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.

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!

Final dyeing installment, Silk Hankies Sept 2002

This is a dyeing project inspired by my adult daughter. She learned to spin last winter, when I put a drop spindle in her Christmas stocking. She had played with drafting silk hankies before that, so I stuck some dyed hankies, and silk roving in the stocking along with the spindle. She fell in love with the silk, and especially the hankies. So after her web research and finding natural color hankies at Tweenway Silks for an amazing price per pound, we ordered and have felt rich in silk to dye ever since.

Her web research also found Color Hue dyes, that are specifically made for silk. These are instant dyes, and do not need heat or any additives. We bought a sampler pack of dyes, so we could have the fun of playing with lots of colors, but found the dyes will use up fast, and will buy in larger bottles now that we know what colors we like. I questioned when we got the sampler as to why it included brown and black dye, and this daughter knowledgably informed me that it was to darken mixtures of colors...and later preceeded to show me just how that worked. Lets hear it for web research!

I worked in premeasured 1/2 oz bunches of hankies. These I soaked in the sink of water so they didn't overlay each other (to help keep the silk from sticking to itself) After that, dyeing the hankies is all a matter of finding various ways of applying the dye.

We worked on lots of newspapers, then paper towels, then layers of saran wrap. As a hanky was finished it was rolled up in the saran wrap and held until we were ready to rinse. There really is no time needed as far as the dye color. The dye strikes as soon as it hits the silk. Color saturation occurs by making darker mixes of the dye. The medium color range is achieved by mixing 1 tsp of dye to 1 cup of water (the dyes are liquid). This can be darkened, or lightened by adding dye or water. These are easily mixed for color blending. And the dye exhausts completely, leaving clear water.

So we played with various ways to apply the dye. I used small squirt pipettes, and just put color in stripes of 2 or 3 colors. I did circle or from corner to corner patterns. I blended two colors and put that between the colors seperately on the hankie. I also found out that the stack of hankies had to be flipped over and the dye applied to that side also. All of these methods are slower and less messy, but don't soak the whole hanky because you are controlling the amount of dye going on it.

The dip method works wonderful also. It was the favorite of my daugher. You can fold the hanky so that the middle is in your hand, and the ends dipped into dye. This exhausts some of the dye. If you turn it around and then dip the middle in the dye, you get the lighter shade. You can over dye, by dipping in different colors. The only thing to be aware of, is that sometimes it gets to be so much fun, you overdo, and the lovely affect of just several dyes goes away. In other words, you overworked it! We found that the dyes, once made up, really do not get on fingers or table, but the dye straight concentrate will stain. Best to use rubber gloves, but not really needed.

We found that the 1 cup recipe, made in four colors, was enough to dye 4 oz of hankies. The only exception was the electric blue, it exhausted much quicker and I had to make more.

When we gently laid the hanky in water in the sink to rinse, there was surprisingly little color bleed. After rinsing, I placed each group of hankies on several layers of paper towels, and laid the stack again on newspaper. After about an hour, I seperated these, and put new paper towels in between, and on new newspaper. It is amazing how much moisture the silk holds. After another hour, I laid each still damp group of hankies on a mesh sweater drying rack, and turned the fan on them. It still took over night with the fan, to dry. I let the paper towels dry too, and can reuse them :) I did see some pink on the towels, so a hanky with red or purple might have not been rinsed enough.

The results are wonderful. I found as usual when trying out dyes the first time, I was timid with the color, and had more pastels than vivid colors. The beauty of these hankies though, is the blending of the color, on the hanky and when you draft and spin.

Many thanks goes to Maggie Backman of Thing Japanese for her Dyeing in a Teacup instruction book on working with these Color Hue dyes.

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Second experiment, dyeing wool roving.

