Wednesday, May 31, 2006

If I Say So Myself...

I'm not so bad at this.

Yesterday when I got home, I found a nice little package waiting for me on the porch. It was my laceweight spindle from the Restless Peasant. An inexpensive little spindle that is absolutely gorgeous. It came with a cute little bag and some batt. Best of all, though, it came with some novel instructions on spinning laceweight. There's a trick in her instructions that enhanced my spinning tenfold. I think the trick will work for all weights of yarn, but for lace at least, it was fab. Want to see?
That's the spindle -- handpainted and flowery. Beautiful green whorl and nice long shaft above and below.

And here's the laceweight I got out of it last night (fingers included for scale -- I have very tiny hands).


Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Spinning a Yarn (or two, or three...)

I'm back from my business trip -- major trade show for work. Very long and busy eight days.

So I relaxed this weekend. And spun. I'm just about ready for the wheel.

Here's some of the angora (top) and the mohair (bottom):

The angora on the left is unset -- straight from the spindle, and the one of the right got a quick soak. It puffed up like one of those spongy things that you soak overnight. It's a single, so I can't imagine how big a plied yarn would be. The mohair also puffed up a little, but at the same time that's kind of nice. It's a two-ply yarn (and well balanced, if I do say so).

Then I pulled out a few ounces of straight wool roving that I bought a few months ago to experiment with and played a bit. I wanted to make a sample skein to see how thin I'd have to spin a single to get a sport-weight yarn (keeping in mind how the other puffed up). I've nearly figured it out ... it has to be pretty darn thin. This is where I think the wheel might come in handy -- it's very difficult to draft a thin yarn on a drop spindle.

I don't think I'm far off. The photo was shot with a macro lens and I forgot to put anything in for scale. It's not quite where it needs to be yet, but the yarn itself feels very lofty and I think if I can get it just a little bit thinner, well ... the possibilities are endless. Remember, though, that this is purely an experimental bit of roving. I'm hoping Sugar Pie spins up in a similar fashion -- my plan is to take the brown Leichester from MDS&W and ply it up with Sugar Pie and get enough to make my husband a v-neck sweater vest (not sure I have enough for sleeves too). What do you think?

Oh, and somehow I managed to find some time to get a little done on a shawl. I was previously working on the Pi Shawl from the Knitter's Almanac, but I'm ready to rip the whole thing out. There's WAY too much math involved for me, and I keep screwing up the flipping pattern. So instead, I started the Grape Arbor Shawl from Wendy's book. I'm doing it in a sage green, and so far I'm about a quarter of the way through the first motif. It's not looking so bad, although this picture doesn't really give you a good idea of what the final is going to look like. Once it's blocked, though, look out.

The downside? I hate to purl, and this is done with straight purls across the wrong side. By the time I get through this motif, I'm going to be purling more than 250 stitches straight across every other row. Right now, I'm just trying to slog through.

I'll get there. The good news is that the yarn is a very lightweight silk/wool blend, it isn't heavy at all on the needles, and it isn't the least bit warm (a good thing given that we were hurled unceremoniously into Mid-Atlantic winter without the slightest benefit of soothing cool spring weather!)

Monday, May 22, 2006

At the Atlanta Aquarium

Last night, I went to a reception at the brand-new Atlanta aquarium. It was lovely.

The Beluga whales were fascinating...

And the tanks were gorgeous.

I got a glimpse of "Mr. Ray" from finding Nemo (and touched him, too):

and got in with the penguins (sorry, it was a bad picture of me so you're left with just the African penguins...)
Also touched a hammerhead shark (baby, of course).

And was absolutely fascinated by a floor-to-ceiling tank filled with huge grouper and schools of more rays.
And I glimpsed some cichlids.

Tomorrow, though, I'm in for a real, real treat:

Thursday, May 18, 2006

On Spinning Silk and Heading South to Work

I know I've been quite derelict in posting knitting pictures lately, but I've been doing a lot of spinning lately. Here's a photo of some bamboo silk that I spun on my Bosworth Zebrawood spindle:

I'm actually very, very happy with it. Have two skeins done -- singles, actually, and I don't think I'm going to ply it -- and it looks fabulous. I highly recommend this fiber to ANYONE who can use a hand spindle. Easy to go near-laceweight, too. In fact, I brought my spindle and the rest of the bag with me to Atlanta in the hopes of getting as much done as humanly possible while I'm here so I can do something with it when I get home.

