Monday, November 29, 2010

High Fiber--Frolicking with Furry Friends....

Now that I have your attention...

That's Gabriella. You have seen her before if you have read a previous blog post. She's the orphaned baby alpaca my friend Linda has been raising with a bottle. You will see more of her later.

This past week was Thanksgiving, and I was finding many things to be thankful for. For one thing, one of my furry friends, DS2, and his DGF came for the holiday and left with their presents, since they will be in Thailand when we celebrate Christmas. (You will see in the photo below why I consider him furry.)

One of their presents was the "Churro Blanket on a Wall" quilt. I had to sew the binding on while they were here, because the quilting was finished earlier in the week by my friend and professional quilter, Julie, and I wanted them to take it with them when they left. It was a surprise for them, but early. It's also a housewarming present, since they are closing on the purchase of their new home this week.

I wanted to use natural light, so we took it out onto the front deck to get the photo. We had to wait for a lull in the snow flurries to do it, though. Here's a look at the back, which shows the exquisite quilting Julie did, with Saguaro cactus, some in-the-ditch quilting, some swirls and a big sun in the middle. Good job, Julie! They are thrilled with it, of course! (Feel free to zoom in on the quilting!)

The Baby Surprise Jacket is almost done. I added extensions to the sleeves so the jacket will fit longer. The sleeve on the left shows how it will look with the cuff turned up. I need to sew the seams closing the shoulders and sleeves, sew on the buttons, and it will be done.

(If anyone is interested in extending sleeves on a BSJ the way I did, I picked up 34 sts along the cuff edge and knit until there were 10 ridges.) You will see two sets of buttonholes. One is to be used as buttonholes and the other set for placement of the buttons.

Saturday we went snowshoeing above Empire Lodge with our furry canine friends. It was cold, windy and overcast, but the snow conditions were wonderful.

From left are DH, his brother, DS2 and his DGF. The dogs are Sunny, Onslo and Rocky. We tried to stay out of the wind as much as possible.

After a nice lunch at Squatters in Park City, we drove out to Peoa to visit my friend Linda and her alpacas. Here Linda and her DH, Mike, introduce one of her sweet alpacas to us.

One of the alpacas, Willow, produced the fiber for DS2's hat, which I spun and knit last year. (That's Gabriella in the background, but Willow was also there, admiring her handiwork!)

Mike and Linda have five babies in this year's crop. Here's the youngest, Amanda. She is the whitest color of the many different colors alpacas come in. Her fleece will be a bright white. I can't wait to see it!

Gabriella is thriving. She's down to three bottles a day. She is producing what looks like very high-quality fiber. Here's a closeup showing the hair all the way to the skin.

This final baby photo isn't of a furry friend, but I haven't included Daphne for a while, so here she is enjoying some carrots. Yum!

In other news, we enjoyed our first Skype calls this week, first audio only with my iPad, which was great, and then on Thanksgiving day with Daphne and her family with video! I showed Daphne and her parents the BSJ progress. We also had video with DS1 and his DW. She showed me the quilts she has been working on. I love Skype!

My favorite podcast of the week is The Knit Wits. (Note to self: Do not listen to this podcast too close to iPad while eating or drinking!)

Spinning: More pacapoo. I will be ready to ply soon!

Knitting: Another knitting bag for Christmas present for family member, BSJ bonnet, La Boheme cardi resting until presents are done.

Quilting: Waiting for machine quilting to be done on the Springtime Quilt, and then binding goes on.

App of the Week: Rather than give an iPad app of the week, I want to give two thumbs up to the new IOS 4.2, which I love! I now have all my apps arranged in folders on one page, where I can find them easily.

Happy Knitting/Quilting/Spinning, everyone! And happy Hanukkah everyone!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

High Fiber--Finishing Projects!

Quilts, amazing quilts! My Vintage Stitchers group met at Brenda's right after she went to the International Quilt Festival in Houston. Brenda brought each of us a bag as a souvenier. Here, Rebecca shows hers off:

Several people (besides me) brought quilt tops to give to Julie for professional machine quilting. This is a batik top made by Barbara:

Carol made two tops that will go on the same quilt, so it will be reversible. Here's one side:

...and here's the other:

Brenda showed off her wonderful workroom and quilting machine:

...and we got to admire this applique project Carol is working on:

...and this one by Rebecca:

In knitting news, I'm almost done with the Baby Surprise Jacket. Thursday my Common Threads group took a field trip to Bountiful, UT, to visit the quilt shop, Quilter's Haven, and the yarn shop, Hemstitched Heirlooms. At the yarn shop, I found these wonderful buttons for the Baby Surprise Jacket:

I have been working on a felted knitting bag, and I found this great lining at Quilter's Haven:

I finished the bag today. Here's a glimpse of the lining with its pocket:

I used button thread to sew the handles on, and then covered the D-rings with brown sock yarn.

