Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Touring Many Fleeces

Well, I expect you've all read by now that the Yarn Harlot spun over 1500 grams of fiber during her Tour de Fleece, exceeding her goal. That's about 53 ounces, or 3.3 pounds. She really is a nut.

Me, too. In a slightly different way.

My goal was to learn how to spin on a spindle. I did! I set myself the task of spinning one section a day of stripped and pre-drafted BFL from Spunky Eclectic. Here are the grand results:


Two very small skeins. Aren't you proud of me? In back, we have two spindle-spun singles plied with each other (on my wheel, I must confess) - waaaaay over-spun singles and inconsistent plying. In front, a spindle-spun single plied (on the wheel) with some periwinkle-ish Harrisville Shetland - a better job all around. And I'm still working on my spindling....


Two problems I've run into: One, my upper hand kept getting numb and tingly. I wasn't gripping the fiber with the Fist of Death, so that's not the issue, but I think I have some shoulder and/or elbow nerve squeezing going on, such that raising my hand above my shoulder for any length of time pinches the finger nerves. At least, that's my un-medical explanation. Getting through one small, skinny section of top a day was about all I could do, frankly.

Two, I overspin the singles. I do that on the wheel, too, and I need to back off. On a spindle, though, I don't know how to judge when a single is twisted just right - anybody got any clues?

That isn't all the spinning that's been going on around here, by the way. I just finished taking three spinning workshops with Barb Parry at WEBS. They were great! If you ever have a chance to take a class with her, do it! She was very organized, calm, helpful, kept the class moving, gave enough individual attention, covered tons of material. Wow. Now I just need to practice everything she taught. I'll show you some of the small sample skeins we made.

The first class covered twist and grist - basically, an advanced beginner class (which I needed). What was new to me was woolen-style spinning. My sample made in class was appalling, but at home, I tried spinning some of Barb's Border Leicester/fine wool/mohair roving (wonderful stuff, by the way; it took all my will-power not to ask Barb to bring pounds of it to the next class for me). It turned out beautifully!


I wasn't doing a true long backward draw with this, more of a short forward draw while letting the twist run into the fiber supply and pulling back some at the same time, but hey, it's a lot more woolen-y than I have been spinning.

The next class covered yarn design. We made slub, knop, wrapped, and a few other yarns. Here's my knop yarn - a tussah silk single "knotted" on a Border Leicester single. You can't see too many of the knobs here, but there are a few for you. I'd never spun tussah silk top before - that was fun!


At home, I tried spinning a small batt Barb gave us into a soft single, and then plying it with Jojoland laceweight.


Finally, in the last class we covered color in spinning. We made heathered yarn...


And learned how to Navajo ply (or tried to, in my case)....


And made cabled yarn....


And made ourselves batts!


As well as trying all sorts of other techiques. That was a busy class!

The day after that last class, I took an overspun (my usual, in other words) single I'd made from Spunky Eclectic BFL and tried Navajo-plying it - it worked! It worked! It's funny to me how learning a new spinning technique can be so hard in a class - not surprising, I suppose, given the brain/eye/hand/foot coordination needed - and then so easy when one tries it again at home.


One last spinning image for you - this is Wensleydale top that I spun semi-worsted thinking I would ply it. It was badly overspun, as usual (habits are SO hard to break), so I decided to run it back through the spinning wheel, take some of the twist out of it, and make a single. I had to run it through the wheel twice in the opposite direction from which I spun it, but doing so raised the outer fibers as it went through my fingers, and made this into a nice single.


You know, there are so many variables in spinning - the type of fiber, the type of prep, the spinner's predilections, even whether the fiber is dyed or not - that it's going to take years - years! - before I really know what I'm doing. What a shame, eh? All that exploratory spinning to do....grin

And the next time I whine about not accomplishing anything, would you all just shush me? Really...

Monday, July 28, 2008

Swallowtail Shawl and Onward


I finished my Swallowtail Shawl a few days ago. I was waiting to post until I could get the shawl, me, Earle, the camera, and sunshine all in one place at one time, but that ain't happening, so here you go...

Pattern: Swallowtail Shawl, by Evelyn Clark, Interweave Knits, Fall, 2006. I knit this exactly as written, except I used size 6 needles.

Yarn: Great Adirondack Sirino, 50% silk, 50% merino, in the Deep Blue Sea colorway. I used 60% of the skein, or about 405 yards. That means there are about 270 yards left over, enough to make a little scarf - which is a good thing, given how expensive this yarn was (never buy yarn in a shop where they don't put the prices on the skeins, or at least on the shelf nearby; that's all I can say).


I loved knitting this, once I figured out to use a size 1 metal dpn to do the nupps. The yarn blocked beautifully. I used blocking wires on the top edge of the shawl, which was a bit of a pain; next time, remind me to use cotton threaded through the edge instead. And this fits me perfectly! It was about 42" wide by 19.5 inches deep, pre-blocking, and 57 inches wide by 26 inches deep, post-blocking.

There's a lot more on the needles and the wheel, but I'll save that for tomorrow. Today, all you get for extra is this beautiful purple leaf.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Oh, So Much to Tell You!

I've been busy, busy, busy.

The Fourth of July I was supposed to go kayaking, but instead spent the whole day in intimate congress with my swift. The Sloane yarn finally dried, so I wound it into balls. The second try at Kool-Aid dyeing the angora-merino laceweight revealed just how tightly the skeins had been tied originally, so I wound all six skeins into larger, looser skeins and redyed them, much more successfully, as you can see. This is Ice Blue Raspberry Lemonade, if you like this color. The color in real life is a little lighter, much more robin's-egg blue, as Bonnie commented. I really like it!


The yarn is still in excellent shape; now all I have to do is wind these into balls (more swift congressing!), swatch to determine needle size, and figure out Cat Bordhi's cast-on magic for her Streaming Leaves Shawl.


I also finished spinning, plying and washing the 3.5-pounds of brown Border Leicester cross roving I started in January - yay! I have no idea of the yardage, except A Lot, but I'm thinking I could knit the body of Norah Gaughan's Hex Coat with this, and use Noro Kureyon for the hexagons - what do you think of this color combo? I'm not too sure myself; it looked better under the fluorescent lights of WEBS.


And, of course, the very next business day after I finish spinning this fleece, look what shows up on my doorstep:


Three fleeces' worth of roving from Friends Folly Farm - yes, I know only two fleeces are in this photo, but I found a place to stuff the third fleece and I wasn't going to disturb it. These are three of the four (what was I thinking?!) fleeces I bought at Rhinebeck last fall; a month or so ago, I realized I had better get them processed. A 6.75-pound white Romney by the name of Bell became 5.5 pounds of roving. A 5-pound Corriedale cross ewe named Princess turned out to be 4 pounds of nice light gray roving. Finally, a 6-pound Corriedale x Border Leicester ewe by the name of Freckles, who apparently had a run-in with a big thistle, poor girl, became 4.5 pounds of light brown roving. Fourteen pounds of roving. Somehow, I thought I'd lose closer to 50% of the weight of these fleeces; then I would have ended up with, say, eight or nine pounds of roving. That would have been much, much more reasonable. OK, maybe there is good reason to believe I'm a little wackers.

That all takes us through Friday the 4th and early on Saturday the 5th. Later on Saturday That Sue, That Darlin' Sue, and I went wandering into southern New Hampshire, to the Fiber Studio, to the Old No. 6 Book Depot used bookstore, and to the Elegant Ewe. I was restrained in my purchases - a little Habu at the Ewe (I've never seen it in person before!), a little silk for spinning at the Fiber Studio, only three books at the bookstore - I was very moderate.

Sunday, Terry invited a bunch of us to her house to try our hands at dyeing fiber in jars, per her post of a couple weeks ago. Somehow, the eight or ten of us managed not to dye the entire house, and my simplistic attempts at dyeing turned out thusly:


This was white Romney top, of which I have mumble, mumble pounds. I tried to foist off lots on the others there at Terry's, but oddly, they all seemed to have goodly quantities of fiber themselves. I'm surprisingly fond of the eye-popping yellow/green/blue ball in the middle here, and I'm certainly going to try this again. I might try mixing some of the dye into the water-and-vinegar mixture, in addition to the dry dye sprinkled throughout the fiber as it's stuffed into the jar - that might help disperse the dye more evenly and get rid of the stark white when it's not wanted.

What else? Oh, yes, the Tour de Fleece - I am learning to spin on a spindle, a Golding spindle, to be precise, for my Tour. I have spun just one skinny little predrafted length of this Spunky Eclectic BFL every day and look! I have a copful!



In fact, I have a weaving-bobbin full! I'm getting the hang of this, and I've only dropped the spindle once, luckily, since in this heat I'm spinning over the stone floor of my porch.


Finally, I am nupping along on the first border of my Swallowtail Shawl. After several failed attempts at making nupps with the size 4 bamboo needle used elsewhere for the shawl, with a tapestry needle, and with a size 2 straight metal needle, I have settled on knitting the nupps with a size 1 straight metal needle. Given sufficient light, it works. I figure nupping might keep me out of trouble this summer. If not, there's always those mumble, mumble, yet more mumble pounds of fiber...

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Blog-Worthiness and a Meme

As you may already know...

I guess I blog for me.

In the spirit of solidarity with my mostly-sister knitbloggers, especially Ms. Amy-of-the-North, who tagged all of us if we wanted to be, I give you my first meme:

1. Where was I 10 years ago. I was working as a planner for the City of Holyoke, Massachusetts. I suspect that year was the year I spent half or more of my work time dealing with the proposal to open an enormous stone quarry in the side of Mt. Tom in the city, on the site of a just-defunct ski area. If you've ever driven west on the Massachusetts Turnpike, Mt. Tom stands out on the horizon just as you get to the edge of the Connecticut River watershed. It is what's left of a basalt ridge. Basalt is a very hard rock and resisted the grinding glaciers. At one time, back before knitblogging - why, back even before computers! - just after the glaciers receded, Mt. Tom stuck up out of an enormous glacial meltwaterlake backed up behind a natural dam in Connecticut. Nowadays, Mt. Tom rises a thousand feet above the flat bed of that glacial Lake Hitchock, now traversed by the meandering Connecticut River. To bring it close to my readers' hearts, Mt. Tom is just a few miles south of WEBS. Anyway, people wanted to mine the gravel, scarring forever the side of the mountain; I and many others didn't want them to. Thanks to the tireless efforts of Terry Blunt, land protector extraordinaire, the former ski area was bought and protected by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (for whom Terry worked at the time), the US Fish & Wildlife Service, The Trustees of Reservations, and the Holyoke Boys and Girls Club. It was quite a year.

2. 5 things on today’s to-do list. Er, it's 7:12 PM as I write this, so the list is limited - rinse and hang to dry the merino-angora laceweight I'm dyeing again with Kool-Aid; call my parents, since they've tried to reach me unsuccessfully the past two nights to wish me happy birthday; call my friend Sue, to get the scoop on her job offer; ply the last of the brown Brown Leicester cross (yay!) ...oh, wait, that's five already, I won't tell you the rest, or I won't have time to do everything tonight, especially the item called Sleep.

3.Snacks I enjoy. Fruit. Crackers. Um, whatever's handy, truthfully. (see post about Size Medium-No-More)

4. Things I would do if I were a billionaire. Having money isn't as much fun as you'd think (see #5 below). I'd pay off the mortgage, car, furnace; get the house painted; the kitchen, bathroom, and back room redone; rent a place to live while all that was going on. I think I'd funnel money towards easing the lives of people in two of the towns I've lived in - Holyoke and Athol, MA - which are poor, old mill towns with undeserved lousy reputations. I'd fund the public libraries, buy new garbage trucks, fix broken sidewalks, pay for guidance counseling to get kids through high school and into college - hell, I'd set up a college fund - etc., etc. Lots to do there. I'd put most of the money towards buying land to conserve it from development, probably in hotspots of biological diversity around the world. And knowing me, I'd buy some yarn.

5. Places I have lived. Upstate New York, where my dad was going to grad school in chemistry at Cornell and met my mom, who was working in the library. Southeastern Pennsylvania, where my parents moved when I was 4 and where they still live, 51 years later. Delaware, for college. Michigan, for grad school (v. 1). New Hampshire, with my ex-husband, after grad school. The coast of Maine, when he took a shine to sailing (he was [is] independently wealthy [unlike me, since I value sanity and freedom more than money]). Western Massachusetts, after he and I split up and I went to grad school, v. 2. That was close on to 15 years ago. In western Massachusetts, I've lived in Conway, Heath, Holyoke, and now Athol - all great towns, in very different ways.

6. Jobs I have had. Whatever you're called at Kentucky Fried Chicken (I can't believe how short our skirts were; at least I had the body for them back then), for one summer. Weeder/waterer/planter at a landscape nursey, two summers. Biology teaching assistant, in grad school. Caretaker for a colony of several species of small mammals (Peromyscus, Tylomys, etc.). Bookstore clerk. Wife to independently wealthy guy who didn't want me to work (I make up for lost time now). Regional land use planner. City Planner. Now, I'm a Habitat Protection Specialist for the Massachusetts Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program - I advise the state Division of Fisheries & Wildlife, of which the Endangered Species Program is a part, where to buy land to protect rare species, exemplary natural communities, and general biodiversity. I do the same for any other organization in Massachusetts, public or private, which asks for the service. I also do a bunch of other stuff at the Program - keep track of the 30 species of rare dragonflies and damselflies we have in Massachusetts, write reports and conservation plans, dispense knitting advice, you name it.

7. Who would I like to know more about. Well, I'm nosy. I want to know who the Pearl is in the Yarn Harlot life story. I want to know if my ex-husband's third wife (I was his second, for 10 years) really is just like me, as mutual friends have said (well, actually, I don't care). I want to know if Wendy Wonnacott is OK. I want to know how my old friend Zoe, who taught me how to knit, is doing - last I heard, she was going to nursing school. When I get right down to it, I want to know who I am - I'm not really clear on the concept!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Wednesday Sky


While the frequent thunderstorms we've had in the past week or so have made for some record-setting dashes between buildings at work, once in a while we're treated to gorgeous aerial displays as the thunderheads build.