Friday, February 26, 2010

Fiber Arts Friday - Learn to Fly

This week's Fiber Arts Friday post is a bit different for me because I am writing it on Tuesday but won't post until Friday.  Why?  Well, I am going to be out of town all week with internet.  Dum, Dum, Dum...that's the sound of doom.  My life revolves around my laptop but not this week.

I am at a Fiber Sorting/Grading Seminar led by Course Broads, Inc.  I am going to learn how to properly sort and grade alpaca fiber for mill and for show fleeces plus I am going learn all there is to know about the micron of fiber.  What is Micron?

I am copying this from Yocum McCall, where I get my fiber tested each year.  It's copyrighted but I am giving them credit so...I think it's ok.  I hope it's ok.  Here it is, so it must be ok.

By: Yocum-McColl Laboratories
Copyright: 2004 Yocum-McColl Laboratories
Fiber Diameter Measurement and Distribution
Fiber diameter is measured in microns. One micron is equal to 1/1,000,000thof a meter
or 1/25,400th of one inch. Mean Fiber Diameter (MFD) is in common use internationally.
MFD, Standard Deviation (SD) and Coefficient of Variation (CV) all relate to the
(approximate) normal distribution of the animal fiber diameters. SD characterizes
dispersion of individual measurements around the mean.
In a normal population, 66% of the individual values lie within one SD of the mean, 95%
within two SD's and 99% within 2.6 SD's. Since SD tends to increase with increasing MFD,
some people prefer to use CV (=SD*100MFD) as a method of comparing variably about
different sized means.
Copyright 2004 Yocum-McColl Laboratories

It's a long-winded explanation but it is complicated. 
At the end of this seminar, I will begin my journey to become a certified grader/sorter.  What does this mean?  Well, farms will be able to hire me to come sort their fiber for mill processing.  I will have the ultimate understanding of what I am doing with my fiber which will help in my fiber production and my farm's breeding decisions.

It won't be all fun and games.  There is a lot of study involved.  I will have to sort an insane amount of huacaya and suri fleeces in the next year so neighboring farms will have an opportunity to get their fiber sorted/graded at a discount.

Next week I will have tons of information and pictures to share with you.  Until then, please enjoy my new Fiber Arts Friday Buttons.  I have one at the side of my page and here are a couple more.

Now, I want to hear what you have been doing all week.  Share your adventures in fiber arts!

Now, for this week.  Please share you adventures in Fiber Arts!
Fiber Arts Friday Blog Carnival!

To participate:

  1. Submit your blog article to the next edition of fiber arts friday using our carnival submission form. Remember to submit your current blog address NOT your complete blog  i.e. you would submit  
  1. Link back to Fiber Arts Friday from your post so that your readers can come and see everyone else’s projects! Text link to  WISDOM BEGINS IN WONDER!  A button of wonder will come soon for you to display.
  2. Visit as many of the other participants as possible and leave comments! That’s what helps us all connect!

Check out these cool blogs: 

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Going Going...Gone

I'm taking off in a few hours to attend a four day seminar on Fiber Sorting/Grading down in Terre Haute.  That's four days away from my family and my farm.  The most I am usually gone from the Wonder Farm is at shows which is leaving Friday afternoon and returning Sunday night.  I have to say, I am already missing the bears.  As I type, Sister Bear is sleeping behind me.  She got up in the middle of the night and left her room to sleep on the living room couch.  Don't worry, she's not sick.  We've been battling over a night light in her room.  She doesn't want one then wakes up in the middle of the night to a dark room.  I don't know where she gets her stubborn attitude from.  It can't possibly be me!

So...for the next four days I will be at a seminar so I can start the process to become a Certified Grader/Sorter of Fiber.  The worst part about the next four days is where I am staying has no wi-fi and I'm not driving so I am going to have to bum rides into town to find a hotspot to use my laptop.  Yes, it's an addiction.  I need my blog and my ravelry.  I can access twitter and facebook as long as I have a phone signal but my blackberry is not friendly to blog or ravelry.  Yes, I know that I am there to learn but my evenings and early mornings are for me.

So...we'll see how this works.  Hopefully my not driving isn't too stressful on me.  Really.  I am so independent and I debated about riding down with Martha, who lives 25 miles away, because I don't like to be dependent on other people but the idea of being passenger in her vehicle for a 10 hour round trip meant essentially 10 hours of knitting.  I could finish my Clap (once I figure out how to fix a mess in an unintentional dropped stitch that  happended where theres a SSK, YO=MESS) plus possibly crank out another hat or two.  Yes, I am packing needles, yarn and patterns. 

The independence.  I am at the mercy of the other alpaca farms that are there for driving into town.  I can't load my vehicle up with whatever I my spinning wheel.  Yes, I want to take my wheel.  Spinning is a stress reliever for me.  I will take my drop spindle but it's not the same.  I LOVE MY SPINNING WHEELS.

