Getting Back Into Posting

Wow! Can’t believe it’s been so long since I last posted! I have been super busy with completing so many projects, what with Christmas and all. Then I was kinda feeling under the weather for a few months, if you know what I mean. So I’ll be busy designing and making a new baby blanket. 🙂
I plan to start posting pictures and descriptions of everything over the next few weeks. Hope everyone had a great Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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Adventures in Dog Hair Spinning – Part 3

So now that all the dog hair was dry (finally), I was able to get right down to the fun part… spinning! Now you have to keep in mind that the only other spinning that I’ve ever done is with Corriedale Wool. This type of yarn spinning is much easier than dog hair spinning because the staple (the length of each individual hair) of the wool is much longer than the staple of the dog hair. The wool was around 3-4 inches, whereas the dog hair was around 1-1.5 inches!

So, knowing that spinning fiber that has a very short staple can be tricky, I decided that I needed to prepare the fluffy stuff a little more before attempting to spin it right from the mass of fluff. That would make it a little easier for me to handle.

At first I tried just grabbing a handful of the dog fluff and trying to spin it from that. But that didn’t seem to work very well. I was getting a very thick yarn and I wanted it to be a little thinner because I wanted to be able to get enough yarn to knit at least a pair of socks. So then I tried looking online to find a better way to prepare the yarn. Lots of YouTubes and Blogsites later, I decided on a game plan.

The sites that I had listened to or read had said that it is best to comb short fibers and make a rolag out of them before spinning. Some of them mentioned making what is called a puni, which is as best as I can figure just a miniature rolag. Well the problem was I didn’t own and fiber combs! So I improvised and used my husbands old worn out hairbrush and one of our dogs grooming combs. It didn’t work as well as a comb specifically designed for the job, but it worked reasonably well and I was able to get some nice little punis rolled up.

I filled a large bowl with a bunch of the dog hair punis and grabbed my spindle and I was ready to go!

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Adventures in Dog Hair Spinning – Part 2

German Shepherd Dog Hair Fluff

German Shepherd Dog Hair Fluff Ready to be Spun

So now I had all this wonderful, soft, smelly, dirty dog hair that needed desperately to be cleaned! As I was looking for a way to spin the dog hair the night before, I had come across a couple of YouTube videos that showed how to do it properly. I didn’t want to go through a messy process and come out the other side with ruined dog hair that couldn’t be spun.

So here’s what I did. First, I filled up a large bowl with very hot water, almost too hot to touch. I put in about a half cup of fresh smelling laundry detergent and gave it a good stir. Then I carefully took a few small handfuls of dog hair and gently placed them on top of the water. They floated, because dog hair is naturally water repellant.

Next, I slowly and gently pushed the floating dog hair down into the soapy water. It is important to place the dog hair into the soapy water, rather than running the water over the dog hair. The videos I had watched said that agitating the water was a huge no-no because it could cause the hair to start to felt. So I was careful not to wiggle the dog hair-filled water too much.

I left the dog hair in the water to soak for a few minutes, being cautious not to let the water cool down too much, because I also read that it is bad to change the temperature of the water throughout the process. So before the water cooled down at all, I began the rinsing process. (If your water does cool down, it’s okay. You’ll just have to do the rinsing process in cool water rather than hot.) This was rather messy, I must say. I was glad to have a large laundry sink to do this part in.

I pulled out the dog hair in as much of one single clump as I could and placed it in one corner of the sink without squeezing it out. Squeezing could also cause the fibers to begin felting. Then, using my fingers as sieves, I scooped up the rest of the floating hair and shook it off my fingers onto the previous clump of wet dog hair. Being careful not to rinse this clump of hair down the drain, I slowly poured out the (very, very dirty and grimy) water. If you are afraid of any dog hair accidentally going down the drain, you can place a small screen over the drain to prevent this. Since my laundry sink is large, though, I didn’t have this concern.

