Monday, December 16, 2019

Fiber, fiber, and more fiber

I've rediscovered my enjoyment of spinning this year so most of my craft-time has been spent doing that...or buying more fiber to spin. Yeah, there's been...ahem...a lot of buying.

It was on clearance! Lots of colors of wool to play with.

Another sale = more colors to play with

There was a fiber festival. I went. I bought.

Sometimes the braids of hand-dyed fiber are just too irresistible:

Guess I really like this dyer's work
...and this one too!

The first fiber in my collection was a gift from my in-laws after they visited New Zealand, and it was many years before I started spinning. I think the presentation is beautiful and I may never spin it because of that!

Then there's the fiber I bought because it was from interesting breeds of sheep or other animals or plants. My stash contains fiber from sheep, camelids, goats, plants, and other sources. Most weights are 4 ounces, but some are 8 ounces and there are a few larger "bumps" and some very small samples of 1-2 ounces. Some are blends, either two sheep breeds or mixed with something like cashmere, silk or bamboo. Some fiber is in its raw, natural color and some was purchased dyed, either by an independent dyer (like the braids above) or commercially (like the wool and bamboo in the first two pictures). All are prepared fiber, ready for spinning, with the exception of the one fleece in the list.

Here are the sheep breeds:
  • Merino (what spinner doesn't have merino?)
  • Bluefaced Leicester (known among fiber people simply as BFL)
  • Corriedale
  • Shetland
  • Perendale
  • Gotland
  • Jacob
  • Texel
  • Finn
  • Icelandic
  • Norwegian
  • Ramboulliet
  • Targhee
  • Polwarth
  • Teeswater
  • Swaledale
  • Romney
  • Herdwick
  • Deboulliet (my first fleece that I'll have to wash and comb first)
  • Black Welsh Mountain
  • Wensleydale
  • Cotswold
  • Navajo Churro
  • Mohair
  • Cashmere
  • Pygora
  • Llama
  • Alpaca
  • Camel
Other animals/living creatures:
  • Angora rabbit
  • Yak
  • Musk Ox, which is known as Qivut (very soft and very precious)
  • Silk
  • Cotton
  • Flax
  • Bamboo
  • Banana
Why so many varieties? Well because it's so much fun to use and learn about different fibers! Last year I bought a drum carder, which you use to blend fibers into batts. You can combine different colors, textures and fibers and come out with some really one-of-a-kind blends that can be very arty or whatever you want.

This is the model drum carder I bought last year. 

So yeah, I have a lot of fiber. But it makes me so happy!

I haven't yet played with my carder beyond one very fun day with my spinning guild, but I have been spinning.


After! Now I need to learn how to chain ply so I can keep the colors separate.


Just finished spinning this fiber last week - two full bobbins. Ready to ply!

Some spindle spinning while vacationing in France. Not finished yet!

Here are some of my spindles:

Support spindle used to spin cotton

The spindles in the center are old support spindles from Bulgaria and I don't spin on them, though I suppose I could.

Mostly I spin on my wheel:

Lou√ęt Victoria

So there you have it. Lots of fiber!

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Early Christmas present

Santa paid us an early visit via the FedEx delivery truck. 

I bought a Laurastar Lift iron when I lived in Germany and loved it. Lots of steam with simple controls: warm or hot setting and buttons accessible for right or left handers (I'm a leftie).

But it was 220 V. We thought about putting in a 220 V line to our laundry room and either finding a compatible European outlet (no luck) or rewiring the plug, but ultimately decided to purchase a new one - and upgrade our ironing board too.

I love it. This ironing board both sucks and blows - in a good way! I never thought about ironing with a vacuum board (great for setting pleats) or the blowing setting (useful for shirts).

Merry Christmas! 

