Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!!!


(Note to self: Do not trust patterns that say they include sizes ranging from child's 4 to men's Large. They lie. The pattern pieces are all size Large, and you are apparently on your own to size them down for anyone shorter than 6 feet tall. Despite this, I think it came out cute, and it only took ~8 hours start to finish. Thank you, Mom, for teaching me to sew all those years ago!)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Since I apparently don't have a winter hat either, I made one. (How did that happen- a knitter without a hat?) Emma's hat turned out so cute that I decided to do something similar. I'm a big fan of superwarm hats, so I wanted to try and work out a double layer model with a turned up cuff, effectively making a quadruple layer over my ears. No way am I getting cold in this hat! One layer is purple yarn, the other is rainbow. This is Knitpicks Bare merino DK again.

I started by dyeing the rainbow skein. I was going to use it with the green I dyed a couple weeks ago, but then I decided that I wanted something darker so I dyed a purple skein when I did the rainbow skein. This rainbow skein has longer patches of each color, just one of each rather than two like on Emma's hat. The purple skein was also done in plastic wrap and steamed, rather than doing it in the kettle, because I didn't want to heat up a big pot o' water for one skein. The result of this was that the dye took a bit unevenly and broke, making the skein mottled with lighter spots. Because the dye broke, the color ranges from lavender to blue-purple to red-purple to dark purple. It's almost-solid and pretty subtle, but noticeable. I absolutely love the way it came out.

I started with a provisional cast on (112 stitches, US5 needles), then knit a 2 1/2" cuff section. Then I did a round of k2tog/yo, and did the rest in stockinette. I did 7 decrease points, evenly spaced, to give a spiral on the top of the hat. The last six rounds, I decreased every round so it wouldn't be too pointy.

The purple layer has a cabled cuff, and the rainbow layer has a plain K2P2 rib because I didn't want the stripes to overwhelm the cables. When I had both layers done, I had effectively knit two hats.

I joined them by knitting them together at the provisional cast on, with a two-color attached i-cord. Mmmm, fiddly but pretty!

Though it wasn't planned, I like the way the colors in the rainbow yarn pooled in arrowhead shapes at the top as the rounds got shorter, then separated into single stripes again. Emma's hat did this too, but not as much because the runs of each color were shorter.

I was a little worried that the rainbow yarn would be too clown-y and bright for me (I am supposedly a grown-up, after all), but now that it's done, I like it. It makes me feel happy, and whose business is it anyway if I want to wear a colorful hat! So now I have a nice warm hat, that I can wear like this:

Or like this.

I can't decide which I like better.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I spun up a sample skein of Herkel's fleece yesterday, the Merino x Columbia. Can I just say, YUM. This is a lovely bit of fibery goodness.

Many thanks go out to Laritza, who saved me $134.95 + shipping, for suggesting that I do not need fancy schmancy wool combs to process this fleece. I want to spin at least a portion of this wool very fine, worsted technique, 2-ply, for knitted lace. (How shocking,I know.....) I figured, worsted=> combed top=> wool combs=> new big pointy lethal fiber toys that I should buy. Laritza suggested I try flicking the locks with a dog comb instead, or at most use 2-pitch combs; that the 5-pitch combs are really overkill for this application and this fiber. Of course, I still want combs eventually because I like spinning worsted, but in this case they're really not necessary.

So I procured this at the thrift store for $0.25:

And set about turning this lovely wool into (hopefully) lovely yarn. I took one lock:

Combed the cut end while holding the tip end, then turned it around and combed the tip end while holding the now-fluffy cut end:

The little pile to the side is the combing waste- short fibers, occasional nep or two, and second cuts- which came out in the comb. This was a coated fleece, and there is literally NO vegetation in it and very, very few second cuts. The bulk of that "discard" pile is probably due to my inexperience with combing more than anything wrong with the fibers. It really is a gorgeous fleece.

I started spinning, and after I got the wheel tweaked the way I wanted it, it was effortless. I've never been able to spin from the end of the lock before, without attenuating it into top beforehand, though I have spun from the fold. I was just never able to "get it" when spinning from the lock. I always ended up with a tangled handful of fiber, instead of everything drafting out in an orderly fashion.

