Friday, June 26, 2009

Dyeing for BonBons

Last evening I spent a bit of time making up 'BonBons' the delectable little one-ounce rolls of hand dyed fiber that I sell in the local yarn shops. It's a great way for feltmakers to get a decent amount of hand dyed fiber in several colorways without a huge investment. I noticed that both my accounts were a bit low and my 'candy box' was a bit scanty as well. Taking a visual inventory (which means that I look in the box and say, 'huh, I need greens'), I look at my dyed fiber supply, pull the colors that I need and proceed to weigh, roll, tie and tag the fiber goodies. This usually results in another visual inventory, whereby I say, 'huh, I need greens' and decide what I need to dye next. Last evening - you guessed it - it was shades of green.

When I first started selling dyed fiber in Asheville HomeCrafts in the Grove Arcade, I wasn't sure how to package it. Roving balls were messy and got shopworn and separated from their tags. Also, needle felters didn't want 4 ounces and they far outnumber the spinners. So I hit on the bonbon idea. Take an ounce of fiber, roll it up like a cinnamon roll, tie it with pretty yarn and tag it. The finished product is 'gift wrapped.' I use both commercial and handspun yarns, taking a moment to select a contrasting yarn that looks good on the fiber.

This is a part of my fiber world that I really love. Creating beautiful things that are sold in a local business that then go home with visitors from all over. Some across town; others from across the world!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Phat Stripes Hat Free Pattern

This hat is easy to make and does a great job of showing off small amounts of hand spun, hand dyed yarns, particularly ones that you make from your Phat Fiber samples. Make your stripes subtle or wild, smooth or textured - what ever suits you! How ever you color it, you don't need a lot of yardage to make a great hat that looks good on women or men.

This pattern is written for bulky weight yarn (6-8 wraps per inch) and size 10 1/2 needles. You will need a total of about 65-75 yards. This hat fits an average adult, but can easily be sized up or down by casting on more or fewer stitches and adjusting your decreases. Experienced knitters can also adjust the number of cast on stitches to a finer gauge yarn and needles.

Basic color (brim and top) - 30-35 yards of bulky weight yarn
Stripes - 3-4 stripes - 8-15 yards per stripe

Size 10 1/2 (6.5 mm) 16" circular needle & one set of double pointed needles
Yarn needle; stitch marker

Gauge: 3 stitches per inch

With basic color, cast on 56 stitches. Join in a ring, being careful not to twist stitches.

Knit 3 rows.
Purl 1 row.
Knit 2 rows.

Attach Stripe #1. Knit 1 row.
Purl 1 row.
Knit 2-4 rows.

Attach Stripe #2. Knit 1 row.
Purl 1 row.
Knit 2-4 rows.

Attach Stripe #3. Knit 1 row.
Purl 1 row.
Knit 1-3 rows.

Reattach your basic color. Knit at least 1 row, or until the hat is 5 1/2-6 inches tall.

Begin decreases. Place a marker to show the end of the round.

Knit 5; Knit 2 together (K2T). Repeat around.
Knit around.
Knit 4; K2T. Repeat around.
Knit around.
Knit 3; K2T. Repeat around.
Knit around. Change to double pointed needles.
Knit 2; K2T. Repeat around.
Knit around.
Knit 1; K2T. Repeat around.
Knit around.
Knit 2 together. Repeat around.

Cut yarn, leaving a 6 inch tail. Thread yarn through stitches and weave in tail. Weave in all ends.

Instead of the rolled brim, try a K2P2 ribbed cuff, using a size 10 (6mm) needle.
Keep adding stripes all the way to the top.

Yarn credits:
Base yarn & pink stripe hand dyed and hand spun by Smoky Mountain Fibers.
Orange stripe: Merino wool & SeaCell roving by Knit It Up (, color English Garden; plied with Smoky Mountain Fibers apricot handspun.
Teal Stripe: Breeze Merino and Bamboo roving by 1,000 petals (, color Hydra; plied with Smoky Mountain Fibers teal handspun.

