Friday, October 24, 2008

I've been Spinning, Really!!

I actually had a wonderfully productive weekend of spinning in fact! Friday night, I plyed off the single that was on the antique Saxony. I decided to try a technique several people have recommended - winding the single off into a center pull ball and plying from there. Now, had I held the ball in my hand, perhaps this would have been effective. Since I put it down in a box to free feed, I ended up with a bit of a tangled mess! I only lost a couple of yards, but it was enough to convince me to either stick with Andean Plying, or to be sure to hold the center pull ball in my hands directly. This makes skein #3 from the same bag of alpaca. I think there's enough for one more, but it's not all prime blanket, so I may decide to card it before spinning.

After the alpaca, I did spend some time on the white alpaca that I'm spinning on the Lendrum. I also took a break from that to spin this. It too is alpaca - dark brown Suri, spun thick and chunky with all of the VM still in it! It became the dreds for our Captain Jack pumpkin carving in our pumpkin carving contest. And....we won Best Overall Pumpkin!! I don't have a picture, but hopefully I'll be able to share one sometime soon.

After making the dreds, I came home to do some spinning on the Great Wheel! I had this lovely single, a mint and grey romney roving from Convergence that I'd spun into singles quite a while ago. So, it's now officially complete, and the GW is naked and ready for it's next big challenge!

And speaking of next big challenges. On Sunday I was able to take some time to work on the Minor's head I purchased a couple of months ago. Here's some of the mess from when I took it apart.

You can get an idea of just how much dirt and grime there was. Here's the barrel...half cleaned up.

And, all cleaned up and partially put together, it now looks like this: There are two new replacement parts here - the Capstans - those are the pieces at the top of the posts that the head sits in. I plan to seal the entire thing with Danish Oil to protect the wood.

The only outstanding problem at this point is that the hole in the bottom of the barrel is 1/8" too small for the post on my wheel. Which means I will not be able to resolve this issue immediately, but will need to take some time and do it gently. In the meantime, I'm still hoping to find a way to get the GW into my Saturn... so I can take it out to the Pioneer Days event in Brooksville next weekend. If you're in the area, we'll be there from 10-4!

I won't be working on that tonight or tomorrow though... New fish opportunity tomorrow...we'll see how it goes!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Recipe for an AWESOME Weekend!!

What do you get, when you mix a professional knitting/felting instructor (Judy Pascale),

A pile of beautiful merino roving, locks, yarn, and silk hankies,

Some "good clean fun", and a bit of elbow grease...

...with seven amazingly creative women? Well, just look and see for yourself! You get seven beautiful, unique, original works of art!

Dry and filled, here's mine:

Here you can see it a little better. The handles are fully adjustable from the cross-body hip length pictured above, to the clutch length handbag shown here.

With the exception only of the interior frog closure, all parts of the bag were part of the original design. Embellishments were added to the wet wool and felted in. An interior pocket and small tab were built in as well. The tab allowed for application of a magnetic closure.

Here's the full view of the back when opened.

The class ended up being nearly a 12 hour class, but I can easily say that everyone who attended had an amazing time, came away with a GORGEOUS bag, designed to accentuate their own personality to the fullest! Even better, Judy's "sample" bag on which she demonstrated some of the techniques for us will be a beautiful "Florida" inspired bag. We had a hard time convincing her to break out and show her inner color, but once she got going.... I hope we get to eventually see how her bag came out!

After leaving the amazing class, I decided to drop by AC Moore to pick up a magnetic closure for it. Since they are going out of business, everything is on sale at least 30% right now. I picked up a couple of closures, a few miscellaneous bits of this and that, some beading wires... Then I dropped by and was looking at the Clearance section of floss. There were a bunch of different types of flosses thrown together in a bunch of bins. I picked out a skein of each of the different types... linen DMC, cotton DMC, silk DMC, #5 perl cotton, #3 perl cotton, etc, and visited with a clerk who was adding prices to things in the area. He gave me the prices, ranging from $.10 to $.89 per skein. So, I went back to the aisle and pulled all of the silk floss, sorting through it on the floor, trying to figure out how much I could afford. The next thing I knew, another clerk, Kathy, came by, mentioned that I was in her department and made me an offer I couldn't refuse. I won't name it here, but if you are in the market for floss, interested in purchasing in quantity, and in the area, drop by and see if Kathy is available. I think you'll be happy you did... I know I was:

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Dyeing to Show You This

The Four Corners Fiber and Craft group had a spontaneous meeting on Sunday...we had a Dyeing party! L was kind enough to open her home and 6 of us got together to play! We made up a full range of Procion dyes - Black, Brown, Blue, Purple, Teal, Green, Yellow, Red, and Pink! L also made up a bunch of Wilton's Cake dyes and played with those a bit. Here's me in my glamour shot, dyeing a KnitPick's Sock blank.

And here's the finished blank. It was funny, while I didn't intend it at all, it came out here looking almost like a landscape! Pat brought up an interesting idea when we were doing dye a word into the blank. whispers - she dyed the word 'sock' into hers *giggle* Ok, so I thought it was a good idea. My word, in pink, is wish. And no, like making one a birthday cake, I'm not telling!! (C laughed at me and said I'd spill it in no time, but I WON'T!!) So here's my "ready to cook" blank.

Fast forward past two minutes in the microwave, cooling time, rinsing in water, then vinegar, then water, and two days of drying... And here it is, the final product.

Of course I'll let you know when I get it knitted up...and I suppose in order to make the wish come true I oughtta make it a priority and get right on that.

Threw a few other things in the dye while we were there. This is around 600 yards of laceweight wool boucle, doubled. It was one of the blanks from the dyeing class I took at FLFF last year. We had some yarn leftover, and the instructor happily passed it along. I had three skeins, so I passed it along and shared. This particular one started out a sort of drab light tan color. It was the start of a sample last year, so it had a bit of green and orange dye in it already. So I went Picasso on it...and look what I got!?! I'm actually really excited about this yarn now! Trying to figure out if I can make like a nice lightweight shrug or something out of it. What do you think?

And here's another FLFF stash from last year. This one is a Merino/Alpaca/Silk blend. And it's a LOT of yards.... I think the label said 1000! Thinking maybe even a little shell on this....

And finally, T had some extra Knitpicks Merino/Silk sock yarn (blank Gloss), so I did this one. It's a bit of a color departure for me, but it's actually kinda fun!! We'll see how it looks knitted up.

So here's the whole collection, all in one place. We had a great time, dyed a ton of amazing yarn, and shared some great foods too!

So I know you're probably wondering by now what's gotten into me. Three months of NOTHING, and now four posts in a row!! I can't say it will continue quite at this level, but I am at least trying to get all caught up, and I will continue to try to put out little posts for the various events going on.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Finger Lakes Fiber Festival

This marks my third year attending the Finger Lakes Fiber Festival in Hemlock, NY. I'm thrilled to report that it was another great year on all fronts. The weather was awesome. Warm on Saturday, a bit cooler on Sunday (so I didn't have to take off my CTH Jacket!).

I took three great classes, and did LOTS of fun shopping! This post will be very picture intensive...hopefully I can organize it in some reasonable manner.

I had a great time shopping. This fleece is from Arvgarden in Pennsylvania. It is a lovely 2# jacketed Corriedale ram named Arne.

This swirly dyed Merino/Viscose Roving is from Winderwood Farms, just down the road from where my parents live.

I was able to spend some time visiting with Susan of Susan's Spinning Bunny. Susan makes some of the most beautiful hand-dyed rovings I've seen, and I've begun making it a practice to drop by her booth each year and pick up a couple of Merino/Tencel rovings for my stash. These are then waiting for me when I need to whip up a sock yarn for a gift or something. They are Tamarack & Spruce and Butterfly Bush.

This was truly a favorite set of purchases. First, I got an Ashford Flick carder for working with raw fibers. Second was a mini-niddy noddy from Kromski. As I take these classes and have bits of yarn, this is great to be able to wind off small samples and make mini skeins. And yes, you might have already spotted THE most exciting item in's a Golding Sweetheart drop spindle!! This is the micro - 0.8oz spindle. Got a lovely ounce of silk to go with it too! I know you want to see it here's another picture up a little closer.

Now check this's one pound of Cotswold roving/batt in a lovely pastel colorway. This is from Nistock Farms, another favorite, in part because it's about a mile down the road from my parents!

I mentioned classes as well. My first class, on Saturday was taught by Erin from Embraceable Ewe, a yarn shop in Hamburg, near Buffalo, NY. It was Meg Swanson's Jogless Jog technique. Erin provided a wide array of colors of Cotton Fleece, and an excellent bit of instruction with lots of other valuable tidbits. And if you are wondering, the hat is pictured with the seam side front and center as photographed. Pretty cool technique, eh? I still need to put a nice big pom-pom on it then it'll be done.

My second class was a Flax spinning class!! It was a great class, and I'm thrilled that I took it. I was able to borrow a wheel and distaff from Wendy who was doing the Flax demos at the festival. You'll see the wheel and distaff in a bit, as I have some photos from her demo as well. But, here's MY first handspun flax. I hope to make my own distaff soon so I can practice this further. Will I ever spin enough flax to weave a dishtowel? Who knows!

In non-fibery purchases, I picked up this cute little cake of beeswax for a song! ($0.75!) Will use it to wax sewing threads for things like blackwork and cross-stitch.

This one wasn't actually from the fiber festival, but i forgot to mention it in my other post, and didn't want to leave it out, as I am totally smitten! I was in a restaurant, washing my hands in the restroom when I found Orange - Clove handsoap and lotion! It was amazing stuff and I just had to find out where it came from. Turns out it was made locally be a very nice couple in Canandaigua. They make all of their own soaps and the fragrances are amazing!! This is a small sampling of the wonderful soaps available from Wick-edly Sent, my new favorite "local souvenir" shop!!

I mentioned Wendy's Flax demo as well. Here are a few pictures. Wendy demonstrating what a bundle of flax looks like when it is being stored and dried.

Using the break to break down the sheath around the flax and expose the spinnable fibers.

Ever heard the term "Flaxen Haired Maiden"?

Wow, look at those teeth! Getting rid of the excess 'tow' to leave only the quality spinning fibers. I also found that the tow worked FABULOUSLY as a fire-starting material with that lovely kit of mine...

Here's the flax wrapped on the distaff. Below it hangs a cup of water to wet the flax as it's being spun. Wet spun flax is smoother and stronger. I talked to a fellow knitter here last night, who is also a potter, about having a dish made to go with my wheel. I'll show you pictures when I get it!!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

S-Twist / Z-Twist after that so all over the place it wasn't funny post that took me over 4 hours to build... Here's a VERY directed post!

I've had a couple of conversations in the past few months about S and Z twist in spinning. How do you know if the yarn is overspun? What will wash out?

I had the great fortune in January to take a spinning class with Patsy Z, and for the first time I can say that I felt like I truly understood S and Z twist! So, without further ado, here is MY attempt to explain this concept in words (and a few pictures).

First you have the twist of your single ply yarn. If you are planning to make a two or three ply yarn, most people will spin several singles, all with the same twist. Often each of those singles will have "extra" energy in them, which you can release and stabilize by plying that single back with another single in the opposite direction (opposite twist).

So when I spin my single, am I doing S or Z?
Look at the top of your wheel or spindle (on a drop spindle, we would be looking at the far side of the spindle). When you turn it, are you turning it clockwise or counterclockwise? Imagine that we put a mark on one spot on the spindle. As you follow that mark around through your spin, are you beginning the letter S (counterclockwise spin) or the letter Z (clockwise spin)? I believe that most people are trained to spin a single Z - with a clockwise spin. At least that's how I was taught, and that's how I always teach. There may be further implications as to which twist you use (depending on your final application of the yarn - some techniques may tend to untwist a yarn, while others may tend to overtwist it), but I'll admit that I haven't reached that level of understanding yet.

Ok, you've spun your Z single. When you immediately finish spinning, if you leave a long piece of single hanging free, it'll kink up on itself, right? That's because there is extra energy in the single. To see what your balanced, plyed single should look like, as soon as you finish spinning, pull 2 to 3 feet of that single off your bobbin, double it on itself, and let it ply up. Now break off this piece as your "control".

Now let's say we're done spinning for today. Tomorrow come back and pull a foot or two of single off your bobbin. Does it kink up as much if you let it loose? Maybe a little, but probably not nearly as much. This is because the single has settled. The energy is still there, but the single has just sort of fallen asleep and isn't really thinking about that energy anymore.

So now let's take a second single. Maybe you've spun it today, maybe you spun it yesterday or the day before. Some people will say you should make sure that both singles have had some time to rest before trying to ply them together. This way they are more matched as you spin them. I'm not sure I have an experimented opinion on that.

Now take your two singles and begin plying them. Now we'll spin the wheel or spindle in the opposite direction to what we did before. So if we spun Z, we'll ply S or counterclockwise. After you get it started, look at a piece of what you are plying and compare it to your control that we pulled off when the Z twist was live and active. This is what your balanced, finished yarn should look like in terms of number of twists, etc.

You're telling me it should be balanced now, but when I loosen my hold on what I'm plying, it kinks up?
Correct. Remember we said that the Z-twist has gone dormant? Well, the S-twist that you are spinning is live and current, so it will dominate the yarn until we wake the Z-twist back up. That's why your control is so important, since you made it when you had active Z-twist and active S-twist, so it's a true estimate of what your yarn should look like.

Ok, so let's say you've plyed the entire skein, and pull it off onto a niddy-noddy immediately because It's DONE! and you are impatient and want to see it now! (I rarely let a two-ply sit for this very reason!) You tie off your hank and remove it from the nod. Wait a minute's twisting! That can't mean it's balanced, can it? So let's look at how it's twisting. When we look at this sock yarn that I spun, we see a definite twist across the middle of the skein.

The bottom is turned 1 to 2 times from the vertical. Now look at the slant across the skein. Is it the vertical bar of a Z or of an S? Whatever the yarn is displaying to you is what it NEEDS. Basically, it is contorting itself to make up for the twist that it is missing.

So this skein is telling us it needs more Z. Ok, but if you think about it, we already said that the Z twist in this skein, put in yesterday to the single, is dormant! So before we start fiddling with the yarn at all, we need to wake that up and see how it looks THEN!

This skein has now been washed in warm water and a bit of soap. I use SOAK, but Synthrapol is a favorite of many, and shampoo works great too. In part the soap actually helps the wool or yarn to absorb the water. It functions as a wetting agent. I blotted the skein dry in a towel, then took it outside and whipped it over my head to loosen everything back up and let it lie the way it wanted to. And here we have my finished skein!

Wow, look at that. It has almost no twist at all anymore! That means that the goal has been attained and we have a balanced yarn.

If, after washing, we found that the yarn was still overplied, or underplied, now would be a good time to fix it. One way to do this would be to put the hank on a swift (turned sideways at wheel height is ideal) and spin it back to the bobbin. You'll have to determine which way to spin it (is it presenting you with an S or a Z? If it presents a Z, it NEEDS more Z, so you will spin it CLOCKWISE.) Also remember, when fixing the ply, you probably want to add or subtract just a small amount of twist to the yarn, so use a low ratio on your wheel and a very quick take up on the brake so that you are making only a small adjustment to your yarn. Wind off to the niddy-noddy, wash, and analyze again. Depending on the usage of your yarn, a small amount of twist in the finished yarn is not a big deal. Also I will often hang the skein over a clothes hanger, doubled in half, which pulls some of that twist out when drying.

There are different schools of thought on weights attached to your yarn while drying. Personally I feel that if you have a balanced yarn, there is no need to attach a weight to it. Occasionally if I am making do with a yarn that I know is not balanced, I might add a weight (usually two plastic hangers hung from the bottom - so a VERY light weight) to straighten it out a bit. Anything more than that and you probably needed to put it through the wheel again...

Saturday, October 04, 2008


Yep, that's me! My last post...nearly three months ago...was all about how I'm not doing too bad on keeping to, yeah...whatever you say...

I'm sorry it's been so long...I've wanted to sit down and blog a bit here and there, but there's been so MUCH to say that I just couldn't get myself to sit down and DO it! So, I'll try to give you a brief recap of my summer, then a little more detail.

What have I been doing?

Well, you knew about the SCA (Society for Creative Anacronism) thing.

In July L, K, Gwenore and I went to St. Petersburg to the Res Textilia event. It was an entire day of fiber classes! Among other things I learned the basics of Blackwork while there. Also had the pleasure of meeting Francesca who joined us for dinner.

Sometime in here, a friend of mine had a 70th birthday!! Her family decided to have a surprise party for her. Her kids flew in from California and New York, all of her knitting friends, her work friends, her church friends, her family friends... and the amazing thing about it was that the secret was kept perfectly! She had no idea whatsoever and was happily shocked when she walked through the door of her home to find all those people there. She's an avid sock knitter, so I spun this up for her birthday.

At work we had a surprise Baby Shower for my boss. He was having his second child, a little girl. We decided to keep it small, but I made a super quick baby afghan for him. It's just a diagonal dish towel pattern in stripes, then picked up around the outside and finished with a feather and fan edge. I knit that in about a week and a half.

Remember the snowman and scarf that I made back in December? My co-worker made her snowman in Green Bay Packer's colors. Another co-worker, who was a Wisconsinite and a HUGE GBP fan left us to move back home. So for his gift, she brought in her GBP snowman for him. She thought maybe we could make it a joint going away gift from the two of us, so we went out and raided the yarn stash in the back of my car and I whipped up a second snowman scarf.

In August I met a guy and started dating him. We spent a lot of our weekends together, which also precluded blogging :( One weekend we went to Sarasota to Siesta Key Beach. What a great day!

Labor Day weekend I went to another SCA event - Fall Coronation. Witnessed the death of the king and queen

and coronation of their heirs.

Transformed into their new regalia...

And more importantly...I learned to make FIRE!!

Had another blackwork class, learned a bit about Viking Pennanular Brooches (the ones in the class were not nearly that fancy...very simple really - they'd make a GREAT shawl pin!). Made some other new SCA friends that weekend too. Oh, and one scary story...I was sitting in the front row at Court Sunday night with my new friends knitting (on my very non-period CTH jacket!) when the new Queen stood up and stated that she wanted hand crafters to be a more active part of Court. Suggesting that we should request seating and sit up in the front (next to the royals, facing the populace!!) to "entertain" others with our work during court!! :o And yes, she pointed me out specifically since I was in the front.

I meantioned the CTH jacket...I was actually doing edging in court...and finished it later that week! So yes, it's done! I actually think the second one lays flatter and looks much better than the first! I took it home with me when I went to NY on vacation. My mother commented that it would be BEAUTIFUL in Greens and Browns...which is completely true. I was trying to figure out if she was suggesting that I should make one for her... At the rate that she wears the things I've made for her in the past, I really don't see that happening...

So yes, I also went home in September. Got to see my parents, do a bunch of cooking (for 13 people!!) at the cabin, with fresh veggies from the garden (homemade marinara that cooked down all day, zucchini bread, stuffed zucchinis...). Went up to Saranac Lake to visit my brother, sis-in-law, and adorable niece
and saw his new restaurant and the newly rebuilt lodge.with the view of WhiteFace Mountain...

We had dinner there and it was AMAZING! He's the one of the opening team Sous Chefs at the Lake Placid Lodge. Did a bit of retail yarn therapy while I was up there. Visited a little shop in Saranac Lake, a nice big shop in Lake Placid, and an Alpaca Store in Jay.
On the way back from the Alpaca store, I stopped near the base of White Face Mountain to take some pictures of the river that runs off it.

Turned out the day I was there was knitting night at the shop in LP, so I went back and knitted with them! Several people there have been trying to learn to spin, but not having a ton of success. So, I sat with one and taught her park and draft drop spindling. She was thrilled and had great success with it. I had lunch with my sister in law before leaving.

After Lake Placid was the Finger Lakes Fiber Festival!! What a wonderful weekend! Got lots of great stash items, learned a bit, and met and saw lots of people. I'll do a whole post on that very soon. Thought I'd get it done tonight, but this post has taken several hours.

After returning to Florida, I went out this past weekend for the National Alpaca Farm Open House Days at Green Ginger Alpacas in Eustis.

M, D, and L joined me and we had an awesome time!

I got to see Judy's friend OP (see the early April post), recently back from his summer at a rehab home for kids where he was a huge hit!

He has a new career and it all started back with Judy and I in March! He came out to meet the kids several times each day last weekend and was GREAT with them! Talking with Jane after we finished spinning, we are going to offer some spinning classes at the farm in the near future, definitely for basic drop spindling, but possibly also some wheel spinning classes. I'm also thinking of spinning up some novelty yarns in Alpaca to possibly put in her new farm store for purchase!

In other Alpaca news, I was contacted by another Alpaca farm a few months ago who is interested in getting some of their fleece spun in exchange for some of the yarn. Wouldn't you know, my first box of roving arrived on Wednesday!

There's a lovely white roving that spins up with a bit of an oatmeal color to it, as well as a couple of samples from some of the other alpaca fleeces that they have. I started spinning that this morning and it's beautiful!

And yes, I'm single of yesterday. My choice...there were some pretty major cultural differences between us, but it looks like we'll be able to remain friends, so that's a happy ending too! Still fishing though, so we'll see. I think those are most of the highlights...

And if you're wondering how I finally found time to blog, it's because I'm currently sitting in the Tea room (with IM turned off) listening to my friend and her beautiful singing voice! What a lovely - and peaceful - way to spend the evening!