Wednesday, November 25, 2015

No turkeys were harmed....

The salmon is thawing in the fridge and the house is clean--well sort of until I tracked in mud after my trip to the compost bin--and holiday decorations are ready to be unboxed. Yes, it is time for a nice cup of tea before jumping into the decorating fray.

Just finished 8 ounces of pretty sweater yarn.
DH and I are opting for wild caught salmon this year, partly in a nod to my anti-inflammatory diet which is very light on meat, and also because buying a huge bird is a bit much for two people. We'd have to get the whole thing if we wanted local/humanely raised. After seeing photos from a commercial turkey pen, I'm really glad we didn't buy a turkey breast. One of the big advantages of anti-inflammatory diet is how little meat we eat. Legumes and vegetable are given the star spot in our meals. Spices make them yummy.

Progress on the spinach
Weight is coming off at about the speed spinach is growing in the cold frame out in back of my house.  They've doubled in side but there is still a long way to go. I enjoy nurturing these little guys as they slowly grow into yummy vegetables. The cold frame needs to be propped open during the day and shut at night, and of course I water them. I'm interested in seeing how my experiment progresses.
pair of socks #16. time to knit something else!
The anti-inflammatory diet does wonders when I'm not slipping up and eating sugar. Those times when I am on it for several weeks and doing it perfectly, I feel amazing--pain and stiffness is gone.  So really I need to focus and be stronger through these sugar infested holidays.
Finished placemats with handspun bamboo warp.
And be thankful I've found a "cure" and stick to the prescription that improves my health. One of the things I've learned over the years is there is a lot of suffering we can avoid for ourselves and others just by changing a few things within ourselves and our surroundings. May we all look for those changes when we count our blessings so we can add a few new blessings to the coming year.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Craftstead update

Growing winter spinach
Part of my "craftstead" philosophy includes trying to grow at least some of my own food on my small suburban plot. Here I am experimenting with growing spinach in a cold frame in my backyard. The frame is right behind my house and will have the advantage of whatever heat the house gives off.

I was encouraged to read about the Northwest Brightmoor Renaissance   a group trying to rehabilitate a blighted former working class community in Detroit--by cleaning up the trash that's been dumped there, fixing up the modest homes and yes, growing some of their own food.  And it is definitely not another gentrification project, but a real grassroots effort to carve out an affordable American Dream in an urban wilderness.
Sprounting mung beans on the kitchen counter: fresh homegrown produce.
I love how Brightmoor residents are using the Internet to catch and shame those who have used their neighborhood as a dumping ground. Visiting their website, you can see some really cute little houses on nice sized lots. What a great place to have a nice big garden! I read in the Washington Post that one couple chose the neighborhood to begin their organic farming enterprise, rather than a rural area. They are also using vacant lots for community gardens.  Yes, dedicated people can change the world.

I will have warm feet this year!
My craftstead is in a posh suburb where cute smaller houses are being torn down to create mansions. So my 1500 square foot 70's split is "small" compared to a McMansion of five thousand plus square feet. Funny to hear myself calling my house "small." It isn't by global standards. My house is giant and luxurious. It has plenty of room to raise a family, throw a dinner party, host guests, and house a few looms and spinning wheels.

But I understand what drives people to wanting giant homes and buying new stuff. It's a disease that plagues our society--consumerism--an endless Pack-Man like need to run the maze and eat the cherries of new acquisitions. It's like we have lost our souls and try to fill the void with stuff. Yes, I've struggled with the endless wanting and have fought to keep it at bay. One thing that has helped me is having a "small" house. I can only fit so much into it.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Just two little days....

Finished planting the allium 

Ever notice that when you are ordering bulbs, it seems like you can't get enough? And then you go to planting and think, "150 bulbs is a LOT." Fortunately, I took a couple of days off from work last week and spent some of it gardening. I planted about 75 allium. I planted them in close little groupings of them to pop up along the walk.

Filled cloth beam

 I also wove off the placemat warp I've been working on for a few months.  I now have eight mats to hem, but that should go fairly quickly.

