Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Today we do something different

A few weeks back, I went to a new store opening in Berkeley for fiber stuff (I know, shocking, isn't it) and bought a pair of handcarders and some fancy stitch markers. It later occurred to me, as I was putting stuff away when I got home that I still have quite a stock pile of glass and semi-precious stone beads from my jewelry making days - I could make my very own stitch markers! So yesterday, I went to Michael's to get a few supplies (posts and whatnot) and today I set about making some stitch markers.

I also took the opportunity to play with my sweetheart's new 35mm fixed focal length lens so I could make the photo a little more "artsy" than usual. Stuff didn't turn out too bad, neither in the beadwork nor the photo!

Also, to catch up on a promise I made yesterday, here's where I am with my tank top due to be complete by the end of February:

I wish I could take credit for how the color is pooling, so symmetrically! Alas, this is pure dumb luck, and I can only hope the front of the tank top turns out as well! I hope to have the back completed before my holiday is over.

Other than that, I'm back to spinning today. I'm doing some of the brown BFL and the merino. The goal is to have the merino at least done so I can ply it in the next day or two. Yay! And for those of you who have been wondering, no sign of the spinning wheel from New Zealand yet. But I keep hoping...

Monday, December 29, 2008

Held hostage by cats

I have been informed that my blog progress has been sorely neglected during my vacation, and that certain key people can't keep track of what I'm doing! I admit it, I have been remiss. My defense, however, is that I've been held hostage, forced to knit for hours without access to a camera.

What's a girl to do under such trying circumstances? Knit, knit, and knit some more, that's what!

What you see in my hands in that picture is the cast on to my Wisteria sweater. That's going to take a few months to finish, but that's ok. I live in the Bay area - there's always an opportunity for cool weather here! But since I want to have something to actually _wear_ at an upcoming fiber conference (Stitches West 2009) I am also working on a summer tank top (I'll post photos later). It's turning out rather well if I do say so myself, actually.

The third project underway is a scarf. Not just any scarf, but a scarf using my very own handspun yarn! I'm quite tickled with it, if occasionally appalled by the state of the yarn. Advice to all new spinners: don't wait, start knitting or crocheting with your yarn early! You'll learn more about what you need to focus on to improve your spinning that way.

I"ll post better photos of that when it's done.

And now, back to knitting and spinning! And maybe crochet a hat to liven things up.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Fiber in Photos

As promised, we have quite a lot of pictures today for the blog. The weather was rather interesting, so I had fun trying to keep up with exposure settings and whatnot. My sweetheart was coaching me, but he got pulled away to work and so I did these pretty much on my own. All mistakes are mine - he'd have done a much better job. :-) As it is, note that the scale changes in each photo, so while it looks like I have a lot of mohair, for example, it's really just a tiny bit. I was going for capturing the texture and didn't realize until I posted here that the varying scale made everything a bit ... off. Oh well! You'll get the idea.

First, let's talk about handcarding. I mentioned yesterday that I was working on handcarding some Romney wool, and here's a photo that shows the scoured (cleaned) wool, some rolags, and what I've spun so far:

As a comparison, here is the dyed Merino roving I'm in the process of spinning:

I have quite a bit of other interesting things to spin up, including a braid of silk:

As well as some rather intriguing Merino-Pygora superwash top:

There is a sampling of flicked mohair just waiting to be added to something:

And last in photos (but not last in stash - there's more!) there is some natural brown Bluefaced Leicester that I intend to spin up and ply with the natural ecru BFL. I'm showing them here wrapped around each other to give a hint of what this will look like when I'm done This stuff is just a pleasure to spin and I have enough to make a vest or a whole hat/scarf/mittens ensemble. I just need that big ol' plying bobbin...

Photos really don't do justice to the fiber I get to spin. So much of the enjoyment is the tactile nature of the activity, and you're just not going to get that by looking at pictures. Still, it's a whole lot of loveliness even to look at, and perhaps next time you see me, you'll get to touch some of this stuff for yourself!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Vacation update #2

In the world of Ravelry, I'm a member of the Shameless Knitters group. This group is for all those people who are ready, willing, and demonstrably able to knit just about anywhere! Folks have spoken up about their knitting at work, at conferences, at their child's concert or ball game, at weddings, on the bus... you name it, and someone has knitted there! I've definitely been seen knitting at work and at conferences, and today, since I couldn't go be a Shameless Knitter at my office, I spent the day at my sweetheart's office and knitted there instead! I'll post pictures tomorrow, for I've definitely got something that's starting to look like it might be, well, something!

But by the time we got home, my hands, wrists, and arms had quite enough of knitting for the day! It may not sound like a lot to you, but 40 rows is a heck of a lot to me!

So tonight I decided to do something ... a little different. One might say, a little strange. One might - but not if one were a budding insane little spinner like me. Bwahahaha! I joined yet another fiber club - because one can't be a member of too many fiber clubs - this one specializing in undyed wool. I started handcarding the scoured fleece this evening. It's definitely a work out, but I think understanding how to handcard will make using a drum carder easier and overall make me a better spinner. I'll understand the material I'm working with much better, which frankly is the whole reason for this amount of effort. And it is a lot of effort! One has to muscle one's way through handcarding, there's just no other way to do it. Tomorrow I'll post some pictures of the handcarders, the scoured fleece, and the resulting stuff I'll be spinning.

Pretty nifty, ain't it?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Vacation update #1

Today was the first official day of my vacation. I don't think Saturday and Sunday quite counted (even tho' I said so at the time) 'cause I'd have been off those days anyway. Today was Monday and I did not have to go to work! Huzzah! So I ran some long-overdue errands, did some laundry, and did some spinning. Granted, not quite as much spinning as I'd have liked, but I went a bit overboard with the knitting and spinning yesterday and my hands hurt. So, a little spinning, no knitting, and some photos!

First and foremost, here is a long-overdue photo of some gorgeous merino-tussah silk roving spun up in a nice, soft, squishy, almost-as-soft-as-Blake yarn:

Not half shabby if I do say so myself! It turned out to be about 125 yards - long enough for a seriously soft scarf, I think. I'll have to decide on a good pattern. Question is - do I dye it or leave be?

Next on the list is some stuff I just started spinning this afternoon, a dyed merino roving from my friend CrazyCatLady:

As I was spinning this soft, beautiful, amazing stuff I kept asking myself: is that ME spinning a yarn so fine? Holy toledo! That's ME! I'm doing this! Yay for me! :-) Do you see that paperclip? That's one of the little ones! w00t! Here's the question I'll have to answer for this yarn: do I cable-ply it, since it's so fine? Or do I have twice as much double ply as fine as it'll be? Decisions, decisions. If you have an opinion, please add a comment to the blog!