This silk spins like a dream, and it's easily set with a quick dip in some warm water. It does stiffen up a little after soaking, but I've found that a quick hand-snap of the skein really loosens it up and I hear that it softens even more when you start to work with it. Any ideas on what I should do with it? I have 8 oz to spin, and I figure so far I have 100 feet or so. Best part is that I'm nowhere near done, so I should have quite a bit to work with. Leave a comment if you have any ideas.

Bonus points for folks who can figure out why I'm in Atlanta. Watch the news.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Why I Need a Wheel

My spindles just aren't going to be able to handle the action.

Here is the Yarn Sniffer showing off my haul from M$&W:

On the far left in the plastic bag is a sweet batch of merino/llama/tussah silk roving. Then, the hank of roving is 100% merino, the two brown balls and the verigated ball in the center is some gorgeous chocolate roving, the yellow is a silk/alpaca/merino blend (oh so very soft) and the purple in the bag is mohair. The Yarn Sniffer is holding the two lovely balls of angora rabbit roving. The bag that is overflowing, my dears, is Sugar Pie. Sugar Pie is 3/4 Lincoln and 1/4 Navajo Churro. I swear, Sugar Pie is so fluffy and light, I can't wait to start spinning her up. In the foreground are my three spindles -- the far right is my new Bosworth complete with angora already started, the center is my Woodchuck lightweight with some mohair in a twist and the spindle nestled between the chocolate and cashew balls is the cute little decoupaged one I bought on a whim. That one is sampling the merino/llama/tussah silk.

I have to get the last bit of merino superwash off my Ashford spindle (bought in my pre-M$&W days), and between that one and the one that I took the alpaca off of, I'll have five spindles moving. I figure I'll start the sunny yellow next on an Ashford to see how it goes. But Sugar Pie and that chocolately brown trio? I'm saving them for the wheel...

Monday, May 08, 2006

And My Big Bonus of the Weekend Was...

I got to go back to the festival for another day. Yes, my husband is a sweetheart.

Let me explain. On Saturday, we had to leave the festival early because my oldest son (the one who thoroughly enjoyed the lamb) had a baseball game at 4:00. I really felt good having taken it all in -- but my purchases were slim: two balls of chocolate and cashew merino bought straight from the stall where the sheep was camped; two "bunny balls" -- a lovely set of blue/lavender angora rabbit, a bag of merino/llama/tussah silk roving, a Bosworth .5 oz spindle, and five unmatched Koigu mill ends (just for the principle of it). My husband took time (and both children) to wait in the long line to get me a festival t-shirt and a glass mug. That was it. Cheap day.

But it wasn't cheap for lack of trying to spend money. When we first got to the festival, we went on a Koigu hunt. That booth was elusive. But later, after checking a vendor directory, we found the booth location, and headed back. As it turns out, the throng of people waiting for Koigu must have blocked their sign, and we had walked right by it hours earlier. After talking with the staffer there, it seems that they sold out of nearly everything in record time. People were buying whole boxes at a time. I picked out five coordinating mill ends for $5 apiece and went on my way. I need to clarify here that I have never, ever, used Koigu and wanted it simply because everyone talks about it and this is one time when I wanted to keep up with the Joneses. My husband at one point asked what knitters use Koigu for. When I told him socks, steam started pouring out of his ears. "Socks!?! We've been searching for hours for something you're going to put on your feet?!?" (My husband won't wear wool on his feet so he doesn't understand.)

My husband also spent hours that day touching fleeces. He was so cute! "Wen, this whole thing is only $20! Why don't you snap this up before someone else does?" But once I explained that -- in addition to a wheel -- I'd also need to buy additional equipment and supplies to scour, comb, card, etc., not to mention the fact that we have old plumbing and things could get ugly, he moved on to rovings. Pre-dyed, prepared rovings all ready for spinning. And he was absolutely adorable as he and the boys touched all kinds of fibers trying to find ones I'd like.

