Friday, February 27, 2009

Stitches, day two

Brain ... tired. Must make more cables!

Today's Stitches efforts were focused on learning to make free-form knitted cables. Cables that just sort of ... travel around your work. It's a lot harder than you might think! I didn't quite get the hang of it myself in the 3 hours we were messing around this afternoon, but I do definitely have a much better understanding of the how's and why's of knitted cables at this point!

I was also very sedate in the market this afternoon. Why, I only bought 3 things! Well, three types of things. :-)
  • 3 skeins of huacaya yarn, milled by the same folks who will be processing some of the fleeces I've been buying (Ranch of the Oaks)
  • 3 pairs of knitting needles, including some square needles to try out
  • a magazine subscriptions to Knitter's World (seemed only fair, since they are the ones hosting the event!)
Tomorrow is an all day class called "Color for Knitters." Since going beyond my comfortable neutrals is a bit of a challenge for me, and yet I want to get in to dyeing, this seems like a great class for me! It's all day tomorrow, followed by the banquet. Busy, busy day.

I will get pictures posted, as soon as I have daylight, a camera, my stuff and me all in the same place at the same time!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Stitches West 2009

When they say that your first time at a Stitches conference is overwhelming, they sure ain't kidding! What a fabulous, awe (or was that greed?) inspiring event! Today was the first day of Stitches West 2009, and I took my first class - "Twisting with the Cable Girl." The focus was on knitting cables (as opposed to spinning cables, which is an entirely different and unrelated thing, and I'll be going to a three-day retreat on that in just a few weeks!) and the class lasted 3 hours. I managed to get through my assigned sampler of cables, but just barely. Still, the resulting wrist-and-hand pain from knitting after a very tense week was worth it if for no other reason than Thursday evening The Market (capitalization correct and deserved) is open to only the folks signed up to be students during this 3.5 day event.

So, let's get down to the fun stuff - what'd I buy???
  • a 100% 2 oz. silk braid in a color pattern called "Russettes"
  • an alpaca/merino/silk 4 oz. roving in a color pattern called "Autumn"
  • 2 oz. of yak down (one white, one brown)
  • an alpaca/silk 4oz roving in a color pattern called "Black N Raspberry"
  • 3 baby camel/silk 2 oz. braids, undyed
  • a suri alpaca/silk .7 oz. lace weight skein
  • a suri alpaca/silk/mohair 1.5 oz. lace weight skein
  • a huacaya alpaca/angora 3 oz. DK (?) weight skein in a color pattern called "Capella"
  • a cashmere/silk 2 oz. braid in a color pattern called "Jade"
  • a pair of gorgeous bamboo size 8 straight needles with matching stitch markers
Wow. That's a lot of stuff, mostly for spinning but with some yarn thrown in as well. The vendors I purchased from included Suri-Al Paca, Carolina Homespun, A Verb For Keeping Warm, Bijou Spun, and one or two others I'm not remembering.

Pictures will be forthcoming when I've got daylight and time to take pictures - probably on Sunday. I think I'm essentially done shopping at this point - the market crowd is only going to get worse through the weekend - so now it's just classes that'll get me back there for the next 3 days. "Morphing Cables", "Color in Knitting", and a sweater making class will keep me occupied and my hands busy for a while. And really, I'm done shopping. Really. :-)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Fleece and photos

Today we start with a new fleece. I started to play with the Romeldale that arrived on Saturday. The first fleece in the photos is a grey Romeldale fleece and oooh my is it purty! One of the interesting thing about fleeces is the outside of the fleece hardly ever gives a hint of what you can expect after it has been scoured. Fortunately, you can just flip it over and get a hint of the fantastic color and texture you'll see as you clean it up. I actually ordered quite a bit of Romeldale - a pound of ecru, a pound of grey, and two pounds of black. The black I sent to a mill, but the white and grey I wanted to experiment with myself. If this spins up as nicely as I think it will, this is going to be on the short list for re-ordering!

So, first, the Big Picture of the grey Romeldale, outside view:

There is some color variation you can see from the edges, and the ends are a bit matted since this was from a sheep who wore a coat over the fleece to keep it clean. When you flip it over, the color blends in to an absolutely gorgeous grey:

Don't you just want to roll in it? The ecru is even more snorgle-worthy:

To give you a more up close and personal view...

It's it just wonderful? The staple length is probably about 3.5-4", with a very fine crimp. That means it's going to be a bouncy, soft, and wonderful fiber to spin. I can't wait to get started!

