Tuesday, March 18, 2014

German-English Dictionary of Knitting Terminology

I've received emails lately about Scribd charging a fee to download the "German-English Dictionary of Knitting Terminology". Therefore, I've moved the document to Google docs at this link. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Wah! Tour de Fleece crash and burn!

For crying out loud. Who decided that spinning in July was a good idea? I haven't spun a speck of fiber since Sunday. I spun in air conditioning, came home, put my wheel down and it's still sitting there with a partial bobbin of alpaca on it. We're going into 90+ temps for the next week and I don't have air conditioning. If I try to spin in this weather, I'm going to end up with more fiber on me than on the bobbin.

That's it! I'm throwing in the towel for another year.

I'm still being somewhat fibery by seeing alpacas at least several days a week. That has to count for something. Right?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Tour de Fleece - Day 5

It's a good thing I'm not actually riding in the Tour de France, because my recent progress would basically involve taking a two day picnic with my bike thrown behind the bushes. Today, I knit a few rows on my never-ending blue cardigan and moved my washed alpaca fiber on the drying rack. That's it. I think I moved my wheel over once so I could pick up my cat.

I solemnly swear I will spin at least one alpaca batt tomorrow.

Tour de Fleece - Day 4

I washed more fleece for the super secret project. I didn't get any spinning or carding done, but I had to work late this evening. I'll do more tomorrow!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tour de Fleece - Day 3

I celebrated Independence Day by sleeping in, working on fiber stuff and watching movies. It was wonderful! I made a lot of progress today, even while being lazy.

* Finished carding the huge pile of blue roving that's been on the carder for ages. I dyed several pounds of various blues to test a recipe for a custom yarn order. I've been slowly carding it together into batts. I'll eventually add other stuff to the batts and perhaps use them for a larger project. Maybe I'll put them up for sale. Either way, the roving is finally out of the way and I can work on other things.

* Finished washing the sheep fleece! It was a 6.5 pound fleece, so it took a few batches. It's drying now and I'll eventually dye some of it. The rest will be combed and spun in the natural colors.

* Washed a small bit of alpaca fiber for my super secret project.

* Carded several bits of alpaca fiber for my super secret project, plus another batt from a fleece I'm processing.

* Spun two mini-skeins of alpaca for my super secret project. This is the first actual spinning I've done during the tour. Most of my goal is processing the fleeces in my stash, so we'll see how much finished yarn I end up with.

Washed fleece!

Carded alpaca fiber!

I actually spun yarn for the Tour de Fleece!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Tour de Fleece - Day 2

Washed more fleece. SO exciting, I can hardly stand it.

I also helped do chores on one alpaca farm and assisted on another while they gave shots, so my day was rather fibery. My own stash doesn't look much different, but fluff is my life, no matter how I am involved.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Tour de Fleece 2011

Tour de Fleece has begun! My goal this year is to finish processing the fleeces I have in the stash. Not spin. Process.

Day one is dedicated to washing the one fleece I bought this spring. It's a lovely Border Leicester x Wensleydale ewe fleece. I have a dark fleece from her lamb last year already in the stash. Her fleece is soaking in the tub right now and it's coming out a variety of grays from pale silver to pewter.

Prior to the Tour, I also did some weaving.

I knitted a baby blanket and a monkey.

I spun some yarn.

And played with a new alpaca cria at my friend's farm.

All in all, I've been a bit busy since my last post!

Friday, January 28, 2011

A new start

I can't believe it's 2011 already and that I have been SO lax in updating my blog. I've had a lot going on in my fibery world. I needed to recharge my batteries, so I got back to knitting. For Christmas I made a little shrug for my niece, two hats and three cowls. I also finished my very first sweater for myself. I knit it with handspun and the resulting fabric is wonderful.

I'm currently working on a cardigan called Aidez. It's a free pattern from Berroco and it's a fun knit. There are lots of cables and twisted stitches to keep it interesting. I'm knitting mine with thick, chewy Cascade Eco in a brown that reminds me of tree bark.

There are extensions of the fronts that wrap around and meet in the back of the neck. I used my Google-fu and discovered TechKnitter wrote an article in the Spring 2010 Interweave Knits that explains Kitchener stitch in pattern. I used it to graft together the two pieces and the result is almost invisible. I'm so pleased with it! I'm going to remember this technique because it's so much more elegant than a clunky seam, especially in bulky yarn like this.

Alas, all is not well. I'm blocking my first sleeve but at first look, it's sized to fit a gorilla and assumes I will be wearing football shoulder pads to make it fit properly. I may end up frogging back to the underarm and reknitting, but I really hope it doesn't come to that. I suppose it's not a real knitting project unless I make at least one bone-headed mistake.

On the other side of the coin is my Saori weaving. In Saori, mistakes are human and meant to be embraced. I scored a deal and found a LOCAL used Saori loom that really wanted to be mine. I bought it the same day my long awaited Saori weaving book arrived in the mail. I was getting ready to try the techniques on a rigid heddle because I've been full of ideas. I brought my precious loom home in a snowstorm, warped it after watching YouTube videos (with a few mistakes) and spent several days weaving fabric for a blanket. It's warped with Kauni leftover from a felted bag project and the weft is various Beaverslide yarns, Patons Rumor, some sock yarn scraps and pieces of fabric. I really love how it turned out. There are errors in the warping, but I appreciated the texture they added and I kept on weaving. Next step will be learning how to hem and seam on the sewing machine so I can form this long strip into a blanket shape. I am looking forward to lots of experimentation with this loom!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

I need a time machine!

I don't know where the summer went. I've been super busy dyeing and spinning and gearing up for the Fall Fiber Jubilee but I keep thinking of more things I need to do. Since this is my first show, I am flying by the seat of my pants. It's anyone's guess how much I'll need to bring or what will even be popular. My Etsy shop has already taught me that my favorites are not the same as everyone else's. I've been cranking out batts as fast as I can and today is a big yarn dyeing day.

For anyone who isn't dyeing, this is National Alpaca Days weekend. Find a farm near you and go check them out! I was going to do a spinning demo today, but a friend's alpaca finally had her cria yesterday and I was up too late last night. Between that and needing to get ready for next weekend, I had to make the executive (hah!) decision to stay home and behave myself. I even declined seeing the cria again today! I'm so dedicated to my art.

Look at what I'm missing!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Lots of catching up to do

Tucked in with my mail yesterday was a flyer for the Tall Grass Farm Fall Fiber Jubilee. I've been a shopper there before, but this time is going to be special for me. Ambrosia and Bliss is listed for the first time ever as a vendor. I'm working on my stock and trying to figure out how I'll set up a table with my yarn and fiber. It's exciting and a bit nerve-wracking. This has been such a hot summer and I don't have air conditioning, so I haven't dyed much lately. When I'm already a melted puddle, cooking a big pan of steaming water at 185 degrees for hours is counter-intuitive.

I spent most of my summer looking like this:

Now that the weather is cooling off a bit, I've been dyeing again and slowly making progress. I have a few things I'm excited about. I'll be bringing batts, dyed locks, lots of roving and some hand-dyed yarn. One of my yarns has real silver in it and sparkles - hopefully it'll be a hit at the Jubilee.

I won't have any to sell, but I've been weaving more blankets with my Hazel Rose looms. This one was made with a variety of "pink" Phat Fiber samples spun together and then plied back to make a two-ply. The skein gradually changed colors, which was perfect for the weaving. Although all of the diamonds came from the same skein, each one looks distinct. I wove the pale pink areas with Cascade 220 so the handspun could stand out. These are so easy to make and a nice change from knitting.

Another reason I haven't been dyeing much this summer is I've been busy with other non-fiber things. Hard to believe, but it's true!

Since I moved, I haven't had a yard that I can fill with gardens. I've been very lucky to have a few small gardens to play in at the EAA Seaplane Base. I started planting them several years ago and they are finally coming into maturity. The EAA Fly-in happens every year at the end of July. The rest of the year, the Seaplane Base is private land. I designed gardens that would hopefully peak for that week and need very little maintenance or watering. Because of these restrictions, I chose mainly prairie plants with deep root systems. I was thrilled to see this hot weather was good for them and they were full of flowers this year. Even better, the swamp milkweed was covered with Monarch caterpillars. Each plant had 20-30 caterpillars in a range of sizes and I saw an adult laying more eggs during the week. Little things like that make me happy.

