Monday, June 8, 2009

So Much to Tell . . .

As you can see, my wheel got finished (3 coats of tung oil) and reassembled in time for the spinning demo. Also finished was my 1860 era attire, including apron. Hair was a cinch, as I
only needed to twist it into a bun and secure with a few hairpins. Glasses & shoes? Don't look.

The day was a good bit of fun, and I'm glad I participated. We were under a big canopy tent about 30 feet square, and people could come by to watch and ask questions. The weather was beautiful. We seem to have had quite a good turnout. (My first time, so I'm guessing)

The day was over before I knew it. I didn't get a chance to see the sheep whose fleece we were spinning, but there's always next time.

I also bought some combs from a fellow guild member. They're Indigo Hound 5-pitch, and come with a station that can be clamped to a work surface. Awesome! I will be putting them to good use.

The same guild member also gave me a generous bag of angora from one of her own bunnies! It will be the devil to process -- so fine, soft, and fly-away! I think I'll blend it with some soft merino to spin a weft yarn for a scarf on my RH loom.

The following weekend brought the long-awaited spinning workshop with Anne Field. It was three days of spinning bliss. I'm basically a self-taught spinner. A friend showed me how to use the drop spindle and the basics of drafting, but the wheel was on my own. I know my wheel mechanically well enough. Technically is a different story! Anne Field is a charming and delightful lady, from her spunky Kiwi accent to her positive, can-do attitude. And she's one dynamite teacher. She whipped us through spinning basics so fast it mad my head spin (almost literally!). We learned about spinning to match the crimp, how to figure out the best way to spin different types of wools, and how to spin to end up with the yarn we want. We spun little skeins of different breeds of wool, learned about worsted and woolen, semi-worsted, semi-woolen and talked about how to prepare the fiber. I spun a remarkably lovely bulky weight Romney that drew much admiration and many compliments. Don't worry -- it was soon offset by one of the ugliest yarns I've ever done when I attempted to spin a fine yarn with some lovely soft merino. Even after washing it was still hard and just gnarly. Optomistic Anne said, "It would make a good warp yarn." Bless her heart!

The weekend was too soon over. I am well armed with notes and samples, and I feel much better about being able to spin the type of yarn I want. I have the required knowledge; now I need practice.

This brings things to the end of April. There is much to come. Stay tuned . . . .

Sunday, March 15, 2009


My spinning wheel is in pieces!!!
But it will be better soon. I hope. Have a guild meeting Saturday -- will need it by then.

This project has been cooking in my head for awhile. My wheel, an Ashford Traditional, was purchased unfinished and unassembled. I gave it a thorough waxing before putting it together. That was over three years ago, and I'm here to tell you that the Minwax looked nice back then, but was getting in sad need of a facelift. I've been pondering what to do--stain, varnish, paint,re-wax, ignore--and finally decided on tung oil. It's fairly user-friendly. No need for gloves & respirator, just a couple of pieces of an old T-shirt and some fine steel wool for buffing between coats (might use gloves for that; I dislike the stuff.). So the poor thing is in pieces all over our dining room table. She's had the first coat and sucked it up greedily. Tomorrow is a buffing and then the second coat. We'll see how things look then, but I wouldn't be surprised at a third coat for good measure.

And here's my Gulf Coast Native wool project, spun, dyed, and knitted. A hat pattern I found on Ravelry, "Tweedy Cabled Cap" by Zhenya Lavy. You can find it at
I washed and blocked the hat today and it's looking nicer now than the pre-blocked picture above. I found the GCN wool pleasant to work with, though extremely full of VM. But these sheep are not coated, since their primary purpose is not as fiber animals, nor would they have been coated in the 1860s. I spun the yarn fairly thick (8-10 wpi), with a hat in mind, and used size 9 needles.
And now, since I must go to work tomorrow, buff and oil my wheel, and bake Irish soda bread for St. Patrick's day, I think it might be prudent to hit the sack. . . .

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Leaf Lace . . .

It is finally finished.

