“The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook” never strays far from my coffee table because I find looking at all the sheep pictures is soothing after a stressful day. It also contains so much useful information about spinning fibers that I can’t praise it enough. Manx Loaghtan has an entry, and for the sake of simplicity, I’m going with the spelling used in the book.


I bought this fiber from Woolgatherings when I went to Black Sheep Gathering in 2015. I do try to spin from a variety of sheep breeds and this was a new one for me. The fiber drafted easily and spun beautifully. I had to pick out some guard hairs and that was it. All in all, a very enjoyable project and it made pretty yarn!


Fiber: Manx Loaghtan from Woolgatherings
Color: natural
Finished yarn: 3-ply, 100g of 144 yard
Spun at 12:1 on Lendrum wheel from 1/1-7/31/2019
Plied at 12:1 on Lendrum wheel 8/2/2019

The book explains Manx Loaghtan is a conservation breed that came close to extinction 50 years ago (well, 59 now as the book is 9 years old) and is still considered rare and at risk. It isn’t listed on the Livestock Conservancy’s “Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em Initiative” list, perhaps because it’s a British breed, but the best thing we spinners can do for rare breeds is to use their fiber. What I’ll make with this skein, I don’t know (so typical), but I will enjoy admiring it.

No spinning for me tonight. My right wrist is tired out after hammering 34 nails, evenly-spaced, into a square dowel to build a raddle for the big loom.

Another Stitches West has come and gone, and now that I’ve had a few days to recover (it is truly an exhausting experience when I go all three days), it’s time to share the loot photo!

Um… I may have lost my head a little. I went into it saying I don’t need any more project bags — notice I bought loose yarn rather than a kit for Romi Hill’s mystery shawl this year so I wouldn’t get another bag — and ended up buying two, plus got a kit to sew one and got one as a giveaway.  What a pile of work fun that awaits me!


The details:

Top left section: 2 skeins Annapurna for Romi Hill’s mystery shawl, a sturdy needle threader, an indigo-dyed sashiko project bag kit, on top of a free-with-(big)-purchase bag from A Verb For Keeping Warm; 3 mini skeins of sock yarn from Forbidden Fiber Co. and 1 skein Rambouillet from Lazer Sheep (color “Space Sheep”), on top of a blue and orange project bag from Erin Lane. 

Lower left section: Andy Shawl kit with project bag and yarn from Emma’s Yarns from Beautiful Systers; pins from Forbidden Fiber Co.; owl-shaped embroidery floss holder and small bobbin from Girl on the Rocks, sheep stitch markers and gray Romeldale/alpaca fiber from Sincere Sheep; Valley Yarns Northampton from WEBS; 2 Melanie Berg shawl books.

Down the middle: “On 5th” patttern, 4 Polwarth/silk fiber braids from Wonderland Dyeworks, mixed BFL fiber from 2 Guys Yarn. The Shetland section: Bougainvillea vest kit and 8 random colors of Jamieson and Smith Shetland from Lost City Knits. 

Far right: Red Heart yarns, top two from the Pajama Party and bottom one as a gift from Marly Bird when I was in her class.

Believe it or not, it all fits into two medium-size tote bags. I confess I spent more than I intended, but not more than I should or than I could afford, so it’s all good. The Pajama Party on Friday night was fun but loud (must bring ear plugs next time so I don’t need to stuff torn bits of paper cocktail napkin in my ears), I took 3 classes (more on those later), and ran into fiber friends: stayed overnight with 6 of them and kept bumping into them and other friends and spinning guild members in the Market. A huge part of the fun of wandering is seeing everyone’s hand-made creations, proudly worn; we crafters have some amazing skills! I planned my daily wardrobe around what I wanted to show yarn vendors and pattern designers, wearing 1 or 2 things each day that I could show them at their booths.

Last night, I felt ready to tackle the goodies and catalogued everything into my yarn and fiber spreadsheet (8,164 yards of yarn, 27.2 ounces of fiber), and this morning printed the 3 patterns and wound a mini skein of Forbidden’s sock yarn for the next pair of fingerless mitts. Onward!


P.S. This was the view outside the convention center on Friday evening.


Ah, Stitches West Eve, possibly my favorite holiday. The Celestarium shawl is blocked, my bags are mostly packed (yes, bags plural for only 2 nights away… suitcase plus groceries plus finished projects to show off plus supplies for classes including spinning wheel), and I did the dang ironing. Good knitter/spinner! If I hang a handknit stocking by the (imaginary) fireplace, will Cashmere Claus or the Fiber Fairy bring me an alpaca?

Wait, I do live in an apartment. I’ll settle for a Shetland sheep.