Then, after rinsing the bowl clean, I filled it up again with very hot water and carefully placed the clump of wet dog hair back down into it. Again being careful to resist the urge to swish it around or otherwise rub the dirt off, I waited for a few minutes to let the dog hair soak. Surprisingly, this first rinse did not have as much dirt and grime left in the water as I thought it would. Yeah! I kept rinsing again and again until the water was crystal clear. It only took about 4 rinses for me. It may take more or less, depending on how dirty or clean your dog is. Remember not to squeeze the dog hair between rinses!

Next step was to get the dog hair dry. I lifted the clump a little bit above the bottom of the sink and gently pressed it against the side of the sink to get as much dripping water out. Then I placed it on a paper towel and gently dabbed it to get some more of the wet out.

Okay, here’s where I think I messed up a bit, because I was being impatient. I really wanted to get to the spinning, and knew that air drying would take forever. So you may want to skip this next step. After I had repeated the entire process so far with all the dog hair, and had dabbed as much water out with paper towels as I could. I placed it all into an old pillow case and put it in the dryer on the “delicate, air dry” setting. I know you are saying to yourself (what?! after all the effort put into not letting it felt while washing, you put it into the dryer?!!!) I admit….. it was a foolish thing to do. Not only did the hair not dry completely, but now it was in little hair balls (kind of looked like what a cat would hack up).

Luckily, the dog hair hadn’t felted completely, though, so I was able to carefully pick each ball apart and fluff out the hair again. This time I decided to be patient and let it air dry (the right way!).

So there you have it. I was ready to start spinning…. as soon as that darn dog hair would hurry up and get dry!

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Adventures in Dog Hair Spinning – Part 1

One Year Old German Shepherds

Romulus on the left, Remus on the right

A couple weeks ago my beautiful one year old German Shepherds starting “blowing their coats.” I couldn’t believe how much fur came off of them! Remus (the perky one on the right) was the first to start shedding back in early spring. I hadn’t thought about saving any of his hair. Now I’m wishing I had so I could have even more to spin. I think next year, I’ll be sure to save each of the dog’s hair separately, because although they are brothers, they have very different coats. Remus has very short, fine guard hairs, while his undercoat is more wiry. Romulus (the handsome laid back one on the left) has very coarse, wavy guard hairs, but a softer, almost downy undercoat. He didn’t start really shedding until a couple weeks ago. His downy coat is the yarn I am currently spinning.

I’d heard about spinning dog hair before, but I didn’t realize that I would be able to get so much fluff out of just one grooming! When I was done raking all the loose fur, which took about an hour or so, I had what looked like another dog lying next to him because the pile of fluff was so huge!

When I groomed him, I had in the back of my mind that it would be fun to spin his fur, but I hadn’t really committed to it yet. So I just let the fluff kind of blow in the wind. That evening, I started doing some research into how exactly to go about spinning this stuff. I’ve spun a very little bit of wool roving, and I’m totally new to spinning, but I was very interested in trying something fun and new. So I spent a ton of time that night just looking around the web, watching YouTube videos and reading up on spinning short fibers.

By the next morning, I had resolved to make a go of it and try this dog hair spinning out myself. If I couldn’t get it to work, at least I had tried, right? So now I had to go back and collect all the dog hair that I had foolishly let just blow in the wind outside. Luckily there hadn’t been any rain or dew the night before, so I was able to collect a pretty reasonable amount of fluff without too much trouble. I did have a few pieces of grass stuck into the fur, but it wasn’t terrible. In fact I was able to fill about two plastic sacks full of smelly, dirty German Shepherd dog hair. Now…. how to go about cleaning it?……

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Nursing Shirt Project with Kuka Summer Mercerized Yarn

I had lots of yarn left (over half!!) from crocheting my Mari Nursing Wrap, so I decided to make a matching nursing top. The pattern isn’t actually a nursing top pattern per se, but it is a simple open-front type shirt with a few frog buttons at the top, so I figured it would work well as a nursing top anyway.

I’ve always enjoyed knitting a little more, simply because of the infinite possibilities of stitches and also because it produces a little bit finer fabric than crocheting, but I must admit, it’s kinda nice taking a little break from knitting and doing a few things with crochet. The stitches I’m using are really beautiful; ones I’ve never had a chance to try before. And since the Kuka Summer Mercerized yarn I’m using is much finer than what I usually use for crochet, the resulting fabric does not have the thickness that I normally associate with crochet.