Completed couch cover

My sewing machine has been occupied with a large task: make the water resistant outdoor covers before the rains come. The fabric ones worked great to keep the furniture clean and protected from the sun, but of course they wouldn't keep the rain off and in fact as the temperature dropped in the evening, we found they were getting damp, so I needed to get cracking on those covers ASAP. I ordered the fabric from Sailrite - 25 yards of it! Thankfully I have a large cutting table.

The left and right pieces of the couch weren't too complicated - just rectangles for the back, front (from cushion to the ground) and over the seat part from the back piece to the front piece. I suppose you could just cut one large piece but the seams you end up with between the three pieces help to position the cover. I measured that the rectangles needed to be 60 inches wide and as luck would have it, that was the width of the fabric (actually the fabric was 59 3/4 inches, but it worked as there was no selvedge). The largest piece needed to be 44 inches x 60 inches and my cutting table is only 36 inches wide, so to make it easier to measure and cut, I moved the roll of fabric to a big dining table we have in the room and put the cutting table next to the table. Then I could just pull the fabric up onto the cutting table for measuring and cutting. Sorry, I don't have a picture, but just imagine the roll of fabric just moved over the edge in the above picture.

In progress - the hardest part is left
I bought matching heavy duty thread from Sailrite as well because it is UV protected, like the fabric (Top Notch 9). I stitched a sample first and had to do a lot of adjusting of the tension. This project was near the limit of what my Pfaff Creative 3.0 could handle. In hindsight I might have done better to dust off my grandma's 1919 treadle sewing machine (wow, it's 100 years old!), but the Pfaff worked ok and has a built in walking foot, which I think helped a lot. Sailrite sells a light industrial machine with a walking foot. Very tempting because I love new tools, but not practical to buy a new sewing machine just for this use.

I managed to get the stitch balanced enough by turning the tension all the way up. I also found you can change the pressure of the presser foot and it helped a lot to increase the pressure to keep the fabric from slipping. Sailrite uses a stitch length of 6 mm in their videos on making outdoor covers - I used 5 mm. They also show reinforcing the seams and keeping the edges from unraveling by stitching a second time through the folded seam allowance or doing a mock flat felled seam. I ended up having to make some narrow seam allowances in places so folding was not an option (note - I used the same dimensions as I did with the muslin covers but found that with the heavier fabric I should have been more generous). I chose instead to zig-zag stitch the seam allowances. This fabric is woven and the edges unraveled easily. I could have bought a hot knife from Sailrite to seal the edges but since I've never used one before I really didn't feel like learning how to use it.


The center part was the most difficult - the back is curved and I wanted to match it to get a good fit. I also made a generous hem in case we want to put a cord through the bottom, but the fit is pretty good and I think if the winds are strong enough to lift it, we've got other problems!

I left all the cushions on the couch and there is even another one stuck under the cover too. We just had a very strong rain storm here and I haven't gone out to look to see if the cushions underneath are dry, though the cover seemed to shed the rain pretty well. I'm only concerned about water pooling in the back curve where a seam is and maybe getting through the fabric. But until things dry out, I'm not going to look because if I try to move the wet cover, then I'll surely get things wet.

The rainstorm left lots of snow in the mountains!

Now I have to make covers for two chairs and perhaps the fire pit and some other furniture. There's lots of fabric left!

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Summer white

I recently completed this top:

Wore it to work so I took a selfie with Curiosity

The pattern is Vogue 1306 - a "Rebecca Taylor" design from around 2012 and now out of print. 

The fabric is a white cotton with some cross-grain stretch. The fabric had been aging in my stash - I recall purchasing it from around 2001. Yikes!

I made no changes to the pattern and cut a straight medium, based on reviews that the pattern ran large.

The finished top looks like the pattern envelope but not quite like the line drawing. The gathers are more horizontal and not at an angle like you see in the drawing.

Here are my construction notes:

For the placket, pay attention to the seam allowance of 1/4 inch because that will determine how large the visible binding will be. I sewed only one line of top-stitching instead of the two the instructions called for. I also top-stitched the shoulder seam. I don't think the instructions say to do this, but I usually do this on t-shirt-like tops because I see that top-stitching in RTW and it keeps the shoulder seam in place. 

