Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A couple more FOs

I finished the scarf from the indigo class. I had to soak and rinse it to neutralize the ph for the silk. Here it is...

I also washed and blocked the second blanket that will be donated. I didn't work on this one at all except for the blocking. 

Both blankets will be going to the local domestic abuse shelter on Friday. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Finally finished! and Rhinebeck 2016

I spent the past few weeks finishing up a blanket that is going to get donated to the local domestic abuse shelter. Many moons ago, my professional society asked me to run the knitting part of a community outreach project and I thought of Project Linus. However, we wanted to do something local so we decided to make a blanket or two and donate it locally. There was also a parallel quilting project. Fast forward a year and the quilts were done and donated but we didn't have enough patches for our blanket. So we continued and then I disconnected from it for a few years - between work and going to China. When I came back, the board asked me if I would take it over. I agreed and was promptly presented with a large bag full of patches. Some had been crocheted together but most were just sitting there. They were all different sizes!

We met once in 2015 and made a little progress but not enough. So this year, I tried to do a monthly meet-up to work on the blankets. Thanks to a core group of dedicated people, we did. We crocheted around the smaller patches to make them the same size as others and sorted them into similar sizes so we could make two blankets. I brought one blanket home to finish crocheting the last strip on, weaving in the ends, and doing a border and another lady took the other one home to do the same as we were very close. I haven't had a chance to wash and block hers but mine is done.
I'll post a picture of the other when it is blocked. They will be donated in the next couple of weeks. It feels good to have completed this project.

Beyond that, I haven't done much but I am planning to now spend an hour every evening working on something. I did start untangling the silk yarn that got into a huge tangle. I think one more evening and I can start knitting it again.

I also took an inventory of my Rowan Calmer stash and have planned to make a hooded sweatshirt type of sweater from one of the colors. I may make a few more in other colors. I thought I'd make a Wonderful Wallaby but the gauge doesn't match up so I'll just work up a similar sweater in the Calmer gauge.

Next up was Rhinebeck. I took 2 classes. A two-day acid dyeing class and a 3 hour indigo-dyeing class. During the acid dyeing class, we used Washfast dyes and made a color wheel and a grey gradient to learn how to mix and dye colors from a set of primaries as well as dye various depths of shade. Then we went to town and handpainted yarn and fiber. I worked on fiber only. I dyed some Corriedale roving and a bunch of Montadale/Corriedale locks that I had washed from a partial fleece.
 That is my roving on the right in the top picture and the locks I dyed in the bottom.
With our color wheel and gradient skeins, we made color cards for ourselves with the recipe foe each color next to the sample. This is the color wheel we dyed. This photo shows the full 5 gm sample skeins that the teacher brought to class. We dyed the same colors in class but cut up our skeins to make the cards.

While I've dyed before and am quite a confident dyer, I didn't feel I had the details nailed down to produce consistent and repeatable colors. Now I can use my icing gel colors or synthetic colors like Washfast to dye more systematically and therefore repeatable and consistent.

My final results from the 2 day class:

I plan to flick the locks and spin them as is. They were a medium gray to begin with. I am surprised at how bright the color is on them. The roving is a sample from the Corriedale I bought in New Zealand. I want to spin it and see how it works up and then I'll dye more. I made notes on the colors I used. I was inspired by the fall.

The indigo class was a lot of fun also. The teacher made an indigo vat and we did shibori work and dyed a silk scarf. Mine needs to be finished with the last couple of soaks so I will photograph it when it is done.

There are the vats we used and a close up of what it looked like inside the vat.

I also bought fiber and an impulse purchased shawl pin. The only item on my shopping list was Power Scour as I believe it cleans at a lower temp than Dawn blue detergent. In order to get the Dawn to work, I have to add boiling water to my laundry tub that is pre-filled with the hottest tap water. This involves many 8-qt pots of boiling water that have to be carried from the kitchen to the laundry room. I don't enjoy this process because I am prone to dropping things and boiling water all over me won't be pleasant. Shipping costs on Power Scour are high so I wanted to buy it. I went to Carolina Homespun and was told that they don't sell it at fairs where they have to ship because of the weight! Fortunately, Susan's Fiber Shop had it. They probably drive here while Carolina Homespun ships their stuff to Rhinebeck.

