Tuesday, October 25, 2011

how could I make you wait for alpaca?

Ok, so before work decided that they own me I did manage to sneak my boys out to see the alpacas.  For the pumpkin festival (as I think of it), a mama alpaca and her cria were visiting in front of the Spotted Sheep.

You can see the tent with the alpacas behind the yarn shop sign.

The alpacas were visiting from Destiny's Farm in Weare, which is just about in walking distance from my house.
We did visit the whole crew at the farm, but it was a dreadfully rainy day when we went so I didn't bring my camera.

I am not able to post a lot of the pictures, because I'm not comfortable with posting other people's children without permission.  But here are a few just because alpaca are almost sinfully cute!

Shorty feeding Mama
Yeah, that last picture, the focus isn't so good.  Part of it is I cropped it so the other children wouldn't be exposed on the internet. 

The fiber on these alpaca is amazing.  Most folks know that knitting with alpaca is pretty much like knitting pure love.  Soft, silky, warm, with an amazing halo... alpaca fibers are my go-to when I want comfort while I knit.

I actually have a portable project that I've knit up in the white alpaca fiber from Destiny's Farm, and as soon as I finish the second mitt off (and pry them off shorty) I will be posting about those as well. 

The couple that runs Destiny's Farm is truly amazing.  They love what they do, and it shows.

The farm is immaculately kept, the animals are obviously well cared for and their curiosity shows it.  Prey animals tend to be more cautious than curious, so them coming over to sniff you when they think you aren't looking is a sign of a very well loved animal. 

Plus, the largest ones are a little taller than me by virtue of long, graceful necks... so seeing one "sneak up" in the corner of your eye is both a little comical and very sweet.

But back to the yarn.  The yarn is usually sold on Destiny Farm's Marketplace site, but is currently available at the Spotted Sheep. 

It is spun at a local mill (I did find out where, but the name escapes me at the moment), and it's a bit of a rustic spin.  By that I mean the mill that does it has some variability in the spin of the plies.  So occasionally, you'll find areas that are slightly over-spun and occasionally there will be fat under-spun sections.  Knitting with it is a joy.  I haven't managed spinning, it's not a skill I count as mine. 

But this yarn gives me the joy and the wonderful look of a solid, well-crafted handspun for a very reasonable price.  Your finished object will be gorgeous, and being locally made, spun and sold it will also be a lower impact on the environment.  Can't beat low impact luxury!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Spotted Sheep Review

I'm recovering from being oncall, and it's slow going.  Something about having to be awake during the day and being unable to sleep at night in anticipation of a night filled with increasingly anxious sites.  On the worst night I've ever had, I had 6 sites down at once... so you can tell what trauma inspired my sleeplessness.

But despite all that, I did manage to sneak out and get some pictures to show and tell with.  I took both of my boys to the Spotted Sheep Yarn Shoppe, both to pick up some sweater stuff and to see the visiting alpacas.  I'll have another post about the alpacas to come, but this one is about the local yarn shop.

The Spotted Sheep is located in a cute little building that has had several purposes in the time I've lived here.

The building itself is quaint, and sort of victorian inspired meets modern amenities. 

Inside, there are (as to be expected) yarns of all colors and weights.  The walls are a spring green, which is very different from any shop I've ever been in.  However, the pictures should illustrate how surprisingly neutral the color is, and how well it showcases the neutral colors that usually blend into the background.  I'll let the photos speak for themselves.

These photos are all from the downstairs area, but does not include the sitting and internet area.  The downstairs portion of the shop also has a lovely connection space for internet knitting searches and visiting folks (like shorties or non-knitters who were dragged along for the fun).

The upstairs space is finished up, but still being organized.  I got to peek and am very excited.  There is a mini kitchen upstairs, and a really beautiful classroom space with long tables, sturdy chairs and a sizeable couch.  Margaret was speaking about her spinning wheel, and getting stock organized upstairs... and how much work is going on in the background to get things ready for the Grand Opening on Nov 5. 

Frankly, every time I go in there are improvements and more fun things to experience.  The yarns are beautiful.  Margaret and Bruce love alpaca as much as I do, and running through the store with your eyes closed will show you exactly how much!  The yarns are a tactile delight.

I'm really looking forward to see this shop grow and refine.  What they have already is fantastic, and I only see great things in their future!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

new things to love

Okay, last night after seeing the hat and cowl I've made from the white alpaca Destiny's Farm yarn that I purchased on Oct 1 from the Spotted Sheep... shorty decreed that they are good, but "I also touched a brown one Mom."

Lucky for both of us, the new LYS is really really local!

So, to appease shorty (and lets be honest, to amuse myself) I headed down during my lunch break.  I have permission from Margaret to bring my camera next time & review the shop!  Plus an invitation for Wednesday Knit Night!

I'm excited, and am looking forward to both.  And feeling guilty that the blog is hungry.  Since the LYS is really really local, I will probably sneak down on Saturday (yep, still oncall) to take pictures both at the shop & of the Alpaca Visitors.  If you're in the area, check it out.

Monday, October 10, 2011

momentarily distracted, a Little Red review

This month, I'm spending more time oncall than usual.  Between that and some unavoidable obligations, I've not been making as nice with my blog as I'd like.  I think maybe I owe it chocolates and flowers.  Possibly a foot rub.  We'll see how the make up goes this week.

Last week, I spent a lot of time either trying to catch up on sleep or swatching.  Two equally brilliant, but mutually exclusive activities.  When I wasn't coordinated enough to swatch, I spent some time reading my copy of Little Red in the City by the insanely talented Ysolda Teague. 

She and I definitely do not share the same taste.  I believe that the projects included in the book are interesting, but I would not wear them.  HOWEVER that being said, this is the best write up of shaping and applied sewing technique to make a fitted knit that I've read yet.

I've been asked a few times offline how I managed to make my mother's sweater fit so well.  Especially considering that I knit it in secret and changed up the numbers without having her measurements.  I used a combination of comparative analysis and simple math.  Essentially, my mom is petite where I'm dead average.  I know where typical clothing is wrong for her, so I knit using my own body as a guide. 

This is a bit free-form, and I think it only works for me because I spent more than 2 decades sewing.  I tend to apply the lessons I learned while learning to sew crazy stuff that didn't have an extra boob in the middle of my back. 

Ysolda has written out instructions for grading a curve, for estimating ease in fit, for getting correct measurements....

This is all stuff that's handled by cutting away fabric when done in sewing.  In knitting, it's done through generating exactly the fabric you want, in the proportions and drape that you want it to be in. 

Little Red in the Big City is one of the best and most comprehensive studies on how to get the numbers you need to make any knitted garment flatter your specific shape.  What she has collected here is something it took years to learn, and information I'd only managed to gather together in 5 different books previously.

The instructions in this book are clear.  They are well enough explained that I would be confident in using this book to teach a beginner how to shape a garment.  And through it all, Ysolda's personality shines through.  After reading this book, I wish I could meet the woman behind it.  She seems to have a deadly sense of humor, and I think she would be the perfect knitting companion.

If you don't already have a copy of this book, invest in it.  It's that good.