Wednesday, August 31, 2011

August Recap

Giant Clam
I spent two of four weeks out of town in August. I didn't have my loom, and I didn't want to drag knitting with me. And...




But I spun up two batches of fiber. The first is two batts of "Giant Clam" in a naturally-dyed crazy mixture of fiber that was wonderful to spin.

Rainbow Farms Pygora by Project Pictures
The second is this fabulously amazing Debouillet/Pygora (and Debouillet/Pygora/Silk) mix from Rainbow Farms Pygoras. OH. MY. GOSH. This stuff is crack. On crack. With some crack on the side. And a little whipped cream on top. If you see these batts at Black Sheep Gathering or any other fiber festival, BUY SOME. That is all.

I did knit a project this month. Sadly, it is another one of those Secret Projects. I'm really excited to share it with you all, but it will have to wait!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Them's knittin' words!

While reading back through one of my usual blogs, I saw that the author had linked to this inane article. And while reading through the comments I happened upon a particular response. What is wonderful about the internet (sometimes) is how it opens up the opportunity to chase an idea down and learn more about it.

I was so moved by the poem, I had to hunt it down. In my search I found a number of interesting obituaries, biographies and tidbits of trivia and I finally found this page which reprints a letter from Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Eliza Wright Osborne to admonish her for persisting in the unworthy endeavor of knitting and also the poem I enjoyed so much, which is Eliza's response.

And while you might enjoy chasing those links down as much as I did, I will also reprint the poem here so that you don't have to!

Dear Mrs. Stanton, in your skit
Against your sisterhood who knit,
Or useful make their fingers,
I wonder if,--deny it not,
The habit of Lucretia Mott
Within your memory lingers!

In retrospective vision bright,
Can you recall dear Martha Wright
Without her work or knitting?
The needles flying in her hands
On washing rags or baby's bands
Or other work as fitting?

I cannot think they thought the less,
Or ceased the company to bless
With conversation's riches,
Because they thus improved their time,
And never decreed it was a crime
To fill the hours' niches....

I could say more upon this head.
But must, before I go to bed,
Your idle precepts mocking,
Get out my needle and my yarn
And, caring not a single darn,
Just finish up this stocking

Eliza Wright Osborne

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore ...

Don't call me. We're not at home!

This tree is at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois. Isn't it amazing? The Arboretum is hosting a lovely show of "Nature Unframed". There are quite a few really amazing works to see, but I particularly loved this one, along with at least a dozen other yarn bombs of "lichen" all over the park.

The kids had a great time here, too, playing in the hedge maze and all through the children's area of the Arboretum.

In the spirit of the yarn-bombing, I'm just going to photo-bomb this post!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Oh, no.. I didn't!

Well, yes.

I did.

This is my new spinning wheel. It was obtained for an absolute steal (less than I would have spent on say, the Very Fast Flyer for my Lendrum Folding wheel). And while the Lendrum VFF is a bit faster than this baby... this wheel is gorgeous.

And Swedish!

As far as I have been able to determine, it runs a little bit faster than the Fast Flyer on the Lendrum (that goes up to 17:1, whereas this wheel has two ratios at 18:1 and 20:1). But more than that, it runs in what is called "double drive". See the drive band? (I know it looks a little funky... we replaced it with a marled cotton yarn where one of the three strands is red. I've decided I like it's character.) It goes around the wheel twice and then loops over both the end of the bobbin, and the flyer whorl. This means that both parts are spinning and with the way the whorls are set up, the bobbin spins just a mite bit faster than the flyer. It gives a very light and constant take-up pressure and the speed allows for very fine yarn to be spun easily.

Previous owner of the wheel
Even more, the wheel comes with history.

Meet Karolina Thyberg Erickson, born in 1962 in Sweden, and immigrated (with the wheel) to America in 1887-1888. Isn't she lovely? And the wheel, too. I feel very honored to have obtained a piece of history, complete with its own story.

In fact, every time I sit down to spin on it, I enjoy that sense of history a little bit.

I ran into one more little stroke of luck when picking this wheel up. On my way home I stopped by a local wood shop. It's pretty modern stuff but the people there are very knowledgeable about wood in general and I hoped to get a couple of tips on how to maintain the wheel over time. It was extremely good fortune, then, that there was a person out front selling antique tools. And wouldn't you know... he repairs antique wheels, too. So the few minor issues this wheel has (a broken pin, and an older repair that isn't done well) are going to be cleared up with a little help in a few weeks.

I feel so very, very lucky.

There are lots more pictures here of the lovely details of this wheel.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

In the beginning...

