Saturday, April 30, 2011

Shaking, shaking, shaking

The most frequently repeated comment/suggestion/hint I have gotten about the vm found in Madeline, the Jacob fleece (other than cry or mulch the garden) has been to shake it. A lot. I put some in the dryer on air - didn't do much but I think I'll try it with more fiber in the dryer now that I know that it won't felt it. Maybe more volume in there will help it tumble better. I put some in a lingerie bag, leaned out over the railing on the deck and shook it, smacked it against the railing, shook some more and while you can see little flakes of things falling, it does not make an appreciable difference. There is still too much vm in the fiber for my use.

I tried using dog combs - that fluffs it up and helps the stuff fall out, but with dog combs it will take me a year to get this stuff clean enough to want to use it. I'll probably have about half the fleece left by that time - the rest will go out in waste. Unless, of course, I get tired of it and all of it goes in the garden.

The Black Welsh Mountain fleece looks to be in much better shape. Of course, it was coated and now I really understand what a difference it makes. I hope to start spinning some of that soon. I am looking forward to doing a lot of experimenting to see what works best and what kinds of choices I have regarding plies and spinning methods.

I have both sleeves (leaf and picot cardigan) on the same needle now. I have a half inch of knitting and then start sleeve cap shaping! I am still enjoying the knitting.  ; )

Bob's socks are at the point where I will change from 3 x 3 ribbing to 2 x 2 ribbing for the cuff! Yippee! In honor of that, I cast on the second sock for Sharon - Calendula sock. Soon I will be down to one sock on the needles again.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Fleece Scouring

I have been a busy girl, scouring my fleeces so that I can get to play with them. Both are actually now washed and are either dry or drying on racks in my house (the weather didn't cooperate for outdoor drying). Clematis, the Black Welsh Mountain fleece, is in pretty good shape, I think. I still have some scurf to deal with but it is otherwise a clean fleece. Madeline, the Jacob fleece, is another story.

The Jacob fleece is full of vm. I don't mean just hay or grass, which I could pretty easily pick out. It is the seeds and other tiny bits in there that have me worried. I plan to try to shake the fleece out, in sections, outdoors and get rid of what I can in that way. I have been reading, and I think that combs are the way to go to clean fiber like this, but I don't own any and can't really afford to buy them. I found plans on line to make a set of combs, but DH is busy right now and won't be able to get to that for a while. I read about someone putting a dry alpaca fleece in the dryer on air and getting rid of vm that way, but I am not sure about that plan. I can certainly try a small bit to see if it works. I will not buy another fleece that has not been coated.

Thursday last, I went into work but came home early due to not feeling well. I had planned to work from home on Friday and it's good thing. If I had to make the drive, I would have stayed home sick anyway. I wasn't deathly ill, just headachy, slightly nauseated and feeling washed out and weak. I stayed home from knitting night at the LYS too.

Saturday we got some stuff done in the morning and then headed down to Silver Spring to have dinner with friends. They treated us to a wonderful meal, good wine and great conversation. It was also our wedding anniversary - 34 years! On Sunday we decided to try going out on the boat. The forecast was for possible thunderstorms in the afternoon and evening, so we weren't sure how long we could be out, but decided to give it a try. We were home in plenty of time - the boat motor overheated and we actually spent the day at the marina working on the motor. Oh, well. It was a beautiful day and we were together. It appears to have been a pretty inexpensive and easy thing to fix, so that's good news, too. I finished scouring the Jacob fleece once we returned home, and watched the thunderstorms roll over us from the safety of the house.

The sleeves for the leaf and picot cardigan are about half complete, maybe a little less, and I am enjoying the knitting. I wove in some of the ends on the vest last night, in preparation for blocking and sewing the shoulder seams, too, before getting to sleep.

All in all, not a bad weekend at all.  Friday evening will be a spinning gathering at my house and, hopefully, a trip on the boat.

I hope you enjoyed your Easter.

A contest

Go visit the Sheep Gal blog, check out her adorable new lambs and enter a contest.

Happy Easter.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Raw Fleece

I am getting an education. I am learning just how dirty sheep can be and how much work goes into making clean fiber available for me to spin.

