Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Wonderful Wallaby

I'm a spinner! not a knitter......However both of my granddaughters have birthdays this spring so this is the opportunity to try to make, not one, but two, first time ever for me sweaters . Now these girls think that I'm a talented granny. I don't bother to tell them that most of the hand knitted stuff they get from me is purchased through Etsy. Pam has made a few things for them. I just need to finish the neck on this sweater and add the hood.

I'm sure the entire rest of the knitting world knows what a Wallaby is, but I didn't. When our Monday night knitting group decided to do the sweater or socks, of course, I chose the sweater. (You who know me, know about my 4 unmatched socks). AND, I bought yarn!!! Didn't think dear daughter, mother of grandgirls, would appreciate hand washing my hand spun alpaca. This yarn is the self striping Encore Colorspun. It kind of bothers me that it was made in Turkey because I am a made in the USA kind of woman. But it is fun to knit and is washable, Nikki.

I'm knitting Meredith's first because it is larger (think about my sock dilemma). Meredith will be 9 but is very, very tall so I'm making the child's large for her and probably the child's 8 for Elizabeth who will be 6. It's been great fun and I'm a little obsessive about finishing it.

The Wonderful Wallaby, A Hooded Sweater for all ages - Cottage Creations - copyright 1984

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Alpaca Fiber to Create Tuxedo Kitty

Marianne, from Lawrence, Kansas, just listed this dear kitty that she made for her Etsy shop - MarianneW. Go take a look at him. His face, paws, and tail are made from Celeste's yarn that Marianne bought over a year ago, January 2007. It's so much fun to see what my yarn becomes. Thanks for sharing, Marianne.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Patsy Zawistoski Spinning Workshop

Patient, knowledgeable, teaching Patsy on the left, and kind, fun, knowledgeable Beth who is the owner and instructor at her shop, the Spinning Loft. Although painted wool was provided for the class, Patsy allowed me to use some alpaca roving that I had dyed. The class was titled COLOR OPTIONS for HAND SPINNERS.
I am sharing just a few of the highlights of the day that I think you might find interesting:
The class met for a couple of hours the night before so I came a little late and missed the instruction for a Tweed Candy Stripe and a Cable yarn. The first thing Patsy had me do was to wrap some roving around a card so that I could study my colors and patterning.

Before we spun this slub yarn, we hand carded the painted roving to make a neutral color to use to ply our slub yarn. I hope that you can tell from the picture that it was the perfect blend for the yarn. I know that I will do this again to make slub (thick 'n' thin) yarn.

I had never used hand carders before so bought myself a pair from Beth.

The really neat thing on this page is the Faux Boucle'. We spun a fairly firm twist of slub yarn and then plied it with Woolly Nylon Serger Thread that was elastic. As we plied, we pulled the Thread taut and stretched it a little. The Faux Boucle' yarn is the bundle on the right above the green and orange. As soon as I got home I went on line and ordered this Serger Thread that I had never heard of. I'm anxious for it to arrive so that I can play with it.

Navaho ply: I had been practicing this frequently before class. No matter how carefully I weigh my fiber into two equal amounts before I spin, I usually have a little left on one bobbin. That's what I have been using for practice. I actually did quite well in class but don't think that I will ever intentionally Navaho ply a whole skein. If I want 3 ply, I will probably just ply from 3 different bobbins.

Not only did I come home with these record sheets of our spinning experiments, but also a 13 page folder that covered what we did in class and a tutorial on dying roving.

Probably the most important part of the workshop is that it motivated me to leap outside of my nice, comfortable, predictable spinning and be more daring and creative.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Alpaca Slammie Goes to School

Slammie is practicing wearing a scarf to get ready for his school appearance. Needless to say, the rest of the boys think he's pretty special and think they need one too.
My friend, Beth's son, John is going to show Slammie at the Youth Fair next summer. This will be the our Fair's first ever alpaca classes.
For his Science project, John decided to do alpacas and to compliment his display, he took an alpaca to school.

John and Slammie in the van on the way to school. Slammie hesitated a moment before getting into Beth's van, but it was obvious that he trusted both of them and then stepped right in. Alpacas usually cush (sit with their legs under them) when they are in a moving vehicle, but not our Slammie Boy, he stood up looking out the front window all the way to school. He's a curious little guy.

..... and here's John and Slammie in front of John's Science Display about alpacas. The scarf says I ♥ Science.
We did laugh when Beth brought him home. He was such a good boy about not pooping nor peeing the whole time that he was gone, but as soon as his halter came off, he ran right over to the communal pile.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day from the alpacas

NS Orion (Slammie) says Happy Valentine's Day. Photo by Beth.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Cat and Mouse

Had to share this cute picture of her kitty that girlfriend Beth sent yesterday.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Adding Silk While Spinning Alpaca

This is hand dyed Tussah silk that I bought from Rita in her Etsy shop, Castleman. I love these colors and blended them with light fawn alpaca fiber from Pudge.
I think that alpaca and silk are naturals together. Because this is what we raise, I spin mainly Huacaya alpaca which is the crimpy, Teddy bear looking alpaca. Suri alpaca have the long, straight pencil locks and their fiber actually works like silk which adds drape and luster to yarns.
This next picture will show you how I hold the two fibers together while spinning.