Last but not least today, I did a triple ply. I would show you a picture but it's still drying in the bathroom as I'm getting the twist to set. I don't much like the yarn, to tell you the truth - the folks that did the superwash treatment to it left it kinda coarse and scratchy. And since it is supposed to be merino, that's a sad state of affairs! Still, it gave me a chance to learn what a three-ply looks like, which is all I really wanted to get out of it. And one thing I learned about three-ply with thin yarn - it is best done with a tensioned lazy kate!!! Which fortunately is on my list of things to purchase this week. Which reminds me - time for me to go call the spinning wheel lady and see if my new traveling wheel is in!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The art of spinning with supervision

Today is the first day of a two-week vacation. Huzzah! It is a much-needed vacation - I mean, I have so much fiber to spin and trying to fit it in on a few nights and weekends just isn't cutting it! So today I started the day spinning and basking in a sunbeam. My sweetheart saw a wonderful photographic opportunity...

Isn't that cool? But then he realized he could capture my "supervisor" if he moved the camera and tripod to the other side.

I think that is my favorite picture of all time.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Better pictures, plus scenery!

This morning I slept in a bit due to the rather long day I had yesterday. I woke up to a very nice picture! It was snowing! It was only raining down in the valley, but up at 2,000 feet elevation, it was a bit more in the way of frozen precipitation. As I was setting up to take the photo, there a few folks on the road sliding in the slush on some garbage can lids. They had more enthusiasm than success, but it was fun to watch them.

The grey yet bright sky was perfect for me to get better pictures of my other, particularly the bunny blanket. The colors are more "true" if you download that image to your computer and look at it. It's more vibrant than comes across in a blog.

I'm now down to only one serious work-in-progress, which means it's time to get a second project in queue. With a two week vacation coming up, I intend to get started on either a sweater or a tank top - maybe both! Still, I feel like the pressure is off, so last night it was back to spinning for a while. I started spinning a nifty roving from WhorlingTides (I have a bunch of stuff from her as you've probably realized) - a Bluefaced Leicester roving died in yellow and grey. I was absolutely amazed at how even the yarn was turning out, and how the shine from the wool made it look like I was spinning gold. The color is not going to come across well, but I wanted to post a picture anyway:

That's going to turn in to a great two-ply yarn - since I have two braids to work with, I'll probably end up with 200-250 yards, maybe more. I have no idea what I'll end up making with the yarn, but I do enjoy the process!

Monday, December 15, 2008

It's not perfect

But then, I never claimed to be the photographer my sweetheart is! Still, I had promised pictures and so by golly there will be pictures!

Here is the blanket (and wow is the color and focus just wrong - this needs to be done during the daytime!) :

And now, the hat (in progress!)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Best laid plans...

OK, so today didn't go quite like I expected it. It wasn't a bad day, precisely, just ... not quite what I had in mind. What I had in mind was a bit more crochet, a lot more spinning, a tasty lunch, taking some photographs of my stuff to date, actually cooking for dinner, watching the weather go by...

What I got was a cat who wanted a lap Right Now and was prepared to dig in to my pajamas to get it, thus discouraging the morning's spinning. No worries, I says to myself, I'll work on that blanket instead! Crochet then spin, instead of spin then crochet. I am nothing if not flexible in my fiber arts, after all. Little did I know that Blake was in for a LONG winter's nap. I was pinned for hours.

When I finally negotiated my release, I was able to do a little bit of spinning which was interrupted by a call from work. Work has no place in this blog, so I'll just say that rather than spinning for hours, I was back on the couch crocheting for the rest of the afternoon while watching my laptop. And then knitting through the rest of the evening while watching my laptop. I thought I'd get another spinning moment in there at some point, but I am owned by my cats, and if Blake really wanted a lap (and he did) who am I to argue? I can have him on my chest while still watching the laptop (as is currently being demonstrated, though you can't see it from there).

So, the blanket is mostly finished - it is in the process of being blocked (i.e., it's been washed and now is drying in the right shape) and when that's done, I'll sew the head on. And the hat I have been working on has made significant progress. And Blake, he's a happy kitty. I'll see about trying that original plan again some other day, and getting pictures later this week.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

It would be better with pictures

But since I really don't feel like finishing out the day with the whole camera set up, I'll tell you about my accomplishments today and do the camera thing tomorrow!

Today I got through several more inches of the baby blanket (still on target for completing it on time!), I finished spinning and plying the merino-silk blend I have been enjoying (though there was an hour or so where I didn't enjoy it at all), and I learned out to spin from the fold. All in all, I've been doing crafty things for about 13 hours! Whew.

So, to go in to more detail on the spinning part of my day, the spinning and plying went _mostly_ ok. Two things made stuff less than perfect, but hey, I'm still learning so it's all good. First thing was, as I rather suspected I would, I ended up again with two bobbins with significantly different amount of yarn on each. "Ah-ha!" I said to myself, "I have solved this problem before by making a center-pull ball. I shall do that again, but hey, what if I use the yarn ball-winder to do it? That should go much faster than doing it by hand!"

If you're an experienced spinner, you just cringed in sympathy. If you're not an experienced spinner, DON'T USE A BALL WINDER. Not for this particular purpose, anyway! What ended up happening was I had a ball that was not nearly tight enough to contain the twisty-ness of the freshly spun yarn and so I ended up with a big old knotted mess. Now, since I had spent a few hours making that yarn, by golly I was not going to throw away the resulting mess! No ma'am! So I set about trying to untangle it while still leaving it useful for finishing up my plying.

It mostly worked, but there is definitely a section of the two-ply yarn I'm not particularly pleased with. C'est la vie! Now I know.

The second problem with spinning today was the realization I'd handed over my niddy-noddy to a friend who does woodwork so he could seal the wood and make the joints a wee bit tighter. Unfortunately I didn't consider when I handed it over to him that now I don't have a nice way to get my newly spun yarn off the bobbins so I can set the twist and admire my handiwork! Dang it! I can only hope he finishes up before next weekend. Fortunately for me, I did order 3 additional bobbins yesterday so even if he doesn't finish it by the weekend, I've still got a place to store my yarn. As of right now, I only have 4 bobbins - totally not enough for the spinning-fool I've turned in to!

And speaking of spinning fools, after dinner I went back to the wheel, this time to play with some merino superwash I got from Silver Sun Alpaca. I had heard some scary things about superwash, but it is kind of hard to avoid completely so I decided to go ahead and give spinning it a try. And, since I'm a terminal over-achiever, I decided to try it in a totally new way - long-draw and spinning from the fold. I was quite surprised at how easy that turned out to be! I'll definitely be posting pictures of the results from this technique tomorrow.

And that's basically how I spent my day! We did get a very brief moment of snow+rain earlier in the afternoon, but that's ok. I just pretended the whole day was grey and enjoyed my time inside, spinning and crocheting by the fire. There are certainly worse ways to spend a Saturday.

Friday, December 12, 2008

When to look forward to a rainy weekend

I was just looking at the local weather forecast for this weekend, and it's looking to be all cold and rainy through to early next week. YAY! Those kind of days are the absolute best for staying at home, sipping hot chocolate, and playing with fiber! I'm really really looking forward to this weekend.

Specifically, I hope to be finishing up the blanket I've been crocheting for someone with a baby due soon. It's coming along quite nicely, so I think that'll be fine. I also hope to finish up a hat I'm knitting so I can have it as a gift to give next week at the Blacksheep Handweavers Guild. They're doing one of those "pick a number, get the gift from the person, it can be stolen up to three times" kind of things next week. I find the whole concept bizarre and just a little stressful. I mean, what if my gift isn't good enough for anyone to steal it? Oh, the pressure...

And of course, I will be spinning this weekend. I've got quite a variety of fibers at home to be playing with, including the merino-silk blend currently on the wheel, a merino-silk-alpaca blend, a superwash merino-silk blend, more Bluefaced Leicester, some silk... I'm going to run out of bobbins! I can't wait.

Pictures will be posted as stuff gets completed. I hope you all enjoy!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Oh Happy Day

While my piece of the world remains a bit stressful in some ways, in others I couldn't be happier. Last night I finally started branching out in my spinning, spinning something other than Bluefaced Leicester. I started spinning a Merino-Silk blend from WhorlingTides. Ooooh, my. That's got to be some of the softest stuff in the world, right next to my cat's undercoat. Which I have considered spinning, but since I'm actually allergic to cats seems like a not-good idea. The Merino-Silk blend is spinning up very fine, enough so that I'm still figuring out how to balance the tension against the thinness of the yarn. I also think it needs more twist, based on what I've read, and yet it seems to be overtwisting based on how kinky it gets if I'm not super careful. There is a lot to learn in spinning this blend, but it sure does make me happy!

In other happy news, my sweetheart informed me today that in thanks to some above-and-beyond-the-call-of-girlfriend-duty stuff recently, he's going to buy me the portable spinning wheel that I totally do not need but have been coveting mightily. Wheeeee! As if folks at work didn't think I was crazy enough, now they'll see me spinning away in my office after work! The wheel in question is another wheel by Majacraft called the Little Gem. This wheel totally won't take the place of my Rose, but it will be pure fun to be able to take it places. I haven't placed the order yet, but I hope to do that this week.

Life Is Good.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Monster in the Box

As I promised myself, today was a day of crochet and spinning. I finally finished the bunny head for the blanket, and wow was that tedious! I'm very happy with the end result, but that was some tight crocheting.

The bunny head will be attached to the blanket when I'm done crocheting it, tho' the pattern for some strange reason wanted the bunny head attached at the very start of making the blanket. I can't imagine that's a good idea - it would make the blanket quite cumbersome to keep sorted out while crocheting!

The pattern for the blanket itself is very easy, and I'll finish up the 500 yard ball I have now and declare the whole thing done. The pattern said I'd need three skeins, but I will again alter from pattern and say "no, thanks, 1000 yards is enough!" Of course, I have no idea what I'll do with the remaining 500 yards I bought, but I'm sure I'll figure out something. There are premies at the local hospital that need blankets - I'll probably use it for that.

Since the rest of the blanket will go quickly, I gave myself permission to spin the rest of the day away. I finished spinning one of the braids I got from CrazyCatFibers, including the plying of it. Now _that_ last bit turned out to be high entertainment!

If you are going to ply yarn, it's helpful - but not necessary - to have to perfectly even bobbins in terms of the quantity of yarn on each one. If you don't have even bobbins, you can create a center-pull yarn ball and then ply from the inside thread and outside thread at the same time. To create some tension on the ball, you might put it in a box or an upside-down flower pot. I went the box method, since I have boxes and not flower pots, and the end result was... A MONSTER IN THE BOX! Blake got up from his nap to protect me from said monster, and we had a jolly time with this string coming out of a box that was rattling and shaking and him certain he needed to eat whatever was in the box. I wish I had pictures, but my hands were full of yarn at the time. Still, it was quite hilarious.

At the end of the day, the monster is vanquished and my recently spun yarn is washing in the sink. It worked out to be about 125 yards, plenty enough for a hat or scarf or some such thing. Here's what it looks like freshly-spun and before I set the twist by washing.

I wish there were more hours in the day - I have lots more things I want to spin! But it'll have to wait for tomorrow.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

All spinning, all the time

This has been one mighty busy week, with only minimal fiber-y goodness. No wonder that by today I'm stressed beyond all bearing! But that's ok, I got all sorts of happy care packages today, and so I am sure I will conclude the weekend a happier, healthier person.

First and foremost, I got a package from CrazyCatFibers that included the most gorgeously colored roving ("Sugar Maple" and "Vineyard" and some yarn spun especially for me. It's all so darned purty, I had to start spinning it right away! Which inspired Blake to, ah, "help"...

That image, to give you an understanding of the perspective, was taken by me as I was gazing longingly at the wheel I had to move away from 'cause Blake was chewing on the flyer. And the yarn. And the roving. Blake simply couldn't let a good lap go unused, after all!

Also in today's snail mail was some silk roving and a surprise from my newly joined monthly Silver Sun Alpacas Batt Club (some merino superfine wool dyed blood orange). I'll post pictures of those later.

Don't think I spent all day inside! I was in fact out doing my part to help the economy by going to the grand opening of the new one-woman-shop A Verb For Keeping Warm. I bought a set of Schacht hand carders which I'll need eventually and some stitch markers. I did NOT buy any of the lovely dyed roving she had there. I knew I had some coming shortly and I didn't need more. But I sure did want it. :-)

For the rest of the weekend I'll be alternating between working on that baby blanket (just created the massive center-pull ball from the 500 yd skein so I can start on the second half) and spinning some of this lovely roving I have on hand. I wish I had an extra day or two to enjoy myself, but I shall have to be consoled by the fact that I have two weeks off thanks to the Stanford Winter Closure and I can spin to my heart's content then. The days go slowly, lemme tell ya...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Very bad, bad, good!

And today we bring you a photo of my first three bobbins of handspun yarn from my new Majacraft Rose spinning wheel. I'm not actually done with the third bobbin, but I'm close enough that I wanted to get a picture out for review:

If you click on the photo, you'll get a detailed view of what decent yarn looks like (left-most) versus what kinda lumpy yarn looks like (middle), and what "she didn't know what she was doing" yarn (right-most.

It's pretty good progress, really, and I have great hopes for the plying of that third bobbin, once I have another matching bobbin to ply it with. Maybe, just maybe, I'll do a third bobbin and try a three-ply! I have no idea the yardage of what I'm spinning right now, so I can't tell you what I'll try to make with it, but I do have ideas for dyeing.

A lovely etsy.com seller, Whorling Tides, is sending me a dye sample that I'm going to use to try something I recently read about on Ravelry, ball dyeing. Basically, you wind up a very tight ball of yarn, and drop it in a dye bath. Or, sit half of it in a dye bath. The idea is to get a gradiated dye through the ball. If you do the half-in-the-dye, you can then flip it over and dye the other half of the ball another color. It's got some nifty possibilities.

I'm going to head out to the deck to do some knitting in the sun and clean air. It's a gorgeous day up here on the coastal range!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

hop to it!

Today was a day of much spinning, some knitting, and several hours of crochet for the baby blanket. Sorry, no pictures right now but hopefully some will be posted tomorrow. Since every day is a learning adventure, I wanted to share what I learned today:

1 - If you're right handed, for heavens sake draft with your right hand instead of your left hand when spinning! You'll find your left hand stops hurting, and your right hand already has muscles ready for this kind of work.

