Monday, November 23, 2009

The Bottomless Pit of Merino

I suppose that if you have to have a mound of fibre waiting to be spun that never seems to go down in volumn it could be a lot worse things than superwash merino. It seems like I have been spinning this merino forever! I kettle dyed the fibre last summer and I started spinning it about a month ago. I keep thinking that today I will get the singles finished, but when it is time to turn off the lights and go to bed I am perpetually amazed to see that there is sproingy mass of it still in the basket. Hopefully, I will get it finished today.

I forgot (again) to take a picture of the fibre after dyeing so will have to make do with a photo of some it after doing some predrafting. I separated it and predrafted to keep the colours a little more true. It is a mix of deep blues, burgundy-red and deep purple.
I started out with 200 grams of fibre and I have the fine singles on 2 bobbins.
My dilemma now is that I don't have a clue what to do with it. I chain plied a bit of it (bottom with more blue) and did a small amount in a 2-ply (top example). There really isn't a lot of difference in the diameter, but it is still unwashed. The chain ply is also spun a little tighter.

I haven't had the time to do a lot of knitting either, although I did get the Wensleydale I dyed cast on and started. I am finally getting a lot more adventurous with my socks and breaking away from all the stockinette. I have trouble finding a good pattern for my handspun yarns. Anything too lacy or with too much open work doesn't seem right with a 3-ply yarn, especially Wensleydale. This Wensleydale is knitting up quite surprisingly soft, however.
I ended up using the Socks of Kindess recipe and I am very, very pleased with how they are looking so far. I sacrificed a bit of the luster with the Navajo ply, but the colours are knitting up incredibly pretty - subtle enough that the pattern isn't lost, but with enough variation to keep it interesting.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Katie had a great time this Hallowe'en - birthday party on Friday, Hallowe'en party Saturday afternoon, treat or treating Saturday evening. But Sunday - fever of 102.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Playing Catch-Up

I am taking an intermediate spinning class at my LYS, Golden Willow Natural Fibres, and really enjoying it. I had thrown my older, much more portable camera into my bag of fibre weeks ago, but kept forgetting to take it out when I was at class. Last Thursday I finally remember that I had it and so I took it out to take some pictures and found that the memory card was full. There were pictures on there from over a year ago. Can you tell that I really hate that camera? If someone in the room so much as breathes funny the picture will be out of focus. But I did find a few pictures that weren't too bad.

This one of Christopher, Katie and Dallas is from last July when we were at a Saskatchewan Roughrider football game. Saskatchewan is home to the most fanatic football fans on the planet. The local saying around here is that we bleed green. Life pretty much stops in Regina when the Riders are playing. Even my 94 year old grandmother, when she was still alive, would watch the games. Instead of lullabys we sing the Rider fight song to our babies.
We love our 3-down football.
These next two pictures are from the end of August on the day before school started. It was a very hot day so we said good bye to summer with a bunch of friends at a pool and park. What I wouldn't give for some of that hot weather now.
Christopher has always been my water baby.

And finally the pictures from last weeks spinning class. The topic for the class was spinning cotton. I had a couple of "aha!" moments where all of a sudden the cotton started to spin properly, but they were few and far between. My sister Susan was having better luck with spinning cotton on her wheel with the lace flyer and bobbin attached.
Shannon, on her brand new Babe wheel.
Our class instructor, Deborah, showed us how to use a charka.
From left to right: Carol, Deborah, Shannon and Amy (who was a natural at spinning cotton on a wheel). As you can see, Golden Willow is a wonderful place to just drop by to sit and knit for awhile.
Next Thursday is our last class and hopefully I will remember to not only take my good camera, but also remember to use it.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

My Memory is Just Not What it Used to Be

The other day I pulled out some fibre that I had dyed this summer and found that I didn't have a clue what kind it was. And then I had two skeins that I had spun and couldn't remember which was which. So either my memory has seriously deterioated or I had dyed and spun more than I thought I had. Either way it was time to start organizing a little more.

