Spring Fling Week #1

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So, we’re supposed to find someone liking her coffee the same way I like mine.  No surprise…  My gal pal Nichole likes a not too bold roast too.  How ’bout that?!  (Nic and I have a history of liking the same things, very much so.   Wonder twin power, we call ’em…)  She is debuting her Etsy shop, so pop in and look at her cute stitch markers!  I happen to know you’ll want to keep checking in, because she has all kinds of cute ideas in the works.  (Again, I have such clever, crafty friends.  I’d be jealous of their talents if they didn’t spoil me.)

What am I working on?  Um, honestly?  Not much.  I spent a few minutes with Fredfoot and a few more with my healing hat (see the new Ravelry Group and join us!), but really, I’m busy getting ready for a special visitor this weekend, a fancy fundraiser on Thursday, and truth be told, I can’t stop researching spinning wheels.

There.  I’ve said it.  Hopefully, Jessi won’t notice my public confession, as she’s not in this swap and has no reason to read this post.  It doesn’t matter though, because I think I’ve already solicited wheel advice from all those who tried to warn me that curiosity leads to a wheel purchase.  Let this serve as a warning to others ignorantly wandering towards a spinning class with no interest in making spinning a part of your life!   There’s something innately compelling about spinning.  Those already “bitten” know it, and know how futile it is to resist.  Even the rather scattered rhythm of a novice spinner sings to something deep within us.  Either that, or every wheel made is coated in a deep and ancient magic that settles within your bones.  Suddenly, I don’t care that the wheel will take away from my knitting time.  (I will freely admit I have  make more time to knit than most.)  There’s something truly primal and so very satisfying about letting the fibers slip through your fingers while your eyes watch it become yarn, albeit ugly, flawed yarn at this point. 

For some reason, I’m suddenly reminded of Walt Whitman’s I Sing the Body Electric.

I SING the Body electric;  
The armies of those I love engirth me, and I engirth them;  
They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them,  
And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the Soul.

Spinners seem to name their wheels, so maybe mine will be Whit. 

Watchin’ the Wheels Go Round and Round

(My apologies to Mr. Lennon.)

Today was the second half of the spinning class taught by Barbara at Stony Mountain Fibers.   I knew we were going to ply, but beyond that, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Time flew by, and I barely made a dent in the rolags I’d prepared.   The first shot is of the 20 rolags I made Friday evening, and the second shot is of the 12 (yeah, I can’t count) I had done on Thursday.  Whew!  Barbara weighed it, and reported that the 6 oz. she’d sent me home with came back as 4 oz. of ready to spin fiber.  She said that was about right, so I hope the birds enjoy the bits I couldn’t get clean, blowing around on the back deck now.

(If you haven’t grabbed a cuppa’ and a snack, hop to it.  This is going to be a long one!)

You’ll note that no two are the same size or color.  I blame my beginner status, but I do think that this particular sheep played his/her part too.  

If you promise not to laugh, I’ll show you my first yarn.  For what it’s worth, after it was plied, it was balanced – merely meaning it had somewhere close to the right amount of twist.  I suspect it will live in perpetuity in that hank, and at least for now, it will have a lonely life with the remaining rolags I brought home.  (I did offer Rosanne a few, but with the effort I put into carding that stuff, I wasn’t about to abandon it.)  Maybe one of these days, I’ll spin it.  Barbara’s having a craft night this coming Thursday, for those in the area.  You never know; I might show up with my sack of rolags and sit and spin…

These little beauties (not!) are the rest of my efforts.  The one on the left is actually my first spinning effort, as it is the leftover bit from plying the two bobbins worth together.  Barbara helped me ply from the inside and outside of that remaining ball.  On the right is my rather shoddy effort at spinning top.  I couldn’t do it via the fold method at all, but luckily, there’s more than one way to spin in most cases.

