Traveling

We’re in Mazatlan, enjoying a little warm weather. Accordingly, we bring art/crafting supplies. Last trip to Mexico, I brought a pair of socks to knit and a Turkish spindle with some tie-dyed silk hankies to spin.

This trip, I brought a shawl to work on and another pair of socks.

The shawl is a Cobblestone in a two-ply ecru handspun. One ply of cotton and the other is mint fiber. The mint fiber gives the yarn incredible tensile strength and an iridescent glow.

Cobblestone Shawl

The socks? A toe-up pattern with really cool star toe knitted in a broken rib pattern with an afterthought heel. I’m knitting the pair concurrently on two 16″ US1 needles, rather than a single long circular or a set of dpns. For quite a while my ‘go-to’ method for socks has been two-at-a-time Magic Loop on one long (32″ or 40″) circular needle, but I wanted to switch it up a bit this time. I am also practicing knitting in Continental style with the socks, too – especially with the k1p1 alternate rows. Teaching my muscles new tricks.

Toe-up Socks in 80% superwash Merino / 20% nylon

But what are we doing while we’re here? So far, not much, as B is down with a cold – but what a lovely place in which to be ill!

Seafood Soup (aka Sopa de Mariscos) at Muchacha Alegre

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Rollin’ In It

Time just gets away from me. We had a busy summer, full of garden, growing fruit, a little travel, a little family time – lots of things. Here is a little of the fiber fun I had since we got back from Oaxaca last February. 

Fiber Prep

I acquired just one fleece this summer – a full Jacob fleece from a ewe named Polly, owned by my cousin Robin. She’s the same cousin that I bought a fleece from last year, and whom I made a cap for to show my appreciation. Polly’s fleece is wonderful: the white part is downy with minimal guard hair, while the brown part is rustic. Both will spin up to some great yarns. I’m pondering a Winemaker’s Waistcoat for this fiber.

The Clown Barf is a quick space dye job that I did on some leftover Merino/Silk blend top that I’d purchased for B’s Reversible Cable Scarf.  It spins up pretty nicely on a supported spindle: 

Concrete plans for this light-as-air DK yarn haven’t been made yet, but I suspect it may end up as caps for grand-daughters, perhaps paired with some dark yarn for contrast. 

Knitting

Lots of projects on the needles in the past six months. 

The Roberta Socks are based on Hermione’s Everyday Socks, and are knitted in a bamboo & wool blend that breathes amazingly well and is cool on the toes. Selfish knitting: these are for me! 

The V-neck vest is in progress, and is very loosely adapted from Tami Parks’ Diamonds For Him – a pattern I used for B’s Mocha Vest last spring. 

Something a bit different for me this autumn: I got bit by the Fair Isle bug after watching a video on the Two-Handed Fair Isle technique. I combined remnants from my combo-spin cardigan and some brown 2-ply Shetland that I’d spun and adapted Paula Berman’s Semi-Swedish Hat for DK weight yarn. What fun! This pattern is going to be knitted again – perhaps many times!

And, lastly, spinning cotton generally results in having cotton yarn to knit with. I knitted myself a little treat for my gym bag – probably the softest, most absorbent washcloth I’ve ever used. Nice! I’m looking forward to working with more cotton yarns.

Spinning

And, yet there’s Cotton . . . .

We grew cotton this year. Six plants each of green and brown cotton, in big black plastic pots against a sunny, warm wall of our house. Just an experiment, but such fun! I’ve got a little stash now of each color of cotton and will be spinning it after the first of the coming year. 

Cotton spinning is a new thing for me, and I’ve taken right to it. Heretofore, I’ve spun it on a coin tahkli spindle, but I just recently bought a fast flyer for my Sonata wheel, so let the cotton spinning commence. . . . I want to spin enough to WEAVE!! 

Acquisitions

Yup, I’ve been bitten by the bug. OLAD strikes again! (Obsessive Loom Acquisition Disorder) Now, we just need to finish that studio! 

Take Me Back . . .

