Saturday, November 28, 2009

Dyeing Mohair

I have been having fun dyeing mohair lately.  While at the Southeast Animal Fiber Fair (SAFF) one of my jobs was to assist the director of the Fleece Show and Sale.  The upside of that task is that you see the fleeces as they come in, so you get early pick of the fleeces.  Now I was not really looking for a wool fleece nor alpaca.  I have some left over from last year and really want to get the remainder carded and spun.  But  I was on the lookout for a nice angora goat fleece.

When I got the the show a few mohair fleeces were already there, including the fleece of Brooks Hill Farm's Minnie Pearl.  Now I must say that picking a raw mohair fleece requires a great leap of faith.  The fleeces are quite dirty, they can smell a bit...ummm...goaty.  They might look dingy and grey and Minnie Pearl was no exception.  Her fleece was grey, smelled like she had spent her life outside laying in the dirt and living in a barn.  But she felt right.  The ringlets were long and I had a great belief that she would wash up beautifully.  Turns out I was a fine judge of mohair fleece and Minnie Pearl's took the blue ribbon for white mohair.

Once home I began the process of turning mohair from funky to just fine!  I soaked it.

I washed it.

I dyed it.

And created a number of fun colorways including Beach Glass above and Autumn Sky to the left.   I've left some white and may tail spin the locks, though it is not my favorite spinning.  I'd rather spin my own hand dyed roving or carded fleece that I have processed.  I spent a bit of time carding a sweet brown lamb fleece I purchased at the Mountain State Fair this fall.  I've knitted a couple of nice hats from it.  My sweetie gets first pick, but they will likely end up in one of the local gallery shops.

This long weekend has been great fun.  As I have a serious aversion  to traveling on Thanksgiving weekend, I've spent time close to the house and studio  In addition to carding, dyeing, spinning and knitting, I've caught up on some chores.  With a bit of time off for unstructured play, I was happy to clean up the yard, catch up the mountain of laundry that accumulated when the house had plumbing issues, and tidy up the studio.  A fine holiday weekend indeed!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Being Thankful

As today is the American Thanksgiving holiday, I want to spend just a couple of minutes reflecting on gratitude. 

I grew up in a family that understood that it was important to be thankful for our blessings.  We were not wealthy - my parents were depression era, working class folks trying to get a better life for themselves and their daughters.  We didn't waste food nor money.  But we knew that we had a darn good life.  A warm home, good food, an education, people who love us. I thank my parents and sisters for the life that I have led.

This year is no exception.  Work has been gratifying; my creative work is exciting.  My house is still standing, though with rather interesting cracks in the walls.  My garden has been a delight; still giving me greens and herbs and flowers with promise of new beauty and sustenance in the future.  I am in love with an endlessly entertaining man.

Today I will take a walk, enjoying sunshine and nature in the UNCA Botanical Gardens.  I will dye and spin and knit, and prep fiber for my business. I will cook a bit and eat a wonderful dinner.  Later I will call the contradance at the Old Farmer's Ball in Swannanoa, NC sharing music and dance with my community.

I am happy, healthy and grateful for the life I lead. 

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Going Solar

Over the last few weeks, there has been a bit of home renovation/repairs/improvements and minor disasters here at chez Annie, aka world headquarters of Smoky Mountain Fibers.  The most interesting piece has been the installation of a solar water heating system.  Once the new roof was on (and the roof infrastructure was brought up to code), Sundance Power installed 2 solar panels on my roof facing in just the right direction.  In the mean time, a big honking water heater was installed next to my regular electric hot water (aka Old Faithful) and pipes containing glycol (basically antifreeze aka solar juice) threading from the basement to the attic and back again. 

So when the sun heats the panels to a certain level, the pump begins to circulate the solar juice in the solar water heater.  When it get hot enough, it starts circulating hot water over to Old Faithful which then provides hot water to my house.  If there is enough sun, the element in Old Faithful won't kick on and I'll use solar hot water.  If Mr. Sun hides for a few days, I'll just use vintage hot water.

The funny part was that we fired up the system as tropical storm Ida was dumping a couple inches of rain in our region.  So we not only had ZERO sun for about 4 days and actual rain water oozing into the basement.  Chilly, non-solar heater totally natural water.  The kind you sweep into the floor drain with the big, wide broom.

But then on Thursday morning I was sitting in my office computing away when I realized that the sun was out.  My first thought was, Hey, we're making hot water!  I checked the readouts when I got home and saw that, yes, even in the early evening, the system is up and working. Yestredays warm temps were even more exciting!  Because of unrelated plumbing issues, I haven't spent every sunny moment doing laundry and dyeing fiber.  But that will soon be all better.

