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.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Second baby blanket pictures

It is finally finished!

I have found that knitting with a deadline this time of the year is very hard. My free time is taken up with outside work, and I am too sleepy from the fresh air in the evenings to stay up and knit. Especially a project that is just knit stitches, I found myself falling asleep over my needles a couple of times.

Hereis the picture.

The pattern comes from the book Quick Knitted Afghans (HA!) published by House of White Birches. I really like many of the patterns in this book. This one called Warm and Cuddly Baby Afghan was designed by Uyvonne Bigham. It is a very simple pattern to knit once the four basic rows are memorized and a good one to pick up and put down, it is easy to see where you are in the pattern. So it is a good travel pattern.

Hereis a close up of the stitch pattern. Many people have commented that it looks like tiny fluer de leis.

The afghan is worked with two yarns, but unlike most colorwork, the yarn is not carried across the rows. Instead, you knit two rows with one color, slipping the stitch of the opposite color to give the illusion of multicolor work.

The side bands are not knitted until after the body of the afghan is complete. So eleven stitches are put on holders on either side of the afghan. When the body is complete, then the eleven stitches are knitted up to fit the side of the afghan. The pattern says to knit the whole band and sew it on, I chose to knit on short double pointed needles and when I was next to the afghan, I picked up the end stitch of the afghan, and combined it with one of the border stitches, either knitting two together, or passing the stitch over the extra one, depending which side of the afghan I was doing. The only thing I had to watch was that I was making a smooth seam up the edge, since the garter stitch with just one color could have a different gauge than the colorwork. I found mine was matching pretty much up row for row.

I already know the mother to be loves the pattern, this is the afghan I have to wrap up partially finished for the shower :) She still has another month to go before baby's due date, so I made my goal of getting it to her before the baby was born.


Thursday, May 20, 2004

The library

Since my daughter recently learned how to knit, she has been bitten by the knitting book bug. But unlike me, she is very close to our big downtown library, and has been using that as a source of books. She said to me the other day that the library really had a great collection of knitting books, and that I should check it out. So Tues, on my way to work I did stop by to do just that.

As I walked down the 700 aisle (arts and crafts section) looking for the knitting books (textile history, embroidery, tatting, it was hard to make any progress down those shelves!) I hit on a section on spinning! And was amazed to see that they had 18 books on the shelf on spinning. I settled on two of them to check out.

The first was a charming little book called The Magic of Spinning. It is written by Marion L Channing, with a first copyright of 1966. It was published by Channing publishing! And the illustrations are done by her husband. But wait, it's even better, the book is signed by the author herself. What a gem. It is a tiny 48 page very basic book on spinning. There's not a website listed in the references :) She thanks Paula Simmons for her help with the book. It was a treat to read. And it was put in our library, by the stamp on the front of the book in 1984. How amazing.

From that tiny beginning, we now have the second book I checked out, Alden Amos Big Book of Handspinning. It is a whopping 500 pages, and was copyrighted in 2001. It just amazes me the information, skills, and experiences that are now available about this subject. Yes it has been almost 40 years. But with the advent of the internet, the new wave of 20 something knitters, think of how much more information will be tested and gathered in half that time in the future.

I did finally make it to the shelves with the knitting books. There is an amazing three shelves full. I really commend my library management for this. I have a book shelf full of knitting books myself, however there were many there I have not had the chance to see, let alone buy. I checked out, Slip-Stitch Knitting by Roxana Bartlett and Knitting Around the World, published by Threads. I also found two machine knitting books, The Machine Knitter's Handbook and The Machine Knitter's Design book, both by Hazel Pope.

So the library cycle has started again. When I go back to return these books, I of course wander over and look at the stacks again. For many months I have avoided the library, just because of this cycle. I have bookcases full of books here. I feel I need to read some of these, and either keep them or move them on. But that is not how it works. If the book or magazine is my own, it can lanquish on the shelf, I won't make it a priority to read it. However, a library book, with it's overdue deadline, makes me find the time to read it. That's either a good or bad thing, depending if I have the time or not:)

Ah reading. It is one of my daily pleasures, whether I read a book, an email, a blog, a magazine....

