An old beloved brown thing…

jenjoycedesign© 'the original' from PeruMy brother has for decades worn this authentic Peruvian hat,  the Incan motifs have become signature shapes on his head, almost like fiberous tattoos…

jenjoycedesign© original detail 2

I am not sure where he got this beloved brown thing, but it is a cherished possession of his, and he lent it to me over a year ago asking if I might repair the moth holes (again) and… “maybe ‘add some color’ to it?” he asked.

jenjoycedesign© repairs

Made of alpaca, and badly moth-eaten since being repaired long ago, it has become a part of his life, and all of our lives, for as we know him, we know this hat.

jenjoycedesign© original detail

This favor asked of me to ‘fix it’ has apparently grown feet and evolved into a project of my trying not to entirely replicate the original, nay, but to design the Quintessential Brother Article, as he does actually wear these Peruvian style hats ( known in trend as a ‘chullo’) pretty much every day, tucking the ear flaps behind his ears. They are as he puts it, his ‘hair’.

Well folks, if you wonder where I am going with all of this back story, the thing is, I have begun the series of prototypes, and perfectly timed I might add,  for his birthday.

jenjoycedesign© birthday chullo 2017

Actually, I have made him so many of these, but still he is over the moon whenever I make him a new one.

jenjoycedesign© 009

So, my scheming to create an authentic replica had changed to become something I should really call a design inspiration, more of an impression of the original.

jenjoycedesign© 021

The design is in process, and a forthcoming pattern soon available!

jenjoycedesign© 022

The pattern release will be aimed symbolically around a big trip Jeff is taking in May with his son & daughter to Machu Picchu in Peru, and so I have a lot of work to do until then!

jenjoycedesign© detail (2)

So here is the first in the series of prototypes ~~~ my brothers Birthday Chulo!

Pattern: forthcoming.

Yarn: Malabrigo Rios

Details: on Ravelry HERE.

Basic Black

Not but a week ago,  I talked about spinning up some raw black alpaca in this post ,

It is destined for Bariloche in Patagonia (the Andes Mountains).

It being a ski hat for my Argentine friend.

Well, here it is…

I really like the rib decreases I improvised, but the yarn is so dark and handspun ‘nubby’, one can barely see …

And meet Bica, the alpaca source from which Ale’s ski hat was made…

 ( photo courtesy of  Brookfarm Alpacas )
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Shipped off to Argentina to be field-tested on the slopes,

and hopefully it will see the snow before it melts.

It will go well with these handspun alpaca gloves which I made for Alejandro last year !

 (( hint, this won’t be the last you’ll see of the ski hat, Ale promised a photo ))

Blacker Than A Moonless Night


Just look at this Yarn Candy !

This is indeed the blackest of black animal fiber I’ve ever seen.  I bought it “raw” (weedy & dusty) from Debbie at Brookfarm last year, just over the mountain in Glen Ellen. She didn’t seem very excited to sell me raw unpicked fleece, but it was a special circumstance, and anyway, I nearly begged her. So here I am a year later, in dire need of black wool, or black anything, for Alejandro’s ski hat. Then I remembered this jet black alpaca I had stashed which I only spun up a sample last spring, washed, and noted it’s depth of total true black.

Sunday and today I filled a large bobbin , spinning from handfulls out of the bag (the technical term is called ‘spinning from locks’), then I washed & rinsed it 3 times, thwacked it, and hung it dry. It is absolutely glistening pitch black, and bloomed into soft gorgeousness. I can’t wait to knit it up.

You see, it’s winter in Patagonia, and Alejandro is training for ski, and I’ve promised him a basic ski hat, just in case the other ski hat  I made for Ale doesn’t really work well on the slope.  Let it be said by me that no other kind of hat  belongs on an Argentinian who skis in the Andes more than one made of alpaca, and still more, one hand-spun and knit by a friend who bought the alpaca from another friend.  This will be a hat of great character and integrity. I know Alejandro will like it a lot.

Home-Made Candy


Making candy again. One small batch at a time. I call it ‘micro dying’. I use a little one-quart old blue enamel pot, and I start with some homespun alpaca and cook the sugar just right, mixing hues with abandon.

