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Minnesota, United States

28.5.15

On the mend and handspun

Tuesday, 26 May
Yesterday was a tough day.  I could not get comfortable and it felt like I had sandpaper in my eye.  Working with fiber I sometimes get something in my eye, but this was really annoying.  This morning when Jim put the drops and salve in I thought I would have another day like yesterday, but right now I'm sitting up (looking down--no tipping the head back unless I am getting the eye drops) and pretty comfortable.  I will be able to finish up a class tonight!  I can see the inside of the eye shield very clearly and a bit more definition beyond.  The vision is still watery, but I can see and that is a wonderful thing!

Thursday, 28 May

Yesterday was a better day and I was able to teach a class, which was enjoyable.  The students finished their projects and had more planned.  It is rewarding to see the pride they have in what they accomplished during our class time together.
Getting ready for class.  I ended up using an eye patch to keep anything from getting in my eye.  A little lipstick and a comb through the hair and I was good to go!
Since the surgery I have been able to knit a little and spin a lot.  I wear the eye shield to keep any flying fiber out and since I look downward it is a nice way to keep up with projects.  

I finished the Jacob/silk noil blend from Ewespun Fiber Mill.  Deb blended the two together the day of our field trip to her farm.  During the spinning of the pound of this fiber I really got a feel for the Ashford Country Spinner.  Reginald is nice.  I like the whoosh-whoosh sound of the large bobbin going around.  I took a couple of pieces of yarn off and kept one a single and one I let ply on itself.  I decided I liked the look of the single, as it reminded me of Lopi something between the Lett Lopi and the heavier Lopi yarn.  I used the swift to make a large skein and tied it off in six places, soaked it for a bit in Euclan Wool Wash and hung it in the basement under a little tension to dry.  The next step will be to measure yardage and knit up a swatch.
A nice big skein of continuous yarn after a soak.  What will it be after I measure the yardage?

26.5.15

The eyes have it.

Over the weekend I had emergency eye surgery for a torn retina.  Because it can happen to anyone at any time I want to pass along my experience.  As fate would have it my sister experienced the same thing and because she told me the symptoms I knew just what to do.  Even though she passed away in 2005 she still watches over me.  

On Friday It was gorgeous and sunny so I took a nice long walk.  Upon returning home I took off my sunglasses and noticed a small shadow along the lower edge of my peripheral vision.  I thought my eyes were just adjusting to the inside light, but the shadow persisted.  That night when I went to bed and closed my eyes I could still see the shadow as a lighter semicircle.  When I moved my eyes small flashes of light darted across the edge of that semicircle.  The next day The semicircular shadow was about one-quarter into my line of sight and disappeared when I looked down and followed my eye when I looked up.  At this point I called Allina Urgent Care and was seen right away.  An on-call optometrist was called in and he dialated my eyes and examined them finding that I had a retinal tear in my left eye.  He called an on-call opthamologist and surgery was scheduled for Sunday at the Phillips Eye Institute in Minneapolois.  It was a long day because of the holiday weekend, but I finally had the surgery, a vitrectomy and scleral buckle.

The good news is that I can see light and color.  The healing will take some time.  It feels like I have sandpaper on the inside of my eyelid  and I look like Popeye, but I know it will get better and I will be able to see again.  It is important  to know that something like this can happen at any time to anybody.  Thanks to Jim, Ben and the medical community.  I am fortunate, indeed.

20.5.15

ChiChi

The fleece I bought at Shepherd's Harvest came from ChiChi, one of Joxer's Jacobs.  Marcia Hathaway is the shepherdess.  It was beautifully skirted and has barely any VM (veggie matter) in it.
Jody teaching us how to skirt a sheep fleece (The table was Theresa's and for her alpaca fleeces.)  The fleece is spread out on the table and the person skirting the fleece goes around pulling out the really dirty bits and large veggie matter before selling the fleece.  

 I started the scouring process of the 3.3-pound fleece on Monday and finished the last two batches yesterday. Click on the link to read more about Jacob sheep.
This is the sample and photo that came with the fleece.  I cleaned the sample and it shows the beautiful variation of black to white.  Compare the white in this photo to the one below.  
The light in the basement is not very good, but this photo shows the colors nicely.   I divided the colors into batches and started from black to white.  The yellow tinge is from the lanolin and any dirt on the wool--in the grease, so to speak.  After sorting the wool my hands were very soft from the lanolin.

I have five of these little tubs.  The sink fit two, so one in the soap and one in the rinse worked out well.  I was able to do two runs through the soap (Dawn) and two runs through the rinse for each batch.  Note the clear water in the yellow tub.  Hot water and soap (I used a bit of Dawn dish washing soap) cleans the wool nicely.  When scouring, be mindful of the water temperature and agitation because shocking the wool in transition between wash and rinse soaks can cause felting.  
The water in the yellow tub shows the water after the first soak.
Handling the wet wool gently I placed two batches in the washer and spun out most of the water.  The spin cycle does not agitate the wool, so it is a safe way to get the moisture out of the wool for faster drying time.
I spread out a towel on the table and spread out the wool.  

