Exploring the world of fiber, one draft at a time

My posting can be as frequent or infrequent as my spinning, so be as patient as that fiber, sitting in my stash.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

My Mom's Best Christmas Gift

I talked to my mom Tuesday and she had already opened the packages I sent her for Christmas. While she was talking to me she said....'Oh, and I have done THREE ROWS already on the afghan knitting you sent me. I knew I could do it!!'

I was dancing the happy dance to hear this.

See, my mom is legally blind. She has macular degeneration in both eyes. She never had vision in one eye from birth, when it was hit was MD it was no big deal, but when it hit her good eye eight years ago, it took all of her sight. Now she functions on her own at home with no problem, she knows where things are, and has some limited sight. She can not drive, or read, but can watch TV or do the daily chores of life.

When I was visiting her last Nov, I was sitting and knitting and she was sitting beside me, watching. At one point she said, I think I could still do that. I tucked that thought away, and later at home the crazy idea hatched to make that her Christmas present, some easy knitting to do. So I went to the store, and got nine big skeins of the softest, and loveliest yarn I could find. I got large circulars, and cast on what most books were recommending for an knitted afghan. I knit three rows to get her started, took each skein of yarn and dug out the starting end, and then wrapped it all up in Christmas paper (a major task!) and mailed it to her.

and held my breath. Either she was going to love it, or think that was some really crazy gift from her daughter.

So now mom can knit without really looking at the stitches. Oh she will never do any major project, but I think having this to do during her lonely evenings at home, has opened up to her the possibility that she CAN do more than just sit and listen to the TV. I am hoping that she finds knitting as much enjoyment as I have.

Christmas is for giving

I gave more hand made gifts this year, than I ever have in the past. I think that could be a good judge of the fact that my life may be just in the place I want it to be, with enough time for creating things.

One thing that helped this achievement was the fact that I now routinely knit on any long trips we make. For alot of years I thought if I could not read while riding in a car, I probably could not knit. I have of course found out that this is not true, and now when traveling I am usually knitting on a sock or some small project.

The gifting started at the party with coworkers. The name I drew was a lady I just knew would love a hand spun/knit scarf of alpaca. And I was right. She was so appreciative of the gift, and I think there will be much wishful thinking next year that I get someone else's name. Opps, not a good precident to start, but I appreciate the sentiments behind it.

The rest of the knitting was for family. I did those gigantic boot slippers for both hubby and daughter, those were in the pictures below.

And I will post a picture of the scarf I did for my daughter. It is knitted not from handspun but from the Manos yarn made from recycled silk sari warps. It really turned out different, and it was interesting to knit with. The colors change constantly, and have the brilliance only found in silk. The yarn has an interesting hand to it too, substantial, and yet very thrown together feel. I used the drop stitch for the scarf. I cast on 28 stitches at first and knit 8 rows garter (don't copy this down yet, for this is not what I finally used) That many stitches was too wide, and that wide of a band of garter stitch did this weird flaring out on the ends, compared to the drop stitch later. So I basically frogged one mornings worth of knitting to start over.


Cast on 19 stitches

K three rows

Drop stitich row: k1, *wrap yarn around needle three times (as if knitting), k2* repeat between stars until end of row.

Next row, knit only the knitted stitches. All of the wraps just get dropped off the needle. They will look sloppy, but once you have done the row, what you do is tug from below those stitches to straighten everything out.

K three rows, do drop stitch and knit row dropping the wraps, and repeat this until out of yarn or scarf is length you want. Finish by knitting three rows of garter.

I bought two skeins of yarn, but had about half a skein left. I plan to do some playing with this yarn. The whole time I was knitting with it, my mind kept trying to fathom how to make it into a solid fabric, to show off the colors. However, just knitting tightly does not make a very nice fabric. The dropped stitch really does do better to display all that color play. And trying to make a solid fabric out of such a fuzzy yarn is really rather futile. However, I have thought about carrying one strand of the manos and one two ply strand of homespun silk, and making me a skinny scarf. That's what my mind finally settled on for making fabric from this yarn.

I have not heard yet from my mom on her socks, I will talk to her tonight and see how she liked those. That was the last of my hand knitted presents for this year.

Now I am working on my best friends birthday socks, which unfortunately will be late, since her BD falls between Christmas and New Years. However they are fun to knit, I have alot of time right now, and I bet they will not be too late.


Wednesday, December 17, 2003

The Fiber Stash Goddess

was good to me this last weekend. I didn't knit fast enough and ran out of the handspun alpaca yarn before the scarf was long enough. I considered the idea of using another yarn, and adding to both ends with that. I had an idea of taking a white yarn as a block around a heart design in the original color. Time was too short though to be designing on the fly, and in a last ditch effort, I went through my roving stash, and wonders of wonders, found about four more ounces of the same color.

I probably would not have found it, if I had not just recently sorted the fibers into types. It was in a larger bag, like it had been part of the original pound of roving. I truly doubted by luck to find the exact color (since alpacas come in a LARGE variety of colors) I kept laying that roving, and the yarn I spun from it against the scarf, daring it to be any bit different. It wasn't.

I split that roving in half, spun each half on a bobbin, and plied it. It turned out to be a bit bigger in WPI than the original yarn, probably because I was speed spinning (IE not paying that much attention, just making yarn) I took the plied yarn and washed it and set it in front of a fan to dry Sunday night. I only needed to do four more repeats, the eight row border, and then fringe. I made over 100 yards of 2 ply and used about 80 of those yards.

This all happened of course because I really did not have a clue how much yarn I would need for the scarf. I found the pattern, cast on what looked like enough repeats for a scarf width, and started knitting with the yarn I had. It was close, but not enough.

I prefer to create with a little less pressure in the future, but for once, the stash was there when I needed it.


Thursday, December 11, 2003

Pictures are now available that I linked in the last post. I had not actually checked out if the cut and paste would work, and when I tried them tonight, I discovered it wanted me to be signed in to yahoo. After quit a few attempts, I finally found the settings on the photos, that would make them public. So if you gave up in disgust, try again, and go look at the scarf I am knitting and all the socks I have done.


Wednesday, December 10, 2003

All I have to offer right now are two pictures of my recent Christmas knitting.


One picture is a collection of socks that I did, two pairs of the large house slipper boots, and a regular lacy pair in the middle. All of these were made with commercial yarn, the boots are Lion Brand Homespun Chunky and the socks are from an acrylic that I found in the sale bin at Michaels. The color is a very pale green.

The second picture is the alpaca scarf that I am knitting for a co-worker. It is unblocked right now, which I like, if I do block it, I don't think I will stretch it very much. It looks like many small cables from a distance, it is only when you look at the scarf up close, that you see the lacy look. This is handspun yarn, 2 ply in a natural color (dark tan).

I have not had any time to spin lately. Once these are wrapped up, I still have another quick scarf to do.


Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Where's my List???

I can not function without my endless lists this time of the year.

I have been shopping online again, almost every day. The mailperson is going to be busy. I got one purchase yesterday, 34 skeins (all the same lot #!) of a wool blend, natural color yarn. I do not have a skein band with me to list the brand, but I got a great deal, only a $1. per skein. I will have to swatch and see if it will work, but I really want to make a cabled sweater for hubby, and he OK'd the natural color. When he saw the box and asked what I bought, I said a sweater, he didn't even see the box when you replied, oh, one to knit? LOL he knows me well. I am surprised he didn't ask what breed of sheep it was (assuming it was fleece and not yarn)

Speaking of fleece, that has been the other recent purchase that I am still waiting to arrive. I am in the rare breed exchange, and said I would do CVM. I have it in roving already, and had asked the same supplier if they could get me some raw or washed fleece. It took them about six weeks to say they could not provide any, and refund my money. So I posted to several yahoogroups requesting CVM fleece and got three replies. Now there is a almost 2 lbs of fleece coming soon.

Meanwhile, my spinning project has been to spin the CVM roving. I have been spinning it on my Roberta and am very impressed with the yarn. I got a nice sock yarn in a lovely natural gray color. I do not know why more people have not tried this fiber, it feels as soft as merino to my hand (I have not looked up the average micron count on it) and does not have the poof that frustrates me when I spin merino. Oh and it dyes really nice. I did two 4 oz balls in Jacquard dyes last dye day, one after the other in the same bath, so the second is lighter. I used teal, and that color over the natural gray is really lovely (I WILL have pictures soon, soon, soon) I spun all of the darker ball, and plan to ply that with the lighter ball for yarn for the sock cuffs.

Other fiber news is knitting Christmas gifts. My list of 'almost dones' includes, house sock boots for hubby, half of second sock to go, socks for my mom, heel turned working on the gusset of the second sock, alpaca scarf, started and flying fast, it is my favorite knitting right now.

I had intended the CVM socks to be done too, but that is not going to happen. They are for a good friend and she will be happy to get them whenever I get them done. Meanwhile, I have other goodies for her holiday, she is soooo easy to buy for.

I almost hate for the holidays to come and go, I will feel 'listless' BRAHAHAHAHAHHHHaaaaa!


Friday, November 28, 2003

A New Knitter

Yesterday, after a family thanksgiving dinner out (a lovely restored Inn from the 1880's) I got to teach my neice how to knit. I am still grinning about it. I thought she would like to learn, because any time we are together and I have my knitting out, she was right beside me watching. So I got the Leisure Arts book Teaching Yourself to Knit, four balls of the soft bulky Lion Brand Jiffy, and raided my stash of needles to get her a few sizes. I put all this in a big shopping bag, and surprised her with it when we went to her house.

I had originally planned to cast on for the scarf in the book and show her how to knit by knitting the first row. But I had only cast on about 10 stitches and she was reaching for the needles. So I put my arms around her and guided her hands for another five stitches, and then let go. It reminded me so much of that letting go of the bicycle, when teaching a youngster to ride! With only a little coaching, she was casting on just fine.

So I then took the needles and showed her the knit stitch by doing three stitches. Then again I guided her hands for several stitches and then she was knitting! On her own!

I was surprised how quickly she picked it up. I was reminded of reading Harry Kelley's writing in the book Knit Lit, when teaching a dancer friend, how quickly he picked it up. This neice has figure skated, not the same thing for sure, but still a source of coordination that others her age may not have.

