Thursday, January 31, 2008


I am spinning.

Bill is on the computer.

We are listening to the radio.

Bill: You would think that they would thin out after a while, but they don't.

Me: What?

Bill: Prime numbers.

I can honestly say that I really never thought much about it.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


I was met at the door yesterday morning by the post man who handed me a parcel. I hadn't ordered anything and was quite puzzled by the box. There is only one way to find out what is in a closed box and that is to open it!

And here is what I found! A fleece alpaca blanket from baby Felicity, a sample from baby Desdemona, and a sample of baby llama butt. As well as a lazy kate! It was from the Alpaca Spinner in the UK, and I could only think of one person that would send me fleece from the UK. My sister Nicole. A quick e-mail confirmed that she was the generous giver of this lovely bit of wonder!

So thank you so much Nicole! It really helped brighten up a rather dreary January.

Monday, January 28, 2008

In the Eye of the Storm

Doesn't that look like the aerial photos of a hurricane? What it really is is the about half of a bump of merino fleece that we have been using for felting class. I have heard the term "bump" being used to describe many different amounts of fleece. From our supplier, a bump is 10 kg. Or 22 pounds. That is a heck of a lot of fleece. Some of it is being used white, but the vast majority is being used dyed. And I have been responsible for doing the dyeing.

Of the many classes that are offered in the Fiber Arts studio, felting is one. The students who are enrolled in the studio are expected to take the felting class, and a dyeing class too, so they can learn about colour mixing and gain the ability to dye their own fleece and yarn. We have 5 students who are doing this (and two part time students) There are 14 students who are majoring in other studios that are taking the felting class alone. It is for these people that I have been dyeing.
The teacher asked me to do up pots of one colour, but in different shades and tones. So a pot of blues, one of greens, one yellows, and so on. This is about 7.5 pounds that I dyed last Thursday. I have about another 4 pounds to dye this week for the studio to fulfill it's commitment of fleece that is supplied to the students, and then I get to start dyeing for the store so that the students can go buy their own fleece when the studio runs out. If they continue using fleece at the rate that they are using it, I think that I will be dyeing this much every two weeks. But then again, I've noticed that people rarely use as much of a material if they have to pay for it themselves.

This has been a great exercise for me and I have been having fun playing with the different combinations that I can make with just one colour. I have come up with a couple of possible new colour ways, and I don't think that I am done with the experimentation that I have started with blending of fibers. I really like the way that the merino silk is plying up. Now, if I could just find some time to sit and finish plying it......

Sunday, January 27, 2008

They're back!

And this time they brought grappling hooks!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


I go to water my plants the other day, and I find that they have been invaded and a battle is being fought!
Please don't look too closely at the dust.
If you examine the solders, you will notice that there are two different types. The regular kinds with guns and roman solders with swords and shields.
There are even a couple of snipers.


Monday, January 21, 2008

B is for

A ball winder. Such a simple little thing, and yet so practical and useful. I used to put it on and take it off the front beam of my loom every time I wanted to use it until one day inspiration struck and I attached it to the side rails of a little trolley that we have that lives beside my loom area.

I know that it is not in it's expected upright position, but I assure you that it still works wonderfully, and I don't have it cluttering up my work basket. It has been used a lot lately in this configuration to wind center pull balls so that I can easily ply my handspun and not have to deal with leftover bits of yarn. And it has been working wonderfully.

I remember my first real experience winding yarn balls. It was in my first year at the craft school. The first project was to be a blanket, and if I took the time to look at my weaving records I could tell you the exact number of skeins that I had to wind into balls, but if memory serves me, I do believe that it was about 10 or 12 skeins, and I wound half of them by hand before the ball winders and squirrel cages became available. I had taken so long to decide what colours I was going to use that I was the last one out of the store. And therefore was also last in line for the equipment. I was astonished at the speed and convenience of the ball winder.

So let's hear it for the humble ball winder. A wonderful time saving device for weavers and knitters everywhere!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A is for...

ABC along! It is also for....

