Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Radio silence.

I haven't been updating for the past month because there hasn't been much to say with direct relevance to Firefly Mountain Yarns. I'm just filled to bursting with happy news, though, and it is indirectly related, I swear! Fiber exploits of every kind!

I'm going to try to be essentially chronological here, but I might get a bit excited and skip around. (HINT: SPINNING WHEEL!)

I ended up spinning those 2 oz of BFL. They came out in a very smooshy and lovely bulky yarn which I knit into a pseudo-Calorimetry which I know will come in handy as it's starting to get cold now.

As you know, dear readers, my spindle recently broke. Also, it was my birthday on the 22nd of September. I was going to be in Washington that week, so birthday celebrations were happening before I left. I get a box in the mail and, joy of joys, a notice from the UPS man that he has something for me, too! I had been warned about the box in the mail by my mother, who said it was "from her but not from her". It was from her and... Paradise Fibers! I love Paradise Fibers. I've ordered from them several times and always had great service. I'm all excited and I open my box and there's... get this... a POUND of baby camel top in gorgeous natural caramel brown. Let's just all consider how awesome my mother is for a minute. There's also half a pound of Targhee, which I'm also very excited about since I had expressed a wish to spin some different types of wools and I've never spun Targhee before. AND it is naturally white so I can do all kinds of fun dyeing with it. I call her up and thank her profusely and tell her how excited I am about the camel and the Targhee and she says "and?"

And? There's more?

I tell her that's all that's in the box, and doubtfully say that I guess something could have fallen out, but probably not because the box is pretty full and there's not that much extra room, so maybe they shipped it separately?

That night I get back to my apartment around 1 AM (what? It was a Friday night and I was celebrating my birthday!) and find a HUGE box sitting outside my door from Mr. UPS. I dragged it inside, opened it... and called my mom right then, even though I knew I'd wake her up. (HINT: SPINNING WHEEL)

Yup. My mother bought me a spinning wheel for my birthday. Here I am all thrilled over camel and she's bought me a SPINNING WHEEL.

She's a Babe Production wheel, double treadle, in black. I have named her Penelope and acquired for her a little sheepy buddy from the Lavender Ewe. He sits just above the maiden and I'm calling him Odysseus.

(Warning: gratuitous spinning wheel/felted sheep pictures ahead)

I resisted the temptation to set her up immediately, at 1 AM, but the next morning I put her together and took several pictures. You must forgive the mess in my apartment -- the big box is the box Penny came in, and the rest of the mess is a box of yarn, bits of discarded yarn, and sheets of patterns thrown recklessly around. I'm such a bad person. Teleri, my cat, is completely fascinated by the wheel, as you can see.

Now a picture of my first singles on the wheel. I've never used a wheel before and I did a really poor job for a while -- but I caught on pretty quick, and then took a ridiculous number of photos of the bobbin with my singles, even though it's black merino and you can't see anything about the singles at all.

Before I finished spinning up all three bobbins of singles so I could ply, I had to go to Washington (more on that later) and when I came back... Odysseus the Sheep was waiting for me!

(Still with the mess...)

This is pretty much my favorite picture ever. Just look at him, all sheepy and googly-eyed!

Plying was fun all around. Not only have I never plied on a wheel before, I've only ever plied using an Andean plying bracelet, which is really cool but time-consuming and makes my fingers hurt. Using a lazy kate was a new experience, and a really, really nice one. I plied up a skein and was about to start another when I decided that I probably could spin some more singles, since I still had a bunch of merino. (I STILL have a bunch of merino. I haven't decided what to do with the rest yet.) So I rounded off each of the three bobbins with another half ounce or so of merino and then plied that. The second batch was much, much nicer than the first. I think I really am getting the hang of it!

(Five points to anyone who can tell which skein is which.)

Ahem. Before I can really move on, I need to stop and tell you about Seattle. (Whatever happened to chronological order? This problem could have been avoided if I had just kept you all updated instead of waiting a month for a monster post...)

I was in Seattle for a week because of my master's program in Library and Information Science. I'm in the long-distance program, so I had to visit for a week and now I never have to go back to campus again, which is kind of too bad because Seattle is a really neat town. (But also good, because that's $400 I don't have to spend on a plane ticket and can spend on yarn instead!) Three really excellent things happened in Seattle.

1. I walked to a yarn store called Weaving Works. I had very low expectations. This place blew my mind. Not only did it blow my expectations right out of the water, it totally shattered the complete idea I had of "local yarn store". Holy cow. That place is really something. I, um, may have fallen down and acquired some fiber there. Some yarn for socks for my sister (shh, don't tell her. I owe her after a failed dyeing experiment last summer), and... well, they had a Shetland fleece, and I do love spinning from the lock, and it was cheap!, and and and...

