Friday, June 29, 2007

Black Sheep Gathering: Washed fleece and spun locks.

We have been very busy around here. Washing (which may have to join the list of verbs to keep warm), flicking, spinning, and washing again. I can not wait to knit these into swatches.

From left to right: targhee, shetland, shetland (I have left the guard hairs in both shetland), coopsworth/romney, and ramboulliet. Out of all of the samples, I love them all, but I especially love the Ramboulliet. It feels like velvet. Sometimes the color looks dark grey and sometimes chocolate brown. I defintely see a sweater in the future.

All 1oz samples have been spun from the lock with a mainly worsted draw. I find spinning from the lock somewhat frustrating. Funny enough, while most people learn how to draft worsted, I learned to draft over the fold with a long draw. The over the fold draw is great because its brings alot of air into the yarn making it very lofty and soft but soemtimes it is nice to have a tighter, slicker yarn. Also, I am used to spinning from top or roving. I decided to try and perfect my worsted draw because I would really love to use these yarns to make a cable sweater and I would really like those cables to pop. Needless to say, this experiment has been a challenge, trying to maintain the proper worsted drafting method, feeding a similiar and continuous amount of fibers into the drafting triangle and so on.

My next program will be to spin each type of fiber from a carded rolag. And to spin the shetland without the guard hairs. Onto the next topic, the new additions to my stash:

Lynne Vogel has hand dyed this beautiful blend of 60% merino/40% bamboo.

This is my first top up sock. I picked up this yarn from the Blue Moon Fibers booth. As you can see, there is another skein of Blue Moon hanging out in the background.

You might say "What on earth?" But I ask for you to with hold your judgement. Yes, the colors are in athestetic nightmare. But, these were done entirely on a drop spindle. I have to add that I have hated my drop spindle for the past years and am very proud to announce that I have a new warm and friendly relationship with my drop spindle. And, the even cooler aspect of these socks, is that they were knit as I spun, thus, they are made from energized singles. The close up photo is meant to show you the singles slanting. Energized singles give you a very elastic and springy sock. The only other cool piece of information that I can add is that these socks were plant dyed. Oh, and they actually fit my feet. Something, that I have not been so successful at in the past.

Here, we have a photo of my sad little indigo shawl. I started using a pattern from the Folk Shawls book. You know, I really don't think I like this book. Every shawl I try, I just don't like. What's a girl to do? Well, she goes out and buys A Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns by Barbara Walker. And, she makes up her own pattern. Swatching starts soon. I am feeling a watery, an ocean theme perhaps.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Black Sheep Festival: Our last day. I am an addict that needs to go to recovery.

Yes, it's time to move on and we have. I am spending the night in Weed, California. There is an awesome restaurant here called The Hi-Lo Cafe. Complete down home cooking. I succumbed and ordered the lasagna. Eventhough we are in California, this was certainly _not_ Californian cuisine. No fancy dancy special herb, duck, whatever the funk meat sauce. Plain ol simple and good tomato and meat sauce with tons of cheese and pasta that wasn't al dente. It even came with trashy white, buttered, garlic bread. Yum! I am not being facetious, truly.

Here are some fun animal photos from the festival.


angora goat = mohair

blue-faced leicester

cashmere producing goats



One last thing that I have to confess. I bought 2 more fleeces. Or I should say that my mom bought me 2 more fleeces. She is an enabler. The first one is another mature shetland. It is red and it smells like maple syrup and I am not kidding. There is a special carotin in the wool. Judith, the judge, said that the fleece will smell like this forever even when its made into a sweater. Yum.

The other fleece -- a Coopworth/ Romney cross. very long staple length and a silvery charcoal color.

We have ALOT of work to do in the next week. I am so glad that my mom is going to be help! Our first plan is to wash a half pound of each fleece, spin it, and knit up swatches. We have decided the only time we are going to leave the house is to go to the gym. This girl needs a little toning from her weekend induglences of beer, pizza, ice cream, and jelly bellies.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Black Sheep Gathering: 3 new fleeces!