Alpaca! Look at these guys, aren't they just the cutest! These are from a local fiber mill called Legacy Lanewhich is about an hour away. They are a mini mill which means that they will process small batches of fiber from people who own a few animals. And because they are so small you are assured that you will be getting the same fiber back as you sent in. You can see more of the whole operation here and here.

A is also for All that fiber that I get to spin. Starting with the dark purple balls and going clockwise there is Shetland then some merino, super wash merino, mohair,alpaca, more shetland, merino/silk blend, and yet more super wash merino. I seem to see a bit of a purple trend happening. I think that I need to start dyeing some other colours!

The alpaca was dyed raw and now I am picking out some VM. I suppose that I should have done the picking before the dyeing, but I was curious as to how it would dye and didn't even think of all that extra stuff in the fiber until I had put it to soak. Lesson learned. I hope.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Silk and Merino blended

I have been having fun with the drum carded at work. I dyed some superwash merino and some tussah silk in the same pot the other day with the idea of blending them into something that I haven't spun before. And I succeeded.

Presenting the dyed silk and merino.
I equally divided the merino and silk into 5 equal bundles of 105 grams of merino and 5 grams of silk,

which I then blended on the drum carder,
and made in to five wonderful bundles of beauty
that I have started to spin tonight. One of the bundles had a little more pink in it and I am splitting it into quarters and spinning in in between the other four with a little bit of the pink blend saved for the end. I will then ply it from a center pull ball. I am hoping that this will even out the purple bits. It is nice to spin and I hope that it will be nice to knit with. Some day.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Post Cards from the Selv-edge

I am involved with a group of artists who, over the next year will be working on a project. It is called "Post Cards from the Selv-edge".

At work one day we were all talking about how stressed we were for various reasons and an idea that had been bouncing around in one of my colleagues head came out. She had been involved in a round robin cloth alteration exercise with some students of hers the year before and thought that if we could get 12 people together to do a similar exercise we may have a show. Before lunch was over, we had about 7 of the 12. Others were contacted and Post Cards was born. Most of the artists are in Fredericton, but we have a couple in BC and one or two in Ontario. These pieces of fabric are going to be well traveled.

We start out with a piece of fabric no larger than 6"x10" and every month on the 20th, we pass it off to the next person on the list. By December, we will have our original fabric back, but much altered as it went through the hands and minds of 11 other people.

This is my fabric. It is handwoven cotton and silk remnants that have a sizing on them. The dimensions are 6"x10 and a tiny little bit". I guess that even from the start, I had a bit of a hard time following the rules.

I'm not sure if I am suppose to be sharing this with you as we are not really suppose to be talking about what we get and what we do with it, but seeing as (so far as I know) no one from work reads my blog, I will continue to post the pieces as I get them over the next 12 months.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

resolution update

So far so good. I finally organized my dye recipes. I have 12 so far that I like and I have them all recorded and most of them have a sample of the spun yarn. There are a couple of bundles of fleece that people snatched up before I could spin it myself, and if people want to give me money for fleece, who am I to complain? Most of the yarn samples are the trimmings from my scarves. And, I will sheepishly admit, that most of them sat around for a while after being trimmed off. There seemed like there was so much to do before Christmas.
To complete this task, I have to dye and spin about three of my dye recipes. A hardship, I know, but I will somehow manage to suffer through it.

And here is another thing crossed off of my "to do " list. In the fall, I purchased some mohair from a local fiber farm. But when I dyed it, it became slightly felted and I had a really hard time drafting. OK, I'll admit it. It became really felted and I couldn't draft at all. So I decided to run it through the drum carder and make it spinable. It is really light and fluffy and I think that I am going to blend it with something before I spin it. But before that happens I might spin some of it as a sample of pure mohair.
I also did some more dyeing on the weekend and I have yet to see the results. I hung everything up on Sunday to dry and haven't gotten back to the school yet. Yesterday was errand day and today is a snow day and so I have a house full of children. I'll let you know how thing went tomorrow.

Monday, January 14, 2008


The kids went to the park yesterday and when they came back they had a bunch of these. They found them in one of the snow banks near the road.

