Saturday, June 30, 2012

Tour de Fleece, Day 1

Why is it that when you set a goal, it takes the guilt out of doing something fun instead of doing chores?

Today was the first day of the Ravelry Tour de Fleece (hereinafter called "TdF").  So I got up determined to get all my "must-do" chores out of the way so I could have the rest of the day to work on my fractal spinning project.  The housework is just going to have to wait.

Slight detour on the chores...  I just couldn't wait to get started.  First order of business was to split the bump of Tropical Rainbow into sections for fractal spinning.  .  Although the colors are not what I would ordinarily choose, they are actually quite pretty -  the photos don't do justice to it.  When I unbraided it, I found that the colors are sequential - blue, green, yellow, orange, pink, purple - repeated 6.5 times.  I think this will make a lovely fractal yarn.

 Although I'm still a rank beginner at spinning, I like to try to be precise, so I did my best to make the first division as equal as possible.  Not nearly as easy as it sounds.  The piece weighed 3.85 ounces, and when I split it I wound up with once piece at 1.55 oz, and the other at 2.3. Split the 2.3 oz piece into four and got three .6 ounce pieces and one .5 ouncer.  Debated about putting the smallest piece with the largest for the "big" half, but I doubt that I could have managed to keep the colors aligned.  Then decided perhaps I would simply save that bit for later.  The chances of me spinning two singles of relatively equal length even if the division was precisely even is nil, so I thought I would just set the smallest bit aside for a later date.

Then on to the must dos:

Pick up Tallulah's Fourth of July cards at Walmart.  (Yes, my dog sends greeting cards to special friends on all major holidays).   Check!

Pick up a case of Tallulah's food at the vet.  (Tallulah has some food intolerances and requires a special diet.)  Check!

Address and mail Tallulah's cards.  Check!

I think I'm beginning to see a theme here...

Pick up prescriptions at the pharmacy.  Check!

Toss a load of laundry in the washer.  Check!  But darn,  I forgot about it and it's been sitting in the washer all day.  Excuse me while I go finish the laundry...

The incentive to begin spinning makes me get my chores done in record time.  By 10:30 I'm raring to go!

As it turned out, when I began to pre-draft one of the .6 oz. pieces, I quickly realized that I was dealing with a staple length that I haven't encountered before.  So the extra bit turned out to be a good thing.  I took the opportunity to spin that bit first, and had a chance to get acquainted with this fiber. I spent quite a bit of time spinning a little, stopping to check the twist, and fiddling with the tension and speed of the MS until it felt right.  I still have a feeling I may be underspinning a little but whenever I check it looks ok so we'll see.

I'm adding the three .6 oz pieces to this -- since I'll be plying directly from the bobbin, the small bit will be at the end of what I'm plying and I probably won't even get to it before I run out of the big piece.   It's really lovely to spin -- except for a couple of tiny slightly felted spots, it drafts more easily than anything I've spun yet.  And it feels so soft running through my fingers. 

Here are the five pieces -- in the midst of pre-drafting so they look like all random sizes.

 One of my group challenges is to do something extra to improve my fitness every day - and document it with a photo.  Rather than posting pictures of myself doing activities, I decided that my fitness challenge will be to take a walk to a different spot each day with Bunny Watson (my Hansen MiniSpinner) in tow and do some spinning there.  Then I would document it with a photo of Bunny on location.  This morning was already turning into a scorcher, and my little dog needed a training workout and a chance to play.  So I decided to take advantage of the shady part of my yard and work on Tallulah's leash etiquette. Then we chased each other around the yard a little bit.

Finally I sat on the back porch and started my spinning while Tallulah chased the birds and patrolled the perimeter of the yard.  A very pleasant morning until the heat drove us both indoors.  Since my porch is still loaded with plastic tubs full of fleece and assorted stuff, I cheated a little and took a photo of Bunny near the fountain.  The sky really was that blue today!

You can't really see the yarn already on the bobbin, but at this point I had spun about a quarter of an ounce.


