Category Archives: collecting

Weeding and wheeling

Oh, it’s past mid-summer, or is this mid-summer now…?

My old computer finally shat the bed, the new one took nearly a month to arrive, I’m still struggling with transferring files and software and the like, we were on vacation, the garden and yard are nuts, I finally finished a few little house things, and less screen time has been good.

Those great big balls of llama (maybe alpaca?) I flashed last fall are now yarn.

I was aiming for a rustic spin, intentionally a bit thick and thin, but overall bulky weight – I was aware that I began spinning thinner and thinner, and the more aware that I was about doing it, the more I thought I was intentionally bulking back up…

But in the end, the last few skeins were more sport to worsted…

But it doesn’t matter – I plan to knit a throw blanket and will alternate the skeins to even out the weights a bit. There’s a bit under 2,000 yards and I had planned to be able to knit on US 11 or so needles, but my “bulky” spins often work best on 9s, so we’ll see – hopefully it’s enough yarn to make something the length of toes to tits and wide enough to tuck the sides underneath for encapsulation. I love the warmth and squishiness of garter stitch like this blanket (that is slightly too narrow at times and I flirt with the idea of adding another stripe lengthwise, but instead I’ll just knit a whole new blanket or more…) but I’ll get more size out of stockinette, so I’m pretty sure I’ll just do up something ultra easy and in the round like this baby blanket again. Though I’m still tempted to add in some waves or do a modular block thing, but the clock is ticking, and I’ll need to knit this outside because it’s full of veg still – and the blanket itself will be for sunny winter day porch lounging… at least that’s the plan.

It’s been hot as balls and humid as a piehole, so my spinning has ceased for the moment – I’m down to a reasonable amount of fiber too (except for that shorn-too-short alpaca) so I want to be a bit more organized for my next spins – I’ve already grouped a few things together, but I’d like to revisit what I thought would be sweater vs. scarf/shawl amounts since I don’t seem to be finishing a single sweater…

My knitting mojo has just been off – part of that is from garden weary and damaged hands and the joint/tendon pain and swelling I seem to get every time it’s hot and humid now, and part is I want to finish some things before moving on, but I just need to put in a lot more hours of knitting and several thousands stitches to finish…

But part of that is I really just want to knit some socks – so I started another pair. It’s my last ball of my preferred yarn – everything else in the stash is too thin, so I’ll knit that stuff up doubled or maybe one day suck it up and knit it on US 0s, and I really don’t need socks (maybe they’ll end up being a gift?) but fuck it, if that’s what I want to knit to keep my fingers happy, so be it.

(Incidentally I got an email that this yarn was on sale again, but by the time I went to get it, it was all sold out, so I still haven’t bought any yarn for I don’t know how long…?) Well, that isn’t quite true, I’ve thrifted a little bit lately, but that doesn’t count.

The garden is a demanding, but tasty bitch. I need to jot up notes for next year, but the nutshell is Squash Vine Borer is hitting now, but we’ve already had a decent crop of zukes – I’m going to attempt some surgery and bury the vines today, but frankly, I’ve had my fill of the stuff for the year, though N hasn’t. The high humidity and frequent splashy rains brought in the blights the last week or so, but we’ve gotten about 50 pounds of tomatoes so far, and there’s another round ready by week’s end, so I hope I can keep things going, but at the least, we’ve got a decent amount to finish putting up. Three batches of jalapeno salsa and one of crushed toms was canned yesterday. The jalapeno plants were all started from seed, looked like utter shit for several weeks after I put them out and they were devoured by slugs? but then perhaps they were all the stronger for it and grew into these gorgeous, lusty plants. And the blueberries are coming in very well (the blackberries are very sour though, and the gooseberry was less productive this year).

And the closets are all finally done – hot, cramped, messy work I put off for a bit – all needed to be primed and primed and primed, caulked, trimmed out, some needed some shelves, and all needed many coats of paint.

