First Two FO’s of the Year

I may be behind posting, but at least it’s not as far behind as I am on last year. πŸ˜‰ I have not one, but TWO projects finished, and before they become ancient history, I want to share.

The first official finished project of 2012:

I started this yarn last August when I needed something to do and demonstrate with whilst acquainting a new spinner with her new wheel. The colored fiber was a lightly roving of Australian 54’s – pretty enough, but nasty to work with since it was lightly felted. Predrafting took some effort, but paid off in the end. I bought the roving as part of a destash before I knew anything at all about spinning. Good thing I only paid $5 for it, but I still wonder about the morals of the woman who sold a novice roving in this condition. 😦 The white I picked up at Heritage in Michigan last summer. It was possibly the most unpleasant roving I’ve worked with. It was chock full of VM of the sort that doesn’t fall out during spinning, so I had to stop regularly and pry the bits loose. It also was prone to tangling, forming little neps constantly. Wish I’d written down what sort of fiber it was, as I don’t want to make that mistake again, but for some reason, I don’t have that information. Regardless of the struggles, I do have well over 600 yards of “Buttermint,” as I’ve christened it, and almost 50 spare yards of white to use as trim on something. It came out about sportweight. Not sure what I’ll do with it yet. It felts easily and it’s not my normal colors, so it will take some thought. Open to suggestions!

The second project I finished just this week, marking one of the 3 past due Christmas gifts off the to do list at long last. πŸ™‚ That is a tremendous relief! Although I started this project last February, life quickly got in the way, and it didn’t much progress for quite a while. Ultimately, it was nearly all knitted after mid-October and while I was working frantically to do so many other major tasks at the same time that I couldn’t begin to count them.

The story behind this is that for Christmas 2010, my younger daughter had put a knit afghan sold by Land’s End on her Christmas list. I found this somewhat insulting, beings as I’m a knitter, so I finally braved asking her why that one and not one that her mom made for her. Her response was, “If you can make one that pretty, go ahead!” Considering how simple it was, that was NOT a problem! This is a close copy of the one from the catalog, but possessing more cables and substantially larger, since both of them are tall and my son-in-law is definitely not a scrawny fellow. At Christmas, it was larger than the average afghan, so I took it out to show, hoping for the go ahead to bind it off and be done. She asked how much more yarn I had – answer being 8 balls, which was 40% of the total I’d purchased. She told me to use it all! WAH!!! 😦 Well, it’s done now, and it’s a BIG blanket!!! It’s so big that I had to start carrying it in a mammoth tote bag with more internal capacity than my roll on suitcase, limiting the places I could take it as social knitting. The yarn is Lambs Pride Superwash Bulky, and I really enjoyed working with it. It was a pleasure to knit, and despite running 2136 yards through my needles, I never really grew tired of it. Since it is superwash, it was a bit of a bear to wet splice, but with perseverance, all superwash wools that I’ve used have finally capitulated, and I’d rather work hard for that bond than darn in 40 ends in a somewhat slippery yarn on a project that is going to receive heavy use by a non-knitting family. This yarn, though called bulky, knits more like an aran weight, IMO. The basic pattern I used was All Natural Cables by Lion Brand, biggest modification simply being the length. If I had it to do over again, knowing I was going to use all the yarn, I’d have made it one cable wider and just run out of yarn sooner, I think. It’s being delivered to her as I type this, and hopefully she will send me a picture of it in her lovely home, so I can update the post with an in situ photo.

Wool Gathering 2011

So I’m going to see what happens if I try to do some blogging. It’s been so many weeks that I almost feel like a stranger here, and, of course, I’ve not been around simply because so very much has been happening.

Today, I thought I’d share Wool Gathering 2011 (Yellow Springs, Ohio) with you. It was such a joy to be able to do something that is a special annual treat despite the strain and pressure of my current real life. It sure was hard to believe it had been an entire year since the last event! I also couldn’t believe I walked out of the house without my camera for the first time ever. I knew I was forgetting something, but for it to be my camera tells you that my brain just isn’t all here! Anyway, that means that all the pix are after the fact, with the exception of the one I shot with my phone, which turned out much better than I’d expected. Now I wish I’d have done a bit more of that. 😦 Ah, well…

In addition to the hours I enjoy chatting with vendor friends I see just once a year, time exploring new ideas and gaining knowledge about fiber and using it, and just enjoying the general atmosphere (and when I have it, keeping my camera busy…), cruising through the vendor’s area is always a huge part of the fun. πŸ˜‰ I really think I did well this year in thinking through my purchases. I saw every booth at least briefly, found virtually everything on my wishlist (except for a particular skein of commercial yarn that I was planning to buy online), and shopping carefully even came home with a few dollars (note “few”) in my purse. 24 hours later, I still love everything I bought, am enjoying the diversity of my choices, and don’t think I made any mistakes, so I’m happy. πŸ™‚ So, what did I bring home? With apologies for the pix, as WordPress seems to be rationing how many large photos I can post at once:

A carved bone shawl pin from Gita Marie. Believe it or not, I didn’t have a white shawl pin!

Paco, a new alpaca for the Hitty crew, which pleases them greatly. He’s ready to shear, and they are ready to spin! Hitty D was out in the pasture with him today, and reports he’s settling in quite nicely.

