finally!

My little minions are growing… soon they will give me pretty bell peppers and cotton balls to spin.. muhahahaHAHAA..

So the cute little green sprouting things  on this picture are the bell pepper plants. Aren’t they pretty? Before I planted them I did some research and learned that bell peppers aren’t easy to grow because it can take a long time for them to sprout and they need warm temperatures. I don’t know about the rest of the world but there’s no summer yet in Holland. I’ve seen warmer days in the fall.. I decided to plant the seeds in an old aquarium and see what would happen and lo and behold it worked! The aquarium isn’t airtight because there’s a lot of airholes in the cover, so it vents but the air inside is still 5-7 degrees (celcius) warmer. Even on colder, overcast and rainy days it’s still nice and warm in the aquarium.

The picture you see was taken roughly three days ago. By now the cotton seeds in the front (not sure if you can see them) have sprouted as well. Before long I’ll have to plant the cotton seeds in a jar and the bell plants in nice pots so they have enough room to grow. I read somewhere that a bell pepper plant grown in a pot may give 3-5 bell peppers. I hope they live up to the expectations because I love me some bell peppers!

I’m not sure if this plant is actually still alive or not but it doesn’t really matter. I know I’ve planted the seeds too late but I guess I can always try. If it doesn’t work out I’ll plant another set next april.

Here you can see the cotton plants/ seeds. Three of them are visible, but I planted around 10-12 so they might come up just yet. What I have noticed is that it’s really important to clean the seeds before planting because some of them were still covered in cotton fuzz and those are taking the longest time to sprout. If they don’t sprout I’ll collect them again and try again next year.

This one came up last but looks like its growth mostly happened under the earth 😛 This other one is still a bit weird…

I’m still not really knitting but I’m sure I will.. I can’t wait to kick of the Tour and to get some spinning done! I was planning to get some carding done before the tour but then I coudn’t decide if I wanted to blend the 100 grams of Castlemilk Moorit with silk or not.. so I ended up not doing anything. I guess I can start with the big bag of (I believe 1.5kilo) of toadstool golf (it’s a temporary name for the colorway).

I think growing plants is teaching me to be a bit more patient… A while ago (I can’t remember when) I decided to plant an avocado seed. I googled and learned what to do (stick some toothpicks in the sides and hang it in a glass of water). A few weeks went by and now it looks like this:

I love planting things.. I love taking the time to look at them everyday and to see how they’ve grown; the difference between size is actually visible! You don’t need a garden to grow things. You don’t need a huge balcony to grow things, just a cup of water and patience 🙂

greens

Usually, when I write a blog post I add a link to the post on flickr. So while adding the links for the previous blog post I noticed that I had completely forgotten to blog about the plants I bought.

I posted a picture of the little cherry tomatoes I had plucked from my tomato plant, but I had forgotten to show you a picture of the plant. This picture is already old and most of the green tomatoes on this plant have already turned red and have already been eaten! They were delicious!

I also forgot to mention how I used an old Aqua40 aquarium to grow yellow paprika and cotton seeds! I tried to take a picture of it but I can’t get it right. The paprika seeds are already growing and there’s the teensiest bit of green visible on the top. I haven’t really seen any activity with the cotton seeds just yet, but that might be because I either planted them too deep or that I didn’t do something right. Either way, I’ll be sure to update you as soon as there’s something to see!

This is a seedless white grape plant (Himrod) that is accustomed to Dutch (cold and gray) weather. I read on the internet that it’s used for wine in New York, so I’m really excited! The plant is said to grow extremely fast so I can’t wait for it to cover the entire wall. The wall used to be covered by another very pretty plant, but unfortunately it died during last years hot summer. Compared to this pictures there already a lot of growing done so I’m really excited to see how well this goes.

This here is a blueberry plant. I’m a very big fan of blueberries and I’ve always wanted fruit trees so there you go. No more explanations. I hope our cats will protect the fruits and I hope the plants grow well 🙂

And last but not least a picture of our yellow pepper plants. We forgot to plant them in bigger pots and some of them eventually died. Not before giving us the tiniest of peppers that nearly permanently destroyed my brother-in-laws taste buds. I covered the pot with a bit of cloth because Noodles likes to dig. She dug out the cloth a week ago so I decided to cover the whole surface with (upright) toothpicks. It’s not dangerous but it’s super effective. She hasn’t even tried to dig.

I hope to be able to update nice pictures soon of growing paprika’s and cotton plants 🙂

still busy..

I’m still busy with the preparations for the tour. So far I’ve washed one fleece and dyed one of the ones that had been washed already. These fleeces aren’t as soft as the ones from around here, but they’ll be good enough to be used as weft for a nice weaving project. I’ll use some yarn in my stash for the warp and hope to make some nice blanket/ poncho.

I started out with this. It’s already nice and clean but it’s a little dry for my taste. I tried to card a bit and ended up with white flakes everywhere around the house. I tried the other fleece and it looked very similar.

I’m not sure how these fleeces were washed, but it might explain why they’re so dry. Pulling them apart with my fingers (again) left short staple white fiber all over the place. I decided to dye the fiber and see what would happen next. In de worst case scenario I’d use the wool as stuffing and focus on the other fleeces I have left (Castlemilk Moorit, Wensleydale and BFL).

I don’t want to get bored during the tour and it tends to get really boring spinning the same color for two weeks straight, so I decided to dye the wool in two batches. The first one using red and yellow and the second one using yellow and blue. I love the colors and I love the feel of it all… it reminds me of one of my favorite video games: Mario Golf.

I forgot to take any pictures of the second batch because of the dramatic events that took place. I had used too much water to turn my yellow dye powder into liquid yellow dye and to top it off I hadn’t sealed the whole thing off properly. The result was a huge green colored pool in my microwave. I always place my fleece/dye bundle in a deep plate but even that couldn’t stop the flood.

I don’t like the sharp change in colors so I had partly intended to use a little too much water so the colors could blend. I ended up using way too much and causing a flood. The good news, however, is that the plan worked and I now have a great gradient from yellow to green to blue!

The laudry mesh bag doesn’t help show off the colors. This picture, for once, does. Another extra added bonus is the fiber quality. For some reason during the dye process the fleece became a little bit softer and a bit less dry. I don’t think I’ll need to card at all because the fiber is really fluffy and drafts easily.

A little close up to show the fluffiness of the fiber.

And another one to show how easy it is to draft the fiber.

I’m not sure if I’m seeing what I want to see or if the fiber quality has actually improved during the dyeing process, but it seems to show on this picture.

On a non-fiber related post I’d like to show you something tasty 🙂 Cherry tomatoes are my favorite! There’s still a lot of little green tomatoes left and the plant is already working on some new little ones! I love planting things…  Last but not least I’d like to share a picture of Noodles. She really really reaaallly enjoys sleeping on unwashed fleece.. She (and Kiwi) enjoy this so much I left the final batch unwashed.. 😛

Preparations for TdF2012

Last year was my first ‘real’ Tour de Fleece. I didn’t join in the fun the year before because I had only just started spinning and I had no idea what I was doing 😛 I guess this also explains the newbie mistakes I made last year. I ordered my spindle too late (a month before the tour is too late for a handmade spindle), and I didn’t do any fiber prepping before the tour. I started the dying and blending during the tour, which took up a lot of my precious spinning time.

This year I’m going to be prepared. I have a few goals for this years tour and I’m preparing accordingly. I want to finish the BF’s tomten vest so he can wear it this fall/ winter. This is the most important goal I have this year because I’ve already been working on this vest for nearly a year and I’m not planning to take any longer to finishing it.

Once I’ve made sure I have enough yarn for this project I’m going to work on some nice medium weight singles. I want to use them for a weaving project later on and I don’t want to have to ply. The only problem is the carding. I have a set of ashford student hand carders (which I love btw), but these can only be used for the rough sort of work.

I’ve learned to like the sorting/ washing process since I learned to use BIOTEX. Unfortunately this batch was quite dirty and there’s some stuff that didn’t want to come out during the washing, but will definitely come out during the carding process… good times..

