Alpaca Throw Blanket ~ Take II

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3 years after I started spinning alpaca fibre for my very first alpaca blanket (Fert & Palladin Throw Blanket) that was finally woven in 2016, I am back for more punishment (?) to spin and weave a new one.

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Why you ask when I already have this gorgeous one? Well, because after its first season at the cottage, I needed to wash it to put it away for the impending close of the cottage and it partially felted in my dumb washing machine.  Have I ever mentioned how much I dislike my washing machine? Its mainly because I didn’t get to choose which one I wanted, this one came with the purchase of our condo down south.  Now most women prefer to select a washing machine that will be best suited to her needs, but this one is far from it for me.  Unfortunately it will have to do until it keels over, and it most likely will not just to spite me.

So I soaked the blanket in the bathtub with some Synthrapol (textile detergent) and then popped the blanket in the washing machine and selected the ”spin” cycle to get the water out, but, said dumb machine stops and starts its spinning every 15 seconds and with all the flopping around the blanket started to felt.

Not impressed.

At All.

So, last year I picked up a whole bunch of alpaca from a nearby ranch (where I picked up the cria fleece from Fuerig, remember the black shawl I made last year?) and have started spinning for a new blanket.  I have 3 skeins done so far.  This is a 3-ply, worsted weight (about 9 wpi) and with being a 3-ply, will take me considerable time to spin enough for the new project.  I started spinning the white alpaca fibre and after the 3 skeins were plyed, decided to dye them.

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The 2 outer skeins were dyed using dyestock derived from avocado skins that had been fermented in a 50/50 ammonia/water solution for 4 months.  Since I used natural materials for these 2 skeins, it is a slightly lengthier process to prepare the fibres for dyeing than using commercial acid dyes, but the results are worth the effort.  The end colour is a soft beige, which is hard to tell in the photo, but trust me, they are not the bright white they were before dyeing.   I just love when my minds eye is rewarded with what it sees.

The reddish skein was kettle dyed using commercial acid dyes in a rust-brown colour  with a splash of bright red.  Kettle dyeing gives the classic appearance of a tonal yarn. Again, pretty darn close to what I was going for. Since I only have white and brown alpaca, I wanted to dye some of the skeins to increase the colour palette for the blanket.  So far so good!

I just need to finish up with the overabundance of garden produce and canning activities this month so I can get back to carding and spinning…hopefully by Spring I will have enough yarn to be put on the loom!

Deborah

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Piñata Travel Bag Project

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2 years ago I had an ambitious idea. Weave enough fabric to make a travel bag set for myself.  These bags will be for weekend trips, I certainly wouldn’t allow any baggage handler near these beauties.

But before physically starting the project I had to sit down and design on paper (following up on the computer) and do all the math calculations for how much I would need for the warp and weft.  For those not familiar with weaving, the warp is the “vertical” threads that are placed on the loom from front to back and the “weft” is what you place side to side.  Typically you use more materials (yarns) for the warp than the weft.

Anyway, back to calculations, which is made easier by Microsoft Excel.  Spreadsheets can take the screw-ups out of calculations (as long as you don’t have errors in your formulas!) and make life a lot easier. So I took my blank “Project File” where I have all my formulas entered and made a copy so I could work on the new travel bag project.

Pretty exciting looking isn’t it?

Pinata Warp and Weft Calcs copy

This is only one page of the spreadsheet, there are 2 others but I won’t make your eyes glaze over by detailing them.

After all the calculations were done, I needed to wind the lengths needed for the warp as well the ones to be dyed.  I was using commercially dyed cotton yarn for the bulk of the warp, but 3 light purple-y shades (centre wide stripe and the same shade on either side) were going to be space dyed.  Dyeing yarns are a fun way of exploring and playing with colour.  There are 2 different dye types though as one is suitable for plant based fibres (cotton, linen, etc.) and the other type is for protein fibres (wool, silk, alpaca, etc.)  I had picked up some packages of Dylon fabric dyes at JoAnn Fabrics in the U.S. (1/3rd the price than here in Canada) and arranged a dye day with my northern homestead neighbor Kathy.

We set up a couple long tables outside at her place, lined them with heavy plastic and got to work “painting” our yarns.  I neglected to get a photo at this stage, probably because I was wearing rubber gloves as well as up to my elbows in colourful dyes.  But I did get a pic of them hanging to dry inside the homestead on my vintage wall drying rack.

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BTW, this rack is perfect for drying yarns, make sure they have dripped off outside though otherwise you make a mess of your flooring.

Once the yarns were done and dried, it was time to get them ready to go on the loom.

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After I wound the commercial coloured yarns, about 4 hours of threading commenced.  Warping a loom is very, very time consuming.  From start to finish, from winding the warp to getting the loom threaded and tied onto the loom is about 8 hours, depending how wide your project is. This one is the full width of my loom (45″) so was at the top end of time needed to get done.  Once on the loom though, weaving goes fairly fast.

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I started with black for weft, then changed to purple to see how I liked the colour interaction.  I didn’t.  The twill pattern was getting lost against all colours of the warp.  So back to using black.  I wove just over 6 yards of material.  Which took me about 6 weeks, mainly because of work and other life obligations.

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Here is the roll of fabric building up on the front beam.  Ask any weaver and there is nothing as pretty as a fat roll of fabric to look at.

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Here it is pulled off the loom, what a gorgeous sight!

Once the fabric was done, it was washed, dried and put away until I could find some time to sew the travel bags, which actually took just over a year later to accomplish mainly due to life plus I wasn’t happy with any of the luggage bag patterns I had seen to date.

I also needed to weave the straps that would be the handles on the luggage. I bristled at the thought of using commercial webbing for the straps.  So I bought some matching colours of a thicker cotton yarn and warped my Inkle loom to make the straps.  I wove 3 altogether, 2 for the main luggage bag and one for the laptop carrying messenger bag.

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Here is one of the straps against the fabric, a pretty darn good match!

Fast forward to late May 2018 and I finally had gathered everything I needed for the bags; zippers, thread, D-rings for the handles, lining fabric and a really neat iron on padding material called In-R-Form (not sold in Canada, had to order from the U.S.) that makes fabric stiff, but padded as well.  Great for laptops bags.

I brought pretty much every piece of equipment and my notion organizers up to the homestead and got to work sewing.  After 3 days (on/off), the main travel duffel bag was complete and literally, after I finished the very last seam, my machine broke down.  It needed servicing so off it went to get fixed.  A week later I was back in business.  Meanwhile I finally found a great messenger bag pattern off Pinterest as well as a cute box bag style toiletry case and after another couple days…voila!  All were finished!

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I had enough material left over for a generous “bath sheet” size towel.  Being 100% cotton, it can be used as either a beach towel or a throw to cover up in.

2 years of planning, weaving and sewing has finally come to an end and I just love the results!  By the way, you should have been able to figure out why I called it my “Piñata” travel bag project ;)

Deborah

 

 

 

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Spring has Sprung!

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Thank goodness the cold and snow is now behind us and we can look forward to (in my opinion) the shortest and BEST season we have ~ SUMMER!

I have been so busy this past 6-8 weeks, not just with work (my busiest time of year) but also ramping up my gardening chores.  The raised  beds have had their plastic rolled down to thaw the frozen earth and 2 weeks ago I was lucky enough to get some radishes, chard, beets and lettuce seeds sown.  These are cool weather veggies and have a much better appreciation of early Spring cold spells than the summer loving tomatoes and peppers.

Speaking of peppers, I am gobsmacked with how well they are growing now that we downsized our southern home to a condo.  It is so blasted hot in here that it is the perfect nursery for my plant babies.  Have a look see for yourself! DSC06002Some of the pepper varieties are now over a foot tall!  I started them a month earlier than normal too, mainly because I have the plastic on the raised beds, I can extend the growing season on both ends. DSC06008The tomatoes were started mid-March, and will quickly catch up and surpass the peppers, they grow like weeds once the seeds sprout.  I do give them a very weak fertilizer solution every 2 weeks though to get them in optimum green leafiness before planting.  I have also been saving up eggshells for the tomatoes.  Whenever I use eggs, I wash the shells and keep them in a baggie in the freezer, more on that in the next post though.

Aside from gardening, I have been up to my eyeballs in Alpaca fleece.  I lucked out on getting about 15 lbs of raw alpaca fiber from a nearby ranch (aren’t they the most adorable looking creatures below?)DSC05863 DSC05860 In the process, I scored my first “baby” alpaca fleece.  Just to be clear, they don’t shear the babies after they are born, “Baby Alpaca” fleece is considered the animals first shearing, which is usually when they are a year old.  It is much finer than adult fleece, so very soft and silky, and I managed to get a jet black one that spun up like silk in my test sample, which is so lusciously smooshy and soft (I have a special project in mind for this very special fibre) and is much darker than the photo shows.  It is very hard to photograph black!

DSC06000Along with the bags of alpaca fleece, I have also been weaving, finishing up a couple projects that were started at the beginning of the year.  My piñata fabric is done, and I have one of two straps left to weave on the little inkle loom, then I can start my big sewing project (saving that for another post too…most likely in the summer). DSC05829 I also gave my rear end some reprieve with a woven cushion for my loom bench.  Sitting on a board was getting old real quick! DSC05840 Not to leave any other fibre related items out, I have been knitting up a storm in the evenings (my down time while watching Jeopardy) as I had a request from my Aunt for a cowl and some more socks.  Cowl and one pair of socks done, 2 more pairs to go.

So when do I have time for myself you say? Well, when the gardens are mostly looking after themselves in a month or so, and work has slowed for the summer, I will be on the deck looking at the pristine view of the lake listening to the loons and sipping my tea and either spinning or knitting for the next project.  I can never sit still.  A rolling stone gathers no moss so the saying goes…and that is me to a tee ;)

DSC04767Deborah

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Meet Fert and Palladin

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10351730_10152717633959054_2321268615927224487_nFert & Palladin are Alpacas living on a farm just outside Niagara Falls, ON.  In October 2014, my daughter and her hubby went to go visit the farm on one of their very few days of the year that they allow visitors.  Unfortunately I couldn’t go with them that day (boo), but they did bring me back a piece of the farm.  In the form of 2 alpaca fleeces.  Not just a part of the fleece, but the-whole-fleece of 2 animals, which weighed about 3.5 lbs each.

Fert is a lovely brown fleece with highlights of red on the tips from the sun’s bleaching rays.  Palladin is as white as snow, after a good bath that is as both fleeces were pretty darn dusty but with minimal VM (vegetable matter, i.e. bits of hay & grass).1966716_10152717634219054_389215263030384962_nMy mind spun (get it) as to what I could make out of all this lovely, soft fibre.  An idea formed and it was time to get to work.  Once the fleeces were clean (which took me close to a month between other commitments), it was time to start carding and spinning.DSC02308_medium2

I first started with Palladin, whose newly washed fleece was brilliant white and as soft and silky as bunny fur.  With an idea in mind, I needed to figure out how much yardage required for the whole project and then back track.  Lots of math involved.   I hate math, hated it in school and always said to myself, “just where I am going to use all this darn stuff? No one can possibly use all this math stuff in the future”, well, here I am today doing tons of math not only in spinning, but weaving and knitting too.  Bah, anyway, back to math calculations and sampling, yes, sampling, not only do you have to do your math, you also have to make a small amount of yarn and then sample with it to make sure what you have in mind as gauge will work out for the intended project.  Like knitting instructions always say at the start of every pattern “To save Time, Take Time to check Gauge” (who me? guilty of NOT doing this? I won’t answer that)…..

Not wanting to waste 2 alpaca fleeces, checking my math and sett/gauge were even more important.

So I carded and spun up a small amount of fleece, then warped up my small Cricket loom to check how dense/open a fabric I wanted.  I started out at 12 epi (ends per inch) but the resulting fabric felt too stiff/dense.  I rethreaded the loom using my 8 epi heddle and while it appeared far too open, I knew that ‘wet finishing’ would tighten up the weave.  So I washed/dryed the sample and the resulting fabric was in the ballpark of what I wanted.  Time to finish the calculations now that I knew what sett (loom speak for warp thread spacing) to use.  The pic below shows fleece to finished fabric, yes, the two items on the right are gray as I was playing with natural dyes when I spun this last summer so took the opportunity to experiment at the same time.

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All that math behind me, it was now time to get into the groove of carding and spinning up all the alpaca, which took me almost a year between other projects/life.

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Once I had the last project off the loom, a blanket for a baby whose due date was looming (ha! another fibre pun!) it was time to finally get Fert & Palladin’s soft and luscious yarns wound and onto Bob the loom.

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After that, it wove up pretty quickly, a heck of a lot more time spent in prep than in actual weaving, but hey, that is the nature of the beast (another pun! I am firing on all cylinders this morning) when creating something from animal to finished product.

