Thursday, August 31, 2006

King of the Bongo

Lately I've been listening to that song a lot. For anyone who hasn't heard it, it's Bongo Bong by Manu Chao.

I've realize recently that I have more fleece than I know what to do with. This realization mostly struck me while trying to process fleeces on my days off of work. It's a little quicker now, having borrowed a drum carder from a friend. Naturally, my response to this terrible realization was to order more fleeces. You can't say you wouldn't have done the same. I have samples coming from a suri farm in Colorado, and lots of fleece from a huacaya farm in Wisconsin. I've also entered back into negotiations with Allison of New Moon Alpacas. I love her fleeces, and talking to her is always a blast. If you need fleeces, talk to Allison, you won't regret it! But you can't have Pandora's or Bartleby's this year. They're mine, all mine!

What else could I tell you? I came down with a head cold on saturday. It was horrible, snot everywhere. Work on monday was horrible so I called in sick tuesday. By yesterday I was starting to feel better and made it through a five hour shift. Did I mention the new job? At a organic vegetarian bakery/cafe. I do love it a lot, and hope to stay there for a while.

I have tons of spinning to show you, alpaca DK weight, alpaca laceweight, really laceweight silk spun from hankies. Unfortunately, Sister Twoshoes, Small Boy Twoshoes, Pregnant Twoshoes and Squinty Eye Twoshoes have all gone to Florida. With the digital Camera. Without me. So you can have pictures of goodies. In ten days when they come back from Florida without me.

In other news I received my last Secret Pal 8 package. I tell you, my spoiler, Princess Genevieve, really went above and beyond the call of duty. The latest package contained Cherry Tree Hill sock yarn, in the Life's A Beach colourway. I LOVE it. With the fiery passion of a thousand suns, or something very near that. It also had some yellow Cascade. I've heard everyone rant about Cascade, so I guess I get to jump n the bandwagon! The person I was spoiling was Malin from Sweden. Aparently the 'Maskros' in her name means Dandelion. A fitting pair we are! Malin in turn was spoiling Genevieve so I'm wondering SP coordinators, is this an oddity, or is the pal-distributing done in trios?

That's about all for now, Dorkboy Twoshoes is about due for a walk, and is driving me stark raving mad. I get to teach someone to knit tonight. I'm taking her to a yarn store too. As the Yarn Harlot once put it, Missionary Work. Brothers, Sisters, spread the word of Yarn!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Fake It

So there's this blog I really like reading. A spinning blog, alpaca blog, and lately, garden blog all in one. Meet The Spinning Guy. I've posted a few comments, regarding fibre analysis and crimp. I've been trying to sound like I know what the heck I'm talking about, but I'm not sure I do. So a short breakdown of the extent of my knowledge of alpaca fibre, and some of my opinions, seemed like a great way to blog without going through the hell of uploading pictures onto the computer.

I learned to spin at the South Country Fair in Fort Mcleod, Alberta in 2004. Dave and Connie Carlson of YKnot Fibres had set up a booth and I was immediately entranced. They showed me some pencil roving and a cd drop spindle, and I was soon merrily putting twist into the already drafted fleece. The cd spindle didn't hold me for long, and by the next day I had moved on to a Navajo Spindle. I bought it, and a shorter one for sitting on the ground with. Dave and Connie also raised llamas, alpacas and sheep. So I brought home some white wool, some alpaca, and some baby llama. That was pretty much the beginning of my love affair with alpacas, and their fibre.

I kept on spinning on my little spindle, sometimes up to five hours a day. And my arm hurt like heck, so I started researching spinning wheels. After long deliberation I decided on an Ashford Traveller Double Drive. A not very long but pointless story had me end up with single drive, which I'm sure right now I love much better. Like everyone starting out on a wheel my stuff was overkinked and could be used to anker a ship. Needless to say, I did not submit alpaca to that treatment, but common wool. This was in November 2004. A few months later I responded to an add in the paper, for too much alpaca fleece to handle. Carolyn of TLC Alpaca Ranch let me take about 20 lbs of fibre off her hands, at 8$/lb. Plus several bags of "felting" quality. A word about their sorting method; most breeders have 7 grades for a fleece, Carolyn only used the first 3 grades. Which means that their felting quality is really very spinable.

I still have many pounds of their fibre left, and a friend has recently loaned me her drum carder, so I'm working like mad to try and process fleeces. Anyway, back to what I know about the fibre itself. A histogram, or fibre analysis gives us the micron count of an animals blanket fleece. Angus McColl, The director of The Yocom-McColl fibre testing facility said that "Histograms should be compared to other animals in the same herd of the same age, not against an animal living on a different diet and of an entirely different age group." Now, this is completely reasonable and true, for breeders. For us that don't own any alpacas and are just wanting spinning fleeces, we should compare, in order to find the fleece best suited to what we want to make. But when you look at a fibre analysis, please look at more than the micron count. If the animal is 22 microns, with a high standard deviation, you're going to spend hours picking out guard hairs to get that 22 microns. A very useful bit of info on most histograms, is the Comfort Factor. Obviously, an animal whose fleece has a comfort factor of 98% will do very well worn next to the skin.

Don't let micron count give you the blues. I'll accept almost any fleece, and spin it. It doesn't have to be soft, i'll go for colour instead. I have 4 lbs of coarse suri locks, but they have great staple length and lustre. I recently ordered a fleece of 32 microns with a 6.3 standard deviation, but the colour is amazing. Everyone needs rugs and totebags.

And now, a short word on crimp. People are always going for crimp, and breeding for as much as they can get. Which is good for a light, fluffy, bouncy yarn with lots of memory. As I said in my comment to the spinning guy, no crimp is not Bad, Suri alpacas are highly prized. But if you're breeding for crimp, which I think almost all huacaya breeders are to some extent, no crimp certainly isn't good. Anyone who's read a few posts back probably remembers Bartleby, part of a fleece I purchased from New Moon Alpacas in California. His father was a Snowmass alpaca, and his fleece is Crimpy. And soft, and completely amazing. Spinning Guy asked if anyone notices the difference once the fibre has been processed. I can say that I do notice a difference, but I think for it to become very obvious one must work with something that has no crimp, like suri. In combing suri, Static is a pain and the top will fall apart very easily once it comes through the diz. But once I start combing huacaya the top is fluffy and sticks together. The crimpier the fleece gets, the fluffier and bouncier the combing is, and the static trouble is easier to deal with.

There are lots of levels of crimpiness in between none and, well, merino, sometimes you won't even notice a difference if there's only a little bit more or less. But one thing I've noticed is that if you are going to spin a short staple length, crimp will make it Lots easier. Short staple length with crimp won't shed as much as short staple length without, that's for damn sure. So, in conclusion, take on almost anything, but in order to spin the best yarn you can, note several things. Staple Length, Lustre, Crimp, Comfort Factor, and Colour. Alpacas come in 22 natural colours, try before you dye!

If this is at all helpful, let me know, and if I just sound like a rambling idiot who wouldn't know a good fleece if it hit her in the head, let me know too. But if it's the latter, be prepared to teach me what is a good fleece!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Great Sewage Explosion of Summer 2006 (made with 100% authentic human excrement!)

As the title hints, this post will be the promised documentation of the great sewage explosion of summer 2006. I had recently decided to move from my father's house, to my mother's, and hadn't moved my actual possessions yet (this is an important part of the story later on). With great gusto, we pulled into the parking space and made our way into the house. Small Boy was watching the Spongebob Squarepants movie, when the City of Nelson decided to come and 'unblock' the sewer right in front of our house.