Copyright 2009 by AnneMarie Walter for SmokyMountainFibers ( & Phat Fibers ( You have my permission to make as many of these hats as you wish from this pattern. Sell them if you like; giva a few to charity. You may not sell this pattern, but you may link to it on Ravelry (I'm SmokyMtnFibers) or my blog, http:\\

Monday, June 15, 2009

Sweet Baby Zukes

I'm glad that tiny baby vegetables are no longer the coolest thing in foodie-land, because there are too cute to take away from their mamas. Tiny baby zucchini only about as big as my little finger, and that was 24 hours ago. This morning they are about the size of my index finger. Tiny baby Butternuts are on their way to being the size of a ... what... the size of a skein of Cascade Ecological wool? We grow 'em big here!

Saturday was a carding day as well as sort-through-old-stuff day. I used old wool I will NEVER spin up to mulch the garden. I laid down batts and covered them with pine bark mulch. The wool should felt & block grass with a bit of help from the pine bark. Some areas just got cardboard or plastic to kill the grass where vegies will soon roam.

Yesterday was a spinning day. Both at home and at the WNC Farmers Market I spun off- white natural, 2 color change yarns and a multicolor pastel yarn. The jury is still out on that one - maybe a bit girly-girl for my taste.

The last photo is the 'field of poppies' all self-seeded from last year and soon to be pulled for something more edible. Flowers are lovely, but that is supposed to the the chard bed and the poppies are crowding out - or it it dimming?- my 'Bright Lights.' Note the peas in the left foreground.

This weekend the Phat Fiber boxes went on sale with my oceanic samples and my Phat Stripes pattern went up on the 'Secret Site.' Gotta get that on Ravelry!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Gull Lace Hat - Now on Etsy!

After a few months of meaning to get around to it, this evening I uploaded my lovely Gull Lace hat on Etsy. It's a fun knit and an easy way to learn to knit lace. The pattern has been selling nicely at Asheville Home Crafts, and it was time to get it done! The trickiest part was getting the tags right so it will come up in the Etsy search engine. It's had a few views, so I guess I was successful. Next step: get it listed on Ravelry. Maybe I'll get to it next week.

The weekend is coming up and I am ready to spend another weekend in the garden and house. I'm still getting rid of stuff. What do those people who have a LOT of stuff do?

The butternut squash vines are just beginning their annual trek across the yard, The largest grew a FOOT yesterday and it will likely do the same today. I'll be laying down a mulch of waste wool, hay and cardboard, where I am really trying to kill the grass. The poppies looked fabulous this morning, but no pics yet - wet grass!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Which Ewe Am I?

As it turns out, I'm Shropshire! "As the oldest pedigree breed, Shropshires can claim elegance, manners and grace as their inheritance. Like other down and down-type wools, Shropshires stick together and are always sure to make new friends feel welcome." Ah shucks!

You can take the Which Ewe Are Ewe? quiz too at the publisher of Clara Parks' new book, The Knitter's Book of Wool, in which Clara looks at the different sheep breeds from a knitter's point of view. As a spinner who prefers to work from the raw fleece, I really enjoy getting to know not just different breeds but also individual sheep. I have purchased the same sheep's fleece multiple times. So whether it's Carl (handsome grey Romney weather) or Abby (sweet, soft white Finn) or Faye (a lovely Jacob in brown and white), I think of the sheep fondly who gave me their fleece. Thanks, and grow some more!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Morning Garden Tour

June is bustin' out all over my garden. Here are just a few pictures of what I saw this morning...

Poppies: all are volunteers. Although we saved seeds last year, we had enough babies show up, we did not bother to plant them. This tear, I intend to mark the ones worth saving and pull the rest before they go to seed. I want my garden back from these little interlopers!Bees like them, though!

Daylilies are just starting to bloom. The first is 'Little Business.' I moved him into a better space last year and I'm glad I did. They have been the first to bloom and are clearly happy in their new spot. Not sure of the second one, very pretty though.

Lavender in full bloom. I brought this home from the tailgate market in a 2 1/2 inch pot a few years ago. I think it's Munstead. Behind the lavender are classic orange daylilies getting ready for quite a burst. They should be full out when I get home. These were dug up by a friend who was building a house and a huge stand of them were going to be bull dozed. Happily he shared them with his friends. Thanks, Hank!

