Self-Striping Experiments!

For the love of stripes!!

I’m addicted. There’s no way around it. I started dying self-striping sock yarn, and it has taken over my brain. It’s such a different way of combining colors than I am used to from blending batts, and the process has been lots of fun.

I mean, like some of the process. The time I warped 750 yards of yarn incorrectly and had to unwind it all kind of stunk. And that other time when I was over-ambitious and had to ball 4 twisted skeins by hand (without using my swift or ball winder) wasn’t great either.

But, now I have a process. And an understanding that prepping, dying, and reskeining this yarn requires unimpeded unitasking. And also Bill – the calmest person on earth – has decided “yarn touching” (helping me reskein the dyed yarn) is about the most fun a dude can have at a warping board.

If you aren’t familiar with how self-striping yarn is dyed, here are the basics… Any given single stripe is likely made of up 4-10 yards of yarn. There are a couple of different options for preparing yarn to be dyed in long lengths. I use a warping board – a tool used by weavers – to create a large loop about 20 yards around. Then, I tie off lengths that tell me where each color will be dyed and dye each section by immersion. After rinsing and drying, the yarn is put back on the warping board, and Bill helps me reskein it.

So far, I’ve got three colorways on two bases – a fingering weight Corriedale/Nylon and a sport weight Targhee/Nylon. I’m open to exploring new bases and am interested in what you enjoy – or don’t. The colorways are…

County Clare, based on a trip I took to Ireland with Bill’s extended family in the early Aughts.

Barn Love is inspired by the colors of my barn.

Finally, Woolly Mammoth was dyed to match the quilt on our bed – a large quilt with wool batting made with pieces of old clothing.

The yarns will be introduced when I vend at the Knitting Pipeline Retreat in February, and hopefully available online shortly after that. I’m starting a little slowly because I want to get to know the yarn bases before I dive too deep. But, I see lots of fun dye days…and reskeining days…ahead of me!

Wool Noir, Chapter 2

Opportunistic troublemakers that would literally pull the hay right from the mouth of a young lamb, the whole lot of ‘em.

Are you ready for the second chapter of Wool Noir? (The first part of the story can be found here.)

The fiber for this shipment was a set of mini batts in three colors. Each color had both a dark and light mini – one was mostly black and the other mostly the color. I hope to spin mine soon, but I’ve been dithering about the overwhelming possibilities! I think I’ve decided on a two ply with the yarn transitioning from dark to light.

One bobbin will be: dark, light, light
One bobbin will be: dark, dark, light

I think this will transition the yarn from mostly black on one end, to mostly color, in a smoothish way? We’ll see.

The second part of the mystery is below. Do you have theories on the crime? Club members should be receiving the third shipment, and the solution to the mystery, as I type…so it won’t be too long before I can reveal it to you all. Until then, I hope you enjoy the story!

(Signups are currently open for Waves of Wool – the next batt club – which will run from January through March. I’ve assisted a few generous family members in purchasing the club as gifts, and am excited to be “in” on their secret! Signups are open until December 30 and all the details are available in the Etsy listing.)

Chapter Two 

This doesn’t make sense.

A lot of things weren’t making sense. Cora finished measuring a gap in the fence and put her tape measure back into her project bag.

She’d spent the past four days following multiple threads trying to identify the corn thief. With a flock of 47 sheep and goats and over 200 chickens on the farm, all of whom were contributing their two cents, she heard a lot of crazy, ranging from “Aliens!” all the way to “There never was any! The corn is a lie!” Many of the animals wanted to blame Tailpipe, just because he was incredibly annoying, crowing at inappropriate times, and randomly flying into their faces – a terrifying blur of black and white feathers that disrupted peaceful afternoon naps. He had never been forgiven for the time he scratched a lamb with his spurs, and the animosity against him was high. It is simply not possible though, that unsteady Tailpipe could’ve made off with that much grain.

