Thursday, May 1, 2008

Moody blues... and purples, reds, yellows...

I've been chomping at the bit for the weather to get warm enough for me to get outside and do some dyeing. I like to work on the deck, where spills aren't a big deal, and where I can be outside. Anything to get away from the computer! And the sounds and sights on the creek are an inspiration once I get my dyeing groove going.

I had a whole bunch of ideas saved up over the winter, and the Celtic Festival coming up with vending opportunities, so I spent four days cranking out roving and yarn. I ended up dyeing 37 4-oz. bumps of roving, and 8 skeins of yarn...yowza. Not too bad for a one-woman operation, considering that I'm still learning.

I'm still working from the 150 lbs. of Dorset roving that I got last spring from a local farmer. It takes dye well, and spins up into a soft, bouncy yarn. I spun about 1200 yards of my favorite colorway into a DK weight two ply, and last fall at our annual Mannings field trip/retreat/class/fiber binge, I used it to warp the loom and wove a pair of coordinating scarves with it.
The warp for both of these was "Lonely Hearts Club", a mix of reds/pinks/black. The weft for the one on the left (yes, the one on the weft...haha) is Jaggerspun wool, black, I think 2/8, while the one on the right is alsio Jaggerspun, but wool/silk. I love them both, and wore them often this winter. I have enough of another colorway in purples/black/gray to do another, with the weft thread the same Jaggerspun wool/silk but in purple.

I spun another two skeins of the same roving into sportweight, and sold them at a local yarn shop. They'll make some great heavyweight socks. This particular roving likes to spin up at about that weight, it seems, but I haven't pushed it much finer than that, because I really like the way it looks and behaves.

Dyeing is such therapy -- I love to stand back and look at what I've done on a given day, to see where my mood was when I started compared to when I got done. Take a look at the left side of this picture, the first rovings I dyed, and then look at the right side, where I ended up. Dull, dark colors... bright, happy colors. That;s what a day in thesun with dyes and wool will do for a cruddy attitude!

And this weekend is Maryland Sheep and Wool! I'm planning on going both days, and this year will probably be going solo for the first time ever on Saturday, as the family have other plans. I have to admit that though I love going with the guys, I wasn't too upset... Boy 1 has a scout campout, Boy 2 (my spinner) will go up with me on Sunday, and B (spousal unit) announced that he didn't want to go this year.

I'm not looking for anything in particular this year -- but I am looking forward to seeing some vendor friends (hi, Jacey! ). And I have another ten Dorset fleeces to take for processing, and some beautiful border Leicester. Tomorrow is fleece-skirting day -- and perhaps a little gratuitous dye therapy, if Charlotte can make it over to play too.

Tonight I plan to finish some spinning, so I can go to MDS&W with a clean conscience (yeah, right) and fondle fiber. And then I may tackle some carding that needs to get done, and perhaps tidy the Unruly Wool Room. Just as a warm-up, you know... got to get ready for the festivities on Saturday!

Happy Beltane!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

blessings abound

Today is Groundhog Day. It's also the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus, Imbolc, and the feast day of St. Brigid, patron of home, hearth, forge, and poetry, and my patron saint. In honor of Brigid, I'm posting this for the 3rd Annual Bloggers Silent Poetry Reading today. While it's not directly a prayer to Brigid, it is an old Celtic household prayer for weavers, for blessing the loom:

Loom Blessing

Bless, O Chief of generous chiefs,
My loom and everything a-near me.
Bless me in every action,
Make Thou me safe while I live.

From every brownie and fairy woman,
From every evil wish and sorrow,
Help me, O Thou helping Being,
As long as I shall be in the land of the living.

In the name of Mary, mild of deeds,
In the name of Columba, just and potent,
Consecrate the four posts of my loom,
Till I begin on Monday.

Her pedals, her sley, and her shuttle,
Her reeds, her warp, and her cogs,
Her cloth-beam, and her thread-beam,
Thrums and the thread of the plies.

