Friday, March 31, 2006

Smooshing my way to beautiful

I have been smooshing lately. It all started last Sunday, when I wanted an easy, fast, non messy way to dye small lots of roving different colors. Now I can dye yarn. I can dye it fast and in large quantities, but roving is a different story. I haven't quite figured out all the tricks to make that fast and fabulous, yet. I'm still battling those pesky places where it doesn't absorb as much dye as I'd like it to. And the fact that it puffs up while I paint it, despite a long time spent wetting it out. Then there's the perpetual problem of heating without overdoing it. Stovetop/pot dyeing is pretty much out of the picture because I'm too afraid of accidental simmering that felts my lovely wool.

Smooshing is the answer for small batches of dyed roving. Below I detail my smooshing technique. It's very technical & requires precision at every step.

glass/micro safe dish for dyeing (not food use!)
acid dyes or food coloring or icing dyes
vinegar or citric acid

1.) Wrap your roving into a ball approximately the size of your container. Wrap the tail around your ball a couple of times to secure it - you don't want it to open up in the water. I used my 2C. glass measure like this:

2.) Plop your ball of roving into some warm water & wet it out for an hour or so. I popped mine in the kitchen sink & ran after my kids to fill time.

3.)Fill your container 1/2 full of water. Add the amount of dye you like plus some acid. 2 T. vinegar did the trick for my 2 C. measure.

4.) Gently smoosh your fiber into the dye.

5.) Add more water to cover as needed.

6.) Smoosh your fiber a couple of times if you'd like a more uniform color, otherwise leave it alone. The wool will be darker on the bottom than at the top.

7.) Pop your container in the micro for 2 minutes on high. Let it rest at least 2 minutes before giving it another round. Don't let it boil or simmer! Continue until you get a good exhaust. 2-3 times should be sufficient.

8.)Dry and use. My balls were small enough that they dried rolled up. It is faster to unroll and drape the roving while drying.

9.) Spin your Smoosh dyed fibers!

You can see my Smoosh Dyed fibers in action on Rumple's bobbin below. I'll get better pictures once it's off the bobbin. It's progressing slowly because I'm knitting a gnome hat out of some commercial alpaca & a wool/mohair handspun at the moment. Here's a couple pictures of the original creation. It's my own pattern. Miss G & Myself modeling:

In other news, 95% of the Yarn Of The Month is in the mail! (Yesterday, in fact.) Go, me! The rest will go out today. It needed to dry a bit more.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


I am having one of those days. I have so much to do and it's paralyzing me. That is typically NOT me. Usually I see a million things to do and just go at it. Mr. N is reminding me that I don't have to be doing X,Y and Z every waking minute of the day. But not so today, not so. Which for me is very unfortunate. It it practically the 11th hour for me to get my Yarn of the Month stuff done. I have been organized, and hardworking. All the blank yarn in the house was dyed, and dried and ready to go last week. (Ok, there are still 3 skeins that have not been wound into center pull balls, but otherwise they're ready to go.) The problem is, I was 3 skeins short. And I placed an order 3 weeks ago. The yarn just came in yesterday afternoon. It has got to go out tomorrow and the next day. All 36 skeins of it.

There are two of the 3 skeins 1/2 painted upstairs on my kitchen counter. Waiting the obligatory "mellow and spread" time before I flip, paint and set. I'm still biting my nails. Can I get it done on time? Well I sure hope so. The mailers are even addressed, and I still can't figure out why I have the jitters. Goodness, I think I need help.

Pictures will follow. For now, I must paint like the wind.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Rumple Stiltskin in progesss

Got some fibery photos for you today. The mamas I work with at Knitteds & Fitteds have been hollering for them, Julie-Ann from the Material Whirled list is curious, too. So here they are. The colors are not quite as accurate as I generally like, but it's been raining & dreary here for days and my little point and shoot digital doesn't deal with that so well.