2 - You don't really need to do pre-drafting if you don't want to, not if the roving is already smooth and ready to spin.

3 - When crocheting something you're going to stuff, like a bunny doll head for a blanket, crochet _tight_. Note that this will make your hands very tired.

I am actually going to frog some pink rosette's I crocheted a while back and never did anything with so I have pink for the bunny ears. The pattern said to buy a whole skein of yarn just for the ears! I'd have been swimming in pink yarn by the time the pattern is done. As is, I don't think I needed that third skein of yarn I did buy. Ah well, I'm sure I'll find something fun to do with it!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Feeling loopy

The focus this week is on crochet, with a bit of knitting and spinning thrown in for variety. I'm working on my last of three baby blankets, and this one is coming along nicely - and quickly! Both excellent features in a present with a deadline.

The thing that makes this blanket truly cool will be the bunny head that attaches to one side. I haven't made critters before, so that'll be a fun thing to do for this project.

Yesterday I left work early to go to Creative Hands, the local yarn shop that is closing it's doors in the next month or so. I bought some japanese cable stitch holders, a very nice circular needle case, 4 skeins of Noro Silk Garden yarn (I was supposed to get the fingering weight and didn't - I'll have to go back!) which I'll use to try an Entrelac pattern in a scarf, and Berroco Ultra Alpaca for a cardigan. It was a sad thing, but I got 25% off everything, which was nice. I have so many projects I want to do, and yarns and patterns just waiting for my attention! What a nice problem to have!

One other thing happening today (besides smelling a lovely pot roast in the slow cooker - torture, but yummy) is photography! My sweetheart the wonderful amateur photographer has been helping me out by taking pictures of my yarn stash, my works in progress, and my recently finished items. He takes this stuff seriously, lemme tell ya! The tripod comes out, the light meter turns on, the grey card for white-balance is used, the works! I am most appreciative of his efforts, and they've been noticed by others, too! His picture of my mittens is going to be featured on Ravelry soon. How cool is that?

I did take some time today to do some spinning, and that's coming along well. I'm still over-spinning something fierce, but hey, I'm enjoying it and it's really not _too_ bad. I'll just have to ply this batch and then try making a reasonable single later.

Have a great Thanksgiving weekend, everyone!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Ramping up

The next few weeks through the end of the year should be an outstanding finale to my first year as a fiber fanatic. This weekend, I completed a blanket, a pair of mittens, and purchased a wheel. I also did some more work on a tunisian-style crochet'd scarf, realized I didn't like at all how that stitch looked when done to full scarf length and so frogged it back to trivet-size and called it done. This leaves me with only one active project as of today, and a free slate for all the things I want to do by the end of the year!

First and foremost, the yarn from Lorna's Laces should be arriving today or tomorrow so I can start on the last of the 3 baby blankets I've got on the list for this year. I have to have that done no later than December 19, so much of the Thanksgiving holiday will be spent on that. This is the only project with a deadline, so it's definitely top of the stack.

Next on the list, my local yarn shop just sent out email that they are closing. I am so bummed! They have a sale starting tomorrow for all of their frequent buyers (that includes me) so I printed out several patterns this morning to get the list of yarns I could use right away. I don't know what yarn they'll have available, but since I am _trying_ to buy yarn only for pre-determined purposes, having this list when I go to the store tomorrow or Wednesday will help me limit my purchases to something sane.

Then of course there is the practice in spinning that I want to keep up with. Though I must say, a break for a few days is no bad thing. Did you know there are some significant-if-small muscles between your thumb and forefinger? Wow are those muscles sore on me today! Those are the muscles used to pinch and draw out the fiber to feed to a spinning wheel. They are also involved in holding one of the knitting needles while also keeping tension on the working yarn while knitting. I tell you what, after spinning and knitting for a few months, I'm going to have a grip of steel! Especially with my left hand. I still don't understand why my right hand gets away with doing mostly nothing. I'll just make it do most of the work when washing and blocking items.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

More pictures and comments on spinning

My sweetheart took some fabulous photos of my new spinning wheel today (I've decided to name her Winifred). The photos are really well done, never mind my bias towards the subject - or the photographer. ;-)

I've been trying a few things this morning with the wheel, including different ways of drafting, practicing to see how slow I can treadle, and so on. The quality of yarn is slowly improving, but I'm still overspinning - if I wanted to knit with singles, this yarn would be waaay too twisty!

I'm finding that after about 45 minutes or so, the hand pinching and drawing out the fibers (the left) gets very tired. I've noticed that the left hand is also the one that gets the most tired in knitting, too. Why is it that for a right-handed person, I'm finding that all the detailed work I do is somehow being done with my left hand? Something to ponder, anyway.

Since I haven't been spinning all day, I've made sure to get some other fiber-y goodness done. I finished weaving in the edges of a baby blanket I've been working on and finally washed and blocked it, so it's all done. I've also finished weaving in the ends of the first fingerless mitten, and am about 2/3 the way through the second one. That second one is going much faster than the first! I think I may have enough yarn to do another hat like the purple one I lost by the time I'm all done with the mittens. I do hope so - it's be nice to have matching stuff!

All in all, a damn fine weekend. I'm so happy this is a short week, 'cause I've got so much more to do before the holidays! Another blanket to make, spinning to learn, starting on my first sweater... The list is endless. Thank goodness for that. :-)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Blake likes wool

I brought home a bag of BFL (Bluefaced Leicester) wool - 3 pounds of it, in fact. Blake chased the other cat away from it and proceeded to nest.
Nesting wasn't enough after a while, even though he had drooled on everything he could drool on, so he started biscuit making:

Hmm? What's that you say? What's that in the background? Oh, it's just this FANTASTIC AWESOME thing I brought home with the 3 pounds of wool! *happy dance*

I am bad, I know. I was supposed to try out lots of different wheels, testing for weeks to see which one exactly I wanted... blah blah blah. I was at the store for two and a half hours, trying out a Majacraft Rose, a Schacht, and a Louet. I came home with the Rose, a stool, a niddy-noddy, and 3 pounds of yarn. It's lovely, it's pre-assembled, and it already has my first (rather bad) attempts and getting an even yarn. I love it!

Enough blogging for now. I must go practice my treadling.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Making friends and influencing people

Last night I attended my first Black Sheep Handweavers Guild meeting. Martha Stanley, a long-time and incredibly talented rug weaver, was the speaker. She showed awesome slides of some of her work and talked in what I assume was a foreign language about harnesses, wefts, swords, and a bunch of other things that made no sense to me at all since I'm not a weaver. Still, it was fun, the people were quite nice, and I'm looking forward to going back again. One lady by the name of Rosemary also works at Stanford and she and I will be catching up for lunch some time soon. She apparently has several spinning wheels and is happy to lend me one to try out. Wheee!

Also in my fun filled fiber world, I'm almost done a scarf, I finished binding off all parts of the first fingerless mitten (now need to just weave in the ends), and I received 3 books this week on knitting sweaters and customizing them to fit! AND, as if that's not enough, some yarn I special ordered back in September for a baby blanket is finally on its way, the yarn for my sweater is on its way, and the yarn my friend was spinning up for me is ready too! I need a vacation from work so I can get started on all my projects. It's going to be a great Thanksgiving break.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I have a dream!

