Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Le Tour de Fleece compléta!

At 10:02pm, Sunday evening the last bit of the Fuzz batt was spun.  Definitely surprised myself at how letting go of something opened up time.  I do not think I qualified for the Rouge Lanterne as there were still 118 minutes to go but across the finish line at the back of the pack is still fine with me.  

This completion so energized me that at 2 in the am I was wide awake ready to start spinning black cherry bfl.  It's been a long time since I was this excited about spinning.  I delightfully played about 1.5 ounces before going back to bed.  In the morning another ounce was magically completed.  "OK wait a minute.", I said to myself.  "How come you just spun 2.5 ounces in no time while it took 3 weeks to spin 12?"  Hmmnnn and then it hit me.  I was getting ready for and did work 2 Fiber Festivals.  Gee ya think that cut in to my spinning time any?  sheesh!!  One of these days I will start giving myself a break.

By Tuesday morning I had a whole bobbin of black cherry ready to set.

The plan is to make EZ' Mobius Vest in stockinette.  She did it in garter and heavy weight yarns for outdoor wear but I want it for winter indoor use.  And today I have not only 2 empty bobbins, but some 10 wpi plied yarn and a swatch too. I am definitely wearing a halo for the swatch.  The swatch was started with size 10 needles as I want the angora to be able to bloom but I really think the fabric is a bit too open. Then I got out the size 9 dpns, worked 1.5 inches and measured. I couldn't find any difference really. Odd. Did I unconsciously knit looser? No. Then I noticed that a size 10 was holding the stitches. Sheesh. I did that area with one 10 and one 9. No wonder. Yup,  I frogged those 1.5 inches. Who ever heard of frogging a swatch? but 1.5 inches is really nothing on  a swatch.  After the size 9 area was completed I still thought the fabric looked loose. So another section was knit with #8's. This one does look better. Whaddya think?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Tour de Fleece- Sunday Morning

Yesterday I was overwhelmed.  Yesterday I had a list of things to do that would not stop: reskein for the July Sock Hop plus do labels, print patterns, etc to get it out early this week as July is almost over; work on the Sept sock pattern as it needs to go to Bonnie by the end of this week; plus the regular stuff like dyeing and shipping and shopping for groceries.  And I had over 2 ounces of the Fuzzarelly batts still to go.  I am not in the Yarn Harlot's League so my spinning is slower and my challenge smaller. 12 ounces at 28-30 wpi.  singles- no plying in this Tour.

When I commit to something I feel I have given my word and do not go back on it.  I make that deadline a priority.  However this time I just could not see turning spinning into a 'have to' task.  I love spinning for its relaxation and process.  Then I realized that I would not be letting anyone else down if I did not even get the Red Lantern, let alone a virtual yellow shirt. Even though I am important, my sanity is more so.  This is a new concept for me.  Marathon completion is usually the norm.  After waffling a bit yesterday afternoon I made the decision to let go of the Challenge.  Instant relief.  WOW!!!!  Breathing space immediately opened up.

Time expanded.  I completed all the reskeining and labels by 8 pm.  That felt so good I read a chapter in a book then decided to spin more Fuzzarelly (BTW Fuzz batts will soon be available through my website---stayed tuned).  By 10 pm there were only 1.75 ounces left.  Single treadle wheels get one leg way tired for me so last night I attempted having my feet take turns on the treadle.  A novel idea that works well although I am missing my Baynes big time.  That's another incentive to get this part completed.  The other singles to be plied with the Fuzz are scheduled to be spun on Betty B.

This morning I continued spinning before the heat and humidity got too high so now there is only ONE ounce left.

 Whaddya think?  This just may be doable.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Wool Day at the Troy Fair

Wednesday, July 23, was Wool Day at the Troy County Fair in Bradford County, PA. One of the things I love about this fair is its sense of timelessness. The Troy Fair has not ‘progessed’ to large loud beer tents but is still mostly a 4-H centered one. I spent part of the day enjoyably watching teenagers take superb care of their cows (our day is in the Large Cattle Arena). These young men and women do not have sneers on their faces while they bathe, comb, shear, feed and pooper scoop, nor do they look bored. They seem occupied and having a good time with each other, their families and animals. How refreshing!

Our booth is right next to the Jerseys. The first year we vended I had no idea about the cows so set up against the railing separating us. Ha!   The cows are on short tethers to the railing. That year they taste tested several of my fibers. Cows sure have long tongues.   The girls eat hay, look around, eat feed, but can move only a foot or two so some of them get rather interested in us. As a result my fiber gets added fiber.

This year there were 14 vendors and lots of rain. Well this year no matter what there is lots of rain, every day at some point. I wish we could send some to the areas of the country that are dry right now. We left home about 6:15 to get there by 8 which is when we were slotted to get our car in to offload. It's a very well organized fair (thanks in part to Eve H) with walkie talkies and loads of helpful smiling people. We are usually right next to the alpacas; a delightful place to be.

I was turned on to this Fair by Ellie M who is one of the judges during this event. The other two, Shelly M and Deb M, are also from my guild and work with Ellie as a team. They spend most of the day as even handed detail oriented judges who do an excellent job explaining their decisions.

