1-2 more Yarn School Helpers Wanted!

March 19th, 2012

Posted in workshops by Nikol |

I am looking for a couple more helpers for the spring session. I have two reserved already & I’d like 3 or 4 total to spread the work out more so all the helpers get more fun time.

Basically, it’s a Yarn School work-exchange program, heavy on the work! You do lots of prep (cleaning, laundry, fiber balls, mixing dyes, etc.) beforehand, then help with meals, dishes,  laundry & the Dye Lab during. In exchange, you get to attend Yarn School, a Yarn School goodie bag with Hello Yarn fiber (no extra BYO wheel bonus, though), a door prize, and 2# of fiber to dye, which you can dye on either Sunday night after the Dye Lab add-on (we’ve got a full house for the add-on, or normally helpers dye then) or Monday–or at some future time, if you live within a drive and want to come out and relax and take your time at a later date.

Here are the details:

Since I’ve had people I don’t know flake out on me in the past, helper jobs are now only available to former Yarn School students or helpers.

If you’re within driving range, you can either come out and work the two weekends prior (April 14/15 and 16/17–or Fri/Sat, if that’s better for you–stay here overnight Saturday) & then show up Thursday (4/26) afternoon for Yarn School, or come out the Monday before (4/23) & work all week. Out-of-towners do the 2nd option. All of our KC helpers have preferred option #1 since you’re better rested & generally have more fun that way. Helpers usually stay thru Monday am, and are welcome to stay thru the day if they want to dye then.

Helpers clean, set up goody bags, get rooms ready, make beds, do laundry, etc. in advance & then assist with meals, dishes, laundry & the Dye Lab & generally helping out the teachers during.  Sunday while the Dye Lab  add-on is going on, you’ll strip all the beds of those who have already left. It’s a lot of time on your feet, so if you have health or mobility problems, this is probably not a good job for you.

Helpers stay in one of the group rooms. Helpers need a driver’s license, since they often run the airport shuttle.

I think that’s about it. If you’re interested or have more questions, let me know asap!

Time for a break!

March 15th, 2012

Posted in bloggy, cupcake ranch, finished objects by Nikol |

It’s been a mad winter! Woolfest in January (I have to brag about my awesome booth that I totally neglected to photograph), then mass book knitting and a bit of photography, then a fucking TORNADO at the end of February that threw the town into chaos. Then I accidentally agreed to a bit more recovery volunteering than I was prepared to handle and was in a bit of a panicked frenzy for a week and a half. Then a much needed and super-awesome Spinsters-y MO Fiber Retreat in which I learned locker hooking, basket weaving, Tunisian crochet, and wagon wheel rug weaving, peppered with much Spinsters hilarity. This week, Vicki & Susan in Burlingame volunteered to man/organize the Donation Center and suddenly my volunteer duties became manageable again! And I’m only 2 weeks behind on my final deadlines and another couple months behind on my life!

We had some uninsured damage to the roof (I don’t think anything our insurance actually covered was damaged) and lost a good 20 feet of our quirky handmade fence. While it will definitely hurt to fork out the money for the roof, the bid didn’t make me burst into tears. And considering the catastrophic damage in Harveyville, we were very, very lucky.

Except for the 4 days of Woolfest & MO Fiber, my life has been all about my book and the tornado and pretty much ignoring everything else. But shearing’s coming up in a few weeks and I decided I need to finally get last year’s clip in the hopper. I skirted and bagged it all up. Now I just have to figure out what I want it made into.

I was originally thinking all yarn this year, except that I have Agnes’ ruined fleece from last year, so if I get her made into combed top, they can comb all my neppy roving into something worthwhile. And the Shetlands are so small and so fun to spin… And I love spinning Fudgy… I love spinning all of them. The plan was to start a CSA and let the subscribers dictate what got made into what, but I didn’t TCB in time and now… tick, tock. I’d like to at least have it ready for Yarn School.

Uncle Honeybunch (Shetland). The Shetlands are great fun to spin but not as impressive raw. He’s about 3# skirted.

