Saturday, July 4, 2020

Morning Summer Walk

Nature's fireworks were on full display this morning. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Honing My Spinning Skills (the one with all the parentheticals)

Since I made the commitment to the Shave 'Em 2 Save 'Em challenge, I have been researching spinning techniques, and trying out new things. It's been a lot of YouTube and podcasts: Becks at Tiny Fibre Studio, the Two Ewes Podcast with Kelly and Marsha are a couple of my go-tos, but if it's spinning related I'll pop it on just for the info and the visuals (in the case of videos).

The other day I watched a video Becks made about making striping yarn, (link above) and I thought I would try out her technique. 
I happened to have an old pack of needle felting roving in natural shades from Fiber Trends. 


I knew I wanted to try chain plying, so I spun all the fiber straight through onto one bobbin. 
I wish I had taken more photos, but it was late at night (darn you Grantchester, and the hunkiest, broodiest, ginger vicar around [I'm behind a season or two]), and I had a margarita so my photos (and, as it turns out, my plying) were not super hot (definitely not as hot as Sidney Chambers).

When you chain ply, you're basically making a long crochet chain, which you're also spinning. It's a bit of a tricky situation after tequila, but I had tried it in a smaller sample a couple of weeks ago and it was really slick.

Here we have the yarn in its hank

and in its ball. It didn't end up to be very much yardage, I think it was about 2 ounces total.
Since the roving was intended for needle felting it was not very soft. I decided that what I needed was a little basket. 
I started with a flat circle on the bottom, and once it got to the size I wanted I stopped increasing and went straight up. 
By the time I reached the bright white I started decreasing every 5 stitches or so to slightly pull in the top. 
I had a little bit of yarn left, so I added a little handle, which made the basket perfect to use as a yarn bowl.
The majority of the stitching is half-double crochet, and the very last row was single crochet because I was running out of yarn. 
I began my fiber life as a crocheter, and I always forget how easy it is to improvise. 

This project was quick and easy, and I think it will be pretty useful. I may even make up a little yarn bowl for every project I'm working on (that's quite the list, I have a problem with starting projects and then starting more projects, monogamy is not for me, fiber-wise) 
What's on your needles (or hooks) lately? 

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Long Overdue Finished Object

I started this quilt a couple of years ago, and kind of pooped out on it because of the hand-quilting. 
Quilt top assembly is really where I find the most enjoyment, but the finishing always takes me a very long time. 

Of course, it's a mental game, since it's not the finishing, but the convincing myself to do it, that takes the time. 

Well, this week I pulled it out from its craft limbo, and quilted while I watched the news, and was able to finish it up on Friday.

Back two years ago, I fell in love with this floral print, and then I went through my stash to find coordinating pieces to use for alternating log cabin squares. I used the main fabric for the center of every square, to have a continuous theme.


It's backed in this fun purple print, which coordinates with The Youngest's paint in her room. 

It got her seal of approval, which is all a Mama could want.

What's on your needles (of any sort) this week? 
I started up a facebook group to share projects and creative inspiration, come by if you like!

Thursday, June 11, 2020

New Lazy Kate

I learned to spin about 4 years ago, but I'm very much still a novice. 
I don't have a lot of fancy equipment or accessories.
For the last couple of years, my set up has been this lovely wheel

and an improvised lazy Kate for plying.

This morning I got a bee in my bonnet to upgrade the Lazy Kate, so I went hunting in my wood pile and got to it. 
I used a couple of scraps of plywood for the sides, and a bit of a 1x6 for the base. 
First, I knocked off the corners with my mitre saw, then I marked out my holes, and drilled through both pieces of plywood. If I had it to do again, I would drill one and then mark and drill the other, because one hole is pretty wonky. 
I popped over to my parents' house to do a little finishing work with their table saw, and then I was ready for assembly. 

Some glue and a few nails later, I had my frame. 

I used 9 inch size 7 straight needles that I had in my stash to act as posts.

As a stop for the needles, I cut some small leather tabs and folded them. The first ones were too loose, so I cut new ones and made a slightly smaller hole with my super punch.

Since there was a little space beneath the bobbins in my new set up, I hoped that I could slide in a little box or basket to hold a pair of scissors, my wheel oil (when I find it, my space is a little wild at the moment), a pencil, and some paper to label the hanks of yarn as I finish them. 
The space was too narrow for a cigar box, and I didn't have a basket the right size, so I built myself a  caddy from leather. 

The only piece I had that was big enough had a flaw,


 but I found some inspiration online, and cut around the broken part to make a rounded edge caddy.

I folded the straight sides up, folded the rounded sides around, punched holes, and sewed them together. This project was super quick, and ended up pretty cool.

So, it looks a little like a shoe...