I have two raw fleeces to clean and prep. One, as I have mentioned before, is Clematis, a Black Welsh Mountain - a beautiful deep black color. The other is Madeline, a Jacob fleece that includes white, brown and black all in one fleece. I'm doing pretty well getting the grease and dirt out, actually. I have a system and it's working well. The VM, on the other hand, especially in the Jacob, is going to be a big undertaking, I think. The scurf, a dandruff kind of thing may actually be more of an issue. I did find that shaking the clean fleece vigorously helps a lot of it fall out, but I am going to have to decide whether to toss some of the fleece or just live with the scurf in the yarn. It is not intended as a next to the skin fiber, so I may just deal with it.

The weather is not being very cooperative with my washing efforts. I washed 3 batches of wool today and put them outside to dry. Within an hour it was drizzling enough to get them wet again. It's chilly enough that the heat came on in the house and helped dry them, but I would like to get most of the fiber dried outdoors. The more wind the better.

The sleeves of the leaf and picot cardigan are coming along nicely. I find that I have to check the pattern for most rows but then knit the row without having to watch each stitch, so it is a pretty relaxing knit.

Tomorrow is our wedding anniversary. Bob and I will have been married for 34 years. I am happy to report that we are still happy and glad to spend time together. We will be having dinner with friends. If the weather cooperates, we'll go out on the boat for the first time this season on Sunday. After Easter baskets. Yum. Chocolate!

Have a good holiday.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Good news and Bad news

It's a mixed bag in fiber land here in Maryland. I love the buttons that I chose for Slinky Ribs I had planned to wear it one day last week, but ..... It doesn't fit. The sleeves are perfect but the body of the sweater is too long in the arm/chest area. The neck line of the sweater, which is supposed to be low, hangs below the bust line and looks horrible. What this means, since the sleeves are picked up and knitted down from the shoulder, is that I have to rip back both sleeves and the top of the sweater down to where I started the neck opening and make that whole section shorter. My guess is that my row gauge was way off. I don't usually look at that because I can never get both row and stitch gauge correct with the same needles and stitch gauge is more important. In most cases. Obviously not more important in the this case, but equally important. I plan to put it away until I am less angry about the whole thing and then rip it out and re-knit. I will fix it, just not now.

There is also a  shawl, knitted in cotton/rayon, that I've been working on for a while. I discovered an error about 15 rows back. I'll fix that, too, but not right now. Frustration!

The good news is that I finished knitting the body of the vest and will begin the edging soon. I plan to block the vest first, sew the shoulders closed and then knit the edging, which has been narrowed down to either garter stitch or I cord. I hope to block the vest and Mom's hat one evening this week.

The other good thing is that I started knitting the IK cover sweater last night. It's the Leaf and Picot cardigan . I am using Silky Wool in blue. I've decided to knit the sleeves first, and I am knitting both at the same time on separate needles. I am alternating between needles/sleeves to keep them both at approximately the same place. I will plan to knit the back next, and the two fronts at the same time. For a change of pace I plan to knit the sweater as instructed in the pattern rather than change things around, knit in the round or knit the sleeves from the top down. I like the sweater just the way it is and seaming doesn't really bother me. Both sleeves are past the picot edging and about 1 pattern repeat into the lace.

In order to actually finish projects in a timely manner, I plan to concentrate knitting on the vest edging, the new sweater, a sock and the Saroyan scarf. I am hoping that not allowing myself to get sidetracked with other patterns will allow me to finish the vest by the end of May and the sweater by the end of June/early July.

Wind kept me from being able to skirt my fleece yesterday. I am hopeful that one day this week I will be able to do it when I get home from work, and then start the washing. I am sorta tempted to just wash the whole thing, but I am just getting impatient. Sigh. I'll be good.

I left work early on Friday so I could have some sunny outdoor time. I was able to do some weeding, dig out the boxes that the strawberries are growing in (from under the mound of mulch we covered them with last fall for protection from freezing) and place them on the deck. I also helped DH with some boat prep and just generally enjoyed being outside in pleasant weather. On Saturday, while it stormed, I worked from home to make up the time. That worked out very well.

Despite the soggy ground, I got in some weeding yesterday. I only spent about 15 minutes weeding because I've had so much trouble with my back in the last 2 months. I don't want to ruin the progress I've made with over-doing. If I can get out there 3-4 days per week and do that 15 minutes of weeding, I will get it done and not be miserable.
ETA I just got back from physical therapy and I was strongly advised not to vacuum in the house and not to exceed the 15 minute limit on weeding/gardening. The first will be much easier to do than the second.

