Monday, November 22, 2010


It's a good thing I took and posted photos on the weekend, since overnight the cats discovered my bag of projects and fibre from SOAR. The colour-blending samples did not fare well, reduced to a jumbled pile of fluff on the craft room floor.

I really shouldn't say cats, though. It's always just one cat. One trouble-making, clumsy, belly jiggling cat - Ariel. Usually she focuses her mischief on plastic - shopping bags, new shower curtains still in the wrapper, cat- and dog-food bags riddled with teeth holes. I guess she wanted to switch up the destruction.

She looks so innocent, but it's all a clever diversion.

Ariel is lucky she's cute and cuddly because sometimes her bad little habits are hard to ignore.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Carder caddy

Since I started sewing, I'm seeing projects everywhere. I made this pouch to hold my handcarders. How adorable is the fabric with smiley clouds, apples and bees? And, oddly, I had in my stash matching pink fabric with tiny bees for the lining. Now who is going to question my need for a well-rounded fabric stash? (Bead stash, fibre stash, snack stash . . . )

I have another fat quarter of fabric from the same line I'm going to use to make a caddy for my lazy kate. Then I think my spinning-related sewing projects are complete, at least for now. Although that reminds me . . . I did see a nifty idea for a collapsible fabric pouch to carry fibre and spindle. Hmm.

SOAR high

SOAR is best explained as spinning camp. And there the women, and a few token men, can be just as excitable and crazy as pre-teen girls at a pajama party. Plus, you get to hang out with the celebrities of the spinning world -- Maggie Casey, Margaret Stove, Jacey Boggs, Deb Menz, and Judith MacKenzie, to name a few.

My mom and I started our learning with a drop spindle class taught by Maggie Casey. I'd never once picked up a drop spindle before, and was pleasantly surprised to find I caught on pretty quickly. This is my first mini skein using a spindle, both making the singles and plying. It turned out pretty well, and even the singles are quite sturdy, judging by how my cats have been playing with the left-over bit for weeks now and yet it's holding together.

I took a couple classes on colour theory and blending, including using combs and hackles -- a handy and dangerous tool! I only lost a few bits of skin on my hands, and came out knowing a lot about blending in my class with Deb Menz. We started with one colour -- in my case a dark blue/teal -- and then added different colours to play with hue, tone and saturation. It's amazing how adding just a touch of another colour entirely changes the fibre.

My favourite and most challenging (read: causing an intense desire to pull out my hair) class was thick and thin and coils with Jacey Boggs. Oh, how long I have been trying to get the hang of this technique. It's so deceptively simple, especially when watching Jacey in action. I persevered despite the overwhelming urge to walk my fluff-covered ass out the room never to return. SOAR lesson #1: You soon have to give up on trying to keep bits of fibre off your pants, shirt, shoes, socks, etc. It is everywhere -- on every chair and table and floor. Despite the danger of fuzzy hitchhikers, the event was amazing. How cool is it to be in a place where people are toting around spinning wheels, using their spindle at the dinner table, knitting anytime there's a spare second!? It's invigorating to be around people who share the same interest -- especially when it's one the average person thinks is a relic of a quaint, but tedious time when people had to spin and knit their own garments. Thankfully we've such a pampered life now that now we can do it just for fun!

Back to my thick and thin and coils, which was fun despite the frustrations.

My try in class at coils was a fluffy mess, not helped by starting with a not-so-hot thick and thin single, and the second I attempted later in the evening was slightly less of a disaster. At least for now I've got something to keep me entertained.

This has got to be the smallest skein ever, just a few coils to admire . . .

Twirls and loops

In a last-minute frenzy to clear my bobbins before heading off to SOAR, I needed to come up with something to do with fair bit of a merino single, kinda bulky. I think it was the orphan of some spinning at the cottage in the summer. What to do? I remembered the stash of crochet cotton I inherited and went rummaging for a colour that would go with the purple-blue single.

Then I got started, running the single back through the wheel while letting the crochet cotton spin around it with little guidance from me. That's a technique I learned from Jacey Boggs DVD on making art yarns. I was lucky enough to have a class with her at SOAR. It's lucky I even made it to SOAR, since I was up so late the night before - packing barely started - spinning this yarn. Usually plying goes fast, but not so much in this case. Once I had two bobbins of yarn with the merino single and crochet cotton dancing around it, I plied those together to get something pretty funky. It was neat to see how the cotton wrap changed its look with the cabling, loosening up a bit while also locking in-between the plies. Weird.

Earlier today I put it through the wheel again because it needed a bit more ply to make it balanced. It was pretty good already, but I took the few extra minutes. That is, after I found the swift, set it up and got spinning in the right direction. S and Z twist should be so easy to figure out. Now the skein is hanging out in the shower after its bath.

Here's a (fuzzy) close-up:

Toiling at the drum carder

Drum carding goes faster than handcarding, but it's still a tedious process - especially when the fibre is a bit felted from the dye process and you have to tease out each small batch before putting it through the carder. Thankfully, all the fibre I dyed was totally worth the effort. The fibre came out so soft and lovely.

First, the merino dyed in chestnut husks. The colour didn't come out quite right in the photo. It's a far deeper colour than you see here:

Then the amazing golden colour from the marigolds:

And, finally, the fibre I cooked up with the red cabbage. Originally, it came out of the dye bath a soft blue-grey. I put half the batch in a mix of water and baking soda, turning it instantly to green. What a lovely combination. The pile of little rolls just kept growing as I carded.

Unfortunately, due to my memory lapse about straining the boiled cabbage through a fine cloth, some teeny bits of cabbage, now just white flakes, are still in the fibre. Some came out first in the washing, then carding, but a few are tenacious. Hopefully more will pop out with the spinning.

They're so soft in feel and colour, it's tempting to rest your head on the pile like a pillow and enjoy a wee nap, dreaming about fleece of course.