For this project I made up two quart jars full of the Ciba Kitron dyes, in a blue and yellow. I used 1 cup of water, 3 tsp of vinegar, and 1/2 teas of dye powder. I prewetted a Border Leichester lambswool roving in a medium grey/brown color, about 4 oz worth, and layered half of that in an oval turkey roaster. I squirted blue and yellow dye in random areas on this roving. The color areas were not real big or saturated, but I did do alot of them. I put a second layer of wet roving on top of that, and repeated the process. I put the roaster lid on and put this into a low heat oven (around 250 degrees) for about an hour. Then I eased hot water into the roaster, rinsing the wool. Eventually I put the roving in the sink and immersed in water until there was no color run. I picked up the roving, squeezed it, and wrapped it in a towel. That went into a mesh bag, and was briefly spun in the washer's spin cycle. It is amazing how dry the roving comes out. I lay it on a mesh sweater drying rack to completely dry.
The color was nice but timid. I also know that really the wool should be totally immersed in water while in the oven. Although I could not smell the wool, indicating the oven was too hot, the roving was dry on top, and that could not have been a good thing.
The second 4 oz of the roving I prewetted, and divided this in two, to try to different methods. Both involved laying the roving on saran wrap. On the first I squirted blue on one end of the roving and yellow on the other, wrapped it up and smashed it with my fingers to mix the dyes. On the second, I stripped blue over the whole long length of the wet roving, and then yellow over that, wrapped it up and mashed it with my fingers. Then I rolled these up into little packets, and placed them on the rack in a canner, over boiling water, to steam for about 45 minutes. One thing I realized too late, after I was rinsing them, was I should have turned the packets over now and then, because the dye pooled on the bottom of the packet. The rovings rinsed clear though, and was given the same drying treatment as above. I like the results of both of these methods.
The final method used leftover orange dye from the angora dye project, and the grey lambswool. I prewetted four oz of the roving in a sink full of water with vinegar, and a drop of dishsoap. I have a very large kettle (fondly called my cauldron, by my daughter) that I filled half full of water, and dumped the orange dye in that. Now I realize none of this is exact. The original orange dye was very over saturated, but it was made with one cup water, 3 tbs vinegar, and 1/2 teas of dye powder. That was what I put in what I would estimate to be about 2 gallons of water in my cauldron. I test dipped a piece of the roving, and decided I wanted to add a little yellow to the dye, so I added 1/8 teas yellow to the pot. When this was mixed, I put my roving into it, and brought it up to a simmer. I let it simmer for about 20 minutes and then fished the roving out of the pot, without dumping the dye, and rinsed it several times until no color ran. It was a lovely bright bittersweet color, very autumnal! I prewetted another 4 oz of the same roving, and put it in the pot, and let that simmer for 30 minutes. When I rinsed that, there was hardly any run off, although there was still color in the pot. The color was a lovely old gold, and matches the first roving nicely.
After giving everything a towel drying, and a quick tumble in the spin cycle, it was all spread out over two sweaters mesh drying racks. I loved the way it looked.
I was so inspired I had to go on and do a white roving that was given to me in an exchange. My hopes were to get a variegated purple color. This roving seems to be part wool and part mohair, and had a lovely shine to it. The dyes I used were the blue and red I had made to try and dye angora. I prewet the roving and again layered it in the turkey roaster. This time I did not squeeze any water out of the roving, so it was wetter than the original attempt. I mixed about 1/3 red and 2/3 blue dye together in a small plastic container, this was eyeballing the color each time. I poured this in large areas on the roving, not really completely saturated the roving with color, but not being quite as hesitant as I was in the first attempt. By making the purple up in small amounts, I did not get the exact shade of purple each time, adding variations to the colors. I used up about half of the available dye, and then layered the rest of the wet roving on top, and put the small batches of purple dye on that. By now the roaster was about half full of water, and held an amazing 8 oz of roving. When I had used up all the dye, I went to the sink and gently filled the roaster with enough water to cover the roving, and put it in a warm oven, for an hour. The immediate color I saw, when I added the water was cranberry, and I put that roving in the oven with a small sigh of disappointment, thinking that by putting all that water in, I had undone my purple. But when I pulled the roaster out of the oven, and looked at the water, it was purple! And when I poured off the water, and started rinsing the roving, I had many lovely variations of darker purples on a solid light purple roving. Now and then there were spots of pure blue or even lighter cranberry. Again after rinsing, I gently squeezed out the roving, rolled in a towel and put in a mesh bag to quickly spin in the spin cycle. I spread it out on the mesh drying rack, doing the happy, I got purple dance.
This was a roving I just could not stop looking at that night!
Next installment: The final luxury, dyed silk

Several Days of Dyeing 2002

Oh how important that little letter 'e' can be!

