Hand Spun

Hand Spun
Campfire Hat

Friday, November 26, 2010

And the world moves on...

After a wonderful week of vacation I'm looking at the weekend before I go back to work. And WOW did I relax this week. There was a bit of work mixed in as well since the cold weather hit and we had to get the outside animals all set up for bitter cold temps and biting winds. But for the most part, I sat at home and did as I pleased. I got to stay up late and sleep in, spin on my new wheel, crochet two hats for a lady at work, play with the birds and have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Jeff and I got to enjoy our week off and I actually feel ready to move on with the world when Monday rolls around again. That's how you know your vacation was a success I suppose. I have mandatory OT for the next two weeks  at work and somehow I don't really mind. I have Christmas and things to look forward to so it makes it easier. Also, the things that didn't sell at the craft bazaar are going to make great gifts for my friends. I find it more satisfying to give homemade gifts to people who can appreciate the effort I put into making the items than I get from giving those types of gifts to people who really couldn't care less. Strange isn't it?
Here's what my lavender soap looks like. Carol sent the picture to me when it came out of the mold. I really had a wonderful time making it and I think it's a valuable skill to pick up if I can just get myself set up with the initial equipment and material. That's going to take a bit of time but the more I think about it the more I really want to do it. I cut the smaller batch of "Alice" scented soap and it's so citrusy (made that word up I think) and wonderful! Even Jeff likes the smell of it. When I trimmed the edges of the soap at the two ends I kept the pieces and used them in my bathroom even though they aren't really cured yet. They lather up so nicely! Carol said that's from the coconut oil we used. She also let me add some lanolin to my soaps. Yummy!! Since working with sheep fleeces I've come to appreciate the effects of lanolin a great deal. Which brings me to my wheel update. I've spun A LOT of single so far this week and I'm going to ply next week. I am NOT a big fan of the merino wool/kid mohair roving I've been using. It's so neppy!  I believe I need to try working with a slightly coarser wool. I have a huge bag of ribbon winning merino wool here that I'm not sure I want to work with right now. *sigh* I always manage to make things more difficult than they really have to be I guess. I am looking forward to spinning alpaca and angora but I want to wait to do those until I have a better understanding of my tension on the Rose and more control over my speeds and drafting. The wheel is the same mechanically but that's like saying Mexico and Greece are both basically land masses.  The differences are tremendous between my older model Ashford and this Majacraft.  But between now and Christmas I hope to get a better handle on my spinning and on knitting as well. I was supposed to be practicing my knitting over vacation but I procrastinated. It takes so much concentration to knit for me right now as a beginner. It's not the knit... it's the purl. Also, Carol is having me hold it Continental instead of English so I'm getting used to manipulating the needles all over again. It's a good thing she's having me learn but it's taking a lot of work to re-learn my basic skills all over again. I really want to knit a garment from alpaca eventually. I was in a shop in the mall this week and saw some hand woven and hand knit garments made from alpaca from Ecuador. AMAZING stuff!
So those are my thoughts as the weekend begins and I get back into the groove of real life again. I feel sort of out of the loop a bit since while I was lazy everyone else I know was going along without a break. :) Hopefully as I get back up to speed I'll have some fun pictures to show of my knitting progress and my new yarn I'm spinning up. Once I finish up this awful roving I have now I'm moving on directly to alpaca I think. Can't wait for that!! Well, I'm off for now. We might get snow tomorrow. :D

