Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Big news! My employers have asked me to go full time! Woo hoo, a bigger paycheck! The downside, of course, is that I'll be away from Emma more, and our daycare costs will be higher until school starts. She will be splitting her day between daycare and playdates, so that helps. Except next week, of course, when her best friend is going on vacation. I still need to figure something out for then. It may end up being lots of daycare. I'll be glad when Shaun gets back from Friday Harbor (seventeen more days!) and I can stop being a single mom. I love her dearly, but sometimes it's overwhelming.

So I was asked about going full time a week or so ago, and accepted. I start full time on Aug 1. To celebrate, I bought a fleece.

That's the picture from the listing, as I haven't taken one of my own yet. I got this from a seller on Etsy, genopalette, and it is yummy. It's a Merino ewe hogget fleece, beautiful and white and soft and soft and soft. A hogget fleece is the first shearing, a rather ugly word for something so beautiful.

Raw on left, washed on the right. That lock is the only one I've washed so far. I just couldn't wait to see what the wool looked like clean. The fleece is pretty greasy, as I expected, and the raw wool has a tan cast from the lanolin and dirt. That washed right out though, just swished in a bowl of hot soapy water and then in a bowl of plain hot water.

The wool has really good lock formation, and should be easy to process and comb. The raw fleece weighs 5 3/8 pounds, so I expect I'll have a bit more than 2 1/2 pounds to work with after it's washed. I spread it out to look at, and I couldn't see any second cuts and only a few shreds of grass. This is a beautiful fleece.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Since last we spoke, I've been busy as a bee. Or a spider, perhaps, given my affinity for textiles. On to the list!

1) I finished spinning the silk hankies on my Tiger spindle, and am about halfway through plying them on Emma's spindle. I chose to ply on her spindle because it is larger and I'd like to see if I can ply everything into one large skein. I suppose I could have plied on my wheel, but I want my first spindle-spinning to be completely spindle-spun. It would be faster on the wheel, but that's not the point.

2) I finished spinning the cotton punis on my Tiger spindle. They are currently resting, tightly wound on their bobbins, hopefully letting all that lovely twist go dormant. I learned my lesson from plying the silk hankies - spindle plying is easier when the singles are not frantically energized.

3) I started spinning some silk top on my Tiger spindle. I needed a portable project to take with me to Friday Harbor this weekend, and none of my knitting projects appealed, so I dove around in my fiber closet and came up for air clutching some of the never-ending bundle of tussah silk top I bought years ago. I tucked an ounce or so in a quart size Ziploc, put the spindle in the same bag, and I was good to go for the weekend. It was nice to be able to spin without lugging the wheel around.

4) I plied all the warp yarn for the Sheep-to-Shawl. The spinning group on San Juan Island spent a couple months washing, dyeing, carding, and spinning the singles, then sent the whole pile to me to ply. It took me three evenings, they spun so much. Lovely stuff.

5) Last Thursday, I measured the warp for the Sheep-to-Shawl and sleyed it in my reed. Then I tied the rest of the warp chain to the reed, bundled the whole thing in a plastic bag, packed everything I need to weave (except the loom and bench) into a box and headed up to Friday Harbor. We made the Practice Shawl this past weekend! I'm the weaver this year, and am borrowing a loom so I don't have to cart mine all the way there. The loaner loom is also a Baby Wolf, though it only has four harnesses rather than my eight, so I knew the reed from my loom would fit in the loaner. That way, all I had to do on Friday was thread the heddles and beam the warp, and that only took two hours. I made the warp long enough for both the Practice Shawl and the Fair Shawl, so we're all ready to go.

The warp (Romney/Border Leicester dyed mossy green before blending with baby alpaca) went on the loom perfectly, with no tangles or broken threads. The weaving went well on Saturday, too, and I really like the finished product.

On the loom: 25" x 81"
Finished size: 20" x 72" plus 6" fringe
8 epi
8 ppi

The weft is undyed Romney/Border Leicester. The wool in the warp comes from a sheep named Buttercup, and the weft wool is from Bailey. They live on San Juan Island, at Shepherd's Croft Farm.

The weave pattern is another I doodled up myself. I like diamond-y twills. This one is fairly subtle in these yarns and at this scale, but I really like it.

I hemstitched the shawl while it was on the loom, then today I did a row of decorative knots before twisting the fringe. I also wet finished it this afternoon.

I like it. I like pretty much everything about this shawl. Even more than the actual physical object that I get to keep, I like that it was a collaborative effort of all my spinning friends and I like that we spent a wonderful day together making it.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Spinny spinny spin...

