26 May 2010

On tour with the ladybug

Where I work is pretty awesome. Throughout the year, they give us some bonus days off added onto various long weekends making it a super weekend (4 days) instead of the usual long weekend (3 days). This past weekend was one of these super weekends. And I used my Friday having a spin-in at a friend's. This meant taking the ladybug on tour.

I like to say on tour cause it evokes the whole musician-with-a-gig instead the usual fairy tale associations with spinning and spinning related activities. In fact, the whole musician/instrument thing is why I chose the ladybug in the first place. That fabulous red wheel reminds me of Meg's drum kit in this video:

I love the ladybug because it's like I'm playing an instrument instead of whiling away the hours and supporting myself in my medieval crone's shack, biding my time until the next maid comes along for her true love potion.

To further the whole spinning machine-as-instrument thing, I used the strap from my dad's old guitar to help me carry the ladybug to my gig. There was the necessary amount of maniacal laughter as I gathered my things and set off down avenue Mont-Royal. I'll have to get a picture of the wheel with strap. It's pretty kick-ass.

Needless to say I got a certain amount of attention while walking down the street. Much more than if I was carrying a real instrument. In fact, just after crossing the street, this man came after me and asked me all about my wheel, if I taught lessons, where I got my wheel. Turns out he has a hobby farm with a couple of sheep (he showed me pictures, the baby sheep is super cute) and currently needle felts sheep with the resulting fibre. This is the longest conversation I've had in French for a while.

Once I got to the venue, I got myself set up, some coffee and fibre talk, then we got spinning. Well Amanda got spinning and I got drafting. Earlier in the week I had received my fibre club bump from Sweet Georgia. Almost immediately after seeing it, I knew I wanted to draft out large sections of colour from the complete roving to preserve what was there. Little did I know that it would take me all morning to do this. But draft I did. Into a HUGE mountain that was hugely tempting to the resident cats. Fortunately they are well trained to stay away from fibre when under supervision—and that the room had closing doors when the supervision was elsewhere.

We spun all day and into the evening. There was discussion of all things spinning, fibre and music. We watched Polyester, which is quite something even without participating in the complete odorama experience. By 10:30 I left with a couple of bobbins full of fibre and some new spinning thoughts.

Such as letting the singles sit for a day before plying. It's something I've read about before but usually my impatience gets the better of me and I want to have my yarn now! It's the Veruca in me. But for these two, I did bother to wait a day before plying and I did notice a difference. Much less fighting with little little tangles while chain plying. Two-plying from a cake was also less of a headache, though it still makes me slightly cranky that the outside wants to unravel so much more than the inside one, causing little yarn traffic jams. It really cramps my style!

I guess I'll make the conversion to waiting before plying. I think I'll empty the singles into cakes while waiting for them to set so I can still spin. I might even develop some spin today/ply yesterday's singles strategy so I can still have yarn now! to satisfy my inner Veruca.

Look squishy yarn:

The grape juice totally plumped up during the finishing.

The super cool thing is my plying is now fast enough that I've graduated to a faster whorl. How great is that?

I may have decided on a name for the ladybug. I think her name is Fiona. It's old worldly and fairytale-ish while still being quite feisty. Yes, some points off for being used for a recent animated character, but should I use it anyways? Or does someone have any other suggestions? There may be some handspun in it for you...

25 May 2010

A sheep's worth of fibre

Now that I've acquired a magical spinning machine, I've started to accumulate somewhat of a fibre stash. This is the sheep's worth of fibre that has recently made it's way into my abode. But don't fear that I shall soon be crushed by my growing pile of fluff! Three of these have already been spun up. Have a look-see:

'Grape Juice' Space Romantic
100% Superwash wool
4 oz.

'Cove' CosySpins
100% Falkland
4 oz.

'Starfish' CosySpins
100% Falkland
4 oz.

