Yarn School!

May 7th, 2011

Posted in bloggy by Nikol |

It’s always makes me a little mopey when Yarn School’s over, but if I’m not too tired, I get an excellent kick of residual creative energy that I’m still trying to ride. And I can tell that I’m slowly by surely getting the hang of this thing because, for the first time after Yarn School, I didn’t have to sleep for a solid day! I went to bed a couple hours early and took in a more or less normal long night’s sleep to recover. Who knows? Maybe next time I’ll get normal sleep during the thing!? (Who am I kidding? I’ll never be that organized.)

Besides some general stuff I needed to catch up on (Sally cardigan KAL–did I mention how much I LOVE my Sally sweater?!–and my dad’s web site redesign), I also TC of some Yarn School-related B.

I finished about half of my dregs dyeing. That’s when I use only the dregs of leftover mixtures from Yarn School, recombine them, and dye up a mess of fiber for spinning and carding. We made up some big bins of wet fiber and poured the dregs onto them during Yarn School, then threw them in the roaster, but those were all really disappointing and washed-out, so I just overdyed them once they cooled.

Dregs dyeing

This round, I did several semi-solids for carding, plus some superwash and nylon sparkle combos for socks. These will be Sock Sacks on etsy next week.

For socks.

This was my favorite, an overdyed disappointment:

My favorite of the dregs

I also made some dregs batts, completely random junk batts from all the leftover fiber from the floor and piled around the carding table. This year, I mentioned junk batts, but didn’t actually demo one, which may explain the unusually large pile of fiber farts on the carding table this time. I told everyone not to throw them away when they clean off the drums–which they didn’t–and to card big handfuls of them later–which they also didn’t, as far as I can tell. Usually someone snaps up all the odds and ends for crazy batts. The floor fiber alone made one really big batt. I think if I also card the whole basket of mangled ends (leaving the unmolested fiber still unmolested) and spin all of the resulting batts, along with the abandoned rolags, I might have enough for a cardigan! Definitely chain-plying that yarn. Hm. Or am I?

As a side note, I really should make a carding video…

Yarn School Floor Batt, a monster carded on the Mad Batter (I know it’s technically “Mad Batt’r,” but I dislike arbitrary contractions, so in my house, it’s just Batter. But maybe I should give him a proper name? Maybe I should name them all. I do love naming things…)

Floor Batt #1, Yarn School Spring 2011

Floor Batt #1, Yarn School Spring 2011

I only ever use the Mad Batter (Oskar? Chuck? Or maybe it’s a girl? Hedwig?) anymore , so I decided to give my valiant little Ashford (Sammy? Liv? Pepe?) a crack at the dregs batts, and he tackled them nicely, thank you very much.

Giving the Ashford a little love

But enough about me! Yarn School was so fracking fun I could barf! I’ve been inspired to make up a big spinning to-do list like that big knitting list (wait, I’ll be someone has already made one–I need to ask the webbernet) and to catch up on my pound a month (that means 2.5 pounds this month to get me back on track–but Chris says she spins 5 pounds a month! FIVE POUNDS!).

BTW, I realized last weekend that I’m truly a crap photographer. I know it’s a poor carpenter who blames his tools, but I sure miss my old camera. It’s fanciness compensated my lack of skill.  You’ll find more and better pictures in the flickr pool.

Yarn School Spring 2011

Yarn School Spring 2011

Yarn School Spring 2011

Yarn School Spring 2011

Yarn School Spring 2011

Yarn School Spring 2011

Yarn School Spring 2011

Yarn School Spring 2011

Yarn School Spring 2011

Yarn School Spring 2011

Yarn School Spring 2011

Yarn School Spring 2011

Yarn School Spring 2011

Psst… Cherie’s now offering a fiber club for her marvelous mohair and hand-plucked bunny fiber!

Yarn School Spring 2011

Yarn School Spring 2011

Standing angoras look so regal and bizarre, like some deleted scene from Watership Down.

Yarn School Spring 2011

Yarn School Spring 2011

Yarn School Spring 2011

Yarn School Spring 2011

Yarn School Spring 2011

Yarn School Spring 2011

Yarn School Spring 2011

Yarn School Spring 2011

(I found out Erica’s a Scrabble player! We’re murmuring about a tournament next year….)

