Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Well, I finally can post again with pictures. We were experiencing "technical difficulties" (i.e. the CF photo card reader fried) and we couldn't find the cord to connect directly to the camera. But my dh did a second search and found it this evening. Yay!

Part of the reason I was so determined to publish tonight was because I was so excited. I received the CVM fleece today, and it's beautiful! It's amazing... I can't see any VM anywhere on it. I'm sure there is a small amount, but I don't see it. She did a wonderful job skirting this thing. It'll probably be until the weekend before I'll be able to have time to wash any of it. But in the mean time, here are a few pictures of it. Both in the bag (sheared side facing out) and unrolled (tips facing up). Oh, and BTW, the browner sections on the sides aren't dirt, that's the color of the fleece at those spots...

As is obvious, I'm quite happy with it!

Now to catch up! First, the Targhee and Romney that Carole sent me. Both were wonderful. And I really liked being able to have small amounts to work with. It gave me the freedom to play alot more than I usually do. I really need to pick certain parts of my fiber stash to do this with more frequently. Granted, it wasn't my best work, but you know what, I finally successfully did a long draw! I've never been able to get the knack of it... but I finally did it! I was so happy. Then, of course, I was sore the next morning... apparently there are muscles in my shoulder that I don't use for other things! :-D Also, I was finally able to do Navaho plying. Every time I've tried in the past, I've gotten a tangled mess. And even this time, it wasn't the neatest job at first, but by the end I was starting to get the rhythym of it...

Here are the rolags after washing and carding the raw targhee. It really was a beautiful fleece. Very clean. Carole did a wonderful job picking it out. The second is the Romney on the bobbin unplied. Finally, the third is actually both the Romney and the targhee. As I said previously, both were done long draw and then Navaho plied.

Honestly, there isn't tons of stuff after that only because I was spending alot of time working on the Fire Spirit Targhee and the Flower Basket shawl. Both of which are progressing. I didn't even bother taking a picture of the shawl. It's large enough now that I can't really lay it out flat w/ the 32" needle, so there isn't much to take a picture of! However, I finally got a decent amount of the Targhee that I wanted to ply. Usually, I try and wait until it's all finished, but I really wanted to see how it was coming out.

Wow! I actually managed to get 20wpi after plying AND washing! And it's at about 725 yards so far. That's the thinnest yarn I've managed to date. And it's reasonably consistant. I even noticed a significant difference between this and the Finn I a few months ago. So I'm quite pleased. And, I've still got quite a bit of fiber still to spin. The bag is 10in in diameter and height. Probably about 4-5 oz left. It was originally about 11 oz. I've already got this earmarked for a new shawl too... I thought it would look really cool as an Icharus Shawl. The colors seemed appropriate to the myth. :-D

And finally, one last item. Not a new purchase, but a new yarn acquisition. There is a wonderful woman in my spinning guild who was giving away yarn her mom used for weaving. Her mom is too old to really use them anymore, and she wanted others to be able to enjoy it. I'm not quite sure what it is, but I just thought these were so pretty, so I decided to bring them home. I already did the usual burn and bleach tests. It did catch fire easily, but actually extinguished itself after only a small portion of it burning. And the bleach test didn't disolve it. It doesn't stretch, and is laceweight (probably around 30 wpi). I'm guessing it's probably mercerized cotton, but I'm not completely sure. If anyone has any better suggestions (or other tests I should do!) I'm all ears!

Monday, February 19, 2007

So, I've finished turning both the Romney (Fuzzy) and the Raw Targhee into singles. It was really nice to have smaller chunks of both, if only b/c I knew I didn't have enough to make anything out of them, so I could just play w/o guilt of wasting it. So I tried again to do a long draw. And guess what... I did it! Well, I've technically been able to do it one other time, but it broke every few feet, so I just gave up and went back to my inchworm approach. This time I was successfully getting it to spin w/o tons of breaks. Was it the best work I've done? Hell, no. But my first attempts at inchworming were pretty ugly too. And now, I do a pretty good job of producing a reasonably consistant yarn with that method. And honestly, by the time I got to the end of the targhee, it wasn't too bad.... still a bit lumpy and bumpy, but that's pretty much true for me anytime I work with carded fiber . That may be normal, I just don't know.

Now, in fairness, part of the reason I haven't done it much up to now is also b/c I haven't had much carded fiber to work with.... Which really is necessary, I think, when you are starting out. It may be possible to do it with top once you get the hang of it. But I'm definitely not there yet!

The good news? It seems like most of that inconsistancy disappears once you ply. And the more plies you use, the better it's hidden. That's why, until I get a bit better, I'm sticking to 3 ply for carded fiber. It may be more work, but I'm happier with the results.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

My First Fleece!

Well, here's the big news of the day... I finally bit the bullet and bought a fleece! Or, well, almost. I'm just waiting for her to figure out the shipping cost so she can give me the final total.

What is it, you ask? California Varigated Mutant lamb, heavily skirted by a spinner. The colors are mauve and cream mostly. Plus, it's a bit smaller fleece... less than 4 lbs., so it won't be quite as overwhelming, as, say, a ram fleece!

I can't wait to see what it looks like. Originally, before selecting this one, I thought I'd send any fleece I purchased out to be processed, but I've changed my mind. I actually enjoyed doing it last time, I was just REALLY slow. And I was worried that I didn't do the fleece justice (from my inexperience). But I learned quite a bit the last time, so I think I'll do a much better job this time. Plus, the last one was really dirty, and this one seems MUCH cleaner (or at least as much as you can tell through pictures!).

Why CVM? Well, originally I though I'd get a Targhee fleece (my other favorite), partially b/c I thought I'd have a hard time finding a CVM fleece. But then there was a post for CVM on fleeceforsale. Carole even mentioned it to me as well. (My husband is thanking you for that one! ;-). But I decided I had too much fiber as it was, and wanted to work my way through a bit more of it first. Then, I saw another post from her, and just couldn't resist at least inquiring. You can see how long "just inquiring" lasted! :-D

I've had a odd facination with CVM since I first tried it. It wasn't the softest fiber I'd ever felt, but it was so squishy and lofty, and so much fun to spin. In fact, that pretty much fits my description of Targhee as well (it's just softer). But CVM has one thing that Targhee doesn't . It has the most facinating varigation in it's natural color that makes some of the prettiest yarn I've seen.

What am I going to make with it? I have no idea yet. I'm going to let it tell me once I start spinning! I may even try a couple of new things with it, like dyeing before carding, then mixing colors. I think that's also why I want to process it myself. I can try a bunch of things before deciding what I want to do with it.

Mostly, I got my bravery from the fact the both Carole and Sarah seemed to be getting such nice fleeces online. To date, the only raw fleece I'd bought was a few random 1 lb bags at Rhinebeck. Hopefully, I'm as fortunate as they've been. But I did check that she's a "certified" CVM breeder (which are few and far between!), so I feel reasonably confident. I can't wait to get it!

What else have I done? Well, I finished the newest Perfection Pants. I kept straying onto other projects, so it took a little longer than usual. I'm pretty proud of this pair, though. It's the first pair that I made with yarn I dyed myself! And it's BFL from Wooly Wonder's By Nada, so I don't think I'll have the same problem I had last time! I still haven't made a pair out of handspun, partially b/c I already had plenty of yarn, and needed pants badly! The holidays had thrown off my "schedule" for making them. I'll definitely make a pair out of handspun at some point. Although by the time I get to it, it'll probably be shorts!

The only thing I'm not happy about... I knew the end part of the yarn was a bit darker than the rest (I think it was the section on the top of the pot, so it got exposed to the most dye). Originally, I planned on working 1/2 way down the first leg, then switching to the pulling the yarn from the outside. Then starting again from the inside for the second leg. That way, it would have been a more even... an interesting gradation towards a darker dye down the legs. But when I got to the part where I'd switch, I wasn't knitting at home, so I decided to say screw it and keep going. I'm not going to bother ripping both legs out and starting again, since it isn't really that noticeable. But next time, I'm going to stick w/ my first instinct!

What am I working on now? The blue yarn from the other day is now becoming a replacement shawl. Although I decided to challenge myself a bit more this time, and try a slightly harder pattern. The Fiber Trends Flower Basket Lace shawl. It's pretty much the same basic design, but the pattern is a bit more intricate. I can still memorize the pattern, it just took a little longer this time. This is a closeup of the pattern. You can see it's a bit more detailed than the Forest Canopy Shawl.

And finally, I got to start playing with some of the fiber that Carole sent me. Not as much as I would have liked, but I still will have a chance to do some more tonight and tomorrow. My daughter decided that a nap was optional today, so I didn't have as much time to spin as I usually do! And spinning w/ a toddler running around just doesn't work...

Luckily, I started with the smallest sample she sent me... the Jacob. And I decided to do it on my spindle. Of course, I already had some fiber already on the spindle that I hadn't taken off yet, so I plied those first, then spun up the Jacob. And these are the results. So, in order, these are:

1) CVM -- When I was making my final decision whether to buy the CVM fleece, I wanted to spin some more, just to make sure I still felt the same way about it now as I did the first time I used it. It had been a while and I had learned quite a bit since then. Well, I think I like it even more now!

2) Targhee, dyed by Spinning Bunny. I had gotten this a while ago, and wanted to try it. So I spun a little on my spindle, but never got around to plying it. It's been sitting on my spindle for weeks! So this is the plyed results... The picture doesn't do it justice. There is much more variation in real life.

3) Jacob - Sent from Carole. I really liked this stuff! It's a little different than I'm used to. It's probably the longest fiber I spun with to date. And it was really easy to do just a few fibers at a time, so it's relatively thin. Although since it's a thicker fiber to start with, it's still probably a fingering weight. But it was interesting to see only a few fibers going into the twist at one time. And the natural sheen on the single was amazing! You can't really see it in the picture, but its got a beautiful natural shine even as a plied yarn. And the light to dark grey variation looks really nice plied.

Next up... Fuzzy! I should have plenty of time tonight to actually pull out my spinning wheel so I can do the Romney that Carole sent me. Yay! I'll update with the results.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Bad week....

WARNING: Frustrated venting ahead!

Well, it's been a bad week. The worst of which involved a fiasco with my mother-in-law's (and nephew's) birthday party. My poor husband, who's been so distracted with issues at work, forgot that it was his mother's and nephew's birthday this weekend. So we switched gears, spent Saturday finding a gift for his nephew (not a small feat since it involved trying to find a controller for the Nintendo Wii), and spent all of Sunday at his brothers for a birthday party. Also, to make life easier, I "sacrificed" the Forest Canopy Shoulder shawl so that we would have a nice gift for his mother. (a woman who returns everything, I repeat EVERYTHING, we give her. Or, I should qualify, she won't return it... she has us return it for her.) And the most frustrating part of it? We were originally supposed to have a relaxing weekend, meaning I'd have plenty of time to play with this:

These are several wonderful samples sent to me by an online friend, Carole. I was so excited when I received them, I wanted to play with them immediately, but it was just too busy of a week. So I was looking forward to the weekend. Obviously, the one in the middle is a sample of some raw Targhee x (one of my favorites!), but the others, clockwise from top, are Lincoln Longwool, Romney (aka Fuzzy :-D), Cotswold, and Jacob.

Plus, she was so sweet, she sent me 3 little chocolates and a wonderful bag of tea with it. Trust me, the way my week was going, it was a WONDERFUL extra treat!

As for the shawl, I wasn't too upset. I had already decided I wanted it larger, and was just trying to figure out who I would give it to. I even didn't mind the fact that I was giving it to someone who doesn't particularly like me. What finally got to me, though, was when she opened it, barely took it out of the bag, said "Oh, how nice, you made it? Thank you." Then shoved it back in the bag w/o even unfolding it. She didn't show it to anyone or even try it on. And when she asked what it was made of (she thought it was cotton, that's how soft this stuff is!) I told her it was wool, some of my handspun. She just looked at me with a scowl and said, well, she usually has issues with wool b/c it's so scratchy, but since it didn't feel scratchy, I guess it'll be ok. That was it. No one else at the party ever saw the damn thing, despite the fact that I was so proud of it. And now it'll probably go into the back of her closet. I even gave her an "out"... if it bothered her, let me know and I'll be happy to make one of cotton or acrylic (God help me if she takes me up on the offer -- with a few exceptions, I hate knitting with both of them!). And all my MIL could do for the rest of the evening was ask me why I don't just use acrylic for all my knitting because "everyone's allergic to wool". And she commented that "I seem to knit alot, doesn't all that yarn cost alot of money?" And I just smiled, told her it isn't so bad, especially since I spin, and turned away...

Sorry to vent, but I guess that's one of the advantages of this thing, I can do that and feel better!

All I can say is -- this weekend really should be a peaceful one. I can't wait to play with the fibers from Carole. It's always so fun to play with new types of fibers. I've never really tried any of them (except targhee, of course, but even those were top, not starting from scratch. I'm curious to see the difference!)

