Help me find the right non-wool sock yarn!

My favoritest new shoes.

I needed these shoes. I was teaching at Yarnover in Minneapolis [which was super-fabulous, by the way] and needed a little footwear-based oomph to make my super-teacher powers fully activate.

You understand, surely.

These are Dr Martens 1461 Oxfords in the unbelievable-but-true color they call Blueberry. The leather is softer than the usual Doc oxford style [which could probably be used as the outer skin of a tank].

They fit great, with super-thick socks. For two reasons. 1: Docs don’t come in half sizes. 2: Even though the leather is softer than their usual, I have wussy baby princess feet and need the protection of a thicker-than-usual sock fabric.

That said, they’re SUPER comfy with the right socks and my trusty Birkenstock insoles [I put these in everything I wear, unless they’re already Birkenstocks]. And as you can see in the pic above, the Thorlo light hiking socks I had worked. But man, I’m a knitter. They’re embarrassing. I need to knit me some beautiful socks that will give me cushy protection.

Challenge: I’m allergic to wool, and most non-wool sock yarns aren’t thick enough to make a sock that will work with these shoes. Sock Candy, for example, my usual go-to sock yarn, is great for regular wear. But it’s not enough. Two strands? Not quite what I was thinking.

So I put it to you, dear readers. What wool-free yarns have I not considered [or may not be aware of] that are more likely sport- or even light-worsted-weight, that will make a comfy, cushy, pretty sock? Maybe you’ll see something at Maryland Sheep & Wool this weekend? Maybe you know of an indie who’s using an unusual base? I sure would love a handpaint for these.

Fill the comments with your ideas. I’ll be super grateful.

Spinning Tuesday: New Fleece Washing Bowl

On a recent family shopping trip to Hua Xing Asia Market I found a fantastic fleece washing set up.


The store had a bunch of big plastic bowls and colanders that fit together perfectly .

There were many colors, I chose this springy combo

I chose an 18″ bowl and a 15″ colander

Perfect fit

This set up would be good for up to 6, maybe 8 ounces of fleece, depending on how dirty it is.

This is 7 ounces of dry Babydoll Southdown

I use Unicorn Power Scour for washing fleece, and for some fibers I use Unicorn Fiber Rinse in the last rinse.

4 oz soaking with plenty of room for more

The best part about my new washing set up? Total cost $6!


What spinning tools have you found in an unexpected place?

Knitting Mondays: Cooperative Press Giveaway!

It’s the middle of winter and I don’t know about you, but I need some knitting inspiration.


How about a package of 6 knitting books from some of the most creative knitting minds?



Any one of these books will make your fingers itch to knit.

The folks at Cooperative Press have donated 6 of their most recent knitting books that 1 lucky knitter will win.


The usual rules apply for our giveaway: Leave a comment on this post before midnight, eastern time, on Friday, February 10, 2012.


1 comment will be chosen at random to answer a skill testing question.

If he/she answers correctly, they will win our prize! Prizes valued at $153.75. Good luck, everyone!


Out of the frying pan…

Amy – upon receiving my first Techniques with Theresa contribution in over a year – asked me if I’d like to talk about what I’ve been up to since leaving you with a “Part One” – yet Part Two-less – for way too long. Here’s my story.

Last fall, my husband turned to me suddenly and said “How would you like to try living in the US for a while?” I was gobsmacked. We’d talked about this for years in a vague, theoretical kind of way. But having lived in Norway since 1999, I felt at least half Norwegian. I love my adopted country and my Norwegian family, had learned to speak the language fluently, was thriving in my job and had made many wonderful friends. But the other half of me was ready to go home.

Home is western North Carolina and the house that my grandparents built in the 1950s, next door to my parents, in a small town where most conversations (with locals at least) start by trying to figure out who in my enormous extended family they already know.

Last view from window on Hattemakerlia

We left Norway in bits and pieces – first saying goodbye to the older of my husband’s gorgeous daughters as she went back to college, leaving work, taking my beloved cat, Stewart, to his new home at a horse farm – complete with three sweet little girls, two lady cats and a Bernese Mountain Dog – then moving out of the house…

… hugging the younger step-daughter one last time and finally – after a weekend of the coldest temperatures I’ve ever experienced (-31C / -24F) – boarding a plane on February 17th to start a new life.

