Monday, July 30, 2007

The Little Emperor Turns 6!

Here we are, probably around July 31 or August 1, 2001.

Holding up his head at a couple months old:

The brothers getting along:

(The Little Emperor is wearing the very same t-shirt today that Owen was wearing in that picture. Cue the Twilight Zone music...)

One of my favorite images of him, taken just shy of one year old:

Swinging with his favorite squirrel, around age 2:

Happy Birthday Little Emperor! You keep life exciting for us.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


I spun the 3 ply yarn from some of the Brown Sheep mill ends, dyed with grape Kool-Aid. The roving was a mix of wool and mohair, mostly white with a streak of black, before the weak Kool-Aid bath. I'll try to get an image of it on my head when it finishes drying.


Back at home, doing the laundry and so on. We had a very fruitful time there. I took a lot of pictures of stuff and my folks had meetings with people who know about settling large, complicated estates.

Personal note to DeMorgan, who left a comment this morning:
I can't help you without your email address! Please click on my profile to get my email address and I'll send you an answer. The hat instructions look complete to me, but please send an email if you are still confused.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Going Out of Town

But just for a couple of days. But, since my blog posts seem to have been happening on weekends lately, I thought I better tell you all that I'll be back late on Monday and not to expect much until Tuesday.

My parents will be working on the stuff in my grandmother's house and I'm taking Owen down with me to be an extra set of hands and also take pictures of stuff we might try to sell in a more up-market venue.

In fiber news, I've just been spinning and carding mostly.

I did start knitting a beret from the grape Kool-Aid 3 ply, which I think will be very cozy for winter. And I nearly finished a long-dormant second sock this evening. (I was inspired by Terby.) I managed to get right up to the toe shaping before I lost the will to see it through to the end.

But the spinning and carding, well that's been fun. I've made a mountain of batts from the mixed-browns Brown Sheep mill ends, minus the brown I peeled off to spin solid. I finished spinning all the brown I peeled off and have one more bobbin to ply, which will have to be plied on itself. The remaining mixed browns are mostly black and the white stuff you can see in the photo in the last post is mohair. Boris is going to stay with Fern for the coming week, so I guess I'll be concentrating on spinning or maybe knitting. I've also been spinning singles from some brown merino-romney cross that came in the large fiber lot. This is turning out very nice. It has a lot of lanolin left in it still: not completely unscoured, just a nice bit of lanolin to coat my hands while I spin. I got a length of that off the bobbin and folded it in half twice to get a sense of how it will perform as a four-ply. It's nice. Looks like about 10 w.p.i. with a great springiness. It should be a very resilient yarn.

Other news
My order from the Interweave Press hurt book sale arrived today. I really lucked out. I was on the computer at the moment the email announcement went out and I ordered right away. I got Alden Amos, Lee Raven's Hands On Spinning, In Sheep's Clothing, Starmore and daughter's Children's Collection, Feitelson's Fair Isle Knitting, and a couple others.

And now, I really have to go to sleep. Owen and Mr. SABLE are out getting the new Harry Potter, which means I'll be on duty with The Little Emperor in the morning.

Pictures next week. I promise.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Meet Boris!

MY! What big teeth you have!

What's black and white and flies all over?

Fiber before meeting Boris

Fiber after meeting Boris

Did I tell you yet how much I love Boris? This is the most fun fiber thing ever!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

More Spinning

Yes, I swear, I will get some knitting done soon! Really!

It's just that it's so easy for me to spin and not so easy for me to knit when my family is driving me nuts. And I really really really wanted to make some 3 ply yarn.

Why don't more knitting spinners and spinning knitters make 3 ply? (Maybe they do and I just don't realize it.) But it seems like most of the ones I run across are talking about 2 ply for knitting. And I have to say, there's something so much better about 3 ply!

With that said, here's my first skein:

And here's the second one:

These were both made from the same singles, but I had a more satisfactory arrangement of the singles for plying without tangles on the second skein. I think I'm starting to get the hang of this.

The-Brown-Sheep-mill-ends-turned-into-a-batt made wonderful thin strong singles and I am getting pretty darn consistent with them. Some of the inconsistencies in the yarn are from the first bobbin's worth of singles, before I carded it.

My next plan is to bring the drum carder over to my house soon and tackle the mixed browns! I think they will make great batts!

Here's a bright orange flower growing in the yard:

Friday, July 13, 2007

Drum Carder!

So, my friend Fern phoned this evening to say that our new drum carder had arrived. (We decided to go halfsies on one, since neither of us quite thought we could justify the expense alone. Right now, it's living at her house.)

Owen and I went right over and brought along the grape Kool-Aid almost-felted roving to run through.

