Slow craftiness

And it’s not the buzzword definition – I’m so busy with non-crafty stuff (and tired) that Teh Crafturgency! isn’t going at the speed or quantity one might otherwise expect from me. Alas.

Here’s some of what I have been doing.

I finished the pants – woo! and I managed to use all but about 8″ of the spool of matching thread for top stitching. They have been mailed to J. Behold my extreme luck:

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Whoa. Just, whoa.

This guy was in the backyard. There’s just so much wildlife back there!

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Froggie! He was so very beautiful, with gold eyes. And very quick. I couldn’t get any closer, so the resolution is dreadful.

I continue to be delighted by the bright colored flowers I find in downtown Amherst. The thistle is wild, the zinnia was planted by a landscaper. Aren’t they beautiful?

 

I went to the mineral, fossil, and gem show in Springfield this past weekend (largest on the east coast!) with my brother, his two daughters, and our friend M and his family. It was just too delightful for words! I got to see beautiful gemstones, uncut crystals, polished stones, pieces of petrified wood, pieces of mammoth tusk, all with my niecesWith my nieces!!! WOOHOO! Part of our adventure also included a trip to Michael’s for art supplies where we found some much needed things for art to happen at their house, and I found a bead reamer set. I had been thinking about buying a set of jeweler’s needle files, but have been feeling oddly cheap about it, so when I saw this reamer set for $5, I snapped it up. When I got home, I applied it to the shell I made into a diz to see if I could smooth out the holes a bit. I think it worked? I’ll have to test it later to see if the wool comes through with less of a struggle. I may end up with a jeweler’s file set anyway.

 

And FINALLY! I got 1100 heddles (thank you, Stephan and Judy!!), put on 800 of them – I’m going to use only 4 shafts for my first warp on this loom and will need a total of 600 heddles. 800 means 200 per shaft. Easy.

I fretted about what warp to measure next, and decided that I need to figure out the actual shrinkage (after many, many washes and trips through the dryer) between the two brands of cotton yarn I’ve been using because J tells me her bathmat has gotten irritatingly smaller (!!!!). AND, I realized I could get two functions out of these experimental warps. The red and white below (one brand) will become red and white dishtowels, a couple for Z in Indiana, and a couple for me. The next warp will be with the other brand of yarn: a couple for someone else, and a couple for me. Everything will be measured and photographed after every trip through the laundry. Then I will have completely useful and pretty presents AND experiment data.

 

Yeah, I’m a crafty nerd. If I win the lottery, I will both set up a massive maker space for my little area and go back to university. Cross your fingers!

Once I get the warp on the loom (and that will be an adventure in itself), I’ll have to figure out how to tie up the lamms. TWO sets of lamms. Upper and lower. I will admit, I’m nervous about the whole thing, which makes no sense. It’s not like I can mess it up. It can take a lot longer if I don’t think about the steps properly, but that’s the worst that can happen. Probably.

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I think this will be the draft I’ll use. I mean, I did figure out where to put stripes so they fall symmetrically down the pattern, but since that’s the first time I’ve tried that, there’s a chance I messed it up. I didn’t draw a draft, and I didn’t use any computer software. I used… arithmetic.

I’m a bookkeeper (among other things). I can totally add and subtract. Uh-huh. Honestly.

 

Just, uh, wish me luck, okay? Please?

Summer

This summer has not been terribly conducive to? helpful for? organized with respect to? making things. Frequently these days, the day starts at 3am, which is never my choice, and that level of Teh Tired sucks out motivation for anything other than staring at the wall wondering why I am staring at the wall. However, I have remembered to leave the knitting on the couch so that when I’m staring at the wall, my hands have something to do and Something gets Made. This is helpful because after a couple of hours, a significant amount of sock materializes that I don’t remember knitting, but hey, handmade socks! And it makes the wall staring seem less worrisome somehow.

I have been collecting pictures of bits of excitement from the last couple of weeks:

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A Polyphemus Moth. Yes, that’s my hand, and yes, he was huge. (I’m pretty sure it was a male, but I could be wrong.)