Annoying knitting content: Having finished the sleeves, I cast on the body stitches for the Knit Picks Classic Lines Cardi last evening as my trip knitting.  I knitted from Asheville to Charlotte, in the Charlotte airport and as we were preparing for decent into the DC area, I admired my inch and a half or so of fine work.  Every knitter can tell what comes next: there was a twist!  The kind that doesn't come out.  Sadly, out it came.  I have cast on again and am about to check the cast on edge. Wish me luck!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Post-Conference Wrap up

All in all, the AASLconference was a good one.  I didn't become a conference blogger, because I didn't want to carry my laptop the 4 blocks from the hotel to the Convention Center,  I went to a couple of session that I found engaging and enlightening.  I found some answers to my questions, about how to add elements of inquiry as I work with veteran teachers.  I also learned about some new resources for using images in my work.  Schmoozed the Washington crowd too.  Had yummy Thai food.

I also knitted 4 lovely hats, including a ribbed ski hat made from my newly hand spun yarn in a rich brown.  Still a bit of lanolin, it will get a nice bath before it goes to its future home, wherever that may be.  Perhaps it's time for an Etsy hat listing again.

This is the yarn that I spun at the Mars Hill Heritage Festival and it is much prettier than I expected.  The fleece has a good bit of grey, but it didn't really come through in the yarn.

Once home, I called a dance Saturday evening in Jonesborough, Tennessee with the Contra Cowboys.  About a year ago we worked together at their premiere gig, but we have not had the opportunity since.  They play fiddle tunes combined with a Texas swing style that some contra dancers don't like, but it certainly brings out my inner cowgirl.  I tried to pick dances that complemented their music.  Kind of fun!  I tried waltzing on my bum knee and I was not in pain later, and that's a good thing!

On Sunday I spent some quality time with my drum carder, making batts in sparkly blue grey and also sparkly hot pink.  I spun a good bit of the blue-grey, but haven't plied it yet.  I'll start spinning the pink this evening.

Remember that Great Things are About to Happen?  Tomorrow the solar hot water should go live!  Stay tuned...

Friday, November 6, 2009

Live from AASL!

This week I am attending the National Conference of the American Association of School Librarians.  On the record, I am not a school librarian, but I do provide professional development (PD) to teachers and school librarians.  My day job is to develop and implement PD using the digtal resources of the Library of Congress.  So today, I'll be attending sessions by the Library both in the exhibit halls and in their official session.  The booth is very nice: quite professional but not too slick.  Apparently the other one is a bit 'high and mighty' and scared people off!

I saw my Library colleagues last night as well as several librarians that I know from the Asheville area.  One of them was knitting in line!

 For the first session, I'm deciding between 'Developing Global Awareness in the 21st Century Learner' and Electronic NoteTaking.  Biggest issue is that I should take my laptop to the Note-Taking session and that will require carrying it about 4 blocks.

As it often happens the 2nd session has ALL the workshops I'd like to take!  But I will attend the LOC session.  At 2:15 I'll attend 'Get Graphic! Visuals for Deep Thinking, Inquiry and Learning' because of my interest inf visual literacy and would love some new strategies for implementation.  So I am off to the conference, laptop in hand! 

Official Fiber Content:  Having knit 1.9 hats last evening, my conference session knitting is a ribbed guy hat using my newly handspun brown yarn - very pretty!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Progress Check

In my last post, I made a list of what is/will/should be happening. All in all, it has been a very good week! Here is the update...
  • The Roofing dude is about to fix the creaking rafters. Check.  We have raised high the roofbeams, carpenter.
  • The Plumber has my leak on his schedule (as soon as he gets back from Europe!).  Still broken, minimizing the use of plumbing, which means that laundry is piling up and I skipped my shower this morning.  I did spin out some dyed fiber, but captured some the grey water to use in soaking mohair locks
  • The Solar guys are about mid-way through their installation. And should finish up tomorrow!
  • New entry.  The furnace dude comes tomorrow to give the old geezer of a furnace it's yearly tune up.

In the world headquarters of Smoky Mountain Fibers...
  • I'll be working at the Locally Grown Gallery this weekend at the WNC Farmers Market. An excellent day, selling lots of yarn, patterns and hats.  I spun a good bit too! 
  • New entry. I weighed, bagged, photographed and listed a few bags of hand dyed locks I have had hanging out in the studio for too darn long.  Send them to a new home!
  • New entry. Keep on spinning - I'm dangerously low on dyed yarns in Locally Grown.

  • The day job has been requiring excessive reporting to finish the federal fiscal year, but they are nearly complete.  Done!
  • I will lead my first full program on English Country dancing on Sunday. Although not a groundbreaking success, everybody lived through it and my fans were quite pleased.  Lots of new dancers!