Friday, April 29, 2016

Fibre Friday

As you might be able to guess from my prolonged absence I've been a little busy. My usual damselfly activities of flitting from one thing to another plus a whole raft of family visits seem to have eaten my life! I've even been out in the garden finally after avoiding my usual spring duties apart from harvesting the early produce. Much more work is needed but I have to build up to it slowly. I prefer nibbling away at it anyway rather than go all out and risk hurting myself. Self-preservation becomes ever more important as we age, doesn't it?

One of the nibblings has been the Arcott/Romney blend wool that I'm prepping to spin. The Arcott has been teased and carded into batts and now I'm onto the baby Romney. This is a fleece I bought ages ago and washed in locks carefully in little net packets. I think I was planning to comb it. However now I need to card it to blend equally with the Arcott. The cut ends are matted enough to make it harder to tease in the normal way and the tip ends are a bit dirty still. So I hit upon the best way to deal with this - flick carding. First I pull the bunches into smaller locks:

The small sections are much easier to hold and flick. In order to avoid pulling off too much waste I put a twist in the lock and grip that with my fingers. Flick the tip end:

It looks so pretty all fluffed out!

And check out how much dirt falls out! Flip the lock around (hanging onto the twist still) and flick the butt end:

The whole lock is now open and runs through the drum carder like a dream.

My flicker is a Woolhouse and I've had it for at least 25 years. I used it during many a sheep-to-shawl competition! It has held up very well considering the amount of wool it has processed over the years. The plastic lap board underneath was recycled from something or other and saves damage to clothing or furniture. Here's the little bit of waste left after flicking the lock. Short bits and neps that you don't really need in the yarn.

I still have plenty more of this fleece to process but the carding and blending will go quickly once I'm done.

What else? I'm weaving on the third of the six tea towels. Nearly halfway there and I'm very happy with how they are turning out. The Still Dark tunic has a sleeve and a half to go. I'm knitting in more decreases than the pattern calls for since the sleeve seems wider than my skinny arms prefer. This tunic is a relaxed fit anyway but I don't want to swim in it. And the Falklands wool is about 3/4 spun up. I'm going to need it for my next sweater so I'd like to finish spinning it soon. Though I haven't been working on it as much as I should.

Never a dull moment around here! And it's always Fibre Friday. And Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday as well...


Sunday, April 17, 2016

Yarn It All

So I spun up a wee sample of the Arcott/Romney blend wool and even though the Arcott is only half of the fibre content, it still looks delightfully fuzzy! 

And here are the sample swatches that I knit with it:

I wish you could feel how light and soft but crisp this is! If you'll recall my plan here is to spin and dye and finally knit the Intersect cabled cardigan by Norah Gaughan. My first needle choice was the recommended 4mm and that's what I knitted the chart swatch with as well as the first section of the stockinette swatch too. It's a little too loose so I went down to 3.75mm for the upper part of the plain swatch and now I'm much closer to the correct gauge. It's always a challenge to try to match the stated gauge since I virtually never use the recommended yarn! Even when it isn't handspun. Plus I tend to be a relatively loose knitter - except when it's socks! I'm pretty happy with the final results here and I actually prefer the slightly tighter fabric.

Much more teasing and carding still to go! I discovered that the Romney fleece is much better when I flick card the lock ends instead of teasing them. That gets off the dirty tips and loosens the matted cut ends very nicely. Happily I had already washed this fleece while carefully keeping the locks intact thinking I might comb it but flicking is actually a better option. With the Arcott fleece it is easier to just tease it thoroughly to get out as much of the excess VM as possible before carding it. I'm already about 3/4 of the way through it so far. And leaving drifts of dirt everywhere around me as I work on it! Heh.

When I'm finally finished spinning this wool (some day?) I plan to mordant it with rhubarb leaves and dye it with madder to get something like this colour:

I've already started harvesting my rhubarb and I put the leaves in the freezer to wait until I have enough of them and the yarn is spun up and ready to go. The dye sample piece is part of my natural dyed roving collection that I've been working on for a few years now. Here it is after I dumped it all out and arranged in like colours before bagging it all up again:

Those are all colours from my garden! And yes, there are definitely more than a few projects' worth in there. I had a very enjoyable time sorting this lot and dreaming about the combinations I could make. However I have enough to do for the moment so they will have to be patient and wait until this fall before I can get to them. Or at least get to one project using some of this lot.

