Wow. It’s been a while.
Things got really busy with doctor’s appointments and general exhaustion. I am better now! I had a lumpectomy on November 14th and radiation therapy for the entire month of January – my last day of radiation was also W. A. Mozart’s birthday, so there was a lot to celebrate. It wasn’t until about two weeks or so ago that I realized exactly how tired I had been because all of a sudden I wasn’t that tired. I still am tired, and my joints are creaky, but that’s the tamoxifen. But hey, as far as I know I do not have cancer, and that’s a win.
I’ve tried to keep up with practicing and making things, but tendonitis struck again. I’ve had it since about this past September in my left elbow, and I did not do what I was supposed to do (rest, heat, NSAIDs), but kept practicing both cello and gamba. The result was that I stopped cello the end of October until mid January, and I stopped gamba in the first half of December until the very end of January. I couldn’t button my sweater or braid my hair anymore, and I still can’t believe I let it get that bad. It’s sooo much better now, but it’s still there, so I’m being careful and doing what I need to do to make it better.
This also meant that all that hand work I was doing wasn’t possible anymore. Spinning for any huge length of time made it worse. Knitting has been right out for months and months. Combing wool was only possible in about 3 minute chunks. And then my friend Lee started a make-a-thing-daily project and invited everyone to join in. Her process of choice this time was embroidery.
I have been itching to embroider for some time, and Lee’s rules seemed simple enough: gather all your materials ahead of time, set the bar so low you can roll over it (quick and dirty, Kate, quick. and. dirty.), and do not fret about what you are making. Quantity over quality. Okay, okay, so I naturally fret over quality. Always. But I also recognize this is a thing that I need to maybe let go of now and then. So. A daily thing for February. The Short Month! Yes, I thought, I can do this. As long as it’s in tiny chunks.
I found all my embroidery floss and hoops and needles. And I began.
Week 1. These are Very Small, which keeps to the quick-and-dirty principle.
I had no patterns – so I just doodled. And doodled. Some I like, some not so much. But I did start to look at embroidery online and got to thinking about flowers. Lee presented me with tiny laser-cut frames she made. I love them.
Week 2, plus one. Moar doodles!
I re-learned how to do French knots, I learned the bullion stitch, and I learned that some of the yarns I spin are perfectly suitable for embroidering with. The purple flower (there’s a bit of charcoal on that one from the frame – the frames were laser cut, and so had carbon on the edges) is a silk/merino blend I spun up, as well as the purple in the octagonal frame. The grey sheep/mouse (it was supposed to be a sheep, but didn’t quite work) is a bit of Gotland I’d spun.
Week 3, plus a bit? Feeesh, flowers, and…more flowers?
I am really enamored of French knots. And embroidered flowers. And in rayon floss! I really wanted silk yarn (because who wouldn’t?), but all I could get quickly and on the cheap was rayon, so I settled (for now). The tree I’m especially happy with – that one is all in cotton floss, but from three colors I kept pulling out and staring hard at. I’d been looking at pictures online of tiny, gorgeous embroidered flowering trees made from satin stitches and French knots. Eventually, I knew I’d get to it. And I did. And I’m happy with it. And I think this particular tree with this particular color scheme will inspire Something Else (stay tuned?). The dandelion was a doodle to see if I could do it. I have a skein of variegated yellow cotton and I thought, “O, that reminds me of dandelions.”
I’m telling you, I have so much appreciation for those professional embroiderers who can create depth with needle and thread just through the use of color and stitch direction.
Late in the game, I ran out of white linen, so reached for a scrap of blue. But you know, it just wasn’t working. I love this shade, but I just wasn’t happy with how the colors of the floss were working with it.
Well. In any case, you’ll notice that there are fewer than 29 embroideries. I framed the last batch (Week 3 and a bit) yesterday, and while trying to start another wee embroidery to catch up on the last day of the month, I realized that the tendonitis really did not like it. I practiced a ridiculous amount of cello yesterday (yay, Vivaldi [except I can’t play it yet]), but the thing that made the tendonitis really painful was holding the embroidery hoop. Argh. The embroidery can wait. There will be other months, and an almost endless supply of floss and handspun yarn.
This is not to say that I did not make nothing prior to February. Spinning did aggravate the tendonitis, but as long as I did it in small chunks and took care, I spun. The spinning also helped with the mental stuff going on – a repetitive task that I don’t have to think overly much about and at the end, I get soft, squishy yarn. That I can squish.
I’ll try to go in order.
This was a bit of dyed Leicester Longwool and I got from a destash pile at one of the spinning guild meetings that I spun up in late December. I’m pretty happy with it. It was very easy and very mindless to spin, and there was a lot of it. I believe this is 8 ounces – each skein is 4 ounces. The only thing about this project was that the dye still hasn’t finished washing out, and I washed that skein about four times. I had used some cotton weaving yarn as ties on the skeins, and those picked up some of the dye, which leads me to believe the dyer used fiber reactive dyes rather than an acid dye. Which is aggravating. It would explain the lack of luster one would expect in this breed of wool. So, I’ll have to be careful when washing whatever project I use this for. (I’ll likely get a dye magnet or another fresher bottle of Synthropol to remove the rest of the excess dye.)