A lucky family member will receive this as a present:

One of the benefits of living at high elevation is snow, and visits from very big wildlife, like this moose cow, who has come to eat some salt off the road. Yum!

I also finished carding the rest of the pacapoo (alpaca/merino/poodle blend) to be used to make a hat for Christmas for DH, so he can "wear" his precious pups on the slopes and while blowing the snow in the driveway. I'm finishing up the last of the dark chocolate Corriedale now, and then I can start on spinning the rest of the pacapoo blend.

We are expecting three more days of snow, and all the resort workers are doing the happy dance. Family will be coming in for Thanksgiving, so this will be a busy week for me. I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday. Let's all remember what we have to be grateful for! I know I have many things, some of which I discussed in this blog.

Remember, too, to keep some fiber in your day...every day!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

High Fiber--Bound for Heaven!

This week found DH and me on a snowshoe outing with a special purpose.

As you may know, my DSIL, Eileen, passed away October 4th. She wanted her ashes scattered at the top of one of the local ski resorts, on the snow. We had to do this before the resort opened but after there was snow to snowshoe on. Friday the weather was good, there was plenty of snow in the chosen spot and all the family and friends who wanted to go were available. Each of us had the opportunity to toss some of her ashes to the breeze. When it was my turn, I thanked her for being my sister, as she was really more of a sister to me than a SIL.

Several members of the party stomped out her name in the snow, first in block letters and then in cursive. But not until after some Keystone-Cop-like maneuvers while they decided how to do it. We decided that we really needed Eileen for this, as she was always the one to organize and direct. (Who will do it now?) Maybe she took charge herself from wherever she is, because it finally went together and got done.

We went to lunch afterward. It was a wonderful snowshoe, a good workout and a good catharsis for us all. DBIL will be at our house for Thanksgiving. It will be good for him to know that he has family who will be missing her the same way he does.

If you read my extra blog, you know I have been dyeing merino (from Judy's Novelty Wool), carding it and some black alpaca from Free Spirit Fiber Arts and blending the fibers with poodle clippings from Rocky and Sunny's last grooming appointment. The resulting fiber is 42% alpaca, 42% merino and 16% poodle hair.

Now, you may know that poodle can be spun like wool all alone, as can some other types of dog hair, but you need a longer staple length for that. These clippings are very short, some as short as 1/4", so I sandwiched them between layers of the other fibers, already blended and ran them through the drum carder a couple more times. Then I spun the fiber and got a single that looked like this:

It's rather lumpy because I didn't card it much after the poodle was incorporated into the fiber. That's OK, because this will be a type of novelty yarn. I call it "Pacapoo." Then I Navajo plied it and got this:

It's incredibly soft, and I know it will be warm. It will be a hat for DH to wear skiing. His hair is very thin, so he needs something to keep his head warm.

I also started the new Baby Surprise Jacket using yarn that I spun from the KP Super Wash merino and nylon (Stroll) spinning fiber I had dyed with Koolaid. I'm really happy with how the colors play in the garter st. Here's what it looked like when I last took a photo:

I have done the bind-off for the neck, so I am quite a bit further along than this. I'll post the photo of the finished jacket when it's ready. This sweater is much bigger than the ones I made earlier in the year, before Daphne was born. It will be more like 1-yr. size. You follow the same pattern, but use thicker yarn and needles. This is more like worsted-weight.

Vintage Stitchers met this week, but I will post those photos next week. The quilts I finished last week have gone to the quilter. I'll take photos of the finished quilts when I have them back.

Another activity this week was entering my knitting library into my Library on Ravelry. I don't know why I didn't do it earlier. It's so easy to take my iPad to my fiber studio, enter the name of the author and then click on the right title, and the photo of the book cover appears on your shelf:

I still have more to do. Great to work on while listening to the Knit Wits Podcast! If I can stop laughing long enough to get some work done! That's it for this week. See you next time!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

High Fiber--Playing with Cards....

As I write this, I just finished carding fiber for a hat for DH. Here's what I had to start with and what I ended up with:

From left: dyed merino, dyed merino blended in drum carder, bay black alpaca, dyed blended merino and alpaca carded together, and same mix carded further.

I ran the dyed merino through the drum carder until I had a homogeneous batt. Then I carded it with the black alpaca by making sort of a sandwich on the tray of the carder.

I carded the fiber several times until it looked like the fiber on the far right in the first photo.

