Fixing things, making things, hanging things

Time marches on too quickly! Oh boy, have I been busy.

After house and pet sitting for a couple of weeks, I slept for a couple of weeks. I finished the grey towels – more to come on those. Then I discovered that I had a sticky brake caliper on one side of my car. Drat! Having come from a family that just fixes things and has most of the tools to do it, my brother came over and we replaced rotors and pads on both sides, and the caliper on one side. (It goes so much faster with two people.) After a long afternoon, I have fully functioning brakes now! Woo!


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My friend Lee has asked me to weave a blanket for her out of bamboo yarn. She bought some yarn for a sample, and I doodled. It’s not great – there are so many mistakes – but the point of a sample is to find out how to work with the yarn, how it compares with other yarns, and what the end texture/weight/hand of the piece will be after wet finishing. I was not at all sure I liked it the whole time it was on the loom. It seemed to behave like a yarn somewhere between mercerized cotton and tencel, and I couldn’t help but wonder if it would just stay stiff and, well, like a kitchen towel. I don’t think I’d like a blanket that draped on me like a kitchen towel. But after washing, whoa nelly! It became a buttery soft cloth with the most amazing drape. Of course, it’s a kind of rayon, so I would expect fabulous drape, but I didn’t really expect the texture! It’s awfully close to resembling the hand of silk.

The yarn itself is a bit too light for a blanket, so we put that sample aside, and I’ve purchased a couple of cones of heavier yarn for another sample. I have enough of this new yarn to weave a sample that may also be useful, like a scarf. Stay tuned!


So there’s this international event that happens annually called Spinzilla. Basically, it’s a contest to see who can spin the most yarn (regardless of quality) in a week. There are teams and just random single people competing, and they just sit at the spinning wheel or carry around a drop spindle and spin spin spin. A friend of mine who has been participating since the very first Spinzilla encouraged me to join a team she was on this year, so I did. I even took a couple of days off work in order to have more time to spin, because that is the kind of person I am (coughcompetitivecough). I bought fiber for this purpose (which was REALLY silly – I had fiber). And I worried immensely about not having enough of my lovely fleece combed to spin (also silly – did I mention I had fiber?). So I combed wool.

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I still can’t believe how soft and luscious this wool is!

I combed a lot. 3-4 hours in one sitting for a couple of days. My shoulders really ached after the second day. And while I was combing, I suddenly remembered that I might have some roving around that would be easy to spin and I wouldn’t have to comb so much wool…

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Yeah. I found some fiber I had forgotten about. So much fiber. So. Much.

Okay, so fiber like this squishes, and I had quite a bit squished in a bin or two. So I stopped combing and started spinning. And ended up with this:

Left: wool/silk blend (colors), Southdown breed blend (white).

Middle: wool/silk blend, two batches, spun and plied. (These need to be plied a bit tighter/with more twise, so I’ll be running them back through the spinning wheel soon.)

Right: All the wool I spun in a week! One of the white skeins is more tightly plied, and it shows – that one is okay. The other will have to be plied with more twist.

In the end, I was VERY pleased with the amount I had spun and what I had learned. I also realized that I probably should be more social than I am because being with a group of people felt…kind of weird. But I did also come away with some very unhappy upper back and shoulder muscles. Sigh. No, Kate, you should not comb wool for hours and hours, and then spin for hours and hours without getting up and moving around after not having done it for a year.

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So happy with this! I learned a lot.

I’m especially happy with the combed wool I spun. The picture above isn’t a good one (sorry), but it records a pretty well plied two ply worsted yarn – this is the stuff I’d been combing in the pictures above. This close up above is before I washed it, so it looks darker and stiffer than it turned out after washing. The goal for learning to spin this kind of yarn is to be able to weave a good, hard-wearing cloth from it. I have plenty of wool to spin, so lots of practice with. This is from a lovely sheep living in Greenfield, MA (I hope he’s still there!) who I’m pretty sure was a Romney, but probably has other breeds in him as well.