We had a chuckle about one sheet of instructions that was packed with it. It was a notice that a great many returns for service were introduced with the owner saying, "I lent it to a friend..." So, they want to make sure to remind folks not to lend out the drum carder without properly training the friend first.

After carefully reading all the important parts of the manual, we got out some plain white inexpensive roving to run through a few times. This is to clean off any crud left on at the factory, and indeed, that first fiber did get pretty dingy. When we got a clean run, then I started in on the grape Kool-aid batch.

And voila:

My first batts! It's a lot of fun to make them and I'm excited to imagine the creative potential in blending fibers and colors.

Earlier in the day, I decided that I needed to make the yarn from these singles into a 3 ply. I tried Navajo plying a little sample, the second time I ever tried. I did a better job the first time. After a couple broken strands in thin spots and a twisty gobbledy-gook mess, I decided I wasn't going to pursue that tonight. Surely plain old plying with three strands would be easier. Except that I had one center pull ball and one small quantity on a cone. The two ends from the center-pull ball had more affinity for one another than the third ply, but I just wanted to get a sense of the weight of yarn I'd end up with, so I made enough yards for a little swatch.

I really like the feel of it. It has a satisfying springiness and is pleasantly soft. It just has a nice hand.

Energized by all this, I got home from Fern's about 10 and spun up some of one of the batts. What a delight! Compared to working apart the almost-felted fibers by hand, this is a dream.

I'm planning to make it all a three-ply, probably a heavy sport-weight/DK range. My swatch was done on US #5 needles and that seems just right.

I just need to work out the right amount of twist for plying three strands. I'm getting the hang of balanced two-ply, but my timing is off on the three-ply.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


Lots of photos in this post.

First, here's all the Caramel Yarn I made from sectioning off the brown roving in the mixed browns batch of Brown Sheep mill ends:

I might still be able to split off another couple bobbins' worth, which would be nice. I'm guessing this will knit up somewhere around DK/Worsted wt, comfortable on size 7-ish needles.

Next up, I took some of this so-called "mixed blacks" Brown Sheep roving

and gave it a simmering bath of grape kool-aid. It was a weak solution for the volume of wool. I got this result when I unbraided the roving:

It came this close to felting. I can still pull the fibers apart and spin them, though.
Here are the first of the singles from that:

I would like to card this to spread the mohair more evenly through the wool and reduce the manual prep time. (Drum carder is supposed to come today or tomorrow! Wahoo!)

This is a bobbin with singles from some of the black and white that was left when I peeled off the brown:

I think this will look better when plied and skeined that it does in this picture.

And finally, the spinning story of the week. A fellow Knittyhead forwarded me a Craigslist ad for someone near Madison with a lot of fiber to sell. It was a sad situation, as someone was forced by circumstance to clear out all her fiber and supplies, but worked out really well for me. My friend Fern and I went there the other night and bought it all for a song. We squeezed it into Fern's Prius and drove it home to her house. We'll split it up this weekend and I'll get pictures of the mountain then. Remember those yarn ads a few years ago, with a VW Beetle full of yarn? It was kind of like that, only fiber in a Prius.

That night I brought just this small bit home with me:

Four balls of Merino/Romney cross.

Here's my first attempt with that:

It seems to want to be spun very fine.

Now, I think I need more bobbins! Three different singles, one on each of the three bobbins I own.

And, lastly, here's a pumpkin flower on Owen's vine:

Saturday, July 07, 2007

In order to keep my knitting balanced, I like to have some very easy, very portable projects going while I'm working on something that requires more attention.
The current easy portable projects are some Regia socks and a solid, stockinette st vest from my handspun.

When you think your spinning is getting pretty good, there's nothing like knitting with it to show you all its faults. I'll still love the vest this fall when the weather cools off.

I did make a bit more progress on the Fair Isle in the last few days:

When I give it the time and attention, it goes pretty quickly. Thanks for all the compliments on the last post. Since you asked about how I choose colors for a complex project, I'll ramble a bit on that topic.

First of all, as you probably know, I have a ridiculously large stash. So when I get in mind to make a new fair isle color scheme, I start with the yarn I already own and see what happens. If I'm knitting for myself, I usually want to choose colors from the warmer tones. I have very pink undertones in my skin and tend to look like a flushed inebriate if I choose the wrong undertones. So, even the blues and greens I like tend to have a warm cast to them. Sometimes I'll want to work with a particular color or group of colors and need to audition some others to round out the palette. This is where it gets interesting. Sometimes the color I was trying to build a garment around gets eliminated from the line-up. Sometimes a group I think look smashing together in the balls or hanks just don't work in little knitted stitches. I personally tend to be happier with a color scheme when there's something that fights a little bit in it. Not so much as an outright clash, but something that gives it a bit of spark. Which means that even though I think an understanding of color theory is helpful, ultimately it's about choosing what works for you and going with it. After all, when you look around at the natural world, you find any and all colors existing near one another and some of those random collisions of color don't "go" at all, but are a joy to behold. Check my archives for October 2006 for some old posts about choosing colors.

