Saturday, July 5, 2008

Back in the game

Yes, I am still alive and working on all sorts of fibery pursuits. It is amazing how quickly time can pass, and I can neglect to record any of my adventures.

One of my newest adventures is the Le Tour de Fleece 2008. It begins today, and follows the schedule of the Tour de France, ending on July 27th. Even though I have been out of school for a week, I have not touched my wheels. So, I am figuring that this event will help me take a break from the endless chores inside and out to do something for me.

I have chosen two fleeces from my stash to be spun during this event. The first is a romney/mohair blend, approximately 2 1/2 lbs or 1200g. My mom bought it for me as a Christmas gift in 2002. I rewashed it last summer, and had my friend, Beth, re-card it last Fall. I haven't touched it since. Along with much canning and freezing this summer, this future yarn will help me not freeze myself this winter. I am planning on making it into the "Knitting Pure & Simple Neck Down Cardigan for Women".

The second bag, a vintage member of my collection is a merino and angora blend. The first of this fiber was purchased in the Summer of 2002. I then rewashed that fiber last summer, and added additional merino and angora to the blend. I believe that it is a 50/50 blend, and there is about 2 lbs. or 800g. This yarn will also be for me, but I am not sure to make it into yet.

So, the combined fiber will yield about 2000g of yarn. It will also help eliminate two bags of carded batts or fleece from hanging on my walls. I still have many more that need to be spun before I will have any new wool carded. Since I have around 42 grease fleeces that need to be washed and stored this summer, I'd better get moving.

Good luck to everyone participating. This is going to be fun!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Success with Felting/Fulling

Normally I am not afraid to try something new, but I have to admit that felting/fulling has me a bit gun shy as of late. In the Fall, I made my sister a beautiful knitted and fulled bag, complete with a handmade button. It was so easy to knit, it felted wonderfully, and gave me enough confidence to make one for myself. The knitting was easy, and it used up some good-sized scraps of Patons merino wool. I thought that I was set...or so it seemed.

I ran the bag through the washing machine twice (both times in a garment bag), and the result was not pretty. The straps did not shrink evenly, and so I was left with a bag that still needs to be made into something else.

So, needless to say, I have been less than thrilled about trying felting again. And yet, the optimist in me remains strong. I have been making several hats for Christmas 2008, and each has left me with scraps of yarn. The hats are made from Patons merino wool, so I decided to give felting another try. I used a pattern for a felted bowl from The Year-Long-Gift-A-Long, and it was a joy to knit. It knit very quickly, and looked like this when I was done.

I knit the sides to 3", rather than the 1 1/2" listed on the pattern. I then decided that I would agitate the bowl by hand, instead of trusting the washing machine to do the work for me. Using hot water and Dawn dishwashing liquid, I set to work.

Once the dish pan was full, I immersed the bowl and started the shrinking process. The water was really hot, and Dawn is super concentrated, so I think that I ended up with as many suds on myself as I had for the bowl! It took a few minutes to see or feel any progress, but once the wool began to shrink, it was amazing how quickly it began to take shape.

After a few more minutes in the hot and soapy bath, I had what resembled a felted bowl. I could hardly believe my eyes.

Of course, there was still some adjusting to be done, but I was so close to achieving my goal. I took the almost-done bowl down to the dryer, placed it in a garment bag, and waited in anticipation. With a hot dryer, a few other towels, and a short amount of time and shaping, the end result was...
The bowl looks great, and will soon be a gift for me or my brother, still not sure who gets the prize yet. I am planning on starting another one today. I think that I will double the yarn on my next venture, and knit a smaller base and taller sides. I guess that it is good to keep trying because eventually I will have more felting successes than failures.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Happy Birthday Idgie!

Idgie, my Louet s-10dt turned four today. I first met Idgie at Halcyon Yarn while on a February Break trip with my sister, Laural. It had already been a long, hard school year for us, and we needed to escape from our normal surroundings for a while. Her friend, Jess, had offered us the opportunity to visit, and we took her up on the offer.

As I think back to that visit, what I remember most is the wonderful hospitality shown to us by Jess, and her now in-laws. They were very gracious to us, and welcomed us with open arms. We were fed wonderful food, had great conversations, and were surrounded by the Maine wilderness for close to a week. It was so refreshing!

In the fours years since that visit, Idgie and I have covered a lot of ground. We have spun many types of wool, demonstrated at the New York State Fair, and participated in a sheep-to-shawl competition. Idgie has earned a few bumps and bruises along the way. Ernie left a puppy chew mark on her right treadle when he was a few months old, she has received a new break band, and had to have her back post replaced as it was starting to split. She still spins like a breeze, and is a joy to work with. Many other wheels have come and gone, but I have always remained faithful to Idgie. I look forward to many more years of spinning with her. Currently, she is occupied with some Romney roving, and soon will be moving into some merino/angora/silk blends.

Happy Birthday Idgie, and thanks for the memories!

Friday, February 1, 2008


Today is a wonderful day! It is very cold outside. Things are icing over and the roads are not fun. And best of all, school is canceled for today. As a child, I used to love the occasional snow day, but I think that I relish them even more as an adult. You can never fully guarantee when you will have them, and they always feel like an extra special gift. I have been using today's gift to complete some weekend chores, sip some coffee, knit a few stitches, and best of all, play with fleece.

This fleece is complements of McCauley, a lovely Romney Ram, owned by Phebe. I purchased this fleece at the 2006 New York State Fair, and up until this point had not really taken the time to enjoy it. On Wednesday, I began sorting the fleece by staple length (short, almost medium, medium, and long) and also bundling the fibers. I am trying to maintain lock structure as much as possible, so that I can spin from the lock if I desire. The crimp is very consistent on this fleece, and the luster is beautiful. I haven't made up my mind what I will make with his wool yet, but it will be many wonderful somethings, as there is close to ten pounds of grease wool. As long as the weather stays wintery, I will be busy inside.

I just finished posting to the year long gift-a-long, and added my February goals as well. I did not meet all of my January goals, but when I made them I forgot about how busy the end of a semester can get. Now, a new semester has begun, so I should be able to catch back up. Having a week off in February will also be a plus. Belonging to the group is helping me keep knitting that has a deadline on task. It will be great not to be overwhelmed when special occasions come along.

Ernie and Zoe are finally napping. This morning I was organizing canned food and dry goods, and every time that I went to the utility room, they were sure that it must be time to eat. I think they are both happy that I have decided to sit still for a while. After all, I am interrupting the daily nap schedule.

I am being beckoned by the wool, resistance is futile.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Idgie meets the new kid on the block

My new wheel has arrived! I am quite thrilled about this, and checked the UPS tracker daily to be sure that it would arrive on time. I am planning on spinning on it today, and have 8 oz. of merino ready to go. Idgie, my Louet S-10DT, is trying to make friends, and hopes that this wheel is here to stay. She has "made friends" with more wheels than I care to count at this point, only to see them move on to other pastures. I told her that I intend for this to be the last wheel change.

The weather has taken a shift, and it was pretty chilly this morning when I went out to feed and water. At least the winds have died down, so everyone is much calmer than yesterday. I always find high winds to be very unsettling.

My January Gift-a-Long goals are coming along very well, and I am hoping to have three children's sweaters done by the end of Monday. The bodies on all three are complete, and later today I will begin necklines and sleeves. Cotton is not my favorite yarn to knit, but at least I am using up approximately 15 or 16 balls of 1824 Cotton from my stash. I picked up two complementary balls of 1824 Cotton yesterday, just in case I run out. If I don't end up needing them, I will use them towards a gift for my new niece/nephew who will be arriving sometime in June.

The display for the Canastota Library is coming along very nicely. I spent much of last weekend gathering samples of my work and assorted tools. Today, I am going to finalize the cabinet displays and type up the corresponding tags and information sheets. I am enjoying creating an exhibit that is more about process than product. After much introspection this past Fall, I finally realized that I am not a product person, which is why trying to have a business has been so challenging for me. It was that enlightenment that led me to close my business in December, and instead pursue my interests for the sake of learning and personal growth. I am finally enjoying creating again.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Is this January?

It has been a strange January indeed. We broke a weather record last week, reaching a high of 64! While I am not complaining, as that warmth allowed for some otherwise neglected chores to be completed, it is hard to get used to days and days without snow.

There is a dusting of snow on the ground today, and the temperatures are falling into the more "normal" range for this time of year. The chickens are laying well, 5 eggs today, and the sheep and bunnies are quite warm in their wool coats. I have been working along on a few of my goals for 2008, and have plied almost all of the singles that I had spun in 2006/2007 and neglected to finish. I located another pound of singles yesterday while organizing "my stash", so I guess it will be a few more days before I can begin spinning something new.

This year my creative endeavors are taking a new focus, and I am entering uncharted territory. I have finally said "no" to making my hobby a business, and have decided that all art and fibery adventures will be strictly for learning and entertainment. I am not trying to supplement my income or even partially pay for my interests. I will follow my heart and not put my artistic ideas on a time clock. I will try and keep gift knitting and creating on a more sane time clock, but that should be much easier now since I am juggling a few less commitments.

So, if you are up for what I hope will be an exciting and thought provoking adventure, grab your fiber, your coffee/tea, and your sense of wonder because here we go!