During the Tour De France, many spinners involve themselves in groups called Tour De Fleece, where we challenge ourselves to try to spin as many minutes as the miles ridden each day; challenge ourselves to try a new fiber, technique, or piece of spinning equipment on their sprint days; and rest on their rest days. This is Day 5, a challenge day. On Days 1 through 4, due to other constraints on my time, I did not meet the number of minutes, but it is a personal challenge, and I did produce a fair amount of new yarn between my wheel and my drop spindles.
Left to right, is a single still being spun on my Turkish spindle of Romney. About 400+ yards of superwash Merino spun on my wheel to make a hat and scarf for my son, and 50 yards of silk single spun on a drop spindle wheel plyed with a single of Merino spun on my wheel.
Today is a challenge day. I decided to challenge myself by improving on the homemade drop spindles that I made for the camp teaching day recently.
They were made with a 2″ wooden wheel on a 3/8″ shaft about 7 or 8″ long. Though I can spin on them, they didn’t really spin long enough for a beginner, especially a child which is who the camp teaching day was for. The spindle needed a little more weight and a slightly longer shaft I thought. While Gdaughter was in her weekly Camp Creative this morning, I perused the shelves at Michael’s to see if I could find a way to make them heavier next time, but still keep them inexpensive as I made and furnished them at no cost to the camp. I wanted a good inexpensive beginner spindle that kept spinning long enough to learn.
The new model is 4″ in diameter, still built on the 2″ wooden wheel beneath the thin patterned medallion with a 9″ shaft instead of the 7″. It weighs 1.3 ounces and spins smooth and long and it is still fairly inexpensive. It took about 30 minutes to drill, glue, sand, and wax with lavender beeswax.
To add to my challenge, I am spinning a fiber blend that I have never used before, a Merino, Tussah Silk, and Natural Flax mix on the newly made trial spindle. I think I have fulfilled my personal challenge for the day.
While at Michael’s, I also looked at their pre-made wreaths as the very plain one on the front door at home needed refreshing. Their wreaths are so expensive, even with a coupon. A few silk flowers, a new spool of ribbon, a few minutes of my time and the front door has a new look.
The wreath was made sitting in the car while waiting the 2 hours of her class. Always a challenge.
My fiber stash has multiplied of late and I have been trying to spin some fibers that are newer to me and at the same time reduce the bags of fluff to a more manageable size. I may have to empty out my cedar chest of blankets and pillows just to contain it.
On Saturday, I am going to participate in the Newport Past and Present art show and open house. In addition to demonstrating spinning with my wheel and spindle, I will have displayed in the show, a sweater that is of yarn that I spun and knitted on display as an art of the Past. All of the art at this show will be for sale and 20% of the proceeds from the sales, will go to the Newport Recreation Center building fund.
At my demonstration, I will have various animal fibers and yarn spun from those fibers set out. Today, other than trying to do some house cleaning prior to SIL’s mom arriving this week, I have been sitting at my wheel. I started off plying more than 220 yards of California Red wool. This beautiful white wool has hints of red fibers in it. The lambs of this breed are Irish Setter red when they are born.
My helper has stayed close today. I think he misses his Daddy. He learned long ago to not get beside the wheel and not to put his nose up where the hooks are spinning.
Once that was plied, I tackled the cleaning, only to have my 14 year old Oreck vacuum decide it was old enough, or so it thought.
Since I couldn’t finish the cleaning, I returned to spinning. I had a few ounces of Romney and spun a single that plied with Wooly Nylon for 140 yards of fingering weight fun yarn.
I finished the spinning afternoon with a washing session and hung those two skeins, the first California Red skein and the Mohair lock Art yarn to dry.
Back to the vacuum. SIL used to work with electricity before he went into Radiology and he dismantled the handle of the old Oreck, spliced the damaged wire and reassembled the handle and the old girl works just fine again. I hope to get more life out of her.
At least the weather says we have it. The calendar is still a couple of weeks off and I know that we don’t have frost free days until Mother’s Day here, but for this week, it is superb. It is so nice today, that Mountaingdad took the Big Bad Harley out for a ride, realizing as he was getting ready to go that he had a back running light out, he rode to “the big city” an hour away to get it replaced and to get a hot dog. The one thing he really misses about Virginia Beach is Famous Uncle Al’s. They grilled Boar’s Head all beef hot dogs and have the best french fries ever, hot and crisp. No where in this university town or the surrounding towns has he been able to find a “good” hot dog. There is a place near the HD dealer that has ones he finds acceptable. I’m glad he could get out. Maybe tomorrow too.
