Spinning out of Control?

Skunkbush sumac dyed yarn

Skunkbush sumac dyed yarn

Not exactly the same as spinning up “three bags full,” but here are the results of my spinning and dyeing adventures discussed in this previous post.

The fibers’ original colors ranged from the white you see on the Navajo Churro sheep fleece they are lying on, to a natural, craft paper shade.

All four skeins were placed in a large ziplock bag with the dye liquor  (orange skunkbush sumac berries gathered locally) and left out in the hot Arizona sun for 6 hours. None of the fibers were mordanted.

I was expecting something orange or brown, and you can see a bit of that on #4 before it turned to a yellow-gold color.

What I dyed & how it turned out (above, right):

Miss Babs BFL "Babette"

Miss Babs BFL “Babette”

#1: Henry’s Attic Inca Cotton

#2: Some mohair I spun on a drop spindle.

#3: Unknown wool, spun by me.

#4: A cotton (or maybe linen) cone acquired at a yard sale, and then plied by me.

After two weeks of daily spinning and plying the fiber my friend gave me to practice on, I found I was hooked.

Feeling worthy, I bought a gorgeous 4- oz. braid of Blue Faced Leicester from Miss Babs. Miss Babs has a great inventory and excellent responsiveness. And the packaging is beautiful and includes a few little extras. Here’s the result of spinning that Miss Babs beauty; about 200 yards of squishiness (above, right). I’m hooked. I want more. I can’t stop.

I don’t have a firm goal to attain a particular gauge when spinning. Yet. I just want to enjoy the process and be able to take it along when I am away from home. So far, I’ve spun next to a lake while camping and at one of my favorite local coffee houses at a meetup with knitting friends. If I hadn’t spun everything in sight already, I’d bring it to World Wide Knit in Public this weekend at the Farmers Market. Sigh.

Yollama Love Lip Stuff

Yollama Love Lip Stuff

So now it’s time to get back to the actual purpose of spinning, knitting it up into pretty little things. I have a stash-ful of irresistible commercial yarns and all this handspun, so it’s time to cast on. Definitely out of control.

It’s been hot and dry here, the kind of scorchiness that dries out skin, lips and hair. To keep me from getting too crispy while sitting on the deck working on my next project, I concocted a batch of lip stuff from Arizona mesquite honey, local beeswax, organic coconut oil, and some delicious blood orange olive oil from the Queen Creek Olive Mill. It even works as a balm for palms and fingers dried out from too much spinning!

 

 

 

Spinning leads to dyeing

I SWORE I wouldn’t get into dyeing fiber again. I promised myself to concentrate on my knitting alone. Then I got distracted, again.

Skunkbush Sumac berries collected in May.

Skunkbush Sumac berries collected in May.

When not looking at birds and snakes while hiking over the past week, I noticed all the Skunkbush Sumac covered with berries.  I love this shrubby plant and and enjoy watching it through all the seasons on my daily hikes around Prescott. On today’s hike, I collected about a cup and a half of them, leaving plenty for the birds and mice.

Our wild rosebushes (you know, the ones that our hybrids reverted to when we didn’t know enough about how to coddle the pricey ones) are producing blooms in abundance right now, so just for good measure, I grabbed a bunch of petals and threw them into the pot with the sumac berries.

After simmering the lot for a few hours, I’ll let it steep, and then refrigerate, or even freeze the dye, after straining it through a coffee filter. I’ll try solar dyeing some of the hand spun I made recently during “World Wide Knit in Public Days” at the  Prescott Farmers Market.

By the way, if you’re in or near Prescott, come out to the Market on June 8 and 15, 2013 and knit, crochet or spin with us. More details available on the Prescott Knitters forum on Ravelry, on the Prescott Knitters Facebook page or in this post in AboutPrescottArizona.com.

Wild rose petals added to the pot with the sumac.

Wild rose petals added to the pot with the sumac.

Various sources say that no mordanting is necessary with sumac, so I’ll just wet my fiber skeins (some cotton and wool) and toss them into a zip lock bag and let them sit in the sunshine.

A note on the color: the dye was a pretty orange color for about an hour. Upon closer inspection, it is very brown now. I’m thinking of adding some turmeric to the pot.

More after the Farmers Market when I’ll share results.

By the way, the Montana Natural History Center has a good series of pictures and descriptions of Rhus trilobata here.

What Allee turned me into

Clownish yellow and pink two-ply.

Clownish yellow and pink two-ply.

Spinning my own yarn for large projects has always seemed implausible. Laughable, even. I did have a spinning wheel many years ago. Back then I also had two little boys who saw the wheel as a fun mechanical toy. Between their use of it and my inability to get the hang of it, that interest went by the wayside. It was just the wrong time.

