Category Archives: Spinning

Amelia Island Part 1

Hello in Blogland!

There hasn’t been a lot to report in a while and I got out of the habit of blogging.   Sis and I had a vacation, so there are new things to share with you.

Amelia Island!  I received a Garmin GPS for Christmas (LOVE IT) and it doesn’t recognize Amelia Island, but it does Fernandina Beach which so handily is the same place.  Sis was attending a professional conference and brought me along for company and driving assistance.  I enjoy driving, and she doesn’t so it is a good match.  The first road test of the Garmin with the sisters on wheels provided some entertainment to watch the roads go past on the display and hear the oh-so-patient “Recalculating.”

Garvin the Garmin is pretty insistent on the routes you are to take and doesn’t have a lot of understanding that you might wish to detour a bit for various reasons.  I declare that The Voice becomes a little testy at times when you ignore it.   One of our brief stops was at one of the Citrus stores – with free samples and juice.  That alone was worth the stop.

We both LOVE pralines, and the store had a packaged one that we bought to give it a try.   Sis is trying to adapt to a low carb diet so chooses her carbs with care and this was not worth a second taste to her.  It wasn’t all that bad, but did have a “chemical-y” taste to it.  Interesting that they used a plastic lid for a drink cup as a support for the praline.

Garvin took us right to the door of the hotel.  It was a recently remodeled hotel with comfy beds and great pillows.  A nice bar area held a microwave and small refrigerator.  After dropping Sis off at the first conference session I did a bit of shopping in a local grocery store to lay in some lunch and snack supplies.

The original plan had both of us getting up and I would drop Sis off at the conference each morning and pick her up in the afternoon in order to have the car for the day for driving around and doing things.  But the conference schedule was arranged so the participants would have time to enjoy the features of the resort and she was “released” at lunch time most days.  Sis was the only one to arise in the early hours and drove herself.  Save gas you know and I was looking forward to some crafting time…sleeping in a bit had NOTHING to do with the decision (HAH!).

The hotel also had a marvelous hot breakfast – fluffy scrambled eggs, sausage, biscuits, and the usual cereal, toast, yogurt, and pastries.  I’d go down and linger over a leisurely breakfast while reading and return with my spinning wheel to spin while I watched the world go by.  People generally do a double take when they walk past when they see me spinning.  Some stop and chat with me, and it is always interesting.  One man said “You don’t see people doing that much, do you?”  My response was that he wasn’t hanging around with the right people…

I did brave the chill of the pool one day to do my water exercises but although pleasant was a bit on the COLD side.  Sis loves being in the water, too, and when she got home from the conference the first day we hit the pool.  I got in but she dipped her toe in and declared it was too cold so went and sat in the sun with her book.

This is going to be the tale of the seafood restaurants.  We LOVE seafood, and since this area has a great history of fishing…so it must be easy to find good seafood, right?  The first restaurant was within walking distance of the hotel but I about fell out of my seat over the price of the food.  A little more than I was expecting but we decided to stay and I’m glad we did.  The crab cakes were perfect – large bits of real crab with just enough other stuff to make them hold together while cooking.  YUM.  It was also interesting to note that the tables were supported by antique treadle sewing machine bases.  Interesting but horrifying…all those gorgeous sewing machines trashed!!!

Podcasts I like Part 1

While working on the ebay stuff I like to listen to podcasts.  Some of my favorite podcasters talk about knitting, spinning, and books.  I keep “discovering” new ones because each podcaster likes to mention and discuss the podcasts THEY like to listen to.

In no particular order:

Crafternoon Tea with GrannyG – From New Zealand!  (I can’t believe spell check doesn’t recognize that Zealand is a proper word).  “A fibrecraft podcast from NZ featuring interviews with inspiring people.”  And recipes.  Cooking yummy stuff!  She even prepares fiber for spinning – I love messing with wool.

The Knitmore Girls – “A Mother Daughter Knitting Production”  Jasmin and GiGi share their knitting projects and errors, spinning, sewing, and reviews.  I really enjoy their respect and love for each other that comes through each discussion.  Makes me cherish the memories I have of my mother even more.  Of course,  she would never record her voice because she sounded “too southern” as do I.

