Thursday, April 28, 2011

Progress, step by step

Spinning News

Lots of progress this week.  Fleece is all washed and the last of it is currently drying on the sweater racks.  It has taken a bit for it to dry.  I need to break up the clumps a bit and let it dry in smaller sections.  I'm supper happy with my fleece!  I've spent days online lusting after other fleeces, but I'll have to wait on those.  Mister and I have talked about driving to a few other fiber festivals.  Nothing is for sure at this moment.  Since the two of us are in job search mode a lot of things are up in the air.  My job status depends on his job and I won't know what to do about a job until he hears.  Very complicated.  Anyway, we are in standby mode here, but hopefully I'll get my fingers into more fleece soon.  Anyone know of a shepherd in the St. Louis area that wants a farm hand? 

Miss Crabtree is all spun up!  I worked for hours yesterday plying my first two bobbins.  Plying takes forever and I have to take many breaks as it irritates my hands and wrists.  Still, don't you think it is worth the effort? 

I started working on plying my final two bobbins this afternoon and I'll get them skeined, washed, yardage calculated and re-skeined this weekend.  I've secured myself a critical piece of equipment for accurate measurement and skeining that I'll pick up tomorrow night.  In the past, I've used a niddy noddy.  The twisting and skeining of my yarn with a niddy noddy leaves my wrist (carpal tunnel) in agony.

Miss Crabtree spun up much finer than I expected.  I'm awaiting another tool to help me better gauge my spinning.  While, I had been hoping for a fingering weight yarn for the Japanese Garden Shawl, it appears that I have a million yards of lace weight.  I might have to rethink my plans a bit.  I'm grateful that I won't have to skein this amount of yardage up onto a niddy noddy.  The thought of doing that made my brain and my tear ducts begin to make plans.

I've been giving my new lazy kate a great workout.  I love her!  She holds my bobbins perfectly, is made very well and didn't cause me my first born puppy!  I found her at Ogle Design on Etsy.  I was so impressed with the craftsmanship on this kate.  The pegs are removable and then stored inside the kate.  The kate closes securely with a magnetic clasp and can be put into my spinning bag for travel  Ingenious!

Well that is all for this week!  Hope everyone has a safe and lovely weekend!  
I'll be up early tomorrow to watch Prince William and his Kate begin a new chapter.  I'm just beside myself with excitement.  I remember being a very young girl watching his mom marry.  I love weddings.  
Such a lovely statement about hope and possibilities.

Sheep charm on the back of my wheel.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

In Praise of Sheep

We have had days of rain in Missouri and some strong storms blowing through.  Our airport was severely damaged by a tornado a few days ago.  Mister and I huddled in the basement a few times but we were safe.  I've had a rise in some storm fears, but it seems natural to be a little hyper alert.  Back in January a tornado touched down a few miles from us, damage an area that we frequent.  It was after that that we began to listen for the sirens and take cover.  We have a bin in the basement that contains a radio (I finally remembered batteries today) and a flashlight.  When sirens sounded last week, it took Mister and I just a few minutes to grab the dogs, cell phones and hit the basement.  Our thoughts go to those that felt the effects of the storm more severely than a case of rattled nerves.

Spinning News

No progress on my fleece washing.  With all the rain, it has been just too wet and random to think about putting my hands into water.  I did do a sample spin of a lock with a drop spindle.  I nearly fainted from the effort.  This lovely fleece wanted to be spun very fine and tight.  I could easily see lace weight yarn resulting.  I'll probably do a multiple ply yarn and go for fingering.  With just this sample sample spin, I've been lusting after fleeces online.  No purchasing, just lusting.  I think I'm in big trouble.

Miss Crabtree is about 75% finished with spinning.  I'll hopefully finish my last bobbin today and begin to ply tomorrow.

I did finally purchase a new lazy kate.  I'll give her a test drive soon and post company information.

Sharing the Resources

I must tell you about a video that I've been watching: Handspinning Rare Wools by Deb Robson
If you aren't already in love with sheep, this video will certainly make your heart trip over.

