Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Finally something worth blogging about. I got a call this morning (early for me, probably not for him) from one of my Polwarth breeders I wrote to and he told me that yes he does have fleeces. Not only does he hold a few fleeces back, but they are his show fleeces so they are going to be the best. Goody! I promised to call him when we get closer to the date.

That date is more certain now because I have confirmation from the Australian National University's School of Arts that the textile unit is going to hold their night class in weaving in the first term of 2007. 15 weeks of classes on Weds nights and is open to absolute beginners and I can bring my own loom and learn how to use it. I am excited not only because I have a small stash of weaving materials, but this a craft that I can see a lot going wrong if you don't know what your doing. Not that I know when I am going to find time in the scheme of things. It will be a good place to use handspun as well.

Speaking of which I have filled my mini Bosworth spindle with camel down singles and have wound them off on my ball winder. There seems to be a lot of strongly held but conflicting information on what to do with handspindled singles. I am going to try winding them onto a TP roll on my ball winder and ply them on the Roberta. At least some people do that so it's something in my comfort zone. It is really hard to stop myself spindling. I am keeping my nose to the grindstone of J's cardigan just so I can move on sometime to a different project. I always get a mid-project slump where I lose interest as the novelty wears off the the light at the end of the tunnel is distant.

This week's fibre delivery was dark grey shetland roving from Esthers's Place (in Big Rock, Ill.) which is absolutely gorgeous. It's called "Gray Flannel" and is luscious. She tucked in samples of ther other fibres and the Cormo is really nice and the Navaho Churro much softer than others I have felt. I have never actually felt pure Angora before and it certainly is soft. I've hear about the flyaway nature of the beast so I think I'll buy it already blended. The 50/50 Cheviot lamb and mohair looks like it would make good socks.

While surfing around looking for free patterns I found this on Crystal Palace's web site and, since I picked up 2 balls of Choo-choo (in pink) in the states last year, I thought that 6 more balls wouldn't break the bank so I ordered them from The Knitting shack which actually does not charge any shipping fees even to ship to Australia. I will certainly be back. Brenda had a link to a one-ball Noro hat pattern but I haven't been able to contact the pattern owner to buy it yet. As with many, Noro is just too expensive to consider for a full projuect (I saw an afghan that called for 21 balls of Noro) but a one ball hat is more like it. I bought a couple of Knitting Pure and Simple patterns especially the top down zip front number (not the bulky one) since I want to do top-down and I'd like somebody to hold my hand while I do it.

It continues to be beastly hot. Heat makes me sleepy. I made mango jam this morning since the Bear brought me a tray of mangos on Sunday. And the berries are starting to ripen so I see more jam on the horizon as soon as I get more sugar. Everyone raves over my jams which I don't see as special except they are made from absolutley fresh fruit. Since I use Sure-jell and not the old-fashioned boil-it-to-death technique which is the norm here, folks find it miraculous that my jam doesn't taste caramelized. The mixed berry is very popular as is zucchini pickle relish.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

No text right now but I'll shower you with piccies. Left the back of J's cardigan. I've started the sleeves, had a crisis interpreting the instructions, now know what they are saying, and blithely knitted thru Pirates of the Carribean not following said instructions. Frog. Right is the last purchase of cotton sock yarn. The Regia from ebay and the Sockotta from the Yarn Barn. I think I have enough to keep my feet happy and since I have the Landsend mesh shoes to wear in summer my feet don't have to have socks on. P.S. they are on sale in their overstocks page. Mine are the slip-ons, not the ones with laces (I have high arches and laces hit me in the wrong place)
Right below are the red Jawoll socks with red toes where I ran out of yarn, centre are the grey socks for the Bear and left is the inkle loom warped. I have been given guidance by the spiiners group to spray the warp with hairspray to stop it sticking to itself.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Pardon a small intermission in our regularly scheduled programming. I fell in the garden again on Monday afternoon and it really knocked the wind out of my sails. This time the Bear was home and eventually heard me yelling for help and came out and untangled me. I have felt very out of it and hurt all over since then so I will have to recover a bit more. No permanent harm done, just bruises. It's also very hot and very windy which makes me nervous after the bushfires we had a few years ago.

