Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Wednesday Haiku

Haikus are easy
But sometimes they don’t make sense

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Friends, Food and Fun!

(always a recipe for enjoyment)

The last two weekends have been a whirlwind of activity!

The weekend before last, Holly, Miss O, and I went up to Canada to see Lara and Angela.

We had a lovely visit with good food and lots of laughing. And there was a wee bit of fiber acquisition – but more on that in another post.

And also watermelon martinis (there may have been other alcohol-based drinks but I have very conveniently forgotten what they were.).

Spike enjoys his person-tree and The Flame is feelin' the love

Speedy delivery - The Monkey rushes to feed the ravenous horde

A delicious dinner of Monkey-caught salmon. Yum!

Holly and Lara discuss the various possibilities for dealing with
the midnight woodcutting, whoopin' & hollerin' drunken neighbor situation

Holly expresses her intense appreciation for Blue Caracao

Miss O enjoys a moment

Even Loki had a good time!

Other than the Twist and Lace scarf that I managed to finish while awaiting Lara's arrival at the house, there was very little knitting accomplished. It's entirely possible that the watermelon martinis may have played a role here. (After all, friends don't let friends drink and knit)

I finally got to see Lara’s renowned and incredible stash closet (a separate building really!). Unfortunately I was so amazed that I neglected to take photos.

I also learned to love the metric system during my visit (or, rather, appreciate my completely American ignorance of same). Lara talked us all in to letting her get our measurements as part of her research for design and sizing. Now normally I might be a bit shy and embarrassed to have my measurements taken and recorded in front of a group of people. But, hey metric! Centimeters! What is that waist measurement in inches? Who knows! (and again, the watermelon martinis may have played a part here). No pictures of that process...

The next day Angela and The Flame treated us to delicious dim sum brunch (with jasmine chrysanthemum flower tea -yum!) in Richmond. I had never had dim sum before – it was delicious and I'm really looking forward to enjoying it again!

Then last weekend I was off to Portland for the Blue Moon Fiber Arts book launch event for Cat Bordhi’s new book “New Pathways for Sock Knitters.”

I was scheduled to meet up with Angela and The Flame again at the Scappoose Creek Inn. I was booked for a room called “The Wrong Room” after ‘Wrong Way’ Corrigan, rather ironic given how my day developed.

Following my trusty (or so I thought) Mapquest directions, I set off for Scappoose. The Friday traffic was horrid and I didn’t make good time at all. Mapquest directed me to Highway 30 and I drove about 20 or so miles before I had the sinking feeling that something was wrong. No signs for Scappoose anywhere, yet Mapquest’s directions indicated I was only about 6 miles from the inn.

A quick cell phone call to the inn confirmed my suspicions. I was going in the exact opposite direction than intended – towards Astoria instead of towards Portland (yeah, I’m real good with the geography like that).

A mere 50 miles in the opposite direction later and I was checked in and enjoying a coffee and my new book on the Inn’s charming covered porch while waiting for Angela to arrive.

serendipitous book selection

My earlier impulse book purchase seemed very appropriate given that this was the view from the Inn's porch:

The welcoming committee

I’d had several calls from Angela as she and the Flame made their way south from Seattle, so I grew concerned when they still had not arrived at the inn by the time I’d expected to see them.

Some time later I got a call from Angela expressing concern that they might have taken a wrong turn. “We’re headed toward Astoria…”

It seems Google Maps was also a bit confused about the correct route to Scappoose.

So we were a bit late for the start of the event but we managed to catch the last bits of Cat’s talk and still had some time to chat with friends afterwards. We found out that we weren’t the only ones tripped up by the whole Mapquest/Google Maps error. In fact, we were in good company. It seems Cat herself was also a bit late to the event, having evidently enjoyed a lovely side trip to Astoria.

Cat Bordhi

Cat's giant demonstration needles and yarn

Cat's socks from the book

Joanne (BMFA wish fulfillment fairy)
makes post-event clean-up a fun task!

The next day we made the pilgrimage out to Blue Moon Fiber Arts shrine to visit Tina. It’s always fun to have a chance to visit with Tina and it was especially exciting to visit the fabulous dye barn!

(Tina generously gave me permission to post some of my photos here - ommitted are any shots that reveal the top secret Socks That Rock sock club yarn for this month. They were really great photos too, in case you were wondering...)

Angela shops for a bit of yarn...

A special BMFA yarn pixie assists Angela with her selections

Bob auditions for a role as Blue Moon's yarn spokesmodel

Janet gleefully considers her yarn selections

Jill and Janet (both sadly blogless) admire Tina's 'stash pod'

So much fun but back it’s back to work for now - all play and no work on the weekends does not get the housework and yard work done*. Or deadlines met. My nose must be firmly reattached to the grindstone for now.

*in fact, the rate of entropy in the household appears to increase rather exponentially when I’m away.

Blue Moon's barn greeter

Financial Planning

Or 'How to ensure your husband doesn't ask to use the household checkbook'

It was time to order new checks recently and I realized it was also long past time to order a replacement checkbook cover too*.

Here's the new one:

Just the thing for those manly trips to the hardware store...

*The current, conservative navy blue one is only about 10 years old - boy, they just don't make things to last any more...

Friday, August 3, 2007

The Return of The Marvelous Eugene Fleece

ETA: UPDATED to include grower's name, some forgotten links and additional photos that I couldn't upload initially
8/6/07 ETA: I added some edits to the fleece washing section.

On Tuesday I came home from work moved through my usual after work routine:

  • First the requisite frenzied greeting from a certain small terrier, which consists of much delighted twirling and excited barking.
  • Second, moving around the large box in the entry to put down my totebag and purse in their usual spots and…

Wait a minute. Large box? What’s this? I don’t remember ordering anything recently. What could this be?

A quick look at the label changed tentative investigation into real excitement:

Back already? I only mailed it off on July 13th - Amazing! I wasn’t expecting it for months after hearing about my various friends’ experiences with fleece processing.

I ripped open the box, anxious to see what the finished combed top looked like. Imagine my complete surprise when this met my eyes:

Holy crap!, I thought clutching my chest in shock, what had they done with the gorgeous fleece I’d sent them? Actually, I’m pretty sure the ‘holy crap’ part may have been said aloud and with considerable emphasis.
Then, as I lifted the bag I noticed there was something written it.

Oh, well, okay then.
Note to self: maybe try, hmmm, I don’t know, looking through the whole box and actually reading stuff before totally freaking out. Yeah, that might be good.
Oh, well, panic first and think rationally later as I always say.

Underneath the bag of waste wool* was the actual finished combed top.

big bag o' top

Close-up of the lovely noil-free top

Absolutely gorgeous! Zeilingers did a really wonderful job on this fleece! I will definitely be using them again. (I had seen their pin drafted Romney top at the Spring Hill Farm booth in Puyallup and it was perfectly lovely, but I’d never seen their preps for fine fleece before.)

I immediately called Holly to let her know that The Marvelous Eugene Fleece had landed, since we bought the fleece together and half of it will be going home with her. “I’m touching it right now!!!” I told her while we were chatting.

And just to be a good friend I took the tiniest bit off the end to test spin. But really only to make sure it was okay before Holly drove all the way out here to pick up her portion, not for any selfish, personal reasons! That’s just the way I am, self-sacrificing and all that.

The verdict? It spins, as Linda Richman would say, “like buttuh

It was all I could do not to try just a little bit more. Showing an unusual amount of self-restraint, I managed to resist the siren call of that lovely top. I actually had to put it in another room to accomplish this though because, honestly, it wouldn’t shut up. “Fondle me”, “Spin me”, “Me, me, pay attention to me!”, etc. That finished top is a regular Chatty Cathy.

And finally, here is a summary of the evolution of The Marvelous Eugene Fleece that I never got around to posting earlier despite my good intentions.

The Marvelous Eugene Fleece
Fleece Type: Purebred Merino (First Place in the 60’s and finer class)
Grower: Elizabeth Hubbard, Hub Corriedales, Bonanza, OR
Acquired: June 2006, Black Sheep Gathering, Eugene, OR
Raw Weight: 7.78 lbs (price - $12/lb)
Post-Wash Weight: 6.38 lbs
After Processing Weight: 5.5 lbs
Processor: Zeilinger Wool Co.
Processing Method: Combed Top
Mailed: 7/13/07
Returned: 7/31/07

raw locks

I prepped the fleece by sorting the locks, discarding the very few scrufty bits and second cuts not worth keeping, and then rolling them in nylon netting secured with rubber bands to maintain the lock structure during scouring.**

Mr. CPA says these look like giant insect eggs...

My typical scouring process involves using my top-load washing machine. I fill the washer with hot water (supplemented with additional boiling water from the stove as needed) and then turn it off. I add generous amounts of Dawn dishwashing soap (ETA: how much Dawn I add is dependent on both the water level in the washer and the dirt level in the fleece, but generally it's enough that the water feels slippery.), turning the machine back on for just a few seconds to allow the agitator to swish the soap around to mix (but not enough to make suds) before turning it off again.

The nylon netting rolls (ETA: or loose fleece if I'm washing a fleece without rolling it in netting) are submerged and left to soak for an indeterminate amount of time (very scientifically based on the amount of time I have available to obsess about how long it’s taking), but not so long that the water gets cool.

I then put the machine on spin to remove the dirty, soapy water. (my machine doesn’t spray water on the final spin cycle and that’s where I set it to spin the water out – if your machine sprays water during the spin cycle you’ll want to turn off the water at the spigot.)

The next step is either another soapy soak or a rinse, depending on how dirty the fleece is. I always give the fleece at least two hot rinses and I put a ‘glug’ of vinegar in the last rinse because it seems to cut any remaining soap residue.

I let the fleece dry in the rolls awhile before opening the netting and removing the locks to dry completely.

Washed and released from the netting cocoon

Close-up of washed locks

I’d like to note here that I usually enjoy carding my own fleeces (almost as much as I enjoy spinning them). However time is increasingly at a premium lately and even if it weren’t I knew without a doubt after sampling a small amount of this fine fleece on my carder that I needed to have it processed professionally as combed top. The resultant batt wasn’t completely horrible, but carding certainly wasn’t going to do the fleece justice with the small noils it introduced. And really, there’s no sense putting out the cash for a gorgeous fleece only to ruin it by going cheap on the processing.

Washed and ready for its visit to Zeilinger's wool spa...

* I think returning the waste wool is a nice touch and probably saves the poor mill owners from fielding many phone calls from people receiving their fleeces back and wondering why the finished product is pound or so lighter than the original fleece. Having combed wool in the past, I was expecting to lose volume to waste and noils, but I was still surprised to see how many plant bits and pieces (aka VM) were in the waste wool since I had been so careful with the cleaning and sorting of the locks.

** some people might find this tedious but I love handling the raw, lanolin-rich wool – especially one as incredibly clean as this one. This method also allows me to really see every bit of the fleece before washing and sort out any challenged bits that I may have missed during skirting.