My current work in progress:

Seaforth designed by Alice Starmore, knit in British Breeds 5-ply Guernsey Wool on US 3 needles.


For a Change . . . A Book Review


I just finished reading the book pictured above:Hit By a Farm: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Barn by Catherine Friend.

I stumbled upon the author’s blog a couple of weeks ago — can’t remember how — and that led me to the website for the book. I immediately sent the link to L-B, who kindly sent me the book as a gift. I’ve been reading it at lunchtime while I knit, and just finished it yesterday. I recommend it highly — it’s a non-romanticized tale about how two women left city life to start a farm.

Okay, I keep thinking “Green Acres.” One partner is gung-ho about farm living (like Oliver Wendell Douglas), and the other has doubts (like Lisa Douglas). But there the similarity ends.

It’s just a really really good, entertaining read. If you are a bleeding-heart animal-lover like me, you’ll enjoy it. Be forewarned — you’ll cry in places, too. But, as I said, it’s a great read. I was sorry it ended — I want more!

Sproingy Squishy Sock Yarn

Reader Liz in NoWhere PA commented:
“Some of the ones I’ve found easiest to work with are Socks That Rock lightweight, Fleece Artist, Claudia Handpaint — you know, all the nice sproingy squishy yarns. I’ve not had any problem with splitting on any of those.”

If you’re ordering off the internet or from a catalogue, how do you know if you’ll be getting a sproingy yarn? How do you know if a pattern in a book requires a sproingy yarn? Living without a LYS, I can’t really touch all the yarns mentioned to know if they’re stretchy. Do I assume that a 100% wool superwash is stretchy and that a 75/25 blend won’t be?

I’ve just donated two pairs of patterned socks to the Dulaan Project because the yarn I used wasn’t stretchy enough and I can’t rip a perfectly good sock. (But two girls with size 3 feet will be really happy.)

First off, I like the name of your town. ๐Ÿ˜‰ My Great-Uncle Chester often spoke of a town — NorthAxeHandle, MA. I wonder if that town and your town are similar?

So. How do you know without fondling it that you are getting a Spriong Squishy Sock Yarn? I guess you can’t really know until you give it a good fondle.

Though it does seem in my experience of sock yarns, the 100% wool superwash ones are sproinger than the wool/nylon blends.

In my last incarnation as a sock knitter, I used the wool/nylon blends exclusively. This time around (current obsession started in March of this year) I’ve experimented with a lot more 100% wool sock yarns, and discovered that I like them much better than the blends. I’ve also decided that I’m not too crazy about self-striping yarns, though they do have their place. I’m all about the handpainted variegated stuff now.

I’ve been busily knitting my way through as many different sock yarns as I can — have you noticed? I’ve got several in my stash that I’ve not flung a needle into yet, but I’m looking forward to doing so. I’ve not bought the Austermann Step yet, btw.

So many sock yarns! So little time!


Cable Talk

Ann Rose commented:
I notice that you knit a great many highly textured garments (Keelan looks like a nice blend of cables and seed stitch — elegant simplicity), and I’m wondering if you would choose a jumperweight yarn over a worsted or Aran weight for something like a full-on traditional Aran sweater. It’s always been a fantasy of mine to design and knit an Aran, so I could have the cable designs I love most AND have the sleeves fit my short arms, but I don’t yet have the necessary experience to know what weight yarn would be best.

It depends. ๐Ÿ™‚

If you really want an authentic traditional Aran, you make it from aran weight (i.e., heavy worsted) wool. Such a sweater is almost never suitable for indoor wear, however — too warm and heavy. However, if you make your traditional Aran a cardigan, it makes a great jacket for any cool/cold day but the coldest days of winter.

If you want a sweater you can wear indoors, knit it from finer yarn. A dk weight yarn woukd make a lovely cabled sweater. Of course, the more heavily cabled your sweater is, the thicker and warmer it becomes.