As you know, if you've been talking with me recently, I’ve been pondering the purchase of a spinning wheel for weeks now, doing lots of research, looking at all the features, and planning on going to a local supplier and trying them out. I had almost talked myself in to waiting, tho’, given the budget climate in the world today. Do I _really_ need to spend this at this time?

Then last night I had a dream where I went to the store and tried a Majacraft Rose, which was a big rough, and then I tried a Majacraft Gem, and it was great, but if I bought the Rose I could take it home right then. If I bought the Gem I’d have to wait 4 weeks! I agonized and finally bought the Gem, and then went back to the store 3-4 times a day just to pet the floor model and treadle it for a while. It was an amusing dream - I was laughing at myself in the dream even as I was petting spinning wheels!

I still don’t know which one I really want in my waking world, but I think, maybe, I need to just go ahead and figure it out soon! :-D

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A very sad moment

I am sad. I went looking for my lovely purple hat... and it's nowhere to be found! Somehow it got stolen by gremlins somewhere between New Hampshire and California. I hope that someone finds it and thinks it's cool and it does not just get thrown away.

There are two saving graces to this sad story:
1 - I have pictures of the hat to prove I did it and to inspire for later
2 - I made it. I can make another!

And that second one is probably one of the coolest things about knowing how to knit - I make things. And I can make more things. And if I want it in another color, or I get coffee stains on it, or whatever, I can make another. It won't be exactly the same - frankly, it'll probably be better 'cause I'll have learned from the first go around.

So yes, I am sad. I will miss my very first hat. But I've already started on the replacement. And I've ordered the yarn for a fabulous sweater. I can totally make that sweater. :-)

Sunday, November 16, 2008


It's been a quiet few days for my blog, but a busy few days for my knitting! In the last few days I've learned about Magic Loop knitting, Make 1 increases, and cables. It was quite a lot to learn, but I sure am tickled with the results so far:

Of course, learning this stuff on my own meant I got about this far once, and then had to rip it out entirely and start over, did the starting over part about 6 or 7 times, and finally figured it all out. The trick here is to make sure that when you are doing Magic Loop, you knit on the front needle not the back! Just that and trying to figure out how to join the first loop so I was knitting in a circle took hours. Granted, I had hours since I was on a flight from Manchester, New Hampshire to San Francisco by way of Charlotte, North Carolina. I do think my seat mates thought I was out of my mind.

I'm knitting the gloves pictured above with a very nice single merino wool. This is the second thing I've knitted from a single (non-plied) yarn, and while it has some drawbacks (easy to poke through the fiber when knitting) so far it's been quite nice. I need to do some research to see if singles are less durable or something - I'm not sure why they seem to be so fairly unusual to knit with.

Next on the list will be a sweater. I really really want to make sweaters! I have several on my "want to make" list, that's for sure. I've also noticed a strong tendency to look at other people's clothing and say to myself "I could make that." I do wish I could knit faster so I could make all the sweaters and things that I want!!!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The hat is done!

Look! It's a hat!

A completed, just-blocked, pretty purple hat that fits! I am pleased with my first foray in to using DPN, tho' towards the top of the hat there was definitely not much room to work in.

I've been sitting in a security conference all day today, and while the conference has been interesting, it wasn't so engaging that I wasn't getting hugely twitchy. I found that I can knit and pay attention much better than I can read email and pay attention. So, while not perhaps the most polite thing to do, I got more out of the conference by leaving the laptop in the bag and pulling out knitting than I would have otherwise. I also found out I was sitting next to a knitter who was wearing a sweater she knit, and she rescued me when I found out my yarn needle was too big for the button holes. And there's a guy across the room working on crochet.

FIBER LOVERS, UNITE! We are in fact taking over the world. How cool is that?

Monday, November 10, 2008

The wonders of air travel

Thanks to the 6 hours of air travel today, I have managed to complete over a foot of my scarf and finish the last of the stitching for that baby blanket I've been working on. w00t! This is why the gods invented Advil.

Fortunately, for the flight(s) home, I have the rest of the scarf to finish, and that purple hat on which I've been learning to use double-pointed needles.

Of course, given the temperatures here in New Hampshire, it would have been better if I finished the hat and scarf on the flight instead of the blanket - it's COLD up here! It's going to get down to the low 20's tonight! Brrrrr. And me without my wool socks...

If there's time, I do hope to find a nifty yarn shop or two while I'm here, but if not, I'll just buy lots of maple candy and call it a decent trip.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

She came, she saw, she plied

OK, now my arms are tired. Between carding raw wool yesterday and spinning the rest of my llama fiber today, I've done a lot of holding my arms up the last two days. But that's ok, 'cause now I have Plied Yarn! I am quite pleased with the result, given that it's my first attempt at plying. It taught me quite a bit that will improve my spinning in general.

First, some of the yarn I thought might be getting too thin wasn't. When plied with another yarn, it's about twice as bulky as I expected. I mean, I knew it'd be at least twice as big as the single, but I didn't know it'd be more like three or four times as big!

Here's an up close and personal view of the finished yarn:

The ply is pretty even, for a beginner. The cork is there to both show my celebratory feeling at having done this and to give you a sense of scale for the yarn. :-)

The other thing I learned is that there's more than one reason to wash the yarn you've spun. The books tell you to do it to "set the twist" in the yarn, which is a good thing to do. But the books don't mention that the yarn is usually pretty dirty! This stuff was definitely dirty, between some leaking of the dye and just general grunginess. It is clean now, and smells ever so faintly of llama. There's about 37 yards there.

I hope to get a spinning wheel sometime in the next month or two to make spinning much easier. It's a really nice break from knitting and crochet! I'm leaning strongly towards a Majacraft Rose. There is a place in San Francisco that sells them online - if I can try one out first, that'd be best. We'll see!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Spin til you're dizzy

It's been a fairly quiet week for my enjoyment of fiber-y goodness, mostly 'cause my wrists still haven't quite recovered from last weekend! But that's ok, 'cause wow did I get a great fix today! Today was my spinning class with Hannelore at Custom Handweavers. I brought my work-to-date with the drop spindles, and she was quite pleased with my progress so far. So, rather than have me start on a drop spindle, she taught me about carding raw fleece and then how to spin on a castle-style, single-treadle, double-drive wheel.

Why is I remember all that about it, but not what the make/model was? *Thanks to Crazycatlady, I now know it was a Columbine!

In any case, I got all greasey with lanolin and made some really nice light and dark single-ply yarn. It was fun, and I have some raw fleece to play as "homework" to continue to improve my spinning. I really enjoyed it, and wow did the spinning go faster with a wheel than with the drop spindles! I am now officially shopping. :-)

Next week I'm going to be at a conference in New Hampshire, and expect to take as many projects with me as will fit in my bag. Perhaps I'll finish that blanket, the scarf, and the hat, and start on the sweater! And I'll bring at least one drop spindle to do something as a break from knitting and crochet.

