What I have been doing with my extra brain bandwidth. Or, Reindeer Games.


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This is a hat. I spun and dyed the yarn and while the overall design is my own, the chart for the reindeer and trees I got from Ravelry. This one is for sale, it is $35 plus shipping if you might be interested. I am making another with opposite colors but that one is already spoken for.  The colors are a bubblegum pink  and grapey purple.  I can’t remember the name of the dye I used for the pink, but the purple was called ‘amethyst.’

I have not been knitting much the past month or so, no time thanks to OfficeAlly, our EHR program. Which SHOULD be named OfficeEnemy. Or OfficeOpponent. I lose work every single day and find myself having to waste large spans of time on tasks which should be easy but aren’t. Every time I click on a medicine to enter it I have to wait for the page to reload which take 30-45 seconds. And it is not very user friendly because of this. The autosave has been responsible for me losing more work than any other single feature of the program. Plus it bumps us off several times a day and you have to waste precious time logging back in, going back into where you were, and redoing everything you just lost.  Honestly paper is so much faster.

Some people make beautiful jewelry, I make silly crap like this.  The doctor I work with said after seeing this hat that I’m twisted in all the right ways and that’s why he likes me.    I figure I’m doing my part with sympathetic magic to ensure that we have future populations of deer and reindeer to enjoy 😉

And yes, I realize this is a pretty awful photo.  Sorry, my photography skills seem to actually getting worse rather than better.  The brim does not roll, and if I can get a photo on an actual model tomorrow I will try to post that.

Wool has to be soft…?


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This is hand spun, hand dyed wool from local sheep. It’s reasonably soft, being a Jacob/Merino mix, but not the softest thing I’ve ever felt by a long shot. Who cares, right?

Well, this yarn is for sale on consignment at a local yarn shop. When I was last in there, several women were feeling it and commenting that it wasn’t very soft. Then they asked me why the alpaca yarn was so much softer. I never got the chance to answer, because then they realized it *was* alpaca.

Now, I’m not a fan of really scratchy wool. I don’t know anyone who is, except perhaps people who weave carpets. But because I buy raw fleece from a variety of breeds, and process it myself or send it to my friend Rita at Arizona Fiber Mill, it is not processed by using chemicals to burn the vegetable matter out of the fleece. This preserves the inherent softness. It gets plain old soap and really hot water, just as it’s basically been done for hundreds – thousands – of years. Though to be fair in some regions urine was boiled to wash the wool. Urine actually is a pretty powerful antimicrobial cleaner, believe it or not. The active ingredient is ammonia.

But back to the title of the post.

As a hand spinner, I spend a lot of time with fiber. I want my finished product to be beautiful, functional, and above all durable. There are many types of sheep who produce many types of wool. ALL of these sheep were developed for specific purposes. And until recently, those purposes had to include not only meat, but fiber as well.

Want a durable carpet? Don’t use merino wool! Use the outer coat of an Icelandic, or Lincoln, or a primitive fat tailed sheep variety such as is found in carpet producing regions like Pakistan or Turkey, or Iran.

Want great long lasting socks that stay up? Again, don’t use merino! Use Dorset down, which in my opinion is far and away the springiest and most resilient wool and excellent for socks.

Want a blanket or a jacket? Use Cotswold. Spun worsted, it makes the ideal weaving yarn.

Want a really soft yarn for a scarf or a hat? OK, now use merino. But be aware that it probably won’t last for years and years, not if it’s spun to current standards. Industrially spun yarns are not very tightly spun nor plied. It give a softer hand to the yarn, but it will pill and make your hard work look quite bad in not a very long time. It’s even worse in a sweater unless it’s spun with something like silk.

I’m not anti-merino. It’s a wonderful type of crimpy fleece that is pleasurable to spin. BUT. Because I can spin my own, I choose to spin a slightly ‘harder’ yarn with more twist than you will see in commercial yarns. This is because I want my yarn to pill less and last longer in good condition.

