Mar 31
Another project continued
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Do you remember these pictures?

This is where I dyed some Targhee top I had spun with cochineal and indigo while still singles – the cochineal pic, the Targhee skeins are the three in the middle. Dyeing the singles relaxed my twist enough that I am having to respin them slightly so I can ply them together. I started this last Friday night.

It took a couple of hours, but I have respun one of the variegated skeins (after Sandy and I spent part of an evening after work winding them into balls) on Friday night and Sunday night saw a bobbin full of the solid cochineal. Now to ply them together.

After work this past week, I have been spinning – some nights for more than two hours. And you know, I have found it to be very healing from all the trials and stresses of my day job. If I can keep this up this next week, I should be able to have the red and veriagated yarn all pied and done and the other veriagated and blue at least respun by the end of next weekend.

I am in rather a hurry to get this done. I want to get it onto the loom and woven off. If there is enough, this fabric is destined to be a jacket. As much as is here, I am counting on having enough.

There will be a bit of the red and blue left over after plying the rest, and I will ply them together as well. Whether they will be a part of the jacket project or something else, I don’t know at this moment. We’ll see.

Mar 29
Earth Hour
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Did you vote for the Earth?

We did.

Mar 28
Watermelon Tourmaline
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The 100% superwash merino top called Watermelon Tourmaline is all spun and Navajo plied. Because of the color scheme of this roving being complimentary colors, I decided to Navajo ply it rather than split it in half and make a two ply out of it. I am very glad I made this decision. It is a very pretty yarn and the colors are bright and clear in it.

Now, this is only the third time I have Navajo plied anything on a serious basis and the last time was over two years ago. I have been Navajo plying left overs of other singles for practice, but only a few yards at a time. I took my time with it and took the advice I have given new spinners, which is, “You can stop the wheel whenever you want.” And this is what I did.

I pulled my single strand through the loop,

Put the three threads together,

Treadled it to ply (in this case 6 times) and let it feed in,

Stopped, and pulled another strand through the loop.

I wanted to make sure the folded ends of the loop were nice and neat. I want to do more Navajo plying so I get used to it and feel comfortable enough to do that continual, fluid motion I see so many other people do. And, the best part? When I wound it off on my antique click reel, made the bundle ties and took it off – it was perfectly balanced! Practice is making perfect – Wow! Mom was right!

I am very pleased with this yarn and enjoyed every minute of spinning it. The color changes were amazing and rather mesmerizing, and some of the patterns made on the bobbin due to how the Woolee Winder wound the yarn on were very lovely. Here is one of my favorites. I love the cross-cross fuchsia against the dark green.

And then, next thing you knew, the colors would be all spread out and just so lovely.

Color and pattern is very interesting to me, and this was a very interesting yarn to spin.

Now, what am I going to do with this lovely gem? Well, I have my LYS owner looking for some black superwash merino top to spin to go with it. That’s all I’m going to tell you right now.

Mar 23
Alpaca Scarf is done!
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This has been the never ending scarf. First, I wanted it to be long enough to fold in half and tuck the ends through and still be long enough to keep me warm in the winter. Well, I think it will be long enough. What do you think?

In fact, it fits Scott much better.

This scarf ended up being 9 feet 8 inches long. Here it is fading into the distance.

Mar 17

This recipe is one I have been tweaking on for the past few weeks and I think I have it perfected. Try it and see what you think. This is a very hearty, filling meal (I can get eight meals out of this), with lots of fiber, and is very tasty. A great way to get in a couple servings of veggies, too. I calculated the cost on this and it is about $1.50 per meal.

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into bite sized pieces
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 large onion, chopped
1 large green pepper, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup pearl barley
3 12 oz bags of frozen vegetables (one that has some beans in it)
1 large blob of butter

Place the chicken in the bottom of the crock pot. Pour in the broth and water. Add the onion, green pepper and black pepper. Stir in the barley. Pour in the frozen vegetables. Place butter on top. Cook on low for 10 hours. Stir to mix thoroughly. This is a great recipe for freezing left-overs for future meals.

Mar 16

With everything going on in my life over the past few months (mostly work related), the level of creativity in me has dwindled to barely there levels. For me, life with no creativity in it is hardly worth living, so you see how things have been with me lately. Knitting and spinning, while relaxing and meditative, does not constitute creativity with me, but that’s what I’ve been doing mostly.

Yesterday, I almost didn’t go to the Indianapolis Art Center with Scott because I really need to do the studio’s and our taxes. The thought of spending such a lovely, sunny day inside with calculator and computer just froze me up inside and I just couldn’t face it. So, rather than doing the responsible thing, I fled to the art center. And, while I still need to do the taxes, I am glad I went.