Socks #13
And I finished sock pair #13--I'm in the 15 in 2015 challenge, and my goal is to knit 15 pairs of socks. I not only finished this pair but started the next one.

Basket ripened
Just had to show you these tomatoes too.  They were green a week ago. Sitting in the basket has done them lots of good. And I've been cooking with them too.  Nothing to do with the two days off, of course.
Besides finishing three projects, I also made headway on a throw I'm weaving and my gray rug yarn project. So three cheers for crafting holidays!

I've written the letter to P&G about those plastic beads mentioned in my last blog. It's crazy what they put in our personal care products.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Plastic beads in my toothpaste? Seriously?

Being a sucker for all things shiny, I just loved those multicolor sparkly toothpastes.  Sucker is right as little did I know that part of what makes them so pretty are tiny plastic microbeads.  The label will have either polyethylene or polypropylene as an ingredient. That is plastic. That is mircobeads.
Check the label before you buy!
These microbeads are in all kinds of things, usually stuff you put on your face. They are in facial scrubs, one of which I used to love until I started using cheaper things. I recall when that was the "new" thing oh, maybe 15 or 20 years ago.  And look what fifteen years of exfoliating and teeth whitening has done to our lakes and oceans:

All that smooth, clean skin has caused some big problems in the aquatic food chain. Me, I don't want the Great Lakes to become a plastic soup. I feel ashamed now that I ever used those things. I've been recycling for 30 years and bringing my own bags to the grocery for ages. But I didn't make the connection of tiny plastic beads going down the drain and into our waterways. I am only relieved that I stopped using those facial brands some years ago, opting for the more "organic" BHA free brands. Now, I'm thinking plain old soap with very few ingredients will do just fine.

This is serious stuff. I urge all readers to check labels on their products.  We don't need microbeads on our face or our toothbrush. A washcloth can do just as good a job exfoliating. As for toothpaste, at least make sure your kids toothpaste doesn't contain the stuff. Get the older formulations and brush longer.

Yes, yes, the FDA says the microbeads are safe. Big deal. My doctor also tells me not to injest any small seeds because of intestinal concerns (anyone my age should not be ingesting small beads).  And you know, it's toothpaste--there is no way we aren't ingesting a few of them. So if endangering our lakes and  rivers isn't enough of a reason, then think of what it could do if it got lodged in your intestine.

Fortunately, not all toothpastes have microbeads. You can save money by buying the cheaper older formulations of the same national brands. And then there is good old fashioned baking soda. But that is a lifestyle choice. I have yet to try one of those "make your own toothpaste" recipes, but maybe it's about time I did.

I'm planning to write polite letters to companies using microbeads and ask them to phase them out of their formulation. There is also a petition to sign on which I've already signed. 

But I'm still stuck with three tubes of shiny toothpaste that I will not use. Yes, there is the food pantry, but is it okay to foist my shopping mistake on someone else? What if they are older and have been told by their doctor not to eat tiny seeds? What if they are children? And knowing what it could do to the life in our lakes streams and oceans, how can I let this tube be opened and released into the environment?

I feel like I'm stuck with three tubes of Toxic Waste.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Sock it to pure relaxation

Sock pair #12
I've always loved knitting socks, not that I did it that often. Not until I signed up for a challenge back in January to knit 15 pairs this year. I'm in the middle of sock #13, and interestingly, none of them are fancy. Oh, the yarn is pretty: colorful, self-stripping and more, but the actual sock is all from memory, or a cheat sheet when I'm to tired to remember.

Lace is out for me. I can't see deliberately putting holes in a pair of socks. I took a shot at cables, but found my shoulders tensing up as I worked with the tiny needles. So I've settled on pretty yarn and a straightforward plane Jane pattern. They won't win a sock knitting contest, but they are comfortable to wear.
Sock #13 is nearly halfway through
And relaxing. Knitting is a kind of meditation for me, a tranquil time watching the pretty yarn slipping through my favorite needles. The beauty of plane socks is they are so easy and straightforward, I can knit them anywhere. They are the perfect antidote to lousy morning traffic. It nice to finally get to my parking spot at work and spend a few minutes knitting a round or two before I leave the car to start my day. There's nothing quite like the soothing sensation of knitting! It helps me get back my Zen.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Still picking tomatoes!

