Not just a hobby, it's a way of Life

So, as I was going to be waiting a while for my new equipment, a rainy Monday morning seemed like a great time to get a clearer picture of the fiber stash.  Mostly it was an attempt spread out the spinning so that I would have my lazy kate by the time I was ready to ply again.  The Sweet-n-Low box served me well, but I really didn’t want to have to use it again.

Ravelry has been slowly but steadily improving the spinning portion of the database.  When people first started stashing fiber, it was mostly just a text entry and a picture.  Currently, there are all sorts of specific fields for information including fiber composition and percentage, fiber prep options, colorway, company name, date purchased, price, etc.  I hauled out box after box of my spinning fibers and made sure they were all listed and that the details were filled in.  I had been pretty good about listing the fiber stash, but at the end of the day, I was up 20 entries.  Most of those were 4 oz. braids, but their were some larger lots.  As it stands right now, I have 92 fiber stash entries on Ravelry, and that’s probably 95% of my overall fiber stash.  Of course, the yet unlisted is a lot of fleece, so maybe more like 50% by weight.

Then, once I had my clearer picture, I needed to choose the next thing to spin.  Since the bobbins wouldn’t be coming any time soon, I needed to keep it to fibers I knew I wanted to spin 2-ply or chain-ply.  Have I mentioned I have 92 options?  Granted, not all of those fit the plying criteria, but I just didn’t know where to begin.  Enter the Random Number Generator!  I plugged in my numbers, and it returned 60.  I counted down to the 60th entry on my Rav stash page – nah.  I mean, it was a really great fiber, but it was mostly white and blue, and I was hoping for a bit more color.  So, undermining the whole concept of randomly generating a number, I clicked it again and got 89.  This time I went with it.  It was a lovely blend from Winterhaven Farms of 60% merino and 40% bamboo in a colorway of greens and orangey-yellows named Mallard.  It was a well-marinated stash purchase at Greencastle, so its time had more than come.

Spinning 7-19-16

I finished up the first bobbin in about three hours.  I’m trying to time my spinning to see just how many hours I have in a skein.

That was Tuesday.  Wednesday I was out visiting my friend and dropping by my LYS for the area yarn crawl.  Since I bought this beauty, I’m not doing any stash enhancements this year, but I do have several of my dyed yarns at the shop, and I’ll do a blog post about that later this week (spoiler alert: it went really well).  Wednesday was also the day my lazy kate arrived! So Thursday was spent finishing up the second bobbin.  I divided the fiber in half vertically, then I split each half into thinner strips horizontally.  I’m hoping for a really good color distribution.

New jumbo lazy kate

I haven’t yet plied them, as I spent yesterday at a local town’s 175th anniversary, or dodransbicentennial.  (Dodrans is the latin contraction of de-quadrans meaning ‘a whole unit less a quarter’. Thanks Wikipedia!)  I had my soaps there and was supposed to demonstrate weaving on a rigid heddle loom, but maybe wove 2″ or so.  And yes, we’re in the middle of the heatwave from Hades.  It was miserable, but there were still diehard souls that came out, and several of them went home with brand new wonderful soap for their evening showers.  I know that’s exactly what I did after unloading the car.  I was set up next to my friend who demonstrated spinning, and her sweetie brought us a huge shop fan.  Without that, we would have melted.  Speaking of melting, I took fresh made soap still in loaf form to show part of the homemade process, and that was fine until the sun shifted.  Once the fresh soap was in the sun, it liquified like a candle.  It held shape okay, but touching it revealed just the outer shell was holding it together.  That got carefully transported back home.

So, the bobbins are scheduled to be created and shipped by July 28.  I may be calling on the Random Number Generator again.

Until you just can’t take it anymore.

So, I finished up the fiber I was spinning on the mS(miniSpinner) onto the two bobbins it came with.  My favorite default is a three-ply yarn, but this fiber was bouncy, bouncy, bouncy, and it just does better as a two-ply.  My mS came with one bobbin made by Hansencrafts and one from Akerworks, a 3D printing company.  Reading the Ravelry boards, I learned that some people had a preference for the Hansen bobbins, so I wanted to try both of them before ordering.  After confirming I like the Akerworks bobbins just fine, I ordered two more.

Since they are made to order (so many pretty colors and patterns to choose from – my two will be purple and lilac, of course), it’s currently less than a week wait from ordering until they ship.  Also, due to being just different enough in the center diameter, plying also was going to have to wait until the jumbo lazy kate arrived, which could beat the bobbins here.  But like I mentioned, I still have the wheel, so I could spin on other things and wait.