13260244_10156880387985291_875112006034015639_n_medium2This has been a great challenge in taking a raw material, applying newly learned skills and being self-sufficient.  I do believe I now qualify for being ready for a post-apocalyptic world, but sincerely hope that it doesn’t come to fruition.

So without further ado, here is the long-in-the-works alpaca throw blanket. Woven in a 2-2 Herringbone Twill pattern, it is soft, (seriously fuzzy, you should have seen the fuzzy dust-bunnies galloping around the condo while it was on the loom) and it has a beautiful drape and feel,  not too heavy, but with just enough weight to ‘feel’ like a blanket.  Incredibly warm too, although the temps outside this past week have been in the 30′s (Celsius), it will be put to good use come this Fall/Winter at the Homestead.

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Bob has been cleaned up and de-fuzzed but will most likely sit empty for the summer while I concentrate on my vegetable gardens and the next spinning project ~ a sweater currently being spun and knit from a whole Icelandic sheep fleece, then come Fall a couple of scarves are to be woven from gorgeous handspun and hand-dyed yarns that I have been working on.

Yes, I am busy, busy, busy, and I love it.

Deborah

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Cake Dyeing Experiment

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Sounds yummy doesn’t it?  Cake Dyeing….  Unfortunately no yummy cakes were baked, dyed or consumed for this project.

Cake dyeing is taking a skein of yarn and winding it into a “cake” with a ball winder and then dyeing it.  The word “cake” came about due to the resemblance of the wound yarn to a stacked layer cake.  This creates a centre-pull “ball” of yarn to knit from.

Ok, enough of word origins, on to the experiment!  I found 3 balls of sad looking yarn in the “free bin” in our condo craft room.  2 were an ugly golden-yellow colour, the third was a really ugly greenish-gray ball of what surely came out of a swamp.  No wonder they were cast off from whoever put them in the bin.  Nobody wants butt-ugly wool.  So I rescued them a few weeks ago with the intention of brightening them up in a dye experiment.

Enter cake dyeing.  The process where you wind yarn into the cake shape and submerse it up to half its height in a dye liquid, flip and do another colour and you come out with a wonderfully colour-patterned yarn.

DSC04434First off was to soak the 2 gold ones in water and citric acid (or vinegar) to prep the wool to accept the dye.  I then took a roasting tray with a rack and placed enough water in it to come up to halfway up the cake of yarn.  I then added my dye stock which was 1/2 tsp of Wilton’s Icing Gel red food colouring to half a cup of boiling water, stir to dissolve and dump in.  I also added another 3-4 tbsp of vinegar too.

DSC04439Add your yarn and bring the temp up to 170F and simmer for about an hour.  I carefully flipped the cakes over and let the second side soak for another hour.  Turn off the heat and left them to cool.  Once cool, rinse under the same temperature water, wind back into a skein and let dry.

The results are 2 very bright skeins of yarn now worthy of knitting.  I call these 2 skeins “Orange Sherbert”.

DSC04461Now with the other skein of butt-ugly greenish-gray yarn, I omitted the pre-soak to try and get the colour absorption to slow down.  Which worked a little too well as the colour didn’t penetrate as far into the cake of yarn as I would have liked.   The other steps were the same except for not pre-soaking.

DSC04453I added 1/2 tsp of cornflower blue Wiltons Icing Gel to one half, after an hour, flipped and added 1/2 tsp of violet.

The result?

DSC04468Burple ~ which is a combination of Butt Ugly and Purple.

I will re-dye this one solid purple as I really don’t like how it came out.  But heck, that is why they are called experiments as you never know exactly what you are going to get!

Deborah

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The Great Avocado Dye Experiment!

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Yesterday I posted a recipe using avocados, and in that recipe I said to save the pits and skins for later use.  I guess I *should* have been more specific, but I thought it would be interesting to see how many people would be wracking their brains wondering what the heck would you use them for.  I mean, they are inedible after all, and unless you are wanting to grow an avocado tree, why save the pit?

So here is what I do with them….

To one 500ml canning jar, I added 3 oz of chopped avocado pits. Combined 3/4 cup of boiling water with 1/2 cup ammonia and added it to the jar. Topped up to about 1 1/2” from the top.

To another 500ml canning jar, I added 3 oz of chopped avocado skins. Combined 3/4 cup of boiling water with 1/2 cup ammonia and added it to the jar. Topped up to about 1 1/2” from the top.

