Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Two Below, Honey

It's cold here. Very very cold. Frigid, in fact. And so I am PUMPED about my upcoming trip home to Florida! Not just because I'm ruminating on the relative warmth...I'm also extremely excited about seeing mi familia.

Every year I make a point to go home for Christmas. I've just gotta go. Nothing will hold me back. If I can't take off for work, I quit (yes, I am highly mature). If the plane tickets cost $1,800 for both me and Josh, I pay it off over the next 5 months (yes, this has happened before). I simply must go. It's the one time of year that my whole family comes together, even if Little and Pedro are only there for a nanosecond (Christmas Eve and Day, like last year).

This year, everyone will be there. Me and Mr. LaPamf (aka Josh). My sisters KK and The Little, and their significant others Ben and Pete. My parents, Mamasita and Dade. My grandma Mimi. And this year everyone will be there for a whole week!! Whoo hoo!! It will be a whole week of weirdo cookie-making contests (most psychadelic, anyone? How about "most fishy"?), cheesy Christmas movie watching, luminaria-making, last-minute Christmas shopping, searching nooks and crannies for an appropriate white elephant gift (which, per the rules, must come from somewhere within the house...one year I got a shoe phone. Remember those?), cracker-snapping, and laughing over the absolutely bizarre stocking stuffers. Oh, the stocking stuffers. I have some doozies for this year.

I can't wait. I CAN'T WAIT! But I must. Because between now and Sunday when we leave I must finish the 3-yard-long handspun/handwoven scarf for Alison, make a homemade ornament for...uh...tonight's guild Christmas party, warp the loom again and weave another present, spin 2 yarns for another gift and maybe some sock yarn for myself (who am I kidding??), finish shopping for my dad and stepmom and mail their package, mail Josh's family's packages, finish worshipping the Patrick Green carder I have on loan and return it (sob!) , and...I think that's it? Wow. Turns out the trip will really be a vacation after all!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

More on Milkweed

Naturally, after the last post, I made an excuse to go back out to Quantum's farm. I know, twist my arm. I wanted to obtain more than a handful of milkweed this time. Well, Micah and Kelly (being vegans and much happier when I express an interest in veggie fibers) were all over this idea.

We walked along the ditch and scanned around for milkweed. Micah and Josh plunged down into the ditch to pull the fiber from quite a few plants. I, not having the correct shoes to just sink my foot into Who Knows What, kept to the dirt road, pilfering the pods that grew up and out a bit.
In the end we managed to get two gallon-sized Ziploc bags crammed full with milkweed fiber. Whoo hoo! I didn't feel too environmental-unfriendly, since we left most of the plants alone and just helped ourselves to the fiber that was already pretty much drifting down the road. Now all I have to do is gin the fibers of their seeds and we're in business. I don't have any fiber reactive dyes at the moment, so the milkweed will stay white for the time being. I think I'll make some blends with merino and other soft fibers. My handcards are (unfortunately) not made for carding the finest fibers, so the first time I tried to blend, milkweed went flying every which way. Hopefully, I'll have greater success this next time!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Spinning from the Land

Last weekend when Josh and I went to meet my sis-in-law Kelly's new horse, Quantum, I spotted something as we were cruising down the dirt lane, on our way home. There were interesting-looking plants in the ditch, sprouting fuzzy stuff at their tips.

"Stop!" I yelled to Micah, who was driving. He pulled to a stop and I hopped out to examine the plant. Sure enough, as far as I could tell, these were milkweed plants, their pods already blown out and rife with delicate, silky floss-like fibers. The fibers act much like dandelion fluff...wind picks up the silk and blows it (with the seed) down the ditch a ways. The pods were big...some were as large as my hand. Since they had already burst for the season, I simply grabbed some handfuls off the tips (saying a little thanks to the plant, of course), jumped back into the car, and we were on our way.

I examined my find. The staple length was very, very short...about an inch, on par with cotton. The fiber itself was ridiculously silky. In fact, it really resembled silk in its sheen and feel. The seeds were about .5 mm in length and separated easily from the fibers. Since I'd only grabbed a couple of fistfuls, I didn't have much, which was alright since it would be difficult to spin a pure milkweed yarn anyway.