The poodle fiber was very short, perhaps an average of 1/4 inch, so I added it by making a sandwich of the carded fiber with little pieces of poodle in the middle, covered with more carded fiber.

Here are the carded batts.

It will be interesting to spin. I'll post a photo of the singles and finished yarn. The batts are very soft and silky. You can still see some of the chunks of poodle fiber if you hold the batt up to the light. I call the fiber Pacapoo.

Monday, November 8, 2010

High Fiber--Fiber High!

Anyone recognize this fiber?

This is brown and black poodle hair, left over from Rocky and Sunny's last grooming appointment. I had Marcia, our groomer, collect it and give it to me. It's only a month's worth of growth, though, so I'm going to mix it with another fiber or fibers to make a ski hat for their 'Daddy." I had lots of white merino roving and some alpaca, but I wanted to save the alpaca I have for another blending project. DH wanted to pick up some alpaca "beans" at Linda and Mike's, so it provided an opportunity to see what they had in fiber I could mix with the poodle hair. (Alpaca beans = really good manure)

Gabriella, one of their alpaca crias (Cria = alpaca baby), lost her mother when she was a month old. Linda has been feeding her with a bottle. When we went out to see the animals, Gabriella nuzzled Linda, indicating she wanted to nurse, even though she had just had a bottle. Her hair is gorgeous and soft, so Linda and Mike plan to enter her first "blanket" (Blanket = alpaca fleece) in competition. They have five crias, and in spite of many setbacks, the herd is growing. (BTW, alpacas hummmmmm, and they don't spit unless they're really p___d! Like at shearing time, or if a boy wants to mate and they don't. During shearing, the alpacas often wear a sock on their noses in case of spitting. They are very friendly, though, and don't spit otherwise.)

We went to the barn, where I picked out this roving from Kimberly. It's really bay black--a very deep black--but I had to lighten up the photo so you could see the texture. It's very soft!

Linda and Mike have lots of roving and yarn available at their Etsy store, Free Spirit Fiber Arts.

In my stash at home, I have lots of white merino I bought from my spinning teacher. I decided to use it, but I didn't want to mix stark white with the "pacapoo" fiber, so I dyed it with Koolaid and black food coloring. I was aiming for a brownish color, but the black broke into it's component colors, so this is how it came out:

I don't know if it was the dyeing method or the fiber type that caused the black to break, but I think it will work out fine. (I will blend a sample first.) I dyed it in my sun tea jar. Here's how it looked when I first put the dye and roving out in the sun:

...and here's what it looked like after all the dye was exhausted:

I plan on using the drum carder to blend the fibers. After I do a sample to see how it looks together, I will weigh the poodle hair and combine it with about four ounces of alpaca and four ounces of the dyed merino.

Remember the Koolaid-dyed SW merino and nylon for a bigger BSJ (Baby Surprise Jacket) for Daphne? Here is is, lounging in front of the fire, almost dry. I will do another WPI to see what the weight of the finished yarn is, and if I get the right weight, I will be doing my swatch for the BSJ. Then time to CO!

Speaking of casting on, I cast on the Penny/Willow alpaca yarn for the Irish Hiking Hat for DBIL.

Penny was the mother alpaca who died recently leaving Gabriella an orphan, and the yarn (spun by me) was in DSIL's stash, which DBIL brought to me after she passed away. Her UFO, an Aran cardi for him, which I promised to finish, isn't going to be done in time for Christmas because there isn't enough yarn, so this will make a nice gift in the meantime and will keep his head warm on the ski slopes and while using the snow blower on his driveway. The pattern for the hat is available for free here.

In quilting news, the two quilt tops I have been working on are finished. This one is "Promise of Spring." These fabrics came from my stash and are mostly '30s reproduction fabrics in blues, yellows and reds.

...and this is "Churro Blanket on a Wall." (The fabrics are mostly batiks, and all from Connecting Threads.)

My friend Julie quilts professionally, so I will give them to her at Vintage Stitchers this week.

Saturday, Joanie, Linda and I went to the Acorn Antique Show in Ogden, UT. We stopped at the Union Grill for lunch after leaving the show.

No trip to Ogden would be complete without stopping at The Needlepoint Joint, a great store that sells knitting and other fiber-fun supplies. I showed the nice ladies who work there DH's sleeveless Fair Isle Cardi, all finished, and returned five hanks of yarn for a credit. I asked them about DSIL's UFO, and they determined that there wasn't enough yarn to finish it. The closest thing they could offer to do the sleeves was three balls of Jamieson & Smith's jumper-weight wool held together, which would have cost $120 just for the sleeves. Yikes! I decided to check some places in Salt Lake City to see if they have some Aran weight yarn that will coordinate, maybe black. I didn't get to spend my credit, because Linda had to get back to feed Gabriella and do chores, but we will be back in February for the next antique show. They have spindles and spinning fiber, as well as a great selection of sock yarns, so it will be nice to look forward to spending the credit when we go back!