That lasted two days.  The possibility of having to wait a whole week was just too much.  Then it hit me.  I mentioned to Ramblin that I don’t have to wait.  I can ply off of the mS bobbins using my wheel. There’s no rules about crossing the streams; I could spin on one machine and ply on another. I could make a lazy kate out of a box, but lamented that it wouldn’t be tensioned. He, being MacGyver, said that I could put a string over them and tension it.  (he doesn’t spin, but understands the whole process like whoa)  I’m pretty sure the two of us could take over the world if we put our minds to it.

This is a good time to discuss Personal Spinning Preferences.  On the Rav boards, lots of people don’t believe in extra bobbins.  Instead, people should just buy a quill attachment and cardboard storage tubes and wind off every. single. bobbin. spun. only to have to turn around and ply them.  Okay, let’s discuss how much time that takes away from being able to spin fresh, new singles of yarn (gently side-stepping the whole time cost of making yarn from scratch in the first place).  Uh-huh, that’s never going to happen here.  Also, many people believe that tensioned lazy kates aren’t necessary.  And that’s great for them.  I used an untensioned lazy kate for the first ten years I spun, and then for my 10th spinning anniversary, I bought myself a tensioned lazy kate.  After using it, I was really impressed that I never threw the untensioned one through a window.  For those that don’t need one, rock on with your bad selves.  I will turn into the Hulk if I don’t have one.

So, armed with a Sweet-n-Low box, spare knitting needles, sewing machine bobbins for spacers, string, and a strip from a cottage cheese container, I made my tensioned lazy kate.

homemade tensioned lazy kate

That’s after I plied everything off, as the pictures before were dark from cloudiness outside.  Turning on a light beforehand just didn’t occur to me as I was a woman on a mission.

Mountain Colors targhee lilac

Mountain Colors Targhee in Lilac

You can tell by the picture that the fiber just wants to bounce.  Targhee could easily be called Tigger fiber.

Gee, there’s once again two empty bobbins.  Whatever shall I do with them?  :)

Update:  The lazy kate has shipped, but the bobbins aren’t scheduled to until July 28.  Argh.

New Toy

A few years ago, a friend brought her Hansencrafts miniSpinner to the yarn shop and let us try it out.  It was sweet, and I knew I would probably have to get one someday.  But that really went to the back burner with all of our travel plans, and besides, I had my excellent wheel, the Majacraft Rose.  I was fine.

Fast forward to this past April when another friend got a miniSpinner.  Well hello, all those feelings of coveting.  But, I resisted the pull and thought that I should get a plan in place to save up for one, like finally selling some handspun yarn that’s been piling up and use those funds toward a purchase.

Last Wednesday, I get a message from said friend.  She wants to know if I want to buy her Hansen spinner.  What?!  She just bought it!  (Turns out, she bought another one already. She has a slight wheel/spinner acquisition disorder.)  So, Thursday, this arrives at my house.

HansenCrafts miniSpinner

This one doesn’t have a Woolee Winder (yet), and it only came with two bobbins.  There are now two more bobbins on the way as well as a lazy kate because of course, neither of my two lazy kates will handle the huge honkin’ bobbins of the miniSpinner.

Now, have no fear – my wheel isn’t going anywhere.  In fact, I’ve been spinning on it this morning, just so it won’t get jealous.

Spinning on a Saturday

But I do wish the other bobbins would hurry up and get here.  I just ordered them last night.

Also, the Illiana Yarn Crawl kicked off yesterday, so if you’re in the Vincennes area, I know where you can get some handspun.

2016 Yarn Crawl 3

And if you miss that, don’t worry, there’s soon going to be more.  A whole lot more.  I kidded my friend about the Hansen spinning so fast it would create a vortex in her house and suck all the spinning fiber into it, thereby creating a vacuum that would suck in more spinning fiber from Etsy and the like.

Well, I suppose I’ll find out first hand.  It’s got its work cut out for it.

Motivating

So, I made it back before summer.  Impressive!

What have I been up to?  Probably the biggest thing is that I have become a contributor to the Phat Fiber box.  It’s a monthly box people can snag full of yarn and fiber samples from independent dyers.  While it’s probably a bit premature, I do love dabbling in the dye, and this should be motivation for me to do that.

It’s weird that I should need motivation to do something I enjoy, but there you go.  As the list of hobbies grows, naturally some are going to get pushed to the side.  But also, regardless of how productive I can be, there’s still time that is simply wasted.  I don’t want to  be running 24/7, but I also don’t need to play Facebook games when there’s more fulfilling stuff to do.  So if there’s external pressure, I’m hoping I’ll be a little more focused on doing things that bring me joy.

And if I make a little money in the process, even better.  With my primary (“day job”) continuing to decrease adjunct financial opportunities, I realize the only person I want in control of my destiny is me.  Being at another’s whim is rife with uncertainty; I want to be in control of my destiny because I’m really the only one that cares about it.  Does my employer (not my boss – she’s awesome) care that cutting hours affects my life?  Nope.  It becomes more and more apparent that if I’m going to have to stitch together multiple jobs to make ends meet (the reality of many adjunct instructors in higher education), I want those jobs to be something I enjoy.  I don’t want to teach for half a dozen colleges with students who don’t want to learn.  I want to dye things, and spin things, and weave things.

