Thursday, March 26, 2015

February became March

AND winter stayed...

(and stayed!)

Photo is first day of spring.  
It snowed again a few days later.

I'm ready to complain about the heat & black flies!!

ANYWAY...

I went to my first Spin-In February 21st. 
In Newport there was a room filled with spinning wheels and people spinning them. 
I was there by myself - a little frightened - when some lovely ladies welcomed me into their group.  They all raised angora bunnies and were the friendliest bunch! 

Lots of vendors were there selling fiber.
I came home with a roving in fall colors, some alpaca, llama (that I won) and some green dyed locks (which I would have left had I known how awful it was.)  Almost impossible to pull apart. Felted. Cotted? Don't know! Whatever it was... it kind of sucked. I managed to get 2 skeins spun of 3-ply by spinning thicker and letting the lumps and bumps go by.  Sort of. It's not really in my nature to let that perfectly awful clump stay put. NOT stopping every few inches to pick it off was a challenge.
It should be good for making some more felted bags and I'll consider it another lesson in not basing purchases on "ooh pretty!"  
I really need to be more picky when buying fiber. 
What I really want is a fleece fresh from a farm. Cut out the middle man and do it all myself.  Some WARM weather for drying it outside would be nice.
I finally got brave enough to try food color dyeing!
I also learned "pretty colors" blended together can make muddy, not quite what I expected colorways. It looked like a copper penny while spinning it, but the green of one of the plies really took over. 

I found a free felted bag pattern that I followed the 2 color striping sequence for.  
They are really quite addictive.  I've made 4!
I've been using some of my early handspun including the 20 year old stuff I practiced with. 

I also made one of these bags in fleece from the 2 Lagrange farms locally. 
Picture to follow next time camera is out.

I crocheted a bit...made 2 bunnies with requested purple sweaters. One still needs the face finished.

And I cast on for a sweater out of handspun. Hoping it fits.  A free pattern until the end of March.  My sweater attempt has become a UFO about to be ripped out as a bad idea. Not to mention freaking boring.

HAPPY SPRING!
(hope it begins soon ;)


 

Sunday, February 01, 2015

January Review

Finished things . . .


There's a beast in my Yarn Bowl!

I kept busy for the month of January and got lots done . . . more than I thought before I gathered pictures of things to blog about.

Wild Thing by Susan Claudino is a pattern for sale on Ravelry. I made one before Christmas in thin sock weight yarn on size 1 needles. 
A couple of weeks ago I decided to make one in thicker yarn on size 3 needles.  CUTE! 
I followed the pattern a little better the 2nd time around. He's the beast from the children's book Where the Wild Things Are.
 
I got LOTS of spinning done - 7 skeins of 3 ply during the month of January!!!

My drum carder got a good workout. 6 of the 7 skeins were fleece I put through the drum carder. The light gray was some I hand carded last fall from the Common Ground Fair.
I got it all washed this morning to "set the twist". 
It's drying on the back of an old easel.

I found a free felted bag pattern with a braided strap that I'm thinking of making with the brown/gray Tom gave me for Christmas.
Except it's only in German! 
Think I got it figured out with the help of a group on Ravelry. Once I studied the numbers and the picture it sort of makes sense even without understanding all the words. 
(That's what she said! We'll see.)

I enjoyed spinning with fiber from my new drum carder better than just about any I've purchased so far.
MUCH EASIER TO SPIN. 
Very happy with the decision to buy one.

It did need a bit of unexpected maintenance. Fibers had built up on the inside axles of the drums.  It started turning harder for a day or two and then it wouldn't turn at all. There is so little space between the frame I had to remove 5 screws  from the side panel in order to get it cleaned out. 
I had remembered seeing the diagram for taking it apart  when I first took it out of the box. 
Hoping not to have to do that too often!

AND. I've KNIT 2 pair socks already!
Okay... Size 5 needles with thicker yarn goes faster than a fancy pattern in size 1's. 
BUT they're from my own early hand spun yarn!
One pair was dyed in Orange, Red and Yellow Kool-Aid. They're a little scratchy but not sure if it's because of beginner spinning or maybe 20 year old fleece?  BOTH!

The market bag is a UFO I dug out of hiding. One of my 2015 goals was to finish things I've gotten bored with and left sitting around. PLUS:
Knit with hand spun.
Finish processing fleece I own ... before buying more.

So far so good!




 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Another New Year ...where was I?

Spinning and other things.

Mostly spinning!

I make pretty good yarn now :) 

Yarn I don't mind knitting with - although deciding what to knit takes ages as I seem to go round in circles deciding what would make a good match.  
Is there enough? (usually NOT!) 
Is it too thick or too thin?  
It's been thick & thin more often than not. But it's getting better.

