Sunday, February 27, 2011

Fiber and Plays

It has been a busy week, both at work and outside of it. 

Wed we did two different fibers.  One was a courser white than we are used to dealing with (fines, we have much more experience with thanks to Craig and Bill's excellent fiber) and the other was a gorgeous peachy beige.  I have not been doing much handspinning recently but the color and sheen on Garbo's fleece made me positively drool and wonder where my wheel is hiding. 

Fri was a day to look at the skeins we have produced and tag the good stuff to sell in the store. 

Yesterday we had a good day - we ran 8 pounds completely in good time with good results. 

A month ago there were days it didn't seem we would be getting it but time and experience really does kick in. 

Personally, the musical started on Thurs and ends today.  Both my girls are in the play.  And there is a need for lots of parental volunteer hours.  I have been going up every night to help out.  Today is the last day, so things will hopefully get back to normal now. 

I will add some pictures in a bit.  The camera is in the play bad somewhere. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Where did that storm come from?

Wow.  We were in the path of some bad weather yesterday.  Now, having had one child down with the flu and having gotten a mild case myself (which annoys me in that I hadn't been sick in something like 8 years), I was not watching the weather.  So when Craig said yesterday "Hey, we are supposed to get 3-6" of snow later" I thought, really?  Ok.  We had a good day in the yarn department, working with blacks again.  We did both 2 and 3 plys of a DK/Sport weight. 

The weather report only got worse when I got home.  First 4-7" then 5-8".  The kids were released from play early and there was no school today. 

So we took today off.  Craig had a dentist appt mid day and the kids needed to go to play practice at 1 pm.  We will hit it again tomorrow, going back to whites.  We have some fawn as well.

The website is getting better (I hope) but the flu did put a kabosh in my plans to work on it a lot on Sat.

Eeyore has his original parts back and we can pick up the newly machined parts soon, to get the other side working (Eeyore has a split personality! He is supposed to be able to feed two groups of rovings into two sliver cans at one time). 

I did not get any good px yesterday of our yarn.  I do have some of the white we did at the end of  last week for a friend of Craig's.

We were down Fri and Sat as I was the girl scout cookie mom and we decided to take poor Eeyore apart as it was too opportune to miss.  So not much to report from Fri - Sun.

Boa constrictor rovings...
become beautiful prin drafted rovings...

become 3 ply worsted.

If you like snow px, here is one I took for M in
SC this morning.  She loves snow px.
Weather channel says we got 6.7" last night.
Claire, the doxie, says it was too much!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Website is up, kind of

Hi there.  Not much going on.  We did marketing stuff on Fri and Craig was at a knitters and crocheters event on Sat, while Tim and I did some work at the mill that was not about yarn (you know, cleaning and machine maintenance). 

My big "waste" of time was trying to get the website up and running.  Rob, who designed the website and did a very nice job, used Dreamweaver to create.  But that apparently is not a direct way to launch a site.  So TIm fixed me up with a content mamangement system that is supposed to be good.  I would love to report that it is but after 10 hours of fighting it on Sun and additional hours on Mon, my opinion is not terrific.  I am going to keep trying to work it out but in the meantime, flipped to using a much easier template system on line.

I got a basic site up last night.  you can even look at it.  But you still can not print an order form or anything.  Hopefully, tonight.  And we have a phone now but for two days, we have forgotten to bring anything to try plugging into it!  So I will take phones today and see.  Don;t get overly excited.  You might be able to find us there and we may just have to return calls later.  Since we do not have a secretary, most of our time is still spent at the machines.  Also, I am assuming that the number they said was ours really is our but that remains to be seen.  Tim says it is not uncommon to be told one number then find out, Oops. 

If you are curious, go ahead and check out .  Book mark it so you know where it is.  Keep watching for new stuff.  The kids are in the push weeks for play so they are not home from school prior to 9 pm and I have time to work on it.

And with any luck, I can figure out the other system adn Rob and I can get his version up soon.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Cold hopefully gone

We had three 2 hour delays this week:  2 for cold and one for ice/snow.  Today, we are all on schedule.

