Category Archives: Fiber Artistry and Equipment

Spinning, not the exercise class

I have been spinning fiber for about 4 years now, starting with a drop spindle and switching to a wheel a couple of years ago.  My first wheel was a restored Ashford Traditional that I bought from a friend who had restored it and learned on it and then won a new wheel.  I learned on it, using it for a bit more than a year, sold it to mutual friend who is a fellow knitter that wants to learn to spin.  When I sold it, I bought an Ashford Kiwi 2 as I wanted a double treadle wheel and used it for nearly a year and sold it to get a wheel that travels better for going to spinning group and for taking when I go to spend a week babysitting with a grand.  My new wheel which I have only had for a few weeks is a brand new Kromski Sonata.  Getting the new wheel inspired me to work through some of the fiber I had collected and have made undyed Shetland wool yarn that is for sale at Greenberry House (www.greenberryhouse.com) in Meadows of Dan.  Then I finished 3 ounces of Merino, spun for a friend.

As spinning is going well, I decided that I was ready to start expanding the yarn making process and wanted to mix some of the Alpaca fleece that I have with some wool that I have, so I bought a set of hand carders from Strauch Fiber Equipment Co. (http://www.strauchfiber.com/) as she is a spinner in the group to which I belong.  I have started blending the Caramel colored Alpaca with a light and dark Blue Faced Leicester wool.

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Today Jim and I took off for a drive and ended up at Olde Liberty Fiber Faire (www.olfibrefaire.com/).  From that I came home with a big red cloud of hand carded Tunis wool and a bag of dark colored Finn X Jacob to spin and a small pot of garnet red dye to try my hand at dyeing my own yarn.  

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Once I feel that I have a good handle on these skills, my goal is to buy a whole raw fleece, wash it and hand card the locks for spinning into yarn to dye.

I’m sure Jim would have rather spent the day wandering around the Blue Ridge Motorcycle Fest that we passed and watched literally hundreds of motorcyclist headed in that direction, but he spent the day with me.

Tomorrow, my wheel, hand carders, a suitcase packed with clothing, yarn and fiber are headed off for a week of babysitting in Northern Virginia while he stays home and critter sits the 2 dogs, 2 cats, and 20 chickens.  I am leaving him with homemade stew, chili, and goulash so he doesn’t have to eat out each night.

Life is an adventure on our mountain farm, and off of it when we take a day trip.

On a Spinning Roll

I’m on a roll.  In the past couple of days, I’ve spun 185 yards of natural white Shetland wool.  The yarn weight is DK to Sport weight depending on which chart I use, it is 12 WPI (wraps per inch).  As I want both skeins to be 100 yards, I am spinning the last 2 ounces of the Shetland.  Anything that is left after skeining them, will go to my Funky Fiber skein that will eventually be a throw for cold nights.

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This is the first 100 yard, 75 g skein, waiting for a wash.

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Part of the last two ounces on the wheel.

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The growing Funky Fun skein of various fibers and colors.

The hours spinning have cut into knitting and reading time.  I have been on the same book for over a week and progress on my shawl seems to only happen when we are in the car.  Even retired, there just aren’t enough hours to do all the fun things that I want to do.

Rest and crafting

Yesterday was a rainy damp day, still warm, but too wet to do much outdoors.  In the late morning we drove over to the Blue Ridge Parkway and south to Meadows of Dan.  The outing had two purposes, one to see the renovation progress on Mabry Mill, where they have done some repair on the holding pond, rebuilt the old mill wheel and are repairing the sluiceway to the mill.  This is a favorite spot for us to take visitors, the mill is scenic, in fact, several communities throughout the USA use the picture on their postcards which is amusing.  There is a blacksmith, a carpenter that makes ladderback chairs and other objects, a tiny cabin filled with looms and spinning wheels, walking paths along the creek through Rhododendron thickets and other native plants.  The grandchildren love to drive over for part of a day.  The visitor center displays local crafts and sells buckwheat flour, corn meal, and corn grits in commemorative cloth bags.  Each fall, we drive over before they close for the winter and I supply our pantry with these products, sold very reasonably and milled locally.

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This is a prior trip much later in the summer and with a grand helping to do a Flat Stanley shoot.

The other reason for our venture was to take a small supply of my handspun yarn to Greenberry House, a delightful yarn and gift shop in Meadows of Dan to be sold with her other handspun yarn.  She will be selling some of my yarn in her shop.  She sells mostly local handspun yarn, fleeces and rovings, with just a bit of superwash or acrylic commercial yarn for local charity knitters.  The gift shop has local handthrown pottery, canned jams and preserves, jewelry, handmade glasses cases and other fabric items, and a few old collectibles.  The shop is convenient to pop off of the parkway.  The town also has the Poor Farmer’s Market with more gifts, fresh produce, local cheese and butter, and the biggest display of Lodge Cast Iron cookware I have ever seen as well as a deli counter where you can get sandwiches and cold drinks.  There are a couple of restaurants and several other shops as well.  It is a good stopping place if you are traveling the Parkway.

The adventure got my creative juices flowing and when we arrived back home, I spun almost a full bobbin of a very fine single of Shetland wool, natural white.  Once I have two bobbins of it, I will ply it, measure and decide if it is going to stay natural white of dye it.  Perhaps it will be knit into a gift or set aside to be taken to Greenberry House for sale.

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My car knitting and break from spinning knitting is a shawl.  The edge pattern is from Lola Shawl by Carrie Bostick Hoge in Issue 9 of “taproot” magazine, one of my favorites and one of only two to which I subscribe.  Her shawl pattern is a triangle and out of worsted weight yarn, I don’t like the way it ripples around the neck and shoulders, so I am modifying it to make a squared shawl using 6 stitch increase every other row and will use her leaf pattern border at the bottom.  I prefer a shawl/scarf that does not have to be pinned or held to keep it on.  The yarn is Quince and Co., Lark, the color is Cypress.

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Today is sunny and a bit cooler.  There are a few things to be done outside, but at least a couple of hours will be spent with friends at Green Dragon Yarns, knitting and socializing and maybe buying some more fiber to spin.

Finished Objects and UFO’s

I didn’t think it possible to finish Estelle before the cold spring ended, but since we keep getting blocks of frigid days, even some light snow, indeed I did.  I really wasn’t too pleased with it right after I finished it, but a good blocking helped immensely.  It feels softer and drapier, the sleeves are long enough and I didn’t stretch them, the band up the fronts and around the neckline lay much better.  I am glad it doesn’t button, because yet again, I knit up 2 full sizes larger than my bust size and it would pull if it had buttons.  Yes, I did a gauge swatch, several actually since I couldn’t get gauge with the recommended needle so I fiddled with several size needles before getting gauge.  Estelle is a Quince and Co. pattern, made of Quince and Co. Lark in Delft color.

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Yesterday while it was blocking, I sat and moved buttons on the last cardigan I made, the V necked cardi from Ann Budd that also seemed small when complete.  I had purchased some very fine Raku fired clay buttons for it and managed to lose one when I took the train to Northern Virginia to babysit during semester break.  After carefully moving the top one down to the missing space and putting retaining buttons on the backs, I broke one putting my coat over it last evening.  Now instead of 5, I have 3, the broken one can be reglued, but I fear they just aren’t sturdy enough for the sweater.  I purchased some different buttons on my way to knitting last night, so I think I will reblock that sweater after I take the pottery buttons off and then put the new ones on tomorrow.

Sorry for the fuzzy shot, I can’t find the original and copied it from my projects folder on Ravelry.

The Honey Cowl has been repaired and I have almost used one skein of the yarn for it.  I think using half of the second, which would make it the yardage for which the pattern requires will make it too wide for the circumference.  I’m not a fan of bunchy garments around my neck, so I may bind off at the end of this skein in another row or two and use the remaining skein for mitts or a hat.

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My Addi Sock Rocket needles came and I went back to work on the never ending socks, Socks for the Plane is the pattern and I can only knit about two rows with the size 1 needle before my hands ache.  I think they really will be never ending.  I only need a few more inches of cuff to be done with them and I will have completed my first toe up pair, though I have enough yarn left to make them knee hi socks.

