Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Latest Spin... gourmet

Gourmet is one word that well describes this most very beautiful fiber that was given to me by John Kerr. It is one of the most beautiful fiber preparations I have ever seen and looks good enough to eat! Caramel with berries and cream! Thank you so very much, John. I can't wait to sink into it.

John tells me it is from Wellington Fibres in Ontario and is one of their "Mystery Rovings" meaning it may contain any combination of alpaca, wool and mohair. The Mohair from their own goats, mixed breed wool from Wolf Island in eastern Ontario, and alpaca from local growers.

I just want to set this bowl of fiber on the table and feast my eyes upon it for a while! It is that beautiful. I'm giddy with glee!

The ideas are already churning for a very thin single 2-plyed for weaving or lace knitting.

I will post updates on the journey that awaits this luscious fiber.

Thanks again, John.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tour de Fleece... afterglow

One of the neat discoveries I made during Tour de Fleece--it was presented in one of the discussions in Team Men Spin at Ravelry--is something called fauxlags. Tis a thing of beauty... sigh...: Fauxlags

And speaking of Charkhas (Indian spinning wheel for spinning cotton), this is a beautiful video of a Charkha in action: Bosworth charkha spinning video

Soap... a report

Well, three weeks have passed. According to the recipe, the soap I made July 4th weekend should be OK to go at this point.... the moment arrives... suspense...

It lathers beautifully and it's hard enough so it won't disappear after a few uses. The scent is mild. I would say I didn't use enough essential oil but on the other hand the cinnamon doesn't overwhelm the subtle scent of oatmeal, so it's not bad--at all. I have read reports of people finding that palm oil (quite a bit of it in the recipe I used) dries their skin. I find it leaves my skin feeling well cleaned but I have noticed I don't like to use it before I spin as I like my hands to be somewhat greasy or oily to spin with--it helps.

This is very exciting. Oh, yes. I'm quite motivated to have another go at it. Surfing the web brought me in touch with another recipe last night that looks pretty good. It makes twice as much (2 lbs.) as the last recipe which seems like a reasonable increment to go with. It has much more olive oil in it which means it will be softer on the skin (I think). This new recipe contains castor oil, cocoa butter, coconut oil, palm oil and olive oil! The thought of it makes my skin tingle with anticipation.

It might happen this weekend... :)

Post Tour de Fleece... Pumpkins

I started spinning "Pumpkins" on Monday and plyed my first hank last night. Didn't snap a photo till today so I could get it in daylight. It makes a nice compliment to "Parfait" and I think they're both going to end up in the same article of clothing...

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Tour de Fleece... Days 22 and 23... The End

I can't believe we're on our last day. I'm almost sad about it. It's been most enjoyable to spin as one of a team (Team Men Spin) amongst hundreds (literally!) of teams from all over the world. Tour de Fleece is a brilliant idea... consider the amount of discussion it has created... the thousands of posts at Ravelry where team members describe and display their spinning. It has been overwhelmingly inspirational.

I have even enjoyed the team names and my favorite (although I have not read the entire list--it is long) is definitely "Team Russian Underpants". Haha!! Their team is made up of antique spinning wheel enthusiasts amongst which there are many owners of CPWs (Canadian Production Wheels).

I look forward to next year's Tour de Fleece.

Yesterday and today I spun another hank of my Parfait wool/silk blend. While spinning I dyed the remainder of it setting aside a few lengths for a different colorway which I'm calling "Pumpkins". This picture shows the remaining batts hanging up to dry, Parfait on the left, Pumpkins on the right. It also shows today's finished hank of Parfait on the table.

I rewarded myself with farmer's market (humanely raised) hotdog and vegetarian beans cooked on my little barbeque visible in the background...

And here is my Tour de Fleece 2011 output in one shot. I am well pleased. I did not finish the Merino (on the spindle) but that's OK. I still have another hank or 2 of grey Shetland and there's the remaining Parfait and Pumkins to spin up. It's going to be loads of fun finishing them up and I already have plans for what's next.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Tour de Fleece... day 21: The Challenge

By far the most challenging undertaking I've attempted in spinning is cotton on a supported spindle called a "tahkli". Since today is the day we are to attempt something challenging for Tour de Fleece I chose to dig out the tahkli and the cotton sliver I bought last summer. I remember feeling that I'd reached the point of understanding this little spindle and had managed to spin enough 2-ply cotton to start knitting with it.