I need to put away all the equipment this week so 1) I can pretend I actually use the gym for exercise and 2) so I can quit sighing every time I pass the gym and see all the quiet carders and wheels. Le sigh…

Shearing Day at Cupcake Ranch!

April 22nd, 2011

Posted in bloggy by Nikol |

Right now, I’m super mad at my sheep because this morning, they called my bluff on the unwired electric netting and busted out of their pasture, attacking my newly-planted apple trees and making me chase them around in the mud for so long I could hear the Benny Hill music playing in my head. Every time I’d get one back inside, another would slip by me, and they’d be off again. Luckily, I caught them all before they completely stripped my poor little trees, but unluckily, I didn’t have time to throw on my mud boots, so I got very, very dirty and my poor Danko Midoris (which are rather precious to me because they’re discontinued) got soaked through and caked with mud. They are officially trapped in the barnyard until I can run down to the co-op, where I’m hoping they have some insulated wire I can use to join the two noncontinuous lengths of electronet.

In the meantime, I’ll try to put their bad behavior out of my mind and tell you about shearing day! This year, I didn’t have a helper, but I was very good with my prep. I took their hay up the night before so they wouldn’t be full and squirmy. A squirmy sheep is a bloody sheep on shearing day. I got all my supplies ready ahead of time, and even made a little catch pen in a corner of the barnyard. When I got the call that Danny was on his way, I led them all into the pen with a handful of hay (they were really hungry, to be lured into confinement with a handful of hay, poor things!) and took off all their coats so they’d be ready to go.

Here’s the whole gang, before shearing:
Shearing '11: The Whole Cupcake Ranch Gang Before

That’s Hokey Pokey and Agnes in back (facing to the right), then Ronnie (facing front), Jayne, Uncle Honeybunch (facing back), Mr Shiver’s butt, and the top edge of Fudgy in the foreground.

It’s always fun to get their coats off and get a good look at their fleeces. During the year, I only see their fleeces when I change suits, and then just one at a time.

This year, Ronnie’s fleece has been looking suspiciously Shetland-like. It’s way finer and softer than the Shetlands, and she definitely has that Merino face, but look at her fleece compared to Fudgy, even.

Shearing '11: Fudgy & Ronnie before

Ronnie’s the redder fleece in the foreground. Her fleece is much more like the Shetlands’ than her brother’s, below. He has that typical Merino a’a lava look (he’s the center fleece; that’s Fudgy behind him)

Shearing '11: Fudgy & Hokey Pokey before

Although she’s now close to her brother’s size (they’re both runts, thanks to my utter lack of prenatal care, since they were a complete surprise), when she was born, she was way teenier. And right from the start,  she had a much more open fleece, which made me suspicious they had different pops.  But last year’s fleece was fairly fine and greasy, though much longer than Hokey Pokey’s. If only I had a CSI lab in my basement and I could run a genetic test on my sheep!

On to the shearing! I won’t have time to skirt and photograph the fleeces until after Yarn School, but I can give you before and after shots of each animal.

When you have a mix of colors, the shearer starts with the white sheep so their fleeces don’t get contaminated with dark fiber. Uncle Honebunch was up first, because he’s bold and has built-in handles.

Honeybunch before:

Shearing '11: Uncle Honeybunch Before

A closeup of his fleece:

Shearing '11: Honeybunch's fleece

And after:

Shearing '11: Uncle Honeybunch After!

He was a perfect gentleman and didn’t give any trouble. I was pleased to see he wasn’t quite as fat this year as last year.

Shearing '11: Honeybunch visits the inmates

Afterwards, he didn’t seem to know what to do with himself. He kept walking out toward the pasture, thinking better of it, and walking back to the little pen holding all his compadres.

Next up was Agnes:

Shearing '11: Agnes Before!

Here she is immediately after, looking plaintive and pathetic:

Shearing '11: Agnes After!

Agnes go a few little waddle nicks, but nothing too gruesome.

Shearing '11: Agnes After!

