Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Fall Colors

Inspired by a couple of hikes in the nearby mountains, and photographs taken by friends who visited the east coast, I dyed some Corriedale roving with fall colors.

Hmm, looks a little like the chili peppers we have growing in the back yard garden.  I am pleased overall with the way the colors turned out.  As I have been doing for the past few months, I dyed this fiber in an enamel pot over a wood fire.  I also dyed some wonderful blue roving, which I will spin in Old Town.  Enjoy the fall colors!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Ply Time

After several weeks of spinning in Old Town, I found that all my bobbins were full and it was time to ply.  I don't ply as part of the interpretive program, despite many questions about the process.  The reason is that it takes a while, is rather boring to watch after a minute, and requires a lot of space behind me which I don't have.  So, I demonstrate mini-plying by pulling some yarn out of the orifice and letting it twist back on itself.

This also addresses questions about why it appears that I am spinning thread or too-fine yarn.  When I double or triple the single, the visitor can see how thick (approximately) the final yarn will be.

On the left is two-ply wool that I dyed in color sections that seemed too pastel to me at first.  I decided to spin it and see what it looked like.  It came out with more attractive blue coloring than I thought it would, and when I plied the two singles together, ignoring color bands, it came out rather nicely.  And the texture is very springy and lively.  So, don't dismiss an unsatisfactory dye job until you spin and ply!

The center three-ply is chain plied.  More bright green than I wanted, although one visitor said it was nice, she liked green.  OH-kay.  The chain plying preserved the contrasting color blocks I made in the dye pot.  The skein on the right, also a three-ply, is more to my liking in terms of coloring.  The contrasting colors are bright, interesting, and not too green.

Despite the cooler fall weather and end of summer vacations, we still have quite a crowd touring Old Town. School groups have replaced tour groups.  We have also attracted some repeat visitors, who come back with visiting family or just to see what we are doing again.  Tonight we are going to do some handspindle spinning at Dia de los Muertos in Old Town while we are hosting an altar.  I made myself a waist distaff from a discarded oak branch and I will try it out tonight with BFL roving wrapped around the top.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Carded and Dyed Locks

I got a few pounds of fleece from a BFL/Lincoln ram (Powell Sheep Ranch), and I have been dyeing the locks.  My objective is to spin a fat single that has color and texture running through it.  I dyed some of the locks in a dye pot that was burnt orange and yellow and one end, and blue at the other end.  The locks came out in varying colors including some interesting pale greens.  Today I carded some into rolags for spinning.

You can see on the left how the colors in the dye pot turned out.  I like this sort of thing, so the color mixing does not bother me.

I will elongate the rolags to spin them.

Tonight I will dye another batch.  Since the weather is still warm, I'll cook outside tonight, then dye the locks in an enamel pan over the coals.  I leave the pan on the coals overnight, then in the morning it's all done.  I think the real challenge will be getting me to spin the fat singles....

The San Diego Yarn Crawl has been happening over the past few days.  Since the last thing in the world I need is yarn, we visited the two alpaca ranches that were participating.  A Simpler Time is located in Crest, and La Dolce Vita is in Ramona.  A Simpler Time also has a working mill, and we were given a tour.  I had never seen a fiber mill in operation, so this was a real treat.  I hope this event grows and continues.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Hemp Spinning

I almost called this post "High on Hemp" but thought better of it.  Who knows where something like that might end up?  Anyway, last summer at Convergence in Long Beach, I bought 2 oz of dyed hemp from Opulent Fibers (color = Rust).  My idea was that I would spin the hemp and also some dyed flax purchased at the same vendor during the hot months of August and September.  Life happened, and my plans were interrupted for the next several months.

Now August and September are with us again.  Temperatures in San Diego have been in the upper 90s (and us without an air conditioner - 88 degrees in the living room for several evenings). I was spinning cotton and thought of the hemp.  I wanted a cap or scarf but 2 ounces was not much to work with.  I needed to be efficient.