I was running my usual work errands and on my walk up the street nearly stepped on this guy. It was an unseasonably cold day at 60F (about 30 degrees colder than usual), and he was only too happy to crawl up onto my warm hand and grab on for all he was worth. I carried him across downtown to the library, which has a lovely woodland garden in the back. I put him under a tiny Japanese maple, and he fluttered up onto a branch, probably feeling a lot better since he was no longer in the open.

I finished off the weirdly purple/brown socks. Gosh, those are wonderful to wear. They’re Madelaine Tosh merino and so, so soft. But the yarn was weirdly dyed. These new blue/green socks are made from some of my favorite sock yarn: Berroco superwash. They wear like iron, and I have never had them give the slightest hint of felting if I put them in the washer and dryer. (I’ve stopped doing that as other brands were starting to felt.) I find the yarn is a teeny bit heavier than other brands of sock yarn, so knitting up with size 0 needles really gives you a dense, hard-wearing fabric, but still stretchy. I like my socks to not stretch out too much when I wear them, so I’m constantly adjusting my vanilla pattern. This time, I’ve added a wee gusset to my short row heel to allow for a bit more diagonal stretch from the heel to the top of the foot as I’ve reduced the number of stitches across the foot a bit. The gusset thing is totally made up, so we’ll see how it works out. I had wanted to figure out how to do a heel flap on a toe-up sock, but there was Wall Staring, so that was a non-starter. This was the best I could come up with. The real test is to finish them and wear them.

The colors are delightfully cool in the heat of the summer, and they remind me of all the colors of the Atlantic Ocean here in the north.

Only, have I mentioned? It’s been boiling hot and humid (read: deeply tropical) for a few days, then distinctly autumnal – the kind of weather that makes you crave roasted squash, woolly sweaters, and hot drinks with whiskey in them – then it’s boiling hot and humid again. I’m not really complaining. Usually it’s just boiling hot and humid. So, so humid. Everything gets damp, and five minutes after a morning shower, you feel you need another one. The cool weather is fiiiiine. Plus, I love roasted squash.

 

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I want to sew shoes….? Of course I want to sew shoes. Of course.

So, I want to make my own shoes. I can’t actually afford all the tools necessary to become my own cobbler (yet), but I do have all the necessary tools to sew cloth shoes. Having a body whose parts do not conform to a single standard size, I have to hunt for things to clothe said parts. Which means I am not one of those fortunate souls who can walk into a mall and buy cute summer shoes that fit. Also, the crap they sell in malls wears out in a season, and I’m so done with that (*stifling a rant on consumerism, marketing, and the environment*). The solution is obviously to make my own out of materials that are renewable, affordable, and will not persist in the environment for hundreds of years. And if I make it, I can likely repair it when needed. So. The above is a first stab at a pattern. It’s nearly there. The pins are holding tucks where I will likely put seams. The white on the inside is a temporary cardboard insole, which will be replaced with a linen/wool insole in the finished product.

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Thrums from the napkin project.

I have kept a lot of the thrums from the napkin project mostly because I am in love with the colors. There must be SOMETHING I can do with them.

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The napkins. Washed three times, dried three times, ironed to within an inch of their little lives.

There they are! They’re beautiful for the most part. I mean, the colors are gorgeous, and I love them. The selvedges are kind of crap and I’m pretty sure some of the colors shrunk at a different rate than others, which gave me weird ripples. Ironed, they’re fine. And they will absolutely work as napkins. So as soon as I can find a box to send them in, I will ship them north to their intended new home. (Box hunting may be on my after-work agenda today.)

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Another pair of trouser for my bud Jenny! (Hi, Jenny!)

I have a few more pairs of trousers to make for my friend. This pair is getting done slowly but surely! This is a close up of the waistband being attached. I’ll sew it together tonight, then serge, then topstitch, then fold, iron, etc etc.

 

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Yeah, so there’s this new-to-me loom. It’s hyooge. It’s Very Swedish. It has 12 shafts. Once I get some heddles, theoretically I will be able to weave all the things! Wider! And more accurately! With super complicated patterns!