The haul:

 A Cyprus gradient from Fiber Optic Yarns. I am going to spin this with Wild Thyme, starting with the green and going to the blue and blending the two blues before going on to the green in Wild Thyme. One blue is more purply than the other but I put them next to each other and they look good.
 A braid of Queen's Red. I have a one-of-a-kind braid that is similar to Queen's Red and I think I can ply them together to create more of a complex color. I'll have to see. Either way I love the red.
I also bought 4 oz each of 3 different tops from Maine Top Mill. This is the Lightspeed blend of merino, rambouillet and sparkle nylon.
 This is the cStorm from Maine Top Mill.
And lastly, this is 14.5 micron merino (in the cashmere range) blended with yak. The top is very good quality and very airy. A lady in the booth had bought an ounce the day before and spun it in the evening. She was back to buy a bunch more and said it spun like freshly combed top.

I got 2 bags of the Odds and Ends from Into the Whirled. These are inexpensive for hand dyed fiber and are a lot of fun to spin. You can spin them on the go on a spindle as they are small quantities. Then you can use them together because she has combined colors that go together in each bag. Last year I stopped by on Sunday and they were all gone. So this year, I went over after lunch on Saturday, after the hubbub had died down. I was able to pick from quite a selection.

This was my impulse shawl pin. It is sterling silver and copper and is knitting needles and yarn. I bought it on a total impulse and it was expensive but I love it. I hope it stays in. Most shawl pins fall off and I'm afraid of losing them so I don't wear them. It is from On the Bend. I asked if she could make me a spindle pendent and she said yes. That might be something I commission.

 In my dyeing class there was a lady from Australia. Her shop is It's Ewe! and she breeds 15 micron or AAA rated merinos. She says the fiber rarely leaves Australia and what does leave is snapped up by top designers. She gave each of us a sample of her fiber. It is lovely!
Finally, last but not least, this is a scarf a friend is making from my handspun. The fiber is from Gale's Art and is called Moldy Pumpkin. It was a Rhinebeck purchase from a few years ago.

I didn't try to keep the colors together. Just divided in half and spun it end to end and then made a 2 ply. I think that is the perfect choice of pattern for the yarn!

Monday, September 19, 2016

New beginnings (spinning, knitting, book)

I finally have caught the spinning bug again. It started with the Spindolyn checkout and that reawakened the joy that spinning brings to my brain. While I don't seem to have the energy to do much in the evenings after work, I find that spinning late at night when I can't sleep works best for keeping the snacking monster at bay. I am really working on eating just 3 meals a day with nothing in between so snacking at night is a no-no.

I couldn't sleep last Tuesday night. I was up till 2 am in the morning and finished spinning the mystery fiber I got with the Spindolyns.

That is the cop on the Spindolyn. It went very well. I then wound off the cop onto a center pull ball and then wound that into a 2 strand plying ball so that I could divide the fiber evenly into 2 halves to make a 2-ply yarn.

To prevent the ball from collapsing, I left the center core from the ball winder in. I wound the plying ball onto a tennis ball so that the singles would stay nice and even. Sometimes I use styrofoam balls covered with bits of handspun yarn. 

There's the fully wound plying ball with the empty ball winder core. Then I couldn't sleep last night and plied the yarn on the Hansen Classic mini-spinner.

I haven't wound it off and finished it yet but it is yarn. 

I also took the Nano Trindle on a trip to the spinning guild meeting. We meet in a historic inn and I like to take spindles with me so I can not only spin during the business meeting but also walk around and spin while everyone else is eating and during the mini-workshops we run. This time the event was a Spin-in to collect money for the local 4-H shepherds. A couple of our members volunteered to donate $2 per spinner for the 30 min Spin-in. Plus, some of us also donated some money to the 4-H clubs. While we were spinning, we were entertained by jokes, spinning quizzes, information on ergonomic spinning, and prize drawings. 