I picked up a lovely lucet made from Honduran Leopard wood from Margaret Ledrich. She had dozens of beauties from which to choose, so I finally decided to narrow my choices down to just those made from Honduran wood. That at least helped. πŸ˜‰

Wolle was a new vendor this year, and I was captivated with her yarn, which is gradient cotton thread, 4-strand, untwisted. Sadly enough, she didn’t have the colorway I was desperate to own in the size ball needed for my first choice pattern, but I’m quite fond of my Plan B, and I look forward to knitting it. πŸ™‚ I’m going to keep an eye on her etsy shop in hopes of snagging my first love sometime soon.

I needed two sets of knitting needles for immediate projects. How weird it is that I “need” needles with all those I have here! However, knitting a scarf on needles with 40″ cables isn’t a lot of fun, and since they won’t fit in my needle tote, I’d never gotten around to purchasing 35’s… The size 3 needles are Addi Lace, far from being my favorite needles, but since the only 3’s I had free when I started on the project last week were the Addis I never use, I was afraid to change brands now, so now I have another pair of last resort needles. πŸ˜‰ The 35’s, which look a LOT bigger in person than they do in this picture, are designed and sold by HPKY, another vendor who got my business for the first time this year – in a big way, as you will see later…

I didn’t have bunny fur on my shopping list this year, but when I saw this angora roving, I just couldn’t walk away from it! I love the teensy specks of color, and I think it’s going to make beautiful yarn. I meant to go back to her booth to buy some plain white at the end of the day, but I got sidetracked then ran out of time.

I barely managed to avoid buying any more alpaca fleece or fiber, which is tough, because Wool Gathering is particularly blessed with awesome alpaca offerings. However, I did finally buy my first llama fleece. Pia was the donor, and she lives at Agape Lland Llamas. I know this looks gray in the pix, but it’s really an intense black, and it’s also one of the softest llama fleeces I’ve touched. Took me a lot of years to get llama, but I think it was worth the wait. πŸ™‚

Since I’m on the topic of fleeces and waits, it’s a good time for me to confess I brought home a sheep fleece, too… BUT just one! I was deadset determined not to bring home any fleece unless it was a new to me fleece. There are usually a lot of really nice fleeces at Wool Gathering, but they tend to be from the same vendors, hence the same breeds. I figured I was going to be coming home fleece free. HAH! Lunabud Knits surprised the socks right off of me by having a yummy, even though unskirted, Texel fleece, and Texel has been on my priority list for a long time! Happiness is…

Thinking ahead, I was pretty sure my anti-alpaca pact was going to keep me safe at Tri-Valley Alpacas, vendors who have sent me home with a “few” pounds of gorgeous alpaca fleece in past years. What I didn’t successfully predict was the new assortment of other goods that were at their booth this year, nor did I anticipate the reaction I had when I put this really great little duffle tote on my shoulder. I’m a pushover for Latin American weaving anyway, and turning into a tote addict, too, it seems. It came in handy yesterday. πŸ˜‰

The first booth where I caved and made a purchase was also the first booth I came to after entering the gate. Basically, my reserve didn’t last as long as I’d planned for it to hold out. What I can say in my defense is that I could have very happily filled my car in the Wooly Knob tent, but managed to walk out with just one kitchen trash bag of roving dangling from my arm, so… I was affectionately calling this purchase my junk food. After spending so much time this past year washing fleeces, carding, dyeing, combing, blending, etc., buying this enticing stuff felt guiltily wonderful – fast, easy, and (stash)fattening – and I love it! πŸ˜€ This is my first Wooly Knob fiber, but what I found interesting is how many people seeing my bag grinned at me and said it looked like I’d been to Wooly Knob. I’m eager to see what I’ve been missing! I got a sweater’s worth (I hope) of the denim blue, and I’m thinking that the white with sari silk will be employed with something else – probably solid – in the end. Beyond loving it, I’m not sure what I’m going to do with the black/blue/purple/green striped roving yet.

This might be my most unexpected purchase. It also might be the item that drew the most comments from others the entire day, though I carried it around during only the last 45 minutes. I spotted this Bonnet Basket, woven by Margaret Lou Bickenheuser (contact – mylittlebasketshop at yahoo dot com) well before noon, did my drooling over it, then walked away quite certain I’d seen it for the last time. When I walked back past the booth a little after 6:00, it was still sitting there… waiting… and although I spent a good bit of time trying to convince myself that I didn’t need to take it home, as you can see, I didn’t succeed. I love the walnut inserts and the overall solidity of the basket, and it’s plenty big to hide a multitude of fiber indiscretions. πŸ˜‰

This is a bit “cart before the horse,” but it was just so perfect… In the HPKY (Hand Painted Knitting Yarns) booth, one of the very first things I saw in the entire show, but the very last purchase I made, I saw a simple garterstitch sweater that I just loved. I’m not making sweaters for myself until I can wear the size I want stay, so I’ve walked away from a lot of sweater opportunities. I’ve also favorited a lot of sweaters on Ravelry! This was my downfall. The yarn and pattern to make the sweater came home with me as a reward – my dangling carrot. When the day comes that I start knitting this, there will be a glow from my grin lighting the skies over Ohio and probably visible 3 states away. πŸ™‚ I adore the colorway, and the featherlight baby alpaca yarn (Rome) is incredibly soft! The yarn presentation is interesting. Somehow all the skeins are braided together into this big megaskein, which will definitely keep everything in one spot. πŸ™‚ I looked on Ravelry, hoping to post a link to the sweater pattern, Ilaria, but there isn’t one up there, so you’ll have to wait a while. It’s going to be so fun using this incredible yarn to do this quick knitting project. I can’t wait! (Have I said that before?)

One of the best places to spend time, IMO, is in the Benjamin Green Studio booth. If you’ve been reading my blog very long, you know I have an impressive collection of his work, including a few “rare” pieces. This year I went with the intention of adding a hackle to my line up of tools and let him know in advance. He went prepared, but ended up selling my hackle before I found his booth. Imagine my shock when he offered to sell me his own personalized hackle instead! I was very honored, and I love my new acquisition. πŸ™‚ The fun didn’t stop there, though. Having seen my wool comb photo from last year, he was horrified that I’d managed to buy the one comb that walked out of his booth with some bent teeth. I was duly provided with a comb tooth straightener, and we all had a good laugh over the whole thing. πŸ˜€ The surprises weren’t over yet, though. I’d been bugging him for several years to build a drop spindle lazy kate, and this year he came through for me with a beautifully simple design that works wonderfully and folds flat for storage. I love it! I only have one spindle loaded in the picture, but it does hold two. He also has made adapter pieces that will convert it to hold two bobbins or quills. I added an itty bitty niddy noddy to my pile off booty. I couldn’t resist its 24″ skein size. Like I said, I love shopping Ben’s booth! His only problem now is that he is going to have to come up with something new for me to buy next year! πŸ˜‰ I have an idea or two for him…

So that’s the end of what I bought at Wool Gathering – except for the typically delicious supper at Young’s Jersey Dairy, which provides the grounds where WG is held each year. What I haven’t shared is the other item that jumped into my car yesterday…

No I have no idea where I’m going to put it at this point! I’ve only been to 4 yard sales all year long, but let’s face it, if 25% of yard sales I went to always netted me things like this, I’d spend more time on the road during the summer!

Having a great wheel is a dream I’ve held for nearly 30 years, and I’m still trying to believe that it has really come true! To find one in working order and with a weasel to boot unexpectedly at a yard sale feels truly miraculous. Yesterday was one fantastic day for this fiber lover!!! πŸ˜€

A Gift…

A gift for me and now for you…

An etsy seller, Beth Stone Studio,Β  linked me to her blog this evening, and through reading her recent, inspiring post, I was led to another blog post – one which left me wistful with memories and awe-filled from exposure to an incredible writing talent. If you have ever been a mother, find a quiet moment to read A Word for the Storms. When you go to view A Word for the Storms, if you have a connection that makes dealing with background music problematical, you will find a pause button right at the top of the page underneath the header. Clicking that will stop the music feed for you. I found it easier to focus on the lyricism of the words with the music silenced.

Dare I try to make a 1000 Gifts list? Some years ago, I had a small daily planner that I used to record one joy for each day. It was a good exercise for me, and I should have continued it. I honestly don’t know where it is right now. I purposely lose it, then I stumble upon it unexpectedly, sit and read it and smile, and purposely lose it again for months or years… So maybe I’ll try this and see what happens. πŸ™‚

#0001 – God loves me – even when I don’t love myself or feel like anyone else does, for that matter!

#0002 – After working up my planting beds tonight with the only tool I could find – a garden rake with a broken handle – while feeding the mosquitoes, I found my first strawberry of the season, fat, juicy, and sweet, and I forgot instantly how much my wimpy muscles were aching!

#0003 – Fleecy surprises… When my Gotland fleece arrived, I thought it was tricolor with shades of brown and gray and a bit of white. When I pulled it from the muddy wash water, shining and delectably silky, it was the most stunning selection of grays and white that I’ve ever seen. It’s the most astonishing and wonderful transformation of raw fleece I’ve witnessed.

Doing the “Impossible”

Thought it might be easier to laugh at myself if I shared tonight’s accomplishment with you all. I managed to do something tonight that 2 hours ago, I would have claimed was impossible. I’ve noticed my knitting students tend to be good and doing that, but I’d not developed the knack – or so I thought…

In order to encourage my finished yarn toward more overall uniformity, I took the advice of the experts and didn’t just ply all my first bobbins of worsted together then start on a second round. Instead, I filled 3 bobbins and plied one big bobbin full, which left about 40-50% of my singles still single. The plan is then to spin another bobbin of singles and ply it with the smallest two remaining bobbins until one of them is empty, again leaving two half filled bobbins plus a dab on another. Using the nearly empty one, I’ll fill it and ply it with those 2 halves, continuing in a somewhat similar manner until I’m out of roving and then singles.

I filled another bobbin of woolen singles last night, so I was ready to ply again. Since I already figured out the rhythm for this yarn and love the results, it was going to be a quick, autopilot project. I stuck Abby Franquemont’s Drafting DVD in the player, sat down to the wheel, lined up my ends and tucked them through the leader, plied about 4-5 yards to make sure all looked well, then turned on the DVD to the first chapter. The 1-2-3-4-5-feed, 1-2-3-4-5-feed chant was virtually subconscious and I was zipping through my singles very quickly. I noticed at some point that they didn’t feel quite as soft as my finished yarn, but then remembered that washing and thwapping the finished yarn makes a big difference in appearance. Back to watching Abby spin magic yarn off the tip of her finger… 1-2-3-4-5-feed… not stopping even once until…

Swoosh! End of the shortest bobbin, and the DVD wasn’t even over! Wow! I broke off the other two strands and fed on the last few feet of yarn, again thinking it was acting just a bit differently than I’d remembered. I pulled up the end to admire my work and found myself looking at Shirley Temple yarn – all sorts of ringlets and curliques… Whatever? It was acting for all the world like grossly over-twisted yarn, but it looked like it was plied to match my first luscious skein. Then my household fiber fairy thunked me up the side of my head. I was looking at an unmistakable Z-twist, which was only extremely impossible, since I’d spun my singles with a Z-twist. It took another 5 minutes for me to really believe what I was seeing, then 15 more minutes to wind the lively little corkscrews back onto one of my smaller bobbins by hand. Sure enough, about 5 yards before I emptied my plying bobbin was a brief interlude of very confused, unplied yarn, followed by my double-checked perfect start up yardage.

