Tuesday, December 04, 2007

My best intentions of blogging regularly evaporated quickly as I found myself immersed in numerous projects. Oh, yes, and there was the messing around on Ravelry (it's addicting). I discovered something the other week when I started listing my books on Ravelry. OMG! I have at least 120 knitting books -- this doesn't include the ones not in the Ravelry database, or all of my weaving, spinning and dyeing books. Yikes! And I'm now deep into dyeing sock yarn for The Yarn Tree's "A Sock for All Seasons" sock club. I actually have had dyepots going since 6:00 a.m this morning. My pattern and yarn will be sent out to members in Spring 2008. Linda LaBelle just opened up the sock club for the next go-round. [http://www.TheYarnTree.com]

So here's some stuff I've been working on since last I blogged. I knit a "Lady Eleanor" entrelac stole a couple of years ago, and ever since wanted to do another. I used some of my stash of Silk Garden -- two colorways. In between the SG, I used natural silk/merino yarn that I dyed which looks so similar to SG, same hand only in solids. My four colors (cinnamon, toffee, pear and moss) melded perfectly with the many colors of the SG. And for anyone wanting to knit the Lady Eleanor with SG, I went down to a US6 needle instead of the US8 suggested in the pattern (using LaLana Wool's yarn).

Then, Lynne Vogel emailed me a pattern she'd worked up for a felted bag. I loved it and, geez, on US13 and US17 needles, it was a snap. I had it completed within 24 hours of receiving the pattern. I followed Lynne's pattern to a "T", but used stash yarn: Manos del Uruguay worsted doubled, and a superfine bulky merino in cream and some I had dyed. After felting the bag, I added a handmade flower from my friend, Michelle Hoffee.

Of course, I was still in felted bag mode and looking to use up more of my stash, so I immediately knit a second one, using Berroco Hip Hop in two colors stranded with Malabrigo worsted merino. This time, I altered the handle by knitting it in three strips and braiding them before reattaching to the other side of the bag. I used the Malabrigo doubled for the handle. The bag turned out so cute and then I knit two colorful flowers with some of my leftover bulky handpainted yarn.

I love both of these bags and they make great knitting and spinning baskets. Another project I had been wanting to do was a pair of "Firm Fitting Fingerless Gloves", one of the Mac & Me patterns I had knit previously. On Ravelry, I saw a pair of mitts knit by "Punkin" from Southern Oregon and was inspired to use some of my natural-colored handspun yarns: taupe pygora and cream alpaca/silk. Here's the result. Yes -- I had to add a splash of color.

After Margie and I had our first foray into "nuno" felt with the kits we brought back from Rhinebeck, we'd been wanting to try this felting technique again, only with silk, instead of cotton gauze. My order of silk organza arrived from Dharma Trading Co. so we got together on Monday and had a very successful felting session. Here's a picture of my piece.

I loved this piece so much, I had to try it again yesterday and here's the result. This time I made a wider and more rectangular piece.

If you haven't tried felting, it's fun but quite labor intensive. My arms and back are killing me today so I'm going to have to recover before I tackle another felted piece.

I was very excited when I saw Lynne Vogel's spinning article for Knitty.Com with a beautiful mobius wrap in the pattern section. I think the Winter Issue of Knitty is going public today (Weds.), so check it out. If you aren't a spinner yet, this article and pattern may just push you over the fence into handspinning.

And, finally, let's keep all of our friends in Oregon and Washington in our thoughts. They have really taken quite a hit with horrendous rains, floods, huge surf, snow storms etc.

Friday, November 16, 2007

I have been spending entirely too much time on Ravelry and I have to agree with my friend, Sheree, it really sucks up your time. But it's fun. So, here are some of the things I've been working on in the past week. I bought this lovely yarn last February at Stitches West from Michele Camacho of Toots LeBlanc & Co. The natural gray yarn in these hats is a 60/40 blend of angora rabbit and Rambouillet wool. It blooms beautifully as you work with it. And I used some of my handspun yarn for flowers. The pattern is Toots LeBlanc's "Celtic Bunny Hat".

I loved the cabling on the top of the hat so much that I decided to use that cabling for a child's cap. And here's the result.

I have also been doing A LOT of spinning (my most favorite thing to do). Here is a skein spun from fiber I bought at Rhinebeck from Roclans Farm of PA. This is a 50-50 blend of kid mohair and Rambouillet wool. The taupey silver color is the natural color of the fibers.

This is a skein I spun from my randomly handpainted rovings. I plied a merino/kid mohair (70/30) blend with a merino/cashmere (80/20) blend. This skein will make a pair of lovely socks.

