Knit1, Purl2 … Tink Tink

January was a month for knitting. That’s not to say I haven’t been spinning as well, but although I started the month with all sorts of spinning plans lined up, I ended up with needles clacking away almost non-stop.

This is remarkable only because I’m generally more called to spinning, at which I’m proficient. The spinning wheel is one of my happy places; where I am able to feel relaxed and at peace while still being productive.

A sense of purpose is the best way to get through January, I’ve always thought. The purpose itself doesn’t matter – just that you have one.

Having said this; I consider myself a fairly mediocre knitter, most comfortable with simple patterns and small projects. I do enjoy knitting – my brain just struggles with complicated patterns including such intricacies as lace or cables. Give me a nice stockinette or ribbed pattern and I’m happy as a clam.

Not long after Christmas, a friend asked me to knit a pair of fingerless gloves for her husband. She offered up suggestions as to his favorite colors and glove size and left everything else to me.

What fun! I had plenty of yarn in my yarn stash, but decided to delve into my fiber stash instead. Hand-spun is always more special. I pulled out a bag of soft, black Merino roving, setting aside 2 ounces to spin up by itself.

Then I weighed out one more ounce of black Merino, as well as an ounce of royal purple Corriedale wool. The Corriedale would give more strength and body to the gloves.

I striped the two colors onto my drum carder carefully, running them through just once to blend lightly while keeping the colors fairly distinct.

My plan was to use the super-soft black Merino to knit the top half of the ribbed cuffs and a band along the finger edge, and use the purple and black blend for the rest.

I was chagrined to discover partway through the first mitt that I had completely forgotten how to knit a thumb gusset, which is an important part of the pattern. Several rows of tinking followed. Ohh … that’s right. Place markers, do knit front and back increases. Now I remember.

Dang, it was a good thing these were dark colored mitts. I also totally spaced the “lean right or lean left” part of the knit increases.

Happily, they were a big hit – and I was bummed I had forgotten to take a picture of the finished gloves.

As soon as I had delivered the manly black and purple fingerless gloves, I started another pair. It was mid-January and Jer’s birthday was right around the corner. When I asked what color or colors he would like, I was surprised when he promptly responded with “Orange”.

Orange?? Yep. Orange. Jerry has taken up curling this winter (in a senior sort of way), and wanted the extra warmth of a pair of warm, woolen fingerless mitts to cover the light gloves he wears out on the ice. And, of course, he wanted them to coordinate with his orange curling helmet.

Having absolutely no bright, solid orange in my stash, neither fiber nor yarn, I chose a tweed yarn that would wear well and not show dirt. Not totally orange, but close enough.

This pair worked up much more quickly than the last. For one thing, it’s lighter colored yarn, so I could easily knit well into the night. I had thumb gussets sorted out now, so no delays there. It was also yarn I had spun years ago, so I was able to use hand-spun without taking the time to start from scratch.

Next, since I was on a knitting roll, I decided to see if I could remember how to do the spiral decreases necessary to knit the neat crown of a hat.

This meant pulling out my double-pointed needles, which have always been a challenge for me.

OK, let’s start small … maybe baby hats? Oh, perfect! I had some colorful nylon and acrylic, (store-bought) sport-weight yarn I’d picked up at our local yarn shop, “Fiber & Ice”. Super soft and machine washable. A must for baby hats.

Hmm … I quickly realized these hats would be too small to make full use of a self-striping yarn. Silly me. But it seems I can create two totally different looking hats from the same single skein of yarn. What fun!

Managing to evenly space the spiral decreases to create the crown of this tiny hat with my four double-pointed needles was challenging, but the result was worth the effort. I only had to tink out a couple of rows.

By the way, for my non-knitting friends and followers; “tinking” is the term we use for going backwards and un-knitting to get to where we’d made a mistake. Sometimes it’s just a few stitches (if we’re lucky), but sometimes it can be several rows. The word TINK is simply the word KNIT in reverse. 😉

I finished off my month of clicking needles by knitting up a simple ribbed cowl for myself. I’d spun the luscious fiber back in October (I think?).

It was one of those impulse purchases that happen when your eyes fall on something beautiful and you just have to touch it. My mistake. I really should leave my wallet in the car when I visit the yarn store, “Fiber & Ice” in Wasilla, but really – what’s the point? It would just mean an extra trip to the car. 🤷🏼‍♀️

It was a 4 ounce braid of 90% Polwarth wool blended with 10% silk. Love at first sight.

