change is in the air!

new wheel

After a great deal of deliberation and anxiety, I decided it was time to order my new wheel. At first I thought I needed to sell off everything else I had in order to justify the purchase. However, after thinking about how many times I wished I had a second wheel to spin a different type of yarn while I was in the middle of a project, I realized that keeping the Kromski wasn’t foolish.

As far as which wheel I chose, that will remain a surprise. If you can tell from the image above, good for you! Keep it to yourself for now. When the box arrives in 2-4 weeks, all will be revealed!

The process of deciding to invest in a new wheel opened up my mind. I have been feeling disappointed in my spinning abilities lately. I look at yarn from a few years ago and it looks better than that which is being spun currently. Could it be that my skills have not only plateaued, but degraded? After 10 years I should feel like I am progressing, but that is not the case. It was easy to blame my struggles on the equipment. But if I get this new wheel and nothing changes, then what?! That is when I decided it was time for a refresher course. As I spend the next few weeks waiting for my new wheel to appear on the doorstep, I will read my spinning books as if I have never seen the words before. It is time to refocus. I have always neglected the mechanics, but this is a great time to hone in on ways to improve. I want to be prepared for the challenge of the new wheel, but I also want to improve my usage of the Kromski. I think The Intentional Spinner by Judith MacKenzie McCuin is a great place to start!

(re)energize!

Home again from the annual time-traveling pilgrimage to Pennsic War in Slippery Rock, PA. Each year I long to continue that life when I return home, but it really is impossible. Stop pining away and enjoy it while you can! Purchases this year were typical: fabric, a few new pins, some trim. Nothing wildly exciting. I did splurge on a new card weaving book. When I first joined the SCA, I played around with card weaving a bit. Because I would tie the yarn to my belt for weaving, I found it difficult to travel (or answer the phone or get a snack). Eventually I purchased a small rigid heddle loom that removes these problems. About two years ago I bought a new pack of cards and this year I got a new book. It’s going to happen this time!

When we got home on Saturday, one of the first things I did was dig out my little loom. It was buried in the corner under about 10 fleeces. Since inkle bands are a little easier to jump into, I started with that as a refresher. The first one was rather wonky, the second looked better, and by the third, I wasn’t too bad. I’d like to get a little more consistent, and then I can weave my own trim and straps and thingies galore!

inkle bands
My ultimate goal is to make myself a new belt to fit the new buckle I bought from ThorThor’s Hammer (the best place ever!). In the SCA we tend to rely heavily on leather belts, turning them into the “Batman utility belt” with many pouches and dangly bits. I’m trying to get away from this and going towards a woven belt. Usually when I see them, they are tied in a big knot. I do not like this look. Why can’t I use a buckle? Who says they didn’t? Are there any definitive sources stating otherwise? I’m doing it. But not today.

buckle

 

a tribute to Gladys

new car!

On Friday I said goodbye to a good friend: my 1993 Buick Century. I bought this car right after graduating from college. It had about 60,000 miles on it and not a spot of rust. For about 6 years she did almost everything I asked of her. As far as I can remember, she never abandoned me. The muffler was a constant problem though. In fact, I remember sitting in the muffler repair shop knitting the garter for my wedding in 2009. She got me to my first job after college and every one since. When I started traveling to shows, I crammed as much fiber in there as possible. It was hard to believe how much stuff I could get in there, but those old cars had BIG trunks!

In the end I knew time was running short. Things were going wrong, leaks were appearing, the transmission lines were rotting… but the car was still running, so it was hard to say goodbye. I’ll always think on you fondly, Gladys!

mosaica14a02201cb8a9ad3fa549b563b0ff61d3d6bc37

Of course I’d been pondering her replacement for some time. I knew it needed to have more storage, or at least be easier to load. Plus I wanted something that could tow. I had been looking at various SUVs, though in the end I found a Victory Red 2008 Chevy HHR. It was a lot newer and fancier than I had hoped to find, so I am pleased. Now it is time to make new memories with Ruth!

This is coming home with me tomorrow. #newcar #hhr #Chevy #booya

boredom + books

There is a good possibility that I am bored.

I’m tired of shuffling through the same piles of fluff, browsing through the same uninspiring books, spinning the same basic yarns. This feeling of apathy is making it much easier to sell unwanted materials and supplies. FYI, there are still a few grab bags in the shop in case you need some felting or carding fiber.

The next purge has taken place in my library. I’m sure many of us buy knitting/spinning/fiber books because they are on sale or seem interesting at the time. A few years later you realize you’ve never made any patterns from that book or it just doesn’t fit in with your lifestyle. I have a book on shawls — huge shawls. What do I make? Mittens, hats, a very occasional sweater. Never a king bed sized shawl. Out with you!


Getting rid of things is exciting.

But getting new things is also exciting.

So, since I was in need for some inspiration, I took advantage of KnitPicks’ book sale and picked up four new titles for my collection:

I thought it was time to revisit crochet. It’s been 15 years since I learned how to do it, but I haven’t moved much beyond a single chain. I’m 27 now, not 12. I can do a granny square, gosh darnit (I hope). The first book has several lovely, modern patterns that make crochet look nice, not farty. And the second is, as mentioned in the title, an encyclopedia, so it should help expand my general knowledge of stitch possibilities. We shall see.

The Zimmermann book was purchased because I did not have any of her books already, and I felt that I was supposed to have at least one. The last book is full of different types of yarn. I have a few other art yarn books, but this one is far more extensive. From what I’ve seen flipping through it, it looks fairly promising. Now the key is to utilize these books and try something new, not leave them on the shelf for destashing in another five years.

introducing…

I would like to introduce you to the latest addition to the Gwen Erin Natural Fibers family:
Bristles, my new Strauch Mad Batt’r drumcarder.

mad batt'r

She is the child, or grand-child, or even great-grand-child of Whiskers, my Fricke drumcarder from the 80s. Not sure how generations work in the drumcarder family tree. But I do know that Strauch carders are descended from Frickes, or so I’ve read.

Anyway, after a great deal of consideration, reading, pondering, discussing, more pondering, and a bit of “let’s just do it!”, I finally made the leap. I’ve had Whiskers for many years, and he has done a good job getting me started. However,  I feel that to remain relevant and competitive, I needed a newer machine. Everything I heard about the Strauch machines was positive and I like the other tools I have from them. Since I knew there would be a vendor at Great Lakes who sold them, I went to talk to her. I probably had already made up my mind at that point, but I was glad to talk to a real person. Then I went back to the booth and talked to Rich.  And then we bought it.

I waited until I got home Sunday night to get it out of the box. Immediately I could see a difference in the quality of the batts it produced. Much smoother, more blended, and of course thicker. I’m looking forward to further experiments!

maryland wrap-up

We made it home from the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival in one piece. It was an interesting weekend followed by wisdom teeth extraction on Monday morning from which I am still recovering. It is going to be difficult getting back into the groove.

At four hours, the drive was quite pleasant and the weather couldn’t have been better. We stayed at a fancy golf resort complete with schmaltzy piano music blaring in the lobby. Saturday morning we headed out to the fairgrounds early to get a close spot and even though the event officially opened at 9 am, no one was stopped from milling around before that. My first stop was Zeilinger’s tent to drop off fleeces and the fleece sale to find a few more. Ana took the photo below while standing in line.

945137_10151350504546813_481048666_n

They let in 25 people at a time so we wouldn’t be crushed or elbowed, but it was still close quarters. I had to crawl under a table at one point just to get to the other side. With 800 fleeces to look at, it was basically impossible to see everything and incredibly hard to decide what to buy. After searching, I found two that I was ready to take home. One a Bluefaced Leicester/Shetland cross and the other a Border Leicester cross. However, after waiting in line to pay, I was told I couldn’t take the BL because it was supposed to be in the silent auction. That left me with one fleece and a very bad mood. By that point I had no interest in going back into the chaos and just left.

I moped around most of the morning, feeling overwhelmed by the crowds and disappointed by the fleece debacle. Eventually I came out of in the afternoon, but I didn’t really buy much all day. One jumbo bobbin, one gallon of Kookaburra wool scour, a pound of random fiber, and soap.

