Friday, December 31, 2010

Birthday !

Thanks to everyone for your kind comments yesterday. It does seem that I frequently have a day like that somewhere around my birthday. But today is a new day and a better one! Well, how can you not like a day that brings you dark chocolate with ancho chiles wrapped in a purple ribbon?

It's a bit strange to have a New Years Eve birthday and I always wonder if I would be a completely different person if born one day later. You know....
like, what if I were the baby instead of the old man?  Ah's the old man that I am and always will be.

I do have the Navajo Churro fleece spun up and photo's of the process to post.  But the past two days have been way too dark to get a decent picture of the finished yarns which are a medium to dark brown.  So I'll get those up in a day or two.  I think the next breed after that will be Karakul.

There will be some changes in the coming year.  One having to do with the new loom that was ordered for me as a Christmas gift from dh (yep, the guy I maligned yesterday about the CO detector...we'll blame that on my inner old man.).  Am so excited to be getting a new 32" 12 shaft Macomber loom. with a double warp beam!  They are made to order, so mine won't be arriving until late January early February.  I'm sure the new loom will bring about changes in my weaving.

There's one more finished item to add to the 2010 list:

Socks from the stash.  The ball band from this yarn is long gone.  But the socks are very current and are on my (happy) feet right now.

Over the years I've known several people who choose a word to embody the coming year.  My friend, Judy, reported that a word would usually come to her sometime toward the end of December and she carried that word with her throughout the year.  Bonnie has chosen the word Simplicity for 2011.  She has a link to this site that helps you select a word.

Ever since Judy told us about her word thing, I always think about it, but nothing meaningful ever came to me.  This year, I've been thinking about how much fiber and fiber related stuff I have.  Much of it I've purchased.  But after awhile, fiber stuff starts finding you and the accumulation begins.  So I was thinking about making 2011 the year of the stash.  But I don't want to set hard and fast rules that will just tempt me to break them.  Instead I want to set goals.  I would like to spend this year using the limits of what I already own to inspire my creativity.  The socks above are the beginning of that.  There's also a new hat for ds on the needles.  He picked the yarn from my stash.....yarn that has been there for maybe 10-12 years.

So as I have started on this "work from the stash" adventure the word Sufficient comes to mind.  I know that the stuff I currently own (unspun fiber, knitting yarns, weaving yarns, and fiber books) is sufficient for me to create anything I care to design and make by spinning, weaving, and/or knitting in the coming year.  And it is often said that boundaries inspire creativity.  So wish me luck, join me if you like, and let's see what sort of fabric a life of sufficiency creates!

Well dear readers, wishing you all the best in the New Year.  Let's close out 2010 with a little bit of soul, thanks to  the late Sam Cooke.  I hope 2011 brings the changes of your hopes and dreams.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Some Days Are Like That

At 5:30 AM today I was awakened by an electronic beeping sound.  I looked over, dh  was sound asleep, so I got up to investigate.  Stood at the top of the stairs and listened, it wasn't from ds's room, more like it was downstairs.    I trundled down to the first floor and cocked my ears.  Hmmm...not on this floor, sounds like maybe the basement? 

Yep, it was the carbon monoxide detector which is right above the boiler.  The cat usually sleeps on the boiler and was nowhere in sight.  I did a quick scan of the basement family room and found her cowering above the bar with her hackles up.  She hadn't been overcome by carbon monoxide, but she definitely interpreted the beeping as a predator.  After opening the patio door for ventilation, I scooped up the cat to take her to safety.  Half-way up the stairs the cat was spooked again and jumped out of my arms leaving claw marks on my chest and the base of my throat.

I proceeded to wake up dh since boilers and carbon monoxide monitors are his household areas of responsibility.  He went to the now ventilated basement with fresh batteries to determine if it was the monitor or the boiler.  Fresh batteries produced the same beeping sound.

While I was putting on a pot of coffee, dh stood behind me with the beeping monitor and asked me:  "What do you hear?"

Dirty look.

"No, how many beeps do you hear."


"That's not one of the options."

"You didn't tell me this was a multiple choice test...what are the options?"

"One, three, or four."

I listened again, "Three."

"You're sure, three?  Is that the same as when you came downstairs?"

Mustering as much patience as my pre-caffeinated personality would allow.  "Well, I'm sure as can be without having my coffee.  Why, what do you hear?  And what does three mean?"

Without a word he puts the instructions in front of my face....Three means replace the carbon monoxide detector.  Something we really needed to know at 5:30 AM during a holiday week.

At this point I decided to just go to the gym and do some cardio.  Started to put on one of my usual lined yoga tops and noticed that the huge cat scratches were visible.  So just opted for a white crew neck T-shirt instead.

Once on the road I learned that while we were determining that a new carbon monoxide monitor needed to be added to the shopping list, there was freezing rain outside.  So I slip-slided my way to the gym in the dark on the ice.

Got to the gym, pulled out my mp3 player and selected my workout playlist.  First song on the list cues up but there's no sound.  Hit the various buttons, nothing...nada...just the song title on the screen. Even the "off" button produces no response.  Okay's 5 years old, so I guess it's done and I will be working out music-less.

My favorite stationary bike was available so I wiped it down, adjusted the seat and selected my usual program.  Five minutes into the program I went to take a drink out my water bottle and the whole top of the bottle came off, dumping about a quart of cold water down my know:  the the white T-shirt.  I looked like the loser in a wet T-shirt contest in a gym full of the holiday work out people.

At this point, I gave up and came home.  Dh had gone out to home despot (they open early, you know) and purchased a talking smoke detector and carbon monoxide monitor (guess he wanted someone else to talk to him after our earlier exchange.)

I'm going back to bed with a book.  I figure the worst that can happen there is a paper cut.

Hope your day is going better.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Spinning the Breeds Part 1

Remember back in November I took that workshop with Deb Robson?  I promised some posts so here is a start.  Shetland was the first fiber we handled.  (as usual, click on the photos for big)

Primitive Breeds - Shetland
We started with a small bag full of locks.  This lock is representative of the lot.  Notice there are some really long fibers (I didn't stretch them out for the photo, but they measured about 7.5") and some shorter fibers.
These are the 4 distinct yarns created from that bag of locks.  The two mini-skeins on the left were spun in class.  The two on the right were spun at home.  All of the skeins in this photo have been plied and washed.

This is a close up of the yarn on the far left.  It is made from the longer fibers in the locks.  The longer fibers were separated by simply pulling them by the tips out of the lock.  Then they were combed on two pitch Louet mini-combs and spun worsted style before plying as a two ply from a center pull ball.   The yarn is very strong with very little elasticity.  It would make a good rug warp or a strong braid.

This is the second yarn from the left, spun in class.  It is made up of the shorter fibers left after the longest fibers were pulled out of the lock.  These shorter fibers were also processed on the Louet mini combs and the yarn was spun semi-worsted by allowing the twist to enter the drafting zone.  Again, this is a two ply yarn, spun from a center pull ball.  The yarn would be great for mittens, hat, or a cozy scarf, especially if I had made it a 3 ply.

Once I got home with the fiber, I decided to take a little more time in fiber prep.  I combed the locks with my Forsythe two pitch hand held combs to separate the longer fibers from the shorter ones.  Here are the little "nests" that I pulled off the combs, ready for spinning:

And here is the yarn made from them:

It's a two ply yarn, spun worsted from the combed "nests".  The plying was done from two separate bobbins.  There's a tad more spinning twist than plying twist in the yarn.  It's not as coarse as the first yarn because it has a greater mix of fibers than just the very long hairs.  The yarn has a lively hand and springs back to shape when crushed.  In this two ply it would be a great weaving yarn.  It would also knit up beautifully in lace patterns because it's springiness would hold open the lace eyelets and show off the patterning.

The combing waste was carded on hand carders and rolled into these rolags:

And below is the yarn spun from those rolags:

This yarn was spun with a supported long draw with just enough twist for the yarn to hold together, then plied with slightly more twist from two separate bobbins.  The yarn is loftier than the second yarn, which was spun semi-worsted.  It would make great mittens, which would probably full together to make a very dense fabric as the mittens are worn. 

So...four different yarns from one small batch of Shetland locks.  What fun!  Much thanks to Beth at The Spinning Loft for holding the workshop, washing all that wool, and putting together all the little packages of various breeds.

The next one of these posts  will be the Navajo Churro fleece.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas...

And since I started with Charlie Brown:

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Inspiration...or...The Detroit Stories That Don't Make the National News

This story about the local Annual Mitzvah Day is in today's paper.

IMO, this is what we should be hearing more about on the national news, and less about politicians behaving poorly.  So there....

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Time is Here

 A few quiet moments to share with you some of my thoughts of the season.  I tend to share Charlie Brown's sentiments about the weeks leading up to Christmas:

I like for these weeks to be quiet, contemplative, and very deliberate.  Advent is, after all, a time of watching, waiting, and interpreting signs.  This advent there have been sympathy cards to send and condolence calls to make.  Not personal losses for our household, but very personal losses for people we care about.  For one friend it was the quick passing of a brother living far away.  Yesterday's condolence call was to an elderly gentleman dh and I have known since before we were married.  He is now legally blind due to macular degeneration.  His wife died suddenly this past week, though she has been carrying around an oxygen bottle for a number of years.  Together they were able to prop one another up and stay in their home and drive (!?!) to the doctor and for groceries.  It's not clear that B. will be able to do that by himself...especially not the driving.  Loss in many layers for him.

Yesterday after yoga, one of my classmates stopped me to ask how I had handled it when my son began to question the reality of Santa Claus.  Am not sure why she asked me (ds is soon to be 25!)...except that this gal is also the mother of on only son....and I'm the oldest person in the yoga class.  My response: " wasn't only one conversation...I'm sure of that.  And the thing that I remember most clearly was that I never wanted ds to be able to say that we lied to him".

