Winter lambs

In the fall it is always a question, when should we put the ram in with the ewes, when do we want to have lambs? March lambs have always been far superior in growth and health it seems over May lambs, which in my opinion are born just as parasites are coming out and this makes them super susceptible, even with careful pasture rotation. March lambs, and early March lambs specifically, run the risk of bad weather. Well it’s a blizzard outside and it was 5 months to the day ago that we put our ram Samuel in with the ladies. Last year it was ridiculously calm, warm and perfect lambing weather.

You may have guessed, but twins were born tonight, one outside and one inside the barn. Did I mention its a freakin’ blizzard outside? Thankfully my dear husband went out to feed the sheep later than usual after a movie next to the very hot wood-stove. He came in shortly carrying a half frozen and still very wet brand new lamb. Every year we learn something new with sheep, this year it was how to save a hypothermic lamb successfully. When I saw her shivering with mouth cold as ice and clamped shut I wasn’t about to give her a realistically good outcome, but hope drove us on and as my husband went out to set up a pen for the ram lamb and mom, I did my best to rub down and warm up the ewe lamb.

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After a while she was still quite cold, especially inside her mouth, so we tried the soak in hot water method and held her in our kitchen sink in as hot of water as our hands could bare for about 10 minutes ( I have read that 30 minutes to two hours is necessary for some lambs). We then used a blow dryer and dried her next to the wood-stove as much as we could and was able to get some milk down her. It was then that she really started to come around. It was as if by magic that this lamb so near to death had suddenly found the will to live! She has now found a bottle to be fantastic and will only sleep if one of us is right next to her. She totters around and has gained much energy since midnight (it is now 4:30am…)

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Her brother in the barn is doing well and has figured out nursing on his own. We hope in a few hours we will be able to persuade the mom to take this other lamb, bottle feeding on a ongoing schedule is not something I have an interest in! So far so good. It may be a blizzard but we successfully reversed mother nature’s plan this time with a robust and spunky lamb. …time for feeding…

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Impossible? Never!

Have you ever wondered what you would do if the unthinkable happened to your favorite hand knit sweater? Just a snag? No problem, maybe a bit trickier if in color work. A tear along the cuff? Simple enough to repair, at least so it doesn’t unravel. But how about this:

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Yes, a man came in with his daughter’s favorite sweater, she had stood too close to a hot woodstove and singed her backside! I took on the project hoping to find a way to create, at least, a wearable garment again. I decided that the only way to do this was to get rid of the old and start anew. I selected some similar wool, and set to work figuring out the cable pattern. Thankfully most of my 32 stitch patch was a simple knit and purl moss stitch. The cable turned out easy enough and I was able to figure it out just by looking at it. Once my swatch was the correct size, I used contrasting yarn to pick up stitches at the top and bottom so I wouldn’t unravel further than I wanted!

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The patch fit perfectly! Next I machine stitch a straight line and a zig zag down the side of the cable panel where I needed to make my cut…

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The cutting went smoothly, next I opened up the side seam and cut along the top and bottom and unraveled the last couple rows to my held stitches. I replaced these stitches on needles and began the Kitchener stitch across the top and bottom stitches to graft my patch in place. This was my only dilemma, how do you do a Kitchener across a cable? This still leaves me baffled, but in any case it turned out decent enough.

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Then I sewed along my cut/steeked edge and whip stitched the machine stitched edge to the inside, encasing it in yarn to tidy it up. Lastly I crocheted the side seam back into place and voila!

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This called for a little Irish celebration.

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12 days of Christmas projects

As far back as I remember I have been overcome with a desire to create gifts during The holiday season. Of course most of my inspirations happen within the last couple weeks…. Even hours before Christmas eve… I do remember one Christmas vividly in my mind, it was 4am Christmas morning and my mom and i were crazily finishing up the last few rows, hurriedly blocking and wrapping while some wonderfully happily drunk family members kept us company. Yes, as an avid knitter this can be an overwhelming time, with sweaters still on needles and dolls laying naked and bald. Tonight I realized that I have exactly 10 days (now 11 nights before Christmas morning) and I have at least that many projects on the needles or awaiting further completion. I plan to lead you through the studio of disaster as I finish, or try to, each project that will be under the tree the morning of the 25th.

Tonight, December 14th, I will work hard on my husbands sweater. He likes sweaters plain. Very plain. All Stockinette stitch with very simple ribbing. Thankfully he is much smaller than me and although boring, a sweater his size does not take too long once I get down to work and speed knit. This year I decided to walk a tight rope and give the yoke of his boring sweater a bit of something to look forward to. I am knitting his sweater out of Berroco Ultra Alpaca, which for a staple solid colored yarn is my favorite by far. 50% wool/ 50% alpaca light worsted weight. Round, full twist, beautiful body and substance without being chunky. And the best part? No pilling. His first sweater has never needed de-pilling in the 3 years he has worn it, and he wears it a lot.

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I started with an Brooklyn Tweed design from Ann Budd called Guston. Well I had decided to use the pattern, but that’s where it ended. Keith wanted ribbing, not garter stitch, and he was against the button down gansey look. I was determined to have some texture to the yoke, but also want to see him wear it. After working the body in ribbing and Stockinette, I finally reached the yoke! I separated for the arms and found the perfect twisted rib basket weave type pattern. It fit perfectly into the amount of stitches I had and voila! I have now only knit a couple inches and knitting is slow because I have to think somewhat. So without further ado. I must. Start. Knitting.

A front and back textured yoke and then two attached sleeves (knit shoulder to cuff of course, in case they need to be lengthened or repaired!)

Tomorrow… Which project will be next? Maybe the adventure to find and create the perfect small horseback riding doll to bring my daughters imagination to life in the days of kings and queens and, did I mention horses!?

