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.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Buddy Squirrel

gathered on campus of the
University of Washington
during the last week in September.

Offering to the Squirrel God
Considering the worthiness of the offering...
Tasting for poison...
This will do.
Real chestnuts are rare in Seattle. We found a tree in Canby on the Clackamas County Fairgrounds when we were there for OFFF, relatively exciting except that they weren't ripe enough for harvesting, darn it. Don't eat horse-chestnuts. They won't kill you but they don't taste good anyway so why bother? Bring them home for your squirrels.

Monday, October 05, 2009


Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival
September 25, 26, 27, 2009

Possibly the best fiber festival in Washington and Oregon, including Black Sheep Gathering. OFFF is smaller, chattier, friendlier and more relaxed, perhaps because it's got 'festival' in the title. There are women spinning on the lawn all day long, catching up with old friends and meeting new ones, sheep and goats, alpaca and rabbits being judged, singers and musicians entertaining us, food vendors with lamb and chicken and homemade cakes and pastries, fund raisers selling cold drinks to the parched shoppers and lots and lots of smiles. I didn't see one cranky person and we're happy to report that Tina of Blue Moon finally figured out that we're sisters. She did not have to confess that, either, which makes it even funnier.

This year we decided to camp out and save our disposable $$ for fiber and gas. Camping in a tent is $12./night vs $52.+ tax at the nearby DaysInn, so we saved approximately $100.00. We camped out in the back by the racetrack, under the pines. There were less than a dozen campers and room for at least 40 so it was pleasantly uncrowded and quiet, except for the trains. Lots of trains, all night until about 3:00am Saturday morning. Not far away, either. Close, loud trains.

Knitting at the campsite
Cold breakfastEvanne and Del were right next door.We took our chairs and wheels out to
the sunny spot for a few hours.
On the back lot, camping in a tent meant no running water and no electricity and the portapotty was 50' to 200 yards away, depending on where one decides to set up. We borrowed the tent, the cots and the lantern but had about everything else ~ not unlike the Knitters Retreat but we didn't take as much because we stayed only two nights. The weather was high 60's to mid 70's during the day but mid 40's to low 50's at night so we did a lot of layering. We packed the ice chest with everything from the frig that we could use cold (no stove) and bought coffee from one of the vendors. Also, Del, our next door neighbor at the campsite, shared his coffee with us. Thanks Del! He and Evanne brought Tazo and Tuesday, the Dobies, who were extremely entertaining.

Across the racetrack was the Irish Wolfhound dog show, an annual event the same weekend. Here's Del, taking time out to watch the Wolfhounds across the field ~ waaaay out there. You can see them if you embigify the photo & squint.

We did a tiny bit of stash enhancement. Yes, we did.

Crown Mountain Purple Rain
Corriedale Cross, 8 oz
Chinchilla blend
This white below is the same blend as
Mt. Colors Bearfoot
We bought 2.5 lbs
'cause we're going to make us some socks!
A little undyed sock yarn
from Woodland Wool Works
80% Merino, Cashmere 10%, Nylon 10%
378 yards and some from
Great Balls of Fiber

100% Blue Face Leicester Sock yarn 450 yards.
And some fleece.
Yes, we have succumbed to, nay, embraced buying fleece but in all fairness only because we admit to being: A) powerless against fleece since we discovered that we don't have to process it ourselves and 2) cheap and thrifty and 8 pounds of fleece for $25 is VERY thrifty.

Photos of the two thrifty bags full of fleece, one white Rambouillet and one brown Coopworth/Corriedale Cross? No, that would have taken planning and forethought. But here is a little bit of each that we kept back from Superior Carding:

Evanne and Peggy
shopping at the Parking Lot Fleece Sale

Then there was a 3.8 lb rose gray alpaca fleece which we couldn't pass up and we found another, much smaller 1.4 lb rose gray, so similar to the first that we had to get it, too. They need just a little cleaning of veggie matter before we send them to Superior for processing, but we don't mind that part. It's the washing and carding that we object to. Superior is very handy, being in Edmonds, just down the street, practically.
3.8 lb Rose Gray Alpaca fleece
1.4 lb Rose Gray Alpaca fleece
On Sunday we were cruising the main building for vendors we hadn't noticed before and found some cochineal dye and the mordant to enable it:

We had the best time at Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival this year. It was the fourth time we've been, our first time camping. Usually we would drive to Canby for the day, packing the van with 2 or 3 other friends, leave at 6am and be back by 6pm. This year was our camping experiment and we will do it again, for sure.