The above Jacob/merino cross is a perfect example of what people don’t understand about wool yarn now days, because our mass produced industrial society encourages overconsumption and throw away items. This apparently includes hand knit items, because the only thing most knitters I know who don’t spin look for is “soft wool.” OOH, it’s so soft!! When I hear how soft a yarn is I automatically picture the product pilling and being discarded after a year or two. This yarn pictured is actually pretty reasonably soft, because the wool itself is medium soft and because it’s spun to preserve a reasonable portion of the ‘soft’ factor.

ETA: after I re-read the above paragraph this morning I realized I should include how it’s spun to clear up the apparent discrepancy between saying I spin a ‘harder’ yarn and spinning to preserve its softness. I spun this particular yarn in a semi-woolen manner. Meaning, I spun it using a modified long draw (picture my arm drawing way back like I’m going to pitch a ball, only I have wool in my hand and a twisted single going into the spinning wheel as I draw back. When I bring my arm forward, that single gets taken up onto the bobbin). This is what gives the fluffy and soft aspect of the yarn. I spin from carded pin drafted roving when I do this which gives the semi-part of the semi-woolen. It’s not quite full worsted (firm and durable) and not quite true woolen (really fluffy and soft, not durable at all). As I said, my yarns have more twist in the singles to start with than a lot of commercial yarns do, so even my softer stuff will hold up better than an equivalent commercial yarn.

In older times, people weren’t so concerned about “soft” because they knew they were sacrificing durability for softness. If they put a wool item on as a warm layer, they usually had something like linen underneath. No one had time to reknit something just because they wanted another one. Things got worn until they were past mending any more. As a hand spinner, my outlook is much more closely aligned with my ancestors’ than with current standards. I want soft, yes. But in small quantities for specific uses. Otherwise, I want durability over soft.

It takes me about a week to wash and comb enough fleece to begin spinning yarn for socks. I make a 3 ply yarn when I make sock yarn, so I spin up 3 four ounce bobbins worth of singles. Then I ply them all together to make my 3 ply yarn. I lose a bit in length by doing a 3 ply because they are circling around themselves in a larger diameter than in a 2 ply, but I also get much better resistance to wear by doing so. A round yarn wears better than a flat one. You want this for socks. It takes me approximately 5 hours to spin 4 ounces of singles at the thin diameter appropriate for making a nice thin sock yarn. Before I’ve even begun to ply I’m already at 15 hours of time at the spinning wheel. Plying takes another 3-4 hours. Then I have to wash it and set the twist.

If I’m going to dye it now is the time, which takes another day for dyeing and drying. I’m now approximately 40 hours into these socks, and I haven’t even begun knitting yet!

I can knit a regular crew length sock in approximately 5 hours. So it takes me 10 hours to knit a pair for myself. 50 hours worth of work is a lot of time to invest in an item! From my 12 ounces I can knit 3 pairs of socks for myself, 2 pairs for a man, or 1 pair of kilt hose. And this is why I won’t use merino for hand spun socks. Not only does it tend to pill, but it felts VERY easily. Which is something you do NOT want in a pair of socks, because felting shrinks them too. Dorset doesn’t felt very well in my experience, at least when it’s spun true worsted (all the fibers aligned in the long ways direction).

It’s a similar process for a sweater. The average sweater requires a pound of wool. And for a woman, approximately 1200 yards of yarn. That’s only if it’s color work or plain knit. If you are doing a lot of cables like an Aran sweater, you need closer to 3 pounds of wool, and 1600 yards of yarn. Regardless of what you may have read about Aran sweaters being a traditional garment, the plain fact is that they weren’t in common use until well after the industrial revolution and most women were no longer spinning their own yarn. No one is going to invest that much time into spinning the yarn for that kind of sweater when they are knitting for their entire family.

So soft…? Only sometimes. Mostly I prefer to sacrifice a little softness in favor of durability. But then, I’m a very practical person. What about you?

Summer Vacation at the Lake


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I grew up on a lake back east; I dyed this with the bright green of the grass, the darker green of the trees, the blue green of the algae, and the blue of the water in mind.

