Spring Crocus Flower Tea Towels

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Sometimes when I create new designs for weaving, I am not 100% sure of how it will actually translate to the woven cloth. Even though I use weaving software to design using approximate colours, at times there are variables that you might not be able to account for.

Not so with this design as between the use of colour and the weaving draft (pattern), these towels turned out EXACTLY how I envisioned they would!

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This is a limited edition of 6 towels for this Spring, not be repeated until Spring 2022 and as of today’s date, 5 of the 6 are sold and I may just keep the last one for myself as a memento as they truly were a joy to weave.

But if someone really would like to purchase the last one, please email me at: stormypointfiberarts@gmail.com and I would be more than happy to relinquish the remaining towel (centre-front in the basket) to a new kitchen hangout.

Now onto the next project, which is designing a rug with some sturdy wool yarns I have been spinning and dyeing over the winter. I have an idea in my head that just needs to be translated to paper, weaving software and ultimately, onto one of the looms.

Stay tuned!

Deborah

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Weaving Inspiration

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Go look out the window, yup, right out the back door you will find my little herb garden patch, and in it, Spring bulbs poking their sunny, bright faces out of the soil after a long winters sleep.

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Spring is my favourite time of year as all the new growth “springs forth” and finally dissolves the bland whites, greys and browns from winter. I grabbed my camera and took loads of photos of the little clumps of green, purple and yellow flowers, and afterwards, while looking at them on my laptop screen, an idea formed on how to best utilize this floral inspiration into my weaving.

I set to work matching colours of cotton yarn I have on hand with the colours in the photo using one of my favourite designs from the book: A Weavers Book of 8 Shaft Patterns by Carol Strickler, which is a highly sought after and must have in almost every weavers personal library, and this is what I came up with.

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I just love this draft for its ability to transform colours into intricate designs. This project will be woven into a limited run of 6 tea towels that will pay homage to Spring. If anyone is interested in purchasing one or two of these, feel free to email me at: stormypointfiberarts@gmail.com.

Meanwhile, get outside and admire all those bright, cheery flowers! They deserve soome adoration after a long, cold winter!

Deborah

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Introducing My Stormy Point Fiber~Arts Shop!

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I have spent the last year gearing up for this moment. The moment I turn my “hobby” into a cottage industry…get it…cottage? Since I live in the Great White North in a cottage? hee hee, I love a good pun.

Most of you followers already know how crafty I am, sewing, knitting and in the last 8 years, weaving and spinning has crept into the lineup of things I love to create with my hands. I come by it honestly, my fraternal grandmother (Baba) was a talented woman who could make a silk purse from a sows ear as the old saying goes. She truly conquered anything she tried, even with the most rudimentary of utensils/tools available. I like to think she is looking down from the heaven above, smiling and proud of what I have become. I am forever grateful to have had her influence in my life.

I have been bitten by the fiber arts bug, rather seriously too, so much so that in 8 years, I have amassed 4 floor looms and 4 spinning wheels along with a plethora of accompanying tools necessary to create the objects of my fancy. Weaving has particularly been a necessity this past year with a Pandemic running rampant across the globe. It is easy to shelter in place amongst my many tools and cones of yarn and let my mind go wild with colour and design.

So the past couple months has seen me create a number of handwovens that I have finally put into a Shop format.  I have initially created this Shop over on my Facebook Page, which can be accessed here: https://www.facebook.com/Stormy-Point-FiberArts-129301387126092, but I will also be building a shop here on my Blog that will go in tandem with the Facebook Shop. I will make an announcement when that goes live.

Meanwhile, here is some eye candy for you, varying types of scarves, towels, guitar straps, etc. that I have made and is either currently for sale or will make custom requests. If something tickles your fancy, please send me an email at stormypointfiberarts@gmail.com for more information!

Deborah
Stormy Point Fiber~Arts

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Scrappy Sock Yarn Scarf!