Meanwhile I finally have the tea towel warp on the loom and the first towel is magically nearly half woven! So exciting. This time I got smart and did all the complications in the warp so the weaving is easy and relaxing. Only four treadles and six picks in the repeat plus plain weave hems. One shuttle and a single colour weft. Temple in place from the start so no excess draw-in. I only had one misthreading near the end and it was relatively easy to repair. Or it would have been easier if I hadn't knocked about 30 heddles off the end of shaft 1 when I tried to put a new heddle in to fix the mistake! Here's a teaser shot. Note the end of that heddle has to go all the way out to the end and over the bottom bar.

I forgot that I needed to relax the warp tension to get it out there and that's where I dropped everything I was holding. Texsolv heddles are a PITA to get back on untwisted and lined up correctly. Twist ties are your friend! (Coulda, shoulda, woulda!) Done now though and it's going well.

In other news I've begun planning our big trek to Newfoundland and back! We're off for at least 2 months beginning in August to try for the one province we missed last time in 2013. Old Fraulein Blau is looking very spiffy as Thom works to get her in as great a shape as possible. See her shiny new running board that he just installed?

That's a concession for me and my arthritic hip. So considerate. He also fixed the leaking sink drain and now he's replacing the trim around the windows. My job is to replace the elastic in the front window curtain and the back of the pop top plus put bigger magnets in the bug net that goes over the open sliding doorway. We are going to be So Prepared this time!

I've already been researching our route and spent a couple of days sorting all our maps and guidebooks. The automobile association no longer prints these things since everyone has a GPS (except us!) so they are treasures. Somehow I find room for about 5 kilos worth of printed paper as well as a bunch more info on computer. Or this time it will be my iPad. Yeah, halfway between old-school and electronic. That's me! You can't rely on finding wifi or even cell coverage everywhere you need it. It's a long, long way and I take my navigational duties very seriously. We do want to find our way home again.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Reporting In

Been awhile, hasn't it? I've been plugging away on various projects. The weather has been pretty fabulous! Mostly sunny with a spring flower explosion everywhere. We are quite far ahead of normal for this month. Even my lilacs are blooming already! On the other hand, of course I'm running behind myself. I did get the peas in but my spring greens are still under the lights in the Grow Op (aka my basement seed-starting countertop). But that's ok. They will catch up. And I'm not planning an elaborate garden this year anyhow.

Now here's the Craft Report:

My Tea Towel Exchange warp is wound and threaded through the reed. I warp front-to-back so the next step is threading all 489 ends through the heddles. For this job I sit on a soft mat on my locked treadles under the loom so the heddles are at eye level. Yes, my Woolhouse countermarch is big enough that there's plenty of room to get under there. It sounds uncomfortable but it's not for me as long as I don't overdo it so it will take several sessions to finish this step. A production weaver I am not!

There's a couple of projects on the go in this category. I'm working on the second half of the Mahogany Falklands roving and continuing with the 2-ply fingering weight yarn. I want to have enough for the Flare pullover by Veera Välimäki: 

It takes something in the 1200 yard range for my size and I already have over 800 yards spun. Another big skein should do it. I didn't have enough of this fibre for my original plan. Or even my second one. So I hope this is it! Third time's the charm? It looks like it will be very wearable and a perfect addition to my wardrobe anyway so I'm happy with this option. So far so good.

The sweater I really wanted to make is the Intersect by Norah Gaughan from BT Winter 16. This pattern takes a good 2000 or so yards of fingering with all the fine cabled sections and the front drape. That's a lot of spinning even before I get to the knitting part and before I can even spin I need to prep the fibre. I've been carefully teasing the Arcott fleece first:

Making big fluffy clouds. Teasing gets rid of quite a lot of the excess VM so I have to do it with a cloth over my lap to catch the debris. It's even better to do it outside! If it wasn't such delightfully sproingy wool I wouldn't even bother with all the work this takes to get it more-or-less acceptably clean. There's also a lot of second cuts showing up. Kind of disappointing actually. There will inevitably be blips in the final yarn. Since there's not enough of this fleece left for the sweater I'm going to blend it with a baby Romney that's much cleaner. It's a tad longer staple and not nearly as sproingy so I'm hoping it will make a smoother yarn than just the Arcott by itself. We'll see. I haven't started teasing the Romney yet but I did experiment with carding the Arcott on my Deb's Delicate Deluxe with the production drum:

I had an issue with the drive band which has a permanent kink in it. (I bought it secondhand.)

This is the improvement after a session in hot water and holding it taught until it cooled. Better. Then Thom packed the pulleys with painters tape to try to get it a little tighter and stop it from slipping.

