January 26, 2011

Weaving, Spinning, Staining and .. yay.. spinning some more...

This past week has been spent being busy, without huge amounts of concrete evidence of it.   Sigh..  First it was bitterly cold, so there was fire building, stove cleaning and checking the chooks to make sure they weren't turning into chooksicles.   They are fine, obviously minding the bitterly cold weather much less than I.  They have reduced their egg laying though, but we're still getting enough for personal use.

I've been weaving.  I'm still using it as a reward for doing homework but I'm getting a tad tired of the log cabin design.  However it does make one slow down and enjoy the process which is rather nice as well.   I put on a warp for 5 towels.  I added a few inches to the loom waste because it was easier to wind off that way.  I'd rather have a bit of excess and be left with some sampling space than to find myself short.  Yesterday, I finished towel number 5.  I must have put on a bit more warp than I'd thought because I have enough left on the loom to get another towel woven.  It might not be the full 34 inches long, but it will be usable.  I'd hoped to be able to cut them off the loom today. That won't happen though as I have homework projects to work on first.

I spun up yarn to use for a needlepoint project.  I combed it.  With over 50% waste, it took a while to process but in the end, the roving was very nice to work with.  I spun about 80 yards of it plied and have divided it up into 10 - 15 yard skeins because I'm not sure I want to do a plain white needlepoint sample, even it if is just for homework.  Will that show the yarn off properly or would coloured variations do better?

The Mazurka has been sanded and stained.  Two coats of tung oil were applied and after a 24 hour cure time, okay, 20 hours.. the instructions on the tin say 6-24 hours.  For the last couple of hours I brought the pieces into the living room, near the fan and air flow so it would cure a little faster.  Then I finished assembling it. 

I put on a drive band and carded up some Dyer's Knotweed roving.  It was a tad compacted so needed carding before use.  I spun up a sample skein.  It was  enjoyable to spin on, spun nicely and my skein was perfectly balanced after wet finishing.   I will have to spend a bit of time on it though as the single treadle requires a slightly different foot action and a whole lot more work on the one leg, than the other. 

January 18, 2011

A while ago I ordered the coloured roving I needed to do one of the homework exercises.  Yesterday, I received a notice in the post box, to pick up a parcel.   Since the seeds I'm waiting for are going to be a small enough packet to fit in the mailbox, I figured it was the roving.

I ran into town to the post office and  picked up the box.  It was big, bigger than I expected anyway.

I opened the box... hmmmmmm

Oh look!  There is the roving, with lots of packing material.  No harm could come to that roving when it was back so well.

 Pretty awesome packing material if you ask me!

The real story.  I've been hankering for a travel wheel for some time now.   I wasn't thrilled with any of the Lendrum's I'd tried before - well the exception was Suzi's new Lendrum, which treadled exquisitely, but I was somewhat biased by then.  I'd tried a Sonata, which was very high on my list and it was very nice, but I didn't love it as much as I had expected I would.  Expectations to high?  Perhaps.   I tried out a Joy, loved spinning on it, but just didn't love the modern looks of it.  I realize looks are secondary and function is primary, but I think that if you don't love the way it looks, you probably won't use it very much.  So what to do? What to do?

My Minstrel, I adore.  Not only is it beautiful but it spins like a dream.  The only problem is that it doesn't fit in the truck, unless I wanted to toss it in the box.  Like that's going to happen - not in a million years.   The Traveller I have is incredibly durable, spins nicely and fits in the truck.  It's portable, but a little heavy. Okay, it's only 15 lbs, but dragging it across acres of exhibition hall and parking lots, it feels like it weighs a ton.  It's very pretty but I will admit is a bit utilitarian in it's function.  However I can take that baby camping and never worry about it because it's made to withstand anything.   It's really sturdy to treadle and never shifts or slides....but after the Minstrel, I really wanted a travel wheel that thrilled me each time I used it, like the Minstrel still does.   I also wanted one which looked old, not modern.  After some research, getting friendly spinners to measure their wheels for me, so I could see if they fit in the cab of the truck, I decided to get a Mazurka, sight unseen, untested and untried.   It's pretty.  It's smaller than the Minstrel so will fit in the truck, if the measurements I was given were correct.  I'd heard so many good reviews on it.  It's unfinished.   It's sitting in my living room needing a tiny bit of sanding, waiting for me to get to town for sandpaper, steel wool, stain and a fresh tin of tung oil.   And I don't have the truck today... sigh.

January 17, 2011

Socks, mittens and course updates.

The BFF socks are done!   I put them on to get a piccy of them and ended up leaving them on my feet!  Very comfy they are!  The first sock was fast because I'd memorized the pattern by then but the second sock almost seemed to knit itself.  It was so intuitive by the second sock that it was brilliantly fast, fairly easy but not so simple that it was boring.  The end result is a pattern that I really like.  I like patterns which I can knit while I'm doing something else, like chatting, watching a movie or show or listening to the hockey game.