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I am adjusting to my new spinning wheel and have been spinning the undyed Shetland wool.  I’m thinking about folding her up into her backpack and going to the spinning group today, I haven’t been in several weeks.

The only other UFO is a reknit of a shawl that I adored when it was finished, but I carelessly left it on my chair one day when our German Shepherd was younger and she chewed a half dollar size hole right in the middle.  I frogged it and started over knowing it will be somewhat smaller due to the loss of the short strands on each side of the hole.  I’ll post it when it is finished again, but it is a throw in my bag and take in the car project and we have no trips planned, so it may be a while.

Productivity

The short spring of this weekend allowed Jim to take a 175 mile motorcycle ride.  While he was out enjoying the weather in a way he enjoys, I got to work outside, which I enjoy.  My chickens’ run expanded from 50 linear feet to 175 linear feet.  The main body of the run more than doubled and I created a 6 foot wide attached run that goes down one of the long sides of the garden.  My hope is that they will help keep the weeds and bugs down from that difficult to mow area.

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The main body of the run now also provides a fence half way along one of the shorter sides of the garden and gives them access to a pile of old compost.  They spent a good portion of the afternoon dust bathing in that pile and digging for bugs.  I wonder how long it will take them to make this area barren of grass too.  Putting weeds from the garden will be a much shorter walk now.

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After coming in totally worn out, I stopped and unpacked my new spinning wheel.  I was so glad to see that as a folding wheel, it came mostly assembled and already packed in its travel bag.  There was very little assembly to do and I was soon able to take it for a short spin with a bit of undyed Shetland wool.  There are 4 ounces of it to be spun, dyed and turned into something beautiful.

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I love life on our mountain farm.

“Uncle” already

Will it never end?  Winter that is.  The predicted winter storm has already started, several hours before anticipated and it did not start as rain as predicted, but rather a slushy mix of precipitation.

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When I went over to check egg production progess for the day, I don’t want them to freeze as the temperature falls, this is where I found all of the hens.  Huddled under the coop wondering when this cold white stuff is ever going to end.  At least with the lengthening days, their production is up a bit, getting an average of 6 per day instead of the 4 from mid winter.

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The newbies are now a week and a day old and are starting to show signs of tail and wing feathers.  The more feathers they grow, the less I worry about the loss of power killing their heat lamp.

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I didn’t get around to my laundry and dishwasher detergent making session a couple of weeks ago, just made my lotion bars, but this morning, I realized that I was seriously low on laundry soap and out of dishwasher detergent, so I pulled out the recipes and went to work.  I was surprised and pleased after finishing it and calculating the cost, to find that it will cost me less than $.06 per load for laundry and about $.07 per load for the dishwasher.  Since I make my own soap, I know what goes into it and added to it only washing soda, baking soda, and borax for the laundry powder, I have an economical product that lacks any of the sketchy ingredients and it is safe for the front loading HE washer.  The dishwashing powder costs slightly more per load as the citric acid is a tad pricey, but that mix is only borax, washing soda, citric acid and salt, again an economical product without the sketchy ingredients and safe for the dishwasher and the septic tank.  Yes, the process takes about 10 minutes because I have to hand grate the bar soap, but I have a huge jar stored on the mudroom shelf, plus a small container on the washer and one to take to my son next month and I only made half of the recipe.

As the temperature is falling, the stew is simmering, I’m going to light the woodstove and fireplace and sit back and see if I can finish the second sleeve of my Estelle sweater that I am knitting of Quince and Co. Lark yarn.

I can’t spin as I packed up my wheel and shipped her off to her new home in Michigan and my new one won’t be in until late in the week.

Life is an adventure on our mountain farm.

 

 

Solo Time

Today is a beautiful springlike day after snow day before yesterday.  The snow is gone, the day is warm and dry.  The kind of day that Jim has been wishing for all winter.  He was up as soon as it warmed and dressed to ride.  He took off on his motorcycle for a “long” ride and I was left to do whatever I wished.

