Spinning Tools

I Have A Picker

I am now the proud owner of one-third of a picker. Not this kind - or this kind - but the kind that requires tetnus shots and elbow length leather gloves:

And comes with at least four warning labels:

And has its own padlock and five - count 'em, five! - bolts that must be undone before you can operate it.

You know - this kind:

That, my friends, is a Hardrock Maple Patrick Green Triple Picker. Susie, Sharon and I are sharing ownership of this beauty. And what does a picker do? According to Patrick Green, "This is the perfect fiber-preparation tool to tease, open and blend fibers to prepare them for carding."

I feed washed wool onto the intake tray and carefully pull back the swinging top.

As I push it forward, the picker pulls in the wool, passes it through the 600 (!) razor sharp teeth (ask me how I know they are razor sharp . . . .),

and then drops the picked wool into a basket under the picker as I pull the top back for another pass.

And does it "perfectly" prepare fiber for spinning? It does. The fiber I've pulled off the picker has been lighter than air and ready for spinning; no carding required.

I'm in love. Now if I could only get the bleeding to stop . . . .

New Toys

I've added a few more toys to my stash. First up is a Greensleeves Queen Sceptre Jane Seymour spindle, Purpleheart on Blackwood, weighing 1.5 oz. I bought it from a lady in New York who is destashing. It's gorgeous!

I also purchased a Rakestraw spinner. I'm told that you can spin with it in a car or airplane - the spinning motion keeps it in your lap rather than having to hold it in front of you. I haven't tried it yet, but can't wait to do so. The Rakestraw link has a video demostration.

I also bought a small, handpainted spindle from an artist in Ojai. Robin has just begun making spindles. This is the smaller size - I also have one of her larger spindles and it spins very well.

If there's a 12-Step program for spinning tool junkies, please don't tell me. I'm having too much fun.



I finished Diane's poncho tonight.

I've been working on it, off and on, since March when she came down from Oregon for the Egg Show in Westlake Village. Diane makes the most beautiful objets d'art from . . . eggs. Chicken, hummingbird, ostrich, goose . . . you get the idea.

I used Lion Brand's Martha Steward Coming Home pattern (I call it the 'Get Out Of Jail' poncho) in Homespun's "Windsor" colorway with a size "M" hook. Diane picked out the yarn. BK and I tried to talk her into something more "wild" (i.e., colorful) but she was having none of it. And now that it's done, I think she was right. I love the colors.

I've done this pattern at least eight times in different yarns. I love how flattering it is for a variety of body types and how much fun it is to crochet. The pattern holds my interest and doesn't bore me into putting it aside. It's comfortable, warm, soft to the touch. What more can you ask from a poncho?And I love the lace trim on the bottom. It looks so elegant and yet is so easy to do. (Sorry about the picture quality; hope it gives you a idea of what I'm talking about.)


The Princess Can Shoot

Breanne's friend Al, "He's not my boyfriend", has nicknamed her the "Princess". He says, "What the Princess wants, the Princess gets." The name really suits & I've started calling Breanne the Princess also.

And what did the Princess want when she came up to visit this weekend? First - Uncle Dick's world famous French toast. Second - to go shooting. And did the Princess get what she wanted? Of course she did! Dick took Gary & Breanne to an indoor shooting range in Oxnard. Breanne had been shooting once before when she was seven but didn't remember much from the experience. Turns out she's a natural. After a short lesson, she peppered two targets. And can she shoot? I'll let you be the judge. Not too bad! And does she want to do it again? Yep - just as soon as she gets time off from her summer school classes at Pepperdine. Look out world. The Princess can shoot.


Elvis Liberace

The fourth Saturday of each month is Guild day. I joined the Ventura County Handweavers & Spinners Guild in June 2005. It's a great group with a lot of diverse interests. One of the things I like best - other than the expertise so willingly shared - is the monthly program and workshop. In less than a year, I've attended workshops on spinning, ply-split braiding and tablet weaving, weaving California Rags, tapestry weaving, and beading.

Guild workshops are reasonably priced and the instructors are world-class; every one has been an acknowledged expert in her field. While all have been interesting, and several have been excellent, this past Saturday's workshop was one of my favorites. The topic was African Folklore Embroidery taught by Leora Raikin. As usual with these workshops, I had very little idea what I was getting into. Leora is from South Africa and her kits and materials all originate in that country. New to the U.S., this type of embroidery is based on the work of Ndebele women and is done on black fabric with brightly colored threads. The stitches are simple but the combination of colors makes each piece striking and original.

Leora is an excellent instructor; she's funny, easily keeps your attention and quickly explains key concepts. The materials fee included a full-size kit, unlike other instructors who included only demo-sized materials. Also unlike other workshops, I want to finish my kit, not just put it aside once the workshop ended.

In fact, that's what I've spent my entire Memorial Day weekend doing. Working on my newest hobby. I've almost finished my first piece, the giraffe Elvis Liberace. (It's a South African custom to have a naming ceremony when a piece is completed. This one earned its name because it is colorful, flamboyant, and makes me laugh.)

The fabric is serged on all four sides so it will be easy to make Elvis into a tote bag or pillow. And if I decide to flake out on sewing, Leora offers a finishing service at a nominal fee. The woman thinks of everything. Maybe that's why I bought two more kits and a handful of the most beautiful variegated yarns. Yeah, that's what I need alright. Another hobby.