And one final, slightly commercial comment - if you use Wikipedia, please consider donating to keep it going!
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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

When even your fingers lose their memory

I have a fairly short long-term memory. I've gotten used to the fact that as years go by, if something happened longer than 2 years ago, I have to rely on others to tell me if I enjoyed that vacation, or if I went to that faire, or how did we meet again?

So, I'm used to forgetting things. But I hadn't realized that my fingers could forget things even faster than my brain!

I've been spending a lot of time learning to knit. A bit too much time given the multi-day damage I did to my wrist as a result of this weekend's DPN extravaganza. Still, since knitting is now on temporary hiatus (if you hurt yourself one way, you need to give yourself a break and try to injure yourself in a totally different way), I started work on the border of a baby blanket I've been working on.

And I can't remember how to hold the yarn!

There's a way that's been comfortable for me while crocheting, but that way didn't work quite for knitting. And now I've gotten my hands all confused by trying to switch back and forth. When even your hands are confused, it's a not-so-subtle signal that maybe, just maybe, it's time to take a break.

Yeah. Maybe. For a few minutes at least! ;-)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

For every cloud, a purple lining

So, after sulking and drinking very tasty wine last night, I had a small epiphany: this hat is supposed to be fun. It's supposed to teach me new things. It's supposed to be for me. Not anyone else, just me. So what if I have to rip some of it out? It'll be better for it, it's not on any deadline, and it's still just for me!

And with that, I ripped the hat back to close to the hat band, tried to knit one row much looser than I have been - and it worked like a charm. No weird loops following me around, no obvious ladder starting to form. And the purple is just awesome.

Of course, one row is really all I could do. The marathon of knitting and tightening has absolutely killed my wrists. Ow ow ow all day! The spinning of the llama hair? fur? is going quite well, tho', and gives me something interesting to do while I'm not knitting or crocheting. The cats remain most intrigued by the spindle, and even the smaller one has decided that chewing on the wood is better than going after the yarn. Such odd beasts, but I love 'em anyway.

I don't think I mentioned this yesterday - I've signed up to take a one-on-one spinning class this coming Saturday with the same lady I was knitting with this past Saturday! Hopefully I'll learn more about efficiently using a drop spindle, about plying, and maybe about the different spinning wheels out there so I can decide what I might want some day! So many options, and yet not an equally broad set of dollars to spend. I need to become independently wealthy.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Last week's bad day was just a warning

I knew last week when I messed up the coffee that it was not my best day. Little did I know that it would pale in comparison to today! In the last 24 hours:

  1. I found out the smaller kitty, Kipling, peed on the blankets I'd put aside after I stripped the bed to wash the sheets. I found this out, of course, as I was making the bed in preperation for getting some sleep.
  2. I got up extra early this morning so I could shower and still get my sweetie to the train on time, since last night I was busy washing said-blankets. And yet, as we went out the door, my sweetheart informed me we were still too late for him to make the 7:26 train.
  3. The car wouldn't start. Plenty of gas in the tank, battery fine, but no turning over of engine.
  4. I called a towing company. After talking to a driver, he apparently called the main office and said "no way am I trying to get my truck up there!" They did not, in turn, call me.
  5. I called a second towing company a few hours later, after finding out the first company blew me off. They showed up on time, which was nice.
  6. While waiting to hear from the auto shop where the car was being taken, I singed my hair on the stove and cut my thumb on a jar of garlic.
  7. After calling the shop to verify everything arrived ok, found out that the car started just fine for them. Current theory is that after moving the car a bit farther down the driveway last night, it was at such an angle that the gas drained out of the line and I just didn't turn over the engine long enough to get the pump to put gas back in the engine where it needed to be.
And you know? All that sucked. But what really clinches the day is the feedback I got on Ravelry regarding that hat I'm making and the weird loops that I keep having to tighten up. Long story short, I'm just pulling way way too tight and when I wash it, the hat will probably be too small to wear. I'll probably have to frog the darn thing back to the hat band! ARGH!

I'm going to spin some yarn for a while and sulk. Maybe finish off my nice 2004 Rubicon Cabernet while I do. Can't have a day be all bad, after all!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

My new drop spindle is here!

Yay! It apparently arrived yesterday and sat out in the rain for a while, but that just got the box wet. I was so excited, I pulled out the interesting bat of llama hair and started spinning it. It was lovely! So lovely that after my first test batch, I decided to take pictures.

And that's when things got ... interesting.

What you see there is a drop spindle, some interesting yarn, and a large cat paw sneaking in to the photo to start to eat the drop spindle. No, not the yarn, the spindle. I have some weird kitties.

So, I tried to take another photo, this time holding the drop spindle...

That was one of several photos as Blake was, ah, assisting the whole time. He _really_ wants this spindle!

Finally, I got a halfway decent shot of the yarn - single ply despite the barber pole effect.
Pretty cool, ain't it? From a distance it'll look brownish-grey, but up close you've got red, brown, black, and white. I have no idea what this will look like when I try to ply it, but I'm looking forward to the experience!

What I learned on my summer vacation...

OK, so maybe not a summer vacation, but this sure has been a weekend of learning! My lesson with the knitting instructor went fine. She was actually a bit surprised by how much I've already done on my own, saying I have actually done the hardest part myself! We went over the patterns I'm hoping to do as an "advanced beginner" and I got started on a hat so I could learn increases and decreases and working in the round. When that's done - hopefully before too long - I'll start on a simple cardigan.

One of the more entertaining things about the hat is the yarn I'm working with - a single ply wool painted in purples and blues. What entertains me is the realization that I could have made this yarn myself! It's "artsy" yarn, some thick points, some thing points, and single ply. I could totally do this, and in fact probably do it better. Glad I got it on sale!

Of course, the hat isn't going entirely smoothly. One thing I talked about with the instructor is how I get this loose loop of yarn that follows me around a pattern. I've discovered that it's 10 times worse when working in the round! I've had to stop and tighten up by pulling the extra all the way around back to the working yarn a couple of times now. I have no idea what to do about this one, dang it. The instructor said "yes, this is a common problem" but didn't have any suggestions for how to fix it other than "practice." *grumble* Practice makes permanent, and if I can't figure out what I'm doing wrong, I'll be permanently be making big loops that make ladders in hats and gloves and I'll have no idea why. That's what I'll be working on today.

I'm going to see about signing up for a spinning class next Saturday - I'm happy with my own progress on a drop spindle, but you should have seen the number of spinning wheels that woman had in her shop!!! There was much wheel coveting going on. It would be fun to learn to work with a wheel, and learn how to ply yarn.

And speaking of making yarn, that package I was waiting for with my very pretty roving finally arrived! It was quite an ordeal getting it here, what with a postal delivery person who insists he can't find my house (even tho' the package was squishy and could - and eventually did - fit in the mailbox on the street), but it's here now. If I can do that spinning class next Saturday, I totally know what I'll be bringing with me! In the meantime, I'll keep working on my drop spindle. I'm now down from super bulky yarn to yarn that might actually be reasonable.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Happiness is a scarf

Yay for a pretty yarn and a nice pattern! As promised, here's a visual update on the progress for my scarf. I think this photo captures the colorway of the yarn much better than the first one.

