Thursday, December 01, 2011

Mitting Knittens

Here it is, that time of year again, when I knit mittens.  I seem to have gotten into the tradition of knitting a pair of mittens for the neighbor kids every year.  They're still young, so they don't take too long.  This year's mittens are featuring the dyed yarn created when I presented a workshop on Dying with Easter Egg Dyes (or Kool-Aid) earlier this year at guild.  In a nutshell, you wind the yarn into a loose "cake" using a ball winder, soak it in water, squeeze out excess, place in your dye bath and microwave it (1 or 2 minutes at a time, 2 or 3 cycles).  Dye bath is quite shallow and only comes up to just below half way up the the "cake".  When done, let cool enough to handle, squeeze out extra liquid, flip over the "cake" and repeat with a different color dye.  It's great fun and creates such random patterns when knitted.

The other knitting project is a pair of silk mittens, knitted straight from the mawata (a la Yarn Harlot).  This time, I'm using Elizabeth Zimmermann's Mitered Mittens from Knitter's Almanac (a book that needs to be in every knitter's library).  Slow start on these while I figured out what needles were going to work best (metal dpn's). 

Those of us who follow the Yarn Harlot have read that she is pretty sure that knitting is possibly addictive.  I believe her.  Not only that, but I seem to require a very high fiber diet.  If there isn't a goodly amount in a given day, I'm edgy.  Good thing I've got lovely customers to keep me happy!

I hope to finish up spinning for our guild's Lala Shawl knitalong.  I have over half the yarn spun and am so pleased with it.  Hopefully, now that I'm getting a bit of balance to my days, I'll finish up the spinning by the end of the week.

This is Daisy after being with us for close to 6 months.  She is a pretty nice cat...friendly without being needy, likes to be near you but not on you and purrs a lot.  Daisy's fur has pretty much grown back on her ears and even her nose is furrier.  Our vet wasn't sure if that would grow back or not.  Her coat is thick and even and she's put on a fair amount of weight.   We do, however, call her a walking hairball...I swear you can watch the fur fall off her as she walks around...kind of like Pig Pen from Charlie Brown.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

One month in...

Here I am, one month in of being in business.  What can I say?  I'm working hard, learning more every day, and am pretty sure that I'm crazy.

Since it's November, some thanks are in order:
--Many thanks to my growing list of customers.  Your bags of fiber are kind of like presents to me:  I get to open them up, play with them and then happily give them back for you to enjoy.
--Enormous thanks to Mom, who believed in me
--Enormous thanks to my husband, who growled a lot, did the construction work, believes in me and is really sad that he can't park his truck in the garage anymore.
--Many thanks to my daughter, the accountant, who still thinks I'm crazy

Things I've learned over the last month:
--Label every bag, every tray, every bin.  No mix-ups have occurred, but as the number of in-process orders has grown, I can see where that would be a real possibility.
--Fine wools and exotic fibers take time to work with.  Settle down, relax and enjoy the loveliness of the final product.
--Even better, enjoy that product and learn to stagger the in-process fiber so that I can work on something else at the same time.
--Order form needs to be redesigned, no flow to it (but this is mostly done). 
--Need to finish flyers (again, mostly done).  Decided to make them "rack card" size (approx. 3-1/4" x 8-1/4") with pricing structure, contact info. and such on it. 
--Need to set up web page.  Must. call. Frontier.  New computer has templates built in.  Hopefully can just upload and be done!
--My stash was already extensive.  The front hall closet is entirely full of a lovely variety of fibers.  This is the additional stash created by purchasing fleeces to practice with.  Yep, 30 pounds of wool roving in various colors.
--A dog crate makes a pretty good "wool safe" and protects it from my small, naughty, fluff loving dog.
--Sweep often.  Dust bunnies are an understatement.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

How did it get to be Halloween already?