Yesterday went well.  It didn't seem that way to Craig for part of the day.  He was workign with the spinner and not having a good time of it.  We all just need one day where we tackle the beast and then all is well.  Yesterday was his day.

I was not hopeful that the end product would be great.  I was predicting lots of boucling with the wash.  But I was very and pleasantly surprised.  It did not.  We made a two ply and a three ply version of the yarn and both are beautiful.  Very soft, no boucle, good twist angle.  The top two skeins are 3 ply and the bottom two 2 ply.   Middle two skeins washed.

Today we go back to browns and blacks. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Snow then cold

I hope that Phil got his weather prediction right and we are in for an early spring.  Tues delay was for icy roads and snow, todays for really cold cold.  And it is hard to gear up, tell the girls to get up alone, and head to the mill when it is really cold out!  Even harder to get Claire moving in the cold.

Mon was one of those learning experience days that I could have done without.  We were both kind of draggy then things were not going right.  We blamed the usual suspects:  cohesive spray, humidity, fiber.  Well, about 6 hours later the real culprit reared its head.  I know the answer to this without it taking 6 hours.  But, again, we were draggy.  The first choice when looking for a finger to point should and is: operator error.

Yes, things are backwards at the mill.  More is less and up is down and higher is lower.  But folks, on is always on and off is always off.  And, Virginia, the air compressor on the pin drafter does actually do something.....(for Virginia, read Barb). 

Once I got that switch flipped to the correct position, we made some lovely black yarn.  And yesterday, even with the school delay, we got through about 4.5 to 5 lbs of fiber (from start to finish) in about 4 hours.  WHOO HOO!  We are makign great product and getting the timing down we need.  We were working with a grey fleece yesterday.  Not that we have run the gammit on colors but we have done white, fawn, brown, black and grey. 

Still working on getting website up and running.  It has been a while since I have done this and the webmaster, well, he is learning as well.  So be patient.  Good news - the phone company is supposed to come and hook us up today, which makes finding us oh so much easier!

here are some px:

100 yards rug yarn,
100 yards fingering

Jen's greys from Feb 8

Knit rug yarn, about 12" square
Wash day

Three yarns from last week

Saturday, February 5, 2011

What a good yarn day it was

Today was a really, really good yarn day.  The fiber was beautiful for starters.  And I got over my fear of thin, seemingly weak (but not) rovings.  I made them much thinner and what do you know, they held together at the spinner.

The photos are not going to show the color well.  The fleece was a black alpaca.  The close up photo shows the color fairly well, unlike the gang shot.

Twenty 100 yard skeins
Close up (and truer color)
of today's product

I was weaving rugs mid-week.  This is the sample with Craig's prototype multi-color rug yarn.  I thought if we could do different color in the yarn, it would make for interesting rugs (without having to change shuttles or colors all the time, kind of like self striping sock yarn).  It is about 25" x 27" inches.  I did not use the entire bump of rug yarn (I wanted grey on both ends, not grey on one end and white on the other). 

We are taking tomorrow off, because, well, we can and we should.  And we will probabyl all watch the Superbowl, amybe even together. 

Time got away from me

I guess a few days got away from me!

On Wed, I had a quick eye appt.  Ironically, the power at the mill went out 5 mins before I needed to leave and came back on about 5 before I returned.  I actually stayed out running errands longer than anticipated due to the power outage. 

I wish I was more mechanical and understood physics or something a little better.  My brain is clipping along slower than I would like.  Mulling over questions and issues seems to take some time.  Of course, everything seems backwards of intuitive.  Or as Jeff from Belfast said - I all makes perfect sense mathmatically.  Until you add the fiber.  Up is down, more is less, Barb gets confused...

Wed we tested our yarn singles to get what we wanted size wise and twist wise.  All was well.  Until I did something that I had asked about before and that did not cause problems that day (different day, different fleece and yes, it does matter).  I turned up the motor.  But we did not test size and twist after this.  And the change seemed inocuous...Until we tried to ply.  You can not control over energized yarns and get a nice yarn! 