Tomatoes fresh from the garden
Our garden is tiny this year. It is the first garden we've had in a few years. A planned expansion to 20 square feet was postponed a couple of years ago when my husband hurt his arm, and this year we finally had the heart to plant some more--but changes in our lives kept us from doing much more than a bunch of tomato plants.

But gardening here we come! I was really encouraged by just how many tomatoes our six plants produced. They kept us in a steady stream of tomatoes all summer! And they continue despite temperatures in cool shortening days. This is exciting. Next year, the garden will be even better!

These will be going into a fresh pasta dish tonight a stirring of some delicious ingredient to make something extra delicious. But I'll share that recipe once I have it figured out.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Size doesn't matter

Fiber in the Park, the tiny fiber festival in Earlville, IL, is a true test of the adage "Size doesn't matter." I've found wonderful things at this fair, and so did everyone else I know who was there. It is one of those fun and intimate gatherings where you can find your friends and find great things at the same time. There was a lot of gorgeous rovings and fabulous yarns! They even had some finished projects, a bead maker and other excellent things.  And the food vendor is really good too, though we drove into Earlville to eat in this little Italian place called Francesca's.
Lamb's wool fleece from one of Kathy McClure's sheep.

I was early, which is good because I was able to catch a really great fleece. This is one of Kathy McClure's--she washes her sheep before she sheers them so the fleeces are amazingly clean and just about ready to use. This is a wonderful, crimpy and soft BFL cross with Wensleydale. I want to start carding it NOW! I am very happy with it. She sells through Green Valley Fiber Cooperative, which now helps sponsor the show.

Kathy's Crocodile Tears colorway
I am a big fan of Kathy McClure's dyeing. I found 24 ounces of this Crocodile Tears colorway! Yes! Enough for a sweater or a big weaving project. I'm thinking sport weight as really warm sweaters are too heavy for regular wear. I want to get started on this right away. I want to get started on EVERYTHING right away. It is a good thing I have more than one wheel!

I love all this colorway!

Frabjous Fibers was there I had to nab this Chromatophobia Pink. This should be a blast to spin. Not sure what it will be. A hat? A sweater yoke? is is Polwarth which might be something I haven't spun yet. Not sure, exactly--I've been spinning for a long time, and I'm not sure if I've spun Polworth or not. She also had this tiny PVC spinning wheel which was a blast to try out.

Jacob from Round Barn Fiber Mill
 I also found this intriguingly milled Jacob--yes there are three colors of fiber in this one bumb-- at the Round Barn Fiber Mill booth.  I want to try out their milling because I am thinking of bringing some fleeces to be carded. Yes, I do love doing my own processing, but I know my life will be easier if I let someone else do the work on at least some of my massive fiber hoard!

I'd better get going--I have lots of spinning and weaving to do.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Anti-inflamatory eating seems to work

A fresh, immediate pasta dish.
Losing weight has been a long fight for me, and I think I have finally found a diet that works with my lifestyle and tastes.  I was tooling around on the internet when I came across Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet. I haven't yet signed up for it, but I found this food pyramid which I printed out and posted on my refrigerator to use as a guide for eating. Having vegetables as the basis of my eating meant I needed to do some serious thinking about how I was eating. For breakfast, for instance, I've changed to 1/2 cup of oatmeal with about 1.5 cups of berries and some walnuts. This is yummy and filling. I have a bit of my favorite completely plain no sugar/no nothing soymilk.

