Friday, February 29, 2008

These are a few of my (new) favorite things

Spun-up denim-colored roving (more of this roving for sale in my etsy store):

Denim plied with black:

Gold tones roving - 100% BFL wool top, hand dyed ("Untamed"), from Flawful Fibers

Gold roving, spun up

Mossy green roving - 50/50 angora/lambswool, incredibly soft, hand-dyed ("Forest Floor"), from Pigeon Roof Studios

Gorgeous red roving - 100% Merino wool, hand-dyed ("Bed of Roses"), from Crash Into Ewe

New Sundara Seasons Yarn Club mailing:

DIY light box

Little Lily!


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

And speaking of red...

I was reading about California Red sheep, which I found from a link on Sock prĂ˜n. They sound amazing - sort of a cinnamon color when they are lambs, and then they get whiter as they grow up but can retain a slight tinge of the red in their wool, which is supposed to be quite soft and nice, with a silky feel and a staple length that is usually three to six inches. I followed that link through to a local California Red breeder and fiber farm, Apple Rose Farm in Wrightstown, NJ, and arranged to buy some of the roving that will come out of their February 29 shearing. I'm very excited. This is the closest to the actual sheep I've ever gotten in terms of the fiber I spin or the yarn I knit. I've touched sheep before; I just mean it's going to be sheared and then cleaned and carded and sent right to me! Whee!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


I don't ordinarily put other people's photos in my blog, but this was too gorgeous. I was looking at photos in an online competition using "Red" and found this by webshots user ttalbum:


It's not that far, colorwise, from the Socks That Rock Rockin' Sock Club January sock yarn. I've made the first of the pair:

Sunday, February 24, 2008

My Etsy shop is back in effect!

I put up 7 handspun yarns and a hand-dyed roving for sale in my etsy store today. I have been meaning to do this since I started amassing yarn that I knew I was not going to want to knit with myself (NOT because they're not good yarns to knit with, at all; but because I am all about the sock weight yarn these days), so today I finally got everything together and put up the listings. It took a while because I had to look up what the components of the yarns were, in the cases where I had spun them from roving I bought from other people. Also I had to count the rounds in the skeins (time consuming) and calculate what the yardage is in each. And finally entering the items is a bit of a task as well.

I had hoped to get some dyeing done this weekend, but today has been spent in the above task, then grocery shopping, and now laundry. And yesterday we spent the entire day going to see a movie at the mall. Seriously, we left the house at 2:30pm, met our friends at the mall at about 3:30pm (after driving around in circles stalking people coming out of the mall to try to get their parking space), saw the movie at about 4:50pm, went out for dinner after and hung out ... so it actually took the entire day.

However, it was a very good movie - "Be Kind Rewind" - which I really, really liked. It sounded like other people in the theatre were rolling in the aisles from the beginning, whereas it took me a while to get into the humor of it, but I thought it was quirky and fun and used Jack Black's wackiness well. And Mos Def was wonderful and thoughtful and sweet. So I really recommend it.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Advice from the adults table

I posted to my local spinners' guild email list about my thumb pain, and here are some of the great tips they posted back to me. I started putting some of them into practice last night and I already feel like I am stopping doing damage to my hand. And yay! I can spin again!

* * * * * * * * * *

From KW, Friday, 2/22, 3:08 pm:

Make sure you're not gripping too tightly when you pinch off.
If you use that hand to pull new fibers forward, try pulling back with
the other hand to release the new fibers. If the pain continues despite
these adjustments, you might try one-handed spinning, where you pull the
hand holding the fiber at a rate that's just ahead of the twisted
fibers. This is used for spinning on a charkha (because the other hand
is turning the wheel) and can also be done on a regular wheel.

* * * * * * * * * *

From KW, Friday, 2/22, 4:06 pm:

The front hand shouldn't be the one that holds the yarn back from being
drawn in. That hand's purpose is to manage the fiber as it's being
spun. How it does this depends on the spinning technique used. It can
include any of the following: pinching off the twist while you release
more fiber with the other hand, pinching off the twist as you release
the spun yarn onto the bobbin, smoothing the yarn as it's being spun,
removing debris from the fiber, or pulling out more fiber from back to
front if it's not releasing smoothly. Once you become more experienced
you'll find that none of these tasks puts much stress on the hand.

If you feel like there's too much pull, try reducing the take-up. There
should be just enough take-up so that when you release the light
backward force from the back hand the yarn gently and steadily pulls
onto the bobbin. (If there's too little take-up, the yarn won't pull on
and will get over-twisted.). It shouldn't feel like the back hand is
being dragged in, but rather that the hand is leisurely following a very
gentle pull.