Here's a day lily from the yard:

Finally, Owen got a hamster yesterday. See her picture
here. Her name is Susie Suzy.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Fair Isle progress

In between lots of long spinning sessions, I've made a bit of progress on the Fair Isle cardigan.

This one clicks for a slightly bigger view.

And here's a detail shot:

At this point, the knitting is about 12 inches long. After the next round of the greys and greens, I'll begin armhole shaping. I'm planning to make sleeve caps with steeks, either set-in or modified drop, or kind of a hybrid of the two. So far, I've always worked Fair Isle sleeves by picking up around the armhole and knitting down to the wrist. And they've always been drop shoulders. So this will be a bit of a departure for me.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Later the Same Day...

Just to give you an idea of how the Brown Sheep is shaping up with more prep and a little familiarity...

(This one gets big if you click it.)

And again:

I split large sections of brown off of the brown mix, maybe taking a bit of black or white, but not much. I loosened the fibers up and pre-drafted vigorously. And you can see, compared to the calico mix, that this is a far more even and satisfactory yarn. Still some thick and thin, but not as bad and subtler transitions between thicknesses.

Mostly Spinning

It's been interesting working with the Brown Sheep mill ends. I started on the mixed browns a few days ago. As I mentioned in an earlier post, this stuff is a little compressed and benefits from some loosening up. I've been pre-drafting each section before I spin, and it makes a big difference in my results. There are also section with a lot of very short fibers, from where the roving was blunt-cut, and those tended to form clumps unless I took pains to get them out.

This skein is from the first bobbin-full plied back on itself. It's very thick'n'thin and has a real beginner look to it.

A closer look:

I was afraid that I wouldn't like the effect when I got it plied, but I do. It reminds me of a calico cat. I thought I would prefer fiber with more even color distribution and placement, but this is ok.

While I was spinning, I was thinking that it would be nice to have access to a drum carder, so I could blend the colors and loosen up the fiber more quickly. Mr. SABLE looked on Ebay to see what was there. I thought briefly of asking my friend Fern if she wanted to goes halfsies on one, but I really knew this is not something I need and put it out of my head. The next day, I was driving to St Paul with Fern, who also bought a couple pounds of the Brown Sheep mill ends and we were discussing our results so far. Then, she asked me if I might be interested in going halfsies on a drum carder. It must be fate. She's going to look into the choices and let me know.

Here's a picture of the Romney sliver I bought from Paradise Fibers a while ago.

This yarn is pretty hairy and rustic, but I was spinning it right off the ball and doing no pre-drafting whatsoever. It was fun to work with and was spinning very quickly.

In Other News
Yesterday I went to Last Saturday Knitting. We've moved to 2 p.m., which seems to be working out better than the 10 a.m. slot. I tried to work on my Fair Isle project a bit, but I was just starting a new repeat of the big reds and yellows band and I kept either screwing up or thinking I did, so I cast on some new socks instead. I can do colorwork in a social setting once I have the visual cues in place to read my knitting. Maybe next time.

That Fair Isle has seen darn little action this past week. I drove over 1000 miles on the two round trips to St Paul. I had the Lost Wednesday. And a couple of less-memorably lost days in all that. I'm afraid not much knitting will get done until fall, in spite of the fact that I have no aversion to knitting in the summer. It's just that family life has a way of interfering.

I need to make myself another swimsuit. The second one has grown obscenely sheer from chlorine exposure. This happened to the first one. Marji helped me out with finding a source for chlorine-resistant swimsuit fabric, so as soon as that arrives, I'll have my next project cut out for me. So to speak. (If it really was cut out for me, that might simplify everything. Remember the old Frostline kits?) I would just buy a bathing suit, but being both long in the torso and plus size, I kind of need to make my own. Unless I want my butt cheeks hanging out the bottom, or a two-piece with my stretch marks hanging out the middle. Even in my life BC (before children), when I was just tall and not plus-sized, the tall suits were never tall enough. The first time I realized I could sew my own suit and emerge from the water with out any tugging whatsoever was a truly liberating day.

Meanwhile, we're hoping to take the kids and the canoe to Devil's Lake today and I need to find a way to cover my backside. I'm thinking about doing surgery on a suit I got at Target 6 years ago. It's the kind with a dress over a tank suit and the suit part creeps A LOT. I think I might slice off the the bottom around the waist and either serge in a 2 inch strip of stretchy fabric around the waist (it will all be hidden by the dress part over) or cut the bottom off an old Land's End suit that had other fitting issues, and serge that on, adding the needed length. Sounds like I have my agenda for the day worked out.