I decided to incorporate the milkweed in a yarn I was spinning for Kelly. I blended natural ecru, lime, and baby blue merino (colors she picked to match her skis) with soysilk, green flash angelina, and the milkweed with my handcards and then spun them into a chunky yarn. The yarn might be too bulky to contain the milkweed for long - it pokes out of the yarn in a couple of places - but I'd already started the project when I found the fiber, and thought the inclusion of the milkweed would be special for her. Now if only I could find a hat pattern I liked! :)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Weekend Update

Oh, man, I'm such a sleepy one today! I was up most of the night thinking really hard about how much I wanted to sleep. I'm not sure I actually sank completely into sleep all night...there was some dozing, I think...meh. I hate it when my mind just won't shut off.

So, during the depths of the night, I read about 50 pages of my current book Disobedience by Jane Hamilton, which I picked up off a card table marked "Free" in my neighbor's yard. This is also where I got Nectar in a Sieve, which I really enjoyed. Bookmooch.com is my friend, and I do love it, but sometimes the availability of excellent reading material is sparse. So it's nice to find an unexpected source of free, interesting books.

It was an eventful weekend! On Saturday I strapped my wheel Indigo Montoya into my car, plopped in my spinning bag of tricks, and headed over to the University of Colorado Natural History Museum for a spinning demostration. Josh came along as my roadie and helped me set up before walking back home. Naturally, I forgot my camera in the midst of making sure I had all of my tools. That's just the way it goes.

It was a fun event...there were about 8 of us there, mostly from the local Handweavers Guild, and we all set up shop in the Dinosaur Hall (right under the "Fossils!" banner, which cracked us up) and spun a variety of material while describing what we were doing to curious visitors. Lots of kids, and - this blew me away - a number of men seemed entraced by what we were doing. Actually, all the adults who inquired and wanted to try out a wheel or a spindle were men. One guy stayed the whole 2 hours, and by the end he could spin a decent beginner's yarn on the wheel. Turns out he was a woodworker and wanted to challenge himself to build a wheel in his shop. Trying to describe exactly how scotch tension works turned out to be a wee bit challenging, especially for someone who tends to trip over her words. :) I didn't get much of my usual yarn spun...since I was supposed to be helping to educate, I mostly carded up alpaca and wool and spun from rolags, in order to demonstrate using wool cards. So now I have this bobbin of finely-spun natural-colored yarn that I'm not sure how to use. The museum itself was a really fantastic resource that apparently few people know is there. I'm thinking about volunteering there in the future.

Sunday dawned cold and wet, just like Saturday. It was definitely a day for lounge pants. I barely moved from under the blanket on the couch until about 2 p.m., when Josh and I decided we would make it out of the house and go on over to Lyon's Pinball for a little pinball action. Did I mention that pinball is my favorite? 'Cause, yeah...I totally love it.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


So I just started getting involved in Twitter.

Doomed, I say...doooooomed! It is ridiculously addicting. And it lets me keep up with lots o' spinny and knitty peeps, so I'm a happy one. If anybody wants to find me, I'm Nicolassa on Twitter. Whoop!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A small pet peeve

When I read blogs, I vehemently hate it when bloggers discuss people in their lives by calling them by only the first letter of their names.

For example (and this is totally made up):

"The other day when I was at the store with M, I saw P, who told me about how she and B were going to take L to see G and S.

What what what? What is happening here? Who are these people? Are we talking about real live humans or are we discussing Letter People? I know the blogger is trying to somehow "protect" the subject by reducing him/her to a single letter, but the problem is that all characterization falls away and you run into the danger of the reader getting substantially bored, skimming over the sentence, and/or falling asleep.

Why not try using fake names? I.e.:

"The other day when I was at the store with Mabel, I saw Portia, who told me about how she and Bubba were going to take Lulu to see George and Sam.

To me, this sentence is muuuuch better. Keeps you reading.

So it may be a little difficult keeping track of the names you made up for real-life people, but that's the challenge. I'm challenging all you bloggers out there to become writers.

I for one will continue to call people by their actual names, because (1) their names are usually a large extension of their personalities, (2) pretty much everyone I know is an adult and I don't feel a need to protect them, and (3) nobody reads my blog anyway.

And for anyone who doesn't like my personal policy, please contact me...I will gladly change your name in my blog. But know that you run the risk of becoming a Wehezikiah.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Ode to my neighbors.

I freakin' love my neighbors. Seriously. They are the best.

I've never lived in a place like this before. All other apartment complexes and rented cottages that I've inhabited in the past pale in comparison. The people in my complex are, if not really good friends, at least interesting and kind people.

So I live in a red brick building that is set back from the road...oddly, it's actually located behind a row of little houses. A long driveway leads to our secret complex, which has a branch of Boulder Creek running next to it and willow trees arching overhead. Next door is The White Building, which is where our property manager Dean lives. I don't know many of the people over there, though I think it's neat that the Andean flute player who busks on Pearl Street and has hair to the floor lives in The White Building.

