Monday, November 16, 2009

Blog neglect

The winds of change are upon us. Upon me actually. Hence the blog neglect. Without going into detail, suffice it to say I will be moving into the field of dog training in the upcoming months, and music teaching will become a part time occupation. This seemingly came out of nowhere, yet lots of things precipitated it - the economy and its affects on my school, the changes my school is going through and the fact that I no longer fit in/agree, seriously decreased passion for teaching, discovering that passion resurrected in dog training, and other things.

My last day teaching full time is next Wednesday, after which I will teach here part time, pursue my business in dog training, and do other part time jobs to fill the gaps. Alpacas and fiber arts will still hold an important place in my life, even more so now that I will have more time to be with the animals and to work on my fiber arts.

Meanwhile, here's a pic of our new addition, Simon. Sorry, he's not an alpaca, but he's still cute.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Devi is now a hat.

Well, not really. It's her fiber that is finally in a truly finished state, as fiber is meant to be. I've been on a bit of a head wear knitting kick recently. Unfortunately, since spinning takes of more of the little free time I have than knitting does, it takes me forever to finish a project. I made a tam from my first skein of hand spun alpaca, which I bought from North Star Alpacas Etsy Shop.
The yarn is fairly thick and thin lace weight, even as a two-ply, but the thick and thin spots aren't very visible in the pattern. The tam is a very soft and light enough to wear on a spring or cool summer evening. Very fun to knit.

You may remember the yarn that I spun from Devi's fiber. A worsted weight two-ply spun from hand carded rolags with a woolen draw. I knit that yarn into a heavy winter tam, even though the pattern I chose is called Spring Beret.
Here's the yarn:

Which is now this tam:

I've also been doing a lot of dying, carding and spinning for the shop as well as for myself. (As is evidenced by the epic blog neglect I've had recently.) I decided it was time to make a 3 - ply, and I really want to knit a Quant - an entrelac headband available on Several handspun Quants are featured in the most recent issue of Spin-Off magazine.

So, I measured out 6 ounces or so of Evita's fiber, dyed it in blue, green, purple, and pink, and had some fun blending colors at the drum carder. I blended the blue and green together and spun that as singles on one bobbin with a woolen draw. I divided the purple and pink into one ounce piles. I made a few bats of blended purple and pink, which I spun onto a second bobbin. The remaining purple and pink were carded into layered batts and spun onto a third bobbin. The layers made an interesting marled effect in the singles. Then, I was ready to embark on my first 3-ply attempt. It was quite a battle with my lazy kate, which wanted to jump around, adn the hook that holds the yarns kept coming out. Time for a new one, I suppose. In the end though, I have a wonderful, squooshy, incredibly soft worsted weight 3-ply that I can't wait to knit with. I like make 3-ply yarn a lot, and the resulting yarn is very smooth.

Now I have a new dilemma: What do I spin next? What do I card for the shop? I have so much fiber and I can't decide what to do with it. I know, I know, call the waaahhmbulance. Too much fiber. How horrible indeed. I think I really want to make a pair of glittens in time for winter (knowing me, it will take that long to finish knitting them), and I have plenty of Devi and Evita fiber to blend with some of the Merino wool (for strenght and memory). I also have an ouce of yak fiber that I want to blend with the alpaca. I think it will make a soft tweedy effect. Hmmm....perhaps I just resolved my own dilemma. Now to figure out how many ounces to card. There will be alpaca/merino batts available in my shop when I make my next update, as well as some merino/silk noil art batts.

Happy spinning!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Hand painting fun!

I spent the week hand dying some BFL and Corriedale top from Louet. I used Greener Shades Dyes, which are heavy metal free. They are easy to work with and the results range from muted shades to vibrant colors, depending on the amount of dye used. I've found that a little bit goes quite a long way.

My goals were to create a space dyed effect with each roving, and although the
space dyed effects I ended up with are varied, the colorways are awesome.

The two tops above are each 8 oz. of Blue Face Leicester wool. I dyed the violet-pink and blue-green colorways first. Then I got a little more adventurous with the 4 oz Corriedale tops below.

To dye these tops, I filled my dye pot with hot tap water and added the top, making sure that the water did not completely cover the fiber. Then, I mixed each dye colorway and poured them in one at a time, making sure not to cover the entire top with one color so each individual color would come through in some places and blend in others. Then I gradually raised the heat until steam was rising from the edges of the pot but the water was not yet bubbling. I held the temp there for ten minutes, then added the citric acid and held the temp for another ten minutes. Then I removed the pot from the heat and allowed it to cool while the colors absorbed completely into the fibers. When the dye water was clear, I knew I could drain and hang the top to dry.

I also finished spinning a blend of huacaya fiber (from Devi :D ), suri alpaca fiber, and camel down. I allowed the short fibers of the camel down to create a tweedy effect in the yarn. The suri added some luster, and the huacaya added softness. I ended up with a drapey, tweedy, two-ply fingering weight yarn that yielded about 150 yards. The suri is a cinnamon color that blends very nicely with Devi's fiber, and the camel down is a light brown that adds another dimension to the colors of the blend. It was fun to spin, and the rolags looked beautiful as I carded them with all three fiber types together.