Based on a traditional Shetland lace pattern, this shawl comes from Evelyn A. Clark's "Knitting Lace Triangles." You may recognize the yarn -- from a much earlier post -- as my handspun fingering weight. Nearly a year ago, I think.

I chose the leaf pattern because I thought it would compliment the yarn by showing off the colors while not losing pattern definition in the "stripeyness" of the yarn.

The shawl used about 650 yards knitted on size 6 needles. It measured 56 inches across and blocked to 72 inches across and 36 inches deep. Once again I am amazed at the magical transformation that blocking provides.

Overall I am pleased and a bit proud. I learned a great deal while working on this project, both spinning- and knitting-wise. The yarn is a pretty consistent fingering weight. A trifle underspun and underplied, I think, though it proved sturdy enough for lace and did not split while knitting. I did not wash the yarn after I spun it to set the twist; I wonder if it would have made a difference? As for the knitting itself, mistakes are there, though the pattern seems to swallow them up. I'm sure an experienced lace knitter would see them easily, but I'm able to live with them. On the other hand, I learned more about "reading" my knitting and not just blindly following a chart. I became more adept at seeing and correcting errors. I found rhythm in the pattern, and near the end was able to rely on my brain rather than the chart.

Thanks to Evelyn A. Clark for her wonderful little book, which left me wanting to come back to it in the future.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Ch-ch-ch-changes. . .

The other was a bit dreary and altogether too melodramatic. All that black was getting tiresome. This will be fun for a while.

What do you think?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Stashing 2 . . .

The February spinning guild meeting featured a trunk show by the owner (also a guild member) of Scarlet Fleece. Yummy fiber and yarns galore. I stocked up on some of her hand painted wool roving and splurged on 2 bags of natural grey cashmere (from Kathy's own flock). Scrumptious!

At the meeting I was also given a bag of Gulf Coast wool. Each year the guild goes to Meadow Farm near Richmond to participate in spinning and weaving activities, including a "sheep-to-shawl" demonstration. Since the farm portrays an 1860s era operation, we will be dressed in period-appropriate clothing while we work. This is obviously a first for me since I've just joined, so we'll see what happens. Meanwhile my assignment is to make an item from the wool I was given. (Gulf Coast Native Sheep are among the rare breeds and Meadow Farm has a flock of them.) So I've got the wool carded, spun, dyed, and am in the process of knitting a hat. That bit of stash didn't last long!
Now I just have to make my dress. Heh! I think I prefer 18th century costuming over 19th. A co-worker who does some Civil War reenacting showed me a nice (and historically accurate) layered box pleating method that is -- how shall we say -- more flattering (to my butt!) than cartridge pleats. And easier, too. I guess the whole thing won't be too bad; it's the lack of familiarity with 19th century style that puts me off.
That's mostly it on the stashing for awhile. Unless I win the lottery.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Stash Enhancement!

Never mind that my current stash (beads and fibery things) probably exceeds my life expectancy; I'm continually on the prowl for MORE!!!

Sadly, given the current state of my economy and the estimate for dental work that I got in the mail Saturday, I will have to go on a No-Fiber Diet for the forseeable future. Oh, but that's not as bad as it sounds (she keeps telling herself). I'll have one more installment of my FatCatKnits fiber -- prepaid. I'll be participating in a sheep-to-shawl demonstration next month -- free. I'm signed up for an Anne Fields 3-day spinning workshop at the end of April -- budgeted. And -- get this -- I've already started the "diet" by NOT going to the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Show last weekend. I have no resistance for these sorts of things; I knew going would result in buying. Instead I stayed home and enjoyed my stash by spinning this:

It's the roving I got from the FatCatKnits fiber club in January. The Easter-egginess turned into some nice stuff. I was hesitant to spin it because it seemed so NOT ME, but I must 'fess up that I do like it very much. 3.6 ounces turned into 485 yards. A light fingering weight that is about as fine as I am capable of spinning at this point. It will most likely become a lacy spring scarf.