I didn't have to coach much although I sat beside her the whole evening as we knitted. I was suppose to be knitting on a sock, but I found it was so pleasurable to sit there and see her remember stitch after stitch just how to do it. Oh, she looked very ackward to be sure, but that didn't matter in the final fabric. At one point, she straightened out her needles, held them aloft and said LOOK! becoming aware at that point that a lovely soft blue fabric was forming from those needles, because she was knitting.


Friday, November 21, 2003

Threadbear Fiber Arts Studio

is a wonderful place! I went last night for the first time, to their Thur night knitting and eating group. I was made welcomed and felt so at home. I am sure it is because it IS a home, their home, which just happens to look like the wet dream of all of us knitters. Imagine, yarn wherever you look, touch, walk...

I asked at one point how they could even go to sleep at night with all that yarn demanding attention. After seeing all the details put into the wonderful Persian food served, I know that sleep would probably come easily.

So where to start with impressions. Color. That is what hits you before you even get in the door. As we were driving down the street in the dark looking for the right house, I looked right and there was a window of bright light and color! Yarn! We knew we were at the right house.

My immediate impression of the color though was how nicely balanced it was by the warm brown wood floors and woodwork of the old house. The walls were not tamely painted either by any means, just a rich rose color in the front room that seemed the right backdrop for those shelves and shelves of color.

The next impression was one of touch. Sample garments were everywhere. A coat rack full of scarves in every yarn and style currently in fashion. Sweaters, felted bags, even a wall of socks. Inspiration hung from every nook and cranny.

I had to stop at this point from overload. Comfy couches, a big table and chairs (with everyone knitting) and a library with soft music in the background was the cure for overload. The yarn still beckoned, and again I went back to look.

Ahhh the chance to finally, finally touch some of the yarns I had seen in the catalogs flooding my mailbox these last few weeks. Firm functional wool yarns. Funky and fun sock yarns. Exotic silks and silk wool blends. Alpaca...alpaca...alpaca, still my favorite. Hugh arm full bundles of yarn in kilo skeins. Fibers that had traveled the world's currents to get there. Who could not want one of each.

Overload again. Back to my spinning wheel, which I brought thinking more folks would be spinning on that night. I had lots of pleasant conversations with those around me, as I carded and spun. New stories to hear, inside jokes to figure out, the fun of having those new friends laugh at one of my jokes.

Finally unfortunately it was time to leave. Since I knew I could not take one of everything home (now what a sweater _that_ would make!) I settled myself with a new book, a booklet, some sock yarn, and one glorious skein made from recycled sari fabric.

It actually is just like having a box of very good chocolates nearby. One for now, and many for later. I look forward to a monthly trip there, not only for the shopping, but for the joy of sharing what I make with those purchases with knitters that understand.

And to bask in that aura again. Whether it comes from the yarn, the colors, the textures, or the people, the aura in that place is amazing. Vibrant but pleasant. When I laid down to go to sleep that night, I could still feel it, just as if my aura had taken up knitting and was now cocooned in the soft energy of those colors.


Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Testing 1 2 3

OK I can not put pictures in this blog, but I can put links. I got it to work at my live journal, this is a test for this blog.

If it works, here is a picture of one of the many baby bunnies in my life.


oh poo, that one has to be cut and pasted.

Oh wow, now THAT was interesting. Under edit, I tried using the 'add link' button for the above link, and got the blue screen of death.

Computers...ever a source of practice of cuss words.

Let's just see what happens if I try the button again. Snort it went right back up to the one at the top.

I give up. I am going outside to play in the sunshine.


Thursday, November 13, 2003

Frog hair exchange

Well, there is frog hair, and then there is my froghair.

Let's just say when my spin group members saw my exchange they thought it was for the rare breed, not froghair.

Oh well.

I did learn alot, and have a great time doing it. I have mailed it in, and will get 10 other peoples exchange sheets back. I love having the notebooks around of these exchanges. It gives me another excuse to look at fiber.

Here are some of the stats on my froghair samples.

I did two different wool breeds, a shetland and a cormo. Both were raw fiber when I bought them and both were washed by the lock method recommended by Margaret Stove in her book Merino. I had written about the washing of these in an earlier blog.

I spun both on my Ashford traditional, with a lace flyer. I have found it very hard to make fine yarn on my Roberta electric, the pull-in is too hard and will snap the yarn. My Haldane only has two ratios, and I usually end up with about the same type of yarn, around 16 WPI for a two ply, just a nice sock yarn.

I have not had much experience spinning on the Ashford with the lace flyer, so I used this froghair exchange as an excuse to get me spinning on it.

Before doing this spinning, my usually yarn was running around 11-13 WPI for a two ply. Just your average mid weight yarn.

I spun the shetland first. I am very addicted to spinning from the lock. It is simplicity at it's finest. Just wash the lock, let it dry, pile them beside you, grab one, and latch the tip fibers to what you are spinning, and away you go. Eventually, the lock is all gone and you have yards of a fine yarn. When I would occasionally hit a pill of wool, I could just pull it off before or after it got spun. The small amount of VM, even very fine, would just drop out as the yarn was too fine to even hold it. Yes, it is very addicting spinning.

The shetland spun easier than the cormo. However it had quite a halo to it, making it look thicker than it really was. I was able to spin a single of 40 WPI with the 2 ply being 22 WPI.

The cormo was nice and lanolin free, that was one problem I had before trying to do the lock washing method. It didn't draft quite as easily as the shetland. It's single though is a halo free tight yarn. I got a 36 WPI single with the cormo.

It was very noticable how soft the cormo was, compared to the shetland. The shetland was soft but obviously wool, the cormo did not even feel like wool.

After wrapping single and 2 ply samples on cardboard, I plied the rest and skeined it. I then washed the skeins. I did not weight the skeins while they dried. The shetland did not change much, but the cormo skein really reduced in size. It also looked twice as fluffy as the shetland even though they were close in WPI. By the time I made a small skein for the exchange sheets, the lovely fine singles looked just like regular old sock yarn.

I used plastic sheets from Century Plastics to make my exchange sheet. It really is a plastic sheet for photos, I used one pocket for the cardboard with shetland wrapped on it, and another pocket for the cardboard with the cormo wrapped on it. I put a small skein behind each of those. In a top pocket, I put the write up sheet. Small locks of the washed fiber were put in pockets beside that. It did make a nice presentation.

I will admit to being disappointed that I could not spin finer. I can see the technique, it is just not in my fingers or my wheels adjustment yet. I need to try a lighter drive band, and maybe even brake band. I still have plenty of fiber left, a lock will just spin yards and yards of yarn.

And it is a big improvement for me, as far as fine yarn. I am really looking forward to spinning a rust colored shetland fleece that I have. I think it would make a stunning lacy shawl.


Monday, November 10, 2003


No, I didn't frog it, I had to unknit it. I didn't really think there was a difference, but I found out this weekend that there is.

I am knitting a pair of socks for my mother. Nothing special, just an acrylic/nylon yarn in a soft minty color for those occasional nights it is chilly in Florida. I started them on DPN size one and did the ribbing, I am knitting these cuff to toe. Then I got the small circular needle and it was in size three, which was what the pattern wanted to use. I completed the sock, and really liked the way it looked, except the pattern has a very long heel to cuff area. That put the tight ribbing about half way up the leg, unless you wore them in a slouch style. I don't think Mom would do that, so I decided the ribbing should be removed and reknitted. I envisioned pulling the ribbing down to where the pattern started, picking up the live stitches and knitting the ribbing in the size three needle.

I found out soon after I started pulling, that frogging backwards from how something is knitted just doesn't work. At first I thought I was having problems because I was trying to undo the cast on edge, but it became apparent that I was going to have to undo each stitch in a way different from what I am use to in normal frogging. I came to the conclusion that it was because I was going backwards.

My 'take it apart and fix anything' hubby had two very unhelpful suggestions, as he watched me fuss with this, while we were driving. One was to just cut the cuff off, unravel that yarn and reuse it. Well, that's a valid suggestion, I just DID NOT have the nerve to take scissors to the sock. I did not need to save the yarn, I have plenty leftover, so the only thing stopping me from doing that is the stubborness I was born with to undo things slowly and correctly. BTW his other unhelpful suggestion was to unravel from the toe up (snort) in otherwords redo the whole sock. NOT.

I did try for awhile to keep the yarn intact that I was unknitting, but finally decided that was not worth the extra tangles, and later would cut the yarn short again after it reached about a yard or so.

I finally hit a point where there seemed to be a repeat of three 'undoings' By now I had the yarn in a blunt needle, and all the stitches on two DPN's. I was basically using the needle to follow the path of the yarn to undo the stitches onto a third DPN.

This is what it would read like, if there were pattern directions for unknitting a K2P2 ribbing.

Stitches to undo on left hand needle, work onto right hand needle.
Pick up base of stitch on left hand needle. Hold it on right needle. Thread yarn through base of right needle stitch, front to back, unwrap yarn from left hand needle, then go again through right needle stitch from front to back. One stitch removed. Pick up base of stitch on left hand needle and hold it on right hand needle. Thread yarn through right needle stitch back to front, unwrap yarn from left hand needle, then thread yarn through right hand stitch back to front again. Second stitch removed. Third stitch on left hand needle (which looks like a knit stitch) can be remove in normal way, by picking up the base stitch below, putting it on the right hand needle and pulling yarn free.

Continue with these three methods to remove all stitches.

Now I know the readers' eyes are glazed over after reading that last paragraph. It must sound as confusing as knitting directions did, long ago (or maybe now if you are not a knitter)

I worked like this for about 7 rows and still was only about half done. There was a rhythm for sure and it did help to have the needles and yarn under slight tension, just like when knitting. But it was slow, slow, slow.. And occasionally there would be nothing else to do but the same thing that all of us have done when untangling yarn, just slowly and patiently follow where the thread has gone, and undo it. I suppose this happened when the live stitch I picked up on the needles was really several rows down, and not next in line. I finally unthreaded the yarn from the darning needle, and just used the needle to pull on the yarn. I kept the yarn cut short, and would just pull it out which ever way it was going next. It took many hours of my knitting time, and probably was only good for the experience of knowing I won't do it again.