Navy, royal blue, and a t’wee bit of peacock over-dye natural medium grey alpaca until it becomes unmistakably vivid and bold.

Yummy blue alpaca candy !


Spruce and emerald over-dye grey into a mouth-watering green alpaca candy !

 A  real taste sensation when mixed together !

I suprised myself with the color intensity, unusual for me, and I’ll admit, its only the second time I’ve dyed alpaca, and I really love how the fiber responds.

Am I Kidding Myself?

This is just what I asked myself when I was finished spinning up this Suri Alpaca ,  as I ended up with only about three-quarters of a bobbin full when all plied.  What a gross miscalculation.  You see, I only used half of what I had stashed of roving, ready to be spun up in this post here , thinking that would be well enough for a nice fat skein. I was kidding myself !  All that dying , all that spinning,  all that fuss… for a wee 180 yd skein of very purple, and very fine weight of alpaca.

 So, here it is.  Cute . Spirited.  Very purple indeed.


I panicked. I thought, how can I give a very special knitter a very special gift of such a small single skein of 180 yards?  I thought , well, maybe quick get something to accompany it, um, like one of those “One Skein Wonder” books. Yeah! Well, so I just ordered one last night, and with expedited shipping, thinking I’d have the whole thing to bundle up and send off by the end of the week. Great ! My “What was I thinking?” situation solved nicely.

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So now that I’m waiting for the book to arrive, my thoughts drift.  They become “ I really could spin up some of that odd left-over tussah silk roving I have stashed. ”  Except that Nora’s Mom asked for purple, and there’s no denying , this silk roving was dyed roses and maroon. I dyed it myself a few years ago. (It’s the very same silk which I spun, in fact, and is featured in the banner of this blog.)   Well, I happen to have a box load of dyes, and I ended up overdyeing an already dyed bunch of roving. Adding separately and blended, navy and crimson, I managed to get a nice deep purply wine… really needed a lot of rinsing though. Though not quite purple, more cabernet, I think it will accompany the alpaca well, and what could be better than a nice book and a skein of yarn?  Two skeins of yarn !  I dyed, dried, and then  set into spinning like wildfire.

Ready for a good washing and rinsing, here she is, just wound off of the bobbin.

And as I talked about in Yarn Candy , searching for just the right lighting to show the color.

Sometimes it’s the whole of the sum of several photos

which grasps the trueness of tones

 and hues.

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~  Edited In  ~

All ready to go ;  234 yards of tussah silk , 180 yards of suri alpaca, and one book .

Off to New York !

Yarn Candy

I’ve been enjoying a little rest after a flurry of deadline projects came to a crescendo last week. Back at it again, reading my favorite blogs from spinners, knitters & designers (while spinning), and started to be overcome with that oh-so-familiar impulse to post something ! A little like journalling, but involving tactile sensations as well as color and light ~ an addictive combination. When this happens I grab the camera.

I love the afternoon light from a particular skylight , which brings a trueness and a warmth and a glow to colors, which frankly seem lost with the camera, and so so difficult to really grasp ~ but with a little help from photo settings, I think I managed pretty well on this one.  Just look at the purple I am spinning up, and this suri alpaca is just so soft !  I started yakking about a few days ago,  it in this post .

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What lovely fine purple yummy yarn-candy indeed !

Purple, Straight-With-No-Chaser


Nearing the end of my scheduled project deadlines,  I decided to spin up the alpaca stash I’ve built up over the decades.  I have taken it upon myself to spin up a couple of skeins of yarn for Nora’s Mom, as I hear she is knitting now quite regularly, and I thought it an excellent opportunity to put to use some of the exotic and luxurious white huacaya suri alpaca I have.  Well I asked what color alpaca yarn would she like, and she requested purple.

I asked, not being familiar with a one-tone sort of roving dye experience,  ” might you like a reddish purple varigated, sort of plummy …. or maybe a blueish indigo-ey ???”

But Nora’s Mom’s answer was “… just purple “.

