The Best Birthday

Last year, in the middle of my graduate program, I needed a break. Luckily for me, Houston Fiber Fest was taking place over my birthday weekend. Perfect.

After the initial sensory overload of walking into a large space full of yarn, I started exploring. I was drawn to the sheen and colors of the yarns at one particular booth and was delighted to learn that they used only natural dyes. Wool Tree Yarn is a line of naturally dyed yarn made by fiber artist Casey Galloway and sold exclusively through Lucky Ewe Yarn in New Braunfels, Texas. They had an interesting logo – a small lamb growing out of a plant – and explained its significance.

Wool Tree Yarn Logo

The Wool Tree logo is based on a lithograph from medieval Europe. During the late medieval period, cotton became an imported fiber in northern Europe. Without any knowledge of how it was derived, other than that it was a plant; noting its similarities to wool, people in the region could only imagine that cotton must be produced by plant-borne sheep. John Mandeville, writing in 1350, stated that “There grew a wonderful tree which bore tiny lambs on the ends of its branches. These branches were so pliable that they bent down to allow the lambs to feed when they are hungry.” This image is retained in the name for cotton in many European languages, such as German Baumwolle, which translates as “tree wool” (Baum means “tree”; Wolle means “wool”).

I loved this super bulky wool cord at the Independence Farmstead Fibers booth. They had samples of gorgeous tapestries made from it. The fiber mill is located just outside Brenham, Texas. According to their website:

Our fibers are traceable – each labeled with a known “Pasture of Origin”- providing a strong sense of place for the handcraft artist.

There were countless booths tempting me with their beauties.

A booth from True Vineyard Ministries out of San Marcos, Texas, caught my attention with its colorful fabric yarns. True Vineyard Ministries provides “holistic support to Africa’s poorest through job creation, community building, and spiritual counsel.” Through the Handspun Hope initiative, women hand spin and dye yarn from the wool of local Merino sheep. While they had soft balls of Merino yarn, I could not resist these balls made from cotton fabric. Those colors!

And here are my purchases. The ball of 100% Cotton fabric in the upper left corner is from Handspun Hope (~30 yards). The regal purple skein is called Bevy of Swans by Alisha Goes Around, 435 yards of 50% silk, 50% Superwash Merino in a fingering weight. The blue/orange skein on the far left is a fingering weight 75% Superwash Merino, 25% Nylon from Kyla’s Lab (463 yards). The two center skeins in soft carmine hues from the cochineal insect are by Wool Tree Yarn (70% Superwash Merino, 30% Silk, 438 yards each). The skein across the bottom is a single ply 70% Superwash Merino, 30% Silk from Barn Owl Yarns. I bought it for the color – Monkey Business (400 yards).

Waves of yarn.

Close ups.

It was a great birthday getaway.

HFF-LesterLogo

(Source: HoustonFiberFest.com)

FO Friday: Born Trippy Scarf

Mostly to release tension during my MBA program, I started knitting a scarf. It took a long time because I only worked on it in short spurts. But the motion of the needles and the fusion of the colors gave me something to focus on besides case studies on Starbucks and Amazon.

I found this amazing free pattern called Born Trippy on the Hedgehog Fibres site. I liked that the samples used all sorts of funky color combinations and it had cool uneven edges. I started with a lovely skein I had gotten at Homespun Boutique during one of my MBA residencies in Ithaca. This is Serenity Silk Single, a fingering weight yarn from Zen Yarn Garden: 430 yards, 75% Superwash Merino / 15% Cashmere / 10% Silk in Fr. Vanilla Blurple (bottom ball).

Then I went through my stash and looked for complementary and contrasting colors. This is what I came up with:

  • Leftover yarn from Copenhagen (the shimmery solid blue and gray): Duo Silk/Merino from Design Club DK, 65% Merino Wool / 35% Silk.
  • A partial skein of Fine Sock yarn (the minty blue-green): Spud & Chloe, 80% Superwash Wool / 20% Silk in Color 7806 / Calypso.
  • Another purchase from Homespun Boutique (yellow/green variegated): Ty-Dy Socks from KNIT ONE, Crochet Too, 436 yards, 80% Superwash Wool / 20% Nylon.

Here’s a close-up of the Ty-Dy ball.

img_3549

As I made progress on the scarf, I introduced the variegated yellows and greens, the solid blue and gray, and the minty blue-green. It all flowed nicely and those uneven ends were easy to make.

It’s important to block this piece so that the ends are nice and sharp.

Here is the FO (finished object) with its refreshing colors in the sun.

Someone wanted to hang out with me while I took the photos.

