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May 26, 2010

Spinning My Wheels

A surprisingly long time ago, an antique spinning wheel arrived here courtesy of my family in Switzerland.

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It had some busted up bits, so I dispatched it to Dave at Merlin Tree, who fixed it up. Its been ready to pickup for awhile, but frankly I totally forgot about it at last Rhinebeck. However, this weekend is Massachusetts Sheep and Wool. I'm able to go on one of the days (undecided yet as to which) and Dave can bring my wheel, so this project will finally be completed.

I can't even remember the last time I spun anything, but I always enjoy it when I do. Perhaps a new wheel will entice me to sit and spin awhile.

December 15, 2008

For a Change: Spinning

I used to talk about spinning a fair bit on this blog. Not anymore, for the simple reason that I rarely spin these days. Do I enjoy it when I do it? Actually, yes. But I don't enjoy it more than knitting or all the other things that I do. So, it falls to the wayside.

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However, I have a project on the bobbins that simply must be finished. Back in May 2007 I offered up as an MS Ride prize this cashmere spun up into laceweight yarn.

The poor prize winner has been waiting on me ever since. Totally. Lame.

At this point, the never-ending cashmere supply is, perhaps, ending. Then comes the plying and the dyeing. Its a long road yet to project completion, but it MUST happen.

October 31, 2007

Back in the Fiber Room

I am fortunate to have a beautiful fiber room, but it has been sorely neglected and abandoned lo these many months.

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Until this past weekend, I can't even remember the last time I spent any appreciable time in there. Mostly when I spin, I spin in the fiber room. So it doesn't take a Sherlock Holmes type to deduce that its also been a long, long time since I spun anything.

Which is a problem because as part of my MS Ride fundraiser, I promised Lorrie C. (the winner of this prize) a skein of handspun lace-weight cashmere.

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Proof that I'm working on it. I had sort of forgotten, though, that one can spin a tiny little singles for hours and the bobbin doesn't get much fatter.

While I was in the fiber room, I put away in the sock yarn cubby my only Rhinebeck purchase for myself*: a skein of Maple Creek Farm superwash wool/bamboo/nylon sock yarn. See if you can guess which one it is.

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Hint: one of these things is not like the others.

Being predictable in one's yarn tastes is so very....predictable.


*I puchased more items in my capacity as personal shopper.

April 23, 2007

The First Rule of Knit Club...

The first rule of Knit Club is that you never bring more than a simple stockinette stitch sock to any place where more than one knitter or spinner gathers. This rule serves to save one from the sadness of returning home from a lovely gathering, only to discover that the waffle stitch one has been flawlessly knitting for over a month is now...well...flawed.

In my haste to finish the second Thermal sleeve, I disregarded the First Rule. And I have several inches of ripped sleeve with which to wipe my tears.

Let us speak of happier subjects. Like spinning.

The hard truth is that I rarely spin anymore, despite lots of delicious fiber and a fine wheel sitting up in the Fiber Room waiting for my attention. I do enjoy spinning, and I realized the other day that one reason I don't do it so much anymore is that this activity provides little food for the hungry blog. I mean, one full bobbin of singles looks just like the next, and the next one after that. Ho hum. Although in very large measure, my choice of projects is NOT driven by their blogworthiness, I do believe in this one aspect that is indeed the case.

What I need is a blog-based incentive to include a dose of spinning in my life, and I think I know what its going to be. Awhile back I scored some lovely cashmere top.

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OK. That cat picture was totally accidental. Here is what I was actually taking a picture of before Igor wandered by:

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I propose to spin up this lovely lot of cashmere into a lace-weight yarn and then give it away on this here blog. Perhaps I'll even dye it the color of the winner's choice. Perhaps I'm thinking ahead for prize ideas for those lovely folks who might donate to my MS Ride. Stranger things have happened....


January 29, 2007

Spinning Haiku

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Spinning for hours,
Yet bag is never smaller!
Process, not product?

December 20, 2006

I'm In Love With My Yarn*

Soft and sproingy and almost unbelievably light. So deliciously red, but not the same red through and through. And certainly not the same grist through and through either. Best of all, it totally does not smell like yarn-store-yarn. Granted, that could be the hair conditioner I put in the rinse water.... and yes, I sniff my yarn. Your point is?

