Exploring the world of fiber, one draft at a time

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

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Will It be Gold?

I have a whole field full of this which turns out to be Golden Ragwort. I just found this out last Saturday. I was mowing, and everytime I'd go past the field, I'd think, 'I KNOW that's not mustard' After I was done mowing, I got out my weed and herb and garden books, in search of the plant. I could not find any good pictures, I finally had to go online and find the identification.

What it is commonly known as, is squaw weed.

When I was chatting with my coworkers Monday, on a coffee break, I told them about the field full of flowers, and finding out it's ID. I said that is was called squaw weed, but I couldn't figure out why, because that usually meant it was useful in the tribal home remedies. And this was definately not a common medicinal plant. Then one coworker said, 'maybe it was good for dyeing things, that should be right up your alley!'

(Insert picture of me smacking myself on the side of the head).

My coworkers know me better than I do, it seems.

So that was my intention this morning, to gather enough to try one dyebath with it. I will not be able to do that until the weekend, however, since this field is the one that could be plowed 'any day now' by the farmer that rents the land for planting, I wanted to be sure to get some picked.

I found out there could not be an easier plant to wild pick. It stands waist high, and all one has to do is smack the plant to move any insects along off the plant (figured that out after a bee did get in the bucket) and then bend the plant top over the bucket and snip the blossom. I cut a five gallon bucket full of blossoms in about five minutes. And I probably took a 50 foot length of a very large 2 acre field full of these flowers. They are there by the thousands.

I have no idea if the plant will dye yarn a pretty color or not. I have seen it listed in one natural dye list as giving a gold color, but no indication of what mordent was given. I only have alum to use as a mordant, so this will be, all in all, a very limited dye experiment. Still, I am looking forward to trying, and then maybe in a week or two, showing off the yarn to my coworkers.


Friday, April 23, 2004

Goddess and Dragons, oh my

I thought I'd share the birthday presents I just bought for myself.



An internet friend bj has a website Moonspinners and these are two of her spindle designs.

They are hard to photograph, because they are shiny. The goddess did ok with my camera, the dragon is even more beautiful than the photo shows. I asked bj to do a dragon design for me, and she found the perfect design and combination of colors for me.
Check out her website and see if you find a perfect design too.

These are fitting birthday presents, since my birthday is May 1st. No matter how old I get, I still love having a birthday, because it falls on Beltane. I think it is a perfect day for a birthday, whether I celebrate alone, or with the whole world (Kentucky Derby is on my birthday this year too!) I clean the porch good and officially declare it open for summer sitting. We will make our traditional May wine, and hopefully build a fire in the firepit in front of the porch. It's a tradition for us, just like birthday cake.

These two spindles have made me think about the possibility of magical spinning. I know one pagan that did knit mittens with intent, and of course there is always the orthodox prayer shawls. What would magical spinning be for? Meditation only? Focus for circle energy? Or would I get too distracted by the 'production' process going on, and not really focus? Anyway it is something to think about, and I will definately be using these spindles at home for the pleasure of seeing their beautiful colors swirl as I spin.


Sunday, April 11, 2004

What I learned at Greencastle

No, I didn't take any classes, unless you want to include life lessons.

It was a great weekend, in all ways. The trip up was easy with several just for fun stops on the way. Setting up the booth went like clockwork, as well as taking it down Sat evening. We know the routine well, and only changed a few things about the booth, so there was less of that, 'well, let's try putting the table here instead'. Friday afternoon sales were brisk, much better than last year, and Sat was steady, but not exhaustingly busy. Friday night we gathered with our yearly group of vendors that we know, and had glasses of wine, and notes of the past year until midnight. I was barely able to crawl into bed Friday night, but fortunately it was a good bed, and I slept well.

In short, it was the type of show Ted and I like, and we left Sat evening still speaking to each other

Here though are the lessons I learned over this weekend.

1. As much as I thought I would like to have it, I do not need a great wheel. The vendor next to us had a restored, fully functioning great wheel, built in the 1780's. There was absolutely nothing wrong with it, and the wood glowed from great care. He was asking only $500. When we saw it, Ted and I talked a long time about buying it. He offered three times, saying he was perfectly happy to pay for it. He longed for that wheel as an antique, and I could only see it as a spinning wheel. So I could justify it, by it being fully functional. I just could not OK putting another 'something' into our already overstuffed house. Especially something that big. I said no to each of Ted's offer, but he knew I really wanted it. So I learned I could say no to something I always thought I wanted, and when found at the right price, didn't buy.