Keelan is knitted from the equivalent of jumperweight yarn. Because of the fineness of the yarn, I’ve done a fairly, shall we say, sparse set of cables.


I think an all-over cabled design in such a fine yarn would end up looking incredibly busy.

An example of this is Alice Starmore’s Fulmar, which is an aran design knitted in 5-ply guernsey wool. Because it is knitted at a fine gauge, there’s a lot of space for a lot of calbes, so it ends up being a really busy design. Um . . . yeah . . . I’ve knitted Fulmar twice, and I do think it’s lovely in its own way, but I also prefer slightly simpler arans.

Another factor is the size of the individual wearing the sweater. A wee tiny person would be overwhelmed by a traditional aran knitted in aran weight wool. A dk, sport, or fingering weight aran would undoubtedly look better.

So . . . it depends.



  1. I just finished reading the same book! I raise sheep and chickens as well (but don’t make a living at it), so it was interesting to compare experiences.

  2. I love stories about people who leave one kind of life for another, so I’m going to look for that book when we go to the library tomorrow! Thanks for the recommendation; I’m always complaining about having nothing to read, which is ridiculous. What I actually have is books everywhere, and a severe shortage of is bookshelf space. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Sally A says:

    I always enjoyed reading about the hijinks at your LYS Yarn Happens (or is it Knit Happens?) and seeing the pictures of people with your lovely finished projects. Why don’t we see that any more? I hope we will soon! Thanks. –Sally

  4. Juliette says:

    “New YORK is where I’d ratha stay,
    I get al-ler-gy smelling hay.

    I just ADORE a penthouse view,
    Dahling I love you

    but give me Park Avenue.”

    Tah Tah Dah DAH Dah…..

    (sorry I just HAD to)

  5. I like your green Fulmar. I was lucky enough to find Aran Knitting at the library, thank goodness. Once I decide on the yarn, I am going to attempt Na Craga. Woo Hoo!

  6. Marti J. says:

    I like to test out all the sock yarns too; of course, I’ve only knitted three pair so far, but you ought to see the stash I’ve accumulated in preparation for trying them out. BTW, the Austermann Step yarns are a delight to knit with; the aloe vera & the jojoba oils in the yarns do wonderful things to your hands as you knit, and I’m sure will do the same for your feet, especially if you live in sandals during the summer as I do.

  7. Thanks for the book rec, I’ll check it out. Sounds like you might like “The Dogs of Bedlam Farm”. It’s got dogs and sheep and burros and some teary bits. Here’s the Amazon link –

  8. Pretty! Perhaps I’ll get to see it tomorrow if you show up at Knit Happens… I plan to show up for part of the afternoon. And if not Thursday, then maybe Saturday! I even have a little gift for you, so hopefully we’ll connect!

  9. Still trying to figure out what knid of sock yarn I like best. Thanks for more food for thought.

    BTW – about choosing yarn for arans: one doesn’t need to stick to lighter gauge yarns for arans to be worn indoors if one lives in northern climes. : )

  10. Elaine in NYC says:

    Try “Sylvia’s Farm” by Sylvia Jorrin. A delightful read.

    Elaine in NYC

  11. Wow – you knit Fulmar twice?! I’m doing the mental exercises now to prepare to knit it ONCE!

    What yarn did you use for it? I have AS’ Scottish Fleet waiting in the wings, but I’m also considering Jamieson & Smith’s DK as well.


  12. Too funny – I just read that book last week and thoroughly enjoyed it.

  13. Thanks for that link. We have just moved to a house that is set up for small farming and I went to Catherine Friend’s blog. Excellent.