I started AND finished a pair of socks this week in some merino I bought from Bountiful last April. They are really more like croc socks or slipper socks as I spun it last summer and was still doing 2-ply. Not sure how well they will stand up with wear. They should make nice, warm spinning socks as I don't wear shoes EVER while treadling my Ladybug.

I decided to save towards a drum carder for Christmas 2014. 
My beautiful daughters took the $400 I had built up and added the rest. It came a week before and I dutifully left it right in the box until Christmas day.
Once again I chose a piece of equipment sight unseen. I had never touched a drum carder but I decided I wanted one. Once I picked which one a family friend tried to talk us into driving several hours away to test some out. 
It's winter in Maine and driving tends to suck quite often. There were blizzard like conditions at the time and so I convinced the girls NO.  
I want what I want! 
(Free shipping, no taxes if comes from out of state AND there was a sale!)

I LOVE IT!  
I've spun 3 new skeins in 2015 already. 
Two of them I processed through my new Ashford Drum Carder!

I was afraid it was beginner's luck or a fluke that my first test run through the carder was spinning so nicely. The next batch is spinning nicely as well. 

I  had grabbed some dyed purple locks from One Lupine and after finger picking and putting through the carder it was like spinning cotton candy!  I told Tom I wanted 4 purple sheep in whatever breed it was. Turned out to be Romney. I didn't to ask at the time I bought it but a quick email solved the mystery.  

Tom gifted me with 2 big bags of washed fleece also from One Lupine. All he remembered was that it was washed once and came from a farm in Lagrange. I bought my first half fleece at the Common Ground Fair in September 2014 ... also from Lagrange.  Turns out the lady farmers are next door neighbors. I WANT TO BE THEIR FRIEND. Or volunteer apprentice :)

I also discovered NEEDLE FELTING a couple of months ago! Lots of snowmen were made, complete with knitted scarf and hats.    
And the frog from Woolbuddies.  I borrowed the book from the library and decided it was a keeper. Sara gave it to me for Christmas!

I have made a few New Year Goals including reviving my African Violets (down to 2 trays) and blogging occasionally. PLUS Finishing more of the things I've started. 
More to come...  Happy New Year!



Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Slippery Slope.


I never knew I wanted to be a spinner.  

Through the years old spinning wheels were regularly seen in antique shops around here; usually broken, with missing parts even to my untrained eyes. I remember carefully reaching out a finger and daring to poke wheels to make them turn a bit whenever we came across one.  
But I never really thought, "gee, I want one of these." I can make yarn now! 

Yarn I look forward to knitting or weaving with. 
And soon I want to try dyeing some of this creamy, off-white freshly hand spun yarn into lovely new colors.  NEXT!

In April my cousin Mark gave me 3 bags filled with old fleece from long ago when he raised sheep. 
I couldn't remember how long it had been, but I did know Sara & Steph were still young when they went next door with Grammie to see the baby sheep. 
I dug through some old photo albums and found pictures dated 1991. 
OLD  FLEECE.
He doesn't remember what kind of sheep they were.
Except one was named Gloria and one Jane!    
One of them had silky long locks and in hindsight should have been kept separate.

A wiser person would probably have passed on this gift, rather than be so quick to jump in with both feet. 
Who teaches herself to process fleece with less than 2 months of practice, learning to spin?!
"I don't know what I'm doing!" has been uttered many times now.

I dumped it all on a tarp. There were rips in the bags it had been stored in. If there was anything making a nest inside I figured it was better to find out quickly. Outside!

I sorted using my own grading system:
Gross. Grosser. Grossest.
Grossest went to trashcan with no looking back.
This has not been a job for the squeamish. Veggie matter is a polite description for what these critters got stuck to themselves long ago. 
My first two skeins were done using a regular comb and a washer as a Diz. 
By the end of April I had my new Hand Carders from Paradise Fiber.
I look forward to my next fleece being not quite so vintage.  
Slippery Slope!!







Practice.
Practicing with this old fleece has been freeing in a way. For as much work as it takes to get it ready to spin, I don't worry about wasting money on the expensive bags of fiber I bought, still waiting because of this new distraction. I get to figure things out and if it doesn't go as well as I liked, I get to pull a bit off and try again.  Like joining new ends smoothly.
 