But this happens first…

And all of this comes out.. it always amazes me how dirty fleeces can get.. I do understand why ofcourse but it still amazes me…

This is part of one whole fleece but I couldn’t fit it all in one of the washing bags so I separated them into three smaller parts.

The fleece is white mixed with a bit of gray on the bottom and brownish/ creamy parts. I love the colors.

It’s a merino fleece my mom brought from Iran, and unfortunately it’s not a soft as a NZ merino, not that I was expecting that but still 😛 The fleece I buy in NL is dirty too, but it’s a different kind of dirt. We have a lot of rain and a lot less sand and dust. Compared to ‘European’ fleece, this fleece contained a lot more sand and dust. Surprisingly it was much less oily, but perhaps that’s because of all the dust. The climate must have something to do with it I guess.

I’ll have to card this fleece as well before I can use it, but I won’t be dying it. I’ll try to make a separation between the colors and see if there’s a distinct difference in the spun yarn.

I’d also like to work on the castlmilk moorit and the rest of the brown/ gray wensleydale I have left, but it’s not a priority. I love spinning these fleeces, but it’s something I’d enjoy spinning on any day, while I feel the TdF is more of a ‘hardcore’ spinning experience..

There’s so much I want to work on at once, but there’s only me and I have to make better use of my time… *le sigh* I wish there was either more of me or more hours in one day 🙂

I’d like to leave you with kiwi overseeing the washing process.. because.. cat 😛

aaand done…

today I washed and caked the rest of my peachy yarn and I’m happy finishing this project. I learned a few things while working on this project and I’d like to share this with you:

– Handcards are very useful tools!
So far I’ve only used handcards as I don’t own a drumcarder so I may be misinformed :P. I use my student handcards for all my fleece projects and I’m loving them. I never thought I could also use them to blend colors and fibers but this project taught me that blending fiber on handcards is quite easy and quick. It takes between 2-4 passes to have something between either a rough or a perfectly blended mini-batt/ rolag. I’m sure a drumcarder can handle a lot more fiber in one go but I’m not sure if it’s a much faster method in the end.

– Blending merino and silk is fun!
The drape is amazing! I love merino because of the feel and the softness, but it’s a little dull (as in not shiny, not boring). Also merino grows a lot during the washing process.. so it’s really important to make a swatch! (and to actually *wash* the swatch).

– Russian spindles are awesome!
But mostly: they spin VERY fine yarns… quite effortlessly.. While spinning the first hank on my Rotterdam (looks like an S10) I felt like I was spinning an impossibly thin yarn. I had just learned to lace my yarn on the wheel to reduce the pull so the single wouldn’t snap all the time. I thought I was spinning a fine yarn until I started spinning some on my Russian.

– Learn to let go!
This is the second time I’m going to try to explain this but the first time wasn’t really working out for me. The magical words are ‘let it go’. Before this experiment with the Russian I spun like I had to hold my yarn tightly or else my wheel would yank it out of my hands (and of course it would). But the most important thing I learned is to have a loose grip on my yarn. A supported spindle won’t yank on the yarn, which allows the spinner to have a loose grip on the fluff. I noticed it’s a lot easier spin long draw with a supported spindle and that this will give me much better results in the end.

This picture shows the difference in weight between (mainly) the bottom yarn, which is the first skein I spun on the wheel, and the top one, which is the first skein I spun with the Russian. The two in the middle are more difficult to identify. One of the was spun only on the spindle while the other one was spun on both.

I guess the most important thing I learned while working on this project was to never use multiple tools to spin yarns for one project.

As you can see there’s quite a different between the one on the left and the one in the middle compared to the one on the right. The cake in the middle and right were spun on the spindle.

I’ve decided to use the very thin one for a weaving project, together with the spun gotland (but I’m not quite sure yet).

It’s taken some time but the last skein is about 610m of yarn, bringing the total to 1.725m for 400 grams of fiber. I’m going to finish the body first and use everything that’s left for the sleeves (except for the very thin yarn)

Now that I’m done with this spinning project I might be able to go ahead and finish the BF’s tomten.. my year is almost up.. 😛