My, my — what have I been doing??? Making plans, calculating changes, shifting paradigms. I can never stand still for long it seems.
I have been contemplating — for a while, what I want to do with the business end of my fiber passion. I have decided that whatever fibers I process, create or dye — they should be ones that I would want to use myself! Now that my sweet husband is interested in learning to weave, my eyes have turned to projects that can also help him to move into this very satisfying hobby. I DO have a lot of handspun, and well ….. I bet we can turn out some lovely handwoven items, for us, for family, and for sale!
I have a LOT to accomplish this Summer, and the first goad was accomplished at the Great Lakes Fiber Festival — sell off all the EXTRA FIBER I have! Yay! I have 11 raw fleeces to prepare, a new electric drum carder and plans!
Part of this shift was selling off extra equipment, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to get a Cherry Matchless Spinning wheel, and a Pat Green Triple Picker! We had planned a trip out to California to be with our son and daughter-in-law and my beautiful, sweet, yummy grand-daughter.
It seems that Sophia does have an interest in Spinning — sitting on my lap and watching the wheel — she looks quite contemplative.
Of course, I have been busy making little knit items for her. I have started a project of 4 dresses — 1 was finished for her first birthday — and she looks so sweet in it too!
We are great pals — Sophia and I! I’m sure we will have many exciting adventures together!
We had a grand time together this month. Playing, shopping, laughing and just hanging out together. I might be just another proud grandmother, but I think this little girl is the sweetest, prettiest, funniest little mite in the entire world. Where was there ever such a sweet girl??? She loves to laugh, and her laughter fills me with boundless joy!
I suppose I should be blogging on this site more! BUT I’ve been trying to keep up with the month – to – month changes in Darling Sophia!
You never know what is going to inspire you, and where it may take you. That’s the FUN of living, and I’m starting to rediscover that life can be fun.
I happen to see an excerpt of a DVD Called “Three Bags Full” made by Judith Mackenzie, this inspired me to buy the DVD. The day it arrived I watched it. Judith was showing us how to select raw fleece, and how to EASILY wash it. All you really need is a pot of hot water and a good detergent (well — I’m going to add rubber gloves to the equation). Hmmm, maybe buying raw fleece is not such a bad idea — once it’s washed, it is pretty easy to deal with, and I DO have 2 drum carders, after all.
While mulling this over, I noticed while peeking at “friend” activity on Ravelry, that Trina had made a dandy version of the Aranami Shawl using Jacob fleece that she hand prepared. Can you just see the little wheels in my mind start to turn??? I was already making plans to attend the 2013 Maryland show — EARLY Saturday for the fleece market. But really, 7 months into the future, could I really wait that long? (NO)
Time to call in Google and Internet searches. I found a place near by (just an hour or so away) called Barking Rock and another site called Three Fates Farm, in Illinois. I called Colleen at Barking Rock and arranged to come out. I picked Punkin’s Lambs fleece.
It did have a yellow stain, but hot water and soap would ensure the fleece would remain undamaged (but still yellow) — I have to say that the yellow cast makes for a lovely wool, I wouldn’t change it for the world! I will be making Jared Flood’s Quill with this super springy yarn. Washing was easy, there was a lot of VM so — carding was a bit messy — I did not clean the downstairs until I had gone through all of it! It is a bit of a bumpy spin — an extra run through the drum carder would have been a good idea.
I emailed Karen at Three Fates Farm, and she sent pictures of fleece from 4 different ewes. I already had a mostly white fleece, so I was looking for color variation. Calliope looked just perfect for me, so I bought her 2011 and 2012 fleece. When the box arrived and I pulled out the first fleece, I was amazed at how very little VM was in the fiber! I test washed some of the dark and some of the white, and it was wonderful — soft and springy. What fun.
I separated out 4 distinct color groups from Calliope’s fleece. Each went into a storage bin. For the next 4 days, after work I washed one group at a time. HOT water, textile detergent, BIG pot and rubber gloves. It took 2 hot water washes, and 2 rinses. Then into the spin dryer and hanging in a net bag with a fan on it. This was EASY.
