Thursday, October 09, 2008

Raw mohair up to my armpits part 2

Let me preface this post by saying that I am assuming you have some basic knowledge of fiber processing. How to use hand combs, etc. My intent in this tutorial is to give hope to those who have purchased some really dirty fiber that they are considering tossing. You may end up tossing a good deal of it but there may be the opportunity to salvage some really lovely bits of it. Before you toss it, at least try to process a small bit of it to see how turns out. I can't guarantee you'll be able to use it but you may. My first raw fiber purchase was on ebay before I knew much about buying fleece. It was hopelessly felted and filthy but I learned a lot from it. This batch of fiber I recently purchased was like a diamond in the rough in many ways. It was seriously filthy but I knew that there was some real yumminess underneath. For a bargain price, I was willing to put in the work. If you're willing to put in some work, you just may get some great fiber from that "what was I thinking" purchase. I recommend hand combs and flick carders in this process because they really help get the fleece much cleaner post wash than hand cards. You can always blend your fiber later using a drum or hand card knowing that you won't be getting it dirty or causing damage to your equipment.

Okay, here goes for part two of "really dirty" fiber processing. Sam (Mrs Pao) adds vinegar to her wash to cut the sheepy smell. I am definitely going to try that because the wet animal smell can be really overpowering!
So, you've scoured and dried and things still look a little full of vm and not so wonderful. Here's how to go about processing the rest of your fiber.

Step 1:
Shake that dry fiber like a polaroid picture to get out any extra vm. Really give it a good look over to see if there are any parts which are just incredibly still full of vm or even tangled. For those really nasty parts, just toss them. Now that your pile of clean fiber is waiting to be processed, let's gather our flick carder and combs.

Step 2:
I personally use a cat brush or a wider tooth metal hair pick to open the locks to the fiber. This helps me get out any tiny vm that the wash didn't and makes my fiber ready for combing. Grasp your fiber at one end and begin using a flicking motion with your wrist to brush out your locks.

Once you get one end brushed out, brush the other end of the fiber  out. This fiber is now ready to lash on.

Step 3:
Lash the fiber onto your hand comb taking care not to stab your fingers!!

Step 4:
Use the hand combs to transfer fiber from one comb to the second. Paradise Fibers has a wonderful video tutorial for this as well as some excellent and affordable hand combs. Pull the fiber from the combs. You can use a diz if you like.

Step 5:
Admire your results. In front of the yarn in the photo are two "puffs" of mohair that were handcombed using this process.You went from icky to lovely! Enjoy your fiber!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Raw mohair up to my armpits part 1

Okay, so I decided it's time for a fiber related post. Long overdue. I got some (well, a TON) of raw mohair, llama, and wool from a local farmer recently. What can I say? I love fiber! During the scouring process, I sort of wondered what the heck I was thinking. How on earth was I going to process all this? This fiber was really really raw (which was disclosed to me prior to sale so I'm not griping!). Had I just bitten off more than I could chew? How much of this fiber would I be able to process into something useable for my purposes? So, I took a deep breath and decided to take a few samples of some of the fiber that was already dry to process. Turns out, it's really nice once it's combed. So, for all you fiber fanatics or fiber beginners who might have scored some really really raw unskirted and not coated fiber, here's my tutorial on how to make it work so you don't throw it out as a loss.

Step 1:
Take a deep breath and get organized! You can do this!! First off, you must skirt the fiber. I like spreading out in my driveway to do this. Trust me, you have to do it outside. It's going to be messy. Go up and down the fleece removing large bits of bugs, vm, and possible matted areas. Set your trash to the side. Grab the fleece and shake it out very well to get more vm and dust out. This may need to be done more than once depending on your fleece. Put all your "keeper" fleece in a clean bag and take a big long break. You earned it.