I could have used all of this experience to really study the stucture of the knit and purl stitch, to know how it is really constructed, and connected. But I just could not wrap my brain around anything that intelligent. It was a strange study of the zen of doing something so well known to my hands, backwards and therefore so unknown to my hands. It was like watching me knit in a mirror. The best analogy for those of you that do not knit, it to think about a stretch of road that you drive all the time, and then have to drive it backwards.

Fibering along the way

I just got back from a lovely week's vacation. Oh it had it's moments, but those tidbits are in my livejournal

I looked forward to lots of knitting time as we traveled. I only got about a third done though. I found that when in Florida, especially at the beach, I have no desire to knit at all. A good book and a foo-foo drink (as the bartender and my hubby called Pina Colidas) is all I need.

On the way, I convinced hubby to stop at the Opryland Mall at the Bass Outdoor World. I found exactly what I wanted, which was one of those zippered ring binders with ziplock pages. I saw the suggestion for using those to organize circular needles, and I must say it is a grand idea. I got the binder and ten extra pages for under $15. Before we had left home I did an inventory of my circs, because I am being very tempted by a seller on ebay of complete sets. I had to figure out if I was at the point it made sense to get complete sets, or just add to my supply. I found I had several sets of one size and thought I would trade for sizes I don't have, then remembered I probably have them to make two socks on two circs. I've done that once, and have not decided if I want to do that again or not, so I will probably hold on to them for awhile.

While traveling I finished one sock for mom, but was unhappy with the ribbing. After I fixed that (there's a whole entry on here about that called unknitting) I started the second one, but only got about two inches into it. I am doing them on size 3 twelve inch circs. I like doing the sock on the small circs, except I find it had to do lace patterns, the K2tog are harder, trying to manipulate the circs.

I made one pair of slipper socks while visiting mom. Those are quick and easy and are usually done in several evenings of knitting. I had lots of yarn left over, I am thinking of doing a hat or something with the yarn (Lion Brand Homespun).

On the way back north, we happened to go through central Georgia. The cotton fields were full and bursting. I was driving on the freeway and hubby was asleep. I drove past acres and acres of open cotton. It was also all over the side of the freeway. I do not know if it blows from the cotton fields, or if it is blowing off whatever trucks they are using to take it to the mill. It was all I could do to keep driving and not pull over and grab the handfuls of cotton on the side of the freeway. We finally went off the freeway, and through lots of back roads. Hubby pulled off one by a field that had already been picked, and gleaned a few handfuls for me. He said the bolls are prickly and that hand picking would be quite painful. I had not known that about cotton plants. So I will play with carding some of this and spinning it. I do not have a chakra, and I have never had much luck spinning any kind of cotton before, but I just had to have some to try.

Alas, we are now home again. The knitting is unpacked and back beside my comfy chair. There is much to do, and two days home to get it all done, before going back to work again.


Saturday, November 01, 2003

I wasn't going to post, because I feel like I have not worked on any fiber related projects all week. I knew tonight I was definately in withdrawal, when I just had to spend some of my internet time cruising Ebay, looking at spinning wheels, looking at angora (this is sales research LOL) looking at handspun yarn, and mostly looking at fiber for sale.

And I know I am definately on overload, when I didn't really want to buy anything.

I didn't spin all week. I probably got overloaded on that after spinning for two days straight, a total of 13 hours last weekend.

I did knit some on Monday night, while watching the football game. I turned the heel...now I have always liked that phrase, turning the heel. It makes something so mystical about the process of just rearranging stitches, and decreasing. Anyway, I turned the heel on a sock that I am knitting for my mom for xmas.

I carried a stole I am knitting with me last Thur, but did not have an opportunity to work on it. Didn't have the free time I expected. The stole is out of a commercial kid mohair/silk yarn.

On my days off this week, I worked on plucking angora. I currently have 21 rabbits, and since most of them had their fur plucked or sheared last July, it is again time to remove loose coats. It amazes me that they continue to grow that fur in the heat of the summer. Course, I do everything I can to keep them cool, from fans to ice bottles. I plucked three rabbits on Thurs, two on Friday before work and two today before work. Weds I had to clean cages, which in a round about way, is fiber related work too :)

I am in the mood to spin some angora, I have not spun any in awhile. I have a big rubbermaid tub full of fiber wrapped in tissue paper, some is labelled for carding, some for dyeing and some, the best, for packaging up to sell. It will be a rainy winter's day off project in a couple of months.

One other thing I did recently was to join the Knitting Guild of America. I got the packet in the mail yesterday, and spent last night reading over the classes they offer. I am very tempted. I am also tempted by some of the knit alongs I see in Yahoo groups. I have also found the website of a new yarn shop, not real close to me, but close enough to go to now and then for a class.

I made a list of what I want to finish by the end of the year. It has 2 pairs of regular socks, and two pairs of big slipper socks, a scarf (all of those are xmas presents) and my shawl. After those are done, I will consider a group project, or class.


Monday, October 27, 2003

A Woman's Work is Never Done.

Someone actually said that to me, about me this weekend.

That's because they saw me on Sunday afternoon, in the exact same spot, doing the exact same thing as Sat, spinning yarn.

I really had a marvelous weekend. I got to spin for seven hours (with occasional breaks of course, mostly for shopping!) on Sat and for five hours on Sunday. I got an amazing amount of yarn made too. Details on that will be later, since what I spun all weekend is for the frog hair exchange, and I have not finished skeining and figuring out everything.

I had the fun of re-enacting a spinner in a historic home both days. I did a sort of colonial outfit, the 'mop cap' was the highlight, everyone loved it, and I of course hated how I looked in it. My husband couldn't look at me without giggling :) I spun on my Ashford traditional, and took my Haldane, which looked right at home in the parlor, even if it had been made in 1972.

The house was built in 1787, and was the founder of this town's home. It is a modest (by our standards) but large by the days standards, two story, two rooms up and two rooms down. Later two more rooms were added, seperate but attached to the house. Those were used as extra rooms for guests, when the Inn he owned across the street was full.

The house is made of bricks, created on site by slaves. The wide wood floors are still in very good shape. The house is still owned by the heirs, but is used only as a historical site. No kitchen, there was an outside kitchen with cooking fireplace behind the house. No bath of course, although I heard in later years water was piped into the house from the Ohio river (right near by) for plumbing. A later relative of the original owner was the town's postmaster, and there were slots in the one door, where everyone dropped off their mail.

I was kept company by 'Jenny Lind' She sang every hour, as in the history of the house, the real Jenny Lind did stop there and sing from the steps of the house. And amazing piece of historical trivia about Jenny Lind (the Swedish nightengale) is that PT Barnum supposedly paid her an astounding 187,000 dollars to tour the US and sing for 18 months. There was other information, quite interesting, shared with the listeners. Good thing too, because after the sixth time through 'My Old Kentucky Home' I was only half listening. And yes, she supposedly really did sing that song, at this house, in 1852 or thereabouts.

Meanwhile, I kept my wheel humming all the time. On Sat I spun all of the shetland locks I had washed, and half filled two bobbins with those. I had to stay awhile longer so I carded some of the shetland that was not in locks, and spun that on my Haldane.

On Sunday I spun Cormo locks that I had washed. I had less time to spin on Sunday, so I filled a one bobbin half full and the other one almost half full. I need to do a little more on that at home, so I can ply that yarn.

I answered many questions, and gave out my card to a potential new spinner, if she needs help.

On one of my 'shopping' excursions, I went to visit the weaver. She was at the opposite end of the 'town' from me :( We had a nice chat (I think she will be joining our Tues spinning group if she can find the time) and I bought a lovely little bag to put on my spinning wheel. I also found the neatest pair of scissors, that look very old fashion, black wide holes like circles, and tiny thread snipping scissors. I love them.

I found the colonial clothes to be quite comfortable, although found out several things. 1) When getting in a car to drive, be sure ALL of your skirt is inside before you shut the door 2) Woman that had to lift up a skirt to go up stairs, could only carry something in one hand 3) long skirts get in the way of the treadle foot, and I could not spin a drop spindle and wear a shawl. 4) NO ONE could look good in a 'mop cap'.


Thursday, October 23, 2003

Hello Thrillers!

You probably have tripled the number reading my blog now :) I cruise the thriller ring twice a week but waited awhile to connect to it. See, I am so very technodeficient, that every time I tried to change the layout on my old blog, it would end up a mess. In fact that's where the name came for this blog, I had to dump the old one, and start "a better fiber blog"

I am envious of everyone's beatiful blogs with pictures. I aim to join those folks at some point. But for right now you will have to live with my verbal descriptions, and lowly blogger blog.

All week long I have been getting things ready for doing a demo of spinning both Sat and Sun. It's not just a pick up my wheel and go deal. I made a 'it'll do' costume, by making a long skirt and an outer back tie skirt. I'll use my Ren Faire blouse, and a gray shawl. I still want to make an apron.

Oh that is something interesting. I had decided I wanted to make an apron from some old feedsacks that I had in stash. I picked up about a dozen of them at an auction once. I found a one that had a lovely pink stripe down both sides, and thought it would look great with my costume. But when I went to cut it open, I realized that it was woven without a seam. That is unusual in feedsacks and now I wonder if it was really a pillowcase, albeit, very heavy cotton. So it did not meet the sacrificial scissors, I found another one to use. Woven round is really neat, think like a sock machine only with fabric.

But I digress. Along with getting a costume, I also pulled out and updated my educational boards about different fibers used for spinning. I will have a basket of washed fleece, carders, and a drop spindle and my ashford traditional. I hope to spin what I need for my frog hair during this weekend since my ashford has a lace flyer on it. That should be shetland locks and cormo locks. I was thinking in my head about yardage needed. Eleven people, with enough to give about 2 yards singles wrapped on a cardboard, and about 5 yards of 2 ply to wash, means roughly at least 132 yards singles. I think it should be doable over sat and sun even with the questions from passers by.

