The War on Wool

This week, the trending topic in several knitting groups has been the discussion of a 3 year old, graphic video produced by PETA, of sheep being abused during sheering. There is no disagreement with the fact that the sheep featured in this video are being horribly abused by those handling them, most of the video shows one individual, that I hope is no longer working with any type of animal. However, I will argue against PETA’s claims that the actions of a few in this video do not represent the actions of the many.

I have a personal objection to PETA, and their tactics. Animals should never be cruelly treated, but I refuse to consider the opinion of an organization that publicly claims to protect animals on one hand, but has documented, and convincing evidence of abuse and unwarranted euthanization of animals on the other. I have no intention of further discussing the merits/faults of PETA any further. I’m also not interested in discussing the vegan lifestyles vs. those that use/consume animal products.

That said, let’s remove PETA from the rest of this post.

There is no doubt, that no matter the animal industry, there is a chance an animal will be treated badly by an ill-educated, frustrated, careless, or flat out cruel individual. It is the responsibility of us as consumers to research our purchases to verify that they come from providers with excellent track records concerning animal welfare. If companies can’t provide information on their sources, we as consumers, should be demanding that information become public, or simply purchase from providers that are open with information. Change can be slow, but look at what has happened in the beef, pork, and poultry industries over the past 20-years when individuals demanded better treatment of these animals. Those industries are still far from perfect but there is continued improvement.

There is no doubt, that sheep farmers are out to be profitable, but having poorly cared for animals that are neglected, starved, over crowded, stressed or abused is like a store owner smashing all of their inventory and attempting to sell it. From an economic standpoint it makes absolutely no sense to mistreat livestock. Stressed sheep will not grow a good fleece and a bloody fleece also impacts its value. A single video is not representative of a massive, worldwide industry. I am also not naive to the fact that once an animal can no longer grow a quality fleece it will often be sent to slaughter for its meat. Livestock, no matter the type do not have retirement plans, but as living beings should be treated with respect.

I’ve seen my share of fleece providing animals sheered, and all of those experiences have been very similar. The animal is lightly restrained but standing, or placed on its side, the sheering itself is quick and as soon as that’s over, the animal is released and off it goes a few pounds lighter. The animals don’t seem overly stressed but there has been the occasional animal that doesn’t want to cooperate. Those animals have been held more firmly but once again, nothing I would consider abusive. The recent comparison that wool collection is as evil as the fur industry are simply incorrect. Sheering, done correctly, does not harm the animal. The animal is free to go, live its life and grow more wool. The fur industry requires the death of an animal for its entire skin.

This is also one of those topics were the “shop local” mindset goes a long way. There is no doubt in my mind that small family farms will always treat an animal with more care than a large corporate entities.

What those that claim wool collection is abusive tend to forget is most sheep herds are not “natural” breeds. Like most types of livestock they have been bred to produce a consumable resource be it meat or fleece. Most sheep require sheering or they will overheat, risk skin infections, and maggot infestations. What do these groups expect to do with these millions of animals if wool collection was immediately outlawed? Allow them to suffer and then die in pasture? It is our responsibility as the humans that have modified these animals from their natural state to care for them ethically, and in this case, that requires sheering performed correctly and appropriate times of the year. Wool, as far as fiber goes, is a 100% natural, renewable, and biodegradable material. Many of the alternative fibers, such as acrylics, are not environmentally responsible.

I encourage everyone to do their own research and form their own opinions, but I will continue to use, wear, and knit wool.

As Summer Wraps Up…

This evening has been the first one in quite a while were I’ve been able to sit outside comfortably. Not only is the temperature tolerable with a nice breeze, but a nest of birdlings have evacuated their nest and their vicious mother who could dive bomb and hit harder than a Mac truck has left with them. She was a finch of some sort and thought the front corner of the porch would be a great place for a nest. Even if the temperatures had been agreeable earlier I wasn’t going to risk disturbing them.

Crickets are starting to sing their songs. The bats have left their perches for the evening. The cicadas have definitely made their presence known the past month. There’s no such thing as a silent evening during the summer.

My garden experiment has already past its prime. Don’t tell my tomato plants that though. They haven’t had anything worth picking this week, but they outgrew their cages, collapsed, and then grew outwards and upwards dominating everything else in the 4×4-foot raised bed. If I could stand some of these plants straight up they would easily reach well onto the second floor of the house. Everything else, pretty much hit and miss. If I wasn’t battling root rot and powder molds from the near constant rains at the end of spring into summer, I battled high temps and critters coming along and eating what was being produced. More lessons learned for next year.

