Monday, September 29, 2008

I finally got around to taking the pictures I've been meaning to take for a month, regarding my spindling. Remember the silk hankies and cotton punis?

On the top is the cotton yarn, 1.1 oz, 280 yds, of 30 wpi 2-ply. On the bottom is the yarn from the silk hankies, 0.7 oz, 350 yds of 65 wpi 2-ply.

The silk yarn is entirely spindle-spun and spindle-plied, but the cotton is spindle-spun and wheel-plied. I've decided that I really don't like plying on a spindle. And I'm fine with that. Maybe if I wound the paired singles into one ball to ply from it would be OK, but spindle plying from two bobbins is not. fun. at. all.

The twist is somewhat variable, but overall I'm very proud of these yarns. Spindling is a great take along project. Just give me my wheel to ply.

Speaking of which, here's the next project I started:

Some tussah silk top, spun two weeks ago while watching Shaun compete in the Black Diamond Half Ironman triathlon, in Enumclaw, Washington. Go Shaun! I'm immensely proud of him for finishing this race; the longest tri he's ever done, and a warmup for the full-length Ironman Canada triathlon next August. Actually, I think he's nuts for wanting to do an Ironman, but to each his own. :-) A seven hour race (~14 hr next year?! He is nuts!) leaves a lot of free time for the spectators, and I spun up an entire spindleful between wrangling Emma and moving from point to point to watch Shaun zoom by.

One last set of pictures, to show a couple undocumented purchases. When Emma and I went up to Friday Harbor in July for the practice Sheep-to-Shawl, we stopped at Weaving Works again. I'd been having fun spinning the cotton punis I bought, but wanted to try naturally colored cotton. I couldn't find colored cotton in prepared punis anywhere. Besides, where's the fun in buying them ready made?

In the interests of increasing my skills, I bought two 3-oz. balls of naturally colored cotton sliver. This is the Cinnamon color, a warm reddish brown.

The ball of "Seamist" cotton, an interesting greeny-tan, has already been turned into this:

As you can see, I also bought a pair of Schacht 208-point cotton cards. There's a bit of a learning curve in making punis, and carding in general, but once I got going I carded the whole 3-oz ball of sliver into punis in two evenings. The spinning is going well, though it's been stalled the past couple weeks. This cotton has a shorter staple than the white cotton, so it's been an adjustment, but the punis make it easy to get a nice thin thread.

Plus, it's very fun to spin from punis I made myself!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Great Jam Adventure of 2008 continued this weekend, with two more batches: kiwi and pear-lavender.

The grand totals, left to right:
  1. kiwi jam (6 half-pints)
  2. pear-lavender jam (6 half-pints)
  3. plum jam (36 half-pints)
  4. plum-orange jam (19 half-pints)
  5. chunky peach jam (12 half-pints)
  6. smooth peach jam (12 half-pints)
  7. plum-orange syrup (9 half-pints)
It's just so much FUN! I got all adventurous yesterday, after picking some free pears from the tree outside my office. I decided to see what lavender-y jam was like, so I steeped 1 heaping tablespoon of lavender flowers in half a cup of boiling water for about 20 minutes, strained it, added that liquid to the mashed pears before I added the pectin, then proceeded as usual. It came out quite nice. I think the lavender would be fabulous in peach jam as well.

The kiwi jam was a spur of the moment idea, when I was in the grocery store getting pectin. I've never heard of kiwi jam, but the kiwis were on sale, and they're one of the few fruits Shaun will actually eat, so I thought I'd give it a try. It's really good. The little seeds are crunchy and it tastes very kiwi-y. Shaun hasn't tried it, so no verdict on that yet. (I just won't tell him I think it looks like frog eggs!) Emma and I like it, so it's a winner.

Yes, I think a round 100 jars of jam should hold us.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

I finished spinning the Strawberry-Rhubarb laceweight last Thursday, and rewound it into two lovely full bobbins, all ready for plying.

I plied it last night, and it made beautiful yarn very much like Jaggerspun Zephyr, though a bit springier and without the silken shine.

This is 2.1 ounces and 670 yards of 45 wpi 2-ply. Yum.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Emma and I spent about an hour this morning picking plums. It's so easy to pick "just one more" and before we knew it, we had 25 pounds of fruit.

That's just half our haul. We could easily have picked three times as many - the trees were loaded. These are Italian plums, with yellow flesh and purply-blue skin. These are on the small side, about an inch and a half in diameter.

Pretty, but not really much to write home about when eaten fresh. They're moderately sweet and juicy, but not outstanding. Cooked for jam, though, they're transformed. The bitter/sour skin and sweetish pulp blend and something synergistic happens. I don't think I've ever had plum jam before, and it's not quite like anything else. A bit like grape, a bit like blackberry, but with a tang all its own.

I processed 2/3 of the plums this afternoon: 36 half-pints of plum jam.

That is a lot of jam. Both this and the peach jam from last week are lower sugar recipes, relatively speaking, and you don't miss it at all. The fresh peach flavor shines through beautifully, and the plum jam is perfectly tart-sweet.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Once again, I missed my own blogiversary. Yesterday marked 4 years since I started this little corner of fiber fun, with thoughts on Emma and life in general sprinkled through.

Emma had just turned one year old when I started blogging. 1+4=5. She's FIVE!!! How did that happen? We measured weight and height this morning, and she's gained almost two pounds and an inch and a half since the beginning of August! No wonder she's been cranky- that's a lot of growing in a month and a half! At 46" she's almost 4 feet tall. No wonder she towers over all her friends.

When I told her how tall she was this morning, she quickly looked down and said "No I don't! Don't be silly, Mommy. People don't have four feet!"

Anyway, happy blogiversary to me!

I still haven't finished spinning the Strawberry Rhubarb merino, though I think I might be able to finish the singles tonight and rewind the bobbin to be ready to ply this weekend. Provided I can manage to stay awake past 8:30, that is.

We're going to a retirement party tonight, going to a Freecycle-stranger's yard to pick plums (more jam! yum!) tomorrow morning, Emma has a playdate tomorrow afternoon while I make jam, and we're having friends over for dinner tomorrow night.

That's as much socializing in one day as I usually get in a month. Sunday will be for spinning. I can't wait!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Is this not a beautiful sight?

I canned twelve half-pints of chunky peach jam last night, and processed the rest of the box of peaches into less chunky pulp for smooth peach jam. That's in the freezer at the moment, and will be cooked and canned tonight. I ran out of jars.

These are organic Suncrest peaches straight from the orchard, when I was passing through Kimberly, Oregon two weeks ago on a work trip. My co-corker and I each got a 22-lb box from the Kimberly Orchards farmstand, and got to drive home smelling warm, fragrant peaches all the way. They were a bit hard when we bought them, but ripened nicely. They are delicious. We ate some fresh, but 22 lbs is a lot of peaches!

It was perhaps not the best plan to start the canning process at 8:00 pm, after working a full day, but they needed to be processed NOW. If not, there was a danger of them passing from perfectly ripe to rotten. It would have been a crime - a CRIME, I say - to let that happen.


Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Another update on what I've been up to:

That's a lovely natural gray Corriedale fleece, that I somehow purchased from last month from Sheepeez on Etsy. I saw this fleece while browsing one day, loved it, but talked myself out of buying it because money's tight. A couple weeks later, after I had sold a skein or two of yarn, I saw that it was still listed. Well, that has to be a sign, right?

It's from a 100% Corriedale sheep named Buttercup, in gorgeous shades of gray from light to dark. Buttercup is a girl but the fleece was a bit... shall we say...fragrant. It was mandatory that I wash it right away. I like the way raw fleece smells, but I suspect the less-obsessed members of my household don't hold the same appreciation I do.

It's all good now, though. It washed up odor-free, lovely and soft.

The raw fleece weighed 5.5 pounds, and after washing it weighs 3 pounds. The staple is about 4 inches, and it has a gentle crimp. It's soft, but sort of a durable soft.

I'm thinking there's a sweater in that pile of wool.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Here's the first installment of "What's Sue Been Up To Recently?" These updates will be presented working off a random timeline, as first up is my most recent project.

I ordered a bundle of merino top from Zaruela's Fibers (we must support our fellow Etsians, after all) a couple weeks ago. This is the Strawberry Rhubarb colorway.

That's about a half-ounce in that coil, all that I have left that's unspun. I split the top into quarters lengthwise (along the natural divisions of the top). A full ounce of it has already been turned into this:

And the rest is on the bobbin:

This is a beautiful dark pink, very subtly variegated, and super easy to spin. The top isn't matted at all from the dyeing, and it's turning into a nice even ~90 wpi singles.

The top was mottled, not striped, but because I'm spinning this very fine, I'm getting long stretches of color. When it's plied it will be marled, and should give gentle tonal shifts.