I screwed the bands down snugly on the jars and the heat/steam from the boiling water  sealed the jars after about 15 minutes.

DSC04087Here on Day 1, the colour starts almost immediately, but it is necessary to let the jars sit for a minimum of 30 days for the colour to develop, if you tried it now, you would not get any colour to stick to the fibers, it would mostly rinse away.

Here they are on Day 3 they are darker, but they still need to sit.

20151202_091140_medium2I put these jars up on November 30th and left them until after Christmas.  Close to one month later while we were up at the cottage, I finally cracked the jars and dyed 2 skeins of yarn.  The larger skein went into the skin dye, which looked purple/green, the smaller one went into the dye made from the pits, which looked rosy-red.

Here are the results…

Studio_20151229_110736_medium2The skein on the left was in the skin dye bath and it came out a gorgeous, soft beige colour.  The pinky-rosy one on the right was in the pit dye bath.  The colouring on the skein from the skins was much more even, but the pit dye bath took up the dye very unevenly, so it was a more rosy/tan mottled look.

I really liked the colour of the skein from the skins and have another batch fermenting now, but will let the jars sit much longer this time to deepen the colours.

** Tip if you are going to try this ~ when you first get the pit out of the avocado, chop it up into small pieces immediately, if you wait, the air gets at it and it turns rock hard and you will be unable to chop it.  I store pits and skins (washed) in ziploc bags in the freezer until I have enough to make a batch with.

There, aren’t you glad you asked? If you want to dye yarn (or fabric), this is what you can save your avocado skins and pits for. ;)

Deborah

 

 

 

 

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From Ewe To Me

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With Love.

DSC04118Which is absolutely spot on.

Over a year in the making, I have finally completed a project that started with roving from sheep fleece, spun it into yarn, then wove it into a blanket.

This is my ‘practice’ blanket.  I have another one planned for the alpaca I am still spinning, but this was a test to see if my handspun can hold up to the high tension requirements of loom weaving.  It is comprised of rough, lumpy, bumpy yarn that were mostly spun a year ago, which I then spent last summer experimenting with natural dyes and dyed a variety of yellow/gold/pale orange shades from 10 skiens of yarn.

DSC03473Once my tea towels were off the loom (which languished for 3 months, but in my defense, Christmas/life/cottage was hindering my loom time), it was time to prepare the warp for the blanket.

Warping a loom is time consuming, it can take anywhere from 1-2 days for thicker yarns to a week for thinner ones, luckily, all my practice yarn was roughly the same size.  Nice, thick and quick to wind on the loom.

Studio_20160108_091309_medium2Once the yarn was on the loom (special thanks to hubby for his help!) it was time to get down to business.  In just 3 days, it was finished and cut off the loom.  I knotted the fringe last night and just need to trim to an even length, then into the washing machine on a wool setting for the final finishing to plump up the fibers and soften them.

DSC04116Simple, Satisfying and Useful.  This is what people HAD to do before the days of the cheap cr@p made in China that filled our store shelves.  I know that there isn’t a lot of folks out there that are able to do what I do (either in need or want) but we have a choice to either buy the overseas garbage or make our own, I choose to make my own.  Yes it takes time, but in the end, I have an item that will stand up to a lot wear for a very long time.

Deborah

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2016 ~ The Year of the Wheel!

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Happy New Year to everyone!  Yes, it has been awhile, but how many of you had the time to try and keep up a blog AND do all things Christmas-y?  Baking, cooking, shopping, wrapping, visiting, etc?

That is my defence and I am sticking to it.

I can also add spinning, knitting and weaving into the above as many of you who follow me on Facebook can attest to as I  regularly post pics of FO’s or WIP’s (Finished Objects or Work in Progress) to brighten the days of those cruising on FB.

Now that the holidays are fading in the rear view mirror, it’s time to concentrate on a New Year.  I have a couple resolutions, but these ones I am sure to stick too.  I gave up on the ‘must lose 10 lbs!’ or ‘stop eating chocolate!’ resolutions a couple years back.  Moderation is the key, you can still have your chocolate, just make sure you walk that stuff off the day you eat it.