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Well it's very cold here! 9 degrees F. this morning when I got up. The chickens spent the night under a heat lamp in the coop and the bunny has been moved into the garage where she and the cats seem to be much more comfortable than if they were outside. The dogs even got set up with comfy beds and sleeping spots. Meanwhile, I can't wait until it warms up to above freezing finally.
It's been a great vacation so far. I have spun and crocheted and sewn and played with the birds and Jeff and I went to the mall yesterday. I haven't been to the mall for almost 3 years before yesterday! lol! Today is Thanksgiving and we have sunshine outside and a warm fire inside. Daisy woke up singing "You Are My Sunshine" and Qwynn has been happy and chatting all morning as well. I love it when the birds wake up on the right side of the perch.
We're getting  a smoked turkey for sandwiches this afternoon  but we aren't telling the birds. :) I'm going to steam some butternut squash and vegetables, make some stuffing or mashed potatoes and they can have some of that when we eat. They love butternut squash almost as much as I do. It's a low-key holiday since neither Jeff or I have family to spend the holiday with but we're both OK with that. I'm downloading some audio books off Audible.com, watching re-runs of favorite TV shows and I'm going to spin more single today and then attempt plying on the Rose for the first time. I'm a little nervous about that. Yesterday at the mall I visited a shop that sold hand woven jackets from Ecuador and they were obviously made from handspun wool. Beautiful designs! It made me wish I had the time and patience to learn to weave as well as spin, knit, and crochet. I'm supposed to be practicing my knitting as well this week. The only problem is that it takes so much concentration to knit that I feel like I've been wrung out by the time I take a break. It isn't very relaxing for me yet. I'm definitely looking forward to spinning more today though.
Last night I thought about all the things I have to be thankful for and the list became so long that I fell asleep. The friends I have, the home, the family and critters, our jobs that provide the income to support our little hobby farm here are all on the list.  When the weather starts to turn cold and nasty I'm always conscious of the blessing of warmth. The split lodgepole wood we got is hard and burns hot and long so it's been absolutely wonderful to burn.
With Thanksgiving here I can now openly listen to Christmas music without people looking at me funny. :) I'm feeling pretty lazy today so I'm going to sign off for now. I've gotten so used to  sleeping in and staying up late that I hope I can go back to my normal work schedule next week. :) Happy Thanksgiving!!!!!!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Finally vacation has arrived!

I am officially on vacation all next week. With Thanksgiving on the horizon and cooler temps here to stay for a while, we've begun using the wood burning stove and I'm playing Christmas music already. I LOVE this holiday season. If they had Thanksgiving music I'd play that instead, but as it is, Christmas music sets the tone nicely.  Neither Jeff or I have family who celebrates holidays so we are having a holiday at home season again which is OK with us. We aren't traveling or worrying about travelers coming to us. The last two weeks have been so busy that I am ready for vacation! First there was the craft bazaar to get through. Which I did. It was my first time participating and I had fun, for the most part, and enjoyed seeing which of my things sold and hearing what people had to say about them. We were given numbers as vendors so nobody knew what vendor name  belonged to what craft. That was interesting. Some folks put their cards out with their things which was smart for returning customers. But after it was all said and done, I was relieved to have it over. I'm not sure if I'll do it again next year. It's hard putting the things you made with love out for people to paw through and comment on. It feels like standing naked on a corner lot while pedestrians walk by. Lol! NOT that I've ever done that either but I think it must be just as disconcerting. Now for the best part....

Jeff e-mailed me at work yesterday to say my spinning wheel was ready to pick up! With a little creative financial geniusing he managed to get enough money to pay my wheel off and I brought the Majacraft Rose spinning wheel home last night.
Majacraft Rose
Here she is. :) As for looks, I think the Traditional wheel is prettier. But for sheer mechanics and and as a production wheel, the Rose has it where it counts. And the wood used to make it is really lovely as well. I got my jammies on, snapped a couple of pics and started spinning with some prepared roving. The roving was a kid mohair/merino wool mix and a bit neppy. But I spun a nice fine single using the standard whorl and I'm very happy with my wheel! I can't wait to get back to it again tonight. For now, I figured it was time to catch up with my blog, let the parrots play around while I typed and enjoyed the scenery outside this morning. This is what my yard looked like when I got up today.

It was snowing. It stuck but it won't stay.

It's our first snow of the year in the valley and almost everyone is glad to see it. Those who aren't are lamenting the weather change but when God says it should snow, who's gonna argue? Not me. Meanwhile, I sit comfy and warm in my home with Jeff, the birds and our hedgehog while the dogs play in the snow, the cats avoid it at all costs and the chickens peck at it suspiciously. It's the chickens' first snow since they were hatched and when I let them out of the coop this morning they were afraid of the snow. I don't know if they thought I had manufactured it to throw them off or if it was a dangerous creature in a hitherto unseen form but they hid under their coop for a while before deciding it was safe to venture out. I spread a little of the parrot's leftover seed on the ground and that seemed to encourage the chickens to peck at the snow and make sure they were going to be OK. Chickens indeed!
Fog is rolling in now so we have some low lying clouds coming in to sit on the hill top we live on. It's going to be a gloomy day I fear. Tonight is the Canyon County Christmas show at the Idaho Center and Jeff is going to take me tonight to look around. I just love craft shows. My friend Carol is at one today selling her wares at a booth. I hope she does really well. Her hand spun yarns and hand knit hats and cowls and gloves and socks are the best ever! Tomorrow she is going to teach me to make soap. At our holiday bazaar at work someone brought in goats' milk soap to sell. It smelled alright at first but it had an "after smell" that was unpleasant and it seemed like it would be one of those soaps that smelled great the first 2 times you used it and after that the nice scent would be gone and the nasty smell would be all that was left until the soap was a sliver. Carol's soap stays lathery and smells good up until the very last particle has been used. THAT is the kind of soap I would be proud to make. And she is going to be generous enough to teach me!! And now that the holiday bazaar is over, I have to buckle down and learn to knit for real and true. No more crochet deadlines are hanging over my head so it's time to get serious about knitting. I am also going to start spinning straight angora rabbit fur now that I have my new wheel. I'm using the roving that came with it to learn the ins and outs and settings of the wheel and whorl and then I'm going to focus on angora. It's almost time to shear Licorice, my black angora rabbit. She's so fluffy right now!! The little tufts at the tips of her ears have grown out and she looks like a cross between a gnome and a rabbit. She's adorable and of course, soooooooo soft! That black fur is going to spin into something beautiful! This coming spring I hope to acquire another angora rabbit. I have a huge merino fleece to start working with too. My friend let me borrow her book by Margaret Stover on preparing and spinning merino wool. It's not for the faint hearted that's for sure. I'm wondering if I shouldn't get one more fleece to play around with that's not quite as fine as merino. I'll have to think on that for a bit though. I have more than enough to focus on for now.
Well, off to play with the birds and eat some snacks. No church for us today because of the weather (and I woke up too late) so it's a home day. Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Crazy antics!

Life at my house has been just nuts since Sunday. There I was, calmly watching TV at 7pm in my living room when a tiny little field mouse goes skittering behind Daisy's cage and under the TV. I, of course, yell for Jeff and start wondering where the little monster came from and how I'm going to deal with the invasion. It took me 3.2 seconds to decide we were being overrun. (rolls eyes) So I moved furniture, vacuumed the house - again - and tried to remove any possible food source. Of course, the whole time I'm doing this, I realize that while I'm at work on Monday the birds will be throwing food to the mice all day long. Probably in exchange for whatever tricks the mice know. I had the whole mouse/bird conspiracy worked out in my head before I had finished cleaning that night. Nevertheless, I had to do something so since we had no traps in the house, I cleaned. Monday night we bought traps and brought them home. Jeff began setting them out and I decided to wash the bedding. I lifted a blanket of the bed and a mouse jumped out of the now aloft blanket, bounced off me and landed back on the bed. I screamed because I was so startled and he then had the audacity to race across MY PILLOW in order to escape the screaming human female who rousted him out of his soft, warm bed. So now I'm washing everything  - again. Jeff caught the mouse last night but I have no idea how long he's been in here. I vacuum or sweep every night so no mouse poop would have accumulated to tell me we had an interloper of the rodent variety. I had 3 baskets of freshly washed laundry sitting in the bedroom. All of that will now be washed again as well. My unexplained asthma is now perfectly understandable as well. I'm VERY allergic to mice. Almost as allergic as I am to cats. Lucky me huh?
Tonight I got home from work with Subway for Jeff and I. We got the chickens set up with a heat lamp and I cleaned the rabbit hutch. We're supposed to get a bit of snow tonight so I wanted the critters all as comfortable as possible before the first storm. After chores I let the inside birds out to play on their cage tops and sat down to eat. Daisy, my Blue Fronted Amazon, decided my sandwich looked really good and that she wanted some. Now keep in mind that Daisy never learned to fly. When I got her she had been clipped by the breeder and was almost a year old. Since I got her, I let her fledge and have been helping her experiment with flight. It's good for parrots to at least learn to fly even if you have to clip them for safety reasons later. Anyway, Daisy decided to come get a piece of my sandwich all on her own and LAUNCHED herself straight up in the air and flew onto our ceiling fan, landing on a blade. We always keep the ceiling fan off when the birds are out and I was never more glad about that than I was today. lol! Here's Daisy....

She looked so confused about how she got up there and she didn't have a clue how to get down. I had to snap these pics before I stood on the back of the couch to rescue her. Right after this, my African Grey who is fully flighted flew into the dining area (which she knows is off limits) to land on my head.  Putting down my half eaten sandwich, I admitted defeat and made the birds some hand feeding formula to give them. It's a special treat that I mix with red palm oil to help their feathers and skin stay healthy. They LOVE it. Qwynn, the African Grey gets it from a syringe like she did when she was a baby and Daisy prefers to eat it out of a cup. After I gave it to them, Qwynn sat and talked to her toys while she played with them (which was really cute by the way) and Daisy played with her plastic measuring cups and sang a little bit of a song from time to time. It was like I'd flipped the magic switch and everyone was happy. I actually got to finish my food afterward too which made me happy as well.
Thursday is Veteran's Day and my company is giving it to us as a paid holiday. I have an appointment with Cleo at The Sheep Shed to go look at new spinning wheels. She's going to let me spin on a few and pick out the one I want so I can put money down on it and start paying it off. I hope to be able to bring it home by Christmas! Woohooo!! I'm very excited. Already I think I want a Schacht with a high speed whorl. I haven't actually spun on it yet so I'm waiting to make my final decision once I've spun on the wheels. I feel like a kid in a candy shop though. Jeff got his new video game tonight and I've been encouraging him to go play with it. He did for a while then came and slept on the couch while I crocheted yet another hat for the holiday bazaar and watched TV. Then he volunteered to go get me some orange juice because I mentioned it sounded good (he's so awesome!) and when he came home, we battened down the hatches and the rain started. The roads are going to be slick in the morning so I'm going to hit the sack now and get up early to make the drive in safe and as slowly as I need to. Hope everyone reading this is safe, warm, loved and happy tonight. :)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Bird Brain

OK. I have this thing about birds. I love 'em! Big ones, little ones, ones that sing, ones that talk, and even birds that bite. God had me in mind when he made birds. I have NO idea why it took me 33 years to figure it out though. I am allergic to virtually every animal on the planet - except birds. I have asthma but do you think that stops me from giving my African Grey kisses on her tummy and breathing in all her dusty goodness? It most certainly does not. And my asthma is not exacerbated by it in the least. My mom was very allergic to birds so we never had them in the house when I was growing up. But she loved them too. She raised geese outside. Those geese followed my mother everywhere! She would be outside weeding the flowers and she 'd have one goose on her left and one on her right and all 3 of them would have their heads poking into the same plant or sbrub. So I'm in excellent company when I admit that I love birds. I have a house full of them. In fact. Here's the count:
3 Quaker parrots
4 cockatiels
4 finches
1 canary
1 Maroon bellied conure
1 Blue Front Amazon parrot
1 Congo African Grey
1 Lovebird
No partridges in the pear tree yet but I do have 5 chickens outside in a coop as well. So since this blog is going to be about the things I love, I had to give the birds some space of their own.