CraftLit – Heather O discusses her knitting, life, cooking, and comments on the book portion.  She serially presents a book in audio form from Librivox and discusses the themes, plot, and other information that enhances your understanding and enjoyment of the book.  It is like sitting down with your friend the English teacher over her/his favorite books.  I got hooked on her with Jane Austen and stuck around for Mark Twain A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.  It is not a book I would see myself reading (so many books, so little time…) but I am enjoying  the commentary and a few chapters each podcast.  The reader is fantastic.   I am looking forward to going back and “reading” some of the previous books with Heather.

CogKNITive – A Knitting-Psychology Podcast.  Dr. Gemma is a practicing Psychologist in California in both private practice and the prison system.  Each podcast includes a discussion about knitting, crochet, spinning, aspects of her job, and a life strategy.  She organizes a small fiber festival each year at the beginning of October and I wish I was close enough to go.  I love her common sense approach to living life.  Knitmore Girls mentioned her, and I am so glad they did!

Knitting update

It is nearly time for my personal realization that Christmas is coming and I have gifts to make.  Not quite yet because Thanksgiving is the panic button day.

So I am doing general knitting and spinning.

I started a shawl (Blue Jeans Lace Leaf Shawl) with my own handspun, a single ply, and it is not going well.  I don’t spin well enough yet to skip the all-important plying step to help hide some of my way too thin parts.  Grey wool on silver knit picks needles?  Not so easy for my eyes on the cobweb weight parts.  I will persevere!  The parts that are done look nice, so that is encouraging.  At the rate it is going I will still be working on it 2 years from now.
Since I wrote this draft, the above shawl is no more.  We made it to row 30 and I was spending more time tediously tinking back than I was knitting forward.  Some yellow baby yarn was in my stash and I began knitting with it to see if it was the pattern or the yarn giving me problems.  It was the yarn.  The lovely gray has been ripped out and wound carefully back into it’s ball to await further inspiration.  Even though the yellow is kind of bright and squeaky acrylic it is fun knitting.  The pattern finally MAKES SENSE!

The sock yarn blankie is going well and will have a lot of blue.  I had never noticed how many of my knitterly friends liked to make blue socks.  He (the blankie is a He.  For some reason I have begun to refer to IT as a HE) has been a traveling companion and dr’s office calming device.  Quite a few people commented on how serene I looked knitting while waiting for my eye surgery.  Knitting makes a great socially acceptable pacifier for a medical procedure wienie.

Socks are on another pair of needles and actually got about an inch or so done on them today. 

The all important heel is coming up and the anticipation is daunting.  I need an easy to engineer heel that can be readily altered for large ankles.  Very large ankles.  I’m trying to decide between Widdershins (a kind blogger even broke it down farther for some of us) or Fleegle heel (Fleegle fine tuned the method in another blog post).

Spinning is chocolate cherry wool from my VA shepherd(ess?) friend and I am TRYING to make a thicker singles.  I would love something I could ply 2 together and get a sport weight.  Or even go whole hog and 3 ply!  wow!

Take Care!

Adventures: Fleece

Well, I did it.  Bought a whole fleece.   I found a farmer with a spinning flock selling an uncoated registered romney ewe fleece for $3 a lb.  She was kind enough to ship it to me parcel post and I have been messing around with it for the last week.

A coated or jacketed sheep wears a coat to protect the wool from dirt, hay, poop, and sun damage. The resulting fleece is much easier to process by either the craft person or the mill and brings higher prices.

Grannie is the name of “my” sheep, and she is about 6 yrs old and one of the first sheep acquired when the farmer started raising sheep again.  The clean wool I’ve achieved so far is mostly white,  shiny, and soft for a romney with a nice wavy crimp.

When the box arrived I cut the tape and excitedly pulled out a handful of greasy, dirty fleece.  A definite “sheep” aroma drifted from the plastic bag and was bundled into outside storage.  Only my sample came into the house.

Scouring or washing raw wool is an art form.  I wanted something simple and straightforward I could do NOW.  Burrito method!  Placing individual locks on a square of fabric and then folding over on itself to encase the wool in a fabric bundle about the size of the plastic tub for washing.  Hot tap water, a bit of gentle soap (Johnson’s baby wash) and the fun began!  At this stage most of the work is preparing the burrito  and changing the wash water.