She, too, kept checking in on her former cellmates:

Shearing '11: Agnes visits the inmates

Last of the white sheep was Jayne Cobb:

Shearing '11: Jayne Cobb Before

Shearing '11: Jayne Cobb Before

Jayne looks so dashing in fleece, and so gawky and goofy shorn:

Shearing '11: Jayne Cobb After

Jayne’s always had kind of a loose, lumbering stroll, and last summer he spent a few days grazing laying down when it was really hot. But now that he’s shorn and you can really see his muscles, he seems a little too loosey-goosey in the hips, so I’ve scheduled a visit with the vet the Tuesday after Yarn School. Danny said we might try giving him a shot of BO-SE, but I’m not confident enough to try anything without asking the vet first. Wouldn’t it be funny if I needed to start walking him like a dog, to strengthen him up? If it is bothering him, he doesn’t seem at all hesitant in getting up or laying down, or goofing off and getting into trouble as much as anyone else, but he does seem a bit more unstable, now that I can really see what’s going on.

Next up was our gray gentleman, Mr. Shivers.

Shearing '11: Mr Shivers Before

Here’s his lovely, long fleece:

Shearing '11: Mr Shivers' fleece

And here’s kind of a crappy “after” shot. I know he looks a little drunk, but I promise I did not let him do body shots off Agnes. He, too, was a good size (both of the Shetland boys were tubbos the last two years).

Shearing '11: Mr Shivers After!

Up until this point, when there were more fleecy sheep in the pen than naked sheep outside of the pen, things were fairly calm. But right about now is when all hell breaks loose and they all start screaming bloody murder. Even the ones I haven’t heard all year, Agnes and Uncle Honeybunch, are suddenly full of opinions. (Oddly, the vocalizations lasted well after shearing was over. They were still making a stink when I put them up for the night.)

Then it was time for the black sheep. We started with Fudgy the Whale:

Shearing '11: Fudgy Before!

Fudgy after, with a better shot of Mr. Shivers. These two immediately started squaring off, and continued all evening.

Shearing '11: Fudgy Afte! (with Mr Shivers)

She was followed by Hokey Pokey:

Shearing '11: Hokey Pokey Before!

He always looks like a tiny Hostein when he’s been sheared:

Shearing '11: Hokey Pokey After

He got a nice gash along his jaw from some inopportune bucking, his specialty. Their cuts always look so alarming–I think their loose skin means lots of wiggly connective tissue–so even if they don’t bleed, they look extra creepy and shiny and they stretch and gape with movement. They look like when you pull the skin off a raw chicken thigh, bleh. I’ll keep an eye on both him and Agnes, but I think they’ll be just fine. No  bleeding or anything.

Hokey Pokey’s fleece was fine and dark again this year. And his shorn fleece looks like black velvet, albeit dusty black velvet. You just want to paint Elvis on him:

Shearing '11: Hokey Pokeys black velvet butt

If you’re wondering why they all have a dirty butt, after shearing, Danny dragged each one off to the side, trimmed their hooves (yay! I get out of a hoof trimming!) and gave them their CD/T vaccinations (yay! I get out of giving shots!). All that’s left is the worm routine. Today I’ll give them their first formal FAMACHA check. I check them out informally year-round, whenever I’m close enough to give their eye a little tug and it strikes my fancy–but worms aren’t really an issue in winter, so I’m not super meticulous about it then; my record-keeping goes from spring to fall.

And last but not least is little Ronnie, whose fleece, as I said, is looking suspiciously Shetland-like this year:

Shearing '11: Ronnie Before!

Shearing '11: Ronnie's fleece, Exhibit 1

For the most part, I stayed away from the shearing itself, fearing my fretful nature would make them react nervously, but I did get a few shots of the very end of Ronnie’s session. That darker part of the pile near his feet, that’s Ronnie. You can see her take take form near the end.

Shearing '11: Shearer Danny Smith zips Ronnie out of her sheep costume

Shearing '11: Shearer Danny Smith zips Ronnie out of her sheep costume

Shearing '11: Shearer Danny Smith zips Ronnie out of her sheep costume

Shearing '11: Shearer Danny Smith zips Ronnie out of her sheep costume

Shearing '11: Shearer Danny Smith zips Ronnie out of her sheep costume

Shearing '11: Shearer Danny Smith zips Ronnie out of her sheep costume

Next year, I’ll have to make a video! It’s so fun to watch. He takes the sheep, puts it on its but, then rolls it around as he shears off the fleece in one piece, like he’s peeling an orange. At the end of it, the sheep emerges, a little dazed and looking like an entirely new animal, and staggers off.

