Fiber-y goodness

It's been a while (again) since I've posted anything and I've got some fun stuff to show! I was lucky enough to get to the Monterey Fleece Auction at the Monterey County Fair (they sell tequila *shots* at the fair, how cool is that!??!) two weekends ago and that kicked me in the butt to start dyeing.

I've been wanting to dye my own stuff for quite some time, and the carding fun during the TDF really got me thinking about it. Finally, what pushed me over the edge was the wonderful fleece I bought at the auction. Nine pounds of Coopworth Romney cross, in a lovely gray. Oh, here's what it looks like:

Isn't it gorgeous? The majority went off to Morro Fleece Works for processing, but I stashed about 1# in a ziplock before heading home. This is post washing and pre-dyeing. Since it's gray, I wanted to try and get some blues and purples for scarves. I dyed the locks using acid dyes in the microwave. I don't think I got the water hot enough, but here's the blue pre-carding, and then the two finished batts:

I was quite surprised at how much the colors muted after carding, but the softness of both is just amazing. Have I mentioned how much I love my drum carder? Love. LOVE.

Anyway, I also had two pounds of merino top just lying around waiting for some love, so I decided to do some quick experimenting with kettle dyeing and hot-pouring. I'm much braver now about really heating the water/wool mixture and I just dove in. All the examples below use 4oz. of roving, so I've still got a pound of un-dyed roving leftover. The kettle dyeing was simple - just dump the dye in the bath along with the wool, then heat to set. For the hot pour, I heated the wool and bath *first*, then added the dye.

While I didn't take pictures of the kettle dyeing (too simple, I guess), I did try and document the hot pour. First experiment was with a blue mixture. I used a syringe to squirt the dye on half the roving:

Once that was done, and the dye started to settle, I carefully turned the roving over in the bath to distribute the remaining pigment:

For the green, I first added some water to my dye solution so that it would be less concentrated. Then, I poured more equally across the top of the fiber:

Again, once the dye pushed through and settled, I turned the fiber to better distribute the remaining dyestock

In both cases, I let the fiber cool completely in the dyebath and the dye was fully exhausted. Then, I picked the rovings out of the dyebaths, rinsed under luke-warm tap water, squeezed out as much water as I could, gave it a whiz in a garment bacg ala Alden Amos and then left to dry overnight. Results of the whole shebang look like this:

Again, the blue and green were hot-pour and the orange and yellow were kettle dyed.

All four of them are just *lovely*. The yellow is so wonderfully bright and makes me smile whenever I see it. I'm really in love with the blue - there are these great bits of blue/green in the darker areas and it's all pretty close to what I wanted. I'm going to try one more hot-pour experiment with an intent of getting more colors into the mix. I think I need less water in the bath overall (the wool floated too high) and to not rush the dye getting into the undyed spots. Regardless, I'm definitely on my way!

Oh, and in case you've not figured this out, the next color is in the reds/magentas. That part is missing from my color wheel.

Spinning soon!!! I need a happy, yellow scarf to chase away the winter chill. It is summer in San Francisco, after all.

And in other news ...

I've got a quick FO sighting for y'all.

This is a Beech Wood Cowl done in bamboo/merino handspun. Colorway is Sangria by Spunky Eclectic. I got the fiber from a fellow Raveler as part of a "bag of crap" fiber swap. I was shooting for something heavier weight than the light fingering I usually end up with. This is about 10wpi, chain-plied. BTW, I'm falling in LOVE with chain-plying. Now that I'm confident in the process, it makes yarn happen almost instantaneously.

Yardage: ~170
WPI: ~11
Fiber: 80/20 merino/bamboo

I'm wearing it 'round the office today 'cause I lurves it.

Off to the mountains tonight for the long weekend and the start of the TDF. I'll post the "stash target" when I get back next week.

Three Bags Full

Today I started pulling out the fiber for the Tour.

I've joined a couple of teams: Team Monkey Farts, sponsored by Spunky Eclectic, Team Suck Less, sponsored by Abby Franquemont and Team Snobby Spinners. For the last one, it's all about spinning "luxury" fibers. Links go to the groups in Ravelry.

Monkey Farts is my cheerleading team. There's no Spunky fiber targeted specifically for the Tour, but I wouldn't be surprised if one of the club fibers finds it way onto a spindle this month.

Team Suck Less is all about spinning a MILE of fiber in one day. A mile is 1760 yards, and if you 3-ply that, it works out to 580-ish yards. That's more than a pair of sock's wort (usually ~400 yards) and would work out to be around 5-6 oz of fiber. That's alot. That's about 10h *straight* of spinning. I'll be doing this on a Saturday.

Finally, for Team Snobby Spinners, I've got a choice of some lovely polwarth/silk blend that spins up frog-hair fine for lace or 4oz of some really nice bamboo/merino blend. I think that's the one for me.

The overall fiber count for the Tour looks like this:

1.5# of Merino for a sweater. Comes from The Sheep Shed and Carolina Homespun. The two sets of fiber are close cousins and are broken into three sets of 1/2 a pound, each. Makes it easy for the 3-ply I'm planning. This is targeted for the Wisteria Sweater from Twist Collective.

4oz of Bamboo/Merino blend. These'll be for socks. May use the SpinOff article from last year to split and ply the fiber. Otherwise, I'll be waffling between chain and true 3-ply. That's for later in the month.

~2# of Shetland fleece. My first one. I'd had some thought of dying this before I spin it, but I've both run out of time and am no longer sure that's what I want to do. If I save this for last, I can still "plot" a bit.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to this - quite a bit, actually. It's gonna be great to reconnect with my wheel, play around with my carder and generally spin until I just don't want to anymore.

It's training for SOAR in October, right?


This weekend, we hauled the brewing equipment out and made beer.

Before moving to California, brewing was a monthly (minimum) exercise with a very dear friend. I have wonderful memories of sitting on the porch, in all weather (even in the snow), with our cauldron of malty goodness bubbling away while talking about, well, everything. I've not found a new brew-buddy out here; and Chris and I brew together (he's good for the heavy lifting), but I still miss Andy on brew day.

Anyway, yesterday's beer was dead simple.

Grain Bill:

7# 2-row klages malt
1# malted wheat
1# Vienna malt

Strike with ~13qts of water at 165F, aiming for a mash temperature of 150F. We used about 12 quarts and hit 152F. Perfect. Skipped the protein rest 'cause it was all in the Gott cooler and I just couldn't be bothered.

Let rest until conversion is complete. We went hiking for an hour. :-)

Add about 3gal of sparge water at 180F to get the mash up to 170F. Sparge until liquor is at 1.008. We netted out about 6.5 gallons.

Add 1 oz Hallertau (~4.8AAU) at 0 mins, 1/2 oz Saaz and 1/4 oz Fuggles at 30 mins, another 1/4 oz Fuggles at 40 mins, another 1/4 oz Saaz plus 2T rehydrated Irish Moss at 55 mins.

After 60 mins, chill to ~80F and siphon into a 7g carboy. Add White Labs Kolsch yeast, slap on the air lock and Bob's yer Uncle.

Original Gravity: 1.050
Original Volume: ~6gal

Not bad at all. BTW, it's already delicious.

I'll take two.

Must. Make. This.

I'm going to go sit in the corner and be very, very good. Hopefully this will show up.

Little things

For me, the little things in life are important. I tend to get so busy that I don't always do the "normal stuff" like cleaning, vacuuming or folding the laundry. And, in life's silly ways, neglecting the "normal stuff" can lead to neglecting the big stuff.

Suffice to say that last year was not my finest. I'd say it was a continuation of quite a few years of not paying enough attention to the world around me and really losing track of what was important. I came within an inch of being single again - after nearly 20 years together - and boy was that horrible.

Where am I going with this? Well, in "happier days", Chris was pretty good at letting me know he was thinking about me by sending me flowers. It didn't happen regularly - but he always managed to figure out when I was feeling sad, or missing him, or just totally overwhelmed by life. A lovely bouquet would show up at work, on the table at home - and even once in China! There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that touches me so.

Anyway, when we were having "trouble", I actually noticed that the flowers didn't happen anymore. We'd argue. We'd pick on each other. I'd cry. While I didn't "expect" them per se, I did notice that he didn't seem to think about it anymore.

Fast forward to today. I was away again last week and came home on Saturday morning. He's been working his tail off to get the race car up and running again for a track day tomorrow and he and his partner ran into all sorts of problems. Knowing I'd be all foggy and tired, I sent him off to work on the car. Turned out that they had more problems and "one day" became "all weekend". Plus, tonight he's off to head up to the race track. Yeah, I was a little sad about it but I didn't want to prevent him from getting his stuff done. It's not every weekend, he really loves doing it, and it needs to happen.

He noticed.

I really do love that man.

Bathtub Rings

In yesterday's post, I threatened to wash a fleece. Now, I should admit that I'm one of those people that likes (needs) procrastination. I like to hem, haw, deliberate, do thought experiments and generally delay actually *doing* something until I feel like I can be successful. It's definitely overkill in terms of angst and nervousness, but the net result is that I do eventually conquer my fears and just "try".

After putting up that post yesterday, I was absolutely GRIPPED by the idea of washing the fleece. I thought about it ALL DAY. Finally, after I'd finished up my work for the day, I picked up a few necessities at the store (drying rack, laundry bags) and just, well, tucked in.

I turned up the water heater (involved disassembling the darned thing), shook/picked over the fleece and just, well, washed it. Two soapy dunks, two rinsy dunks, some dangerous whirling of the bagged fleece in the driveway and it was over. Pretty anti-climactic, actually.