But this time it worked! I was able to spin the whole lock into singles without it tangling or catching or dragging, and it went so smoothly.

It was one of those experiences that is just so perfect and easy and glorious that you want to laugh and shout and and tell everyone you know, and at the same time you feel a little teary and you just want to sit there and marvel at what your hands are doing, because what is happening with the wool and the wheel and your fingers is just what you wanted to happen and it feels SO EXACTLY RIGHT.

I spun very fine singles, the finest 100% wool that I've ever been able to spin, at 130 wpi. The two-ply is about 60 wpi, after washing and poofing. Spinning this wool was not like anything else I have ever spun, certainly not at all like spinning commercial merino top. It was springy and alive. Just wonderful.

I spun five locks on each of two bobbins, then plied them together. Those ten locks, a total of 8 g (.28 oz), gave me 175 yards of yarn, which works out to a grist of 10,000 ypp.

It took about 15 seconds to comb each lock, then 15 minutes to spin it. I combed one lock at a time and spun it immediately. I thought it would be disruptive to stop and start like that, but it wasn't. It was just a nice break. I don't know that I'll do the entire pillowcase of fiber like this (how many miles of yarn would that be?), but I'll definitely do enough for a shawl.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Emma has outgrown all her hats, so I took the rainbow-dyed skein I made last Thursday and knitted her a hat last night.

Here's what it looked like in the skein:

And here's that same skein knitted up.

I started with a provisional cast on (100 stitches), did K2P2 rib for two inches, did a round of K2tog/yo, then knit two inches of stockinette. The next round I knit the provisional cast on stitches together with the stockinette stitches to form a facing, with the K2tog/yo row at the fold, then carried on with the stockinette for another 2.5 inches. I designated 8 decrease points(K2tog, k, k, ssk), at the quarter marks of the round. Decreased until 8 stitches remained, ran the yarn tail through them, and snugged it up. Emma requested a pompon, so I put one on.

Easy peasy, and except for about an inch and a half of knitting and the pompon it was a one evening project. And one skein, too, with quite a bit left over. I really like the way the Knitpicks Bare 100% merino DK knit up. I used US5 needles, and it makes a thick, cushy, soft fabric. And I love the way the yarn overs on the turning round make little picots at the edge. It's a nice edge on the top of socks, but in the larger yarn for the hat, they really stand out.

Cute, it fits, and it's big enough/stretchy enough to have some growing room.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

I snapped this picture today, because I thought the quilts looked so lovely in the late afternoon sun.

The center one is the twin sized Ohio Star quilt I made, and the two crib sized ones were baby shower gifts. Not so lovely, however, was the reason that all Emma's quilts (and bedding and several stuffed animals) were washed this morning.

She's a sick chick. We were up for several hours last night, as she vomited on everything in sight. She was OK this morning, though very quiet, and slept most of the afternoon in her purple beanbag chair and in bed. However, when she finally tried to eat some dry Cheerios around 4:30, the ickiness started up again. At this point, she hasn't kept anything down for about 24 hours, not even water.

Poor little chickie-boo.


Update later in the evening: She ate some Cheerios and had a good big drink, with no adverse reactions! Currently asleep, looking very angelic.....

Friday, October 19, 2007

I saw this little quiz on Suz's blog, and took it just for fun. I was a little surprised at the results:

How evil are you?

Angelic? Wha...? I mean, I don't think I'm a horrible person, but come on, can't I be at least a little evil? Some of the questions were a little too general, though. For example, the last question ("What do you fantasize most about?") did not have "wool" or "birdwatching" as choices. Come to think of it, though, those options probably wouldn't have changed the quiz outcome. Oh well. Just please don't call me Pollyanna.

I washed Herkel's fleece today.

It came mostly clean with one soapy soak, but there were still some dirty clumpy tips, so I gave it a second soapy soak. Then two rinses, the last with a glug of vinegar, and voila!

I was searching around the web last night, casually looking at wool comb prices, just for background information, you know...... The lowest prices I found online for Indigo Hound English combs were at Bountiful. I'm looking at the five-pitch fine model. Anybody know a better price than $135? Or do you know somebody that has a set they no longer want? They don't ever seem to come up on the used equipment pages.