Step 2:
Okay, get yourself a plastic storage bin. I use a medium size one, a long handled spoon, and some liquid detergent. I recommend dawn. You might also want to have a mesh sink drain insert handy. Place your bin in your tub and fill with the water all the way on hot. Be careful not to touch in order to avoid burns. You might want to wear a pair of heavy duty dishwashing gloves to protect your hands. Fill your bin about halfway full and shut off the water. Squirt some dawn in and gently swirl it around with your spoon being careful not to create suds. Gently place your dirty fiber in the bin and use the spoon to dunk the fiber under the water. Be careful not stir in order avoid felting. Now, leave the fiber alone until the water is cool to the touch. This will take much longer than you think.

Step 3:
Once the water is cool to the touch, secure your mesh sink strainer around your tub drain (just in case) transfer your wet fiber to an empty plastic bin and dump the filthy water out in the tub. I recommend the sink strainer to protect your drain. You should also wear crappy clothes because you're definitely going to get messy. I personally use a handheld shower head to rinse my tub after each water dump to make clean up easier.

Step 4:
Fill your empty bin again with hot water but this time, do not add the detergent. Simply place your wet fiber gently in the bin and again allow to cool to touch for draining. This step should be repeated until your water is basically clear. If you still have some vm bits in the fleece, do not fear. We will handle that later.

Step 5:
You have a few options here. You can use your spin cycle to help drain water from your wet fleece or you gently press the water out of your fleece to aid in drying. A word of caution, if you have a very fine fleece (like merino) which is prone to felting, you may want to err on the side of caution and skip this step. It will take longer to dry for sure but that's better than accidentally felting your fleece. Find an area (in the sun if you can!) to spread out your fleece on a large sheet or even on old clean cardboard boxes to dry.

I'll follow up with a tutorial on processing that raw scoured fiber using a flick carder and hand combs on my next post. Above are some pics of my really raw fleece drying after scouring.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Long Hot Summer

Summer has been scorching hot and unpredictable in my neck of the woods. I drove down at the end of May to help Mom finish up her chemo/radiation and move back to Kansas only to stay longer than I thought. Mom's platelets and white blood cells dropped to the point of having to completely stop her chemo and radiation. It turns out, she is unable to tolerate the temodar (chemo) so she will not be able to continue that. At the end of June, she had three seizures in one day. We ended up in the ER and an MRI showed possible tumor growth but definite swelling. She was put on anti seizure medicine and her decadron (steriods) increased to counteract the swelling. Thankfully, the doctors gave her a blood transfusion and chose to continue radiation. We finish radiation next week. The following week we will be in Houston for another follow up. From there, we will go back to Kansas. The setbacks were disappointing but Mom's spirits are definitely up since we've has some visitors over. In Houston, we'll find out what our other alternatives are since Temodar is off the menu. The boys have learned how to swim since we've been here. My cousin, Renee, has been a saint. She has helped out with the kids so much I can't even begin to repay her. This has been a summer of melancholy reminiscence and bittersweet new memories. Still, I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Well, I know it's been awhile but things have been strange and fast paced here. Mom underwent a successful surgical resection and 90% of her brain tumor was removed. The surgeon confirmed that her tumor was indeed a glioblastoma multiforme. She's currently undergoing oral chemotherapy and radiation. Alan and I have moved into a new house on post that is handicapped accessible. Once Mom finishes her chemo and radiation, she'll move up here with us. Right now, she's in a wheelchair but is working on using a walker. Her goal is to be able to go back to her house by the time we move from Kansas in December. Will that happen? I don't know but I think it's a great goal. Life is now divided into "before cancer" and "after cancer" for all of us. What will it be like having Mom under our roof? I know how much she values her privacy and we certainly have a routine of our own as well. Will her treatment stop the tumor from growing? For how long? What's going to happen when the tumor does regrow? Glioblastomas are uniformly terminal. How do you deal with people who can't understand that this is terminal? If I hear one more "miracle" story about someone who knew someone blah blah blah I'm going to come completely unglued. Right now, I'm just struggling to be positive for Mom and yet maintain a realistic perspective. She bounces back and forth between acceptance and denial. I guess we all do that. Right now, this is an exercise in living in this very moment because that is all we have. That is all anyone really has.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Cancer sucks.

