Sunburn and Combs and Fleece

OH MY! I am sunburnt, covered in dust, and I smell sheepy!

The Haul:

I was lucky enough to meet the lovely Marie of Marushka Farms. She is as amazing as her fleeces! I bough two and was hard put to resist buying more.

During the day yesterday I parked myself with the Tsarina of Tsocks, and tried to help out in the booth.

That didn't go to well. They sent me on an errand to deliver a sock kit. Well, not only did I not deliver the kit, I came back with two Jacob fleeces.

After that they told me to sit down. In my own defense, I could not find the booth they sent me to!


I sold enough of my project bags that I was able to buy a pair of Valkyrie Extra Fine combs!


I have to tell you about Deb Robson's Shetland Class but that's a whole blog post in itself.

More later, I promise!

All Sorts of Amazing Things!

So many good things have happened since I last wrote here that I just don't know where to begin!

I have a new pattern! Dream in Color published my Aphrodite Shawl last month.

Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival is right around the corner and I'll be sharing a booth with the amazing Tsarina of Tsocks! I'll have a smattering of my lovely project bags and purses for sale, along with greeting cards with photography of my handspun yarn. The photography was done by my very talented mother, Arlene Carmel.

And the best of all.....



For more details go here:

I'm still working on migrating my blog into that website so the address will say squarespace for a little while longer. It will also become my brand new yarn shop where I will sell Blacker Yarns and other amazing single breed yarns and fibers that I've been resourcing. I will also have my lovely handmade project bags and purses!

Blacker Details

There will be YARN! I can't believe this is actually happening! I've been hard at work building my eCommerce site. Why build a whole new site when there are sites like Etsy that would work just fine? Well first off, I work for a website development company as a project manager. Because of this I'm not starting from scratch. I've got a great team helping me, and they're excited too! Secondly, long term it just makes more sense for me to have a solid framework built for growth. Blacker Yarns is only the beginning. I hope to build more product lines, while concentrating on supporting the small farmer and conservation breeds.  Finally, I want to go beyond products, I want to build a resource for spinners and knitters. I have been an educator all my life, I love sharing my knowledge and experience and skills. Having a place to share my tutorials, patterns, and advice, with room for others to contribute is my ultimate goal, going beyond a mere blog.

Now that we're less than two weeks away from launch, let's get down to the nitty gritty. First off, if you haven't signed up for my newsletter, please do, and if you haven't taken my survey, time is running out. I will be closing the survey to new responses on Friday. On Monday I will be drawing a winner! Remember, if you signed up for the newsletter you got one entry, if you signed your name at the end of the survey, you got another entry, if you did both you got two entries! The lucky winner will get 2 skeins of St. Kilda from my first shipment. That's enough for a large shawl!

So how is this all going to work? I wish I could simply buy yarn and stock my store. Financially I just can't do that, but with your help I can. We are going to start small. Here’s the plan: Alongside my initial order to Blacker Yarns, maybe the second and third orders too, I will open up my website for pre-paid orders. If you choose to make a pre-paid order with me, it could take upwards of three weeks before you see your yarn. We realize this is a long time to wait. We know this is not ideal. Nobody wants to wait that long for something they paid for. So why do it? Why not just wait and see what I start stocking?

How can Intrepid Knitter make the wait less onerous? Glad you asked!

1. Everyone who participates in pre-orders will have the satisfaction of helping a small business get started.

I know, warm fuzzies only go so far. How about:

2. Anyone who makes a purchase on our first three pre-paid orders will receive a 15% discount on their next order.

Not good enough?

3. Anyone who makes a purchase on our first three pre-paid orders, and spends more than $50, will get free shipping. (US only, 50% shipping to Canada)

Need more?

3. Anyone who makes a purchase on our first three pre-paid orders will be entered in a prize drawing. Prizes include yarn and patterns. Exact yarn and patterns TBD.

Twist my arm!

4. Anyone who makes a purchase on our first three pre-paid orders will be part of our Founding Members Club, benefits include early access to sales, new merchandise, special deals, frequent buyer discounts, and more!

I'm excited, are you?

Be intrepid!

My Hiro!

I finished spinning the yarn for my Hiro. Here it is all skeined up sitting on top of my canned peaches and this amazing lemon ginger marmalade. Hiro

And here's a close-up:



It is so shiny and soft. I can't wait to start knitting! But I have one more spin I want to finish.

