Creating Sunshine!

With a foot of fresh snow and temperatures hovering around the zero degree mark here in Alaska this week, I felt the need to create inner warmth.

I don’t mean turning the thermostat up or starting a crackling fire in the wood stove. Those are givens. We do what we can when it’s this cold outside.

No, I mean pulling a vision of warmth and sunshine from within. Close your eyes; feel the sun on your face, the caress of a summer breeze across your cheeks. Open your inner eye to a soft blue sky with maybe a few fluffy white clouds. Smell the grass underfoot.

Now … how to translate sunshine, blue skies and summer warmth from the vision in my mind into a tangible form?

For me, the thought of glowing sunshine starts out with a pale yellow palette. PALE yellow. My substantial fiber stash offered up no fibers in a soft, buttery, pale yellow. Darn.

The stash did spill forth a large package of bright, taxi-cab yellow 🚕 wool roving.

OK, not ideal by itself (and has me wondering why I bought it in the first place), but I can work with it. I started out by blending 2 oz of bright yellow (80% merino wool/20% silk), with 2 oz of my creamy white Cormo wool.

At 50/50 , the yellow was still much to dominant. I want the yarn to say “sunshine”, not “bouquet of plastic sunflowers”. So, adding two more ounces of white cormo, I passed the batts (four of them now, each about 1.5 oz) back through the drum-carder a couple more times, blending the fibers well.

Once I had achieved the desired saturated but mellow sunshine tint I was hoping for, I basked in my accomplishment overnight, toasty and warm, while I mulled over where to take it from there.

All right, I’ll admit, I also had the electric blanket on. Ronni insisted.

In the back of my mind was a long, bouncy scarf that would go well with blue jeans and brighten up a dark, midnight blue coat. I think it might be nice to have a little sunshine on a cold, winter day.

With this in mind, I dove back into my stash and pulled out several different shades and tones of blue in a variety of fibers. A light, sky blue seemed appropriate, but when laid next to the yellow, I could see the overall palette was fading into pale so. pastels. Not quite right.

In the end, to achieve (I hope) the look I envisioned in my mind, I went with two blues; one a deeper, almost ocean blue fine merino wool that should hold up visually against the yellows and streaks of white cormo, and the other a pale, shimmery aqua made from dyed white pygora.

After carefully weighing and separating the yellow, two blues and white (with yellow being the primary color), so each batt would have equal amounts of each color, I set about doing one final blend. I ended up with eight multi-color batts, each weighing about .9 oz.

I’m going with gut instinct on this. Summer sunshine and blue skies … and, because honestly, you really can’t blend blues and yellows on a drum-carder without a little color overlap, I’m betting the end result will also have a kiss of green grass here and there along the edges. All good!

The spun yarn should show some nice definition hof colors, but half the fun of creating yvcaour own yarn is not knowing for sure what the final result will be until it’s spun and plied. Stay tuned! ☀️

Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho!

🎵🎶 A spinning we will go! 🎶🎵

My feet treadling softly, the spinning wheel whorls round and round as the final bobbin fills with the last of the lovely chestnut-brown alpaca needed before I can start plying it into a usable 2-ply yarn.

Not that I’m out of alpaca, by any means … I just don’t need to spin any more for this particular project. This is what I still have left.

I keep getting sidetracked by other fiber projects, but I need to finish this alpaca yarn before moving on. Once plied and washed, I can set the yarn aside until it tells me what it wants to become.

I’ve now also sorted, washed and drum-carded enough batts of my creamy white, fine Cormo sheep fleece to start contemplating my next step there.

Do I dye it? If so, shall it be solid colors or a few multi-colored rovings? I have seven large batts finished so far, and a lot more washed and raw fleece still to process.

I guess I’ll just have to continue carding until inspiration strikes.

And then, there is my newly drum-carded, “northern lights” themed Suffolk/Rambouillet cross rolags.

Yes! Someone bred their 4-H meat sheep project ewe lamb with a neighbor’s gorgeous fiber-fleece ram. The resulting offspring surprisingly seems to have turned out quite nicely. 😉 I wish I had more of this fleece.

I’ve created eight mini-batts (.6 to .8 Oz. each) of this pretty blend, and it’s crying out to be spun.

Oh, I almost forgot … I have yet to complete my current drop-spindle project, too. Hmm. No, that can wait. It makes such a handy doctor’s office waiting-room project.

By the way, speaking of projects; what do YOU think this is becoming?

100% Merino wool.

