Spin the Camelids!!

Saturday was a huge outing for me and my spinning wheel. The wheel has been sulking for weeks, but when I strapped it into the car Friday night it perked right up. Saturday morning we headed up to Boulder, Colorado for a class in how to prepare, spin and blend camelid fibers. We started out with half an hour of travel time to spare. Right. We got caught in traffic (An accident? Construction? I never figured it out, but we were stuck on the road for more than a half hour…), struggled to find a parking spot with enough space to allow me to safely pull the wheel out of the car, and then when I finally got the wheel safely to the ground it immediately fell apart.  Parts rolled away across the asphalt. Sigh. Not the best of beginnings.

Look, any day spent in Boulder (which is right at the foot of the Rocky Mountains) is a good day.  I patched the wheel back together and rolled off towards the class with excitement in my heart. The wheel was almost besides itself in anticipation of meeting other members of its species. We were late, but Boulder is one of those places where time is sort of flexible. This was going to be a day in the shadow of the Rockies spent in a yarn store (Shuttles, Spindles & Skeins) spinning exotic fibers with other people who think it is more important to have cool homemade yarn than a new car. In other words, a seriously good time!! OK, I’m a little bit of a fiber geek, but let me tell you, on Saturday I was with my peeps!!

Spinning Book
This class was taught by Chris Switzer who raises these animals (with her husband) on their ranch in the mountains north of Boulder. In the class we learned how to prep, blend, and spin all of these fibers.
Camel fiber
Camel!! This was prepared roving as the fleece is FULL of nasty and pokey undesirable guard hairs. This camel was a dream to spin. I’m in love. I need to get me some of this!!

Chris also had bison fiber for us to spin. Very nice. Very soft. A ton of work to prepare as the original fleece is uber hairy. You will never look favorably on hay and vegetable matter again after a few hours struggling to get it out of the undercoat that is the spinnable fiber. Chris’s advice: if someone offers to gift you with a bison fleece, decline. 🙂

Fleece
Alpaca fiber prep entailed steps that I didn’t anticipate. You need to de-hair the fleece  before you open the locks for carding. Carding has to be done very gently using fine carders. Washing is optional before spinning unless it is obviously dirty (well, they are animals…) This alpaca fleece has some guard hairs that can be seen at the tips of the locks. If you grasp the hairs and hold the lock in your other hand they can just be pulled out.
Guard hairs from alpaca fleece.
Here’s the hair pulled from three of the locks. Once removed the fiber in the locks can be gently opened up from the base.
Alpaca
Look at all the colors of natural alpaca!
Me spinning
By the end of the class my spinning wheel had fallen in love with me again. New parts are now on order.

I really learned a lot. Suddenly I feel like I could successfully spin that paco-vicuna that I bought two years ago. My spinning wheel is practically hopping up and down to get started (even though it really needs its new part installed before we do that; right now the flyer falls off without warning). I felt so positive about all of this I pulled down the alpaca fleece that I had stored in the garage since 2007 (gasp!) and took a really good look at it.

Alpaca fleece
Look at these locks! There doesn’t seem to be very many guard hairs at all. Woohoo!! It is so clean that I won’t need to wash it before spinning. The locks I pulled out to open fluffed right out into a little rolag. I think I was very lucky in this purchase as I didn’t really know what I was doing when I bought this fleece.  

The fleece is mostly light caramel colored with some cream patches. I may even play with dyeing it. Chris really stressed being gentle in the preparation of these fibers since they are easily broken, and favored hand carders and spindles, but I’m going to made the drum carder work somehow. I’ll be using the spinning wheel, too, as with my scleroderma-hands the less I stress them the better it is. Still, I feel empowered to experiment and super-soft yarn of the paco-vicuna and alpaca variety is right around the corner. Thanks Chris! It was a great class!

Cat on fleece.
Of course I’ll have to spin while the cats are outside. MacKenzie moved into my fleece about 2 minutes after I pulled it from the storage crate. 🙂

FO Tee, a Garden Swing, and an Excited Spinning Wheel.

I know that I have been a little whiny lately. I started methotrexate a little over a month ago and the adjustment to the new medication has been challenging to say the least. This week was better. Much better.  So sorry for the whining. I promise hope that I won’t be doing that again for a long time. Check out all the things that were accomplished this week.

Knitted Tee
I got the Clove HItch Tee finished! Here are the project notes on Ravelry.
Tee Sleeve.
Look at how cute the lace detail is on the sleeve. This yarn is a linen blend and will be cool to wear even though it is a worsted weight knit.