2. I found out I didn't need a small, very unique, fully functional antique wheel. This was sitting right along side the great wheel. It had the advantage of being small, and only $300. It was a tiny wheel, but also had on top a lazy kate, and along side a skein winder. A full yarn factory, in a tiny 24 inches. I had to say no to myself, because I knew, as cute as it was, I wouldn't use it. That tiny wheel (and bobbins) would mean many many treadlings for a bobbin full of yarn, and that the bobbin would be full in no time at all. I wonder if it was a child's wheel. It seems just the thing for a child to be spinning right along side the mom. At one point, since we sat directly across from the wheels, Ted caught me just sitting and looking at them, and said he hadn't seem that look of longing on my face since our second date LOL But I also watched both sell, the great wheel within an hour of the price going on it, and the little wheel later in the afternoon.

3. I learned I really really like getting fiber from the processor, all ready to spin. The three large bags of fiber from Woolyknob Fiber Mill is beautiful. I will rave again about what nice work they do. I did hear one contrary comment this weekend, about a high lanolin fleece not coming back up to the buyers expectations, and then she put the caveat on it that they were just getting the mill going and may have been on their learning curve. Still, it is as I have always thought, the fresh merino and cormo fleeces really need to be wash slowly lock by lock and spun that way instead of made into roving. What I sent were two border leicester fleeces and a two hugh llama coats. The llama was a great surprise, I expected a courser roving, but it was as soft or softer than the one border leicester. I will be playing with that alot, first spinning it alone and then combining on my drum carder with some fibers, to find the best use. The two border leicester were sent at the same time to learn if processing a loose curl wool and a tight wool curl came out different. Visually, in the roving I can see no difference and I am excited about that, because I have found I do not like trying to open the tight curls by hand before washing, and it looks like this processor has no problem picking open the curls before washing. The two fleeces are different in softness, but that has to do with quality of the fleece. One fleece was a last of the bunch, $5.00 for the whole fleece deal. The other I paid $4.00 per pound for at SAFF last fall. After I spin some of the two BL, I will see how much difference there is in the yarn too.

4. I learned that even having a car full of ready to spin roving, and probably five raw fleeces at home waiting for me to work with, I could not go to a fleece fair, and not buy a raw fleece. After I set up my booth on Friday, I let Ted tend it, and I walk around for the first look at what is for sale, and what might tempt me for this years spending budget. Of course I look at all the fleeces. It's wonderful to see the colors, see the locks, feel the difference in texture of each. And I know most of these breeders now, so I have to see their new spring clip. I was doing fine almost the whole way until I got the the gal that breeds cormo. I bought a white fleece from her last year, that I am about half way through lock washing and spinning fine yarn. This year, I stopped to say hello, and check out each fleece, telling her about my love and success with her last year's fleece. I started noticing lots of lovely colors, hmm, BL colors, you know those browns that run into greys that run into a tan tip. So I start checking tags, and she not only has BL now, but has cross breed BL with the cormo. Oh oh. A silver fleece. Oh oh. I checked it out closely, yep, lovely cormo fine silky crimp, but BL color. And no tight BL locks. Just wide open cormo locks. I was doomed to dream of that fleece all night (because at first I walked away saying I had no business buying more raw fleece) So around noon on Sat, when the first lull hit, I told Ted I was going to walk around. My intention was to go and prove to myself that the fleece would have already been sold, and I could quit lusting after it. It was with mixed feelings that I walked up to her booth, and glad smiles when the fleece was still there. She had offered to split the fleece, but I really do not like to do that, for the breeders sake (how can you fairly split a fleece) and to assure myself I really do get all the good bits, I will pay for some of the not so good. It's all part of the price to me.
So I walked my wonderful sheepy smelling fleece back to the car with a smile on my face and went to face the hubby, who had been insisting we would never squish those three bags of process fiber into the car for the trip home, let alone another 6 pounds of raw fleece.

