FO: the second half.

Here’s the rest of the grey alpaca. The top skein (you know, the one closer to the book I should be reading right now), was the softest, highest quality fiber in the bag, and I think you can see the difference when looking at these skeins side-by-side. There’s 70 yards of the softer alpaca, and then another 116 yards of the coarser stuff, bringing the whole lot to 339 yards of light-worsted singles. Can’t wait to see what N. decides to knit out of this stuff!

Last night, after a long day and a dinner of leftovers, we took a break from the kind of work that requires full mental concentration and picked up projects that would allow us to listen to an episode of This American Life. I worked on B’s windschief hat, and I am now ready to start the decreases. He should have a hat to keep him warm by the end of the week. In fact, maybe I’ll knit a few rounds before I tackle the writing I need to do today…

FO: half the grey alpaca.

So this is the first half of the grey alpaca I’m spinning for my friend N., after setting the twist and hanging it to dry. While neither of these mini-skeins is next-to-skin soft, I’m really happy with the halo and the sheen of this yarn. What you’re looking at is about 160 yards. I delivered the first half of the alpaca to N. yesterday afternoon, and decided to work on the second half after dinner last night. One of the remaining bumps of fiber felt softer, so I spun that first. Here’s the bobbin:

I think you can see the difference in the quality. N. told me that she paid five bucks for almost eight ounces of this stuff, which makes sense to me. I think some of this fiber is the “good stuff” from the animal, but I think a lot of it might be the hair from the less prize parts of an alpaca’s coat — like the underbelly, maybe? That would explain the amount of veggie matter in the first two bumps. Here’s the final (larger) bump after separating the fibers a bit with my hands:

I love the depth of color in this picture — such a complex grey. This was coarser, more like the first two skeins. I think singles were the right choice for this yarn — and hey, I’m no longer afraid of alpaca! Maybe I’ll dig out what I’ve got from my very first fiber purchase and try again.

I’m pretty sure that this expression has something to do with the fact that Boh finally understands that there is not an alpaca in the kitchen. Just some yarn hanging to dry.

A few glimpses of the weekend:

Deb’s scalloped tomatoes, made with the last of the season’s farm tomatoes.

After dinner hot chocolate made with dutch cocoa, organic sugar, and milk.

And this morning, I pulled on my down booties when I climbed out of bed in the darkness to make my coffee. I’m ready for daylight savings — I’d rather get up with the sun than rise before her.

 

an alpaca experiment.

Remember that deep brown alpaca I spun for a trade with a friend? (If you’re reading in real time, or close to it, it’s that luscious stuff in the header photo on my blog.) Well, that was only half the bag of fiber N. gave me to work with! I picked the deep brown alpaca first because it was softer and “felt” like it would be a more familiar spin. The grey stuff felt a bit more like the alpaca I tried to spin right when I got my wheel. Last night, I was feeling likeĀ  I wanted to get something done (and I needed a break from prepping for this week’s sections), so I dug out the grey alpaca. I have four mostly even bumps, almost 2 oz. each, so I decided to put the first quarter on the wheel and just see what it wanted to be. This stuff is pretty compressed, so I spread out the fibers the best I could, and then tried to work with the super long staple length and short guard hairs. I haven’t spun much alpaca, so I’m not sure my take on this particular fiber is accurate, but to me it seems like some of this is “seconds” — not the softest fiber the animal has to offer. Also, this was on the dirtier side of the spectrum of fiber I’ve encountered — veggie matter, burrs, even some dried bug parts, I think.

I settled on a low twist, thick/thin single, and once I pulled it off the bobbin and wound it onto the niddy noddy, I liked it. Because some of this is pretty coarse, I worry that plying it will make it too rope-like. Leaving it as a single seems to encourage the halo, which I think is a good thing. So I put the second 2 oz. chunk on the wheel and did the same thing. These small skeins are hanging to dry right now, and I’m anxious to get a sense for how the feel of this yarn has changed with washing. I think I’m going to spin the other two chunks the same way, as I’m getting into a rhythm, and I love the sheen on these singles. More pictures soon!

And then there’s this guy, patiently waiting for a belly rub. Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

FO: brown alpaca.

Victory. 208 yards of 2-ply worsted weight rub-on-your-face-because-it-is-so-soft alpaca. I am so pleased with the result, and I can’t wait to show it to the friend who requested this spin!