Tailpipe in turn (and most of the other chickens), were holding a grudge against Martha, the matriarchal ewe. It didn’t take much detective work for Cora to find out this was because Martha had a tendency to stray from her flock and lick up the chickens’ corn at feed time. If she’s willing to steal some of their corn, she must be willing to steal ALL of their corn. The suspicion was not unreasonable, but Martha was with the flock when the theft occurred. Every other sheep backed up her alibi, and indeed, many of the chickens grudgingly did as well.

After sorting through the noise, Cora really started focusing on two theories: 1) Woodland critters had found or created a gap in the pasture fence, and exploited it to gain access to the barn, and thus the prized corn. 2) The goats. Yeah… the goats. If guilt could be determined by polling the sheep, the goats would’ve been locked up. Opportunistic troublemakers that would literally pull the hay right from the mouth of a young lamb, the whole lot of ‘em. Especially maligned was the cute little black and white one named Pickles. Pickles had a reputation for getting into places she shouldn’t be. Consensus said Pickles would’ve had no trouble at all getting into the corn storage area. Furthermore Pickles had no alibi, and wasn’t talking. In fact, the whole herd of goats were suspiciously keeping their mouths shut.

Both of these theories had merit. But now Cora needed to rule one out. In favor of the woodland critter theory – here before her, there was a damaged gap in the fence, with traces of raccoon fur clinging to the fence wire. Not only that, but there were kernels of corn on the ground. It seemed as though Cora had found the thieves’ escape route. But even this didn’t fully make sense, though it took close inspection to see why. After taking measurements and wiggling the wire, it became clear to Cora that a strong animal pushed through the fence, popping staples and allowing it to hang freely, but that animal was inside the pasture when they did the damage. Any animal that knew about the gap would be able to leave the pasture, but no animals on the outside would be able to get in…at least without help. This gap was dangerous – it needed to be repaired quickly. If a lamb or kid made it through the fence they’d be exposed to coyotes, foxes, and all the other dangers of the wildlands. Cora made noise to draw the attention of the farmer, who was nearby planting apple trees. As the farmer approached, Cora nudged the loose fence to show the damage.

“Oh my! I have to fix that,” said the farmer, who then proceeded to make repairs. When finished with her work, she thanked Cora for pointing it out, grumbled about having to also replant apple trees, and headed back to the orchard.

With that done, Cora reached into her project bag for her magnifying glass and began methodically investigating the area near the fence gap. She was going to need hard evidence to identify the perpetrator. When, after 20 minutes of searching, she found some black and white fibers, she knew she finally had what she needed.

To be continued…

 

Wool Noir, Chapter 1

“I’ve been in charge of this flock a long time, because I follow certain rules. One of the most important rules is ‘Save the Drama for the Llama’.”

Wool Noir is my second batt club, and it features dark, brooding colorways with an accompanying barnyard mystery.

(I have to pause here to say that spellcheck doesn’t recognize the word “noir,” and would prefer I change it to “Nair,” which is ludicrous.)

There are so many things that I’m enjoying about hosting a club. Generally, I only make 3 or 4 batts of a single colorway, so it has been a lot of fun – and a lot of math! – working out a process for large batches. Plus, it’s always quite satisfying to see a big pile of uniform batts waiting in orderly rows to be sent to their new homes.

IMGP2221I also enjoy packing each mailer with fiber, goodies, and a note. It feels like sending care packages to treasured spinners across the continent.

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My most favorite part of the club, however, is that my husband Bill writes a little story for each shipment. Very early in our relationship, Bill shared a short story with me that he had written for our college art “magazine” (aka 4 sheets of paper stapled together – our tiny college is primarily a science school). I loved it, and his creative writing helped me see another side of the mostly rational, not-very-emotive guy I was dating. The story involved a Being of Grain Alcohol that was waiting to have lunch with his cousin, who I think was a comet. Like, none of it makes sense in my brain nearly 20 years later, but at the time, it was a profound awakening, and admiring Bill’s writing remains one of my favorite memories of our early relationship.

Periodically over the last two decades, I remind Bill of this story and try to enchant him into writing again. He’ll politely give the idea a bit of thought, but that’s as far as it goes. He shares a few ideas but never puts pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. His other concerns – usually overdue farm or house work – end up taking priority.