My, how time flies around here.  I have no idea what has happened to the last few months.  Mother nature has finally decided to treat us to typical fall weather...rainy, windy, chilly and the possibility of some snowflakes over the next few days (not supposed to add up to anything, but who knows?)

About a month ago, these pheasant were visiting us almost every day.  We haven't seen any pheasant around here for 20 years.  A couple of them were showing off for the ladies!

On Facebook, there's been a picture of drunken pumpkins making the rounds.  Well, I couldn't resist.  Stopped at a farmstand, got 3 pumpkins, carved them, gathered up some empties and set off to our daughter's house.  She wasn't home at the time and was greeted with this sight when she finally rolled in:

Just like FB said, do not trust your pumpkins!

To ensure that we do not get too settled into a routine of work-for-someone-else, be self-employed, holidays are looming, dust buffalo are roaming the house under their own power and all the other day-to-day stuff, we are now foster parents to Molly, a lovely Airedale whose owners have to move.  I suspect that she will be staying here.  There have been no issues with Daisy, the cat.  Disputes have been minimal with Magic over toys and those are getting less frequent and less hostile sounding, so I guess they are working that out.  Otherwise, they get along great and spend a lot of time following each other around the house.

I've got quite the following when they all decide that it's time to follow Momma!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

It's Not Work

Many times, at previous employers, we would often get dragged into yet another program-of-the-day, leadership workshop, attitude adjustment workshop, time management, aren't-we-wonderful-presentation, etc.  You see, training was important, didn't matter what the training was for, just that you went.  At many of those, I would hear something along the lines of "If you love your work, it's not work anymore."  Right.  Are they on crack?  Work isn't called work because it's fun, but because it's something you have to do.  It's part of being grown-up and self-supporting.

Over the past few weeks, I have found that those "experts" weren't on anything.  If you love what you do, it's not work anymore.  Really!  I can't wait to get out to my garage and mess with fiber.  Doesn't matter to me if it's mine or a customer's.  All of it makes me happy.

If it's a fleece that I've picked out for either it's good qualities or it's bad qualities, I'm really into seeing what it becomes on it's way out of the carder.  Yes, in addition to some truly lovely fleeces in my stash, I deliberately got some undesireable ones to practice on.  Like this one...dirty, stained tips, lots of VM, old, dry and a fine wool.  It's surprising how nice the finished roving is...still has some VM but suitable for some projects (maybe one of those Shepherd's Rugs?).

Customer's fibers are even more fun in a way...they're full of surprises...I just don't know what I'm going to find when I open up that bag.  These surprises run the range from premium fiber to lower quality, strong fleeces to weak ones (that break),  fine fiber to coarse, lots of VM to none at all, natural colors to wildly dyed and sometimes all in one bag.

This is a customer's fleece after being picked.  Next time I'll put something in there for scale.  Believe you me, 5 pounds of wool fluffs an amazing amount!  That pile is about 5 feet x 6 feet x 2-1/2 feet deep.  This was 2 different gray wools blended in the picker, then carded; the roving is really nice.

I'm looking forward to seeing what the next bag contains...bring it on!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Trust My Instincts

This last week reminded me that I should listen to that little voice much more often, at least as far as textiles are concerned.

Listen Up #1:  My latest traveling sock has had pattern issues.  It's one of those self-striping yarns in a somewhat subdued colorway (navy & gray mostly), so I set about finding a pattern that offered a little bit of patterning without being ridiculous to remember.  I am now on my 4th try.  The first two contained double decreases, which, while are a nice look, are kind of a pain on a traveling sock.  Ripped out both of those starts.  The third try was a pattern from an online source, which said to *K2tog, K2, yo, K6*, repeat and do every row.  Well, while nice, it was making quite the ridge in the sock.  Right along, I kept wondering why isn't there a plain row in between the pattern rows?  I would read the pattern again, still the same.  I finally came to my senses, tried it with a plain row and was much more satisfied.  Frogged it yet again, and now it's clearly working out.

