Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Winter Almost Over (?)

I am really looking forward to warmer weather and shearing season.  I am not much of one for the cold to begin with.  March in PA is all over the place temperature wise.  At least the mud hill out from of the mill dried out.  Just in time for the rains to move back in. 

I have been spending time on the website, so not spending as much time on the blogsite.  Only so many hours in the day.  The new info is on the following pages:  Yarn Sizes, Ideas for Yarns, Where to Buy Our Product, and We Buy Fiber. 

After completing the order shown below, which was for Bedford Lincoln Pike Alpacas, we went back to doing "our" fiber.  We made some rovings for handspinners and yarn.  I have been trying to make about the same size yarn using different fleeces.  Luckily, this has been going rather well.  Very much a fine tuning activity.

And I have been spending some quality time with Luigi, our little Italian lace spinner.  The language barrier is becoming smaller!  As are the yarns, since his specialty is fine, lace weights. 

We are also going to tread into the Suri waters soon.  I washed Maxie's fleece last night so as soon as it dries, we can see go to a whole new reported level of interesting.  Staple length and lack of crimp apparently mean all the machines have to be slowed down to accomodate Suri. 

Here are some px from last week:

Shipping / labelling dept hard at work
Variety pack of rovings

two and three color rovings
Beautiful medium rose grey "cookies" -
became a 3 ply worsted weight yarn.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Creative Cart Blanche

Sometimes it is fun to just play with color and the number of plies, etc.  We got an order recently where the clients had never had yarn made from their fiber before and were not sure what they wanted to get.  There were a few specific things (like keeping a couple of fleeces separate) and to stay in the DK / worsted range but we were allowed to do what we wanted otherwise.  I hope they enjoy their product!

We got fawns, light silver greys, dark silver greys, dark browns, true blacks, bay blacks, whites, and "paca cow" (multi-colored).  Here is what we made:

Top:  Fawn
Next:  3 color 3 ply (white, light fawn, brown)
Next:  2 color 2 ply (brown, white)
Bottom:  Paca Cow

Top:  2 ply light silver grey
Middle:  2 ply grey / white
Bottom:  4 ply grey, mixed blacks

Top:  2 ply brown/white
Middle:  2 ply mixed blacks
Bottom:  3 ply white

To get the 3 color 3 ply (or soemthing similar), you process each color separately and ply the strands together.  For more muted mixes, like the 2 ply grey white or the basket of brown white in the bottom picture, top bin, we sent different colored rovings through the pin drafter together and then they spin "randomly".  The paca cow was three colors as a fleece and they all got mingled during the process, making a muted yarn naturally. 

paca cow tumble

Paca cow cookies - thru pin drafter once

Paca cow yarn (sorry, bad px)

There are endless possibilites, even without dyes at the moment!

Another week slips by

So much for daily blogging!  Now that we are working 6 days a week, and a couple of those late, the blogging has taken a back seat.  Regular work time at the mill and diverting time to things like prepping to visit the accountant, figuring out on line invoicing, setting up paypal accounts, etc have taken its toll on my blogging.

We had a pretty good week.  We got a small order recently that was bigger than what we had gotten.  And to sweeten the pot, we were given creative carte blanche!  We got to try some things we had talked about but had not yet tested out.  And the good news is, they worked!  Something from my days as a handspinner still apply and others, well, they don't!  But color theory and the like do not care how you are spinning, just that you are!

And we had more bugs to work out on machines:  Tim has been diligently working on the needle felter, which apparently loves sheep wool but alpaca, not so much.  A few simple (and one or two not so simple) but time consuming modifications are getting that machine up and running.  If Tim hadn;t have knick the side of a finger on Sat with a needle, well, we would know more!  Both he and his finger are fine.  As is the needle felter.  Obviously, the safety guards were not in place during this incident!  I have put a felting needle in my finger a few times doing it the old fashioned way - needle felting small things on a foam square on my lap (anyone who has needle felted has doen this!).  It does hurt.

The splicer is also being tamed.  The splicer is supposed to make invisible joins in the yarn, so if it breaks during plying, or you want to change bobbins during skeining, no one should be any the wiser.  If you have ordered yarn from mills in the past (big or small or purchased yarn at Michaels or a yarn shop) sometimes you get knots.  because they do not use a splicer.  Sigh.  Ours works just veuatifully on 2 ply 1200 yards per pound yarn and not much else!  Our new chambers should be in soon, expanding our abilities.

Too many words....too many words....time for pictures:
Born Fri nite / Sat am

First cria of the year!

Z wrangles tumbled fiber

Eeyore "crunchies" (note R is the "Pin Draft Wizard!")

How many more needles?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Over the weekend

Having survived most of Thurs and all of Fri alone, the fam headed over with me on Sat.  It was time to train the teenage work crew.  They did an excellent job of cleaning, training, and working.  The dogs were with us, having taken Fri off.  Tim came over later and worked on the needle felter.

