Spinning


I’m exhausted. My feet hurt. There are new yarn and fiber pets in my home that I must find a place for….it’s the end of another successful Stitches West.

I did a more low-key thing this year. I didn’t take any classes. I didn’t go to any of the events like the dinners and the pajama parties. Instead, Melissa came up and we shopped and saw a movie and ate at good restaurants. I wasn’t feeling too terribly social (and Melissa is never social). I worked on Thursday morning and then she and I met up at the convention center. After some lunch, we sat and knitted for a bit, waiting for the Thursday night market to open. We hit most of the booths we wanted, but some of them were just too crowded. But I found some lovely, lovely things including some cashmere from Lux Adorna and some vintage buttons. I also picked up some cross-stitch kits from The Frosted Pumpkin, some fiber from Pigeon Roof Studios, and some yarn from Twisted Owl. The last one in particular amused me because they had named a lot of their yarns after classic rock songs.

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Pretty things from the first day

Friday, I worked again in the morning and then met Melissa for our second round of shopping. After a few hours on the floor, the crowds really got to us, so we left and went to The Witch, which was creepy and atmospheric and I really recommend it if you’re into those kinds of movies. Then we ate Ethiopian food and headed home to knit. I was working on the last few rows of a massive shawl (I’ll post pictures when it’s blocked) and managed to get quite a bit done on Friday night while we watched John Wick. (Side Note: I had not seen this movie before, but it was surprisingly good.)

We hadn’t planned to go back to the marketplace on Saturday, but we decided we would at the last minute on Saturday morning. It was then that we finally made it into the YOTH Booth. It had been too crowded before. Melissa managed to snag the very last Puppy gradient set in pink in the fingering weight base. I was a bit sad I hadn’t seen it first, but I decided that it was okay. We only spent a few hours in the market on Saturday. Melissa had hurt her foot last week and had already been walking too much, so we went home and kept her off her foot.

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The Puppy, in all its glory

Saturday night, I dreamed about the puppy. When I told Melissa on Sunday morning, we worked out a trade. She gave me the puppy and has promised me some other yarn she had that I had been coveting in return for a sweater of my own design that I had never really been happy with (because it fits her much better than it fits me). I’m happy that the sweater has a home that will love it now.

Melissa headed back to her house on Sunday morning, and I headed back to Stitches for one last go-round. I got to see Sandra and Jennyfer from the knit shop back home, hang out with the Knitmore Girls and company, and (of course) see Laura from Dizzy Blonde Studios. I picked up a few more things I couldn’t resist. Mostly fiber for spinning, because now that I can spin decent yarn, I get twice the enjoyment from fiber than I do from yarn (I get to spin it and then knit it!). I got some gorgeous stuff from Abstract Fiber, from Anzula, and from Purlescence. I also got Clara Parkes’ new book (which she signed) and some octopus stitch markers I could not resist from Miss Babs.

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More Stitches loot. All the colors!

While I am tired after this Stitches, I’m not nearly as tired as I have been in years past, when I took classes and did a lot more. Which is good, because while all I really want to do is play with my new pretty crafty things, I have to go back to work on Monday. Boo. Farewell Stitches. Until next year.

So I took a page from the Yarn Harlot and Tuesday was for spinning.

Okay, no, Tuesday was for cursing. I just got my drop spindle. And despite the foul language I used Tuesday, it’s a very nice spindle. But wow, spinning on a drop spindle is much, much, much harder for me than wheel spinning. I am having so much trouble doing that much stuff with my hands. At least with wheel spinning my feet do some of the work. I destroyed a lot of fiber for very little yarn. And of course it’s all uneven.

I’m going to try weighting the spindle more; I think it’s a little light for me at the moment. It doesn’t stay spinning long and tends to backspin, which, according to my research, points to there not being enough weight on it for the thickness of yarn I am spinning. I’ll stick a couple of washers on it and see if that helps. Spinners out there, am I on the right track with this?

I’m also looking at maybe using it as a supported spindle instead of a drop spindle. It looks a little more intuitive to me. We’ll see. I have to experiment more. Even though right now my instinct is to chuck the whole thing because really? Why is it so difficult?