In a hot skillet, add 1 tbs olive oil first and then 1 tbs garlic, 1 tsp hot pepper flakes and  a tbs of sundried tomatoes in oil. Stir. (all measurements are guessed).
Tofu and legumes are one of the foods on the pyramid and that made me think of Oriental cooking. So out came the wok. I have two now, one a traditional carbon steel pan that I've seasoned with grape seed oil and another a ceramic one made in Korea that I found the other day at this big Korean grocery store. I purchased it on a whim because the outside is purple and it is light. It cooks wonderfully and I plan to use for some of my dishes, mostly because I wasn't sure how the acidity of all the tomatoes would work in my carefully seasoned wok.
Add a half a pound of shrimp and toss around "stir fry."
My first food adventure was to the oriental market near where I work. Honestly, I haven't been to an oriental market in years. I went there searching for Soba noodles as I thought that would be a great addition to my organic whole wheat pasta. What I found was amazing. Noodles made of every thing imaginable!  Since I'm supposed to eat three or four grains a day and pasta only a couple of times a week, I think having a variety of grain sources is a good idea. They had millet, corn, buckwheat, black rice, oat and more. Along with that are these amazing sweet potato noodles and mung bean noodles. I was amazed at the noodle selection but it makes sense since noodles are a Chinese invention and most of the world's noodles are consumed in the Far East!
Now add a 3 cups of broccoli florets cut smallish and stir these around.
My next step has been the internet. What do I do with all the cool ingredients I find in the Asian markets? So I've been watching Asian cooking lessons and getting ideas for how I can produce a meal loaded with vegetables and have something that tastes really good.
Add 4 fresh tomatoes sliced and a half cup of fresh basil. Stir and fry some more! I also add a scoop of the pasta's cooking water at this time. The last step is the al dente pasta (4 oz) and 2 tbs of pesto. Toss around and plate. There is enough for two.
And so I tried my hand at stir fry and was able to make a passable Thai and some decent Chinese. And lots of Italian dishes with a base of olive oil, garlic and hot pepper. I stirred this up with some greens and sweet potato noodles and it made a lovely shiny yummy dish.

I'm still pretty new at this, but my larder has already changed significantly. For one I've jammed my noodle shelf with interesting alternatives to my favorite pasta. What I love most about oriental noodles is many of them come wrapped in little single serving packets and they are a bit shorter to fit in a small pot. I love to cook because like fiber arts there is always something to learn!
A shelf of oriental noodles and below lots of nuts.
Since I started trying to eat anti-inflammatory two weeks ago, I've lost a pound each week I also feel a lot better. I'm not young anymore and the aches of age have begun to make themselves known. Being fat doesn't help in that department either. Losing a pound in a week is epic for me. I usually fight to get a half-pound off me. So I am very happy and I feel well fed.  I am enjoying the adventure in my kitchen! So many new and fun foods to try. And stir fry is wonderfully fast.
All I spun during the Tour de Fleece, the green is Border Leicester and the Gray in Romney rug yarn
So that's pretty much why I've not blogged in a couple of weeks. Between the Tour de Fleece and trying to diet, well I've been busy between visiting new grocery stores and trying new ingredients, I've been having a great time. Oh and there's spinning and weaving going on too, but more about that next time!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Mad dash

410 yards of bright green Border Leicester was my first spin of the Tour

Tour de Fleece is the mad dash of the spinning world--a three week frenzy of spinning wool into yarn preceded by a long build up period where people join virtual teams and set goals. Goal setting is basically showing pictures of all the fiber you plan to spin. Set to the Tour de France, spinners from around the world started turning their wheels last Saturday, July 3.

Now, I'm working on super bulky rug yarn.

And I am among them and this time fiber prep is part of the deal. I have POUNDS of grey Romney to turn into rug yarn and carding is a part of that process. Being a super bulky yarn, it doesn't take very long to spin a carded batt. This week, I spun and plyed 410 yards of bright green Border Leicester and now I am on to spinning as much Romney, super bulky rug yarn as I can. I have 20 oz spun so far and more to go.

Hand picked fiber ready for the carder.
This is where "cardocise" comes in handy.  Spinning is a sedentary task, so adding a little cardio to the mix has been a help.  This week, I was able to get an extra two hours of heart rate in the "zone" for cardiac fitness by "picking" the fleece while on a small trampoline called a jogger or rebounder.  Picking is essentially fluffing the locks of fleece out as seen in the picture of the fiber next to the carder. Each lock of wool needs to be teased into a cloud of fluff. This job can easily be done sitting down, but adding the motion helps a lot.

