Friday, October 27, 2006

Like Potato Chips...

I love processing raw wool. There's something about pulling out a lock, flicking both ends and tieing in the middle that is so satisfying to me. When I decide to wash a crockpot full, I get started making my little wool bundles and I just can't quit. It's like potato chips, I just can't do one (or a dozen...) Here's the pile that I just tossed into the crockpot:

Apologies for the picture quality, I didn't pull out the Ott Lite to balance the incandescent lighting. But you get the idea.

The "white" (which is closer to creamy yellow until that wax comes out) is the very last of the polwarth raw fleece that I bought from Rovings at Soar 2003. The grey is a very fine Corriedale gifted to me by my email pen pal, Carol in NC.

Normally I don't mix breeds in the wash because I want to keep them separate. But since there's color variation, it seemed like a good idea to make the most of the available space in the crock pot.

If you've not seen how I wash fleece in the crock pot, there's tutorial here. It is time consuming and labor intensive, but it gets the wax out of fine fleece and maintains the lock structure for combing or carding. And if you do a little at a time, it's not such a big deal.

Okay...time to head out shopping. Dh's birthday is on Halloween so I need a gift for him. And it's down comforter weather already and we're in need of a new duvet.
So what's for dinner tonight? Probably Chinese carry out....the crockpot's in use. (Just kidding...that crock pot is 30 years old and is designated wool only)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Not so humble, but funny....

In Michigan we often have very short springs and very long autumns. Tigers in the World Series notwithstanding, this year we have a very short autumn, to the tune of 27 degree this morning.

Yesterday dear son graciously wore the Inishmaan sweater, an AS design I knitted for him a couple years ago. I didn't see him until he walked in the door around 3 PM. I took one look at him and asked, "Why are you wearing your sweater inside out?" He looked down and said, " one else noticed all day. Must be because the inside looks so nice."

(Is he smooth or what?) Anyway...I'll take that as a compliment. At long last I've achieved what my Mom tried to teach me so long ago with embroidery...the back side should be as neat as the front.

However, in the spirit of quit while I'm ahead, I won't be knitting him a fair isle or intarsia sweater any time soon!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Spinning a fine alpaca yarn...

As I mentioned earlier, my sister gifted me with a gorgeous slate grey alpace blanket to spin. Thanks to Michigan grey days, I haven't been able to get a decent picture of the raw fiber. However, those same grey, rainy days gave me a good excuse to stay inside and play with the fiber. There's about 2.5 lbs. of fiber in the blanket. I'm not sure how much to subtract for alpaca before processing since there's no grease, but plenty of dust.

The fiber in the blanket is somewhat variegated from a silver to charcoal. There are dark tips on the longer fibers. Staple length ranges from 3.5-5". The fiber is very soft, I doubt it's "baby alpaca", but I would bet that it's a pretty young animal. The fiber is sound and there is a faint crimp from cut end to about 2" in on the fiber. My guess from the loft of the fiber is that these are huacaya alpaca.

I washed a good handful of the fleece in dish washing liquid, maintaining fiber alignment, then laid them out to dry overnight. The next day I used the Forsyth 2 pitch handcombs and pulled the fiber into sliver from the combs. The yarn was spun on the Schacht Matchless wheel, using scotch tension and a 9:1 ratio whorl. Drafting was worsted, short draw. The singles was plied using the same ratio.

Below is the two ply alpaca yarn before washing. The shank of a T-pin is used for size comparison in the photo. As you can see, it's pretty fine, but I thought it might full out in washing.

Below is the same yarn after washing in warm water and allowed to lay flat to dry. The yarn on the left is commercially spun Alpaca With A Twist - Fino yarn, which is laceweight. I don't see much difference in the grey handspun alpaca from the before washing photo. Without pulling out the McMorran balance, and from comparison with the commercial laceweight yarn, I'd guess that the alpaca yarn is closer to gossamer than laceweight.

And here's what it looks like knitted up in a couple repeats of "Print of the Wave" pattern. The dime is for size comparison. The whole piece is knitted from only two combs full of yarn.

I don't think I'll process the whole 2.5 lbs. like that. But it would only take about 6 oz. spun like this to make enough for a nice stole or shawl.

As is often the case, I like the handspun yarn better than the two different commercial alpaca laceweight yarns I've been knitting with. I'm not saying that my handspun yarn is perfect, but it seems to be more lively and has more character. And that's what keeps me spinning my wheels.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


Now that it's officially in print and online, I'll take the risk of publicly stating that one of my designs has been re-published. It's not really a design, more like a gimmick use of inkle weaving. Take a look at Deck the Halls.

Mine is the item number 12. They asked permission to reprint an 8 harness twill Christmas card insert, but it's not in the 15 items pictured. Perhaps it's one of the remaining 5 items in the e-book. Or, perhaps it's not there at all...(shrug).

Since my last entry, I made a whirlwind trip to Pa. to visit my sister, sister-in-law, and other family members. My sister gifted me with a delicious alpaca fleece (tones of grey and very soft) which she obtained when she helped at shearing day on an alpaca farm. I don't know which alpaca farm...but they surely do a nice job with the fiber.

I spent last evening spinning some samples. Pictures to follow, when the samples are dry.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Blog break....

I didn't set out to take a blog-break, but it seems that's what has happened. If one were to compare life to melody, the past few weeks have been sort of like a riff in the jazz of my life. Some harmony, some dissonance, and a lot of notes headed in different directions.

Or, if you can stand another metaphor: the techtonic plates of our lives are shifting and it's going to be interesting to see where things land. Not to worry...nothing seriously bad is happening. Just changes distracting me from fiber, which is really what this blog is supposed to be about. So, let's go there:

Whoa...perhaps this picture is the third metaphor in the series! (sort of reminds me when tv used to go off the air at night!) It's the samples woven during the Big Overshot workshop with Bonnie Inouye

The workshop was heavy on lecture and looking at possibilities. That means there is a lot of warp left on the loom to experiment and continue the learning. Since the workshop, I've spent a fair amount of time Fiberworks PCW playing with tie-ups and treadlings to determine which options I want to weave and which ones are best left in the computer.

Here's the treadling/tie-up I'm working with now:

The pattern is appealing to me, but the pattern weft is too much like the ground fabric, so it's kind of "meh".

Bonnie suggested trying rayon chenille as the tabby with a contrasting pattern thread. The tabby would provide sufficient tie down to prevent the rayon chenille from worming. I definitely want to try that. In the first picture, the purple pattern weft at the bottom of the sample is rayon chenille. Although it didn't worm in the first washing of the sample, it would likely do so if it were in a garment that got wear.

There are so many possibilities in weaving, it's impossible to try them all: threading, treadling, tie-up, warp yarn, weft yarn, pattern yarn..... I'm trying to go about the sampling in a systematic way. Yet it's necessary to manipulate more than one variable with each sample, so I can try different pattern yarns in the different treadlings.

So, I'm headed back to the loom to wrap up National Spinning & Weaving week and will leave you to ponder this:

Does this explain why they call itan aster-isk?