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 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.

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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.