If you had told me that it was possible to switch directions in the middle of plying without creating a major snarl of yarn, I’d have laughed – probably a bit too much. I’ve reversed direction while spinning before, and it’s never been a pretty sight. However, tonight I’ve learned how to do the impossible! Gold star for me! πŸ˜€

And for anyone who is wondering, there is currently a lovely skein of properly finished yarn destressing in a nice warm bubble bath out in the kitchen. It was actually much easier to fix than I’d expected, thanks to my having learned to ply with a rhythm at last. All I had to do was take the same length of yarn as I had been using for 1-2-3-4-5-feed and do a 1-2-3-4-5-1-2-3-4-5-feed. I did keep an eye on it to be sure that at the pronouncement of the first “5” the singles were pretty much separate, but that can be done without breaking the rhythm, so I had plenty of time to sit there shaking my head and thinking what a silly girl I’d been. One thing for sure, I know. I’ll actually look to see which way the wheel is turning in the future! This is one new skill I don’t want to practice again!

Where There’s a Woolen, There’s a Way

I’m confessing right up front that I’m really pumped tonight. πŸ™‚

Probably my biggest problem and mental sticking point with working on my Master Spinner certification has been that in order to pass Level 1, a person has to be able to spin both worsted and woolen yarn. Now that’s a perfectly logical requirement, but I was barely spinning worsted when I walked into class, and didn’t even know that I WAS spinning worsted. I was only a little bit wet behind the ears… Everyone else there was extremely comfortable with their wheels, and experimenting and doing new things was an interesting challenge for them. On the other hand, I was pleased when my yarn didn’t fall apart, and whereas I passionately adore learning new things, me trying to spin woolen was a bit like starting second grade without having gone to first. The day we covered it in class, I was exhausted from lack of sleep and had taken a very big emotional blow first thing in the morning. I stood watching our instructor making yarn by a method that looked like enchantment, and I couldn’t understand what she was doing and how it was actually working, because I didn’t have a big enough experience base to which I could add this new technique. But I bravely tried to spin woolen. And tried… and tried… And I failed miserably. And much to my embarrassment, it was all too much for me, and I eventually had tears streaming down my cheeks. I wanted desperately to become invisible. I have never had something like this happen to me in any sort of class I’ve ever taken, and it was horribly humiliating.

That’s not something one easily forgets, and ever since then, I’ve been more than a little bit terrified of spinning woolen. I’ve been so terrified that I’ve been creeping around the edges of my MSP homework. I honestly couldn’t believe I’d even be able to complete the project. I’ve been getting fleeces and dyestuff and putting together my notebook framework, and I’ve been talking positive about it everywhere I turn, but I didn’t entirely believe it was really going to happen – until now.

Trying to coax myself to at least TRY the woolen spinning, and having some more spinning hours under my belt, I bought an entire pound of into the Woods Romney roving from KattyKnits on Etsy. It was a color I could love, milled with little intervention, so still lanolin rich and oh so fun to touch and smell, a reasonable price, a big enough quantity that I could not give up quickly because I ran out of fiber fast, and it was something that I’d not fallen in love with previously and would stew about messing up. If I happened to come out with some usable yarn in the end, then so much the better. When I filled a bobbin with fine worsted spun Merino the other night, producing a very logical stopping spot for my current spinning project, I realized it was now or never. There’s a lot of work to do for this MSP project, and there IS a deadline to submit it. I grabbed the recalcitrant ‘fraidy cat in me by the nape of the neck, and took a mammoth ball of roving in the other, and the three of us sat down at my spinning wheel, quickly joined by a pair of very sweaty hands.

The first hour didn’t go well, unless I get points for my creativity in name calling. My favorite moniker for the roving at that point was Son of a Manure Tag. I really wasn’t having fun. The few folks who knew what I was doing were checking in every so often (from a safe distance) with a “how’s it going?” I started feeling like I was in labor – except I was better prepared for childbirth, and there was a predictable outcome.

Sometime during the second hour, there was a fleeting moment of brilliance. It startled me so much that I promptly lost my focus, forgot what I’d done right, and found myself back at SoaMT stage – except now there was a spark of possibility lit. Surely, if my hands had figured it out for five seconds, they could do it again?

Six hours later, I had a bobbin and a half filled, my head and legs ached, but at least my palms were dry.

By the end of the next day, I was almost enjoying myself.

And last night, I found out I’d made real yarn – and good enough yarn that I absolutely love it!