Shearing '11: Ronnie After!

Here’s some of the ratty, weathered fleece of Ronnie’s haunch. Now this is the coarse, scraggly stuff from the top of her legs (you can see it still on her in the next picture–it’s the stuff directly below Mr. Shivers’ nose), so it’s not representative of the rest of her fleece, but it totally looks like the coarse sections of Shetland!

Shearing '11: Exhibit 2

Here’s Mr. Shivers with Ronnie. She’s got the merino face, but if you saw her from behind, you really might think Shetland. Where’s my DNA lab?!

Shearing '11: Mr. Shivers & Ronnie before

Once everyone was finished, they all reunited to frolic and spar.

Shearing '11: Frisky sparring

Here they are, still nice and clean (they’re all covered with dust now, two short days later):

Shearing '11: The Whole Cupcake Ranch Gang After

Just an hour before:


And a couple days ago, still in their jackets:

I’ll let them run around naked for the next couple weeks. After Yarn School, I’ll launder and mend all the  jackets & treat them with the iDye UV wash before dolling them up again.

I just have a few balls of last year’s roving left, but I think I may get everyone made into yarn this year! It’s a bigger investment, but it’s very popular.

But I’ll think about that after Yarn School. Speaking of which, back to work!

Call for Goodies!

April 15th, 2011

Posted in bloggy by Nikol |

If you make or sell fibery goodness, contribute to the Yarn School Goodie Bag or Door Prizeaganza!

You’ll get your wares in the hands of dedicated spinners and knitters, plus you’ll get a thank-you link/banner right here on the first screen Thrifty Knitter! (See the Art Club ad, right.)

Please provide either a full-sized door prize or 32 samples (at least 1/2 ounce of fiber for a spinnable sample or 10g of yarn for a swatchable sample). Fiber is fantastic, be we also love fiber-related items like knitting patterns, stitch markers and other notions, lotions and handmade soaps, fiber DVDs or books, etc.

Please make sure everything is labeled (easy way: bag/tag them with a business card) so people know how to get more. Any leftover samples will go into future door prize assortments.

Email me a 150 x 71-pixel banner OR your Ravelry Marketplace banner (which has the same proportions, so I can just resize it for you), plus a link to your etsy or independent site or ravelry yarnie or designer page.

I need these in my hot little hands by Wednesday, 4/27. The safest way to get them here on time is UPS, but if you send early next week or especially if you’re geographically close, Priority Mail is a good bet, too.

Nikol Lohr
13149 Harveyville Rd
Harveyville KS 66431

Casting on with my new colors + Burn Test

April 14th, 2011

Posted in bloggy by Nikol |

Often when I run across a mystery fiber I can make a pretty good guess by touch, sight or smell, but every once in a while I’m flummoxed, and then I look up the burn test details. It won’t tell you if you’ve got BFL or Corriedale, but it can tell you whether you’re dealing with animal, cellulose or synthetic. With the growing variety of both natural and synthetic man-made fibers, that can be handy.

The chief differences are how it burns (does it melt, burn actively, or self-extinguish), the type of ash or residue it produces, and the smell it generates. I found this video that gives you both written descriptions and a nice shot of each burning. Hopefully it will aid in your fiber detection!

And my superdeluxe Valley Yarns Sheffield came today for the Sally Cardigan Knitalong! It’s so, so, pretty. Dark brown is one of my usual colors, but purple is pretty well out of my wheel house. But I love them together! Since brown’s more in my comfort range, it’s going to be my MC. I’m expecting a very different look than the retro original! I’m gonna go get myself some caffeine and cast that baby on!

Sally KAL colors

Sally Cardigan Knitalong coming next week, yippee!

April 6th, 2011

Posted in bloggy by Nikol |

Craftzine’s running a Sally Cardigan KAL during April & May! Yippee! I’ll be knitting another Sally, and posting a different step each week, so if you like Sally but want some guidance (especially around the steek, which seems to be nervous-making for everyone), please join us! I set up a ravelry group and I’ll make a flickr group tonight. My first post, about yarn ideas & substitutions, is going up on craftzine blog tonight or tomorrow.

