Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Memorial Day Weekend

What a great weekend to honor those who have served their country.  Time to remember the major reason that I am free to do all the wonderful things I get to do.   Patriotic observances aside, there was still plenty of time for other things, so I now step down from my soapbox and record my recent fiber frenzies.

Saturday morning was my first meeting with the Greater Los Angeles Spinning Guild.  What fun!  They couldn't have been more welcoming and I'm looking forward to participating in as many of their activities as I can.  I took Thor, and was surprised to run into Judy, Thor's previous owner, at the meeting.  He turned out to be a great icebreaker for me as I turned into my usual pathetic shy self when I walked through the door.

I went to the meeting intending to buy a Dorset fleece.  One.  Somehow I left with two.  Or possibly three.  Our guild has some link to Action K9 Sports in San Diego County. This is a school that features herding and agility training for dogs.  (Yes, there are still plenty of sheep in this country and dogs are still the most effective herders.) They ordinarily have a day each spring when they invite people to watch them do their thing and a professional sheep-shearer takes care of the flock -- after which attendees can buy the raw fleeces.  This year they were unable to get the sheep-shearer for the right day, so they sent a number of fleeces to our guild meeting.  Well, little miss back-to-nature here decided that one fleece would probably not be enough, and bought two of them.

 I was warned that since it was a warmish day, I would be smelling sheep all the way home.  Happy to say that didn't happen.  In fact, my drive was extremely pleasant both directions despite some traffic delays.  I've recently discovered the the Spin Doctor podcast and have been listening to them in order (another exercise in self-discipline).  I had several episodes on my iPad and plugged it into my car radio -so had the pleasure of listening to a few episodes along the way.   Sasha  is possibly even more OCD about fiber arts than I am so I feel like I'm listening to a kindred spirit (as well as an enabler).
Got home, and after pulling out the first fleece, it looks like there are either two more smallish fleeces or one humongous one.  They were only $20 each, so I'll settle with the guild at the next meeting if it turns out to be two of them.

Here's the first fleece waiting to be sorted (second and possibly third fleece waiting on the ground.  After sorting the first one, I put the other back in the bag for another day).  It actually wasn't as bad as I had expected.  There wasn't an awful lot of filth (polite speak for "manure") but enough to make me glad I had a pair of heavy duty rubber gloves.  You usually discard parts with large amounts of  vegetable matter or any filth.

 This is what I consigned to the allegorical compost heap.
Then you generally grade the fleece by staple length, coarseness of fiber, and cleanliness.  The shoulders and flanks generally have the highest quality fibers.  But to my untrained eyes, especially since I was not careful to unfold the fleece as one piece, I could not tell you what was from the shoulder and what came from the britch.  It all looked pretty much the same to me. So it all went into two tubs of cold water without being sorted.

I'm guessing there are about three pounds of fleece in each tub.  I GENTLY pushed the fleece down into the water.  They say that Dorset is very forgiving and not as easily felted as other breeds, but I'm not taking any chances.

Next morning, I carefully lifted the fleece out of the water and set it on a screen to drain.  I knew the raw fleece had been pretty dirty, but was still surprised by the appearance of the water.  I also ran into some filth that I had not seen when sorting the day before.  Guess I was a little too eager to get it into the water.  More junk went into the trash barrel as a result.

This is one of the tubs post-fleece.

And the fleece just removed from water.

As I write this, the fleece is back soaking in tubs - awaiting the delivery of some Unicorn Power Scour.  I've been hearing about this product for scouring wool for some time - most recently on the Spin Doctor podcast, and think I'll give it a try.

Saving the other fleece(s) for a group session I'm going to try to organize.

Sunday was a real treat.  One of my fellow Inland Empire Handweavers Guild members was looking for people to help her demonstrate weaving and spinning at the annual Home School Fair at OCHS.  I had no clue what it was about, but went along with my buddy Gail and took Bunny Watson (the Hansen mini-spinner) to keep me busy.  As it turned out, the organizers put us together with another group of (mostly) spinners.  Here is one of the things I love most about fiber arts.  In most activities, when you put two separate groups together, you get instant rivalry.  But for some reason, fiber artists tend to bond and share. Maybe it's cross-enrollment in many groups.  Or perhaps it's because the fiber community has a number of traveling teachers so we aren't limited to thinking that WE have the only way.  But whatever the reason, we joined ranks and  had a delightful day. 