In all honesty, as much as it shocks me to say this, it may well be the best yarn I’ve spun yet, and I’m finding that more than a bit amusing! I suppose I was right; it WAS time to learn to spin woolen. πŸ™‚ NOW it’s time for me to get very serious about doing my homework project! πŸ˜‰

Specifications: I’ve only plied part of the first 8 ounces, so I’m not sure how much my still damp skein weighs – guessing about 4 ounces? This is about 7 wraps per inch, which is a victory in itself, since spinning this thick is a serious challenge to me. This first skein is 139.5 yards long, and I’m really hopeful there will be enough when I’m done to make something special. The 3-ply yarn is smooshy and has nice elasticity. It’s Romney, so not next to the skin soft, but it would make a nice vest, perhaps…

Re-materializing

I figure that’s a good title, since it sort of looks as if I evaporated this past month. Now whereas I’d love to tell you I’m just home from some delicious, new foreign adventure, I make every effort to be honest here, so I won’t. Part if my MIA time did involve travel, however. πŸ™‚ And although I had a wonderful time, I was doing pretty much everything BUT lazing about! I spent a couple weeks visiting my older daughter. This used to be something we planned often, but when she moved to Honduras, that became a bit more challenging, and when I went to see her there, the focus was a lot different. I do miss going to Honduras terribly, but it was a real joy to have our old times back again, too. πŸ™‚

Since I just has my wonderful Fiber Adventure Week with so much “playtime,” when I packed for my trip, I took important stuff with me instead. To be quite honest, with what I packed, I could have stayed for 3-4 months before I’d have been in danger of running out of work to do. I had a few grand accomplishments and made some great progress on things. It’s amazing how much more gets done when there’s no internet, pets, housekeeping, and in-law attics on my daily schedule. I could use more time like that!

One huge, but no photo, project was working with my daughter to complete 15 pages in a scrapbook I’d assembled with contributions from friends and family in honor of her 16th birthday. The combination of trying to do both a scrapbook and quilt secretly while homeschooling the girls and the fact that there are a lot of procrastinators in the world kept me from getting it entirely done in time for the big day, and somehow we just never quite finished it. It’s very close to completion now, though, and we hope to see it done by the end of the year. One big sticking point is trying to locate a picture of Fairfield Elementary School, which was in Highland, Ohio. The school has since been razed, and hours of searching have so far shown me no pictures. I can’t believe that NO one has a photo, but whoever it is doesn’t seem to have posted it online, and all local sources I’ve checked have come up empty as well.

The yarn I started spinning during Fiber Adventure Week is plied, washed, and fantastic!I was counting on human imperfection causing the colors to change at slightly different rates in each of the three bobbins of yarn, with the hope being a very gradual shift in color over the length. This both worked and didn’t work. The imperfections exist, the shift is gradual, but it was a little bit TOO imperfect, and I reached the end with very unequal leftover singles, leaving me very little solid black yarn. I think I’m going to write to Kimber (Fiber Optics) and see if she can make me a bit of solid black roving.
I ended up with12 ounces, 860 yards of 3-ply yarn, about 11-12 wraps per inch, so roughly sport/DK weight. It’s soft and smooshy and absolutely gorgeous, and I’m SO wanting to cast it on right now! However, I’m trying very hard to be good. Perhaps it needs to be my reward for when I send in my completed Master Spinner homework…

Speaking of which, I spent hours making mini yarn skeins and then started the dyeing portion of that homework. Her stove was giving me fits, though, and I had a few unfortunate occurrences. I finally decided to pack that project in for when I was at home, and I’ve not looked at it since I came back.Β  Hopefully I’ll feel better about it for having been distanced from it for a few weeks now. No pix at the moment. I’m sure I took some, but must have missed them when I transferred things after I got home.

My other really big milestone was finishing the first panel of my Burridge Lake Afghan. I was “only” six weeks behind schedule when I did that, and I’ve not made up any more time since. I’ve only done one and a half repeats of the center panel so far, and it’s supposed to be entirely done by the end of June. I’ll just say now that it’s not going to happen!

I did some other spinning, some knitting, listened to 3-4 audiobooks, put a lining in my first felted bag, looked at all the scrapbooks the two of us have created, had some great food, slept well nearly every night, finally got to hear her chorus perform live, was taken out for Mother’s Day, and traded what turned out to be a totally dead sewing machine in for an entry level Bernina. In other words, it was non-stop action – the sort of which I wish I could manage all the time! I had a grand couple of weeks, despite most all of it being “work.” πŸ™‚

Then I came home.

It seems that as I was leaving town (and the internet), MyPhotoAlbum announced that they were closing the site at the end of May. I had so very much info stored there and nowhere else… Several years ago, in fairly rapid succession, Yahoo photos and Epson’s photo site both closed down, leaving me in photo-shock. People warned me away from free photo sites, saying that they are very unreliable, and that I should go to a paid set up. Enter MyPhotoAlbum. I spent untold hours setting up beautiful albums and moving all my doll stories to the new location, rewriting as I felt necessary, and when I was done, I was extremely pleased. I absolutely loved that site. In the past three years, hundreds of people have enjoyed my picture albums and stories. Now suddenly, that’s going to be gone as of midnight on Monday. It was obviously a priority for me to salvage all my captions and pix from the site, and it took many hours over the past two weeks to accomplish that job. At this point, I don’t know if I’ll ever put them back online. Twice burned; twice shy. And it’s so much work to get it all set up. On the other hand, I do so love sharing the stories… Anyway, I just thought I’d mention it here in case anyone wants to see the albums one more time before the site closes. There’s a link in the sidebar here.