Sugar snap peas: We are eating them daily. With the warmer weather they'll be compost soon to be followed by green beans. Roma tomato plant is happy in its hot spot. Note the baby squash at its feet! Speaking of squash, this hill of butternut (from saved seeds) is about to cover the yard in vines. I recently heard that squash vine borers don't bother with butternut - Fools!

Required fiber content!

Spinning colorful yarns, dyeing Subtle Shades sock yarns, knitting wildly colored striped hats, writing hat patterns. And yet all I have to show today is dark brown fiber overdyed with red and the color on the photo looks purple. The yarn spun up nice. Wonder what it will be?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Phat Fiber Sampler Box -Spoiler Alert!

June marks the 2nd month that I have been a contributor to the Phat Fiber Sampler Box, a project that assembles boxes from a number of fiber artists and is sold through the Etsy Shop. It's a way for consumers to try lots of different samples and fiber artists to get their work in the hands of shoppers who are looking for handmade work by indie spinners, dyers, knitters and other artists.

This month's theme was 'Oceans' - a theme I can really relate to. Since blues and greens are two of my favorite colors to dye, I had a lot of fun with this one.

I chose to make 1/3 ounce samples of 3 of my best selling colorways. On the top is Muted Sea Glass, a creamy pale blue-green merino. The lower right is one of my all time faves, Beach Glass a mid-toned blue/green/lavender, which in this case is very green - think 7Up bottle. On the left is Oceana, a bright blue-teal. I also sent a number of business cards with small swatches of handspun yarn & a discount code (20% off) to go in the business card pouch. Maybe the coolest item in the box I shipped was the lovely spiral of 'Deep Blue Sea' Falklands roving. This is for Jessie (the Phat Fiber Queen herself) to blog about and give away. Since the way she does the giveaways is to send people to the Etsy store and ask them to comment on the things that they find there. This drives traffic to my site so that fiber people can do a bit of shopping.

I decided to get involved in this promotion for a couple of reasons. OK, should increase sales - that's obvious. But it also builds community. The more people work together, the better it is for all of us. I know that people are shopping from the vendors who contribute to the boxes. I did! I bought 2 (not 1!) GREAT knitting bags from Ruddawg, whose work I sampled in the April box, the first one I contributed to. It's a great little bag - just the right size with lots of interior pockets. Today I am using the Medium size to carry the secret hat project that I am currently working on.

Speaking of the Secret Hat Project, last night I spun up some roving from the April box + my own stash to make the yarn for a pattern that I am writing for the Phat Fiber site. Works nicely for small amounts of handspun. I'd best stop before it is no longer secret!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Dancing in Saxapaha

Just back from a delightful weekend of dance in the NC Triangle area. My friend Stephen built a house a few years ago with a large living room that is great for house concerts and small dance parties. He even had a sprung wooden dance floor installed. This weekend he hosted a small contra dance weekend for about 40 people. Notorious (Eden McAdam-Somer and Larry Unger) played and Nils Fridland called and played trombone. I had so much fun dancing and visiting with old friends and new.

Nils called a lot of squares, including a set of singing squares that he has been collecting and learning (and getting ready to publish with Ralph Sweet). There was an open mike session with Skylark, so I called a few too. Notorious was great as always and sat in with Skylark. At one point we had a six piece band including twin fiddles, piano, guitar, bodran and the trombone. Not bad for an intimate dance setting.

Great weather for the event with a sunny Saturday, cool evening and a bit of rain on Sunday morning to freshen every thing up nicely. I camped out on my truck which I had not done in some time. I spent time with some people who I had not seen since I moved away from the Piedmont. Other folks I have kept in touch with throughout that time - My English dance friends & people who travel up this way.

I kept my knitting simple, working on the 2nd sleeve of the Spicy Cardi - Got about 3 inches done. The kitting up I did last weekend is really paying off! I have knit about 4 hats with plenty more to come. I also dyed up a good bit of 'orphan' yarn in shades that should go nicely with the mohairs that didn't have good companions.

I have been dyeing sock yarns again, in my subtle shades line.So far I have taken most of them to Asheville HomeCrafts. They move nicely there. Today, I need to get my Phat Fiber box shipped to PF Central.

Photos removed due to copyright restrictions of the photographer.