19 May 2010

Unicorn vomit makes pretty yarn

During the weekly family phone call with my parents, my dad suggested that I spin and knit something for my mother for mother's day. My "official" gift was finally finishing some blueberry placemats for her but as I'm now a big time spinner, I was happy to rise to the challenge. While we were chatting about it, my eyes glanced over to the bags of fibre I had bought from Loop sometime ago. I was humming and hawing over whether my mom would like the pink/orange/sparkle combination or if I should stick with the safety of mint green/aqua/sparkles. I sent her an email and while waiting for her reply I started on the orange/pink (just in case). Since I'm loving the spinning right now, having to spin more is not really a bad thing.

So I took out the spontaneous spinning cloud in Tea Rose and got to work. The "cloud" is a nebulous as working with cotton candy (I presume). I kind of separated the chunks, or took the already separate chunks and carefully drafted them into more of a roving preparation. Once I got to the larger portions, I split them roughly into largish strips before drafting them into roving. Similar to how I dealt with spinning a batt.

While working with the fibre I decided this is exactly what unicorn vomit would be like: super soft, luxury fibre with sparkles. Everyone knows that unicorns poop rainbows and marshmallows, but few know of their vomit. Unicorns eat nightmares, bad days (hair included), insecurities and mean people. Hence they need to release extra hair via vomit in a cat hairball/owl pellet sort of way.

I prepared a bit of fibre, spun it up and then prepared some more. I prefer to alternate rather than prepare all the fibre and then spin it all up. I like having a break from each of the activities but still advancing things.

I was originally thinking of 2-plying this bad boy. Spinning the singles, I noticed there were pretty large sections of fairly distinct colour changes which would be very difficult to control in the fibre prep (they're barely perceptible in piles of pure unicorn vomit). So I did a plying test. I worked up a bit of 2-ply and knit a swatch.

Though the feel of the yarn was right, the colours were too muddy indistinct and truly vomitous.

I thought maybe knitting with the singles could work but really there's just too much twist. It could be a thing, but not what I was aiming for.

So the answer was chain-ply. I was hoping to get a finer yarn out of this fibre, something much more laceweightish but I think it's near worsted weight. I really have to work on being able to control that better. And I should start measuring WPIs and all that. But I think the yarn turned out quite nicely and I think there's a decent amount of yardage to make a scarf of some sort for my mom. I was originally thinking the Morning Surf Scarf but now I'm wondering if this would make a nice Queen Anne's Lace Scarf. I have to knit some swatches before settling on a pattern.

'Tea Rose' Loop
Alpaca, merino, llama, faux cashmere, nylon, ecospun, silk, bamboo, banana silk, and angelina
4 oz.

Needless to say my mom will love and brag to everyone she comes in contact with regardless that the yarn isn't exactly what I planned.

17 May 2010

Falkland Fibre Club - April

This lovely fibre arrived on my doorstep last week and I was sure I'd have it all spun and yarn finished by the very next day (spinning machines are super fast, I'm so glad I moved ahead to the middle ages with my spinning technology), but alas, I got partway through dividing up and drafting and it stayed like that aaaaall week. Taunting me in little wispy drafted piles.

But on the weekend I managed to get some time to spin it up! And I luuuuuuuuuuuve it. It's SUPER soft and pretty and awesome. I did my usual split it in half, then divide into reasonable lengths and keep half of each length for each batch of spinning. The fibre was pretty dense in the braid so I did actually pre-draft before spinning.

I loved spinning this fibre so much and the resulting yarn that I'm glad I impulsively bought two more braids of a some of her other colourways in the Falkland. Yes it's dangerous to have fibre people in my google reader list, but I'm glad that I do!

'Croci' CosySpins
100% Falkland
4 oz.

Oh and a shout-out to Xime in Uruguay! She's the first comment I've had from South America. Thanks for the compliments on my yarn, I really appreciate it. I don't sell my handspun as of yet. I still consider myself as a beginning spinner, especially since I just got wheel last month, but I'm very flattered. Maybe I'll sell some when I find myself buried in piles and piles of yarn. We'll see.

14 May 2010

Field Trip to the Church Bazar

We had a very special meeting of les courtepointistes last week. We went on a field trip to a local church bazaar. Man did we have a fun time! Needless to say we found many many awesome things and somehow managed to close it out.

Here's what we found:

Awesome linens including some beautiful hand embroidered pillow cases, fantastic wool baby blanket, and an old top sheet that will become the backing for my hex-a-long quilt.

We also happened upon the glassware table. Let me tell you I have a weakness for vintage everyday use glassware. When I first saw the green mugs I quickly bought them. Then Mr. Peabody showed me the fantastic white mixing bowls and while the bazaar lady was wrapping those up, we spotted the awesome white mug and fantastic little dessert cups. I already have a few sets of cute small dessert friendly bowls, but like mugs, a person really can't have too many right?

Mr. Peabody has been going to church bazaars for a while and picking through all the men's shirts as a fabric source for quilts. Though he already has quite the stack, he's always on the hunt for more awesome finds. He's become quite strict in his search and will only accept 100% cotton shirts from now on. So those two in the bottom left are the start of my men's shirt stash. They were too pretty to be rejected for being poly-cotton blends. That green one might make it's way into the hex-a-long quilt too.

Among the stuff we bought were some fantastic labels. So pretty. I love vintage labels! Well I love a well designed label, most happen to be on vintage items where they weren't trying to cram 7 languages and too much information into the tiniest label possible.

Among other things we found were silk scarves, crochet cotton, a dollar's worth of saints and an apron 3-pack. I likely won't wear any of the scarves. Not that they're not super pretty (cause they are) but I'm really not an accessory person. I very very rarely even change my earrings. The scarves were just too pretty to be sitting in a box in the church basement and it is kind of an extension of my vintage handkerchief collection isn't it?

Silk Scarf Tip: You can tell that you've chosen the correct scarves when the elderly ladies ringing you up start oooohing and aaaahing over what you've found.

13 May 2010

Bookbinding with Molly

Um. This post has been living in draft mode for about a month without me being satisfied with the writing.

Here's the jist. Mr. Peabody teaches knitting to Molly. Molly used to work for a book binder. In exchange for super delicious Tunisian stew (which Mr. Peabody made), she taught us how to bind books.

These are the different books/bindings she showed us.

It was pretty awesome to learn. I've wanted to since University but unfortunately my University didn't offer their Bookarts course in the years I was there (there was renovations and stuff). I'm sure I'll be making more books some time in the future.

12 May 2010

This old quilt: Help! Nicotine Stains!!!

I got this question from Ali P in the comments of the first installment of This Old Quilt:

I am in need of advice from you and Mr.Peabody: I have been laundering 2 of my grandmother's quilts. One is looking mighty fine and does not smell like cigarette anymore (my mom and Dad are big smokers). The other is terribly stained by nicotine. I have tried washing soda soaks, long sessions in the front loading washer, laundry bar soap applied to the stains and then soaking again, and today's stinky and futile treatment with Lestoil. Next attempts will be with peroxide applied to the stains.

HELP!! Do you guys know of a way to get out nicotine stains???

Well that's quite the pickle. I personally don't have huge stain removing experience, especially with nicotine being a non-smoker. Consulting with Mr. Peabody we came up with suggesting visiting a dry cleaner with the quilt in question, or leave the stains as they are. I wouldn't want to use harsh bleaches or peroxides on a quilt as it will deteriorate the fabrics and damage the long term life of your quilt.