As of last night, it was taking up all three tiers of the drying rack in the living room. It's not felted. It's pretty clean (compared to the state it was in yesterday). I think I'll do this again.

(will add pix when I get them off the camera)

Tomorrow is Spinners' Day at the Farm up in the North Bay. Looking forward to sun, wool and pot-luck!

Tour de Fleece - Part Deux!

Last year I wasn't a spinner. Feels pretty wierd to say that given how much I've taken to this fabulous craft. I've always loved fiber and needle arts but spinning has unlocked a whole new measure of creativity. All that being said, I have a special place in my heart for this event 'cause it's what forced me to get off my butt and start spinning.

I won't bore you with the details, but suffice to say that I signed up for SOAR without knowing a thing about spinning. Once signed up, I bought a wheel and then got outed by the Harlot (scroll down to the 05-July post) when I committed to making a skein of yarn during the tour. Just one skein. The rest is history.

Anyway, I'm committed to participating in the Tour de Fleece again this year and this past week has been all about setting my goal(s). My fiber stash is starting to get a little silly and that means I need to get spinning so that I can buy more (natch). Plus, with the addition of my new and loverly loom (LOOOOOM!), I've got new and amazing ways to burn through all the lovely yarn I'll be making.

So, I'm currently thinking about a few things:

1. Spindle spin just a little bit, every work day, over lunch. I'm not a "confident" spindler and that's just lack of practice. I've got time at lunch to do this, so I'm gonna. If I'm in a meeting, the spindle goes to. Phoey.

2. Spin for a sweater. I've got plenty of fiber to make an absolutely lovely version of Wisteria and it'll also be a challenge to spin something larger than sport weight. I can do this - I just KNOW it.

3. Spin a fleece. I've got two - one from a friend down the road (can't believe it's been a year) and one lovely one from Windswept Farms in Michigan. They're both small, but it would also allow me to finally get over my fear of doing this. It's *gotta* be ok for me to wash some wool, darn it!

So, I'm mostly set, I think. It's all doable in the grand scheme of things, provided I do some planning. It's off to China again next week, so I'll have some time to plot/scheme on what gets done and when - and I can try washing the fleece when I get back.

Oh, and I've also got this idea about dying up some roving and spinning that, but maybe that's for next year.

Thoughts? Anyone? Is this thing on?



After a week's worth of waiting (I can't believe how spoiled I've been by USPS!) my wonderful new loom finally arrived. It actually showed up this past Friday, but I didn't do a thing with it until Sunday. First, I needed to finish up spinning last month's Spunky Club fiber and then we had a small task to accomplish at a semi-local winery.

So, Sunday morning finally came along and I just had to dive in and get started. I followed the excellent advice of my Spunky and Weaver friends on Ravelry and used Tofutsies as the warp (96", 10epi, 11" on the loom) with the intent of using it as the weft as well. Nice, balanced weave - that's the ticket.

I started warping at around 10a on Sunday. By the time I had to leave for Book Club at 3p, this is the result:

Amazing, isn't it? Like LIGHTNING this stuff is. I kept going and going on Sunday night, then again yesterday. I ran out of the Tofutsies about 2/3 of the way through but I couldn't bear cutting it off and wasting all that weft. So, I dug into my old crochet cotton stash and found a nice ball of ecru cotton. I grabbed that, along with my pickup stick and kept going. And going. And GOING! Then, around 9p last night, I finished. Gave it a quick soak and popped it in the dryer (!!!!!) with the rest of the laundry. A quick press and tying up the ends and voila:

Can you believe it? Isn't it FABULOUS! Wow. WOW. WOW!! I'm totally in love. The cotton is an excellent foil for the Tofutsies and the more-open weave gives it a somewhat similar drape. It softened up so wonderfully in the wash that it's like silk against my skin. Oh, here are a few more:

So there you go. The loom's folded up and stowed under the couch (Chris appreciates this added bonus) but it's likely coming out again tonight. I have this idea for another scarf, but this time I'll be doing some color changes in the weft ... assuming I can figure that out.

Yep, I'm hooked. Absolutely. LOOOOOOOOMMMMMM!

(oh, and who else is up for the Tour de Fleece?)

What a weekend!

So I mentioned on Friday that my hubby, along with the menfolk from two other friends who are also turning 40 this year, were taking the three of us out for a glorious celebratory weekend. Well, they didn't disappoint. The weather was ideal and we had a great time. Can't you tell?

No photos of the dinner to share (yet). The six of us were all dolled up and enjoyed a nearly four-hour marathon of amazing food and remarkable wine before staggering back to the hotel. I can't even begin to describe what a magical experience it was to eat at the French Laundry. Not every dish was perfect, but the combination of the food, the wine, the presentation and the first class service were more than enough to exceed my expectations. Suffice it to say, if ever given the opportunity, go. Don't walk, run.

Anyway - I'm a very lucky girl. Happy Sunday, folks.

