Friday, September 29, 2006

Spinning Beginning

While the good weather lasts I'm trying to keep to a schedule of combing wool in the afternoon and spinning the results in the evening. The little combed bundles go a suprisingly long way. Even if the weather stayed mild all winter and I was able to comb wool outside every single day and spin every single night, I'm guessing this huge tsunami of wool would last me several months. At least.

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Although the wool feels soft and the combed bundles feel relatively soft, I'm finding it actually feels kind of coarse while it's being spun. (?!) I intend to do a little bit of experimenting. The first few nights I'm going to concentrate on spinning quite fine. With the long fibers I find this quite easy to do.

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I'll then ply three singles together, skein it, wash it, and see what kind of results I have. I'll also do some up thicker and see what kind of effect that produces. I have found that not every wool that CAN be spun thin, should be. One batch of wool I experimented with recently was much nicer done a bit thick. It's just that I prefer to spin thin because I prefer to KNIT thinner yarns too. I also find heavier socks/sweaters too hot to be practical.

The little bunnies peeking out below my bobbin in the above picture? It's these two cuties.

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There were part of my gift bag from the annual Ryder Lake Spin-In. I've got the chime part loosely tied together so that they tinkle a bit as I spin.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Tsunami of Wool

Just when I thought I had a good start on "bailing the boat", I've been swamped by another wave! This one is a tsunami.

The last week or so I have been valiantly trying to make some headway with my overly long project list. I have numerous WIPS (works in progress), must dos, and things not yet started but with deadlines looming. These unfinished projects are not all knitting.

I've been trying to work my way through my spinnable stash. You may recall that last year, when I first learned to spin, a fair bit of wool found it's way to me. I've been working ever since at spinning my way through it all. Here and there more wool has been added and I never seem to get to the bottom of it all. Last week I set a goal to have it all spun up by Fibrefest next April. I was not going to buy another roving or lock of wool until I reached the end of what I had.

This morning I innocently went to the guild room to ask a few questions and check out a book. I ended up going home with a large bag of grey, New Zealand fleece. It was a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

The fleece was sent from NZ to Nanaimo, BC in the 1970's! Still unwashed and in it's shipping wrapper after 30 years it was rather "ripe" so I took Betty's advice and washed it immediately. It is gorgeous! Soft, super long fibers, nice crimp, and virtually NO VM (vegetable matter).

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After it's bath it weighs around 5 pounds. To give you an idea of the volume, it's lying on a flat, queen sized bedsheet, and that's a green pillowcase lying on the ground in the top right hand corner of the picture.

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The fleece was free, requiring only a $5 donation to the guild. Would you have walked away?

I'm "bailing the boat" again.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Smile Cultivator

KnitnZu asked, "What is a smile cultivator?". I would imagine her question is in response to my listed occupation on my profile page.

A Smile Cultivator (capital letters for this very important position) sows seeds of inner joy, contentment, and peace first within themselves, then in their own home, and eventually their joy overflows and a radiant smile spills out onto all they come in contact with. The result is spontaneous return smiles, which in turn creates more inner joy, more contentment, and more peace. I'm changing the world, one smile at a time.

Smile Cultivator is the best occupation there is. You don't have to be hired, you cannot be fired. There is no job interview. You just look in the mirror in the morning, say "serenity", and leave that curve on your lips. Try it. I think you will find that the world smiles back at you.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Miffed About Muffin

My daughter had a staff dinner to attend last night. Her husband was working out of town for the weekend so she asked me to attend with her. I am honored and delighted that she thinks enough of me to introduce me to her bosses and co-workers. She allowed me to step into her "other world" for a few hours.

It reminds me of a conversation we had when she was younger. She had commented how it felt weird when any of her family members would show up at school, or at a job site and her worlds would collide. She wasn't complaining, it was just a comment about how you expect different people to be in different places and when one or the other shows up "misplaced" it feels odd. Like meeting your school teacher in the grocery store.

Anyway, while we were gone Monkey entertained our dog, Shelby. Or vice versa? Monkey was a little miffed that we were out having steak dinner while all he got was a leftover muffin.

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Well Monkey shouldn't have complained, we found out this morning that Shelby was not fed at all!

Branching Out Fisherman Style

My second Branching Out scarf, this one also done in handspun, laceweight llama. I've dyed the naturally butterscotch colored llama yarn with "Scarlet" dye and it came out this lovely brick red.