The only thing I have left to do to get ready are labelling some skeins I would like to sell. I went through all my hand spun this week, sorted out what I wanted to keep, and put what was left in a rubbermaid tub. Some of it was already priced from the booths I do. But there is alot that I had originally planned to keep, or I had just not gotten labelled before the shows. I came up with an idea to package some of the matching skeins into project bags instead of selling them separately. I do not have any that would be enough for a sweater, but could push them for a child sweater, or matching hat gloves and mittens. Most of what I have is in the bulky range-I sure hope knitters are still interested in bulky yarn still. With the closeness of the holiday knitting deadlines maybe it will be appealing.


Friday, October 17, 2003

In Hot Water...

because I finally found my big net washing bags for washing fleece. I just woke up yesterday morning and postively remembered where I had put them...piffle on this loss of short term memory thing. It only took a whole week for the shuffling in my mind to get done and the results pop out...the bags are in the cupboard by the sink, the one I seldom open because it is full of bottles of homemade wine, and seldom used small kitchen appliances. Oh well, it seemed like a good place to store them originally.

I actually do not use the bags for washing, only for spinning the wet fleece in the washer. I have a deep kitchen sink, and I just fill both sides with hot soapy water and wash the fleece in that. First dip is usually very quick, it gets off most of the crud and I don't want the fleece soaking too long in that. The next several rinses will vary in time, depending on how dirty the fleece seems. If the water is clear, that is the last rinse. It then goes in the mesh bag, and is spun briefly in the washer to get as much water as possible out of it.

I am sure there would be other ways to wash fleece. I just have my routine, and like to do it that way. I have found washing fleece is one of the things I like to do in the morning, the hot water feels so good on my hands. I absolutely can not knit in the mornings, my fingers are too stiff. I have very fond memories of my grandmother, always awake before me, peacefully knitting until the rest of the household awoke. My knitting is more likely to be after the household is to bed for the night.

But I digress.

Yesterday I washed a part of a small shetland fleece. I had pulled part of it to be washed in locks and part was hand picked apart. I washed the hand picked part yesterday. It turned into a very lovely white fleece. I think I will try using my small handcombs on it, it seems that it will be nubby if I card it. As I posted on one group, it was lovely to be smelling the 'wet sheepie' again.

This morning I washed locks. I had flicked some cormo locks previously (using a metal tooth dog comb) and yesterday I flicked the shetland locks. I managed to get both sets of locks washed this morning before leaving for work (and no I don't get up at O dark thirty-I work second shift) Once I get everything set up, I like to wash as many locks as possible, it is a bit of a mess while doing it.

Just a bit of how-to. I heat a big pot of water on the stove to suppliment my tap water. I use two crock pots (these are set aside for dyeing) One I just use the insert part, as the washing pot and the second one is an older model, that is more like a crock that sits on a hot plate. I use this for the rinsing pot and do not have to change that water very much. The hot plate keeps the water very hot. The washing one gets new hot water about every dozen locks. The procedure is grab a fingerful bunch of locks, dunk them in the washing pot, turn and dunk again. Then I pass the lock over a bar of soap (I like using those small bars one gets at hotels, it is just the right size to hold) pressing the lock on the soap with my thumb. It's not really a scrubbing motion, just a gentle rubbing. Flip and do the other end of the lock. The lock is rinsed in the washing water and then it is dunked in the very hot rinse water, flipped and dunked again. I lay the lock on a towel, no squeezing, just letting the towel soak up the moisture. When the towel is full, I lay another towel on top. Eventually I take all of the locks and put them on the sweater mesh dryers.

I timed myself this morning and in 2 1/2 hours I washed seven dozen locks of cormo and 4 dozen locks of shetland. That is alot of yardage, when spun fine (the only reason I wash locks in the first place).

It was fun to see the wide wavy crimp on the shetland still show up, even when wet. The other thing that amazed me, was how rapidly the shetland seemed to be drying. It was washed last and was starting to puff up, a sign that it was drying. The cormo still looked completely flat. I know from experience that they will eventually dry and puff up, but at this point it is hard to believe.

I am taking part in an exchange for spinning 'froghair' that is, spinning as fine as possible. I will be using these locks next weekend, when I spin for a demo, since the wheel I like to use for demos, is set up with a lace flyer. So now I have three shoe boxes full of locks ready to spin.


Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Breed Notebook Part 1

First an explanation. Two years ago I bought a sampler pack of 20 different breeds of sheep from a vendor. It lanquished the first year, since I was so busy spinning things for sale. It got a good start this year, but I had no specific plan developed for the specific notebook. This Sunday I got in the mood to focus on this and finish it, since I am tired of it taking up space in one large basket of fiber.

Each breed had about two oz of washed fiber in the pack, and a description sheet. As I worked with each breed I took notes. What I am going to record here is those notes. When I finish spinning all of the breeds I want to take a big notebook, copy the information sheet onto stiff stock paper, type of additional information I have found about the breed, and put this in a page protector. I also have plastic photo pages and I plan to put the fiber samples, yarn samples etc in those pockets. All of this will then go into a notebook.

So here are the notes from spinning that I have so far. A few things to know are I use either a fine tooth hand carder or a medium tooth hand carder, depending on how fine the fiber seemed. My combing is done on 2 pitch hand held combs.

Fiber is very clean, very dry causing some static while combing. It has an exceptional white color. Locks are not very distinct, and there is little crimp. Hand carding was not very effective, it caused neps in the batt. When combing, the fiber drafted off in short staples.

Spinning the carded batt emphasized the neps, some could be pulled out, others causes thick places in the yarn. A medium spindle was a bit too lightweight for the fiber. Yarn spun on my electric was better, the longer draft zone smoothed some of the bumps out. Yarn was 2 ply 8 WPI, a 7 yard skein.

Spinning the combed fiber on my electric produced a very smooth yarn, using a long triangle draw. There was lots of bounce to the yarn after plied and skeined. Sample is 10 WPI in an 8 yd skein.

Both methods seemed to need more twist in the singles. Both skeins hung loose after plying, very little residual twist.

Fiber clean, dry, with some static. Color is an off white, with moderate crimp. It had obvious locks with the tips still held together. It hand carded nicely with few neps. It was easy to comb, and moderately easy to pull off of the combs.

Spinning the carded fiber gave an occasional bump that could be pulled from the yarn. Used a very short drafting triangle. On my electric the 2 ply yarn is 11 WPI in an 8 yard skein.

Spinning the combed top was delightful. Could use a very long drafting draw and yarn was very smooth.
2 ply was 11 WPI (no record of length of skein).

Both yarns relaxed and poofed after skeining.

Fiber not very clean looking, yellow tips. Gave an all over appearance of a dirty white color. It had distinct locks and moderate crimp. Did not like how the fiber carded, it had many neps. Combs gave a nicer bump free top, but the fiber was hard to pull off the combs.

Spinning the carded fiber was surprising it actually drafted nicely and a longer draw smooth out any bumps. The 2 ply yarn from my electric spinner was 10 WPI in a 12 yard skein.

Spinning the combed fiber also was a surprise. It could be spun very very fine. I did a bit of both types of spinning, and had a regular 2 ply yarn of 11 WPI in a 12 yard skein, and a fine 2 ply of 21 WPI in a small sample skein.

There was no poof to the yarn after plying and skeining.

A fun sample to play with. It was off white with dark brown spots mixed in. I seperate the colors as best I could and also left some together to blend. The fiber had no definate locks, and had a high crimp. It carded very nicely, I did some white and some of the blend of colors. It was a hard sample to comb, I had to pay very close attention while pulling off the comb to not pull too hard. The combs are better for blending the colors though.

Spinning the carded fiber would only give me a bulky, bumpy yarn. The white looked more like oatmeal, once it was spun and the blend of color was a lovely tweedy although bumpy yarn. Both in 2 ply were 10 WPI in an 11 yard and 6 yard skein.

Spinning the carded fiber produce a lovely blended grey yarn. It could be spun very fine. I was surprised to find my 2 ply measured at only 15 WPI, it seemed to be finer as a single (obviously all that high crimp in the fiber).

Border Leicester
This is a white fiber that still felt a little sticky. It had very long locks with alot of the ends still twisted together. The crimp was wide and wavy. If these locks are opened up they card well on the hand carders. It did not comb well. It made wide puffs of fiber full of static in spite of the residual lanolin. I could get some nice top if I used some of the shorter locks.

Spinning the carded fiber produced a moderately nice yarn. It was difficult to draft, the stickiness of the fiber fighting the drafting. My 2 ply sample spun on my electric spinner was 13 WPI in a 17 yard skein.

Spinning the combed fiber was easier, I could use a very long smooth draw. It still only spun moderately fine. I noticed while plying that the singles were definately underspun, they were not holding the twist at all in some spots. The 2 ply yarn was 15 WPI.

More later in Part 2


Friday, October 10, 2003

Fleece Rollcall

I was off from work on Tues, and with the low humidity weather we have been having, I decided it was time to do some fleece washing. My goal was to get the stash beside the washer/dryer out of that location. It was in one big rubbermaid tub, and several shipping boxes, but I did not really remember what I had out there, except for one mammoth BL fleece (that was what was taking up all of the rubbermaid tub).

So I shuffled everything to my front porch and had a wonderful couple of hours of perfect fall weather sitting on the porch and sorting. I can not call it skirting, that was suppose to have been done on all of these fleeces. In truth they were all reasonably skirted. I was going more for breaking the fleeces down into washing to maintain the lock structure or not.

BTW the mammoth BL is still in the tub. I did not mess with that yet. I know I will not try to do any lock spinning from this fleece. It is courser than most fleeces I have had from this breeder's flock, but a lovely gray color. It is rug yarn eventually, whether I will spin it or locker hook it, I have not decided.

I had a smaller softer BL fleece that I had packaged up to take to a processor at the Allegan show. We never met up, so I brought the fleece home with me. I tried drafting a lock (still with lanolin on it) It was sticky and thicker than I'd like, but it did draft. I have not decided if I will wash this on for locks or pick it apart and card it. It joined the other one, in it's own box. I did set some dreadlocks aside from both of the BL, that would be perfect 'hair' for a doll.