Soon, I start to hear a horrible gurgling sound coming from the bathroom. I run to look, and sewage has backed up the toilet and bathtub. So I run outside, and yell over the noise of the truck that we have a backup. City guy #1 responds with "well that's what we're trying to fix". A short while later city guy #2 (not a sewer guy, he was on loan from parks) comes in, and decides to start snaking the toilet. After breaking two snakes, he decide it would be a great idea to Flush the toilet upstairs. Despite our disagreement, the upstairs toilet is flushed and then....

It overflows, all over the floor, into the hallway. City guy #2 then grabs ALL of our best towels and uses them to try and "soak up" the sewage, which just keeps spewing out of the toilet.

Not only that, but in the basement, sewage literally Spewed out of the sink onto the wall above it. It filled up the washing machine. It smelled, Foul. Soon after that I got some clothes in a bag, some food for dorkboy, and my sister (codename : Fatty the Tulip) and we went leisure camping on the outside-living acreage of a friend. Small Boy, Mother and Squinty McSmalleyes spent the night in a motel, courtesy of owner's insurance.

We didn't lose anything besides all of our good towels, and we don't have renter's insurance. A friend of the family recently had the house she was renting Burn down, and they lost almost everything. Because she had come into some money she had decided to prepay 6 months rent. The landlord refused to return her money, and is making Her clean up the debree, and highly toxic burned material. So now we're going to get renter's insurance.

The reason I mentioned not moving my things is that, when my father decided to go to his summer house for a week with friends from out of town...a pipe burst and leaked water into the house for a week. With all my stuff stored in the basement. No yarn or fleece was harmed beyond repair to bring you this dramatic tale.

Unfortunately, I had some books in a "special book" box. Herbs for pets, a wonder Expensive reference book I truly loved, and will sorely miss, and some heirloom knitting/sewing/tatting scrapbooks from my grandmother's aunt, who was a nun in Quebec. These got wet. Very wet. Herbs for Pets is completely destroyed, one of my great great aunt's books is moldy, the other appears to be okay, if a little warped. Which really, really makes me sad. Anyone know how to get rid of mold on books? I cannot throw it away, there has to be some way to save it!

I suppose, in conclusion, it's good to be thankful that I didn't lose more, like my grandfather's antique chest (now my hope chest filled with special yarn) and my near 30 lbs of alpaca fleeces, and other fibre related things (which is all that really matter here chez Twoshoes) But if we get another flood, I am going on a rampage.

And it wasn't even Our shit, it belonged to all the houses up the street!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Back on the horse (only figuratively)

Wow, I can't believe I haven't updated in 3 weeks. In any case, today we have a grand show of sp8 gifts and WIP's, if the computer would lower itself to the level of the camera and cooperate in downloading the pictures.

I started to knit the Embellished V-Neck top from the fall VK. Actually this is the second time I start it, since I knit 30 rows in denial that my gage was in fact, way off. No big deal right? just rip out 2800 stitches, and weep. I'm knitting it with Fernando, or rather, with his fleece, courtesy of TLC alpacas. It's gonna be pretty! If I can bring myself to wash, comb, and spin another 800 yards.

Next up we have the Baudelaire sock from Knitty, In Lorna's Laces Mint (courtesy of my awesome pal). My first toe up sock, it's progressing...given the fact that I seem to be afflicted with a horrible case of startitis at the moment.

So here it is, my newest SP package. I have to tell you, so far, my pal is the best Ever. We have Trekking XXL in a colourway I've been in love with for a long time. Those green things actually, Aren't jujubes, but are needle point protectors shaped like socks. There's lemon candies, jasmine soap and a cute little dragonfly purse all the way from San Francisco (though my pal lives in Maryland. Maryland! hey pal, can i come stay with you next year for the $heep and wool fest?). And also, green cotton sock yarn! I love green, I love sock yarn, and cotton's just fine with me, so naturally, I love this stuff too.

And since I don't have a cat, like every single other Knitter in the blogosphere, to name a few, Gratuitous dog shot :

Next Up, The great Sewage Explosion of Summer '06!