Well, Nora’s Mom, here is a nice straight-with-no-chaser PURPLE.

I am not accustomed to having ever before  dyed, spun, or knit anything ‘just purple’, especially in such complete unvarigatedness as this alpaca roving I just dyed.  Oh and in case you didn’t notice, I’ll point out that it is a bit felted.  I was impatient while dying, as I was trying to cook dinner at the same time ( I don’t recommend that), and managed to agitate the roving too much (instead of stirring the soup, perhaps I stirred the steaming dye bath ??)… so I’m paying for that by having to mess with the roving a bit before spinning it. (I think the technical term is ” pre-drafting “.)

Upcoming, a little skein or two of  ~  r e g a l   but sexy ~ and very purple handspun !

Mountains Of Alpaca

I am face-to-face with a mountain of natural colors , just off the line,  washed & hung-dried skeins of handspun alpaca, spun up from raw loose alpaca locks I have acquired from three different friends of mine who raise alpacas .  Three !  

This Wind-Off  launches the beginning of knitting for the second April Birthday Project , which is the  Andean chullo / Himalayan sherpa  hat, and for which last week  I began spinning my alpaca stash  .  My brother loves these hats, has a bit of a collection , and for whom I intend to take the design for a twist of a sort, sherpa chullo and  which I want to be a pleasant mix borrowing design from  Andean, Himalayan, and Fair Isle ,  this project calls for alpaca, handspun, in order to give it the touch of stylish authenticity.

I thought alpaca would be the perfect fiber.

During the spinning of the alpaca, a couple things developed.

One,  I really enjoy spinning alpaca, whether raw and weedy or in fine roving.  I have in fact, dyed some and am going to spin up a couple of skeins for the  mother of Nora  , who has delightedly become a knitter !

Alright, item number two.  An amazing thing happened,  similarly to when I posted ” What do I have in common with these women? ”  a short time ago,  marvelling in the acquired skill of double tasking while knitting, well, I have found that I can double task while spinning too ! Even more difficult.  The yarn turned out rather more  “rustic”  than if I were watching with hawk eyes, all the fibers going into the draft, but no, I wanted to read up on my new edition of Textisles and became adept fairly quickly at reading -while – spinning.

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Edit :   Here is the almost-finished product, as I’m running out the door, photographed in bad lighting … was in a rush. I didn’t have a chance to edge it and put tassles on . 😦   I’ll have to add them later….

Spinning Up Alpaca

I’ve got two decades of stashed alpaca bursting out of this basket and that.

Alpaca fleece from three different friends in the alpaca farming business, and spanning two different spinning groups I’ve been lucky to be a part of. That’s quite the stash.  With Peruvian Churo and/or Himalayan Sherpa hats on my mind to make, and general Andean artifacts from this book I found last year at this time …

I thought best to spin up all of the alpaca.

There is light brown, ecru, and black raw, as well as a quite a handsome batch of roving in rose grey and dark grey and white. I have definitely got enough to make some nice natural contrasts for stranding, without having to overdye anything. This is going to be how I will be spending my spare time his week !

A Wee Sherpa Hat

Emma and I have been busy.

Recently I visited an old friend in this post and decided it was time for me to do more totally improv hats again. I am very interested in using up bits of stash yarn , perfecting these hats ! My brother is wild about these and well, his birthday is in April.  But this little hat for little   I decided yesterday afternoon to make for a present, as the one for who it is made is two months old and I’m attending a party for her tomorrow.  This wee hat is first in a series of “Sherpa Neuveau” hats I will knit up lots in the foreseen future… my brother’s to be next.

Here it is, inside out.

In nice dappled light on the piano, angled so you can see the relief of the purl rows

I’m very satisfied with my improvising, though the crocheted edge is done badly (I don’t crochet,  I improv’d that too, I was trying to tame the curling ear flaps !

It’s quite a cute little hat, perfect for a 2month baby-sized head. The colors don’t seem as vivid in the photographs as they are in person ( I need to get the hang of lighting in photography). The light purple and green backgrounds are alpaca , with little filled in color from various wool and wool blends I have hanging around. Adorable I might say myself.