Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Alpaca on the Rocks

As promised, this Alpaca show did not disappoint. There were some different vendors this year, or at least ones I did not notice last year. Having learned so much in this past short year, I was more willing to consider raw fiber in larger quantities. I did not buy a whole fleece, but I did get approx. 10 oz of raw fiber. I was amazed what 10 oz of raw fiber looked like.......

Guess what this is???!!!

A pillowcase of picked and washed Alpaca Fiber, about 10 oz, donated by Keller from Jefferson Farms.

The photographs do not do justice to the beautiful color (rose grey with brown) or the exquisite softness of the fiber. I just couldn't keep my hands out of it,

so I washed it all, in 4 batches in the kitchen sink. Above is 1/2 of the unwashed fiber. I even carded up 5 rolags,
but I am saving up spinning it till it is all carded. I can tell already that it will be wonderful to spin, and I must decide what weight yarn it wants to be.

And that's not all!!!!!!!.......................

Three Meadows Ranch brought both fiber (which came home with me) and the animal (which did not)!!! This fiber was blended from the raw fiber into a heathery light brown. Here is the generous donor, Morning Angel:

on the left. With her two tone fiber, this is the blended result:
This fiber is not in roving form but a large batt weighing in at 8 oz. This too, is bad color....I must retake it outside.

I am not done yet....there's more!

Another meet up with my blogging friend, Becky, who bought the other batt of Morning Angel's fiber. She also arranged to buy a whole fleece from a real cutie who was grey and ivory.(edited to add: his name is Kiernan) That is the cutie standing tall right behind us! The camera didn't capture the color properly, but if you check out her blog when she gets the processed roving, I am sure there will be more photos.

Here is another photo:

More random Alpacas:

All these Alpacas were sheared this past spring, so with the cooler weather they will begin to grow their winter fleece, and the whole process starts all over again. How is that for a renewable resource???

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Processing Alpaca Fiber...ooooooh

Just about a year ago, I blogged about going to Alpaca on the Rocks, where I enjoyed myself immensely: petting the animals, talking to the breeders, fondling the fibers and yarn, and dropping a few $$. One of the fibers: the Suri Alpaca raw fiber was a generous gift from a breeder when I told her I had no experience with Suri. It went from this:

to this after washing, carding, and spinning:

A second fiber I purchased was Huacaya Alpaca fiber in black. This was washed, but still unprocessed in any other way. I thought I would show the steps I took finally this week, to bring this fiber from its very natural state to spun.
Straight out of the bag, this is what it looked like. You could see the original curls and feel the softness. But it would be necessary to fluff out the fibers and line them up somewhat for even spinning. On Ravelry last year, I purchased from another Raveler a pair of Ashford Handcards and began to work this fiber. It is almost like brushing out a dog for smoothness.
Several passes on the cards is followed by rolling the batt into a rolag

From this stage, I spun on my wheel and these are how nice the singles look!

So, that is the process from start to finish. Of course, if you have raw DIRTY fiber, then there are the added steps of washing, rinsing, and drying the fiber to get to the point where you can begin to card it. I plan on making the singles into two ply fiber and then maybe knitting a black and white hat with the white alpaca above. I was bound and determined to finished this fiber up before this weekend because guess what.....Alpaca on the Rocks is here again and with all that I have learned this year, I may invest in lots more fiber!

Start to finish: right to left, without the live animal which did not fit on the ironing board!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Because I said so!

I spotted this on Facebook and just had to share. For all the Moms out there and their children...especially mine....whatever age they are!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Something Besides Fiber to Keep My Hands Busy!

I guess it's just in my nature to want to get my hands working on something, whether it is knitting or spinning fiber or in this case: baking bread. I don't do it nearly often enough these days because God knows, I don't need all the extra carbs, but the Jewish New Year this weekend provided the best reason to bake.

I learned to bake bread as an extra curricular course while in college about 40 years ago. (YIKES! I grimace every time I think about that!). Trudging across campus with my bowls, pans, cutting board and ingredients each week was an adventure in itself. But it paid off with a lifetime skill, not to mention a few extra pounds on my hips from the yummy breads I was able to take back to the dorm. Sweet breads, french breads, whole grains, black breads and white breads....all were baked.

Sunday, I baked Challah, the sweet eggy braided loaves that I love making. For Rosh Hashanah, it is traditional to bake the loaves in a round shape, to signify the the ongoing cycle of the world and the seasons. Usually for Shabbat, the loaves are braided in oval loaves. For New Years, no knives are used on the bread, but we break off chunks and serve traditionally with honey.

This is cookbook I use for traditional Jewish recipes mostly. Nothing modern inside, just the basics covering the yearly cycle of holidays and their recipes. Not even sure if it is still in print, but the Challah recipe in it is the best I have found. No secret ingredients, just the good stuff in the right proportion.

I used to bake the Challah every week when the kids were little, but now it is mainly for holidays. I miss the mess, and the fragrances, and the baked results.

The inside of my cookbook is the repository of many holiday recipes and other memorabilia. The newspaper recipes are yellowing, and many are stained from splashes, but I won't dare ever throw any away. Even a few photos or two, used as bookmarks for my favorites. All part of my culinary history.

Rising in the oven:

And the final results.

In the freezer now, in advance of this weekend. All will be devoured by Monday, for sure.

Ok, here is a little fiber:

JulieSpins, again, this time in 50% Merino and 50% Tencel. This will be a drapey semi solid yarn when finished in the color: Plum Frost. See the shimmer?

L'Shanah Tovah 5770!!!!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

My Old House.....

This is the house I grew up in: Norwalk CT. We moved from a rental house in the same town, to this one in 1958 and it was occupied by my family until 1993 when my folks moved here to Denver. Amanda took this photo today, so it is nice to see that the house is well taken care of and no changes are visible, and it is also nice to see that she is as sentimental about such things as I am. Not quite sure what she was doing in Norwalk, but I am sure I will hear the details soon.

My room was the upstairs room on the right. There was an alcove in front where I had a desk and an old fashioned kidney shaped dressing table with a three fold mirror on it, and a lavender gingham skirt. From there, it opened up to a huge space where I had 2 twin beds also in lavender gingham, a dresser and tons of bookcases. The ceiling was slanted in the front and back of the room but it was a large room by most standards. My closet was only about 3 foot wide and I honestly don't know how I lived with so little space in it. No matter, because most of my clothes were piled up on the spare bed in my room most of the time.. Truth be told, I still pile stuff, but don't tell anyone. There was only one bathroom upstairs which the 4 of us shared with very few problems. My parents were in the other upstairs bedroom while my brother resided in the main floor bedroom.

The driveway was very long as you can see, and it opened up double wide at the bottom where the garage is. It was hell to shovel and finally, Mom and Dad hired a plow which provided the space and mounds for the most elaborate snow caves/forts one can only imagine. One thing about such a long driveway... I really learned how to back up once I was driving. My skills may be rusty now, but I was a helluva backer upper in those days.

See the basketball hoop on the garage?? We had the only one in the neighborhood at the time and my adolescence was spent playing HORSE with all the boys in the neighborhood: Eddie, Bobby, Bruce, Charlie, Bradley, Hughie and anyone one else who drifted over. It is not there now, but there used to be a split rail fence along the left side of the driveway, and from there I would hold court with all my friends. Needless to say, being one of the only girls in the neighborhood had its perks. I even let my brother Steve play.....sometimes.

The wide hedge in front of the house near the street was a real chore to trim but it did afford some privacy at the house. The tree on the far right of the photo behind the hedge, was a split birch with the lovliest bark. Raking the leaves, both in front and in back, was a chore that I remember well. Those huge oaks really let go after providing their foliage show each fall. And, in the early years, before all the rules changed, we would burn tremendous piles of leaves in front of the hedge near the street. The whole neighborhood would have this wonderful smoky fragrance that would last for days. I wish I could see the rose bushes that my Dad planted, because they were his pride and joy: Peace and Tropicana are the two I can think of, off hand.

Thanks, Amanda, for the memories. You and Alison also have memories of visiting Grandma and Grandpa in this house: barbeques in the back yard, catching fireflies (which we don't have in CO), picking tomatoes from Grandpa's garden and meeting the grandkids of our neighbors.

I guess it takes only a grey dreary rainy day, and one photograph to bring it all back.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Spinning memories throughout history...

Take a gander at this! While many take a look at my hobby and fiber passion as frivolous or weird, I know I am part of the time continuum which this article says goes back at least 30,000 years. Taking natural materials and turning them into useful and beautiful garments and accessories is a purpose unto itself. It clothes and it protects. It beautifies and decorates the mundane. It differentiates us from others and it provides us with pleasure in the process of creating.

On a day when the we are steeped in sad memories from our historic losses of 8 years ago today, the act of creating beauty and new memories does not diminish our losses but enhances them and allows us to go on.

Providing beauty from nature allows us to take that deep breath and remember.
(My first lavender buds from a new planting this year.)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Where have you been all my life???

In case you haven't come across this in your travels, this new knitting tool is wonderful and a vast improvement over other ideas to perform the same task. I am talking about highlighter tape! This link gives the details, but go to a local shop to purchase........

Comes in a roll, just like Scotch tape, but the stickiness is not permanent and is easily moved as you go through directions or the charts.. Better yet, it is a little more sticky than post-it notes, which I had been previously using for lace charts. Before post-it notes, I used magnetic strips and a metal board to mark my place. The post-it notes would lose their stickiness as it picked up dust and yarn fiber while being moved, and my magnetic strips would always slip as I shifted position in my chair. Sometimes, it seemed I spent more time finding my place on the charts, than actually knitting from them.

I was so encouraged by my discovery, that I picked up my simple vine scarf that I started nearly a year ago and have been sailing along...... I have knit about 40 inches in total, and will stop at about 60.

I know, I know, this product has been out a while on the market, but for me it is new. So I know there are others out there who would benefit from my recent discovery and experience. In addition to the yellow, I bought a roll of orange. Two colors might come in handy when working multiple charts as in aran type garments.

I just realized that today is 09/09/09. That is gotta be good for something!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

After a 4 day weekend

I just wasn't satisfied having so much handspun fiber left over after finishing my first pair of handspun socks. I knew there was enough for at least one more sock, but would there be enough for 2 more??? Taking the scientific approach (please note: totally unlike me), I weighed each finished sock on my digital kitchen scale and a-ha, one weighed 61 grams and the other measured 45 grams! I knew one was heavier, but I was really surprised at the difference between the two. I then weighed the leftover handspun yarn and it weighed 100 grams, or just under 4 oz. I then rewound it into two balls of 50 grams each and felt I should start another pair!

As the yarn ran through my fingers to the ball-winder, I knew that this was the thinner yarn of the smaller sock, so I went down to a size 2 and cast on 56 stitches for another pair of plain socks. These too, I am doing 2 at a time on circs, so if I run out near the toes, I can at least be certain that the toes will match each other, if not the rest of the sock. I am really happy with the texture of this pair so far.

After the 4 day weekend, I should have more to show for my time, but relaxing and enjoying the sunshine was the original plan. I took several walks, watch several movies and finished up the
Targhee from JulieSpins. It is incredibly soft and squooshy in its finished skeins. I didn' measure yet the yardage but I must have at least 400 yards in the two skeins (plus the bitty one) in sock/fingering weight out of the 5 oz of fiber.

I just love how the colors played in this yarn as it was two plyed. The two skeins don't even look like they come from the same fiber,
but one skein will lead naturally into the other.

Now to plan a project.... another Ishbel, perhaps? Any other ideas out there? Until then, I will be satisfied just giving it a squeeze every now and then!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Fibery Progress

One finished project! YAY! These are my first handspun socks, in a 48 stitch plain sock, top down on size 2 needles, 2 at a time. Spun from Dragonfibers (merino, bamboo and nylon).
I was going for a normal weight sock, but I ended up with a heavy sock which will be nice with Crocs and boots this winter. I used a regular 3 ply for them and I thought I was spinning sooooooo thin. Live and learn, and the funny thing is that one sock is much lighter weight than the other. I have enough yarn left to probably knit a third sock to keep as a spare and it might match one or the other of the socks. I can't really remember whether I spun thinner at the end, or at the beginning. So much for conscious spinning and knitting.

Washed and skeined up, below is the finished yarn from the Pagewood Farms fiber, in the color Maple Leaf. The label only said "wool", but it was soft and lovely to spin. They are both 3 ply but notice the difference navajo plying makes with the colors in the smaller skein. Soon (?) to be mittens. Maybe I will put a crochet edging around the cuffs with the smaller skein......

The Target Practice socks are making progress. I did have to frog back the heel once, because it was totally wonky.

I am a little concerned about the size of the socks. I measured exactly and had even gone down to size 0 needles, but as you can see, they look a little big for a women's medium. Since these are my first short-row heels, maybe when I rejoin with the instep stitches, it draws up and gets a smaller length to the foot. Anyone have any experience with short row heels?? I am glad I didn't try to do these 2 at a time since I would have spent even more time frogging back. Tonight I may get to start on the tops and see how that pattern does it thing. To be continued.

And, last but certainly not least, is some spinning goodness developing on my wheel. As a reminder, this is the fiber: Targhee wool in the color, Bouquet from JulieSpins. I am quite addicted to her fiber as I have mentioned before.

The top bobbin is from the outside of the roving and the second bobbin is from the inside. It hardly looks like the same batch! I split the entire roving in half lengthwise, and will 2-ply it which should result somewhat in some stripes. Of course it is my perogative to change my mind and navajo ply it to maintain the variation of colors and make clearer stripes. Another to be continued.......

I have killed another one......

My green thumb and the economy have something very sinister in common. Lately, I have been going broke trying to keep a "Money Tree" alive.

I just don't understand it because in the past, I have always been noted for my green thumb, but lately, my plants have been short lived. The one above, to be honest, I think I murdered by accident by over fertilizing it and it makes me sad because I have had it almost 2 years. It originally had three trunks, but 2 died and the third was pretty happy until I did it in....... Rest in peace.

At Whole Foods, I spotted this one

and thought I would give it another try. I vow not to overwater it, or over fertilize it and to talk nicely to it, in hopes of the good financial luck it is supposed to bring. Here is the good luck it has brought so far, in the form of theater tickets.... a birthday gift from my very special daughters. The card said I needed some Broadway therapy!!! Yes, I do... thanks Amanda and Alison!

At least, it seems, that money grows on trees for them. And maybe, the luck of the Money Tree will do its thing for my finances, too. Here's to keeping it alive.