DH is putting the boat in the water today. We had hoped to do it together yesterday, but the winds were not favorable. There's no point in making things harder for yourself. I wish I could be there with him. Darn this working for a living. : ((

I did some spindle spinning (Wensleydale) over the weekend and plied a bit more of the silk. I think one more plying session will finish off the silk that has been spun so that I can get back to the spinning of the remaining fiber.  I am sure that I won't have the chance to spin tonight but maybe a few minutes each night this week ....

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Ressurection of the UFO

I have, so far, avoided casting on the new sweater. Here's the yarn - isn't it great?

I am very proud of myself, because I ususally succumb very quickly despite the best of intentions once I bring new yarn or a pattern into the house. Instead I resurrected an old friend - a vest I was knitting, cast on in 2009. I am using fibonacci striping sequence and knitting it side to side so the stripes are vertical.
I had knit the left front and most of the back previously, then either got tired of it or the weather got too warm. It's back in the realm of WIP now, and I have knitted about 10 inches on it over the weekend. It is fingering weight yarn so that's an accomplishment. LOL I have another half inch or so and then it's time to make the decreases for the V neck front of the vest. I have not yet decided on an edging, but right now I am tending towards I cord.

I finally bought buttons and sewed them to the Slinky Ribs top, so that is officially and completely a finished project. Maybe I'll get to wear it this week.

Before I started to hurt I managed to get some photos of the linen stitch scarf I am working on intermittently. This will be a holiday gift and so there's no rush.

I knitted a lot (see above) over the weekend. I also managed to get some plying (silk) done and a little bit of spinning (Wensleydale).  It was a rather depressing weekend, what with the grey skies, and I was sore from over-doing a bit on Saturday. In addition to the above knitting, I was reading - almost non-stop. I have loved the Earth's Children series of books by Jean Auel and I found the latest, and last (I am sorry to say) book on sale at BJs. I snapped it up on Friday and finished it yesterday! Those are thick books, but I couldn't seem to slow down. I'll go back in a month or so and re-read so that I catch more of the details. I did catch a few errors? or changes - things that the author referred to in the new book that were different than in the previous ones, but they were pretty minor. I am so sad that the series is over, but I enjoyed them tremendously.

I was home from work Monday with a very bad migraine and so didn't make much progress on anything. I sat outside for about an hour late in the day, once my eyes would tolerate that much brightness and I didn't feel so sick every thime I moved my head. It was, I think, a beautiful day - in the 80s and sunny most of the day but I had the blinds and curtains pulled all day. I hate migraines.

Weather and children permitting (her children, not mine), this Saturday Melanie will be coming over to help me skirt my fleece. I can then get to work washing it and figuring out what the heck I am going to do with it. ; )      
I am ready to get washing, though I doubt I'll spin more than a sample or two right away. I have other spinning to finish/catch up on. I want to finish the corriedale pencil roving on the wheel and I want to finish the Wensleydale and silk on the spindles. I have some Icelandic that I'd love to spin up and I think it will do best on a spindle but I'm not sure about the weight and which spindles I should use.

Happy spring.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Signs of Spring

The first signs of leaves on the barberry plant in the front garden - this plant is very stickery and sharp but beautiful in 3 out of 4 seasons (just bare branches in winter) so I won't let DH get rid of it.  ; ) 
Forsythia bushes at their best.

Sedum, Autumn Joy peeking out from amoung the rocks, old leaves and the old staulks from last year.

Grape hyacinth, I think, peeking out from under an evergreen that is much bigger than we thought it would be ......

I love the signs of spring.  ; )

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Spinning in Spring

I love spinning this Wensleydale fiber. I love the colors and the silky feel of the fiber itself. I still have about 3 oz. to spin because my spinning time is limited by my back pain. I alternate between this spindle spinning

this wheel spinning (Corriedale pencil roving, 8 oz.)

(I plan to Navajo ply this to preserve the colors)

And this silk plying.

Isn't the color beautiful!

This last photo is some alpaca I tried to spin long draw or some variation of it, and incorporate mohair locks randomly into the alpaca. I love the way this feels - soft and squishy  - but I don't like the locks added. I'll do more of this without the addition of the locks, and try to find another use for them. The color, BTW, is much lighter than in real life - the sun was very strong. The brown is much deeper and the red is very bright and stands out from the deep brown.