It some became a mote point whether I would be washing any fleece anyway. I searched high and low several times for my three mesh laundry bags that I use to spin the fleece in the washer. I can not locate them anywhere. I know I stuck them away somewhere in my frenzy of cleaning six weeks ago. Alas, they are still missing.

So now knowing I would not be washing fleece, I consoled myself to at least get my hands lanolin covered anyway. Onward to the other boxes of fleeces.

I had a small fleece in a big box, labelled April. I found the sales slip (I really do try and keep that type of information in with the fleeces) and realized that this was a shetland fleece given to me free for buying two other fleeces. It was a small, very soft, very clean white fleece. I pulled the best looking locks and set them in a small box. I did the drafting of one of the locks, oh my, it just pulled and pulled to the finest roving, even in the grease. I think this will be a very nice cobweight yarn. When I could not keep the lock structure intact, I pulled the fleece into puffs, and will wash those that way.

The next bigger box also had a shetland fleece. I remember buying this one :) It came from a rabbit breeder friend that also raises shetlands. She was the one that got me to try shetland fleece again. My first experience spinning shetland was very bad. I purchased a processed roving because I loved the deep brown color. But the yarn was harsh and unwearable. I now know that I can not spin lace weight from roving, and that the processing probably made the roving harsh.

This shetland fleece is a moorit and I am just in love with the color. Sort of a cinnamon brown, with tan tips. It drafted just as thin as the white, and I have two pounds of this fleece. I put as many intact locks as I could into a box, and the rest was pulled into puffs to wash.

The last box was a large cormo fleece I purchased just this spring. Soft and white, it unfortunately has very dirty tips. The crimp is unbelieveable. ~~~~~~~~ only half the size of that. I pulled the whole fleece apart. It is one of the few fleeces I have actually been able to pick up and gently shake like is recommended. Usually everything just falls apart, but there is a very delicate web like structure to the whole fleece and it stayed together during it's easy shake. But not much fell out, the dirt is attached to the tips unfortunately.

Also the lock structure on this fleece is very small. It just didn't seem like a good idea to just break everything apart into tiny locks. I pulled long sections of locks, and laid them in the box. I think I am going to try a soak of a section first and see how it responses. I think it may just all fall apart, once the dirt is removed, but I am hoping that if I treat each section, like a lock, I can then take each section and draft.

Cormo is very hard to work with. I am in for a challenge to home process this fleece, but that is the part of all of this that I like. The challenge of taking each fleece and looking at it and deciding just how to handle it best.

I really did not have to put off the washing, since the biggest part of the fleeces were set aside to wash as locks. That does not need those yet to be found mesh bags. I decided I best do some mowing first, but lock washing is definately planned...real soon now.


Monday, October 06, 2003

How Deep is Your Stash?

In preparation for attending a Ren Faire, I decided to make a costume to wear. I can not decide if I want to brag, or be embarrassed to say that I made the ENTIRE outfit with what was in my sewing stash. We are talking patterns, fabrics and trims! The only exception to this was the grommets on the bodice, I had something that might have worked, but it was much easier to just give the bodice garment to my daughter to put some in from her stash.

I thought I'd take the time to write about each piece of the outfit and just what I used to make it.

I started with the blouse first, because I figured if I got short on time (I was after all making these about three days before the Faire) I could make do with a long skirt and shawl. I chose a pattern that Butterick makes, not the elaborate court costume of the Ren Faires, more of the serving wench style. The blouse is a typical gathered wide at the neck so it can be pulled down on the shoulders, and gathered at the wrists. The first piece of fabric I pulled to used did not have enough, so finding another piece of very nice cream colored fabric in the pile, I pulled it out. Yep there was plenty for sure. I do not remember what project I bought this fabric for, but I remember buying it, because it was the uncommon double wide cotton that costs so much. And yes, I went ahead and used it. Still have alot left, but not as much as I did! The blouse sewed up very fast. I found out that using bias tape inside for the elastic on the neck, and then using wide elastic gave the neckline and the wrist gathering a smocked look. The gathering was in nice big pleats instead of tight, looking just like it was smocked. I was very pleased with that. I also spent a nice half hour going through my jumble of lace bits, and found nice tatted looking ecru lace for trim on the neckline and sleeves. I finished the blouse in about three hours of sewing, and cut out the skirt for the next days sewing.

The skirt was from the same pattern. I found a heavy dark green cotton 'bunch' of fabric and knew there would be enough for the skirt in that, even though the skirt seemed to use miles of fabric. I have no recollection of what the green was purchased for originally. But whatever it was, it was going to be a big project. I used about 4.5 yards of fabric for the skirt and had over 5 yards left. For some reason, Butterick seemed to think that zippers were in use in those 'goode olde days' I decided I'd rather not. That meant adapting the pattern though. I went ahead and sewed all the panels together, held it up to me and realized the skirt was for a lady 6 inches taller than myself. I cut 5 inches off the bottom of the skirt, ripped out one seam and then made the waistband from that. What that gave me was the waistband and then enough tie to go around me twice. I figured that would keep the skirt on for as long as I wanted. After about two hours another part of the costume was done, and I cut out the fabric for the bodice.

Yes, I was practicing speed sewing. It only had to pass the 5 foot test, after all.

I made the bodice from two heavy weight fabrics. It ends up being reverseable, a dark side and a light side. The light side was an upholstery fabric, that looks handwoven. The dark side is a brushed demin. This sewed up very fast, the only slightly complicated part was easing that seam that form fits the breast. Oh and turning the vest. See, you sew right sides of both parts together, leaving the shoulder seams open and a turning area at the bottom of the vest. It meant putting my hand in that open area, wiggling the shoulder down into my fingers and tugging it all out the hole. It was quite fascinating really, I had this very metaphysical image of a world turning itself inside out. Passed the time, while I groped for the little shoulder seams. After the vest was turned I had to do that fancy thing of tucking one shoulder into the other, making sure all the wild ends were caught, and top stitching. Looked great on the light colored side. When I turned it over though, I realized I was still using white bobbin thread. OPPS! I have not fixed it yet, but my fix will be to color over those stitches with a black magic marker.

And I was done. My daughter took the bodice to put in the grommets. I went on to take some alpaca fiber I had spun and knit a head covering (I won't grace it with the name of snood) but that's another post.

Meanwhile, I got the sewing bug again. In my stash diving, I have found fabric for a colonial outfit I will need later this month. And for a cape, that I have been wanting for a long time. Oh there are plenty of other projects. My wonderful computerized sewing machine is sitting there lobbying for something with fancy stitches, after all that straight stitch sewing.


Monday, September 29, 2003

The Great Yarn Sort Out

Some folks want to try and make me admit that I have too much yarn. It's not true! I just have too little time to knit up all the yarn I have :)

I have been suffering from yarn fever for the last three weeks. I am sure it was triggered by two things, completing a pair of socks, and the timely arrival of six yarn catalogues. And they didn't arrive all at once either, oh no, the fever has been spread out, as they arrived one by one over these weeks.

So when the chance came several days ago to visit my local yarn store, I had my list ready! I was going to save shipping!

Alas, the LYS carried very few of the items I had seen in the fancy yarn catalogues. The few that they had were the very flashy eyelash and ribbon yarns. These yarns are beautiful to be sure, but just did not fit the ideas I had in my head. Being a spinner, the first idea was to buy a skein of the type of yarn and see just what it would take to develope a similar yarn. Being thrifty, I would buy enough for a hat or scarf or socks, with the spun yarn for the bigger projects. I am sure no yarn manufacturer wants this to happen, but some 'spinning to type' is bound to happen among the fiber folks. I really do not want to copy the yarns directly, hand spun has a uniqueness to it that will always be part of the yarn. I think the scientist in me is in control, wanting to be able to spin something "DK" if needed.

I think I may have a chance to see some of the catalogue yarns at a difference store. It is not local, but within a reasonable drive to be a nice afternoon trip sometime. Once I talk someone from the spin group into a road trip, I will go.

Meanwhile, I also have been searching the websites listed in the knitting magazines. I have decided a weekly stop at six or seven of the major yarn sites, to check out the bargain page, may just land me some good deals. I also discovered that the catalogues have websites too, with sale bins...even better!

To help relieve some of this yarn fever, I made an effort to sort the current stash. I seemed to have ended up with four categories. One is hand spun yarn. In that I have yarn for a sweater from gray BL wool, yarn for a vest with various dyed yarns, yarn for a shawl in 100% angora and finally a 50/50 merino/angora yarn, project as of yet not determined.

The next category is 'fisherman' acrylic. It can be sweaters or afghans, I have done both. I have been wanting to make the aran afghan, and I think I will just grin and bear the acrylic and make it from that.

The next category is store bought, know I have a project for yarn. This is mostly sock yarn, and a few hats and scarves. Some are to be gifts.

And last the two shopping bags of lonely balls. All those bits and pieces that I have no clue what to do with. They are remnants of past projects, yarns that have been handed to me 'because they knew I knit" or the occasional whim purchase at some sale table. I need to just close my eyes and toss the lot into the Salvation Army bin.

Or maybe for my mindless world wide web wait time, I will just start with a ball, cast on something blanket size and just knit forever until the bags are gone. Any guesses what size the blankie will be?


Sunday, September 28, 2003

Business and Pleasure

Sometimes business for the angora bunnies just comes out of the blue. It really isn't that way, because it usually is some other breeder has given my name to the customer. But the phone call, when I do get it, seems out of the blue.

That happened this week. We were out in the orchard Tues morning picking apples. I had plans to make applesauce that day, since I was off from work. When we came in and Ted checked the answering machine, there was a call from a lady interested in Satin rabbits. Ted is doing that, oh damn I forgot to tell you, dance. Seems she called the day before and I was at work and he said I would be by the phone the next morning. All's well that end's well though, we finally made phone connections.

Turns out she raised rabbits for many years but was now down to one lonely little english angora. And she was interested in the 'new' satin breed. At the end of the conversation she had arranged to buy 10 oz of the satin fiber, to see if she liked spinning it. If she did, she was going to call back and try and twist my arm into selling her a breeding pair.