I didn't buy the whole thing. I am very proud of this.

I also bought some lovely lovely Coopworth in three shades of natural brown and one natural white. I think it's going to be a fine colorwork sweater, if I can ever get my act together and design it (not to mention spin the yarn.........). And, um, there was some lovely merino/silk (I have since identified it as this Ashland Bay merino/tussah silk in Sea Mist) and it was REALLY cheap (I won't even tell you how cheap or you might be jealous), so I bought four ounces. Ish.

2. (What, there's more??) I got to hang out with my very cool friends Jules and Joe. That was great fun.

3. I've been applying for hundreds of jobs for months and getting hardly a nibble. I applied for about five jobs the whole time I was in Seattle... and I got one of them! That's right, I'm employed! Not, perhaps, as employed as I would like, but I am teaching an English class at a local community college, and it's something, at least. Good for my pride, anyway.

So back to the spinning. I finished up the black merino (it came out to a dk/worsted weight, three ply, purposely way overplied and blocked severely. I was going for that really tight spiral you get on nice sock yarns sometimes. It totally worked.) and couldn't decide what to do next. I had that camel (oh... the gorgeous camel...) but I didn't want to start on it until I was sure I was ready and wouldn't waste any of the gorgeous fiber. Also, I wasn't sure what kind of yarn I wanted to make from it yet. I figured I should do a little more playing around with my wheel first. I considered the Shetland (don't feel like washing it right now), the Targhee (haven't decided what kind of yarn it wants to be yet), the Coopworth (should really get an idea for how much yarn I'll need before I go ahead with that huge project), my back reserves of alpaca (just not in the mood) and finally settled on about 4 oz of anonymous wool that had been sent with the wheel, I guess to play around with. It was nice but not too nice -- I didn't feel bad that I didn't really have a plan for it. I decided to dye it and then spin some of my own hand-dyed roving on my wheel for the first time. I, uh, just forgot how long it takes fiber to dry in cold temperatures... (I haven't turned my heat on yet.)

I am running low on dye, so I decided to do a light colorway rather than the vibrant ones I usually go for. I wanted something dreamy, a little reminiscent of a rainy day, in blue and purple and green. I think it came out rather well.

The picture, now, the picture did not come out rather well -- which has a lot to do with the fluorescent lighting in my bathroom and the fact that the fiber still wasn't dry yet. But. You CAN sort of get an idea of what my favorite thing about this fiber is.


This skinny, smooth, unimpressive roving turned into a gigantic mass of smooshy, crimpy love. It is ridiculous how smooshy this stuff is. I am shocked beyond words. Do most undyed rovings do this when you wash them? WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME? It's so delicious I could just eat it, and certainly can't stop wandering into the bathroom to pet it whenever I'm in my apartment! (It's still not completely dry. It's been days. Days, people.)

To help you figure out what colors that is actually SUPPOSED to be, the weird yellowish-green is actually a very pale green-grey, and the purple's a bit pinker.

I don't actually mind how long it's taking to dry, to be honest. In a frenzy I picked up the merino/silk and started to spin, and it's like a dream. It spins more easily than any merino I've ever used, as the staple length is much much longer, which is a little strange... but I'm not complaining. I've spun probably a little more than half of it so far, over two bobbins. I'm trying to decide whether I want to go for a three ply again. I think I do. And I think this will make the most spectacular shawlette once the yarn's done. I think it should come out about fingering, maybe a little heavier. (Sample? Why would I do a thing like sampling?)

Odysseus is pleased. So, I must admit, am I.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


While I was out looking for jobs today, a bird pooped on my head.

Let me repeat that.

I got pooped on. By a bird. On the head.

I hadn't planned to do any knitting today, but I think that earned me some, so I did a half hour or so after I'd showered, gone to apply for MORE jobs, and came back to cook dinner (it smells really good right now. Tim, my fiance, would be mad that I'm not standing over the stove since I tend to burn things. Don't worry, I'm checking up on it!). I'm trying to learn to knit continental style, since so many people say it's faster. I did for about 10 minutes, and then got bored and went back to English style. Heh.