First synopsis: dyeing angora

The first was to experiment with easter egg dyes on angora. I prewetted the angora (a very hard job, those bunnies must be able to run around in the rain all day without feeling the least bit wet) I just mixed the dyes in quart jars, and added vinegar to the ones it said to (for some reason it said not to add vinegar to the red and purple) I popped as much wet angora in the jars, and pushed it under the dye. Then I just inverted the jars now and then as I was working on other things. The process was pretty predicable. There were still dry pockets of fiber that did not take up the dye, but most of it caught color almost immediately. Sitting in the dye did not seem to deepen the color.

Eventually I rinsed each one in the sink, with a gentle spray. I liked all the colors, but to my suprise, the red (which was really a hot pink) and the purple was the same color, the blue in the purple completely washed away. So I had a double batch of the same hot pink. I probably only did about 1/8 oz samples of each color and decided that the easter egg dye was not worth the effort.

I later tried the same method with ciba kitron dyes (acid dyes) Same process though, prewet angora, make dyes in the quart jars, and fill with angora. I only used a scant 1/2 teas of dye, but that was plenty for a 3/4 full jar of water. In fact the orange and blues did not want to go into solution, probably due to being cold, and too much dye. I added vinegar to the jars, in pretty large quantity, I think 3 tbs to the qt. The colors were vivid, just what I wanted, but alot washed off too. The red again ended up a vivid pink.

It told me what I wanted to know though. I can make these acid dyes up in a cooking pot, and do a large 5-6 oz batch of angora all in one color, and it should be the vivid colors I have been trying to achieve. Mixing colors to get a better red or other colors should be easy.

Next installment, working with wool roving
A quick update on long weekend Labor Day weekende 2002

It was so busy, I didn't even journal. The weather was very hot and humid again, and I stayed inside most of the weekend, which was nice for getting fibery things done, but not really a celebration of the long holiday.

Sat I finished a second bobbin of angora, and plied them. I skeined them off onto the plastic pipe I use for washing yarn under tension. There was 160 yards in appoximately 1 1/2 oz of angora.

Sunday I treated myself to a trip to the local yarn store. They were having a labor day sale, and I used the opportunity to visit with them after having not seen them for almost a year, and adding to my stash. Got Regia and socka yarn for socks, Cashmereno for glorious gloves for me, and enough Sindar Snowflake to do two baby projects. Also got a needlepoint canvas, since they are doing a close out on those to bring more spinning fiber into the shop. This canvas for a needlepoint Christmas stocking is very large and lovely, but set me back enough, that I will wait to buy the yarn for it. It is tiny holes, almost a petit point canvas. (I wonder if I could possibly spin the yarn for it.) The only roving I got was a varigated in purples and a solid purple merino, that was just too pretty to not take home. I bought the Soar Socks on Two Needles book too.

Monday and Tues both were dye days. I will write a separate post on that, because I learned much and had lots of fun. I also went through the rubbermaid tub of my handspun yarns, and marked the ones that are for sale, getting ready for the booth in three weeks. What I wanted for myself went into different bags depending of the project I have in mind for them. Possible projects include more angora stuffed rabbits, alpaca ski (head) bands, and a collection of yarns, all 2 ply about the same thickness, that I have been accumulating as I spin various samples of wool given to me. Some is from exchanges, some just from odds and edds of roving. There is a wide selection of colors, some dyed by me last year in my first dye class. Right now the bag looks like potential granny squares, or maybe someday I will see a vest or sweater that would work.

And having gone through that tub, I decided there were four skeins of yarn that needed reskeined and washed. So those got wrapped on the plastic pipe, and now that the pipes are full, I can wash them.

Tues evening I got together with the spinning group. Took my wheel, and spun alpaca roving, trying to get the single thinner. When I needed a break from that, I used one of the members knitting expertise to get the socks started on two needles. Very confusing and fussy at first, but by the sixth row, I was feeling pretty comfortable with it. The biggest advantage I see, is when I put the sock in a carrying bag, I don't have to worry about the yarn coming off the needles, which I find to be a problem with the standard sets of double pointed needles. I am just not thinking about turning the heel right now, plan for that to happen when I am back with the group again!

