Shop Visit: HipStrings

hipstrings fiber collage.jpg


In between teaching classes for the Butler Spinning and Weaving Guild, I was lucky to have dinner with Jill of Hipstrings and visit her shop.

Sigh, it was heaven. I've bought fiber and tools from her online and in person at a retreat, but to be faced with a freshly stocked shop was the best.

I fell deeper in love with several of her fibers, and am stalking sweater patterns because I can't get one of her yarns out of my head.

I bought some of her Merino/silk in the Supernatural colorway for a Knittyspin column and project.

I bought one of her sparkle fibers (merino/bamboo/silk/stellina) in the Lapis Lazuli colorway. This one has already been claimed by the daughter, "a cowl, please. I love you". One sparkly cowl coming up.

I couldn't stop touching her 62.%5 Polwarth /25%silk /12.5% flax blend. The flax adds body, but no stiffness to the yarn. Jill had a crocheted shawl made from it for me to fondle.


hipstrings jill & yarn.jpg


Her Buoy fiber and yarn has my brain chugging on all sorts of things.

I bought a sampler of the fiber, because I couldn't decide on a color. She has Buoy yarn too, and that's what I want to knit a sweater out of.

The fiber blend of both is an unusual 37.5% BFL/37.5% Shetland/ 25% Manx Loaghtan. I can't quit petting the fiber. Running my hand on the outside of the fiber, it feels like Shetland, but when I squeeze it, I get the silky of the BFL and spring of the Manx, even though it's really well blended. I can't wait to spin this.

Jill is a wonderful mad scientist of a fiber artist!

If you are near Pittsburgh this Saturday (November 11) she, along with 27 other fiber artists will be selling at Indie Knit & Spin. I wish I could go!



Post Teaching Reentry: An Introvert's Guide


I'm back from teaching at SAFF, which was amazing, but more on that another day.

I'm getting ready to teach for the Butler Spinning and Weaving Guild this weekend which I'm excited about, but first I need a little reentry time.

Post teaching reentry is a very particular thing, especially for an introvert like me. I love teaching and talking to people, but I need some very much quiet and alone time to recharge before I jump up an do it again.

When I get home from teaching, I'm physically and mentally tired, but I am so high on all of of the people, connections and ideas that teaching brings my way. It can be hard to balance those two states of mind for me.

I rarely have the time to take whole days off after teaching, there are emails, piles of paper, class reviews, other deadlines and of course all of the people at home that I want to spend time with.

Instead of whole days, I take bits of a few days to recharge. I do a few things every time in the days post teaching:

  • I cut my caffeine in half, but spread it out through the day. It's OK to be tired.
  • I take 30 minutes a couple times during the day to read or nap.
  • I talk as little as possible.
  • I bake something.
  • I make huge lists - all of my ideas, things I'm worried about not getting done, new things I want to try, everything that crosses my mind goes onto paper for a couple of days. I make my lists on paper with lots of pens.
  • I work with a daily goal and stay off of all social media. It's amazing what I can get done without the help of Instagram.
  • I do more small tasks than thinking work. I unpack, do laundry, go through emails, sort fiber.
  • Mostly, I hang out with my family as much as I can.

I've done this for the past couple of days and now I feel ready to pack up and head to Butler to teach with a huge smile on my face.

How do you recharge?

Fiber Crush: Gwen Erin

gwen booth 3.jpg

I went to the Fiber Expo in Ann Arbor last weekend and was stopped in my tracks by a booth. The colors, the squishy fibers and the fantastic dyer that made it all, Gwen Erin.

I hadn't heard about Gwen (even though she's been at the Fiber Expo before) but, wow, she dyes pretty fiber. And she's one of those dyers that can keep the fiber in pristine condition, the surface of all of her fibers is undisturbed, it's magic.

gwen purchases.jpg

I just bought two things and as soon as I got home I wished I had bought more. I bought 12 ounces of Polwarth (it's plushy and I feel a Polwarth binge coming on). Four ounces of the blue/green and the big bundle is two four ounce bundles that go together - I can't wait to spin them, especially the big bundle (ply or draft together- that is the question). Maybe I need some Polwarth thick and thin spiral-ply in my life.


If you are ever in Hubbard, Ohio she has a shop and she also does several shows through out the year.

If Gwen starts selling online, I will let you know!

In the meantime you can check her fiber out on her blog, FB page and Instagram.

What would you do with that Polwarth?

Why I Still Knit with Mill Spun Yarns

waiting rain yarns.jpg

I just started knitting Waiting for Rain by Sylvia McFadden using the Fibre Co.'s Arranmore Light (80% Merino/10% cashmere/10%silk) and Woolfolk's Tynd(100% Orvis XXI Ultimate Merino Wool). Yes, I'm using mill spun yarn to knit.

Even though I seem to be spinning to knit most of the time, I still use mill spun yarn quite a bit.

The yarn is done. Sometimes I just want to knit and don't want to think about building a yarn to my specs, or locate the exact right skeins in my already spun stash. I want to support yarn shops, dyers and the yarn industry. I never want yarn shops or yarn people to disappear.

waiting rain yarns close.jpg

Mill spun yarns are sexy, really irrisistable. Mill spun yarns have become way more interesting over the past years. It helps that the smaller batch yarns are availible online and in shops, not just at fiber festivals. Medium and bigger companies are paying much more attention to the fibers they source and how their yarns are spun and dyed. There are fewer labels in shops now that just say, "100% wool".

waiting rain strands.jpg

Using mill spun yarns makes me a better spinner. They allow me to study how yarn behaves when knit. I pick apart the structure and content of a yarn while I knit with it and I knit with blends I may not think to use.