I have a lot more pix I could take and much more to share, but we’ll have to see how things fit together. I’ve been really busy washing fleece and working on my MSP homework, have some new toys, found new treasures at the in-law’s… loads of things I can share, assuming I can finagle the time. πŸ˜‰ Hopefully the next post won’t be a month coming… πŸ˜€

Paas vs Dudley; Dyed in the Wool

Yeh, I’m still subjecting Corriedale roving to Easter egg dyes. Yesterday I made several local retailers happy by clearing out some of their dye kit inventories. It’s a much better deal to buy them the day after than the week before Easter. Egg dyeing kits must be quite the racket. After pulling several dozen kits apart this afternoon, I came to the conclusion that there are pennies worth of manufacturing cost and dollars worth of income. I have a quart zipper bag stuffed with stickers and such, another such bag housing “clear” crayons and the dippers, and the dye tablets are in labeled bags sorted by kit and brand. Takes up a whole lot less space than all those air filled cardboard boxes with a small, thin bag of stuff rattling around inside.

So what to do with the odds and ends? The egg dippers in the Dudley kits are very solid wire, and I could use some weaving hooks of various sorts. I bent one to test drive, and if it doesn’t do what I need, I can bend it more – or start over again. I sure have a lot of blanks! The Paas dippers appear to be copper and more flimsy, so they will be used otherwise.Now, about the dyeing… Everything I dyed during Fiber Adventure Week was done out of the Dudley kits I bought at Goodwill, but I have a stack of Paas kits, too. I wondered greatly how the colors compare between the brands, so I dyed each of the 9 colors in a Paas Classic kit solid. It turned out to be an interesting comparison.

Left to right – teal, blue, purple, red/strawberry, pink, leaf green

The Dudley are above and Paas below on the group photo, and in the yellow and orange photo, the Dudley is the smaller sample (dark orange and the yellows are the same), since I carded the main roving into the gradient rolags last week. Over all, the Paas colors were lighter and gentler, not showing as much of the neon bright that I saw in the Dudley. However, the actual color appears to be precisely the same in most of those, and several were even identical in intensity, so I’m suspicious that what I’m seeing is simply a matter of less dye, and that if I used the Dudley colors in a larger pot with more fiber, I might see the same effect. If that’s the case, that would be one point in favor of the Dudley kits.

The 9-color Dudley I used had a nice brown that I really like, but the Paas has denim, and I like that one, too. That’s one point for each of them.

orange, yellow, green

denim, red, pink

teal, blue, purple

And the Paas kit gets a point of its own for color integrity. The purple dyed almost perfectly solid without any major effort on my part, but I never have managed to get Dudley to do that. The shade of purple is different, so the red/blue balance is also different. You will also notice that the teal from the Paas kit really IS teal instead of the bright green I got with Dudley.

That means there’s a tie – strong points for both kits and some variations that make both of them worthy acquisitions. If you are seriously interested in dyeing decent teal and purple, and you like the denim as much as I do, go for the Paas kits. If you want to dye more fiber with the same size kit, you might find the Dudley kits to be better. Personally, I’m buying whatever I can find clearanced. I’m having too much fun playing with these. πŸ˜‰

One more quick note… My brilliant friend, Joy, went into Easter egg dyeing with her preschooler this year very prepared. She bought ready to dye sock yarn, and they used their excess egg dye to hand-paint the yarn, finishing it in the microwave. Sure beats dumping all that great color down the drain! You can access her blog through my sidebar or view the post by clicking here. Thought some of you might want to copy her great idea next year… πŸ™‚

One Done – Finally!

Yippee! Since I was cross training last week, it really seemed like I’d never get the first four ounces of my gradient fiber from Fiber Optics spun, but I finished it over the weekend, barely squeezing it onto one bobbin. Took longer than it should have, because I was picking out the little inconsistencies that were plaguing the second half of the roll. If the next one has them, too, I may give up the fight and let them through. Otherwise, I’ll be so sick of this spin I won’t finish the project.

I just love how the silk in this blend makes it glow!

Toughest part now is that I have to wait until I’m done with the other two bundles before I can see a finished project, and it does take a while to spin 4 ounces of wool fine. Not only am I eager to see the finished yarn, I’m dying to know how many yards I have. Until I have that answer, I can’t choose a project for it, and I’m so wanting to dream!

And I’m so eager to start my NEXT project! πŸ˜‰

Published in: on April 26, 2011 at 12:36 pm  Comments (1)  
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Fiber Adventure Week – Blog Candy Time!

I just spent some time reading back over the lovely comments you all have been leaving for me over the past week, and I wanted to thank you for the compliments, kind words, and encouragement. As much fun as I had, I think it was enhanced by sharing with you all, and it was great knowing that there were so many people out there reading the posts each day. I love blog stats. πŸ™‚ I’m really wondering how many of you noticed I managed to twice publish my post without putting the pix in and hand to go back to add them…

So, I’ve been rounding up treats! I thought about putting together just one big package, but decided it’s more fun for everyone if more than one person gets a something, so I have lots of smaller packages instead. πŸ™‚ First, though, I want to tell you how to get into the drawing. It’s easy, but if you don’t follow the rules, you won’t be included!

  1. Look back through the Fiber Adventure Week/Weekend posts and scroll down this entry to see the prizes.
  2. Post a comment at the bottom of THIS entry answering these questions:
  • If you could have come to my house and joined me for ONE activity, which one would you have chosen and why?
  • Were you encouraged to do a special project this week? What was it? (This is an extra credit assignment. πŸ˜‰ )
  • What candy do you want to have the most? Prioritize first, second, and third choice.

