If you haven't been yarn hunting in Anoka, there's a sweet yarn shop just off Main Street - The Shepherdess (aka Shepherd's Choice). And if you can make it past the gorgeous collection of yarns downstairs, they've added a co-op space for fiber artists upstairs.

Wheels, looms, local alpaca and mohair and batts, and fun for me to join them all with yarn and fiber. I've got a regular shop space now!

Setting up shop in Anoka

Setting up shop in Anoka

The house definitely smells like pickled sheep, what with all the hiding from my day job and sitting home dying kettle after kettle of yarn.  I seem to be completely obsessed with orange/chartreuse combinations.  Nothing really exciting to say about it, other than really having fun pouring colors over everything in sight.

Yarn dying is afoot

Maybe it's the recent fever.  Or maybe a big fresh pile of squishy dyed yarn I needed to test out. 

Lots of dying

But I can, in fact, still knit it seems.  A big, chunky, quick and easy cowl that I knocked out in just a day.  

I knit cables?!

Now I just need to figure out the whole how-the-heck-do-I-put this-thing-on-and-off-with-glasses bit.  Cowls are clearly a tricky fashion choice with nerd glasses.

I've lost track of the times I've been asked "so, I mean, what do you do with it?"  In some ways it's the obvious question - I'm making yarn, and yarn is largely defined by its purpose as a craft supply, a means to artisan knitting or crochet or weaving or other textile projects.  "I look at it."  It seems like a cheap answer.

And sometimes I make those yarns, the rhythm of creating a smooth consistent thread is a type of full body meditation in and of itself.  But when I switch from being a spinner to being a Spinner, the yarn itself becomes the point.  I'm looking to create a piece that stands on its own as a sculptural work.  If it inspires someone to transform it again into something new, that's delightful and an amazing form of collaboration and transformation - to see what my work becomes from someone else's viewpoint.  For me, though, I don't need it to feel like I'm finished creating.

Hottea Installation

I stumbled onto Hot Tea's show at a local salon and couldn't stop smiling.  A rainbow of cut threads hanging from the ceilling - an archway from the side and something completely new lying underneath them. 

Hottea Installation

This I love; pieces of yarn, hanging, just to look at, to appreciate for their form and color and abundance.

Hottea Installation

You can go take a peek for yourself through the end of the month, I believe, at the Haus Salon on Nicollet.

Newspaper jokes and Helga's Clownpants


Some favorites I'm missing since they left my stash.  Big white longwool locks shot through with Christmas tinsel and red and black threads.  I love the bulk and drama out of that basic combination.


Scary Clownpants colorway on the right.  My sweet Helga mohair fleece got all dyed up and spun dense and locky in a series of colors I can't quite explain.  Mixing chartreuse and lavender is more compelling in reality than it was in theory - they make me smile.

New Year's Dying!

All this time not posting, but new things are afoot nonetheless.  Wool and silk are draped all over the place.  Festive holiday garlands to welcome the new year.  

Back to washing and rinsing and spinning for me.

Buttoned Up, originally uploaded by Goldfish Love Fibers.

I've been busily dying all week, but still had enough time to get some more yarn spun up and plied.

This sweet little thing is a tweedy longwool base, loaded with buttons pulled out at random and strung on bright red cotton. Have I am a longwool addict? There's something very relaxing about spinning them, mentally I can calm down, knowing there's plenty of staple to kick back and let go. None of the (completely absurd and unnecessary) tension I have dealing with merino and it's kin, convinced in my head that if I get distracted for a second the yarn will slip away and "ping" -- I'll be rethreading my bobbin at the break.

Sunset over water

This is even more ludicrous when you realize I generally am not even spinning on a wheel with a proper orifice, so it is No Big Deal anyway. It's all lingering merino resentment from my early days of spinning, when, truth be told, the fiber really wasn't to blame anyway. Also, longwools are shiny - and I love me some shiny.

A family portrait:

Handspun happiness

Duet's BFL lamb locks. A straight up, no artsy-fartsy-stuff semi woolen 3-ply for a vest for me, thread plied California Red/Cheviot, and some BFL and silk and stuff, all sunset-y over the ocean.

Yes, there is a sweater. An actual, finished, I-even-wove-in-the-ends-you-can-see-mostly sweater. Probably just in time, since there was a serious threat of harm if said sweater were not completed in a pretty way.

The pattern is Francis, Revisited by Beth Silverstein (Rav link) with some modifications.

The colorful stripey bits are Cary's BFL, in the limited Garden Grove colorway. I think it will rock with my bright turquoise raincoat. There are three rows of the handpainted yarn, followed by two rows of handspun.

One of Emily: BFLxMerino in natural black-brown

Emily Locks

And one of an alpaca/merino blend in "Jackson Pollack" from Zen Yarn Garden.

