Monday, November 29, 2010

Near Comatose, I Have Cast On and Knit Two Rows

I am attempting to make a scarf for my sister-in-law, to go with a pullover that I bought her for Christmas. I have cast on and knit two rows, and am already rethinking the meaning of life. I'm watching out of the corner of my eye for my mother, thinking that perhaps she might want to make this scarf. Honestly, I don't understand how you knitters do it. Knitting to me is like having my own personal hypnotist. In two more rows, you'll find me slack-jawed, needles in the air, making a soft snoring noise.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Say Goodbye to Super Soft Dark, Dark Brown Alpaca, Grey Alpaca, and White Angora Bunnie

I am down to a mere 1 ounce of this wonderful fiber. So I'm going to retire the ounce, just in case someone who bought it runs out and needs a bit more to finish a project. In the meantime, my friend Edie took off with all the samples that I spun up. She's going to make me some fingerless mittens.

So that will give me matching socks and mittens! 

I finished picking the Ebay Canadian fiber (at 3:30 this morning),which means it's ready to dye, and now I'm moving the fiber out of my living room, because it's starting to smell a little barn-like! My friend Val says she's going to teach me how to make self-striping yarn (maybe next week? Oh, is that the week my company is coming? Ummm.... maybe they'd like to learn how to make self-striping yarn), so I have a bin of white fiber set aside for that. I've lined up kids to help make soap for the annual Honeoye Rotary Christmas Bazaar. We'll knock that out next Saturday. The only logical thing to do at this point is start the laundry and clean up the house.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Now I'm Really in Trouble

So, I was supposed to spend the day working on expense reports. If not that, then at least cleaning up the house. But my friend Edie showed up carrying two bags of fiber. Big bags of fiber. OK, really big bags of fiber. Nice fiber. Alpaca. Long. Crimpy. Soft. Light colored, which means it could be dyed.

Now I ask you, what am I to do? I am surrounded by fiber. There's the alpaca that I bought off of Ebay that has filled up my laundry baskets. And I have a rule, you know. You have to empty the laundry baskets before you can do the laundry. And Monday is laundry day. So I'm plugging through the six pounds of Ebay fiber, picking out the little bits of stuff and the short fiber. I've filled three laundry baskets and have one left to empty. Cannot do anything else if I'm to stay on schedule for doing the laundry tomorrow. Argh.

But, over in the middle of the living room, there's a rollag of green fiber. Now, this is all my fault. I asked the ladies at guild for advice. I have this collection of green 70% alpaca 30% wool fiber that I've been trying to sell, and not one person has shown any interest. So I asked the girls at guild, and they said I should blend it with something. So I was thinking dark blue and white. But, I mentioned the dilemma to my Mom this morning, and she said she'd like green yarn. Arrggh. And her birthday is this week. So now I'm thinking, "OK, finish up the one bin of white Canadian Ebay fiber, start the laundry, then start chugging through the green fiber and spin that up for Mom." Sounds like a plan, except my favorite spindle has caramel alpaca on it. Well I've got to finish that up, don't I?

So the Ebay fiber is in front of the tv, the caramel alpaca is on the chair next to me, the green fiber is in the living room, and then my friend Edie showed up. With those really big bags of MI-TY FINE alpaca fiber. And I can't let that just sit in the front hallway, so I started processing it. Step 1: stick it in the dryer and turn it on tumble and let it tumble some of the dust out. Well, that's going pretty well, but if you fill up the dryer with alpaca fiber, then you have to get the vacuum out to vacuum up the dirt that lands in the lint trap. And if you do that, then you might as well dust the laundry room up a little. And then, what do you do with the fiber that's coming out of the dryer, because it turns out that the dryer fluffs up the fiber, so now there are six bags and counting of the fiber that Edie brought.

So I thought, "OK, I'll hide the bags of new fiber behind the dining room table. Nobody will see it, because the dining room table has cans of paint for the walls sitting on top of it." Paint?