I took my scarf knitting with me and was quietly knitting away, when one of the artists looked at me and said, “I have something for you.” Then she brought over a bag containing a pattern and the necessary yarn to knit a sweater by Brandon Mably. The yarn is fingering weight and feels like Shetland and is in wonderfully rich colors. She had started the sweater, but, rather than sit and figure out where she was, I opted to rip it out and start it all over again. As I ripped it out and wound the yarn into balls, however, the gears in the creativity area of my brain start to move. At first they creaked – “I could make a different sweater out of this.” Then, once some of the rust had been knocked off, the main gear began to engage other gears, which, in turn, engaged even more gears. By the time I was back to my knitting, these wild and complex designs were careening around in my head.

I finally settled on a tapestry-woven bag. Bags are always useful and I could use the main, front and back panels, as a canvas for something cool. Then my brain began working through some interesting shapes and designs. I need it to be relatively simple, because I don’t want it to take forever to make, but I need it visually interesting enough to not bore me and yet easy enough for my rusty tapestry-weaving skills to actually cope with the design itself.

From this, I also thought of other ways to use tapestry-weaving as art. Now the odd thing about all of this is that, while I like tapestry-weaving, I am not as interested this as much as I am loom-controlled weaves. But these ideas are attempting to consume my mind!

Which just tells me that I cannot let the part of my life that pays the bills overwhelm the creative part of my life – the part of my life actually worth living. And, yes, I know – I still need to do the taxes.

Mar 13
CSA and my LYS
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A couple of years ago, I decided to get real about from where my food comes. I started buying as much as I could of the locally grown varieties, going to farmer’s markets, checking labels and signs at the grocery store and, last year, I raised my own tomatoes (heirloom variety called Pineapple – wonderful flavor and low acid).

This year, I have gone one step further. I contacted several CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farms in my area and got recommendations from friends who purchased from CSA farms in the past. I settled on one that delivers to an organic farm near me. It is Balanced Harvest out of Carmel, Indiana. From them, I will get a half bushel of fresh, in season vegetables from June through October for less then $20 per week. I can add some lean meats, some dairy, some whole grains and some fruit that I purchase at farmer’s markets and I should be able to feed Scott and I very well on about $50 per week. This is roughly half of what I am spending now.

So, I’ll get healthier and better tasting food, help support a local business, and save money all at the same time. Not bad at all!

Wednesday night was my BASK get together at my LYS and we got to tour the new shop as it is now. The cold weather has made it impossible for any work to be done on it for a few months (the furnace hadn’t been installed, yet), but now it has heat, insulation, drywall and is starting to take shape in a very real way. The current shop is much smaller than the new one will be, and there were nearly 20 of us sitting all over the place knitting, crocheting and spinning. It was a tight squeeze and many “excuse me’s” as people took their turns at looking at the yarns and fibers and making their purchases.

The new shop will have a second floor for classes and workshops, and I eye-balled it last night to see how many looms can fit in there. I think we can comfortably get in nine looms! I really am looking forward to teaching in this huge room with its lovely views into the barn proper and over the pastures to the west of the barn.

Also, this is where the Nancy Bush and Judith MacKenzie McCuin spinning for and knitting Estonian lace workshop will be at the end of April. What a wonderful way to initiate the new shop.

Mar 11
Super Weaving!
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For once I like Superman better than Batman. Not even Johnny Saturn knows how to weave!

Mar 9
Fun and productive weekend
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Last night, after the SWIFT annual meeting, I sat down in Studio A at my spinning wheel and spun the rest of the New Day 100% Corriedale by Spunky Eclectic and this afternoon, I plied it. Spinning it this way muted the colors quite a bit from the bright reds, oranges and yellows of the top…

…to a nice lace/sock weight yarn I am now calling Forever Autumn for the song of that name in Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds production. It definitely brings to mind the words “Through Autumn’s golden gown, we used to kick our way…” from that song.

Then I started spinning a wonderful superwash merino top that I won as a door prize in yesterday’s meeting. The colorway of this is Watermelon Tourmaline and it is from Gypsy Girl Creations.

As I began spinning it, I realized that the colors are complimentary to one another and that spinning this like I have spun the others and plying it as a two-ply might not work. So I stopped and plied back on itself part of the singles containing all three colors. I did not like it at all, so I spun through some of the green and plied it back on itself as a three-ply much like it would be if it were to be Navajo-plied. You can see the difference below.