Listen Up #2:  While stash diving to find already washed fiber to run through the picker, then the carder, I came across some what looked like really nice white wool.  A mystery wool and really clean.  I handled it, squooshed it and thought it seemed a bit dry, but went ahead with picking and carding anyway.  Picking did not really show up any problems, but carding sure did.  I should of gotten to know this wool a bit better (like checking for weakness) as it "broke" while carding.  That was quite the mess of a huge number of little nepps and very little fiber that didn't break...looked more like snow than fluff.  Arghhh!  That earned me a couple of hours of serious cleaning time on the carder.

Listen Up #3 (where I actually listened):  Another batch of fine white wool:  this one was a give away at guild a couple of years ago by someone who was destashing.  The tips were still stained, full of veggie matter and quite dry.  I gave it another wash, which helped the dryness and got rid of some more dirt.  Picking went  just fine and when it came time to card, I checked for any weakness (seemed good).  Really looked at the fleece, definitely on the fine side (likely a merino cross), so slowed down the feed and take off a lot.  Son-of-a-gun, the roving coming off looks really nice (other than the previously mentioned VM...less of it, but still a fair amount).  Then I got to thinking, gee, it looks really good, should I try speeding it up in the interest of time savings?  At that point, the little voice said, "NO!  Leave it be.  It's fine just the way it is." 

In the "practice pile" of wool, there are two fine fleeces of known heritage.  One is a merino and the other is a CVM/Romeldale cross.  After this last batch, I'm feeling more confident that they will come off looking very that I've had it proven to me that the little voice has really good instincts when it comes to fiber and textiles.

Update on the practice pile...the CVM/Romeldale cross is just lucious.  I can hardly wait to show it to Amy, that particular sheep's shepherd.  The merino?  I decided that it should probably be washed a couple more times, but tried a handful anyway to verify.  Good decision...noiled up right away.

PS:  As far as "Am I open yet?", I'll say "Yes, Acorn Works is ready to go.", although there are a few loose ends that need tying up (things like a flyer and a website).  I imagine any start-up has those!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Summertime Visitors

Remember how I blogged about there being a ridiculous amount of rain a few months ago?  Well, now we haven't had any rain to speak of for the last month and a half or so.  I suppose it's too much to ask for something in-between?  At least it's good pool weather.

While hubby worked on the garage last Sunday, I cut the lawn weeds shrubbery that had managed to grow despite the weather.  The wild life like it either way...2 fawns are already getting used to our yard being a destination and this attractive-looking (and also smelly) varmint has also put us on the "list".  We were very glad Magic was already in the house!

Tonight, I was planning on taking my spinning wheel out on the patio and enjoying a very nice evening. However, the skunk is back.  In a way, it's kind of funny.  You see, my daughter was out front with both her dog and mine when I went out to hang out, too.  At that point, I just quietly called for the dogs to come in (they did) and DD just looked at me in bewilderment.  I suggested she turn around so that she could see the skunk that was about 40 feet behind her.  I'm half thinking that maybe I should call one of those nuisance wildlife trappers to come take it away.

Speaking of the garage, the walls are done (insulated, drywalled and painted).  This weeks hubby-do list includes running gas line for heat and water lines for the washing area.  Equipment is slated to arrive around the end of August.  I have much paperwork and preparation to do!

Saturday, July 09, 2011

I'm Still Here!

It's been the usual spring/early summer busy around here.  However, I just haven't quite gotten the routine down yet.  After being out of work for two years, I'm out of practice for squeezing in tasks and chores wherever I can.

Don brought home pounds of pure beeswax.  I thought about selling/giving it away as it, but it had darkened with age, so thought my chances would be better if I made candles.  I have a rather large collection of jello molds that I like to use for molding soap, so just used those, drilled the hole for the wick & threaded it through.  Of course, what seemed to me a small project turned out to be a much longer duration...*melt wax, oil mold, pour wax, cool overnight, unmold, find that about 20% stuck to the mold*, repeat from * to * until sick of process.  I much prefer soap!