I am taking an Intermediate Spinning class at my LYS and a couple of weeks ago we covered wraps per inch. So my project yesterday was to get all my spun fibre on bobbins and get some proper records made.
Obviously, the little key chain that the bobbins are on is not going to last very long, but it was interesting for me to see my spinning progression as I have them in the order that I had spun them starting with my very first finished yarn.

Good thing for the blog because otherwise I wouldn't have remembered the order in which I had done them.

The Andalusian socks are coming along nicely. I haven't been rushing to finish them as I am in the process of spinning up some more fibre. When I had first finished the yarn and weighed it I only had 76 grams, which confused the heck out of me. I should have dyed well over 100 grams since I know that is the minimun that I need to finish a pair of socks for myself. I couldn't figure out how I lost so much in the dyeing and spinning process. Well, turns out that I didn't. I just lost it in my mess around my knitting chair.

Monday, September 28, 2009

I've Crossed Over to the Dark Side

I took advantage of the above average temperatures last week to groom Kai the Brat outdoors. I prefer to dry the dogs outside. If I dry the shelties indoors in my grooming room the forced air dryer that I use will deposit dog hair all over my house no matter how much I try and contain it. One clean, much more naked dog later I took a look around my yard. I am normally very glad to leave the blown out undercoat for the birds and squirrels (it is amazing how much a squirrel can fit into its mouth) and not have to vacuum it up from every corner of the house for the next 2 weeks. This time, however, my reaction was different. All I saw was beautiful, clean, fluffy fibre that was just begging to be combed and spun. So I gathered up as much of it as I could before it got mixed in with leaves and twigs. I got a good 3/4 of a grocery bag full.

I don't have my own combs yet, but I will borrow my sister Susan's. She has spun with her sheltie undercoat and it turns out beautifully. A skein of cormo/sheltie that she entered in the "I Made It On My Schacht" contest is in the finals.

I actually finished a pair of socks. They are made out of Panda Cotton, colourway 2301 Rosewater. I used the Spiral Galaxy pattern from the book Sock a la Carte for the body of them. I think that they are actually prettier in person and even better when they are on. I love the feel of the cotton/bamboo.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

More New Spinning Stuff

This has been the strangest year weatherwise. Winter was brutally cold with no reprieves, spring never wanted to arrive, then summer was cool, but now that fall is here it has been absolutely beautiful. It has actually been very confusing. Cooler weather and threats of frost generally mean that school is starting, it is time to start harvesting all my garden produce, and generally get back into the routine of the school year. With our not just nice, but HOT weather I find myself being taken by surprise when the sun starts to set before 9 PM and the kid's activities are starting up again. I am spending all my time during the day working outside on the patio, trying to squeeze every last drop of summer that I can.

With the earlier sunsets, though, it does mean that I am back inside and in my knitting chair more often. I have decided that I actually like spinning more than knitting, which is starting to cause some problems. My stock piles of hand dyed, hand spun fibre are starting to mount up.

I knit up these socks awhile ago, but over the summer had forgetten about them. They are my second attempt at spinning sock yarn with my hand dyed fibre. They turned out better than the first try in that the finished yarn is slightly finer. They are made from Navajo plied BFL.

The next spun yarn is also BFL. I have discovered that if you add any amount of purple when dyeing, the finished yarn's predominant colour will be purple. Which is just fine if you are trying to create a purple yarn. However, this fibre was supposed to end up more blue with just a touch of pink and purple. The photo actually makes it look more blue than it is. It is a 2-ply light sport weight. So I took another bunch of BFL (there is only a little bit of it in the picture) and dyed it a light ice blue. I am currently spinning it up the same of the other with the intention of knitting something like a hat, scarf or mittens with 2 strands - one of each yarn.

I have started to knit some socks out of the purple/grey (again) BFL. So far, so good. They look like they will be a nice weight. The yarn didn't lend itself to any kind of fancy pattern so I am doing a simple Andalusian stitch just to add a bit more visual interest.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

So Much Fibre, Not Enough Bobbins

Oh, oh! Another new (expensive) thing that I have discovered that I really, really enjoy. My already multi-function grooming/plant room is now also set up for dyeing fibre. And I have been dyeing up a storm!

I absolutely, utterly, completely refuse to even so much as look at carding equipment! I know what happens....

I have had a couple of "mom"cations this summer. DH Dallas and the kids are currently out again at Grandpa's cottage and so I have been free to do what ever I want! And to think that there was a time that I figured that I needed a 3-star hotel and airline tickets to have a good vacation. How things change once you have kids.

So there is dyed fibre all over my house right now. The problem is that I am eager to try them all out and start spinning them, but I have to ration my bobbins. I keep meaning to order more. In the meantime I wander around and pet them all.

I am starting to experiment with different fibres. This was my first try with Wensleydale. I was at my LYS bemoaning the fact that even though I didn't think it was possible for me to spin any finer without my singles disintegrating my finished 3 ply yarn was still coming out a bit heavier than I would like for socks. So Wensleydale was suggested. It has such a long length that it is literally possible to spin strong singles with only 3 strands of fibre. Unfortunately, I ended up felting this fibre a bit when dyeing so I had to rip it apart to draft it. It is still very fine and very strong. I Navaho plied it.

It is really overspun, but I don't mind that for socks. It doesn't have the softness of a lot of other wools, but it should wear like iron! It should end up to be loosely self striping when knit up.

A Blue Faced Leicester dyed with mauve, lilac and grey. I have discovered that anything dyed with purples in it will be dominantly purple. It didn't turn out quite like I expected (I thought the grey would show up more), but still a very pretty heathered yarn. This one is 3-ply fingering weight.

This one I couldn't wait to try spinning it. It is BFL again, spray dyed with pale pastel shades. So far, so good. I am very pleased with what is showing on the bobbin. Now I just have to hope that when it is plied things will still look as pretty.

This is a Corriedale-Rambouillet-Merino roving that I purchased from Wooly Wool of the West on Etsy. It is nice and soft and sproingy and should spin up beautifully. (Mikki had to get her nose in to see what I was doing. The dogs tend to like the sheepy smell of undyed fibre. Not too keen on the vinegar smell after dyeing, though)

Another Wensleydale. This time I didn't felt it! I also didn't get enough contrast between the blues that I would have liked, but it should still be fine. It is hard to go wrong with blue.

BFL again (I keep coming back to it!). It should self stripe nicely if Navaho plied.

And finally.... more good things in the mail. I got these notions from KaratStix on Etsy. Made of bamboo they are very light and should prove to be very handy. The wraps-per-inch tool is hanging on my spinning wheel. The Kitchener stitch tag is sitting next to my knitting chair. And the needle gauge (notice how she includes really small needle sizes) is attached to my knitting bag for when I am on the go.

I also have 3 more big, poofy piles of roving sitting on my kitchen table (all the easier to walk by and pet) still waiting for pictures. And there is a batch of Lincoln I dyed currently being spun also waiting. Not to mention the one finished skein and the dyed pile of roving to be spun with the intent of knitting two strangs together.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Which Ewe Are You?

I took the Which Ewe Are You? quiz. I'm not so sure that it really matches my personality (especially the hugging part - I'm really not much of a hugger except with the kids), but there are certainly worse wools out there.
" As a fine wool with roots in France and Spain, Rambouillets seem to exude a cosmopolitan air, yet stay grounded and easygoing with others in the flock. With big hearts and a spring in their step, these finewools' lively attitudes make them approachable and always ready with a warm smile and a hug."

The quiz did its job, though, as I eventually looked at the book it was promoting. The Knitter's Book of Wool comes out this October and it looks like it could be one to get

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Summer That Never Was

It has been way too long since I last did a blog post. Even my husband has been saying "What? No new post yet?" Like he cares about what I am knitting and spinning.

It has just been one of those summers. It started in June (it actually started well before that, but it didn't get incredibly nasty until about the 1st week of June). My son had been having the year from hell in school. In June we found out that it had been even far worse than we knew. So I spent the last 3 weeks of school pretty much living there.