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100% Cotton Huck Lace Scarf

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100% Cotton Huck Lace Scarf

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100% Tencel Turned Twill Scarf

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100% Cotton Huck Lace Scarf

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Custom Guitar Straps with adjustable slide buckle and leather tabs to attach to the guitar

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“Pysanky” Tea Towels! Utilizing colour and pattern that is reminiscent of Ukrainian Easter Eggs

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Braided Twill Tea Towels

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Walking Carefully Into 2021

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Well, 2020 was a complete $hitshow.  My only bright spot was my 2 week vacation in Cuba back in January 2020 before the pandemic and lockdown hit.

Hubby and I bailed southern Ontario on March 25th to spend the rest of the year at the Northern Homestead. Best decision ever. In our remote area, there is not a whole lot of people and the case numbers low compared to Toronto and expanding area.

I spent the summer enthralled in my gardening, helped hubby side the new garage and 3 season room addition, among many other construction tasks.  Managed to get a heck of a lot of weaving done too with 2 looms and 3 spinning wheels up here as well as dyeing yarns while enjoying the solitude of the north country.

Only downside was the dreaded Covid-15 lbs I gained over the year, which amazes me since I was so active. So to start 2021 off, the first order of business is to lose said 15 lbs, and get back to a healthier lifestyle.  After that, learning some new weaving techniques and structures are high on the goal list.

Some eye candy for you all to start your year off, this is a Turned Twill Scarf woven using Tencel yarn (Tencel is a manmade fiber from the pulp of Gum trees) which has the same properties as silk, only much more affordable and a lot easier to care for.

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I wish everyone a safe, happy and most of all, a HEALTHY New Year! Stay safe, please follow medical guidelines so we can stop the spread of this nightmare we are in.

Much love to all of you for being supportive readers, even though I have not been writing a whole lot the past year. I am looking to change that, and make it a priority for 2021 to get back to writing as I do miss it!

Deborah

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Rhinebeck Adventures

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It’s been a couple months since my last post, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been doin’ nuthin’! Just busy in all aspects of life but this morning I made myself sit down and finally write out this post from my adventures in  NY State back in late October to the New York Sheep & Wool Festival, fondly nicknamed “Rhinebeck” after the town it is held in.

I didn’t go alone, but went with my trusty weaving/fibery sidekick Kathy, Northern Homestead neighbour and all around great gal to get in trouble with.

She drove to my southern home after flying in from Seattle, WA where she had taken a week long weaving course, since her southern home is another hour and half beyond mine from the airport, I said you may as well crash at my place and we’ll head out in the morning. After a short night of sleep, we got up, loaded her SUV with our luggage and we were off.  A short 45 minutes to the U.S. border and we were on our way to Rhinebeck, NY

The way down was an uneventful trip, about 6.5 hours from the border until we arrived in Poughkeepsie, NY where our hotel was booked.  Hubby has boatloads of hotel points from his years of working out of town so this trip was arranged utilizing hotel points, thus saving us more money to be spent on fiber goodies!  After arriving at the hotel, we dumped our luggage and headed out to explore the nearest bookstore (Kathy is a book fanatic) as well stop in at the local JoAnns for fabric I had pre-ordered to be delivered to that location.

Once our initial shopping was done, we hit the Texas Roadhouse for dinner, one of my favourite restaurants due to their buttery pillows of yumminess that they drop on everyone’s table.

20181019_153404with whipped cinnamon butter! I could feel the lbs gaining momentum ready to leap onto my hips with every bite.

After supper we headed back to the hotel after stopping to pick up adult bevereges for the room (beer of course!).  The next morning we were up early, showered and after downing the free breakfast offerings in the hotel lobby, we were on our way to the little town of Rhinebeck and NY States largest fleece and fiber festival.

20181020_095841The fairgrounds in Rhinebeck are set against a lovely backdrop of rolling hills adorned with the colours of fall. It was a gorgeous day with sunshine and a bright blue sky with mild temperatures.  After paying our admission, we looked at the map of the fairgrounds to scope out what to see first.  There were literally hundreds of vendors in many, many buildings sprinkled throughout the fairgrounds. It was going to be a fun day of yarn fondling and sheep ogling!

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20181020_104857 20181020_144249 20181020_145855 20181020_161727 20181020_150837 20181020_14592220181020_12175720181020_121854 20181020_121710After a very looong day of wandering around and well past the 5 p.m. closing time of the festival, we made our way back out to the car with our ‘loot’ and headed back to the hotel…where our adventures were about to take a turn.

