Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What I've been doing

Long time, no blog post!  This spring has really gotten away from me.  I feel like the entire month of April really didn't happen.  Would you like to know what I've been doing recently?  Well, it has been a whole bunch of things but very little knitting. 

When I say very little knitting, I really mean very little knitting.  Amazingly, I've only had one project on the go for the last month or so.  It is the wedding shawl for my friend (Oh, what did you say?  Her wedding was last weekend?  Ooops).  I had a slight problem with the original yarn/pattern combination.  When I say problem, I mean ran out of yarn about a foot and a half too short.  So the stole (which was lovely if only I had had more yarn) was frogged and I started a Swallowtail shawl with the yarn instead.  I got through the bud pattern of the main portion of the triangular shawl and just had the nupps, bind off and blocking left to do.  This past weekend, the almost complete shawl came to the wedding but the pattern didn't.  Again, oops.  I'll be sending the shawl to her later. 

So if I haven't been knitting, what have I been doing?  Spinning, thinking about spinning, processing fiber, and drop spindling.  Some of you might think that spinning and drop spindling are the same thing (and they are) but I have projects going on the wheel and multiple drop spindles so that counts as two things.  On the wheel, I've been going through some Polwarth fiber I got at SOAR last fall.  Now, I really like the softness of this fiber and I would spin it again in a heartbeat.  (You are sensing a BUT here, right?) BUT I think I would want buy it raw and process it myself because this fiber has nepps and second cuts all over.  It's really frustrating to be spinning and then have little bumps in your knitting.  Sure, you can pull them out but I can't spin a foot of yarn without having to stop and do that.  I've gotten through 6 ounces of the 1.5 pounds so far but it is taking me much longer to do because I keep stopping and pulling out the nepps.  It would be really nice to have it all done by the end of the month but I know that isn't going to be happening! 

On the fiber processing front, I'm working on a small Cormo (I LOVE THIS FIBER!!!!!!!!!) fleece that I bought at Maryland.  The fleece was coated and it was skirted well so there is very little VM. 

(picture of Lily and cormo fleece)

Because cormo is a fine wool that will felt if you look at it funny, I decided to wash it in lock formation in lingerie bags with tulle separating the layers.  I also wanted to preserve the lock formation because I'm going to be combing this fiber.  So far I've only washed and combed a couple of ounces and am hoping to do more tonight and tomorrow. 

On the drop spindle front, somehow in the past couple of months, my spindle stash has grown by 3 spindles.  That brings the total to *mumble, mumble, kind of a lot, mumble, big number, mumble*  One of the spindles came from the Spinning Loft in MI.  Beth has some really lovely spinning tools available.  Back in 2009, during the Tour de Fleece, one of the prizes offered was a resin spindle with 4-leaf clovers in the resin.  I absolutely love 4-leaf clovers because they are so easy for me to find.  My mother and I both can walk across a patch of grass and find one.  That spindle called to me but the maker of it lived in England and the shipping made me think twice.  I regularly googled "4-leaf clover drop spindle" to see what things might come up.  Imagine my surprise when I saw one for sale at the Spinning Loft!  It was instantly added to my shopping cart and a couple of days later, I found some fiber in the stash and started spinning. 

(spindle and fiber)

The fiber is a silk blend with possibly wool, camel, or yak.  I didn't write what the combination was because obviously I would remember it.  Ha. 

The next 2 spindles came back home with me from Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival.    Both of the spindles are trindles, those funky looking spindles with 3 arms and beads at the ends of the arms.  If you haven't seen one before, they are for sale on etsy and there is a picture of one in Respect the Spindle

(picture of the trindles) 

I bought the trindle with the square beads on Saturday then wandered the festival to find the perfect roving to spin.  I ended up finding a 100% silk roving at Carolina Homespun in a beautiful dark purple.  The trindle is really light and spins so long that the resulting single is like a cobweb. 

After I went back to my friend's place, I kept thinking about the other trindles.  Lust might have been the right word, actually.  I went back on Sunday morning and bought the one with the round beads and fiber from the same shop.  The roving is a delightful 100% BFL and definitely falls in my blue/green palette.  Right now, this spindle is my "around town" spinning project. 

What else have I been doing?  Sewing up a (temporary) storm.  One weekend, it was all sewing, all of the time.  I sewed up a dress (without the zipper), half of a dress, a bodice, and a bolero (didn't finish the sleeves yet).  I hate to say it but then those projects came to a screeching halt.  Thankfully, mom helped out with putting the invisible zipper in the one dress so that is finished.  What is needed for everything else is a spurt of finishitis (aka feeling of "must finish everything in sight!").  I did finish up a couple of small projects from scrap fabric.  Have you seen those neck ties that you soak in water and tie around your neck?  It is a great way to keep cool in the summer so I made a bunch out of scraps.  I'm hoping to use them while riding. 

Speaking of riding, a new horse came to the barn.  His name is Loxley like Robin of Loxley.  This guy is a 17.2hh (!!) bay Warmblood. 


For those of you who don't know horses, a hand is 4 inches and 17.2 hh means he is 70" tall at the top of his shoulder (the withers).  I am 5'3" which converts to 63" so that means the top of this horse's withers are 7" taller than I am.  My horse, Java, is 15.2 hh and looks like a very small horse next to Loxley.  Jazz, one of the other horses at the barn, is 15 hh and looks like a tiny, petite, little pony next to him.  Of course, she is absolutely in love with him.  She goes for the taller guys!  Whenever you add a new horse to a herd, reshuffling happens with everyone's rank in the herd.  The first week, the head mare, Cali, (16.3 hh) hated Loxley's guts and wouldn't let him anywhere near her herd.  This week, however, she is in heat and likes any and all guys. 


The poor guy is just confused by the whole thing and Java is sulking in the corner because his woman is no longer paying attention to him.  I think all of the reshuffling might be over and my horse is back to his normal #2 position because he was acting very possessive of his woman.  Ah, the drama.  It's like high school all over again. 

Speaking of horses, I've started taking individual lessons again at the riding stable down the road.  My horse is getting older and I've ridden him for so long that I feel like I'm losing some skills.  It's funny how we all settle into ruts.  Riding the lesson horses is a really good because they are so different from each other.  Hopefully I'll be riding Loxley regularly so having experience riding other horses is a good thing.  My work schedule has settled into a routine so I'm able to take the lessons either on Tuesday or Thursday mornings and then go right to work.  So far it has been working really well. 

Also speaking of the barn, have I ever mentioned that the owner of the barn has a woodworking shop there?  He is a fantastic woodworker.  Well, I have a tendency to either go on big travel trips or redecorate.  I haven't gone anywhere big recently (by big I mean Europe or some other 2 week vacation out of town, not weekend trips) so my redecorating urge is a little insistent right now.  What does this have to do with woodworking?  I've been wanting a new dresser (and desk and bed) but cannot find the design I'm imagining anywhere in the stores.  I can, however, find plans to make what I'm picturing.  Do any of you have this happen with your knitting?  You can picture the sweater but can't find the pattern?  You can probably guess what is going to happen.  Yes, I'm going to try to build the dresser.  Thankfully, Leon knows what he is doing and teaches well.  He isn't convinced about making the bed but I bet I can wear him down.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Maryland recap


I had a fantastic time at Maryland Sheep and Wool this year.  I drove out and stayed with a friend in Baltimore which isn't too far away from West Friendship, MD.  I wasn't able to convince anyone to go with me to the festival (in fact, I got weird looks) but it turned out pretty nice because that meant I could take my time everywhere.   Oh, by the way, this blog post is going to be liberally sprinkled with sheep pictures. 

getting ready to show

My goals for the festival were:
  • a sweater's worth of worsted weight wool in black
  • a spindle
  • something from Jennie the Potter
  • a fleece from the wool auction

I met all of my goals and actually ended up coming home with more than that (big surprise, right?). 

As you've probably heard already, it was HOT.  Temperatures were in the upper 80s and the sun was out in full force.  I had plenty of sunscreen, a hat and water so I was prepared for the long haul.  After waiting in line for a while, I got to the festival and parked at the far ends of the earth.  Later in the day, after many people left, I moved the car much closer! 


My fiber festival strategy is to first walk through every building, looking but not buying.  It helps you get a feel of where everything is and to which vendors you want to come back.  On the MDSW Ravelry board, I already knew a couple of vendors should be on my radar because they had products I wanted to see in person.  Additionally, wandering around everywhere gives you an opportunity to see where the shady spots are and really good food vendors! 

wool sale

Really all of this wandering around was a way for me to wind over to the wool sale, not going to lie.  I had a fantastic time digging through all of the different bags of fleece.  One goal was to buy a fleece but I hadn't decided what kind yet.  In the past, I've tended to like dark fleeces in blacks, browns, and dark grays.  This time I thought I would get either a white or light gray fleece but hadn't decided which breed.  OK, that might be a slight lie.  I really wanted a fine wool and the cormo just called my name.  I spent lots of time choosing between a small white cormo and a light gray cormo blend.  In the end, I went with the 100% cormo.  Now I know why people have been raving over cormo.   I washed up a little last week and started combing it.  Love at first lock! 


After buying my fleece, I was wandering back towards the car because I didn't want to cart my fleece around all day.  As I was passing the official festival swag building, I noticed that the line wasn't long at all.  The festival doesn't have an entry fee and is almost entirely funded by the sales of the official festival gear (well, that and vendor fees).  At my first MDSW, I decided that I didn't need any more t-shirts and really liked the idea of getting a bag instead.  That year I got a tote bag and this year I got a shoulder bag in a nice blue. 

Another advantage of going to the car was that the Podcaster Meet and Greet was being held near the main entrance.  A whole bunch of my favorite podcasters were going to be hanging out meeting people and I wanted to get in line to say "hi." 

Podcaster meet and greet

The Meet and Greet started a little late but everyone seemed to have fun chatting in line.  The goodie bag that Jackie of KIPing it Real was fantastic!  It was really nice to put faces to the voices.  Some people looked very different than how I had imagined. 

At the car, I took the opportunity to have a snack, apply even more sunscreen, and move my car to a closer parking spot.  It was so hot by that point that many people had gone home.  It was a really easy way to get a good parking spot.


When I went back to the festival, I decided to wander over to the auction.  I didn't bid on anything but it was a lot of fun to watch. 


By this point, it was very, very hot and I thought that going inside a building with cement floors and shade was a very good idea.  The skein and garment competition is not something to miss.  The amazing projects and skill levels demonstrated was simply amazing.  One of my favorite projects had to be this needle felted sheep. 

felted sheep

skein competition



knitted dress

anne hanson shawl

After wandering around the skein and garment competition building in awe for a while, I stopped by the boy scout food building and got lunch to go.  Yum, lamb burger and a GIANT ice tea.  Let me tell you, I loved that big glass of ice and tea.  It was just about time for a sheepdog demonstration so I took my lunch and wandered down to the arena.  It's always fun watching the dogs work. 


I think my favorite part of the demonstration was the farmer who has been demonstrating with his dogs for over 15 years.  He was the owner of the sheep, too, and they kept trying to run back to him.  He looked like a very old school type of farmer but I saw him pet one of the sheep on the head when they were all clustered around him. 

Because I was at the very end of the fairgrounds and the day was starting to get late, I made my way back through all of the vendors.  It had cleared out a lot since the morning because so many people had left for the day.  I ended up doing the bulk of my shopping then and then went back to Baltimore for the night. 

The next morning, I hadn't planned on going back to the festival but woke up at an obscene hour of the morning and had nothing to do for a long time.  There was a spindle that was really tempting and the sheep to shawl competition was going on so I went back for a couple of hours.  For those of you who don't know, the sheep to shawl competition is where a team of spinners and a weaver take a freshly shorn fleece (so fresh they shear the sheep right there), spin the yarn and weave a shawl in a couple of hours.  Here are a couple of the different teams. 

sheep to shawl

sheep to shawl

sheep to shawl

sheep to shawl

sheep to shawl

Every team has a different theme which makes things very fun.  As you can tell, the team in those first two pictures chose a Harley Davidson theme!  The teams do a mock-up of their shawl beforehand and have their warp already strung before the competition.  I wish I knew who won the competition. 

On Sunday, was able to watch more of the sheep show.  Listening to the judges is always so informative and I feel like I always learn something new.  One of the judges is especially good with explaining the breed standards and how the different sheep in the class come up to that standard. 

sheep show

sheep show

The last thing that I did before leaving the show was watching an impromptu shearing demonstration.  A shearer set-up shop between two of the barns and was shearing those sheep that had full fleeces for the show.  Once they are shown, their fleeces can be removed so they don't die of heatstroke in the summer.  The different owners were offering the fleeces for sale there on the spot. 


So you are probably wondering, what did you get already?!  I got:
  • 1 Cormo fleece
  • 2 trindles (funky looking spindles)
  • 6 round clay buttons with sheep on them
  • multiple snarky buttons
  • 1 MDSW shoulder bag
  • 1 4 oz bump of BFL top
  • 1 2 oz bump of 100% silk 
  • 1 mug from Jennie the Potter with cute sheep dancing all over them
  • 2 skeins of Miss Bab's Yowza Whatta Skein in Obsidian (a semi-solid black) 
  • 2 tubes of the best hand lotion EVER - Marcha Labs Wool Wax Creme
The silk and BFL are already on the spindles (of course!) and the mug has already gone to work to be my tea mug.  All in all, I had a very good festival!