Posts Tagged ‘spinning’

So, yes, a whole new year. And no posts for months. Mostly, because if every post is novella-length, it’s hard to find the time to sit down and write one (and also hard to justify taking that time). But maybe I should just check in a bit more often, with not quite so many words, and perhaps a few more pictures? All the more so, given that what I’ve been doing is fairly photogenic. I have changed my spinning wheel (and acquired a second one) and done a lot of spinning in the months since I left this poor blog for dead. (There may be a correlation here, of course, because spinning is both distracting, and often feels somewhat more productive than throwing lots – and lots, and lots – of words into the gigantic Black Hole of the Internet).

But oh my, handspun yarn is attractive stuff. Even not-very-good handspun.

So, here’s what we’ll do. I’ll introduce the wheels today, and then jump back into a bit more posting from next week. First, my very lovely Majacraft Suzie Pro, Thompson: Thompson

How he came to be called Thompson is both very simple, and something of a mystery. Hs predecessor never had a name, but it was clear from the outset that this wheel – this beautiful thoroughbred – was going to be needing one. We batted names around for a few days, and each suggestion was too arch, or too abstruse, or just too plain wrong. And then, the Middle Child suddenly said, “Why, that’s Thompson!” and it was so random, and so perfect, and so clearly correct that I went with it. I also, very resolutely didn’t ask where the name had come to her from (the answer could only be a disappointment). Anyway, he and I have been getting along famously ever since, and I’ve been gradually purchasing all the bells and whistles (and extra bobbins) a wheel could possibly want (OK, not quite. The ideal number of bobbins is probably infinite. But we have a lot. And they’re big.)

And here – briefly – is the other wheel, a pretty little Haldane Shetland. This was spotted in a charity shop by a friend of mine, who kindly alerted me to it and I immediately rushed over and bought it. A very small amount of TLC was needed (and provided, handily, and generously by the dazzlingly competent husband of a friend who volunteered him for the job), but now that too is up and running sweetly. I wanted a wheel I could transport and demo with, and let other people have a go on, and not be precious about, and this is perfect. Unlike Thompson, it’s lightweight, and easy to transport, all the more so with the (in)famous Haldane “design feature” of falling-off legs.

Haldane Shetland

Next time, maybe, a round-up of some of the pretty handspun handknits. But not today, because my New Year’s Blog resolution is little and often rather than sparse and overwhelming.

Back soon…

Read Full Post »

Sticking to my knitting

So much happening, and so little show-and-tell. I think maybe I’m abashed at how many different directions my mind has been going off in lately. So, for today, I’ll fall in with the old cliché, and ‘stick to my knitting’. Because, sometimes, simple is best.

Look at this, will you?

I picked up a couple of braids of this Bluefaced Leicester/silk blend from All Spun Up in a swap on Ravelry, months ago; fell in love; bought some natural oatmeal BFL/silk to go with it, and eek it out, and began spinning.

I got this:

At this point, it occurred to me that I needed MORE. A lot more. Enough to make a sweater with. But it was a club braid, and therefore not obviously available. So I scoured destashes until I found someone with some to sell/trade, and proceeded to trade for dyeing services (since I also like dyeing, that is practically the definition of win-win).

Every now and then, over a couple of months, I would spin a bit more of the beautiful, intriguing, but resolutely brown yarn, and dream of the garment I would make. And then, I did other things for a few months. Many other things, of which I will speak again. And then, it came finally time to knit the beautiful (but resolutely brown) yarn into um… something.

It was supposed to be a large hooded cardigan/coat-like thing, but that was just going to be too large, and too brown, and besides, I decided that the gauge was going to be off for the pattern I had in mind. So I did a little swatch, and it told me it wanted to be an awesomely simple sweater. Not, as I’d imagined, a cardigan (with a steek), not a big, hooded thing, but a plain sweater. With, um… some kind of simple edging, but probably not ribbing, and er… sleeves of some kind, and presumably, at some point, a neckline.