My resolutions this year are to refine and hone the skills of my latest obsessions um…hobbies.  Weaving and Spinning.  I am well on my way in the weaving world, but there is always room for improvement and while spinning is a fairly recent craft, I am generally happy with where my spinning skills are at, but again, there is always room for improvement.  I am spinning yarn to not only knit with, but to weave with on my looms.  There is something so satisfying from taking a lump of fluffy fleece and turning it into yarn, then weaving it into a finished product.  Whether it is a scarf, blanket or fabric for clothing, it’s like taking raw food ingredients and assembling them into a Five Star restaurant type meal.

To aid me in my quest to hone my spinning is the addition of another wheel.  Yes, I clearly hear you when you scoff – “another wheel?! she’s turning into the crazy cat lady of the fibre world!”  No, not really, as there are many others that have many more wheels than I do.

20160105_134117Each of these 3 wheels are vastly different in function and spinning style.  The one on the far right, the small, boxy shaped one is a Spin-Well.  Made in the 1930′s in Sifton, Manitoba, she is the youngest of the herd and is a workhorse of a wheel.  She was built mainly to make thicker yarns, but I love her for plying 2 or more yarns together as the bobbins on her are just huge.  This is the one that I *obtained* from my Aunt & Uncle a year and a half ago that started me on my spinning odyssey.

Next up, the one in the middle, is the wheel I picked this past summer.  She is a sturdy little wheel that will spin miles and miles of thinner yarn, and even though her bobbins are small, I can fill them to the max and then use the Spin-Well for plying.  I am not sure on her pedigree as there is no maker’s mark on her but she is similar in style to the Young family of wheels (there were 4 makers in the family) from Nova Scotia back in the 1800′s, which is where she came from and is estimated to be between 150 and 200 yrs old.  She is in exceptional condition for her age too.

My latest wheel is the largest of all, she certainly didn’t look that big when I picked her up yesterday.  Not until I brought her home and set her beside the other two – eek! her drive wheel is huge!   This means she can spin thinner yarn, faster than the others.  This wheel also has no maker’s mark but the owner said she was made in Quebec, which is info she received when she obtained the wheel last year.  I am currently on a hunt to narrow down her style/maker and while she is similar in stance to a CPW (Canadian Production Wheel), she lacks the tilt-tension which is the key to her not being one.  She is also very, very similar to a Louis Bisson, but again, lacks a very important detail, a swooping treadling piece along  with no maker’s mark.  She was incredibly filthy too, I spent a good hour cleaning her up with Murphy’s Oil Soap (excellent product for any wood furniture), she now functions as she should and looks much better for it.

20160106_081914And if I haven’t sounded crazy enough, I have names for all the wheels (and looms too).  As soon as I brought the new wheel home and sat her beside the other two, she just paled in colour against them…so I named her Blanch.  The Spin-Well (Grand Dame I call her) is much darker and Beth, is more reddish-orange in tone, so I have Grand Dame, Beth and Blanch.

I am looking forward to finding out as much as I can on these wheels, as well as to further my knowledge and skill in using them.  Cheers to 2016! ~ The Year of the Wheel will be a fun journey!

Deborah

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Alpaca Throw Blanket

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I have a serious flaw.  I come up with crazy thoughts and ideas that cause me to spend days, weeks and even months doing something that results in an object I could have gone to the store and bought.  This time? I am making an alpaca throw blanket from scratch.  Way more fun than buying a made-in-China-piece-of-crap-knockoff.

Last Fall my lovely daughter and her husband visited an Alpaca farm just outside Niagara Falls and brought me back 2 alpaca fleeces.  As I was in the throes of Christmas prep, house renovations and purging/packing to move, the two fleeces were washed and placed into totes for storage.

I finally was able to get to carding the fleece (getting it ready to spin) this past summer.  I have most of Palladin (name of the critter it came from) done, he offered up some lovely creamy-white fleece that spins like a dream and feels as soft and fluffy as a cloud. Fert, not to be confused with Fart (he gets a complex if people call him that) is a rusty-brown colour. He is still in a tote to be carded, but I had to start somewhere and Palladin was the first tote I pulled off the storage shelf.

I am guessing at the weight of the fleece I have from both animals as I never weighed them (probably about 4 lbs each), but it will most likely come in around 2.5 lbs each after wastage from carding/spinning.

Thanksgiving weekend, I spun up 2 sample bobbins of lace weight and plied them together. Roughly a fingering weight of which I dyed with leftover mint dye liquor with an afterbath of iron. Resulting in a soft gray. This will not be the final colour(s) of the blanket, just something to test with and looks better than a plain ‘ol white skein.

I will be using both my new (old) wheel (Beth, an antique Nova Scotian wheel) to spin the yarn, but because her bobbins are not that big I am plying the yarn on my Spin Well (the sturdy Manitoban wheel) as she has enormous bobbins (my, that does sound risqué doesn’t it?)

I then took the sample (152 yards) and using my 15” Cricket loom, I wove a sample at 12 epi (ends per inch, the vertical threads) and 8 epi respectively and I played with the ppi (picks per inch, the horizontal threads) on both and ended up liking the 8 epi with a 10 ppi so that is what I will aim for as I love the feel of the fabric at that density. The sample was woven plain weave, but I will be using a twill pattern on the floor loom when all the fleece is carded and spun.

Pictured below (from left to right) is raw fleece (washed), then the carded “rolag”, bobbin full of spun yarn, plied and dyed yarn, then the woven sample.DSC03691

With the exception of yarn spun from Fert, Palladin’s yarn will be dyed using natural materials in earth tones (tans/browns/reddish-browns) to match our living room décor where the finished blanket will reside…whenever that happens, hopefully by the end of the winter….but that is being optimistic!

Note to self….keep a vacuum on hand while carding/spinning alpaca…holy fuzz batman!

Deborah

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2015 Summer Vacation

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*Hello*!

Can you see me waving?

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No, not the loon (who seems to be waving) but me! ;)

Long time, no chat everyone!  Totally my fault though as the past year has been nothing short of controlled chaos (and I use that term loosely).  Last summer hubby and I started getting our house ready for sale, meaning de-cluttering, purging, building a new bathroom, gutting and renovating the original bathroom and sprucing up the property.  All that effort eventually paid off, even if it tried our patience (and bank account) as we sold promptly this past March in 3 days.

After that it was on to the next challenge, finding someplace else to live.  We bought a lovely 1+1 bedroom condo apartment on the 8th floor overlooking Lake Ontario, and located about a km from our previous home.  Once we took possession, we then spent a week priming and painting over very garish colours and moved in at the end of May.  I spent a month trying to organize things to suit the new space, especially the kitchen, I probably spent the majority of time in there trying to find a good fit for what I use, when I use it, etc.  After that, it was on to figuring out what furniture that we brought with us would work and tossed what we couldn’t use.  We had already tossed our sofa and chair set prior to moving as they were well loved but no longer suitable.  So after living in the space for a month or so we decided what would best fit the space and then went furniture shopping (ugh, there really needs to be a better way to shop for furniture than walking into a big box furniture store and being immediately corralled by salespeople), anyway, we selected a sectional sofa and a new chair and got the heck out of dodge.

With the condo somewhat settled, it was time to split the big city and head north.  Prior to the end of June, we had not been up that much due to all the moving ruckus.  My vegetable garden was in place and growing nicely and wasn’t in need of much attention until later in the season but we did make sure to set up the automatic timer/watering system and let nature take its course so to speak.

So I packed up the car with a LOT of stuff.  Not just food and the usual household items needed everyday, but all my fun fiber stuff.  My small Cricket loom, knitting needle case, yarn galore, a very large tote full of alpaca fiber that I want to card for spinning and some already spun yarn ready for the next new *hobby*…dying with natural materials as well as planned sewing projects.

I then spent 2+ months spinning, weaving, swatting mosquitos, knitting, sewing, dying yarns, swatting mosquitos, kayaking, gardening and swatting mosquitos…which were really brutal during the later half of June through to the end of July.

DSC03409August saw my busiest month in the garden as it was starting to pump out tomatoes by the ying yang, there was a lot of processing to be done.  Over the span of a month, I probably roasted a good half bushel of cherry tomatoes (slice into 1/4″ slices, layer on a parchment lined baking sheet and roast at 225F for about an hour and half – awesome on pizza or in any pasta dish) and canned up jars and jars of stewed tomatoes and pickled Serrano/Jalapeño peppers.  I also made 2 batches of my Chipotle Peach jam, one for me and one for my daughter.  I  had also wanted to make more blueberry jam, but I was too late in going picking (others that were on the ball picked all that there was in the wild patch nearby) as well as we had a very dry summer so a lot of the plants were shriveling up from the heat and lack of rain.