A panorama of wool.  Scouring is finished, now the fun begins!

19.5.15

A day at the festival

On Saturday I went to Shepherd's Harvest Festival in Lake Elmo.  I did not take any classes, but did do a demo on top whorl spindle spinning.  It was such fun.  The demo area was in Building A and Andrea from Black Cat Farmstead was beside me.  Seeing the antique wheels lovingly restored is always a treat.  The first purchase of the day was a spindle sporting a glow-in-the-dark whorl 3D printed by Andrea's son.
A 3-D printed spindle whorl...
...that glows in the dark!
There were lots of vendors, some new some familiar.  I love the patterns from Ewetopia and purchased a few including Daisy and the October Cowl.

Sheep were sheared on the hour and Jody, one of my friends from Anoka Fiber Works, was skirting fleeces.  Between the shearing we talked about fleeces for sale in the barn.  I mentioned the beautiful Jacob fleece from Joxer's Jacobs.  Jody's eyes lit up and she said how nice they were.  I was not in the market for a fleece but her comments piqued my interest.  We went to the barn together and looked at the fleeces.  I had two in particular that I liked (Jody, you taught me well) and she agreed.  The smaller 3.3-pound fleece was mine!  Yesterday I roughly separated the colors.  Today I began the scouring process.  The wool is even nicer than I originally thought and nicely skirted.  ChiChi is the sheep with the lovely fleece.  The scouring is going well so far.  I worked from dark to light, which is my last batch.  The wool is fluffy and soft and the combination of natural black, gray and white is really pretty.  I will be interested to see how many yards of each color I can spin.  Perhaps enough for a Fair Isle vest?
Baaa!
Jacob fleece before dividing and scouring.
These little lambs were chilling in the barn.

It is always nice to know the names of the sheep.

Cinnamon Toast Crunch or Cookies n' Cream, although they are all cute.

The sheep surely look different when sheared.

Baa baa black sheep.  This little fellow was  so soft and sweet.

Pretty roving for sale in the barn.

My friend Jennifer.  It was so good to see her!

Mary from Anoka Fiber Works gives a spindle spinning lesson.

Andrea from Black Cat Farmstead grows flax.  Preparing the flax into linen is labor intensive. I did it one time before we moved to Minnesota.   

My new spindle, Stella with the beautiful Shetland wool roving I bought.  


15.5.15

The Baa-ble Hat--finished!

I finished the Baa-ble Hat last night and I am pleased with the end result.  Knitting with handspun yarn can be a challenge.  Originally the original green yarn I spun looked like a worsted weight.  I carded the blue-green Finnsheep with the yellow-green wool from Sue Ross and did not spin quite fine enough to obtain the gauge I wanted.  The other yarns in the stash were thinner and more even, so I quickly spun some more of the Finnsheep and was happier with the result.  There is a tiny hint of the bright green and I like the cool blue cast in the yarn.
I love how the Finnsheep blends into the other wool and changes the color.
Late last night I was so excited to be finished in time for Shepherd's Harvest.

A bit of steam worked nicely to smooth the crown


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Inside I tied the pompom to a button.  I use a strand of dental floss doubled to tie pompoms.  It is strong and stays tight around the core of the pompom.  

The sheep color changed three times.  I started out with white, changed to gray and then back to white.  Digging deeper into the stash I found a nice white that matched the thickness of the other yarns and used the fluffier tweed white for the snow and in the pompom. At first I thought the white would not stand out enough from the pale indigo used in the crown, but I liked it so much better than the gray and I did not have any darker blue in the stash.  The rustic texture adds to the charm of the design.  This morning I put the hat on the form and used the steam iron to give it a few blasts of steam and smoothed and patted the crown with my hands.  Rather than attaching the pompom permanently I tied in on the inside to a button, which will make washing the hat easier and keep the pompom looking good.  There was enough blue left to make a small pompom.
The final color choices.  I had just enough of the sheep white to use for the sheep section.  I think that some mittens or fingerless mitts may be in order for later.

Tomorrow is Shepherd's Harvest and I was happy to see my short bio on the website.  I have to get my stuff together today.  I kept the demo to top whorl drop spindling.  I have the Shetland roving from last year's trip to Jamieson & Smith to finish, BFL cloud and linen.  That should be enough variety to keep me busy.  Everything will fit nicely into a basket, so I will not have a lot to tote from the car.  Rain and warm temperatures are expected tomorrow, which does not affect the festival because fiber-folk love  all things woolly and soft along with meeting old and new friends.  Classes begin today.  I did not sign up for any this year, but next year I want to take the felted fleece taught by Becky Utecht if she offers it again.  I can take my time to find the perfect skirted fleece!

