Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Bubble Bubble Boiling Trouble

It never rains but it pours, and it seems that May/June for me is traditionally stressful. Last year we scattered my dad’s ashes in Michigan, during a trip that had me stretched to my limits on my sanity… only to return home to discover that the IRS and I were going to be having big issues, and my employment was slated to end as the company was closing it’s CT office and people were going to be laid off en masse.

This year – my Step-Dad had his heart attack, strokes, and my mom had her own near heart attack. My son had his cyanosis that had us going in and out of hospitals for testing, and I started a new job, only to be distracted by the things in my personal life being overwhelming.

I can deal with a simmer, but when things reach bubbling/boil level I get close to cracking… and well I’ve been close.

Today I had a conversation with my new boss – seems I’ve been a bit distracted and it’s hard to judge if a new employee is actually going to be a good fit if they are so out of focus on everything in their life that they can’t see straight. That’s been me. I did tell her that the worst was over and I can say I feel that this is a good fit for me, reassuring her that yes I’ve been distracted, but I’ve really gotten a handle on it. Goddess I hope I have anyhow…

Notice I use the word “Been” as in past tense. It’s all come to a bit of a bubbling head, and instead of the continual teary-eyed mess I was last summer when I nearly cracked, this time I’ve focused my attention on doing something. Making something… taking the time to distress and find a way to say “See – I was productive.”

This weekend I dyed roving like a fool. Seriously, my front porch looks like it’s been hit with Roving Kudzu and we’re no longer in New England. The picture at right does it no justice... Sadly due to a thunderstorm and downpour I have very little dry to speak of and when I get home tonight I’ll have to check what dried today – if any as we may be getting more storms this afternoon. If it’s dry I’ll braid the roving up and set it aside to either sell on Etsy or spin my self.

What makes me think that it’s settled down now? Outside of rediscovering an outlet and throwing my self into it, I got news back from Garret’s doctor’s office. His EEG came back with good news. It appears he's fine - no details, but he shows no sign of seizures, nor was there any brain damage due to the cyanosis. Right now the leading theory is that he has had a lesser version of that nasty virus that attacks a person’s heart… which means that he has a natural immunity to it now, and we can breathe easier. Until I hear otherwise, that’s what I’m going to operate under, and I’ll let life get back to the normal simmer I’m used to.

I now return you to your regularly scheduled programming and what I write about in this blog normally…

Monday, June 23, 2008

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Satuday to Dye for

I currently have 12 oz of merino roving dripping dry on my porch. 4 ounces in my sink in a colander. 4 ounces in the dye pot.

There's more where that came from, and by the end of the weekend we'll have dyed about 2 pounds of roving. I will be ready for that Ravelry swap, as well as stocked with hand dyed colorways to spin, and if I'm feeling adventurous I'll consider selling some dyed roving by its self in 4oz increments on Etsy.

That is if this headache finally goes away...

Friday, June 20, 2008

Finally - some fiber related progress!

First things first - Garret's doing ok. This last Wednesday was rougher on me than him, although he's still working on getting his sleep back on a normal schedule. That said - he's doing good, and Yale New Haven Children's hospital has not called us back (other than to check on him) to say "Hey his test results show he needs to be back here now!"

I've gotten to do a lot more spinning lately, cleaned, flicked and carded a pound of Border Leicester that I will probably dye tomorrow, and tonight I dyed up a pound of roving - a bunch of reds this time, as well as some earthier tones. At this rate I'll probably be looking to get my Rambouillet fleece scoured so I can get the locks dyed before I card them. I'll need to however or I'll be running out of Roving before you know it.

I'm also looking to add on to my equipment this year. I want to get a picker, some hackles, and some combs. The Combs are a bit frightening only as they are really pointy sharp and my kids have a natural desire to explore - and a drive to help.

Tess has her own project on the carder right now. I have flicked out some Mohair/Border Leicester/Romney and it's being fed into the drum carder in bits - all to be cranked by my bright little three year old. It won't be long before she's spinning on her own... and I'll have to decide which wheel I'll let her use as her full time wheel. Probably the Kiwi as my lovely husband has cleared me to get my Golding.

Of course I don't think that spending 5K on a spinning wheel is a smart purchase when you have small kids, so I'll look at the Majacraft and Lendrum lines... but it's nice to know that I have that backing.

