Tag Archives: fiber

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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Mid-August progress…

We spent last weekend in the Adirondacks.

It was the last of the summer hiking trips for us.

ADK-pond hike

Our cottage was decorated in “Wal-Mart for cabin.”

ADK-bear

I actually miss the tacky painted saw blades, crude whittlings, and sh*t made out of driftwood and antlers of mountain/country crafts of yesteryear (or just a few years ago really).

Now it is plastic sh*t from China (often copied from domestic crafters).

ADK-racoon

But I managed to finally finish basting all of those damn letters.

Letters-done

The pile looks smaller than it really is.

I will never be so wordy on a quilt again.

Our CSA has been offering loads of lovely flowers.

It is a nice thing to have fresh flowers, but not in place of food – they really need to step it up in the veg department.  And as vinyl village apartment dwellers, we can’t compost, so I don’t like to have too many fresh flowers.

Quilt-shirt fabric

The letters are ready to mingle with the as yet unmade quilt blocks.

In Review

I’m also getting wordy with a fair isle scarf.

I don’t love stranded knitting.

I don’t hate it though.

PRS-lettuce on machine

My Tour de Fleece spinning goals fell short.

PRS-lettuce skein

But I finished plying my Pigeonroof Studios “lettuce” and have one braid left to finish spinning for a particular project.

I spun this one a little too thin and it came out lighter and softer in color, so it might have to become a different project.

Or the original project will be scrapped altogether.

That will have to wait.

I also started a major embroidery piece.

It will take some time.

It is pink.

I don’t love pink.

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Stash

stash-stitch

No, not that kind of ‘stash you silly hipster.

Stash

I’m referring to yarn.  Lots and lots of yarn.*

I’ve come across many instances lately of people talking about having stashes so large they exceed life expectancy (aka SELE).  I’m not quite there yet, but I think I’m awfully damn close (or you could live by the thought that you could always get hit by a bus at any given moment and then nearly ever knitter would leave a wooly estate).  I don’t know what my comfortable stash level is or should be.  It might be exactly where it is right now?  If so inclined, I could start a few sweaters, tights, a drawerful of socks, and a whole sh*tload of accessories at any given notice.  Yet it’s starting to make me a little uncomfortable… I feel almost as if I’m eating a giant delicious sandwich in front of a waif-child.  I try to live as simply as a typical American (who still needs an auto, has outdoors hobbies, has tools for a major house renovation and small farm, has a teensy nostalgia problem, etc.) can, yet my stash requires a whole closet or very small room nearly all to itself.**

Some of my recent test-knitting has been a half-assed attempt to slim the stash, yet most patterns call for yarn currently on the market and easily available, so that also leads me to the occasional justification for a purchase when I don’t already have something quite right.  My yarny souvenirs from travels are justified to some degree since they are only material thing I buy, but sometimes (but not so much these days) I’m a sucker for the $3 or less skein of 100% wool or bag sales of the stuff for a song (which is also how one can end up with loads of discontinued stuff).  Wool can always be used in/for something – it felts/fulls, can be mixed and matched, dyed, used for embroidery, and in my mind never needs to be destashed.

I’m horribly tempted to catalog it all and post it on my ravelry stash page, but I’m embarrassed to show I have this much and I don’t want to turn off any current or potential ravelry friends.  I have to admit when I see ginormous stashes full of primo yarn (though mine isn’t the fancy stuff for the most part) I think the person must be very rich, and if you are very rich you are probably evil (or you might be a designer with a sponsor or a LYS owner, so that’s ok).  And then the work of photographing and logging the data would take a few days to do and it’s something that my tedious-loving other evil Gemini twin*** would love to do, but really is a waste of time.  But on the other hand, I can choose to list things as available for sale or trade, so it could be a win-win  –  I may have something discontinued that someone needs to finish a project, or make a buck or two on the side.  That, and I could check my inventory without having to unstack, unbag, or generally make a mess of things.  But don’t I have other things that I should be working on…?

