Still trying

If this one doesn’t work I’m going to cry.

Edited to add:

I am never upgrading again. Never. I will be using the freaking software and computer that I have now when the rest of you have moved onto holographic bodysuits that search google when you twitch your nose, because this is not worth it.

I use a blog interface called Ecto, that I love deeply and madly, and months ago they issued an upgrade, so I waited a while (this is Joe’s policy, he things that you should wait a bit for upgrades to be debugged before you install them) and then I installed it this morning, only to discover that it wasn’t posting my entries, just the titles. (I discovered this after a really great mitten post went to the great big yarn store in the sky.)

Now, Holy mother of moth, after some hysterical investigation- searching and experimentation, it turns out that to make it work I have to not delete the space that Ecto is automatically generating at the beginning of the field where I type. That’s right, it’s generating an empty line at the beginning of the field, and if you hit backspace to delete it (because why wouldn’t you – it’s not a space you have asked for…) then without notifying you in any way that you’ve offended it, the system waits until you hit “publish” and then seeks revenge by promptly vomiting your entry into another dimension … and then posts only the title, just to seriously piss you off.

If – on the other hand, you keep the space that it’s created, then all will be well, and the many great features of Ecto that I’ve been devoted to all these years work like a charm.

That seems ridiculously buggy to me and while I don’t understand why that space is there or why it is now the single most important thing in my blog… it seems to me like software you buy and pay for shouldn’t have something like this going down, and I’ll be telling them so -rather firmly, politely and immediately. Remembering not to delete a space (by accident- or on purpose) that I don’t want is silly (and I’ll never remember) and more than that, and most infuriatingly, it looks like Ecto can no longer even SAVE your post if you delete that space – and I’m filled with a burning and bitter resentment that it’s not my settings or anything that’s wrong (because setting it up wrong would be my fault) – or not even some sort of mistake on my part (because mistakes are totally my fault too) but instead, I lost a whole big post, even though I installed this right (miracle #1) set it up right (miracle #2) and even remembered to hit “save” (miracle #3) which is supposed to be the little keyboard tick that saves all incompetents.

Seriously. This is not an upgrade. An upgrade is supposed to be better, not screw up your mitten posts and steal an afternoon. I’m never knitting the ecto people socks. (Unless they fix this and say they’re sorry or it turns out to be my fault or something- although to be fair, it looks like I’m not the only one having the problem.) In any event this whole thing has totally harshed on my mellow.

I’m going to knit something. Upgrade my arse.

Life’s too short

Every once in a while, the fact that I’m basically an optimistic person with a persistent nature bites me hard on the hind parts. Today would be one of those days.

I have once again spun something that is either terrible yarn or awesome bailer twine, although since I was aiming for yarn, I think it must be the former.

I’ve been working with that huge green and white batt that I showed you the other day, and I feel that I must tell you that I bought this batt of my own free will and under no duress several years ago, when I knew almost all that I know now, and I didn’t think it would be a problem then, and was totally blindsided by it now. The minute I saw that batt I imagined a beautiful circular shawl (odd, that… since I usually don’t care for them, resembling large doilies as they sometimes do) a beautiful shawl with a white middle that gradually shifted to beautiful green – like a blossom, and the minute this thing of wonder was fully visualized, I snapped the thing up and brought it home.

Now that’s not shocking. (Headline “STEPHANIE BUYS WOOL, NO-ONE STUNNED”) because I buy wool all the time. What is shocking is that this batt has characteristics that aren’t to my taste, have never been to my taste and will never be to my taste – and that somehow, I forked over the cash and loved it anyway.

The honeymoon had to end though, and this week the minute that I picked it up and started working with it, I thought: This is absolutely not going to work… and then carried on, still married to the idea of the shawl.

When I felt that the wool was coarse and difficult to spin, I reminded myself that I enjoy lots of breeds of sheep and that I’m not married to just the ultra soft ones. When I saw that it had lots of nepps I thought “That’s ok. I can pick them out as I go, I don’t mind that (much.)” When I realized 10 minutes later that this batt had a lot of VM (VM= vegetable matter- like grass, seeds, bits of hay etc.) I gave myself a little talking to about picking it out and not being such a baby.

Now, in it’s defense, this batt is Romney – a fibre that (while it’s the finest of the longwools) just doesn’t scream “soft and cushy” and isn’t ever going to be the softest thing you’ve ever felt. I’m fine with that. It usually has lustre and durability on it’s side instead, and is often a fleece I actively seek- although with real discretion for the quality – and the VM was there when I bought it, I just didn’t notice it. Holding the batt up to the light revealed how much VM there was.


Secondly, this is a big batt, not a combed top, and it makes sense that the fibres would be jumbled up and not draft as smoothly as it’s more elegantly prepared cousins, and I accept the presence of nepps (essentially knots) in a reasonable quantity… but when I found myself really struggling to get a smooth yarn out of it, I wondered (finally) If I hadn’t imagined a bad match between fibre and project. No matter what was happening in my head, this wasn’t what was happening between my hands, and I realized that this fibre was not ever going to be the yarn I want it to be.

At that point I sighed a little, and took a step back and thought it through. Okay. This fibre wasn’t what I was expecting, but I’m a flexible spinner and I’ll figure it out. I thought it would get better, or… I don’t know what I thought, but I do know that I thought that whatever was wrong with it was something I could overcome with skill somehow, and I kept spinning. I kept picking out the nepps, picking out the grass and doing the best I could, but I really wasn’t having fun – but I still spun into the evening and night – and went to bed pretty sure that somehow, even thought this batt was almost everything in a batt that makes it less fun for me, that the good times would start to roll any minute if I was persistent.

This morning I got up and looked at the singles – and in the proper light I noticed for the first time that the white was yellow stained in places. Spinning concentrates colour, and so a flawed fleece (if you think yellowing is a flaw – you might not it you like to dye- there’s a lot of yellow fleeces out there that hit they dyebath and ended up lovely) might not appear so until you’ve spun it. I certainly didn’t think this had as much yellow as it does. It looked to me like it was yolking (normal yellow stain of sheep sweat and lanolin) which usually washes out… so I kept spinning – even though now the batt had another strike against it. The imagined shawl was whitish/ivory in the centre. Not that pale yellow.

I finished the whole bobbin before I could admit that it probably wasn’t worth spinning another, but even then my optimistic nature demanded that I make sure. Maybe it was one of those fibres that really improved with the plying and washing. How could I come this far and not find out? I chain (or “navajo”) plied the yarn – since if I did move onto a second and third bobbin, that’s how I was going to preserve the colour changes, and because three plied yarn looks more even than two ply yarn… and this needed all the help it could get.

Plied, the yarn still looked rough – especially in the colour department, but it hadn’t been washed yet. (It was also still really rough and itchy and full of VM – but somehow I had brought myself to believe that washing was going to fix all of that.) I immersed it in a sink full of hot water (hoping to scour the yolking out) and left it to soak for a good long time. About 60 minutes later, I rinsed it, pressed the water out of it, and hung it to dry, doing my level best not to judge it until judging time.

Just now I went and collected it from the back (It was drying in the squirrel proof system devised last year) and had a look and feel.


It’s crap. Whatever the yellow is (canary stain maybe? That doesn’t wash out) is still there. The VM is still there. I can see in the daylight that some red fibres are into the creamy part (that may be from hanging out in my stash- who knows what it was consorting with – although it was wrapped up the whole time) and it still possesses all of the softness of cheap steel wool or a high school vice principal.

In short: I hate it and although it goes against my very nature….. I’m quitting.

Life’s too short to spend on wool you don’t love, and since this fibre was wrong when I bought it and is still wrong now… I’m not doing it. I gave it a fair shake, but this batt is out of here. I’ll give it (and the skein of 250m of fingering weight bailer twine) to Denny who can usually find the redeeming qualities of any fibre and we’ll see what comes of it.

I hope it doesn’t let the door hit its arse on the way out.

PS. I finished some socks:



Leyburn, in STR lightweight Crabby McCrabbypants. They worked fine and can stay.


Everybody’s going to love today

First Day Of School. For parents everywhere it’s a great day, and for workfromhome parents…it’s a high holiday, the day that your kids (however charming and delightful they are, and no matter how dedicated to them one may be) get out of your office, where they have been installed for the last two months. Yup, it’s the grand and glorious return to that fantastical device called “a schedule” where you know what everybody is doing when and nobody lies on the chesterfield all day reading a novel and talking on the phone while eating buckets of Cheerios and changing outfits every ten minutes. Sure, packs of teenagers will still descend upon my home like locusts eating everything in their paths, but they’ll do it in a more predictable fashion -strictly after 3:00, and I don’t mind that at all. It’s the free range teenagers who can show up in any numbers at any times that get me down.

You betcha knitters, it’s the return of sanity, the return of a proper quiet workday, and the return of having a slight possibility of getting ahead of the mess – now that they’re leaving six hours a day. The return of essays and homework, of responsibilities greater than putting on sunscreen… the return of clubs and teams and clothing bigger than a tea towel. It’s all sorts of wonderful things (like “Frosh Week” for Megan, who’s starting University) and not being a minor niner any more for Sam, who’s a grade 10 now. (A status that she referred to this morning in a text as being “sick”, which turns out to be excellent, and quite unlike actually being sick.)

