Friday, July 30, 2010

Fiber Journey and Where the Road is Taking Me

When I started knitting, I thought I'd never spin, crochet, dye fiber, or weave. I would have been shocked to find that I now do all but weave and even that might be something on my fiber horizon.

This last year, with so many changes happening in my life, and with my daughter nearly ready to fly the coop and go off to college, I've been trying to prepare for her departure by pouring my heart and my FINGERS into kicking out crocheted Granny Squares for her college afghan. I now have completed about 65 squares and I think Elysbeth has done about 30 - so that should be enough for me to start rapidly crocheting those squares together to get it done in time to send off with her in just a few short weeks.

In the meantime, I must also confess that my fiber road has led me to get one more wheel. Yes, I bought a Merlin Tree Roadbug. It's a little travel wheel perfect for carting around when I don't want to lug my otherwise PERFECT Mach II wheel by Spinolution. It is really small, works wonderfully, and weighs only 9 lbs.

In short, my fiber journey has led me further and further along the spinning road. Making my own yarn has been a total fascination and one in which I intend to indulge even more as my desire to buy storebought/commercial yarn has ebbed to the point where I hardly ever go into a yarn shop anymore. Instead, I am enjoying producing my own yarn and now knitting with it. Here is my lastest yarn I've made from this fiber, purchased a few months ago at the Sunflower Guild fiber fair.

So now I'm knitting with this yarn I just finishing spinning (see above). It's a 2-ply worsted weight yarn that turned out pretty good, if I do say so myself.

I am finding that knitting with yarn that I produced myself is so much more satisfying than any yarn I can buy in a store. Happy sigh.

Friday, July 23, 2010

My Dyeing Day

I decided to take a Friday off to just veg out and PLAY with fiber. So since I've been putting off dyeing - don't know why, but I think it's because I'm a klutz and I'm scared of dyeing my kitchen countertop or floor by accident. But I summoned my courage, and a lot of protective plastic. Today was a real scorching hot day, seemed like the perfect day to dye some fiber outside on a throwaway tablecloth.

Started out by soaking the fiber in a water/white vinegar solution so it would soak up the dye well.

Then I carefully mixed Knitpicks acid dyes (dry in cannisters) with water into small jars. The colors used this time were burnt orange, vermillion and emerald green, but on these fibers, I just soaked them for a little while outside in jars in the sun, and didn't leave them long enough. Think maybe I got impatient? Anyway, they came out pale and EHHHHH. I've actually gotten better results from Kool Aid dyeing before. This is how the outside method turned out:

And then I tried one inside, in the crockpot with just the burnt orange, brown and fire red combined in one pot. I tried to keep three distinct sections, but they ended up sort of melding together. Still I LOVE the effect. I am calling this "Fire on the Canyon." Now I wish I'd dyed up a whole bunch more of it.

There's still a big learning curve. I want to learn how to combine and make multi-colors in one roving. Will have to study up and keep practicing.

All in all, spinning is way more relaxing and fun than dyeing, but I like the roving and it may be worth trying again, especially in the crockpot.

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Musical Find - Pandora

I've been so busy and distracted lately, I nearly forgot that my word this year was "Find." But in my need to calm my nerves and relieve anxiety about changes at work, I decided to find a music station that I could stream through the Internet and wouldn't have to to think too much about. I used to do that through my Sirius Radio but they don't let you do it anymore without charging extra. Forget that. I'm not paying extra for music. And I don't have time to fool with selecting and loading my favorite tunes onto an MP3 player. So I searched and FOUND a wonderful alternative. It's called Pandora.

Since I have ecletic musical taste, it's hard to find just one radio station that contains it all. But with this Pandora system, it KNOWS or learns that I LOVE folk music, such as Donovan, Carole King, James Taylor, Peter Paul and Mary, the 1960's type of folk; as well as the new Indie Music like Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Combine that with that fact that I dig R&B, some Blues, lots of 1970's music, Motown classics and some good ole Frank Sinata. It "knows" that I don't like Bob Dylan, can live two lifetimes without Elvis. It just has me pegged amazingly well and fast. It's like magic. Weird.

So you want to give it a try too? You can start by going to that Pandora link (above), then entering one or a series of your favorite music groups and/or songs. The free audio starts streaming and as you like/dislike songs that it picks for you based upon the favorites you've listed, the software finds other artists and/or songs that have similar musical qualities you might like. I have been LOVING this system and after trying it for a week, the software is refining itself to my tastes more and more. I am finding such wonderful music without having to mix it myself.

Music especially tailored and customized for your listening pleasure. Amazing. Try it and you may be pleasantly surprised too.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Finding the Perfect Summer Read

We are all pressed for time. And booklovers are always looking for that great summer read. Is it really possible to answer only 10 quick questions in a quiz and get a book selection just right for you?

Well I was skeptical at first, but figured, "What do I have to lose?" I took this online quiz put out by Oprah's website and they suggested I read:

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender. It's about Rose Edelstein who discovers at age 8 that she can taste feelings in food - lonely pie, adulterous roast beef, resentment soup - whatever angst or elation the cook is feeling. This is a coming of age novel about a wacky girl in a wacky stew of a family and how, through the help of an adorable science whiz friend of hers, she begins to make human connections by finding others who believe in her. She gains confidence to believe in herself. According to reviewer Kristy Davis, "The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake" (Doubleday encourages us all to make the most of our unique gifts while still finding a way to live in the so-called real world." Sounds like a good book indeed for me to read. Note: I'm not recommending this book to others yet as I have not read it myself - I'm just moving it near the top of my "books to read" list. So I can't vouch for it yet. Will let you know later.