This is a 6 oz braid of hand dyed alpaca top which was originally a silver grey color.  I dyed it in a crockpot I use specifically for soaps and dyeing.  I bought a starter kit of Greener Shades dyes recently from a friend who is a distributor; they are dyes that use no chrome or tin to brighten colors and therefore are safer to dump in sewers, and onto garden beds.  While my favorite way to dye is with food coloring – easy, bright fun colors – the darker colors tend to “break” meaning they are a mix of lighter and darker dyes, and under the heat stress of dyeing they separate into their constituent colors rather than dyeing the color you want.  Blue, purple, and black are notorious for this.

This braid is for sale in my ArtFire shop and is currently the ONLY thing I have for sale there.  This evening I hope to take more photos of my hand spun yarns to put up in the shop; this will take some time because while I tracked the yardage while I was skeining, I couldn’t put tags on them until after I washed them and so I need to recount each skein for yardage before I put them up for sale.  I really need to figure out a better way to do this.

There will be more offerings soon so visit often!

I give up.


Kilt Hose for Mr. Tin FoilNot on these.  These are finished.  The yarn is hand spun superwash Blue Faced Leicester, purchased when I thought I was going to have time to actually make a business out of my crafting.  Purchased, not incidentally, for the specific intention of spinning sock yarn.   ETA:  I know I have said before that superwash isn’t as good for use in socks, but I wasn’t buying this for me.  I was buying it to spin and sell, which didn’t end up happening.  I still have several pounds of this to use up; if you want hand dyed hand spun sock yarn, email me for prices.

I used it for Mr. Tin Foil’s hose because this is pair #3 I’ve made for him, and pair #2 of hand spun.  He is *very* hard on socks.  I’m hoping these hold up longer than the last pair; I made his last pair out of worsted weight wool and he wore a hole in the tops of the toes the first day he wore them.  We all (friends who also wear kilts/hose) told him he must walk by curling his toes up every time he picks up his foot in order to wear holes in the tops of the toes.  He wasn’t amused.

There is a supposedly debunked urban myth that says knitting a pair of socks takes as much time and as many stitches as knitting a sweater.  I say supposedly debunked because the debunker did some math and decided that was not possible with size 3 needles and regular socks.  Said debunker has obviously never knit a pair of kilt hose on size 1 or size 0 needles or said debunker (who shall remain nameless though if you look I’m sure you can find the relevant information) would not be so sure.  These are made on size 2, which to me is HUGE but made the knitting of these go relatively quickly.

No.  I give up on making more things for family members who don’t care and don’t appreciate it.   I just can’t spend that much time making things for children whose parents put it away and the kid never wears it because the parents don’t put it on the kid.  I just can’t spend that much time making things for adults who put it in a drawer and let moths eat it or even worse, never even acknowledge they received the gift.  Cash is more expensive in dollars, but easier on my heart by far.

I guess it will free up more of my time to spend on making things for sale — I do a fairly good side business with my weaving and knitting; if I”m not wasting time making things for family members who don’t care about the gifts anyway I will certainly have more time to design and weave things that may actually sell.  Or to design and weave things for myself.

Yes, there was an incident that provoked this post.  I asked someone of the same approximate age as my children if I was being overly sensitive and was told no, that I had every right to be upset.  Ah well.  I will save my creative energies for those who appreciate them I guess.  Fewer tears for me.

9 yards of mosaic


9 yards of mosaic green9 yards of mosaic brownThese are towels I just finished weaving and took off the loom.  They aren’t done yet, because I haven’t cut them apart, sewn the hems, or wet finished them.  But the weaving part is done!  I made one green one simply because I was getting very tired of looking at the pottery brown color, and because it’s a gift for someone who asked for green.  A few of the browns are destined for gifts, the rest will be put up for sale.  I was very excited about this pattern and its treadling variations until I did 9 yards of it.  I needed something different after all those towels in the same basic pattern!

I just finished warping up a mohair warp.  Amazingly, I only broke one thread in the beaming on!!!  It’s a very sticky warp though, and after weaving only the header to separate the warp threads I can already tell I’m going to need something to put on it to ‘slick’ it up a bit.  From what I’ve read a product called Cowboy Magic (for horses) is supposed to work like magic in making them separate more easily.

