July 2009 Archives

One-Track Blog


Somehow this is turning into an all-spinning, all the time blog. That was not my intention, but I guess I'm letting myself obsess about spinning this summer, so OK.

Here's some of that alpaca I've been carding, spun up on the wheel. The batts are spinning very nicely; I can see why nicely done batts are a favourite prep for a lot of spinners. I'd certainly have more of this done if I had not just started a class on mechanical and electrical systems for buildings.

Black alpaca spun up

I know how filthy alpacas are -- I happened to be standing next to one twelve years ago when it decided to shake off a little and the cloud of dust was astounding. But what is amazing is how much dirt falls off the fiber after it's been shaken off and then carded three times, given how much dirt came off before. Anyway, I brought an apron to the living room and I'm wearing that while spinning so I don't get quite so utterly filthy.

In between that, I still have this silk/merino on the spindle that I'm working on. I've been working away at it for months, and this week I decided to just get down and work on it more often so I can finish it. I have another spindle full of the stuff waiting to be plied.

Spindle full of silk/merino

And because I was playing around with lenses, a super-extreme closeup:

Spindle closeup

There you can see how I'm wrapping my copp: alternating layers of criss-crossing across the bulge with layers of tight spiral wrapping to pack on the yarn. It's making a nice, dense copp that mostly stays in place even when I drop the spindle from spectacular heights.

You can also kind of see that my spinning is getting more consistent. Yay, me.

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For the last two weeks, I've been testing two drum carders: the Patrick Green Deb's Delicate Deluxe, and the Strauch Finest. This is my comprehensive review of the two.

Let's start with the basics. Both of these are really great carders. I would not say no if offered either one, and if one was for some reason not available, I would happily choose the other. That said, like all engineered products, each one is the result of a series of design decisions, and those decisions gave me a rung to hang my preference hat onto, as it were.

I ran these carders through a series of tests designed to compare their design and performance. These were things that were important to me, things that were important to other people, and some things that turned out to not be that important at all. Here are some quick links to take you to each of the tests:
Features and Accessories
Ease of Use: Handle
Ease of Use: Batt Removal
Design: Drive Belts
Design: Clamps
Design: Licker-In
Design: Carding Drum
Effectiveness: Batt Size
Effectiveness: Removal of VM

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What I Did Last Week


Over the last week I've been working on a detailed comparison of two drum carders, and as part of that I have been carding a lot of fiber. My crowning achievement, though, was in the Rumplestilskin category, where I managed to card 16 oz of alpaca into 19 batts averaging 1 oz of fiber each. How I did that, I will never know.

19 batts at an average of 1 oz each

(Actually, I have a fair idea that the original weight was on the low side.)

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A Day at the Fair

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Today my friend Elaine and I went to the County Fair in Pleasanton. We had loads of fun looking at the animals and crafts and so forth.

For example, from highlights from the Fiber Arts and Food hall:

A first prize in cake decorating:

Cake decorating

A very vibrant quilt (the colours were a bit less saturated, but not much):


I liked the pattern on this quilt:


And this was a professional entry that was very impressive:

Lighthouse quilt

Several tables were set up with place settings on themes. Most of them seemed like exercises in creative shopping, but this one impressed me because it used crafted pieces (the china was hand-painted). Plus, I loved the theme:

Shel Silverstein place setting

Then we went to the Small Animals exhibits. There were lots of animals to coo over, like these parakeets:


And this pile of bunnies:


And these awesome pigeons:

Fancy pigeons

I admit that every now and then I think I would love to have a dovecote on the roof full of pigeons. I don't know what the neighbors would think.

They would probably look at me like this:

Irritated pigeon

I also occasionally think it might be fun to buy a few dozen quail and let them loose in the neighborhood. Probably not one of my finer ideas.


This is a bantam chicken. They're basically just small versions of the same big chickens, although some breeds are not available as bantams and some are not available in full sized chickens.

