Sunday, May 24, 2020

About All That Fleece ...

Hi, I'm a spinner, and I have a fleece problem.

Now, to be fair, my problem isn't as bad as some other spinners. But like them, I have a problem with acquiring fleeces that I fall in love with, bringing them home, and then letting them sit. With the extra time I have on my hands these days, and with the weather nice enough to take fiber prep outside, I thought it was high time I start tackling the fleeces in my stash.

The first one was the Rambouillet you saw the beginning of last week. It was one of two fleeces I split with another spinner back in 2012, and it was the easiest to start with because it had been cleaned and carded at a mill. I'd even split up the roving into manageable amounts of about 2 oz. I did not have a ton of extra spinning time this week, but I've managed to spin up one of those 2 oz. balls and gotten started on a second (I believe I have a total of 11 balls).

You can tell how much fluffier woolen-spun singles are by how much of that first bobbin is filled up -- for comparison, if I'd been spinning my usual worsted singles or yarn, I'd fill up about that much of the bobbin with about 4 oz. of fiber. I do feel that as I get more used to this fiber, my singles are becoming a bit more consistent overall, though they're still a bit lumpy-bumpy. I plan to spin up all the singles and then ply, mixing up singles spun at the beginning, middle, and end of the fleece so that the unevenness more or less evens out. I'm planning a three ply, as that is likely to be the most consistent, and I'm hopeful that I will have enough for a sweater, perhaps with some dyed handspun added in for stripes or colorwork if needed.

While this one fleece should keep me busy for a while, I also have some other fleeces that are clean but in need of processing before they can be spun. The one I've been most anxious to get to is Ollie the yearling Romney/Romeldale cross that I brought home from Maryland Sheep and Wool in 2018. Unlike the other fleeces, his I actually washed right away (I think within the month of May that year) and sampled. I ultimately determined that the short-ish staple length of the fleece meant that carding was likely to be the easiest way to process it, so yesterday, when the weather was lovely and Rainbow was willing, I took the fleece and my drum carder out to the porch and we carded up three fluffy batts.

It took three passes through the drum carder to get them to this point, but I know that work will be well worth it. If you're interested, I posted a short video of Rainbow doing the first pass on one of the batts on my Instagram account. There is still quite a lot of fleece to be carded at this point, but I think if I continue to make batts as I'm spinning the Rambouillet, it should be good motivation to get both things done. Wouldn't it be something if I ended the year having spun up most (if not all) of my fleece?

Thursday, May 21, 2020

The Unexpected Joy of a Three-day Weekend

With every day feeling the same and time being a strange construct these days, I had completely forgotten that this coming weekend was Memorial Day weekend until I got an email from work yesterday announcing that the "office" would be "closing" early on Friday as it usually does (in today's terms, that means I can close my computer at 3 tomorrow afternoon). It's not nearly as exciting as being able to physically leave my office early on a Friday afternoon, but given that it's been a busy week at work, it's an unexpected joy that I am fully embracing.

The work that's come in this week has meant less crafting time, so my projects haven't progressed too much since you saw them last. The most progress has been on my cowl, which is just about done -- I think I'm going to knit in the texture pattern for about another half inch and then do the ribbing to finish it off. I'm a bit sad about that, if I'm honest, because these colors are making me so happy.

In keeping with the 100 Day Projects, I'm still putting in about 15 minutes a day on Rainbow's blanket, but as the rounds are getting longer, progress is harder to see, especially when that 15 minutes is the only time it gets each day. I'm nearing the end of the fifth ball of Felici, though, so I know it is getting a bit larger.

It will need some aggressive blocking when it's done to square it up, but the color pooling is so interesting to me!

I finished two books this week, one audio and one digital.

I listened to On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous over the course of several days. I really wanted to love this book, as it's gotten so much positive hype, and certainly the writing is beautiful and poetic, especially when read by the author. But something about it didn't work for me. It's called a novel, but it felt more like a memoir to me, and it didn't really have a linear plot. It's framed as a letter a son writes to his mother, but it's really a series of memories of his childhood, presented in no particular order. I didn't listen to this while running because I felt that I really had to pay attention to it, but even so I found it hard to follow. While Vuong is clearly talented as a writer, I was disappointed -- but don't let that discourage you if you want to read it. Be advised, though, that this book contains some very graphic, sexually explicit scenes. I gave it 3 stars and put it in the "Debut" box on my bingo card.

Alias Grace was a much more enjoyable read for me. I'd been meaning to read it for at least the past year, since I watched the Netflix miniseries (which is well worth watching, too!), but it had always had a long wait. So a couple of weeks ago, when I saw that there was no wait for it from the library, I jumped at the chance to borrow it. I really enjoyed it and appreciated Margaret Atwood's talent. I'd originally intended to put it in the "By an author on your previous year's favorites list" square on my bingo card, but when I realized how long it was (546 pages), I moved it to "More than 500 pages." It really didn't feel like a long book to me because it moved quickly. I gave it 4 stars.

I'm looking forward to having three days to myself this weekend, especially given that the weather is supposed to be sunny and warm for a change. I will likely do some puttering in the garden and may finally take my drum carder out to the porch to process some fleece. I'll leave you for today with a shot of our sunflower seedlings, which are beginning to put out their third set of leaves. It never ceases to amaze me how much power and potential there is in a seed.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend, full of sunshine and potential!

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

I'm Ready for the Next Project

It's a new week, one that's shaping up to be a busy one. A big project landed in my inbox yesterday afternoon, so that will keep me busy this week during working hours. And I'm still doing plenty of crafting, of course.

We had a beautiful weekend here, warm and sunny with no rain for a change. On Saturday morning, Rainbow and I planted the flowers and tomatoes we'd gotten on Mother's Day. We have pink impatiens in the front yarn, between the grass and hydrangea bushes. They were pretty small when we planted them and only a couple of flowers have opened since then. In the back yard, we planted a mix of marigolds (I started picking them and drying them last year to use in natural dyeing) and the three tomato plants in our fenced bed. We've got some sunflower seedlings started in a pot planter and have started some peas inside that will be transplanted outside once they're a bit bigger. I know Julia asked to see photos of the garden, but at the moment there's not much to see. Once everything starts growing and blooming, I'll be sure to take some pictures!

Though I mainly did a lot of spinning over the weekend, I've been working on my WIPs as well just about every day. I'm continuing to put in a minimum of 15 minutes a day on Rainbow's crochet blanket, and most evenings I work on my Breathe and Hope shawl. I'm nearly finished with section 3, which I think I've likely messed up a few times, but after ripping it out and restarting it three times, I'm just going with the flow at this point.

My cowl has grown quite a bit, though apparently it requires more attention than I thought because yesterday I discovered a dropped stitch. I laddered it back up and think I fixed it pretty well, but it was a warning for me that I need to actually watch what I'm doing. I'm very pleased with how it's knitting up, and it looks like I'll be writing up the pattern when I'm done (I was thinking about it, so I asked in a poll on my Instagram stories, and the answer was overwhelmingly yes -- so who am I to refuse?).

Despite having these three projects going, plus spinning, I'm getting itchy to start a new project, specifically a garment. I have quite a few sweaters on my 20 in 20 list, and the amount of time left in the year to knit them is only getting shorter. I so rarely seem to get started on warm-weather garments in time to actually wear them in the season they're intended for, so I've decided that my next project will be Tegna using yarn I spun specifically for it:

This yarn was spun from three braids of Targhee/bamboo/silk from Gale's Art. I split each braid in half vertically and used one strip from each braid as one ply in each skein, so the two skeins are more or less identical. I swatched with it (yes, cheating a bit) over the weekend and am now ready to go, but I'm making myself finish up one of the other WIPs first. That said, I am getting a lot of joy out of looking at the yarn cakes sitting nearby!

Sunday, May 17, 2020

A Study in Contrasts

Even though my knitting mojo has returned, my spinning productivity really hasn't suffered, and so I'm sure it will come to no surprise to you that I have another finished skein of handspun to share this week. You didn't even see it in progress, as I started spinning it on Tuesday. It took me about a day to finish each bobbin, and I plied the entire skein yesterday.

Here's what the fiber looked like before I started, Falkland from Fibernymph Dye Works in a colorway called Cosmic Vertigo:

I spun my usual three-ply fingering with this, splitting the fiber into thirds and just letting the colors fall where they did. The skein was just washed this morning and is a bit damp still, so I don't have final yardage yet, though I'm hoping it'll be about 350 yards.

I'm quite pleased with how this turned out. I didn't expect the colors to get as mixed as they did, but I'm liking the blending that happened.

The ply and the fiber make this skein rather suited for socks, but I'm not sure if I can justify another pair of socks for myself right now, so this might go into the stash for the time being.

I couldn't let my wheel sit empty for too long, so I reached deep into my stash for the next project. I may have mentioned once or twice that I have a problem with fleeces -- namely that I seem to keep falling in love with and buying them but rarely actually spinning them. I really want to work on rectifying that situation this year, so I pulled out a fleece that I bought back at Maryland Sheep and Wool in 2012 and split with another spinner. It was a gorgeous gray/brown Rambouillet from Roclans Farm that I ended up shipping out to a mill to have it carded. When it came back, I measured out 2 oz. balls of the roving, and it has been waiting to be spun ever since. Today, I finally started spinning it. Here's the fiber beforehand:

And here are some of the singles on the bobbin, which I really wish you could pet because it's so soft!

