Thursday, October 28, 2010

Fiber, Fiber, and More Fiber!!

That's what I have!! Fiber, fiber, and more fiber!! The fleeces that I had sent off to the mill returned.....and it is all absolutely beautiful!! I'm so tickled with the way everything turned out. I was so incredibly nervous sending off all that lovely fiber. It's been years since I have had anything done by a mill.

Back when I first started getting into Shetlands....and was slowly phasing out my Angora goats....I took my first shearing of Shetland into the local mill to be processed into pencil roving. I had taken in my mohair the year before to be done and it came out beautifully, so I didn't think twice about taking in my Shetland. Well, since my Shetlands were lambs....and I had some kids as well, I thought a blend of the two would be wonderful. Took everything in expecting to hear good things. I figured the owners of the mill would be thrilled to see that I was actually blending wool with the mohair. Not a lot was said...and I was okay with that. I thought it was wonderful that they were so busy (especially since they had opened up the year before). Few weeks later went back to pick up my finished fiber. The fiber looked great. Cost more than what I was expecting....especially since I only got back about half of what I had taken in. I thought "okay, they are local and you do what you have to do to support local." The thing I wasn't okay with was being told that unless I blended some other wool with my Shetland, they would not do it anymore. They also wouldn't do a Shetland/Mohair blend anymore. They had gotten in with the local alpaca breeders and decided that they were going to focus on alpaca only. I honestly couldn't believe that they would leave out so many local sheep breeders like that. I mean, if you expect the local fiber community to support you, then you should support them.....which they chose not to do. I did take fiber to them the following year....hoping that they had changed their way of thinking. I had taken in 40 pounds of polypay fleeces that I was hoping to have blended with the last of my mohair....but didn't. Ended up selling the mohair on its own. When I finally got the call to pick up my fiber, it was months later. And it wasn't worth the drive out. Out of 40 pounds of fiber, I only got back 17 pounds of roving. I was told that it was normal to lose at least 50% of what you took in....if not more. Of course the bill I had to pay didn't reflect that.  :.(  The worse part of it all was that when I started to actually spin up the roving I found wool of various colors in it.....and all the fleeces I had taken in were white. Needless to say I took the money that I normally would have spent at the local mill and bought a drum carder instead. Have been doing my own fiber ever since.....which is why I was nervous sending my fleeces in this year.

Of course I didn't send them to the local mill.....which I heard has since closed down. Seems the local alpaca breeders opted to not support them as they had hoped. Also heard that they had turned away quite a few of the larger local sheep breeders, who then took their business to mills outside the area. Tsk, tsk. Shame on them for not supporting all of the local fiber community. I know that I sent my fiber out of the area to be processed....even though I got an earful and some looks from a few local spinners. "You know, you should have your fiber done by this local lady. She picks all the fleeces by hand. Yes, there is still quite a bit of vm in the roving....but she does put tissue paper between all the layers."  I'm sure those that take their fiber to this local person to be done are happy with it, but if I wanted to pick out vm then I would simply do my fiber myself. And I won't even get into the tissue paper thing.

The fiber I got back from the mill was absolutely stunning!! I had sent in 22 pounds of fiber (Shetland fleeces and alpaca blankets) and got back 20 pounds of incredibly soft, incredibly clean roving. The Shetland fleeces were ran as they were packaged (although I was expecting it all to be done together) and the mill even put the names on the bags of whose fleece was done with whose....which thrilled me to no end. What really impressed me even more than that was the alpaca. I know how much my alpaca roll and what they roll in. The fiber I got back was amazing clean and so incredibly soft!! After I got done playing with it, I started spinning it. Spun up 10 ounces of alpaca roving. It spun like a dream!! Drafted evenly with very little effort. No dirty fingers. Very little vm. I think I picked out maybe six small pieces of vm out of the entire 10 ounces that I spun. The roving was soft going through my fingers. No icky feeling like some mill processed roving tends to get. No weird smell either. All the roving has this very pleasant, clean smell to it. It was actually hypnotic to spin. I had intended to only spin up 4 ounces...just to see how it spins. Ended up doing 10 ounces....and have a pattern picked out for the finished yarn.  :.)