Large projects that need to eventually be addressed are: installing central air, taking down trees, fixing/removing retaining wall, fencing, removing and re-installing attic insulation, some tweaks to the well equipment/set-up, and some other things I’m blanking on at the moment…

Small projects include: repair and painting around doors, scrubbing the siding; patching (painting?) some stucco, replacing some interior doors (maybe, if we can find vintage matches), improving the area underneath the deck, replacing the storm doors, of course more and more landscaping, and more things I’m blanking on…

And a medium project – sometimes large and overwhelming, sometimes a small, chip away at deal, is continuing to purge my shit. I have yet to come to any conclusions or at least stalemates on my art/crafting/collecting issues, but I’m slowing letting go of things, as well as still selling some of my vintage shit. I’ve a collection of old photos I might start to cull for cash, but it’s the only collection that fits neatly inside of a few small boxes, so it doesn’t much count…

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Shetland blues

For the last decade or so, I’ve been buying damaged Shetland sweaters from thrift stores. They had to be misshapen and/or slightly felted and/or have holes – basically unwearable at least not without significant repair.

Most of them are from the late 1970s to early 1990s and in most cases, the colors happen to be ones I wouldn’t necessarily choose to wear or knit by themselves. But I finally amassed around a dozen (not pictured are some more blues, pinks, and greys) and originally I thought I’d knit a giant hap shawl/blanket, perhaps some colorwork accessories, and maybe a Spencer dress

And I bought one that was in quite good condition that I kept to wear as-is.

I love the slogan: “Wool, it’s got life.”

But then I used it in my failed MFA portfolio.

(That patch is easily removed, I just haven’t done it yet. And it’s probably not work-appropriate as it is. And my workplace is hostile and discriminatory towards sweaters – it’s been near 80F in there all winter and I’m reduced to t-shirts which is absolutely obscene in the wintertime and crushing my sweater-loving soul, but I digress…)

But this was the first project that I finally started to use my freshly harvested old Shetland sweater yarn.

The absolute best thing about this Shetland yarn is that it is all the same 2-ply weight (or close enough) brand to brand, decade to decade so it is all freaky great for anything – colorwork especially – so it’s not just another one-off for the scrappy stash. And I haven’t tested it yet, but it is probably the equivalent to, and/or would pair well with, Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift yarn.

That patch above obviously used very little yarn, and I was left with quite a bit, yet not much of one individual color from this stripey sweater. (Stripey sweaters are also part of my thrift sweater collecting policy since they do make for great scrappy projects, but this one was happily the same good old Shetland yarn, only it is fairly recent – from the middle aughts most likely).

Recently my mom got new glasses and requested a new (small, more like a kerchief) scarf with blue in it. My stash only had some bulky blue earmarked for another project and some sock yarn with blues, but they seemed a little too crayon-cartoonish. I think buying something was out of the question at the time since I would have had to wait for it to arrive in the mail and/or I’d have been tempted to buy roving instead and spin something, but that would take too long… And I am stash-busting, but do make exceptions for gifts, but I don’t have a solid LYS nearby to pop into and know I could get something appropriate for a fair price (and without attitude).

So I hit the Shetland stash – enough with hanging on to the thoughts of big haps and whatnot – there is still plenty of yarn for that anyway. And I absolutely required a mindless pattern – something I could knit as quickly as I can (which isn’t that fast these days) with near zero risk of frogging and restarting. My mom liked the triangular shape of the Lacy Baktus I made for her a few years ago, and I like the the shape of a slightly asymmetric side-to-side triangle, and that is also the most forgiving for judging yarn amounts, or rather, you don’t need to worry about it at all, just stop when you’re out (the Batkus is my all-time favorite, but there will be a day I’m sure, that I will run out of yarn at the very tip).

And Clara Falk’s Tailwind shawl pretty much fit the bill. I liked that she used an icord edge to hide the yarn tails and wanted to try it out – I liked the icord edge on my Paris Toujours, but it was more of a shallow slip thing that smoothed the end rather than a tube that would successfully entomb loose ends.

And I also wanted to use up most of the blue stripey stuff, but I figured I wouldn’t have enough once the stripes grew long, so I added a purple, navy, and denim-y colored sweater to the mix. The only solid color, a cobalt blue, was from the collar, cuffs, and waistband of the stripey sweater, so I had a safe amount of that one.

I held the yarns doubled in order to get a better gradient and to plump up the weight. I used US9 needles, but probably could have gotten away with 10s – this stuff is so bloomy.

