Friday, April 27, 2012

Dabbling

I've had a good week just dabbling with this and that.


 I've been re-reading Judith MacKenzie McCuin's The Intentional Spinner for the second time. What a fabulous book!    This is one of those books that has something to teach spinners at every level.  Things that I sorta glossed over the first time I read this really clicked with me this time.  And the next time I read it, I bet I will get even more out of it.

The first sixty or so pages are devoted to fibers.  Excellent overview of the most common (and some not-so-common) types of natural and man-made fibers.  Very clear descriptions of how these fibers are formed, with quite a bit of folklore and history thrown in.   First time I read this book, I had only spun a bit of sheepswool.  Having spun bits of several other types of fibers, I found myself relating to much more information.  Makes me want to try every fiber she describes.  Chapter Four, on "science of fibers" has more information on how to identify "mystery" fibers than I have seen in one place and now I feel the need to start burning bits of my stash.

Now I'm into the section on drafting techniques, ogling all the different tools I haven't yet added to my studio.  She shows some absolutely wicked looking wool combs, among other neat things.   Only critique I have of the book so far is that the type is too small for me to read clearly in the early morning or late evening hours when my eyes aren't at their most alert.   But I suppose the book would have to be twice as large if the type face was bigger, so guess I'll invest in higher magnification reading glasses and stop griping.

This book is high on my list of recommended reading for serious spinners and fiber geeks. 





After a hiatus of 30 or so years, I finally decided to try my hand at knitting again.  Like I need any more hobbies.  But a book of prayer shawls that I received automatically from my craft book club and forgot to return in time has been calling to me.


Straightening out my stash the other day (and I have been keeping my promise to spend a few minutes every day cleaning out the studio), I saw the perfect yarn for one of the shawls.  Naturally the shawl design requires intermediate knitting skills, so I decided to give myself a break and knit a simple K2P2 pattern with some Lion Brand Moonlight Mohair I found at Big Lots a couple of years ago.

Figured out why my hands used to hurt when I  knit.  I keep a death grip on the left-hand needle.  The right hand action is not so easy to describe.  Picture playing jacks, with the knitting needle as the ball.  I have the yarn gripped in my ring and pinky fingers, which are folded as tightly as possible.  I drop the needle, grab the yarn with my thumb and forefinger, wrap it around the needle, and grab the needle again.  No wonder that a) my hands were killing me and b) WTH?

As goofy as it sounds, I was actually a pretty fast knitter.  Had to be, I guess, to be able to keep any control over the right hand needle.   Decided to work on technique and learn to loop the yarn with my index finger and R-E-L-A-X the ring and pinky fingers on both hands.  I'm doing quite well on the left, but have to keep stopping and purposely opening up the fingers on the right.  Did a few dozen practice rows earlier this week, until I stopped dropping stitches.  Today I finally cast on and knitted just five rows of 80 stitches in an hour.  At this rate, I'll be done in 3.5 years.  Or so.


Been studying more about preparing alpaca fiber.  I'm still not happy with the amount of VM left in the fiber after washing, picking and carding.  Seems that a lot of people who work with alpaca use tumblers to help clean and open up their fibers.  There are several people who make tumblers just for this purposes, but they seem awfully expensive.  Of course, I thought batts were awfully expensive till I actually prepared my own, so who knows?  Yesterday I ran across someone who uses an old gas dryer as a tumbler.  It's not connected to a gas supply, so there's no issue with heating the fibers.  Did a little searching, and found out there are quite a few people doing this.  You can pick up an old gas dryer for $15-30.  A couple of people have hot-glued big nails to rare earth magnets, and stick these on the drum to help pick open the fibers.   Genius!  So guess who will be looking for a used gas dryer one of these days?

Have just about doubled the amount of spun yarn on my kick spindle.  Blood pressure doing just fine, thank you!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Studio Clutter Reaches Critical Mass

This should make anyone who feels guilty about an untidy craft area feel better.  Because compared to my studio lately, I don't think anyone could possibly have a messier space without being featured on one of those hoarder reality shows.

When I got home from work today, I went out to look for a book and realized that I couldn't walk across either room without climbing over piles of stuff.  No wonder I can't get anything done.  Between not putting things away when I use them, getting out tubs of yarn to search through my stash, or adding to the stash without having a place to put new stuff, it's gotten totally out of control.  Not to mention the stuff in the guest room.  And the den.

