26 July 2008

Adding to the Fiber Stash

It’s getting boring to start every post with an apology for how long it’s been since my last post, so I’ll just not.

I’ll just show you some super-pretty wool instead, okay?

‘Cause yesterday I got another box from The Spinning Loft (yep, you can order online now). I know, I’m going there in August so why couldn’t I wait? Because I had to make sure I finally got my paws on some Abby batts, that’s why! They go fast. (They’re made by this Abby.) And then, Beth mentioned that she had a lot of BFL. And I’m now a complete sucker for BFL. And she had some in oatmeal. Oatmeal. Like it wasn’t good enough to eat already.

So looky at the box that came, complete with pretty tissue-paper:


Please note presence of delicious Abby batts.


That’s orchid sock – specially blended for sock knitting. It’s superwash/romney/falkland/merino/tussah silk. I’m trying to remember I’m still on a budget, so I got a modest pair of wee all-too-cupcake-like bits. I’ve been wanting to try getting singles nice enough to actually knit with as singles, so that’s my plan for this, and I’m hoping to have enough for footies.

Meanwhile, apparently the Abby batts I picked out were a tad light, so Beth being Beth, she threw in “a little something extra.” This “little” something was:


4oz of kettle-dyed BFL. MMMMMmmmm. I know, you wanted to wrap the roving around your neck and wear it as-is, don’t you? I do, too. And I just might. Although the other possibility is to spin it up and make the morning surf scarf from the cover of the summer Spin-Off. I’m actually already making one of these scarves, in a yarn I spun from one of my birthday fibers that my dad bought for me when we were in New Hampshire, which turns out to be very much like the fiber/yarn that the designer used. However, if you’ve seen this issue, you’ll know that they show a whole lot of variations of the scarf in lots and lots of different handspun yarns. And every single one is luscious. (The yarns totally make the pattern – which is actually very simple, so much so as to be obvious, but a heaven-sent perfect match for handspun). So I found myself wanting every last one of them, maybe especially the one from kettle-dyed fiber (yes, the one in the magazine is red, but I swear that’s not the only reason I especially love it). So now I’m thinking I could make a second scarf in this new kettle-dyed BFL, and if I’m really generous I might let my mom have it for christmas. Maybe.

In the meantime, while I’m on the topic, here’s the morning surf scarf that I already started, from 4oz of merino/silk from the Fiber Studio in New Hampshire:






I think that this may be the best spinning I’ve done to date (I had to put one bobbin through the wheel twice to get enough twist in to ply it, but otherwise smooth sailing on the fast flyer) – it’s the most recent except for the sweater-size project that’s on bobbins right now (she says mysteriously, saving that project for another post) – and it makes me feel ready to tackle the merino and (separate) silk already awaiting me in the stash and – now – the Abby batts, all of which have been scaring me. Until now. Yay!

But back to yesterday’s box-o-yumminess. There was that whole pound of undyed BFL, too! Half white and half oatmeal:



I’ll probably dye the white in some fun way, but the oatmeal must remain in its delicious undyed state. Not sure yet what I’ll make with either one, I’m just enjoying touching and sniffing them for now!

In other news, I’ve been working on this cardigan from my first three whole, finished, non-experimental wheel-spun yarns:




It’s a made-up non-pattern based roughly on EZ’s methods, with the stripes meant to compensate for spinning ineptitude and the ribbing meant to give a fitted shape to what is essentially a mindless knit. I wanted a cardigan to leave at my (new! first ever!) office, since I don’t really own a decent cardigan, so it’s practical, too. The red dyed Corriedale is the first real skein from the wheel, and it looks it, as it’s under-plied and quite uneven. Then there are two other skeins, both from the white BFL I got in the box from Beth that arrived the same time as the wheel. I dyed those with kool-aid in two batches, pretty much randomly. You saw bits and pieces of this stuff in my previous three posts. I’m really happy and kind of amazed by how it’s coming out!

The really cool thing, though, is to compare that red Corriedale to this skein of brown dyed Corriedale that I spun up just a week or so (but many, many hours of spinning) later than the red. The original fibers were identical, both from that initial box from Beth:



The brown one is hardly flawless, but way better than the red skein. To go with it, I dyed some white falkland/corriedale that I got as part of the birthday-present fiber, with kool-aid and tea and coffee. The idea was to roughly replicate the colors in this amazing Brooklyn Tweed vest, which Hubbus would very much like to have for himself. His favorite colors are browns, orange, and blues. I would have liked to get a rich royal blue for this, but couldn’t make it happen with the kool-aid, so I settled for a denim blue. I also couldn't replicate that wonderful oatmealy color that Jared got (which, for the record, was his found yarn, not the hand-dyed handspun), so this my resulting variation:


I’m pretty happy with the spinning, but not so sure about the dye-job. Verdict is still out until I actually try knitting it up in 2-by-2-row stripes.

And oh, did I forget to show you the lama fleece Beth sent me “to play with”??


It’s the thing I was whining about not knowing what to do with in my last post. I’m starting to feel ready to figure it out. And I bought pet combs and brushes to help me! More on that experiment as events proceed. And I’ll show you the two cool new-to-me spinning-related tricks I unvented (which may well be known to everyone else, but I was excited nonetheless). And I’ll show you what happened when I solar-dyed merino and tussah silk! Although I might wait to show until I’ve spun some up…I’m hoping it will look better when spun, although it’s no tragedy, because if it doesn’t I’ll just dye it again.

Yeah – that’s the truth of it. I’ve been having too much fun with fiber to even blog about it. :-)

P.S. I had to get two new bins for the craft closet, to hold the new fiber stash and the new yarns I’ve acquired/made in the past year. Here’s a shot of them, including the spinning wheel bag, where the wheel could sit, safely stowed away, if I were ever crazy enough to actually pack it away, which I probably won’t.


01 June 2008

Pretty Pretty

A few observations:

1. BFL is incredibly soft. Given its relative cheapness, it's incredibly soft. I could spin for the rest of my life with BFL and be happy. That is, I would if I didn't know about how shiny Wensleydale is. And about the even softer softness and pretty natural colors of alpaca. And the amazing way silk looks beautiful no matter what stupid things you do to it. Sigh. You see how easily this spinning thing can become an obsession.

2. Plying on a wheel is so easy and fast that it's dangerous. Wow. And my super-duper jumbo flyer comes with a big bobbin, which holds twice as much as the regular bobbin. So I can 2-ply two bobbins full of singles and lickety-split end up with about 600 yards of yummy continuous yarn. Love, love, love. The only problem is that it goes so fast I totally forget about moving the yarn from one flyer-hook to another and make really messy bobbins.

3. My dad had been saving his birthday present to me until I got here for a visit, and on a whim on our way back from seeing the new Indiana Jones movie the other day, we followed a sign that said "Fiber Studio" on it. This turned out to be a very glorious place. A huge room full of incredible yarns, plus a really big selection of nice beads, and a wall for fiber and a number of wheels and looms. The fiber/spinning section wasn't nearly as big as what Beth has in Michigan, but the yarn and bead section were truly remarkable. Still, I'm not in the market for yarn or beads at the moment. So I got: 1.5 lbs Coopworth in natural browns. Half a pound of Jacob. A pound of merino (so I'll stop being scared of merino, so Beth will stop making fun of me for being scared of merino) and a pretty batt of merino silk, since Beth was out of Abby batts for the moment (waaaah). In other words, I'm building myself up a pretty little fiber stash even before I get into Beth's shop in person in August, a stash-acquisition trip I've been planning on since before I got the wheel (since there are no spinning shops in NYC that I know of, and no shop I know of anywhere matches Beth's selection). Will have to contemplate storage issues soon!

4. Then again, at the rate I've been spinning, maybe not. I'm on the last half of the kool-aid dyed BFL from Beth, which is going to be knitted up with the red Corriedale, which you've also already seen, into a cardigan. Oh yes, I have big plans. I also tried out my fast flyer and experimented with spinning as thin a thread as I could get. It seemed to go well until the bobbin got kind of full, then suddenly the treadles became harder to push, and I couldn't figure out how to fix it. I played with the driveband tension and the scotch tension and just made things worse. So then I tried Navajo-plying what I had, and it broke every two seconds, so I think I underspun the whole thing. Next plan is to run it all through the wheel again and add more twist. Still don't understand the mystery of why it suddenly became difficult toward the end of the initial spinning, but when I went back to the regular flyer and the BFL, it was back to easy-peasy spinning, so I'm ignoring the problem for now.

5. Beth: So I pulled out all the llama fleece and....what the heck do I do with this stuff now??? So far I've only spun from fiber that was already arranged in a more or less long-lengthy-thingy that is not yet string but clearly doesn't have that far to go to become string. Do. Not. Get. The. Llama. What do I do?? Other than smell it and fondle it and making everyone I know touch it and admire it (of course). Help!

6. You're all really bad at suggesting names for spinning wheels, guys. Really. But you can do better, I know you can. Pretty please?

7. No, I haven't forgotten about knitting. I'm working on a cabled cardigan from my brown Soviet yarn, which I started in Moscow. I'm on the last third of the second sleeve (but haven't started the body yet). Sadly, it doesn't photograph well at all - it just kind of looks like the beginning of a hairshirt. You'll have to trust me that it's much better in person:

28 May 2008

Some pictures and a meme

Beth continues to prod me to blog even though I'm really much too busy spinning, and occasionally dyeing fiber. So here's a quick meme and some pictures before I get back to spinning. I can't stop! It's way too much fun! (To prove to you that I really am completely obsessed with the
spinning, I'll confess that I've barely even logged on to Ravelry lately. I know, it's crazy. But that's how much fun spinning is, I tell you.)

“The rules of the game get posted at the beginning. Each player answers the questions about themselves. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5-6 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.”

1. What was I doing 10 years ago?

May of 1998. That would be towards the end of my free school-year between graduating from college and going to Russia for the first time. I lived in a studio apartment on the north side of Chicago, commuted back down to Hyde Park for the same library job I’d had during my senior year (preservation department – I prepared and processed books that were being preserved on microfilm; it was my first civilized job and the highest paying to that date, at I think $7.50 an hour, if I recall correctly). I was mostly saving money and applying for various fellowships that I wasn’t actually eligible for (because I’d graduated but not yet started grad school). Also applied to Ph.D programs that spring.

My studio apartment was partially subsidized by my parents because my dad needed a place to house a whole lot of digital video equipment he was experimenting with at the time. That summer, the two of us made his first, experimental longish video – a history of my paternal grandmother’s family. I’m still proud of how well it came out, and incredibly glad we did it then, because a lot of the people we interviewed didn’t live much longer.

That August 17, the ruble crashed and the Russian “Financial Crisis” began. I arrived in St. Petersburg on Sept 1. As I recall, there was also a major airline strike and my flight almost got cancelled indefinitely. But I arrived alright – all funding plans fell through because of the crisis – the first of many visa crises ensued – lived on kasha for a while – got a job (first teaching job ever, liked it, to my surprise!) – found out I got into grad school with funding – fell madly in love with the city of St. Petersburg. Returned to a road trip around the western US with one of my best friends from college for the whole summer before grad school. Those were good times. Funny how remote it seems from the other side of the long, dark tunnel known as Grad School.

15 years ago: May, 1993: I was VERY much looking forward to starting college. Couldn’t have been more excited/delighted/ready for it, and that feeling actually lasted right up to graduation, at which point I suddenly felt totally ready to move on. The college years were charmed.

20 years ago: May, 1988: The end of 7th grade. Heading into the nadir of my life: 8th grade. I had thick glasses, braces, and a bad perm. I absolutely despised nearly everyone I knew. School was a soul-destroying joke.

25 years ago: May, 1983: I was eight. I was already a serious Knitter and general crafter.

2. What are 5 things on my to-do list for today (not in any particular order):

Well, it’s almost midnight as I write this, but today I dyed 8 oz of BFL, knitted bit, spun a bit, and watched a movie with my dad and his wife. Petted the doggie. Tomorrow I need to get my act together a bit more and take care of some email, start putting together the materials I’ve been gathering for my class in the fall, and start pounding out the lectures. Oh, and I need to pay bills and make a dent in the vast pile of mail waiting for me. Not fun.

3. Snacks I enjoy:

Pirate Booty
Potato chips
Toast, with chocolate peanut butter or cinnamon & sugar

4. Things I would do if I were a billionaire:

  • Pay off all of mine, Hubbus’ and my parents’ various loans.

  • Buy us a nice pretty house with lilac bushes somewhere in New England, plus a decent apartment in NYC

  • Invest enough capital, safely, to be able to live comfortably off the interest for the rest of our lives, plus a travel fund

  • Go to SOAR and Meg Swansen’s Knitting Camp and Rhinebeck and Maryland S&W and every other major knitting event. Every friggin’ year, dude!

  • Establish some sort of self-sustaining educational charity fund – would take quite a bit of work to find out how to do that most effectively, but I’d want to help add to the sort of funding pools that got me through a PhD.

Funnily enough, I don’t think I’d have any desire to quit my job (now that I have one) – I think I’d still want to do it just as badly. But I wouldn’t worry as much about tenure, and I would definitely take some more time off for travel and fun!

5. Places I have lived:

Holland, Michigan
Ottestad, Norway
Chicago, Illinois
St. Petersburg, Russia
New York City
Moscow, Russia
Ivanovo, Russia

6. Peeps I want to know more about:

I never do this – not so much out of any high-minded distaste for bothering people, as I really don’t think there’s much to be bothered by in a link – it’s not as if one is forced to fill out a meme if one doesn’t want to – but mainly because I find it impossible to narrow down who I want to hear from most. I love to read other people’s memes, and I’d love to hear more from any of the bloggers I know. So if you feel like a meme, consider yourself hereby tagged.


First: I improved the tension on my built-in Lazy Kate. This works quite well for me:


This is the wool and silk hankies you saw in the last post, plied (it looks like candy - I love it):


The dyed Corriedale:


Then I dyed my BFL with kool-aid and food coloring, in two batches, one last week and one today. Here's last week's batch, from dye to the two bobbins of singles, waiting to be plied.








I have one more picture from today's second batch, which I offer with an apology for all the many flash-illuminated pictures above, also - I've had a lot of trouble getting remotely acceptable lighting conditions, which is part of why I didn't blog earlier. But now that I've actually loaded these up and looked at them on the big screen, I see that the colors are fairly accurate, even though the pictures themselves aren't pretty, so I'll just let it go at that. Because I have more spinning to do!


19 May 2008

Kromski Sonata (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

Um.....okay, I haven't posted in a long time, and I kind of have a hell of a lot to tell you all, most of which won't get told. Because I need to get back to my spinning. On my brand-new Kromski Sonata spinning wheel.

Yeah, you read that right. I had to go home sooner than expected (visa issues, again) and as a reward I got my spinning wheel early.


Sorry for just one bad picture from the whole receiving-opening-assembling exciting initial stage, but it turned out I had to charge my camera battery, and I wasn't about to wait to open it! This picture is from the moment the battery finished charging, by which time I'd been spinning all afternoon and the light was gone....


First yarn!



Beauty shots.


First yarn (undyed wool) on the left, kool-aid dyed silk hankies on the right, to be plied together for socks.


Dyed corriedale, and the first official bobbin of for-real-intended-to-be-good-yarn fiber (the previous bobbins being from more or less scrap fiber, but surprisingly very nice after the first few yards).

All this - wheel and fiber (and you ain't seen the half of the fiber yet) is from Beth's awesome year-round-fiber-festival shop (which has a spiffy new web site and is now open for online orders!). I had to call Beth about setting up the Scotch tension, but otherwise the whole assembly and getting started business was completely easy and effortless, thanks in large part to the early spinning training I got from Beth and Erika when I was in Michigan last summer, and my subsequent obsessive research on the internet since then.

Did you know that Beth is my new Favorite Person in the World?

So now it's official: I'm A Spinner.

The only thing missing for the wheel is a name....


18 April 2008

FO: Boring Vest

Alright, just because Beth insisted, here I am posting.

At least I have something to show for myself!

A vest!


Sorry the picture sucks - it's 6 degrees celsius and drizzling outside (snow yesterday!) and I had to take it quickly while Hubbus was on his way out the door this morning.

The vest is made out of the same 50% wool / 50% alpaca "Alpafina" yarn I used for the body of the Fair Isle 101, which I had loads of leftover of. Now I have about 20 yards left, at most. Score! (Yes, those last few inches of knitting were nerve-wracking.) Those of you keeping score will note that Hubbus has gotten more than his allotted one sweater per year this year. I think it was the idea of not having to bother with sleeves that got me. I don't wear vests myself, so I'd never thought to make one, but when he mentioned (100 or so times) that he'd really really like a hand-knitted vest, it finally sunk in that this would mean I wouldn't have to make sleeves. Awesome. So I did it. It went remarkably fast, though on US#2 needles - I did almost all of it either while walking by the river last weekend during a warm spell, or while reading a certain now-infamous thread in the Ravelry forums about the MCY scandal (I hope none of you have bought anything from Mystical Creations Yarns in the last year or so? If you have, you might want to read that).

I had browsed Ravelry for a pattern, and didn't come across anything with the very simple shape that Hubbus requested, so I ended up winging it (only to find, literally while the vest was busy blocking, this pattern which is almost exactly what I ended up doing). I made EZ phoney seams for the first time ever, and quite like them. There was miraculously little problem with the knitting - I didn't have to frog a thing!

And since then I've already finished the first sleeve for a cabled cardigan for myself out of the brown Russian wool that I got as a gift from my in-laws when I first arrived. I'm making this one up, too, since even if I could find a satisfactory pattern online, it'd be a pain in the butt to print it, and I was too lazy. It's fun making up the cable patterns - let's hope it doesn't end up being hideous....

04 April 2008

FO: Fair Isle 101

I finished it!

Actually, I finished it three full weeks ago, and have been dying to try it on and show it off but couldn't until now. What's my excuse this time, you ask? Actually, for once I have a good one: I got a hideous case of food poisoning AND strep throat at the same time and was completely out of commission until a few days ago, and even now I'm still not eating regular food (chicken broth, baby!).

