So Much Fiber, So Little Time!

I was wishing for white fleece. I got white fleece. Oh. My. Did I ever.

Last Saturday, we went to the Aurora Colony Handspinners Guild‘s fiber fair in Oregon City. Our first fiber fair, we started with a small one – but even this one had my head spinning with possibilities:

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What can I make with this?

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We walked around, met people – including the lovely Janet, who is the current Vice President and incoming President of the guild – and ogled wheels, fiber, and yarns in progress. Additionally, I stopped at the Jenkins Yarn Tools table and visited with Ed Jenkins about his gorgeous handmade Turkish spindles. I don’t do much spindle spinning these days, but if I did, I would’ve scooped up (at least) a Kuchulu – I tried one out and loved it! At around $50, they aren’t as expensive as a Bosworth, but they are wonderful, well-balanced, and worth every penny.

One of the ladies I talked with tipped me off that over in the corner of the hall I could find a really good deal on raw white Romney fleeces, so we went over and checked it out. I hemmed and hawed, walked away, talked with a few other people, picked up some 4 oz. bags of Romney Lamb and a couple of 50% Romney and Polypay, and came back to the boxes of raw fleece and looked again. I didn’t jump at it because I just didn’t know whether I should spend that much ($19 for one, $48 for the other). They were gorgeous – the smaller was a 3.75 lb. Romney lamb fleece and the other was an 8 lb. adult Romney fleece. Neither one had much VM and the staple length!! Glorious – an average of about 6 inches. But I walked away from them both.

Since then, though, I not only scarfed up the last two 4 oz. bags of the Romney/Polypay, I bought 16 oz. of alpaca (mostly light brown, with about 3 oz. of black) from the guild. My new friend Janet (of the guild) sent me these and tossed an armload of miscellaneous colored fiber scraps to card in to make tweed or whatever else I can think of. Fun stuff! Probably the best $30 I’ve spent in months.

But the big deal is that yesterday, I drove out to Oregon City and bought those two fleeces from the shepherdess that was selling them at the fair. Handwashing nearly 12 pounds of fleece will be a lot of work, but I’m dreaming of lots of lovely yarn – and dyeing a goodly amount of it.

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Just the beginning – Romney lamb

Meanwhile, I’ve finished a pair of socks:

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PushMePullYou?

The Afterthought Everything socks use an interesting construction method. You knit a tube with ribbing on both ends, placing the heels with knitting in a half-round of waste yarn at the appropriate location for the heel. Then you put the live heel stitches on needles and knit the heels. You then find the center point between the base of the heels and steek to free up the live stitches for the toes. Pick up the toe stitches, knit the toes & you’re done. Pretty darned easy and they fit really well.

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I knit these using Knitpicks’ Hawthorne Fingering in the Ladd’s Addition colorway for the main color and their Stroll Tonal in red for the toes and heels. Hawthorne Fingering is a fairly high-twist sock superwash merino with nylon and is really nice to knit up. B liked these so much that I’ve ordered more Ladd’s Addition for a pair for him! (I’ll knit his longer in the leg, though – these are short socks for me.)

What else? WIPs: more work on the ongoing scarf, and more work on the mitered square throw. I’m working on the third block panel now and am waiting for the arrival of some special yarn for the bridge panels and border – I’ve ordered KnitPicks Gloss in the Blackberry colorway for this part of the throw, because the lace panels and border will work up beautifully in this:

Gloss-Blackberry

This yarn is 70% merino – 30% silk and shows stitch definition really well. The blackberry color is especially meaningful for this project, as this throw is really a sampler of yarns (both purchased and handspun), stitches and techniques, and incorporates handspun dyed with plants gathered here on the homestead. I spend a lot of time every summer foraging for berries – blackberries are one of our favorites.  I’m working on charting the mitered blocks and lace panels, and one day hope to have a finished pattern for this project.

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no fiber, just garden

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I’m in the land of the giant tomato plants this morning. Actually, these guys are happily thriving under their grow light – now several weeks old and due for a repotting, the seedlings are about 2-3 inches tall and getting their second leaves (not counting the cotyledons). Their flat neighbors are peppers and lettuce. The lettuce will get planted out next week and the peppers will take up the space after the transplanting day. This is a canning and preserving summer, so I really want a lot of tomatoes and peppers.

Not seen here is a flat with cucumbers, Swiss chard, butternut squash, and Casper pumpkins – just ’cause I like ‘weird’ plants. The cukes look like giants compared to the whispy chard seedlings, who just poked their ‘noses’ up out of the seedling mix today.

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Rhubarb! Yay! What more do I need to say about this? They share a bed with black and red currants and a Veteran peach (seen in his winter wrap, which I haven’t taken off yet).