Until recently, luxurious commercial yarns were how I grew my stash. Then I started looking at the unique skeins created by independent American spinners and dyers.

Handspun sampler

Handspun sampler

A few months ago, I personally introduced myself to some of these produced by Spincycle Yarns, Miss Babs, and A Verb for Keeping Warm. I’m hoping to develop a long and mutually rewarding relationship with these newfound yarns. Meanwhile, in examining their underlying structure and rich colors, I began wondering if I could create something similar myself.

Private musing became public chit chat and Allee overhead me say I might like to try spinning again.

Allee, my friend, fellow knitter and camping buddy, brought me a bagful of odd bits of fiber. For two weeks, I’ve been spinning and plying them on the handmade drop spindle I purchased locally from Deb at A Good Yarn/Fiber Creek.

From fleece to spindle to skein to ball

From fleece to spindle to skein to ball

Obsession? Addiction? New area of interest? I’m not sure what to call it, but I’ve only knit one or two rows since the fiber came home with me, other than the little swatches, i-cording and knitted leaves I’ve made from the yarn to see how it likes being on my needles.

It’s not all beautiful. Some is hideous. But really, isn’t it just slightly possible I could purchase a beautiful fleece and spin it up into worsted for my next favorite cardigan?

What no one told me about retirement

Zonda's Cezanne by Jordana Paige

Zonda’s Cezanne by Jordana Paige

I am officially retired. No more clients or projects. Every day is whatever I want it to be. To that end:

  • I’m signing on for some new volunteer projects and causes.
  • Since the nest is empty, I’m rounding up all the stuff we really don’t need anymore (gradually) and finding new homes for all of it.
  • I’m envisioning what a downsized home would look like and how it would work for the two of us.

What I’m not doing is adopting a philosophy of frugality which we all know is supposed to be a part of this time of life. Everytime I turn around I see something new that I think I need.

  • A bathing suit (?!? I never wear them, why do I think I need one now?);
  • A new knitting project bag (I have several already but just crave the new one my friend Zonda just bought);
  • A lovely new weekend travel bag (I DO visit my kids often and that would be nice to have);
  • A new bike helmet (I love my bike but I never use it… what am I thinking here?);
  • A new garden hose wand that doesn’t leak and get me all wet when I use it.

And on and on. You see the problem.

When I broke my coffee addiction and established good exercise and eating habits (most of the time), I felt I was on the way for healthy and fun retirement years. I’m getting my books from the library, have no car or home loans, no second vacation home or yacht here.

Perplexingly, though I have drastically reduced my income, I still want to buy stuff.

A certain time a tad earlier in my life often referred to as “the change” was just like this. All kinds of weird things happened about which I had no advance warning.

Note: The Cezanne bag pictured above is available through the Jordana Paige website. If you get one, drop me a line and let me know how you like it.

Aside to Zonda: would it be so wrong if I copied you and got one just like yours for myself?

 

April Series: How’s YOUR Local Economy? Part 2

And now a look at the coffee business. Specifically, I’ve been wondering how our independently owned coffee houses have weathered the recession. We have a number of them where I live. They all seem busy when I stop in, and their parking lots are always full, but it’s got to be a challenge.

To be fair, I asked all of them for input, but just heard back from one:  Cuppers Coffee House in downtown Prescott.

I’ve written about Cuppers in the past, when it was operated by its original owner. In fact, my podcasting cohort and I have recorded many segments of “AZVAs the Podcast” in their convenient meeting room.

The current owner, Jamey Mauk, gave me a very thorough look at the strategy they embrace in operating their business.

Cuppers Coffee House in downtown Prescott. Photo used with permission.

Cuppers Coffee House in downtown Prescott.
Photo used with permission.

“While the economy has certainly affected everyone in many different ways, we really have to look closer to our specific situation compared to the national and international conditions depicted on the news everyday. Anyone can get depressed and somewhat panicked if they continually watch all the bad things happening all around us on the TV. I often wonder, is it really that bad today or has it always been that way but we just didn’t know about it? OR maybe now the media just focuses on the bad way too much. AND what does all that really have to do with me, my family, our schools and my town?

When you speak about the economy in general, I think it revolves around demographics. There are many businesses in Arizona that are thriving, and at the the same time there are a lot of spaces for rent in Phoenix and even Scottsdale, not to mention Prescott or Prescott Valley. At the same time, new construction, new roads and new enterprises are springing up all over the place. Spaces for lease are growing weeds while new construction is happening next door, go figure. Maybe the old saying that the cream rises to the top just might be more accurate than we thought. Tough times bring out the best in people and perhaps in businesses as well. One thing is for certain, competition is a good thing when it comes to pricing, quality control and especially customer service. The businesses that focus on these areas rather than worrying about the economy are doing just fine.

