The Mice Are Dead!

Christmas Eve I wound up setting four snap traps with peanut butter around my kitchen and going out to see the New Mary Poppins movie.  It turns out that this is not a great movie for someone recovering from a recent loss, though in all other respects it will certainly become a new classic in short order.  When I came home the traps were untouched.  I went to bed that night, sort of.  I was up and about, I believe I caught about 3 hours of sleep between midnight and 3 am.  When I got up at 3 all four of the traps had been emptied of their peanut butter, but not set off.

I was furious.  I decided that I would reset the traps, Christmas Day, go to Mass and head to the local casino where I knew they were having a buffet.  I did so, the food was good, and came home to untouched traps again.  I spoke to the carpenter who is acting as an exterminator for me, and he said that he set the traps a bit differently so he would be up the next day to do so and hopefully that would help.  I, for the life of me, could not figure out how you could set a snap trap differently, so I decided to experiment.  Since I was essentially feeding the mice at this point, I smeared the peanut butter further up the triggering mechanism to try and force them to knock against the pin to get the peanut butter.  This worked, and I had to have someone get rid of the mouse that day.  The traps were reset, and my home organizers were due the next day, so I did not get much sleep that night either.  So out of the six days I had off I did not sleep much for four of them.  I did get two mice killed and I have had three days without any detritus anywhere else so I believe that they are all dead.  Now I just have to run everything I own through the dishwasher and scrub the entire kitchen before I cook in it.

On the other hand the home organization went extremely well.  I cannot believe how much they managed to get done in the 8 hours they were in my home.  No other animal byproducts were found anywhere in the house, not even flies.  I know that there are some people thinking that because I had a couple of mice, I live in the country, I have a dirty household.  Now that I am finished with my major destash I can finally focus on what I need and love in the house and making sure that I am surrounded by what I need and love.  The final note for 2018 is that I went to a buffet for New Year’s Eve Dinner and must have gotten food poisoning.  I will have to get the car detailed within a week so that I can comfortably drive it.  Needless to say I have not gotten much crafting done in the past 2 weeks, so sad.  What a way to end 2018, hopefully 2019 will be better.

Happy New Year!

Two Steps Forward Three Steps Back

*This is just an update on my life, if you only want to read crafty stuff, hopefully the next post will contain that.  There is mention of Mice and permanent ways to get rid of them, if you are big into non-lethal rodent control then you will not want to read this post.*

I am still trying to get around to reviewing all of the things that I got myself for Christmas, but the ongoing Mouse Saga seems to be two steps forward and three back.  In the last two weeks I have found droppings on the counters and just today in a drawer.  Fortunately my handyman is amazing, he looked to see if there was anywhere they could get in from the outside and sealed those up. He spoke with a couple of farmers and old timers and they advised him how to keep the mice out with an indoor/outdoor safe spray that smells a bit like Citronella and is supposed to keep them out.  He sprayed all around outside and quite a few doorways, I put it around the doorways from the kitchen to the rest of the house (after locking the cat away) and am waiting for it to dry so I can let the cat out.

Neither of us have found any detritus anywhere else in the house, so I think that they are contained.  If I see any more droppings I will let him know and we will get some snap traps.  (Don’t bother yelling at me about killing mice, once they are in the house they will always seek another house to get into.)  He will also get some special traps for outside to keep them from coming in, that will be Wednesday after Christmas.  I will need to run all of my pots and pans through the dishwasher, I’m going to throw out all of my baking goods, the thought of using them is making me nauseous, (not that I have time to bake).  I also plan on throwing out all of the plastics that I haven’t used in years and possibly putting the pots and pans that I haven’t used in a while in a plastic tub with a lid once they have been through the dishwasher.  Getting the outside sealed up and the deterrent spray were my two steps forward, my three steps back are a bit frustrating.  The first step is having to run everything in the kitchen through the dishwasher.  Actually the next two steps back were in one action, some of the tiles along the peak of the roof blew back leaving something like a foot of the attic exposed to the elements.  Thank goodness my handyman is amazing and he managed to get a patch on, but I am so frustrated that it seems like there is always something else going wrong.  On a brighter note, I also remembered that Mom and I collected Beanie Babies and they wound up stored in the back hallway.