More greens - and an exciting weekend

Last week was our first week of fresh veggies from my CSA. Given that we didn't get the box until Friday, not everything was perfect, but I was still enamored with the contents. This week was no exception. We got:

Rainbow Chard
Lettuce Mix
Loose Spinach
French Breakfast Radishes
Green Garlic
Spring Red Onions
Fresh Strawberries

This may, perhaps, sound like less than last week's contents, but that's not necessarily bad. My last salad was eaten the day of arrival for the other box! Anyway, I've not made as much of a dent in this box so far, mainly because I'm still buried under the box of cherries from the orchard, but I'm sure I'll manage to eat all of it.

All that waits until Sunday because we're going away (yet again) for a weekend with friends. My cohorts in crime, Amy and Beth, and I are all turning 40 this year. Our menfolk took it upon themselves to "do something about it" and this weekend is the big deal. The boys did a superb job of keeping things secret, and even managed to ensure that none of us planned anything on our calendars, and they finally started spilling the beans a few weeks ago. Suffice to say, they've done a fabulous job. We're having a weekend of wine tasting, cycling, general mayhem and the crowning achievement is dinner a The French Laundry. I really don't know how wonderful it will be. It's been getting mixed reviews from customers over the past few years (service declining, less variety of menu, prices skyrocketing) but it's still one of those "lifetime" things.

My plan? Close my mental checkbook, open my mouth and enjoy. See you all Monday.

Template woes - and new stuff!

Well, I've managed to delete all the customizations I've made to the blog - but then again, maybe that's a good thing. I still can't get the archive calendar to work properly, but maybe that's ok, too. I'll try and take this as an opportunity to "restart" all this stuff and do a little housecleaning.

Anyway, it's Memorial Day weekend here in the us and that means a long weekend. It's a happy coincidence that this extra day off coincided with the end of our extended vacation; I wish I could take credit for planning it that way, but no dice. Doesn't mean I won't take that extra day off!

The weather has been pretty crappy up here on the mountain and today was the first bit of sunshine we'd gotten since coming home. That was enough to motivate me outside for a run (everything now hurts) and I'm glad I did. It's been too long since I'd run and I'm looking forward to getting back to it in a serious way.

On the handicrafts side of the house, I've gone off and ordered a small, rigid heddle loom from Schacht. Looks like this:

I'm just tickled at the prospect of being able to burn through a HUGE amount of stash in no time at all. Scarves and wraps from all that lonely sock yarn are destined to be gifts for family and friends. Rumor has it that I can warp the loom, weave a project and finish it in a day. Now *that's* the right speed for me. Plus, it's a nice way to ease into weaving. I really see this as a first step toward full-time fiber arts.

Anyway, it's back to the salt mines for me tomorrow. 8a meeting. Can you believe it?

Back from holiday - and fresh greens!

I can't believe how quickly three weeks went by. We had an amazing time in New Zealand, Australia, and the Kingdom of Tonga. The first two points were more "transit stops" than destinations, but I managed to completely fall in love with the kiwi lifestyle and am scheming ways to move down there! Sydney was also good - but the highlight of our trip was 11 days of sailing in Tonga. There's just too much to tell about it, but suffice to say, we all had a wonderful time.

So, we're rested, relaxed, and ready to start working again next week. But, since it's a holiday weekend, this leaves me time to get acquainted with the box of fresh veggies dropped of by my CSA. I've bought a weekly delivery of fresh veggies and I think that the quantities should be more than sufficient for the two of us. This week, we got:

Romaine Lettuce
Red Leaf Lettuce
Red Russian Kale (this is a new one for me!)
Spring Bunched Carrots
Spring Onions
Green Garlic (also a rare treat)

I've been casting about for a recipe for the kale - and so far haven't been really taken by any of them. At a minimum, I'll be stuffing myself with salads for the next few days!

Happy long weekend everyone! It's great to be home.

A little fibery goodness

Just so that you don't think I'm making up all the stuff about finishing socks and spinning yarn, here are a few pics of what I've managed to do.

First of, I really want to make C. a pair of handspun socks. I've gotten confident enough now with my knitting that I'm sure they'll fit right. Spinning up some good yarn for the project is the real challenge. The March fiber from Spunky Eclectic's Spunky Club was just the ticket. Base fiber is a dark Blue Faced Leister (BFL) with dyed segments of teal, green, red and brown. A very manly set of colors on an easy to spin roving.

Since it's for socks, I wanted a true 3-ply yarn. That meant tearing the roving into three equal parts. I then split each part into four strips and spun each onto a bobbin. Finally, I plied the three together. In the "good karma" department, two of the three bobbins emptied out *at the same time*. There was not more than 10 yards of single left on the third bobbin, so there was almost no waste. Finished product looks like this:

Spun S, plied Z. Final size around 16 WPI. Just about 375 yards. I think the initial weight was a little low, but I'm still quite happy with the yardage.