A little google-fu has turned up this ehow suggestion:

Thing you'll need
  • Sponge
  • Wet spot cleaning solution
  • White vinegar
  • Cotton pad or cloth
  • Laundry detergent
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Castile soap
Making Dry and Wet Spot Cleaning Solutions
  1. Make a dry spot cleaning solution to remove nicotine stains by mixing one part coconut oil and eight parts liquid dry-cleaning solution.
  2. Mix one part glycerin, one part white dishwashing detergent and eight parts water to create a wet spot cleaning solution.
  3. Store your dry and wet spot cleaning solutions in tightly capped bottles to prevent evaporation.
Removing the Stains
  1. Remove nicotine stains from rayon, acrylic, nylon, polyester or spandex clothing by dampening the stained area with a sponge, applying gentle strokes beginning at the center of the stain and working outward. Apply a few drops of wet spot cleaner and a few drops of vinegar directly on top of the stain. Cover the stain with a cotton pad or cloth and allow the pad to set, picking up the stain. Keep the stain most until it disappears, then flush the area with water and wash as normal.
  2. Clean nicotine stains on "dry-clean only" clothing by using a dry spot cleaning solution. Dampen the stained area with a sponge and dry spot cleaner, applying the same gentle outward motion. Allow the solution to set for five minutes. After five minutes, dab the area gently with a cotton pad or cloth, repeating until the stain is removed. Hang the clothing to dry thoroughly.
  3. Combine 1 qt. of warm water and 1/2 tsp. of liquid laundry detergent to remove nicotine stains from cotton or linen clothing. Soak the clothing in the mixture for 15 minutes before ringing out the excess water. Sponge the stained area with rubbing alcohol until the stain is removed, and launder as normal.
  4. Mix one part liquid castile soap and four parts warm water to remove nicotine stains from leather or suede. Stir the soap and water mixture briskly until it forms a heavy foam. Apply the foam only to a sponge, and gently rub the stained area, beginning at the center and working outward. When the stain has been lifted, hang the clothing to dry thoroughly.

I think with a lot of patience, these instructions could work without compromising the integrity of the quilt's fabric. Though the rubbing alcohol makes me a little wary, I think I'd use it with a very light touch as a last resort.

I hope that helps!

11 May 2010

The ever-changing algae

Bundled in with my fantastic spinning machine was this very lovely fibre from Spunky Eclectic (from whom I ordered my wheel). I was kind of afraid to spin it. Not because I really loved the colours. More because of the alpaca content. I've NEVER spun alpaca as I hear it's kind of slippery and tricky, not for beginners which is where I figure I am on the scale of spinstertude. I mean I did (sort of) spin some silk and I've spun some bamboo but that doesn't make me an expert by any means.

But after looking at it longingly a while, I decided that the 80% Correidale probably keeps the alpaca from being a tricky spin so I decided to just jump right in. Plus this is a colourway that Spunky Eclectic repeats so I could always buy more if "needed."

I split the length of roving in half, divided it up into manageable lengths and split those in half longways so that I could spin in 2 batches and have even colour changes in both halves. So I think each half of the total roving had 4 half strips. I then divided each of these half strips into eight (I think — I go more for nice smallish size of strip so I can draft + spin directly without too much fuss). As I divided up a half strip of roving, I interspersed it in between the previously divided pieces (ie. A B C D A B C D A B C D...), the idea being to end up with colours evenly distributed along the skein and not ending up with drastic colour changes like this. I even tried to keep the strips in a specific order to try to get the colours to match up once plied.

When I was starting to spin I was pretty sure I was going to chain-ply this. But partway through I decided it might make a nice 2 ply. So it was a good thing that I kept my half roving strips in order so I could spin both halves in the same order to get things to match up when plying. I'm a little more organised about these sorts of things now.

'Algae' Spunky Eclectic
20% Alpaca 80% Corriedale
4 oz.

How has my fibre prep changed now that I've moved onto a wheel? Well I prepared all I needed to spin the 1-ply of singles (so half the total fibre), spun it up, then prepared the other half. I kind of find the fibre prep somewhat tedious, though of course it is necessary to achieve the yarn envisioned. I do what I need to get a decent yarn. However, I aim for fairly even and good colour distribution not factory perfection so I tend to take shortcuts in the fibre prep department.

Also I've only actually used 1 or 2 of my handspun yarns since starting to spin. I could learn more about how my yarns turn out by actually using them I'm sure. For me, I enjoy the making more than I'm concerned about getting a perfect-to-knit with yarn. I spin because I like spinning not because I want the perfect yarn to knit with.

