It has been a long winter. Mother Nature sure did show her strength, endurance and beauty. But it is now Spring here on Cape Cod, and I’m loving every second of it. These photos were taken at Spohr’s Garden. Usually a zillion daffodils are in bloom by this time of year. Not so this year. No complaints here!
VR Handspun Alpaca yarn
Priced per ounce approx 3 oz
Kahuna 66 yards $21
Victory Ranch Handspun Alpaca
4 oz 82 yds $10/oz
I had the delightful task of test driving two skeins of Victory Ranch’s Handspun Alpaca(www.victoryranch.com) and giving an honest review. My experience with alpaca includes working with mill processed, commercial alpaca yarns as well as hand spinning alpaca fleece from Winslow Farm, an extraordinary animal sanctuary in Norton, MA. Victory Ranch’s skeins are akin to neither, so this was a new adventure.
The skeins arrived with photo hang tags letting me know that the chocolate color yarn is sheared from Bacchus–who looks quite adorable and very happy. The creamy white skein is sheared from the lovely Kahuna. So from the very beginning, knitting with this yarn is a very personal experience. It is not anonymous, mass produced, standard issue, same, same, same yarn.
What does it look like? Both skeins are soft, smooth, and resilient to touch. The natural colors are beautiful and rich. The diameter of the strand is varied; at first, this worried me. Would this create an uneven fabric or make it challenging for me to maintain a consistent gauge?
Stitches have clear definition albeit it nubby; the ribbing has elasticity and has character. This yarn comes from a real animal, whose picture I can hold in my hand and whose good energy and warmth I can feel. Yes, there was an occasional piece of plant debris that is easily picked out.
After three inches of ribbing for an extra warm brim, I switch to Bacchus’s skein and stockinette for the body of the hat. On size six needles, I consistently get gauge at five stitches per inch with this fiber. Stitch definition continues to be excellent. The hand of the fabric says “touch me!” and the yarn is strong as well as flexible and soft. Some stitches are a tad plumper than others, but my objective is never to have my knitting look like it is machine made. The fabric has a gentle drape. The two colors work so well side by side, like organic chocolate and vanilla ice cream. Yummy in all ways!
Blocking consists of a long(3 hour) soak in lukewarm water with no-rinse soap. The water does turn grey, and I repeat with a second and then a third soak until the water is clear. The fabric gets even softer, holds its form, and stitches become more balanced. It dries beautifully and holds its shape after lots of use.
I always like to compare my experience with what is promised on the ball band. Victory Ranch notes that alpaca yarn is hypo-allergenic; I had no allergic reaction at any point in playing with this yarn. That is a big plus as many of my friends and family are allergic to wool but want the warmth it has to offer. Yes, this hat is warm–the warmest in my multi-hat collection, and it breathes, so that I’m comfortable and don’t have a sweaty head. The label says it’s smooth as silk, and I completely agree, but what I like even more is that it has more “give” than silk and holds its shape.
In addition to the technical success of working with this alpaca, I appreciate that this is a one of a kind yarn created by animals I can picture in my head when I wear this hat. These animals are treated humanely and loved. I confess that I now follow the alpaca gang on Victory Ranch’s Facebook page. Best of all, there is more gorgeous yarn from Bacchus and Kahuna’s friends. I can’t wait to play with the chunky weight next. Think of the possibilities….
It has been 45 years since I was a freshman at UNH. That’s a long time! This past week, a visit to the campus was a welcome opportunity to relive the past and celebrate the present. David (class of 1970) and I spent two days roaming around campus. Some things stayed miraculously the same: the crisp white snow, clean sidewalks, many of the brick buildings and extremely friendly students all bundled up coming and going to classes. My dorm, McLaughlin, notoriously nicknamed “Virgin Hill” is still intact, and we even got to see the door of my old room, now adorned with someone else’s bulletin board and boots parked in the hallway. It is no longer an all female dorm; each floor is half male and half female. The pay phone in the hallway is gone, and the common room still has a huge piano and someone playing a guitar. The cute round window that I used to wave to David at 11 pm when parietal hours were over, and he had to leave, was where we left it. Needless to say, there are no parietal hours now!
When we were on campus in 1970, we studied in the Physics Library at Demeritt Hall; it was a quiet, quaint place to put our noses in books. How I looked forward to revisiting that old, beautiful building with wide, wooden board floors, tall windows, little cubbies and the smell of old books. We were saddened to see that old Demeritt Hall is gone and buried, and a new, modern building is in its place bearing the same name. It’s a gorgeous building, and we ended up being pleasantly surprised that there are enough students now interested in physics to warrant such a stunning facility. David’s graduating class in the physics department tallied less than a dozen.
The building that housed most of my English classes, Hamilton Smith, is standing strong with a few favorite classrooms still as I remember them. Ahhhh… tradition! The cafeteria we most often ate at, Stillings, exists, but the food is significantly different. I remember turkey tetrazini that looked like old string mops and slop. Today’s menu was more appealing than many restaurants. The piece de resistance on campus is the new student union, complete with a dining room that rivals any high end food court or Club Med facility. Every type of food, prepared a zillion ways, with all kinds of alternatives and nutritional information is readily available. Desserts were to die for–they even had a constant supply of warm cookies, right out of the oven.
A huge new business school/college fills what used to be empty space and seems to be one of the busiest buildings on campus. A serious network of buses provide transportation almost anywhere. Fritz’s food truck is no longer present, but there’s a cafe serving Starbuck’s coffee always within skipping distance.
New England Center was the new conference center built when we were in school. It was a beautiful high rise hotel nestled in a wooded area, with a top notch restaurant that served gourmet food. That is where I took David on a dinner date on Sadie Hawkins Weekend– the one weekend a year when the “girlfriend” paid for the “boyfriend”. Hmmmm… Does that date me or what!!! I bet there’s no more Sadie Hawkin’s Weekend on campus any more. Today the New England Center no longer exists as we knew it. It’s a UNH dorm. There was more need for student housing than for a conference facility.
I don’t regret or begrudge any of these changes… how foolish it would be to think that a university would remain static over almost half a century. Oh my, it has been almost half a century since I was a freshman. The visit was a nice way to check in with the past and also get to hear my favorite jazz artist play.
The Anat Cohen Quartet performed as part of the Traditional Jazz Series, sponsored by the UNH Music Department. It was phenomenal. Anat is so vibrant, talented, creative and her group takes jazz to new levels for me. There is no way I can do it justice here, except to tell you that they push through boundaries, blend genres, and make magic happen. Her new CD, entitled Luminosa, is exquisite and exciting. I have it on repeat, and it’s all I’ve been listening to.
UNH continues to be good to me, even though I only spent my freshman year there. It was a delightful revisit.
Yes, we have had a little snow here at the Cape lately. I firmly believe there is no point in bitching about it, because it really is quite lovely and succeeds in slowing down life in general. It has been great soup and bread making weather and hat knitting weather and great for reading the piles of books by my bedside. Also, it has been a delight to bundle up and take a few photos around the neighborhood, and let the world know that all is well. It’s just snow.