Sunday, December 25, 2011

Why I Like Shopping With My Son

My son and I were on a quest on the day before Christmas. We needed to find a pair of winter boots. Yep, he's been wearing sandels and white socks to school this winter. So we started at Burlington Coat Factory, moved on to Famous Footwear, landed at Marshall's, and finallly bought the boots at Walmart. Along the way, we learned that boots are pretty much the same wherever you go. It took 3 stores to accept that there's no such thing as half sizes in boots. Famous Footwear didn't have his size, and if it had, we would have ended up buying two pair of something, taken 50% off the second pair, and then 20% off the whole deal in order to get the price down to what all the other stores were charging. So keep that in mind if you need to buy cheap plastic molded snow boots.

But Marshalls was where we had THE BEST TIME. Because we spotted the MOST AMAZING SHOES. I got so excited I had to try them on. My boy said there was no way I could walk in them, but I proved him wrong. We giggled and chortled and took pictures, and I have to say, it really is true that if you wear an extra five inches on your feet, you really do look taller and skinnier. Don't you agree?

Oh, come on, don't I look, like, 12 feet tall? I'm an AMAZON! and look at the shoes! My boy says they look like rat shoes. The funny thing is, they didn't even feel like fake fur. They were like threads.

Hey, do you like the way my socks really set off the look? I have a real flair for fashion.

I have to admit, if they had cost $5, I'd have bought them and would be clunking around the living room in them right now. But these precious gems were going for $90, so, sadly, no such luck.

Of  course, this reminds me of a recent trip to the hospital with my Mom. I guess it was on Halloween, because there she was, this itty bitty thing, all snuggled up in the hospital bed, with her feet sticking out, wearing the same socks. At least she wears hers on the appropriate holiday. We have a bit of a thing over here where my Mom buys holiday-appropriate socks for us girls for various events. I'm to the point now where all I own are holiday socks and hand-knitted socks.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Texans Have to Take a Cruise to Wear Nuno Felted Scarves

Yep, my sister-in-law lives in Texas. I've been there. Texas, that is. And just as I imagine many of you are wondering why anybody would live in New York State, well, some of us New Yorkers wonder the same thing about Texas. It's hot. Really hot. And it doesn't have super cool mountains like we have. And it's hot. Really hot. So when I made my sister-in-law a scarf, I had my doubts. I made it as light-weight as I could, given the inferno that it was going to reside in. But my sister-in-law figured a way around it. She took a cruise, where she managed to find a place cold enough to do justice to the scarf and its wonderful warming properties.

My sister-in-law Pat, suited up at a penguin colony somewhere not in Texas

I suppose she could use the scarf as a table runner during the steamy hot days ahead in Texas

Monday, December 5, 2011

something the cat dragged in?

I don't have a cat, but if I did, there's a chance my latest project might turn out to be something the cat dragged in, assuming the cat drags a blue fuzzy snood through the door.

It all started when I got all inspired last weekend and decided I wanted to create a scarf with a hood attached. I googled away until I found a pattern on the internet. I printed the pattern, and then, rather than cut it out and follow it, I eyeballed it.

Note to self: Eyeballing. Not a good idea.

With fervid industry, I cut out my pattern from a nuno felted scarf that I had made. I then pinned things together and asked my sweet husband to sew it for me. That clever, clever man! He asked me if he could see the pattern, and I assured him that it was unnecessary because I knew exactly what to do.

Note to self: Must stop lying to husband.

So, he got out the sewing machine, plunked down my project, and promptly broke the needle on the sewing machine running over my pinning.

Eventually, he got a new needle in and sewed things up. We rested the scood, for that is what we were making, on my head, and my husband said, "Umm... you look like Sister Bertrille. Was that what you wanted?"

Err... no, I did not want to look like the Flying Nun. My sweet patookie valiantly offered to take the stitches out so I could try again, but it seemed to me that it was only appropriate that I suffer for my eyeballing decision, so I took it apart myself. And then I cut out the pattern.

Note to self: Wow! What a huge difference cutting out the pattern makes!

From there, taping the pattern together seemed like the next most amazingly brilliant brain fart.

Some reconstruction was necessary for the next round of pinning, because I must confess that the first time I eyeballed the pattern, it seemed to me that the middle piece (there are three pieces) was too long, so I eyeballed it and cut off the extra stuff.

Note to self: Really?

So, I pinned everything together, including the piece that I had cut off, and set my sweet sweet man to work.

There was much sighing. Apparently sewing together a project like this from a loosely organized nuno felted conglomeration of fiber isn't easy. I can remember thinking "Three straight lines, snip snip, how hard can this be?" But my sweet sweet man was having trouble with the tension, or the thread, or the sewing machine, or something. Anyway, eventually he finished, and I had myself a snood.

If you were to look too closely at my snood, you might notice that one side of the scarf was longer than the other. My sweet husband and I concluded that it just made my snoody wrap more efficiently around my neck. And with the snood on, I no longer look like a nun. All in all, this is the ugliest thing I've made so far, but I really like it, because I like to take walks with my handsome husband, and so on cold days I can wear the hood until I get too warm, and then use it as a scarf.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Mmmm... bunny

If you aren't familiar with the business of spinning, you might be worried that there are dead bunnies everywhere when I say that I've just hauled home a good stash. But please, set your minds at ease, one plucks the fiber from the lovely bunnies, or trims the fiber off with scissors, which isn't quite as nice as plucking in terms of the quality of the fiber, but still, it is nice, and it is bunny, and it is soft. No bunnies part with their lives to becomes part of a handspun scarf or a sweater.

I like to dye bunny, because the colors come out very vibrant. And I like to use bunny with my nuno felted scarves, because the bunnie is very cozy. Warmer than wool, and snugglier.

Pre-Small Business Saturday: What'ja Get?

The plan: go to the bank, take out a wee bit of money to cover an angora transaction with my friend Cheryl, go to the Genesee Valley Hand Spinner's Guild meeting, make the exchange, take a brief glance around, and then leave. It was all... so... simple.

So, I get there, and Cheryl says, "So, did you want all of it, or part of it?" And I said, "All, of course", and rolled my eyes expressively. We met out in the parking lot, did the exchange, and I put the goods in my car. If spinning was illegal, we'd be arrested by now, as I parked right in front of the Victor police.

With my car full of soft stuff, you would have thought I'd have been done, but then I spotted Pat Gesler of Firefly Farms, and by the time I was done with her, I was down to $6 and some loose change. And even then, I thought about spending the last $6, but I figured that after you go back to someone's table three times, you really need to stop. I don't want to look like a fiber stalker, after all.

So what'd I get? Plenty.

First, I bought soap. Pat makes this super nice soap that has luffa inside. What an invention! I buy some soap every time I see her, and highly recommend it.

And then there was some roving. I'd been trolling the websites lately looking for maroon roving, and there it was, sitting within range of sight. So I bought some. And then some more after I found some money in my pockets. I stopped short of buying it all, but that's only because I ran out of money. There are 7 more balls waiting for me. I've got my eye on them too.

Well, of course I dragged it all home and started spinning. What a rich maroon color! And this is cashgora and pygora blended together. Both are rather rare goats with very soft coats. I looked Pat in the eye and said, "Now, let's just keep this between you and me: please don't tell my husband." And she said that until you came home with an animal, instead of just fiber, there really wasn't much to talk about. Apparently she's acquired a few goats that way.

Now, what to make with my treasure? I looked outside and couldn't help but notice that my brother's truck was a perfect match for my new maroon cashgora/pygora blend:

I'd make my brother something, or find someone to make him something, but somehow he doesn't seem the type to want to own luxury fiber scarves or mittens that match his truck. So I'll have to think about it. In the meantime, if you have any ideas, let me know. I'm spinning very thin this time, motivated by my fellow guildmembers, who spin very nicely thin all the time.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

HOT Pink Nuno Felted Scarf... Who's With Me?

My mother, a conservative sort, noted that my newest scarf is "very nice, dear, but... well, the color is... well..." Say it ain't so, Grandma! What kind of attitude is this?

Do I look gaudy?
Friends, I ask you, does this scarf make me look like a tart? I wore it to a restaurant yesterday, and can assure you that not even one seedy character gave me the eyeball. I wore it to a parent-teacher conference... is it possible that my son's teacher is secretly thinking, "Goodness, look at that brazen woman. That explains a lot."

Nonetheless, I'll let you get a closer look so you can decide for yourself:

It is two-sided. My son says the other side looks like cotton candy. The amount of angora in this scarf is plentiful. All that pink... and I used white... and then there's even some light peach.

For my next project, I'm going to try embedding flower leaves that I cut out of an angora sweater I purchased at a thrift store. I theorize that I need to lightly baste the flower petals onto the silk, then add all the other fiber, and then pound away to make it all stick together. Stay tuned...

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Oh Glory Be, I Forgot to Show You the OTHER Scarves

Honestly, some days I just forget what I'm doing. These are the last two scarves that I made a couple of weeks ago with my friends Denise and Channyn.

We tried doing two at the same time.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Don't do that.

We started with one that would have lots of greens in it. The base silk was this light blue, green, yellow and white silk that I brought.

We did well with these lovely lightly distributed colors. 

And then I'm pretty sure Channyn said, "Now don't get carried away and make it too heavy."

Sadly, I think we ignored Channyn and got a little carried away.

Yeah, we might have gotten carried away with the green toward the end.

We really look like we're having fun here, don't we? We were, until we had to move on to the second scarf.

Here's a closeup:

And here's the end result.

LESSONS LEARNED: Look real close... do you see my original blue, green, yellow and white scarf? Yeah, me neither. Nice silk like that is best used as the final layer, not the base layer.

OK, now let's look at the second project.

So, for the second project, we laid down a base of super-thin black silk. Then we put black mereno on it, added embellishments, wet it down and put a layer of tuille over it and started smushing.

We used a lot of maroon silk on top for embellishment. And this time, we were careful to put a very thin layer of the black merino across the silk, just to make extra sure it would hold things down. The merino, you'll recall, acts as the glue.

We particularly liked the length of this scarf. We decided on the length by wrapping the silk around my neck and then cutting a piece off when we were satisfied that it would be long enough. The blue green scarf came out wider and a bit shorter. I think we ended up liking narrower and longer better.

My model, Denise, appears delighted.

Here's a closeup:


I learned on my next scarves (the blue green ones that I did at home) that if I wasn't satisfied that things had felted enough, I could wet everything down and tackle it again. And I could wait until the next day if I wanted. Which is nice, because pounding away on this stuff really wears you out.

On my next scarves, I also tried leaving areas of the base silk without anything on them. That didn't work so well. The silk is really thin, and should be laid on top for best effect. That was easily fixed, though - I just added a light layer of wool, wet everything down, and muscled it into felt.

By the time we were done with this, we were all ready to lie down and give up. So don't go trying to do two scarves at the same time; it's just too much work. Fortunately, Channyn fed us.

Hot Off the Spindle

I've just finished up a round of plying some lovely lilac alpaca with gold firestar blended in to itself. See what you think:

The most recently plied is on the spindle on the right, which is an Avi Wasserman spindle. The spindle is huge, made of paduak and ebony, and I must confess, I do not love it as much as I ought. It is very nice for plying because of its size, but it doesn't have notches on the whorl, and I am just no good without those notches. So, if you've been longing to own an Avi, do let me know - perhaps we could trade a notched spindle in your collection for this one. Or maybe some mereno - I'm using up my wool, but I don't have any nice mereno, and I'm feeling much too thrifty to run out and buy some.

Now, you might be wondering what's going on with all that other fiber... I like to start with one blend and then ply it with other yarns to see what they look like. You might argue that five different colors of yarn won't make a sweater, but I think we all know that there are no sweaters in my future. I'll stick with the joy of blending, and my Mom can stick with making hats. And maybe scarves. And socks? They don't really have to match, do they?

I hit a school sale this week and picked up the lovely container in this picture. I know, you're supposed to keep your fiber heavily guarded in containers that don't let the light in, but what good is it to make yarn if you can't look at it? So I've taken to collecting containers of this ilk, and then lining them up on the entertainment center, in amongst the Legos.

I come by this containment system fetish fair and square - my Dad liked containment systems as well, though his preference was for bookshelves. Unfortunately, he didn't like the depth of a standard bookshelf, so he started asking my brother to cut all the bookshelves in half. My brother, who doesn't have a silly bone in his body, refused to cut the shelves in half because he said Dad would end up with two flimsy particle board book shelves, and the only way to use them would be to attach them to the walls. So, finally, I started taking them into town, where Dad convinced a fellow to cut them for him.

Now, you might ask why I went along on this junket, but all I can say is that given my own love of a good containment system as a mechanism for displaying one's stash, it didn't seem right for me to get in Dad's way. But I will confess that in the end my brother was right. We now have a basement full of particle board bookshelves that have been cut in half and attached to the walls because, well, they won't stay up any other way.

Bua ha ha ha - I've Found the Place Where Spindlers Are Parting With Their Stashes

I consider myself a bit of a spindle connoisseur (true confession: I had to look up how to spell connoisseur). When I am bored, unhappy, happy, or dismayed, I troll etsy and ebay looking for interesting spindles. But yesterday I became so bored that I started trolling artfire and ravelry. I even had to look up my passwords, as I so rarely hit those two sites. And it was on ravelry, a site I don't really understand how to use, that I discovered the thriving secondary market in gently used spindle stashes. It turns out that the market there is so HOT that people list their stashes, and within hours, they are sold. I found the destashers following this path:  forums > spindle candy group > discussion board

Upon further thought, it occurs to me that I probably shouldn't have told you that.

So, my trolling led to a note to my husband, suggesting that he could do me a solid if he picked me up a little somethin-somethin for my birthday. There's a spindlemaker named Ken Ledbetter (KCL Woods) who has solved the biggest problem in my spindling efforts - how to keep the thread going once you've filled up the spindle. Ken makes lovely spindles, but now offers a type called "modular" that includes three shafts. So you fill up one, unscrew it, screw in the next and take it from there.

Note to My Sweet Patookie: If one is good, two is surely better. I am, after all, approaching a pivotal anniversary of my birth.

What Got Made

The silks arrived and then my Dad died. Inbetween slogging away at funeral preparations and eulogy writing, I set up an 8 foot table in the basement and started churning out silk scarves. I know my Dad would totally understand; when he felt under pressure, he always fell back to routines himself. Mom said that every time she went into the hospital, she'd come home and find another new tv set up in another part of the house, complete with a vcr. Dad would explain that he thought a tv would improve her lot in life. In the meantime, he'd be adjusting his schedule of how many movie channels he could videotape movies from, and then cuss away while he got it working. You can't imagine how complicated it must have been to have three televisions with three vcrs taping every movie Dad could possibly consider interesting. I can imagine, because I now have to figure out what to do with all those hundreds of videos. Don't even get me started on the DVDs.

Anyway, I made three scarves, one for my sister-in-law Pat, who is going on a trip and needed hers in time for the trip, one for my best friend Julie from grammar school, who was having a bridal shower, and one for the funeral. OK, I made a fourth one, but it didn't come out quite right, so now it's got a spot on top of the entertainment unit, underneath the Lego models. oh, yes, some day I'll have to tell you about the Legos.

This is the first one I made, for my sister-in-law Pat. Do you see the gold? That's gold tussah silk, and I love how that turned out. Because my sister-in-law lives in Texas, a freakishly over-heated sweltering part of the country if ever there was one, I made this one as light-weight as possible.

I made this one for my friend Julie. Those dashes of magenta are from pieces of my original butterfly cloak's silk. And the black is the edging of the underlying black silk. I don't waste anything. Oh, and for this one, I remembered to use silk hankies. The pink you see is from the edges of silk hankies. I love all the green silk that I put in. Totally cool.

And this is the last scarf, my funeral scarf. The nice thing about nuno felting is that you can do something interesting on one side, and then do something different on the other side, to create two complementing looks.

Oops, in this picture, the dog looks better than the scarf. What can I say? The dogs really like my projects. But here are two more pictures, hopefully showing what I was getting at about the two-sided opportunities with nuno felted scarves. I don't know if you can tell, but in the first picture, I learned a little lesson from my friend Denise, and used gold firestar. I tried firestar (which is colored tinsel) when I first started nuno felting, but I was too heavy handed so it looked like chunked up tinsel. But Denise did a scarf where she laid out the firestar in wispy threads, and that turned out A-MAZING. Anyway, this side of the scarf also has lots of purple angora (I do so love bunny!) and green silk that I dyed myself.

You might conclude I was aiming a little gloomier on the flipside, with the black mohair. Can you see the clomps of grey? I cut up a lovely grey silk scarf that had flowers on it. I really like the way the silk is embraced by the wool so that it scrunches up.

This is a closeup showing the black and grey silk scarf infusion.

For what it's worth, it's pretty hard to take pictures that do justice to this art form, but I've given it my best shot.

By the way, if you'd like to contribute to the arts, dig through your closet and look for super-thin silk - silk scarves are particularly handy. I pick them up at garage sales, thrift shops and church sales, but the garage sale season has come to an end up here in the northern tundra, so my supply isn't keeping up with my demand.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Silks Are Coming

I ordered silk from three different places to get started on Christmas presents. First, I bought silk from Fabric Mart:
Italian China Silk

This is silk crepe de chine and silk charmeuse. I'm hoping they aren't too thick for doing nuno felting.

Tomorrow the Dharma Trading fabric is arriving. I ordered black and white silk gauze:

I also ordered white China Silk. I have big plans to experiment with silk dyeing.

Last but not least, I ordered blue and yellow silk on Ebay. It's travelling a long way, though, so I'm betting it doesn't show up for a few weeks:

It's probably best if we keep this to ourselves. I'm hoping my husband won't notice all the silk sneaking into the house. He might conclude that I've uncovered a new hobby.

I'm Feeling All Tweedy

I've been chugging away, to come up with something that compares with my friend Denise's multi-colored very sassy yarn. And so, I present to you my week of TWEEDS.

This is two ply. One ply is violet alpaca with gold firestar blended in. The other ply is blue silk.


I made this with purple angora, blue silk, purple sari silk threads, and blue firestar.

Here's the Old Man Purple
So then I decided to take "Old Man Purple" and ply it with cashgora blue.

Here's the blue cashgora

The result is blue cashgora tweeded with hints of maroon, light green and lots of blues
I like how this turned out. It's a hint of light green alpaca, lots of purple angora, lots of blue silk, purple sari silk, and blue firestar.