I am proud to point out the even edges, the straight lines, the inability to see where I had to fix several rows by ripping them out and getting them back on the needle... A very good beginner project, if'n I do say so myself.

My first official knitting class is this weekend. I have no idea exactly how that shall progress. I think I've got most of the basics at this point down - I can knit, perl, k2tog, knit behind, do a long-tail cast on, and a simple bind off. There's ever so much more to learn, of course, I just don't know where my teacher will start!

In other news, I sent 2 of the 4 balls of angora yarn off to Scotland. It was actually cheaper than I expected to send it international first class - only about $7! I now feel less silly about the whole thing - the recipient totally couldn't get this yarn for $7, and I doubt I could get the nice mohair yarn she's sending me for that amount. So, all is right again with the world.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

You know it's not going to be a good day...

You know it's not going to be a good day when the day starts off by messing up making coffee. Did you know that different coffee filters have different flow rates, and that a particular coffee grind (fine, medium, coarse) may work great in one filter and clog up another?

No, I didn't know that either.

Suffice to say, we ended up stopping by a bakery so we could get drinkable coffee on the way to work.

In other "well, this wasn't the best day of the week" news, I found out my newest drop spindle is back-ordered, my roving package didn't arrive today, and no one showed up to knit night. As my mother would say, it was all just pitiful!

The good news is ('cause really, there is always good news if you look hard enough) I'm that much farther along in the scarf I'm working on and it really does look great. I'm still puzzled by the loose loop that follows me around the scarf and I have no idea what will happen when I get to the binding off stage, but for now, it is all I had hoped it would be. I'll post a picture tomorrow.

Oh, and one other bit of fun - I'm trading yarn with someone in Scotland! A scottish knitter put out a plea for some extra angora yarn, which I happen to have and decided I don't much care for. Or, more specifically, I don't care for how much the cats DO care for it! So, I offered to send it to her, and she's going to send me some mohair yarn she has extra of. Yes, it would probably be easier for both of us to just buy it local (angora can be bought in Scotland, can't it?) but it's nice to just trade! It's like getting an international care package. I'll be shipping that out tomorrow, and I will look forward to my care package in a few weeks.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Beautiful yarn and a beautiful pattern

Finally, after dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I found a nice and simple knitting pattern that I can a) follow and b) like the end result of! I'm using a skein of the Martha's Vineyard brown-orangey yarn and the end result will be a lovely fall scarf.

One of the reasons I'm focusing on scarves at the moment is so I can get lots of simple practice on how to hold the yarn, which is harder than you might think, and get my hands used to all the small motions. I'm also learning to be comfortable with the saggy stitch that follows me around the pattern - turns out it gets absorbed into the work when you get to the point of binding off. Scarves are good practice. Hats are next! And maybe a coffee cup cozy. :-)

In other fiber-y news, as of yesterday I have even more lovely yarn to play with. My order from Martha's Vineyard Fiber Farm for Avocado and Blueberry colorways yarn came in - 2 skeins of each. I'd have gotten lots more if I could have afforded it! I very much want to dye yarn just like Susan, the owner of the farm, does! I'm thinking hat and scarf, and maybe mittens, with this yarn. :-)

Tomorrow is my second knit night, yay! I am looking forward to showing folks my scarf, and maybe talk about spinning.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Two new things learned today about knitting

Today was a quiet day. I didn't do much in my fiber creation frenzy, just some shopping and some general practice. I practiced spinning - getting better, but it's still a bit uneven. I worked on my crochet - about 1/4 of the edge left to do! Yay! And I worked on some basic knitting skills - this time, felting and picking up dropped stitches in my work from yesterday.

I'm pleased with the new things learned, but wow do I have a long way to go! So, in the spirit of getting there from here, I took another step in my knitting commitment - I bought some double-pointed needles to work on a hat. I'm told one has to do the first stitch as you switch from needle to needle very tightly... Can I possibly do stitches any tighter than I do them now? Anywho, I now have the yarn, the stylish button, and the needles. Now, to find the time and the skill. I wonder if I should take this to Knit Night this week, or my crochet project. Hmmmm.

Also on my ponder list: what project shall I take with me on the plane in November when I fly out to New Hampshire? I will be done with this particular blanket by then, and the yarn for the last baby blanket may not be here by then. I haven't been all that successful in doing any significant knitting projects yet, so I don't know how well I'll do with 6-8 hours of travel time with nothing to do but knit or crochet. (I don't think spinning will work all that well on an airplane.)

That's about it for now. Tomorrow if my sweetheart and I get home from work early enough, I'll take pictures of my yarn stash and post them up on Ravelry, maybe with an interesting picture or two here. The yarn for the hat is just too darn cool!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

About last night...

So last night went something like this:

I shall figure out this pattern! I shall figure out this pattern!
OK, got the cast on - thank goodness for long-tail cast on, it's so darn easy
Next, purl the foundation row. I love purling, but I bet I'll make it too tight. Again.
Now on to the pattern itself! And just as I thought, that foundation row is too damn tight.
Ow! Ow! Hand cramp! *grumble grumble*
OK, got that row with all it's slip stitches and yarn overs and knit togethers; let's do it again!
Why is this next row so much easier than the row before it? Ah, well, I'm on a roll now!
Uh oh. It's the dreaded ... third row. This is the row that has defeated me twice before. But not this time!!!
Ugh. Argh. Are these stitches supposed to be this loose? I wonder if that's what happens when you knit in to the yarn-overs of the previous row. Oh, well, let's just go with it and see what happens.
HA! I did it! I got the third row! Hmmm. Doesn't look all that great. Maybe it will get better as the pattern repeats.
Lala, repeating those first two pattern rows. I like this part. Why isn't the whole pattern this easy?
And now, that third row of the pattern again. Can I do it? Will it work?
It worked, it worked! I so rock!
This is really an ugly pattern. *knit, knit, knit some more*
This is a *really* ugly pattern.
Wait. Why I am I doing this again? Oh damn! I messed up a stitch on this row ... somewhere.
I could try to fix it.
But this is a really ugly pattern.

And so went my evening. I've put the knitting needles away for now, and today took out the crochet and made progress on the edging for a baby blanket I'm working on. I'm really very happy with how that's turning out!

For the remainder of the weekend, when I'm not doing my chores, I'll finish up that blanket, work on a seed stitch iphone holder for a friend, and practice spinning with my drop spindle. And speaking of spinning, I ordered another drop spindle, somewhat lighter. It's to spin the absolutely fabulous dyed roving a friend of mine makes. I better practice more to do that wool justice!

And with that, I'm back to my frantic fiber weekend!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Rats, foiled again!

I didn't have much time to work on my knitting last night. Just enough time to start that scarf again with the increases and decreases... and then have to frog it again. This has definitely become personal!

Have you ever noticed that when you frog a project a time or five, the yarn gets more difficult to work with? I hate to have to cut a few feet off the end, but grrrrr.