For winging it, I'm pretty pleased. It just fits a little notebook, a pencil and a small pair of scissors. 
Next, I'm going to cut out some heavier paper labels to store in here too, along with some scrap yarn. 

The best part is that it slides right into the Lazy Kate, without bumping into the bobbins. 

You can find Fifth Lamp Down Studio on Facebook 
Show me what you're making! 

Monday, June 8, 2020

Shave 'Em 2 Save 'Em, Chapter 2: Clun Forest

When I decided to start the Shave 'Em 2 Save 'Em program, I was cruising around Etsy and found this collection of dyed Clun Forest Roving from Left Hand Wool Company.

Clun Forest Sheep have white fleeces and black faces. 

Their wool has a tight crimp, which leads to a pretty fluffy spun wool
Learning about the different crimps and curls in fleece has been pretty illuminating. I would have thought the long silky curls would make the softest yarn, but animals with finer crimp in their locks give much more loft and softness to the yarn. The natural crimp catches air and makes it easy to spin up a lofty yarn. This yarn did end up a little scratchy, but in the winter, who is that picky. 

Usually, in my fiber adventures, I'm a natural rainbow kind of gal. Wool fleeces come in such a beautiful array of creams, browns, tans and black, I'm usually happy enough to use them as is. 
However, for this project, I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone and chose this bold array of colors. 

I am still quite a novice spinner, and I'm always fascinated by the contrast between the roving and the spun yarn.

I started by working in large stripes of color to make a scarf/shawlette, but I actually hated it. I almost threw the project away (it would seem, with the pandemic, recession, home schooling, murder, systemic racism, and riots, that my fuse is a little shorter than usual) 
However, I took a breath, pulled it out and reknit the project using garter stitch stripes. 

I sure there's a ham-fisted metaphor here about how we all do better when we work together, or something. I will say, that I really like how it came out. 

I have actually done quite a bit of spinning and knitting with Clun Forest wool. My parents' dear friends raise Clun Forest sheep and have gifted me a few fleeces over the years.
My first handspun sweater was mostly made of their wool.
However, they're not on the approved list of vendors for Shave 'Em 2 Save 'Em, thus the visit to Etsy.

A few takeaways: 
It was good to get myself out of the subtle, subdued color palate I have been used to. I am inpsired to try more exciting color choices. 
Clun Forest is a lovely wool to work with, though this one ended up a little scratchy for the liking of anybody in the family. I think I will try to work a little less twist into my yarn for the next time I spin with Clun Forest, in the hopes of maximizing the loft. 

All Lives Can't Matter Until Black Lives Do

As you have surely heard, there was a horrific murder in the Twin Cities two weeks ago.
There is much work to be done. Minneapolis' City Council has made a commitment to make serious changes to the MPD, which is a start.
The biggest problem we face as a nation is the fact of inbuilt inequality in our systems.
Please listen to some important words, spoken far more powerfully and eloquantly than I could ever hope to speak.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Save 'Em 2 Save 'Em, Chapter 1: Jacob

A couple of weeks ago I started listening to knitting podcasts for the first time in a while. 

Since 2016 or so I have been mostly a political podcast listener, but something about the state of the world made me want to listen to something a little less fraught. 

I can't remember who it was that mentioned the Shave 'Em 2 Save 'Em initiative, but I was immediately taken with the idea. 
Here's a little info about the program. 
Also, here's the website if you want to know more.

The long and short of it is: they're trying to encourage knitters and spinners to use the wool of rare sheep breeds so they don't die out.
It's a pretty cool project, which started last year in January, and goes until 2021.
There are incentives to work with a certain number of different fleece types, and it's going to be my favorite rabbit hole, I can just tell.

Last week I was cruising around Etsy and found some likely subjects. Along with many other things, our local fiber festival was canceled for safety so I felt no qualms in indulging.

The first package that arrived was 5 ounces of Jacob from Gypsy Mountain Farm.

It was nice and clean, almost no vegetal matter.
I seperated the two colors out to card and spin.

The yarn came out slightly inconsistent, between fingering and sport weight. I would estimate that I got around 300 yards from around 4 ounces of carded wool.
I decided to make a diagonal shawlette, using various charts for lacy stripes between garter stitch sections.

The fleece was about 2/3 light to 1/3 dark. I did my best to evenly distribute the darker yarn throughout.

My skills as a selfieist leave much to be desired, but here's the scale of the finished shawl.

A few takeways:
I LOVED working with the Jacob. It's a very soft and lofty wool.

The colors work well together (go figure) and I almost made a stranded project. Next time I order some Jacob I will definitely make some Norwegian mittens or a hat.

It's super fun to go from a bag of fleece to a garment in a week, even if the chores get seriously neglected, and I look forward to more Shave 'Em 2 Save 'Em projects flying off my needles as this year progresses.