Saturday, February 16, 2013

It's been awhile!

So It's been a long time since I've posted a blog. At the beginning of this year my shop sales have skyrocketed. There just aren't enough hours in the day to do it all. So naturally the blog is the first things to be put off.

I've been working on some new yarns, mostly for Spring. I like this new color combo that is out now, pastels mixed with neons. So I've been making pastel colored yarns that will go with my neons.

Peach Fuzz 60 Yards

This was my first pastel, it's a light peachy color. looks great with my Aqua colored yarn!

Lilac 60 Yards   

Washed Lemon 60 Yards

Lightest Beige

So there they are, my pastels. I think I will be doing a few more. I think I need to do a minty green, and light pale blue.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

What I am working on.

I've been working very diligently through my yarn stash this month trying to knit items with stuff I have. I just wanted to share with you one of the things I'm working on.

I bought this really cute, short sleeved cardigan a few Falls ago at Target, but  it's beginning to wear thin. I have yet to find anything that compares to it at a store that didn't cost a fortune. So, I went on (by the way if you knit, and haven't checked this site out you should) to search for a replacement.

I found the Shalom Cardigan, by Meghan McFarlane and it is adorable! It's simple in it's design, but it is exactly what I was looking for. I have some very Autumnal colored yarn that I will be using, that is perfect for this. I will make some modifications though, I am very  large chested, so the cap like sleeves will only make my chest more pronounced. So I'm thinking 3/4 sleeves. Autumn in St. Louis is still warm, even in November you can still get some very mild temperatures, so I figure elbow length will be perfect. Here's the beginnings of my Shalom Cardigan.

As I am looking at this photo, I realize I may have to frog part of this, and try again, it's not matching up to original pattern...sigh.

I hope everyone is staying cool this evening. Now I have to go wake my husband up and see where he wants to go for dinner. I'm starving. Also I hope everyone is enjoying the new look of my blog. It's been an all day project.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

What I Made on my Summer Vacation

I've been on a sewing kick lately, mainly stuff for me and my niece. I've been trying some simple reconstruction projects with fabric, and clothing I have instead of buying new supplies. This is my first project a simple tank dress. For the skirt I used an Asian print I bought a few years ago. I had no idea what I was going to do with it when I bought it, and it was just enough for the skirt. I knew I would make good use of it sometime.

I'm not 100% happy with it, the skirt is a bit short and poufy, the tank's a bit too long, and the straps need to be shortened. I enjoyed the process. New projects are like pancakes, the first one always comes out a little odd, but the ones following it get better, and better

Project 2:

So, I had a pair of linen pants I bought last summer, and like a dope I stuck them in the dryer. They still fit, but were way too short in the legs (I'm 5'9" so I need all the length I can get). Angry with myself for doing something so dumb to a new pair of pants, I stuffed them into the back of my closet, and left them there. Well, a few days ago wanting to do something different, I pulled them out, and thought "I can make a skirt out of these pants" and I did!

I had this funky droop in the back that no matter what I did I could not make decent looking, so I added some ruffles and a bit of a dart in the back. It looks adorable on, and is just the right length. I am really pleased with it.

My last project was one I did this afternoon. I saw this pattern at my local Joann's and figured instead of buying the pattern I could figure it out for myself. The hardest part was gauging the size since my niece lives 30 miles away! I intended it to be a dress, but she's tall for a one year old, I think it might end up being a top. My sister loves it, and I can't wait to have my niece try it on! Top picture is the front, bottom is the back. Tomorrow I might make a few more just for fun.

So, this is what I have been working on lately. I have one more week of vacation before I have to go back to work. It's been am awesome vacation. I've done loads of projects, a few household projects completed, and.... oh yeah lots, and lots of relaxing. I'm ready to go back to work I'm beginning to miss my daily routine.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Washing Alpaca Fiber

I've been on summer vacation this month, and have decided to work on cleaning up some alpaca. Here's how I clean it, and what you will need:

Lingerie bags (2-4 do nicely)
Liquid dish soap (not soap used in a dishwaser) I use plain old Dawn
A large container of hot water

Below is some of the fiber I want to clean. I picked through it by hand removing grass, short bits, and other unwanted things. Besides being really dusty it was relatively clean stuff. 

I stuffed a few handfuls into a lingerie bag. You don't want it too full, if the bag is stuffed with too much it will be hard to get it clean.