When eldest son and grandson #1 came in on early Saturday morning, T tasked L to look under the bus seats to be sure they hadn’t left anything. Once in my car on the way to the house, he reached for his hat and uh-oh, no hat. This was a nice wool hat that I had knit two Christmases ago to go with a Moebius Scarf for him. If the weather is chilly, due to his short haircut and thinning top, he wears a hat. I try to keep him in knit hats. Sometimes, without him nearby, they end up too short for him to fold the brim. One of his last remaining ones, has numerous holes held together by safety pins, OK for around the house, but not too professional on the bus ride to work or the walk across campus to his office. He was disappointed in it’s loss, but I had recently determined that I might have better luck selling hand spun, hand knit scarves and hats than I was having selling the hand spun yarn, so I pulled a skein of local undyed Dorset lamb yarn and two small skeins of dark undyed Shetland to make him a new one. As he drives my car to his house when I return them home after a visit, because I have to drive home alone the next day, I tucked the yarn in my purse as we were leaving Sunday afternoon. I cast on the hat, knit the ribbed brim as we drove north and began the color work part in the dark after dinner. I had hoped to finish it on the drive and while there, but we arrived at 9:30 p.m. and having to get up at 4:30 a.m. Monday to take them to the Metro for their mini vacation, I didn’t get it done. Yesterday, I was too foggy from the short night followed by the long drive home, the chores needed once here, I didn’t get but a couple of more rows done. I realized that I had less of the cocoa color than I thought and had to pull out about 8 rows to change the design to accommodate the shortfall. This morning, I finished it.
It has been washed and is blocking, once dry, I will mail it to him, knowing that in spite of this week’s beautiful spring weather, he will likely need it for a bit longer until it gets warm and stays warm. This is the first hat I have ever made with my hand spun yarn. It is thick, warm and generous. I hope he likes it.
The spring like week lured me to put the kitchen floor potted herbs out on the deck. This allowed me to clean up the dog hair, live and dead stink bugs, and a few dead wasps that were lurking between the pots. I know that they will have to spend some more days and nights in the house before they can summer out, but they are out for now.
This is probably the last time I will have the large pots on the floor in the kitchen as I have learned how easy it is to root Rosemary and so the Rosemary plants are going to be planted in the garden this year and cuttings taken and rooted for the window sill pots at the end of summer. The cuttings will overwinter in the sill and be planted in the garden again next year, it just doesn’t overwinter here in the mountains of Virginia. The mint is going to be cut and rooted for a window sill pot as well, along with the other window sill herbs. I have been toying with the idea of finding a small wagon that can be waterproofed inside that will hold several smaller pots so that I can perhaps expand the winter herb garden to include a few more herbs like bush basil and maybe a small sage. It could then be rolled out of the way to clean under it, rolled out in the sun on nice days and stored for the summer when the garden has the herbs growing in it.
The excitement of seeing leaves, flowers, and vegetables growing again is swelling. I still need a few seed packets, but the seeds I purchase are from a Virginia company and many of them are sold in the local natural foods store. I just need to pull my list together and get in there to get them before they sell out. It is approaching the time to start my tomato, tomatillo, and pepper starts. They can’t go out until mid May and I don’t want them to get too tall and leggy before then, so I will likely wait another week or two to start them. Everything else gets direct planted. I have thought about direct planting them as well. The volunteer tomatoes and tomatillos are always the strongest and best plants out there.
Late last evening, I received an email letting me know that I have been accepted for the Holiday Market in November and again in December. This weekend, K will help me set up my display for a dry run. I have been working a bit at a time to improve the curb appeal with the purchase of a few small crates and some small chalkboard signs.
I felt that my hand printed paper signs and lack of labeling contributed to my low sales at the previous festival. The little clip on blackboards, were easy to make with wooden clothespins, hot glue, a paint pen and the small blackboards. It has allowed me to identify the scents available, and each bar has a paper band with the shop logo and soap scent. I purchased two of the small square trays and glued dividers in them for the lotion bars and salves. The little soap crates will each have one or two varieties of soap and each of the two beard oils have their own little box. Testers will be out for the Beard Oil and Lotion Bars.
This left me with a challenge on how to display the handspun yarn. I have tossed various ideas around for a few days while I waited for decision. To facilitate carrying the small boxes, crates and trays, supply box, sign, bags and table covers, I use wood fruit box type crates. T suggested how to reinforce the bottom of those boxes so that I don’t have the bottom fall out when fully loaded. Those boxes are stapled together, so attractive, but not too sturdy. My idea was to use these boxes to my advantage in my display and today, I bought 16 Shaker style pegs, dug through my scrap wood supply for a 1 x 4 cedar board and set to work making a yarn display.
Out came the circular saw and the power drill, some wood glue and furniture clamps and the peg boards were fastened to the bottoms of two crates when stacked on two more crates it make a great display and the pegged crates can still be used to carry the yarn, table covers and other light weight, non breakable items.
After we set up the tables within a 10 X 10 foot space to see how it will work, we will determine the most appealing appearance to display the soap, lotion bars, beard oils and yarn on the tables. I am hopeful that the investment in the display items will attract buyers and the market will be a success for my fledgling hobby business.
Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things.
The mountain cabin is quiet. I left on Wednesday to return Grandson #1 to Northern Virginia to meet his teacher and settle in to his back to school routine before school resumes on Tuesday. I drove home today to a flurry of activity.
Daughter and family just left for a long weekend, returning to the city of her childhood to see how her husband and kids do camping in a tent and to visit with friends from high school days, most who have never seen her Florida born children. We will take care of their pets while they are away.
Last evening, daughter texted me a photo of the first Americauna egg. I was hoping for blue eggs, but the first was olive green. This afternoon, a second one appeared, I think from a different hen as it is a slightly different shape and more blue green in color.
The eggs are still small as first eggs tend to be, but it is fun having some colored eggs mixed in with the creams and browns that the Buffys lay. If two of the Americaunas are laying, that leaves only one. The Buffy that decided to be a late broody has been broken of her habit, I think. I have been gone for a couple of days, but I hadn’t caught her on the nest at night for a few days prior.
The meat chicklets are maturing quickly, at two and a half weeks, they are mostly feathered, seriously outgrowing the 100 gallon livestock water trough that serves as a brooder. They use the Brinsea heat table to try to launch themselves out of the tub, but none of them sleep under, on or even near it now. They can foul their bedding in two days max. We never did get the chicken tractor secured so I can’t put them in it. The cull coop area is still not fenced so that is also out. I guess I will have to keep cleaning them every other day, set up a playpen outdoors for some day time in the sun and get the fencing up pronto so that they can go outside permanently in another week or so if the weather stays as warm as it has been. I think they will fare better with space and no source of heat than they will in such tight quarters. Maybe I can put the Buffys and Americaunas in the cull pen for a couple of weeks and put the chicklets in the coop where they are better protected and as the hen pen has a low border of chicken wire surrounding the inside perimeter.
My current knitting is a test knit for a friend who is a knitting book author, so no photos or credits at this point.
My spinning had been suspended for about a month as my chair was commandeered with having so many extra folks in the house this summer. I could use the stool that my brother made for me, but I put all my fiber supplies on it when we moved the chair. Now that the house has returned to just the regular residents, the chair is back, so I can reclaim my stool and finish the pound of Coopsworth that I bought last spring at Hawk’s Nest, maybe just in time to return to Hawk’s Nest for the fall spinning retreat.
As for what I am reading; each year I reread Barbara Kingsolver’s, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. It always helps me recenter and dedicate some time to putting by for the nonproductive food months of winter and to help limit or eliminate the purchases of items that are not carbon footprint friendly, having been imported from across the country or even from other countries. It is a reminder to help support our local farmers and dedicate more time to my garden.
Until I write again, have a great holiday weekend.
Have I been away? No, just focusing on other projects at the moment. Last month when I attended the Fiber Festival, I took 2 bars of homemade soap with 2 homemade lotion bars as my gift exchange and gave my roommate another bar of soap and lotion bar. They were well received and the conversation turned to whether I should be a vendor at the next Festival. The trouble with this is that several of the participants are sensitive to scents and the smell of raw fleece, so if you vend those items, they must be kept in your room, not in the Festival area. This prompted more discussion and I began toying with the idea of opening an Etsy shop through which to vend soap, lotion bars and handspun yarn.
After arriving back home, my daughter and I discussed it more and with her business knowledge, we began the process of setting this project in motion. A shop name had to be selected and my first choice was already taken. Labels had to be created and business cards designed and ordered.
As my supply of soap is limited right now to the last two batches that we made together about 6 weeks ago, we started making more cold process soaps as they must cure for about 4 to 6 weeks to dry enough to not dissolved too quickly in a bath. First we ordered 2 more loaf style soap molds and 2 molds that will make 2 1/4″ disc shaped soaps or can be used for the lotion bars that fit in a tin. We ventured down to the local Michael’s and used 2 coupons for 40% off to purchase 2 more loaf style molds. That will give us 5 to work with. Yesterday, I experimented with a batch of hot process soap as they can be used right away, but benefit from a curing period to harden as well. When cutting the soap from the loaf molds, there are always ends that are too small to sell and some of them we use at home or grate to use in our homemade laundry detergent. The rest of these slivers and small bars collect in a jar and this afternoon, we played with two different recipes of rebatched soap to create Oatmeal and spice scrubbing muffins and flower imprinted bars of Lavender scented guest soaps. These will be usable immediately and will be packaged creatively to add to the shop.
Last evening and this morning, photos were taken of the soaps and hand-spun yarns that are ready for listing. A learning curve as I set up a business Paypal account and began to populate the shop. A spreadsheet was developed to track the supply purchases and the sales when they happen. Many more batches of soap will be made. Lotion bars will follow as soon as the molds arrive. As yarn that I am not planning on using myself or making for my daughter is spun, it will be added to the shop.
Late last night, my shop went live. This will help me indulge my love of the old homestead crafts and hopefully earn a little money that can help me continue making more. If you want to check it out, it is http://www.etsy.com/shop/CabinCrafted.
Olio: A miscellaneous collection of things.
The garden survived a 31ºf night and a 37ºf night through the aid of some row cover over the peppers and tomatillos. The beans that haven’t been eaten by the deer that have breeched the electric fence also survived. The pumpkins/winter squash patch is finally beginning to die back and there are dozens of the Burgess Buttercup squash beginning to show through. So far I don’t see a single Seminole Pumpkin which is disappointing. Today I waded through the thigh high patch, pulled back the squash vines and tried to dig the sweet potatoes.
I’m sure there are more there, but the vines will have to die back more before I try again. Now that they are harvested, they require a few days of curing at 80ºf. I don’t know how that will happen with the daytime temperatures at least 15 degrees lower than that and we haven’t turned the heat on in the house so it is 20 degrees cooler. I put them out on a rack in the sun this morning, but then the rains started, so they are in the utility room until we see sunshine again.
In July when visited our daughter’s family in Florida, our granddaughter came out in the cutest sun dress.
She and her mom love it because she can dress herself in it and it has no fasteners. Over confident Mountaingmom announced, “That would be so easy to make.” The bodice was traced on printer paper, the tiers measured approximately and brought home to the farm. Later two packets of fat quarters were purchased and I stalled. Before the Spinning retreat, I decided to begin them. First off, I failed to cut the front on a fold, I do know better. Second error was attempting to use three strands of narrow elastic to gather the back, I ended up buying wide underwear elastic later. Third error was in the measurements I had made of the ruffles which I realized before cutting. Daughter remeasured everything for me and a few days ago, I got serious about finishing the first dress.
Yesterday after finishing it, I decided that dress #2 was going to be made with a pattern and I purchased a simple A-line toddler dress pattern from McCall. As I still wanted to use the fat quarter that I bought for the second dress, The solution was to cut wide strips, sew them end to end, then side to side to create a large striped panel that was used to cut the pattern. I had some unbleached muslin that I used as facing as the pattern called for binding the edges with bias tape and I didn’t want to do that. Dress #2 was much easier to assemble.
As granddaughter lives in Florida, she will be able to wear them all year with a long sleeve T-shirt under them, so 3 T’s were bought to add to the package. Also in the package is a giraffe. Yes, a giraffe. Two Christmases ago, we bought her a little barn that has various activity parts to it and a collection of farm animals to put inside. Their dog got a couple of the animals and chewed them up, some of which were replaced, she selected a moose for her farm. Near their home is a farm that has a giraffe. We don’t know why or how they obtained it, but it is a source of amusement as we drive by, so her barn will now also have a giraffe.
The Hot Mess yarn that I spun at the retreat, was soaked and hung with a weight on it. The treatment helped relax the over twist some, so now I have a 106 yard skein of smooth, but tight yarn.
I have no idea what to do with it. It is too little for anything other than trim on something. There isn’t even enough to make a market bag.
The yarn on the bobbin is the random color Merino that I purchased at the retreat. The color isn’t showing up very well with no sun out and only house lighting to photograph it in, but it is basically lilac color with gold and maroon highlight. I haven’t finished plying it yet to measure, but it looks like it will be a couple hundred yards of fingering weight yarn.
Lovin’ life on our mountain farm.
Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things.
The Rainbow Ranger chicks have exceeded 2 pounds each at 4 1/2 weeks, far outgrowing anything we have to use as a brooder. They are getting feisty with each other, chest bumping and pecking. They are mostly feathered and it is still warm to hot during the days and mild at night. They were requiring twice daily brooder clean out, had gone for a week without supplemental heat in the garage, so a decision was made today to relocate them to the auxiliary pen, confined to the chicken ark. We did concede to put a tarp over the sides and will keep our fingers crossed that we don’t lose them now. Again I vow to let my hens do the work of raising chicks from now on or we are going to have to build a bigger outdoor brooder with electricity so we can put the heat lamp in it.
The March hatched Buff Orpington pullets are almost all laying finally. We are getting 8 or 9 eggs a day and thoroughly enjoying having them again.
Between canning tomatoes and cleaning chicks, I have found time to finish my Hitchhiker scarf.
And spin and ply 383 yards of Merino wool into an interesting DK weight yarn.
Now I need to decide whether to sell it, or create something with it.
When we had a cool evening two weeks ago, I pulled out my Elise sweater I knit last year and determined that it pulled at my shoulders because it is just a bit too small for me.
I don’t have anymore of the yarn, nor do I want to reknit it as I have two other sweaters currently on needles and they are both shades of blue or teal, so I am trying to decide it’s fate. My options are to try to sell this hand knit sweater for little more than the cost of the yarn, to try to trade it for spinning fiber, or determine if there is a relative smaller than I that would like to have a hand knit sweater that has to be hand washed.
Last weekend, I broke my second tooth of the summer. The first required a crown and that tooth still hasn’t been finished, a temporary crown in place until mid week. When I called the dentist, they were able to get me in yesterday and fortunately this one only needed a filling repair for now. Being a molar, it likely will eventually need a crown as well. I have 6 already and lost one crowned tooth because of repeated gum infections between it and the adjacent tooth. I hope that with dental repairs and care, I will retain most of my teeth as my 91 year old father has.
It has been a good week and we continue to love our life on our mountain farm.
I’m on a spinning roll. As soon as I finished the Random Colors Merino last night I started on a top of Romney that has long color gradient.
It starts with yellow and moves through sunset colors to midnight blue.
After reading a Yarn Harlot post quite a while ago, I have wanted to try to spin a long color gradient yarn and I found some lovely tops at The Homestead Hobbyist on Etsy. After dividing the top down the middle lengthwise, I spun two bobbins beginning with the yellow and ending with the midnight blue.
The result after plying today is a skein 136 yards long of light worsted yarn, named Midday to Midnight. What else could it be called.
Once it was finished and I was rummaging around in my fiber basket trying to decide what I want to spin next, I decided that I really should put my inventory on Ravelry in my notebook. If you are a knitter or crocheter, please feel free to browse, http://www.ravelry.com/people/Mountain-g-mom, maybe something will catch your eye. Some of my yarn is for sale at Greenberry House in Meadows of Dan, VA, some I still have here and can’t decide whether to use it or sell it too. At least, I now know what I have on hand, well most of it, there is a sampler of fiber that are tiny hanks that haven’t been spun or inventoried. They will likely be added to my Funky Fiber yarn that will some day become a knitted throw. I didn’t decide what to start. Perhaps I should finish the Tunis with the Finn X Jacob and have that yarn ready to knit when I get out of the spinning mode and want to make the Rib Warmer for fall.