OK, so the plan is, paint the trim. But the paint cans don't really need to be gone until the first week of December, bcause I resisted the urge and didn't invite any extra company for Thanksgiving dinner. So that means we can all fit at the kitchen table, the dining room table can sit with the cans on it until the green fiber is done (must be done by Thanksgiving). So what are the chances that I can pick through all the fiber sitting behind the dining room table and paint the trim before the first week in December (when my sister and brother-in-law are coming)?

ummm... did I mention the Random Act of Kindness? Yes, yesterday when I was having such a snarky time at guild, I noticed a woman spinning some interesting fiber. So I went over and asked her about it, because I've been reading about making felt out of bunny, and I was wondering if she had ever made a project out of felted bunny, because I wanted to see what it felt like before I sacrificed a bunny's fiber. Turns out her fiber was 70% wool 30% bunny. And this nice lady rolled off a ball and gave it to me. "Oh my!" I cried. "Don't you want me to pay or it?" "Nope", she said, "Just see what you think of it." Yeah, that's the battle cry of fiber ladies all over America. It's how we all ended up in this fine kettle of fiber. And then she dug into her bag (yes, we're all toting bags of fiber around), pulled out a pile of bunny and told me to try that too. Isn't that sweet? How could I remain snarky given this lovely gesture?

So now that's sitting next to the green fiber, and I'm thinking that it just wouldn't be right to let a month go by without spinning up that lovely fiber, given to me by that very nice fiber girl.

So go ahead, wish me luck on my fine endeavor. I've been churning away all evening on the laundry basket of alpaca, and I swear it's getting taller, not shorter. And I keep running into the laundry room to pull out fiber from the dryer. The bags are stacking up behind the dining room table. I... must... go... on...

If only I could knit

One of these days, I plan to buy patterns from this lady on etsy, Woodsmoke Woolworks, and then find someone who can knit me these hats. The fact that I am so willing to wander the world looking just a little bit silly is unexplainable, but I am quite sure adds to my mystique and charm:

My friend Cheryl found a similar pattern for the sheep hat. This is Kristi modelling Cheryl's completed work. Kristi's comment: "Barb, if you make me look like a dork I will never forgive you." This explains the particular pose that I settled on:

Of course, alpaca rancher Kristi commented that if it were an alpaca hat, it would be a totally different story. So maybe Woodsmoke Woolworks will feel compelled to come up with a new design.

A Fingerless (and Not So Fingerless) Frenzy

The girls at guild, and my Mom at home, are into mittens just now. So I can't resist showing you what all they've been up to.

First, we have Theresa's fingerless mittens:

Theresa says these are incredibly comfortable. And the yarn is so pretty!

Not to be outdone, my mother made herself some mittens. Here's the fiber that we started with. I sold a boatload of this, one ounce at a time, at guild:

Here's how it looked after I spun it up for Mom:

And here's her finished product:

Isn't my Mom as cute as a button?

These are fingerless mittens that Kyla Williams was working on. At least one pair is for her husband. I like the way she handled the fingerless part. General consensus is that you need to put something between the finger holes for fingerless mittens, otherwise they'll ride up on you and be terribly annoying wrist muffs. Kyla said she crocheted the connection:

Last of all, Spinoff Magazine had an article about fingerless texting mittens. Theresa has already anticipated this new fad and is working on a design right now. In th meantime, Chris Frayda has already started working using the pattern that was in Spinoff:

Although I am not yet a texter, I love the way the ladies jump on these technological trends and come up with a way to appeal to the trendsetters.

It Must Have Been the Food

Spinning Guild yesterday was an absolute ZOO! They had pot luck, and by the time I got there (with nothing for the potluck, a solid hour late, and no breakfast in my stomach!) there were tons of people, and lots of people were set up to sell, so we were all on top of each other. And, I must confess, I arrived in a SNARKY mood. Snarkiness at guild, if you ask me, is as bad as showing up at church in a snarky mood. Suddenly those adorable little girls in the row ahead of you seem ill-mannered and out of control. No, you shouldn't go to guild feeling snarky and you shouldn't go to church feeling snarky. And so it is said.

