Thursday, October 20, 2011

My Forgotten Blog

Good Grief!  Look how long it's been since I posted!!! 

Seriously ... the Gods of Blog should strike me dead and send my worthless carcass to Outer Bloggolia for disposal. 

Not really .. it's been a busy time for me this year. Nothing notable really, but I've been putting more effort into eating properly, exercising and getting caught up with little unfinished things before the weather drives me inside to craft during the "unfit to go out" months. I've had moderate success in all endeavors. My checkup revealed a weight loss of 25 pounds and I have a bit more energy. The house is cleaner in general and the dogs get daily walks. The grocery bill is less and most of the craft odds and ends have been finished up. I have a few commitments ahead to complete before Christmas but haven't overburdened myself this year. 

Soooo .... Ripley is growing up pretty quickly. She's a chunky little thing compared to Daisy, but really sweet. I just wish they'd both stay off the sofa!

The little buggers just wait for me to leave the room then up they go ... 

Here they are ... caught right in the act. Daisy is trying hard to appear deep in sleep. Ripley is too nosey and had to open her eyes to see what I was up to .... haha. 

Oh yes, I've decided to grow my hair long too. It's been years since I let it grow. Whaddaya think? 

I've been pretty busy getting geared up for the local Christmas Craft show. I have a few new items this year ... and I still have to make some Woolfins. 

Here are a few of the trinkets. 

Stitch markers. Everyone who knits needs some of these.

Then I got on a little Kumihimo kick. Once I learned how to do it, I became bored with it. I did make a few interesting little items before that happened though. 

And for those who like to read and don't yet have a Kindle ....

Inexpensive ... simple ... 

I did a lot of these ... those little hands are sooooo cute! 

Ah yes ... another one of my learning accomplishments. This shawl has a rather interesting story (or not, depending on how bored you are.) The learning part is that it is knit in the style of Estonian lace. I've never knit one before and I must say, there will definitely be more (larger!) of these. They're fun to knit, but you must be able to concentrate as there are many changes in the pattern. 

On to the story ... it's about the fiber that it is made with. I have done some swaps with a couple of lovely ladies in the States, and this came in one of them about a year ago. Apparently, it was from the collection of Sandy Ryan   of Homestead Wool and Gift Farm in Wisconsin and came from her well loved flock.  It was an orange and dark brown roving of Romney (dyed orange) and Shetland (dark brown and the sheep was named Toshi ) which I had a hard time trying to figure out a use for, since orange isn't a color I like at all. I had a bag of lovely Coopworth roving in white so did singles with each and plied them together. The end result was a marl that really toned down the orange and inspired this piece. I only had enough to make a small size. My next endeavor will be a much larger one. I thought that Sandy Ryan might be interested in this story as her fiber has finally become an end product. Now I'm wishing I'd had a bit more of this so the shawl could have been larger. This would fit a small person quite nicely ... but not big old me! 

Ciao for niao!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Busy Busy Summer

     Well folks, I realize it's been simply eons since I've posted an entry here. There are very good reasons for this. Quite simply, the process I've been involved in lately just isn't a spectator sport ... it's truly boring. Boring to do, boring to write about and deathly boring to read. I had finally acquired a good supply of fiber to spin and felt, but much of it was in the raw state due to cost restraints. I've been cleaning it. It's has taken quite awhile too ... some I purchased before I really knew what type of fiber I was looking for, so I was taking in by low price. It turned out not to be prime fiber, rather seconds from the neck, chest and upper legs. There are lots of guard hair in this type of fiber, which must be removed, along with any hay, clumps of debris, short cuts and other assorted ufo's. It all had to be washed, dried and picked through carefully, in an effort to be able to spend a relaxing winter spinning it all and knitting wonderful objects with it. 

     The next step will also take likely a couple of months to complete. This is the process of carding it all into rolags for spinning. My limited experience has shown that I achieve my best yarn from carefully carded rolags, so that's the way I'm going for now. Someday I may be able to afford a drum carder to make life much easier, but it just isn't in the cards at this time. Shown at the left is a basket of cleaned and lightly picked alpaca fiber which I'm blending while carding to get a lovely natural dark grey. This yarn will become a lacy neck cowl with matching fingerless gloves spattered wtih emerald Swarovski cyrstal beads for a lady I'm going to swap for supplies. I'm pretty sure she's going to love the items. 

     Here is a picture of a single of the above mentioned yarn. I already have 256 yds of it made, and will begin the knitting this evening. 

     Summer is upon us now .. finally and we've been having some stellar weather. It's really been making me feel much better and therefore, I've been much more productive in the domestic chores department. I've had two marvelous weekends with good friends in a row and wonder what I did to deserve such good luck. I even managed to find a nearby swimming hole which is simply amazing and it a good place to take the dogs out for a swim as well. I can't believe I've lived here for 23 years and didn't know about that spot. 