The other group was called "No Idle Hands."  All but one were in costume -- one in a civil war-era dress and bonnet, one in a Victorian smock, and the rest in Ren-Faire apparel.  I gather their emphasis is on Victorian era crafts, but they also participate in SCA and historic reenactment activities.  Most were spinning, but one was grinding wheat in a manually cranked grinder and making dough on site.  One of them gave each of us a a beautiful beaded orifice hook she had made.  Just in time since I've been using a big paper clip on Thor.  We sat in the shade and chatted most of the day while we worked on our projects.  And talked with loads of parents and children who were attending the fair.  May have won a few converts over to the fiber arts this weekend.

Gail took one of her triangle looms and the moms at the Fair were sure interested.  She weaves an awful lot faster than I do - got all this done in just a short time.

We had two other charming neighbors at the Fair...

These babies are only three weeks old and I may have spent more time watching them than I did actually spinning.

One more fiber-related activity in the works - for a later post.  But I will hint now that I've been regretting having sold my Mountain Looms tabletop loom years ago.

P.S.  - while writing this, I had a friend drop in to visit and he saw the photo of the two fleeces on my screen.  He was concerned that I had participated in the killing of sheep for their fleeces.  So I feel it important to tell any family or friends who happen to read this that no sheep were harmed in the acquisition of these fleeces.  Most domestic sheep don't shed so they need to be sheared yearly to protect them from problems and potential death resulting from overgrown fleece.  For those who want to know more, have a look at this.

Monday, May 21, 2012


I've always loved that word, even before I understood what it meant!

It seems like life is full of these little (and some large) events that seem to come out of nowhere.

Here's one that happened in my life just last week...  seems like two unconnected themes were bound and determined to converge:

Thread one:  I've been lurking various groups on Ravelry where weaving and spinning tools are traded and sold in hopes of finding just the thing I need.  In fact, I found Thor on one of these groups.  Well, the other day, someone posted a link to an ad for a studio liquidation sale in Colorado, bemoaning the fact that she lived too far away to be able to attend.

I felt compelled to have a look, even though I'm too far away as well.  Turns out to be the studio of a well-known artist who has been published in Handwoven and has had an instructional DVD out.  Her name rang a bell, but didn't really register with me.  I browsed her site a bit -- she has a beautiful antique Tyrolean wheel that would have been an ideal companion for Thor.
                                 Tyrolean Wheel

She's delicate and graceful where Thor is blunt and forceful.   Just look at that curving footman!  Figuring that the worst that could happen was that she would either not reply or simply say "no," I emailed  to ask if there was any chance she would consider shipping.  She replied immediately and we have had a lovely conversation back and forth, during which she mentioned that she would ship books and magazines. 

Skip to thread number two:  Since the Jason Collingwood class, I've been obsessing on Krokbragd, boundweave, and Rosepath, as methods of figural weaving. My next project is going to be a sampler of figures -- people, trees, sheep, etc., with some eventual wallhangings in mind.  Not knowing the first thing about this other than the little bit of Krokbragd we did in the workshop, I needed to find resources.   Since I already have a pretty good collection of back issues of Handwoven, I went through the indices Friday afternoon and compiled a list of articles that might be helpful.   I did find several that look promising, but that turns out not to be the point here.

Mentioned in articles were two books that sound like excellent sources:  Clothilde Barrett's book on boundweave, (which I had already ordered and was delivered later that afternoon), and The Manual of Swedish Handweaving.

So here is where the two threads converge... and get even a little more complex.  I wrote down the wrong year for the errata on one of the articles and when I opened May/June 1993 to page 75 expecting a short paragraph of corrections, instead there was a page of lovely interior design fabrics.  And the name of the artist I've been emailing jumped right off the page at me.  Seems like fate was determined to point me toward this talented designer and weaver.   Then it gets even a little stranger.  My eye kept being drawn to a particular curtain fabric shown on this page.  I suddenly realized that I have a drawer full of old table linens that are very similar in technique to this fabric.   I've been whining for years that I have no finished examples of my grandfather's weaving except for a blanket that's on loan from a cousin, when all the while I may have had some of his work sitting in my linen cupboard.  (Saving that exploration for another day.)