In our building, there is Peter, internet guru for Crocs and organizer of our yearly Friday the 13th summer party, who regularly invites us over to play Guitar Hero and have some wine. James is one of the younguns...a Serious Writer who works with Josh and has a giant cat named Whomper Stomper McFloofin. Chad and Sarah are teachers, a bit hippy-ish, who like to sit outside in the sun on their days off. They just got engaged. Monica recently graduated from CU and is a fire-twirler...some evenings she can be seen in the front yard whirling her on-fire poi balls. She and her boyfriend are psychology majors who are convinced that love is just a complex series of chemical reactions. Jessica is a vegan chef in a local restaurant. She keeps to herself, but always has a ready smile when I see her before she goes on her evening run. And Michelle just moved in...I look forward to hanging out with her at one of our neighborhood parties.

And in number 1 is my very favorite neighbor, Valaroo. This is her preferred name, and the name that is on the license plate of her hot pink cruiser bike, which is also decorated with about 7 different keychain versions of Spongebob Squarepants. Valaroo is a librarian, former nurse, and onetime model who worked in New York and Milan. She has a bright yellow car, carefully cultivates all the flowers on our property, knits voraciously, and is one of my best friends here in Boulder. Every Wednesday we get together for "Happy Wednesday" at the local brewpub, Mountain Sun, then wrap up the evening down at her place watching America's Next Top Model. She exposes me to new books and ideas and is completely unafraid to be herself.

It's just so wonderful to live in this little cocoon of interesting and intelligent people! Can't wait for our next get-together.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Can't resist...

Totally off subject, but...


I'd embed if I could...blogspot doesn't seem to like it.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Ah, that's much better.

Since I wasn't wonderfully happy with the braids of roving I handpainted in the last entry (or before the last entry, I should say), I decided to consider them "highly educational" and won't be posting them for sale. Instead, I'll blend 'em and spin 'em. :)

Determined to give it another go, I handpainted 2 lbs. of combed top over the weekend! Just posted the first one on Etsy...wish I didn't feel the need to write a book for every posting. Because of this, yarns (and now fibers!) take for freakin' EVER to post, and I don't have all that much time at ye olde day job to be sneaky about it.
I think the thing I'm most excited about is listing some handpainted animal-friendly fibers and rovings. They're just a joy to work with, and it's a cause I feel very passionate about. Someday...someday I'll be completely and 100% sourced from animal-friendly and humane farms. Or maybe someday I'll have my own animal-friendly farm! :) Who knows?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Dying to dye...and to not wash a fleece!

Did some dyeing over the weekend, but I'm not 100% satisfied with the results. The process was rushed because I was taking time to shake my fist at the looming thunderstorm. My lovely neighbor Val was outside checking out what the heck I was using the picnic table for, and the colorway she chose is the only one I really loved...dark gold and forest green, gorgeous just-turning-fall colors. Unfortunately, I told her I'd give it to her, ha! :) Looks like I'll have to be repeating it sometime soon! Anyway, the storm limited my time to be outside all spread out, so I only got four skeins of BFL done. I sadly didn't take the time to completely untwist the wet roving, so there are spots of white. Carpbag. Oh, well...that happens sometimes.

In other fibery news, I've been talking shop with Sandy over at Homestead Sheep and Wool Farm to see if I can get a greasy fleece sent off to be processed into pindrafted roving for easier dyeing. My bathtub just doesn't like lanolin...and the merino cross partial fleece I am buying from Sandy has LOTS! Since animal-friendly merino can be difficult to get a hold of, I jump at the chance to buy from Homestead whenever its available. In fact, I have 1 lb. of Dan Merino still waiting to be washed...and I bought it months ago! :/ So...the only problem with sending it off to a mill for processing is that there will be quite a lag...possibly not coming back to me until next year! Wowza. I'm sure it'll be worth it. Pindrafted merino is worth the wait!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

End of an Era...okay, not so much.

It feels so good to be back in the swing of things!! My weaving class is over, and whew! it was a busy time. We had our "graduation" ceremony on the last day, where we all got to spread out our 9-weeks worth of weaving and show them to the rest of the class. People did such extraordinary work, and you could really see the progression of skill. Judy gave us some graduation gifts...a metal tapestry needle for hemstitching (really needed one!), a weaving crossword puzzle, and a film canister containing four cents, which is essential for using as a weight when you break a warp thread. She brought a cake to class and even popped a bottle of champagne! Whoo hoo! Man, I am really going to miss class on Wednesdays.