Last night when I couldn't sleep, I succumbed to the siren song of the BFL, and spun about an ounce of it. I have no idea what it's going to be, but it's going to be SMOOSHY, and it will be MINE. It's also hand-dyed but not by me in gorgeous yellows and golds and browns with just a hint of green around the edges. I can't decide what to call it; The Secret Garden won for a while, because of all the dead trees with the green wick -- but the gold just looks too vibrant to be dead, so I'm stuck. Suggestions?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Spinning blues

The Corriedale is up in the shop, and I'm very pleased with the pictures this time (for once), not to mention the yarn itself. You already heard all about the insanity that came with getting this yarn ready for sale, so I won't go into it again, but I did promise pictures, and pictures I have! You can see some at the yarn listing here, but I have more. Oh, do I ever. I had such fun photographing this.

First, about half of the 8 oz on my spindle. I am guessing that, uh, had something to do with the breakage. You can see my miserable attempts to turn my beloved spindle into something workable even after it broke -- a rubber band to try to catch the yarn so it didn't slip onto the hook all the time (sooo annoying, and I had no sharp knife readily available, so I couldn't carve a notch) and a crazy jury-rigged winding system. Sigh. The good news is, it works! Just not as well as one might have hoped.

This next picture is a shot of the big skein (for some reason that seemed like a good idea at the time I made two small skeins and one big one. Any ideas on what I was thinking there? Anyone?) hanging to dry. You can see my extremely high-tech yarn drying system!

Yup. I hang it on a doorknob. Since I tend to only overply a little bit, and the fiber relaxes when I wash it, I hardly ever need to block my handspun. Sometimes I'll hang a weight on the end of the skein but this just didn't need it.

Both of those pictures are fun, but neither really shows what the yarn actually looks like, so here are some close-up pictures. Pretty self-explanatory. Shiny yarn.

Now I am in the enviable position of a free spindle and a bunch of different fibers. Do I want to spin 2 oz of BFL? Or a pound of merino? Or maybe 14 oz of alpaca? Some combination of the aforementioned? WHAT DO I DO NOW.

I'm thinking I might spin up the BFL and make something for myself out of it. What, I haven't the foggiest idea, but knitting with handspun is caaaaaalllllling my naaaaaaame...

Also, I'm designing a bunch of things that start with s. (Ever notice how many things you knit start with s? Shawl, scarf, sweater, sock...) More on that later.

Monday, August 31, 2009

The good news and the bad news

The good news is:

I finished spinning the 8 oz of Corriedale for the shop! I plied it this morning. It just needs to be skeined, have the twist set, and then dry and it'll be ready to go up. I'm super excited. I hope someone makes something lovely out of it!

The bad news:

My spindle broke. I KNOW, NOT SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN. The hook came out. My spindle right now is just an Ashford teaching spindle that I've had for over a year (I told you I was poor) and I guess it just couldn't hold up under the heavy wear. (I'm guessing the ~5 oz of wool on it at once didn't help...) Anyway, the top of my lovely little top-whorl spindle was so mangled that I couldn't put the hook back in without divine intervention, so to finish off I turned the little guy into a bottom-whorl spindle. He works, but I so prefer top-whorls. Sigh.

The good news:

I finally learned how to spin lofty yarn (or, to use a technical term, SMOOSHY SOFT YAY MINE) in any sort of consistent way. This is very good news. For some reason it had eluded me for a long time, and I was beginning to get frustrated.

The bad news:

I learned halfway through. Erm. So this yarn is a little more thick-and-thin than was originally planned. It's still about a dk or a light worsted, never gets heavier than worsted for sure. Overall it's pretty consistent -- I think the gague would even itself out. But still, consistency is one of the things I pride myself on in my spinning, and this is slightly less consistent than I'd like. Blah. But on the bright side, that does give it more of a handmade look!

The good news:

I got to spend an evening at home with my kitty, spinning and watching movies (Wristcutters: A Love Story. Odd, but I liked it.), and it was chilly enough that I could feel fall coming on -- I love fall.

The bad news:

Said kitty would not stop trying to chew on my spindle, and if he weren't already broken I would be forcing her to pay for a new one for me. How? I DON'T EVEN KNOW.

The good news:

The corrie was lovely to spin with, and was handpainted.

The bad news:

It wasn't handpainted by me. It was like that when I got it. Sadness. Hopefully more dyeing soon!

Pictures tomorrow.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Long time, no dye.


So, obviously I couldn't sneak in a blog post while in Pittsburgh (it was a great wedding, by the way), and what's more, I got very little fiber-related work done in the past couple of weeks. The good news is we have a new colorway, called Blood Oranges. You can find more information about it here! I've been wanting to do an orangey colorway for a while. This one was more complicated than anticipated, mainly because of the base yarn, a very special silk/kid mohair blend that I absolutely adore but don't plan on offering anymore, so snap it up while it's there!