We arrived to see several plumbing company vehicles backed up to the exterior door at one end of the hotel with a generator running….uh oh…not a good sign.  We head up to our room to drop off our booty….

20181020_184019and then down to the front desk to see what the commotion was about.  No water. The entire hotel had no water due to a watermain break under the floor of the east wing of the hotel.  We were on the 2nd floor and immediately above where the workers were jackhammering up the floor of the room below us.

Lovely. Just lovely…..

The hotel had no idea when water would be restored and they were handing out bottled water to all guests…um…wouldn’t you just need to use the facilities after drinking bottled water and the facilities didn’t work? Well, we were not going to hang around and find out.

I emailed hubby to have him look for another hotel that we could  move to and after a few minutes, he came back with one room left in a hotel just outside Albany, which was a good hour north of Poughkeepsie.  With the festival in town, every hotel within a 50 mile radius of Rhinebeck was full, so we packed up, checked out of the drought-ridden hotel and headed up to Albany, which meant we would not be able to head back to Rhinebeck for the 2nd day of the festival (insert sad face).

By the time we pulled out of the hotel lot, it was dark, which meant the drive up to Albany wasn’t going to be much fun in the deer infested state of New York. For those that have never been to NY State, it is one of the most heavily populated states in the north-east for deer, and sure enough, I lost count of how many were browsing at the side of the interstate, their eyes glowing in our headlights as we passed them.

We safely arrived at the hotel and proceeded to check in to the last remaining room of the hotel, a spacious room with an even bigger bathroom but with one hitch, there was only one king sized bed. Oh well, good thing Kathy and I are good friends! Since we didn’t really get any supper, we wolfed down the leftovers from the night before at Texas Roadhouse, which included these rattlesnake bites that were amazing the second time around.

20181019_160424After slugging down a couple cold beers with cold leftovers, we hit the sack to make the trek back home the next morning.  Since we were already 1 hours drive from Rhinebeck, it made no sense to drive back down for the day and then turn around and head back, plus, we only had the room for one night and it wasn’t available the next night.

Sunday morning dawned and after showering and packing up, we hit the Starbucks across the road for coffee and tea and headed west.  About 2 hours into the drive, I began to notice an unusual hum somewhere in the drive train of Kathy’s SUV.  We stopped at an Interstate gas station to fill up and use the facilities and when pulling into a parking space, her car “clunked” when she put it in park. We both looked at each other and thought the same thing….uh oh, what the hell was that?!

After using the loo, we got back in the car and drove around to the other side to fill up, the car behaved when put into park so we thought maybe it wasn’t engaged into park fully the last time….so onward!

After another couple hours, we stopped again to use the loo (what goes in, must go out!) and as we coasted into the parking lot, her car suddenly went out of gear. She coasted into a parking space and shifted into park. Well, not only did the car CLUNK loudly like last time, it lurched a good foot and a half forward!

Much swearing ensued….

After using the facilities again, we came back out to the car and after starting it up, it would not go into gear, any gear. Not forward, not backward, nothing. More swearing….

Next to the service station was a satellite State Trooper building so we walked over to ask for some help but the station isn’t manned as it just for troopers to park their civilian cars and take their cruisers out on the interstate. So we walked back to pretty much deceased vehicle and while Kathy was looking up a non-emergency police telephone number, I was emailing hubby to tell him of our latest demise. We were still a good 3 hours from home, just outside the lovely hamlet of Geneva, NY, so hubby jumped into action to find another hotel room because clearly, her car wasn’t moving without either divine intervention or a dealership garage.

Within 20 minutes a tow truck was on site and the dead SUV and ourselves were loaded onto the tow truck…

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The driver of the tow truck was also the owner/operator and a fabulous sport posing for a photo with Kathy. Since it was Sunday and pretty much all garages were closed, we headed to his compound and he graciously allowed her vehicle to stay there while we tried to sort out where we would take it the next morning. Meanwhile, hubby had found us a hotel room in Geneva and the tow truck owner’s wife was on her way to pick us up and drive us to our hotel. Totally unnecessary but seriously appreciated! We piled into her pickup with all our luggage and fiber purchases and headed to the cute town of Geneva located on the northern shore of Seneca Lake. Smack in the middle of NY wine country and highly scenic to boot.