It's late, I've dye all over my hands and likely will be doing more tomorrow (I really want to get the prepared wool ready to work and set aside from the raw wool) and I'll be dreaming of spinning and processing fiber in my sleep, I'm more than certain of this.

and on that note I leave you with this - an icon of my childhood, who's decided he's got a lot in common with Robert Downey Jr.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Summer is still a week away

Someone forgot to tell Mother Nature that summer is still a week away.
*sigh* It's been too hot out this week. Today is much cooler (By nearly 20 degrees) than yesterday, but it's still no fun.

I came home from work at 1. My stomach is feeling rather upset, and I wanted the comfort of my own bed and to be close to the bathroom if needed. Before lugging the computer upstairs, I made some tea and grabbed me some left overs from dinner last night, and then realized only after I was already upstairs that the power cord for the laptop is still downstairs. *sigh*

I have to go down shortly to get it, and I really need a brief nap. I either have a virus or ate something that really didn't agree with me. Yuck. Nap's not going to happen today though.

On the fibery goodness front I got three skeins plied up last night, coupled with the two that are done and twist set, and a few others that should be skeinable by Friday - I should have somewhere near a dozen skeins of hand spun available on Etsy this weekend.

I'm feeling accomplished here. I think that my skeining is turning out to be the best I've done yet.

Oh and guess what I just won on eBay? It was for 2# of Java, and I'm not talking about the coffee beans. He won't be needing it anymore...


Lets just say I've lucked out in the raw fiber dept lately and hopefully this fleece is skirted and not filled with second cuts.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Some pics from the weekend.

So as I previously wrote, on Saturday a friend, my daughter and I all went to a local farm and picked up 10.5# of fleece, and then dropped it at the processor to be made into roving.

We picked up all told 4# of Southdown, and 6.5# of Tunis - both good for teaching a new spinner in my opinion. We held back a half pound of the Tunis so sunshyn689 could learn the whole process from start to finish.

Jerimiah from Twist of Fate was awesome, and gave us the tour allowing both Tessa and sunshyn689 to see how roving is made on a larger scale than our little drum carder. Tessa was delighted to see how it all was done and was awestruck by all the bags of fleece waiting to be washed, dried and picked and carded.

From my daughter's perspective, it's always been done in a tub in the sink or bath tub with a little dish soap with as hot of water as Mommy can stand and repeated until the water was clear. We then hang it out on a rail on our porch to dry, and later it is brought and flicked out by hand and then run through the drum carder to be made into a batt.

Those Bats get torn down into strips and then I spin them into yarn, so for Tess to see it all on an industrial capacity was pretty impressive - especially when she got to see the spinner. She was pretty stunned to see that it wasn't a spinning wheel making the yarn. I have to laugh as she see's yarn at places like AC Moore and is convinced that it's all made by people in their living room watching TV while they spin.

The carding machine they have is a smaller machine as mill machines go, but that's not a bad thing. It allows them to do batches as low as 2#, making my 4# (Pre wash weight) of Southdown a sure bet to make it through after it loses at least a fourth of it's weight to the wash bin... There was much more than just the machine you see to the right, but I forgot my camera so you get what I nicked from their website... that said, if you are looking for a really nice processor - these guys are awesome.

The wool was pretty well skirted so when it gets to the stage of sitting on that conveyor belt there should be very little vegetable matter that makes it into the roving.

I have to say I like how close the spinnery is to where I work too - as I have a couple more fleeces to drop off for processing and I'll be doing that this week after work. Probably on Tuesday or Wednesday - allowing the fleece to sit in the trunk all day to kill any thing that might be living with the fleece... like say - moths or anything else that they could have been exposed to during the past 6-8 months in my sun room with a busted screen window...

While I won't get the roving back until October, I've been saying for months that I was going to drop the fiber off to be made into roving and I've just not done it.

Will I keep some back to process and blend at home? Probably. But I've decided that at 6.00 a pound to be washed and carded, that I'm just ready to have it out of my house as I don't know when I'm going to get it all processed. Their price as listed on the website is a bit more than I'm being charged, and I'm not really sure but as my stash is all pretty much low grease wool then I don't feel too guilty for the discount.