I’m trying to figure out the best way to share my porch with several giant orb weavers and garden spiders. I’ve been watching three of the orb weavers spin their webs tonight, but walking into their webs, or worse yet, them, elicits a primal response to want to burn everything down and collect the insurance money. Their bodies are larger then quarters, they are hard to miss. I can watch them spin for hours, but they still creep me out. I just realized if my neighbors were paying attention they would probably wondering why I was staring intently at the edges of the porch for a few minutes at a time.

The neighborhood has changed and it hasn’t. A few neighbors have moved on and others have moved in. There’s just a few new people to wave at as they drive by. If I can give this neighborhood credit for anything I will give it credit for being friendly. There are a few nuts peppered through, but overall, you could walk up to anyone here and say hello and find yourself with your head talked off.

So all in all, nothing has really changed in this little corner of the village over the summer, it’s just finally time to get to enjoy the front porch in the evenings, as soon as I can work out a peace treaty with the spiders.

September Classes and Knitalongs

It feels like I just posted a class schedule for August a few days ago. This year has done nothing but move at high-speed!

The less than scientific experiment for alternating weeks for classes has been a success, so I’ll continue offering sessions on alternating weeks allowing class participants to have more time to work on projects between sessions.

In other news, I’m changing up my skill level terms. I’ll admit they’ve been a little vague, so I’ve taken the advice that I learned from an old friend and have reverted to the KISS Principle. Good ole, keep it simple, stupid to the rescue! The new terms are:

Rookie: You picked up needles and yarn recently, know knit and purl, and you’re ready to add more skills to that knitting toolbox.

Apprentice: You’re confident with knit, purl, basic increases/decreases, and have likely begun adventuring into knitting in the round, and have began creating shapes other than long scarf like rectangles.

Virtuoso: You’re confident in your abilities and are looking for challenges, unique projects, and new tricks. There isn’t much out there that you would shy away from trying as long as you were in love with the pattern teasing you on Ravelry.

Genius: You are a knitting master, nothing stops you, not even a bad pattern. You’re looking for a challenge, continuing to master skills, and love projects with very complex construction and stitch work.

All classes will be held at Yarn Rhapsody in Gainesville, GA. Please call 770-536-3130 or drop in to reserve your spot at least 48 hours before classes begin and purchase patterns and materials.

So what’s up for September?

Well first, I can announce that you can still sign up for any nine sessions of Building with Lace knitalong by Michelle “Knit Purl” Hunter for $45, as long as the book is still available for purchase at Yarn Rhapsody. There’s already been one round of books sold, and round two just arrived. Weekday sessions will be offered Wednesdays, 6pm-7pm beginning September 6 and carrying on through Wednesday, October 25th. Weekend sessions will continue on Saturdays, Noon-1pm until October 14th.

Skill level: All skill levels – this is truly a skill building knitalong, the book, associated videos, and the support of the rest of the knitalong participants will get you through if you’re a beginner, and teach you a few more tricks even if you’re a knitting expert.

There are also two more knitalongs featuring Michelle Hunter’s patterns for September.

img_0084-1Hat season starts up towards the end of October in the south, mid-September virtually anywhere else, so it’s time to start WIPing some up. Corkscrew Hat by Michelle Hunter, uses an interesting, yet easy to grasp two color technique that creates an almost braided appearance and unisex design. This pattern is also available in three sizes, baby, child, and adult.

Offering Type: Knitalong
Skill Level: Rookie/Apprentice
Techniques Used: Knitting in the Round, Multiple Colors, Shaping
Price: $30
Dates: 10:30am – 11:30am, Saturdays, Sept. 16, 30, Oct. 14

img_0085Oh wait, glove and mitten season is coming up too! The second of Michelle’s patterns this month is the Reciprocation Fingerless Gloves. These fingerless gloves will keep your hands warm and your fingers free for chilly weather knitting.

Offering Type: Knitalong
Skill Level: Rookie/Apprentice
Techniques Used: German twisted cast on, special design stitches, stitch pickup, thumb gussets
Price: $30
Dates: 10:30am – 11:30am, Saturdays, Sept. 23, Oct. 7, 21

September for me means, cooler weather, hints of gold and red appearing on the landscape, and the fact that we’re just that much closer to HALLOWEEN. It’s time to start working on some spookier projects.

img_0089First up, these Spider Socks are going to be a blast. I’ve already started on my pair, I couldn’t wait! These will look great in a solid, or subtly variegated yarn, you want your handiwork to show through on these.

