Tag Archives: roving

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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Oh hello, and nearly goodbye, September…

I thought that by going back to a physical workplace after telecommuting for the last four years, I’d magically have more time. I know that’s not how things actually work scientifically, but I generally get more done the busier I am, and some of my best/most complicated/largest projects have happened when I was working more than full-time and/or more than one job and didn’t know up from down.

But I’m still settling in to the new routine I suppose, as is the dog (who is making progress somewhat but not enough yet), and the house and garden still need much more attention than just a bit of maintenance here and there…

But I’ve also got a case of raging startitis, with no accompanying secondary infections of focusitis or finishitis, so I need to reign things in a bit.

***

My all time favorite LYS recently closed – technically it wasn’t local to me anymore, but I occasionally ordered from them over the phone, and stopped in when passing through my old city – the news about it was sad, and perhaps moreso because it was one more severed tie to the place (and the shop was possibly a victim of the ever-increasing hipsterization and gentrification that is utterly ruining the city).

The Garden State Sheep Breeders festival came and went – I nearly missed it because I hadn’t registered that it had turned September (apparently I did that last year too) – and it was a little disappointing this year – fewer vendors and fewer unique breeds of wool for sale (if you want Romney, Jacob, or Alpaca, NJ is the place for you).

(Not that I don’t like Jacob and Alpaca especially, I just have enough for now.)

So I only picked up a few braids of atomically-dyed Dorset…

to make a superhero flaming cape-like shawl I guess?

And a couple of ounces of grab-bag fiber here and there from the fiber folks – I hate to call these pity purchases, but that’s what some are, and the rest are more of a penny candy approach…

But this means I need to oil up the wheel again and get spinning – it has been montionless for months – and it’s finally cool enough to start back up.

 

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Driving away

I had a full day of good bad luck recently.

The brakes in my car went out while I was driving…

…out of the state car inspection garage.

(Moments later, I’d have been on the highway, instead, I coasted into an uphill parking spot just outside the garage – and still passed the inspection!)

I had many other errands planned that day, but had to wait for a tow truck instead.

But I’d brought some knitting along at the last moment, so I had something to do while waiting.

I’d just downgraded our automobile club membership from the longest towing allowance because we hadn’t used it in years and the yearly fee is much higher now than where we used to be.

But it was still enough towing to get me back to my town.

I didn’t wear a coat when I’d left the house that morning because it was sunny and I would be running in and out of places.

But when I started the long walk home from the garage, it dropped 15 degrees and started snowing.

But I had inexplicably put on walking shoes instead of my usual clogs that morning, so at least my feet were fine.

The garage called to say my entire brake line was rusted out and my car would be in the shop for days.

And N had just left town for a three-day weekend with his.

So I was stranded in the house, which is where I’d normally prefer to be most of the time, but I was unmoored and annoyed to not be able to do the stupid running around crap I’d planned do, so with my thoughts on autos, and mood bend on frustration, I ripped out the van sock and removed the offending skein to overdye it.

van redo-before

I only had violet and yellow food coloring gels and a smattering of stinky drink mix on hand.

I wanted the neon to go away, and I was still going to knit it with the other burgundy/cranberry/orange yarn, so as long as I could turn it into some form of purple or brown, or a favorite of mine, purpley-brown, or at least just all toned the hell down, all would be fine.

van redo-dyeing

I started off with just the violet, but it turned the yarn very dull and almost grey – acceptably muted, but surprisingly unpleasant (I usually like muddy, dull, muted colors). So I jabbed in some yellow and liked that it was heading to a brown. But then for entirely unknown reasons, I tossed in a packet of grape drink mix.

I decided that fake grape is the only drink mix stink I can somewhat, just barely, not quite really, tolerate.

But I got something acceptably purple-ish.

van redo-rinse

And rinsing the whole shebang was fun – the colors broke in the wash, so at first the rinse water was pink, then cyan, and then green when I remembered to pick up the camera.

There was still some color left in the pot so I tossed in some natural white (not quite cream) roving for shits and giggles.

van redo - sop color

And it cam out an intense orchid that I would hate to wear alone, but will be a nice occasional addition in a spin.

van sopped

The yarn came out mildly nasty on its own, and has a bit of that lifeless dullness that comes with food color dyeing…

van redye

and you can see the areas I jabbed in the yellow vs. the violet…

van redye det

 but it’s just what this pair of socks needed for me to take off with them again.

van new sock

(While I’m waiting to get my car out of the shop… and on the water treatment equipment repair guys, and my new tooth, and now possibly the washer repair person or new delivery, and the lumber delivery that we planned before everything else went to hell… this is becoming a helluva expensive month.)