Jeremiah is a sweetie too, and the time he spent explaining to Tessa was appreciated. He also gave us a brief tour and Tess got to see the Goats and Alpaca they have as well as a couple of Ewe's and Rams they have... and the poor guy was flustered when sunshyn689 asked why he wasn't shorn down low in the back. "That's his balls ma'am." I think she was pretty embarrassed/mortified too... but it was a very funny moment. I wish I'd have gotten pictures when we went to both the farm and spinnery, as the farm was something out of my brightest and most desired dreams... oh well some day.

Anyhow - after we got back sunshyn689 started on the scour of the Tunis we held back. I don't know if she's taken any pics of it yet, but I know it's not dry yet as we got a heck of a thunderstorm yesterday which soaked the heck out of everything - including the freshly washed fleece. Next Saturday morning we'll be running it through the drum carder and then spinning it up before dying it.

On other fronts - this weekend I got some merino I've been working on finished spinning up - it came out beautiful.

The photo's not so hot, but that's ok - the single twisted up nicely without over twist, it's going to be allowed to sit on the bobbin a week or so before I run it through the yarn winder so I can create a center pull ball to ply. After measuring it up, and skeining I'll put it in the bin for photo's and sale on Etsy... it's a rather lovely yarn if I say do say so my self.

So my previous post I mentioned the BFL I had hand washed, flicked, carded and spun - here's some pics from that. This was all done from 12am Saturday to 2am sunday.

Yes - again the photo quality isn't the greatest, but it was a last minute thought of "Hey I ought to take some pics of what I've been doing for my blog... especially as I've gotten requests for them recently in my other blog. I still have half the BFL fleece to finish up - it's still slightly damp as it was on my porch when the rain that drenched the Tunis drenched my BFL as well... Given that today is going to be a scorcher, I fully expect that I'll be able to card it up in the next couple of days. It should be dry by tonight.

At present I have some Mohair/Romney in the bin you see in the far left above... I've been flicking it out, and opening the locks as well as doing a first blend with the hand cards, and then will be putting it through at least once on the drum carder. That will be set aside to spin later this week too.

I promise more photo's to come and maybe even a video from this Saturday if sunshyn689 isn't too nervous about having herself be the guinea pig in a how to session. :-)

Oh for those of you HitchHiker fans - yes the wheel is still in my car, poor thing is in the trunk with 4# of Navajo Churro and 2# of Jacob. It will probably come out of the car smelling like a sheep farm. That ought to be fun at S&B on Wednesday ;-).


(BTW - Why use sunshyn689 as a guinea pig for photos and video? She's 1. Younger 2. Pretty & 3. I'd be the one holding the camera for all this LOL!)

Sunday, June 8, 2008

BFL from ewwwwwww to ahhhhhhhhhhh and Raw Wool finds

As previously written, given the heat of the weekend, my plans have been predominately fiber related.

Friday I had some of the most amazing Blue Faced Leicester that needed to be scoured to remove the lanolin and any dirt. The fleece hinted at being snowy white and amazingly beautiful when spun up.
It was late, the kids were asleep and the fleece wasn't washing itself, so I got out the wash tub, and filled it with detergent and the hottest water my tap produced.

I was not disappointed - when clean (after about 5 soak/rinse combo's) it was snowy white, and I set it out to dry.

It was very late when we got to sleep - the kids woke at 2:30 and it was emotional trauma time as one of them had a nightmare screaming enough to wake the other and leave me with two frightened kids.

At 9am instead of being on the road, I was in the shower, but caught up pretty fast so we could pick up [info]sunshyn689 and get over to the farm. I have to say I love my GPS, as we might have gotten lost if not for it.

We selected a Tunis and a Southdown fleece, and then as the fiber mill is only 2 miles away and we bought 10 pounds of fleece we dropped all but a small amount off for the processor to turn into roving for dying and spinning... and it's really nice to have a connection with a local fiber source. Plus - those fleeces were well skirted so I know we didn't buy bags of rocks or dung.

We have to wait until October for them to get back, but we held back a small amount for [info]sunshyn689 to learn on... and when we got back to her house she pulled out a dish tub and started scouring her first batch of wool. I have to say I'm tickled pink at how well she's picking it all up, but she's not a stupid woman, so that makes it a lot better. I'll bring my drum carder and a diz next weekend to her house and on Saturday morning we'll finish processing that fleece. We'll decide once we have made roving if we're going to go straight to spinning or if she'll want to dye it first. My first thought is to just spin it and move on from there.