     Shown here are some sheep wool slugs I've dyed. They were over processed by some else so I took them to use as stuffing. Since I've recently been admiring the work of another artist who does lovely wet felted vessels, I've had some ideas of my own and prepared these little mats of wool for my use with them. I'm sure the ideas will come to reality sometime over the next couple of months, between some knitting projects. 

     So there you have it, I have been very, very busy, but not doing anything very exciting as yet. It's all in preparation for some wonderful works this winter, when I can let the creative processes flow unhindered by mundane technical work. Wish me luck and now off I go to enjoy the rest of my summer. 

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Happy Birthday Canada

     Hubby and I set out early yesterday, after seeing that the dogs would be comfortable for the day, outside in their pen. We arrived at the waterfront in Dartmouth early enough to scout out a good spot for our stall and set up for a sunny, hot and busy day. There was a lot of traffic through our area and I'm happy to report that the purse has a bit more jingle today. I brought my Ashford Kiwi and demonstrated spinning throughout the day. We were fortunate enough to have the East Indian lady set up not far away from us so we partook of lovely authentic vegetarian delicacies for lunch. Hubby was a bit disappointed in his sales, but I did notice that the only products which were actually moving were lower priced, and much smaller items. There were lots of lookers and I was very surprised to note how many people had never seen someone actually use a wheel before. All in all, I would call the day a success. I'm still worn out from all the sun and crowds. My nerves are somewhat better now. Shortly after we set up, a couple of children's entertainers parked right beside us with their temporary tattoos, juggling acts and balloon creations. The combination of hot sun and rough concrete surface underfoot made for a lot of burst balloons! I felt like I was sitting on a rifle range! Well, at least it kept the kiddies happy. 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Shearing Day: The Experience

     Yesterday was shearing day at Rocaro Alpacas , something I'd been looking forward to for awhile. My husband and I had volunteered to help out so we headed out early and arrived in time for some instructions from the shearer and the owners. Once set up, we got going about 9:30 AM and worked right through until lunch, finishing all the males. Lunch was generously provided by the owners and picnic tables were outside the barn to enjoy while eating and sharing stories. There were quite a few volunteers and some young men from the Agricultural College stopped by, which was a bonus as strong agile bodies were greatly appreciated. 

There were 25 to do altogether, plus two from a neighboring farm. The first thing was to vacuum the alpaca. This made a great difference in the debris content of the fiber. There were a couple of volunteers assigned to that job. After the alpaca is weighed, it's led to the shearing mat or table if it's a smaller one, and gets a total haircut. The fleece is roughly skirted, then carefully carried to the sorting table. This table was my job. Since it was a damp day and the fleece was a little damp, I sorted it according to which animal, wrapped it in packing paper and bagged and labelled all the portions. This was a rather busy job but I soon got not one, but two helpers and things started to run very smoothly. Once bagged, it was set aside for another day to be picked and properly skirted, before it's sent away to the fiber mill in Ontario for processing into yarns and rovings. 

     After lunch we tackled the females. Some loudly protested, some just laid down and refused to move, but they were all eventually finished in good time. The casualties:  one alpaca now has purple feet from a pedicure incident which required the application of a vividly colored antiseptic. One alpaca had a nasty tick removed. One alpaca escaped but was quickly recovered. One human was knocked down. One human cut her finger. All humans have sore, tired, aching muscles. 

     While an alpaca is having it's fleece removed, another person gives it a pedicure. The owner Caroline started out doing this, but she was required to be in so many places that she taught my husband   and he took over that job, much to my surprise! Once the fleece is all cut away, the shearer checks the teeth. If they need to be ground down, he will do that before the animal is released. A second weighing is needed to determine the amount of fleece taken off the animal. 

     It was a very busy, fun and rewarding day. I got to meet some new people with similar interests, and we learned tons of stuff about alpacas. I felt a bit of sympathy for Rob and Caroline, who were trying to answer everyone's questions as well as take on some of the lead jobs. Only a small percentage of the volunteers knew anything about the job so everyone had to be instructed in what to do and how to do it most efficiently. It ran very smoothly and everyone was smiling and seemed to be having fun .... except some of the alpacas. 

     After all the farm's animals were completed, two more arrived from another farm. The owner of those two didn't want her fiber and  wondered if anyone else wanted it .... I jumped at it!!! I actually only took the fleece from one of them ... taking both was just too greedy. I couldn't be happier with my great luck there. The day wrapped up with a lovely burger barbeque, served with amazing side salads and squares ... everything homemade and delicious, eaten on the deck beside a pond and bird feeders with abundant and varied visitors. We washed the yummy burgers down with chilled dark beer and enjoyed every minute of the great meal, setting and company. Everyone was worn out and we headed for home right after supper .... both of us in bed just as it was getting dark. Today I'm hobbling around a bit, nursing some sore spots and happy as a clam with a couple of new bags of alpaca fiber to be picked and washed. Our sincere thanks to Rob and Caroline for the experience! 

