This is incredible, and I do mean incredible. Five hundred dollars worth of gift cards to Amazon, Gap, Old Navy, Target, and Best Buy! F-Secure and MomStart have teamed up to bring an awesome holiday giveaway of five $100 gift cards. Check it out. You can enter as many times as you like through Twitter, voting, blogging, subscribing... Go look! (I'll wait here.)
Yes, yes, the title is incredibly lame.
Giveaways and contests galore! I'm discovering more of the online fiber community as time goes by, and I'm loving every minute of it. Most of these places I wouldn't have even known exist, but I'm glad I've found out about them!
First up: The Phat Fiber blog is giving away a learn-to-spin drop spindle kit this week, courtesy of SilverSunAlpacas. Just go to SilverSunAlpacas' etsy site and find one item you really love (It's hard to choose just one!) and leave a comment on the Phat Fiber blog. (psst - My favorite is the Red Sun batt. It just looks so fiery and celestial... and soft!)
Okay, this one is JUST cool. My fiance and his family live in California, spitting distance from Disneyland. But my family lives in Texas. So when I saw this giveaway from Out And About With The Family and Sweet Life In The Valley, I was ECSTATIC. Four tickets to Disneyland, including airfare and hotel!
Next, from KnitPurlGurl, (an awesome blog I previously didn't know about but am now obsessed with) an interchangeable bamboo knitting needle set from an awesome shop called WEBS. This set looks incredible! It has US sizes 4 through 11 needle tips, three lengths and two thicknesses of flexible cable which you can combine to make an even LONGER cable, knobs to hold your work in place when you're putting it in your project bag or changing tasks, and a needle gauge that has a built-in yarn cutter. How cool is that! Just head to WEBS and do a bit of browsing, find something that really catches your eye, and post a comment on the KnitPurlGurl post with what item it is. Then post on the WEBS blog letting them know that KnitPurlGurl sent you, and you've entered the giveaway! Check out the blog post for lots of ways to get additional entries. (Hint: I'm doing one of them right now!)
Otherhood is giving away a pair of snuggly PJs and awesome socks in lovely pink for breast cancer awareness. Enter to show that you support a day that we can put breast cancer to bed for good! (I know, lame pun, but seriously. If there's one cause I support, it's ending breast cancer.)
Born 2 Impress has an awesome giveaway, too! YouCanMakeThis.com is offering an awesome bundle of projects for halloween that are not-so-scary. Check it out, it's too cute!
SimplySweetHome is also giving away the Not-So-Scary pack!
MomStart has an awesome giveaway, not craft-related but still REALLY awesome -- The Sims 3! I don't know about you, but I've looooved the Sims since I was little (I used to have so much fun watching my Sim City have tornadoes... I was a weird kid.) So head over there and enter!
And finally... Do you make handmade items as Christmas gifts for your loved ones? The answer could win you an issue of Verena Magazine with tons of gorgeous knitting patterns, as well as a pair of bamboo knitting needles from StarryEyed. Leave your answer as a comment, follow her blog, join the mailing list, and blog about the contest for lots of chances to win!
I know I've abandoned you, my poor, lonely blog. But maybe these awesome giveaways will make it up to you? Or perhaps pictures of my first sock-in-progress? You'll have to wait for those, though... My camera has gone missing!
Till next time!
I've been trying new things lately in my spinning! Recently I attempted to spin some singles with a lofty, low-twist to them. Instead, they came out like normal singles. I'll try again soon. I also tried my hand at Navajo plying. This was fun! I'm so excited about it that I plan to do it much more often.
In regular plying, you spin two or more strands of yarn, then twist them together. In Navajo plying, you spin one strand of yarn and make a long loop and pull the other part of your yarn through it, like a very very very VERY loose crochet chain, then add twist so that it looks like three different yarns twisted together.
This is cool for a number of reasons. You don't have to deal with lazy kates or keeping each ball of yarn separate as you ply them together. Also, when you ply a multi-colored yarn, you sometimes risk making it look like a barber pole. I had a lime green and light pink yarn, I spun up two strands of it and plied them. It looked like a yellowy orange color, because the two colors were doing a barber-pole effect. Bleh! But with Navajo plying, you're using the same strand, so the same colored areas will be plied with themselves. It's really cool!
And the most awesome reason of ALL? I found a technique online that shows you how you can spin and ply on a spindle. You don't have to spin the whole yarn first - you can spin a certain length, then ply it before you even wind it onto the spindle shaft! It's so cool! A brilliant woman named Tammy Rizzo was the one who came up with this brilliant technique, and trust me when I say that even to a total spinning novice like myself, this was so clearly explained that I had NO difficulty replicating it! So, without further ado, here it is!
