Thursday, December 31, 2009

Hand Carding Revisited

For Christmas this year my husband gave me a pair of Schacht hand carders. They curve and are made for fine wool. I did a low-water immersion dye pot with the Targhee that he gave me for my birthday. Then I carded the fiber and pulled it into these little balls. This is the first time in years that I have hand carded. I'm such a fan of the drum carder and have been afraid of hand carding since I had wrist surgery in 2006. Those were the pre-blogging years so I have never mentioned how I injured my thumb/wrist while hand carding obsessively and incorrectly. I had deQuervain's Tendonitis. I just googled it to get the spelling right and I found: "The cause of deQuevain's Tendonitis is an irritation of the tendon at the base of the thumb, usually from taking up a new, repetitive activity." Yup, that's about it. I tried every alternative treatment, but eventually had surgery that fixed it immediately and permanently.
I have learned all my fiber related skills from books, spin-off mag, and youtube videos. Somewhere along the way I remember reading (or hearing?) that you should hand card with the same gentleness as brushing a child's hair. Now that I approach it with that in mind, hopefully I will have no more injuries.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

ahhhhh...sun light...for about five minutes!

Our family just spent three days on Whidbey Island. I had plenty of time to spin so I spun up some of the top/roving that I dyed on my birthday. This morning I went out on the beach and took photos in the natural light. That's right, NATURAL LIGHT. Being that it was the winter solstice, the days of course were short. But I'll take what I can get. The skein above was mostly orange and purples, which sounds like a bad idea. The roving looked a little strange but it spun into a complex rosy brown.
I spun the second skein of the light blue with spots of red.
The roving that became this yarn was quite unappealing. I try to steer away from mixing pink with blue. Again, the yarn turned out better than I had expected. All these Merino skeins are very soft and will probably get knitted into little items like mittens or hats one day.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Spinning and Knitting

I have been spending some time spinning and knitting, but not writing about it or putting up photos. Again, I have to blame the lack of light. There are only a few hours a day that the natural light comes though the window in a way that works for photographs.

Now that I have all that newly dyed Merino top and Shetland roving, I have plenty of interesting fiber to spin. I also was given some Alpaca for my birthday and I'm hoping to card some of that during the holidays. I've been knitting this orange shawl for weeks now, but I'm taking a break for a while. I'm so happy that the Christmas holiday is here because it always leaves me with more time to spin and knit.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


My Grandma passed away yesterday at the age of 94. She was a lifetime knitter and stashed before stashing was cool. Sadly, I only kept these stockings that she knitted. They have been brought out for the holidays so I thought I'd put this photo up. My stocking was knitted in the late 60's I think. It's wool. My husband's and kid's were done in the 90's. Of course my grandma was a huge influence on me in many ways and I am sad. That's all I can say now.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Best Day Ever

Today was my birthday and before we went to Cupcake Royale (yum) I opened presents from my family. My husband gave me about 5 pounds of Targhee and the book Teach Yourself Visually - Hand-Dyeing. The kids gave me wonderful non-fiber-related gifts. I received these gifts after spending the whole day dyeing. It was awesome just to listen to pod casts all day and dye roving/top in my kitchen.

I started with about 3 pounds of different types of top.

I tried several types of space dyeing. I heated some in the oven in tin casserole pans with tin foil lids.
I steamed some of the roving/top in the canning pot.

And now it's all drying on the rack. I can't wait to spin up these samples and see how they come out. Once the roving is dry I'll take more photos. Today was the best day ever!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Schwartzie the Icelandic/Navajo-Churro cross

When I lived in Montana I obtained a whole fleece from a young woman named Mandi. She had owned an Icelandic/Navajo-Churro crossbreed named Schwartzie. Beloved Schwartzie fell into an ice pond and died. Her first (and only) sheering was all that was left. This whole black fleece has been in my possession for several months now and I have finally begun to process it.

