Archive for August, 2010

Island Alpaca

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

While on vacation this summer, Evan and I ended up taking the ferry from Falmouth Harbour to Martha’s Vineyard, where we spent the day walking around exploring, and navigating the bus routes to arrive at Island Alpaca.  If you are ever in the area, it’s worth a trip.

image source:

I was really excited to see alpaca, and was eager to get my hands on some luscious spinning fiber.  Evan had never seen alpaca before, and couldn’t really understand why I was so excited, but he got pretty excited himself when he saw the cute animals frolicking in the fields.

They make whining and grunting noises, and one of them let our a real squack!  When they run, their thin long necks seem oddly misproportioned.  The first field we saw had a self guided tour of posters on the fence posts.  As we took our time reading all the information (good English practice for Evan), we noticed several of the young male alpacas with necks tangled, wrestling each other into the dirt, biting and spitting at each other.  Boys will be boys I guess!

image source:

We followed the signs to the barn and saw more alpacas inside.  They were way too busy eating, or moved too quickly to photograph well in the dim light.

Next up was the lovely farm store with yarn and roving and knitted things of all shapes and sizes.  I think Evan got a kick out of seeing me totally hypnotized by the soft fiber.  I met Philippe who showed me where the roving was hiding.  He’s a spinner too, so we had a good time chatting about spinning things as I tried not to drool over the superfine jet black alpaca roving.  It was so gorgeous that I had to buy 8 oz worth, and probably should have gotten more when I had the chance.  I’ve started spinning it, and it spins like a dream!

Philippe and the girls

Through another doorway, and we were out with the female alpacas and the HUGE guard llama.  We could get close enough to pat them as they were eating.  They are the softest fluffiest creatures I’ve ever met.  Evan kept repeating a phrase from Despicable Me:  “It’s so fluffy, I’m gonna die!”.  I think that in this case, it is a valid statement.

Philippe and a cria

Philippe picked up one of the babies (young alpaca are called cria), and this one was even softer than the other older alpaca.

On our way out, we purchased alpaca fiber, and some white wool fiber to dye and spin back at our campsite (more on that later!).

Everywhere on the island is so pretty.  Here are some of the more beautiful views we saw that day.

Yale to Whales: Journey of a Travelling Sock

Monday, August 30th, 2010

First of all, I’d like to thank all of my guest blogging friends who have shared their knitting adventures over the past month while I was out having some adventures of my own.  This past month has been a whirlwind of road trip and camping adventures with my friend Evan.  For the full story check here.

Of course, I brought along a knitting project with me–a sock!

Pattern: My recipe for Basic Toe Up Socks (Ravelink)

Yarn: Regia self striping sock yarn of some variety

The first sock was knit while relaxing on the Nile, and chilling out in the desert with the nomads last summer.  I started this sock when I was staying at my cousin’s house in Connecticut on my first evening on the road.  We watched a movie, and I knit, trying to stay awake and figure out “who done it” before the film ended, or I fell asleep.  I had never driven more than 3 hours in a day before, to either Toronto or Montreal.  This day marked many firsts: first time to drive across the border, first time to drive almost 7 hours in a day, first time to meet my cousin’s baby girl who is now 17 months old.

The next day I continued on my journey, visiting Yale campus…

…and skirting the coast of Connecticut and Rhode Island so I could see the ocean before heading to Providence to meet my friend.

sunset at Watch Hill Rhode Island

We camped in Myles Standish state park, and then visited a near by cranberry bog to see the crop as it grew, then we followed some signs to find the Ocean Spray cranberry processing plant.

Ocean Spray, Carver MA.

The next stop was Cape Cod, where we visited some gorgeous beaches, played in the freezing cold surf, and went whale watching!  We saw so many humpback whales, but either because they moved so fast, or I was too excited, or the boat was lurching too much on the swells, I ended up with very few good pictures of whales.  It was such a spectacular day, even the naturalists on board were excited by what we saw.  This whale was much more cooperative, posing for a picture with my sock.  I had to wait a while for all the passing kids to get off of it.  For some reason everyone wants to ride whales (even Evan).

Dolphin Fleet Whale Watching, Provincetown MA

After our stay on the cape, we explored Boston museums and aquariums, then went to Six Flags New England, all of those places were far too exciting for knitting.  Things calmed down a bit when we returned to Providence to get Evan all settled in his residence room and get things like student cards and meal plans figured out.

Brown University, Providence RI

At the end of my journey, just as I was preparing to leave, Evan’s panda was willing to pose with my vacation socks.  The completed one was the 2009 version, and the one that is almost done is the 2010 version.  They match, up to a point.  For some reason, there was a knot in the ball of wool for the 2010 sock, so the stripes suddenly reverse their orientation.  Now I will know which sock is which!

Evan's Room, Providence RI

I have not yet finished this summer’s sock.  I think it is because I am not willing to admit that my vacation is over.   I’m going to wait until the last possible moment before I finish those final rows of ribbing, cast off and weave in all the ends.  There’s something symbolic about finishing this project for me, something that signifies the end of summer, the end of my adventures, and the beginning of a more structured and stressful routine for the next 10 months.  I need to take time to make this transition.

Here’s the question you have been asked each September of your youth…What did you do on your summer vacation?

Swatchless in Sudan

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

When I was a kid, I was really into the Little House on the Prairie series, and was pretty sure I wanted to grow up and be a pioneer. Laugh if you wish, but for the past two years, I’ve been living in Sudan, working as a humanitarian aid worker. Although I’m now living in the capital city of Khartoum, where I have a fairly constant supply of electricity, water usually comes out of my tap, and pizza joints can be found on every block, my first year was spent in a place called Renk, where there was no electricity, water was delivered to our compound by a donkey pulling a big water barrel, and I spent every Saturday morning washing my ankle length skirts by hand. Evenings were spent with my knitting, frequently by candlelight when the generator fuel ran out. The pioneer life? Not as glamourous as I was expecting. The knitting? It kept me sane!

During a brief trip home to Kingston last summer I stopped into the local knitting store to stock up on a new project…I was looking for something that would take me a significant amount of time to finish and that would fill the long hours of the Southern Sudan evening.  I consider myself an intermediate knitter…I’ve done cables and  have made countless sweaters with fairly complicated patterns, but I’ve never attempted a multicoloured project. So I decided I was up for the challenge, and found a pattern that called for a multitude of different colours, and didn’t have a single repeating pattern in the entire sweater. As I stood in the store, slowly falling in love with the sweater, but slightly hesitating at the potential complexity of it, the store woman suggested that I choose something simpler, “for beginners”. That was all I needed. My pride kicked in. I filled up my basket with 12 different colours of yarn, 4 kinds of needles, and the incredibly daunting pattern, and headed home to pack it all in my suitcase to head back to Sudan.

Almost a year later, I have the body, and a sleeve and a half finished. I messed up one of the patterns in the body, but haven’t fixed it as I don’t have the patience to take out stitches. Besides,  I figure it just adds character to the thing (or perhaps reveals a bit of mine). Parts of it have become faded from mistakenly leaving it in the window for long periods of time, it’s full of sand (Sudan is a desert), and I may have the odd mosquito or two imbedded into the stitches. My mother has told me repeatedly that she thinks I may have done it all wrong…a worry that becomes greater and greater as I approach the final stitches, and am faced with the challenge of cutting the front open to add a zipper (another thing I’ve never done before)…but I suppose on my next trip home I can always slink back into the wool store, pride between my legs, and ask the woman for help. Or, I can move back to Renk, where I’ll have lots of extra time to painstakingly unravel the whole thing and start over.

PS: My name is Melanie and I’m a friend of Rachel’s from Camp Hyanto….which seems like many many years ago!

April 18, 2009 sweater…now a Finished Object

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

Wow! Seriously 1 year and 4 months to finish a basic knit sweater. I should get some sort of procrastination medal.

In all fairness the sweater has been complete for many months, except only recently did I take the time to learn how to sew seams properly with mattress stitch.

Very happy with the outcome…ready for this fall.

Lessons Learned

Friday, August 13th, 2010

 Hello! My name is Candra, and I’m really excited and honoured to be a guest here for Rachel! Rachel and my friend Nicole have taught me pretty much everything they could about knitting over the last four years. I’m one of those knitter’s who has multiple projects casted on at once, and each project teaches me something new. Well here’s my longest running project that has taught me a lot.

Last year I started a project for my friend’s birthday. She had requested a pair of socks, and not just any socks, a pair of…. Twilight socks. (I think most people are aware of the existence of the Twilight Saga if they like it or not and I do have to admit I have read the whole series) I was lucky enough that ravelry has such a pattern:  Twilight Cover Socks by ChickenBetty.

The socks are written to be  toe-up socks, knit in Intarsia when the book cover picture comes in. When I started the pattern I had no idea what ” intarsia” meant, and wanting to get these socks done fast I thought I could make do with coming up with my own way of knitting them, so I bought the yarn and started. The problems began immediately.

At first I wanted to surprise my friend by not letting her see the socks. That ended badly after I turned the first heel and saw they were too small. So I frogged it to right before the heel and made it longer. I tested them on my friend this time, but they were too big in both width and length. I frogged them and started again, deciding to measure my friend’s foot with the sock; however,the worst problems began when I started the colour working.

I decided I would cut each colour of yarn off every time I finished with it in the round, then cast it back on when it was needed again. My more experianced knitting friends warned me about the consequences of doing this, but I did it anyway. If I had listened I would have saved myself a lot of trouble. There were too many little ends after about twenty rounds and they had started to unravel and get tangled. Frustrated I frogged the whole thing again.

By then my friend’s birthday had long past. I was ready to give up, and I questioned whether these socks really wanted to be made or not. But I was determine, so I casted on once more taking notes as I went, and instead of  my more creative method of the colourworking I switched to trusty old Fair Isle knitting. Three colours all at once.

So what came of all this? Well I did indeed learn “intarisa” knitting; I learned how to be patient; and I learned that sometimes determination can turn something unfortunate into something worth being proud of in the end. 

Right now my only problem is they are making up much slower than I want them too due to the Fair Isle. Despite this they are now much neater and on top of that are extra warm for the cold Alberta winters my friend will be enduring! I have five days and counting to finish them! Wish me luck!

If you want a good tutorial on intarsia knitting go to

I love sock yarn!

Friday, August 13th, 2010

I love sock yarn, yes I do. I love sock yarn, how about you?

Mel here, blogging for Rachel. Like Shawna, Rachel and I go way back. All the way to 1995 at Hyanto, in fact. Which is both scary and really neat. I love the fact that we’ve kept in touch all these years. And while I am not nearly as good at knitting as she is, Rachel and her knitting are very much a part of why I learned to knit 5 years ago.

I started off, as most new knitters do, knitting with worsted weight yarns. Wool, and cotton. Thick and nubbly and solid and variegated. I knit my first ever pair of socks out of worsted weight wool. Then I thought I’d be brave and knit myself socks out of sock yarn. This led me to a discovery. One that feels a little secret and silly, but is true none the less. I hate knitting socks. Hate it. But I love sock yarn!

This here is my sock yarn stash. Not super impressive in quantity, I know. But I make up for it in quality! Some is from dyers that work in very limited quantities. I love it. It’s fine and silky and oh so soft.

What, you may be asking yourself, does one do with sock yarn if you hate knitting socks? My favourite thing to knit with sock yarn is shawls. Here in Canada, it’s almost always cool in the evenings (current heat in the GTA notwithstanding), and shawls are lovely things to have on hand. If they’re small, they fold up inside your purse, ready for evening to fall.

I am currently working on a Multnomah shawl, knit in Three Irish Girls “Sheepnuts” colourway. “Sheepnuts” was a limited edition dye that they did for the 2010 Olympics, and features natural yarn with tones of gold, silver, and bronze. This is what it’s looking like so far:

If you’re like me and have a love for sock yarn and a secret (or not so secret) loathing of knitting socks, be sure to check out the Ravelry group Sock Yarn Lovers Who Don’t Make Socks. These ladies and gents are always discussing great projects, many which only use one skein of lovely yarn. Be out! Be proud! Knit a shawl! Or armwarmers, or a hat, or mittens…

Guest blogging from Vancouver!

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

Hello from sunny B.C! I’m Shawna guesting in for the travelling Rachel. I met Rachel WAAAY back in 1996 when she was my counsellor at my first year at Hyanto….I have such fond memories returning year after year and everytime waterfront Rachel was there. She was pretty much awesome…still is! She even once saved my sister from heat stroke over ICQ. She’s a whole lot of the reason I went into lifeguarding and why I wanted to work the waterfront at Hyanto some day..which I did eventually! But time as passed and taken me far from Ontario…luckily the internet keeps us all together!

I’m not actually currently knitting….I’m arm deep in crocheting for my wedding! I’m getting married in October and a few weeks ago decided that crocheting the flowers for the wedding was a fantastic idea! And so far it’s going very well. I’ve been focused on the boutineers and corsages and it’s going really well. After a few false starts with the wrong yarns I’ve settled on my types and gauges and now am moving through them.

Wedding Flowers!

I need to make about 30 and it takes maybe 30-40 minutes to make one. Which is much harder than it seems because the weather here is so amazing and the last thing I want to do is sit inside…. However these need to get done!

I’m considering crocheting an entire bouquet….but I’m really putting that off until I’m done all the individual flowers…I’m not sure why…

I got the original idea from this site. So we’ll see if I continue on to make the whole bouquet.

I’m working on at least 3 other projects at the same time! So I may post again!

Thanks for reading!

You can follow me and my life (and Ravelry, Twitter…etc.) through my blog.

Proud to be a guest

Monday, August 9th, 2010

The Sheep Dog Trials at Grass Creek Park were awesome!  10 years in Kingston, and 1st time visiting the spectacular event.  I too, was defeated in the struggle to buy or not to buy…I bought…4x 100gr bags of Alpaca roving from Silver Cloud Alpaca’s.  Although, not at all surprised by my purchase.  I planned ahead and accepted the fate of my cash as I was putting it in my wallet.

I’ve loaded up my existing stash with a few more bags of roving and am about to start working my way through.  I’ve already broken my golden rule of “start and finish a project” before buying more roving.

This is what’s on my wheel right now (Superwash merino/bamboo blend).  The wonderful features of blending bamboo with wool is it’s softness which can be compared to cashmere.  It’s also breathable and feels great against the skin.  The thermal regulating fibres expand when warm to allow your skin to breathe and contract when cold to keep the heat in.  I plan on using this fibre for bulky socks for the winter to lounge in.

I have spun a little of this before I switched bobbins to work on an Aplaca baby hat and mitts.

If you’d like to see the toque and mitts, check out

Stay Tuned For Guest Bloggers!

Saturday, August 7th, 2010

image source:

Since I’m not sure of internet availability while I’m camping, I’ve asked a few friends to help out with keeping the blog alive in my absence.  I’m thankful to my very crafty and creative friends who have stepped up, and maybe a little out of their comfort zones, to show their current projects, or talk about their creative process or anything else that strikes their fancy.

Stay tuned to see what they are all up to!

For those interested in reading some stories from the road, you can check out my road trip blog here.

Sheep Dog Trials

Friday, August 6th, 2010

This weekend there’s a pretty neat event happening in Kingston.  I urge you to go check it out if you are in the area.  It’s the 23rd annual Sheep Dog Trials held this Friday to Sunday at Grass Creek Park (2991 Hwy 2) about 16km outside of Kingston.  If transportation is a challenge, there are free shuttle busses from downtown Kingston (check the city website).  Admission is $10 a day, kids 10 and under are free.

I had never been to the sheep dog trials before, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect.  I guessed I’d see lots of sheep, and dogs, and herding.  Of course, that is the main event, but there is so much more!  If you go on Saturday you can watch the Sheep-To-Shawl competition, which I’m sad that I missed.  I’ll have to go back again next year and catch it.  The competition is done in teams, starting with fleece, and ending up with woven shawls by the end of the day.  Be sure to check it out if you are there tomorrow.

herding in action

There are so many things for kids to do!  Face painting, pony rides, a petting zoo, educational programs about birds of prey….

barn owl (no longer found in this area)


Doreen, the woman who taught me to spin

….and even sheep sheering–I had a great time watching this demonstration, and the kids really loved it too!


Bill McMaster demonstrates how sheep sheering can be done without electricity.  A volunteer turns the crank, which powers the clippers.

three cheers for kid power!

The clippers move really fast, and take all the fleece off the sheep.

The kids were eager to feel the sheep after it had a haircut.


The fleece was gathered up, and Bill and Hamish demonstrate how to use a drop spindle.

They spun and plied wool, from the grease, and made wool bracelets for all the kids–I got one too!  If you have a chance to stop by and talk to these guys, it is worth it!  Check their clock for shearing time, and you’ll be in for a real show.

If you are in the market to purchase anything wooly, from dyed roving to finished garments, there’s lots for you to see.  My favourite alpaca vendor, Silver Cloud Alpaca, is there selling lots of squishably soft yarn, roving and blended batts.

I couldn’t resist, and didn’t really want to resist purchasing some fiber to spin.  It is the very best alpaca fleece I have ever encountered.

They had two alpaca there too!  Aren’t they gorgeous?

There were so many sheep dogs, but there were also non-sheep dogs competing in several activities.  There was an agility trial obstacle course, and also a dock jumping area run by dockdogs.

taking the leap

Dogs jump off the dock into a big pool to get a toy.  Some dogs have great long jumping ability, and others are not quite ready to make the leap.  I was experimenting with a new camera mode (new camera is Olympus Stylus Tough 3000)–this one takes high speed rapid succession shots.  Pretty cool I think!

the leap

long distance!

the splash!

All in all, I was surprised at how many people were there today.  I imagine that Saturday and Sunday it is even busier.  Get there early.  The events start at 9AM. Bring a lawn chair, lunch, cash for your emergency yarn purchasing, and be sure to have a hat, sunscreen and lots of water.