Now there is FatcatKnits #2 to debate upon. A riot of deep, rich colors in superwash Bluefaced Leicester and a dollop of glitz for fun.
I'll have to think on what I want to do with this one. Lots of possibilities.
In December I joined Clotho's Children Handspinners Guild (Richmond, VA). I had thought about joining a spinning group back when I first started spinning. The local group (Williamsburg) only meets on a weekday morning, thus eliminating those of us who are working at that time. So I forgot about it for a while. So I was playing around on Ravelry and just happened to look at the New Groups section on the same day as one of the Clotho's members started a group. I checked it out and went to the December meeting. I was hooked! I cannot say enough good things about these people. Their enthusiasm is contagious. They are friendly, generous, intelligent, talkative, good cooks --their wealth of knowledge is astounding -- and if that's not enough, try sitting in a circle of 30 or 40 people all spinning! Amazing.
I've more to tell, but my pillow is calling. Daylight Saving Time.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

. . . of turkeys and colds

Yes, another cold. I have myself to blame. Not being a morning person has certain disadvantages. Like when the shower head spray won't adjust and so you are fiddling with it and thumping on it and pointing the thing towards your face when it suddenly decides to adjust and sends a pulsating jet of water into your face, nose and sinuses. I was awake then!
Later I was musing about the incident when it occurred to me that it's been said that domestic turkeys are so stupid that they have to be protected from the rain lest they look up and actually drown. Now maybe they aren't actually that stupid, but my move wasn't too intelligent either. DH suggested that perhaps it amounted to a self-waterboarding experiment.
Whatever it was, the force of the water up my nose left me in increasing discomfort for a few days and gradually turned into a miserable drippy, coughing cold. It really hit me Friday evening and resulted in my wimping out on a crafty weekend with friends. I was so disappointed not to have gone, but equally glad that I could be miserable in the comfort of my own home. Having a cold is no fun, and the weekend wouldn't have been fun for me or for my friends to deal with.

On a happier note: The DH's Sweater is nearly finished! I am done with the front, having knitted the last of it between coughing and sleeping over the last 2 days. Now I need to block everything, get the shoulders seamed and pick up the neckline stitches. A ribbed collar band, add the sleeves, seam the sides and it's done! Woo Hoo!

At this point I don't anticipate feeling well enough to go to work tomorrow; likewise not up to blocking a sweater either. It will have to wait.
Next project? No, not new. I am committed to finishing some of the things I have going before starting new. I began knitting an Einstein jacket a few years ago -- 2005 or '06. Same time as my "sensational shirttail" of Reynolds Lopi. The shirttail is long since finished and my jacket/coat of choice when temps hover around freezing. The Einstein needs finishing, so that will probably be next. It's lacking 1 1/4 sleeves and a collar. Not much if I get busy.

And then there's the spinning. I had planned on doing some this weekend. My wheel sits next to the basket packed with fibery goodness waiting patiently. It was ready to load in the car. It will have to join the queue.

No pix this post. It strikes me that Ms. Pixel was looking particularly evil in the previous post. Will have to do her justice with a kinder shot next time.

Until then . . .

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Superbowl Sunday

Cats sunning in the garden window. That about sums up my accomplishments for today. We had friends over to watch the game, and aside from a bit of last-minute prep and straightening up, I mostly sat on my [chair] most of the day watching TV.
I did have one ambitious streak; I decided it was high time that I backed up my photo library to CDs before tragedy and an aging computer take control. I'd not backed up any of my pix except our trip to Scotland in 2005. Would you believe FIVE CDs of pictures??? I've got a 2GB card in my camera and recently had to erase that because it was full, so I guess it's not that surprising after all.
Yesterday I downloaded Adobe Photoshop Elements 6 as part of my latest (here we go again!) ADDventure. I'm fascinated by digital imaging and the computer manipulation of images. I picked up a magazine on the subject and decided to give it a try. The Adobe was cheap because it's "old" technology, and even if my experimenting is a failure, the program is an outstanding photo editing tool. The learning curve might be a bit steep, but lots of tutorials are available free or at very reasonable cost online. Sufficient time is the only thing I lack. I've not done any beading or jewelry lately, I have at least seven knitting projects on the needles, and I probably have enough fiber and fleece to bury my spinning wheel. Oh, and there's the sheep to shawl project that the spinning guild is doing and the 1860s costume that I need to come up with and the. . . . . Digital Art? Sure, no problem!
Oh, I did finish my squiggly scarf and wore it to work Friday. I have a photo of me with it wrapped round my head. It looks eerily like a fat and aging Baby Snooks. You will NOT see that photo here. Or it will be altered beyond recognition!
We all enjoyed the game tonight -- and several of the commercials (isn't that what the Superbowl is about?). Good food, as usual, was in abundance, and we ate 'til our tummies were hard and shiny. I'm not sure of the punctuation in that last sentence, but I had lots to eat and now it's time for bed.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Yummerino goes on . . .

