Celebrate Life & Dare to Dream!

yarnTime to share a dream.  On the eve of my 45th birthday (halfway to 90!!), I am stepping out to do something that started as an idea almost 10 years ago.  I had just started spinning, and I knew down to my core that this was a form of art for me.  I would dream patterns, yarn colors and styles, and I taught myself how to weave, knit and clean/card my own wool so that I could create things that are as close to locally sourced as possible.

All the while, I was wondering that the true value of this is.  Yes, it brings me joy, and Yes, I love to give people things I have made.  But was there more?  I started reading about alpaca farmers in Peru, and local artisans around the world and I suddenly felt incredibly blessed to be able to create for the sake of art while others do this to survive.  So, I had this idea…

What if I created a business model that meant I would make what I wanted, sell it for the value it was worth as a handmade item, recover the costs for my supplies..and give the rest of the $$ to an organization that was helping other people around the world?  Honestly, my friends thought I was nuts…but I couldn’t shake the idea.  A few years later, I ran across Awamaki, an amazing cooperative for women in Peru that was started by an awesome woman who lives in the Seattle area.  The dots started to connect, but between work and family things, the time wasn’t right for me to dig in.

scarfI’ve decided the time is more than right, right now.  My new SeattleSpinner Etsy Shop opened tonight.  I’ll keep adding to it to my heart’s content, knowing that what I am making will serve two awesome purposes.  People can buy handmade items that also support local U.S. farms and know that the proceeds will go to benefit women in Peru.

So, that’s my birthday present to myself.  Dare to dream…and even more…dare to do it.

Spin on!

The Outrageous Cowl!

First..my day job (aka, how I support my fiber habits) has been sooooo busy! A good kinda busy, but whew. Need a break. I missed a few good blogging moments, but I am making up for it with this.

The Tale of the Outrageous Cowl.

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I still have a couple pounds of my lamb’s wool locks, and I learned early on that this fiber created a Very. Heavy. Yarn. A sweater or vest would have been like a suit of armor. So I started experimenting with tailspinning–the simplest form that I could imagine. Basically, I grabbed a handful of locks, fluffed with my fingers, and spun a single. The solid grey looked something like this:

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Then I spun a couple skeins with color:

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And decided I wanted a simple (in design) warm, statement piece that could double as a shrug or a cowl.

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Gotta admit, while I was knitting it I thought it might be a little much…but once I put it on I was hooked!!
Easy pattern. I will write it up and post it if anyone is interested!!
Spin on!

Why I love my Sidekick

Happy Friday! Wow. It’s been so busy of the past few weeks that I’ve hardly had time to post. That being said, I’ve been uber busy knitting during my car commutes and am almost done with a GORgeous cotton hoodie.

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But for now, this post has been on my mind for a little while. When I was looking for a smaller portable wheel, I didn’t see too much about the sidekick. There were a few good reviews, but now that I’ve had it for about a 18 months, I’m ready to lay it out.

First. I love it. I spin more than I did before because of how well it’s made and how easy it is to take places. I feel like I have had it long enough to give some decent feedback.

Size: Perfect. We live in a condo, so the larger wheel I had was really taking a lot of space. I can pick up the sidekick and sit anywhere without thinking about it. Balcony, bedroom, different spots in the living room..and when I don’t spin, it sits nicely against the wall. I’m also pretty tall, and I think the height for the orifice is great.

20130330-111729.jpgPortability. It rocks. I take my wheel all over the place. Usually by the beach, but I have taken it camping, visiting my mother (small apartment), on an airplane (fits in a 24″ samsonite), and to knitting meet-ups. The strap is a small bit of genius, IMHO. Pop the feet up, throw it over my shoulder, and I am out the door. I do break it down all the way for suitcase trips, and once you’ve done it once or twice, it’s really simple. Takes less than five minutes.

