Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Fibery Summer & Fall - in Pictures!

What's all this? Is it winter already? Time to break out the Snuggie 2.0 and reminisce about warmer days...let's see...

I went to Estes Park Wool Market in June and saw a bit of llama jumping...

...hung out with my wonderful (and supportive!) sis Kara in Pennsylvania, who wore my yarn like a necklace and took me to the Garden State Sheep & Fiber Festival (thanks, K!)...

....did a little spinning in front of Pennsbury Manor while in Pennsylvania...

...caught Amelia Garripoli in action at her book signing of "Productive Spindling" at Gypsy Wools in Boulder...

....did some weaving by the creek...
...and, of course, carded and spun my wee heart out!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Whoo hoo!!!

One of my yarns made it onto Etsy's front page this afternoon!! I can barely handle the excitement! :D Good old Statsy sent me an email giving me the heads-up.

Still trying to find the screenshot from the Flickr group, but in the meantime, here is the Craftcult capture of the treasury that included my Simple As yarn...

...okay, can't figure out how to post that, either. Thanks for ease of use, Blogger! Here is a link, though...

Friday, August 21, 2009

Spinning as Therapy

I haven't felt like doing much of anything since I received some pretty heavy news last week. Last Wednesday my mom called to tell me that my stepdad has been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, which is a cancer of the plasma cell. He'd been having rib pain lately, which we all initially thought was due to broken ribs from when he took a fall while installing storm shutters. He has been tired and even drifted into confusion one day. Rib & lower back pain is a classic symptom of this type of cancer, and the confusion was caused by an elevated amount of calcium in his blood. I could go on and on about the technical details, but I'm not sure how much I want to delve into it here...all I can say is that I've been sad and frustrated that I live so far away from my parents. I can't help. They're in Florida; I'm in Colorado.

A heavy weight has settled down on me. It pushes down and makes me feel pretty consistantly sleepy...just wrung out. And there's guilt involved, too. My family needs me to be strong. The last thing they need is a daughter/sister that feels ready to collapse with exhaustion.

And so I've turned to my wheel. It rests patiently in the living room until I'm ready for it. I picked out some superwash merino from the depths of my stash, and slid the drive band to the smallest whorl. Spinning sock yarn is something I've never done before...creating a three-ply fine yarn takes time and dedication. But that's exactly what I have right now. I'm a fast treadler in even the most relaxed of settings, but now the wheel positively purrs and the flyer flashes with the blur of the hooks. My heaviness turns out to be pent-up energy and crushing sadness, and now it's pouring into the wheel, flowing down my arms, through my fingers, and spinning away. It's magic. The depression begins to lift, and my thoughts become more organized and less panicky. I can be useful to my family again.

Love you, Dad.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Dyeing with Nancy Finn of Chasing Rainbows

It has now been MONTHS since Nancy Finn was here, and I kept forgetting to post about the dyeing and color theory class she was conducting over at Shuttles . Naturally I jumped at the chance to take the class and spent a happy day at Shuttles dyeing everything in the immediate area with big, bold, bright colors.

Nancy Finn is the owner of Chasing Rainbows Dyeworks, and if you have a well-stocked LYS (local yarn shop) near you, you have probably seen her work. She runs a studio where she and four employees handpaint complex fibers full of subtle tones and gradations. Her teaching method is thorough and very complete...I learned so much!

She started us out with dozens of small strips of silk ribbon. Silk doesn't necessarily need a heat source for color to set, so these were going to make up our color wheel notebook by the end of class. We then got right to playing with color, mixing drop by drop to create new tones, using only red, blue, yellow, and black as bases. Among the concepts I learned were how to alter shades via the use of a special mix of colors called toner, and how to actually use black. Black changes everything. I have always been afraid of black, thinking it would muddy my colors and make them horrible and ugly. Not so. Colors seem to gain force and depth with the use of even a few drops of black...they become infinitely more interesting.

Nancy uses a special method of handpainting...one I've never seen mentioned before. Most people who casually dye know about the plastic-wrap method of handpainting. Nancy said she can't stand the thought of how much plastic she'd be using if she went this way. Instead, she uses restaurant steamer trays to do her dyeing. She dyes 2 oz. at a time, because that's all that she says fits well in a tray.