Now, though, I'm back at the wheel, spinning a mile a minute, and it feels SO WONDERFUL. I just can't explain it. Spinning is my first love, though I do really enjoy weaving. I've spun a yarn a day for the past three days. I'm sure there'd be more if I didn't have this pesky day job to go to! As for the day job...I'm still smarting because I had my review and didn't get a raise. Boo hoo. So in essence, it's like I received a pay cut since inflation has gone up 5% in the last year. But I digress. Spinning pulls all that disappointment away. It's like magic.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Adventures in Wedding-Attending

So I'm not sure what the carp happened while I was away in Cancun, but I woke up the morning after the wedding with a sore throat, aching all over. And it hasn't gone away. I caught a freakin' cold in Mexico! Oh, well, at least Montezuma didn't get all revengey on me.

Gretchen's wedding was beautiful. It was held on the gorgeous white beach at near-sunset with 35 guests, sand ceremony, sobbing attendants (Bobby and I kept accidently looking at each other, prompting fresh rounds of tears), comical falling-apart fan programs (oops - the glue didn't stick in the humidity), and just general happiness. I've known Gretch since freshman year of college...LONG time ago, folks...and we've lived together, worked together, ridden scary night trains in the Czech Republic together, and kept up with each other even though we now live in different states. Michael is a wonderful guy and perfect for her...I know they're going to be really happy together.

I have legions of stories about this past weekend and really don't know where to start or if I even should, because the floodgates would open. I mean, we're talking tentacle-y octopus sushi, iPod downloading emergencies, and tequila-chugging hair artist named Monica/Raoul. So I'm just going to mention the mystery of travel...that you become completely out of the loop. This was highlighted for me when my roommate Amy turned on her laptop for the first time on Saturday.

"Oh my gosh," she said, "Georgia and Russia are at war!"

"What???" I asked incredulously.

"And Bernie Mac died!"

"Wasn't he pretty young?" I wondered.

"And 38 people died in Venezuela of bites from rabid vampire bats!"

"How long have we been here? Three days? The world is falling apart!"

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Panic! (not at the disco)

I haven't finished Gretchen's wedding programs yet!!!!!!!!!!

I have a week's worth of weaving homework to squeeze into two days after I return from Mexico!!!!!!!!!1

I'm so frickin' busy I can't even bother to care about the fact that my exclamation points are turning into numbers because I keep hurridly taking my pinky off the shift key!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!11111

Friday, August 1, 2008


Thought I'd poke my head in here and announce that I'm a big ball o' stress! Whoo hoo?

My wonderful friend Gretchen tapped me to create her wedding programs/placecards/table placards for her wedding in Cancun, which is next Saturday. Now, technically this shouldn't be a huge deal, as she is a casual type of person, and there will be only 35 guests. But I am my mother's daughter and thus have made the whole project into something enormous. The program is going to have two layers, the underlayer of which will be stencilled. The programs will be affixed to bamboo fans. The placecards will be embossed. Ribbon is involved. I am a woman obsessed with pleasing the bride, as this is my only job as matron-of-honor.

So I leave for Mexico next Thursday with a suitcase full of fans and a truffle-colored dress. In the meantime I'm also scrambling to finish/start various weaving projects. My lace project (a 3-yard teal blue tencel scarf) is overdue and still on the loom, but the loom needs to be rewarped before Sunday, which is my all-day Doubleweave class. Doubleweave basically means you are able to weave a project that is twice as wide as your reed...how cool is that??!?! Monday evening is my monthly spin-in over at Shuttles, Spindles, and Skeins (I always look forward to it!), Tuesday I'm sure I'll be scrambling to finish all the paper projects for the wedding, and Wednesday I'll be packing. Wednesday night is usually my weaving class night, but we're skipping a week so we can all catch up (NONE of us finished our lace projects!) and do our overshot project.

I tell ya what...I'm beat!! :D

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Weaving, Take Two

Hideous sampler finished. Onto something a wee bit more substantial! Let's say...a scarf!

For some ridiculous reason, I decided that for my Week Two homework project in my weaving class, nothing but my handspun would do. Maybe it's because I didn't want to spend dinero on yarn at the shop when my apartment is insulated with pounds of fiber that pleads with me daily to be turned into yarn. So I picked out a couple of colors that I figured would NOT go together super well, just to experiment. In one hand, I had a chartreausey-peachy superwash merino. In another, a varigated intensely blue superwash merino. Perfect.