I photographed the Nano against a dish at the inn. I wanted to get some of the historic aspects but there was too much rough wood and dust and the Nano is tiny and filled with cashmere/silk.

I also spun some more on Saturday afternoon when a friend visited. She brought me this luscious yarn.

I was nominally a member of Team Trindle for the Tour de Fleece, so I got a present from the sponsors. That was very sweet of them, given that I had not spun at all during the TdF. But they are very nice people. Jeremy, aka Trindleman, repaired my Nano last year for no charge when the hook came off during last year's Tour de Fleece. And he has replaced other shafts that split. Cat, aka Mrs. Trindleman, made me a lovely batt. It came accompanied by a bracelet which makes a great distaff and a card.

On the knitting front, I ripped out the shawl and restarted it. The increase rate on the edges is very high so the edge was tight and I was afraid it would not block properly and pucker. I am re-doing it with a yo at the edge that I drop on the subsequent row. This adds more yarn to the edge and allows it to stretch to accommodate the extra sts.
That's the current state of the shawl. Compare that edge with the one from before at roughly the same size.

See how much tighter the edge is? It is worth it to rip and re-knit and get the result one wants. 

Last night I also spun a little on the Gotland and am anxious to complete it so I can move on to spinning other things. Sadly, it all looks very much the same as it did when I left it so I didn't take any more pictures. 

Finally, a new book arrived today. Janine Bajus, aka the Feral Knitter, has finally completed and is mailing out her book. This is the essence of her 3-day 'Design your Own Fair-Isle sweater' in a book. I've never had the opportunity to take the class so I will be studying the book. I am anticipating diving into it with excitement.

I think I will knit a little more on my shawl and then head for bed with my new book. 

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Locks and locks

Last weekend, I spent some time spinning on one of my new Spindolyn spindles. I also pulled out the Nano Trindle that was repaired last year and started spinning on it again. And I continued to package up fleece for washing. So 3 new spinning things in one weekend. That is what happens when you have a 3 day weekend.

First up the Spindolyn. I took one of the pieces of fiber that was used to pack them and started spinning to see how it worked. I am quite impressed with my own speed. Since I don't have to support the spindle with my hand once it is spinning, I can use both hands for drafting so I am able to draft top much faster and with a more consistent grist. Usually I find this goes slow on a supported spindle. Roving and rolags or clouds go much faster as the supported spindle is really good for long draw. If I spin from top, I usually do it over the fold and that takes time as I run out of fiber and have to grab another staple length to fold.

Here, I just drafted straight from the length of fiber and kept going. So it went very fast. I am impressed. Next up, I am going to try some silk I have which I want to spin thin to go with some Corriedale that I spun on my supported spindle when I was learning. I will ply them together and make a scarf or something.
 That was in about 2 hours

This was at the end of the weekend, after a few more hours. You can see the difference in the length of fiber attached to the cop.

I spun a little on the Nano at my sister's where we went for dinner. The dog thought the spindle was her toy so I had to stop shortly after. She's a bit exuberant to say the least and doesn't have very much self-control although they are working with her. When she gets excited, she forgets all her training.
That is the Nano and the fiber with a coffee mug for scale.

Finally, I continued packaging up the Finn lamb fleece I bought over the summer. One of my guild members raises Finn sheep. She had brought in a fleece for someone who didn't want all of it so she offered me the remainder. I thought it was 2 lbs but I'm not so sure any more. It seems endless!

I started packing clumps of locks into laundry bags as I thought I might want to spin from the lock. This preserves them the best so I have the widest set of options for further processing. I can spin from the lock, comb or card. But previous experience has taught me that if I just put the into bags they all get jumbled. So I thought I'd sew them into the bags. I did the first lot on Memorial Day weekend.
 That is the fiber. It is a lovely brown color.
 This is my first set of bags with the sewing. My first thought was actually barrettes. Clip on and clip off. But they didn't hold. So I sewed with a polypropylene thread so I could just unravel it when I was done. It took too long! I only created 4 bags in the course of most of a day. All the supplies are from the dollar store.