* * * * * * * * * *

From LI, Friday, 2/22, 4:11 pm:

I would guess you are gripping too tight as well. I do have a vague memory of having a similar issue when I first started (but then, I already have carpal tunnel b/c I was a computer geek by profession for MANY years, so I just associated it with my already existing problems).

If you are worried about the yarn getting away from you, decrease the twist ratio (if possible -- I know for about the first 6 months, I stuck to the absolute lowest ratio except when I was plying) and the tension (i.e how fast the yarn is pulled onto the bobbin). The pull should be just hard enough so that it will pull in the yarn if you don't provide some resistance, but not so much that you feel like you are "fighting" to keep control of the yarn. Also, depending on the fiber, you may have your hands too close together and/or you are gripping the fiber in your "back" hand too tightly. To identify these... first, you shouldn't have to tug at the fiber when you are doing an "inchworm" approach (the most common approach when first learning). It should come pretty easily. Second, are you noticing a problem where you end up with a tangle of fibers in your back hand? That usually means you are gripping the fiber too hard in your back hand. Again, you should be holding it pretty lightly so that you aren't tugging at the fibers. And finally, the most extreme sign -- you will hear the fibers breaking as you tug at them!

And if it makes you feel better, I'd bet we've all been through the same phase at the beginning where we had a death grip on the fiber. It's hard to break the habit of feeling like the fiber is going to get too far ahead of you! But just keep reminding yourself that it takes a light hand.

BTW, What type of fiber are you spinning with? We might be able to give you more specific guidance based on what it is...

* * * * * * * * * *

From KW, Friday, 4:43 pm:

Using a low ratio (biggest whorl) lets you slow down the entire process. It might not be ideal for the fiber, but at worst you'll just have to treadle more to get enough twist. And the type of fiber you're using is crucial. Until you get comfortable with the spinning process, try to stick to something with a medium staple length -- around 2 inches should be good. Too short and you need a lot of twist for the yarn to hold together; too long and you have to wind the spun yarn on quickly or the unspun fibers will lock up in the twisted section and you'll have trouble drafting. Wool is an ideal first fiber because it's not too slippery, but it should be well-prepared roving or batts. Some good beginner breeds are romney and corriedale. Just aim for the middle range -- not the very finest like merino, and not the coarser breeds like lincoln.

* * * * * * * * * *

From me, Friday, 2/22, 5:00 pm:

I noticed that my singles are very tightly, probably over twisted. This seems to resolve a lot if not totally when I ply them together so I haven't really worried about it too much. But I increased the take-up to try to get the spun yarn wound onto the spindle quicker. And I also went down a whorl from the largest one. I am using my front thumb both to pinch off twist and to pull out more fiber from back to front.

As to fiber, I have been using mostly Henry's Attic merino superwash, when it is my own hand dyed roving, and then I think mostly merino when it is roving I've bought from other people. Is that too short? I do like how it feels.

* * * * * * * * * *

From KW, Friday, 2/22, 5:43 pm:

You don't need to worry too much about over-spinning the singles with plied yarns. And the tendency to over-spin should diminish with time as you learn the right settings for your wheel.

Rather than increasing the take-up, get it just to the point where it winds on when you stop pulling back. Then to avoid over-spinning you can either used a lower ratio, treadle more slowly, or release the back hand's pull-back pressure earlier.

If you're getting enough twist in the singles, then merino might not be a problem for you. Check the staple length though. If it's an inch or under, you have to spin fairly thin singles for them to hold together. Beginners tend to spin thick singles. That phase usually doesn't last long, so maybe you're beyond that point. But if your singles are thick, then it could be that too much of the fiber length is being used in going around the yarn horizontally, which leads to not enough vertical overlapping between short fibers. The only way to compensate for this is by over-spinning to lock the fibers in place -- especially with a slippery fiber (like merino superwash) that would otherwise easily pull apart.

Friday, February 22, 2008

My thumb hurts.

I LOVE SPINNING. I love love lurve it. BUT it makes my hand hurt. The two joints of my thumb, mostly, and the biggest knuckle of my index finger sometimes as well. Also, at night, my smaller thumb knuckle pops in and out. I notice it when I wake up in the middle of the night. It's gotten to the point that I can't spin very often, and when I do it hurts for days afterward.

