Back in the summer of 2018, I ordered a special kit from WEBS. Franklin Habit had created a pattern to knit his irrepressible ovine companion in stuffie form. And the world needed more Dolores.

Four balls of yarn, three white and one black, on top of a white drawstring bag. One of the balls of white yarn has purple-tinted eyeglasses on top of it.

The kit consisted of three balls of white yarn, one ball of black yarn, and a snazzy pair of purple-tinted spectacles, all in a nice drawstring bag. The pattern was a download, so I downloaded it, got everything together, and promptly tucked it away as part of my never-ending To Be Knit Queue.

A few weeks ago, Dolores had had quite enough of waiting, thank you very much, and jumped the queue and onto my needles.

A knitted white sheep wearing purple-tinted glasses, a black hat, and a black and white shawl, sitting in a blue office chair

After lounging in my office chair for a bit, she wanted to spend some time sunning herself outside during one of the few non-rainy days of late.

A knitted white sheep wearing purple-tinted glasses, a black hat, and a black and white shawl, sitting on a gray mat, propped against a gray felt bag.

She’s a little wonky, but I quite like her. The shawl is cute, though the “perky pillbox” hat turned into more of a hipster beanie.

Dolores has requested a new hat, because she has decided to accompany me to a certain event coming up very fast on the other side of the country. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Yarn for the Holidays

The last several years, I’ve watched as folks opened yarn Advent calendars all through December. I, of course, already have my Adagio tea Advent calendar, but I decided to get myself some holiday yarn this year, too.

It seems the Universe decided to showcase its wacky sense of humor, because I ended up ordering not one, not two, but three different holiday yarn boxes. Two of them will appear later, but let’s start with this lovely package from Shaina Bilow Designs.

There have been a few Christmas Advent yarn calendars on offer, but not a lot of goodies for Chanukah. (Note: No, Chanukah is not “Jewish Christmas”. It is, however, a lovely holiday in its own right, personally significant for me, and absolutely a fine excuse reason to treat oneself or a loved one to some yarny goodness.)

Light blue cardboard box open to reveal blue tissue paper

This is a single box of goodies, all to be opened at once, under this fun blue tissue paper.

Light blue cardboard box open to reveal yarn and related goodies

Look at all that! So much packed into that box!

A set of mini-skeins of yarn in blue, gray, gold, and cream, several recipe cards, two packets of tea, chocolate gelt, stitch markers, cookies, and a few other treats.

The yarn is so, so squishy. The cookies and chocolates disappeared pretty early on. The moisturizer is really, really nice. And there are, of course, eight stitch markers in that set.

A (digital) pattern booklet with one crochet and eight knit patterns was included. I’ve been working on the “Eighth Knit Brioche Cowl“. It’s my first brioche project, which has its own challenges, but it is so soft and lovely I get a kick out of just squooshing it as I work.

Chag Chanukah sameach, my friends.

Tour de Fleece 2020

Lola during TdF 2019

I first joined in the fun that is the Tour de Fleece in 2014, spinning on a couple of drop spindles I had acquired. I’ve participated at least a little bit every year since, mostly as part of Team Sherlocked.

In 2018, I started taking a handspinning class through the Recreation & Parks Department, and I was able to borrow a wheel from my teacher. At the end of that year, I got my Kromski Sonata, and it was off to the races.

So to speak.

Gray yarn on spinning wheel bobbin in foreground, television screen showing a bike race in the background
“Cobble” merino and cobblestones

I’ve really enjoyed watching the Tour de France each summer. Last year, I sprang for the Cycling Pass, and I watched a few other races as well. The pass auto-renewed, but the 2020 Tour is another thing postponed due to COVID-19.

Yet, the Tour de Fleece goes on. A whole bunch of folks are spinning away on the original TdF 2020 schedule: June 27 to July 19. And NBC is airing memorable stages from past Tours for the Cycling Pass. Stage 12 from 2016 – probably the stage that stands out in my memory – is slated for Thursday, July 9.

