Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Fluffy stuff

Yesterday, while I was plying some alpaca in the schoolyard, a 3yo kid asked what I was doing and what it looked like before. Not knowing how much she knows about yarn and assuming she knows nothing about spinning, I simplified the source as "fluffy stuff".  That satisfied her as she ran off to play more.

Today I decided to make some more "fluffy stuff" from my washed fleece. I kept it simple. I grabbed a small hunk of fleece from the drying rack and my fibre-slickers (dollar store dog slickers not used on our pets). I did not clean the fibre further or pick anything out. I wanted to see what would happen with a bit of flicking on the ends (which were still a bit tacked together with dirt) and some quick carding on the brushes to pull the fibre apart.  I have no carding skills.
Fluffy. That was pretty simple.
Not the best fibre prep. Not fancy, but spinable. Was all rather consistent, which was good to learn.

For a quick test while I was sitting in the front with ice-cream-eating kids, I grabbed my heavy top whorl.

It was not a smooth spin, but what could I expect? Fibre is still a bit tacky - some grease in there yet. The feel of it reminded me of Country Roving or some other not-fine wool pin drafted roving. And you can see how yellowed the fibre is. Dyeable.

Whipped up a quick double-ended plying ball and plied to see the results.
Not too shabby.  A fluffy yarn. If I worked on my fat-spinning I could whip up a lot of lofty thick-thin bulky yarn with this free fibre.
And then sis and I could play with natural dyeing... I wonder what lovely stuff we'll find on the new farm this season.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Examining "all the fleeces"

This weekend we took an impromptu trip to my sister's farm. That's where "all the fleeces" are.  Finally it was warm enough to open the sack and take  look at some of the contents. As I rolled it to access the ties better I noticed some lines and writing on the other side. It turns out that closest to the end there was a black fleece. Then a section of bellies. Then the many, many white-ish fleeces.
I pulled out the black fleece and checked it out. I skirted it - the obvious ick parts. But it's hard to see the dirt on a dark fleece.
Dumped the bellies and pulled out a few more fleeces to look at. They're hard-packed inside, so I had to rely on 'natural' breaks and then it would turn out I had a couple of fleeces. It was all very exciting as I had no idea what to expect.
I forgot my camera.
I borrowed my sister's iPhone to capture a picture of the largest of the 5 fleeces I ended up pulling out. This one was the easiest to identify the different parts.

Needs a good cleaning.

Yep, the rear end was pretty obvious and on this fleece the neck came across, leaving a hole for the head.

After skirting the worst of the stuff, I packed each fleece into a large pillow case. (Picked up 8 for $2 at the thrift store and washed them in preparation.)

Back at home I had to wait a rainy day.
The next day (today) was sunny and warm, so I got to work. I managed to wash about half the fleece - 4 laundry wash bags of wool fleece.

 Getting the supplies ready. I forgot to get a picture of the largest fleece laid out again as I tore it into laundry-bag-sized chunks to wash. (Bags not stuffed full of course.) I filled 7 bags, but only washed 4 for now. I didn't want to overwhelm my wash bucket.

 Laundry bags of wool soaking in hot water with Dawn.  First rinse water waiting.

 Washed and drying.  Much cleaner than before. When they're dry I'm going to flick and pick out the worst of the remaining stuff.  I just didn't know what to work on when there was still mud on the ends holding the dirt in. (There's another drying rack not shown.)

Wash and rinse waters when I was done the last bag. Furthest large bucket was the wash, but I kept topping it up with rinse water. Second blue is the initial rinse - more hot water. The orange and red buckets were my last two rinses and I kept refreshing those buckets. You can see a bit of suds in the orange, but red was pretty much soap free. Still some dirty water run off, but I'd be rinsing forever I think if I expected a large bag of fleece to rinse clear at this stage. I'll clean out more dirt with flicking/combing first.
I'm letting the first bucket cool to see if the lanolin will glob on top and then I could purify it.
I should do something with the other buckets of water now...

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Coffee Dying - #2

If this second experiment with coffee-grinds wool dying does not give the results I desire, I'm done with coffee-dying.