200 yards of super bulky rug yarn used 20 oz of wool!
So far this week, I've lost two pounds of stash fiber, and 1.2 pounds of me. Not bad! I just have to keep "cardocising." And I have my work cut out for me with spinning this super bulky yarn. I'm having trouble making enough carded wool to keep up! 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Weight no-loss blues

 Six months into my diet when I should be making my friends jealous with how much weight I've lost and all the new clothes I have, I am right back where I started. I reversed direction about the time this photo was taken of me dyeing silk in my garage.  Below is a picture of me--I am practically square! I had planned to crop this photo to hide my extended butt, but instead I am going for truth. Anyone who knows me knows I'm shaped like a rounded square.

I go for safety gear when I dye, splash proof goggles just might save my eyes.
Sitting back in "square one" is frustrating. Do I need to tell you that? Haven't all of us struggling with weight issues faced this sudden death of resolve and re-finding of all those pounds? Isn't this the statistic we all see of people regaining all they've lost. How many times have I lost and found this same 10 pounds? I'm guessing 15 times. And we've all heard the advice--blah, blah, blah--but fat good it does us when the cookies call.

The only good thing about being obese and out-of-shape is how easy it is to get my heart rate up into the "Zone." And with this I invented:


Just today, actually, I invented a new exercise that allows me to destash AND delard. We recently rearranged the house and now I am able to put my rebounder (a bouncy exercise thing)  in the back room where the drum carder is.  Now rebounding is fairly boring all on it's own, so I got the idea I could hand pick fleece while jogging in place. I like the rebounder because it doesn't stress my joints and helps with some tendonitis in my heels. And it fits in my house the way no treadmill would.

DH stopped by and wondered if I was actually getting exercise, which annoyed me enough to make me dig out my heart rate monitor. 
Silk hankies I dyed in the above picture
I was amazed at how quickly I was able to get up into the zone. No wonder I walk so slow! Sheesh just crawling is hard work for me. I could get my heart rate up nice just moving fairly slowly.  I think if you are obese and exercising, getting a heart rate monitor is a good idea because then you know how intense you are really going. You can't compare yourself with those skinny fit people in the DVDs or at your exercise class. You can be pumping at your max while they are cruising down at nothing. I bought a Polar one and it seems to be doing a good job. Plus it calculates the burn and gives me something I can track.

So I pick raw washed wool while slowly jogging and run an occasional batt through the carder. It's definitely a win-win for me, two for the price of one, yah de yah. Now if I can just keep it up. I have plenty of fleece to pick and lots of weight to lose.  Let's see how this high fiber diet works.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

A slight obsession with socks

Socks for DH. I couldn't get them off to take a decent picture.
Ever since I had my carpal tunnel problem fixed, I've become obsessed with sock knitting.  That's because I can knit without my hand growing numb.  So lately I've been buying all kinds of pretty yarns and knitting with them. I even bought some sock blanks to try my hand at dyeing my own.  My LYS has been seeing a lot of me, especially during their 30% off sale. I think you've seen some of the damage in earlier blogs.

Pretty and sparkly colors!

What I love about the yarn available for socks is how pretty it is!  Here is some Plymouth yarn that is just full of interesting and fun to knit colors. Plus it is sparkly! I love that I can knit a plain sock and have all the enjoyment of going from one nice color to the next.  I tried more complicated socks--some with cables--but I found it not relaxing at all, even causing tension. So I abandoned that pair and will just see what I can do with twisted rib stitches to add variety. I have a few ideas. Also, I've decided that plain knit feet are more comfortable in my shoes.

Kettle Dyed Yarn
I purchased some sock blanks from Knit Picks so I can try my hand at dyeing. These two are kettle dyed with the same dye. The one on the right is shades of the full blast color and the one on the right, is the yellow that was left over in the dye bath till exhausted. Kettle dyeing is the easiest method of dyeing since you just plunk the yarn in the pot.  My next plan is to try painting. Now that the weather is warming up, I will be able to use my garage as a dye studio.

Yes, I have toyed with the idea of putting a few things up on Etsie, but right now I'm too obsessed with the knitting of socks to really want to share.  Plus I want to knit up my experiments and see how they work out before foisting them on the public. And I have lot of silk that needs dyeing too, and fleece that needs carding (some of it with the dyed silk) so we shall see. And Fiber Festival season opens in April.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Year of the sheep!

Border Leicester being spun to fingering weight

Among February's pleasant surprises, discovering that this Lunar New Year ushered in the Year of the Sheep certainly rates among them. This is the beginning of a truly auspicious year for wool lovers everywhere! News reports suggest that some don't think much of it being the year of the sheep since sheep are such docile animals--at least in the popular imagination. But sheep can also produce twins and triplet lambs, wonderful wool, food and milk and all this by just eating grass. So to me, year of the sheep seems to mean a year of peace and prosperity. But most importantly, a year of wool.

Sparkly yarn turning into socks

To a spinners everywhere, Year of the Sheep is a tribute to our favorite fiber animal.  I've been busy carding up a storm so I can make room for new stash come the Spring Fiber Festival Season. Yes, I plan to celebrate the year of the sheep in style. I may have already started. Did I mention there was a sale at my favorite yarn store?  Yes, I bought a bunch of yarn.

Most of this is wool yarn.
So yes, I started the year of the sheep off in style This is all sock yarn as I love sock knitting.  I plan to enjoy the Year of the Sheep!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Was evolution kind to knitters?

This is what happened after my husband said he'd like some socks.
Today is Darwin Day, a celebration of the birthday of Charles Darwin who revolutionized our understanding of where we came from with Origin of the Species. So in honor of this day so near and dear to bio-geeks and other science nerds everywhere, I want to bring up my favorite topic opposable toes.

Loosely looking along the tree of life, you can follow our branch up and see a few forks. Along such forks are critters with feet that can actually grasp stuff.  Now opposable thumbs are all the rage for being humans and makes knitting and other crafts possible. But could you imagine if, rather than walking out of the forest onto the plains, our forebears stayed in the shade and managed to keep the opposable toes? Could you imagine all the knitting we could get done with two sets of hands?

Of course, opposable toes would but a crimp in sock knitting.  I mean, socks would have to be more like gloves or mittens. Heck, we'd need two sets of hands just to keep up. And shoes? They'd be pretty weird looking, though we wouldn't know it because weird would be normal.

So maybe it's good opposable toes were selected out.

But a prehensile tail, well that would be nice.  It would come in handy to be able to hang upside down to knit on occasion without needing to be a gymnast. Plus a long prehensile tail would come in handy passing pretty skeins around at the stitch n' bitch. We wouldn't have to stop knitting! We could just use our tails to pass it from knitter to knitter! And we'd probably have to knit tail socks too in great fun colors!

So nature, some of the things we lost in our million or so year climb up the tree from our small vole-like ancestors might have come in handy for knitters. And it would have been nice if that whole carpal tunnel situation had been selected out. But I'm glad we turned out smart enough to develop orthopedic surgeons. And knitting. Especially sock knitting.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Silk on a stormy day

Scarf-fine merino wool woven on a silk weft.
 Nothing quite beats a lazy Sunday. It's snowing and windy outside so that's a great excuse not to venture outdoors. And so I get to weave on my first and quite lovely silk warp. I'm using some merino I picked up from my Stitch N' Bitche's destash table and the weave is Rambling Rose from Marguerite Porter Davison. To a weaver that's a "W" and a half to form a lovely little pattern. The weaving is going great and silk is lovely to use. I just need to "snug" the warp into place--no beating necessary. I've also learned how to "read" the pattern as I go, so I'm not making treadling errors.  This is a new step in my evolution as a weaver. I'm really happy with this latest winter scarf!

Silk sliver by the kilo.
I found a place where I can buy silk by the kilo--Georgia Yarn Company. I'm showing the kilo of silk sliver I just purchase for dyeing and blending with wool.  I previously purchased a kilo of natural mulberry silk 22/2 skeins.  These are lovely, but I need to dye them.  I still need to work on my dyeing technique because silk can be a little tricky. I've learned that I should soak the silk in the dye adjutants before adding the dye and heat.  I need to heat it to below 185 degrees F and let it simmer for 60 minutes. This will take a bit of scientific method to use up some of my acid fast dyes, but I'm up for the challenge. I'm just waiting for the warmer weather as my dye studio is in the garage!