It was at the same time that DH Dallas broke his arm. It was either fall off his bike or get hit by a car so at least he choose the lesser of two evils. "Broke" would be an understatement, though. He took the 2 bones in his lower left arm and made them into 7 pieces. So 3 metal plates, how knows how many screws and 56 stitches later he is sorta starting to heal. He got the cast off a couple of days ago and got some more great news. One of the pieces isn't healing properly and they may have to do a bone graft if it doesn't start to smarten up and start mending itself back together.

His scars, though, are making him the envy of all the neighbourhood kids.

So for a couple of months I didn't really do too much in the way of knitting or spinning. Being emotionally exhausted makes you quite content to just sit there and stare into space. I didn't feel the need to keep my hands busy. And I had even less energy to care enough to take pictures of things and post them.

Slowly I am getting back into routine again. The "Oops" yarn is now knit up into a hat for Katie. I used the One Day Beret recipe. The pattern needed to be very simple since the yarn is so busy and colourful. Katie loves it and has even been wearing it now in the middle of summer. Even though our summer weather this year has been leaving much to be desired it is still much to warm for a wool hat.

On the plus side I should always be able to spot her on a busy playground.

I also finished up the Crusoe socks that I had started sooooo long ago. This yarn was from my very first attempt at dyeing. I believe it started out as a KnitPicks undyed yarn, but it was so long ago that I can't say for sure anymore. I did 2 rows of plain stockinette stitch between the slipped rows instead of the 3 the pattern calls for. I didn't do it on purpose, but it turned out just fine.
Slowly I will caught up with picture taking on my other finished and partly completed projects. Not to mention my blog reading. I have been dyeing up a storm with roving for spinning. I have discovered that I would much rather spin than knit.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Opps Yarn Turned Out Pretty Good (Even if I Do Say So Myself)

The very bright roving that Susan dyed (and partly felted) is finally all spun up and ready to knit. It turned out a lot better than I thought it would. I never anticipated that it would end up as even as it did. Maybe it was that magic Elizabeth wheel.The yarn will be for Katie and I gave her the choice between a hat or some mittens since I'm not sure that there will be enough for both. She chose a hat.

I have also been experimenting with dyeing roving. After one small disaster the next couple of tries turned out much better. This lavender and mauve one was supposed to have grey in it, but it just got lost with the purple shades. So I just dyed up some grey separately that I am incorporating into the single plies. This is the roving that I am currently spinning and while I haven't gotten very far on it (it has been too nice outside to be spending time inside spinning) so far I am pleased with the results.
This roving is my latest to be dyed. It turned out to match the image I had in my head fairly closely which, to be honest, surprised me. The blue turned out a little more vibrant than what I was trying achieve, but other than that the very pale pink and lilac came out pretty close to what I wanted. At this point I think each of these dye jobs will be made into a 3 ply sock yarn.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Fibre at the Festival

Summer has FINALLY decided to grace us with her presence, but she outdid herself with generosity yesterday. It was the perfect day for the Cathedral Village Arts Festival - sunny, 20 degrees Celcius (about 72 F), and just a touch of a breeze. The Arts Festival is an annual week long celebration that happens in the revitalized Cathedral area of Regina which culminates with a street fair where creators of (generally) handmade goods set up booths along the main drag of the area. There is also entertainment, food and lots of buskers.

My favourite LYS, Golden Willow Natural Fibres, is located on this street so they set up a couple of open tents outside the store. In one of the tents Gabriel and Ramone, alpacas belonging to Golden Willow's owners Sharon and Lloyd, posed for pictures and got lots of pets. Here is Katie with them (and our bag of shopping over her shoulder).
In the other tent they were spinning and knitting. And here is Deborah (knitter, spinner, teacher extraordinaire) from Golden Willow at a spinning wheel.
Katie and I just shopped and ate yesterday, but maybe next year we will go and join the ladies. Afterall, Katie now figures that I should give her my Pioneer wheel now that I have the Elizabeth (yes, it is still here) because it is little like her.

For myself I bought a fair trade bag from Cambodia that will go around my neck without hurting my back (too many years of hauling heavy books over one shoulder in university) and is perfect for toting around my knitting.