I am very pleased with the fusion of the colors.

The combination of wool, cashmere and silk give the scarf a lovely drape.

This is a great pattern to use when you have a single skein and leftover yarns in the same weight. You can repurpose those bits and pieces and make something beautiful.

Goal Accomplished!

If you follow my blog, you may recall that I started an Executive MBA program in the Summer of 2016. I am happy to report that this past February, I submitted my final assignment and graduate this May! It took me almost 20 years, but I finally accomplished a goal I’ve had for a long time. It’s never too late to refresh and sharpen your skills. If you are interested, I was interviewed for an article on why I chose to do an MBA at this stage of my career. A student currently in their first year of the program was also interviewed.

Here I am with my cohort.

As you might imagine, the MBA curriculum left little to no time for blogging or knitting. Nonetheless, I did sneak in a few skeins here and there. On a trip to Austin to see my son (who is an undergraduate there), I went in search of my fave LYS (local yarn store) which had moved to a new location. Hill Country Weavers was formerly housed in a quaint Victorian on a hip strip on South Congress. After visiting my boy, my husband drove me to their new location at 4102 Manchaca Road, Austin, Texas 78704. It’s a much larger space than what they had previously and with the same incredible selection of gorgeous yarns.

I had seen enticing photos of FOs (that’s finished objects for the uninitiated) using yarns from Hedgehog Fibers, but I had never purchased any. After walking around their new digs, I headed over to the Hedgehog Fibers section and ogled all the color combinations. Even though I would not have time to do anything with it, I purchased this lovely skein. It’s called Boombox and it’s 437 yards of fingering weight yarn made of 90% Superwash Merino Wool and 10% Nylon for a bit of stretch.

I also could not resist this Sock Mini in Banana Legs yellow. It’s 87 yards of the same soft 90% Superwash Merino / 10% Nylon and perfect for adding a splash of color.

I haven’t decided what these beauties will become but I’m looking forward to wrapping my fingers in this yarn and going at it with my needles.

A Yarn Barn…Only in Texas

Where else would one find a barn full of yarn but in Texas? In actuality, the Yarn Barn is housed in a sweet cottage with a porch and old wooden floors. You walk through the various rooms realizing that this was someone’s home once upon a time. It is a quaint cottage full of beautiful yarn.

Yarn Barn 1

Yarn Barn 2

Today’s Yarn Barn is under new ownership. When I lived in San Antonio, the old Yarn Barn was my LYS. I remember when they were closing – their lease was up and they would have to find a new location – so the owners decided to retire. I was so worried that the Yarn Barn would cease to exist! But not to worry. Enid came to the rescue and kept its doors open.

Yarn Barn 3

Yarn Barn 4

The new Yarn Barn has a wonderful selection of yarns in all fibers and colors.

Yarn Barn 5

The Yarn Barn also caters to needlework beyond knitting and crocheting and has an extensive selection of canvasses and threads for needlepoint, cross stitch kits and some weaving supplies.

Yarn Barn 6

Yarn Barn 7

The Yarn Barn is located at 1615 McCullough Avenue in San Antonio, Texas. Parking is a challenge, especially if you park out front, but they do have overflow parking across the street. The location is a bit off the beaten path – not much retail around it – but accessible from IH35 and the McAllister Freeway (U.S. 281).

Garn on Gotland

Visiting an island with such a rich history and with its very own breed of sheep, yarn was unquestionably on the itinerary. Everywhere we walked in the old town of Visby, there were statues of sheep in recognition of the role that sheep have played in the island’s history. Farmers kept sheep and used their fleece to make clothing to keep warm during the snow-covered winters.

Sheep Statue on Visby

Nothing was wasted. The curly fleece could be found on bags, pillows, clothing, seat cushions and phone cases.

Kvinnfolki - Wool Items

One place to get all sorts of sheepish goodies was at Kvinnfolki. The items at Kvinnfolki are the handiwork of a women’s collective. They make everything by hand in their homes or studios, such as casting pottery and spinning their own yarn. They are located on Donners Plats, Visby’s town square.

Kvinnfolki - Yarn and Cuffs Display

These sheep pelts were oh-so-soft to touch and so warm! They even smelled sheepish. And see those fluffy slippers to the left? I brought Mom a pair. She says she puts them on as soon as she gets home every day and loves how they keep her feet warm and cozy.

