Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Shear Terror!

The clouds parted, and the gentle sunlight spread over the little pastures and driveway of my friend Linda's alpaca farm. The fluffy heads were erect, like glass-headed pins stuck into round, fuzzy pin cushions, as the animals gazed with curiosity at the row of cars, parked diagonally, like the parking lot of a strip mall. What were so many humans doing, coming to visit Linda? Little did they know...

Monday was shearing day for the fluffy alpacas at Linda's. It had been scheduled for the week before, when I was on the road, but postponed because of rain, so I got to attend and help. My job was to sweep the loose hair away from the body of the animal being sheared, so the shearer wouldn't slip on it.

We started with the young males, all under one year. The animal was led in and the front feet put into loops in a couple of ropes that were part of a pulley system. Then the back feet were tied the same way. The shearer showed Tom, the helper, how to hold the animal by his ears and straddle the head. He pulled on the rope, and the animal's front legs went forward, and the back legs went back, so the body was exposed.

Alpacas are prey animals, and as such fear being led away or tied down. Fortunately, the process doesn't take long, and they are back in the pasture almost before they know it. While it's going on, though, they seem to think they're going to be butchered. Some of them carry on throughout the whole process, making whinnying noises. The females sometimes spit, requiring the application of a sock to the muzzle.

The main part of the fleece--the part that covers the animal's back and sides--is called the blanket. It comes off pretty much in one piece, and goes into a bag labeled with the animal's name and "#1." The fleece from the neck goes into a separate bag, and that from the legs into a third one.

After shearing, the dazed animal is led back to the pasture. I followed the young males back to the pasture while the older males were being brought in. The little boys frolicked around, happy to be rid of all that hair, but sniffing each other as if they didn't recognize their friends.

The females spend 11 months of the year pregnant, and some of them showed the swollen belly that indicated a birth in the next couple of months. All of the animals seemed happy to get rid of their winter coats, though, and the last one was finished at about 12:30 PM, well before the return of the rain. We looked around and surveyed the usable fleece, which by then covered the floor in one corner of the garage. Not bad for a morning's work!

I promised a report on my WooLee Winder, and here it is: This gadget is worth it's weight in gold! I'm glad I didn't have to pay that much for it, although it was expensive enough, as each one has to be made by hand. I ordered the walnut stain to match my Kromski Sonata, and got a couple of extra bobbins, so I can use them to ply the yarn as well. (It comes with one bobbin.) Here's what it looks like in use:

I'm really enjoying not having to stop every few seconds to move the yarn from one hook to the next. My spinning seems faster and more even, but I'll know better after I ply my first two bobbins of singles. I use the long-draw method of spinning, which was taught to me by one of my spinning buddies. It works well for my arthritic hands, and has been the only possible way of spinning since my surgery. Here's what it looks like:

This photo was made when I still had my cast on, so you can see how easy this method is. I have a T-shirt in my lap, which helps me see the fiber better. (Use something dark for light fiber.) The way I do it, both hands are relaxed. The twist goes through the fingers of my left hand into the fiber source in my right. (This is left-handed, BTW. Right handers need to flip the photo over.) Some people pull straight back, and can even go as far as the hip. Others pull way out at t 90-degree angle. I use the right-angle method, but only for a few inches or so. When you feel the yarn tighten the fingers closest to the wheel, you know it's time to let the yarn go into the orifice of the wheel and start again.

What's on my needles? Same as last week, but I've made some progress. I have about 6" of the CLC body done, the pattern rows for the Kristi sock are almost complete, and I'm on row 12 of the Nonna. (I need good light for the Nonna...something that has been in short supply here lately with all the rain and overcast.) I'll try to post photos soon. My current quilt is languishing. I need to bring it upstairs, I guess!

Happy knitting/spinning/shearing/quilting everyone! --Peggy

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Home Sweet Home

We had a great trip to Reno. We left Thursday morning and arrived there in the evening. The dogs were good on the trip. Rocky sat in his car seat next to Daddy, and our friend Barbara and I took the back seat with Sunny in the middle. The kitty always rides in the trailer. Here's Rocky in his car seat:

The weather was cool, and we had some rain, but it wasn't too bad. Our RV campground was right across the street from the Far West Ski Assn. convention (our purpose in going) at the Reno Peppermill. The dogs were good while we were gone, and we had a few games of throw-the-ball-around-the-trailer when we got back from each session. (We took turns coming when there was a break in the activities.) We came back on Monday, but I had to help unload the trailer (in the rain!) and put things away, so I didn't get to check up on my online friends.