To Teotitlán del Valle!

 

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Weavings at a vendor’s stall

This charming Zapotec village in the mountains of Oaxaca state in Mexico hosts the most amazing weavers in the region. We spent a few days here in February, 2018, and were immersed in the weaving and farming lifestyle there.

 

Nearly all of the community of about 5,600 people weave commercially – this town is a full-time fiber festival! Everywhere you go in town is full of examples of weaving – rugs, fine woven cloths – amazing and colorful work, many using yarns dyed with natural dyes derived from native plants and insects.DSCN4513.jpg

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Weaver Antonio Bautista of Artesanias Bautista – flicker.com/tonyartesanias

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At the loom – Dixza Rugs – https://www.dixzarugsorganicfarm.com/

We visited several artisans and stayed with a local family, where I spent an afternoon at a floor loom and dreaming of having my own loom someday . . . .

2017 Year in Review

2017 is nearly history, and it’s been quite a year. I went to work for The County in June as a temp, and then was hired on full-time in July. B retired from his Federal job at the end of August and is finding his new normal. (Successfully, I might add.) The garden kept us busy with squash and apples, although not as much as last year. We’ve been healthy and busy.

Wheel up: a new Kromski Sonata, with extra bobbins and (added later) a Lazy Kate.
New spindle: a purple (squee!) Turkish spindle, designed and 3-D printed by Turtlemade.
Fiber: Oh. My. Yes. Fleeces (several), batts (several), and top. Alpaca, silk, flax, cotton, bamboo, and wool: Romney, Merino, Cormo, Targhee, Wensleydale, Polwarth, Jacob, Romney/Polypay, Romney lamb, Falkland, Gulf Coast, RomeldaleX, and Navajo-Churro lamb. My stash bins groaneth.

And, yes: stored in air-tight storage bins, numbered, with corresponding database entries. Because I can’t possibly remember what I’ve got, nor where it is, without some computerized assistance. And, the inventory file is on my Google drive so I can get to it with all my devices anywhere I have wi-fi. Easy stuff, but it keeps me from buying the same thing over and over. Unless I want to, of course. Ha!

So, pictures!

Proof of spinning:

A little Jacob, chain plied.

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A little 80/20 Merino/Silk (single), for finishing B’s Dress Scarf and for a shawl for me:

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70/30 Romney/Alpaca 3-ply:

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A little kool-aid dyed Romney fluff on the Turk:

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More Jacob, this time on the Griffis wheel:

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Cotton/mint 2-ply, 500 yards of lace weight:

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And knitting! Finished B’s Dress Scarf in late October. 66 inches of loveliness in natural 80/20 Merino/Silk:

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I snuck in a shawl for me, a “Girl from the Grocery Store” shawl designed by Joji Locatelli. I named it La Chica Shawl (for short), or more formally La Chica de La Playa del San Jose (The Girl from San Jose Beach).

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And a sweater! A “Comfy Cardigan” (designer: Sarah Punderson) in the Mostly Merino combo spin from earlier this year:

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And a few hats:

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Sheperd’s hat, for Robin

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Glacier Peak caps for my grand-chicas – 100% handspun, some is hand dyed. Faux fur poms from Black Sheep.

Current Knitting

A couple of projects in play right now. One is the long-languishing Mitered Square blanket. I’ve finally gotten around to solving the problem that jammed the whole darned thing into time out months ago, and have grafted the third block section to the second lace band. I’m now picking up stitches along the top of the third block section to knit the third lace band. Moving along on US2s. Slowly.

Next up, but concurrent, is a v-neck vest for B in the luscious chocolate Romney/Alpaca blend you can see on the wheel, above. I’m basing it on the Diamonds For Him pattern by Tami Parks, but am re-calculating it to use the fingering/sport weight yarn and far smaller needles. B likes his knits fine-gauge and solid fabric, so I’m creating the sweater to suit his tastes. I’ve swatched and we both love the results. I’ve got the second skein of yarn to ply – it’s resting on the bobbins waiting for its turn on the wheel this weekend.