I have decided to comb out the long course fibers and then I will probably drum card the soft undercoat. The photo above is a charged hand comb and the photo below shows the results of combing this fiber. The little ball is the combed course fiber ready to spin. The fluff on the left is the "seconds" - the soft undercoat. I put quotations around the seconds because this is the soft part that I'll actually have more of a use for. I'd like to blend it with something in the future.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Yucky Cakes

I finished the wool/cotton-denim 2 ply and wound them into cakes. These are going in the storage bin and my guess is they will never get knitted. It's a lot of work for yarn I do not like. :(
ps I'm not searching for complements. When I like my work I like it. When it sucks I'm not afraid to say to.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Keepin' it Warm

This is my new design: Oxygen Tank Cozy. It was created out of necessity. Now that I'm living in such an urban and densely populated area, I'm experiencing parking troubles. I'm constantly stressed out about finding a parking spot. The neighborhood is packed with cars and there's new condos going up all over. There are no parking spots and I find myself driving around and around looking for a place to put the car. Being that I'm a home birth Midwife, I need to be able to get in my car with all my equipment and go fast. I figure there are Midwives in Manhattan, so they must know how to deal with these issues. I've decided to consolidate all my birth bags into one huge birth bag for easy traveling.

The problem that arose with my new system was that the Oxygen Tank would slightly rattle around in it's new container. Problem solved: it get a sweater---or "cozy". The other benefit is that it looks kind of covered up when it's in peoples homes. The typical home birth aesthetic is that the medical equipment is "out of sight, out of mind". The tank usually is set aside with a baby blanket over it; covered, but easily accessible. Now after it's unpacked at a home birth, it can look friendly and warm in it's sweater. I know, I sounds silly, but home-birthers don't think of birth as a medical event. If it means putting a sweater on the medical equipment, so be it.

The Oxygen Tank Cozy was knitted with a solid colored yarn and a self-striping yarn. Both were hand spun left overs. Knitting in the round, I alternated the solid and the self-striping every two rows to get the effect.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What's on the Bobbin

Here's what's on the bobbins: I took hand picked, hand dyed (blue/grey acid dyes), hand carded wool and carded it again with denim waste. The denim waste looks like the stuff they sweep up off of a jeans factory floor. Well, I've never seen a jeans factory floor, but I'm sure this stuff is all over the place. I plied one strand of just the wool with one strand on the wool/cotton combo to create a lumpy bumpy yarn.
Husband asked if I'm going to knit sleeves on to an acid washed denim vest. He's joking. But it does have some sort of 80's look to it. Did they knit with denim fibers in the 80's? I think I remember some sweaters that looked like stonewashed jeans.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Lack of Light

There are days when it's so dark from the cloud cover you have to turn your lights on in your house in the middle of the day. And you'd want your headlights on when you drive. When I was in Montana I had a perfect system for photographing yarn. I put the black coffee table next to the huge living room window that let in a large amount of indirect light. I laid the yarn on the coffee table and used my old Olympus digital camera. Taking photos is my favorite part about blogging. But now...
The lack of light is making it hard to get good photos that show the details. I've tried the flash and reading lights and indirect window light in different combinations, but I can't quite catch all the qualities of the fibers. I'm going to keep working at it---maybe going outside will do it. For now here is a photo of all the orange yarn that I made. It was taken by the window that lets in the most light.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

spinning, knitting, finishing things

Last summer I solar-dyed some roving and now I'm getting around to spinning it. I love the fall colors.
I started Sexy Vesty with some (thrift) store bought yarn. Looks too small on the needles, but I'll have to get a little further before I can tell for sure.