Next fill your sink with the hottest water you can get. Our water heater makes some very hot water so I just use that. Next pour in your liquid soap, I use about 4 liberal squirts of Dawn. Make sure to add this after you've filed your sink, you don't want to make suds. Here's my water ready to go!

Now, the first time I washed some of this fiber I did two bags at once. It came out clean, but it was a lot more work. This time I soaked 1 bag at a time. All you have to do is lay your lingerie bag full of fiber on top of the water and let it just absorb the water on it's own.. Don't go swishing it around, you will felt it (although I have found this particular alpaca fiber I am using can be treated pretty rough without felting)! After a few minutes, I have a dowel rod that I use to gently poke it down into the water.

After it is fully immersed I set my timer for 30 minutes and just let the soap and hot water do it's stuff. Most of the dirt, and dust will simply sink to the bottom. As you can see from the picture below the water gets quite dirty.

After 30 minutes I pull the bag out of the water, I hold it up for a bit letting the excess water run off. I have another hot, soapy bath waiting on the other side of the sink. I just pop it in the next bath for another 30 minutes. Here's what is at the bottom of my sink after the first 30 minutes!

I repeat this process until the water is basically clear and there is very little dirt at the bottom.  A,fter all the washing is done, I squeeze the excess water out of the  lingerie bag (gently now, don't go ringing the heck out of it) and lay it on a wide screen just for this. Lay it in a sunny spot, and after an hour or two you will have beautifully fluffy, clean fiber.

After that I card it, and it is ready for spinning. Here's some of the yarn I have made using the fiber above. I am really please with it. It is incredibly soft, and slightly silky in texture.  I'm working very hard on creating a balanced yarn, so far so good.

 This is a video of me using my electric spinning wheel.

I hope this little tutorial is helpful.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Cleaning raw wool and spinning.

My MIL, who is currently working in New Hampshire sent me a birthday gift a few weeks ago. A giant box of raw alpaca! Two big bags one, creamy white, and one a rich auburn brown color. I was daunted by the thought of washing it all. I've never done it before, but I have been reading, and watching a ton videos of people doing it. So, after a few more days of research, and some tool making I dove in.

The first thing I needed was a skirting table. I'm the type of person that would always prefer making my tools rather than buying them. And have you priced a skirting table lately?! Yowch, they are expensive!

I went to Lowes, and bought some 1.5" thick pvc pipe, cut it into 3x5 pieces, and made a rectangle out of them. Then I covered it in plastic bird netting which was all I could find. I'm getting some sturdier plastic chicken wire from my mom when I remember. I just zip tied the netting to the pvc rectangle. Presto, a skirting table that didn't even cost 15.00! I use my husbands saw horses, and it works like a charm.

So, after getting the big clumps of debris, and other unmentionables out of the wool, I filled my lingerie bags with fiber and started soaking them.

Shoot, wishing I had taken photos of all of this, but was way too busy and forgot. Next time!

I washed my wool in my kitchen sink, I filled it with the hottest water my sink could provide, and a kettle of boiling water which got me a temp of 140 or so, which seemed to work perfectly. I added about 1/2 cup of liquid dish soap (not dishwasher detergent do not use that) making sure not to make the water sudsy. After that I very slowly, and gently pushed the bags into the water and let them soak for a half an hour.

Seeing how dusty and grass ridden this stuff was, I was skeptical that simply letting them sit would get everything out, but it did! I still have some grass to pick out, but for the most part it came out beautifully.

I've only cleaned a small fraction of what was in the box, and what I've done is enough to last me for a long while. Right now, I'm using big slicker brushes to card the fiber. They aren't the greatest tools for the job, but I'm saving my dollars for hand carders or a pair of combs. I can't decide which I want more. I don't mind spinning carded rolags, or combed top, it's really more of a question of which is a better process for the alpaca. If any spinners can give me their opinion or advice on combs vs carders that would be great!

So that's what I've been up to. It's getting warmer everyday and flowers are beginning to pop up here, and there. Could winter really be ending?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

It's been awhile.

Sorry it's been so long since I have posted anything. I've been busy (and lazy). I found a local yarn shop that sells spinning wool, which has given me no end of joy. This is just the first of many purchases to come.  It's a beautiful blue Suri Alpaca. This is such a gorgeous color, this picture does it little justice.