Cup of tea and a good read anyone?


Saturday, May 15, 2004

A Bunny Update

I don't blog about my bunnies much anymore, but they are still very much a part of my daily life, and especially part of the time I spend on fiber related projects. And the last two months I have been spending more time on the bunnies, now that the weather is warmer. So I thought an update would be good.

I did not breed any rabbits this spring, so everyone in my barn are now adults of various ages. The ages range from a little over one year (born early last year) to one old man of nine. I currently have 18 bunnies. Each have their own cages, and the cages are in lines of four or six, so most have 'neighbors' They seem to like having neighbors, but like good neighbors, also like those good 'fences' (that is cage dividers) Two bunnies in the same cage (unless babies growing up together) usually mean a tussle, either for space or for the decision of who is on top (grin). But they like having the company of that bunny next door, and I try and keep the bunnies in cages in a row. That makes the feeding and watering easier too.

So since my barn has around 30 cages and since I am down to 18 rabbits, one of the ongoing projects the last two months has been to repair and clean cages and then move bunnies to a more consolidated group. The work is progressing, but very slowly. I work full time, so it means first I need a day off, and second, a day I am not just absolutely worn out from working, and third, reasonably nice weather. Once I get all three factors, it ends up I have about one day every other week to spend 4-5 hours working in the barn. But it progresses, and will eventually be done.

The other 'chore' of course is grooming rabbits. Many are to the point of needing plucked right now so I spent one day last week, grooming six rabbits. (As an aside to those that are not familiar with angora rabbits, they grow a coat, and then molt it about an average of three times a year. When the coat is molting, it is possible to just pull the fiber right off of the rabbit. This is one way that angora is harvested, the rabbits can also be sheared when the coat is to the right length. Plucking does not hurt the rabbit, if the coat is shedding. If the fiber comes out in my hand that means it is loose. If I did not harvest it, the rabbit could ingest the fiber while grooming itself, and cause it's death by woolblock.)

is a picture of one of my french does in full coat. Her name is Reboot, because my daughter found her out of the nest and chilled, warmed the rabbit up and it lived. So we call it Reboot.

Reboot has a wonderful coat. The color is called a blue, and the fiber averages six inches in length. The is some guard hair, which will be spikey when spun, but is not itchy. It is very very soft. I do spin most of my angora as 100% yarns, and use those yarns as accent brims on hats, or to knit a very warm scarf.

I raise two different breeds of angora, french and satin. Here is a picture of a satin buck in full coat. His color is chestnut with rufus (which means there are reds in the coloration)

Satins are known for their very intense colors and shine to the fiber. This happens because the hair follicle has a clear tip, which reflects the light and gives the shine. The intense color happens because the fiber length is on the average, shorter than the other angora breeds. When any angora rabbits fur grows, the color gets diluted the longer the fur grows. The tip is the most intense color (and can be a different color that the main part of the fiber) As the fur grows, the color changes to a base color, generally white or gray or tan. Genetics determine all this, and what color the rabbit is called is based on those genetics.

Since satins tend to have fiber lengths of around 3 inches, there is less amount of the base white or gray to dilute the color and it looks more intense.

This rabbit does not really have a name. Most of the rabbits in my barn are referred to mainly by their breed, color and sex. So he is my chestnut satin buck. I don't have any others like that so it can be a unique name for him. I did have identical ermine satin bucks in one litter, I guess rabbits could have twins. They are so identical, I had to name them. Ummm A and B. I never was very creative with rabbit names. It might be that the fun of naming them wore off after about five years of trying to think up names for that litter of eight. I have used the names of Santa's reindeers (I still have Vixen) and off course all of the common rabbit names (in fact I have two Jack's right now, one I had named, and one came with that name) One time I had to take a rabbit to the vet. Since this was a small animal practice, the receptionists ask immediately 'what is the animals name?' After a pause I said, I call her Lilac (that's the color of the rabbit). 'Funny name for a rabbit' was the reply :)

But named or not, these rabbits are very much a part of my daily routine. I spend much more time with them than the fiber would ever repay. It just makes me smile, when I go to one of the bucks cages to give them food, and they demand a head scratch instead.