This is 24 of my 30 cotton punis, all spun up. Two punis worth of thread (THREAD! I'm spinning thread!) fit comfortably on the spindle, so I only have three spindlefuls left, then they're all gone. Boo. I must say, this is really fun. I tried spinning one puni on my wheel just to compare - it was not nearly as enjoyable, and surprisingly, slower.

I've tried spinning cotton before, several times, with both my Ashford Traditional and Schacht Matchless, and it was miserable. Years ago I bought a bundle of cotton top, and I just couldn't get the hang of drafting such a short fiber. The singles I produced were either thick and overtwisted to the point of being wire, or were so thick-and-thin that they just kept snapping. It was horribly frustrating, I was disappointed in myself, and I finally sold the remains of the cotton top on eBay. I resigned myself to the thought that I wasn't able to spin cotton, and gave up.

It wasn't me, though, it was my equipment. A flyer wheel is just not the ideal machine to spin cotton. This Tiger spindle, though, is fast and light, perfect for cotton. Not as perfect as a charkha or supported spindle, perhaps, but way better than a flyer wheel. The punis are super easy to draft; point of twist longdraw with occasional double drafting when a slub escapes my fingers.

All the spinning I've been doing in the past year or so has paid off and my fingers have the experience, sensitivity to the feel of the fibers slipping past each other, and intuitive muscle memory to simply draw out a fine, even thread from the puni.

It's like surfing - you find that sweet spot, the balance point, where you can just ride the twist to the end of the draw.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Today's Cat-o-Meter weather report:

Way too hot.

(But not quite hot enough yet to abandon the screen door in favor of the tile floor.)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

This whole yarn-dyeing thing is way too much fun...

new Heritage Hand Dyes, 7/13/08
1. lime zest, 2. sherbet, 3. saffron, 4. beach glass

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Emma and I went camping yesterday, overnight at Emigrant Springs State Park, and it was lovely. We went there Friday afternoon for my company picnic, and stayed overnight just for fun. We took the tent, since Shaun is living in the camper up in Friday Harbor, and it was nice to travel light. A tent, two sleeping bags, two sleeping pads, a few clothes, some food for breakfast, and we were set. We didn't even have to bring food for dinner, since we ate at the picnic!

So we went to the picnic, ate and played and ate and talked and ate. There were games for the kids, which Emma enjoyed, and I spun silk yarn on my spindle while chatting and watching the games. It was very fun.

After it started getting dark, everyone else started heading home. Emma and I moseyed back to our campsite, jammied up, and crawled into our sleeping bags. I read a while and Emma dropped right off to sleep. Nice cool air and a warm sleeping bag, hermit thrushes singing somewhere nearby, with Emma making her little comfy sighs as she snuggles in. Really, does it get better?

This morning, we went for a big long walk on the trails near the campground. We were out about 2 1/2 hours, and surprisingly, not much whining was heard. We saw lots of midsummer wildflowers

and LOTS of butterflies. It was fantastic. I identified ten species (there were more that I didn't get a good look at), and of those, six (SIX!) were new for my Life List. WooHoo!

By far the most common species was the Variable Checkerspot (Euphydras chalcedona). This wasn't one of the new species for me, but it was still exciting because of the sheer numbers flying around. There were hundreds.

As the name suggests, the patterning is quite variable. This was one of the darker varieties, and there were others with more orange spotting:

I also saw Northern Checkerspots (Chlosyne palla), which were new for my list.

One of the best butterfly concentrations on the walk was at a mostly dried up mudpuddle. I saw four species of Coppers here (Ruddy, Edith's, Blue, and Mariposa), as well as a Boisduval's Blue, more Variable Checkerspots, and a California Tortoiseshell.

This Mariposa Copper (Lycaena mariposa) was very cooperative with the camera, and is quite a pretty little butterfly.

We finally headed back up the range access road (luckily we didn't come across any cattle during our walk), down the hill through the forest and back to pack up the campsite.

We had a quick snack and headed home, stopping along the way for a drive up the Forest Service roads in the Spring Creek Wildlife Area. I've never been up in there before, and have heard it's a good birding area.

It is. I saw two new birds, a Black-backed Woodpecker and a Rock Wren, in addition to chickadees (2 sp.), juncos, tanagers, thrushes (2 sp.), hawks (2 sp.), kinglets, and all the other usual suspects.

It was such a fun day!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Emma has had a rough day today. She didn't want to get out of bed this morning, then she didn't want me to go to work and leave her at daycare. Then, after I was done with work four hours later and went to pick her up, she didn't want to leave. She was sobbing, not wanting to be away from Titan, a little boy at daycare.

We went and did some errands, had lunch, and she seemed better so I let her watch the Backyardigans on TV. I told her that one episode was it, then the TV was going to be turned off. She agreed. Then when the show was over and I turned off the TV, an absolute meltdown ensued.