I saw that on a button today on a woman at MD Anderson Cancer Center. That's where I am right now. My mother was diagnosed with a primary brain tumor, probably a glioblastoma multiforme, about the 3rd of March. Time has become too quick and yet slow all at once. We were fortunate enough to get her in at MD Anderson. If you don't know, MD Anderson is the #1 cancer treatment center in America. Mom has brain surgery tomorrow to remove as much of the tumor as possible. That will likely be followed by chemo and radiation. There are so many concerns and issues that I can't begin to name them all right now. For today, I can only focus on the surgery. We can't begin to make any plans beyond that. I've journaled about this and contemplated posting those thoughts to the blog but have decided against it. Right now, I need a place to record my thoughts and fears in a private way. I'll keep the blog updated with Mom's condition and the usual stuff. I guess not much is usual these days. Mom may have to come and stay with us in KS if she is unable to care for herself. I'm not sure she wants to do that but I don't know what other alternative there could be. I know I'm rambling but it is just so unreal. So, tomorrow we wait and pray. Till later, Alicia

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Tour de Hamster

The first race is in the books ladies and gents!! The weather was warm and windy. The riders were nervous and excited. Yet, we all did a great job and had fun. Now, I have a baseline to work from in order to improve. Okay, my improve list was really really long but that's okay. Everyone starts somewhere. A few highlights from the day.

Those cat 3 dudes are really fast.

Apparently there are enough men in Cat 5 to sort the groups into over 35 and under. That is not the case for the ladies. We cycled with girls who still had acne and braces. You have no idea how much that sucks.

When an 8 year old on a bike cheers you on while rounding a corner, you will indeed feel old and fat even if they were really sincere and cute.

When you get dropped by the peleton at the very start because you're screwing around with your clipless pedals, don't get an ego and think "I can catch up!" when you are fighting a 20 mph headwind. It ain't happening.

Gear selection and drafting matter. I was spinning like a hamster on some stretches while I screwed around with my gears. Apparently screwing around with gears and pedals was a big part of my race. I should have gotten over myself and drafted with my teammate Paula.

When your teammate is panting like a dog and her heartrate monitor is beeping like mad, she isn't trying to psych you out, she's reached critical mass but can't slow down for fear of not finishing. I had to explain this to Paula who thought I was a little nuts.

When your team captain/coach tells you to warm up until you are nice and sweaty and fairly winded, he means it. It shocked the hell out of my body to go from zero to 90rpm in 6 seconds flat. That might explain why I was panting and beeping all the way around the course.

FYI to the guys on my team, I WASN'T smiling while racing--I was BREATHING!!!! Also, I appreciate the tip on zipping up my jersey. I wasn't ignoring you when you told me that, my bike shorts were hung up on my seat so I was completely unable to sit down and was trying not to plant my face into the pavement before the race even began. This is a terrifying thing to someone who just pushed off towards the lineup. Rest assured, once I "unhung" my shorts, I was able to zip that jersey up.