The beginning of the Labor filled weekend
Yes! A four day weekend off-from the bill paying job anyway. That is not to say there won't be lots of labor over these four days. My list is divided into BIG PROJECTS and LITTLE PROJECTS, a grocery shopping list, a menu list of meals, and last but most important, all the fiber projects. One item is to keep this blog more up to date, and to try and connect it to the blog ring for other fiber folks.
After a long night at work, and stopping for groceries on the way home, I was tender footed:) So my hubby offered to feed and check out the rabbits tonight. I was able to put my feet up and spin about 1/2 oz of white angora. There is another 2 oz to add to this bobbin, and then I will have to ply it. This is for the angora scarf kits that I sell.
So hopping on to check email, I write this, to be able to start on the official Labor Day list.
State fair entries, 2002

It is a Sunday evening, after a very long weekend, doing the state fair. I am not really done with the fair yet, next week I will go again, to play on the midway, and maybe hear a free concert. But that is all for fun, now that the hard working part is done.

Last Sunday was the deadline for any entries for the fair. I dread deadlines, but use them to get some things done. And this deadline got me to complete skeins of yarn, as well as a knitted project.

There are an amazing number of categories for any thing you can imagine handmade in the fair. The book of all the categories is at least 2 inches thick. This state fair is not just your young farmer pulling a calf around a show ring, although that still happens too. Categories now include all the hand and machine made needle crafts, doll houses, homemade wine and beer, hand made baskets, flower arrangements, completely decorated Christmas trees, photos, artwork, jams and jellys, single cut roses, and bunches of exotic flowers, plates of any fruit or vegetable you can imagine, tobacco plants dried, tobacco plants growing in a pot, bales of hay, and last but not least, the ugly lamp contest. Hey, don't knock it, the winner of that gets breakfast free for a year at a local resturant, decorated with, as you may anticipate, many of previous years winning lamps.

So early in the spring, I start thumbing through the categories, using that to get my creative juices going on things to make. By July 1st, the mailing deadline for what one is really entering, reality kicks in, and I have to set 3/4 of the ideas aside for next year. And between July 1st, and mid August, I start working on a deadline mode of mind. Finally the last day to submit entries rolls around, and I pack everything up, all properly tagged and head for the fair grounds. And then wait....until the day the fair opens, so that I can head into the big textile hall, to see what ribbons I have won.

Ah ribbons...a little bit of blue satin, that gives one bragging rights for the next year. One year, it was peach jam, I could say for that year, here, have some peach jam, you know it won first place at the state fair :)

But I digress, for this is after all a fiber blog. And all the entries to the fair this year were in the fiber category, since that is what is my passion these days.

The first group of entries were in the spinning category. There were four sub groups to that. First was a novelty yarn. This was actually the hardest one for me to come up with an idea. I tried out a skein of what I called thrums yarn. This skein was spun from what I cleaned off of my drum carder. It had several types of fiber, and everything went into a bag, and I pulled out handfuls of thrum to spin. I did two bobbins full of that, and plied it. The yarn was really interesting visually. But alas, it weighed in at just 2 oz. That was fine for the skein, but the entry required a swatch also, and a skein between 2 and 4 oz. So there was not enough to swatch, and have an acceptable weight on the skein.

Then I decided I would submit my super bulky 2 ply that I had done with Colonial top. It is a beautiful yarn, and there certainly wasn't any problem with the weight of the skein, even making a 6 by 6 inch swatch. So that was my entry for that category. Result? No placement at all. I suspect the judge did not think, just making a bulky yarn, was truly a novelty, and in all truth I would agree with that. I just had no better ideas at the time.

Second category was to be from the fiber Lincoln Longwool. For this I used the natural grey that I combed and spun and wrote about on this blog on Aug 4th. I said at the time I thought the yarn was average. So I was very surprised to find it had won a first place.

Third category was to be any natural colored wool. I submitted a 2 ply yarn that I had spun from Bluefaced Leichester roving. It was a nice sock weight yarn, and it was given a third place award.

The last spinning category was to be from merino. I figured everyone would do the standard spin it as fine as they could, in white, so I used some natural brown merino roving I had gotten from New Zealand. It was trashy roving, I was stopping and picking out bits of straw all the time, if I could see them. And the yarn was incredibly bouncy! Not really overspun, just lots of bounce. I loved the color, and made the yarn just a little thicker than sport weight. It will be a lovely vest someday, when I spin more. And to my surprise, it got a blue ribbon first also.

In the knitting categories, (all from hand spun yarn) I entered a hat made from kool aid dyed romney, that got a third place. I entered a scarf, that didn't place, and that was no surprise, this was a knit it while practically asleep scarf, and I bet the judge fell asleep from boredom looking at it too.