It's improved quite a lot. Yeah, I could try to get a new drive band but Pat Green is no longer making this model and it's kind of a PITA to contact them. Now I just need to remember to remove the band every time I'm finished using the carder. Interestingly my 40-year-old no-name carder has never had a problem with the drive band. Must be a different (and obviously superior) material. Go figure.

See the fluffy batts?

So squooshy! I'll card each of the two fleeces separately before I combine them. This will help get out more of the Arcott's crap first and also make it easier to figure out an even blend. I'm not quite sure how much of each I'm going to end up with yet anyhow.

A friend was wondering why I don't just get all my fleeces commercially carded because that's what she did. Firstly, the mill she used has closed and I'm not happy with any of the alternative options. Also it costs money! Besides I like to prep my own. It's the way I learned because all those lovely tempting braids of dyed wool you see everywhere were not available when I learned to spin. Raw dirty fleece was it. Not even nice soft wool grown especially for spinners either. More like "We have a few sheep and they need to be shorn so here, have this fleece or I'll just throw it out." The good fleeces came later. And not until later still did vendors grab roving out of the industrial process to make it available to handspinners and finally develop small mills to custom process for you. I don't imagine it's a terribly lucrative business. It takes skill and the right equipment and the end product may not be what you want. Anyway, I have my own equipment (carders, combs, hackle) and I know how to use them. And I have the time. Slow clothes indeed!

I seem to be on a sweater kick lately and of course many of them are in fine yarns. Happily that's the kind of yarn I like to spin. I do have some heavier garments in the queue as well but I think I have enough to focus on for now.

The Still Dark tunic is coming along nicely. The pattern is actually the Still Light tunic by Veera, my current most popular designer. I'm currently heading down towards the hem. Then I just need to knit the pocket bags and the sleeves (3/4 length) and I'm done. Hah. There's a lot of knitting in this beast but it's mostly just around and around and around. Unlike a lot of knitters who want more excitement in their knitting, I'm just fine with boring.

Because I've been working steadily on the tunic I haven't actually touched my Spring Forward socks in weeks. I only have a partial leg so far. This project takes more concentration so of course it's taking longer. Told you I like boring better!

Hate to disappoint but there's nothing new to report on the sewing front. I started to go through my sewing project piles and record the patterns together with their fabrics. Somehow a few things changed their minds (again!) about what they wanted to become. That's what happens when I hesitate at all. Usually though I end up with more satisfying results in the end so I don't mind their rebellious attitude!

What I really need to make is a cover for my iPad to protect it when I'm dragging it all over the place with me. The cover needs a hole for the camera and the ability to fold back and act as a reading stand. There are quite a lot of ideas on Pinterest so it's just a matter of narrowing them down and drawing out the pattern. I also need a hiking bag that holds my iPad (for photography), stainless steel water bottle, sunglasses, keys and lip balm. Now that I no longer have a proper camera I need a different shape than my usual bag. This one is going to take some thought. It has to be easy to sling over my body and easy to access the contents and not flop around or get in my way while I'm walking.

Lastly I need a new knitting bag. Since I've been working on larger projects, I've been using an African market basket but it doesn't travel outside the house. For mobile knitting I don't have a convenient way to pack all the supplies and the work-in-progress. My lunch boxes are great for socks, gloves, hats and shawls but even my larger tote bag isn't big enough for big sweaters. And it would be nice to have a pocket for the pattern so it doesn't get so wrinkled. This is another complex design opportunity and I want to finish all these before we head off on the big cross-continental trip in August. 

More details to come. Off to start threading the loom.

Friday, April 01, 2016

High Fibre Diet

Oh. My. Please continue to remind me that I never again need to buy any spinning fibre. None. And probably no knitting yarn either. (I might make an exception for good sock yarn though because I can't spin what I prefer. But I've already got enough to last for quite awhile.) There's nothing like a good inventory to give you a real look at what you already own! It's frightening actually. And I'm not finished recording it all yet.

This only a single bin. There are many more! Each of those pillowcases has a fleece, in this case Romney which was the easiest type to get locally back in the day. So it's not at all surprising that this breed is by far the largest percentage of my wool stash. I learned to spin on good old Romney! It's nice for long-wearing sweaters, blankets and even rugs from the coarser fleeces. Not next-to-the-skin soft but easy to process and spin up. This lot is from the late 1980's, I think.

I have at least a sampling (and often considerably more than a sample) of pretty much every kind of fibre available to handspinners. After all, I've been spinning since the 1970's so I've had plenty of time to collect it! The attic space is now clean and m*th free. All the animal fibres have been inspected and are either in pillowcases or ziplocks. A few suspect items are cycling through an Arctic Vacation, as I call the freezer treatment of a few days in/a few days out/repeat. I'm probably going to speed up the inventory process now and just record groups of similar items because I'm running out of both energy and time. Two weeks have just flown by! And my study still looks like this:

At least I've located my next spinning project. I washed this greasy fleece yesterday:

It's about 500g or so of a Rideau-Arcott X Canadian Arcott that was left from a workshop with the late Anne Field from New Zealand that I took in 2010. This fleece (from an Alberta ranch) is lovely, white, even and glossy. It's also sadly full of sand and VM:

Quite a lot falls out as I tease it but it's a little more tedious than I prefer. The results are worth it though. Unfortunately I don't have enough for the sweater I want to make so I'll have to blend it with something else. You might suspect that would be Romney. Good guess! I just happen to have a baby Romney fleece with a similar length and feel. It's not as shiny white because Romney wool tends more to cream shades. But since I plan to dye it anyway, no biggie. This will be an ongoing project for the summer.

The weather has been incredibly warm and sunny but I haven't really taken advantage of it. No long walks. No seeds planted. The excellent light has been great for my inventory work however! Anyway, today I'm leaving the mess and going for a long walk. In the meantime I'll leave you with this image from the other morning. My dad's favourite colour was "sky-blue-pink" and I always used to argue that it wasn't a real colour at all. Well, Poppy, I was obviously wrong!

Yes, the walnut tree is the last to get leaves around here. It will be at least another month. Luckily the bare branches are pretty attractive too. We get to look at them for more than half the year.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Much Better!

My Weaving Yarn Inventory Project is nearly done. So far I've invested five days sorting through the baskets, boxes and shelves. In mid-toss it looked like this:

Now it looks like this:

Better, no? And that's not all. There was this:

It now looks like this:

I got rid of a whole big green garbage bag full. And I'm still not sure what to do with the stuff in those brown boxes stacked to the side up there. There's no room in the attic until I manage to sort it out too. Anyone want 3 giant cones of navy blue cotton slub yarn? Each one is a slightly different blue. Why do I have this stuff? Navy so does not go with anything in my house!

On the other hand I did find some yummy treasures that will be very nice to use: fine rayon, linen, hemp/cotton, tencel, bamboo and fine wool. Sadly some of my wool yarns sustained damage, not from m*ths but from carpet beetles. I peeled the worst layers off a cone or two but I was very sad to see that some small cones of pricey superfine merino had gotten munched. Sigh. Every one is now carefully ensconced in sealed plastic bags. This is just not going to be happening again!

I had several cones of mystery yarn so I tried to identify them with burn tests. Anything resembling acrylic got chucked except for that cone of red Aran weight there on the top of the shelves under the skylight. I first want to see if it will make successful tawashi (dish scrubbers) though it's a little thick. I'll be hunting for a different pattern than my usual crocheted spiral. I also have three big bags of wool yarns suitable for weaving a blanket. That will be my project for next fall and winter. Some of it (or maybe all) needs to be overdyed, some needs to be plied, and decisions have to be made about warps vs wefts. It's a big project and it'll be fabulous to use up all those oddments.

You have to realize that I acquired a lot of these yarns (considerably more than half) from other weavers. Either they were unloading their own unwanted stash or their heirs passed it on to the guild. Often I ended up taking the bad with the good and some of these yarns are rather...ahem...elderly. But often something pretty nice can be made from them so I didn't pass them up. I was stocking up. Things will be different in future! I no longer need to keep adding to the inventory unless I truly need it to complete a project. I can't use the "retirement fund" excuse anymore since I am retired. Or, more correctly, we are retired. I want to have the time to actually use as much as possible of it while I still can.

Of course this isn't ALL of my yarns either! There's still the sock yarn stash in the other room and the two cones that I'm currently knitting with but it's a pretty good start. The iPad app that I'm using to inventory the stash(es) is called Sortly and it's very simple and intuitive to use. The free level gives you 200 entries but I upgraded happily (though rather expensively as apps usually go) to the full registered version. It even automatically syncs with my Evernote account. Though you're probably wondering why if I have Evernote that I need Sortly too? I only have the free Evernote level so I can't access my notes off-line. And it's a lot easier to add photos, tags and notes quickly and to edit later. If you need them Sortly will even print you out labels complete with QR codes! There are other advantages too but I won't bother listing them. Suffice it to say it works for me the way I want and that's the important thing, right? I'll be adding more folders and items as I go. I'm not done going through everything yet.