Here's one that I CAN heartily recommend. The Help by Kathleen Stockett. I'm in the midst of experiencing it right now. It's not just a "good read" - it's one of those you fall into and truly experience. It is just as fantastic as people have predicted. I LOVE it. Am listening to it as CDs in the car and it is so wonderful and well narrated that I find myself making excuses to make extra trips so I can listen to just a bit more. Ha!

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Groovy Granny Squares

The photo is Carol at the Shep Shed, my favorite online place to buy fiber, she's bagging up a big mound of fiber that I'd love to jump into right now. In fact, I just placed an order from their Grab Bag section this morning and hopefully will have more fiber to dye and play with in a few days. If you haven't ever bought anything from there, check them out. There's even a Ravelry Group where Carol posts about her specials and people discuss what they do with her mill ends. If you order from her, you don't always have much choice in the grab bags, but I've ended up with some nice stuff and it's always a fun fiber surprise. Just what I need right now. A fiber fix. Yes!

I've been so excited about spinning, especially since getting my new wheel. I even got out my Fancy Kitty drum carder and made some batts the other day (unfortunately mine doesn't have the brush attachment yet, but I've been thinking I might get one eventually. I neeed to start dyeing while the weather is hot out and I can dry fiber outside in the hot sun. The lady who sold me my wheel is a real fiber artist - she does everything, drum carding, knitting, dyeing, crocheting, weaving. Anyway, she got me inspired to want to do all those things. Yippee!

Unfortunately I don't have much time to do the things I want to dabble in. I'd love to just take 3 days off in the middle of the week some time and play in fiber pursuits. Hey, maybe I will do that in the Fall when the weather gets cooler. Sounds wonderful, doesn't it?

Things are really tense at work right now. Major shakeup and changes. So coming home to spinning at night has been a real godsend! Thank goodness I meditate and spin regularly. Now I just need to do Yoga more often and I'd be even better. I've been stress eating lately and haven't been exercising enough.

Another thing I've been doing is working on Emily's Granny Square Afghan. I'm now up to 20 (6" X 6") squares. I think I need about 90-100 of them or so to make the size afghan I'm wanting. She leaves for college at the end of August, so I need to continue pumping out Granny Squares. As you can see, I am finishing the last round in green each time so that my crocheting or stitching them together will be easier and won't show the stitching as much. I'm planning on trying to knit or crochet a block in the center with her school's logo in the middle. Green and White are her school colors.

Now off to work. Sigh.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Doing the Spinning Wheel Shuffle

Well, remember a while back I said that I was THINKING ABOUT switching wheels? Well this week, I did!

I decided to just put out some feelers on Ravelry and on the Kromski group list to see if anyone might want to buy my Kromski Sonata. Unfortunately, I got no immediate local interest. But several out-of-town spinners were interested. After being offered 2 male Alpaca geldings in trade by a woman interested in my Kromski for her daughter, I decided that in my suburban neighborhood, those Alpacas just wouldn't fit in. If they peeked their cute, furry little heads over my neighbor's fence, he'd freak out. Even though my husband said he wouldn't mind a break from cutting the grass, the alpacas could eat it - I'd have to shovel the droppings. So no, that wouldn't quite work.

Luckily a lady from the Dallas area was looking for a Sonata for her birthday. Funny, I got this Sonata for MY birthday. So she ended up being the buyer who got my wheel and I mailed it off to her Friday night.

So then I went on a wheel search. I'd been thinking about several different ones, as you know. I ended up getting a really good deal on a Mach II wheel by Spinolution from a dealer here in Missouri who needs to sell hers in order to get the new Mach III when it comes out. This wheel says "Mach I" on the back, but the dealer did all the upgrades to make it a Mach II. So it's a Mach II in terms of function.

I was sorely tempted by the smaller (portable) Spinolution Bee, but decided that I need a good all-around workhouse wheel first before I get tempted by another portable.

If I like the Spinolution enough, who knows, I might eventually get the Bee also. But for now, my Mach (which weighs 22 pounds) does not fold up, but it comes with a travel strap and wheels, so it can be pulled pretty easily and effortlessly if I'm walking down the sidewalk etc.

This wheel is not nearly as PRETTY as my Sonata was, but hey, I need high functioning much more than pretty at this point. So the utilitarian nature of the Mach attracted me more than the pretty. In fact, when the huge bobbins are stored on the side, the wheel looks (to me) like a space alien, with a bobbin nose in the middle. This wheel looks like a portly but reliable man to me - or again, quirky like maybe a space alien. Various men's names are running around in my head . . . Henry, or Oscar? Any ideas will be considered.

I was able to make this trade and did it without investing extra $$$. So though I might eventually get the "dream wheel" that combines function AND appearance, right now I'm very happy with the switch. The Mach spins like a DREAM. The treadling is so easy I hardly move a toe and it spins everything from lace weight to art yarn. Yay!!!

Pardon me, but I've got to go spin now. Love, love, love.