Sunday, August 31, 2008

Maude, oh, my!

Maude is a 2 year old Shetland cross ewe living a happy life on a small farm in a beautiful little valley near Eugene, Oregon, with my mother-in-law, Reida, and this is her story. O.k. really it's just the story of 1/4 of her first adult fleece, but that didn't have much punch as a lead. I am so lucky to have a mother-in-law who raises nice, soft, fluffy sheep in a variety of lovely earth tones. However, earth tones just won't do for a hunting season jacket, so....

The fleece itself is a lovely, long staple with nice medium crimp. I have no idea how those books and magazines always get such nice crimp pictures, so you'll just have to believe me. Yes, it is a multiple coat fleece, but I have never combed a fleece before to separate the softer from the coarser and I'm not starting just now (maybe with the other 1/4 I still have of this...)

Step 1: WASH AND DRY. As long as you remember not to let it agitate, the easiest way to wash fleece is in a top loading washer. Fill it with very hot water and some Dawn (cuts the grease, y'know?), push the fleece in gently with a broom handle and let it soak. Be sure to leave the lid open and turn the dial immediately to spin, just in case. You can poke it gently with the broom handle once or twice to be sure the top is wet, but don't overpoke or it will felt! After a while, spin it out and repeat, but use gentler soap--shampoo is good. Maybe once with conditioner then. Finally do the same thing a few more times, but with clear water. This always takes about twice as long as I plan for, so I was glad to be hanging out with another fiber buddy while we did this! Spread the fleece out on a sheet somehow suspended in an airy place (I decided my glider made of wooden slats was perfect) to dry.

Step 2: SORT When you have time,and most of your family is out of the house, spread out all the fiber for your project[The giant ball of roving is a lucious meriono /bamboo blend which I purchased through Dyelots.] and sort and weigh it and divide it up into piles for dying. I use a spring-load kitchen scale and an old letter scale. Imagine trying to balance wool on a letter scale. I really need to get a digital one. If you're smart, you'll label all your piles with your plans now while you still have half a brain and aren't lugging around vats of boiling colored water!

Step 3 DYE: Do your dying according to the instructions. It is possible to put 2 colors in one pot, but you have to be careful not to let it boil (really I suppose you should be careful of that anyhow), which I was not. The yellow and purple bubble together to make a fairly hideous old dusty mauve. I was totally disappointed, so imagine my joy when I rinsed it and discovered that for some reason, very little of the purple even stuck and I ended up with this beautiful antique yellow! Dying is often quite surprising, but the results are almost always fun! Also, you can always over-dye something if you don't care for the initial results.

The flourescent hunter's orange was a complete sucess though!

Step 4: ADMIRE After letting your dyebaths cool, spread the fleece out to dry again. Seth coined a new word when he saw the results. He said, "Whoa! Those are Hyperdelic!"

Step x: OPTIONS I left some white, too and carded some of it with tangerine angelina (a shiny plastic-y "bling" fiber) and some with copper angelina.

I'm planning a 3-ply worsted to bulky yarn with this plus some pre-dyed merino/bamboo rovings I bought at the NWRSA conference. This is going to be one crazy sweater (in about 4 years)!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

It FELT so good

I was going to go out and work on my felt project today, but it's raining! Despite popular belief, it hardly ever rains in Oregon in the summer (unless you're in the rain forest in Olympic National Park), so I have a chance to blog about my felt project.

I've always wanted a bog cape. Ha! That was supposed to say big cape, but that's very descriptive, The kind of cape Catherine might have worn across the moors pining for Heathcliff. A renaissance type cape, maybe with a hood. Anyhow, first you need fabric. The British Isles type made me think of those intricately woven tartans, but that's beyond my felting skills, and not exactly my style anyhow, so I'm going for a less structured "plaid" design.

These photos are a combo of the two pieces I've made so far. I did it two ways, but this combination is how I plan to try the next one.

Step 1:
Gather previously dyed and carded batts.

Step 2:
Weave strips of dyed and naturally colored fleece together on top of a $8 bamboo window blind from which you have removed the hardware (it's like a giant sushi mat). It is not a good idea to do this on a windy day, but I managed.

Step 3:
When you get it all arranged, cover it with a layer of silk gauze (this gives support and strength while allowing the felt to be nice and thin), then arrange another layer of wool on top of that. I forgot to photograph that step, but I used wider diagonal stripes of only natural fleece ( I have a LOT more of that). This is called the laminated felt technique. It seems to me to be an especially good idea if you are unsure of the felting qualities of your fleeces because they were gifted to you and represent several different breeds of sheep!