There's no more anxiety or guilt for the time I took until I was ready to begin spinning. Simply anticipation of the next slot of time I happily give to my spinning wheel. Sometimes a bobbin will fill.  Another bobbin might be started and before I know it an hour or more has passed.  
I actually enjoy the process of plying many spinners seem to find a chore. 
It feels like accomplishment to me!
As I go about my daily routine now, my Schacht Ladybug sits in the corner made by our couch and a small thrift-store end table that I sanded, buts still needs finishing.  
Just out of the traffic flow of the living room. 
(No, it's NOT a projector!)


Jax shoves her half-peeled soccer ball under my elbow to coax me into doing something different after I've hardly gotten started. She lays her head on my left knee and makes it feel as heavy as she can until she gets what she wants. I tried to take a picture of her face looking up at me and keep treadling. Doesn't work too good. She's worked out how to get her way:
Lunch, a walk, or peanut butter, please!

 
Darling Blue Trail in bloom. (Distraction from first use of my new bread machine: FAIL.)
Note to Mrs. John: wait til you see one of my Tiger Trail plants!!


Monday, May 19, 2014

So, where was I . . . ?

Catching up with myself!

(There's been spinning... eventually.)

During the winter of 2013 the great Fox Project was begun. Fox Mittens were knit madly, in time for the holiday shopping rush. Every order that could be filled in time for Christmas gift-giving would be knit. 


There were many pairs sold, as well as the pattern on Ravelry! 

It paid for my new spinning wheel, and then some, for which I'm so happily grateful.  

I was also exhausted by the time this big box arrived. Plus, there were still mittens to be sent before learning to spin could begin.

And then something most unexpected, and a bit frightening, happened in January and part of February.  There was a bit of a delay before I pronounced myself ready to learn to use my wonderful new spinning wheel.  Exhaustion from not sleeping well and worry over several older relatives, combined with holiday blues and the never ending winter left me as close to a nervous breakdown as I ever want to get. It didn't help that I gave up caffeine and was experiencing withdrawal symptoms I didn't even recognize for several days. I actually went to the internet to see if it was a "real" thing. It was suggested symptoms could last a week or two. I couldn't see straight half the time and went so far as handing over the car keys and refusing to drive or be responsible for anyone's care besides Tom and myself.

(And the dog!)  We did a lot of snowshoeing, although half the time my surroundings were a blur as I focused on one step at a time. My spinning wheel sat on a desktop, safely out of harms way until I was ready. I watched lots of online video for beginners and went to the library fiber festival February 22nd just so I could stand behind a lady spinning to watch what her hands were doing. It was helpful. Drafting is a bit of a mystery until it finally clicks and just starts happening.  That was the morning I officially began teaching myself.  I got off to a bit of a shaky start, but always kept it in my mind learning how to spin could take as long as it took.  Even as I muttered laughingly to myself several times "I might really suck at this!" I never believed I would not figure it out.  Happily, I am now making "yarn"!


Okay... the first couple of skeins were more like rope! 
This was my first 2-plied carded Romney from the Woolery, spun quite thick in some places; too thin in others.  I made myself knit with it, using the thickest skeins as the bottom layer of soles for my favorite felted slippers. My arms ached from knitting with it, but it might have been a good lesson: I needed to spin thinner and more consistently so knitting would not hurt!  The slippers are finished - using all my own hand-spun! They still need to be washed to see how well they felt.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

I'm Going On An Adventure!

All good stories deserve embellishment.” 

 A couple of months ago I noticed wood construction plans on the laptop, over my husbands shoulder, as I passed through the living room. When asked what he was planning to build, he said a chicken coop. 
He said he wanted to gather eggs in his retirement.

CHICKENS! 
I am terrified of free ranging chickens. 
And those plans better have an egg dispenser, as I will not be sticking my hand under a chicken's butt without a good deal of intervention first.

I did suggest IF he was going to have chickens, I would like sheep. 
I would learn to spin!

And then a blogger with the Portland Press Herald featured my Fox Mittens with their Sunday paper.  Orders for finished fox mittens on the Etsy account Steph set up started coming in.  On Ravelry, people were buying my pattern for $3.
($2.58 to me after PayPal takes a cut.) 

Seriously. THANK YOU!

After a couple hundred dollars built up, I suggested to family members I would like to buy that spinning wheel now. IF we raised enough, it was decided. 

I have goals!


Next up will be learning how to use my new Ladybug by Schacht in Boulder, CO.
I made a LOT of Fox Mittens. Orders are still coming in. 
The actual ladybug pictured above landed on my knitting right about when we had earned enough!
 
My next goal may be the Woolee WinderAccessories are each sold separately. 
I would love it if the mittens continue to support my new obsession for a while longer!