The good news is I lost about 15 pounds and by the time I could finally try the sweater on, the weather had gotten nice enough to actually take pictures of it outside!

Look - spring!

The down side of the illness - aside from the pain, wretchedness, immobility, nasty medicines and boredom of course - was that I almost completely missed my absolute FAVORITE time of year to be eating in Russia. My illness almost exactly coincided with Velikii post, or the Great Fast on the Orthodox calendar. The stores fill with delicious vegetarian foods - after a winter of kolbasa, potatoes and carrots, I live for Velikii post. There are beet pancakes. Stuffed peppers. Lentil cutlets wrapped in eggplant. It's heaven on earth...and this year I missed it. Well, okay, I've been sneaking bites of all these things in the last day or two, along with the chicken broth, and not paying too heavy a price. But...how completely unfair! I could have been stuffing myself with vegetarian deliciousness for almost a month! My birthday also happened in the middle of all this, and on the first genuinely warm day of the year, and I couldn't even get myself out of bed, much less outside. Very sad. However, don't feel too sorry for me - I figure, karma-wise, I was in for a period of bad luck after the absolutely phenomenal luck I had in every way this fall on the job market - in the balance of things I still come out way lucky, so oh well.

Anyway, until a few days ago I was even too sick to knit (gasp), but I had literally just blocked the Fair Isle 101 sweater as the fever and..um...other symptoms first hit me three weeks ago. Here's the Ravelry link for the project. I modified it to such a degree that really only the colorwork chart and the general inspiration are really from the IK pattern. The rest is an Elizabeth Zimmermann EPS raglan in a completely different gauge (fingering weight yarn), with my own personalized measurements for the sleeves (the EPS numbers always seem a little big to me) and short-row bust shaping and waist shaping (above and below the colorwork, so it didn't interfere with the chart). The Alpafina 50/50 wool/alpaca yarn actually ended up blending very nicely with the leftover KnitPicks Palette sampler yarn I used for the colorwork. The sweater is light and thin but very warm. My only dissatisfaction is that the rounded-squarish neckline was supposed to be much lower - that was part of what I liked about the design - but I was so neurotic about where it should go that I overcompensated and it ended up too high. Since I was being equally neurotic about where the bust shaping should land and actually got that part exactly right, overall I'm happy - it could have been worse! And it still sits nicely over a button-down collared shirt, as I intended.

More pictures:

Meanwhile, in the last few days since I've been feeling better, I figured out that I could spin from a near prone position with a supported spindle. Good to know.

I finished the last of the Navajo plying with the mystery fiber I was experimenting on. You saw this before, but now there's more of it!

I've also finished spinning, but not quite finished plying, some of the grab-bag wool I got at the Allegan fiber festival, which is destined to go into the handspun socks I'm working on for Hubbus

I also started another pair of plain vanilla Hubbus socks, out of fitful boredom, using in-house cashmere from School Products, which there isn't much of, so these will be bedsocks.

In a separate and only slightly less random fit, I also started a pair of migraine socks for myself.

What the heck are migraine socks, you ask? It's something I've been thinking about for a long time - I think I bought the yarn at least a couple of years ago. When I have a migraine coming on, my fingers and especially my toes get icy cold - it's some kind of circulation thing. When it's warm out, though, it's uncomfortable to wear heavy wool socks when it's just my toes that are icy and the rest of me is hot. So I've fantasized for a long time about socks that have very warm toes and very breezy everything else. The sample pack from Lanaknits Designs inspired the rest of the plan - I have a mini-skein of wool/hemp yarn (warm wool, hemp helps keep the warmth in) and a mini-skein of 100% hemp (wicks away moisture and heat). The wool blend is for the toes (I may do a double layer; haven't decided yet) and the pure hemp is for the rest in a very open YO, k2tog pattern (except for the heel which will be short row stockinette). I love hemp.

Finally - a news bulletin: I have trained my mother to buy me fiber! This is truly extraordinary, because she knows nothing about knitting, spinning or fiber, doesn't really want to know, and has hitherto expressed only fear and uncertainty when I mention that yarn is really all I want, because she things she doesn't know what to buy. I'm not really ungrateful that this was the case for so long, since she's a genius at buying me really nice clothes and I'd be walking around looking like a bum if it weren't for her. However. Look what she sent me for christmas (yeah, it just got here now):

You're looking at some yummalicious pure alpaca right there. Even mom admitted it was pretty enough to eat. She got it through a work friend who knew somebody who he'd heard had some alpacas. Neither mom nor her friend had any clue what they were buying, but they sure did alright, didn't they!