Monday, June 29, 2009

One of Those Weekends

This weekend did not quite go as planned. It all started when I went to look for my flick carder to brush up some icelandic fleece I scoured Friday night. Couldn't find it. I eventually gave up and decided to take my spinning outside. Being a sun-sensitive individual, I went to put on a particular long-sleeve shirt. I couldn't find it either. Not to be discouraged, I borrowed my sweetheart's particular long-sleeve shirt and went outside to spin. After a while, I broke my tension band. I fixed that, finished the project and realized it didn't quite have enough twist on the ply.

By this point, I decided maybe this was not meant to be a fiber weekend, but could not help but try a few more things. I went ahead and plied some yarn that had been waiting for plying, which went ok until I wound it off on the niddy-noddy and then forgot to tie the skein up before I took it off. I just gave up at that point and read a book (Naamah's Kiss by Jacqueline Carey - great book, great author).

Sunday I figured had to be better, but just to be safe I read another book (Phoenix Endangered by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory- another great book, great authors) Sunday morning so I would start the day off well. I had Day Two of my natural dyeing class with Kristine of A Verb For Keeping Warm on the docket and was determined to learn much and enjoy myself, taking good photos and writing to my blog.

I left the house, which was a toasty 90 degrees, to drive over to Berkeley - and completely forgot the camera. *sigh* At least my phone has a camera, so I got some pictures! The class was lovely, and yet I didn't think to bring a long-sleeve shirt, which was unfortunate 'cause it was 20 degrees cooler in Berkeley than at my house. Darn micro-climates!

In class, we learned about dyeing in bell jars, kettle dyeing, proper measurements, and so on, and it was awesome. We died with madder, logwood, cutch, and pomegranate. I'll find out next week how it all really turned out!

So, about the class. Kristine's method of measuring was fun. It's kind of like watching a cook who believes in a pinch of this, and a smattering of that, as long as it's within a few grams of what it should be. It must be the right thing to do 'cause goodness knows her own colorways are awesome!

Here are some jars with logwood purple. They'll go in a hot water bath with a few other jars, allowing us to play with more colors at once than we would otherwise be able to.

We didn't start off with jars. We started off with a pot for the madder. When it went in, it was a clay-brown. Obviously, it didn't stay that way!
By the end of class, we'd made quite the mess, and it was good. :-)
To make sure, however, that I rounded out my "one of those weekends" weekend, both my arms started to rash up quite a bit by last night. I'm allergic to something in the fiber world, tho' goodness only knows what! I don't have to touch anything, I just have to be in the same room as whatever it is and if I have exposed skin on my arms, or even on my chest if I'm wearing a V-cut shirt, within a few hours I'll be all red and itchy. This morning I used hydrocortizone cream like body lotion and took some benedryl, so I don't itch any more, which is good. But I look like I'm stoned. Soooooo sleepy!

There's no giving up on my fiber love, but you know, I hope it'll be a while before I have a weekend like this again!

Friday, June 26, 2009

It's a Wrap!

I finished my woven wrap last night! I am hugely pleased with the results and very glad I live in the San Francisco Bay Area where one can wear such a thing even in the middle of June.

Detail on reverse side:

Detail on front side:

A focus on selvedge:

Edging, front view:

Edging, rear view:
Life is good.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Things I'm Dyeing To Learn

Today I drove the 50 miles or so to A Verb For Keeping Warm for Kristine's Natural Dyeing class. It was a very intimate class setting - there was only room for 6 people in the class! I'm tickled I managed to sign up! My fiber friend Judith was also in the class - it was nice to have someone in there I know. And another indie dyer, Janelle of Snicklefritz, was also in the class. I bought some awesome dyed yarn from her through Ravelry! It was great to meet her in person.

The dye studio is a rather cozy place.
Basically, we're talking the size of a one-car garage. The class is in three parts over the course of three weeks. There's a reason for that span of time - natural dyeing takes a long time to do it right. To mordant the fiber, you should really count on letting it sit for a week. The dyeing, same thing. And the last class will be about how to wash it all up, 'cause that's an art form in and of itself.

Kristine was a fabulous teacher. Dyeing isn't just her job, it's her calling. I think she should have a little halo around her head in this photo:

Our job today was to measure the fiber, get it to soak in what I think is a large turkey fryer, and listen about the different types of dye we'll be getting in to next week. What do you think, is that a turkey fryer or some other strange contraption?
Our wasn't the only class being held at the store. A supported drop spindle class was going on inside, and I got to see my fiber friend Jenne who just happened to be taking that class.
The store is full of beautifully dyed yarns and spinning fibers. I can't seem to come away from the store without buying at least 2 skeins of Kristine's yarn. Today, it was 4 skeins and they're going to look great on my loom. The purple yarn that I'm weaving now is one of hers called "Glenda". (That project is coming along famously and I should be done sometime this week. More pictures soon!)