Oh, the poppies are blooming.

We landed in North Carolina to sunshine and summer-in-Norway temperatures. Within weeks I got to see spring unfold… and the dogwoods bloom for the first time in a decade. The peonies, poppies and tulips that my Grandma planted came up.

I planted sweet peas. Onions. Garlic. Three kinds of tomatoes. Pickling cucumbers. Sixteen squash plants. Popcorn and sweet corn. Green beans and okra. Watermelon. Fingerling potatoes. Jalapenos and banana peppers. Rutabaga, turnips and lettuce. Flowers and herbs.

Bean pole + squash

I’ve spent the summer making preserves, jam, jellies, pickles, salsa, sauerkraut and ketchup. Dried beans for leather britches and frozen enough squash to last at least a couple of years. (Biggest lesson learned: Nobody needs 16 squash plants.)

Chicks, day 2

In late April I asked my mom what kind of chickens they used to have here – I remember Grandma incubating eggs in the spare bedroom, but have only dim memories of actual chickens. “Domineckers!” she finally figured out. The Dominique is a heritage breed – probably America’s oldest breed of chicken. Perfect! I found a farm within driving distance and picked up 11 fluffy three day old chicks.

Here chick chick chick, here chicks!

Nine have survived to adulthood – three cockrels who crow morning, noon and night and six hens who have just started laying teeny tiny eggs for us! (The eggs will get bigger – they’re only 4.5 months old now.)

I’ve also been hanging out with old friends and meeting new ones. My childhood friend Allison went with me to meet Liza – of Merritt Farm Alpacas – who I’d bought fiber from on a previous visit and she happened to mention needing a new home for two alpacas. My hand flew into the air and I shouted “me!!” before I even knew what was happening. Dad and I got to work building an alpaca shed / chicken coop and Brichon – aka Scout, aka Mater – and Poocher …

Alpacas, dude.

…came to live with us in the beginning of June. Fiber animals!! I was starting to live the dream. All I needed now was a dog.

A few weeks later my stepkid Amalie – here visiting us and the pool for the summer – and I were driving through town and saw an abandoned dog sitting on the side of the road at a busy intersection. We stopped to make sure the poor thing didn’t get hit by traffic and wound up adopting the sweetest dog in the universe. My husband christened her Audrey III.

And there's that look again.

I love her to distraction.

So yeah, I’m having a Very Good Time – despite missing my friends and family in Norway.  (Men vi ses igjen!!)  Hopefully – assuming you’ve noticed I went missing - you’ll find it in your hearts to forgive me for leaving you hanging about blocking…?


Spining Tuesdays: Corespinning – try this!

I can’t stop thinking about and trying different ways to corespin. I want it to be balanced and soft. I have a dream of knitting some sort of sweater out of corespun – loose and layer-y.

I’ve been researching different ways to corespin. I’ve found a bunch of different methods and haven’t tried them all yet, but I wil,l and will report back.

Here’s the one I tried this week and I really like the result – Coreless Corespinning.

With this technique you split off a small amount of your batt – about a pinkie finger’s thickness, and spin a single while you are corespinning. It’s brilliant.

I found a good video by Jazz Turtle Creations on You Tube – it starts at about 1:53.

Creating the core while I spun did two things for me, it kept the yarn really soft and lofty and I was able to get as close as I’ve ever come to a balanced yarn.

Here’s my yarn fresh and feisty:

Just off the bobbin

After a hot water soak:

After a hot bath

I didn’t dry this under any tension. I soaked it in hot water, squeezed it out and draped it on a chair outside to dry. Cool!


There are a couple of other techniques that I want to try and then the puzzle of knitting with corespun starts – loose, tight, what type of pattern, you know the rolling obsession part of being a spinner. Stay tuned.


Next Tuesday, to celebrate my kids going back to school I’m going to have a giveaway, and it’s a good one.

Spinning Tuesdays: Phat Fiber Fluff Box

I got a Phat Fiber Fluff Box in the mail. Did you hear me squee?

Don’t know what Phat Fiber is? There is a detailed description here, but in a nutshell it is a box of samples, either fiber, yarn or a mix. Fiber artists contribute a certain number of small samples that they have dyed, carded and packaged as they are inspired by the theme of the month. Phat Fiber boxes go on sale once a month and there is a limited number of each box, so you have to click quickly.

The theme for August is Bollywood!

Look at the beautiful box full of fiber:

Phat Fiber Fluff Box for August

20 little fiber packages, not counting the extra goodies like buttons, henna and a cool bangle to wrap in handspun.

I knew you wanted a closer look

The fiber artists that contributed obviously had fun with the theme, it shows in fiber sample and  in the individual packaging. The detail is wonderful from special fonts and photos to silk ribbons to tiny bells.

Packaging details - look at the tiny bells

Unwrapped the fiber looks like this : 7.75 ounces of fiber to spin.

Almost 8 ounces of fiber - look at the sparkle!

The variety of fiber combinations and color is huge. So what doesn a spinner do with .5 ounce amounts of 20 different fiber blends?

This spinner corespins.

Corespinning in the sunshine

I plan to corespin all of the fiber, grabbing the fiber randomly from a big bowl. Sometimes I use all of the .5 ounce in one shot, sometimes I only use half. I am amazed at how it’s all coming together. Corespinning really showcases the fibers and makes a cool looking yarn. I am working on making my corespun yarn balance so I can use it to knit with.

Anyone have tips for balancing corespun yarn?

Let me talk about the collection of fiber artists that contributed to this particular box.

I am an unapologetic fiber wh*re – I have a big stash, I look at fiber and touch fiber every day, I talk about fiber and fiber people every day (yes, I love my job) , but most of the fiber folks in this box of fine fluff were new to me.  I love that.

A peek into Amy’s classes at VK Live this September!

Amy here. This week, 5 really cool people are blogging about the upcoming Vogue Knitting Live event, to be held in Los Angeles this September. I feel privileged to be the 6th.
No, that is NOT ME on the cover of the book. I promise.

Did you know I teach knitting classes? I do. I started teaching when No Sheep for You was published, to help spread the non-wool knitting knowledge as far as I could. What I learned in those early classes is how much I love the lightbulb moments — when something you say as a teacher hits straight home with a student, and the lightbulb moves away from your head and over theirs.

That’s a bit dramatic, but hopefully you know what I mean. Sharing what I’ve learned, making knitting less stressful and more fun, is why I keep teaching. I champion the joys of mindless [think relaxing] knitting, helping knitters to create beautiful things without tearing their hair out. If you like classes with lots of math, you’ll need to look elsewhere. Instead, I love to find elegant shortcuts; easier, more efficient ways to do things; and always to end up with a fabulous result at the end of the project.

So, what am I teaching at VK Live? Two of my favorite classes!

First, the Autopilot Sock, my favorite toe-up sock recipe. Maybe you’ve heard about this pattern — I think it’s pretty nifty, and the top-down sock knitters who I’ve shared it with have, to my great pleasure and surprise, become almost instant toe-up converts. Tweeted Jennie: “Fantastic pattern. One pair done, two more on the needles. 1 in car, 1 in purse, covers emergency sock knitting needs.”

The Autopilot Sock, this one knit in wool

Which is exactly the point. This pattern may become your go-to sock pattern as it has mine, or it might be the sock you start when you have no other pattern in mind and just need to KNIT SOCKS.

The Autopilot Sock is my super-easy toe-up sock recipe which I designed specifically to work with the characteristics of non-wool sock yarns. As a bonus, it works well with woolly sock yarns too! It is my definition of happy, mindless sock kniting, and the socks that result are super-comfortable and great fitting. The key here is my combination of the goiter gussetâ„¢ and heel flap. The sock off the foot looks a little weird, which is half the fun. Most importantly, everyone who tries it on loves the fit. I’ll teach you landmarks to watch for on your foot, rather than math-based calculations. And once you’ve knit one sock of the pair, you may very well have the recipe memorized.

this is Connie M's shawl finished after taking the Plug+Play class with me

The second class I’m teaching is Plug+Play Shawl Design. This class is all about feeling clever. I provide a handy, comprehensive manual and a selection of easy-but-pretty lace patterns. Put them together as you please with fingering or sportweight yarn, and the result is uniquely your own! Finally a chance for you to explore designing, without brain strain, and with absolute pride in your creative ability!

We’ll talk about how to put lace patterns together, how to build different shapes of shawls, what kind of things you can do to lace patterns to make them more enjoyable to knit and lots more. After class, you’ll have the tools you need to go on designing your own lace projects.