I knew it had to be spun fine; the fibers are somewhat short (3-4 inches) and very slippery.  Since it is top, I spun it worsted, smoothing down the fibers as they entered the twist.  I used my Matchless wheel, scotch tension, smallest pulley (15.5:1).  Careful treadling to keep control.  I ended up with a bobbin of somewhat wiry singles, rather on the thin side.  I thought perhaps I could chain ply the singles to improve the hand and make the yarn a little thicker.  This was a mistake; it was very difficult to control the sliding part of the chain plying process.  I produced about 1.5 yards and stopped.  New idea.

Since I had already wasted some yardage of the precious 2 ounces, I did not want to risk dividing what was left based on weight for a 2 ply, and having some left over.  So I used my center pull ball winder to create a ball with two ends and plied from that.  I think it turned out great.

I now just have to finish the yarn, get it dry, and I will be ready to go.  Still not sure if it's going to be a scarf or a cap.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Milkweed, Cotton, and other Projects

The last month has found me very busy.  In addition to an increased schedule of participation in the Fiber Arts Guild in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, I have been catching up with my own projects.

First project: Milkweed Spinning.  We gathered dried milkweed this winter and it has been curing in the garage.  I got some of the stalks out and processed the fibers, practicing the local Native American method of spinning and plying at the same time.  This is done on the thigh and produces a thicker to a very thin thread.

The fiber is on the left, the spun thread on the right.  As with flax, it spins happier when it has been soaked a bit.

Second project: Dyeing cotton.  Using the guidance provided on Joan Ruane's website, I purchased some Cushing direct dye in the primary colors and dyed close to a pound of ginned Pima cotton from Cotton Clouds.  Oh, the colors.

So, what could be more fun than carding the various colors into punis?

Third project: Multnomah Shawl.  I spun about 10 ounces of the dark gray Romney I purchased from Thompson Romneys at the Black Sheep Gathering.  It knitted into the shawl I wanted.  See below, it is blocked and drying on a warm August day.  I can wear this anywhere, Old Town or just in the evening.  I knitted the pattern so that the garter stitch section would cover my back and shoulders, which are always chilly.  The border uses the traditional and superfun Feather and Fan pattern.

I forgot, there is one more project; I made the pelerine for my day dress.  It is indigo linen with white braid.  I will have to save that for the next post.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Black Sheep Gathering

We used The Black Sheep Gathering as a handy excuse for a road trip, and we were not disappointed! After a ritual stop at Village Spinning and Weaving, we headed north, had a great time with old friends in Sacramento, and dropped into Oregon.  A couple of days at Crater Lake turned strange when we drove into a snow storm.

The lake was entirely invisible the first day.  Therefore, we had to simply enjoy the wonderful amenities at the lodge.  I enjoyed watching the icicles form on the edge of the roof.

It broke clear the next morning, and we went for a short hike to see the view.  On our way out, the clouds returned and covered the lake again.  At least we got a glimpse.  From there, we continued to Eugene.

Yes, I bought some Cotswold fleece from Bear Hill Farms.  Very clean and soft! I just finished washing it and it's drying in San Diego's 95 degree heat.  We spoke at length with Art and Kathy, who were very interested in our living history activities in Old Town.  In addition to the barns full of sheep, there were many vendors and demonstrations.  I met Galina Khmeleva, Robina Koenig (Tumble Creek Farm BFLs), and Ken and Carol Ledbetter.  Galina graciously signed my copy of her book, Gossamer Webs.  I also visited Thompson Romneys and purchased roving to dye.  What a wonderful event, and the weather in Eugene was great.

Then, on to Healdsburg with a side visit to Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park.  Since we visited on a weekend, the water wheel was working and the mill was in full production.  The park is operated by volunteers, due to budget issues with California State Parks.

Eventually we wound our way back to San Diego where I am busy washing the fleece and spinning more cotton.  I can't wait to do more weaving with handspun cotton yarn.  Stay cool!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Handspun Cotton Scarf is Done

The cotton scarf only took a couple of days to weave.  It is 56" long without the fringes, which are 4" long at both ends.  No broken warp threads, which is great news.  I really like the way that the green and dark brown came out.  And I have plenty left over for another project.

