Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tour de Fleece 2009 - Mission Accomplished!

My goal for the Tour de Fleece challenge was to spin a minimum of 30 minutes a day each day of the Tour de France. With the garden shifting into peak production during July, it was indeed tricky to squeeze spinning time into each day, but I did it! And the veggies are no worse the wear for it, or me either for that matter. At the end of the event, I had logged 1,180 minutes of spinning - just over 19 1/2 hours. 160 of those minutes were spindle spinning.

The real bonus is how much finished yarn came out of this effort. The total yardage of finished 2 ply yarn was 909 yards. I completed two projects that had been dragging along for quite some time, spun and plied the bamboo roving, (a new fiber for me), and got well into my current spinning project - 8 ounces of tussah silk. On Sunday, the final day of the event, I finished up garden chores early and spent 70 minutes, enjoying the glide and sheen of that silk through my fingers while listening to Celtic music on the radio.

It was an enjoyable challenge. I would definitely do it again because it kept spinning high on my list of daily priorities. Daily spinning is such a good way to maintain balance in daily life. I'm going to close with a photo of the finished bamboo yarn. I ended up with 285 yards of 2 ply yarn. It's shiny and smooth (mostly) but not elastic or lofty, so I'm going to plan a weaving project for it. Huzzah for spinning!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

For Anna ....

Who asked what I was going to do with the Eight Ball Zucchini that had gotten too big ...

Tour de Fleece Report #2

In spite of the boisterous green beans, rowdy cucumbers and sassy sweet basil that have been spilling out of the garden lately, I'm still keeping to my goal of at least 30 minutes spinning each day of the Tour de France. For the past ten days, I've actually spun at least 35 minutes per day. My total number of spinning minutes now stands at 910, a tad over 15 hours. In keeping with the spirit of the bike ride, I've done a couple of rides of my own with spindle and fiber stashed in a bike pack.

Only about a 10 inch length of the bamboo roving remains to be spun. I hope to finish that today, then get it plied tomorrow. It's lovely fiber, and I've worked out some techniques for better control and consistent yarn. But I've never come to love the actual spinning of it, and luckily, there is no more bamboo in my fiber stash.

I've also made headway on my spindle spinning project, the golden merino/tencel blend roving. This was 8 ounces of fiber which I split in half. My intention for this project is to spindle spin each half, making two roughly equal balls of single strand yarn which I'll then ply together. Monday evening I finished spinning the first 4 ounces. Although there's still a lot of spinning ahead on this project, getting through that first 4 ounces feels like an accomplishment. By the way, this fiber is pure pleasure to spin, unlike some others... It gets smashed into my backpack or bike pack on a daily basis, yet is always easy to fluff up a bit and get right to the spinning.

So, only five more Tour days left. Good luck to all you Tour de Fleece participants. I wouldn't object to another rainy day, another valid excuse to stay inside and spin. Here's a final shot of the 4 ounce ball of merino/tencel with ... well, you know...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Gold Rush

It all started last week when I decided it was time for my annual hunt for chanterelles, one of my favorite wild mushrooms. The spot where I hunt the chanterelles is a good one. I always come away well-rewarded. But this year, for whatever reason, (I suspect it's the two years of plentiful rain) there is a bumper crop of mushrooms. I quickly gathered lots of nice, fresh specimens, but had to step carefully because there were so many! Aside from the tasty culinary aspect, the chanterelles always make me smile to think that they are there all year long, and no one knows until they fruit at this time in summer. Seeing all the golden "fungi flowers" peaking out from between the sticks, leaves, and grasses of the forest floor delights me.

Later that evening, after cleaning, cooking and freezing my gatherings, I took my current spindle spinning project and sat out on the swing in our backyard for a bit of relaxing spindling. Visions of tawny mushrooms still spinning in my head, I noticed that the lovely merino/tencel roving was glinting golden in the evening sunlight. And furthermore, the spindle was one of Michael Golding's handsome, true-spinning gold ring spindles. That's when it hit me - gold is showing up everywhere!

Since then, I've just been following this golden thread and looking for gold each day. The weekend was filled with garden occupations: weeding, watering, harvesting, preserving. By yesterday afternoon, I felt like I needed to do something different and fun (in a non-vegetable way) before the weekend was over. I tucked my spindle and fiber into the pack on my bicycle and headed off for a ride to the Chance Gardens in nearby Centralia. I went into the rose garden first, and wouldn't you know, one of the roses at the entrance is this beauty. Its name tag identified it as "Caribbean." I loved how the center glows golden and gradually becomes deep peach at the edges of the petals.

The other portion of Chance Gardens has an Asian theme with waterfalls, rock sculptures and a cozy, shaded nook with stone benches - perfect for spinning and taking in the flowery view. After enjoying the spinning and flower gazing, I crossed the bridge over a small fish pond and stopped to see what the fish were up to. Those fish, those koi were the color of the yarn I'd been spinning, as well as some other golden variations!

So there it is, a golden thread crossing my path over and over again lately, bringing me joy in this last part of July. Of course, the chanterelles and roses will fade. I'll finish spinning the wool/merino roving, and the koi will be moved out, come autumn. But this vein of gold is now tucked in my memories where I can mine it anytime I choose.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

How Does the Garden Grow?