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The blueberry flowers are about to pop, too. The seemingly empty plot behind this plant is full of blueberry plants of various varieties. This diversity gives us enough blueberries to nibble at all summer, beginning in July. The metal tubs at the other side of the yard are planted with ever-bearing strawberries, which do the same thing (if we get to the fruit before the chipmunks do).

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Our kitty, Julius – a.k.a. the gardening supervisor – is helping inspect the blueberries. He was talking up a storm when he came out to see what I was doing, but went quiet when I pressed the video record button on my camera. So, no video this time. Maybe in the future, when I get more than my own plaintive voice calling him to get his attention. He’s often following me around, commenting on my work, and protecting me from my hand tools while I’m out in the garden. He’s a big “help”.

It’s Still Raining Here

Well, yeah. It’s spring. As one of my cousins says (repeatedly, and I think, somewhat annoyingly), “It’s just weather.”

Well, yeah.

It’s one of those days where as soon as I think of something that I want to do outside, I no sooner get my gear on and look outside to find it pouring. I take the gear off, decide on what to do inside that is at least marginally productive, get immersed in that task – and, you guessed it: the sun comes out.

In the interest of getting something sort of productive done, here’s what I’ve been working on:

Sock Repair  – I blogged about the first time I used the toe-up two-at-a-time sock pattern last fall, with the first effort being knit in some purple superwash merino in a DK weight that I had in deep stash. I knew that the soles probably wouldn’t last long around here with the Tile Floors That Eat Socks. I was right. Hole number one showed up a couple of weeks ago.

Being too lazy to cut off the sock at the bottom of the leg and re-knit it in yarn that would be a little hardier in this environment, I performed a “stage 1” repair:

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Pretty much just picking up and re-knitting the area on the ball of the foot that shows all the wear. For good measure, I “fixed” both soles. The fabric is so cushy and warm and lovely to wear that I really don’t want to toss them out when this fix wears out. At that point, I will probably just cut off the foot and re-knit it with something that will last. Like steel wool. ( I jest. Probably Romney.)

Spinning – The big bunch of Romney is dwindling slowly (down to four bags, one big tub, and one large basket of batts!). I’ve now got nine 30-gram balls to ply. This afternoon I plied up the combo spin singles that I had resting, and now have a skein awaiting washing. If it shrinks to a 60-inch wrap, the skein will be about 270 yards of what I can only assume will be a sport to DK weight 2-ply. The last 2-3 yards are chain plied, because I had just a bit left on the storage bobbin.

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Meanwhile, my lettuce starts are ready to transplant outside. Unfortunately, the garden is not yet ready to receive them. Guess I’ll have to gear up and go play in the rain!

It Was So Simple to Start With!

Time flies! Let’s begin:

FOs: Nada. Just working on big projects, I guess!

WIPs: Continuing to spin the big pile o’ Romney. Thus far, I’ve got 751 yards of finished 2-ply and 5 balls of singles to ply.

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2-ply Romney, before washing

I’ve got a lot of Romney left to spin. It spins beautifully and just about drafts itself. But after spending so much time spinning charcoal Shetland, then brown and moorit Shetland, I am ready for some COLOR!! Hence,

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Late last week I pulled out all my fiber stash except for the white Merino/silk and a little bit of alpaca that I had set aside. I had three braids of dyed Merino blends (some silk, some sparkly nylon) plus a bunch of natural dyed Merino and BFL that I had left from last summer’s dye fest. I stripped it all out, mixed up the strips, and randomly stuffed them into my big fiber basket that sits on the sewing table just an arm’s reach away from my spinning wheel.

The plan is to spin one storage bobbin (i.e., TP tube – about 30 grams) full of Romney, then one of the combo spin. So far, that plan’s working quite well. I’m using the same drive tension for both, so that’s pretty easy. I guess eventually I’ll then have at least two sweater quantities of yarn to knit with if I am persistent. The basket shown above is holding about 560 grams of fiber, so I will probably get enough 2-ply yarn for something. It’s spinning finely enough to end up as a sport or DK weight, but because it’s mostly Merino, I won’t know what I’ve got until I’ve plied and washed the yarn. The stuff “poofs up” when it’s washed.

The mitered square throw is coming along. No pictures for now, because I’m working on writing a pattern for it. Let’s just say that I started off with the basic mitered square idea, then wandered off on a tangent to build panels of squares separated by panels of texture or lace. I am also incorporating some interesting textural stitches, some bead work, and may include a little color work as well. Some of the texture stitch squares are proving to be real head-scratchers to work out a way to maintain the mitered square idea and incorporate, for instance, a texture stitch on a 4-stitch repeat without skewing the mitering or the texture stitch. I can see it may end up as a stitch sampler, with the written pattern being for someone that isn’t afraid of learning some new techniques.