I also spent Tuesday picking out and re-seaming my sleeves on the Wispy Cardi, again. I’m still not 100% happy with it, but short of re-knitting the whole thing, there’s not much I can do because part of the issue is in my selvedges.

I didn’t write on Tuesday because between the spinning and the seaming, any blog entry I wrote would have looked like this: “*#$***! AJSKLD;JF;KALJSD;GKLJA[NVBJKNAKD;Jsdkl;nf;alklomnab[.” That’s how frustrated I was.

Last night, things were considerably happier, because I had knitting group. I got quite a bit of work done on my Frost Flowers. By quite a bit of work, I mean one whole row! Since my rows are like a million stitches long, that’s actually an accomplishment for three hours of social knitting. I’m actually not making horrible progress on this. I’m beginning to be mildly afraid that I will run out of yarn. No, screw it. I’m not even going to entertain that thought. I’ll burn that bridge when I get there. Plus I have a Plan B so it will be fine. (Famous last words!)

Something kind of cool also happened at knitting. It’s a huge complement to my knitting and I really needed that after feeling like such a talentless, non-spinning, non-finishing idiot on Tuesday night. I’m not going to say specifics right now, in case it doesn’t pan out. And if it doesn’t, it’s not a huge deal, I just don’t want to tell you all to watch for something that isn’t going to happen. But I’ll say eventually, I promise. Just know that it’s cool for me.

When I got home, I started picking up stitches for the neckband of my Wispy Cardi! And just in time, too. Ron and I are going up to see a Groundlings show with our friends John and Deb tonight. Since I’m not driving, it’s lots of car knitting time for me. And, since this is 1×1 rib at this point, I can do it in the dark. I was totally out of mindless knitting that didn’t require beads or lace, so I’m glad I finally got past the sleeves that just wouldn’t be knit. I really just want this thing done so I can wear it. It’s so soft and warm. And we’ve actually had some legitimately cold weather lately (not just California cold), so I could really use it.

Spinning on a Schacht MatchlessYesterday, I got to spin again. And then I got to ply the single I spun with another single (one that the teacher had spun). Plying is much easier than spinning, but it still takes some practice to avoid over- or under-twisting the yarns together. It didn’t help that my singles are still a little (okay, a lot) wonky. There are thick bits and thin bits. It’s also quite different from the teacher’s single in weight, so the yarns plied together in a funny way. Parts of it look like phone cord, parts of it look like Lion Brand Homespun yarn (which I happen to think is the devil), and parts of it look like normal yarn. I’ll Kool-Aid dye it and knit it up into something, just to see how it looks.
My second handspun ever.  It's a 2-ply undyed yarn.

To tell the truth, I was getting super frustrated in class, because I just could not get the hang of it. Everything was overspun or underspun, highly uneven, and had these huge slubs (big bits of unspun roving, where I couldn’t draft fast enough). But at the end of class, when I was just about ready to give up, I finally managed to do the short forward draw closer to correctly and was getting much more even yarn and real-looking yarn. It suddenly just clicked and I was doing it correctly more of the time than I wasn’t doing it correctly. And all of a sudden, there was some spinning zen that I keep hearing about. And it was lovely.

I’m also knitting up a swatch with my single from last week, just to see how it looks. I had this idea of making it into something, but I’m not super happy with the way this yarn knits up. Knit flat, the gauge is so inconsistent that the edges look very uneven. I may try knitting it in the round to see if that makes a difference. I don’t like untidy edges in my knitting, so I’m not sure if I will be able to use this yarn for anything real. Which is fine. This is all supposed to be a learning experience at this point.

My pink handspun swatchHowever, I am absolutely over the moon with how well the colors turned out. I love the yarn ever more knitted up than I did in the skein. I think getting to dye my own handspun is going to be one of my favorite parts of spinning! It is such a pretty pink that it seems a shame to not use it for something. It looks really good next to my face, I think it would make a lovely headband for me. So if anyone has tips on knitting with thick and thin yarn, please let me know. I’m afraid that there is probably too much difference between the thick and the thin bits to be workable, but if you have tips or patterns, I’d love to hear them.