Soaked the #13 Lace Beret and then dried it on a dinner plate like the directions said. It looks great on my daughter...
who was kind enough to model it for the blog.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Back in Seattle

Just wanted to post a quick message to say I haven't fallen off the edge of the earth. We are pretty much settled into the apartment in Seattle. The kids are is school and family life is going smoothly. I've had a little time for knitting and began my next project: Sexy Vesty in turquoise. Once I find my camera charger I'll update FOs and WIPs. Later.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Goodbye Montana

I attended my last birth in Montana this week. It was a lovely home birth in Great Falls. Here's the new daddy with his baby. He is the quintessential Montana man and I love this photo.
It looks like I'll be able to leave tomorrow. I think it's a 10 hour drive or so. I'm sitting at Hastings again using the internet. The Lace Beret is coming along. I can't imagine getting any knitting done once I get to Seattle. I'll be busy hugging my family and unpacking my stuff. I'll be living in a condo so things are going to change for me. Dyeing in the kitchen will probably not be an option. I wont be picking stinky fleece in the yard, because there is no yard. I wont even have access to fleece so much. I'll go back to ordering it on the internet. Even with all the changes on the horizon, I'm happy to start my new city life. Goodbye Montana!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Baby Belle

It's done. Sewed the buttons on last night. I'm going to wait to do the next baby sweater when I get to Seattle and get to my stash. I have some hand-spun with me in Great Falls, but no contrasting yarn. The ruffle took quite a bit of yarn so I had to make the cuffs shorter than the pattern called for.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Knitting Projects Update

I'm still in Great Falls and I'm still waiting on a baby. I made these mittens out of some of the solar-dyed roving from last month. They are so soft and I love the colors. I just made up the pattern as I went and they fit snugly. It was a good project to do while watching movies and passing time.
I'm back at Hastings. Free wi-fi, Woo! Last night I started the #13 Lace Beret from the Fall 2009 Vogue. I'm using some hand-combed, hand-spun natural Shetland that I made a few months ago.

Yesterday I blocked Baby Belle and it dried very quickly because it was in the 90's in the shade. I bought some little buttons today and I will sew them on soon and take a real photo for the finished piece. August was suppose to be spinning month for me, but it turned into knitting month.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Babies to be born, sweaters to be made.

Back at Hastings for free wi-fi. And coffee. Baby Belle is coming along. This sweater is for either Sophia, born last week, or for Un-named baby to be born in Sept. You see, THREE of my friends, all in their 40's are getting baby girls this year. Steve S. and wife had one in the spring. Steven F. and wife had theirs last week. Devony F, whom is my good friend and someone I met at childbirth class SIXTEEN years ago, is due in the fall. They all live in Seattle. I can't wait to meet the new babies and see my old friends. I know Devony would appreciate a hand-made sweater for her baby, but I don't know the Steves' wives very well and I don't know if they would put their babies in wool. One wife is European and Europeans like wool garments right? I actually plan see the babies--their size and what they look like, before I decide which baby get what. So I don't know who gets the first Baby Belle.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Seattle Mittens made in Montana

Yesterday I finished the mittens I have been working on. I used hand-combed Shetland from a fleece I obtained from LaVonne Stucky. I embellished with some white Shetland from Maplewood North and the inspiration came from cosymakes who embroiders on her handspun items. I made up the pattern to fit my hands perfectly. It took a few tries, but the fit was pretty good in the end. These are my new Seattle Mittens for all the rainy gray days ahead.

Today I'm at Hastings in Great Falls using their free wi-fi. I wanted to start the Baby Belle sweater so badly that I considered not setting the twist in the yarn. But I was a good girl and I took the time to soak and dry the skeins. The skeins dried in about 6 hours outside, so the wait wasn't that bad at all. This morning I rolled them into ball and started knitting the Baby Belle sweater.