I got a few rounds done onthe body of my Classic Lines Cardigan on the way there. I turned the hem and started on the front. When I got to where I had to take out the provisional CO and knit the hem facing together with the front, I found the light not good enough for my old eyes, because of having to take out the provisional CO and PU the live sts. I switched to my Kristi sock, which was pretty entertaining. By then, we were on our way back. I got quite a bit done and worked on it again yesterday. Now I'm on row 25.

With the better light at home and my clip-on magnifying lenses, I was able to get the difficult row on the CLC done. Now I have a couple of inches done. I'm cutting the CC yarn at the end of the steek sts each time I use it, because it tends to twist with the MC yarn. It will be so anchored in the steek sts, I don't even have to weave it in. I put the completed sleeves in a plastic bag, so the yarn that's still attached to them won't tangle with the yarn I'm using on the body. Here's what I have:

I'm making progress with my physical therapy as well. In only one week, I've been able to get my little finger 1/4" lower along the outside edge of my palm, like this:

My physical therapist says I'm making incredible progress. The only negative was that there is still some swelling, which she thinks is due to the knitting, but she says it will go away, and the knitting is helping with the recovery of the joint. I wonder if I can deduct my yarn and needles from my income taxes as a medical expense? Hmmmmm. Now I only have to go to physical therapy once a week.

When I got home and checked the mail, there was my WooLee Winder! It is a special flyer and bobbin to go on my spinning wheel. It winds the yarn on automatically, so I don't have to keep switching the yarn from one hook to another. I got two extra bobbins as well. I haven't tried it out yet, but will do so as soon as I finish plying the yarn currently on my wheel. The winder and the three bobbins are stained to match the walnut finish on my Kromski Sonata spinning wheel. I need to see if I can work on hand-quilting my quilt soon. I think I should be able to now.

I haven't worked on my Nonna shawl since we left on our trip, but I'm excited to get back to two rows a day. What am I reading? Nothing, but I'm listening to Louisa May Alcott's Eight Cousins, which I downloaded from Librivox. Happy knitting, everyone! --Peggy

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

On a Roll!

Well, I'm getting some knitting done, as you can see. I need to dig out my quilting and see if I'm able to do anything with needle and thread. Here's what I'm working on primarily, 30 minutes at a time, several times a day:

Above you see my Nonna's Garden Shawl up to row 7, and my Knit Picks Classic Lines Cardigan (CLC) body up to row 6. (I used a provisional CO and will do my hem in with knitting the front side, as I did for the sleeves.) It's going slowly because, as most of you know, I can only knit for 30 minutes at a time at this point in my recovery from thumb surgery. Also, we had a meeting here last night, for which I provided a full meal [pant, pant], and we're heading out with the trailer tomorrow AM for Reno for the Far West Ski Assn. Convention, so I've been packing. My CLC will be going along, as well as my Kristi socks by Cookie A., just in case I have time on my hands and get bored with the CLC's straight knitting.
I've been getting a lot of spinning done, though, while I've been unable to knit non-stop. I'm still working on the Coopworth hand-dyed roving I got from Oregon. I have three hanks of about 4-oz each finished, and I'm plying a fourth. I have a few more to go. Here's what the latest hank looks like:

In my "real" life, hiking season is in full swing, with at least a couple of hikes with the doggies each week. Saturday we hiked in the Sun Peak area of Park City. The photo below shows Rocky (left) and Sunny (right) following Daddy, like dutiful little members of the pack.

Rocky was really good until he flushed out a rabbit almost his size. He came back when we yelled at him, but for the rest of the hike he pranced as if he knew he was hot stuff (and he was right)!
Sunny had a bath Monday, because our visit to the nursing home was Tuesday. She and I were doing high-fives because one of our clients has started to talk to us. He hasn't been able to talk. He was so happy to see Sunny, and happy to see me, too, I guess, because I'm Sunny's assistant.
Happy knitting everyone, and have a safe week! --Peggy