Step 4:
Gently wet down the whole mess by pouring warm soapy water over your hands to disperse it gently. Before this step, look around and make sure you are outside! Don't tell the dental hygienist, but I held the camera in my teeth for this shot!

Step 5:
My teeth couldn't handle another "hands free shot" for this step. With soapy hands and adding more warm water as needed, super-gently-butterfly-pressure-only circulate your hands over the fibers so that they begin to suface felt and develop a slight skin type feel.

Step 6: Roll up the whole shebang around a length of plastic pipe and tie it tightly. Then roll it back and forth for awhile (about 25 complete rolls then check for bunching. Repeat this step until it's really felt. I alternate which end I from which begin the roll.

I was so excite when I realized I could stand up and use my feet for this--much more ergonomically forgiving.

Step 7: If your'e having trouble with the edges you might do a little more hand massaging (you can be vigorous this time) in between rolls.

Step 8:
Unlroll. Admire endlessly. Drag your husband over to show him. Drag your neighbors over. Take photos. Blog.

Step 9:
Repeat steps 1-8!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Catching Up

Once again I am not getting nearly as much done over the summer as one (i.e. I) might hope. One of my goals for the summer was to not be upset with myself when I didn't get things done that I wanted to. So, I am learning Something as the years pass. Since one of the things I wanted to do was start a Blog, I guess I managed that, but it won't be much good if all I do is Start it, then never write anything. SO, where were we?

Ah, yes, Port Townsend. It was really cute. Do NOT eat at the Lighthouse Cafe. It was the worst service and, can you believe it, Horrible [if you know Helen, say it like her "It was Ho(a)rrible!] French toast. There are other good restaurants though such as the Fountain Cafe, as well as a brew pub with great calamari, an artisanal bakery (Pane D'Amore) and good coffee (Tyler St. Cafe). Be sure to go Uptown and see the only 19th century wooden fire bell tower known in the U.S. and the beautiful old houses. Of course I had to visit the two little yarn shops. At the Twisted Ewe I bought a Della Q silk project bag for 50% off and 50g of "jarbo garn" (did she say it's Swedish?) merino roving in bright reds and oranges for a "hunting season" sweater concept I have in mind. At Diva Yarn and Trim I bought some short lengths of blues and peaches for a kumihimo cord I want to make for a fancy lampshade. Why didn't I photograph these?

Believe it or not, the real reason we were there had nothing to do with fiber! South of PT there's a family run business called the Wood Well which sells wood for instruments. It's mostly for electric guitars (!?), but they had a few bass "billets" as they're called (there, you learned something). We loaded up the truck with enough for about 3 more basses. Thanks Matthew, Sarah, et al!

On July 30th we headed for Seattle. We made it about 2 miles before I made seth stop at a The Swiss Lavender farm. It was lovely. The little shop even had a green (i.e. living) roof.

We dawdled on down to Bainbridge Island and took the ferry to Seattle. This is one of our favorite ferries becasue my sister Jean used to live on Bainbridge, so it's familiar and nostalgic. There was some wierd navy battle ship/Coast Guard endeavor to waste gas as several big Navy ships and little CG boats went around in circles in the harbor. After some yummy fried clams at Ivar's Acres of Clams we drove to Hammond Ashley Violins in Issaquah, where they gave Seth really good reviews on his new bass and agreed to sell it on consignment!

After a fun night eating fancy Tex-Mex in Redmond (I can't remember the name of the restaurant) and watching Batman Begins on my brother-in-law Jason's new home theater style TV set-up, we headed south again.

We only drove to Portland, and we spent a quiet anniversary night in the Ace Hotel which used to be the Clyde Hotel. It's a lot more expensive now, but still fun with a photo booth in the lobby, painted murals in the rooms, and great crazy nouveau food and stellar cocktails in the restaurant (Clyde Commons). Although it's much spiffier (more spiffy?) now, the hotel retains all of its historic charm, including the Cuban mahogany paneling in the lobby. We went to Powell's Books (larger than a block, independently owned, new and used books) saw a fun Audrey Tatou movie at the Living Room Theaters (small theaters with big comfy couch-like seats and tables for your cocktails or coffee/tea) across the street, & took our photos in the booth.

These are the pictures on the wall of our room.

I'll give it a rest now.

I did finish the sweater for the wedding though! If you're a Raveler you can see it from the link to my prjects.