Monday, August 30, 2010

Can It Be?

Is it true?  Am I actually working out?  I just did 2 loops around campus with my colleague, and I'm still sweating.

After the trip to Colorado where I walked and hiked each day and last weekend's walkabout, this weekend my sweetie and I went on a bit of a hike in Craggy Gardens, north east of Asheville.  Even without the large elevation changes and western views, the Blue Ridge mountains are equally lovely.  With friends from out of town, we drove up the Blue Ridge Parkway to a lovely area.  Instead of hiking to the balds with the CCC-built picnic shelter and views both of Asheville and other peaks, we hiked the rocky, shady side of the mountain.    But still ample time to enjoy the subtle beauty of rocks and flowers in addition to the amazing views.

This has also been a time for dyeing.  I'm not sure how it happened but when filling a big roving order for the LYS, I realized that I am very low on dyed roving.  Very low.  So in the past few days, I dyed about 8 green shades; 6 blue shades and hit the reds hard starting this morning.  I think I need to dye morning and evening all week to be ready for the fall season.  Thankfully we will not be traveling on Labor Day weekend, but will be happily home to dye and spin and garden and workout!

I did a good bit of yard work too.  That's exercise, right?  I don't feel any thinner.  Perhaps it's too soon to tell.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Big Puffy Yarns!

My New Year's resolution for 2009 was to spin more intentionally.  My default yarn was kind of big and puffy - perfect for the hats that I make for the Asheville HomeCrafts shop.  The patterns that I wrote a few years back were geared to beginning knitters who wanted semi-instant gratification.  This was yarn that I could spin eithout thinking and the hats knit up quickly.

But back in ought-nine, I felt that my spinning needed to get better - that is to say, thinner.  So I have concentrated on spinning merino wools, wool-silk blends and other fine wools into fine yarns.  I can do that now without much difficulty.  I have trained myself to spin skinnier yarn,  Now granted, I am not spinning 3 ply sock yarn.  Nothing wrong with that.  I have friends who spin 3-ply sock yarn - lovely yarn for lovely socks.  But I find I don't like to spin superwash yarn and I don't like to hand wash socks.  I am happy to buy sock yarn,, thank you very much!  Besides, I like the stripey sock yarns.

But I have a need to some yarn for my hats - the big puffy yarns that I do not make very often anymore.  Tonight is spinning night at Friends and Fiberworks and I will intentionally spin big puffy yarns. Not rank amateur out-of-control blobby yarn - just nice puffy yarn the way I used to.  Creamy white, fluffy yarn of Falklands wool.  Pretty yarn.  My yarn!

Monday, August 23, 2010

School's In!

I seldom mention my day job on this blog, but I can't help commenting on the students back for the fall.  I am happy to see our good students - fun people, hard workers - dedicated to what they love.  The class of student teachers are a fine group, ready to make their way in the classroom.  The student athletes look refreshed (except the football players who have been here a couple of weeks already) and ready to see their pals.  I have promised my students that I'd make it to at least one football game this year.  Last year it seemed that all the home games conflicted with dance or fiber.  I'll try harder this year.

The Anything Fiber Yard Sale was lots of fun on Saturday.  I sold lots of yarn (at bargain prices), a few books and a little bit of fiber and fabric.  Nobody got rich, but it was a good relocation of stash!  I bought a few dyes and a mohair fleece and I traded a couple of books. I also made contacts with local spinners and weavers, never a bad thing.  It poured rain most of the day and even though it was inside, that probably kept people away.  I will probably do it again next year and will be smarter about what I bring.