In spite of my snarkiness, I did have a good time and came back with all kinds of excitement to talk about. First, I must tell you my cardinal rule of attending guild: Thou shalt not spend the grocery money on baubles. I blew through my rule right off the bat when I saw these lovely shawl pins made by Kyla Williams.

Do I need a shawl pin? Ummm... no. So, maybe the shawl pin could be for my sister-in-law, since I drew her name for Christmas. Yes, that's the answer. So I plunked down the grocery money and bought the shawl pin. Then I sat there thinking, Oh darn. My sister-in-law is an athlete. She's not the type to sit around wearing a shawl, much less a shawl that needs to be pinned to keep it on you.

What to do, what to do?

Then I came across Theresa, who was the first person to buy some of my fiber when I first started showing it at guild,. She made these absolutely adorable fingerless mittens with my fiber that she spun:

Well, negotiations began, because Theresa, it turns out, has a knitting machine and is soon to have an antique sock knitting machine. Wow! It turns out that she recently took a job for a clock repair company, and one of her jobs is to clean up the storeroom, and lo and behold, the owner had a sock knitting machine in the storeroom. He had bought it for his sister, who never took to it (Perish the thought! Is she INSANE?) So he's going to let Theresa have it.

So now I need to point Theresa to "the sock knitting machine guy" - Theresa, his name is Fred Houck, and you can hunt him down at Fred can look over your new-to-you antique sock knitting machine and make sure it is in good shape, or repair it if need be. And then, once you have your sock knitting machine in tip top shape, you should look up Carol Bonczek. Or try Serena Rachels. They are both sock knitting machine enthusiasts. I know that Carol teaches people how to use theirs. I'm not sure if Serena does.

So Theresa and I looked over my yarn, thinking that a shawl might be made, but then I told her that I was really longing for a sweater, so she ended up taking a skein of commercial sock yarn to make socks, and all my blue benny bunny/alpaca that I spun up, to make a sweater. We haven't nailed down the details yet on how much fiber Theresa gets in return for her knitting skills, but I'm sure we'll work something out. Theresa, just take a look at my etsy site and see if there's something you like. If not, give me an idea of something you would like, and I'll see what I can do. I suspect that Theresa is a woman who likes glitz, so I am thinking of making up a round of fiber that has lots of firestar in it. Stay tuned!

By the way, I don't think Theresa has a website or blog yet, but if you'd like to commission her skills for some of these darling fingerless mittens, just drop me a line and I'll track her down.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Dance With Me, Baby!

My cousin Michelle clued me in to this fabulous song. I fell off my chair laughing when it got to the line "You got any darning, you'd like me to do?"

The Knitting Song

Another favorite:

All The Wrinkled Ladies

My favorite line: "Can't hide it so you got to make peace with it"

But I think this is my theme song (substitute the word "spinning" for "knitting":

Never Not Knitting Theme Song

My favorite line: "She's taking pictures of socks again, oh, poor girl!"

C'mon, ladies, let's get out and boogy a little!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

An Ode to Bunnies on a Lovely Fall Day

Ah, fall is here. The weatherman has been predicting that tomorrow the temperature will be 60 degrees. We'll see. But in the meantime, today it is in the 50s, which is good enough for me.

So today I am celebrating the return of my friend Denise and her son Zak from the Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh. They have been there for more than two months, and Zak will be sporting a new-to-him heart. I think that both Denise and Zak must be sick to death of time at the hospital, and even time at Ronald McDonald House. They've been away from Denise's other children for so long.

At any rate, Denise has asked me more than once to show pictures of the lovely dyed bunny that I worked on with my friend Val a couple of weeks ago. So I will present it here and let you be the judge. For myself, I love-love-love it. My friend Cheryl from spinning guild sold it to me. Cheryl, you might as well tell those bunnies to just molt away and set aside all the fiber for me. I am a decadent, out of control spinner who needs her daily bunny fix. Besides, now that I've had the pleasure of wearing socks made of bunny and alpaca, courtesy of Georgia, I think I will have no choice but to consume bunny and alpaca on a grander scale.

