Archive for category Spinning!

Summer Project Planning

With hot weather looming outside everyday and the prospect of having any and all wool stick to me upon contact, my summer crafting usually has to be pretty thought out.  Between taking M to the pool and actually letting her play outside in the disgusting heat (I’m clearly not a big fan of being hot), I have found that small portable knitting projects get the most attention.  That being said, two of my favorite events happen every summer – Stash Dash and Tour de Fleece – both of which require serious planning.

Stash Dash, hosted by TheKnitGirllls, is running from May 23rd to August 7th this year and the goal is to knit/spin/use 5K of yarn.  If I only work on small projects all summer, I would not only go out of my mind, but I would likely never reach this goal.  I would waste so much time in between projects deciding what I felt like working on next.  I very easily get analysis paralysis…

In order to minimize the time wasted in this manner, I’ve lined up some of the larger projects I would like to accomplish this year that would seriously help reach the 5K goal.  Since I won’t likely bring these projects on our outdoor “adventures”, I will be certain to have a smaller project on the needles at all time.

  1. Viajante by Martina Behm (this has been on the needles since July 2013 and seriously needs to be finished)
  2. Anna Maria Cardigan by Connie Chang Chinchio (the sweater I was knitting for my mother until I realized it was large enough to fit three of her and needs to be re-cast on)
  3. Lush Cardigan by Tin Can Knits (hopefully to be my Rhinebeck Sweater)

It is also unlikely that I will be able to knit quickly enough to accomplish this entire goal.  Luckily, spinning also counts – and that’s where Tour de Fleece comes in.  Running from July 5th to July 27th, Tour de Fleece is the perfect motivation to spend some serious time spinning in the comfort of my air conditioning.  I don’t ask for much, but I do require it to be 80 degrees or cooler in order to spin without feeling like I’m felting the fiber before it even reaches the orifice of my wheel…

This year, however, Tour de Fleece seemed to sneak up on me – as did the month of July in general.  I originally intended on spinning my Jacob fleece batts and having it either all ready to ply or completely finished by the end of the Tour.  Since it began on July 5th and I realized the day of that I had projects going on nearly all of my bobbins and both of my drop spindles, I decided to change things up a bit.

I would like to be able to clean and condition my wheel before spinning my Jacob fleece, so I’ll need all of the bobbins cleared to do that properly.  So…. you guessed it – my goal is now to finish all of the spinning projects I have in the works… or at least the ones not on storage bobbins.  The current hope – and by that I clearly mean plan – is to clear these off my wheel and my spindles:

Loop Bullseye Bump - Merino in the Vineyard colorway.

Loop Bullseye Bump – Merino in the Vineyard colorway.

KnittyAndColor - Merino/Bamboo in the Soren colorway.

KnittyAndColor – Merino/Bamboo in the Soren colorway.

FiberFancy - Shetland in the Costume Ball colorway.

FiberFancy – Shetland in the Costume Ball colorway.

Fiber Optic Yarns - BFL in the Bramble faux Batik colorway.

Fiber Optic Yarns – BFL in the Bramble faux Batik colorway.

Unwind Yarn Co - Polwarth/Silk Blend in the Ghoulish colorway.

Unwind Yarn Co – Polwarth/Silk Blend in the Ghoulish colorway.

This is also a much better goal as I will be doing a bit of traveling and it is much more reasonable to bring along a drop spindle or two than to bring my wheel along for the ride.  Not to mention a lot less annoying for those I’ll be traveling with!

What are your crafting goals for the summer?  Planning any Christmas in July crafting to get a head start on your gifts basket? Please share to keep me… inspired? …paralyzed by all the possibilities?

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The New Toy

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Enough said.  Right?  It’s now pretty clear why I referred to it as the best Mother’s Day/Christmas/Birthday present ever.

I suppose I could give some details.  It is the Strauch Petite drum carder and we were able to leave Maryland Sheep and Wool with one in hand from the Stony Mountain Fibers booth.  Though I had to wait several hours before I could open it up and try it out – as soon as I could, I made a few small batts out of some washed, but unprocessed, Rambouillet I had picked up at a Uniquities Fiber Farmer’s Market.  It was amazing and I am hooked.

Since Maryland Sheep and Wool, I have now made those batts and then…..

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I finished processing the Jacob fleece.  That’s it.  The entire fleece, all rolled into little batts of happiness and joy.  I no longer have to wonder if I will ever have the entire fleece combed and ready to be spun for Tour de Fleece 2018… No.  It’s ready for THIS year’s spinning enjoyment.  I could maybe even dream of having the sweater coat knit by the end of this year.  Plus, I would much rather spin this in a true woolen-style (long-draw and carded, not combed) and three-ply it so I can have a nice aran(ish) weight yarn.

