Wednesday, February 28, 2007

What the...

1:50 p.m.
7:30 p.m.
7:50 p.m.
Snow on February 28th???? ACK!

Just a word for those of you not from around here: there is NO SNOW in February in Seattle. Honest. In Seattle, no snow in February. Not at the beginning and not at the end. No. Snow. So, we must ask: WHAT THE...??? This is wrong on so many levels. I will venture a guess that by March 1st, early, it will be gone, but that doesn't change the wrong-ness of Seattle snow today. Wrong wrong wrong.

And wrong AGAIN!
This is 7:05 a.m. March 1st:

Monday, February 26, 2007

It's my bath-day

Sweety Dahling
She has always been an enthusiastic bather!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Bruce Gilliland

From Peggy:

Bruce Gilliland died at age 75 on February 17th after a decade of fighting cancer. He was my friend, and friend to everyone who came in contact with him. In all my life, I know I will never know anyone as good and as kind and as caring as he. I am so grateful to have been included in the circle of his life and will miss him immensely.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Jacob Angora

Spinner: Rebecca

Roving from Toots LeBlanc way back in 2005, before Michele moved from Snohomish, WA to Forest Grove, OR. (Michele taught me to drop spindle and then loaned me her Schacht Matchless and taught me to spin on that wheel. The rest, as they say, is history. Or obsession. Or both. Yeah, both.)
We were hanging out at her house, the Friday Knitters and me, and she was showing us all her new fibers and yarn, the stuff she was starting off her business with and I just had to have some. Of course.

Spinning details: 18 oz, soft spun on my Russian Olive spinning wheel.

I began spinning January 15th, 2007 and finished February 18th. It didn't take as long as that, really, but I was working on a Faroese shawl at the same time and so wasn't concentrating on the spinning. Here's a sneak preview of that shawl. It should be complete within the next week or so and there will be photos and details.

But back to the spinning: I ended up with 6 skeins and about 1077 yards, pre-wash and 10 wpi. I tried for bigger, softer yarn than I usually spin and I'm shocked that it turned out the way I envisioned. I credit all my spinning teachers (Michele, Judith, Peggy) and the book Spinning for Softness and Speed by Paula Simmons, which was recommended by Betty Roberts, maker of our spinning wheels.

Friday, February 16, 2007



Spinner: Peggy

Source: Baa Bettes Fiber from The Bellwether, mailed via Amelia's website. Before we went to the Whidbey Weavers' Guild Annual Spin-In last March, Peggy and I decided we had to have some Targhee. We cruised The Bellwether and then emailed Amelia for photos of her supply. Peggy chose this, I chose that, Peggy's done spinning hers and I've just started. This year's Whidbey Spin-In is just around the corner (March 31st and April 1st) and my goal is to finish mine before then.

2 hanks of 2-ply for a total of approximately 750 yards.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

My Betty Roberts Spinning Wheel

Occasionally Peggy and I are asked about our wheels when we've taken them to a spin-in where other spinners haven't seen one before. We've started a yahoo group for owners of these wheels to post photos and chat (the curious and spinners interested in acquiring a Betty Roberts wheel are welcome to visit) and we enjoy showing our wheels to people in person.

Not many people know about Betty Roberts, mostly because she started making wheels before the PC was a staple of life and now that she's in her 70's she just doesn't want to do her business on-line. So, here's a brief history:

Every small shop spinning wheel maker has her own designs. Betty Roberts has been making wheels since the 1970's, when she was Betty Williams, and her designs have evolved through several permutations, many when she and Lloyd Roberts married in the early '80's and he joined her in the workshop. Betty says that Lloyd believed in making a thing 'sturdy', and many of the wheels from back then had steel pegs to hold the spools on the lazy kate, thick wood where thinner would have done, metal nuts and bolts instead of simple screws. And these wheels weighed a lot. After Lloyd died Betty gradually lightened up her designs
and made her wheels more portable. Peggy and I don't have any problem traveling with them in the Mazdaratti.

Betty has the mind of an engineer and the heart of an artist; her creations have function and form. The wheel above is a 'double wheel double drive' style, made of Russian Olive (a 'volunteer' tree common in eastern Washington State) and dried flowers covered with resin. She also includes mushrooms, butterflies, honey bees and other items local to her area, The Okanogan.