As you read this, you see the great debate I'm having.  I will ride down with her and be a good girl.  Life will not end if I don't have internet or one of my spinning wheels for a few days....will it?  I'm supposed to be focused on learning so I will...but I also have ants in my pants.

Don't worry...Fiber Arts Friday will be posted this week.  I have it all set so even if I can't get to the internet, I can walk my darling husband through posting but honestly...I would walk through a blizzard, up two mountains and through a jungle to get to my internet.  I'm that pathetic.  I am taking my camera and notes so be prepared for some great blogs next week.   In the meantime, I am leaving you with the first of a few Fiber Arts Friday Buttons you can copy for your blog.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Snowed In!

Oh, the wonder of living in Michigan and having a late February snowstorm.  The alpacas don't seem to mind it.  Our turkeys don't seem to mind it but...I do!  I want sunshine, grass, flowers, more snow!  So, since I am not working today you get two blog posts because of SNOW!  Ba humbug!

Snowing still.  At least 6 inches if not more.  
The snow comes up to my shins...of course you can't tell by my photos because all you see it white.


You see how far the alpaca will venture past the barn's overhang.

View of house from barn.

Snow!  I am so sick of SNOW.

Surprisingly, the Turkeys and Roosters don't mind the snow.
I had to shovel a path for our little Munchkin so he could poo off the deck.  
Yes, that's where he went this morning. 
He was awfully happy to see me outside with the shovel.

There's Friend, our barn cat, who thinks he needs to be in the house.
Nope!  Go back to the barn and patrol for mice.

Snow!  Go Away!

Spinning my Wheels?

The other day I had the pleasure of spinning with a new group. Most of them are members Kalamazoo Weavers Guild and they are WONDERful!  First, they love my fiber.  They requested that I bring my roving, which I did.  I had some amazing sales that afternoon.  Second, and more importantly, they are full of knowledge.  I was amazed at their various skill levels and background.  I am really hoping that I can spin with them more in the future and also learn from them and they can learn from my alpaca knowledge.
It was fun to see all the various spinning techniques and gorgeous fiber everyone was spinning on too.
Of Course, my favorite was spun by Bev.  It's my Sugar Breeze blend.

Not everyone was spinning.  We had some knitters working on their Ravelympics Projects too.

Again, Sugar Breeze who is always my favorite, has been put into a quilt square.
Terry is taking yarn she spun from Sugar Breeze and sewing it in to create the legs, tail and topknot for Sugar.
I can't wait to see the finished square.
What was I working on?  Well, I have some new roving I really need to post on Etsy.
Here is what it looks like spun up.  I am calling this Wonderz Swirl.
We had it processed at a different mill and it's a blend of white, brown and gray.
This is what it looks like in roving form.  We were excited to see what it would spin into because the roving looks like it's heavy on the white but as you can see from my bobbin, it's not.

I also processed white roving, dk. grey and black(not pictured)
All of my new roving is 100% Suri.
I promise, I will start posting them to Etsy this week.

Ok, back to my Ravelympics knitting.  I am going to conquer the Clapotis!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Ravelympics 2010 -- Fleece to FO

After months of frustration and struggle I have completed my first knitted hat from my own handspun yarn as part of the Ravelympics.  I am so excited!  It was the Vine and Leaf Beret Pattern from the Fall Issue 2009 Vogue Knitting (It's the beret on the cover of the issues also known as pattern number 12).  The yarn I spun is was a bit thinner than the recommended yarn so I used a size 8 needle instead of the size 3.
Another consideration I made was that my yarn is 100% Suri Alpaca which is very drapey with little memory so what I did was ply my yarn a bit tighter than what you would typically do with Suri.  It still reflects the softness that you expect from Suri but I am hoping that the tighter ply will help keep the shape of the hat although I already know it will be more of a Slouch Hat instead of a Beret.  The other thing I did was used a bit of elastic thread in my ribbing so that it would fit better around my head.  I didn't knit it in but sewed it in after I finished the hat.  I didn't have to add a lot but once the hat was completed I could see what I needed for it to keep its shape.
I LOVE this pattern and I am going to knit another hat using it but this time I am going to a Huacaya Alpaca/Wool Blend that I dyed, carded, and spun on my Ashford Kiwi.  This yarn weight is closer to what the pattern recommends and the wool in the blend will give the memory I need for the shape while the alpaca gives the fineness and beauty.  Honestly, I walked through the Local Yarn Shop the other day and not one of the yarns called out to me.  Maybe it's because I have a herd of inspiration right out my back window but I just didn't see any commercial yarns that I wanted to knit on.