I did not get much time at it today... just finished at midnight after about 45 minutes. It took me half that time to get reacquainted with the spindle and technique--to rediscover all it's challenges. It can be enormously frustrating at first. It took me a while to figure out letting the twist grab the fibers from the sliver at it's own pace. All I need do is keep the tahkli moving at a reasonable--but not too fast yet--pace, while moving my right hand which is holding the sliver, away--but not too fast--but not too slow. It's all got to be within a certain range of movement and speed. Then extra twist can be brought in. Once experienced, the technique can build on itself through repetition. The other tip I learned is to spin the tahkli near the tip of the shaft, otherwise I loose complete control of the spindle. After about 20 minutes this evening I had reached the point of getting reasonably reliable draws again.

I like this video on YouTube which shows the process -- with all it's difficulties: Spinning Cotton on a Takli Support Spindle

It's not a fast process. Someday I'd love to try a Charka--a small portable spinning wheel for cotton promoted by Ghandi.

Here's my tahkli with the little bowl in which the point sits while it's spins, a sliver, a small ball of 2-ply which was done last summer and some knitting with the 2-ply. Now that the spindle has been taken out for a spin I think I'll keep plugging away at it... who knows, maybe I'll become proficient?

A little closer view (I can't get very good macro photos with my camera):

Friday, July 22, 2011

Tour de Fleece... days 19 and 20

Yesterday and today saw the completion of "Sunset in the mountains". As expected I got another hank almost exactly the same size as the previous one--44 yds.--so I have a total of 89 yds. The rovings that went into this hank had a little less bright salmon in them and I like the resulting yarn a tad better. I also got some very nice color combos in the plying phase. The two hanks are not so different that they don't go together though.

I don't know what I'll do with them yet. The first thought that comes to mind is using them as highlight bands in hats... only time will tell...

I also got a half hour in on the spindle yesterday. No spindle today but tomorrow will see some yards added there.

The 2nd and final "Sunset in the mountains":

A NOTE about the color differences between today's photo and that from the other day: The first hank was photographed in yellow light (incandescent) and today's photo was taken in bluish light (fluorescent). Today's picture is a little darker than the true colors of this yarn, and the first picture is a little brighter, albeit the first hank does have more salmon in it. The best photo of the colors is the one of the rovings--it was taken out of doors.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tour de Fleece... day 18

It's been quite a day on the trail! I could not wait any longer to start in on "Sunset in the mountains" which I dyed over the weekend and so sat down to my wheel at just after midnight this morning--almost exactly 24 hours ago! I managed to squeeze in enough treadles to get this small skein done at 11:15 this evening. I will get 2 skeins like this out of the rovings, about 90 yds. total. I need to find out where this wool comes from because it would be most lovely to get a whole bunch of it!

I'm very pleased with the outcome. Dyeing it myself added a level of adventure and excitement to the process. I have to say there are few things that give me as much sense of accomplishment as when I pull a hank off the niddy noddy. Taking raw material and making something useful out of it with one's own hands is very fulfilling. Add the artistic element and there you go! What more could one want?

Next time I do these colors I'll tone down the orange a bit. Still, I'm happy with this result...

Presenting: "Sunset in the mountains"

Here's what the singles looked like being spun up:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tour de Fleece... day 17

Yesterday--Monday--day 17--was a day of rest. I knitted. We met at the LGBT Center for our twice-monthly get together called "Knit and Schmooze". We enjoyed lovely knitting and lovely schmoozing, comparing notes about our experience in the big parade a few weeks ago--we marched in different contingents. I marched, as I usually do, with the LGBT Center. It's a great group. Noisy, boisterous, cheerful and fun, plus the Center has a bus that blares body moving dance music.

The parade was special this year what with NY State's passage of marriage equality legislation just a few days before. There was more cheering and exuberance from the sidelines than the usually sound decibel level of moral support. Not to mention the rapturous marchers. I started to wonder whether I should have brought ear plugs with me! (I was fine.)

I love the parade. It's a far cry from what it began as, and even far removed from my first march in '79, for sure. But I march now for several reasons: To comemmorate and celebrate the courageous people who fought back at the Stonewall Inn those many years ago--drag queens who said "No more!" (That's why we need drag queens in the parade.) I march to celebrate my own progress in being out. I march to join with my brothers and sisters in showing the world who we are--in all our diversity, and it's a beautifully diverse parade.