Just sayin'!!!!
Till later, Alicia

Monday, February 11, 2008

Cha Cha and the first ride

You know how you have a great idea and get some encouragement to go for it; then when you do, you got a lot more than you bargained for in the process. Not that that’s a bad thing, it just takes you by surprise because you’d not been expecting it. That’s how my first ride with Cha Cha turned out. I got this itch to ride “for real” after I became a certified spinning instructor. It was an itch I never scratched till we had some money available and my husband told me I should take the plunge. That’s how I ended up with Cha Cha.
Cha Cha is my new and first “big girl serious” bike. She’s a black and pink Specialized Dolce road bike. Very beginner friendly but with some cool features and women specific stuff that makes her fab. You might wonder why I named her Cha Cha. I’ll give you the background on that before you hear about our ride. Growing up, my cousins, sister and I loved the movie Grease. My secret favorite character was Cha Cha. The trashy girl who rocked the hand jive with Danny. Remember her? I loved that character because she was a bawdy and unabashedly in your face character. Okay, mostly I loved her because she was trashy. Still, whatever. So, Cha Cha became my bikes’ name.
Friday evening I rode 25.3 miles on the bike shops’ indoor trainer. I was feeling confident and comfortable and somehow got bamboozled into the Saturday morning 25 mile ride. Sure, it would be the first time I’d ridden since I was a kid but I was confident I could do it. Sort of anyway. I got plenty of rest Friday evening and got up bright and early for the ride. Once I got all geared up and got myself to the shop, my nerves didn’t have too much of a chance to set in before we were outside ready to go.
I got off to a very shaky start. I instantly fell behind as I wobbled my way toward our intended route. Seriously, I wobbled like you wouldn’t believe. Immediately I wondered what the hell I’d gotten myself into. Then, I remembered how much I’d paid for the bike and inwardly groaned. I couldn’t give up this soon. I figured I go just a bit longer but truly, I was unable to imagine how I would accomplish all 25 miles. I continued to wobble and not stay near far enough right as I should. Plus, I was slow as all get out. I mean SLOW!!!
We got past the in-town stuff with all the stops and starts. Finally, I got less terrified by the vehicles passing and did a better job of keeping as far right as possible. Most folks gave a nice wide berth and just a few honked their horns as though we shouldn’t be on the road at all. Assholes. Still, I wobbled everytime I moved my hands to change gears. That was a lot because I changed gears more than most folks change their panties. Aerobically and muscularly as a whole, it wasn’t so taxing I couldn’t do it at a faster pace for the majority of the ride. The reason for my slowness? I was terrified I would be completely out of control. Shit, I felt pretty out of control already. The unstable feeling of the bike was so incredibly unnerving that my only goal became finishing without having a wreck or endangering anyone else. It was a big mental obstacle for me.
I was so focused on that goal I didn’t feel the cold wind or the steadily numbing crotch I was getting until about halfway through. I ignored it and it went away--mostly. The dog that ran out and gave chase got little notice from me. I was on autopilot and he would have to find another impromptu chew toy. I just needed to finish. Finally I was steady enough to change gears without wobbling, at least on the right hand side anyway. The left hand gears almost screwed me up twice so I’ll definitely have to work on changing those gears while on the trainer Monday. The owner of the shop and the other riders were great. The owner stayed with me the whole time and one of the more experienced riders followed me out of town to make sure I got out to the country road okay.
The thing I learned is that pedaling with very little resistance left me feeling out of control. As long as I kept the gears so I could “feel the road”, I felt more in control. Back at the shop after the ride, the shop owner demonstrated on a wheel how the faster you go, the harder it is to actually tump over. Conversely, the slower you go , the more likely you are to crash. That made me feel better. The downhills will still probably unnerve me a bit but I can get over it. If I don’t, my brake pads might need replacement in record time. I made my ride in 2 hours, 19 minutes, and 54 seconds.
I didn’t set the world on fire. I might have been the last person in but I finished. I finished when I wanted to cry and give up. That was about 1/4 of the way in but I didn't want to look like a big baby or spoil anyone else's ride. I kept going when I wanted to turn around. Okay, mostly I wasn’t able to turn around because the turn would have pretty sharp so I’m not sure how much that counts but I’m claiming it anyway. I rode. I rode when I felt like the bike was riding me. I kept riding until I felt like maybe, just maybe, I might be riding the bike myself just a little. By the time I reached the shop, my crotch was numb; my toes were cold and my legs were appropriately sore. The shop provided a bagel and cream cheese. Let me tell you, a bagel never tasted so good. I'm on tap to do it again Saturday. Here's to being new, being humbled and always learning even if you have to stuff down your fears. Later, Alicia

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Finally here!

Okay, so, I took some pics of our house in Texas in all its' chaos during the move. Our house here in Kansas is still in chaos but we're slowly making heads or tails of it all. We arrived here to snow and freezing temperatures! See how glad I am that I know how to knit?! No shortage of warm knitted clothing around here. Once I get the craft room in order, I"ll be posting my done stuff more regularly. I do have a few things I managed to get done that I'll post about week after next. Why that long? Well, because I fly out to NC tomorrow to help my sister with an unexpected move overseas. She's darn lucky I'm in "moving" mode!!! Hope everyone had happy holidays and a good new year! Till later, Alicia
P.S. These pics should be titled, " Why you seriously do not want to move over the holidays. Seriously."