It was a good day, all in all. Despite the boys' occasional disobedience (it was very hot and honestly, I started to get cranky too at one point), everyone had a great time. As long as we alternated exhibition hall/barn it seemed to work out. Especially when we stopped at the lamb judging. And I got to go home and spend the evening post-baseball spinning the new angora on my new Bosworth. That baby spins like there's no tomorrow, and the angora is a dream. I will post pictures later.

Yesterday started out as a wash -- MIL was coming for a visit from SC and she didn't get to our house until noon. She stayed for 2 hours. By three, I was itching. My husband looked and said to me, "Are you thinking about the festival? You're just dying to get a wheel." I reassured him that I was not going to buy a wheel that day, but that I was on a serious fiber crawl for when I get a wheel sometime in the next month. He looked at me with an impish grin and said, "Just go... have fun, baby."

And I ran out of the house and hit the road. The festival is really only 20 minutes away.

When I got there, I found a primo parking spot (two cars from the door!), and headed right to the main exhibit hall. I was on a fiber and spindle mission. I stopped first at Hatchtown Farm, where I found the most beautiful ball of varigated brown roving. The minute I picked it up I wanted to make it my bedtime pillow, it was so soft. Needless to say, I bought it.

And then I went to The Mannings, and hit the mother lode on Koigu. I think KnitandtheCity Wendy is going to have to explain why the Koigu booth has more mystique than The Mannings, but they had TONS of the stuff. At a small-fourtune/skein. Whoa Nelly. I bought five -- enough to do the Charlotte's Web shawl.

Then I went to the Woodchuck both, and bought a new little wooden spindle.

My next stop was a lovely booth (right now the name eludes me) where I fell in love with a 3/4 Lincoln/ 1/4 Navajo Churro ewe names Sugar Pie. This wool was just so springy and soft I couldn't stand it. Now this is where my true naivete comes through. The sign on the bag said $14/pound. I told the woman I wanted the whole pound and my eyes nearly fell out of my head when she pulled the whole bag off the shelf and gave it to me. I don't know why it didn't register that a pound of wool = a LOT of wool. I'm pretty sure it's a half-fleece. I bought it anyway. After all, I'm on the road to a wheel!

I found myself then strolling through the other halls where I bought four ounces of angora goat roving -- a lovely purple -- and a cute little decoupaged spindle. On my way out, I ran into Knitting Auntie (of Olympic aran fame), my uncle, cousin and some friends. Had a short little visit there, and then headed out.

On my way out, I stopped at one of the tent booths and bought what has to be one of the softest alpaca/silk rovings I have ever felt in my life. Bought three ounces of that in a happy sunny yellow.

And I called it a day. I now have enough fiber to keep me occupied when I finally get that wheel. I feel a need to interject at this point to explain that in another week and a half, I am going on an eight-day business trip. I don't think it's fair to my psyche to buy a wheel just before Hell Week. Especially since I can't really take it with me to play with in the evenings (14-15-hr days). So my plan is to get one right after I get back, take a few days off, and spin to my hearts content.

But I digress When I got home and walked in the door with my goodies, my husband smiled and nodded and said, "Boys, Mommy is home with her festival haul. Go on, show us what you bought!"

As I did, my dear sweethearts (especially The Yarn Sniffer) oohed and aahed at appropriate intervals, touched all of the rovings and smiled at the spindles and Christopher, of course, sniffed them all. And when I broke out the yarn, my husband said, "Your weekend is complete. You found your Koigu. You aren't REALLY going to make socks out of it, are you?" I think he was happy to hear that it's going to be a shawl instead.

And you want to know what is so incredibly cool about my husband? For hours after, he was asking about spinning, knitting, yarn compositions and speculating on what synthetics can be spun with rovings to make them stronger and more durable with everyday wear. He spoke fondly of Sugar Pie and was happy to see that there's more than enough there to make something useful and fun. I love him very, very much.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

At the Sheep & Wool Festival ...