Meg continues to work with her baby, Sugar.  Every time I see them together, there is something else that has improved:  This show was all about how much calmer and relaxed Meg was, which translated to a much calmer Sugar (even if she didn't perform as well as she should have).  Considering that this is the second day of a two-day show, being stalled in a strange place and all that waiting around until it's your turn, they did OK.

This is the year of the rescue critters.  Magic is just turning out to be a charming little dog.  She just wants to please me and Don.  Maybe me a little more...gotta say, that's kind of gratifying, if a little small-minded of me.  I mentioned that I would really like to have a cat around.  I just like them.  Don, not so much; he likes other peoples cats.  Despite that, he pointed out a cat that was on the website for the city shelter.  Not only did she seem to fit our desired cat-specs (female, not a kitten, not geriatric, spayed, preferably declawed), and the price was right as cat adoptions were free.  I wasn't going to argue, so off I went right after work one day and picked up Daisy.

Again, we seem to have gotten lucky in rescue land.  Not only does she meet all the above cat-specs, but she is affectionate without being too needy, even tempered, does not crowd the door to get out and she and Magic get along (a non-event).  I'm guessing her reason for being at the shelter is perhaps neglect (rather than abuse), her lovely fur is patchy from matt removal and she's on the thin/undermuscled side.  Daisy is going to be one gorgeous cat in no time at all!

Magic says:  "What is that cat doing?!?!?"

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Same old, same old...

Well, it's back to raining so much that the snails have had enough.  The local creeks are high and overflowing.  I'm only thankful that we haven't got the problems of the scale that people up and down the Mississippi and in Manitoba have had this spring.

The weather service says we had an inch of rain, but let me just say that an inch of rain does not look like this.  This is Black Creek in the village and that is a spillway, not a ripple.  I know as a kid, that spillway was way over my head, so I'm guessing it's about 10-12 feet tall.

Our road is still above water and let's just hope it stays that way.  There is yet more rain predicted for the the few days, so that could change.

Earlier this evening, we had a visitation from a laundry demon.

I supposed I should be more concerned, but then I've always been a kind of haphazard housekeeper.  Besides, it's mostly the hubby's stuff anyway.

Friday, May 13, 2011

What a difference a month makes!

Last post I was kind of whining about the weather, it really was a long stretch of beastly.  Really now, when you start getting snails on the windows on the second floor of the house, there has been enough rain!

This week, however, it's definitely spring.  In the last few weeks there have been many, many changes around here.

We've gone from no leaves, to wee baby leaves, to fully leafed out trees.

Best. flower. ever.  Daffodils are great, they grow around here and nothing eats them.  Best of all, they are just so  cheery to see in the spring.

Spring has brought some other hugely good news around here.  First off, I finally got a job.  You have no idea just how much this takes the pressure off.  I am an information technologist for a local non-profit and do a bit of everything from computer maintenance/troubleshooting, translating between the real geeks and the people I work with, to regular admin-type stuff.  I'll also be learning how to be the webmistress of their site, so that will be something new to me.

Other good news, well, the day before this job was offered to me, hubby and I went off to Canada where we not only had a big dish of poutine, but put down a deposit on a carder and a picker.  Yes, that's right, the mill project is a go!  There is much to be done between now and when the equipment is ready...insulate the garage, a bit of wiring, some plumbing and a million other things that will need sorting out.

I'd best take some "zoom" lessons from Magic!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Enough Already!

This last winter was a long one; there were no big storms to entertain and challenge us, just boring, unending precipitation, usually frozen.  Today, it's snowing again.  Not sticking really, but enough to be really discouraging.  Enough already!  

Magic is showing signs of settling in well and even starting to play a little.  We've brushed off our obedience training and have started to train her to the invisible fence.  She seems to pay attention to it pretty well, but we haven't tested her off leash yet.  We need to work on "Come" and that's a hard one to learn.  I'm not above using bribery, so just a matter of finding the bestest-treat-in-the-entire-world.  

