Monday, October 29, 2007


I just returned from a trip to Arizona. Along with quality family time, I was able to take the camera out to some interesting destinations in southern AZ. Here are some of my favorite shots (click on photos for larger image):

Mission San Xavier del Bac

Mission San Jose de Tumacacori (Tumacacori National Historic Park)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A better mousetrap for plying on a handspindle

I am often asked about plying on a handspindle. There are a number of possible techniques. One is to wind a center-pull ball and (with your thumb in the center to avoid tangles) pull from both ends. Another is to roll 2 balls, put them in mugs with the ends threaded through the handles (this technique is oddly fascinating to the cat).
A technique I have long used is to wind off the singles around a paperback book, put the resulting little skein around my left wrist and pull from the two ends, sliding each loop off my wrist as I ply. This works OK, but is pretty slow since there is a pause each time you pull another loop off the wrist, plus tangles do happen.
Andean plying is the next step up. The downside is that wrapping high-twist, fine-spun fiber around the middle finger can be pretty crippling as it cuts off the circulation. (There are additional issues with the resulting impolite gesture that can be inappropriate when spinning in public.)
Thanks to a little web-surfing, and a blogger named Rosemary, I now can recommend a better technique that involves a paperback book and a popsicle stick: Andean Plying Bracelet Simplified.
This works amazingly well. The singles slide easily and evenly out of the bracelet requiring no pauses for untangling. It didn't even tangle or come apart when there are only a few loops left around the wrist. It is easy to control the tension on the singles. And although the traditional Andean method requires no extra equipment, I seldom travel without a book. The only extra baggage is a single popsicle stick. As a librarian and general book-lover I can not recommend the double-pointed needle alternative or anything else that would damage the book. I didn't have a popsicle on hand, so I used the handle from an extinct rubber spatula. It made a fine popsicle stick stand-in. Henceforth there is no excuse not to spindle (and ply) at the drop of a spindle.

Monday, October 08, 2007

2007 Alpaca Festival

Saturday I drove up to Red Rock to attend the 5th Annual Alpaca Festival and to visit with Sharon. Linda and Mim were also at the Festival, so I got lots of hanging-out-in-the-sun-with-friends time in. The day started out cold and I was surprised by how much snow was still on the ground up there (it had all melted in Reno). Soon it warmed up, though, and it was mighty pleasant to sit and spin in the sunshine. The Festival is hosted by Sierra Nevada Alpacas. Jeannette has a large herd (flock?) of alpacas and it is great fun to hear the mama alpacas hum to their crias. Going back and forth from Sharon's to the Festival (we ran back to get Sharon's wheel and a bite to eat), I was able to try out the 4-wheel-drive on Mittens for the first time. (I love my new truck!)

After the Festival we went back to Sharon's Sage Creek Farm and Ian made us his fabulous burritos. I drove home across the beautiful high desert at twilight. You can't ask for a better Saturday than that.

And on Sunday I finished these socks. (For the fiberish among my readers: handspun blue-face Leicester, size 2 needles, short-row heel.)

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Lots of Lavender

All that lavender hanging to dry in the garage was starting to drop a rain of fragrant bits every time I opened the garage door (purple rain?). It was past time to finish processing, so last night I spent all evening stripping the dried "buds" off the bundled stalks. By the end of the evening I had clogged sinuses, crunchy flooring, and most of a bucket full of soft purple lavender "buds". They are not really buds in a botanical sense - more like dried calyces (plural of calyx), but who's counting?
This picture is from before I finished sifting out leaves, etc.

Tonight I divided it up into paper lunch sacks. I didn't want to use plastic in case there is any residual humidity that could cause them to mold.

Like any good farmer, I did a careful weighing of my harvest. All told, I ended up with 34.9 oz. That may not seem like much, but it is way more than I expected. Plus I also have lots of bundled stalks to use as fire starters.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Learning Scarf

Saturday I finished this scarf. Each step along the way was a little bit experimental. I spun the yarn a long time ago as a way to practice spinning a little bit chunkier (than my normal) yarn with oh-so-fine merino. Doubly a challenge, but it came out OK, if a bit, um, rustic. The skeins were tucked away for some time, then resurfaced at our everything-came-out-some-version-of-teal dye day. There I attempted to paint the yarn with very short color runs, in hopes of creating yarn that wouldn't get stripey when knit, yet would still have distinct colors. I think it worked! One more experimental step: I designed the lace pattern myself. Yes, I know it is relatively simple and I'm sure it must be available in any basic lace book, but I really did create it on graph paper using my admittedly basic knowledge of how knitted lace behaves. The lace pattern further breaks up any tendency toward stripyness.

And being made of merino, it is very soft and snuggly. I have one more skein - a matching hat, perhaps?