Saturday, October 8, 2011

It Depends: Casting On

So, this question was raised on Ravelry about whether or not the cast-on row counts as the first knitted row. I answered with the classic, "It Depends." Long-tail cast-on and all of its cousins counts as a first row, or so I'd been told. For the record, tubular cast-on also counts as a first row. Other cast-ons, like knitted, backwards loop, cable, and provisional, do not count as the first row. It's all about how you cast-on.

Being who I am, a lab geek, I had to know The Truth. So I grabbed my new camera (Thank you, Sean!!!), a bunch of DPN's, and some yarn. I proceeded to cast-on. Starting on this little adventure, I hypothesized that a backwards loop cast on would create the same effect as a long-tail cast on. I was wrong. It actually creates the same cast on as German twisted cast on! I was rather surprised. Don't believe me? I took pics!

That's your basic backwards loop cast-on, with the next loop ready to slip on the needle. Pay attention to the frayed end of yarn, that's going to be our identifier for the backwards loop needle in these series of pictures. After I cast on 8 stitches, I proceeded to turn and knit the row.

Sorry, that was the best of the bunch of pictures I took of the first knitted row with the backwards loop cast-on. I was rather surpized that it didn't look like a long-tail cast-on, but couldn't shake the feeling that it looked hauntingly familiar. So I started a German twisted cast-on. Please note, the frayed end of yarn. We'll be following its progress.

I was rather surprised at how similar they looked. As a matter of fact, I had to use the frayed end of yarn to identify which needle was which cast-on method. After staring at them closely for several minutes, I could see a few differences. The first stitch in the backwards loop cast-on had a looser base than the slip-knot I used for the first stitch in the German twisted cast-on. Other than that, they were practically identical. I won't comment on tension, because I was purposefully knitting everything very loosely to make sure I could photograph the stitch definition. But here's a comparison highlighting how the stitches are formed. Remember that German twisted cast on is on the top, and backwards loop is on the bottom.

The stitches are formed the same way, despite going about it in a very different manner. After staring at the stitches for so long, I understood why the backwards loop cast-on didn't create a long-tail cast-on. When I knit the row of backwards loop cast-on, I twisted the loop as I knit it, creating that extra twist seen in the highlights. Of course, I couldn't stop there. What cast-on would create the same base as long-tail? Believe it or not, it's this one.

I've never used this cast-on in my life. I'd heard about it, heard how fiddly it was, and pretty much cursed the 5 stitches I knit into it. For the sake of my sanity, I used a slip knot to make and hold the first stitch. Otherwise, the yarn just cheerfully unwrapped itself from the needle, thereby undoing all my hard work in trying to cast it on. Once that was done, I proceeded to knit into the first few loops.

There it was! Long-tail cast-on in the most obnoxious way I could imagine attempting to create it. It's the stitches on the bottom, with the second needle shown on how I knit each stitch. Long-tail cast-on is on the top needle, pinned in places so you can see how the loops go. I won't ever be using that cast on again, I will cheerfully use long-tail instead. There were a few subtle differences between the cast-on methods. The direction of twist was different - if you'll look carefully, the loops that form the base twist in different ways. I'm sure if I went back and wrapped the yarn the opposite way around the needle, I'd get the exact same loops as long-tail cast-on.

So, yeah, if you use long-tail cast-on or any of its cousins, you will get 1 knitted row after you cast on. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn't really matter, because when you look at row gauge - we're only talking about ONE ROW. One row at the cast-on edge of a sweater will not make a difference. I went and grabbed the knitting gauge off of the Hey, Teach! sweater, a popular pattern to put things in perspective. It's 24 rows for 4 inches, or 6 rows to 1 inch. 1 row = 1/6th or 17% of one inch. Yeah. Not that big a deal. But, if you're like me and a little OCD is actually a successful career trait, then it's just nice to know.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Helping or hurting?

So, I've been excited about this new lightbox that I got to help me take better pictures of my handspun and items for the etsy shop. This lightbox that I got came as a set with lights, which was really cool. Except, they had short cords, so I needed to use extension cords to plug them in. No problem, I'd just dash into the basement and grab some extension cords so I could photograph the new handspun I'd just finished. My yarn would be completely safe inside the lightbox for the 5 seconds I left it unguarded to go get the cords. Or so I thought.

About that.

In the 5 seconds it took me to dash down the staircase, grab 2 extension cords, and dash back up into the dining area where I'd set up my little studio on the dining room table, Penny had made herself completely at home on my precious hand-spun yarn. It was really hard to get mad at her, she was purring. I can't fault her taste in yarn. I'm glad to know she thought it was soft enough to cushion her little cat nap. As it was, she made good photography practice. She did, however, eventually get tired of the paparazzi bulbs going off in her face constantly, and abandoned her yarny cat bed.

My handspun laceweight from Fiberoptic Yarns. I love, love, LOVE her fibers. The gradients, like this one, tend to sell like hotcakes online. What you see is 2 braids, 4 oz each, of the 80% merino, 20% silk gradients in the Indigo to Emerald colorway. I spun about 1200 yds of laceweight. In my head, it's destined to become a shawl, but more on that later.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Hindsight Thoughts

It's funny, I realized I went about the knitting learning curve all backwards. I could NOT stand the boring repetition of stockinette stitch, or garter stitch, or ribbing, or any of the other very repetitive projects that are so frequently recommended for a new knitter. I made a large square and then asked my friend if I could knit branching out. That's right, my second knit project ever was a lace scarf. I think my third one was a tank top with a lace panel. I loved lace from the get go - the challenge and repetition was soothing and meditative to me.

Of course, I completely disregarded important things like gauge and swatching and size. All those things are taken care of in blocking with lace! Now, I'm eating humble pie and going back to making sure I understand the basics. Sure, I can wing it and adapt a lace pattern to make a cardigan. But I wouldn't be able to tell another person how in the hell I modified the rate of increases to deal with a top-down raglan while maintaining the stitch pattern. I find stockinette stitch soothing now, because I don't have to look at what I'm doing. Plain cardigans are my favorite thing to knit on the exercise bike.

I'm working on a plain cardigan now, called Hatty, to make myself learn those basics. Yup, I did a gauge swatch. I ripped out 4 inches of the back panel when the gauge in the seed stitch didn't match the stockinette. I changed needle size and pattern sizes to get something that I hope has a better fit. I think the biggest lesson I've learned is not to be afraid. Well, I am afraid. Afraid that I don't get the sleeve caps right. I'm afraid that I'm going to screw up the seams. I'm afraid the button bands won't line up. What I'm really learning is not to let that fear stop me from accomplishing new things. When I first started knitting, I would have never guessed that simple stitching would have so much to teach me.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Seriously, stereotypes?

In case you haven't heard the rage screaming across the internet, Ms. Aloi wrote this article decrying girly girls and the downfalls of women's role models. Unfortunately, she uses far too wide of a paintbrush and falls prey to the very same sin she decries - using stereotypes to define limiting roles for women. As many other knitters, crocheters, and crafters out there can testify, the "girly girl" stereotype is anything but.

This idea that knitters who strive for nothing more than domestic bliss is an absolute fallacy. I know knitters who successfully run their own business and have their doctorate degrees. I know knitters who teach martial arts. I know crocheters who have published papers. I know women who are a crack shots with a hand gun. I know women who were in the service and knit. I could go on and on with this list of anecdotal evidence of women who do not fit the stereotype, but I'd just be beating a dead horse. After the lessons of the civil rights movement, haven't we learned not to define people by a stereotype? I thought American education had that one covered by now.

However, she does have one valid point - the role models portrayed on TV today. I miss strong female leads like Buffy. I love Joss Whedon's recurring theme of portraying women as saviors of the world. I staunchly reject Twilight because Bella's wishy-washy role as constant damsel-in-distress makes me long for a woman with the will to save herself. Today's media blitz of passive women makes want to turn off my TV and knit or spin instead. At least I'd have something more productive to show for my time, like say a new, tailored sweater - as opposed to knowing what happened on the latest episode whatever pointless episode Peg Aloi bemoans as the worst kind of role model for women. I have no idea what it is because I'm too busy to bother watching trash.

That said, where should all that rage be productively directed? How about the Glass Ceiling? I don't care if USA Today says that it's the lowest disparity on record- it should NEVER be there in the first place! Gender shouldn't even be a factor whatsoever in a person's salary. It's been how long since the feminist movement started and we still have pay disparity? Or how about how the US supreme court threw out the gender bias suit against Walmart. Any idiot looking into the details of that case know that Walmart turned a blind eye on policies that kept women from becoming managers and climbing the corporate ladder. It's absolutely deplorable and Walmart should be forced to change their ways. These are things worth getting angry over and doing something about them.

However, if there is one thing we have learned in this post-feminism era is that getting angry won't get women anywhere. It's not fair, but studies have shown that women who negotiate angrily get discredited whereas men who negotiate angrily are viewed as passionate or positive. Gender bias has grown more subtle and more insidious. This article at describes quite well the limiting stereotypes that successful women face to day. These are the thing we should be bemoaning and working to change, Ms. Aloi.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


I made a lovely discovery while browsing around etsy the other day. The dyer who made the roving that I used to make the Firebird Shawlette is back in business! It appears that the dyer went on a short hiatus, but she's back now, with more than one lovely gradient available in her shop.

The seller of whom I speak is Fiberbee She's located in New Zealand and if you're lucky enough to live in New Zealand, it's free shipping for you! If not, well, I think she charges very reasonable shipping prices internationally. I can also vouch for her fibers, having spun up her polwarth roving in Hibiscus. I've washed it several times now, and her dyes are very well set. I've had only a little bleeding come off of this fiber, even after forgetting about it and letting it soak for several hours. The polwarth was a dream to spin and deliciously soft. I wear my firebird shawl as a scarf all the time in winter. I'd definitely buy from her again!

Go, check out her etsy shop, and give one of her fibers a spin.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Firebird goes live!

Happy news! For those of you not on Ravelry, my new pattern is now available for the general public to see. I'm offering my patterns for sale on Pattern Fish.Allow me to introduce you to the Firebird Shawlette.

This pattern would work well in most sock weight yarns - anything from fingering to sport weight. It only takes about 370 yards, so you can get a lovely shawlette out of your average ball of sock yarn. It's a pretty simple pattern that starts out with main body in stockinette before flowing into 3 lace motifs.

The lace motifs are all charted, and fairly simple - the only stitches you'll need to know are yarn overs (YO), knit 2 together (k2tog), slip slip knit (ssk), and center double decrease (CCD). There are also more advanced options included in the pattern instructions for knitters looking for something with a little challenge. I've included instructions for beads and a crochet edge, which is the edging featured in all these photos.

I hope you like this pattern as much as I do, I had so much fun coming up with it!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

It's.... Complicated

So, at Stringtopia I got a little help trying to get outside my comfort zone. I won't lie. I love pink. Red. Burgundy. I love the color group red from the deepest, darkest burgundy to the palest blush. Clothes in my closet coordinate not because I buy them at the same time, but because I love the same shades so consistently that they wind up matching. Unfortunately, that means that I have a really hard time picking out any other colors that aren't pink.

While I was there, the lovely women helped me out of my color rut. Morgaine of Carolina Homespun had her amazing array of fibers up on display. Liz helped me pick out a green to go with the purple cashmere silk from Spirit Trail Fiberworks. And everyone kept raving about the book, Color in Spinning, by Deb Menz. So I picked it up and a bunch of fibers to use with the exercises in the book.

Quite a bit of the book is about fiber preparation, which I can totally understand as a spinner. Not to mention, it totally cements my desire for a drum carder and combs. Chapter upon chapter tempts me with new hobbies and supplies. But for now, I'm focused on her techniques for selecting and combining colors. I picked up a batt, from Diane of Schafenfreude Fibers and then began to raid my stash to find the right colors to compliment the batt. Here's what I have so far:

Each little mini skein is only a few yards long, and has one ply from the glorious abalone-inspired batt. The mini skeins are 3-ply yarns that are lace weight. I purposely spun tiny yarns to take advantage of how the eye will blend colors too small for it to separate out. I'm completely fascinated by how colors are perceived by the human eye and how that changes when the details are too small to separate visually. These are the fibers used to make each skein.

The fibers on the left are from Ashland Bay's 70% merino, 30% silk blend that I purchased from SlimChicken's Etsy Shop. The front color is sandstone while the darker one is pewter. The fibers on the right include a batt that I made under Abby's tutelage at Stringtopia. The purple fiber on the right is a 50% merino, 25% Silk, 25% Bamboo blend from Von Strohm's Booth at Knitter's Connection. I was trying to pick colors that played off the iridescent shimmer of blue and green colors in the batt. What's got me hooked is how much those colors change when placed on a different background.

We'll start with a simple white background. All pictures were taken in my kitchen, with the same camera, with the same muted flash.

But when you put the same skeins on a black background, they change significantly.

Suddenly, the purple comes out more in the skein on the right, while the white shows much more vividly in the skein on the left. Naturally, I couldn't stop there and had to see what happens when I tried different colors.

On a purple background, the skein on the right lost its bright blue-purple tone. The dark grey and burgundy brown plies became more dominant and the skein grew more muted. It felt like the opposite happened with the skein on the left, where the blue and green tones came out more strongly. Curious, I had to know what happened when I put them on a green background.

The blue and purple tones came back out again! Something I don't quite understand happened with the comparative brightness of the skeins. You'll have to forgive me, I'm just learning to discern values and contrast - this is nothing like art class. Colors don't mix purely like they do with paint. Last, but not least, I had to see what happened to the skeins on a red background (You had to know that was coming).

To me, it feels like the clearest brightness value change shows up best in this last picture. My friend was telling me about how quilters have this tool that they use to judge relative values in different quilt blocks. The tool is a simple red film placed over different fabrics and reduces them to a comparative grey scale. I imagine it would work something like this, where it's clear how much lighter the skein on the left is than the one on the right.

While I haven't arrived on the perfect combination of colors to use on the abalone batt, I've had a really fun time exploring colors. I've purchased several more fiber sample kits from SlimChicken's shop so that I can practice blending larger skeins. Each skein will get knit into a Ten Stitch Blanket that I can keep at work. I'm determined to learn to appreciate and select other colors, and I'm going to have a ton of fun along the way.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


Nope. Not the book. Not even a little.

It's the new yarn I finished this week!

It's an one of a kind colorway from FiberOptic that I purchased at trunk show at Knitter's Mercantile. The name of the colorway was Twilight. The fiber is was one of her pencil rovings, the Siren Song blend, which is 70% merino wool, and 30% seacell. Here's another shot of the seed beads which were spun into the yarn.

The beads are size 8 seed beads, which were strung onto one ply of the yarn. I strung dozens and dozens of beads at once and spread them out over the yarn as I wound it onto a bobbin. I convert my kiwi into a bobbin winder by slipping the drive band into the bobbin groove to wind on yarn. After a few treadles, I'd let a bead wind on with the yarn onto the bobbin. I was completely shocked and surprized that this technique worked! Usually, beads are spun into a yarn as you go, it's a risky business trying to string beads onto notoriously weak and unstable singles. Particularly lace singles, which are thinner, thus weaker. Plus, they have all that extra twist which makes them kinky - that sounded alot dirtier than I meant. Either which way, the moral of the story is to spin a single with lots of twist so that it's strong enough to withstand the weight of dozens upon dozens of seed beads sliding over it.

I acutally wound up spinning three skeins from this fiber, two mini-skeins at 0.5 oz each and one large, beaded skein. The whole project is an interesting study in how I've progressed in spinning. The mini-skeins are solidly fingering weight, while the beaded skein is a very light lace weight, almost cobweb. This photo compares the three skeins. In the middle are strands from the beaded skein, while strands from the mini-skeins are on either side. I was really pleased with how it came out. The singles were spun on my ashford Kiwi, and then plied on my new e-spinner! I wound up sending the yarn through the e-spinner a second time to add twist, since I only added enough twist to lock in the beads the second time around.

Pictures do not do the colors justice. I can't recommend FiberOptic's work enough! That rich, vibrant purple color didn't bleed a single drop when I finished the yarn. You can also find her fiber and yarn on her website at Her etsy store sees more regular updates during festival season. Her fibers are a dream to spin, her yarns are vibrant and soft, and her colors never bleed.

Now that my bobbins are cleared off, I can start on my color project. I have pictures of my first adventure in color spinning, and I'm totally in love with colors that refuse to be defined.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Grow, baby, grow!

So, I'm quite happy to report, I've finished knitting the qiviut shawlette! It's sitting on my shoulders, keeping me just warm enough in our air-conditioned house. Being the tropical bird that I am, I find 79 degrees a little cold sometimes, and the shawl provides the perfect amount of warmth. Not to mention, I love the way the beads look. Inspired by Abby from Stringtopia, I added 2 color beads to the lace. To be entirely truthful, I added 2 styles of beads - clear, iridescent beads and smaller red, iridescent beads. The clear beads look like little flecks of ice trapped in the lace and the red beads add a spot of warm, rich color to the fabric. But let me show you what I'm talking about.

That would be the shawl before blocking. It never ceases to amaze me what a leap of faith one takes when knitting lace. Lace knitting almost always comes off the needles as ugly, scrunched up, and horrible. Honestly, you can barely see the beads in there. That tiny things was scarcely 26 inches wide by 12 inches long, and ugly to boot.

But then you introduce the magic of blocking.

All of a sudden, the shawl grows tremendously. I wound up with a shawlette that's 46 inches wide by 22 inches long. The magic torture of blocking brings out something beautiful. Because, let's be honest, I'm stretching this baby like the rack went out of style 5 centuries ago. And yet, the nature of wool and other animal fibers is to stretch and hold once pinned precisely into place, like a fuzzy metaphor for achieving personal growth. You go through this difficult series of patterns, which you can't appreciate until the very end, where you're stretched to your very limits. Then, and only then, can you see the beauty of the whole experience, blocked out for the world to see. It's a funny thing, growth, because I'm always whining, kicking, and screaming until the very end. Perhaps that's why I like knitting so much lace, to remind me that there's a reason for all of the difficult patterns.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Putting the -ette in Shawlette

So, I'm knitting the qiviut shawlette from the winter 2010 issue of Spin-Off magazine. I've got a bit of yarn that I've spun from the spinning class Abby taught last year. Was that only last year? It must have been earlier than that. Either which way, we all got samples of an abby batt, which is how I started my addiction. A few of my lovely friends gave me their strip, since they reasoned there wasn't much they could do with less than an ounce of fiber. With all of that together, I got a whopping total of 240 yards.

Y'know, there's really not many patterns written for 200 yards that aren't scarves.

Thankfully, I ran across the qiviut shawlette. It's a really simple, really easy pattern, IMO. Then again, I've probably knit a half-dozen shawls by now, so what's one more triangular shawl? Let's not count, shall we?

The shawl starts off easily enough, with one exception. The center stitch doesn't have an increase on every right side row for the first 10 rows. Which is really different, compared to the Swallowtail Shawl or Icarus. So, I had to pay a wee bit of attention those first 10 rows, but the stitch pattern is interesting enough that it's not monotonous. I won't lie, I don't understand how the stitch patterns flow. Usually, after a few repeats, I can begin to guess where the next decrease or increase goes, but not with this one. It makes for an interesting, but not overwhelming lace knit. I definitely had to make use of the post-it note, but one 3x3" square was enough for me.

To make things more interesting, I added beads. I can't wait to get to chart C, where I've got much more beading planned. It's a slippery slope, I tell you. This whole beading thing, it starts out so innocuously. Then suddenly, you're wanting to spin beaded yarns. Maybe it's just me. But the pattern lends itself well to beads, and I almost wish that it was larger so I could really sink my teeth into the motifs. The motifs are completely new to me, which makes it fun. I'd love to try this shawl again in a larger yarn and needles for something that was a quick knit and snuggly. Perhaps in the new yarn, Epiphany by Cascade yarns. Wouldn't that be scrumptious?

I'd post pictures of the work in progress, but I suppose it will have to wait. I missed my golden window of opportunity. I was too busy knitting when the sun was shining. Next time!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Why predraft?

No, this has nothing to do with pre-gaming or tail-gating or anything alcoholic, really.

It's about drafting before one spins. I mean, why do it? I'm firmly of the belief that a well-prepared fiber does not need drafting to spin it. A well-prepared, non-compacted fiber should not need to be pre-drafted before spinning. We all know how well the mail carriers treat packages, right? Every parcel is sacred and uncrushed, lovingly carried along for the journey, and hand-delivered to the doorstep of one's home.

Yeah, I hear your derisive laughter now.

Parcel abuse is just one of the reasons why I would choose to pre-draft. Compaction while dyeing happens. Fibers might have drastically different lengths (which might be something I discuss later). There's a number of good reasons why a person would need to pre-draft, or fluff up, or tear into their fiber before the act of spinning it. That said, the following picture tutorial isn't about tearing up all the roving into itty-bitty strips that are ready to feed into the wheel, ready to go. It's about how I managed the fibers to get the yarn I wanted, and that required a little extra step called pre-drafting.

Please examine Exibit A:

It's a lovely, lovely batt I got from my swap partner. It's a blend of merino and angora, percentages unknown. Before this batt, the only other batts batt I'd ever spun was an AbbyBatt. (Side note: Abby Batts are prepared by none other than Abby Franquemont herself, and are painstakingly prepared, and glorious to spin. That is, to say, they don't need predrafting. If that first link doesn't work, Carolina Homespun and The Spinning Loft carry Abby Batts, usually at different time and of different types. If you've never spun from a batt before, I highly recommend an Abby batt, because they are so well-prepared and well-blended. But enough digressing!)

As you can see from Exhibit A, the batt is quite unlike commercial top, commonly called roving. The fibers do not all lie parallel and the fibers themselves aren't well mixed. You can see the lighter stripes of angora contrasting with the merino and the thicker stripes of merino pop out as a darker pink. I started out by tearing a strip from one side of the batt, because I didn't want a giant pink blanket of fiber sitting in my lap while I spun. Then, I began to pre-draft one end of the strip.

Exhibit B:

If you look closely at the end of the strip farthest away from the hinges, you'll notice that it's thinner than the rest of the strip. You can see the color of the wooden table top peeking through the fibers. That's because I pre-drafted it, or attenuated the fibers so they aren't so closely clumped together. I pulled it apart from side to side - pulling a little bit in the spindle direction, tugging a bit in the ruler's direction. Then, I grabbed a hold of the end and began gently yanking away a small tuft from the hinges. (Hey, items in pictures make good directional references. Wasn't that easier to see than if I said left, right, up and down?) That said, I never pulled the fiber hard enough so that it separated into clumps. That's not what I wanted, I just wanted the fibers loose and fluffy so they'd draft a little more easily. Once I'd drafted 3 to 6 inches of one end of the strip, it was ready to join.

With the thin end of the strip next to the loose end of my single, I was ready to spin the two together. Holding the tip of the strip to the single, I pulled out an even thinner tuft of fiber from the strip to spin with the single and started my wheel. You can see in the next picture how much thinner I pulled out the tip and how much it overlaps with the unspun end of the single. The blue arrow points out the loose end of the single.

Holding the two ends together, I continued to treadle slowly on my wheel and build up some twist in the space between the wheel and my fingers. Once that was done, I pulled my pinched fingers back so that the twist traveled into the section that held fibers from both the tufted end of the strip and the unspun end of the single. It makes for a nice, smooth join as you can see in the next photo.

While I'm spinning, I'm drafting the fiber out as well but never so much that the fibers pull apart. You can check out this photo and the following photo to see how (not) far apart my hands usually go when I'm spinning. That said, I used a combination of supported long draw and short foward draw. Every once in a while, I'd need to stop to do some predrafting.

Yes, that's a bit of a jumbled mess, isn't it? I'm very used to spinning from top, which has parallel fibers, so I've been using drafting as a method to pull the fibers into an alignment that's easier for me to spin. Once again, I'm pulling from the tip out towards the wheel. I pinched the fibers right around where the blue arrow is pointing and pulled the fiber towards the wheel, like so -

From there, I continued to smooth down the tips as they got spun into the single, pulling backwards with my fiber hand to draft as I spun. Sometimes my fiber-holding hand gets uppity and does the drafting job that my fiber-management hand is supposed to do. As you can see, my fiber-management hand was busy smoothing out the crumpled fiber into the single.

That said, the rest of the spinning was a rinse and repeat of these steps. Once I reached the end of the strip I was spinning, I'd tear out another one and start over. I hope the pictures helped other people figure out how to spin batts. Who knew that violin playing made for great practice at holding cameras at odd angles?

Monday, May 9, 2011

"Still, I always feel this strange estrangement..."

"Once More, With Feeling"

In a fit of nostalgia, I pulled up the musical episode of Buffy. I do love that episode, and I definitely enjoyed the show when it was on. Bless netflix for carrying it. As I was watching, I began to realize why I could not understand or accept the popularity of Twilight. In Buffy, the main character is a teenaged girl who happens to save the world. She does this multiple times, and often goes completely unawknowledged by the rest of the world. Joss Wheedon created a character who was the complete opposite of her archetype.

As a modern day feminist, how could I not relate to this character? So often, the teenaged girl is portrayed as the victim, helpless and unable to save herself. She's the archetype always in need of rescue or protection. Buffy rarely, if ever, really needs saving. Instead, she saves others and attempts to live a normal life while doing it. It's not always a pretty or glamorous process, especially when vampires and demons have a habit of crashing concerts and high school graduation. In that sense, it's an exaggerated version of real life, which so often gets disrupted by events completely out of one's control. It's the same struggle modern women face every day, gritting our teeth against glass ceiling and limiting stereotypes that want to portray a woman as less than capable.

Given that Buffy's role model that came out during my impressionable teenage years, how could I find anything admirable about Bella? I'd watched one teenger grow from an insecure girl to a woman who accepted her fate and responsibilities and learned to do it with unsung thanks. (Okay, so they did sing once.) Then a new, classic archetype comes on the scene. Bella embodies the exact opposite of feminist values, in constant need of protection, passively waiting for life and love to happen to her. Life does not reward such people, it runs over them.That's why Bella's archetype is that of a victim. If I am to met my fate, I would rather do it on my feet and fighting. As Buffy does.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

"Heaven, I think I was in Heaven..."

Okay, fine, so I was singing from the musical episode of Buffy. Die-hard fans will just have to forgive me for taking the song lyric completely out of context. But that's not the point of writing today. Today, I'm documenting my experience at Stringtopia.

It was absolutely amazing! There was a new fashion trend emerging - the spindle hair stick. They do double duty - a wonderful spinning tool and a gorgeous hair accessory all in one. Here's one being modeled by the lovely AncientSpinner:

Of course, they also look fantastic with tiaras.

I got to meet Tsock Tsarina's new sock base. I can't wait to pick up a Golden West Kit when she re-releases them!

Would you look a those gorgeous sample skeins!

The Tsarina also brought along her turkish kuchulu. I couldn't believe how tiny it was, nor how tiny she was able to spin on it.

I also awheelerated Fernmonkey on sunday, when I loaned her my kiwi. I wish I had thought of it earlier! I only needed my wheel for the saturday spin-in, and I do believe she wants an Ashford joy now. I can't wait to see pictures of her new wheel when she gets it.

Stringtopia was a wonderful experience. In some ways, it felt like a fantastic family reunion. I met people who totally understood my passion for fiber and shared it. I still can't believe Tsock Tsarina can operate on 4 hours of sleep. I learned to make batts from Abby and now want a drum carder. It's her fault, really. Jacey taught us how to make stable, core-spun yarn, which is amazing. I want to weave a core-spun shawl now, and I don't even have a loom. Which is a problem Morgaine could totally solve, with her YarnV. My god, her haul of stuff was amazing. I was lucky I only made it out with this much stuff.

The beads were from the Bead Circus in Lebanon, but everything else was from Morgaine of Carolina Homespun. Words do not begin to describe the intoxicating treasure trove she carries in the Yarn V. The universe told me that I needed another lightweight spindle, so I got a Greensleeves Mjolinor that weighted a scant 0.6 oz. I knew she had the cotton candy abby batts and that they were destined to come home with me. But I made a concerted effort to get out of my color safety zone, as you can see, with the purple 50/50 cash/silk roving and the 50/50 camel/silk roving. That doesn't include the batt I made on friday, however, which turned into a glorious burgundy.

For those that want more photographic evidence, AncientSpinner on Ravelry posted an open facebook album for all of us to peruse. I know I'll be browsing through and remembering all the wonderful things that happened, from CraftMonkey and Breyerchick kidnapping me on saturday and talking me into staying on sunday, to the ice cream extravaganza. I still can't believe there was left over ice cream! Since I lived in Columbus, I offered to bring down Jeni's ice cream as a partial bribe of acceptance and friendship. I shouldn't have even worried, everyone was so warm, welcoming and wonderful. I can't wait to go back again next year!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Knitter's Dilemma

So, I went to the store today where I was inundated with spring fashions. I loved the look of the romantic fashions, light and gauzy fabrics with lace everywhere from the back of halter tops to the main body of cardigans. There, I was struck with the Knitter's Dilemma.

I can knit that, I would find myself thinking that over and over and over again as I passed by one cardigan or the next. I recognized the diamond lace motif, the cats paw lace, the battenburg lace insets. Okay, fine, I have no idea how to make tatted lace, but I can recognize it. And it was as equally pervasive as knitted lace. It took quite a bit of willpower to walk out of the store without buying anything.

Certainly, I could knit a cardigan, but how long would it take me? Would spring be nearly over by the time I finished? There's a skein of Madelinetosh Prairie calling my name, and the hue is Molly Ringwald. That very shade of pink just begs to be knitted into something lacy and delicate. Plus, it's superwash, so I wouldn't need to worry about felting. I desperately want to cast it on right now! Except I'm working on a delightfully lacy shawl already. I hope the soothing feel of silk and cashmere can calm my fevered brain. Spring fever has possessed me and I want to knit something as bright and lively as the flowers that have begun to bloom.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The healing power of cashmere

It's been one of those days. I believe I met it with verve and spunk, but by the time I was ready to go home, I didn't have any verve and spunk left for myself. Went into work early this morning, and things were going well until I get this phone call to confirm some charges on my debit card. I promise you, I'd be a much warmer and happier person if I was in Arizona, where there's not snow on the ground. Turns out, my debit card number got stolen. Fantastic. It got caught really quickly, and I have a new card in the mail. But it ate at the back corners of my mind all day.

On top of that, work had stupid work politics that I finally had to stand up and face the music. If I could, I'd work quietly, without much interference, and without much attention from higher management. Maybe it's an old reflex from the parents, maybe it's just me, but I can't help cringing when higher management focuses their attention on me. It's not a comfortable feeling. Either way, I had to make some points, stand my ground, and put on the big girl panties. You know, this whole grown up thing isn't what it's cracked out to be. It's not nearly as much fun as it looked like when I was a kid.

So, when I got home, I decided to cast on the laminaria shawl. A while ago, the boyfriend had gotten me two gorgeous skeins of the Indie Knits II line from Those of you that know me, are probably not surprised that it's burgundy. It's exactly the color of blood. Work hazard, sorry. I can add phlebotomy to my list of skills now, and I've been paying particular attention to the color of blood these days.

Anyways, the yarn is 55/45 silk/cashmere, and it is absolutely luscious. There's a teeny tiny halo that gives the yarn a gloriously soft hand. The pattern is great for comforting, absorbing knitting. It's the perfect thing to knit when all I want to do is pay attention to my hands and forget about the day. I'm starting the 3rd repeat of the star chart, and it's not the least bit mindless, not even the purl rows. If you don't pay attention to purling, you'll wind up with skipped or twisted stitches. I can't wait till I get to the other charts. I'm thinking the shawl needs beads.

I've decided I'm chronically incapable of knitting patterns as written. Already, I'm going to have to do a hybrid size, because I have about 720 yards of the lace and the large size for +1000 yards. I figure I should have enough for 5 repeats of the star pattern and 7 of the blossom. On top of that... do you see beads in that pattern? There's not. So, of course, I have to add them. I have the perfect beads too, some lovely opalescent size 6 seed beads. In burgundy, of course. If the weather holds true to its atypical pattern, the weather will be shawl weather. Given how quickly I normally knit, I may finish before winter finishes visiting us.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

"I'm so sorry baby, it's just you drive me crazy"

-from a Bittersweet song.

In a desperate attempt to stop my brain from running itself into the ground, I figured I'd do an update here. I've finished my first ever hand spun, hand knit shawl that I designed from scratch!

It's not blocked yet, more teaser photos this weekend.

Why yes, I will sell this pattern, but first there has to be a pattern to sell. Which is what I've been working on for the last 3 hours or so. I was dreading writing up the pattern, because even though I took copious notes I forgot to record with meticulous detail how I negotiated the increasing edges. Yeah. About that. Oops.

Gamely, I plugged away at the shawl, getting the basics in. I was proud of myself, I had at least charted the main section repeats so aligning the different motifs was done. I was figuring my stitch counts for each section, determining how I would start the shawl; and, of course, writing this all down. Because no one else lives inside my head and if other people want to knit this pattern, I have to give them something that resembles cohesive instructions. I figured out a wee little short cut and I have high hopes to get the shawl out to test knitter(s?) in a week. Wish me luck.

TL;DR - the handspun shawl is knit on size 6 needles using a yarn that's approximately sport-weight. (No, I did not count wraps per inch. I was too eager to knit with it.) I had about 345 yards of handspun total, and after the shawl was bound off, I had 1 yard and 3 inches left. Talk about a nail-biter!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Gimpy McGrumpypants

That's who I've been for the last two months or so. For some reason, my knee started hurting so badly that it hurt to spin. Really! I know you're not supposed to spin for 3 hour straight without breaks, but it hardly seemed like a gigantic task after all the sports I used to do. What's 3 hours of treadling compared to training in kung fu 5 days a week a month before the tournament? I know, I know, it's been at least 5 years since martial arts, but the gimpyness shocks me. After a week of constant knee pain, I caved.

I finally caved and went to the doctor who sent me to the physical therapist. After 8 weeks of physical therapy and no real reduction in knee pain, they sent me back to the doctor. Once there, I finally got an appointment with an orthopedic doctor this monday. We'll see how that goes.

It's just.... hell! I'm 30 years old, how did I get this gimpy? It shouldn't hurt to exercise on a recumbent bike for 1 hour. I haven't a clue what's going on with me knee, other than I should fall on the cat instead of take a bad fall to avoid landing on the cat. Follow that one? Heh. I think it all started when DelilahDamnit, our aptly named cat, flopped on her belly in front of me. While I was walking, I might add. To avoid crushing her innards, I twisted to avoid stepping on her and wound up in a crumpled heap. She's fine, by the way, fluffy and furry as ever. Me on the other hand? Not so much.

It's so frustrating to have to remember every day that there's a list of things I can't do anymore. I can't sit cross-legged. I can't spin on my wheel for more than an hour. I can't exercise for over half an hour. I can't wear heels. I can't stay on my feet for hours on end. I have to remember to take medicine or my knee will ache for 3 days. Really? I thought this stuff was... well... supposed to happen in like 30 years, not within the first three decades of life.

It feels better just getting this out there. I don't know where I'm going next with this. Crafting makes it better, especially if I'm knitting something sumptuous. It's hard to remember that I have new, smaller limits that before. I'm really hoping the doctor has good news, because I can't make rhyme or reason of this knee injury.
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.