Thursday, August 21, 2014

Michigan Fiber Fest

Last weekend, my friends Jeanne and I got in the car and made our way to Allegan, MI for the Michigan Fiber Festival. So. Much. Fun.

I'm going to back up a little here and start with a confession. 2013 marked my 10th anniversary in the yarn business and I'd never been to a sheep and wool festival. (Clutching pearls.) So last year, I decided to go to the two grand dames, Maryland and Rhinebeck. The two of them bookended the summer in delightful fashion. They were all I'd imagined they would be. There was yarn galore, sheep and other animals to pet, herding dog demos and many many classes to choose from. Fabulous!

Adding those two events to my normal travel schedule was a bit much so this year I decided to stay closer to home. MFF seemed like a good choice. I was right. It was perfect for me. You see, I'm one of those people who gets overwhelmed by big department stores. Give me a small boutique over Macy's any day. So, a smaller fest was right up my alley.

There was just enough of everything. Just a few barns of shopping. Just a few barns of animals. A wonderful herding demo where we watched him work both sheep and geese(!) I was able to take everything in and feel like I'd had just the right amount of fun.

We were welcomed to the fairgrounds by a giant rooster. He sits up on top of the ticket booth at the entrance.


We watched the herding demo for awhile. They guys said the dog was pretty new at it, but I don't believe him. That dog did very well. My Sam could take a lesson on listening for sure. I don't need him to herd, just come when called. Once.


We ran into a few friends. Erica Owen was showing off Bare Naked Wool. Carl and Eileen from Bijou Basin Ranch were there too. How could you not buy something from these two? Honestly.


Did you know we dye yarn for them? You should see the Outlander colors. Makes me swoon. 


Enough of the socializing and plugging. We had shopping to do! If you are hoping for yarn p0rn, I'm going to disappoint. I don't really buy yarn. Well, that's not exactly true, I buys tons of yarn, but I don't usually buy yarn out in the wild. I think that's because I I have access to so much. And, I can make it look any way I'd like.  Besides, if I had too much "other" around, I might end up inadvertently incorporating someone else's aesthetic into my work and I want to keep my artistic vision pure.

But trust me, we had plenty to look at besides yarn. And my wallet came home significantly lighter.

There was the Coopworth sheepskin I bought for my bathroom rug. It comes from the largest flock of Coopworth in the U.S., Hidden Valley Farm and Woolen Mill. The staple on this puppy is close to 7" long. I can even begin to describe how dreamy it is on my feet when I step out of the tub and wiggle my toes.


Over in the next barn, we ran into a woman making brooms. Her name is Bev Larson of The Basket Lady and I had a tough time choosing which one I wanted. I finally settled on a lovely multicolored one. It's too pretty to get put away in a closet. I think I'm going to put a couple of nails in the door and hang it on the outside. Not sure whether that'll prompt me to use it more often. Probably not.


Over at the front of one of the animal barns was a table set up with info about Bluefaced Leicester and some other bits and bobs. Jeanne picked up a beautiful white fleece that she's going to use to cushion the stool she sits at when she's weaving. I couldn't resist this little guy. I think I will call him Nigel. 


A parting shot, right before the phone breathed its last gasp for the day and we road off into the sunset. My sheep friend. 



Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Seven Seven Seven

What's your lucky number? Right now, ours is seven. That's how many years we've been doing the Lorna's Limited Edition colorways with Jimmy Beans Wool. It doesn't seem possible, but it's true. Time does have a way of marching on.

As part of the anniversary celebration, they had a ballot to let you pick your favorite seven colors. You guys did a bang up job. If you missed one, now is the time to snap it up. After this, they're heading back into the vault, never to be heard from again.

Here's a rundown of the lovelies you chose.

1) Runs with Horses. Named after a backtracking trip and a wild stallion in the Nevada desert. RWH was the clear winner. I can see why.


2) Hot on its heels was He Who Must Not be Named. The ultimate villain from the Harry Patter series.



3) The Shire. Oh you Hobbit fans.

I gotta say, you guys all love those bright acid-y greens paired with blues and browns. These are all very similar and very different at the same time. Well done!!

The next four were all very close in the voting. These are listed in no particular order.

4) Royal Wedding. Kate and Wills were adorbs. I almost missed my flight that morning.


5) Sea Turtle's Dream. (This was a real fav around here.)


6) Winter is Coming. 'Nuff said. 