I'm in love with my yarn.

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If you want to get up close and personal with my two newly born skeins of yarn, 10.6 oz (about 302 grams) total, click here.

The enormous bag of roving continues to be never-ending. Might I have enough for two sweaters? Will the spinning love stick around through the holidays?

Don't mind me. Just hugging my skeins here. Proof positive how easily I am entertained.


*What song am I thinking of?

December 11, 2006

Ply This

Plying* isn't evil. Nope. Not evil.

But you'd think it was, the way I avoid it.

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I actually cleaned an abandoned project off of a fourth bobbin so that I could keep on keeping on with the mindless spinning. Instead of breaking out the big ole Plying Head, I am throwing perfectly nice projects off of bobbins. And I've got FOUR MORE BOBBINS, PEOPLE.

Reaons for not wanting to ply:

1. Changing out the "head" involves effort. Not much effort, but I am lazy. Yeah, I know that I can ply on the smaller head, but I like big-ass skeins and the plying head lets me ply two regular bobbins in one go.

2. Plying involves the counting. In order to get the yarn plyed evenly, I count the number of treadles per armlength. This is a bit tedious, and I'm easily distracted and lulled into a stupor...one, two, three....um, where was I? Plus, seeing as how i must swing my right arm (the plying arm) way out behind me in order to execute the plying action (ah, the joys of a castle-style wheel), I can only do it for a little while before my shoulder demands a break.

Reasons FOR wanting to ply:

1. Dude. Yarn. Finished.

There is a school of thought, taught I as recall by the goddess-like Judith MacKenzie McCuin, that says one should spin all one's singles up, put them on storage bobbins and then ply at the end. Taking care at that time to ply thicker singles with thinner ones to try for a more uniform batch of yarn. Keeping in mind my natural tendency towards spinning inconsistency, especially during a long project that will take many moons, this is sound advice.

But, that would mean buying storage bobbins, since my current method (cut up toilet paper rolls) wouldn't work well for plying large amounts off of a lazy kate. And, really. When faced with days and days of nothing but plying would I really do that? Ever?

I've got one more thought on spinning -- sorry knitting-only people, its all Spin all the time here today. The projects that I might clean off the bobbins to avoid the plying are mostly small-scale projects. The 4 oz. of fluff bought here or there with no real thought of a use for it. I almost NEVER finish these. Its the gargantuan projects, the enormous bags of fiber where a sweaters' worth of yarn is the jackpot that get me to actually finish a spinning project.

Go big or go home, says I. As the never-ending bag of roving cackles evilly beside me.

*For the non-spinners among us, plying is when you take two or more singles and feed them together through the wheel adding twist in the opposite direction to the way singles were spun in order to get a plyed knitting yarn. You know, like most of the yarn you buy. It is possible to knit with singles (think Brown Sheep or Lopi) but for a variety of reasons, most handspinners ply their yarn.

December 04, 2006

Perhaps I Should Spin Now

Recently, I was looking for something in the Fiber Room and opened up one of the closets in there. On a shelf was an ENORMOUS bag.

"What could that be?" think I.

Oh yeah.

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I felt a little ashamed for completely forgetting about this huge quantity of lovely fiber. But in true Claudia fashion, I promptly put it out of my mind again.

Until yesterday. Yesterday I was sitting at my little desk in said Fiber Room struggling with Inspiration for a great project for my red Kyoto yarn.** Desperate to escape, I turned and looked at my spinning wheel. The next thing I knew THIS had happened.

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People, that's a butt-load of fiber....two and a quarter pounds worth of Romney lamb. Soft, but long. My personal spinning heaven.

I've thrown down the gauntlet. I will spin all of this up into standard, default Claudiayarn. Two ply, worsted/aran/bulky weight (depending upon where in the skein one looks). This yarn of mine is technically imperfect, but it knits up pretty darn well. I have three nice sweaters made out of this yarn.

As for potential sweaters -- since I will have more than enough yarn to knit anything I'd like -- I am considering this one. It looked so darn cute on Cari that I've wanted it ever since. Plus, there might emerge a theme on this here blog of garments that can be closed with my pretty but sadly under-utilized shawl pin.

**OK, I have the beginnings of a very simple idea, but its tender and new and not-yet-ready-for-prime time.

November 15, 2006

A Few More Thoughts on Wheels

I knew that I could count on this crowd for an enthusiastic welcome for my new/old wheel.

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If you want a larger picture, just click on the image.

The truth of the matter, is that I don't NEED another spinning wheel under any reasonable interpretation of the word "need". I spin sporadically and -- indeed -- recently not all that often. My trusty Lendrum DT is and remains perfectly capable of meeting my spinning needs, such as they are.

But I WANTED this particular wheel more for sentimental reasons. This is itself is unusual because I'm not especially interested in things for any other reason than their usefulness. There aren't a whole lot of knick-knacks hanging around my house.

There are two antique spinning wheels that are actually family heirlooms of my mother's family. I discovered this when I visited Switzerland, for the first time since I was a child, a couple of years ago. A picture of one of the wheels can be found in this post. However, these wheels belong to my mother's sisters and were part of their legacy from the family home, since torn down. All as it should be, and fine with me.

But knowing that I liked spinning, one of my aunts bought me this pretty little wheel with the carvings on it from the estate of a spinning wheel collector.* This wheel, though not the "family" wheel, comes from the same area in Switzerland where my family is from. My uncle then scoured the internets figuring out how to ship this fragile beauty to me. And had it packed with several pounds of Swiss chocolate Christmas tree ornaments to boot. YEAH BABY!

So, I consider it my family wheel, since if it wasn't for my family there is no way that I would have it. Despite its current non-spinnable condition -- the gaps in the wheel that you see in the picture aren't supposed to be there -- it is totally worth it to me to have the wheel restored so that I can use it. Despite the fact that I don't need another wheel. And despite the fact that for the money this has already cost me (and will cost me in the future) I could have had a very nice, new, modern wheel.

Those of you who have shopped with me and have wondered when or if I would ever buy any knitting/spinning related item ever again. Well, here's your answer. For something really special and unique, my wallet and fiber room are open.


*OK, how cool is that? A SPINNING WHEEL COLLECTOR! Although, come to think of it. I know lots of folks right here in the USA who qualify as such. You know who you are.

November 13, 2006

A New Arrival

A long, long time ago I told you guys about a spinning wheel. A spinning wheel that would change my status as a One-Wheel-Spinner.

Well, last week an enormous box arrived from Switzerland.

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And a bit of the wheel detail.

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Better pictures will have to await some better light -- today's dreary and rainy weather isn't the best showcase for my new toy.

This is a pretty little wheel, which arrived amazingly intact considering how far it had to come. In order to be spin-ready, it needs a bit of repair. The wheel itself is coming apart and the flyer needs some hooks inserted. This appears to be a bobbin lead wheel, but I honestly can't be 100% sure. An antique wheel expert I am not. I need a master in old wheel restoration -- like Dave at the Merlin Tree to help return this wheel to her proper glory.

So, welcome little wheel. I'll take very good care of you, and soon you'll be spinning lovely yarns again.

September 20, 2006

Random Wednesday

First some spinning, and then some randomness.

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This soft and delectable angora blend was a generous gift from Juno. I think this roving came from Kim at the Woolen Rabbit, but I am a forgetful recipient and can't remember for sure. The spinning is almost done. And at a laceweight, you can be sure that its taken me a long while.

Now, a common question when I show spinning is "so, what will you use it for?" Up front I'll say that I have no idea. When I buy an enormous quantity of fiber, it is destined to become a sweater and I know that from the moment of purchase on. But I haven't bought fiber like this in a long while -- actually I haven't bought ANY fiber in a long while. Lately, I've been very content to take a soft and delicious small quantity of roving and just spin it. Mindlessly. With no thought to uniformity of grist or ultimate usefulness.

This is more about the Zen of Spinning, rather than a yarn-production pursuit. Perhaps someday I'll start reading Spin Off again and resume caring about grist and twist. Oddly, though, my yarn looks mostly the same now as when I cared. Or thought I cared. Maybe I never cared?

I believe that I've just won the Oscar for Random Spinning.

Now, for the non-spinning randomness.

