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!

Wool pillow

I finished my new pillow!

By 9pm yesterday, I was so close to getting the rest of the wool carded, I figured I’d just stay up and finish so at least I could sleep on my new pillow.

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Adventures in carding. Card card card card card card….

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Stuffing all the fluffy, clean wool into the pillow. You can see the different levels of beat on the two ends of the cloth.

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Done! Sewn up! Not so thick, but I tend to like flat pillows. And this is a prototype of sorts anyway.

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Done! Isn’t it beautiful? Okay, maybe not so beautiful, but I slept beautifully on it. The next one will consist of a more colorful cloth.

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Lee gave me handknit socks! Aren’t they gorgeous???

What I did on my vacation, by Kate

The last week of March, I was on vacation.

And what a vacation it was! No one called me, I had no obligations to anyone, I had a pile of DVDs*, a pound of tea, plenty of milk for it, and nothing else but time and a lot of potential and actual in-progress projects.

Up at 6am, boil water for tea, proceed to Designated Project (whatever I feel like doing), pour boiled water over tea leaves, return to Project, pour tea when steeped, return to Project. Drink delicious, life-giving tea. Add food when necessary. Go to bed when exhausted, probably 9pm. Wash, rinse, repeat. For NINE GLORIOUS DAYS.

Okay, I did get some other, non-crafty things accomplished too: car’s oil changed, car inspected, garage/basement cleaned and tidied up, laundry, dishes, bills paid, some groceries purchased… but that all amounted to hardly any time at all in the scheme of things. (Still hugely glad to get it all done.)

On to the pictures (which I did not take enough of, alas)!

The latest dishtowel project was finally washed, dried, cut, and hemmed, along with the hemming of the second blue/green bathmat. I love these towels so much, I have plans to make at least 8 more, and matching napkins.

On the way home from one of my errands, I swung by the local fish monger’s for clams. After making the diz from the mussel shell, I’ve been thinking about other shells I could use. I bought some mahogany clams a few weeks ago, but am not thrilled with those shells (the idea of needing to use bleach to get the mahogany part off does not appeal), but I really did want to eat clams and when I saw there were regular old clams, I jumped at buying a couple of pounds. They were delicious, by the way, and the shells are mostly gorgeous, no? I’ve not got around to applying the drill yet.

Possibly on the same day, while running some sort of errand, I found myself in Hadley, where there’s a dairy farm that sells raw milk. And I thought, oh, I could make cheese! So I bought a gallon. But, because I really want to avoid things like listeria, I pasteurized it, which is something I had to learn to do (above: left, heating to 165F, right, cooling to ~80F). Don’t get me wrong, I loooooves me some raw milk, and I don’t really drink milk at all (it’s just for tea). But raw milk is like the Elixir of Life – I don’t know what it is about it because it doesn’t taste all that different than pasteurized milk, but MAN. I could drink a half gallon in one sitting. Really, though, listeria would have ruined my vacation, yanno?

CHEEEEEEESE!

See, next door to the fish monger’s is the local Beer and Winemaking Supply Shop that also carries some cheese making supplies. In this case, rennet. So, heat milk, apply rennet, wait a bit, cut the curds, keep cutting until they’re small, heat the milk a bit until more whey comes out, drain off whey, add salt to the curds, put in the fridge to drain some more, and PRESTO! You have the best tasking cottage cheese ever. Really. That crap in the grocery store that has 17 ingredients? You don’t need that. You need milk and rennet and salt. And maybe a little cream to mix in at the end to make the curds creamy. Honestly, it’s not hard. Also, rennet is wicked cheap and a gallon of milk makes a lot.

I tried cooking the whey to get ricotta, but it didn’t quite work out. I’m not sad, though. I’m not a big ricotta fan. At some point, I will figure out what to do with the whey.

A couple of days later, I did buy a half gallon of 2% pasteurized milk from the store down the street to give that a try. And it worked! Sometimes dairies pasteurize their milk at a higher temperature than is strictly necessary and that destroys the proteins enough so that the rennet won’t actually produce a curd, just a sort of slurry. You can’t get cheese out of that. But this particular brand I had high hopes for, and I chose wisely. So much cottage cheese on my vacation. So much deliciousness.

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OMG dreadful. This is embarrassing.

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Sort of better.

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This is acceptable. Especially since I know it will absolutely be fine after washing and drying several times.

I also practiced weaving plain weave. Every single weaver I’ve spoken to has been shocked that I avoid plain weave because my edges suck. And they do! Or they did. A lot. You can see in the last picture that it got much better. I needed the practice for the napkins I need to weave, so I chose my least favorite yarn, warped on 4 yards at 24″ wide and got to work. I had it done in a couple of days, I think, from start to finish amid doing a few other things. Then washed and dried the snot out of it. I experimented with shuttle throwing, beating, and whether or not to use a temple. There were mistakes, but for the most part, I figured I’d end up with a piece of cloth I could cut up and use for something else if it got really ugly, and I’d gain More Experience. In the end, I did get a piece of cloth and more experience, and both turned out better than I thought they would! The cloth is going to serve as a bag with which I’m going to fill with clean, carded wool, then sew up – I need a new bed pillow. There’s a bit of cloth left on the good end that I’m going to hem up to use as a sample napkin (likely, it’ll get sent to Dan in Vermont who is sometimes my Industrial Tester. Also, he is one of the napkin requesters, so sample.)

And hey! I learned how to make nice plain weave selvedges! Huzzah!

I also went to a local Mineral, Fossil and Gem show. It’s small, annual, and extremely close to where I live, and I forget about it every year. Except this one! (World’s Cutest Lobster Fossil – yes?) I got to hold a wee baggie of mammoth hair, and the upper back portion of a mastodon jaw complete with molars!

And also, of course, I worked with wool. A lot.

I washed wool – finally got 421’s fleece done! – combed wool, spun wool, and plied wool yarn. I lurve this wool so much, and cannot get over how much I love it. Combing, it turns out, is sometimes the funnest thing ever. When you’ve got the fibers free of dirt and vegetation, and they just shine in the light – oh man. It’s gorgeous. The spinning is actually slightly difficult, but this is because, it turns out, I learned to spin slightly incorrectly. Or rather, when I first started, I had figured out on my own how to spin a good yarn, then someone steered me slightly off-course, and I didn’t know any better but thought it was my fault that I couldn’t make good yarn… well, long story. To cut it short, I’ve had to re-learn what I’d taught myself years ago. But hey, yarn! That two-ply is completely suitable for weaving! WOOHOO! (Okay, I’m not totally convinced that that picture is of the weaving-suitable two-ply, but it is a sample of yarn spun from 420’s fleece. I’ll have to dig around for more pics!)

And that pretty much concludes my vacation!

The wool is going to be a Project for a while – I’ve only just made a noticeable dent in 420’s fleece, 421’s fleece is a bit heavier and will be spun separately, 801’s fleece is going to be part or all of my new pillow as a lot of that is really too short to comb and kind of weak for spinning (also second cuts! Argh!), and 409’s fleece (the North Country Cheviot) still needs washing. AND, I found my very first fleece ever, which was apparently somewhere in the neighbourhood of 5lbs and was not all washed at once. Looks like ~3lbs remain (6 years later – argh) unwashed, so that’s on the list for processing too.

Stay tuned for progress on the pillow and napkins!

*For the record, the DVDs play in the background in the same way an audio book might. The advantage to this is that I can play the same DVD two or three times and get something new out of it because I’m not really paying attention the whole time. The disadvantage is that I have to play the same DVD two or three times to get the whole plot because I’m not paying attention the whole time.

Moar wool.

This past weekend was so full. (Except for sleep, alas.)

There was so much tea, snacks, wool combing, spinning, tidying, weaving, and washing wool. (And there were the usual weekend chores too.)

Here, have some pictures:

I may have mumbleboughtanotherfleecemumble….this one’s a North Country Cheviot, a breed I know nothing about, but this fleece is huge, so I’ll find out. So hey, learning! The wool is soft and very springy, and as you can see, very white. I washed a handful just to see what it was going to be like, then flicked a lock to see what that would be like. I think spinning this is going to be very different than spinning 420.

And speaking of 420, I gave in and slapped a fresh bobbin on the ole spinning wheel, and started spinning up some of those nests:

I got a little rambunctious there and didn’t move the yarn winding on, so it buckled a bit, but that’s okay. Both colors are from the same fleece, which I adore! I can’t wait to weave with this yarn – I think this might be like knitting socks with a variegated yarn in that you end up with a surprise in the final color pattern. So many more nests to spin! (So much fleece yet to comb!)

This is a diz. Homemade. I think this shell came from Long Island Sound, but it might have come from Maine. Or Nova Scotia. Totally unsure. In any case, I pretty much always have the odd shell around just in case I figure out something to do with them. I love shells, and have always thought that surely there must be some use for them! This one is now a diz. There was about 15 minutes of sanding on the top, then, wearing protective eyewear, I drilled three holes. I think I probably should have sanded the edges of the holes a bit more, but it works now.

After you’ve combed your wool into submission, and you’re ready to get it off the comb it’s on, the tool of choice is a diz. You can do this without a diz, but the diz makes things more even and consistent. You thread a bit of the wool through one of the holes in the diz, and then gently pull. The wool, naturally a bit sticky to itself, will draw off and bring other fibers with it, and you end up with a long snake-like piece of wool with all the fibers going in one direction, ready to spin. To store this, you wrap it around you hand a bunch of times and pull a loop near the other end through the middle. There’s a good tutorial for combing and making a nest here, though she doesn’t use a diz.

I also, at some point, went grocery shopping, and found a bag of mahogany clams that were calling out to me. I figured, hey, good food, and then a pile of shells with which to experiment and maybe make more dizzes. Or practice making dizzes. They were delicious, too.

And I finally got started on the next dishtowel project!

Stripey goodness!

Stripes, it turns out, are a PIA if they don’t follow any sort of per-inch pattern. So, this one has a pattern something like .5″, 1.5″, .75″, 1.5″, .75″, .5″, wash, rinse, repeat until you’ve reached 600 ends across, or 20″. But hey, more learning! Also, they’re going to be really pretty.

Next weekend, I’ll be driving up to Burlington, VT to visit a friend. I’ll try to bring the hat to work on. I’ll also try not to buy any fleeces, yarn, paint, ink, wood, tools…well, anything. I have FOUR bags full now and need to make some headway on that!