As you can tell, I’m winging it.

I started with a provisional cast-on, for superior procrastination, and just knit for a bit. The fabric is, frankly, amazing. Not because I’m any great shakes as a handspinner, because I’m surely not, but the combination of fibers is a delight to touch, and – for once – I’m knitting at a tight enough gauge for it to retain some body. There is something about the texture of handspun (imperfect stuff like mine, anyway – I know it’s not an intrinsic quality of handspun) that is appealing. It’s somehow very deeply, movingly alive. It occurs to me that I should have made a three-ply rather than a two-ply yarn, but I didn’t, and I don’t care. if it wears badly/pills horribly, then I shall care, but for now, I’m just too much in love. (And as you can see, I eventually decided on the edging – it’s seed stitch. Or do I mean moss stitch? Whatever. How much? Enough to not curl… I think.)

I’m using one of my favorite stitch-markers too, as it harmonises with the yarn, and is the right size. This was once a pendant, picked out for me by a very wise and spiritual Navajo friend as an appropriate totem-animal for me, and while I love it, I don’t wear it as a pendant any more. A few months ago, I converted it (along with most of the costume-jewelery I inherited from my mother and also don’t wear, but can’t bear to discard). Now I have a diverse range of eccentric stitch-markers I love and use, and that carry history, or meaning, or both.





Read Full Post »

A few months ago, I read a Yarn Harlot blog post about knitting directly from some unspun, undyed silk hankies – mawatas – and thought, “that looks interesting” and “I must get hold of some of those in my next yarn/fiber order”. Then, a few weeks ago, they came up again, in a Ravelry conversation, and I remembered that I was going to, and set about placing my order. Well, it turned out that she’d blogged about them again, only not in plain black and white, but in full color, and this time, the knitting world had – as one woman – apparently gone crazy. I find that interesting: truly, color speaks. Suppliers were suddenly running out of stock left, right, and center, and the company she bought hers from was even forced to pull their listing from the online store in the face of frenzied demand. (As an aside, sometimes I think I would love to have that level of popularity, either as a dyer, or a blogger, and then, I read through as many of the sycophantic comments on any of her posts as it takes to make me change my mind. Turns out, not as many as you’d think.)

Anyway, to cut a long story short (for once: am I quite well?), my first supplier was out of stock; my second supplier claimed to have stock “but we’re running low for some reason” (I knew the reason, if they didn’t), but turned out not to; then my first supplier got them back in and I was able to get my hands on some.

Oh, swoon – the delights of playing with pure silk. The tactile pleasure. The colors. The sheer sensuous feast.

There’s a good news/bad news aspect to this in that I’ve sold the first batch already. I’m not even sure I have any left to play with myself, which was all I ever expected to do. So, my ‘good problem to have’ for today is, do I order some more, while the dyeing’s good? Because, I sure loved dyeing them, and I would totally love to sell a few more, and hey, I’d still quite like to try knitting/spinning some, actually. And they take a pretty photograph, too.

Read Full Post »

It occurs to me that I make a lot of things, and think I’m going to blog about them, and then don’t. Either because the moment seems to have passed, or because I’ve been busy making other newer!shinier! things instead. So, it’s suddenly struck me that No, it’s not ‘Cheating’ to show them off when they are past some strange number-in-my-head, like, 24-hours old. So here, we go: the first in what might possibly be a series.

This particular One I Made Earlier really does have some kind of seasonal time-limit on getting showed off, so I figured it makes sense to start with the ‘November Spinning Challenge’ thing.  Alright, it’s not November any more, that much I grant. But bear with me.

One of my friends on Ravelry has been throwing out challenges in the spinning group we both belong to. The idea is to get people trying some new things, extending their range, and generally exploring and experimenting together.  Her big idea for November started with distributing portions of some of the worst and most unpleasant spinning fiber known to man. No-one ever quite worked out what this was, and all I can say was it felt like plastic, tested as wool, was the most lurid colors imaginable, and gave severe rugburn while being plied. (Some minor rugburn was also reported by several individuals at the spinning stage.) All I can say, rather terrifyingly, was that the person who gave it to her, had originally been planning to spin and knit a sweater from it. I shudder to think.

