Archive for June, 2010

Lesson Learned

Monday, June 28th, 2010

If you leave a bag of raw sheep fleece in the car all afternoon, be prepared for a particularly ripe odor when you open the door.

I got a large feed bag full of raw fleece today.  It is much softer, crimpier (wavier) and has a shorter staple (hair length) than the fleeces I’ve had before.  I’m hoping that these characteristics will lead to a much softer and less scratchy yarn when it is all said and done.

can't ya smell it??

After work, I poured a nice hot bath, and dumped the whole stinkin’ lot into the tub.  I use a washing liquid (pH 4.5) which maintains the acidity, and is beneficial for the wool.

Something of supreme importance in this whole process is a bathtub drain filter.  This can be picked up at a hardware store, and it will reduce the amount of hair and sticks that go down the drain.

It’s at this point that I wonder if the fleece will ever get completely white, and I wonder if my bathtub will be white again.

Planning A Fiber Friendly Summer Vacation

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

What is the most important thing to do when you plan a vacation? Well, after figuring out where to go, who to go with, and where to sleep, my mind started wandering to where I can find good roving and yarn.  (I MAY have a bit of a problem!)

If you are traveling with another knitter or spinner, then you are set!  If you are traveling with non-knitters, you might need to disguise your itinerary a little.  Get your groceries at a farmers market that just so happens to sell wool too.  Go to a farm (that sells fleece and roving) to see the animals sheep and goats.  Find a good restaurant that might be across the street from a yarn store.  All of this takes quite a bit of planning…

Here’s my approach

Step 1:  Check on Ravelry to find local yarn stores near where you are staying.  Search the “people” section for people from the area, and ask them where they get the best quality yarn.

Step 2:  Search for local farms.  I found to be very helpful.  Search by the product (veggies, honey, roving etc), or search by the town.  Maps and websites and farmers market details are all listed.

Step 3:  Ask on Twitter to see if anyone has recommendations of area farms to visit, markets or sheep and wool festivals to go to, or local yarn stores that are not to be missed.

Step 4:  Put all the locations on a Google map.  It is a great way to keep all the information in one place.  Link to websites, keep track of business hours or market days.  Use streetview where available so you know what the yarn store looks like when you “stumble upon it by chance”.

So far my plans include visiting alpacas on Martha’s Vineyard, pygora goats near Providence Rhode Island, llamas at Journey’s End Ranch in Middleboro MA, and sheep at River Valley Farm in Lennox MA.

If you know of anywhere in the Cape Cod Area that’s worth a visit, let me know.

Tour De Fleece

Friday, June 25th, 2010

The training begins tomorrow.  A strict regimen of ankle stretching, and fleece carding every day for the entire week should be ample preparation!

You see, I’ve just signed up for a really big challenge this July.  I just joined the Tour De Fleece, for Team Canada, and as such I vow to spin every day that the Tour De France riders are on their bikes.

That’s from Saturday July 3rd to Sunday July 25th, 2010.  I aim to get part way through this bag….but we’ll see how that goes.  I imagine that a lot of it will end up as sport weight yarn that I can use to make mittens this winter.  I’m thinking that some creative dyeing may be needed, because that’s a LOT of white fleece! 

I know, there’s lots of fun to be had in July….cottages, beach days, camp outs, and many other adventures.  Good thing spindles are portable!

If you are tempted crazy enough to join in, sign up on ravelry, here are some of the guidelines (not RULES):

  1. Spin every day the Tour rides, if possible. Saturday July 3rd through Sunday July 25th. Days of rest: Monday July 12th, Wednesday July 21st. (Just like the actual tour)
  2. Spin something challenging Thursday July 22nd. (The Tour’s toughest mountain stage from Pau up the legendary Col du Tourmalet)
  3. Wear yellow on Sunday July 25th to announce victory. Why not wear yellow on any day you feel particularly successful? (Yellow is the color of the race leader in the Tour – but here we are all ‘race leaders’)

Teams: Join one, or many, or none.

  • Rookies (first years)
  • Sprinters (fast and/or high mileage like lace)
  • Climbers (conquer mountains, big personal challenges)
  • Breakaway (Art yarns)
  • Peloton (The main group. Everyone is in the peloton at some point)
  • Lantern rouge (You will participate as much as possible but you may skip days here and there. Cheerleaders welcome.)
  • Wildcards (This is for people who want to form their own team. This includes sponsored teams, like those affiliated with a specific fiber shop or people who live in the same town, etc.)

Magnitude 5.0

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

The ground shook today….

…and of course, someone whipped out their camera to film…

fish tanks were rocked from Quebec to Cleveland!