Oh dear, my best satin doe is probably going to go to a new home. She is a lovely copper color. I have no reason to keep her, I am not going to breed any more rabbits right? Still it is going to be very hard to sell her. The breeder wants the doe to have a litter right away, and that would be a good thing, the doe needs to be bred again this fall, or it will forget how :)

As to the pleasure part of this post, I had a chance to have lunch on Friday with my spinning group, and an internet acquaintance. There were five of us, for a great lunch at Rafferty's. At one point, we had baggies of shetland fleece, homemade soaps and pictures of fiber pets spread out over the table. Our waitress just had to come over and investigate, she said she thought she was going to have to remind us that pets were not allowed in the resturant! But the waitress was kind enough to express an interest in what we were sharing. The waitress was very impressed with a knitted swatch, wanted to give an order for a sweater right then and there. It was a lovely swatch, several browns and cream colors. The shetland was also very lovely, and from our friend's flock. I confessed to not liking shetland before, but I have only ever spun it from roving and it really did not make a very nice yarn. With my new found skill of spinning from locks, I can see how Shetland can turn into a lovely lace yarn. And this shetland was a lovely silver color. I just adore those gray colors that are almost silver.

Instead of dessert, we went to the local yarn shop. I dithered alot about all the new eyelash and ribbon yarns, the colors are really beautiful. More so in person, than the yarn catalogs. I just can not justify the expense right now, nor does it fit into my budget plan of buy one skein and try and duplicate it by spinning. So I went with my old standby and bought yarn for two different pairs of socks, and a pair of mittens (the pattern is on the yarn ball, it seems it will self stripe as a mitten too) I found a hunter green wool on the sale table, two big balls worth, which should be enough for a hat to match the mittens.

One of the group asked me if I was expecting a cold winter....well, some folks may judge the upcoming winter by the woolie worms. I think knitters judge it by the stack of knitting stash.

Are you ready for some football...spinning?

Yep, my favorite time of the year is back. Fall. Football. Easy chair spinning.

My first project is spinning CVM roving. I got this roving at the Michigan fiber fest, from Little Barn. I just loved the oatmeal color of the roving. I did not realize at the time that it was raised and sent for processing by the folks that run Little Barn. I like it even better now :)

It turns out to be very nice fiber too. It is easily spinning thin on my Roberta. I have not actually done a WPI check on the single yet, but two evenings of spinning and my bobbin is only half full. I wanted sock weight, I hope I am not going too thin for what I want. It would make sense to stop and ply what I have now and swatch....hmmm but do I want to be sensible. It is so relaxing to just sit down, have a lovely soft oatmeal colored roving in the hands, and spin away.

Part of this fiber is overdyed a teal blue, and that will be for the sock cuffs. Oh two tone socks, a new adventure for me.

I have two full Haldane bobbins with alpaca that need plied. That's another good job for while watching a movie. Let's see, choices from netflix right now are Miss Marple mysterys, Castaway or the Tannebaums.

But tonight and tomorrow, it will be football for sure.


Saturday, September 27, 2003

A Perfect Fiber Fair

Last weekend we had a booth in the Wool Gathering fiber fair in Yellowsprings Ohio. I enjoyed this booth for many reasons and it is always tempting to reconsider a decision to stop doing booths, when one has a very successful weekend.

This fiber fair is growing in leaps and bounds, and this year was the largest number of vendors it has had so far. They started with one small tent several years ago,and this year had two large tents with several vendors outside between the tents. I don't really look at it as competition, just more places to shop during my walkabouts.

There was a definate division between 'fiber' shoppers and the casual walk through crowd. The fiber people arrived early in the mornings of both days, setting the days sales off with a nice boost. Then sales and interest in the fiber dropped off during the afternoon, as the crowd became filled more with people visiting the Youngs Jersey Dairy Farm, where the Wool Gathering was held. This crowd was more apt to fondle the hand knit cap, and was also full of many kids wanting a chance to pet a bunny. I was happy to see more fiber people there, it means the word is getting out that this is a regular fiber event. And I look at the none fiber people as a chance to educate about angora rabbits, spinning, and my love of fiber arts in general.

I did some shopping too. I bought a spindle from one of my rabbit breeder friends, Candy Haentzel. She had a few of these spindles last year, and I didn't get one then. I was just playing around with the one she had out for the demo, while I was talking to her, and decided I liked it. It's an odd combination, the spindle is a smooth round stone, and the shaft is a very light wood. It will spin for a nice length of time, if the fiber is drafted very thin while it is spinning. If you stop drafting, the spindle will stop. I used it at my booth to spin up the angora combings from the rabbits, and I think I talked two other people into buying one, after they saw me spin angora with it. I am sure there are better spindles for angora, what I like about this one, other than the pretty stone, is that it is so small. If I am sure I can protect the wood part from snapping, this would be a very portable spindle.

I also bought some fleece. I had preordered two pounds of a natural colored blue face leicester from Lisa Rodenfel, and that was waiting for me to pick it up at her booth. It is very soft clean deep brown color. It has very long narrow curls. I am not exactly sure how I will process this fleece, but I will do it at home. I have no specific plans for this wool yet.

I also bought a Robert Miliken fleece this year. This shepherd must do this sheep raising as a hobby for his retirement, his fleeces are very nice, and very inexpensive. I generally pick up one of his border leicester fleeces, but everything he had this time, looked so much like what I already have at home, that I went for the one nice white fleece, a Corriedale ewe's fleece. It has a lock of about 6 inches, and a very loose wave crimp and loose lock. Different than all the tight curly locked fleeces I have been working with lately. It should be a breeze to wash up, but I decided to send most of it to a new to our area processor, Wooley Knob Mill. I bought the fleece Sat and took it straight to the car, so it wasn't until much later that my husband came back into our booth and said, "there's this big strange bag of fleece in our car?" I laughingly told him I HAD to buy a Miliken fleece, this was the last year to get one without paying shipping, since this was the last year to have a booth. Based on that theory, my shopping list is going to be very very long at the Greencastle fiber fair next spring!

Sunday morning before it got busy, I went outside behind our booth, and laid out an old sheet I had there. I spread the fleece on it, to decide what I would keep and what I would send to the processors. It was a big fleece, 9.5 lbs and it filled the whole sheet. It was well skirted, there was very little dirty spots on it. It is one of the few fleeces I have had to lay out and stay somewhat in order. It is still hard to tell for sure which is the front of the fleece and which is the back, if it's this clean! One relies on the dirty bits to know that is from the hind end. I chose what I took to be the area across the sheep's shoulders. This is supposedly the softest place on the fleece. I kept about two lbs from there, to wash in locks and spin fine for lace. I checked along all the edges of the fleece and found some areas that looked matted (felted) I pulled those out and put them in a bag. I took them home, I will wash them and see if any is usable.

The rest got put into a bag, and taken to the processor. He said it weighed 6.75 lbs and at their $4.50 per pound price it will cost a little over $30. for them to wash it and put it through the mill to make roving. It was a big bag of fleece, I can just imagine what 6.5 lbs of roving will look like! I am thinking about a deep green sweater from this wool, but I do not know yet if I will dye the wool, or the yarn.

Meanwhile, back at the booth.

One of the things I did differently this time, was to arrange to hang the skeins of spun yarn above the booth. The basic idea of building a frame of plastic pipe over the table worked pretty good. The problem was that we only used 1" pipe and so the structure was not very steady. We duct taped and tied it to the sides of the table and for the most part it worked pretty good. I really liked having the skeins almost at eye level, and feel that one of the reasons I sold a big angora skein was that it was so visable.

Finding ways to display fiber is a study in frustration. If the fiber is out in the open, it gets handled excessively, and is subject to the weather conditions. If I try and avoid these problems, it means putting the fiber into something. That immediately makes it inaccessable, and fiber people are very tactile. I won't buy fiber I can not touch first, and can not expect my customers to be any different than myself. I have only been able to come up with the solution of using large ziplock bags. The color or fiber type draws the customer to the booth, and the top being upzipped allows them to touch the fiber if they want. The ziplock bags have a big problem with staying in place though, they are more slippery than any fiber would be just laying on the table. I don't really get many other ideas from vendors at shows, we all just put up with the fact that the fiber is going to get handled.

The bunnies did a valiant job of being on display. I had a dual cage sitting beside me and my spinning wheel and I would let a few folks pet the bunnies. Mostly the bunnies dozed and looked cute. I sold three at this show, and almost the fourth one, but that customer resisted the temptation, and the bunny came back home with me.

This show was so much fun. All of the hard work getting the inventory ready had been done last April. I just packed everything up and went for this booth. The weather was perfect, the vendors in a good mood, the customers buying again, and I even got to spin. I had a 'sister' Haldane owner come up and say hi to my wheel, saying how much she loved the wheel. I quite agree, I set that wheel down, right on the bumpy grass of the tent floor, and it spun like a cadillac of a wheel. I spun and plied two bobbins of a drum carded alpaca on Sat and a full bobbin of alpaca roving on Sunday. That was satisfying, indeed.


Thursday, September 18, 2003

Decisions, decisions

Since I raise angora rabbits for their fiber, this fits right in this fiber blog!

I am suppose to be deciding which rabbits to keep and which to sell. I can take up to six rabbits with me to the Ohio fiber fair this weekend. And with 28 rabbits in the barn right now, this should be an easy decision. But it's not!

I am in a catch-22. I have made the decision to gradually decrease the fiber business and that means the rabbits too. Making this decision mostly means, just do not breed any rabbits anymore. The rabbits that I have now can be with me for quite a few years, so I am not just 'getting out of the rabbit business' right now, but letting nature gradually decrease the herd over the years.

It seems like a simple plan in my head. And based on that decision, I have been looking at each rabbit and placing it in a 'keep or sell' list. Unfortunately the thought process goes like this:

'This is a wonderful looking Jr French doe, she would be great to replace my current breeding doe.'

'Oh, wait, I am not going to breed any more rabbits.'

'My satin buck is starting to be too old for breeding, and this son of his is an even better red than he is.'

'Oh, wait, I am not going to breed any more rabbits.'