I’m working on Celestarium, a circular pi shawl that’s a bead-studded map of the major constellations of the night sky in the northern hemisphere, and around the time I took this progress photo, while I was fishing around a bowl of beads with a tiny crochet hook in an attempt to spear one, a fellow knitter asked me, “How often do you have to put in a bead?”

Celestarium in progress 2020-01-15

My reply: “When the stars line up. And I mean that literally.”

Thinking figuratively, though, it’s about how often I write here at Mmm… Yarn. As most avid crafters know, there’s just so much to do with so few crafting hours in the day that certain things must fall by the wayside.

Stitches West is in less than 2 weeks. I started the border on Celestarium yesterday and am about 20% done. Easy-peasy to get it done in time to wear it at the Market, although it may have to go non-blocked because of how cold it is in the apartment. Cold room = things don’t dry.

It’s not that cold, really and truly. Behold, our “snow”:

Ocean Beach on 12/31/2019


Today was chilly, but not so chilly that I didn’t venture out for a Weihnachten walk, with handknit socks, sweater, and scarf underneath my big coat.


Oddly, this is my first time at Baker Beach even though I have lived here for so many years. It’s a short beach and has no tidepools so doesn’t draw me as other beaches do, but it was perfect for today. There were plenty of ecstatic city dogs out with their humans to keep me entertained, birds leaving their beautiful footprints in the sand, and some wee stranded jellyfish that were picked up again by the incoming tide.

The imperfect part was that I needed to pull out my shopping bag, even for this short jaunt. I kept my eye out for one piece of sea glass, to add to the decorative bottle I am slowly filling (it will take the rest of my life, I am sure), but all I found was, sadly, trash:


Bending every so often gave me a bit of extra exercise, and perhaps I gave some bird a merrier Christmas by removing some tempting, brightly colored plastic bits from the sand.

Santa will skip my house tonight, and that’s OK because I have yarn and fiber enough here at home to while away tomorrow’s storm. May you also be so lucky!

How do you turn your ideas into finished items? I use sheets of notebook paper and a calculator. I do say “sheets” because it often takes a few goes before pretty yarn turns into a pretty finished object. These mittens were a request. The recipient wanted gray and definitely mittens. Additionally, one of the recipient’s hands is an inch shorter than the other, making it hard to find commercially-made mittens because they need the right amount of stretch to accommodate two sizes. Knitter to the rescue!

It took me a bit of time to find a gray I liked. I found the yarn at Stitches West 2018. It marinated more than a year (ugh!), then I set to it with swatches and notes. I used 4 needle sizes in my swatches and fiddled with different possible stitch patterns. Here is the last swatch:


I did some in the round and some back and forth, and finally settled on size 2 needles and Fluted Rib from Barbara Walker’s “A Treasury of Knitting Patterns.” The recipient is a hiker, and with gray yarn I wanted something a little rock-y and a little reflective of the literal ups and downs of tackling a mountain on foot, plus I needed a row repeat that could be shortened without looking like a mistake. Here is a progress shot with lifelines and stitch markers in place at key points:


I only had to rip back to lifelines twice while figuring out the rate of increases for the thumb. Added bonus: you can dive right into Fluted Rib, no other ribbing needed to keep the cuff from curling. Once mitten #1 was done, the second was a breeze. The tight gauge and yarn’s bit of nylon content means these will wear well even with a life of grasping hiking poles. Here they are, done:



Pattern: own
Yarn: 139 yards Backyard Fiberworks Meadow, 80% merino, 10% cashmere, 10% nylon, color: Stormcloud
Needles: US size 2
Started 5/19 and finished 6/2/2019

They fit well (see photographic evidence!) and the recipient likes them. And her hiking friends do, too. Success!


Getting the lid on the scraps bin became a chore; it was time to dive in and see what I had. Mostly I have been sorting small piles of similar weights and playing with color combinations every time I walk past. Sorting is all well and good, but you must cast on if you plan to reduce volume. The box of finished baby booties needed replenishment, the bin yielded a lot of suitable material, and booties make perfect bus knitting, so this is what I did during commute in July:


Pattern: own
Yarns: South West Trading Company TOFUtsies (green/tan), Hikoo Sueño (red), Plymouth Dreambaby DK (pale aqua), Debbie Bliss Rialto 4 ply (bright blue), JaggerSpun Cotton-Wool 3/10 (red/white marl), Dale of Norway Baby Ull (bright yellow), Schoeller Esslinger Fortissima (navy blue), KnitPicks Essential (blue) and Stroll (brown), and some random pale yellow acrylic/nylon
Needles: US size 2
Started 6/25 and finished 7/28/2019

I am sorry the Sueño is now all used up; that was lovely to work with. The bin holds the promise of more booties in the future, but now I’m enamored of possible worsted weight combinations for mittens.