5. I learned that my hubby can not resist a bargain either, even if it is something he would never use. Our vending neighbor was selling merino roving like he was the only one to ever make it. He is a bulk vendor and probably even runs this merino in his own mill. He started with 85 count for $8 a pound and sold out of that, went to 95 count for $10 a pound and sold out of that. Ted was watching this with great fascination, he could not believe the pounds and pounds of the stuff being weighed and sold. I think he finally could not resist the call of what everyone obviously thought was an amazing deal, because when the vendor finally got out the 100's merino and marked $11.95 a pound on it, Ted said OK how much to you want, and bought the rest of the bag for me, a little over 2 pounds. So I learned even hubby can get lured into the call of a great fiber bargain.

6. I learned it was easy and hard to let go of being part of the vending scene. Yes, it was a bittersweet weekend for this reason. So much of doing this was seeing the same people, doing their same thing, year after year. It was like a little tiny support group of fiber sellers. We'd all set up with hugh anticipation, we would all ache in the knees and feet and could barely pack up on Sat. But it was always with the anticipation of there's always next year. This year, it made a great show for me, to put a 20% discount on all my fiber. I didn't tell people it was a close out sale, just acted like I was in that discounting type of mood, today only, just for you.... Some people I told this was my last year, others, I just nodded and said see you next year. Well, I probably will, just not as a vendor. I still plan to go to Greencastle, how could I not with all that fleece calling.

I told my husband as we got in the car to leave, that I would have the fiber room empty by the first Thur in April 2005, so I could guarentee a trip back to the Fleece Fair next year. He only laughed and asked where I thought I could hide that much fiber :) We did managed to stuff all that I bought into the car, it was packed just as full as when we came but with different stuff. Funny, today all I want to do is sit and spin, I just can not image why!


Thursday, April 08, 2004

Spring forgives it all

I have been working extra, and work has been stressful, but it doesn't matter because it is spring. The time changed and I have not gotten the sleep I need, but it doesn't matter, it is spring. I stay grumpy for about two seconds, and then I look outside, see daffodils, yellow forsythia in full bloom, peach trees about to bloom, and my favorite of all, yellow dandolions, and purple violets, filling the pasture part by my lane. I would be hated in suburbia, but I just think the combination of purple and yellow to be beautiful.

I have been fighting the urge to buy buy buy fleece. I subscribe and read all of the fleece for sale type boards on Yahoo, and _everyone_ has been shearing the last two months. I want to buy them all. I have managed to stick to just buying one that I committed to last Dec. When I did the rare breed exchange I talked to a couple of breeders of CVM and decided to speak for a fleece before it was sheared. First time I have ever done that. I got that fleece last week, and oh it is a beautiful color. Very deep chocolate brown. I have done nothing but look at the top of the box of fleece since I got it, I have been too busy with work, and getting ready for the fleece fair. But I am sure I will have lots more to say about this fleece as I work with it.

Speaking of fleece fair, I finished up getting ready on Monday, and so have avoided the last minute feeling rushed to get ready feeling. I have 10 rubbermaid tubs packed with fiber and now am really excited about going. I will enjoy this year's fair for a number of reasons. I am decidedly sure now, I will not do this again, so this being the last year of having a booth will make it special. And being ready ahead of time, helps me feel relaxed about it all. And I am marking all fiber 20% off, so I am looking forward to a bit of rush from everyone shopping a sale.

Another thing I am looking forward to from the fiber fair, is picking up three fleeces processed at Woolyknob fiber mill. I called them yesterday, and yes they not only had the fleeces ready, they remembered they were bringing them to greencastle for me to pick up. So I saved shipping costs both ways, and that knocks at least $15. off each fleece's processing, if not more. And for the first time I will be paying for something at the fleece fair, that I can take right home and spin :)

For a knitting update, a picture of the first finished baby blanket. Tues was the shower and I did wrap up the second blanket with needles and yarn, and had to take the jokes about not finishing it. No sympathy at all from that non knitting group. The recieptient did joke if _she_ was suppose to finish it, and then seriously asked what it was going to be! I thought that the 8 inches knitted already would obviously be a blanket, but not to a non knitters eyes, I guess. So I have it back now, and it will be my knitting project this weekend as we drive to Greencastle and back.

I thought I would be able to pick up my knitting machine from the Brother dealer in Indianopolis on Friday on the way up to the fiber fair, but it doesn't seem to be done with it's reconditioning. I have yarn ordered, but not here yet, but I am getting very anxious to start learning the knitting machine. I was disappointed to find out it wasn't done yet, I will have to make a special trip up there when it is finally ready.

But that's OK, because it is spring.