Sunday, September 25, 2011

Happy and Warped

This will be a pillow to go with the yoga mat.

The yoga mat is woven, but it's still on the loom.  I've decided to conserve warp by rolling it onto the cloth beam and continuing on.  I'm using up leftovers here, and this will be a pillow the width of the yoga mat.  Whereas the mat was plain weave, this time, I'm weaving a rosepath pattern so the weft packs in. It will be nice a cushy and if I add more padding it should be perfect for my head or for sitting on.  I want to make some yoga blankets too, but first I need to finish this warp! I like the way the colorful yarn looks woven.  I'll have to rememeber that when designing yarns for future projects.

Here's another  picture!

Oh, and that Dr. Bronner's soap didn't clean the Icelandic fleece to my liking, so I'm rewashing it in the Trader's Joe cruelty free laundry detergent.  I like that it has lavender in it, so it leaves the fleece with a lovely scent.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Not Doing that Again!

Salvaged one fleece worth of fiber out of six bags.

Note to self:  Never, ever purchase six bags of mystery fleece from a shepherd who is getting rid of them for a friend, no matter how cheap you can get them for.  Especially if these fleeces are stuffed in feed bags because that, likely, is your first clue.

Every so often I do this sort of thing--try to rescue some fleece or another.  Sometimes it works out okay, other times it ends out in the trash.  This is probably my worst "fleece rescue" operation.  So what could be wrong with six Hampshire fleeces?  Oh lots.

I suspect these fellows were not field raised.  I suspect they spent a good part of their lives in a smallish, muddy paddock eating grain and hay.  Why do I suspect this?  There's lots of dirt in the fleece, likely from standing out in mud during downpours.  The fleece was just pure yuck. I was able to save some of it, but not much, and this required a pair of heavy duty scissors to pretty much shear the yucky tips off.  I was left with maybe 4 inch staples from something that was eight.  Not really bad.  I think I have a few pounds--a small fleece's worth.

I might have been able to salvage more, but I have a limit to how much trouble I will go to for wool.  And as a salvadge operation, considering what I was starting with, this really wasn't too bad.  I should have taken a picture of what they looked like, but they were just too ugly.

Argh, I can still taste sheep, and I had to wash my hands 5 times in dawn to get the sheep smell out, even though I was wearing gloves.  Now that's fairly serious sheep. Okay, so I got to play farmer with stinky fleeces, I'm ready for craftsteading again.

Oh, and that Dr. Bronner's soap did not clean the lovely Icelandic Fleece I purchased--even though it was a fairly ungreasy fleece. I'll be sending it through again with something stronger.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Equinox and Fruit O' the Loom

Fruit O' the Loom
Happy First Day of Autumn everyone!  I'm enjoying a day at home doing crafty sorts of things.  As a Craftsteader, the Equinox doesn't involve quite the flurry of activity a Homesteader might run into.  My garden is pretty small, and even with the added bonus of squash growing out of my compost heap, it's not like I'm out there digging up potatoes.

But I did have a harvest of sorts to celebrate today--I finished weaving and was able to cut this length of cloth off the loom.  It is pure handspun and I'm making a pillow. Purchased the filling today and Joanne's and I plan to start the finishing soon.

Two of the Hampshires I purchased were a little dissappointing.  I ended out skirting them with scissors.  Which means, basically, that I cut off the matted tips and kept the nice clean stuff underneath. It's a good thing it has such a long staple length because with the tips off, I still have a good four or five inches of nice stuff to spin.  Tomorrow, I'll work on the rest of them and take some pics so you can join in the fun.  My husband negotiated a great deal on them, so it's not too bad.  I'm getting some nice wool out of it.

I'm going to get back to Craftsteading.  I'm making real progress on the yoga mat I'm weaving!  I hope to have something to show soon.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Lopi dreams, Hampshire heaven, big trouble

Gypsy, an Icelandic fleece from Hedgegrove Farm, Le Moille, IL.

My favorite kind of fiber fair is the small local one, like Fiber in the Park in Earlville this weekend.  Cozy, friendly, completely local and with plenty of fiber for everyone.  You know from past posts I don't need to go to Rhinebeck to fill my car with fiber.  Lovely Icelandic fleeces were readily available at the Hedgegrove Farm booth staffed by Michael Bates, a friendly and informative shepherd. (You can find him through Local Harvest).

I was admiring his fleece realizing I have yet to spin Icelandic wool, except maybe maybe at a guild event,  and all I could think of was combs and heavy leather gloves to keep me from impaling myself.  I don't own combs for the same reason I don't needle felt.  I'm a klutz when it comes to crafting with sharp objects.  I muttered something about carding it and an attentive Mr. Bates said the magic word "Lopi" and I could see myself sitting at my Lendrum filling the giant bobbin with lovely lightly spun singles and making a really cool Icelandic sweater.  Which of course led me to buy two fleeces.  One is from Feta, who came along and was very friendly, so I had to buy her fleece.  And the one above which has some brown, and I can dye some of it for a pretty yoke.