Upkeep. Very good. I haven’t had to replace any parts yet, but I have has two small issues. The first was totally my fault. I dropped the whorl on a hardwood floor and it broke. I emailed the company and they offered to send one out (I think it was about $24), but I glued it with wood glue and it’s stayed put–that was over a year ago. Can’t really even see the split. There’s also been a strange noise that I’ve never had on another wheel, but I finally figured that out too. It was making a piercing squeak….super loud, and I took it all apart and lubed, etc. I do travel a lot and process raw wool, so I figured it was gunked up. Well, what finally worked was to use the same degreaser I use on my bike and wipe it all clean. Then I re-lubricated it and the sound was gone.

Upgrades: I bought the bulky flyer and i love it. Art yarn is easy and the flyer rocks…it provides great versatility!

Parting shots? If you are looking for a durable, portable, smooth running wheel, the sidekick is well worth the money. You might not ever buy another wheel…

Spin on!

Fiber Friday! A week focused on new techniques.

What a great creative spinning week! It’s funny how the time goes by and it feels like you haven’t done much until you stop and take a look.
First: I sold my first yarn!!!
Wheeeee! This was uber exciting!

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Here’s a progress photo for the rest of the week:

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1. 400 yards of singles. 70% wool, 30% silk.
2. Coreless tailspun yarn: 50 yards, local lamb locks and mohair locks
3. My best ever supercoils and the project from them.

All in all, a great week. How about you?

Spin on!

Fiber Friday and Real Life

Last week, I left you all with a happy post that started with the pic on top and made its way to the pic on the bottom.

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Which then became this:

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But in between, there was this:

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And this:

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Followed by this:

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My sweet daughter, who is 24, was driving her motor scooter and was hit by a car who backed out too fast. Her right knee was shattered and she went in for emergency surgery.
Things happen in life that we can’t predict. I’m so grateful that her injuries weren’t worse. That her love of snowboarding caused her to instinctively tuck and roll when she was flying off of the bike. Her head, neck and spine are fine, as is her attitude, despite the fact that she won’t walk on her leg for three months.
Today is her birthday. Mostly, I am grateful beyond words that she is here to celebrate it and continue to grow into the amazing woman she is only now discovering that she is.
Spin on, and hold your loved ones close..

Yello! (And a free sock pattern)

Like most of you..it’s been a crazy busy summer! In the Pacific Northwest, we had an incredible stretch of beautiful weather, which tend to keep me outdoors a lot. And..the salmon are running now, so I get beach knitting time while hubs gets tries to get dinner.

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These socks have been fun, but I think I am over my brief “spin for socks” phase. I will return to that, of course, because I am a total ADD artist 🙂 but now I am distracted with a new fleece dying project:

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(That is a teaser for my next post!)

For now, here’s the completed socks and a cliff notes version of the pattern:

Stitch pattern:

Rows have 25 stitches, so each row starts and ends with 2 plain knit stitches with 21 pattern stitches.

Row 1: K2 (k1, k2tog, yo, k1, yo, ssk, k1) repeat 3X, k2
Row 2 & 4: knit
Row 3: K2 (k2tog, yo, k3, yo, ssk) repeat 3X, k2

Cast on 8 with figure 8 cast on a size 1 circular needle.
Increase to 50 stitches with kfb (that means on the last increase row, only do the first increase on each side)
Knit foot bottom plain.
Knit top of foot with stitch pattern (above)
Fleegle heel
Resume knitting in the round, complete 2 full pattern repeats before starting pattern in back.
Knit to desired length, finish with double bind off (no ribbing)

Bam! Easy lace socks!

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Work~Life Balance

Sometimes we have to step out of the fast lane and just make things for fun..as was the case with my latest adventure.

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My favorite parts about this project..

1. It was organic. In that, I mean I just moved with the flow and let it develop naturally at each stage. I wanted to dye the fleece I had washed and blend it on the carder. The picture above is grey wool, dyed in equal parts of purple, red, blue, and pink. It matches the flowers beautifully.

2. I didn’t follow a pattern, I just made what I needed for my alpine camping trip. Hat and mitts.

3. I love projects that fit within 4 ounces of fiber for quick fixes.

4. It’s so “me.”

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So the question is…where to go next? Spin on!