So, everyone got given 120g of this stuff, and the brief to spin at least half of it, and use at least some of each color (plus not more than one other yarn/fiber) to make a seasonal ornament of some kind for our assigned partner.

My partner honored the original sweater plan by making me a miniature one (as well as a handful of cute aliens, from a completely different yarn she’d spun either on another occasion, or merely as an antidote, I’m unsure which):

And so what did I make? I have to say, I love it. I knew my partner had two small kids (and celebrated Christmas, as she knew I didn’t), so I thought a holiday puppet might be fun. I’ve never knit a puppet (or any kind of toy, in fact), but inspired very loosely by the Estonian Sheep puppets from Interweave (available here), I decided to have a go at making one up as I went along. (Note: if you intend to try this, and I do encourage you, please use nicer wool: this hideous stuff was too much of a pain to even contemplate swatching properly. It was so horrible, I don’t even make any apologies for not swatching. My recipient almost certainly had issues arising from this that she was too polite to mention, but between ourselves, I’m glad it came billed as a puppet for a seven-year-old and a three-year-old. That’s all I’m saying.)

I started with the decorative two-color long-tailed cast-on I learned at Knit Nation this summer (which deserved a whole post on its own), and continued with some rather desultory colorwork on the body. ‘After a bit’ (when I thought I might run out of green yarn) I decreased for the neck, did some fairly random shaping for the head (pretty much a lucky guess based on the most cursory glance at the sheep pattern above) and then went to town with lashings of i-cord. Darned on some eyes and a nose, and I give you —

Kippi’s Bright i-deer –


You can probably tell how much fun I had posing the little guy before I sent him away. The rough wool made really sturdy i-cord, and I was able to get it to stay in various positions without the use of the pipe-cleaner I’d planned – and failed – to run down the middle.



Read Full Post »

Perhaps I should have thought to mention in advance that I was feverishly preparing to list a few things in the Etsy shop, but I was so busy working on the update that I didn’t get around to it on Friday, when the process started. So here’s some fiber-y eye-candy, with apologies for the delay:


As I largely follow my own whims, and I’ve been all about the fiber lately, this has been a spinning-oriented update, but naturally there’s some yarn too:

Should I mention that some of the yarn is the most gorgeous, to-die-for soft sportweight sock yarn, in an obsession-inducing MCN blend (merino, with 10% nylon and 10% cashmere)? This stuff is like crack for knitters – I could not possibly comment on rumors that I may have earmarked quite a chunk of the current batch for myself. And I placed quite a small order, and some of the rest is already sold, or spoken-for. So, it was probably cruel to even bring the subject up: pretend I never mentioned it.

There’s still a fair bit more to come, however, including more yarn, more fiber, and for the first time, some jewelry: those spindle earrings, and some of my glass pendants with knitted wire –

Read Full Post »

With an election looming, and my mood glowery and looming, I was glad today of a distraction.

I have been waiting for this to arrive since some time last week. Originally I hoped to bring the baby home with me from Wonderwool Wales, a couple of weekends ago, but I had to order… and wait, and then see out a bank holiday weekend. But today, my waiting was mercifully over, and I entered into the newest  phase of my fascination with wool.

8.15 a.m.

3 p.m.: I am continent. I am restrained. I am adult. I went to my silversmithing class, came home, finished binding off a sweater neck, put a child to bed, and only then get out the Swiss Army knife.

4. p.m.: the thing isn’t even set up, and already it’s a kid magnet. I realize how very smart I am to have bought a folding model.