This Tropical Rainbow is a bit of lovely soft Corriedale top.  I read up on this breed in The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook, which I highly recommend.    The cool thing about this book is that you get the history of the breed, and there are tons of photos of the different fibers raw, washed, spun in different styles, and even swatched. Today I was excited to realize that I'm actually beginning to tell a difference between the several types fiber I've been spinning. Maybe I'm going to get the hang of this!
 The afternoon just flew by.  I  alternated spinning with a bit of reading, catching up with email, a quick nap, and a dinner break, plus some quality time with Tallulah.  I only stopped spinning for the day when I noticed a little ache in my wrist.  Don't want to risk an injury this early in the competition!

So here's what I finished today.  This is about 1.4 ounces, quite a bit more than I expected to finish today.   Gotta get some rest so I can put another big dent in this project tomorrow.

Friday, June 22, 2012

I Join the Tour De Fleece

After publishing my little rant about the competition that shall not be named, I feel I need to talk about this upcoming event before they are forced to change their name.  I speak, of course, of the Tour de Fleece...  not to be confused with the Tour de France.

For those who need clarity, the "France"  involves a bunch of guys on bicycles riding around the French countryside.  The "Fleece" does not.  The Fleece (hereinafter called "TdF" does not sell sponsorships, tickets, souvenirs, and as a matter of fact, is not even an organization.  It is simply a bunch of regular human-type people from all over the world who have decided to have a little fun with their fiber arts while these guys ride all over France.

So there are a number of people who have invited others to join them in challenging themselves to do more, or try new skills.  I joined several groups for which a single project will fit the bill.  The most specific challenge I have is to try fractal spinning.  This is entirely new to me. When I first saw the challenge, I saw "fractal" and my brain immediately said, "STOP!  That's math and you've given yourself permission to forget everything you learned after Junior High." (Well, except, my favorite theorem in geometry : corresponding parts of congruent triangles are congruent.  Long, pathetic story about why I remember that particular theorem that does not reflect well on a certain sadistic geometry teacher.) 

Then I decided to be brave and find out what it was about.  The concept appeared in a Spin Off article by Janel Laidman.  Pulled out my book of Spin Off CDs, popped the right one in the computer, and had a look.  From what I understand,  you take a space-dyed roving, split it in half lengthwise, and spin one piece as is.  You then break the other half into two or more pieces lengthwise, and spin those in sequence.  When you ply them together, you get really interesting striping effects.  So I'm game.

Having just finished adding all of my various unspun fibers to my stash page on Ravelry (patting myself on the back right now!), I took a quick look and saw that I did not have a single bump of horizontally striped fiber.   How did this happen?  Well, I'm not a quitter so I was forced to order something appropriate.  So on Sunday, I ordered this:

I've had a little heart on this one on for a long time.  I just love the colors.  But what if the stripes weren't distinctive enough?  What then?

So I was forced to choose a back-up fiber.  And I ordered this:

Oh, but what if it didn't come in time?  The TdF is beginning in just a few days!  I'd better be extra-sure I have something on hand before the event starts.  So I ordered this:

But then I started thinking that this event is about challenging yourself to go outside your comfort zone.  All three fibers are in colors that I naturally gravitated to.   Even though that red, blue, and purple one is a bit on the wild side. I should be trying something different!  So on Monday I ordered this:

This one is definitely outside my comfort zone.  It even includes (gasp!) some orange tones -- a color that I abhor and wish could somehow be excluded from the rainbow.  My personal opinion:  oranges belong on trees, not humans.  But I digress.  Even though these are not "my" colors, I do think the colorway is attractive in its own way and will be fun to spin.

Then I really got to thinking...  Bad Costly idea.    I'm currently spinning some yummy "Potluck Roving" by Ferndale Fibers in the "Stormy Sea" colorway.

Isn't this pretty?  It reminds me of  malachite with the black veins that show up every so often.

