Sunday, April 13, 2014

Springing into Spring, sort of

So this is how the yarn knitted up that I spun from our Shetland fleece, plied with bamboo and then dyed.  The colors are more intense than I'd like - too close in value.  This was an experiment, a starting point.  I'll do it again, but next time I'll shoot for contrast.  But it's not bad for a first try.
The gray teal yarn that I've been waiting for - back ordered since January - finally arrived.  It's a perfect match and it was worth waiting for.
And somewhere in this week I finally made soap.  My notes say that I last made this September 20th, nine days before my life came to a screeching standstill. The soap-bar well is running dry, and after using other soap, I know that I like it too much to retire it.  I'm my best customer.
With nicer weather, we've started working on the yard.  There are less than a dozen plants that grow successfully here so we fill in with non-edible stuff.  We bought this kinetic wind spinner at Costco.  We saw it and there was no question that it was going into our cart.
Ian found this the other day - too cute to pass up.  This bunny can't eat anything because it's made of rocks.  My favorite kind of rabbit.
Yesterday Sandy dropped me off at the gate after we'd shared a trip to town.  As I was opening the gate, I heard Carol's voice - my neighbor just above us.  Hi Carol - what?  Can you call Tom when you get to the house and ask him to come down with the shotgun.  I have a rattlesnake.  We have cell signal at the gate so I called him from there.

Their puppy had flushed out this rattler so Carol threw her into the truck, grabbed the only tool she had and pinned the snake to the ground.  I have no idea how long she'd been there and teased her - how much longer would you have stayed?  Oh, a while.  Tom is a marksman and popped the head off in one shot, and it's Tom who popped the head off our rattler last summer.  It's not that we hate rattlers.  We worry for our dogs. Rattlesnakes actually are good neighbors but not with dogs.

I'm subbing for the next couple of days at the Verdi Elementary School and very much looking forward to it.  It's the school furthest from our home but everything is far from here.  The sub year is almost over - another month.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Happy April!

It's finally starting to feel like spring here. I liked the apple green Tencel so much that I decided to blend up some fiber to go with it.  I think these are great spring colors.
And I love the yarn it made.  It's the last fiber I have prepared to spin.  I'm not sure what to spin next.
I spun up a singles from one of our Shetland wethers, then plied it with 16/2 straw-colored bamboo yarn.  I mixed up three colors from Gaywool dyes and poured over the yarn that I had looped in a lasagna dish.  I "baked" it in the oven at 325 an hour.  As expected, the bamboo didn't take up any color.
I'm trying to create a knitting yarn with half the effort.  I know, I know.  Garbage in, garbage out. Anyway, I'm swatching it right now, trying three different needles sizes.  I don't want to spin any more of the wool until I have a plan, so for the moment, I'm spinningless.
I got the purple/green yarn warped and found that I had three weft choices.  I was stumped because I liked them all, so I called my color consultant to come upstairs and give me a second eye. Ian has really great color sense and said - green!
And he was right.  The green lets the warp shine through.
These are my last two scarves.  The crazy colors is on the left, the green and purple on the right.  I absolutely love it.  I always finish a scarf and think *this* one is my absolutely most favorite, but I do think this one is.
And I may just get to keep it.  I wet finished it last Wednesday and hung it on the bannister to dry. While I was at my guild meeting, Maddie pulled it down and chewed off one of the fringe ends.  I know it's secure and I doubt it will show, but I don't see how I can sell it.  I guess the answer  is to blend up some more fiber and do it again.
And speaking of the guild meeting, our program was an introduction to bow loom weaving.  You can read more about it on the guild blog here.  I have never been taken by any of the ethnic techniques so was surprised when I fell in love with bow loom weaving.  It's karmic, like knitting.  Thursday afternoon was one of those rare days with enough sun and no wind that I sat out on the deck to work on my band.
This is my completed project.  The supplies are very simple but I think next time instead of using this 4' dowel, I'll see if I can find a willow switch.  This was an enormously satisfying project.
I made mine into a headband, though I won't be able to wear it for a few days.  I'm doing a double whammy on Fridays for a while.  I start with an hour of Astanga yoga and then drive five minutes to The Art of Massage for deep tissue massage.  My scalp will be very sore for a bit, just about when it's time for the next massage. I think this is an example of "no pain, no gain," and I'm all about gain.    