Oh dear God -- what a day. Where do I begin? I really should be napping before I return to the festival for the 8 pm spinners fashion show but I have too much news to share. The day started with Adrienne and I having a screaming match. You know how that goes -- travelling, not sleeping well, blogger not working right on the hotel server tantrum. But the sheep cured all of our blues.

The judging of the fleeces continued from yesterday -- and I luckily walked in the door right as they begun judging the shetland fleeces. Class #28 for Shetland Yearlings and class #29 for mature Shetlands. Beautiful range of colors.

We then went over to the Angora goat competition. Absolutely wonderful. Probably my favorite part was seeing the older Angora rams. One noticeable difference bewteen the goat and sheep shows -- is that many of the goat handlers were pre-teen girls. There was even one little girl who was maybe 10 or 11. The goats seemed easier to handle than the sheep. It was so sweet to see the girls. Each won a prize, and turned away in shyness.

I left Adrienne and my mom with the goats and headed back over to the fleece competition to hear the closing remarks. They were giving out the "best of show" awards -- one to a white fleece and one to a dark fleece. And the Black Sheep Cup which is awarded to the best flock of 5 fleeces -- this was awarded to a flock of Merinos and these fleeces were gorgeous.

The judge of the fleece competition was Judith MacKenzie McCuin. I finally put 2 and 2 together and figured out that she wrote Teaching Yourself Visually Handspinning. Duh! She was absolutely great! She was very through of her explanations and was very open with the audience -- answering any of their questions. And, she has a great sense of humor! After the competition, she signed copies of her book. Of course, I had to get one. Best of all, she gave me alot of great advice about starting a handspinner's flock.

The most anticipated event of the day was the point in which they open up the judged fleeces for purchase. They allow a half hour viewing period for you to set your eyes on what you want. Then they have you stand outside in a long line, re-open the doors, ask you not to push and shove, and its basically an open playing field for fleece grabbing. Adrienne, my mom, and I had our strategy down. It helped that we were also 4th in line.
Each one of us was assigned a fleece and we headed to our respective tables, grabbed our fleeces and reconvened. I am sooooo happy with what we got!

1. 2nd place. Mature shetland. Carmel color.

2. 1st place. Ramboulliet. Charcoal/blue color.

3. 1st place. Targhee. Ivory color.

I want to bring the fleeces in the hotel room so I can run over and just admire there beauty whenever the feeling strikes -- but then this place would smell like a barn. How do you think the hotel would feel about that?

Anyways, point being, we had a fabulous day. I will post photos soon.

Black Sheep Gathering: I love Shetland sheep!

You might notice that the time on this post is 6:30 AM. Yes, I have been up since 4 am because the person staying next to me in this hotel has had their TV blaring all night! For those of you that know me well, as you know, I have some sort of blaring TV karma. In some ways it pisses me off because I have sooooo many animals and fleeces to see today but in other ways I have a tiny bit of tolerance because I am sooo happy to see so many animals and fleeces. If anything, I figure I might have to drag myself away mid-afternoon for a little siesta.

Anyways.... The Black Sheep Gathering is so much fun. I can not stand it. I think we spent 8 1/2 hours yesterday. I was literally dizzy from all of the activity. At 8:20, we drove to the fairgrounds, parked, exited the car, and heard our first baaaaaaa. How exciting. First, we watched the sheep competition -- starting with Navajo-Churro.

It was a sight just to see the sheep get literally dragged into the ring. Oh they hated it. However, I did come to learn that there are certain breeds more skittish than others. The judging is quite extensive -- rams, ram lambs, ewes, pairs, flock. So extensive that we decided to pull ourselves away to walk around and see some of the other breeds of sheep waiting in their paddocks. Corriedales, Blue-faced Leicesters, Wensleydales, Romneys, Ramboulliet crosses, Jacobs, a few Merinos, and my newly beloved Shetland. These little guys have tails that wag when they see you. They are small and soft. I might have found my sheep. I think my second favorite are the Corriedales. They seemed very gentle. Their fleece covers them like a tightly piled carpet.

