Caper 21

My obsession with fleeces this year has progressed to its inevitable limit. In the 21st year of the 21st century, when one is in one’s 21st year for the third time, it seems right and just that one should embrace 21 fleeces. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Stonewall questions all of this

But I am content to stop there. I have learned much from my immersion course in wool and will continue to do so as I process, spin and knit or weave from the tresses of these wonderful sheep.

For example: Gotland. Gotland is an island near Sweden, in the Baltic Sea. It is inhabited by around 57,000 humans and approximately 35,000 sheep, 28,000 of which are ewes of the Gotland breed. Only recently has this breed been introduced to the US, with its long curly silver gray fleece. Let me tell you: it is a challenge to spin because it is a longwool requiring low twist, easy to end up in a wiry and undesirable state.

My goal is to spin Gotland lambswool into an S-spun single to be used as warp in a twill skirt– sloth cloth, as I call it, because it will surely take a very long time. After a couple of failed attempts, I have a supple skein of 440 yards to be used in a fabric sample.

From this
to this

On the other end of the crimp scale, I saw this beautiful Shetland fleece that whispered “lace!” in my ear. I washed it, combed a little bit, and spun the finest I could to end up with a sample 2-ply that is about 6000 yards per pound. Not ring-shawl fine, but good enough to knit a shawl that would pass through a small bracelet.

this fleece
from this sheep (really! underneath those tips is gray and white)
beomes this Shetland 2-ply

Brian (the Stoic Norwegian) is marvelously complicit in this endeavor. I submit as Exhibit that he installed these really useful work tables in the dye shop.

And Exhibit B: a makeshift skirting table we cobbled together from an unused wire dog crate, some castoff molding, and sawhorses. Our model is a very dark merino fleece.

I am looking forward to processing and spinning even more breeds from short to long-stapled. I think they might be enough for the next, say, 21 years!


How I Wash Locks and Live to Tell About It

As you are probably aware, there are all kinds of different breeds of sheep, and their wool can be vastly different. Some you just jumble up and wash as I described in my last post. Others are more precious or are better prepared for spinning if the locks of fleece are kept intact.

Locks of unwashed Corriedale

I used to make nice little tulle fabric packages of fleece locks and either pin them together or baste them to keep them from shifting about, but that was a lot of unnecessary work, I concluded– because I am a very lazy person who just wants things to be easy.

The basic requirements of washing locks while keeping them intact boil down to the need to a) keep the locks mostly immobile while being washed and rinsed, b) let dirt and lanolin have enough room in the bath to get out of the locks and c) keep the locks immersed in the bath and not bubbling up to the top to peer out like a hungry crocodile.

Inspired by posts on Ravelry in the Fiber Prep forum, I bought 3 Coleman coolers meant to hold cans of soft drinks. I read that these particular ones are sometimes used for sous vide, so I figured they contained heat pretty well.

They also coincidentally are an exact fit for the top of a utility sink, which makes it handy to fill one up and then move it out from under the faucet so that I can put the lid on.

Coleman 24-can party cooler

Then I got plastic baskets, but they do not have holes in the bottom (I couldn’t find any the right size with holes that I felt were stable enough).

They do have holes in the sides, and the longer I looked at them, the more those holes looked like a pegboard. I tucked that thought away, and scrummaged around for materials I could use to make trays within the basket. I have had plastic canvas sitting around for many, many years to make a dollhouse for my daughter. She is now almost 40. I don’t think I’m going to get it done, and I’m sure she doesn’t care.

I decided to cut plastic canvas to fit down inside the plastic basket but not all the way down. If the basket looked like pegboard, then (I asked myself) why not use pegboard hooks? Miraculously, the holes were precisely the right amount of space apart. I used the 6 spare ones I had and then cannibalized the pegboard in Vavhalla (the weaving studio) to get enough for my project, promising the Valkyries therein residing that I would order more to replace them.

