The Work Week Draws to a Close…

The work week is drawing to a close, and it’s been a strange one. My trusty Cardzilla, I fear, is begging for a vacation; after years of incredibly faithful, incredibly hard-working service on a near-daily basis, service far above and beyond the call of mere duty, Cardzilla’s motor’s gearbox is showing signs of wear. This could well mean motor replacement! And for the short term, it means no new custom blends for a bit; so the ones that are presently up for sale will be the last until… well, further notice, I suppose. Rest assured Cardzilla will be back in action as quickly as possible, but at this time there is no time estimate.

One thing I want to take a minute to point out is that what wore out and needs fixing is NOT a standard part. Were I to affix a handcrank to it, I would be able to operate it in handcrank mode, just fine. What has worn out is an aftermarket part, in the aftermarket motor that isn’t supplied by Strauch, Cardzilla’s maker. Had I been cranking through all the years that the motor drove Cardzilla for me, I think my shoulder would have worn out for sure. Based on all this, I have to say that I don’t think there is a way for any normal human being to wear out a Strauch carder. That thing is a tank. Let’s take a moment here and give it up for Cardzilla, the Strauch 500-series:

That photo was taken early in Cardzilla’s service with me, before I installed the brush, but after the installation of the very important Edelbrock and MSD stickers. And Cardzilla’s importance cannot be understated: he’s been named, and has a gender role! I almost never name, or assign perceived gender, to my tools. None of my spinning wheels are named, for instance. But in this case, well, it just happened. So you can imagine I’m stricken by his motor ailment, even though I rationally know everybody deserves a little rest and recuperation now and again and I’ve worked Cardzilla about as hard as I tend to work myself, so he’s earned one.

And in honor of how little I seem to pat Cardzilla on the back, tell him thanks, and talk him up… anybody making a purchase from me by the end of May, and mentioning Cardzilla at checkout time, will receive free shipping and a fibery surprise gift.

As it happens, I, like Cardzilla, am now something that can be wrenched on, and the dentist appointment yesterday really drove that home. I’m in the end stages of having a dental implant installed, a process which may be more sterile now than in Mayan or Egyptian antiquity, but somehow, I think, no less time-consuming or frustrating; surely no less bizarre. Since January, I’ve had a titanium screw in the root area of what was once a tooth (a tooth I first broke biting into a piece of toast on my very first Mother’s Day as a mother, resulting in me always answering the question about what I’d like for Mother’s Day by saying “No emergency dental work!”). My Mother’s Day Crown, alas, broke in turn right after last Thanksgiving, and the diagnosis from multiple specialists was that although it might be possible to crown the tooth again, the smart thing to do would be a bridge or an implant. I opted for the implant, though it would take longer.

Longer is an understatement. Yesterday, almost 5 months after the initial screw installation, casts and impressions were taken and the small screw cover was replaced with, I kid you not, a large flathead screw type thingy, the technical term for which is “healing abutment.” The not-so-technical description is, seriously, I have a flat-headed screw cap in my mouth that was installed with a fancy ratcheting screwdriver setup. Now I wait *another* month, and at the end of June, get a temporary crown. After that, I wait some other length of time, and then get a permanent crown, by late summer sometime. And this, folks, is the newfangled shorter-duration, lower-impact process. Becoming a cyborg is weird, and slow. And I’m sure, worth it in the end. But I remain a little crabby about the mouth screw.

So, changing the subject to happy and less-weird things, some of you asked about the black yarn in yesterday’s post. And I’m so glad you asked! It’s a neat new fiber, and this skein was spun from a leftover/tester bit of it. While I was fondling it and pondering it, I concluded it really, really wanted to go fine; this fiber is slicker’n… uh, something really slick! But yet, it’s got a little grip to it, so it doesn’t just drift apart while you’re spinning — it’s slick, but not purely slippery. And shiny. And it drafts really nicely too, and takes dye just beautifully, look:

“Yes, yes, Abby,” you’re thinking now, “but what IS it?”

Oh, very well. It’s superwash merino/tencel, a 50/50 blend in commercial combed top. Wanna see more?

Man, I just don’t think any of these photos do this fiber justice! It’s soft, so super-soft, it’s shiny, it’s smooth-drafting and easy to spin thick or fine, it’s stunning sock stuff, is what it is. Or lace stuff. Or all kinds of things. It’s really, really neat stuff.