Here are a few pics of what it looks like from the street...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Tour de Fleece... day 16

Names. I have yet to disclose the name I chose for the colorway I'm dyeing the wool/silk batts. The colors remind me of raspberries and blueberries. In revolt against "very berry" (no, thank you) I was going to name it something pretentious like "l'apres midi des framboise et bleuets". Instead I've settled on "Parfait".

Today's TDF output is another hank of Parfait, shown here sitting pretty on it's throne:

We had gorgeous weather again (knock on wood!) and I spent a good deal of the day in the back yard. I had a kettle of wool soaking in a vinegar bath as I spun away on the wool/silk. The wool I dyed today was a gift from a student. It is unidentified but comes from a farm somewhere in PA. She gave me some once before and it was good fun to spin up. Last time I spun it up white and dyed the yarn. I thought it would be a learning experience to hand paint these rovings and that's just what I did.

I've named it "Sunset in the mountains". Four colors were used and the mixing of them created some new ones. I especially like the touch the silver brings to it. I cannot wait to start spinning these lovelies:

Speaking of names, several of my birds are named and since names is the sub theme of this post I thought I would mention some of them: CoCo, Pumpkin, Smooch, ChouChou, Peanuts, Smokey, Peaches, Cashew, Couscous, Twinkle, Sunshine and Smidgeon (whom I always call Smidge). I only know a few of them by sight. If it seems to me that such-and-such lovebird looks like Pumpkin then he's Pumpkin for the time being!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Tour de Fleece... day 15

It was a good and productive day! I got another batt of wool/silk dyed... ready for spinning tomorrow. While the dye was steeping this morning I spun a bobbin full of Shetland and got 62 yds. of 3-ply yarn. This picture shows the progress I've made on the Merino over the course of the past few days along with the Shetland I spun today. :)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tour de Fleece... day 11

Merino. Spindle. Enough said. I'll post a pic of the spindle at the end of the week. There won't be any time for the wheel between now and then.

I unpacked some Yak fiber the other evening and started playing around with that. I'm going to 'spin from the fold' on my spindle. It will be part of my TDF 2011 output! :)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Tour de Fleece... day 10

It's an official day of rest for TDF.

I'm off to do a bit a spindling though, unofficially! :)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Tour de Fleece... day 9

Spun a bobbin full of the wool/silk. The question of plying arose several times and one particular brain wave came up with an answer of 3-ply. This is a rambunctious fiber and I think 3-ply would help bring some cohesion to it. Time has dictated n-ply technique. Here's why: I don't have time to spin a whole 3 bobbins full before the workweek starts and I don't want a bobbin of singles to sit a whole week before plying. I want to take advantage of all that springy twist.

One drawback of my wheel--and as far as I can think it's the only drawback: there are no high capacity bobbins for it. I can usually get about 50 yds. of 3-ply wound on, that seems to be the limit. Therefore I decided to ply on my large Schact spindle. I plyed directly from the bobbin--left it right in the wheel... just loosened the drive bands and away we went.

The spindle full of plyed yarn (yes, I was working in the back yard):

And the finished hank:

I'm glad this is the smaller batt (and it's not all incorporated into the hank shown above). When all finished I should have enough for a cowl, a soft, silky, neck caressing cowl. :)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Tour de Fleece.... days 6, 7 and 8

Days 6 and 7 saw more spindle spinning. So did today, day 8. In fact I took my spindle to the laundromat with me. Great way to make that chore not a chore.

This morning I took the smaller batt of wool/silk blend out back and dyed it. I soaked it for an hour in water with a good dose of vinegar because I'm using acid dyes. The vinegar is the acid that will act as a mordant. I used to think that the word 'acid' meant that the dyes themselves were acid. It does not... it refers to the fact that the dye needs some sort of acid to help the fabric absorb the dye.

So after looking at my little jars of powdered dye this week and imagining different combinations of color, I decided to go simply with a purple and a burgandy.