 I lost my favourite mittens!  They were made of handspun worsted weight, woollen spun wool/mohair blend in shades of grey and blue.  I knitted them up on small needles so that they would be wind resistant, without the thickness of felt, while still being lightweight and flexible.  Some felted mittens are pretty heavy and stiff.   They were warm and pretty.   One day I had them out shopping and the next time I looked for them, I couldn't find them anywhere.  Since it's cold here, I need my mittens.  I've borrowed my son's mittens, black and woad dyed Shetland but I don't want to abuse them too badly, so I'm having to knit another pair.  This is woad dyed (some sort of indigotin pigment anyway) Merino? maybe.   It's pretty soft and it's yarn which I spun at least several years ago.   It's not a large enough skein for anything other than hats or mitts.  I may make these ones bigger and trade my son for his, which have felted up a bit and fit me nicely, so must be too small for him.  I was going to do something fancy, but decided that quick and generic was the way to go for mittens in January.

Update on the log cabin tea towels..  I'm almost finished the 4th towel with one left after that.  I'm being good about only weaving after I've done a bit of homework, mainly, sort of....   Other than that, I'm fighting the feeling that I've not accomplished much lately.  It's the homework for the Master Spinner course.   I can spend half a day carding or combing fibre, spinning it to the required sample, doing the associated book work and what I have to show for it, is a 10 yard sample with the leftovers labelled in a basket.   It know it's time consuming but it doesn't look like a huge accomplishment for the time investment sometimes.  I will appreciate it when it's done though.  I'm starting to think about my 25 hour project... no idea yet what to make.

January 12, 2011

A Method of Washing Fleece

On Monday evening I washed fleece.   Yummy, long stapled fleece from the the Pacific N.W.   They must be very happy sheep because the fibre is very nice; clean, long and strong.    I had two ziplock packets of just over 100 grams each -  4 oz. Imperial measurements.  There was a grey, which has totally seduced me colourwise, with it's sun faded tips and blue grey tone for the rest of it. I washed it normally, in the sink, with the regular precautions of no sudden temperature changes nor any agitation.  It turned out nicely     The other is what I think to be a Lincoln cross.   The locks were so well defined, even crammed into a ziplock, that I absolutely had to wash them carefully to keep the lock structure intact.  Just a warning, this is the technique that I always tell myself, I'll never use because it is too time consuming and fussy!  It is but sometimes....

First, I grabbed a piece of fibreglass window screen.  I keep several pieces for use in both washing and drying fibre.  I used the larger piece which was about 45cm x 90 cm (18in. x 36 in.).  I carefully separated the locks, or groups of locks that some seemed to be in.   I laid them out on the screening to make sure they were intact locks that I was working with and to see how much I had.   There are two ways to do this, one is to make a single layer of locks, package and washing each layer separately.  This method works well, but I find it somewhat tedious and very time consuming.  Instead, I layered the locks on top of each other.  If I had enough screening, I could have used a layer of that between the locks, but I've never really had much of a problem with just using two or three layers of locks at a time.

I packaged up the locks by folding the screening around it.  First, I folded the sides in, then the top down and bottom up.  I used little bulldog clips to hold the sides and two T pins to close the centre seam.  I could have sewn, tied or pinned the whole thing, but the clamps are easy to use and I could find easily find them since they live in my loom bench.  I only ever seem to be able to find 2 T pins at any one time.  I'm sure the house gremlins have huge hoards of T pins, pencils, pens, scissors and sewing chalk, in hidden places which I've yet to discover.

I filled a sink up with very hot water and a good squirt of dishsoap. I tend to use Dawn, because that is what the dishwishers in my family like (they WISH we had a dishwasher!), but any good quality detergent will do, even laundry soap if it doesn't have bleach, optical whiteners etc. added.    I gently pushed the fibre packet into the hot water and let it soak for about 20 minutes.  I removed it, squeezed it out gently and redid the process - once more with hot, soapy water and two rinses.  

I opened the packet and spread it out on my nifty fleece drying rack. On a recent trip to a certain Blue and Yellow Swedish Box store, my sweetie suddenly said in a loud voice to catch my attention  " look, a fleece drying rack"  and poof, it came home with me.. good man...   I think maybe it was originally supposed to work for laundry, but it's fairly lightweight and I wouldn't want to dry jeans or towels on it.   But for fleece and yarn?  It's perfect!   I did have to spread the screen out underneath the fleece to keep it from slipping through the openings, but I'd  do that on the deck anyway.

Of course having washed fleece in the winter, with our dry winter and dryer wood stove heated air, setting up the rack in close proximity to the wood stove and fan circulated air, helped it dry very quickly.   It was easy to separate each lock.  This will be so fun to spin.

January 10, 2011


It's been a few days of weirdness and loss, dealing with the death of a relative.   It's put everyone in a bit of a fog for a bit.  This will pass I'm sure.