Fancy bantam chicken

These geese were making quite a ruckus. Hooooonk honk honk hoooooooonk. The long necks only make it funnier.

Honking geese

We went into the "pet store" and admired the piles of ducklings and chicks for sale. Look at all these ducklings:


And loooots of day-old weensy baby chicks. These are bantams, so they are extra-tiny little puffballs.

Chicks for sale

This frog was also pretty funny. A couple came around the other side of the tank looking for him, and burst into laughter when they saw him.

Frog in a tank

There was one exhibit hall entirely filled with cages of chickens and rabbits, some for sale and others just for show:

Rabbits and chickens

This sign brought to mind a certain over-quoted movie:

Biting bunnies

Most of the rabbits seemed pretty mellow, relaxing and just sort of hanging out in their cages. A few were anxious and clearly not happy with the noise of the show. This one was keeping an eye out.

Rabbit in the show cage

This one clearly subscribed to the theory that a good nap makes everybody feel better:

Socked out rabbit

Here are a couple of angora rabbits:

Angora rabbits

And of course, chickens. This is a bantam Seabright:

Seabright chicken

Looks like somebody laid an egg.

Bantam laid an egg

We admired the plumage on the bantams; many of the smaller breeds have quite lovely feather patterning.

Nice feather colouring

Elaine was quite fond of this configuration:

Harlequin colouring

I liked these guys, though they look somewhat diseased close up:

Gelled feathers

Then it was time for lunch...

Fried foods

I had deep fried ravioli (the St. Louis treat!)

Deep fried ravioli

Elaine had a pulled pork sandwich:

Pulled pork sandwich

And for dessert we split a funnel cake, ending up entirely covered in powdered sugar:

Funnel cake

Fair food is fun, though I admit it is more fun in concept than in execution. I really just love the look of the concession stands:

More food concessions

After lunch we made our way to the large livestock pavilion. Where we saw this interesting and informative (if somewhat weird) diagram:

Steer diagram

(Did that steer have the head of a frog?)

There were some steers to look at, but the exhibit was mostly smaller hoofed animals like goats:


And sheep:


And lots and lots of pigs:

Sleeping pig

We briefly watched a steer show:

Steer show

Then headed off into the Amateur Garden exhibit hall. We learned how cows are awesome and help prevent fires:

Amateur gardens hall

And learned that you should eat carrots, raw eggs, and pellets, but should not eat carrot tops or broccoli.

What you can and can't eat

We admired the cut flowers entered in the show:

Flower judging

Saw a small urban gardening exhibit,

Urban gardening exhibit

And spent quite a bit of time ogling the beekeeping booth.

Beekeeping exhibit

Including a terrific observation hive setup:

Observation hive

I liked this ice cream stand, which reminded me of driving around with my sisters-in-law last month, looking for vanilla/chocolate twist soft serve in Minneapolis.

Ice cream stand

And boggled at this until i realized it did not say "Shiksa Shack":

Shiksa Shack?

Then we made a brief stop in the Small Animals exhibit again to make a purchase:

Bunny being purchased

Yup, Elaine bought herself a lovely gray female English Angora rabbit, and I've promised to teach her how to spin its fur (since I can't tolerate being around rabbits enough to do it for her).

We made one last stop for cotton candy on the way out, and then it was time to go home and get the new bunny settled.

Cotton candy to go

A great day for all concerned, except maybe the rabbit did not care for the car ride home.

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Some Light Summer Spinning


Many of my spinning friends are doing the Tour de Fleece: a crazy tracking of the Tour de France but in spinning. I'm not, because I have too much on my plate, but yesterday I decided to see how much I could spin in an evening. (And then I ended up staying up until nearly 2am finishing the plying because I couldn't leave it be overnight.)

I had a wad of Dorset left over from a class, so I spun it all. And plied it. I do like spinning on the spindle, but I have to admit that spinning on a wheel is super fast when you can just sit down and zone out. This is 203 yards of 2-ply, from 1.7 ounces of fiber. It's fingering weight.