I'm training for the TdF by spinning at lunchtime every day.  I have one bobbin full, have a good dent made in the second bobbin, and hope to have the third started in a few days. But I won't have all three done and therefore won't be able to ply off the bobbins before the TdF begins.   Uh-oh!  I DON'T HAVE ENOUGH BOBBINS!  So I was forced to order two more bobbins from HansenCrafts. (And kudos to them for their great customer service!)

 One of the groups I joined is "Stashbusters."  Does it count if I only spin stuff I added to my stash after I signed up?

 I have to say, fiber people are very punctual.  All of my Sunday night orders were filled and I received shipping info by noon on Monday.  Those items have already arrived. There was a bit of a delay on the Monday order because the seller offered me a couple of choices, but that, too, is on its way.  So now I am nearly ready for the TdF to begin!

One last thing I need to do.  A couple of months ago, I "discovered"  the SpinDoctor podcast by Sasha Torres. She talks about all kinds of events and products, and I like that she is possibly just as obsessive about collecting fibers and tools as I am.  Until recently, I've been rationing the podcasts by listening only when I'm driving somewhere by myself. But this week I began listening during my lunchtime spinning.  Now I have only a few episodes left.  Either Sasha needs to start recording a lot more, or I'm going to have to go shopping for another spinning podcast.

Dear Congressperson

Dear Congressperson,

This week the U.S. Olympic Committee took on the wrong people when they sent Ravelry a nasty cease and desist letter.

It seems they think the "Ravelympics" is a threat to their trademark.  Hunh?  Like anyone seeing this name is going to be misled into thinking it has any association whatsoever with the Olympic Games?

While I don't agree with the amount of rage many in the fiber community have been displaying, I would like to ask you one question.  How the he** can Congress grant ownership of a single word to someone?  If that's ok, I would like you to grant me ownership of "the."  Then I'm going to bully the heck out of everyone who uses my word.  Or even includes it in part of another word.  By default, I will own "theater" and "monothestic."  Actors and religious studies scholars, look out!  And I will also own neat words like "sympathy" because they sound kinda like my word.  Talk about a Hallmark moment!  Those Hallmark people are going to have to give up a whole line of greeting cards or pay me big time for the privilege of using a word that sounds like mine.  (Sorry Hallmark -- I like you,  I really do. You have the best greeting cards and I buy them all the time. But trademarks is trademarks.)

Silly?  Yes.  So is giving one entity exclusive rights to a single word.  I can see granting exclusive rights to "Olympic Games."  or "Games of the XXXX Olympiad."  But seriously?  If  I'm reading my history right, the fine community of Olympia, Washington was chartered in 1859.  And a whole bunch of businesses since that time have named themselves after the town.  Isn't that prior art?  Doesn't that give them a prior right to the name?  Apparently the USOC doesn't believe so, because they have consistently bullied businesses in that area to change their names.

What about all the American citizens  of Greek origin?  Shouldn't they have the right to name their businesses after the home of their ancestral gods?  I don't think I would walk into the Olympic Drycleaners ever imagining that it has anything to do with THE Olympic Games.

And, dear congressperson, may I point out that you agreed to give ownership of this word to a group supporting amateur athletics?  Seems that the amateur part isn't so important any more.

Then there's the parody defense.  As distasteful as their events sound,  I'm pretty sure the Redneck Olympics are a parody of the real Olympic Games.  I'm not likely to attend those, but if I did, I would not for a second confuse the toilet seat toss with the shot put.   But after a run-in with the USOC, it's now the "Redneck Games."  

Maybe it's time to reconsider giving away ownership of words.  Phrases, ok.  Words, no.  Or maybe allow people to use "Olympic" or a variation thereof as long as it is accompanied by the phrase "not associated with the Olympic Games or the USOC."

Oh, and one last thing.  While I admire and respect most athletes for their dedication and accomplishments, they are not heroes.  The real heroes in this world are the policemen and firefighters who daily risk their lives to save mine.  And the soldiers who have sacrificed themselves to defend freedom.  And maybe the Ravelers who make caps for cancer patients, or afghans for sick or orphaned children.  Or beautiful prayer shawls for people in need of comfort.  Self-sacrifice to achieve a personal goal is (usually) an admirable thing.  Self-sacrifice to bring aid and comfort to others is heroic.  Let's stop confusing the two.