I wanted this to be well carded, so I developed a little production line. Using my hand cards (again each evening after work) I carded through the color group — just a few passes at a time — to get any VM out and to open the locks. The next phase (on the weekend) was to run the opened locks through my Louet Roving carder, and then 2 of those into the Louet Blending carder. The result was a nearly VM free 1 ounce batt.
I need five shades, but there are 2 light greys and 2 darks — one more grey one more black. So it should work out fine. I placed all the greys with a “parter” of nearly the same shade for 2 oz 2 ply skeins of yarn. The triple carding is really paying off — it spins like butter, is very clean, and will make a super elastic, full of air, nicely fuzzy yarn. Just what you need for a light weight, but warm shawl.
I had not even finished with the first fleece from Karen before I decided that I had to have more — so I bought all she had from the other 3 she had sent pictures of, Norah – 2 Fleece (Calliope’s mother) Freya – 1 Fleece and Thea – 2 Fleece. It is now sitting in my basement, waiting to be unpacked!
What am I going to do with all of this fleece? I do have a plan! Of course, I will use all the Jacob that I want (I have at least 2 shawls planned, possibly a third) THEN I am going to spin the yarn and make up a few kits for a local yarn shop — Jacob My Shawl kind of thing. THEN I am going to offer batts of sorted, carded Jacob fleece for spinners! When those clever little wheels start turning, all kinds of good ideas take root.
What do you do to enjoy the Fall colors? I start cooking up all the walnut hulls that have been generously donated to me by my friends. I like to let em get good and steamy (they’re pretty black and a little mouldy by the time I use em!). Makes the color better.
Then — into the cook pot to make a rich, almost black dye liquor. How does it smell?? Not bad, really, it has a nice earthy smell. I feel like such an Earth Mother when I’m cooking up walnuts or dandelions (that’s the Spring blog!).
I use yarn and roving in the pot, sometimes together. They seem to rub along together quite nicely — who would da thunk!
There is this new trend in shawl making to use hues of the same color in your shawl. A few great examples are Brooklyn Tweed’s Quill, The Aranami Shawl (I’ve also seen this done with Jacob Fleece) — and The Yarn Harlot’s project shawl with Jacob Fleece and the Damask Pattern. Really you could take ANY shawl pattern and apply a graduation of color to it, but it looks especially good when the pattern has a shift in texture — time to change colors! Keeping it all in the same family makes a stunning piece.
Walnut dyeing is pretty cool. I swear it almost conditions the fiber. It feels softer to me, maybe even happier. You WANT happy yarn — then when you pick it for a project, you get the maximum cooperation and a flawless execution of form, color and texture. Remember — happy fiber is good fiber.
This year I took my walnuts — gosh I had almost forgotten them — collected last Fall and sitting around in my garage for – well – almost a year (oops). Cooked em up, and Dyed some Wool superwash roving from the Sheep Shed Studio (Brown Sheep Wool over runs), some super fine lace weight wool from the Cleveland Woolen mill (he told me it was Merino) — we’re talking 5200 ypp here folks, and some lovely superwash Merino Lace weight (2000 ypp) from Henry’s Attic. There were 3 different batches. The original strength and cook for 45 minutes, soak over night in the left over, and another batch after that — cooked for about 30 minutes. I have 3 very nice shades for each fiber, and YES they all took the dye slightly differently — each according to their tastes. It IS a wonderful life, isn’t it???
Years ago, it seems like a lifetime now, I wanted to take up knitting again. I was just married, just out of college and really poor. We just barely had enough to scrape by — thank God we lived in San Diego, where several nights a week we could go get a meal for under $5.00 at one of the beach front restaurants. (Taquitos and salad at Tugs Tavern was the best!)
I had one really bad experience knitting with acrylic. After several hundred hours of fisherman knit cables and designs, I could not stand the touch and feel of my new fisherman knit pullover. That cured me — it was wool or nothing (certainly not anything “synthetic”) 30 years ago we did not have all the cool new combinations of fibers that we do today, so I just swore off anything that was not natural.
Wool was above my price range. Then one day, while attending a free fair in Old Towne, I saw a woman spinning on an Ashford Traditional Spinning wheel. I was captivated. We spent about an hour or so, watching and asking questions. The kit wheel was $75, a whole POUND of fiber was $6.00 (New Zealand — raw fleece) and carders were abut $20.00. Once I realized that wool was $6.00 a pound I was sold, hooked, ready to get on board … I could finally afford to make a wool sweater … eventually.