No blog of mine is really complete without a gratuitous baby photo, so here is Daphne in her Halloween costume:

And finally, since we have been talking about alpacas today and not so much about sheep, check this out.

Happy knitting, spinning, dyeing and quilting!

Monday, November 1, 2010

High Fiber--Gone Batty

Halloween is over, and we wonder what to do with all the leftover candy. It's a good thing we got Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, our favorite! However, some knitting, spinning and quilting have been accomplished.

1) Knitting: The first sleeve of my La Boheme cardigan (new name) is about 3/4 finished. The new name is because I worked on the lower body while watching La Boheme at Utah Opera. The cardi isn't likely to die of consumption, but it is for Mimi (me, me)! It is so nice to have a project you don't have to pay attention to, but just K around and around while enjoying wonderful music, great sets and great performances! I have a couple of inches more done on the sleeve since this photo was taken.

2) Spinning: Finished the singles for Daphne's new jacket. It will probably be a BSJ (Baby Surprise Jacket), but it depends on the WPI (wraps per inch, measure of thickness). I just need to ply it. Also I did some spinning with the KP drop spindle. This photo shows that I have three (count them!), three WooLee Winder bobbins full of singles, ready to ply, with I will do with the fourth bobbin, recently purchased. The lazy kate on my wheel only holds two bobbins, so I will have to make a makeshift kate out of a shoebox and a straight knitting needle to hold the third bobbin while I ply. Watch for updates on the plying....

3) Quilting: The quilt top I have been making for a Christmas gift is finished. I used 1930s reproduction fabrics in blue, red and yellow, and white for background. It is a fox-and-geese block, with mock flying geese around the outside.
Here's the quilt on my design wall:

...and here is a sample of the border. I'll try to post photos of the completed top next week.

The border triangles point toward the center of the quilt. My friend Julie will quilt it for me, and then I'll put on a binding using the same fabric as the dark blue inner border. She provides the 100% cotton batting I like to use for most quilts--thus the "batty." I'll bet you thought it was a reference to Halloween!

My order from Connecting Threads arrived with the fabrics for another Christmas gift quilt:

The 1930s fabrics are on the cover of a magazine, not part of the collection. The fabrics I'm using are mostly batiks. The one in the foreground that looks like a slab of rock will be the outer border. The design is tricky, but I have about a week and a half to get it done in time for quilting.

In other news, I received a WPI gauge from Spin Out, a company in the UK that makes really neat spinning and knitting tools, including spindles and knitting needles.

He even included some chocolates! The gauge was my reward for sending in photos of myself spinning while camping and hiking (extreme spinning). You can see the website and my photos here.

Vintage Stitchers met again on Thursday, and Diane showed off her applique...

...and Barbara had an "I Spy" quilt for her grandson:

She says he loves pickles!

We have had moose visits:

(Note: We don't have this much snow now.) The moose come and hang out after the snowplow has been by. They like to lick the salt on the road.

I have been lax in providing gratuitous baby photos, so this is about as gratuitous as it gets! Eat your hearts out, fellow grandmothers!

In the meantime, the Spin Along hit 100 members, and we have been having a party here. If you spin or have thought about spinning and haven't joined yet, feel free to visit. We would love to have you, and if you join, we would love to read your thoughts and experiences. It gets chatty sometimes, but there is a lot of spinning expertise dispensed! We have some participants with a lot of experience, so you can get help with spinning problems and get product reviews, too!

We took a hike on Saturday. I have no photos to show because it was all I could do to stay on my feet in the snow. We could have used snowshoes or YakTrax just for the traction. I was really sore the next day! It was good exercise, though, and the pups got worn out. I didn't take my spindle this time. I knew it wasn't going to be easy, and I had to watch where I was going.

While quilting and knitting, I have been enjoying a new (to me) podcast: The Knit Wits Podcast. This couple is hilarious! I don't know when I've laughed so hard! They talk about knitting, spinning and their lives, and it's very entertaining. I'm almost caught up. That is a nice addition to the Knit Picks Podcast, Sticks and String, Yarnspinners Tales and the Spin Doctor, all mentioned in previous blogs, along with other great podcasts!

I see I have new credits from Audible, so I'm rubbing my hands with glee...and a little hand creme never anticipation of my next audiobook!

Happy spinning/quilting/knitting everyone!