7) White Witch's Lure. From one of my favorites books when I was a kid.


They are available over on the Jimmy Beans Wool website for preorder and will ship on Sept. 2. We are dyeing them in Shepherd SockShepherd Worsted, and Honor. Just scroll down until you see the color(s) you want and click to your heart's content.

This project has turned into one of the nicest things we do. Because there is a new color every month, it keeps things fresh. And keeps us on our toes. Please keep loving Lorna's Limited Editions so we can keep doing them!


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Ode to Skye Wrap

Every once in awhile, I open an email and someone has sent me a photo of a design that takes my breath away. And by every once in awhile, I mean once every year or so. Call me jaded, but it takes quite a bit to knock my knickers off.

Monday, one of those designs arrived. It's Ode to Skye by Chris Bylsma.  Gorgeous, don't you think?


I talked to her on the phone about it and she told me that the genesis of the design was a class she's teaching on an upcoming cruise to the Netherlands, Scotland, Ireland and Norway. The class is all about cables and the idea is that her students will be able to design their own Aran sweater by the end of the cruise. Genius! 

We laughed a little about this not being the kind of cruise where you pack a bikini and knitting and you're good to go. Given the itinerary, they'll be seeing sun and rain, warm and cold. She thought having a collar on this wrap would make it a little more versatile too. Just pull it up around your chin and snuggle in. 



The shawl is named in honor of the Isle of Skye in the Scottish highlands, there's a stop there on the cruise where they'll visit a yarn shop. Show of hands, who is jealous? 

It's knit from our Haymarket in 56ns Fjord. For those of you not going on the cruise, you can find the pattern here. And to make it more interesting, I'll send yarn for a lucky winner to make one. Tell me in the comments what color you'd make yours in by Monday at 12PM CDT and we'll do a random number pick.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Knitter's Curiosity Cabinet Volume III

Do you guys know Hunter Hammersen and her series of Knitter's Curiosity Cabinet books? The third one came out just today and I think it's pretty spectacular.






I particularly like the concept behind the books. Here's what the author says about it.

Curiosity cabinets were collections of wonderful objects brought together to inspire, delight, and inform. I loved the idea of assembling a knitter’s curiosity cabinet—one full of fancy edgings and captivating stitch patterns and fabulous shapes instead of shells and fossils and seeds. These books are the result.

Pretty cool, don't you think? The most recent volume is inspired by vintage marine illustrations.

The muse for the patterns that use Lorna's Laces is the Pelagia noctiluca. It's a glow in the dark jellyfish for goodness sake. Cool, yes?


OK, if I'm really honest, jellyfish give me the creeps. I worry about getting stung by one every time I go swimming in the ocean. My husband worries about sharks. We're a pair, aren't we?

Anyway, I digress. I'm pretty sure you didn't stop by to listen to me talk about my weird phobias. Trust me, the list is long and diverse. Ask me how I feel about bridges sometime.

There are two projects that use our yarn. The first is a hat made from Honor. I totally see the jellyfish shape in the lace work.


The other project is a sock knit from Shepherd Sock. It's show here in Satsuma.


All in all, the book looks like a winner. There are 18 projects in yarns from 9 different companies, mostly small places like us. And she sizes everything. The socks come in three sizes and the hat in four. We aren't one size fits all and too often small projects like this don't take that into consideration. 




Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Universe Creates Balance

Yesterday I posted on FB about a cease and desist letter we'd received from a big manufacturer. My post was less about complaining about the letter than it was about our pride in being noticed by them. I can't say that the letter didn't cause me a certain amount of consternation, but I made a conscious decision to look at the bright side.

Today we received a very different kind of letter. One that makes me dance with joy. It's a touching story from someone who grew up not far from here but lives across the world. From someone who took the time from her day to tell me how Lorna's Laces had touched her. Where are the tissues?


Hello, I just wanted to say that I got a happy little shock as I was browsing your colours on your site.

Let me explain - I live in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. I was born here, in 1972. In 1974 my parents, little brother and I all moved to Toronto, then in 1975 we moved again, to Illinois. First we lived in Downers Grove, then we moved to The Glens in Naperville.

I had a pretty idyllic childhood in the mid-seventies. Our neighbourhood was friendly, astonishingly so by Australian standards. My parents joined all kinds of clubs and associations. I started school at Prairie Elementary then went to Scott School when it opened in 1978.