1. In the category of knitters doing good, check out what Julie is doing to help a friend with a dreadful disease. And Tasha is raising money to fight MS on behalf of her mom who has the disease. Help out your fellow knitters if you can.

2. In the category of best new knitting blog concept, check out the fantastic images related to knitting and spinning collected by formerly Blogless Marcy and posted for your enjoyment.

3. I haven't knit a stitch on a sock in almost a month. I must be sick.

April 26, 2006

From There to Here

So, now it is clear to everyone that this whole spinning thing? Accidental, really. I didn't make a conscious decision to learn to spin, it just sort of happened. But once I had tasted the Kool-Aid, I set out on a mission to actually learn this new hobby.

Other than the five minute drop spindle lesson at the local sheep n' wool, for quite some time I was on my own to figure out the finer points. Now, I'll be up front and tell you that I never thought anything about spinning was hard. Spinning is all about your hands knowing what to do, and for some odd reason -- put fiber into my hands and they go off by themselves and take care of yarn-making business. Peasant ancestors, I thank you.

But that is not to say that I don't owe some big debts to those who taught me actual skillz. I do. During the first few months of spinnng madness, when I was largely figuring this hobby out on my own, I relied on the excellent articles in Spin Off magazine and my imaginary friends on the Sheep Thrills mailing list.

However, it was a class with Rita Buchanan a few months after I started spinning that taught me how to ply. Now, even if you don't spin I think you can appreciate how important this part of the yarn-making process is. Other than Lopi and some Brown Sheep yarn, all the yarn you probably use day-to-day is plyed. Important. So, I show up to this class consisting mostly of advanced spinners that just wanted to get a few pointers from a Famous Fiber Person, not knowing how to ply other than in a most rudimentary fashion. Rita, bless her heart, was unfazed and took me kindly but firmly in hand. Needless to say, I left knowing EXACTLY how to ply.

Seeing as Rita is no longer teaching, here is how to ply the Rita way (fuzzily remembered, years and years later). Put your lazy kate way behind you. Set up your chair a set distance away from the wheel so that you always sit the same distance away from the orifice (google that word, I dare you). Tie on the singles to a leader. Now, swing out your arm holding taut what for you is a comfortable length of singles. Start treadling, counting the number of treadles. Watch the status of the singles that you are holding. When the yarn looks about how you want it, let the yarn wind onto the bobbin, and draw out another arms' length of singles. Treadle the same amount of times as the last go-round. Wind on. Repeat a few more times. Then stop. Wind some plyed yarn off of the bobbin and check to see if you still like it. The act of winding on seems to take out some of the plying twist, and the tension that you are holding the singles under before winding on can distort the look of the yarn.

If you still like the yarn, wind it back on and continue, drawing out the same length of singles every time, and putting the same treadle count into each length of singles. However, if the yarn looks limp and loose, add to the treadle count by two -- adding just one treadle to each arms' length won't change it -- until you like the yarn. If the yarn looks and feels like razor-wire (and that wasn't what you were going for) back off on the treadle count by two and resample until you like the yarn. Don't be faked out by whether the plyed yarn twists back on itself -- if the singles have rested on the bobbins for awhile, it will take a good soak for the singles' twist energy to come back to balance out the newly-added plying energy. If I like the look of the newly-plyed yarn on the bobbin, I don't even worry about "balanced" v. "unbalanced" yarn until after the skein is washed and dried.

There is alot more technical information about plying which, frankly, I don't care to know about -- you'll have to go elsewhere for that. But just this much learning has gotten me where I want to go in yarn-making for lo these many years.

I got to thinking about the people who taught me this craft after listening to Syne Mitchell's WeaveCast episode where she interviews Judith MacKenzie.** Now, if you ever have a chance to take a class with Judith regardless of the stated topic, run -- do not walk -- to take advantage of that opportunity.

I took a class with Judith a few years after I started spinning. By that point, I had the basics of spinning a singles and plying down pretty pat. Although Judith left me with a few invaluable tips (for example, stick a book under the front edge of a lazy kate to tilt it -- it will tension the bobbins just enough without further fiddling) that is not why her teaching was so special. Judith embodied the joy and playfulness of working with fiber and the endless possibilities for creative expression available through this medium. And Judith made sure to leave you believing that you too could create the fiber magic. Priceless.

Now technically I am not the greatest spinner. But I've spun up and then knitted up some really great projects. Peasant hands and the right teachers at the right time. If you have drunk the Kool-Aid, I wish you the same good fortune.

**Nope, I don't weave but this doesn't matter -- fiberart is fiberart. I see from going to the WeaveCast site today that Syne has a new podcast up with an interview with Mollie Freeman. I seriously cannot wait to hear this.

April 10, 2006

A Slight Change In Plans

I spent my free time this weekend (such as it was) engaged in two activities: plying and dyeing. If spinning talk isn't your bag, and you want to skip down to the pretty colors, go to the DYEING part.

Still here? Alrighty then:

The plying concerned those two bobbins of lace-weight singles that I showed you on Friday. The good part? Despite the relative fineness of the singles, I had only one break during the entire plying process. I attribute this not only to decently spun singles, but to the fact that Icelandic fleece has both very long fibers (the tog) and very short, soft, downy fibers (the thel). You can read more about Icelandic fleece here. The roving that I'm spinning from was prepared with both the long fibers and the short fibers together. I think this made it easier for me to spin very fine because the long fibers would anchor the shorter fibers to make a nice strong (but thin) strand.

The not-so-good part? Plying is a very repetitive motion, which for me involves holding my right arm significantly out behind my back to get an arms' length of singles plyed at a time. My right shoulder says ouch. I have a double treadle castle-type wheel. Because the flyer is sitting directly above the wheel and the wheel only treadles smoothly using both feet, this means that I must sit straight on to the wheel, holding the fiber out to my right-hand side and back. Usually this isn't a problem for me, and I prefer this position for my customary short spinning bouts. But for long periods of spinning or plying, it would be really nice to draw out the singles in front and across my body while treadling at an angle to the wheel. Like, say, would happen if I ever could get this wheel which I ordered in 2002. Sigh.

Regardless, I plyed the massive amount of laceweight singles and it took me most of Saturday to do it. I'm happy with the resulting yarn. The reason that I spun my own Icelandic laceweight for the Hyrna project was because I felt that this product as sold by the vendors at the sheep and wool festivals just wasn't soft or light enough. The yarn I ended up with (spun via supported long draw from exquisitely prepared fiber) is light and airy and as soft as Icelandic gets. On occasion I'm asked (actually, I'm asked alot) why I would go through the trouble of spinning my own yarn when I could just go to the store and buy some. This yarn is Exhibit A for the reason why: sometimes you simply cannot buy the yarn that you really, really want.

DYEING

Everybody with me now? Let's talk color. There was a slight change in the color plans for this skein of laceweight. First, I had originally planned to spin up a second skein of this before dyeing it -- just to make sure I had enough for the planned shawl. But after all the time it took me to spin the first skein, I was kinda fried on the idea of more laceweight. After the skein was done, I pulled out the McMorran yarn balance in order to figure out how many yards I had. This skein weighs 6.195 ounces (love me dat drug dealer scale) and my yarn balance calculation yielded 1900 yards/pound. Rounding all the numbers down and being as conservative as possible, I figure this skein is about 700 yards of yarn. Since Hyrna is a relatively small shawl taking approximately 500 yards of yarn, I'm hoping that I am safe. Onwards to the dye pot.

My original vision of this project was to dye the yarn with indigo, and I bought some at the last Rhinebeck. I don't know squat about dyeing with indigo. Problem number one. Problem number two is that I don't actually like blue. I know! Shocking! A big problem number three came to light after chatting up Booga J Julie (go and listen to her first two podcasts!) who recently took an indigo dyeing class. There apparently is a smell issue with indigo, and its not quite warm enough here to dye outside yet. Those of you who know my fastidious spousal unit can IMAGINE how well this would go over. For the rest of you: not well.

So all of this led me back to my trusty Sabracron chemical dyes. I looked through my sample cards for a likely color. I wanted something relatively subtle for this project, because the design is already fancy and striking enough to stand on its own. I finally settled on a caramel brown color, which I mixed up thusly using my Sara Lamb formulas:

6.1 oz of fiber equals 172 grams (people, it is WAY easier to calculate dyeing using the metric system)

172 grams of fiber dyed to a 1% depth of shade (a medium color) needs 172 ml of dyestock.

My caramel brown color uses: 1 part (Red Mix), 7 parts (Gold), 2 parts (Violet)

Red Mix = 50/50 Scarlet and Fuchsia.

So, I threw into the dyepot, 9 ml of Scarlet, 9 ml of Fuchsia, 120 ml of Gold and 34 ml of Violet.

For some reason, the dye did not takeup very much within the first 20 minutes of simmering. When this happens, I add more vinegar and simmer longer. All told, I added more vinegar twice and simmered for about an hour before most of the dye exited the water and bonded to the fiber. After allowing the pot to cool down for about six hours, the dye pot had exhausted, meaning the water was clear and all the dye bonded with the yarn. YEAH! This means you (the dyer) have Done It Right!

After all of this verbiage here is the picture of a big laceweight skein now a lovely caramel brown:

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The knitting will soon begin. Finally.

April 07, 2006

Progress, Or The Perception Thereof

Sometimes I feel that projects, once begun, drag slowly on. I mean, its not unpleasant to work on these projects -- this fibery hobby is supposed to be FUN, remember? Just that progress is snail-like.

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Here I have two bobbins of laceweight singles spun from a never-ending bag of Icelandic roving. Seriously, people. It feels like I've been spinning on these two measly bobbins FOREVER. I don't usually spin this fine, because I don't usually have much use for laceweight. But I've set out to spin the yarn for Hyrna, so laceweight it is.

Plying these little beasties will doubtless take another eternity, but if I am very lucky perhaps these two bobbins will suffice for this project. The upside of spinning fine singles is that the yardage on one bobbin is killer, and the suggested yardage for this patttern is only about 500 yards.

In contrast, I think I'm FLYING on progress with the Conwy sock.

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I mean, I'm getting close to the heel. But objectively this isn't fast progress. Perception, however, is all. See, I had expected this patterned sock to be a slow and frustrating knit compared to my regular stockinette socks. Not so! The limited time that I've had to spend on this project has resulted in way more progress than I was expecting.

Exceeded expectations = happiness.

February 03, 2006

Fluffy Fiber Fills Fiber Room

When I was all excited about clearing out the Fiber Room recently, I was forced to look two fleeces right darn straight in the eye (bear with me on the practical impossibility of this) and level with them. After more than three years four years of marinating in the closet, I was just never going to process these fleeces myself. It was time to call in the professionals.

Long past time.

I went to my friend Helen owner of "Fleece Mountain" (go ahead, ask her) for a processor recommendation. Helen said "Friends' Folly Farm". So I emailed these nice folks (for some reason their website doesn't mention their fleece processing service -- email them for the info), made arrangements and sent off the washed Icelandic lamb fleece discussed in this post and a washed Romney lamb fleece that I dyed red. Dyed it so long ago that I can't even remember what dye I used.

Then, of course, I promptly put this fiber out of my mind and spent a few weeks admiring the clean, uncluttered state of the Fiber Room. And feeling rather smug about it, might I add.

The mailman arrived earlier this week carrying an enormous box. "What on earth is that?!" I exclaimed when I saw it, wracking the old brain for what I possibly could have ordered.

They're BAACK.

Behold a one pound a half of luscious, fluffy, light and airy Icelandic lamb roving:

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And two and a quarter pounds of soft, red roving clouds:

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The roving is beautifully done, and is lovely to spin. Spin? you say. Claudia still spins? Indeed, my little smart ass friends, I actually sat down and sampled this delectable roving treat almost the moment it arrived.

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The 2 ply laceweight Icelandic I was actually happy with right off the bat. I think handspun of this ilk will be the perfect yarn for the Hyrna shawl that is its destiny. After feeling up a variety of Icelandic lace weight yarns at Rhinebeck, I think that my own handspun will be softer and lighter than what is commercially available.

I was less pleased with my two-ply effort on the red Romney lamb. To be sure, I'll knit up my little sample skein, but I think I would like this yarn better for a sweater project (um, 2 1/4 pounds of fleece just says SWEATER to me) as a three-ply. The last Romney lamb fleece that I spun up I did as a three ply worsted weight and that is working fabulously for poor, neglected Mariah.

So, the Fiber Room floor is no longer uncluttered. But in trade I now have the opportunity to enjoy spinning two fleeces that I loved when I bought them, and that are now beautifully prepared just the way I want. Its all good.

August 08, 2005

When the Cat's Away, the Mice Sit on Their Asses and Knit

When the cat's away, the mice will take a frozen mug of Tanqueray and Tonic out to the deck and knit.

Who knows, the mice may have started a new project...

See, in the summertime, a/k/a prime bicycling season, there isn't an awful lot of sitting around chez Claudia. But with the live-in personal trainer husband gone for the day riding a bike race, it was high-time for a sit-down on the deck with a nice cold one and some tunes.*

There was also spinning to be had. The following will serve as a prime rationale for why I often come away from fiber festivals with only gifts for others. Several years ago at a fiber festival I purchased an oatmeal colored Polwarth fleece imported from either Australia or New Zealand. I bought it because you rarely see Polwarth for sale, and the wool is soft, soft, SOFT. I sent it off for processing because as a finewool with lots of grease, this would have been a bitch to wash at home without felting it.

What came back to me were two giant rolls of pin-drafted roving. Now, this is delightful to spin. The preparation is perfect, there are no neps, and my favorite way of spinning (a lightly supported long draw) is ideal for this fiber. So why is it that over two years after this fiber landed in the Fiber Room, deliciously ready to spin, do I have THIS left:


One untouched roll, and one nearly gone.

The answer: there is not enough time in the day, week, month or year to spin or knit as much as I might fantasize I'd like to. When absolutely wonderful wool/fleece projects like this one lie fallow for years waiting for their Time, that is when I stop buying more wool and fleece. After this Polwarth is done, believe me I've got lots more great things lined up. Hooray for stash!

So this weekend I renewed my love for Polwarth by spinning up a tasty bobbin of the stuff. There is probably enough in the emaciated roll pictured above for one more bobbin, which together with this weekend's bobbin should add two more skeins to this collection. Then onwards to tackle the second giant roll.


*Until the husband got back early, enticed me off of the deck with false pretenses of an easy ride...HA! Clearly I have "GULLIBLE" written on my forehead. I know. Its for my own good. Stop laughing, you-know-who.

August 05, 2005

Silk -- An Ongoing Saga

Today, let me tell you the unfinished story of some silk top.

Long, long ago I purchased a mess of lovely silk bombyx top. To learn more about this luscious fiber, go here. Along with it, I bought some delicious Cormo top. My original plan was to make a yarn of one ply silk and one ply Cormo and knit the whole thing up into a shawl.

With all of the other fiber and yarn in the Fiber Room, this plan went astray. I did manage to spin up a bobbin full of the silk, but that bobbin sat untouched for a good....two years maybe? That is, until yesterday.


Four ounces of soft silk singles, all skeined up.

Recently I was surfing around the blogs and came across a discussion somewhere about spinning a singles (one ply) and just using that as yarn without plying it. At that moment I realized that I've never done this; never just stopped after spinning a singles and said "finished!". I thought of this full bobbin of silk, spun variably (as is my trademark) from laceweight to fingering weight and began to wonder.

My first speculation, upon which I'm still musing, is whether I had put so much twist into this singles that there wasn't any way to use it straight without risking my knitting biasing. I haven't yet wet-blocked the skein, but considering it has been sitting on the bobbin for years I'd bet that the twist has set all its going to. Hung up, we get this:


I see one full twist here.

There is really no way to know whether this silk skein will work in a lacey wrap without sampling it. So my plan is to give it a good soak, hang it to dry and try knitting with it. If I hate it, then I can put it back in the Fiber Room and maybe go back to the original plan.

The extreme whiteness of this skein is also tempting me to throw on some color using the silk-dyeing technique of the beautiful and talented Sara Lamb. Despite the potential usefulness of a white silk wrap, this project is the perfect size for the dyeing crockpot, and I hear it calling me.

Amazing isn't it, the story that can be wrung from a whack of silk. To be continued.