Since I’d already decided this soft, squishy, sport-weight yarn was meant to be worn against the skin, I chose a simple ribbed cowl pattern. This would keep the squish factor and knit up in short order.

It doesn’t look like much laying flat on the drying rack, but I can easily envision it snuggled or doubled over around my neck with a pair of jeans and a simple, pale gray sweater or a long sleeve top in one of these shades.

Perfect for February in Alaska. Which just happens to have started, so it seems I finished up just in time. Wow, January flew by this year. I guess what they say about keeping busy has merit.

Now to come up with a purposeful plan for this month …

Lazy Sunday Morning

I got a kick out of Ronni this morning. I was having a lazy morning, just knitting in bed with hot coffee and a bran muffin close at hand. Ronni and Baxter were curled up with me and we were all perfectly content. 🧶🧶

I realized just HOW content Ronni was when I noticed she was watching Maude, the squirrel, on the bird-feeder outside the window. She didn’t do more than lift her head – the rest of her body remained warm, toasty and completely relaxed, enveloped in a blanket on my lap.

Baxter, of course, could have cared less. He was happy with his chew toy.

When I queried, “Squirrel?”, thinking she would jump up, Ronni gave me “the look”. Obviously, there are things more immediately important than squirrel chasing.

This morning, napping on a warm lap trumped squirrels. Ronni repositioned and closed her eyes.

Maude continued to devour her breakfast of black oil sunflower seeds and suet unmolested. Happy squirrel. Happy dogs.

Now, to get back to the baby hat I’m knitting.

Happy Sunday!

Good Business Practices

Back in November, I found what looked like some lovely braids of hand-dyed Polwarth spinning wool on sale on Etsy. They had a great variety of colors, and my prior experiences with polwarth have been very promising. It’s like spinning a cloud, soft and luscious.

Polwarth was fast becoming one of my favorite spinning fibers, right up there with Cormo, super-fine Merino and Alpaca.

Still, I was ordering online from an as-yet unknown to me fiber and yarn shop all the way across the country.

I crossed my fingers, ordered two braids and waited with bated breath (well … take that with a grain of salt considering it would be 10-14 days for delivery) to see if they lived up to my expectations.

I was exuberant when the package from the Neighborhood Fiber Company finally arrived. Upon opening the bag, I sighed happily over the lovely colors in the hand-dyed braids of polwarth.

Sadly, as soon as I picked one up to give it a good squish, I noted the stiffness of the braid – not at all what I was expecting.

Although the colors were pretty much spot on, the roving of once wonderful, fine Polwarth sheep’s wool had been braided so tightly (perhaps for storage?) that it had compacted almost to the point of felting. It was actually a challenge to pull it free from the braid. The freed roving lay stiff as a board.

Tightly braided, badly compacted Polwarth roving.

I was SO disappointed.

As an example of what I’d been expecting to receive; this next photo was a recently purchased Polwarth roving from another source. This roving was so soft it all but oozed off my lap. You can almost see the squishy lushness, right? This roving was heavenly to spin.

Well-prepared Polwarth roving.

Yes, I could and did recover the poorly prepared wool, steaming it section by section to relax the fiber to where I could gently loosen and relax it. I slowly worked it back into a long, fairly flexible roving, still somewhat compacted but usable.

However, this was not the heavenly soft, relaxing and enjoyable spinning experience I was expecting and not worth even the “sale” price, in my opinion. It was more like work.

Since the company advertised “hand-dyed and hand-braided” rovings, it could have been as simple as an over-enthusiastic employee braiding the fiber too tightly, and/or a fluke tight storage issue… maybe. I had no previous purchases from this company to compare to. Still, not a good first impression.

After spinning up the 4 oz., bright, light-color braid in blue, aqua and tan, I concluded that the yarn came out nice enough in spite of the poor handling it had been exposed to. It was, after all, polwarth wool.

It’s just that the yarn, although it is of course important and will be put to good use, was not MY main reason for buying this fiber. My reason was to spend a glorious couple of days handling wonderfully soft, airily light, hand-dyed fiber of one of my favorite fine wool breeds. It was the spinning of the fiber I looked forward to. The yarn was secondary.

So, after giving it some thought, I set aside the brown-hued braid, adding it to my blending fiber stash (running it through the drum carder will revive it). It will eventually get used, but it hadn’t been what I was hoping for.