A friend of mine keeps alpacas and had two crias born earlier this summer. I actually had my hands on one of them during delivery (very warm and slimy) and got there right after the other one was born. Due to some post-natal excitement, one of them had to go to the veterinary hospital, so I also got to play chauffer. There are few things in life funnier than driving an alpaca around in a mini-van. I've been spending a lot of time hanging out with my friend and her alpacas. I need to live vicariously through her because I definitely can't hide an alpaca in my back yard. The two babies are growing so fast and they are fun to watch when they play together.

I also made a much-anticipated trip to Portland, OR last month. I used to live there and hadn't been back in about seven years. I planned a trip with my two sisters and we had an action-packed six days to see as many sights as possible. High points were Voodoo Donut (where I had a bacon maple bar - yes, a donut with bacon on it), driving up the Columbia River Gorge and visiting the coast near Newport. I had forgotten how beautiful it is out there. I really need to go back. All those mountains are good for my soul.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Addicted to weaving

I've added a few new Hazel Rose looms to the herd, plus I borrowed one to make a blanket. I bought some natural Corriedale from Whitefish Bay Farm and some dark Wensleydale/Coopworth from Homestead Sheep and Fiber Products at the Door County Shepherd's Market last month. I used a quilt pattern to piece it out and arranged the colors as I saw fit. It only took eight days and 11.4 ounces of yarn! I still can't get over how fast it goes and how little yarn it uses.

I also added a new wheel to my happy little household. I've been stalking Ravelry and Craigslist for a used Majacraft Little Gem for nearly a year. I tried one at Wisconsin Sheep and Wool last September and fell in love immediately. Unfortunately, everyone who owns them seems to love them too, so they very rarely come up for sale. Last week, I stumbled upon a great deal and couldn't let it pass me by. It came with the new green padded carry bag, three bobbins and a two-bobbin collapsible lazy kate. It's so lightweight and tiny compared to my Ashford Traditional. I've named her "Ruby" after my grandmother. Plus, it's a Gem!

I spun up some fine Icelandic singles from the lock to break her in and found I had to use the largest whorl. The smallest whorl apparently spins the flyer at light speed. Add in my crazy treadling as I acclimate to double-treadles and it was a recipe for either disaster or rope-burned fingers. This is SUCH a different wheel from the Ashford. There's no resistance whatsoever, the treadles "roll" more than go up and down and I can start and stop with my feet. I need to learn how to choose the direction with my feet, because I would slow down and suddenly start spinning in the other direction. By comparison, my Ashford is heavier, particularly thanks to the Jumbo flyer I added. Everything is bigger and heavier. I never figured out how to stop and start with my feet, so I always reach over and give the wheel a push in the direction I want to go. When I stop treadling, the wheel keeps going.

It's interesting because it's easy to think a wheel is a wheel. They're not! They are all such individuals. I never tried another wheel before getting the Ashford because I just happened upon it when I wasn't looking. Last year, I test drove every wheel I could find in hopes of finding a travel wheel. My Ashford barely fits through the back door of my car and it's not easy to carry. I've taken it out a bit and I'm always afraid it's going to get banged up. I sat down and played with every wheel I saw and didn't find any that felt right. The flyer was in an awkward position or the treadles felt shallow or they were too heavy or too light. Nothing jumped out as a good fit, although they're all nice wheels. Then I passed a booth that had a Gem sitting near the back. It didn't have a for sale sign on it, but I asked about it. The woman let me sit down and treadle on it and it was like that scene in "The Sword in the Stone" where Wart pulls the sword out and angels start singing and sparkles fall upon him in a moonbeam. Seriously. Since then, I've test driven Gems a couple more times and it's always been true love all over again.

I've become a firm believer that there is a wheel out there for everyone. All of the modern wheels are well-made, but they have their own quirks and uses. I can see now that my Ashford is ideal for spinning thicker yarns and plying. If I want low-twist singles, I'll go to the Ashford. My huge bobbins will hold 8-10 ounces of yarn. It's great for that. It's not great at very thin yarns. That's where Ruby comes in. I'll have to try out beaded yarns on both of them and see which I prefer. The flyers are made differently, so getting lumps and beads onto the bobbin may be easier on one over the other. I won't worry about upgrading Ruby with a jumbo flyer because I already have a wheel I can use for plying. It's win-win all around and I am so thrilled to finally have a wheel I can easily transport!