The gal directed me to the only store in San Diego that had the supplies I needed. I bought a drop spindle, carders, a pound of wool, and a book “The Joy of Spinning”. Anytime I wanted to learn something new, I would say “Hey, I’m a college graduate, if there is a manual, I can figure it out!” I read the book cover to cover (it’s really an entertaining read), then tried the primitive, bottom whorl drop spindle. Here’s a thought — if you are going to try something like spinning your own yarn — get the BEST tools you can afford — right from the start. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to learn a new skill with substandard equipment. You’ll never know if your lack of success is due to ineptitude, or just bad workmanship!
I looked over at my new husband, and he watched me struggling with this $&#()^% spindle and suggested we go get the kit wheel. He has always been that way — “get the right tool from the start” — I was the one trying to save a few bucks. I finished the wheel, put it together and then sat down with my basket full of rolags and just started spinning. Sure I lost the thread now and then (it just gets SUCKED onto the bobbin before
you realize what’s going on) and it wasn’t SUPER smooth — but it looked like yarn by golly!
I loved the entire process. Put a towel on your lap, card out the raw fiber (which, gratefully, was really VERY clean and only smelled of yummy lanolin), making little sausage rolls called rolags. When you’ve got a bunch of ’em, then sit down to the wheel and start it spinning — Here’s a good one; I’m right handed, but dyslexic, so when I read the directions on which hand to draft with I got it backwards, and I draft with my left instead of my right, turning my body to the left. Oh well — it worked out great later when I wanted to learn to spin on a great wheel.
It was a slow process at first, but eventually I started to get the hang of spinning and the yarn was looking pretty good. My first couple of 3 oz skeins went to making a baby sweater for my first child. I couldn’t find fiber reliably, so spinning was a hit or miss affair, along with taking care of our son. Once we moved to Ohio, I could get fleece from local sheep farmers — but that is another story all together (see The Lure of Lanolin). Thank goodness I found Earth Guild — mail order (an actual CATALOG and SAMPLES) but at least I could now get fiber — and fiber that was cleaned and ready to go (whew, what a relief).
I would put the baby in a basket of warm laundry, and then sit and spin on the wheel — the motion of the wheel and the soft whosh and whir sound it made captivated little Jimmy — he soon went to sleep.
So what makes handspun yarn cost $50 or MORE for a 4 oz skein???
First you have to decide on the fiber, raw or uncombed/uncarded is cheaper, but you will have to do the carding — it takes me about a minute or two to make a rolag, and it takes about 2 dozen rolags to fill a 2-3 oz bobbin (maybe more) That looks like about an hour of carding for a 4 oz skein
Then you have to spin the rolags into your “single” — that’s 1 ply of a 2 or a 3 ply yarn. Now that I’ve spun for a long time I CAN do it fast if I want to, but still it’ll take 2-4 hours to fill up 2 of those small bobbins. Some wheels (production wheels — they have large drive wheels) can spin fast very easily, that’s good, cause it get’s tiring treadling like a speed demon.
Once you have filled up 2 bobbins, then the yarn has to be plied. I usually do 2 ply, unless I want to have a thicker yarn, or I want to preserve color striping, or I want to have a stronger yarn that will pill less — then I’ll do 3 ply.
It only takes about 45 minutes or so to ply up 4 oz of yarn.
Then it needs to be skeined off, washed and reskeined — another 45 minutes.
Lets do a little adding now. But First, most spinners can buy their fiber ready to go, they’ll pay $2-$5 per ounce for those beautifully processed, dyed and mixed batts of ready to spin fiber — but it’s worth it. We won’t add the carding time — we’ll just keep in mind that the spinner has spent a little money to bring you this nice yarn.
Spinning time: Take the average 3 hours / 4 oz
Plying time: 3/4 hour
Skeining/Washing time: 3/4
That looks like 4.5 hours 4 oz skein from start to finish. The spinner might like to make minimum wage $7.75/hour ~$35.00 plus the cost of materials (let’s say $15.00) and you have $50.00 — that’s if she is going to sell to you directly. Selling to a shop owner means she has to take less for her product so the owner can make some money too.