Last night I pulled what was dry off my porch and sat for an hour flicking it out (which means I opened the locks to make it fluffy for carding and had a couple of medium boxes full of fluff ready to be put through the drum carder. Lesson the first however was no matter how clean you think you got your wool, it's still going to drop small bits of dirt and vegetable matter. Doing it on the couch without a drop cloth produces an awful mess on your once clean shirt and shorts.

The BFL that I cleaned the night before and spent time flicking out before running through my drum carder turned out amazing, and I'm really excited about plying it with something... not sure what right now, so I'll be taking it off the bobbin and balling it so the singles can go a little stale before I ply it. I'm not sure what I'll ply it with right now...

My Jumbo flyer for my wheel is broken again, so plans today had me going to "In Sheeps Clothing" but they were closed today, and then back to the inlaws for strawberry shortcake. Lemme tell you that 40MPG is awesome and my new car has 205 miles on it now. We drove about the Litchfield hills before picking the kids back up at the inlaws. Tonight I sat with some Mohair and Romney and hand blended in preparation for working on the drum carder again. Getting the kids to bed much earlier has been a godsend for me in getting anything fibery done. Yay for that!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Stinky Fiber for a Saturday Morning

So I stepped into a heck of a deal on Monday on raw fleeces (already skirted though which is good, although I'll be doing another good once over before scouring.) [info]sunshyn689 and I are going in the morning to look at them tomorrow and see what's in good condition and will require the least amount of work to get vegetable matter (Hay/straw) out and they've supposedly already been skirted to remove anything gross. As it's going to be 95 here tomorrow I figure I can spend part of the afternoon scouring what I pick up and then set the washed fleeces out to dry on my porch overnight - by Sunday they should be good and dry and ready to be carded to be spun...

It's going to be hot all weekend, and this will be a great time to get caught up on my fleece that I need to get processed. I'm thinking that I might pick up some staples for my staple gun, some window screen and a bunch of 1*2's to make some drying frames with... as well as latex gloves for use when washing the fleeces... ya never know until you see the fleeces out of the bag how well they were skirted for dung etc until you can lay them out on a tarp and do a good once over...

  • Lincoln 8 lbs. 7” staple grey
  • Lincoln 5 lbs. 4” staple light grey
  • Lincoln lamb 9 lbs. 12” staple dark grey
  • Lincoln 7 lbs. 7” staple silver grey
  • Border Leicester 8 lbs. 8” staple white
  • Romney Cross 6 lbs. 4” staple white
  • Romney cross 7 lbs 4” staple white
  • Romney cross 7 lbs. 5” staple white
  • Southdown 4 lbs 1.5 “ staple white
  • Montadale 5 lbs 3” staple white
  • Tunis cross 6 lbs. 2.5 “ staple white
  • Tunis 7 lbs 3.5” staple white
  • Romney 8 lbs. 4.5 “ staple white
  • Romney 7 lbs. 5” staple white
  • Cheviot 4 lbs 4” staple white
  • Oxford 7 lbs. 3.5 “ staple white
  • Romney 9 lbs 5” staple white

Will I buy all these? Um No. But this is what I have to select from tomorrow. Pretty cool eh? Ok - you there reading this will probably not comment, and ya know that's ok. To me - it's pretty cool - the farm is so close to me and I like the idea of developing a relationship with a local shepard. Ok - NOW GET YOUR MIND OUT OF THE GUTTER, NOT THAT KIND OF A RELATIONSHIP.

Sheesh folks.

On my wheel right now I have some lovely Merino that I hand dyed in shades of red. It's spinning up pretty nicely but it appears to be more pink than red :-) we'll see how it plies up when I get to that stage. I've been pre-drafting the roving into nice spinnable slivers, and getting in some spinning time each night after the kids have gone to bed. It's a definite change for the better and I find I'm more relaxed and sleep better after getting in an hour or so of
spinning a night.

Tonight after the kids went to sleep I scoured up a pound of BFL - oh so lovely and the staple is really nice and long. I also washed a half pound of Ramboullet... nice but after doing the BFL I'm a bit spoiled... where one has such a nice long staple the other is velvety soft. I'm now going to head back down stairs, get a shipping label that's overdue onto a box to go out tomorrow morning and then get the rest of my red finished spinning so I can ply it later.

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