Today is the day the new yarn and fabric store opened in the nearby town, so for me it was a day to explore.  Lunch alone at Panera, reading, then across the road to the new shop to check it out.  After that excursion, I was off to my favorite local shop to sit with friends and knit.

My current projects, since I finished the baby sweater and delivered it to the Mom to be, but failed to photograph first, are still the Honey Cowl of Green Dragon Terminator in Heatwave color.

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It is coming along nicely, though I found a dropped stitch while I was at his shop and now have to decide how to deal with it.  And my other project is Estelle of Quince and Co. Lark in Delft color.  The body is finished on it and I’m working on one sleeve.  That leaves the other sleeve and the feather and fan front bands.  I am beginning to think it may not get worn this year, but it will be put away for the next cold winter.

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I am considering selling my Ashford Kiwi 2 spinning wheel for a Kromski Sonata that I can pack up and take to the weekly spinning group.  I’m not addicted enough to own more than one wheel.  I was hoping when I got to the Green Dragon Shop to knit that David had not sold all of the fiber he took to Hawk’s Nest last week, he had one I really wanted, but my road trip there didn’t happen as I remembered an appointment that interfered, but alas, he sold every roving he took with him.  Maybe in the fall.

 

The Return of Winter

Spring is coming, we know it is by the flocks of robins, the few springlike days we have had in the past couple of weeks.  The past two days have exceeded 60ºf ), absolutely delightful weather.  The weather encouraged outdoor time, to clean the chicken coop, to give them free range time, and to allow Jim to take a jaunt on his motorcycle.

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Yesterday afternoon it clouded up and by evening, it was a steady cold rain with the temperatures beginning to drop to the current 28º (-2º) and headed for tonight’s 8º (-13.33º).

By the time I awoke this morning, the rain had turned to sleet, then snow.  The snow is falling steadily and accumulating.

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The weather prognosticators are warning us of 6 to 12″ of snow, depending on which source you choose to believe.  I’m hoping for a much lower amount and a return to the weather of the weekend, but it looks like winter is back and here to stay for at least another week.  I’m ready to do more than think about the spring garden.  Instead, I will knit and spin, make a warm comforting stew for supper and sit tight.

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What I’m knitting, Beaucoup in Happy Feet, a light baby sweater for a spring baby, and Honey Cowl of Green Dragon Terminator color is Heat Wave.

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Make It Better

As I sold all of my interchangeable knitting needles and ordered fixed circular knitting needles, I needed storage.  Interchangeables come in clever compact cases that hold the tips and the cables, but fixed circulars come in individual packages and when they arrive, I will have 2 lengths of 10 sizes, a potential snake’s nest if put in a basket.  I have spent a couple of hours searching through Etsy looking for a solution.  I know what I want, something that resembles a CD case and I was willing to pay someone else to design and make it, but I couldn’t find anything that wasn’t either a roll or much larger than I desired.

My other desire was a means to make my favorite go to bag more organized.

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This bag is a leather tote from Duluth Trading Company, it is my travel tote, my knitting bag, carries my wallet, tablet, notepad, small case with lotion bar, lip balm, comb, pens, camera, and a shawl or scarf.  The bag is 12 x 4 x 13.5 with a zipped top.  Because of its size, it swallows my tiny wallet and keys.  One of my friends used to have a business making bags and she put a liner in them that had pockets around the perimeter.  I sew, but my machine isn’t heavy enough to sew through the liner and the leather.  After approaching this friend, she agreed to help me sew the lining in if I made what I wanted.

Today turned into a craft day as I tackled these two problems after some planning last night and a trip to the fabric store today.

First, I tackled the liner.  I bought a firm drapery fabric, measured twice, cut once and formed just what I wanted.  It is temporarily basted into the bag until I can get with my friend to sew it in place.

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The other project was accomplished with quilting quarters, scraps from the bag liner, and a few inches of synthetic leather.  I still need to sew the button and leather loop on, but it is colorful and I think will fulfill my needs.  The supplies for both projects ended up costing less than a needle case on Etsy that would have been less satisfactory to me.

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