Monday, January 29, 2018

Yarn Adventures

Well! Yarn-making has been taking up my life the last few days. I made these:
I already posted about the green/white yarn that my spinning friend helped me make. (I mean, she really helped me, as in, I could not have done it alone.)

The brown and white yarn I plied yesterday. To ply yarn means to take two strands of yarn that you've already spun, and then spin them together. It's tricky, because twist -- which is what you're doing to your yarn when you spin it -- is essential for yarn-making, but it's also the spinner's bane. Twist makes tangles. Twist makes your yarns become embroiled with one another. Twist is a headache.
This brown/white two-ply yarn is simply white alpaca and brown alpaca, plied together. Does it look like a mess? It is.
I mentioned that the brown alpaca fiber, lovely as it is (and it's truly gorgeous, deep brown) was dirty. To be specific, it had mouse poop in it. The bags of fleece were stored in a barn, so that's not surprising. Undaunted by mouse poop, I cleaned it, and picked out the poop ... one little poop pellet at a time.
The bag of brown fleece. There the mouse pooped, and there he died.
For my first batch of brown fleece, I grabbed a bunch of it from the bag and proceeded to wash it. I'm glad I didn't grab anymore, because the mouse -- dead and desiccated -- was right there! Ugh. Adam removed him. I will use the fleece, cleaning more than before. It's a huge amount of fleece, and worth a lot of money to me. The staple length (how long the strands of fleece are) is short, but it's worth the bother because it's so beautiful.

I still had some white alpaca yarn I'd made first. What to do with it? I plied it together, this time making my own "lazy kate," a device to help you unwind two (or more) balls of yarn simultaneously. Here's mine:
It's a shoebox with two knitting needles through it, held with wine corks on the ends. Put the two balls of yarn on the needles, and let them freely unwind together. This was so helpful! I set the box at my feet as I sat at the spinning wheel, plying the two white yarns together onto my wheel's bobbin -- kind of like spinning it again. I had to turn the wheel in the opposite direction from the direction I used when spinning the 2 yarns originally. That way, the twist of the plying off-sets the twist of the original spinning, and the yarn will drape straight, and will knit or weave without twisting my work around.
Then I dyed the white alpaca yarn in a turmeric bath.
And it came out this pretty color:
 I know very little about natural dying. I soaked the yarn first in warm water with washing soda, salt, and baking soda in it, hoping those would work as a fixative to help the color stay. I gently squeezed it out, and placed it into the dye, letting it soak. 
I squeezed the dye water out, but did not rinse the yarn. I want to use the three together to knit a loose scarf. 

Oh - and so you know I'm still working, I did a little painting this morning while watching youtube videos about natural dying.
I thought this family was very fun, and the son was interesting to watch, doing his kitchen science:

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Happy Little Things!

 For those of you still encased in snow and ice,  please know that daffodils are bursting out somewhere ...
Here, as a matter of fact!

I'm having fun with the little mice in my new book.

 Sketching and then painting:

Now ... on to that spinning wheel. Adam finally found a solution for my bobbin, and it is spinning as well as can be expected on a 200 year old wooden machine! I also spent a couple of hours with a friend who spins, and has several wheels. She let me practice on hers a bit, which was so helpful. But in the end -- each spinner has to find her own groove, her own sweet spot. My friend helped me make this lovely skein:
 It's 20 yards of yarn, but it is beautiful, and it is mine. How satisfying! I'm so thankful for my friend's help.
 Today I combed some more alpaca fiber, because you can't spin until you comb it first!

 The two above I spun yesterday. Together they are over an ounce of yarn.
 These two photos are of today's skein, which weighs in at .7 oz. 
 The scary stuff below is dark brown alpaca fiber. I'm washing it today. It was pretty nasty. I won't tell you what was in it ....

But it's cleaner now, and drying on the back porch. Looks like somebody's hair cut.
 I intend to ply together the two: the white and the dark brown. Should be very pretty. 

Adam made French onion soup when we had some friends over. 
May all be well with you, dear friends. May you find peace in your home, satisfaction in the work of your hands, and joy in those you love.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Never a Dull Moment --

(I finished reading The Solitary Summer. I'm still working on Touring Through France, reading it in between other books.)
My mother's mantel. She still had little Christmas decorations up, when I was there for Daddy's funeral. The beautiful clock belonged to Daddy's mother. Adam put a new mechanism in it a few years ago, so Daddy wouldn't have to keep winding it.

I'm painting away on my next story about the Thanksgiving Mice. 
The farm wife is up very early on Thanksgiving Day.
Mrs. Mouse takes notes on the farm wife's cooking.
I'm working on the dining room picture.

I've had very sweet responses from friends regarding my "Punkin" story - thank you! It was fun. I'm now assembling and mailing out the second printing. (If you asked for one, please send your money. If you want one, please leave a comment.) Instead of copying from the originals at Staples, Adam scanned them onto the computer and cleaned them up. Some of the backgrounds I am not pleased with, and I am retouching some images in each book as I send them out. I still have not found a printing option that I am totally happy with. I may need to rethink and start again.