(The semi-felted sweaters can be a bit of a bitch to unravel, but the Shetland is fairly strong and can withstand some tugging, so even though the stripey sweater in particular was at least 3 sizes smaller than what it was originally, I had minimal breakage. Out of the dozen or so of these sweaters, I’ve only given up unraveling one of them, and will use it for mitten linings and such instead.)

I hemmed and hawed through the whole thing about the colors – I don’t like light blues, and I’m always a little ambivalent about knitting with colors that aren’t ones I love – but they had their purpose in making the grade.

But the gradient wasn’t always working for me – perhaps that knitting trend is out, or on the way out, or maybe still peaking? But now it’s done with gorgeous multi-toned, perhaps a little speckled yarn not in early ’80s colors that were meant to be worn with too-stiff, too-high waisted jeans and ivory corduroy pants. And maybe because it was too consistent? I think that is my issue – it’s too regimented: 10 rows of one, ten of another, 10 of another, 10, 10, 10, 10… It needed something to break up the monotony, a wave or another angle, or different stripe thicknesses…

But that isn’t for me to ponder anymore since it’s my mom’s now, and as a scarf/shawl it is spot-on: crazy warm, sheepy yet drapey, and able to be worn in several ways.

And uh, yeah, it’s not a small kercheif like thing that can be tucked under the coat…

Maybe next year, okay ma?

***

And the final verdict on the pattern is that it is a good one – the icord edge totally encased the ends (though perhaps I wouldn’t trust it as much with a non-sticky yarn). My only minor quibble is that edge isn’t quite as stretchy as I’d like, but keeping it loose when knitting helps – I think the pattern mentions to pull it tightly, but I would recommend the opposite. And then I did the icord bind off with US10.5 needles, and that was perfect – there’s about equal give on both ends. I blocked it slightly longer, but it didn’t really need to be shaped much, though the soak made the yarn bloom a little again and erase any final kinks from unraveling.

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Feb finds

Winter went away for a few days a week ago and suddenly it was mud season.

And m&*#$*^%)#**&&$%&$!!!!! TICK season.

And of course, it’s always deer season…

early feb phil (2)

And our yard smells like a barnyard, and the dog loves to eat the poop and lick our faces, and all of our recently planted deer-resistant shrubs still need ugly cages to protect them from being “sampled” to death, and…

early feb phil (2) - detail

See that open, spilled-out compost bin in the back?

That is not ours.

I really like our neighbors – great people – but we’ll never be able to discourage the gathering of beasts in our yard while open compost and birdseed left on the ground happens just over the border…

But that’s why we had to fence in our garden and compost piles. And once again it’s time to think about the garden again – some seeds were saved and are ready to go, a few more are on order. Something went wrong with our seed starting last year – more like a few somethings, so more attention and care (and documentation) need to happen this year.

Everything out there is frozen again, and that’s okay – I’m not ready for the growing demands just yet.

I’m still officially cold-sheeping and generally frugal, but I can’t resist the pull of the thrift store entirely – and it’s paid off well in the last week or two. I found some good yarn on the cheap – the thrift yarn in my area is usually the nastier acrylics or something decent but way overpriced – and I’m itching to knit up big scrappy things, so it all fits in my collecting policy as well.

And then I had one of those rare, serendipitous, delicious scores…

Around the time I first moved out here, I was having a thrift pick-me-up and found a hooded wool duster/cardigan (with pockets!) from a pricey brand of shapeless and mildly dumpy clothes (that are now becoming quite appealing to me as middle age ascends…) but it was priced out of my range – maybe something like $16? Which I would consider if it was something I could wear for work or was very well made, but I wanted it for lounge wear, a robe of sorts – and I’ve already got several oversized sweaters in the name of comfort. So I passed it up, and I regretted doing that (and I might have gone back for it?).

early feb phil (3)

And then around four years later, it is mine. For about $3.

Is it the same one? It very likely could be…

Was it involved in a violent knife attack? Perhaps… or maybe a spray of gunfire?

I saw one of the holes when I picked it up, but it didn’t matter – I loved it more for its imperfections – and I didn’t bother to inspect it at any great length apart from eyeballing if the shoulders would fit me. But when I pulled it out of the wash, I finally saw that it was full of holes a couple of sizes larger than the US’s largest coin.