Monday, November 20, 2006

If you happen to read my blog in the past few days or this week, the weather pixie should have clued you in to the fact that summer has suddenly arrived. When I just looked it was 31C and 10% humidity. Welcome to summer in the nation's capital. This was the reason I didn't do something garden wise I meant to on the weekend, but instead bribed the Bear into moving his power-tool table/workbench out of the dining room by cleaning out the garage which was on my to-do list for some time. It was too hot to be out in the sun any way. I tried again to plant stuff on Sunday and it was even hotter so I retreated until the garden was mostly in shade. The possums are eating the tips off the berry branches so they got a spray of animal repellant. I eventually replaced 2 tomatoes that the frost killed and planted a few climbing limas. This is a trial run. Climbers are the only ones I can get here and let's hope they are edible when young, not just as dried beans. Another larger planting will follow as will replacing the cucumbers that succumbed to the last frost. How can you go from frost to 30C in the space of a week? The peas are over, the asparagus is done but strawberries are in and some of the "mixed berries" in prime territory are even starting to redden up.

I started knitting one of the sleeves for J's cardigan, knit some on the Bear's grey sox and spun some dragon hair. The inkle loom is warped (photo to follow) but I'm having trouble opening the shed because the wool wants to stick to itself. Research into methods to mitigate this problem is underway; apparently it is a common problem.

Friday, November 17, 2006

This was supposed to be the week I had off so I could get all sorts of things done: fibre work and garden work. Well, it's Friday and I have done precious little beyond the normal stuff of laundry and cleaning. I am sorta bummed out about that because I wonder if this is how retirement will go. I do have some mitigating circumstances. We have had the wildest weather in years. Sydney yesterday had it's lowest November temp in 101 years. We've had frosts twice this week. Before that we actually had a solid day of rain (accompanied by high winds). So a lot of the planting out of the tender crops like melons and limas did not happen and I may have to replace some tomatoes. We still had peas and I picked a small-ish bowl of strawberries. In general it's been incredibly windy due to a southerly change giving us a blast from Antarctica (while icebergs head towards New Zealand) which is not a common weather pattern for the second half of November.

Fibre work has seen the red socks finished (haven't sewn in ends yet) and a pair for The Bear started in Regia which is broadish stripes of shades of grey with a single row of fair isle white dots separating them. I have finished the back of J's cardigan. I spent Weds morning dyeing English Leicester because I have decided to weave a tote-type bag on the inkle loom. I was trying to think of something that wouldn't require 17 different dye batches and I could weave simply and remembered the idea of sewing bands together side by side to make a bag. I dyed 2 large skeins of EL (I always forget to measure or document anything) sorta randomly in Gaywool & Landscape dyes in Ice (which I thought was to be green going by the label but was actually blue), Tanbark, Fern, and Salmon Gum (diluted). I was hoping for a pinker tone from the Salmon gum by diluting it by about half but it's still pretty salmony. I dyed an smaller skein solid salmon for weft. I have 2 more large skeins of EL undyed. Of course I forgot to take photos of the yarn until I was winding it onto the ball winder so you'll have to wait till the loom is warped to see the colours. They are not stunning colours but I view this as an experiment in technique. I have more EL both unwashed and un-spun plus the kilo on bobbins from Long tops to I see more in the future. I carded a few batts of the grey formerly-filthy now-gossamer wool and need to try spinning some to see if these batts are spinnable or whether I need to do more fibre prep (flick-carding) before the drum carding. I tried keeping locks intact but they don't always stay that way through the carder. Still very soft. Looks like clouds thinking about raining.