After the soak I removed the wool batt and unfolded it as best I could over some laid out plastic wrap. Then I poured purple and red dye over it in bands and used a spoon to smoosh it around making sure it got into most of the fibers. Still, I wanted a little white showing here and there. When the batt was saturated with dye I folded the plastic wrap around it, laid more wrap over it and folded it in 3 lengthwise. Then I rolled it up very loosely into a bale and into the steamer it went for 45 minutes. I use one of those folding vegetable steamers in a large enamel pot. A few rinses and then it was hung out to dry:

I have just now come in from the backyard where I've been since doing the laundry, spinning up some of this batt. I knew it would be a challenge but it's going better than I expected. Perhaps it looks rough but in fact it's very soft and feels like chenille. Not sure if I'll 2-ply or 3-ply. The batt looks sparkly in this picture, I think the silk is responsible for that.

Quote of note...

I rearranged a lot in my apartment last weekend. The living room was feeling crowded and I was not happy about it. The task involved moving several books and in the process I ran across a book I read a few years back but had slipped out of memory. It's called "I Will Not Die An Unlived Life" and it's by Dawna Markova.

This exquisite poem is from the book.

It's a book worth looking for. The title alone is worth the cover price.

Quote of Note...

I'm going to change the quote over on the left ("Have Faith") this evening. This one has been up for a while. But I don't just want to let this one go. It comes from a very inspirational poem by Edward Carpenter entitled "Have Faith". He was English, lived 1844-1929, was an early gay activist and was friends with 2 of my favorite poets, Walt Whitman and Rabindranath Tagore who I would say is my favorite poet. (Some quotes from his will appear here over time.)

Despite the fact that there is a reference to a second coming in this poem--which makes me a bit uncomfortable because I don't subscribe to the conventional notion, I would like to post the whole poem because, well... it is inspirational. Some many lines from this poem would make wonderful 'quotes of note'. His message is not an easy one and I've heard it before, notably from the world of Buddhism. But I like this poem because it's not dogmatic. It's food. It's a feast for the soul.

Have Faith
by Edward Carpenter

DO not hurry: have faith. Remember that if you become famous you can never share the lot of those who pass by unnoticed from the cradle to the grave, nor take part in the last heroism of their daily life;

If you seek and encompass wealth and ease the divine outlook of poverty cannot be yours—nor shall you feel all your days the loving and constraining touch of Nature and Necessity;

If you are successful in all you do, you cannot also battle magnificently against odds;

If you have fortune and good health and a loving wife and children, you cannot also be of those who are happy without these things.

Covet not overmuch. Let the strong desires come and go; refuse them not, disown them not; but think not that in them lurks finally the thing you want.

Presently they will fade away and into the intolerable light will dissolve like gossamers before the sun.

Do not hurry: have faith.

The sportsman does not say, I will start a hare at the comer of this field, or I will shoot a turkey-buzzard at the foot of that tree;
But he stands indifferent and waits on emergency, and so makes himself master of it.

So do you stand indifferent, and by faith make yourself master of your life.

For all things are possible, yet at any one time and place only one thing is possible;

And all things are good, yet at any one time and place can you extract the good only from that which is before you.

Have faith. If that which rules the universe were alien to your soul, then nothing could mend your state— there were nothing left but to fold your hands and be damned everlastingly.

But since it is not so—why what can you wish for more? —all things are given into your hands.

Do you pity a man who having a silver mine on his estate loses a shilling in a crack in his house-floor?

And why should another pity you?

Do not hurry.

As at the first day the clouds suffused with light creep over the edges of the hills, the young poplar poises itself like an arrow planted in the ground, the birds warble with upturned bills to the sun;

The sun rises on hundreds of millions of human beings; the hemisphere of light follows the hemisphere of darkness, and a great wave of life rushes round the globe;

The little pigmies stand on end (like iron filings under a magnet) and then they fall prone again. And this has gone on for millions of years and will go on for millions more.

Absolve yourself to-day from the bonds of action.

[Wait, wait ever for the coming of the Lord. See that you are ready for his arrival.]

Begin to-day to understand that which you will not understand when you read these words for the first time, nor perhaps when you have read them for the hundredth time.

Begin to-day to understand why the animals are not hurried, and do not concern themselves about affairs, nor the clouds nor the trees nor the stars—but only man—and he but for a few thousand years in history.

[For it is one thing to do things, but another to be concerned about the doing of them.]

Behold the animals. There is not one but the human soul lurks within it, fulfilling its destiny as surely as within you.