I'll be working on my technique, too, since it leaves a lot to be desired. (that's an understatement!) I think I'll search for some videos to watch to help me out, and I need to get used to making adjustments on my wheel. I've fallen into a rut.

There is so much spinning I want to be doing. It's really frustrating that after a while (we are talking 15 minutes or so, not 4 hours) I get a lot of pain in my back and have to stop. I have the above spinning to finish, I have 8 oz. of Finn fiber to play with, more alpaca in different colors, several braids and bumps of dyed fibers purchased previously and a Black Welsh Mountian fleece arriving today. I also have a pound or more each of several other dyed fibers I purchased in years past that I really like and would like to spin up. I belong to a few study groups on Ravelry and would like to participate in some of thise group studies.

I am being good about doing my exercises as ordered and am feeling much better. HOWEVER I know that it will be easy for me to overdo once I feel better, so I am watching the clock and limiting my spinning time carefully. There is life - work and house and garden - to take care of, and that really has to have a higher priority. I think. ;)

Have a great day.

Monday, April 04, 2011


I hate Blogger! It's free, so do I have the right to complain that it just ate my carefully written post that included all sorts of good info and links? D**m blogger.

On to interesting things:

We were sitting, knitting and chatting away at our LYS last Thursday night when Angela came in. She was all excited about a pattern she was going to knit - the Saroyan scarf. She said that her mother had knitted it, it was a fast knit and it looks much better in person than in any photos she had seen. I had that pattern in my queue already, so it didn't take much of a push for me to decide to knit it. Several others in the group decided to knit that pattern too, so we have an informal KAL going.   Below you see the beginnings of my scarf, though I just finished ripping it out. I started again with a smaller needle. I thought the version below was a little too open. I am not sure if I will keep it or gift it, but it will feel great against the neck. The yarn is Mirasol Nuna and it glows.

This heartbreaking scene is one of my Thelonius socks. Both have holes in the toes. This is my absolute favorite pair of socks, and I really am upset. I will find the yarn and try to mend them, but plan to knit another pair once this self imposed year of "knitting man socks" is over. I'll choose yarn with nylon in it - the yarn below is just merino and obviously not strong enough for the use of my socks.

What you see here is the first of Sharon's socks. I am knitting the Calendula socks with Marks and Katten Fame Trend. I am concerned about the durability of this yarn, too, and it does not frog well. I love the pattern, though, and plan to make a pair for myself next year. I added ribbing to Sharon's socks to make them fit easier, leaving a 10 stitch stockinette panel on each side of the cable with the ribbing going the rest of the way around and I'll do that for mine, also.

Last year, before Christmas, I started knitting the Keelin Cap for my mother. When she visited for the holiday she tried it on and it was, as I suspected, way too big. I ripped back and was going to eliminate a pattern repeat to make it smaller. I emailed the designer to verify that I had gotten the stitch count correct, but she advised me not to do that - it would make things look out of proportion.

I decided to try using smaller needles and went down 2 sizes. I think it's working. This second photo is closer to the real color, and Mom likes it a lot, so I am glad that the needle sizing is doing the trick. The pattern is easy to follow and a fun knit. I have 3 of 4 pattern repeats (before decreasing begins) completed, so I think I can have the hat completed by the weekend.

This is my gauge swatch for my new sweater. I really like the Leaf and Picot cardigan on the cover of Interweave Knits. I resisted buying new yarn for the Saroyan scarf by choosing this yarn for the sweater.
This is Silky Wool, and I bought 8 skeins in a denim-y blue color. I swatched in the leftover yarn (teal) from my Slinky Ribs sweater (no, it does not yet have buttons on it. I had them in hand at the store but got side tracked). I like the swatch on the right more. That was knit on size 5 needles, the one on the left on size 6. I will swatch with 4s just to be sure, but I think I'll go with the 5s.
These are washed swatches.

My hand spun wrap is finished! I had these bits and pieces, didn't want to waste them, didn't quite know what to do with them. I don't care for the patchwork look. I settled on a stitch pattern that, I think, allows each different yarn, the color, the weight, the texture,  to shine.
The pattern is a variation of feather and fan with a cable thrown in every 8 rows. I love cables. ; )

This is the blocked photo. I just stretched it out on the deck - no pins or wires - and let the sun dry it. I am going to enjoy snuggling into this on those cool summer evenings.