*PSA: All of the yarns and fibers in this post are available for sale in my etsy shop!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Finished. Finally.

Well, technically it's only one ball of yarn out of what has grown into quite a stash of fleece, but I finally finished a 150 yard ball of yarn from Devi's fleece. It's soooo soft, and a gorgeous chocolate brown color. I was aiming for a worsted weight 2 - ply, and was pretty successful, although I ended up with less yardage than I intended. I handed carded all eight ounces and spun two bobbins of singles, which I then plied together. I had a bit left over on one bobbin so I practiced navajo-plying, and am quite surprised at the softness of the three ply. The two ply is awesome, but the three ply is actually absurdly soft. I'm going to knit this ball into a nice spring tam as soon as I finish the one I'm currently working on. (I can't seem to get the bind off they way I want it. It's always too tight or two loose.)

My stash is actually beginning to get out of control. In addition to the rest of Devi's fleece and Evita's fleece, I still have that 2 lbs of Romney, and also the 1 lb of Merino. I was planning on making a Merino - Alpaca blend, but then I began to wonder what the big deal about suri fleece is, so I ordered some. I got two ounces of light fawn and two ounces of a cinnamon brown. I finished washing them today, and dyed the fawn to a rosy shade of pink. Now I've got huacay-suri-merino blends in mind. I even have a bit of camel fiber that came with my wheel, so I'm thinking Devi's fleece will be blended with the camel and the cinnamon suri for a blend of natural browns. Too bad I don't have any llama fiber. I could make a camelid blend yarn! (Hmmm...time for some etsy shopping? I bet someone has some llama for sale.)

And now for your cuteness overload, here's a pic of Captain Rex, the cria that was born to one of the dams that belongs to the farmers I board with. I can't believe how big he is already.
And just because I love them, here are Devi and Evita on a rainy day last weekend. I can't believe how much Devi's fleece is growing already!

Monday, June 8, 2009

I'll be darned. I made a mini Evita

Needle felting. Hmmm....interesting. I decided to give it a shot since I have a few bag of seconds and thirds (fiber from the neck, legs, etc.) and don't really want to pay to have them made into rugs. I thought it would be fun to be able to make little alpacas with felting needles. It was fun, and I think I did ok for my first try with almost no idea what I'm doing. I'm too lazy tonight to b0ther with research so I winged it. I think she kind of looks like Evita.
Of course, the little alpaca looks nothing like the one in the picture, but, like everything else, I'll figure it out eventually.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Up to my elbows in fiber!

Not even just alpaca fiber either! I still have that 2.5 pounds of Romney stored in my den turned fiber storage room, and today some beautiful raw merino wool came in the mail. I bought it from handsandnotions' etsy shop. It's very soft, with nice crimp, luster, and long staple length. (Still not as nice as alpaca, of course!)

I think the merino is going to blend nicely with Evita's fleece, which I am still in the process of washing. I'm going to blend them with hand carders and spin them into possibly a nice sock yarn. I think I'm going to spin some of it undyed and perhaps try dying a batch of the merino. (More on dyes below.) I think the white alpaca will look pretty with the merino in it's natural color.

I recently purchased a starter kid of Greener Shades Dyes and have been dying portions of Evita's fleece (I can't believe how much fleece there is! I'm still washing it!) I like the Greener Shades because the dyes are heavy metal free. The dyes are easy to work with, and produce pretty colors. I've only been using a small bit of the dye powder because I want light, almost pastel colors. It has been easy to achieve the results I want. I'm going to try working with more dye powder for a darker shade with my next batch. I'm thinking maybe a rose color to blend with the amethyst purple below.

Hand carding is a somewhat slow process. I really, really need a drum carder!

I've been so busy with work that I haven't been able to spin much. I really want to spin up more yarn to put up for sale on my etsy shop, but the end of the year craziness at school has made that a bit difficult. So much planning, grading, trips, the concert, deadlines.....I can't wait until June is over so I can spin until my heart's content.

I'm planning to start clicker training with Evita soon. I have to find the right food motivator for her (other than grain). It's tricky because I need to find something she likes, that she won't choke on, and is easy to give to her quickly during the training process. Grain can be messy and inconvenient, and would slow down the training process and possibly cause weight gain. I offered her a little piece of carrot, but she wasn't interested. I'm not sure she knows what it is. I'm going to try putting a little chopped up apple in a handful of grain. I think if I can get her to try it she'll like it, and I can move on to the process of charging the clicker. I'm hoping to mold Evita into an animal that can help some of my students. Kids benefit a lot from working with animals, and I have one or two in mind that could use the experience. It's going to take time to get her ready for that though, and I only visit on weekends which makes it even tougher. Oh well, as we say at my school, patience pays.