Thank you, dear congressperson, for reading my letter.  If you have actually read this far, I want to tell you how super you are.  Uh oh -- are the NFL people going to come after me for using their exclusive word?

Friday, June 15, 2012

A New (to me) Drum Carder!

More to talk about than seemed right for a single post, so here goes post number two of the day.

In other news, I found another piece of equipment I've been lusting after and it's now in my studio.  I've been studying up on drum carders for several months, and after trying out a friend's machine recently, had made up my mind that I would really like to have one for all the fiber I have dreams of processing.  After studying up on all the different carders available, I had decided on either a Pat Green, Strauch Finest, or a Fancy Kitty carder. All seem like good quality, well-built machines.  And users of all three are very happy with their products.   I finally determined that a Fancy Kitty "Big Tom" motorized carder was the one for me.  The biggest selling feature is that the drums are interchangeable.  So I could start with the standard 120TPI carding cloth and eventually purchase other drums with finer or coarser cloth depending on my needs.  Still expensive because the carding cloth is the costliest part of the machine, but still better space-wise and pocket-book-wise than buying multiple machines. 

I also lurked in the Fancy Kitty forum on Ravelry and was impressed with the customer service.  It seems as though every time someone mentions that they have a problem, Ron is there immediately to answer questions and even asking them to call so he can walk them through the steps.   And there are frequent follow-up posts saying that Ron spent considerable time on the phone and helped them solve their problems. 

So I had made up my mind what I wanted and decided to set aside a chunk of my paycheck every month until I had saved up enough to order directly from Ron.  In another moment of serendipity, a lovely lady from Missouri named Erin posted on Ravelry that she wanted to sell her Big Tom with not one, but two drums (90 TPI and 120 TPI) at a hugely reasonable price.  At the same time I had a windfall - not enough to buy the new drum carder, but enough to buy Erin's gently used one.

Isn't This the Coolest Thing?
 We talked on the phone several times and agreed on the price and shipping details.  A couple of clicks on Paypal, and the drum carder was packed up and on a UPS truck before I even caught my breath.  I emailed Ron at Fancy Kitty to ask if there were instructions on the carder.  He charged a very small price for the copies and I had them in the mail in two days.  That's good customer service.

I had decided that since it was such a big ticket item, and since Erin would want the delivery signed for, I should have it shipped to my office.  First mistake.  Wednesday morning bright and early, I got my text message from UPS saying that my package had been delivered.  Huh?  Not to my office.   Some searching on the UPS site and a live chat later, I learned that the truck driver opted to deliver to Central Receiving rather than to the building and room specified on the label.  So Central Receiving accepted it.  And put it on their truck for delivery to me that afternoon.  And of course my department was their last stop.  Just before close of business.  So much for my plan to unpack, assemble, and make sure it worked properly before taking it home.

Rushed home and before going to my Wednesday night class, I had just enough time to assemble it and briefly try it out. I did have a few tense moments at first. The big drum motor worked right off the bat but the licker in didn’t. Fiddled with things and found one plug that wasn’t all the way in. So got both motors working and put both drums in according to instructions I got from the Kitty people. Turned it on and nothing happened! Somehow I had managed to turn both of the speed dials all the way down.  Phew!

I tried it out on the Dorset wool I’ve been preparing and it was a disaster! I think the carder was working fine but the fiber needed more prep (or may need to be a felting project).  This photo shows the batt that refused to come together.  Lumpy and slubby and yuck.

 I thought the Dorset was not a fair test of the drum carder and certainly not a fiber for learning to fine-tune the drum placement, so I decided to try out some of my alpaca.  Since I had already successfully made several batts on a friend's drum carder, I knew what to expect.

First I took a few minutes to pick the fiber because there were loads of intact locks.   Used my Kaydessa picker, and it quickly turned the clumps into fluffy clouds of softness.