Deb's passion is preserving rare sheep breeds.  Did you know that livestock is in danger of being lost?   The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy and Rare Breeds Survival Trust (UK) has been working to save the unique genetic heritage of livestock.  Sheep breeds were developed my many different people and for specific purposes of the culture.  In this video you will learn were the sheep came from, what they were used for and the unique aspect to their wool.  Deb talks about sheep from both lists and it is heartbreaking to learn how vulnerable some of the breeds are such as the Santa Cruz.  The Santa Cruz sheep numbers only a few hundred.

Deb Robson is full of knowledge and love of sheep.  I'm so excited about her book to be released soon.  The Spinning Loft is selling a package deal with the book and fiber samples from Knitty blog post about Deb's  fibers all spinners should know about list.  I'll save my pennies for that one!

I first learned of the American Livestock  Breeds Conservancy years ago when I read Barabara Kingsolver's book Animal Vegetable Miracle and visited the St. Louis Zoo which had a display about the organization. It is so good to know that there are people dedicated to preserve heritage breeds.

On the Needles

I've had several knitting attacks this weekend.  I seem to have lost a bit of my knitting mojo with the miles of knitting on the Citron shawl.  In effort to regain my knitting mojo, I put aside my Citron and casted on for several project.  Those project each crashed and burned.  Knitting is like that sometimes.  A quick look at the calendar last night prompted me to pick up my sock needles again and I'll cast on for a pair tonight.  Socks are a great mojo gaining project.  We'll see.

I'm off to finish washing.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

In Pursuit of Fiber

Spinning News

So my fleece washing is progressing.  I have about 2/3 of my fleece washed and dried.  I'm so in love with it.  Really - how could I ever buy processed fiber again?  Of course this is silly and I will continue to buy processed fiber still.  Only when I'm processing my own I feel so in harmony.  I've found my place at last.  I hope to finish washing this week and then start combing more.

I'm still working on spinning Miss Crabtree for my Japanese Garden Shawl.  Progress has been slow due to various other projects.  I'm happy to say that as of this morning, I'm at the halfway mark for spinning.

Basket Update

So I tried my hand at basket making and I'm very pleased with the results.  Perhaps I should take a class to learn to do more advanced work.  Until then I see some more baskets of various sizes in my future.

On the Loom

Wednesday at my Crochet Club, I was given a loom.  The anticipation was amazing.  I is a small lap loom and should be a perfect place for me to fall over the cliff into weaving.  I used to have a loom in high school and I loved it.  Somehow it did not end up making the move with me.  I've taken art classes in high school and college were I did some weaving and loved it.  I didn't love weaving quite as much due to the fact that all projects had me use crappy yarn.  This is certainly a Pandora project in the making.  I think I have access to better yarn now, don't you think?
So far nothing has been started, but I'm thinking about what I want to do.

On the Needles

I'm still working on my Citron shawl.  I'll be working on it forever.  The pattern has the bind off row once you increase to 540 stitches.  I've read tales of knitters being driven crazy by the bind off row.  540 stitches!  The kicker is I'm planning on adding a few more increase sections to achieve a bigger shawl and use up most of my 1,000 yards of yarn.  Oye!  I'm not going to think about binding off more than 540 stitches.  Once I'll get to that part, I'll have to work up some sort of incentive program for myself.  Incentive or intervention.  Which ever comes first.

But despite the high stitch count, it is lovely.  Really really lovely.  I know the picture makes it look like overcooked green Ramen noodles.  It is a semi-circular shawl with ruching.  The yarn just makes me want to touch it and hold it.  Good thing because I'll be knitting it forever.

On the Nightstand and MP3 Player

Picked up a new book today,  Sheepish by Catherine Friend.  Years ago I read her first memoir, Hit By A Farm and just loved it.  This was before I was into knitting and was just into agriculture in general.  If Sheepish is anything like HBAF, I'm in for a good time.  Only problem is reading cuts into my knitting, spinning and possibly now weaving time.  Hmm.

