Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Dying to Dye In This Heat

Top:  Gray Alpaca in Dye pot.
Bottom:  Alpaca All Dyed.
Merino In dye pot.
A little bit of dye spillover into pot.
This past Friday I finally ordered some new dyes I was itching to try out.  However, the weather has been extremely brutal (especially on pregnant ladies) and running a stove in my kitchen was the last thing I wanted to do.  Luckily since they were ordered and I opted to have them sent first class mail it meant chances are they would take a while to come in.  This spared my family of the added heat from my excitement and impatience.  Imagine my surprise when I found them in my mailbox on Monday!  An added bonus is that by Monday the heat finally broke and we were welcomed with on and off thunder showers throughout the day.  A perfect day to play with dye.  I grabbed some gray alpaca roving that I had an abundance of and some superwash merino and went to town.  As I assembled my materials, I realized I was out of saran wrap.  Bummer!  I really wanted to try out some progression dyeing on my merino and I felt hand painting it would be the easiest.  Then it finally it me, d'oh!  Why not do immersion dyeing similar to canning.  To my surprise, it worked great.  Next time I'll need to use larger canning jars.  Notice the white splotches from the fiber being crammed into the smaller jars?

Merino Hanging to dry
Merino Dry and Braided
Another accomplishment on my weekend to do list:  I finally got my upgrade that I ordered (and received last Feb./Mar.) onto my Blue Bonnet wheel.  This upgrade now allows me to use my wheel as a double tension or a scotch tension with only having to change out the whorl and smack on the correct belt.  What should have taken maybe an hour or so project took about five hours.  No lie!  It wasn't the installing of the upgrade that was the problem.  It was finding all the correct tools as I needed them.  Instead of assembling everything I would need ahead of time, I waited until I came to the step that I needed to use them.  I would have to drop what I was doing, go on a manhunt (anyone who has seen my husbands garage or the organization of his tools would feel sympathy) and come back and have to fix any adjustments the kids made to my wheel while I was gone.  All the kids were cranky as we were feeling the effects of the continuous days of excessive heat.  They had been lacking in naps since their rooms were too hot.  They had decided it was more fun to play in the A.C. rooms that were offered as napping alternatives.

 I was beaming when I finally finished it.  I tweaked the settings and spun my first roving on it.  I am ecstatic that I can now do lace weight yarns!  My double tension set up was perfect for art or bulky yarns leaving my options limited.  Now it does about everything and in about half the time!

Rhubarb Pie
Late Night Stroll
I also got the unnamed superwash merino spun up.  It was aptly named Rhubarb Pie because, frankly, it reminded me of rhubarb pie.  I decided to enter it in my Blue Bonnet's summer SAL challenge through Ravelry.  I dyed up about 8 oz of it, this picture shows one of the skeins.  I also dyed and spun up a little over 4 oz of alpaca that I named "A Late Night Stroll" that I entered as well.  We were allowed up to three entries but with me wanting to hone up on my upgraded wheel and play with my dyes I know that's all I will have time for.

Husbands (at least mine) don't understand these little deadlines we put on ourselves.  They are very important to us.  When these are going on that means all cleaning is on hold.  Dinners will be quick made portions.  Phone calls will neither be answered nor returned right away.  The fact that your favorite clothes aren't clean are of no importance to me.  We need groceries?  Best go down to the basement and see what goodies are in the chest freezer.  It's really not that he doesn't care, or doesn't support.  It's more of a "Are you feeling okay?  You've got me worried." Obviously he cannot understand the excitement those of us can get over these simple things.  I also get, "I think you need to get out of the house for a bit.  Even if it's just for a ride".  Then I have to try to compose myself from showing what I'm really thinking:  "No!  Please!  That means I will have to leave all my "work" and get nothing done!?".  If my face showed how I really felt it would cause him extreme worry.  Somewhere on the lines of I think you should see professional help worry.  To avoid all that my usual response is, "Eh.  That's okay.  It's such a pain in the butt to load the kids in the car just for a ride.  If you think of something else we could all do though, I'm all ears". It works as a great save every time.  It promises me at least another two hours to wrap up whatever I was finishing. I admit getting away is healthy.  It gets me away from this stuff and out enjoying time with my family.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Berry Picking!