For Jessi and anyone else monitoring my spinning commitment, I merely purchased the outgoing issue of Spin Off.  I did test drive the Ladybug and the Joy because I really want a lightweight, portable wheel, but I’m not ready to make a purchase just yet.  Heck, I think I treadled everything Barbara had in the shop with a double treadle, but those two are probably the contenders right now.  Majacraft makes a lovely wheel, but all of that “real wood” makes it too heavy for me for regular lugging and tugging. 

And yes, I do still knit!  I frogged my original start to the hat, and that twisted rib pattern sure does slow me down.  Still, there’s a race to be watched tomorrow, so I still hope to finish it up this weekend. 

I also have spent some time with Fredfoot recently.   He’s growing nicely, and Fred’s photo watches over me when I’m knitting at home.  It will soon be too warm for even this light wrap, but come that first crisp fall night, I’ll be ready to toss this around my shoulders and think of my sweet Hooey Hound and the two online friends who made this shawl happen.

You needed a close-up of the yarn.  It makes me smile just to look at it.  If I finish this up before fall, I’ll have to keep it on the coffee table just to stare at and to stroke every once in a while.  The tweed was the perfect touch, Jessi! 

THREE Bags Full?

Tomorrow is the second day of the two-part spinning class.  Our homework was to wash and card the fleece we were sent home with last week.  To see the washing process, my friend and classmate Rosanne  documented it far better than I could have.  Just imagine me, with a bucket in our hallway bathroom, with Sissy very literally standing on my back.  Well, her front feet were on my back anyway, and she was sure trying to peer over my shoulder. 

After leaving it out overnight and all day yesterday, I sat down to card it on the back deck yesterday.  There’s the happy fleece, at least as clean and happy as it is going to get at my house.  I used Alberto VO5 shampoo, because that’s what I could put my hands on while Sissy stood on my back.  (Thanks Anne, or whichever house guest left it there for my moment of need.)

Let the carding begin!  I’ll admit I’m not great at feeding the fleece onto the carder, but short of improving my technique tonight, I’m as good as I’m going to get.  Rosanne said she didn’t mind the washing, but I did.  It was stinky, and watching our lovely Virginia red clay run and run and run from the fleece wasn’t my idea of fun. 

Here’s a little mid-carding shot for you.   Basically, these are giant slicker brushes (like for rough coated terrier and/or horses) and you just rake and flip until it looks even enough to suit.

More dragging of the paddles, and you get to a point where you want to flip the fibers around a bit so you can look for more debris to pick out.  This shot is a flip or two into the process, just before the rolag is made.

Here are a couple of rolags.  I love the variations, based on what “wads” of fleece I grabbed and put on the carder.  I suspect in the hands of a more skilled washer and carder, the rolags would be closer to the same size, but whatever.  I created 14 of those fellas yesterday, and due to the rain in the forecast, they’re hanging out on the guest bed, with the door shut, because even good Mugsy might think they look like the fluff he pulls out of toys with much delight.

There were injuries too.  I scraped the devil out of two fingers on my left hand (carding and Sissy aren’t a good mix, but she’s fine and I took the hit), and finished up with yet another splinter in my poor right foot.  The Knight has announced I *WILL* wear shoes on the deck now.  Right…  What’s the point of having a deck and spring weather if I have to wear shoes?!

I predict I have at least twice as many rolags to go.  The Knight merely noted that homework isn’t supposed to be fun.  I’m not about to pull an all-nighter with the carders.  I think the fleece is self-replentishing somehow…

Knit Night

Well, I finally made it to a Wednesday night knitting session.  It wasn’t the one that meets at Panera’s – I still hope to make it there one of these days – but it was in Charlottesville.  You see, I’m in the Junior League and each year, one month we skip the general membership meeting and instead, each member chooses one of several cottage meetings.  Cottage meetings, you say?  Yep.  They’re very informal sessions, all over the city, throughout the month, at different venues or homes, with topics to suit any interest, and schedules to suit all agendas. 

