Saturday, August 25, 2007

Swap Box Arrived!

My husband and son and I were on our way out to dinner at our favorite restaurant, Sea Fresh (mmmm, calmari!) and I nearly tripped over a big box on our drive. I squealed, scaring both husband and child, and grabbed the box, getting into the car.

Wait to get home to open it? I don't think so!!! In the car, I inspected the box, and then carefully opened it. The return address was marked Israel! WOW! I love these swaps; to be able to contact people all over the world and share a bit of our selves and our culture is a wonderful experience. I always feel I shortchange the people on the other end; American stuff seems to be available almost everywhere, and I have a hard time looking for unique interesting things that I think they might not have access to.

Anyway; on to the booty!!!

First; the fiber.

A HUGE package of white alpaca, just gorgeous! All the alpaca I have has been brown, so white is a treat. Along with it was a smaller package of less prepared fiber that I'll have fun picking and combing ( I am GOING to get those combs set up tomorrow!) I'm already planning what to make of it; a shawl? Some fine lace gauntlets? There's enough there for several decent projects. And there's always a dyeing scheme to plan...

Then there's a heavenly bag of superfine Australian merino. Ohhh yum. White as snow and softer than a cloud; it's just gorgeous. People say it's hard to spin, but not to me; it's like buttah, I swear! I love it. The smaller bag of brown fiber is baby camel. WOW! I can cross one more off my list of exotic fibers I want to spin! Even with bits of twigs and such, it feels so soft I just want to dive right in.

Then she sent some cotton yarn in a really beautiful solid blue color and a varigated brown and gold. This is a godsend, as I've been dying to make a market bag and didn't have any cotton yarn to use. This will be perfect! It's an Israeli brand too. The blue isn't quite as electric as it looks; I really do need to take some photography lessons.

On to the YUMMIES!!!

Some really interesting snack foods. One is a peanut butter flavored puff which she says is very popular with children there. I'll add it's pretty popular with children here too! Murphy couldn't wait to dive in and is thrilled that I've given him permission to take it to school in his lunchbox. I tried to explain where Israel is, and show him how the language is different, but I'm not sure he really grasps the concept. But he sure likes the treats!

While he munched those, I treated myself to a lovely cup of spearmint tea and a bit of chocolate (with hazelnut filling; YUM!). She enclosed a large bag with treat size chocolates of three different types. What a treat!
Last, but most exciting to me, is this amazing spindle.
This is her information about it. "Jerusalem High Whorl Spindle. This spindle, although originally in a larger size, was used in the early '20's in Israel. I reduced the size to allow spinning with today's fine wools. It is a very balanced spindle, and I will be submitting an article to in Sept. and it will explain its history."

As you can see, the whorl is square, with two notches on each side. It is indeed well balanced and spins forever. It's heavy (compared to my featherweight bossies!), but not too heavy, and I picked that baby up and grabbed some of the merino and spun a really fine thread sooooo easily. Oh, I LOVE it. I'm going to be spinning a lot on it, as my knee is still too painful to treadle my wheel.

Toni, I thank you so very much for your kindness and generosity! This package is amazing and far exceeded my expectations. I am truly blown away. I hope your partner is as wonderful to you as you have been to me. Thank you thank you thank you!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Spinning Exhibition

Sunday was the Spinning Competition/Exhibition at the VC fair. Unfortunately, it was mostly cancelled, as the building we were to have it in also held the livestock judging. Two hours after we were to have begun our little deal, they were still judging livestock, with no end in sight. So a vote was taken to suspend the competition for this year, other than the Advanced category, which was held outside the building where we had been demo-ing. Since I was a beginner, I passed, but it was fun to watch. And I still got a lovely basket of yummy fibery goodness for showing up!

Here's a pic of the turquoise top I spun while we waited. The color is unbelievable! I already spun a bobbin of it some time ago; I need to knit a swatch and see if it felts. I have a few ideas in mind, but it's critical to know if it will felt! It's not the softest fiber, but it's got great sheen and is very durable. I'd like to knit socks but this fiber seems to want to spin thicker than fingering weight. Funny how some fiber has a mind of it's own...

So it's on to Monday, and my next adventure. I was driving home from work, when about a block away I feel a huge THUNK. I look back at the road to see what I might have hit, and there's nothing to be seen. So I turn into my street, and suddenly there's that horrible, terrible flopping clunking noise that says "YOU HAVE A FLAT TIRE!" Sigh. I'd complain, but really, I'm so grateful that I was close enough to limp into the driveway rather than being stuck on the side of the highway that the sigh is enough. My fabulous, incredible and eternally patient husband finished assembling the enchilada verde that he was making for dinner, popped it in the oven, and dealt with the whole mess, entrusting me only with removing said dinner from the oven when it was done. Have I mentioned how amazing my husband is? So he takes the tire off, brings it to the tire shop where they mount a new tire, and discover just why my tire went flat. Wanna see?

The round circle is a quarter, for proportion. This is the bottom of a jackhammer. This 10 inch long monstrosity was INSIDE my steel belted radial tire. Yikes. Scary to think where it might have gone if not into the tire!
I'm knitting a triangular shawl out of this gorgeous-even-though-it's-acrylic yarn; black boucle with aqua and orange threads plied in. The pattern is one I'm making up on the needles, so this should be very interesting. I've never not had a pattern to make something before. I tried about 4 different patterns and didn't like the way the yarn looked with any of them, so I'm winging it.
Just finished the gusset on the first Moc Croc but I'm already planning my next pair. I really want to do the Bayerische Socks but I'm not sure I'm up to the task; they are amazing!
Bedtime for the littlest one. Leave a comment if you read my blog; it gets lonely!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Proud of my Dad

Check out the link to the left to see what my retired Dad has been up to in Florida. He's helping to build a railroad! It's such a cool project and he's so excited about it. Here's a pic, stolen from their website; but wander on over and have a look. It's a great thing!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

And the final post today. Promise!

I forgot to post the pictures of my Tour de Fleece project; so here they are!

This is the merino tencel blend. I hope you can see the colors; I'm so in love with them. I'd love suggestions on what to do with this; I only have about 2 ounces, and I'd say it was a thin fingering weight.

This is the chocolate alpaca. Oh it's sooo soft! I'm really pleased with the way it came out. Again, I have no idea what to do with it; this one is about 4 oz. A hat, maybe? Or a neck warmer; I know this will be very warm!

It was a fun challenge, and I only missed two days, when my knee was really bad. I reduced my fiber stash right? Of course, I increased my yarn stash....

And still one more post today!

Washed the fleece I bought at the Fair yesterday. SO COOL! The nice thing is that it's a breed I've never seen before, so I can add it to my Breedswap book. WHOO HOO!!
It's softer than I expected and I have great plans for this wool. And lots to learn to get it all done... oy.

More Dye Experiments

I tried the copper again, this time wetting the fiber properly, and I left it simmering for maybe twelve hours. The result is amazing, at least to me. A really dark moss green.

The lighter green is my first attempt with avocados. This was steeped in alcohol for weeks. Simmered a long time, several hours at least. It's a true 70's appliance avocado color. I was expecting neon green. I wonder if my water has anything to do with it?

Then this is a batch of ecualyptus BARK (not wood, as before.) The liquor was a ruby red, so pretty! But I had the feeling I'd end up with more of a brown. Still, it's a pretty brown. So much fun to see how things change!
One of the things I learned with this session is that my little crock pot still can get hot enough to boil the liquid, so I'll have to really keep an eye on it. Maybe use one of the electric thermometers from the kitchen to alarm when it hits a certain temperature; I know some natural dyes are very sensitive to heat.
Always something more too learn!

A Crime Against Fiber

While I enjoy the occasional novelty yarn or fiber, I mostly prefer it simple, natural, un-augmented. Especially if it's good fiber. But then one runs into an absolute crime.

I won some fiber in the Guild raffle a month or three back. One of them is GORGEOUS; a brilliantly soft, heathered, taupe-y color something that feels like a merino blend. I've spun it lace weight (I hope - it's still on the bobbin) and wish I had a pound more of it. It's probably only half an ounce. Sigh.

Along with it is this. The base fiber is wonderful; soft, high lustre, fine crimp, low micron count. It's a deep grape color. And then someone carded in lumps of cotton, I think. Ohhh it's so sad! It can only be spun thick/thin, which I don't like. There are tantalizing spaces where there's no cotton and you can really get a feel for what the fiber is like; then CRASH in stomps a big lump. I spindle spun some, plied and skeined it. Can't imagine what I'd ever use it for. A tragedy, really.

Sheep to Shawl

Yesterday I played hooky from work (with my boss' approval - there are advantages to working in Ag!) to participate in my guild's Sheep to Shawl Exhibition at the Ventura County Fair. It was a blast! There were somewhere between 15-20 people there, spinning or carding or plying, while Chris our President, wove. My knee was giving me a bit of trouble and by the time I got home, I could barely walk, but it was worth it. And my thoughtful husband, who must love me a lot, thought to bring my cane when he came to pick me up. And a soda! Whataguy!

The shawl was really beautiful when it was finished. I wasn't wild about the colors of the yarn we were spinning; purple and green and orange; but when it was spun and used as weft against the lovely rich brown warp, it was muted and really lovely. I hope we got a really good price for it!

I also managed to come home with some fiber; the shepards weren't stupid. Having a captive audience of spinners they came with huge bags of fleece of every color and type. I managed to limit myself to two purchases, one I can't tell about because it's going to be a Christmas present, but the other is just YUM; a 50% Mohair, 30% Merino and 20% Angora blend in a lovely medium dark charcoal color. Oh man, it is to die for! I wish they had feel-o-blog so I could post and you could touch it. Hey, Mr. Gates? Get right on that, won't you?

The boys came with for a while, just to not disappoint, but we'll come on Sunday to do the BIG stuff. I'm going to participate in the Spinning Competition/Exhibition which should be interesting, to say the least! Then we'll have the rest of the day for fun. I just hope I can walk by then!