I spent an hour this evening (all I could stand) putting stuff away where it belongs.  And have promised myself to spend a few minutes a day at this until I'm done. On the plus side, I became reacquainted with a lot of yarn I had completely forgotten I had,  and got a few ideas for projects to use up some of the stash.  Have to make room -- Convergence is just around the corner!

To shame myself into keeping my promise, I present the before pictures of my studio.  Now I will have to keep at it  until I can post the after photos.









Tuesday, April 17, 2012

More About Thor

Heard back from an ebay seller in the Netherlands who has both an M1 and M2 Moswolt Hammer currently at auction.  He was kind enough to send me these scans of original brochures from Moswolt, and confirmed that they went out of business long ago.



Based on this, I think Thor is in complete, original condition, except for the drive belt, which would have been polyurethane.  The drive belt he's currently wearing is made of some type of string.  No wonder, considering the original would have been over 30 years old.  Only thing I don't have is the optional distaff, which looks really cool.  Not necessary for functionality, but it sure would be nice to find an original one.

The Hansen MiniSpinner did not like "Kilby" and has announced that her name is Bunny Watson.  I knew she'd cooperate if I threatened to give her the wrong name.  Why Bunny?  Take a look at "The Desk Set" some day.  Perfect example of using technology without taking the human element out of a task.  The Joy and the Koala still have not divulged their names.

While pondering unfinished projects, I realized I have not used my kick spindle in months.  I bought this Mother Marion Wheel they call "Little Meggie" from Heavenly Handspinning a year or so ago.   The base of mine is mahogany and the rest is made of oak - much prettier than it looks in the picture.  I'm not so much on spinning with a drop spindle and I wanted something small I could take in the car or keep in the office for those lunch hours when I need to decompress. 



After doing nothing for months but look at it occasionally, I finally took some time at lunch today and spun a for just ten minutes or so.  I swear it dropped my blood pressure in that short time.  Someone ought to market this as an executive stress-relieving toy.  I've promised myself to spin a few yards at least a couple of times a week.  The fiber is really soft and draws wonderfully.  Has about a 5" staple and requires very little effort to draft.  Wish I could remember what it is and where I got it because I would love to find more after this batch is finished.  I had started a little notebook for samples of all the fiber I have collected, samples of the finished products, and notes on fiber type, source, spinning and finishing methods.  But that only works if you remember to fill it out.  Darn!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Love at First Sight

I don't usually hold with naming inanimate objects.  Well, except for my first car, a 1970 Ford Maverick.  He was called Otis, for a reason I don't care to discuss, and I thought he was the next best thing to sliced bread.  But yesterday morning, while browsing forums on Ravelry, I saw a post headed "FS: Moswolt Hammer Wheel."  Well, wouldn't you need to know what a Moswolt Hammer is?

 I opened the post, and this wheel shouted "My name is Thor, and you need me!"  OK, maybe he didn't actually say it, maybe it was more of a mind meld thing, but I got the message.  Sent the seller, who turned out to be a really nice lady named Judy, a message right away, and that was it.  I'm not sure it would have even mattered if the wheel was functional - it was just so cool I couldn't resist.



 

 

Went down to Garden Grove to meet Judy and retrieve Thor.  Spent the afternoon giving him a couple of coats of paste wax and buffing, and he's now ruggedly handsome.  He has a built-in yarn winder and came with a tilted lazy kate and three bobbins.  Judy also threw in a pair of hand cards that came with Thor when she bought him (a late-night ebay purchase).  I haven't seen cards this coarse -- maybe they're for carding yeti fur.


 

 I've been looking for information on this wheel all weekend.  It apparently was manufactured in the late 1970s for just a short time.  An ebay seller from the Netherlands had one just like it, calling it model M1.  They also have a Moswolt Hammer M2, which doesn't have the cool hammers - it has a  four-piece wheel and is nowhere near as appealing as the M1.  Seller says that Moswolt stopped building spinning wheels in the early 1980s.  Bobbins are huge -- seller says they will hold 9-10 ounces of fiber.


Moswalt Hammer M2


Other than a reputation for a very strong draw, I can find very little else (in English, German, or Dutch) about Moswolt wheels.  I did email the seller - hoping he may have more info or be willing to sell me a copy of the documentation that comes with the new M2 he is selling. 