Today, hot off the bobbin, is a 100% Merino superwash roving from Zen Yarn Garden's Spin Art Fibre Club. It's the April colorway, inspired by Georgia O'Keefe's "Red Canna" painting. I did this one as a chain ply (just because I need to get better at it) and because I thought the colors would be more interesting if I could preserve them. Anyway, yarn looks like this:

Once again, spun S, plied Z. Final WPI again around 16. This time, it's just *over* 400 yards - plenty for socks for me (yeah, we just talked about not chain plying for socks) or maybe a nice scarf.

Both these yarns go on vacation with me this week. Woot!

Where did April go?

So there I was, intrepid readers, poised at the brink of April, ready to get back to a life of knitting, spinning and blogging. Now here I am, a full 23 days later, with nary a post to show for it.

First of all, a big "I'm a knucklehead" to Tina. Yes, I did get your email. I even marked it as "unread" so that I wouldn't forget to respond to you. I shall do so, this weekend.

Second of all, I did get a lot of spinning and knitting done. I finished 2.5 pairs of socks, am about halfway through a random scarf with my virtual friends from The Unique Sheep and have spun up singles for a scarf, a true 3-ply for socks for the hubby and am madly working on another chain-ply for socks for me.

What does all this lead to?


We're about to set off on a 3-week odyssey to points south and west. There's a 10d trip onboard a catamaran with 3 other couples (this will be excessively fun) as well as a few days in New Zealand, and hopefully some in Australia. Basically, the month of May is "out the window".

But, with three weeks of time on my hands, along with 2 18h+ plane flights, I hope to get some serious knitting done. This will include the aforementioned handspun socks (hopefully) and I'm also eyeing the Botanica Medallion Cardigan from the Spring/Summer 09 VK. Ravelry link, here. This one'll be a stash-buster and perfect for those warm nights on the boat. Assuming it gets done in time.

Fine. I'll try this again.

June will be a month of posts. I hope it includes my classes for SOAR, some pictures of spinning/knitting (if I can *EVER* find my camera!) and a nice talk about my trip. Time and internet connections permitting, I may blog from the southern hemisphere.


Kicking the tires ...

I can't believe how busy my life's been. I'd made some conscious decisions about *removing* things so that life would be less hectic, but that's not how things have turned out.

Suffice it to say, I've neglected this poor blog and it's time to get back to it.

Things to come:

Singles KAL with my Spunquistador friends
Adventures in dying and carding
A long, wonderful vacation
New job/responsibilities at work

April will be a month with posts. May will be a month without (due to the vacation). We'll see where June takes us.

Let it snow?

Word on the street is that we're in for a Big Storm this weekend. Starting tonight, snow levels are coming waaaaay down - predicted accumulation of 3-5" at 2000' (that's us) and 6-9" above 3000'.

Now, forecasters around here don't distinguish between the mountains on the west side of the bay (us) and the east side of the bay. I think we get quite a bit of moderation thanks to the Pacific, but it has snowed a couple times this year so it's certainly not beyond the realm of possibility.

Anyway, we've got lots of food in the house, lots of wine and beer, and I've got lots of fiber in various states of incarnation. Even if the power goes out, I'll be able to amuse myself without too much difficulty.

And if the power is going out, it'll be this weekend.



It's finally finished - and public. This is what I've been doing in China for the last 18 months. It's been a while since I've felt this good about myself.

Reviews here, and here. Shameless plug, here.

Happy Monday.

edited to add links to reviews and Amazon website

Brigid in the Blogosphere

Last week, Morgaine over at Carolina Homespun invited us all to take part in the fourth annual (silent) Poetry Reading to celebrate the feast of Brigid. Even older than Brigid is Imbolc. Today we celebrate Spring, the return of hope and look forward to the end of winter.

So, for that, I give you my favorite poet.

Early Spring - Rainer Maria Rilke

Harshness vanished. A sudden softness
has replaced the meadows' wintry grey.
Little rivulets of water changed
their singing accents. Tendernesses,

hesitantly, reach toward the earth
from space, and country lanes are showing
these unexpected subtle risings
that find expression in the empty trees.

Off to China. Posting when I'm able.

Some Progress

When the batt showed up from Spunky Eclectic, I really had no intention of doing anything with it in the "short term". For me, that means it should have sat, in the box, for at least 2-3 months. You know, until all the other stuff was done. Yeah, right.

I'll admit, peer pressure got the better of me. All the other clubbers were doing some really wonderful stuff with theirs, so I just had to open the box and at least *LOOK* at it. As soon as I did that, I was sunk. (refer to last few posts for conformation). Once it was all done, I was just atwitter trying to figure out what to *do* with it. I knew the colors would be stripey, and therefore it needed a pattern that had an element of angularity to it. I really wanted to make another Tuscany shawl, but after a quick swatch, I gave up. Wrong pattern. Totally. More studying, swatching and playing around led me to settle on Adamas.