Part of Back of Nursing Top

Click on picture to see stitch close up.

I’ve only gotten part of the back done, but I’m already very excited to get the project done and try it out. Baby will be here soon (end of month!!! Yikes!), so I don’t have much more time, and that’s actually a good thing! I plan to post pictures of the progress, so stay tuned, if you’re interested! The pattern is actually from Interweave Crochet Magazine Fall 2009, and its the Szechuan Sweater pattern. I like the fact that the front is open, so I don’t have to lose all the baby fat before being able to wear it.

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Extra Time for a Fun Crochet Project

Yeah! I finally have my computer back, so now I can blog again! The down time gave me a little extra free time to work on a crochet project that I’ve had in mind for some time.

Mari Nursing Wrap

It was fun to crochet this lovely nursing cover.

I’ve had four babies and never had the luxury of a nursing wrap/shawl/cover (whatever you want to call it). So I decided with my fifth and final baby I’d give myself this treat. I found a really cute pattern online at crochetme.com called the Mari Nursing Wrap. As you can see by my photo, it has a lace motif pattern around the edge so that you can peek in at your baby, without exposing anything. The linked double crochet stitches in the middle of the wrap, however, are not see-through, so your privacy is covered! There is also a nifty little strap so your wrap will stay where you want it.

Closeup of Edge of Mari Nursing Wrap

Here you can see the lovely stitch pattern and rose motif.

I really like the yarn I picked out, too. The colors are feminine and the yarn itself is very soft. I used Kuka Brand Summer Mercerized Knitting Yarn, which is a cotton yarn that has a little bit of shine with a thread of viscose going through it. I love the way the wrap folds up into a very small package so that it is easy to carry in my small diaper bag!

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The Dreaded Steek – Bravely Cutting Your Knitting

“You want me to cut what????”

That was my knee-jerk reaction when I first read about steeking! How could anyone, after putting in so many hours of lovely knitting, even think about actually cutting through the work they just finished? Well, that is exactly what you do when you steek your knitting.

It’s very scary, I know. In fact, I just experienced my very first steek a few weeks ago. It made my poor heart pound frantically, but when it was over, and nothing started unraveling, I was able to breathe normally again (after I took a huge sigh of relief!).

Steeked Fair Isle Sweater

This is the unfinished sweater with the steeks cut for v-neck and sleeves.

The way the whole thing works, in a nutshell, is you work in the round up to the shoulders of your sweater, shirt, or whatever. This works especially great for sweaters that have a lot of colorwork, or fair isle (as mine is), because you don’t need to interrupt the color pattern. You just keep right on knitting around and around. (It’s also nice because you don’t have to figure out how to do fair isle on the wrong side!) Then, when you’re project is the right length, you are ready to do some steeking.

If you have set up your sweater to be a v-neck by decreasing and increasing in the middle of the front, then you will have three steeks to cut. Now, I have read that it is not completely necessary to reinforce your steeks before cutting, but I feel more comfortable with the reinforcement. Who knows? Maybe some day I will have enough steeking experience behind me that I won’t worry about the reinforcements anymore, but for now, I say grab your sewing machine or needle and thread and give yourself some peace of mind before cutting!

V-Neck Fair Isle Sweater with Steek Cut

Here’s a little closer view of the steek for the v-neck.

On my sweater, I used two rows of stitching on either side of the steek, about one column of stitches away from where I was going to cut. I used a sewing machine to make it go faster, but you could potentially just use a needle and thread in a complementing color. Just make sure your stitches are close together. I then used sharp scissors to carefully cut (aaahhhh!) down the “ladders” of the knitted piece. Be careful to stay on the same column of ladders. I almost made an ooops! on my sweater because I was so nervous!

Once you have all your steeks cut, and you have enough blood back in your brain and your hands, you are ready to add your finished collar and your sleeves. Simply pick up and knit evenly around where you cut your steek. Pick up the stitches at least two columns in from where you made your cut. Continue your pattern as normal from there on out and enjoy knowing that you braved the scary world of steeking and are a survivor!

