Thursday, February 28, 2008

Birthday Socks Picture

Birthday Socks completed. This picture was taken after their first wash. I don't know if you can see that they've fulled a little. The leg was originally an inch or two longer, and the ankle was a little roomier than I like. Fulled, they fit perfectly! They aren't as stretchy however, but they are warmer and less open. All in all, I love the socks but I'll be very cautious about purchasing this yarn again. And these babies will have to be handwashed (gasp) in the future.

I've also been doing some dyeing. My darling beloved has been saving onion skins for me for ages, and last weekend I steeped them for several hours, and then dyed a test skein. I was always told that onion skin would give a rich yellow/gold color. Not mine. Mine came out the most lovely rich brown. Now, I will admit that there was only two tiny test skeins, one mordanted with alum, one unmordanted, with a highly concentrated dye solution, so I thought maybe my first attempt was a fluke. So I tried again, overdyeing a skein that had been dyed with kool-aid, I believe; it was a horrible grayish pink. So I threw it in to the dyepot and let it cook for, well overnight. It's not as dark as the test skein, but it's still definitely a brown. So I thought, well maybe it's the overdyeing that left it brown, some dye in the pink that helped lean it towards brown. So I threw a smallish skein of handspun merino, white, into the exhaust. Let it cook all day. Again; it's lighter, but definitely brown. I'd planned to put pictures here, but my phone camera apparently had other ideas; the picture came out blank. So I'll try again later.

I know our water is very hard. It's so hard that stalactites grow in our shower, and I can't leave water in the teapot over night, or it leaves a solid layer of calcium in the bottom of the pot. So I'm wondering if that's why my colors aren't what I'm told to expect. I guess my next experiment will have to be with distilled water vs. tap water to see if there's any difference.

The other thing I wonder about is mordant. In all my tests I've used the same time, the same baths, everything the same, but I've used one alum mordanted skein and one unmordanted skein. I can't see any difference whatsoever between them. I need to try with some other mordants and see if there's any change with those. It is fun to experiment!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Due to the amount of spam crap I'm getting for comments, I'm changing to a word verification system. If you want to leave a comment, you have to copy the word you see on the comment pop up box. I hate to do this, as I get so few already, and don't want to discourage anyone, but the spam is getting out of control.

I apologize for the inconvenience.

Charlie Chaplin Speaks - The Dictator

Friday, February 22, 2008

Yarn Review

I'm going to try to do a regular feature in this blog of reviewing my experiences with yarn, perhaps some knitting and spinning tools as well. I'm starting today with yarn, because I fell in love with this one.

(click for bigger and brighter)

Here's their mission statement:
Rio de la Plata Yarns supports an old Uruguayan tradition of hand spinning of wool by wives of Gauchos (traditional horsemen). Gauchos used and still use hand made wool “Ponchos” for protection of the cold and dirt when guarding sheep. They play an important roll in Uruguay’s major source of income which is wool. This noble and harmless industry supplies a major part of the wool in the world. Uruguay has not changed much of its traditions producing it. Rio de la Plata Yarns is in the heart of this tradition, creating beautiful fibers and bucket dying them.

We are their link to the world in the sense that any knitter can create garments out of this beautiful hand dyed yarn that otherwise would be unknown to the world. When you buy our yarn you are supporting Uruguayan women who work at home and are able to spend time with their children and sometimes even pay for their own college education.
The Specs:
Yardage: 437 yards per hank
Weight: 3.5 oz per hank
Superwash Merino
Three ply

It's a tightly spun, smooth worsted preparation. It's not the softest yarn I've ever used, though it softens with washing, as does most yarns. It's very smooth to knit with and doesn't split easily. The grist is slightly variable, at times thinner than usual, very occasionally thicker, but it's not enough to affect the gauge of the knitted piece. It's three ply, using a non-repeating constantly changing color technique. It is superwash, so it's easy to care for. There's enough yarn in one skein to make a pair of socks.