Whaddya think?

Briefly ...

The spinning is done, the plying is done. The yarn is in the sink in the bathroom.

Today, it went from this:

to this:

Any suggestions as to what I should make? It's just over 600 yards of laceweight. I was thinking about another Tuscan shawl from No Sheep for You. It'd be a nice gift for my mom's birthday next month.

Isn't she Spunky?

The mailman is well and truly my friend. When a package comes (fiber, yarn, tools, whatever), he makes the long-ish walk down the driveway to leave it on the porch. I've been home when this happens pretty regularly, so I get a nice big wave as he passes by the picture window. (Note to self - post a picture one day!)

On Thursday, the first installment of my Spunky Club showed up. It's 4 oz. of a beautiful 100% organic merino combed top, handpainted in the colorway "Twilight". I'd managed to resist the siren call of the package for about 24 hours - but last night, I cracked. I opened up the box and braided up the bump.

Pretty, no? The braid somewhat disguises the fact that there are two distinct personalities to this roving - a green one and a red one. When I unbraided it and laid it out this morning for "strategizing", I decided to try and meld the split personality into something more coordinated. It's destined to be a 2-ply, fingering-ish weight yarn. With the help of my scale, I ended up with two bumps that look like this:

Both are approximately 55 grams (overall bump was 110 grams) and that means I should easily get 350+ yards of fingering weight.

I then began splitting the "green" half of the roving and pre-drafting a bit so that I could get started spinning. I'm doing a modified short-draw woolen technique for this stuff. There's a distinct difference in slipperiness as the color changes - anything with a strong color is much firmer; the undyed and lightly dyed sections are absolutely effortless. It's given me food for thought about how I deal with fiber once I start dying my own. So, about halfway through, my bobbin looks like this:

Almost as soon as I started, I remembered that I have one bobbin that I don't like. It slides back and forth on the flyer just a bit and has a bit of chatter. Tensioning this bobbin is finicky. Every time I use it I say to myself, "you should mark that bobbin or something so that you don't use it."

Guess which bobbin I'm using.

Adventures in Spinning

I've been doing a moderate amount of spinning since I got back from SOAR last year and I've found that I really enjoy it. I'm still enamored with the process of making yarn, but not so much with doing anything with the yarn. It nets out to an overall increase in my stash, but also a "compacting" of the fiber. Spun yarn takes up a lot less space than raw wool/fiber.

As always, the engineer in me wants to deconstruct everything and fiber is not safe from this process. I've been busily reading Deb Menz's book Color in Spinning and I'm bracing myself to get started working my way through it. She has a lot of great exercises in the back of every chapter that are designed to help the reader understand what she means in each section. I've got lots to learn about hue, value and color - and how they interrelate - and that should really help me to get everything I want in a yarn/garment.

However, before I dive in to dyeing, I want to do some fleece processing. I've got two fleeces waiting for attention - one from friends down the road (literally! I even helped with the shearing) and the other from Windswept Farms. Chris doesn't know about the second one. I have a thought that I can manage to wash one/both of them on Saturday and then perhaps get them carded into batts by the following weekend. I'd like to have a go at making my own rovings (ala Deb) and both of these are just right for that. The dark fleece wants to be left alone and knitted up - and maybe I'll do some overdying of the second.

Anyway, I'm thinking spinnerly thoughts while working furiously on a shrug for this weekend. Another party next weekend, and I'll need to work up another little thing for that. And birthdays, and late Christmas presents - and I need some handspun for both.

Man - where does work and sleep fit in to this?

Can't talk ... must dash

The car is coming in abut half an hour and I'm still packing. I love going home day - I get to live twice. A quick jaunt in the shuttle, relax in the airport lounge for a while, watch 5 movies, then home.

First off, coffee. Second, a run in the trees (I can smell them already!) while the laundry spins. Then, lunch, in the car, and away.

Looking forward to a weekend of delicious food and wine with the handsomest guy on the planet. Sunny and 70s in the lovely Russian River area.

Must remember to bring aspirin. See you next week!

The glamor of business travel

Many people have a rather romantic notion of business travel. I get to expense meals and drinks, I stay in nice hotels and I get *travel*! It's a tremendous opportunity to see places that I might otherwise never go and experience things that just don't happen at home.

On the face of it, that's a true statement. Reality, as always, is different.

Since I work in the world of technology (hardware and software), one of my biggest tasks is to solve problems. In techno speak, we call that "bug squashing". On this particular trip, I was more successful than I could ever imagine.

Behold, the outcome of today's Bug Scrub.

We found the bug:

We squashed the bug:

Yup, it's all about the perqs when you're on the expense account.

Home tomorrow! (and I fixed my nupp)

All the tea in China

I'm on the road again this week - this time the trip is blissfully short. Leave on Monday, to arrive in China on Tuesday night, work on Wednesday and Thursday, then back home on Friday - to arrive before I left. It's a little extra time to make up for that whole day I lost on the way out.