We've also learned a couple of things about Magic...she is bird crazy.  Totally nuts for them.  Will attempt to climb trees.  She feels the same way about rabbits.  The training directions for the fence say to create a distraction that will really test your dog.  I'm trying to figure out how to get the birds and bunnies to cooperate.  So far, they are not placing themselves in just the right spot and staying there.  

Since the weather was just so dank the last few days, I decided it was time to put together the loom I bought over a year ago.  It's a much bigger loom than my LeClerc 24-inch Dorothy.  It is a 4-Harness Studio Art loom made by Newcomb Loom with a 42" max weaving width.  The interesting part of this project is that I had no directions; only a couple of pictures from the internet.  Trust me, it was something like crossing tinker toys, lincoln logs and tetris, while at the same time not sure if you really have all the pieces or not.

The good news is that, yes, I had all the pieces (except for one nut, replacement easily found in DH's stash) and I seem to have gotten it all put together properly.  I'm washing the apron, have taken off the old warp and am seriously contemplating getting new heddles.  The ones on there now are the flat style and are just full of lint from the mohair that the previous weaver liked.  Never mind that they're full of fuzz, I'm not sure that I like them at all as they seem to catch on each other and bend very easily.  Any one have an opinion on wire, flat or string?  This loom will be used primarily for rag rugs and saddle pads, although I wouldn't rule out other textiles.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Even More Deer and Magic

I think (and we'll say it very, very quietly) that maybe the worst of winter is over.  Mud season has commenced.  One thing that hasn't changed is that we still seem to be a destination for a small herd of deer.  The other day there were 6 way in the back.  Yesterday, there were 5 in the front yard.  They were so close that I couldn't get a picture of all of them at once.

Even though it has not been long since we had to say goodbye to Gypsy, we just couldn't stand it and commenced looking for a new dog.  This is Magic.  She originally came from a shelter in Kentucky and has been fostered up here for a almost 3 weeks.  She's supposed to be a 2-year-old, 42-lb. cattle dog mix and that seems as good as any other guess, maybe a bit of boxer?  Magic is a bit cautious and timid right now, but then who can blame her with all the changes in her life?  She is warming up quickly to us and is showing signs of wanting to please us.  We'll be spending quite a lot of time obedience training her (she just doesn't know much) and what an invisible fence is.  Magic does seem to be quite smart, so neither will be much of an effort, I'm thinking.

Monday, March 21, 2011


Gypsy made it possible for me to survive some very difficult times.  She was a gentle soul right to the very end.

Rest in peace, dear Gypsy.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Oh Deer!

We live in "outer-suburbia" and have a 5 acre lot.  Every year, we notice that traffic in our little world has increased.  It has become apparent that we are a destination, even a rendezvous (depending on the time of year).  Until the snow gets deep, the critters just run up the bank by the road out front.  As the snow gets deeper, they just use our driveway, like any other visitor.

Now that I'm outside at night to take Gypsy out, I get to hear/see all kinds of critters.  Depending on the time of day, we can see deer, rabbits, skunks, possums, fox, hawks, owls and even coyotes.  Only once have I seen a coyote, but we hear them often...really spooky sounding, too!  Some mornings, after a fresh snow, it looks like there was some sort of party out there with the number of tracks criss-crossing the snow, mostly bunny and deer tracks.

Our larger visitors, white-tailed deer, can often been seen during the day and almost always hear them crunching through the snow at night.  One day there was a group of 6 grazing out back.  A few days later, this single buck was just behind the trailer, near our firewood storage.

Clearly, he still has both his antlers.  Just a few days prior to that, I found this rack, sticking out of the snow, near the turnaround in our driveway.  Deer naturally shed their antlers this time of year.  It's a good-sized one, 4 points and weighs almost 1-1/2 pounds.