I put four hooks in the bottom row of holes and then put the plastic canvas on top of the hooks, and cut one corner of it further in so that I can easily lift it out.

Now I can lay my locks directly on this canvas.

Then I put another layer of plastic canvas (slightly larger because the basket flares out) over that and more pegboard hooks to come down on top of the top canvas to hold it there and to prevent the locks from rising.

In order to keep the peg hooks from swimming upward when the basket is put into the bath, I tie them together. I use tag faseners for lots and lots of things because they are easy to fasten and cheap to buy, and so it seemed natural to use them for this purpose. Looped twice around, they are the perfect length, and they will never come undone until you cut them off.

Now, after filling the cooler with scouring water, I can put the whole basket in, pushing it so that the water flows in, and then put the lid on.

It’s easy to take this basket from the scour and put it into the next scour or rinse, and it’s easy to just lift up the hooks to remove the two pieces of plastic with the locks sandwiched between, to squeeze out the water between two layers of towels, and then take the top plastic off and put the locks in a place to dry.

The perfect way to dry fleece is to use an herb drying setup like this, with mesh trays that allow air to circulate all around the locks.

Fleece locks drying
A view from the outside, embellished with roses

As the locks dry, they begin to puff up like the Michelin Man. The buttery colored Corriedale locks from the first photo in this post are now a beautiful glowing white. Success!


Let There Be Fleece On Earth

And let it begin with me.
Let there be fleece on earth
the fleece that was sent to me
to flick together
and card together
and spin so ceaselessly
Let there be fleece on earth
The way it was meant to be!

Brian asked me if I was going to make a documentary about this, The Year of the Fleece. I suggested it might be a flockumentary.

The Great Room has been fleeced

It all started because of the lack of in-real fiber festivals for the last two years. The big wool shows are the best places to find beautiful quality fleeces of all breeds, wonderful for handspinning. The heady smell of lanolin fumes wafting up from freshly shorn locks of wool is intoxicating. They affect your brain in such a way as to make your hands reach into your purse and pay the ransom that will make this fleece your own.

Hank, a Steitzhof Merino

I was feeling sorry for myself for the lack of wool fumes and even sorrier for the shepherds who did not have these venues available and may be suffering from lack of buyers. So, partly out of pure selfishness and partly noblesse oblige, I set out to remedy this situation. Henceforth, 2021 shall be called the Year of the Thirteen Fleeces.

A pile of picked fleece ready for the carder

Happily, I chose to begin looking for fleeces right around shearing time which, depending on the geographical location and availability of shearers, varies, and can range from March through May. Some farms and ranches actually shear in October.

Precious, Gotland lamb

A succinct list of the fleeces are as follows, mainly so that I can refer back to my own blog when my memory fades (and it will).

  1. Nori, a Gotland/Finn/Shetland cross from Oregon, mid gray 6.3 pounds
  2. Spaghetti, a Finn/BFL/Shetland cross from Idaho, taupe, 7 pounds?
  3. Freckles, an East Friesian/Merino cross from Idaho, white, 8 pounds
  4. Blanche, a Cotswold from New York, white, 4 pounds
  5. Rose, a Cotswold from New York, white, 6 pounds
  6. Dorothy, a Cotswold from New York, white, 10 pounds
  7. Ivy, a Shetland from NC (local), white, 4 pounds
  8. Eli, a Jacob from NC (local), white and gray, 3 pounds
  9. Hank, a merino from Montana, charcoal, 8 pounds
  10. Zellie, a Corriedale from Ohio, white, 8 pounds
  11. Precious, a Gotland lamb from Florida, silver, 6.3 pounds
  12. Silver, a Gotland from Florida, silver, 4 pounds
  13. Miss Poppy, a Cotswold from Pennsylvania, white, 2 pounds

With the exception of Miss Poppy, who was purchased at an event 2 years ago (but included here because I just recently washed her fleece), these were all purchased this year. Ten of them were purchased online from 6 different shepherds. If the shepherds did not refer to them by name, I gave them names of my own… this applies to all the Cotswolds, and to Zellie, who was really 211.