Don't think I've shown what it looks like.  It's an interesting and fairly innocuous looking box.

Then you open it up and it's a lethal weapon!

Here it is in action:

So I ran the picked alpaca through the carder, and still had problems getting smoothly from the licker-in to the big drum.  I certainly need to do some studying and adjusting before I get this right, but once I do, look out!  Major art batts coming soon.

Here's the first pass being taken off the drum.  Left behind quite a bit in the carding cloth and need to work on that skill as well.

And here's the finished batt - after two passes through the carder.  Not quite a smooth as the ones made on my friend's machine but pretty good for a first try.  But you can clearly see that there are tiny (and some not-so-tiny) bits of VM throughout the fiber, despite vigorous cleaning and picking.  Guess I really do need that fiber tumbler.  Hmm...  wonder what my beloved woodworking nephew is doing this weekend?

Reflections and a Tabletop Spindle Wheel (Maybe)

The last couple of days have been spent reflecting on life and adjusting my attitude.

Started with the news that a colleague at work who I've known for thirty years has stomach and lung cancer.  What a way to be forced to have some perspective.  Here I've been whining about a cold and sinus issues that have inconvenienced me for a couple of weeks and this person is facing a battle for his life.   So time to convert that energy from whining about my small woes to praying for healing for a good friend.

My second philosophical jolt came yesterday.  I had heard from a friend of a friend about a moving sale in Long Beach that included a loom, spinning wheels, books, and weaving supplies, along with quite a few other special items.  One of the items listed as a spinning wheel caught my eye, so I dropped by on my way to work yesterday morning.

Let me preface this by saying that I love all kinds of tools, especially used tools.   I like to think about the people who had the tool before me and imagine what they did with it - or dreamed of doing with it.  To me, that tool is not just a thing -- it's a dream waiting to be realized.  And I like to think that I honor the previous owners by caring for things that they probably worked hard to afford and treasured.

So I saw this "wheel" not just as a neat conversation piece (although it is), but a treasure to be rescued.  I arrived at the sale, and people were lined up to get in.   When it was my turn, I walked through the house, learning a little about the person who lived here.  She was a collector of things - mustache cups, fine china, music, hand-painted tiles. And textiles.  Lots of handwoven linen, and antique coverlets.   And she had a family.  There was a much-used crib in one room.  I don't know her age or what she looks like, but I like her just for her taste in collecting.

When I got to the room with her beautiful dobby loom and spinning equipment, there it was - the "tabletop spinning wheel."  Certainly vintage, but at this point I'm not sure it's actually a spinning wheel.  But it's beautiful and I know it has to come home with me.  So I pick it up and make my way to the check-out table.  I make a wrong turn and ended up in the room where this lady's clothing and other personal things were being sold.  There are two women rooting through her clothes, gleefully trying things on, and discarding them in piles.   There are also a couple of people combing through a table full of her little tchotchkes and making unkind remarks about them.  Scavengers!  My mind immediately starts replaying the scene in "A Christmas Carol" (the Mr. Magoo version - that should tell you something about my personality) where the plunderers are taking all of Scrooge's things and sing "We're Despicable."   I like to think that I'm not one of the plunderers, but maybe I'm just fooling myself.

Anyway, here is the "wheel" that came home with me yesterday.

With the help of some websurfing and q&a's with people in the Ravelry antique wheel forum, I came to the conclusion that this is either a tabletop spindle wheel or a pirn/bobbin winder.  There are actually two of the squirrel cages like the one pictured close-up in the bottom two photos.  The way it is secured to the spindle with a cotter pin just isn't in keeping with the elegant turnings on the wood or the rest of the hardware.  Plus the spindle is much smaller than the holes in the cages.  It looks like some cork has been inserted in one of the holes to make it fit the spindle.