Of course, now I’m contemplating purchasing pattern authoring software.

Sometimes the whole thing makes me want to stuff it into the project basket and go knit something EASY!! Or go out and plant radishes. If it would quit raining, that is.

No FOs Today

I guess the title says it all. I’ve been knitting and spinning and carding a good bit of fiber, but I haven’t got any finished objects to show for all my efforts. I will, however, show what I’ve been doing.

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This is the barest start of my mitered square blanket. I’m knitting this with sock yarn scraps. Each square is 3.5 inches across and takes right at 3 grams of yarn. I’m working with a mix of superwash, “regular” sock yarn, and handspun and am focusing on wool, silk, and alpaca. (No acrylic touches my needles! Ever!)

Here’s the same thing a few days later:

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Since this picture was taken, I’ve completed the base row and the second row and have started on the third row. I’m really happy to be knitting with some color.

I’m still working on B’s scarf. I’m more than 24 inches in and am still enjoying the pattern. I’ve just started on the third ball of yarn and have two hanks in my basket for this project. Just in case, I’ve got more of the same fiber “in stock” so I can spin more of this lovely 2 ply if needed. It’s just heaven to work with, so I really don’t mind that it’s undyed.

I’ve been wheel spinning some of that pile of Romney that I’ve got, and have hand carded a bunch of it. (One of six bags was hand carded. Yikes.) I drove down to Latimer Quilt Center and borrowed a Clemes and Clemes drum carder today so I could speed up the process a little. Spent three hours this afternoon carding ONE bag of locks:

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What you don’t see here is how messy this project is! Seeds and stuff going everywhere – my trusty supervac is off to the side here and I’m sucking up all the junk every so often so I can control the mess factor. The batts are so lovely, though, I can hardly wait to start spinning them!

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Goin’ Nowhere

I woke up dreaming of planting peas and radishes and spinach. It’s early enough in the spring now to plant peas in the bean beds and get away with it, I thought – they’d be done by the time I can safely plant beans. And of course, radishes and spinach, because: why not? I dreamt that I would get out there today and rake out the little bitter cress that is already rosetting its way across the garden spaces and waiting for just the right second to shoot out its flower stalks.

Just the day before yesterday, I clomped out to the big garden, basket and kitchen shears in hand, and dug and trimmed the rest of the leeks and green onions. Checked out the Russian kale stalks that I’d given up for dead after months of on-again off-again freezes and snows and realized that they were very much alive and putting out new leaves.

Must be getting close to Spring! Time to buy seeds!

For now, though, I’m going to be content with holing up inside, though: we’ve got two new inches of snow this morning. And, apparently, more on the way. I see it as time for planning the gardens and for spinning and knitting. Not wasted time, indeed.

No finished objects this time. But more work done on my sole WIP for the moment:

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This is B’s dress scarf in progress. I’ve completed about 24 inches of 66 so far, and finding this a very enjoyable knit. Keeping my interest without being overwhelming. And the yarn! Oh, the yarn: a very soft and squishy merino and silk blend in a two-ply. Spindle spun and plied. (Yes, lots of work.) Here you see it with the third ball of yarn, which I started last night. I just want to pet it, it’s so lovely! Squeee! (And you know me, I almost never “Squeee”!)

Spinning is coming along. I am loving the Griffis wheel, although I am seeing clearly some of her limitations and am casting a roving eye toward others.  JMS Cassandra and the Schacht Flatiron are a couple I’m drooling over right at the moment. The JMS fits my budget better than the Schacht. I’m not settled on a double treadle, really, and want to try one out before I jump into a purchase. Griff is a single treadle, and I like her just fine. Treadling her is kind of like tapping my foot to music, except with a slightly rocking heel to toe motion.

I’ve finished spinning the last 8 oz. of the moorit Shetland and have about 6 oz. of nice 2-ply yarn and a ball of singles to play with. (Seen below “pre-spa” with Kokopelli.) The 2-ply will very likely become part of a shawl in the near future. Not sure what I’m going to do with the singles. Might ply it with something else or finish & knit it as a singles yarn.

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Earlier this week, I dived head-first into the first bag of Romney locks. Oh.My. I think I’m in love! I carded my way through the first half of the first of six paper grocery bags full of washed locks and I’m seriously loving this fiber. It spins effortlessly. I’m getting about 3 rolags to the bobbin and 3 bobbins to the storage ball  (Griff has a tiny bobbin – she’s a flax wheel). I’m spinning my way through a big basket full o’ rolags and have not quite finished half. After I’ve finished the basket, I want to take the next half of this bag and spin from flicked locks so I can compare the difference in the singles.

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It’s still snowing, but for now, it doesn’t bother me! Nowhere I need to go, and I am not in any hurry to get there.