Jackson Pollock

There has been much speculation (well, by two people when I wore it into the yarn shop for the obligatory look-at-me-OMG-I-made-a-sweater trip. You all do that too, right?) about what genius caused to me choose exactly that stripe pattern.

It was, in fact, not so much genius. I am the world's laziest knitter. I tie knots inside my stuff so I have less weaving in to do. True confession. LOTS of them. The stripe pattern was more like "well, I have 5 approximately 200-yard skeins. So there should be 5 stripes. Then they'll all run out at the same time if I don't have enough. And I can make more brown for the cowl if I need to." Planning ahead to make sure I had enough yarn would be out of character, seeing as how making the yarn is the best part.

More Knitting Confessional

Those of you now frantically looking for some Cary's BFL of your own, or taking seriously my Flickr-based demands that someone go to Stillwater and buy out all of the following so I don't cave in and make myself another sweater, may notice that this yarn will not really give you gauge.

Three Irish Girls Purple Gold

The other knitting sin about me and sweaters? I don't try to get gauge.

Don't get the wrong idea here. I swatch. I wash my swatch. I carefully measure my swatch. Because the yarn will know if you skip this part and will punish you, turning your formerly perfectly fit sweater into something only a misshapen gnome can wear in public the first time you wash it. The yarn demands respect.

If the fabric looks nice, I just go with it. And use the following formula to figure out which size of the sweater I should make instead of my real size at the proper gauge.

Bust size to make = [(swatch gauge)*(actual bust measurement)]/(gauge I should get)

It works pretty well, assuming you know your chosen yarn will behave in the right way, and are somewhere in the middle of the sizing chart. On the down side, it requires a certain recklessness about whether or not you will have enough yarn to complete your project.

Not Too Girly, originally uploaded by Goldfish Love Fibers.

Awww, Gus. Poor guy's fiber got dyed up hot pink and sparkly. Gus is a suri alpaca, whose fiber is spun up loose and lofty and drapey.

It halos, it will pill a bit, it will stretch if knit loosely, and felt like crazy if handled roughly.

Alpaca Sparkle

This sparkly pink one, also mostly alpaca, is thin and fine. Spun with a lot of twist all around. It still has most of the alpaca drape and warmth, but at some cost to the softness and loft. It's better behaved though, when it comes to pilling and felting and even stretching when knit up.

The not very photogenic, but still really cool* project I mentioned last post? These yarns' differences are the inspiration.

I've raided the stash and pulled out samples of as many different fiber types as I've collected. Longwools, fine wools, down wool, primitive wool, silk, alpaca, etc.

They're being prepared woolen and worsted, spun loosely and tightly. At the end of this undertaking I'll have a giant notebook with dozens of yarn samples a few yards long.

Long Wool Samples

So, um, yea. I have been spending lots of time making 2 yards each of yarn that looks kind of similar out of a bunch of stuff. Which means I can show real life examples of differences in fiber type and yarn construction. And talk about how that will affect knit or crochet projects.

It's the basis for letting people ramp up their skills in substituting yarns and making it possible for knitters and crocheters to predict how their yarn choices will work with more confidence.

Of course, this project is also an adventure in self-discipline and patience. It forces me to practice with fibers and styles I don't normally use and come back to skills I've let slip a little bit** as I've found my comfortable niche for relaxing spinning over the years.

* To me, at least, popular appeal has yet to be determined. Because I realize not everyone is fascinated by extended discussions of the minutiae of yarn.

** Or a lot. I'm looking at you, pure worsted tedium.

Tweedy1, originally uploaded by Goldfish Love Fibers.

The last few days have not yielded much photogenic spinning, but a pile of yarns did go out for a photoshoot today.

This tweedy number is a basic thick and thin yarn, plied with thread. The fiber though, that is decadent. A basic tan of locally raised targhee-llama, streaked with burgundy merino and Icelandic wool.


I'd carded this blend in the fall, but the subzero temperatures in Minnesota this winter really inspire digging for some extra warm fibers.


This rustic single finally got reskeined and washed and measured for the pictures today too. Naturally colored fleeces are fun and somewhat unpredictable to dye, the underlying tones of the wool modify the colors, and bring a bit of harmony to contrasting colors.


Blue is an ambiguous color this time of year. Friends have photos of clear blue pools and beaches from winter escapes to warmer climates. But, it is February. Clear, blue skies, blinding sun - don't be fooled looking out the window - these are not cheery omens that spring is around the corner. Clear skies mean cold.  Like grab the long underwear, some wooly knee socks, and put a pair of socks on over that cold.  


Either way the blue falls, working with this fleece always makes me smile. I bought it online, sight unseen, because it was described with such pride. It came from a Border Leicester, whose keeper was a 4-H'er, promoting the fleece by talking about the ribbons he'd won at the fair for his sheep's wool. How could I refuse?

There have been a few projects underway this week I am excited to share, but until all that typing is done, let's curl up under a warm blanket and snuggle the yarn, okay?