Maple candy!

Having read the Laura Ingalls Wilder books as a child, it appears that I share with several friends a long-harbored ambition to make maple candy on snow!

Well, we have a snowstorm: 6 to 8 inches so far (15-20 cm), and we may get as much as a foot (30cm). Hopefully I won’t lose power; I’ve taken some pictures.

I can't take a good picture of the snow in my yard without daylight, but here's a bush right outside the door.

Advised by the top three Google hits for “how to make maple candy with snow”, we boiled half a cup of maple syrup with a tiny bit of butter up to 230 F, gathered several bowls of clean snow (but for acid rain), and ladled patterns into them, let them cool, and ate chewy candy.

That's my sister Diana in the background! I gathered, she poured.

The longer you heat the maple syrup, the harder they get; but leaving them in the snow longer made some of them a bit harder anyway.

Keeping them is tricky: I’m sticking some in the freezer on the bowls of snow, because I’m afraid melted snow may dissolve them. Oh, also, do NOT use a paper towel except for preliminary drying. Wax paper. I told Diana to deal with the last few, and she got them stuck to the towel! Later: the frozen ones are great.

Happy Yarn is Happy

I’ve spun up most of the sad rovings at this point. The only ones I made into batts were the red, orange, and yellow ones. The rest I just infinitely pre-drafted. Here are some pictures.

February Princess:

Anger Management Rainbow (yes, I actually named it that):

Harlequin Circus:

Not on Fire (this is the one from the batt in my last post):

I have one more bag of pre-drafted sad roving to get through, and then I’m done. Though right now I’m taking a break to spin alpaca.

Overall, it wasn’t as bad an experience as I thought it would be. The pre-drafting was annoying, but it spun up just fine. But I’m happy to be moving back to nice fiber.

Sad roving becomes happy batt

(xposted from my blog, slightly modified for redundancy’s sake.)

So an update. I found out two things since my previous post on the sad roving:

1. The felting wasn’t really my fault. Our house has 2 washing machines, and apparently they leak heat from one to the other. Someone was washing a load of laundry while I was spin-cycling my roving. The heat is what did it, and not my stupidity.

2. There’s a better solution for dealing with the wool. At least for me. I have a drum carder! It can deal with stuff like this. So last night I tried feeding the wool to the drum carder. I learned the hard way that you still need to pre-draft it a bit before the carder will accept the wool. However, once you do, it works really well.

So here’s what you do.

1. Do some predrafting. Yeah, it still has to happen.

2. Feed the stuff into the carder. Be sure to adhere to the safety warnings it comes with. Like keeping your hands clear. Look at me, choosing wisely!

3. Once you feed it in, start cranking. The small drum will take up the stuff and put it onto the big drum.

Whee, your carder is starting to fill up. Yay!

4. Take it off the carder. You could end here, and have a batt that looks like this:

Or you could

5. put it through again for more blended colors and get this:

So I have one of each now so I can compare how they spin. I think I like the less carded one better, but if the other spins dramatically better, I’ll have more blended batts in the future. Also, my batts go really well with Dominion Seaside:

So the reason why this is so exciting is that now I can sell them as batts instead of having to spin them all. They probably won’t all be done in time for the show (where I should focus on getting as much yarn spun as I can) but could later go on Etsy. And if I do spin them, they’ll be much easier to deal with than just a big bag of pre-drafted roving. Plus, I can draft from the fold, which I like a lot better.

Sad roving is sad, but fixable

For once, I’m posting about something I made that is less than awesome.

As you may or may not know, I’m selling my wool and yarn at a craft fair on June 27. (If you’re in the Boston area, you should totally come!) As such, I’ve been spinning up a storm. My 3 boxes of alpaca fleece finally arrived mid-May, and since I returned from Europe, I’ve been doing a bunch of carding. I also have been dyeing a bunch of merino rovings, most of which are up on my Etsy store.

I also bought 16 drop spindles, so I could sell them to people interested in spinning:

Last night I went on a dyeing spree. The first batch came out lovely. The second batch not so much. It was my own fault. Usually I’ll send the wool through the spin cycle of my washing machine to get out the excess water, and it works just fine. But I did it a second time for these rovings, and they felted:

There were 8 total that suffered this fate. I was pretty upset. They’re salvageable as yarn, but I can’t sell them as roving, unless it was to someone who knew what they were getting into and at a heavily discounted price; just enough to recoup my losses. Better to have it be yarn, where no one will know I messed up.

How does one salvage sad, sad wool?

By pre-drafting!

Drafting is the process of drawing out fibers in order to spin them. Usually I’ll do this as I’m spinning. But when wool is felted or otherwise uncooperative, I’ll pre-draft. It’s also useful if you want to keep the repeats of colors.

I pull off strips of the felted wool, separating it until I have strips that are small enough to spin and are no longer felted. Here is me splitting some wool

(As you can sorta see, my fingers are still discolored from the dyeing spree.)

In the end, you get a pile of small strips, and you can no longer tell that they were originally felted:


And it helps to have housemates who like pulling things apart. This way I don’t need to do all the pre-drafting myself.

29.5 lbs of wool

Looks like this:

(Actually, that’s not the entirety of it, because I had to take some wool off of the roll in order for it to fit in my cabinet.)

And yarn desk 2.0:


I realized at Vericon that although my collection of roving is shiny, it could stand to have a little more purple in it. Everyone’s favorite color is purple. (That’s not 100% true; my favorite color is green). Or at least, lots of people like purple roving.

So I know next year I will have lots of purple at Vericon.

In the meantime, I dyed some purple roving last week (as well as roving of other colors). This was the first time I had been able to dye in several weeks. It was quite fun, even though I should have been working on the paper that was due the following Monday (I ended up getting an extension on it…).

So here are some of the rovings I dyed:

I like how the batch turned out. And I’ve finally got it down so that the roving doesn’t felt at all. (The roving that I’ve made that was slightly felted was still spinable, but I had to use a lot of pre-drafting.) My technique for dyeing has been steadily improving. The key is for the water to be just below boiling, and to make sure you are only boiling it for 45 minutes and no longer. And you have to check the water every so often so you can turn the heat up or down as necessary. Not such a hard thing to do, but it means you can’t go off for an hour while your dye sets.

Theoretically I could write a tutorial for dyeing wool, but they already exist on the internet. I like this one:
Hand Painting Roving

These rovings are destined for the Etsy shop, save for one of the 3 purples, which is destined to be spun by me first. Though maybe I’ll keep one. I haven’t done much dyeing for myself.


There’s this shawl that I was working on since November. I finished it last weekend.
And then I blocked it.

Shawl, soaking in water:

Shawl, out for blocking, next to my housemate’s shawl, which was the same pattern as mine:

Close up:

I also have a very empty yarn desk right now. Instead, there’s a laundry rack full of wool, which is currently living in the Vericon art show. Which is nice, since it means I get to show it off to everyone, and it looks very pretty there. And I’m coming home with less yarn & wool than I came with, which means less carrying. (Which is definitely a good thing when you are a hobbit.)
Though the yarn desk is sad in its emptiness.

Laundry rack of shiny:

Also, I finally ran out of undyed wool, so I went ahead and ordered the 27 lbs of wool on the internets, and it came on Thursday (while I was out doing stuff for aforementioned Vericon). 27lbs! This is a LOT of wool. I had to unwind some of it and wind it into smaller balls in order to be able to fit the darn thing in the craft cabinet, but it’s there now. I’ll post a picture of that after I take it.

And I’m also getting a bunch of alpaca fleece next weekend when I go and visit my friend’s alpaca farm.

Yay, wool!