Friday, April 22, 2011

I've Been So Busy.....

     Busy, busy, busy .... and basically getting nothing done. Having a new puppy in the house is causing us to just run around in circles. She's into everything and rarely listens. Our other dog likes to hide from the little one just to get some peace. I'd forgotten how much work they really are at this age. I guess I wouldn't change a thing though. Little Ripley is so sweet and adorable most of the time. As the weather gets warmer and they spend more time outside, I'll find time to accomplish something. 

     My little knitting gig is over for now. There's a huge show coming up at the end of next week and I'm hopeful it all sells. 

    My husband has been busy as well and I am now the very proud owner of a lovely handmade, solid wood china cabinet. He did such a good job and it's perfect for my antique Spode china. 

     On the crafting front, I did manage to complete one Woolfin. I desperately need a bunch of these for summer sales as well as a ton or so of little birds. They sell extremely well. I also revamped the Woolfin Story and now have it printed on a brochure style pamphlet to go with each Woolfin. I'm already registered for Alderney Landing on Canada Day so I really need to get moving. Also, fast approaching, is shearing day at Rocaro Alpacas. That's going to be a full, exhausting day, but hopefully I'll have a bucketful of new knowledge about alpacas after that. 

     Happy Easter Everyone! 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Happiness is ......

       A NEW PUPPY!!!!!

I'm very pleased to announce the newest addition to our quaint little family, Ripley.

Poor little Ripley is just six weeks old and has been an orphan for three of those weeks. Her mother met with a bizarre accident, resulting in a fall and a blow to the head. Sadly, she succumbed to her injuries, leaving three small puppies all alone. Thankfully, the breeders are sharp and intelligent. The little male went to a close friend of the breeder who was skilled enough to feed the puppy formula for a couple of weeks until solid food could be introduced. Ripley and her sister stayed with the breeder until a couple of days ago. They were to be together until one of them was sold and had to leave. That happened the other day when someone  came for her sister. We went in the same day to get our puppy so she wouldn't be alone. We have introduced her to our adult dog, Daisy. She is going to help us socialize and train this little girl as quite often behavioral problems arise in orphans. She's purebred boxer and we met her father, who is a wonderful, muscular dog, and very handsome. We're told this little one looks exactly like her mother.

Just a side note: Daisy, our adult dog is thoroughly disgusted and has had quite enough of Ripley's shenanigans already. The poor dear deserves a medal for patience and tolerance. She's never seen such atrocious manners and although she is stoic most of the time, she has had to offer discipline in a doggy manner. Good for her ... I think this is going to work. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Anticipation ...... and Hopefully, Acceptance

     Oh my goodness! My new employer .... well, sorta, as I've been knitting for her for the past several weeks, has confirmed a date in May for shearing her herd of lovely alpacas. They have a shearer booked and are looking for volunteers to help out with all aspects of the event.

     Of course I've volunteered! I'm likely the very first name on her list. I just think this will be an amazing day. I'm sure my husband will be working by then, but hopefully, since it's a Saturday, he might be able to attend as well. I have to ask Caroline which jobs are available, because as much as I'd love to handle the animals, I'm a bit timid. I might be put to better use skirting the fleece. Well, there's still a couple of months to figure out how I'll be helping out, but I'll for sure be there with bells on! I'm totally taken with these adorable animals and I've never seen my husband take to a farm type animal as quickly either. No, not even the horse I bought for him several years back when he was complaining I was spending too much time with mine. That was a short love affair ... one buck and I was suddenly the overly extended owner of two horses ... both a handful in their own ways. Well, it was fun. Live and learn ... and learn, and never stop learning. That's what makes life fun isn't it?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Soft and Feminine

     Having accepted that alpaca is definitely addictive, and that I am totally hooked, I'm still knitting beautiful things for Rocaro Alpacas for the spring Saltscapes show. The feel of the yarn is so inviting, soothing, and it knits up beautifully. I've now had the chance to try almost all of the yarns Caroline has available right now. There have been trials and tribulations, as I figured out which worked best for what type of patterns, how many strands looked and draped the best, etc. She has such lovely fine lace weight products that I love, but they really need to be knit with two strands for the best result. 