My Ladybug arrived December 11th at 3:17 in the afternoon. At 5am I started cleaning the house, with the pledge I would keep cleaning until it arrived. The tracking update suggested an "early delivery".  White floor tiles were scrubbed on hands and knees, until we lost power and thus water, for an hour. My floor washing head of steam faded and I moved on to the fridge. It is clean top to bottom/under and behind! Wow. It needed it.

When the big box arrived on the deck I was almost too tired to open it.
Contents needed to be checked and a few last bits needed to be put together.

I hope it continues to whisper when I start adding fiber. For now I need to try and get the wheel to treadle clockwise. Stop and start without going backwards. 
It was described by one video blogger as patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time. 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Knitting Holes (on purpose)

Summer of Amazing Lace Revisited

Back in 2006 I joined an internet hoard of knitters working on some sort of lace for the summer. 
The host bloggers of Amazing Lace seem to have vanished all these years later and when I clicked my old blog links a security warning declare the sites are evil? From one of my blog entries (linked above) I described the knit along as follows:
Knitters around the world will get up off their couches and take their knitting out for a little summer adventure. The main requirement seems to be to knitting in public and putting holes in it...on purpose!  It's called Lace when you put the holes in the right place?
As a beginner knitter I never advanced to the lacy shawls many proudly cranked out that summer.  I stuck with lacy cuffed socks.  This summer I'm making a shawl!
I joined a 7 part clue mystery knit-a-long of the Analucia Shawl by Fiddle Knits

The 7th clue was released August 9th. I had been keeping up with all of the weekly clues until the 6th one arrived. I gave myself permission to take a break! There are not many "purl back" rows ...who knew purling a billion stitches would look like a blessing?  I was getting burned out with all the do-overs.  Early into the pattern I researched LIFELINES and found that they are indeed our friend!  Unfortunately, I put the lifelines to use far too many times and was in need of a break.  I was sitting in one place for far too long at a time. My knuckles & back was feeling the effect.

My 1st shawl has been pushed to the back of the side table in a puddle of blue lace.




(blog entry in progress but I think I'll lose the links if I just hit save. Pictures today and update planned)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

If you ask nicely...

Your friend's mom might make you Fox Mittens.

So I made Steph a scarf for Christmas and she posted a picture on Facebook of herself wearing it. With the required caption "My mom made it". The only suggested requirement  for acquiring a mom-made item.

Her friend saw it and wondered if fox mittens might be found in the Mama-Made-It box.
I had never tried fox mittens but figured there was sure to be a free pattern kicking about on the internet. Turns out there's not that I could find. So I looked at some mittens & scarves being sold and decided to give it a try.

Not bad!

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Stained Glass STACK n' SLASH. Quilt As You Go.

Quilt-Along {if you like!}

(Under construction. Pictures to follow ...as I go. My New Years' Resolve!)

My daughter Sara asked for a quilt-as-you-go lesson while home for Christmas break but it didn't happen. I promised to document my progress on the new Stained Glass Stack n' Slash Quilt I'm about to begin - like the one I did last summer. I'm making this one with smaller squares of fabric - using a 12 ½ inch square ruler to cut each square of fabric. I'm going to use the quilt-as-you-go method, but the steps for making blocks would be the same if sewing a quilt top to be quilted later.

For quilt squares with no 2 colors alike in each block you need 9 different fabrics
For 36 blocks (arranged in rows of 6 x 6) Cut 4 of each color and stack each set of 9 fabrics exactly the same
Each stack gives you 9 finished blocks. Number of blocks per row is up to you! Depending on how many stacks you make, there may be leftovers.


Make note of your 9 fabric squares' order from bottom to top and remember to stack them back in a pile the same way each time you sew the stack. DON'T SHUFFLE THE PIECES MOVED TO THE BOTTOM. LEAVE THEM JUST AS THEY ARE, RIGHT SIDE UP AS THEY WERE STACKED. After they are sewn back together with the stained glass strip, there's a "shuffle the stack" formula that keeps no 2 fabrics alike in each block.
Number of sections "shuffled to the bottom" is different for each step! Fingers crossed I get it right.

Helpful websites I use along the way will be listed here:
Stack n' Slash formula for cutting, re-stacking and slashing again - called Crazy-9 Patch on this blog. Does not include stained glass technique but formula for *slashing/sewing/stacking* (repeat!) should be the same. TESTING. Pretty sure this was the site I went to before when memory failed and 2nd batch of blocks went wrong.

PATTERN: (cutting guide - trial pdf)
Cut 12½ square from a brown paper bag and mark lines as shown. (coming soon!)
More or less. YOUR PATTERN WILL BE UNIQUELY YOURS. Not required to be exact.
Be consistent.