They were almost all packed away, but most of them were in cardboard boxes and I decided that since I had some plastics I bought for the organization I wanted to kill several birds with one cleaning.  I wanted to make sure that none of the beanies were compromised, get rid of any that I know I don’t want to keep, make sure that there were no mice in the back hallway, vacuum the back hall, wipe down the walls, get the beanies in better storage, and have them in a state so that my home organizers don’t even need to concern themselves with them.  So I had 8 huge plastics, I think 125 quarts each, and they are completely full.  I ordered another 4 from Walmart online and bought 4 more from a dollar store.  I plan to spend some time tomorrow finishing up packing the beanies, then perhaps rewarding myself with a movie. I have decided on two big garbage bags full of stuffed animals I’m donating which doesn’t seem like much but since I have memories attached to all of them it really is progress.  The unexpected benefit is, I get to remember the amazing times Mom and I had getting these beanies, we spent a few weeks eating tons of happy meals when McDonalds were having their beanie special, the flea market where her aunt worked, the shop in town where we used to get them, and so much more.  Sometimes it is hard to realize that you are able to experience all of your emotions at once, happy, sad, melancholy, angry, frustrated, tired, etc.

Well, that is enough out of me.  Things are progressing quite well.  I am moving forward on the cleaning, and remembering good times along the way.  The roof was sorted out before it became a big problem.  All entrances for the mice seem to be sealed, and a deep clean/disinfecting is on its way.  Wednesday my handyman will be up to work on getting preventative measures in place, Thursday and Friday my organizing team will be up here and I will find out what my Grand in fees gets me.  Then I will be able to start my New Year Fresh and Bright!

Until then, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays (no matter what you celebrate), and I will be on again soon.

Happy Crafting!

Alpaca Adventures and More

I love the alpaca seconds I was gifted with.

Due to the time consuming nature of cleaning these bags of alpaca I have decided to give Tour De Fleece a miss this year.  This is an event that lasts as long as the Tour de France and involves challenges, rest days, and more just as the bicycling event.  More than that it involves spinning everyday.  While that is an overarching goal of mine, I would also like to focus on ensuring that I have this alpaca clean and ready to spin for the fall and winter.  During these warm days as well as these rainy days I hope to take advantage of the weather, setting the fleece out on my brand new sweater racks while it is raining to wash them in a natural way, as well as setting them out in the sun to make sure that they are as dry as possible before I begin the next step in processing them.  I am also hoping to comb or card out the fleeces before the snow comes, this will allow me to dispose of the fluff I cannot use in an eco-friendly way.  Putting it out to be used as lining for animal homes or to decompose as mulch.

Flicking open the locks where I am able to and carding what does not flick is a time consuming process.  For some of the coarsest seconds I attempted to turn the fur into batts, I managed to get three batts done, but I do not know if they will spin up very well.  I plan on trying to spin them in a regular manner and if that does not seem to work, core spinning them.  If it turns out that I hate spinning these batts, I do plan on gifting them to whomever wants them from my Guild.  I hope to do this before my next batch of fleece is dry, that way I will know if this is a viable option for preparation.

That may have to wait though, I am currently spinning my June Box from Paradise Fibers, I am spinning the last third of those singles.  The first two are pictured below.

My original intention was to ply the three bobbins together, however it is possible that they will be too muddy when I am done.  Because of this concerns I will probably do a test sample to knit up, once I decide if I like that or not I will either ply all of them together or spin up a white single to ply with these.

Whew, that will keep me busy for a while!