Friday, May 14, 2004

Oh Brother, what have I started?

Actually it all started when a knitting/spinning buddy went to an estate sale, and an old Brother knitting machine came with an odd lot that she bought. She casually asked if any of us were interested in a knitting machine, warning us that she had no clue if it would work or not. I said, sure why not and took it.

That was last Dec. I knew nothing about knitting machines, so I went to the standard source of information, Ebay (laughter). After looking at many pictures, I did come to the conclusion that what came home with me was missing many pieces. But the bug had bitten me, and as I searched Ebay, I was starting to pay attention to prices.

I finally found one that I thought was an amazing good deal. Probably what hit me first was that it at least had a case of very similiar color to the one I already had. And there were pictures of many more parts with the one on Ebay. So I bid and won, and ended up buying a Brother KH 601 knitting machine, from of all places, the Tacoma Goodwill!

It arrived mid Feb, and I found a place about 2 hours from me that still serviced Brother machines. I took it up there March 9th (I know the date for sure, it was my hubby's birthday). Tues this week I got the call that it was ready to be picked up. Since I was off from work on Weds, I drove the two hour trip again to pick it up.

The owner of the shop was fantastic and gave me a three hour lesson on it. Along about the 2 1/2 hour mark, I think my brain exploded :) But I had a nice sample swatch knitted, and along with the manual and the yahoogroups that I had by now joined, I can say I now can knit on it.

I have been ebay shopping for some pattern books and general machine knitting books. I bought a couple years worth of Machine Knitters Source magazines. They are from the early 90's but I still think it will help me learn. I am doing what I always do, when learning a new skill, read, read, and more reading. Right now, in many ways it is like trying to read a foriegn language I just barely understand. But if I become too frustrated, I can go and just knit on it as there are lots of things that can just be created from straight knitted squares. Right now I am just walking through each page of the manual and making sure I understand the basics.

Fusion Knitting has a blog that I read all the time. She is very machine knitting oriented and a constant source of information and inspiration. Her recent post, making a tank top in just two hours has me sure that I have made a great investment by buying this machine. Not just investment moneywise, but time.

Oh, and a final serendipity of it all. These Brother machines have not been manufactured for awhile. Parts for them, including the precious needles are hard to find. So even though the freebie machine handed to me by my friend had no real parts to it, what it did have was 200 needles, and they are an exact match for this new machine of mine. That is like finding a treasure chest of gold. The old freebie also included a stand, and that is another wonderful thing. It sets the machine up to a comfortable, sit on a chair level. I grin everytime I walk past the set up now. Thank you knitting goddess, you have set me on a new path.


Thursday, May 13, 2004

Blogger's new look

If you haven't been to blogger.com and that is what you are using for your blog, you need to go and check out all the new templates. Cool stuff. I think I will stick with my green for now though. I've gotten fond of it.

So this is a test to see if the comments addition to the blog is working.


Wednesday, May 05, 2004

A natural gold color

Or at least close enough for me. I am really pleased with how the ragwort dyed my yarn. Here is a picture of the yarn.

So if you want to duplicate this, here's how (and I bet it wouldn't exactly match, that's the fun part of natural dyes)

Take a bucket full of ragwort flower tops (see my previous post if you need a picture of the flower) Put them in a large stainless steel stock pot and bring to a boil. While that is heating wash skein of yarn to be dyed in soap and water, and rinse well. Then place in a mordant bath of alum water (this is a moderate stainless steel stockpot filled with water and two heaping tablespoons of alum and one teas of cream of tarter dissolved in it) Let yarn soak in mordant water while dyepot boils. I boiled the blossoms for about an hour. Be sure there is plenty of ventilation while you do this. The liquid will be a gold brown clear color.

Strain the dye liquid from the flowers and place in old crockpot. Put skein of yarn in the crockpot and set to low. Let simmer overnight (or as I did, while I was at work) I could see that most of the color was out of the liquid. I removed the skein, wrapped it in saran wrap, and microwaved it for 2 minutes. This will set the twist, I do not know if it will help it to be colorfast.