It’s a slight shame – the fit is so perfect – loose but amazingly not too frumpy – so it could be public wear, but my mending might not cut it for more polished needs. The placement of the holes is random, yet spaced out enough so some interesting embroidery or patches of some sort could look really good, but for now unraveling is mitigated and it’s oh so comfortable…

 

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Randomly, at the very end of the year

As usual, I stay away from too much reflection (remorse?) of the past year, and resolution-making for the new year.

Yep, that just about sums things up… #2017bestnine

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I have a few things in mind with a fairly strong commitment to finish or frog, several small house projects that still need to be wrapped up (I’m still looking at you, you bastard threshold!), but things will start growing again, and it will all be a busy blur once more.

I haven’t been sewing much recently except for a few minor clothing repairs/alterations. For the past couple of years I’ve also been drawn to hand-pieced things, but the bigger reality is that up until yesterday all but one (the one I keep ready for repairs) of my sewing machines were on time-outs which usually magically fixes them, but my luck finally ran out on that practice. (I’ve also had the on again, off again issue of work space, but that’s usually my own messy fault, and/or access issues for home repair.)

So though I intended on working on the long-ignored quilt above yesterday, I set up one machine, sewed three inches, got a snarling bobbin tangle, got out another and got another thready mess, got out another and forgot it needed a serious greasing instead of a little oil and also couldn’t find the spool pin I just found again for it, thought about checking out another, but it was two floors up and in a closet, and didn’t bother getting out the other two that need to be re-wired.

So I took a nap.

But it was a quick one, and I spent the next hour or two cleaning, oiling, and futzing with the goddamn tension to get it to behave. It’s still not great, but it’s mostly holding two pieces of fabric together now.

I hope to finish the quilt? It has a few weird memories from the last time I spend a good chunk of time on it, I really hate the quilting part of quilts – at least big ones, and it doesn’t really go with our decor so to speak, but I’ve got everything I need to finish it (provided the machines behave) and as an amalgam of stuff, it will easier to store and of course use, as a finished thing. So we’ll see.

And I don’t really need to buy any yarn again this year – I’m still spinning the last of a big wad of Jacob – and perhaps finally got a good chain-plying action going on. The only new yarn I might shop around for is reflective stuff.

I knit up this hat out of Red Heart for N. It’s not warm enough, it felt gross (though soft) to knit, and I’m dubious the wear will make it worthwhile for hand work. But he walks the dog in the dawn dark and we walk on country roads, so we need things with a ramped up visibility factor. I also have a spool of the reflective filament that can be held with any yarn too, but it was a little pricey I think, and/or the yarn was cheaper- I can’t remember now, and I think I was concerned about yarn dominance and loosing the thread in something wooly, so then I need to experiment with using it in duplicate stitch or as embroidery… something along those lines. And I’m also playing with some ideas for using it on dog accessories.

Has anyone else worked with this stuff?

Bathroom reno time? #miniature #dollhouse #childhoodthings #idontneedanotherhobby

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And then I’m still finding myself drawn to miniature stuff – I’m oddly mildly traumatized by home renovations/repairs these days, so maybe it’s a psychological thing in that I  actually want to feel in control and spend almost nothing (but time) on a renovation project, even if it is just my childhood dollhouse to get over it?

Eh, we’ll see on that one too –

Happy New Year!

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Stash flash – the spinning fiber edition

This was going to be a four-part inventory series for my own notes when I started it 2ish years ago – the first was commercial yarn, the second would be the handspun, the third spinning fiber, and the fourth the “froggers” (sweaters waiting to be unraveled). But my handspun has always been a small collection and recently on the needles pretty quickly, and the froggers get a regular toss to see if I can sell one or two whole, and my spinning fiber also kept itself to a couple of tubs and boxes. But I’d like to restrict it to a smaller space, and I’ve finally amassed enough to make some decent yardage. Though I do need to spin/knit up some mittens and slipper-like things, I’m not feeling the random 4 ounce braid these days – my scarf/shawls need to be in the 8 ounce range – and I don’t really need another hat at the moment. So a few of my 4 ouncers will be combined with random bits and larger bobs to become garment quantities of yarn.