Thurs Craig had errands most of the morning so I finally got around to weaving a couple of rugs someone ordered.  We needed to make the rug yarn for them.   I started playing with the spinner about 3.  Oh, I love a tachometer!  Started seeing how the motor speed affects the spindle speed and therefore the size yarn and the twist.  It was something of a eureka moment that had to end as kids needed rides at 4.

Fri Craig was out again in the am and I wove a test rug from the yarn he has been making with a different core yarn.  I like it.  Then more tachometer fun.  i have been telling Craig that one of the spindle heads makes a different size yarn compared to the other 7 and according to the tachometer, that is right.  One is clipping along at 8 rpms higher than the others.  Now I need to figure out how significant or insignificant this is. 

Yesterdays yarn seems nice.  Today, we try it again. 

Feb 4 yarn.  Bottom skein washed. 
The goal was a DK, about 12-15
wraps per inch (WPI). 

Someone was playing in the
dusty tumbler room....

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Not getting photo I want

Maybe it is too early.  Maybe it is the lighting.  Maybe I am being overly picky.  Maybe it is none of the above.  I can not get a decent photo of the two skeins from yesterday. 

Here is what I have:

Top skein is as is off our machines.  Bottom skein washed / rinsed.  It goes a little boucle-y.  Doesn't help that my ability to twist a skein is not working well this morning either.  They do make an app for that!!

I have a couple of ideas and hopefully they will make and end product I like better.  The other thing I need to start doing is knitting some swatches and seeing what happens.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

By Jove!

I am beginning to think we are getting the hang of the spinner.  Also, things I learned a decade or more ago regarding handspinning are coming back (slowly....) but are really helping out. 

Yesterday, the spinner hummed along nicely.  We felt good about that.  Until I came home and washed one of the skeins.  AAAAARRRRGGGGHHHH to quote Charlie Brown (or someone).  So I went back today to spin a little of the roving I left yesterday.  Then I started taking a good look at the roving.  Not pretty.  it had lots of little "pills" in it that were not part of the original fleece.  We still had some of that left and I looked at it.  It had been tumbled, washed twiced, rinsed all was beautiful with this fleece.  White, really fine, really crimpy as all be.  But the roving, well, sucked.  So we decided to see which machine created the pills.  It was the first one we tested - the picker.  We know it violently rips things apart, but it is particularly rough on really fine fleeces.

So we went avante guard and carded without picking (GASP).  Much less pilling.  We sent it through the pin drafter 2 times and sent a little thru 3 times.  The third trip thru spun up beautifully.  So the rest went thru the pin drafter a 3rd time and everything got spun up.  I have a skein soaking at the moment but looks like I will not be disappointed by the washing today. 

Here are some px.  Hope they help or just that you enjoy them.

Craig's rug yarn from rug yarn heaven bags.
The official greeter.  Please do not let him out!

Sample cards from today at the spinner.
Which yarns do you prefer?

I will say that I am impresesed that the more and more we use the machines (and the more issues we have to deal with) that Craig and I seem to be getting a real feel for them and what might be good or bad in the way they are preforming.   We have not given up on anything - we spend time working through what  the issues may be.  And we are getting it.

Todays yarn was 33-35 wraps per inch (WPI) as a single; 22 as a ply; we were told we could not spin straight alpaca this fine.  I love being told things like that!  Makes me want to try.  This is the equivilent to a fingering or a baby weight yarn (based on WPI not actual weight as alpaca can weigh a lot more than other natural fibers).  It is borderline lace.  And that is a really good thing to be able to make.  

I will get skein pictures up later tonight or tomorrow.  One is bathing at the moment and would prefer not to be disturbed by papparazzi. 

A pleasant morning

I love a good surprise.  Our little corner of the world is not covered in ice this morning!  Looks like temps stayed just high enough to keep us ok.  Not that there is much of anone moving outside at the moment.  But no school in the county has been cancelled.  The line between rain and wintery mix is just a tad north of us, right around Pittsburgh proper. 

So off I go to the mill!  The website stuff is coming along.  We will post it when we are confident in our end products.  Soon, very soon....