• geek,  knitting,  spinning

    A handspun bag

    My obsession with my Gtab continues; so I used the opportunity of needing a case for it to use up some of my early handspun yarns. Lately I seem to be too impatient to bother with finding other people’s patterns,so I just sort of made it up as I went along.  I knew that I wanted to use stranded knitting to make the bag thick and I happen to really enjoy alternating yarns over 1 stitch (i.e. *K1 MC, K1 CC, rep from *), so that’s what I did.  One of the yarns that I chose was the last thing I spun before going to SOAR – it is overtwisted and overplied, which makes for yarn with the basic consistency of bundles of straw.  Not very pleasant.  The second yarn I used was yarn that I spun in Maggie Casey’s class at SOAR from a fleece that we handcarded ourselves.  In comparison, it is the softest and fluffiest yarn that you could imagine.  Even standing alone, it’s a yarn that I can actually knit with, which differentiates it quite a bit from all of the yarn that I made before taking her class.

    My bag is scratchy and scruffy and rough, but it absolutely does the job.  And how many Gtabs get to be carried around in a hand carded, hand spun, hand knitted bag?  At the end of the day, that’s what all of this fiber madness is about.  My bag might be a little rough and unfinished looking, but every single scrap of it is the reward of the labor of my hands.  I go to bed satisfied that I have brought something into this very mass-produced, commercialized world that is totally unique and mine.  And I had a lot of fun doing it, though knitting with my pre-SOAR yarn did contribute to a carpal tunnel flare.  I’m really looking forward to knitting with some of the other yarns that I’ve made since, since I can tell by their feel that they’re nice and soft.

  • family,  friends,  knitting,  relationships,  spinning,  wedding

    2011 Holidays

    Christmas was a quiet affair filled with good friends and family, which is what it’s all about. I made out with some very thoughtful loot and ate slightly more than my body weight in cookies.

    But I have prevailed; the cookies are all dead. In my belly.

    I enjoy the week between Christmas and New Years an awful lot because it is so quiet. After all the hustle and bustle of lights, tree, cooking, family, etc., it becomes almost necessary downtime. The trains are quiet, nearly everyone is gone from the office, and I have no excuses for not getting a great deal done. As a productivity nut and worker bee, this makes me very happy. As a person with an exciting life to write about, well, not so much. But it’s been a nice quiet. I’ve been able to conquer the world in Civilization get some writing projects done, master some Bach and finish some big projects that have been hanging over my head at work. It’s a nice feeling.

    I see other bloggers out there doing lists of what they’d like to do next year. It’s made me think about some of the highlights of this year. This year, I:

    – got engaged to the love of my life (this is a celebration, not an accomplishment)
    – actually managed to get good enough at the piano to be able to sight read stuff where the left hand does more than play chords. Slowly, mind.
    – learned how to fox trot, to rhumba, to merengue
    – learned that if fox trotting, rhumbaing or merenguing with a 6’3″ man, heels are a good idea. Otherwise, neck injury occurs.
    – (self)published a knitting pattern
    – had the realization that not being my skinniest weight ever does not, in fact, make me a bad person
    – watched my ward pull in grades higher than he thought possible on his report card, despite having skipped most of two years of school a few years back.
    – adopted a house hippy. Everyone should have one.
    – learned to rip up carpet and stained all the wood for a new staircase in a weekend
    – went to a spinning convention and actually learned how to spin yarn that looks like yarn
    – fell in love with the mountains of eastern Oregon and took some awesome pictures
    – bought a cowboy hat
    – knit multiple sweaters, learned to not hate knitting socks and designed a few more things on my own
    – have actually done a little bit of wedding planning, despite hating it like you wouldn’t believe
    – actually genuinely enjoyed the holidays for a third year running

    It has, all in all, been a good year. We are all safe and happy and the family grew again this year (see the house hippy aspect). I am filled with gratitude and can only marvel at my good luck. Life is good; my only goal for next year is to keep it good.

    Happy New Year everyone. Let’s make 2012 even more filled with light than 2011.

  • knitting,  nature,  spinning

    December String

    I’ve been very distracted lately, because I’ve discovered Librivox, which is a collection of public domain audiobook recordings. For free. This means that I can knit and have someone read Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy and Charlotte Bronte to me. If you don’t know about it, go now and download the books you always wished that you’d read, but never made time for. You can multitask! It’s a dream.

    We went down to Virginia for Thanksgiving and had a very quiet visit, which was actually really what the doctor ordered. I took my new spinning wheel, the Majacraft Rose, because, well, it has a carrying bag. And carrying bags ought to be used. I managed to spin up about 2 ounces of alpaca, which I really ought to finish working on, as I have another 2 ounces left. My spinning has gotten so much better since SOAR, so now I must show a picture of the last skein I finished:

    I’m not a master by any means, but I have improved an awful lot, which feeds into spinning as a new obsession. I’ve picked up a few tomes on spinning techniques now, as well as having subscribed to SpinOff, which mostly seems to be an excuse to look at pictures of weird looking sheep. Like merinos.

    I have been doing a fair amount of knitting as well, including picking up a cardigan that I never quite liked the fit of and making the shawl collar twice as wide. It’s the first sweater I ever made and nearly took me two years to complete, as I naturally picked the most difficult cable pattern in the universe to learn how to cable on.

    I feel like this picture should really be called Self-Portrait. Plants, books, games and knitting. If only it paid better.

    Somehow it became December without me looking, but I’m procrastinating finishing up my holiday shopping. (I can say that, as I have purchased exactly two presents already). Tomorrow I’m going to find someplace in the house to put the tree and potentially procure one. I never used to be much of a fan of Christmas trees until I realized that having something gigantic and organic (unlike, say the giant fern in the picture above) is kind of awesome. We may even get ambitious and climb ladders and put up lights – coming home to a nicely lit house makes the dark of December so much more bearable.

