Sarah Jane Humke

The life of a traveling, reading, writing, spining and knitting shepherdess.

New Additions to the Library July 2, 2016

I recently added three new books to my fiber library that I am so excited about I just had to share.

First is the book Lithuanian Knitting: Continuing Traditions by Donna Druchunas and June L. Hall.  First off, can I get a WOW just for the book itself.  Beautifully bound, well photographed and high-quality printing makes this book stand out amongst knitting books in general.  Now I’m a sucker for a knitting book that isn’t all just patterns.  I find that often the stories shared in them are just as inspiring as the patterns.  As far as I am concerned, Lithuanian Knitting sets the standard for the “Not just a knitting pattern book”  genre.  The writing is excellent as well as the selected patterns.  I cannot suggest this book strongly enough if you are interested in the history and the continuing relevance of knitting in a country known for its knitting traditions.  Get it, you won’t be disappointed.

Books 2

The second book is Icelandic Handknits by Hélène Magnússon.  This is another beautifully presented book with excellent photography and lovely printing and binding.  There isn’t as much introduction to this book, but I love the little stories within the patterns spread throughout the book.  Reading this one has made me even more excited about my very short time in Iceland in the autumn.

Books 1

The final book that I have added to my library is The Book of Haps edited by Kate Davies and Jen Arnall-Culliford.  I’m rather a big fan of most things Shetlandic, so when I saw that this book was coming out, I decided I really must get it.  It starts with a brief history of shawls and haps and how the terminology changed throughout the years.  It then moves on to patterns for various types of haps inspired by the various locations of the pattern writers.  Every single pattern is beautiful in its own way.  Some weave WAY off the path of what you would consider a “hap”, but all the patterns are completely wearable and totally lovely.

books 4


Learning. Always learning. March 2, 2015

This weekend I took a class through my guild.  It was a class that I have wanted to take for some time now and finally had the opportunity to take it.  Since I have had a loom in my possession for some time now, I thought that it was high time that I learned how to use it.  Thus, a beginning weaving class.

This is what my loom looked like prior to tying on my warp.  I forgot to take pictures of the actual winding of the warp, sorry.


And these are what it looked like with my warp tied on.


Front of the loom



The backside of the loom

After a little while weaving, the front of the loom looked like this:


And a little while after that, it looked like this:


And after two days of instruction and weaving, I ended-up with this:


I’m very pleased with how it turned out.  It’s obviously not perfect, but considering that it is my first woven piece since a few of those woven potholders in grade school, I think it turned out pretty well.

In non-weaving related news.  I am also working on a birthday hat.  I can now show it as I have actually knit on it in front of the recipient:-)


It is being knit from some 3-ply hand-spun Shetland wool yarn I made specifically for this hat.




I also had a wonderful surprise in the mail today.  I received a package from Baton Rouge from my bestie Elise.  Inside was a birthday card as well as these:



If I ever have an office again, the I Want to Believe poster is going up in it, just to freak-out the muggles:-)




I value my fingers February 23, 2015

So, in case you haven’t guessed, it’s winter around here.  There’s not a whole lot going on that I haven’t already talked about.  Or maybe I should really put it this way, there’s not a lot going on that I feel that I can talk about yet.  Yes, that means that there are plans and ideas taking shape but none of them are solid enough yet to write them down here.  Though once they are, well, y’all are never going to hear the end of them!  But for this moment, I’m keeping quiet.

What is going on is more spinning and knitting.  Just because it’s cold enough to freeze nose hair outside doesn’t mean that I actually hibernate.  Also, nearly everyone I love in my life is born in the winter, thus making the life of a knitter who loves to make gifts a little more stressful.  I really need to work on working on birthday presents in July more!  The one that I can show you presently is still in its yarn state, which is hand spun so I still get some credit for it.  It’s for the boyfriend for his birthday (which is this week *ahem*) and he’s already seen it so no spoilers here.