Eli the Jacob from Hobbyknob Farms NC

In the past I have sent fleeces to a mill to be scoured (our fancy word for washing wool) and carded and/or combed. But due to the increasing cost of shipping and the wait times (6 months to a year) and the cost of the processing, I decided I would do it myself and save, thereby proving fiscal responsibility, if not insanity.

I’ve developed a system and a rhythm, and six of my flock are all squeaky clean and in various stages of being picked/teased, carded and spun, sometimes with help from a feline.

Katie breaks in

The legacy of having all the walls re-finished when we moved in was a bunch of drywall buckets. I claimed these for use in the dye shop that Brian finished for me last year.

How I wash Fleece that is not super fine or super long:

I take a fleece and lay it out on the shop floor, then take sections of it and weigh around 400g (a little less than a pound), and put it and up to 5 other sections in buckets of tap water to soak for at least a day. I once did eight in one day but that is not an exercise (literally) to be repeated. I’ll refer to these buckets of original dirty fleece as D1 through D6 in the following process.

The following day, I fill my two electric canners with water and get them up to boiling, to be used to augment tap water to get it up to scouring temperature. Then I run the tap water in the two utility sinks until it is as hot as it will be (our hot water heater is set to 120F), pour a couple of glugs of Power Scour (about 2T) in each of two buckets (1 and 2) and fill them half to 2/3 full of the hot tap water, then top it off with boiling water from the kettles. This, I have found, brings the temp up to about 140F, which is what I want. I use a colander to remove the soaked wool from buckets D1 and D2, let the water drain out as much as possible, and then put the wool into the scouring buckets 1 and 2 and leave it there for 20-30 minutes.

Nori is soaking

I only use two wash buckets at this point because I want to reuse that water as the first scour for the next two dirty buckets.

I prepare two new buckets (3 and 4) with scouring water and transfer the wool from 1 and 2 into 3 and 4, and put dirty wool D3 and D4 into the (previously used) scouring water of 1 and 2, which is still really hot, and wait another 20-30 minutes. I refill the canners so that I won’t run out of boiling water.

Next, the wool D1 and D2 is removed from buckets 3 and 4 and put into buckets 5 and 6 for rinsing. 5 and 6 have been filled with hottest tap water, but not topped with boiling water. Then 3 and 4 become the first scour for the last two dirty buckets, D5 and D6. Two more buckets, 7 and 8, are prepared with scour and boiling water, and wool D3 and D4 from 1 and 2 is transferred to 7 and 8.

Spaghetti on the drying rack

Meanwhile, the original D1 and D2 are in buckets 5 and 6 and get rinsed two to three times and then strained out, put into the Panda spinner (a marvelous thing) and spun until no more water comes out, then laid out on the drying rack to dry.

By this time D3 and D4, currently in their second scour in 7 and 8, are ready to rinse, and buckets 9 and 10 are prepared with the last scour, into which D5 and D6 are transferred. And so it goes, until everything has been rinsed and spun and laid out to dry and it’s time for an adult beverage. You may remember the old doughnut commercial where the baker stumbles around at 0 dark thirty in the morning mumbling “time to make the dougnuts”? That’s me, only not so early in the morning, saying “time to rinse the fleece”, equally incoherently.

Clean and shiny Ivy, a Shetland from Hidaway Farm, NC

I don’t actually have 10 buckets, but 9 and 10 are really 1 and 2 recycled. And by recycled, I mean the Stoic Norwegian (that’s Brian), in an effort to preserve my back, has kindly emptied dirty water out into the yard/forest to fertilize whatever needs it.

Once the fleece is dry, I can either store it or go ahead and pick/tease/flick it, which involves opening up the locks by hand, removing any short second cuts, any kemp, and all remaining vm (vegetable matter, like hay) and of course the occasional skeleton of an insect. Depending on the fleece, this could be easy or not.

Spaghetti loved her life in the fields! (this did come out)

Once the fleece has been picked, I can put it through the drum carder two to three times to align the fibers for spinning, and remove even more vm. Then it is ready to spin.

One pass through the carder
batts ready to spin
Nori spun and plied… the first skein anyway!

Washing Fine Fleece to Preserve Lock Structure

Short version: put the locks into a tulle package and baby it.

Long version: for a future blog post.

Housewarming Rag Rug · Rolaken Fire Screen · Shadow Weave · Spinning

It’s a circus around here…

My house looks like it was invaded by sheep who left their wool behind for care and feeding. I’ve been spinning, weaving, knitting, and scheming on more projects, waiting for warmer weather so I can add dyeing to the mix. Time is precious, so I’ll just post some photos today.

Yet another 1100 yards of silk/Haunui gradient, 2-ply
More progress on the rag rug… 25% done!
Almost done with the first of two tencel shadow weave scarves
Well begun on a Rolaken fire screen insert inspired by a Ingegard Silow midcentury Swedish rug
The Ingegard Silow rug that inspired me
the yarns
Warp half wound for a set of honeycomb placemats based on this bedspread project from a Handwoven publication
Spinning fine moorit merino from Cinnamon Girl’s fleece purchased from Steitzhof Merinos several years ago
Chose our color for repainting the house… it was the 6th we tried. Benjamin Moore’s Warmed Cognac color, but in Sherwin Williams paint.
Always looking forward to sunset because you never know what you’ll see!
Housewarming Rag Rug · Rugs · Shadow Weave · Weaving

Spring Shadows

The weather has been capricious here; one day 77 degrees and sunny, the next in the 50’s with 8 inches of rain and enough thunder and lightning to power a small city. I’ll bet that black beast, Manny Bearilow, is awake now.

Spring brings thoughts of cleaning, which are quickly quelled. However, some benign bestowals of fabric needed a place in my storage cabinets, and some shifting of studio contents had to be done. During this endeavor, I excavated a forgotten treasure: some skeins of 10/2 Tencel purchased at the Madrona Fiber Arts Retreat of 2016 from the now defunct Just Our Yarns.

After conferring with the friend who had been with me at the time, who had purchased some for herself, I was reminded that we bought them to weave shadow weave scarves. Oh yeah, now I remember!

Hand-dyed 10/2 Tencel

I found a draft I liked enough to weave, planned a warp for two scarves, and before long my treadles were clicking contentedly away.

Shadow Weave: fun with dark and light

Meanwhile, I have transferred the rag rug to Thrugbot, the AVL rug loom, rewoven all I had unwoven, and added a few more inches.

The rug is now 6 feet wide instead of 5.
Monet’s Garden gets some poppies.

Spring means that summer will soon be here, and summer means we have an Undertaking to, uh, undertake. Paint the house red? We shall see!

Lace Sampler · Weaving

Holey Cloth

For some time now I’ve had the best intentions of working the hand-manipulated woven lace sampler published in a booklet by Eleanor Best and available online for free.

Many months ago… more than 12… I put a 7-yard warp of 72 ends of 10/2 perle cotton in a pale peach color onto the Oxaback Lilla, aka “Tinker Bell” aka “Flower” and it sat there, beamed on and threaded, with no more progress until yesterday.

I was feeling somewhat depressed yesterday; the weather had been gloomy and my body was tired from getting a very wide, very heavy warp onto Thrugbot the AVL rug loom. All I really wanted to was sit around and wait for the day to be over. But I have learned over a lifetime that sometimes it’s best to at least try to do something, so I decided to “putter”.

Puttering took me down to the studio, where I took pity on Flower and finished sleying the reed, tying on the warp to the front bar, and tying up the two treadles needed for plainweave.