I didn’t even include if the spinner hand paints the roving or yarn — that’s an entire new process.
Why do you want handspun? A skein of handspun yarn has been prepared by someone, personally. They have used their sense of Art to create a product from scratch. If you are a knitter, you’ll love handspun, it is basically magical. The Spinner has put a bit of her soul into the yarn with which you are knitting. Her energy is in there! So far everything I have made with handspun has turned out beautifully. I like to cogitate on my handspun, and let it tell me which project would be best — then the magic really kicks in.
There aren’t many events that will actually get me (willingly) on a plane, but the birth of my lovely Sophia will! Actually — pretty much any event in my children’s lives — but this was ultra special.
Note for the future — Plane rides are easier if you take drugs to calm you down or make you sleepy. All small planes should be abolished.
I avoided packing until the day of the trip. Getting ready ahead of time would just make my anxiety worse. I did manage to get my luggage, which was more of an odyssey than you might think. I needed at least a few days of recovery after that!
Day of trip — walking around, up and down, here and there, gathering essentials. It’s Summer, so all I really need is shorts, right??? Later on that one.
My flight was at 8:00 p.m. — so around 3ish I took the first pill — whoosh — that felt weird. Instantly hungry, so that took care of being too nervous to eat. Then OFF to the airport. I really hate airports now. Once I was checked in — I love it, you have to go up to a person and they POINT to the machine for you to check in, then it prints the boarding pass, and you have to PAY to check a bag — the only thing the person does is point to the machine and tell you that they don’t have envelopes for your boarding pass — why bother with a person at all????
Security checks are interesting, — off with your shoes, put all your stuff in multiple bins, get x-rayed with your hands in the air (I’m not really feeling too happy about this point) then you have to get all your stuff back together and on. Walking through the airpoint makes me understand WHY they want you there 2 hours early — there is a plethora of shops for you to spend your money at. Why not??? there is nothing else to do, and they wouldn’t let your ride come past the security station. I’m convinced that it is not about security, it’s about getting people to spend their money!
Ok, right about now there is this huge lump in my throat. I can’t take the second pill yet, cause I have to manage to navigate changing planes (and gates) at Chicago O’Hare airport. So … as hubby put it, I needed my wits about me. The plane was small — but at least it had jet engines. The gal next to me was also on drugs — maybe I’m not so unusual. I was pretty ok for the flight. Before I knew it we were ready to land in Chicago. This plane literally HIT onto the runway — jolting everything around, and then the pilot puts on the air brakes — with attitude, so everyone was pushed forward. I wasn’t surprised, I expect to crash and die on landings anyway.
I get off the plane, WAIT for my carry on luggage that I was not allowed to carry on — cause the plane was too small, get directions to the shuttle bus, and wait in line. The first group got on and I was in the second group. They guy supervising loading of the bus, gets on the phone and starts to plead for a second bus — he was looking kinda worried. Great. When the guys in charge are worried — that’s bad. I almost think I could have walked to the gate — but I decided to just do as I was told (anyone who really knows me is really shocked by that statement). Finally the buses arrived (yep he got both of them to come) and they let us off at C7 — My plane was leaving from C23 — AND it was already supposed to be boarding — no problem – just move — fast!
Luckily, the plane was boarding late and I finally got on. Fate must have decided to give me a break, because my 3 seat row was empty – save for me. So I guess I COULD have taken my carry on bag — which they actually took from me to be checked. I was walking down the gangway to turn in my bag before getting one the plane when I had a moment of defiance — there was NO WAY I was going to let them check my Cameras — which I could not afford to replace. So I just stopped and took my camera bag out of the carry on — so there!
Now I could take the other pill. Just another 3 hours, and an empty row. I can make it! I put a movie on my laptop, hooked in the earphones, and basically dozed all the way to Sacramento. Better living through chemistry.
The trip was worth the prize. What a sweet baby. She hardly cries, makes cute little sounds and looks at you thoughtfully. How lucky we all are to have her in our lives. I’m here with Jim and Jun, and her parents. Sophie loves it, all these arms, all this love. No wonder she’s so mellow.
Oh — and even in Summer, even when it gets hot, it’s DRY heat — what does that mean? It means that it gets pretty dang cool at night — and you might need long pants and a sweat shirt.