The silk is on the left and the alpaca on the right. As I spin, I try to ease the two together equally which I find nearly impossible, but I believe that is the charm of the finished yarn. I've stripped the silk to pieces about this wide and the extra is laying on my left knee ready to join into the alpaca. The alpaca is coming from my right.
The spin method that I use is the front/left hand is nearly stationary and resting ever so lightly on the fiber, allowing it to slide through. My back/right hand is tugging and drafting back toward me and controling the amount of fiber going forward. I have developed this method to give my alpaca softness and loft.
Somewhere recently, I read that alpaca needs lots of twist to keep it together. This isn't true. Lots of twist will just make the yarn hard and it will lose it's soft alpaca quality. At least, this is my opinion......

Ta Da ---The results - 2.8 ounces/80 grams - 150 yards. I love the contrast between the almost flat alpaca and the shine and color variation of the silk.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Close Your Barn Door

I wonder if I said "Close your barn door" to a little boy if he would know to zip up his zipper? or does this really give a clue to my 65 years?
What we did this morning was not closing barn doors but opening them, all 10 to let horses, sheep, and alpacas out. We had a really big storm yesterday which produced 11 inches of snow, very high winds, and huge drifts. I had shut all the critters in and this morning it took us about 4 hours to hand dig everyone out their own door. In fact, husband is out plowing on the tractor still. A couple of the drifts were 5 feet high.
The above picture was taken from our deck off the kitchen. On the left is Fiona, husband's new Haflinger pony, my big gray Ivan guy, and if you look really close, you can see an alpaca above him.
Left click on pictures for enlargements ☺

This is the side of our property looking out my bedroom window about noon. Love those long shadows heading north. Today is an awesomely beautiful, after the storm, sunny day.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Alpaca Fiber Preparation - Drum Carding

When I look up from my carding, this is the view out my basement window. The view, a little music, creating lovely fiber. How perfect! Well, maybe some wine and chocolate.......
Here she is, friends, my Strauch carder. She does a perfect job with my alpaca fiber. The only thing that I can think of that I would like more is if that dang handle were motorized. That repetitive motion is hard on the old joints.

This is my view while carding and looking down. I fluff the fiber and put on the metal tray on the left. The brutally pokey cylinder (licker in) pulls the fiber in when I crank the red handle. The carded fiber is on the big cylinder to the right.
This is the stage that I was having all kinds of static problems. Well, and when trying to take the batt off. Friends on Ravelry and Etsy forums gave me all kinds of suggestions to control the flight of the fiber. What is working best for me right now is diluting Downy fabric softener in water and spritzing the raw fiber before I even start.
Even though the I have the brush ↓ attachment, I use an additional wide, cheap, bristley brush to pank the fiber down. My friend Carey uses a long wall paper brush.
Fiber coming off carder after one pass through.

After running a hook like tool that Strauch provided (some folks use a long knitting needle) along the little opening with no teeth (you can just sort of see it under the fiber) you can lift the fiber off in sort of a peel like movement. A little fiber will be left behind but I use a metal dog brush like tool to lift it out and add it to my roving piles.
I like to run the bat through again. I strip it lengthwise into about 4 strips and spread/fluff them a little and crank away. My carder can handle about 1.4 ounces before it tells me no more by leaving fiber on the licker in.
I'm very pleased that my Strauch is so kind to my alpaca and does not create little tuffs and noils. My first carder was the Louet Junior (the narrow one) and it was rather harsh and would break my fiber.

Two finished batts ready for spinning. I unfold the batt and strip it lengthwise for mini rovings that are ready to go. I have a custom spinning order for all of this fiber from a very loyal customer - Jessie who lives in Bearsville, New York. She makes beautiful jewelry from coins. Go visit her shop called MadeFromCoins.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Welcome to my World of Fleece Washing

Welcome to my home........ The big landslide waiting to happen over the door reminded me of the old bucket of water over the door trick that used to facinate me as a kid.
Well, our last storm is over. Schools and, well, everything were cancelled on Friday. We had to get out our driveway and road because we had an appointment with our tax man. Fortunately, both our vehicles have 4 wheel drive. I guess living in the country like we do, 4 wheel drive and a generator are a necessity. We humans could probably get along without electricity for a while but I worry too much about having water in the barn for our four legged friends.
I have a rather large yarn order to be spun up from some raw black fleece from Black Knight and this is pretty much what is taking up my time right now. I weighed out 20 ounces of his fleece and washed it. This is the way I wash if you are interested. I fill the sink or bucket with the hottest tap water that I can get and add a big glug of Dawn dishwashing detergent. (This is what I use for dishes so it is handy) I push the fleece in and usually put a dish or something on top to weight it down. I let this sit and soak until the water cools, frequently overnight. Before I dump the wet mess into a colander/drainer, I very gently push up and down to further loosen dirt. I dump it and push to get out some more of that yucky water. I again fill the sink/bucket with very hot water and this time I add Eucalan and follow the same procedure. Now begins the rinse. The first rinse gets a big glug of white vinegar and usually one more rinse will have nice clear water.
I have a top loading washing machine so I ease the fiber into a couple mesh bags, squeeze, and run like hell to the utility room where the machine is waiting with an open lid. I know, I know, I could put something under but I don't have a lot of excitement in my life......
My last spin cycle doesn't add any water and does a beautiful job extracting the water so I can lift the bags out - no dripping now. I spread the fleece out in the tub in our spare bathroom so that Riley cat doesn't wallow in it. If I go in and fluff occasionally, it will be dry in about 2 hours.
Tomorrow I will talk a little about carding and my fight with static.