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!

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.

Stripey Goodness

This is a commission that I’ve started on, which I realize now I’m a smidge more than halfway through.

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I had a hard time coming up with this color pattern, and at first I was not entirely happy with it. But man, I love it now.

 

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This weft made me love this warp even more. I love it so much, I want to wind another identical warp. Because the stripes are pretty bold, I kept the woven pattern simple to balance things out.

 

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I’m still fascinated and surprised that you can put yarns on this contraption and get cloth out of it.

 

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This was the second towel – purple warp.

 

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Beginning of the third towel: green warp. Still in love with this project, and I still want to weave more of it.

 

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It’s always interesting to see what a weft color does to the warp. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to predict the results, which is delightful.

 

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Closeup of the transition between the purple weft and the green weft. Looks like I didn’t beat quite as hard as I should have in the hem, but once washed, it’ll be fiiiiine.

 

I can’t wait to see how these will turn out after they’ve been washed!

 

If anyone is interested in buying towels like these or have any questions, please let me know in a comment. These are $45 each, and should last many years. I can also weave runners to a specified length, and soon I’ll have napkins available.

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!

So. Much. Wool.

There’s been a lot of crafturgency going on lately. Frankly, it’s been difficult concentrating at my day job, especially when I work in front of All Teh Internetz, basically. I mean, weaving drafts, knitting patterns, colors, dyes, how to make [insert thing here]… I’ve been fortifying myself with tea and chocolate, quietly determined to cross things off my work diary list, but man. Just… man.

Maybe I should just post some pictures. That should get things started.

The week of Valentine’s Day, I wove two bath mats, washed and dried the cloth three times for maximum shrinkage, hemmed one, and gave it away just last week. The other is for sale! When I get a chance to get some more blue thread, it’ll get hemmed and can be packed up and shipped. It’s 20″x 30″ almost exactly. (If you’re interested, please leave a comment!!)

Sunday, February 19th, I went to visit a shepherd friend of mine with another friend and I bought two fleeces, fresh off the sheep 24 hours earlier. The one on the chair turned out to be huge – that’s from sheep 420. The smaller fleece is from 807. I started washing 420 right away, and you can see the lovely grey locks I got! I was sort of hoping the yellow tips would come off with carding, but they mostly haven’t. Of course, as soon as I had some dry wool, I spun up the tiniest bit – so shiny!

So, this wool. This particular fleece from 420 was large to begin with (5 or 6 pounds?), but after I washed it all, it pretty much doubled in volume:

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The bag in the back is only a tiny bit less full because I combed some.

Which means I had to buy combs so I could comb the wool. Which was fiiiine. I’ve been wanting a pair of combs for a while. For some reason, I’d been taught that a flick carder was all you needed, and I hated that stupid thing so much. No one told me about combs until kind of recently – it turns out that combing not only lets you produce a greater quantity of ready-to-spin fiber, it also gets more of the crap out (you thought your wool was really super clean? Comb it and watch what else falls out!), AND you have much better control over the quality of yarn you’re spinning.

But before I get to the combs… last weekend, I had to go back to see my shepherd friend and buy 420’s sibling’s fleece:

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Yes, 421. 421’s fleece is perhaps slightly bigger, but also greasier, so it was heavier – 7 lbs. I love it so! It’s still waiting in the queue to be washed as I’ve started washing 807:

The fleece on the floor – darker brown, but there were some surprising greys in there too! I am currently very carefully working out of buckets. Two cold soaks, then a hot soak in slightly soapy water, then a hot rinse, and dumping all the water outside so dust, dirt, and dissolved lanolin don’t affect the septic system. I read something about someone using a dash of vinegar in the rinse water to restore the pH to the fiber, which I thought was a good idea. I think it also makes the fiber shinier and softer, which would make sense according to other things I’ve read about shampoo and conditioner for humans. And my experience dyeing silk, which is also a protein fiber, includes a lot about a mild acid restoring the pH. In the same place, I also read that adding a few drops of clove oil might repel moths, though there’s no proof. I liked this idea too, so I’ve been doing that. I love the smell of wool – raw, clean, wet, dry – but this new smell is really good too, if extremely subtle. And hey, if it repels moths, I’m all for it. Plus, I just happened to have clove oil from a previous project. So.

I’m not done washing 807 yet – I’m about 2/3rds of the way through. Hopefully, I’ll have it done by the weekend! There’s still so much to get done, but I really would love to have 807 off the floor at last.

Last weekend, I also started a hat (finally). This hat had a very long start. I think I cast on four times and had to rip it out, threw the pattern in the corner for a while, pointedly ignored the hat, then had to finally get a new set of double pointed needles because OMG the circular one I’d tried using, the one recommended in the instructions, was too long. I nearly gave up. I’ve knitted two sweaters, countless pairs of socks, even cabled socks before I learned to read a pattern – I just made the cable up, and fingerless mitts. A hat shouldn’t be difficult. It’s a hat. I should be able to bang one out in a weekend, but noooooo. Murphy and I have a very special relationship. Easy? Then for Kate it will be difficult. I persevered. There’s a mistake in it, but I’m not ripping it out. I didn’t notice until about two inches past it, and this hat needs to go to it’s intended recipient (where it should have gone two months ago, dammit). I have strong feelings about this hat. Strong feelings.

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It’s coming along. I’m calm. Honest. Calm. I’ll knit two or three more after this.

