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Beautiful, Virtuous and Boring

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First, the beautiful: 4 ounces of merino bamboo silk dyed by Sweet Georgia Yarns in the colorway "Hummingbird", the entry in the August 2010 fiber club.  This is the kind of fiber with the kind of color that makes my toes itch to treadle my wheel.  Which brings me to the virtuous part:



I bought this book, the Intentional Spinner,  when Interweave was running their hurt book sale over the summer.  I love spinning, and I feel I can turn out a pretty decent yarn when I spin, but I would describe myself as a very un-intentional spinner -- I just let it move through my fingers and it becomes what feels right.  I don't plan much, other than to make the 2 or 3 ply decision.  But lately I've been thinking that I would like to take a bit more control of the process -- imagine a yarn that I want and work towards achieving it.  I haven't gotten very far into the book so far (I'm still reading through the parts about the fiber types) but the Sweet Georgia fiber and some other entries in my collection are spurring me on.  

And finally, the boring.  

  • The first sleeve on my  High Line sweater is complete and the next one is under way.  I used a kitchener cast off (also called, by some, a tubular cast off) to create a nice edge for the K1P1 knitting and I'm pretty impressed with that (though not impressed enough to bore you with a picture).  
  • John and I spent some serious effort identifying what we want to do around our house to make it a better place to live.  A big part of that involves decluttering... after working on it together and breaking it down into manageable chunks, I'm pretty psyched about getting started...
  • I set up an account at Mint.com and am thinking deep thoughts about how I spend my money.  It helps you integrate all your accounts (banking, loans, retirement, credit cards, etc.) into one place so that you can get a better picture of your finances, net worth, how you're spending your money, and so forth.  It was very easy to get connected and set up.  Best of all, it's free.  
  • I am 99% of the way to being paperless where my bills are concerned.  I should have wrapped this up aeons ago, and now the weight of a forest of trees feels lifted off my shoulders as I contemplate all the paper I won't be throwing away/recycling.
  • I cleaned out my pantry.   Nothing could be more boring, but, looking at the results makes me happier than I would have thought.  Hopefully Fall 2010 will be the time of the Great Clutter Diaspora...
  • I played a bunch of video games with my budding gamer girl... it's awful fun to be rooted on by an enthusiastic little girl!
I hope you all had lovely Labor Day weekends.  The weather in Chicago is now suggesting that Fall is most definitely on the way.  I think we're all looking forward to the change of the seasons!

Silk Road, Monday


I have renewed my relationship with my spinning wheel this summer.  A short burst of spinning a bit of my moorit CVM was enough to remind me how happy and relaxed spinning makes me feel.  Like Julie, when I got the most recent issue of Spin Off I found the Morning Surf scarf gallery very inspiring.  Color and texture!  I decided to treat myself to a little stash diving to find something that would be satisfying to the fingers and the soul and came out with an ounce of hand dyed tussah silk that was a little extra that was packed into an order of luxury sock fiber from Abby Franquemont's  Ebay store.  Just an ounce, so I decided that I would spin some reasonably fine singles and create a two-ply yarn and make a small summer scarf.

20080705_FranquemontSilk.jpgPretty, no?  It reminded me of summer wildflowers, and it was a joy even to pre-draft. The rest of the week will be a little photo essay of my trip from fiber to finished yarn.  First stop: my first bobbin of singles yarn.

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After I finished my first bobbin, I wished I had about 4 times as much of the stuff.  But sometimes I think rarity adds to the special joy of working with a unique fiber.
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This picture, taken after dark, courtesy of my daughter who didn't do anything predictably today.  Some days, being a mom is a blast.  Other days, I know it's a good thing, but it just wears me down.  And on those days, not only do I feel worn down, but I then make myself feel guilty about not giving the baby the happy attentive mom she should have and I worry that my inability to smile at her through my funk is scarring her for life.  We're scaling back the nursing (read: I've gotten to the point where I can no longer take all the crazy baby behavior in this arena and I would like to have my body back) and I think that's wreaking a little bit of havoc with my hormones.  And that, when combined with the grey weather, makes me a not so upbeat mommy.

Anyway, when she finally settled in for an afternoon nap, the sun was out and it was warm enough to sit out on my balcony.  I had been thinking about knitting, but then I noticed these two lonely bobbins sitting on my bookcase --  I finished those up in September with the idea that the plied product would be a gift for a friend.  I haven't had a chance to use my wheel since!  Remembering how centered spinning always makes me feel, I grabbed my wheel and my lazy kate and those two bobbins and sat out in the sunshine for an hour and a half and plied those singles into a real live 2 ply sock yarn. 

20080409_LimeolaPliedClose.jpgI know there is good luck and something special about this sock yarn because when I finished plying, the singles ran out at the exact same time -- that's never happened to me before, in spite of all the weighing out of fiber that I do.  I'm looking forward to hanking it up on my niddy-noddy and giving it a good bath so that it can relax and I can feel the real final product -- both the colors (there's a lot of great green hiding a layer under) and the hand.  Since these singles have been sitting for so long, the twist was completely dormant.  It made for easy plying, but it also means that the final yarn is going to be different than what I see on my bobbin. 

Working with my wheel was excellent therapy for the afternoon.  It didn't chase all the weird energy away, but it did help me get a little of my mommy equillibrium back.

Fraternal Limeola Twins

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A Second Bobbin of Limeola Single

With the help of my daugher (she sleeps in her Baby Bjorn when I spin) I have gotten the second bobbin of my Bonkers Limeola superwash merino spun. The roving that I had shifted from the very limey green seen in the first bobbin to the pale aqua of the second bobbin, so I spun the fiber for the second bobbin so that I could demonstrate the extremes. I think the colors go well together, when next to each other, but I am curious as to what the resulting yarn will look like when plying occurs.

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More Limeola Close Up

Plying, unfortunately, may take me a little while to get to. Not only is it hard to come by the two straight hours or so I will need to ply and deal with the final yarn, but I only have 6 bobbins for my WooLee Winder and now all 6 of them are in use... so I may have to work on some other things to free a few of them up before I can ply (yes, I do have the plying head, but for sock yarn like this, I like the results I get from my WW bobbins a bit better).

Which means I have to get back to working on that big bale o' moorit CVM....

Limeola Single

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Two Ounces of Limeola Superwash Merino Single

Buying a little fiber at the Michigan Fiber Festival does seem to have got my spinning pump primed again. One morning, while Z was sleeping, I pulled my spinning wheel into my office and pulled out the Limeola superwash merino that I purchased. As it turns out, spinning is a very nice, relaxing thing to do while keeping an eye on a sleeping baby. It didn't take me too many nap sessions to turn this first 2 ounces from roving into single.

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Limeola Single Close Up

When I started spinning this yarn, I didn't have a specific vision for it. It's a superwash merino, so I had decided that I would turn it into a 2 ply sock yarn, similar to what I have done before with the same kind of fiber, and then I'd make some socks to commemorate the end of the summer or something like that. As I was spinning, though, I got the distinct feeling that I was not the final destination for whatever would come out of this yarn. I was the one putting the twist into the fiber, the one who would turn a pair of singles into a two-ply yarn, but I wasn't the one who was going to take this yarn to the next level. I have an inkling of this project's final destination, but no idea of it's final incarnation.

Sometimes it's interesting how fiber talks to you when you're working with it.

Just a Little Stash Enhancement

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We had a good adventure into Michigan for the Michigan Fiber Festival on Saturday. Zosia slept all the way there (and most of the way back), Mom got to do a little shopping, Dad got to catch a short nap, and Grandma and Grandpa got some high quality baby time. In fact, I didn't have the baby much at all except to nurse her. Zosia spent a lot of time in her Baby Bjorn with one of her grandparents while we strolled through the festival.

Which gave me the chance to take a look at the goods to be had. I was pretty reserved this festival. Really, I don't need any more yarn right now (at least not until I finish something I'm already working on) and I really don't need much fiber at the moment either. But I always get drawn into Tracy Bunkers booth. I guess last time I saw her, I must not have been spinning, because I didn't remember the spinning fiber. So I made up for that with a few spinning stash additions.

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The Michigan Fiber Festival Haul

Both of the bits of fiber I got are dyed in her Limeola colorway. The bundle on the left is a Silk/Merino/Alpaca blend and the roving on the right is superwash merino. I think both are destined to be two ply yarns. The Silk/Merino/Alpaca I'm going to attempt to get into the lace/sport weight range, the superwash merino is going to be, you guessed it, sock yarn. The whole green thing is out of my usual range of color selections -- perhaps my eye is being influenced by someone I know who has a passion for greens in this range?

Speaking of Alpaca, alpaca seems to be the new black these days. Almost every booth I went into seemed to have a good deal of alpaca or alpaca blend fibers and yarns. Alpaca is not generally my thing, as fiber goes, (not enough elasticity for me, and I find it to be a little hairy) so while I admired a lot of things, not very much ended up in my shopping basket.

Two other things that I was happy to find were Addi Turbo lace needles and Cat Bordi's new sock book. I always like to see creative new approaches to sock knitting and New Pathways for Sock Knitters looks like the kind of book that helps get the creative juices flowing. I've only been able to go through it at a cursory level, but her illustrations are lovely, and there are a number of sock projects I can see myself tackling. And I love how she demonstrates most of the sock designs and techniques on small sized socks -- given the new addition to my world, I think it would be kind of fun to try out a new technique and add to Ms. Z's wardrobe at the same time.

And speaking of Ms. Z... I didn't get too many pictures of her because she was busy entertaining her grandparents (and doing a lot of sleeping). But I did get one picture that I really loved.

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Z and Grandpa

Of course, you can't tell in this picture, but my Dad and Z are sitting on top of my parents' Gold Wing Trike (a Gold Wing where the rear axle has two wheels instead of just one) -- so Z has now officially been on her first motorcycle!

Heartbreaker

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1 Ounce of Heartbreaker

Apparently, when it comes to my spinning, I lack a certain amount of resolution. Especially when faced with the prospect of experimenting with some special fiber. What you see above is clearly not a skein of the CVM that I am supposed to be working on.

