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.
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 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!
Proof of spinning:
A little Jacob, chain plied.
A little 80/20 Merino/Silk (single), for finishing B’s Dress Scarf and for a shawl for me:
70/30 Romney/Alpaca 3-ply:
A little kool-aid dyed Romney fluff on the Turk:
More Jacob, this time on the Griffis wheel:
Cotton/mint 2-ply, 500 yards of lace weight:
And knitting! Finished B’s Dress Scarf in late October. 66 inches of loveliness in natural 80/20 Merino/Silk:
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).
And a sweater! A “Comfy Cardigan” (designer: Sarah Punderson) in the Mostly Merino combo spin from earlier this year:
And a few hats:
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.
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!
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.
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.
It’s been two weeks since my most recent update. What have I accomplished since then? Not so much with fiber, but quite a bit in the yard and garden and am now working part time for “The County”. The part time work alone sucks up three full days every week – 1.5 hours of commuting time each day plus 8 hours of work. With any amount of good fortune, I will soon be working full time, so I’m enjoying my (hopefully short-lived) freedom during the week.
WIPs – B’s scarf is inching along. I’m at 42 inches now. He tried it on yesterday and we agreed that 60 to 66 is going to work for him.
The mitered square throw is still in time-out. It’s not being “bad”, per se. I just haven’t had the head space to deal with it.
Socks!! Oh. My. Yes. A fun “potato chip” knit, if there ever was one:
This is Nathan Taylor‘s “Twisted Soul” pattern, which was released as an MKAL (Mystery Knit-A-Long) and will be released soon as a full pattern. All three clues have been released, so I’m not giving anything away here. The MKAL pattern is linked above and is available until the end of June at 3 GBP (just under $4 US). The pattern is really well-written, the charts are lovely, and I encourage anyone that is at all interested in twisted stitches to give it a try. It’s fun! Oh, and DO use two contrasting colors of yarn and choose a tightly-spun sock yarn for this one. Splitty yarn is a pain in the neck for this pattern. I’m using Brown Sheep superwash wool in Lightning Lemon and Gunsmoke for these, with a Karbonz 42″ circular needle. The yarn’s a little splitty for my taste in this pattern, but the sharpness of the needle tips help a lot. They aren’t quite as sharp as a Hiya Hiya, but more sharp than some of the other needles I have.
Fiber: My spinning wheel is under the weather right now, with the flyer assembly having been sent off to the wheelwright for repairs. Accordingly, the only spinning that’s happening is a bit here and there on a spindle to test sample fiber that I’m carding or combing. I’m getting a little practice in with a set of combs that B just built for me and am having great fun combing some Romney lamb with them. One of these days “real soon now” I’ll set up the hackle outside and blow through some Merino. . . . or maybe more of that white Romney!
(Above) sorting white Romney locks for scouring and washing. Between a ewe fleece and a hogget fleece, I started with nearly 12 pounds of raw fleece – so I ended up with bags and bags of fluff to card and locks to either comb, card, or spin from the lock.
But, wait! There’s more! Little additions (a.k.a. “squirrels”) added to the inventory: an ounce of gold metallic fiber to use in a yarn that I’m planning. A couple of packages of silk hankies – one of which looks almost tie-dyed in pinks and purples, the other is undyed. Oh, and to go with the dyed silk: four 2-ounce batts of Gulf Coast Native that is dyed in muted, dusky blue grey with hits of purple. (Pictures later.) A little stash acquisition – and it’s not yet time for Black Sheep Gathering!
Ladd’s Addition socks
FOs: Just one this time – a pair of socks for B. He liked my Afterthought Everything socks so much that he asked for a pair in the same yarns. His are a bit different than mine, other than being bigger. (The perspective is ‘off’ in this image, his sock feet are less than one inch longer than mine.) The toes on these are in the main colorway rather than the red yarn, and his heels are knit with the red yarn but held together with a nylon thread for additional strength. It feels good knit up – not stiff or scratchy – but it’s fiddly and a pain to knit. And weaving in the ends is even worse! Not something I want to repeat or do very often. However, I’d rather knit with the nylon than have to darn the socks in six months.
The mitered square blanket is moving along slowly. Since this picture was taken, I’ve completed the second lace panel using a crown stitch and am now attaching the third block panel that you see here. The project’s kind of in a time-out right now while I solve some technical problems with it.
B’s scarf is coming along, too – not a huge amount of progress since the last picture, though. More of the same.
New on the needles:
I’m participating in Sockmatician’s Twisted Soul MKAL, which is a lot of fun. This is a Mystery Knit-A-Long in which the pattern is a pair of socks, knitted in two-color Bavarian two-stitch cabling, with the segments of the pattern released to the participants as three separate “clues”. The pattern in full will be released to the general public for purchase after the finish date, which is tentatively set for June 30. There’s just no way that I will be finished knitting these socks by then, but it’s proving to be a fun – if frustrating – pattern and I’ll have a really cool pair of socks when I’m done. This is NOT car knitting! B’s scarf is now my car knitting project once again.
Combo Spin 2
Just a sample of Jacob
This Romney drank the Kool-Aid
The mostly-merino combo spin (above, left) is done and patiently waiting to be knitted up into something. I haven’t decided what yet, though. Sweater? Shawl? Dunno. The little bit o’ Jacob you see on the wheel up there has been turned into about 40 yards of two-ply which will be combined with other sample skeins into a hat for me later on this year. I’m thinking maybe a simple toque with some colorwork – I’ve got natural two-ply in various different colors that would work well in that use.
The lilac Romney, though – that will, I’m sure be spun thin and 2-plied along with more Romney that I’ve dyed pink and then used in a shawl. I may ply it with some undyed mulberry silk . . . .