Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Yarn Wrangling

So, just what was so urgent, so important, so necessary that I could not leave my house all of that three day weekend?

Plying. Clearing off bobbins. Clearing up a backlog of yarn ready-to-be-plied, piling up, so to speak. I did have a book on tape, thanks to recommendations from my friendly local librarian Lindsey (Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier) which also tends to keep me in place.

Thus I bring you nearly five pounds of plying:

pile yarn
First over 2 pounds of yarns for knotted pile.

knitting yarns
Plus this, over a pound of three-ply yarns for knitting.

The scary part? I could not even remember spinning some of this, cannot remember where I bought/obtained some of the fiber (the light grey Corriedale) and certainly have no recollection what some of this was to be. It's all good though, and will morph into some project or other. Most of it is now Knitting Yarn On Hand.

Next, we have over a pound of two ply knitting yarns:

cat shawl yarn
This is for the Mojo shawl from this post.

red shawl yarn
This is from Wooly Wonka Fibers in the Harvest colorway in Shetland wool, plied with some red I dyed to go with it. Looks like I will get about 1500 yards total, which is currently still seeking a pattern. Present thinking is a Shetland sort of shawl, perhaps Fir Cone (again) or Mountain Pines.

But all of this plying was the lead-in to the main event:

warp yarn May 2007

three ply wool-mohair rug warp. This is skein #2 in the series, 6.7 ounces and 254.5 yards. The fun part? Skein #1 was 6.5 ounces, and 255 yards, several months previous. I need over 1400 yards total, so this yarn will be the focus of spinning the next few weeks.

I use Lendrums, both the upright and the Saxony, with several heads and bobbin set-ups, for most of my spinning. Different bobbins indicate to me what I was planning to do with the yarn: pile yarns on one set-up, warps on another, knitting on a third. I'm a lazy spinner and want the wheel to work for me. Because of that, I can usually look at a bobbin and know if it was to be knitting or weaving yarn. But, hey, no system is perfect: I often run off the yarn onto TP tubes, thus negating any visual reference. Sometimes there are labels. Sometimes I have to remember, or look at my notebook (chicken scratch would be insulted to be compared with this), or guess.

Nonetheless, there were several Miracle of Plying moments: when the ends run out at the same time, thus leaving no little bits on the bobbins. There was also much Plying Nirvana: when treadling, twist insertion and drafting rate all come together at the same speed, and one can realize just why spinning was so easily industrialized: you are just there to hold everything.

I happily now have lots of clear bobbins and tubes:

bobbin basket

and can start the process all over again.

Perhaps this time keeping better notes, ahem.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Fire Prevention

Friday morning was SSK. Since I am loathe to leave my studio and venture into the world, I use the *I'm already dressed and out* excuse to also run errands, buy groceries, pay bills etc., on the same trip. After my big outing (it's a small town) I arrived home to a phone message from my LYS that the Addi lace needles were in.

I've been waiting for them. This deserved an unprecedented second trip out. I hopped in the car and took off with just my keys and purse only to see, not too far away as country miles go, a fat plume of white smoke: a fire just starting.

I hesitated for a moment, watching the smoke billow.

I live down a long two lane highway, the only road in this direction, which has been known to be closed in times of fire, to allow fire equipment and personnel unencumbered access.

I might not be able to get home.

Several thoughts were in play: if it's a bad fire, I might want to evacuate, and save a few of my possessions.

If I can't get home, I'd be sitting out on the roadway, with all the neighbors, perhaps for several hours, with no knitting.

In favor of continuing: Friday was the start of a three day weekend here (Memorial Day for those not in the US). I wanted all my errands done so I did not have to leave the house for the next three days.

I wanted those knitting needles. I have a project going now, on 3's in bamboo, wherein I have been cursing said bamboos at every k2tog.

I've been waiting for those needles. I've been known to drop in to my LYS periodically, for the last several months, asking if the needles had arrived yet. The owner and employee at the LYS have been known, in recent months, to announce as I arrive at the shop that the needles had not arrived yet, even when I was there to buy something else.

I had been a pain. I had been bugging them. I had them hold a few sets of needles for me, and I was afraid they'd make a mistake and sell them to someone else.

What was more important, fire or knitting?

Obviously, knitting.

I continued on. I ruminated on the validity of my decision while I drove down the road. As I made my way towards town, emergency vehicles, fire trucks and pumpers, raced past me going the other way, to the fire. There was still time to turn around.

The road was not closed yet.

I had no knitting with me.

Food and water, you will note, were not a thought. That's because when the road closes, a local grocery store has been known to drive out with bottled water and sandwiches for the stranded. I was kind of looking forward to a turkey sandwich or something. Such is my calumny that I would eat and drink while Rome, er, Peardale burned.