The woes of the spinning wheel!!! I have struggled with the treadle, the wheel, and especially the bobbin. I told Adam it was time I had a real wooden footman, instead of a string. A yard stick is actually just the right thickness. (I may paint it later.)
 The treadling and spinning were immediately better. I'm able to pedal slower, without the band coming off. This means I won't overtwist my yarn. It's just too complicated for words. Will I ever conquer it?
Then, just as the footman was done, this leather bearing broke.
 Goodness! I can't complain, however, because it's probably original to the wheel, and therefore nearly 200 years old. If I'd been spinning a bobbin that long, I'd be ready to be done too. The leather bearing fits in here:
 Adam made one new bearing for me (on the right below), so now he's making me another. They are so stiff when they're new. 
I have much to learn. 

Our weather is warmer. We worked outside today. My baby chicks are doing just fine.
This was from yesterday. Today I removed all adult birds from the coop for 30 minutes to give the babies a chance to eat. The mamas love the babies' food, the crumbly, dusty stuff you see there. Poor babies. Their little tails are starting to fluff. Before I know it, they will be big fluffy hens like their mothers.

Oh! Remember these two?
Guess what? They got engaged over Christmas break! Everything got so crazy with my daddy's illness and death, and I'm not sure if I ever said it here. Gramm proposed to Anna in Clarksdale, Mississippi, his hometown. They'll be married here at our church in June. We are just thrilled! They are so well-suited for each other. Anna is busy, planning away in Japan. I'm sure there'll be lots of wedding news this spring.

See you gals (and any guys?) later! Remember ... spring is on its way!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

She's Up and Running!

Adam made a new leather bearing for "The Old Girl" -- my spinning wheel -- so the next repair was the essential one: the broken bobbin. Remember? 
There were three big chunks of wood I need to patch. Adam brought me some tools -- a coping saw and a rasp.

This clamp allowed me to use both hands, and not cut off a finger.
Repair #1
Repair #2. Lots of Gorilla Wood Glue was used.
Repair #3. It's not beautiful, but maybe it'll work!
I did sand and stain those patches, which helped appearances.

Finally I could put the bobbin on, and try very hard (with much failure) to put a double drive band on, threading around the whorl, the wheel, the repaired bobbin (yay!) and the wheel again, and tying it very tight with a surgeon's knot. Then I cranked the tension tight so the drive band would stay on. Then I tried, with great trepidation, to spin.
At this point, it's rather like having a Model-A Ford with an engine that's finally cranked, but you don't know how to drive.  Many challenges remain. I did get the drive band back on (many times), and tried to spin some of the roving I've made. It doesn't want to spool onto the bobbin, so I must research, watch videos, and try to understand how much is mechanical error and how much human error

It'll be a while until I have a lovely skein of yarn I've spun myself ... {{{{sigh}}}}

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Twice in January

Yes, it's snowed again. In opposition to the cold, today I made baked spaghetti for lunch.
My lovely mother (who will no longer be able to read my blogs since my daddy is gone, and she is not a computer-savvy great-grandma!) gave me these cute warm slippers while I was with her.
Trixie is learning to be a big girl. She spends a lot of time here:
I have three baby chicks, born on Tuesday! I'm trying to get good photos of them.

I'll be noting which chicks have completely black heads. Supposedly those are likely to be females. You see the one above has a white/yellow dot on its head - probably a male.

Today Adam made a new leather bearing for my spinning wheel. He epoxied two pieces of leather together, measuring for the right fit.
 That pale shape is the leather bearing with his markings on it. The pin from the flyer is sticking into it, just as it should. First repair done!
Below you see the entire flyer assembly with the new leather at the top of the photo - it's folded in half.
Adam and Julia bought a big piece of leather in Raleigh over last week. Adam made two books with his half. Here's my book:
Isn't it beautiful? We seem to love all things old and natural. This is actually a book cover - I can fill it with page bundles, and change them out when it becomes full.

I've done more on the first page of my new book, "The Thanksgiving Mice."
 I may add a few things -- something on the yellow wall, perhaps a little rug. Please note the apron falling out of the drawer and the itty bitty mouse peeking from there.
And I painted a black baby chick. They won't be this small for long.
She needs more fluff on her back.
 This is my view from my desk as I write and paint. The birds are hungry. Ooo -- can you see the one flying in for a landing, against the snow?

I've put our lemon and our lime trees on my sewing machine by the east window in my studio - the brightest place in the house. Poor things. And I brought in two tomato plants before they got zapped. They seem happy inside for now. I'm eager for warm temperatures, bright sunshine, and spring. I want time in my greenhouse ... but that's weeks away. 

Two snows in January! We rarely get two snows per winter, and often get none. We Southerners are cold-weather wimps, that's for sure! We get barely a puff of winter, and we're desperate for spring!