Saturday, May 30, 2009

Sheep Festivals

O hai, I am sheepy

Last Sunday we drove up to Cummington MA for the MA Sheep & Woolfest. This is a small sheep festival but served as a terrific introduction to all things sheepy and wooly for husband, who was curious about this crazy passion of mine. "Oh, so this is what it's all about...very eeenteresting..."

Being a photographer, he amused himself with likely subjects while I rooted around in vendor stalls and had some great chats with the various sellers.

Pleased to meet you too

Among the wonders I picked up were some fiber (you knew that would happen, right?). These two beauties are from Spunky Eclectic - such vibrant color in her stall!

Spunky Eclectic

It was fun to meet Amy and big bonus, Adrian from Hello Yarn was there, avec husband too! Two of my favorite fiber enablers in one place!!

My friend Cathy turned me on to curly locks, so when I spied a whole heaping pile of them at Buckwheat Bridge Fibers, I had to get some of my own.

Buckwheat Bridge Curly Locks

The dyed batch is all clean and ready to spin while the two natural colored ones will require some preparation on my part. I've never done any cleaning and prepping of fibers so this is a good way for me to dip my toe into that aspect of the spinning world.

I found some Jacob sheep roving and was delighted when the seller explained to me how Jacobs are the most intelligent of all sheep. They are a rare breed, probably ancient in history and are one of the few remaining breeds to still carry two sets of horns. I think they look even more satanic with the extra set of horns, and what with the intelligence factor, how could I resist? Besides, I love the idea of natural striping resulting from their spotted fleece.

Jacob Roving

Other indulgences included a bunch of lovely vintage buttons from a wonderful man named Jan Marek Raczkowski, originally from Poland and now making a home and studio in central CT. There were so many wonderful choices I could have blown my entire budget in one fell swoop but forced myself to stop with four cards.

Vintage buttons

Last but not least, my main goal was to find a wrap gauge and a smaller spindle. The Bosworths were there and Sheila helped me select this lovely little yellow spindle, made from Pau Amarillo -- just perfect for silk, sample skeins and other little projects. This thing spins like nobody's business! You can see how the yellow one is much smaller than my Bubinga Midi.
Spinning Tools

After I made my spindle purchase Sheila directed me to the next barn where I found exactly what I was looking for. Really, the whole reason I wanted to drive 3.5 hours up and back. This little walnut wrap gauge, which will help me categorize my spun yarn by telling me how many wraps per inch I have. I know I know, I could have easily made one for myself with a simple dowel. But I had been fantasizing about something really tactile and wonderful. And this little tool does it all. It has one-inch and half-inch sections. I likey.

wrap gauge in walnut

Temptation abounded throughout the day. There were two fleeces calling my name. But I resisted, knowing that I am still a beginner and I have so many other things to do, it just wasn't practical. But I did learn lots more about fleeces. What to look for, the different breeds, fiber types. I see a fleece in my future, just not now. I also took a quick Navajo Ply workshop for a mere $10 while husband watched the Sheep Dog trials. Amazing dogs.

The weather held out until the drive home, when we drove right into a monster thunderstorm and we hydroplaned down Route 91 for about 90 minutes. Despite the precarious drive the day was superb and it was oh so nice to get out of Dodge for a day.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Late Introduction

BOYOBOY, this post is long overdue. Allow me to introduce you to my spinning wheel, my Kromski Sonata, living with me since early January, and becoming a major part of my life.

spinning wheel

Getting a wheel was not in the short term plan. In fact, there was no plan. It was only October that I bought a little drop spindle, thinking I would tinker with it for a bit before deciding whether I even liked spinning I never mentioned wanting a wheel. I never even sat down in front of one. I had not attempted to spin on a wheel and quite frankly, I was a little wheel shy.

My friends kept telling me eventually, I would succumb. They tempted me by showing me their lovely yarns and clucking on and on about it all is. I resisted temptation. I played around a bit with the spindle, but I didn't feel like it would really catch on. In fact, the few lame attempts I made with the spindle left me a bit...ambivalent. Like I just didn't think I was that into it. After a few weeks of dabbling, I went back to knitting, and simply put the idea of spinning on the back burner.

Kromski Sonata set up

All throughout the fall months I was deep into other projects and then whoosh, Christmas was just around the corner so lots of little knitting projects were on my mind and on the needles. Oh, yea and then there was the complete collapse of the entire global economic system that had me feeling pretty pretty pretty gloomy. To say the least. I slogged through the Christmas season and figured, BAH - I gotz the knitting and that's enough for now.

Kromski Sonata (3)

So to say that receiving a spinning wheel for my birthday was a complete surprise is the understatement of the century. It is a rare thing to render me speechless, but speechless I was. Thunderstruck. Floored. Amazed. Incredulous. These words begin to approximate how my response upon learning the news that a spinning wheel was being delivered any day.