There was some damage close to the epicenter


But here in Kingston, it just felt like someone was shaking my chair. I have never felt an earthquake before–once I was sure that things here had stopped moving I called my family to ask if they felt it too, and then turned to Twitter to get updates.  Breaking news flooded in from so many shaken people way before anything popped up on the USGS map.

I learned something today….I had no idea that we had fault lines near Ottawa.  I thought the Canadian Shield was pretty solid.

New top secret project, inspired from today, is on the needles.  Photos to come once there’s significant progress made!


Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

What are you doing between now and the 30th?  I’m not sure I have time to read the book AND knit these cool socks, but I’m looking forward to a night out to see the movie with some friends.  I’ll check the stash, and see if I have enough to knit up a pair.  It’s June, it’s rainy, my brain is tired, and I’m ready to knit something fairly simple.  Maybe I can get it done in time.

photo souce: Julie P. Miller's Flickr

Check out the pattern here [Ravelry].  It is a free download!

If you are looking for a smaller project to complete between now and the movie opener, check out these ipod/mp3 player socks.  These are also a free [Ravelry] download.

Image source Nancy Fry's Ravelry

For a blast from the past…check out these Twilight Cover Socks/mittens/gauntlets.  They are also a free [Ravelry] download.

Image Source: Chelsea21 (a buddy of mine)

A great stash-buster, and quick project for all your vampire obsessed friends….A coffee sleeve (or wrist band) with “Be Safe” on it.  It is available for free here.  [Ravelry]

Image Source: MyFairKatie's Flickr

Image Source: MyFairKatie's Flickr

Washing and Carding Tutorial

Monday, June 21st, 2010

I’ve met a kindred spirit this spring….someone who gets excited giddy at the idea of creating yarn and knitting with it.  Last week I showed her how to spin with a drop spindle, and the next thing I know she has talked with a sheep farmer and negotiated the acquisition of several large bags of fleece.

She asked what to do with the fleece, how to make it into yarn.  I let her know that there are 4 main steps

  1. Wash the fleece
  2. Card the fleece into a batt
  3. Spin the batt
  4. Dye it (this can be done any time after it is washed)

She went home and washed some of the fleece and dyed it with onions and tea and beans.  Later next week we’ll have a carding lesson.

Washing Fleece

Basically, fill up a bathtub/basin with warm soapy water, and put the fleece in.  Let it sit.  The water will change colour as the feces and grease leaves the fibers.  You may need to refill the tub a few times until the water stays clear (like in the picture).

  • Never agitate fleece when it is in the soapy water or it will felt
  • Never change the temperature rapidly
  • Put a bathtub strainer on the drain so the fleece wont end up down the drain.

relatively clean fleece

After the fleece is washed, it will need to dry.  Hopefully it is a sunny day, and you have a clothesline!  Do not try to do anything with the fleece until it is completely dry.

After it is dry, it is time to card it, and spin it….and the fun begins!

locks, roving/batt, yarn

I made a smart purchase of a drum carder (from E-Bay) in 2008, and my wrists have been thanking me since.  Before that time I had used a dog brush, and using that gave me some kind of carpal tunnel issue.  Be warned!!

Carding Fleece

I’m always learning how to do this better, and the most recent improvement that I’ve made to my process is to add fleece directly to the drum to start with.

The big drum is where the carding happens, it is driven by the handle.  The little drum is rotated slowly when the big drum rotates.

Add the fleece, lock by lock to the drum until you have the entire drum covered.  It is important that all the fibers are lined up in the same direction.

Rotate the big drum around a few more times.

Use a knitting needle (or chopstick) to lift the fibers from the big drum.  Start this process where there’s a break on the drum.  Lift about an inch at a time.

Wind the big drum backwards, and use the chopstick/knitting needle to take the fleece off.

Split the fiber batt in half lenthwise, and feed it into the drum carder from the tray.

Card the fleece 2 or 3 times until it is as smooth as you want it.

3rd time carded

Here’s the batt, ready to spin.

There are still little noils or nubbly bits in the fleece.  I’m not sure how to eliminate those.  Let me know if you do!

Black Sheep

Sunday, June 20th, 2010

I had a very interesting day at Wooly Acres a few years back, when I got to visit the sheep, meet the sheep dogs, and buy a fleece and some roving.  I had a bump of black shetland roving that was calling out to me from my big bin of fiber stash.  It’s hard to find black sheep….did ya know that?

I spun up a bobbin full, then Navajo plied it to form a bulky 3-ply yarn.  I’m looking forward to knitting a hat, but I don’t think there’s enough black to knit an entire hat… now I need a contrasting colour.  Maybe I’ll spin up some more shetland–I have a fleece that is a nice tan/golden brown.

I was searching through Ravelry today, and found a really cute hat.  So, now my plan is to make a Botanic hat (pattern by Stephen West).  It is a reversible beanie, which looks awesome either way you wear it.