As for the Shetland roving.....well, after playing with that for quite some time I have finally started spinning some of it up. I have started with the brown-gray roving (from Caspian and Charlie). Have to admit it's spinning up beautifully! The color of the singles is a bit surprising as they have almost a tweedy look to them. The singles are soft to the touch. The roving is drafting very nicely....very easily. It's a joy to spin. There are no neps or noils in the roving at all. The mill did an absolutely beautiful job processing it. (And I have seen Shetland roving that was filled with neps and noils....not a pretty sight!) I'm planning on spinning up only 4 ounces of each color of the Shetland roving. We'll see how that goes.  :.)

**Pictured top, light gray Shetland (from Angus and Boogie).....brown-gray Shetland (from Caspian and Charlie) Shetland (from Trixie and Q-Tip)......bobbin of alpaca singles.....alpaca roving (from Jack and Casa). And, yes, the alpaca roving photos as a reddish-brown, but the bobbin looks to be a darker brown. Same fiber. Different lighting. Still a joy to spin regardless of the color.**

Friday, October 22, 2010

"Fun" Socks named because the colorway of the roving I spun for the yarn used in these socks was called "Clown".....and I really don't want to call these my "clown socks".  :.)  Since they were so fun to knit......hence, the name. The cuff, heel, and toe was knit using my own  hand-spun, hand-dyed polypay yarn. The body of the sock was knit using the "clown" hand-spun yarn (which I'm guessing is just a generic wool).
I saw a sock pattern that I really liked but the pattern called for a heavier weight yarn than what I wanted to use. So I re-worked the pattern for the yarn and needles I wanted to use. I opted to make the cuff a bit longer than what the original pattern called for. The top of the sock is knit using a diamond lace pattern. While this is a really pretty pattern, unfortunately I didn't realize that the colorway of my yarn made it to where you really couldn't see the pattern until I was halfway done with the leg. I opted to continue instead of ripping back and using a different pattern. The instep of the sock was done using a K2,P2 rib instead of continuing with the diamond lace pattern.

I really like the way the socks turned out. The socks fit nicely (although they are a little loose on the leg where the lace pattern is). I think the cuff is my favorite part of the whole sock. I love the way it gently hugs my leg above the ankle....where I love wearing my socks at. The socks that hit mid-calf really bother me and I find that I tend to fold them down anyway. Just more comfortable for me. I don't have the "my socks are falling down" feeling.  :.)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tide Pool Quilt

 Here is the completed Tide Pool quilt. I'm real pleased with the way it turned out. Washed up beautifully, too. I kept the quilting simple. Serpentine stitch in the sashing.....echo quilting in the light parts of the blocks......a free motion wave motif in the inner border.....and a fun free-motion design in the outer border. Used a variety of variegated threads for the machine quilting....with the exception of the light colored areas in the blocks themselves. I didn't want the quilting to take center stage, so I used a thread to match. Kept it real subtle. The quilt was bound with the same fabric as was used for the inner border. Batiks was used for the entire quilt with the exception of the backing.....which was done using a rather "loud" yellow and orange floral print. Actually looks really pretty and goes real well with the front of the quilt. Another pleasant surprise.  :.)

"Pug Hugs" Pillow

I have a very good friend who has five pugs. We email each other quite often (sometimes several times a day) and once she signed her email "Pug Hugs"....being funny as she is.  :.) Well, I was trying to think of something that I could make for her for Christmas that was uniquely her when I came across a pug applique. Was tossing around ideas for how I could use this when I suddenly remembered her humorous sign off that one time...."Pug Hugs!" Hence, the birth of a new project.  :.) 

While I can't take credit for the original drawing of the pug itself, I did make a few simple changes to it so that it would be easier to digitize and stitch out on the embroidery machine. After the pug was digitized, I moved it into another module of my embroidery software where I then added the lettering. Pictured above is the end result. I had tons of fun playing around with the lettering and the positioning of the lettering.