And, by the way, I am very happy to announce that the team I participated with – Team Webs – scored second place with a total of 131,008 yards spun. Yay!!


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Harlequin. Shot in September 2018. I love this one, and I want to print it again so much larger.

For the last couple of months, I’ve been sort of getting ready for a photography show. It’s very informal – the photos were to hang at a local bakery in Amherst, MA. I had some photos already printed and framed, and needed to get others printed and framed – I went to a local print shop for the printing, but I framed them myself. On paper, this all seems pretty straightforward, but one can never properly account for how much time it’s going to take: LOTS.

I am kind of in love with some of the recent shots I took over the past couple of months. I love the paper they’re printed on, I love the colors, I love the clarity.

The end of a long push forward came earlier today when I hung eleven of my photos at Henion Bakery in Amherst, MA. I cannot describe how delighted I am to share them with other people, but in the same way I cannot describe the equal amount of terror I feel over sharing them with other people. Perhaps all photographers feel this way? I don’t know – this “hanging art” thing is very new to me, and wonderful, and deeply scary.

Prints of all of them are for sale. Most of the framed pictures in the bakery are also for sale. Stop by if you’re in town, grab a cuppa and one of Henion’s out-of-this-world pastries (seriously, try them – you will not be disappointed!), and check out the art hanging on the walls. They’ll be up until just before Thanksgiving.

 


I have also made a huge push to get an online shop going, which has been much more complicated than it at first seemed. I did get it done, and while there are still many tweaks to be made, I have an online shop at last! I have called it Waldenweave Studio. Currently, there are handwoven kitchen towels for sale, but I do intend to get my photography on there, and probably some of the little books I’ve been binding. There is also always the possibility I’ll put some other doodle or two up there – I may have to change the webpage up a bit to accommodate so many categories. Evolution will likely happen, as it tends to with everything!

So, the grey towels:

All done and I’m very pleased with them. You can find them in my shop – if you’re in a country other than the United States and you’d like to buy one, let me know at kate@waldenweave.com or via the contact form at the shop. I haven’t got a chance to investigate shipping rates to anywhere else, so I haven’t added that to the shop yet.

Please stop by my shop and let me know what you think! I will need to investigate sales and coupons, too. 🙂 I feel like readers here may appreciate a coupon.


In my other spare time, I have been trying to measure out this new warp. It’s 100% linen, and really my first time weaving line linen, so I chose a slightly thicker-than-usual-for-me yarn to start with. I am pretty excited about this, though. Linen is a really wonderful fiber, and you don’t see a lot of quality linen cloth in this country. Most of it seems to be from China, and seems to be woven from the tow (short fibers, nice, but not as strong) rather than the line (long fibers, up to three feet long, very strong). The tow is nice, don’t get me wrong. It becomes soft and lovely, and still has many of the wonderful qualities of linen (breathable, anti-microbial, holds an awful lot of moisture before actually feeling wet to the touch), but it also sheds lint like crazy. And that means it’s much shorter lived than line linen. Line, I’m given to understand, will also get crazy, deliciously buttery soft, but will not shed lint, will last longer, and has a lovely sheen to it. Like antique linen sheets, if you’ve ever seen them (and by ‘antique’, I mean 100 years old – yes, you can actually have sheets that are 100 years old and they’re still good – welcome to linen).

This warp will hopefully become a couple of kitchen towels – I make a lot of those, but honestly, for samples of cloth, they’re pretty handy. You can beat them up and see what happens, you can wrap things in them, you can dry dishes, you can use it as a napkin, you can use it as a place mat, you can dry your hair with them…all kinds of stuff. Of course, if this works as well as I think it might, I have ideas about making some overshot linen things. Rugs maybe? Runners? Just cloth? Hmm. I could absolutely use a linen overshot rug in my life…

What about you?

 

 

 

Finally, an update

I really did try to update this blog before now. I really did.

Things and Stuff have been happening. I am (finally) nearly almost practically done setting up an online shop. I nearly walked away from my day job, but then didn’t (it’s all good). I went to VT to see a friend graduate from college, and to visit another friend there. I have been practicing cello like a fiend – because every month I have lessons may be the last. (There are some calluses on my fingers, yo.) And I’m trying so hard to get things made that need to get made and get things done that need to get done.

The extremely good news is that the tendonitis has been continuing to recede, and some days I don’t even notice it!

On to the visual proof of what I’ve been doing.

I had this idea for a series of mostly handwoven, hand-dyed sort-of panels that would hopefully be shown at a local library’s art gallery next year – or maybe just hang on the wall where I live. It’s still swimming around in my head and would be oh so

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The tannins in black tea turns the cloth black where the cloth has been exposed to iron oxide. Behold! Chemistry!

cool – I haven’t made any art in years and years. Part of it involved an indigo dye vat and another part involved rust stains. The indigo is straightforward, and the resulting fiber requires no special treatment afterwards. However, staining with rust means that there’s rust still on the fibers (I think), and my original plan involved staining the yarn and then weaving it – only the reed in the loom is stainless steel, and I’m betting it’s not that stainless when literally up against actual rust. So, I decided the cloth would have to be dyed. And then I read about overdyeing rusty cloth with tea, and instantly learned about iron mordants! I’m still thinking hard about this potential art. We’ll see if I get to it this year.

 

I finished the two cotton scarves. They were difficult in ways I didn’t anticipate – the weave was planned to be loose, which means paying very close attention to beat. The selvedges are a mess – that is, they’re not perfect or close to even, and it drives me a little batty. One could attach the label “rustic” to them, but I’m not sure how I feel about that. I’m trying to decide if that should go to my shop or not. I do have a large-ish pile of things to sell.

 

I’ve been going to a knitting group at one of the local yarn shops again – it’s been about six months since the last time, but being in a space dominated by lovely yarn, knitting needles, and loads of people knitting was not conducive to the tendonitis healing, so I stayed away. When I finally went back the other night, a friend of mine showed me some really luscious fleece she’s acquired, and some examples spun up – she’s an excellent spinner! Apparently, she’s prepared at all times for any spinning emergency as shown in the above pictures of the contents of her car. There were six drop spindles in that plastic tote. The bags are full of fleece. (Even I’m not that prepared!)

 

The things I find in Amherst.

Sorry about not providing an update of Emily Dickenson’s grave – I’ve been back, but failed to take pictures. I will next time!

 

And here’s the next project! It’s tiny yarn (24/2 for those who want to know), and I’m hoping it will make nice cloth suitable for napkins. I didn’t sample (I know, I know, I’ll kick myself later), but I figure the resulting cloth will still be useful? I hope? The thing that really worries me is the selvedges. I recently found plainweave.net, and there were some helpful suggestions both for producing good selvedges and also for letting go of that selvedge perfection goal. Stay tuned.

 

OMGOMGOMGOMG!! I can spin wool again!! I can’t believe it. I have been positively aching to spin wool, and there’s still so much of it, and and and and! I had borrowed a couple of movies from the library (btw, The Shape of Water is a must see – really) and dusted off my wheel. It felt soooo good. I finished up the bobbin that was on there, and started another (pictured). Hopefully, a little every week will be spun and then I can weave the yarn. This project, of course, was supposed to be finished last October.

 

And finally, I CAN KNIT AGAIN!! Okay, in small doses. My thumb starts to get kind of tingly after about four rows, which is a sign of Overdoing It. So, as long as I’m careful to not knit more than about four rows at a time with a couple of hours in between (for now), then there will be slow progress.

I’m also reading up on some really exciting overshot patterns. The loom has four shafts on it now, but can accommodate up to ten shafts (I think – possibly twelve?), and I think the next step might be eight. My buddy Lee has asked me to weave a blanket for her, and so of course I’m thinking about a complicated, beautiful pattern with, of course, more shafts. Because New! Shiny! Complicated!

