Monday, May 31, 2010


Just some snippets of things currently under construction...

A crochet Granny Square blanket, to use up odds and ends and scrap yarn.

A lovely little merino and silk cabled cardigan.

And a Cathedral Window Quilt, which has been under construction for about 3 years now, and is slowly progressing.

Right now all of these projects are living in various places in my living room. The quilt is on the back of the couch, the cardigan is in my knitting basket beside the couch, and there are granny squares everywhere!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

New Parts

Today I replaced Helena's shifter cable. We've been riding around on the original cable for several months now, and her ability to shift was becoming increasingly worse. By middle of last week it was at the point that I couldn't keep her in 2nd gear, and could barely make the trigger move into any gear. So, I ordered a new, old stock cable. It's pretty easy to replace the shifter cable on this bicycle. Easy, that is, until you break the fulcrum clamp.

I must have bent it apart too much when I took it off. Or it was already weak at that point. I'm still using it, but keeping an eye out for a replacement. I haven't gotten to check my LBS, but they seem to appear with regularity on Ebay. So far it's holding together fine. I suppose that if it breaks on a ride, I can always zip tie the cable down.

It's amazing how much of a difference a new cable can make! It's like a new bicycle. The shifting is so smooth and she stays in gear! I had never imagined that there would be that much of a difference.

It made riding in to work on a Saturday morning much more enjoyable.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sunday Ride

After I finished washing all that wool on Sunday, I treated myself to a little ride. It was already about 7pm when I set out, so I didn't have too long before sunset. I had been curious about riding out to Boone Lake, which is apparently just over 4 miles from my house.

It's a curvy, little bit hilly two lane country road that, like most roads here, goes past farms and churches.

I had mapped out my route on Google Maps, and new that after about 4 miles I would come to the lake, and there would be a long bridge that crosses it. What I didn't expect was a floating neighborhood!

I LOVE these little houses! They're all on floats, just bobbing along with the wake from passing boats.

I wonder if these are year round homes, or just summer homes. I would live in one of these year round. Even though I bet it gets terribly cold in the winter.

While I was coveting the little floating houses, I heard the familiar clip-clopping of hooves behind me and turned to see two horses with their riders going off down the road away from me!

Since they were going the same way I was headed, I hopped back on Helena and off we went to catch up with them.

I caught up with them and commented that we must look like some strange parade going down the country lane. They chuckled as I passed and I stopped farther ahead to take their picture as they caught up.

Apparently that was their first time riding down as far as the marina. They live on the other side of the bridge and ride that road often. I guess they finally got up the nerve to cross bridge.

Mr. Horse looks a little astonished that the sight of me and my bicycle. :)

So we said our good-byes and off they rode, back over the bridge while I went down a little boat ramp to the water.

I watched them cross the bridge from here, and decided that I wanted to cross too. It's a VERY narrow bridge. Definitely not wide enough for a car to pass me, even if I were to get as far to the right as possible. So I took the lane for the ride across. Which worked out fine since no one came up behind me.

By then it was about 7:40, and I wanted to get home before dark, so I turned around and headed back. It was a fun adventure! Next time I'll remember to have Helena pose for some photos. :)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Dorset Fleece

I've been responsible today. Since the sun is out, and it's quite warm, I decided that it's time I pull out a fleece and get it scoured. I wanted to go for a bike ride, and in between pots of wool I've been plotting a scenic route to the lake. First things first though. The Dorset Fleece. About a month or so ago, a friend of mine pulled up with a pickup truck full of bags of wool and told me to PLEASE take some. Never turn down free wool. So I took three fleeces (a dark leicester, a white Border Leicester and a white Dorset. Oh, and some kid mohair. Nearly forgot about that.) I believe she told me these were from the previous years shearing, so they've been sitting around in black garbage bags for a year and were developing quite the bouquet. Which, for about the last month, means that my craft room is really starting to smell of sheep.

So here's the Dorset fleece prior to scouring. Like most "white" sheep, it's a yellow/gold color from the lanolin and barnyard nastiness.

It has a lovely, sproingy locks. Lots of crimp.

So, since I had already skirted all three fleeces when I got them, I went ahead and started the washing.

There are countless ways to scour a fleece. I prefer the small batches on the stove top method. Mostly because I live in a small apartment, but also because if I were to soak it in hot water in the tub, the cats would sit on the edge and drink the nasty sheep water. I do have a washer, and could soak it in there, then spin cycle the water out, but then I have to haul the damp fleece back upstairs from the basement to put it out on the deck to dry. I want to try a method I read about recently on Ravelry using an old chest cooler to soak it in, then drain the nasty water out through the drain hole. Refill and repeat. So I need to keep an eye out for an old cooler. That would probably work well in my situation. Haven't tried rain water yet. I have seen the results of it, and am quite impressed! So, maybe one day I will remember to collect some water.