So whilst I've been messing with dusty yarn not much else has gotten accomplished! I still haven't planted any seeds either in the garden or indoors in the Grow Op. This year's garden is going to be pretty subdued anyway if we're going to be away at critical harvesting times. I don't want the house sitters to have to bother with the garden much except for watering a few things. The weather has been shifting madly between glorious sun and deluging rain so I just haven't been inspired. I guess in the scheme of things it doesn't really matter much. What will be, will be. There's always the market where one can actually buy veggies, right?

Meanwhile, here's wishing you a very Happy Easter if you celebrate! Otherwise have a lovely day. We are going to visit with fambly and feast on Bob the Turkey at Milady Daughter's. Off to make the salad as my contribution and Thom's got some of his homemade wine chilling. The Easter Bunny seems to have left a couple of bags of chocolate eggs to share too. Can't wait!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Summer & Winter Placemats

The Neverending Warp is finally off the loom! If you'll recall, I started this placemat project nearly a year and a half ago but injured my hand very soon after beginning to weave. And when my hand was finally well again I was busy doing other things. It sat there taunting me but it was really hard to get up the interest level to get back on the bench. Instead I did everything else but weave: knit, clean, garden, paint doors, sew, sew and sew. 

However my guild decided to organize a tea towel exchange and I had the brilliant notion to join in to push myself to finish up the project languishing on the loom. Or to cut it off! Of course I can't waste that warp so I finally jumped in and just got 'er done! It was surprisingly hard to get a rhythm going again, to find the treadles with my feet and to make even beats and neat selvedges. It didn't help that I had planned to use different treadlings and wefts for each mat! I played along with that decision through the second one (which I had already started) and continued limping through he next couple of variations. By the fourth one I realized that I was losing interest again so just did borders with plain weave in the middle. The fifth one was the charm though. I liked the results and it wasn't hard to weave. I was finally getting some of my skills back. So I wove the last four (out of eight) the same. So now I have four totally different mats plus a set of four matching ones. Done.

The big cut-off:

I wove a minimal sample of each structure at the end of the warp for my notebook.

So nice to finally take the shears to this beast!

Unrolled off the cloth beam.

Washed, pressed and hemmed.

The deets:

Weave structure:  2-block 4-shaft Summer & Winter
Warp:  3/10 mercerized cotton, natural, sett at 20 epi (2 per dent in a 10 dent reed)
Wefts and treadlings (top to bottom in above photo): 
1. 3/10 mercerized cotton, peach. No tabby. Lace treadling.
2. 2/8 rayon, dyed orange. 10/2 mercerized cotton tabby. S&W variation.
3. Slub cotton/rayon novelty, yellow. 10/2 mercerized cotton tabby. S&W variation.
4. 2/8 rayon, dyed orange and teal. 10/2 mercerized cotton tabby, 3/10 mercerized cotton plain weave. S&W polychrome.
5-8. Cotton bouclé, natural. 10/2 mercerized cotton tabby. S&W variation.

Final finished size:  each approx 13" wide by 17.5" long.

There are wonky selvedges and at least one treadling error that I tried to fix. But they are done! Now I can move on. Next project: inventorying my yarn stash! I needed to shake up the stash anyway. It's getting dusty and dirty and I actually found m*th evidence in one basket! Yikes! I found an easy to use app for my iPad so more about this soon. However I'll leave you with this image of a small selection. Perhaps there's enough there to weave a blanket?



Saturday, March 19, 2016

Communing With My Peeps

A car-load of friends and I drove out to Cloverdale yesterday to Fibres West, our local show and sale of all things woolly and wonderful. It's an annual shopping and schmoozing opportunity that's not to be missed! And there are classes and lectures too. I only bought a couple of things: cotton yarns for my tea towel project (from Jane Stafford) and some nice mid-gray Shetland roving (from Birkeland Bros.). I didn't really need the wool but since there wasn't any more of the mahogany-coloured Falkland wool I bought last year (close but no cigar) I decided to get something else instead. Though I will be blending this with something from the stash anyway for the large sweater yardage amount I'll need. And the Falkland I have already can become another smaller sweater project. Decisions made.

We had a great time chatting with everyone and ogling all the merchandise:

Lots of yummy stuff there but I swear I'm being very good these days with the stash enhancement. Let's be truthful - I already have more than I can probably ever use anyway. I'll leave it for others to enjoy the acquisition.

On the loom I can now see the end of the warp! Yay. I only have a few more inches to go on the last placemat and then I might weave just a small sample for my notes. If I can stand it! I want to cut this thing off in the worst way! Very soon now.

There's other things to chat about but it's late and I need photos first. I can share my first Instagram photo though. There were rainbows on my loom!