Well, I did a few other bits of dyeing this past week too, carder and human maintenance notwithstanding:

Just a few new tussah silks — the main new round of ’em will probably be next week. By “just a few,” of course, I mean 20-some odd.

Also some merino/tussah 50/50 commercial top, that I’m thinking about adding to the long-term repertoire, if only so that I can have an excuse to be dyeing it for myself lots and lots…

…and this baby camel top (there are other colours, of course, of the merino/tussah and the baby camel). I’m on the fence about the baby camel; it’s high-maintenance to handle while dyeing, and although I love camel, it seems to be an underrated fiber that people don’t know they’d love and therefore don’t buy.

This particular week’s dyeing came out really, really nice, which I guess is some consolation for the dentist trip, screw in my mouth, Cardzilla’s woes, and everything.

Oh that’s right! The black yarn! I forgot to talk about the yarn itself. Well, that’ll have to wait till tomorrow at this point, I think. In short, it’s 280 yards of 2-ply from 30 grams of that superwash/tencel blend, making it about a 4300 ypp yarn. I’d actually hoped for better yield… but I’m probably going to have to play with this fiber more regardless, so it’s not like this is my last chance!

No, this time, really, I’ll take a weekend off!

I’ve made it to Friday again, huzzah! This was a hectic-seeming week and production just was not what I had ambitiously planned for at the outset. But I did manage to get all of these up on eBay:

…which is to say, some 6 pounds of superwash top, some oddments of very nice fibers, a few pounds of new sock blends, all containing alpaca, and repeating a few favourite colourways:

like Tiger Lily…


…and Berries.

Plus, there’s a huge batch of 400-yard / 1 ounce skeins of handpainted merino/silk millspun yarn (millspun, as in machine spun, lest anyone not be sure what I mean by that — I tend to prefer to say “millspun” rather than “commercial” as there are plenty of commercial handspun yarns, after all):

These are the same yarns I used in this fella here:

the Falling Leaves Isosceles — and each skein has enough yarn in it for something similar, scarf-sized!

My faves from this batch are the Indian Summer shown above, and…

…this Autumn Stroll.

This weekend, I might do fibery stuff, but I swear it’s going to all just be personal. You wanna know what non-work yarn dorkery I got to this week? This is it:

Hardly anything. Fewer than 800 yards of yarn all told that is actually for me. The horror!

Spring cleaning SALE!

Spring cleaning time is definitely here. I’m getting ready to do fiber rotation, destashing, and that sort of thing, and I definitely need to make some space because it’s a game of Tetris as it is. So I’m having a SALE!

Franquemont Fibers is offering free shipping and 10% off your purchase between today and April 17th, 2007! Give yourself a treat for getting those taxes filed, or something to ease the stress between now and when you get them in! πŸ˜‰

All handpainted yarn…

All handspun yarn…

All custom blends…

All hand-dyed silks…

All assorted fibers!

Just mention this post at checkout to receive your discount and free shipping!

And the last of the fresh batts for the week, plus a few answered questions.

First, new batts have hit the eBay Store And some murky colours are even included this time.

Oh, and if you head on over there to buy something, let me know you arrived via my blog and you’ll get free shipping plus a little extra surprise.

On the subject of colour, June asked a little while ago:

You talk sometimes about colors you don’t like, but you rarely mention the colors you prefer. I glanced at your store and saw nearly all bright colors (and dare I say – pastels?), but the CR yarn you show above is quite dark and broody. Will the real AF please stand? πŸ˜€

Mmmmm, so I’m busted! Well, I guess I’ve had enough coffee today to try standing.

Here’s the deal: there are colours I like, and appreciate in the abstract, and sometimes these even include really really bright colours. There are combinations that I like, as well, and will use repeatedly; things that I reflexively gravitate towards, and things that I like for specific purposes but not others. And there is the list of colours, and combinations of colours, that I’ll wear. That’s a much, much shorter list. Lastly, there is a list of colours I have historically refused to use, wear, or anything, and which have specifically turned me off; this is the shortest list of all.