Yesterday I went in for the NLA's social event of the rose & craft & food show as I was asked to demonstrate spinning again. Some people ignored me completely and some badgered me half to death about things I know nothing about (I do not know how to crochet and I can't teach you). But it was encouraging to see the division head and my group head both taking a close look at what I did perhaps understanding a little about my life outside work. Most people had never seen an electric spinning wheel or a handspindle so explaining the different kinds of fibre and what results you get (I spun the Dragon Hair on the Roberta and still adding to the copp of camel hair on the Bosworth). I hope to warp the inkle loom before I go back to work. Today my car is being serviced but I've given up on getting a newer one. I can put up with another year with this one, especially when the quote to fix a dent 2" long (if that) on the hatch lid was $1500.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

I seem to have not had two seconds to rub together lately. I've been doing exciting things like vacuuming, washing the kitchen floor, ironing, planting out 8 more tomato plants (bringing the total to 16 which seems a bit excessive when I think about it). All I have left to plant is the melons and limas and since the only limas I could get here are climbers I have to figure out the right place for them. The peas are almost done so that leaves some nice sunny spots for melons. As I mentioned before, I love watching things grow and I love having veggies that were growin in the ground minutes earlier. I have to grow some monster zucchini because I have several friends addicted to my zucchini pickle relish. And tomatoes are pretty much unlimited on my diet. (not gloating, I have lost 10 kg)

This week's fibre purchase was Dragon hair from Lady Guenhwar which is gorgeous reds (call Garnet Dragon and no longer on her website). It have a bit of Firestar in it which I am not all that keen on but seems to be really popular these days so we'll see how it spins up.

When I did the laundry I discovered that The Bear is actually wearing thru the nylon reinforced toes and heels of yet another pair of socks. He tends to put one pair in the wash and immediately put back on the pair I just washed. I found the navy speckled ones in his drawer un-worn while he wears out other ones faster than I can knit them. So I went at the red socks for me with gusto and turned the heel on the second one last night. I got out some grey Regia which I bought as 50 gm balls when it was really 100 gm so I will have plenty for him without making not matching toes.

Then I could not find another set of size 1 DPNs. I had broken ones of 2 sets (see earlier post) so I bopped off online to buy more. I tried being a good little vegemite and buy in Australia but if there's somebody out there with bamboo DPNs in stock they are hiding it. It does me no good to think you have some in your store in Melbourne when it's Friday night in Canberra. I Googled, I looked at many web sites. Many won't ship outside the lower 48. One looked absolutely perfect (they even had cotton sock yarn) until I reached checkout and found they charged $35US to ship to Australia. For 2 sets of needles and a ball of sock yarn. I don't think so. So I spent another half an hour till I found somebody who actually shipped by weight. I will not rant again about shipping to Australia. I know we seem very exotic to Americans but we live in houses just like you and have husbands mowing the lawn (as I speak) and we get mail delivered just like you do. Brenda in Cast-on was talking about the global village of knitters and for kniting merchandisers to realize the world has changed and if they don't have an online presence, they are doomed. I can't agree strongly enough. Everything I buy except what I find at the sheep show or on occasion Lincraft, I buy online. I have no source for bamboo DPNs here. Most US or European yarn that is for sale here is double what it costs overseas. I know businesses have to make a profit but I simple won't but Opal sock yarn for $30 a ball (plus shipping which costs the earth here) when I can find in on ebay for half that, including shipping. Which is why I have packages arriving almost daily with fibre in them. I have no other means of getting the stuff I want.

I also was very brave and sent an actually writng on paper and put in an envelope with a stamp on it letter to 2 wool growers near Bendigo who are listed with the Aussie Polwarth sheep association asking if they sold fleeces to handspinners. That generally is the way to get fibre in quantity if you didn't see it at the sheep show. I also heard via the local grapevine that someone is setting up a mini-mill in NSW with prices half that of Longtops. Goodie.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Two lots of ebay Tussah silk roving arrived yesterday, one coral rose and the other turquoise/purple/blue. Spinning silk is another thing I intend to learn on the spindle. Meanwhile I am still spinning camel down. I even took it on a fire drill the other day and had a few moments of spinning instead of wasted time standing around in a car park. I try to spin a little after my lunch as well. It's still going to take a long time to spin 100 gms of camel down. It's like fluff with no staple that I can see.

