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...