As for us in particular, our little coffee shop downtown has a very loyal following. We have strived to improve over the years, therefore our business has grown. Our focus has always been on giving our customers the best quality at the best price with the best service since 2006. By the way, our little Victorian turns 141 years old this year.

In fact, in the effort to continually improve, we realized the potential to be something even MORE. As we looked into more specialized menu items and expanding our foods and desserts into new directions, we decided it was time to add another location. Cuppers is expanding to a much larger additional space by Trader Joe’s with a wonderful patio and gorgeous views. In our current tradition, we will feature an assortment of wholesome, delicious foods – from our famous quiche to elegant crepes including specialty items for dinner – not to mention our Sunday brunch. Our new venture is called Cuppers Coffee Bistro, and it will be everything that Cuppers is known for plus a whole latté more. We love our local clientele downtown and look forward to meeting new people at the new location in The Shops at Prescott Gateway by Trader Joe’s.

People get really excited about our new venture but then they often ask us, what about the coffeehouse downtown? Well, Cuppers Coffeehouse downtown on Cortez Street has been there since 2006, and we plan to keep it downtown. Those who know us well refer to the new bistro as simply Cuppers 2, and that is what it is just on a larger scale. Cuppers Coffee Bistro will be opening this summer.

Now back to the economy. Cuppers is growing because we have faith in our products and in our employees and in our economy. It is our opinion that, while the economy may be struggling in some areas of the country, it is on the upswing in our area. It really all comes down to the people – individuals taking the next step on their own rather than waiting for the news to tell them when it’s time or when it’s safe. In actuality will it ever be safe? History shows us otherwise, so in places where the economy is thriving is where the people are thriving. They have turned off the negative and put on the positive. We control our economy, not the media. I’m pretty certain that not many people in the Prescott area like to be controlled at all! That is why we are choosing this time to expand our successful business to another, bigger location. What could be better than two Cuppers! That’s my two cents.”

A well-managed business which offers great products and service will always find a following, as Jamey’s account attests.

Remember your locally owned coffee and tea options when planning to meet up with friends and colleagues. Oh, and be sure to check out the Cuppers Facebook page.

Annual Events for Fiber Fans

Spinning at WWKIP 2012 Prescott Arizona

Spinning at WWKIP 2012 Prescott Arizona

I’m building a page here to help keep track of all the wondrous fiber events I hear about all the time from my yarnie pals. With a little planning (and saving), I hope to get to at least one of these a year.

Please share your experiences with the ones you like best and send me names of others you recommend, using the commenting function. Oh, and mistakes: be sure to point those out to me, too! Thanks all.

January

TNNA Winter Trade Show, January 11 – 13, 2014, San Diego, CA

February

Stitches West, February 20 – 23, 2014 in Santa Clara, CA

Portland Yarn Crawl/Unravel Portland, Feb. 27 – March 2, 2014 in Portland

April

Yarn Con, April 5, 6, 2014 in Chicago, IL

Stitches South, April 11 – 14, 2013 in Atlanta, GA

May

Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, May 4, 5, 2013 in West Friendship, MD

TKGA Grand Retreat, May 19 – 21, 2013 in Mackinac Island, MI

June

Flagstaff Fiber/Wool Festival: June 1, 2, 2013 Several websites have the info, not sure which is official, but here are a couple: http://www.fiberandwoolfestivalatflagstaff.com/

World Wide Knit in Public Days: June 9 – 13, 2013, WORLDWIDE

Black Sheep Gathering, June 21 – 23, 2013 in Eugene, OR

TNNA Needle Arts Trade Show, June 22-24, 2013 in Columbus, OH

July

TGKA Summer Conference, July 17 – 21, 2013, in Indianapolis, IN

August

Stitches Midwest, August 8 – 11, 2013 Schaumburg, IL

TNNA Fall Needlecraft Market, August 24, 25, 2013 in St. Charles, MO

October

NYS Sheep and Wool Festival, October 19, 20, 2013 in Rhinebeck, NY

November

Stitches East, November 7 – 10, 2013 in Hartford, CT

More info:

Article from Knitter’s Review maintains a massive list, which discusses various festivals and events all over the Globe.

TNNA’s site lists festivals throughout the U.S.

Churro sheep at Flagstaff Wool Festival, 2012, Flagstaff Arizona

Churro sheep at Flagstaff Wool Festival, 2012, Flagstaff Arizona