I'm really happy with how the yarn turned out. There are lovely bits of the solid colours and these really gorgeous parts where the colours transition. It's delicious. But something kind of sad happened.

I guess the dye hadn't quite been set on the roving. And when finishing the yarn, the yarn over dyed itself in it's own juices and got a green overcast. It's still really nice, just not what I had originally spun. When I look at it, it's like I need to adjust the RGB balance on my eyes. I think I need to not look at it for a while so I forget what I think it's "supposed" to look like.

NB: I'm NOT dissing Spunky Eclectic or any hand-dyed product. I've dyed fibre/yarn myself and it is entirely possible for something not to completely set. I've spun other Spunky fibres and have had no such issue with them. And I'd gladly spin Spunky fibre again.

10 May 2010

New Spinning Machine

After waiting somewhat patiently (somewhat un-patiently), my new Ladybug finally made its way to my doorstep. Well really to Mr. Peabody's café door. And then to the post office. Then his apartment. And I went to pick it up on the day is snowed slush ALL day. I walked so much in the slush that my sneakers were soaked, hung out while Sylvain closed the café and accompanied him home only to find the wheel NOT THERE! Mr. Peabody phoned me while I was standing in the doorway to ask me about the surprise in my kitchen...he had walked the box over to my apartment for me. Super nice eh? Only he had no idea that I had been emailing Sylvain ALL DAY to arrange to pick it up. Hilarity. This is the stuff of comedy.

So I walked home in even MORE slush to find a ladybug sized box in my kitchen. I (of course) spent the rest of the evening unpacking, assembling and spinning on my BRAND! NEW! SPINNING! MACHINE!!!!

This is my very first crappy slub-fabulous handspun on the wheel. There was lots of swearing for the first hour or so until I finally got the hang of what the hell was going on. In the weeks of waiting for it to arrive, I did study up on YouTube various "learn to spin on a wheel" introductions so I kind of knew what I should be doing. Really it just takes some fibre you don't care too much about, some patience, your sense of humour and maybe some alcohol to get started properly. After spinning singles for a while, I decided to try plying. I'm not sure why exactly I chose to chain-ply, but that was a whole other hilarious-heart-breaking-swearing experience. But I chalk this up to first handspun experience. And there are people that would pay good money for yarn like this (even if I wouldn't).

For my next handspun, I took the rest of the bump of organic wool I had and went for an epic spin. I think the whole bump might be a whole pound (minus what I spun first). I divided it in two. Spun two bobbins worth of singles and plied them together. I think they were pretty evenly unevenly spun. That is to say that when plying them together, there was a small portion left on one of the bobbins which I Andean plied to itself.

Thanks to my years of spinning on a drop-spindle, my learning curve on the wheel was not heartbreaking at all as you can see from the change from skein n°1 to skein n°2. I'm sure a person could start spinning straight on a wheel. But there's A LOT going on in a short period of time. At least with the drop spindle it's possible to make awesome yarns while keeping things real slow — good for the old self-confidence.

I've signed-up to the Spin-Off website, subscribed and have at least 1 sheep's worth of fibre making it's way to my doorstep.

Oh and here's where the ladybug is on my fantastic new spinning machine.

4 May 2010

Still hexing

I very patiently awaited the next step in the quilt-a-long all week. Turns out it was instructions to make the blocks I was already making. So I took the opportunity to refine my steps and make another set of 5 fabric combinations.

Looking at them all on my kitchen floor made me realise that there wasn't enough green and blue combinations to make this a green/blue quilt.

I remedied this by making another 5 fabric combinations featuring blue and green.

Looks like a pretty good start to the quilt doesn't it?

I like this width. I just need to fill it in the spaces and add to the length. I think I'm about halfway to having a quilt top.

Oh and I may have bought a bunch more blue/green candidates for this quilt this past weekend.