On our way to the hotel and telling the owners wife of our adventures to date, she said you must be in need of a stiff drink, well, yes, but we didn’t have any and where would be a good place to get some for the room we asked? She said the closest grocery store is about a mile from the hotel and since we were going by it, she amazingly offered to stop there so I could run in and grab a 12 pack of cold ones. Seriously, this tow company went above and beyond for us, we could not thank them enough, if you are ever stuck in Geneva, NY area, call Hart Towing, they will not let you down.

Once at our 3rd hotel in as many days, we checked in and looked around online as to where we could go for dinner, there was a nice restaurant a stone’s throw from the hotel so we walked over for some much needed sustenance.  The name of it was The Cobblestone, a gorgeous old farmhouse turned into a restaurant.

20181021_190927The main bar reminded me of a quaint, English pub. We were herded to the dining room where we had the most delicious dinner, we both cleaned our plates as we were absolutely starving by this time.

20181021_182845 20181021_182840A glass of red wine definitely made her forget about the car trouble….

The next morning she was up early and phoning the 2 dealerships in the area to see which one could get her vehicle in for assessment and repair. A couple hours later the tow company dropped her car off at the chosen dealership and we waited for several more hours while they performed an in-depth examination.  Meanwhile, we only had the hotel room booked for one night hoping that the dealership would be able to fix her car that day (praying it was something easy!), but by 4 pm, we still hadn’t heard from them and we had to check out of our room. We were able to hang around in the lobby while we waited as the sympathetic hotel staff said to take as long as you need to figure out what to do.  Not long after Kathy got the call that the car needed a part and of course, they didn’t have one in stock and it would be couriered to the dealership the next morning. Back I went to hubby via email and he booked the room again for the night, thank goodness for hotel points!

We moved our luggage et al back into the same room we vacated an hour or so earlier and sat down in the room for a much needed adult beverage (or two or three) until we started to get hungry.  There was a restaurant in the plaza beside the hotel so we decided to walk over and check it out. It was a small, craft brewery type place called Kindred Fare and we both decided on the Chef’s Menu offering of a 3 course prix fixe….oh my yummy goodness, it had the best duck confit I have ever tasted! (shhh…don’t tell my duckie buddies up north) and the most amazing ice cream for dessert.  Normally I don’t eat desserts at restaurants but with our adventures to date, may as well splurge! If you are ever in the area for a wine tour, definitely hit this place up, you will not be disappointed.  You can view their menu here: http://kindredfare.com/

Once we were stuffed to gills, we waddled back across the parking lot to our hotel and plopped down for an evening of tv and cold bevvies.

The next morning we got up, showered, had breakfast in the hotel and then packed back up to hopefully head out once her car received whatever transplants it needed.  A couple hours later we piled into the dealership courtesy car and headed to pick up her beast….and we were finally on our way back to Canada…

20181023_122327Happy smiles all around!!

Just before we crossed the border back into the Great White north we decided to stop at the Niagara Falls outlet mall for some last minute shopping and a quick bite for dinner.  Several hours later we were finely pulling into the back parking lot of my condo building and as she eased her car into a visitor parking space…it promptly “clunked” loudly and lurched to a stop.

Seriously, we could not make this stuff up.  We decided her car was possessed and got out and unloaded my luggage and purchases and hauled everything upstairs.  I had hubby go down with her to check on the vehicle and after trying to drive around the parking lot with it coming in and out of gear, it was left for a timeout in a parking space.

She called her hubby who ended up driving the hour and a bit to our place to pick her up and take her home.  A few days later, a tow truck was sent to pick up the possessed vehicle and take it back to her hometown for burial…or cremation…or something.

1,300 kilometers and 5 days later, our Rhinebeck adventure came to a close.  Memories we will surely laugh about for many years to come!

Deborah

 

 

 

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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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Dyeing with Onion Skins

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I have done this dye job once before, but didn’t document it very well so figured I would have a virtual record of it this go round.

Dyeing fibres with onion skins is amazingly simple.  You don’t need any mordants (Che icals that affix the dye particles to the fibres) and you can use your regular kitchen utensils (but, if you are going to use other plant based dyes or chemical dyes, you must have a separate set of utensils so as not to contaminate and possibly make yourself very ill!) and it’s one of the few plant based dyes that don’t stink up the kitchen.

Next up, save onion skins, the dry outer layers only.  If you eat a lot of onions, it doesn’t take long, but if you don’t,  ask family to save them for your or ask your grocer if he will give you the remnants in the onion bins.  It took me about 9 months to save these two amounts here.
Studio_20171005_152418I separated them by colour, having more of the red, but still a huge amount of both.  In a large pot (2 pots, one for each colour), bring skins to a boil, then simmer for a couple hours.  Turn heat off and let cool overnight.  Next day, strain skins out and you are ready to dye!

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Add presoaked (in water) yarns or cotton/linen/silk fabrics and slowly bring the temp up to 170F.  Make sure the pots have lots of water/dye so that the fibres have room to move freely around.  Don’t stir, swirl or vigorously poke animal fibres or you will felt them.  Just let them sit and do their thing.  Once up to temp, hold that temp for about an hour.  Turn heat off and let cool overnight.

Remove skeins from the dye bath, rinse and wash and hang to dry.  If there is still lots of Colour left in the dye bath,  add another skein of yarn and repeat the process.  The colour will be paler than the first, but still give a good shade, this is called an exhaust bath.

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Above skeins are (left to right): red skins-1st bath, red skins-exhaust bath, yellow skins-exhaust bath, yellow skins-1st bath

You can modify the colours using different modifiers,  ie vinegar, ammonia, or just using an iron pot.  I ended up with the green skein using the red onion skins but using filtered lake water.  Our lake has a lot of iron in it and therefore it reacted with the red onion skin and produced a nice shade of green.  Strangely, it didn’t affect the yellow onion skins.

I have a few more skeins to dye using black Walnut husks, which will compliment these skeins nicely in a planned woven rug, so stay tuned!

Deborah

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September KAL (Knit Along)

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For those knitters and fibre enthusiasts out there, you know the feeling of completing a KAL with a great bunch of like minded folk. For those that aren’t into fibre-arts, you are missing out!

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For the month of September,  I signed up to knit a shawl for a KAL group on Ravelry, which by the way, if you are not a part of and you are a fibre geek, then I suggest you head over pronto to sign up (its free) and you will then have access to oodles of patterns from mitts to socks to hats to sweaters and blankets in every style,  for every age, and most are free patterns!

Anyway, back to the KAL.

The group I am a part of is called the DIY & DYE, where we spin, dye and knit our creations from raw fleece.  I joined in with some alpaca that I had spun and hand-painted and included a commercial skein of yarn in a contrasting neon peach colour.

The pattern was somewhat simple, but it still took some concentration after making a….design element, yes we call mistakes “design elements”.  Aside from the impromptu changes to the pattern, I finished the project just one day outside of September, even with life getting in the way.

The pattern, called “Metalouse” by Stephen West (a well known knit designer in the knitting world) features a striking pattern created by slipped stitches in a contrasting colour that melds beautifully with the variegated handspun alpaca.

I simply love how this turned out and have another one planned very soon.  Have you been a part of a KAL or CAL (crochet along) or even a WAL (weave along)? If so, I would love to see your creations, feel free to tell me all about them or link your projects below!

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Fuerig The Baby Alpaca

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I really wish I could have met Fuerig in person.  With his glossy black locks and cool demeanor, I could envision him strutting around the paddock like a camelid version of Fabio, beckoning to the ladies housed in the next pasture over with a “hello gorgeous, come here often?” line.