Nancy pours well-mixed dyes directly onto the fiber:

Next, she presses the dye throughout the fiber to make certain it's saturated:

She also likes to add a little zing of color that doesn't necessarily "go" at the end:

We all took a turn, handpainting silk top, merino/silk top, and fiber from home:

And here is the Drying Rack of Loveliness:

All in all, such an informative class!!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Busy Busy Busy

I have about a zillion posts I'd like to make, but haven't because the days have been packed recently. It's begun to seem that out of these three: (a) a day job, (b) a fiber job, and (c) a social life, I can manage to squeeze in just two at a time. Usually what happens is that I drop the ball just after aiming it at blog-writing or twittering or even posting new items in my shop. The spinning doesn't stop, though, and there are probably a dozen skeins waiting patiently for me to take pictures of them. This week the goal is to post at least half of them. We'll see how it goes.

I am bound and determined to get this blog at least relatively up-to-date (once pics are edited and ready to go), so here are a few topics to look for in the coming weeks:

(1) Dye class with Nancy Finn of Chasing Rainbows Dyeworks!

(2) Estes Park Wool Market report!

(3) Experiments with natural dyes

(4) Trip up to Yellowstone and Josh's family reunion (have to throw in some non-fiber every once in awhile).

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Anybody have an iron?

The doubleweave baby blanket I was weaving for my neighbors Chad and Sarah's baby Bella was all done this afternoon! With doubleweave, you can (among other perks) weave a project twice the width of your reed. It's like magic. I never go all the way down the reed when warping, just get kinda close, so my doublewidth projects can be about 22 inches wide versus the usual 11 or so. The rented table loom I've had since last July (I've put off returning it because I probably owe $150 in rental fees at this point) has 4 heddles, which means I can only do plainweave when I'm doubleweaving, the under-and-over "regular" weave that some people might remember from grade school Weave-It days. So yeah, not super interesting, but by playing with color you can create nice plaids, which is what tried to do while working on this blanket.
I started warping back in, oh, January, when I didn't know the sex of the baby. Plus, hey! green is pretty. Since this project hasn't been super-inspiring, I got distracted and didn't finish till now, a week after Bella was born. :) I was so excited about finishing that I cut it off the loom, even though there was still a lot of warp left, though it can be retied for other projects.

Then I saw it. The dreaded crease. This happens sometimes, especially to novice weavers like myself, when the left (doublewidth) selvage is too tight and the threads pull together. When you warp for doubleweave, you have to double your EPI (ends per inch), and so the reed is just *loaded* with threads. I tried to counteract the crease this time by spreading out the two warp threads furthest to the left in the reed, hoping that even if my selvage was tight, the added room would aid in the threads being properly spaced out in the finished blanket.

No go. This is what happened:

Now the thing to do is to patiently pick out one or two vertical (warp) threads from the blanket, giving the remaining threads room to spread out. Not too much of a hassle, but darn it! I'd hoped that I wouldn't have to deal with this crease thing again. Maybe spacing out 4 or more far left warp threads would have been the solution...

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

My Torture Devices: a Love Story

My ridiculously pointy combs have arrived from Canada! Actually, they arrived several weeks ago, but I got neglectful of the blog. Anyway, I decided to bite the bullet at the beginning of March and ordered a set of Alvin Ramer Super Mini Combs in cherry wood. I'd been debating for a long time about what my next fiber tool would be. A swift would be great, but Josh doesn't seem to mind holding out his hands for me while I use the ball winder. A drum carder would make me a happy, happy girl, but my guild has a Patrick Green Deb's Delicate Deluxe carder that I've been fortunate enough to rent on occassion, and that has suited pretty well. Actually, what the heck am I talking about, I fell in love with it. It's only rentable by the month, though, so when my month's up, I have to return it and put my name back on the waiting list. I imagine that I may break down and buy one at Estes Park Wool Market in June, since Susan's Fiber Shop has a booth, and she usually has a couple PG carders waiting in the wings for some weak person like me to come along. :)

But back to the combs! What can I say? They are truly magnificent. Once I got over the guilt of not ordering LaniCombs (they're local, but pricey), I reveled in all the features of these lovely Ramer Super Minis. First of all, they come with a carding station, which is a superduper plus. Also, they're actually weildable, unlike some regular combs. My arms/wrists don't get as tired with these as they did using the larger combs. They come two-pitch standard, which does the job with most fibers. Folks, I'm really, really happy with the job they do. So without further ado, the pictures...