Absolutely nothing done in the garden yet.  I’ve been lazy, and working on things I really want to work on – like spinning more sock yarn, making kilt hose, finishing up the weaving,  sewing, mending, etc.  It has to happen soon though, or we’ll have nothing to eat in a month or two!

The chickens have begun laying again which has been excellent.  They have been allowed to roam the yard and as a result I have no grubs in the beds.  And the yolks are so very orange that everything I make with them takes on a bright yellow cast.  After going the whole winter without eggs, I can’t tell you how delicious these are.  We did break down and buy a dozen eggs twice, but they were awful.  Pale and watery, like the memory of eggs rather than the real thing.

That’s all, I’ll have pictures of the mohair warp later on.  I need to get busy making peach cobbler to take to a friend’s celebratory barbeque – he got a promotion and a 20% raise.  Lucky man in these times!

Hypocrisy and Half-baked thoughts


Cafe Hayek has a post by someone named Don Bordreaux trying to make the case that we should abolish the minimum wage.  He begins with a scenario of you being in a fast food restaurant or rent-a-maid office, or the grocery store and you accidentally overhear a woman who is obviously poor, who speaks broken English, ask for and be rejected for a job at this fast food restaurant:

Suppose that you’re at a McDonald’s restaurant or at a Safeway supermarket or at the office of a maid-service company and you see a 20-something young woman.  The woman is obviously poor by American standards and her English is broken and heavily accented.  She has no certifiable job experience.  She applies for a job and is rejected.  She – with entrepreneurial gumption – responds to the rejection by offering to work, not for the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour but, instead, for $5.00 per hour.  You observe the manager’s evident interest in her counteroffer.  The manager ponders for a minute or two and then whispers to her – yet loud enough for you to overhear – “Look, that’s against the law, but I can use you at $5.00 per hour.  So, okay, you’re hired!  But please don’t tell anyone or else I’ll be in serious trouble and you’ll lose this job.”

He then attempts, badly in my opinion, to play on you, the reader, for sympathy, by asking how you could be so heartless as to personally (italics his) intervene:

Would you – you personally – intervene to stop this woman from taking this job?  Would you – you personally – be willing to look her in the eyes and tell her that she may not take that job?  Would you – you personally – inform this young woman (with regret, of course) that she must remain unemployed for the time being and resume her job search elsewhere?  And would you – you personally – be willing to use force against this woman to prevent her from working at $5.00 per hour if she stubbornly ignores your demands?  Would you be willing, if her stubborn refusal to refuse the job persists, to poke a gun in her face to prevent her from working at an hourly wage of $5.00 per hour?

The writer goes on to say that, of course we’d happily turn in the manager, or call the police to intervene, but that prevents the manager and the woman from knowing that it was us, personally, who deprived her of the job and turned in the manager.  He ends with these questions:

But I wonder how many of you – you personally – have the courage of your moral convictions to be able to look the woman in her eyes and expose yourself personally, to her, as someone willing to deny her the opportunity to work at the highest wage she can now earn.

And if I’m correct, how can you, in good conscience, continue to feel that minimum-wage legislation is ethically justified?

The fact that I don’t eat fast food and can’t afford maid service  aside and so never would have heard this conversation to begin with —  I personally would have NO compunction about intervening in this situation, and making a report to the appropriate agencies as well as the division office of this fast food restaurant.

I would intervene for a number of reasons.  That’s because I can think logically.  First, if she was here as a refugee, the government would have offered her employment assistance and therefore she would not be begging for a job at less than minimum wage.  If she was here legally, she could also appeal to a number of government agencies which would be happy to assist her, on a level they do not seem to display for natural born citizens, with finding employment or in getting public assistance.

Second, I can do math.  If this situation were to happen without intervention, the very next thing to happen is that the manager would call his buddies and tell them that he got someone to work for less than minimum wage, and find out if his new girl has friends he can hire or refer to his manager friends.  The next time an employee calls out, or has any sort of a discipline problem, they will find themselves out of a job and yet another person willing to work for less than minimum wage will be employed.  This, I believe, is called wage deflation.  Paul Krugman has an excellent article on this very phenomenon I found when I went googling a definition for wage deflation.  Now, opinions on the REST of Krugman’s essays and work aside, this is a very commonsense and easily understood essay describing this problem.