I saved up a lot of grinds. This is all espresso or french press grinds, so the 'remains' often came with some dark liquid ready for dying.
Here's the bowl of them after I strained them out from the dye pot using our reusable coffee filter (and 'straining' into the coffee maker. Sometimes I am smart.)

It looks nice and dark... but so did the last experiment (with the grinds in... not doing that again)

Since I was experimenting, I thought I'd grab a variety of yarns to dye, including some small handspun bits in white(ish).

I wasn't satisfied with the caramel colour of my last coffee experiment yarn, but I went ahead and knit the Java cowl anyhow. Now I'm going to try and darken the bottom half. That's the item on the right. On the top is some core spun alpaca - with some mystery wool-ish single as the core.  In the middle is some Fisherman's Wool. On the bottom is handspun alpaca plied with handspun Shetland wool. I want to see how the different fibres dye in one pot.

We'll see in a few hours...



The cowl did not get darker. No change at all - which would be evident from different colours in the yarn because I did not immerse the entire item.
I think the problem is the Fisherman's wool. It is the yarn that came out too 'caramel' in colour. The handspun alpaca and wool yielded a nicer, but still subtle colour. At least it's not yellow/caramel.

However, I'm also disappointed that, despite the gross volume of coffee grinds used, the colour is still weak. It's actually WEAKER than last time. Maybe I should have left the grinds in again!  A friend dyed her yarn with dye made from fresh grinds (i.e., not used for drinking first, but coffee was out of date or cheap stuff) and her yarn was a much richer brown.  I'm not willing to use my good coffee beans for that.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

It was my birthday. That's a good enough excuse.

I have a confession. I had another hiccup in the stashdown commitment. I can't even blame winning yarn or helping a friend out. Turns out this no-new-yarn thing is even more difficult than I expected.

Claire, the larger of my identical twins, had a favourite yellow sweater. She'll tell you with glee that yellow is her favourite colour. That yellow sweater is much too small for her, but it's her happy sweater.  Lucy, on the other hand, loves purple (and pink and green). We receive plenty of purple hand me downs and she can still fit into her favourite purple knit sweater (although I should probably crochet a longer bottom to it; but I won't because someone just offered us a similar sweater their daughters won't wear).  We don't receive much yellow.  Clearly the obvious solution is to knit her a new sweater.  Yellow is not a yarn colour I usually buy. There was nothing suitable in my stash. You see the conundrum.

On my birthday weekend I stopped by Wolseley Wools on our way home from dance class with the sole intention of supporting the MS Walk-a-thon and possibly winning a yarny gift bag. (I wouldn't have used the yarn yet!)  There was an ongoing sidewalk sale and from afar the girls caught sight of beautiful yarns - including hand-dyed yellow wool sweater yarn. It was half-price.  Clearly it was meant to come home with me. For Claire. Because I love my kids.

As I was checking out, staff threw a My Mountain hat kit into my bag. It's a gift from the LYS because we, their supportive customers, helped them to win a competition hosted by the yarn suppliers. I remember voting daily for a while. I promise I won't knit that yarn this year.

The yellow Secret Stash Sweater yarn, however, is going straight onto the needles. I've already started swatching. Yeah, it won't count towards my stashdown yardage, but that's okay.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Stashdown and the Stash

I suffered some Stashdown Sabotage in the last month - not that I'm really complaining.

First, I won 10 skeins of AMAZING yarn dyed by Julie Asselin and it arrived in the mail at the beginning of March.  It is gorgeous and squishy and everything good in yarn.
Maelstrom (blue) and Elephant (grey). But - it's not pre-2015 stash. This will be Jan 1 knitting.

It seems I was on a winning streak, because I also won this fabulous large project bag from Boho Knits for sharing a Wooly Wednesday retweet.

 It's large enough to stuff two large projects! That's a cardi and a t-shirt on the needles.

Next I helped out Waterloo Wools with her stock destash. I took some lace yarns off her hands.

Why yes, that is 2 skeins of Montague yarn in greens you see. On the right is a mohair lace mega skein - for some crazy fun.