Here is the set-up, with the combing station clamped to the picnic table with C-clamps. The picnic table is actually a bit low for combing, I've learned...larger C-clamps are in order so the station can be secured to a thicker table. The first comb is charged with a wonderful cold-soaked Corriedale/Merino/Rambouillet fleece I bought online and scoured. The wool is from Wooly Wool of the West , and it is to die for...barely any veggie matter, and so soft and lovely!
Next we have the action shot. The charged comb is turned sideways for minimal chance of impalement and the active comb is sliding through like buttah. I don't usually comb with my left hand, but I REALLY can't take pics left-handed, so there ya go.
Here's a pic of the fiber dizzing off through the (included) seashell diz. Pillowcase of happy fluff and water bottle (for spritzing the wool when it gets too static-y in this dry Colorado environment) also pictured.

Happy nests of fiber ready to spin!
What those happy nests became!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Yarn Everyday

I joined the Yarn Everyday group over at Ravelry! The basic premise is that we spin at least a little every day in April, and must take a daily picture. That last caveat is the kicker for me...spinning everyday is a given, but photo-taking...well, let's just say there are about 20 skeins of yarn waiting for me to take their pictures for my shop. Which is why my shop is so rarely updated. I'm hoping that with the longer days I'll be able to get outside and take pics more often, since the inside of my apartment is as dark as a cave.

My pics so far mostly consist of spinning, with a little stash reorganization mixed in for good measure. The pic with my wheel shows me spinning at my monthly Spin-in, with other spinners and neat wheels in the background. Anyway, without further ado, here are the first week's worth of yarn everyday...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Characteristics of Fibery Animals

I was on Craftster yesterday, answering a query regarding the qualities of different animal fibers. I think my brain is programmed for this kind of trivia...I love answering questions like that! :) Anyway, I thought I'd repost on my blog. The whole section up until Huacaya Alpaca addresses different sheep breeds.

Merino - the finest and softest of the sheep breeds. Bred in Spain, where it was illegal for a while to export them. Short staple length, high crimp, fast to felt. The crimp of the merino also makes it one of the most elastic of the sheep breeds.

Rambouillet - a French breed decended from a herd of merinos either purchased by or gifted to King Louis XVI by the king of Spain. Like merino, rambouillet wool is very fine and soft.

Corriedale - a medium-fine wool, suitable for beginning spinners because its staple length is not as short as merino. (Other medium-wool breeds: Finn, Polworth, among others)

Cormo - corriedale/merino cross, with qualities of both breeds.

BFL (Bluefaced Leicester) - English longwool breed with a surprisingly soft handle. Has a slight sheen/luster, as is typical of many longer-stapled wools.

Cotswold - English breed with a long staple and low crimp, which gives the wool a wavy/curly appearance.

Lincoln - English breed with long-stapled, lustrous, hard-wearing wool. (other long-wooled breeds: Romney, Border Leicester, among others)

Icelandic - double-coated sheep. Outer coat is good for rugs and is hard-wearing, inner coat is next-to-skin soft.

Jacob - multihorned, primitive breed of sheep (seriously, they are amazing-looking) with spotted black/white fleece. Medium-fine wool with some kemp (hair-like fibers) throughout (varies - depends on the individual animal).

CVM (California Variegated Mutant) - decended from Romeldale sheep, with a fleece that varies from white to brown to black.

Course wool breeds include Scottish Blackface, Cheviot, Black Welsh Mountain, and Karakul. Course wool is great for making rugs and very-hard-wearing outer garments.

Huacaya Alpaca - New World camelid bred for its fleece by the Inca. Baby alpaca is free of guard hairs, which increase in number as the animal ages. Alpaca is seven times stronger than wool and three times warmer. Most alpaca fiber is not as crimpy as wool, so it doesn't have the "memory" and elasticity of wool and tends to drape.

Suri Alpaca - type of alpaca with a silky, lustrous coat.

Llama - New World camelid bred by the Inca as a fiber and pack animal. Larger than the alpaca. Llama fleece is not quite as fine as alpaca, and is likely to have more guard hairs.