Happy Crafting

Blooming an Idea Journal

It is already past the middle of January, ack!  I cannot believe that three weeks are gone.  Fortunately for me, these have been fairly productive weeks.  I received my January box from Paradise Fibers, it was a Breed Sampler Box!  How very exciting!  Since I am going to be teaching several classes on spinning this Spring I began thinking about the Journaling that is recommended for spinners.  At first keeping track of what you are spinning sounds like a real pain.  My excuse was “I just want to get good at spinning before I begin recording my results, it all looks bad right now.”

As a matter of fact, the ‘bad’ spinning that I didn’t like tends to get the most compliments.  Who knows, right?  Since these first heady…well okay 21 months….of spinning I have come to realize a few things:

A) I cannot just keep creating yarn, eventually I’m going to have to weave/crochet/knit it so that I can figure out what kind of yarn I (and possibly mom) like working with. (Thank You whomever came up with the ‘Half-Granny Shawl’ pattern it looks great no matter what yarn I use.)

B) If I don’t know what it looks like knitted (lace & cable) and crocheted (possibly eventually woven) then I won’t know what I want to use it for.  (My goodness, all of those people saying sample, sample sample, are on to something! *gasp*)

C) I won’t actually remember what kind of fiber that is a couple of months later when it’s in an unmarked skein and I’m trying to work with it.  (Okay, so I won’t actually remember what kind of fiber it is when I finish spinning it sometimes…did I mention I don’t have the best memory?)

D) By Gum, Journaling Might Be the Answer!  (actually journaling is the answer as well as labeling with water-proof labels.)

Given this hard won knowledge, but boy I have some really pretty skeins..if only I knew what they were made of other than ‘wool’…oh well, granny shawls here I come, I have decided to begin to journal my spinning starting with my January Paradise Fibers Box.

As of writing this post (okay last week) I had split each tube of fiber in half, keeping half in the tube so that I can have samples for myself and to show my students.  Half of each tube was spun, plied from a center pull ball, the twist was set.  I decided to spin 1/4 of my Targhee sample since I was given twice as much of that fiber and I saw something about spinning sock yarn from Targhee (I’m going to work on my consistency before tackling that).  My Targhee still has not been completely spun, I did start but work got in the way.

Before spinning each sample I took a staple of the fiber, taped it to a note card with the Breed, date, where I got it from, the wheel and settings I was using.  Then as I was spinning, usually near the end (when I remembered) I took off a sample of spun fiber, let it ply onto itself, then taped that onto the note card labeled ‘2-ply unfinished’.  *In theory if I did this when I was spinning and referred back to my ‘plyback sample’ I would be able to create a more consistent yarn, maybe in the next two years.*  Since finishing the yarns I have managed to Knit and Crochet two of them as well as blocking these pieces.

Okay, in all honesty I had to wash and block them twice.  The Paradise Fibers Box came with a sample of Unicorn Power Wash, I was really excited since I have been wanting to order from them but I didn’t want to invest a lot in case I didn’t like it (boy am I glad I waited).  When I washed and blocked my samples the first time, I was really excited with how they looked, but I started getting a headache which was odd for me.  After a bit of thought, especially with how sudden the headache was, I realized that it was the Unicorn Power Wash that was causing the headache.  I gave the samples a thorough scrub with Dawn and hot water, then rinsed them again.  There was still too much scent.  I wound up soaking them overnight with a lemon scented handsoap I had on hand, they are fine now.  However all of this washing caused one of my samples to ‘bloom’ a bit more than I would like but the halo effect is really pretty.

Once these samples are dry I intend to tape them onto a piece of paper, along with the sample card I made earlier, and put these into a sleeve to go in a three-ring binder (thanks mom for that Idea!).  I do plan on knitting *lace and cable* and crocheting each of the samples, so that I have a comprehensive journal of these fiber samples that I can refer back to in the future.  Okay, so I’m mostly crocheting to use up the last of each of my little skeins, I am better at crochet so I can make that sample fit any size I need it to.  I will also say that this sampling is a great way for me to up my knitting game, I was terrified of cables and lace before I realized that plain knit-one-side-purl-the-other wasn’t going to cut it.  I am almost positive that my ‘lace’ stinks but until I let a knitter see it I’ll live in ignorance.