    As does sock yarn.

    *Cough*.

  • art,  spinning

    SOAR 2011

    I’ve been at SOAR the last week, which is Spin Off magazine’s big conference each year. It’s been an incredible experience and I haven’t quite finished processing everything that’s happened. Tonight is the last night, so there’s still a big spin-in, but my classes are all over and my shopping done and we’re starting to pack, so it’s beginning to feel like goodbye.

    I took a three day workshop with Maggie Casey that focused on the basics of spinning. I’ve been hand carding and combing wool and learning tons about fiber prep. I’ve finally figured out the difference between spinning woolen and worsted and got a lot of practice with the various spinning methods. I learned to make an Andean bracelet and chain ply. She’s an excellent teacher and it was a real honor to learn from her.

    I also took a class with Michelle Boyd on how to even out spinning (super helpful) and one with Robin Russo on camelied fibers, where I got to try and spin lots and lots of three toed animal furs. I’m still very much a baby spinner, but I’ve advanced a whole lot in the past week. Just watching master spinners and being around lots of people who are doing really excellent things with the craft is so utterly neat. I am feeling very inspired. And tired. I may have been talked into spending my rest day spinning for a vendor here, as he offered to pay me in alpaca. Lovely, lovely alpaca.

    I may have also bought another wheel. Second hand, with lots and lots of perks and kits included, for hundreds less than it would have cost me new. It’s a fabulous deal and one I’m happy to take advantage of.

    And one I’ll be even happier to take pictures of, once it gets here. It’ll be a few weeks left.

    I haven’t given up on my Thumbelina, who I will be keeping, as the wheel is forty years old and deserves some respect. But the Rose will give me a lot more flexibility and is an easier wheel to work on, so I’m excited about the possibilities. And the double treadle. Oh god, the double treadle.

    This is the first vacation I’ve ever taken where I get to focus on art for an entire week. I think it may be the first week of my life in which there are no distractions from my artistic side. I often feel really pressured to produce art and make a living at the same time. The latter is necessary and I know I’m blessed to have a career that is fun, lucrative and challenging. But it just doesn’t answer my need to have an artistic outlet, so it’s been awesome and inspirational. I can’t wait to put everything I’ve learned into practice.

  • cats,  knitting,  spinning

    Unabashed knitting and spinning post. And a cat.

    Now that I’ve started spinning, it’s a lot harder to have a generic “this is what’s on the needles” post, since I now also have to include what’s on the bobbin. I am still very much a beginning spinner, so my spinning tends to sound a like like:

    “Spin, squeak of wheel, spin, spin, spin, SQUEEEEAAAAK, whoosh!, @#$@@”

    For those of you that are not spinners, let me translate. What is happening is that I’ll get into a spinning zen and the spinning will be going along. However, I only know how to spin one thickness, which is Very Thin Indeed, so inevitably I’ll reach a point in the fiber I’m spinning where I’ve spread it out too thin and the yarn I’m spinning will actually break. At this point, the flying maiden, which is the part of the wheel that feeds the yarn to the bobbin will make a joyous leap for freedom, snatching my yarn straight out of my fingers. And then the spinning stops while I fix this. Repeat.

    Currently, I consider success the slow extension of the duration of time between these moments of high spinning drama, which are getting longer. Here’s a picture of my latest attempts, which may not actually just be cut off and discarded, like the last attempt.

    It’s really just an excuse to accumulate baskets of sheep fleece, which I’ve managed to keep limited to one basket so far, a significantly smaller basket than my knitting basket, which I think I could actually sit in if it were ever empty. Which it is not.

    I’m working on two things in knitting at the moment, as my wrist permits. I’ve been very interested in learning to design my own patterns. I took a class back in January, even. Since then, I picked up the Vogue Sock book, which my brother had bought for me shortly after my mom died. (Sometimes my brother is very cool.) Not being much of a sock knitter, I never did too much with it, but I figured that socks, being small, would be a good place to start. And so I did:

    Unfortunately for our heroine, I used the sock knitting chart calculator in the Vogue book for the wrong yarn weight to my yarn. This is a really basic mistake, but when you’re on the train and you’re *pretty* sure that you’ve got DK weight yarn in your bag, but it turns out that it’s actually fingering weight, well…oops. Thus far I have the nicest beginning of a sock for a cat. Back to the pattern board, which is just as well, since the stitch design I put on there is probably too complicated for such a colorful yarn.

    Speaking of cats, someone’s been partying hard. Or, well, found all the crap that I pulled out from underneath my brother’s desk yesterday and decided it was the snooze spot until someone obnoxious with a camera came around and ruined things.

  • spinning

    Matilda

    Meet Matilda. She’s my new toy.

    Matilda was born in the early 1970s, in New Zealand. She’s a Thumbelina spinning wheel and is a little on the antique side. Which is to say that some minor carpentry and engineering skills were required to get her up and running, but running she is. She’s a double drive spinning wheel, which means that the drive band goes around both the whorl and the bobbin. She’s a brilliant little machine and I love her, even if I’m not very good at her yet. (Note unevenness of the spinning in the picture). I haven’t quite figured out where to get a third bobbin, but I now own excitingly named items like a lazy kate and a niddy noddy and a mother-of-all. (Okay, the last is a cheat – that’s on Matilda.)

    I picked up Spin, Dye, Stitch by Jennifer Claydon, which I recommend. It’s a good starter manual for people who have no idea what they’re doing (hint: me), but it may lead to a desire to learn how to dye. The pictures in the back are very inspiring.

    Also, proof that all things yarn lead to cats, even taking pictures of yarn making things.

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