First off, the above picture is of my lovely brood of spinning wheels. The pretty one is an original Jensen, Tina II. I handfinished her with cherry stain (on cherry wood) with a light tung oil protective layer. I've had her since I was a Sophmore in highschool. (Now you all should be busily trying to figure out how old I am. I'll give you hint, I'm probably not nearly as old as I ought to be for having 3 children....or at least I think so. Oh, andI got married the week after I graduated college with my bachelor's degree, and had all 3 kids after.)

The Tina II as of yet is un-named. She really isn't a "Tina" but I am at a loss for what her real name should be. Something classy but sassy like Lola.....I can never decide. Maybe Lola is too 40's-pin-up-girl-esque? Then of course the bulky monstrosity is Rumple Stiltskin. He had a name instantly. I just knew he was a Rumple. This is slightly disturbing, becuase when it comes to children, Mr. N and I can agree on a bazillion girls' names and can't come up for anything decent when it comes to male children. If the Twinkle Twins had been two boys, one of them would not have had a name. Good thing they both popped out girls. Ah, but I digress.

Here is my newest creation: Melted Crayon Box. This was spun on the Rumple this weekend, from hand-dyed Blue Faced Leicester roving. I purchased it from Winderwood Farm on ebay for a very nice price. It's lovely. I love BFL to pieces. Now the interesting thing about this roving, is that despite the look of the finished yarn, the roving was dyed with only primary red, yellow and blue. I random dyed it, by wetting out the fiber, and plunking it (carefully and evenly) in my large dyeing pot. Then I heated it and poured the dye on in 3 wide stripes, minimizing the amount of dye overlap. So basically I had a radnom dyed skien of the primary colors. Then I spun it in a kind of modified long draw, to get lots of color mixing. The result is a rainbow. It was fun to watch it spin up. It is a plain-jane, worsted weight two ply. I wound it into a center pull ball and plied it together from the same single. The skein is just over 3 oz. The colors are a bit muted in places because my roving stack in the pot was a bit thick, so some parts were undyed. Next time, I'll dye it in 2oz sections instead to avoid white space.

Then this last pic is of another yarn I have going on the Tina. It's current name is Working Girl Confusion. It is of course worsted weight, because she has such a small orifice. Spun up out of black, white, grey, camel and medium blue Brown Sheep mill ends. They're all working wear colors. Hence the name. Coils, and nubs here. Lots of color changes because the mill ends I have are rather small. Should knit up into a stripey pattern.

Lastly, this is my first true bulky yarn. Still in progress on the wheel. I really haven't gotten very far with it. It's a candy stripe with black sequin nubs and also some grey wool/gold angelina hand blended nubs. The roving is from an Iowa farm. It's pretty much pencil drafted roving, which I hand dyed in very small batches yesterday and Sunday night. (As in small wads in my 2 cup glass dyeing measures.) I'm having fun with it and learning a lot. It's nice to be able to actually do these techniques. I've had the Plucky Fluff book for about 2 months, but most of the things I couldn't do because Tina is just too petite.

You all should go visit Abi at High Praire Fibers. She has lovely wool and does cool dyeing! She;s so sweet & nice to work with, too. This is her natural Ile De France/ Dorset cross. It's carded and has a foamy kind of texture to it. A nice change from the commercial combed rovings. It does compact as you spin it, but still retains the carded wool characteristics. Very easy to spin up. Her prices are excellant, too.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Too many kids?

My poor children.....I hope they turn out ok with a mother like me. Does anyone else ever have these thoughts? Today I got the Twinkle Twins up. They sleep in the same room, but in different cribs. They were wearing the same pajamas, in different colors. I got them up myself, and somewhere between their room and our changing/dressing room I managed to get them mixed up. It's not very far. The hall comes to a kind of T there, and the door trim actually touches. You can take a small hop from room to room. It's a well known fact that for the most part, the girls wear similar outfits, with some distinguishing characeristic - usually same outfit, in different colors. It helps me know which one I'm adressing as they're running away from me at full speed. So despite the fact that the Twinkle Twins are actually fraternal, and wearing different colors, I proceed to get them entirely ready for the day having them mixed up. Calling them by the wrong name, putting them in the wrong outfit, etc. This goes on for about 15 minutes until Mr. N came in with X to get him ready.