When he offered to write for the batt clubs, I eagerly encouraged the plan. For the first batt club, focused on unicorns, Bill wrote a short story in rhyming verse, that easily fit on the back of the batt tags. He dreamed up a sweet, adventurous, shrewd unicorn lamb named Cora, who had sparkling wool and could fly.

He also complained, monthly, that the back of the batt tag was too small a canvas, and could he please have more space next time.

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For Wool Noir, I removed the restrictions and encouraged him to write as much as he’d like. The story is fully his, and he has been drawing inspiration from our own farm. I love talking over his ideas and brainstorms. Reading his draft usually makes me giggle and always brings tears to my eyes. Bill is such a logical person, so focused on pragmatic concerns, and I really appreciate the chance to set aside conversations about solar panels, hay prices, and potato varieties, for the opportunity to discuss the talking roosters and flying sheep that live inside his head.

I hope club members enjoy the stories that accompany the fiber shipments, but to be honest, it’s for totally selfish reasons that they are included. Not only am I able to demand that Bill write me a story, but I get to set a deadline for him to do it. It’s pretty fantastic.

Below is the first part of the Wool Noir mystery. I’ll post parts two and three after club members have received them. If you have theories about solving the crime, I hope you’ll share them with us below!

Chapter One: An Imposing Shadow

The last beams of the day’s sunlight were still tickling the treetops as Cora descended upon the unruly mob.  The red and gold rays of illumination had been holding their own against diminishing flashes from a departing thunderstorm. But now, the nighttime with its comforting darkness was arriving quickly, chasing the light away, revealing the first twinkling stars overhead.

It was immediately clear that a great discord had overcome the flock– enough so that none of them noticed Cora, the world’s only lamb unicorn detective (not something that you see every day) until she joined their circle. Accusations and recriminations spiraled about like a vortex of autumn leaves. Cora spied a single ewe that seemed to be trying to remain above the fray. She approached, showed her credentials as a private investigator, and offered her services.

“What’s your fee?” This ewe, Martha, was the oldest ewe on the farm. She looked it, too. Cora thought that her eyes betrayed a weariness, possibly from leading her flock for many years. Standing in the door to the barn, she was casting a long and imposing shadow. Weariness aside, Cora could tell that this was not a ewe to mess with.

“I get paid in feed,” was the response from Detective Cora. “My rate is 2 pounds of corn per day. Plus expenses.”

Martha smirked as she explained the problem with this: “Well then, you’re of no use. You see – that’s our problem. All of our corn has been stolen.”

“If you want my help, I’m sure we can work something out.” Cora offered, and Martha nodded in acceptance, adding with a welcoming note “There’s some hay in the feeder in stall two. Alfalfa. Good stuff. The rest of the flock isn’t eating any of it because they’re all worked up over the missing corn. And while half goats are arguing with the flock, the other half are MIA, having been accused of thievery. Go have a nosh as an advance, then come back when you’ve had your fill. I’ll tell you all about what happened. We could use an outside eye to figure it out.”

Cora returned the nod with a thankful shake of her own but had just one question before going to collect her advance. “Everyone on the farm seems worked up about this except you. How are you able to stay so calm?”

All signs of weariness faded as Martha considered her answer, replacing it with a surprising playfulness. “I’ve been in charge of this flock a long time, because I follow certain rules. One of the most important rules is ‘Save the Drama for the Llama’.”

Nodding as if she understood what this meant, Cora made her way into the barn to find her proffered hay.  As she was taking her first bite and reflecting on Martha’s comment, she heard a commotion in the next stall. A young rooster – looking insane without half of his barred feathers – managed to fly over the stall landing on Cora’s nose and scratching it with his spur.

“Ouch – watch it buddy!” yelled Cora, with more than a little frustration. The rooster introduced himself as Tailpipe, and apologized.

“Sorry, didn’t mean to hurt or scare you. It’s hard to fly during my molt. Listen – I overheard you talking to the big crazy one about the corn heist-“

“-Martha?”

“Yeah, Martha. Don’t trust her. I know what happened to the corn… she took it. She took it all…”

To be continued…