Saturday, July 31, 2010

Cleaning House

Resisting the draw of the brand new Chapin Creek Fiber Festival in Franklin Grove, Illinois, I am staying home to clean house.  Franklin Grove is a picturesque little town and their historic area is lovely.  I'm sure this first ever fiber festival will be excellent, but I can't buy anything because I have far too much stash and the clutter in my house is building up.  I would just be one of those people who paws products and doesn't by anything, so why annoy the vendors?

I'm getting rid of things and putting together yet another haul over to Goodwill or the recycling pile.  Getting rid of stuff for me is completely therapeutic and keeps my house from looking like one of those places in that cable-TV show about hoarders.  I'll also be selling some extra books and magazines on Ravelry with the money going to benefit Ravelry and Northern Illinois Samoyed Assistance--where I got the dog who stars as my Ravatar.  There will be more about that later.

Good news, I've started spinning the last big bile of batts for my sheep to sweater project.  I'm also working on a gauge sample.  Hurray!

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Two-thousand Yards!

Plying took up many hours on this last day of the Tour.  Stashbusting went well and I used up more than 1.5 pounds of fleece creating the three big 8 oz. skeins shown.  One in still on the bobbin because I like to let the yarn rest at least overnight.  I will wind it off tomorrow and get the yardage, but I'm guessing it will yield about 600 yards bringing my total yardage for the Tour up over 2,000 yards.  Not bad for 23 days! But the pace felt slow, so next year I'll spin worsted weight or bulky so it goes faster!

Plus, I still have a way to go to finish Stashbusing--The gold is bamboo and I have 16 oz. left, and the tan is wool and I have more than a pound carded and ready to go.  That's a lot of spinning!

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Stashbusting Satisfaction

I  finished carding my "sheep to sweater" fleece.  I picture the work in progress on my Deb above.  Nothing feels quite as good stashbusting-wise as carding an entire fleece. Now to finish spinning!  I'm making a Starmore Kinsale so this means a fingering weight yarn.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sluggish Run at the Tour

Nearly 1500 yards of yarn and only two skeins to show for it, which I guess is what I should expect from deciding to spin fingering weight for Ravelry's annual Tour de Fleece.  And the skeins are big--about 8 ounces each because they were plied on that big Lendrum bobbin.

So far, my run at the tour has been sluggish.   Progress seems slow because the spinning is so thin, and I've been late to posting because there is so little to show.  It took me days to ply and then skein. Good thing I joined Team CrankyPants because if winding a 900 yard skein isn't cause for some real crankiness, well I can't think what could be.

 Next year, it's worsted weight or bulky so I can fly through it and not have to stand there turning a nitty noddy for an hour wondering if I've lost count of the yards. Nevertheless, progress is being made, stash is being busted and some day I'll be able to open the closets in my craft rooms without anything tumbling out.

I have managed to rearrange my fleeces so they fit in the closets and now have only two plastic buckets on the outside in the lower room instead of stacks reaching to the ceiling.  I've also posted all of my stash on Ravelry, so I've "come clean" so to speak.  Now to see how much more I can spin up.

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Toxic fiber?

Plans to harvest milkweed for fiber are on hold, possibly forever. A scientist at work told me the toxin for which the plant is known is found throughout the plant, so it could well be in the bast fibers this plant can produce.  If this is so, it might not be a good choice for hand preparation and the things I could make with it would be very limited.

The toxin, though dangerous for us and other mammals and birds, doesn't harm butterflies, in fact it provides a benefit. As I mentioned before, the milkweed plant is one of the monarch butterfly's choices for laying eggs. The tiny caterpillars hatch on the plant and eat it, toxin and all, grow up, spin their chrysalis and morph into this beautiful butterfly.

As a result, the butterflies themselves are toxic.  A bird who goes after a monarch butterfly who has grown on a milkweed plant is in for a nasty surprise, a very unpleasant meal which it learns to avoid.  So disgusting is this milkweed raised butterfly, that birds and other insect eaters, learn to avoid all monarch butterflies.  In fact, there are other species of butterfly and moth who look kind of like monarchs with the distinctive orange-red and black coloring. Birds will leave these alone just because they look like a monarchs.  This mimicry saves these other species from being eaten even though they may be quite tasty (from a bird's standpoint).

So much for backyard fiber.  But I'm glad I have the milkweed because of all the monarch's fluttering through my yard.  It is really quite lovely.  Perhaps I'll go look for fiber in some of my other prairie plants.

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Monday, July 5, 2010


Guess what flew into my milkweed patch?  Yes: a monarch butterfly. I was able to get a photo of it hanging out on a milkweed stalk--please note I am not much of a wildlife photographer! 

I noticed the monarch definitely showed a preference for the milkweed plant. Tossed around in a light breeze it touched down on other native plants, such as coneflower, for only a fraction of a second, but happily relaxed on the milkweed as shown here.  Monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed. Could that be a female?  Could I have tiny monarch caterpillars hatching in few weeks?  That would be very exciting, and I will keep an eye out for eggs. As intrepid wildlife photographer, I'll sneak up on them and catch them in action.

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Sunday, July 4, 2010

Blog Redux

Life happened and blogging lagged behind. So did knitting, spinning, weaving, carding, dyeing--the whole collection of craftsteading activities—slowed to a crawl. About the only thing that’s grown is my garden which, thanks to plenty of rain, has done well.

Shown above is my own lettuce. There is nothing quite as tasty as the produce of one’s own garden. Someday, I’d like to spin garden grown fibers. Below, is a picture of a milkweed plant I'm growing. Its stalks are said to contain a bast fiber. I saved some of the old stalks from last winter to check out. I’ll be talking about that experiment later this summer.

If the experiment does pan out, this could be the perfect thing to grow. Milkweed is a native perennial that provides food for butterflies. It would fit well into my desire for a sustainable fiber source that favors native plant communities and by extension, native fauna. Milkweed are associated with the lovely monarch butterfly.

Ravelry’s Tour de Fleece started this weekend and I am making progress on my challenge: spinning 24 oz. of gold colored bamboo and a couple of pounds of fine wool into two ply fingering weight yarns. These challenges are part of my long term goal to reduce stash to manageable levels. Naturally, I signed up for the Stashbusters team. I am also on Teams Schacht (on which I spin the wool) and Lendrum (bamboo) and because I have over-ambitious goals team CrankyPants. Yes, I’ll be cranky AND wearing pants as I spin all these fine singles.

I plan to blog more frequently, especially with the Tour de Fleece going on. So thank you for visiting my blog. Please stop by again. And don’t forget my website: