Saturday, February 13, 2010

An Afternoon with Alpacas

As my husband travels on business a lot, we have got into the habit of trying to find something fun to do on Saturdays leaving our Sundays free for church and relaxation. Yesterday while reading the paper a large ad for the annual TXOLAN show caught my eye and I told my husband I wanted to go to an alpaca show on Saturday afternoon. As we had gone to a fiber expo in Ann Arbor which he hadn't found too tiresome and he loved his hand knit alpaca sweater, he agreed.

The show wasn't anything like the fiber expo. At the expo, there were just a few alpacas and plenty of fiber vendors with lovely luscious skeins of all types of fiber to fondle and buy. At the alpaca show, there were rows after rows of alpacas to look at and just a a handful of skeins for sale on the tables of the breeder pens. Yes, sadly only a handful! I counted them and there were only 23 skeins for sale in the entire building and not enough of any one weight or color to make me do a happy dance and rejoice in my good fortune. There is definitely something to be said about the instant gratification of buying the yarn and immediately casting on versus buying the actual alpaca, shearing, processing the fleece, carding, spinning, and finally knitting the intended project.

Now, don't get me wrong and think I didn't have a wonderful time. I love animals (especially the fiber variety) and these alpacas were some of the gentlest and cutest I had ever seen. I kept going from pen to pen, up one row and down another; ooohing and aahhing, clicking my camera, and letting them snuff my hand. My husband quickly tired of my "oh look at this one" and retreated many times outside with a quick "be back in a minute" or "I'll catch you in the next row"; however, he did make an effort to scout for yarn and showed off his sweater to one of the breeders. I love that he loves his sweater!

I learned more about alpacas than I had ever known before. There were huacaya and suri alpacas in various shades of cream, brown, gray, and black. The huacayas were soft and silky and looked fluffy. The suris were the breed with the fleece that looked liked they were wearing dreadlocks. I think I like the fluffy huacayas better but perhaps that's because they were the ones that let me pet their foreheads and feel how wonderful their fleece feels while it's still being worn by its owner.

What else did I learn? That alpacas don't need a lot of land. Hmmmm. I wonder if my neighbors would notice one in my backyard? Perhaps I could tell them it was a rare South American dog!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Knitting While the Snow Falls

A record snowfall has hit the DFW metroplex resulting in 12.5 inches of sticky white stuff and virtually shutting down the town.

The winter weather started on Tuesday morning when the temperature had dropped overnight after a day of rain resulting in black ice on the roads and overpasses. I tried to make it in to work but they closed the highway ramp and as I had already slipped and slid through two intersections, I just turned around and stayed home for the day. I took this opportunity to KNIT!!! I did not continue knitting on my son's sweater nor on the lace scarf retirement gift, instead I declared it to be a "Knit for Debbie Day". I read project notes and made my list of modifications and cast on the Shalom cardigan. I finished up the yoke before toddling off to bed. Wednesday was a work day but that evening I finished a few rows before bed.

Thursday morning, when the alarm went off, my husband (who was already up) told me he didn't think I would be able to make it in as it had been snowing heavily since 3:00am. After waiting until daylight to see if the roads improved and listening to the forecast of continued heavy snow throughout the day, I made the decision to take a vacation day and stay home and KNIT. (Now, I don't like to think myself a snow weanie; after all I do come from South Dakota, but I have lived in Texas long enough to know Texans can't drive when the roads are slick with rain much less when the roads are slick with scarcely seen snow.) I made good progress all day on my cardigan and finished the evening with 12 rows left to knit and the snow still was falling.

Today, Friday, the snow had stopped but it was again a day to stay home and knit and I was able to finish my cardigan. Other knitters had said this was a quick knit and it was. Not only was a record set for snowfall, but I set a personal speed knitting record of my own.

What's next? Time to get back to knitting on my son's sweater and watching the snow slowly melt. Temperatures are expected to be in the 60's next week so there won't be any more snow/knitting days for awhile.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Journey in Finding Yarn Across the Pond

My son, when he saw the Balmoral sweater I had made for his Dad, was so impressed that he immediately batted his hazel eyes and said how much he would enjoy a hand knitted sweater. Of course I said "yes"! Then he dropped the the idle words "of course it will have to be all black so I can wear it at the seminary". What?? I've never made anything black as I tend to choose bright vibrant colors that make me happy while knitting. Oh well, I naively thought, how different could knitting black be?

I had some lovely charcoal prime alpaca in my stash that would have knitted up nicely, except for the shedding factor, so we decided on extra fine merino in solid black. One of my LYS was having a sale and was offering a 40% discount on a special day only for ravelery group members ... AND they had the exact yarn we had decided on ... AND they had 22 skeins on hand. What do they say about the best laid plans? I went online about 30 minutes after they had opened and GASP someone had already bought 10 skeins leaving a measly 12 which definitely wasn't enough for an adult size sweater. I did a ravelry and google search and ended up calling Canada as well as most of the upper East Coast yarn shops that carried Sublime extra fine merino. I managed to locate 16 skeins in Massachusetts and placed my order.

Fast forward to casting on. The first pattern we chose was Geoffroy by Norah Gaughan and while he liked it, it wasn't THE SWEATER. I turned him loose with my patterns (selectively chosen of course) and he decided on Ben by Norah Gaughan as he likes cables. I enjoy knitting my sweaters in the round so first I had to modify the cable pattern so it would work and then I had to actually do a gauge swatch to check needle size (something I'm always reluctant to do) as this was a slightly thinner yarn that required but I thought I had enough yarn to make it work. I cast on, placed my markers for the sides, joined in the round and began the Cabled Seminarian by knitting 3 inches of 2x2 ribbing.

Fast forward to the next day where I am sitting close to tears as my eyes cross trying to distinguish between k's and p's on black. The cable pattern is a 13 stitch repeat + 7 so I finally placed markers to identify the 13 stitch sections and I'm happily knitting away. Tips-when knitting black make sure you have bright light level and plenty of markers at hand. (Also helpful to have on hand is an understanding husband who is learning to ignore my mutterings, complaints, and whimpers) As I reached for the 3rd skein to attach I realized that I probably would not have enough yarn after all. Those darn cables were eating up the yarn as fast as I could knit it.

I did another ravelry search because you just never know there might be a fellow raveler with a need to destash that particular yarn (no there wasn't) as well as called up the shop I had originally bought the 16 skeins from. They did not carry black Sublime anymore and the 2 other shops I called did not have the correct dye lot. However, I found a yarn shop in the UK on which did have my dye lot and have now purchased the additional skeins I think (I hope) I will need.

The moral of this story? BUY ALL THE YARN YOU NEED OR THINK YOU WILL NEED AT THE SAME TIME. Now I will have an excuse to buy massive amounts of yarn because I will be able to say " but honey, remember my search for that black yarn?"