Today's Blueberries!
Today has been quite a refreshing day thus far.  The weather here in PA has been hot and humid for a while so it was nice to see a warm sunny day without so much humidity.  My husband was off work today so we had a chance to get the kids out for a bit and play.  I took my two year old with me and darted out to the backyard to check out our blueberry bushes.  I was surprised to see so many ripe already.  I grabbed a bowl and a cup and we started picking.  The cup was a "distractor" for my two year old, Danny.  This way I could put some in his cup to eat without him wanting the majority in the bowl that would inevitably end up on the ground.  Between my kids and I we picked almost three full pints which amazed me for this time of year.  There's still tons waiting to ripen so it looks like we will be able to make lots of jellies, muffins and wine this year!  I wish we had blackberries here in our yard.  They grow rampant everywhere else but when we go elsewhere on walks to pick them we usually don't yield enough to warrant saving.  They usually get eaten by the time we get home.  It's a bummer.  I would love some blackberry jelly and wine.  Something to invest in I guess.

After a taking care of a troublesome honeysuckle bush that was growing out of the middle of one of the blueberry bushes I decided I best scout around the rest of the yard and see what needed attention.  I have an extreme love of gardening (especially edibles), but being pregnant the past three years has provided me slim opportunity to really get my hands dirty.  I giggled to myself as I got to my grapevines and noticed one side of my grapevines had spilled over and were visiting all through my peach tree.  The other side was frolicking inside and out of a neighboring apple tree.  At least everything looks good. I had to share this picture as I thought it was quite cute.  I find awe in the way a plant can just dig itself wherever it really wants to be. Maybe I'll get the chance to prune the grapevines this winter?  Highly unlikely.

Nameless Superwash Extrafine Merino
The "nameless" merino started on the bobbin
Recently finished yarns ready to list.
Trying to spend more "me" time on the spinning when I get a chance.  Now that this tiredness is over I'm amazed at what I can get done and still have time to enjoy doing what I want to do.  The kids are loving the fact I can play with them longer before I want to nap.  I was even able to get a couple skeins of yarn finished and off the wheel.  They got their photo shoot this morning.  I'm hoping to get them listed on the Etsy shop sometime on Friday.  Right now I'm working with some superwash merino I hand dyed myself.  I approach most of my dyeing pretty carefree.  I have an idea of colors I want to work with but I try not to constrict myself into anything particular that way I'm not disappointed  if it doesn't work out exactly the way I want it to.  I liked the way the colors came out in this one.  I thought it looked even neater when spun up.  I imagine I'm going to make this into a two ply so I'm already thinking of how it's going to look when all plied together.  I'm actually rather excited!

Oh, I almost forgot!  I started up a Facebook page a couple days ago for the shop.  Trying to get things on it here and there in my spare time.  I mostly wanted to set it up to connect with other crafters and share tips and such as well as quick shop updates.  Yesterday I was able to get an album up to show step by step of turning old t-shirts and plastic bags into upcycled yarn.  If you're on Facebook, feel free to add us.  You'll find it under Davenport Groves (of course!).

With all that being said, I guess I will leave you with a short blog.  The kids are napping and I have to finish up special shipment for a special person (thank you a million times over!). Plus, I don't have to worry about making dinner tonight.  The boys said they have that under control.  How wonderful is that?  It doesn't happen too often so I'm looking forward to getting some stuff cleaned and enjoying the rest of the day.  Wishing everyone else a wonderful day as well!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I Promise I Didn't Go Into Hiding, At Least Intentionally

Well, after a long hiatus of my blog and twitter posting, I'm back. The lack of posting was for good reason, which I will get into later. I didn't intentionally mean to leave any kind of cliffhanger with my last blog either.  For that, I apologize.  I did write the blog and saved the draft but was in a different sort of mood when I went to post it.  It was very cathartic to type out but I guess it was something I wasn't ready to post, yet.  For that I apologize a million times over and I am sure I will share eventually.  For now I promise no more cliffhangers without solid intentions to deliver promptly.