Every web, black, white, and fair,
Roan, dun, checked, and red,
Give Thy blessing everywhere,
On every shuttle passing under the thread.

Thus will my loom be unharmed,
Till I shall arise on Monday;
Beauteous Mary will give me of her love,
And there shall be no obstruction I shall not overcome.

(from The Celtic Vision: Prayers and Blessings from the Outer Hebrides, edited by Esther de Waal)

I don't know if Phil saw his shadow or not, but I can already see buds on some of the trees -- tiny ones to be sure, but what I love about winter is that when it seems like it's going to be cold forever, there are subtle signs of life and the coming spring all around, if you slow down and look and listen.

Bright blessings and grace to all.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

the whole world in my hands

So with all the gusto of a new year rolling about, I got it into my head that I wanted to make a lace shawl. A really BIG lace shawl.

I've been thinking for years that I'd like to do EZ's Pi shawl, just because it's simple (like me) and a classic, nifty pattern. And also because I have a couple of really beautiful skeins of handpainted laceweight alpaca in the stash, from Lisa Souza.
But then I decided that if I was going to do the taboo of knitting patterned lace with handpainted yarn, I should just do it up right:

Spiderweb shawl from Victorian Lace Today. And I'm not alone -- it seems that there were three of us who had the same idea at the same time! Crazy painted spinster-type women unite!

Doesn't that ball look like the Earth? The color is South Pacific (I think); 2500 yards, without a single knot or break. And so far, it knits up beautifully soft (not that I have anything permanent to show for it or anything...)

The circular start to this is a pain in the butt with laceweight alpaca; after an hour and a lot of swearing, I got it started. After another hour, I decided that my needle size was too big, so I frogged and put it away for the evening. After another dicey start, I got up to row 16 again, and decided that the pattern looked funny... and the needles were still too big.

It's a sad commentary on the status of excitement in your life when you start to solve lace pattern problems in your head while you are lying in bed considering whether or not to get up.

Anyway, after a THIRD start and a pretty good beginning... the needles are still too big. Threes it is. And I figured out my pattern mistake.

Meanwhile, after being frogged and rewound yet again, I was drawn away by the siren song of this:

Secret of the Stole II KAL. I am not much of a joiner, because I don't have the time to get on the message boards and chat all day and because I tend to butt heads with the rules, but this just fit, somehow.

The yarn is a laceweight Shetland in pale, flecky gray that changes colors like some people's eyes do in different lights or with different background colors. I got a cone of it at Webs a few years ago for about $10, and there must be 5000+ yards on the thing. It still has spinning oil on it, which makes for somewhat stinky, sticky knitting, but the swatch bloomed very nicely, and I have an extra-large bottle of XO odor remover that I am not afraid to use.

I haven't knit lace in ages, and it makes a very welcome change from the slog of acrylic that is the Eagle hat project (I'm cranking to finish 3 hats by mid-February).

The first clue came last Friday; I finished the swatch last night and cast on, and got up through row 12. It's a fast, easy knit that should be a good warmup for the spiderweb. Of course, I have now well and thoroughly cursed myself with that flip comment.

Friday sky from last week... too good to pass up. I'd love to put all those colors into a skein. I love that the creek is much like the ocean; never the same twice, and each view is unique. Someday I'll capture that mutability in dye on fiber... put it in the idea queue...

Saturday was a big day around here too, since we had us a spinning clinic with a bona fide celebrity... next time!

Monday, January 14, 2008

no good deed goes unpunished

Surprises are so much fun -- unless they involve comfort for an unfathomable tragedy. Still, when the oppportunity arises to give someone a surprise package of wool to replace they stash they lost, dive in and do it up right. Farm-Witch did just that for her friend Lisa -- and look what she hath wrought in the good deed department. Let's hope that punishment for all involved involves lots and lots of really good chocolate.