My wash water wasn’t as dirty as some of the pictures I’d seen, but I drained the water and added fresh before it cooled.  Before heading to bed I unwrapped the cloth to check on the progress.  The butt end where the locks were sheared from the sheep was a pretty white darkening to an icky sticky yellow towards the tip.  My assumption was lanolin, so the next day I heated water in the microwave for soaking.  Another spinner was emphatic that shampoo was the preferred soap, so I used some Johnson’s Baby Shampoo.  The water turned a bit yellow and the wool grew lighter and lighter.

Encouraged I went back to the fleece, spread it out and took a few pictures

The whole fleece

before ripping off from the upper right and place in net lingerie bags for washing in the washing machine.  A washer full of HOT water and Palmolive (another goof – got the one with Oxyclean, a no-no) soak, spin, and repeat twice more ending in two rinses.  A few bits were cleaner, others still nasty.  Sigh

I started going through the bags to check the progress.  The dirty parts were clumped together.  Maybe THAT was why so much dirt remained.

My solution was to pull the clumps apart at the locks and tease open the tips, hoping it would come cleaner in the next experiment.  Success!  Some did come clean enough to spindle spin a sample. That was fun and I quickly spun up a couple yards of singles to ply back on itself. The yarn size looks about like a dk to sport weight, and I’ll know more after it is finished.

Since only SOME came clean I thought I needed another approach.  A sample of the separated locks was brought inside for the next experiment.  A friend mentioned some of the processing tutorials she saw recommended soaking in cold water.  OK – good idea!  Just soaking in cold tap water it turns as dingy as it did in the hot water and soap. Interesting.    When dried, they look better but still not good enough.

I bought some Kookaburra wool wash and added that to the cold water and let the bag of locks soak. The water looked a little more dingy than it had before but the dirt was thick on the end of the locks so I began to get impatient and gently rubbed the dirty tips while submerged in the wool wash/cold water mix. The dirt just whooshed out. Visible Progress!  Still dirty looking wool, though.

Even though the tips were pulled apart and then rubbed in the wash water, each clumped strand was dirty.  Pet comb!  After drying I combed out the tips of each lock.  The cloth protecting my lap was filthy and the dirt fell out along with most of the VM (vegetable matter).  Progress.  I set aside the cleaner locks for spinning trials and went back to cleaning.

Clumped and dirty lock before combing

Same Lock after combing

At this point I appear to have two problems.  Physical dirt and yellow.  I am assuming the yellow is lanolin (Oil of Olay, anyone?).  The research identifies the lanolin as a WAX that can be removed by hot water.  OK.  I can do that.

So dirt.  since the wool tips clump when wet, maybe the dirt isn’t falling out.  I can’t believe I did this – I stood at the sink and swished the tips of EACH combed lock around in a basin of cool water.  MUD fell out of the locks and collected on the bottom of the container.  Wow.  That much dirt!

By this time I have emptied several more of the machine washed lingerie bags.  Physically combing out the dirt-caked tips, swishing in a basin to remove the loose dirt and then replacing in a net bag for soaks I HOPE will result in some spinable wool.

Two more lingerie bags of the first batch needed to be combed and it was a beautiful evening.  It took about 3 hours to separate into locks, comb, grade, and place into baskets for washing.  Here is the result – the waste is in the cardboard box to the right.  Some locks are 6 inches, some 4, and some even shorter.   The shortcuts are sad.  Here is a clean, white, gorgeous bit of wool and it is only an inch long.  Sniff.  Toss in the waste box!

Please ignore the dirty carport, and spring is when live oak trees shed their leaves.

And a close up…I am so proud of this basket of fluffy wool!

I’m toying with the idea of taking the combing waste to see if it can be carded.

I think I am going to carefully place back in the bags and soak in cold water to get out the loose dirt.  Ummm…how clean is clean enough?  Should I stop now or continue?

Next batch?  Shake the fleece so the second cuts and whatever loose dirt fall out.  Then beat the darn thing with an broom (I think this is going to be satisfying) to break up the encrusted dirt (and it is dirt, not sheep poop.  For the most part) and shake again.  Place into lingerie bags, lower into buckets and add cold water.  Let sit there a day…two…or more.  (If I can stand the smell).  Allow to drain and plop in the washer filled with hot hot water (will have to turn up the water heater) and Original Blue Dawn dish soap.  Soak for 20 mins, spin, repeat.  Rinse.  Check for mud.