Fortunately, for me, our illustrious Stashdown dictators issued a decree that recent destash purchases from Waterloo Wools and Trunk Sale purchases from Indigo Dragonfly were exempt if we CO this week and finished by the end of August.

There has also been spinning on the wheel. I finished up an old spinning project (started many years ago) of cable-plied alpaca that is now a light fingering weight yarn.
So many bobbins - more than I usually work with. More twist, more plying, more plying.
Twins helped me as I was making a hank to soak.

Already on the needles for cabled gloves.

Abi is helping me to spin the fibre stash too. It didn't take much for her to learn how to spin at the wheel after working her first ounce on a Turkish spindle.

Wheel-spun and spindle-spun to be plied together.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Stashdown - March Challenge

The Stashdown challenge in March was to finish old WIPs. I have a few. I still have a few, but I managed to get 3 of the oldest ones off the needles.

One of those old projects was a Freya shawl [Rav project] that I started in 2011 in a Mary Maxim acrylic I inherited. Abi love the shape of it and would like one of her own.  This shawl had been sitting around, not on needles, for so long that I was afraid I wouldn't be able to figure out where I was in the pattern and that stitches would have dropped.  I have a lot more experience knitting now, so I carefully got all the stitches back on the circs (it's a fluffy yarn; few stitches needed fixing) and simply 'read' the pattern elements to continue.  I did find a mistake several rows below that had affected the size of one of the pattern repeats, but I just maintained the pattern set in that section and I'm the only one who'll ever know to even look for the error.  It still needs blocking.

Incidentally, I dug out this project on Pi Day to finish because of its shaping.

There was also this Takenoko stole [Rav project] that I purchased at Shall We Knit? in New Hamburg as a kit - before the LYS moved to Waterloo, ON. Repetitive scarf patterns bore me quickly, but the colour changes of the Noro did help and the pattern [pattern link] is lovely. It was my "I should grab something for the car and everything else right now is too big/beaded/complicated" project for a long time.

My greatest Old WIP accomplishment this month, however, was to finish my Sabbatical cardi.   This started life as a "pre-twins Sabbatical" but soon became the "not-pre-twins Sabbatical" [Rav project]. There are more than enough notes in my Ravelry project page discussing the story of this knit, but suffice to say there was a lot of frogging/reknitting involved and a lot of time passed with this stuffed in a bag in frustration.

A beautiful lace design.
I love my finished sweater and in time I'll forget the great frustrations of knitting it.

I have become increasingly focused on knitting myself garments. I went for many years thinking garments were beyond me - which in retrospect is silly given the complexity of lace I was knitting.

After finishing February's lace top (which is now blocked and looks fantastic, if I may say so myself), I started a cotton top for myself.  This is a Cumulus Tee. It was a fun and quick knit. I'm learning to appreciate the simplicity of large sections of stockinette.

As comfy as PJ pants!
Evidence that I blocked the lace top. Now we need warm weather.
Speaking of the lace top I knit in Cuba, I also finished the lace shawl I was knitting there. This Seeds to Flowers is amazing! I love this design and the luxury yarn is divine.

What else? I whipped up this doll dress on St. Patty's Day. It was intended for twins' babies, but was a little too big. It fits on Abi's larger doll nicely.

I also finished a pair of Angularities Armwarmers for myself - to coordinate with Abi's.  Technically I still need to seam them - today? - but for the purposes of the stashdown, only the knitting counts.

In total, I completed 5130yds of project knitting (not all of that knitting was this month!).
What I failed to complete was my sister's blanket. I did manage to put edges on most of the squares. The blanket is my nemesis. Every time I try to work on it, something goes wrong.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Birthday Sale!

This afternoon (after the trickery hours) I decided to have a pre-birthday sale in honour of my 35th birthday.
Folks can save 35% on all my patterns from now until the end of April 10th with code 35Years.

Winter Meets Spring

This also serves as a reminder to myself to finish up some of those other designs in progress.  Mostly, however, I've been working on tops for myself. Custom fit; not really for sharing.