The elephant, the gnat floating warily towards its victim, the horse sleeping by stolen snatches in the hot field at the plough, or coming out of the stable of its own accord at the sound of the alarm bell and placing itself in the shafts of the fire-engine—-sharing the excitement of the men; the cats playing together on the barn floor, thinking no society equal to theirs, the ant bearing its burden through the grass—

Do you think that these are nothing more than what you see? Do you not know that your mother and your sister and your brother are among them?

I saw deep in the eyes of the animals the human soul look out upon me.

I saw where it was born deep down under feathers and fur, or condemned for awhile to roam fourfooted among the brambles. I caught the clinging mute glance of the prisoner, and swore that I would be faithful.

Thee my brother and sister I see and mistake not. Do not be afraid. Dwelling thus and thus for a while, fulfilling thy appointed time—thou too shalt come to thyself at last.

Thy half-warm horns and long tongue lapping round my wrist do not conceal thy humanity any more than the learned talk of the pedant conceals his—for all thou art dumb we have words and plenty between us.

Come nigh little bird with your half-stretched quivering wings—within you I behold choirs of angels, and the Lord himself in vista.

Crooning and content the old hen sits—her thirteen chicks cheep cheerily round her, or nestle peeping out like little buds from under her wings;

Keen and motherly is her eye, placid and joyful her heart, as the sun shines warm upon them.

Do not hurry: have faith.

[Whither indeed should we hurry? is it not well here? A little shelter from the storm, a stack of fuel for winter use, a few handfuls of grain and fruit—

And lo! the glory of all the earth is ours.]

The main thing is that the messenger is perhaps even now at your door—and to see that you are ready for his arrival:

A little child, a breath of air, an old man hobbling on crutches, a bee lighting on the page of your book—who knows whom He may send?

Some one diseased or dying, some friendless, outcast, criminal—

One whom it shall ruin your reputation to be seen with—yet see that you are ready for his arrival.

Likely whoever it is his coming will upset all your carefully laid plans;

Your most benevolent designs will likely have to be laid aside, and he will set you to some quite commonplace business, or perhaps of dubious character—

Or send you a long and solitary journey; perhaps he will bring you letters of trust to deliver—perhaps the prince himself will appear—

Yet see that you are ready for his arrival.

Is your present experience hard to bear?

Yet remember that never again perhaps in all your days will you have another chance of the same.

Do not fly the lesson, but have a care that you master it while you have the opportunity.

These things I say not in order to excite thought in you—rather to destroy it—

Or if to excite thought, then to excite that which destroys itself;

For what I say is not born of thought and does not demand thought either for comprehension or proof;

And whoever dwells among thoughts dwells in the region of delusion and disease—and though he may appear wise and learned yet his wisdom and learning are as hollow as a piece of timber eaten out by white ants.

Therefore though thought should gird you about, remember and forget not to disendue it, as a man takes off his coat when hot; and as a skilful workman lays down his tool when done with, so shall you use thought and lay it quietly aside again when it has served your purpose.

A veil of illusion hangs following the lines of all things,

Over the trees and running waters, and up the sides of the mountains and over the sea and the cities, and circling the birds in the air as they fly—

So that these themselves you see not, only the indications of them, and yourself you see not, only the indication.

As long as through the eyes of desire, and of this and that, you look—and of vanity; as long as you hurry after results and are overwhelmed with the importance of anything you can do or leave undone—so long will the veil lie close, do not be deceived.

On all sides God surrounds you, staring out upon you

from the mountains and from the face of the rocks, and of men, and of animals.

Will you rush past for ever insensate and blindfold— hurrying breathless from one unfinished task to another, and to catch your ever-departing trains—as if you were a very Cain flying from his face?

Resume the ancient dignity of your race, lost, almost forgotten as it is.

What is it surely that you are fretting about? Is it the fashions, or what men say about you, or the means of livelihood, or is it the sense of duty this way and that, or trivial desires, that will not let you rest?

Are you so light, like a leaf, that such things as these will move you—are you so weak that one such slender chain will deprive you of inestimable Freedom?

And yet the lilies of the field and the beasts that have no banks of deposit or securities are not anxious: they have more dignity than you.

As long as you harbor motives so long are you giving hostages to the enemy; while you are a slave (to this and that) you can only obey. It is not You who are acting at all.