Though the place I live in has lots of space for things like looms, there is only space for one assembled loom at a time. The Auld Loom has been disassembled and put upstairs to keep the fabric and wool bins company for now. I have spent the last three days putting this new (used) one together, which is not to say it’s super complicated, but rather it was (is being) assembled in short bursts. (Assemble, sit and stare at the wall for an hour or two, assemble, sit and stare. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.) The next step is to buy a lot of heddles for it, then put on a warp. All the instructions I found on countermarche looms tell me that once I put a warp on and tie up the treadles, all will become clear as to how this loom works. (Personally, I’m hoping for a tesseract-like action whereby I’ll be able to weave in several dimensions at once. I mean, did you see the pulleys and levers?)

 

 

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You just don’t see many of these guys anymore!

Depending on what street I park on, I sometimes get to walk past a house that’s got a large patch of purple cone flowers right in front. The woman who lives in that house is kind of my hero. She’s Polish, barely speaks English (but enough to be understood), stacks a giant pile of wood in a shed in the backyard all by herself in the fall, tends a vegetable garden that takes up the rest of the tiny yard, walks all over town to run errands and do shopping, and she’s very much past retirement age. I always tell her how beautiful her garden looks whenever I see her, and she seems glad to hear it. And hey, honeybees!

 

Life

Where to begin.

First, I am fine. Totally and completely fine. I complain about being tired and not having time to make things and there’s too much to do around the house blah blah blah, but actually, it’s all fine. I have a roof over my head, food in my belly, enough money to pay my bills, and things to make other things out of. I have friends and family who I love and who love me back.

I wove a set of eight napkins for my friend Kathy (hi, Kathy!), but since they are not quite right (perhaps due to my lack of skill, the coarseness of this particular loom, or, the fact that different colors of this brand of yarn seem to shrink at different rates when wet finished), I am going to weave another set out of (probably) more reliable yarn on a different loom, thereby increasing the chances of solving the problems.*  I still need to hem them, so there will be more pictures soon. Here are the stripes:

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Stripey goodness! I do love this color pattern.

There have been a couple of family emergencies (no worries – everyone is okay, just very stressed out) and I’ve been trying to make sure I am in the place where I can do the most good and be the most helpful as often as possible.

I’ve started a new pair of socks, and those have been following me hither and yon. Recently, they came with me on a trip to visit a dear friend:

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Weirdly, they are both from the same ball, but one is definitely more purple than the other. They’ll be fiiiiiiiiine.

This dear friend is one from college. We met each other when I moved to Germany studying on exchange, and being the only other American on the dorm floor (okay, there was one other, but she mostly lived with her boyfriend on an army base…that’s a longer story), and both of us being lovers of books and language, we generally got along fabulously well. I was so afraid of making mistakes, and he kept prodding me on telling me I was doing fiiiiiiine, then he’d suggest a list of books I could read that might help. And then we’d sit at the kitchen table and read the American Heritage Dictionary and laugh so hard, we’d cry. I made many, many fond memories during my two years in Germany, and those are some of the dearest.

He’s very deeply extremely academically minded. And brilliant. And right now, he’s got cancer in a pretty bad way. So, I went to visit him and his partner because I can and they wanted me to and it was pretty damned awesome.

There were so many fine things: books, and much laughing, and eating bags of cherries because they’re in season, and tiramisu, and creme brulee, and tea, and a picnic in the afternoon, and talking about Europe, and woodworking, and knitting, and visiting the neighbor and her awesome dog Hank, and there were cats rolling around being silly and meowing their heads off pretty much all the time, and there was Monty Python. And I truly can’t wait to see them again!

 

I flew home, knitting my socks, thinking deep thoughts about life and death and what that means, and thinking about what’s important and what’s not.

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The making is important.

The spending of time with your family and friends omgrightnow is important. People, this is really important.

Staying in touch with friends is important.

Hugging those family and friends is important. Tell them you love them.

Eating the sandwich AND the cookie is important. Just eat the damned cookie. It’s delicious. And you only get to live once.

Sometimes, something comes up and you have to think hard about that last phrase. You look it squarely in the eye and see it for what it is. Eat the cookies, cherish other people, love with abandon, cry in public, laugh as much as you can, live.


 

This weekend, I did something I’ve been wanting to do for years and years: I took a class on basket weaving.

