Red MoJo is back. I know most of you didn’t know I lost it, but indeed, I was struggling to reconnect with RM for some time. As a dyer, not having a great red in your repertoire can really psych you out. I tried a number of techniques, branched out into other commercial dyes, and really fell into somewhat of a color crisis. I did not want to abandon my beloved Mother McKenzie “Worker Red” dye precipitously. I consulted my notes from dye classes, and exchanged emails with Judith McKenzie on my inability to get the reds that came easily to me before. I discovered that indeed, RM is no lady, but quite the opposite. She takes patience, temperature, chemistry, and a good talking to. Even then she might not listen.
With a little work, pun intended, “Worker Red” is performing better in the dye pot. I have coaxed RM back into my life and into the dye studio. In the process I discovered the Scarlett I have longed for. Violating my general guideline of not dipping a wool more than two or three times, Scarlett came from a grey, two dips in Worker Red, and a final trip to a second pot with a another brand of red dye to produce the rare and wonderful color I thought would never be mine. Like Tara’s Scarlett, this lady rocks a ball gown and an attitude. I am over the moon Vivian Leigh.
Now, how to duplicate this rare and wonderful accomplishment? Five hanks of this color is not enough. Heavy sigh.
Events and Adventures
Now on to what’s next. I have sent off over 50 pounds of Gotland fiber to be spun into yarn. This year’s Gotland supply was supplemented by a new source to add to my growing group of farm friends, Springbank Farm www.springbankfarm.org. The quality of the fiber this year from the Gotland sheep was just fantastic, and it was difficult for me to let it go to the mill for yarn. I wanted to keep so many fleeces for fiber. I argued with myself until finally I picked out an assortment to keep for offering as spinning fiber. I have “pre-orders” for the Gotland in yarn form already; that is, a couple of friends have demanded I set aside skeins for them so they get a chance to purchase some this time around. Thankfully due to the additional fleece I expect to have more supply than last year ready for Madrona.
Also at the mill is the specialty yarn “Svana” that takes two years to produce. This is the de-haired icelandic lace weight used in the naturally colored Brimnes Shawl by Evelyn A. Clark. I expect to offer this yarn in four natural colors from the fleece; white, medium grey, dark grey, and dark brown/black. Most of this yarn will likely be packaged into shawl kits, depending on the quantity that comes back from the mill.
The next fiber to be sent off to the mill is this year’s lambswool that produces the Icelandic 2-ply “Narfi” and the 3-ply “Brynn.” I have added two suppliers to my Icelandic sheep family, and so the result should be a bump up in the inventory for these two yarns as well. I hope to feature these new farms in upcoming blog posts, as each has a wonderful story to share about the animals, their owners, and the small land holdings that support them. Also slated for the mill in the next couple of weeks is the alpaca and Finn wool that go into making my sport weight “Finnpaca” yarn. I am excited about this yarn because it has been a long time since the first batch was produced, and I have learned a great deal about fiber and color combining since then. I am shooting for a medium grey instead of brown as the base color this time around, although I admit learning to over-dye on Alpaca brown is a worthwhile test of a dyer’s skill.
As for events, I hope to procure a booth at St. Distaff’s Day in Lake Stevens, Washington, on Saturday, January 4, 2014. I will confirm whether I made it into the event on this blog. What is St. Distaff’s Day? Find out more about this event by checking out the St. Distaff’s Day group on www.ravelry.com! This is a big spin-in that also has a market. If I am accepted I will highlight spinning fiber prominently, but if you come to the event I will also have a selection of yarns to sell. If there is something specific you would like me to bring, please contact me and I will do my best.
The next opportunity to see me and my booth after January is at the Madrona Winter Retreat in Tacoma, Washington on February 13 through 16, 2014. You can find out about the festival, classes, demonstrations, and the free market at www.madronafiberarts.com. I will blog more about this event and what is getting cooked up just for Madrona in the next month or so.
On the Needles
In the midst of all the craziness of being up to my elbows with cleaning and washing raw wool, sorting and shipping, and dyeing yarn, I actually find time to knit. I am working on the short version of the Churchmouse double ribbed skirt pattern using five colors of Brynn, my Icelandic 3 ply. The finished skirt will be for my daughter Katelyn to wear when she works in the booth for me. The original pattern examples are shown in a solid color, but for my version I am alternating colored stripes in a mock-Fibonachi sequence. I think this skirt is going to be stunning when it is finished and blocked. (See work in progress photo.)