The colorways are varied throughout the line and have charming names; this particular colorway has Vibrant Orange, Lime Green, Ethereal Blue, Evergreen, Pointsettia, and Yellow Corn. It does not stripe, so there's no concern about matching pattern repeats. There are several lines of the sock yarn; the above is from the "multicolor" line; there is also a solid and an "Artisian" line, as well as a "multisolid" line. Artisian seems to be more along the lines of a handpainted yarn. I believe that the difference between the Multicolor and the Multisolid lines is that in the multisolid, you have three distinct colors plied together, whereas in the multicolor line, each of the three plies will be multicolored. Solids are pretty self evident, but I will comment that the colors are incredible, and range from brilliant to muted (in the Autumn line).

I can't tell you how much fun this yarn was to knit with. It's got an almost cotton-y feel to it. The color changes are interesting to watch and keep long stockinette sections from being tedious. They list six colors as above, but because of the way the plies blend, there's pinks and corals and aquas and every color you can imagine. Because it's not splitty, I was able to knit a lacy type pattern with psso's and not constantly have to unsplit the stitches. Being a newish knitter, that's a common problem for me. I've completed one sock, and just finished the gusset decreases on the other, so I'll get pics up as soon as possible (probably several weeks....) As the socks are not yet complete, I don't have a review as to their wear, but I can extrapolate a few things. I'm pretty hard on my knitting. I tend to shove a project into a felted bag, pull it out every so often and do a few rows. I also happen to keep my wrist splint in that bag, and it has velcro straps. The two have met on occasion, to my horror. It seems to have survived fairly well. Toting them around, I have noticed that newly knit areas are smooth and clean, where older areas are a tad fuzzier, have more "bloom." I expect that is what will happen with wear and washing.

One caution; if you are hard on your socks, keep in mind that this yarn is 100% wool; there is no nylon added for strength. You might want to add some wooly nylon to the heels and toes for durability.

A few more cautions; the second half of this skein had THREE knots. Not a good thing. Also, I still have about an inch on to start the toe on the second sock, and I'm starting to fear I may not have enough yarn to finish. These socks are HUGE however; for a man's size 12, with a 8 inch leg. For a normal woman's size, it shouldn't be a problem.

Later Edit: The second half of the skein had SIX knots total. The socks looked lovely when finished; but even though this yarn is advertised as superwash, it felted slightly in the first wash. Luckily for me, they were too large, and felted to just the right size! But it is disturbing that the felting occurred in a yarn labeled superwash.

This yarn was a gift from my most favorite elder child, so I'm not sure of the cost of a skein; but reliable sources tell me you can expect to pay about $18-$20 per skein online, $20-$22 in your LYS. Pricey, yes. Worth it? Perhaps. If you keep the cautions in mind.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Friday, February 15, 2008


Man, I have had a blast trying to figure out how to make this blog not look so canned. I think I missed the boat; I'd love to do this all day.

Drop me a comment and tell me what you think of the new digs!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

More CVM

Well, I bagged up that first fleece. It's going away. It's just too brittle to use, especially after dyeing. I may try to felt it into a dog bed or something, just to not feel like I completely threw the money away.

The good news is that I found a second bag from the same shepherd, and it seems much better. It's another CVM, more even color (gray) and while it's every bit as dirty as the other, it does seem more sound, and therefore worth the time and effort it will take to clean it. I've given it one wash and the tips, while still caked, do open up more easily and don't seem to have the canary stain. They also seem stronger. So I'm going to attempt it. I'll post pictures when I'm able.

But when I test dyed the locks on the first CVM, I also dyed the yarn I spun on Dagmar. I had some old dye solution tucked in the back of my closet, and it seemed fine, so I painted it on the yarn and nuked it. I really love the way it came out.

Not the greatest picture but I hope you can see the colors. They're very vibrant. I'll take another one of it skeined tonight. It's blue, purple and red, and I really love it. I need to find something to knit with it! I'm thinking wristwarmers, maybe with the thumb and cuff in another color.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Fleece is a wash

After much experimentation, and much thinking and much advice from so many people (thank you all!) I think I'm going to give up on this fleece. The tips are so brittle they just break off with only a fairly strong tug. I tried to dye the locks that I'd cleaned yesterday, and the result was a lovely color, but the texture completely changed; it became coarse and unable to draft. So I think it's going to be compost, or maybe I'll felt it into a dog bed.

There was, however a business card at the bottom of the bag. I think I'll be dropping them a line. What that line will sound like will depend on the condition of the second, larger bag. I'm washing a sinkful to see how clean it will come, and if there's the same yellow staining. I'm hoping this bag (from a different sheep) will be better.