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Books, Books, Books

I didn't think I had read many books last month but when I look at my GoodReads list, I see it's time to post about books, books, books.

Aging with Grace: What the nun study teachers us about leading longer healthier, and more meaningful lives by David Snowdon - This was actually a second read for me.  I bought my original copy in an airport bookstore and subsequently gave it away.  I think I paid as much for it in Kindle but it's still just as good and still worth the price.  Aging?  If you're reading this, you are.  Read this.

The good luck of right now, by Matthew Quick - I've never read anything like this so it's hard to compare.   Bartholomew, the protagonist is a dim-witted man trying to live on after his mother and caregiver passes away.  A close friend of his mother's is his priest who is devastated by this death. Oddly delightful.

Glitter and Glue, by Kelly Corrigan - This was one of those fast-grabs from the Costco book aisle.  I trust them to decide what's hot and always look to be seduced by their choices.  This an autobiographical recounting of a six-month period as a nanny in Australia, rated 4.5 stars on Amazon.

The One-Way Bridge by Cathie Pelletier - This book showed up one day as one of those Kindle offers.  Most of the time I don't know who the authors are and I'm not interested, but I had read all of Pelletier's books years ago - and then she disappeared.  I downloaded this one with trepidation.  No need.  She's on top of her game.  May she live a long and wordy life.  Go Cathie, go!

Wait 'til next year by Doris Kearns Goodwin.  This was a departure from what I've come to expect from this author.  It seemed to be a quiet and boring story of her childhood, but it ended up being a story of time and place.  Yet again, she delivers

Gosh, I read more than I realized and some of it was reading for a second time, but if you haven't read Barbara Kingsolvers duo, Bean Trees and Pigs in Heaven, I really enjoyed them again.  Another second time around that I enjoyed this month was Buddha in the Attic by Julie Atsuka.  It's been a cold and gray month.  I didn't realize that I had read so much.  Two more that I can recommend

Brain on Fire: my month of madness by Susannah Cahalan - I'm a huge fan of Oliver Sachs so when I stumbled across this book at Costco, it went right into my shopping cart.  I think I read it in two days.
The Monuments Men:  Allied heroes, Nazi thieves, and the greatest treasure hunt in history by Robert M. Edsel - This read like fiction.  The last hundred pages I was flipping like mad.  I know the movie is going to be good if it covers jut an nth of the book.


Saturday, March 29, 2014

March Goes Out Like a Lion

This is the other skein I had spun for knitting.  The fiber is 50/50 wool silk.  I wasn't crazy about the colors but this was yet another gift from Melissa last summer.  It has a wonderful hand - it just looks weird.  I mean yellow and salmon - really?  I sampled two colors for weft.  I thought all along that I'd like the bassy yellow but it dominate the warp.  I sampled the "straw" that came in my recent order.
It really seemed to be the better fit so I tore everything out, including the hem stitching, and started over.
Here are both of the scarves from handspun knitting yarn. Weaving is a far better use for these than knitting. The most recent is the one on the left.
I spun up the last two of my blended batts and started with the crazy one first.  Once I got the yarn on and was ready to weave, I had no idea which of these two yarns would be a more fitting weft.
I was leaning towards the green but decided that this was the perfect time to sample.  I was started by how my beautiful handspun yarn just kind of faded away behind the green.  But when I stopped to think about it, I realized that green and red are opposites on the color wheel.  Blended together they make brown.
The yarn is mostly reds and the magenta is the winner.
This is the other of blended batts and I'm planning to weave it next, probably sometime next week  Again, I'm just not sure which color to use as weft.  This might be another case for sampling.  
And next behind that one will be another scarf from my shades of black.  I've already woven a scarf from this blend and passed it around for show-and-tell at the last guild meeting.  It was well received and they all said that it looks like granite.
Yes it does! Just a few days later a friend who is visiting the Anza Borrego State Park posted this picture on Facebook. 
I have a lot of skeins ready to weave as scarves so I decided to switch gears and try making knitting yarn.  I spun up 3.5 ounces of Ollie, one of our Shetland wethers.  He used to be brown and now his color comes and goes with the year.  Our shearer will be here in the next several weeks and we will have yet more fleeces.  My goal now is to see if I can find some way to employ our own fleece and use up some of the pounds and pounds that we have in the garage.  I talked to Laura about plying wool with bamboo and then dyeing it.  The bamboo won't take acid dye but she thought it would be really pretty.  