First step was the figuring. This is the part I despise. I made it easy on myself by deciding to spin according to stats I already understood, namely 12 epi, or ends-per-inch, which was similar to my first project. The whole e.p.i. concept is making more sense to me now...it finally dawned on me that you have to take into consideration the weft yarn and how much room it takes up when you calculate e.p.i. But I still took the easy road...lame, I know. Anyway, the yarn was spun slightly thick-thin because I was hurting for time. Each color was plied with itself, then I wound off and set the twist.

Next came the measuring of the warp threads. 72 ends total, and a warp length of 3 yards. 3 yards! That's our allowable limit for the class, unless we clear it first with Judy. I wanted a really nice, long scarf. Downside to this: twice I stopped to spin some more yarn, because my measurements were screwy and I kept running out.

Next I measured and cut the warp, then warped the loom, which took me...oh, I don't know...Tuesday. The weaving itself went really fast, though I ended up spinning another 200+ yards because I'd used all of my carefully calculated amount for the warp, and then some.

Finally the scarf was finished! I took a deep breath and cut the back warp threads, then unwound and untied the front warp. Tied a fringe, and ta da! A scarf! Parading proudly over to my neighbor, I pointed out all of its myriad features.

"Looks great, Nicole," Chad commented. "Kind of like the Swedish flag."

Uh, yeah! Exactly what I was going for...

Monday, June 30, 2008

Adventures in Weaving

Some of you know this by now, but I'm taking a 4-shaft weaving class! The photos are of my rented Schacht table loom and 1st project (a hideous sampler). Lemme tell ya...there is a LOT of math happening. Right now (at work) I'm trying to figure my warp and weft calculations for project #2 and getting increasingly frustrated. My major problem is trying to sort e.p.i. (ends-per-inch) from w.p.i. (wraps per inch), which I use with spinning. For some reason I feel like these are the same thing? That just seems to make sense to my feeble haven't-taken-a-math-class-in-12-years brain. But my calculation instructions say to calculate the e.p.i. this way: "wrap one inch and divide threads by 2". What?? So e.p.i. is half of w.p.i.? Wouldn't that make it "ends-per-half-inch"? I'm so confused.

And I'm not spinning a whole heck of a lot. I spun up 200 yards for my scarf project (due Wednesday) last Friday. According to my seriously skewy calculations, I need more than 200 yards for this project. But I was gone over the weekend (the in-laws wanted us to visit them in Houston), so I didn't get any of this stuff done. Now I have to warp my loom tonight and weave the whole thing tomorrow so that I can go have a happy Wednesday with my neighbor Valerie at Mountain Sun before class. And I am stuck on this e.p.i. thing. At least I can spin more if I get into a pinch. I am missing spinning for my shop...I only posted one yarn last week, and have just a couple for this week...but am LOVING the weaving! Aside from the math, of course.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

...and Dance by the Light of the Moon

I'm out of the rut. Yippee!

Josh and I took a mini-vacation to his annual family reunion up in Island Park, Idaho, just about 20 minutes from West Yellowstone. I absolutely love these reunions, and this one didn't let me down! It was extremely inspiring...bison traffic jams! A taffy machine that inspired a new yarn! Teaching oodles of kiddos (and a couple of adults) to spin (or just use the treadles)! Seriously, the wheel was a hit. I doled out lots of my extra fiber and some of the kids (as young as 4 years old) brought their "first yarn" to the pancake breakfast on Sunday. I was so proud!

And then there was Yellowstone. Bison bums (we were trapped behind a herd of I'd say 35-45 bison for 2 1/2 hours), travertine terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs...even a grizzly bear! Josh even politely asked a buffalo if we could perhaps have some of the downy undercoat he was shedding. The fiber is protected by the park, so my mother-in-law bought me a couple of ounces from a vendor in W. Yellowstone for my birthday present. I'm a lucky girl! It is very curious to spin...definitely a down fiber. The staple length is about nil, so you have to hold it very gently in your hand and spin woolen, letting in twist between your two hands. I think I'll spin a luscious 3-ply and weave something...maybe a scarf...with the yarn. It is just too precious to sell.
Anyway, it was a brief trip...only four days, and two of them taken up by driving 10 hours one-way through some beautiful countryside. But we managed to get away from it all for a little wee bit, and that is just the best thing to jolt you into creativity. I spent Monday spinning and finishing up my weaving homework...but that's another story entirely. :)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Same (C)ole, same (C)ole

I'm in a rut!