The King of Construction

Tired of seeing construction pictures yet? Yes? Sorry, I'll go through them quickly. This is Dick: This is Dick putting stucco on the wall: This is the wall with stucco: Fast enough? Dick put the first layer of mud over the holes where the windows used to be. It has to dry before he can put on the next layer - and the next - before the final paint goes on.

You may have gathered from previous postings that we have only 2 cats. Actually, there are three. Snickers was our first cat. When Matt was in high school, he talked Dad into letting him get a kitten. Snickers was a tiny little thing and easily fit in the palm of Matt's hand. She rode around on his shoulders and slept with him every night. Snicker's nickname is "Chicken Kitty". She is afraid of everything. If you sneeze too loudly she will run for cover. One of her favorite places is under a blanket in the middle of my bed. She will happily stay there all day. And all night. She gets highly offended when she is 'asked' to leave at bedtime. So, why not more pictures of Snickers, you ask? Even though I feed her and pet her and put the blanket over her everyday, the cat does not like me. She is a Daddy's girl. She will follow Dick and curl up with him every chance she gets. And while he has been heard to say that he doesn't like cats, he also moves over on the bed or couch to make sure she has enough room. Oh well, at least Oreo and AJ like me.


If This is Thursday, It Must Be Date Day

Or not. Dick & I have a longstanding tradition of spending one day a week together. Before we retired, we had "date night" - normally on Thursdays to avoid the weekend rush at restaurants and movie theaters. Since we retired, "date day" has been on Thursdays. Most weeks.

This week, I spent Thursday with this man:

This is Kevin (everybody wave to Kevin). Kevin is the new "me" - he took over my job when I retired. Lucky Kevin. (You'll notice that the office is a lot neater. The photos on the wall are the same - Kevin liked them so I gave them to him. He obviously has good taste.) One job that Kevin inherited was organizing the annual PAL Golf Tournament. Or trying to bring some semblance of order to the pre-event chaos that occurs every year. With only one week to go until the big day, I offered to help out. I spent the day printing and labeling and organizing raffle and silent auction prizes and the check-in process for the golfers. We can accommodate 144 golfers at the tourney. As of today, we have 141 registered. Woohoo! We may very well sell out this year.

Dick has more sense. He stayed home, saw a movie with Marie, and got a lot more done on the front walkway. It's amazing how fast he can plant those stones now. If his back holds out, (those flagstones are heavy!) he'll probably have the walk done sometime next week. When he is finished with the day's work, he very carefully puts up "caution" tape to keep people from walking on the stones and knocking them out of balance. And each evening, Gary's friends carefully climb over the tape and walk on the stones to the door. At least they do it with caution.


It Was A Crafting Kind Of Day

The new craft room threw it's first party today. Although it's not quite finished (another two weeks, says Dick) Susie & Sharon, my spinning buddies, came over to play. Susie spun on her Little Gem -

Sharon carded on her new-to-her electric carder - a gorgeous blend of mohair and silk that she hand-dyed -and I spun (64s merino, colorway "Hollyhock")and spindled (that's my new Halla pansy spindle. It spins forever!)and chased cats.Oreo was very pleased with herself. She was able to get her, uhmmmm, bodacious behind to the top of a bookshelf. Don't be too impressed, no jumping was involved - she stair-stepped from the counter top to the craft boxes to the bookshelf. The effort obviously tired her out. She spent the rest of the day sleeping by the window. She and AJ are convinced that the room was built entirely for their pleasure. They both spend most of their days laying on the countertop in the sun.

All in all, that's not a bad way to spend the day.


Home Front, Part II

We continue to put finishing touches on the remodel. Yesterday Dick put the towel rack in Marie's bathroom (excitement!)

and hung the curtain rod and curtain in Gary's room. Gary wanted an all black room; his spoil-sport mom said, "Noooooooo!" But we've done our best to decorate the room to suit him. His curtains are black with metal rings at the top. And his carpet is black. Sort of. It's actually black and gray with specks of red and yellow. And it's commercial-grade carpeting. Although I'm sure they will try, it will take a lot for Gary & his friends to damage this stuff!

But the best part is that my new craft room is now usable. The curtains went up yesterday and the tie-ups went on tonight. I'm not totally happy with how they look; I'll probably tweak them in the next few days. The corner counter will be used for scrapbooking; I'll probably put my computer there also. The cabinets on the left will hold craft supplies, as will the floor to ceiling cabinets that are not yet installed on the back wall. Looking good, right? Wellllll, until you look on the other side of the room.

Still a little bit of work to be done. But we're getting there.


Plastic Bites

Work on my new craft room is coming along. The walls are painted, I have new carpet, and one row of cabinets is in place. I'm really happy with how the detailing turned out on what were stock kitchen cabinets from Lowe's.

Dick hung the curtain rods today but left it for me to hang the curtains. No problem, right? That's what I thought in the beginning. Since this is a garden room, the three outer walls are all windows.
It takes 8 curtains to cover all that glass and each curtain has 12 hangers. Thus, 8 packages of hooks. Still not a problem - until I tried to open the hanger packages. They were securely wrapped in plastic. Lots and lots of plastic. Out came the kitchen shears -

and I cut . . . . .

and sliced. . . . .

and hacked my way through layer after layer of hard plastic.

Leaving behind skin and blood from my scraped up knuckles and fingers. In the end, I had this:

I'm not sure, but I think AJ is laughing at me.

I think it was worth it. I love these curtains. Tomorrow I'll make the tie-ups that will turn them into balloon shades.