Me: Sorry, sweetie, it's time to turn it off like we agreed.


Me: No, Emma, it's time to do other things. How about playing outside on your swings?

Emma: NO NO NO NO NO.....

She threw herself on the floor and totally did the screaming, fist-pounding, leg-kicking tantrum like you see in the movies.

I was trying to be patient and not get riled up myself, and also not laugh. Neither would have helped.

It was a truly amazing display of hysterics.

I picked her up and took her to her room, put her in her bed (still screaming) and pulled the sheet over her. She yelled at me "I'M NOT HAVING A NAP! I'M NOT CRANKY!"

Five minutes later?

Sometimes it's hard being a kid.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

I had a dream last night that I was spinning cotton on my beautiful Tiger spindle, which somehow magically turned into a takli support spindle. I wove the resulting thread into yardage (some sort of small diamond-y twill pattern) which I then cut and sewed into a shirt and skirt set.

Coincidentally, I happened to order a sample pack of cotton punis off eBay today.

Percolate percolate percolate...

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

On our way back from Friday Harbor last Sunday, Emma and I stopped off at Weaving Works. Just to, you know, look around. OK, OK, so I had a list. Better to have a list to stick to, though, than to get all delirious and go crazy from the wool fumes.

I got almost everything on my list (they didn’t have cotton punis), and I stayed within my budget of $100. Not bad for an entire summer (and beyond) of entertainment.

That’s 4 weaving bobbins, 8.35 oz of 70% merino/30% silk top in the “Concord” colorway, 2.35 oz of New Zealand top in a very bright royal blue, 0.75 oz of silk hankies, a Cascade Spindle Co. “Tiger” spindle, and a Schacht 2.5” Hi-Lo drop spindle.

I love this picture. It's Emma’s first spindle-spun yarn, and my first spindle-spun yarn.

This is my first “real” time using a drop spindle. Many, many, many years ago, my sister and I – was she in on it, or was it just me? I can’t remember – talked my parents into getting a Learn To Spin kit while we were on vacation in Maine. I was desperate to have that kit, I so very much wanted to learn to spin. It came with a couple ounces of brown wool roving and a drop spindle. That spindle was truly a boat anchor. The thing was huge, and probably weighed 5 ounces. At least. Using it was an exercise in frustration, and I never got the hang of it. Trying to figure it out without knowing what I was doing didn’t help, either. So much for my first attempt at spinning.

These two spindles, on the other hand, are a joy to use. Emma’s Schacht weighs 1.1 oz., and my little Cascade Tiger weighs only 0.3 oz. I’m spinning the silk hankies on it, which is another new thing for me. The hankies don’t make a smooth yarn, that’s just the nature of hankies, but it will be a nice 2-ply. One layer takes about 15 minutes to peel, stretch, stretch some more while winding onto my wrist, and spin. Because there are lots of very long fibers in the silk, my hands have to be about 8-12” apart to draft, and that’s hard to manage while spinning. So I’m predrafting this completely, before any twist goes in, right down to the diameter I want the yarn to be, and spinning without drafting at all. The finished singles are right about 100 wpi.

Laceweight silk as my first spindling. For some reason, I find that hilarious. The spindle makes it easy, though. It spins fast, and keeps going and going.

And Emma – what can I say. SHE asked ME a couple weeks ago if I would teach her to spin. Not to help me spin; she wanted to do the whole thing herself. Since she’s not quite tall enough to use my wheel, I decided to get her a spindle to start out with. If she keeps on with it I’ll get her a wheel, but that’s a bit too much to shell out up front if her interest fizzles. She picked out her own wool, too, from the wall of dyed NZ tops. I must say I was surprised at the color. She completely ignored all the purples and pinks, and wanted only this blue.

I showed her the park and draft technique, and off she went. I started her with the spindle held as a bottom-whorl, but she doesn’t have the finger strength to flick the spindle and get a good spin, and was getting frustrated, so I switched it around to top-whorl mode. This is better, because she can roll it along her leg and get a good amount of rotation, and using the hook is easier to manage than a half-hitch.

I’m so thrilled and proud of her. She’s four, and she’s making yarn! I’m enjoying my spindle, too, and have actually taken it out in public. I spun at the gym while waiting for my spin (exercise) class to start last night, and I spun during Emma’s swimming lesson this morning. I got a lot of attention from the kids! I’ve always been wary of spindling, no doubt tainted by that early experience 25 years ago. It seemed slow and awkward, not as good as wheel spinning. Now, however, I think that (for me) though it’s not a “substitute for,” it’s definitely a good “addition to.” Slower, yes, but just as relaxing.