In other news, I've been waiting patiently and today I got my invite to Ravelry. I signed up at the beginning of September, after resisting for a long time. I did it primarily to be able to browse the finished projects and see what things look like in different yarns, and see how the items look when made and worn by various people. I thought that I probably wouldn't enter anything myself, but just use it as a reference. However, I uploaded pictures to Flickr throughout the past week, and when I got my invite this morning, I found myself frittering away the entire time Emma was at school, creating project pages and exploring Ravelry. I entered a few older projects (I had to add the Urchin Shawl to their pattern list, after all!), but I don't know that I'll enter every project I've ever done. It's just too much of a time sink. Maybe slowly, over time.

I did, however, get all Flickr-ified over the past week, so if you want to see my recent and historic weaving, knitting, crochet, hardanger, and cross stitch projects, feel free to look! I haven't added the spinning pictures yet. I'm mostly only uploading finished item pictures, since I have progress pictures here on the blog and there's no need to duplicate things that much. I know that Ravelry only does knit and crochet, but I got on a roll with the uploading, and put in all the finished fibery pictures I had on my computer. I haven't done any cross stitch for probably close to five years, but I think I may have to pull out a couple UFO's and finish them off.

So anyway, I have lemminged right along onto the Ravelry bandwagon. My name over there is snailspirals, if anyone wants to be my friend.....

(Now I'm having flashbacks to first grade, when I asked a girl named Sharon if she would be my friend, and she looked at me scornfully and said "No." That may have been when my reclusive tendencies took root.)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Today was a very good, fiber filled day. I got all inspired this morning, and moved an old dresser in from the garage to the loom room, and transferred all my weaving accessories and small yarn cones from the boxes in the closet into the drawers. The loom came with a dresser to hold all this stuff, but when Emma's cheap-o clothes dresser gave up the ghost last spring, the weaving dresser went to live in her room. I just hadn't gotten around to bringing in the other one. It is nice to have my bobbin winder off the arm of the futon, and a place to keep my warping reel off the floor and out of the way.

There's actually a door that's supposed to go over that gaping hole in the front, but it's warped and needs to be fixed. The whole dresser needs to be refinished, but I obviously haven't gotten to that for a year now, and I'd rather have my stuff put away. Actually, I'm not sure I should refinish it, as it's old and may have some value. The person that gave it to us didn't know much about it, except that it's old. There are no markings or labels on it, so I don't really have any way of finding out. The walnut desk to the right of the dresser, though, is definitely an antique; it was made by my great-great grandfather for my maternal grandmother when she was a girl, in the early 1920's.

That occupied my time while Emma was at school today. After I picked her up and we had lunch, I decided to overdye some yarn. I tried dandelion-dyeing two skeins last spring, and it wasn't too successful. They came out a kind of murky green-yellow. (The project wasn't a total loss, though. Emma and I had a wonderful afternoon picking two gallons of dandelion flowers from all over our neighborhood.) Anyway, I decided to overdye the skeins blue.

Then, while I had those in the dye pot, I decided on a whim to try my hand at space-dyeing. I had ordered eleven skeins of Knitpicks Bare 100% merino DK weight yarn last spring when I was gearing up for the crochet class I taught in Friday Harbor. I wasn't sure what yarn I wanted to supply for the students, so I bought the DK and also worsted weight Wool of the Andes. I ended up using the Wool of the Andes in the class, so I was left with this giant bag of DK merino. Big pile of white yarn.....dye equipment out.......dreary rainy afternoon....... It seemed like the right thing to do.

I did three skeins space-dyed: the rainbow one on the top row, the red-orange-yellow one in the middle, and the blue-purple one on the bottom (didn't photograph well). The two darker blue skeins on the top right are what started the dye adventure (they are the handspun Coopworth skeins from August 2006), and they came out a beautiful peacock blue. The lighter blue skein on the top left is a skein of Knitpicks that I threw in the dyebath (straight Sapphire Jacquard dye) with the Coopworth. I put that skein in partway through the cooking, and it came out a nice robin's egg blue.

