Wednesday, March 28, 2012

More Dishtowels

>It was such a relief yesterday to unmold my soap and have a perfect batch. I've only had two failed batches in the over twelve years of soap making - it's expensive. And on top of that, I was out of coconut oil and couldn't make any more. I ordered more but my supplier was out of stock, so it was about 10 days before I got the email that they had received their shipment and she would get my oil out that very day. Fast forward three weeks and past the wedding, I called to see what was up. Had they lost my order? I mean, I really like my supplier, her prices and the quality of her products, but that's a long time. The heater in the storage tanks for the coconut oil had to be repair before they could pour the oil. Unheated, coconut oil is like plastic. I cut it into chunks to weigh it.
I finished another lap robe yesterday, fringed and fulled it and hung in on the balcony to dry over night. I brought it down to trim the fringe and had immediate interest. This is its inaugural use and according to Charlie, it's a success. I used it earlier this even to read and I really like it, though I won't use luster longwool again - it's a wrong application. I have SO many other fleeces to choose from, including boxes of our own. I just heard from our shearer, and he'll be here next month which means I will have more fleece. Why does that not excite me.
These are the colors I chose for my next dishtowels. It's another of Beryl's patterns which is a block weave she called turned taquette. She said it's a great way to use up lots of bits of color - I think she said she had seven blocks of different colors. I had two blocks with four different colors for a total of eight. I wound the warp in bouts while I supervised Alexia's weaving, not that she really needed much supervision.
This is what they look like when threaded into my warp.

This is how it looks when I lift alternating warp threads 2 and 4.

This is what I it looks like when I lift alternating warp threads 1 and 3. The gold paired with strawberry pink is stealing it's thunder, making that strip of warp look brick red.
This is what it looks like when I weave with watermelon pink as weft - pretty!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

On the Fly

Can I adapt to new technology? Are there anymore new tricks in this old dog? I'm about to find out!!!

Back to Normal

I got my lap blanket underway, using Shetland that I had already spun and not yet fulled. I had read somewhere that if you're going to weave with hand spun yarns, you really should not full them before weaving, so the action can take place when you finish your cloth. I see the logic, but on top of loom waste, the shrinkable was significant.
It's finished and disappointingly smaller than I had planned. Alexia is delighted because it's just her size. I had bought a Schact fringe twister and this was my first time to try it out. I decided it was more trouble than it was worth and twisted by hand - much quicker. I hated the alligator clips - they kept slipping.

This is some of my Shetland yarn that I used for the blanket. I can see why you would want to spin specifically for warp - after mending a couple of broken ones. I think fulling would have helped that too.
I've had these skeins for several years, wondering what to do with them. I originally thought I'd like to spin enough for a wool rug, but who am I kidding? I need washable rugs here, so they've just taken up space - until now! Both the white and gray are from Lincoln cross sheep. The staple length on the white is over 6" - warp! I bought that fleece over a dozen years ago at Black Sheep Gathering and split it with my friend Lisa. It was a 12 pound fleece at $12 a pound. I had Moro Fleeceworks process my half - just haven't had the right project. I hope this is it.
I got the new warp on, fixed a threading problem and was weaving by lunch - in between loads of laundry. This yarn is fulled and I'm weaving much looser, hoping for a softer, more drapey result and less take-up. I still love this pattern.
This is the same bag of skeins, minus the project. I really hope that the lap blankets work for me because I might be able to put a small dent in my fleece stash. I mean, we're already thinking about spring shearing and that means more fleece. I'm crossing my fingers but not holding my breath.

Oops - I accident-
ally loaded this picture and decided to leave it, because I took this a week ago Sunday. Click for big to see how many quail crowd under our bird feeders. We ended up with 4" of snow and of course, it's back to spring now. That's the high desert for you.
After throwing herself into weaving for two days, Alexia lost interest and went back to being a seven-year-old girl. She is able to entertain herself and play for hours, with lots of singing and role-play dialogue. But the weaving seeds have been sewn.

I picked up my library hold on Tuesday for Gail Simmons book, Talking with My Mouth Full: My life as a professional eater. I finished it the next day, and while I am an admitted Top Chef junkie, I thought the book stood on its own. But then that's probably not the most objective review I've ever given.