On a sadder note, my sister Susan suddenly lost one of her shelties on Friday. Harrison was a very sweet dog who loved to sit in the sun and watch the birds.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Elizabeth has Come for a Sleep Over

My sister Susan has been dithering if she should sell her Ashford Elizabeth spinning wheel. On one hand it is her dream wheel. On the other hand to spin on it causes her a lot of discomfort. She has been trying to convince me to buy it from her, but I have been hesitant for a few reasons. It is a much larger wheel than my little Pioneer and I don't have a lot of room. My husband is already complaining about the ever-growing paraphalia around my knitting chair (I cleaned up for the picture). I really like the castle style wheels (I told Susan that if she ever wanted to sell her new Schacht Matchless I would take it in a minute! That was a resounding no, though). And I really don't trust my destructo kids around such an expensive wheel.

But as you see I did finally break down and bring Elizabeth home for a visit. My sister knows me too well. She knows that once it is here it won't be going anyplace else. I have to be careful about bringing puppies into my house for the same reason.

I think Susan figures that I should buy it just so that she retains visiting privileges.

This morning Katie was telling me that now the Elizabeth is here that I should give her my Pioneer since it is little like her. I told her no, but that her auntie and I were hoping that she would take up the knitting and spinning so that we have someone to leave all our stash and equipment to when we die. Her response was "Yipee!" Ummmm... I hope she isn't hoping for it all any time soon.

BTW - the brightly coloured fibre that I am spinning with here is some superwash that Susan dyed that turned out way too bright. She thought she was safe trying to get some of the colour out of it because it is superwash. Who knew - superwash WILL felt eventually. So I got her rejects since it is a little hard to draft out in places and I will make a hat and mittens for Katie out of it without worrying about it being spun evenly.

Here is my second try at spinning sock yarn from BFL...
The one turned out much nicer than the first try. I got it spun finer with a lot less breakage as I was Navajo plying it. It is knitting up nice and soft. So I think I am ready to start spinning sock yarn from nicer (read more expensive) fibre.

And I know I said I would never knit with Noro again, but it is just such a cool yarn when it is knit up that I couldn't help myself and did another pair of socks from the Kureyon, this time in colourway S182. I still have the finishing to do on one sock, but I dislike doing it perhaps because I actually have to think to Kitchener stitch the toe. I won't be wearing them (I hope!) for awhile yet anyway.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

History as it Should Be Taught!

Considering that Saskatchewan has yielded a rich amount and variety of dinosaur bones and fossils it seems fitting that the show Walking With Dinosaurs came to Regina last week. We dithered a bit about getting tickets, but finally decided that it was too good of an opportunity for the kids to miss.

We went to the show on Monday evening and are we ever glad we did. It was fantastic.

Before the show started we loaded up with drinks and popcorn, but once it started the kids forgot all about eating and drinking (and to be honest, so did Dallas and I) and were completely engrossed in the production. This was a history lesson unlike any we had experienced before!

An Ankylosaurus with its massive armour being introduced by the show's paleontologist host.

Two male Torosaurs battle for dominance of the herd.

Mama T-Rex protecting her baby from a torosaurus and an ankylosaurus. The T-Rex won.
Two Brachiosaurs defend themselves from becoming the dinner of the smaller Allosaurus.

Monday, April 20, 2009

How to Beat the Monday Morning Blahs

I finally got the second batch of Blue Faced Leicester Navajo plied, washed and skeined. I am thrilled with the result! Now if I could just figure out how to skein neatly. I am eager to cast this on for socks to see if really is as nice as I think it is.
I am not sure which I am more excited about, though - great handspun or new Birks! The mailperson brought these this morning only 2 1/2 weeks after I ordered them from Germany. I really NEEDED some new ones after last spring's episode between my shoes and Kai the brat.
I really have no idea what I am going to wear with the pink ones, but I thought they were just too cute not to buy. One thing is for sure - Kai will not be allowed near them.

I think my husband knows I ordered them. Either way I can already hear him heavy sigh when he gets home from work. Guys just do not get women and shoes. He has a pair of brown shoes and a pair of black shoes and a pair of runners for all the other times. Pink shoes will have him scratching his head.