It’s a 3-ply yarn that ended-up being somewhere between a heavy fingering and a light DK weight.  It’s spun from some Shetland tops that I purchased while I was there from Jamieson and Smith.  It’s lovely, lovely stuff.  Very squishy.  Not overly soft, I would describe it as having a slightly crisp handle.  I gave the boyfriend a number of choices of yarn for his hat.IMG_0091

But in the end, he had exceptional taste (if I do say so myself) and chose the tops.

There are other projects that I am working on in the background that I cannot show on here as they would be spoilers.  One of the bad things about knitting for gift giving I guess:-)

The sock yarn blanket has grown some.



This is what it kind of looks like while I’m knitting it…

It now covers my entire full-sized bed.  Sorry that the pictures are kinda crappy.  Did I mention that it’s winter outside?  It’s currently 15 degrees Fahrenheit (which is 16 degrees below freezing) outside and the snow looks either grey and dismal or yellow and cheerful, neither of which lends itself to photographing a giant knitted blanket on.  I suppose I could try to get creative about how to show it, but that takes time and I personally value my fingers and toes.  So crappy photos it is!


One of the things that I have been doing that I can tell you about (even though I have no photos) is that I am currently taking a class through something called Annie’s Project.  It’s run through the Iowa State Extension Service (love me some Extension!) and it is specifically for women in agricultural endeavors.  The reason for it being specifically for women is that often women have different goals and a different experience with farming than men do.  It has been immensely helpful for me to just figure out where I should be putting my energy.  My class is specifically about business planning, but there are classes about succession planning and in-depth business classes past what we are learning.  It’s reason number 432 of why I love the extension service!


Still washing…. May 6, 2011

I finally finished washing a very large Jacob fleece that I got a couple of years ago (hangs head knowing that I should have washed them when I got them).  It wasn’t that difficult to wash, just that there was a LOT of it.  Most of the Jacob sheep that I have “met” have been pretty good-sized animals.  There are more than a few of them around here even, though I think that they are more pets and lawn mowers than normal sheep as they are fun to see with their coats of many colors and multiple horns.  I’ve moved onto a moorit Shetland that was purchased in the same batch as the rest of the British wool group.  It’s not nearly as nice as the fleeces that I picked-up in Lerwick from the special room at J&S.  Then again, the special room in J&S is a result of Oliver and his 60+ years experience working with Shetland fleeces.  When he sees a particularly interesting one, or a really, really nice one he pops it in there for the handspinners.  This Shetland of unknown provenance is nice, though seems quite dusty.  The water is less tea-like and more mud-like than I’ve seen to this point.  It also smells dusty.  Not like a barn like some of them have smelled but more like a shed where harvesting equipment is stored.  I know that is really splitting hairs (and that the majority of people in the world aren’t going to have a clue as to what the hell I’m talking about) but it is interesting.  It doesn’t smell particularly sheepy to tell you the truth.  Some of the Shetland fleeces that I got in Shetland had a lot of peat in them which made them “fun” to wash (more like I was dunking giant tea bags with wool in them over and over and over) but none of them smelled anything like this.  In fact, it makes me think that this fleece may have been from a Shetland sheep that isn’t located on the islands.  I have nothing to back this up unless I want to get all CSI on its ass (I could sample the “mud” that I am getting out of it and see what it’s composed of and then compare that to soil surveys taken of the islands…. Ok, wow, just geeked myself out there for a little bit!).

Anyway, I am glad to see the back of the Jacob as I was starting to get a tad on the bored side with it.  After the Shetland of unknown provenance I have 3 colored fleeces that were sold as simply “Fine Wool Coloured £2.75” and a “Cheviot £4.50”.  Just to stave off the question that I know is going to be coming, the huge Jacob fleece was £3, the Coloured BFL was £5.25 and the Shetland of unknown provenance £3.75.  Now, for those of you in the US that are beginning to hyperventilate over those prices for fleece, let me explain something.  This is an island covered in sheep.  In some areas farmers burn or mulch the fleeces that they get from sheep because they aren’t worth enough to pay for the shipping to the market (though, hopefully this won’t be the case this year as fleece prices have gone up significantly there).  I also didn’t get to choose the fleeces that I got for those prices.  But (hopefully I don’t have folks after me with wool combs after posting this!) the total price for the 7 fleeces that I got from the British Wool Marketing Board in 2009 was £33.70 and that included shipping to my house.  This isn’t tooooo uncommon of a price to tell you the truth.  Last year I got a Leicester Longwool at Woolfest for around £9 and the year before that I got a really nice Herdwick for £5.  All of my Shetland fleeces from Shetland were between £5 and £10 (they were priced per kilo) and they were really really nice, like they would have possibly gone for triple digits at Rhinebeck…  Some of the more canny farmers are starting to mark their fleeces up a bit for things like Woolfest, but most of them don’t too much yet as it is just too easy for most spinners here to get fleeces for very cheap or for free still.

So, you might be wondering what brought about this wool washing extravaganza all of a sudden.  One word: Moths.  I found a few in the downstairs part of the house on yarn that had been left out for ornamental purposes.  It’s not too surprising to find them given that A.) the house has no screens on its windows so every Tom, Dick and Harry Moth can fly in when it gets warm out if they want to and B.) there are sheep (and wool) all around us.  When I go for walks this time of the year, it’s not uncommon to find bits of wool in places that I know no sheep has been around and lining the sides of the roads after the wool truck has come.  So there is plenty of food for the insidious destroyers of goodness just laying about.  Anyway, I had all of these unwashed fleeces in the attic which (thankfully) hasn’t yet seen a single winged harbinger of destruction, but I was just waiting for it to happen.  That many unwashed fleeces could just draw them like the One Ring drew power seekers to Frodo (sorry, been watching the LOTR trilogy the last few nights).

So last weekend the hubby and I made fleece bags (large, pillowcase-like bags to hold [in my case] clean fleeces) out of some old sheets that we had from Florida for covering plants when it froze there.   He did the sewing and I did the cutting and we busted out a about a dozen in a little over an hour.  Into these bags I put a small notecard with all the information I have about a particular fleece covered with a plastic baggie.  I also put any original paperwork that may have come with the fleece into this baggie if I can.  The plastic baggie keeps the paper from getting funky and makes it a little easier to find.  After I put the fleeces into the fleece bags I will then put a couple of fleeces in their individual bags into a large, IKEA Dimpa bag and zip it closed.  That way I have a couple of layers of defense between the fleeces and the dusty-winged bringers of doom (layers of defense: Clean fleece [moths like it dirty], cotton bag [not much of a defense, but it is a layer] plastic breathable bag [more of a defense {I do not believe the stories about moths eating through plastic bags, much more likely in my opinion that there was a small hole in the bag to begin with or that (and I know that no-one wants to believe this of themselves) they put the woolen product away with moths or their eggs already on it and they then had a feast inside the sealed plastic bag} though still not perfect], in the attic [have lots of the new type moth balls up there {not the nasty ones we remember from when we were young, these are sort of greasy and actually smell nice}]).  I’m glad to finally have these washed as I’ve worried over the past few years that I was going to go up to the attic and find big paper bags (that’s what the fleeces came in) full of little squirmy moth larvae with their parents fluttering towards the heavens.  Also, at least in this house, clean fleeces take up less space than the dirty ones do.  This is mostly (I think) from the rather intense skirting that I give to some of them.  I’m not going to try to scrub caked-in manure from a fleece unless it is made from freaking gold.  Life is too short, fleeces are too cheap and it’s just plain icky.  The manky bits that I don’t use go to a neighbor to either compost or use as mulch on her allotment.

I do plan on getting some more fleeces at Woolfest this year if I can.  I live in a place where some pretty rare breed fleeces can be had for a really reasonable price.  Even if I don’t spin them for a while, I am going to wash them ASAP this time so I don’t stay awake at night having visions of Tineola bisselliella chowing down on them.

In completely unrelated news, I had good luck (in my opinion, not so much in my husbands) at the Tring auction.  Since I was busy last Saturday I bid on-line, which is really quite easy, though I’m not completely sure that you will get the absolute best price you could for it.  One of the things that I won was a set of Gardening Dictonary from the 1890’s which is in excellent condition with all sorts of clippings and even a proper letter inside one!  I love books with extra bits of emphera in them.

I also got the rockingest little set of tables.  We currently have a big, long sectional couch that has no end tables or coffee table for visitors to set their drinks on when they are chatting with us.  This solves that problem with little tables that slide out and can be used for each person!  Score!  Also it is the perfect size for our printer downstairs.  Double Score!!

I also signed-up for classes at Knit Nation again this summer.  I nearly forgot about the registration opening despite receiving multiple e-mails reminding me about it.  I did get 2 out of the 3 classes I wanted and am on a waiting list for the 3rd.  The two classes I’ll be taking (for sure) are both by Judith McKenzie and are Spinning a Fine Thread and The Gentle Art of Spinning for Socks.  The 3rd class that I wanted was Franklin Habit‘s Photographing your Fiber which, if I read things right, sold out in about 5 minutes after registration opened.  (Me thinks he might want to offer more of that class in the future!)  So, I would never ever wish ill on someone (who wasn’t cutting me off in traffic [and lets face it, that doesn’t technically count as it would be physically impossible for them to actually do that]) so I’m wishing for really really fantastic things to happen to everyone in my way of taking that class.  Winning trips to Tahiti, getting married, having a baby (that they really wanted of course!), moving to Australia, whatever floats their boat so that I can take their mooring space when they leave.  It’s not bad for your karma if you wish good things for people so that something good can happen to you is it??

I’m also getting ready for 2 Finns and a Yank hit the road Part II.  Barbro and Malin are coming back over for (hopefully) a more laid back visit (for all of us!) again this summer.  We are driving up to the Lakes District to go to Woolfest as well as to check out the area.  We’re going to be spending 3 nights up there.  This will be the most time that I have spent up there and I am looking forward to having a leisurely look around for once.  They will be staying with us for about a week and we are all really looking forward to it.  Well, except for Kali, Malcolm’s girlfriend next door.  Malcolm gets so wrapped-up in Malin that he frequently forgets about his other blond!  We’re driving up the day before so that we can get there bright and early and I at least, plan on hitting the fleece tables early and often!  (I can hear the husband keening as he reads this tonight… Sorry honey!)

So that takes care of June and July and as of right now I don’t have any concrete plans for August.  There might be something there, but it is with the hubby so am keeping it under wraps for the moment.

On other unrelated news, I’ve had very good mail this week.  I got my first installment of Knit magazine’s sock club that was dyed by Skein Queen.  It’s a lovely yarn with a nice twist and colors that I like.  She named all of the colorways that she did for the sock club after books.  Mine is A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.  It’s a great start to the club and I am very pleased with it!


In the between time April 27, 2011

So, in the past month I have been to both The Netherlands and Wales.

And I’ve blogged about neither of them.

Part of this is that I was total crap about photography on both trips.  On the trip to Wales, I’m pretty sure that my camera never even came out of my backpack!  I don’t know why I was so negligent about taking photos, but it felt wrong at the time.  That and on the Wales trip, I did all of the driving (not that that always stops me, but in the UK, it DOES!).

Anyway, I had a great time in The Netherlands staying with Marleen and her family.  She fed me many, many great meals…

…I slept under a starry sky each night…

and I got to help her with her workshops and stand at Breidag, which was a blast.

My pack mistressing skills put to the test!

Stall set-up is sooooo glamorous!


This was what the stall floor looked like most of the time.

Marleen’s stand had some lovely neighbors to the back.  Malia (on the left) has just opened a new craft/knitting store in Amsterdam called Penelope Craft.  The next time that I am over there, I am going to totally check it out!  She had a thorough selection of Knitpro needles and accessories as well as books and yarn and I expect great things from her bricks and mortar store!

It wasn’t all just yarn and knitting, there were a few windmills too…

And there was shopping and fun and watching kids do insanely acrobatic things on trampolines and at gymnastics practice and a little knitting and yarn and stuff.  Here’s a look at my suitcase on the way home.

What you are not seeing in this picture is the 1.5 Kilo box of chocolate sprinkles that I brought home with me!!!  Also, almost the entire right hand side of the suitcase is goodies:-)

On the way home, I “figured-out” a way to get the knitpro interchangeable needles off the wires to go through security without having to find the little caps for the ends (which I didn’t have handy) for my wip (which is Marleen’s kaleidoscope vest just so you know) by using a simple little safety-pin.

Here’s a closer picture:

I’m sure that someone else has figured this out by now, but it came to me independently as I was using the safety-pin to unscrew the needles.  Yet another reason to have a couple of safety pins floating around in your baggage!

A few days after I got home, I received this in the mail:

I got #81 out of 1000 of the Fyberspates Limited Edition Royal Wedding Yarn!  This is super cool because, as Veronica explained to me while at Wonderwool Wales, 1981 is the year that Charles and Diana got married.  She managed to score #429 (4/29 aka April 29th, the big day!).  So yeah, we were/are  pretty dorky, but it is still cool!  And, it’s a super pretty yarn to boot!  I’m not sure if I am actually going to knit with it or just keep it as a souvenir of the wedding.  Way nicer than a mug in my opinion:-)

I was home for about 4 days before I took off again (and this time with the car!) for Wonderwool Wales.  Had a great time.  I do enjoy this show a lot as it is spread-out.  There is space in the aisles between the stalls for people to walk, and space for the event to grow too.  It’s held at the Royal Welsh Showgrounds in Builth Wells which has a LOT of other buildings and space for the event to grow.  I didn’t take a single picture of the whole weekend or of any of the goodies that I bought (not a lot btw).  Veronica and I had a lovely weekend.  Our B&B was in a wonderful village full of restaurants that were a little higher class (and cost) than we were looking for.  We ended-up going low-brow with some pretty decent pub grub from a pub just down the street.  We escaped prior to the Karaoke starting.  The next day we drove over to Stratford-upon-Avon and visited a bunch of the Shakespeare properties.  One I hadn’t yet been to was the Mary Arden’s house, which purported to have sheep(!)  and other animals.  It did, indeed, have sheep and other animals and it was a perfect day to see them.

Since then, I’ve been keeping busy.  I’ve finally gotten around to washing the collection of greasy fleeces that I had marinating in the attic.  I started with the Shetland fleeces, moved through a really, really rank Leicester Longwool, and have been playing with a fun colored BFL.  It takes a lot longer than it did in the States for a few reasons.  In the states, I had a top loading washer and a BIG hot water heater.  Here, I have a not-very-practical front-loader with no good “spin-only” cycle and a teeny-tiny hot water heater.  It’s so teeny-tiny, it makes the lovely jacuzzi tub that we have upstairs sort of silly as you can’t get it filled-up with hot water before it runs out and starts giving you straight cold water.  Anyway, I’ve been doing it in a group of garden trugs that I bought specifically for this purpose in that great big tub upstairs and, now that it is warm and sunny, I’ve been drying them outside on some mesh driers out of the reach of Malcolm, the fleece lover.  This has made for a rather stinky upstairs at times though luckily it was nice enough to open the windows for the worst of it.

For some reason that I cannot figure out, we have a large dog bed in this bathroom.  For a reason that I do know, the dog bed has become the defacto fleece sorting pen.  Some of these fleeces have been sandy/peaty and there is white carpet in the bathroom.  Weezy likes to sort of bury herself amongst the fleeces while I am working on them.

See, very professional!  The net bags are mostly from the US, but I picked-up a couple here too.  I’m not sure that I will ever take a bath in that tub again….

Another thing that I’ve been working on in conjunction with the hubby is a pair of baby blankets for the neighbor.  Her niece just had twins this morning and she asked if I would make blankets for them.  I took a big pile of books over for her to look at and she picked-out the pattern that she liked and the yarn and then I made them.  I used stash yarn and they were pretty standard crochet squares.  The hubby sewed them all together for me as I made them and then I crocheted the border on.  They went quite fast, I think we worked on them for about a week and a half total.  Good thing too as I finished them yesterday afternoon!

I couldn’t have gotten them done so quickly if the hubby hadn’t done the sewing-up.  That’s the part of all projects that I detest and usually the reason that the project takes so very long….