Fudgy the Whale (Romney). Her fleece I just love. It’s enormous and shiny and just falls apart in your hands. About 8# skirted.

Jayne Cobb (either Romney or Merino x Romney–not sure of his pops). Another lovely fall-apart fleece. About 7# skirted.

Agnes (Merino). Cottony fine, snowy white. This is after sitting for a year and it’s still pretty damn creamy. 8.5# skirted

Hokey Pokey (Merino), not quite as fine as Agnes, but still dense and buttery. 7# skirted.

So here’s the real puzzler. These are both Ronnie. The bottom one is the bulk of her coat, much crimpier than the Romeny fleece, for instance, but way less crimpy than the other Merinos. And that top sample, which is what covers her thighs and rump, looks just like Shetland.

Here’s Ronnie with Uncle Honeybunch & Mr. Shivers, who’s light gray, though you can’t tell with all the old lanolin . It’s harder to tell on the light fleeces–and these are center back samples, so they have more undercoat–but the Shetland has the longer fibers that you can pull out by the tips and the wuzzier undercoat plumping up the rest of the loc. And her fleece is much more open and less greasy overall than her mom’s or brothers.

And Ronnie also looks more like a Shetland from behind. She’s got that square shape and those shaggy breeches that the Shetlands have. But then she has a wooly face and legs and that ridgy Merino nose, and although she was tiny at birth, now she’s about the same size as her brother. I don’t know if it would seem so Shetlandy to me if I didn’t have Shetlands, or if I had a wider representation of Merinos.

I took a little break and shot Cupcake Ranch a little:

Peggy, one of the new girls.

Joan and Betty, the other two new girls. All 3 are laying pretty little green eggs.

Of the old girls, Faith’s still laying like a champ.

Bridgette and Cathy have retired, but Faith was a slow starter so I suspect they’re still way ahead in overall eggs.

Georgie, the newest addition to Cupcake Ranch, is right at home these days. After a few run-ins with the Shetlands, he generally keeps a respectful distance, and I think I’ve taught him that the chickens are to be left alone. They pop into his area and drink from his water bowl unmolested, and he doesn’t chase them when he’s out in the main property running around like a madman.

Had to include Freddy, who was looking particularly kitteny today. Sugarfoot was hiding.

Mr. Shivers was being a little shit today. First he was all lovey-dovey, then when I quit scratching him, he gave me a quick butt and then kept following me around annoyingly, threatening to butt me if ever I let down my guard (I did not; I know better). He even followed me into the hay shed. I couldn’t finish my chores without turning around every three seconds to ward him off. It got so annoying that I had to throw a couple buckets of water at him to get him to beat it. But he was quick and wily at avoiding them, and I kept accidentally hurling them at other hapless sheep instead. Uncle Honeybunch was all “Hey, lady! What did I do?” Eventually I got a couple right in his face and he acted very put out and haughty and skulked off and shunned me when I tried to get a picture of his dripping face. Served him right, though. I’m glad they’re getting sheared soon. That always puts him in his place.

Before I get back to work, a few of my book projects, cleverly photographed so you can’t tell what the hell they are:

(inside-out, so as not to give away the pattern)

Happy New Year! See you at Woolfest!

January 1st, 2012

Posted in bloggy by Nikol |

My little reflective 2-day break was kind of a masterpiece of denial. I totally did not have any time to spare, and the holidays, as they do, sucked away even more time.

I have been knitting and reknitting my ass off. I really need to work on being a more focused knitter. My method of knitting half a garment, deciding the sizing is all wrong, frogging it, and repeating 2 or 3 times until I’ve gotten it right is utter bullshit. I need to make some stock size forms that I can lay over my knitting so I can tell I’m way the fuck off well before the garment really emerges. Oh! I should put that on my Überlist!

Speaking of which, last year’s absurdly ambitious Überlist was kind of a bust. I’m scaling back my list this year, since making it too hard just doubly depresses me. A person can only so much, and grand delusions–even when I realize they’re absurd–just make me disgusted with myself at the end of the year. But keeping the list mellow is always a huge battle, since it means accepting I am only a normal human person with normal human abilities and I totally want to be Wonder Woman (without all the crime-fighting, of course; that just seems exhausting). Actually, what I really want is a bucket of those clear pills from Limitless. I watched that last night and I don’t think I’ve ever been as covetous of an imaginary thing as I am of those imaginary pills. Sigh.

