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jenjoycedesign© handspun mitt

I am knitting this last prototype of a pile of samples which are from my next pattern, and which will highlight this Autumn’s designs ~~ a set of mitts & hats! Just had to photograph a little teaser, because the sun was streaming in through the window and making my yarn glow, a bit of a yarn-henge moment!

jenjoycedesign© pattern writing 2

I do love this yarn, which is such a surprise, from wool I made on blending board and spun up  into this very tweedy yarn  last weekend. But by next week I will have this pattern up and running with legs, thanks to Wendy, Yvonne, Jane & Dawn for test-knitting!

jenjoycedesign© pattern writing

Some Felted Satchels

I have been walking.  I have been knitting while walking. A lot !  Lately, when I don’t have anything really going on, there’s always at least a knit-in-the-round project of a bag hanging on the hook as I go out the door, to sling over my shoulders, pick up the rounds, and go.   Lately I’ve made knitting bags . . .
jenjoycedesign©felted-bag2

The yarn for this one was from my own handspun which was spun from Hazel’s wool and will be given to someone who requested a knitted lunch bag for Christmas !

 I’ve been knitting while hiking a lot, as you know, and been producing many of these satchels. They felt up well. Nearly too well in fact.  These are two of about five I’ve made in the last couple of months ~ since I’ve gone manic with the knit-walking, you know, I’ve needed them to hold yarns , often two , one slung over each shoulder.

And another…

jenjoycedesign©felted-bag1

 I’ve posted all the bags & satchels on my projects page in Ravelry HERE

Well that’s my post for the day,

back to work making more Things Knitted !

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 !

Alejandro’s Manos


I pulled out my bags of raw alpaca, and began spinning a few days prior.

The perfect choice of animal fiber for Alejandro’s gloves, he who frequently ski’s the snow of the Andes Mountains, in Patagonia.

Plying natural black with natural grey .

I used the basic charts from   Ann Budd ~ Handy Book of Patterns  as a guideline (especially since I was knitting with handspun and needed a custom gauge). However, I prefered a ‘left’ and a ‘right’ glove, so I had to somewhat re-invented the off-set thumb for myself ~a definite improvement .  I would enjoy publishing my own version of a glove pattern ~ soon ~ because I love making gloves now !

Treasures from The Basement

At first , there was a vest. That is to say, the vest was the absolute first thing I spun and knit, during the Autumn of 1987, and it was my first project in my Wednesday morning spinning class. But to start, a little backstory is needed.

A non-credit and free community college class , was the bright and lucky beginning of my love of spinning and of textile creations. On the brochure it was listed in its first semesters as just “Hand Spinning” , then later “Textile and Fiber Arts”, but the long-standing class which spanned two decades at the Goat Hill Farm was just one of those legacies which aren’t realized until they are gone. When one stepped into the class for the first time, it might be like falling into a dream, and stepping a hundred years back in time. I feel I was very lucky to be one of the people involved, even if mostly just in the first decade.

We gathered in the basement of Joanie’s Victorian house, there on the farm, a room she made incredibly charming for the classes and a delightful hybrid of yarn studio , livingroom, and country kitchen all in one. There were many places to sit in a circular fashion, of antique couches, loveseats, and chairs, with trunks and baskets of wool overflowing about the place, an electric drum carder, picker, carders and niddy noddys and impliments of spinning everywhere one looked. A section of the basement was partitioned into a kitchen with stove and sink whereby we dyed fleece, roving, and yarns , and there was usually a dyepot simmering . And if that wasn’t enough, there was always coffee, tea, and cakes or pies made gratis usually by Joanie, but also we ‘students’ would contribute, so there was always a bounty.

A photo clipped from a feature article I’ve saved, which ran December 2005 in the local newspaper about Joanie’s class during the height of it’s popularity, and just before it came to its end after 20 years.

I remember each Wednesday morning the basement room would crescendo into a loud cacophony of laughter, whirring spinning wheels, and gossip, and over those genuinely influencial classes, and fresh cakes, we more or less evolved into a bonded group of friends for a time. This group of spinners I met up with on and off for well over a decade.