So, in about two and a half weeks the jacob fleece turned into this:

IMG_8332 IMG_8333IMG_8339 IMG_8340IMG_8335I chose to card the fleece into batts that would all have a variety of the colors of this spotted fleece.  They are all mostly the dark brown with strips of gray and white.  This way, it will have more of  a tweedy look, instead of running the wool through the carder several times and making it a more consistent color throughout.

I am incredibly anxious to start spinning it up.  But I am going to be patient and finish all other spinning projects first and clean my ladybug to prepare her for the Tour de Fleece.  When I will attack.

 

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MDSW 2014 in Review

After only having attended the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival on Saturday, it was quite a shock to attend on Sunday this year.  I expected it to be a bit slower, but to still run into a sea of people.  We arrived about an hour early, so I was able to do a full walk through in record time.  In all, we were only there for two and a half hours… which I still cannot wrap my head around.

It was wonderful, though.  We brought the stroller, as usual, in case M didn’t want to walk the entire time and instead of feeling like we were always in the way, we strolled with ease through the barns and the exhibition hall.  The only “difficulty” we had was that M distinctly remembered getting ice cream there in the past and as soon as we entered the gates was asking when she could have her ice cream.  This pretty much persisted the entire time we were there.  Even seeing the all the sheep didn’t distract her for more then ten minutes.  So it was nice to feel like we accomplished everything in such a relatively short period of time so that she could have her strawberry milkshake and we could go home.  Yep, that’s me admitting to letting my daughter have ice cream at 10:30 in the morning.  But it’s not like it’s a daily thing…

On to the goodies:  I did stay strong and I only purchased fiber this year.  There were a few moments were I thought about breaking down, one being at the Miss Babs booth.  However, I kept it a what is a minimum for me thus far.  My first fiber purchase was at the end of our first walk through at the Into the Whirled booth in the Exhibition hall.  I wanted to pick up one of the last of their batts and oh so surprisingly ran into a braid of fiber that I couldn’t leave behind.

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I managed to stay strong as I passed many of my other favorite indie dyers, knowing that I still have some of their fiber in my stash and opted to find some dyers I have been meaning to try out for a while.  I knew I had to stop by the Gourmet Stash and Hobbledehoy booths where I fell in love with so many things and seriously had a difficult time resisting buying everything they had.

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There is one final goodie that was purchased earlier in the day.  This particular item I have been longing to get for almost a year now and is so spectacular it deserves a post of it’s own.  All I have to say for now is it is one of the best Mother’s Day, Christmas and Birthday presents I have ever received and I see great things in our future together.

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Pulling out the Jacob

After spending the holiday season and the beginning of the year cranking out some knitting, I’d been craving some spinning time. In a matter of a couple weeks, I finished spinning four 4-ounce braids of fiber and worked on spinning some punis. The first 4 ounces I had been working on for quite a long time and it took about 3 days worth of spinning time to ply it all. As a quick cleanse and to help relax, I spun another 4 ounces on a Sunday afternoon. I started off with M practicing combining treadling with drafting. When she lost interest, I continued while spinning from the fold (folding the fiber over my index finger) with a long draw technique.

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Two-plying from the inside and outside of a center-pull ball

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I also started tackling a few items that will help me reach my 2014 goals. First, my Jacob and I became reacquainted. I pulled out the entire fleece and my combs to assess the situation. I may not have finished prepping it during the Ravellenics, but at least now it is out where I will see it everyday and it should be done rather quickly as I will want the floor space in my living room back!

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My only problem will be holding myself back from starting to spin it before I’m done combing it all. I do not want to spin any until I know exactly what I want to create. I was thinking of trying to spin it in a way to obtain a tweed look by spinning in the white portions throughout the chocolate brown. However, there is significantly less white to work with. Once I have finished combing it all. I will use some of the chocolate brown to do some sampling to decide how to spin and ply it all.

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Olympic Crafting

With the Olympics starting this week, I am only just now trying to decide what to do.  Since I have not had the proper amount of time to really plan anything and I already have several projects going, I am not going to officially participate in the Ravellenics. Instead, I’m thinking my goal should be to work on combing my Jocob fleece every day and attempt to finish my mother’s sweater (of which I have only knit about 10 rows since casting it on at the end of January).

Though finishing the sweater is a rather lofty goal, I am not going to hold myself to it.  I have not done the math to figure out how many rows I need to knit a day in order to complete the sweater by February 23rd.  I will just focus on knitting on it every day, either while I’m on the go, or each night after M has gone to bed.

During the 2012 Olympics, I pushed hard to pump out numerous projects and I felt like I could not let myself do anything but knit in order to complete everything on my list.  It may have been rewarding to see all those finished objects stacking up, but this year, I want to focus more on enjoying the process.  By keeping my knitting goals relaxed, I will still have time and energy to work on combing the fleece as well as some spinning I’ve been doing since completing the last of my blanket knitting.

Hopefully, the Olympics will keep me motivated to work on these goals and bring me one step closer to accomplishing two of my four major goals for the year!

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Holiday Wrap-Up, Part 2: Crafting Goodies!

Though Christmas has come and gone and we are now well into the new year, I want to quickly rave about the wonderful crafting presents I received.  Now, I’m not one to brag – but these are seriously awesome gifts.  That being said, I will only quickly touch on each crafting related present and how some of them have already made such an impact.

First, I received three awesome books, two of which I very strongly dropped some hints about.  Knitter’s Almanac, The Principles of Knitting and Finishing School. I have already begun reading Knitter’s Almanac and paging through the other two.  The wealth of knowledge in these three books is just unbelievable and I cannot wait to try to absorb it all!

Next are the two presents that have become incredibly helpful in my life.  It’s crazy to think I’ve been knitting for over ten years and I didn’t have a ball winder and swift… but I decided to be patient all these years and wind my yarn into annoying balls that would roll around everywhere.  Most annoyingly, my hand-balled yarn loved to roll away from me whenever it could be the most embarrassing or inconvenient.  For example, when I’m in a meeting, waiting at the doctor’s office, on public transportation, etc.  But now, this is a problem no longer.  Knitting from my center-pull yarn cake is like a dream come true.  But these embarrassing truths were not why I finally sucked it up and put these items on my wish list.  No, the dreadful hand-wound, center-pull ball I tried to use to two-ply, pulling from the outside and inside of the ball, when trying to use up the last of my hand-spun singles and ending up with the biggest, gnarled mess is why I gave in.  I love my spinning and after putting in so much time and effort into this one particular project and watching a good deal of spun singles be wasted nearly broke my heart.  No longer.  I have already used my ball winder and swift to ball up several projects-worth of yarn, of which the projects are all already cast-on) and used my ball winder to create a perfect center-pull cake for me to two ply on single onto itself.  No mess, just joy.

My third, rather large, present was a bulky Woolee Winder.  When my family first started asking me what I wanted for Christmas, aside from the previously mentioned, I didn’t seem to have much I needed and therefore didn’t want to ask for items I thought I maybe might want and find I don’t use later.  But eventually, I realized that was silly.  I have batts and bumps of fiber that I would like to spin bulky and some beautiful color gradient braids I would love to spin continuously, but wasn’t able with the bobbins and flyer that came with my Ladybug.  Plus, with a Woolee Winder, I don’t have to worry about stopping to change the hook to ensure the yarn goes on the bobbin evenly.  This has proven to be a difficulty of mine. Though, in all honesty, I did have to send the Woolee Winder back for some tweaks so that it fits my wheel perfectly, I couldn’t be happier to have received this present.  My Loop Bullseye Bumps better watch out, because as soon as my Woolee Winder is back, they are all being spun up!  Ooh, and my two braids of Fiber Optic of one gradient colorway that I have very big plans for.

I already have insane goals for this new year and I’ve started at the year in full force.  I’m just glad that I have some wonderful presents and tools to help me through it and make my crafting experiences that much sweeter!

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My Little Crafter

After struggling to put out a post that captures all of my daughter’s enthusiasm towards crafting, I decided to dedicate the majority of this post to photos and videos.

As a single parent, I try to do my best to balance normal toddler activities with my daughter and crafting time. But let’s face it, she’s growing up in an environment revolved around crafting…. that is the part that isn’t revolved around her. Luckily, she really embraces it.

Giving some love to a swap gift

She even loves modeling finished projects when I forget to have someone take a picture for me:

Beyond creating any form of art with craft supplies, she has found that they are some of her new favorite toys for imaginative play.  Just last night she decided to dump out all of our buttons and sort them into families, having the buttons talk to each other and “find each other”. Little buttons went searching clear across the bed for their moms, dads, brothers and sisters, asking for help from other buttons along the way.

M also partakes in her own knitting during my knitting or spinning time.  She often takes out some of “her” yarn and sits with me, pretending to knit.  She often creates projects that she’s making and let’s me know to whom the finished items will go.

That being said, she definitely has a love for a ladybug in our lives – my spinning wheel.  Back in the days when I would take a spinning break during her naps on weekends, she would wake up and sneak into my lap, slowly sliding her feet down to the treadles to “help” me.  This has now evolved to her going up to my wheel asking to spin.  I set it up so that any project I was working on was entirely on the bobbin so she could treadle by herself and nothing would get in the way.

Recently, she asked if she could spin her own yarn.  After months of treadling by herself, I decided adding the next step wouldn’t hurt.  I predrafted some fiber I had received during my wheel spinning class so that she could spin without needing to draft at the same time.  She sat down and went to it:

I think her first handspun is beautiful and definitely going in the scrapbook…. though I might be biased.

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Is It Getting Hot in Here?

The next major event in my summer crafting was Tour de Fleece.  It’s a large event corresponding to the Tour de France where spinners set goals of either how much they want to accomplish or how much time they want to spin per day.  The general idea is to spin every day the cyclists ride and challenge ourselves during the Tour’s challenge day.

I knew well in advance exactly what I wanted to accomplish: the pound and a half of magenta Romney/Bamboo fiber I purchased at the Vienna Fiber Farmer’s market earlier in the year.  As a new spinner, it’s clearly a good idea to spin for a sweater, only three months after purchasing my wheel.  But I had the fiber and I knew I would want to knit a sweater for myself this fall.  However, this being the first year I was participating… and, you know, spinning at all, I was certain this was a very  ambitious goal.  I planned out every single day.  Sunday through Thursday every week, I would spin one ounce and Fridays and Saturdays, I would spin two ounces.  This would give me a few days to ply everything up at the end.

 

Before the Tour began, I started preparing.  I went through every inch of the fiber, picking out veggie matter and separating the fiber into one ounce balls, ready to spin.  I made up ziplock bags with four ounces each so I could be certain each bobbin had four ounces of singles.  I had a lot of traveling back and forth to my parent’s house planned during the Tour, so I wanted everything to be easy to grab and go and be able to pick up without wondering where I left off.

The night before the Tour began, we had the epic storm where seemingly everyone in Virginia, DC and Maryland lost power. I had planned to be at a kickoff party Saturday morning to get a head start, just in case my planning wasn’t good enough.  The last thing I wanted to do was spin wool without air conditioning, especially given the summer we’d been having.  Luckily, the event wasn’t cancelled, but instead was held on a balcony that remains sunless for the first half of the day.  I spun nearly eight ounces those first two days of the Tour… without air conditioning.

Luckily, the rest of my Tour de Fleece experience went quite well.  There were several days where I couldn’t spin, but every day I did, I spun so much, it made up for it.  It was this experience that taught me how much faster and thicker (as was my goal since I typically spin a lace weight two-ply) I can spin when I spin in a long-draw, woolen style.

 

I came out with an almost, maybe a little bit, consistent DK/Worsted (with some little chunky spots here and there) weight two-ply of 1288 yards.  Plenty for a simple cardigan, that I may have just cast on! I cannot wait for fall!

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May, What May?

Deadline knitting.  Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival. Birthdays. Overtime. Tour de Fleece training. Oh, and two and a half year old.

So I guess it’s understandable that May seemed non-existent… but has left me with so much to show and tell! I mean, I went to my first real fiber festival, of course there’s a lot to show! The month started off with a bang as I dragged my mother (who did actually ask to go) and M to Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival.  We headed up with enough time to get there about 30 minutes before the gates were to open on Saturday.  I was fully prepared for the enormity…. but my fellow travelers were not.  As we waited in the queue to park, my mother was in shock at the number of cars already parked and the sheer magnitude of the festival.  But the parking volunteers were incredible, so the very long queue went quite quickly and we were off!

Though M was promised sheep and goats the entire car ride up, I was on a mission.  After spending the past week planning out which vendor booths to hit up first and mapping out the most efficient route, we simply walked briskly through the sheep barns to get to the barns set up with vendors.  Who was so crucial that pleasing my daughter had to wait? Gales Art was our first stop where I managed to be restraint and only picked up one beautiful braid of polwarth/silk fiber.  I had heard stories about people going crazy at fiber festivals and I did want to see what else was out there before spending all that I had saved in preparation.