This is where I got in trouble.
 Two fleeces is a pretty good haul for any fiber festival, but I had my husband with me, and Hedgegrove Farm happened to have a pile of unskirted Hampshire fleeces a shepherd friend gave him to get rid of.  I was kind of interested in just one, but I was also sort of distracted by the other fleeces.  Ted is the business type who enjoys negotiating and in buying Gypsy and Feta we ended out with six bags filled with Hampshire.  Now this is one of the down breeds of sheep, and the wool has a springy, crimpy hand.  It is quite soft, dyes well and many people love it for  socks.  The beautiful thing about this particular Hampshire is the six to seven inch staple length!  The stuff is lovely!

But it needs work, including skirting.  I've set up a skirting table in the garage and I will be getting to it after work tomorrow.  Craftsteading has never been so good!

Tomatoes and zucchini from the farmers market.

On the same Saturday, we stopped by the Farmers Market where I picked up two pecks of plum tomatoes from my favorite farm from Maple Park, IL.  That was enough to make two big pots of pasta sauce. One was a peck of tomatoes and mushroom marina, and above is my special recipe tomatoes, zucchini and pepper pasta sauce.  The freezer if filling up with the flavor of summer.  I also had enough to make a big vat of tomato, zucchini and black bean chili!

This is Feta: gray Icelandic with colorful yoke?
 I said goodbye to my 36 inch, counterbalance four-harness loom today as it was packed into a little red sedan bound for Oklahoma.  I'm glad she'll have a new good home and will continue to produce lovely cloth.  Plus, I've learned something important: yes, you can have too many looms!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Can ripe toamtoes survive chipmunk connoiseurs?

To pick or not to pick? I picked.
Fresh tomatoes! We've all heard people opine about the wonders of growing your own and the sublime experience of chomping on a tomato that is at its peak of freshness.  The herd of chipmunks in my back yard are sure to agree with this wholeheartedly, and they do wait for that lovely moment of peak freshness. The problem is, this peak appears to occur in the middle of the day while I'm at work. I've found more than one half eaten gorgeously fresh tomato lying on the ground.

Which is why I'm faced regularly with picking my tomatoes just ahead of their  becoming fare for my chipmunk connoisseurs..  I gave up on the heirloom varieties last year when every last one of them was snapped up by one of those endearing critters or drilled into by a bird.  I just do plum tomatoes as can be seen in my picture.  They work great in all my recipes.  I've had a good run on ripe tomatoes, but I've learned to be careful not to leave them out too long, especially now they are growing scarce.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Weavers frog too!

I'm weaving a yoga mat from my handspun.

Joy is what weaving feels like.  Even when I have to frog a few rows because I see a glaring mistake.  Yep, just like knitters, weavers can frog too, except it's more like unweaving and it doesn't make the satisfying "rip-it" sound that unraveling knitwear has if you listen very closely.  It is drowned out by the sighs of the weaver.

This rug is woven on linen rug warp at 5 dents per inch.  Originally threaded for a warp faced weave, I decided to use up some grey Wensleydale, and some multidyed strands of four ply as a plain weave.  So the warp is still showing, but the end result will be flexible and lightweight yet cushy and I'm hoping it will provide the same grip for standing yoga poses as rubber mats do. We shall see.  Either way, I really like the way it's coming out, and as I write this I have about two feet woven.  The colors are a four ply, one each of turquoise, red, green and purple, all from a Rambouillet cross I purchased at Elihu Farm in Valley Falls, New York.  The Wensleydale comes from Homestead Acres Farm up near Door County, Wisconsin.

My loom is a four shaft 60" LeClerc Nylus II.

There's my loom as you see it when you walk into the little room I call my studio.  The sixty inch width is a bit beyond my wingspan, but I know I can comfortably weave up to four feet wide, especially if I keep up with my yoga and remain flexible.  I know I bought this loom a couple of years ago and haven't wove on it.  I think I had bad fengshui with too many looms crowded in all over. I found a buyer for my 36" LeClerc Fanny who I know will love and appreciate the loom.  That was a great loom to work on but I also love the big gal too.  And I'm finally weaving on her.  I want to make some really pretty throws, using luxury fibers like Alpaca, and maybe kid mohair.  I've just scoped out some nice handspun Alpaca yarn stash to use on a "trial run" blanket.  I think I'll make a camelid yoga blanket to go with my yoga rug. This will ensure maximum flexibility for future weaving enjoyment.

The garden is doing well.

With all this, there's still the garden to keep an eye on.  I found all these peppers on a stroll around the yard, and quite a few squash among the compost heap volunteers .  You can see one of those yellow warty ones next to it.   I plan to cook these all together.  I also picked three more acorn squash, a couple of which I will cook tomorrow.  I really enjoy gardening, though I'd like to have seen some better production such as spinach that will actually sprout and grow.  Next year, I will know better!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Weaving Wonderland

A long crafting weekend is just about behind me.  I had a lot of fun making some jewelry with the citrine I showed you last week, but more importantly, I took out my table loom and started winding on a warp.  Here you can see the some handspun llama on the small warping board. Behind it is the Schacht 8 harness table loom. I'll be doing plain weave--more loom than I need for the job.  I wanted to try something simple in two colors. So far, I've successfully wound on the warp and I'm ready to start threading.  The yarn is decently thick, so I'm weaving at six ends per inch and I only have 108 ends to thread. Yeah!