Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Separation Anxiety

The good news:
I love how the yarn turned out! (which is, amazingly, pretty much as I envisioned it during the ‘planning but no sampling’ stage)

The bad news:
I have to send it away to my swap pal.

I knew better. Don’t get attached, I told myself when I was spinning and plying, remember you can’t keep it. Since I’m weak and undisciplined, I failed to listen to my own good advice. But really, how could I not love this yarn?

220 yards total - 16 wpi

It was all I could do not to put it on the ball winder and knit up a small swatch. For my swap pal, of course, so she would know how the gauge worked up right away and what the finished fabric might look like. Really, just as a favor to her. Because that’s how I am. I’m a giver.
In the end I decided it was probably best to send the skein off to her undisturbed despite my completely selfless intentions.

The other good news:
I’ll be getting something absolutely wonderful from my own swap pal (she of the glorious merino yarn from January). I can’t wait!

It's all in the Details:
All fiber from Chameleon Colorworks in Janel's lovely Autumn colorway

Blue Face Leicester (BFL) single: spun slightly larger than 20 wpi and approximately 21 degrees of twist angle

Merino-Tencel single: spun slightly finer than 25 wpi with approximately 27-30 degrees of twist angle

Plying Twist: two-thirds spinning twist for the merino-tencel blend. I tensioned the merino-tencel single fairly tightly and held the BFL single loosely and at a slight angle to the tensioned single (about 45 degrees or so from parallel).

*all measurements per the Twist Angle Guide and Thickness Measuring Guide from The Essentials of Yarn Design for Handspinners by Mabel Ross

I don’t have the twist per inch (TPI) figure. Partly because I'm too lazy to go calculate it right now but mostly because because I don’t worry about it much. I have my own sort of odd method of spinning that involves drafting back a certain distance and counting the total number of treadles I need to have for the desired twist angle for the length before letting the yarn feed on to the bobbin. Then I just use the same set distance when plying and use 2/3 of the original treadle count for a balanced ply (adjusted up or down a treadle or two as needed during set up).

When the yarn comes off the niddy-noddy it had about 1.5 turns of overtwist to it. (Just the right amount according to Judith MacKenzie McCuin, who says that if a skein comes off the niddy-noddy perfectly balanced one will find it under-plied after it’s been washed and dried. )

I was relieved to find that after washing and drying the skein was perfectly balanced. I wasn’t quite certain it would be due to the mixed twist in the singles.

I like that the finished yarn looks considerably similar to the unspun fiber even though I plied two singles in the same colorway (I hate it when beautiful roving turns muddy when spun up into yarn – so disappointing). I think the smaller visual weight and lighter tone of the merino-tencel against the thicker and darker BFL helped to present a balanced look in the finished yarn.

I will definitely make this type of yarn again (well, actually, I’ll make this very same yarn again since I have more of this fiber). I was able to get a lightly textured yarn with my normal spinning method just by varying the grist of the singles and slightly altering my plying technique.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Productive Procrastination

After some dedicated spinning while watching ER last night I finally saw this:

that's all folks!

Hooray! Maybe I’ll be able to get a package off to my swap pal in time after all.

I had way too many tasks on the ‘to do’ list to consider doing any spinning this morning.
So, of course, I sat right down in front of the wheel, because I rationalized that I would just be distracted all morning wondering what the yarn was going to look like if I didn't. Just a few minutes couldn't hurt right?

I spent a few minutes plying up the singles. And then a few more minutes. I had probably sat there about 20 minutes or so before realizing that I was totally procrastispinning* (or should that be procrastiplying?). ::sigh:: Time to get moving.

But I think my spinning and plying plan may have actually worked out this time. What do you think?

Excellent planning or plain dumb luck?
(Plying on my Little Gem II with the WooLee Winder)
I'll get a better picture when there's more yarn on the bobbin. It looks quite nice in person!

*Procrastispinning: The spinning one does when there are much more important tasks at hand that one should be completing instead. (see also "Procrastiknitting")

Thursday, February 22, 2007

I got your spinning right here...

Lots of spinning going on here at Casa del Chaos these days, unfortunately the majority of it does not involve fiber. We’ve got lots of plates spinning, brains spinning and spinning out of control but not nearly enough spinning at spinning wheels. I definitely have too much yin and not enough yarn these days!

I really need to finish my February skein for my swap pal. I have been working on it as much as possible but I’m running out of month faster than I’m running out of fiber left to spin.

Here it is, looking remarkably like the first bobbin, except thinner and shinier.

Chameleon Colorworks Merino/Tencel in Autumn
(colors not quite accurate due to flash)

I’ve been spinning this second bobbin at about 2-3 times as many WPI as the BFL in an attempt to make the finished skein look a bit more textured than my standard, plain DK-weight handspun yarns. We’ll see how that works out. I didn’t make a sample to test this imagined yarn perfection and my recent track record for envisioning the finished product based on the appearance of the singles is maybe not so great.

And someone here thinks I’m spending too much time at the spinning wheel and not enough time cuddling with a certain small terrier:

Toby works the "poor neglected terrier" angle

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Here comes the sun

(of course, now I'll be humming the Beatles song all night after typing that title!)

I was certain the weatherman must have made mistake in his report for Saturday. Here’s what the official forecast said we’d be having:

Looks like pretty typical weather around these parts for February.

Instead we got this:

For once the weatherman’s mistake was in our favor! Usually it works the other way around; if sun is predicted you can bet we’ll get rain instead. Of course when rain is predicted we also usually get rain. Funny how that works.

That unexpected sun and balmy 62 degree weather (practically tropical around here in February!) made me want to work out in my garden to eliminate some of that bedraggled winter look, but unfortunately other conflicting tasks were already mapped out for the day.

Toby and I spent a few minutes in the yard snapping photos and enjoying the sun before returning our noses to the grindstone.

Toby contemplates the strange glowing orb in the sky

It's a good thing that we took a few moments to enjoy the sun because here’s what our view of the sky looked like just a couple hours later:

The weatherman has the last laugh!

Not too much to show right now on the spinning front. I’m still working on the February skein for my swap pal. The first bobbin of Blue Faced Leicester (BFL) is done and I’m nearly done spinning the bobbin of merino-tencel blend that I’ll be using as the second ply.

Chameleon Colorworks BFL in Autumn

This was the first time I'd spun BFL - very enjoyable. I'll be spinning more of this in the future. Though, not on a deadline.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Mission Accomplished!

Thank goodness.

The Wednesday of my discontent

I’m test-driving a new 4/10 work schedule for my job at ACME Giant Government Bureaucracy Inc. The reasoning was not that I needed to have increased amounts of fatigue in my work week, but rather that I need a weekday day free of paid employment responsibilities to devote to the new business that I am currently running in my non-spare evening and weekend hours.

My 3-point plan for transitioning to this new work paradigm involved the consumption of copious amounts of caffeine (as illustrated below):

  1. Get up at even earlier, ungodly hour;
  2. Prepare for work immediately on arising instead of lolling about in pajamas reading the paper over breakfast and wasting time on the internet while drinking coffee; and
  3. Drink copious amounts of caffeine in order fool body into thinking it is bursting with energy and ambition to be at work 2 hours earlier than usual.

Unfortunately this plan is not being fully implemented because we are out of coffee. Again. A fact for which I can only blame myself because I knew we were out of coffee yesterday. It was on my mental list of things to do, right there at #1 – pick up ground coffee at Starbucks. The embarrassing part is that I was even at Starbucks at lunch time yesterday. Getting a double-shot latte. Because I was tired. From having no coffee. ::sigh::

So the plan for today is to make a real list to remind myself to buy coffee. And if that doesn’t work, seeing ‘QWERTY’ across my face in the mirror this afternoon should certainly jog my memory.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Teabag Wisdom

I love Good Earth teas. It's good tea but what I like best is that each teabag tag has a quotation on it. Today's teabag had a quote that seemed especially appropriate:

The influence of each human being on others in this life is a kind of immortality.

John Quincy Adams (1767-1848)

The reason? A dear friend is losing his battle with cancer. He has asked his hospice nurse to hold off increasing his pain meds until Monday so that we (his group of friends from work) can come visit him at his home today, because once his morphine is increased he will be less alert and sleeping too much to have many visitors.

I am anticipating a long, quiet car ride back home today as we all contemplate the impending loss of this wonderful, creative, thoughtful, funny man who is leaving us much, much too soon.

Monday, February 5, 2007

SuperWool Sunday

Preparations got underway early at Casa del Chaos for SuperWool Sunday celebrations.

A quick trip to Starbucks provided the caffeine-fueled ambition needed for the early morning trip to Costco for appropriate snackage supplies for the event. Some basic amount of housework was performed in order maintain the illusion that we are not complete slobs somewhat tidy (family members were coached in appropriate intervention techniques should a guest appear to be inadvertently opening a closet door on the way to the bathroom).

Toby (aka Spazzy McTerrierpants) did his part by barking wildly for several minutes after Holly and Miss O’s arrival just in case we hadn’t noticed that there were actually guests standing in our living room. (what did we ever do without him?)

We quickly got down to business with SuperWool Sunday activities.

First we all went through the Magic Stash Box** that came home with me from Madrona courtesy of Sam. Selections were made and re-stock contributions were added to the box.

After some snacks to keep up our energy, it was time for the knitting and spinning portion of the day.

Miss O swatched for her first sweater and received some tips from Mom in how to alter the pattern to fit her swatch in lieu of knitting a second swatch to meet the pattern’s gauge.

Sorry for the sucky picture - I really need to get a scanner for this kind of stuff

After the details were worked out, Miss O cast on for her first sweater.

Holly worked on Miss O’s birthday sweater for awhile (Bed & Breakfast Pullover, Interweave Knits Winter 2003, in Beaverslide Yarn) and then got to work spinning sock yarn from her Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks to Shoe spinning kit.

This is where the internet needs ‘Touch-O-Vision’. This Beaverslide Yarn really needs to be touched to be experienced! It’s absolutely glorious. And the colors have great depth too.

Oops! I forgot to take a picture of Holly's spinning until was starting to pack up her wheel!

And I worked on finishing my Brocade Wrap (Jamieson’s Shetland Knitting Book 2, page 94, in Elann Peruvian Highland Wool yarn)

not in Beaverslide yarn unfortunately

I am still undecided as to whether to keep knitting one or two more repeats to use up all the yarn or follow Miss O’s sage advice to just bind off and finish it at the end of this particular pattern repeat (each repeat is 24 rows). I’m thinking at this point it may be the latter. This project has been in progress for too long.

Only too soon the day was over. If only every Sunday could be SuperWool Sunday!

Hey, did you know there was some big football event today with a similar name? Eerie.

**The Magic Stash Box is a box of traveling yarn (or several boxes in this case) that moves among group members. When it arrives at your house you go through it and remove the treasures that you want and then add your unwanted treasure contributions back to the box before shipping it off to the next person on the list. It's great fun.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Spin To Knit Swap

While I was away at Madrona, my Spin To Knit swap pal mailed me a lovely surprise:

Inside was a the most beautiful, textured skein of yarn (I had told my swap pal that I loved textured yarns since I spin pretty boring, plain yarn myself). Here it is below at its 'super yarn model' photo shoot.

Inside, flash required unfortunately.
(Have I mentioned it’s a bit grey this time of year in the PNW?)

Outside in full sun.
(I know, I was shocked too. Sun? In January? But don’t worry, it didn’t last long)

I'm ready for my closeup!

My lame photos don’t do the colors justice. I really need a bright overcast day to get a good natural light photo that doesn’t wash out the colors. But again, this is the PNW. In winter. So grey indoor light with flash or outdoors with weak sunshine is as good as it gets until sometime in Spring. Or perhaps Summer (in a really bad year…).

I’m not sure what I will do with the yarn yet. It has to be something worthy of the yarn. For now, I believe it will be enjoyed for its handspun beauty alone!

Acolytes at the shrine of the handspun

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Madrona Report

(I am finally on the mend and have been cleared for limited computer access and blogging by the rest enforcer my loving husband. This is a conditional release however and privileges will be revoked if I relapse due to failure to exercise moderation…)

My absolute favorite part of Madrona is visiting with friends from both near and far that I don’t get to see nearly often enough.

Beyond that it’s hard to pick favorites at Madrona because the event itself is just wonderful from start to finish and the classes, in my experience, are always excellent. The only bad part of Madrona is waiting a whole year for the next one!

That being said, if I had to pick one class from the entire weekend as my favorite then Susanna Hansson’s Lapland Hand Garments: The mittens from Rovaniemi would be that class.

When the Madrona class listing first came out I had googled ‘rovaniemi mittens’ and found Lene’s lovely mittens . I was quite intrigued to learn this interesting intarsia in the round technique though the reference in the class description of using “11 small balls of yarn” sounded a bit daunting. I was thrilled when Vanessa and I both managed to get in to the class before it filled up.

Day One – The Mittens of Rovaniemi
After some interesting historical and geographical background we were able to admire, fondle and even try on the sample mittens. I read Lene Alve’s blog regularly and so I have admired her knitting online many times, but it doesn’t compare to seeing her absolutely perfect and beautiful knitting in person. Lene is an artist and an absolutely inspiring knitter.

The mittens were very difficult to part with once on the hand!

The first part of the class involved learning the technique with Cascade 220 and larger needles (I’m new at this blogging thing and was so intent on my knitting I forgot to take a photo of this part). Once we felt comfortable the process in the larger gauge we were able to pick out the colors for our finer gauge cuff.

The technique was a bit more challenging in the finer gauge and smaller needles (I believe I overheard Stephanie tell Susanna that the larger gauge sample made one a little over-confident and the finer gauge knitting was a more humbling experience)

Sample mitten in progress

This had to have been the quietest knitting class I’ve ever been in. There was no chatting or cross-talk in the room - everyone was heads-down and focused on their knitting!

Of course, Vanessa, being the lightning fast knitter that she is, was miles ahead of me towards the end of class. Here she is knitting away:

(note the difference in magnet placement on our charts!)

The mitten round-up at the end of class. My mitten is the blue and green one on the left.

Usually by the end of class I’m ready for a bit of a break before continuing on with my sample (for example, the break for my Estonian lace sample has been going on for over a year now…), but I think this technique is quite addictive. After class Vanessa and I went straight to our hotel room and kept knitting, only stopping because we had to leave for dinner with friends.

Susanna Hansson is simply an excellent teacher and an absolutely lovely person to spend the day with. I’m anxious to take another class from her and am looking forward to attending the the Nordic Knitting Conference in October if I can.

I may have been a bit over-enthusiastic in relaying my excitement about the class to Susanna repeatedly as I saw her throughout the weekend. I’m nothing if not enthusiastic... (Sorry, Susanna, I wasn’t really stalking you. Thanks for being really nice as I gushed about the mitten class and expressed my disappointment in not signing up for the Bohus class again and again. I’m sure by Saturday you were thinking that the hotel was maybe a wee bit too small and, my goodness, can’t they screen these people somehow?)

You can see more reports on this class here, here, and here.

Day 2 – Morphing Cables and Mentoring
My morning class on Friday was the Morphing Cables class with Fiona Ellis. I enjoyed listening to Fiona talk about her inspiration for cables and techniques to use in order to achieve different cable forms. I think I would have done better with a slightly more structured class on this particular day. I was starting to feel decidedly unwell at this point and not overly creative. The unstructured approach left me a bit at loose ends (no pun intended) until the Sudafed finally kicked in close to the end of class. I enjoyed chatting with my neighbors though and seeing their lovely cable creations, Lara’s was particularly lovely. My own was quite hideous and there will be no photographic evidence presented here.

My afternoon class was a mentoring session with Stephanie. Holly and I had signed up just to hang out and listen to Stephanie. Class introductions revealed that the majority of attendees had been of the same mind (I was relieved not to have to be the first one to admit it during the ‘around the table’ introductions). Among other things, Stephanie shared a lot of good information about decreasing for set in sleeves and planning decrease ratios based on body frame (complete with drawn flip chart diagrams!). As usual, Stephanie was highly entertaining and educational at the same time.

For some strange reason, I decided to bring my Rovaniemi sampler to work on during the class. In retrospect, I have no idea what I was thinking other than I really wanted to finish it up. I already knew that I didn’t feel well, that the process takes a lot of concentration and there was limited table space all of which made this knitting a horrible candidate for the afternoon’s work.

So of course you know what happened. I looked up at something Stephanie had written on the flip chart and when I looked down one of my 00 needles had slipped a few stitches off. I tried to fix it in class and succeeded in only making it worse. I set it aside and picked up my sock but too late the damage was done! Dropped stitches with this technique have some real negative progress involved in fixing it. To be continued...

Day 3 – Introduction to Fair Isle Design and Colorwork
Saturday’s class was an introduction to Fair Isle design with Janine Bajus. Another excellent class! As a regular reader of Janine’s blog, it was quite exciting to see her lovely designs in person and hear about her approach to designing Fair Isle projects.

This was a 3-day workshop crammed into a single day. Lots of color theory and hands-on color exercises, including interpreting an inspiration photo in yarn. Janine gave instruction on two-color knitting for attendees not familiar with the technique while more advanced members worked on selecting yarn to make their sample cap. The class included two hat patterns and two ounces of yarn from Janine’s really amazing stash of Shetland yarn.

I would love to take the 3-day version of this workshop!

I did not take as many photos as I should have during this class because by Saturday I was feeling decidedly lousy. I wish I’d gotten a photo of Janine’s huge bag of Shetland bobbins. She has a sample of every single Jamieson’s and Jamieson and Smith yarn available. Invaluable if you are planning to design your own Fair Isle garments according to Janine.
You can read Janine's report report here (with all the pictures I neglected to take!).

Yarn and Fiber Marketplace
I was really quite restrained at the Madrona marketplace, especially if we decide to completely ignore the fact that my actual goal was to buy nothing…

My sole marketplace acquisitions:

Birdseye Maple Spindle by SpindleWood Co
BFL and Merino-Tencel rovings in “Autumn” by Chameleon Colorworks
Mulberry Silk-Superfine Merino roving in “Farmhouse” by Blue Moon Fiber Arts

The Chameleon Colorworks rovings will be spun up as my February contribution to my Spin To Knit swap pal.

The Blue Moon Fiber Arts roving is just because I couldn’t resist (I tried, really, but resistance is futile). That’s a dangerous booth to be in!

I also bought some felted flowers from Una at Wooly Walkers (these are gifts for some friends at work).

I have to admit that the lack of purchases probably had more to do with me feeling sick most of the weekend and not from any real self-control on my part.

Toby inspects and approves the Madrona purchases

One of these times I’ll remember to take more photos of the evening get-togethers. The trouble is I’m so busy having a good time that I forget to snap photos. Here are a few that I did remember to take:

clockwise from front left

Mel, Holly, Marti, Vanessa, Jessica

Lara, Kerry, Barb, and Sam from the FT group

Angela! (looking much better in my hat than I do)

Jessica and Marti

clockwise from bottom front

TMK (back of head), Ryan, Jessica, Marti, Rebecca, Vanessa, Peggy

I can’t wait for next year!