It is a day that I celebrate each year with interpretative dance in the kitchen.

It is a good day.

Spinning Round Up

I’ve been (because 1/3 of that fleece that filled the trunk in the previous post came to live with me) trying to use up a bunch of the spinning stash, and as a result have been most industrious at the wheel. (Nothing like running out of room to light a fire under you.) The spinning stash is as out of control as a 16 year old with a credit card and a pair of ill fitting jeans, and I’m determined to convert much of it to yarn and get it out the door. Since I’ve made similar vows about things like the sock yarn stash (and had it promptly double in size) this time I really mean it. Here’s what I’ve finished:

Another Enchanted Knoll batt was converted to yarn, and I forget the colourway that this is (I’ve misplaced the label, sorry guys.) but I my best guess would be that it’s not Gold Dust Woman. (That’s a terrible guess, I know) since this is much darker and more like an old penny.


It has sparkles in it too, and I’m surprised how much my linen-wearing-veggie-eating-tree-hugging self really loves them. It puts a little disco in my heart. (The sparkles aren’t showing up well here, but trust me. This skein has lots of it.)


Then, still feeling productive, I took one of the Sheep 2 Shoe kits (I think this colourway was a one-off…) and attempted a self striping yarn. I divided the roving into three chunks, then stripped each one in half and spun each half in the same direction,


and then plied the halves against each other to get the colours to match up – which they really, really didn’t. I have sneaking suspicion that I might have jumbled the bobbins and some point, so I tried again with the last one, and was way, way more careful.


That worked. The end result was two skeins of a marled (barberpole) yarn, and one skein of a really nice striping yarn, where the colours lined up beautifully.


How I’d use this in a project would make me more crazy (I have a thing about stuff matching) but luckily this was a gift for the lovely Rachel H, and now it’s her problem that the stuff doesn’t match. You can see the matchy one on the far right, and that the other two are quite a bit more random – still pretty mind you, and it’s really lovely squishy dk weight yarn.. but not matchy. Rachel H claims to love it, but the proof will be in whether or not it’s ever on her needles.

Next up? A great big batt from the now defunct Lindenhof mill – that’s taking up a lot of real estate in the wool room.


It’s a pretty green on one end, and a lovely cream on the other, and I’m going to spin it to preserve that change. it’s a really, really big batt (300g) and I imagine that if I do it right, I’ll end up with a very long skein with one looooong colour change, white to green. I imagine then that it would make a pretty stunning circular shawl. White in the middle, shading out to the green around the edge, like a wildflower or… well. Queen Anne’s lace… which was exactly what the batt was named. (I may be a little impressionable.)

All I need now is the perfect circular shawl pattern… and, er. The yarn. (Ok. This might take a bit.)

Maybe I’ll knit some socks while I figure it out.

Field Trip

Remember when you were a kid and there would be a field trip, and you would know in your heart that there are only two ways for a field trip to go. Either it is a rare taste of brilliant educational freedom and the fantastic day that you get to sit in the very back of the bus. get partnered with the boy you’re intending to marry, and hold a dinosaur bone…. OR it pours on the day that you’re going to the outdoor eco-centre and you forget to bring your boots so your feet are wet the whole time (even though it said to wear boots on the form) and your partner for the project is that kid Simon who’s always called you four-eyes and made fun of how short you are, and then you open up your lunch (your wet lunch) and you discover that your mum made a cheese sandwich even though you have explained a thousand times that cheese is gross and sweaty by lunch time on warm days and then you get picked to sit behind the teacher on the bus the whole way home and she makes you take bus attendance even though you’re already a short four-eyes with wet feet and no lunch. I’m sure you all remember. Well last week Rachel H, Denny and I had a great field trip. Better even than the museum one where they let you chisel a fake fossil out of a fake archeological dig, or the apple orchard trip where you pick a bag of apples to bring home and you get a caramel apple, and better even than the one to the sugar bush where you see how they make maple syrup, and you stand in the cold air with the big cauldrons of sap billowing steam and you get to pour the syrup on the snow to make maple candy – and that my friends, is an absolutely top notch field trip.

