Sunday, August 30, 2009

Fiber overload

Fiber overload is a syndrome most often associated with fiber festivals, but can also strike during farm visits (as it did on my recent trip to Elihu Farm) and has been known to occur at home when a fiber enthusiast is sorting through his or her stash. The symptoms include feelings of elation accompanied by an overestimation of just how much fiber one can possibly spin/knit/crochet/weave in a lifetime. Further, it is known to cause befuddlement and a tendency to “flit and fondle” a condition where the stricken will spend long moments gazing at and touching a particular fiber/skein and suddenly run to another fiber/skein to spend long moments examining it.
In the worst cases, the fiber overload sufferer can be seen stumbling around lugging four or five large bags of purchases muttering “where did I see that painted roving?” or some such thing under her breath. If you suspect you may suffer from this, make sure you don’t go to a festival alone—and if your friends are spinners/knitters/weavers, go in a group of at least three in case more than one of you is overcome at the same time. This why I like to have my husband along at festivals--not only is he immune to fiber overload but I will never be that woman with six bags of fleece muttering to herself about the roving. My husband carries not only my purchases but chocolate—which is a kind of smelling salt to snap the fiber overload sufferer out of the worst symptoms.
Symptoms have been shown to last for as long as a week after exposure. Lingering fiber overload brought on by my visit to Elihu Farm is why I promised in my last blog that I would be able to show you a warped loom this week. I was suffering from the classic overestimation symptom. Yes, I did wind some warp, but I’m far from being able to start showing you pictures.
In the meantime, I have the glitzy purple socks I finished this week from a three ply Bluefaced Leicester and Firestar blend. This is one of the skeins I spun in this year’s Tour de Fleece and you can see pictures of the spinning in my July blog and on Ravelry. I finished off a lot of things this week, including some dark brown Rambouillet I was spinning three ply, shown here ( this is from the sheep of one of my guild colleagues Pat). Plus I washed one of my new fleeces. For fun, I’m adding a picture of that fleece I told you about last week—the light brown moorit.
Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope you enjoyed it. Please stop by next week. I put up a new installment every Sunday!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Spinner in Fiberland

Fleece stacked to the ceiling, lambs resting on sweet straw, a skirting table covered with fresh fleece—what could be more idyllic? I was fortunate enough to visit Elihu Farm in Valley Falls, N.Y., this week to purchase some fleece for my latest rug project. I had very specific tones of naturally colored fleece in mind and I knew that Bob & Mary Pratt with their herd of nearly 200 ewes would have what I needed. The Pratt farm is in a picturesque setting nestled in the rolling foothills south of the Adirondacks and west of the Green Mountains. The farm gets its name from the original owner who settled the land nearly 200 years ago.

I’ve been visiting Elihu Farm for more than 15 years, every since my husband and I first came across it during one of the first Washington County Sheep Tours. We have family nearby, so the farm is in the neighborhood. I’ve purchased some of my best fleeces from Mary’s broad selection of fleece types and have not been disappointed. Mary can have anything from fine rambouillet (that’s my favorite fleece Champ) to lustrous Romneys and many kinds of fleeces in between that are exceptionally pleasant to process, spin and knit. I was after Romney today for the rug project—and we had to dig through the giant stack (shown above) to find some of the coarser fleeces more suitable for rugs. I couldn’t pass by one fine one though, a lovely creamy moorit which will make a wonderful next-to-the-skin soft sweater someday soon.

Visiting the farm is something I really look forward to. It’s like going to a fleece fair but without the crowds—and the Elihu Barn is better than the Rhinebeck fleece barn. Above, you can see a picture of just one small section of the fleece area—she has them stacked up to the ceiling. She’s already sold quite a few from this year’s clip but remember, she has a LOT of sheep. If you are lucky enough to live in the Northeast, you’ll be able to find Elihu Farm fleece for sale at one of the many fiber festivals. In the next picture are some of her ewes. The one mugging for the camera produced the gorgeous fine fleece which I already purchased for a future knitting project. The little lamb shown was adorable and liked being scratched behind the ears.

Now that I’m weaving, I go through fleeces a lot faster, so I bought quite a few for that purpose--the two rugs I just finished represent six fleeces. As it turns out, I ended out walking out with six more (five for the upcoming rug weaving project). Yep, I will be busy. Next week, I hope to show you my new loom being warped with the 8/4 linen warp that will form the basis of all these rugs. So visit my blog again!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Dark, tangled side of weaving

After pulling the warp off my loom last week, I was so discouraged I was ready to put the loom up for sale. Not only did I e-mail a friend asking her if she wanted it, I also took pictures to post. Now it wasn’t the looms fault, so what I was doing was completely unfair. It was my fault. I removed the lease sticks while winding the warp on. Why? Brain cramp.

One of you asked what a lease stick is. If you look closely at the photo to the right, they are the two sticks across the warp behind the raddle—that’s the thing with the prongs. You put these in the cross, which is something you create while winding the warp on a warping board. Part of learning to weave is picking up this whole new language that only other weavers understand. It’s fun to talk weaving around knitters and watch their eyes cross.

Another fun thing about weaving is you get to put together odd looking contraptions such as in my picture. It looks fairly neat right now, but it was completely crazy earlier. I should have taken a picture, raw and uncut, but it goes against the grain to post a complete mess. I want to fight that urge and show you the dark, tangled side of weaving as I struggle along the road from novice to expert. I just really started weaving this year.

As for the towels, I started out with 400 ends, but with all warps snapping at the speed of popping corn, and a tangle so thick I had to chop off a bundle, I’m lucky if I have 300. So rather than wide kitchen towels, I probably have narrow kitchen scarves. I’m still not sure if I should pursue this further. I think I’m going to take a break and look into warping my big loom with rug warp.

The counterbalance loom above was not the original loom for this project. To the left is one of the pictures I took when I was determined to sell the offending loom, a perfectly nice Schacht with 8 harnesses. I can’t blame the loom--he has the potential to make lovely projects. I realize now it was a mistake to remove the warp in the first place. I think he needs a name, something other than @#$%& loom. I will gladly take suggestions. The counterbalance, by the way, is a Leclerc Fanny and she’s named Chloe, so don’t call her Fanny, she hates that name. She’ll tangle your warp if you do.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Cutting my losses

It was the best of weeks and it was the worst of weeks. The best part was I re-finished the socks shown to the left. Eager to get on with another project, I knit the second sock too short. So I had to undo the toe, knit more foot and then get back to the toe. Now here they are, nicely sized and ready to go.
They are part of my search for the indestructible sock yarn and I will wear them this winter to see how long they last. My dog, a Samoyed, needs a long walk every morning, so these socks will get plenty of use all winter. He’s one of those northern sledding breeds so he absolutely loves the cold and dashing through the snow.
The socks are a three ply of shades of dark brown and lighter brown Romney and some Corriedale dyed red. The idea is the Romney will provide strength and durability while the Corriedale makes them soft. The three ply and thickness should enhance the durability. Only testing will tell—let’s see how it goes.

Now for the worst part of my week: while winding on the warp on my smaller loom, I lost the lease sticks. “How?” you ask. Let’s just say it wasn’t pretty and leave it at that. I decided to plunge ahead and was three quarters of the way through threading when I realized I needed to add a few emergency heddles. When I went to the back to perform this delicate surgery, I got a good look at the warp beam.
Oh yes, yarn loves to do the twist.
I realized this wasn’t working out and more effort would just lead to unnecessary frustration at a time when I have better things to do. I decided to cut my losses and pulled the warp off the loom. I know this will shock those of you who save your thrums, but I threw it all away. I will start again fresh another day.

Okay, I rethought the throw away part. The warp is salvageable and I just need to start over again with it.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

New-to-me loom

Buying a wider loom has been a topic of my musing for quite some time. I have lots of ideas for wider projects and so I have been looking around at weaving guild websites to try to find something affordable. At first I was looking for an eight-harness loom, but these tend to command higher prices than their four-harness counterpart. I also needed something sturdy because I have lots of ideas for rugs though one of those big rug looms is out of the question, because I just don’t have the space for it. Though I’ve taken over two spare bedrooms, these are smallish so each can only hold so much.
I saw this loom on a weaving guild website and at first, I wasn’t sure. It is a four-harness 60” weaving width jack-type Leclerc, and I was still thinking eight. But I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I thought about it for a couple of months and I realized that if I was going to do a lot of rug weaving, four harnesses is what I needed. I also knew I had the room for it. I discussed it with my husband, contacted the seller and within a week we were on our way to her house to buy it. Carol, the seller, had already taken it apart so it only took moments to load it into the back of our SUV. It’s amazing how small and portable a loom is taken apart. We put the loom together the next day. This weekend, my husband and I made the raddle shown clamped to the backbeam. Next weekend, I will begin to wind some warp for a series of 3’ X 4’ rugs. My husband has been very supportive—not only does he have hobbies of his own, but he really likes the new hall rugs.
Weaving guilds are a great source for used looms. If you are thinking of trying weaving, you might consider previously owned equipment. You usually need to pick up the loom, so check guild classifieds that are in what you consider to be a reasonable driving distance. Weaver’s selling used looms often throw in useful things like shuttles, raddles, yarn and extra reeds. This loom I just purchased came with 8/4 rug warp which I will use for its first project. Another great place to look are the Spinners’, Weavers’ , & Knitters’ Housecleaning Pages at and, of course there’s the Warped Weaver’s Marketplace on Ravelry.