Sunday, January 23, 2011

More and less

It's currently the very specific time of year which results in many conversations between Bill and me regarding wood supply. It's been wicked cold this week and our stacked wood is dwindling. Every individual log that goes into a fire initiates an estimate from Bill on how much wood we have left and if it will get us to spring.

We have this much left in the wood shed:

(can you see the tiny pile in the back? It's about 4 pieces)

And this much on the porch:

Current guess is that we'll be ok until March, but we will have to dig into the pile of unstacked wood which is under snow, but covered by a tarp.

While we have used much more wood this year, we haven't used any noticeable amount of propane. In fact, the batteries in our thermostat were dead for 2-3 weeks around Christmas break, meaning the furnace wasn't on at all, and we didn't even notice. It is possible the propane company may come take our tank from us, as they expect us to use at least 500 gallons per year.

(the tank just looks lonely and disused, doesn't it?)

Between last year and this year, I think we've used a total of 200 gallons. Far less than the 7-800 the first year we lived here. And - with two wood stoves and a proper amount of wood, we are much warmer than when we burned propane.

As an added bonus of using more wood and less propane - I love stacking wood...and boiling water for tea and hot chocolate on the stove...and even lugging carts of wood from the shed to the house through the snow. I love putting on my blue hat (knit from yarn I spun and dyed!), boots and gloves and venturing out into the cold - especially when the sky is blue and the ground is white. The cold is refreshing and I appreciate the warmth of the house even more when I come back in.

What's that? You haven't seen my blue hat yet? it is:

It was made with my first knitable handspun. I've spun more since then - it is more even and less bumpy, which is very exciting.

(new yarn- shows improvement!)

(bumpy "yarn" from my first attempts)

I believe I've now earned the chance to spin with colored roving. Bill helped me dye a pound of it yesterday. Both of these are dyed with the same 3 colors, but different distribution. On this one, I just plopped the green, brown and yellow all over randomly.

On this one, I kept the colors mostly segregated:

I'm interested to see how they spin up! More color, less white!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Progress on knitting goals!

Yes, it is true - knitting projects were included on my list of 2011 goals so I could feel like I was making progress without having to do anything that actually felt like work. I am totally ok with that.

I dyed my first 65 yards of handspun. It's slightly less purple than the photo - more of a dusty blue. Though I've dyed with plants before, this is my first attempt at powered acid dyes. These dyes contain no heavy metals, but still give the variety and vibrancy of acid dyes.

It became very apparent in the dying process that I need spinning practice. The parts of the yarn that were underspun, or too thick got felty and frizzy.

And this is the progress on my Self-Imposed Yarn Club. I wasn't feeling the pattern until I started the second section of ruching (is that a real word?). Now, I dig it.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Yarn, yarn, yarn!!

I am now addicted to spinning. It just took one lesson and some deep thinking about machines and twist, and I'm addicted. A week ago, I would have told you the spinning wheel was for Bill. Now, I can't imagine when he'll have time to use it.

I spun my first 65 yards of yarn! You get to see it in black and white because the sun is down and CFLs don't make for naturally colored photos.

The roving is plain ole white merino. It starts in the big ball of fluff, and then I spin it to a single ply.

After only 150 yards of spinning, I'm ready to move to colored roving. It's hard to see the twist in white-on-white and seeing the twist is the most rewarding part.

I think I understand the main concepts of spinning and how my hands, feet, arms and eyes should all be working in concert. I just need some practice on keeping the yarn more uniform. Here it is after plying two single strands together:

You can see it's a bit too thick in some places and a bit too thin in others.

I've decided that spinning should really be called "twisting." Creating yarn seems to be really all about controlling the twist. Keeping the twist in check until I am ready for it to go where I want it to. Also, I believe my role in spinning is to prepare the roving for the wheel to consume. The wheel does most of the work and all it asks from me is that I give it the material prepared to specific specifications. Despite the homesteady nature of hand spinning, my relationship with the wheel feels rather industrial. Like I'm working on an assembly line, contorting my work to the desires of a machine.

Some of yarn is really pretty even. This part makes me feel as if there is hope:

I'm not certain yet about twist and how the yarn will react to being knit. Do I want it plied more twisty or less twisty? I think I'll dye this batch up and turn it into a hat as a test run.

In other yarny news - Bill picked a random package from my Self-Imposed Yarn Club. I bundled up 12 projects (yarn + pattern) from the deep stash and I'll work on one project each month. The first is Citron, a shawl which will be made with a canary yellow alpaca. I've been wanting to start this for ages, but keep getting distracted by other shiny objects (mmm - like spinning wheels).

Tomorrow I cast on!