Third, I can see the end resulting from this cause.  This will have ripple effects – or as the Aussies and the English say – a knock-on effect on the rest of the economy.  Because her wages are less, eventually there will be more people working at less than minimum wage than can be policed by agencies responsible for ensuring compliance with the minimum wage.  People will not speak up, because they will now be working outside the law – and those few who still work for minimum wage will be in fear of losing their own jobs.  These people will have even less money to spend on the basic necessities and therefore can’t.  Sectors not directly related to fast food will experience loss of revenue and layoffs will begin in those sectors.  Even the manager who began paying less than minimum wage will find that his bonus is cut, or the cost of living raise he was expecting, is not going to be happening. This will ripple across the economic landscape, and up the pyramid of unskilled, semi skilled, and skilled workers, to ultimately affect the owner class at the top. Of course, they at the top don’t rely on actual business earnings for their money, they rely on fantasy money produced via ‘vehicles’ such as bonds, stocks, and derivatives, so it will be quite a while before they realize that the REAL economy and money that their fantasy money used to arise from is, in fact, fantasy.

This author relies on shame and an appeal to the emotions in making this case, not logic.   This is why I think most Libertarians of today are just selfish shits who don’t want to share the sandbox, and can’t logically think their way out of a paper bag.  Or, as my ex-husband use to say, they don’t have enough brains to pour piss out of a boot.  We don’t live 150 years ago, and thankfully so, or most of us would be working in factories or mills for those business owners at pennies per week, 16 hours a day, 6 days a week.  We would have started working at as young as 6, and most of us would die from malnutrition or diseases easily prevented by proper diet, basic sanitation, and sunshine.  Yet these Libertarians would happily do away with minimum wage even though their wages are predicated on that minimum standard, and would decrease by a LOT, if it were abolished.  The concept of days off arises from the same place and time where minimum wage was implemented, and I’m sure Libertarians enjoy their holidays and days off as much as the next person.  Same for medical care, enough food to eat, the ability to live where you want…you get the idea.  It is BECAUSE of the abuses inflicted on the unskilled and fearful populace in previous centuries and eras that we have the protections — the privileges of middle class life — we have now.

I agree that regulation has gone too far.  I can’t, for instance, open a business out of my home, because I live in a residential area.  You can’t have manufacturing in a residential zone unless you want to drastically increase your tax burden and open yourself up to a whole host of new regulations.  If I were to ever get to the point where I wanted to open a store to sell my hand crafts, I would need to pay rent for a building miles away, all the utilities, fire/theft/liability insurance (because someone might strangle themselves with a skein of my yarn and I’d be liable), the gas to drive there and back, and so on….   They are right in this point of view.  It would be even worse if I were to build a building myself.  Construction insurance, loan insurance, building codes (including the Universal Fire Code — look that baby up if you want to be goggled with horror at ridiculous regulations!), handicap access, etc.

If I were to hire an employee it would get even more onerous.  Minimum wage, of course, but also Social Security tax, Medicare tax, state taxes, county taxes, and on and on…. or I could hire the employee on a 1099 as an independent contractor and let him/her worry about it, but I’m sure that opens me up to further regulations I can’t even conceive of right now.  Like I said, regulation has gone too far.  In this I do agree with  Libertarians.  How to fix this?  I don’t know.  I do know that slashing minimum wage without dealing with the economy strangling regulations (and the government entities creating more and more every day) is NOT going to work.  Appealing to flawed logic and misplaced compassion for an agenda that benefits business owners – the 1%’ers greatly in the near term, and hurts them in the long term, is NOT the way to go about this.

ETA:  I have more thoughts about this, but I don’t want to make it too long.  I’m on vacation from school until next week so I will actually have time to put thought to form.

Perusing Craigslist for jobs that don’t exist :)


I looked in the skilled trades/crafts section of Craigslist today, just to see what types of jobs are being posted.