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Jadeite

I used to collect vintage dishes.

I use the past tense because I haven’t bought a whole set since the late 1990s, but an occasional cup and saucer will still come home with me.

I still have most of the dishes, though I’m too scared and sick to unpack them since the Great Box Avalanche in our late apartment.

I’m also paranoid to use them now because I learned that some might have lead – yes, even restaurantware can have some – and I’ve probably caused myself mild brain death from the years I used them.  I bought a lead testing kit, but misplaced it in the move.

We used to have easy access to Fiestaware seconds and so we’ve got a rather large dinner party worth of the stuff and I don’t use anything else these days, nor do I expect I’ll ever want anything else (except for a piece or two in a new colorway or to replace the occasional broken piece).

Fiesta-forever

I used to tell myself that buying vintage dishware was an investment, because for a tiny period of time it was – Ebay was just getting rolling and things like Fireking’s Jadeite went for unreasonable amounts of cash.  My books for grad school and some bulk rice and beans were paid with my Ebay earnings…

Until a year, or maybe even just a few months later, when the market was flooded…

Today, my old crap isn’t worth too much more than what I paid for it at the pricier thrift stores, and isn’t really worth the bother of packing and shipping to sell online (or even to unpack it for some proper photos).

But I still really love the stuff – I love the colors, and the sturdy materials, and most of all, I love the size – modern plates are too damn big.  And I drink espresso, so the coffee cups might be a little small for today’s average American Joe, but they’re perfect for a double shot.

So I’m thinking about dishware because I finally finished spinning my “Jadeite” wool.

PRS-Jadeite3

The last in a trilogy of Pigeonroof Studios superwash merino roving that I bought last year and intended to knit together in the same project.  I’m still pretty sure I’ll make a shawl/scarf or perhaps a sweater yoke of all of them, but maybe I should make a tablecloth instead….?

Nah.

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Jersey [wool] baby…

NJsheep-bored

Folks are always in a tizzy about Rhinebeck and the Maryland Sheep and Wool festivals, but smack in the middle is the small and very manageable Garden State [aka New Jersey] Sheep Breeders festival.

I went several years ago and bought a large amount of  raw alpaca fiber.  I think it was before I owned a spinning wheel, and had just learned to spin on a Turkish spindle…?  And I also thought I got a really good deal, but I didn’t – though it’s in beautiful natural fawn, grey, and black colors, the fibers were shorn at a very short length, so I’m not able to spin it (at least not without experiencing anger).  I need to felt it, blend it into something else, send it out for commercial processing, or just sell/trade/gift the mess.

I thought that this year’s festival would be bigger, and I think there were a few more vendors, but as a whole it’s small and I love it – no crowds, no pushing in booths, and plenty of time and space to enjoy the animals.

NJsheep-judging

And it really is about the animals – I know those other large festivals are too in theory, but the wooly nirvana shopping frenzy is the annoying take away.  I like watching the judging, even if it’s for the meat breeds – brings me back to my 4-H youth, and I can still spot the nicest hindquarters most of the time.

There may have been fewer breeds on display this year too, but I’m not sure.

N’s favorites are the angora goats.

NJsheep-goats

And I’m a fan of the Jacob sheep.

NJsheep-JacobRam

NJsheep-Jacobs

This little one – not sure if she’s Shetland or one of the small Cheviots – was bleating her cute little head off louder than anyone in the barn.

NJsheep-bleater

It seemed she just wanted attention, or she was nervous about an approaching late summer thunderstorm, or her buddies were in the ring and she was lonely, or she knew she was in the wrong state and the others were going Jersey on her ass…

NJsheep-bleaterportrait

But she calmed down once she got to pose for snaps.

[And for those who think they have an idea of what NJ might be like, they’re most likely wrong – this part of the state might as well be the Midwest, complete with more reasonable drivers and farm smells rather than malodorous chemical plants.  Actually the farms are really well-managed around here and rarely give off odors unlike the factory farms of PA].

On our last vacation, I managed just walk on by two decent-looking LYSs, and we drove right past WEBS since I knew that wool festivals were coming up. I’ve also been good about passing up sales at my favorite indie dyers and deeply discounted full lots of yarns over the last year, so I could spend a little on some fiber directly from the source.  I love so much of the beautifully dyed yarns out there at festivals though, and always kick myself for not picking up a skein or two of something gorgeous, but at nearly $30 a pop for most, I can get more [and more unique] fiber instead.  This would have been the time and place to pick up a few of those skeins though – some of the same booths at Rhinebeck are virtually impenetrable.

