Saturday, October 2, 2010

Spinning my wheel(s)..

Sorry, it's been a while! Life has been delightfully busy, and I've neglected my time here.

A few weeks ago, some friends and I went to a Wool Gathering at Young's Dairy near Springfield, Ohio. If you haven't been, I highly recommend going, even if you live 4 or 5 or 6 hours away. It's a lovely collection of vendors selling everything from enameled jewerly and shawl pins to historical reinactors, wheel dealers, and fiber. Did I forget to mention the yarn? LOTS of yarn, including a ball of cashmere lace for $20 at 1000 yards a ball. That one came home with me.

So did this.

That's right, I've finally bought a spinning wheel. It's an Ashford Kiwi, a beginner's wheel to be sure, but I couldn't be happier with her. That skein hanging on the wheel is my first handspun. It's BFL. I've got high-flying dreams of decorating her, which is difficult to do right now, since I can't bring myself to stop spinning on my wheel. Even a serious cut on my thumb hasn't stopped me from spinning on my wheel. FTW, always cut away from the hand holding stuff. Ask me how I know. Atleast this time, I didn't need stitches. You'd think I'd have learned that by now, huh?

So far, I have worked out a plan to stain the wheel. First, I wanted water based stains and seals. Miniwax makes water-based stains and varnishes, for the record, which dry much faster than the oil-based ones. Plus, there's that whole issue of compatibility. I did my homework and found out that paint on varnish will not stick if you use things with different bases. Not surprising, since oil and water have never mixed well together. I plan on painting on the rim of the wheel after it's stained, but I'll be using water-based acrylics. I'm hoping that all this water based stuff is easy to clean up, given my lack of gracefulness lately. Plus, since it dries faster, it means less down time on the wheel. I'd get started this weekend except for the whole-cut-on-my-thumb issue. I have a slice on my wrist, too, but that one's shallow and I have no idea how I got it.

After getting dizzied and disoriented by the wide variety of supplies at Michael's where I bought my stain and varnish, I decided to lengthen the finishing process by holding off on purchasing the paints. I'll varnish the solid wood parts first, before continuing with the actual wheel. The actual wheel is not solid wood, but medium density fiberboard (MDF), and won't look like the rest of the wood once stained. I think I want to paint the wheel to resemble wood grain after I stain it. Depending on how much I like it, I may or may not decorate it with further stenciling in vines and flowers. Then I'll seal the wheel with varnish to protect the paint.

That's the plan anyways. It's harder to enact because I'm stuck more or less spinning until my thumb heals. Knitting hurts right now, but thankfully, I don't need a thumb to spin.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Things I don't understand

This is a list which is unfortunately growing. Quantum mechanics will always be on top of that list, but lately, there are a few other things adding themselves to that list. Like spinning pencil roving. I was having the most difficult time spinning my first ounce of pencil roving. I had gotten a hank of it from Fibresphere in Alexandria, VA when I was on a business trip in DC. Glorious colors dyed by Miss Babs in green and purple in a 50/50 merino/tencel blend (MerSea #16). It's a well prepared batch, dyed with two strands of roving next to each other so you don't have to worry about matching roving for stripes. I split the hank into 2 oz, and then separated one set of strands from eachother. This more or less gave me 1 oz pencil roving strands to spin, and I set back for what I thought would be an easy spin.

How wrong I was! I swear, I've never had a fiber break on me so many damn times! I'm sure part of it is because it's a completely new blend for me to use. I was using one of my lightest spindles, 3/4 of an oz, and still it was breaking all the time! I expected part of it towards the end, because I was spinning fairly fine and the spindle was getting fairly heavy. So I expected more of the same suffering when I got to the second oz. Wouldn't you know, that damn thing is spinning beautifully? I want to know what fiber fairies came in and replaced my roving with something that behaves better.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tips for Knitting Lace

Just a few words things that have saved me time and effort as I've knit lace.

Now, you must understand, I love to knit lace. As a matter of fact, a lace scarf was the first project I ever started. It may have been the 10th or 12 project I completed, but it was the first one I started. Once upon a time, I did start knitting a swatch. I got knit and purl down and was bored out of my mind. That swatch probably got ripped out. So then I decided I wanted to knit lace. You heard me right. Lace.

FTW, lace is almost always a bad idea for a first project, because it requires a larger knowledge base than plain knitting. There are whole books out there about the different kinds of stitches possible in the different styles of lace knitting. Estonian lace enjoys a high degree of popularity right now, and makes unholy stitches out of things like purl 9 together through the back loop. Don't get me wrong, it looks absolutely lovely in the finished project, but oh dear god, is it ever difficult to master with just 2 needles.

I digress. I started knitting lace, and learned along the way, some things that would have saved me hours and hours.... and hours of time. Here's the short list:

  • Lifelines - a piece of smooth yarn (I recommend crochet cotton) that you thread through your stitches. Here's a video on how to put one in your knitting. I highly recommend them when you're about to start a row with a new pattern repeat. It saves much time otherwise spent tinking.
  • Stitch markers! Good stitch markers for lace are hard to come by. If you find one that doesn't snag your lace, doesn't slip around the YO's, and doesn't dangle or tangle in your lace fabric - STASH UP ON THOSE BABIES. They are worth their weight in gold. They're very handy for putting at the end of a pattern repeat. Let's say you have 30 stitches, and 4 repeats of a 6 stitch pattern, with 6 border stitches on either side. You'd have a stitch marker after the first 3 border stitches, another after 6 stitches, another after the next 6, and so on until you're left with a stitch marker and 3 border stitches. Granted, that sounded way easier with only 30 stitches. It saves much time otherwise spent counting when the row is 120.
  • Chart holders! Of any kind or variety. I'm partial to clear plastic folders or sheet protectors with a sheet of cardboard inside it to give it some rigidity. I take lace knitting pretty much everywhere, and I need something durable to protect my chart. Knitpicks offers a magnetic chart holder as well. Because without a good chart, I'd be lost and having to tink. It saves much trees lost in reprinting.
  • Post-it notes! They come in all shapes and sizes and are great for marking where you are in the pattern. Place it right above the row you are knitting so you don't lose your place or read the wrong line and start knitting the next row instead. I cannot tell you how much time I've lost tinking because I knit the wrong row. Post-it notes live in my supply bag.

That's it for now. Dinner calls.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Miss Adventures


I'm baaaaack. Craziness intact. Proof of concept?

I was taking pictures for the new pins going into the shop this week. For the life of me, I cannot find my two-toned Icarus shawl that I prefer to use for pictures. The lovely blue-green transition serves as a wonderful foil for metal. Terrible pun, I know. Anyways, I have no idea where it is. If you find my Icarus, please tell it to come home. I wound up using my Panache shawl for pictures instead, and the fuzzy alpaca halo created this intriguing warm tinge all over the white spaces in the picture. While it was an interesting effect, it was not what I wanted. So what did I do in response?

I casted on Bitterroot by Rosemary Hill. Clearly, this is the sane response to a lack of cool-toned shawls. When lacking shawls in the blue, green, or purple variety, one should simply cast on another one. As if I didn't have enough projects on my needle to begin with. Ha! To make this more challenging, I'm knitting in Malabrigo laceweight. You know, that gorgeous, single ply, soft yarn that's almost as impossible to frog as Rowan Kidsilk Haze. Clearly, I'm touched in the head.

I do love this pattern, though. Anyone who's knit an Icarus will feel alot of similar design elements and the rhythm of the lace will breeze past your fingers. I'm nearing the end of the repeats for chart A. I'm doing the shawlette version, so hopefully she will make her debut in the shop photos within a week.

Yes, you heard me right. A week. I knit a disastrously small Damson by Ysolda Teague in 6 days. It's how I fell in love with Malabrigo in the first place. Originally, it was intended for a friend who's going away to vet school. I had cast it on size 4 (3.75mm) needles because I'm a loose knitter. So I thought it would come out to a reasonable size, which it did. Once blocked, it was almost exactly the size in the pattern. Except, that size would have been perfect for my friend's first born child. Whoops! I also advise against starting the lace section after 10 pm at night, two hours after your flight's been delayed. This is not a clear-minded time, for separating out 8 repeats of 36 stitches. Just sayin'

Knitting break over, though. Time to resume happily knitting obsessively.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Tour de Fleece


I've decided to commit to Tour de Fleece, a Ravelry hosted event that corresponds to Tour de France. Every day they spin, is a day we spin. As spinners. Who make yarn.

You didn't really think I was going to bike ride for 100+ miles, did you?

Anyways, I'm going to do some goal setting, just to make myself accountable. I want to spin at least 8 oz, which can occur in any combination of the following projects.

4 oz - 70% merino, 15% silk, 15% firestar pink roving. I started it in May, and it's languishing, because I got distracted. It's something that happens more often than I can remember. So I want to finish this yarn, in a 2 ply, at sport weight. Don't ask me what I want to make from it, because I have no idea.

Franquemont Fiber - So, my very, very wonderful friends have donated their samples to me (we were all very luck to receive an Abby batt sample at a teaching event). I've spun about 0.75 oz so far, and I should have an oz or less to spin. It would go very quickly, except... all of my spindles are full.

8 oz - 75% BFL, 25% Silk. I bought this roving, hoping I'd have enough to make a sweater. I only need 600-700 yds of dk weight yarn. Here's wistfully hoping!

Honestly, if I spun just 8 oz from all of this, I'd be really happy. Oh, did I forget to mention, I'm spinning all of this on a spindle?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Knitter's Connection!

On this final morning of Knitter's Connection, I find myself unable to sleep in. Which, on any other Saturday morning, might have driven me crazy. But not today.

Today is the last day of Knitter's Connection, a wonderful convention that dovetails on one of TNNA's semi-annual conventions. A delightful mix of well-known teachers and authors hold classes on a a wide variety of techniques, patterns, and everything else related to knitting. There was even a spinning wheel related course this year. In the evenings, there's usually events, which are absolutely lovely. Myrna Stahman was there, and she complemented me on my shawl! Oh raptures!

This year, the events featured Franklin Habit, author of It Itches. I cannot rave enough about how delightful and entertaining he is in person. The first evening, he gave a talk about the history of the knitting pattern. Sometimes I wish I had a more perfect memory, so I could relate to you his humor line by line. He showed us this historical pattern, which was nothing but text with tiny margins cramped on a 8.5 x 11 pages.

"That was just page 1," he said, implying more. Somewhere in the bottom right hand corner of that terrible first page, was row 300. Franklin went on to point out that there was an error on row 300 which ruined the rest of the shawl, just ask him how he knows. Afterwards, he lamented that it was a lot of yarn to throw away in the garbage. The whole talk was like that, delightfully informative and peppered with humor. His description of the vagueness of historical patterns reminded me of Vogue. It was as though a light bulb had gone off over my head, and I finally understood why Vogue's patterns were so terribly vague. They must have come from the tradition of historical patterns, for how else could they mangle modern knitting patterns?

Then there's the market, which always fills me with giddy delight. Every year, I tell myself that I will walk through the whole market to look at every booth before I buy anything. Every year, I never make it all the way through. While the economic downturn appears to have cut down on the number of vendors staying, the selection is still dizzying in its array. People are selling spinning wheels this year! Oh, if I were a trophy wife! Perhaps then I could afford that gorgeous, walnut-stained, double-treadle Kromsky wheel. Alas, I think I may content myself with another spindle.

But the market sings its siren song, and I must go...

Monday, May 31, 2010

The End of an Era

So, I'm not very good at growing up and changing. Well, atleast, whenever big changes happen, I kick my feet, dig in my heels, and complain at the top of my lungs. Nobody said I was meek. As a matter of fact, I think stubbornness is a point of pride with me.

(I heard all that jeering from the peanut gallery, btw.)

Another school year winds down to a close, ushering in a lot of new changes. A lot. Quite a few of the girls are graduating from knitting club, and I'm going to miss their company alot. Not that I'm not happy for them, they're going on to do almost exactly what they want with their lives to a T. I'm really happy for them! But the selfish part of me whines "What about me? Why am I getting left behind!" I told you it was whiny and selfish.

It reminds me that my life is slowly drifting away from the pace of college life. No more panic induced periods of studying feverishly for exams. Instead of waking up to that first class in the morning, or not, as the case may be, I'm in a 9-5 8-4'ish job. Goodbye late night, middle of the week drinking escapades. If I show up to work hung over, I'm liable to drop a 4L jar of methanol. And no more rental life for me, we just got a new house. What I want to know is when the hell did I get old and want to live in the suburbs?! WTF! When did I love a quiet neighborhood? As if to add insult to injury, I've discovered 3 more white hairs on my head. Now, if I part my hair differently, you actually can see them. God, when did I grow up and get old!

Did I say something about growing old gracefully? Screw that, I'm growing old immaturely! Kicking and screaming the whole way, screw this whole getting more mature with age thing. To commemorate things a bit, I've started a secret project. Sorry ladies, no pictures... yet. I've got one done, but I still have several more to go. It's surprized me with the level of difficulty inherent in working on it, but I finally got the hang of it on the third try. I'm really excited about it. But I suppose I should go do grown up things now, like unpack.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Mattress Stitching From The Other Side


Before I learned to knit, I knew how to sew. I'm a decent seamstress, I've made a top from scratch and sewn a Vogue corset. For the record, vogue sewing patters are just as difficult as Vogue knitting patterns. I think their motto is to be completely inaccessible to the average person.

Anyways, I'm nearly done with a sweater that's been languishing in my knitting pile. I finally brought myself to knit with my Filatura di Crosa Superior yarn. LOVE it. It'd be my deserted island yarn, if I had no limitation on funds. Yeah, the halo can obscure stitches, but holy cow, it feels wonderful. Working with it is a pure, sensual experience. I may have to knit lingerie with it next time, it's just that good.

So I'm nearly done with the sweater and I'm re-learning how to do mattress stitch. Why did no one EVER tell me that you sew the two RIGHT sides on the outside? This goes against every sewing cannon I've EVER learned!!! I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have had to pick apart a seam and start over because I sewed right sides the wrong way. So to do this the right way which is the wrong way for normal sewing kind of makes my head explode. But the seam is coming out lovely, and I'm totally excited about finishing the Stardust sweater.

In addition, I'm watching "Something's Gotta Give" while sewing the sleeves together. There is ALOT I missed the first time around. I was 24 when the movie first came out and I turn 30 this year. How did I miss all the social commentary the first time around? I really didn't understand alot of what was going on the first time, and all of a sudden it's relevant. Wacky. I'm totally fascinated by how the older generation of men recoils from the idea of accomplished women, but these women are fascinating and appealing to a younger generation. It's intriguing social commentary. I'm puzzled as to how my point of view changed in the last 5 years. It's going to be a good saturday to figure it all out with perfect weather, a good movie, and knitting.
Welcome to Crazytown, where my friends have proclaimed me queen. Why did they do that you ask? For some reason, there's very little that I fear about knitting. Hmm, a dress in laceweight done in lace knitting written by vogue? Sounds great! I have very few inhibitions when it comes to knitting, and that sometimes ends disasteriously. Apparently, other people think this signifies a level of crazy that only the royalty can attain. Follow along with my escapades as I dive head first into all sorts of insane techniques and projects without much more than an "Oh! That looks pretty, I can make it!"

Those will probably be my famous last words.