I thoroughly enjoyed the whole process of taking my beautiful Confetti Reign from pasture to finished project.  What really amazed me was that it appears that I purposely spun her fiber so that I would have brown striping but alas, I didn't.  That was pure alpaca wonder working its magic on my spinning.  I couldn't believe as I finished the hat how the brown stripes were so uniform.  If I had wanted to do it, I would not have been able to spin like that.

I am looking forward to more projects that I can knit from Confetti.  I've been asked if I will be selling her fiber to spinners but right now I won't.  Hand Processing Suri is a true labor of love.  It takes so much time to Comb the locks into beautiful fiber to spin.  Most fiber artists use drum carders, which I use with my huacaya, and that can be a relatively quick process.  So far I have found that the drum carders take away from the beauty of Suri so...unless I can have a mill process the fiber, I will have to comb it.

Now saying that, if I have Suri Roving (already mill processed) and I want to blend it with another fiber, I can use a drum carder and not have problems but when I take the raw locks (even breaking them open with my fingers) an I put them directly on a drum carder, it makes the fiber "course".  Goodness, I feel a whole new blog topic forming.

Anyways, I am going to enjoy wearing my Confetti Reign Beret and now I am ready to knit more projects from my hand spun.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Fiber Arts Friday - Adventures in Dye

This week I decided to fight the winter blahs by bringing some color to the fiber I've been working with.  It's been awhile since I last dyed fiber.  Why?  Well, for starters, I LOVE the natural colors that alpaca come in so I don't dye too much plus I've been working on learning so many other great techniques that playing with the dye pots have been low on my priority list.
Samples of yarn I've spun from the Wonder Herd.
Also alpacas are supposed to come in 22 shades even though the ARI color chart only shows 16 but hey, that's not such a shabby number either.

What I do like is taking the natural color of alpaca and blending it with a dyed fiber whether it be more alpaca, wool (all types although partial to merino and cormo), bamboo, silk, etc.  I think that additional color just emphasizes the beauty of the natural color.

On Tuesday I dyed up one white huacaya, one fawn huacaya and one merino fleece.  I had a couple of crock pots going.  I dyed the white and fawn huacaya in yellow and red.  It's amazing the difference the fawn makes in giving you a richer color.

I won't get into the technical steps of dyeing fiber because they are very simple and easily read on the instructions... really, hot water, dye, vinegar and fiber are all the ingredients.  Oh, and rubber gloves or else you will have, in my case, red, yellow and bluish fingers.  I will let you know that I am using Jacqard Dye.

No matter how long you let the white huacaya set, it turns pinkish but you put fawn in that same mixture and a beautiful deep red pops at least when you are using the Fire Red Color that I ordered from Knitpicks.

What I was blown away with was the merino.  I have never processed merino from the raw fleece before.  I've bought merino top and dyed that but WOW!  I see why so many fiber artists like to work with wool.

It's EASY!  Yes, it appears that everything that has to deal with processing wool is easy.  I know!  The fact that there are so many more sheep that Alpaca doesn't help either.  No wonder when I visit Fiber Fest, it's stall after stall of wool.  Of course, my heart melts when I see and feel Alpaca...which means that the extra work to process it is so worth it.

The merino absorbed the color so quickly and when I started to blend colors it was amazing watching the transformation compared to alpaca.  I wish I could describe it better but the best way I can is to say that alpaca is so dense compared to the "airiness" of merino.  It takes longer for the alpaca to absorb the color.  I would put the Alpaca fiber into the crock and it would take some time for the color to absorb into the fiber but when I put the merino in **POOF** color took.  It took so well that I actually created some blends instead of just a straight color.  I was able to sprinkle the dye on certain areas of the fleeces and it didn't take over the whole pot.  I LOVED IT!

So...I had fun with the dye.  Like I said before, I use Jacquard Dye.  I only say this because I tried Kool Aid when I first started to play with fiber and didn't like it at all.  Now I know some other farms who are using natural dyes straight from nature (like onion, bark, nuts, etc) and I want to try that too but for now I am learning the technique of using dye.  This is where I would love to hear feedback from you, my fiber friends.  What do you dye with?  Have you noticed a difference in the way various fiber absorbs the dye?

There is a great book I bought that explains the dye process and how colors are affected by blending and fibers which I recommend you read.  COLOR IN SPINNING by Deb Menz. 

Once the fiber is dry...and I have finished my Ravelympics knitting projects, I am going to get busy carding up my dyed fiber with some natural colors to create some batts and roving.  By the way, here is the progress on my handspun hat for Ravelympics.  I have started Chart 2, which is the 26 row decrease.  Not bad for day seven of the Olympics while running two businesses and a family.
I know, doesn't look like I made much progress from the other day but I did, and the pattern is gorgeous!