Framer

RV mechanic technician

Plumber

Experienced tile layer

And that’s about it.  I had to laugh — did I really think I was going to find a post wanting a weaver??  Or a spinner??

I am doing my first commission spinning though, nearly 2 lbs of an alpaca cria (baby) fleece (actually it’s called blanket) my friend tried to process and was worried she was going to destroy if she did any more.  Some of it is already in roving with lots of nepps (little balls of fiber) and I’m spinning that into singles that will become a worsted weight 3 ply.  Some of it is washed but not processed in any other way; this I will card on my drum carder, very slowly and carefully to keep the smooth and lofty nature of the fiber.

Ideally, the owner of the fleece (not my friend, she owns a fiber mill) will end up with a textured yarn and a smooth yarn, and be happy with her first fleece product.  She is new to owning fiber animals, and recently learned how to knit in anticipation of using her own yarn.  I am enjoying spinning this so far; it’s deliciously soft and fine and most of the prickly things are falling out as I spin.

I wish I could do more commission spinning and less actual working.  It’s less money by a long shot, but I don’t have to get dressed up, drive a long way away, worry about meals and drinks, or stress out about deadlines or working overtime.

It’s my new year, some resolutions


I had my birthday recently and I made some resolutions.  I never do them on New Year’s Eve, it’s not my new year – my birthday begins a new year for me.

I disabled my account on Facebook.  I joined to follow my children but it just takes too much of my time.  I miss seeing pics of the grandbabies but not enough to sign back up.

I have severely limited my time on the computer unless it is for school work.  This actually interferes with one of my jobs but that’s OK.  I’d rather make less money and have more time.

I still haven’t gotten serious about an exercise program but that’s coming, it’s still pretty hot here in the desert for workouts when you cool only with a swamp cooler and fans.

I already eat pretty well, so that will continue.

I plan to make more time for the crafting business aspect of my crafting business — treating it like a job, making time on a regular basis (even 15 minutes is more than it often gets lately).  I can’t sell things if I don’t make things.  And I really want my husband to get more involved with the photography aspect so that my online photos do my stuff justice.  I try, but it’s just not my thing.  My loom is pretty self explanatory; my spinning wheels are pretty complex but don’t take a 250 page book to understand.  Our camera does.

I am going to do more winter gardening and after my final next week I’m going to get the winter veggies started.  I would like to buy a grow light, but they’re fairly expensive.  I’ve been reliably informed that my regular light bulbs do not give my plants the light wavelengths they need for proper growth.

That’s all.  I can’t get too crazy about the resolutions because now they’re public and I’ll be held accountable to them by those who are closest to me!

What I’ve been working on in my newly found spare time


Shetland wool, Faroese design

Hand spun Shetland wool, cream and natural brown colors.  Dyed with natural dyes, from top to bottom:  Holly hock, onion skins, annatto, chrysanthemum, henna, holly hock.  And I’m telling ya, I did not see that seafoam green coming from a holly hock dye pot that was burgundy colored!

It’s 84 inches wingspan, 25 inches deep, knitted neck down.  I used pretty much every single yard of each color which is why I chose neck down.  The lace patterns are not centered because I didn’t know how much space each section of color would take up due to the increases and increasing stitch counts every two rows.

I’m just not a very good weaver I guess — I hate sewing.  So I still have a pile of weaving to hem!  Gotta get to it today, because I have to take my stuff to the gallery by Wednesday.  Nothing like a deadline to motivate me…days like this make me wish my grandmother were still alive.  She was a professional seamstress for most of her adult life, and made much of our clothes when we were growing up, including our bathing suits (anybody remember Stretch and Sew patterns?).  She could have finished all this stuff in no time and done probably a much better job than I will do.  Certainly she would have done it with less swearing!

I have had three job offers in the past week, pending background checks and reference checks, of course.  But for the job I really want I’m still waiting on the second interview.  I will accept one, and probably two of these offers, so that I have income while I wait for my preferred job.  I hope I do get an offer from them.

That’s about it.