Living in Naperville was such a happy time. Us kids could run around the neighbourhood with other kids and other mothers would ring my Mum and say "I just saw Sarah and Stuart with Mike and Heather going over to Stephanie's house." We would of course have just cut through that caller's backyard, there being very few fences and none of us being inclined to stick to the footpaths.

I remember picnic dinners at Centennial Beach, trips to the Field Museum, a Worlds Fair at Navy Pier, visiting the Brookfield Zoo. I remember catching fireflies on summer nights. I remember block parties (a concept unknown in conservative Melbourne, where people hide behind high garden walls and only talk to their neighbours if there's a dispute).

In 1980 we had to return to Melbourne, and my brother and I had to learn to be Australians. It was hard, but we managed. Eventually we lost our mid-western drawls. We made new friends and discovered new things to explore in our conservative eastern suburbs Melbourne home. There were parks, the local pool, it wasn't too bad.

As an adult, I've had cause to be thankful that I got to experience life as a small American before returning to my own country. I've also decided, on balance, that Mum and Dad made the right decision to bring us home. But I've always missed Naperville, and anything that reminds me of it can be sure to give me a bittersweet pang for a life that was over decades ago.

Knitting is a relatively new hobby for me. Ravelry has been a terrible distraction as well as a great inspiration. I came across Kate Gilbert's Clapotis and fell in love. I found an Australian supplier of Lorna's Laces (although they're in Queensland, thousands of kilometres away!) and they can order Lion & Lamb Multi for me.

So I went to your site to explore the colourways. I saw these names. "DuPage". "Naperville"! So then I realised you were in Chicago. And I spent a little while reminiscing about Naperville winters, when it snowed. It's autumn here now. We have lots of imported deciduous trees in Melbourne, so we do see autumn colour, but it just isn't the same as being a small girl in the woods, being buried in massive piles of dry crackling leaves by my Dad.

I hope I haven't bored you to tears with my rambling reminiscing. I'll go back to perusing your colourways and try to decide between "Watercolor" and "Baltic Sea" for my Clapotis, then I can get my order to Yay for Yarn in Queensland :-)

Have a lovely day.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

FO (Finally)

I've finally got a FO for the year! I decided to do Jimmy Beans Wool Downton Abbey KAL.  If you've been keeping track of my Year of Making activities, you've been seeing quite a bit of it in small pieces over the past couple of months.




It's been a good project for me. I did the beginner rather than the advanced version because that was what I needed in my life. I was able to sit down and knit a row or two most days. Some days it was just a few stitches, but that's OK.

I hadn't done a Mystery KAL before and I decided that I like them. Or at least I liked this one. I'm pretty sure I switched the order of a clue or two along the way but it didn't matter. I still ended up with a beautiful, warm shawl(ette). Since you can't see what you are making is supposed to look like along the way, I'm not sure I'd be good with one where a little variance would affect the finished product in a meaningful way. There's just a little too much Type A personality running through these veins for that.

This is a seriously long shawl. Mine is about 9 feet from wing to wing. You can see that better in this shot from the Rav page.


 And a close up.

All in all, I give this project a big thumbs up. There's enough going on to keep it interesting while still providing good TV knitting. And you end up with a scarf/shawl thing that's long enough to give a ton of styling options.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Masham Worsted

In light of Clara Parkes glowing review yesterday, I thought y'all might like a little more eye candy today. We have a new yarn, Masham Worsted. It's a blend of 70% British Wool and 30% Masham Wool. What's a Masham you ask?


That is a Masham. If you look up "ram" in the dictionary, I'm pretty sure this is the picture you'll find. Could he be any more handsome? The entry might also look something like this.



Anyway, I fell in love with this yarn the minute I saw it. I should probably back up a little. As a yarn company owner, mill reps come to visit me and try and sell me yarn. One day, this rep and I got to talking about what other kinds of wools we might work with. Merino is lovely and all, but there's a big world of other breeds out there. I'd purchased our BFL, Haymarket, from him last year and I wanted to explore the idea a little further.

He told me about Mashem and I was intrigued. One of the things that intrigued me the most was when he told me that different wools behave differently in the dyepots. Looky what it does.



Pretty cool, right? Here's another.




He made a few samples and sent them over. We fiddled and played and decided on a nice heavy worsted weight. This yarn is about 170 yards per 100gr hank.

It's shipping out to yarn stores now. Bristol Ivy's Wainright is magnificent.


So is Amy Herzog's Harrogate.


This yarn is lovely. Just lovely.