In non-dye but fiber-related news, I'm still working on that handspun I've been promising to put up for a while. Spinning on a spindle is fun but really time-consuming. I think I may start a Buy Elizabeth A Spinning Wheel fund (with all my extra income -- HA!). The yarn is turning out beautifully! Here's a (fuzzy) sneak peek:

I'm also working on any number of knitting projects, which I just may have to start parading out so we don't go this long without an update anymore! So, for next time: an exciting story about the most tinking I've ever done in my life. (Okay, so it's really not that exciting, as you probably guessed). But there will be pretty pictures!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Announcing two new colorways!

Exciting news! We have two new colorways available for purchase at our shop. Read on for pictures and links!

Both of our new colorways are water-inspired. This will shock those who know me well. I am an avowed water-hater. I'm terrified of anything deeper than a bathtub. (I do keep clean, thankyouverymuch). But, despite my hatred for actually being in the wet grasp of any body of water, I find the colors you can see in water if you look absolutely enchanting.

The first new colorway is called The Shallows, available now on beautiful baby alpaca yarn. This one is inspired by lake edges, with the seaweed and the rock bottom still clearly visible through the water, with just a shading of darker blue where there's probably a dropoff. I'm very pleased with the green -- it reminds me very much of the seaweed I used to get my feet tangled in. (How can you not think that's terrifying, honestly?? See, I used two question marks, that's how serious I am!)

I've tried to capture the nature of the colorway best by showing three different views of the skeins. I'm so fond of this one, I'm rather tempted to keep it for myself! You can see more information or purchase The Shallows here.

Our second new colorway was meant to be space-related, not water-related at all. I was going to do pretty swirls of deep purple and black and just shimmers of other colors, and call it Deep Space. (I still think that'd be a lovely one. You may see that colorway sometime.) But the minute the beautiful hank of silk I had planned to dye in this colorway hit the dyepot, I just couldn't imagine putting any black on that beauty. Silk drinks in dye so greedily and the colors that come out are so, so vibrant -- black would have been wasting a gorgeous canvas. So we get the colorway Far Below instead.

On our 100% wool fingering weight yarn:Even after I had dyed these skeins in the gorgeous purples and blues that the silk required, it wasn't quite right. Something was missing. It all looked so cold and lifeless -- perfect for space, but not for the ocean! I added a little warmer purple, for the flash of coral and fish's fins, and it was perfect.

You can find Far Below on silk here, and on wool here.

My fiance and I are attending a wedding out-of-state this weekend, so I probably won't be able to dye any yarn for two or three days, but keep an eye out here in case I can sneak a quick entry!

Monday, August 3, 2009

The early years

Thought I'd share today a bit about the first few attempts I made at dyeing. The very first was at a workshop at Kenyon College, my alma mater. A lovely woman who ran a local yarn store brought lots of her unsold white wool of various sorts and her dyes and, for $5, we each got a skein of yarn and a quick tutorial on acid dyeing. I got gorgeous mohair, almost 300 yards of it, and then we dyed it. It turned out rather beautifully, for a first attempt, and I made fingerless gloves of it, which I still wear. After that, I didn't really do much dyeing for a while, until my adviser and I decided it would be fun (and educational, of course) to do an independent study on Roman clothing (did I mention I was a classics major?) and I decided to make a few historically accurate outfits. After a bit of research, I realized that if I wanted to get a fine, thin wool in Tyrian purple, the purple of the Roman empire, I was going to have to dye it myself. Armed with scarlet, blue, and purple Ashford acid dyes, I set about dyeing scraps in my microwave until I found a color and temperature that worked.

Making that toga praetexta was probably one of the most time-consuming things I've ever done in my life, and most of the work was stitchery, not dyeing, so I won't bore you with the details. It turned out beautifully, though, and I had time to make a Roman bride's costume too, with the hallmark yellow veil or flammeum, which I also dyed.

The best part? I got to dress up my classmates and professors in the clothing I had made and show it off at a presentation. (My toga draping skills could use some work...)

Since then, I've been dyeing only for myself, until now. Dyeing yarn is such a fun, creative process, it seems like a waste to let all the products just sit in a box for all time. I'd never have a chance to knit them all myself, after all; not only do I have other yarns to knit, but I have fiber to spin, and sewing to do (you didn't think I had dropped that entirely!), not to mention new techniques to learn! Somebody has to use all this pretty hand-dyed yarn.

In the future, I'm hoping that we'll have a steady supply of base yarns to display our colorways on. For now, as we just begin, base yarns are going to be a little varied, but feel free to request something, or describe a colorway you'd like to see, in the comments or by email (