July 7th, 2011
Next up, May’s pound of fiber (I may get caught up, yet!). This one meets my HY/SE/SCF team goal. That’s Spinning Colors “Dune” merino, Hello Yarn Yarn School 2011 “Gentle” rambouillet, Hello Yarn Yarn School 2006 “Grunge” merino, and Woolie Bullies merino. My plan is to strip them, alternate strips, and ply the results.
As soon as I finish 2 things on my To Do list for the day, I’ll take a little break and dive in!
July 6th, 2011
I was going to move the pasture for the sheep today, but it’s raining (finally, thankfully) and there’s still plenty to eat out there, so it’ll wait. But they’re not going along with my plan, which is for them to stand outside in the rain all day to wash off all the dust, so that when it clears up and they dry off on Friday, I can jacket them all. I’ve let them go longer than I normally would, but when they’re just eating grass, their fleeces get dirty, but not full of VM. Dirt washes out; VM does not.
I was even toying with waiting until fall to jacket them. That’s what a lot of farms do, and it does cut down on how many times you have to change their jackets as their fleece expands. But I worry about weathering. On the black sheep, you also get “highlights” on the outer tips, which does lighten the the overall color of the fiber once it’s blended–but not to ill effect. All shades of chocolate brown are pretty, as far as I’m concerned. But I think party time’s over at Cupcake Ranch. I’m going to mend all the jackets and give them a UV blocker bath and clothe everyone after they dry from this stretch of rain, but hopefully before the land dries and the dust rises up again.
Their feeder, though handsome and convenient, is also perfect for working hay into their fleeces and ruining the neck fiber, some of the softest and most yummy.
Hear they are in winter. The problem with this feeder is that they hay above falls into their coats and works its way in (the jackets protect their blankets, but their marvelous neck fleece gets trashed to mulch status). The bigger problem is that I, being both a dunce and a know-it-all, decided those little holes for the hay were too small and clipped out a few grids. Never mind that the nice people making the bunks have a lot more experience than me and clearly know the right size of grid to use; certainly, I must know better. (I blame my inflated sense of my own wisdom on my only-childhood. With no one to compare me to, my parents were always impressed at my abilities and gave me undue credit for everything. As an adult, I get near-constant proof that I’m WAY less smart than I think I am. Yet years of positive–albeit unwarranted–reinforcement about the size of my brain still bolsters my foolish confidence and prompts me to “fix” things to disastrous effect.) With bigger holes, the sheep burrow their heads deep into the hay and really grind the VM into their neck fiber.
I can console myself that even without my “improvements,” the design inherently causes this problem–all the smart fiber people feed low, so I bought my feeder knowing it wasn’t ideal, but liking the clean, simple design. Happily, my shearer suggested an easy improvement, which I’ll make before switching them to hay this winter: paneling the top 3/4 of each side with plywood, so they’ll be shielded from the hay above and only able to pull hay from the lower squares. May reduce waste, too.
Speaking of hay, I’m going to have to buy hay this winter. My pasture has gotten ratty and tree-filled enough that it’s not worth Jay’s trouble to hay, especially since he’s got another 100 acres of his own this year. My plan is to prune out and kill off all the stupid mulberry saplings that have proliferated, then to spray for weeds (I’m loathe to spray, but I can’t see any way around it–I can’t weed 6 acres by hand) and maybe fertilize–both of which will be expensive, but hopefully no more expensive than buying the hay; and it should really increase my yield–in theory, at least.
Ideally, I’d use composted sheep manure instead of commercial fertilizer, but I don’t have a way to spread it on that much acreage. Can you spread compost with one of those pull-behind spreaders? I’d assume they’re just set up for grass or granular fertilizer…
Yikes, I’m lulling myself to sleep. Enough of that!
Thanks to Tour de Fleece, I cranked out my delinquent April Pound of Spinning in record time:
Today, Day 5. Lacking an ounce to get the full April pound, I had to filch an unrelated braid of roving someone ditched in the Yarn School fiber buffet. Doesn’t go with the rest, but whatevs.