11.5.15

Spinning yarns to make a hat


It is a damp day and perfect for sitting by the window, carding and spindling.  Now, as much as I would LOVE to be back in Shetland this year for Wool Week, it just is not possible.  The next best thing is making this year's Wool Week hat out of my handspun.  Donna Smith's design is so cute, and is the perfect wearable for those of us that love sheep.  I loved knitting the shop sample out of Rowan Pure Wool Worsted, and the minute I finished it seemed appropriate that the next version be made out of handspun yarn.  This morning I dug through the stash and spinning fiber to find the colors.  There was some lovely spindle spun yarn in pale blue from Anoka Fiber Works.  The color is from the remains of an indigo dyeing session.  Sky--check.  The jury is still out on the color of the sheep.  They will be brown or white depending upon how much of each color is on hand and if the thickness is compatible with the other yarns.  Sheep--check.  The grass color must be green and it just so happens that there was some beautiful spring green wool in a small bag from our field trip to Sue Ross' farm a couple of years ago.  The yellow green is going well, but I went back to the wool stash and found the bag of dyed blue-green Finnsheep wool I received as part of a prize package from Interweave Press in 1999.  I re-carded the yellow-green and added the blue-green together and I like the color much better.  The grass will look much better with the sky color, a bit more washed out.  Grass--check.
The yellow-green wool has nice crimp and color.


The blue-green Finnsheep wool blends beautifully to tone down the yellow of the other wool.  

 This coming weekend is Shepherd's Harvest Festival at the Washington County Fairgrounds in Lake Elmo.  It has grown since I first visited with Kathy some years ago.  This year I volunteered to demonstrate top whorl spindle spinning.  This seemed like a good choice, as the materials are very portable!  I have plenty of fiber to spin and may card together an art batt or two to take along.  It would be particularly nice to finish the handspun Baa-ble Hat in time for the festival.

The project on my needles at the moment is Uluru, a little capelet to wear over something sleeveless.  I was using the Juniper Moon Sophie for another project and was not feeling the love of lace knitting, so I promptly looked for another project.  This fit the bill perfectly for the linen and cotton blend yarn.  If I need some extra to fill in, there are a couple of skeins of Ito cotton.  The stitching is simple stockinette with a row of wrapped stitches in which one wrap is dropped when purled.  The loose row of stitches adds interest with a change in texture.  To work a wrapped stitch:  On a knit row, wrap the yarn twice around the needle when knitting each stitch.  On the purl row, purl the stitch as usual while allowing one of the two wraps to drop, which results in an elongated stitch.
The wrapped stitches on the left needle become elongated when one of the two wrapped stitches is dropped on the purl row.

The elongated row of stitches adds interest and a change of texture to the knitted fabric.  


6.5.15

At this moment...

I have been finishing up lots of projects.  This week I completed two samples for the shop, a hat and a mitten.  The Baa-ble Hat is a delightful design by Donna Smith for Shetland Wool Week 2015.  Using Rowan Pure Wool Worsted made this project quick to knit compared to my fingering weight yarn projects of late.  Angel chose Rowan Pure Wool Worsted in Ivory, Umber, Gold and Lt. Grey Heather as the colors for the hat.  The design began as a Christmas ornament.  It is fun to look at all the projects on Ravelry of this hat.  I immediately thought of my handspun stash and will do a bit of stash diving today to see how much I can find for another hat.  The Nordic Mittens are a traditional star design by Beth Brown-Reinsel and were featured in Interweave Knits Winter 2004 issue (the pattern is now available as a single pattern, also.)  Knit with fingering weight yarns in solid and variegated, there are few ends to weave in when finished.  I would love to knit a pair in two solids to really show off the charted work.  These will be a perfect future class project.
The Baa-ble Hat and the sweet little sheep from Jennifer.




The Top This Hats are quick projects to make and Bobbi can't keep them in the shop!  Monkey enjoyed modeling.
Speaking of sheep--it has been that kind of week.  I met Jennifer for coffee and she had a gift for me, an adorable sheep she designed for Target and that happens to match another sheep I have on the little cupboard.  I am thinking that it might be appropriate to do a mini yarn bomb on it.  On Saturday the gals at Anoka Fiber Works had a class on how to choose a fleece for spinning.  It was interesting, informative and just in time for Shepherd's Harvest, which is coming up soon.  I will be sure to use my new knowledge when I check out the fiber for sale during the festival even though I am not in the market for a fleece.

Which bag of fleece would you choose and why?

Did you choose the light or the dark?

Learning about skirting the fleece--what to keep and what to take off.



Sheep's wool

Checking the crimp and the strength.

Alpaca