Sunday, March 14, 2010

Daffodils

It's daffodil time--our first peek at springtime, which is only a week away! We love our daffodils around here. There's even a big parade or two here every spring and a festival where they crown a daffodil queen and princesses. I'm not making it up--go look if you don't believe me.
But of course, I'm not just here to tell you about daffodils in and of themselves, but daffodils translated into yarn. Specifically the way that only Robin of Pagewood Farm can do it.
I give you Aleyeska in Daffodils. See how Robin got it all in there? The various yellows and greens, of course, and even the browns of the spathe and the little blush from the sides of the corona. (Impressed, Mom?) Well, I had help with the names of the parts from this site, but even before I looked up the names, I knew this was true daffodil. Robin didn't miss a thing.

In other news, the last of the Mirth patterns go to test this week and most of the rest of them go to the editors. We're trying to get the kinks out and have them ready for April Fool's Day! For those of you doing the knitalong with the Off Kilter Mitts, please send a picture of your FO if you aren't on Ravelry. If you are on Ravelry, be sure to post a picture of your finished mitts and then I will be able to enter you into the Grand Prize drawing. I'll be back soon to actually show you a picture of what you'll be winning. Never fear, because we will also have some very nice second place prizes.

Knit those Mitts!



Friday, March 12, 2010

Fred

It's about way past time to brag on someone. Someone who's mostly behind the scenes around here, but without whom there would be no Web sites for me to say, "Go! Look at what I made up next!" No ads for people to find out about Figheadh and Mirth. No errata page uploaded every time I tweak it. No new shops put on the shop locator page. No cropped and Photo Shopped images to show off the knitting and the crocheting. No specially-designed business cards and promotional materials. No one going to the 9-5 every day so someone can pay the mortgage around here.
Besides all that, for me there'd be no Chicken Piccata, champagne breakfasts, long walks with great discussions, life with just the right amount of sweet to balance the bitter, and getting to see things from that very unique perspective that is, well...Fred.
He is the most talented and caring and supportive man I know and there is no one in the entire world just like him.
Let's give that man a coconut cream pie!

Because he really loves coconut cream pie.
Thanks Honey!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Thank You Yarn Stash!

No, I'm not talking to my yarn hoard. I'm talking to Bonnie and Beth at The Yarn Stash in Burien, WA. They are two of my most favorite people. Not just because they are so sweet to me and Fred, but because they throw a mean party! If you ever need to whip up a happening, get them involved. They deliver!

Also, if you need a beautiful and delicious cake made just to your wishes and more, call Betsy!
It was a beautiful day to kick off the Off Kilter KAL and we all started some mitts while visiting and shopping and jabbering...
...and hurting some cake.

Boy, I hated to ruin Betsy's cake, but it was even more delicious than it looked--we had to gobble it up! The filling reminded me of my granny's strawberry cake (my favorite!)

Thanks so very much to all of you who took time out of your weekend to come and help us celebrate! I have lots more pictures of you here, so go and have a look.

We're all working hard to get the patterns ready for the April Fool's Day opening of the Mirth pattern store. The Off Kilter Mitts are available here and they are free for you to try out until we get the other initial group of seven patterns ready.

Join the KAL!

Friday, March 05, 2010

Goats, Part 2

It feels strange to have let three days go by without posting--after 30 straight days of it, that is! I wanted to give the goats plenty of time to be admired. Aren't they pretty! Well, I'm far from done talking about them. I'll admit it. The main reason is this.

Yes, it's their beautiful fiber. Did you know that cashmere is harvested from the goats most of the time by combing? It's supposedly very labor intensive and time consuming, but it results in more of the cashmere down than sheering. You see, the good stuff is down against the goat's skin and what covers it all is long, coarse guard hairs. Those guard hairs have to be culled out before spinning. As Delia (and I) just found out, though, those guard hairs are used to make fly fishing lures. Wow! Makes sense, though. In my last post I forgot to add Scotland as one of the cashmere producers 'round the world. Scots love their fly fishing, so I can see the connection. But I'm rambling--back to the goats!

Doesn't he look regal? He is one of a herd of 40 that Delia and Reed of Ravenwood have built up over the past couple of years, carefully selecting and breeding the goats according to histogram analyis and pedigree to produce quality fiber. Delia tells me that the "cashmere goat" is not a breed, and that many goats can produce cashmere. She also let me in on a little of the history of the American cashmere goat. Long story short, they are descendants of Australian goats, actually.

As for how the fiber gets from goat to our needles and hooks, there's so much work behind the scenes! As I mentioned earlier, combing is the best way to get the most cashmere from the goat, but it can take weeks to gather it. Combing can give you up to 50% cashmere, and the faster method of sheering might yield only about half as much. I'd love to comb a goat--what about you? Yeah, it sounds like fun, but I can imagine it being about like trying to give a cat a bath. And goats have hooves, remember!