Because the fiber was carded into roving (and not combed into top, which is what I usually spin), I'm spinning this woolen, allowing the twist to enter the fiber supply and determine the grist of the singles. They're definitely uneven, and there are some lumps and bumps in there because no doubt the carding caused some nepps. I was very new to dealing with fleece when I got this one, so I have no idea if the mill I chose was really outfitted to card fine fleeces, but it's too late to worry about that now. I'm letting the fiber do what it wants, and I'll figure out what to do with the resulting yarn once it's finished and I know what weight it is and how much of it I have. That's quite a bit outside my comfort zone, but I think it's helping me to be a better spinner!

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Three on Thursday, Book Juggling Edition

First, I have to thank all of you for your sympathy and commiseration on the lice situation. I am determined to defeat the foul "wee beasties" (as Jamie Fraser would say) this time around and am being very thorough in our daily combing. I can only conclude that I missed some nits the last time we went through this, and I don't want to make that mistake again. We've found that it's easier to comb through Rainbow's long hair when it's wet, so we're doing it after she showers now rather than before, and it seems to be going very well. I found only three lice and maybe one nit yesterday, so I'm hopeful (but not wanting to jinx anything) that I'm doing a better job. I know that lice can't cause any long-term harm or disease, but it's one thing that Rainbow shouldn't have to worry about right now -- and it's certainly something that I don't want to have to deal with right now, especially because on top of this I've had a sore/stiff neck and shoulder for the past week and would appreciate one less annoyance!

With everything that Carole is dealing with right now, I'm pretty sure she won't be doing Three on Thursday, but I thought I'd stick with the theme for today's post (and please go give her some love and support if you haven't already!).

This week I'm finding myself in an usual position of being in the middle of reading three books; when it rains, it pours, at least as far as the library is concerned! A week ago it looked like I'd be waiting a while for the next holds in my list, so I borrowed an ebook and an audiobook to enjoy while I waited -- only to have two more holds become available this week! Luckily I was able to delay a hold on the next audiobook (this seems to be a new feature of the Libby app, and I really like it), but I borrowed the ebook because I knew it wouldn't take me long to get through it. So here's what I'm reading right now:
  • Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood: I had long wanted to read this, but the last time I'd checked its availability from the library (which, admittedly, was quite a while ago), there was a long wait. When I saw it was available to borrow right away, I immediately jumped on it. I probably did it in the wrong order, but I wanted to read the book because I'd binged the Netflix version of it last year and thought it was fascinating. I'd intended to put this book in the "By an author on your previous year's favorites list" square on my bingo card, but I think now it will go in the "More than 500 pages" square (it's 546 pages but moves very quickly).
  • The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman: This audiobook, which I've been listening to while I exercise, will fill the square I originally intended for Alias Grace. One of my favorite books last year was The World That We Knew, and I also enjoyed the previous Hoffman book I read, so I knew this would be a good one. I've got about four hours left in the book (I'm listening at 1.25 time, so I can get through an hour of audio in about 45 minutes, which is usually how long I'm out when I go for a run), and I'm really enjoying it. I very well might read or listen to Practical Magic when I'm done, which will conveniently fill my "Magical realism" bingo square.
  • Dead Water by Ann Cleeves (Shetland book #5): This is the book that I got unexpectedly but knew I'd be able to read quite quickly. I started it Tuesday night just before bed and am already more than halfway through; I hope to be able to finish it today. It's a good, cozy mystery.
The knitting is continuing and the mojo seems to be sticking around, for which I am grateful. I did get the shawl pattern put together and off to my tech editor on Tuesday, so now I'm working on two WIPs. First, there's a cowl that I'm sort of designing using some bright self-striping. When you saw this last, it was just some ribbing, and it's grown somewhat since then:

I'm doing a fairly simple stitch pattern, but I think it's having a really cool effect with the self-striping yarn. It requires a bit more attention than, say, stockinette in the round but not so much that I can't knit while also reading. I don't know if it's worth writing this one up or if I'll just knit it for myself and be done with it, but the colors are making me happy right now.

In the evenings this week, I've been working on my Breathe and Hope shawl, which now has two completed sections:

This is the first time I've knit this shawl shape, and it's fun to do something a bit different for a change. Plus, there isn't anything that isn't delightful about knitting with MCN yarn. Even though my neck and shoulder were killing me last night, I couldn't stop working on this -- it was that good.

I am looking forward to a weekend that is predicted to be somewhat rainy but also warm (in the upper 70s!), so Rainbow and I are planning to plant the flowers we picked up last weekend. We've got three types of tomatoes, impatiens for the front yarn, and marigolds for the back. I also got a pot of "Italian blend" herbs -- basil, parsley, sage, chives, and I think oregano? -- that I don't have to do anything with but water, and perhaps we'll also start some seedlings with the butternut squash and cucumber seeds we discovered we still had from last year. I hope your weekend includes at least some sun and some time outside in the fresh air!