'Both of these does are from the same litter, I should only keep one. This one has a floppy ear, I could sell it as a fiber pet. This other one would look good on the show table, but I don't show, I should sell it. But I like the color better on the show bunny.'

And the dithering goes on. The deadline is tomorrow AM when we pack the car. I will take at least four bunnies, and try to find them good homes. After all there is bound to be four more people that love them as much as I do.


Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Can It Be 'Almost" Froghair?

Last Tues it was so lovely, and I wanted to spend some time spinning on my front porch. I was so anxious to try spinning the washed cormo locks on my Ashford traditional. I have put a lace flyer on it, and have tried merino roving, but was not happy with the yarn I was getting. And the wheel seemed to be fighting me, like the flyer was just a tad too big. So I took the wheel out on the porch and oiled every moving part I could find. Treadling without spinning for a while seemed to loosen the movement alot. So I bravely took a lock and attached it to the leader and started spinning. And it drafted just fine. After I got a couple of yards of my regular type of yarn, I did the criss cross on the flyer hooks, and started getting serious about watching the drafting zone, and going with fewer and fewer fibers.

And the yarn got thinner and thinner :)

I was surprised at how nicely a lock would spin. When you are only pulling out a few fibers at a time, it really doesn't matter too much what the rest of the fiber is looking like or doing in your hand. And when you are only letter a few fibers go into the drafting triangle, ALL of the trash falls out as you spin and your yarn is very smooth. I am totally hooked now on spinning thin from a lock of wool.

It was at this point I realized that the lock I had tried was from the nylon net washing experiment, and not from the batch where I had actually hand washed the lock. And the nylon net locks were definately more messy than the others, and it still spun a lovely yarn. I did go ahead and comb a couple of those messy locks with my small 2 pitch combs, although I didn't try and diz it off. I can not figure out how to do that and hold the comb and pull it through. The combs have to be clamped and my small ones are not set up to do that. However the resulting top was still lovely. I just could not get as thin a drafting zone with the top, as I was in the uncombed lock.

I only spun enough to cover my bobbin. I wanted to ply that, and check the WPI before plunging into spinning a major amount. And I didn't want to spin two bobbins, for the plying, so I let the bobbin sit for a week, and then made a center pull ball for plying. Not the wisest thing to do, as it still wanted to snarl. I did the plying on my roberta electric. I still need to learn how to handle the finer yarn on the electric, I got too much twist in the ply because of the speed of the roberta. I can slow that down, and ply from two bobbins in the future and probably end up with a better balanced yarn.

Oh, I am so proud of the yarn. It is still on my niddy noddy, being admired. And it is a 35 WPI 2 ply! Now I am in pursuit of a suitable shawl pattern.


Sunday, September 14, 2003

Washing Locks, An Experience with Cormo

I have two cormo fleeces, and have not been doing anything with them because I found it so hard to get the lanolin out of the fiber when I washed them. Twice I had washed small amounts the same way I usually wash fleece, by picking the locks apart, putting it in a sweater mesh bag, soaking in multiple baths of hot soapy water and spinning it dry in the washer. I thought when it didn't work the first time, that it was because the fleece was two years old. But trying the same thing with a fleece just purchased in April gave me the same results. The fiber was still tacky to the touch, and did not draft well at all for spinning.

I got Margaret Stowes book on Merino, and read her proceduce for lock washing. I have read other's experience with washing locks, and everyone said they loved the results, so I decided to give it a try. I used the old fleece, thinking that it would be the toughest test for the method.

I used a dog comb, just an inexpensive metal tooth comb, and taking a lock about the width of my thumb, combed each end. This is a little like trying to uncomb a tangle from hair. You start a little way into the lock, and comb out, then go above that area and comb out. Usually two passes on each end resulted in a nice fluffy lock. The center stays uncombed but that holds the lock together.

I found I really enjoyed doing this! The feel is pleasant, the fiber is not sticky, but pleasantly tacky (if there is such a thing) Lots of the dirt and hay and such just falls right out. I did a basket full of these locks one morning on my porch.

There has been discussions on the spinning lists as to whether it helps to presoak a fleece in cool water over night and then do the washing. This is not a use hot water and let it cool, because that would dissolve the lanolin and put it right back on the fleece, making it even harder to remove. This is a cool soak that supposedly get other types of grease and dirt out. So I took some of my locks and wrapped them in a nylon net to keep them intact, and soaked them overnight.

The first wash method I tried was to wash two nylon net pouches of locks. You fold the net over the locks and pin in place and then procede with washing in hot soapy water and hot rinses. I did both the pouch I had presoaked and another pouch, to see if there was any differences. I washed them by placing the pouch in the sink of hot soapy water, and then several hot rinses. After a good washing, I rolled the pouches in a towel and then spread the locks out to dry. They looked ok, the lock structure was messed up some, and there was a band of brown in the center of each lock, like it was still dirty there. As they dried though, I could tell that they were lanolin free.

Then I decided to try Margaret Stowe's method of lock washing. The idea is to take a lock and swish it in hot soapy water, even rub it against a bar or soap to clean it.

I heated a very large stock pot of water to boiling, got my crock pot crock I use for dyeing for the washing pot, and a plastic bowl for rinsing. I set these up in a row on my table and put some hot water in the crock. It was much too hot for my hands, and it is necessary to immerse the whole lock and thus your hand, so I added tap water to a temp that I could tolerate. It was still very hot. Not really having any 'neutral' bars of soap with no additives in them, I used a sliver of chemo soap, a bar that has no additives at all that my daughter makes.

I grabbed a lock and dunked it and raised it several times in that water. Then I rubbed the center gently on the bar of soap while under water (this is an important point, if you do it out of the water you can felt the lock) I turned the lock and swished it again, and then went to the plastic bowl of clear hot water and rinsed, until I thought all the soap was out. I gently blotted the lock in a towel and laid it out to dry. I did this until my small basket of locks was empty, and my hot water was just about too cool to be useful. I had to change both the soapy and the rinse water often, about every third lock. And it used the whole sliver of chemo soap, because the soft soap dissolved so well in the water.

Then I had to wait until the locks dried. Don't touch wet fiber! Oh how hard that is. I just wanted to see if it was lanolin free. And it did dry in 24 hours, however I let it out for three days just to be sure.

The locks done in the nylon net were pretty messy looking, even after drying. The locks that I had done by hand, looked like smooshed felted fiber when wet, but as they dried they magically puffed up! It really was amazing. And they were very clean, no dirty line in the middle, and no lanolin.

Next post: Learning to spin froghair


Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Dye Day 2003 Part 2

I must admit, when getting ready for everyone to come out to my place to play with the dyepots, I got into the teacher mode. I have tried a number of different dyeing methods and I found it was tempting to try and set up a place for all of those different types of dyes. The thing that limited me the most was wanted to have it outside (and it turned out that was a good decision, the weather was perfect that day). I really was not set up for heating pots, and so many of the dyes need that to set the dye. Several weeks after dye day, it was pointed out to me that the big fire pit I have in one spot of my yard would have worked perfectly. All I would have needed was a large metal grate on cinder blocks and a fire tender. Well, maybe next year. As it turned out, the thing that did work for us was to run an electric cord to my porch, and to plug in a large electric roasting pan. With a little bit of water in the bottom we were able to put fiber wrapped in saran wrap, and in ziplock bags on the rack, and steam them for as long as we needed.

I also plugged in two old crock pots that I use for dyeing. I was the only one interested in trying the kool ade dye though. I did some blue face leiceister roving in the a berry color (blue) and some in the black cherry flavor. That was a soft rose color. Teresa tried one skein of yarn in the lime flavor, but it was not green enough for her, so she ended up overdyeing that in the green rit pot. I also used one of those pots later to dye a CVM roving I had just purchased. The roving is a lovely oatmeal color, and I used Jacquard's teal in the pot. I didn't do all the roving,just two 4 oz balls. It was a big hit when it came out of the dye pot, the teal is subtly shaded by the light brown underneath. It was a bit of a puzzle as to where to dry these rovings after they came out of the dye pots and were rinsed. I finally just shrugged my shoulders and laid them on the stone wall of my porch, and let them drip dry from there until later in the evening when I took them in and put them on a mesh sweater rack with a fan on them. I thought I may have a multicolored white stonework by doing that, but the colors must have been rinsed clear, because I don't have to repaint my porch.

Meanwhile, the others were playing with the tie dyes and acid dyes on Anita's cotton/wool roving. The plan of attack was to soak a good bit of roving either in the soda ash water or vinegar water, and then dye with either the cotton or the wool dye. Most of these bags remained zipped up and were taken home that way by Anita. I was glad that our spinning group several weeks later she brought along the rinsed and dryed roving for us to see how the dyes took. The tie dye in bright splashes of colors will be quite muted when spun, because there was a larger percentage of wool in the roving which remained white. The fushia acid dye, after rinsing turned into a wonderful old rose color, because of the mix of the white of the cotton. The best color of all though was a wonderful fushia, very deep, from the wine rit pot. The rit colored both the cotton and the wool and so the deep color remained.

Theresa spent the whole day dyeing balls of yarn....big balls of yarn. After making two skeins, and tying them as is proper, she decided it was much more adventurous to just take the paper bands off of the yarn and try the various dyeing techniques with the balls. I saw some cotton yarn, being squirted with tie dye color that looked like it would end up being very fun socks to knit. She tried the jacquard dyes on the wool yarn, putting the yarn in a ziplock and saturating it and smooshing on the ball. Last of all quite, some of the wool balls went into the rit dyepots.

Anita and I also dyed some silk roving. We both used the squirt the dye on the roving and then squish the colors into blends. I really liked the purple/blues that I got on mine. It dried as stiff as a board, but the more it is handled, squeezed and gently drafted the easier it is getting to draft and spin.

The very last project were two pots of rit dye on the stove. Andrea need to dye several shirts, and had a hunter green pot and a burgandy wine pot of color. There were lots of balls of yarn, and cotton/wool roving to use up the dye after she was done with the shirts.

By late afternoon, we too were exhausted (brwaahaaa, a dyer's joke) It was pleasant to sit on the porch and chat until finally it was time for everyone to pack up their stuff and head for home.

