Monday, February 22, 2010

Finished in February

Last month, even though I worked diligently on many of my fiber projects, I didn't finish any of them. Not a one. Although I'm fairly patient, I do need to savor the satisfaction of completion from time to time. This month I kept plugging along and now, even though it's late in the month, I have two finished projects to share.

I'm calling this handspun yarn Missouri Dark Chocolate because 1) the rich color reminds me of - yum - dark chocolate, and 2) it's completely produced in Missouri. The fleece came from a Rambouillet x CVM sheep who was raised by a wool grower in the Kirksville area. I sent the fleece to Bonnie Ahrens at ABC Naturals to be washed and processed into a fine spinner's roving. The fine, soft fibers were a delight to spin.

I spun the roving into a cushy 2 ply medium weight yarn. After washing, processing, spinning, and plying, the 3.75 pound fleece yielded 1,232 yards/ 27.5 ounces of yarn. See those little waves running along the locks of wool in the photo below? That's known as crimp in sheep lingo, and nice wavy crimp like this usually yields a lofty, insulating yarn. It will knit up as a warm yet lightweight fabric.

My other completed project is this triangular knitted shawl. The pattern is Akimbo by Stephen West. The yarn is Pagewood Farm Denali sock yarn in two colorways, knitted on a US size 4 circular needle. I started this shawl last Thanksgiving and enjoyed working on it, but it had to compete with quite a few other projects for my attention. It wasn't growing very quickly. Luckily the Ravelympics came to the rescue. My sisters and I decided to resurrect our 2008 Ravelympics Team Sennott. I needed a knitting challenge to attempt to complete during the Winter Olympics, and the Akimbo shawl seemed like the perfect challenge.

My shawl was only about one third knitted when the Ravelympics began. To be honest, it's a good thing I enjoy watching many of the Winter Olympics sports. Watching those short track speed skaters, those crazy halfpipe dudes, the amazing mogul athletes, and others helped me knit right through my shawl in a much shorter time than if I hadn't attempted the challenge. Saturday evening I knitted the final stitches and freed the fabric from the needle. Yesterday I blocked the Akimbo. It's a lovely, eye-catching design. The colors will coordinate with many things in my closet. And best of all, our weather is still cold so I can wear it this winter!

Well then, two projects completed this month doesn't mean I'm nearly through with all my works-in-progress ... not by a long shot ... but I'm getting there!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Winter Rainbows (or Don't Cry, Just Dye!)

Even a fiber fanatic with a myriad of interesting projects to distract her can succumb to cabin fever in the long thread of cold, grey January days. I know this. It happens to me occasionally when I can't get outside for a hike in the woods or a tad of spindle spinning in the bright afternoon sunlight. Last week I was feeling "blah" even though I was enjoying my knitting, weaving and spinning. When I saw that Bex at True Blue Fiber Friends was offering a microwave dyeing session on Saturday, it seemed like just the ticket to nudge myself out of my late January funk. Sure enough, I had a great time, learned a new technique, and came home with some colorful rovings to spin.

The roving I dyed was 12 ounces of 50%/50% wool/mohair that has been in the spinning fiber stash for a few years. Thanks to the mohair, it has beaucoup luster. I bought it with the intention of spinning sock yarn. On Saturday Bex mixed a nice array of Country Classics protein-fiber dyes and gave a demonstration of applying the dyes to your yarn or fiber, wrapping it in plastic wrap, and heat-setting the dyes in the microwave. Over the years I've done lots of dyeing in many techniques, but I've done very little microwave dyeing. The Country Classics are premixed protein-fiber dyes. No checking acid levels or fussing with dye assistants is required. And the microwave method was a revelation. Just a few zaps of Ready Kilowatt, and presto, the fibers/yarns are dyed!

For the blue roving above I painted alternating areas with Cornflower Blue and Mountain Aqua. Then using a sponge brush, I dabbed random splotches of Purple on top of the other colors.

For the remaining 8 ounces, I painted areas with Pine Green, Turkey Red and Chestnut. After it had dried, this color combination reminded me of our raspberry bushes when they are producing fruit.

After so much fun, I'm looking at my cream/white fiber and yarn stash with new eyes. Now I KNOW what I'm going to do with that natural-colored Durasport sock yarn, and that bag of ivory Border Leicester roving, and oh yeah, that very large bag of snowy merino top ... And yes, now I'm in the market for an inexpensive microwave oven for dyeing. It just proves what I'd suspected. Sometimes the surefire way to jog oneself out of a January funk is simply to dye!