Everything is still in decent condition with the exception of a few lavender sachet explosions, so I’ve introduced even more vegetable matter to some of it… And is there a shelf-life to wool? That shit survives on dead people in peat bogs and whatnot, so I’m not concerned with not spinning it up immediately, but I did wonder if some of my raw fleece was slightly more brittle* than before…

I started an inventory of weights and colors and fiber types, but it wasn’t really necessary – I’ve only got a few large collections and the rest are random bits. Most of the large amounts were acquired when I’d just barely learned to spin (and had more disposable income), and I’ve since mildly regretted buying some of it – I was mildly screwed/slightly taken advantage of, or the seller was just as much of a novice as me in a few instances and I’ve got some unspinnable stuff – or I’ve found that I don’t much like something after all.

The large collections consist of several pounds of mostly bright-colored Lamb’s Pride roving:

That raspberry colored stuff has come up here a few times, and I’ve still got around 12 ounces left. And this is a good example of too much enthusiasm as a newbie – I found a good price for it and bought as much as I could reasonably justify – and… I don’t love spinning it. Don’t get me wrong, I love Lamb’s Pride – it’s domestic wool, comes in great colors, and the yarn is strong and sheepy. But my color choices for the roving were limited, making my love for it slightly lessened just because of that, and I also just like spinning less-processed, more rustic roving more. (However, a good portion of this is also superwash, so it has to be very processed to be so, so I will buy it again as I spin down what I have since most of my gift knitting needs to be superwash.) And I need to figure out which is which! I saved the receipts (somewhere) for this purpose, and I’m pretty sure I had all of it separated in its own box, but that organization has been lost.

My aunt (thank you M!) sent me a few pounds/four large balls of llama a couple (three?!?!?!) years ago, and I was originally going to mix them with other things, but I’m going to spin them as one and make a throw blanket – I need to decide about stripes vs. gradients vs. random blends, but I hope to get it on the wheel this winter – it is currently third in line in my spinning queue, but it could be next…

And the raw fleece is the biggest collection with the most problems. I’m not going to buy raw fleece again. I’m probably not going to buy raw fleece again. I will only buy raw fleece in small amounts if it’s the only way to try a new breed, or is a pity purchase at a festival. Or maybe a little alpaca if it’s really clean. That six pounds of Romney was a bit of a scam – the seller put the cleanest, longest locks at the top of the bag; the bottom contained literal shit and short second cuts and very brittle, sunburned tips – I should have known better and they should have said it wasn’t skirted, or whatever… Lesson learned.

And there’s the lovely Nestor the llama I still have to finish – he was going to be my reward for finishing the never-ending Romney.

And then there’s the damned raw alpaca – I bought three bags (light, medium, and dark) of the stuff very early on – back when I still dreamed of being an alpaca farmer. I don’t think I even had a spinning wheel at that point… but I was in camelid love and had a festival fever and the price was good and the lady selling it was nice. And I got whomped again (this was actually the first time).

The light is almost all ridiculously short cuts underneath the thinnest layer of acceptable ones. I’m considering sending this out to be made into felt, or use it for stuffing, or make the felt myself… but this is the kind of situation that makes me hang on to something far too long because I know it is useful for something, just not my original intention…

But thankfully, the other two bags are mostly fine. I’ve been wanting to have a mostly black handspun shawl/scarf and this alpaca might be right for it – it’s got some sun faded tips, so it might spin up on the brown end, so I’ll have to run a test first (otherwise I’ve got a pound and a half of pure black Lamb’s Pride).

The smallest largish collection is just under a pound of Jacob fleece and roving – the roving from Jenny Jump Farm is crazy lovely – it is a tricolor that was easily separated by color, then there’s a few ounces of just dark roving from another farm, and then there’s a bag of raw tricolor that looked clean and claimed to be 4 ounces but… you guessed it! It’s under 2 ounces and got a decent amount of scurf (sheepy dandruff) – I’m using most of it anyway since I have the least amount of the medium brown – and this was a fairly recent purchase, so luckily I only lost a few bucks and I now know which farms to avoid (if they’re even still in business by the time the next festival rolls around).