I wish I wasn't wearing my gardening hat in all these pictures

Please ignore my stupid gardening hat. I was having hair issues and am now filled with remorse about grabbing the stupid thing. But cute sweater, no?

Now I just need to figure out:

1) What colors I want to use and

2) Whether I want to make an allover pattern or a sort of Nordic-y patterened yoke-and-cuffs only version.

Allover pattern is in the lead right this minute, but I’m giving myself until tomorrow to decide.

I don’t have enough of 2 colors to knit from stash, and I LOVE LOVE LOVED the Sheffield, so I’m definitely using it again, but which color is another question.

At present  the Kiwi/Olive color combo is duking it out my my head with Brown/Purple. I’ll let that simmer as well.

I’ve been quite productive lately, but I’m still behind. This afternoon, I realized I’d spaced out and neglected to pay an embarrassingly overdue bill. I’m hoping that idiotic mistake won’t leave me without hot water. I don’t mind the excuse not to shower, but I have dishes to do, puddy-tat.

Anyway, this made me realize 2 things:

1) I can’t say Yes to anything else this month. I foolishly sneaked in a couple more Yeses at the end of March, and I know they’re going to make me pay.


2) I NEED A LIST! Specifically, I need a giant, crushing master list I like to call NAKED FISTFIGHT OVER HOT COALS, MOTHERFUCKER! Yes, that is actually what I call it when I make my giant crazy desperate list.

So, right after this, I am going to:

1) Get myself a cold beer

1.5) (See how I’m getting into the list-making spirit already?)

2) Get a pen and a clipboard


3) Walk the entire building and write down every single little thing that needs to be done.

Tomorrow, I’ll do the same outside and next door, but I’m sure my hand will cramp into an eagle talon just doing that part.

And then? Then hold on to your fucking hat, because then I’m going to get down to TCB all over this place. It’s going to be a Highlander-style fight to the death with my To Do list. And I shall prevail.

Now where’s that beer?

FREE BUFFET: Sally Cardigan on Craftzine!

March 30th, 2011

Posted in bloggy by Nikol |

This is my new favorite sweater,so I’m so pleased to announce: Sally’s up on Craftzine! ? Sally on ravelry

Sally Cardigan on Craftzine.com

A Nostalgic Honeycomb Sweater, inspired by Mad Men’s Sally Draper.

Mosaic/slipped-stitch knitting (=easy! Worked in stripes, one color at a time, not stranded colorwork). With 3/4 sleeves, crocheted buttonholes. Worked in the round with steeked front, with detailed photo tutorial of the crocheted steek and buttonhole placket.

Sizes XS – XL, with guidance on making custom fit/larger sizes.

Sally Cardigan on Craftzine.com

Sally Cardigan on Craftzine.com

Sally Cardigan on Craftzine.com

I like my little vintage buttons, but I think it would have been even cuter with those little hand-painted Russian strawberry buttons from Peace Fleece, but I only had one card (4 buttons) in the shop and couldn’t wait. The great thing about the crocheted buttonholes is that if you change your mind later and want bigger/smaller buttonholes, you only have to frog and re-crochet one single line of slip stitch. I’ve been wanting to use this buttonhole again ever since I created it for one of the Naughty Needles Burlesque cardigans (which I accidentally threw in with a hot wash load and felted badly last year), and I think they’re just the right amount of adorable on this sweater.

Did I mention I love this sweater?

Sally Cardigan on Craftzine.com

Sally Cardigan on Craftzine.com

Before steeking! There’s a step-by-step photo tutorial on the crochet-reinforced steek with the pattern, but here’s the fun part:

Sally Cardigan on Craftzine.com

Sally Cardigan on Craftzine.com

Now I’m trying to finish up a new Knitty submission and a gazillion worky/taxy/money-y and Yarn School prep details. Busy, busy! But I’m suddenly feeling energized by it instead of melancholy. After a little flirtation with spring, we had the usual bummer return of winter with a big PSYCHE, SUCKERS! snow last Sunday. It’s been cold and damp since, which made me a little depressed for a few days. But then I realized it will help me focus on TCB instead of longing for the garden. It also helps me want to spend time in the basement (where it’s warm), testing new recipes and stocking my freezer so I won’t have to cook (or eat nothing but takeout pizza) the week before Yarn School.