I heard that alpaca is slippery stuff to spin, but I have found that I actually like it more than the wool I just finished. I taught myself, (after lots of cursing) the long draw technique. It's so much fun, now that I know how to do it! I'm still very inconsistent, I find that I draw it waaayy too far out, and the single just snaps into nothingness, but I will keep practicing.

I've also been doing some dyeing. The last bit of my Polwarth wool I wanted to do something fun with, so I decided to knit up a pair of thrummed mittens for my MIL. I didn't want to use boring white, so I dyed it. Unfortunately, it did not come out as it looks in the first pictures, (most of the color mixed together once I put the heat to it), but I'm happy with the results. 

Isn't it a pretty fuchsia color? 

 This is the finished wool that I dyed. I know it's looks like it's all gold, but in actuality it has pinks, and greens running through it. It looks great with the fuchsia yarn. I'm still getting used to dyeing with heat, I get a little better each time.

I've also been thinking about joining the Weavers Guild of Saint Louis. I'm apprehensive, I'm not a social butterfly, I want to learn as much as I can, but it's hard to make that leap to join a group. I wonder if any of my readers are a part of a guild (knitting, artists, weavers etc)? What do you do? What have you learned from being apart of a guild? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

I wish I had taken a moment to take pictures of the finished mittens, but I was so excited to send them off that I forgot! So that's what I've been doing lately, along with working, and wishing for Spring. Will it ever come?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Apparently blizzards make productivity go up.

At the moment, Saint Louis, and the surrounding areas are being hit by a huge blizzard. Last night, everything was given a thick coating of ice, and we are expected to get almost 20" of snow today! This is on top of the few inches of snow that is still on the ground from the last big snow. I have never experienced anything like this in my lifetime. I mean, I live in the Midwest, I know hard winter weather, heavy snows, sleet, and flooding, but a blizzard is something almost unheard of in my area. Just about everything is shut down, I have yet to go to work this week, and I thank god my husband has the ability to work from home. 

That being said I have been very productive these last few days. Cleaned house and did the mountain of laundry yesterday. Today I've been able to dye some singles in preparations for my first three ply yarn.  I took lots of pictures of the process.

These are my singles getting all tied up, (yes a niddy noddy is on my list of tools to purchase), this giant shoebox lid works well for now.  The fiber I used is Polwarth top roving purchased from Paradise Fibers.  This is a great fiber for a beginner like myself, it's easy to draft, and is not too expensive.

I'm pretty proud of the consistency of these singles.  When all is said and done I'm hoping this will be a medium weight yarn, but right now I'm not very good at gauging what finished yarns are going to look like.

Below are the two colors I have decided to use: tangerine and teal. The third ply in this yarn will be a dark peacock colored thread. I know from experience that RIT dyes aren't always great at giving yarn a rich color, but for my first time dyeing singles, I wanted something I'm familiar with. Maybe with the next dye session I will spring for more vibrant dyes.

Here's the dyes all mixed up and waiting.

I added the first hank into the teal, it looks like I beautiful color, I just hope it looks that good when it's all done.

And now the second hank into the tangerine, this is also a beautiful color, but has a very odd smell to it. Not bad, just odd I should have looked to see what they use in this particular dye.

I let them soak for about 10 minutes before checking them out, looks good so far!

I let the orange sit in the dye for 30 minutes, the blue I let sit for an extra 10 minutes it seemed like it needed a bit more time. After that, I gently rinsed them both in lukewarm water being careful not to let anything felt up. I just kept rinsing until the water ran clear. Then I squeezed the water out (gently) and rolled them each in a towel for a few minutes to soak up the water. At the moment they are hanging up to dry.

This tangerine color is just gorgeous! The teal is also pretty, not quite what I expected, but I knew it wasn't going to be the vibrant teal I had hoped for.  These photos make it look rather gray, in person it looks more green.

I gave them a twist to see how the two will look plied together. Not too shabby.

With the peacock thread running through it I think it will be fantastic yarn. I hope doing a three ply isn't as cumbersome as I suspect. I've been researching a lot of videos, and have picked up a few techniques that I'm gonna try. I will take lots of photos of the finished product. Wish me luck.

I'm leaving you with a photo taken from my window, let's just pray the power stays on, and no ones pipes freeze!

Have a great day everyone!