But I had no knitting.

But! (and you all knew there would be a happy ending, right?) I was going to a knitting store. I could buy a new project! I was buying needles anyway, why not buy yarn! And a book of patterns! New projects! I drove on, in confidence, planning what I wanted to buy to entertain myself while Peardale burned.

Here is what Eileen (at the LYS) and I decided on:

bearfoot yarn

I would learn to do 2 socks on 2 circs while Peardale burned. Red yarn! Fun! (Mountain Colors Bearfoot, I think, but Eileen ran it into a ball for me, and I don't have the label).

Driving towards home, I scanned the skyline for billows of smoke. I couldn't see any. We live in an area with ridges and valleys though, and around every corner is a new vista. I kept a wary eye, all the way home. Note that: All the way home. The fire was out. The fire trucks were driving out as I came in. It's still spring, with a little moisture in the grasses and leaves, so the dry conditions of high fire season are not yet fully here. This fire was out.

I drove all the way home with my new needles, a ball of new yarn, and, alas, no turkey sandwich.

So now I am happily knitting with my new needles, instead of the bamboos:

alpaca scarf

The review? mixed results: the tips are fabulous, the joins are great, the needles are slippery and the yarn is slippery. Sigh. I've dropped a few stitches getting used to the new needles.

I think I will invent bamboo needles with sharp points and good joins. And then bug my LYS until they stock them. Also, make a turkey sandwich.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

More Than Mere Money

I'm home.

We have traveled. We have seen the sights, stared at vistas, listened to discourses, watched butterflies flit, eaten at restaurants and al fresco, while sitting on benches, and sitting on rock walls. Traveling; always interesting, usually entertaining, sometimes inspiring, and good to get home.

I have some pictures, but in my usual Luddite fashion, forgot the digital camera, and had to buy a disposable job. It will be a few days before the prints are ready, sigh.

My husband says we cannot call ourselves Luddites, because there is no philosophy behind our technological dysfunction. It is simply lack of custom, lack of association, lack of habit. I even (get this) packed my cellphone in my luggage on the way home, because I couldn't think of a reason to need it. Until I sat for an hour in the Denver airport, a few minutes away from my son, and could not call him (don't know the number, it's programmed into the phone).

Musing on the events just passed, one memory is of a man, a stranger, never to be in my presence again, one hopes, who insisted that I could not be a weaver, because I don't make my *living* at it.

Humph. This discussion comes up regularly among those of us who work, play and study weaving, spinning, knitting, raising fiber animals. It may not be as remunerative an occupation as some, but it is rewarding. It brings focus to the days, friends, companions, a constant source of interest, amusement and activity. It is a source of economic uncertainty though, as more money goes out than comes in, over time, if not year by year. Equipment, materials (heh), storage and workspace, heating and cooling of said space, travel, time. Money.

What we do is most likely deemed a *hobby* by those who look in from the outside. But is hobby usually the defining factor in one's life? Or is it a diversion from one's daily life?

Is money the only gauge? It is the most common gauge we have, now days, it is how we decide how to label ourselves. We are a doctor, a lawyer, a crane operator, a teacher, a railroad worker, a nurse. Is Weaver what I put down on my tax forms as Occupation? No.

But I am a weaver.

Hard to explain, easy to dismiss. I met someone this past week who has been in the yarn business for over thirteen years, and has not made a profit yet. Does that mean she is not a vendor? Not a yarn merchant? No.

We have many fiber vendors who are struggling to make it all work, and for all of them, I am grateful. They bring books, patterns, potential. They bring me products, tools, materials and ideas each time I see them. They try direct sales, internet sales, they advertise in fiber magazines and keep them going for the rest of us (subscriptions alone certainly would not bring us the quality magazines we receive now), they rent booth space at conferences and keep them going, and bring us new, colorful, delightful fibers to tempt us with dreams of future projects.

In the larger culture, we are largely unseen, a blip, a dram, not even registered on any scales.

We are a an economic force to be reckoned with, however, and the yarn and book world probably know it. How many new knitting books have appeared in the past two years? We know knitting blogs are untold numbers, weaving blogs fewer. There are 66 weaving blogs on the WeaveRing now, and that is 66 opportunities to be inspired, to learn about methods and materials of a perhaps anachronistic hobby that keeps me so entertained, enriched and alive.

So weavers: start a blog. Tell us what you are doing. Let the world know, if only by chance, that we are here. Some keyword search will bring them to your blog, a photo will guide them to you when they do a graphic image search. We are not commonplace, but we can be a cultural factor into the next generations, if they know we are out here. If they know what a loom looks like, if they know the words and jargon, and begin to find the resources for equipment and materials, and the people who will teach them to be new weavers.