Like I said before, I LOVE to experiment.  Now next week, I am going to be without internet for four long days.  I don't know if I can manage this because I am so dependent on my Blogger, Twitter, Facebook and Ravelry although I can access some from my phone.  I will be taking a seminar on Fiber Sorting/Grading which is the beginning of me becoming a Certified Grader/Sorter of Fiber.  I am very excited about this.  I'll be down in Terre Haute, Indiana for the seminar leaving the farm and the family under the care of my husband.  If you hear screams of distress, it's him having a meltdown when he realizes how much I do around the house and farm.

Keep up the Fiber Fun!  I will try to post some of my new-found knowledge, if I can, next Friday.  If not, you will have another week to wait and learn.  Regardless, I will have Fiber Arts Friday up and running.

Now, for this week.  Please share you adventures in Fiber Arts!
Fiber Arts Friday Blog Carnival!

To participate:

  1. Submit your blog article to the next edition of fiber arts friday using our carnival submission form. Remember to submit your current blog address NOT your complete blog  i.e. you would submit  
  1. Link back to Fiber Arts Friday from your post so that your readers can come and see everyone else’s projects! Text link to  WISDOM BEGINS IN WONDER!  A button of wonder will come soon for you to display.
  2. Visit as many of the other participants as possible and leave comments! That’s what helps us all connect!

Check out these cool blogs: 

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ravelympics - Pete and Repeat


Huh?  Was it just a year ago...heck, just a few months ago that those letters would have confused me.  Oh, yeah!  Well, those aren't merely letters, they are just one row from the chart I'm following for my most recent project.

I've successfully knitted three hats so I decided that part of my Ravelympics Challenge was to knit a hat from my hand spun using a charted pattern.  Now, the last time I did this it made me cry but I'm glutton for punishment so I decided to challenge myself again and where did I Vogue Knitting.

Curse you, Vogue Knitting, with your beautiful patterns!  No, really...I LOVE Vogue Knitting and the beautiful patterns in it, I just wish that their version of "Very Easy" was what the reality of "Very Easy" was.  Maybe it was the first pattern I picked.  Maybe it was the Magic Loop.  Maybe it just wasn't the right time.  I was under immense emotional stress at that time.  Regardless, I am not going to linger on that other pattern anymore.  When the time is right, I will knit it...with my handspun.

So, there it was staring me in the face.  Duh!  On the cover of Vogue Knitting was an adorable hat...and I could understand the pattern.  The funny thing is that the pattern was right next to the one that was breaking my heart.  I took my lovely hand spun Confetti Reign that I spun this weekend and cast on.

I didn't post my pattern on Ravelry at first because I didn't know if the pattern would work. Even yesterday while I was knitting the ribbing...I wasn't sure.  I'm still not sure on the ribbing because this hat is 100% Suri, I can already tell that it is loose but I will wait until I'm done and figure something out...really, I will because I LOVE my Suri Alpaca and I need to figure something out for future knits and for customers who buy my handspun.

Which brings me to my final thought.  People who spin really need to knit from their hand spun.  WoW!  I already am learning from my knitting how to improve my spinning.  I had an experienced spinner look over my yarn recently and give me some pointers and my knitting has reinforced her suggestions.  It's not that it isn't lovely can always be improved.  I am looking forward to knitting this hat in the next few days and watching the pattern emerge.

I still need to finish my Clapotis for the WIPdancing event but I can only knit one object at a time and heck, I have another week left to get it done.

I can't wait to see the progress I make today on this hat so, until tomorrow, knit on!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Ravelympics Update-

Just like the great Olympians competing in their events, I have been busing spinning (at my spinning wheel...goodness knows I wouldn't be on a bike, YIKES!) and knitting to complete my two events for the Ravelympics.
So far I have spun 375 yards of Confetti Reign (much more than I needed for my project but help with the camelspin event) and have cast on the hat I am knitting from it.  I have not announced what hat I am knitting because as you know from prior blogs, I've had issues with hats.  This is one that I attempted once before and failed so, in Olympic spirit, I am testing my skills...and patience and trying something to challenge myself.
So far it's not looking quite like the pattern but I am still knitting because it does look pretty...this picture doesn't reflect it, but it does.
My Clapotis, WIPdancing Event, is cranking along too.  I think I'll actually finish it...FINALLY!
Meanwhile I just receive about 35 lbs of Suri Roving I had processed.  I am so excited to get it up on my Etsy Site to sell plus spin a bit myself.  I am going to be a good girl, though, and get these two projects done before I enjoy the new batch of roving.  FYI:  IT'S GORGEOUS!

Oh, here are the hats I finished before the Ravelympics Cast On.

This one is a Nero Hat made out of commercial spun alpaca.  It's a heavier yarn that the pattern called for but I love how hit looks.

This next one is a London Beanie knitted out of some yarn that I bought at Hobby Lobby.  I must admit, knitting on commercial yarn is a lot easier than hand spun when you are a beginning knitter but perseverance or tenacity, whichever you want to call it, I have it and I will knit from my handspun.