I am also working on the second of a pair of boot socks using my toe up pattern. I am using the 100% Finn wool I have named “Finnlanka,” which actually means Finn wool in the Finnish language. I know, original, but I liked the sound of it. By keeping up the stress-relieving knitting I am determined to get through Christmas and make it to St. Distaff’s Day without a complete melt down. So far so good. I miss the excitement of seeing everyone and sharing the yarn and fiber at events, but I am sure glad for time to do a little knitting, a little blogging, and a good deal of staying close to home! Stay warm and woolie. Kerry Graber
Hello Blog Readers! Since my last blog post I had the opportunity to attend the Fiber Fusion Northwest event in Monroe, Washington. With me were my designer friends from the BK Collective, there to help out with the booth sales and to show off newly knitted samples of the Mock Cable Cowl and Reversible Infinity Scarf in additional yarns offered in my booth. These variations and the instructions for making the variations will be offered to anyone who bought the patterns previously. Be sure to let me know if you purchased one of these two patterns previous, and would like to receive an updated version of these patterns. I will be sure to email them to you as soon as they are ready.
Shown in the second picture above is a finished shawl by a Fiber Fusion customer who purchased skeins of Icelandic two-ply “Narfi” in June at the Black Sheep Gathering in order to make this popular pattern from Ravelry. Holding the shawl next to the proud knitter is Kaia Petersen, designer for BK Collective and the talented knitter who produces many of the lace shawls we show in the Jorstad Creek booth.
Next up for Jorstad Creek is Knit Fit at the Ballard Community Center in Ballard, Washington. You can find out more about this event at www.knitfit.org. Featured speaker and teacher Mary Scott Huff will be presenting a talk on Friday evening, November 1, and then the market will be open Saturday and Sunday, November 2 and 3. I was fortunate to take a color class from Mary Scott Huff at Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival in September, and I must say she is a really delightful person and an accomplished knitting talent. The Jorstad Creek booth will be there, and I hope you will stop in and see me. Access to the market is free.
I am busy packaging up kits for the BK Collective pattern Beaded Cuffs by Jann Hoppler for sale at this event. (See photo) Kits will include the pattern, a skein of “Whidbey” yarn, and glass beads in a complementary color. All you have to do is provide needles and a crochet hook! Also ready for knitters are new larger skeins of “Tweed Sock,” and a brand new yarn “Tweed DK.” I am finishing up a cowl-necked poncho made from this new DK weight yarn, and it is going to be exceptional. The pattern originally called for a felted DK yarn. By substituting yarns the result is a garment with more drape and elasticity in my own hand dyed colors.
Look for more local yarn as well made from my beloved Finn sheep sources. This yarn dyes up into stunning colors, although the natural grey is beautiful on its own. The medium staple of this wool is very soft and versatile in a sport weight three-ply. I hope you have a chance to get your hands on some of this yarn to see for yourself. I will be getting a pair of socks from this yarn on the needles as soon as the poncho is done, as I owe one of my new shepherdess friends a pair so she can show everyone what her fiber looks like off the sheep!
If you are unable to make it to Knit Fit this coming weekend be sure to come back to the blog for postings on more events leading up to the Holidays. I am still waiting to hear back from applications to two local events in the Olympia area, and I’ve been invited to a spin-in event “up north,” so I will let you know about them as I receive confirmation.
For 2014 I am confirmed to have space at the February 14-16 Madrona Fiber Arts Festival at the Hotel Murano in Tacoma, Washington. This premiere event is like attending the fiber Olympics! The BK Collective designers and I have already been planning for this event, plotting over coffee and our knitting, and looking forward to all the return knitters we hope will stop by. We will have the Madrona scarf knit up in Jorstad Creek yarn, an exculsive pattern in a kit from accomplished lace designer Evelyn A. Clark, and printed copies of Evelyn’s Icelandic Lace book. We are also working on new patterns from the BK Collective, and I am shipping off fiber to be spun into more Icelandic, Gotland, and Alpaca blend yarns to be rolled out for Madrona. I will have some of these unspun fibers available for spinners, too. I have been spinning the last roll of grey Gotland roving that I held back from selling at Madrona last year. I look forward to getting more of this great fiber made into roving again to offer for sale although I am sure I will save some for myself again…
I want to thank everyone who trusted me with their email addresses by signing up for my email list. I finally have them all entered into the Jorstad Creek address book, so I will be sending the occasional email letting you know about fiber events, new yarns, and new patterns as they become available. I hope you will make sure that the Jorstad Creek email is marked as “not spam” so you can receive these messages from time to time. As promised, I will not bombard you with email.
I want to end this blog by thanking all of you for your kind words, encouraging feedback, and for sharing your love of all things fiber. The joy in having the yarn company and having the booth at events comes from meeting each of you and sharing your enthusiasm for our craft. Over and over I am compelled to say that “knitters are the nicest people” and I mean it sincerely. I am overwhelmed by the sense of community we fiber people have with each other. It is my goal to share this sense of community by connecting with the farms and small ranches that raise the wonderful animals that are the fiber source. The folks that raise sheep and alpaca do not always have this connection directly with the people who purchase the end product, so whenever possible I give them a glimpse into the fiber world we occupy. Again, thank you for making this possible! Kerry
Hello from Whistler Canada! I am writing this while here with my family enjoying a week of vacation before school starts. While my family sleeps in each morning I work on writing up my toe-up sock pattern. I want this pattern to be available along with the sock yarns at this fall’s fiber events. This pattern is actually memorized in my head, and ingrained to the point I could almost make this entire sock blind folded. In fact, I often knit socks from this pattern during movies at the movie theater.
Haven’t heard of movie knitting? I have been knitting in movies for a number of years as a way to cultivate the ability to knit without having to look at the needles. I not only wanted to be able to knit in movies, but knit and read books, two of my favorite things to do. If you want to learn how to knit without looking, simple patterns in the round are good candidates for movie knitting. With the toe-up approach, the long stretches of stockinette after the toe is complete are easy. If you make a mistake and it is too dark to fix, just put it back in your bag and enjoy the rest of the film. Or do what I have done on occasion, dart to the bathroom for a comfort break and to pick up a dropped stitch.
Jorstad Creek will be at the Olympia Harbor Days festival August 30, 31, and September 1. This is a local event for me, because I live in the neighboring town of Lacey. I see this event as an opporunity to introduce local yarn and fiber to my community, and let people know about the great sheep and fiber available right here in the northwest. In addition to the Jorstad Creek booth there will be arts and crafts from many local artists, tug boat races, music, and activities for children. I have taken my children to this festival through the years to look at the boats and walk around Percival Landing. If you would like to know more about the festival, you can visit the website at http://harbordays.com/. If you decide to visit us, the booth number is 61, near the end of the row located on Columbia street and adjacent to the main stage.
I will have more of the popular Tweed Sock yarn, dyed in great colors, as well as a new yarn with the same donegal-style bits spun in the fiber, Tweed DK in 100% Superwash Merino. This is a high-twist yarn of exceptional quality. If you are looking for something different for your projects, or exploring the idea of a knitted sweater or scarf as a holiday gift for a man, this yarn with the tweed effect may be what makes it outstanding. It will appear rugged and rustic, but the feel is luscious and soft because of the merino – no complaints about “it itches” here. This is a good time to plan and start gift projects to complete them in time for the holiday season, so I hope you will stop by with your ideas and see what we have.
Shopping around at Whistler, I noticed how wool is re-emerging as a popular fiber for active wear. There are dozens of stores that specialize in tough alpine clothing at Whistler Village. Merino wool is now being used in layers of clothing from long underwear to outer sweaters and socks. As knitters this is based on knowledge we already had, that you can’t beat wool for this type of clothing. It breathes and stays warm even when it is damp from sweat. I point this out with repetition to my long-suffering husband who frequents these places to see “what’s new.” He rolls his eyes with great patience and accepts another short lecture from his knitter wife who finishes with “I told you so.”
A note for the fiber enthusiast, I scored a large quantity of alpaca in the most incredible greys and creamy white from a local farm in Tenino, not far from the area where I have been procuring my icelandic wool. I will be sending some of the alpaca for blending into the 50% alpaca/wool blend yarn, this time in greys and white for the natural colors and for the dye pot. I will save the finest of the fleece for roving for spinners to purchase. I see more of these alpaca blends available in commercial yarns, and I am looking forward to offering a local alternative sourced from sustainable farms in the area.
Also returning this fall is the Finn yarn that sold out at Madrona last February. This three-ply sport weight in natural grey and select dyed colors was very popular for its soft hand and elastic qualities. I discussed Finn Sheep as a breed in earlier blogs, and I haven’t lost my enthusiasm about this medium weight fiber. These sheep have the nicest disposition, their friendliness matching their fiber. I became aquainted with Polka, a friendly ewe whose sister is named Dotty to match. I continue to be amazed at these animals that are generous with their fiber and their affection.
I hope to see you all at one of the upcoming events, please mention you are subscribed to this blog when you see me! Kerry Graber
Hi everyone! I am confirmed for booth space for Fiber Fusion Northwest in Monroe, Washington on October 19 and 20, 2013. I will join the market at this event for the first time, and I look forward to seeing you at the Evergreen State Fair grounds. You can find out more about this event at www.fiberfusion.net. It is too soon for Jorstad Creek to be added to the list of vendors, but that should go up soon.
The next event for Jorstad Creek after Fiber Fusion is Knit Fit, held at the Ballard Community Center on November 2 and 3, 2013. You can find out more about this event at www.knitfit.info. This will also be a first-time experience for me, but since my first booth was held at the Nordic Knitting Conference last year in Ballard, I know I will feel right at home in this wonderful community.
My last two booth events were incredible experiences. I had the opportunity to see a number of customers who found the booth at Madrona and came back to visit me at the Vogue Live! event in April. At Vogue I was able to give a talk about working with locally made yarns and the dye processes used to create the colors and effects with the fibers. I took down my samples from the booth display for a short time, and passed them around to people who listened to my presentation. At the booth I received great feedback about the tonal-dyed kits. I will explore more colorways to offer to knitters at the fall events. One addition to my knitted samples that stood out to fellow knitters was Evelyn Clark’s “Deciduous Leaf” shawl (download-able from Ravelry) made up in the Gotland Fingering yarn (see photo), knit by my amazing friend Kaia Petersen. This yarn weight sold out at Madrona in February! We couldn’t resist showing the shawl anyway, as it demonstrates the amazing sheen and quality of this fiber. The Gotland sport weight sold out soon after. I will not be able to offer this amazing yarn again until the fall when I hope to have a new supply spun up and ready to go.
In June I traveled to Eugene, Oregon, to join vendors at the Black Sheep Gathering. This fun event is very “sheep centered,” so as a fiber enthusiast I felt right at home. The market shares the building with the sheep show, and from time to time sheep owners walk around the market with a wooley friend in tow. My booth was outside in the fresh air. We were blessed with wonderful weather and a huge turnout from the local community. A new lace scarf pattern from the BK Collective, “Ebb and Flow” by Jann Hoppler, was very popular with customers. Knit in a lovely lavendar out of “St. Clement” (a commercially spun merino/silk blend hand dyed by me), both the pattern and the yarn was well received. You can find the pattern on Ravelry, look for patterns from BK Collective. Contact me if you are interested in both the yarn and the pattern!
I managed to get away from the booth long enough to purchase a couple of prize-winning Shetland fleeces from Oregon farms. I am planning on experimenting with this great fiber, contemplating adding it to the other local yarns I already produce. Just a hint, American Shetland is a whole different experience than the yarns imported from the UK – perhaps another bonus from that wonderful sheep-heaven that is Oregon. As I have said before, the climate in Oregon appears to bring out the best in the fiber, no matter the breed.
I cannot express how much fun and rewarding it is to be doing this work. The cherry on the top is meeting so many great knitters and new friends. I appreciate all of the support from family, friends, knitters, and customers. I hope to keep astounding you with color, fiber, and ingenuity!
The Jorstad Creek booth was swamped with visitors and friends stopping by to look at the locally produced yarn, fiber, and hand dyed yarns displayed with our samples. The Madrona Fiber Arts Festival is a four day retreat that took place on February 14 – 17. We were asked to join other vendors in the market place, a large event room filled with amazing yarns and supplies. Our booth was situated against one wall flanked by other wonderful vendors who were generous with their advice and genuinely interested in what we were offering customers.
Knitters and spinners both stopped in to talk to us about locally sourced yarn and wanted to know where we obtained our fibers. By Sunday I found myself losing my voice, I talked so much. I was gratified to see so many people interested and appreciative of our efforts.
Locally sourced yarns we offer include the icelandic I have been blogging about, as well as Finn Sheep yarn from the east side of the state, and a new addition, Gotland yarn from nearby Auburn, Washington. The Finn was so popular all the natural grey was sold out by the second day. Some of the icelandic yarns also sold to the point I only had a couple of skeins left on the shelf by the time I packed up on Sunday. All of the proccessed Gotland fiber in the dark grey sold to spinners faster than I could package up the 4 ounce bags.
The Gotland yarn fairly flew off the shelves. This yarn and the fiber it is made from has a sheen rivaling silk. It is shaded in a pearly grey that Gotlland sheep are known for. I was as anxious to try it out as some of the knitters who bought it from me. The remaining inventory of this beautiful, subtle yarn will be up on the website shop very soon.
Just in time for Madrona the BK Collective launched on ravelry.com with six patterns. The first on-line pattern was sold within 30 minutes of the launch! To help out and show off the new patterns I was joined in my booth by designers Kaia Petersen and Jann Hoppler from the collective. Together we were able to show samples and patterns designed for the Jorstad Creek local and hand dyed yarns and help knitters choose a yarn.
We also worked with knitters to choose yarns to work with pattterns they brought with them. I was impressed with visitors to the booth who brought their IPads, or whipped out their smart phones to check the pattern material list before making their choices. More than one person brought their hard copy of a pattern to us to consult on how they could make the project with one of our yarns. I was thankful that just prior to Madrona we put together a reference table listing the yarns, yarn classification, and wraps per inch (wpi). This table will be added to the website shop to help on-line buyers pick the correct yarn weight.
Toward the end of Madrona the booth was visited by a couple of knitting celebrities in the world of yarnies, and frankly I am still basking in the afterglow. I will not name them to protect their privacy, but I am encouraged by all of the kind words and sincere interest in Jorstad Creek and the BK Collective.
We are not resting on our laurels. Up next is the Vogue Live! event in Bellevue, Washington. I have more icelandic yarn just in from the mill to bring to this event that starts on April 5. I have named this yarn “Hetta” for one of the Icelandic ewes that produces this grey-hued two-ply. We are knitting samples, dyeing more colors, and getting ready to meet more knitting friends! I sure hope you will stop by and say hello.
Hello dear friends, the yarn shopping website is up and running! I am pleased to be able to show fabulous pictures of the colors and yarns I’ve been working with all year available for purchase through Pay Pal.
To check out the new website click on the text jorstad creek.
Available for purchase is the icelandic yarn, finn sheep yarn, finn-alpaca, and merino. Check it out and let me know what you think.
I am working on a blue-faced leicester (BFL) tweed sock yarn from a British source, dyeing them in beautiful muted colors. I am also adding new colorways for the merino fingering and sport weight yarns I already offer. Working with dyes in the outdoors in below-freezing weather is a challenge, but I am determined to persevere. I must add to my stock because I was asked to provide a vendor booth at the Madrona Fiber Arts Festival in Tacoma, Washington February 14 – 17, 2013 at the Hotel Murano. The fiber fair has no entry fee, so I hope you will attend and stop by my booth to say hello!
I am also pleased to add that I will offer Gotland/Finn Sheep roving for sale. The Gotland breed, like Icelandic sheep are another hardy short-tailed breed originating from the island of Gotland, Sweden. It is Sweden’s largest island and the largest island in the Baltic Sea. My source is a little closer to home near Auburn, Washington. The shepherdess has been working with Finn sheep stock to develop animals with an increasing percentage of the Gotland sheep characteristics, with the result producing prize-winning fleece. The fiber has a long staple, with beautiful wavey locks evocative of the Lincoln breed. This fiber will produce a medium weight yarn, with versatile characteristics as well as strength from the long staple, for a variety of uses. I was fortunate to be able to find another small farm to work with to create more northwest-based yarn.
In addition to the Gotland/Finn roving I hope to have two new yarns for sale in the natural grey colors that the Gotland breed is known for. These yarns are made from about 50% Gotland/Finn lambswool mixed with adult fleece, to produce a strong and soft result. I’ve got my fingers crossed that these will be back from the mill in time for Madrona.
Just off the needles from my dear friend, fellow knitter (and fabulous designer) Kaia Petersen is Evelyn A. Clarke’s “Brimnes Shawl” made from the icelandic yarns I offer. This pattern is available from www.ravelry.com as a download-able pattern, or as part of her new e-book of icelandic shawl patterns. We will roll-out kits for the large and small size of this pattern in the natural colorway and a few limited dyed colorways exclusively at Madrona. If there are any left I will post them on the website for sale after February. I look forward to seeing you soon in Tacoma. Kerry Graber
Hello readers! This is my first time producing a blog. It feels like riding a bike for the first time without training wheels, a little exhilarating and a whole lot scarey. Please have patience while I adjust to the idea of publishing my words for the viewing public!A few words about “my” sheep. I do not own a flock myself, but I feel like an owner because of the investment I make in taking the wonderful wool from local flocks and turn it into drool-worthy yarn.
My first source as a yarn company is from icelandic sheep grown in Grand Mound, Washington. If you’ve never heard of Grand Mound you are not alone I am sure. It is a small rural community south of Olympia, and its pastures and rolling hills are literally covered in places with small mounds. There are various theories about this geologic feature, one tale is that large prehistoric gophers built underground homes and then abandoned them (no kidding!). The resulting mounds that look like green moguls make for uneven ground for grazing animals. To see a picture of a field of these mounds click on this link: http://www.perigeezero.org/treatise/Enigmas/geologic/mima_mounds/index.html
The icelandic sheep that make up the source for my current stock of yarn are looked after by a shepherd that is devoted to their welfare. They live on a ridge overlooking a lush valley, and share company with highland cattle, pigs, and chickens. They are healthy, happy, and big producers of fiber. Some of the lambs born in the spring have nearly as large a fleece by the fall as an adult sheep! The fleece from this flock range from cream to grey to butter colored. A good number of them have brown “spots” or “ruffs” around the neck, so that these sheep can produce a wide variety of natural colors. Read more, and see pictures of icelandic sheep here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Icelandic_sheep
Icelandic sheep are known as a “primitive” breed of sheep. This means they are genetically closely related to the first domesticated sheep, and still have some of the early traits that make them hardy and sometimes independent minded. They have a double coat, meaning they have a courser layer of hair with a downy undercoat. The lambswool has less hair than adults, yielding a very soft downy wool.
Books about sheep and wool talk about the two-coated sheep as if the fleece is only good for the coarsest use, such as rugs or outer wear. I do not agree! Good nutrition and care make these healthy sheep capable of yielding a fleece that can be just as soft as any medium weight sheep’s wool. I have also found a mill that will de-hair a double-coated fleece, leaving the downy undercoat to be used for a variety of yarn and projects. For me this means icelandic fleece is very veratile.
Another pleasant surprise is the lively “hand” and amazing texture of this wool. The fibers have life and character, providing features in a yarn that produce crisp, textured stitches, and possess a springiness not found in ultra soft fibers such as merino. Bringing out the best in this wool calls for minimal processing and careful dyeing so that the fibers are not over worked.
Icelandic wool is easy to dye and takes non-toxic chemical dyes readily. I particularly enjoy dyeing the grey wool because the colors take on rich hues and a wonderful intensity. At the same time the natural greys from the fleece are so beautiful it is difficult to bring myself to dye them! My experiments so far have resulted in some incredible reds, intense blues, deeply complex orange and bronze, and my favorite, greens. My next post will contain pictures of these dye samples so you don’t have to take my word for it.
Again, welcome to my blog and I look forward to posting more photos of my work!
A scoping project to establish a fiber company in Mongolia based on the principles of Fair Trade
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Interweaving life with fiber arts! (Photograph by Carly Moskat.)