It's still gray and blustery here.  My neck rehabilitation has seemed to have hit an impasse, even with the yoga.  My daughter Chris arranged for me to have a 1 1/2 hour deep tissue massage last Sunday.  My son-n-law is a fencer with the Reno Silver Blades and Arik Shapiro is the their team masseuse.  The massage was successful and painful.  I told my neurosurgeon about it and he approved.

The plan now is to do an hour in the yoga studio and then pop over to Arik's for an hour of massage torture once a week until there's some improvement.  Yesterday was my first double-whammy.  That which does not kill us makes us stronger said Friedrich Nietzsche. He was a pretty smart guy and I'm about to find out if he was right.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Getting Ready for Outreach

I have known since last August that our guild had a weaving outreach on March 22nd.  I wound the warp a couple weeks ago but never could seem to get around to warping the loom.  Ian set aside last Tuesday so I could use the whole day.  I've never warped this loom before and didn't want to feel hurried.  I was in town all day and it was just Maddie and me.  The problem was that it was yet another gray day and I had next to no available light.  I fought with this until Ian got home late in the afternoon.
I had him carry it downstairs - I'm still limited on how much I can lift.  It's very hard to thread Texsolv heddless in a low light situation, very hard to see.  The light from the big windows made all the difference in the world.
I could see all my mistakes, and boy howdy, there were many.
One of the beauties of this little Dorset is how small it folds up and how easy it is to carry.  Just the same, I'm unable to carry it at this time and would need to get it across a parking lot.
I have looked for rolling wheels for the past couple of weeks and have drawn a blank.  I finally decided to stop at Walmart and browse for some.  But the thought of trying to find something in Walmart made my heart quail and I kept putting it off.  Finally I stopped at our little independently owned Ace Hardware.  They had this wonderfully sturdy, little folding dolly.
And just like that I was in business.  How did our weaving outreach go last Saturday?  You can read about it here on the guild blog.
My order from Yarn Barn finally arrived and the two things that spurred this order are still back ordered.  Sigh.  Because the UKI cones are so big, I could only afford to order these five colors. The two small bright cones on the right are 8/2 bamboo, which I'm going to try as scarf weft.  The small beige cone in front is 16/2 bamboo which I will use to ply with my handspun singles.
These are the last two colorways I've blended together.  Plying with the neutral bamboo doesn't add color but keeps the yarn very light and textured.  

I've been a little busy lately. Last Friday was my first day back as a school library sub since my accident. It felt great to use my brain and skills again. I had six class visits, six storytimes plus lunchroom and crosswalk duty. They got their moneys worth out of me for sure  

Today Ian and I drove in for my six month check-up with my neurosurgeon. He did a thorough exam and pronounced me released. He clarified that my break was not a hangman's fracture but an odontoid fracture type two with screw. I was especially gratified to know that he didn't consider it to be a head injury. I see him again for the last time in six months. We went to our favorite Indian restaurant afterward for lunch to celebrate. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Color on a Sunny Day

I realized about half way through my second towel on this warp that the fourth stripe in from both edges is wider than the others.  I got my stripes turned around - those should be on the edge so that the edge strip isn't more narrow than the others.  Now it's a design element.
I'm weaving another scarf on Maudie Mae.  I have two skeins I spun that are wool in both ply.  I made them before I started thinking about scarves and haven't known what to do with them, so today I warped and started on this.  It's going to be pretty.
This is the other skein and I'll weave it next.
I wound this yarn into a warp and ordered a teal Tencel from Yarn Barn for weft, but when a week passed by and I hadn't heard anything, I gave them a call.  That's about how long our answering machine had been turned off and there were some problems with the order.  For one thing, the teal has been back ordered since January.  I'm looking to maybe using this green silk instead.
I decided to dye some BFL/silk yesterday. These are the primary colors that I've used ever since Charlene Schutch's dye workshop a decade ago.  She called them warm and cool primaries so that's what I've always called them.  Mim also still uses these dyes, though she's supplemented them with some other hues.

