Monday, January 28, 2008


Just a quick post to say that my hands are healing up fine. I hope to be back with some new yarn in the near future :)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

All Quiet On the Western Front

Well, it was a pretty good day. The sunshine was out, I finished a longstanding but boring sewing project (guest room duvet cover) using my newest crafty tools (rotary cutter & mat) and I got a nice walk to the grocery store to pick up the ingredients for a new recipe "Green Salad with Roast Chicken & Sweet Potato" from Martha Stewart Living, Feb, 2005 (free from the library discard bin). It is one of those recipes where you brown the meat on the stove top before putting it into the oven. I have a Dutch oven pan that I usually use for soup and such and this was my first chance to put it through its paces. The only thing I was concerned about was the temptation to grab it by the handles after it came out of the oven. And despite my foresight, I did it - grabbed the 400 degree pan with my bare hands that is. Naturally, I didn't hold onto it for very long, so the damage wasn't too bad. I now have a nice row of blisters across the fingers of both hands though. Guess there's not too much more to say about that - I think I'll go eat something chocolate now.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Batt Hacking

No, not that kind silly, this is a fiber blog.

One of my favorite etsy sellers often includes a bit of gift fiber with orders. The little skein in the photo above is the freebie that came with my last shipment. I liked it so much that I was going to order some similar fiber that she had listed, but I was too slow. Man, those batts sell like hotcakes.

So I started to wonder how hard it would be to hack this batt. I had some fawn colored alpaca on hand (far right), and I over-dyed some with a mix of red and black dye (middle). For fun I decided to take some freshly washed white alpaca (left) and blend that in too. Along the way I noticed that I needed some dark brown and some longer, rougher fibers to hold things together. A pinch of this and a pinch of that from the stash and I was rolling...

I'm sure the proportions are different and there isn't going to be any sparkle (haven't laid hands on any angelina yet), but these should be fun. I'm saving them for spinning night, so I'll have to report back later on the outcome :) Meanwhile I will try to make a little progress on this

for my shawl. The astute among you may notice that this is an Ashford bobbin. I still have the Ashford on loan, so I'm going to try to finish the rest of this fiber on it (3.5 oz) for the sake of consistency. I'm still adjusting to the different ratios on the Lendrum. In fact, I'm resting my wrist today because I tried to go up a ratio and overstressed my hand trying to pinch off the massive (over) twist. No worries though. These things take time, and now I have a better idea of how to keep out of trouble in the future.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Episode 75: In Which Rosina Gets Her Own Wheel

Warning: More than you ever wanted to know about my spinning wheel purchase. Posted mostly for those who are considering their own wheel purchase in the near future.

On Saturday Mr. M and I made the long pilgrimage to Woodland Woolworks with a special item in mind. Mr. M had offered to get me a spinning wheel for Christmas and part of that offer was to take me somewhere where I could try different wheels. Beforehand, I researched the specifications of a range of wheels, haunted several wheel forums on Ravelry, and googled blogs looking for spinners’ comments on my top wheels. I knew that I wanted a NON-double drive wheel with a wide range of ratios and a decent bobbin capacity as this will be my only functional wheel for the foreseeable future. I’m also a sucker for a certain wheel aesthetic – I wanted a castle style wheel that was clean looking and had lots of wood. From these basic prerequisites I narrowed it down to the top two: the Lendrum and the Majacraft Rose. Louet was also on my radar, but coming in third. I almost ordered the Rose sight unseen (with endorsements like this it’s hard not to), but I’m glad that I waited to try the wheels and see how they felt to me.

When we got to the warehouse they didn’t have a Rose out, but the did have the Majacraft Alpaca and Suzie set up. I’ve heard that the Alpaca and the Rose are basically the same wheel, so I felt comfortable trying it in the Rose’s place. The Majacraft wheels were beautiful to look at and treadled smooth and fast. However, the Alpaca had a definite clicking sound and a very pronounced whirring from the brake band on the plastic bobbin. I wasn’t too worried about the clicking because I know that every wheel has some quirks and that wheels on the floor get handled a lot by people who don’t know their idiosyncrasies. However, neither I nor the woman who was helping me could get the wheel to stop clicking. The Suzie had a significant vibration that I could feel in the treadles, as well as having the whirring from the brake band on the plastic bobbin. Both wheels had a tendency for the head of the wheel to slip down under tension from the drive band. I also found the delta orifice was little different to use. Not unpleasant, just something you have to be sure would work for you.

