Saturday, June 30, 2012

Dad was right!

My father always used to say that time passed faster the older he got. In my teens, I'm sure I rolled my eyes...."sure Dad".  During my twenties and thirties, feeling invincible & as if time and the possibilities in life were limitless,  I smiled..."I know, Dad" (even tho' I didn't really "get it"). But in my early forties, I began to experience it myself! And now....WOW...where does the time go?
Or maybe time is the same and it's just that we're not as efficient & fast at things as we used to be that we can't accomplish as much as we think we should?

Well, whatever the explanation for this phenomenon,  I clearly need to adjust to it!
Having organized the workshop ( all 62 knitting, felting & spinning projects in the queue are neatly labelled!) I truly expected that in my free time last weekend I could complete 3 experimental felt bag projects I had in various stages of completion. Yet I finished  only 1 of them! And it's not like I sat around eating bon-bons all weekend (tho' I did get side-tracked reading an advance copy of the next Chief Inspector Gamache investigation by Louise Penney)!

Anyway, the freshly washed Cotswold fleece that I introduced last post was taking up so much room in the workshop, I split it into 3 color/fiber groups. The finest and most lustrous of the locks are a gorgeous silvery grey (see photo left). I packed the silvery grey and medium grey into a bin for a future spinning project. The coarsest and darkest fibers (far right in photo) I carded on the Petite by Strauch and this is what I felted with this week.

I still can't get over how fine this particular Cotswold ram lamb fleece is!  I guess this is why I enjoy trying new fibers I haven't worked with before.....I end up being surprised that the reality is different from my preconceived notions!
It felted SO quickly and many of the Scandinavian wools I've used (C1, Gottland, spelsau). Because I wanted to add leather trim to this bag, and I hadn't worked with leather in a while, I had to refresh my memory on some techniques so I don't have the finished bag to show and tell yet. But I can share a view of this little test handle I worked out. I'm thrilled to have figured out what is called a "tricky braid"....tricky because it is a braid formed with both ends intact! So I've now cut out larger lengths of leather and am making the handles for the Cotswold bag using this newly discovered braid.

But having conquered the "tricky braid" last  Sunday, I learned that the Vermont Quilt Festival was in town this weekend. So I decided I had to turn my attentions to a quilt inspired bag I started last year, just after the 2011 VQF! Where does time go?! Inspired by the quilts at the festival, I had designed and felted  27 unique squares, and then after taking Christine Fries machine stitching workshop here last November, I practiced my machine embroidery/stitching on the squares (while learning about my new machine). So this weekend, I pulled the squares out again, determined to complete the bag before the festival ends on Sunday. I felted a larger piece of felt in an interesting blue for some contrast and I  am stitching the original squares onto this so I will have bigger (5" sq) squares to work with in assembling the bag.

But I got so side-tracked playing with various configurations in which the different squares could be assembled, that I haven't yet assembled the bag!

So in the end, the only bag I actually finished was one that I used to test out a new closure that I'm stocking in the store. This bag I felted using a jet black Karakul lamb fleece on the inside (so it would be nice and dense) and a gently carded (I left some of the locks un-teased because I wanted a textural element in the felt surface) Border Leicester  cross that I had dyed a lovely gold. The bag design is not so special (tho' I love the surface color and texture of the felt), but I am very pleased with this closure, so am happy with the experiment's results. And glad to at least check one project off the "to-do" list!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Working off the Stash...

It's been a while since I've posted. Time was hard to find this year. And, frankly, my usual enthusiasm and passion for all things fibers was MIA last year too.  I came back from the "5 sisters" trip to Gotland, Estonia & Russia so inspired, but somewhere along the line I lost focus. Well,  we all go thru those phases at some point so I'm guessing you understand that. 

But  taking a semester of millinery in the University of Vermont's Theater Dept. to fine tune my hat making skills and now some recent changes at the shop have reinvigorated my enthusiasm in a HUGE way. My creative mind is firing on all cylinders again and the project ideas are coming in at a mile a minute!

But where to start? So many bags of yarns, fiber and fleece surrounding me.  And I want to dive into them all!

But I have to start somewhere. So here it is!

This isn't the oldest much for FIFO!  Ironically, this is probably the ONLY fiber I don't even have a project in mind for!  I bought the fleece at Maryland Sheep & Wool in early May  - smitten at first sight with it's lustrous locks.  It is barely even dry from having washed it over the weekend!  

But it is the project that is out and on the table. So I may as well start here...after all, it occupies the work space so in order to start with something else I'd have to pack this away. And that's just an extra step!  

So the Cotswold fleece it is that I start with. This is from a lamb ram in California. It is GORGEOUS. I wish you could feel it. It is so surprisingly soft and fine for Cotswold. Anyway, I separated it into 3 basic colors (see photo above). The lighter is finest and most lustrous and the darkest is coarsest. In fact, as you can see from the photo here that some of the darkest is coarse and has a very different lock structure, so I think I now need to go back and sort just the darkest color into two categories.....the coarse (far right)  and not-so-coarse dark (3rd lock from the left). For reference, the lightest lock on the left is 6" long.

I'm thinking at this point that I will felt a project with the darkest/coarsest.....I'm thinking a yurt bag?  That way I get to see how Cotswold felts and, providing it felts well based on the sample I intend on doing first, I'll have a bag to embellish when Annemai Koenen is here from the Netherlands for some felting workshops in October.

The lighest grey and medium greys are so lustrous, soft and rich that I definitely plan on spinning the search for a pattern is on! I've had a classic pattern from an old (8 years ago maybe) Knits magazine dog-earred and it might be just right.