I was dragging my feet about dyeing since I couldn't figure out how to get magenta and I really want to add that in my blends.  I learned that magenta and fuchsia are the same thing.  In fact, what was originally called fuchsia was changed to magenta in 1869 to celebrate the victory of the Battle of Magenta, near the town of the same name.  I also learned that Charlene's "cool red" is magenta.  I had it all along.

Ready, get set - steam!
I decided to keep the cue-tips for future color reference.  Mim has told me forever that when you blend three or more hues, the colors break out during the steaming process.  You can that they separated right on the paper towel when I was testing my mixes.
And these are my results today after I fluffed the dried roving this morning.  I got much more complex results and am really pleased even though while I was dyeing yesterday, I was nothing but frustrated.
And this is the full palette I'll be working with.  I have no stash anymore so my blends will be variations of these eight, plus black and white and some extras.  I meant to add some silk noil to the roving I dyed yesterday but my intentions were left at that - intentions.
 I had company in the studio this morning.  I think she was just exhausted from being naughty.  

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Color on a Gray Day

I calculated that I had enough yarn for an 8" scarf but discovered that I actually had enough for 10" and kept winding.  Once I saw it in the reed I realized that 10" is a *really* wide scarf and I couldn't imagine wanting to wear it so I tore out enough for 7 1/2" and tossed it over the back.  I thought I'd wind it onto a spool and use it for something later but I wasn't quick enough and Maddie turned it into a cat toy.
Once I started weaving I could see I was right.  I was a little concerned about the hairy alpaca yarn but the tencel weft seemed to tame it nicely.
I decided that the fastest way to get more roving for blended batts was to dye up the 8 ounce bump of BFL/silk that's been sitting around here.  Cindie Kitchens had sent me a great link to Design Seeds, a color inspiration web site.  I chose these colors from one of the palettes but didn't like the options for a fourth color.  I had enough roving for one more color but was stumped.
 It's probably been two years since I've dyed anything and I felt really awkward.  I had asked Nina at Odette's Obsessions for help on kettle dyeing roving and in response she sent me a chart of dye strengths to WOG (weight of goods).  I followed her chart but decided to steam packets so I could get four separate colors.   I had the perfect ratio of dye to wool as the dye completely exhausted and there was nothing to rinse out afterwards.
These are my results.  I only blended two colors together, as though I were blending to paint.  I can see that on my next set I need to blend at least three colors to get more complex results to tone these down.  This is a good starting point though.
 The scarf is finished and I absolutely love it.  I have come realize that patience is required throughout the entire process because it a scarf isn't a scarf until it's wet finished. It looks horrible until then. After a press on the mini mangle, it's an entirely different thing.  Between the alpaca and tencel, this is all about drape.
I finished spinning the last of my blended batts.  I don't have a good color to use as weft so finally took the time to put together an order of weaving yarns.  When you order more than $200 from Yarn Barn of Kansas, you get a 20% discount which saved me over $50.  I ordered teal tencel for the weft on this and I'm sure I'll use it for other things later.
Maddie discovered yesterday how to get up on the counter.  I was sitting there, eating breakfast, when suddenly she hopped up on the stool next to me.  She sat next to me for about five minutes and then curiosity got the best of her.  As you can see, nothing will ever be safe again.  I was trying to full my yarn and she wanted to help too.  Actually, she's fussed at me all morning to go up and work in my studio.  I've made it a routine to weave mornings and if I don't get up there as soon as she thinks I should, she turns into a complete feline nag.  She goes up to the balcony, sticks her head through the posts and mewls at me.

I don't have time today to start anything as I need to get ready to leave pretty soon.  Today is Tommy's memorial, or Thomas as his family calls him.  I'm stuck in time as he was just a boy when I last saw him.  It hasn't even been a month since he died of pneumonia after catching a respiratory virus, dead at 38.  He leaves two children and heartbroken parents.