And I’ve been reading about bookbinding, because I’ve only bound one book and I’m weirdly itchy to make some more. This time, I have idea about weaving cloth for the cover (yes, I have ideas about making paper out of linen or cotton scraps and possibly also thrums and binding that into a book – that’s a long term project). I’ve got some really lovely cotton paper and some ethereal blue Japanese paper (don’t know what the fiber content of that is), and string…where would I find some string…..? The only thing I need is some Davey board for covers, and a Coptic bound book is mine.

Also, I got out my camera again. Oh boy. I forgot how lost I can get in photography. Whole chunks of time just whiz by without me taking any notice – what’s that sound? It’s my stomach! Why? I just ate lunch! Oh. No. That was nine hours ago. Oh. The sun has set. Oh. It’s actually time for bed. Damn.

One of my favourite pictures I have ever produced featured an orchid:

Grace

Grace

I love that picture more than I can say. And so I thought because I made such a pretty thing before with the help of an orchid, I would try again with other orchids (of course, none of my current orchids are blooming, so I needed new ones). I have to admit, they do add some lovely color to that room – I really miss gardening!

Yesterday, I found some peonies. The kitchen was transformed into a photography studio, and away flew several hours. I’m still in the process of editing, but when I am done, I think they will become prints and cards.

Did I mention I also bought a shoe pattern last month? Well, I did. With the intention of weaving the cloth that would become shoes. And if I could grow the fiber myself that I could use to weave the cloth, I would. Oh – of course, I will use some of that wool I’ve been spinning. And it may go into an indigo vat.

Hopefully, next time I’ll have news about stuff for sale! What have you been up to?

Experiments: success and failure

The month of November has been tumultuous. Some projects were ongoing, some were started and came to a screeching halt. As with all projects, and in my case, experiments, there were successes and failures.

I started and made a bit of headway on a weaving project.

Warp measured and wound. Currently, I have about 1/3 of the heddles threaded, but had to stop due to a very unexpected injury. And actually, I’m not at all sure if I’m happy with the pattern I’ve threading. It’s currently a bird’s eye twill, but something tells me I might be happier with a simple herringbone. I could do this with the current threading by just altering the treadling, but, oh, I’m waffling. Waffle, waffle. In any case, I can’t actually continue threading, so I’m just letting threading ideas waft around in my head for a bit. I have time.

The sucky part of not being able to act on this project right now is that I have nothing to sell, and no gifts made for winter gift-giving holidays. Argh.

I did attempt to do some spinning, but that didn’t work out so well either. There was a bit of a tangle.

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Argh. Argh, argh, argh.

I did eventually get this sorted, and spun the rest of the little wool nest, but had to stop.

Quite a few of my friends have birthdays in October, so around the end of the month, I attempted tempering chocolate for to make presents!

The chocolates on the left are solid. The chocolates on the right are squares of dipped squares of ganache. They look so good, don’t they?

Unfortunately, this was not well-tempered chocolate – a week later, I discovered it had bloomed. Which was super embarrassing because I’d already given some away. When chocolate blooms, it’s completely edible, but the texture is a bit different as some fats come the the surface and it looks ugly. Back to the drawing board. But not for a bit yet.

I did sell two dish towels! The last two green ones that I was thinking about keeping got snapped up.

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On the way to the post office!

About 20ish years ago, I planted some seeds from a lemon I bought at the grocery store. They took ages, and I nearly gave up, but eventually, after some weeks, they germinated. I only have one left, and that one grew and grew into a fine tree. It comes inside in the winter, and goes outside in the summer. About two years ago, I found a couple of blossoms on it, which was very unexpected. I’d read up on growing lemons from seed, and they often result in a tree that never blooms. This one did, but since the blossoms ended up growing at the end of the year, they’d fall off when the tree was brought in – there is no sunny place in the house, so it spends the winter under (mostly inadequate) lights and in a dry environment.

This year, it bloomed while outside when no one was looking, and the bees did their thing! I also have a couple of Key lime trees I grew from seed, and they bloom every year prolifically, so I imagine the lemon got help from the limes and the bees. Suddenly, there fruit on the lemon tree. Just one. And it stayed there. And it grew!