In non-fiber news, the juvenile scrub jays (I’m certain they’re scrub and not stellar’s) apparently love to come see what I’m doing when I go out on the fire escape, even if I’m shaking out rugs. This one sat some 15 inches away and posed nicely:



I think I coined a word there in the title of this post, but really, why do knitters knit a cozy for an inanimate object? Because we can! I have made many a drawstring bag for small objects that needed protection from the elements.

In this case, I bought a fancy wee travel-size teleidoscope and I did not want its glass lens to pick up scratches as it travels with me in my bag, getting too friendly with pens and keys. Knitting to the rescue! I grabbed a bit of leftover handspun and about 45 minutes later (resizing held things up), I had bag:


Pattern: k2p2
Yarn: about 5 yards of my 2-ply handspun merino from Royal Hare that I spun in 2006, color Santa Rosa Plum
Needles: US size 3
Made 6/2/2019

I am very happy with how it turned out, especially since I used what I consider sub-par yarn. I learned to spin in 1999 but only spun a little about once a year in those early years (and wondered why my skills didn’t improve), and I find it interesting how even one’s beginning spinning can look great when knitted up.

I set down the Otto pullover, unfinished, in August because the sofa needs a spot of color and, naturally, I have to go about it in the most time-consuming manner possible:


No evening knitting for weeks while I stitched every night. I have it about 75% done now; I am a slow needlepointer.

In September, I was finally able to spin again after a hiatus. I sprained my left ankle back on May 10, not 24 hours into vacation and in Luxembourg, because a holiday is more fun when you are hobbling on cobblestones in foreign countries as a newbie on crutches, and struggling to get in and out those weird shower stalls that are some 14 inches off the floor and have no handholds, using only one leg. Did you know sprains come in varying degrees? Mine was rather dramatic because my ligament snapped (my mom, some 20 yards ahead of and facing away from me: “Did you hear that? What was that noise?”) and I was on crutches until August 22 and on a single crutch until just 12 days ago; physical therapy ends in 2 weeks. Thank goodness the rental car was an automatic so I could keep up my half of the driving. And thank goodness I had my teal boots with me. Those boots were my friends because they have a side zipper and laces, so easy to get in and out of and the laces could accommodate Mr. Puffy, the Ankle of Doom. For months, spinning while standing was impossible because my hands were too full and my balance no good, and trying to pedal the wheel wasn’t any good, either. My mom captured a moment of me doing a wee bit of spindling while standing on my good leg while we waited our turn to get on the car ferry over the Elbe as we headed toward Denmark:


Zoom in and you can see the Invisible Spindle Effect, which I think is way cool. It’s not invisible in its reflection in the car door; odd, no? My moving hands look just plain creepy in the photo.

Starting up spinning again meant I had to face the fact that the gargantuan bag of handspun-I-collect-because-if-I-use-it-it-will-be-gone-and-it-can’t-be-replaced is so full that I can barely zip it, so I decided to try to make a dent in that stash. Behold, the hat:


This was ideal bus knitting and is finished but not blocked or photographed, and I’m now on the 4th hat using handspun yarn. Even though it’s older spinning and therefore not so even as my more recent work, the finished products are turning out lovely and I’m pleased. Plus… mmm… my yarn!

And as a final knitting distraction besides vacation and injury and needlepoint, early October was the 10-year anniversary of when Mr. MmmYarn was diagnosed with leukemia, and it’s where my brain has been for probably the last 7 weeks or so. Just replaying decade-old events in a merciless loop. Toss in some wishing it could have all gone differently, and, sigh. There is nothing to be done. I will distract myself tonight with a cheesy movie, a glass of wine, and the last of the background behind the peacock’s feathers.

Bus knitting yesterday plus a bit of Laundromat knitting today means the Otto pullover is moving along. Here’s progress:


I staged the project on the needles in this photo so you could see the right side and the wrong side of the work at the same time. On the right side, you see how the purple peeks through the charcoal a little, creating a slightly tweedy effect. It looks like a mistake in the first few rows, but once it’s an allover pattern, it looks deliberately tweedy. The wrong side shows just how many times I have to trap the yarn for this Armenian knitting technique. It’s a wee bit slower than stranded knitting is for me, but I find it easier to keep the tension consistent than I would have for 8-stitch floats. Onward!

Oh, and have you seen Ravelry’s new Index tab on your Projects page? It’s fabulous!


Flickr Photos