And! Shearing’s on the calendar for April 20. This year, I’ll be sure to take up their hay the night before to minimize wiggles/shearing mishaps. Last year, Marilyn (Danny the shearer’s wife, an experienced spinner and fiber grower) helped me skirt as we sheared. But I am a big sissy titty baby that it kinda really stressed me out, so this year, we’re tossing all the belly and legs into the mulch pile, and spreading each fleece onto a sheet, folding it up, and putting it aside for later. I know I’ll be tempted to fuss with them right away, but I’m officially vowing to wait until after Yarn School. Actually, that’s even better because we can unfurl them at Yarn School & Jen can show how to skirt a fleece. It’s always way more fun with a nice fresh one. And I think I may get everyone made into yarn this year! I really love the beautiful yarn they make.

Knitting Master List

March 30th, 2011

Posted in bloggy by Nikol |

Had to update the old list again! Got in a couple new techniques at MO Fiber retreat!

Garter stitch

Knitting with metal wire
Stockinette stitch
Socks: top-down
Socks: toe-up
Knitting with camel yarn
Mittens: Cuff-up

Mittens: Tip-down
Knitting with silk

Moebius band knitting
Participating in a KAL
Drop stitch patterns
Knitting with recycled/secondhand yarn
Slip stitch patterns

Knitting with banana fiber yarn
Domino knitting (modular knitting)
Twisted stitch patterns
Knitting with bamboo yarn
Two end knitting
Charity knitting
Knitting with soy yarn
Toy/doll clothing

Knitting with circular needles
Knitting with your own handspun yarn

Graffiti knitting (knitting items on, or to be left on the street)
Continental Knitting
Designing knitted garments…im doing it now! or trying anyways
Cable stitch patterns
Lace patterns…hmm i think so!
Publishing a knitting book

American/English knitting
Knitting to make money
Button holes
Knitting with alpaca
Fair Isle knitting

Norwegian knitting
Dying with plant colors
Knitting items for a wedding
Household items (dishcloths, washcloths, tea cozies…)
Knitting socks (or other small tubular items) on two circulars

Olympic knitting
Knitting with someone else’s handspun yarn
Knitting with DPNs
Holiday related knitting

Teaching a male how to knit
Knitting for a living
(sort of…)
Knitting with cotton
Knitting smocking
Dying yarn
Knitting art
Knitting with wool

Textured knitting
Kitchener BO

Knitting with beads
Long Tail CO

Knitting and purling backwards
Machine knitting
Knitting with self-patterning/self-striping/variegating yarn
Stuffed toys
Baby items

Knitting with cashmere
Knitting with synthetic yarn
Writing a pattern

Knitting with linen
Knitting for preemies
Tubular CO
Freeform knitting
Short rows
Cuffs/fingerless mitts/arm warmers

Knitting a pattern from an online knitting magazine
Knitting on a loom
Thrummed knitting
Knitting a gift
Knitting for pets
Knitting with dog/cat hair
Hair accessories
Knitting in public

Love is in the air

March 23rd, 2011

Posted in bloggy by Nikol |

I want to marry my new sweater.

Sneak peek of Sally Cardigan, coming soon to Craftzine!

The free pattern will go live on Craftzine late this week or early next, so you only get a little peek right now.

More than I can chew

In other knitting, I just unraveled the first sleeve of Kid’s Superman sweater and learned that the happy fun knitting adventure I’d planned won’t be materializing. I had assumed I’d be able to spit-splice the broken yarn from the ragged sleeves and just knit them straight down. Then I’d just darn the main body. But it turns out the wool won’t split splice. I don’t know if it was superwash, or if it’s been damaged by dry cleaning (it kind of has that crunchy dry cleaned feel), but in hindsight I should have realized the stitch definition was too clear and the pits were too pill-free for regular wool.

But as usual, I dived in without actually thinking it through.

I should still be able to pull it off, but there will be much heinous end-weaving. Gross.

Around Cupcake Ranch, one unlucky lady has a particularly unfortunate hairdo right now.
Faith's unfortunate mullet

Poor Faith already has kind of a wild, hawkish look to her that makes her the stringy misfit of the flock. And her new molt-driven mullet is not helping matters. She’s rocking sort of a bearded lady look. No wonder she’s so mean.

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