I hope I’ll get to meet some of you at my classes at VK Live in LA this September. Registration info is here.

The folks at VK Live have very generously offered to give one of you readers a free class at the show! To win, just leave a comment to this post and make sure there is contact info available either in your comment or via your Blogger profile. Leave your comment by midnight eastern time, Friday, July 8th, and I’ll post the lucky winner next week.

Don’t forget to visit the rest of my blog tour compadres — it’s nice to get to know them and the classes they teach this way!

4 July — http://goknitinyourhat.blogspot.com — Go Knit in Your Hat (Carol Sulcoski)
5 July — http://www.knitgrrl.com — Knitgrrl (Shannon Okey)
6 July — http://lornaslaces.blogspot.com – Lorna’s Laces blog (Beth Casey)
8 July — http://www.indigirl.com — Indigirl (Amy Swenson)
9 July — http://www.bricoleurknits.com — Bricoleur Knits (Cirilia Rose)

Spinning Tuesdays: A Winner and the Tour de Fleece

Our winner of our last fabulous spinner’s haul is Heather in Maine. Congratulations, Heather!

Our thanks to Storey Publishing, The Spinning Loft and Interweave for our prizes. Thanks to Deb Robson for writing such an inspirational book!


Are you spinning for the Tour de Fleece?

This year the Tour completely snuck up on me and it’s in the midst for the nuttiest time of summer for my family. But I can’t let it pass, I love a challenge.

I’m going to spin for Tappen Zee by Amy King. I’ve been wanting to make it since we published it in Knittyspin.

Tappen Zee from Spring+Summer 2010 Knittyspin

What will I spin it out of? Here’s my pound of yumminess:

Merino, BFL and Silk in moody colors

The fiber on the left is Blue Moon Fiber Arts, 75% BFL/75% Tussah, color: Obsidian – a gorgeous gray with biths of blue gray and touches deep red gray.

The fiber on the right is Winterhaven Fiber Farm 80% Merino/ 20% Tussah, color: Mahogany – a deep, rich, brown red.

What are you spinning for the Tour?

Spinning Tuesdays : Qiviut and Leicester Longwool

I’m back to spinning from Deb Robson’s Must Spins. I’m almost done with the list and I’m both ready to be done and a little sad. I’ve learned so much about different fibers and tried fibers I never would. Mostly I’ve learned to really look at and think about fibers before I start to spin.


This week’s first spin is Qiviut. Yep, this is a sexy as I’ve heard. So soft it’s almost distracting, I’m happy to just pet it. The Qiviut I have was ready to spin. I spun from a cloud, using a supported long draw. I found it a little harder to control than Cashmere, my yarn came out more thick/thin than I was hoping. It may have just been my mood of the day, I spun this with friends and wasn’t entirely focused on my hands.

Qiviut, beautiful brown

Even though the yarn wasn’t exactly what I wanted, knitting it was bliss. My swatch was soft and light. It would be the ultimate luxury to have a little light cardigan to get through the coldest days of winter.

Warm and cozy

Two fun facts about Qiviut from The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook:

  1. Qiviut can be as fine as 10 microns – oooh soft!
  2. Qiviut has no scales so it will not felt, but will full a little.



Next up is Leicester Longwool.

My sample of Leicester Longwool was more dirty than greasy. A quick wash in Power Scour cleaned it up. I combed my sample and spun worsted right from the comb. Like many longwools my yarn got wirey with just a little extra twist. I focused on moving my hands faster and was rewarded by better results almost immediately.

Leicester Longwool shiny, shiny locks

This is the shiniest fiber that I’ve spun, from lock to knitted swatch the luster holds. It would be beautiful dyed, the luster would make even a single color seem tonal.  The yarn and knitted swatch are wonderfully drapey. While I wouldn’t wear this next to my skin, I would love it as a shawl.

Wouldn't this make a great shawl?

Two fun facts about Leicester Longwool from The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook:

  1. Leicester Longwool sheep are critically endangered.
  2. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation was crucial in bringing back Leicester Longwool sheep from near extinction.


That’s my spinning for this week. Next week will be the last week spinning with Deb’s lists. There might even be another giveaway to celebrate all that I’ve learned.