Friday, April 30, 2010


I volunteered at the Great Midwest Alpaca Festival last weekend. I was in the fiber demo area spinning all weekend, and there were all sorts of other fiber arts demos. One of my friends taught needle felting, another friend taught drum carding and a woman from the local spinning guild was demonstrating weaving. I stopped by to see how to weave on square and triangle looms, but missed seeing how to start the process. It was a busy weekend with a lot going on, so we made tentative plans to meet and do some weaving. I also managed to win a volunteer raffle gift certificate, so I used it to buy two weaving books. The stage was set..

Last night I went over to my new friend's house to learn to weave. Her studio is a dream come true. It's like a weaving and spinning art gallery married to a yarn shop. She showed me how to weave on a Hazel Rose diamond loom and I took one home with me. I also got a brief overview of floor looms and general weaving tips. It was very inspiring and a lot of fun. I came home and wove a few diamonds last night and made some more this afternoon. It's very easy once you get the hang of it and it only takes 15-20 minutes to make a small diamond.

For me, weaving is faster than knitting and the color effects are different. I'm using my Phat Fiber yarn samples from past boxes. I can weave sport, dk or worsted as is, or I can double up a fingering-weight yarn to make my little diamonds. I'm going to save them up and sew them into a small blanket or perhaps a bag. I'll see what I think when I lay them all out. It's a very portable hobby if you're working with the small looms and there's no binding off. It's kind of like spinning and works great when I don't want to follow a complicated pattern. The yarn colors do their own thing, so each diamond comes out a little different.

Five of my fleeces came back from the mill on Saturday too. I have a few more to pick up in a couple of weeks, but these were enough to handle. They fluff up so much after carding and I had to work hard to find space to stash them. I've already started spinning the Romney fleece and it's a joy to work with. I spun about eight ounces in two days and it practically drafts itself. The colors are more evenly blended than they were when I flicked locks and drum carded, but it's a nice shade of grey and should be very pretty when it's plied.

Last but not least, I've also sort of learned to tat! My Great-Aunt showed me, my mother and one of my aunts how to tat two weeks ago. It's harder than it looks. I think magic is involved, because she would move her hands in a blur and out would come perfect little knots and picots. There's a right way and a wrong way to wave your hands around and they look nearly identical. One little move (that I have yet to master) is the difference between gorgeous lace and a mess of knots. For most of my lesson, I couldn't even SEE that little move. I thought I was mimicking her exactly, but I missed "flipping the knot". I've ordered a book and will be sitting down to make a determined effort to learn the different techniques. We didn't have enough time to go over everything and she lives out of town, so I'll have to sort out some of my mistakes on my own. I'm excited about it. Tatted lace doesn't look that exciting in photos, but when you handle it, it's wonderful. I had no idea it was so pretty until I saw some up close.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

April Phat Fiber Videos!

The April Phat Fiber teaser videos are posted! This month looks like the best yet. My "Luna Moth" sample is at the 2:56 mark in the second video. I can't wait to get my box and see which goodies Jessie sends me.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Joy of Fiber Mills

There was a comment on my previous post about using mills, so I thought I would explain a little further. (Click any photos to see them larger.)

Last year I bought eight fleeces from my favorite shepherd. She raises Romney x Wensleydale x Cotswold sheep and their fleeces come in all colors. They hang in long ringlets and have a wonderful sheen to them. I hand washed all of the fleece and then balked at hand-combing it all. I also had some alpaca cria fleeces in a wide range of colors - fawn, beige, grey, rose grey and a deep cinnamon. These fibers are gorgeous because of their color and I wanted each fleece processed into roving separately. Who would want to mix such unique colors?

When I buy a fleece, the first thing to do is wash it to get the lanolin, suint (sheep sweat) and dust out. I pick through by hand to pull out the obvious second cuts, big pieces of hay and matted locks. The detailed procedure is fodder for a later post, but suffice to say it's time consuming. Each batch goes through two or three soapy washes and two or three rinses until the water runs clear. This photo shows part of two sheep fleeces and one of those lovely alpaca fleeces from last year (blanket only) drying in my studio. It's taken me several evenings to wash all of this and now it's setting on racks with a fan blowing to dry. Part of the time limitation is how much shelf space I have to allow the fiber to spread out for fast drying. You can see the wet fiber on the lower shelves, and how much it fluffs up when dry.

I have equipment here to hand-process smaller amounts of fiber. I can use my mini-combs, which are great for longer fiber and which may come into use when I work on the really long Polypay fleeces. I've also used these on an alpaca fleece that was full of hay and straw. If that were run through a big machine, all the bits of hay would get smashed into the fiber and it would be unpleasant to spin. Combs are great because they comb through the fibers, straighten them out, and allow me to separate the good fiber from the chaff, so to speak. Short pieces of fiber, second cuts, tangles and vegetable matter all stay behind. There is more waste, but nothing beats the soft, clean fiber that results from combing. It's VERY labor intensive though because I can only comb a few locks at a time - maybe 1/4 to 1/2 ounce per batch.

I also have a drum carder. This is a mini-version of what a mill would use to card fiber into roving. I run the fiber through and the little teeth on the drum catch the fibers, sort of straighten them out and let me blend in other fibers like silk, bamboo, sparkle and other colors of wool. I can fit about an ounce and a half at a time on the drum. It makes lovely batts and I can pull those batts into roving if I want to. If I'm working with fleece, I need to fluff the locks up first, before running them through. Otherwise the tips catch on the teeth and too much fiber feeds in at once. This will jam the whole thing up. I love making batts with add-ins, but this would also be a lot of work to card through many pounds of wool.

For example, this is about 25 batts adding up to about two pounds total. You can see a soda can for scale. This took me several evenings to do and would maybe be one fleece worth of fiber.

I searched around and found a lot of mills have minimum orders for a batch. They need to clean the drums on their industrial size carders between each batch and it's a lot of work. Most of the local mills required two pounds or more of clean fiber per run. That's a problem when an alpaca cria blanket weighs less than that washed. Most of my colored sheep fleeces were also under two pounds each. I was going to have to cave in and blend them, when I found a mill that will process any size batch. I drove up there a month or two ago and dropped off all of my washed colored fleeces, several alpaca fleeces and a few other odds and ends where I had one fleece of each breed, like one Corriedale, one Rambouillet, one Shetland x Merino and one Romney. All of these breeds have different characteristics and the staple length of the fibers varied. I wanted to keep them separate so I could take advantage of their unique qualities, even if they were white.

When I found a source for Polypay fleeces, I ended up buying 20 pounds, which is about seven skirted fleeces. They were all thrown together in a bag because each sheep was similar to the next. The fiber had the same characteristics and it was all about the same length. There's no reason to keep all of this separate, so I found a mill closer to home that had affordable prices for both washing and carding fleece. I dropped off the big bag of greasy locks and walked away knowing that I'll end up with clean roving. I'm going to do the same with three Texel x Targhee fleeces (about 12 pounds total) I bought last weekend. They look like this right now:

When I get them back, they'll look like this:

In this case, it's very worth it to me to have someone else with better equipment do all of the work. I'd rather spend my time dyeing and spinning, especially since the shop is taking more of my time. I'll hopefully have the individual fleeces back by the end of the month so I'll have new photos to share. It also means I may be able to offer locally-raised wool roving in my shop. I can sell locks, but many spinners without this specialized equipment would rather buy roving.

No matter how much work it is or what the added expense may be, I really love working with fresh fleece. The smell of lanolin makes me happy and it's a chance to work with local shepherds. They have a market for their fleeces since I'm connected with the handspinning world, and I have a source for fiber that hasn't been treated with chemicals or over-processed to remove the bits of hay. It also means I have the chance to work with breeds of sheep that aren't often commercially available. Merino, Corriedale, Shetland and Blue Face Leicester are common, but unique breeds or cross-breeds are very difficult to find. Every breed of sheep has a purpose and their wool varies wildly. It's so much fun exploring all the different types.