203 yards of 2-ply Dorset

And the other fun piece of equipment I played with for the first time was a ball winder. When I got the Clemes and Clemes wheel, it came in the box of stuff. I've never really used one, because I can wind a decent center-pull ball on my hand, and I hate buying expensive stuff that takes up room when I have a ball winder with me at all times, anyway.

Wound into a ball

On the other hand, I will give it points for being obscenely fast at winding a ball. So I'm not getting rid of it any time soon.

As for what I'll make with this wool, maybe a scarf? This spinning thing is really testing my ability to come up with projects for small amounts of fat yarns (though with this skein, I've finally got a yarn in a weight I know how to use).

Next up, I will have more yarn to work with. I'm carding up batts from the 2lbs of alpaca I bought at the winery. I'll also be writing up a discussion of drum carders, as I have two on loan/rental. Until then, let me tell you that alpaca is great fun to brush until it is soft and smooth. Num.

Alpaca batt

Cellulose and Cellulosic Fibers


Yesterday I took a fun class with Brooke of Tactile on spinning cellulose and cellulosic fibers. Basically, cotton, flax, tencel, bamboo, that sort of thing. I'd never spun any of those fibers (not surprising since I've not been spinning very long) and wanted to try them out.

Here are my samples from the class, plus remaining balls of fiber:

This is a 50/50 merino/tencel. It was very sticky to spin, almost to the point of squeaking a little on my fingers. I admit I wasn't totally keen on it, and I'm not sold on this as a blend. Maybe if I were spinning for sock yarn.


This is 100 percent tencel. Very very smooth and slippery. More so than silk, but I've only spun silk on a spindle and in this case I was trying to spin on a wheel. Not a big fan, but in general I'm not a big fan of fibers that try to be silk but aren't.

100 percent tencel

This is bamboo and wool, 60/40, but I didn't write down which was which. It spun very nicely, and I almost didn't want to stop. The difference in the worsted versus woolen samples was marked for this one.

Bamboo and wool

Bamboo/wool/alpaca (about 50/25/25 but not quite): spun nicely but had some funny crispy sections. I didn't like doing this from the fold, it just didn't seem to want to be bent that way.


Wool/flax, both undyed and dyed. I ran out of time on this one and had to rush through. It drafted nicely and was pretty easy to handle.

Wool/flax blend

Flax. Man. I must get some flax. This was so much fun, and I love knitting with flax yarn. Flax and the resulting linen have all the qualities I love in a fiber: durability, improving softness over time, and machine-washability. I have a silk/linen blend sweater I love to death. I can't think why I didn't immediately order a bunch of flax when I started spinning.


Carbonized bamboo. Weird stuff. Very smooth. Doesn't take dye at all. Soft and shiny. I think I'd like to get more of this and spin with it for a while to see if it feels less weird.

Carbonized bamboo

Seed cotton. Arg. Little bolls of cotton with a seed in the middle (so a bunch of free cotton seeds!), such a pain in the butt to spin. I felt like I was alternating between having my single fall apart from not enough twist or snap in half from too much twist. It was terrible.

Seed cotton

Cotton punis. Cue about ten minutes of a bunch of spinners sitting around giggling at how they look like tampons. These were also very hard for me, because of the same not quite getting enough twist in/omg, too much twist issue. I didn't even get to the dyed ones.

Cotton punis

Cotton sliver. My new best friend. After suffering through seed cotton and punis, this was the easiest thing ever to draft. I had a great time.

Cotton sliver

And another cotton sliver, only natural colours this time (no dye; the cotton comes off the plant this colour). When heated or washed, this cotton gets darker.

Undyed coloured cotton sliver

We also tried out tahklis (Indian support spindles); that was really hard. And we watched the use of the charkha, which is an Indian spinning wheel.

It was a good class. I felt like I learned a lot, but also like I still had a lot to learn.

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This page is an archive of entries from July 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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