This entire experience has been an absolute blast.  While I know it will be harder to find crafting time while I’m working I still like knowing that I have a specific project I am crafting toward, and a deadline really…April will be here before you know it!

Happy Crafting!

 

Dying Experiments Continue

I am not sure what is wrong with my water/wool/microwave but the methods that everyone else swears by don’t work for me.  During the summer I used Kool-Aid to dye some fiber.  Everyone swore that you had to use heat to set the color (which makes ice dying very confusing to me…), however I rinsed my fiber extremely well and have had no problems with the color running.  With my Drum Carder coming soon I dug up some left over white fiber and decided to pick up some dyes to experiment with.  There was a Black dye calling my name so I purchased it in addition to the same food coloring dyes I usually use.  (I do plan on getting some Wilton Dyes soon).

I went through my method of soaking the wool in hot water and vinegar.  The wool is wrung out, the water dumped from the bowl, the fiber put back in.  Next the dye, more vinegar and very hot water are added.  The wool is left to soak up as much dye as it can.

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In this case I decided to microwave the fiber for the five minutes recommended, however the fiber began to boil before it was well into the third minute, when it began to splatter in my microwave I decided to discontinue the experiment and pull the fiber.  After it cooled down and took as much dye as it seemed it would I rinsed the fiber, and rinsed the fiber, and rinsed the fiber.  After a great many rinses the dye stopped coming out and the results were…well disappointing.

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The coiled Brown/Purplish things at the top right are my ‘black’ fiber.  Oh well, the fibers that I overdyed with Yellow are beautiful, since I skipped the microwave the colors seem more vibrant.  The multi-colored batt at the top left should make a beautiful base for my first ‘official batt’ and I am very excited.  That piece was hemorrhaging dye until I soaked it with some pure vinegar, after that the color decided to stay put.

I am positive that most people have great success cooking/boiling/steaming their fiber.  I am certain that they have tried these methods without the heat and have had the fiber return to white, retaining little to no dye, (still can’t understand how they ‘need’ heat when they dye with ice cubes, have to research that more).  My experiments have lead me down a slightly different path.  Perhaps when I wash a finished piece, not finished yarn I’ve done that with no color leaking, my experience will be different, but for right now, when I’m dying with those little bottles of ‘easter egg’ dye, I’m not going to use any extra heat.  Perhaps a bit more vinegar, but I’ll use hot water and vinegar to see how things turn out.

When I move onto ‘professional dyes’, RIT, Wilton Gel, I will revise my experiments.  Until then;

Happy Crafting!

A Study in Wool Part 1

I have been having a blast sorting thorough my stash (taking a quick break from another project).  While doing so I ran across a sampler kit I had purchased with different wool breeds inside.  All of the wool samples were washed, but they were still in their lock formation.  To simplify things, and make sure that the preparation and spinning was not different for each type, I decided to card them and spin from the resulting rolags.  The end products (once spun) were interesting.  I’ll show you as I go, after letting the yarn rest a day (and clearing off a bobbin to spin with) I navajo/chain plied the yarn to keep the breeds separate.  I also spun a bit of a commercially prepared merino in between most of the breeds.

This is my bobbin before this concept seeped into my mind.  I started with some BFL (Blue Faced Leicester) a breed that most people rhapsodize about.  I have spun commercially prepared top BFL before and enjoyed it.  This fiber has a very soft hand, though this sheep must have had some tender tips or something because I wound up with some nepps in my rolags.  Rather than risk more appearing I stopped after 2 passes each rolag.  I did smooth this fiber down as I spun it (which should result in a less springy washed yarn).

The Lincoln had a well defined lock structure but once it had been carded the resulting wool was semi coarse.  This batch did not have many nepps, and actually carded out to pretty, lofty rolags.  I did not smooth this down much while I was spinning.