And here’s a progress shot of the cowl — I’ve completed the neck decrease row, and now I’m increasing for the raglan neck/sleeves. Still in love with this. Tuesday is my non-campus day, so while I do have plans to do quite a bit of reading, I’m also planning lunch with a friend, a decent walk with Boh, and a trip to the farm.

waiting (for alpaca).

I am so impatient when it comes to handspun yarn. I hang it in the kitchen, on a hook over the sink that I imagine was intended for a planter, and I touch it every time I walk by. Which is a lot. Dry faster! I want to skein you up and admire you! Alas, the alpaca is still quite damp, but even now, I am starting to get a sense for the finished yarn, and I’m quite happy with the angle of the twist in the ply. It is still hard to tell exactly how soft this is going to be, but it feels lofty. Monday is my busy, all-day-on-campus day this semester, so maybe by the time I get home this evening, the alpaca will be dry.

I am also waiting for the coffee to be ready. (Or I was, when I took the picture. I’m now enjoying the first few sips from my mug.) Oh, Monday.

Hope your week is off to a good start!

charging/recharging.

So, school started on Wednesday. And even though I only had a few obligations on campus, and managed to can and cowl on Thursday (see what I did there? OED, here I come) the start of the semester is emotionally exhausting — something about trying to get comfortable in a slightly different routine. With all this in mind, my friend J. and I planned an afternoon hike, and it was just the kind of recharging we needed.

We headed out of town just after five, and hiked a nearby four-mile loop as we enjoyed the evening light. This really is my backyard — closer than my yoga teacher’s home studio, which is in one of the next towns over. Boh and I need to do this more.

When Boh and I returned, I made this colorful meal — nothing more than a bunch of farm veggies sauteed. I added some leftover rice from the fridge and it sopped up some of the broth created by the fresh tomatoes, and then I stirred in chunks of goat cheese feta to add a creamy texture. Super good, and just what I needed after that hike. This is the thing about cooking from a farm share — veggies that were harvested this week (often in the hours just before the afternoon member pick-up) are so full of flavor and earthy sweetness that you don’t have to do much of anything to them to make something absolutely delicious.

In between finishing one book and starting another, I inched towards the decrease row at the neckline of idlewood. Another inch or so and I’ll be there. I need to wind up another skein of yarn!

This morning, I worked on plying two bobbins of that super soft natural brown alpaca together. I tried to underply a bit, with the idea that a less tightly plied yarn would allow more a soft, alpaca-y halo in the finished yarn. It is soaking right now, so we’ll see how it turns out. On today’s agenda? Brunch with the boy, an afternoon birthday celebration near the lake, and a whole lot of reading/prepping for the week in between. Happy Sunday!

yesterday, produce. today, productivity.

And that’s just what was left on the counter when I thought to grab my camera. The first raspberries and blackberries have ripened, so we were able to pick 1 pint yesterday. I also brought home a handful of deep sweet red peppers, a baby eggplant, cucumbers, zucchini, orange and yellow carrots, pink and orange beets, rosemary, parsley, and spring onions. (I chose to load up on the heartier stuff this week rather than go the lettuce/cabbage/salad mix route, but all of that deliciousness was available as well!)

I tried out a recipe for onion biscuits from a favorite cookbook of mine (Recipes from America’s Small Farms), but these were only okay. (I still highly recommend this cookbook.) Part of my frustration stems from the fact that I didn’t watch these carefully and they turned out a bit too golden. (Multitasking while baking a new-to-me recipe is clearly not a good idea.) But beyond that, these were too harsh and onion-y, and I cut back on the onion in the recipe. I think these need some cheese, or even something sweeter, like a touch of honey, to counter the super strong onion-y taste. (And I love onions.) I was going for a kind of summery biscuit dinner, so I made a very light tomato sauce with zucchini, squash, fennel, onion, and basil to pour over these. The sauce was delicious, but not an awesome match for these biscuits. You win some, you lose some, right?

Boh, on the other hand, won big yesterday. I picked up a trachea while restocking on Boh’s food at the natural pet supply store in town, and he spent the afternoon working his way through it. Cheap, fun for him to eat and play with, and a natural source of glucosamine. Triple win.

I spun a bit more of the brown alpaca yesterday, and I’m almost through the second three ounces. Plying soon, but probably not today.

My morning has already involved a heavy dose of this, and it is time to get back to it.

question: what’s missing?

Answer: My hemlock ring blanket. I’ve finished the knitting, and all I need to do is knit the incredible long bind-off row. I was waiting to put up a new post because I wanted to be able to share a picture of it off the needles, but let’s face it. That might not happen for a few more days. So here’s what else has been going on at Casa Rooster:

Much pouting.

A fried egg sandwich with barbecue sauce for breakfast.

Frequent belly scratching. Boh pretty much maintained this position on the couch for much of last night.

And a little bit of spinning. I’m into the second three oz. bump of the brown alpaca. Also, lots of small but necessary campus tasks, and a fair bit of reading. There’s granola in the oven, laundry in the washer, and today is farm day.

Time to settle in with a coffee refill and today’s pile of reading. And maybe that bind-off row…

spinning alpaca.

This morning (instead of starting the book I need to finish for a discussion on Thursday) I sat down to play with the alpaca I am spinning for a friend of mine. Boh woke me up, barking to go out, ten minutes before my alarm went off. (I don’t know about you, but I really, really enjoy the sleep I get early in the morning, just before I wake up.) So I was groggy. Hence the decision to make coffee and spin, rather than jump into the day’s work.

This stuff is much softer than what I used for my first (short-lived) attempt at spinning alpaca last summer. I don’t have any information about it, but I’m wondering if it is a blend, or perhaps baby alpaca? My friend gave me two different fibers to spin — this natural brown stuff, and some natural grey alpaca. The grey stuff feels coarser, and more like what I thought alpaca was like.

I’ve got close to 6 oz. of the dark brown alpaca, so I’m aiming for a two-ply in the light-worsted to worsted range. Some sections of the fiber spun smoothly and evenly, while others required a bit more wrestling and wrangling. I’m not sure if that has to do with the fiber being a bit compressed in places, or if it is simply the natural variation in the quality of this animal’s coat. I am quite happy with the way this is turning out — and I’m anxious to spin up the second bobbin and ply so that I can see how the fiber reacts when it is set. (Will it soften further? Plump up?) I’ll keep you posted.

This photo was pretty dark, so I clicked the “enhance” button in iPhoto, and here’s what it gave me. I like it.

a grown-up rooster?

So, yesterday this rooster voluntarily bought a blazer. My first thought, in the dressing room: Wait — does this make me a grown-up? (As soon as I walked out of the Gap, I called my mother. I knew she’d be proud. I mean, I did own a blazer in high school, but it was more of a costume. I wore it for Mock Trial. This time, I actually went looking for the blazer.) Feel free to skim down to the actual knitting at any time, because I’m going to keep talking about this. Every season, but in the summer, especially, I try to purge things I don’t wear/don’t need from my closet/life. And this year I had a realization. I am harboring two entirely different wardrobes: one for the girl who lives in ripped jeans and beat-up carhartts, fleece, long underwear, plaid shirts and puffy vests while she camps, cooks, and wanders, and one for the girl who wears dark jeans, big jewelry, and aims to at least feel like a confident/hip grad student as she attends classes and meetings, reads, and teaches section. The line between these two roosters is blurrier than I’m making it sound here, and I hope it stays that way. I don’t want to lose that first girl — and I’m not just talking about attire — to the second. And I don’t think I will, though I want to be mindful of the ways in which my life has changed over the last few years. I had to chuckle, though, when I realized that I could no longer just get rid of things I haven’t worn in the last year — because the next time I’m in the desert, the next time I’m pitching a tent, the next time Boh and I are adventuring — I’m going to both want and need that stuff! Besides, there’s something about a blazer that dresses up even the rattiest, most comfortable shirt.

Finally — some knitting! I’m making progress on my textured shawl. I love the way the textured stitch looks in this handspun, but I’m anxious about the size and drape of the overall shawl. I’m going to keep knitting, though, and then cross my fingers and block the hell out of it. (Good plan, right?)

It is zucchini-time at the farm, which means it is zucchini bread-time in my kitchen. Here’s the first loaf of the summer. Yum.

Boh wants you to know that he is being VERY good this morning.

A knitterly friend has proposed a trade: I’ll spin this fiber, and she’ll do something painterly (her work is stunning) or sewing-related for me! I am really excited to dive into this spinning project. These bags of natural fiber are both labeled alpaca, though I’m thinking that the brown stuff is a blend…or at least baby alpaca. It is so much softer! I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

Happy Friday!