In my experience there are mainly two kinds of pain associated with activity - the good kind, where you worked out and your muscles hurt because they are lazy and haven't done anything and need to get in shape; and the bad kind that goes with repetitive stress injuries and suchlike. Unfortunately, I fear this is the latter kind. I've only been spinning since Christmas, when Adam gave me the spinning wheel, and I'm probably doing it wrong, since I learned from videos online and kind of figuring it out myself. I don't know any spinners in real life. I joined a spinning guild in the area and their next meeting is in April, which I definitely plan to attend so they can pay attention to the high maintenance newbie who is probably doing it wrong.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Time flies when you're busy

I can't believe it's been a whole week since I wrote something. I've been doing a lot of different things and the week got away from me. First of all, happy birthday to my mom, a little belatedly (2/19). Happy anniversary to me for 18 years of doing something right (2/10).

I've been dyeing wool and spinning and also knitting away on a sock from the Socks That Rock (Blue Moon Fiber Arts) sock club. That's been fun and interesting. The yarn is different from the sock yarn I've been buying a lot of lately (Claudia Hand Painted and Sundara, mostly). It's different (not necessarily better or worse, just different); it's firm and springy and I'm enjoying knitting with it. I decided to follow the pattern as closely as I can, suppressing my usual instinct to mod it up. And then, after doing about 2 inches on it, I lost the pattern! I always keep my patterns in plastic sleeves with the yarn, but somehow I mislaid this one. So I had to wait until I could get another copy. Fortunately I met a woman at my LYS who is also in the club, who shared her copy with me until I get my replacement from STR/BMFA.

The pattern is actually kind of meh. I think the heel is pointy and awkward. But I'm enjoying working with the yarn, and I'm getting the experience of being in a club, which I've never done before, so I'm going with it.

I spun the "Looks like teen vomit" roving, which actually came out kind of well after being spun. I spun the sea blue/green as well. Here they are together:

I finished plying them together and they came out terrific!

Not to mention a ton of it - 482 yards of 3 ply, hand dyed and handspun merino wool.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day!

I gave Adam "Rock Band" for the XBox 360 and he bought us tickets to the opera for tomorrow night ("Otello"). We also went to dinner at a local restaurant that we've driven by on the way home every night since we moved here, which was a Mob scene, in the Jersey sense of the word, but good food nevertheless. I also gave Adam chocolate "Mii"s (avatars for the Wii), one for him and one for me.

Other than the fact that I had to go to the gyn, it was a lovely day. I'm looking forward to seeing Otello tomorrow night.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Fibrous tissue

1.6oz mix of superfine merino, baby camel, and silk bought at

I spun this up last night. It was hard to spin because of the different types of fibers mixed together, so I let it slub because I didn't have the giveadamn in me to stop and deslub every time it got a little thick. I thought, hey, this is artistic. I plied it with some of the brown. It was, well, okay plied with the brown, nice even, but I realized later I wished I'd plied it with the pink instead. It's a great pity that you can't unply. I have several things I wish I could unply and redo in another combination.

It was late last night when I finished it so I didn't take a picture of the yarn but I'll add something in tonight most likely.

Also unphotographed but out of the pot and nearly dry is the overdyed blue-teal roving. The blue isn't dark enough by half, but it's nice enough. I'm learning learning learning. Photo added:

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Adam lost his car key

So I have combed the house and have not found it. I have great faith in my ability to find things, usually, but I cannot find it. My only conclusion is: that key is not in this house. I hate lost keys in particular. When I was about twelve, our family lost a house key and we all combed the house and yard and cars and everywhere for months and never found it. My dad offered a reward to anybody who found it, $50. I really wanted to find that key, but I never did. It was never found.

Anyway. I'm dyeing some more wool. I dyed it once already, a teal green color, and now am overdyeing it a cobalt blue. I am excited to see how it comes out. The teal only got to most of the wool, leaving some undyed places, so I'm hopeful that the cobalt will get to those spots, and maybe leave some undyed green showing through.

I spun half of the pink I dyed and am tempted just to skein (and then knit) the single as is; it's somewhere between fingering and laceweight as a single, and it's tightly spun, so it'd stand up to knitting just fine. I also want to spin the vomitish mess I dyed last week, some of it at least to see how it comes out. I am sure it'll be ugly, but I want to see for sure.

I can't come up with anything I want to knit. The shawl I've been working on for years (which started as a cardigan but was too small to get around my fat belly once it was up to my armpits and therefore turned into a shawl) is about square now and I am thoroughly sick of it. My plan was to keep knitting on it until I ran out of yarn, but I have two and a half more skeins left and I don't think I can stand to do it anymore. It's pretty, and I feel sure I will never wear it because I have looked at it way too much to see anything but godamisickofthisproject.

I have a dozen or more skeins of lovely sock yarn, including the first installment of the Socks that Rock ("STR") yarn club, and no interest in knitting socks right now. I did a pair of gloves and don't want to make any more. I was thinking about using sock yarn to make a big quilt of squares of aran designs, perhaps the Great American Aran Afghan that Knitter's magazine published from their contest; but I looked through the book and lost my excitement for the project.

This happens to me from time to time so I'm not terribly concerned about it. I just would LIKE to be knitting, yet have nothing I especially WANT to knit.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

"Looks like teen vomit"

I have my first real failure, and what a spectacular disgusting mess it is!

Failures are great for helping to figure out what to do differently next time.

I mixed up dye and eye-droppered it onto the roving in random spots. I used all the green but only a little of the brown, then I dumped the rest of the brown into the hot water bath to dye the whole quantity.

  • I used too highly concentrated dye for the eye dropper step. Too much of it "stuck" where it hit and it didn't spread out. I thought the dye would spread out through the fiber more than it did. Good to know for future reference when I don't want it to spread out.

  • I didn't use enough of the brown to get a dark enough ecru for the entire batch; I only used about a half teaspoon for 287 g. For saturated color they suggest a teaspoon per 100 g; I was guessing at what would be a faint tint, but it wasn't enough. For the eye droppered bits, I guess I used about a quarter of the brown I mixed, so that left only 3/8 tsp for the whole batch. I probably should have used twice that.

  • The green color isn't nearly blue enough, compared to what I was going for. I didn't test it on a coffee filter, just kind of guessed based on what I saw in the cup after it was mixed.

  • I still think it might spin up really neat, but it probably won't. More on that as it develops. :)

    * * * * *

    Onto other news...

    I finally got my hair cut. It had been two years since the last visit to a professional haircutter. I just got a trim, but it was way overdue!

    Today I am meeting the last of the Princeton applicants I agreed to interview. Then I have to write reports on them and send those in. I'll be glad when it's done. It wasn't a hard thing to do, just required scheduling and taking time to do it, and it's a task I'd like to have off my plate.

    This evening we have a Superbowl party to go to AND I'm sort of on call for work in case anything should go awry in the application I manage, so Adam's bringing his laptop to the party for me to use if I should get a call. I SOOOOO hope that doesn't happen.

    Saturday, February 2, 2008

    Sofas and tables and chairs, oh my.

    We have this sofa, which was a gift to Adam from a friend who was getting rid of it. But it's now a gnarly, dirty, ten- or twelve-year-old second-hand sofa and it needs replacing. Adam likes it so much that he decided he wanted to get another one just like it. Amazingly, Crate & Barrel STILL carries this model. The one we have is ecru but I put my foot down against that color again so he got loden. It is now on order, but this is what it will look like:

    I bought a new table & chairs, as a return gift. This table:

    (picture deleted)

    but not the chairs in the above picture; instead, these chairs (in the honey color):

    (picture deleted)

    I decided it was a lot of money to spend all in one swell foop so I am splitting the cost of the sofa with Adam instead. Besides there is a new camera I have had my eye on for a really long time and I decided to buy that instead.

    Friday, February 1, 2008

    Better today

    I was pretty bummed out last night about getting back the design I submitted to IK. Even though I'd long known that it wasn't selected, there was something real about getting it back in the mail. The knitted swatches were a little matted, and I imagined the pages of my submission in a big pile under dozens of others, ignored and smushed. When Adam got home he wormed it out of me - he's so excited about the new job he just got an offer for that I didn't want to say anything. Anyway eventually I cried about it and realized it was bothering me a lot more than I'd thought.

    Tonight when I came home I felt more energized again to work on various fiber projects. I dyed about 287 grams of roving with specks of green and brown. I used an eyedropper to drop it at random places in the roving. I dropped all the green and a little of the brown and then put the rest of the brown in the water so it would be an off-white color. The drops seem to have spread out in the wool once it was in the water, which was my expectation - I have no idea how it will come out, but I was aiming at something I saw online. It's cooling in the pot now. I also put the knitted bag in the washer to felt, the one I made from the first yarn I spun that I subsequently dyed blackberry-colored. It's washing away now and felting nicely. And I also sat down to continue spinning the brown roving that I dyed to match the bonus roving I got a couple weeks ago, some of which I plied in with the pinks. There's a lot more of the brown, and I am not sure what I want to ply it with, but I am almost done spinning it and I'll put it aside until I find whatever I think it'll go with. I'm now spinning finely enough that I might be able to do a 2-ply fingering weight yarn.

    And finally, I picked back up the lace shawl project that I got to maybe 5" x 5" x 8" triangle and then frogged. It was pretty, and going well, but I dropped some stitches and I couldn't get it picked back up because it's too hard to figure out what goes where with this kind of lace. I finally got it back about to that same point: