22 February 2009

Blackberry Wine

"Wine talks, ask anyone. The oracle on the street corner; the uninvited guest at the wedding feast; the holy fool. It has a million voices. It unleashes the tongue, teasing out secrets you never meant to tell, secrets you never even knew. "

Joanne Harris, Blackberry Wine

I'm naming this colorway Blackberry Wine in honor of Joanne Harris's wonderful novel about wine making in France, childhood friendships, and first loves. I haven't read the novel in many years, but when I thought of the name for this roving the first few lines came back to me. "Wine talks, ask anyone..."

I have this guy to thank for the fiber. One of our two rams: Hops. He may look dun/gray but shearing day reveals the downy white fiber close to his skin, fiber that takes up dye like a sponge. Oh la la.

21 February 2009

New Threads

It's been a busy week here at Tendril & Twine, but I want to keep you all up to date with things down at the barn. In an earlier post I briefly described shearing day and posted some photos. After a run under the buzzer the sheep are covered again (in vastly smaller coats) and we start to look forward to our spring lambs. (We're expecting our first arrival around March 14.)

Here's a photo of Julia checking out the bags of fiber lined up in the barn. I always wonder what the sheep think when they are released, pounds lighter, without the four inch layer of padding they've been accumulating for twelve months. Do they miss it? Are they relieved? Will they get chilly? This year the temperature dipped below zero the weekend of shearing, but the sheep seemed to manage.

Here's a close up of Julia's lovely gray-blue fiber. I can't wait to get my hands on it.

Shearing Day

CVM Romeldale fiber--Just look at the natural colors!

Just looking at this fiber makes my feet tap in tune with the imagined rhythm of my spinning wheel and my fingers itch to get started on knitting projects that have been waiting for this beautiful fiber. Shearing day on our farm is the culmination of my mother's hard work. Twelve months of making sure the sheep are properly coated and cared for. Twelve months of chasing them through pastures and luring them closer with sweet alfalfa hay for "photo shoots" and chin scratches.

We call this Butterball Alley--they won't be butterballs for long!
The morning of shearing day we remove the ewe's coats and herd them into a side alley of the barn. From there they will be escorted one at a time onto a clean bed sheet (to catch their valuable fleece), sheared, and then released to dash through a layer of fresh straw spread out in an adjacent paddock. None of the ewes dash too much, however, they are all expecting lambs in a little over a month.

Julia & Penny

For the first time we can see their pregnant bellies, which have been hidden under fiber and canvas all fall and winter, and admire the unique color of their fleeces. Very pretty mamas.

Saturday Morning

This morning was clear and cold. A beautiful morning to take some pictures in the backyard and surrounding areas. I'm making progress on my Tiffany mittens. One down, one to go. Our dog, Jackson, followed me around as I snapped these photos. There was a cold wind, so I was more than a little bit windblown and chilled when I finally dashed inside.

Here's a pair of Saartje's Booties that didn't give me any problems. They were originally canary yellow (my own handspun), but I decided to dye them a lovely spring green. I'm going to gift them to a friend who's having a baby. I like the contrast they make against the tiny red berries and frosty bud blossoms on this bush. I wandered back behind the shed looking for a better photo amongst the winter-bleached tall grass, but the wind was too vicious. It tossed the booties about. No matter where I tried to peg them my photos came out blurry.
I must have made a funny sight in pajama bottoms and boots. I turned around and found I had a silent audience. From left to right that's Hops, Willoughby, and Dutch--our two rams and wethering. They were so funny standing there in a row like that, their heads cocked at the same angle. I tried to sneak closer for a better shot, but they scattered like skittish lambs.

19 February 2009

Fits and Starts

These past few days my knitting has been progressing in fits and starts, counting mishaps, and sagging gauge. (I'm sure many of you will be able to emphasize with me.) I'm excited to start some new projects. The one above comes from last year's Interweave Knits Holiday special issue. I've never done cables on a sock. My fingers are itching to get started.

Next, I have some handspun (from Hello Yarn's Burning Bush hand painted corriedale top) that's been sitting in my stash for over six months. Not because I'd forgotten about it, on the contrary, I was just looking for the perfect project. Saarjte's booties have been floating around the web for awhile. They really shine in handspun, so I thought I'd give them a try with this yarn. Right now my counting is off. The picture shows some progress, but I'm going to have to rip that out and start over. Seems I've been reading the pattern wrong.

Vertigo is another project that has me just about ready to tear my hair out. Not because it's a difficult knit, the pattern is beautiful and simple, but because I knit it too loose the first time. My yarn choice has started to sag, as a result my hat sometimes impairs my vision. I've decided to redo it as well. I like the colors too much to let it linger on in its saggy half life. Hope to have something to show you soon.

Minnesota is currently experiencing ANOTHER cold front. Temps are dipping below zero in the mornings, so I will be needing (another) warm hat. Catch you later!

17 February 2009


What can I say? She charmed us. We were ripe for the picking and she swept us off our feet and we haven't looked back since. I suppose I should start at the beginning of this particular story. It starts Mother's Day weekend two years ago at the Shepherd's Harvest Festival, an annual event for knitters, spinners and fiber enthusiasts held at the fairgrounds on Lake Elmo near Stillwater, MN.

Six months prior I had taught both my mother and sister how to knit. (After teaching myself from the first Stitch and Bitch.) I had heard about the festival at one of the yarn stores in Duluth, MN. It sounded fun. A fan of craft shows and art fairs alike, I invited my mother and sister to drive down with me thinking we'd find something to capture our fancy.

The festival didn't disappoint. There were vendors selling yarn and fibers for spinning, shearing demos, and sheep dogs doing tricks; not to mention the normal, everyday women, walking around knitting socks. We met the heroine of our tale in the sheep barns on the far side of the fairground in a pen of fresh straw nosing up to her mother.

Julia is a registered CVM romeldale ewe. Romeldales are known for their luxurious fleece, prized by hand spinners. Romeldale yarn can be worn right next to the skin. Their fiber comes in a variety of colors ranging from a strange blue-gray, taupe-caramel, pure white, rich cream, deep dark chocolate, to black as pitch. Their markings are unique. All CVM romeldales sport the classic markings: dark legs flow into lighter midsections, like earth-toned watercolors bleeding into creamy white paper.

The shepherd who raised Julia, Sandy of Winterwind Farms, was informative and enthusiastic. Long story short: there are a lot sheep in this world who need a good home and my parents just happened to own a farm with no livestock. Later on that same summer my parents purchased four ewes, two rams, and one wethering from Winterwind--with two angora goats thrown in for good measure.

Ready or not, we had entered the world of fiber.

16 February 2009

Amateur Night

Amateur Night
hand-painted, hand-spun CVM romeldale roving
It seems the hardest thing about creating a blog was actually getting around to doing it. After years of admiring other creative people's images and words, I'm finally sharing some of my own. Creating a blog is a little like "Amateur Night" at the local karaoke bar. It's best if you don't get yourself too worked up and you jump right in. (Of course an open bar never hurts.) You'll have to bear with me as I learn how to navigate this blogspot. I'm am currently being knocked about by the photo manager. I cannot figure out how to secure more than one image to a post and not have it stuck at the top of the page in a confusing jumble.
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