Brush it all aside.

Pass disembodied out of yourself. Leave the husk, leave the long long prepared and perfected envelope.

Enter into the life which is eternal, pass through the gate of indifference into the palace of mastery, through the door of love out into the great open of deliverance;

Give away all that you have, become poor and without possessions—and behold! you shall be lord and sovereign of all things.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


Wondering why extensions on the D Major and A Major scales seem harder than those on the Bb and Eb Major scales, although they are basically the same? The difference being that D and A Major require a repositioning of the thumb and a downward movement of the hand. It's coming but taking some real work. I like F Major.

One of the things I really love about cello is that it's not stuck in equal temperament. I can hear pure intervals on my cello and they are divine.

We (my teacher and I--mostly he) repositioned my relationship to the cello at my lesson on Tuesday. I was holding it too vertical and too high. Now I'm getting used to the new position and it is in fact a bit more comfortable.

Found a wonderful awakening between my shoulder blades last weekend and it has made a big difference. Although I have a long way to go, bowing is not quite the struggle it has been. Oh yes, there's still struggle, just not as much. It's a little more under control now. Just love it!

Tour de Fleece... day 4 and 5

Now that we're in the middle of the work week the best I can manage is spindle spinning while waiting for the buses and trains. I'm spinning on the platform at 23rd & Broadway while waiting for the N or R after work, and I'm getting some twist in at Bedford & N. 7th while waiting for the B62. I'm also spinning when I get home at night. It's a good way to unwind.

Yesterday and today's progress is shown below. Although it doesn't look it there really is more singles on the spindle than the pic I took over the weekend. The picture also shows the finished 2-ply yarn. This stuff will weave or knit up into a fabric with beautiful drape.

I will continue with the spindle for the rest of the week and this weekend I'll be able to treadle the wheel again.

I've now made it one of my goals to finish this ball of merino top during TDF 2011.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Tour de Fleece... day 3

I finished the white Shetland today--got one small hank out of the remainder. Hopped right into the grey Shetland, picture follows. I also did more Merino on the spindle.

Tomorrow is a work day, the first for me since TDF started and I don't know how much I'm going to get done. I suspect that during the week the bulk of my TDF spinning will be spindle spun. I can spin while waiting for the bus.

I have a wonderful story about waiting for the B62 on Bedford & 7th around 10:30 pm one night last year. I was spinning some beautiful multi-shade green and multi-shade yellow top on my spindle in front of the pizza place at the bus stop and a young Irish man came up to me and inquired about my spinning. He fell in love with the yarn. He said he'd very much love to have the yarn I was spinning but understood that it wasn't finished yet. We had a really nice chat and then he kissed me on both cheeks European style. How romantic. Swoon. I got all warm and fuzzy over it. He was cute as a button! :)

Today's grey and white Shetland:


I took them out of their wrap today and they look good. Now they'll sit on a shelf for 3 weeks to cure. Basically I think that means the excess water evaporates out of them.

The results of the different size molds: the small size was very hard to unmold. It was a bit of a struggle on a few of them. The medium size was pretty easy to unmold this being partly due to their shallow depth. The large size was easy to unmold. I did put them in the freezer for half an hour before unmolding.

I'm really happy about this and can't wait to make more. Enfleurage, I'm coming to visit!

Tour de Fleece 2011...

I'll be posting daily pictures of my Tour de Fleece spinning. Yesterday (day 1) was the Shetland. Today I spun more of the Merino that I had set aside a while back. Very thin single will be 2 plyed. Tomorrow (if the weather is nice) I plan to dye the wool-silk blend which will be my main TDF project.

This merino is very beautiful. Spinning it so thin comes with a few challenges... it's almost inevitable that I'll drop the spindle once or twice in a session. Sometimes the fibers slide past each other so fast... swoosh... and it's on the floor! :)

The merino:

The wool/silk batts that will be my main TDF projects before dying:

Saturday, July 2, 2011


Ooooh.... I'm excited! Really excited!

Today is the day that I set out to whip up a batch of soap. My very first batch. It's a holiday weekend so I'm not feeling rushed at all, and the weather was lovely. A tad humid but not too bad. I experienced a little anxiety to start--as usual when tackling something new sans an instructor being present. Instructions like 'stir until trace' isn't quite as precise as, say, 'heat to 98 degrees'. The latter doesn't faze me a bit, the former? Eh... apprehension that comes with the unknown. Gotta go with it though, what's the worst that could happen? A failed batch of soap? But I wanted it to come out well!