I had toyed with the idea of making several blocks and putting them into a lap quilt.....but this just seemed better suited for a pillow. So I found some lovely paw print fabric which I used to frame the pillow center. I also used it for the pillow back and the binding. The pillow center was machine quilted using matching thread before the pillow was put together. I did a free motion loop-de-loop motif on it quilting in the names of all five pugs in the process. This was a really fun project to do. :.)

14" pillow

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Final Sampler Block

 Here it is! The final sampler block. This one took the most time to do, but was well worth all the effort in the end. It was done using fusible web machine applique with raw edge techniques. Took a bit to get all the pieces in just the right places. I had put the pattern under my background fabric to aid in placement of all the pieces. Not quite sure I like the way "Suspender Sam" turned out.......but it's going in the quilt anyway.  :.) Did the flowers using silk ribbon embroidery with beaded centers. Also did a bit of silk ribbon embroidery on Sue's bonnet. Did a simple decorative stitch on his hat with the machine. The 16-patch alternate blocks will have to wait until I get a few more Christmas gifts done. Hopefully this will become at least a finished top by the end of the year....if not sooner.

30's Sampler update

Over the last couple of days, I have managed to finish up the last five sampler blocks for this quilt. It was a bit challenging at how to do a block using fusible web machine applique when English paper piecing was suggested. Or there were those moments of indesicion. Do I do this by machine? Or by hand? Embroidery floss? Or silk ribbon embroidery?

 The first block pictured is the Foundation Rose. It was highly suggested to this block using English paper piecing. Well, I honestly had enough of English paper piecing (with using it for two other blocks) and decided that I wanted to do this block using fusible web machine applique. Have to confess the block came out much better than I had anticipated. The only thing I would do differently (if I had to make this block again) is to make templates for each piece and then use the templates when transferring my design to the fusible web. This would have made each piece more uniform which would have allowed the block to go together a bit easier. As it was, I had simply traced each piece from the pattern and then added a quarter inch seam allowance. It was the adding of the seam allowance that gave me a slight variance in the shapes of the various pieces. Thankfully it wasn't enough to cause too much grief when putting the block together.  :.)

The next block is the hollyhock wreath. Block went together easily and I really didn't change much.....although I did replace the fabric for the larger leaves. The kit came with only three fabrics. The two shown for the flowers....and green....which I used for the stems and smaller leaves. I felt it was too much green and wanted to use something a bit different for the leaves. Unfortunately I only had one shade of green in my 30's reproduction stash that played nicely with the solid green fabric. So the large leaves got the new fabric. I think it adds a little something to the block overall.

The next block is the Barbara Fritchie Star. I made changes to this one as well. Fabric changes. The kit for this block came with three fabrics.....background fabric, light fabric, and dark fabric. There was enough light fabric for the star itself....and only enough dark for the star center. I didn't want a light colored star. Felt there wouldn't be enough contrast against the background. So went into my 30's stash and came out with the purple that the star is done in. Used the light colored fabric that was in the kit for the star center. I'm real pleased with the way it turned out.

The last picture is of the 30's Butterfly block. I used all the fabrics that were in the one of my own. The detailing in the wings was done on my machine using a triple straight stitch. Gave a heavy of enough line of stitching to be visible, but not too heavey to be overpowering. Instead of stitching in the circles on the wings, I opted to applique them on....using a yellow print that came from my 30's stash. The antennae were drawn on with a fine pigma pen, then stitched over with a single line of straight stitching. I wanted to retain the delicate look the antennae had when drawn in with the pigma pen.

All the blocks, with the exception of the pieced block, were done using fusible web machine applique (and raw edge applique techniques). I tend to "window" every piece so there is very little fusible web in the quilt. Just enough to hold the pieces in place. As for the fifth, and final, block.....well, it is close to being done. Just needs a bit of beading and I will be able to call it complete. Picture coming soon.  :.)