Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Surfing around this morning, I came across a blog entitled "Purple Stockings" on which the writer had posted a picture of this doll.  I thought this was the cutest ever.  I covet this little lovely -- as do many others, I am sure.

Yesterday, I finished knitting another little artsy neck warmer, using my colorful variegated handspun yarn.  This time, I knitted a lace edging and stitched it to a lacey ruffled neck piece.  The knit edging is from a wimple in one of my lace knitting books, Lace Style.  I didn't like the rest of the wimple but I liked the edging.

I have so many skeins of beautiful handspun calling me, it's hard not to knit day and night. Knitting with handspun is addicting, so I started experimenting last night with little mitered squares of color after I saw a number of projects done by Ravelers using Vivian Hoxbro patterns. They are amazing when knit with variegated handspuns. One in particular was beautiful:  the modular scarf knit by "Llunallama" on Ravelry. And after seeing a sweater knit by my NY friend, Jan, -- the African Domino Cardigan -- when she visited last November, I bought the book Knitting out of Africa.  Lots of fun ideas swirling around.   

Yesterday, Margie finished weaving her ginormous handspun blanket.  I didn't fully appreciate how big it was until we actually took it off the loom.  Here it is still on the loom, and down to the end of the warp.  

This was a double weave, so it has two layers with a fold at one side.  Here, Margie has finished untying the warp, and she's opening up the width of the blanket.

Twisting the fringe is a must, otherwise, the ends could make a big mess when the blanket is washed and fulled.  (I knew those old encyclopedias would come in handy for something.)

Fringe finished on one end of the blanket.

Here it is fully layed out on the floor.  Those are 12" tiles, so the blanket is about 8 feet long and 5 feet wide -- and don't forget -- all handspun from fleeces Margie bought and processed herself.  Quite the project!  

I hear warmer weather is in store for the weekend, perhaps 80 degrees, so it should be a gorgeous day for our spinning workshop with Janel Laidman.  Everyone is getting very excited.  And Janel promises to bring some of her books "The Eclectic Sole".  

Sunday, January 25, 2009

As I wrote last week, the International Year of Natural Fibers was launched last Thursday on Jan. 22nd.  In an effort to promote handspinning and the use of natural fibers, I am posting some of my recent handspuns.  I am hoping that these skeins will motivate my spinning friends -- who have been slackers -- to get out their wheels and try to spin at least a few times a week and to knit, crochet or weave with their handmade yarns and to wear your creations and talk about them.  I also hope that spinners will be motivated to seek out some of the wonderful fiber sources available from people who are raising their own animals. Making a trip to events like Black Sheep Gathering, the Taos Wool Festival, the NY Sheep and Wool Festival, the Monterey County and local county fairs is an excellent way to come into contact with these small farm owners.  

This skein was spun from fiber I bought in a booth at the Taos Wool Festival last Oct. '08.  I had previously purchased hanks of beautiful natural colored rovings from Rocky Mountain Fiber pool in the past at Convergence.  This roving was a blend of charcoal gray llama and silk.  It is a an amazingly soft yarn and has white flecks of shiny silk.  This is 218 yards and 3.1 oz., enough for a nice pair of gauntlets or a cowl.

These next skeins were spun from fiber I purchased at Black Sheep in June '08 and at Torrance in Nov. '08.  The dark gray pygora/fine merino (75-25) is from Rainbow Yarns Northwest, possibly some of the most lovely pygora I have ever spun. [www.rainbowyarnsnw.com]  The handpainted roving was dyed by Redfish Dyeworks from which I purchased baby camel/silk (50-50) and merino/silk (50-50) rovings.  I alternated plying these together.  One skein is the pygora blend on itself.  The next was the handpaints plied on each other, and the third skein is the pygora and merino/silk plied together.  I have about 1,070 yards (11.4 oz.), enough for good size project.

The next skein uses some of my handpainted merino/silk/angora in a colorway I called "Rose Garden Marl" that I plied with a natural dyed pumpkin orange merino/silk from Tactile Fiber. This skein is 3.4 oz. and 362 yards.  