I just keep on spinning one two-ply after another. I don't know what the deal is, yo. The colors mixing and changing over the course of the yarn continues to fascinate me. It's a bit meditative, but with subtle surprises.

The whole issue makes me feel like I'm just not putting enough creativity into my yarn. I'm being hypnotized, dang it!

So over the weekend I broke out my string of dyes, bought some hefty mason jars, and mixed up some serious colorage. Combining colors and doing something new helped break me free a little. With luck I'll do some more dyeing tomorrow. I'd like to start stocking my little shop with some handpainted fibers, especially those from the rescue farm. I'm sure it would be hard to not spin the stock, though!

In other news, I received my notice from the IRS that my stimulus check should show up in my bank account by Friday...whoo hoo! Just in time for Estes Park Wool Market this weekend! Oh, wait. I'm doomed. :D

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Checking for Fires So You Don't Have To

Ahh...Memorial Day.

Makes you want to grill out, veg out, chill out. Or--in the case of my family--climb a big fat mountain.

Now don't get me wrong, my husband Josh and I did plenty of the former. We went over to Josh's brother Micah and sister-in-law Kelly's house two nights in a row to drink some lemonade-y vodka drinks and jam out to Rock Band. We also traipsed down to the Farmer's Market and then caught the uber-early 11:00 a.m. showing of Indiana Jones on Saturday.

But Sunday...whew. Sunday was a different story!

Micah and Kelly suggested the four of us go on a drive in the mountains, packing a picnic lunch and possibly doing a little hiking. Heck yeah, sounded great! So we piled in their car with their dogs Brahmin and Bodhi and headed for the hills. Mt. Evans or thereabouts was our destination. Naturally, the lake we had picked out was pretty packed...it was Memorial Day, after all. So we kept driving, skipping the toll road to the top of Mt. Evans and continuing onward and upward until we found a really beautiful picnic area. Bread, oil, vinegar, avocado, swiss cheese, almonds, fresh fruit...simple and tasty!

After lunch, we drove until we reached a random pull-off point. There was a sign that indicated that vehicles were permitted to continue up the rocky dirt..."road" is too luxurious of a term...more like "path". Micah braved it in the car for awhile. Snow only partially blocked the path, but we were lucky no one was coming down at the time. Finally we pulled over to an out-of-the-way spot and decided to go the rest of the way on foot. We didn't have a clue what "the rest of the way" meant, so we were pretty lucky that it was only another mile or so up! The path was gentle and not steep by any stretch of the imagination, but the air was thin and I had sort of a difficult time. Lack of oxygen really gets to me, even after having lived in Colorado at 5,400 feet for 4 years. At certain points I became really sleepy, then giddy, then freaked myself out because I realized I was oxygen-deprived. All was well, though. You just have to take your time and not push yourself too hard.
Turns out we were climbing Squaw Mountain, and went all the way to the top of the Squaw Mountain Fire Outlook post...11,486 feet! The 360-degree view of the valleys spreading below and the snowcapped mountains in the distance was absolutely, positively unbelievable. We could even see Denver! No fires in view, thank goodness. Inside the hut at the top you could just make out a couple of plastic-wrapped mattresses, for the lonesome Forest Service rangers stuck on fire-watch-duty. Josh, being who he is, also scrambled up a few rock outcroppings. I, being who I am, did not. :) I really enjoyed the excursion, though I usually make a lot of noise about how I don't like to go Up. Having a goal point (supercool outlook station!) helped make me feel like there was an actual finish to the hike. Yep, I'm a wimpstick.
Monday dawned rainy and Seattle-y. I honestly didn't want to get out of my pjs. It was a great reading day...finished A Tree Grows In Brooklyn...and managed to get out of the house long enough to go on a long walk with my darlin' to see the tail end of the Boulder Creek festival. I was also adament about watching the Great Rubber Duck Race, because...well...when 9,000 rubber duckies are floating down a municiple river, ya just gotta see it.
Sadly, no fiber news over the weekend. But in a day or so I'll post the details of fleece-washing that took place a couple of weekends ago. A pound of soft and lovely Rambouillet, all squeaky-clean...certainly didn't begin that way!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Great Western Alpaca Show Report!

Whew, it's been awhile! Looks like I haven't posted all...month. Whoa. How did that happen?

Okay, to sum up, I've had a fantabulous fibery month so far. Not this past weekend but the one before was the Great Western Alpaca Show!! It was in Denver, but that's not so very far away and I managed to drag Josh along with me with promises of lunch at Watercourse (LOTS of vegan options). I just had to go and get some wonderful alpaca-y goodness. Plus, my spinny friends from the spring Spinning 2 Class, Jess (of Midnight Designs, http://www.midnight-designs.com/) and Wiley (of Sakina Needles, http://www.sakinaneedles.com/) were sharing a booth, so I wanted to stop by.

Well, the show was really wonderful. Lots of fuzzies on parade. The Fiber Fiesta was upstairs, and actually was much smaller than I expected...then again, I'm used to the madness that is Estes Park Wool Market. I bounced from booth to booth, digging my hands in everything. That's expected, right? Since fiber is such a tactile art? :) Found Jess and Wiley's booth quite easily. Wiley is hard to miss, what with her green hair and all. She was spinning away at her beloved Sonata while Jess and her husband worked the crowd. All manner of things were for sale at their booth...oodles of dyed SakinaNeedles fiber, Jess' handspun and hand-processed fiber, even some handmade lip balm. Jess' husband is allergic to lanolin, so her specialty is alpaca. I had just bought some MoWoPaca (50% mohair, 25% wool, 25% alpaca) from a neighboring booth and was looking for some straight alpaca. When Jess saw me fondling some alpaca roving, she casually let drop that she had some batts available, too. Well, I love batts. LOVE. So her husband popped open a ginormous plastic tub chock FULL of heathery alpaca batts. And then Jess told me she'd sell them to me for $2.50 per batt. Um, yes please! I bought six, which was about how many I could carry...these batts were huge and superfluffy. And I've already spun 4 of these beauties, from an alpaca named Marcus. Pics soon to come! Thought I'd dye them, but...yeah...just couldn't keep my hands off the batts.

Josh and I poked around a little more at the festival, but decided to hold off buying any more, so went on to Watercourse, then returned to Boulder to check out the Tulip Festival. Every year Boulder imports something like 20,000 tulip bulbs from Holland and plants them down on the Pearl Street walking mall. It was just gorgeous. About a million people were there, half of which were little kids dressed as fairies and elves...guess there was some sort of fairy parade earlier? So it was cute to the point of we-need-to-get-outta-here-before-sheer-cuteness-makes-my-brain-explode. Natually, I'd forgotten my camera for the Alpaca show, but I sure had it to capture some tulips.

On May 5th I went to the First Monday Spin-in at Shuttles. Good news: since there were so many of us there (20 people, maybe?), Maggie decided to keep the Spin-ins going throughout the summer! Yippee! Usually they take a hiatus, so this is great.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Swappy McSwapperton

Recently I've been participating in Fiber of the Month Swaps via Craftster.

I cannot help it.

I can't resist the fiber!

This month my partner was maiziemama. She indicated in her questionnaire that she liked warm colors and wool, silk, and sparkle. Since I don't have access to a drum carder and wasn't dyeing yet, I sent her handcarded rolags of predyed merino, silk latte (fiber from milk protein = SUPASOFT!), camel down, bison down, and two different colors of angelina sparkle goodness. Here's a pic that she posted on Craftster (her pic, not mine):

And in return, she sent me these beauties!! BEHOLD, batts of ultragoodness!

Sweet mint and maroon batts, Blue Faced Leceister and Corriedale wools, plus a ton of angelina sparklies!

Gratuitous closeup sparkle shot:

I am such a happy camper!

Now I've got a decision to make...after work today, do I go home and spin these beauties, or do I dye up the 1 lb. of Blue Faced Leicester I've got soaking in the dyepot? Maybe both? My neighbor Keyboard Cowgirl and I usually have a "Happy Tuesday" and have some beer at Mountain Sun, but she just bought a $900 chair (yeahhhhh...what?!?!) and wants to conserve her pennies at the moment. KC just cracks me up. Anyway, I wouldn't be surprised if she wants to play with dyes with me this afternoon.

Monday, April 28, 2008

My hands will never be the same.

See, I kept forgetting to wear gloves all weekend, so my hands are now an absolutely lovely shade of blackish purple. :)

I finally have begun to play with dyes! This was my first foray into the world of handpainting roving and top, and I am really loving the fact that I can do EXACTLY what I want to do with color. My nifty little collection of dyes ranges from Aztec Gold to Fire Red to Chartreause, and I had a blast mixing and concocting over the weekend.