Just a quick update before I go play with my lovely fiber some more!
Remember those wide-tooth combs I found at Kroger a while back? Well, I decided it was time to make myself a hackle.
When I told my dad about my plans to make a hackle, he was confused. He associated the word 'hackle' with fly fishing. Typical dad!
No, a hackle, for those not in the know, is like a very long comb that you attach to the edge of a table or something, and you use it to blend fibers.
Above is an example of a hackle. It's essentially a 2x4 with nails evenly spaced, clamped to a tabletop. Well, I suck at nailing evenly or precisely, so I did this the easy way.
Combs, screwed into the side of a breakfast tray! Unfortunately, only after I finished this did I discover that the breakfast tray wobbles diagonally. But it's fine for now!
Now, as you saw in the picure of the nicer hackle above, the way it works is by loading it with fiber. Then you take something with a hole in it, typically called a diz, though many people just use buttons, and you pull the corner of the fiber into the hole. Then you just start pulling and go from right to left. What is pulled through the hole will become a roving. It's pretty spiffy, actually!
So, since I didn't have a diz or any decent buttons, I grabbed something that didn't belong to me and started drilling holes in it.
Tada! Now I have different sized holes, and in a pinch it could be used as a plying guide! Though probably not so much a plying guide. But still. It's a nice thought!
Unfortunately I lost the diz shortly after taking this picture, so I need to go find another of my brother's picks. Drill time!
And that's all from me for now!
I haven't updated in ages, and the reason is terribly silly. I've done SO much recently that I've dreaded how long it would take me to post it all. I'll keep everything fairly brief so that I can get through it all. Basically this is what I've been doing.
I ordered a fleece!
I ordered a pound of Cheviot wool online. I got it raw because I wanted to experience cleaning and carding the wool for myself. Boy, was THAT a bad idea. If you're buying your first raw fleece to prepare on your own, and you have NO idea what to expect, make sure that it has been skirted. Skirting is when someone goes through the fleece and picks out all the hay, grass, burrs, and all that good stuff that gets stuck in there when a sheep is outside. It's also when they take out the bits of wool that are caked with sheep poo. Yeuch! DO NOT buy a fleece for the first time if it has not been skirted. Or, if you must, make sure that it's a covered sheep (some shepherds put canvas coats on their sheep to keep them clean), or that it doesn't have much VM in it. (VM is vegetable matter. It's the stuff I was talking about before.) If you've never ever ever done any preparation before and you just buy some wool without researching it, you WILL be sorry. I was tearing my hair out! There's nothing more frustrating than washing a fleece for five hours, drying it, then realizing that there is no shortcut for getting all that junk out. You have to get it out by hand. All in all, I think my fleece had more grass and hay than wool. This wasn't miscommunication on the seller's part - she even told me that it had about as much VM as she would tolerate in a fleece. I just had no idea what 'vm' meant and thought that she meant it was coarse.
So, I put it in my sweater bag and soaked it in hot water in the kitchen sink. The very first time I soaked it, I didn't even add any soap. It was in there maybe ten minutes max, and when I pulled the bag out and switched it to the other side of the sink, the water it had been sitting in looked like coffee. Gross! It took me five hours to soak it in soapy water, rinse it several times, soak it in more soapy water, and rinse it again several times. Then I tossed it in the washer and turned on the spin cycle to dry it out a bit. I let it sit out for a few days to dry, every now and then I tossed it back in the washer to spin a while, and then I grabbed a handful and tried to card it up. The result was an hour and a half of carding to produce one rolag, because I was a noob at carding AND I had to stop every few moments to pick more junk out of the wool. I'd hopedi t would just fall out while I carded. No such luck.
Well, by that point I was frustrated. I went online googled for some kind of shortcut to get all that extra stuff out of my wool. I found a site (I can't remember where) that said that fluffing it up would help, pulling the fibers apart width-wise so that it was just one fluffy cloud of fiber with no dense spots, and that a lot of the junk would fall out. It would take a while, but it wasn't so bad if you did it while watching a movie or something. Well, I tried it. I really did. And fluffing helped a little, but I was still picking the majority of the stuff out. It really didn't shorten the process at all, and I wouldn't be able to do it while watching a movie because I'd be concentrating on the wool the whole time.
Finally, clueless and needing direct advice from someone who knew what they were doing, I went on Ravlery and asked in the fiber prep group. Lo and behold, I got an almost immediate answer - The vm wasn't falling out because the wool wasn't completely cleaned. There was still some lanolin (grease) and it was grabbing onto the vegetable matter. That's right. After five hours of backbreaking work at the kitchen sink, soaking and rinsing and soaking again and again.... My wool wasn't clean. In retrospect, I know why. One of the reasons was that I let my wool soak for five or ten minutes, max, before I moved it to the other side of the sink. If you've never cleaned wool before, take heed. When you let your wool soak, especially with the detergent water, LET IT SOAK. Leave it there for fifteen or twenty minutes. Don't take it out while the water is still hot to the touch. Wait until it begins to turn to a comfortably warm temperature to take it out of the water. But don't let the water cool TOO much, either. That will let the lanolin (the grease) settle back onto the wool, and you don't want that. There was another factor in why my wool wasn't clean, and you'll see why in the next paragraph.
So, I went to my bag and pulled ALL of the wool out of it. I unrolled it from the balls it had formed in when it had shipped. This is the first time I did this. When I washed it, I had just dumped the bags of wool from the shipping into my sweater bag. I'd complained online a few times that whoever cut the fleece hadn't kept it in lock formation and had just let it kind of tangle. When I unrolled the wool, I knew it was time to eat a big helping of humble crow pie. There, inside, like a cocoon, were lovely locks. I'd been looking at it from the wrong side, and I'd never bothered to spread it out. Not only that, but the lovely locks were DIRTY. Not just full of VM, which they were, but DIRTY. The outside was nice and fluffy and white, but inside it looked as though the hours of soaking had never even happened.
So, I put the spread-out wool back in the sweater bag and took it to the sink. Five more hours of soaking, another day of drying. It was in this second wash that I found out something that would have been nice to know earlier: The drain plugs for my kitchen sink are leaky. At one point, I let the wool sit in the water while I went to the bathroom, checked some things online, and played some solitaire. When I came back in about 15 minutes, the sinkful of water was completely gone. I thought that the wool was RIDICULOUSLY absorbant. Not so. It had all seeped out. What a pain! So all my soaks had to be fairly brief. In fact, it took longer to fill the sink between soaks than it took to actually soak. By the time it had dried, I pulled it out, sat down at the table with a towel across my lap, the wool on the floor to my left, a bowl on the floor to my right, and another bowl on the table in front of me. And I began to fluff again. I went through and fluffed and fluffed and put all the nice clean pieces in the bowl on the table. The hopelessly tangled bits and the pieces that were almost 80% grass went into the bowl on the floor. I soon found out something even more depressing than the vegetable matter matter. I had felted a goodly sized portion of my first fleece. There was no way of saving most of it.I took what little I had salvaged, sat down on my bed, and began to sort through it. I found something even more upsetting.
Imagine mowing your lawn. First, imagine that the grass is very tall. Usually, to avoid stalling the blade, you raise your mower up a few inches and mow the grass, then lower it down again and go over it a second time so that it gets cut the way you want to. Obviously, the grass clippings that you have to rake up afterward are probably shorter than if you had just mowed the whole lawn with the mower close to the ground in one pass. It's the same with shearing sheep. Sometimes the person who shears the sheep will make a second pass over one spot, and when that happens, there's something caled second cuts. These are shorter than the staple length, because they've been cut twice. Most people either throw them out or put them aside for art yarns, felting, and so on.
In my case, I think I got third and fourth cuts. Either that or I managed to break the fibers a lot. Most of the fibers that I sorted through wound up being an inch or less. Cheviot wool usually has a staple of about 4 to 5 inches, and I definitely had a lot of bits that were that long, some even longer. But the majority was almost as short as cotton.
So, I took the little that I could use for spinning, put it in the sweater bag, and washed it again. THIS time, I actually paid attention to the 'don't swish, don't agitate, don't even breathe on it!' rule. And, in washing this smaller amount, I discovered another mistake I'd made when I washed the whole fleece. I laid the smaller bag of wool on top of the water very very gently and poked it with one finger to submerge it, and then I stepped back and didn't touch it again. The whole bag of fleece sank into the water, totally sank to the bottom. Before, the main reason I had messed with the wool so much (and probably led to it felting) was because it wouldn't submerge. I had to push down with both hands to get it to go under the water, and then I held it against the bottom of the sink and pushed to make all the air bubbles come to the surface. Later on, I found the reason behind this. I don't remember where it was, but I read online somewhere that the amount of water, not the amount of soap, determines how well your wool washes. With the pound of wool that I'd gotten, I shouldn't have been cleaning it in my kitchen sink. I should have been upstairs soaking it in my bathtub. The sink was crowded and full with my wool in it. That probably led to its felting AND contributed to its continued filthiness.