5 p.m. I have only a few minutes before I need to go to a parents’ evening at the high school. Do I really need to talk to that maths teacher? I definitely have moments of genius. Picking up a hank of effectively pre-drafted pencil roving may just have been one. Either that, or I’m a spinning natural (I know where the smart money is on that one):

For my next trick – and I’m already developing a sense that this is foolishness – I’m going to play with some native Welsh Black wool. Call me sentimental, but I want Welsh wool to be my first proper spinning. Meanwhile, look ato those singles.

Read Full Post »

It does feel a little like a dangerous game, sending yarn to oneself through the mail. A little too seductively like a gift, and correspondingly encouraging of irresponsible behavior patterns. It’s one of the things – along with the effect on small-scale local commerce – that does concern me about shopping online. Not that I don’t do it: I just do it and worry at the same time. The puritan hedonist at work and play.

grace of gifts

Well, today I laid guilt aside in the joy of receiving genuine, delightful gifts from far-away (fairytale?) friends. Firstly there was the truly unexpected joy of an antique locket from my increasingly dear friend the talented knitter/writer Mary in Toronto (an increasing fondness that is coincidental rather than correlated with her buying and blogging flatteringly about my yarn), which I immediately recognized as having come from the charming tiny happy, whom I have long admired, but from whom I have never actually bought anything.  It’s lovely, and somehow gentle in spirit.

Also in the same post I had a package from Vermont.  Sligo, another intelligent, talented knitter I have ‘met’ recently, and who will shortly be knitting me a shawl, in exchange for some yarn I sent her (a tangled web of transactions entirely the fault of the deeply enabling website, Ravelry) has in the meantime gratuitously and generously sent me a phenomenal care package containing fiber, fuses*, and a spindle, as well as some maple candy. I have wanted a spindle for a while, and have been eyeing up the possibilities for making one. I have to say I’m relieved and delighted to have been spared the trouble, and I’m sure I will have better results with this. In a (ahem) twist on the expected course of the afternoon that could surely have been predicted by no-one, I was unable to resist at least one minor attempt at spinning. Now I have a whole ‘nother thing to do while preparing dinner. (And I’ve signed up for a silversmithing class in September). Help!

Balancing out all this generosity, it turns out that the random gift I sent someone else two months ago still hasn’t shown up and must be presumed lost at sea. Pity. And of course the ‘proof of posting’ that I saw only last week has now gone missing.

*As for the ten-amp fuses: don’t ask. It’s part of the tantalizing ‘when I went to the Oscars’ sequence of stories…

Read Full Post »

Good question.

We’ll come to it later on.

Yesterday, we went to an Open Farm day at one of the farms which supplies our local farmers’ market. I’ve always liked them, and their meat, and the idea of buying local organic produce, etc. All those things that mean we turn out week after week to support the farmers’ market, even on a day like last Saturday, which poured with the kind of rain rarely seen outside of the tropics or an old-fashioned Hollywood sound lot. The road became a river, the farmers were half-drowned, and incey-wincey batsman had his game of cricket rained out, so he hasn’t been an entirely happy chappy this weekend. That said, he did get to play one evening last week when we also had tickets for the opera, and so he’d better not make too much of it. That’s all I’ll say, but if dear, if you read this: take note.

It was certainly interesting to see the actual animals you are likely to be eating over the next year or so, and I found it oddly reassuring. The animals looked like they have a decent environment, and good husbandry, and no nasty antibiotic crap to eat, and are slaughtered a mere eight miles away (and it turns out they have to be scheduled first because they are organic animals), so they have the lowest stress levels your meat could plausibly have. I know my food was an animal, and I’m not prepared to be vegetarian, but I do care – and worry – considerably about the ethics of livestock production. Just, if I am ever faced with having to kill the creature myself, I might become vegetarian then. That’s my bottom line of hypocrisy actually: I won’t seek out the er, ‘opportunity’ to kill my dinner personally, but if I find I am confronted with it (like when I had to batter a fish supper to death on a rock, or pluck a still-warm chicken), and shirk, then I can’t allow myself to eat that kind of dinner again.