In the meantime, I worked on the sock.  It was halfway done when I'd noticed it was awfully stretchy.  At the three quarters done mark, I thought that I might not have enough yarn and that the sock was looking awfully roomy.   When I was about one pattern repeat to the toe, I knew I wouldn't have enough yarn and I tried the darned sock on.   It would have fit an elephant!  I've no idea why I hadn't paid attention to this before.   So, doing the only thing I could, I totally frogged the orange sock.  I tried again, this time with smaller needles.   Nope, still too big.  I tried the size smaller with both sizes of needles, but still it wasn't right.  It was either to big or there wasn't enough stretch, depending on which needles I used.   Then of course, I finally checked the yardage and realized that I was using sock yarn with a Kroy base.  It's good durable sock yarn but slightly thicker, thus less yardage and great for simple socks, but not so much for those with lots of stitches or fancy patterns. 
  The orange sock yarn has been relegated to the sock yarn bin and I fished out this pretty yarn instead.   Slightly thinner with over 30 yards more length per 50 grams, it tested out fine.  While I can't get the suggested guage with this yarn, I can get close enough to make the small size fit nicely.   The sock has knit up quite quickly since I've memorized the pattern and no longer have to refer to the pattern page nor do I have to count and record my rows.   It's pretty much flown by in speed.   I'm ready to start the toe now. 
Speaking of flying.  It's been cold and snowy.   In this weather, birds use the feeder constantly.   This morning I found 6 Blue Jays, 2 Cardinals, 2 Downy woodpeckers and an assortment of Chickadee's, Sparrows, Finches and Juncos.   Sometimes we get Mourning Doves as well.  Last year during one cold spell, I was feeding 12 doves , with all of them either at the feeder or nearby at any one time.  This year I've only seen 4 of them.. phew... that's a lot of bird seed!

The log cabin tea towels are coming along.  It's a fairly methodical pattern and it's not very fast since you're switching shuttles all the time.   However I'm on the 3rd tea towel  now, and I've found that the methodical shuttle throwing, counting shuttle shots and a pattern that is easy to find and correct mistakes has been a great stress reliever these past couple of days.

January 04, 2011

A few of my favourite things...

On New Year's Eve it was raining.  When all the snow melted some small parts of the ground started to slightly defrost... mainly in the garden area as we had piled all the fallen leaves and now some of the woodstove ashes on it as compost.   The leeks had been frozen in the ground and I had thought I wouldn't be able to get to them until spring.  However, I trudged through the garden muck and gave one a little tug.  It took a bit of work and lots of wiggling, but I was able to free 8 leeks in all, from their frozen winter bed.  Even better is that they were still just fine with no signs of frost damage.  I got the rest of them the next day when we had even more rain and the temperatures were milder yet.
The first 8 were turned into Leek Potato soup based on the recipe that Leslie posted.  It was slightly different than my normal bit of this and lots of that method but it was really good and I'll keep those ratios for future soups... mmmmm     The rest are awaiting their turn in the pot... tonight my pretties, tonight...

I set aside the grey colourwork sock.  I'd realized that what I should have done is just enlarged the pattern but instead of doing that,  I was entranced by the new Cookie A book I had.  It's full of complicated looking charts and techniques I've not done in many years.  The charts were starting to looking bogglingly difficult though I knew that most of them likely weren't.  I needed to jump in and do one to get the confidence in charting, which I'd only used for colourwork or intarsia before.    I decided on one that wasn't the easiest but definitely not the hardest and used a technique that I hadn't done a lot in the past- cabling.   I enlarged the chart and reminded myself I could mark this up at will.   I even dug out my old cable needle, although it was much fatter than the needles I was using for the sock.   Ha! I say...  my fear of forgetting how to cable or being unable to read the new fangled charts were unfounded  and  it turns out to be quite an easy but somewhat fiddly pattern.   This was taken yesterday but I've turned the heel and finished the gusset already today.  The yarn used was dyed by me and even though I'm not awfully fond of orange, I'm loving the way it looks in these socks.

Today I'm starting the homework in earnest.  I've dabbled a bit with it but between running an SCA event, holidays and family there wasn't much use in trying to push the issue.  I worried that I would rush and not put the serious effort into it, which in truth can be told by one of the samples that I may redo at a later date if I'm feeling the love.  If not, it's one of many more to come...   I'm waiting for delivery of the coloured fibres that I've needed to redo the rainbow blending exercise.  It is supposed to arrive this week with another bit ordered but since I've not received confirmation of shipping, I have my doubts.    Oh well, I shall try to be patient.

The log cabin tea towels are coming along.  No photo because it looks pretty much the same as the earlier one, except that the front beam is starting to fill up.   I'm refusing to allow myself to just let the project fly off the loom with any speed. After all it's supposed to be the fun break from homework, not the fun escape from starting the homework.  If they get done too quickly, I'll have to spend a couple of days putting another project on the loom and how much time would that set me back?  Hmmm, I wonder...