     These cowls have had beads added as well. I use the 'add a bead' as you go method with a piece of monofilament as a threader to place the beads over a loop before I knit it. I have a 1.25mm crochet hook which will go through some of the larger beads, but if they have extra coatings, that won't work so I found the simple piece of monofilament worked best for all the beads. I also had the challenge of fitting the crystals over the double strand as they have smaller holes. The edges of the crystal were beginning to cut the yarn, so it was best to loop the bead over only one strand instead of both. I didn't find the end result took anything away from the look of the crystals so one strand it will continue to be. 

     I now have three of these finished. The latest still needs blocking and it's a dark brown with white luster beads. Very attractive! The next one will be a medium brown with more sparkling crystals. Each cowl has a total of 60 beads in the pattern. I even learned a couple of new stitches for this project. The picot bind off is very lovely and since it's done on both ends, a provisional cast on was necessary so the stitches could easily be picked up again. (Bowing to the Internet Gods in appreciation of YouTube!) The finished result is so professional and pretty. I'm actually rather impressed with my newly learned stitches. 

     Now if this cold weather would ever warm up so a person could get outside! That cold blast last night has erased all thoughts of spring from my mind. I'm still waiting for my plow guy as there's a huge drift at the bottom of my driveway. There is nothing but ice and blowing snow as far as the eye can see and it's too damn cold for the road salt to work so driving is really fun!  Hibernation has been a good rest but I'm anxious to get out and do something different for a change. Seems like it's been a long winter so far. I did manage to get some major housework done recently so wasn't time wasted. Come on Spring .... please! 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ye Ol' Knitting Factory

     It's been a busy week of knitting ... although I did manage to slow down a bit over the weekend. There are two more items still on the needles, but not for long as they'll be done this evening. I'll need to deliver them to and pick up more bulky wool to do a few more. The idea is to have some stock ready for their show on Feb. 12th in Wolfville. The hats are fairly basic and knit from bulky yarn. The headbands are double knits as there's a rib lining on the inside, making them very thick and warm. They're truly a luxury item. All these yarns are also available through the above link. Just contact Caroline for prices and availability. 

     The spinning was put on hold this past week, but I'm yearning to get back to it. I'm nearly done spinning the singles for a two ply sock yarn in black alpaca and sari silk bits. It has a very interesting look so far and it isn't even plied yet. The socks are going to a friend in the city who collects antiques. He's swapping me a skein winder for them. I really need to get that winder too, as any more snarls in the lace weight alpaca yarn because the back of a chair was employed, is going to drive me over the edge. My husband flatly refuses to hold the skein while I wind the balls from it. 

     I guess that's about it from Ye Ol' Knitting Factory for now. Stay tuned though ... more will follow soon. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A New and Better Year

     This has been truly the worst and most stressful holiday in history for us. I guess that happens sometimes. Our car died, never to be driven again, forcing us to scramble for funds to get a new one and trying to do it with all the storm and holiday closures of business and gov't offices. Then there was our New Year's party ... a very small function for two couples which was crashed by a bunch of Yahoos who ate and drank everything in site and finally had to be thrown out on their butts, and all topped off with the sad loss of a dear friend, who passed very suddenly. It hasn't been fun and I'm hoping for a much better year. 


    I haven't written anything here in a long time, mostly because I've been knitting and spinning wool, which tends to be very boring to the spectator. There's only so much you can write about yarn and socks. All my closest friends got socks for Christmas. The last pair is nearly done and they are for ME! I finally get a pair for myself. I have lots and lots of wool here that still needs to be carded and spun into fine yarn, and it's safe to say I'll be busy with that all winter. 

   As you can tell from the pictures, I've found an alpaca farm nearby. My husband and I have taken on the project of installing a man door in the alpaca barn. We were out there working all day yesterday and the door is in now, and just needs to be trimmed out. My husband has to move some wires for them too, then that project will be finished. 

     Alpaca wool is much finer and warmer than sheep wool. It's cloud soft and very luxurious. There is also the added bonus that alpacas don't produce lanolin, so there's no grease to deal with and this actually makes it great for folks who are allergic to wool. It takes dye very well, almost too well at times but I seem to prefer the natural colors. They come in 17 registered colors but there are a few more shades as well. Lots of colors to choose from. I like to ply a light and a dark together as shown in these booties I made for a friend who is going to be a new father very soon. 

    I have two books here I have to read cover to cover ... one on wet felting and one on spinning. I've very determined to get that done this month so I can get back to some felting and do things the correct way, knowing it will work instead of muddling through and hoping it will work. I got some nice silk and glitzy threads, curly locks, etc to add to my projects. I'm very well stocked in fact, so it should be a productive winter. I shall try to blog more often, but given the turmoil over the holidays, my heart just wasn't into it. Today is devoted to housework, then we're back at the alpaca farm tomorrow to finish up (and take more pictures of the cuties!) 

    Happy New Year to all my loyal followers.