Sunday, May 31, 2009

dyeing experiment a success

Remember this?
It's the merino/nylon top that I spot-dyed using the idea from The Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook.

I finished spinning it and here is what it looks like now.
The top skein is 470 yds., 82 g of 3-ply.
The bottom skein is 430 yds., 42 g of 2-ply.

I divided my fiber into three supposedly equal batches before spinning and you can see that I ended up with way more singles on two of the bobbins than on the third so that's why I have a bunch of 2-ply from the leftovers. Weird how that happened. I used a scale and everything.

I was spinning very finely so that I would get fingering weight 3-ply but I obviously got a little carried away because it's very fine even for socks. I think the singles were roughly 57 wpi. Good grief. I'm not sure what to knit with it. It may have to become lace of some sort.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

fiber goodness

Just a quick post to share some beautiful fiber that came in the mail.

The first batch are from BeeMiceElf.

Superwash merino


and a sample of alpaca/silk.

I think that these fibers are some of the loveliest that I've had the pleasure of feeling and seeing. Dyeing didn't overprocess the delicate merino at all. I'm sure that it will be a pleasure to spin. I'll be popping into this shop frequently!

And this pretty Corriedale is from Lakehouse Loft. It's gorgeous too!

Monday, May 25, 2009

thank you and a sad update about Kelsey

Thank you for all of your comments about Harrison. They mean a lot to me.
Dan came home from school with a sad update about Kelsey, one of the students at the high school where he teaches. Here is a link to my previous blog posts about Kelsey and her battle against a brain tumor. The world-wide knitting community has been wonderful about sending prayers and good wishes, as well as hand-knitted socks (which she wears!), her way.
She needs your prayers now more than ever. She had surgery recently and it didn't go well. She is very ill. Please add your prayers to mine for comfort to Kelsey and her family.

Friday, May 22, 2009

good-bye Harrison

We said good-bye to Harrison today. His passing was sudden and unexpected, probably the result of a heart attack. He had a good morning, ate his breakfast with gusto, barked at the birds, and happily greeted Margot, our long-time cleaning woman. Then he just laid down and was gone. It was quick and, I think, painless. I'm glad that I was with him. We just weren't ready to say good-bye yet. He was a good dog and will be missed very much. My heart is heavy.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Since I started attending a spinning class at my awesome LYS Golden Willow, I've become much more comfortable spinning on my spindles. Because I am a mostly self-taught spinner, I never learned to appreciate what great little tools they are. Now I love to park-and-draft when watching TV. So I've been playing around with various ways of plying from the spindle for the first time in my life.

First, I'll show you a neat little gadget that my spinning instructor shared with us. It's an inexpensive little plastic clamp from Canadian Tire with little holes in the handle. Then you put a fishing line swivel in the hole. The only reason there are two swivels on mine is because they came two to a package and I figured I wouldn't lose the extra one if I just put it on the clamp too.
You can hook the spindle in the swivel and it rotates freely to allow you to wind off the yarn. A close-up...
Cool, huh? And all for under $5.

I decided to Andean ply my singles. This technique allows you to ply from both ends of the same single. You can use your hand for this but then you have to finish all the winding before you can use your hand for anything else that might come up in the meantime. You also have to be very careful not to cut off your circulation while you're doing it. Or you can get this nifty little Handy Andy tool from Nancy's Knit Knacks instead.
Here is the paddle all filled up.
Then you pop the peg out of the top of the paddle and let the yarn fall into a 'bracelet' at its base. Both ends of yarn are available to begin plying. The paddle fits into a sturdy base that stays put so its easy to ply from it. No tangles.

Once I had it all plied I decided to slide the copp of yarn onto a straw.
I have a Katie-a-go-go where I could use the storage straws as bobbins to ply from if I wanted to use separate singles i.e. plying from different copps rather than from both ends of the same one like the Andean plying. I lent my Katie-a-go-go to my sister so used this yarn holder (also from Nancy's Knit Knacks) instead. I used this holder when I had the knitting machine but it's also great for skeining off of spinning wheel bobbins when I'm using the tensioned yarn meter. (Can you tell that I like gadgets?) The metal post fits into the straw.
I used the mini niddy noddy to skein it off.

And the finished little skein of practice yarn.

In a totally unrelated topic, we woke up to snow this morning. I decided it was too depressing to take a picture.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

the Matchless

I promised a review of my new Schacht Matchless and here it is finally.

It was not love at first spin for the Matchless and I. In fact, I panicked a bit about buying it at first. Treadling it made my legs hurt. After running this problem by Cal at Shuttleworks (I know I've said it before but I'm saying it again - such great service!!), I took his suggestion to switch from double drive to Scotch tension. It was a world of difference! It also explained part of my problem with the Elizabeth as I had always spun in double drive on her too. Spinning in double drive requires a bit more oomph because it pushes the wheel as well as braking the flyer with the same band.

Scotch tension helped a lot but I was still having some problems with knee pain. I saw in ads that there are wheels available for the Matchless (they call it a cart but it's really just wheels that fit on each side of the back of the base for easy transporting) and started to wonder if that would tilt the wheel more toward me and make the treadle angle better. I went to the Schacht group on Ravelry and asked whether it's possible to spin on the Matchless with the wheels attached and learned that it is and that the wheels lift the wheel about 2 inches up at the back. So I ordered the wheels as well as enough poly cord to make a stretchy drive band to replace the cotton string band. I had to wait for a couple of weeks for Cal to get them from the US but they came on Friday.

You can see that the wheel is tilted forward a bit with them on.

But my legs are much happier with the Matchless now.

And it's very easy to move the wheel around the house by using the drive band tension knob as a handle. The Matchless is not a light wheel.

Now there's smooth spinning on the Matchless. It did need some tweaks and lots of oil at the start but now it is a lovely wheel and I can declare love for it. It is also a completely silent wheel and I have great appreciation for that. I've thought about getting a WooLee Winder for it but that would mean a bit of noise from the gears as I spin so I'm happy with it as is.

I've almost finished the second bobbin of singles using my hand-dyed spotted merino/nylon top. I am so pleased with the soft denim effect!

I sent the Elizabeth for a sleepover at my sister Darcie's place to see if she would like to provide a new home. The single treadle and the flyer on the left hand side of her saxony styling still cause me trouble and it would be best for her to find a new home where she will be properly appreciated. The wheel that is, not my sister. She's already in a home where she is properly appreciated, at least as much as any mom of kids is appreciated.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

so much for accountability

Remember these New Year's Resolutions that I made? I was aiming for more exercise and reduced internet spending.

I'm here today to tell that you that I have totally fallen off the resolution wagon and have been for quite a while. It actually all fell apart when I got pneumonia in February. I quit using the Wii Fit for obvious reasons (i.e. a total inability to sit upright, never mind exercising) and I haven't stepped on it since. It was also about that time that I started shopping on the internet too, probably because I was unable to move and was bored while I was recuperating.

I have had moments of guilt about it, especially the exercising stuff, but they are fleeting moments and easily ignored. So much for stick-to-it-iveness. Then I put things into perspective the other day when I overheard Dan talking to his Nintendo DS. He got it for Christmas too and is trying to keep his brain young with Brain Age. Anyway, he muttered in frustration, "I don't want to draw pictures!" at the machine twice in the last few days (that I overheard, so it may well be more times that I didn't).

Now I've developed a theory: we like advancing ourselves in areas that we feel competent. For Dan, it's sports and activity, math games, etc. For me, it's all about fine-motor skills and creative pursuits like spinning and knitting, and word games and writing. I am not good at gross-motor activities so I hate them, and that includes any form of physical exercise. Dan never was much for art or, for that matter, handwriting. He happily goes off to hockey and comes home stiff and tired, with bruises. But he doesn't want to draw pictures on the DS because he doesn't like drawing pictures. He has always excelled at sports and put a ball, bat, or hockey stick in his hands and he's a happy camper. If anyone puts a ball, bat, or hockey stick in my hands, I'll be looking for the nearest exit before I get hurt. But stick knitting needles, fiber, a spindle, or any other tool requiring fine-motor skills, in my hands and I can use them to produce beautiful
results. (That sounds self-serving but I think it's true.) In the same vein of this argument, Dan watches reality TV shows and I can tell that he would relish the opportunity to test his metal against the elements and other insane members of these contests. Me, I wouldn't last 5 minutes before I would be reduced to begging to get voted off the island (or whatever) so I could get a hotel bed and shower, not to mention food of my choice. I will never willingly eat bugs or raw fish and I don't care how much money is on the line.

So I'm using this theory to rationalize why I'm not exercising and why I'm okay with that. It's my story and I'm sticking to it. Yes, I may be weak and pathetic but I can rationalize my way out of a cardboard box if necessary.

In other news, both Austin and Bentley are recovering nicely from the neuter surgery. Our weather finally shaped up and I think it is now safe to declare that we have Spring. I've been going to a spinning class at Golden Willow on Wednesday nights and having a blast.

I've been spinning:
2-ply merino,

3-ply BFL and the little skein is leftover singles spun 2-ply, spun with BFL from Zebisis in the Moonflower colorway,

more sheltie/cormo yarn,

and the start of singles for socks using Spunky Eclectic Fiber Club April shipment of brown BFL as the base fiber. The colorway is Myrtle. (One of my internet purchases, for which I have no guilt - see above.)

One last note: after spending quite a bit of time plying these skeins on the Elizabeth, I was hurting. So I had a stern talk with myself and convinced me to put her up for sale again. See this info if you're interested. The asking price is not carved in stone so I'm sure we can work something out if you want this great wheel package. I am also willing to take it apart to ship it if necessary.