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A lemon-sized lemon! Organically grown in Western Massachusetts!

It fell off the tree a few days ago, so now it’s in the fridge while I decide what to do with it. Candy the peel? Dry the peel? Freeze the juice? Make lemonade? I suspect it’s not quite ripe, but close enough.

(For anyone wondering, the variety is likely a Lisbon. It’s one of the most widely grown commercial lemons and has truly mighty thorns.)

Of course, I want a greenhouse someday to grow my orchids, lemon tree and lime trees.

So. On to the injury. And my Sekrit Experiment.

On September 1, 2017, I started cello lessons. This has been a dream since I was about 9, but I’d never before been in a position where I could 1. afford it, 2. where I had space, and 3. where I wasn’t going to bother the neighbours. Sometimes I’m a little slow on the uptake, but it occurred to me around August this year that I had all these conditions where I live now, and I might not by the spring when I have to move again. So, I thought I’d try it for three months to see if I really liked it.

I have never tried to play a stringed instrument before, and haven’t played any musical instruments regularly since I was about 18. I thought that part of my life was done. But I found a place to rent a cello and found a teacher. Three months. That was it. Then at least I could say I tried it.

What happened next was completely unexpected.

I set a goal of practicing one hour every day. Instead, I got lost in practicing and often went over one hour. On the weekends, it wasn’t unusual to practice for a couple of hours. Once I accidentally practiced for three hours – not all at once – but still. Oh, I’d set timers, and I’d blow right through them. The joy at working at this was (is) tremendous.

Was there progress? I think so. I can tell when I hit the right notes more often now. I hit that magical 100 hours of learning a new thing. I started learning a couple of very, very easy Baroque/Classical pieces.

I also acquired a shiny, new case of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome/one hell of a repetitive stress injury in my bow hand due to a too tight hold on the bow and not taking enough breaks.

This means that for the last three weeks, I’ve been sleeping with a brace, I have appointments with an occupational therapist, I am typing and mousing mostly with my left hand at work, and I am completely unable to do any of my other hobbies. I carry heating pads with me. There are ice packs at home at at work. Bowing has come to nearly a screeching halt. There has been crying and sadness. There was a period last week where I was sure I’d have to just give it up because this kind of injury seems to not completely disappear in most other people. I steeled myself. Moar sad.

Which is ridiculous! It’s just a cello! I don’t need it more than food and shelter!

Sigh.

So, experiment successful. And a catastrophe. Right now, I’m hoping I will be able to wield a shovel when the snow comes. And then maybe weave again. And practice cello. I am plucking now instead of bowing, and setting a goal of bowing in two to three 5 minute chunks with 20-30 minutes rest for the next week, and will go from there. Maybe I can weave again in a month or so. And shovel snow.

 

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!

Progress

I am making progress on the wool, on a knitting project I’d let drop for a while, and on some yard work.

The wool is taking top priority right now while the cool, relatively dry weather holds. Summers here are hot and humid, and since the house has no air conditioning, trying to work with lovely fine wool with sticky hands will yield a lot of small lumps in the roving and in the spun yarn. Generally, for three quarters of the year, working with wool is a very pleasant experience in this climate, but that last quarter is time that’s better spent doing something else that doesn’t include anything soft and fuzzy.

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Practice makes improvement! My yarn is becoming much more even.

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Two-ply skeins. These have not been washed yet, so they might change a bit when they are. These are, I believe, an improvement from the last two-ply skeins I’ve made. Still 420’s fleece! Finished up plying last night, and wound into skeins this morning before work.

Knitting can also be uncomfortable in the heat and humidity, so I’ve picked up my latest sock knitting project again—I think anyone who knits at all always has a small project like socks or mitts in progress. It’s the sort of thing that’s portable, usually doesn’t require a lot of thinking, and, now that it’s more socially acceptable these days, you can knit in public places without garnering stares and disapproving murmurs.