Every project that I knit with a mill spun yarn leaves me with a list of new spinning samples I want to make. I always have questions and what-ifs based on the results of my projects and the content and struct of the yarns I used.

The two yarns I'm using for this project are not only soft and beautiful. One is an exceptional grade of Merino (the Tynd), spun and plied perfectly evenly, it also has a halo. One (the Arranmore) is a merino blended with cashmere and silk, mixed with colorful flecks and spun with variations that look a lot like handspun. I'm curious to see how each yarn knits and how they work and look together in the finished shawl.

Spinning for Someone Else

coopworth fiber.JPG

I've sold my handspun and given it away to people, but I've never spun yarn specifically for someone else. It was the most relaxed spinning I've done in a long time. Part of it was my friend, Carol, had no expectations beyond a wonderfully sheepy yarn, close to worsted that she could knit into a hat. No deadline.

She had some Coopworth sliver that the wonderful people at DM Fibers, dropped off at her shop in case she wants to add spinning fiber to her mix. Carol and her husband Pete own Spun, my LYS in Ann Arbor.

And no, don't get excited, there is no room for spinning fiber at Spun.

coopworth close.jpg

The other component that made it so easy was the fiber.  DMFibers has recently purchased the spinning fiber business from Louet, wholesaling it to shops. All the wonderfully, mostly British sourced fiber, now is in the capable hands of Sasha and David.

The Coopworth that David and Sasha dropped off was dreamy, just look at it! It smells sheepy and it is the least scratchy Coopworth I've spun. I couldn't wear it next to my neck or as a sweater without a shirt under it, but mittens, hats, shawls, and crazy fabulous outer sweaters, like a gansey would do just fine.

Sliver is a woolen prep and Carol picked the woolen drafted sample from the two I showed her. Puff, it is. With almost no expectations and no deadline, of course this yarn shot to the top of my spinning list.

coop far yarn.jpg

I had a new mystery series (The Five on Netflix - thank you, Kate) and a woolen draft on a woolen prep. I set up my Hansen e-spinner and spun. It was 100% blissed-out spinning, so relaxing and I made some pretty yarn, that I'm giving to Carol today. She won't even care that it turned out more chunky than worsted.

I may jut spin for other people more often! Do you spin for your friends?

Bubble Crepe

 Caracol by Malbrigo

Caracol by Malbrigo

The past few times I've been into my local yarn shop I've noticed and lusted after a yarn called Caracol by Malabrigo. The last time I was in, I sat down and looked at it closely - it's bubble crepe! I can make that!

bubble collage.jpg


I grabbed some Cjkoho BFL  and sewing thread.

I spun a woolen single Z, about worsted weight.




I plied it S with the sewing thread.






I ran my yarn back through my wheel again S, doubling the ply twist.





Then plied it again with the thread Z. And presto chango, bubble crepe!





It's so easy and fun, I made a whole pile of it.

Now to knit something......




Wisconsin Sheep and Wool

Wisconsin collage.jpg

This year I taught at the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool festival for the first time. It was marvelous! It'sa smaller show (7,500 people) than the gargantuan shows like Maryland and Rhinebeck, and that's great.

It's one of those shows that people talk about being great, but I've never been quite sure.

This show moves at a slower pace giving everyone time to talk and shop and learn. This show really is what I think about when I think about a state sheep and wool festival.

Andrea Mielke Schroerwrote a great recap of the show itself for the Craft Industry Alliance blog.

I had an excellent time. My friend Erica rode along with me. We stopped at a Tandy leather store on our way from Michigan to Wisconsin.

The fairgrounds are presided over by a giant cow, the Michigan fairground has a huge chicken. There were so many sheep and educational booth here and I had time to actually see them.

There are two barns for shopping, and they are packed with handpicked vendors. I shopped at Snyder Spindles, Fiber Optic, Jennie the Potter, Green Mountain Spinnery. I am regretting a few things. One is not buying a sweater's worth of yarn at Green Mountain! Another involves some incredible Jacob roving, but I may remedy that one.

My classes were fantastic, they were full and the space was a little tight, but everyone was happy to accommodate and move furniture. My students spun like the wind and had the best questions! Everyone was just happy and friendly at Wisconsin Sheep and Wool. The classroom photo up there is from Emily Wohlscheid's Tweed Batt class, I forgot (again) to take pictures in my classes.

There was excellent food too, several food trucks came over from Madison and I would like to eat the Shepherd's Pie (with lamb) dumplings I had, every single day. Ann Krieg took us to a supperclub for dinner - it's a Wisconsin thing and it was retro-cool.

On the way home Erica and I had to stop at the Mars Cheese Castle and I donned the hat.

Now I know what everyone meant when they said the Wisconsin show is great; I'll be applying to teach at Wisconsin again next year!




In case you were wondering, my cart came and it holds a tired teenage boy.

And yes, I gave him a ride in it.



New Knittyspin and I Bought a Cart


Deep Fall Knitty is live and you know what that means, a new Knittyspin!

It's the 15th anniversary issue of Knitty and my 5th year of doing Knittyspin.

This issue I talk about the difference between heather and tweed and make some batts to illustrate my points.

I could make and spin only tweed. I've had a many decades love of tweed yarn. Take a look at my column and let me know if you want and points clarified or any further experiments done.




And yes, after all of the enthusiastic response to my question about collapsible carts, I bought one. Did you doubt that I would?

I got a purple one and it's winging it's way to me now. Dick's Sporting Goods has them on sale right now, if you need one or another one. Thanks to all of you cart lovers for your input!