Tonight sees the second batch of Amy all clean and drying. I decided to do something besides falling asleep in my chair during Wheel of Fortune (sad, eh?) so cranked the water heater up when I got home from work. Two laundry bags of Amy and three lingerie bags with some other merino I'd already washed and drum carded. The batts still felt greasy, so I thought I'd try giving them a hot soak along with Amy. It worked just fine in the lingerie bags. I unrolled two of the batts and left one rolled up. I was careful not to agitate or shock them. I am always afraid of ending up with felt. Lucky so far. The batts look fine and not greasy any more.
One more session should see my wool all clean. I've one more laundry bag of Amy to scour and four more merino batts to degrease.

So here's a goofy project I found on's free patterns. The scan is a bit wonky, but it's going to be a scarf. The center section is seed stitch and each side has squiggly bits made by casting on and then binding off. I've seen similar scarves before and thought they were cute. Anyway, my friend Jennifer gifted me this skein of yarn some time back and I've been trying to find a pattern the would show off the texture. The yarn is Shaeffer "Elaine" in the Diane Fosse colorway. I've started and frogged 3 different patterns so far, but this one's a keeper. The yarn is a delicious muddle of jungly greens and the texture is thick 'n' thin bulky spiral. Today marks the halfway point of the 300 yard skein. The scarf is looking to be 4 + feet long -- a nice manageable length -- and promises to be warm and cozy. I recently did a scarf search when the weather got really cold.

  • One lovely lace (Docouer -?- et soie). Not exactly warm and cozy. Also too long and skinny.
  • One I wove several years ago of ??? yarn. Probably a mix of whatever I had at the time, acrylic, wool, whatever. Scratchy to the max and stiff.
  • And one nice velvety faux cashmere that's lovely but not an everyday scarf.


That's pretty sad for a fiber junkie. I've gifted several scarves, but don't have one for myself. This is gonna be mine, all mine! So now I'm gonna go knit and watch my wool dry.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Yummerino II

This post won't be as colorful as the last, but it was an adventure.
As I said, I began scouring the Amy fleece yesterday. Now it occured to me while I was filling the bathtub (where I do the majority of fiber cleaning) that the water didn't seem as hot as it ought to be. I went ahead and washed the first parts of the fleece anyway. I had changed from Dawn dish soap to Era laundry soap and thought it ought to do a good job on the fiber. Well, it DID do a wonderful job -- at getting the DIRT out -- but after spinning in the washing machine I put my hand in the fleece and found . . . lanolin! Considerably less than at first, but still a lot. To add to the fun, I noticed the water had been getting less and less warm as my wash/rinse sessions went on. On DH's suggestion I checked the water heater in the garage and found it to be on the "vacation" setting. We don't know why; perhaps it got bumped when the garbage or recycling containers were being shifted around since the water heater is right next to them. In retrospect I remembered my showers for the last few days and how I had to crank the hot water up higher than normal. At the time I thought it might have been due to the extremely cold weather we've had recently, though it had warmed up a bit by then. Anyway -- forgive my digression -- here I was with all my laundry and lingerie bags full of clean, greasy WET wool. I turned the water heater way up but hesitated to put the wool back in hot water while it was still wet for fear of shocking it into a felted mass. I know what happens when you put cold water on hot wet wool and didn't want to chance that it might work the other way, too, especially with a highly feltable fiber like merino. So I spread the damp wool out to dry and we went to a movie.