I did get a wee bit of dyeing done. This is African Sun, the full size version of my August Phat Fiber Sampler box contribution.   Since I will be a vendor at SAFF, I need to get yarn and fiber dyed up and ready to sell.  And as October looks slammed a month before it starts, I'll be dyeing almost daily until then.  Watch for the woman with the purple fingers - - Oh, that's all of us!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Western Jaunt

I did not fall off the earth, though I was in something of an internet brown out.  I just returned from a business trip to Denver with an additional hiking extension.  Of course I knit through it all (except the business meeting!) coming back with 7 hats and a sock and a quarter.  Disregarding my theory that socks are the supreme travel knitting, I took a good bit of hand spun and commercial yarns and knit a number of hats for warm heads all over western North Carolina while I was riding in the car through the Rockies as well as in the airports & airplanes.

While in Denver we visited friends and walked over to the Denver Botanic Gardens.  They are having a year-long Henry Moore exhibit with big honking bronze sculptures all over the park.  Late summer in Denver is beautiful and the Moores were nicely set among the plants and ponds and lawns.  The deal is that you can see the work around the year, in every season.  If I lived there, I would.

The trip was partly work for me, but my sweetie went with me.  I had not been to the Rockies in a long time.  We walked and walked and walked in the Rocky Mountain National Park.  We saw big mountains and pretty lakes, darling chipmunks and cool birds.  The mountains were really big and it was windy above the tree line.  But the coolest thing was a little evening stroll  - really, just a leg stretcher - I didn't want to get caught out after dark.  As we crossed the Big Thompson River near the Cub Lake trailhead, we came upon a head of about 50 elk.  Just hanging out, browsing, traveling fairly slowly.  Rather unafraid of the humans - they were about 10 tards from us.  The big guy had about a 5' antler spread - amazing.  This is not our picture, it's from the NPS, but this would be the picture that we took.

Back in Denver, we visited the Denver Art Museum, another fine museum - well funded and nicely curated.  My favorite piece was this delightful group of foxes.  There are almost as many foxes invading the restaurant as there were elk.   Lots of other fine art too - an amazing pre-Columbian collection, as well as western works (cowboys, Indians, buffalo, etc) that you would expect.

Everything about the trip was good.  It makes me want to start hiking again here - the Blue Ridge Mountains are smaller and less dramatic, but no less beautiful.  Being in nature is good for my soul, even if it means walking through the urban forest to the Asheville Botanical Gardens just about a mile from my home.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Another Treasury!

 My Saturn Roving was featured in another Etsy Treasury.  All about the yellows and golds of fall, this red-gold roving fits nicely with the other handmade and vintage items in this treasury.  I've been on a gold binge lately.  Take yesterday's African Sun Phat fiber roving - I dyed a couple more batches yesterday and this morning to ensure that I'll have full size rovings in my shop when the Phat Fiber box gets into the hands of the purchasers.

I've also been playing with my 'Rose Gold' colorway.  One batch was very pretty, it's 'twin' - not so much.  It went into the drum carder with more pink and some sparkly firestar to become a much prettier yarn that anyone would have thought based on the roving.  This it one of the reasons I like to dye and to spin - the transformative process sometimes tales my breath away!

I picked up a new hat customer yesterday in Black Mountain, NC.  Time to get knitting!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

August Phat Fiber Contribution

After sitting out a month or two, I am contributing to the August Phat Fiber Sampler Box.  Along with lots and lots of fiber artists, farmers, & designers, I am part of a collaborative effort to provide buyers with sample sizes of indie dyed sock-yarn, hand spun yarns, amazing carded bats and hand-dyed roving for spinners and felt makers along with lovely patterns.

This month's theme is Africa.  My immediate thoughts were of the hot African sun and the jungle - so that is what I dyed.  Here is the roving in the dye pots:

 Here is the roving in the made-up samples:.  The African Sun is Merino wool - soft and sweet and wet-felts super fast.

 The Jungle colorway is Falklands wool - a little bit coarser but easier to spin and great for needle felting.

I love them!  This week and next, I'll be dyeing full size rovings in the same colorways for sale in my Etsy shop.  I've been playing with the packaging.  I think I like the banding idea, but the labels are too small.  I'll do better next time! 