Not surprisingly, I like to drink tea when I'm over here. In the restaurants, it's the childish Chrysanthemum tea. Slightly sweet, very aromatic - just wonderful. It's difficult to find Genmai Cha outside of vegetarian restaurants, so I have to dip into my "personal stash" for cups of that. But, after a day at work (and before meeting colleagues for dinner), I love a cup of Lemon Ginger tea. And, in this lovely hotel, my post-work libation looks like this:

Those crazy fruits on the table are Asian pears. Their texture is very similar to an apple (and they're sized/shaped the same was as well) but, flavor-wise, they're very mild - pear-like. Sometimes I like them; sometimes I don't. Over here, I generally like them.

My other excuse for tea today is because I don't have enough time to do much on this:

It's the edging plus five repeats of the Winter Year of Lace Kit - an Estonian shawl design by Nancy Bush. I started this on the plane ride over and, really, I don't have too much to show for it. I may even need to tink back the last two rows because I'm spectacularly unhappy with one of my nupps. I think I missed a loop. It's rather fiddly to do the nupps, but they sure are pretty.

I doubt this will look any different between now and my return. Partly because of jet lag, partly because work is a 24-hour-a-day proposition over here, and partly because I fully intend to sleep all the way home on Friday.

Wish me luck.

Spare Time

Once again, I'm off to China. I made quite a few trips last year (nine, I think) and I've fallen into a pattern on the morning of the trip.

1. Get up a little early.
2. Have a cup of coffee
3. Go for a (short) run - this really helps to relax me for the 14h on the plane
4. Pack at least six knitting projects

I've gotten to the point where I can knock out a pair of socks on every trip. Easy. I also like to work on lace shawls (no beads - turbulence, ya know?). But, I can never make up my mind *what* I want to bring, so there's a flurry of winding, printing of patterns, rummaging. You get the picture.

This time, I'm faced with a serious dilemma. I've got an argyle sweater that I've been working on for my brother. It's an easy and clear pattern, but the intarsia of the argyle is a serious pain. It goes verrrrrry slowly. I also lost the piece of paper that had all my pattern notes on it, so I have to keep the back piece around for reference. All this translates into "big". Bulky. Not the kind of thing you (necessarily) want to take on a plane.

Separately, I need to knock out both a shawl for my mom and a pair of socks for my dad. I'm not sure that I'll be happy with patterns or yarns for either once I start. Geez.

Guess what I'll be thinking about on today's run.

See you in China.

Spindling Along

A package showed up for me earlier this week but I'd not gotten around to opening it until today. Yes, it's true - I'm one of those people who can actually let a box sit, unopened, for quite a long period of time. That is, *if* I know what's inside. (I'm as messed up as everyone else in that last week leading up until Christmas. Don't get me wrong!)

Anyway, since I knew what it was, and more importantly, I knew that I didn't want to be distracted by it right away, it let it sit. The distractions were sufficiently managed (as of today) so I allowed myself to open the box. Inside, was this:

Yesiree, Bob, that there is a Golding Lignum Vitae ring spindle. A 2", 0.65 ounce spindle, to be exact. Since I got my wonderful Bosworth at SOAR (a 42 gram rosewood), I've been wanting a spindle that's more suited to laceweight. I could manage it with the Bosworth, but it's just a wee bit too heavy for a really fine single. The occasional "plunk" of it hitting the floor (it is called a DROP SPINDLE, after all) was not only frustrating, it caused heart palpitations.

Enter the Bosworth. As soon as I opened the box, I started looking around for something suitable to get the spindle through it's break-in period. I rummaged around in the Big Box of Spinning Stuff (BBOSS) and pulled out a the sample of Polwarth/Silk top I got courtesy of Francine at Rovings (also from SOAR). It's just a small amount, can't be more than 1/2 an ounce - just enough to get me started.

It's been a few months since I spun anything on a spindle, so it took a few minutes to get back into the groove. Once I did, the fibers just slid past each other and I spun off a really nice, really fine single. The spindle is just a DREAM.

FWIW, I've also got about 5+ ounces of the Polwarth/silk blend in a lovely grey that's been keeping another corner of the BBOSS warm - and I think this may be my January challenge. Whether it's on the spindle or on the wheel, I know it's going to be great. Let's see that again - this time from another angle:

In other news - my drum carder shipped. Plus, I got another present today from Windswept Farms. Darn this "work" stuff.


I broke my foot back in early November of last year and that forced me to essentially stop exercising, refereeing, even traveling for a while. It was an absolute shock to nearly every part of my life.

When it happened, all I could think about was the things I was losing - mobility, speed, even freedom. Little did I realize that losing the ability to do anything would end up giving me the ability to have everything. That's a pretty round-about way of saying that breaking my foot last year was probably one of the best things that could have happened.

Amazingly, being forced to slow down and really *think* about what I was doing allowed me to evaluate all the things I'd put on my plate by ejecting them. I basically was given the opportunity to start over - and rebuild something much more sane.

Yesterday, I started rehab. I ran. For the first time in about eight weeks, I ran.

I'm sick with a chest cold, coughing up lungs, and the weather is cold and damp - but that run was one of my all-time best. The trees were glowing green with moss. The trails were all manner of reds and russets and browns and blacks that only redwood debris can produce. Absolutely stunning. Everything smelled alive and clean. Glorious.

Today, my cold is worse (I don't think I did myself any favors) and I didn't go out, but I'm hoping to sneak in a few miles over lunch tomorrow. I remember now what I had. Time away has made it all better. Now I get to finish rehabbing everything else.

Handspun goodness

I challenged my fellow alumnae from Maggie's SOAR class to spin something up in December that we'd acquired at SOAR and show it off. It took me a while to clear off some bobbins so that I'd have lots of room to do whatever I wanted.

First off the bobbins was some pre-dyed roving from the color in spinning workshop I took with Deb Menz. I had about half a bobbin's worth, so I wound it off on my hand and did an Andean 2-ply using my Bosworth spindle. It lofted up beautifully once I'd finished with it - almost twice it's size. Amazingly enough, it looks just gorgeous and the colors play against each other beautifully. Deb is not a fan of plying singles back on themselves - but I think this on is a winner. I've got about 150 yards of a heavy-sport or DK weight.

Next off was some long-aging merino top from Louet. This either came with the purchase of a wheel from The Woolery or had been destined to be thrums for mittens. Regardless, I again had two bobbins that were each about three-quarters full. I plied them together off the bobbins, then did the remainder using Andean and my trusty Bosworth. It didn't loft up nearly as much as Deb's stuff - I suspect this is because I wasn't doing as much of a long draw as I did with Deb's stuff. Regardless, it's squishy and lovely. About 350 yards, sport-weight.

So - bobbins are clear and I'm ready to go.

I took 8oz. of 100% Merino roving from Lambspun in Fort Collins, CO, and started spinning away. My plan was for a 3-ply, DK weight so that I could knit-up a nice vest (or something). It's a lovely green called Mountain Moss - a nice blended solid that is majority green with chasings of blue and yellow. The color is very rich and deep, absolutely amazing. Actually - it looks like this:

The picture isn't great, but the color is close to correct. Here's a better view of that amazing 3-ply:

I knew that 3-ply, from the bobbins and NOT Navajo-plied, makes for a wonderful, round, yarn, but I'd not gone entirely through the process with such wonderful fiber. Here's a slightly better look at the two skeins that are dry:

After plying up three skeins worth (~300yds x 2 skeins, plus one ~100 yd skein), I simply wound off the remaining singles and finished them off. I've got just about 100 yards of a lace-weight single that I'll be using to test out Evelyn Clark's Knitting Lace Triangles. Need something special for my mom. :-)

All in all, I'm amazingly pleased with how these turned out. The are *very* even and squishy. Really, truly, nice. I'm looking forward to knitting up a nice vest with them.

New Year, new post

I'm ashamed to see how long it's been since I posted anything here. However, given the personal disaster that was the back-half of 2008, perhaps it's better that I wasn't posting. Bad juju, angry words and general unhappiness are not the kinds of things that I'd prefer to share with the world - so let's just put that all behind us, shall we?

Starting the year afresh, rather than making formal Resolutions, I'll just take a moment to share some of the things that are on my mind and calendar for 2009.

1. Run another marathon.

This went totally sideways when we moved house back in '07. I'd been mostly trained up, and had even picked the event, but the rush of moving/selling/packing made it impossible. Calendar conflicts in '08 prevented me from doing that same marathon a second time. I don't know that I'll shoot for the same one, but I do certainly plan to do at least one this year. I need the goal.

2. Make refereeing a sane part of my life.

I fell in love, REALLY in love, with refereeing about 8 years ago. When I fall hard for something, it has a tendency to take over. That happened here, and this past year, I realized how insane my passion for this had become. While it was (and still is) an enjoyable activity, it had clouded out other things that I loved (running, knitting, spending time with my husband). I also got a serious wake up call when I had to deal with people who clearly did not love the game - rather, they loved testosterone. It's put me off of the game and I've got a hard decision to make - whether or not to continue. This is definitely a horse, from which, I have fallen. However, even if I don't get back on, I'm not sure I'll miss it.

3. Make my work/life balance sane.

Less time traveling, more time with my husband. 'nuff said.

There's a vacation on the calendar for most of May, I've got a number of fibery and yarny clubs happening, and I'm already switching my head from New Product Goddess to Patron Saint of Sustainability. It's a GOOD change - and this year, I'm going to simply embrace life.

It's easier when you don't fight the current, ya know? Looking forward to looking like this again.

Happy 2009. And only 248 days until SOAR!