I think I'll be figuring out how to make a basket out of it.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Finished Objects!

You wouldn't think that I would be this busy just after the holidays and in the full winter gloom that we get around here.  Usually, like many, I just want to semi-hibernate:  stay inside and warm.  Kind of like Gypsy.  A bit of news on Gypsy, she, very suddenly, has gone blind.  Other than confused, she is in good health and we are learning how to be seeing-eye-people.

Be warned, this is a picture heavy post.

Remember all those felted mittens that I wanted to get done before starting anything else?  Well, I did do them first, so there!  Good thing as this winter has been an old-fashioned one:  cold and persistently snowy.

DD purchased her own home last year, so, after reuniting her with her belongings, I've painted her room and moved some of my toys in there.  I have a small loom to put in there and come spring, will assemble the large loom that is in storage.

The drum carder, swift and ball winder can all stay set up and ready to use and there's still space left on that table to sit and work on projects.  There's room for my finished goods, room for the wardrobe (contains various crafty items in bins), a place to hang the tower of yarn (gotta love Ikea) that contains sock yarn, alpaca, novelties, special stuff and a even a spot for those leftovers.  There's a big closet that has shelves and a dresser in it for even more  storage.  It's actually taking a bit to move into so much space as I want things to go where it makes the most sense.

There is room for the spinning wheels (all 2 of them) for when they're not in active use.  Keeping the living room as clear as possible for Gypsy is a must do and is going to help me stay more organized.

So what do I do after knitting and felting 5 pair of mittens?  Lace, of course!  This is the Diamond Fantasy Scarf (designer Sivia Harding) that I've lusted wanted to knit for ages.  By chance, I won some Claudia Handpaints yarn at knitting guild in December and found the pattern that I had gotten awhile ago.  I must say, this was one of the easiest lace knits I've ever done.  Another nice thing is that you knit the border  on at the same time as the rest, so when you cast off, you're done (other than blocking).

Also instigated by knitting guild are the 2 projects on the right:  Flower Power Elephant (Ravelry) and Pyramid Project Bag (Knitting Daily).  There was an unloved yarn swap in January and I was the recipient of a ball of bright blue mohair.  Bah!  I'm not a big fan of knitting with mohair.  However, February brought a contest of finished items from that unloved yarn and the little elephant won a bag of goodies for me.  There was a journal, a calendar, some yarn, a goofy ball and even a little light to put on your finger so that you can knit in the dark.

OK, the cat mittens were actually done last year, but they just got their picture taken the other day.  I showed them to my neighbor, along with another pattern from the same designer.  She called after Christmas and wanted a pair of the lucky horse mittens.  Glad to oblige.  Another good thing from Ravelry:  Being able to get terrific patterns from terrific designers like Jorid Linvik.  Do check out her other patterns.  Seriously, I think I must get the zebra pattern, maybe more.

The cat mittens are handspun, gray from Crik and blue from Bob G.  The horse mittens are alpaca (white) and wool (brown/red) commercial yarns.

Hmmm, what next, you ask?  Well, I fell in love with the Yarn Harlot's silk mittens.  Lo and behold, stash diving came up with a nice blue & yellow package of silk mawata.  Perfect!  Pictures will be reserved for another post.  Now then, now that we're all caught up, I'm going to go play with some silk!

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Happy New Year!

How 'bout that...managed to get through another year.  For the most part, this last year of kind of benign, but, to be honest, there was lots of not-good stuff over the last decade.  Enough of the past, except to show that I actually get some stuff done around here.

Mittens were knitted (and even mailed) in time for Christmas.

These are socks for Mom.  EZ's moccasin socks...look wonky, fit great and are fun to knit.

There are a bunch of mittens still to be finished (none for the holidays).  3 pair of felted mittens (1 grown up, 2 kids), all in some stage of doneness.  My plan is to get these done before starting anything else.

I have lots of plans and ideas for projects for 2011.  I think my resolution ought to be to try and be more productive!