The fiber-bearing-animal-keeper folks around here seem to prefer Romneys and Alpacas, and I’m done with both of those for a bit – I’ve spun plenty of Romney, and though I love a “rustic” yarn, I’ve already got enough, and I don’t love knitting with it.  And the Alpaca is lovely, but the good stuff is pricey and I still have some waiting to be spun, so I’m mostly looking for different breeds to try, especially if they have a name and a face.

NJsheep-Gustave

So a few ounces of Gustav the Gotland came home with me.

NJsheep-Gotland

He lives at Cloudberry Sheep and Wool farm in central NJ and is a lovely pale to medium grey.  I’m not sure how I’ll spin him yet, or if I’ll combine some of the various breeds I’ve collected into some sort of sampler project, or make small accessories of each…

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Fried that squash blossom

Good god, this was a long suffering spin.

PRS-zucchini&blossom

And I blathered on so much about it…

Last year, I was thrilled to buy the wool – Pigeonroof Studios superwash merino in “zucchini blossom.”

Pigeon zucchini

I started to spin it.

PRS zucchini

I fantasized about pairing it with other yarn from my stash to become some sturdy socks.

PRS-squashblossom

I realized I spun the first bobbin backwards, so I got irritated and put it away.

I started spinning it again during last year’s Tour de Fleece.

I cut my thumb.

TdF-Wipeout

I blamed the wool and put it away.

I got it out to finally finish for this year’s Tour de Fleece.

PRS-zucchini-TdF2014

I made a three-ply and thought all was fine.

PRS-zucchini-3ply

I ran out of one of my three plies.

PRS-zucchini-not3ply

I am now done.

PRS-zucchiniwashed

I have 258 yards of a heavy fingering/light sport wonky 3ply, and 114 yards of a light fingering/fingering wonky 2ply.

PRS-zucchinitangle

(And we won’t speak of this).

And I’ll shut up about now until I have a finished item from it…

if I ever have one at all…

(Incidentally, I did fry up those blossoms and it was a mushy miserable failure, as are most of my neglected zucchini plants which are lousy with stupid male blooms).

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Slowly simmering….

I’m slowly and only very occasionally working on my latest Lacy Batkus.  I still love the pattern as always, but I’m not falling in love with this version yet.  My handspun is a bit stiff and though I embrace all yarns thick and thin, it appears that the skein is getting increasingly thicker overall and thus the needle size may end up a bit small.

Lacy Baktus progress

But my old favorite pattern may start to feel the pressure of a new pattern in town…

Mimsy Hitchhiker

I’ve started a Hitchhiker by Martina Behm out of my handspun Pigeonroof Studios BFL “Mimsy.”

Mimsy progress

I wasn’t crazy about garter stitch and handspun before, but this single yarn is perfect for it.

Mimsy detailAnd damn near downright ethereal with incredible lightness and drape.

I’ve had problems in the past determining what to do with fuzzy yarn and this pattern is perfect in its simplicity – it was also perfect for some recent airport knitting time.  I do fear that I may run out of yarn before I make it the perfect size, but I should have just enough for an acceptable length, and I’m sure I’ll be able to block out a little more.

Other projects still in the works?  The cotton blanket is currently taking its last laps and I still need to decide how to do the border. I’ve started a quilt with applique letters that is kicking my ass at the moment.  And my spinning queue is bigger than ever.  My goals for the Tour de Fleece are spinning my recent PRS purchases:

PRS Tour de Fleece

It’s all superwash merino in colorways from left: Jadeite, Storm, and Lettuce.  Rather subdued and monochromatic for PRS, but I love them, and I love them combined.  I have plans for a shawl and I was initially thinking it might be something feather and fan-ish, but I’m on a garter binge now so it might be one of the trendy stripey patterns, or one of my own if I get my act together.  You may have noticed how “perfect” I’m feeling with my new handspun and Hitchhiker above, so now I wish I could make fulled/felted singles out of this, but it will have to be two-ply.  I have another braid of SW merino in a brownish colorway, but I don’t want to commit to finishing it in the near future and I’m determined to perfect my chain-plying skills on it, so it will be for another time.

And I need to finish spinning the zucchini blossom I put aside earlier.  I still want to turn it into socks, but I’m still on the fence about making a two or three-ply.  I found some complimentary commercial sock and other superwash yarn in my stash that could be used for stronger toes and heels, and possibly soles.  I thought these would be lighter summery socks, but if I make a three-ply they will be thicker… either way I’m happy I can eek out some more yardage with the commercial stuff.

PRS-squashblossomHmm, I will need to decide soon.

Decisions aren’t easy for me these days.

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