So, each month I’ll send Crys some yarn to toss in a box, and we’ll see what happens.

Somewhere 1

Yeah, that title gets overused, but hey, it’s accurate.  Or it is until I don’t post on here for seven months, and you’re thinking, “Why in blue blazes would it be snowing in August?!”

So, what have I been up to?  Making soap like crazy.  Dyeing yarns.  Plotting.  Planning.

Also, back in October (or Socktober, in which I actually managed to knit three pairs of socks), we went to New York City.  We went on a bus trip as we knew NY wasn’t something we would take on ourselves to plan. For those trips, you just can’t beat bus travel.  Well, okay, the bus riding might get a bit old, but hey, I had knitting, and Ramblin napped.

So anyway, if I don’t see you before then, have a great summer.

The first rule of Soap Challenge Club is . . . no wait, wrong club.

I’ve been watching the monthly challenges on Great Cakes Soapworks.  Each month there is a different theme or soap-making technique, and soapmakers from around the world enter and compete to be chosen as the winner.  I thought that one of these times, just for fun, I should try the technique of the month.  Not to compete; I’m not ready for that.

Well, the September challenge rolled around, and the challenge was to make a soap using the Clyde Slide, a technique used by the awesome soapmaker Clyde Yoshida of Vibrant Soap.  Clyde has wonderful videos on YouTube.  Go watch them.  There’s something soothing about his voice.  He’s like the Bob Ross of Soap.

Anyway, before I even watched a single video of his, I found myself registering for the challenge.  What?!

There are seriously talented people making breathtaking soaps, and while I’m proud of the soaps I make, the aesthetic is not my main focus.  I want them to make skin feel good and smell great.  I play around with color, but it’s all a happy accident.  This is Soap with Intention.

The mark of the Clyde Slide is beautiful featherings of color in the soap.  So, Amy, she of Great Cakes Soapworks, said the key was to have a very light trace (how thick the soap is) for a successful Clyde Slide.   There are several factors that contribute to this, so I decided to try all of them.

  1. I used a very slow-to-trace recipe.  This is accomplished by using ingredients, like canola oil or sunflower oil, that slow down how quickly the soap thickens when mixed.  I swapped out olive oil for canola oil in my recipe.
  2. I used a well-behaving scent – Sweet Orange essential oil.  The scent you use can have a huge effect on how quickly the soap thickens.  Some fragrance oils will make the soap ‘seize’ or set up quickly.  Others, like citrus essential oils, keep the soap thin.
  3. I soaped cooler.  When you mix lye with water, there is an incredibly powerful exothermic reaction.  I’ve never checked it right after mixing, but I know within a short time, it registered 170 degrees.  The lye water needs to cool down, as do the oils after you heat them to get them all to a liquid state.  For this recipe, I let them both cool to about 100 degrees.

To make the swirls, I used these colors, plus added a little white (titanium dioxide) to the base.

Clyde Slide colors

I divided out the four colors, mixed the white into the main batch, then poured about half of the color of yellow, orange, pink, and purple in that order along one handle side of the pot, one on top of the other, added some reserve white, then poured the remainder of rest of the colors one at a time through the same order.  I then poured, so that the color was at one side, lengthwise in the mold, with a few passes.

How did it work?  A little too well.

Clyde Slide Take 1

Now, there’s nothing particularly wrong with that soap.  It’s pretty cool, actually.  But there is way too much movement and definitely no feathers.

So, back to the drawing board.  Things I did different:

  1. I used my usual recipe with olive oil.
  2. In addition to the Sweet Orange, I added it some Jasmine and Sandalwood fragrance oils.  Florals are infamous for speeding up trace, and I needed a little thicker batter to behave better.
  3. I soaped at about 105-110 of lye and oils.

Clyde Slide Take 2

Much better!  See those feathers?  Now, it was probably still a little too thin, even with the adjustments.  But this is a technique I will definitely play around with more in the future.

Latest Soapy Creation

Psychedelic Pswirl

I had been watching YouTube videos on soapmaking and saw yet another spin swirl.  I showed the pictures of the cuts to Ramblin, and he was itchin’ to try it.  So we did.  The above picture is our first effort, and it looks to be a success.  So much so that I went to Lowe’s today to pick up materials for Ramblin to make me three slab molds for more spin swirling.  And soap dishes.  And soap displays.  And soap drying racks.

Have I mentioned that I love this man?

Tune in for the soap cut pictures later this week.  We should really wait a couple of days, but I’m not sure we can take the suspense.

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