In the interest of full disclosure, I know that every wheel will vibrate at high speeds and the Majacraft where at high ratios. All the things I’ve mentioned were probably things that an expert could tame a bit with tweaking. However, the sales lady didn’t get either of the wheels to stop doing those things, so I figured that I, as a novice, probably didn’t have much of a chance. The noise ended up being a deal breaker for me. Certain sounds are extremely irritating to me and would prevent me from using the wheel. I would have to know, for certain, that those noises could be addressed before I would buy a wheel. Certainly before I would buy the most expensive wheel on my list.

So what surprised me? The Lendrum. From the pictures, I was concerned that the Lendrum treadle set-up did not look comfortable to use. However, the motion was very smooth and natural for me. Because the lip of the treadle did not overhang, I could not treadle quite as slowly as I could on the Majacraft or the Ashford traditional, but theoretically that could be offset with that the low ratios on the jumbo head… and who knows, maybe someday my hands will do their thing a little faster too. Of course, the Lendrum also had a vibration at high speed, a slight tocking in the treadle crosspiece and the sound of the scotch tension, but the quality of these sounds was different. I don’t mind a purring, murmuring wheel. I don’t want a snoring, shuddering wheel.

They didn’t have any full-size Louets, so for fun I gave the Fricke a whirl. It must have sensed that I thought it was the ugly duckling of the lot, because it got me all tangled up in no time. Woolee winders are a brilliant idea, but they felt much more jerky than I would have guessed.

Since I arrived with my heart set on a Rose, I gave myself a chance to explore the store while my test drive experience sank in. It is one of those places where my brain shorts out at the sight of too many interesting things. There were hand carders, there were ball winders, there were packages of every fiber I ever wanted to try. People this is Oregon: no sales tax. And I was there: no shipping. My husband even looked at me and said, “Get whatever you need.”

Under those circumstances I think I’m pretty lucky that I didn’t just pass out from the excitement. In the end I came away with the Lendrum complete package (Lendrum folding double treadle with 4 bobbins, tensioned lazy kate, high-speed head and bobbin, and jumbo head and bobbin), and the complimentary Woolworks stuff (wheel oil, feed’n’wax, 1 lb medium wool). I applied my craftcash to a Lendrum carrying case and splurged on a few small bundles of roving. The high-speed head is backordered, but I’ve been at home playing with the rest of my toys. Thank you Mr. M!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Poison Apple Batts

Handdyed and natural BFL + drumcarder =

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


I should have know what a slippery slope this would be. First I had to have a knitting blog, and then I had to learn to spin, and now here I am with a drum carder in my garage and a crock-pot devoted to fiber dyeing. Crazy things happen when one gives up television.*

My first fiber from the dye-pot. Right now I'm experimenting with acid dyes. I've just been working with an arm's length of BLF at a time since I have little idea what I'm doing. This one was an attempt to get some of the colors of the evening sky. I used some straight blue, and some blue and red mixed to what looked like a nice lilac. The red seems to have become much more prominent after the heat setting process.

Same roving: From the dye-pot and predrafted.

I may try something like this again, but use less dye to get a more pastel effect. Right now I don't have a way to measure the dye easily, so my products are non-repeatable. It did occur to me that I could probably get some insulin syringes and use those to get a better idea of how much dye I am squirting around. Ah, good times.

*This is a book that probes how television affects us emotionally and relationally. Fair warning though, some of the explicit content means I personally won't be rereading it. The television issue is an interesting one for me. I'm not against TV, but I find that personally the temptation for escapism (without any of the redeeming qualities of say, escaping by reading Middlemarch) is too great.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

January 6

The Cougar
by Gary Gildner

The cougar who prowls my mountain came down
close today and looked at me in my corral
- we looked at each other. A fine mist
lay among the wild oats growing there and there
he stood, not moving. I was on my knees.

Over his shoulder I could see Gospel Hump
an hour away, still covered with snow.
It was quiet and raining lightly and my hands
which had been cold from pulling up
thistles, were now warm.

For a moment I wanted nothing more
than to lie in the snow on Gospel Hump and slowly
move my arms, making a great angel.
Then I wanted my father to be alive again
and see this magnificence with me –
we wouldn’t have to say anything,
I would just hold his hand.

Everything was very clear – the pointy buds
on my plum trees nearby, his eyes, the dark whorls
the knots make in the boards of my fence.
I wanted to see him shake his head in wonder.
Just once. The way he did after finishing a tough job,
or when he had to admit he was happy.

I don’t know how long the cougar stayed,
but I was glad to see him turn and go back –
he went back as smoothly it seemed as a trout
in water – and I returned to my thistles
whose almost silky white root slips out
so easily when it rains.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Palouse Snow

Words seem to be eluding me at present, but I will be back, sooner or later. All I have to say right now is that we had a lovely Christmas with our friends and family. We even got to take some photos of the lovely rolling hills under a nice dry snow...

It is a landscape that will always whisper home to me.