If you look at the top two pictures, there are a pair of wooden slats with a single hole on each.  These holes are exactly the same size as the holes in the cages.  I suspect that at one time, the cages were attached to the slats with now-missing hardware.  The slats can extend from 13" to 19" hole-to-hole, which would make for a nice horizontal squirrel-cage setup.  Then a bobbin or pirn could be slid onto the spindle and voila!  It was also suggested that the spindle was originally sharpened for spinning, and someone filed off the end to avoid the Sleeping Beauty effect.  Whatever, I think this is a lovely tool and I will be looking for "appropriate" hardware to relocate the squirrel cages.

Monday, June 11, 2012

More sulking, fermented fleece, one finished object!

In our last episode, our intrepid heroine was recovering from a bad cold.   Not!

Cold turned into sinus infection and bronchitis.  Toughed it out at work for three days, succumbed and stayed home on Friday.  Started antibiotics and hoped that I would feel better by Saturday, but NO!  I had to miss my spinning guild's field trip to an alpaca farm and fiber processing mill.  Major disgruntlement.

Between naps, I finished the apricot colored scarf on the rigid heddle loom.  Not knowing for sure the fiber content, I cautiously wet-finished it Saturday night.  It looked like the fibers were blooming and I was going to lose the lacy effect of the loose weave I had done, but the bloom pretty much disappeared as the scarf dried.

I was slightly disappointed, though, with the finished product.  The fibers I had used were pretty soft and I thought the scarf would drape nicely.  After drying, the scarf was very, very stiff.  I'm not sure what caused this -- I rinsed it thoroughly, and the weave structure is fairly loose so...    Will revisit this some other time.  Also debating about the length of the fringe.

I finally tackled the Dorset fleece I had soaking in tubs in the back yard.   But so far it has not turned out well.

Two weekends ago, I put one of my purchased fleeces in two tubs of water, intending to give them an overnight soak.   The next day, the water in both tubs was absolutely filthy, so I drained and refilled the tubs, figuring that another soaking would help reduce the amount of yuck that ended up in my sink.   Then I figured another day or two of soaking wouldn't hurt a thing and planned on processing the fleece over the next weekend.  Then I came down with the plague and didn't care much one way or another about the fleece.

When I finally started feeling human again yesterday, I decided to see about finishing the cleaning process.  Here's what I saw when I opened the first tub.

And a close-up:

Looks like there is a layer of scum floating on top of the water here -- but it's actually a huge blob of slimy goo suspended in the water.  Have you ever had a bottle of vinegar that wasn't completely pasteurized develop a "mother?"  It reminded me very much of one of these:

Yuck.  I couldn't get it out of the water.  In hindsight, I should have been patient and used a strainer on it, but I'm not sure even that would have worked.  So when I gave up and lifted the fiber out of the water, the yuck seemed to follow the fiber and clung all over it. 

Other aspect of this was the odor.  Strike that word.  The STINK!  Now I have had a very poor sense of smell since childhood.  Added to that, with my clogged sinuses, I wasn't smelling very much of anything.  But the stink that emanated from this brew was incredible.  So much ammonia that it was like walking into a 1960's beauty parlor times 10.  I'm surprised the neighbors didn't call the authorities on me.  Picture a few dozen hazmat-clad, gun-wielding g-men descending on my back yard.

I've been reading up on different methods of cleaning fleece, and it sounds like I stumbled onto the "fermented suint" method.  Basically, you put a very greasy fleece in a tub of rain water (theoretically more free from mineral content than most other water sources) and let it sit for days until it ferments.  The chemical reactions between the water and the suint (sheep sweat) combine to loosen the lanolin (sheep oil) from the fleece, which becomes some kind of soapy concoction that you then use to soak future fleeces for a day or two.  Theoretically it is a "greener" process because it requires far less water to clean a fleece.

Perhaps if I had not used garden tap water, I might have accidentally had a better result.  But here in my part of  SoCal, we very seldom have enough rain water to do more than water the lawn a bit, so I've never looked into collecting rain water.  And now that I know how bad a fermenting fleece smells, I don't think this cleaning method will motivate me.