Part of my colour sense comes from Chinchero; specific weaving patterns are done in specific sorts of colour combinations traditionally, and everyone accepts that variations on these are less traditional. If something’s going to be a real Loraypu pattern, for instance, and it’s going to have a central different-colour stripe, then the outer two colours should be white and red; the inner two can be yellow and purple, or orange and green. If it’s only two colours, then you can shake it up more; and yes, you can do different things, but it’s not traditional, and there could be… implications. And it’s a bad idea to use contrasting colours that have similar values in those patterns, regardless of what colours they are. Strong contrast in terms of everything but texture — very important.

For a small ch’oro pattern, you can use bright aniline pink and grass green; but you really shouldn’t use that combination for things other than a small ch’oro pattern. Yes, they do in some other places, but that’s their problem and it’s certainly not something that my roots would really agree with, and it’s radical. A pink and green Loraypu is right out.

This list goes on and on and on, and very much defines my senses of what’s really “right” in certain contexts where colour contrasts happens. Although my sense of these things is shaped very much by Chinchero, that’s far from the only influence. Having a cultural colour sense from someplace that wasn’t the US made my US social life a challenge when it came to clothes, particularly when we’re talking the middle school years, which of course are a challenge for anybody. Prior to that, my big colour problem was one that set in and became really, really strongly entrenched for other reasons. You see, I’m a girl.

Yes, I know, that’s obvious. But I was a total tomboy. People in the US would do crazy things like give me pink stuff, and dresses that were pink, and dolls, and all sorts of things, and so in short order I learned about the “pink is for girls” thing and grew to detest all things pink. Which was not helped, of course, by the fact that my little sister loved pink. My US girlhood at times felt like a constant struggle against the injustice of being given a totally non-functional pink hammer when I wanted to pound nails in something. Perhaps if the 1970s and 1980s had featured any pink things which weren’t crap, and my little sister hadn’t liked pink, and everything… but such was not to be the case. I used to fly into a rage at the suggestion that I’d look good in pink.

Eventually, I came to terms with fuchsia and and really super-saturated dark pinks. But hot pink, petal pink, no way. No pink. Pink was evil. Everybody in Peru thought my pink aversion was very funny, as nobody there had any such issue; but they did notice that gringos in general didn’t tend to go for things that were pink in most cases.

I still viscerally react to pink in a negative way. I only started a campaign to make myself open my mind to pink in early 2006.

So, what do I wear? Well, honestly, I wear jeans all the time, except for when I’m wearing cutoffs or jean shorts. Perhaps 5-10 times a year I’ll wear not-jeans. Jeans, you see, have the right pocket configuration for the stuff I wish to carry. Not-jeans often lack pockets altogether, and therefore, might as well be a pink frilly tutu, even if they’re not. So yeah, I wear jeans. And t-shirts. Preferably dark colours for the t-shirts, but I’ll wear bright green, because green is my favourite colour. Last year, I bought a sky blue top, and wore it numerous times over the summer. But for the most part, what I can be found wearing is jeans, with a top that’s short-sleeved or 3/4 sleeved (because my arms are shorter than off-the-rack clothes that fit my bust and shoulders), and is either black, grey, navy blue, burgundy, brown, or deep forest green; occasionally, white, lighter blue, or fuchsia.

Therefore, if I’m going to make myself a wearable item, I tend to try to fit it in the core colour range of things I know I wear with comfort.

But in the abstract, in the sense of “This isn’t a thing that I’m going to wear,” I love bright colours, and surprising contrasts and vaguely disturbing secondary and tertiary colours. I like complex colours that involve multiple other colours that you don’t expect; I love to carefully darken a blue with pink, or warm up a brown with some orange, then throw in a frostier purple or lavender. With colour blends, when I am shooting for specific colours, I know what to do with the palette I’ve got to get the results I want, and sometimes, I like to not quite blend them fully, for the… shock value, or something, of being clear about the colour components.

Well… I think that’s about all I’ve got for now.

New Sock Blends This Week…

…all on eBay. There are a few others, too. And most of these are more my speed in terms of colours… murkier, I suppose.

The bottom right, called Olive Bar, is my favourite this time around. Mmmm, murky purples…

I’ve got lots of questions answered coming up shortly! And no, I haven’t finished that pink scarf yet.

More New Sock Blends!