Vicuna - New World camelid. Its fleece is extremely fine and was once reserved for Inca royalty. It was very difficult to domesticate, however, which is why it was nearly hunted to extinction for its fiber. Smallest of the New World camelids and endangered. I believe vicuna fiber is still illegal to import, though their numbers have recently increased and there are a few being raised in the States.

Guanaco - largest of the New World camelids. Fleece comparable to the llama. Difficult to domesticate.

Camel - sheds its downy undercoat periodically. Camel down is very soft and fine, suitable for next-to-skin items. Camel hair (the outer coat) is often used in the Middle East for rugs, rope, and was historically woven into a coarse fabric used for tents. Camel down fiber has been compared to cashmere in its softness.

Cashmere goat - not actually a breed of goat, but a hair type bred in goats. The cashmere that we know is actually the undercoat...the long guard hairs must be removed. The undercoat is fine, very soft, and strong.

Angora goat - produces mohair, which is a long, lustrous, strong fiber. Mohair is very lightweight and does not wrinkle or crush easily. Teased apart, mohair is cloudlike and soft.

Angora bunny - Angora bunny fur is very soft, and finished items have a distinct halo. It is very lightweight and is seven times warmer than wool. It does not have the elasticity of wool, however, so produces a drapey fabric.

Bison, Musk Ox (Qiviut), and Yak - like the camel, the commonly spun fiber comes from the downy undercoats of these animals. Extremely fine luxury fiber.

Friday, February 13, 2009


The other day I tried my hand(s) at doing an encasement yarn. I've done one before without quite knowing what the heck I was doing. It was subsequently bought and turned into this fab scarf by the talented Phydeaux.

With an encasement yarn, you spin two singles yarns and then, while plying, sandwich another material between the plies. With Electric Sheep, I plugged a rainbow-dyed cotswold curl in every so often, letting the curl twist itself inside the plies. This time around, I teased apart some loose mohair locks into soft clouds and let them be pulled from my fingers as I plied the two merino singles together. Setting the twist by steaming avoided any excess blue dye from bleeding into the white locks.

Oh my gosh, I love the result! It's called "Head in the Clouds", and talk about soooooft. I just want to pet it all day long. The only thing I worry about is (as usual) stability. Will this yarn shed because of it's lock-y mohair-y nature? No idea! I think I'm going to hold onto it for a bit just to see if shedding might indeed be a problem. Here's hoping it keeps itself together!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Singles vs. Plied

So I've been having some issues recently regarding the spinning of singles yarns. Singles are unplied yarns that still have some energy, even after setting the twist. An example is my "Simple As" yarn, which I spun super thick/thin with superfine merino wool.
My issue with singles yarns, though I LOVE the texture of them, is that they just don't seem as stable as plied yarns. I worry that they may felt too quickly. I was reading Judith MacKenzie McCuin's new book The Intentional Spinner recently...she writes that plied yarn should always be a spinner's default position. She might have a point. I think I may start spinning singles yarn from primarily bluefaced leicester wool, which is next-to-skin soft but has a long staple length, in order to help counteract disadvantages such as rapid felting or fibers working their way out of the yarn (aka pilling). Falklands wool may be another option...it's a merino cross rather than straight merino. What do you think? Do you have any strong feelings one way or the other on this subject?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Sock it to Me

Finished my first pair of handknit socks!! Can I get a whoop whoop?

They actually weren't NEARLY as difficult as I thought they'd be. I don't know. I'm not much of a knitter, preferring spinning or weaving. But I wanted a portable project to take home with me to Florida for Christmas, and so I decided to learn to knit socks.

The yarn is Plymouth Sockin' Sox, which is a superwash merino/bamboo/nylon blend, contains enough yarn for two socks, and was on sale for about $10 at my local yarn shop, Shuttles, Spindles and Skeins . I loved working with this soft yarn, though there were a couple of knots inside the ball that drove me a bit batty.

Anyway, I followed Silver's Sock Class , which I highly recommend, using size 2 DPNs and casting on 64 stitches with the Long Tail Cast On. The toe section on the first sock ended up rather wonky, but the second sock turned out a-ok. After blocking, they expanded a little and don't fit like a glove anymore, but after their first actual wash I'm hoping they'll firm up again.

I'm so proud of these socks!! I've already cast on for my second pair, this time with Plymouth Happy Feet in a nice wine color, on size 1 DPNs, hoping to have them fit a little better.