If you have any stories about your adventures into steeking, I’d love to hear them! Send me a reply and we can share our experiences, whether good or bad.

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Spinning Yarn – What Have I Got Myself Into??

It has been a while since I blogged, but I have good reason…. ever tried spinning your own yarn? If you have, then you know what I’m talking about when I say that it is VERY addictive…. hard to put down. You just want to keep spinning and spinning and spinning and….. hey, you get the idea!

While on my knitting retreat, a helpful fellow knitter/spinner graciously offered to show me how to spin using a drop spindle. Little did I know what I was getting into. A whole new world of fun is now open to me, experimenting with different types of roving, seeing what spinning in different directions does to your finished work, finding the right amount of twist for your yarn, etc. And that is just touching the surface of new and exciting things to try!

Here are some pics of my new adventures into the world of spinning:

Coopworth Wool Roving

Ball of Coopworth Wool Roving

Spun Yarn

My first ball of homemade yarn!

Knitting with Homemade Yarn

Stockinette Stitch with Homemade Yarn

 

 

 

 

 

If there are any fellow spinners reading this that have any great ideas for me to try out, please feel free to leave a reply and let me know all about it… I’m very curious!

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Knitting with Friends

This past weekend I had the privilege of going to a Winter Knitting Retreat with a close friend. Wool, Warp and Wheel in Richmond, IL puts on a fun-filled weekend for knitters of all ages every year at The Little Switzerland Inn in McGregor, IA.

Those of us who were fortunate enough to go had loads of fun learning and sharing new techniques with our fellow knitting friends. We had the opportunity to walk through the Fiber Festival held in McGregor the same weekend, where there were many vendors presenting their craft and selling treasures of all kinds.

Eva Spinning

Eva Spinning Away on Her Wheel

One of the highlights of the trip for me was learning how to spin my own yarn on a drop spindle. Eva (pictured at left) was my patient and gracious teacher. She was busy spinning some gorgeous turquoise silk on her portable spinning wheel, when she asked if I would like to learn how to spin. I wasn’t going to pass up that opportunity! So she let me use her spindle and some of her wool roving and she took me through the steps of preparing the roving for spinning, called pre-drafting, to spinning the yarn in the correct directions, and to finally plying the yarn. It was so much fun… and addictive!

Steeking on Fair Isle Sweater

Steek on V-Neck of Fair Isle Sweater

I also had time to try out steeking for the first time on a fair isle sweater I had set aside for several years. It was very nerve-racking at first to cut right into the knitting I had so painstakingly done for so many hours, but thankfully I had the support of my fellow knitters encouraging me! Everything turned out fine, and now all I need to do is pick up stitches for the collar and arms to finish off this fun sweater. The picture at the left shows the already cut center steek for the v-neck on this sweater.

I encourage anyone who has the opportunity to go to a knitting retreat, to not pass it up. It is a great time to share with other knitters and learn something fun and new! Let’s keep up the tradition of this time-honored craft!

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How I Got Started Knitting

When I was around 9 years old, we used to visit with one of my mom’s friends. She must have been a knitter, because I became interested in knitting after visiting with her. I asked my mom to teach me how to knit. I don’t remember the exact circumstances, as it was so long ago, but I do remember being absolutely fascinated with knitting from the very beginning.

The first project I remember spending hours on was a scarf. I still remember it was called “Butterfly Scarf” and it was definitely not a pattern for a beginner. But I was up for the challenge, and eventually finished it. Mind you, it was full of holes and the edges were far from straight, but it was a great learning experience and from then on, I haven’t lost my passion for knitting fun and interesting patterns that challenge me.

So that’s how my relationship with knitting started, and now I have the awesome privilege of providing a way for other people to experience the fun and relaxation that a little knitting can bring. I recently launched a new Etsy store, Knitting Knicely, that will eventually have many of different hand knitted items, most of which will be customizable, available at low prices.

Come visit my shop frequently, as I will be adding new items regularly!

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