You see, on Sunday night, I decided that no harm would be done if I pulled out my Franquemont Fibers "Heartbreaker" and just weighed it. You know, so that I would know how much I had to deal with. But then it went a bit farther. I decided that, since I wanted to create striping intervals of my own design, that it would be good to know just how much of each color I had. So I opened up the little batt-buns and separated out the colors and weighed them. Then I got a bit carried away. I decided that I would "sample" a little bit, just to see what the superwash/silk/nylon blend spun up like, since firestar nylon is a new fiber to me. And then I realized that if I was going to spin just a bit, I might as well think about the color progression. How to make stripes that would knit up well in a pair of socks? And then suddenly I was separating the colors from one of those little batts into multiple small bits in a particular order and telling myself that one ounce of fiber really wouldn't take all that long to spin.

Which did, of course, turn out to be true. I can spin an ounce of fiber in about 3 hours. Especially when it is as well prepared as this fiber. No pre-drafting necessary on this stuff. It just slipped effortlessly through my fingers and into a single.

My goal with this fiber was to try to create two singles with similar color intervals, that, when plied, wouldn't barberpole very much. I've spun enough sock yarn now that I am pretty consistent within a particular range. So I wasn't too worried about my ability to get similar lengths of single out of equal weights of fiber. What I was concerned about was getting the equal weights of fiber. My scale, while okay for amounts above 5-10 g or so, doesn't do very well in the 1 gram range that I needed. So in the end, I decided that I would just have to wing it and use my eyeballs to "measure".

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Heartbreaker Color Progression on my Niddy Noddy After Plying

My results were mixed. On one hand, in most cases I did get the color bands that were supposed to over lap to over lap. And I did get pretty equal amounts of single on each of the two bobbins. On the other hand, I am pretty sure I ended up with a good deal more barberpoling than solid region once I got past the halfway point. I did contemplate breaking the singles and adjusting, but the nylon added some tensile strength that made this stuff harder to break and join easily. So after trying that once, I gave up and just spun my way on through.

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Heartbreaker's True Colors

Although the final result is not as close to what I initially envisions as I would like, it's hard to be disappointed in these colors, or in the resulting yarn after plying. I will tell you that this yarn is somewhat overplied (i.e. not balanced) and I will probably have to run it back through my wheel and remove some of the twist (or maybe not... it is for socks after all, and I don't think it's unbalanced enough to have a sever bias in a garment knitteed in the round).

From the 31 g that I spun, I ended up with 110 yards of 2 ply yarn -- pretty respectable, I think. Since this was about a quarter of what I ordered, I should have plenty of yarn for a pair of socks when the project is finished. When I soaked the yarn after plying it gave off no dye whatsoever, and it has a nice soft hand now that it is dry and skeined.

The nylon didn't turn out to be a problem to spin, but I did notice that the fiber was a little rougher on my fingers than straight wool or wool silk blends have been in the past. I can only assume that this is due to the nylon being a bit more durable than my skin. But this is sort of a minor quibble when I think about the added durability that will be present in the final yarn and knitted product. And it in no way detracts from how nice this fiber was to spin or how nice it will feel when worn in a sock.

I am not sure how I am going to handle the next three batts. A part of me would like to find a more precise weighing device, but given that I have just made another rather large purchase (more about that on Friday) I am not really prepared to invest in an expensive gram-sensitive balance at the moment. So, more than likely, I will end up using the eyeball method again. Any suggestions out there from anyone else who has tried this sort of thing?

Silk and Tamale Pie

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Aside from the toe of my second Regia Silk sock, I find myself with not so much to talk about this morning. Soon I will have hoardes of 9-patch quilt blocks to show and tell about, but for right now, they are mostly just pieced together strips of fabric and really not all that interesting. So, instead, I'm showing of something that is much more interesting and beautiful.

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Franquemont Fibers Luxury Sock Batts and Some Lovely Silk

Lately, I've been itching to spin. You'd think I'd just sit down in front of my wheel and do it, but instead I've been substituting the purchase of fiber. But I've been trying to be moderate in this area -- just enough for small projects. Sock yarn is my favorite small project spinning right now, so when I saw Abby talking about her Luxury Sock Yarn Batts with silk and BFL, well, it was just time to start cruising her Ebay shop again. And I ended up with 3 batts of a colorway she calls Tamale Pie.

I've been curious about BFL in sock yarn for a while. First of all, because of some lovely sock yarn that Emma sent me as part of one of our trades that was made of BFL. Secondly, because BFL is supposedly one of those wools that doesn't felt quite as readily. And finally, just because I have enjoyed spinning BFL and I thought it would be fun to have it in a sock blend.

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Tamale Pie Close Up

Last time I didn't give you a good close-up of the batt I received. This time, since I had beautiful light and even better weather, I thought it would be nice to get a close-up so that it was possible to see how truly well prepared this fiber is. I think it's fair to say that my hair isn't this well combed on most days. And as far as the touch sensation goes, well, its lovely stuff and it will be a treat to spin.

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Tussah and Bombyx Silk

I also got some silk samples from Abby. I'm still not an expert at silk identification, but I think the skein on the left is tussah and the skein on the right is bombyx. Since I've really only spun tussah up to this point, I'm looking forward to seeing how they compare.

Now... I have to get back to my rotary cutter and some strip pieces... lots and lots of 9 patches ahead!

Special Socks Ahead

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So... I mentioned a post or so back that I had been doing some shopping. Well, indeed I have. I'm not hitting the highest heights of fiber consumerism, but I have made a recent purchase that I just have to talk about.

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Luxury Sock Batts in "Heartbreaker" from Franquemont Fibers

One of the things that I am always trying to find more of is good spinning blogs -- blogs by people who have been spinning for a long time and really have a deep body of knowledge that they bring to bear when they talk about a spinning subject. I wish now I could remember how I came across Abby's Yarns so I could give credit where credit is due. Abby Franquemont has a great blog and an incredibly rich knowledge of fiber and spinning. She talks about everything from yarn construction to yarn pricing, she's talked about what to look for in spinning wheels and answers questions from people who are looking for help with their technique.

After reading her blog for a while, I took the plunge and ordered some of her Franquemont Fibers Luxury Sock Batts. The blend that I ordered is a blend of superwash merino, silk and nylon in a colorway called "Heartbreaker". Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while will not be surprised that I picked a blue, teal and purple colorway -- I decided if I was going to make luxury sock yarn, it was going to be for me, and it was going to be in my favorite colors.

Let me just say that this is probably some of the best prepared fiber I've ever had my hands on. when I untucked one of those little buns (holding one feels like holding a baby bird in your hand) I was treated to some of the softest, smoothest fiber I've ever had. The whole "like buttah" thing? Well, "buttah" don't have anything on this stuff.

Aside from the incredible preparation, while the batts contain all three colors, Abby has placed them side by side so they can be easily separated. I am thinking that I am going to split them and try to spin some "self-striping" yarn by spinning a certain amount of each color into my single in a regular pattern and see if I can make two singles that I combine into a two ply that match up enough to maintain the striping pattern in the final yarn. All 4 of the little bundles I have amount to just over 4 ounces of fiber, so it shouldn't be a long spinning project.

Well, not once I get finished with my CVM. I've told myself that this is a treat that I can only have after I finish my moorit CVM project. In the coming weeks, we'll see how strong my will is.

Spinning Romney

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Romney on My Bobbin

Given my current fascination with knee socks, log cabin squares and fingerless mitts, I haven't gotten very much spinning done. But I have started a new spinning project. Remember this fiber? Lovely hand -dyed Romney roving from Fleecemakers. I'd never spun Romney before, but I've read the blogs of plenty of people who have nice things to say about it. This stuff is plenty soft, and the colors are deep and rich so I thought I'd try spinning up a bit to see what it wanted to do.

So far, the single I am spinning is considerably thicker than what I "normally" spin. I suspect this is because the fiber is a bit longer staple, but I think it also had to do with my attempt to get bits of all the colors blended into most areas so that I could avoid that whole stripey yarn thing. It may sound kind of funny, but I'm rather excited about this single, not so much because of the great color and soft hand of the fiber, but because I seem to have gotten some place where I am making more decisions about what the diameter of my single is going to be like. I think if I were to turn this into a two-ply, I'd get something closer to worsted weight rather than the something on the light end of DK weight, which is my "normal" result.

Now that I've finished up that pair of knee socks (more on that tomorrow when I can take some pictures during the daylight) and while I'm still thinking about designs for mitts, I suspect I'll put a bit more effort back into spinning. After all, I still have a whole lot of moorit CVM waiting to become yarn as well!

Tweedy Handspun, Part II

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In scientific publishing, there's the concept of the "Least Publishable Unit". Because scientists are often judged by the number of publications to their record, it's sometimes seen as advantageous to publish your data in the smallest possible chunks that you can still put together as a story. Today's post might seem like I'm trying to mark out the "Least Bloggable Unit" given that the information would have fit very neatly with yesterday's post and that I had originally put everything together to be part of the same post. But that's not really the intention. As I was thinking about it, I decided that the spinning and the swatching were really two different stories, they just happened to involve the same yarn. That, and at the end of the day, this blog is still my fibery journal, and I wanted a little more time to think about the swatch that I'm going to talk about today.

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Tweedy Handspun Swatch:From Top to Bottom: Some Cables, Some Lace and Some Stockinette

After spinning the main skein, I had enough single left on one bobbin to spin up about 42 yards of 2-ply that I could use to swatch with. My first thoughts for a use for the yarn had been some fingerless mitts of my own design -- not because there aren't a lot of other lovely examples out there, but because I love to use small projects as templates to try things out. Somehow, if the experiement doesn't go well with a small project, the ripping process doesn't feel quite as painful and it's not hard for me to get started trying something else out.

I've talked before about the differences between 2-ply and 3-ply yarn, and since I was thinking about combining cables and lace in my mitts, I thought this would be a good opportunity to swatch and see how each type of pattern looked in the yarn. And while I know that the yarn has both silk and angora content, the information I have for the roving doesn't give me percentages to work with, so I wasn't completely sure what to expect from the yarn in terms of drape and elasticity.

I determined that the yarn I made came in around 14 WPI -- which made it a light DK. So I picked up a set of US 5 (3.75 mm) needles and cast on to see what the swatch would tell me. After knitting the swatch, I soaked and blocked it to see if washing would have any effect on the final fabric.

On plain stockinette, I get about 5.5 stitches/inch and a soft fabric that I like both the look and feel of. It has a reasonable amount of drape, and a reasonable amount of structure. Important, because I don't want floppy drapey mitts. So the size 5 needle was a decent call. Though, in a pinch, this yarn is probably fine enough to go down to a 4 if I wanted a denser fabric.

The next section I tried was a simple lace pattern. Anyone who has worked on my most recent sock pattern will recognize the Cat's Paw lace pattern -- it was the one I could remember easily without having to refer to a pattern book, and was actually a small enough motif to consider for a pair of mitts. I consider the lace results to be just okay. The fuzziness of the yarn muddies the lace definition a little bit, so I don't think anything complicated would show up very well. But it's doable.

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Swatch Cable Detail

The final section of the swatch is a couple of simple cables. I think I made a mistake with something in the cable on the right, which is why the close up focuses on the simple 6-stitch cable on the left. I was initially worried that this yarn, given that it's both two ply and made up of some not very elastic fibers, wouldn't be a good candidate for cabling. The swatch changed my mind completely. The cable definitely has a less three-dimensional quality than you might expect if I was working with a 3-ply yarn, but the cable still has nice definition and the flatter texture is probably a bonus for a pair of mits that I want to lay flat against my hands and not get caught on things while I work at my computer (my computer room gets quite cold during the day in the winter, and I find that my mouse hand is almost always ice cold if I spend the day working at home).

On the overall, I consider this swatch a success. I like the hand of the final fabric, and it looks like I'll have no problem with simple lace and cable textures. I can wear the fabric against my skin without irritation and I like that there is no terribly obvious striping. I think the tweedy quality adds to the final product without distracting too much from the knitted design. I am still frustrated with my camera's inability to reproduce the color of this yarn in a way that does not make it look like a sickly aqua, but hopefully by the time I have something interesting to show with this yarn again, I'll have figured out how to deal with that.

So the next step is for me to dig through some stitch dictionaries, doodle in my little paper journal, and figure out what I want to do on the small canvas of handknit fingerless mitts.

Tweedy Handspun

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Left: Ball of Fine Wool, Angora and Silk from Jane Purcell

This picture is a repeat from my trip to the Michigan Fiber Festival last August. Unfortunately, it seems to be the only image I have of the 4 ounces of Wool, Angora and Silk roving that I bought from Jane Purcell (sadly websiteless, because her color combos are incredibly vivid and engaging). Those of you who know me in person probably know why I was drawn to this roving: the vivid color in that blue/green range that I just can't seem to have enough of. Unlike many rovings I'd purchased previously, this roving had also been blended so that the colors ran vertically through the roving instead of horizontally. And I was curious as to what kind of final effect that would create. Once I picked up the roving, it was hard not to pick up several more. To be honest, I now wish I'd given in to temptation. The wool/angora/silk combo is pleasantly soft and lofty and 4 ounces only gives you so many options.

When I started spinning, I was thinking something in the neighborhood of a 2 ply sport-to-DK weight yarn. I have to be honest, though, I really haven't gotten to the point in my spinning where I'm sophisticated enough to sample and work towards the yarn I envision. Mostly, I just start spinning a single and spin it where it "feels" right. Probably once I have become a more accomplished spinner, I'll push my fiber around more. But for now, I'm content to let the fiber lead.

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2 Ply DK Weight Wool/Angora/Silk

The result of my efforts is this skein -- about 300 yards of tweedy happiness. It's about 14 WPI, which puts it in the light DK range. I wish that my camera could handle this saturated teal well -- all the pictures I took had a much bluer cast than is true to life.

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Wool/Angora/Silk Close Up

Part of letting this fiber do what it wanted to do was to let the lighter green areas be a little slubby. I'm not sure, but if I had to guess, I'd say the light green fiber is probably mostly silk, given the way it behaves. Because there were little slubs in the fiber, I just let a lot of those come along as they wanted to. Between that and the general distribution of the light green and just a touch of midnight blue throughout the teal fiber, the result is a yarn with a lot of depth and dimensionality to go along with a very tweedy disposition. Something that appeals to me a great deal and tells me a lot about the kinds of rovings I should be looking for in the future. This is one of the first yarns that I have spun (besides the moorit CVM) where I really feel that I could make an actual garment out of this.

But, of course, 300 yards doesn't get me very far along the road to a garment. But I am thinking it might make a absolutely lovely pair of fingerless gloves to keep my hands warm while I use the computer -- now that the winter weather we expect to be present in January in Chicago finally seems to have come home to roost!

Yarn Finishing

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After talking about spinning up John's "Boyfriend" sock yarn, a couple of folks asked me how I "finish" my yarn. Finishing involves all the things done to the yarn after it's plied. My finishing regimen is relatively simple and has been derived from information from other spinners and bloggers. But it works for me. Rather than just typing out my "recipe" I thought I would illustrate the process with some pictures. In this case, I'm working with some "Sock Hop" sock yarn from Crown Mountain Farms. Since I'm planning to make knee socks fromt his and my Sloopy remnants, I wanted to make sure there were no differences in how my yarn and the CMF yarn was processed following spinning. And really, this process can be used for any commercial yarn when you aren't so sure about how it's been treated or handled.

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Step 1: Wind Up Your Yarn

If your yarn is already in a skein, then you can skip this step. Otherwise, I niddy noddy or a reel are handy tools for converting a ball into a more manageable skein.

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Step 2: Preparing for Yarn Bondage

Tangled yarn more or less sucks. I cut 4 ties to bind around the yarn in four places (you might choose more if your yarn is particularly slippery). In general, I prefer to make my ties out of yarn that is unlikely to bleed color, but the content of the ties doesn't reall matter. In this case I used white Plymouth Galway, but I've used other things as well.

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Step 3: Tie Your Yarn Up

I use figure 8 ties in four places that are relatively evenly distributed across the hank to prevent tangles. I try to avoid tying things up too tightly so that I don't have an area where the yarn is compressed or limited by the ties. I also always do this while my yarn is on the niddy noddy. I think it's just easier that way.

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Step 4: Give Your Yarn A Bath

Generally, I do my soak in warm water. I have never measured my preferred temperature, but it shouldn't be uncomfortable to put your hand in, and except in special circumstances I never use cold water (note: this is just me... your mileage may vary and you should always take your fiber and how it has been dyed into consideration when you pick water temperatures... if in doubt, cooler is better). Just a pleasant warm bath. I add a little Eucalan for aromaticity and to help clean the yarn if it needs it. I also think Eucalan and other no-rinse wool-washes make life a lot easier since you don't have to spend a lot of time rinsing. And then I take the yarn off the niddy noddy and submerge it in the bath. I let it soak for 20-30 minutes at least so that it can relax in the warm sudsy water.

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Step 5: Put Your Yarn Under Pressure

After draining off the water, I press the yarn against the side of the sink to help remove as much water as I can. Depending on the fiber content of your yarn, you can be more or less aggressive about this. Since this is superwash, I could pick it up and wring it and agitate it without worrying about felting, but other yarns require more care. Always err on the side of being gentle if you think felting could be an issue. The idea is just to make the drying process easier and shorter by getting out as much water as you can here.

If a lot of color has bled out of the yarn during the soak, I will rinse several times in cool water until the color exhaust subsides, but otherwise I don't do any rinsing at all.

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Step 6: Towel Your Yarn Off

Next, I place the yarn on a nice thirsty cotton towel (cotton likes water more than wool does, so it's easy to get the yarn to share with the towel) and then I roll the yarn in the towel and compress the roll to squeeze as much water out of the yarn as I can. This is clearly an optional step, but I think it helps to speed up the drying process. If your yarn likes to bleed color, you might want to have a couple of ratty old towels dedicated to just this process, rather than using your good towels. Also, you probably want to stay away from towels with a smooth chenille-like finish, they don't absorb as well as the regular terry finish ones.

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Step 7: Give Your Yarn A Whack

This is an optional step. Some spinners do it, some don't bother. I do it if I remember and if my yarn isn't likely to release dye onto my white counter top. I think the idea of whacking your yarn against a surface is to help even out the twist. If I whack my yarn, I do it two or three times before shifting to another part of the hank for my grip.

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Step 8: Hang Up Your Yarn

The last step is to just let the yarn alone to dry. To do this, I hang it over a hanger and just let it hang loose without any weighting other than it's own natural weight. Usually I hang it over a place that can get wet and can be cleaned easily if there's some residual dye leakage, like a tub. I also like to have a place that is relatively warm and/or gets good airflow to help speed the drying process. I figure faster drying is good for two reasons 1) less chance of yarn mildew (yuck!) and 2) I get to enjoy the finished yarn sooner.

So that's it! At least for me. I think this process varies a lot from spinner to spinner. Some people will never choose warm water. Some folks like to use dish detergent or shampoo as their cleaning agent. Some whack some don't. Some swear that hanging a yarn to dry instead of lying it flat may make it harder to detect an unbalanced yarn because the natural weight of the yarn holds down the twist. There's definitely more than one way to finish a yarn.

Finished Boyfriend

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A Bowl of Finished "Boyfriend"

Once I've got all my singles prepared, it's hard to keep me from wanting to sit down and ply them up. This was particularly true with this batch of superwash merino in "My Boyfriend's Back" from Crown Mountain Farms. I really wanted to make John a special pair of socks, and I really wanted the yarn to be ready by Christmas. So I fired up my wheel on the 23rd of December and armed with a bunch of podcasts, I plied up all 8 ounces. I could tell as I was plying that this yarn was going to be perfect for John. It had nice long stretches of color and there weren't too many bright patches or patches that might inadvertantly be misconstrued as pink. Most of it was dark and a bit moody and what I thought was just perfect for a pair of socks for John.

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"Boyfriend" 2 ply Before Finishing
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"Boyfriend" 2 Ply After Finishing

These before and after finishing shots are to help visualize how much a yarn can change from right after you finish plying it, to after it has a nice bath and a chance to dry. While in the top photo the yarn has been stretched over the niddy noddy a little bit, it still has that flat quality to it, even when you take it off the niddy. After a warm water bath with a bit of Eucalan, the yarn really comes to life. It poofs and contracts and gets some of the loft that you expect from a merino yarn. I let my yarn hang to dry, but I don't weight it at all. After finishing, it is also twist neutral (i.e. balanced).

