uniformity.

Average staple length: approximately 4 inches
Crimp: Tight, irregular; well developed; elastic; extremely springy
Spinning Count: 46s to 54s (USDA wool grade); 58s according to some sources
Diameter: 28-33 microns

The wool in this sample is from two lamb fleeces (combined grease weight of approximately 4.5 pounds) sheared in late summer 2006 at Bets Reedy’s farm just outside of Money Creek, MN.

3) METHOD OF PREPARATION: What do you think is the best method of preparation for this breed - carding, combing, or commercial.

I found little information on preferred methods of preparation for Clun Forest fleeces and as I did not prepare the fleece for this project myself, can add no significant personal insight. An article written by Jane Fournier for the Fall 1993 issue of Spin-Off Magazine indicates that hand carding and drum carding are usually more efficient than flick carding and combing. Jane recommends a fine drum (320 points per inch) to avoid neps.

I also found the following account posted by Cindy W. on the Yarnspinners blog, which I found informative:
The sample I worked with was a washed off white fleece. It had a large amount of VM in the sample. The wool had a soft hand with a very springy feel to it.

This fleece was surprisingly easy to comb or card. It seemed perfectly suited for my small hand held combs, coming off in a very nice top. Since I had seen in other fibers that fleece that combs well often does not card well, that was what I expected. But I was very surprised to find that Clun Forest also carded up into lovely batts with my hand held cards.
4) SPINNING TECHNIQUES: What special techniques, if any, are recommended for this breed?

Other than several statements about the superiority of Clun Forest fleeces for handspinners, there was little information available recommending any specific spinning technique. Again in Jane’s 1993 article, she mentions that Clun Forest fleeces lend themselves well “to traditional woolen-spun yarns. . . [and] results in a very bouncy, lofty, and slightly irregular yarn.” When spun “from a parallel preparation using a short draw, the lively and amphatic crimp results in a slightly fluffy, irregular yarn with a flat, chalky surface . . . [that] is lightweight and has great life and body, in contradiction to its dense appearance.” Finally, Jane notes that Clun Forest can be blended “with less-elastic fibers” such as kid mohair, alpaca, llama, or tussah silk “to produce yarns with body and bounce.”

Cindy W. from the Yarnspinners blog compares the yarn resulting from combed top and carded batts as follows:
Combed top: This was a delight to spin. It drafted easily into a long draft, and gave a nice smooth fine yarn. The only thing I observed was that it was such a smooth yarn, that it was difficult to make joins, when I started a new piece of top. I also noticed that this fiber needed a high twist, and that it really was unwilling to hold the twist. I especially saw this when I was plying, that the thicker areas in the singles were almost unspun. It was also interesting to observe that the yarn really expanded once there was no tension on it. I measured this sample of yarn as 15 WPI. It was a very generous, 25 yard sample.

Carded batts: I used more twist while spinning this. I tried two types of drafting, a moderate drafting zone gave a thicker yarn, with the neps often disappearing right into the yarn. An inchworm draft gave a much thinner yarn, but I had to stop and pull out the neps, which slowed down the spinning. The neps were not in the combed top, making it the better prep. This skein was 14 yards which measured 13 WPI, and was a very nubby looking yarn.
5) RECOMMENDED USES: What types of uses are appropriate for this type of fleece?

Depending on the preparation, Clun Forest wool is recommended by Jane for “hosiery, flannels, knitting yarns, tweeds, and industrial felts.” The yarn – which is “very bouncy, lofty, and slightly irregular” – can be woven as singles or plied and knitted into “hard-wearing, cushiony socks or gloves.” Jane also notes that felt produced from Clun Forest wool is elastic and quite substantial and would make a good blazer or lightweight jacket.

6) PURCHASE INFORMATION: Where did you purchase this fiber? If possible, provide name and address of vendor, and the price paid.

As previously mentioned, the fiber included in the Breedswap binder is from two lamb fleeces sheared in late summer 2006 on Bets Reedy’s farm. Bets does not typically sell her fleeces directly (I obtained mine through a friend) but rather sells them through her shearer. At the time of this writing, Bets had not yet heard from the shearer how much the lamb fleeces were selling for, though she assured me that the cost for the two I received would likely be around $10. I washed several ounces of the fleece by hand, which is included here as locks, and send the rest to Blackberry Ridge Woolen Mills for cleaning and processing into roving. I have not yet received an invoice (or the completed roving!) from Blackberry Ridge, but expect the cleaning and processing to be approximately $30.

7) RESOURCES: List the resources you used (books, magazines, local experts, websites) you used in compiling your information.

The North American Clun Forest Association website was invaluable in the preparation of this report.

Additional information on the history and characteristics of the breed were also available from The Shepherd’s Journal website breed profile and Oklahoma State’s Department of Animal Science Breeds of Livestock resource.

Technical information about the fiber characteristics was obtained from The American Sheep Industry Association website.

Information on working with Clun Forest fleeces was drawn primarily from Cindy W.’s post on rare breeds on the Yarnspinners Blog and Jane Fournier’s article “Bouncy & Lightweight Clun Forest Yarn” from the Fall 1993 issue of Spin-Off Magazine (reprinted online).

13 November 2006


Nope, not the socks or the Tied Up Tee, but my Clun Forest research for the Breedswap. It's not the best scholarly work I've done, but it covers the basics and should be enough to introduce folks to the breed and the fleece and what you can do with it. It really wasn't arduous I just couldn't quite work myself up to sit down and type it up. But I took advantage of an early afternoon escape to get started right after dinner and finished it up and sent it off. I'm not sure if we're allowed to share our research or not (I would hope we can, but I'm not sure of the expectations of the organizers), but if I can, I'll post it here for any who might be interested. Next up for this project: sort the washed bits to pull out 32 decent locks and follow up with Blackberry Ridge on where my roving is.

I also puttered a bit downstairs and moved a bookshelf into the living room by one of the chairs that tends to accumulate my fiber stuff so I'd have a surface on which to store things. It worked wonderfully and looks so much nicer now (but reminded me that I haven't done any spinning lately at all).

Now.. do I kick back and get some knitting done, or go run a bath (sadly without any Lush as I used the last of my stash last week) and luxuriate while I read (for pr'bly about twenty minutes before I start to fall asleep because I was, in a fit of paranoid worry, up almost two hours earlier than normal this morning and unable to fall back asleep)..?

Still on the fence.

I remeasured the front of the Tied Up Tee again yesterday and compared it to actual measurements of the intended recipient and I think it's close. Still trying to decide how close I want to cut things, especially since I'm not sure if the yarn will stretch or shrink with washing (yes, yes, I need to do swatches and wash them, but swatches are boring).

In the meantime I'm still working on socks. I finished the heel flap on the first Father sock this morning in the car and will likely turn the heel in the car on the way home (assuming it's not too dark .. I hate that I have to wonder about whether it will be too dark to knit in the car at 4:30 p.m.! Maybe that's when I should do swatches..), but as we have no new Netflix movies coming in today, I might not get much more done at home. I still need to get the Clun Forest research written up and sent in (and I also need to call Blackberry Ridge and find out if they got the fleeces.. it worries me that I've heard nothing from them at all; I expected they might not call just to tell me they got the package, but it's been long enough that I'd have hoped they'd have finished the processing and would be contacting me with a price..) and I might force myself to make a decision on the Tied Up Tee so I can get moving on it again.

I also blocked (for limited meanings of the term) the Panobo wrap yesterday. It's an odd piece to block, but it had the desired effect, so it will get packaged and wrapped sometime this week. Mom's coming for Thanksgiving, so I want to have it wrapped before then so she isn't tempted to peek. *smile*

I need to get buttons still for Breezy Cables, and then that one can get packaged and wrapped as well. Still on the fence about what kind of buttons to get, but I still have time to figure that out.

I'd write about other bits, but life is frustrating at the moment, both at work and in areas I volunteer. I keep believing that things will slow down and ease up some soon, but each month that goes by without that happening adds a little more tarnish to that idea. *And* I'm out of cream at work and forgot to get some on the way in this morning. *sigh*

09 November 2006

Still alive..