I used the "tricot" stitch on my sewing machine, which is a narrow type of zigzag, to sew on the neck band but then I didn't like the way the seam allowance laid. So I went back and used the serger, sewing very close to the first seam, and then top-stitched with the sewing machine. I still didn't like the way the neckband and placket join, but I'm not sure how I'd construct it differently. 

For the sleeves, I usually sew them in flat on knit shirts and that's how the instructions have you do them, but they also say to gather the sleeves between the marked dots to manage the ease. I found I had to do the gathering - I tried without it but couldn't line things up. I used my serger to sew the sleeves in and also for the side seams. But fearing that the top might be a little snug at a size medium, I serged only a 1/4 inch seam allowance (and I'm glad I did!)

I used the coverstitch on my serger for the hems and left the sleeve un-cuffed.

Lessons learned:
  1. Mark the dots - there are a lot of them: for the gathering, the placket and to ease in the sleeves. Since this was white fabric I used tailor tacks.
  2. The pattern points out where to slash for the placket and the gathers, but don't do it until after you stay stitch on either side of where you will slash. I didn't pay attention so I made the cut for the gathers when I cut out the pattern and though it wasn't the end of the world, it made the front pieces floppier and a bit more difficult to stay stitch.
  3. Next time I would trim the 5/8 seam allowance to 1/4 and use the serger for everything except the gathers in the front and maybe the placket.
  4. If I make this again, I'll lengthen the front a bit - the gathers are hitting a little high and aren't quite under my bust.
Overall, it's a nice casual top and a change from a plain t-shirt. 

Monday, August 19, 2019

More spinning, but there was some sewing

I did some more home dec sewing to finish summer outdoor covers for new patio chairs (boring stuff, so no pictures). I did sew a new top to wear, but I'll show the results in my next post after I get a picture of me wearing it. 

So in the meantime, more spinning!

This is a fiber I bought in Tallin, Estonia in 2013. Here's a picture of me when I bought it. Look how happy I am to have a big blue plastic bag of yarn and fiber! The prices were pretty fantastic too.

And this is a close-up of the fiber - nice pink, cream and tan colors and already prepped into a "pencil roving." I guess you could knit with it as-is, but it might fall apart because it has no twist in it. I don't know what kind of fiber it is, I mean it's wool from a sheep, but I just don't know what breed.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

I made yarn

I finished spinning the fiber I was working on during Tour de Fleece. Someone told me that my spinning will improve if I participate in this event, which is where you spin during the Tour de France bicycle race (either while watching or requirements). Everyone is supposed to set goals and for many, including myself, my goal is just to spin every day, which would be hard except we sit down every evening to watch the recorded Tour de France so I just sit in front of my spinning wheel instead.

And here is the yarn I made:

I really like this! I wasn't sure about the color combination at first and the singles on the bobbins only give some indication of what the finished plied yarn will look like:

My spinning is getting more consistent, and I didn't have too many places where it got too thin or too thick. Too thin is more of a problem because if I draft a bit that's too thick, I can usually stop and redraft it a bit thinner if I haven't gone too far past it; however, too thin is forever too thin. My only option is to remove it and rejoin but often when I do that my join isn't very good and the result is worse than a too-thin section.

I ended up with almost 700 yards out of the 8 ounces of fiber. Quite a lot! I thought I'd be spinning it and plying it forever.

I also finished the yarn - I'm a chronic "non-finisher" in that I enjoy the process of making something but then for some reason I get close to the end and stop. I have to push myself to seam the sweater I knit, hem the garment I sewed, finish the tassels on something I wove, and to wash and snap the yarn I spun. Washing spun yarn is needed to "set the twist" - it relaxes the yarn and releases the tension that's been spun into it as well as removing any dirt or oils. Snapping is something you do to help distribute the plied twist more evenly. When you wind off the plied yarn, you usually do it onto a niddy noddy, from which you can make a skein.

niddy noddy

To snap the yarn you put the loop of yarn between your two hands (like you're doing "cats in the cradle") and jerk your hands outward to "snap" the yarn. 