It looks like someone must have lost a box of nails, or at least part of a box. I'm glad that the kids found them before someone was hurt.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


The mystery is solved! Bill spent some zen time with the dryer circuit diagram and figured that the problem had to be in one of two places. I'll pass the discussion over to him now.

The picture below is the disassembled centrifugal switch on the dryer's induction motor.

Induction motors can't get started unless they have a separate start winding, or a shade pole (don't worry if you don't understand this), or a capacitor in parallel with the winding that gets switched out, or some means of getting a rotating field to set them off running from a stopped position. But once the motor gets going, you have to switch out the start winding or the capacitor. This task is accomplished by the switch shown in the photo above. Incidentally, it also switches in the heating element once the dryer is spinning. This is to prevent the heating element from coming on if the motor is not running and the air flowing through the dryer.

The problem turned out to be that the switch was not closed on the start winding when the motor was off, which is has to be for the thing to get going. My friend Elmer and I thought we had fixed this in October, but we made a fatal mistake when we tested the motor on the bench and we powered both windings from the supply, thus bypassing this switch which needed to be closed. Ooops. So we didn't notice that the switch failed to make a connection. I have pondered the problem for a while, and even drew out the circuit diagram on the computer so I could make multiple copies, trace it, document the sequence of operations, and figure out what was wrong.

Last week I decided to sit with the diagram and my test results thus far finally isolate the problem. That was Thursday and I had the Zen moment not long after starting. The fault had to be in one of two places (and mercifully neither of them was on the control board for the reversing relay), and I had evidence to believe it was this switch, not the reversing relay. Today I performed the tests that confirmed it, then tore the thing apart and adjusted the contacts until it worked as needed. I let Jackie turn the start switch for the test run. It worked.

I did tax her patience (for which I apologize) for a few weeks by insisting that I wouldn't order parts until I knew what needed to be replaced (which in the end turned out to be nothing). She was seriously irritated about having to push start the dryer every 5 minutes, but I tried to convince her that our pioneering ancestors still would have seen this as a labour saving device :-)

And we might have bought $250 worth of stuff for nothing, not to mention labour costs. Repair technicians know less about this than I do — they just remove and replace until it works.

But now the inner workings of the dryer are completely known to me. It will be easy to keep it running for years to come. Back to Jackie.

I have to say that the "push start" of the dryer every 5 minutes did indeed tax my patience (pioneering ancestors aside). Especially on those days when I had 3 or 4 loads of laundry to do.

But all of that aside, I am glad that Bill figured it out and fixed it.

And now it is time to put a small girl to bed. Good night.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

I forgot..

to mention what all of that melting snow and ice uncovered on the sidewalks. Let's just say that I wish that people would pick up after their dogs. Ick.

And FYI, we are going down to -10C tonight.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

January Thaw

It has long been a Maritime tradition that in January, Mother Nature sees fit to send us a little warmer weather for a few days. This year she has really out done herself. It started on the weekend and has continues all week. Today's high was 10 C (50F). This trend has continued through the night times too with temperatures above freezing, and it is suppose to continue into the weekend. Needless to say, this has meant that we have less snow now. The sidewalks are almost bare and the melting snow is running down gutters and drains at an amazing rate.

So here is the sidewalk and street,
And here is the big house across the street where those very impressive icicles used to hang.

I have been enjoying the thaw, but I have to admit that I am frightened of what she is going to throw at us next. Because usually after we have been lulled into false hope of an early spring, we get a few weeks of lows -30. Fahrenheit of Celsius, is doesn't matter. That is just COLD!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Shetland 3 ply

I have finished my first skein of the shetland/merino roving. I decided to make a 3 ply and try knitting some mittens with it. My lazy kate only holds two bobbins so I made a center pull ball and plied both ends of that along with one bobbin. I think that I need to come up with a lazy kate that will hold three bobbins. I remember making one from Kenx a few years ago so I don't think that it will be too big of a problem. My next skein will be a two ply. This will be the first time that I have tried a comparison of two and three plies.

We won't talk about the thumbs that I need to put in my purple mittens. I don't think that it will take me long to knit those pesky thumbs. The trick is to get started.

