September 30, 2014

Neps, Short cuts, breaks

One bit of neps from a half hour of spinning

I've been tardy with spinning some Angora (bunny) exercises for homework. I kept putting off finishing the exercises because I wasn't enjoying the experience.  It's not that it's a horrible fibre.  It's actually a lovely fibre and spins to make gorgeous yarn, all soft, fluffy and warm.  However, I seem to have managed to get the mother of all inclusion of neps, short cuts or breakage in the fibre.  I have sorted the fibre before carding it, picked through the batts and rolags after carding and then picked out more short cuts as I was spinning.  It wasn't fun spinning most of the time because it was start and stop.   Still, I was missing lots of neps and was picking some of them out of the finished yarn. 
Angora samples on the bobbin.
Though I'm not happy with my finished yarns, I'm leaving it.  I've spent too much time as it is, trying to get samples to work up nicely.  When I find a good handful of bunny hair, spinning is delightful.   The angora was a welcome gift from our Master Spinner level 5 instructor Donna, and I'm more than appreciative of this since I couldn't find a source for bunny hair locally.  There are lovely handfuls of fibre in the bag, I just didn't realize it until I'd started carding or I'd have been a bit more careful.  Since I was the one who divvied up the lovely bag of fibre, I can't fault anyone but myself.  I sure hope that I'm the only one that got the short cuts though.  

Finished Angora and blended samples.
I have to say that my favourite was the Merino/Angora blend.  It is so soft and except for the constant picking of bits, was fast to spin using a long draw.  I didn't like the angora/silk blend much as it was slippery fibre against slippery fibre.  It was awful to blend and I came out looking I'd been rolling in piles of shedding bunnies and rejected silk.  Next time I might use a mask as I sneezed for two days afterwards.

So what did I do when I was done wet finishing the final skein?   I made hand dipped candles of course!

September 26, 2014

Pretty Colours for September

 This is a handspun 3 ply Blue Faced Leicester/Nylon sock yarn, from a commercially blended roving.  The skein only weight 105 g though and measured up at just under 300 yards.  I don't think it's quite enough for a pair of socks with cuffs of my preferred length.  I will either spin up some extra to use for the toes, heels and ribbing or finding some odd bit that coordinates in my stash, just to be certain I have enough yarn.  I dislike socks which are too short in the leg or cuff.  It's dyed with weak acid dyes.  I used Navy and magenta, which work really nicely together.

I'm trying to find an interesting pattern for these socks, but so far all I'm doing it stashing new ideas for future projects. 
 I've not been very successful with getting home started perennials to survive over the summer.  The past couple of autumns though, I've just sprinkled the desired seeds in a suitable garden spot and walked away.  Both times I've tried this, I've come back the next fall to find big, beautiful plants.  The Phlox is lovely and so is this lovely Pink Fall Aster.  So pretty and so very pink!
  The wild purple asters are abundant this year.    Even though some of the flowers are starting to fade, the bees and few remaining butterflies are out in full force.  We don't seem to have the Yellow Jacket Wasps this year, but have Bumble Bees galore.  Luckily they aren't aggressive and just keep working away.  Today's weather is perfect for their last minute foraging with the mild temperatures, sunshine and gentle breeze.

I've started on the second Christmas quilt.  I've 2 of the 3 sets of blocks cut out.  I realized after I was half through cutting the second set of blocks, that I could have save a whole bunch of time by strip piecing and cutting out whole rows of pieced squares.   Now I have to lay out every set of squares for each row, making sure that the blue print is running the same way, since it's directional.   Oh well, the quilt is only going to be about 55in. x 65 in., so it shouldn't take that much time to piece together, even doing it the long way.

Now to get the third fabric cut up and to sit down and piece this baby together, in time to get it quilted.  

September 21, 2014

Playing With Colour

Playing with making rolags and puni  of different colour and fibre combinations.

 More colours here and elsewhere.  They are starting to pile up.  The big consideration is making enough of one colour combination to actually have enough fibre for more than sampling.  I was surprised at how much time it takes to make good rolags this way.  I've seen some very messy ones which look like they'd be difficult to spin.  These spin so nicely that it's worth the effort.   It adds a nice change and twist to fibre processing.   It's a bit easier to manipulate the colours in a precise way than the drum carder or hackles.

 Playing with new project bag designs.  While I was making these, I was sure I wouldn't like them.  However the moment they were done, I loved them.  The larger one is big enough for a small project, notions and a pattern.  Awesome!  

One sock done and the other is started.  I was hoping to get these done before the end of September but I'll have to actually set aside some time to work on them if I want to meet that goal.  The cuff is a bit fussy, but once I got the grid work pattern worked out, it was super easy and the foot patterning became intuitive.  I love the use of the single cable travelling stitch, which I can do without a cable needle.  It's fast, fun and adds a nice bit of decoration to the sock, without any fuss or muss.

I spent an afternoon washing Alpaca.  It took over 2 days to dry because of the weather and the fact that I let the top and the bottom part of the fibre salad spinner get separated thus couldn't spin out the excess water.  Yay me!

The truck broke down, the day before I was going to head out for a day at Westfield.  It was Saturday morning and that's a dreadful time for getting emergency repair service.  We only have the one vehicle, so not fixing it wasn't an option.    However, we were 3 feet from the repair shop parking lot and they could fit us in but we'd have to wait 10 minutes, was that okay?  So after 3 hours in the waiting room, without my knitting, a book or some handsewing (argh), we had the truck back, with a shiny new alternator.  It wouldn't have been so bad but less than 2 weeks before, we replaced the alternator on my son's car and had to get new tires.   Bad things come in threes?  I hope that's it for a while.

September 12, 2014

Playing with Acid Dyes

Some wool blend sliver dyed in acid dyes
I need some dyed fibres, some in larger quantities and different colours than the commercially dyed ones I picked up a while ago. I set about mixing up some stock solutions to play with colour mixing.  It was right then that my scale decided that it was no longer going to measure out small quantities.  It used to, though the last time I used it it was getting fussy and I thought changing out the battery had done the trick of getting it back to rights.  Obviously not.   In the end, I had to wing the stock solutions and really didn't get quite the colours I'd had first envisioned, although they will work quite admirably for their purpose.

I'm unhappy with the yellow though as the dye didn't exhaust properly and I had to rinse it several times.  Luckily, I'm going to have to card everything to blend the colours before spinning, so I wasn't too worried about compaction.  Now to decide how I want to blend this.  I could easily put it through the drum carder or hand cards, but for hand cards there is a lot of fibre.  I'm thinking perhaps the hackles or even the blending board would work for this fibre.
bleached tussah silk
 I dyed up a bit of tussah silk to add in, although I'd hoped it would be a darker blue.  It is the colour of a lovely rich summer sky, that or horrible icky icing on a birthday cake that turns one's teeth blue when one has to eat that piece at the party.  I'll take the sky colour.

The brown is still in the pot.  I love the colour!  I had to blend in a bunch of yellow dye to make it a warm colour as I really didn't like the original brown.  It was much too cold, lifeless and dull looking.  I hope I like it as much when it's dry!    In total, there is about 400 g or a bit more of fibre in this dye experiment.   It's fun, easy but sheesh, keeping those dye vats at the required temperatures does take a lot of watching and time!

September 09, 2014

Fall Bounty

I was at Westfield on Sunday and I was in a building instead of at the bake oven.   On the table was a huge array of veggies.  If I was smart, I'd have taken a photo as it looked so pretty.  There were carrots, onions, potatoes, squash, parsnips and cauliflower.  It turned out that a particular Canadian 19th C murder mystery show was filming there the week before and one of the scenes required fall veggies.  They left them behind for us to play with.  I made a pot of veggie soup for lunch and it was very tasty.   Afterward, we divided up the veggies and took them home so they wouldn't get tossed out.  I was sad because a 50 lb bag of onions was left. I couldn't carry it to the truck, and I didn't have a bag to take it in bunches.  However, I did get 5 cauliflowers, a whole bunch of carrots, potatoes, squash and whatever spare onions were rolling around. 

 I spent all day yesterday freezing produce!  There are now bags upon bags of frozen cauliflower and carrots.  I don't normally freeze carrots but these needed to be used up.  I also cooked some for dinner and made a bunch to puree for use in a Victorian carrot pie recipe that I will try out next Sunday.    Luckily the boxes that the 1/2 bushels of tomatoes came in were still in the house, waiting for recycling, so I repurposed them in the pantry cupboard, for onion and potato storage.

I'm spinning Angora right now, as in Angora bunny not Angora goat/mohair.  It's super soft, but the bits that I have to play with are a bit compacted, so I have to hand card all of it before use.  The fibre has a range of staple lengths, making it interesting and a bit challenging to spin.  As well there are lots of bits about 1/4 inch in length, which I'm presuming are short cuts, so this would be cut, rather than plucked Angora.  I had to experiment before I found a spinning method that actually worked for me.   I need to loosen up the fibre by carding it and pull it off the cards into as much of a rolag that I can get.  Most of the fibre is too short to make a rolag, so it just sort of curls up a bit.  Then I fold it up and it makes this light, fluffy pile, like a cloud and it will spin nicely with a short forward draw.  It takes forever though, but I imagine that it will make pretty yarn.  I am looking forward to blending some as I think it will be quite enjoyable to spin that way.

September 04, 2014

New Socks

My sock drawer is almost full.  I'm going to need to find a new sock storage facility.  It's not like I don't wear them though.   Really, the more socks you have the longer they last and it's nice to have a special pair of handmade wool socks for every possible occasion.    I started these 2 days ago.  The first time, with a lovely, soft, squishy yarn by Sweet Georgia.  I love the yarn but not only was the colour too dark to show the cables but the plies were splitting with each cable, making it a pain to knit.  I was 1/3 done the first sock cuff when I ripped it out.  The yarn will shine with a different pattern.

   I couldn't find the grey or the light blue that I was going to use.   I moved the skeins this summer, when I was anticipating bagging up little sock kits with yarn and patterns, for use over the winter.  Then I had to move some things quickly and hid them well.  I'm sure I tossed them in a basket and I'm not sure which one.  Either way, they are hidden with other skeins and fibre, which I didn't feel like sorting right now.  I did have this rather run of the mill sock yarn.  It's by Estelle and it's pretty enough and will wear and wash well.  Hopefully it will soften up a bit when washed.

 It's almost as dark as the first yarn, but not quite.  It still hides the cables more than I'd like but I'm not ripping it out and starting again.  I'm 14 rows from finishing the first cuff.  Of course I've made a mistake in those 14 rows 3 times, and have ripped it out those few rows as many times.  Now it's a matter of pride to just get the darned thing done.   It's not a difficult pattern, but it requires counting; something in which I'm obviously lacking practice.  Really, the highest number of stitches before changing patterns is 11.  How hard should that be?  Other than my counting issues, the sock is much easier than I anticipated and just flying off the needles.  Cables are fun, fast and easy.  Really, it's just knitting stitches out of order, so once you figure out the chart symbols, you're good to go.    The designers don't always use a standard set of symbols, so it's a smart idea to check before you start.