The two green skeins on the bottom are dyed with the leftovers. I put too much blue and green on the rainbow skein and it didn't exhaust (though the other colors did), so when I rinsed the skein, it lost a lot of dye. The water in the sink turned a pretty shade of dark teal, so I siphoned it out of the sink into the dyepot, added the leftover green, blue, and yellow dyes from the cups I used to paint the space-dyed skeins, and let it cook. The darker one is a really pretty emerald green and the other, which I put in halfway through, came out half as dark. They look good together, and would make a nice scarf, I think.

Happily, my hands and kitchen came through unscathed, with no dye drips. I painted the space-dyed skeins on plastic wrap on the counter, so I was vigilant about the mess. Emma wanted to help paint, but I vetoed that. We'll dye again when it's warm out, and take the mess outside so she can help.

So, that was the dye part of my day. While that was going on, the mail came. It was a very exciting mail day. I forced myself to wait until the dyeing was done and cleaned up, though, before looking at what I got. First, I unpacked this:

Courtesy of the Spinner's and Weaver's Housecleaning Pages, a Schacht 15" end-delivery shuttle and seven pirns! I haven't looked at that website for months, and when I popped in there last week after my interview, I saw this listed. It had been up for less than half an hour, and I took it as a sign. Fired off an email to the lister, sent a check the next day, and it was mine! Less than half the price of new, too, which is great.

There was a second box in the mail, too. From a farm in California. A sheep farm. Inside was this:

This is 1.5 pounds of Merino/Columbia cross wool, from a sheep named Herkel, who lives at Utopia Ranch. It is so beautiful.

Look at that crimp.

So. Very. Soft.

It will wash up bright, bright white. Lustrous and glisteny.

Staple length is 4.5". Did I mention the gorgeous crimp and softness? I may have to get combs and process this lock by lock.

Oh, and I may have bought a second batch of this fleece today. About 5 minutes after opening the box containing the first half. :-)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I GOT THE JOB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


I start Nov. 1!!!!!


And also.... eek!!!

Monday, October 15, 2007

I don't think I've ever had a weaving project that I've completed, start to finish, in one day. Until today, that is. I wove a chenille scarf today. I measured the warp, sleyed, threaded, and beamed it while Emma was at school this morning, then wove it off and twisted the fringe this afternoon. It's currently soaking in a nice warm bath, and will be dry by evening (given the warm breezy weather outside).

It's 7.6 oz, and measures 7" x 76", with a 6" fringe. It's just plain weave, but you can't beat the drape and feel of chenille.

Weaving this was fun- the chenille behaved very well, and I was able to throw the shuttle fast, without messing with or touching the selvedges at all. Throw/beat, throw/beat, throw/beat..... about once a second. First time it's clicked that well for me.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

I finished up the sapphire shawl yesterday. I had a tremendous weaving session in the morning while Emma was at school, and then after lunch while she played in the backyard. I really got into a good rhythm, and ended up weaving about a yard and a half of fabric in one day! Then I spent a few hours after dinner knotting and twisting the fringe.

The specs:

8.0 oz
22" x 72", plus 6" fringe
Warp: 3 yards, Jaggerspun Zephyr, 50% merino/50% tussah silk, 5.4 oz (plus .5 oz loom waste)
Weft: handspun singles, 50% merino/50% tussah silk, handdyed by me before spinning, 2.6 oz.
Sett: 25 epi, ~25 ppi
pattern is an 8-harness/8-treadle fancy twill, of my own design

I've decided that I like wider shawls. This one covers from my neck to just below my elbows, and it feels very snuggly like that. More shawl-y and less stole-y; more like a garment than an accessory.

This is the side I was looking at as I wove:

And this is the reverse:

They're both pretty, and I like that the shawl is reversible without looking the same on both sides.

I just love the way silk and wool interact. The wool, after wet finishing, sort of locks the structure into place, and the silk gives incredible sparkle when light hits it. These two yarns, Zephyr and my handspun singles, make such a light drapey fabric; it's just beautiful.

I still have some leftover singles of both the Sapphire and the Amythyst, but not enough of either for a full shawl. I'm thinking maybe a white shawl, with blue and purple stripes on each end.

