Monday, January 31, 2011

deep freeze

As I am writing this at 1:13 am (why yes, I am a night owl), the temperature is -35 C (-31 F) with a windchill of -46 C (-50.8 F). Thankfully the cold snap isn't supposed to last too long. Warmer temps are forecast for Wednesday. Good. This is ridiculously cold. It makes a person want to just crawl into bed and hibernate until it ends.

Even though I haven't been posting much lately, I have been keeping busy. Shuttleworks had a sale on Louet products and I was itching to try a venerable S10 DT so I bought one.

My intent was to use it for plying so that I would have easy treadling with the Irish tension (bobbin led) and be able to get into a rhythm for consistency. As much as I like my espinners, I find that I have an easier time gaining plying consistency when my feet and hands are co-ordinated. In order to gain speed for plying fine high-twist yarn, I ordered a couple of fast bobbins in addition to the regular ones that came with the wheel.

I didn't really think that I would fall madly in love with the S10 but I have. It's a truck but it does its job amazingly well! I quite like the kate that comes with the wheel too.

Here it's plying some Shunklies Humbug BFL for sock yarn.

I liked the Humbug BFL a lot too so bought some from International Fleeces to play with dyeing. Here it is with the finished Shunklies yarn.

I have some lovely Cotswold locks from Wooly Wool of the West in my stash. I scoured and dyed some to play with boucle singles a la Judith MacKenzie.
After a bit of practice I was able to get the hang of spinning a thin core yarn with my back three fingers against my palm and using the thumb and forefinger with the other hand to pull out teased locks to wrap around the core. It's pretty fast once your hands "get it" and yields an art yarn that is quite usable as a single. It's light but strong.

(The Roberta package is for sale again if you are interested. The price has been reduced to $1100 including shipping within Canada and to the US.)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

a family picture plus one

I decided to take a picture of my spindle collection. I've been steadily accumulating spindles over the last couple of years and I love them dearly.

I rounded up all the strays that were tucked into project bags and set them all in pottery mugs and a jug. We had an exceptionally beautiful day today, not a common occurrence in January to say the least (it was less than a week ago that we were in the deep freeze), so I was able to take the picture in the sunroom (it was actually room temperature out there in the sunshine this afternoon!!*).

Aren't they lovely?

As I set about putting them all back where they started from I came across my beloved Bosworth Moosie. How could I have taken a spindle photo shoot and not noticed its absence? So Moosie gets its own picture like the star of the show.

*Days like today remind me of reading C. S. Lewis' "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe" to the kids where it was always winter and never Christmas while the White Witch controlled Narnia. Today felt like Aslan was on the move and winter was starting its transformation into spring. Of course, days like today are anomalies and there is no doubt that winter is about to smack us all upside the head again soon enough.

Friday, January 14, 2011

a little happy camper

Normally, Bentley doesn't like it when I spin because I won't let him sit on my lap while I treadle the wheel. He is very happy when I spin on the Hansen miniSpinner though because my lap is available.

Notice the tongue poking out of his mouth as he snoozes.
He is a very entertaining dog.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

combing merino

I bought a lovely merino fleece from Jean Near a while back and was at my wit's end over how to deal with it. Apparently I'm not the only one who has had this problem - a quick check on Ravelry revealed a number of people who have sworn off processing merino fleeces at home.

I didn't have any trouble washing it. Lots of very hot water and some Ecos HE laundry detergent (my new secret weapon for scouring fleeces) worked great, better than Orvus, dish detergent, or the specialty wool scours that I've tried.

Merino is a short fiber that doesn't lend itself to being combed with most wool combs. It's very fine and pills up if you look at the wrong way. Flick carding it to remove the vegetable matter resulted in many nicks to my fingers. I had resorted to hand picking it and then carding it but still got a lot of nepps in the batts.
I wasn't happy with the results and was starting to regret buying the fleece.

That all changed when I got the new Valkyrie Extra Fine combs. I already had the Valkyrie Mini combs and like them a lot for most of my combing so decided to try the extra fine ones. They are perfect for fine, short fibers like merino.
Mini comb on the left and extra fine comb on the right. I like to use both with the comb pad. These are not really mini combs; they're substantial and sturdy, especially the extra fine ones.

I clamped the comb pad securely to my kitchen counter which is a perfect height for me. Finding a really sturdy table is very important for the extra fine combs. There is a lot of resistance to the comb due to the narrowly spaced teeth.

I was able to fill the comb about 2/3 full of fiber.
I spritzed a mix of water with a bit of baby oil in it and then starting combing just the tips, working slowly up to the comb, then transferring the fiber from the working comb back to the stationary comb in the same way. I could get more nice fiber if I used my other hand to help pull the last of the long bits with the working comb. There was a lot of waste but about half of it was free enough of vm to save for future carding projects.

Here is what was left after a few passes-
beautifully uniform and silky merino.

I dizzed it off and coiled it into a little nest of super soft, perfect sliver.

Here is what I had after a few hours of work. I weighed these little nests and found that I had only produced 29 grams or about an ounce. It's definitely not a fast way to produce fiber but the results are exquisite!

Saturday, January 01, 2011

happy new year!

Yet another You Tube video but such a lovely one. I'm showing my age again but I love ABBA.

We saw the new year in with our good friends Rhonda and Al and my sister Darcie and family. Dan and I have spent every New Year's Eve but one with Rhonda and Al for about 30 years. We are blessed to have such dear friends. It's always a nice quiet evening, very comfortable and laid-back, with a casual supper and board games. Even Darcie and Dallas' kids Christopher and Katie made it to midnight last night for the first time.

Happy New Year everyone! May 2011 bring peace and tolerance to the world.