I took a picture of the locks outside the bag as you can see the crimp and lovely lock structure much better. It is very soft and crimpy.

After that day, I needed more bags and I thought of safety pins! So I went and stocked up at the dollar store. This is faster. I make 4 pockets side by side across the bag with the pins, put the fiber inside, close up that set of pockets with pins, make 4 more and repeat.

In a couple of hours I had 4 more bags filled. But there is more fiber! Once they are all packed up, I can pull out a couple of bags at a time and wash them in the evenings when it is dark. The VM and bits of stray stuff gets tossed outside rather than having to be swept up inside.  It also keeps the smelliness outside.

I have some Cormo fiber I bought at Rhinebeck last year that needs the same treatment. But it is only 1 lb. I will have to weigh this after I am done to see if my 2 lbs was on target or not.

It is supposed to be nice tomorrow so I might try and finish this up then. If I have bags left, I will move on to the Cormo. Else it will have to wait till this is all washed and out of the bags.

Finally some eye candy from my train trip yesterday along the Hudson river.
 These two are around Bear Mountain bridge.

 That is Bannerman Castle.
Going under the Newburgh Beacon bridge.

That's all for today! I've been very chatty.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Gold silk, beads, and spindles

I started knitting my silk shrug and it is progressing along well.  This is a picture from earlier in the week. It is a bit bigger now but the same shape.

I also managed to photograph the Czech beads I bought on vacation to make jewelry
 This lot is meant to be used together. I also have some gold beads and some clear beads with gold crackle that might be nice to combine. The beads on top are hand made and the rest are machine made.
This is the second set I bought to mix with some other beads that I have. I can't really tell what is going to look nice till I put them all together because the sizes and proportions and the colors all make a huge difference to how they look. The ones on the top left are tear drop shaped. I got them all at Miss Bijoux. The store is right on Wenceslas Square, which is very convenient for anyone who is going as a tourist. That is right on the tourist track so easy to get to.

I haven't been spinning at all which is strange since I love it. I have been very tired in the evenings and weekends have been jam packed with yard work, preserving CSA produce, exercise, etc. I made some herb salt using this recipe, which is for basil salt. Mine is about 90% basil but I threw in some rosemary, lavender, sage and oregano just to add some other notes. I used this recipe vs. the one I used last year because this uses more herbs. My basil is growing like Jack's beanstalk this year. I have already frozen pesto twice, and basil mixed with olive oil twice and that is about all I can use. It suddenly struck me that I could make salt now and give it as Christmas gifts later. So I did.

I also dried mint leaves for tea and will be drying sage leaves this weekend just for cooking.
Those two jars in the back are the basil/herb salt. The rest is the mint.

I got a spiralizer on Amazon Prime day and have been spiralizing everything since. Mostly zucchini. It is a great lunch alternative to soup. I make stir fries, thai curry, Mediterranean flavored, etc. veggie noodles and divide them up for lunches during the week.

And since I haven't been spinning, I decided to indulge in a little spinning retail therapy and bought these 5 gorgeous Spindolyn spindles. I like supported spindling in odd moments and am hoping that this will help me get more into it. These are all made from American woods.
They have a base so can sit beside you and the hook on top means that you can draft against it instead of a pure long draw as with other supported spindles. Now I need to get back to spindling! With my new Hansen Pro, that is two sets of tools that I need to play with.

But I've been mostly just knitting at night while listening to podcasts or reading a book.

My plan for the weekend is finish making packets out of my Finn lamb fleece so I can start to wash them as it gets colder. To preserve the lock structure, I am putting them in large mesh laundry bags with safety pins separating them from each other. It was too much work to sew them into bundles and the pins work quite well. This way I can wash 2-3 packets in a sitting and let them dry without having to handle the locks and mess them up. I'll get pictures as I make these so you can see what I'm doing.

It is a smelly fleece so I prefer to work outside to make the packets and then i only need to remove what I'm going to wash from the bag. I got half a fleece from a spinning guild member who raises them. I also have a Cormo that I bought last year at Rhinebeck to wash. But the Finn is smellier so I am doing it first.