.. at least for the moment.

I have to admit that my conference wasn't nearly as fun as Cate and Sara's. *pout*

But at least I'm making progress on socks (just not as much as they are.. and not with as good of company). The 2K pair is finished, the Father pair is started.. and after the 2K pair, they seem awfully big and seem to take a lot longer to make progress on. I'm still stuck on the Tied-Up Tee.. no progress, no decision about whether to start over. This is.. sort of okay. For now. I'm almost tempted to make two - I'm pretty sure I'll have enough of the yarn - just in case. But.. yeah.. we'll see.

05 November 2006

Is it Sunday already?

I needed this weekend. I also, perhaps oddly, needed the conference I was at last week. While it was no where near as educational as my first AIR Forum, there were a couple of good sessions that helped me get over hurdles in my own projects. But that's not the reason it was needed. I needed to not be on our campus, to be around other people who knew the larger, broader context of our campus, but who weren't engrossed in it. I needed, in short, a Reality Check(tm). To have that followed immediately by a quiet weekend at home was absolutely ideal.

Yesterday I really couldn't tell you much of what I did other than that I made the Winter Warmer kit that I had. I also made half a spaghetti squash to go with some broiled steaks for dinner. And we watched Snow Falling on Cedars which, aside from some cinematic decisions (e.g., the overlapping voice thing), we well done and timely given recent political events.

Today, we made a sort of miniature Thanksgiving dinner. This isn't really a practice run, though we will be making a full Thanksgiving dinner for our families in a couple weeks. It's more that we had a smallish turkey in the freezer and Jack really, really loves turkey and we had the time to make a more or less real meal so we did. We roasted the turkey, made mashed potatoes, rolls, and gravy. No veggies - there's not really room. *smile* We have left-overs, as expected, and a carcass for stock to add to the small chicken carcass already in the freezer. We have 16 large frozen rolls left to make for Thanksgiving and half a bag of potatoes and a box of stuffing, so we'll just need to pick up the big turkey, some corn & buttercup squash, and the makings for cinnamon rolls (refrigerator biscuits dredged in butter & rolled in cinnamon-sugar and baked in a pie plate until done), and we'll have everything we need for dinner.

I am working away on holiday projects, but having two projects on needles, both with deadlines, is managing to mess me up. I'm a real, honest-to-goodness project knitter. I have a hard time leaving something unfinished if I'm not stuck on it. And while I need to have two projects on needles right now because the Rowan River Tape has *no* give and hurts my hands if I work with it too much, it still messes with me.

All the same, as previously mentioned, I finished the first of the Son Socks last week; I'm now almost to the heel flap on the second.

The ruler is for scale. I've never done little kid socks before, so these seem to be going extraordinarily fast, even on US 1 needles.

The Tied Up Tee is also coming along, but I'm a little concerned that even though I'm getting gauge spot on, it's too small. The first picture below is the front so far more or less "as is", without stretching it too much (it's also more color correct on my monitor). It's coming in at about 16 inches across the bottom, where it should be closer to 19. The second pictures is it stretched a bit, but even there it's only coming in around 17.5 inches. I could stretch it more, but I don't want it to have to be skin tight to fit the intended recipient.

So I'm trying to decide on whether to trust the pattern despite pretty solid reasons to believe it's going to be too small, or to rip out what I have and start over with either a looser gauge or the next larger size (or two). It's worse that I'm not making this for me, but for someone who is several sizes smaller than me - I'm knitting what is supposed to be the size 38, which is what I'm assuming would be roughly equivalent to a women's small/medium shirt, whereas I'd pr'bly make this for me as at least a 48 - so it looks too small to begin with.

I also did most of the research for the Breedswap this weekend. It was due last Monday, so I'm already late, but I think it's going to have to wait another day to get written up and finalized. I don't think it will hurt anything. At the moment, I'm more concerned about not having heard anything from the folks at Blackberry Ridge regarding the fleeces I sent them. I'll have to try to remember to call them tomorrow to follow up.