There are contests including Sheep to Shawl, spindle and bobbin filling.

Plus many skein, knitting, crocheting and spinning categories for folks to enter. I am so thrilled that 4 of the winning entries, including Best of Show, used my fibers.

A fan hand spun from Autumn Sunset superwash merino/tencel then knit from a pattern in Piecework magazine.  Amy B made this  beauty with assistance from her husband who fashioned the stand and fan sticks.  It would have won Best in Show but for the fact that Amy did not do it all herself.

First Place skein from Rose blue face leicester, again hand spun by Amy B.

Another First Place for Amy B.  Hand spun from a Pixie Batt then knit in the HeartStrings Morning Surf pattern that was featured in the Summer 2008 Issue of Spin-Off.

Nuno felted from a Pixie Batt, this airy confection is Sharon G's first ever fair entry.  Her First Place Ribbon at the Troy Fair has given her enough incentive to enter this scarf in the NYS Fair in August.  I bet she wins there too.

As you have problably guessed, Amy B took Best in Show.

With vending, talking to wonderful people and so much to see and observe, all in a fairly contained space, 5 o’clock arrived quickly. We packed up, bade a fond farewell to the Jersey Girls and headed north back into New York for Red Lobster.  Thanks to Carol L for taking all the pictures.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Shawl Evolution

This whole process started with seeing some colors that were naturally morphed a bit in a digital image.  They were not the original colors my eye processed but I loved the change.  I thought about those colors for days and then played with silk to dye them just right.  Then they were duplicated in superwash merino/tencel .  The new colorway was called Navajo at first but once researched, changed to Santa Clara as the Navajo did work with turquoise but not really with copper as the Santa Clara Mexicans do.
Next was superwash merino tencel yarn in the same colorway which again took some fiddling but is quite satisfactory to me now.
Usually that is about as far as I go with a new colorway. Usually I am overwhelmed with writing sock patterns.  I think the new Knit Visualizer software has relieved me of quite a bit of chart stress so I have more mental space for other than sock creativity.  How about making a wrap with fingering yarn and using only one skein?  After all we do need something else to do with all that sock yarn we have acquired. VBG.

I poured through my Barbara Walker books. Aren't they the best? --page after page of stitch patterns grouped by categories like ribbing, lace, eyelet, cables, etc.  I found a few that I thought might work so proceeded to play with the yarn.
Finally reaching a decision on which stitches and how to adapt them to my vision.
I really wanted to do this in the round but spent a restless night seeing one problem after another. I like my patterns to look complicated but not actually be so. If this was done in the round, who eee. NO!   So then I thought about back and forth knitting and most of the problems just disappeared.  Such fun!  I was in happy play mode for most of this pattern, actually telling myself it was OK when I'd catch myself.    After all it was for the business and I was just having a good time as we are told our true calling should be.  (Have I told you I have no regrets about not teaching middle school anymore?)Notice the beads on the edging  Very simple to add during the cast on and the cast off.  Oh and those are size 9/5.5mm circs.  How's that for hand relief?

Somewhere around two thirds done I got a call from a yarn shop in California that carries both my fiber and yarn. Carole ordered 6 kits sight unseen for a class she was giving a little over a week from then. How truly fantastic to be so validated but oh my.   Fun time instantly turned into work. Gone was the feeling of timelessness. Gone was the feeling that I could rip this out and start again at any time. Not that it was needed, but just the feeling was important. Now I had a deadline so had to have it all ready to go quite soon. Calm breaths. Calming thoughts. Drink tea.  Keep knitting and writing and typing and making notes and corrections and tweeks. Once I got over the deadline burden the pattern proceeded quite easily.  I found myself really looking forward to blocking the stole, and just in time for Knit Night.

Carol, whom some of you have met at vendings, graciously consented to be the model as long as her head was cut off.
I have left the finishing choices up to the knitter; leave it as a stole, graft it as a wrap or as a moebius. My feeling is that options are a good thing in a pattern as they allow the knitter to make the item more her/his own.  In its first outing at Letchworth, this pattern was a definite hit!Santa Clara Wrap or Stole --- available on my website as a paper pattern in a protective sleeve, a pdf download or as a kit in many of my colorways.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Tour de Fleece Update

I started spinning specifically to work with angora.  I was laughed at.  I was told bunny was a very difficult fiber.  However bunny was my carrot.  Combed bunny was ordered and sat in front of me waiting for my spindling skills to catch up with my desires.  3 months into my spinning career I was making angora singles on a plastic spindle.  Not great singles, not consistant singles, but most of it stuck together enough for me to make a pair of baby booties a few months later.  Definitely beginner stuff but definitely satisfying.

I have lots of SmokeyBlue combings which have been barely used.  They are being saved for something special.  I am guessing that moment will be obvious when it shows up. Meanwhile I am working with some of Fuzzarelly's clipped English Angora blended batts.  Pure heaven to spin.  (And soon to be available on my website.)