I had been more than halfway through this pair of socks, but after the last two pairs of socks I’d knit out of the same brand of wool began to felt—it is superwash wool and is not supposed to felt, but you’d be surprised at how often it happens anyway—and how they started to wear after only a few months, I decided that this will be the last pair knit from this brand of wool. They’ll also be knit with smaller needles so I get a more substantial, hard-wearing fabric. I’ve started washing all my hand knit socks in the sink now as there’s nothing so frustrating as spending time knitting a pair of socks, getting to wear them a handful of times, then discovering a pair of thick, stiff socks five sizes too small to get on your feet when you pull them out of the washer. I’m seriously thinking about knitting a pair out of non-superwash wool to see how they wear.

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The left is the original, the right is the new and improved. 14 sts per needle on the left, 18 sts per needle on the right. The stitches look a bit wonky, but that’ll straighten itself out once they’re washed.

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I’m not sure you can see the difference in stitch gauge here, but you sure can feel it. Left is the old sock, right is the new sock.

Yard work is happening! I stocked up on a couple of cans of permethrin to treat some clothes with so I could avoid getting bitten by ticks (I’d prefer not getting Lyme disease), got a couple of new bow saw blades, and pretty much went to town the last two weekends. The trees haven’t been managed in so many years that the undergrowth and tiny trees have pretty much taken over. Which is fine for a forest, but if there’s a house in the middle, you kind of want more airflow so the house (made of wood) doesn’t rot. Moss and mold love stagnant air and shade—it keeps in the moisture. So, I’ve been trimming dead branches where I can reach them, whacking down the hundreds of tiny conifers and some witch hazel, and trying to rake the leaves into some sort of organized piles so that I can try to grow grass where there once was grass.

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Look what I found! A Red Trillium. I’m now almost thinking I might find a ladyslipper somewhere in the yard too – it’s the right kind of area for them.

I’m also busy splitting wood that was cut at the beginning of this past winter. Still not quite done with that.

This past weekend also involved ideas about sewing a shirt. Since I have a non-average shape, I cannot find button down shirts off the rack that really fit. If they fit my arms in length, the body is way too wide and the shoulders droop. If they fit my bosom, the shoulders are way too wide, and the armscyes are cut much too large (as if I had really giant upper arms). If it fits my torso length, it won’t fit my bosom or my hips. The solution to this problem is to just sew my own shirt, right?

I’ve been working on this for literally years. First, with no pattern drafting experience, I tried to draft my own pattern from scratch. This was followed by much frustration and throwing the pattern and resulting muslins in a corner for some unspecified amount of time in which I’d forget what I’d actually done to make me so frustrated. Then, I bought a couple of patterns, tried to alter them, make several muslins, got frustrated, threw it all in a corner. Months (or years) later, I’d try it all over again, sometimes trying to draft my own pattern, sometimes trying to alter an existing pattern, and sometimes trying to copy a shirt that actually did fit (there’s been only one). And then, I found the Granville Shirt Pattern.

The heavens sang with joy! I cut it out and, of course, tinkered with it. I had to learn to do a full bust adjustment and was delighted to discover that it wasn’t nearly as difficult as I’d thought—got it right on the first try! The sleeves of this pattern are longer than average to begin with, the hips just right, and only the shoulders needed some extra tweaking. I’d stopped tinkering just as I was about to add the shoulder tweaks to the muslin I’d made, and then something distracted me. My dressform adorned with said muslin stood quietly in the corner. Months passed.

Fall became winter. Winter became spring.

This past weekend, I decided to just make a damned shirt with no shoulder tweaks and no sleeve tweaks. Just the already incorporated FBA, and go. Man, I want a shirt that fits. (I actually can’t afford to buy clothes at the moment, but have a pile of fabric that I’ve been adding to over the years just for shirts I’d make someday.)

It turns out that even three months of intensive weaving, wool combing, spinning, and the odd bout of knitting, plus a full time job sitting in front of a computer and making phone calls does not actually burn calories in the way one hopes it might. (Especially if there is chocolate present.)