This is the first year that I’ve been spinning as an official member of Team GLASG, since I finally joined the guild a couple of months ago. Between Saturday work shifts and The Kid’s piano lessons, I wasn’t able to attend the meetings before. I have to say, my yarn-oriented life has gotten a lot more social since we all settled in “Safer at Home”.

My main project for the first week of the Tour has been two braids of extrafine merino in “Cobble”, a gorgeous gray, from Stranded Dyeworks.

My goal was to spin it for a 2-ply fingering or lighter weight. It looks good; we’ll see how it turns out after a nice soak.

Spinning My (Borrowed) Wheels

(Really, that should be singular, but it didn’t look right.)

Years ago, I bought a drop spindle and set about learnning – with the aid of books, downloaded videos, blogs, and YouTube – to spin yarn. Spindles are fantastic. They can be very affordable: a Louet Beginner Top Whorl goes for less than $20, a Schacht Hi-Lo (“the best of both whorls”) is just under $25, and a full starter kit including a spindle, a yarn gauge, a niddy-noddy, and 4 oz. of fiber can be had for under $75. When it’s in stock, anyway.

All those links go to WEBS – I’m not an affiliate, I get nothing for sending you there; I’m just a happy yarn customer. I actually haven’t bought spindles or fiber from them myself, but I’ve bought yarn several times, and I like them.

I bought my first spindle, along with some mystery-wool fiber, from someone on Ravelry back in late 2007. I took it with me to a class with Merike Saarniit at Stitches West 2008:

Spindle for Stitches Class

Since then, I’ve acquired several spindles and a slightly alarming amount of fiber. You can spin quite a bit on a drop spindle – there was a time, of course, when all yarn was spindle-spun – but a wheel can really up your speed. At least, in the short-term. The portability of spindles means that while you generate yarn at a slower speed, you can spend more time actually spinning. You can spin while waiting just about anywhere, for anything.

All that said, I really wanted to learn to spin on a wheel. But the price point for wheels is considerably higher, and with so many kinds to choose from, it’s good to try before you buy. Fortunately for me, my local Parks and Recreation Department offers a class on handspinning, and it was offered late enough in the day that I could make it after work. The teacher has several Ashford Traditional wheels that students can borrow for the duration of the class, as well as rent in between class series. (Since there is only one class offered, and it’s small enough that the teacher is able to spend time individually with students, people simply repeat the class in different sessions.) I’ve just started my second session, so I’ve had this lovely wheel since the beginning of July.

It’s an Ashford Traditional; I estimate from Ashford’s timeline that it’s from the mid-to-late-1970s. I’m really enjoying it, and I definitely want to get a wheel of my own. I’d like something easier to move around, though. While the traddy does fit into the back seat of my car, it’s not ideal. I’m considering the Ashford Joy, which is designed to be a portable wheel, but I haven’t had a chance to spin on one yet.

Spinners, what wheel(s) do you have? Any tips for the first-time buyer?

Merry Christmas!

All of us here at La Casa G* hope that you and yours had a lovely Christmas and/or a lovely Tuesday.

The nice folks at Tin Can Knits are giving all the knitters out there a very nice Christmas present: one free pattern (thanks to Nik for the heads-up!). After much deliberation, I finally chose the Sunflower shawl pattern.

sunflower shawl
Photo from Tin Can Knits

I think it will look fabulous in some Sheep of a Different Color laceweight I’ve been hanging onto for a while.

SDC Ginger, close-up


I would give you a link to the shop, but the dyer behind SDC stopped dyeing yarn several years back, and the shop I bought it from went out of business. In 2010. So, yeah, I’ve kind of had it for some time now.

Head on over to Tin Can Knits before New Year’s Day and share the knit love!

Coming soon: a wrap-up post on my 2012 Reading Challenges. Spoiler: they really didn’t go very well.

Phat Fiber Unboxing

Several months back, I tried to get a Phat Fiber Box, but I was little slow on the mouse, and even though I saw the listing go up, I wasn’t able to get one for myself.

Last weekend, I tried again, and, this time, I got it.

What’s a Phat Fiber Box, you ask? The quick description is that it’s a box full of fiber, yarn, and notions samples. (The longer explanation can be found on the Phat Fiber site.) Every box contains a different assortment of contributions, and you can choose whether you want a box with spinning fiber samples with no finished yarn, a box with finished yarn samples and no spinning fiber, or the classic mixed box. It’s a great chance to try out new-to-you vendors so you can blow more money on Etsy find fabulous fiber arts folks. Every month has a different theme, and November 2012 is “Harvest Festival”.

I went for the classic mixed box. I let my daily spindle practice slide long ago, and I’d like to get back in the habit. The box arrived on Wednesday, and it did not disappoint.

Want to see?

Phat Fiber Box
Such an unassuming little box


Phat Fiber
Still unassuming, but I like the green gingham tissue


Phat Fiber
All the things!


The samples fall into three categories: spinning fluff, yarn, and goodies.

First, the fluff, clockwise from top left: Inspiration Fibers, Fiber Fancy, Giffordables, The Painted Tiger, BeesyBee Fibers, Wonderland Fiber, Fiber Faire, Huckleberry Knits, and HilltopCloud.

Phat Fiber
Click through for Flickr notes!


Then, the yarn, clockwise from top left: Lady Dye Fiber Arts, StimpyLab, R.A.D. Fibers, Little Alice’s Yarn Stash, The One String, Wandering Wool, Sheep Dreamery, and Plum Crazy Ranch and Fiber Art.

Phat Fiber
Click through for Flickr notes!


And the goodies, clockwise from left: GloriaPatre, The Contented Knitter, Cofanetto, and R.A.D. Fibers, plus cards from Phatties not in my assortment.

Phat Fiber
Click through for Flickr notes!


It’s a great assortment. Now, to go add some shops to my bookmarks start trying out these samples!

Lots of Tiny, Tiny Beads

Last week, I was at a meeting with someone wearing a beautiful shawl. She mentioned that it was made from Wollmeise. And I remembered that I had a barely-begun Wollmeise shawl project sitting in my closet: my Entomology shawl. I pulled it out of the closet and read through the instructions again. I had not quite finished stringing all the beads.

The Beading Continues

The instructions for the shawl give a handy little tip. Instead of counting out each of the 1205 beads, string a bunch on and measure how many beads fit in an inch. Do a little multiplication, and you can simply measure the string of beads for an estimated total. I did the math. And I realized that, at 14 beads per inch, 1205 beads would measure just over 7 feet.


That’s a lot of beads. I strung them all, plus an extra inch or so for insurance, and cast on this evening. During a couple hours of tv watching, I worked my way through the 20 rows of chart A. And then realized I completely forgot to place the beads that were between stitches – I only did the ones in the yarnovers.

My little shawl is back to being a ball of yarn with a whole lot of little tiny beads. And that cross-stitch stocking is looking at me reproachfully.

Picture Book Knits: Three Little Kittens

Three Little Kittens by Jerry Pinkney

Caldecott medalist Pinkney adds some very special knitterly touches to the classic nursery rhyme about those careless kittens. Busy playing outside, all three kittens lose their lovely hand-knit mittens, and Mama tells them they cannot have any pie. The kittens quickly go out and find their mittens, then get pie all over them! After washing and drying those messy mittens, the kittens are ready to head back outside to play.

Music is provided on the inside of the dust jacket to sing the words of the book (sadly, nearly inaccessible in my library copy, as the dust jacket is covered with plastic and firmly fastened to the cover; some libraries will likely remove the dust jacket entirely), and the text definitely works better sung than simply read.

The best part of the book, though, is the artwork. Pinkney’s watercolor and graphite pencil illustrations form double-page full-bleed spreads with wonderful details. On the title page spread, the kittens peer out the window at three birds, one of which is wearing a knitted hat with earflaps and a pompom on top! In the next spread, the reader sees Mama Cat knitting, her mitten pattern open on the floor. And, of course, one of the kittens’ favorite playthings appears to be a large ball of yellow yarn.

A sweet addition to any picture book collection, with details that will be especially appreciated by knitting parents.

(Source note: I checked this book out from my public library.)