I don’t know who taught me to knit.. the first time. I doubt we even knew we were knitting. What we were doing was creating miles and miles of loopy cord out of cheap acrylic yarn. It’s easy enough to start. Tie a string to your thumb. Now wrap it back and forth through all your fingers, go around the pinky and come back again.. back and forth through each finger. Then wrap the whole thing across the back of your hand and the front again. Now you’re going to want to lift each loop (the small, tight ones) over your finger and the longer loop of yarn to the back of your hand. See how this still leaves a new loop on your finger? Do all four fingers. Wrap the yarn around your whole hand again. Do all four fingers. Repeat…

Eventually you’ll have a really loopy mess hanging from the back of your fingers. But this is where the magic happens! Grab it and pull. BAM! All of a sudden you have an evenly loopy cord. In fact.. it’s I-cord! But I didn’t know that until much, much later.

Grandma taught me to crochet around that time, but it didn’t stick. Oh, I made long chains of yarn with my fingers (just like the finger-knitting, only this time it was crochet loops). And somewhere there is half of a Cabbage-Patch-doll dress in seafoam green acrylic yarn, but search me if I know where. I just didn’t have the patience for it.

It was almost thirty years later when Grandma got a second crack at the whole passing along of the fiber arts. Our family had just moved to Oregon and my father had a conference in Portland. My mother and grandmother came out with him and then drove down to Eugene to spend a week with me. We had a wonderful time driving out to the coast each day and then as far North and South as we could stand to travel in a day and still get home that evening.

Somewhere along the way, dishcloth knitting came out. I don’t recall if Grandma was teaching Mom or had just done so recently. But I wanted in on the action, too. They were able to spare a set of bamboo needles and some Peaches ‘n’ Cream cotton. And a knitter was born.

Just a knitter, tho. Grandma never showed me how to purl.

Friday, August 5, 2011

One last thing on SS2011

Sock Summit 2011 by Project Pictures
Sock Summit 2011, a photo by Project Pictures on Flickr.
I had a wonderful time, but what is a fiber festival without the Things You Got?!

I went in with the intention of just one purchase. I figured that would hold me back (along with the previous purchases made at BSG). I wanted to hit Abstract Fiber and pick up a particular colorway which I had spun for a sample. It's that gorgeous blue fiber you see on the left.

But of course I wandered the entire marketplace. I very much appreciated Fiber Optic's samples (the small skein on the upper left) which were eye-blindingly bright. I wasn't a huge fan of pencil roving. But let me tell you, this stuff was awesome. And gorgeous. And fun to spin. It was the perfect little spindle-snack for the evening and it certainly sold me on going back to Fiber Optic next year when my stash has been spun down a little bit more.

Sock Summit 2011
I also took a wonderful class in the afternoon from Judith MacKenzie, titled "Sock Exotica". It focused on spinning luxury fibers (mostly cashmere and cashmere blends) for socks. The baggies (above) are samples from that class I didn't finish (tussah, Chinese cashmere, superfine alpaca, Merino/silk) and the multi-tone skein is what I spun in class. The lovely red skein is leftover cashmere/silk I spun up the next day to cement the information presented in the class in my head. It was wonderful and I really enjoyed getting to meet Judith. (I also had a blast chatting with Heather, Judith's helper. She. Was. Awesome. I'm still giggling about a story that had the punchline, "How inteLECtual." Which I know makes no sense to you all, but it was really funny and if Heather stops by here, she'll know what I"m talking about.) I have fantastic notes from class I need to review and plenty of ideas about what to spin next for socks. I also highly appreciated a compliment I received from Judith. I had kept a small sample of the Peachy Keen yarn I'd spun for Laura of Textiles A Mano tied to my orifice hook. I liked that yarn and wanted to spin similar yarn to it. So I showed that to Judith and she gave me this little look and then asked, "Why are you taking this class? You already know how to do it."

Of course, you take a class from Judith to take a class from Judith. But also because there are hundreds of little details to pick up through good instruction that make your spinning just that much better. For one, Judith showed Lendrum owners how to cross their yarn over the bobbin to reduce take-in. Normally you would do this by running the yarn from a hook on one flyer arm to a hook on the other flyer arm (and maybe even back again) before it winds onto the bobbin, but Lendrum wheels use a sliding guide on one side. Instead you can simply bring the yarn across and around the opposite flyer arm to achieve the same result. It was so simple and so obvious once it was done, but I never would have thought of that myself!

After class I wandered back to the Tactile booth. I had been there earlier and admired the small samplers of various fibers (bundles of camel + camel/silk, or alpaca + llama + camel, and others). But what really had my attention was the cashmere. I'd just spent three hours spinning it with Judith MacKenzie, and I knew I'd want to have some to spin for my very own pair of "Oh MY GOSH" luxurious socks. I picked up four ounces of luscious cashmere/silk blend which I will eventually be transforming into the best sock yarn ever.

I almost can't wait.