Watch for the sequelae...

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Washing day

Ok, so I have this fleece. CVM (California Variegated Mutant). I even know the sheep's name; Lavender. Cool, huh? But it's filthy. Now, I don't have much (any?) experience with raw fleece. I know it's supposed to be dirty. But I've never heard of it being THIS dirty. So if anyone out there reads this and can tell me either what I'm doing wrong, or what is wrong with this fleece, please; fill me in!

To start, here's the raw fleece. There's about a pound; I didn't bother weighing it. I expect it's on the short side of a pound. Here's what the Oklahoma State University database says about CVM:

"Fleece C.V.M. color patterns vary widely, especially in the darkness of body wool. Unlike many sheep, the C.V.M. will not fade with age, but rather darkens from birth to their first year. With the wide variety of color patterns, including dark gray, black, brown, moorit, and spotted, not excluding the barred face badger pattern typical to the original C.V.M.'s, a breed description has been difficult.

Fleece should be bright, uniform and dense, of high yielding, long staple, fine wool. Sheep will average about 8 pounds of wool yearly with spinning counts from 60's to 62's quality. 12 month staple length averages 4 - 6 inches. Wool should have a well defined crimp from base to tip, be pliable to the touch and free from kemp or objectionable fibers.

High quality variegated fine spinning fleeces are in demand, as there are not many of them on the market. Spinners have a tendency to shy away from the fine count, but once they have handled and spun the wool, they enjoy the quality, softness and ease of spinning. The C.V.M. fleece is ideal for soft yarn that will not be scratchy to the skin."

I don't know if you can see in the picture what I'm talking about. Yes, there's VM, and lanolin, and dirt all through the fleece; that's what I'd expect. But the tips of the locks are caked together completely, and the white wool seems stained.

So here's what I did. I placed the fleece into two mesh sweater bags.

I filled my top load washing machine with the hottest water and added about a cup of Dawn dishwashing liquid. I measured the temperature of the water at 140 degrees F. I placed the bags inside, gently, and let them soak for about half an hour or so.

I pulled the bags out of the water gently, drained the machine, and set the cycle to spin only.

After it had spun the water out, I checked the wool. Parts had become beautifully white, and man did it smell better! But those tips still were totally caked together, and the white wool tips were yellowy brown.

I put them back in the machine to rinse, and then put them out flat to dry. Still, the tips of the fleece are caked, totally stuck together.

I took two locks, one gray, one white, and pulled the caked parts apart. Strand by strand. I soaked them again in the sink, in hot water and a lot of wool wash. Here's the result.


Can you see the crimp? Lovely. And it's wonderfully soft. But the gray is almost bleached brown, and the white is still yellowy ick. Is this permanent?

I'd really love to spin this wool. But is it realistic to pull strand by strand apart and still have it be discolored? I'd love to hear from more experienced people. Should I cut the tips? Should I compost the whole thing? Am I just feebling? Is this normal?

Friday, February 08, 2008


Well, it's been a while. When I wasn't blogging, I also wasn't reading blogs, or checking out Ravelry, or doing anything much computer-wise. So today I strolled in, updated a few things, cruised around, etc.

I'm still not big on the forums. I have two email groups that are already high volume, and I can barely keep up with those, along with logging my food and posting on SparkPeople every day. So I don't expect I'll spend much time there.

The pattern finder utility is wonderful; and I love how you can search by yarn weight and/or several other keywords. But I have about a BILLION patterns downloaded now that need to be sorted and organized and purged.

The things I think I'll use Ravelry most for are posting my projects, as a journal, and keeping track of my stash. That last will take some time to categorize and enter, but I really would like to do so. And catalogue my handspun; I have so much just spun and tossed in a bag. I really need to weigh, measure, calculate wpi and yardage and keep track of where it's been stashed. This will take some major time.

I'm off to work on the Ventura County Handweaver's and Spinner's Guild newsletter... why don't you check out the blog and website while I'm gone? (links on the side)

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Gotta get that color right.

The pictures I've taken of my birthday socks are bad; the colors look muddy and dull. While it's not a bright colorway, it is more lively than it has looked in these pics. So here's the next try...

Hmmm. Better.