I got out some nice linen, ironed it up, got out all the pattern pieces, plucked all the pins out of the muslin, and tried it on just to make sure. And realized that that muslin is now one, possibly two sizes too small. Needless to say, the muslin was carefully put back on the dressform, and the whole project was shoved into a corner to be very pointedly ignored for a while.

Sigh.

So, the agenda for the next few months will include several bouts per week of walking, riding a bicycle, and perhaps lifting heavy things and putting them down again. If I’m feeling extra zippy, kayaking and running might happen, too. Which is also to say that some crafturgency will have to be moved slightly to one side. Well, exercise is, after all, good for you and improves quality of life. Also, I refuse to have to cut out another, larger size of the damned pattern.

I still plan on selling handmade things, but have not yet got my ducks in a row. In the meantime, the nearest goal post is getting as much wool processed and spun as possible before the humidity comes.

 

 

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???

Craft Hydrogen

Sustainably harvested, organically produced, free-range, cage-free hydrogen, carefully and humanely separated from the oxygen atoms in water molecules.

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See those bubbles? The ones on the left are bubbles of hydrogen, the ones on the right are oxygen bubbles. The bubbles in this picture were produced with a hand crank by me and a couple of people after we’d eaten a nice supper and had really delicious cake and cookies. (So, does that mean the dessert made the bubbles? Hmm.) Later bubbles (not pictured) were made with the help of a car battery and jumper cables. The hand crank was hard work!

The object of this was two-fold: to do a science experiment that I had never done in high school (my high school was deficient in…well, just deficient), and to allow me to actually make my own water. Because of course my whole modus operandi is to get to basic principles and try to make the materials for from scratch things from scratch. And then those more basic materials from scratch, and so on. It’s really turtles all the way down, and I really want to see how many turtles I can discover on the way down. But you know what? I got to see water separated out into its constituent atoms, then apply a flame (okay, I wasn’t the one with the flame actually) to recombine the hydrogen atoms with free-range oxygen atoms to create my own water! Which is exactly what happened, even though it was in such small amounts, we didn’t actually see any water, but that’s how the chemistry works.

(I want to build one of these myself and hook a bicycle up to it! MOAR hydrogen! Moar artisanally made water!)

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I still don’t have pictures of my pillow in progress, but this is the cloth left over. It’s on the large side for a napkin on its own – being about 21″ square – and I’m not at all sure about the weird diagonal texture that’s developed, but it gives me hope for way more colorful plain weave cloth and napkin potential! (And look at those not-at-all-bad selvedges!) Stay tuned. I’m developing a color plan.

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I finally got to the end of a whole bobbin! And let me tell you, these bobbins are huge.

So, what’s going on in that picture? Well, swapping out bobbins is a giant PIA, so I came up with a quick and easy way to wind the yarn onto a cardboard bobbin using my cordless drill (yay, multitasker!). It also means I don’t have to buy more wooden bobbins at the moment when I can buy was less expensive cardboard bobbins.

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And here are two almost totally full cardboard bobbins. WHEW. That took a lot of hours. But, my yarns are getting more even, and I’m getting a bit faster, so I have hopes for getting through these fleeces sometime this year. (ha!) Seriously, this yarn didn’t even leave a dent in 421’s fleece. You can’t even tell. SO. MUCH. WOOL. STILL.

I’ll ply these two bobbins and we’ll see how even my spinning really was. If the resulting two-ply ends up curling up on itself after its soak in hot water, then I’ve not quite nailed it. But if it’s nice and smooth, then I’ll have very workable yarn!

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And look! I’ve had another visitor!

This is the third time I’ve seen a fox in the back yard in the last couple of months. I kind of hope they stick around, though I have noticed a distinct lack of chipmunks, squirrels, and, dare I say, mice, so the food sources might be getting a little thin. The Barred owls have stuck around – I’ve heard them hooting in the woods behind my neighbour’s house, so there might be some competition for the foxes. Well, in any case, I consider myself lucky: up until this year, I’d only seen a fox once in my life, and he or she was running away into the woods at top speed as I was driving past. Maybe this spring I’ll be lucky enough to see kits. Here’s hoping!