Gale’s Art Polwarth (85%)/Silk (15%) 4 oz braid in the Tide Pool colorway

Then I was off to the next barn over to find Fiber Optics… where restraint went out the window as I walked into a booth full of magic.  I promise, magic. My mother took M back to the sheep barns and I was left to slowly eye all that was displayed, and even some tubs that we full of fiber for restocking.  It was amazing.  Festivals aside, Fiber Optics is incredibly hard to come by as it is only sold in a few yarn stores, none of which are local, and the online updates sell out very quickly… I couldn’t pass it up.  I picked up two braids of a Merino/Silk blend, two skeins of Superwash Merino and a drop spindle.

Fiber Optic Yarns two 4 oz braids of Merino (80%)/Silk (20%) in the Blackberry-Raspberry Layered Gradient

Fiber Optic Yarns two 4 oz skeins (1,000 yds each) of Superwash Merino in the Vitamin C Batik colorway

But this isn’t just any drop spindle.  I had heard about these spindles for months from various podcasters and I had been eyeing their Etsy site.  When I saw an entire display of what had to be at least 30 drop spindles, I knew it was meant to be.  I carefully made my selection and then oooed and awwed over it with Kimber, the genius behind Fiber Optics, as I checked out.

Texas Jeans Drop Spindle with zebra wood whorl

After spending a fortune, I caught back up with M and my mother to look over the sheep and watch a sheep showing.  We wandered a bit and found the main exhibition hall to slowly walk through and eye other vendors.  I knew Loop had a booth there, but I was still coming down from my spending high at Fiber Optics so I wasn’t in a rush.  When we arrived, the booth was surrounded by people, but when I asked if it was a line to get in, they assured me no, since there were only two people inside.  I walked in, completely unaware of what was going on, only to find myself right next to Laura (LaLa) of the video podcast TheKnitGirllls! She was talking with Steph of Loop as I looked over the Bullseye Bumps Laura and Leslie have made famous, waiting for my time to attack… I mean, introduce myself.  She was incredibly friendly and we chatted for maybe a moment before Emily of the Watcha Swatchin’ podcast walked up to introduce herself! And all the craziness began! I then also met Leslie of TheKnitGirllls and Diane of Knitabulls, excitedly accepted their podcast buttons and showed off M to everyone.

Oh, and I also walked away with two Bullseye Bumps, one of which M picked out.  Needless to say one will be on my Ladybug soon!

Loop Bullseye Bump, 4.2 oz of Merino, BFL, Bamboo, Tussah Silk and Angelina in the Hot Air Balloon colorway (M’s choice)

Loop Bullseye Bump, 4.5 oz of Merino, Corriedale, Bamboo and Tussah Silk, colorway – unlabeled

We finished the festival fun with some gyros and M’s first ice cream cone… which, of course, I helped her with!

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The New Lady in Our Lives

She whirs, she purrs, and she’s just so darned cute!  In just the last couple of weeks both M and I have fallen in love with her.  Though the jury’s still out on her name, she’s always right there when we need her, providing comfort and reducing stress.  She looks good in every color, but especially those that compliment red.  Put anything soft near her, and she’s bound to make it something beautiful….
Oh, and did I mention she’s a bug?
Aahhhhhh, my pretty little ladybug.  I brought her home the day after my first spinning class, where we fell in love.  Sure, I tried a couple other wheels out, but when I spun with her, I knew it was meant to be.  Since April 10th I have spun and Navaho plied 2 oz. of merino from KnittyandColor into a (mainly) sport weight 3ply yarn.

2 oz of KnittyandColor Merino in the "Make Me Pretty" colorway.

That’s right, I said I Navaho plied… my first wheel-spun yarn, was Navaho plied.  I wanted the colors to really keep their integrity, get the “challenging” plying technique learned and out of the way… and really, I just couldn’t wait to finish spinning the second bobbin before plying the first.  I was too excited!
Now I’m on to a Frabjous Fibers “Opulence Blend” of superfine merino, tussah silk, baby camel down, and royal baby alpaca.  Clearly I like to challenge myself right away… Though the merino and silk have a nice staple length, I occasionally run into a clump of just baby camel down.  We maybe in a fight, and the baby camel is winning.  That being said, generally, this is spinning up very nicely and also pretty thin and is likely to be a two ply when I’m done with it.

Frabjous Fibers "Opulence Blend" in the Moulin Rouge colorway.

I am slowly making my way through my fiber stash, practicing as much as I can so that I am prepared to spin the pound and a half of magenta fiber into a yarn suitable for a sweater for M.  So maybe by the fall?  …of 2013?

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