This morning I found a nice slim weaving sword in my cabinet, sat down with a slim Handywoman shuttle and began at the beginning.

At first, I was packing down the weft as I usually do for cloth, but realized this was a lace sampler, so decided to pack gently and create a more balanced but open weave for the plainweave portions. I found it quite calming and pleasant to work the first few samples and look forward to making this my morning routine until all 40-odd samples are done.

Between each sample I’m throwing 12 picks of plainweave so that each can be examined on its own, hopefully without competing with the samples above and below it. I may run out of warp, but I know how to put another one on!

Single Antique Mexican Leno
Double Antique Mexican Leno (two samples because I liked seeing the pointed oval between)
(top) Single Mexican Leno
Double Mexican Leno
(top two) Single and Double Antique Mexican Leno in different sequences
Spring is slowly arriving!
Christmas Heart · Knitting · Mitered Square Blanket · Tatting

Twitter Patter

The time changed, so I lost a Sunday. These things happen. But here I am, inexplicably awake early on a Monday, watching the sky lighten and drinking coffee that Brian made earlier without having to warm it up. The joys of retirement!

I’ve been joining some zoom get-togethers lately, for knitting and spinning and a 5-Saturday tatting class that has now ended. To knit while socializing is a skill not to be scoffed at, so the simpler the better. I recently indulged in the purchase of enough Noro Silk Garden yarn (thanks to a 50% off sale) to knit the Mitered Square Blanket. This blanket is simple yet at the same time interesting, and I love the slow and quirky color changes of the Noro.

However, one would be misleading one’s readers if one were to pretend things could not go wrong with this. Take the very first square, for example. The programmers among you understand the famous one-off bug? Well, here it is in the knitting world. This square will have to be re-started and knit with more attention paid to the number of rows and, hence, decreases in each corner.

But why do that now when I can put it off until later?

A couple of weeks ago I promised an evaluation of Twitter as a social media platform. I deleted my Twitter account– does that tell you anything? Honestly, if you want the news almost as soon as it occurs, Twitter is your best bet. That’s the best I can say about it.

If you’ve ever watched Buffy The Vampire Slayer, you may remember seeing an episode where Buffy is somehow able to hear all the thoughts of everyone around her. She nearly goes crazy. That’s how Twitter is. All these thoughts flying around, and not just once– people “retweet”; many people retweet identical tweets, and so you are forced to wade through way too many repeats of the same tweet you’ve already read. Also, tweets are stale within minutes. And forget about getting a question answered if you ask one about the contents of a tweet.

I identified several main categories of tweets.

First and best: the informative tweet. It is just that– it conveys information that may be useful. News reporters and medical experts are chief among those who inform.

Second is the commercially or financially motivated tweet. Authors, actors, political activist groups, and people who want you to help them fund something (a new roof, a new fence, a pet’s surgery, criminal defense, you name it) all want you to follow them and of course, want your dollars to follow them too.

Next is what I call the “inane question” tweet, written because the tweeter must be extremely bored or thinks everyone else is. Either that or they are trying to harvest data about individuals. Questions are, for example, “Grateful Dead or Abba?”, “What’s your sign?”, “Mrs. Butterworth, Aunt Jemima, or Log Cabin?”. They get thousands of responses. Do I think the originator actually reads or cares about the responses? I do not.

Another major category is the needy and/or the whiners. “I tweeted that it’s my birthday today and nobody responded.” “I tweeted that my mother-in-law’s brother’s girlfriend’s daughter went into the hospital today and nobody cares.” These tweets then end up getting a bunch of guilt-activated responses which are, I am sure, entirely sincere.

There are the pets who somehow paw their tweets in quickly-tiring pawtalk. “My hooman is trying to think pawsitive”.

There are what I call “Tweetisms”:

  • “I don’t know who needs to hear this but blah blah blah“;
  • Blah blah blah. That’s it. That’s the tweet.”;
  • Blah blah blah (person) is about to go through some things.”