Dye Day 2003 Part 1

I wonder how many posts over this blogging world are labelled the same thing! Every spinning group eventually gathers for the specific purpose of playing with the dyepots, and my local group is just the same. The theme this year was dyeing silk scarves. We got interested in this when one of the internet groups we belong to had a silk scarf swap, and we were able to see all of the entries. No restrictions were put on just how the scarf was to be made, so we saw hand-spun, knitted scarves and woven silk scarves, and a few hand dyed silk fabric. Those were what was the inspiration for the dye day this year.

Then my daughter Andrea developed an interest in belly dancing and veils, and wanted to try the same techniques for those. She researched dyes for me, and we ordered silk (8mm habati) and dyes from Tweenway. She used her wonderful new serger for a nice fine hem, and we had plenty of scarves and a veil for her.

Her veil project turned out to be the practice for the dyes. She tried to 'crinkle' the silk on a soda bottle, but it would not really gather right and stay in place. So she went on to just play with different ways to apply the dyes. The hardest thing to do with these projects is STOP! It is so much fun to just try one more thing to see how the colors react and show on the fiber. It was a good learning experience, and really taught us both how the dyes work on silk fabric.

The big day arrived, and everyone at my house had worked hard to make it look wonderful for company. We had tables and chairs set up under the big maple trees, and even a 'country sink' nearby for rinsing. This was an old unused sink, set on a plastic pipe stand, with a hose running to it Worked just fine, and was a source of great fun for the kids, who later in the day took to playing in the water instead of dyeing.

Folks began to arrive, and many dyeing supplies were brought with them. Anita brought two tie dye kits, and already made up acid dyes. She also had plenty of fiber to dye, a roving of cotton/wool, a suffolk washed fleece, and tussah silk roving. Theresa, a non spinner but new knitter, came with a bag full of wool yarn to dye. Viki and her daughters came ready to work with silk and tie dye.

There was no way around it, we had to let the kids start with the tie dye first, they were all bursting with readiness to play with the dyes. So the soda ash water was mixed up and the t-shirts and socks were rubber banded and given a soak. Then the fun part of squirting the red, blue and yellow dyes at random on the clothes. It absorbed the kids interest for awhile, but later they disappeared to explore the creek and other nooks and crannies of my land.

Meanwhile, I was ready to dye my scarf. Andrea was the teacher now, helping us with techniques we could use, and how to mix the dyes. We could paint on the scarf wet, for a very watercolor type look, or on a dry scarf for a bit more control on the color. I say a bit more, because in truth the dye will run easily even on dry fabric. To get a true painted look, one has to use resists, and we were not getting that involved in this project.

My plan was for a vine design to run around the edge and for there to be leaves all over the scarf. I had thought I would even use leaves as stamps. I found instead a rubber stamp of a leaf from a previous project. It worked pretty good, if I put dye on it, and then wiped it almost dry. I got a very impressionistic looking vine around the edge, and some more distinct leaves over the rest of the scarf.

Others were busy painting away on their scarves. Teresa did a bold flower garden looking one, that was much admired. Viki found a solid peachy blend of color that was very lovely. Anita did a wonderful fushia swirl. As they were completed, they were hung on the clothesline, and were picture perfect, every one.


Sunday, September 07, 2003

A new blog, from here on Upwards

The entries below this one are about a year old. I transferred them to this blog, after messing too much with the first one, and getting the settings to an unfixable point. I got so frustrated, it took me a year to get back to this one. But this morning, I was able to copy and paste from the old one to this one, and delete the old one. I have the Fiber Arts blogger ring on this one too, so those of us that are doing this together, will only get this blog and not the old broken one along with this one.

I am pleased to be back in the blogging business.

My thoughts on non fiber things are being blogged at LiveJournal.com under Yarnspinner.

Now to get some of last years fiber highlights updated on this one. Yeah, it might take me a few days, but that's better than a year :)

Heading out tomorrow to North Carolina, for SAFF (Southeastern Animal and Fiber Fiar) This is going to be a wonderful trip. The fall colors are at their peak, and we are traveling just for the fun of it, not as a vendor. We planned to go see the Biltmore also on this trip.

Spinning and unfinished objects

I have been spinning some almost everyday, and love finally having the time to do that. I spin mostly late at night, after working. I am working on the endless border leichester fleece that I bought a year ago. When I washed this fleece, I hand picked the long locks open on half of it, and did not on the other half. It was an experiment to see if the washing would take enough lanolin out of the fleece to make the locks open easily when dried. I found out that would not happen at least on these tightly curled locks. So the first half of the fleece was spun up in no time, I just took those open and therefore very clean wool and drum carded it, and spun it. I have been working on this other half for an endless amount of time it seems, but am finally almost to the end of the basket full. I am pulling the locks open, rough carding it on hand cards, and then taking those rologs and drum carding into big bats. This is what I then spin.

I am so tired of the gray wool (that I loved to much when I bought the fleece) that I am considering overdying the yarn with a green color. I do not have yardages measured yet, but I will have enough for a sweater. I am pushing on this project, I want the sweater for myself for this winter.

On a more fun note, I went to a local restored house during the city's fall festival, and sat with several other spinners on Sunday. It is very enjoyable to me, to spin and answer questions that people walking by have. I always use my Ashford traditional when I spin in this type of environment, which has a lace flyer on it. I treated myself, and spun a superwash merino, that was so soft. I would let the people feel the fiber, they could not believe it was wool....since wool is 'always' itchy. This will be spun very thin and plied for a shawl eventually. I have thoughts too of dyeing some of the roving in pinks and blues for baby sweaters.

Ah but I can certainly think up projects faster than I can complete them! Right now in knitting, I have a Christmas stocking 1/2 done, a pair of socks for me on circular needles (yes I am trying to knit both pairs at once on the circs) a WWW scarf that I pick up and knit on while waiting for web pages to load, and a knit hat that I have to finish soon for my hubby. Actually that will be my travel project this weekend.....I am going to SAFF (Southeastren Animal fiber festival) in Asheville. And I have my list ready, believe me! Current wish list includes a Tina2 or that type of spinning wheel, a drum carder with wide spaced teeth (used, to use really as a picker) different types of dyes, and fiber. Speaking of fiber, I just ordered two pounds of the Spinderella Thrums that I have heard so much about, I am looking forward to seeing and working with that.

A General Fiber Update

My latest pride and joy is a felted hat that I made at a guild meeting Sept 29th. I have got to figure out how to do pictures on a blog, this project is something I'd love to show off.

Jenny is the lady that taught the class. She raises llamas, and uses llama fiber carded with a little bit of angora, and then dyed in the batts. I picked out a lovely pastel green/grey color. She has a large bell shape cut out of a piece of posterboard. Half of the batts are laid in a crisscross pattern on the table and the bell shape is put on top. You have to be sure to have the batts pulled out enough to go beyond the bell shape. Then you start with the warm soapy water in a squirt bottle, and wet the fiber under the bell. Rub and press all that fiber (rubbing on the cardboard) until it is smooth and no bubbles. Then you start pulling a layer at a time to the front, wetting and rubbing that, until the front is covered with what was outside the edge of the bell. It is important to really get the edges smooth and pulled tight against the cardboard. Once the fiber was holding somewhat together on both sides, we laid the second half of the batts (there were 8 batts in all, I am guessing about 4 oz of fiber) on the table and laid the fiber covered bell on top of those, putting what was the front, now down on the batts. Repeat the process of wetting, and smoothing, and shaping the extra around the edges and over the top. Then some serious rubbing starts on both sides of the bell. We used a square of plastic canvas to rub on the fiber to help speed up the felting process. This took a long time, but was seriously persued by all the class members.

Once it appeared the fiber was going to really hold its own in the bell shape, we took scissors and cut along the bottom of the bell, to open the bell up and remove the cardboard. Now we could put our hands inside the bell, and even turn it inside out. More soapy water, more rubbing, as we smooth out the rough spots of the bell.

At this point most of us took a lunch break :)

The next step was to shape the hat. Jenny had the most enviable collection of hat molds, bowlers, regular oval shapes in various sizes, and even a stetson shape. In fact, my husband made his into a brown stetson (He was using sheep's wool for his fiber) and my daughter also decided on the stetson shape, and ended up with an awesome purple stetson! I chose the oval shape.

First step is to take some of the width out of the bell just above what will be the brim (the brim is that bottom of the bell, all flared out) This is accomplished by squeezing and wringing the hat in that area, sort of a bread dough kneading action, round and round. You keep sitting the hat down on the form, to check, and once the fit is snug you can stop this type of squeezing. The next step is to felt the fiber to the hat form, and this is accomplished by rubbing and rubbing on the fiber on the form. We used fingers, small round plastic canvas shapes, even a meat tenderizer mallet to do the rubbing. The hat could be taken off the form, flipped inside out, and that part rubbed and felted to smooth it up. This step again was very time consuming, but the felt did not dry out, and remained malleable throughout the whole process. The final step of shaping,was to rub and smooth the brim, so it was good and felted also.

Once this was complete and it seemed the hat was as felted as it could be, it was removed from the form and rinsed well to remove all the soap. Then it was squeezed out dry in a towel. It was returned to the hat form, and steamed pressed with an iron on a very low setting. This did not completely dry out the hat, but really firmed up the felt, smoothed the surface, and in general gave it a very finished look. We trimmed the brim, by measuring around it with a ruler and cutting evenly with scissors.

By now, class was over, and it was time to go enjoy a lovely dinner at a resturant on the Ohio River. The hats were drying in the back seat of the car, although it took until the next day for the hat to feel completely dry.

This last weekend I finished the hat with some hand spun tussah silk (2 ply, a thicker 10 WPI yarn) With a large eyed needle, I did a blanket stitch around the rim of the hat. The using the same yarn, I just picked up the thread and laid a single crochet on top of that blanket stitch. It made a lovely finish for the edge of the hat. I also knitted a hat band from the same yarn, using a simple lace chevron pattern. Very simple and looks very elegant on the hat. I have had so many compliments on this when I show it off!