I mean, there were no whisperings of wheel desire, no wistful comments about wheels I had seen, no expression of serious intent to own a wheel. In recollection, there was NADA discussion whatsoever. So you can imagine how my husband blew my mind when he said he went on the Internets to research the options. How he landed on the Kromski line and chose it because "it looked pretty". He liked the classical turnings and the walnut finish. He thought it would "match our house nicely". Okay, WOW. He decided on the portable model after discussing with a dealer and realized there's lots of potential when one can have wheel and travel. Such a practical guy sometimes! What a great choice!!

Kromski in parts

Yes, I was amazed. And I was completely intimidated. Seriously. In waaaay over my head. But I didnt' want to admit that to him, so I said nothing.

The wheel sat in it's packing for a week or so until I could muster up the courage to unpack it and put it together. Then it sat in my little office for a week while I messed around with the treadles and watched a few YouTube videos on spinning. It was around this time that I got serious about the spindle. I figured I needed to learn how to draft the fiber and suddenly the spindle seemed a bit less intimidating when compared to the wheel. Strange, how my little brain works.

That's how the lumpy green Cormo yarn came into being. Call it the intimidation yarn because I made it almost as a way to avoid making yarn with the wheel. Crazy, right? Yea, thought so.

First Yarn

Husband kept looking at me a bit weird like he was trying to figure out when I would start spinning. I made some excuses about how I needed to practice on other things before diving in. He kept his mouth shut but I'm sure he wondered if he had made a mistake. I wondered it too.

Until I finally sat down late one Saturday evening and started to play. And before I knew it, I was spinning some singles. They were a bit of a mess, the tension was too high, the drafting was lame, the first attempts were not pretty. I imagine everyone's first yarns are similar.

fiber wheel and hanspun 066

But it was SUCH A RUSH. Like when I was back in high school experimenting with... oh, never mind. You know. That kind of rush. Only better. Oh man, I would spin for a little while and the intensity of so many things happening at once would reach a crescendo and I'd have to stop and walk away for a few minutes. My brain was exploding. It was too much to absorb and I could only take it in short intervals. I was up till around 3AM blowing my mind that night.

Imagine husband's relief when weeks later I announced to him how much I LOVE spinning yarn with this wheel and how this is the perfect wheel to learn the craft. He did good. Really really good. My friends look upon him with a sense of amazement (he digs that big time).

It's safe to say I have since succumbed to the siren call of the fiber. I joined fiber clubs and started to receive the most amazing shipments of rovings and dyed fiber. I started stalking independent fiber sellers and cruised flickr to see what gorgeous yarn was possible.

Fiber Collection

And I got a bit more serious about learning more. I turned to two books in particular, "The Intentional Spinner: A Holistic Approach to Making Yarn" by Judith MacKenzie McCuin and "Start Spinning: Everything You Need to Know to Make Great Yarn", by Maggie Casey. These became my subway reading for about a month. People stared at me. It's not every day people are reading books about spinning yarn while commuting, let's face it. Most people are content with consumer novels and Sudoku puzzlers. I'd go to bed with these books and fall asleep reading passages over and over, committing the information to memory.

So. In these months I've thought lots about spinning and knitting. What they mean to me. How I relate to them. Knitting was love at first sight. I fell head over heels in love. I took that first class and there was no looking back. That was three years ago. It became my salvation in many ways, too many to go into here. Spinning on the other hand, was a slow burn. I needed to be around it a bit before I made up my mind. I needed to spend time getting to know spinning. This is a love that grew over time. It's still growing and still evolving. Both kinds of love work. Both endure. They arrive at the same place from different paths. And I have room for both.

Kromski Sonata - flyer and mother of all

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Handspun AND Handknit

Handspun Cowl with Abalone Button 6

This neck warmer is all goodness. It's the hand spun Kool Aid dyed BFL from three weeks ago. Just a tube with garter rows at the start and finish, easy peasy. But look at how nicely it striped up! I could try to BS you all by saying "oh, I planned that. It took me weeks of calculations to work it out, blah blah blah...." Yearight. Pure luck. Honestly? I would have preferred that kind of luck when I bought that loser Mega Millions ticket instead. Bah!

Handspun Cowl with Abalone Button 4

Realizing it was gonna be a bit large I backed up a row or two and borrowed the yarn to make an I-cord. After a quick dash to my local yarn store for a big button, it took about 30 minutes of fiddling to get the proper placement.

I really didn't want to reknit the whole thing with fewer stitches because I feared that purple stripe would morph into a purple spiral! Nosiree, I liked it just the way it was, so folding it was my solution to adding warmth. And in a Icannotbelievethis moment, I ended up with literally 6 inches of yarn to spare. Close shave, but soooo satisfying to see it all used up proper.

Handspun Cowl with Abalone Button 3

It sort of matches the ancient, worn out tank top I was wearing during the ahem, "photo shoot". I promise you, that was not intentional. If I recall, I had just finished sweeping all the rain borne tree stuff from the front, and in my usual glamorous approach to these photo sessions, I chose that moment to grab a few shots before the light faded. Tired, sweaty, no make up grab shots. Living the vida loca, I tell you.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Goo Goo Eyes

Rudy Patootie

This guy is my little lover boy. Rudy Valentino G.

We adopted him as a stray in December 2004. Lola is still outraged.