I am carding some reddish brown ginned cotton into punis.  That is, when Frida lets me.  She is sitting on a bag, inside a bowl.  It was a challenge for her to squeeze herself into the bowl, but she managed to do it.  On the left, you can see some ginned white cotton that I am spinning on a Bosworth suspended spindle.  The spindle weighs 0.5 ounce and works just fine for this cotton.

I think I will try knitting with the yarn made from the ginned cotton.  It is not as fine as the yarn I made from roving.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Handspun Cotton Scarf

I finally have enough handspun cotton to start weaving a scarf.  I thought I had enough earlier this week, got nervous, spun some more green, and convinced myself.  I boiled the last of the dark brown last night and it is drying today. Tomorrow I will warp my Schacht 20" FLIP rigid heddle loom.

That is, if Frida will let me.  While I was winding the prepared cotton yarn from skeins into balls yesterday, I noticed that the white ball was missing.  I thought I had merely set it down somewhere, and kept winding.  But then my husband informed me that Frida was playing with it in the dining room.  It was a little messed up, but no harm was done.  I have now placed all the balls of cotton in a location that, I think, she cannot get to. But one never knows with a Maine Coon Cat.

I used an Alden Amos T-Frame to spin most of this cotton, as well as a tahkli and a Bosworth attache (the green).  I may have spun the white cotton on my Matchless, can't remember.  All the plying was done on the Matchless, which did an expert job of it.  The colored cotton came out very nicely.  The green finished up a soft moss color.  I have two browns: a medium and a dark.  Then there are some mixed colors that I experimented with, plying two different colors together.  I have 4.5 ounces of cotton yarn.

Today we are off to the Zenas Sikes Adobe, which is operated by the San Dieguito River Park.  We'll spin there for a couple of hours this afternoon.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Vallecito Days 2013

We participated in the Vallecito Days event on March 16.  It was very well attended by both the public and by volunteers,  and was less windy than on previous events.  Vallecito Stage Station is located in the desert east of San Diego. The original sod building was constructed in 1852 as a stop on the Butterfield Overland Stage Line and the southern emigrant trail.  In ruins by the early 20th century, the station was reconstructed in 1934 and has been restored carefully by the County of San Diego.

The stage station was in great condition, thanks to San Diego County Parks.  Parks produced a video of the event, which can be viewed using this link:


Because of past experience with using the spinning wheel under windy and dusty conditions, we chose to card and use handspindles this year.  The last time I tried to spin on my wheel at Vallecito it took me a week to get all the sand out of it!

I even received some mail, delivered by riders, from Rancho Guajome and La Brea Tar Pits.  You can see the Tar Pits postcards in the video.  Although it takes a couple of hours to get to the stage station from San Diego, it is well worth the effort.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

More Fire Pit Dyeing

I have done a couple more batches of dyeing over the fire pit.  I am so pleased with the way these are turning out!

The yellow is very bright, and I got nice definition between the yellow, orange and purple.  This was on a mixed roving, not the gray like the previous samples.  

While I was reorganizing my spinning and weaving area this winter to make room for a few pieces of furniture from my mother's estate, I found some old packets of dye that I purchased in 1985.  It is Spectrum Dyestuff's Kiton in several colors.  Some of the open packets are no longer associated with their labels, and some are unopened.  I don't exactly recall what I dyed in 1985 or what the results were.  I decided to dye some of the Corriedale roving that I purchased from Alpenglow Yarns using these old dyes.  I used the same fire pit method: I mixed the dyes in the afternoon, and poured on three colors: Blue, Turquoise, and what I thought might be Burgundy.  It soaked for at least two hours in the pan.  Then, after cooking dinner in the dutch oven, I waited until the coals were glowing (I managed to sneak in some gluten-free biscuits in the meantime - fantastic!).  Then I put the fiber pan over the coals and just let it sit all night.  In the morning, the bottom of the pan was still warm, but the colors were set.  

Doh, I guess it was not Burgundy - it was Purple.  But oh my, those blue colors came out so deep and nice.  It's hard for me to get a good, deep blue color when I dye, but this time I was really happy.  The weather has been very cool and damp here in San Diego so it's not drying very quickly.  But I can hardly wait to spin this up. For sure, I am going to use some more of these old Kiton dyes.

Lots going on next weekend: Old Town, Powell Sheep Ranch, and Earth Day in the Backcountry.  More updates to come after that.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Fire Pit Dye Work

The gray Coopworth roving I dyed last weekend over the fire in the backyard came out just great.

As you can see, the first batch retained more of the undyed gray.  These are four ounce rovings.  On Friday night, I dyed another four ounces, and it's outside drying.  For that batch, I left the pot suspended over the coals all night.  In the morning, the water was clear and the fiber was dyed.

We went hiking yesterday in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, a nice long hike up Green Valley.  There was still some snow on the ground, and running water in a side creek running into Sweetwater River.  There were a few small ponds and one had a pair of mallards in it - a very secluded location to start their family.  Chores today and maybe a bit of spinning or knitting later on.  I have four more ounces of the gray Coopworth that I almost dyed last night over the fire, but now it's getting cooler again so I will save it for later.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Bee Swarm

Early yesterday afternoon we noticed a bee swarm had formed in the backyard in the hummingbird bush.  We already have a hive in the cinderblock wall behind the house, so we are used to seeing bees.  But this was a lot of bees.

There was a little activity but mostly they seemed to be quiet.  As the day ended, the swarm had gotten a lot larger.

They were moving around but not flying a lot.  I became concerned since the evenings are cool and we had a big bee die-off about a year ago that was horrible.  I checked in on them around 10 PM and they seemed OK.  This morning they are still there, and flying around a little.  It's going to be a lot warmer today, so maybe they will figure it out.

I have been dyeing over the outdoor firepit for the last two nights, after the coals have developed.  I am dyeing gray Coopworth roving that I purchased at the Vista Fiber Arts event in October.  I did not get too ambitious; I just used some red dye bath I had prepared, and sprinkled in some other purple - lilac - and blue dye powder.  I used the enamel tamale pot that is reserved for dyeing, suspended about a foot over the coals.  It came to a boil very quickly (much more quickly than a hot plate).  Photos to follow when the roving has dried.

I am knitting some cuffs using a wonderful merino sock yarn from Claudia Hand Painted Yarns.  The color is Passion Fruit. I've had it for years but it's only 50 grams so socks would have been very challenging.  Each cuff uses about 15 grams so I will have enough with a little left over.  I finished one and started the other.

The pattern is from Knitting Traditions, and was designed for color changes. Since this yarn has a lot of color going on, I just knit it by itself.  The finished one is very comforting, and I wore it most of yesterday afternoon.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Cold Weather in San Diego

Before leaving on our short vacation in late January, I attended an event at The Grove in South Park.  The event was a trunk show for shawl pins made by Fiber to Fabric Magic.  The shawl pins are two-sided, and can come with two rings for many wearing variations.  Cleverly, the pin itself is ribbed so it won't fall out.  Many of the wood pieces were rescued from the Cedar Fire, which swept through eastern San Diego County in 2003.  See for yourself at www.FiberToFabricMagic.com.

Although the last thing in the world I need is more yarn, some fantastic blue hand dyed yarn caught my eye.  It is calm, by dream; the color is Blue Fish. The website is dreamincoloryarn.com.   It was very indigo looking to me, with hints of green.  I bought two skeins and began planning for a travel knit project.  And of course, I wanted something that I could wear with my new shawl pin.

I wanted curved ends, a bit of lace, and garter stitch.  So I knitted the two ends to the middle (so they would be the same), then put them together with a three needle bind off.  I used the two skeins so the ends are complementary, but different.  The scarf is long enough to wrap around my neck and overlap on my chest.  It's wide enough to bunch up cozily around my neck.  Just right and I have been wearing it for days.  I mostly knitted it in the car on the way up and back, and a bit in the motel.  Stress free knitting, that is what I am all about.

I have an idea how to make it a little lacier for warmer weather, using garter stitch lace patterns.  I like garter stitch patterns for scarves and wraps, because I want both sides to be the same so I don't have to worry about how the item is arranged.

I did finish the red rebozo in time to take it on the trip.  I wore it all the time in the car and while wine tasting. It is plenty long to wrap around.  Photos to come.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Prudence Cap

Immediately upon receiving the latest Piecework, January-February 2013, I knew that I had to knit the Prudence Cap to wear with my historic attire.  This cap would be something warm to wear over my muslin day cap while spinning on the porch of the Estudillo House.  But darn it, I did not have the desired yarn in my stash (or at least, I did not have all the yarn).  I ordered two balls of 5-ply gansey yarn from Schoolhouse Press, one dark navy and one cream.  This is a smooth, tight yarn that would create the period appearance as desired.  With only a week to go before the third Saturday, I knitted myself into a frenzy.  

I like the way it turned out.  I struggled a bit with the ribbons because I did not want the large width ribbon specified in the pattern as written.  I decided on a more subtle look.  This cap is really, really warm. Since the winter so far has been very cool in San Diego, I thought I would definitely need to be wearing this cap. 

So imagine my surprise when the third Saturday turned out to be 80 degrees.  People were walking around Old Town in shorts and tee shirts.  A young family visiting from Philadelphia could not stop smiling and laughing.  But for the wearing of the wool bonnet?  Not so good. It stayed home.  

In the photographs I am wearing the Prudence cap over the day cap I made completely by hand from a period appropriate commercial pattern.  It's hard to find day cap patterns that aren't too puffy, and that don't tie under the chin. Still looking.  

Monday, January 14, 2013

Milkweed Spinning

Gosh, it is cold here in San Diego.  It was 35 degrees this morning, and I had frost on my windshield when I left for work.  Despite the chill, I decided to work on some milkweed spinning this weekend.  The variety is Asclepias eriocarpa, found in patches at many locations in the local mountains here in San Diego. The common name is Indian Milkweed and it is has been used widely by the local Native Americans for belts, rope, twine, nets, etc.  Hohenthal (2001: 178) noted that milkweed (axor) cordage was used by the Tipai as sewing thread until it was replaced by common cotton thread.  

I had stalks from a few plants that I collected from the local mountains.  The stalks were dry, but not too dry. I broke the outer stem a bit to loosen up the fibers.

I just did a little finger spinning.  I tried clockwise and counter-clockwise, and spinning to the left seemed to work out better for the singles.  Plus an ample supply of spit on my fingers helped a lot.  Notice the workbench which I moved from my mother's house. It's going to be just perfect for my projects.  In the photo above, you can see the spun (left) and unspun fibers as I work through them.

A small sample of two ply.  I did a few from several different stalks.  One stalk was still rather green.  It's a fine line between too green and too dry.  I'll try some additional stalks when it warms up a bit.  Brrr!

Hohenthal, William D.
2001  Tipai Ethnographic Notes: A Baja California Indian Community at Mid-Century.  Ballena Press Anthropological Papers No. 48, edited by Thomas C. Blackburn.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Winter Weaving

I like the way the brown rebozo turned out.  This was finished just in time for cool weather in Old Town.

It's mostly brown as you can see, but with lighter stripes in three shades of red.  It makes a great wrap, but I wish I had made it a bit longer.  So, the only solution is...make another one.  This time, I am using mostly red with two shades of brown striping.

Folks, in this photo it really looks more bright red than it is.  This one will be longer, but the same width and sett.  I used the two-ply Harrisville shetland yarns again.  This yarn finishes up so nicely, and is warm but light weight.  I guess I am in a rut, but I do like weaving warp stripes.  For one thing, the weaving itself is easy with only one weft color that complements the main warp color.  But the main thing is that I enjoy winding these warps.  I pick the stripe colors I want, then make the color order and stripe width as I go along following proportion principles.  In this new one, the stripes were either 3, 5, or 7 warp threads wide (8 seemed too wide).

When I first learned to weave, the patterns insisted on symmetrical stripes.  In fact, I would fold the warp in half precisely so that each side was identical across the width of the piece.  How freeing not to be enslaved to this methodology.  My pieces are now asymmetrically striped, and much more creative.  And they are unique; no machine or pattern can replicate what I do on the fly as I am warping.