Then I washed the skein in hot soapy dish detergent and a smidgeon of borax.(it really smelled bad, sort of off flavored brussel sprouts type smell) I saw a little of the color rinse off. After that I rinsed the skein in hot water with a glug of vinegar in it (I am doing all this in my kitchen sink) I could see the color brighten some after doing that. There was no color run off at this point. Finally I just rinsed in clear hot water, towel dried the skein and hung it up to complete drying.

I mentioned that really loving this color meant I had to spin up more white skeins, before the flowers faded. A bright internet friend said that the blossoms can be frozen until I am ready to do more dyeing. So that's what will be done, two trash bags full of the blossoms will go into the large freezer. It will make a very fun addition to our annual fall dye day at my house.


Monday, May 03, 2004

Recent spinning

I have been doing what I call zone spinning, which means I just spin the fiber on my electric spinner, while watching TV, and let the yarn be whatever it wants to be. I stop and pick out VM but other than that, I don't fuss with the roving to force it into thick or thin or a specific type of yarn.

I tend to think I spin pretty much the same type of yarn when I do this. My electric gets set at about the same pull in, and speed. And I get a two ply yarn that looks very similiar, but I was surprised to find how unsimiliar the yarns can be, just changing the fiber being used.

What I did was to take two oz balls of roving per bobbin, and then ply that. I did five different fibers, and took some measurements along the way. That's how I found out how different the fibers made the yarn.

Here's a closeup picture of the five different skeins.

The white corriedale on the far right is from this roving I have posted a picture of this before, when I got it back from Woolyknob fiber mill. That skein is 163 yds, 18 WPI. I had a big difference between the WPI of the singles of the two bobbins, one was 25 WPI and the other 32. I must have gotten more into spinning finer as I went along.

Just left of that is the CVM skein. I bought this roving from Little Barn, and as you can see in the picture, CVM is like merino. It is a very puffy, springy yarn after it is spun. The skein is 162 yds, and the 2 ply is a thick 10 WPI.

In the middle is a Border Leicester that I bought two years ago, and had processed by Woolyknob. The singles were closer at 22 WPI and 24 WPI and the 2 ply is 13 WPI. There is only 120 yds in the skein, being a thicker yarn. I did overspin some in this yarn, I am not sure if it was because I was picking out VM (the electric just keeps on spinning, and sometimes I try and cheat and pull the VM out without stopping the spinner). I think the yarn will relax some when I wash it.

Left of that is the llama that I had processed by Woolyknob. It was an interesting roving. There were very obvious white guard hairs in it, which looked like stiff sewing thread. I could pick them out easily, if I stopped, went over the piece of roving I wanted to spin next, and pull them out. Also this roving had the most VM, llamas and alpacas just love to roll or lounge in the hay. It'll make this yarn hard to use for anything next to the skin, the pricklies still can be felt. The singles spun at 25 WPI and 21 WPI and I had alot of trouble with thick areas happening in the yarn. So the 2 ply is a 13 WPI in a 145 yd skein.

I saved my favorite for last, the brown Border leicester on the far left. I bought this fleece at SAFF, and had it processed at Woolyknob. This spun into a very consistent yarn for me, with the singles at 24 WPI and 23 WPI. The 2 ply is 17 WPI, so I have a larger skein, 173 yds. I love the color of this yarn, a true deep natural brown. I will be making a sweater from this roving, I am sure of that.

The whole point to all this was to see how each of the rovings I have recently purchased would spin, if I was spinning them 'in a hurry' If I plan to make any big knitting project that takes over 2000 yards, I need to be spinning in the most productive method. The CVM would not work, it is too easily too bulky. The llama will not work, it is too itchy. The corriedale will be OK, but needs to be dyed, I am not into white sweaters. And the one BL, will be OK, I may think about a barn sweater, or something felted with that, I am concerned that the yarn would just be too bulky for a shaped and cabled sweater. The brown BL is the winner, now I just have to work on making another 12 skeins _just like it_ :)