Mr. N - looking skeptically at me:
"Why is Miss E wearing Miss G's outfit?"


"She's in the wrong outfit. That's Miss G's outfit."

"No, it's not. She's in the right outfit."

Then it dawned on me. Miss E sucks her thumb and Miss G doesn't. Miss E is happily sucking her thumb, in Miss G's outfit and laughing at me. No wonder Miss G didn't even look up as I was telling her (repeatedly) to stop fishing around in my bathroom necessities drawer.

Can you imagine where I'd be if they were wearing the same pajamas like they are in the above picture?

Rumple Stiltskin has been getting a workout. Over the weekend I dyed some BFL roving with red, yellow and blue. I prewet the roving, plopped it in my canning pot with very little water *on what was left in the roving itself from soaking) and proceeded to dump the dyes in three stripes across it. I added a bunch, so that it would soak through pretty well. I still had a few white spots, so the next time I do this, I'll be sure to saturate it a bit more. It turned out super duper colorful. It's really neat to watch the primaries mix into the full spectrum. I plied it with itself, for a two-ply worsted weight yarn. Nothing really special, but it was fun to watch it unfold.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

That Babe is mine!

I am so happy to announce the new addition to our family.....a Babe Bulky Production spinning wheel arrived yesterday afternoon! This thing is hulking compared to my petite Tina II (an original Jensen), and rather homely to boot. But it's damn functional & I can spin bulky, Bulky, BULKY yarns on this monster. It came with 3 bobbins, each capable of holding 2+ lbs of fiber. That's a lot of fiber! The orifice seems like a huge tunnel, too. I might be in pluckyfluff heaven.

We're still getting aquainted, and so far I've been spinning worsted weight singles (of glorious handpainted Blue Faced Leicester top) only. I'll get around to the fancy stuff soon. My Tina is sporting a novelty yarn right now, so I opted to take baby steps with the new wheel first.

Nels is right - the functionality is great, but it's ugly as sin.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

A New Dye Record.....

has officially been set this month. So far I am at 9 1/2 pounds for the month. It's been super busy! currently, I have 16 4 oz. center-pull balls of hydrangea stacked on my kitchen table. It's so pretty. I just love to be surrounded by colors. It won't be staying, though. They will be off to their new homes next week-ish. I still have another pound and a half to finish up before I'll be done with the March Yarn of the Month club dyeing. However, I have run out of the right type of yarn (notice I did not say "run out of yarn", I'm not that foolish). So please think "Hurry up, yarn!" thoughts for me. The pic is of 8, 8 oz skeins piled on my kitchen table, before I wound them all into 4 oz balls....

I love yarn and everything about it.

Here's my latest handspun adventure. The roving is Brown Sheep Mill ends in natural grey, which I overdyed in rainbow fashion. Turned out jewel-toned. Nothing special about it, just another 2.2 ounces of soft, fluffly, fibery goodness in the world. It's firmly worsted weight with a bit of thick and thin texture. It's going up for sale this week at Knitteds and Fitteds....

Monday, March 13, 2006

Nuclear Fizz and other related matters

* This post took me two days to upload - don't mind me.

There it is. My latest handspun. It came off the wheel yesterday and it's on my blog this evening. Pretty good, since little man X is cutting his first teeth & won't sleep for love or money. It's so hard to capture the essential fuzzy, frizzy, tactile nature of this yarn in a photo. Go figure. It's got this soft halo of a million tiny threads poking out of it in every direction. Very cool. Especially since the colored single really lacked conviction that it was indeed a novelty yarn. The skein is 95 grams. 1 handspun single of hot bright felting roving plied with a furry eyelash yarn in black. They are both improved for being together.