Cut (many!) 1¼ inch strips (width of fabric) for Stained Glass effect.
You'll probably need to straighten the edge of fabric once in a while so the strips don't go wonky on the fold. Width of strips for joining blocks will be wider... we'll deal with those later!
 

Folding paper pattern along the line you are about to cut and placing on top of the stack helps each cut be more or less the same. DO NOT CUT THROUGH THE PAPER!
It's not necessary for each block to be the same - in fact they will not be. Using the paper guide will show ruler placement to make cuts go faster, making blocks very similar. You can slide the paper away or not but be careful not to cut into it.

You'll be cutting through 9 layers PLUS seam allowances in some instances.  
Use a sharp rotary blade! BE CAREFUL ;)
 
9 fabrics stacked with cutting guide.

Fold pattern back on line showing where to cut.

Move 1 piece on left from top to bottom.
Sew sections together with strips.
Use guide folded back to cut next slice through all layers.

All 9 layers cut.
Move 2 pieces on right from top to bottom.

Sew sections back together with stained glass strips.

Rotate clockwise one turn.

Place guide as for 1st cut.  3 pieces on left moved from top to bottom. 
Last cut with 6 on right moved to bottom.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

ZINNIA'S: Who Knew?

I've discovered ZINNIA seeds!

Well, that they grow from seeds just chucked into the ground next to the bed of onions that was still empty in June. It might even have been closer to July before they got planted. I would totally have taken more care to spread them out if I had known they had time to grow AND bloom all summer!

Garden Experts should be shouting
PLANT ZINNIA SEEDS!!

(How did I not know this? :)
I'm buying them in bulk next year . . . I wonder if the seed pods would be worth saving? hmm . . .

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Catch and Release

Everything is an ADVENTURE when you're wearing a helmet!

Nocturnal Salamanders that hide really well in the daytime make for fairly boring terrarium watching. At 3:00 a.m. the salamander I found in our wood pile clung to the side of the glass when I let Jax out so I tried taking a picture. Not a great effort but proof it was in there at one time!

You MUST feed your guest pets. Even if you can't see them. And even if it means getting off the bicycle you just learned to ride WITHOUT TRAINING WHEELS this week!  
We placed our trust in the internet and found a dozen worms, a few slugs and assorted creepy-crawly things near an old cement foundation. I thought it would be really cool to set up the old fish tank so Ben could see the 6 inch salamander I found the day before. We opened it several times and Aunt Laurie even braved moving rocks around hoping we would catch sight of it. It hid really well! But it was the best fed Salamander in town. Ben dumped the whole jar of bugs in before I had time to suggest perhaps just a few?


From the Michigan Department of Natural Resources website:
Blue-spotted Salamander (Ambystoma laterale)
"Most people would not consider hanging out under rotting wood feeding on a diet of spiders, centipedes, slugs and earthworms as their ideal lifestyle. The blue-spotted salamander believes it's just grand. This salamander found throughout Michigan is common in moist deciduous hardwood areas and swamp woodlands, preferably with access to vernal ponds. However, they often persist in drier, human disturbed second growth woodlands. Their diet includes insects, spiders, worms, and other small invertebrates.

Their coloration can vary but generally they are black with turquoise or pale blue flecks and spots on the sides, limbs, belly, and tail. The belly may be black or grayish black. Adults average about 3.5 to 5.5 inches (8.9 to 14 cm) long." *They seem to live in Maine, too.
Our guest has been released back into the wild. A little farther away from our wood pile. 
He was air-lifted out of the tank by a garden hoe, along with the little island oasis and all the bugs and worms that were left.
For the first time I could actually see his blue spots!
 
Picture of Jax by 5 year old Ben.
Her eyes may still be a little blood shot from being sprayed by a skunk last week. Tough way to celebrate your first birthday!




Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Grape Escape

Jax and I are still exhausted from chasing a 5 year old around all day. It was the first Aunt Laurie Day since getting Jax because we felt she was too untrained and possibly a danger to them with her mouthy biting and jumping.

By 9:30 she was let off leash to see how she would do. Turns out she's on the same 5 minute delayed-response as Ben and NEITHER of them listen to you if they don't feel like it.  "I do what I like!"

But they were inseparable!

Jax was perfectly happy shadowing him all day and soon discovered (no matter how many times told not to give her food) Ben was her new favorite FOOD DISPENSER.

She sat very close and prepared to wait for that little hand to send a grape her way...

waited...


and waited.


Finally success.

And then there were two.

One for you; one for me.

RIGHT?

Then they were gone.



And so was he?

Edited to add: Did not know grapes were toxic to dogs until Steph & a couple of anonymous messages mentioned it. Luckily she only had 3 and seems to be fine. Good to know though!