Since the owner sold him for breeding stock before I arrived at the ranch, the next best thing was to acquire 2 of his fleeces.  The first fleece being his ”cria” fleece (cria is what a baby alpaca is called) with a 4 1/2″ long staple length and slight crimp, the lustrous jet black locks are incredibly soft and as fine as angora bunny fur.  Unfortunately it is full of VM (vegetable matter) and the processing mill had sent it back as they didn’t want to deal with all that VM.  I figure I have plenty of time to painstakingly pick out bits of hay knowing full well that the end product will be well worth the effort.

DSC05876The second fleece was from his next (2nd) shearing, it still needs a light skirting as well as a bath but it is currently housed in an airtight tote bin while I finish processing his baby fleece. I have big plans for both fleeces, but first I was itching to spin some of the baby fleece as its reputation of being an exceptionally soft fiber is prized by knitters the world over.

For those that have yet to spin alpaca (or other camelid) fibers, the weight and feel of alpaca yarns are nothing like that of yarn made with sheep’s wool.  Wool fiber ranges from rough to ultra soft, depending on the breed, they have somewhat denser locks but with a distinct bouncy feel.  Alpacas don’t bounce, they just lay flat out on the ground and snooze and their fiber feels exactly the same, heavy and with great draping qualities.

10351730_10152717633959054_2321268615927224487_nAfter a week of picking, washing and drying, the silky black locks were ready for further processing.  I automatically chose to use my hand cards for this one over the drum carder for two reasons.  First being the drum carder was up north at the cottage and I and the fleece were not and two, the fineness and length of the staples called for a delicate hand while carding so as not to damage or break the fibers.  Combing could have been another option for processing, if I had a pair of hand combs that is, but I don’t, so hand cards are the weapon of choice.

I spent a wet and dreary Saturday afternoon picking and carding 2 ounces of fiber to spin for a test skein.  Once prepped into rolags, I divided the batch in half and eagerly sat down with my antique Nova Scotian wheel and got to work.  Wow, this fiber spun with ease.  So soft and silky and at times a little slippery, but it was a real pleasure to spin, with the exception of stopping to pick VM out occasionally.

I wanted the finished yarn to feel as close to commercially spun baby alpaca yarn as possible.  Once your fingers touch one of those soft, squooshy and smooshy hanks of yarn, it’s impossible to put it back down and next thing you know it’s in your shopping bag and your wallet is noticeably lighter.  So the trick to getting that baby soft feel is to keep as little twist to the yarn as possible.  Only add enough twist to hold the single together if you are keeping it as a single.  If you are plying with 2 or more singles, then add a tich more twist, being careful not to add too much though or you will end up with a skein of kitchen twine.  Desirable only if you have a turkey to truss.

After I spun a few meters, I pulled a length of the single back off the bobbin and plied it against itself for a sample.  Perfect.  It was turning out exactly as I envisioned.  It was about a light fingering weight for the 2-ply, but that will most likely change with wet finishing, so for now I cut that off and added it to my control card and then spent the next day spinning up a couple bobbins, each holding an ounce of fiber.  I let the bobbins rest for a day, and then plied them together into a gorgeous hank of jet black, shiny yarn.

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I ended up with 177 yards out of the 2 ounces of fiber and after a wash and set at the salon, the yarn bloomed to 12 wpi, about a DK weight yarn.  I was aiming for Fingering weight, but overall was happy with it as the intended project is a shawl and gauge isn’t terribly important in shawls.

With the test skein of Fuerig’s cria fleece complete, I need to finalize what shawl pattern to use.  Normally I spin for an already chosen project, like my Fert & Palladin Alpaca Throw Blanket (http://www.ournorthernhomestead.com/meet-fert-and-palladin), but acquiring this fleece at the last minute left me with no time to search for the right pattern beforehand.  I was also somewhat affected by the ‘oooo shiny’ syndrome of wanting to play with the fleece immediately after obtaining it.  I am sure a lot of fiber enthusiasts out there can relate or attest to the reality of the ‘oooo shiny’ syndrome, it often afflicts even the most disciplined fiber-holic.

Now it’s time to cruise the internet halls of Ravelry, window shopping for shawls from the comfort of my arm chair with a cup of tea in hand, then back to finish spinning up the rest of Fuerig’s fleece…… unless the ‘oooo shiny’ syndrome strikes again.

Deborah

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