Monday, August 9, 2010

Etsy Treasury: Lake Marie

My watery Blue-Green dyework was recently part of an Etsy Treasury, Lake Marie.  Based on the John Prine song of the same name, all the items in this collection reflect the story that Prine tells in the song.  This roving, Neptune is one of a series of my 'Andromeda Shades.'  How can I approach the heavenly bodies through the dyeing of fiber, then the spinning of yarn.  The yarn that I spin from this roving gets 'tamed down' a bit and is less vibrant.  The colors are still there, but a bit more subtle.  I occasionally run this roving through the drum carder to make it even more blended

What else is cooking at the world headquarters of Smoky Mountain Fibers?
  • SAFF board meeting
  • Planning and packing for the Anything Fiber Yard Sale.  Mark your calender for Saturday, August 21st; Black Mountain, NC.  I have a table.
  • Next week's trip to Colorado! What to knit?
  • Meeting with a new gallery who wants to carry my hats - so I'm getting some samples together.
  • Knit some hats!  I thought I was ahead on inventory.  Turns out, not so much!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Little Bunny FooFoo

A few years ago I had an English Angora rabbit.  A red-eyed white, he was a rescue bunny who never quite got over his trauma.  He wasn't happy outside his cage, although eventually he did become relaxed and content while I groomed him, talking and singing as I brushed, plucked and clipped him.  He was around for about 3 years before he died of a kind of bunny stroke.  He was an excellent helper in the garden as he produced copious amounts of fertilizer. 

He grew lovely fiber too.  I even won an award for a hat that I spun and knitted from his lovely fuzzy wool.  However, I have not been tempted to get  a new bunny.  His cage and accessories went quickly to another friend who had bunny fever and continues to raise and breed them for fiber.

Another friend got a gray German Angora bunny at last year's SAFF.  Really, I tried to talk her out of it.  They are not cats with long ears and cool fiber. But Mrs. Simpson became part of her life and she likes her a lot.  Now my friend is an excellent knitter but a new spinner.  We have had a number of conversations about spinning, though I have never seen her spin.  But the conversations that we have had regarding angora spinning made me realize that spinning angora was beyond her skill level. 

Angora is hard!  I seldom spin it alone but usually blend it with a soft wool.  I always sandwiched it between layers of merino and sent it through the drum carder several times.

So that is what I have been doing with this lovely gray angora.  About 5 passes through the drum carder with white merino wool gave me this very pretty batt.  I did not pull out all the short pieces, so it is likely to be a wee bit bumpy.  But it did spin very nicely to a heavy worsted weight 2 ply yarn. I carded another batch with some darker gray wool roving and it it coming out very nicely as well. 

This time I am much fussier about the angora that I am carding.  The brown yarn in the photo is a purchased roving of chestnut angora and pale brown rambouillet wool.  Reasonably nice spinning and already carded for my convenience!

I passed both yarns on to Mrs. Simpson's bunny-mama and she was quite happy!  So much so that she asked if I would spin her angora forever in exchange for all the foo-fur I want.  I suggested she learn to card her own.  Not to be ungenerous, but wouldn't she rather take control of the whole process?  Of course!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Spinning and Dyeing and Knitting - Oh My!

Last week was very busy at the day job, facilitating a week-long workshop for teachers - hence the blog silence.  But I took my tired self home each evening and spun a little everyday and knit while I watched movies.  I have been knitting up stash yarn isnce spring and have been getting a bit tired of it.  I have made a decent dent in the stash, but frankly, it was getting a bit dull.  It was time to be a bit more creative, so I pulled out some handspun yarns and knitted a few hats for the upcoming fall hat inventory.

I also have been dyeing my 'stock colors,' semi-solids for grab bags,and some new colors as well.  The color you see here is 'Antique Roses,' a pale peachy-pinky-gold that is just lovely.

Last Saturday was cool and rainy, a perfect day to spend at the drum carder.  So I have been spinning as well, both some angora for a friend and pretty colors for the Locally Grown Gallery as well as for my own work.  So quiet, yes. Busy, Oh, yes!