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Raw Fleece Processing Lessons from a Newbie

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I have been wanting to write this post for a while, because when I first started processing fleece, I looked for “raw fleece processing posts for dummies” post and didn’t come up with one that walked me through getting the wool, washing it correctly, not maiming myself on the drum carder (no, I don’t have a cat), and how amazing it is to spin from sliver.  So here we are.  I’m posting this with a wikki type approach–please feel free to add comments and suggestions below, because I’m still learning.  And..I want to document this while the “d’oh” moments are still really fresh. Hope it helps someone at some point!

1.  Washing.  Lanolin can be one tough bugger.  When people say the water should be over 140 degrees, they mean it.  Living in a 2 bedroom condo means I can’t take over the kitchen, bathroom, and I don’t have a back yard.  So, I process small batches at a time.  The washing machine doesn’t work for me because our house water temp is not high enough and I don’t want to risk scalding myself at another time. 🙂 I wash bags of fleece in a netted lingerie bag in the kitchen sink–at weights ranging from 8-10 ounces, depending on the fleece.  Yep, it takes me a while to wash a fleece..but it takes me a while to spin it too..so no need to rush.  I learned after a few failed attempts that I need to fill the sink with hot tap water AND add two pots of boiling water to get it hot enough to melt the lanolin.  Usually it takes two rinses with Dawn, one with a tiny bit of vinegar, and one plain hot water. This has worked out beautifully..no more sticky fleece.  The dead giveaway was when I tried to spin some fiber off my drop spindle and I couldn’t draft it…the wheel will pull the wool out of your hands..but a spindle?  Not so much.

2.  Carding.  I LOVE my drum carder.  I love carding wool.  I have NO regrets from this purchase.  I bought a new Brother for about $300.  It does not have a packer brush, which is an essential item, IMHO, so I use a hard bristle brush with my left hand while I crank with my right.  I also learned that carding takes a certain rhythm.  The first time, I was so excited I plopped the wool on without opening it and loosening it, cranked and had both drums on the carder totally covered in wool.  Then I learned a few tips.  Small chunks of wool, locks opened up, and crank slowly at first.  I card an ounce at a time and always do three passes.  You can see from the photo above how much it evens out after each pass.  I also consider the first pass to be more of a combing things into a certain order, so I open the locks, but I don’t lay them all flat, etc.

3.  The DIZ..what a great invention!!!  (Or use a large button with a decent size hole).  I finish an ounce of fiber, and pull it through the diz to make sliver.  When I spin, there’s no drafting, it comes straight off the ball, and my spinning time is cut down by about 25% from when I draft from commercial roving.  This has also given me the chance to really work on my long draw, which is so relaxing now.

So there you have it.  Intro thoughts on fleece processing in a very limited environment. This has been a game changer of a learning process for me, and honestly…now I don’t even look at commercial roving unless it’s a specialty item.  Raw fleece is like an empty canvas..and it’s a beautiful thing.

Thoughts from others who have tried this?  Ideas to add?

Spin on!

Celebrate!! First “fleece to garment!”

I am so excited to have gone from this:

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To this:

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This was the buttonbox pattern from Knitty, and I am so pleased!! I frogged three other items before landing on the pattern that was meant for this yarn, and it was a fun one to knit. The fit is perfect, but I confess my swatch ran large so I knit for the 31″ instead if the 36″ and am so glad I did! The needle size felt right for the yarn so I didn’t want to mess with that.

So, I did it! Bought the fleece, washed, carded, spun, dyed and knit my first “directly from the local sheep garment.” I am hooked.

Spin on, and happy Friday!

When is a hat not just a hat?

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When you…
..gathered the wool of of fences, trees, and farmlands while walking England’s southwest coastal path.
…and then snuck said wool through customs.
…and washed it, carded it, stared at it trying to figure out what to make.
…but then you spin it to an Aran weight and make a hat for hubs for his birthday.

Now THAT is not just a hat. It might be my fav FO ever.

Spin on!