One thing that did occur when I gave this yarn a bath was that I had a lot of red dye exhaust. Even after several rinses in cold water, I never got the water to run clear or even close to clear. I know that red dyes have a tendency to do this, and, as the wise Claudia has said on her blog, this is just the price we have to pay sometimes for beautiful vivid reds. However, I emailed Teyani to find out what she knew and to let her know about my experience. Of course, Teyani recommends sticking with a cool water bath, but she also told me that what's in your water may have an impact on color bleeding. Apparently, with her water, which is not city treated water and has no chlorine or fluoride added, she sees a little dye exhaust, but after a rinse it's pretty much stable. However, with customers that live in places with treated water, they often see what I saw when the dyes used were vivid reds or blues. Interesting, eh? So if you're an urban spinner of hand-dyed rovings, you may want to consider cooler finishing baths when working with intense colors, and you probably need to expect that you'll always get a bit of bleeding from the yarn, so you really want to make sure you wash whatever you make with the final yarn with like colors.

At any rate, I'm extremely happy with the finished product and it received an additional endorsement from the man who will be the recipient of the socks. Now all I need to do is finish up a few of my other projects so I can cast on for his Christmas socks! (Good thing I made sure that there was an XBOX360 under the tree for him as his big Christmas present, eh?)

P.S. to Rachel... "grist" is essentially a measurement of the number of yards of yarn per unit weight. In the US this is often measured as yards per pound and can be used like "wraps per inch" as a general means of comparing yarns or determining if one yarn can be easily substituted for another.

Boyfriend Bobbins

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First off, my dad would like to say how much he enjoyed reading all the comments about his rocking chair. I think it pretty much made his day. I know they made mine. And the chair has a long and cherished life ahead of it. And there will be a few more stories to tell about it when the time is right.

In the meantime, I have more spinning to show for some of my blogging break.

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Two Bobbins of "Boyfriend"

This is the entire 8 ounces of Crown Mountain Farms Superwash Merino in "My Boyfriend's Back". I divided it in half and then spun each half onto a bobbin. I love these capacious WW bobbins -- 4 ounces of single on each and still plenty of room for more! So nice for spinning up something for a big project. From what I can tell, the singles are pretty close to what I spun when I spun up the "Hang on Sloopy" so I'm anticipating similar grist yarn and yardage after I do the plying.

As with the Sloopy, this stuff was beautifully dyed and really a treat to spin. The colorway was inspired by a request I made for a more man-friendly dark red yarn. Teyani did a lovely job using several depths of shade of what I think is one red dye so that there are areas that are almost black. These dark areas really help to set off the brigher red areas, but at the same time, tone everything down and give it a more masculine quality. John took one look at these bobbins, nodded, and said "if it keeps looking like that, I could probably wear it".

Definitely an edorsement to go to the next stage with.

P.S. If you want to see what Boyfriend looks like when it's been plied and knit into socks, you can check out this recent post on Teyani's blog. Clearly John has good things to look forward to!

Festive Fiber

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A Red Rainbow of Romney and A Lovely Little Spindle

Some days you need a little color therapy. Today was just about as grey as you can get in Chicago. Grey, rainy, cloudy. That it's warm enough to be raining is not entirely a bad thing, but its definitely the kind of weather that gets me down a little bit. Which makes it an excellent time to explore one's fiber room.

This lovely torrent of Romney roving comes from fleecemakers Etsy shop. I believe the colorway is called "Autumn Brights". What is lovely about it is that it that the seller raises Romney sheep and hand dyes the wool. And, if I am doing my math correctly, I have two lovely 4 ounce bundles to spin. Very festive, is it not?

The lovely little lace spindle with the stylized cat design and the notecards (which are hiding behind some of that fiber) come from Spindle Cat Studio. I haven't spun on the little spindle yet (I don't have a fiber delicate enough -- it's only a 1/2 ounce spindle) but it seems to be well balanced. And the cat design gets a big paws up from the felines in the house.

Many many thanks to Emma for this little bundle of holiday treasures. She and I have been trading fibery goodies almost since I started to blog and I consider her one of my dearest blogging-resultant friends even though I've never had the good fortune to meet her in person. It's taken me a little longer than I would have liked to get them on the blog -- mostly because I was hoping I'd get to spin some of the Romney and be able to talk about that too. Today, however, I realized that with all that I've got going on, the spinning might not happen in a timely fashion, and the colors were just too rich not to enjoy and share.

The First Bobbin of "Boyfriend"

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The First Bobbin of "Boyfriend" Sees the Light of Late Afternoon

Right now I'm finding it a bit difficult to come up with interesting things to post about given that I am in the early-to-middle phases of a number of projects. The bobbin above is the first 4 ounces of Crown Mountain Farms superwash merino top in "My Boyfriend's Back". If you remember the last time I talked about this sock-yarn-in-progress the picture had a lot more light colors in it. I've officially moved into the darker regions of the yarn which is very red-black. When I last talked about this yarn, I mentioned that for this batch of rovin and my batch of "Sloopy" it seemed like part of the batch had a lot more undyed regions in it than the other part. Teyani left an interesting comment on the post which I think bears repeating for anyone who is interesting understanding why the superwash merino is dyed the way it is, and how Teyani and her Sock Hop spinners create the Sock Hop yarn.

Yes, the white is indeed intentional - for the purpose of making the barberpole yarn. What we do is to split the hank into three sections prior to spinning - light, medium and dark, and then randomly spin from each section, so that the lightest part is spread throughout. makes for some deep striping.

In this case, I just split the batch in half -- the first half contained the lighter third and part of the medium third. The second half (which I have just started) will contain the second half of the medium third and the dark third. It's my hope that this approach will keep my final product a bit darker and thus will keep the resulting socks on the more "manly" side of the spectrum.

As with every other time I've talked about this fiber, I am still very much enjoying spinning it. And apparently I am not the only one. If you want to see the final results of another one of the Crown Mountain colorways (one that I have in my stash and can't wait to spin) Wendy has spun up a skein of two-ply "Do You Believe in Magic". Gorgeous stuff!

My Boyfriend's Back

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Don't tell John, but I've been hanging out with my Boyfriend quite a bit lately.

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Crown Mountain Farms Superwash Merino in "My Boyfriend's Back"

I'm a little over halfway through my first bobbin of "My Boyfriend's Back", another batch of superwash roving from Crown Mountain Farms. This picture is not entirely representative of the roving, because the bit I had just spun had a lot of white areas in it. I don't know if Teyani does this intentionally, but in both batches I have spun so far, half of the roving has a good deal more open white area than the other half. For stripey sock yarn, this is an excellent thing, because those white areas help to set up a lot of nice contrasty stripes.

What makes me most happy is that while this area has lighter red areas, it really doesn't veer into the land of pink. It maintains a sort of stately and sedate deep red color (I know, I know, the photo reads pink, but that is because the color defiition is a bit poor in this flash picture).. So far, this color has been mostly acceptable to the male for whom the yarn is being spun. Because he has bigger feet than I do, I decided that rather than spinning it up in 4 ounce batches, I would divide the roving in half and spin it all up as one batch (I mean one batch made up of two plys, not one single ply) so as to have one solid continuous yarn. I still have a lot of spinning to go, but I am already at that place where I can't wait to ply and see what shows up!

Big thanks to everyone who left supportive words for me yesterday. I am working on the socks, and the more I knit, the happier I get with what I see. My Sloopy yarn is like knitting with sunshine, and the fabric is firm but soft, so I think I will have a good and durable sock. Good therapy for the grey rainy weather we are getting in Chicago right now.

Thoughts on Pencil Rovings

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I have to preface this post with "I am not an expert". I got a couple of questions about the Crown Mountain Farms pencil roving and how to spin it and I thought I would share my experiences. Like all things related to spinning, my experience could be different than yours. But I hope my answers help provide a framework for identifying whether this fiber could be for you or not.

Carole of Carole Knits asks:

Have you spun with pencil roving before? I've been wanting to try it and I'm anxious to hear about your experience.

I most certainly have! In fact, I spun a whole 8 ounce corriedale pencil roving from Crown Mountain Farms, which is why I decided to buy more for another project. I have no idea where Teyani gets her rovings from, but I think they are fabulous. And the way she does her dyeing is also exceptional. There are no felted areas, no strangely textured areas, and the stuff looks and feels exactly like what I expect corriedale to feel like. When I spun up the first batch, I just did a little pre-drafting to loosen things up, but I really didn't have to do anything else. This stuff is very easy to spin fine, but if you wanted a thicker yarn or ply, that would be easy to do, too.

This is the only pencil roving that I've ever spun, so I can't speak for other folks who sell it, but I wills say that I was happy enough about this stuff to buy more. And life is way to short to buy more of a fiber you don't like!

Elizabeth of Trailing Yarn asks:

I have a question for you. When you spin the pencil rovings, do you split them again, or just spin them as they are (after predrafting, if you do that)? If you were spinning it on a spindle rather than a wheel, would that effect whether or not you split the roving again?

When I spun the pencil roving I mentioned above, I spun it on a wheel and I did not split the fiber. Part of that had to do with wanting to get longer stretches of color in my singles. In general, most of the roving was about the thickness I would split thicker rovings down into, so I really didn't feel the need to split it down any further. I don't think I would change my strategy if I were using a drop spindle (or a wheel), unless I wanted to create a very fine single or I wanted to make the stretches of color shorter.

String of Stringthing's House of Knitting asked:

I have been considering getting that color roving in a while, but I was worried that it might be really pink instead of red, and I am not a pink fan. Does yours seem pretty saturated with red?

I can definitely vouch for the redness of this roving. It is 100% deep saturated red. Because I took the picture of the roving in the direct sun, it gets a more tomato-y red cast, but its more of a true red, that, if anything, has bluish undertones. The darker areas have a bit of a blood-red cast. Definitely no pink to be found. There are, however, short stretches of white and lighter red areas, which I love, because I think they will give the final yarn more depth without reading "I am screamingly variagated". I don't expect those areas to read pink. Given previous experience, I expect them to read faded red.

And Opal of Akamai Knitter (who I am extremely jealous of because she lives near Honolulu, Hawaii... I miss Hawaii already!) comments:

I'd be interested in learning more about the process of spinning with pencil roving. I can really see that roving as a gorgeous lace shawl as well.

I'll try to blog about it as much as I can, although I am not sure I do anything differently than when I spin regular rovings. But I'll try to give y'all some closeups of the roving, and a better idea of it's thickness pre- and post-drafting.