Well, as February winds down, I’ve got a final round of sock blends for sale, with a last chance at my February specials featuring free shipping on orders of $25 or more, free shipping +5% off $50 or more, and free shipping plus 10% off orders of $100 or more.

Where are they, you ask? Just follow this link to my eBay storefront, where you can search for all sorts of things. A sampling from this run…

This batch features a few tweed blends, where flashes of bombyx silk are left intact to create a very visible effect when you spin them up, and some blends include a really delectable natural brown Blue Faced Leicester in them as well.

And if you let me know you’re coming from my blog, you’ll also receive a surprise gift with your purchase.

A Swatch, Some Comfort Spinning

Well, I finally managed to snap a few photos of the autoknitter swatch of that Crown Jewels colourway yarn:

Crown Jewels Sock
Crown Jewels Sock Blend

It’s really a challenge to catch a picture that shows both the colours true, and the sheen that the yarn has — it’s just plain the wrong time of year for good natural light. So these photos are truest for colour, but don’t do justice to the incredible sheen that the superwash/silk blends produce.

That aside, I did a little bit of fine spinning this week. I had a problem, a silly one: I had been leaving one of my two Majacraft lace bobbins tied up with some spun yarn on it from before we moved — since last January or February actually. That’s right: a year of sitting on the bobbin. Why? Because it was this 50/50 merino/cashmere blend that I knew I had another several ounces of somewhere, but it hasn’t turned up yet. So finally I just said “Aw, forget it,” and spun a roughly similar amount of plain ol’ merino to ply it with and clear the bobbin. Plus I bought another pair of lace bobbins so as to not engage in such stupidity again. So I figure with one ply merino and one ply merino/cashmere it’s a 75% merino/25% cashmere yarn. Amazingly, it ended up being just about an ounce — 28 grams. It’s 315 yards, 45 wpi (wraps per inch) in 2-ply form, and so about 5,000 ypp (yards per pound). And pretty much impossible to photograph, being white:

75% Merino / 25 % Cashmere 2-ply

And it seems I’m presently bingeing on the yarn that is screaming “Would you buy a macro lens already?” This is what I cleared off the lace bobbins to get to: a 2-ounce thing of Chasing Rainbows merino/tencel that I picked up at Stitches West last year. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there are those of you who call me an unrepentant enabler (and you’re probably right), but I’m in no way immune, and particularly to Nancy Finn’s work. She chooses exceptional fiber, and does some of they finest dye work around… and I have never, not once, walked away from a vendor selling her wares without purchasing some. Seriously, not once.

Chasing Rainbows Merino/Tencel, African Savannah, single on the bobbin

But I really feel no remorse about this whatsoever. Spinning her fibers is always incredibly enjoyable, and it was what I decided to treat myself to doing to balance out the lows in a rather long week — did I mention I caught a nice cold, I presume from extra time outside in the chill fixing that garage door?

Chasing Rainbows Merino/Tencel spun fine 2-ply

I split the entire length of the top as close to the center as I could, just eyeballing it; and then I spun it slowly end to end preserving as much of the colour separation as I could, one half to a bobbin. And if I’d had those two more lace bobbins I’d have rewound the singles onto them and plied directionally, but they weren’t here yet. It still came out nice, though…

2-ply merino/tencel

In the final analysis it made for 662 yards, and a 38 wpi 2-ply yarn, which is reasonably even for a little bit of comfort spinning, and with the colour shifts working out fairly nicely throughout the yarn. It’s just got a tremendous shine to it, and the drape is going to be stellar; crocheted lace, I think. But I’m undecided. And I even got lucky with a happenstance beam of sunlight pouring in and hitting the stairs today! I grabbed the skein as fast as I could to snap a few pictures of it.

Merino/Tencel 2-ply

More pictures and closeups and whatnot are here:

Abby’s Handspun Yarn: Fine Yarns

With the acquisition of some fine anti-static graphite powder, I think I’m going to be able to get the lace setup on the Suzie Pro a little bit slicker, and do some really fine yarn soon. But right now… well, right now, I’m going to do another one of those Chasing Rainbows merino/tencels.

A Little Recent Spinning, and Some Example Skeins

I’ve been asked, what do the sock batts spin up like? Here’s an example using one batt of the Crown Jewels Luxury Sock Blend (superwash merino and tussah silk). Top: the batts. Middle: the single. Bottom: the 2-ply sock yarn after washing.