So THEN…

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…there were pancakes. I had a bunch of things that were going to go bad, mostly buttermilk. But also some eggs. And I had the dry ingredients left over from a cake that wasn’t to be (the wet ingredients didn’t make it, but the dry ingredients were set aside for a couple of weeks). And there was a half of a container of sour cream left. And hey, oh, hmm. Here’s some almond meal that’s been in the fridge for I don’t want to think about that. Smells okay. What else? Orange flower water. Sure. Oh! And some fresh blueberries that somehow made it through the week without getting eaten or going bad. Huh. Better use those up. I might have added a bit of cornmeal too.

I literally poured things into a big bowl, added more baking powder, and stirred, then ladled it out onto a buttered sauté pan, and voilà! Pancakes. Some with blueberries. Two with chocolate chips (turns out, I’m not much of a chocolate chip person when it comes to pancakes). There are still quite a few in the freezer. They’re delicious!

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Yeah, so while the hat was happening, this is as far as I’ve gotten on my cardigan that I really wanted to be done for April. Yeah. Um.

Then there was the local Orchid Show! I finally, finally remembered this year and got myself down there nice and early. Alas, I did not buy a single orchid (such restraint, don’t you think?!), but admired all of them, and checked prices for next year. I have three phalaenopses that I have not only NOT managed to kill, but they’re actually growing (one has decided to bloom again from the same stalk it put up last summer without me having to do anything). I think another orchid or two would not be out of place at my abode one day. However, I’m saving to buy a house, and that comes first. sigh

In the meantime, I did a little more spinning. I think this was while 420 was still drying and my hands were just itching to spin some wool. (What about weaving? I know! I wanted to weave too! Such is the curse of crafturgency!) Last year, I bought a couple fleeces – Scottish Blackface, in fact – from this same shepherd, and having done some pre-purchase research, had decided to spin yarn to weave a hearth rug. See, wool doesn’t burn well at all. Linen and cotton go up like crazy (and honestly, you should try dryer lint in the fireplace or woodstove one day – just try it, it’s mostly cotton, it’s pretty and makes you take those warnings about dryer fires a bit more seriously), but wool just smoulders and goes out, which is why traditional hearth rugs are made of wool. (YAY WOOL!) Sparks can fly on them all the want, the wool will save your floor. (Further experimentation is required to see if a burning stick or log can burn the wool, however.) Plastic fibers will melt. Linen and cotton, as I said before, will very happily burn very brightly and quickly. Wool won’t at least where sparks are concerned.

Anyway, weaving. So, this particular breed is special because it has three particular types of fiber: tog, thel, and kemp. The tog is the long hairs, the thel is the fine undercoat of squishy, soft wool. The kemp is dreaded by all spinners: it’s a weak, crunchy fiber that doesn’t really contribute (that I’ve found) to your yarn, breaks and gets everywhere while you’re spinning. You can sort of see a bit of it sticking out from the yarn on the bobbin in the picture above, but some of that is also tog. Some spinners separate the tog from the thel and spin them separately, but you can also spin them both together, which is what I decided to do. I experimented spinning both ways last fall, but ultimately decided that any rug I wove would be nicer with all the fibers incorporated into the same yarn. (I might do a whole post on this breed and a bit of history…)

Mostly, I kind of thought I’d try to get this wool spun up before starting to spin 420, but OH! I want to spin 420!! Crafturgency!!

But first? I have to comb the wool. With those new combs I went on about earlier. Behold!

They’re really sharp, and really good at getting all the fibers lined up nicely! I’m so very happy with them! Yes! I did already stab myself and bleed all over them! Here are the results of combing:

The top bag of nests is 420 – I can’t believe how full that bag is and how little of a dent I made in the fleece. The bottom bag is of 807. Because I’m still not done with washing that fleece, I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Though, this morning, I decided to spin a little 807 just to see. That wool is just so soft. And isn’t it beautiful?? I’m surprised at how dark it came out and how shiny and soft the resulting yarn is, though 807’s fleece is a bit softer than 420. Did I mention that 807’s wool is soft? I’m so very happy with it! I’ll take that yarn off and probably Navajo ply it so I can see what a three-ply yarn looks like. Then I’ll likely carry it around with me, taking it out to see it in the light, petting it, oh yes, my precious…

Ahem. Yes. Wool. We loves it.

So, Projects Also Planned!

These four cones are of mercerized 10/2 cotton, and they were purchased for a commission. I am to weave some dishtowels for my friend Lee who needs a gift for someone later this month. I’m not 100% sure how I’m going to arrange the colors or what sort of twill I’ll do, but there’s enough yarn that I could likely do another three sets of four (I think), and that will give me Options. The weaving draft next to it isn’t necessarily related, though it might be interesting to do this pattern (Gothic Cross) with these lovely pastel colors. Otherwise, I’m definitely weaving this pattern with WOOL. I think it would be really beautiful in a single color wool, not fulled as much as that sample from my last post so that the pattern is super subtle, but wows you when you see it. I had thought that Gothic Cross was only for 8-shaft looms, but came across this (the voice in the back of my head said, no! Surely a 4-shaft loom can weave this! It’s diamonds!), and quickly saved/printed it out. I. Can’t. Wait. I want a shawl in a medium to dark spring/willow mixed green. Right. Now.

I told you. Crafturgency has set in pretty firmly these days.

Oh! I nearly forgot! There are a bunch of black birches in the yard where I live. Up until yesterday, I had thought there was only the one huge, tappable one, but once I wandered around in the woods a bit, I discovered at least two more. Three black birches! I have one tap and bucket. I shall buy two more taps and buckets, and just maybe I’ll be able to get some sap and boil it down and make birch syrup. Maybe. Cross your fingers!