Sadly, another day has passed in which I am waiting, not very patiently, for my ebay white alpaca. Boy, when that shows up, I am going to paint the town red. OK, maybe not red. But I am definitely going to do another round of dyeing and see what I can come up with.

In the meantime, I have been spinning and spinning and spinning a blend of suri alpaca and huacaya alpaca. It is carmel colored, and I am hopeful that the suri, which is long and hairlike, will give the huacaya extra strength. Yes, it's all about making cast-iron hand-knitted socks for me. Everything else is incidental.

Now here's the bunny fiber:



Light Apricot and Orange

Seafoam Green

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Most Romantic Man Ever

Please don't tell my husband, but last month at the guild meeting, a woman showed off something in show-and-tell that warmed the cockles of my heart and convinced me that romance is absostinkinglutely not dead. Yes, her husband bought her qiviut. For those of you who are not spinners, qiviut is the pricey and prized fiber of the muskox. Unlike sheep wool, it doesn't shrink, and it is the softest, softest fiber you can possibly imagine. And so, this woman, Sharilyn, showed up with qiviut, given to her by her husband. Well, of course we all felt it, wouldn't you?

 ahhhh... the precious qiviut

In fact, if it was possible to "scoop" the meeting, then this woman did, as her daughter came with her with a brand new wheel, and showed us a hat made a la Harry Potter. We all oohed and aahed. Imagine, having a daughter who likes the same things you do.

As if that wasn't enough, check out the lovely fiber that Sharilyn was working on:

mmmm... fall colors

A sidenote to my sweet husband - no, Honey, you do not need to buy me qiviut, because you know I would want, like, four pounds of it, rather than four ounces, and so we all have to show a little restraint sometime.

PS - Sharilyn, it turns out, has a blog of her own, and she is terribly interesting and witty. So I will point you to her blog so you can see more of her spinning and knitting: I must confess, I find myself terribly jealous of her sock knitting skills, particularly because right now I am jonesing for some new socks. Can a girl ever have enough hand-knit socks? I think not.

Jonesing for a qiviut source? Oh yeah, I found one. Take a look at R.H. Lindsay Company. You can buy Musk Ox for $200/pound, and they'll let you buy it in smaller quantities, bless them. I haven't actually bought from them yet, but they're on my short list for when I run out of silk and mohair.

An Ode to Blue... This Blue is Gone... How Sad

A while back I spun up some lovely Royal Blue Moreno Yarn. My friend Kristi had an open house at her alpaca ranch, so I set up shop. Who should stop by but my doctor and his wife. They bought two skeins. So, well, they left, and I just couldn't stand it. Two skeins? What can you possibly make with two skeins of yarn? So when the famly went for flu shots, I gave the doctor's wife the rest of the Royal Blue Moreno Yarn.

Man, this color really popped.

It looked good sitting with other blues:

One can only hope that it has gone to a better place.

Goodbye, blue wool yarn, I'll miss you.

Raindrops and Roses and Whiskers on Kittens

I have been spinning. And spinning, And spinning some more. In the evenings, lately, I spin. And at the moment, I have one spindle that I love more than all the rest. Spindle makers of the world, please forgive me, but this spindle sits in my hand nicely, is of a weight that makes it possible to spin very thin, and has notches galore. I love notches. I have spindles without notches, and I have nothing to catch the fiber on, and it is utterly, utterly annoying.

A drumroll please...

My absolute favorite spindle is:

This is called a dual whorl spindle, and it was made by Tom Forrester. I confess, I bought it on ebay, gently used. I am not one to pooh-pooh an object just because someone else has enjoyed it a little first. As long as they didn't gnaw on it, I'm good.

Now, the problem with drop spindles is that they are just too darned pretty. So now I'll show you who is next on my horizon of spindle makers.

These next spindles are by Tracy Eichheim at I have to admit, I dream about these spindles. But I've never actually spun with one. Now tell me, is this not the cutest thing you've ever seen?

By the way, if you own one of Tracy's beauties, I hope you'll pose it and take a picture and send it to me for inclusion here. These are all pictures from his website, but I would love to include some from his customers.

Indigo is All About the Blues

We did another round of dyeing last week. This time, my friend Val wanted to try dyeing with indigo. So indigo we did. I don't know if you can tell from the picture, but the water is a nice sludgy pea green. When you pull the fiber out and it hits the air, it turns blue. Also, take note of the fact that Val is wearing protective gloves. Val can be a little cavalier when it comes to safety issues, so I figure it's my job to be the glove nag. Also, we're using my turkey roasters. They worked very well, except for one thing - it took us about six hours of dyeing in the garage before it dawned on us that if we shut the garage door we would be warmer. Once we closed the doors, the turkey roasters worked much better at maintaining the hot temperature needed for dyeing.

We started out by trying to dye wool and alpaca. It didn't go very well. The fiber, I think, was not clean enough. OK, it wasn't particularly cleaned much at all. And with dye, clean fiber is important. So the colors were pretty faded. What we should have done was fill up buckets and go after the fiber to get it more clean, but instead, we kept trying to make the dye more concentrated. Nothing really seemed to click until we tried dyeing yarn, which, of course, you'd expect to be pretty clean. Then, finally, we got some results.

This is Val's yarn, which came out kind of slate blue. One neat thing was that the yarn got darker as it sat drying. I think we would have gotten darker results if we had closed the garage door sooner. Really, when my husband came out and gave us blankets, that's when it finally occured to us that we were freezing without cause.

This next picture shows my indigo results. On the left is bunny, which took the dye pretty well. Then I tried yarn, but I made an ill-fated stupid mistake - the yarn was all tied in places to hold it together. I should have loosened the ties. As a result, I have stripes of white running through my fabulous yarn. And OH it was fabulous yarn. Perfectly spun baby moreno, spun by someone other than me. I am still pondering what I will do. In spite of the stripes, I love it very much and will not let it go to waste.

In terms of tools that worked well for us, the laundry baskets with the metal shelving worked really well. They also motivated me to take the fiber in and do final processing as quickly as possible (we were running out of underwear!). So I'd take a batch in, fill the washing machine, turn off the cold water faucet, soak in hot water, move it into the salad spinner, spin it out and then put it back on the rack to dry. Everything dried surprisingly fast. I also like sweater racks, which are long and flat and you can put them on top of each other. I have four of those and will continue to buy more at future garage sales. Val's tongs, for stirring the fiber in the dye, were essential. I must get myself some tongs. The turkey roasters would have worked better without the garage door being open - we blew out the power several times before we finally used extension cords and plugged into different parts of the house.

One thing about indigo... well, any color, for that matter. After a while, you get sick of one color and feel the need to go on to another. So we did a lot of blue, purple and green. A little bit of orange, but not much.

So, now that we've tried dyeing in the garage in the cold, I'm thinking I could do more that way. I'm pretty sure I could just set up one table, forego the need to pull out all of my assorted chemicals, and just plug through one color at a time. I definitely can't dye in the house. I'm just too sloppy. Anyway, I found a source for white alpaca on ebay, ordered up 6 pounds, and am hopeful that it will arrive in the next week (it is coming from Canada).It's very hard to buy fiber on ebay, because you can't really guarantee that it will be nice. I look for descriptions that say that it is prime, so I won't get a bunch of short stuff, or stuff from the alpaca's butt, and I look for descriptions to say that it is fine alpaca, which I presume means it will be soft. Well, we'll see how that all works out when it arrives. I really want to dye the white alpaca and then blend it with bunny, moreno and silk, as those are my favorites.