I’m pretty sure I’ll need to modify things slightly for my bulky spinning, but I now feel inspired!

Taking Baby Pictures

Saturday, June 19th, 2010

Yesterday I met with Eilidh and her mom to take some pictures in the park to illustrate the “Eilidh” cabled vest pattern.  It was a lovely day, sunny and warm.  We found a spot in the shade, and got the wee one all dressed up, and sitting up.  Now, sitting up is new for her, and maybe she rolled a bit too far forward, squishing her stomach….or maybe she’d just been fed….but before any pictures could even be taken, she spit up down the front of the vest.

Thank goodness mommies always carry a bag full of wipey things.  We cleaned her up (you’d never know the vest was dirty in that picture!)….but she was really not into the whole modeling thing.  There were lots of pictures that look like this one!

Cuddles with mommy made it all better.

Funny thing is, when you take pictures of grown ups, you never have to worry about if they will spit up, or spontaneously cry when you get out the camera!  Thanks for being such a good sport Eilidh, and thanks to her mommy for letting her be a model!

What’s your craziest photo taking situation?

Pattern: Eilidh

Friday, June 18th, 2010

Download the .pdf for $5.00 CAD

Eilidh (Ay’-lee) is a Gaelic name that means LIGHT.

When my friend told me that she was choosing a Gaelic name for her little girl, I knew I needed to knit her something with lots of cables.

This celtic cabled vest will look charming on any little one, and could even be worn, over tights, as a dress by a very young girl.  Knit almost entirely in the round in double knitting weight yarn, this vest is quick to finish.  The cables are predictable, which is great for beginners, but each row is different enough to keep the expert entertained.

Here's Eilidh, who is just learning how to sit up!

The pattern is explained in row by row instructions, and also in chart form.

Download the .pdf pattern for $5.00 CAD

Thanks to Eilidh and her mom who met me in the park today for the pattern photo shoot, and thanks to Jean for test knitting this pattern and providing excellent feedback.

If you like this pattern, check out my others!

Still Not Knitting

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

I’ve been riding my bike into the sunset….and making some awesome macrame bracelets

Do you remember back when you were a teenager?  Getting a friendship bracelet made just for you was something pretty special.  I know that many sunny afternoons at summer camp were spent with strings pinned to my jeans, and my fingers hard at work making all sorts of bracelets for my cabin mates and new friends.  Matching bracelets were cool….and still are!

The past few days have brought back such good teenage memories.  I’ve been often spotted with strings pinned to my jeans these days, and a pocket full of beads.  I’ve been making matching bracelets for a group of teenagers that I’ve been working with for the past little while.

I’m using cotton string (left overs from somebody’s old weaving project), and adding some rather mysteriously magical beads.

beads indoors

The magic of these beads occurs as soon as you step outside.

beads outdoors

They react to the ultraviolet light from the sun, and they turn all sorts of colours.  It’s pretty cool–cool enough that even teenagers think that they are awesome.  These kids are still wearing the bracelets and showing their friends how neat the beads are.

Here we all are with our matching bracelets!

what a great group!

If you’d like to make bracelets of your own, here are the instructions (images from Macrame Friendship Bracelets)

Preparation Step 1.  Cut a piece of string that is as long as your fingers to your shoulder.  Cut another piece that is about 2 meters long.

Preparation Step 2.  Fold each string in half, and put the center loops together, and line up the ends facing you.  Tie an overhand knot at the loop end to secure all the strings together.  The long strings should be on the outside, we’ll call them strings 1 and 4.  The short strings should be on the inside, we’ll call them 2 and 3.

Bracelet Step 1.  Arrange string one as seen below.  It should pass over strings 2 and 3, and under string 4.

Bracelet Step 2.    String 4 should now go under strings 2 and 3, and come up through the space between string 1 and 2.  This will tie half of the square knot.Bracelet Step 3.  String 1, which is now on the far right, needs to return to the left side, passing over strings 2 and 3, and under string 4.Bracelet Step 4.  To return string 4 to the far right side, it needs to pass behind strings 2 and 3, and come up through the loop made between string 1 and 3.Continue the 4 steps to make more and more square knots.  Note:  strings 2 and 3 will always stay in the middle.  They should always have one string passing on top, and one passing underneath, to keep them as the core of the bracelet.  The outer strings need to be longer because they are the ones that tie all the knots.

If you want to make a twisty bracelet, repeat steps 1 and 2 over and over again.

If you want to add beads, thread them onto strings 2 and 3, and keep on with the knotted pattern after the bead.

For more information about how UV sensitive beads work, and where to buy them check out Steve Spangler’s Science page.

Why not teach a kid you know the fun of making macrame.  You’ll feel like a kid again too!