I realized that it was 11 AM and that the sheep to shawl event had started so we ran over to that. There were four teams, one novice and three expert. Each team had four to five spinners and 1 weaver. It was interesting to see the range in projects. Team Sparkle had add a little synthetic to their yarn so tehy had a little sparkle. My favorite team used only the natural colors of the sheep. Their end result was a geometric, open weave shawl. It was stunning. The open weave really allowed the yarns to come through. You could easily see the spinners talent and expertise. The geometric pattern allowed us to see the weaver's talent. The shawl was a perfect balance. I still do not know who won the competition...I found myself swept into yet another world of fiber. The trade show.

Of course, there are the fiber vendors. Kind of like a mini-Stitches. Probably, my highlight was the Twisted Sisters booth. I liked how the fiber was arranged and their wise array of product. They offered alot however the booth did not seem overwhelming. Of course, I had to add a little to my stash. I picked up two hand painted skeins of roving -- 80 merino/20 bamboo.

I started to wonder where all of the fleeces were. We learned that across the parking lot were the fleeces - and best of all the judging of the fleeces. I happily sat and drop spindled, listening to the judge explain the pros and cons to each type of fleece and judge them accordingly. It was great.

Today, we go back. I plan on wandering further into the sheep barn, listening to more of the fleece judging, and buying a Shetland fleece. I can't wait.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Natural Dyes: Indigo!!

Yea! This morning I spent a looong time washing out the indigo dyed fiber from last weekend's natural dyeing intensive. I left all of the pieces to age for a week because oxygen helps lock the indigo to the fiber.

Going along the wash line, left to right, we have fustic overdyed with indigo making a beautiful green patina. I absolutely love the way that the shades of green change slightly showing little bits of muted yellow. Next, we have a multi colored painted roving: madder, fustic, and a portion overdyed with indigo. Then, my other very favorite: bright pink cochineal. The tips have been overdyed with indigo making them a gorgous purple color. Now we are on to the soild indigo, the first 2 pieces of roving on the left are dyed with indigo from Guatemala. All the pieces to the right of this are dyed with indigo from Japan. The very dark pieces have been dipped two times in the indigo pot. On the very right hangs my hand-spun polwarth and merino that I am going to use for the Spun Stitches KAL. I have to admit before the yarn was completely dry, I wrapped it ito a skein so that I could swatch it.

Tomorrow, we are leaving for the Black Sheep Festival. And, I realllly want to use my new indigo yarn and start knitting the Red Sea shawl from the Folk Shawls book while we are driving. Not like there are 5 other projects that I could be working on. Oh well.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Black Sheep Gathering: The countdown has begun

OOoooh -- next week at this time, we will have just arrive to Eugene, Oregon for the Black Sheep Gathering. My mom is flying in from Minnesota on Tuesday. I can tell she is excited to come because she calls daily to tell me what we will be doing next week at this time. "Next week at this time, my plane will be landing", "Next week at this time, we will be driving up to Eugene", etc. Its very sweet.

We will drive half way on Wednesday and complete the trip on Thursday. I plan to go to sleep early on Thursday night and be up bright and early on Friday in time for the juding of fleeces to begin! This is my first fiber festival. I decided not to register for any classes although there were some that were mighty tempting. If there are still openings, I might attend the class named Organic Certification of Animal Fibers: Standards, Practices, and Considerations. Being that I do see sheep and a farm in my future.

If not full, I would have been very tempted to take Orenburg Handspinning. This is a type of Russian spinning that uses supported hand spindles to make lace out of the finest fibers like cashmere for lace weight shawls. Its funny. I don't think that my personality lends itself to spinning lace weight, knitting laceweight, or wearing laceweight, yet, I find myself increasingly drawn towards it. Maybe just for the challenge. I also think that I may be drawn towards the people who do spin and knit in this manner because I am in awe.