Counting Sheep

The discordant thump and rattle of a loose board in the deck railing outside the bedroom window woke me from a fitful sleep.

Wind moaning through bare tree branches in the dark beyond my window told the unseen story. I seldom sleep well on a windy night.

Unable to drift back into slumber, I disentangled myself from the limpet snoring softly against my side (Ronni) and slipped out of bed. With a soft groan, Ronni curled into a tight ball and slept on.

A glance at the clock glowing dimly on my bedside table verified the early hour – it was 1:30 am.

My “go to” remedy for a sleepless night is hot cocoa, so I crept quietly down the stairs.

Pausing on the stair landing to rest my aching knee (yes, it’s back to acting up … so much for cortisone injections), my eyes fell on the still half-full bag of raw Cormo fleece I’ve been slowly working my way through.

Hmmm … better than counting sheep!

An hour later, cocoa forgotten, I crawled back into bed, having sorted fleece into two more plastic tubs of individual wool locks, ready to be washed and then drum-carded.

I guess I know what I’ll be doing tomorrow. 🐑🐑

Pacing the floors

Those of you who know me are aware; this pre-winter season is not my favorite time of year. Everything is so brown and dead looking. There is a very Halloween-scary-movie-forest thing going on outside. I can almost imagine a “dead” scarecrow hanging from one of the branches.

Sure, there are occasional surprises, when our unrelieved, sodden brown surroundings transform overnight to a temporary winter wonderland. But it doesn’t mean it (yet …). By the following day, everything is back to dull brown.

It’s a season of adjusting; boxing up t-shirts and short sleeved tops, pulling out turtlenecks and woolen leggings (and I am so glad I managed to drop that “covid 10” pounds this past summer, or those warm leggings would NOT have fit under my jeans!).

With limited closet space, it also means boxing up flip-flops, sandals and most of my light-weight tennis shoes to make room for warmer, bulkier shoes and boots.

On the bright side; REI came through again, and I now own an arch-supportive, lightly insulated, water/snow proof, well-cushioned pair of ankle-high walking shoes to take over from my comfortable but way too water-penetrable Hoka One One’s.

The Hoka walking shoes won’t be boxed up though. They will still be much needed for twice-weekly walking on the indoor track at the Menard Sports Center. I intend to greet next spring in much better physical shape than I did the last. At least, if my problematic knee holds out. 🤞

So, with our quirky weather currently hovering around the freezing mark, sunshine on some days, then winds blowing or rain falling on others – my daily routine has inevitably begun to change as well.

I find myself instinctively gathering my winter comfort hobbies about me this year, as I haven’t seriously done for a long time. It feels right.

Last night, as I was carefully laying a tub-full of freshly washed, raw sheep’s wool on drying racks beside the wood stove, breathing in the remembered smell of wet wool, I realized what had changed.

Jolene & Nelson, October 2014, in their summer sheep-sheets. I still miss these two.

Anyway, this is the first winter since 2008 that I haven’t had overriding priorities pushing my fiber arts to the side. I never gave them up, but they moved well down on my list for a long time.

First, Jerry’s 2009 TBI and long recover, then my going back to work and becoming involved in dog sports (along with caring for Jer), and then being totally (and happily) consumed by being a K9 Nose Work instructor.

Even last winter, although I was doing some spinning and knitting while mostly sticking close to home, I was kept busy actively planning, structuring, editing and reviewing an online nose work course with 8 students.

I enjoyed and appreciated that class – it kept me mentally engaged during a winter that otherwise really sucked.

THIS winter, however, I have no job and really, no commitments.

Other than taking the pups to nose work and barn hunt practice, and sticking to my own exercise routine, I’m pretty much free to explore old passions, with time to give them my full attention. I think I might be [gasp] actually looking forward to it …

Thus, I now find myself pacing the floor, not in frustration, but meditatively, drop spindle in hand.

My “shooting stars” drop spindle, made by talented woodworker, Tracy Eichheim, in 2013, is one of my favorites. I bought her at the Oregon Fleece & Fiber Festival many years ago.

Yes, this winter, when it finally arrives, is going to be different. Heck, I might even pull my drum carder back out. I’m feeling my creative juices flowing.

With various and assorted fleece and fiber to choose from (my stash really could use some judicious pruning), a drum carder, two spinning wheels and multiple spindles … there’s no telling what could happen.

A small, radiant floor heater keeps my little upstairs fiber studio toasty for us two girls. 😉

Stay tuned; I believe this may be a winter for tale spinning … of one sort or another.

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