  14. There is a sweater by Jean Moss called ‘Newmarket’ in her book ‘Designer Knits’ or something like that – shetland jumperweight yarn, 3mm needles, and Cabled. All. Over. I love it, I have the yarn for it, and I’m terrified to start it because I’m afraid it’ll put me in the nuthouse. Thank you by the way for using your apostrophes correctly in “it’s lovely in its own way.” So few people do, anymore…

  15. I am amazed you can read and knit at the same time. I’ve been wishing I could do that for ages, how about some tips? Also, just ordered some hand dyed sock yarn from ebay. Am hoping it’s all I want it to be. I’ve been using Kroysocks because my LYS only sells that brand of sock yarn. It’s a pathetic store, but I must say, it makes it easier to control my stash.

  16. Hi Wendy- Thanks for the book review- there’s another similar one called “Trafficking in Sheep” by Anne Priest. A former actress who gets a sheep farm in Nova Scotia.
    Sounds like a mass exodus to me.

  17. patty bolgiano says:

    I ordered my first yarn for sock specifically so hopefully I will be doing some knitting this weekend. As for lots of cables in a sweater thanks for the heads up about it might be too warm to wear. I am always cold, so much so that I wear socks to bed, and beg for the heat to be on in the second week of October. I live in Maryland, in a place called Sparks, and we get colder before anyone else, get more snow, sleet and freezing rain so knowing that I need a heavy duty sweater (cabled) is going to be right up my alley.
    Lastly will you be doing a book signing at Stitches in November. It will be held in Baltimore. Let us know

  18. martha in mobile says:

    We’re on an acre lot in a subdivision called Rolling Acres. Since we got a small flock of hens who wander the yard each evening (before roosting in their portable coop), put up a bat house and several bird feeders, and started feeding the wild box turtles (who gather on our patio each morning for breakfast) our neighbors are calling us “those Green Acres People.” What they don’t know is that a yard like ours is perfect for knitting in the early morning –listening to the hens cluck and watching the turtles progress across the yard.

  19. Ah Ha! You have just touched on my biggest pet peeve with knitwear designers. Can you please send this post to every one you know and tell them to stop designing sweaters for men with freaking cables!!! They are oh so lame for wearing to the office. Unless, of course, you intend to take it off when you get there and if you are wearing a pullover, you run the risk of mussing your coiffure.

  20. Thanks for the book review. I’ll certainly check it out. I know one day I’ll be able to leave this dreaded rat race behind.

  21. Okay, please help me with an important issue.

    I finally advanced enough to knit accurately without looking (often). I enjoy knitting while watching TV and knitting while reading a Vanity Fair, which has the decency to lie perfectly flat. But here’s my silly question – what’s the trick with novels? I don’t want to destroy the poor things, weighting them becomes a pain, and I have yet to master knitting one-handed. So, do you have a reading stand or other gizmo, or just a clever trick?

  22. There are wonderful books out there as well as books on tape about various intrepid souls leaving city life both here and in Britain to work and live on farms in the hinterlands..books full of animals, animal husbandry(the most charmingly descriptive term), village life and its characters and the trials and joys of being closer to Nature…for a wonderfully comic, tongue in cheek, fictionalised version try Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons.

  23. Hey, Wendy,

    Thanks for mentioning my book, Hit By a Farm, in your blog. Now I understand why the visits to my website have gone WAY up the last two days. You must have an amazing and dedicated bunch of readers!

    Between your blog and, I’ve come to the conclusion that knitters are very cool people. I wish I could say I knit and spin, but I’m afraid all I can say is that…well, I WEAR things that have been knit or spun. (I did knit a scarf this winter while my monthly Elvis movie group met, so I guess that’s something!)

    You have a gorgeous cat. Happy knitting!

  24. “I was sorry it ended — I want more!”

    Wendy I felt the same way when I read your book… The way your book ended left me in expectation for maybe a second book called
    “Wendy Spins…” ????

    Come on what happens next ??????


  25. yet another Melissa says:

    Could North Axe Handle be North Attleborough, pronounced oddly (intentionally or not)? Perhaps you misunderstood, perhaps your uncle had a wicked sense of humor, as they say in Mass.