Sunday, April 25, 2010

Connecticut Sheep and Wool Festival 2010!

Here is the sheep.
And there is the wool.
These are "hand crafted yarns" by Jan Marek Raczkowski. He doesn't have a website, but can be reached via email at janraczkowski(at)
I see Jan at many fiber festivals.
His business card reads: hand crafted yarns, hand knitted and hand woven wearables, handmade pottery.
And also says "studio and gardens".
He is always wearing a gorgeous hand-knit sweater. Above is the sweater he was wearing at the festival.
I love to watch the sheep dog trials. We own a copy of Babe. My favorite scene is of the farmer singing to Babe.
It was hard to convince Karen, my booth buddy (Karen's husband and my husband have been friends since they were twelve, and Karen always kindly consents to come help me at these festivals - last September she bought a goat, now she has two) not to buy a lamb. I'm not sure we could have smuggled it past the front desk of our hotel.
My camera must be on some weird exposure, because outdoor shots are now over-exposed. But isn't this an adorable rabbit?
The glorious wool above is from Brown Farm in Scotland, CT. In addition to their lovely yarn, they have goat meat, fresh eggs, broilers, angora yarn, cord wood and organic fruits, vegetables and preserves. You can phone them at 860 423 0533.
The yarn above is Nepalese silk, spun from recycled saris. The colors are brilliant oranges, blues, scarlets, fuschias, which this photo doesn't really capture. It is available from Susan Bates,, who found it in Nepal. Her website has lovely photos.
The man with the kilt was back!
I loved this amazing poncho...

We adore maple syrup.
Above are the gorgeous hand-painted yarns of Purple Fleece.
Here's Debbie, owner of Purple Fleece, spinning. In addition to yarn, Debbie sells spinning and weaving supplies. She also gives spinning and weaving lessons.
Debbie just returned from a visit to Sweden. She was worried that the Icelandic volcano eruption would delay their return, but their flight left on time. My daughter was stuck (well...) in Dublin for a few days. She flew home yesterday, while I was here. Dad picked her up at Logan.
The adorable animals above are from Alpaca Hill Farm.
And this remarkable spinning wheel is from Twist of Fate Spinnery.
And the luscious yarn above, and cutie below, are from Bittersweet Ridge, 860 355 2644.

I loved this wonderful and unusual vest.
A few hours after I took the photos of the vest, another lady came running up to me with this same vest. "She gave it to me!" she said. She had admired it, and the woman gave it to her, saying she wanted to make another one anyway. Knitters!
And look at these charming socks. The owner of these socks sheared, prepared, dyed and spun the yarn for them. Stunning!

Other highlights:
The door curse: There is often something odd about the hotels Karen and I stay in on these jaunts. Last year at the NH S&W, the motel had a pigeon nesting in the window box of our room, about which the motel owner had a long and involved story. At the NETA Spa and Knit in February here in Maine, the electricity went out in the motel and the only light we had was my cell phone. So as we were driving to the hotel, Karen was wondering what would be funny about this hotel. "The door," she said. "There will be something funny about the door." We arrived at this hotel with our luggage as well as bags of food and knitting, looking a little like immigrants. We received the door key and proceeded to the third floor. We put our massive amounts of luggage down and put the key in the door. It wouldn't work! Karen and I both tried it. I had to get the concierge who showed us the trick to it. The next day after the festival, I couldn't find the key! And had to get the concierge again. Oh the shame. I found the key in my purse when we got into the room. Next time and I am not going to let Karen tell me what she thinks might be funny about the hotel.

Moo Dog Knits: I met Chris Brunson, editor of this new fiber magazine.

It's a Purl Man
podcaster Guido Stein came by and interviewed me. Fun!

Karen knit bombed down and back. She writes about it, complete with photos, on her blog My Life with Knitters.

Best question of the Festival: A lady asked my delightful friend and booth buddy Karen if Linda Cortright, on our new audiobook Wild Fibers, mentions where to get yak butter tea.

Paula Moliver of wrote about the festival and made a Youtube video of sheep shearing, bunnies, yarn, fleece and other highlights from the day.

Rhode Island Sheep and Wool Festival planner Linda Rhynard stopped by. Yay, another sheep and wool festival! This one is May 15th.

We had a great time! See you in New Hampshire May 8th and 9th!!!

Thursday, April 22, 2010


I saw this Finnish knitting book on the Liivian talossa and Jane Brocket blogs and ordered it even though I can't read Finnish.
It's glorious!

I'm off to the Connecticut Sheep and Wool Festival tomorrow. From their website:

"sheep exhibits, shearing demonstrations; vendors, fleece sale, educational lectures; ox cart rides, wool skirting, a sheep dog trial, fleece to shawl contests, kids corner, knitting instruction, ask the veterinarian, food, vendors, ox cart rides, festival logo shirts, music, vendors and fun."

Hope to see you there on Saturday!
- Kathy

Monday, April 12, 2010

Fryeburg, Maine

The Mountain View Knitting Guild in Fryeburg, Maine asked me to speak last week. I do a talk on "Stories of Knitting". One member, a woman who had grown up in Austria, brought this adorable child's sweater to show. All Austrian woman are taught to knit in school, and when they have children, they knit this sweater for them. I love this sweater. It is well-worn and well-loved. It the epitome of a hand-knitted garment: simple, beautiful, loved, humble.
Many of the ladies of this guild had hand-knit name tags!
They meet in a church basement.
Fryeburg, Maine is a three and a half hour drive so guild member Linda Sorensen kindly offered me hospitality for the night. She is a jeweler as well as a knitter. Below are some beautiful lapis lazuli and silver necklaces being made in her studio/workshop.
Linda is knitting a vest with the "Knit One Below" method. It creates a beautiful and dense fabric.
And Linda makes pysanky, Ukranian Easter eggs.
Her eggs are breathtaking.