I can't wait to get these finished!

Next up is the merino. Washed and dried, it's better balanced than I expected, barely a twist to the hank. Here's the picture. The coin is a dime, for scale.

2 ply, 32 WPI, 1.6 oz.

Nope, not enough to do anything with. The challenge now will be to try and make more in the same weight and twist.... yeah, right!

The Frog Pond

My birthday socks.

I decided to frog them. Not all the way; just back into the heel flap. I'm so glad I did! It was a horror to pull out several inches of labored knitting, but they fit and look so much better. I can't tell you how much I love this yarn. I know it's on the pricey side, but it was definitely worth it; it's just fun to knit! And I love the texture. Can't wait to finish them, and get them on my feet.

Notice anything missing? The tags. Oh man, those tags were driving me nuts. It had gotten to the point that while I love the socks, love the yarn, love love love knitting with it, I kept procrastinating. The tags made it so not fun to knit. So I took them out. I think I'll start another project and do the tags differently so they aren't annoying. I like the idea of the project, but honestly, if it becomes "unfun" I just won't do it at all.

And when I do... here's the new way to show them off. Are you ready for this?

Clear Clogs.

And miracle of miracles; in my ginormous size.

And even better? They're comfortable. I'm quite impressed. I really thought they wouldn't fit and they'd be stiff and hard to walk in, but they aren't; and they don't hurt my knee. Wow.

So now I need more handmade socks....

I finished spinning the merino I was spinning on Dagmar (the repaired Norwegian wheel, named after my husband's grandmother, to whom it belonged.) It's quite lovely. A bit overspun as I'm still tweaking how to spin on a double drive wheel. I have a hard time adjusting the take up at first, but it comes along eventually. I want to dye it shades of blue, I think. There's a shock! It's very soft and it's laceweight. I hope I have enough of it to do something with! That's my biggest problem in spinning; I don't ever spin enough of the same fiber the same way to actually knit anything. I'm working on that, I hope.

I've got some CVM that I got raw and have scoured (and scoured and scoured and scoured.... it was the filthiest wool I've ever seen!) The fiber itself under all the dirt is lovely heather gray and very crimpy and soft. I'm going to try to spin it from the lock. There's a full pound, perhaps even two, so I should be able to spin enough to have a project. I've only scoured about an ounce though. It took FIVE washings and after the fourth I finally had to sit down and break apart the clumps at the end of the locks one by one. It's still not as clean as I'd like. I'd almost give up on it, except that this is my very first "sheep to something" fleece, and I really want to complete it. And as I said, the fiber itself is soft and gorgeous, so it will be worth the work. I'm going to take a bit of a different tack with it though; skirt and de-clump first, then scour in the machine a few ounces at a time, with LOTS of Dawn. I've read blogs where people would use literally cups of Dawn, which always seemed a bit excessive to me; however do you rinse out that much detergent? So I usually just give a good squirt or two. I think this fleece may justify a lot more than I'm used to. Listen to me saying "I'm used to" like I do this all the time... sheesh. I've scoured about four ounces total. Go ahead, laugh. I'm laughing too.

Monday, February 04, 2008


There is no joy in Mudville.

The Pats lost.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Project Pics

See? All I needed to blog more often was a new phone! With an easy peasy camera that actually WILL email the pic right from my phone. COOL!!!!

So here are my current projects.

These are the Birthday Socks. The yarn is Rio de la Plata, and I love it. I wasn't so sure about the colors; coral and green and yellow; not really my shades, but they've grown on my considerably. And the yarn itself? Wonderful. Tightly spun superwash; feels almost cottony. I checked the label twice because I thought it HAD to be a blend. But nope. 100% Pure New Wool from Uruguay. It's a lacy pattern on the top, but I fudged the heel flap and made it far too long. I really do think I'm going to frog, though I've never frogged that much of one sock before! But I love them so much I think it's worth it.

Here's the second project: Baby Mistake Rib socks. I think I got the pattern free somewhere on line. I like it a lot; and they'll be reversible! I love this yarn as well; it's Ostermann, with the Aloe. It feels nice, and I know it'll soften up even more after washing. I'm a little concerned about matching the second sock; the color hasn't repeated yet that I can tell. I don't care particularly if they match, but I don't want them to look like they were supposed to match but didn't, you know? I think both socks are being knit on Size 0 needles.