I won’t fib; I’d originally signed up for a stampin’ night early in the month, just five miles from home.  However, that was cancelled, and when I dug a little deeper into the offerings, I found the “learn to knit” night, and once I actually read the fine print, it was clear that those already in the knitting know were welcome too.  

I don’t have photos, mostly because I’m too chatty to shut up and point and click.  (Imagine, right?!)  There’s also the small matter that only one of the other women in attendance last night is on Ravelry, and none of them blog.  (Gasp!)  Given those facts, I figured they might find it strange if I dropped my knitting and took photos like a mad woman.  That, and honestly… learning to knit is stressful enough without worrying about what your hair looks like at 7pm or hoping that you weren’t making one of those frustrated looks that come with learning a new skill…

Anyway, trust me, we had a good time.  Three of us decided early in the evening that we’d like to turn this into our own knitting group.  (Easy choice, since all of us were in the non-beginner category.)  The one in Ravelry did message me today and say that nearly everyone else expressed an interest in a regular, monthly group too, so I’m going to track down the person who runs the craft group rumored to be in place.  If it will work for us to just mesh with them, great.  If not, away we go on our own knitting group adventure! 

 It was the first time I’ve even helped show someone how to knit.  There was a hostess, and there was someone who – bless her! – cast on and knitted five rows for each person.  She showed everyone the basic garter stitch, and then roamed the room to help as needed.  I unknowingly plopped down between two new knitters, so I got to help them along.  It was neat to watch them figure out how to hold the needles and then get their knitting groove on.  I only got three rows on my new hat project, but it was still a great night.

Speaking of which, I think I’m going to knit now.  Tomorrow, I’ll show you my scraped knuckles from carding.  My fleece isn’t decreasing as I card it.  I’m not even making a dent in it.  Of course, some of it is still damp.  Before it gets too dark outside, I might go see if more has dried so I can card some more…  Honestly, washing even a small part of a fleece and carding it by hand is enough to turn a girl off of spinning!

No Dogs

Ironically, this is indeed my Dogs on Thursday  post.  I’ve mentioned to a few of you, and others have read comments from those in the know, so an explanation is in order.

That was taken a few weeks ago, when ALL the dogs decided with the Knight was the place to be.  Take a good look, because until the inlaws take vacationyou won’t see it anymore.   For reasons known only to himself, Dae – the FIL – announced to the Knight on Monday that our dogs needed to start staying at home.  Now, I’d discussed with BOTH of my inlaws that as soon as the weather turned just a bit warmer and we were able to get the pen renovated, they would be staying at home.  But no, he couldn’t wait, so sweet Sissy is in her crate, and Mugsy is most likely on the sofa, a few feet away.

Shadow (the sheltie on the right for the newer readers) is perhaps suffering most.  He belongs to Pop, Dae’s father and the founder of the family business, so it’s not likely that he’ll be told to stay home.  Instead, he looks in every corner for his playmates, and will come rest his head on my knee.  We’ll share a sad moment together, and he’ll crawl under my desk for a pout.  Wish I could join him. 

Never fear; the inlaws will soon take to their RV and head to Georgia for a week, and my babies will return to the office.  Pop has been a delightfully wicked ally.  He asks Shadow loudly, “Are you lonely?” or “You miss your playmates?” always within his son’s hearing.  

For history’s sake, Fred never spent much time at the office.  He got sent home too, by the same man, for similarly unknown reasons.  Mugsy never came to the office unless he needed to – to go the vet – until Fred died.  I thought everyone was enjoying Mugsy and Sissy, and it seems I was mostly correct…

This isn’t what I’d planned for DoT, but I under-estimated how closely you really do follow goes on here, in my little blogging corner of the world. Thank you for that, and for caring. Later today, I’ll post about my fun night last night.

Clap Off

It is done!  With five days to spare, I finished Clappy before the KAL deadline.   That also means, I do believe, that I won the race Anita and I had going too. 

The devil’s in the details, so here you go.

Pattern:  Clapotis   It was my first dropped stitch pattern, and I’m just sorry I waited so long to suck it up and drop ’em!  That was fun.  The pattern itself was fine; I get bored quickly, and with all the repeats…  I got bored.  It was a good travel pattern though, because I didn’t have to read the pattern again until I got to another section.  I did do fewer increase (and thus, decrease) repeats, because I wanted a summer wrap, and to assure that I had enough yarn. 

Yarn:  Caron Simply Soft Shadows, in Merino (colorway, not fiber content).  It was fine to knit with, but the subtle stripes were too subtle for my liking in the end.  As I predicted, MJ loved it and claimed as her own, which also cuts down on my Mother’s Day knitting…  She’s delighted that it’s machine wash and dry too.  I used 4 skeins, but I had more than half of the last skein left over.

Needles:  Bryspun #8s. 

I don’t know that I’ll do another.  I think I like my lace better, but then again, this was very close to mindless knitting.  The Knight could talk to me while I worked on this, Sissy launched herself into the midst of it several times, but I would have preferred socks.

While I have your attention, swing over and check out THIS yarn dyeing tutorial.  The Knight even stopped writing up a work order yesterday to look.  I think if anyone in our house takes up dyeing, it would be the Knight. 

Then, swing over and visit Nichole.    March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.   It’s a disease that has impacted my family too, so more awareness is important for me.

Also, don’t forget Ann’s Sublynnminal Healing.   Her cousin hasn’t had good news of late, so I’ve cast on for my hat.  I hope to finish it in the next few days and send it on its way.

Fredfoot is also calling to me, and I’m sure I’ll accidentally cast on with the Maizy for MJ’s pedicure socks sooner rather than later…

In spinning news, I got a great book in the mail yesterday.  I’d already mentioned Start Spinning: Everything You Need to Know to Make Great Yarn but now that I’ve read most of it, I can assure you that if you’re interested in spinning, you *NEED* that book.   It covers everything Barbara taught last week, complete with lots of photos.  I wouldn’t say learning to spin from a book is ideal, but I bet it’s possible with this book and its photos. 

Not that I’m going to take up spinning as a regular hobby…

Litera-Tea

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March 23 – March 29
Litera-Tea

Share tea from the perspective of literature. Post a tea quote, a verse or poem, or story. Tell about a favorite tea book. This would be a good time to share how you use tea to encourage others. Do you minister to others by sending them tea themed cards to friends and shut-ins? Or another way you use ‘tea’ to share joy with others? I know some of you do — so tell your story!

While I’ve always been a tea drinker, it was my friend Rosanne’s  influence that turned tea into a passion of sorts.   I’m sure more details will filter into other posts, but she did introduce me to my favorite tea books, which are from the Elmwood Inn.  I love the recipes, the seasonal themes… everything.   While I have yet to host a tea party, it is something I want to do one day, but the difficulty in rounding up my favorite tea drinkers from across the country keeps it in the dream stages for now. 

You see, I actually read recipe books like most people read a novel.  I enjoy cooking and baking, and I like to sit down with a good cup of tea and pour over recipes.  I especially like recipe books with little quips and tips, but I digress.   The recipes and photos within each of the Elmwood Inn books I own inspire me, and remind me of the teas I have attended.  It seems logical to me that many fiber enthusiasts are also tea drinkers, because both tea and fiber transcend time and space to bind people together.

Tea has always been a comfort to me, so it’s natural to use it to nurture others when (again) distance and/or time are constraints.  I’ve sent and received tea to and from online friends outside of swaps, just because there’s something new to try, or because there’s a special tea that seems right.  My husband sometimes will brew a cup for me which is a great little gift; he’s not a tea person, unless you count TRULY Southern Sweet Tea, yet he’s bothered to observe what I drink, how and when. 

If you flip back through my blog, you’ll find many a lengthy post where I suggest that the reader should grab a cuppa’ before settling in for the duration.  There’s just something about a good cup of tea, shared virtually or in person.