The two ply of these colors created a muddy yarn that detracts from the vibrancy of the fuchsia and green. The three-ply of the green, on the other hand shows the clearness of the color. This is one yarn that will have to be Navajo-plied in order to give the colors their due.

This picture was just too good an opportunity to pass by. Eran pointed it out to me and I ran to get my camera. It shows you ought to be careful of where you sit.

So, if any one wants someone who is a nurse, is good with raising llamas and alpacas, is a fantastic spinner and weaver and is an all-around nice person… Make an Offer!

Mar 6
2009 Spinning Retreat – The Fiber
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And finally, the third part of my report on the 2009 Spinning Retreat at Lindenwood Retreat Center in Donaldson, Indiana.

As spinners, let’s face it, we are all about fiber. I am constantly amazed at the huge variety of fibers, blends of fibers, fineness or coarseness of the same fiber from part to part of animal or from animal to animal within the same breed or the age of the animal. Getting to see my first tog and thel lock from the Icelandic sheep this past weekend was equally fascinating because you get an incredibly soft fiber and a coarse one from the same place on the same animal, only one being the undercoat (the part that keeps the animal warm) and the other the outer coat (the part that keeps the animal weather proof).

Then you can comb the fiber into top or card into rolags or batts depending on how you want the final yarn to be, smooth or fluffy with the fluffy (woolen) spun yarn being warmer than the smooth (worsted). There was every form imaginable at the retreat. Most of us were spinning from commercially prepared top or roving, quite a few were spinning from individually prepared batts like Crosspatch Creations, but Kate, for example, was carding her own ewe’s locks into rolags and spinning it long draw because she wanted a lofty, airy yarn. A few others were spinning fibers from their own animals, but most of them had had the fiber prepared at one of the many small mills beginning to dot the region.

Of course, most singles are then plied to make a stronger yarn. Patricia, for example, spun three bobbins of a Crosspatch Creations batt to make a three-ply yarn. After plying a small sample of the three singles together, she took it off the bobbin to see if she liked it. Then she spun two singles together and checked them to see what the yarn looked like as a two-ply. The results were very interesting. Above is a picture showing the batt, the yarn as a two-ply and the yarn as a three-ply, in that order. The three-ply looks muddier in color than the two-ply. The end result was dramatic enough for her to decide she liked the two-ply yarn much better than the three-ply.

Next thing we found interesting was Charlotte’s Alpaca/Shetland blend. The roving looks to be a lighter carmel color than the actual finished, two-ply yarn does. Why is this? Is it because the spun yarn is denser than the unspun fiber and therefore it has more shadows in it? I’d like to know the answer to this question if anyone can enlighten me.

I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of naturally colored fiber being spun this weekend. I saw very little white and not nearly as much dyed fiber as in the past. But the shades of natural colors ranging from a true black to the lightest gray and from light creamy tan to deep, dark chocolate were wonderful to see. I like naturally colored fibers and have a silver-gray Corriedale fleece at home waiting to be combed and spun.

Take a look at the dark chocolate yarn above. I believe this was a Romney that had had some recycled silk from saris carded into it. A visitor for the day, who is a crocheter quickly bought this yarn before anyone else could get it. The spinner, Debbie, didn’t even get to set the twist. It was such a big hit, that she is going to have the fiber mill who created this as an experiment do up another big batch of it.

While at the retreat, I finished spinning up the Lame Duck Mallard Superwash BFL I got from Spunky Eclectic. The end result made a very nice sock/lace weight yarn, but looks nothing like the ball of wool I had started with. I’ll have to get the yarn meter out to measure this, but at 3.9 ounces, there is plenty enough for a pair of socks.

And last, I began spinning another 4 ounce selection from Spunky Eclectic, this one called New Day, which is 100% Corriedale. It is spinning very finely and easily and I am on the second half of it. Tomorrow is the SWIFT annual meeting, and I will be taking my spinning wheel to see how much closer I can get to having the second bobbin of singles spun, then next week, I hope to be able to get them plied together and see what it is going to look like. Parts of this reminds me of sugar maples in the autumn with its reddish orangey glow, and I think it’s going to be a very autumny looking yarn when it is finished.

Now you can see why the number of deposits made before the event is actually over pretty well fills it for the next year. There is always a waiting list for this retreat, and all of us agree that it would be nicer if it were a day of so longer. An evening, a day, and a morning just isn’t long enough to get in all the spinning and catching up to last us a year.

On an up note, my LYS owner, Susan, is talking about having a sock knitting weekend as another chance to get together for fibery-fun. I am sooo there! Well, if I’m not at a comic book convention, that is…

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