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This is going to be a shopping basket! It’s in the car now just in case I need to buy something on the way home. It may or may not get a cloth liner.

And we used the world’s cutest planes to accomplish this:IMG_3004

And this was waiting in front of the bakery when I came back to work last week:

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I have some cherries waiting at home for me. And a couple of really good audiobooks to go with the hemming of napkins. I might glance at my list of projects that need doing, but I’m not going to worry too much about that right now.

To my friends and family: I love you so much I can’t adequately express it. Every last one of you. Even if you don’t hear from me for a while, please know that I still cherish you and our friendship.

 

 

 


*I may have acquired another loom. Ahem.

Not a lot of making going on

So, for the past few weeks, there hasn’t been a whole lot of making. This has meant that there really hasn’t been all that much to post here. Also, I’ve been crap lately at actually taking pictures, but hopefully at least one of them I have managed to take will make up for that.

I’ve been working on my socks. The second one was well on it’s way to completion after knitting it up a second time, so I ripped out the first one and started that one over. That one, as of yesterday, is now nearing completion. Soon I’ll have another pair of socks I can wear. Woo!

The Gothic Cross shawl is finished and has been tested out – it’s warm, but not overly so. It provides me with a snuggly alternative to wearing a coat in the office when the air conditioning is on (which it really hasn’t because although it’s June, and we put the air conditioners in the windows, the temperature has really been in the “England” zone of “New England”). Everyone who’s seen it in person has commented on the softness and the (extreme) length, all in a positive way.

I have been doing yard work every moment I’m home and it isn’t raining, which, if you live in the northeastern United States, you know is not as often as I’d like. There’s been raking, leaf blowing, brush hauling, tree felling (small ones), branch cutting…wash, rinse, repeat.

When I’m not outside, I’ve been tidying inside, trying to tame the making sprawl in the house. The fleeces are all washed and put away in new bins. I’ve tidied up some errant yarn that I’d bought on sale for knitting sweaters later on. There was a spare bin (after some reorganizing) for filling with weaving yarns. (After filling that, I determined that I cannot buy any more weaving yarn until I start selling stuff!) And I’ve been making pants for my friend. She sent me a box of several fabrics a while ago, which is now rapidly being washed, dried, cut, and sewn into pants. I’m very happy with how they’re coming out!

The foxes trot more often through the backyard these days. There are a bunch of new martins flying around. The owls have been hooting – I’ve not seen them lately, and was worried that they’d flown away, but I’ve decided they’re busy raising little owlets.

I can’t wait to have time to get back to weaving! The embroidery bug has lurking on the horizon as well. I can feel it watching me with its beady little eyes. The mosquitoes and black flies are out, so spoon carving will have to wait a bit.

Let’s see…oh! I participated in the MA Sheep & Woolcraft fair over Memorial Day weekend as the weaver in a fleece to shawl competition (though, because there were no other teams, it was billed as a demo). I had forgotten to bring a measuring ribbon with me, but knew I’d put on extra warp, so we all decided that I’d weave until the end. This meant that instead of the required 2 yards, we accidentally produced a shawl 120″ long (plus fringe). Oops. The spinners did a terrific job supplying me with yarn! Lots of kids and parents showed up, we talked with them and answered questions, so over all it was a successful demo.

Over this past weekend, I also got to hang with my nieces, which was thrilling beyond description. I hadn’t seen them in about seven years, and even then it was never a real visit, just a brief ‘hi’. Actually, the time I spent with them this weekend was the most time I’ve ever spent with them in my (and their) whole lives. Can’t wait to hang with them again! They’re growing up into really amazing people.

And now for some pictures:

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This poppy and a bunch of its friends nearby opened last week.

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Can you believe I took these with an iPhone? I can’t.

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I uncovered these guys while I was raking yesterday. They didn’t move a muscle, but I’m pretty sure they were just trying to blend in so as to not get eaten.

Fingers crossed that I’ll be able to get the mundane stuff done soon so I can get back to the usual program.