Four more bags of fleece have been washed. I think I'll start to card some of what has been washed. I started out with almost 2 kg of raw fleece, so there is plenty to go around and I think I'll overdye it when spun.

My new BBBB is His Majesty's Spanish flock
: Sir Joseph Banks and the merinos of George III of England by H. B. Carter. I am increasingly interested in the agricultural side of sheep and why and how they have been bred and used through time. The beginning of this book covers the state of the English wool industry in the 18th century, which is not one of those things I know a lot about but ties in nicely with the breed swap being done through the spinning list. In doing my research for that I found that Karakuls, about which there is an article in this issue of Wild Fiber, are quite well represented in WA. Perhaps they mistake it for Uzbekhistan.

I have been spending a great deal of time and angst thinking about buying a new (or newer) car. There is nothing inherently wrong with my current car except that it is 8 years old and I want more safety features and things like power windows. I am due to test drive a new car tomorrow but I am currently leaning towards getting a newer Corolla with more bells and whistles. I have the primp up the old one before I can cross that bridge but I have already given it new tires and have it booked for service. Of course, just at this point in time I manage to encounter a pole in the NLA car park and shatter the plastic cover on the front turn signal.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

I have been caught up in the daily grind and not posted. Doing things like laundry, ironing, vacuuming, not eating, etc. I also seem to have my diurnal clock shifting. I am no longer tired at normal bedtime. It's not insomnia. If I go to bed (with the normal dosages of pills) I sleep (and wake up in horrible pain but that's the way every day starts). I just seem to be going to bed later and later without feeling sleepy up to that point. Hence it's midnight and I'm still awake when ordinarily I'd be sound asleep by now.

Here is one of my spindles, the Bosworth mini, with some of my first truly lace weight luxury fibre, camel down.
This fibre is truly "down"; I can see no draftable length of anything but somehow it holds together via the magic of a spindle. I would never be able to get this to spin on my Roberta, or I might but only after many naughty words, much ruined fibre, and a great feelings of inadequacy. The beauty of spindle spinning with a fibre like this is you have total control over the drafting and twisting process at a minute level. I imagine if you were spinning something more straightforward like a wool with a reasonable staple length, you could easily learn to do it without even looking, and walking around spinning would be possible. For now I think I will reserve my spindles for luxury fibres that I can't spin any other way and perhaps sock yarns because I have not gotten the fineness of commercial sock yarn under my control reliably on the Roberta. We'll see how the spindle works out. I will have to disagree with those spindle makers who feel that putting a notch in the edge ruins the perfect symmetry and balance of a spindle. I love the notch and my first spindle, which had none, also had a habit of having the fibre sliding off mid spin (it also has a round hook which makes that even easier). I really have no interest in fancily painted or designed spindles. Some of the Goldings are quite pretty but since I want a light weight top whorl spindle (and everyone said the Bosworths were the best), I won't be buying any fancy painted ones.

On a lighter note, while shopping today I was staring into the shop in the Canberra Centre which carries all manner of Aussie souvenirs, gifts, doo-dads and art work and found Christmas tree ornaments. Since I usually have to buy things a year ahead because by the time I need to mail stuff the Christmas stuff hasn't appeared yet, I swooped on some adorable Aussie animal ornaments. The Bear insisted we have a wombat (sentimental attachment to the wombat) and I thought an echidna should stay with us too. Got the standard animal icons (koala, etc.) to send overseas and some special ones for special people. They also had an entire calendar of wombats which of course we had to get and proceeds go to saving orphaned womabts.