That’s all there is to it! Post and answer the questions, and your name will go into the drawing! Since this is a holiday weekend, I know many of you will be busy for the next few days, so I’m going to make the deadline for entering the drawing next Wednesday, April 27, 2011 at midnight EDT. That gives you 4 days to see the post and enter.

I’m going to show you all the candy options, BUT the actual number of recipients will be related to the number of entries I receive. For every group of up to 3 entries, another winner will be chosen – up to the point that I run out of gifts. So if there are 1-3 entries, one package goes out, and if 4-6, there will be 2. 13-15 would mean 5, and so on. Hopefully that makes sense.

So without further ado, does anyone want one of these?

  • About 18.5 grams of hand-dyed, soft yellow and green mawata (silk hankies). Should be enough to make a little pouch or similar sized item – or to just play and learn. Remember, although you can spin lovely, fine yarn with this, you can knit straight from the hankies as I showed in a post a few days ago. I’m eager to start on my part of the stack. These are really pretty in person.
  • A small stack of mawata (silk hankies) and a 6-color Paas Classic egg dyeing kit. Again, this should be enough silk for a small project.
  • My second rug mug, entirely handmade from braided wool roving in sand, brown, and teal blue. Sorry, my first one is not up for grabs, but I think I did a better job on the second one anyway. πŸ˜‰
  • Six ounces of Corriedale roving and a 6-color Paas Classic Easter egg dye kit. Dyed and spun, you can do a lot with this much, but it is also enough to make at least 4 rug mugs.
  • A skein of unbranded, worsted weight wool yarn, ready to dye and a 6-color Paas Classic Easter egg dye kit. Best estimate is that this is about 220 yards, but that IS a guess! It might be fun to weave with this on a small loom after it’s dyed, but of course, it’s great for knitting or crochet or whatever else you love, too.
  • No photo for this one, but you can look on Ravelry (link in sidebar) to see them all – one download copy of your choice of my individual patterns or $10 off the Concerto Tutorial book download.
  • Lifetime supply of Easter stickers and egg wraps and such. This is just a small sampling of what there is. Nope, I don’t have grandchildren… πŸ˜‰

Okay, I think that’s it! I need to get this published and go check on my dye pot! Thanks again to you all for joining me in this incredibly fun week!

Fiber Adventure Week – Day 7

BLOG CANDY – NEXT POST!

Sigh… So today closed the main event, and I have to go back to being a little more normal person – sorting attics, cleaning toilets, answering email, listing items to sell… But this has been SO much fun! I feel lots more energetic, and I’m surrounded by great projects started and begging my time, so you’ll be getting progress reports from time to time as I work on them. And I already have ideas bouncing around for my next event. All I need is time… πŸ˜‰

Day 7 of Fiber Adventure Week started with the weekly Knitogether, a small group of local ladies I taught to knit, and one tagalong husband, who endeared himself even more deeply to us this week by bringing a pie he’d made. Yum! This is the first time we’ve had snacks, as we meet at the library. Gathering in the back room instead of out front wasn’t such a bad price to pay for such a treat. πŸ™‚

Not surprisingly, I slipped quickly into overdrive when I got home. I had about 4 days worth of stuff I wanted to do, and only one in which to do them. After I started a dye pot going, my first order of business was some fulling (aka felting). I really wanted to see what I could expect from the square I wove a couple days back, and since I was going to be filling the washer with hot water and agitating anyway, I decided I should go ahead and toss in my second Angela’s Fabulous Felted Bag, which I’ve christened “Needlenut” in honor of the spruce and hazelnut colored Wool of the Andes Bulky I used to knit it. I’d been holding back on the fulling part, because I needed to have one when the rest of the group gathers to do theirs, but my third is close enough to being finished that I figured it was safe to wash the second.Huge and floppy going in…And a nice sized, firm tote in the end. This one had an artistic nature. I worked and worked on it, but that top edge just refused to felt up as tightly as the rest of the bag, and I have no idea why – unless it’s been considering the overloaded appearance of my oft used first bag and thought a wide fill top was in order. πŸ˜‰ I finally decided to make it a design element and shaped it prettily. It’s different. πŸ˜‰ I love these bags! It will take a couple days (or with the amount of rain we’ve had lately, a couple weeks) until it’s thoroughly dry, then I’ll shave the areas that need it, clip ends, cut a board for the bottom, and go shopping for lining. Happy me!Although the bag took 3 full cycles, the square took literally a couple of minutes to reach one version of perfection. This is the same yarn I’m using on my current triloom project – Cascade Eco + – and I dearly love the way it came out of the wash. However, I’m going to have to watch it VERY closely when I full it. My square is exquisite for a throw, I think, but it wouldn’t take much more to turn it into a yurt wall.

Dyeing kept me very busy on Day 7. I found a lovely new way to make beautiful colors with Easter Egg dye, but I took step by step photos of the worst possible pot. They just don’t show enough to make it worth posting them, so I’ll just give you the quick details and then show what came out of the pot that has me grinning so broadly.

  1. Pick two colors that you think would be interesting together.
  2. Put 3 ounces vinegar, 4 cups of hot water, and one tablet in the crockpot. Turn it on.
  3. When dye tablet is dissolved, add 1 ounce of wet wool.
  4. Dissolve the second tablet in a half cup of hot water and soak another ounce of wool.
  5. Watch the first pot. The moment the dye is exhausted – or a couple seconds earlier, randomly add the second color solution. I used a syringe to shoot part of my color in so I knew it was clear through, then I drizzled the rest over the top.
  6. This might happen instantly, or it might take a couple of minutes, but watch your pot again. You’ll see the dye starting to strike and the water beginning to clear. Immediately put the second hunk of wool on top of the first and push it down into the water – but don’t stir. There should still be color in the water, but not nearly as strong. Your top wool will be much lighter than the bottom one, and the color won’t be entirely set in the lower one, so some will drift up into the upper one. Some of mine benefitted by me flipping the top wool over after about the first 60 seconds. Past that, I didn’t touch it. I didn’t want to spoil the mottled color effect.
  7. Simmer for about an hour, cool, rinse, and enjoy your two beautiful creations!