In other news,  I finished washing the first alpaca fleece this weekend -- turned out to be 2 lb 2 oz - a bit more than the seller had advertised.  Smart lady -- she has certainly earned my good will.  Yesterday I had a chance to card some of it on an electric drum carder.  Wow!  a)  These things are really cool and b) now I understand why people charge so much for their fiber batts.  To get any volume of production you need heavy duty equipment which is not cheap, and it takes a lot of time to make a batt.  Don't think I'll ever raise my eyebrow at the price of a batt again.   I came home with these lovelies:



2.85 oz. done, 31.15 oz. to go.  Gulp.

IEHG West (a subgroup of the Inland Empire Handweavers Guild) met yesterday afternoon.  Just a handful of us this time, but I always enjoy the chance to see what everyone is working on and have a good visit.

I also put a couple of coats of satin polyurethane on the wool picker tonight -- it came unfinished and seems a shame not to give it some protection.

Highlight of the weekend, though, was having one of my sisters and her daughter as our houseguests. They had business to take care of so we didn't get a lot of time together, but I'll take what I can get.

Now that I have Thor, the MiniSpinner, the  Joy, and the Koala are not going to leave me alone until they get names of their own.    

Postscript 4/16/12:  Thinking about Kilby for the MiniSpinner.  Jack Kilby was the inventor of the miniaturized electronic circuit.  Seems appropriate for an eSpinner to be named after an innovator without whom it might not exist.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Sometimes I Actually Finish What I Started

Walking through my little studio full of UFOs last night, I started to feel guilty about all the projects in various stages of completion.  Can you call "not started" a stage of completion?  I wonder.

Most of the the creative people I know have stashes of stuff waiting to inspire them, so I don't feel so bad about the 8 plastic cartons of yarns.  At least they're sorted by color family.  Or the three big laundry pop-ups full of overflow yarns.  Maybe a little about the bins full of fabric - some of which I bought when in high school.  I'm not saying how may decades ago that was.  But to count the number of unfinished projects scattered around the studio I would have to use all my fingers and take off at least one shoe.

To show myself and the world that I actually do occasionally finish things, I present here a few finished items.

Here is a project that started out as white wool roving at Studio 66 in 2010.  We learned a crock-pot dyeing technique and I just loved the colors that resulted - from a deep maroon to a very warm gold.  This was my first yarn spinning project.  My friend Linda, who is a brilliant teacher and has so many talents, had just taken up knitting and asked if she could have some of my  handspun to try.  She surprised me with this lovely scarf.  Despite being challenged by the non-uniformity of the yarn (I've learned now to call it art yarn when the wpi of your yarn varies from 6 all the way to 60, and where you have kinky overspun bits alternating with lofty underspun bits), she made this ruffly scarf.  I can't seem to get a photo that does her work justice. 

(l) Newly dyed roving drying on the rack. (r) Finished handspun
 
 The finished scarf
A close-up of the knitting





















My friend Gail at the Weaver's Cupboard builds and sells triangle looms made from several types of gorgeous hardwoods.  I took one of her triangle classes thinking it would be a fun diversion, and came home with not one, but two of her beautiful looms and a tripod stand to boot!  I have UFOs on the looms now but have managed to finish a few.  Have been using mostly acrylics out of my stash while I learn to make clean lines and finish nicely, but I think I'm ready to work with the good stuff now.



 This shawl has a mix of three different yarns for subtle (and not-so-subtle) variations in color and texture. The basic yarn is a slubby acrylic. Silver threads have been added periodically, as well as a very soft fluffy novelty yarn.


For the life of me, I can't remember what I used for this shawl.  I think it was a single type of acrylic paired with a silver thread.  This was the first shawl I finished and I gave it to a dear friend for Christmas.





 This shawl is woven entirely in Lion Brand Homespun yarn.  So pretty in the skein but I hate working with it. It seems to fray spontaneously.

My friend Carol does a lot of work for the Free Wheelchair Mission, which builds wheelchairs out of inexpensive parts and has shipped over 600,000 of these overseas to people who would otherwise be immobile.  I donated this to their last fundraiser.
  




Left: Ellie. Knitted with acrylic eyelash yarn.  All of my knitting is done on circle looms - I tend to grip knitting needles so tight my hands ache after a few minutes so I gave up knitting on needles years ago.

Right: Michelle. Combination of bamboo and acrylic yarns. Scarf is handwoven, hat is knitted.


  






 
Left: Diane. Knitted with ultra bulky acrylic yarn.

Right: Farrah. Knitted with soft acrylic yarn.









 Left: Mia.  Knitted with a  wonderfully soft variegated Sensations "It's a Wrap" in blue/turquoise.  Made of 75% nylon, 25% wool,  I loved the way this yarn felt as I worked on it - will feel wonderful next to the skin.


Right: Michael.  Knitted with ultra bulky acrylic yarn.







And then there are the other hobbies.  Favorite thing to do when I get together with my sisters (not often enough) is take jewelry making classes or just hang out and work on our projects together. Name a hobby where you can pound on things with hammers and melt stuff with torches and I'm in!


 This bangle is a combination of fusing and wire-wrapping techniques. The base is fine silver, fused and hammered into the final shape. Six wrapped spirals of silver-plated copper wire have been added for a little more pizzazz.





 Guilt temporarily assuaged.  And now that I've posted this, I can't use these in future posts to give the illusion that I'm actually finishing things.  Guess I need to quit starting new projects and finish those triangle shawls.  Or the scarf on my rigid heddle loom.  Or the sampler on my floor loom.  Or maybe the yarn on both of my spinning wheels.  Or...    

Note to self:  wet alpaca still smells.  Ten ounces cleaned, dried, and in big laundry bag waiting to be picked and carded.  Fifteen ounces stinking up my drying center.  Half an ounce picked and ready for carding.  Half a pound waiting to be washed.  From this fleece.  Not thinking about the three pounds from two other fleeces.  I'll think about those next week.  Or maybe next month.




Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Fun With Alpaca


Had to stay home today to take my little pal, Tallulah, to the vet.  Poor baby stayed up scratching and crying all night.  Turns out she probably had a flea, spider, or ant bite and had an allergic reaction.  A shot relieved her itching quickly and now she's dozing while I do some studying.

 By the way, there are lots of people who spin dog fiber - some who even make a profession of spinning it for people who want keepsakes of their beloved pets.  I'm saving hair from Tallulah's groomings to try it out myself.  But that's a topic for another time.  For today it's just a good excuse for putting her picture in my blog.


As long as I'm home, thought I'd take advantage of the quiet to process some of my alpaca stash.  Since washing it requires a lot of soaking time, this is a perfect multi-tasking opportunity for me.

This is my first experience with alpaca, so I've been doing quite a bit of reading about how to prepare it.  People seem to be divided on whether or not it should be washed before spinning.  Alpacas don't produce the lanolin oils that sheep do, so oil and grime are not  big issues.  But alpacas are know for loving a good  roll in the dirt -- so a fleece that looks clean can still be full of dust and very small bits of vegetable matter (VM).  Clean alpaca fiber is pretty slick so letting the fiber be slightly dusty can make it easier to spin. 

I like to be able to spin anywhere without worry about spreading dirt and VM all over, and I don't like finding my hands all dirty after spinning, so I opted for clean and slick.  Stopped by my local 99 cent store and picked up half a dozen mesh lingerie bags and was ready to go.

I tested this on just a small amount of fiber before first -- just to be sure I didn't end up with a wad of felt.  Weighed out a half ounce of fiber.  Although there were only a couple of small bits of VM to be picked out, I noticed my countertop and the bowl I used for weighing were filled with tiny bits of dirt and VM.  Looked just like the junk that comes out of a smoker's purse (saving anti-smoking lecture for another time). Filled the sink with tepid water, added a few drops of Dawn dish-washing liquid (this stuff foams like crazy so you seriously need only a few drops) and dropped in a lingerie bag with the fiber spread as evenly as I could get it.  Turned out not to matter because the fiber migrated to one side of the bag when I removed it from the water.  But I tried...

Fleece Before Soaking


Junk From About Six Ounces of Unwashed Fiber

 


After the fiber had soaked for 20 minutes, I very  gently lifted it out of the water, refilled the sink with clean, tepid water, and let the bag soak again.  Was surprised at how dirty the rinse water was.  Repeated this two more times, until the water stayed reasonably clean.

Put the bag on a dry towel, rolled it up and pressed out as much water as I could without wringing, and took it out to my beloved dryer.  They don't make this model any more, which is a shame, because it's so useful.  Above the traditional drum dryer, it has a cabinet where you can either hang clothes to dry or lay things flat on racks you can insert.  It dries things slowly with a flow of gentle warm (not hot) air through the cabinet.  No agitation/no felting.

Maytag Drying Center Loaded with Bags of Fiber


After the fiber was completely dried and cooled, I decided to try out the wool picker.  Opinions vary on that, too.  Some experts say mechanical picking can break alpaca fibers.  Others swear by it.  And others say it's not necessary- you can spin from the lock by manually teasing it a bit or go straight for hand cards or a drum carder.  I found the locks in my test batch were still clinging together, and wanted to see what the wool picker would do, anyhow.  You put a small amount of fiber in the front, and get a big fluffy cloud at the back.  You can see the model I'm using in action on the maker's website.  I thought it worked very easily and quickly, and didn't notice any breakage.And a bit more VM fell out of the fibers in the process.

A Half Ounce of Soft Fluffy Goodness

As I write this I have six bags containing two ounces of fiber each drying in my friendly Maytag.  It's pouring rain outside, Tallulah is dozing (and not scratching) on my lap, my sweetheart is in the kitchen making vegetable soup, and all's right with the world.  Time to get back to studying!

Postscript 4/12/12  Warmish wet alpaca smells peculiar.  May have to run the drying center through a few cycles after this project is done.  Just sayin.










Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Judith MacKenzie McCuin - Another Rock Star!

Writing about Judith MacKenzie McCuin yesterday started me thinking about the workshop I took last September.  It was hosted by the Greater Los Angeles Spinning Guild, which reminds me of one of the reasons why I love my fiber arts community so much.  I knew only one member of the group that took this class, yet I was given such a warm welcome and everyone was so friendly, I felt like I was among old friends.  I think there are no strangers in this craft  - just friends you haven't met yet.

The workshop I attended was one of three offered -- one titled "Spinning for Color" and two sessions on "Popular Wheel Mechanics."  In hindsight, I think I would have tried to sign up for all three if I had had any idea how interesting and inspiring Judith would turn out to be.   She shared a lot of personal anecdotes as she guided us through the mechanics of different types of spinning wheels, shared techniques for getting different results with a single type of fiber just by making a couple of changes to the wheel, and shared quite a few samples of different fibers -- which was what I needed to finally begin to understand how the characteristics of the fiber affect the spinning.   The class was conducted in a circle and it was fascinating to look around and see all but one or two people (there are always at least a couple of THOSE people) hanging on her every word.

I was so caught up in the class that I forgot to take pictures except for this one:

 

Pretty pathetic, because I really would like to show the whole circle.  But that's Judith using a Hansen MiniSpinner, third from the left.

 During the course of the class, Judith made it a point to talk with each person one-on-one at least a couple of times, look at their wheels (she even helped several people replace their drive bands and did some minor repairs) and their work, make suggestions, give gentle praise and even gentler criticism.  This is my idea of a true teacher -- one who shares knowledge, points out where, and more importantly, HOW you can improve, and makes students believe they can master the task.  I'm sure it helps to have students with the desire to learn, but she was working with students at all levels from rank beginner (me) to near-experts and somehow everyone seemed to come out of the class with new skills.  I will definitely take this class again (and anything else she teaches) if the opportunity presents itself.

The moral of this story:  if you have the chance to study with a rock star, take it!  One of the best things about spinning and weaving is the centuries of tradition that have led us to the point where we have access to wonderful tools and all kinds of wonderful fibers.  The best teachers not only share their skills with us, they share the stories and traditions they have learned along the way.  They not only inform, they inspire.  Which may be the reason that I now have pounds of wools and silks in my stash just waiting to tell me what they want to be when they grow up.




 What I actually learned in this workshop:  spinners usually develop a treadling speed that doesn't change regardless of what they're trying to spin -- so to change the thickness of your product, you must vary your tension and whorls.  I made this sample using just three whorls on my Joy and some Corriedale roving.  For each size, I increased the tension until it became impossible to spin, then moved to the next whorl. at the lowest tension that would draw in. 

We also tried several different techniques: woolen, worsted, semi-worsted, over-the-fold, techniques for joining fibers, plying, some novelty yarns with slubs and boucle.  And different types of fibers - blends of wools with cashmere, silk, and bamboo, as well as several types of sheepswool. 

By the time we reached this point my brain could take in no more and I didn't finish sampling all the fibers and techniques Judith presented.  All the more reason that I would take this class again in a heartbeat!

Oh, yes -- and reminiscing about this workshop and the wonderful people I met, I was reminded that I had been intending to join the guild because they have such great programs.  Sent in my application form today.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Time flies!


Can't believe the whole month of March went by without a post.   Not that I haven't been doing anything, because I most definitely have had a great few weeks with fibers.  Except for my cotton seedlings, which have all gone to that big compost heap in the sky.  A gust of wind knocked over my greenhouse while I was out of town and the plants that didn't freeze in a late cold spell dried up.  Going to start over after I figure out how to weight this puppy down so it doesn't happen again.



Biggest news -- (thanks to Uncle Sam for returning some of my hard-earned tax withholding) -- I ordered the cherry Hansen Crafts miniSpinner I have lusted after since the day I saw Judith MacKenzie McCuin using one last year.  It spins like a dream!  As much as I love spinning on my Joy, my spinning improved immediately with the Hansen and I can also spin just about any time, any place.  When the new eSpinner arrived, I got caught up in finding just the right batteries and just the right bag to carry everything.  Thanks to the Hansen Craft forum on Ravelry, I ended up with a bright red (what else?) Zuca bag (the top is flat and works as a seat - perfect as a tabletop for the spinner).  And for batteries - I ordered a low-priced battery pack from China that was highly recommended for price, size, and durability.  While waiting for it to arrive, found a Milwaukee tools doohickey at my friendly Home Depot that lets you use any of their 12v batteries as if it was a cigarette lighter socket - added bonus being that they're bright red.  I now have enough battery power to spin for weeks.

Started spinning right away with "Potluck Roving" from Ferndale Fiber in "Stormy Sea" and I love, love, love my new eSpinner.


This is after just a few hours' spinning time.  Between the ease of use of the spinner and the smoothness with which the fiber drafts, spinning has been a zen experience. And because the spinner can sit just about anywhere, I've spun at a table, in the car, and even sitting in my reclining chair.

Also used it to ply some yarn with beads for a triangle shawl I'm going to start soon -- plies beautifully and the product looks exactly like what I had in mind. The large orifice on the spinner and large loops on the Woolee Winder make it easy to add all kinds of inclusions to the yarn.


This is a minty green fingering-weight soft and fuzzy polyester plied with a finer white thread on which I alternated mint and clear Austrian crystals every 1-2 yards.  Hopefully when woven on the triangle loom the beads will show up randomly.  Still have to decide whether to weave with two more strands of the same green or add one or two different yarns.

Thanks to Ravelry, I ran across someone selling some alpaca fleeces and made the mistake of looking at the sample pictures.  I'm now the proud owner of five pounds of cria and adult alpaca fleece. 





 This is the fiber that captured my attention - it's a medium fawn color from an adult alpaca - two pounds.





This one is in variegated colors from an adult alpaca.  Ranges from a little "nearly" cream to a rich fawn brown.  Another two pounds.

And here is a pound of cria (baby alpaca).  Wonderfully soft and can't wait to start spinning this one.



Fortunately I have access to a drum carder to help with this (although my very own drum carder is at the top of my fantasy wish list).  First I have some studying to do -- I need to wash and tease the locks to get them ready for carding.  Found this really neat wool picker the other day - looks pretty lethal, huh?



Then, while doing some genealogy work, I came across some references to Manx  Loaghtan sheep and had to refresh my memory.  I saw some of these in real life while exploring the Isle of Man several years ago.   They're incredible looking creatures with (usually) two pairs of curly horns.  Like these:


Well, then nothing would do but that I get some wool of the types that might have been used by my Manx and Viking ancestors -- so thanks to World of Wool, I now have a little over a pound of top in each of these:

  (l-r) Dark grey Icelandic, mid-grey Icelandic, Norwegian, Manx Loaghtan.

Incidentally, the word "loaghtan" is Manx for "mouse brown."  Having  never seen a mouse that close (knock wood) I can't comment on how true that description is.  I myself would have called it "gial shocklaidagh" (light  chocolate).  The color is a very rich cocoa brown.

Oh, and while in San Rafael a couple of weeks ago, I had a chance to visit Dharma Trading.  Their store in San Rafael has quite a selection of yarns not in their catalog, and a small selection of some, but not nearly all, of the items in the catalog.  Came home with a few silk and cotton scarves to dye, some sequined yarn (because I don't already have enough yarn), and a selection of dyes to add to my stash. 

Won't be running out of things to do any time soon.