The only disappointment was a knitted stuff animal bunny that I did out of hand spun angora. Everyone that saw it, responded with a resounding 'ahhh' However it did not place at all. So the cute factor, does not play a part in judging, that's for sure.

That part over and done with last Sunday, I then had to get my fiber on the hoof ready for the fair, in my case, the angora bunnies. This meant grooming, and then on Wed AM taking them into the fair grounds, and getting them settled in their fair cages. Thursday was the big judging day. It is a long day, of long waiting, while keeping bunnies in tip top groom, and then an hour of frantic, shuffling bunnies to the judging table and back to cages, all the while keeping one ear on what the judge is saying about your bunnies.

I took five rabbits, each one in a different category. If it seems there are a mulitude of categories for the other fair entries, so it is true of the animal entries too. There are four breeds of angora rabbits, and in each breed, four categories, like French Sr doe, or French Jr buck, or English Sr buck and so on. The judge wants them in a specific order, and as he/she judges sorts out the ones he wants for higher categores, like best of breed. And all the while we who are doing the bunny shuffling, are trying to keep up with the judge.

Finally it is all over, and amazingly only 25 minutes have passed, and half of the angora categories have been judged, and the judge has decided to break for lunch. We sit, drink lots of cola (it is very hot) and gossip about just why one rabbit was judged the way it was. Suddenly lunch is over, the judge is back behind the table, and we are doing the bunny shuffle again.

I raise two of the four angora breeds. I had five rabbits, in the categories: French, White, Sr buck (took first place) French Sr Colored doe (took first place, and also best of breed) Satin Sr Colored buck (took first place) Satin Jr Colored buck (took 2 place) and Satin Jr Colored doe (took first place)

Oh do I have bragging to do over the next year!

As a final note on the one winning rabbit, the French Sr doe, is a little doe that was born last Feb. She was just over a week old when my husband and I made a trip away from home to visit my parents. While I was there, I got a frantic call from my daughter that was taking care of the rabbits, to say one of the rabbits had come out of the nest, and was very cold, but that she had it in her hands, and it was starting to wiggle again, and just what should she do???? So after making sure she had it good and warm, I told her to put it back in the nest. If the mother doe rejected it, I was no less the loss for trying. But the bunny stayed in the nest and grew, and yes, last Thur not only got a first place, but best of breed. When I called my daughter to tell her, she was so excited, as she said, she had saved a winner.

On Saturday, I spent the day in the bunny barn, often with a rabbit on the lap, spinning the angora yarn from the bunny. The visitors are always amazed, and since I have done this several years now, I am starting to hear repeat visitors, that say, oh look, here's that lady I was telling you about last year, that spins rabbit fur. One day a year, preaching over and over again, that: no, it doesn't hurt the bunny to do that, and yes, the rabbit will just sit there like that for a long time, and no I am not weaving, I am spinning, and it is yarn, not thread, and yes this is what angora sweaters are made from, and no, I won't be making one for anyone very soon. Still I love it when a child touches the rabbit in my lap and their smile gets so big, or when a boy of 8 watches me spin until he has the mechanics of the wheel all figured out, or when a lady comes up to me, and says she has been looking and looking for someone to help her learn to spin. That is what makes me smile as I drive home, tired, and covered with bunny fur (inventory)

Mini Combs and Lincoln Longwool:

Since I fell so totally in love with my regular combs, I decided I need a pair of mini combs also. This type of processing is addicting, much more so than washing fleece or drum carding. I bought a pair of Forsyth 2 pitch minis. They are lovely wood, a very comfortable size and weight, and I am very impressed with them.

My first attempt to use them, was unfortunately on the wrong type of wool. I have a border leischester fleece that was washed, and is now a mass of dreadlocks. I have been trying to find the proper tool to process this fleece, more for the challenge of it, really than to save the fleece. It is a learning experience that I just haven't given up on yet. The dreadlocks are too small for the large combs, and too tightly coiled for the drum carder. I think the best would be to use a flicker on them, then drum card. Even trying to open the locks with a dog comb, or hand cards, is unsuccessful. Well, on second thought, that best would be to have a picker, which has been on my wish list for a couple of months now.

And alas, the mini combs could not handle the dreadlocked fleece either. However, I do not hold that against the combs at all. I know this just to be a real problem fleece.