So I set the fleece on a big screen to dry in the sun.  Not pretty.  The yuck from the water dried to a rusty pink film that I could not separate from the fleece.  And the smell is pretty bad.  So bad, the hundreds of birds that live in my back yard haven't gone anywhere near it.  Come to think of it, I haven't even seen a bird since I opened up the tubs.

Figured that this fleece is probably a total loss, so might as well experiment on it.   I put some into a couple of lingerie bags, and soaked in hot water -- one with Unicorn Power Scour and one with Dawn.  Neither one dissolved the pink yuck, but I think the Unicorn may have pulled a bit more dirt out of the fleece. 

Let the two bags dry overnight.  The good news is that once dry, the smell seemed to disappear.

You can see that the fleece is now a lot whiter, but it's covered by these little pinkish specks.  Still not pretty.  So I put some of it through my Kaydessa Lil' Dynamo wool picker.  It took several passes and a time out to let some fibers that were still a bit damp dry thoroughly, but the pink stuff is flaking off.  In fact, here's what the bottom of the picker looks like after putting just an ounce of fiber through two times.

The inside of the picker was immaculate before I started picking.  All those specks that look like sawdust are actually flakes of the yuck that came off the wool. 

And after two passes through the picker, the wool looks like this:

Still some pink stuff in there but much cleaner and whiter.   I tried washing some of the picked fiber again yesterday to see if it would come any cleaner.  Just waiting for it to dry thoroughly before making any decisions about proceeding.  

They say that Dorset fleece can take some abuse without felting.  Guess I'm going to find out just how much it can take.  I doesn't seem to be that difficult to pick.  We'll see how it cards and then spins.  If it's ok, I may just experiment with some dyes to cover up whatever stains are left behind.  Or maybe the whole lot will just go to the giant compost heap in the sky. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Major Sulking, and a Little Progress

I'm coming out of a major sulk.  After a seriously fun day Friday receiving and assembling the little Mountain Loom, everything went to pot.   I went to the Friday night dance feeling great and ready to kick up my heels.  Danced one set and sat down to relax.  Within a few minutes I had a sore throat, headache, and no energy.  Finally excused myself and went home hoping it was allergies and not a cold.

Got up Saturday morning feeling even worse, but still held out hope that if I "rested" and took antihistamines, I'd shape up right away.  Finally gave in and canceled plans to attend my guild meeting and a dinner date George and I had with friends.  And pretty much slept the day away.  Poor Tallulah tried to be patient but by evening she needed to play -- and I just didn't have the oomph to amuse her.

Sunday morning woke up feeling even worse, and decided to take Tallulah to Yorkie Camp for an overnight visit.  Best thing I could have done for both of us.  She got to play with her little pals, and I got to sleep most of the day.

So three days, a quart of soup, and 8 popsicles later, I'm beginning to feel human again.  But still sulking about losing the whole weekend.  I really resent that I can't just keep going the way I used to.  Why is it that you don't really value your time until you start to realize that it's a limited commodity?

It wasn't a total loss.  During my conscious moments I did some knitting on the Moonlight Mohair stole/shawl.  In fact, I actually finished it this afternoon.  While knitting the last two feet, I kept wrapping it around my shoulders, waiting for it to drape the way I had in mind.  Finally realized this afternoon that it's not going to drape.  Sigh.  It has just a little too much substance.  So I finished it off at 92" in length.  Even though it's not what I imagined, I'm still pretty happy with it.

 I'm especially happy that it doesn't have the greenish haze I was beginning to see.  Now I just need an occasion to wear it.

The brooch at the shoulder is a hammered copper piece made by one of my Wednesday evening classmates, Brenda.  She has a business called "Designs By Brenda" and specializes in Celtic inspired jewelry.  I bought this Celtic dog brooch from her a few months ago.  I just love the intricate knots in this piece.

 So I'm ready to stop sulking, retrieve my dog from camp, get back to the office, and get some weaving done.  Need to order some yarn for my Krokbragd/Rosepath project warp.  In the meantime, I'm going to work on the apricot-colored scarf on the rigid heddle loom.  Here's a preview.

