Saturday, December 25, 2010

Sheep Sampling

About this time, all across knit blogs and Ravelry, one can find New Year's resolutions like "knit/design 12 sweaters/shawls/pairs of socks in 2011." I've never much been one for New Year's resolutions, let alone committing myself to knitting a dozen of anything. But, my newfound addiction to spinning makes life a little more interesting.

When I was simply a knitter, I didn't really know much about wool. (Admittedly, I still don't.) For sheepy yarns, there was the generic "wool," the more luxurious Merino, the scratchy Icelandic, and the (enticing) fingering weight Shetland for colorwork. I had a vague notion that other sheep breeds existed, and was always fascinated when I visited the Solitude booth at fiber festivals because she had yarn spun from all different breeds of sheep.

So when I got into spinning, I was in for quite a surprise. At first, I was drawn to the hand dyed braids of Merino that abound on etsy. But Merino, with its short and slick staple, is not the easiest to spin. Blue Faced Leicester (BFL) quickly became my best friend. It's soft, silky, has a nice long staple, and is pretty forgiving. (And Chris over at Briar Rose Fibers dyes it into some pretty kick-ass colors.)

Gradually, I became aware of more breeds: Polwarth, Wensleydale, Romney, Navajo-Churro, and the tantalizing Cormo started showing up on my radar. CVM, North Ronaldsay, Romeldale, Bond, Corriedale, Targhee,Cotswold, Jacob... the list goes on and on.

But it wasn't until I purchased my first fleece (Sequin!) that I realized just how different fibers can be. And how differently they might like to be prepped and spun! Oh, the possibilities!!

What would I like to spin? How would it behave when prepped and spun in different ways?

My plan will be fleshed out more later, I'm sure, but here's the general gist: each month I'll try out a bit of fiber from a particular breed (or cross) of sheep, bringing it from the raw or washed state all the way through a knitted swatch or two.

I know that many before me have done this. I'm hoping to find their blogs or forum posts, for inspiration and guidance. But mostly, I'm excited to learn from the sheep.

Merry Christmas!

Man - I can't believe it's already Christmas 2010! This year has flown by.

The past few weeks have been busy, busy here in our little household. At the beginning of the month, my dad and stepmom drove over from Kentucky for a fantastic visit. We hadn't seen each other for almost 4 years, so it was really wonderful to spend several full days with them. On top of the good company, we got the chance to eat at some excellent local restaurants. (We still drool every time we think about the duck fat french fries at Salt. Mmmm!) We also toured some interesting old houses, including the stunning Garrett-Jacobs Mansion.

Unfortunately, the weather was ghastly-cold while they were here, so we didn't get to show them many of our favorite sites. And somehow, none of us managed to get a picture the entire time! I'm pretty sad about that. Hopefully we'll get to visit them next year though, and can remedy the picture situation.

Then last week, Ryan and I flew down to Florida for a whirlwind trip: 2 days in St. Augustine, 2 days in Orlando. It was our first time joining the family for Christmas at Disney.. and it was certainly magical. Christmas is so much more fun with kiddos!

We're finally getting a bit of down time; Ryan had chemo on Tuesday, so has been mostly resting since then. I made a big pot of chicken noodle soup for our Christmas dinner, and have plans to try out my new apple peeler/corer tomorrow!

I hope that Christmas and the New Year finds all of my bloggy and real-life friends happy, healthy, and warm. Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Spinning Seasons

The last few nice days of fall, I managed to spin outside on the deck. I've decided that I really love spinning outside - though I usually spend more time looking around than I do actually spinning.

Now that winter is upon us, I'm stuck inside, and Squirrel takes full advantage of this. During the cold seasons, Squirrel is nearly glued to me. Any time I sit down, she's immediately in my lap. She doesn't mind my treadling legs, either. Perhaps it's soothing.

I haven't gotten a whole lot spun these past few months, mostly because I was knitting. The roving below took me ages to spin.. and I'm not quite sure why. It's the Cosy Spins Falkland Fiber Club in the Rocket colorway (I forget which month). Lovely to spin, but endless!

It ended up being my first true 3ply, and boy am I glad it's done. I spun low-twist singles, and plied a bit tighter. It's pretty, very soft, and lofty. I ended up with about 270yds (pre-wash) of aran weight yarn from 3.6oz, which astounds me. Just shows how fluffy the stuff really is!

My next spinning project was on a deadline (Christmas!), and didn't take nearly as long. The fiber is a luscious blend of black Shetland, alpaca, and French Angora from Spiderweb Specialties. The angora is mostly in the form of little neps, which gives the finished yarn a nice tweedy texture.

Despite the fact that I'm allergic to some part of the roving (the alpaca, I think), it was wonderful to spin. Smells faintly of lavender, and there are little bits of vegetative matter every so often to remind you that this came from a small producer.

It was absolutely a pleasure to spin, and I'm pretty pleased that I still have plenty more left to play with. (They sell the roving in many natural colors, and it was hard to pick just one!) Like the Falkland above, I spun this into low twist singles, which I then plied slightly stronger. I ended up with over 300yds of worsted weight yarn from 4oz. Wooo! Lofty fiber really makes a difference with yardage.