DSC03404During the past couple months, I started dying skeins of handspun yarn with natural materials.  Birch and Oak leaves, Marigolds (seen here drying in the sun) andDSC03373

Tansy flowers (which are highly abundant weeds here in the north, like Goldenrod), Onion skins provided a lovely shade, which I dubbed “Antique Gold” as that is what it reminded me of,  take a look at the skein to the right of the bright yellow one and see if you agree.  DSC03369I then tried 2 attempts with a plant called “Phragmites australis” aka Common Reed.  It grows along roadsides and highways all over Ontario and is actually considered an invasive species by our government, so I did my part of hacking off the flowy flower heads to use as a dye.  I had seen someone else (on the internet no less, so it had to be true right?) attain a lovely shade of green using this plant.  What did I get?

Gray – with very, very faint hints of green and red streaks running through it (really strange actually), but very cool looking (the skein on the left in the above photo).  Apparently, so I am told, I need to harvest the flower heads in July, I had picked them in August so that is the only difference between what I had seen online and what I actually attained.

If it is one thing I have learned about dying with natural materials, is that you are never quite sure what you are going to get when you pull the skein out of the dye pot…take the vivid yellow skein of yarn that I dyed with Marigolds…talk about bright!! It is almost neon yellow, clown yellow I call it.  I saved the dye liquid and over-dyed another skein that was dyed with oak leaves earlier and it came out a similar colour to the onion skin dye.  After that, there was still colour left in the pot, so I placed another skein of yarn in and came out with a nice, mellow yellow that is similar to the Birch leaf dyed skein (Birch leaves give a gorgeous, clear, sunny yellow colour).

DSC03473All these variations of yellow dyed skeins are destined for a weaving project, which will be the subject of another post down the road a while.

If the above doesn’t sound like I wasn’t busy enough, I spent some time carding up the aforementioned tote of alpaca fleece.  This is what it looks like before carding (middle of photo), and this is what it looks like after (on the left). DSC03482Nice, fluffy tubes of fleece (called rolags) ready for spinning.  Carding takes all the fibers from a fleece and arranges them neatly in one direction, easier to spin that way, plus it gets out any remaining bits of hay, dirt and dust.  This needs to be done on a nice calm day so you can sit outside and have all the bits float away outdoors instead of covering the inside with alpaca fuzz.

Not to be forgotten, my Cricket loom got a workout in July when I cranked out 6 scarves destined for gifts this Christmas.  DSC03218Nor did my knitting, I am currently working on a sweater made from Cotlin (blend of cotton/linen) yarn, but it has been on the back burner the last couple weeks as we had a spell of hot weather that makes it uncomfortable to try and knit a large item in the heat so I switched to a pair of socks and now finishing up a hat made from yarn that I spun ON MY NEW WHEEL!

11947550_10155969213730291_964574286738722593_nIsn’t she just gorgeous?!  She is lovely and old and estimated to be over 150 years but doesn’t look a day over 30.  She spins like a dream too, a nice, smooth and even action.  Then I went and did something stupid, I was trying to get the full bobbin off the flyer and snapped the flyer in half….I then spewed out a string of very un-lady-like verbage which would make many a sailor blush.  So the flyer has just been replaced by a fellow I found nearby to the southern home that makes and repairs spinning wheels and I am back in business.

Now don’t think I just sat on my tush and knitted, spun and wove all summer.   I also did some heavy lifting, in the form of wheelbarrow-fulls of sand and dirt.  We had a pile of sand that I had started to sift and relocate as where it was situated, the fella that plows our driveway in winter kept heaping snow laced with driveway gravel on it.  So I painstakingly sifted about 2 yards of sand and wheeled it over to its new home off the side of the driveway (after depositing more on our beach along the way).  This was a 2 year project as where it was located, could only be done after mid-August or you were swarmed by skeeters, plus, if it rained, well, that made pushing the sand through the home-made sieve really challenging.  With the stretch of hot sunny weather a couple weeks back, I managed to get the rest of it sieved and moved….then, last week I had 2 yards of dirt delivered….for…. my new garden bed!!!

DSC03385I am so excited!  Hubby built another raised garden bed for me, a twin to the existing one which basically doubles my gardening space.  We spent this past Sunday morning moving dirt and filling her up, she looks beautiful and I am so excited for next Spring’s planting and will spend this winter getting my seed selections and layouts done – woo!

Well that pretty much gets you all caught up on my summer antics, there was more, but these were the highlights.  So what did you do on summer vacation?  Would love to hear what you all had going on so leave a message below!

Deborah

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