So far I am not keeping up with the plan to have all this spun by the 27th. Only 2 bobbins filled with about 28wpi of heavenly stuff.  The heat has stopped me several times, plus I was away in Letchworth last weekend (more on that another day).   The All Star game this week was a great opportunity to spin a bunch as it was a pitcher's game which bores me no end. This morning's spin from 7 to about 8:30 was very productive before the steam bath out there got too severe. Hopefully more tonight.

Monday, July 7, 2008


When I started dyeing yarn I had to figure out the correct size skein to fit properly in the dyepot so that all the ones in a pot would dye similarly (notice I did not say the same).  This happened to be a one yard skein.  Most commercial skeins are longer by at least another foot and usually more.  It also turned out that people were more apt to purchase my hand dyed yarn if the separate colors were mixed up so they kinda resembled the knitted look more.

OK.  Good idea.  However it takes about 10 - 15 minutes of hand skeining to rewind a dyed sock skein. Sometimes more if the skein gets cantankerous.  I can dye about 25 - 30 skeins in a day so adding that kind of time to my schedule was way more than fun.  The Universe sent me people here and there who would come and skein for trade.  I so appreciate all the knitters who have done and still do this. I also enjoy getting to know them. The down side is they are not employees.  If something more important comes up in their lives, well, they'd rather do that something.  I can understand their preferences quite well but it has left me with agita before shows several times.

Last week Jim was in the shop doing some blank skeining for me on the electric skeinwinder from Fricke.   We got to talking about how the reskeining process could get motorized.  The motor on the Fricke is sensitive to pull so stops at the slightest extra tension.  Jim thought some kind of swift with ball bearings might work though.  Aha!  So online I went and in short order found 5 that said they had ball bearings.  Looking at several knocked them out as they were not very adaptable to differing skein sizes.  Finally the Beka seemed to be the closest to what we had been envisioning.  However nowhere on the page did it give the skein dimensions that it could handle.  It was now 7:50pm on the east coast with Paradise Fibers, on the west coast, closing at 5pm.  Whew! -- I had 10 minutes.

Sure enough I was able to get through, asked my question and was transferred to a pleasant man who knew what I was talking about enough to be able to help.  He went and got a Beka, then measured its smallest circumference which was about 40 inches.  Not small enough. Hmmnnnn.   He knew how the swift was put together so suggested a modification that was rather simple.  He also went to the Fricke website to check out the electric skeinwinder just to make sure.  "Yes" he said,  "It will work.  The Beka spins like nothing is stopping it."  I ordered the thing immediately and had it sent Priority Mail.

On Saturday a nice long box awaited me in the shop.  It was super easy to put together.  Maybe 'cause it was made in the USA so the instructions were written in English first?  We then proceeded to test it out.  WOW does that thing spin easily!!!!   The downside was that the dyed skein would wind its way up the poles and get tangled near the top.  We tested different angles and heights which helped some but not enough. Once I slowed the Fricke waaay down the climbing virtually stopped.  Over two days, easily, with no real muscle power of my own I rewound about 30 skeins of yarn, while doing other things.  I was able to do computer work, balling of fiber, labeling skeins, shipping and other chores while keeping an eye on the two 'machines' and only needing to be there towards the end of each for some winding up and then the tying up of the skein.  This is so liberating!!!!!!!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Taking the Challenge

Today marks the beginning of the Tour de Fleece (and the Tour de France) but we are only noting spinning fiber wheels rather than spinning bicycle wheels.  These challenges get me going and help to keep me focused.  And for someone who is so easily swayed to a new project, limited time challenges do get finished as I have given my word to stick to the timeline.  A few months ago I knit some Slytherin socks and in the winter of 2006 participated in the Knitting Olympics so I know these can be done if I don't overwhelm myself with too many.

The rules are fairly simple.  One must use only stash, start today and end by July 27 and be spinning something that is a bit of a stretch.  Oh and blog about it.

As most of us, I have lots of stash. However unlike most of us, I usually feel compelled to only spin my own hand dyed so I can make another sample.  This challenge is liberating me from that concern.   Basel helped me decide to spin some Fuzarella (that I acquired  second hand and cannot find where to contact her for more) hand blended fiber.  It is a mix of hand dyed South African Fine, angora and a bit of silk.  The challenge comes from the fact that the roving is not uniformly blended so presents me with differing fibers, and therefore techniques, every few minutes.  I am also going to use Wendy.  She is a tiny wheel made by Mr Poore in New Zealand in the 70's & 80's.  Wendy was originally designed for his wife so she could spin in the passenger seat of their VW bug.  If Mr Poore was still making these neat little treasures I sure would be a dealer.

The Fuzarella will be plied with some undyed Blue face and knit into a Moebius Vest.  I have been wanting to make one of EZ's moebius vests for years but.......  EZ is definitely the designer who has influenced me the most.  I really listened to her when she said that one did not have to adhere to a pattern like it was written in stone.  That one could make subtle or even larger changes depending on mood and yarn and body style.  I have done several percentage sweaters and find them quite liberating.  So.... on her Moebius Vest I will be doing stockinette rather than all garter and see what we shall see.