I started off with 5 dyes I bought at Shuttles, Spindles, and Skeins here in Boulder, and supplemented it with 8 Jacquard Acid Dyes I bought from Hello Yarn online. Two sets of instructions equalled perfect step-by-stepness...everything came out great!

Since I didn't really know what I was doing, I started with Falkland top...it's not quite as expensive as merino or BFL, but is still soft enough for me to want to spin it. I soaked three ~4 oz. bundles of Falkland for an hour in warm water, then went outside to set up my dyeing area on the picnic table by the creek. Mixing the dyes was dubious. I looked like a unibomber, with my facemask and rubber gloves, but seriously folks, you can't take too many precautions with the unmixed dye powder. It is scary stuff if you breathe it in. I mixed up the three primaries (fire red, brilliant blue, and yellow), jet black, hot fuschia, chartreause, and turqouise. (So did I spell those correctly? It's too early in the morning. ) Once the powder is mixed with a little hot water, all is well and the mask can come off. At that point, the sprinklers came on and I was insanely happy I'd chosen the picnic table that was on the flagstone rather than the one out in the yard, because...well...I don't want to think about the obscenities that might have echoed down the street. :)

So the dye stock was mixed and ready for further diluting. I spread out el cheapo plastic wrap and carefully unfolded one of the wet Falkland bundles so that it was neatly arranged on the wrap. I mixed about 1/4 cup of dye stock with 1/2 cup of warm water per color, then liberally applied the dyes to the (not soaking) wet wool. With my first try, I applied the dyes a little too liberally. When rolling the wool up into a little plastic bundle, a ton of dye squirted out the end. Hooray for non-toxicity! So I dyed up three bundles worth, then packed up the gear and went back upstairs. The plastic rolls went into a large stockpot with a steamer in the bottom over an inch or so of water. Covered, the wool steamed for 40 minutes. Then I let 'em cool for several hours before unrolling the wool into a sink full of water with a little squirt of Eucalan wool wash. 15 minutes of soaking, then I drained the sink and refilled with slightly cooler water. 15 more minutes of soaking. Then I squeezed the water from the wool and plopped each bundle into a salad spinner to help further extract water. Then up to dry they went! The dyed roving mostly dried overnight, and I have to say that I'm pleased with the results!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Field Shirt project continued...

Well, I was having some trouble with blogspot during the last post...I had difficulty uploading more than one image. I waited a couple o' days. Things seem to have cleared up a little.

So immediately after the shirt came in the mail, I set about cutting it up. This is when I discovered the shirt is built like a tank. I'm sure they're made to last through some pretty difficult circumstances, so this wasn't all that surprising.

First thing I decided to do was to cut off the collar and zipper areas. The collar is stiff and most likely I will not use it for my project...unless I'm confronted with a dire shortage of fabric. Zippers might be an interesting addition in crazy art yarn, but this project's ultimate goal is to have a soft-ish blanket for the kiddos, so I think I'll just discard it.
I'd also like to point out the massive use of velcro, which is visible in the pic to the right. Yikes. This might be more challenging than I realized!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Project for Jeanette

Jeanette is a friend of mine from ye olde high school days. I lost touch with her for awhile, but recently we've become myspace friends and through that medium, I've come to know a little more about her and her family. She's married to a great guy now, and has three (3!!) sweet kiddos. Her husband Billy is serving in Iraq at the moment, and naturally that puts a large amount of stress on her family. I wanted to do something, however small, to try and help them a little through this second deployment.

So...I came up with a little project.I asked Jeanette to send me one of Billy's old field shirts. My plan is to spin fabric strips from his shirt along with some superwash merino wool, then knit it into a blanket for the kids. This way, they can cuddle with it and think of their daddy.

A few weeks ago (hmm...at this point probably over a month ago) I got a package in the mail! Inside was this:

I should have put something in the frame to give you a sense of scale, but let's just say this is one nice, big jacket. It should yeild lots of tasty fabric. I planned to cut the jacket down into long fabric strips, possible ripped along the sides for texture. The ends should be frayed for easy incorporation with the wool.
I started cutting soon after it arrived in the mail. This is when I discovered that these jackets are fortified with iron and minerals! They are practically indestructible, folks. The seams are reinforced, the fabric is seriously strong, and there are about a bazillion pockets.

Hooray and Welcome!

Well, there I was, trying to update my goofy little 6-year-old livejournal blog, when I found out I couldn't post pictures there unless I paid them for the priviledge.

Ridonkulous, I say!

So I'm moving on to blogspot, at least for the spinny posts.

**stretches** Yep, I think I'll like it here.