The whole time I was knitting this tee I worried about how big the neck opening was. As soon as it was cast off the needles I tried it on, and yep, too big. I ran a drawstring around the neckline on the inside to draw it up a little and to prevent more stretching. Neckline problem totally fixed: it fits great! The top is loose and a comfy layering piece. I’m thinking that I would like to make a second one with long sleeves using a winter yarn that will be lighter in weight. Maybe in navy blue. I plan to keep that garter stitch band on the sleeve and will continue the sleeves in stockinette below the band.

Crocheted lawn seat.
I have now crocheted the entire back of the lawn swing and am continuing on to make the seat. I draped this over the back of the swing; it’s longer than it looks in the picture.

The lawn seat is coming right along. The fabric will stretch when I sew it into place so it will be more open looking when it is done. I haven’t completely decided how to attach it to the side pieces of the frame. I’m afraid that the attachment solution won’t be very elegant, but hopefully it will be functional.

Wednesday I went out to visit a friend’s alpaca ranch (she has sheep too!!). I am consumed with jealousy. Such cool animals wearing fabulously cool fiber; she has a whole dyeing and processing operation going. I didn’t take any pictures because next week there will be a summer camp there and I get to teach kids how to spin! Ha! Stay tuned for the summer camp report. 🙂

Today I took the car to get its oil changed and battery replaced. I know that this sounds like a small thing, but I am rocking my good week and getting a lot of things done. After I got home I cleaned out the garage and packed my spinning wheel into the car because tomorrow we go to a class to learn how to spin camelid fibers.

Spinning Wheel
Look! The wheel is already strapped into the car and ready to go. It is so excited! This is its first trip out in almost a year; no more sulking in the corner for this little guy.

That’s right. I still have a bag of paco-vicuna that I am nervous about spinning. The spinning class is taught by Chris Switzer who has quite a reputation as a master spinner of these fibers in this part of the world. I am taking the paco-vicuna bag and a chunk of my alpaca fleece with me to the class to get feedback on spinning techniques for the yarn that I dream of creating. Not that I’m intimidated, but the class registration says to bring some things that I’ve made from my homespun yarn with me. I have spent an hour finding things that I’ve made; I’ve decided to only take two three things. Maybe three is too many? If I take two substandard items she might think it’s a fluke. If I have three, it’s pretty sure that’s the type of spinner I am. Whatever. It’s best to not overthink this. I’ll take three that I like and that will be that. I’m taking the class with a friend who likes to spin crazy lace weight yarn and it is going to be wonderful!!

I finished reading all of the bee books this week too. I feel another post coming on. Some of the books were a little bit of a chore to finish, others were just amazing. Hmmm….

Spinning Inspiration: The Estes Park Wool Market

My spinning wheel has been sitting around feeling bored. Actually, it has been moping and sulking in a corner of my office for months now. (I only dropped it that one time. Really. Only a few parts popped off. I totally think that it has been over-reacting about the whole thing…) Hoping to score some fabulous fiber that I could use to tease it back into good humor I headed off to THE YEAR’S BIG EVENT: the Estes Park Wool Market which is held every year in the mountains of Colorado in Estes Park, a wonderful mountain town near Rocky Mountain National Park. I have a lot of yarn in my stash. The wool market is where I find those special yarns and fibers that I can’t easily obtain and petting the animals that produce them is a special bonus!

I planned my outing for early Saturday so that I could arrive in the cool of the morning with the plan of racing through all the vendors, visiting the animals and then shopping for fiber. Thunderstorms are a given this time of year so I wanted to get out of the mountains before 3pm. It was a plan, anyway.

Alpaca
Isn’t this alpaca a great color? He’s not his usual fluff muffin self as his fiber has already been clipped off.
Alpaca fleece
Yep. You guessed it. I have acquired a fleece from one of the animals grown locally. The fleece has several colors in it from cream to dark caramel and is really clean. This fleece is so nice I had to get it into the car fast to protect it from my fellow fiber addicted friends. 🙂
Alpaca lock of fiber
Check out this lock!! It has a slight crimp, is extremely soft and the 4 inch length is going to allow me to spin this baby into lace weight yarn without a problem. (I hope. The spinning wheel will need to snap out of its sulky mood…)
Batt and spinning wheel
I also got a Big Batt from The Natural Twist that I hope to spin a gradient light worsted weight yarn to make a Yowza Weigh-It Shawl 4. This baby is 8 ounces of Romney wool and I can get a whole shawl from it, I’m sure. Doesn’t the spinning wheel look happier already?