My lovely pink handspun yarnI’m really pleased with how my handspun yarn turned out after my Kool-Aid dying. It’s a really pretty pink. I’m totally in love with the variegated look that it has (which I did intentionally). I actually had wanted to do a pink/blue variegation, but my supermarket had no blue Kool-Aid. It did have two flavors of cherry (black cherry and regular cherry), plus strawberry, pink lemonade, and tropical punch. To be clear, that is five varying shades of reds/pinks, and no blue. I distinctly remember blue Kool-Aid in my childhood; I don’t know if it was discontinued or if my supermarket just sucks. But since my blue plan was thwarted, I got black cherry, strawberry, and pink lemonade to create the pinky/red yarn you see here. I’m thinking that it might knit up into a really fun headband. I think I want a button closure, with a really fabulous button as embellishment. I’m actually really excited to be knitting with my first handspun yarn, as absolutely nerdy as that is. I don’t care. I revel in the nerdiness.

100000 stitches down, only about 972 million stitches to go...To tell the truth, the idea of doing a small and simple instant gratification headband is nice. Because one of my projects is huge and it is going to take forever. I am working on the infamous Frost Flowers Stole out of Unique Sheep Marici Lace Yarn in the Sugar Baby colorway (which is a pink that transitions to spring green). It is going to be absolutely beautiful when it is done. But it is taking forever.

See, this pattern starts with the phrase “Cast on 992 stitches.” Nine hundred ninety two stitches. NINE HUNDRED NINETY TWO STITCHES. The ladies in my Wednesday night knitting group all laughed when they read it. Because, really? Who does that? Don’t get me wrong, it makes perfect sense in the context of the pattern, which is actually a brilliant and interesting construction, which ends with the knitting grafting about five hundred stitches in the center at the end (which also made my knitting group laugh, because again, who does that?)

But I am not intimidated. This shawl is gorgeous and I want it. I am not afraid of a long cast-on and huge stretches of Kitchener stitch! So I decided I would cast on in the car when the boy (hereafter known as Ron) and I drove up to my parents’ house for Thanksgiving. That did not work out so well, because even with stitch markers, I kept losing count, mostly because Ron needed someone to talk, so he could stay awake while driving. I had the same problem all Thanksgiving weekend–I have four brothers and sisters (well really five, but that is a long story for another day), a sister-in-law, a new nephew, a probable future brother-in-law, it’s noisy, we were playing games and talking and eating…the point being that I had no real time in quiet to cast on. It took all weekend just to cast on. But I did and I knit four whole rows on it once we got home. And then, that Sunday night, I made a fatal mistake, and had to rip the whole thing out and start over. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the yarn hopelessly tangled as I frogged it.

There was cursing and tears and I swore off knitting forever. And then I spent two days (!) untangling the mess that this beautiful laceweight silk yarn had become. I was so mad. Four days work down the drain, plus another two lost to that stupid tangle.

But I was undefeated. I untangled the yarn. I cast on again (this time, as I was not so distracted; it only took me three hours *lolsob*). And now I have about ten rows knit on the thing. I did make one mistake in row six that required me to unknit an entire row (of almost 1000 stitches) to fix (and then I was ready to give up completely), but since then, it’s been going okay. (And now that I’ve said that, I am prepared for a new disaster tonight). I’m just hoping I get it done in time for Stitches West, because that much work needs to be shown off to other knitters.

Pink MmmmmmmalabrigoSpeaking of Stitches West, I also hope to have a couple of sweaters done by the time I go. I still have my Wispy Cardi on the needles. It’s just waiting for me to block the sleeves so I can seam them, then I can pick up and knit the neck and the body. And then I have this lovely bag of dark pink Malabrigo that needs to be a sweater. I want a cabled hoodie. I was thinking of doing the Mariah sweater from Knitty. I’ve loved this sweater since I first saw it in Knitty, because I love the cabling on it. However, I don’t really want a zip-up hoodie, and there is no waist shaping. I could always add waist shaping (which is easy) and convert it to a button front (which is doable but a little more challenging). However, I have also heard about some pattern errata, so I’m torn. The other option I was looking at is the Twist Cardigan from Chicknits. I know the pattern is good and I really like it (and it has shaping and a button front), but I like the Mariah cables better. Hmmm….maybe I will see if I can Frankenstein them together into an unholy, but awesome hybrid sweater. Thoughts?