Fringe learning

I didn’t quite get everything done this past weekend that I wanted. Something came up that required some worry and action, and that took time and energy away from the list of things I had planned. But. I did manage to get the Cheviot fleece just about finished up (the last batch is soaking), chores done, a crap-ton of yard work done, and, because I was feeling crappy and needed a mindless yet productive thing to do on Sunday, I got my shawl woven and off the loom.

It’s not perfect—I made an error about an inch before the end, but didn’t notice until after it was off because it was on the reverse side—but it’s lovely cloth and I got lots of practice squeezing the weft into place. I somehow didn’t plan out how I was going to finish the fringe, which I should have done before even putting the warp on, so the rest has been making stuff up on the fly.

Every time I weave a project that’s even slightly different from what I have been weaving, I learn something. This project was very different, so I learned a lot of stuff.

But it’s huge. In a three-yard-plus-long sort of way. It’s a shawl for a tall person with enough length to (I think) drape gracefully around arms and fall down to (possibly) my knees, but I haven’t tried it on yet, so that’s just speculation. The next step is to deal with the fringe so I can then full the cloth, then I’ll have a better idea of how it’s going to work/fall/drape. For the moment, all I can really say is that the fringe is a project unto itself. Thirty inches wide at 516 yarns across, two bundles of two to be twisted together and knotted.

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Section of finished twisted fringe.

So that’ll be going on for a while. In between, I hope to get to some trouser creation, which some of the unexpected and unwanted worry and excitement of the weekend took away from. Sigh. Twisting fringe is a good, quiet, non-thinking activity, though, and I feel like I could use some of that for a bit.

Some of you have asked what this spoon carving thing was all about, and you asked to see the tools. Behold!

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Left to right: hatchet, hook knife, whittling knife and sheath.

I have wanted to learn how to carve wood for literally decades. And when I saw the spoon guy’s tent at the Ashfield Fall Festival (every October in Ashfield, MA. There is a guy who sells spoons that he carves—he has hundreds of all shapes and sizes!) about 15 or so years ago, I decided that spoons would be a really good place for me to start. Now I have a place to carve, the wood to carve, and the tools to carve with. Though, I think I won’t have time to start a spoon for a few weeks yet, but you never know.

For now, fringe and trousers.

(And of course, it’s going to get into the 80’s and 90’s this week, so shawl wearing may have to wait until….October. Sigh.)

A shawl for me

I needed to take a break from spinning (so much fleece—all spinning, all the time), and while I do need to get to the napkins and more dishtowels, I thought I’d take the plunge and weave myself a shawl. The yarn had gone on sale, I had the pattern I wanted, and since I’ve been feeling kind of down lately, I thought maybe making something for myself might help.

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Gothic Cross for 4 shaft loom. Charcoal grey and smoke grey, Jaggerspun Heather 2/8. This shawl will have fringe, but I haven’t decided if it’s to be knotted or twisted yet.

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My work table. Tea drunk, already spent two hours at the loom. Time to get to work.

This project, as predicted, is going fast, and I hope to have created momentum to get the warp for the napkins on the loom by the weekend. Alas, the weekend is already filling up: trousers to make, leaves to rake, branches to pile up, wood to split, house to clean, laundry to do, a couple of things in the house to fix, trash to go to the dump, fleece to wash (nearly done!), and if I have time, I’ll try to comb and spin more wool.

I got my spoon carving tools in the mail last week (thank you, tax returns), but it’s been raining every time I get a chance to go outside, so that project will have to wait for a bit. At least I have the tools!

I can’t think of a title today

This weekend was spent trying to finish some projects, start some projects, and make progress on (the usual) projects. Plus, yanno, doing something about that shirt pattern.

A bike ride happened! Mostly I was testing out the Bike Shorts Problem (I have wider-than-averagely-spaced seat bones, which creates frustration with bike saddles and the padding in bike shorts). The experiment involved just taking out one element (padding) and yielded very successful results, so I feel I’m nearly ready to start riding my bike to work. When it’s not raining. Because that’s a different problem. Anyway, the pictures  above were taken from the old railroad bridge, now part of the bike path, and show our beloved river, the mighty Connecticut, in her spring phase, which is to say high.

I spent some hours cutting down small trees and piling brush, which helps with the yard work project and the shirt-fitting project. Looooooooook!! Remember the red trillium I posted a picture of last week? It bloomed! Behold:

I also noticed some wee seedlings had sprouted, so the patch should be a bit larger next spring.

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I, uh, might have bought a box of Joe Joe’s (Trader Joe’s answer to Oreos) and it was for Thursday evening knitting group but everyone liked the chocolate chip chocolate sandwich cookies better and barely touched the Joe Joe’s and so I had to take them home again.

Whaaaat? I had to. I really did. Honest! Poor lonely cookies….

Of course that meant afternoon tea and cookies (and maybe evening cookies, too). I can report that tea and cookies may be essential to combing wool successfully. Further experimentation is required.

Over the course of last week, I filled another bobbin of plied yarn and wound it off into hanks. Five in all, which surprised me as I didn’t think I’d end up with that much yarn. I didn’t have the time to wet finish the yarn until the weekend, and when it was dry, I laid it all out on the floor to admire it.

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In the end, I decided there must be something like 800-1000 yards here. This is only 4 hanks.

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It’s not perfect – there’s a lot of variation – but I think it’s better than the last batch, and still suitable for weaving with. 420’s fleece may end up just as spinning and weaving practice, but that’s okay. The experience is really, really valuable.

And then, last night, I thought since the yarn was dry, I should probably weave a sample. Because this whole project has ultimately been about weaving.

It’s a bit nerve wracking to think about all the hours spent washing, combing, and spinning wool, and then think about weaving a sample. There’s waste when you weave, so much waste, that you try hard to mitigate it by weaving as much as possible at once. Because the waste is found at either end of the finished cloth, the more cloth you weave, the less waste-to-useable-cloth you get. To weave a sample is to waste maybe half your warp, and even if it’s only a yard long, in this case, it’s a yard of hand spun yarn. I’ve tried to come up with something to do with the waste, but haven’t had any luck—I did save the waste bits. If any of you have any ideas, please let me know! (I’m saving the cotton to make paper with eventually.)

I started with the smallest hank, which ended up being about 75 yards or so, and chose 8 ends per inch just because I had to start somewhere and that seemed about right.

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Once I got going, this was really exciting!

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I really, honestly expected the snap a warp thread, but I didn’t! The edges aren’t very good, but I think with some more experience, they’ll improve.

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Fresh off the loom! Not washed yet, which is really where the magic happens. This was stiff and coarse—it even looks stiff and coarse, and not like soft wool cloth. The color is off in this picture, it wasn’t nearly as brown as it looks – evening shot under warm colored lights.

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I love this picture. Clockwise, starting from top left: washed fleece; two combed nests; one two-ply skein; the woven sample, washed and dried.

The really amazing thing is that I tried hard to full that cloth, and couldn’t. I mean, it did full a bit, but not as much as I expected it would. I agitated it in both hot and very cold water for maybe five minutes with soap (which got rid of the extra lanolin and final residual dirt, which you can still see in the skein (there is so much washing with this wool), but the level of fulling that I expected didn’t happen.

I count this as very good information! While I likely can’t have a very thick and fuzzy blanket from this particular wool (probably), I can have a drapey shawl, cloth for maybe a coat that won’t felt easily when washed, and very possibly socks. Obviously, more experimentation is necessary. And that will be absolutely delightful!

I also fixed a skirt for a friend (finished – sorry, no pics!), and finally (I hope) came up with a napkin plan, complete with stripes and ends per inch etc (started). Jenny’s trousers were supposed to have been started—I did get out the fabrics and look at them, fitting that project into the list of present projects. Those’ll have to get made very soon.

OH! I nearly forgot. I’ve been asked to be the weaver in a sheep to shawl team at the Massachusetts Sheep and Woolcraft Fair! It’s one hell of an honor and I’m freaking out a bit. It’s possibly why I suddenly felt like I needed to weave some handspun. Practice, practice…because I hardly know what I’m doing. I’m really looking forward to hanging out with other Makers and seeing their skills, and participating in a super cool project!

Tonight, I’ll swing by Webs to buy some of my favorite wool yarn for more practice. Hopefully, I’ll have more pictures for you.

And, another thing I’m really looking forward to: spoon carving. Stay tuned!