Add your voice to the growing dialog, let people know how you do things, perhaps differently than how I do them. Maybe we could have photos of say, a drawloom (very subtle hint, eh retired Lois?).

We may not be as ubiquitous as golfers, but we are here, quietly weaving away (sometimes less quietly), under cover of some other occupational designation. Humph.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Flaming Peacocks Batman!

So it is done: I spun more silk, knitted and finished the Peacock Feathers scarf:
peacock white2
Details: Pattern from Fiddlesticks, by Dorothy Siemens, knitted in handspun bombyx silk, size 0 needles, about 64" point to point, and 31" neck to tip.

It's a beautiful pattern, one that I wanted to do the instant I knew I could knit lace, but I really don't wear shawls. I thought a scarf would better suit me, and now I have a travel scarf: easy to pack, small, capable of being bundled into a pillow on a plane or train, easy to whip out should I need to appear modest (!) and just a little something if there is a cold draft on my neck. Traveling. You know how unpredictable it is, and how uncomfortable it is. I take my comforts with me.

There were no real glitches in the pattern itself, although I did get off track once in the knitting. I had to rip back a few rows, which caused me much consternation until I figured out a slick way to do it: I slipped out the needle, and ironed the scarf. Then I carefully pulled back three rows, to a purl-back row. All the stitches stayed in neat little loops until I pulled them out because the ironing blocked them in place. A quick zip through them with the needle, and I was back on track.

I did a variation on the edging:
peacock edging

I thought the crocheted loops specified in the pattern would just be an invitation to catch it on anything and everything, so I did a knitted picot bind off, found here. This bind off works better for me, and I think it will catch less than the crochet loops in the pattern, but clearly I will have to be careful when wearing it and not flail around in my usual fashion.

I like the drape, the handle, the size and the weight of it all:
peacock white

But of course, not the color:
flaming peacock big

Holy Candleflame!

I painted the scarf with thickened dyes:
painting peacocks

Details: Lanaset dyes, mixed to a 2% solution, then added to an alginate painting base. The scarf is stretched out on plastic, then each color added in succession:

painting peacocks2

Then it is folded in plastic, and steamed:
steaming peacocks

This is not an original idea. I recalled seeing an article in Spin-Off (Spring 1997) about a crocheted pineapple shawl, painted to look like peacock feathers. The beautiful silk shawl was done by Ann Welch, for a conference of the Ontario Handweavers and Spinners in 1991.

Margaret Stove also has a painted shawl in her book Creating Original Handknitted Lace: hers is a sea-themed circular shawl called Sea Spray and Scallop Shells. Rumor has it that Lacis is reprinting Margaret's book. Margaret will be teaching this Fall at SOAR in Michigan. I can't wait to meet her, and see all her beautiful knitted lace.

While I was painting the scarf, I wondered whether it would ever be possible to knit-paint-then-reknit the scarf like Nancy does with her work, and have the colors come out right. I don't plan to try it on this one, and my gauge is not even enough to begin to think about a large project like this, but it was interesting to think about. If one could do it, I think it would be beautiful.

I also thought of friend Freyalynn, who spins and knits modular motifs with well-planned color placement (see her Misty Mountain Shawl in the Fall 2003 Spin-Off). This pattern would be hard to pre-plan all the color in the spinning, but a modular adaptation is possible. Hard, but possible. Must think further.

All this, of course, illustrates my design process: work begets work. I would not think up half the stuff that I do by just sitting and contemplating. The work itself inspires the next step, the next idea, the next project. That time issue means that I have to write things down, or I will forget them before I have the time to experiment. I keep a very messy journal full of little notes, some of which I can no longer discern. No matter! There's plenty of inspiration left that I can read :).

Like June, I had a garment in mind to wear with this scarf:
peacock with jacket2

A red silk jacket I bought more than a year ago while I was in San Diego.

The jacket and scarf will be going with me next weekend to Ontario, and the Handweavers Conference. Ann Welch, the spinner of the Pineapple Shawl from Spin-Off 1997 is from Kitchener, Ontario, not too far from St. Catharines, where I will be. Ann's shawl took a prize at the same conference, sixteen years ago. Small world.

Also, small world story again, Dorothy Siemens, the designer of the Peacock Feathers Shawl, is from Toronto, which is close to St. Catharines. So my scarf will be making a pilgrimage home, so to speak.

There are no accidents. There are no coincidences. Wonder what this all means? Holy Candleflame Batman! Perhaps I will find out.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Scarf Eats Yarn


I had hoped to blog the finished Peacock Feathers scarf.

As you can see, not so much:
Peacock feather cast off

But close!
peacock feather cast off2

Thank goodness it is handspun. I'm off to the studio to spin up more silk.

More on Monday :).