At some point, I realized I needed to start making progress on the Shetland fleeces. Because I have way too many fleeces and need to get through them! Especially if I want to buy more fleeces to make into more fabulous yarn to weave fabulous cloth. I’d been spinning samples for a bit (pretty sure this was January), and this one was one I was reasonably happy with. It’s got a bit more twist than I think the Shetland really wants, but I would absolutely weave with it. And let me tell you, Shetland is a joy to spin. It almost spins itself, it’s so very soft, and it’s so very lustrous. Can you see the shine?!
I tried another sample of the Shetland, this time with slightly less twist, and look at the difference! It’s much puffier than the stuff in the previous photo, and it’s so, so squishy. I loves it, I do. I want so much to weave with this, but I’ve had two people (experts in weaving and spinning, actually) tell me that this yarn is Really Suitable for Knitting. Sigh. I mean, it’s a sample. I can’t quite knit yet (tendonitis), but I might be able to weave it into a sample. Maybe. A tiny one.
Honestly, I love that yarn. I have never loved yarn I’ve spun so much as I love this one.
At some point in January, I decided to try out R.H. Lindsay Wool Merchants. I follow them on social media, and some of their pictures of wool are just so delicious. They sell wholesale, but they’ll also sell by the pound to whoever wants it. And I did. They’d posted a picture of super bouncy Dorset/Polypay roving from New England sheep. For $8.50/lb. I ordered two pounds. (The shipping was nearly that much, so I did briefly consider getting three pounds – I have no where to put it!) It came lickity-split and I pulled some of that off to spin:
Super springy! Super bouncy!
Yep. That’s pretty springy and bouncy! I gotta say, I really like this. You can’t beat the price, even with the shipping, and the roving is not carbonized. There were bits of VM in there, which I very happily picked out.
Look at that luster! Look at the color! Ooooh! Aaaaah!
I’m putting in a full size photo of the Gotland. I mean, how could I not?
This was my first attempt at spinning it. It’s not easy to spin. This is from commercially prepared roving that had sat in storage for some time, so was compressed some. There’s no crimp, there’s no wave. It’s a bit like spinning mohair, except it’s a bit less slippery. Getting the right amount of twist was a challenge, but I am pretty happy with this. It’s a two ply and if I can, I’ll weave a tiny sample out of this and full it to see what happens. But, on the other hand, I have more roving, and really what I should do is spin up the rest of it, and weave that into a sample, but cut the sample into three pieces, and go to town with experimental fulling. “Why all the trouble?” I hear you ask. The answer is that I want so much to sew myself a grey wool coat, and, believe it or not, I cannot find the right grey wool. It’s either not the right color, not the right weight, or some combination of wool and synthetic fibers. Or some combination of those three. And it pisses me off. So, I’ll just weave my own cloth, and spin the yarn if I have to. Dammit.
I know this is a huge project. I’d like to get it done in the next three years (before I’m 50).
Here’s another snap of that yarn:
I guess all that practicing spinning really paid off. I seem to be improving!
My friend Rachel (over at Spotted Sheep Studio) found some Gammelnorsk fleeces. I bet you had no idea there was a breed called Gammelnorsk, did you? Well. There is. And it’s rare. And she found a person in Norway who raises this breed, and got to buy a bag of fleeces from her. And Rachel and I stool around in the Webs parking lot after a spinning meeting opening the bag and smelling the delightful fumes of Norwegian barnyard and lanolin. And, of course, fondling the Gammelnorsk fleeces. The colors are amazing.
This breed is a dual coated breed, which means it has hair and a downy undercoat (tog and thel, respectively). I do not know much more than this, but Rachel is a fount of knowledge and will impart all her wisdom if I ask – also I’m going to be helping to prepare these fleeces for spinning, and then with the spinning. So I’ll have to know.
And the very last picture I have to show you is a bit of yarn I spun up yesterday. I have been learning about spinning and preparing the fibers via some Interweave videos. And so I tried combing the alpaca batts I have, because who doesn’t want alpaca top? Well. The batts are made from garbage alpaca. Or they were carded into oblivion, I’m not sure. In any case, the batts are only suitable for felting. The fibers are way too short for even spinning yarn. I even tried to card it and spin it. So aggravating. So, then I decided to turn my attention to a red Spelsau batt that Rachel’s husband brought back from a recent trip to Norway for me (and Rachel too, you should have seen her haul!). I tried combing a bit, and I got some top off it, but I think this batt is really suitable for carding. However, the color is AMAZING. Behold:
And lo! The Perfect Red!
And you know what? No dye came out of this when I washed it. None. Not even a little.
I love this red so much I want to roll around in it.
Really, what makes it so gorgeous is that it’s a tan or brown fleece that has been dyed red. The brown deepens the color and brings it over to the orangey side rather than the blue side. I’m thinking about experimenting with dyeing some of that brown Shetland – I have a white fleece too, but man, this red…