I was also quite pleased with my wheel and scale. The jumbo bobbin was able to fit every last bit of the 4oz of plied yarn.. just barely!

And my little scale helped me to divide the fiber so evenly that I ended up with astonishingly little yarn left over post-plying.

Overall, a hugely satisfying and successful spin. And now I get to knit with it!

I was also finally able to get a cute picture of the "feral" cats we've been caring for. Our neighborhood, like any one around here, has lots of feral cats. We have a little family of all-black kittens that we've watched grow up this summer. A neighbor had them all spayed/neutered when they were quite young, so we've had no qualms about feeding them. They're super-friendly.

This picture shows 4 of the 6 of them, which is the best I've gotten yet. Also in the shot are Scatter, the neighbor's "feral" tabby cat, and O.K. Kitten, who Ryan and I caught and spayed a few months ago. O.K. Kitten is quite the queen, and my special favorite (shhhh!).

(O.K. stands for "Obnoxious Kitten.")

A few weeks ago, we built them winter shelters. Our neighbor also has some straw-lined shelters for them. Hopefully they'll all make it through the winter alright. They sure are sweet.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Joanna Newsom

Last night, Ryan and I went to one of the best concerts I've ever been to. I've loved Joanna Newsom's voice from the moment I first heard it, her lyrics are smart, and she plays some interesting instruments. The mixing was good (as opposed to all of the other shows I've seen up here) and the venue was intimate. (Even if I thought we might be murdered in the empty parking garage.) The best surprises were the musicians that she's touring with, and the arrangements on her new and old songs. Inspired and absolutely beautiful.

Her voice has gotten stronger since this video, but this was my favorite "old" song of the night:

My only disappointment of the night was that she didn't have her harpsichord with her. :)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Happy Birthday, Jeff

Hard to believe that he would've been 44 today.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Fiber Diet

Since buying my wheel, I've gone a little crazy with buying fiber.

Just a bit.I won't even post pictures here, because they're far too embarrassing (if drool-inducing, heh).

I kept saying that I was going on a fiber diet, but it just never stuck. Damn etsy! But after attending the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Fest, and buying.. lessee.. 20oz of roving and (cough) 7lbs 12oz of fleece, I swore that I'd be off buying fiber/yarn until March 2011.

Somehow though, I'm still managing to acquire fibery things. Ryan brought me some very yummy yarns from England, then bought me a beautiful skein of locally grown and spun alpaca while we were in West Virginia. Mom purchased some roving from Pocket Meadow Farm for me to spin up for her, and I just won 2 skeins of Sanguine Gryphon Eidos in a West Knits contest on Ravelry. Eeek!

The contest, Westknits in the Wild!, had some fantastic entries, and was very inspiring. There were 10 winners total, and I was incredibly excited to be among them. These were the pictures (which Ryan took!), of me and Mom walking by the river. I'm in my Boneyard Shawl, and Mom is wearing my recently completed Clockwork. Isn't she gorgeous?

If you haven't knit one of Stephen West's patterns yet, you should. They're well-written, distinctive, and kinda addictive. Well, really addictive.

Coming up soon: a post on processing my first fleece! :)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Bad Blogger!

Well, who's a bad blogger now? Yup, that'd be me! I keep thinking "I need to write a post!".. but then of course, I never get around to it. So I was a little horrified to see that my last post was in July..... oops!I do have a pretty good excuse for not updating the blog though - I've been busy! Almost every weekend has been packed chock-full of travel, fiber, and/or ponies. Hardly a moment for rest.

Let's see how well I can condense this. At least I have pictures to help me remember!

The end of July:

Montgomery County Farm Tour:

Chicken in the goat field, stealing the goat corn

Pigs contentedly expressing their pigness at Poplar Springs Animal Sanctuary

Alpaca at Blue Ribbon Alpacas (check out his buddy's 'fro!)

Pat and Minh Chau came up for a visit the next weekend, to check out the Cylburn Arboretum. We love it there - tranquil gardens and woods, right in the middle of B'more.


August! Seems to have been somewhat of a black hole month. I can only remember one thing from August.. knit day at the Mannings!

There were plenty more people there.. but this shot is of my knit night buddies. We chose to sit across the street from the store and the rest of the people - to get a great view of the river and bridge. Very peaceful.

September was wild. Ryan got a new 'do:

Super-talented Kerry hosted a knit night dye party, where she taught us about dyeing, and then let us loose with her dyes:

(This is just a small portion of the fiber we dyed!)

And then, Shenandoah Valley Fiber Fest, which actually deserves a post all it's own. Alas, I'm out of time and wind.....

I almost brought home a puppy!
(Not really, but how irresistible is this little dude!?)

But I did bring home My First Fleece!

So.. a bit of a silly & scattered post, but I feel better now that I've gotten somewhat caught up. I'm going to try to be a better blogger from now on!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Another quick one...