But where was I? Yes – the Open Farm day. Fair play to them, they did a good job. The whole family were out in t-shirts that read, “ask me, I’m a farmer”, directing the significant traffic, running the various animal talks (including the disconcerting visit to the ‘finishing barn’ where next week’s burgers were looking soulful), filling the hay trailer with visitors for the tractor rides (we somehow missed this: it must have been when I was distracted by the sheep for a few hours), and running the piglet derby (they screamed like stuck toddlers when the racing ribbons were tied round their tummies). Additionally, there was a rather random reptile exhibit (“Have you ever felt a snake?”) and an equally random ‘dancing dog’ display. This involved a hideous decorative-type dog with pinched little features and a pink sparkly ruff (tutu?) around its neck jumping though hoops and so on. I couldn’t bear to watch, but the little ones were entranced. I was more entranced when the display ended and I discovered this: a woman spinning dog fur.

spinning dog furShe would spin your own dog’s fur if you wanted her to (a woman with several bags of fur stored away in the cupboard under her stairs came up while I was there and was delighted to find her: and my family think I’m strange). Or she would spin the hideous dog’s fur. I forget the name of the breed. She also knit up some of the resulting yarn into very well-made garments she sold at a price that cannot have justified the labor. One item was a child’s swing coat, very beautifully knit, cabled all the way around, and with perfect buttons (I want some of those buttons). The really odd thing was that, since the dog fur fluffs up enormously as it’s worn, I can’t imagine you’d see any of the lovely stitches after about a week. It was a staggering amount of effort that she’d put into this coat. If you could mine someone else’s time like a fossil fuel and release the energy from it the way you can burn coal, I would have bought that jacket like a shot. And if you want an idea of how much dog fluffs up, take a look at her jersey. It’d make a fine dancing bear outfit. (And check out her matching hair: I did warn you there was something slightly scary about the whole experience). My main take-home from the meeting? That spinning wheel you see there: it has a much smaller footprint than I expected. And I know where to borrow one from.

So in the end, they hauled me away from the crazy spinning lady, because only if I left could I see the sheep. In theory I was supposed to be helping carry the lunch, but by the time I disengaged, the lunch had already been carried off on a tea-tray srounged by miracle. I say, between me and a miracle, they were better off relying on the the miracle and they clearly knew it. But the thought of the sheep got me back on message, if only because at that point I had  cunningly realigned the message with my own nefarious purposes. Of course my favorites were the sheep. There were some orphaned, hand-reared lambs that the kids were allowed to pet while I pretended to listen to the farmer’s talk about which kind was crossed with which to produce what. Really I was thinking about jumping in the petting pen, and about the notion that fresh wool with the lanolin in it might become waterproof mittens, if a person were able to spin it, combined with the very obvious fact that those sheep had just been sheared (and a couple of dozen enormous sacks of fleece were sitting conspicuously in the adjacent barn). Eventually they dragged me away under threat of a cream tea.

As the Beloved was stuffing children back into the car, I doubled back to beg some wool off the farmer. I was thinking about a handful, to try out the drop spindle I haven’t made yet (from old CDs, or anything else, either). He was more than happy to oblige, since it seems there is indeed practically no retail value to the wool. He sells it – for not much – to the Wool Marketing Board – and  apparently what I’d heard elsewhere is true: the fleece is worth less than the cost of the shearing. I made it back to the car with an armload of fleece and stuffed two big bags with it (two, not three bags full) and shoved them in the boot (trunk). One bag of black, one of white. I’m excited, anyway.

Shortly afterwards, we stooed for the cream tea and I wanted my coat. I opened the boot – just enough to get my coat, just for a second, but the Littlest One was right behind me, and he gasped and pointed: “Why are there sheeps in there?” And of course everyone fell about laughing, and thy’ve been mocking me ever since. Now my two bags of sheeps are standing outside the front door, and I have had to be persuaded that no-one is likely to come and steal them. “People will steal anything,” I say, and they look at me pityingly.

Meanwhile – my stripes progress, thus:

striped sock

Not bad, eh?

Read Full Post »