This year I was moving fast so I didn’t watch the sheep dogs show or visit the llama events. I did check out lots of alpacas, sheep, bunnies, and goats while I was there. I always have a problem leaving them all there. Surely the neighbors wouldn’t notice one little goat or sheep. Right?

Jacob sheep
This Jacob sheep really, really wanted to come home with me. Look at that face! 
Cashmere goat
This cashmere buck was on sale. For just a few hundred dollars he could have been mine. Those horns, though. I don’t know if the cats would want to play with this guy!

When I was done with the animals and spinning fiber/fleeces for sale I hit the vendor area to see what else I could find.

Yak yarn!
Yak yarn!! You know I needed to add some of this to my shopping bag. I also bought a great pattern for a lace and garter stitch shawlette  called the Culebra Shawlette that will display the handpainted yarn well.

That was it. I could see the clouds were rolling in fast. I only had enough time to buy a bag of cinnamon roasted almonds, make one more chatty stop with friends to compare notes and show off the finds and then I was back in the car heading down the mountain ahead of the storm.

Half an hour later I received a text from a friend. You guessed it. It was raining too hard for her to drive and she was waiting it out up in Estes Park by grabbing a yummy early dinner of grilled lamb kabobs. Darn! I should have been a little slower on the drive after all…

My spinning wheel perked right up when I showed it that huge batt. I’m hoping for a little spell of cooler weather so the wheel and I can get going on making something wonderful together. What do you know? I think that we are friends again.

 

 

 

Resolutions for 2015

Well, this is it. There are only a couple of hours left for the year. The end of a really busy year, and I have no idea what exactly was  accomplished over the last 12 months. Well, I did read a lot of books and did a lot of knitting, but since I didn’t keep track of things, I don’t exactly have any numbers. I do have a memory of a quilt that I made for my younger son, and then there was the enormous landscaping project along the house, but seriously, the year is just a blur.

This year I would like to set some goals and then measure my progress. With the best of intentions, here is what I’m planning for in 2015.

Sock Books
Seriously, how many sock books does one knitter need? Wait… that’s not a fair question.

Knitting

  • I’m going to go through my sock books and select a different sock to make each month. Then I will knit the sock! Seriously, I will get this done.
  • I will knit the socks with the STASH YARN!!!
  • I will make a really serious effort to record my projects in Ravelry.
  • I tend to make multiple items of the same pattern, so I will also start a spreadsheet to list my knitted items. Ha! Next year I will know exactly how many baby booties I actually made.
Spinning Wheel
Here’s my beautiful Schacht wheel. Poor baby, the flyer is in pieces and it actually has a loose screw.

Spinning

  • I dropped my spinning wheel. Parts fell off. I finally sucked it up and told Maggie Casey of Shuttles, Spindles & Skeins (Boulder, Colorado) that I had hurt my baby. She told me (3 months ago) to bring it in and she would fix it. I will for sure absolutely without fail take it in this month!! next month before summer.
  • I’m struggling with the spinning wheel because I bought 5 ounces of Paco-Vicuna roving to spin. Wow! This stuff is soft beyond belief. I’m afraid to spin it. If the wheel is broken, I can’t be expected to spin it, can I? All right. I’m a big person. I will without fail get this fiber spun before the end of the year.
  • The Paco-Vicuna is from a local grower, Jefferson Farms. The name of the animal is Gulliver. I promise to call them up before the year is over and I will go visit Gulliver. Won’t that be a fun post!
Paco Vicuna fiber
This fiber is so soft I am scared to spin it. I need to settle on a project first, I think.

Books

  • Goodreads says I read 25 books this year. That can’t be right!! I know that I am reading more than that.  Therefore I resolve to list every book that I read at Goodreads this year.
  • I will even review every some of the books that I read.
  • Maybe I should start a spreadsheet while I am at it.
  • I would love to read 100 books this year. Ha! Really, it will be fun!
Home Run Roses
Here are the Home Run on the day I planted them. The shrubs are now 2.5 feet tall and covered with blooms after two years of growth.

Roses

  • The roses at the front of the house, Showbiz, look just terrible these days. Mainly they serve as food for wandering insects. Maybe I shouldn’t have dosed them with bleach while painting the house two years ago. They have never been the same again…
  • I am going to rip those roses out and replant with some roses that are hardy, full of blooms and resistant to insects. The Home Run roses at the side of the yard look great. Maybe I will get some of those for the front.

That’s it. There is only an hour left to the year. Goodbye, goodbye 2014.

Happy New Year everyone!!