The Blacker Yarns project is coming along nicely. I've got a few more details to hammer out but I'm hoping to have the first order ready right after Rosh Hashana. That should get yarn into your hands in plenty of time to do some holiday knitting!


On Peaches and Yarn

Peach butter. Warm peach butter on hot, fluffy waffles.

So. Good.


In the spirit of being intrepid, I am starting a new adventure!

Intrepid Knitter will be an approved stockist (that's how the British say retailer) of Blacker Yarns!

The final details are being hammered out and it's time to gather more specific data.


First a survey! Please go here to complete our questionnaire. Pass the link to anyone who is interested in Blacker Yarns.

Secondly, be sure to sign up for our newsletter at the end of the survey.

There is so much to do to make this a reality that sometimes I feel overwhelmed. But it's starting to really come together.

I can't wait to tell you more, but I need information, so go fill out that survey!!


Be Intrepid!

On Canning Fruit and My Family and Wool

I like to can. I enjoy creating jams and sauces with the tastes of summer to be used in the winter. Untitled_1-261x300

Last week I bought 10 lbs of sweet, locally grown, peaches. (I would have bought more but that's about all I can physically handle in one canning session.)

I washed and skinned, pitted and sliced, syrup-ed and canned about 7 lbs of peaches. I ended up with 14 half-pints of golden deliciousness.

This week I bought another 10 lbs of peaches to make a mango and peach jam. I opened the cupboard to pull out jars and noticed that there were more on the shelf than I thought there should be.

Well sure enough, half of last week's canning session has already been devoured.

Why are canned peaches so much more appealing than the fresh fruit that has been sitting on the counter?

In other news, really exciting things are happening. It seems that sale of my shawl pattern back in January (to be published in the next few weeks) has opened the floodgates. I have an article being published in the Winter 2013/2014 edition of PLY Magazine, I'm designing a pattern for the Summer 2014 edition, and I have a shawl pattern and a hat pattern being tweaked, almost ready to go to a tech editor.

And the most exciting news of all:

I will be bringing Blacker Yarns to the US!

From their website:

Blacker Yarns and Blacker Designs were launched in 2008 as brands of The Natural Fibre Company, our specialist wool mill at Launceston on the Devon-Cornwall border. NFC makes all the yarns we use for the Blacker brand.

The mill specialises in adding value to fleece supplied by farmers and turning it into high-quality knitting yarn which they can sell for themselves and generate a new or growing source of income from their flock. The Natural Yarn Company has been created to help them achieve this.

The growing awareness and desire for organic and renewable resources in our daily lives has impacted artisans and hand crafters in a huge way. By supporting Blacker Yarns and sheep breeders in the UK, I hope to begin building a business based on the principles of conservation. My long term plans include supporting US sheep breeders of rare and heirloom breeds by creating a marketplace here at Intrepid Knitter for their wool.

There are still a lot of details to work through, but it's definitely happening!

Please sign up for my newsletter so you can be the first to hear about special deals and sneak previews!

Busy Doing, Not Enough Writing

Other than part one of my Sweater Manifesto, I haven't done much writing in the past few months. I know I've written brief updates about being busy, but I haven't taken much time to tell you exactly with what I've been busy. On the Household Organization front, I can gladly tell you that the worst is over. We have taken at least 8 large bags to Goodwill, 6 boxes of books to The Book Thing, and tons of trash to the dumpster. With Passover coming up in one month, I cannot tell you how happy I am with my timing. I will take pictures over the next week as I get furniture back where it belongs and clean up the last of the inevitable detritus that come with cleaning.

Knitting and spinning have been moving slowly. I tried tracking how much time I spend with my spinning and knitting and I was shocked to see that I spend upwards of 30 hours a week with yarn in my hands. Oddly enough I have very little to show for it. I have a pile of projects that are halfway done, and am moving along steadily on them, but the bulk of my knitting time has been making swatches and samples for my designs. In the past three weeks I have sent three designs to magazines in answer to their call for submissions, I have finished writing the pattern for the design I sold, written the pattern for another design that I think I will self publish, and sketched and swatched at least 6 more designs. So while I have been knitting close to 30 hours a week, I have really not finished anything.

I have a whole post almost written on the care and feeding of sourdough. Experiments abound in my kitchen. I can't wait to share that with you.

Have a great weekend! I promise, I'll have pictures net week.