So here is where I wax philosophical.  Was the whole point of this fate's way of showing me something that was right under my nose all the time?  Are our lives always this intertwined and we simply fail to recognize the connections most of the time? 

By the way,  something told me I'd better look at the book list, even though I have quite a large library of my own.  And there it was -- The Manual of Swedish Handweaving.  Plus the back issues of Handwoven from my index extract that I didn't already have.  My check is in the mail to her as we speak. To my regret, the union between the lovely Tyrolean wheel and Thor seems simply not meant to be.

On a more mundane note, I got the greenhouse reassembled and (I hope) secured so it won't get knocked down again.  Started a few more seeds - details on my cotton journal entry.    I have been spending 10-15 minutes daily working on the studio cleanup, and actually spent a couple of hours on it yesterday.   Think it's time to part with some of my stash. And maybe relocate some stuff unrelated to fiber arts.   There's simply not enough room to put everything away, hence the tendency for things to pile up.  Time to make some tough decisions.  Or there won't be room for that tabletop loom I have my eye on...

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Thor is Complete!

There's something about accessories that brings out the OCD in me.  I can't seem to get piece of equipment without obsessing about acquiring every possible accessory that I might NEED someday.  (Note to self:  don't ever buy another sewing machine that has 20 bazillion presser feet again!)

Tuesday's mail brought something special all the way from the Netherlands for Thor -- the distaff that Moswolt sold as an option to the M1 and M2 wheels .  It even has a hank of what I assume is flax tied to it.  Now Thor has everything.  These are just about impossible to find and I was very lucky.

Here is Thor with distaff and reel installed, along with his other goodies.

 I found this wonderful Dutch company - Low Lands Legacy - that had a photo of a Moswolt M1 with the distaff attached on their site.  Funny thing was that I was not even searching for Moswolt at the time.  I had just seen a gadget called a Bogway Handspinner and wandered into their site looking for more information on it.  So I emailed to ask and lo... they had a distaff for sale.  

Hans and Gerrie were very kind -- they concentrate their business in the Netherlands and rest of Europe, but agreed to ship to the U.S.  They were able to fill me in on more of the Moswolt company's history:

" The Moswolt spinning wheels were produced in ‘De Achterhoek’ (a region in the Mid-East of Holland). Originally it was a furniture mill and they also produced spinning wheels in de ‘70’s. The company doesn’t exists anymore. And therefore you won’t find anything on the internet. We do have the original Moswolt brochure. You can have a copy if you want to. Nowadays the Moswolt has become a collector’s item and rather rare to find. Even more rare is the distaff."

I already had a copy of the brochure translated into English, but here it is in the original Dutch:

And by now you know that I couldn't pass up the little Bogway -- me and my gadgets!  People either seem to love it or hate it - I played with it a little bit and have to say it's kinda fun.  Who knows - using it may help firm up my flabby arms (gotta remember to switch hands occasionally) or maybe scare off muggers.

Here it is in action.  Not in English, but you can get the idea, anyway.

The rest of the Angelina fiber order arrived yesterday, just in time to take it to my class.  Can't wait to see how everyone uses theirs.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Up Close and Personal

I have this idea that I will understand my spinning better if I understand the nature of the fiber I'm spinning.  Is it smooth?  Heavily cuticled? Crimpy?

So a few months ago, I bought a Celestron digital microscope (the least expensive one!) so I could get a closeup look.

Can't say that I've learned anything yet, but I've been having fun looking at all kinds of stuff close up.  The most intriguing so far is skin, but I won't gross you out with photos of that.

Know what this is?  No, it is not a closeup of the pores on my nose! Find out at the end of this post.

 In my Wednesday night class, we've been talking about adding Angelina fibers to some of our spinning, and I placed an order for everyone who wanted to try it.  This is the smooth stuff -- can't wait till the crimped stuff arrives and I can see what it "really" looks like.

Then I got out my second (most recent) finished batch of handspun.  This was some fiber I got really cheap on ebay.  Proof that you get what you pay for.  I have no idea what it really is, except the burn test showed it was wool.  This was so hard to spin, I was tempted a few times to burn test the whole bunch.  But impatience is one of my biggest faults so I decided to stick it out as a character-building experience.  On the plus side, this was so difficult to spin, all of the other fibers I have experimented with since then have seemed incredibly easy to draft.

Here's the original unspun fiber:

Normal Size
REALLY Enlarged

No wonder I couldn't draft this stuff smoothly -- it was so curly and the fibers twisted around each other so much, there's no way a beginner like me could get anything remotely uniform for a result.  And each of the colors had a slightly different texture -- you can see here that the pink stuff was slightly thicker and quite a bit less curly than the white.  The green doesn't really show well here, but it's somewhere between the white and pink.  So every time there was a change in the colors during drafting, the thickness of the yarn really wanted to (and did) change.  Hence, VOILA!  Art yarn!

8.3 oz, 264 yards of finished yarn.
Here it is in increasingly closer views:

I'm actually pretty pleased with the result given what I started out with, and am just waiting for the yarn to tell me what it wants to be.

The honeycomb picture at the top of this post?  A photo I snapped accidentally while the microscope was sitting on my table.  Here's the wood a little bit less magnified.  I would never have guessed if I hadn't seen it first-hand.

Monday, May 7, 2012

More Dabbling

It's been a week or so of more of this and that.   Missed my Wednesday night class two weeks ago because of heavy rains and was cranky all week.  Communing with fellow fiber freaks seems to recharge my internal batteries and I get pretty surly when I don't make it.

My class is part of the quickly dwindling adult education programs in California.  It's not cheap - we currently pay $75 per 12 week session (11 weeks after the district declared a week off without pay for the staff) but I don't mind the fee.  I kinda like the idea that adults who choose to take classes of any type should pay for them rather than depending on their neighbors to subsidize their choices.  (OK, climbing off the soapbox now.)  We meet at the Charter Oak Center - a defunct elementary school that I think is used only for a preschool and some adult ed classes.  Our assigned area is what used to be the cafeteria/assembly room and kitchen.  Which is great because you can get an awful lot of looms and supplies in this space. 

At the front of this room is a stage equipped with tables and chairs where we have brief meetings, show and shares, and mini-classes.  Through the doors at the end of the room is the kitchen, where we have even more looms, storage, and tools like warping boards and bobbin winders.   Not a lot of room for my spinning circle but we make do.   Although it's called a "class" - this is really more of a studio workship.  Everybody works at their own pace and their own projects.  Our teachers, who really know their stuff, are available to answer questions and provide guidance.   In my first quarter, I worked at a loom, but I really prefer the chatty spinning circle to the solitary loom.  If you get a chance to take a class like this, do it now.  I'm afraid that, even paying full freight these classes are not going to be around much longer.

The Moonlight Mohair stole is progressing quite rapidly.  Still having to remind myself to relax the right hand, but I'm gaining speed and the stole is already 50 inches long.

Now I'm debating about whether or not I like the finished product.  I like the design -- under all the mohair fuzz you can see the furrows created by the K2P2 pattern.  And when it's draped, the furrows stretch out and  it looks quite lacy.  But I'm not so sure I like the overall color - the mohair tends to dominate and since it is mostly a greenish color, it needs fairly bright light to not look like a big fuzzy green thing.  Love the color close up and with good lighting though.

IEHG West met at my house last Saturday.  Pretty disappointing turnout - there were only four of us.  But we had a few relaxing hours of working on our individual projects and chatting anyway.  One of the group asked me what I was going to make with the yarn I've been spinning.  Huh?  You're supposed to make something with it?  In my mind it's all about the process and the zen of spinning.  Someday this yarn is going to tell me what it wants to be.  Until then, I'm just enjoying.

Still plodding away with studio cleanup.  With the IEHG meeting looming, I finally forced myself to put away the Christmas stuff that had taken over my dining room (long story - decided to downsize the holiday decorations and thought the dining room would be the perfect place to sort through stuff).  Got that all done and tackled the cartons that we moved from my outrageously expensive storage space to my back porch three months ago.   More work to do, but the back of the van is full of stuff to go to Goodwill and we can actually walk from one end of the porch to the other now. 

Have you noticed that the older you get, the less important the stuff you spent years acquiring becomes?