Here's another thing I've noticed - seed stitch is infinitely easier than stockinette stitch because the tension between purl and knit stitches totally balance out. Which, while nice, makes me despair of ever getting my tension right! I am the boa constrictor of knitting.

Next weekend I have a private knitting class, which I can't wait for! I had to choose between a knitting class or a spinning class. It was a really tough choice. I will get to the spinning class someday.

And last item of interest for me - why aren't there any fiber festivals in the winter? There seemed to be lots that I missed in September and October, but then nothing until February. What's up with that??? In February, tho', I'll get to go to STITCHES West 2009. There is a thread on Ravelry regarding what people intend to buy, and I'm excited and intimidated! Sounds like I shop til I dropped, getting yarn, roving, fancy needles, and who knows what else. I want it all!!! And I want it now! Which means it's probably good I have to wait until February. :-)

Tonight, it's back to that scarf. I may post pictures if I can get to row three so that someone can say "oh, that's what you're doing wrong".

Thursday, October 23, 2008

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

Knit night in Palo Alto was a blast! Lisa and her almost 2 year old Darwin, Hilary, Katya, Stacy and I all hung out at Printer's Cafe and admired each other's work (especially Lisa's socks) and talked about everything from the CalDAV standard to the difficulty of finding Irish wool yarn in Ireland. I worked intentely on a gauge swatch (and boy was it tight - perhaps I'm still a bit too anxious about my knitting?) and displayed my almost-done crochet baby blanket. Fun was had by all.

With the gauge done and yes, a bit too tight despite already going up a needle size or two, I went home with my sweetie and started work on the actual object - a scarf that will let me learn more about increases and decreases. The first two rows went fairly well, and I was quite tickled with myself. Then the third row happened, which somehow caused the second row to ... disintegrate, which then had me trying (and failing) to repair it, and then I frogged the whole darn thing. It was only three rows, after all.

I have no idea what I did wrong, but at that point it was time for bed. I am going to be twitchy and anxious all day today at the office since what I _really_ want to be doing is working on figuring out that pattern! ARGH! Fortunately, I did bring the yarn and pattern with me so I can work on it after business hours, but it's going to be a long day waiting for that point.

I'm looking forward to getting out again next week to meet with the Knit Group, and next month, it'll be time to branch out to the Black Sheep Handweavers Guild meeting and see what's happening with fiber fanatics over there!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tonight is my first group knit night

And while some people may stress about what to wear, I'm trying to figure out what project to bring!!! Do I bring the yarn and pattern to start my first scarf and hat set tonight? Or do I bring the baby blanket I've been crocheting for a few weeks in the hope of getting it finished?

It's a tough decision. I mean, I could use all the pointers I can get with my knitting, but on the flip side if I want to be able to actually talk with these people it would be better to have something my hands already know how to do. What to do, what to do...

I'll post back tomorrow with a report on how it went, and most importantly, which project I pulled out of my bag!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

It's a swatch!

I did my first cast-off last night. I can see why folks say they tend to be _really_ tight! Next time I'll do that with a larger needle. And from here, I'm going to see if I can felt the thing. I'm not sure how I feel about felting. I love seeing the intricacy of stitches - probably why I started with crochet a few years ago! But I want to see first hand what felting does, if it hides the occasional mistake, if you get any texture from the stitches after felting, and so on.

Tonight, however, I'm going to start knitting something - I don't know what yet - from my MV Fiber Farm stash. Susan, the owner of the MV Fiber Farm CSA, won a great "tech makeover" prize that I and hundreds of others were voting for so we could see live, webcam action at the kidding barn. So tonight I celebrate her victory and my impending waste of time watching sheeps and goats from 3000 miles away by drinking a nice glass of wine and knitting.

Maybe ... a scarf!

Monday, October 20, 2008

is it a swatch, or is it a proto-scarf?

So as I was working on my pretty orange something-or-other, it occurred to me that since I'm working on this as a learning experience, maybe I should limit it to a swatch and do things like learn to bind off and try my hand at felting. (Can one even felt in a front loading washing machine?) Decisions, decisions. I shall have to take the question to Ravelry and see what folks think!

In other news, my favorite Yarn CSA (well, the _only_ Yarn CSA!) is opening up another farm in Hudson Valley! Wheeeee! I splurged and got a share at that farm too, tho' I'm debating whether it should be roving instead of yarn. I have some time to decide - I'll see how I'm doing with this spinning stuff.

That's it for now. It's back to work for me, so I can support this fiber habit!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Beginning knitting - the new way to hand pain

One of these days I'll finally understand the concept "too much of a good thing." Last night and this morning, I played with drafting and spinning until I strained my back from holding my arms straight in front of me as I was working the drop spindle. My sweetheart suggested that today I work on knitting, since that's something I've been teaching myself. So, I pulled out my happy yarn stash and started working with my MVFiber Farm sport-weight wool.

At first, I tried a 4x4 ribbing stitch (4 knits, 4 purls, lather, rinse, repeat) but I kept losing count. So I ripped that out (twice) and then switched to a seed stitch (1 knit, 1 purl, never the same twice). And that looks fantastic!

Of course, what you see in the photo is only about 3-4" tall and it took me about 5-6 hours. That's the downside. Well, that and the joints in my hands swelling up a bit (can you say "too much tension"?). The upside is that the stitches are very even, not too tight, and that 5-6 hours including ripping out a row and figuring out how to get all the stitches back on the right way. You (mostly) can't tell which row was frogged!

I want to keep going - this is a very meditative process - but I think I would lose all use of my left hand for a few days. :-\ So instead, I'll blog about it! But tomorrow, I'm going back to that proto-scarf.

Friday, October 17, 2008

My drop spindle is here!

So what if the yarn is probably overspun? So what if it's only single-ply? I swear I saw something just like it in the store that I thought would be fabulous for a scarf!

This is being done on a 1.6 o top spindle with 3oz. wool top roving.

Oh, and I have a spinning one on one class scheduled for Nov. 1. I'll follow that with a knitting class - who knows? Maybe I'll learn to knit using my very own yarn!

What is it about yarn, anyway?

Once upon a time, I got this hankerin' to work on doilies. Don't ask me why - I just wanted lace doilies. But to get there, I needed to teach myself to crochet. And in learning to crochet, I found out about purses and sweaters and scarves and fingerless gloves... oh, and doilies. Time past and I sort of stopped crocheting in favor of commuting and kayaking. But with the invitation to create baby blankets for premie's at the local children's hospital, I found a book with nifty baby blanket patterns, which had me suddenly creating baby blankets for all the people around me deciding to have babies this fall, and seeing more people knitting as well as crocheting. Wait, there's more! Then I find out a friend back east is doing all sorts of cool things with spinning and dyeing, and I got on to Ravelry, and now I'm teaching myself to knit, signing up for a spinning course - WHERE DOES THE MADNESS END???

I love it, tho'. So many fun things to create! So many ways to freak out my cats by having all this fiber around the house which smells like something they should eat (but the can't - yarn is bad for kitty innards)!

Thank you, CrazyCatLady, for truly triggering the craving for yarn in my world. I'll get you for this someday. ;-)