In addition to book knitting, I’m working on a super cushy thrummed headband/cowl pattern for Woolfest. (If you haven’t been to Winter Woolfest & you’re in the Kansas area, you should totally come! I’m vending & I’ll have the DIY carding bar again, and I’m doing carding demos and teaching the free thrums class.)

The pattern’s called Polaris (after the failed polar expedition, hee hee) and I’ll post it as a free pattern when it’s done.

In the meantime, if you’re coming to Woolfest and want to attend the class, here’s your homework:

Polaris

Thrummed Headband or Cowl

Needles
US 9 and 11 16-inch circulars or DPNS

Gauge
11 sts= 4″ on larger needles in stockinette (no thrums)

Yarn
Headband/Cowl: 50g/100g Wicked Stitch Cauldron Dyed (doubled), or other heavy worsted (doubled) or bulky yarn that achieves gauge

Thrums
Headband/Cowl: 1oz/2oz Merino Combed Top

Homework (either version):

CO 51 with US 9. Join in the round
Work 3 rnds K2P1 ribbing
Switch to 11s and work 4 rnds.

For a parting gift, here’s what I got for sleeping in yesterday morning:

Fuck being all busy and stressed out. I’m taking a break.

December 16th, 2011

Posted in bloggy, FREE buffet!, works in progress by Nikol |

I am not a disciplined person. I get a hell of a lot done (though never as much as I want), but it’s not through solid planning or because I’m a real go-getter, but through a sort of frenzied, fearful, directionless will. I spend a lot of my time in an adrenaline-fueled blur. This would be fine if I were, I don’t know, a spy or a superhero or something. But I’m not. I’m a small businessperson of sorts, a knitwear designer, a craftsperson, and a part-time fiber farmer. My brain and body do not want or require all this amped-up Tokyo Drift pumping bass bullshit.

So I’m going to try to cut it out.

Well, theoretically. I don’t really know how to go about it.

But I’m going to start but taking a little break.

I’ve been completely submersed in knitting since late summer when I signed a book deal with Wiley. I can’t tell you how proud and excited I am about this project, but it’s fucking stressful to pump out 30-odd quality patterns with supporting charts, schematics, technical crap and lovely photos in a little over 6 months. I’ve also got a new dog.

Ears flying!

Georgie after running around like a maniac

He’s a very good boy, and watching him run is a thing of beauty, but holy time suck, I’d forgotten how much work young dogs are, and a high energy working dog is… well, let’s just say I was unprepared. I’m pretty confident that left to his own devices he would playfully kill all of the chickens and run the sheep until their hearts exploded. As a result, his exercise requires my presence. And he requires a lot of exercise.

And I have and a giant heap of overdue administrative obligations than I’m not exactly tackling; but they’re a constant weight on my mind. And of course rotten debt and no money like everyone else. And since Ron’s been on tour, I have fallen into a sort of astonishing squalor. I mean, my environment is always messy and chaotic, and Christmastime is the worst, but this is bananas. Anyway, I didn’t meant to start bitching because bitching gets my adrenaline pumps squirting out go-juice and that’s not what I want.

Because right now, just for like the next day or two, I have a little window of flexibility. I can plow through it with more work or I can sleep or I can try to force myself to slow down and take stock. I think that last one is what I should do. That and try to restore a little order.

Pear Rum Pot and Pear Ginger Preserves

In the name of order, last night I finally cleaned out my fridge. I sent 4 bags of wasted food into the compost. I did save a giant sack of pears in time to make a huge pear rum pot and a little batch of ginger pear preserves. The two little bags of wee, perfect miniature pears that I meant to pickle whole but instead let rot kind of broke my heart, along with the big sack of brilliant multi-hued sweet and hot peppers I meant to pickle. Sigh. And don’t get me started about the 2 pounds of ham and the big soupy pot of beans I forgot about and had to chuck earlier this week. Luckily, I had the foresight to cut and freeze most the ham in 1-pound chunks from the get-go, before I got distracted. But then I went and let that gorgeous meaty fatty bone end start a lab-worthy colony on its surface. That was meant to be the base of a lovely, rich split pea soup, but it instead became the base for a particularly stinky trash can after an unseasonably warm spell earlier this week. Ugh.