Offering Type: Class
Skill Level: Apprentice/Virtuoso
Techniques Used: Top down construction, heel flap & gusset construction, mock cables, cable stitches, special design stitches
Price: $60
Dates: 1:30pm – 2:30pm, Saturdays, Sept. 16, 30, Oct. 14

img_0088Counting Crows fits the bill for chilly, late October evenings with a few secrets hidden inside. These are a great challenge for someone wanting to increase their color work skills.

Offering Type: Class
Skill Level: Apprentice/Virtuoso
Techniques Used: Knitting in the round, color work and chart reading, shaping, stitch pickup, thumb gussets and finger construction
Price: $60
Dates: 1:30pm – 2:30pm, Saturdays, Sept. 23, Oct. 7, 21

And now for something completely different….

This particular pattern has been sitting in my queue for months waiting for the right time to bring it out.

img_2345Inspired by the Mesoamerican deity Kukulkan this scarf/shawl is striking. This is certainly one of those projects that will having people asking “where did you get that” and then it’s up to you how you spill the beans about being an accomplished knitter. The unique shape and construction of this project, as well as the use of gradient sets should keep anyone motivated to finish this project before the fall chill really sets in.

Offering Type: Class
Skill Level: Apprentice/Virtuoso
Techniques: Color changes, short rows, stitch pickup, cast on mid-project, shaping
Price: $60
Dates: 3:30pm – 4:30pm, Saturdays, Sept. 23, Oct. 7, 21

And as always, I’m available for private instruction for those wanting to start knitting or need a refresher after a bit of time away from knitting, all you have to do is contact me and work out dates and times.

Oh Hey There….

I've seriously neglected this little corner of the blogosphere for a bit.

I think most of us start blogs with solid intentions of posting often, but in all honesty it doesn't appear that many of us put fingers to keyboard often enough. I have difficulty in sharing bits and pieces of my life with strangers at times, and as much as I love knitting, it's hard to write about consistently.

After all look how many blogs and vlogs are dedicated to the fiber arts that do a much better job than I ever could, but I certainly intended this site on being much more than a class listing and review site.

Maybe its time to crack the shell a bit and share some personal bits.

It's no secret that I have a love/hate relationship with social media. It's been closer to hate/hate this year. There was a previous post on the topic earlier this year. At that point I had logged out of a few places until the burn of the Trump inauguration settled down on both sides of the political fence. The rapid fire back and forth of certain sites was maddening. It never really settled down, I've just grown to ignore more and more of it, or better yet have found that liberal use of the unfollow, unfriend, and block buttons can be liberating.

But here I am again. Frustrated.

It's not hard to figure out why. Just watch the news.

It's times like these when it seems like the entire country is whipped into a frenzy that I want nothing more than to draw the shades and pull a blanket over my head for a few weeks. That isn't an option though. No matter what happens, life has to keep moving forward. Unfortunately, it's also hard to share how I really feel about such polarizing topics. We (as in the general population) have lost the ability to listen to differing opinions and speak with civility. Instead of conversation we viciously attack each other. All I know to do is to keep being who I am, helping those I can, being a sounding board for those that need it, and a sanctuary for anyone that needs to escape the noise.

I'm more than happy to meet anyone at the local coffee house with a ball of yarn and a couple of sticks to participate in a bit of escapism, no hot button issues, just a bit of caffeine and peace.

August Classes, KALs & CALs

Planning for August totally snuck up on me.  The full-time gig is deep into its summer busy spell and I’m honestly not sure what day it is most of the time without calendar apps throwing alerts at me daily.  When I’m not working, I’m still working by knitting up or crocheting projects. Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.  Right?  I’m trying something new for participants.  In the past we’ve done three sessions (for most things) in three consecutive weeks.  This month, we’re going to try three sessions on alternating weeks, giving students five weeks to finish a project instead of three.  Everyone is busy and some of the projects we tackle are intimidating on such a short timeline.

There’s a mixed bag of projects coming up.  Winter is coming.  (Ha! Successful Game of Thrones Reference) The holidays are coming too, it’s time to get to work on those gifts and some of these projects may make a great one for the knit-worthy people in your life.  All classes, KALs & CALs will be at Yarn Rhapsody in Gainesville, GA.  Please sign up at least 48 hours before classes/KALs/CALs begin, by phone at 770-563-3130, or in person.  A link to register through PayPal will be posted here as soon as it becomes available.  This will guarantee your spot.  Space is limited.  Yarn and patterns for each offering must be purchased at Yarn Rhapsody.

By popular demand I’m leading a knitalong for Building with Lace by Michelle “Knit Purl” Hunter.  This is Michelle’s third publication featuring patterns that build skills along the way.  By the end of this KAL you’ll have an amazing lace shawl featuring nine different lace patterns.  It’s a sizable and beautiful piece of work.  This KAL has a couple of options.  You have a choice of how many sessions you would like to attend, the full KAL is 18 sessions for $80, or you’re welcome to attend 9 for $45. You will be required to purchase the book for this KAL.

Session Dates: August 12, 19, 26 – September 2, 6, 9, 13, 16, 20, 23, 27, 30 – October 4, 7, 11, 14, 18, 25

Saturday Session Times:Noon – 1pm Wednesday Session Times: 6pm – 7pm

Skill Level: Adventurous Beginner (really, this can be your first lace knitting these books are designed to be fully educational)

Are you looking for a unique crochet shawl? Well, here you go.  Hotel of Bees is an interesting and subtly complex piece that will keep you on your toes.  Featuring overlay, open, and filet crochet techniques with a modern twist this isn’t your grandmother’s shawl.  (No I’m not trying to insult the grandmothers out there.  I know a lot of them and they are great people).  Because of the complexity of pattern this one is a class offering.

Class Cost: $60

Session Dates: August 5, 19 – September 2 from 1:30pm – 2:30pm

Skill Level: Intermediate – Advanced

Fall in Georgia is one of those odd in between times where a heavy shawl is way to warm but something lightweight is perfect.  Reverse Psychology is perfect for fall and early winter here in the south.  It begins on the bias and has a wonderful abstract shape with several partial bind offs.   The pattern features beadwork but can easily be done without.

KAL Cost: $30

Session Dates: August 5, 19 – September 2 from 3pm-4pm

Skill Level: Intermediate

Gainesville seems to be just as obsessed with elephants as it is chickens.  For you out-of-towners that don’t get that joke, Gainesville, GA is considered the chicken capital of the world.  We don’t have a town Christmas tree lighting event, we have a giant light up chicken.  Anyway….I digress.  Loxodonta & Elephas the African Flower Elephants can be your next stuffed animal friends.  Crocheted and then joined in multiple pieces these guys can be made using any yarn weight creating tiny elephants to giant ones.  The color possiblities are endless here.

Class Cost: $60

Session Dates: August 12, 26 – September 9 from 1pm-2pm

Skill Level: Intermediate

And bringing up the back of the line, because slow and steady wins the race, there’s Sheldon the Turtle.  This is a cute one for the little ones, or for us big ones that just like having a stuffy here and there.  Sheldon has a removable shell, so if you’re so inclined you can make different colors and patterns for any occasion.

KAL Cost: $30

Session Dates: August 12, 26 – September 9 from 2:30pm – 3:30pm

Skill Level: Intermediate

There it is, an action packed offerings schedule!  Keep in mind, if you don’t feel like you are ready for a group class I do offer individualized instruction for $40 per 1 hour session.  I hope to see you all in class…or KAL….or CAL in August.

Nerdy Knitting Tools: Knit Companion

All of us crafty folk have had it happen, we’ve printed our patterns, broke out our favorite methods of keeping track of rows such as highlighters and post-it notes and have gotten to work.  Days, weeks, maybe months into the project something happens to that piece of paper, the pattern itself disappears, or the post-it you’ve been using as a tracker falls off.  You’re lost!

Okay, maybe it’s not the end of the world, you figure it out and keep going but managing piles of paper can be a real pain in the ass, especially if you’re as guilty as I am for working multiple projects at the same time. I teach, make shop samples for my LYS and make stuff for myself completely unrelated to the first two types of projects, it’s not unusual for me to have 4-8 projects going at once.  I’m trying to reign that in a bit, 8 is a bit much right now but I’ve gotten behind on things. 

Recently, I found myself able to replace my ancient iPad with the latest and greatest (Verizon has some awesome deals once in a while) and rediscovered Knit Companion.

Knit Companion is a pattern management app that has come a long way since I tried it out several years ago when it was in its infancy.  So what does this thing do? Knit Companion (KC) allows you to import patterns from both Ravelry, KC Designs (they have partnered with several designers) and your own PDF patterns from a personal Dropbox into the app.  From there KC gives you a ton of options as to how you’re going to manage that pattern.

img_0041-1At the simplest of set ups you import a pattern, select the pages you need, and it goes straight into the user interface.  From there you can flip between pages through a drop down option at the top of the app, have a moving marker bar to keep track of your place on the page, and have several counters available at the right side of the app.
Then you can get into beefier features with a bit of work on your end to set up the pattern as you like.  KC is an extremely powerful tool if you take the time to work with it.  It’s not entirely intuitive but KC has quite a few tutorials and a user guide available on their website.

img_0040-1If you have a love for complex patterns that include a bajillion charts and page after page of instruction you’ll appreciate the advanced features.  KC can be programmed to track charts with the press of a button. The example here is just a quick one I set up for a shawl I’m designing (much more on that little project later).  I have yet to unlock all the features for myself, there is a feature called Magic Markers that will read your charts and highlight special/repeated switches for you when you set up.

Ultimately you can take a pattern, load it in so that you have access to flip through pages using the top drop down bar.  Counters can be renamed on the right hand side to track repeats, stitches, whatever else that may need counting.  The pull up from the bottom can be programmed to include keys or special instructions for charts.  Then there are options to add notes, highlight specific places within the pattern, and the best part is, once you set up the project it will auto save your every move until you delete it from the app. Switching between multiple projects doesn’t phase it.  My knitting bag has lost what feels like 15 pounds of paper, post-it notes, highlighter tape, and markers.

Since my introduction to KC as a iOS only app, they now have an Android version too.  The app itself is free, but it will limit you to KC only patterns and tie your hands on a lot of awesome features.  A 1 year subscription that unlocks all features is $12.99.  Yeah, yeah, I hear some of you groaning, but with the abilities of this app it’s worth it for an avid knitter or crocheter. If you are doing a project or two a year I could understand passing on it.

Give it a shot!  Look at the tutorials and the user guide, you’ll be amazed at what this little thing can do, and keep an eye out on the class schedules at your local yarn shop, there are a few out there that will offer classes on how to use all the features of this app to your advantage.

July Classes and Knit-Alongs

Summer is practically here, and Christmas is only five months away! Take a bit of stress off of your holiday planning and begin working on gifts and decorations.  It’s not all about early holiday planning though, there’s a few other things mixed in.

All classes will be at Yarn Rhapsody in Gainesville, GA.  Please sign up at least 48 hours before classes/KALs/CALs begin, by phone at 770-563-3130, or in person. This will guarantee your spot!  Space is limited.  Yarn and patterns for each offering must be purchased at Yarn Rhapsody.  It’s okay if you want to bring stash yarn, you’ll have to add $30 to the original class/KAL/CAL fee.

Knitting Classes

ElijahElijah the Elephant – 6-7pm, July 12, 19 & 26 – $60
An adorable elephant toy knit without seams on double pointed needles. Elijah was designed to be round and cuddly but still easy for little hands to grasp. He knits up quickly.  Elijah would make a wonderful gift for any kid – or adult.  Skill Level: Advanced Beginner, Intermediate

Reyna – Noon-1pm, July 15, 22 & 29 – $60Reyna2
Can’t figure out what to knit with that single skein of sock yarn in a variegated colorway that you’ve been eyeballing at Yarn Rhapsody. Here’s the answer! One skein of fingering weight yarn is enough to complete a shawl. Skill Level: Adventurous Beginner

Knit-Alongs

MinistockingsHoliday Mini-Stockings – 1:30-2:30pm, July 15, 22 & 29 – $30
Looking for a unique set of handmade holiday ornaments?  Mini-stockings can fill that niche.  Make one for every member of the family, or give to friends.  You can certainly make a tree full between now and Christmas if you wanted to.  Skill Level: Advanced Beginner

Blue BirdHoliday Blue Birds & Gingerbread Men – 3-4pm, July 15, 22 & 29 – $40 – yarn kit included
These fun little toys make excellent stocking stuffers or additions to wreaths and holiday displays.  Both patterns use little yarn and work up quickly, so yarn is included with this KAL.  Skill Level: Advanced Beginner

Pacificus by Laura NelkinPacificus Top – 10:30-11:30am – July 22 & 29, August 5, 12, 19, 26 – $60
We may be kicking into gear for holiday knitting this month, but there’s still plenty of summer weather left.  Constructed in one piece, it’s perfect for a KAL spread over six weeks.  You’ll be more than prepared for those last hot, summer, evenings.