Originality is not the strong suit of the average tweeter.

It seems like the whole game with Twitter is to *get followers*! You have street cred if you have oodles of followers. I was active on Twitter for about two months, and ended my illustrious Tweeting career with nearly 300 followers. One of my tweets went viral (it contained a very good pun), which is what garnered me most of my followers. So what? I’ve never been the type of person who cares that much for public acclaim or credentials or the spotlight. I don’t even enter my fabrications in the state fair! I am, obviously, not the target of Twitter. One of the ploys to get followers? Respond to anyone’s tweet with “I followed you!”, which apparently is a poke for them to follow you back.

So, bottom line– if you have lots of time to waste, don’t have much of anything concrete to say, don’t mind reading thousands of misspellings and grammatical errors, want to get into written altercations with trolls and like to bond with total strangers, go for it. Oh, and don’t worry if some of your favorite tweeters disappear for a few days. They routinely get put into what they call “Twitmo” for violating Twitter policies. Many of them do this so often that they create a second account and ask you to follow that one too “just in case” they are banned. One other thing– if I were an employer, I would ban Twitter at work unless it was part of the job.

Instead of Twitter, try Tatter! That would be you, after you’ve taken a class from The Lace Museum. Tatting is the last form of lace that can only be made by hand. It’s not terribly difficult, but it is quite tedious and requires attention. It is virtually indestructable, and therefore mistakes cannot be easily fixed without simply cutting it out and redoing it. This little heart is full of mistakes. It suffers from twisted arteries and needs major surgery. Ah well, as Blaise Pascal says, “The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing.”

Fair Isle · Knitting · Unst

The Unst-steekable

It has been years since I embarked upon a significant fair isle knitting project, one with multiple colors patterned throughout. But not long ago, Knitty published a design called Halmsted by Todd Gocken that caught my attention because it features a unique way of knitting the lower part of the sleeves together with the body, with steeks in between. At the armholes, the pieces are merged together to form a circular yoke. (For those not in the know, a steek is an extra set of stitches used to join two pieces of knitting, usually so that the garment can be knit in the round rather than back and forth. Once the knitting is completed, the steek is cut open with scissors and the edges finished. Knitting back and forth in colorwork is especially ornerous.)

Over the years I have developed an intense dislike for knitting sleeves in the round. One reason is that there are two of them, and though I have no desire to lose an arm, I dislike having to knit the same thing twice. Witness my lack of pairs of hand knitted socks. Another reason is that I do not enjoy knitting small circumferences in the round– mostly because it is annoying to switch needles if using double-point needles, or to pull out the loop if using the magic loop technique. I would much rather knit a sleeve flat and then seam it up. (Many knitters will go to great lengths never to have to sew a seam, which is unfortunate because many times seams provide strength and structure). Traditionally, Fair Isle sweaters are knit body first, then sleeves are picked up from around the armhole and knit downward in the round.

While looking at the Halmsted pattern and considering whether to knit it, I realized that I didn’t really like the final product for me. The color pattern and style just aren’t my thing. But I was emboldened by the idea of just knitting all the pieces at once with steeks between. I chose a Marie Wallin pattern from her Shetland book, a short cardigan called Unst. However, I wanted a longer V-neck cardigan, button bands that are not ribbed, and a to-be-determined-later style of hem or cuffs. In other words, ” an Article of Clothing Somewhat Resembling Unst.”

So here it is after almost a week of knitting.

There are Things one must consider when planning the all-at-once steeked approach.