So now, after all this is said and done, I have a measley amount of fuzzy, soft, white wool to show for it. I'm proud of it, though. It's cuddly and soft and while it's probably not even a full ounce, it's the fruit of my labor. My cat is happy, too. Since the rest of the wool was basically useless, I left it in the sweater bag and let it sit out on the floor. She's been seen cuddled up next to it these past few days. I've been calling it her pet sheep. Yesterday, I was eating breakfast, and when I looked over, I saw her laying next to the bag, lifting one paw to pat it. She's happy, so I guess I am, too. I tossed the bag in the washer with some detergent, put it through a full cycle so that it would solidify a bit more into balls, and now it's in the dryer. As soon as I finish writing this tale, I'm going to go get it from the dryer and make a certain feline very happy.
Coming soon: fiber prepping tools, blending, and my first REALLY successful dye project!
Plus: I finally finished that yarn I've been talking about! Pics SOON!
I just got my roving, yay yay yay!!! I ordered it from Blarney Yarns on Sunday and I got it today, and the nice lady even included a 1 oz sample of some gorgeous green hand-painted roving with it! Yaaaaay! <3>.<
It's so ridiculously gorgeously soft... <3
AND! I went to Kroger earlier and I found a laundry bag there, and they also had these wide-tooth combs without handles that are absolutely perfect for making a hackle, so I'm going to do that soon, hopefully. Also, my mom bought me another book on handspinning (Teach Yourself Visually: Handspinning) and it's REALLY helpful and there's lots of interesting ideas and helpful informations in there. The best part is, it talks about spinning novelty yarns! Jeez, I didn't think I could get any more enthusiastic about spinning but I DID and now I just wanna spin spin spin spin spin! <3
Sorry for such a spastic post, but YAY! My first quality roving! It's so cuddly, I want to curl up with it like a teddy bear!
I know, I promised pictures and I haven't posted any. I'll get around to it! I went back and re-dyed the roving, and dyed another as well. I've already started spinning them up.
One thing I've had a problem with is joining two pieces of roving. I noticed it really badly when I was drafting the dyed roving, and then again today when I was about to set the twist for what I'd spun thus far. About halfway through, the green bit just slid right off the red. I had to tie them back together really quickly so I could keep on winding the yarn off my spindle. It was incredibly frustrating. And it's not the first time it's happened!
Anyway, I forgot to relay the most exciting news of all.
My dad gave me the go-ahead to buy some wool off of Etsy! It was mailed out today, and I should be getting it sometime this week! Yay! I can't wait! Especially since I sweet-talked my mom into buying me some dye the other day, so now I can make beautimous colors!
Oh, and speaking of dye... Don't look at Sam Moon for a white silk scarf. They do not have it. I guarantee you. I searched that place for almost half an hour for any solid light-colored scarf made from a protein fiber. NOTHING. Once I got all excited because I saw a bunch of pashmina scarves. Then I noticed that the tag said something along the lines of
Pashmina feel (10% rayon 10% cotton 80% polyester)
Not cool, Sam Moon.
Not cool. At all.
A couple of nights ago, I was so desperate to spin something that I found a couple of new pill bottles, pulled out the cotton, and spun up a little ball of nubby crochet thread. Luckily, my mother realized that I was probably going to shave the cat if something wasn't done soon. This morning, she woke me up by tossing four little bags of JoAnn's felting wool on my head. I have to admit, I was surprised at her color choices -- "Moss Green" and "Red" -- but for all I care, she could have gotten Dirty-Diaper Brown. I'm gonna be spinning again soon!
Let's face it, though. Spinning red and moss green is going to look like a lame Christmas decoration, and that's definitely not the look I've got in mind. So... After everyone went to bed...
I dyed my first roving.
I took one package of the red and dyed it with a deep yellowish green, in hopes of darkening and mellowing out the bright red color. It's almost dried now, and I don't think it took as much of the color as I was hoping. I'll probably wind up re-dying it later in the same color.
My inspiration for this yarn is kind of a weird one. A while ago, I got some shampoo and conditioner and I absolutely fell in love with the way it smells. It's pomegranate green tea and it smells divine. Told you it was weird.
So! Pictures will be up later today hopefully. Much love!
Yes, I am still alive! Sorry I haven't posted in a while. I've had a case of crafter's block, which you may know as granny's square. (I know, I know... lame.) Also, I've spent a lot of time hanging out with my very best friend, who just moved back into the area last week. Gotta make up for six months without him!
So the other day I decided to make something for my best friend's mother, (and my second mother) Ginny from GinnyGoesGreen.com.
For my first post, I think it's appropriate to have an introduction. I'm Kirsten, and I stink at blogging. I update regularly for a while (if I'm lucky) and then I just abandon the things completely, only to come across them months later. Hopefully this one will be different, since it's actually about something specific, whereas the rest have just been a glorified diary.