We went here:


Wellington Fibres, to pick up our fleeces from the Royal Winter Fair Fleece Auction. See, when the three of us went to the auction last year, we all agreed on the way there that we simply were not going to bring home more fleece. We totally promised each other, and we were really, really good until we saw that Donna and Lorne were there, and then we sort of snapped, because we took one look at them and saw the word LOOPHOLE just about tattooed on their foreheads. See, they’re fibre processors, and own a wee mill in Elora, Ontario (not far from here) and we realized that if we bought fleece at the auction, and then immediately turned them over to them for processing, that technically, we weren’t bringing home fleece from the auction, and with that we snapped entirely and may have bought coughSIXcough fleeces.


Yeah, six. Wanna make something of it? There’s three of us – and they were prize-winning fleeces and if you don’t support your local breeders then soon you won’t have local breeders and we’re committed to making them successful and they’re counting on us. (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

In any case, we bought the fleeces, handed them to Donna and Lorne and went off to eat that baked apple thing, secure in the knowledge that we were not bringing home more fleeces. That bird didn’t come home to roost until just know, when Wellington Fibres called us to tell us that our processing was finished, and they could mail them or we could come get them, and you should have seen Rachel H and Denny’s faces light up at the mention of a field trip. (Obviously, Simon the killjoy was never one of their partners and they didn’t know how far wrong these things can go.) I went along because I like them to be happy, because I had the car, and because it seemed like it would at least be a little interesting, and because it’s hard to go wrong when I’m hanging out with those two. Turns out? Best field trip ever, and I’m not just saying that because Denny brought good car snacks and because there was fibre, fibre tools and more there at their little store when we arrived.



I’m saying that because when we got up there, Lorne gave us the full tour- showing us exactly what happened to our fleeces.

Step one: Washing the fleeces.


This was really interesting, partly because I had no idea that they were running such a green operation up there. All the water (and a mill takes a lot) for the process is heated by solar panels on the roof, and the soap they use is a gentle, biodegradable grapeseed and citrus extract. It takes a few more washes, but takes way less energy and does far less damage, both to the watertable and to the fleece.

They even use solar power for their dye process. Hot water runs through the walls of the dyepot to keep the fibre and it’s water hot. Even on cloudy days that demand the addition of propane, Lorne is only ever heating the water a maximum of 10 or 20 degrees. (c)


Then the fleeces are dried, which takes only a few hours, because they use an extractor to remove all but 10% of the water. (I hope that’s right.) Behind the drying racks you can see the picker, which opens up the fibres for the carder. The fibre enters the picker, is teased open, and then is shot into the room behind the picker. The idea of opening up a door to a fluff filled closet amused us for hours.


After it’s picked open, the fibre is weighed and goes though the carder in carefully measured amounts,


and rough roving comes out the other side.


The fibre then passes through a pindrafter, which is the last step in production if you’re going to spin the fibre yourself. (Which we are.) This machine combines several of those roving strips from the carder, and combs, combines and attenuates the fibres. The result is beautifully prepared fibre that’s lovely, open, and has nary a knot or nepp in sight. Lovely stuff, and you can see that watching it come off of the machine was gripping.


If your fibre is going to be spun there (or their doing their own fibre) then the next step is the spinning frame, which looks incredibly complex, but is really very, very simple once you get Lorne to explain it. The part that blew my mind is that the roving is fed between two rollers, one moving slowly and the other quickly. “How odd” I thought, until Lorne said “and how fast one goes that the other determines how much the fibre is drafted out” and a bell rang in my head and I realized that this was just the machine version of a spinner drafting the fibre while she spins. One hand moves away (faster) than the other. Once the fibre is drafted, the twist is added by that there spinning bobbin, and it winds on… just like a wheel, only really big and fast.


From there, the last step is plying, and dudes, I can hardly talk about this machine. You’re going to have to go see it. The thing is massive, and that alone is incredible because it’s really just a sawed off chunk of a way larger machine from forever ago. Does anyone other than me remember owning a sewing machine with “cams” where you inserted this disk, a cam, and that cam was read by the machine like a template for how it should sew? That’s how this thing works, except Lorne tells it how to ply the yarn by putting in huge cast iron gears in the right combinations. He’s gotta have 60 of them, all in different sizes, and each yarn demands a specific “recipe” of gears to make it happen. Really awesomely neat.


If you look carefully at the end of the machine left of the “A” and above the “l” you can see where it was hacked off of the far larger version. Tour over, we paid the nice people for our beautiful fibre, admired the flock of Angora goats. (Angora goats make mohair. Go figure.)



and loaded up the car with our bounty.


That my friends, is how a mill works, and how Lorne and Donna turn your stinky fleeces into beautiful roving.

Best field trip ever, and I’m not just saying that because there was no beer on school trips.