*There’s a good amount of spinning fiber and a couple of sewing machines in there too, so it’s a little deceiving, but then again none of my WIPs (or possible froggers) or sweaters waiting to be unraveled and harvested are in there…

**Really the bigger problem here is my fabric stash.  So much bigger.  So much more unwieldy.  So much heavier.  So much less organized and contained.  So much it’s actually a problem worthy of an episode of reality TV hoarding show.  So much that it really does need a room of its own.  So much that I will never share the extent of it with anyone other than N.  And my “fabric” is mostly carefully curated but old and wrecked clothing so it’s not like I can re-sell it or even give it away.  Maybe to a rag picker… Ah, the olden days…

***Both twins are evil – an uptight bossy bitch and an unmoored drifter.

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Fiber travels in New Mexico, part I

I was in a few states of the great American Southwest for the last couple of weeks.  I hiked, visited family, ate lots of green chile, visited Tierra Wools (more on that another time), and I had greatly desired to spend some time with a cashmere rancher friend of my mother’s, but sadly got sick and spent the last four days of my trip in bed, waiting for hours in feverish chills at a busy clinic full of babies with diarrhea, or lurking about the cold house feeling too crappy to knit (I took along that blasted sock) and without anything new to read (not to mention no internet or boob-tube).

I love New Mexico – it is a hard place to live, and I respect that – I would love to call it home, but will enjoy it in visits instead.  The land, or more precisely water, can’t really handle any more residents – especially those who plunk a large vacation or retirement home down on pristine but dry land and expect to live like they did in the East or South.

Luckily in the days leading up to my assault by poison mucus on ears and sinuses, the weather was gorgeous.  Mountain meadows are my favorite places on the planet…

New Mexico 2013 264 - Copy

…as well as dramatic rocks and moonscapes on earth.

Bisti

And luckily a couple of my sick days involved wind, sleet, snow and rain so I didn’t feel as bummed about not being able to hike otherwise.

New Mexico sleet

But I admit, I was most excited about meeting Nestor.

Nestor portrait

He’s a guard llama on the cashmere ranch (you can see one of his inquisitive charges in the background).   I did get to meet him briefly, as well as the resident Maremma sheepdog Homer…

Homer close

Homer far

He’s a fiber producer in his own right and a giant friendly (though not when protecting) beast.  I’ve been interested in the breed since seeing them in Abruzzo, Italy a few years ago (more on that later too) so it was nice to finally meet one and rub his thick coat.  Alas he is the only four-legged furry there I snapped since I thought I would be returning, but the pictures of Nestor as a younger man are courtesy of my mom from an earlier time.

She brought back a baggie of Nestor a few years ago – maybe it was an ounce or two.  That, along with some Navajo Churro was my first time dealing with unprocessed fiber.  I didn’t have any carders or combs at the time so I fluffed out the fibers by hand the best I could.

Nestor

This was also among my first spinnings on my new-to-me-then wheel.  I think it is about a sport to worsted weight and I didn’t get much – I think I was going to make it into wrist warmers, or very short mitts.  I also wasn’t sure if I wanted to knit it with some wool yarn for better memory and elasticity.

Nestor yarn

But then as with many things, I didn’t decide about it right away and time passed.  The following year my mother called up to ask if I wanted a big Nestor load?

Of course I said YES.

washing nestor-small

This was back in the days when I had a glorious basement and the harvest gold dryer that came with the house.  It was also winter, or maybe just cold and damp outside when I set out to wash him.  Luckily we replaced the windows in the house too so we had several old screens that were perfect for dealing with wet fiber.  I think he finally finished drying a week later.  Then it happened again – I sat on it.  My dilemma is either spinning it all at random like my initial batch for a marled color, or roughly separating out two or maybe three colorways – white/light grey, grey, grey-black and then have the option of doing color work or stripes with the knitting.  I need to re-weigh it too, so I’m not quite sure how much I have, and then I may waffle again about adding wool during the spinning or later with the knitting….

My ears nearly exploded on the flight home, and by the way the assholes at United aren’t “allowed” to give you the cups with warm paper towels in them anymore – if both of my hands weren’t clamped tightly over my ears at the time, they probably would have gone to the sneering flight attendant’s neck.  Needless to say I’m now even harder of hearing and slogging along with more and stronger meds and the thought of watching the spinning wheel go round and round isn’t going to happen for the next 10 days or so, so Nestor will have to wait some more.

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