Lots has been happening in our little house lately! I have tons of photos to post.. of ponies, the garden, food (mmm!), stray kittens, fiber, and from mini vacations.. but of course that means that I have to edit them first. And who has time for that?

These were cute even without any further help, though.

This is Ray, our new foster pup. He had just begun a promising racing career when he broke his leg. Now he's all healed up and looking for his new home. Sometimes adjusting to the "real world" can be a little difficult though, especially when you're so good-looking and are used to being King.

He's getting the hang of things quickly - smart boy! If only he were a little smaller.....

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Baby did a bad bad thing

During a weekend bout of unexplained insanity, I did something very bad.

I totally should have known better.

But, no.

Lust won.

She's a new-to-me Kromski Sonata. Everyone who asked me when I was getting a wheel.. you were right. :)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Stuck in my head

Often, songs get stuck in my head. This one's been stuck for days, though. And I'm totally fine with that. :)

While Bob Dylan's version is the one that first got me singing, this version by the Swell Season has me smiling big:

You Ain't Goin' Nowhere

Such a great performance, I just had to share!

In other news, Ryan has upcoming appointments at Johns Hopkins and Georgetown. Looks like he won't be going right back into chemo. While that's a welcome thing, it's also a bit terrifying. I guess that's how it goes. Thank you, everyone, for your notes and support.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

It begins again

Things had been going so well, but we knew, in the background, that it wouldn't last. Ryan's PET/CT results have come back, and he'll have to start treatment again*.

I guess we went into it knowing that it would just be a break. But the news still sucks.

Thank you everyone for your continued thoughts, prayers, love, and support.

*Knit night ladies - I don't usually talk about it all that much, but Ryan has stage IV colon cancer. I feel now like I should've said something on Tuesday so the news isn't out of the blue. Oh well. There it is.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Another busy month has flown by. Last weekend we went camping and hiking at Greenbriar State Park. This weekend we visited the Baltimore Herb Fest, had sushi in Bethesda, and have a super-special project to work on. :) Oh, plus a BBQ tomorrow. Mmmm.

In the middle of all this, I've gotten a little spinning and a little knitting done. My multi-talented knit night friend Kerry has opened her own Etsy shop, Fluffy Stuff Yarns & Fibers. Right now there's washed fleece, dyed roving, hand spun yarn, and hand dyed yarn up, all of it gorgeous! My first purchase was some of the Targhee fleece that she picked out at Sheep & Wool. I have 4oz, and it is incredible. Pictures can't do it justice (though it looks just like hand-whipped whipped cream), because it's the softness that really sets it apart. I wish you could feel!

Kerry was wonderful and loaned me her Ashford cards so that I could get my 4oz. carded and spun. I think I spend more time oggling the fiber than actually getting any real work done, though....

Sometime last week, I finished spinning up singles from a braid of Fat Cat Knits Falkland Wool in "Clay Pigeons."

I had originally envisioned fingering weight 2 ply, but my singles themselves were fingering weight (oops!), so that was obviously not happening. I settled for a 2 ply sportish weight, but when I went to ply, I hated the look. My singles didn't have enough twist, and I didn't like how the colors were mixing and getting muddied. So, I wound it all off, gave it a hot/cold/hot/cold bath, and then smacked it against the side of the tub. Ended up with this:

Couldn't be happier! I think it's what I had in mind for it all along. (I love the long color repeats.) It's 530yds, 18-20wpi.

And finally, Squirrel pictures. I feel terrible.. every time I post photos of my beautiful kitty, she's doing something ridiculous and looks like a dork. But these were too funny to keep to myself! (Plus her grandma will appreciate them!)

Squirrel will eat any green plant she can reach, so we've kept the deck mostly barren. Ryan had the idea to build her a box with grass that she can gobble up to satisfy her green craving. (So that we can put more plants out.) And gobble up she does......

I love animals!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Sheep & Wool

I can't put it off any longer - I must make a Sheep & Wool post! Unfortunately, while I lugged my camera around with me all day, I only took one photo!

Yes, it's well established that I am a Dork. Oh well.

Mom and I arrived bright and early, which turned out to be a very good idea. By the time we got there, the lot had at least 100 cars in it already. And that was an hour before opening. By the time Ryan and family showed up, the (HUGE) lot was full and they had to park down the road and across the street. After waiting 1 1/2 hours to park. Not fun, I'm sure.

Mom and I had a blast though, despite it being completely overwhelming and crazy. My prize purchases are my new Bosworth (shown last post) and 6 ounces of North Ronaldsay fiber from Spirit Trail. Mom picked up a spindle from Spanish Peacock as well as some very pretty yarn and fiber. Though I hear that she's not spinning as much as she should..!!!

So that's it for Sheep & Wool 2010. At 3:30, Mom and I had an appointment for a photoshoot at the barn (just down the road from S&W). This is Scout, the barn manager's new lesson pony. Isn't he cute?!

While family was up, we also went to the Cylburn Arboretum (in Baltimore) and the National Arboretum (in D.C.). I highly recommend trips to either if you're ever in the area.

That's all for now - time to start the day! Here's to another awesome weekend!