All of the materials came from a  Newton's Yarn Country sale.  I'm using a smooth warp thread  - the only label on the cone is "#3445 Peach."  The warp is a corkscrew yarn with irregular (both in size and location) slubs.  No info on the skein wrappers whatsoever.

 I love how the slubs make the woven fabric irregular and more 3-dimensional.  Although most of the time I would be having fits if the weave was not even, it's kinda fun to do this intentionally!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Meet the Mountain Loom!

Last time I wrote, I hinted about this -- telling of my regret about having sold my 18" Mountain Loom years ago.  I didn't want to put anything in writing until it was a done deal, but I'm now the proud owner of a 12" Mountain Loom!

I've been wanting to do a study of Krokbragd ever since the Collingwood workshop.  Been collecting resources and reading up on the topic -- and now think I will add Rosepath to the mix as well.  But I didn't want to do this on my Baby Wolf -- as much as I love that loom.  I don't want to keep hauling it out of the studio, and would like to be able to do this study in the living room... or the den... or wherever.  So-- guess who decided she NEEDED a portable loom?  And not just any portable loom, but a 12" (as much as I enjoyed using the 18", I have to admit it was NOT portable) Mountain Loom.

And having made that decision, my OCD led me straight to Ravelry, where I had seen someone listing just such a one for sale -- and with a stand.  I contacted the seller, who turned out to be a charming lady named Regina.  After several ups and downs (no fault of either one of us), including a despicable UPS authorized store that tried to gouge Regina outrageously on the shipping price he had previously quoted to her, the loom was at last on its way to me.

The timing actually couldn't have been better.  I happened to have scheduled a vacation day  for today a couple of months ago, so I was actually able to be home to sign for the box.  And what a box!  It was enormous -- because Regina had packed everything in so much bubble wrap and used enough packing peanuts that I think the loom could have survived any disaster thrown at it without so much as a scratch.  It took me nearly an hour just to unwrap everything. This is not a complaint -- I'm very grateful for the care she took with everything.

The loom and stand by themselves were in about 20 pieces (not including the eight harnesses).  After an initial moment of panic and frantic email to Regina, I took a deep breath and started sorting and assembling.  It turned out that she had actually marked all of the pieces very logically.  So I got the loom together without mishap, and had a good start on the stand before I had to look to Regina for answers.  To my delight, she had responded immediately and sent photos that made the stand assembly quite clear.  A few more emails back and forth with questions about fine details, and everything came together. 

So here's the newest addition.  Isn't it beautiful?

The stand is really cool.  This was custom-made by the lady who owned the loom before Rebecca.  I think it's going to be very functional.  And - yet another in a long line of recent coincidences - the boxes she used were made right here in Ontario, California.  I may do something about permanently attaching wheels to the stand, but that's a decision for another day.

The loom came with 5, 10, 12, and 15 dent reeds.  And Rebecca surprised me by sending along a raddle, lease sticks, extra texsolv heddles, bungee cords, and a tray very much like a Schacht Wolf Trap - wood frame with canvas "tray" - made just for this loom by a friend of hers.  And if that wasn't enough, she included two skeins of yarn spun from her very own alpacas' fiber.  I couldn't get a photo that does it justice -- it's a very rich dark brown color.  And so soft.  Next knitting project may be something cozy to wear right next to my skin. 

I checked out Rebecca's website, Howling Wolf Herbs, while all this was going on.  She is a master herbalist among her other skills, and sells a range of teas and personal care products, in addition to roving and yarns from her own animals.  Her herbal teas all sound really tasty and I'm not even a tea drinker!

Well, anyway, I'm thrilled to have this loom.  Now I think I have all the equipment I need.  Except maybe that fiber tumbler that Gail and I have been talking about building. And a motorized drum carder.  Or the portable outdoor sink for washing fleece and other goodies I don't want in the kitchen sink.  And maybe a few stainless steel pots for dyeing.  Or even better, a steam table!  Yeah, a steam table would be the perfect add-on to the studio.  Quick!  Somebody hide my checkbook and credit cards, and change my Paypal password.