Monday, August 17, 2009

A (baby) sweater's worth

Before I left Helena I finished spinning the multi-colored batts that I thought were a sweater's worth. Maybe a short-sleeved sweater or... a baby sweater! Like the awesome one designed by Cosy. Check out Baby Belle. Happily I had already decided to spin a contrast skein with the dark purple even before I saw the pattern. There are 3 new baby girls in my life (one is not born yet) and I was thinking about trying the Baby Suprise Jacket. Baby Belle is more "girly" so I'm going to give it a go instead.
Now I'm in Great Falls. Not much happening here so I got up early and swatched for the Baby Belle sweater. I definitely will use the smaller needles. I'm sitting at the Barns&Noble using the free wi-fi. The lighting is pretty bad, so the photos don't show the yarn very well. I'm super excited about this project so my guess is once it's underway it will go pretty fast.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Plenty of Free Time

For the past week I have been working on a mitten pattern that fits my hands perfectly. After a couple of frogged starts, I think I got the fit right.
I had some commercially processed roving with a little sparkle to it. I spun it into a 3-ply but there's too much twist and the yarn feels rough and scratchy and I'm having doubts that I'll ever use it for anything.

I've been spinning the "Sweater's worth" batts that I carded earlier in the summer. I'm determined to finish tonight. Not too keen on the color so I just want to get it done and move on to something else. Tonight is probably my last night in Helena. Then I'll be in Great Falls for 2 weeks before I move to Seattle. I'm just waiting on one baby so there's plenty of time to spin and knit.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Spun the Purple Roving

This roving was scrappy left-overs that I solar dyed. The scrappiness turned it into an uneven yarn, but it's okay in the home-made kind of way.

Friday, August 7, 2009

A little color experiment...

When I was doing the solar dyeing, I used the last bit of roving with the last bit of dye and made a "left over" colorway. Well, the rust and lavender that came out looked odd to say the least. I love color experiments so I spun it up in a 2-ply. It looked awful. So I pulled all the lavender out of the roving and was left with mostly warm tones. The skein on the right is the result of this effort and I must say I like it much better.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Let the Spinning Begin

My family has gone to Seattle and I'm here in Montana with a heap of fiber to spin. I have already spun half the pinkish purple batts and have begun to spin some of the solar dyed roving. I'll be posting photos as the month goes on. My car is going to be so full when i head out to Seattle at the end of the month. I think I should spin up all the fiber so it will take up less room. We'll see how far I get.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Carding Outside

Yesterday I carded some dyed fleece out on the picnic table in the back yard. I'm planning on putting the carder away in storage--well, U-haul first and then storage in Seattle. So this is my last chance to use it for a while. This morning I got up made some coffee and starting carding again. The batts pictured below were made with just one pass through the carder. I did that because either: a) I'm lazy and it's 90 degrees out or b) the dyed fleece has an interesting color pooling going on and I want to optimize the effect or c) both a and b are correct.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Solar Dyeing

My plan was to dye some roving using tin foil to make a little solar oven. When I went to buy the roving at Sweet Grass Wool, Patti asked if I was going to use black plastic bags. Well, I think her idea was much better so I did indeed use black plastic bags. It's been in the 90's lately so not only is it hot enough to dye, everything dried quickly. First I made trays out of old card board and black plastic then laid the roving in them. I squirted on the dye and then covered the whole thing with another black plastic bag. I kept going out side and touching the black plastic to see how hot it was getting. It got very hot, even to the point that it hurt to touch them! I could feel the roving inside and knew that there was enough heat to process the dye. I tossed all the cardboard and plastic in the trash afterwards for an easy (and wasteful) clean-up.
I went with fall colors so I would have something to spin when I move in the fall.

Even though I said I'd just be doing fiber prep now and spinning later, I just couldn't help myself. I started spinning the sweater yarn that I recently carded.

I know my profile says I live in Seattle, but I'm actually in Montana now. The plan goes as such: my family and I are moving all our stuff to Seattle in a week or so. They will stay there and I'll fly back to Montana to work* until Sept. During the time that I'm in Montana without my family I will have a lot of time to spin. So I'm getting all my projects together now.
*As some of you know, I'm a midwife. I only have 2 births left this summer in Montana so I'll have a lot of time to sit around and spin and wait for the babies.