On my wheel there are two drive bands at work at all times ~ one thick black band between the two wheels and a lighter weight cotton band between the top wheel and the flier.
The treadle drives the lower wheel, the lower wheel drives the top wheel with the black band and the top wheel drives the flier with the white band. There are also three whorls: one at the flier, one at the lower wheel and one on the top wheel. This gives me 8 speeds. I haven't checked out the ratios on all speeds yet, in spite of owning this wheel for almost two years. Betty helped me figure out one ratio and it was 31/1. That's fast. That's what an accelerated wheel design will do for you!

Those who have never seen a wheel such as mine may well wonder how the heck one swaps out the long black drive band for the shorter one and I understand that - so did I. The two 'cams' on the top of the frame don't have a thing to do with it though, they are there to increase or decrease tension on the black drive bands only. The spinner (me) removes the top wheel to swap out the shorter drive band for the longer one, and vise versa. At first I was more than a little intimidated by the process, but soon after getting my wheel home I discovered that it was a simple process.

Here's a series of photos showing how it's done and it probably took me three minutes, including taking the pictures. The small band is on the small upper whorl and the small bottom whorl and I changed to the longer band and put it on the large upper and lower whorls. Simple. I then put them back as they were because I was in the middle of a project, and that was easy, too.

First take the white drive band off the top wheel and the flier.

Then pop the thicker black drive band off the lower wheels'
small whorl and the upper wheels' small whorl.

Grasp top wheel and pull out of the base.
These are the two lengths of heavy drive bands
made from parachute cording.

The longer of the two is now placed on the outside of the lower wheel and the larger of the two upper wheel whorls. Replace the top wheel onto the frame, adjust the black band onto the two whorls.
Replace the white drive band from the top wheel to the flier
and tie the spare smaller black band to the back of the frame.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Prince Charming has friends

Prince Charming (lower left)
CVM (upper left)
Shetland (on the right)

Singles in a stack

Hanks and Swatch

Long story
Peggy and I were on vacation in Oroville, WA a few of years ago (birthplace of our Betty Roberts Spinning Wheels) and we went across The Lake to visit Karen at Cloud Ranch Alpacas because it was June and the babies had just been born and the spring shearing completed and there was nothing for us to do but admire the critters and drool over the fiber. And perhaps buy some.

While admiring the older babies, Peggy totally fell in love with a friendly lad named Prince Charming, so named for his winning ways with people, and asked Karen to save his first fleece for her, which she did. Fast forward to the following summer and waa-laa, 2 lbs of luscious red alpaca in a bag. It was worth every cent and Peggy took it to Dawn's Custom Carding for processing.

During the ensuing year while she was spinning The Prince she started speculating about the type of garment she wanted and decided upon a rag sweater, a big 'ol barn pullover and found this pattern. Rag, however, would require more fiber. At Conference in Tacoma she found 20 ounces of the incredible two-tone CVM from Reflection Farm and then at Oregon Flock and Fiber last September she found some Shetland from From Barn To Yarn, which was way way nicer than any other we saw. She bought a pound. Let's see: 2 lbs + 20 oz + 1 lb = 3 lbs 4 oz. That's a lotta sweater! And a lot of spinning.

The swatch knit up to 4 stitches to the inch, perfect for her barn sweater, which will be featured in a future post.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Another BFL

The Green Bits
The Pink Bits

Peggy bought this wonderful colorway called Dutch Canyon from Blue Moon Fibers at Black Sheep Gathering in June 2006. She started spinning on November 24th and finished chaining the singles on January 28th, 2007. (A lot of in-between time was spent knitting!) Three hanks for about 500 total yards. Chaining results in 1/3 the total length of the single.

The yarn is cushy and beautiful and will hopefully be the variegated yarn part of the vest pattern on the cover of the Folk Vests book by Cheryl Oberle. The next part of Peggy's project is to spin and ply a black wool/alpaca blend from Dawn's Custom Carding which I, Rebecca, purchased in September 2005. I took the fiber for a trial spin (heh heh) and enjoyed it very much but changed my mind about doing the spinning for a sweater I knew I would never knit. Peggy received a big bag 'o black wool and alpaca with which she's very happy!

Speaking of Cheryl Oberle’s Folk Vests, there are two patterns in this book that would probably be most appropriate for hand-spun yarn. Both are Fair Isle patterns, using about 500 yards each of only 2 colors. The finished size of the vest is determined by the gauge, so the spinner can make adjustments in weight and number of plies to get the yarn weight they require. What with all the impulse buying we do (have done) at Black Sheep, OFF, NWRSA Conference, St. Distaff’s, Whidbey Spin-In, etc, here is an opportunity to use those fun variegated hand-dyed hanks of wonderful that we just couldn’t pass up!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007



This fiber was spotted at Black Sheep Gathering last June ~ a big bag 'o wonderful! It's 60% wool, 30% angora and 6% silk from Velta Mack of Sialia Llamas in Sheridan, Oregon who had the fiber carded by Ewe Gotta Love 'Em in Dayton, Oregon and then dyed it with Kool-Aid. Peggy saw Velta spinning it up for a little sweater for her granddaughter and asked if any of it was for sale. Of course it was. Velta kept what she needed and Peggy bought 20 oz.

Using the Paula Simmons method of "Spinning for Softness and Speed" she was finished by July 4th and ended up with 5 hanks of 2-ply measuring 1192 yards and weighing 18 oz. After spinning she soaked it for 20 minutes, dried it with towels, whacked it 6-8 times to bring out the angora halo, spun it in the washer to remove the rest of the water and hung it to dry without weight.

We have wanted
to knit a Faroese at the same time and finally agreed on a shawl pattern (the white one) by Myrna Stahman out of a book published in 1999 by XRX ~ The Best Of Knitter's Magazine Shawls and Scarves. We also wanted to use our hand spun on this project and the final issue became finding a pattern which began at the top so that when we were close to running out we could just bind off.

The shawls are started ~ that cute little diamond pattern above is the beginning of Peggy's ~ and we'll have an entry one day soon for both.

Monday, February 05, 2007


BFL Top (Blue Face Leicester)


8 oz purchased
at the NwRSA in Tacoma* last year from Janice of "dyelots!"; she kettle dyed it herself. At this point in my spinning career (snicker) I hadn't spun with BFL and wanted to try it out.

I began spinning on January 22nd (after finishing the CVM) and plied it on January 29th. Before washing, I had two hanks measuring 415 yards and 390 yards. It shrank significantly so I probably have about 750 yards total and it's 12 wpi.

I didn't enjoy spinning this as much as I had hoped; it wasn't really top anymore, as it had been dyed after the combing process and had a lot of mats and slubs. Spinning this was very similar to spinning the Targhee from awhile ago (see December 1st, 2006 entry) and the resulting plied fiber was sproingy (is that a word?) and bouncy when 2-plied. I originally test-plied it (see the little sample hank on top of the roving ) as a chained single** but decided the colors should be fine as a 2-ply and so ended up with better yardage. The colors are actually brighter as a 2-ply than in the chain, so I'm happy I went that way.

*NwRSA Conference rotates between three states, so every third year we have it in Tacoma, WA. where Peggy and I can go for at least the weekend.

**Carrie, of The Barefoot Cobbler, (Hi Carrie!) asked in a comment for our January 18th posting about 'chained singles;' a chained single, sometimes referred to as Navajo-plying'* is a method of three-plying with one single (instead of three singles on three bobbins) by creating a loop with the single and then pulling the single strand through it. It's like a ginormous crochet chain that is done with the hands instead of a crochet hook. The loops may be as large as the arm can stretch or as small as needed to keep the different colors by themselves, which makes this technique perfect for space-dyed rovings. There is an excellent article called "Plying Chained Singles" by Dodie Rush in the Spring 2006 issue of Spin-Off magazine (an Interweave Press publication.) Peggy and I taught ourselves to chain the single by following Dodie's instructions before we went to Conference, and then took a class to refine our technique. It's a simple method and well worth learning!

*Dodie says in her article that "Though plying chained singles is normally referred to as "Navajo-plying," questions have been raised about the origins of the term and whether or not it is accurate. Plying chained singles is a descriptive term for making a three-ply yarn from a singles yarn."

Thursday, February 01, 2007


CVM Romeldale blend


Fiber purchased from Reflection Farm back in 2006 at the NwRSA Conference in Tacoma, WA. I bought 8 ounces and wanted 24 but she was out. Hopefully I will be able to find her again at another Market and get a pot-load (aka: more that 8 oz) in another colorway. This is the second batch of roving from this source which I've spun and I have to say: LOVE IT!

I began spinning on January 20th and finished plying on January 22nd. I ended up with 2 hanks of 2-ply and about 620 total yards, pre-washing. It shrank a little bit, so I probably have more like 600 yards.

Interesting note: the fiber plumped significantly after washing and is now 11 wpi. That's worsted weight, people. I spin best I spin sport! Yet, here, worsted! cool.