Crown Jewels Luxury Sock Blend, in the batt
Crown Jewels Single
Crown Jewels Sock Blend, 2-ply

This is a 2-ply yarn; the skein came to 145 yards, and weighs about 1.4 ounces. Later today or perhaps tomorrow, I’ll have a tube swatch photo of how this knits up on my Autoknitter (you’d be waiting a long time for me to swatch it in a hand-knit sock).

Next up, a one-ounce Franquemont Fibers hand-dyed tussah silk, 2-ply and fine:

Franquemont Fibers Tussah Silk, Salmon, 2-ply

“Look, Abby,” this one says, “It’s really past time you actually bought a macro lens.”

Here it is plied on the bobbin; this yarn annoyed me because I’ve got a chatter at top speed with the scotch tension off entirely on my Suzie Pro right now, and it’s time for extreme wheel maintenance to eradicate it.

1 oz on the bobbin, 2-ply

As much as you can eradicate noise from anything that you treat the way I do that wheel, which is such a workhorse, and I swear I treat it like I was a teenager with a hopped-up Camaro constantly doing donuts in an abandoned parking lot. Honestly, when you’re treadling as fast as you can at a 32:1 ratio, to the point that you’re sweating, and getting about 90 rpm out of the drive wheel, you’ve got the flyer going almost 3000 rpm (and I want it faster! faster! GO!) the truth is it’s not likely to be “quiet.” But I want it quieted back down to flyer whir, and I could maybe get a little faster if I could get the vibration at that speed to stop.

Any guesses as to the yardage? It weighs 30 grams, or just a hair over one ounce.

I’ve skeined it, so I know the yardage, and I’ll tell you after a few guesses. I’m reasonably satisfied that this is about as fine as I can comfortably spin on a wheel right now; it’s not as fine as I can spin on a spindle.

NEWS FLASH! Melanie (PinkLemonTwist) is just about dead on; she guesses 500 yards, and the skein came to 517 yards, and thus about 8,000 ypp.

While I was plying it for 17,000 years, I kept going back and forth everywhere from 400 yards to 700 yards to about 15,576,943,824 yards given the time-slows-to-a-crawl that some plying jobs can cause. I truly had NO idea by the time I was done. None at all.

…And they’re up…

Finally! Fresh sock batts up on eBay, and 8 blend samplers as well: 4 each sock blends, 4 each luxury blends. What’s more, the February doldrums call for a revisiting of my November super-specials: $25 gets you free shipping, $50 gets you free shipping and a 5% discount, $100 gets you free shipping and a 10% discount! Customers shipping to outside the USA, though, won’t qualify for free shipping — instead, you’ll have to accept a free surprise gift. And for February only, if you buy an entire batch, you will also receive a free surprise gift.

I think these two are my faves from this run:

Crown JewelsHeartbreaker

I really don’t feel like watching that second one hit the road, but fair’s fair! I’ll just have to do it again for myself… after my next dye day when I’ll have to do some more blue silk.

I can tell you I’ve put yarn spun from these sock batts through my CSM (circular sock machine) and they’ve worked up beautifully, and stood up to machine washing. I’ve hand-knit them in the past, and crocheted with them, and used the resulting yarns in kid clothes! Yes, kid clothes for a third grade boy. Sock batts are delightful to spin in super-laceweight with a spindle, as well as in various ways on a wheel. You need 2-4 for a pair of socks, depending on how you spin, your pattern, and the size of the socks; 2 batts will get you a terrific hat or scarf or a pair of mittens.

Franquemont Fibers eBay Store

Coming Soon…

So, what am I the furthest behind on for January? Sock batts, which I’m actually behind on since December. I blame the whole Tooth Saga, which I am not going to get into in detail for fear of causing other dentistophobes to squick to death.

Here’s a little bit of what will be coming up for sale shortly…

By my own hard deadline, these are due up 1 Feb… but it might end up being 2 Feb at the rate I seem to be going this week. All the latest batch of sock blends are a superwash wool base, containing generous amounts of silk, some with mohair and/or romney as well. Some, but not all, also contain firestar or angelina nylon.

At least half of them, I secretly don’t want to let out of the workshop, unless it’s to pile them by my own spinning wheel.