There’s something so defeating about wasting food. All your other abandoned projects are evidence of your personal failure and wasted money, but at least they just sit there, gathering dust. Abandoned cooking projects rot and stink and reproach you like mushy, fuzzy, polka-dotted proof of your failed good intentions.

The worst part about working on a book is that I don’t get to show off all my hard work for another year! Sure, I can take some nice peekaboo closeups that completely obscure the nature of the FO, but that’s not really the kind of self-congratulatory gold star I crave.

But I do have a pattern in the new knitty! It’s a super easy seamless hoodie called Sporto. It’s a very plain pattern, written simply to show off the beauty of handspun, but it would e a good choice for any richly textured or hand-dyed colored yarn. The pattern includes light worsted specs, plus a general recipe for any weight of yarn. I find that a pound of fiber = a hoodie with a pocket if it’s spun light worsted, or a hoodie without a pocket spun to aran. A pound and a quarter will typically spin me enough for a hoodie and a pocket at most weights. I wear about an old school Size 8/Women’s M (and by “old school,” I don’t mean sewing patterns, where I’m more like a 12, but standard, non-vanity sized patterns where I pretend I’m cramming a 46-inch ass into a size 2 skirt, which I own and certainly doesn’t fool anyone, least of all me), and the sweater has a relaxed but not too baggy fit. The bright green is one ply of hand-dyed Art Club top + one ply Art Club Succulent. The rotten watermelon is a one-off dye lot of Decadent Fibers Jelly Roll Corriedale bought at Rhinebeck 2009.

Sporto Hoodie on Knitty

Sporto Hoodie on Knitty

Oh! Wait, my calendars are done, too! That’s something else I can boast about. It’s 2012: The Year of the Grouch, but the covers, cut from 1940s & 50s magazines, and terribly cheery.

Here’s a smattering of the ones that shipped on Monday:

2012: The Year of the Grouch

2012: The Year of the Grouch

The completion of the calendars always puts me in the mood to tote up this year’s Überlist and get started on the new one. My goal for 2012 is to lower the bar. My Überlist has gotten progressively more ambitious and thus more defeating every year. For 2012, I’m reigning it in. 2012 is going to be my Year of Lowered Expectations, a goal that fits nicely with this year’s theme.

My only goals for the rest of the day are to ship late calendar orders, make some dumplings and deliver chicken & dumplings to Dick & Rita, and make or wrap a few Christmas presents. And have a few drinks. All this inadvertent teetotaling is not helping my health or well-being. Too bad I didn’t make that rum pot 3 months ago. Some sweet pear-infused rum sure would be dandy right now.

And by the way, I know how stupid my thumb ring looks. I cringe every time I see a picture of my hands, and yet, I can’t seem to part with it.

I’m working on a new book!

October 14th, 2011

Posted in bloggy, cupcake ranch by Nikol |

With all the hullabaloo of Fiber School (which was incredible–amazing group!) and hitting my first deadline and the new chickens and the new dog, I almost forgot to mention: I’m working on a new book with Wiley!

I am VERY excited about this book. I’m also really excited about Wiley. Communication and feedback have been excellent, even from before we had a contract. And I have my own editor–something I didn’t really have on my first book. (Staffing changes kept shuffling me to new people, and in the end, I kind of ended up in limbo, without a dedicated editor–a rough place to be for a first book.) And she’s great to work with, thoughtful and smart and enthusiastic, so Yay!

It’s also incredibly thrilling to be working on a knitting book when I actually know what the fuck I’m doing. So far I love all of my patterns, and I look forward to every new one.

The only downside to this whole thing is the brutal deadlines it involves. Between Fiber School and the new dog, I’m cranking out more than a pattern a week to make up for it. Luckily, I’ve already worked out the broad strokes of everything, so I’m not coming up with the ideas out of the blue–just the nuts & bolts–but that’s still a hell of a lot of knitting, especially whilst housebreaking a dog. And the way I knit (knit, frog, repeat), and with my ambitions to make diversions and variations of every fracking pattern (which I am suppressing to prevent madness/hand failure), I typically at least double my knitting.

New dog, so bony still:

He was starving when he showed up the night before Fiber School. We started feeding him but had no place to put him, so he kept running around town until he got hurt. Then Rachel drove him down to the emergency vet/Humane Society dropoff and he spent a few days in doggy jail, giving his original owners a last chance to find him. The we adopted him, chipped him, and now we’re trying to acclimate him to his new home and dampen his interest in the chickens and sheep (he’s fine with the cats) and fatten him up so we can get him fixed and vaccinated and on heartworm/flea & tick stuff. I don’t want to stress his system with a bunch of chemicals until he’s back up to a normal body weight.

He was afraid to come inside at first, but he’s adjusting nicely. As he gets healthier, he’s quickly becoming more energetic, so I suspect I may be taking up running to keep him stable and non-destructive inside. He definitely wants to be an outside dog, but knowing he’s a runner (a motivated dog would have no trouble escaping our fence, especially with Randy from the City and the elelectric guy coming and going to check the meters) and not yet sure how he’ll react to the livestock once he’s healthy and robust–well, he’s going to be an inside dog with long walks for at least a couple weeks. I hope to transition to letting him out in the fenced back as much as he wants and inside at night once he knows this is his home and he’s adjusted and current with his shots and outside meds (rabies, heartworm, flea/tick–we get plenty of wildlife on our property).

The housebreaking’s going well. We’re crate-training him.

The other new addition, the new chicks, have been moved outside. I had major repairs to the hoop house, which got blown around and dashed to the ground last summer. (BTW, this is not something that gets blown around lightly. IN its previous 2 years, it got blown a few feet once. It’s heavy. Even with a flat dolly in back and mower wheels installed on the front–making it a 6-wheeled vehicle– I could barely drag it back into place. Now it’s in a pretty sheltered spot, and I attached 4 cinderblocks to add to the weight, so we should be good for most contingencies.) The don’t quite get the roosting thing. Their first few nights, they crammed themselves into the holes in the cinderblocks instead of using their roost, and I had to transfer the groggy but outraged beasts to their roosts after dark, since their chosen spot was also the most exposed, and they’re still way too small to be rubbing it in predators’ faces like that.

Once they’re bigger, we’ll let them range with the other chickens and hopefully by winter, everyone will be back to the coop and I can kit out the hoophouse for a greenhouse again.

New Chickens, about 6 weeks and happy to be outside

New home

I love how they pile up in a clump

All of the animals are still waiting on names. I’m leaning toward Joan/Peggy/Betty for the chickens, but I want to make sure they’re all girls and that I’ve called which is which appropriately. Due to their timing, I’ve had much less contact with this batch, so they’re a little more wild and strange to me.

We haven’t found out the dog’s name yet, which is making training a pain. We think we know it, but it’s hard to know for sure until the dog knows he’s home. This one seems like he was on his own for a long time, and he’s not yet quite who he’ll be. Anyway, we’re going to have to decide this week, or he’s going to think his name is Good Boy.

Did Chico’s rip me off?

October 12th, 2011

Posted in bloggy by Nikol |

So knitloon on ravelry sent me a note about this:

Look familiar?

Dude.

She said she bought it as new stock a month ago. My pattern was published on Craft in March.

KAL Sally Cardigan

Sally Cardigan on Craftzine.com

Of course the Chico’s one is pieced colorwork instead of top-down slip-stitch, but that would be necessary for mass production. The only design difference is the neckline, which I actually give instructions for on the ravelry page (the color notes are the original for the pattern, not for me to show emphasis now):

Neckline mod closeup.

Now, maybe the Chico’s was inspired by the same random 40s children’s sweater I was. And maybe they decided it would make a good women’s sweater, and maybe they decided to change the pattern motif, ease, sleeve length and cuff length just like mine, and maybe this all happened after my pattern was published and without them seeing it. But really? Really, Chicos?

Battstravaganza!

August 12th, 2011

Posted in artclub, spinny by Nikol |

I got a wild hair this week and went on a carding bender. Since I’ve been meaning to set up a separate shop for Art Club (aside from etsy), I figured may as well do it now, with all these pretty new cuckoobatts, huzzah! Most of them are big fat jumbo batts, 3 – 4 ounces, enough for a decent project on their own.

In honor of the new shop, mention this post for a free custom coordinate-y surprise jumbo batt with $35 purchase! (Man, 5 modifiers and no commas!)

Seaweed (wool, bamboo, mohair, soy silk):

Seaweed Cuckoobatt

Sunken (wool, bamboo, soy silk):

Sunken Cuckoobatt

Deep Sea (wool & bamboo):

Deep Sea Cuckoobatt

Fruit Punch Mouth (wool & bamboo):

Fruit Punch Mouth Cuckoobatt

Peacock Twinset (2 coordinating batts; wool, mohair, silk & bamboo):

Peacock Twinset Cuckoobatt

Disney Mermaid (wool, bamboo, soy silk):

Disney Mermaid Cuckoobatt

Frog Pond (wool, soy silk, bamboo):

Frog Pond Cuckoobatt

Pushup (wool & silk):

Pushup Cuckoobatt

Monster Mash (wool & soy silk):

Monster Mash Cuckoobatt

Old Moss (merino, alpaca, soy silk):

Old Moss Cuckoobatt

Cherry Bomb Sox (superwash wool & nylon):

Cherry Bomb Sox Cuckoobatt

Bluebell Sox (superwash wool & nylon):

Bluebell Sox Cuckoobatt

Vine Sox (superwash wool & nylon):

Vine Sox Cuckoobatt

Indian Paintbrush Sox (superwash wool & nylon):

Indian Blanket Sox Cuckoobatt

Pink Candy Sox (superwash wool & nylon):

Pink Candy Sox Cuckoobatt

Hot House Sox (superwash wool & nylon):

Hothouse Sox Cuckoobatt

Thistle Sox (superwash wool & nylon):

Thistle Sox Cuckoobatt

I may end up using etsy for the one-offs and the main shop for all the open stock stuff, but for now, it’s super batty.

FREE PATTERN: Splash Swimsuit Coverup/Lace Minidress on Craft!

August 4th, 2011

Posted in finished objects, FREE buffet! by Nikol |

Free pattern on Craft

Splash, knit in a mere 3 skeins of Lorna’s Laces Pearl (4 skeins for the L/XL)!

As a swimsuit coverup:

Splash Swimsuit Coverup/Lace Minidress

As a dress:

Splash Swimsuit Coverup/Lace Minidress

I’m kind of loving lace right now. Lace is just such a bargain to knit that I can’t resist it. I mean, a 300g dress! And the short version of my Date Night top was 100g, bananas! Of course, my idea of lace is mostly easy mindless lace. I’m working on another project with complicated lace that I actually have to think about, and it’s not nearly as fun, though it’s satisfying to watch it emerge (it’s also knit flat, so bleh, too much purling!).

More Splash (thanks to Charlene for modeling for me!):

Splash Swimsuit Coverup/Lace Minidress

Splash Swimsuit Coverup/Lace Minidress

Splash Swimsuit Coverup/Lace Minidress

Splash Swimsuit Coverup/Lace Minidress

Splash Swimsuit Coverup/Lace Minidress

Splash Swimsuit Coverup/Lace Minidress

Splash Swimsuit Coverup/Lace Minidress

Splash Swimsuit Coverup/Lace Minidress

Splash Swimsuit Coverup/Lace Minidress

In other news, the heat finally broke, after a torturous 111° on Tuesday. And today: rain! I’d almost forgotten what it was.

Oh, and the Spinners Control Cards are back in stock!

New Superawesome WPI tool

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