Friday, January 23, 2015

From the Source Friday: Pronkin Pastures


The fourth Friday of every month is From the Source Friday! Show your appreciation to these dedicated fiber farmers as they teach you all about where your yarn comes from. Today's featured fiber is alpaca. Originally from South America, alpacas have become popular with fiber lovers for the soft fibers that they produce. LeeAnna of Pronkin Pastures Alpaca Ranch on Whidbey Island, Washington is here with us today to tell us about her furry friends.

Life on the ranch...
We started our business 10 years ago with the purchase of 3 pregnant female alpacas, 2 gelded males, and a rescue llama.  Over the years our herd has slowly grown. We currently have 36 huacaya alpacas, 2 suri alpacas, and the llama.  We raise them for their fine fiber which is harvested once per year - usually in late May /early June.  This timing  gives the animals relief from the summer heat and allows enough time for fiber to grow back before it gets cold again.  With 38 alpacas, shearing is a full weekend of work.  We hire a professional alpaca shearer - a husband and wife team that have become personal friends to us.  The shearer brings all the tools, equipment and expertise needed, and we have several friends and family members that help us over the course of the weekend, so we try to make it as fun as possible.  I look forward to shearing as it is always exciting to see the fiber our animals have grown - especially the new animals that are being shorn for the first time.  We save as much fiber as possible and depending on the quality and other characteristics decide on how it will be processed.  The fiber from each animal is evaluated and processed individually.  Ideally, we like to have the fiber processed into luxurious yarn and roving, but not all fiber lends itself to that end.  The lesser quality fiber is not wasted though; it is processed into batts for felting, or into actual felted sheets.  We use 3 local mini mills to process the majority of the fiber, but hand process the cria (baby alpaca) fleeces.  The cria fleeces are generally tender and quite dirty, so we take extra care with those and process them by hand from start to finish.

Day to day with the alpacas is pretty low key.  Alpacas are not the type of animal that crave human attention or interaction, so feeding, watering and cleaning up after them is really all that is required on a daily basis.  Alpacas are not washed or groomed, but we do trim their toenails on an ‘as needed’ basis.  We always trim toe nails at shearing time, but some require an additional trim once or twice in between shearing.  Since we are breeding alpacas, a little more is required during the summer months when new arrivals are due.  We like to be on the farm when the moms are close to their delivery date so that we can be on hand in the event that she or the newborn baby require assistance.  Alpacas are generally trouble free in that aspect as well, so most of the time we are just on hand to witness the miracle first hand.
 
An Alpaca Story
I think my favorite farm story is that of the conception and birth of Destiny.  My blog post dated 9/8/14 gives many of the details.  What is not in the post is that Caelia (Destiny’s grandmother, and female that we had to have put down) was one of the first 3 female alpacas we bought when we started with alpacas 10 years ago.  Lily (Destiny’s mother) was the first born female on our farm – so she holds a special place in our hearts.  Destiny is now 4 ½ months old.

Have a look!



















My website is www.pronkinpastures.com.  My blog is also on my website at http://www.pronkinpastures.com/blog .  I don’t maintain an Etsy site – most of my sales are done at my shop (located on the farm premises) or by vending at local fiber related events and spin-in’s.  I usually participate in the St Distaff’s Day Spin In, Whidbey Island Spin In, Whidbey Island Fiber Quest, Whidbey Island Farm Tour, and Fiber Fusion Northwest.  I’ll be adding a few additional vending opportunities  this year as I am enjoying the off-site vending experience and reaching a wider target audience.

Wow! Thank you so much for all of the detailed information and wonderful pictures, LeeAnna! A major high five goes out to you and to all the other alpaca farmers out there for providing fiber lovers like me with awesome yarn!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Ballard Crochet Sighting

The other day I was out walking in Ballard, a Seattle neighborhood, when I spotted a bit of crochet in a wedding-themed window display. The doily appeared to be vintage and a bit worn. I couldn't resist snapping a few pictures to share with you!




I love finding crochet out in the wider world. Keep your eyes peeled and you'll likely see some neat things, too!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Journaling Through Crochet

A while back I featured an awesome Remix of the Amineko Cat pattern. Karin used the temperature of each day to craft a one-of-a-kind cat.


Temperature projects like blankets, scarves, and this cat are a form of journaling through crochet. Taking a moment of each day to work on a single project slowly over time can provide a very different kind of satisfaction than working on a project for hours at a time and finishing it much more quickly. Interested in trying out this type of project for yourself? Here are a few ideas!

Sampler Afghan 
Work up a different, large afghan block each month and combine all twelve at the end of the year for a special blanket.

Mood Project
Select a different color of yarn for each mood (happy, sad, angry, bored, excited, etc) and then work up a row on a scarf or blanket in the appropriate color each day.

Skill Builder
This is a great one for beginners. Choose a small pattern like a flower motif. Work the same pattern once every month for a year. At the end of the year you'll be able to see how much your tension and accuracy has improved. You can then use all of the bits and pieces together in a big project.

Have any other suggestions for journaling through crochet? Share them with us in the comments!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Reach Out Friday: Project Linus


The third Friday of every month is Reach Out Friday! Learn about ways that you can use crochet to help others through special charities and groups.


Overview
Today's featured charity is Project Linus. Project Linus provides security blankets to comfort children in need, often children who are struggling with illness or trauma. They have provided millions -yes millions- of blankets to deserving children. I think it's wonderful that they focus on handmade blankets. They think it's important to give these young ones blankets that have been imbued with the love and care only a handmade object can carry. The charity also accepts monetary donations. As an aside, don't you just love the use of Charles Shulz's Linus character in the logo?

Mission Statement
"First- Provide love, a sense of security, warmth and comfort to children who are seriously ill, traumatized, or otherwise in need through the gifts of new, handmade blankets and afghans, lovingly created by volunteer 'blanketeers'.

Second- Provide a rewarding and fun service opportunity for interested individuals and groups in local communities, for the benefit of children."
 
Special Considerations
Blankets donated to Project Linus can be any size from infant to teen, though they do state that 40 inches by 60 inches is the size they most frequently receive. Take care that all blankets donated are handmade and washable. Also, blankets should be free of smells, hard embellishments, and other contaminants.

Reach Out!
Ready to help by making a blanket or donation? Find the Project Linus Chapter in your area to get started.

*Please note that the Project Linus logo is the property of Project Linus.*

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Adding A Bit of Mystery to Your Crochet

As far as traditional craft store yarn brands go, I have to say I really appreciate Lion Brand. They have such a wide array of yarns available that I can always find something appropriate for my project. I recently spent a bit of time on the Lion Brand website while making some design decisions. As I browsed I came across the coolest thing... it's a series of mystery yarn boxes! How cool is that? This seems like the perfect thing for someone who is stuck in a crochet rut. Each box has a different theme so it's not a total gamble, but you still don't know what you're getting which makes it fun and exciting.

I wouldn't necessarily trust just any yarn company to send a nice assortment of mystery yarns, but with Lion Brand you know you're getting quality. If my drawers weren't already overflowing with yarn and my design schedule wasn't overflowing with deadlines I would totally scoop up one of these mystery boxes. They just sound like so much fun! Have you ever purchased mystery yarn? I'd love to hear how it turned out for you!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Learn to Crochet Lesson Two: How to Work a Chain Stitch and Base Chain

Hello, beginning crocheters! Welcome to the second part of my Learn to Crochet blog post series. Now that you've learned how to tie a slip knot the next thing you'll need to know is how to do the chain stitch and make a base chain. Here we go!

Start with your slip knot loop around your hook as before.

Wrap the yarn from left to right around the back of the hook. 

Pull the yarn strand down through the loop that is already on the hook.

Now the strand has become the loop around the hook. You have just created one chain stitch.

Continue your chain by wrapping the working yarn strand around the back of the hook from left to right as before.

Pull the yarn down through the loop on the hook.

There you have it, another chain stitch! Now you have two. See the two "V's" to the left of the hook? Those are your chain stitches.

Continue your chain until you have the number of chain stitches called for by your pattern, or until the chain is the width you want it to be for a beginner's scarf or potholder. 

Have questions? Always feel free to ask them in the comments :)

Friday, January 9, 2015

Indie Dye Friday: Rambling Rose Yarns


The second Friday of every month is Indie Dye Friday! Feast your eyes on lovely yarn in gorgeous colorways developed by talented independent yarn dyers. Today's featured dyer is Teresa Rosello of Rambling Rose. She's here with us today to share a bit about herself and her yarns. Her vibrant colorways really stand out beautifully.

A bit about Teresa
I am a stay at home mom of two little girls.  We live in Maryland, south of Baltimore.  I love to make things from scratch, and things like cooking, sewing, knitting, and crocheting are perfect for me.  I also enjoy gardening.

How long have you been dyeing fiber? How did you get started?
Being a from-scratch kind of person, just knitting wasn't enough for me.  Dyeing the yarn that I use was a natural first step.  If I had the time (and I certainly don't!) I would enjoy learning to spin the yarn first, or even to raise the sheep myself (but don't have the land...  yet).  I started dyeing as well as a creative outlet for myself.  My second daughter had just been born and I needed a non-mommy pursuit.  Making money is a bonus, but having my shop is more for giving myself an outlet.

Where do you get the inspiration for your colorways?
As a gardener, it was easy to take inspiration from nature.  I like bold, bright colors, but am learning to appreciate the subtle colors as well. 

What fibers and dyes do you love to work with?
I love to work with the silk yarn.  The colors are so bright and vibrant!  Plus silk for some reason doesn't tangle as badly as some of my other yarns when I'm rewinding them.  I only use Greener Shades dyes, and I find the lack of diversity in their color to be perfect for me.  I only use a red, blue, yellow, and black from them and mix my own colorways.  I'd never get anything done if I used something like Jacquard, as they have too many options for me.  I would really like to start learning how to make my own dyes from plants. 

Behind the scenes...
[Here are] a few pictures of my dyeing workspace.  It's in my basement, so it's not easy to take nice pictures.  I included a picture of my yarn storage, a photo of yarns hanging to dry, and two ugly photos of my crock pots and a large assortment of the glassware I use to mix up dyes.  





A few colorways...
This is my silk blend yarn, in my Lime colorway.  I love how bright and fun this colorway turns out. 


My alpaca blend yarn is a single ply mix of wool, silk, and alpaca.  I love how the colors blend in the Midnight Blue colorway.

 
My tweed yarn is a fun superwash merino yarn with bits of synthetic material spun into it.  Blackberry is a great combination of purple and pink, and one of my favorite colorways.


Just lovely! You can see more wonderful colorways on Teresa's website and in her Etsy shop. Thank you very much for joining us today, Teresa!