I've also come across an unusual suspense author - every so often I need a little romp. Josh Bazell was well reviewed in the San Francisco Chronicle for his book Wild Thing so I ended up getting it from the library - quick read, unusual premise. He had a first book, so I put that on hold, but didn't realize that I had placed it for an ebook. I got my hold notification a couple days ago, downloaded to my Kindle and I'm half way finished. The first is best, but I'd definitely read him again. I have since learned that Bazell is a San Francisco resident and physician at UCSF. That might not have been the most objective review the Chron has ever given :)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Mim's Farm

The last day that Alexia is with us is always the hardest. She under-
stands that during the week, no one is home and that's why she's here. She knows she gets to see her mommy and daddy today and so I am thrilled to have Mim to the rescue. One of her does had triplets on Tuesday. Lex is holding a three-day-old kid. Mim breeds La Mancha goats and there are four kids in this dog crate. Mim has two of these crates in their enclosure because they love to snuggle in small spaces - I'll say!
Mim had two sets of twins born last Thursday and now Alexia gets to hold one of them. This kid was too large and was a hard birth but everyone is doing well now. Mim has six kids under a week old. She always finds buyers. If you want to have milk goats, you have to breed - that's how it works.

This was my favorite of all the kids. She seemed to enjoy the attention and so we gave her lots of it. I love to watch the kids play. They are so full of beans and gave us plenty to laugh about.
After we watched the kids play outside, Mim asked Alexia if she would like to hold a rabbit. Years ago Mim had many rabbits in many breeds. She down to just a half dozen now, none fiber animals, but she does have a very tame Netherlands Dwarf that Alexia was able to hold for a very long time.

That wood beam mid-
center used to anchor Mim's sheep shed which she purchased about four years ago. It took her several days after the cyclonic winds a couple weeks ago to locate it. It had blown north over the neighbor's house and to the next neighbor's property line!
And then there's her emu shelter which also lost its roof.  We don't have a storm in the immediate forecast and she says she's made calls to get these repairs done. 
This is the only remaining shelter with a roof!  I told Mim it reminded me of the sod-busters.  You can see the shed "roots" to the left of it.  She has a barn but it doesn't accommodate all her animals, which is the point of the supplementary shelters.  These winds were shattering - our neighbor lost all three of their horse shelters.  They exploded and were strewn hundreds of feet.  We've had our turns and I'm glad we were spare in this recent storm system.
I stopped to catch this photo on our drive back to the house.  I'm always amazed at how huge our valley is.  As were driving to Mim's, Alexia said - Grandma, you live in a really pretty place.  I couldn't agree more Alexia.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Weaver is Born

I've finally started weaving with handspun, blindly I might add. 

I made a quiche yesterday and the plan was that we'd pick Alexia up in the morning and then go to a baby shower.  She loves baby showers.  We awoke to this and cancelled the trip - why drive in snow when you don't have to?!  SIL Mikeal brought Alexia to us mid morning and said that there was no snow anywhere until he left the highway and entered our valley.  We had between 3-4" and south of us got none.  It's so typical of our weather patterns which come through in bands.

I told DD Christina that I thought this would be the visit to see if Alexia was tall enough to weave, so she arrived full of antici-
pation.  The first thing she wanted to do was weave.  I'm so glad we had the open/closed shed discussion because she was able to try both and chose closed shed. 
I started her on plain weave, simply because I had those treadles tied up and she could start right away - she was rearing at the gate.  I had direct tie-up for the workshop so stopped her and changed to standard.  She wove twill for a couple of inches and then we decided to try point twill, but she said she couldn't remember it - could I write it down.  She has her very first treaddling pattern to follow.

I threw a lot at her all at once.  She needed to enter the shuttle over the floating selvedge at one end and under at the other.  She understood the 30 degree angle of the warp before closing the shed and beating and became quite concerned about selvedges.

She was at ease and relaxed and quickly under-
stood how to find out where she was in the pattern in case she wanted to undo a mistake, which most times was a loop at the selvedge.  She told me she thought weaving was so much easier than knitting.  In knitting, if you make a mistake you have to tear out the whole row and reknit every stitch.  In weaving, if you make a mistake you open up the shed, return the shuttle until you've found the problem and then weave again.  I do love to knit but I can see her point.

I labeled the treddles to help her keep track of where she was in her pattern.  I tried to make it simple, that 1 and 3 were thrown from the left and 2 and 4 were thrown from the right but that concept of left and right was the single largest hurdle.

Alexia has a hard time accepting her limited access to our tele-
vision.  She brought Harry Potter movies and thought we should watch them this afternoon in a marathon.  She's learning that we might have other priorities, like watching our NCAA teams lose.  She decided to weave some more and when she quit for dinner, the pink is how much she wove since she started. 

I went back after dinner to catch these last two photos.  I love how she retired her shuttle in the center of her weaving.  She's a weaver, with sticky note directives on her castle.  She'll finish the warp on this sampler and I'm already thinking about what we can do so she can weave her first scarf.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Quick Feedback

I understood that the appropriate way to beat your warp was to change sheds and then beat, which is how I've done it all along.  When Rae said she thought it would cause unnecessary draw-in, I came home and posted my dilemma and asked for your thoughts.  I decided to beat on an open shed on my sampler today, and oh my goodness, what a difference that made. 

For one thing, since my harnesses were still up, I knew exactly what shed I was on.  In addition, it naturally forms the 30 degree angle with the weft when you pull the shuttle from the shuttle race.  It disappears if you change sheds and beat.  I've decided to postpone purchase of an end-feed shuttle system until I weave another set of towels this way - then I'll decide.  I also wanted to pass on what I've learned.

I bought this Knitting Pure and Simple pattern last week.  Ian and I have participated in a NCAA March Madness pool for at least 15 years and really enjoy watching the matches.  They are all unpredictable and always exciting - and I'm not a TV sports fan.  I think the hook for me that these are young athletes who graduate from college and go on to other careers.  In a time when news is universally depressing, it's refreshing to see this kind of dedication and disciple.  Color me silly. 

This is the progress of my March Madness sweater.  There are two more days of games this weekend, so I select the contests I know I'll enjoy.  It's been a year of upsets so far and I  knit, knit, knit.  These kids play their hearts out and remind me to be a believer in our young people.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Trip to Town

I had to be in town this morning to get my beautiful new crown - in my mouth. I love my young just-out-of-dental school dentist. The crown snapped on like a Lego and I got to keep the cast. We had talked a little about this technology over the past two visits. I'm fascinated that the technology for making a crown is the traditional lost-wax casting which means dental labs use is the same technology that Rodin used to make his bronze sculptures. I teased them that I now had an expensive classic work of art in my mouth.

Afterwards I drove south of town to the Apple store and talked to a Genius about a Mac Book Pro. I've been saving my shekels for a new computer and I'm quite divided on wanting to switch to Apple or be comfortable with the software I know. I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Microsoft Office devotee but I'm desperate for better photo management. Fortunately I don't have enough shekels yet. This sculpture was outside the store and I thought it typified my dilemma. The apple the kids dangle is Apple and I'm the beast - so confused.

I've dressed Miss Millie with a dummy warp and am tying on a secondary warp from my handspun yarns. I've been talking about doing this for years and now I'm doing this - a lap robe from Shetland.

The warp is on the right - Mickey - and the weft is on the left - Robbie. I've threaded in a diamond twill and though the color difference is minimal, I'm just going to see what I get for this first run. I think they want to see what I get too.

I'm weaving now on the final sampler from my workshop last October. You need to understand that this was my first workshop since I took a beginner class about eight years ago. So many questions were answered for me then and I want to get every last drop out of this learning opportunity. I stopped by Rae's on my home this afternoon. She took the workshop too and has been a great resource for me. She was letting me try her end-feed shuttle. In the course of my trial I asked her if she beat on a closed or open shed - I didn't want to mess her up. She said she beats on an open shed with the harnesses raised since it minimizes draw in. Whoa! What say?!! I wonder if I've been sabotaging my selvedges by beating on a closed shed. I'd sure love to hear from you other weavers. How do you bet you sheds? Oh boy, I bet that sounds racy to non-weavers :) Anyway, I'd love some feedback.

Seven-year-old Alexia called two nights ago on her Mommy's cell phone - she's going on break and wants to spend next week with us. As she gets older, it's gets a little more challenging to find activities we can do together. She's quite tall so I decided today that I'll see if she can weave on my sampler. After all, that's what it is. I'll change back to standard tie-up from direct and I think she should be able to have some fun.

I've been trying to remove word authentication to spare you that torture and Michelle has been a guinea pig, helping me from the viewer's side. I knew the settings in the old blogger but absolutely couldn't find what I was looking for in the new blogger. I found a tutorial and if you're as frustrated as I was and want to remove word authentication, check out this blog post.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

In with the New

I wore these to sleep in the other night and my big toe kept getting caught in that hole.  I didn't mind the heel being gone since I didn't feel it unless I was barefooted, but the toe capture was problematic.  I think the problem is that Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock yarn is superwash so it doesn't felt in areas of wear.  It was time to say goodbye to this pair.

I finished this pair from BFL/silk handspun yarn that I bought at Black Sheep last summer and spun last fall.  It's been so warm that I haven't felt like knitting socks.  As always, Charlie had to investigate.
 I've decided to give the Noro Kuryon sock yarn another try, even with the thin bits wearing out at the heels on the socks I've knitted.  I think their colors are fantastic and the socks are so much fun to wear - until they wear out.  This time I'm continuing the traditional slip stitch heel pattern on down to the sole of the heel.  I think that might be the ticket.  I'll get back to you on that.

I finished the Charlie towels today.  This is the first time I've tied onto a steel dowel at the back like Rae does instead of securing with a lead and larkshead knots.  When I cut the warp off, I slid out the dowel and the loom was clear.  I'm hooked - that's my new method.  Seconds - that's all it took.  Thanks Rae!
 This is the hardest part for me.  The towels looks disgusting when they come off the loom.  They're stiff and misshapen, so I decided to get them hemmed and washed right away.  The problem is that I hadn't changed the clock upstairs for daylight savings time and forgot all about it.  I like to relax before dinner and I ended up washing and drying them while I cooked.  They were still pretty ugly after they were washed so I ended up snipping the threads and ironing them after dinner.  I've had more relaxing Sundays.

I'm glad to have them done - it was a fantastic learning experience in block weave.  I'm not sure I'm a fan, but these are going to be thick and thirsty towels.  For one thing, I know that block weave isn't enhanced with a myriad of colors.  If I do it again, I'll choose two colors and stick to it.   The back towel was my experimenting towel, the first one I wove.  The front two will be gifts for our friend who babysits our car and takes us to and from the airport.  There's an error in the threading but that's my spirit in the weaving.  I needed this pattern to get my mojo working.  Thanks Beryl!

I finished Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi last night for book club.  Amazon gave it four stars out of 366 reviews, I gave it five.  How we enjoy a book is always subjective but that book was my cup of tea - I can see why Oprah chose it for her book club.  I think our group is going to have a very good discussion on Tuesday.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Winding Up

 All of us staying at the beach house went back to Levyland on Sunday morning where other family were stopping in to help clean up and get the kids on their way to honeymoon at Santa Catalina.  Kristie was worried that they had overflowed their allotted ten trashcans and would be charged with an additional trash collection fee.  Yolanda found some rubber gloves in a cabinet in the garage and she, Kristie and I went through all the trash, removing the recyclables, consolidating all the trash into the ten containers.  Yuch!!
Chris and Michelle stayed a while longer, then stopped by with the boys for a visit.  You might wonder what Chris is doing with his hands.  This is his handful, Ben the explorer.

I loved this picture and added it just because I get such a kick out of Solomon, King of Cool.  He can't see the screen but he's not about to give up the shades.  We don't have WiFi there so I'm not sure what the 3-year-old champ of iPhones was doing but he was doing. 

The sunset was fabulous that evening and I don't know why I didn't get a picture of Michelle because we were both jumping up every 15 minutes to see if we could get an even better image of it.  They were the last visit of a wonderful weekend full of family.

Monday was just the two of us, pretty quiet after all the action.  We were stunned by the pelicans feeding on what apparently was a bank of anchovies for a good part of the morning.  I enjoyed another walk on the beach, though it seemed that everyone took the sunshine with them when they left.  We hung around the house, slept and read. 

Tuesday was so different from the fabulous weather the wedding party had enjoyed.  It's like it had been a wedding present.  We had an afternoon flight so were just waiting for the towels to dry when the realtor arrived to show the house, a sobering reminder that we are saying goodbye for good.  We've made some fantastic memories here and I wish that for future occupants.