Wet wool drying on a sunny and warm day

I'll leave you with a picture of the previous yarn I spun. I finally washed and snapped it too!

Friday, July 05, 2019

Current projects

Lots of projects in-work and finished - I like to keep busy!

I don't really enjoying sewing home dec, but it sure can save you money to be able to make custom items that you'd just be paying someone else to sew for you. We bought a new outdoor furniture set and I knew that come the rainy season we'd need covers but I also figured that it would be a good idea to protect the furniture from the sun, bugs and night-time critters. I found a YouTube video that showed how to make custom covers so I used their method to make a cover out of muslin, which both acts as a summer cover and a test before I buy material for the rain cover. Or maybe once I find out the cost of the fabric and factor in the time, I might find that a purchased one will suffice. We'll see.

I made some design changes on the summer cover that I wouldn't do for the rain cover: I serged the seams (they suggest mock flat-felled seams in the video), used the selvedge for the hem (in the video they make a casing for a drawstring) and the back is not full length. I decided out of cheapness that I didn't need to use up more muslin for a full-size back because the back isn't exposed to the sun and not susceptible to damage from bugs and stuff. So I used scraps or cut pieces to about 12-15 inches or so, enough to hold the cover in place. 

The other home dec sewing I did was to make pillow covers. The fabric has been in my stash for a long, long time and was always intended for outdoor cushions, so I'm finally using it for that. It took longer to hand sew the final seam than it did to cut out and machine sew the other seams. 

I have lots more of the fabric, so I'll either make more pillows or make some cushions for the chairs to our outdoor dining set. 

My spinning wheel has been active. I've joined the Greater Los Angeles Spinning Guild (GLASG) and also joined the guild's group for Tour de Fleece. Tour de Fleece is where spinners spin during the days of the Tour de France bicycle race - they spin and we spin. It's silly but a fun way to join a group and get a lot of spinning accomplished and maybe win some prizes. Some people set goals to spin for a certain amount of time, like 10-15 minutes a day (that'll be me), other set distance goals to spin a certain amount of yarn - maybe equal to the miles that they race (not me!), and some set other goals to try new techniques or spin new fibers. I'm probably just going to stick with what I've been spinning, though since I did buy special Tour de Fleece fiber I might switch to that.

What I'm currently spinning

Tour de Fleece colorway
I finished the red yarn I was spinning. I plied it and decided it was too loosely plied so I ran it back through the spinning wheel to add more twist. I like it much more now. 

First ply on left; with added twist on the right

My knitting project is coming along very slowly. It's lace-weight yarn and about 800 yards, so this project will take a while. But that's OK, the pattern is very easy and I can knit it while I'm watching TV. This is the Prevarication pattern from Curls 2, by Hunter Hammersen. I've made two other "curls" scarves from her first book. These are great little projects for the lovely yarns I have in my stash.  

I also tried out a new project - candle making. I have quite a few nice glass yogurt pots that I brought back from Europe and candles seem like a great use for them. Though I don't burn candles inside, we do need citronella candles outside to keep the mosquitoes away. So I ordered soy wax, wicks, an aluminum melting pot, and both citronella and lemon eucalyptus oil from on-line and found some instructions on-line as well (yay, internet!). Here's my first batch of citronella candles:

When heated, the wax is clear and yellowish

After cooling it turns a milky white
The kitchen smells like citronella, so be aware if you want to try this! We actually don't mind the aroma. Lemon eucalyptus is also supposed to repel mosquitoes, so I'll try this fragrance next. 

And finally, I leave you with some beautiful views from the San Diego area, where we spent a couple days.
La Jolla

La Jolla

Alcazar Park in Balboa Park

Balboa Park

Balboa Park