Back to the stove top. I fill two stock pots with hot tap water, and put them on burners set at about 3ish or just a little above the low setting. In one, I add about a tablespoon, maybe a little less, of Dawn dish detergent. I leave the other as my first rinse pot. I like to put my wool in mesh laundry bags. It helps with moving it from one pot to another. So I fill up a mesh bag of wool, place it in the pot with the detergent, and push it down in the water. I generally let it soak for about 5-10 minutes, then take the bag out of the water, gently squeeze as much nasty water out as I can, and place it in the rinse pot. I leave it in the rinse pot for about 5-10 minutes as well. Then I empty the wash pot, rinse it, and refill it with fresh water for the second rinse. One wash and two rinses seems to work for me with MOST fleeces. Sometimes there is a particularly filthy sheep and it needs another wash and rinse or two.

After the wool has been through it's washing and rinsing, it goes out on the deck to dry in the sun. If I time it right, I can get it all out there with plenty of daylight to dry it all. That didn't happen today, but it was mostly dry when I brought it in.

It cleans up wonderfully! I am very happy with this fleece. I'm looking forward to spinning up a sample soon. Just look at these lovely locks!

And such soft fluff!

As a reward after I got all of the fleece clean and out on the deck to dry, I went on a bicycle adventure! More on that later. :)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Peonies after the storm

We had some really heavy rains the other night. It was still looking rather ominous when I left for work the next afternoon.

The peony bushes got the crap beaten out of them from the rains.

But not so bad that I couldn't take a bunch of them home. My mother in law LOVES peonies.

Helena looks pretty good with a basket full too. :)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Spinning Alpaca

Over the winter I was commissioned to spin a cria fleece for a local breeder. I had never spun raw alpaca before, only roving. (Here's where if I had been thinking ahead I would have taken some photos of the raw fleece.)

The fleece was very well skirted, in fact, I don't remember seeing any VM in it at all. It was dusty, and from what I've now seen of other freshly shorn alpaca fleeces, that seems to be the norm. The lady that I was spinning for requested a 2 ply sport-ish weight yarn. She wanted something that would be desirable to both knitters and possibly weavers. So I aimed for something with some loft but not too fuzzy.

I tried hand carding first, and wasn't very happy with the results. I didn't like the way it drafted. I think that part of that was because this was a raw fleece, and the dirt in it made the fibers stickier. Not as sticky as raw sheep wool, but stickier than I was accustomed to with alpaca. So I carded up several ounces on the drum carder. I sent the fiber through the carder twice, which resulted in a nice smooth batt. This spun much better. It was smoother to draft, and created a yarn that wasn't too fuzzy.

While spinning this fleece I kept the wheel (an Ashford Traditional) at 6.5 rotations (the "low gear" on that wheel) to keep the singles at a fairly low twist. Then when I plied, I added just a little more twist to let the singles open up a little more and make the yarn a little loftier.

Since I spun all of the yarn from a raw, dirty fleece, I needed to clean the yarn. For the first few skeins, I put a pot of hot water on the stove and mixed in a little Dawn dish soap. Added the yarn and let it soak for half an hour or so, then rinsed in cool water. I got lazy toward the end of this project and started filling the bathroom sink up with hot water, adding the dish soap, dropping the yarn in and forgetting about it until I needed to use the sink. Take the yarn out, drain the sink, rinse the yarn and hang it from the shower head to dry. Honestly, I can not see a difference after the two different methods. All the yarn is soft, lofty and has just a hint of shine to it.

After spinning two pounds of cria fleece, I have to say that I enjoy spinning alpaca from a raw fleece much more than from commercial roving. So, for part of my reimbursement, I took two more fleeces home! I promise to take pictures when I start in on spinning those.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Helena Hercules

This is my Helena. She's (from the little bit of date stamp that I can make out on the rear hub) a 1969 Hercules. She was about to be taken to the dump when I rescued her from the back of a pickup truck.

She wasn't in too bad of shape when I found her. I couldn't believe that someone wanted to throw out this adorable little bicycle! There was just a little bit of rust on the rims and handle bars. Really nasty old vinyl on metal saddle (not pictured here. I had already put on a spare Brooks from another bike). Most of the decals are there. She really just needed to be cleaned up. She even shifted fine!

So I took her apart. Not completely though. I still have not braved the cottered crank. I'll get there one day. I did overhaul the headset, front hub, and got part way through the rear hub before realizing that I didn't have all the proper tools. I replaced the brake cables, brake pads (with Kool Stop MTBs) added a rear rack, front and rear lights.

Later I added an old camera bag for a saddle mounted tool box.

She got new tires (Schwalbe Delta Cruisers) and tubes, and I made some really ugly but functional skirt guards.

After weeks of riding her to work, I got tired of having slippery, sweaty hands on the plastic grips, so I wrapped them in strips of leather. SO much nicer!

I am in LOVE with this bicycle. She's a joy to ride.

The Begining

I should have done this years ago. If anything, months ago, just to chronicle the rebuilding of my 1969 Hercules 3 speed. Or to document the spinning of a fleece from an Alpaca named Julian. But, alas those projects have come and gone. So we start here, with a completed bicycle that I ride to work everyday, three sheep fleeces to get scoured, and a new Alpaca project. Let's see if I can stick with this. :)