So to soothe my frustration, I combed a little of the corriedale that I had washed, and produced a lovely top. I found out that the combs were comfortable and easy to use, given a cooperative fleece.

Last night I spent about two hours, using the mini combs and combing a Lincoln longwool fleece. I do not think this fleece has been washed, but it has no lanolin to it. There was alot of dusty bits combing out, so I had to work with a newspaper on my lap. Those combs were the perfect tool for that wool though, lovely floating puffs of grey wool Actually they look like little piles of steel wool. And my lap felt like I had been combing steel wool, there was a definate itchiness to my clothes, when I stood up to brush off the sticky bits.

Lincoln longwool is not a favorite fleece of mine. I have hands that are use to working with the luxury of angora and alpaca most of the time. However, our state fair spinning entry category requires one skein of natural colored lincoln longwool. Last year, for my entry I drum carded lincoln, and thought the resulting yarn about average. I want to see if using combed fiber, for this years entry, will be smoother. And that is the goal for the yarn, a smooth, shiny fiber for rug weft. I think the yarn from any natural colored Lincoln longwool, is beautiful and shiny, as long as it is far away from the skin.

Combs and Alpaca 08/04/03

Two months ago I purchased the Indigo Hound 5 pitch (and burglar threatening) combs. One of the frequent morning rituals is to take my cup of coffee, combs and washed alpaca fiber on my front porch. I have had problems finding any place in the house to attach the comb's base, and have found that the picnic bench is the perfect height. It also needs a certain amount of stability, so I don't move whatever the base is attached to, while pulling the fiber off the combs. After attaching the base, and putting the comb in place, I can sit in my big wooden rocker, and comb without anything starting to ache. So I generally work up 20 combs full of fiber, while drinking my cup of coffee. I suppose I will have to find a different solution this winter, which just possibly will involve bringing my picnic bench inside.

Combed alpaca top, is an absolute luxury fiber. At first, because of the labor involved, I thought I would only comb alpaca for my own use, and it not be a business product. Now I have reversed my thinking, in that the product is so top quality, it is exactly what I want to sell, along with the angora, and dyed silks. It just so fits into my general business idea of lux fibers. So after I had the first washed fiber combed, I had to decide on packaging. I kept my eyes open, while in Dollar General Stores, or Big Lots, and finally found nice white gift boxes at a good price. After determining the amount of alpaca top that would fit, and that storage between fiber weekend booths would not be a problem, I found I had the solution to the 'how do I market this product' question.

Combed alpaca top is also a luxury, because you get a very limited amount for the work. This is a very rough estimate, but it looks like I will get three ounces of top from eight ounces of washed fiber. The waste is being drum carded, so is not really waste. I will spin the drum carded myself, or sell it, if anyone expresses an interest in it.

It doesn't seem like alot, but this top can be spun very fine. In fact that is my next project, after I get my fair entry skeins done. I need to be able to tell spinners just how fine it can be spun.

07/24/02 post Spinning thicker yarn

I got two bobbins spun of the very thick yarn from the wool top, and then plied and skeined the yarn. A sample skein of 20 yards weighs 2 1/4 oz (66gr) and is 6 wpi. It is the right wpi to compare to the commercial super bulky yarns, but is much heavier. I know this is because I am using top instead of roving. I showed it to several other spinners last night, and their opinions were that they loved the yarn, but wouldn't knit with it, being so heavy. I have contacted the person that was interested in selling the yarn, to ask if she thought I should try and copy what is commercially available, or go for this ultra super bulky that I know I can do :) More on that later. I also have joined Techspin bulliten board, to ask the same question. Drafting the top thinner, only increases the chances of thick/thin spots, even in a bulky yarn.

I need to make a sample swatch, after checking out my knitting needles for super large sizes....I think I have some somewhere.

Last night at spinning group I took my Ashford, that has a new lace flyer on it. I found I had to concentrate much more than spinning should require, especially when it is with a group chatting. But between being new to the lace flyer, and having spent the day spinning thicker than thick, I was not relaxed and enjoying what I was spinning. I was using merino roving, and found it frustrating, even drafting thin, I would hit short ends in the roving, and have a clump in the yarn. I watched another spinner, spinning from the fold. I think that might be an answer to some of the problems I was having, and plan to try that next.

In case it looks like all I do is spin after reading these first two posts, let me assure you it is only because I have had the days off. I now go back to my job, and busy schedule.