I learned never buy roving under the heading of felting if you want to spin it. In all fairness, I actually bought it for felting, but I guess I just really don't like needle felting. Probably mostly due to the fact that I didn't spend a lot of time learning how to needle felt. That and the fact that having sharp, barbed needles out with twin toddlers is not a good idea. So I decided to spin it. I thought I had lost all ability for spinning a decently even yarn. It was not pretty. Double cuts everywhere. The roving was not uniform. Bumpity, slubity, thin here, too thick there, pull apart as you spin...... But I persevered. I spun the entire pound into yarn. (A goal that I set for myself.) It looks so much better now, too! ah, the sweet joy of a project turning out wonderfully better than you first aniticipated!

Here are a few more shots of the different skeins I spun out of the pound of wool - composed of several bumps of different colors.

This is a navajo 3 ply from the lumpity, bumpity felting roving. It's strong, cushy stuff!

The Nuclear Fizz in a skein. Purty!

I love, love, love the way these colors look together. I have no idea why. It's really not my usual style. It's orange and hot pink felting wool plied with a pink rainbow, rayon quilting thread. The rayon thread is shiny. They work very well together.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

2 1/2 pounds later

I only wish I were losing the baby weight. My stomach is starting to pull back in 4 months post X. I'm hoping that's due to the Pilates I've taken up. Talk about a stomach workout. I can only barely make it past the warmup before the stop-now-or-you-won't-make-it-off-the-floor burn sets in. Yeah, you fellow Pilates fanatics know what I mean. But that's not what I meant to talk about. Instead, my I present 1 3/4 pounds of the 2 1/2 that I dyed in the last two days. Not bad for watching 3 kids, and cleaning the house at the same time.

Come to think of it, I may have actually lost 2 1/2 pounds....but I avoid scales like the plague.

The three skeins on top (the ones that look wildly different) were dyed with the same dye batch & the same dye technique. I'm having tons of fun with the random dye. I get all sorts of surprizing results.

Geranium: up for sale tomorrow at

Surf: also up for sale tomorrow at

They're really pretty. I want to keep them. I pretty much feel that way about everything I dye. Except a few that I think are hideous. But without fail someone else loves them. Color is such and interesting and subjective thing. I love playing with it and seeing the results.

But these two skeins are by far my favorite. I'm also offering them for sale. I'm half hoping they won't go so that I can keep them. But I really haven't been knitting lately, so a new, loving home is the best place for them.
Fawn and Flora:

Sunday, March 05, 2006

You will now be subjected to......

a deluge of pictures of my kiddos & family. I think they're cute! Many of these are from last week's visit. You will see many instances of naturally occuring "rockstar" hair. Rockstar hair refuses to be mastered by such trivial things like hair clips or bands......

X and Daddy 15 minutes ago:

Grandma L wearing X:

The Twinkle Twins with Grandpa:

Uncle J and the Table:
(Uncle J is about 6 feet tall, the Twinkle Twins aren't)

Big Girl Beds:
(they didn't last. We opted to lower the crib mattressses & sleep instead)

Mad Scientist Miss G:

Miss E Winks:

That's all it will let me post.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

I am popular. Want to know why?

I am popular. Yes, I really am. It is just after 1:30pm and so far I have been visited by:

1.) FedEx: with new double celluar shades (the cordless window kind) for my living room, in Popcorn.

2.) UPS with a year's worth of Yarn of the Month yarn. And some other yarn I had to have. You'll be seeing that up for sale and custom slots in the stores soon.

3.) The Mail Guy: nothing of yarn or spinning interest, though.

4.) TruGreen Chem Lawn: just applying our pre-emergent crabgrass preventer, etc.

5.) FedEx Again: Because apparently they forgot to leave my $80 worth of dye and assists earlier.

Have you ever seen such wonderful yarn? There's a lot more in the box than you can see in the picture. The box is stuffed as full as full can be. Mmmmm, feeling the yarn love. Rayon chenille, thick n thin wool, mohair/wool blend, pure merino of two types. Can you say swoon?

And finally, here are the boxes as they came to me (minus the junk mail and the window shades box.) Plus, I am expecting another box with blocks to make my girlies Pink Tower (I got the blocks for $10, shipped. I like a mere $80 savings...) tomorrow. I do what I can to keep FedEx, Ups and the USPS in business.......