My boys and I headed out yesterday morning for the festival. I honestly do not think that my husband really knew what he was getting himself into. I wish I had taken a picture of the parking. As I said before, this was my first time at the festival, so I just took it all in. What a day.

The first stop was a shot at petting some alpacas. The boys loved it. Since I've been spinning alpaca lately, they thought it was neat to see what it looks like on the animal. They were happy to find out that it was just as soft in the raw as it is on the spindle.

And then we headed into the main exhibition for the Koigu. Looked everywhere for the booth, but couldn't find it. So I moved on to other things. Like fiber. My husband (bless his soul) was touching and feeling the rovings and fleeces trying to help find ones I'd like. At the same time, he was managing the boys -- all so I could wander, touch and drool.

The rest of the day is a blur -- wandering through booth after booth after booth looking at fibers and spindles and yarns and threads. Watching the sheep being sheared and learning how to properly pet a sheep (flat hand, please). I honestly had no idea that a finger poke could hurt the sheep if rain were to permeate the surface and could possible cause the fleece to rot. You learn something new every day. Sheep are amazing animals.

They are absolutely adorable. Here are some of the fine specimens we got to see:

There was even an allusion to my all-time favorite book. These sheep were easily my favorite for that simple reason.

And I had absolutely no problem sampling the lamb. Neither did my son.

I'll post more tomorrow about purchases, etc. Hope everyone else had as good a time as I did!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Today's the Day!

I woke up at 6 a.m. today with a feeling like Santa had come to town. So I brewed my coffee, it's now 7:15 and now I wait. Wait for the time to head out to the fairgrounds for Sheep and Wool. I don't live far from the fairgrounds, so I don't need to get a tremendously early start.

Besides, I'm going to have company. Yes, my three men are going with me. Yesterday, Christopher, aka "The Yarn Sniffer" asked what there would be at the "Sheep and Wool Festibal"(sic) and when I told him there would be sheep and alpacas, tons of yarn and lots of other fun stuff for mommy to do, he told me that it sounded like there would be lots of fun stuff for him to do, too. And then he gave me the look. Moms know it. It's the please, pretty please, I'll never ask for anything else for the rest of my life until I die look. So I relented, and he nearly burst out of his skin.

Truth be told, the Yarn Sniffer is my constant companion on stash enhancement expeditions, and he loves to watch me knit and spin. He checks all the yarn in my LYS for "snuggleability" and sniffs them all. If they smell good and feel good on his face, he begs me to buy a skein for the stash. He's already on a crawl for yarn for mittens for next year. He doesn't yet have the patience to learn to knit, but something tells me that when he does, he may just ask me to try to teach him again.

So my agreeing to allow the Yarn Sniffer to accompany me to the festival started a whole other string of events. When my husband came home from work (pulled a later night than usual), our excitement must have been infectious. My oldest son was clamoring to go too, and I was immersed in my wish list. Nothing much was said until later, when he announced, "We ought to take Zachary's uniform with us just in case we're running late getting back."

Now my husband for years now has chided me for my knitting. HOWEVER, slowly but surely, I'm winning him over. His laughter and mockery led me to not make him anything handmade this winter, and he finally a few weeks ago made a comment about it. He'd like a v-neck sweater in fine wool, thank you, and he'd even like to help pick out the yarn. And the other day, I got "You've started another shawl? You never even showed me the last one."

He's interested. I'm sure of it. We'll see if he can survive MSW. More later.

Friday, May 05, 2006

MSW: Here I Come!

I woke up this morning so giddy I could hardly stand it! Maryland Sheep and Wool is TOMORROW! I'm really, really excited. I feel like a virgin on her wedding night. And yes, folks, I am a MSW virgin. It's been here ... right in my backyard all this time and I've never made it there. But this is my year!

Now I don't know if anyone reads my blog, or if anyone will see this in time, but Knit and the City Wendy and I e-mailed yesterday about trying to get bloggers together (or at least meet each other) at some point during the festival. We're thinking about trying to meet at the Wendy Knits table a little before 12. Anyone want to join us?