What’s Next?

More spinning, more knitting, of course. Some dyeing. A trip to Mexico in February, wherein I will be attending dyeing and weaving workshops. Who knows what adventures await in 2018? No matter what, you can bet fiber will be involved!

Wash Day

Early in July, my cousin from northern California brought her family up for vacation and brought me a lovely 3-pound Jacob fleece from one of her favorite ewes. I spent part of the afternoon on July 4th sorting fleece and readying it for a cold soak. The top two pictures are of the fleece before I sorted it by color. The staple length ranges from about 3″ to about 6″, with some of the fleece long and silky while most of it is soft and downy. Like most Jacob fleece, it is a patchy mixture of colors, from white and grey to tawny, russet, browns, and black.

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Jacob Sheep at Fat Toaster Farm

I cold soak dirty fleeces for at least 24 hours before scouring, and sometimes much more. I had been given a sample of Jacob fleece from this farm before and knew to expect a fair amount of VM (vegetable matter) and just plain crud hiding in the fleece. Cold soaking loosens up the dirt, feces, and urine and allows the solids to settle to the bottom of the tub while the urine is liquefied and rinsed out before washing (scouring). Because of work and lack of time, this fleece sat in the cold soak for nearly a week before I got to it. The warm weather had set up conditions for a good bacterial growth, so the tub developed into a suint vat before I got back to it. Pretty darn stinky when I took off the cover – but it sure cleaned the fleece well! I’ve found this method works especially well with high-grease fleeces and cuts down the time and number of washes (scours) needed to get the fleece clean.

A cold soak or even a suint vat probably won’t get rid of the hay, stems, weed seeds, and other VM that is embedded in the fleece, but I don’t worry much about that. I pick out the big obvious chunks as I sort – and have been known to toss out completely locks that are more VM than fiber – but experience has shown me that all the other VM will be processed out either when I comb or card, or while I’m spinning. No worries.

After lifting the trays out of the tub and squeezing out the liquid with my hands, I hot scoured the fleece using Dawn dish soap and very hot tap water. I do all this outside on our covered back patio in the laundry dump sink with a large plastic tub set into the sink to wash in. I washed all the fleece twice, rinsing once with hot water between the washes. Each wash, the fleece sat in the solution for 15 minutes, not allowing the water to cool. The second wash, I used Unicorn Power Scour and kept the temperature slightly cooler than in the first wash. Finally, I rinsed all the fleece with lukewarm water, squeezed as much water out by hand as I could, then placed all the fleece in net bags, zipped them closed, and spun the remaining water out using my front-loading washer set to “drain and spin”.  I then took the clean fleece out of the bags and spread the fiber out to dry on my drying rack – a folding laundry drying rack fitted with tulle “sheets” held in place with clothespins. Works like a charm! While the fleece was drying, I moved it around a bit, straightening locks here and there and flipping the whole mass over at least once or twice so the air would move through it a little better. Because of the afternoon wind threatening to blow the fleece off the rack and into the garden, I moved the whole thing into the house where it could dry safely, if a little slower.

The next day, after I was sure the fleece was completely dry. I packed it loosely into brown paper grocery bags, weighed and labeled, and then stored it for later carding / combing and spinning. (I tare weight the pair of grocery bags so my fiber weight in grams is more accurate.) To enclose the fiber, I pull a second bag upside down over the first.  I’m such a geek that I keep track of my fiber in a spreadsheet and label the bags with bag numbers so I can figure out what I’ve got where and how much of it I’ve got. If I’ve got just a small amount – up to 100 grams or so – I’ll store it in a gallon-size Zip-loc bag, numbered and labeled as above.

I’m enjoying the whole process of cleaning raw fleece. I really like the idea that I can create lovely yarns with locally-grown fiber, dye fiber with native plants or other plants grown in my own garden, then spin the fiber into yarns that I love to knit with. The whole process just pleases me immensely and fills me with great joy.

How about you? What fibery thing makes you smile?