We saw "The Wrestler" starring Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei. Excellent and all too realistic.

Out for dinner also (County Grill & Smokehouse in Yorktown/Grafton. Outstanding BBQ ribs & chicken!) and by the time we got home scouring fleece was out of the question.

This morning I filled the tub and regathered the fleece into the bags. A capful of Era into the water and in with the wool.

The milky cloudiness in the water is -- LANOLIN! Yes, the screaming hot water did the trick. I screamed when I put my hand in the water to push the bags down. No, I'm kidding about that part. I used a plastic bin lid to submerge the bags. A brief soak produced the results you see above, then a final rinse and into the washing machine to spin out. Back to the drying table and now there is soft, clean and NOT greasy fiber!

The flash didn't do justice to the color or texture of this fleece. It is as black as natural wool gets and there is no white or grey in it as the photo seems to suggest. Although as I write this I am reminded of the indigo bunting, a miraculously bright blue bird whose individual feathers are perceived as black. Nature always has a few tricks up her sleeve. Do some of the hairs appear white because of a lack of pigment? In natural light do they reflect the black of the hairs surrounding them while the camera flash reveals what the human eye cannot perceive?

YAG! I scare myself sometimes with the random and abstract musings! I will give up for now and go fondle the dry bits of fleece while I decide how to prep it for spinning. Did I mention combs? Heh.


This was in the mailbox today. I was on Ravelry one day and the advertising graphic caught my eye for Fat Cat Knits, an etsy store. Who could resist cats-with-wings graphics? So I clicked on the ad and was transported to a world of fibery eye candy! It was a temptation to buy one of each, but my pocketbook shreiked audibly at the thought. Then I noticed the fiber club offering. 4 ounces a month for three months. Hmmm. Affordable. Two coordinating 2-ounce fibers each month. Variety of fibers. Variety of colors. Saves me the trouble of choosing, and by the looks of the fibers on site, I couodn't go wrong. Hmmmm. SOLD!
I am not disappointed; in fact I am delighted! The fiber is 60% merino and 40% bamboo and soft as a kitten. In addition, Ginny included some "Bling" (her description) to spin in with the yarn, a little packet of glitz fiber, dyed to match, of course! Forgive my scan;it's a bit darker than real life, but I was in a hurry to show you!
Oh, now the agony of choices again! How shall I spin it? Singles? Plyed? Bulky? Worsted? Fine? AAACCKKK!!! It might help if I had an idea of what I'd like to do with it, but I find my main interest is in spinning rather than making things from the yarn. It occurs to me that I might weave something on my RH loom. . .

And then there's the other project of the day -- Amy.
Amy is the latest sheep in my life --er ---stash. I found her a couple of weeks ago when I attended a weekend spinning retreat (another topic for discussion, coming soon). Actually I don't have the sheep, but I do have her hogget fleece. (Hogget is the term used for the first fleece shorn from the animal.) Amy's fleece is luscious, inky, sooty black superfine merino. It's a smallish fleece at 3 1/2 pounds, but hardly any trash. I'd been waiting for a nice day to take the fleece out on the deck and see what it looked like. Today's temperatures hit the 50's and I rolled a table out and went to work. I was pleased to find very little in the way of tags or VM and very few second-cuts. Amy was coated, resulting in no sun damage or VM for the vast majority of her fleece. There was some tipping around the edges of the fleece, but the fiber was of a decent length. I pulled off the edges and put them in some small zip-type mesh lingerie bags. They'll be separate from the yummy part, which I divided into quarters and will wash in bigger mesh laundry bags. The wool is squishy-soft and so full of lanolin it makes my hands feel dipped in lotion! Scouring the first batch of the wool proved to be an adventure. I'll elaborate next post, as it's getting late and I'm tired.

More stuff (and pics) next time. . . .
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