  • Sleeve length vs garment length– they are rarely the same
  • Shaping of each piece – sleeves, armholes, necklines and any desired waist shaping
  • Where the body and sleeves will end in relation to the color pattern
  • Gauge and body measurements (as always)

The first point was the most exclusive to the whole-steeked approach. I rummaged in my cedar chest and came up with a pullover I bought in the Shetland Islands in 2001, when a cruise I was on docked at Lerwick. I carefully analyzed it, noting that the total sleeve length was the same as the total body length, but that the sleeve ribbing is 4 inches (meant to be turned back) while the body ribbing is 2.5 inches. I also saw that the sleeve was a modified drop shoulder, the armhole bindoff was straight (not angled as in some designs) and that it was 2 inches into each side of the body. (As an aside, note that this sweater, like most of those sold in Lerwick was “hand-loomed”, meaning it was knit on a knitting machine by an individual, which is somewhere between handknit and commercially knit. Thus the neck, cuff and bottom ribbings are knit separately and then seamed on using a linker. Typically these ribbings will be a solid color because ribbing in color on a machine is tedious and time consuming.)

I then looked for and found a design that was a V-neck cardigan, fair isle, at the same gauge as I expected my Unst to be – 7.5 stitches and 8.5 rows to an inch. (This was an assumption based on the type of yarn, Jamieson’s Spindrift, and my own experience knitting with it in the past). I chose the Roscalie design from Alice Starmore’s In the Hebrides because it had a neckline and front band that I like.

I decided what amount of ease I would like for the cardigan, made my calculations, came up with my stitch counts and shaping schedules, and went right to work.

I cast on 517 stitches using a provisional crochet caston so that I have the flexibility later on to decide how long or what kind of ribbing or hem to knit. These stitches incorporate a left front, a steek, a right front, a steek, a back, a steek, a right sleeve, a steek, a left sleeve and a steek, joing back around to the left front. I am increasing each sleeve by 2 stitches every 4 rows, so at this point, about 44 rows into the sweater, I now have 539 stitches. I look forward to losing stitches once I start shaping neck and armholes!

I’m quite delighted with this method so far. It pleases me immensely that once I have completed this vast tube of knitting, all that remains is ribbing, button band and seaming. Another advantage is that since each row is different, my memorization of that particular color pattern is good across all the pieces, making it easy to knit for longer periods of time, and ultimately I am switching colors quite a bit less. Yet another advantage, as a friend of mine discovered, is that if your gauge isn’t exactly what you had planned (swatches sometimes lie), or if you miscalculated initially and find that what you are knitting is going to be too large, you can simply incorporate those extra stitches into your steek (and then reduce the size of the steek) and carry on as if nothing had gone awry. Making a mistake in the opposite direction (causing the pieces to be too small) won’t be as easy to fix, but they wouldn’t be in “normal” knitting, either.

An amusing coincidence– as I was knitting Unst it occurred to me that parts of this color combination seemed awfully familiar, and I once again rummaged in the chest and found the reason. In the early 90’s, Pendleton had a shop in downtown Seattle that I would walk past every day when going to work. For a while, there was a fair isle/intarsia sweater in the window that I absolutely lusted after– it was whimsical and cheerful while at the same time traditional– but in no way could afford to buy at that point in my life. As time went on, the sweater disappeared from the window, and some time later I went into the store and searched the sale rack and there it was, in my size, 50% off! I had just received a raise, and so I indulged myself. That was the era of shoulder pads, and this sweater had them but I have since taken them out. Here the sweater is pictured with the balls of yarn in some of the colors I’m using for Unst.

Crochet · Finished Items · l'Histoire Naturel

Where were we…?

The election and subsequent events, which dragged on for months, I am sorry to say, are now hopefully behind us and I can wake up each day not expecting imminent disaster. Therefore I feel I can resume the blog and try to post weekly.

I took advantage of the blog timeout to thoroughly evaluate two social media platforms that I had opined about in the past but hadn’t really tried to make work for me. On Facebook, I decided to try the approach of only having friends who I really know in real life, or did know at some point in time. This has worked pretty well, along with making it clear in my little bio as to some key aspects about me that might make someone think twice about friending me if they hold opposite views. It’s fine if my friends disagree with me but I didn’t want FB to become a bickering place. At times I will present facts and data that refute what some friends say if I think it might help; otherwise I’ve just learned to scroll right past. So Facebook gets a qualified upvote. I’ll talk about Twitter in the next post.

Meanwhile, for the past six weeks I undertook both a revival of a long-ignored craft and a personal challenge in the form of a crocheted throw. This design is rated “intermediate” in difficulty but honestly I don’t know how you could get much more difficult in crochet and I’m not sure I want to know! It’s Scheepjes 2020 crochet-along project, l’Histoire Naturel, based on the Natural History Museum in Paris. A friend had made it during the actual CAL and showed it on Facebook, and I was smitten. It’s a free pattern available on the Scheepjes web site, and I was able to find a kit at Jimmy Beans (though you can also buy the individual skeins of yarn– it takes 38, in 7 different colors. Here is my completed (but unblocked) version in the “Conchology” colorway. The yarn is a sportweight cotton/poly. The completed throw is pretty heavy and will eventually go on the guest bed in the so-called “Girls’ Room”. It’s about 55 inches square.

When the weather is warmer and I have soaked and blocked the throw I’ll photograph some details and write a bit more about it.

It has been more than six months since I left the house. Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of my isolation due to the coronavirus pandemic. Four outings in one year. Yesterday Brian got his second dose of vaccine and is doing fine, but I’m at the end of the line in terms of priority, so I’ll continue to stick around the house and watch the new Spring commence.



I feel like I’ve come to a point where I have nothing entertaining, educational, humorous or useful to say on this blog. I have no idea whether more than one or two people still read it– it’s not like the early days of blogging. These days, blogs are mostly (with a few exceptions, of course) about people trying to make money by blogging. Blogs with more than one flashing ad, more than 3 or 4 still ads? I pass them on by. Blogs with buttons for donations? If I like them, I’ll donate. Blogs that repeat the same phrases over and over in hopes of getting higher search engine prominence? I detest them. Blogs that teach competently without superfluous ads? I love them when the subject matter is of interest to me.

Because of the sad state of blogs in general, or as an answer to them, the prevailing trend is that people are glued to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok. While these platforms encourage interactivity, they kill individualism (and time) and can promote mistruth. Everyone says the same things, posts the same memes, uses the same trendy phrases. Even if they do have differing thoughts or opinions, they don’t dare to express them outside the exact group of people who reflect them. If they do express an opinion that doesn’t happen to click positively with everyone, they are mercilessly, immediately and thoroughly condemned by one person, and then more people pile on like bullies. Whatever happened to polite discourse? You can make your own point without belittling others. You can respect and love other people even if you don’t agree with them. If you wouldn’t say something in person in front of others, you should not say it in writing on social media. And I am happy to tell you that in person!

As a side point — One of my typical rants is about the focus on teamwork these days (in education and technical jobs anyway) to the exclusion of allowing an individual to maximize their talents. An employee is less likely to truly excel if they care about their team and fear their team members will resent them for it. There is nothing wrong with being a team player. There are definitely things wrong with not letting talent shine.

If you have a moment, I encourage you to watch this video: Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose if you haven’t already. If more teachers and employers understood this, more students and employees would be happy and productive.

I plan to put the blog on pause until after the election and focus on working on ongoing projects. You don’t need to see 3 rounds of knitting on a gansey every couple of days. You aren’t interested in how I adjust my coffee grinder on a bean by bean basis to get the best cup of espresso. And there is no way I can put you inside my head to understand an ongoing coding challenge. In short, I will bore you to death if I continue in the short run.

If there is anything you are interested in that you think I have something to say about, I’m always happy to write about it. I’m not a teacher, but I’m happy to share knowledge and opinions. Otherwise, I hope to see you after a joyful celebration of the results of the presidential election. Please vote, and stay well!

Fall from the North View