I was entranced.
Linda's husband David keeps bees. This is something my husband and I would love to do.
David is a horticulturalist and he grows acres of raspberries, blueberries, currants, gooseberries and fruit trees for a "pick your own" garden called Berry Knoll Farm. They live in Eaton, NH and I am going to bring my family and go pick berries there this summer.

And when I do I will take photos of the garden for the blog. Because on this visit I only had eyes for pysanky!
Thank you Mountain View Knitters and thank you Linda and David!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Halloween Costumes (Knitting vs. Sewing)

From Katherine Jane in New York City:

Conversations throughout October last year generally went like this:

Person: "So, what are you going to be for Halloween?"
Me: "Well, first I have to dress up like a snake, for a dodgeball tournament.
Person: "...oh. Hmm."
Me: "Then in the evening I have to dress up like Manifest Destiny, so that I can personify the punchline to an Emilio Estevez joke."
Person: "Y'know what, forget it--I'm sorry I asked."

Now, these costumes were not quite as obscure as they might at first sound. My dodgeball tournament was with my regular team The Kobra Krew, so the decision to all dress up like snakes was not too much of a stretch. And as for the Emilio Estevez jokes--well, my friends and I had gotten on a kick of making up jokes, which all ran along these lines:

Person 1: "What do you call a guy who looks like Emilio Estevez but is into reenacting the Middle Ages?"
Person 2: "What?"
Person 1: "Emilio Renaissance Festivez."

...and so forth.

We'd been making these jokes all month, and so it seemed natural that we should go out as a big group dressed in a way that would enable us to tell these jokes to strangers in bars throughout Manhattan. My joke, of course, was, "What do you call a guy who looks like Emilio Estevez but is obsessed with the idea of western expansion? Emilio Manifest Destivez."

Now, when I started to think about costume planning it pretty quickly became apparent that I was not going to be able to do a literal interpretation of either one; a legless reptile and a ethereal concept do not good costumes make. I briefly toyed with the idea of knitting a giant snake and winding it around my person, but this would have made impractical garb for playing dodgeball. So, I had to abandon my dreams of knitted costumes (knitting is always the option I consider first) and instead think about sewing. I had bought a sewing machine over the summer but hadn't really used it for anything more than mending clothes, so this would be my first real clothing endeavor. I decided to make a dress with printed snakes all over it for the first half of the day, and a dress made from fabric featuring the states that run along Route 66 for the evening.

The dresses turned out okay; I used the pattern Simplicity 3833, which has fairly easy to follow instructions. However, I have to say that I still vastly prefer knitting to sewing, not just because my skill level is higher, but because I find the process more pleasing. There is a real joy to sewing long straight sections of fabric--a meditative quality, plus the smug knowledge that this would take about 5,000 times longer if you were doing it by hand. However, the little fiddly bits--the darts on the bodice, or getting the zipper to fit properly--do not have the same joy that the little fiddly bits in knitting tend to have, and I'm not sure what the difference is. There also seems to be a difference in mindset for me; knitting feels very linear, lines either going back and forth or around and around in an endless circle, while sewing is much more about taking a two-dimensional thing (fabric) and turning it into a three-dimensional thing (a shaped dress). My brain isn't very spacial, and so sewing for me requires constant energy to understand how the garment is shaping up--whereas knitting is about finding the rhythm within a pattern and falling into it, focusing on the loop or loops that are active and letting the whole thing unfold naturally. I guess it just feels more zen.

Anyway, here's how the dresses turned out:

My mother made the hat--isn't it fab?

From left to right: Emilio Renaissance Festivez, Emilio Undeadstivez, Marty McFly, Emilio Cutoff Denim Vestivez, and Emilio Manifest Desivez.


Katherine Jane Arathoon lives in New York City and occasionally guest blogs for Knitting Out Loud. She also blogs at Between Ewe And Me.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

wild woman knits

Above are wild bird nests at Paya Indah Wetlands in Malaysia (by the way, this wetlands is now closed and it's fate is uncertain...). Below are the wild bird nests knitted by artist Karen Jelenfy, with drawings by her twelve year old partner, Katie. They teamed up as part of the mentoring program "Branching Out" at Belfast, Maine's Waterfall Arts.
As part of the exhibit, Karen gathered knitters together on Saturday and taught us how to knit our own wild nests.
Karen's knitted nests are beautiful, each one a different shape and color.
Naturally, because we were a group of knitters, we had to see the had knits everyone was wearing. Sara Brand-New was wearing a gorgeous roomy cabled sweater which is the first sweater she ever knit, plus a skirt knit from a pattern she found at Yarns in the Farms in Beverly, Massachusetts. You can see the pattern on their website.

Adorable! And she is knitting it, below, in a larger size - from the bottom up.

Above is Astrig Tanguay, of mid-coast Maine's Fiber College. The vest is knit from a fleece she spun.
Karen's daughter Roxanne was there! In a reverse of the usual way of things in knitting, Roxanne taught her mother to knit several years ago.
We were all busy making nests...
And wearing our beautiful hand knits.