After the fiber is taken from the goat, then it must be processed in a special way. There are only 3-4 mills in this entire country that can dehair cashmere and get it ready to spin into yarn. None of them spin cashmere exclusively (yet) so the wait for the yarn to be ready can be up to six months! At the the very best, it's a four-month wait. Once the cashmere fiber reaches the mill, it can take up to six hours to dehair and spin one pound. Golly! Now you're beginning to see why cashmere is so expensive, huh? Add to all of that the expense of the farmers and ranchers in taking very good care of their goats and it all adds up big time. And this is 100% undoctored cashmere fiber with no additives (i.e. other fibers being sneaked in as filler.)

One of the mills that dehairs and spins cashmere in our country is Going to the Sun Fiber Mill in Kalispell, MT. Diana of Going to the Sun has been in contact with me and tells me that they also spin American bison, yak, alpaca, llama, Icelandic wool, and so much more! You must visit her site and have a look at the cutie-cute alpacas and mini llamas. She has sent me some samples and of course I'll show you when I get them.

The rest of my part of this whole story is that I am working on four accessory designs with cashmere from Delia of Ravenwood--a beret, a scarf, a cowl, and some fingerless mitts. She is going to sell the patterns in kits starting this summer, both from her Web site and at fiber festivals. I'll give you more information on that as it all comes about. We'll be done with the development of these patterns by the end of May. Soon after that you will be able to buy the patterns, kits, and cashmere yarn from Delia at Ravenwood. And don't forget about her goat milk soaps! I highly recommend them and they are for sale right now. She has even worked up some great gift sets with them. I have now tried three of the scents--sage, rosemary, and coconut-lime. I have them all over the house and enjoy them every day.

Fred and I have been invited to go over to Spokane to Ravenwood to meet the goats. I can't wait! It's almost kid season, and Delia says that a lot of them will be twins! That means, after I get to meet the new twins in our family, I'll get to meet some new ones in theirs. Yep--my oldest daughter is expected to deliver twins in late April and I'll be there to see it all. See, I have plenty to tell you about in the next few months. It's all almost overwhelming. I'm having a blast!

Tomorrow is our Mirth Day party at The Yarn Stash and I can't wait! I'll be back in a couple of days to show you what fun we had. See you soon!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Goats!

Yes, I'm back. I told you that there was some news that I had to keep quiet about all last month. Quiet no more! I have some new little friends for you to meet. (This post is going to make my daughter Emily very happy.)

Say hello to some of my new furry buddies. No, we have not taken up goat farming. But Delia and Reed did, and thank goodness! They are the very happy keepers of these lovely animals. I'll tell you more, just be patient! While you wait, have another look at these beauties.
Don't they look happy? Can you tell what kind of goats they are? I'll give you a hint. They're usually found in places like China and Mongolia and most folks don't know that their coats give one of the most luxurious and sought-after fibers in the world. Got a clue yet?
Yep, you got it! These are Cashmere goats. Did you even know that cashmere comes from goats? I didn't until a couple of years ago. I guess we all just thought it floated down from the sky. It feels like it does. It knits and crochets like it does.

And I outta know, because here's proof that I've been playing around with some of the fiber from those guys up there. You'll never believe where they all live. Spokane! (That's spo-can, not spocane, like I used to say it before becoming a PNW person.)
Yep, right here in my very own state at Ravenwood Cashmere farm. A couple of months ago Delia from Ravenwood contacted me about working up some designs with her cashmere. Well, until then I had no clue that people even raised these goats in this country. I was intrigued! Then when I went to her site and saw her sweet babies and the guard dogs and what a beautiful farm the Rasmussens have, I just had to know more. There's a big lot to know about this!
I won't linger on right now, but you just need to know that we have cashmere right here in North America being grown humanely and lovingly by farmers in places like Washington state and California and Texas and New England and Canada and more. What does that mean? It means that we can have domestic cashmere. It means that we can buy this luxury fiber from our neighbors and help them keep their farms and we can know that the animals are being treated very well. I don't know about you, but I like knowing where my fiber comes from. It makes it even more precious.
I'll be filling you in on lots more about this venture in the months to come. In the meantime, buy some local cashmere. It's hard to find right now, but that's going to change, especially if you start buying some.
Do a search. See what you find. I'll be giving you more information soon about where to get some if you have trouble finding it. Don't worry. There'll be plenty to go around very soon.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Launch!

HAPPY MIRTH DAY!
That's right! Our new pattern line is called Mirth because it makes me happy and I hope it makes you happy too. To get you started, we are offering a free fingerless mitts pattern for you to play around with until the rest of the patterns are ready for sale by PDF download on April 1. Please mark your calendar and bookmark the site and keep coming back. I hope to have a lot of fun with this.
But wait, there's more!
We're having a KAL! The details are on the home page of the Mirth part of the site. Read all about it!
First, I'll send you to the main site. From there you can jump to Mirth (or Figheadh). Go!