Ahem …. back to the vest.

For this vest I spun some Lincoln-Corriedale wool fleece ‘locks’ I purchased from the stash of fleece for sale at the Goat Hill Farm, my first spinning project on my brand new Peacock Wheel (also purchased through Joanie) and I spun the lock-like fleece uncarded and unpicked ! I had dyed the locks in the group with RIT dyes of greens and burgundies and browns (I still have those notes !). I had worn it throughout several winters in a row, washing it only ever once. A moth got to it, twice, and I’ve had to darn those holes. All in all, it is my most treasured knitted thing I have ever knit to date, having my mother’s instruction to shape the flat-knitted sections, sew together, and knit on neck, arm, and button bands. Her instruction is etched into my memory forever with this vest.

Another rather remarkable thing associated with this vest , is recalling a bout of tonsilitis I had come down with as I had been bicycle commuting all winter and on antibiotics and off of work (working at a bakery at the time) , and luxuriated in bed for two weeks, long enough for to knit this from beginning to end, with the help of my mom. A third and perhaps most special thing about this vest, was that in the excitement and encouragement of my first handspun & handknit project, my friend and duo-mate John made for me a set of deer horn buttons, from an antler I brought to him.

I watched in amazement …

… as John cut squares off of the antler on his band saw, shaped them so nicely on his sander, drilled holes in them with his drill press, then torched the edges, then gave them some wax. They absolutely make the vest the most beautiful thing in my cedar chest, like something from a museum !

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Next…

This pullover is very dear to my heart, made in ’91. I carded a blend of fleeces from my own animals ! Among the fleeces used were ; a brown Lincoln- Corriedale fleece from my ewe named Hazel, mohair from my angora goat named “Nash” , dyed greens and turquoise and teals, and angora hair from two of my fawn colored angora rabbits, dyed old rose tones and maroons. The most memorable thing about this sweater is the fact that I had knit it three times !

I knit it first into a v-neck cardigan, shortishly cropped, which didn’t do, as the yarn was rather bulky and it looked very stiff and wrongly proportioned, and I had a ton of yarn left over. I then ripped that out and reknit into another v-neck cardigan style, longer(or maybe doubled the yarn?)… but didn’t do either, as I just looked and felt horrible in it. Finally ripped out and knit over into a pullover, tried hard to use up all the yarn I had spun, with the neckstyle crew and hemmed over. Not sure I like the neck, so I may still change the neck to a turtleneck, as I have still about a half ball left over and hiding in the cedar chest with it.

Handspun for Fair Isle

Spun from gorgeous long staple and soft New Zealand Top roving which I often purchase by the half-pound, at Dharma Trading Co. in San Rafael.  I dyed the roving with Jaquard powder acid dye, various reds and maroons, and this spun up to the finest yarn I’ve spun to date.

Smitten with Fair Isle knitting I really tried to emmulate the Shetland yarn while spinning this, and though I thought I spun fine enough, when plied together, the yarn is still not fine enough. Though it is pretty fine anyway, that is a dime in the photo ! Perfect amount of spin, good evenness throughout,  and made a lovely loft !

Hazel’s Hair

Hair , not really … it is wool.  Lincoln-Corriedale wool, and bags of it.  I cared for this sweet brown ewe for a few years back when I was just learning to spin,  and ended up with fleece for a long many year.  Still spinning it !

I think Lincoln-Coriedale is a beautiful wool,  and Hazel’s in particular was a lovely deep chestnut & hazel colored lamb fleece , with greys starting to gradually overtake and a more charcoal color developed.  In the end (after she died) I  became overwhelmed with the 5 various fleeces that I had let accumulate (a sin!) and had them all processed together into roving and batting at the Yolo Wool Mill, and I will have this wool for many a year.  Perfect for rugged sweaters knitted from semi-woolen/worsted spun , I think I could make some seriously lovely and long-wearing fisherman ganseys.