He is one happy happy dog. His tail is perpetually wagging. Even in his 'sleep'. He can appear to be passed out, but if I walk by, his tail starts to thump thump thump on the floor. Cracks me up every time.

Rudy always greets me when I come home at the end of the day. Soooo happy to see me. Missed me so much, where have I been all day? Let's play with the squeaky squirrel for a few minutes, okay?

I love his cheerful personality. This guy reminds me to laugh a little. I've come to really appreciate his clownish antics in the last few weeks. Thank you, Rudy. Right back at ya, Rude Dude.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Some Knitting, Too

Ishbel in Sundara Silky Merino 5

Lest you think it's only spin, spin, spin around here, (the name is Knithound...), there's been knitting, too. First up, the shawl that took the Internets by storm over the winter - Ishbel, by Ysolda Teague, a very talented young designer. Just about everyone I follow on Flickr and the blog world made one. Every week someone else popped up with a gorgeous shawl and I was overcome with shawl envy. As soon as I finished whatever project was preventing me from moving forward (um, memory fails again, again) I succumbed to temptation.

Ishbel in Sundara Silky Merino 6

Lucky for me, the extra simmer time allowed me to ruminate over which yarn to use and to resist all temptation to purchase new yarn. You see, the yarn stash is stowed in a dark guest room closet and this sometimes causes an out of sight out of mind phenomenon. In between all the knitting and spinning I decided it was high time to document the stash . That meant one Saturday furiously photographing a huge batch of yarn in the brief hours of cooperating light. There's more work to do in that department, but I digress.

So, when digging through the sock/fingering bin (some sweet choices in that bin I tell ya), I realized this yarn, Sundara's Silky Merino, would make a wonderful Ishbel. And the colors might even have a bit of spring in them, what with the yellow and greens. She calls it The Life Aquatic and it was a Club shipment back in December. Lurve this yarn. Super soft, nice stitch definition, beeUteeful color.

Ishbel in Sundara Silky Merino 7

It took about three weeks to finish, and around the time we had a freak summer weekend (90 in April?! Fried Daffodils!), I cast off the zillions of stitches, whew! At one point, somewhere in the second repeat of Sections A & B, Ishbel and I had a come to Jesus moment. It was all out war, I tell you. Ishbel almost won but I would.not.give.up. It was all knit a row, tink back two. Knit two rows, tink back three. Over and over and over. Hair ripping frustration ensued. About the same time I was stomping on this project, Ashley was having the very same scene over in her neck of the woods.

In the process, I may have discovered a teensy little error in the written pattern. Mind you, this was NOT what was causing my little battle, but Row 1 of Section A, end of row says: "...k1, ssk, yo, k3". But the chart says and this would create a perfect mirror to the start of the row: "...ssk, k1, yo, k3". Whatever. I sure wasn't about to rip back hundreds, thousands of stitches for this little indiscretion. My fault for not comparing the written pattern to the chart. Nice of Ysolda to provide the option anyway!

By the way, when knitting lace are you a chart follower or a written directions follower? It occurred to me I usually follow charts, probably because that's what is provided, but this time for some reason I followed the written directions. I have NO idea which I prefer. I think I can adapt to either. It's just something I thought about while knitting this. Wow, deep thoughts, huh? Jeez.

Ishbel in Sundara Silky Merino 2

The original idea was to knit this up for use with my spring raincoat. No sooner did the heat wave dissipate when we had endless rain for two weeks so YESSSS, I did get to road test this for a few days and I can state with complete assurance, this one is pure WIN.

Ishbel in Sundara Silky Merino 4

Sunday, May 3, 2009

More Spinning

Costwold CVM Red Gold Mustard

The yarn you see resting so sweetly on its pillow started out like this:

Cotswold CVM Spirit Trail Fiberworks

On it's journey it looked like this:

Cotswold CVM Spirit Trail Fiberworks

This one was a tad challenging. The fibers were not neatly aligned. This is Cotswold / CVM (two sheep breeds with what turns out to be very different fiber). The two breeds were not blended in, but rather "folded" together. The bright gold was the softer of the three colors. I don't know which breed it represents, but drafting that fiber was slipperier and they were more aligned. The red and mustard fibers were more 'rustic' and I found myself drafting 'from the fold' somewhat.

I suppose it would have been easier to pre-draft lots of little clouds of fiber and then spin, but instead I stipped long sections and then pre-drafted as I pulled onto the wheel. I was using a long backward draw to get a woolen draft. There are lots of slubs and bumps in this yarn and they displease me somewhat.

Cotswold CVM Red Gold Mustard Spirit Trail Fiberworks

My fingers felt a bit waxy after each turn at the wheel. I think the fiber had some lanolin in there. That was interesting. And might have made the spinning a bit more challenging too come to think of it. We're not talking fluffy and smooth here.

I have about 156 yards, 55 grams (just under 2 oz.), spun 2 ply, about fingering weight, . This is the last of the Rhinebeck purchases. Not sure what this yarn will be yet so it will sit in the little handspun pile for now.

Spirit Trail Fiberworks - Cotswold CVM Red Gold Mustard