And this is just how I did it in my very little crockpot. You know by now that I hope you consider this just a jumping off point. Play! After all, that’s what I’m doing! πŸ˜‰First used yellow, then brown second. I almost chickened out of doing this one, but I’m really glad I didn’t!First used hot pink, then used orange. Subtle color shifts, but not so subtle colorway!First used strawberry (lighter pink), then purple. See? I finally managed to get a primarily purple dye job out of an Easter egg dye kit! πŸ˜€ Interestingly enough, the red part of the purple tablet struck at such lightening speeds that absolutely none was left for the top roving, and it came out a gorgeous pastel blue! This was the first one I did, and I didn’t have my technique quite down at that point, so the results might be slightly different if done over – though I doubt it would make a whole lot of difference. Even with 2 ounces of wool in the pot, there was a little bit of leftover blue dye in the pot.And this is my very favorite! I’d not mind having a LOT of this set. πŸ™‚ Dyed electric blue first, then teal (which, remember, looks more like grass green). See? I actually got something that LOOKS like teal in this bargain!

I reserved just a bit of the yellow dye and still had the chartreuse (so called spring green) tablet, and I decided to test drive dyeing some of the mawata I bought Monday. The first big discovery I made is that silk might be a great candidate for Kool-aid dyeing; it stinks when wet!!! 😦I’m rather surprised at my results, as silk usually dyes brilliantly. I suspect I may have needed more vinegar? Or there’s a magic trick I have to discover somewhere that needs to be used when dyeing silk. I have lovely silk, but I also washed a lot of dye down the drain rinsing them, and they left enough dye in the pot to turn another ounce of wool this beautiful pastel yellow.While dye pots were simmering, I was doing some other little projects. I braided and sewed another mug rug (Yeh, I haven’t sewn the second braid yet, but…), then steamed the 2 that are finished. Nice? πŸ™‚ I did a lot better job on this one, I think. This is a good thing, since ultimately I’d love to make a rug…And after watching Judith MacKenzie spinning from a mawata on the Luxury Fibers DVD, I was curious to try doing it. Definitely an interesting and fun experience, and not so hard as I’d expected, even though I was using my Peruvian spindle instead of my otherwise occupied wheel. It takes a LOT of twist, and the fact that I achieved a reasonably consistent yarn pleased me greatly.Because of the nature of mawata, spinning from them doesn’t create the quintessential sleek silk yarn that comes from reeled silk or even tops. There are built in slubs and inconsistencies, but they make a very pretty, strong, fine yarn with relative ease. Out of just one layer of silk hankie, I spun 3 yards of 2-ply yarn at approximately 36 wraps per inch. How fascinating it is to compare the appearance of this yarn with the project I’m knitting unspun straight from the hankies. It was a good experiment, and I want to do more of this, but next time I’ll use either my wheel or a little heavier spindle.I wondered if I could finish my first Fiber Optics roving tonight, but it was not to be. I did make good progress, finally reaching the first of the black. I’m still enjoying this project for the most part, but whereas the first half of the roving spun like butter, somewhere around halfway, I began to be plagued by nepps and rough spots. That’s slowed me down a lot, as my goal – and initial success – was a fine worsted spun yarn. These irregularities are enough to throw off the balance of this still newbie spinner, but I suspect I will still be pleased enough in the end to forget my current irritation with the roving. I guess that’s one benefit of not being good enough to even imagine perfect spinning yet. πŸ˜‰I only got to watch the first DVD of tonight’s review set, but WOW! Deborah Robson’s Handspinning Rare Wools; How to spin the, why we should care is destined to be another of my favorites. I’ve always been drawn to the unique and unusual rather than automatically being part of the flock, so when I started looking at fleeces, I quickly found myself more drawn to Racka and Black Welsh Mountain than Corriedale and BFL. I also have a collector’s nature, so love to gather variety instead of getting into the rut of having one or two favorites. This DVD set was made for me, I think! I’m really enjoying the breed stories and watching her spin some of the challenges she’s explaining within the fleeces. And she’s full of wonderful ideas for using some of the “sturdier” wools – ideas I’d not come up with yet. This is another video set that’s going to get some regular use. I’ve not explored it yet, but there is some sort of printed material on the disks as well. I’m curious to see what it might be.And tonight, one last thing. My audiobook this week has very fittingly been Bellwether by Connie Willis. It was very enjoyable – a little predictable, but quite the pleasant read, as it was written with a sense of humor. Personally, I’m rather amused at the science fiction designation on the book. It’s fiction, and the primary setting is a science lab, but that’s as far as the connection goes. If you find yourself looking for a light, enjoyable read with a gentle romance interwoven with a few laughs, in a not so ordinary background fabric, I’d recommend it.

And so, that’s the end of my week – and the beginning of who knows what next! My next post will have the details about how you might win some blog candy… and prizes are, not surprisingly, related to this past week of my adventure. πŸ™‚

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