Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Sourdough Experiment: Part II

This is the second loaf I've made from the vintage sourdough yeast.  The first was unremarkable but this one is like those overfed Chinese watermelons.  It split!  But it's so yummy.  It's amazing what complex flavor you can get from a culture of yeast, flour, water and a little salt.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Spring Onions

A bunch of spring onions(walking onions) from the garden, chopped.

That is all.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Short Pictorial Fiber Story

If you ever wondered why handspun yarn is so expensive, here is an extremely quick overview of what goes into creating a ball by hand.  It's a lot of dirty work but the rewards are great.  It's hard to put a dollar sign on something so personal.  Typically I grow attached to the yarns after running the soft, lanolin-smelling-feeling wool through my hands so many times.

Raw wool, skirted.  That means picked through for short bits and other undesirables (veggie matter, VM for short).  I like to find local wools from small farms.  This fleece is a columbia/rambouillet cross.
Scoured wool, washed.  Sounds harsh but it's just a soaking in hot water with mild detergent and rinsed repeatedly.  This step takes an entire day to wash and dry, sometimes two but is very important and tricky.  One misplaced agitation and your wool can be felted into an irreparable lump.
Flick-carded wool, cloud.  This step removes extra dirt and VM while opening up the locks.  It's time consuming and best done while watching a good movie.  I use a pet brush for this step.
Carded wool, batt.  Carding aligns the fibers for spinning.  This was drum-carded twice.  My carder handles one ounce at a time and my spinning wheel bobbins each take two ounces.  Having a sensitive scale is a must!
Hand Spun Wool, natural.  This was spun on my antique spinning wheel.  Worsted weight, 2 ply.
Hand-dyed wool yarn, hank.  This was dyed in Sandalwood (of the incense variety) and Onion Skins.  The wool needs to be mordanted before dyeing in the case of natural dyes.  That means boiling gently in alum and cream of tartar before adding to the yarn to the dye bath. 
Balled and knitted yarn, the final product!  Hand-knitting is another labor of love, all of itself, so a knitted product made of handspun yarn is one of a kind and priceless.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Ghost Town

I love this yarn so much I decided to share.  It started with this Merino/Romney/Mooritt blend I bought from a farm on Madeline Island on Lake Superior (in Wisconsin).  It's a blend of fiber from sheep with names like Twill, Tweed, Tattersall and Tapestry.  That was reason enough for me but when I received the package and opened it...  It smelled like a ghost town... really.  Now, that might have turned some people away right there but to me it was like catnip to a cat.  I want to roll in it!  Seriously!  Indeed, you can find me with my face buried in it, breathing it in. 
Merino/Romney wool and silk noil

But what to do with it?  Well, I had this bag of natural silk noil laying around just waiting for a project and I couldn't see dyeing either perfect ingredients so... blend them!  Silk noil, if you're not familiar with it are the left-overs from the carding process.  They're nits and nubbins and bits of papery cocoons that are basically undesirable to the fine silk fabric industry - great for spinners though.  So I carded them together and got this soft pillowy blanket of smell-good fluff.  Yay!

The batts of Ghost Town, ready to spin

Spinning was delightful as it simply slipped through my fingers.  I plied it, a rather thick yarn for my antique machine.  It is absolutely beautiful and soft and has that smell...  like an old restored building, a hundred years, thousands of memories, humanity and decay.  I can't really describe how much it affects me, words seem trivial and I wonder if I'll be able to sell it.  

The finished yarn.