Begin With the End in Mind or 5 Things You Need to Know When Knitting a Sweater

I recently took a commission to finish a sweater. Finishing a sweater involves seaming the pieces, weaving in ends, knitting the button bands, sewing on buttons, and blocking the finished garment. Basically doing all those things that make your hard work look good. I've made a few sweaters over the years. I also spent 15 years sewing. Not just sewing but real tailoring and seamstress work. I learned how to finish my work, make it look professional, not like the finishing instructions on a Simplicity pattern but really finished, like when you look inside a Versace suit or a Chanel blouse.

I learned a lot doing this commission job. I learned so much that I made a list.

Things You Need to Know When Knitting a Sweater

1. A strong CO makes a good base for seaming.

I had to stitch the hood to the neckline. The person who had knit the hood used a backward loop CO. When I went into the stitch on the hood to make my seam it pulled on the CO edge. This made a little hole at EVERY stitch I made. I had to make my stitches one row further into the hood to make it look neat. Because I had to do this it made a thicker seam at the neck line. And it made the inside of the sweater look sloppy. Long tail CO and Knitted CO are two examples of what I consider a strong CO.

2. Three Needle BO is Your Friend.

A three needle BO makes an almost invisible seam. It is less bulky than a sewn seam and it usually has more give. It is perfect for shoulder seams, underarm seams, sock toes, the fold of a hood, and really, anywhere you would think to use Kitchener or grafting. Not that I'm dissing Kitchener, it's just something I rarely bother with. Using a three needle BO at the shoulder is easy. Just put your shoulder sts on waste yarn or a stitch holder until you finish its mate. Then put the sts back on a needle and with right sides together k the first st from each needle together. K the next sts in line then BO by passing the second st on the RHN over the first.

3. Selvage Stitch, ALWAYS. 

Whether the edge is going to show or not, just do it. A selvage stitch makes a neat and clean edge. It lets you see very easily where your seaming stitches go. It can even make sloppy seaming look somewhat neater. It's so simple to do that there's really no excuse, JUST DO IT. Here's how: Slip the first OR last st of every row as if to purl. That's all there is to it.  As a general rule, if your next st is knit then slip with yarn in back, if purl then slip with yarn in front.

4. Ends, Leave them.

There are two kinds of ends, the kind that result from your CO and BO, and the kind that are from joining new balls or new colors.

When you CO or BO, leave at least 12 inches or 1.5 times the side seam or sleeve seam. Do not weave in these ends and do not trim them. They are the best kind of ends to use when seaming. They are already attached to your garment making it easier to sew up your seams. If they are in your way while knitting, just make a little butterfly or tie them up with some waste yarn.

It's okay to weave in the ends that result from starting a new ball or color, but DO NOT trim them shorter than 8", unwoven or 2" woven. This rule is especially true for superwash yarns. They slip and slide during seaming and blocking. And really, whatever you do, Please Don't Knot Them. The sweater I was finishing was knit from superwash yarn, all the ends that had been knotted were trimmed right against the knot. The ends that had been woven in were trimmed against the garment with no wiggle room. When I went to block the sweater pieces They All Came Undone! I had to practically re-knit the sweater from scratch.

5. Join New Yarn in the Selvage.

Unless you have a good reason not to, always start a new ball of yarn in your selvage. If you can't finish a row with the yarn you have then stop, undo what you've knit, and start your new ball at the selvage. Honestly, the only reason I can think of, off the top of my head, for not starting a new ball at the selvage, is if you're not sure you're going to have enough yarn to finish your project.

There are other ways to join yarn that involve using a Russian join, or a spit-n-splice, and a few other ways of joining two ends. These are all awesome, if you know how to do them. It will mean less ends to weave in at the end. I'm not going to go into them right now, perhaps at a later time.

I'll stop here. There are more items on my list but these struck me as the most blatant infractions. Mostly because I did every single one of these things when I started knitting 15 years ago.

I have started making tutorials for all of these techniques and more. I am also in the process of building a New and (somewhat) Improved blog.

On top of that, there are a few Super Secret projects in the works that I am just plotzing to share! I'm told I can let the cat out of the bag soon.

Happy stitching!

Really, I've Been Busy!

I am just bursting at the seams. I have amazing news. I am a professional designer!

I answered a call for submissions. They loved my design and are contracting me to write the pattern.

I can't wait to show it to you!

And just so you know, I have several more patterns just waiting for editing, sample knitting and test knitting before I release them to the world.

I'm so excited.

I've Been Busy

If you haven't discovered Craftsy yet you don't know what you're missing. Their classes are wonderful! Just about everyone has used YouTube to find How-To videos. And there are many blogs that have pictures and video instructions, but their quality is often lacking. When I first heard about Craftsy I was a bit dubious because of my experience with crappy homemade videos.