And the final skein for today was spun from two of my handpainted colorways.  One ply is called "Cabo" and it's a blend of merino/cashmere (80-20).  The other ply is a randomly dyed merino/kid mohair in gold, rust and gray.  This is 434 yards and 4 oz. and it is asking to be knit up into the Morning Surf Scarf, although I may have other plans for it.

If you can't get out to some of these various fiber events, the internet has a wealth of products available for handspinners.  Etsy.com has some wonderful stores with natural fibers available from various small producers:  ThunderheadFarm, Cashmerebunny, Silversunalpacas, and Theranch. And there are skads of indie dyers with wonderful hand-dyed fibers, like TaosSunflowerToo, FatCatKnits, and Blarneyyarns.  

My other hope is that all of you knitters out there will get the urge to try handspinning but you should be cautioned that it can be highly addicting.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

It felt very good this week to have completed the yarn and pattern for The Yarn Tree's (Brooklyn NY) sock club and I heaved a big sigh of satisfaction as I took the box of yarn to UPS on Wednesday.  That done, on Thursday, I began work on my next adventure -- the Association of Southern California Handweavers' conference set for March 4th through 7th. [www.aschsite.org] I had started to slowly gear up for this show but now the serious dyeing has begun.  I had a hankering for some orange and turquoise and then afterwards said OMG!  So I decided to spin some of this orangey creation and I actually surprised myself -- I like it!  Margie will be so happy to know that the dreaded orange is getting under my skin.  
Although the orange just screams at me in the roving -- it doesn't look like a very loud scream, does it? -- it blends in so nicely when attenuated and spun, and I further toned it down by plying with another new colorway.  

This morning I drove up to West L.A. with Karen and Margie so that we could attend a meeting of the Greater Los Angeles Spinning Guild. We left about 7:30 a.m. and encountered rainy mist and several small rainstorms on the way.  We had been wanting to go for ages and it was well worth the trip.  All three of us joined as members. There were at least 40 spinners in attendance.  We arrived to find spinners already setting up their wheels. 
Nancy Boerman of Custom Handweaving was setting up a mini store with tons of books, fibers and other spinning things.

We saw many new faces as well as many who are already friends.  Here's Karen on the left and Jerry on the right.

After the business meeting, Janel Laidman gave a program on how to be the boss of your yarn, very informative.  It was so great to see such a large group of spinners congregating and everyone so friendly and helpful. 

After leaving the GLASG meeting, we ventured over to Manhattan Beach to visit a yarn store about which we'd been hearing great things.  What a delightful shop!  Cathy has transformed a small space into a very colorful, artsy shop, with wonderful displays, lots of beautiful samples.  The yarns are all unique.  She also carries some very nice spinning fiber, Chasing Rainbows and some under Cathy's own Twist label.  And for once, I can say that there is not a yarn in Twist that I wouldn't want to knit with.  

What a nice way to spend a Saturday!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Today, Margie is coming over to weave - and to hopefully complete the handspun blanket she has been working on for the past couple of months.  It is so apt that this will happen today, as this day marks the official launching of the International Year of Natural Fibers.      [ http://www.naturalfibres2009.org  ]   Here is a picture of Margie's work on the loom.

At 11:00 a.m., we will be engaged in our fibery pursuits -- Margie weaving, me spinning -- doing our small part to keep these wonderful handcrafts alive.  The hope is that keeping these crafts alive will allow crafts people worldwide to have a way to sustain themselves. And in furtherance of this goal, Margie, Karen and Pam and I are going up the the Greater Los Angeles Spinning Guild on Saturday to join that group and spin with them.  

On another note, I have been anxiously awaiting the opening of registration for the Golden Gate Fiber Institute's summer intensives.  [www.goldengatefiberinstitute.org]  Registration is supposed to open on January 25th.  

I will be flying up to Seattle on February 11th to visit my friends, Tim and Mel, and then to stop by the Madrona Winter Fiber Retreat in Tacoma.  I'm not taking any classes but will make a bee line for the marketplace.  My friend, Mel, has just gotten back into knitting this past year and has never been to one of these fiber festivals.  She's in for a real treat.  