All photos by Emma, who perhaps has a career as a fashion photographer ahead of her. She kept telling me things like "Look over at the trees, Mama," and "Now twirl around so the shawl floats."

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Well, the dreaded interview is over. I really hate interviews. But I think it went well, and I like the people and the company. Work I have done (and liked) before, and a reasonable benefits package. If they offer, I will accept.

They said they probably won't have full-time work available immediately, but a good possibility for part-time. It's an engineering/environmental consulting firm, and they have several contracts in the works at the moment that should materialize in the next couple months, but until then they "probably only need part-time." This is actually fine with me, since it will make the transition easier and won't take me away from Emma for so long each day.

Right now, I'm just waiting for them to call back, one way or the other.

Monday, October 08, 2007

You know that dream where you're in school and you can't find your locker, or you can't remember the combination, or you can't remember what class you have next or you can't find the right classroom? And you're going to be late for class and the faster you try to walk, the harder it is to get anywhere? Also, maybe you don't have pants on?

Yeah, that one.

I had that dream most of the night.

Interview in 2.5 hours.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

In an effort to distract myself from the interview on Monday, I sleyed, threaded, beamed and started weaving on the warp I wound last week. This is 3 yards of Jaggerspun Zephyr again, for a shawl. I made this one a bit wider, almost 25" in the reed, to accommodate the pattern I doodled up on WinWeave.

It's 8 harnesses and 8 treadles, 25 epi, in a fancy twill. I like it! The weft is the handdyed Sapphire merino/silk singles I spun in April. The purple singles were such a success in the bird's eye shawl that I decided to use the blue batch the same way.

I like working with fine yarns, but man, does it take a long time to sley and thread 621 ends!

Every time I put a warp on, I learn something new. This time it was how to add a heddle and a warp end, into the middle of the piece, AFTER weaving has commenced. Grr. I discovered that I had missed a single thread after I had woven one repeat. It was fairly obvious in its disruption of the pattern block (at the left edge of one of the white blocks enclosed by the white line).

So I carefully cut open the ends of a heddle, added it to the proper place on the proper harness, threaded a three-yard piece of Zephyr through the heddle and reed, and needle-wove it into the one repeat that was already woven. Tied onto the front apron rod, hung the other end over the back beam with a weight, and then I was finally good to go. What a pain. But now I know I can do it.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Things have been quiet around this here blog lately, haven't they? Truthfully, there hasn't been much fibery activity going on. I've measured the warp for another stole, this time with a pattern of my own design, but really, that's it.

Last weekend was another weekend away, this time all the way to Philadelphia. My sister married a wonderful guy, and we wanted to be there. Lovely simple outdoor ceremony, beautiful bride, much excellent food. It was a long way to go for a day and a half of visiting, but worth it. And except for the fact that our return flight was delayed due to weather in Minneapolis, the airline lost my bag, and Shaun got a speeding ticket on the drive from Portland to La Grande, it was pretty stress-free traveling. Once again, Emma was a trooper and there was very little whining. We are, however, looking forward to staying home next weekend, for the first time in a month.

The major thing that has been happening in my life recently is the possibility of my returning to work. Not to put too fine a point on it- we need the money. Now that Emma's in preschool in the morning, it seemed like a good time for all of us to transition.

And so I applied for an environmental biologist job last week, with a consulting firm here in La Grande. I turned in my resume and cover letter last Wednesday, and got a call Monday morning to set up an interview. Eek!

I must admit, when I was driving away after dropping off my resume, I was suddenly choked with panic and second thoughts. WHAT was I thinking? Why would they even consider hiring me? I had to talk myself out of turning the car around and asking for my resume back, telling them "Never mind, I can't imagine what I was thinking, sorry for wasting your time..." Five years in pretty brainless part time work at Friday Harbor Labs, then a year here in Oregon of not working at all, does not do wonders for the self confidence.

Yet, the more rational part of me knows that I AM qualified for this job, and I could do it well. The description in the job advertisement, at least, sounds almost exactly like what I was doing at my last "real" job, back in North Carolina. I liked that job. I was good at it.

I'm still pretty nervous about the interview next Monday.