Have a great Labor Day Weekend everyone!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Spinning poker and a whole lotta DIY

I quit! I can't get this darn blog post to have a decent sized font! I've been formatting and reformatting it and it just isn't sticking!

This week hasn't had any spinning or knitting in it. I thought I'd get some done this weekend but I've been busier than I expected. But I want to get back in the habit of blogging regularly so I bring you spinning poker and some DIY.

Spinning poker, you say? What is that? It is something to get one out of a spinning rut. I read about it on a spinning group in Ravelry. It was apparently done in a spinning group that met f2f. I took it and adapted it for a small spinning group on Ravelry that I belong to. We use themes and such to keep ourselves motivated and spinning. 

I created a set of categories and put items in each one. Then I told people to pick.a random number in each category which would be like picking a card from a deck. The categories and items in each category were as follows. Based on the number they picked, they ended up with a series of selections that determined their spinning project. 

  • Fiber type: angora, primitive, luster longwool, alpaca, BFL, silk, Merino/Rambouilet/Cormo
  • Blend: blend or no-blend
  • Fiber Prep: hand-combed top, hand-carded roving, commercial roving, rolags/punis, commercial combed top, anything but the others
  • Drafting Method: backward draw/twist between the hands, backward draw/no-twist, forward draw/no-twist, forward draw/twist between the hands.
  • Finishing: thwacking, semi-felting, hot/cold alternate soaks, snapping, anything goes
  • Add-ins: sequins, beads, found objects
  • Plies: 1, chain, 3, 2
I had someone pick a set of numbers for me. I ended up with commercial carded roving, silk, blend, singles with beads and thwacked (or something like that). 

Since I had to a singles yarn with beads, I had to thread the beads on the fiber and that is where I ended up stuck. I started but ran out of time to finish so it is in the WIP pile. It did allow me to experiment with beads in spinning and I'm looking forward to finishing it. 

I had roving given to me by a friend so the first step was to pick out beads. These were the beads I considered. 

This is the roving. It is from the UK so a name I didn't recognize.

And my start at adding beads to the roving. I decided to put beads on 25% of the fiber and then spin these in with the rest as I spin the singles. 

I spent the weekend tackling a bunch of stuff around the house. My 4 basil plants were bushes so I cut them back severely and made a basil finishing salt with the leaves. I combined some sage, rosemary and lavender for a bit of depth of flavor although it is about 90% basil. I also put in some sea salts that I had bought in France along with kosher salt. I had previously made herb salt using a recipe from the Splendid Table but it didn't have the herb/salt ratio I was looking for. So I found another recipe that worked out very well. I highly recommend making herb salts as gifts. They are very well received, have the potential for creativity in packaging, and are a consumable gift so you can repeat them year to year. 

I also had run out of a couple of my staple spice mixtures. I have started making my own after years of getting them made in India and carrying them back or buying in the Indian store here. The acquisition of a Vitamix on my return from China made this possible. It grinds so well that I am able to get the spice mixtures as fine as the mills in India. In India, you prepare the spices - proportion and roasting - and then send it out to a mill to be ground. 

I made idli powder (also known as gunpowder because it is typically spicy). I also made a curry powder from a specific community in Tamil Nadu, whose flavors I like. I mix this with a similar one that is from my family. A lot of these mixtures are very individual to cooks and families and the one we use at home is my mother-in-law's recipe:

  • Dried whole round red chillies: 300 gm
  • Coriander seed: 400 gm
  • Black pepper: 100 gm
  • Toor dal: 100 gm
  • Chana dal: 100 gm
  • Fenugreek seeds: 2-3 teaspoons
  • Black mustard seeds: 2-3 teaspoons
  • Turmeric powder: mixed in when the curry is cooking. If I had access to dried turmeric root, I could grind it with the rest. 
I really want to be back to knitting/spinning this week. I've caught up with a lot of the stuff that kept me busy last week and hope to have freed up enough time to play.