And HOPE HOPE HOPE that works!

Still Spinning – more drop spindles

I love spinning with my drop spindle!  I have the ones I made when I first started, one specially made for me by my brother the wood-turner, and a new one I purchased at spinning camp.

The new purchase is a cherry/red cedar beauty by Steve Kundert weighing in at a whopping 1.2 oz.  Here it is with some wool/alpaca I blended on a friend’s drum carder.  forest green Corriedale, white CVM (the tweedy bits), fawn alpaca and a bit of teal colored wool.

The spindle is a little heavier than I am accustomed to using, but it really flies and I do love the resulting yarn.   This yarn was finished the same day of the picture and I moved on to spinning the remainder of the blue merino  shown in a previous post.  That yarn will be a 2-ply and will look lovely with the shades of blue blending into each other.

The Kundert has a new cousin, a gift from a fellow spinner/knitter.  A genuine Bolivian spindle that is used while sitting on the ground.  Uh…I don’t sit on the ground but since I am not tall I can use it while sitting in a chair, like a shorter Navajo spindle.  When I received the spindle I pulled out some of the blue merino and immediately started spinning.  A bit of a different experience and lots of fun.

Spinning in Florida

Last week I attended a spinning retreat/camp/gathering in Florida and had the most marvelous time learning new techniques and meeting so many other spinners.  I spin on a spindle and most of the people there were wheel spinners but we are all making fiber twisty to get yarn.  A lot of the techniques are the same and a spindle is “better” in one sense because it is portable.  And lighter!

The vendors had tables and displays full of soft, colorful wools and yarns that begged to be taken home.  You could clearly see the different displays empty as the days went by.  I bit.  I had Christmas money burning a hole in my pocket and just had to buy a few things.

Brother and his family were very generous to me at Christmas and gifted me with about 2.5 lbs of different wools for spinning.  All of it soft, well processed and in deep, rich colors.  I wanted to experiment with the dark navy solid and purchased some dyed merino in a blend of blues.  After spinning each one separately I combined the two together into a two ply yarn with a “Barber pole”  look.  The yarn is 102 yards of soft and squishy.

I have Stuff To Do so better get this out so you all can see something new.  More later!

Spinning in Public

Today was gorgeous.  It was in the 70’s when I pulled into my favorite local park by the river.  You may recognize it, the scene of the anointing of my “Bird Poop Socks”.  Late in the afternoon the picnic table next to the boardwalk IN THE CLEARING was free so I set up there.

Cypress trees and moss

Cypress trees and moss

The idea was to take some pictures of my hand-spun yarn with the weathered wood of the boardwalk as a backdrop and do some spinning.

Pictures came first while the light was good – bright and mostly overcast with bursts of sunshine.  It was quite breezy so I was a bit apprehensive about setting some of the tiny skeins on the walkway and held some in my hand.

A couple of my favorite pictures:

The first yarn is Rambouillet from Lazy Dog Farm in Texas.  Very very soft and fun to spin.  Two ply, about DK weight.  I think 80 yards.

The mini skein is my “mutant” roving – the sheep breed is CVM or California Variegated Mutant.  The breed is a result of crosses of Romney and Rambouillet sheep from nearly a century ago.  Not quite as soft as the straight Rambouillet and very nice to spin.  I  have about 5 more ounces, and I WANT MORE.  2 ply, sock weight.  I was going for lace weight, and it fluffied up on me.  For comparison the white yarn tied around the skein to hold it in place is good ole’ acrylic worsted.

Spinning

A near-constant breeze and gusts made it a bit windy but not too windy to spin.  The temperature was nice and it was like sitting outside in air conditioning… After I relaxed into the process, I was concentrating so thoroughly I was startled when a woman started talking to me.   We had a nice visit and she admired the single I was making.  After she and her dogs left, others walked by and spoke including a man that mentioned his mother used to spin with a spindle, and make blankets and rugs.

It is fun to talk to people about my spinning and I was able to get a nice start on a Christmas present for a member of my family.

One last picture: