Monday, February 18, 2008

It's February

I don't like February. (I don't like August, either, but that's a ways off.) February is cold, wet, icy, dark, achy, stuffed-up nose, too much work, gray, grey, and gray. I don't like February. I especially don't like February when I have a long-lasting cold, my arms ache from the cold plus spinning too much in January, and I am stressed out, waaaay stressed out from too much work.

So I stayed home from work today (technically, it's a holiday, but I feel guilty anyway, because I have too much work to do) and I'm going to blog. Take that, oh cares and responsibilities of adulthood! I might go buy some ibuprofen and chocolate, too, because I would be very pleased if my body would stop aching. Yes, I've been to the doctor (my annual physical was scheduled for last week) and I don't have the flu, bronchitis, or pneumonia. I don't have any real excuse for feeling like shit, I have a cold.

But I have been fiber-ing along like a madwoman (wait, I am a madwoman) anyhow, because that is who I am, apparently. So, there's lots to tell you. Go get your tea now (thank you again for that Lapsang Souchong, Terry, I'm really loving it!), because I'm going to yammer on for quite a while.

Last weekend:


Scared you, didn't I? Heh. That is the shed skin of a dragonfly, a Black-shouldered Spinyleg to be precise, a common dragonfly of rivers in these parts. For those of you who have forgotten your invertebrate zoology, dragonflies start out as tiny eggs, lain in or near water. The eggs hatch into nymphs and spend a year or two or three growing, eating every living thing in sight and molting their outside skin - their exoskeleton - every now and then, until they are big. Say, an inch and a half long, if you're a big species. Then the nymphs crawl up out of the water, burst out of their skin, and emerge as adult dragonflies with wings and beautiful colors. That thing above is the shed skin left behind when the Spinyleg emerged.

Now, it is possible to tell one species by another by their shed skins, if you want to pay attention to the size and shape of the dorsal and lateral spines, or the number of setae on the prementem, and so on (hey, some people care about the pointiness of their knitting needles - don't snicker at my measuring the lateral spines of dragonfly nymphs). The shed skins are called exuviae, if you wanna go technical.

Last weekend here in Athol, we had a
Nymph Fest. Fifty-six people showed up from as far away as Ohio and listened to people like me talk and give workshops about identifying the nymphs and exuviae of northeastern dragonflies. 56 people! That's a lot! We capped registration at 50, because we couldn't envision teaching so many people. Anyhow, it was a lot of work and stress, but it all worked out in the end.

So why am I telling you this? Well, at the conference, I discovered that
Maria, who is getting her Ph.D. from the University of Rhode Island, is a knitter! A GOOD knitter! Look at what she made!



She said it was from Vogue Knitting. I thought it was astounding. I want Maria to come work with me when she finishes school, so I can have more knitters around me.

Speaking of knitting: I haven't been doing much, because I'm resting my overworked hands and arms. Ditto for spinning.

Weaving on the other hand: Yep, lots. First, I finished the fifth of five panels on my rigid heddle loom, for the worsted-weight, heathery, knitting-yarn blanket (could one of you please come up with a better name?).


I still have to wash the fifth panel - it's amazing to me how much softer and better a fabric this is after washing - and then stitch the edges of the panels together. Oh, and then hem the warp ends, but then I'm definitely going to weave two panels to be sewn along those warp ends as well, as this blanket looks a little unfinished to me without some sort of bracket on the ends.

On the floor loom, you'll remember I was on the third of three scarves from the purple Harrisville Shetland warp, blithely weaving away with shiny, pretty Brilloso.

Well, so much for that. I said the hell with it after 15 inches or so, because the damned warp threads kept breaking on the selvedges and because the hand of the fabric was too stiff for a scarf. So, now I have a Brilloso sample.


I suspect I also said the hell with it because I have a cold that is sucking the life force out of my brain and which doesn't even have the good graces to turn into something bacterial like a sinus infection, so I can get me some good drugs. Chocolate and ibuprofen only go so far, you know.

So, there I was with maybe a yard or so of purple warp left on the loom. Going back to the idea I had when I first tried the Brilloso, I pulled out some mustard Lopi and tried making this Cord Weave pattern move right and left. You can see here...


...that it worked. The bottom two inches is the straight Cord Weave; above that I tried treadling as if for a point twill, not too successfully, and then as if for a continuously rightward twill, which I like indeed. Still too stiff for a scarf, so I quit while I was ahead and trashed the rest of the warp. Hey, it's only yarn, right? Actually, I think that a rather nice, sturdy small rug could be made using this undulating Cord Weave with Lopi (maybe doubled) and a heavier warp yarn. I'll just tuck that thought away in my wonky brain for future re-visiting.

Which leaves both looms unwarped. I think I'll leave the next floor loom project for another post, but here's what I'm up to on the rigid heddle, since it'll be a while before I can finish up the heathery blanket monster.

I don't know exactly why, but I got it in my head yesterday that I could weave a mohairy, dark fuchsia/red/pink wrap, using the many suitable balls of yarn I have stashed here and there. This 3-yard-long warp is a mixture of about 12 different yarns - mohair, rayon, chenille, linen, viscose, alpaca, wool, etc. - all of which have been around for a decade or more, just waiting for the call. The call came out of my frustration with being sick and thus unable to be as productive as I'd like, and the call was for something warm and creative and complex and fast. I'm calling this the Necessity of Creation, if you'll pardon the hubris. Here's the first foot or so of it woven up, with part of the first color of weft out of sight around the cloth beam at the front of the loom.


These colors aren't quite true - the weft colors are not quite that strikingly different, but you get the idea. This is a very sticky warp - the threads keep hanging up on each other when I change threads, so I'm constantly fiddling with the warp. I don't mind, though; I'm enjoying the feel of these different yarns.

I took a break after I got the loom warped, as my energy level is low and warping even this smallish loom is intensive work. I went blog-hopping, as is my wont, and found out why I felt compelled to weave this wrap right now. Lynne Bruning, who blogs at The Twisted Warp, posted on Valentine's Day that she was getting back to her loom by weaving a pink mohair scarf, and that she would send it off to someone who volunteered to be the recipient "with love and appreciation ... on this beautiful Valentines Day." I thought about it for a bit, I resisted saying yes because I am always getting myself into too much work by saying yes (not that Lynne wanted anything back), and then I said yes anyway, because I feel honored to be the recipent of someone's creativity. And when I finish the Necessity of Creation, I'm going to send it to Lynne, because I want to and because her name is Lynne, too, and because knitting and spinning and weaving have brought me wondrous connections with people, and I wish to honor that by giving Lynne this wrap.

As soon as I finish it. Assuming it turns out OK. And if this damned cold doesn't kill me first.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Bright Spots in the Viral Fog

You know how when you're mostly over a cold, you're restless and want to be doing something, anything, but your body isn't cooperating and so you are bored to tears? Yep, I've been there. Recently, too, as a matter of fact. So, I was particularly happy to get two different packages in the mail which cheered me up immensely and kept the boredom at bay.

A month or so ago, Terry at Knitting the Blues had a little contest for her readers - guess the number of different teas in her tea cupboard and you win the prize! Well, I didn't guess the correct number (which was 142) (I want to see Terry's fiber stash, if that's her tea stash), but I did get drawn as the random-number entry, so Terry sent me this:


Perfect. Perfect in every way. So perfect, the chocolates in that little turquoise box with the brown bow were gone before I could focus the camera (or as close as I ever get to focusing). And did you notice that mug-warmer? It's essentially a little hat, slipped onto the mug from the bottom. Perfect. See what's under that little mug hat?


And Terry remembered that I commented I loved Lapsang Souchong tea, so she sent me some, which I really appreciated because: a) she remembered - sniff; and b) I can't find any Lapsang Souchong in my usual haunts (OK, that's only your basic grocery store, but still, I used to be able to get Lapsang Souchong in grocery stores). Lapsang Souchong is a very smoky, heavy tea, perfect for cold, raw, virus-laden January. Thank you, Terry, your gift really warmed my heart! And I am so glad she's posting to her blog every day, too ... now if only I were that focused!

Next up: Now, as you've noticed, Dear Reader, apparently I've gone over to the dark, aka weaving, side. Thus, when I saw that the Manasota Weaving Guild in Florida was selling off their extra weaving magazines, I ordered me a bundle:


Boy, there is nothing like a stack of fiber magazines to keep me out of mischief. See those yellow sticky notes in most of the issues? I want to weave everything. Everything, I tell you - rugs and placemats and napkins and shawls and scarves...

Speaking of scarves, I finished Scarf #2 off the purple Harrisville Shetland warp on my floor loom. I'm pretty happy with how it turned out! Many fewer broken warp threads, a gorgeous interplay of the Cord Weave structure with the Rowan Tapestry weft, a nice handle of the finished item (weeell, maybe a little heavy), much better selvedges - I'm a happy weaver.



As I wove that scarf, I thought to myself: Hmm, you know, this weave is basically like overshot - one plain weave row followed by a twill row. Which means I could gradually move over the lengthwise columns formed by the twill rows and maybe I'd get an undulating sequence of columns. So I tried that with the next length of the purple warp, with some needlepoint yarn I have, but the needlepoint yarn was too thin to make even the nice thick columns the worsted-weight Tapestry yarn did. I pulled out the needlepoint yarn and cast my eyes about, landing on a couple of cones of Brilloso I bought at WEBS a year or so ago. Pretty! Shiny! Close at hand! So, I tried it, still using the same Cord Weave I used for the Rowan Tapestry scarf:


I like. I like a lot. The Brilloso is still not thick enough to really define those nice columns, much less allow any undulations to show up, but I'm committed to weaving the last scarf off this purple warp with this weft.

After that, who knows where I'll go!