Here are two bobbins which I am in the process of plying together.
And here's the finished skein alongside my "Etoile" roving (a blend of merino/angora/silk) and "Johnny Jumpups" (superfine merino). I am going to spin more of this and probably use it in a shawl, using some 100% angora as accents.
So, now the fun begins!! Margie, my partner in fiberness, came over on Thursday. We had purchased nuno felt scarf kits at Rhinebeck and wanted to make them. It's a labor intensive endeavor, but in a nutshell, the project involves taking a gauzy woven fabric as a base and laying out roving on top of the fabric, drizzling soapy water on the whole thing and then applying pressure and agitation so that the fibers felt and become enmeshed in the woven gauze -- making a felted piece of fabric. Here are some pictures of Margie's project laid out and wet.

You can see the gauzy fabric and the opaque areas where white merino wool was laid down in a trellis design.
Pieces of colored rovings were used to make the flowers and leaves and vines.

This long piece is wrapped in bubble wrap around a PVC pipe or a rolling pin and rolled until the fabric begins to felt. When the piece has felted somewhat, you then take your piece and bunch it up and throw it (yes, I'm not kidding) on the table many times. Believe it or not, slamming this bunched up wet piece of fabric actually causes it to shrink and felt even more right before your eyes. This whole process requires a good deal of elbow grease and is not for weaklings. This is my piece in the process of being tortured.

Here are some pictures of our felted scarves drying out on the rack. Margie's is the one that looks like poinsettias. You can see how the base fabric became crepey looking.

Here are some pictures of mine.

Well, I had so much fun on Thursday, I just had to try it again on Friday. So here are some pictures of what I did yesterday. I can see all kinds of possibilities with this process. Here's my project laid out and wet.

Here's the finished piece. Dang! this is fun.

Needless to say, I have been enjoying all this creativity. So, you ask, what am I going to be doing this weekend? I think I may be slamming a bunch of wet wool on the table until my arms finally give out. I have a couple of very cool Japanese books on felting and I may try some projects from those books. I can't read the Japanese but the pictures are pretty explanatory.
And finally, I am so excited. I have been working so hard lately that I decided to reward myself with a new fiber bus -- actually it's a VW Eurovan -- that I picked up on Thursday. It's the perfect vehicle to haul all my fiber stuff around in.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

I was up at 4:00 a.m. Sunday morning readying myself for the Torrance Fiber Festival and was on the road at 5:15 a.m. to pick up Margie. We have a tradition of starting the day with a latte from Starbucks in Laguna and ending the day with a latte at Starbucks in Torrance -- we need caffeine for the road, coming and going. And Sunday was no different. We had a phenomenal day at Torrance -- frenzied at times -- we could barely catch our breath. Everyone who attended said that this was the largest turnout ever. We were stoked, to say the least. It was great to see so many of our fiber friends and to meet new friends, too. Thank you so much everyone for stopping by. I took some pictures of our booth. Of course, Margie and I are biased, but we think we have one of the most colorful booths. Here's the rack of my handpainted rovings:

Margie had lots of handspun yarn, lots of washed wool and hand-dyed mohair locks, and many skeins of her yarn handspun from mohair locks (a big hit with the knitters).

Margie finally gets to come up for air and take a break during the fashion show lull. She's wearing a vest that she handknit from her hand-dyed, handspun yarn.

My handpainted sock yarn (variegateds and solids) were a big hit.

I was also fortunate to have some lovely handcrafted niddy noddies from Blarney Yarn (a local OC artisan) as well as handcrafted drop spindles from Cascade Spindle Co. from Washington. Both of these artisans use exotic woods in their spinning tools. Not only are they beautiful to look at, they feel wonderful working in your hands.

Here are a couple more pictures -- skeins of our handspun yarns, bags of silk and cashmere rovings and patterns.

On the way home, we were exhausted, but with lattes in hand, we headed down the freeway elated, having had one of the best days ever at the Southern California Handweavers Fiber Festival. The SCH Guild should be commended for the great job they do of putting the show together every year.
And a big surprise in the mail yesterday -- my copy of Linda LaBelle's book: The Yarn Lover's Guide to Hand Dyeing. What a wonderful book. Linda did a great job! It has lots of tips on dyeing, and it also gives you a peek into the lives and dyeing studios of Koigu, Treenway Silks, Hand Jive, 13 Mile Farm, Schaefer Yarns, Chasing Rainbows and my Capistrano Fibers Arts Studio. This book will make you want to run away to the country and have a farm and alpacas and sheep.