As far as the final project, because I want to turn it into a shawl, I'm going to plan for a two-ply yarn. Two-plies lay flatter than three plies and work better for showing off the two dimensional patterns that you find in lace. I haven't decided yet whether I am going to spin a single ply from each roving and then combine them into a two ply yarn, or whether I will split each roving in half and ply the two halves together. I'm leaning towards the first option, because that would definitely minimize any differences that might show up between the two bales (for instance, one might have a lot more white than the other) of roving and help create yarn with a more coherent look, which I think would be better for a shawl where I want the lace to be the as prominent as the yarn and I don't want people to focus on unintended dramatic differences in the colors of the skeins of yarn I was using and I really really don't want to knit from two skeins at once.

Having said all that, it will probably be a little while before I get to this stuff. I want to finish spinning the Hang on Sloopy superwash merino (also CMF fiber) and get enough of "My Boyfriend's Back" superwash merino (yes, still CMF) spun and plied so that I can start John's next pair of socks around Christmas. And then there's that 2 lbs of moorit CVM that I'm working my way through. I'll have more on that tomorrow.

And just in case you knitters think that there is no way you could possibly use a pencil roving... you just need to think of pencil rovings as really big, very untwisted yarn. The 8 ounce bundles are actually 175 yard long, all stretched out! If you were careful, you could easily knit with it and you can most certainly felt with it. I've been thinking about how cool it would be to make some felted bowls out of it (there was a Spin Off article a couple of years back that talks about how to do this) or perhaps even a throw pillow cover or two or a very loosely woven, felted scarf.

Flash of Color

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Crown Mountain Farms Ruby Slippers

Thank goodness for the mail, or I'd be surrounded by nothing but grey skies and cold weather. These firey little red bundles arrived not too long after I got back from Hawaii and they are a definitely a ray of sunshine in an otherwise gloomy place. It's 16 ounces of hand dyed corriedale pencil roving from Crown Mountain Farms in the colorway "Ruby Slippers". I picked this colorway for it's almost solid dyeing -- it seemed like in a two ply, it would make a beautiful shawl, with lovely subtle color variagations. I'm definitely looking forward to playing with it on my wheel.

While I was in Hawaii I did almost nothing fiber related. Something about the sunshine and scenery just kept me away from my carry-on full of yarn. I managed to get a couple of rounds done on the start of a sock for John, but not very much else. It probably turned out to be a good thing that I decided not to bring my wheel along after all, since I probably wouldn't have found any time to use it.** Now that I'm home, I haven't gone too far without a set of knitting needles in my hands. So that grey cool weather, while not exciting, seems to be stimulating my interest in fibery pastimes. Definitely time to spin up some ruby red corriedale.

**At the last minute I decided that I just didn't think that the large soft-sided suitcase that I had for the wheel could protect it from the hard knocks that luggage inevitably takes on a trip across several thousand miles.

Spinning Roving Swap

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A while back I mentioned that I was participating in the Spinning Roving Swap. It's actually beginning to draw to a close (next week is the deadline for sending out goodies to your pal), and if you check out the swap blog, you can see the fun things that have been going between people.

My swap pal Celia is in Australia, and she sent me this lovely little package of goodies:

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Spinning Roving Swap Package

Celia sent me two batches of fiber to try that will be completely new to me. The lovely caramel brown fiber is camel. It's very soft. Much softer than I expected given what I think about when I think about camels! The wheat colored fiber is baby alpaca. It's going to need a bit of flick carding before I can spin it, but it's easy to tell that it will make a delicate and lovely yarn if I spin it up correctly. Anyone out there have suggestions/tips for working with 100% baby alpaca? I don't want to turn this lovely soft fiber into high end twine!

Celia also included a pattern for several lacy scarves (one of which is very clever and reversible!) designed by Margaret Stove of Artisan Merino in New Zealand.

Definitely a very fun box that will give me a chance to try out some very special fibers. Thanks, Celia!

Big Spinning Project

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Roll music from the beginning of 2001, a Space Odyssey ... i.e. Also Sprach Zarathustra

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The Great Tower of Moorit CVM Stands Proudly in the Fading Sun

This, friends, is the sum of all my recent spinning. One full bobbin of moorit CVM -- probably somewhere between 4 and 5 ounces. It feels like a towering accomplishment. This is my first WooLee Winder bobbin that I have filled completely.

And then I go back and look at what's left.

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The Great Unchanging Ball of Moorit CVM

Sigh. Even after about 6 ounces (I've gotten a good start on the second bobbin now) it doesn't look much different than it did after I first got it. It keeps staring at me, just daring me to imagine how much yarn I can get from 2 lbs of roving.

Queue theme from Chariots of Fire... I've got a long race ahead of me.

(With apologies to those of you lacking either QuickTime or Windows Media Player)

P.S. Did you see all the cool things in the first issue of Yarnival!? I'm looking forward to really digging through it with my morning latte tomorrow!

Man-friendly Proto Socks

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"Do You Believe in Magic" and "My Boyfriend's Back" from Crown Mountain Farms

After spinning up the first half of the Hang on Sloopy superwash merino, I just knew that there was more sock yarn spinning in my future -- especially when the man in my life demonstrated a little bit of interest. Of course, orange was completely out of the question. But he was willing to entertain some darker, more masculine colors. He told me greys, browns and deep reds, like burgandies. Fortunately, for me, Teyani at Crown Mountain Farms was already thinking along the same lines when I emailed her asking if she was planning on introducing any colorways that my guy would be interested in.

On Saturday, she posted 5 new colorways to her blog. it took me just a couple of heartbeats to know which of those would be good options for coming to my house. They arrived here today, after their long trip from Washington. I selected "Do You Believe in Magic" which is a blend of black, brown and some grey color and "My Boyfriend's Back" which is almost all reds, varied mostly by color depth, with some of the red being so deep it almost takes on a black-like quality. Apparently, my search for man-friendly colors was part of the inspiration for this colorway. How cool is that?

I'm pretty excited about getting started on these. I think John needs a pair of handspun, handknit socks for Christmas. And John is (and I quote) "Curious about how the red stuff will spin". But since I also have a large bale of moorit CVM to work on for a light winter cardigan for moi, I've promised myself that I will spin up the first portion of the CVM before I get back to to spinning for socks. Since I've got a couple of sock projects to complete before I can start on socks for John, this should be a good way to keep all my projects on track.

P.S. There's still time to enter my little contest for one of my patterns. Just check out the three posts I had about the Michigan Fiber Festival and let me know in the comments to this post which picture you think is the one I took (i.e. the fake guy shot).

Cotton Candy Corriedale

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In between bouts of sock knitting, I've been spinning my little heart out. The thing about spinning, is that I can spin for hours, be greatly satisified with the result, feel very peaceful an refreshed, and still not have much of a blog post. Or, maybe I should say, I could show you more progress if the same time had been devoted to a knitting project. But I feel like I have gotten to this place where I really want to make my own yarn. Finishing the Flower Basket Shawl with my own handspun was magickal. It was the point where I realized I could spin enough of something to make a garment, and that I could like that garment just as much as something that I knitted out of commercially prepared yarn.

It was also this point that I determined that just as I am more of a product than a process knitter, I am also more of a product rather than a process spinner. I love the spinning, but boy do I want that yarn. And I want enough yardage so that it opens the door to many project possibilities. Which is part of why I really like buying fiber from Teyani at Crown Mountain Farms. Not only are her hand dyed rovings beautiful colors, well prepared and a pleasure to spin, but they are also in put ups that give you enough to dream big with -- 8 ounces isn't a sweater, but it's plenty for a scarf. And at $14-$15 for that 8 ounces, it's easy to afford enough for a bigger project.

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Cotton Candy Singles

After spinning up the first half of the Hang On Sloopy, I started to get this jones for some lace-to-fingering weight stripey yarn that could be used in a shawl or scarf project. I also really wanted to spin up my Cotton Candy Corriedale pencil roving. So I decided that I would divide the 8 ounces in half and spin each half into a single, just letting the color happen as it happened. A very easy thing to do with pencil roving. All I had to do was break off a bit, pre-draft and spin fine. I used the 10:1 ratio on my wheel to create the singles. And, in case you're curious, my singles are about 32 WPI.

When last I showed you a bobbin of this stuff, it looked mostly pink and green. Now you can see that the yellow has come out in full force. The first half of the roving had a good deal more green in it, the second half more yellow. Which was all fine by me, given my desire to have stripes.

This roving also taught me something about dyeing. Teyani never put the green and red portions next to each other in the roving, they were always separated by an area of yellow. Yellow blends nicely with both colors, green and red together create a murky brown. I'll be filing this away into the dyeing notes section of my brain for use in the future.

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A Bobbin Full of 2-Ply

The next step was to get it all plied up. That took me almost an entire afternoon and the assistance of a good many podcasts. I finally have a homemade tensioned lazy kate (a shoe box, three straight metal knitting needles and a yard or two of Woolese) that lets me get through the plying process with the WooLee Winder bobbins. It was like plying up Easter egg dyeing colors. I used the 7:1 drive ratio. In retrospect, I probably should have used the 9:1 but I liked the yarn I was getting, so I let it be. The final 2 ply yarn is somewhere between 18-20 WPI. Corriedale always seems to come with a lot of elasticity. Without any stretching, the yarn is more like 14-16 WPI.

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A Skein of Cotton Candy

Here's the whole bundle, hanked up after a warm bath and a rest. I let it hang dry with no weighting (other than the weight of the yarn itself) and no twisting resulted, so I think I found the balance point for the yarn. In the end, I ended up with about 770 yards (as measured by wraps around my 2 yard niddy noddy), which is pretty respectable from 8 ounces of starting fiber. And it's stripey as all-get-out. The final impression I get of this yarn is a very yellow and green one -- a similar impression to what I got from the starting roving. I was expecting the areas where the green and pink plyed together to be a bit brownish/greyish, but they report mostly green to my eyes. I'd love to hear any of the impressions you get. This picture was taken on a cloudy day and the colors are very true to life, if a little muted by the neutral lighting.

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Colorful Plys Close Up

No picture of yarn would be complete for me without a closeup. Here you can see how the individual colors play together, as well as the texture of the yarn. You can see that I am still working on the process of getting a good and evenly plyed yarn. I feel like I get better and better with every batch I spin up. Spinning really is one of those things for which the "practice makes pefect mantra applies".

The final yarn is soft, probably against the skin soft (this is always hard for me to judge until I actually wear the garment against my skin, but the fact that this yarn is quite smooth improves the odds that my prediction will come true). But it has one problem... at least for me. I love it, but I cannot wear anything that has this much yellow. At least not near my face. So I don't think a scarf project (unless it is not for me) is going to be in the future for this yarn. I'm thinking maybe a pillow, or a spring table runner with a very simple lace pattern that won't get lost in all the stripes. A table runner a la Clapotis also crossed my mind. Any other suggestions? It definitely won't become socks. I would die a thousand little deaths if some of my handspun was accidentally felted in the washing machine.

Rays of Sunshine

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There are a couple of bright happy things for me to talk about today. The first, because this is, after all, a craft oriented blog, is this lovely 8 ounces of superwash Merino in a colorway called "Hang on Sloopy" from Crown Mountain Farms.

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Hang On Sloopy Superwash Merino

This purchase of this little bale of orangey goodness ultimately had it's roots in two things: 1) the woman I consider to be the muse for all things orange and 2) the fact that this is the fiber that is used to spin up the Sock Hop sock yarns (also from Crown Mountain Farms).

I was not sure what to expect from superwash Merino from a texture perspective. It turns out to be quite soft and luscious. Now I just need to dig out that recent issue of Spin Off that talked about making sock yarns. Methinks that I need some good tight twist to create a nice durable yarn. But the real issue will be 2 ply or 3? Any sock yarn spinners out there want to offer your guidance?

The other little ray of sunshine today was John's first follow up visit to the doctor after his surgery. He woke up this morning with his eye feeling much better. It was such a wonderful moment for me to go to the doctor with him and watch him take off the bandage. He has a lot of bruising around the eye and a good deal of redness in his eye but there's no infection, he's experiencing very little pain and the doctor felt everything looked good for this point in the recovery process. We've both been feeling pretty good all day long. This is still only day 2 and John still has a while to go with sleeping sitting up, but I think both of us are more hopeful and less concerned about more surgery or loss of vision. And John is actually a very good convalescent -- not only did he take care of many of his "big" chores before the surgery to help make my life a bit easier now, he's made the decision in his own mind that he is going to take the time he needs to heal correctly. It may be inconvenient for a little while, but it's far better than the alternative.

And there is a bit of crafting going on, just not as much as usual since I have other higher priorities right now, and there's only so much excitement I can get from posting "oh! I have another half bobbin more of cormo/silk/alpaca single".

Colors of Summer

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It occurs to me that it's been a little while since I posted about any goodies I'd been getting in the mail. I do love getting boxes, even when I know what's in them. One of the more recent things that has ended up on my doorstep is this gorgeous roving:

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Crown Mountain Farms Corriedale Pencil Roving in "Cotton Candy"

This is one of those treats that I discovered as a result of Cara at january one when she posted about Sock Hop sock yarn -- a hand dyed, hand spun sock yarn that is absolutely beautiful. Initially I headed over to the Crown Mountain Farms website looking for said sock yarn. I was a little disappointed to find that they were sold out. But then very happy when I discovered their section of Corriedale Pencil Rovings (this took me a little while to find, which is why I am providing the direct link). I do like Corriedale a great deal, and some of their colorways are beautiful. It was hard for me to settle on just one! But in the end I decided I wanted some bright happy yellow on my wheel and selected the Cotton Candy. The fiber as it sits here on my desk is quite nice to pet, and it was shipped out almost instantaneously. At $14 for 8 ounces, it's a great deal for enough well prepared roving to make two pairs of socks or a nice small lace shawl. Not quite the same as getting the Sock Hop yarn -- but just about the next best thing if you're a spinner. And if you're not a spinner, but like to knit and felt things, you could actually knit this roving up without processing to make a neat felted bowl or bag.

I''ve been itching to put this on my wheel, but I'm trying to be good until I finish my madder/cochineal dyed Corriedale up and until another treat arrives on my doorstep.

Since color is always inspiring for me on grey rainy days, I thought I'd leave you with another picture in a different colorway, so to speak: my backyard deck garden. In the city, you don't get the luxury of big beautiful yard gardens very often, so you have to take advantage of whatever space you can find. John and I planted our hanging boxes with Wave Petunias, and to the left side, all that green is the collection of herbs John planted for cooking (thyme, rosemary, cilantro, dill, fennel, oregano, basil and something else that I can't remember at the moment) and our little pepper plants. with a few more little flowers and a tea rose (which will come inside this winter). It makes my upstairs balcony a nice place to look down from and gives me a bright shot of color every day, even when the weather is a little dreary.

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My Deck Garden

Shopping in Maryland

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For some reason, I'm having a hard time organizing my thoughts about Maryland.  For me, even though it was only two days, it's really hard to sum up all the people and colors and animals and fiber that were part of the trip.  I love travelling with Julie.  We always end up having a good time together and we're pretty good at rolling with the punches (like doing a U-turn on a bridge going into Baltimore after discovering that 895 only connects to 195 going outbound from the city).  Not only that, but we each tend to be drawn to different things and different colors, so as a result, I think we both see more things than we might otherwise.  And then there's the real joy of getting to see old friends and meet new ones. Claudia, Silvia, Norma, Liz (my CVM enabler), Jen, Cassie, Laurie, Jodi (who gave us some most excellent "KNIT" buttons), RockChick, Cara, Juno (who's Canadian production wheel with purpleheart accents was both beautiful and interesting to spin on), and Rachael (who has an affection for woodworking tools that my father could appreicate) all made the event a special one.  The more of these festivals I go to, the less it becomes about stash acquisition and the more it becomes about enjoying the company of creative and interesting people.

But, of course, there was a good deal of acquiring.  I was more reserved than in previous years, but I still found some special things to come home with. 

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The New Yarn Collection: (starting from the top right and going clockwise)
Cormo/Nylon Sock Yarn from Foxhill Farm, Duet Yarn from Brooks Farm, and 2 skeins (a 4 oz and a 5 oz) of Laceweight Merino from Morehouse Merino  

 
I was very moderate with regards to yarn.  In fact, I had originally decided that the only place I was going to buy yarn at was going to be the Morehouse Merino booth.  I can wear their laceweight against my skin, which is relatively rare, and I think their colorways are wonderful for scarves and shawls. I got a 4 ounce and a 5 ounce skein to use in bigger scarf/shawl projects.  I'm particularly taken with the brown/gold colorway, which is from their Monet colorway collection and is called "Grand Canal, Venice".  The smaller skein is either their Blossom or Sugar Plum colorway (it's not labelled and it's not easy to tell from their website).  The Duet (from Brooks Farm) is a Mohair/Fine wool blend.  Since I did use up a skein of Brooks Farm yarn making a scarf for my mom, I figured it was okay if a new skein got added.  Anyone who knows me well, knows my love for the luminous blue.  And this yarn was just too luminous to pass up.    Scarf? Shawl? Pet rock?  Who knows what this skein will become.  But it makes me ever so happy!  The final skein, that plain white skein, is the most incredible cormo/nylon blend sock yarn from Foxhill Farm (one of my absolute favorite places to buy fiber from, as you'll see very soon).  The yarn is probably closer to DK than sock weight, but, no matter, it will still be lucsious on the feet.  Julie got herself a skein, too, and we are thinking that some self-striping sock yarn dyeing may be in order for this lovely wool.  If you've never sampled a little cormo, you should treat yourself some time.  In my mind, it's equally as wonderful as nice merino.

 

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The Spinning Fiber Haul, Part I: Wool
(starting from the top right)
Undyed 100% Cormo Top from Foxhill Farm, 2 bags of Hand Dyed Cormo/Silk blend Top from Foxhill Farm, Hand Dyed Cormo/Silk/Alpaca Blend top from Winterhaven Fiber Farm and Cochineal and Madder Dyed Corriedale from Handspun by Stefania.

 

My spinning fiber purchases can be divided into 2 categories: wool based blends and silk based blends.  Most of the wool based blends contained Cormo.  Did I mention that I like Cormo?  Our first stop at the festival on Saturday morning was the Cormo Association, where Alice Field of Foxhill Farm was selling some of her incredible fiber.  Alice, in addition to being a treat to talk to, has spectacular Cormo wool.  In fact, one of her fleeces took Reserve Grand Champion for the entire show, in addition to winning in a number of other categories.  Her Cormo/silk blends that I took home last year were so wonderful that I knew I needed to have more this year, in addition to just some straight up Cormo (I'm curious to see how the silk changes the spinning of this fiber).  In keeping with both my blue and cormo obsessions, the soft blue balls of fiber come from Winterhaven Fiber Farm of Indiana.  If cormo and silk is good, then cormo silk and alpaca should be a real treat.  Finally, that beautiful deep red/burgundy roving is Corriedale dyed with cochineal and madder by Handspun by Stefania. While Corriedale isn't quite as soft as Cormo, I think it's just a blast to spin since it has so much loft and spring to it.
   

 

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The Spinning Fiber Haul, Part II: Silk
(starting from the top right)
Two Sets of Dyed Bombyx Silk Hankies from Spinner's Hill, Dyed Tussah Silk Top from Shadeyside Farm in "Breeze" and an unnamed colorway, and 2 ounces of a Silk/Brown Cashmere Top from Shadeyside Farm

 

If you hang around with Julie and I long enough, you learn two things.  She has an incredible radar for alpaca and I will almost always put my hands on anything containing silk.  Maybe it's the brilliant luster, or the soft hand, but silk is one of my absolute favorite fibers.  I've been very curious about spinning with silk, so I decided some more top and some hankies were in order.  The hankies (left in their protective zip loc bags come from Spinner's Hill (they have some incredible hand dyed top and roving, their colors are just to die for, if you'll forgive the pun).  The silk top came from Shadeyside Farm in New York.  By now, it probably shouldn't be surprising that my colorway selections leaned towards the blue and of the spectrum.  The top is delightful to the touch and drafts very effortlessly, so I am hoping that I will enjoy working with this fiber on my wheel.  The last little treat, that really doesn't come across as beautiful as it is is the 2 ounces of Silk/Brown cashmere top.  This is a 50/50 blend and is the sort of thing you'd like to fill up a bathtub with and just dive into.   There really just aren't enough superlatives to describe this stuff.   It will take me a little while to get up the courage to spin it, I think!

And speaking of spinning... I did try out some wheels from Robin Wheels, Golding Wheels and the Merlin Tree.  By doing this, I learned that when you spin at a fiber festival, you will draw a crowd.  Everytime I Julie or I sat down in front of a wheel, people started to gather.  The Golding wheel was lovely to spin on, it seemed to almost treadle itself, but I had a hard time getting a good rhythm going with the Robin and Merlin wheels, though I thought the Robin wheel was absolutely beautiful.  We also got to spin on a wheel fitted out with a Woolee Winder, which I really liked the feel of.  Can you say "possible anniversary present"?  Hopefully John will.  Such a clever device.  Clearly we need more engineers to think about spinning wheels.

Whew!  That was a lot of typing and linking.  Now I'm off to go bond with my wheel.  I really missed my wheel while we were in Maryland.  I can certainly spin on a drop spindle, but I don't enjoy it nearly as much as spinning on my wheel.  A shame she doesn't fit in the overhead compartment of an airplane... 

CVM Sampling

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When the weather is dreary and a chillier than it should be, there's no better way to spend the day than spinning with a friend. On Tuesday, I got to test out my new Bag Lady wheel bag and I headed out to visit Julie for an afternoon of spinning and chatting.

In the interest of preventing my very large ball of CVM roving from becoming the largest dust bunny in my house, I decided that I would start doing a little sampling to find a yarn that I thought would be suitable for making the simple and pretty cardigan I have in my mind. I thought I would start by making a two-ply and a three-ply yarn. I wanted to start with the three-ply, but, since I only brought three bobbins out with me, I ended up starting with the two-ply instead.

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2 Ply CVM Sample Skein

My African violet is helping me out with the modeling tonight since there's really still no green outside. This little skein is 42 yards of what I would estimate to be somewhere between fingering and DK weight yarn. It surprised me with it's behavior. When I spun it and plied it, it didn't feel as elastic as the chocolate brown CVM I spun. I gave it a long soak and let it hang to dry -- after which it developed that springy character that I really like. I guess that nice warm bath helped the fibers get some of their natural springy happy goodness back. A good reminder that one should always make sure that newly spun yarn should always get a beauty bath.

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Warm Oatmeal

It's not a dramatically colored yarn, but I like the soft heathery color of the yarn. It reminds me of oatmeal with a bit of brown sugar laced through it. However, it's a little finer than I want it to be for my cardigan. So trying out a three ply yarn will definitely be in order. I'm kind of excited about that since I've never tried to spin a three ply yarn before.

Since we're talking about yarn, I thought I'd finish up my report on the indigo dyed skeins. The large grey skein that we over-dyed at Toni's is finally washed and dried. Initially, I was just going to show you the big skein on its own, but I thought the nicest way to evaluate the color was to put it together with the other two skeins so that you could see the range of blues.

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Overdyed grey, natural wool, and silk and wool

That overdyed grey skein looks suprisingly like the color of one of my most recent denim purchases.

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Matching Yarn and Trousers

Hopefully I'll have Pearl pictures tomorrow. I've been hoping for some nice weather so that I can get some nice outdoor shots. Maybe tomorrow will be a better day.

If A Little Bit Is Good....

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Wanna see what came in the mail for me on Friday?

Of course you do.

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Goodness, Gracious, Great Balls of CVM!

That, my friends, is, without a doubt, 2 pounds of fiber ecstacy. Two pounds of moorit CVM roving from Black Pines Sheep in Colorado. The weather may still be grey, but this fiber really isn't! It's a lovely soft fawn color, is wonderfuly soft and springy, and has almost no VM in it anywhere. It is destined to be a sweater for yours truly someday. I got more than I probably need for a sweater so that I could experiment and "sample" it to find out what I want it to be. I think I'd like the final yarn to end up somewhere between DK and worsted weight. The two or three ply part is something I am going to have to try and see on. I've been told that three-ply yarns are very nice for textured stitches and cables. And I've been thinking I'd like to design another cardigan for myself that has a simple cable pattern but a finer weight than I made Sigil.

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A Moorit Cloud

Doesn't it look like you could just jump in and float forever? That's probably what I'll be doing soon. Julie and I are planning on spending tomorrow afternoon spinning and there will definitely be a little CVM on my agenda.

California Variagated Mutant

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What's my new fiber passion?

CVM

Which stands for (as you might have guessed from the title of today's post) California Variagated Mutant. CVM sheep are also Romeldales with a mutation that gives them some beautiful color patterning. For a bit more information on this breed, you can check out the American Romeldale/CVM Association. Romeldales and CVM sheep are fine wool sheep (like Merinos), that have relatively short staple length wool. They are also, as I have just learned, relatively small sheep An average CVM fleece weighs 4-6 lbs after skirting.

I want to start this off by saying that Liz is a dreadful (in a good way) enabler and I am going to hold her compeltely responsible for my developing addiction to CVM wool. In order to get a break from fine weight cormo and silk, I decided to spin up a small amount of the batt we prepared from the dark chocolate colored CVM from a sheep named Sydney. What a treat! This wool isn't quite as soft as merino, but it has incredible elasticity and I found it a lot of fun to spin and ply into this 37 yard skein:

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37 Yards of 2 Ply CVM

You know, it's kind of fun to spin up small amounts to make a little sample skein. It doesn't take very long and going through the whole process of spinning the singles, plying and setting the twist makes it possible to understand the real character of the yarn I've spun and it feels like finishing a small project. It's a bit like swatching for a sweater when you don't know quite what gauge would give you the best fabric for the project you have in your head. I didn't really spend much time worrying about the final result on this skein -- I tried to let the yarn tell me what it wanted to twist like rather than forcing it into what I wanted it to be.

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CVM Up Close and Personal

Here's a close-up perspective on what the fiber wanted to be for me. Ignore those little silver grey fibers. Those are a lesson for me about using a drum carder -- you've got to clean the drums well between fiber varieties or you will get transfer from the first one to the second one. Most of this yarn probably varies between fingering and DK weight.

Perhaps the most remarkable quality of this fiber (after it's rich color and soft hand) is it's incredible elasticity. A small demonstration:

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CVM Relaxed: 13.5" Skein
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CVM Stretched: 15.5" Skein

I don't know too many yarns in my stash that I could stretch by an additional 15% in length, unless you count things like Cascade Fixation (which is cotton and lycra). This stuff could be a fibery rubber band.

This CVM wool seemed special from the moment that Julie and I started sticking our hands in the sample bags Liz sent us. It didn't take me too long to decide that I needed to know where this kind of fibery goodness came from. She sent me to Myrtle Dow at Black Pines Sheep. Would it surprise you all to know that I have 2 lbs of moorit Romeldale/CVM roving coming my way as I type? (I'm thinking I'm going to challenge myself to design both the yarn and a sweater for myself). Myrtle was very easy to work with from the fiber-buying perspective. She also didn't mind all my questions about the CVM sheep and I felt very good doing business with her. She's going to be at MS&W and I'm definitely going to try to find her and say hello in person... and not just because I think I want a fleece from a certain chocolate colored sheep...

You know, I never had any idea that a spinning wheel would be such a dangerous investment.

Old and New Obsessions

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Saturday was a big day. Such a big day, in fact, that there's too much to talk about in one post. Julie and I headed out to Marengo, Illinois to the Fold for a day of dyeing with indigo and general fibery goodness (my car tried to thwart that effort by blowing a tire just after Julie and I met up in Schaumberg, but thanks to a helpful insurance agent, a punctual tow-truck driver and the fact that Julie had a car, too, we were able to get to our ultimate destination and were only an hour or so late). Because I don't have my finished fiber photos ready yet (there's still a bit of soaking and drying that has to occur), instead of starting with the indigo dyeing, I'll start with the goodies that came home with me. Because no trip out to the Fold would be complete without some purchasing of goodies.

My big purchase was this:

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Lendrum Wheel Bag from the Bag Lady

After one trip out to Julie's house without my wheel in a protective covering, I decided that a good bag would be a good investment. As it turns out, these bags are good for both protecting the wheel and making the wheel easier to carry around, since the bag has a nice shoulder strap. The Lendrum DT isn't that heavy -- just about 13 lbs (not much heaver than some desktop replacement notebooks on the market right now!), but it is awkwardly shaped for carrying when you have a few other bags to attend to. This bag is made of a sturdy denim material and has a thick vinyl bottom.

Terry commented in my last post that I needed to "flash" any new Socks that Rock that came home with me. So here goes:

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From Left to Right: Blue Moon Socks that Rock Medium Weight, in Crazy Lace Agate and Fire on the Mountain, Blue Moon Socks that Rock Light Weight, Beryl and 2 skeins of Blue Moon Sock Candy in Ambrosia

The Crazy Lace Agate and Fire on the Mountain are for me for later when I get back to brightening up my sock collection. When I asked for brighter sock yarn suggestions Liz and Lindsey both mentioned Fire on the Mountain. This yarn is incredibly vibrant and just a rainbow of color. I am in love with the beautiful contrasts of gold, red, blue and grey in the Crazy Lace Agate. The Beryl skein is so that I can finish up John's Dragon Scale socks. And the Sock Candy is so that I can have a pair of Dragon Scale socks of my own someday. They aren't quite orange, but they are as close as I could find in this yarn.

Believe it or not, the STR was not the highlight of the trip. I have fallen in love with a new motor-driven device.

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Pat Green Drum Carder

If I remember correctly, the label on this old beauty is "Patrick Green". Drum carders were never something that excited me until Saturday. I enjoy spinning, but I still really hadn't gotten to the point where I thought I would want to prepare my own fiber. A while back, though, Liz kindly sent Julie and I some small samples of some very nice washed fleeces so that we could try out some nice fibers. Julie and I are fiber prepping newbies, and we weren't quite sure how to get our little treasure trove into something that we could spin. So I emailed Toni and asked her if she new of anyone who would prepare roving from small batches of fiber. Toni invited us to bring our fiber when we came to the dyeing class and we could try out her electric drum carder.

Now I understand why people get obsessed about drum carders. It was almost magical to feed that uncarded fiber into the machine and to have fluffy bats come off the big drum. Julie and I were mezmerized by this process! And after working with it for just a short time, it was easy to imagine all the fiber and color blending possibilities it could bring into my life. I think I'm going to have to start being a very good girl now, so that I can ask Santa for one of these lovely machines for Christmas...

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Grey Coopworth Batt and Brown CVM Batt

Julie and I split the fiber in half and each of us got a nice fluffy batt of grey Coopworth and brown CVM to take home with us. There are still more samples to try in the box Liz sent us, but these two were the only two we could finish in an hour. Once I get finished spinning the first bobbin of itty bitty Cormo/silk thread that CVM is going on my wheel!

While we were working on carding our wool, we got a very special treat: the Fiddlin' Fool from Two Sock Knitters came in looking for a spinning spinning (Julie and I worked hard to be good enablers, and he now also has a Lendrum DT) and before he left he brought out his fiddle and treated all of us in the store to a lovely lilting tune. Talk about a wonderful ending to a great day!

Birthday Presents

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Slowly but surely my parents are working their way through all the people in the greater Ann Arbor area who own are in someway connected to fiber producing animals. It's actually one of the wonderfully nice things about the Ann Arbor area -- it doesn't take too long to get to a place where you could have a sheep or an alpaca or two. And, unlike most of Illinois, you can have your little fiber farm surrounded by trees and beautiful rolling hills. In fact, my parents actually have enough room for a sheep tor two. I keep telling them that babydoll sheep are not much bigger than a dog, and besides, wouldn't Ufer, the sweetest Rottweiler in the world, like a small herd of sheep to watch over? But so far, they, probably wisely, have avoided the adoption of any livestock.

But to get back to the point, my parents investigation of fiber farms in Ann Arbor resulted in a very nice birthday present. Unfortunately, I do not remember the name of the farm they got the fiber from, but I believe that they told me that the woman who has the farm is involved in a lot of animal rescue, so many of the animals I have fiber from have come from less fortunate circumstances to a place where they are much more appreciated.

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Sheep and Llamas Abound!

What's in this nifty collection of natural colored fibers? The three bags on the furthest left come from llama. A chocolate brown, a charcoal-y grey brown and a natural white with a streak of charcoal grey. In the center (starting from the top) the pale yellow tan is a blend of camel and merino, the black is Corriedale (supposedly a natural color...can any one tell me if Corriedale sheep come in black?) and the little natural colored bag is Rambouillet and llama. On the far left, the brown gold ball is labelled as "sheep" -- it's pretty coarse, but the colors in it sure are nice. Then, below that, is a ball of natural colored Corriedale -- from two sheep named Emily and Jessy. Finally, the big bale of roving there was also labelled "sheep" and "for dyeing". Should be a lot of fun to play with and spin, as it's really not so bad to touch, even if I don't know what kind of sheep it comes from. (The last thing in the picture is one of my cats, even though he is very soft, it is unlikely he will ever be spun).

After an initial touch test, the thing I am interested in playing with first is the Corriedale. I guess my fingers can tell when they've encountered a merino-related sheep. The Corriedale also has this kind of springy Targhee-like quality that I think will be interesting to spin. And 4 ounces of it should be enough to make something of reasonable size after it's spun up. All the rest of the fibers and blends I'm roughly equally curious about. The llama is softer than you might expect it to be, and the colors are beautiful. Camel and merino and Rambouillet and llama are strange enough blends to make me want to see what they do. As to the fiber to be dyed, the real question will be... before or after spinning? And there's more than sufficient fiber to do a lot of experimenting with both color and spinning technique.

I have no idea what their ultimate project destination will be. However, it appears between this, and my own purchases, I have a lot of small samples of different types of fiber. And I'm getting this idea in my head that it would be kind of neat to have a blanket made of swatches from these intriguing oddments. Maybe I'll have to have my own little treasure hunt at MS&W to acquire fiber samples from as many interesting sheep as possible.

A Gift for My Wheel

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I got one more wonderful fibery gift from my mother this year:

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One Pound Of Fiber Feeling Festive

It's a pretty subtle looking bundle sitting on my end table, but it gets a lot more exciting when you get a little closeup shot:

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Wool and Silk!

Y'all know how I love silk. And this pound of natural colored roving is half silk, half wool -- and comes from the same place as those incredible handmade sheep do. Not sure what wool is meant by "fine wool" but it feels very soft. At first I was tempted to dye it, but the more I looked at it, the more I liked the idea of spinning it and enjoying it's natural color.

It even inspired me to do a little spinning tonight. It's taking me a little bit of time to get the hang of working with it -- it's got a little VM in it as well as some slightly nubby bits that I think must be from the silk. But I figure I've got a whole pound, so I can have fun experimenting a little bit. And I have a feeling that if I need more, my mom would probably know how to help me find it.

Holiday Blessings

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Beautiful Hand Dyed Tussah Silk

This week has defintitely been one of those "Some good points, Some bad points" kind of weeks. Not to worry, most of the bad points have been along the lines of dealing with a cold, but they're still things that get me down and make it hard for me to do everything I want. So imagine the lovely pick-me-up I got when I found that gorgeous silk roving in my mailbox courtesy of the very fab Marie! (If you don't already listen to Marie's Knit Cast podcast you should! And you can even get them from iTunes if you are an iPod user).

This silk is gorgeous and hand-dyed by Fyberspates. I'm definitely in love. I've wanted to try spinning from pure silk -- and now I am going to get my chance.

I also want to say thank you to Dani, who, kindly helped me find the Ultramerino that I was looking for at her LYS, Lettuce Knit. I am constantly amazed by the kindness of my fellow knit-bloggers. Y'all have definitely made my week.

Hmmm... now what?

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A Wonderful Teal Blob of Wool, Alpaca and Silk

This wonderful fibery blob is one of my favorite purchases from MS&W -- half a pound of wonderfully hand-dyed fiber from Spinner's Hill. It was love at first touch when I encountered this bag of fluff. In fact, I felt almost drawn to it. It's as if I cound divine the silk content blended with my favorite color.

While it would be possible to work with this on a spindle, methinks it would take quite some time. Now that I have a wheel at my disposal, it seemed like a good time to pull it out and think about what I want it to become. And I realized something that I hadn't thought about before. What do I need to do with this to get it into manageable pieces for spinning? Do I just rip pieces off and start into it? Should I card it or comb it? Is there some magic that needs to be worked with this proto-yarn to prepare it for spinning? I just don't know. Up to this point, I've only spun from the fairly highly prepared stuff.

Anyone out there care to point me in the right direction? I'm sure that if I keep reading Alden Amos, I will get to the answer, but it's a long book, and I'm still working through the section on how humidity affects fiber...

My Fibery Future

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You might have left yesterday's post thinking about how reserved my purchases were. Just two spindles and two small balls of roving.

-ahem-

I'm far better at rationalizing the need to buy more fibe than that! I decided that a) if I was going to spin, I wanted to see what spinning different fibers was like and b) I don't regularly encounter a lot of different fibers, so it was very important to make sure that I had at least a years supply to go home with. After all, what if sheep suddenly went extinct between now and Rhinebeck?

Once you master the art of rationalization, nothing you want is too far out of your grasp.

Claudia had several words of wisdom with regards to a beginner purchasing fiber, and they guided some of my selections.

  • Spin what you love. In other words, don't buy something you don't like just because you are still learning. If you don't love it, you won't want to spin it, and you won't spin. Conversely, if you do love it, you will want to spin all the time, and you might, over time, get good at it.
  • Try to select longer staple fiber. That will be easier to work with when you get started, when your hands are still learning the motions and need more time to do so.
  • Feel the roving or batt. Make sure that the fibers separate easily, otherwise you will be fighting the fiber. No matter how pretty it is, it's no fun to fight with your fiber while you're still learning the basic motions.
  • Stay away from inelastic fibers that are likely to be difficult to work with and control and may break easily while spinning.

Keeping this in mind, I decided to create my own personal little grab-bag of goodies and fiber types to go home with. That last rule helped to keep me away from cottons and 100% silks and angora, and the second rule made me avoid anything that was strictly merino. But it was pretty much open season on anything else.

20050514_MSWFiberStash.jpg

20050514_StoneMtMohair.jpg20050514_MSWSpinnersHillTea.jpg20050514_MSWFoxHillFarmBG.jpg20050514_MSWFoxHillFarmBP.jpg20050514_MSWFoxHillFarmRed.jpg
Fiber To Try: Mohair from Stone Mountain Farm, a Wool/Silk Blend Batt from Spinnner's Hill, and three bags of of Cormo/Silk rovings from Foxhill Farm
Click on the Chips to See a Close up of the Fibers

Since I'd more or less met the "long wool for practicing" requirement by hitting the Handspun by Stefania booth, I decided to let color and texture rule my remaining choices. From left to right...

1) I had purchased some of the Stone Mountain Farm (no website to link to) mohair roving for Emma last year. I was so entranced by the rich colors that I knew I wanted a little of that this year. This is likely something that I will admire for a while before I do anything with it. It seems to have a fairly reasonable staple length, but it doesn't seem to have a great attraction to itself like wool does.

2) If I were to have my colors done, the color of this batt from Spinner's Hill (no website) would without a doubt be one of mine, and pretty close to the top. This is a wool, silk blend (I think there's either alpaca or mohair in it, too, but my notes aren't as good as they should be). The batt is beautiful, light and fluffy. When I stuck my hand into it, it was clear that it was meant to be mine. I have enough (1/2 pound) so that I can try to reach my first spinning goal: a scarf out of my own hand spun. The staple is short, but not dramatically so, so it should be a project I can tackle. It has been suggested that this goal might best be met with the help of a wheel...

3) Foxhill Farms Cormo/Silk blends. The last three bags of roving are all cormo/silk (90/10). The red and purple/blue rovings is a cormo/bombyx, the blue/green roving is cormo/tussah. You only have to feel cormo wool a few times to know how wonderful it is. Cormo is closely related to Merino, and thus on the shorter staple side of things. So as I get a little more confident, this stuff will probably get to see some time on my midi-Bosworth.

Given my relatively low amount of free time right now, this fiber is likely to last me quite some time. I have a feeling that it will also get me to start thinking long and hard about getting my mom's spinning wheel back in working order. I know it's already got me digging around the internet, pulling out my old Spin Offs and thinking about distaffs, and wondering how plying works.

And who knows, I might even get to the point of having some of my own yarn.

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