Ok, so who wants to know about the tags on the Birthday socks? Anyone? Bueller? I'm participating in a Thesis. Believe it or not, someone is doing a thesis on knitters. We have to tag our project each time we knit, or even more often, and journal what we're doing, how we feel, what's going on in our lives. We'll send them to her sometime next month, and she will be displaying them in a Museum. Very cool! I must say though, it's kind of a pain to knit with all the tags hanging. I think for the second sock I'll mark the places with the pins, but not put the tags on the pins til the sock is done.

And my Gwen Sweater? Also known as my reward sweater? Well... I got about 5 rows done. Then started Christmas knitting. Then got tendonitis. Then got Spinneritis. So it's been languishing in my project bag. I do plan to get back to it at some point. After I finish these two pairs of socks, maybe. I also need to knit a "small thing" for a swap; I want to use homespun but I can't ever seem to have the right weight for the project. Strange....

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Long Time No Blog!

Well, the holidays did me in.

Birthdays, Christmas, New Years, more Birthdays. Not to mention 10 days of Jury duty. So blogging kind of fell by the wayside. But things are settling down, and settling very nicely.

Eric started back to college. He's taking a full slate of courses, English, Biology, Speech, and American Government. Mom, who's become a full blown political geek, is thrilled about that last, and plans on stealing his text at some point. He's doing well in all his classes, and seems to like them.

He also took an acting class, which ended last weekend with a public performance. He did really well; I was so proud! All the plays were interesting, and most of the actors were enjoyable enough to watch. He may continue the class, so we'll see if he gets to play yet another oddball character. (Why do they always choose him for the most bizarre roles?)

Murphy is growing like a weed, and doing well. Very sweet. Very smart. Very verbal. He's particularly good at math, which he MUST have gotten from his father. Soccer season is over, much to his disappointment, but t-ball shall soon step in to the rescue. He and Dad are preparing by playing lots of catch. Remember when he used to hit balls all over the living room at the age of 2? Ah, the good old days....

Peru and I are both well. Coming up on our 8th Anniversary, which is mind blowing. Feels like hardly any time at all has passed since our wedding. Amazing.

I'm still doing the SparkPeople thing. I've lost 55 pounds so far, in a little more than four months. It's getting easier; a lot of things have become habit, so I don't have to think about it so much. It's very gratifying to see my clothes starting to get loose. And even when my boss laughs at my lunch box full of fruit and veggies, I know he's pleased that I"m doing well.

I also got Dorothy's spinning wheel fixed. It's GORGEOUS! and I can spin on it, which is even better. It's a single treadle, so I can spin even when my knee is sore. Took me a while to figure it out; I'd never spun on that kind of a wheel before. Also took me a while to realize it was a double drive, and then a bit more to figure out how to use a double drive. But now I love it. It spins very fine yarns and is very relaxing to spin on. Thank you Dick and Elisa for doing such a great job on it!

My other new toy is a Blackberry. I had a Palm Treo, which I loved. It really helped me organize my life and remember things my ADD brain would normally forget. But I wanted to give it to Eric so it could organize HIS life and help HIM remember things his ADD brain would normally forget. So I bought a new Blackberry Pearl. Oh man, what fun! This phone does things you can't even believe. Including taking the pictures above. Much better than my Treo's camera, which I never bothered to use because the pictures were so grainy. I'm still learning things it can do. And it's TINY. Man. Technology.

I'm still knitting, mostly socks, when my tendonitis lets me. I presently am making socks out of the coolest yarn that Eric gave me for my birthday. Unfortunately, I making them sans pattern, and just tried them on, a few inches past turning the heel. I made the heel pocket a little large. So now I'm torn; frog back? Or keep going? My laziness and my want to wear the socks TOMORROW (I have a small problem with instant gratification, as some of you may have noticed) say keep going; but I love the yarn a LOT, and it's very special because Eric gave it to me, and I know I'll be much happier with them if they fit properly. So I'm leaning toward frogging; but don't yet have the guts to do it. I'll try to get pics soon, now that I can get good ones so easily!

So that's it for the update now; I'll try to do a bit better about blogging. You could encourage that end by leaving a comment to let me know that someone out there actually reads this thing!