So, enough about fleece for the moment. Also on my fun list for this weekend's activities was my first experience blending fibers on my drum carder. I blended some California Red which I got as part of the Whorlingtide's Naked Fiber Club with some cinnamon-colored huacaya alpaca she sent along. Not a lot, just enough to emphasize the rust color you get out of a California Red. The blending went well, but as I was spinning I was thinking to myself "Self, this is going to be one coarse yarn! Bummer - what do I do with coarse yarn?" Then I fulled it (washed it, thwacked it, and otherwise abused it) and wow! It turned out to be quite a nice yarn.

And since I had the camera out, I got caught up on a couple of other pictures that needed taking. First, the shetland yarn that came from the first fleece I ever processed on my own. I adore the color, but I'm not a huge fan of the texture. Shetland is a sheep with two layers - a soft downy layer and a long coarser layer. Separating the two layers can be a pain, and so while I got some of the longer fibers out, I certainly didn't try for all of them. The result - a nice "accent" yarn, but not one I'd want to make a sweater out of! The next batch of shetland (a black I ordered) is definitely going to a mill.

And last but not least, I finally took pictures of the first Jacob I spun up. This is quite a nice, fluffy yarn. Since I've been spinning from batts, most of the recent yarns are more of a woolen than a worsted spin. That translates in to warmer, less durable, more squishy yarn. I've really liked the Jacob fleece, and in fact finished scouring the last of that this weekend. I hope to have that spun up in to the variety of different colors and textures I can get from just the one fleece over the next month or so.

So, what's on my wheel now? The Targhee I got from Katrina's Wool World fiber club! I have a picture of a couple of the carded batts along with some of the scoured wool in my blog a week or two back. This has got to be the bounciest, springiest stuff I have ever worked with. More so that the dyed merino I got from my friend, CrazyCatLady. I bet this is going to take dye really well, when I finally work up the nerve to start dyeing. This is going to be a sport weight, tweedy yarn - lots of neps I am not trying to make go away. It'll work out just fine.

Next weekend will actually NOT be a full fiber-y goodness weekend! My other hobby, sea kayaking, will hopefully take my sweetheart and I out on the water in Monterey to see whales. Since Stitches West is the weekend after that, I think I'll survive having only one of my weekend days be devoted to fiber. :-)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Tough choices

I love problems like this: I have a three-day weekend starting tomorrow, thanks to President's Day, and I am pondering which of my varied wools I shall play with over the time off. My choices are:

Wools waiting for scouring and/or carding:
  1. merino
  2. jacob
  3. california red
  4. romeldale
  5. perendale
  6. cheviot
  7. shetland
Wools waiting for spinning:
  1. targhee
  2. BFL
  3. merino+silk
  4. alpaca
  5. gotland
  6. lincoln
  7. some mixed batts
  8. some dyed roving
If you have an opinion on what I should play with, feel free to comment! I've got one vote in already for merino... :-)

Monday, February 9, 2009

So much from a single sheep

I know it will come as a great shock to everyone that I was playing with wool for most of the weekend. I was having so much fun with it, however, that I didn't take any pictures. The stuff I was doing and learning is particularly hard to show in photos, so I'll do my best to describe it and hope my best beloved sweetheart can do the pictures someday.

What I learned this weekend is: Trust Your Hands. Sounds almost kinky, doesn't it? But seriously, as a person sorts through fleece to process, what your eyes tell you (it all looks the same) may very well not match what your hands tell you (oooh, this section is softer than that!). So, if you really want yarn of a specific quality - soft, strong, next-to-skin worthy, outer-wear appropriate - you need to pay attention to the differences you'll feel but not see in the fiber.

I learned this lovely bit of wisdom while working with my jacob fleece. I had read about it in "In Sheep's Clothing" - an excellent book, by the way, if you're at all interested in wool - where the author's said that a single fleece can provide up to 14 different types of wool. But with the jacob, I really could figure out how to tell it all apart. My first spun batch of jacob roving, I went with two separate batches of stuff I carded up, and the two pairs of batts were noticeably different. That led me to paying more attention at the sorting-before-carding stage, and the end result turned out to be a consistant yarn of the qualities I thought I might get out of things.

The only downside of this - I need a lot more fleece to get enough yarn of any particular quality to make a decent sized project with! Darn, more fleece. :-D And of course, it has to be more fleece I process myself so I can go for exactly what I'm after. BWAHAHAHA! Control! Control is mine!!!

Eventually I'm going to start using a mill to process some of this stuff, like a black shetland fleece I bought, but I'll still save special bits for me alone.

That's all for now! I'm going to be knitting for most of the week to try and get ready for the Stitches West conference at the end of the month - I must have things to wear, after all, and all the cool kids wear stuff they made. How much cooler will it be for me to wear stuff I made from fleece to finished? I can't wait. Darn day job - it's getting in the way of my fiber arts!