To round out my fiber weekend, I got in some spinning as well. I finished up my alpaca-pygora batt in to some nice, fine woolen yarn. It's mighty fuzzy, as one would expect from pygora, and I'm still not all that great at spinning from the fold, but it's still pretty cool stuff. Taking a picture of it is going to be quite a challenge - it's mostly black. Have you ever tried to take pictures of something mostly black and get the texture and color right? I'm going to have to enlist my sweetheart's assistance on this one.

My only complaint about this weekend is... it was too darn short!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

What to do on a cool, cloudy day

Why, get the loom ready and start weaving, of course!

I've been planning a particular weaving project for a couple of weeks. I've been dreaming about it at night. I promised myself after my two sampler projects I could work with nicer yarn. I'd been measuring out the warp for days after work - all 120 inches worth for each of the 260 warp threads - and finally finished that last night. So today was the day to get started!

Measuring off a warp with a warping board (that thing with all the pegs) is infinitely easier than measuring out 10 strands by hand, tying them in to a bundle, then measuring out the next 10 strands... That's what I had been doing before Mother came to the rescue with a gift card that allowed me to get that warping board! Yay, Mother! And trying to wind yarn on to bobbins from a skein is made enormously easier with my new Will Taylor skein winder. I just got that this week - it had been on order since December or so. You can't rush art, and that skeinwinder is awesome.

All told, it took about 6 hours to fully dress the loom, and if anyone out there thinks that weaving is easy work, you try dressing a loom! My back is sooooo sore from leaning over, reaching through the frame to get the yarn, counting everything very carefully... Anywho, the end result is proving to be everything I'd hoped for. I started weaving as soon as the loom was ready.
I'm using a twill pattern from "The Handweaver's Pattern Directory" by Anne Dixon. Nice book of patterns - I highly recommend it!

I did tie the loom properly this time, so what you see below this time is in fact the top of the fabric:

And here is the reverse side:

And here is trouble:

Tomorrow I'll do some more weaving in the morning, then I'll be heading over to Berkeley for the first of a 3-part dyeing class with Kristine of A Verb For Keeping Warm. She is an excellent indie dyer and I can't wait to learn from such an artist! All in all, it's proving to be an excellent weekend.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

This weekend in pictures

This was a Very Busy Weekend.

First, I finished up a yarn experiment where I tried a technique described in this month's Spin-Off magazine - plying Z and S twisted singles. It was a great success, and definitely worth perfecting.

That is one very bouncy yarn! I learned three things from this experiment:
  1. If you end up plying in the S direction, make sure the S single has a very very very light twist
  2. You (probably) can’t overtwist the Z single
  3. It seemed to ply better if I hold the two singles like I was going to do boucle (one in each hand so they wrap around each other); trying the “normal” style of plying with both singles in one hand and the other hand drawing them out did not go smoothly
And that was fun. Next on my list for world domination I tried blending some black alpaca and some awesome dark grey pygora.
I made a 2 oz. batt and it is soft and fluffy and did I mention soft... I can't wait to spin this puppy up!

Let's summarize the rest of the weekend:
That's some scoured Tunis fleece, some cleaner pygora, a skein of silk+camel down yarn, and the weaving I have been working on for a few weeks. They've all been washed and are out drying on the deck.

Here's the pygora...

And a close-up of that silk-camel down...
And my finished weaving, with the mistake just glaring out at me. Fortunately, the only purpose of this object was learning more about weaving, so the mistake doesn't bug me. Much.
And that was my weekend! I think I'll just sit here for a while now.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

When it's not about spinning...

it's about weaving!

Last night I decided that my fiber fix for the evening was going to be making some progress on the long-ish rectangular object that's currently on my loom. There are two main reasons for this project: first, to learn how to read a draft, and second, to get some practice in on consistency. The finished object will probably go up in my craft room as a nice little cover for a beat-up chest of drawers I have up there.

I made quite a bit of progress last night, and this morning it was all about photos! Photos of the selvages so folks can advise me on how to improve, photos of the pattern 'cause I think it's awesome, and photos of the whole set up, including one of my helpers.

First, we start with a picture of the pattern. This is a "rose path" pattern from the rather famous "A Handweaver's Pattern Book" by Marguerite Porter Davison. One thing I learned after dressing the loom (aka - tying that puppy up) is that the drafts in that book are for a different kind of loom than what I have. Long story short, I dressed it upside-down. You're looking at the bottom of the pattern. Oops. :-)

Now for details on the selvages. I'm getting more consistent, tho' it is consistent per side - the left side is always more even than the right side. Haven't figured that out yet.

See, it's kind of loopy on the right side...

Now, some loopiness is to be expected given the kind of pattern I'm doing - I understand twill-based patterns are generally a little rough around the edges. Some folks recommend trying "floating selvages" to help even that out. I'm not doing that on this object, mostly because I hadn't heard about it until last night. Next project, perhaps.

I'm really curious as to what the top-face of this thing is going to look like - since I dressed the loom upside-down, I have to do some contortions to see what it actually is going to look like. Here's a picture of the upside - it has potential!

Now, last but not least, here is my weaving set up at this point. There is a lambskin over the wooden bench, a gas fireplace, a great big window you can't see in this photo, and of course, one of my ever present helpers. It's a nice place to weave.

For the rest of the day, I expect to start some more dyeing experiments, and perhaps finish up this weaving project so I can dress the loom for another project tomorrow. I wonder if I'm good enough for that wrap I have in mind... :-)

Monday, June 8, 2009

An update on that cute spinning wheel

So, it turns out I was right - that cute little wheel I got to test drive at the winery this weekend is called a Holiday wheel, made by the fine folks at SpinKnit.

Now, the last thing I need is a third wheel - isn't that what everyone says? I mean, really, third wheels are so, so... OK folks, help talk me out of saving my money to buy this thing later this year. :-)

Pretty cool, isn't it. nom nom nom nom

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Spinning Day at the Retzlaff Winery

There was wine, there were women, and my heart at least was singing. What a fabulous day we had! Today was Spinning Day at the Retzlaff Winery in Livermore. Prior to today, I had no idea there were vineyards in Livermore and even if I had known, I would have assumed they couldn't be all that good. Wrong on all points - the wine (we had a light and lovely zinfandel) was great and just outside the town. I'll be happy to go back next year, and not just for friends and fiber!

And oh, my, the fiber... This was the first time I had a chance to get up close and personal with award winning fleeces, ones I could talk to the shepherd about face-to-face and then buy with no middleperson. All of my fleeces to-date have been purchased through the Internet - no fondling ahead of time. This particular shepherd, Janet Heppler of Nebo Rock Ranch, came highly recommended by an excellent spinning teacher, Judith MacKenzie McCuin. Sadly, I cannot show you a picture of the two fleeces I bought - both merino crossbreds, one moorit and one faded moorit - because right across the open area was Morro Fleece Works who take in fleece and do the cleaning and processing at their mill. I bought my fleeces and turned them over in one fell swoop! I should get them back in a few months. But if you'd like to see a very nice fleece that my partner in crime to today's event got...

That's not to say I didn't take any pictures at all - I did! Here is what the festivities looked like:

That last picture is of the set up for Carolina Homespun, one of my favorite place to feed my obsession. Today was no exception - I had a shopping list prepared and vetted by Morgaine, the wonderful proprietress, and everything was waiting for me when I got there, including a gift certificate from my mother. Yay, Mother! You got me a very nice warping board to help me measure off the warp for my weaving! Also picked up from Morgaine: a bench to go with my loom, two more reeds (12- and 8-dent reeds), and Mother MacKenzie acid dyes.

Anyone not in to the whole fiber arts thing would probably say "wow, that's a lot of stuff there! Two fleeces, a bunch of accessories for weaving, dyes... How could you possibly have needed anything else?" Well, there is need and then there is NEED. I absolutely found other things I NEEDED. Such as a super-amazing pygora goat shearing in black/grey, some pygora goat roving in a soft brown, some goat milk soap, and a lamb hide to pad that bench I mentioned. I'll take pictures of some of those things another time to post.

Another thing that I got from today was a new appreciation for spindle spinning. It is portable, the fiber can be super fine, and if you are an artist like my friend here, you can wind the most awesome cob (that lump of yarn you get as you wind the yarn on the spindle) on your spindle:

We spent all day at the winery, dining on smoked goat cheddar, hard salami, and an apple, plus that bottle of zinfandel, and spinning away in a sunny, lightly breezy, low-70 degree atmosphere. Heaven. As things started to wind down, I noticed a little wheel I had never seen the likes of before - and I've seen a lot of spinning wheels by now! I believe it was called a Holiday wheel, but I'm not sure. This one is made of walnut and is the first of its kind shipped to California. They were shown for the first time at Rhinebeck last year. I couldn't find a link on the 'net, which leads me to believe I may not have the name right. Doesn't matter, I covet it anyway! I got to spin on it too. Very nice. Very, very nice.

Yep, all in all, it was a great day. It's an event I'm looking forward to again next year. Maybe then, I will go, and enjoy, and not be quite so fascinated by the feathered attendees...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Fingering - it's a little kinky

In an effort to go as thin as I could, and given I only had about 1.5 oz. of my onion-dyed Finn roving, I decided I was going to try to make lace-weight yarn. It didn't quite work out - it's just a bit bigger than that, at fingering weight, but it is still making me very happy. It's so light and fluffy and YELLOW! I personally don't look good in yellow, but it's such a cheerful color. I will definitely be working on saving my onion skins so I can do this again sometime.

Spinning as thin as I could was a bit of a chore. I had the tension a little higher than was comfortable for my hands because I was using it to test the strength of the yarn. I also overspun just a bit on the ply, but a bit of steam and that'll sort itself right out. One nice thing about spinning thin - I never would have gotten this much yarn out of just over an ounce of fiber if I hadn't! And when I have more fiber, I can make 3-ply, 4-ply, or even 2x2 cabled yarn and still have it come out reasonable.

If the peach Finn roving I have up on my store doesn't sell, I think I'll make another thin yarn like this. I know someone who's going to have a baby - wouldn't this be an awesome yarn for booties or other strange little baby attire?