Thursday, August 27, 2009

Three Bags Full

The box is here!
It's here, it's here! After a long wait, my wool has finally arrived. You might recall the time a sheep went 'splody on my porch. Well, all of that pretty fiber has been picked, cleaned and shipped back to me for a reasonable fee and is now ready for use for spinning.

What's inside?
Our package arrived yesterday evening. My daughter was heartily disappointed to learn that there was no other mail.. just the box. On the other hand, I was thrilled to not only get my package, but not have to deal with any junk on the side, either. We took it over to a neighbors and popped it open to see what was inside. The processed fleece was returned in the bags in which I had dropped it off. So at first it pretty unassuming.

.. three bags full
The clear bag gave the first hint of just what I'd gotten back. Big, round rolls of fiber. I was terribly excited to get the bags open and get a closer look. This is my first fleece and the first that I've had processed. I'm not quite sure what I'll do with all of it, but seeing it clean would give me the best idea. I just can't quite visualize what to make from something that looks quite so disorganized as a dirty fleece.

Jacob fleece, light and dark
I dug in first to the two black bags. These were the Jacob fleeces that I separated. Two fleeces became two wraps of fiber, one chocolate brown and the other brilliant white! What surprised me was the width of the roving. I had specified that the carded fiber should be stripped into roving, but I had expected something more like the width of my wrist. These strips are finger-thin.

Five pounds of who-knows-what!
The other fleece was just as interesting. It started out at eight pounds of lanolin-laden fleece. I was returned five pounds of brilliant white fluffy fiber. This roving is slightly thicker, or at least it seems like it might be. The strips are about two fingers wide. I started spinning some samples and this looks like it is going to be a whole lot of fun.

I'm really glad I did this with free fleece. The prep isn't what I expected and I would have been really upset that I didn't ask the right questions if I had processed something very dear to me (like the several pounds of ultra-fine merino I picked out myself and purchased at Black Sheep Gathering next year... hahaha). That's not to say this fiber isn't dear to me, too, but I don't mind adding a little extra elbow-grease taking them over to ETC to drum-card into bigger batts or just play with an unexpected preparation of fiber. I might even see if I can borrow a wheel from someone and see how they spin up that way!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Caribbean Ocean

Caribbean Ocean
Originally uploaded by Project Pictures
Here's just a little taste of the Caribbean, or so I hope. I haven't been there myself, but the color is indelibly inscribed on my psyche by countless cruise promos and posters.

This is the August installment of the Spindler's Monthly challenge, or at least my entry into it. Our theme this go around is "Travel". After almost three weeks of flying solo with the kids, a cruise get-away to the tropics sounds positively dreamy.

I try each Challenge to do something new. This time around, I decided I wanted to spin woolen yarn. And not just semi-woolen yarn, but the best and closest to true woolen yarn I could manage. This means working not from top, but from a carded preparation of fiber, and spinning with the "long draw" technique.

The first challenge was getting carded fiber. Everything I own is what is known as "top" (and is often mis-labeled as "roving"). This is a commercially preparation where all the fibers are combed into alignment in a long strip. Happily for me, the Eugene Textile Center allows drop-in use of its drum carder. For $10 for a half-day, you can card whatever you want (although it did sound as if they wouldn't go for raw fiber, only cleaned materials). I brought in several "cupcakes" of leftover blue wool top, probably merino and BFL. I also included the last ounce of my green silk.

I won't go through all the details of drum carding. There are plenty of other blogs out there written by people with more experience. In short, you break up you fiber into small amounts and feed it into this machine, which blends them together into what is known as a "batt". A batt can be stretched into a roving (a long length of unspun fiber often confused with combed top). Or you can spin it just as it is. Either way, the fibers in a batt are carded, rather than combed, and thus jumbled up a bit. They don't all sit exactly the same way. They cross. They fold. They twist around. This traps in more air and when spun in just the right way, they stay fluffy and soft.

The "long draw" method of spinning involves letting the twist you are introducing into the fiber into your "drafting zone". This distinguishes itself from "short draw", where you inchworm your hands along the fiber, carefully controlling the twist so it only gets into the drafting zone once all the fibers there are carefully aligned with one another, and then you smoooooth it in so there is very little air left in the yarn. This yields a very strong and smooth yarn.

I find long draw to be very challenging. Having freshly drum-carded fiber helped a lot. It was very soft with a lot of air carded into it, instead of having been packed with a lot of other things and squished into a compact lump. It was very easy to draft. On the other hand, I'm a bit of a control freak and letting myself get into the more hands-off groove of long draw is rather tricky. It also drives me nuts that any inconsistency immediately shows up as LUMPS in your yarn.

Random Batts
Still, I managed to toss my ultra control-freak self out the window long enough to finish 110 yards of squishy yarn that probably rates somewhere between aran and bulky in thickness. If you number these batts from back to front, I spun numbers 1-2-4-6 into one single and 3-5-7 into the other (the purple I played with on the side with a tiny leftover of one of my two green singles). So the skein slowly shifts from a very pale ocean green to a deep teal with lots of play through the middle. I think it's going to knit up quite lovely, once I figure out what it ought to be!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Sock Summit Loot

Support Spindle
Originally uploaded by Project Pictures
I did promise a loot post. I'm afraid it will be somewhat sparse. You see, I went to Sock Summit '09 with a very firm promise to myself. No. Sock. Yarn.

I know, it boggles the mind. No sock yarn at a sock knitting convention? But really, I have quite enough and there were plenty of other things to purchase.

One thing I wanted to find was a support spindle. I had MacGuyver'd myself a support spindle out of a bamboo skewer and a racquetball, and it worked quite well. But it was a bit unwieldy and after one day of marathon spinning (my "challenge" day for the Tour de Fleece), I blistered my fingertips.

I found a lovely spindle at Carolina Homespun. At the time, it wasn't so lovely. It had been around a while (I know because I had looked at it at the Black Sheep Gathering as well). The wood was dry and scratched from much handling, but it had really lovely lines. And Sheila Bosworth had mentioned to me earlier in a post that I could easily take some 600-grit sandpaper to the shaft of my Bossie spindle to clean it up.
Camel / Tussah combed top
I figured the same would work here. So some water and buffing later, and a little bit of Wood Beams, and all of a sudden I had a fantastically gorgeous support spindle.

It also spins well.

In addition I bought two small lots of fiber I thought would be fun. The first is also through Carolina Homespun and comes from Silver Moon Farm. It is a two ounce bag, 50/50 blend of baby camel down and tussah silk, dyed in soft shades of peach, rose and green.

Grab bag of Exotic fibers
I also grabbed a two ounce mixed bag of "exotic" fibers from A Verb for Keeping Warm. They have stunning fibers colored with natural dyes.

There was plenty of fantastic sock yarn to be had, but that will have to wait for next time and next year.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Sock Summit '09

I think much of the knitting world is aware of Sock Summit whether they were one of the many that wanted to go, or not. It certainly has been a sensation in the area. I was highly amused when Portland's mayor, Sam Adams, declared it sock knitting week!

I was thrilled when I got into a class for Sock Summit. I'd planned ahead and set aside time. My visiting family was kind enough to take the children off elsewhere and let me sit in front of the computer for the hour it took to get into the system to register (the system crashed several times under the load of insane knitters trying to get in). I signed up to take Sock Design with Anne Hanson.

If you don't know of Anne, you should go check out KnitSpot, her blog. It has tons of fabulous pictures of her lovely designs (and of her garden).

Anne was a fascinating teacher. I particularly enjoyed her insights into putting different stitch patterns together, and the discussion about her own design process with various finished patterns she has already published.

I also bumped into Joan Schrouder, Sivia Harding, Judy Becker, Tina (of Blue Moon Fiber Arts), walked past Stephanie Pearl McPhee herself on the way into the market, and WonderMike from the Y-Knit podcast.

Abby, Denny and me
As a special highlight, I snuck over to the Beginning Spinning class to meet Abby Franquemont and Denny McMillan. Abby has been a huge inspiration to me. She's extremely knowledgeable and wants to share that knowledge with others. I got to show off my hand-spun shawl, and then Abby called the remaining members of her class over to look, too. I was so proud!

It was a fantastic time. The Marketplace was amazing, full of all-too-pretty things. I'm going to save those for another post (because some of what I bought is all tied up at the moment and not ready for pictures). The sheer number of knitters congregating in one place was amazing. I'm really looking forward to next year, if there is another one, where I might be able to go for more than one day.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Random Batts

Random Batts
Originally uploaded by Project Pictures
Since my husband has been out of town for over a week now (he was back for one day, Friday, and then off again) I have been gifting myself some little bits of time. We are blessed to have two young women that live nearby that are able to watch my children from time to time. I asked one to come by for a couple of hours this afternoon. My daughter is in camp, and she joined us just as my son was finishing lunch. He was to go down for a nap at 1pm, and I'm told he did so. So I know she had a very easy time of it.

I did, too. I took myself, and some random bits of wool top, and the last of my green silk over to the Eugene Textile Center. This is a newer yarn store in Eugene, and it caters more to weavers and spinners than knitters, but there is obviously some overlap. ETC has a drum carder which they are willing to lend out for "drop ins" with a small fee of $10 per half-day of use.

I've been wanting to try to spin a batt, but these lovely confections are often pricey. And there's a good reason why. As much fun as it is to turn a batt, a drum carder is quite an expensive piece of equipment. And the creation of the batt itself is a fair amount of work. I'm sure you get better and faster at it with practice (I did even in the two-and-a-half hours I played with it) but there is still that investment of your time and expertise.

I set out to create the center batts that you see here. I wanted something reminiscent of the brilliant tropical waters you usually see advertised for Caribbean cruises and the like. I had a bunch of blue bits of wool top, but most had odd ends of other colors. That's what makes up the purple batt. There's a bit of brown, lots of shades of purple and just a little bit of blue in it. The four central batts are primarily the "ocean blue" bits, and green silk blended. And the three on the far end were the last piece of wool top I had, which was comprised of white, and sky blue, and the rest of the silk. They have considerably more silk in them than the other batts, which gives them the lovely green color.

I started spinning one of the last batts today. They run about 10g each. I wasn't sure quite how much you could load up onto the drum carder, so I played it safe. It was a lot of fun to spin. Very soft and fluffy. I split off strips and then broke those strips into 6" sections and folded them in half for spinning with a long-draw.

Right now I'm debating if I'll spin the three green into a 3-ply yarn, or if I'll alternate down the line with every-other batt going in order into two singles. Either way could be very interesting, but the 2ply done in this manner would give me a variegated yarn that slowly darkens from one end to the other. I think it would be a very striking effect.

In other news, I'm pretty excited about going to Sock Summit tomorrow. I think I have everything prepared to get my children over to our friends' for the day, and get myself to Portland. With any luck, we'll all have a blast!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Foliage Shawl

Foliage Shawl
Originally uploaded by Project Pictures
And... here's the reveal. I caught a little light and some quiet time to hang this up in my wisteria. While I wish I could display it on myself, it's a bit hard to get the camera far away enough to do that!

It's lovely, soft, and silk-shimmery-gorgeous and everything I could ask for. I hit my goal spot-on for size and I'm really looking forward to taking this to Portland with me on Thursday for my day up at Sock Summit!

Foliage ShawlFoliage Shawl

All aflutter!

It's done! It's done! It's done! My shawl is done! Yay!

800 yards of 2-ply tussah silk handspun and several weeks of knitting later, and my shawl is complete. Currently it is stretched out tight on my floor upstairs, pinned to within an inch of it's life and perhaps a little beyond that. A fan, tilted on a chair, is blowing the shawl dry as swiftly as it may be for silk, which loves to soak up lots and lots and lots of water.

No, you may not see a picture... yet!

Suffice to say it is gorgeous. You'll have to take my word for that, but I don't want to pop up a half-done picture when a little patience will hopefully yield something stunning. Right now it's pinned out on two different colored towels in bad lighting. On the other hand to get a picture of me wearing it, I'll have to find a photographer, or press my four-year-old daughter into trying. That'll be fun.

So, pictures coming soon, I promise. I just don't know how soon.