Craft Night with the girls

Wednesday night this week a few good friends and I got together for craft night at my place.  The birds were all on their best behavior (except the Amazon of course) and we had nachos with Carrie's homemade salsa, cookies and finger food. Good stuff! After the eating we all compared projects and I took pictures which I am going to post. Carrie is crocheting dresses for her grand daughters, Rachel is working on her first granny square afghan, Suzie did this amazing amigurumi dragon and is working on a penguin now. Her daughter made her a panda and I have a picture of that too. I'm doing more fingerless gloves to sell at the craft bazaar.  So we all sat around and chatted and told stories. Carrie got a new tattoo of her African Grey parrot so we got to see that too. All in all, it was a very good time and we scheduled the night for next month to do it again! There's nothing like having a gaggle of girls to hang out with and craft and share with. We talked about how God brings us together as friends at the right times with the right people and how happy we were for that gift. There's just nothing like a good friend! Can't wait for next month!
In the meanwhile, I've been working OT at work (sigh) and trying to have a life at the same time. Virtually impossible if I want to get 7 or 8 hours of sleep at night as well as spin or crochet or watch a movie or something. So I'm short on sleep tonight and already feeling like I should be in bed. Our wood for winter was delivered today and I'm super relieved to have that all taken care of. The fence guy finally called us back and he's going to start a chicken coop run expansion for us next week. Hooray!! I still have a cough and I'm supposed to sing at church tomorrow. I can't get through the song I picked out so my cousin Rachel is going to sing with me and that will be wonderful! My voice is just too weak after 17 days of coughing, clearing my throat and trying to function.
I sat down at the spinning wheel tonight for a few minutes until my back started to ache from hunching over. I need a better spinning chair. Anyway, I grabbed what I thought was alpaca and started to spin it. The hand of the roving felt all wrong and I couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong. Then I realized I'd picked up the wrong bag and was spinning coarse wool not soft alpaca! Duh! That's when I realized I was too tired to spin anything worth using and I should set it aside until later. When a spinner can't tell the difference between coarse wool and alpaca, it's time to call it a night. :(  I want to make time to spin this weekend though. I still have lap quilts to finish but I NEED to spin. I physically crave it at this point. Does that make me an addict? (laughing)
My friend Carol is going to be at the Eagle holiday craft bazaar this weekend and I'm going to go visit her booth and check out all the crafty stuff on Sunday. This time of year is so much fun! Thanksgiving is just around the corner and I have that whole week off to spin and knit and crochet and spin and spin some more. Did I mention I plan on spinning that week? :)  Then Christmas comes next with all the good food, the caroling, the cold weather and snow and warm fires. Yeah!!!
OK, well enough about that I guess. I'm going to post some pictures of crafts from craft night and my most recent yarn. I got some variegated top from a friend and it's the first top I've ever spun. It became a nice bit of yarn. Check out those colors!!
Carrie's tattoo is of her African Grey named Allison.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Random blogginess

Being new to blogging I'm not sure if there are generally accepted ideas about how often one should blog to be consider a " decent " blogger. Not that I'm the poster child for decency, but I do like to put forth my best effort. Everyone is voting today. Well, I haven't voted yet because I am at work making money to pay taxes so that the people I vote for can use my hard earned cash well. Right. Having said that, I have mandatory overtime at work so if I can get to the polls I will. If not, I will never admit it. Heeheehee.
I think I am finally turning the corner toward getting away from this cold bug. Meanwhile I have Craft Group at my house tomorrow night and I can hardly wait. Tonight I mop floors, hassle Jeff about cleaning his bathroom, make sure I have chairs and snack ideas all worked out and get ready to have company. Most of us are crocheting right now with a knitter mixed in occasionally. I might spin since I'll be at home and won't have to lug the wheel around anywhere to use it. I haven't gotten to spin or sew for two weeks so it's time to blow the dust off and get cracking again. I'm at T minus 2 weeks and one day before the holiday bazaar at work so I need to have my crafts completed and priced before then. My crocheted items are done but my lap quilts still need bindings and I have two more to start from scratch if I have time. But my heart is longing to spin my alpaca! I need to tell my heart to just hold it's horses and settle down because my other crafts are what will pay for my new spinning wheel. I need to go out to The Sheep Shed and look at wheels with Cleo and put some money down on one though. Now that I know what to look for in a wheel this buying experience will be much different than it was with my first wheel.
Having blogged, I now feel better. Not like so much of a slacker anymore. I'm going back to work to earn my daily crust of bread. :)