So, now it's time to catch my breath, relax, spin and get creative. Yesterday, I broke into some of the exquisitely lovely fibers I bought at Rhinebeck -- some merino/angora/silk roving -- from a small farm that raises angora rabbits. Here's the result:

This whole week is going to be a treat to myself -- spinning, spinning, spinning -- one of my most favorite things to do. And an outing for lunch with a friend. As my friend Jerry says, life is good.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

I have been very busy handpainting additional rovings for the S.California Handweavers' Guild fiber fest in Torrance this weekend. Here are some Blueface Leicester rovings that are drying.

And here are some rolled into balls, waiting to be labeled.

For information on the location, times and directions to the Torrance Cultural Center, you can visit the Southern California Handweavers' Guild website at: http://www.schg.org Hope to see lots of friends there.

With all of the fires going on around us and the air filled with heavy smoke this past week, I just couldn't go out so I managed to get a little spinning and knitting done. I spun two rovings of a merino/cashmere blend that I had handpainted. One is called "Sands of Utah" and the other is called "Calico Hills". I plied these together and here is the outcome:

I used this skein to knit a scarf called "Jyri". It is from a Berroco pattern magazine called the Norah Gaughan Collection Vol. 1. I loved this scarf because of the textures. The stitch is called the "mountain" pattern because of the hills and valleys. In reality, it is the back side of a lace pattern but looks oh, so, interesting.

Don't forget to mark your calendars for the fiber fest this weekend, Sunday, Nov. 4th, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Sunday morning -- early rising -- checked out of the Inn and paid my room deposit for 2008. [Rhinebeck will be Oct. 18th and 19th next year for anyone thinking of going.] Then, over to Calico Cat for my latte and brioche, where I ran into Margie and Charlie. Charlie left to explore the region and Margie and I were off to the fairgrounds to view the judging of the colored sheep and the angora and cashmere goats. Is this the cutest angora goat?

And here is a snow white cashmere goat. She looks like she just had a bath and combing. I want her but she wouldn't fit in my suitcase.

Here's another beautiful cashmere goat.

And these two magnificent boys are the Grand Champion cashmere goat rams.
After taking in the judging, we began roaming around the vendor booths. There were so many things we missed on Saturday because it was so crowded, but Sunday morning, the buildings were practically empty. We got in some good viewing and shopping. I bought these beautiful handcrafted ceramic buttons from Annie's Sweet Handspun (from Michigan). Won't these look amazing on a sweater knit with my handpainted, handspun yarns?
And on Saturday, I had seen a woman spinning angora rabbit in her booth -- Margaret Critser from New Hampshire. She does an extraordinary job of spinning angora. I just had to have a skein of her handspun and some of her bunny fur to spin. This skein is from a "cinnamon" angora bunny. I'm thinking of stranding some crystal beads on this skein and knitting a lace scarf.
We dropped by the Sheep to Shawl competition. There were four local spinning groups competing. Each team had four spinners, one plyer and one weaver. They had three hours to card raw fiber, spin yarn, ply the yarn and weave a 70" (?) shawl. Margie told me later that only one team reached the required length.

Back over in the alpaca and llama barns, owners of animals were selling raw fleece and rovings from their animals. There was so much lovely fiber, it was hard to contain my spending, but I bought some beautiful cocoa brown roving from an alpaca owner. It was a blend of the fiber from four of her alpacas.

Over near the angora goat barn, I bought some mohair locks from Tina Evans of Dry Creek Naturals from Georgia. This fiber is from "Sweetheart" and is the first clipping. This is amazingly beautiful, and I was sorry I did not get more. But . . . I have asked Lynne Vogel to get more for me when she goes to SAFF this weekend in Asheville, N.Carolina.
And I bought a silver blue roving of 50% kid mohair and 50% Rambouillet wool from Kate Bostek of Roclans Farm in PA. Rhinebeck is a spinner's paradise especially if you love the natural colors of the animal fibers.
More pictures and information about the Rhinebeck show can be found on the Knitter's Review website: http://www.knittersreview.com/

Well, all good things must come to an end. I had to leave Rhinebeck early afternoon to catch the train back to Grand Central and my wonderful little Inn on 23rd Street. As soon as I arrived, Linda LaBelle at The Yarn Tree in Brooklyn invited me over to her shop, so I hopped on the "L" subway to Bedford Avenue and walked down to her shop. Linda showed me a copy of her book, "The Yarn Lover's Guide to Hand Dyeing", coming out on Nov. 13th. It's a great book; she did a wonderful job; and I am so proud to be a guest artist in the book. Linda says the book can be preordered at: http://www.theyarntree.com/
Linda took me over to her neighborhood pub where we had dinner, wine, beer and a good chat. What a treat!

So, now I'm home, trying not to breathe in all the bad smoke from all the surrounding fires. I'm anxiously watching as the UPS truck comes up my street, hoping that today will be the day all of my treasures arrive from Rhinebeck.