The Adult Mohair was a nightmare.  This batch had less than 1″ staple length and the guard hairs were still present.  This gave everything a slightly coarse feel but still quite silky.  The main problem is that when spinning the very short fibers either clump together resulting in huge bumps or fall out altogether resulting in a huge mess.  I nay be entirely wrong but I would like to say that the blame is either with the producer (it isn’t a very good fiber animal) and the seller that sold me such messy, useless fiber.  If you have the patience for it and a dropcloth under your wheel this might be usable.  I believe I will see if anyone can use it for felting, or something.

The very first thing I have to say about this Cross Breed fiber is: Whatever was used to wash this smells very sweet!  The fibers are springy and medium soft.  I would not use this as a next to the skin product like socks or a sweater but it might make a decent scarf.  Something you wear for a short while and then take off.  Maybe mittens?  Oh well, I did not smooth this down at all while I was spinning.  I am discovering that since I am not smoothing things down, I have a harder time getting an even yarn.  When I do what I see others doing, spin and then gently pull to pull out the bumps I just wind up with thin spots.  Something else to work on!

The English Gotland fibers had two different types of fibers.  The long springy gray fibers and the shorter less springy white fibers.  It carded beautifully but the differences in staples seemed to result in little clumps of fiber sticking up and falling out.  I did not smooth this as I went so it will be interesting to see how this washes up.

The Icelandic and Romney both carded up beautifully, the Romney seemed to have a lot more loft than the Icelandic.  Neither had many nepps but also neither spun up completely smoothly either.  Possibly an error of the operator rather than a fault of the fiber.  Neither seemed soft enough for next to the skin projects.  I did not smooth them down while spinning.

I had some Llama Fiber and Cashgora that I spun up as well.  I did not bother carding either of these fibers.  There was not enough Llama to bother and I felt that my hand cards would be too coarse to process the Cashgora.  Both of these fibers spun like a dream, the Llama was a little sticky (Probably due to processing oils).

I cannot wait to see how all of these fiber will turn out in the end.  I will say that one of the fibers, the English Gotland I believe, wound up splitting in a place and had to be tied back together resulting in a flaw in the skein.  This skein and the other that I plied to make room for the bobbin have both been soaked for an hour or so.  They are both hung up to dry and I cannot wait to see what they will look like when I dry.  (I also have some fiber drying that I washed and rinsed very thoroughly.  It came to me a bit sticky and so I hope it was lanolin that I have succeeded in washing off.  I only did about half of the batch if this does not work, or felts the fiber, I will have to see what else I can do.)

Happy Crafting, more information about the skein of samples and the sticky fibers in the next episode.  Dun, Dun, Dun.

Dying to get started

These are the results of my Kool-Aid experiment.  They were created from the wool I had received with my Schacht Wheel (I’m not really sure what it is).  A very pretty wool that did not felt on me when I tried this!  I put 3 Kool-Aid lemonaid packets into a plastic shoe box with about 2-4 oz of wool (I do not have a kitchen scale so it is all estimated).  I then poured enough water to cover the wool and added about 10 drops of food coloring.  The resulting fiber was the fire orange color.  After letting it set for about 30 minutes I took it out and began to rinse the fiber.  A lot of the dye started to come out of the fiber as I was rinsing.  Since I feared losing the beautiful color I decided to use some vinegar to soak the fiber and retain the color, after a 15 minute soak and a thorough rinsing the color remained and the fiber didn’t even have a vinegar stink.

There was a lot of dye left in the water so I decided to throw more fiber into it, again somewhere between 2-4 oz of wool, and another packet of lemonaid kool-aid to help things set.  It soaked for about 30 minutes and when rinsed created the beautiful yellow that can be found in both skeins.

I think that kool-aid (helped along with some food coloring if needed) is a great introductory method to dying.  I look forward to more experiments in the future, but some fiber is calling my name to be spun!

Happy Crafting!