Day 4 (abandoned batts):
Day 3 (orphaned rolags):
Day 2 (dregs batts composed mainly of carder farts):
(That’s Roger Sterlingpants, the Mad Men chickenpants.)
Day 1 (dregs batts):
Most of it came from:
Now I get to pick out what to start spinning next! Since I want to do something for each of my TDF teams, next will be Hello Yarn, probably. I also need Wicked Stitch yarn and Firefly yarn.
July 4th, 2011
In honor of both the 4th of July and Yankee thrift, this morning I replaced the header on our flag and used up a whole spool of thread reinforcing all the crummy seams with sturdy zigzags. Hopefully this will give it another season or two!
The breeze is being peevish and staying away for now, so I couldn’t get a nice billowy flag picture, alas, so here’s one from a couple years back.
Oh, and while I’m at it:
July 2nd, 2011
Oh, Tour de Fleece! I almost forgot about you! I’ve joined Team Yarn School Alumni, Team Browncoats & Team Wicked Stitch, the HY/SE/SCF Amalgamated Uberteam.
I don’t want to defeat myself, so I’m going to start with 3 basic goals and go from there.
1. Spin every day.
2. Spin up the rest of what was supposed to be my April uberlist pound of fiber, the Yarn School Spring 2011 fiber orphans (4 big dregs batts + assorted abandoned batts and rolags)
3. Spin up something directly related to each of my 4 teams. I can kill Yarn School and Hello Yarn with one rock, and I have some great Whirled roving from ages ago; but I’ll have to get my thinking cap on for my Browncoats selection. Maybe dusty Western colors that I spin whilst watching Firefly for the thousandth time?
So here’s my first dedicated batch in queue:
I’m not sure yet how to combine my Hello Yarn Yarn School stash. There’s a big mix of colors and fibers, and I’m a sweater spinner, so I may be introducing outside fiber for my mixemups. On the other hand, I might just be ballsy and play against instinct and group them by fiber and totally ignore the colors and see what emerges!
I can not WAIT for Ron to put in the ACs for the season. I’ve had about enough of sitting in a puddle of my own sweat all day. Hopefully, I won’t have more than a few days of TDF sticky, icky, sweaty, gross spinning before I’m in my beautiful, luxurious, hermetically-sealed, AC-filled bedroom or office. Sigh.
Knitting in the heat ain’t fun. But at least I finally got a good-looking Brioche. I have no idea how I’ve managed all this time to avoid Brioche, but when I was fucking around with all those maddening sortofbutnotreally YOs and k2tog and p2tog, no matter how I tried, I could not get it together. I tried lots of different instructions from lots of different sources and always ended up with something that looked right on the wrong side but very wrong on the right side, variations of this mess:
Finally, I checked YouTube instead and found the much-easier row-below method, which gives the same result as a slip/YO on one row and a work2tog on the next by simply working alternating stitches into the row below. FAST, easy, happy-making.
I was kind of astonished at how LOOSE a stitch it is. If I had guessed before knitting it, I’d’ve thought the above worsted sample was worked on 7s or 8s, but it was on 2s!
I’m feeling bitter that A) today was 97 instead of the promised 91 degrees and B) that the rain clouds passed coquettishly overhead without putting out. I WANT LOWER TEMPERATURES, SOME GORRAM RAIN, OR MY AC, DAMMIT! A weak box fan blowing hot air on your legs is a lot less refreshing than you might think.
Took advantage of the heat (figured if I’m going to be gross and sweaty, may as well add productive) to dye up a bunch of carder fiber, both for me and for the free fiber melange I include with drum carders:
Okay. Ice water. Then spin. Then shower. I’d rather shower first, but there’s no point before the sun goes down.
June 29th, 2011
Well, I’m a few days home from a marvelous vacation with my mom. I’ve recovered from the jet lag, almost adjusted to my seemingly invigorated allergies, and I’m slowly getting back into the swing of things. I’ve much to do.