As for the hiatus, the demands of the kids have been crazy.  With my husband's crazy work schedule, an 11 year old, a toddler and a newborn it was impossible for me to find a routine. Especially with the newborn changing to a crawling/almost walking nine month old and the toddler hitting the terrible two's.  On top of that our house was "gifted" many small illnesses that everyone couldn't help consecutively sharing.  The biggest reason for the hiatus is we found out we were expecting...again. Just when I thought I was on top of this routine thingy. I couldn't figure out why I was so tired and sleepy all the time.  All I wanted to do was nap and I never felt rested.

 The thought of having three under three sent us into complete panic mode.  We are feeling extremely blessed and grateful (I have always wanted four children) but quite overwhelemed.  Each stage the children reach we get one of those "can we still keep up with this and have another one" fears. Each time we couldn't prevent a boo-boo or would find crayon mysteriously on the wall it would escalate.  Now the panic has pretty much settled and the excitement has started to set in more.  After having all these boys, it would be nice to have a little girl.  I do have a strong feeling it's a little girl.  I'm not sure if my feelings are correct or in the back of my mind I'm wondering what the odds would be of it being ANOTHER boy.  Trust me, I would be just as excited for a healthy boy.  In a couple weeks time I should know!  I usually find out the sex.  It's still a surprise to me and I can rest assured being a little more prepared.

As far as the spinning, knitting and crocheting goes I have been busy on my downtime!  I have a lot ready to go list in the shop but I'm having a hard time with picture taking anymore.  We don't get very good natural lighting in the house.  I have a tot who loves to be outside and once he's outside it is impossible to get him back in.  So unless I've got everything squared away inside to spend my whole rest of the day outside, I can't get pictures done.  Lately I've set everything needing pictures in a separate area so I can utilize time better and  take a bunch of different things all at once.

Benjamin Green Studio Combs with prime alpaca.
(Notice my redneck spice cap diz?)
Lately I have been taking in a lot more raw wool and fleeces.  After my first Ebay purchase of raw wool, I realized I had been had.  All of my other purchases were no where close to the horror or that first shipment. Since I don't own anything to align the fibers with and a tight budget to do so, I researched the best product for my desired results.  I knew a carding machine was out of the question.  Especially not knowing if I would actually like working with raw wool.  That pretty much left hand combs and hand carders.  I tend to like working with combed wool better than carded wool.  I prefer more of a worsted over a woolen when working with yarn so that's what I wanted to make.  On Etsy I found a beautiful hand comb set through Benjamin Green Studios.  I loved the looks and design of the set and the price was in my budget.  I've been using them for a couple months now and I absolutely love them!  If you're looking for a really fine hand comb, these may not be for you but they hold up to the toughest of wool I have.  Very strong and durable and they look pretty too.  I'm extremely satisfied with the job they do.  He has even provided a youtube video with instructions.  At the time I was unaware that diz's even existed and realized I needed one so I came across a witty idea of using the caps on the little supermarket spice canisters.  For now, they work fine.  My husband is right now in the process of designing a couple and making them for me.  Thanks to the confidence these combs have given me, I have too much raw wool and alpaca fleece now waiting to be washed and combed.  The jacob's wool I mentioned in a previous post wound up under the tree for birds.  I am content to know that I did not give up on it, it's just that it was complete unworkable garbage.

Speaking of garbage, mine needs taken out.  Dinner needs started, floors need swept, yadda yadda.  Hoping everyone is enjoying their evening!