In the evening we met up with some friends and had a great dinner. I have to admit that was my favorite part of the weekend. Cosmos! Hummus! Sunshine! Laughter! It was a good end to a somewhat rumpled day.

Ladies night out.

The next morning I was ready to start over again. Corespinning started at 9:15, so I was there at 8:30. Things went well enough that I didn’t feel utterly crushed or hopeless. Not to say I am an expert, but I am excited to keep trying. My yarn was incredibly lumpy, while all the other ladies made theirs so even and relatively thin. I don’t quite know how they achieved that. Also, I thought this was sort of an “art yarn” technique and the point was for it to be funky. Whatever. If they are happy with the results and so am I, it doesn’t matter.

Corespinning class in action.

Over all it was a good weekend. I just can’t see myself making this event a regular stop on my schedule. Honestly, I don’t need that much selection, especially when you can’t get in the booths to look at anything! It did successfully keep me from thinking about my impending oral surgery the following Monday morning. Now that is over too and soon I will get to experiment with corespinning!

friday’s question

This was supposed to be posted last week, but I had no internet connection for a few days. 

When I skirted my three new fleeces last week, I was reminded of something: I do not have a skirting table. It was a painful reminder, as I spread the fleeces out on the driveway and continually bent over as I walked around picking up unwanted bits of debris. It was also hot out there. Another significant negative: the unwanted items don’t just fall away from the fleece as you work through it. Rather, they stay stuck in with the good fiber. And if I had a skirting table, I could use it for drying washed fleeces too. So why don’t I have one? They are usually big and bulky. Plus it’s just one more thing Rich and I have to build. As of now, I’m just doing the best I can with what I’ve got.

In contrast to having need of something but not having the capability to obtain it, I now have a new piece of equipment that I did not feel was a necessity. As I mentioned on Tuesday, I just got a serious ball winder. Up until this point I’ve been using a nostepinne to wind every ball. I’m quite good at it, but sometimes I wish I had something quicker. I do have a plastic ball winder, but it is garbage, so I never use it. But I didn’t want to spend the money on a good one, so I just kept using my nostepinne. However, Rich decided it would be a worthwhile investment and made the decision on my behalf. Now I want to find reasons to use it.

Question: How long do you “make do” before you break down and buy the tools and equipment that are made for the job? Do you wait until you have need of something before buying it or do you buy a tool assuming you will use it eventually?

 

and yet another (box)

I am going full blast on ordering things!

Last week I decided to buy a set of wood folding shelves. They are a style I’ve seen around at shows for a long time, even in SCA merchant booths, but I could never find them. Every time I typed “folding wood shelf” into Google I’d get something that was more of a bookshelf than anything else and only about 3 feet high. About a year ago I bought two of those type and one immediately became integrated into the house (now full of CDs and videos). The other has been used as an endcap and filled with bags of locks. I don’t dislike it, but I wanted something that was tall enough to stand on its own and didn’t require squatting to reach the bottom.

table set-up  Great Lakes Fiber Show

 I ended up finding the long sought after shelves at Woodland Marketing. It was recommended by someone on Ravelry (same place I heard about Got Print!). I browsed through the different heights and widths, and decided to go with the 5′ x 4′. I thought it would be a manageable size for me, and I can use the 4 foot shelves I already have to add more space. I think these will go well with my crates in color and style.

Can’t wait to fill them up!

Did I mention they were marked 40% off?

another box!

Yep, the boxes just keep coming. And this time it was an impulse buy.

I recently joined a group on Ravelry called Fleece Market. It’s a place where farmers can sell their fleeces and people like me, who just loiter around the farms but don’t actually do anything with sheep, can buy fleeces. Even though I prefer to see, smell, squeeze, and ponder my fiber before purchasing, I thought this might a good way to get ahold of some breeds I haven’t been able to find around here. And without a whole lot of thought, I “popped” on a 5 lb white BFL cross from Iowa. The fleece belongs to Sophie, who has a rather complex lineage it seems. Her mom is 1/2 Romney, 1/2 Corridale and her dad is 3/4 BFL, 1/4 Merino. Phew! Pretty exciting, eh? I was planning on dyeing this weekend, so I’ll wash some up to see how it looks clean. From what I have already seen, I think it’s going to be a good one.