Wet felting fun

I have occasionally attempted wet felting, and after a short attempt have decided it is too time consuming, which is funny since knitting sweaters is something I spend much of my time doing. Yesterday a young woman came into the shop looking for fiber and a wet felting mat that she could use for wet felting some slippers. This for some reason sparked my interest in such a way (possibly because i had not started another new project that day) that I brought some fiber and a mat home to try my hands once again with new vigor.

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This morning I laid out some fiber in layers, wetted it down and soaped it up (I used my new Mrs. Meyers pine scented dish soap for an extra holiday flair). After about 30 minutes I had a couple sweet little wall hangings. I think flat pieces felt faster, and wall hangings do not need to be as sturdy as a table runner would be… Which is what I first set out to make.

The girls helped out, mostly by stealing bits of fiber and adding to the destruction of my recently cleaned house. But, as I am struggling to understand and learn, life with very young children is one of constant cleaning and picking up, or reveling in chaos and working on what you love… Which in my case is definitely not cleaning!

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When the yarn has all been dyed…

When I was in college I owned a rather fun and unique long pea coat in a soft pink tweed. I loved it at the time and have kept it ever since… In a closet upstairs. We recently had a beautiful fall day, although it was rather chilly, and it got me thinking about warmth and looking for a new coat. I remembered my old friend up there in the closet and decided to rejuvenate it with a fresh color. I brought my 100qt pot out once more for one last dyeing expedition before my primitive dyeing studio is turned to ice. Mixing a deep purple and a ruby red I lowered the wool coat into the pot, it fit perfectly and came out a reddish purple color.

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This was still to pink for my palate so I mixed up some turquoise and a bit of blue and plunged it in again. This time she was perfect! A deep purple with specks of turquoise blue throughout.

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My dream has always been to knit and then felt a pea coat type coat, but that is a daunting project and for now rejuvenating this great coat is fine for me!

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My Wedding Dress

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My wedding dress started before I was even engaged. Although the thought of getting married and starting adult life was an exciting idea at the time (now I look back and realize my freedoms then, and my new freedoms now), although this was a reason to consider pretty dresses, as a knitter and want-to-be seamstress, the idea of creating such a monumental creation was my real goal.

It started in college, with many trips to the local yarn shops to find just about every ivory hank, ball and cone of silky type yarn in every fiber imaginable. I still have a bag of random bits of white swatches. After a long debate, I decided on a fingering weight 2 ply cone of luscious ivory silk that I found at my then favorite yarn shop Kindred Threads in my hometown Viroqua. I set to work designing panels of lace that I figured I would sew into an a-line skirt. After one and a half panels I decided that that was not going to work because of the drape and pull of the heavy silk. I then found a pattern for a short lace skirt, I believe it was called the Flame skirt. I used the simple “wheat” pattern and started from the waist with a drawstring waistband. This part took a long time. In fact I even had time to get engaged during this time of knitting endless lace. Every 12″ or so I increased the stitches by a quarter, so the effect would be slightly gathered at the waist, but flare out from there over a crinoline. As a renaissance costume lover I of course wanted some kind of swish and twirl of my skirt. Of course during the middle of the skirt I became bored and started designing a bodice.

The bodice was altered from a pattern in Interweave’s Lace Style book. I used the pattern for the shaping, but decided on a simpler and cleaner picot edge along the neckline, and a sewn on leaf edging for the bottom to keep with the “wheat” design on the skirt.

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Once the bodice was finished and the skirt was in full swing, I decided we should set a date for the wedding. With a late September date I worried it could get chilly or downright cold! I found a pattern in the book Knit Two Together by Tracy Ullmann and Mel Clark. I loved the look but didn’t want too many lace patterns going on at once. I used the basic look and instead of working the lace pattern they had, I used the pattern for the skirt, and then bound off with a mini pico bind off. I used a lace weight off white alpaca/silk strand along with my silk strand that I had used throughout the project. It gave a little halo of softness and warmth to the shrug.

After taking a siesta from the project, starting a yarn shop, going to school at UW Madison and undergoing horrible morning sickness with my daughter Stella I finally finished the project just in time for the wedding September 27th, 2008. It was a lovely day, one of those amazingly bright and blue last warm days in autumn. The outdoor ceremony and beautiful reception was one of the best days of my life!

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I hope my dress can inspire other knitters to take on that monumental project, be it a fully cabled Aran sweater, that lace shawl on your list you keep putting off, or maybe a wedding dress! Haven’t seen the dress and would like to? Stop by Ewetopia and take a look!

Wisconsin Sheep and Wool

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We have had a wonderful, although exhausting weekend at the WI Sheep and Wool festival in Jefferson, WI. We met many new friends and saw many old friends we have made over the 5 years we’ve been coming. The first year we vended, our shop Ewetopia had been open for 3 months and we had been put on the waiting list for the show. A day before the show opened I received a call from Bob Black the organizer telling me I had a spot if I could still make it. I of course said yes, then realizing I was in between a busy class day at UW Madison, skipping my last lecture of the day I drove to Viroqua to pile as much interesting inventory into my old Subaru station wagon as I could. That was a busy event, driving back and forth to my apartment in Madison, even driving back to Viroqua to restock one night! Thankfully I now a lot of help, from my mother who is an integral part of the booth, to my dear husband who comes to this and a few other very busy shows so my two daughters can both come along and have fun, and of course my 10 year old brother Ben who keeps everyone in “stitches” with his random Lord of the Rings and Star Wars commentary. We have grown from a single booth space and a Subaru to a truck and trailer and two booth spaces, now all of our yarns (except some yarns in the kits) are our own hand dyed line and all of our patterns are our original designs.

We seem to have many “favorite” shows, but this show is our starting place and feels like home. Thank you for another fun year and we always look forward to the next!

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