Friday, December 25, 2009

Our new favorite game

(Thanks, EmBe, for hooking me.)

This is our game from Christmas morning while we had
the Yulelog fire with Christmas music on the TV and
coffee in hand. We discussed the timing for cooking dinner
as we played and made a point of using 'Christmas' words.

Wishing everyone a drama-free Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Monday, December 14, 2009

Spinning BFL

Ashland Bay Natural Colors Blue Face Leicester
(or Blue Faced, if you prefer. I've seen it both ways.)

Fun stuff. I tried my larger whorl and put my drive band on the big wheel to see if I could spin bigger yarn, by bigger I mean not lace or fingering weight, which is normal for me. I acquired one pound, purchased from Heidi at The Artful Ewe in Port Gamble. Love her shop ~ if you get a chance, stop by. She has a weaving annex now, and gives classes.

Three hanks, 647 yards.

Prewashing, it's not so sproiny.After washing: sproiny!
The swatch is worked on 8's, 7's and 6's.

The 8's gave me a nice fabric and there is probably enough yardage for a vest. Or maybe a shawl/wrap. I briefly considered buying another pound but I have plenty of other fibers to spin right now and so I'll just move on. By the way, when I washed the three hanks to set the spin, the water was filthy brown. Not oil, dirt. I have heard that Ashland Bay fibers are processed in China and this may be true, I don't know. I do know that I haven't yet run into fiber quite this dirty. I have also heard that Blue Face (or Faced) Leicester are called that because they look sad, not because their color is blue. I know they aren't blue, but can that 'sad' bit be true? Surely not...

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Fleece Sale

On November 14th Melinda, Peggy and I traveled I-5 from Edmonds through the Skagit Valley to Burlington and our destination: Jonnasson's Farm for the annual fleece sale there.

The Skagit Valley
We didn't stop for Alpaca.
You would think we would have
but perhaps some other time.
We didn't stop for cider either.
A typical Skagit Barn.

The Jonnassons, along with 3 or 4 other sheep breeders, hold a fleece sale every year and the prices are quite reasonable. Inexpensive. Cheap, even. The goal for me was Dorset, as Sam, an amazing spinner and knitter in our NwRSA area 2010, had shown us her Flying Geese sweater (if that link doesn't work it's because you're not part of Ravelry. Get on that!) she made from what she called the filthiest little Dorset fleece and said it was a fabulous fiber, once it was cleaned and carded (or words to that effect.) Thanks for the lead, Sam!

I've been looking for Dorset roving ever since. It's not available. Not at Black Sheep, not at OFFF, not at Whidbey Spin-in, not at Madrona, all fiber conferences with large, if not huge, markets. So then I figured I'd have to find a fleece, since my search began prior to jumping in to the 'fresh off the sheep' part of spinning. No luck at any of the fiber conferences for fleece either, but then, finally, Gretchen at Gretchens Wool Mill gave us a lead to this fleece sale which the Hordyks of Sand Hill Farm are part of and and they raise Dorsets and would have some available, which we knew because we called to make sure. yea! We've been looking forward to this for a month.

The exit to Burlington and
to the North Cascades Highway.
North Cascades Highway is a worthwhile road trip
if it's not winter.
Although I suspected we did one,
I was assured that no U-Turns happened this trip.

The Jonnassons farm building
which housed the fleece sale.

There was fiber and fleece available,
dyed and natural.
Eileen Hordyk shows Peggy the crimp in
a brown Dorset/Rambouilett cross fleece.
Melinda weighing the pros and cons
between two brown Rambouilett/Dorset cross fleeces.
One was darker, a ram fleece and 7lbs;
the other was lighter, from a ewe and 6lbs.
We took the 6 pounder and
will have it washed before we split it three ways.
It was only $24.00.
Peggy bought some Mohair
The Dorset fleece.
This turned out to be the only one at the sale.
Of course I had to buy it ~ it was only $18.00. For 6 pounds.
After washing I should have at least 3 pounds,
enough to spin for a sweater.
6lbs of Dorset Ewe #1011
Like Sams, it was very filthy
but also very crimpy.
Eileen, who owns the ewe this fleece came from,
showed me how to remove the damaged tips before washing.
So when we arrived home I immediately worked with
a little of the fleece because why wait?
This is rinsed just once in hot water.
And here it is washed one time with Dawn and hot water.
Through the carder once.
Spun and 2-plied.
Not the best spinning job but I rushed it.
It's bouncy and cushy. This will be great!
And in closing,
some of the Jonnassons Fleece on the Hoof.

Apples in the Jonnassons front yard.
It is such an interesting tree that
I had to take a picture.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

And so it begins

This was only last March 15th

And this was last night, November 13th.

Eerily familiar.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Quotes from Robert H. Heinlein as published in "Friday" in 1982

What are the marks of a sick culture?

It is a bad sign when the people of a country stop identifying themselves with the country and start identifying with a group. A racial group. Or a religion. Or a language. Anything, as long as it isn't the whole population.

A very bad sign. Particularism. It was once considered a Spanish vice but any country can fall sick with it. Dominance of males over females seems to be one of the symptoms.

Before a revolution can take place, the population must lose faith in both the police and the courts.

High taxation is important and so is inflation of the currency and the ratio of the productive to those on the public payroll. But that's old hat; everybody knows that a country is on the skids when its income and outgo get out of balance and stay that way - even though there are always endless attempts to wish it way by legislation. But I started looking for little signs and what some call silly-season symptoms.

I want to mention one of the obvious symptoms: Violence. Muggings. Sniping. Arson. Bombing. Terrorism of any sort. Riots of course - but I suspect that little incidents of violence, pecking way at people day after day, damage a culture even more than riots that flare up and then die down. Oh, conscription and slavery and arbitrary compulsion of all sorts and imprisonment without bail and without speedy trial - but those things are obvious; all the histories list them.

I think you have missed the most alarming symptom of all. This one I shall tell you. But go back and search for it. Examine it. Sick cultures show a complex of symptoms as you have named... But a dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than a riot.

This symptom is especially serious in that an individual displaying it never thinks of it as a sign of ill health but as proof of his/her strength. Look for it.

--- a conversation with Friday and Dr. Baldwin in "Friday"

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Superior Fibers

A couple Saturdays ago we went down the road 4.5 miles to Superior Fibers in Edmonds, WA to drop off the rose gray alpaca fleece that we found at OFFF and also a partially washed Rambouillet which we found at Black Sheep in '07 and finally cried uncle on processing ourselves.

We tried. Really. Once when Betty was here she said she'd show us how it was done so we went out and bought several little open-weave bags to put the fleece in for washing, we spent the afternoon learning about how hot and how much soap and rinsing gently and not shoving it around to avoid felting. It was a smelly, sweaty, nasty job which we did not enjoy. I'll go one step further and say we disliked it. A lot. About a year later Peggy actually considered throwing that fleece out. tisk. It was a weak moment and didn't last long. We had been looking at the stack of stuff in the garage that needed to be dealt with, the unwashed portion of the Rambouillet fleece being on top of the heap. We decided instead to give it to Superior Fibers to finish for us. If we had known how close they were, we would have done this long ago. It took 15 minutes to get there.

Bill and Inga live in a regular house in a regular neighborhood a few miles north of Seattle. They have all their fiber processing machines in their double garage and it's a snug fit. They have four Belfast machines (carder, picker, felter and rug yarn maker) in there, as well as the washer and the drying rack. Their plan is to move to Oregon, around Salem somewhere, and spread out a little, maybe three times the space.

Belfast Mini Mills is located on Prince Edward Island, Canada-eh. Bill says the guy from Belfast Mini Mills comes to Edmonds every year or two to tune up the carder and make sure all the machines are working well.

Bill explaining how their Belfast Mini Mill Carder works.
It's big. Probably seems bigger than it really is
because it's in a small space.

The mechanical picker.

This is one very large washer.
They keep the temperature at 140,
which de-greases the fiber really well.
This machine has an incredibly fast spin cycle.

The drying rack has a motor-driven fan
for a 24 hour drying schedule.

This is the Belfast rug yarn maker.

What comes out:
Alpaca wrapped around a jute core.

The Felting Table (with decoration.)
Bill and Inga are gardeners, too.
This plant is in for the winter.

Fiber ready to go back to the customers.
We didn't bring any home because
the fleece we gave them at OFFF wasn't processed yet.

There are quite a few YouTube videos which are worth viewing on the various Belfast machines if you're interested.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fun times

We thought 95 was a really great score
Spider Solitaire
(free Windows game)

But then this happened:
Maybe this is why we're not getting so much knitting done...

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday Knitters

Being laid off has one benefit:

I got to knit with my Peeps on Friday morning.

This is a strange photo. Everything is blurred but the Peeps and I don't know how that happened but I rather like it. Here's my second try, and they still seem happy to see me!

After 19 months of full-time work at the University of Washington, the State of Washington budget cuts got me and I'm laid off, along with about 350 others on the Seattle campus. This is a miserable economy to job hunt in, as the last 5 months have proven, which is how long I've been actively looking for another job. I was told in May that October 1st was my last day as the 'Scheduling Assistant for the Dean' at the College of Education ~ that seemed like a good chunk of time to: 1) take classes in interviewing, CHECK, 2) tune up my resume, CHECK, 3) net-work with people about my situation, CHECK, 4) apply for jobs, CHECK, and 5) find check for that one. I am working in a temporary hourly situation on the Bothell campus until the woman I'm filling in for gets off jury duty. She has Fridays off, hence enabling me to join the Friday Knitters this morning. This was the highpoint of my last two weeks!

Monday, October 12, 2009

U-Turns Happen

Road trip with Evanne, Tazo the Dobie, Peggy and Rebecca:

Last Friday at 7:45am we four took off from Seattle for Wenatchee to meet Betty Roberts and pick up Evanne's wheel which Betty had been repairing. It's a 2.45 hour trip (for most people.) As long as we were going over the hill and back, Betty thought it would be a good idea if she brought along a few of the fleeces she had laying around so we could drop them off for her at Gretchen's Wool Mill in Monroe for carding. How they get back to Betty may be the fodder for another blog entry.

It was a beautiful day. We started on I-90 but went north to Hwy 2 as soon as possible so that we could get to Wenatchee via Stevens Pass. On that little road between 90 and 2 we got turned around (nobodys fault, U-Turns happen) and ended up in North Bend, a few miles south of Snoqualmie instead of north, but it really was a beautiful day and we got to see the old trains and Mount Si in the mist, so it was all good.

Mt Si is a hill, a really big one but still, a hill.
The Vine Maples going East were spectacular.
They had the sun on them.

We arrived in Wenatchee close to 90 minutes late, no surprise given the U-Turn in North Bend. Betty and Fran were waiting patiently for us at the Walmart, parked under the only trees fringing that massive parking lot. Since it was noon (instead of 10:30/11:00, the agreed upon meeting time) we decided to pile into Betty's car and immediately drive to the Mongolian Grill for lunch. This is a treat for Betty, as she gets to Wenatchee maybe 3 times a year and always makes the Mongolian Grill one of her stops, and she couldn't wait to share it with us. I didn't take photos ('ol dopey me) but if you've ever been to a Mongolian Grill you know how it goes: fill your bowl with everything you love and they cook it for you while you watch. Sit and eat. yum.

After lunch we went back to the Walmart parking lot and pulled out the wool from Betty's car, as well as Evanne's wheel, and put it all in our car and headed West, to Monroe and Gretchen's Wool Mill.

We made a stop on the way home at The Farm Stand.
Evanne wanted to find some local Gravensteins.
They're the best for pies.

Getting to the Farm Stand was an adventure.
Coming out of Cashmere,
we ran into this slow moving vehicle:
Evanne admired the purple flowers close up.
Heading West through the mountains;
the Vine Maples were good but it was cloudy.

Tazo had to share some of his space with the wool.
It was a high-anxiety moment but he stepped up.
What a guy.
There was a LOT of wool, much of it under Tazo.
When we got to Gretchen's we started pulling it out.
9 bags full.Gretchen and Peggy and The Wool.
Gretchen has a manual picker and a ginormous carder which
she calls a 'cottage industry carder', this vs the really big ones in the commercial industry and the really small ones that we have on our table tops at home.

The Picker.
First fluff up the fiber
and then run it through the big carder
Gretchen's carder creates a 17"X6' bat

Our friend Melinda (also a Betty Roberts wheel owner)
bought a lot (maybe ALL) of Bridget's fiber at the
NwRSA Board meeting in Monroe, WA in 2008.
Melinda, this photo is for you!

This is Bridget; Gretchen keeps her just for the wool.
Melinda spun the wool and knit up a sweater.
Here she is in her Bridget Cardigan.
(photo stolen from Ravelry)
Gretchen lives in the sticks. She has a lot of critters.
Many of her chickens are very young and not laying
eggs in the usual size yet. They're very small.
This is Cowboy. He's 7.
Cranky ducks.Right before we got home we found this sign:
No U-Turn?
Can you even do a road trip without one?

Not if you ride with us.
With us, U-Turns don't just happen,
they're almost mandatory.