Today a gallery of flower and veggie photos from my walk in the garden this morning. The original starts for this day lily came from a treasured weaving friend and mentor who has passed away, but lives on in the beauty of these blossoms.

This blossom is from the prolific Eight Ball Zucchini. Only three hills, and yet we're handing the squash out like silver dollars to anyone we meet!

Indy Gold Wax Beans - We may have to start sneaking these into friends' pockets and purses soon too.

Aunt Ginny's Purple, an heirloom tomato. This is the first year I've grown this variety. It's late bearing, so no ripe ones yet.

Cucumbers! This is a pickling type called Cross Country. I picked a bunch this morning.

Coneflowers, of course. They multiply like mad. The originals also came from gardener weaver friend Helen.

Rudbeckia - Even on a cloudy day they create their own sunny corner in the flower bed.

I only had time to pick some cukes, dill, and a few other veggies before the skeeters drove me into the house. I think there may be dill pickles in my future!

Sorry for some of blurry images and wonky arrangement of the photos and type. I haven't completely gotten the hang of this blog formatting yet.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Tour de Fleece Report

Ten days into the spinning challenge and I'm still on course. My challenge is to spin at least 30 minutes a day. So far, I've done more than than 30 minutes on all but one of the days. As of yesterday, I'd logged 485 minutes of spinning time - over 8 hours! Lucky for me, we've had several rainy days when I couldn't work in the garden and could spin guilt-free! The best part of this effort is all the yarn that's flying off my wheel. So far, two projects that had been sitting neglected in my spinning basket are finished. The tan yarn is a tussah silk/camel blend, two ply, spun from the fold. It's oh-so-soft to the touch. The grey yarn is wool two ply, also spun from the fold, very cushy.

On Saturday I started spinning 4 ounces of dyed bamboo. The color name is Malachite, and it's a beauty to behold, lustrous deep teal and turquoise. Spinning it, however, is definitely a challenge. Bamboo is a grass. After harvesting, it is chopped up and blended with chemicals to make a sort of mash or slurry, and is then extruded through spinnerets into a fine spinning fiber. The fiber that I'm working with has about a 4 inch length. Once again I'm spinning from the fold, trying to keep my treadling and drafting coordinated to produce a smooth yarn.

Spinning from the fold means that I take a 4 inch section of the fiber, like the piece shown in the photo above, fold it in half over my right index finger, and draw (or draft) the fibers from the tip of my finger. The treadling action of my spinning wheel inserts twist into the fibers. My left hand controls how much of this twist is allowed into the fibers being drawn or drafted into yarn, while my right hand controls how many fibers are being drafted at any given time. In spite of all the words needed to describe it, this technique is an easy, speedy way to create a smooth, even yarn - in most cases.

The bamboo, however, is slick, doesn't naturally grab onto itself like wool does, and seems intent on shifting around on my finger until it is a messy little jumble. I have about an ounce spun now, and still must keep my eye on the drafting area and the folded fiber. Not enough twist and the yarn drifts apart. Too much twist and I'm making luxury binder twine! If the fibers get out of order, I have loops sticking out of my yarn. It's definitely a good match for a spinning challenge. So, while I may not yet be at one with the spinning of the bamboo, the yarn building up on the bobbin motivates me to keep trying.

Monday, July 6, 2009

S Is For .....

..... Summer with its golden mornings and endless shades of green. Long, languid days and crunchy fresh vegetables from the garden and farmers market.

..... Spinning. I sit at my spinning wheel early on a summer's morning, fiber flowing through my fingers, transforming into a personal yarn, filled with my thoughts and intentions for the day ahead. While spinning, I can watch the leaves of the cottonwood gradually become delicate, quivering filters of the morning light. A fleeting bit of wonder is tucked into this morning's yarn.

..... Silk, gift of the silkworms. Gossamer white or honey gold fibers glide through my fingers more easily in summer when the air is not so dry, when my skin is not so dry as in winter.

S is for summer silk spinning. A wish I didn't know I'd made is granted.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Le Tour de Fleece 2009

Le Tour de Fleece 2009 begins tomorrow! Last year I learned about this event too late to participate. This year I signed on for the spinning challenge that runs from July 4 through July 26, the same time frame as Le Tour de France bicycle race. Each participating spinner sets her own challenge. My challenge is to spin at least 30 minutes each day of the Tour. That may not sound like much of a challenge for someone who loves spinning, but at this time of the year, our garden clamors for attention. Most of my free time seems to be spent pulling weeds, tying up tomato vines, picking veggies, etc. And spinning, more than any of my other crafts, gets dropped off the To Do list first. So, with a minimum of 30 minutes (either wheel or spindle spinning) per day, I should eke out at least 13 hours of spinning in July.

The project I'm starting the challenge with is one that is nearly complete: seven ounces of combed dyed grey wool from Little Barn. I split the roving in half by weight and am spinning each half on a separate bobbin on my Schacht Matchless wheel. I am spinning it from the fold for a smooth, compact yarn, and will then ply the two singles together. With less than 2 ounces left to spin, it shouldn't take long to wrap that project up and speed on to another. I haven't yet decided what will come next, but as this is also my year of spinning from a considerable stash, there are plenty of options. The fun starts tomorrow. I'm looking forward to the challenge, as well as spending some quality time with my spinning tools. We'll see how it goes ...