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In this second picture the camera flash intensified the color too much. The actual color is more like the first picture.

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Neither picture is clearly showing the detail of the modified center portion. It turned out really well, solving the problem of the "V" at the usual cast on end of this pattern. In fact, with the lace pattern pulling at either end of the center ribbed portion it makes a lovely curved start to the lace.

I finished both ends of the scarf with a hybrid crocheted cast off. It's sort of like the "crochet bind-off" described on page 84 of "Reader's Digest Knitter's Handbook" by Montse Stanley except that I decided I like the extra stretch that more of a single crochet effect gave. It's still not the "single crochet bind-off" from page 85 of the same book. It's somewhere between the two, my own invention. It gave a nice neat cast off edge with plenty of stretch for blocking the scarf.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A Gift For A Friend

The first of the "Branching Out" scarves has been gifted to a lovely lady from my guild.

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Inge gave me the bag of beautiful llama fiber without expectation of repayment. She was moving from a house into a smaller condo and did not have the room to take everything with her. I wanted to show my appreciation by giving some of it back to her in finished form. A hug in knitted lace.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Ryder Lake Spin-In 2006

The Chilliwack Spinners and Weavers Guild hosted their annual Ryder Lake Spin-In on Saturday. Approximately 43 women were in attendance.

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Including my daughter, newly introduced to spinning that day. She did very well!

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She filled two bobbins and plied them to create two skeins of her own, lovely handspun. She resisted, claiming she had enough on her plate already what with working full time and having far too many knitting projects on the go already. But we all know when it comes to spinning.....resistance is futile. It was only a matter of time before she was assimilated.

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I sent her home with my older wheel (an Ashford Traditional), 100g of Blue Faced Leicester and an armload of Coopworth. I'll let her tell you about the door prize she won. I'm hoping that she'll post pictures on her blog soon of those first handspun skeins.

For the past several days I have been working (nearly non-stop) on preparing a presentation board and gathering my thoughts and supplies for a talk I was asked to do at the Spin-In. When called to do so I blathered on for 20 minutes or so about the various things that went into making the Shy Sheep Vest. It seemed well enough received. I was surprised (and flattered.....and nerve wracked) to be asked by one of the vendors to do the presentation again at her guild. If I am remembering correctly she is part of a HUGE guild in the lower mainland with a couple of HUNDRED members. *Eeeek!* Thank goodness most of the WORK of the presentation is done and it is just a matter of saving it safely somewhere until I need it again.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Last Knit

This is hilarious! "The Last Knit". What a knitter!

Michelle pointed it out first.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Knitting Both Ends

Kind of like the candle that is burnt at both ends, perhaps knitting this scarf at both ends will make it go faster? Well it might you know! After knitting a row once, I might as well knit it again while it's still fresh in my memory.

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(It will look much better after it is blocked.)

There IS another good reason for knitting this scarf from both ends though. You know how the "Branching Out Scarf" has a tendency to pull up in the center at the beginning? (Well maybe you weren't aware of that. Anyway, the center pulls into an inverted "V" until it is blocked.....and then still threatens to return to that shape) I found that rather annoying so I'm trying out a modification to the pattern. To avoid the beginning "V" I am avoiding having a beginning. :-D This also takes care of the issue of directional lace scarves having ends that do not match.

Modification for "Branching Out" scarf.

Using a circular needle and a Provisional cast on, cast on 28 stitches . Knit 11 inches (back and forth) as follows, beginning and ending with a right side row:

Right side: K5, *p2, k2. Repeat from * to last 3 stitches. K3.
Wrong side: K3, *p2, k2. Repeat from * to last stitch. K1.

With the last row still on the needle, remove the waste yarn from the Provisional Cast On while picking up the stitches. Be sure to have both ends facing the same direction!

Next row: K3, (p4, p2tog) 3X, p4, k3.

Begin chart for "
Branching Out" working across both ends, each with a separate ball of yarn. Knit to desired length and finish as directed in "Branching Out" pattern.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Branching Out

Well, well, well. Maybe there was enough of that handspun, laceweight llama for an entire shawl. I knit up the Branching Out scarf as a gift and it only took ONE ounce!

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That leaves more than four ounces remaining. Yup, could've been a shawl.

Now it's going to be several scarves instead, which is probably more practical anyway.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Monkey Business

If you haven't visited Monkey in a while, check out his latest shenanigans.

Lluscious, Lluxuriant Llama

The llama fiber featured earlier is now spun, plyed, bathed and adored.

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Want a closer look?

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It came out at 21-22 WPI, a very respectable laceweight. I dutifully recorded both weight and length and then promptly lost the scrap of paper. I know the larger skein was somewhere around 360 metres so I figure I have more than enough for a lace scarf but not enough for a shawl.

Some day I would like to have enough of this stuff to roll around naked in. It's that good.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Functional Tea Towels

Way back in May I struggled to put a tea towel warp on my table loom. It didn't go so well and I was afraid I wouldn't get very far with the weaving.

It was my intention to weave four tea towels. I only managed to weave off two towels before all the twists in the warp became unmanageable and threads started breaking. The towels aren't perfect, but they are functional at least.

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I was asked not long ago why I bother weaving tea towels. After all, they are inexpensive to buy but relatively costly and certainly time consuming to make. My answer? I'm a new weaver, I need the weaving practice and tea towels are still functional even if they are full of mistakes.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Great News!

Our daughter and her husband are expecting their first child......our first GRANDchild! The baby is due March 11, 2007. I've added a countdown "ticker" to the top of my blog.

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I haven't had a baby around for over 22 years! This is SO exciting!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Plum Pie

This is my favorite kind of pie. A little on the tart side and oh so flavorful!

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Plum Pie

½ cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
4 cups sliced plums (approximately 20 plums)
1 Tblsp lemon juice
2 Tblsp butter or margarine
Pastry for a 9 inch, 2 crust pie

Prepare pastry and heat oven to 425 degrees F. Stir together sugar, flour and cinnamon and mix with the plum slices. Turn mixture into pastry lined pie pan, sprinkle with lemon juice and dot with butter. Cover with top crust. Seal edges and cut slits in top. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until crust is nicely brown and juice is beginning to bubble through slits.

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Saturday, September 02, 2006

Combing Variation

I've come up with a combing variation that seems to attract curious onlookers and a number of questions. It begins innocently enough, with a comb full of fiber (in this case llama that was generously given to me).

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I prefer to use my mini combs while seated, rather than standing beside a table with one of the combs anchored to it. This works really well until you get to the part where the wool is to be dizzed (drawn into a roving/sliver in preparation for spinning). In theory you can then place the handle of the full comb between your knees to anchor it while you diz off the roving. In theory! I quickly discovered that not only is it ineffective, it puts the Thigh Master to shame.

It is said that necessity is the mother of invention. It didn't take many sessions struggling to hold the comb still between my knees for me to come up with this idea. I invented a simple anchor for wool combs that can be used while seated.

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With an eye hook added to the handle of the comb (already provided in Ray's Wool Combs, or easily added to other makes), it is a simple matter to center a cup hook on a sturdy dowel. When ready to diz the cup hook goes through the eye hook of the comb.

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The dowel goes behind the knees with the comb between the knees, tines facing away from you.

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From this position, with the anchored rod to pull against, dizzing while seated is a breeze!

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FYI, this one-of-a-kind diz was made by my daughter from Fimo clay. She made several for me with different size holes so I can use whichever suits the fiber I am working with.

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After I have the whole combful dizzed I like to wrap the long roving into "nests". I begin by making a loose wrap around two or three fingers.

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I continue wrapping around and around until I come to the end, which I tuck between my first two fingers.

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As I pull my hand out of the wraps I draw this outside end into the middle forming a nest where both ends stay secure until I am ready to spin.

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I like to comb up the entire batch saving the nests in a basket. This way, if I have color variations within the fleece, I can arrange them in a pleasing manner before beginning to spin.

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When it's time to spin it is a simple matter to find the little end of each nest, pull it out and start spinning.

P.S. None of these pictures were taken with me wearing only a slip! It was a hot sunny day and I was wearing shorts. My spinning/combing apron (which captures the dirt, twigs and crud that falls out of the fleece during combing) is made from a long slip that has been sliced down the back. I added a wide ribbon at the waistband to use as apron ties, hemmed the back edges, and whaalaa! a spinning apron that the fiber doesn't stick to. Yes, another invention conceived by necessity.