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

I Think I Jinxed It

Remember how on Sunday I said I was hoping for a quiet evening to myself? Yeah, that didn't happen. Rainbow took a shower after dinner and asked me if I'd braid her hair after. As I was combing it back to pull it into a ponytail, I saw something moving. I think you know where this is going -- the lice are back! Clearly we didn't get rid of all of them, so we're now back to daily combing and frequent laundry. Life is never dull, I guess!

The good news is that I was fairly productive over the weekend, before things got crazy again. I bound off my shawl Friday night and was able to block it on Saturday -- and it's huge!

The wonkiness you see in the bottom edge is just from my impatience to take a photo -- it does hang nicely in a near half circle. High atop my to-do list for this week is to finish writing up the pattern and take some decent photos so I can get it to my tech editor later in the week. This pattern was meant to be done months ago, but the pandemic killed my desire to work on it. That's not to say that I'm not completely happy with it, because I am, but after having it in progress for so long, I'm ready to move on.

I rewarded myself for that finish by casting on two new projects over the weekend. First, I started a cowl with the Fibernymph Dye Works ninth anniversary colorway, and you'll notice that the yarn looks a little ramen noodle-y because this is actually my second attempt at a project with this yarn.

I'm really enjoying the bright colors in this, and after initially failing to count to two successfully, I'm on my way. Once I have enough ribbing for my taste, I'm going to throw in some slipped stitches and see how I like it.

The other project is very much in the vein of "treat yo'self" -- my Breathe and Hope shawl using Fiber Optic Yarns MCN. There is nothing that is not a pleasure about knitting this.

I've only managed to work on this for short snippets of time, but it's easy and relaxing, which is exactly what I needed. Rainbow is already threatening to steal the finished shawl (she jokingly "stole" the skeins of yarn when they first arrived), so if any of you had doubts I was raising a Knitter, I think you can now dismiss them!

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Two Heads Are Better than One

This past week, I've been spinning an old shipment from the HipStrings Synergy fiber club. I think I only spun one shipment when it actually arrived, so I have a few left to spin yet. This one had two 4 oz. bags of combed top with the same blend of fibers -- 75% dyed wool, 12.5% tussah silk, and 12.5% flax -- but the difference was the type of wool. One bag was Corriedale and the other Merino. These wools aren't too dissimilar, but the point of the fiber study in this shipment was the difference in how they'd take the dye and thus have slight differences in appearance. The colorway of the fiber was Janus, after the two-headed Roman deity -- seems appropriate!

I decided to spin both bags exactly the same way -- worsted, relatively fine, and end to end -- and then ply the resulting singles back on themselves. The first bobbin of singles spun up very quickly (because work was pretty quiet at the beginning of the week), but it took me a bit longer to get to the second batch of fiber. Still, by the weekend, I had two matching bobbins (and I should note, for anyone who is curious, that in the two following photos, the Corriedale singles area on the left and the Merino singles are on the right):

To ply from both ends, I wound off the singles from each bobbin using my ball winder to get a yarn "cake." I did that earlier this afternoon, though the Merino cake didn't cooperate quite as well as the Corriedale.

Plying from both ends of a center-pull ball like this is a bit tricky because there's a tendency for tangles to form, so it's a matter of taking it slow and, I've discovered, holding the yarn cake sideways so that the outer end can be pulled cleanly off the outside while the other end pulls from the center.

I'm hoping the other ball is a little less messy when I get to it! I decided to ply the Merino first because it looked less tidy but also because I knew I had overspun some parts of the singles, so as I ply, I'm taking care to get out that extra twist. It takes some extra time, but I like how it's plying up:

I was kind of hoping to have both skeins of yarn done by today to show you, but given that I was dealing with 8 oz. of fiber total, I think I did pretty well!

It's hard to believe that another weekend is already almost over, but this was a pretty good one. Yesterday we got to meet some friends' newborn daughter via FaceTime. Today we picked up plants for our garden and visited with my parents and my brother and sister-in-law at a safe distance. It was definitely a big strange and sad not to have our usual Mother's Day brunch, but I am thankful to at least be home with my immediate family and to know that the extended family is all safe and healthy. I've requested that my family give me the Mother's Day gift of letting me watch my Sunday evening PBS shows in real time for once -- I am easy to please! I am hopeful that the week ahead will be a good one, with better weather (would you believe it snowed here on Friday?) and more time to craft. I know Mother's Day is a hard day for many people, and no doubt this year it's difficult even for those of us who usually celebrate it happily, so whatever the case may be for you, I hope you were able to to find some joy and relaxation today.