Well, I hear Margie at the door -- more pictures later of the completed blanket.  [Okay, it didn't happen today but she's down to almost the very end and the blanket should be finished on Monday -- pictures shall follow next week]

Monday, January 19, 2009

I know a lot of people ask how we Southern Californians can stand all that traffic, bumper to bumper, hordes of people, etc. etc. ad infinitum.  Well . . . here's why. It's the middle of winter and it was a more than glorious day, so I packed up my husband, my knitting basket and my beach chair and headed down to San Clemente State Park for some relaxing Sunday time at the beach. A glance up the coast to Dana Point.
A glance to the south.  Yes, those girls are in their bikinis.  No subzero temps here. A record apparently has been set; we've had 9 over 80 degree days in a row.

And towards the late afternoon, these delightful little birds were in the surf and I just had to take a picture.  They scurried back and forth looking for dinner.

And here's Monday morning's sunrise around 6:30 a.m. when I went out for the newspaper. Stunning but a bit of a let down as these clouds spell a change in the weather.   

So for all of the above reasons, I feel lucky to be where I am and, for the first time in a long, long time, I have hope that tomorrow's inauguration will lead our great country toward a new beginning.

This morning, I am off to Marion's house (our 80+ friend and fellow guild member). Our spinning group (under Marion's tutelage) is going to process and dye silk mawattas or hankies for use in handspinning.  (I've returned, so here are some pictures.)  These are the little "hotels", as she calls them, that Marion makes where the silk worms go and make their cocoons.

Here is a container of cocoons ready to be processed.  These all have holes in them, as Marion lets the moth break through the cocoon so that they can mate and produce more eggs for the next year.

After cutting open the cocoons and removing the pupa case, we then simmered the cocoons in an Ivory soap solution to soften them.

After they cooled down, we took individual cocoons, rinsed them and stretched them out over a plastic strawberry box.  Each mawatta was a layering of 8 cocoons.  After making a mawatta, we then painted dye on the mawatta, rolled it up in plastic wrap and steamed it in a steamer pot.  

And while some of us were working on our mawattas, others were making spinning batts on the guild drum carder.

This Saturday, I'm going with three of my spinning friends up to Los Angeles to attend a meeting of the Greater Los Angeles Spinning Guild.  This should be fun, because it looks like this is a great group of spinners.

And here's a little teaser.  These are rovings that I have dyed for those attending our guild's spinning workshop on Saturday, Jan. 31st.  Because we don't have a place to meet on Saturdays, I am going to host this workshop at my home.  We are so lucky to have Janel Laidman as the workshop leader.  She'll be showing us how to get the most out of handpainted roving.  Janel has written a wonderful sock book called "The Eclectic Sole" and she is the person behind the website "Spindilicity".  Janel we look forward to seeing you!

And finally, Strands and Stitches in Laguna Beach has just taken delivery of more of my handpainted sock yarn and they are now carrying my handpainted silk boucle and silk/kid mohair scarf kits (my base yarn is from Habu Textiles).  

So, everyone, let's wake up on Tuesday morning with our hearts full of hope for a move in a new direction.

Friday, January 16, 2009

I'm on my way this morning down south to Common Threads knit shop in Encinitas to spin with a group that has been getting together on the third Friday of every month for the past year.  I'm especially excited today because Martie (Taos Sunflower) will be there today. She's visiting from Taos and was looking forward to spinning with us.  I met Martie in October when I was in Taos for the sheep and wool festival.  She was just closing up her knit shop and transitioning to the internet.  She's got some lovely fibery items in her Etsy shop.   www.TaosSunflowerToo.etsy.com

I have been dyeing like crazy over here in San Juan Capistrano what with this mid-winter summer.  When the Santa Ana breezes are wafting and the temp is in the 80's, one must take advantage and get those fibers out to dry.  I finished up sock yarn for The Yarn Tree's Sock for All Seasons club. And I began working on handpainted fibers for the Association of Southern California Handweavers' Conference set for March 4-7.  (www.aschsite.org)

And, finally, an idea came to me about what to do with that big pile of granny squares I crocheted out of my handspun yarn.  I created a little scarflet and here are some pictures:

This turned out so dang cute that I've started another one -- but, of course, since I knit and create as I go, it will be different.  And I don't think Granny Squares will make it into this one.  

So, off we go (Margie just called and her golf group canceled) -- she's going with me.  WooHoo!!!