And just so you don’t think every single blessed thing I knit is pink (because there is a lot of pink happening in this entry right now), here is a hat I knit for the baby meatloaf. As you can see, it is greenish blue, and not pink, because the meatloaf is a manly baby. Honestly, I’m sure he wouldn’t care if he had a pink hat, but I had leftover yarn from my Edith socks and it just happens to be blues and greens, so I made him tiny socks and a matching hat, because knitting tiny things for babies is fun. (And yes, I stuck it on a ball of yarn to photograph it. We are running rather short of babies to use for modeling purpose at our house, so I make due with what I can.)

Yarn of all colors blowing in the windAnd I took another three month (almost) break. Life gets in the way. I was taking an acting class that ended up taking much more time than I thought it would (I actually had to memorize stuff and rehearse outside of class), plus there was other stuff. Holidays, birthdays, family stuff. While I was away from the blog, my sister-in-law had her baby! So I have a new nephew. I’ve already made a bunch of stuff for him, but I gave it to him over Thanksgiving, and I stupidly took no pictures. Oh well.

While I was away, I was very productive. In addition to lots of nephew-related knitting, I did lots of other knitting, which we will catch up on over time. But I’m more excited about what I did in relation to making actual yarn. First, I took a trip with my Wednesday night knitting group up to Llama Farm in Apple Valley. It was freezing. Like incredibly cold and windy. But the trip was amazing! We got to pet llamas, had a great lunch (they made a delicious pumpkin stew and salad from their own garden), and (the best part) learn to dye our own yarn. In the above picture, my yarn is the pink and purple one right in the front. I’m pleased with how it turned out. I have yet to knit it up into anything, but I have plans. It’s 220 yards of worsted, so I’m thinking wristers/armwarmers.

A point-of-view shot of a Schacht Ladybug double-treadle spinning wheel in actionIn even more exciting news, I took my first spinning class on Saturday. There’s a shot of the wheel I rented for class (a Schacht Ladybug) in action. We spun worsted singles (as in spinning style, not weight) out of 2 oz bumps of undyed blue-faced leicester wool, which is a long wool. The instructor was really cool and super knowledgeable. What this really did was cement my love of spinning and my desire for a wheel of my own. In particular, I really want a Schacht Matchless Double Treadle Wheel. It’s a huge expense (no seriously, they are about $1100), so I’m saving my money. Hopefully by 2014, I will have one. In the meantime, I’m looking to get my hands on a drop spindle so that I can practice drafting and such. Unfortunately, none of my local yarn stores seem to carry them, so I guess I’ll have to order one from online.

My first handspun, undyed.My yarn itself was…somewhat of a disappointment. For some reason, I really thought I would have enough control over my drafting to spin something nice and even and pretty. Instead, I got a thick and thin mess full of overspun bits and underspun bits. There are sections of the yarn that are laceweight thin, and other sections that are super-bulky thick. The funny thing is, I was browsing the yarn shop afterward, and I realized that it looks a lot like some of the novelty yarns in the shop with the thick and thin bits and the overspun bits. Everyone I know who spins keeps telling me that those qualities are big in certain novelty yarns, and that when spinners get better, they miss the ability to generate that kind of yarn. It’s apparently hard to do what I did on purpose. Personally, since novelty yarns aren’t my thing, I’ll be glad when I can make nice even singles that I can ply up and use for shawls and socks and sweaters.

Since undyed yarn is boring, and our homework for next week was to knit up what we did, I just dyed my yarn with some Kool-Aid in the microwave. It turned out a little lighter than I wanted, because I don’t think I used quite enough Kool-Aid. I think I needed to use the whole packet, not just half. But it’s still really pretty pinks and reds. It’s currently drying in the shower; I’ll post pictures tomorrow. (Or whenever it’s sunny and dry. It’s been quite rainy here the past few days, so it may take some time to really dry). I’m thinking I’ll knit it up into a little bag that I can line. I’m really excited for next Saturday’s class, where we will cover plying. I know that the last thing I need in my life is another craft, but what’s a girl to do when there is so much to make? Honestly, I blame The Knitmore Girls and The Yarn Harlot. With the way they talk about spinning, how could I resist?