Craftsy is doing it right! Their videos are clear, well edited. Taught by top-notch instructors, not just experts in their field but people who know how to teach. Once you've purchased the class you can watch it at your leisure, again and again. And again.

Speaking of purchasing, their prices are incredibly reasonable! Even at full price, $49 for most classes, you get 6 or more hours of instruction and unlimited access to your instructor and classmates. Here's the great thing, I haven't paid full price for a class yet! If you wait for a sale you can get the $49 classes at half price, and once you purchase a class you  get an email receipt with a 25% off coupon.

I'm going to go finish my Sizing Knitwear class so I can get my design ideas on paper!

Try it, you'll like it!


Yarn Ramen and Thanksgiving

I have two sweater lots of fiber. One of them I've had for well over two years, the other I just gathered this past year. The TdF got me spinning the first one seriously. It's a lovely blue-green Merino and bamboo blend that is making a soft, shiny, drape-y yarn. I had been frittering away at it by sampling and false starts and such, but hadn't really dug in and got it moving. Over the TdF I got two skeins of 8 finished and in October I finished the third. I'm doing this entirely on spindles and honestly it's not that bad. I don't think I would be much faster if I had a wheel. I'm not sure what this yarn wants to be when it grows up yet. I have a few ideas, they all depend on what my final yardage is.

The second sweater lot is from Spunky Eclectic as part of the fiber club I used to belong to. It's a longwool, Wensleydale to be exact. Longwools are my crack. I just can't stop spinning once I get started. In two days I finished 8oz of lightweight/fingering singles. I have 12oz more to spin, I could conceivably finish spinning this yarn in three more days. I don't know if that's any kind of record, 20 ounces in 5 days on spindles, but I know it would be a personal best. Usually I can finish 2oz of singles in a day and still get some knitting done and manage to feed the kids. I think I'll put this aside for the weekend though. I have a few other projects I must finish because I promised them to a friend.

Here is a picture I find totally funny. This is one of the unblocked skeins of Wensleydale singles. In the spinning world we call this yarn ramen. Yum!

Have a great Thanksgiving!


FO Friday, A Day Late

The sun came out! I can't wait to show you what I wrapped up this week! Not only did I get three huge boxes of junk to the dumpster, I bagged clothes and other stuff for Goodwill. Yay me! Now here's the fun stuff: Socks! Finished socks!

Let's stick with socks for a few more minutes. Remember my Sock Problem? Well I've got two pair finished so far. Yay! And I've got two more pair on their way:

I am well on my way to reaching my goal by the end of November. Provided NaNoWriMo doesn't get in the way, but that's a blog of a different color.

So here are some more FO's:

This one is supposed to be a chicken-like tea cozy. It's designed for a teapot with a longer spout than mine so I sewed the sides closed and figured I would use it as a hat-like cozy instead of a sweater-like cozy. But Rachel put it on her head and told me it was her new winter hat and it needed tassels. So there you have it.

I love this hat pattern and even though I got gauge it was huge. Once I finished the brim I had to overlap 5 stitches.  Otherwise it's adorable. I just have to tack the flower down and it's done done.

And these are seriously adorable. Aside from the Katoomba sock above, they are my first real foray into stranded colorwork. Fun!

What did you finish this week?

A Man A Plan A Canal Panama!

Good weekend all around. Had a great Shabbat dinner with friends, had some time to myself to knit and play on the computer, did a little housework, played Ticket to Ride with the kids, just a nice relaxing weekend. Now back to the grindstone.

I finished a few knitted things over the weekend but I'll save those for FO Friday. They still need ends woven in and some blocking.

Today I am going to make a plan, a project plan. The pictures you saw last week are just the tip of the iceberg. I just have too much stuff. Problem is I freeze, even when I keep flinging sessions short, I end up with stuff in my hands that I just don't know what to do with. Too nice to throw away, I might use it someday, I like it.... It goes on. And when I do put a box of trash together and ask Larry to haul it down to the dumpster, he pulls stuff out and asks me if I'm really sure I want to get rid of it. facepalm 

I am going to start in the kitchen I think. There are some storage issues that have to be addressed. There is not so much clutter in the kitchen, more like things aren't getting put away because their homes are too hard to reach without a step stool. And there is no real reason why the microwave should be in the dining room.

Now for more coffee and move the kids through breakfast so I can get them started on school work.