Kristi and I used to take a mother-daughter vacation almost every year, but since moving out to the sticks, this is less practical than in days gone by. We definitely made up for lost vacation time, hooking up a balcony room on our cruise and visiting the spa twice, bitches! I even succumbed to the unaccustomed luxury of it all by buying some fancy cleanser. My normal skincare routine consists of a wet washcloth and store-brand Lubriderm, but I’ve recently been using some Magical Miracle Superfancy skin cream my mom sent me, in hopes that it will make me young and beautiful before I get to the bottom of the jar (which will hopefully last until my birthday, since I ain’t forking out the stack of cash for another jar, especially when I’m not in a massage-and-facial-induced state of suggestibility).
While I always feel a little sheepish about cruise travel (it’s about the least authentic way to see any place), I love it for the same reason I love a sampler platter: you get a little taste of everything and can decide what you want to come back for more of later on; and if you’re not crazy about any particular place, you haven’t invested much time or emotional energy in it. Gluttony without commitment. Now, in addition to my delusions about returning to Poland, I get to pretend I’ll go back to Venice, Croatia and Slovenia!
Maybe because this time, I didn’t encounter any yarn shops (on our Baltic cruise, I was positively overrun with woolly temptations), while on vacation, I actually read a lot more than I knit (thanks to my new Kindle, impulsively purchased before paying bills and quickly rationalized for its free 3G web/email connection, very handy in a foreign land with no international cell phone), though I did finish this little mystery number:
I also repeatedly tried and botched brioche stitch half a dozen times. I’m going to drink a beer, kick back, and try again tonight.
While I was gone, two of my new patterns went live!
First, the That Girl! Tank, the companion piece to last year’s That Girl! Summer Jacket in Craftzine.
Ravelry Page | Craftzine Pattern
And then Date Night, a quick-knitting lace top with short shell and long tunic versions.
Ravelry Page | Knitty Pattern
And I’m embarking on an exciting new round of patterns, as well! I am absolutely besotted with this new project. But more on that later.
May 21st, 2011
What a week! After a week of my awesome new craft-reward-enhanced To-Do listing, I have been awfully productive! Not only have I gotten a lot done, but I’ve made time for myself to do my personal crafty stuff. I’ve decided that any crafty rewards I earn each week expire on Sunday, so that kind of urges me to use them up.
I’ll start with the best: Pet Sally Cardigan knitted, steeked, and finished! Modeled by Little Freddy Pickles.
The Pet Sally Cardigan arose from a need to test out superwash steeking. I figured as long as I was going to make and steek a swatch, I may as well make it into something useful, something that would actually test the integrity of the steek. I’m going to post the mods for a pet sweater on my craftzine post next week, if you want to make your small dog or cat a matching Sally sweater.
It only takes 2 balls of yarn (I used Valley Yarns Valley Superwash to test the steek), but due to my poor planning, I didn’t have enough red for the button placket. If you make one repeat shorter and take a couple rows off the ribbing at collar, hem, and cuffs, I think you’d have enough for the button placket as well. It uses a full ball of the MC and the better part of the ball of CC. Now, it just so happens I have enough left over from each Sally to make a cat sweater in the opposite colorway. I see some atrocious pet portraits in my future…
My own Sally Cardigan from the KAL, steeked (suddenly much less exciting, as human-sized):
March pound of fiber, finished:
Mystery project, finished and blocked:
And I updated SEVEN wordpress blogs with the current software, not because I’m a real go-getter, but because my host upgraded its version of PHP, so they had to be upgraded. I also solved the mystery issue with the years-neglected Out of the Frying pan database and did some cleaning.
Sadly, I didn’t get to have my work swap with Charlene this week. My friend Charlene and I decided to start a work trade around our places. She also lives in the country in a place that has a to-do list a mile long, so we decided to swap two full days and two half days each month to help each other with all our two-man projects. Last week we took out some old fence, staked some trees, planted some other trees and fenced them with electric to keep out her goats, and cut back a hulking forsythia. And on my day this week, it was not only storming all day (and most of my plans were outdoors), but I also wrenched my neck a few minutes after I woke up, and am still suffering from it today (it has improved, though). So we’ll catch up next week. I want to get rid of the army of saplings that has invaded my pasture, fix up the hay shed, and maybe, just maybe, get started on the deck!
We saved the wood from the old playground when we turned it into a barn. We had to raise the level of the deck a couple feet (so it was at least high enough for short people like me and Ron to clear) and put in a tin roof, but our plan was always to replace the boards and maybe add a frame over the top we could cover with Coolaroo fabric for a lovely, shaded picnic area/deck overlooking Cupcake Ranch. But our to-do list, of course, is endless, and there’s always something more pressing looming. But I think the summer of work swap just might yield me my deck!
I also picked my April pound of fiber to spin, fittingly all the Yarn School bits & bobs:
This isn’t quite a full pound, but between the extra carder barf and the sample batts I made for demos, I should be able to muster the requisite 16 ounces.
I’m spinning it fine then chain-plying. The one bat I spun was pretty rough stuff–I don’t know what was in it, but I wouldn’t call it next-to-skin. My original plan was for a sweater (I almost always wear shirts under sweaters, anyway, because I’m a delicate flower), but I’m not sure yet. The yarn might be too busy. I’m going to wait until it’s all done for it to tell me what it is. I could always use it as an excuse to pull out the neglected Knitter’s Loom and make a throw in a couple panels…. We’ll see what it wants to be once it’s spun.
And last but not least, I’m working on a new pattern. I really want to focus on handspun, thanks to my growing pile of sweater-sized batches of handspun from my pound-a-month challenge. I’ve had the good fortune to design several projects of Craftzine and Knitty lately, but I’m typically getting yarn support for those, so they’re not winnowing my stash. Meanwhile, it’s growing a lot from my amped-up handspun output. To combat the imbalance, I’ve decided to concentrate on handspun a bit more.
spun from last year’s Tour de Fleece output:
This was about 10 ounces of a pretty bold colorway I had leftover from one of the Cuckoobatts Club batts, plied with my Succulent combed top. The wool was just plain domestic wool, and the succulent has medium wool and merino plus plain and sparkly nylon, so it’s a net-sturdy socky kind of yarn. But since it’s a heathery solid that coordinates pretty closely with the hand-dyed colorway, it gives the knitted fabric much softer transitions that mitigate the sometimes kind of glaring crafty look you get with handspun from really bright colorways.
In Cupcake Ranch news, everyone’s enjoying the fresh grass. I let the sheep loose on Sunday when I moved the electronet. That always makes for a little crazy fun.
They’ll be back in their jackets soon, but I’m letting them enjoy a little nudism for the time being.
When the grass is really tender, they do a fantastic job “mowing” it. Here you can see a pretty straight line between the long grass and their last pasture, before I moved the fence.
Once it goes all stemmy, it’s not as tidy looking and I have to mow over it afterwards to get the fresh growth back in.
I had a little worry over Bridgette last week. I won’t go into all the boring details, but let’s just say it culminated in a late-night chicken bath and, ahem, a chicken blow-dry–I couldn’t leave her soaking wet and freezing!–and a night at the Hen Hilton (aka a box filled with shredded paper in the basement), followed by an afternoon of me intermittently guarding her so the other greedy chickens didn’t keep her from eating. Sounds a little over the top (and I admit, I felt the same way, sitting with a wet chicken in my lap and a blow dryer in my hand), but mainly it just meant I was knitting outside in the fresh air instead of inside (I had a couple design deadlines), so it was no skin off my nose. And by the next day, she was back to her piggy self.
As a side note, man, chickens can be brutal. They’re lovely and funny most of the time, but they can sniff out weakness and turn vicious. Okay, I’m a little hypersensitive because Bridgette’s my favorite–it’s not like they were attacking her (though they were back when she was convalescing after the Dog Attack); they were just keeping her away from the food with well-placed pecks. Normally, chickens either peck back or just walk over to a more friendly spot at the table, but when they’re feeling less-than, they tend to just cower and cringe–and not get anything to eat.
Inara, who is, best as I can tell, Head Girl. She’s been at the top of the pecking order since Patty, the then-leader, was carried off by a wandering dog. Most of the time, she’s a rather benevolent leader, but from time to time, she’ll go all Mean Girls on your ass. Faith is by far the most aggressive hen, but has never had top status. She’s more of an Enforcer. Back when she was just a few days old, she pecked two chicks’ eyes till they were swollen shut, so she was separated for two weeks. I don’t know whether her status never recovered or whether there’s some subtlety to chicken culture that requires a more refined leadership, but despite her scrappiness, she’s never been the top hen.
May 13th, 2011
One of my Überlist goals was to spin a pound a month. January and February, check. But I only got 4 ounce of March done in March. But this week, I instituted a rewards system for my To-Do list. I knock tedious tasks of my list, I get little prizes (spinning an ounce, carding a batt, making a skirt, playing Scrabble). This week, I earned 4 ounces of spinning, a couple games of scrabble, plying the rest of my March yarn, and writing this post. So far, I haven’t spun the 4 ounces I earned, but I did ply what I’d already spun.
This was my first go at combining two different colorways for a large project. Last year after Yarn School, Jen made Adrian go through her stash and group up all her colorways into projects. Inspired by that (but without Adrian’s instinctive color sense), I made a tentative stab and combining two coloways that weren’t totally matchy-matchy. I picked these, Funky Carolina Forsythia and Hello Yarn Habit, both BFL. I had 8 ounces of each, enough for a sweater.
Which became these singles:
And then this yarn:
I am very well pleased with the result, and I can’t wait to spin the rest!
I meant to hijack Adrian after this past yarn school and make her group up my stash, but maybe it’s best for me to have to do it myself. I know I won’t be as bold with my choices, but I should still get some good yarn out of it. Then I’ll just have to figure out when to knit it.
Hey, does anyone know of a good master spinning checklist like the knitting one? I’m making my own little list, but I don’t think I’m experienced enough to know what I should add. This isn’t exactly a master check list, because a lot of the items are unique to my life (stuff from my own animals or shop).
But for my part, I’d like to do these things. I think to call them done I should spin enough for a project, though it doesn’t need to be a sweater’s worth. A lot of these things I’ve given a cursory try at Yarn School, but not a serious, concentrated go. I’m going to add to this as I think of things. And of course, for a boost, I had to add a few things I have done.
Spinning To Do List
- Spinning worsted from hand-combed top
- Spinned woolen from rolags
- Carding and spinning a 5-level color progression blend
- Spinning and plying a 5-level plied progression
- Spinning and plying a 10-level plied progression
- Card, spin and knit a projec
- Spin and knit a whole sweater from batts
- Spin and knit a whole sweater from combed top
- Spinning pure angora from fluff
- Spinning alpaca from fluff
- Spinning wool from uncarded washed fleece
- Spinning a sweater’s worth of floor bats
- Spinning a whole project of mohair
- Spinning a whole project of pygora
- Spinning a whole project of llama
- Spinning a whole project of alpaca
- Spinning a whole project of wool
- Spinning a sweater’s worth of 3-ply
- Spin and knit handspun socks
- Hand processing and spinning an entire fleece from one of my animals
- Spin and knit a single project from everything in my Natural Color Sampler
- Video my carding techniques
- Spinning and knitting a cowl from each of my animals
- Of course, photographing them in said cowls
- Spinning and knitting a sampler garment from each year’s wool clip
- Spinning enough Optim for a shawl
- Spinning a 3 Feet of Sheep tube into one big chain-plied skein
- Spinning a project on each of my wheels
- Spinning a project entirely with unsupported long draw
- Spinning a large project on a drop spindle
- Andean plying
- Carding and pulling a project’s worth of roving
- Master Spinner course
- Spin a full project from silk hankies
- Dye, spin & knit top for self-striping socks
- Spinning a sample skein and knitting a mini sock for each fiber I carry in my shop
May 7th, 2011
It’s always makes me a little mopey when Yarn School’s over, but if I’m not too tired, I get an excellent kick of residual creative energy that I’m still trying to ride. And I can tell that I’m slowly by surely getting the hang of this thing because, for the first time after Yarn School, I didn’t have to sleep for a solid day! I went to bed a couple hours early and took in a more or less normal long night’s sleep to recover. Who knows? Maybe next time I’ll get normal sleep during the thing!? (Who am I kidding? I’ll never be that organized.)
Besides some general stuff I needed to catch up on (Sally cardigan KAL–did I mention how much I LOVE my Sally sweater?!–and my dad’s web site redesign), I also TC of some Yarn School-related B.
I finished about half of my dregs dyeing. That’s when I use only the dregs of leftover mixtures from Yarn School, recombine them, and dye up a mess of fiber for spinning and carding. We made up some big bins of wet fiber and poured the dregs onto them during Yarn School, then threw them in the roaster, but those were all really disappointing and washed-out, so I just overdyed them once they cooled.
This round, I did several semi-solids for carding, plus some superwash and nylon sparkle combos for socks. These will be Sock Sacks on etsy next week.
This was my favorite, an overdyed disappointment:
I also made some dregs batts, completely random junk batts from all the leftover fiber from the floor and piled around the carding table. This year, I mentioned junk batts, but didn’t actually demo one, which may explain the unusually large pile of fiber farts on the carding table this time. I told everyone not to throw them away when they clean off the drums–which they didn’t–and to card big handfuls of them later–which they also didn’t, as far as I can tell. Usually someone snaps up all the odds and ends for crazy batts. The floor fiber alone made one really big batt. I think if I also card the whole basket of mangled ends (leaving the unmolested fiber still unmolested) and spin all of the resulting batts, along with the abandoned rolags, I might have enough for a cardigan! Definitely chain-plying that yarn. Hm. Or am I?
As a side note, I really should make a carding video…
Yarn School Floor Batt, a monster carded on the Mad Batter (I know it’s technically “Mad Batt’r,” but I dislike arbitrary contractions, so in my house, it’s just Batter. But maybe I should give him a proper name? Maybe I should name them all. I do love naming things…)
I only ever use the Mad Batter (Oskar? Chuck? Or maybe it’s a girl? Hedwig?) anymore , so I decided to give my valiant little Ashford (Sammy? Liv? Pepe?) a crack at the dregs batts, and he tackled them nicely, thank you very much.
But enough about me! Yarn School was so fracking fun I could barf! I’ve been inspired to make up a big spinning to-do list like that big knitting list (wait, I’ll be someone has already made one–I need to ask the webbernet) and to catch up on my pound a month (that means 2.5 pounds this month to get me back on track–but Chris says she spins 5 pounds a month! FIVE POUNDS!).
BTW, I realized last weekend that I’m truly a crap photographer. I know it’s a poor carpenter who blames his tools, but I sure miss my old camera. It’s fanciness compensated my lack of skill. You’ll find more and better pictures in the flickr pool.
Psst… Cherie’s now offering a fiber club for her marvelous mohair and hand-plucked bunny fiber!
Standing angoras look so regal and bizarre, like some deleted scene from Watership Down.
(I found out Erica’s a Scrabble player! We’re murmuring about a tournament next year….)
I need to put away all the equipment this week so 1) I can pretend I actually use the gym for exercise and 2) so I can quit sighing every time I pass the gym and see all the quiet carders and wheels. Le sigh…