The one thing I did get completed (early in the week while my dd napped) was a bit of dyeing. This was pretty quick since I use a crockpot and it was just a solid. I'm still working on my basic skills, but they are improving. I think my only frustration is that I still have issues getting a more consistant solid. I added salt, but I think maybe I need to add more? Not sure... But this was definitely better than my previous efforts, so I'm getting there! It's just the KnitPicks merino fingering. I think I'll try using this for the new version of the shoulder shawl. I'm just worried it isn't enough since it's only 8 oz. Maybe I'll just try another pattern for now, and save the shoulder shawl for the targhee I'm spinning.

Finally, as I posted previously, I spent most of my time working on this shawl. I really wanted to get it done this week so I could give it to her either yesterday or today. It was really slow going and seemed to be taking an awful lot of fiber. I finally got to 1 lb worth of yarn when I decided enough was enough. Hopefully in blocking it would end up wide enough. I didn't want this thing to be too heavy!

Well, as I cast off, I finally figured out the problem. This thing is now 96" long... hardly shawl length. The picture below is it folded in quarters lengthwise! I even went back and checked my gauge... and I was spot on my gauge. Plus, I decreased the cast on by about 45 stitches b/c their starting length was a little longer than I wanted (I think it was 80"). It must have something to do with the type of yarn... the original was a light Icelandic yarn. I figured it would just make a difference in the weight as long as I was on gauge. Apparently not. Although I have read since then about some others who have had issues with the gauge in this book....

I've decided that this yarn had told me something... it doesn't want to be a shawl, it wants to be an afghan. So now, I'm going to get alot more yarn, call this "strip 1" and take a break. Hopefully, this thing will be finished by the fall! It ought to be interesting, since this is from Cherry Tree Hill Potluck. I'm probably going to get 1 or 2 more sets (depending on what size I want it to be) and stripe it, since they vary signficantly from batch to batch. I'm not bothered by it. It hopefully should end up looking pretty cool! I just can't decide if I should get more of the same "color scheme", or got funky and try some others. If I did that, I'd probably get two, just so it didn't look too strange. We'll see...

That's it for now. I'm making progress on the Perfection Pants (not enough to justify another picture) and I'm going to start on a shawl for the blue yarn. But I still need to decide what to do with it.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Just a few quick pictures with details. It's late and my hubby is pestering me to go up, but I wanted to get these up!

Just for a comparison, this is the Forest Canopy Shoulder Shawl (reminder for myself -- I did one extra repeat and would probably make it a few more next time. I'd prefer it a bit larger...)

Slow but steady progress on the targhee. I'm loving the colors. They don't show up that great on here, but I can't wait to see how it turns out. But it is definitely going to be a while! I still have at least 7 or 8 more ounces to go (I'm guessing I've done somewhere between 3 or 4 ounces, and I started with about 11). It still hasn't told me whether it wants to be a two or three ply. I'm going to probably sample it sooner or later to figure that out.
The newest pair of Perfection Pants... I really do love this pattern. And I've gotten it to the point where I know exactly how many stitches I need to get the "perfect" fit on Cassie. This time, of course, I'm using BFL... Wooly Wonders by Nada, even! I don't know their supplier, but they have the most gorgeous BFL I've ever found. I'm also proud b/c this is one of my first "dye jobs" that I'm happy with the results. I started out doing space dyeing, and I just can't seem to get the knack of that. So I switched to crock pot dyeing, and I finally got something I'm happy with!

Finally, my newest project. Another shawl, this time from Folk Shawls. The color came out really sucky in both pictures -- it's blues and greens... it looks like a dark ocean. Here, they look more like grays.
This is destined for a friend. I wanted to make a prayer shawl for her that would also work at keeping her warm. But when I started the "traditional" approach (i.e. 3 knit, 3 purl, flip and knit the purls, purl the knits), I hated how it looked. So I searched for something that said "prayer shawl" to me. And this did -- I'm not sure why, it just did.

This picture is a better representation of the actual pattern. Still hard to see unblocked, but at least it doesn't look like a giant ruffle-y snake!
It's actually the Feather and Fan shawl (from Iceland). Plus the "wave" look seemed to match the blues and greens of the yarn. I'm using Cherry Tree Hill's Potluck bulky 6 pack. I loved the idea of it being a surprise. At first, I thought I'd have plenty leftover for other stuff, but I'm not so sure now! I hope there is, if only b/c I can't imagine a 1.5 lb. shawl!
The interesting part of this shawl is that you knit it from the long edge. All I can say... casting on 350 stitches with a bulky yarn could qualify for the 9th circle of hell!