This morning was the kids first day back at school after the Christmas break. I have spent most of the morning cleaning up. It is rather hard to clean around kids sometimes. They tend to get in the way and they also haul out what you have just put away.

And in the weather department, we have 3 days of above freezing temperatures forcasted. Above zero even at night. So all of that snow and ice has started to melt and will be greatly diminished over the next few days.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

New Pump

It is amazing what a difference a new pump made to the washing machine. The old one was eleven years old and had suffered the indignity of being poked with an under wire, metal bits from small boys pockets, and other various things. This, along with (almost) daily use, had made it a bit leaky and very loud. I didn't realize how loud it had gotten until Bill put the new one in on Friday.

New shiny one in, old scuzzy one on the floor in front.

I was also amazed at how abrasive hair is. Mira and I both have long hair and apparently one occasionally gets through to where the pump is. And some got wound around the shaft creating ridges that were really astonishing.

Thanks for the new pump Bill.

Friday, January 04, 2008


For those of you who have wondered just how much snow we have up here in the great white north, here are a few photos. There was so much snow that, even though the snow started on Tuesday evening, the little sidewalk clearing snow blower didn't get to our sidewalk until this morning at about 11:30. I live about 8 blocks from the downtown core. Those poor fellows must have been working a lot of overtime.

Here is our freshly cleared sidewalk.

The snow bank on the little strip of grass between the road and the side walk. In the summer, I can just touch the lowest branch of that tree with my fingertips. Our street is now about 8 feet narrower than it is in the summer.

The driveway with Matt and Kora's van parked at the end along with the path that the kids have plowed so that they can play in the back yard.

Icicles on the house across the street.

And what does one wear in all this ice and snow.
Her newly shrunk socks and a bathing suit of course! She loves the socks because they make her "skate like Ice Princess". Which, of course meant that she had to watch the movie. Oh well. There are worse ways to spend an afternoon.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Let it Snow?

Today we are having the first big storm of the year, and the fourth storm of the season. And we have 3 to 4 months of snow left to come.

That lump to the right in the photo below? That's the car completely buried. Thankfully we are not planing on going anywhere soon. And yesterday, I had the kids shovel off the back step. So much for that idea. The lump in the front is the barbecue. I don't think that we will be using it today.

This time of year is also a time when people start talking about Resolutions. Or changes that they want to make in their life. My resolutions are simple. Of course I would like to lose a bit of weight, but that is not one of them. Neither is getting more exercise, which is another thing that I want to do.

No, my New Years Resolutions are......

1. Drink more water. Just straight water. Soda water counts.

2. Keep better weaving and spinning records. Which mean going back to taking records of all projects. I have the weaving record keeping sheets. I have the binder. I just need to DO IT! Spinning records will be something new for me. But Dave (is it OK if I link to your blog now Dave?) has sent me a excel spread sheet that will help.

And this will be the first thing that I record. The other day, Sarah and I went to the school and did some dyeing and as a thanks for all the help that I have given her with her weaving and dyeing, she gave me two pounds of shetland/merino roving. I am working on it and it spins up very well. It is a little rougher than what I have been spinning and so will not be for socks or scarves, but I think that it will make wonderful mittens. It takes dye beautifully and I am really enjoying spinning it. Two pounds of mittens? Maybe I'll find something else that I can use it for.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year!

And let us ring in the new year with some new yarn! This is my fresh hand spun superwash merino. Maybe some will get made into socks that can go through the wash. Sounds like a good idea to me.
Nicole got a brand new tea set for Christmas and this afternoon, her and her siblings set up for a tea party. Everyone had a great time and the mess was kept to a minimum because of the red terry cloth table cloth that soaked up many spills.
And on top of everything else, we had more snow today. Mira was astonished at the state of the car. Yes, that lump is the car. The small black rectangle is the mirror of the car. And there is more snow coming.

Tonight we all went out to our friend Linda's place for our annual New Years Eve game night. We all had a great time, even the kids. We had originally planned to play charades, but after eating so much food, we decided to settle on a game of Quiddler. The kids settled in to watch a few movies.

What did you do?

I'm going to bed now. I'm tired.

Happy New Year!