Category Archives: Fiber Artistry and Equipment

Olio

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things

Today the post is all over the place.  First, chickens are mean.  This is the result of the hens establishing pecking order.

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One of the hens has pecked the upper wing of several of the others, plucking their feathers, but not drawing blood.  The shake up has allowed the feathers to begin growing back in.

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Her bare back is the result of the over zealous rooster.  He is picking on the hens in the cull pen now and this gals feathers are coming back out as well.

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Go away and give me some privacy!  I’m trying to lay an egg.

The lace on the shawl on which I was working, did not win!  I did.  The shawl was completed this afternoon as Jim watched the last rounds of the football draft.  I am pleased with the finished product.  It is fairly generous in proportion, the color is rich, and the leaf lace border is interesting.  It is currently being blocked with hopes that it will be dry to wear with a skirt to Mother’s Day Brunch at Mountain Lake Lodge tomorrow.

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It is pinned to a double bed to give you an idea of it’s size.

This afternoon, our daughter sent an adorable picture of her daughter and she gave me permission to share.  I particularly enjoyed the photo because when our daughter, our second child was born, I was excited to have a little girl to dress up.  I took a smocking class and made dresses and bonnets.  As soon as she was old enough to assert her opinion, which was quite early, she always wanted pants, sweaters or t shirts and mismatched socks.  I would buy her skirts for school and she would pull out pants instead.  She was an athlete, playing soccer for years and softball in middle school.  When she found out she was pregnant for the second time, she told everyone that if she had a girl, she would not put her in pink.  She decorated the nursery with a musical theme in greens, blues, teal and brown.  Now that this little princess is old enough to assert her opinion, she chooses skirts and dresses.  This is her afternoon outfit.

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Life and good, I love being a Mom and a Grandmom.

 

 

 

 

A Spinning Lesson

Several days ago, I blogged about my crafty hobbies and got several responses about how great the photos were, but they didn’t have any idea what the terms were.  This will be a short lesson with photos about how thread, yarn, string or even the huge rope that tie up a ship are made.  Spinning is a very ancient art that involved twisting fiber by hand, spindle, spinning wheel or machine into strands or singles and then taking two or more of those singles and spin them together in the opposite direction, allowing the twist you created to hold the strands together, called plying.

Many fibers can be spun.  Wools from dozens of varieties of sheep, llama, alpaca, cashmere goat, angora rabbit, yak, buffalo, whatever has hair of sufficient fiber length to twist together.  Silk cocoons, cotton, hemp, flax, and synthetic fibers such as acrylics to name a few can also be spun.

I am currently working with wool processed two different ways.  The red on the left is called a batt.  The wool is combed out to line up the fibers and left in big clouds or sheets.  The dark on the right is pencil roving.  It is also combed out to line up the fibers but the fibers are then rolled into long loose ropes with no strength.  These are two of the more convenient ways to process the fiber for spinning.  A chunk of the batt or the roving is pulled off, fluffed apart to make it looser, called predrafting, then spun.  The single that you make is much stronger that the product at the start, but even stronger if it is then plied to another single.

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The red batt is Tunis wool and the dark pencil roving is a blend of Finn and Jacob wool, so three different sheep breeds represented.  All of these are fairly soft and have a long fiber, making spinning very easy.

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Once the spools, called bobbins are full or you run out of fiber, it can be plied.

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My spinning wheel is equipped with a built in bar with two pegs that fit through the center of the bobbins to hold the full bobbins for plying.  This is called a Lazy Kate.  You can see in the photo, the two singles being fed back up to the top bobbin for plying.

 

 

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This is a two ply yarn for knitting, crocheting, or weaving.  You can see the twist because of the use of the two colors in my effort to make a tweed like yarn.  The coin is an American dime to give you some reference to the thickness of the finished product.

Once it has all be plied onto the bobbin, it will be wound off and measured then washed and hung to dry before it will be ready for use.  We will save knitting terms for another lesson.

For you curious or scientific minds, go grab a few inches of kitchen twine and you can reverse the process to see how it works.  The plies will pull apart and you can see the twist, then if you take a ply and start unraveling it, you will see that it twists the opposite direction.  It is really quite an interesting product.

Long ago, our ancestors would start with the raw fiber, wash it, comb it, spin it, then knit or weave it into a garment for warmth.  My end goal is to reach the point where I can do a process called sheep to shawl where I will do everything except sheer the sheep.  Last year I did help with an alpaca shearing http://wp.me/p3JVVn-mU but that is another story.

 

Fiddle-dee knit

My crafting has been slow of late.  The knit project that gets the most of my time is Lola Shawl by Carrie Bostick Hoge published in the most recent issue of Taproot magazine, issue 9::Breathe.  The shawl as published is a triangular shawl knit from either fingering or worsted.  I wanted a heavier, larger shawl than I generally make and selected Quince Lark a worsted weight yarn to make it.  After about 1 skein of knitting and looking again at the photos in the magazine, I decided that I didn’t like the way the edge on the shawl lay and feeling adventurous, frogged what I had knit and started over, making the shawl a mitered square shawl instead, using the border that was on the Lola pattern.  Yesterday while we were on our road trip, I decided that the stockinette part was sufficiently large and I wanted to save two skeins for the leaf pattern border.  The lace pattern is an 18 stitch by 18 row pattern and to keep it a mitered square, I needed to keep my increase pattern going, breaking up the border into 3 sections instead of one continuous border.  Row 1 was a piece of cake.  Row 2, the wrong side row is purled and has a P2tbl stitch.  No matter what I did, it didn’t work out right.  Instead of looking it up, I plodded along and realized at the end of the row that it couldn’t be.  This morning, I tinked the entire row of about 300 purled lace stitches and after a well doggie vet visit for our 210 pound baby, I watched a You Tube on how to do the stitch and started again.  This is the most fiddlely lace pattern, but I am determined to make it work.

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At night I have been spinning.  I finished a little more than 2 ounces of Tunis singles in a color called Sebastian.

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This is going to be plyed with a Finn/Jacob that is being spun.

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I’m hoping it is going to make a tweedy yarn.  There is enough of the Tunis that I hope to make enough yarn to knit a rib warmer.

The other task of the day was transplanting the tomato seedlings deeper into larger pots.  They are getting a few hours of filtered sunlight each day and spending the rest of the time under the grow light.  Another couple of weeks and the peppers and tomatoes will go in the garden.

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Rainy Wednesday

This is the 4th consecutive day of rain and we are sitting in the middle of an area showing the potential for some very severe weather this afternoon.  We should start seeing some sunshine again tomorrow, I hope.  The coop is nasty and the hay is wet, so I can’t add more.  The wind blew the tarp off the round bale just before the rain started.  It will have to sit in the sun for a few days before it will be dry enough to add to the coop.

Each morning as I put my rain jacket and boots on and slog over to the coop, I find all 10 chicks in the smaller third with Cogburn and his Queen, the Olive Egger and the two Buff Orpington hens in the larger 2/3 section.  This amuses me because as soon as I open the pop door, several chicks are pushed out to the ground by the two adults trying to get out.  Usually one of the BO hens comes out too, but the second one seems to have difficulty returning to the small side to exit and needs help.  The chicks then all come over to eat, including the ones who were pushed out.  They gather in the pop door and poke their heads out, but still won’t venture outdoors on their own.

The runs are muddy, thus the eggs are dirty each day.  The garden is soggy.  I hope we aren’t facing another cool wet summer like last year, I really want to get a good supply of tomatoes, salsa, pasta sauce, chili tomatoes, pickled peppers, beans and hot sauces canned this summer for next winter.

The wet weather has turned me to books and spinning.  I discovered a local author and am working his newest book after reading his fourth book last weekend.  One was great, this one is too dark, but both are set in our area which makes them interesting.

Spinning is progress on the 4+ ounces of red carded Tunis wool that I purchased at The Olde Liberty Fibre Festival a few weeks ago.  This is my first experience with Tunis and I think I like it.  I am debating plying it with the Finn that I bought at the same festival, creating a red and dark tweedy yarn.  We will see.  That would give me about 6-7 ounces of yarn with which to knit.

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Tonight is Knit Night and I will go if we aren’t under a tornado warning.

Life is an adventure on our mountain farm.

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.