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you can guess that I took a pretty cerebral and calculated approach.  Here's some of what I told her:

First, our church observes the Feast of St. Nicholas and that was always an opportunity to talk about the beginning of Santa Claus.

Second ds's first grade teacher had them do a "book" about Christmas traditions around the world.  That was a big help because it gave us the opportunity to see that other cultures have traditions that vary from our commercial "Jolly Old Elf" who at that time drank Coca Cola (popular ad that ds picked up on). 

The other thing I remember is using Dr. Seuss' book How the Grinch Stole Christmas and my very favorite Christmas video The Muppet Christmas Carol to shift the thinking from the elf who brings gifts to the spirit of generosity.  And an assurance that  generosity of spirit is at the heart of Christmas giving.....and getting.

So for Jennifer and her son it is my hope that in losing something of that jolly old elf, they will gain something in exploring new possibilities for understanding this holiday.  Something like what Dr. Seuss had to say here (click on the link to read the story of this artwork and poem): 

From here on earth,
From my small place
I ask of You
Way out in space:
Please tell all men
In every land
What You and I
Both understand . . .
Please tell all men
That Peace is Good.
That’s all
That need be understood
In every world
In Your great sky.
(We understand.
Both You and I.)

My new understanding for this year has been the need for us to be less boisterous (ie.Snoopy in the above video) and more tender with one another in this time when the days are short, the nights are dark and cold, and hope may feel just beyond reach.   With thanks for some of  the people who brought this awareness to me these past few days:
  • The woman at the grocery store deli who told me that I had to order a cold cut tray 24 hours in advance.  When I said I needed it to take to a bereaved family, she quickly made up a huge tray of lavash sandwiches while I watched then handed me the sample end, because it was lunch time.  Thank you for reminding me of Grace.
  • For my knitting, spinning and weaving friends who take the time to knit for others.  And who gather together over a cup of coffee to do so.  Thank you for reminding me of the importance of community.
  • The woman who cut me off with her big SUV in an empty parking lot, shaking her fist at me because she wanted to get the spot closest to the door before Costco opening.  Thank you for reminding me that disapproval and disdain of others is very unbecoming.
  • For the folks who maintain the Passive Aggressive Notes site.  Thank you for making me chuckle everyday and for helping me to recognize that my last item was just a tad passive aggressive.
  • And for all of you readers who show up here despite my rather haphazard approach to blogging.  I always look forward to your comments, though I can't respond to the ones without emails.  Thank you for taking the time to read and respond to my rambling thoughts.
Wishing you all the very best for what ever holiday you celebrate this time of year.  May warmth, light, and hope  prevail!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Pepto bismol by any other name

is still Pepto Bismol pink.  The other name would be  Honeysuckle which has been named Pantone's color of the year.
You know, I've been thinking about this past decade and it really was a pretty grim decade.  Just as I was building hope for the decade to come, this slaps me right down.  There are shades of pink that I do like...just not this one.

Then again, I have been planning to make 2011 the year of  "shop from the stash" and "buy no clothing unless it is replacing an item."  This color trend may serve me well in pursuit of that goal.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Spinning wool breeds...

Cathy requested that I do a longer post about Deb Robson's workshop two weeks ago.  It is something that I want to do, but not likely to happen before the holidays. 
To sate your appetite for more information, Sasha has posted a podcast interview with Deb that I think you'll find very interesting.  Grab your knitting or your spinning and go listen here.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Current events...

Just a quick update on what my hands have been doing.

The sister skein to the  blue/green alpaca has been spun and plied:

The white was spun using a supported long draw while the blue was spun with a worsted draw.  I used the same size whorl to spin both, though I went up a size to ply the blue and went down a whorl size to ply the white.  You have to look pretty closely to see any difference between the two skeins, but you can tell the difference immediately when handling the skeins.

Just in time for our first snow, I finished a new pair of gloves to go with my new winter coat:
 The yarn is some old two ply Harrisville from a cone in a color called cimmaron.  I don't think they make this yarn anymore.  The pattern is from the very first issue of Interweave Knits.  I love hand knit gloves, not least of all because they fit..... a glove. (Yeah, you saw that coming.)

And currently on the needles are a new pair of socks:

I'm doing the magic loop on a 42 inch needle.  The yarn is from the stash and the ball band is long gone.  So far I'm not loving the magic loop.  Double pointed needles are not a bother to me.  But I thought I'd give this a try since dh does not like me kntting as a passenger in the car with five size 1 double pointed knitting needles between me and the air bag.   Am not sure he'll be happier with just two points.....I'll learn that on the next car trip.

And there has been more spinning and plying:
I spent about 9 hours plying this over Thanksgiving weekend and still have at least an hour or so to complete it.  The fiber is Blue Faced Leicester (75%) and silk (25%) in the Frolic colorway by Black Bunny Fibers.  There's a total of 4 ounces and I plan to weave with it.  Will give you the specs. on the yarn once I get done plying and head to the loom with it.

And the looms....still no good pictures.  We've had a lot of gray days.....