A few weeks ago I "discovered" a new podcast, Stitch It!  Meghan the host talks about homesteading, knitting and spinning.  I couldn't have created a better podcast for me if I had done one myself.  It was Meghan's show that finally tipped me into buying my fleece.  I can't recommend it highly enough.  I've been listening to her back list while happily spending some time with my wheel, needles and other projects.

Coming up on Tuesday:
Fleece update, spinning resource must have, and project updates

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Spinner with a capital S

Spinning News
Fleece washing has commenced and at one point I thought I had a problem.  Thankfully all is well.  In fact it is better than that - it is divine!

My starting point - dirty fleece.  Very sheepy smelling with some barnyard mixed in.

Then began the bath of very hot water and a good amount of Power Scour.  I used the hottest tap water I could get plus a kettles worth of water from our electric kettle for each bath.  After the first bath, this was the water.  Ewwwe (thanks Ashley for that joke)!

Second bath - a little less scour

Then the water rinse bath

It was during the rinse that I noticed little white flecks of something.  I Googled what it could be and was alarmed.  I put out an SOS to my online spinning community and got some feedback.  I got some helpful advice and encouragement.  Everyone said keep washing and see if it will process out.  I did a sample comb through of a lock and it seems to be okay.  I didn't see any flecks of white in what I've processed so far.

In processing my fleece, I have several options which will yield different results.  For my Merino/Border Leicester fleece, I am going to comb the locks to keep the strands parallel and orderly.  This is a worsted fiber prep and I'll spin it in a my modified worsted way.  Worsted  spinning is different than worsted  yarn weight. Worsted in the spinning sense means the fibers are spun with little air making a dense, smooth and durable yarn.  Above are my tools.  I learned in my Maggie Casey video that I can use my hand cards for more than just carding fiber.  Traditionally, carding fiber would produce a woolen prep.  I'm combing my fleece in locks to produce a billowy spinning dream.  My combs are not the very expensive and scary spinning tools.  I'm using dog combs which are working just fine.

Top: combed locks
Bottom: cleaned locks before combing

This fleece is coming out to be a range of greys - from light to dark charcoal and I'm falling in love with spinning all over again.  Taking fiber from animal to yarn is a lot of fun.  I can't wait to spin this fleece up.  I'm already dreaming about what it may turn into.  But first I must wash and comb - a lot.

Other Projects

So since I'm going to be spinning a lot of locks I decided that I wanted something handmade and wonderful to hold my fiber.  That led me to the local basketry supply and I found a lovely smallish basket kit.  So I'll very soon add basket making to my skill set (yes, Karyl.....I'm in very big trouble). The shop recently had a class to make a wool drying basket.  I missed it, but I can purchase a kit.  I'll have to get back to them on that one.  One thing I like about St. Louis - we do have a lot of specialty stores and St. Louis Basketry Supply is one of them!

Garden Update

I thought I'd share some garden news.  Our garden is much smaller than in the past.  Blame our standby status on moving or not.  Still, we have a lovely harvest coming up of lettuce and strawberries.  I planted some broccoli, cauliflower and peas as well.  Everything seems to be growing well.  

The strawberries have taken over the bed for the most part and there are lots of flowers.  Hopefully I can get them in before the little critters do.


I have finished a few things since my last blog post.

Mister's sock yarn at a whopping 362 yards!

This was going to be sock yarn for me, but I snafued my color arrangement.  I have long strands of green, gold and brown.  I should have arranged them to have two sections of the color repeat - one fore each foot.  I could have coordinated but not matching socks. I think instead I might make a shawl out of this one.  Maybe this one?

Speaking of shawls, I finished my first handspun shawl.  This is from these fibers which I blogged about here and here.  The top part of the shawl is Blue-faced Leicester (BFL for short) from local dyer River Poet and the bottom section is an alpaca/Merino/Silk blend from All Spun Up.  I'm sorry to say, but my colors in the shawl picture got washed out a bit.  I'll have to rephotograph it.  It is a great fingering weight shawl and is so nice to wrap up in.  The "pattern" is just a basic top down shawl with increases on each side and in the middle (yarn overs).  Simple and easy - great for showing off handspun and hand dyed yarn.  Next I need to learn to dye my own yarn.....hmmm.

On the Needles/On the Bobbin

I am working on a Citron shawl from  I've had this one in  my Ravelry queue for a long time.  I'm knitting it out of Dyeabolical's lovely Merino/silk lace yarn in a lovely green.

I'm currently spinning up Miss Crabtree (remember her?) to knit Wendy Johnson's Japanese Garden Shawl.  Wendy is donating her profits for this shawl to the Red Cross to help the people of Japan through April.  So far the total is over $5,000.  It is a lovely shawl and I'm very much looking forward to knitting this one.

No April socks this month.  After cranking out three pairs, I got a little sick of socks.  Now that Mister's sock yarn is ready, I'm sure I'll have a pair of May socks going soon.  I have plans for two other shawls as well - the Japanese Garden out of handspun and one from yarn already in my stash.  I've been eyeing the Verdaia for a while now.  A lace shawl with cables?!  Yes please!   

Longer update today; wow I have been busy!

Coming up on Thursday:
Progress update on the fleece, podcasts that I've been enjoying and more. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Happiness is....two scoops of wool!

I've spend this whole week not knowing what day it is - I missed my Tuesday blogging in part to this cognitive blip and also uploading some video clips from last Saturday's sheep fest.  So here I am.  It is Thursday.  Here you are.  And here is what I know.

Saturday, Mister and I drove out to the Waterloo, IL for the 25th annual Sheep and Craft Festival.  Before I forget, the date for next year has already been set - April 14, 2012.  Monroe County Sheep and Craft Festival

It was a lovely drive and Google maps gave us a bit of a run around, but we used some logic and figured it out.  Both Mister and I grew up driving rural mid-west roads and have a bit of a knack for it.  We arrived early as I had been well advised that vendors sell out often before the 11 o'clock hour.

As you can see from the picture, we had a perfect day.  It was warm with the sun, but a cool spring breeze kept it very pleasant.  We spent a good deal of time watching the herding demonstration (video below).  I miss herding with a border collie, having worked at it a few years back.  I am not willing to live with such a dog currently, so no pitter patter of BC feet anytime soon.

We headed to the barn to look at vendor tables.  I had finally resolved by Friday afternoon that I was going to make the plunge and purchase a fleece.  Yep.  That's right.  I emailed a local spinner from my spinner's group and sought her advice.  So in the barn, I headed to the table and found a lovely bag of 2 1/4 lb of Merino/Border Leicester cross fleece.  The fleece is lovely and should wash to be a light gray.  So I've ordered fleece scour liquid and a pair of wool hand cards (so much for my holding off, huh?).  I'm beyond excited about my fleece.  It is quite greasy with the natural lanolin from the sheep, but the sheep was covered (aka she wore a coat to protect her wool from too much vegetable matter).  I'm looking forward to washing fleece this weekend and starting to process it.  I'll probably do samples to see how I want to prepare it for spinning.

I also purchased some prepared Romney lamb's fiber - 6 oz in a natural color.  It is lovely soft and bouncy.  I don't have a plan for it yet, but I've never spun Romney before so it needed to get added to my stash.

Mister and  I had a grand time at the festival.  We ate an incredible lunch of lamb chops and brats.  Enjoyed watching demonstrations, talking to people and just enjoying a glorious spring day.

Some of the sights:
Katahdin Hair Sheep

Shetland ewe and lamb

  Mama llama and baby with two alpaca friends

Sheep for "Sheep Pellet Bingo"

Sheep Shearing:

The sheep was nicked during sheering, which you'll see at the end.  The shearer shook his head after and said that he didn't do such a good job on this one.  Oops.

Herding demo clip:

My camera card was too full to capture the end of the herding, but they did get the sheep in the pen.

Coming up next week: 
Large spinning update: Mister's sock yarn, my sock yarn and the start of a new spinning project.  On the needles - finishing up a project.  Have a great weekend everyone.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

For Pete's Sake

First of all, my March socks are totally finished!  Yes, I finished April 5, but that was after extensive non-knitting spells due to travels.

These were out of Dyeabolicial's Strong Arm Sock Yarn in the butternut squish colorway.  I used the sock recipe from the Yarn Harlot once again.  I love these socks.  They are so wonderful to wear and such eye candy too!

Spinning news - I'm waiting on plying up Mister's sock yarn.  The reason for the wait is I started spinning my own sock yarn.  AND I'm hoping to hook myself up with a better lazy kate.  A lazy kate is a tool that holds the bobbins of yarn and allows the bobbin to spin off the string while I'm spinning the two single yarns together.  I'm going to a sheep and fiber show this Saturday - perhaps I'll find one there.

I'm doing something different for my sock yarn.  I've pulled the colors apart in the fiber and I'm spinning them separately to create long runs of colors.  In this case dark & light greens, gold and then brown.  I'm really enjoying spinning this fiber.  It is from Fiber Optic Yarns.  I'm almost finished with the first bobbin.

I've been doing a lot of reading lately and I'm really starting to get the sheep itch.  I've selected my breed already and all I need to do is acquire land to keep my sheep.  Hmm.  Wonder when that will ever happen.  As much as I enjoy this fantasy, it won't be for many many years.  First of all - Mister says no.  He has agreed to a few hens someday when we live where we can keep them.  Second of all - keeping sheep would really complicate our pet sitting arrangements.  Face it, soon we'll have the means and ability to travel more and I want to make up for lost time.  As much as I dream about keeping a couple of Finn sheep, they will have to wait.  And besides that....I would need a guardian for them so that would mean a donkey, and I haven't even mentioned that to Mister yet (Hi Honey!  See my restraint?)

So putting aside my sheep dreams, I've been thinking about acquiring some unprocessed fiber to try my hand at working with it.  This would involve washing it and then carding it to ready it for spinning.  I'm again, holding back, because of our uncertain moving future.  I would also need to purchase carding tools, which are expensive and I'd like to get a class first.  The Spinning Loft has a solution of sorts for me.  They sell a fiber box of various breeds (fine, medium, long and primitive wools) that I could sample.  The processed fiber sampler box contains 1 oz sample of twelve different breeds.  Hmm, gonna have to think about that.  I checked my supply and I currently have about eight different breeds of wool in my stash.  Some are mixed with something others are in the "pure" form.  Anyway, I'm wanting to expand my horizons and try as many breeds as possible.  I have a list made up for Saturday's fiber show.  We'll see what I come home with.

In other news....

Did major garden/patio work today.  I've planted some cauliflower and broccoli that I purchased at the market.  The leaves look a little rattled.  Oops....we'll see if they make it.  I have some lettuce almost ready for picking and I put some peas in the ground today.  Sticking with early crops with the potential move.

Bigger changes....
Mister and I finally killed our cable connection.  We realized that we were spending $80 a month for something that we really didn't use that much.  We used the heck out of the DVR, but what we recorded was..... local free programming.  Does that make sense?  Much of this programming is available online for free.  So if we aren't around when it is on, we can catch it later.  Sounds a lot like a free DVR to me.  For Pete's Sake!  For $80 we can purchase a set of DVDs, more fiber, a sheep (Mister trick!), a really really nice night out, etc.  I realized tonight that I don't miss cable at all.  There were many times that I wanted to watch TV to mellow while knitting, but I could find nothing to interest me (with 130 channels?).  Mister and I also use the heck out of our Netflix subscription and watch a lot of TV series that way.  Here we were throwing money to the cable company for a service we just didn't use.  Silly!

I did get an antenna for our TV upstairs.  Our living room set is older and we need a converter box and antenna.  Waiting on that one.  If I find a deal, I'll grab it, but so far no need.  We can hook our laptop up to the TV upstairs for streaming shows and we have DVD players at both sets.  So far no need for anything else.  The funny thing is I'm really not missing the cable.  I've found so much else to fill my time.  I'm spinning a lot.  When spinning, I'll listen to music or a podcast.  I've been doing more papercrafts.  Again more music and podcasts.  When I'm knitting, I'll watch something on the computer or just listen to podcasts.

Mister and I have resumed our dinning at the table habit of long ago. The last few years we lapsed into eating dinner in front of the TV watch recorded shows.  When my father was alive the family dinner time was a highlight.  We would all gather at the table and talk.  Some of our favorite shared memories are there.

So we are making progress towards the life we want and overall things are good.  I'm enjoying the life that I've been working towards for years.  Happy.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


Mister and I spent the week on the road.  While Mister was attending to business, I took a trip the the Yarn Barn in Lawrence, KS.  I enjoyed my drive through the rural countryside.  People are so down on Kansas, but I found it very beautiful.

The road was hazy from the steam rising off the fields in the early morning sun.  It created quite an atmosphere - haunting and filled with the potential that spring brings to planting.

I passed many fields, cows at pasture, horses and even some sheep.  It was a perfect way to begin my day.

Downtown Lawrence is just perfect for strolling.  The main street, Massachusetts is filled with specialty shops, and restaurants.  I had planned on spending most of the day in Lawrence, but I was still exhausted from our five hour drive the day before.  What began as a plan for the Yarn Barn, the campus of the University of Kansas and Haskell Indian Nations University, was shortened to the Yarn Barn and then lunch.  I did manage to squeek into a Kansas gift store before crossing the street to the Yarn Barn.  Inside the gift store, I was greeted by the Wizard of Oz (yes, we are in Kansas), Sunflower items (Kansas is the sunflower state) and of course KU's jayhawk.  I smile each time I see jayhawk.  He reminds me of my father's best friends, Dick and Marianne.  They were devoted jayhawk fans and introduced me to the rivalry between KU and the University of Missouri.

I wish I had taken more pictures of downtown Lawrence.  Chock it up to tired brain.  The Yarn Barn is in a little nondescript store front just to the left of the crossing sign.

While the outside is nondescript, the inside will dazzle the mind of any knitter, crocheter, spinner or weaver.  And it did that to my brain and more.

 This picture is about a quarter of the way into the shop.  When you want into the shop directly to your right is a HUGE floor loom.  To your left, a table full of knitters.  There is yarn everywhere and weaving equipment!

Halfway into
the store - looms, too many to count.  Floor looms and just in the background is a table full of table looms. 

And in the back?  Spinners' heaven.
As far as I could tell, the Yarn Barn stocks every known wheel that I have ever thought about or read about.  It was magical!  They had a nice stock of fiber and after picking my poor brain off the floor and trying to compose myself, I selected some fiber.  

I scored one pound of Jacob top for my spinning pleasure.  Since I'm on a bend to find new to me fibers/rare fibers this one fit perfectly.  I love the dark greyness of the fiber.  After finishing at the shop, I asked for good local eats.  The kind folks at the Yarn Barn pointed me towards a restaurant just across the street, Ingredient. It was the perfect place to decompress after the wonders of fiber.  I enjoyed the quiet and the food was really good (and there was so much of it too)!  

Mister was shocked later on to learn that I had only purchased one thing from the Yarn Barn.  I think he expected that I would come home with a new wheel, books, gadgets or yarn.  I looked at everything, but really I was content with my Jacob fiber.  I'm finding myself less drawn to buying yarn, and more to fiber.  I can spin my own yarn, so perhaps that is why the change.  Anyway, I enjoyed my time in Lawrence.  Perhaps in the future, I will have to explore it more.