Here are your px:

B cleans the roving deck
Rob cards
Zoe tumbles
Tumbled alpaca "cow" fleece

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The week

The rest of the week went well and it is not over yet.  I am heading over today with my gang (Tim, Zoe, Brigid and Rob). 

Tues and part of Wed were what we call discovery days.  Someone asks a question or figures something out and then we start playing to see what we can learn.  Wed afternoon, we had a fairly nice yarn from fiber we were not sure we could process into yarn. 

Thurs and Fri, Craig was getting ready for the AOBA show in Westminster, MD.  Part of his preparations were for marketing for the mill.  Printing info, making mimi skeins to hand out, getting samples of our work is not an easy, 1 hour process. 

I plugged along on an order that needed processing.  Running all the machines alone was a good test for me and I think I passed fairly well.  but it requires the work to be really linear and I tend to want to multi-task.  So all the fiber had to go through the picker and carder before I could head out to Eeyore.  All the rovings needed to be fed thru Eeyore before I could think about spinning.  Eeyore takes a little more attention now that we have the other head running and can do two sets of rovings at the same time. 

So Thurs I got all the rovings ready and in cans to spin.  I decided to wait to spin until Fri morning.  For what ever reason, the first 6 cans went beautifully and didn;t really need to be closely watched.  I was tumbling some fiber at the same time.  Feeling good.  Feeling competent.  Then I put the 2nd six cans on!  Not the same experience at all.  We joke that the machines get jealous and refuse to work well at times if we are not paying full attention to them!  So I was good and paid attention.  It worked. 

Oh, Thurs I got to have some fun and play in the rain and the mud in my wellies (boots people, wellingtons,,,,)  The landscaping is not done and will not be done until the water lines go in.  We are at the bottom of a ridge.  The water runs down and wasn;t all finding its way to the culvert.  So I built a small dam to get it going to the culvert.  Kind of reminded me of my old archaeology days! 

6 rovings go in
Both heads working
Fiber "cookies" being spun

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Weekend Work Force

We had quite the crew at the mill this weekend:  Craig, myself, Bill, Tim, Zoe, Rob and the dogs (Yogi, Riley, Claire).  Craig and I intended to make yarn but there was no way with all the other activity.

Bill wired us a new outlet for Luigi (whom is very cute and spins lovely fine yarn).  Tim put eeyore's legs on and did some other maintenance.  Eeyore is really tall now and will take some getting used to.  But the turntable works better and we can use both sides now.   Craig and Bill put a ceiling in the tumbling room (the Pig Pen) as we tumbled over 100 lbs on Fri and there was dust everywhere in the building.  Zoe and Rob learned to process incoming fiber (weight, are there moths, etc).  Rob did soem work on the website.  Me, well, I talked to some folks who stopped by the chaos, went and got lunch, um.....supervised, yeah, supervised....

Here are some px:

Sorting Lesson
Dolly racing - I mean training!
Tim under Eeyore
Eeyore gets tall
Zoe in charge of Yogi luvin'
Craig and Bill get ready to
put ceiling in Pig Pen

Friday, March 4, 2011

me and my camera

What a week.  First, I kept forgetting to ask Brigid for the camera.  Then I took it to the mill and forgot to bring it home.  I am really behind on photos. 

It was a tiring week.  The school play just takes it out of everyone and this year I volunteered all four nights after being at the mill. 

We made yarn this week.  We made rovings.  We made rug yarn.  We played with some new things.  We got more orders, which is very exciting.  We learned new things about our machines (and we keep making the mistake of thinking there are no new things to learn right now...)

Craig made a trip to deliver some yarn as well as pick up some fleeces from a friend.  He must have come back with close to 200 pounds of fiber!  This friend has graciously let us go thru the fleeces to see which ones we would like to process.  Her blankets are beautiful and we had such a good time sorting the different colors.  We have not gone thru the boxes of seconds yet.  We are buying the fleeces from her as well as trading some processing for product. 

More machines have been named this week as well.  You all know Eeyore, the pindrafter and have heard about Luigi, the sleek Italian spinner.  The tumbling room is PigPen (and boy was it today!).  The 8 head spinner is Moirae, after all three of the Greek fates.  Clotho spun the yarn or a person's life, Lachesis measured out the length of yarn / life span, and Atropos cut the thread (ending your life).  There were individuals who were rumored to have such strong life threads that they actually frayed those around them (aka Julius Caesar). 

We do have some product - yarn, rug yarn, and rovings - in the 84 Alpacas at Linwood Farms store as well as at Backstage Alpacas in Bedford, PA.  When we finish with our current orders, assuming there is some down time, we will get back to makign more product.  This is something we hope to make time for monthly. 

Here are some pictures from the week:

Cow Paca fleece
Fleece poofs for everyone!

Eeyore sitting on eeyore's
set of combs (all 66 bars of them!)

Garbo-licious peachy roving and yarn
Moira - needle felted by Brigid