I think its interesting to think of how one's spinning may reflect one's personality. You know I joined the Spun Stitches SAL/ KAL to spin yarn for a shawl. I feel very lumpy among my spinning/knitting colleagues. They are spinning the most amazing, teensy, tiny, yarns. And mine, well, its pretty but lumpy. However, I do like the lumpy look. I could actually get defensive and say something along the line of "well, if I wanted to spin yarn that thin, I can" but really I don't find it fun. Every now and then, when I do spin something consistently laceweight, I can see the draw. I feel each individual fiber aligning just right with the fiber before it. I can feel the staple length. And, for a moment, I am pleased with being right there with my fiber and not caring how long it might take to spin 1400 yards. 1400 yards, oh my god, you might as well say 14,000,000 yards! My personality comes rushing back. My brain travels forward in its little time machine. I see myelf knitting and finshing. Then, my spinning flies forward into kind of lumpy bumpy. Oh, this feels more right, I am going to get to the next stage faster. So, I think part of my facination with these laceweight spinners is that they have fun making this kind of yarn. And, I would like to think that they are exemplifying the enjoyment of each minute, and each strand of fiber along the spinning process.

In saying all of that, the sheep to shawl competition is one event I am dying to see. This is a sport that I may actually get excited about. Instead of fantasy football, I could play fantasy shawl spinning. Expect to see a whole photo montage when I get back.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Natural Dyes: A Whole Array of Colors

I was in a natural dye workshop all weekend and it was fabulous. I have to admit I was dreading it a little bit at first. Every weekend in May and June has been booked with activites and I was really wanting a weekend that was all mine. BUT this was much better than anything I could have done left to my own devices.

We dyed madder, logwood grey, fustic, indigo (both Japanese and Guatemalan), and cochineal. From these dyes, we were able to get the entire spectrum of the color wheel.

In the past, I have always been obsessed with indigo. This was before I had ever dyed with cochineal bugs. I am now in love with cochineal. Most of my dyed fiber is sitting in a garbage bag, wet, and ageing for the week. However, I do have three pieces of fiber to show you:

The red: cochineal
The orange: a mixture of madder, cochineal, and fustic
The yellow: madder

In a week of so, after I wash out the rest of my fiber, I will post photos of the rest of my work.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Spun Stitches SAL/KAL

Short recap: I have joined a Spin Along/ Knit Along called Spun Stitches. This is one of my entries:

This weekend I am attending a 3 day indigo dyeing intensive. My dyeing teacher is kind! She said that we can bring some of our handspun to dye in her indigo pot. I thought, perfect, I will use this opportunity to dye my yarn for the KAL. This also means I have alot to accomplish by Friday.

As you might recall from a few posts back, I had a large pile of uncarded Polwarth fleece and didn't know what pattern to knit. Well, I found a pattern to knit. Its the Red Sea Shawl from the Folk Knits book. And, over the past week, I have carded most of the polwarth. I can not believe how much the polwarth grows and fluffs up when carded. Its silky and soft. I just love it. Below you can see the big pile of polwarth rolags.

I happily spun and spun the morning away. I decided I needed some entertainment, so, I watched Keep the RIver on Your Right. It is a docmentary about a native NY who travelled to Peru in 1955 as a Fulbrighter and ended up living with one of the native tribes. The twist in the story occurs when he finds himself alongside his tribe as they mass murder an entire village, and then is involved in cannabalism. Needless to say, this has marked him and has haunted him for his entire life. Whoa... this was pretty intense.

The DVD ended up making my spinning a side note. And after an hour and a half, I ended up with 382 yards. It feels like cotton. It's great and ready to go to the indigo pot.

I still have more polwarth to spin but I am a little afraid that I won't have enough. I think the pattern calls for something like 800-900 yards. I keep saying to myself "Cross that bridge when you come to it". I can not wait to feel this along my fingers as I knit!