Giving the sturdy Ashford Scholar a whirl.
I've been spinning a merino/bamboo blend on the Scholar, a sturdy little wheel I purchased years ago with the idea of taking it with me camping. I haven't done that yet but it is a trooper for traveling to guild meetings and more.  I was able to fit it with the high speed whirl for the Kiwi, and being a "vigorous" treadler, I have no trouble getting a nice thin yarn. I'm expecting this to be about 14 wraps per inch, depending of course how much the yarn "poofs" once it goes through finishing.

It's been a nice day to get things done. I'm also making food ahead--a big pot of spaghetti sauce, meatballs and some low-fat spinach lasagna. So of course, I have a glass of red wine at my side, with Rigoletto playing in the background. I don't attempt cooking Italian without the correct mood being set. I need to dig deep into my roots to get the right flavorings.

All in all, it's a wonderful, snug day at the Craftstead.  Stuff is getting done and relaxation is happening. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Warping barbell

Warping barbell adds tension while beaming.
Seems like I'm finding lots of new uses for my exercise equipment these days. Shown above is what I've dubbed a Warping Barbell. This consists of my leg weights suspended at the ends of an inch thick dowel. I was trying to thing of some way to tension my warp when I hit on this idea. It's along the same lines as the warping trapeze Laura Fry talks about but without the need to attach something to the ceiling or build a big frame. The 10 pound weights keep the device in place and it does help provide a nice even tension.

I'm very happy wit this and plan to use it regularly.  I also enjoy re-purposing exercise equipment for weaving. Leg weights are also great for weighting a beater when doing something like rugs. And don't use this like a barbell as the weights fall off.  The warp, by the way, is yak. I was going to make a yak down scarf over winter break but it turned out to be a too delicate warp. I save the ruined warp for needlepoint.

26 oz of Wild Iris super bulky rug yarn.
 My plan to spin a pound of fiber a month is well on it's way with 26 oz of rug yarn completed. The Coopworth counts as "deep stash" as my friend Beth gave me the roving when she was destashing. I've dyed it Wild Iris. It helps a lot that I'm spinning super bulky rug yarn. Later this year, I intend to get a lot of rug weaving done and move stash from my closet to the floors. So far, so good!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Weaving meets Yoga

Yoga blocks come in handy in the studio.
I've taken up Svaroopa Yoga, a gentle practice that helps loosen up tight spots in the hips and lower back from too much sitting and tension.  I take classes but also follow a home practice, called the Magic 4. This eases my lower back and aligns my chakras (energy centers) and leaves my body and mind relaxed and freed to pursuit my many interests. I feel the practice, by opening and aligning my chakras, improves the flow of creativity and squeezes out left over stress from the week.

Overshot block design with handspun alpaca warp and silk& kid mohair weft.

Yoga blocks were the perfect prop for leveling the shafts on the Loomcraft. I've decided to use a 4 shaft tie up on it for its next several projects and having my yoga items in the studio proved exceptionally handy.  As you know, I hate crawling under the loom to do tie up, but a careful selection of yoga blankets and a blanket roll made for comfy work under the loom! I was really happy because I got the tie up set up in no time while being comfortable. Good thing I keep my yoga gear in this "half-studio."  I have one-half of the family room where we keep our TV and bookshelves so it is also a place to relax and maybe move along with an exercise DVD.

Leclerc Fanny warped with overshot block scarf.
Happily, I finished a scarf I began just two weeks ago over Christmas break. It has a hand spun alpaca warp and a commercially prepared warp of silk, kid mohair and glitter. The resulting scarf is luxuriously soft and just in time for some sub-zero temperatures. I'm kind of proud that this is also the fastest project I've done so far on the loom! It was on and off inside of two weeks.

Now to wind some more warps, and get to work on the big throw project....