I am happy to report that everything seems to be going well so far. I won't know for sure until Monday afternoon--theoretically, but I'm 95% confident at the moment. I managed to recognize trace when it happened and I had plenty of time to be on the lookout for it. It took somewhere between 40 minutes to an hour of stirring to reach it. (I don't know for sure because I left my watch at my cello teacher's place last Tuesday!) It most certainly was trace and it was very exciting when I realized that it would happen!

After pouring the soap into molds they have to be wrapped in a towel and left alone for 48 hours after which time they can be unmolded and left out to cure for 3 weeks. However :) I just went out to the back yard to ply the Shetland I spun this afternoon and could not resist peeking at the soap. Happy, happy! It is firm. I don't really think I need to wait until Monday (but I will) because this was a small batch--only 1 pound. The instructions said the small amount could be poured directly into final molds and because of that I think it is setting up quicker.

From what I've read it seems molds are usually used for milled soap, but since the instructions mentioned pouring directly into molds I was happy to oblige. I bought 3 molds--a large, medium and small. I want to see how the soap will come out in the three different sizes. The large has a fleur-de-lis decoartion, the medium a floral, and the small are quaint little ribbed mounds.

So what is trace? It's when the soap starts to leave a raised trail when you lift the spoon out of it and dribble a bit across the surface.

The soap I decided to make is oatmeal and I added a little bit of cinnamon essential oil. Here's is everything at the start. Going clockwise from the bottom left: my digital scale, a pyrex cup to mix the lye & water, palm oil, coconut oil, lye, .25 cup of oatmeal blended with 2 oz. olive oil, the big red bag that carried everything to the backyard, coffee (not for the soap), red pan to melt the oils in, plastic gloves for handling lye, pan to measure the lye in, paper towel, stirring spatula and spoon, face mask for when lye is mixed with the water:

When the lye is mixed with the water it heats way up and needs to be set aside to cool down to around 100-110 degrees. In the meantime the oil and fat has to be melted and heated to around the same temperature. I had no idea oils heated up so fast and I ended up having to stick the pan in the quick freeze for about 10 minutes to get it cooled down. When the temps are right the lye/water is added to the oils and is then stirred "until trace". This is what it looked like right after the 2 mixes were combined:

And this is what it looked like at trace just before I added the oatmeal and olive oil. It is much lighter in color and much thicker:

And here is the soap poured into the molds just before I covered them up with another towel:

And the Shetland spun this afternoon and plyed this evening? ... :)

Friday, July 1, 2011

Cello... a video progress report

Well then! Time for a little humble pie. My teacher recorded one of the exercises I learned last week. He will be doing this periodically, mostly for my benefit so I can look back and (hopefully) see my progress.

This is me after 8 months of lessons. Yes, I think it's bearable to listen to. Warning: There are a few notes to winch on. :)

I was a little uptight about being recorded but I think I'll settle into that quickly enough. There's one whole line that I bowed backwards! You'll notice my teacher says "down bow" at one point and you'll see my smile as I had already realized I was bowing in the wrong direction. Ha!

So, progress is being made. I don't yet feel that I have full use and control of my bow but it'll come I'm sure. My teacher makes it look so easy...

Cello after 8 months of lessons (Youtube)

The latest spin... spindle spun, n-ply

Just finished a bunch of Spinner's Hill top that I purchased at last fall's NY Sheep and Wool festival. It's a very nice preparation and I look forward to obtaining some more. I spindle spun this lot and did ply-on-the-fly which I love for achieving runs of color from these gorgeously colored tops.

I was filling up pretty well on my last spindle but still had about 2.5 feet of top to spin up and ply. I really didn't want to break off and end up with a very small skein left over but it was getting pretty difficult to spin with such a heavy load. So I broke off leaving a tail of 3" or so and spun the rest as an un-plied single on a separate spindle. When I got to the end of that bit I grafted the two spindles together (the twist is all going in the same direction) and finished by n-plying the single from the 2nd spindle onto the 1st and ended with a nice big hank!

Here's the 1st spindle with probably the biggest cop I've ever had on it:

And here are the finished hanks from the lot. I do love the colors: