Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Day before flying

The day before flying, especially a long stretch of flying, is always especially hectic. I'm always trying to play catch up on things I needed to do and didn't get done. Today was no exception. I managed to ball up and package all that hand dyed roving that's been drying since Monday.
This is the Flowers Corriedale on the left.

On the right is the same colorway but in Merino/Tencel, which is my favorite roving to dye. It takes the color so nicely and has that wonderful shine. Although I like the feel of silk blended with Merino even more, this stuff really is nice looking and spins up well.

I got a couple more samples combed today, and actually took a few moments to sit and spin the Jacob (the softest Jacob I've ever experienced) and the Polled Dorsett. They're drying now. I also made up a page with pictures of my completed projects (some of them anyhow) in the last year or so, as well as a couple that are in progress right now in the knitting basket. I need to take more pictures and work on that too. I made a list of fleeces that I have in my basement, I'll probably take pictures of those somewhere down the line.

This is a picture of the wools that I'm going to use in the Fair Isles "Basement Hat" that I have next in queue when I get some other projects finished. I'm already excited about starting, so that means I have to get some of the other UFO's turned into FO's.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The gravitational pull of the fleece vortex

Well, there I was. Minding my own business. Not being attracted to the fleece vortex, nosiree, just thinking of all the fleeces that I have already in my basement waiting for me to make a list so I don't forget them again. Thanking my lucky stars that I already had plenty of fleece down in the basement in my stash. Thinking about the hat an mittins I'm envisioning using 4 colors of fleece from my stash, I've already named it the "basement hat" in honor of the stash.

While the fleece vortex swirled unnoticed around me, I did bunches of paper and computer work today and I even managed to sit down and spin for a little while. I finished the second skein of grey alpaca/angora for the other lace scarf I'm planning. I know it doesn't look very remarkable pictured here, but the lace work makes the angora fuzz up a bit and it actually is very pretty. I got a couple of samples combed and even spun and plied the Scottish Blackface sample.

So back to minding my own business...a customer that I had traded emails with told me he'd gotten a hard to find fleece (Polwarth) that interested me, and actually gave me the source. Apparently this person is getting rid of her stash, so I took a deep breath and plunged into the depths of her stash listing. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I now have coming via UPS, a white and grey variegated CVM fleece. I really loved the CVM sample I did, as well as the CVM roving that Liz gifted me with on Saturday. I had been thinking about looking for one from the shepherd but there were none available until December. Yes, you're right, that wasn't all. I purchased a portion of each of a Romeldale and Polypay, already washed once. While I ate dinner the thought of more fleeces needing a good home called to me, and they succeeded in sucking me into the fleece vortex that LadyV and LizzyB had so warned me about. I went back and called "dibbs" on a California Red and a Targee, both portions of fleeces. For me, this was perfect since I really prefer not to have the entire fleece, just enough to fondle and do some projects with.

My wonderful fiber enabling husband asked about my purchases and was very supportive. I'm sure he's wondering where in the world I'm going to put said fleeces, but I've actually cleared out some space by doing all the dyeing for making fiber mixes for the business. hehe...where there's a fleece, there's a way.

Monday, August 29, 2005

I'll sleep well tonight

Just so you didn't think I'd taken my day off (from flying) off, I got up early and hit the ground running by working on washing up my grey romney/lincoln fleece, washing some white romney that I was going to get into the dye pot, and actually dyeing said white fleece: I also needed to make some Merino/Tencel hand dyed rovings in a certain colorway for a customer's order, so that got done too:
In between waiting for the dye to cook and all that fun, I managed to get another sample done. Today I spun the Perrandale which is very much like CVM. I'm not even half way done with the samples, but I keep trying a little bit at a time.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

A nice surprise

While Liz and I were in the basement yesterday, I refound some fleeces that I had forgotten were there. The mystery fleece on yesterday's post, for example, is what I called "Mark's fleece" as Mark picked it out in the fleece sale tent at the NYS&WF last October. It's a Cotswold, thus the scratchy nature.

Another fleece that I forgot was there had a piece of paper in it that said "Blackie-Lincoln/Coopworth Lamb". It looked ok, it was a pretty nearly black, but no big deal. Well, today while I was waiting for the washer to fill to wash another fleece to dye, I started carding some of Blackie. Talk about "poofy", the fiber length was short, there were fly away fibers everywhere, and I was thinking it wasn't going to be any fun. When I went to take the batt off the carder, it didn't come off as a batt either, it had to be coaxed out of the tines of the carder with my doffer brush. What a mess. But I decided since it was so very soft to do a sample skein just to see how it would turn out. It was like spinning yak, very short and kind of a "pull it out of the bag and spin", fibers in every direction. But this stuff spun up nicely, albeit not as easily as roving or off a nicely carded batt.

What a surprise, the color is really nice too, and it's not too scratchy, perfect for a hat! I just downloaded a free fair isles pattern, it might someday become part of that, honestly I haven't decided yet. I have too many UFO's right now to worry about another one!

Tomorrow I have to get back to working on my dyed fleeces to take to the processor. I don't think I'm going to be getting much personal knitting or spinning done.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

What a fun day!

This morning, LizzyB came to visit, bearing gifts and her Ashford Joy spinning wheel! And oh we had so much fun chatting, spinning, fondling fleeces, spinning, eating, spinning, sharing our experiments, spinning, sharing our finished projects, spinning, and just generally having the entire day go by in the blink of an eye!

Dear Liz brought me 4 ounces of gorgeous Chocolate brown CVM roving which I promptly began to spin. I actually got a skein of 2 ounces of it finished, it's washed and drying in the kitchen, I have a couple of ideas for it's use in mind, updates to follow. Liz also brought a generous gift from LadyVee who couldn't be with us today, some Teeswater that was so incredibly bright and shiny white. I went out and bought a dog comb after dinner tonight so I can begin to spin it very shortly. Thank you again Vee, I really love it!

Liz did quite a bit of spinning, too, despite the fact that we talked non-stop! But you know when you're really having fun when you look at your watch and the entire day has gone by and you didn't even notice!

We managed to find a few moments and delved into the depths of my basement that held quite a few mystery fleeces including this one:

which Liz combed a handful with her handy dog comb and made the sample skeins seen in the foreground. I'm not sure what it is, it's a longwool and fairly coarse, but I thought it was beautiful when I purchased it. It has a very shiny lusterous feel, and it's actually quite soft to the feel. I might have to spin it fairly loosely and see what happens. I might have lost the note that I usually put in each bag of fleece saying what it is, I'm not nearly as organized as some of my fleece friends.

I have some other fleeces of undetermined origin in storage, and I'm so very glad that Liz and Lady Vee sucked me back into the fleece vortex, I might actually get some of them out and spun eventually! I have been spinning prepared roving, but it's a shame to waste all the beauty found in these fleeces. This one's note simply says "Long Tail". It is significantly softer than the Mystery fleece, but the luster isn't as high. I'm going to try to comb this as well, perhaps divide out the colors a little bit and make a variegated yarn.

I also have to remember that I'm in the process of making two Alpaca/Angora scarves, so there's that fiber to finish spinning. I did manage, over the past couple of days, to do 3 new samples for the fleece study. I got the Cheviot, High Mountain Cheviot, and Cormo spun and washed. I'm trying to finish that project as there are little bags of wool all over the place. I still have some to card and some to comb still as well.

I did get a couple of rows of the Alpaca/ Angora scarf knitted today. Some days aren't good for knitting, so I did have to frog a bit before it seemed to flow nicely. I now have a foot finished, only 4 more to go!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Alpaca/Angora scarf

After a frustrating and hurtful afternoon of finding and dealing with more vandalism and damage done by the "black sheep of the family", I decided to sit and spin to decompress and try to regroup my normally upbeat attitude. Of course, having a pint of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream in the freezer and a handy glass of wine came in handy with the recovery. :)

While I was thinking things through (and thank you, Elaine, for allowing me to vent to you!) I finished spinning the alpaca angora blend that I started last night, and got a few rows of the "Rabbit Tracks" scarf on the needles too. These are size 11, whopper needles for the lace weight yarn, but I tried smaller needles and it just didn't look quite right. I really don't like metal needles, I really don't remember why I even have them, but I don't have any wooden size 11's so I guess I need to run to the LYS tomorrow. Since I tend to make all my own yarn these days, I don't get to the yarn shop much anymore. I inherited a bunch of metal needles many years ago and these might be part of that group. I thought I'd replaced all of them by now, but I guess not. In any case, I frogged the beginning rows a couple of times, and I'm still not sure that everything is as it should be. Lace is tough for me to envision as it doesn't all come together as a pattern untill it's blocked, and of course, then it's too late to fix any problems. But try, try again is my motto!

Slow day

I'm home again today after working yesterday on my feet for about 13 hours, with the pressure of the airplane and the length of time walking and standing, the ankle was screaming half way through the day. I think it's wise to give myself a little more time to get feeling better. I managed to get another sample (Border Leicester) spun this morning, it's drying in the kitchen now. I wanted to get another picture of the developing sample collection, it is simply amazing how valuable this experience is for me, getting to know the different fleeces by feel and the way they process and spin. Samples I'd loved in the grease are absoulutely coarse when spun, things that didn't "wow" me before I washed them have become my favorites, and it's amazing how much combing and/or carding changes the feel and appearance of many fleece types. My absolute least favorite so far has been Black Mountain Welsh because of the fiber feel, length, and how scratchy it was when I spun it. I couldn't wait to finish spinning it so it was over with! But the color is beautiful and deep, and I love naturally colored fleeces.

I'll continue the process slowly. I'm also spinning some alpaca/angora that I think is going to want to be a scarf for a special person. I've picked out the pattern already, it's called "Rabbit tracks" in reference to the Angora bunny blended into the alpaca. I'm still on the first ounce going onto the bobbin, more to come on that.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Feeling of accomplishment!

I finished the exotic fiber project I'd been working on lately. I began knitting it after finishing the spinning of the buffalo yarn on Sunday. This "Andean style" headband pattern is on the Spin-off website shown there using Paco-vicuna. My own version is made from baby camel, white yak, and buffalo down, all of which I found to be "fragile" yarns which were prone to breaking during the plying process depending on the pressure put upon them. The pattern was pretty easy, I just love doing color work and watching the pattern emerge from the chart! I still have to weave in the ends and block it, but I wanted to get a picture of it finished since I hadn't reported any real progress in awhile. I did have quite a challenge at binding-off loosely enough to make it stretchy but not too loosely so that it won't stay on when worn. The headband is a little bit big anyway, although I did a swatch with camel, the buffalo seems to stretch much more and with giving a generous bit of yarn for the stranding, the headband seems to have grown. It's still so soft that I want to pet it, and I'm sure that it'll get a lot of use come winter! In fact, this pattern is so easy that I'm thinking about some Merino ones in various colors for gifts-maybe 2006 or 7.

Now to work on the mind-numbing garter stitch shawl. It bores me, but I need to work on it none the less. The amount of UFO's (unfinished objects) around here is staggering, and on top of it I have a full plate of paperwork to do today. I'm going to give myself rewards as I get the chores done...perhaps an hour of paperwork rewarded by making a bobbin of the sample wools. I'm actually up to 9 spun samples now, and every time I go into the basement I make myself card another one! Now I'm getting behind on combing and spinning. Oh, for 48 hour days and the need to sleep to be diminished!

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Slow Progress

Progress rather than "finished product" seems more attainable as a goal, and in fact has been my only goal these past couple of days. After being fatigued from my "klutzy" episode on Thursday, yesterday went by in a blur. But over the last couple of days, I did manage to finish spinning and plying the white yak fiber for my exotic fiber project. That's shown on the bottom with the camel down that I had already spun. Now to work on the buffalo, and I did get some wonderful alpaca, and alpaca/angora so I'll choose which to knit in the project when everything is finished and in yarn form.

As for the fleece sample project, I'm working on it slowly but surely. Yesterday, my double Dutch Combs came, and I was able to begin the process of combing some of the fibers that are too long to card. I really enjoyed working with them, they aren't sharp but comb through the fibers so very nicely, just as nicely as the sharp Viking combs. Knowing that I'm often a klutz, I know I'm saving myself from disaster in the future by getting the Dutch ones. After hand carding the Wiltshire Horn fiber (yick), I finally got tired of the hand carding chore so I dug my way through my basement to rediscover my drum carder, managed even to plug it in, and carded around 5 or 6 samples. Boy was that easy and fast compared to hand carding!

Now understand that for me, cleaning the left over fibers from my drum carder is somewhere up there with having a root canal and driving on the Washington beltway at rush hour in terms of my likes and dislikes. The teacher of our fleece study class suggested that some wide hole nylon netting placed over the tines of the drum carder will make cleaning it a snap, just pull the netting off and all the leftover fibers just pull off with it. So off I trudged with my gimpy ankle (I know, I was supposed to stay off it, but fiber is important, you know) to the fabric store where I got a yard of said netting for $0.99. What a deal! Right?

Well, I cleaned my carder as thoroughly as I could, and after measuring and cutting, wapped it with the netting which is a beautiful bright blue. It seems that my trusty carder didn't really like being wrapped, in fact, it so hated to have the netting on it that it kind of ate the stuff, requiring me to pull small slivers of netting out of my carded fiber. Ok, maybe I need to refine my method, but the netting couldn't make it past the two small rollers without being torn apart. I can adjust the rollers to make them further from the large drum, but then the fibers don't get carded as nicely. I'm back to carding (and cleaning) the old fashioned way on the drum carder, sans netting.

There are the first 4 of my fiber study on the top picture, left to right, Navajo Churro (combed), Wiltshire Horn, Columbia, and Clun Forest. The CVM which was wonderful is drying in my kitchen.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Busy day :)

Last night my daughter and her friend came to visit with my "Granddog" Nutmeg. That's a picture of my daugher taken around the Holidays last yeat. We all had a slow and lazy (at least for them) day around the house. I got a ton of fibery things done from washing up the majority of the wool samples for my class (the middle picture is the samples drying on a screen that's balanced on my little used loom) , to spinning the second bobbin of brown shetland for my simple shawl that's in process.

The top picture shows the brown shetland drying next to my sample of Columbia yarn from the fleece study class. I have only a couple of samples to finish washing after my work today, but the big job is going to be to card them all and get them spun. I have begun to card another sample using my hand cards (I actually enjoy working on them with the hand cards because I really get to experience how the fleece is reacting and how soft or coarse it is). I did break down and order some combs as some of the samples are longwools that won't take to carding well. I have used combs before in classes I've taken so I'm looking forward to experiencing them too.

The biggest learning point that I've taken from the fleece study class is the knowledge that I really prefer to use processed fiber! It's so easy and I don't have to pick anything out of it as I spi, nor take the time to wash or card. When I started spinning, I did absolutely love working with fleece right off the hoof. Perhaps having probably 50 or more pounds of fleece still in my basement for me to eventually work on has colored my love of raw fleece. Now, I make no promises that I'll never purchase another raw fleece, there's an irrestible draw of touching, experiencing, and working with it, but for now I'm probably going to enjoy the processed fibers. Since I have such limited time to spin (and today was a fantastic day of zen spinning for me between doing everything else), I don't want to spend too much of my time washing and carding, I just want to sit down and spin. Somehow I just don't get the same zen feeling from washing!

Oh, BTW, I'm looking for some Romanov fleece just because I've never even seen any! I haven't found a source yet, so if any of you have any suggestions, please share! Thank you!

Friday, August 12, 2005

When you love what you do, you never have to go to work

After a rainy and icky day through Chicago yesterday, I got reassigned to have today off and fly tomorrow instead, such is the state of my unpredictable scheduling! That's ok though, I just unpacked a box full of beautiful Greensleeves spindles last night. They'll be requiring my attention today. I also got a shipment of Bosworths. I really want to sit down and spindle with each one of them, but they're not for me so I have to behave! I really do have such a passion for fiber and all things fibery that I love what I do every moment that I am working at it.

Come to think of it, I do enjoy my flying job, at least most of the time (lol) but my passion is fiber.

Then maybe I'll get a little bit of spinning done! I'll at least get a few other wool samples from my class washed and put out on the screen to dry. I hope my gentle readers have a wonderful and fibery day!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Fleece Survey & Other time management skills

Today is day 3 of 5 in the row of huge 14 hour days flying. I'm tired, I can only imagine how I'm going to feel Friday morning. Needless to say, nothing much is getting done on the spinning front. I've knit a few rows on my brown shetland shawl while sitting in the gaterooms waiting for planes but that's about it.

I did have the opportunity, thanks to a lovely fiber person, Jill, to take a class last Saturday. It was a wool and fleece survey class where we went to a wonderful Alpaca farm (A'paca Fun Farm) for a morning spent touching and learning about fleece. I met some wonderful fiber folks, got kissed on the cheek by an alpaca, and came home with 8 ounces of gorgeous alpaca rovings in a couple of colors that grabbed my eye, as well as 45 one ounce fleece samples from the class. I'm in the process of washing them one by one, and have even started to spin one, the Clun Forest. These are all different breeds, some rare and many I had never heard of, much less worked with in the past. We discussed each breed and fleece as we went through the class materials and touched the sample skeins that the teacher had brought. We received a notebook with pages to fill in information about each sample as we work with it. I can do this just a moment or two at a time, so I've been sneaking one into the wash water every time I go downstairs (like I'll do this morning before getting in the shower for work). I'm really enjoying this project, although I do have several bobbins that need their mates' spun so that I can play off them before they get too old to use! And I really want to get going with my exotic fiber headband. Perhaps this weekend will be one of spinning for me, I sure do hope so.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Home Again

Well, we returned home yesterday from the Jamboree to a bit cooler weather than we experienced in Virginia. It was a fantastic experience, and I don't know of anyone that isn't wanting to be at "The Hill" in 2010 for the next one. Here are a couple of pictures of our experiences.

That's me waiting to fill tanks at pool #1. Mark did a bunch of patch trading and came away smiling, and I managed to become the recipient of a few that I needed/wanted for my own collection.

I came home to a box of fabulously soft Bison down, but I have had to spend the day working through the mountain of paperwork that has grown on my desk the past two weeks. There's always the pile of things to organize and put away from an event like this one, and laundry to be done. But still, every moment was worth it! As soon as I get the housework done, and the fiber divided and packaged that came in the last two weeks, I'll be free to sit down and spin. It'll have to use it as a reward, but I have to fly every week day from now until the 15th of August, so we'll see what I can manage to get done.