I started spinning the lightest portion and still haven’t decided on leaving it as a single or chain-plying it – either way it will be a gradient. And I’m pretty sure it will turn into a poncho. I’ve had ponchos on the brain for myself and the dude, and I’ve got many thoughts on their functionality, but perhaps those thoughts are for another day…

And then I’ve grouped together a sweater quantity for the next or third in line spin – most of this is local, or at least mid-Atlantic wool – some Gotland, more Jacob, some unique unregistered breeds, a bit of dyed stuff – Romney usually, and a few little bits dyed or not – one is an angora blend. And this is what I’m most excited about and/or have decided on as my collection policy: naturally colored wool, and a bit of dyed non-white wool – I want a murky depth of semi-muted colors.

I chucked a few other things that would go well together in bags and boxes – a sweater quantity of a couple of colors of superwash that compliment a lovely Pigeonroof braid, a sweater quantity of grab bag scrap fibers in warm colors with some natural brown roving, and a few experiments – I’d like to do a short spin with dangling Lincoln locks, and I have some fake flowers and whatnot to make some “art” yarn, but I’m not really feeling that now.

I will always buy from small fiber farmers – in fact, that is who I buy from nearly exclusively now since going mostly cold-sheep – I hesitate to even complain about occasional unsavory products when I’m guessing my disappointing purchases were also disappointing to the farmer – I get that – sheep have bad years, not all shearers are good, your scale goes on the fritz, you’re just starting out and don’t know better, etc., and yet you’ve still got to sell something. I’m not going to out those who I suspect might be a bit unscrupulous, but I am going to reach into the bottom of the bag and talk to the seller a bit more – and stick with the farmers I trust, even if I’m only able to buy a few ounces from them here and there.

*Wool could get more brittle if it’s stored in a highly acidic enclosure like cardboard or a cedar chest unless there’s a barrier between it…

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Woolly start to the new season

Feeling uneven from morning dental work, afternoon flu shot, a cold either minor and lingering, or just slowly beginning, catching up from some brief travel, and pressure systems changing from summery to autumny to a little summery again…

I’m usually ready to say goodbye to summer, but slightly less so this year, or maybe as usual, I’m just not willing to loose the daylight.

My favorite (and only one I attend these days) wool festival happened last weekend.

There was some sheep scratching…

And oogling…

And of course, time for the dogs…

(Can you see the dog speck right of center near the top acting as gatekeeper?)

I kept to my strict budget of $30 (including parking) and came home with $3 left – again, took the penny candy approach and bought just a little fiber here and there (seen above).

And got it in mind to finally deal with some of the fiber I’ve been sitting on for years – especially this beast of a fleece (6 pounds I think?) that I’ve threatened to send out to be processed or have made into felt, but both cost money I don’t want to spend. So in the last few sunny days of the year, I’ll be picking and fluffing so I can card a little less messily indoors this winter (or just spin from the fluff and call it rustic and make a big blanket out of the mess…?

 

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Mid August

And so it goes – much the same as it has been…

Beans must be picked every other day.

And tomatoes are expressing their juicy demands.

And I need to learn about more diseases and pests to ward off next year.

Some thrifting is still being done here and there – picked up some “vintage” yarn for more and bigger scrappy things – I’ll probably dye the one on the right since the white is actually wool, or mostly, and it’s interesting that this seemingly semi-shitty novelty yarn was once spun in Belgium and France…

And some finishing is happening – this spin will be mittens or slippers, but will go on the back burner for a bit.

(Next up for spinning is still TBD – either a shit-or-get-off-the-pot spin with raw alpaca I’ve had far too long, or a quick palate cleanser with a colorful superwash braid… either way, the wheel is freshly cleaned and oiled and swept up underneath and is ready to go.)

And of course, beach time – just a bit here and there though – and I’m finishing up this knit – hopefully by the month’s end (secretly by the end of next week).

Some upcoming travel means socks need to be on the needles, but I’ve really run out of room in my sock drawer… In theory I “need” a few more pairs that better match my work clothes, but I have none worn out enough to purge to make room, so…

I’m going to knit them anyway and have more disorder and chaos and cramming going on in my life again!

 

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