Kvinnfolki - Sheep Pelt

Before moving on to the next shop, we required sustenance. At an adorable little place called Ett Rum För Resande Café (Room for Traveler’s Café), I had the Gotland island specialty – saffranspannkaka, a saffron pancake with red berries and cream. Paired with a cappuccino to warm up my bones, it was the perfect afternoon snack. The chef/owner of the tiny café was so down to earth. Customers of all ages would come in and catch up on the latest news. He must know everyone in town! We spent a while talking with him – he prepares and cooks everything himself using fresh ingredients. He always had some very cool music on and he made a killer pasta dish when we returned the next day for lunch.

Ett Rum For Resande Cafe - Saffron Dessert

Right across the cobblestone street from the café is an antiques store named Akantus. The middle and back rooms of Akantus are filled with wonderful antiques that included furniture, glassware, pottery, paintings and other decorative items.

Akantus - Antiques

In the front room, they stock all sorts of whimsical pretty things, like these mice in their cigar box bed – complete with knitted blanket!

Akantus - Mice in Cigar Box

Further down the street, there are no less than three yarn shops next to each other. One of them was closed for the season but fear not because the other two were open for business. The first stop was at Design & Hantverk Gotland which features yarn and many other hand crafted items from local artisans such as ceramics and glassware. The owners themselves design and make items in pewter, iron and wood.

Design & Hantverk Gotland - Storefront

Of course, my attention went straight to the beautiful yarn displays.

Design & Hantverk Gotland - Yarn Display 1

The owner told me that she hand knit all of these socks! They were thick and colorful and showcased the sock yarn in her shop.

Design & Hantverk Gotland - Knitted Socks

Immediately across the street was Yllet.

Yllet - Storefront

The owner, Frida, is a lovely young woman who inherited her love of yarn from her mother. Her mother used to export yarn spun from Gotland sheep. Now Frida is at the helm. She sources the fleece locally on the island and has it spun in Finland. She explained that the fleece of the Gotland sheep is very fine, more similar to mohair than wool. She found a spinnery in Finland with the right equipment for spinning the long, delicate fleece. She personally selects the dyes and sells the yarn under her own Yllet label. She is living the life I imagine!!

Yllet - Yarn Display 1

In addition to fabulous yarn for hand knitting, she has the yarn machine-knit into sweaters and other clothing. Local women assemble the machine-knit pieces. My husband liked a simple sweater with clean lines but they did not have his size available in the dark gray color he preferred. Frida made a phone call and a local seamstress assembled the sweater in his size and color of choice. It was ready the following day.

Yllet - Yarn Display 2

Toward the end of our stay, I decided to photograph my purchases in Gotland rather than waiting until I got home. Across the street from our hotel were the Botanical Gardens. Even in the Fall, the gardens were lush and verdant.

Botanical Gardens - Gazebo
Gazebo built in 1863.

The gardens had their own particular history.

In 1814 a few young men gathered to bathe in the sea, drink punch and socialize. They decided to form the Society of the Bathing Friends (DBW). After a short time they wanted to combine pleasure with usefulness… (Sign posted by the Friends of the Botanic Garden)

Among its contributions, the Society established a school for poor boys in 1815, a savings bank in 1830, and the Botanic Garden in 1855.

Botanical Gardens - Dáhlia
Dáhlia – Happy Single Wink
Crócus - Oxonian.
Crócus – Oxonian.
Rósa - Leonardo da vinci.
Rósa – Leonardo da vinci.

Botanical Gardens - White Dáhlia

What better place than the botanical gardens for a photo shoot? I took my yarn lovelies to the gardens and arranged them in various poses for the camera. We had so much fun!

Botanical Gardens - Yllet Yarn Close-up

I call this one, “yarn among the leaves.”

Botanical Gardens - Yllet Yarn

Walking around the gardens scouting good places for the photo shoot, there was this lovely sheep statue next to a fallen tree.

Botanical Gardens - Sheep

Also on the grounds are the ruins of S:t Olaf’s Kyrka.

St. Olof's Church - West Tower

In its day, St. Olof’s Church was among the biggest and most sumptuous churches in Visby. It dates from the early years of the 13th century. The church was named after the canonised king of Norway, Olof Haraldsson.

This church was a basilica, i.e. had a tall nave and lower north and south aisles. Parts of the west tower are all that now remains. The walls of the church were demolished after the Middle Ages and the stone was used for buildings in Visby.

Behind the church, the sun was filtering in through the trees.

Botanical Gardens - Undyed Wool 2

Botanical Gardens - Undyed Wool 1

I call this series, “yarn among the ruins.” (LOL)

Botanical Gardens - Angora Yarn

Just a few meters outside the medieval wall surrounding the gardens was the icy Baltic Sea. Even though the air was cool, the sun was shining on a magnificent day.

Ducks