I decided to contact the Neighborhood Fiber Company. They had a good reputation and had received good reviews, which is why I’d made the purchase in the first place.

After checking their Facebook page, which was quite active, I decided – as a first-time customer – to give them the benefit of the doubt. I contacted them privately, via email, rather than posting my complaint on the open forum.

I sent a short email, explaining that I was a first-time customer but an experienced spinner – and that I was disappointed with the quality of their product.

I told them I didn’t think the original Polwarth wool was at fault, but that it seemed to have been braided so tightly (for whatever purpose) after dyeing that the fiber was compacted to the point of being nearly unusable – and no fun.

I let them know I’d chosen to contact them privately in hopes they were open to suggestions and might consider braiding their lovely fiber more loosely so as to offer their clientele the more enjoyable spinning experience a well-prepared polwarth roving should provide.

Some time in mid-December, I received a polite email response from the Neighborhood Fiber Company, thanking me for taking the time to reach out to them, and letting me know that my comments would be forwarded to the fiber prep department.

Then there was yesterday’s visit to the UPS Store. I know, I know … you were wondering when I’d get to the point. 😉

The unexpected box I opened when we returned home from the UPS Store last evening contained quite a happy surprise.

It held not just one, but two beautiful, loosely braided and gently boxed bags of Polwarth wool roving in one of their most popular colorways.

Kudos to the Neighborhood Fiber Company in Baltimore, Maryland. Your ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ star customer service reviews are obviously well deserved. You may just have made a doubter into a regular customer.

Beautifully dyed, loosely braided, squishy Polwarth wool roving! The colorway is “Fog Point”.

Happy Surprises

I started out the morning by turning on every light in my spinning & knitting corner, the better to see the stitches in the dark purple and black blended yarn I was currently working into fingerless mitts.

I tend to forget my eyes are not quite as young or sharp as they once were, so even though the spinning is a breeze, working on dark-hued knitting projects tend to be limited to mid-day, with as much natural light as is available as well as additional direct lighting.

Anyway, the knitting is going well, and it looks like they’re even going to match up. That’s always a happy surprise. But then my Apple Watch reminded me that I’d been sitting for over and hour, so I set knitting aside and got up to do my morning stretches. I’m seriously considering naming my Apple Watch “Little Nag”, although I admit it is helping me keep my daily exercise regimen on track.

After stretching, I climbed onto my exercise bike for 15 minutes at a medium-resistance setting. That should appease the Little Nag. I usually try for 20-30 minutes, but because I was heading to the Menard Center’s walking track right after lunch, I decided not to push it.

A toasted peanut butter and honey sandwich and bowl of applesauce armed me for the upcoming walk. Happily, Jer was willing to accompany me, so with temps in the balmy mid-20s, mostly blue skies and the dachshunds dressed in only light sweaters, we grabbed our track shoes and air-pods and headed out.

OK, yes, Baxter and Ronni had to wait in the car while we were at the track, but they had flannel blankets and were still happier for coming alone. Besides, we had errands to run later and they love the dachshunds at the UPS Store.

This brings me back to the topic of this meandering story. I honestly feel like I was rewarded for a day well spent.

Our last stop was the UPS Store. We had a couple of package notices, so joined the short line awaiting service.

This is one of Rhonda’s favorite places, since (being a social butterfly) it not only means she’ll get love and attention from the staff (who are known to call out “Hi Rhonda!” from across the room), but she’s not adverse to mugging waiting customers on either side of us while we wait our turn.

Fortunately, Ronni is also willing to accept with equanimity those who don’t wish to visit, giving them a tail swish and looking around for another victim … er, I mean potential new friend. 😉 If I were to let her off leash here (I don’t), she’d be behind the counter eliciting belly-rubber-rubbers in a flash.

Baxter, OTOH, generally stands quietly at Jer’s feet, making it obvious by the wagging tail that he is enjoying the outing, but not usually interested in visiting.

After collecting our two packages, and allowing Ronni to get and give kisses to one of her favorite UPS employees, we headed home.

It wasn’t until we were back in the house and ready to relax that I remembered to open the packages. One was just a normal Amazon delivery of little consequence. The other box was my second surprise of the day.

I love a good surprise. I think I’ll tell you all about it … tomorrow.

%d bloggers like this: