July 25, 2020

Raglan Sweater

     So I was working on a sweater.  I am pleased to say that it is finished and it fits. 
     I had started out following the pattern Brick by Clare Lee.  I made quite a few modifications to the fit and the design details.  In the end, I began thinking of it as just a raglan sweater. 
     Anyway, it is nice to be done.  I enjoyed the process of making the sweater as much as I enjoy owning it.  (Not wearing it, not till Fall.)  I just mean to say, the sense of accomplishment is pleasant.  Big project and all.

February 29, 2020

Trends in the Cut of Clothing and Knits

     Decades ago I read a book about planning a wardrobe and making smart choices when one gets pieces.  It recommended that you study the clothes in the shops and magazines to examine the cut, as well as the colour, embellishment, and texture.  For example, see where the waist sits, where the line of the shoulder sits in relation to the tip of a person's bone at the end of the shoulder, how high the underarm sleeve sits, how closely or loosely the fabric sits against the body, where the hems and seams hit.  It seemed like a sensible and clever approach to me, so I adopted it.
     Recently I had a look at knits on the market and realized that drop shoulders have come back in.  I feel like this change snuck up on me.  I remember the last time they were in and I remember when they went out.  The shoulder is dropped and the body of the sweater is wide like before, but the sleeve is much narrower this time.  With less of a taper, understandably.  The necklines are somewhat wider and lower.  The yarn is a finer gauge.  The modern knits don't have as much texture or colourwork as they did in knitting books from the last fashion cycle.  This may be for style or just because it is cheaper for a factory to make plain garments.
     I suppose if a knitter was enterprising and liked math, she could snap up secondhand some of the knitting books from the 80s and 90s and modify any drop shoulder pattern that lacks armhole shaping.  You'd reduce the number of stitches in the sleeve, plot a new neckline on graph paper, and perhaps convert a pattern to a different, finer gauge by recalculating the stitches and rows or by using the directions for a larger size and accounting for the difference in row gauge.  I saw a used book from the 90s the other day at a thrift store and passed it up without thinking about possible modifications.  On the other hand, using a recently-published pattern would be simpler.
     In the same thrift shop, I saw a cardigan with a colourwork yoke that looked to me like it was handknit, judging by the lack of tag and a texture and gauge like Icelandic wool yarn.  I thought the yarn felt rather scratchy and wondered if that was the reason the sweater was donated.
     The other day I was able to correctly identify a woman's cowl as handknit.  This was out in the wild, not at a guild meeting where the odds are high of running into handknits.  I guessed because the cowl was in garter stitch.  If a factory had made it, the machine would have needed two needle beds.  More complicated machine, more expensive, less likely.  Whereas a handknitter can knit garter stitch flat easily.  
     Besides the drop shoulder sweaters, I noticed some yoke sweaters with colourwork for sale online.  I've seen one person wearing one.  I will have to try and see the details up close sometime.  From a distance the sweaters appear to have been knitted flat in pieces, using short rows to imitate the curved design that's characteristic of handknit yoke sweater patterns from the 80s.  The original designs were a function of the technique in the decreases handknit in the round.  Again, simple for a handknitter, involved for machines.
     It's is nice to know what the new fashionable options are.  Fashion still seems to be favouring sweaters with a natural shoulder fit and a high-ish underarm seam.  I consider these to be more flattering and more trend-proof.
     This begs the question, why am I knitting a sweater with a raglan sleeve.  Expediency, I think.  Brick is such a simple pattern that the directions make me confident I can finish knitting it if I keep plugging away.  I expect the result with Brick will look acceptable and be comfortable to wear.
     It might be fun to do another sometime in two colours like a baseball t-shirt for a retro look.

February 22, 2020

Rabbit Hole of Research in Knitted Texture

     I created a bundle of favourites on Ravelry and called it texture.  I created it so I can view at a glance pictures of a collection of patterns and projects that show texture in the knitted cloth and that particularly appeal to me.
     When I saw the URL for the bundle, it appeared hundreds of other people had done so before me.  Found I could type in a different number in the URL and see other bundles.
     I'll be a while.  The results are very cool.
     Am also looking at projects made with undyed yarn, using the advanced search feature, sorted by most favourited projects.  Some of them are very pretty.
    Myself, I just finished knitting Julie Hayes' beret pattern Colette in undyed brown yarn.  Love the concentric decreases in the crown.  Am wondering if I should mail the hat to a family member now or wait months and months until Christmas.
     I applied concentric decreases to a stockinette hat that's fresh off the needles.  I knitted it without a pattern as a sort of test swatch for a sweater, as is recommended in Elizabeth Zimmerman's Knitting Without Tears.  Used the same yarn as I used for Colette but with one needle size down and a different natural shade of wool on the white side.  Am not into brown.
     Have cast on for the sweater, Brick, using the same yarn but in a medium natural grey shade.  While I wish the wool was glossier, the colour appeals to me.  Brick is a plain stockinette raglan sweater so it has no texture to it.  I plan to knit the trim from the Susie Roger's Reading Mitts pattern on the cuffs and hem, with picot at the collar.
     Oh, wow.  There are hundreds of bundles of favourites under the name linen too.  Love linen.
     You can type in www dot ravelry dot com slash bundles slash [name] for any name or word you think is likely, and see what comes up.

January 04, 2020

A Podcast on Craftivism

     If you are spinning yarn or knitting and want to listen to interviews as you work, I recommend episode 447: "Rethinking Craft" from the CBC Radio program, Spark.
     You can stream it with your Internet browser at www.cbc.ca/radio/podcasts/arts-culture/spark/.  Or find Spark from CBC Radio on your favourite podcast app, and find the episode.  
     The last segment on crafts and activism, also called craftivism, will probably be of interest to you.
     For those who prefer to read, a synopsis of the episode is here, www.cbc.ca/radio/spark/rethinking-craft-in-the-age-of-digital-reproduction-1.5291067.

December 28, 2019

Whims and Plans

     At the last handspinners guild meeting, I asked a couple of people if they had yarn resolutions for the new year.  One said, to finish unfinished projects.  The other said, to make things for herself, since the Christmas gift knitting would be over.
     I consider these to be excellent resolutions.
     The trouble is, unfinished projects usually sit unfinished for a reason.  Some problem holds you up from finishing.  Moreover, I find it hard to resist the lure of knitting small gifts and charity donations.  It is fun to delight other people.  It's only when I get to the end of the year and reflect that I want to give myself a shake and tell myself to snap out of it.
     I am glad I made the things I did this year, even though they fell short of my ideal of "clothing, for me, in undyed or naturally-dyed colours."  The knitted pieces were made for other people to use as accessories or for dishwashing.  The yarn was in synthetically-dyed colours.  I prefer undyed or natural colours because they are beautiful and eco-friendly, but am willing to use synthetic for other people.
     Looking back over the amount of knitting I did this year, I probably put in as many stitches as go into two or three sweaters.  The stitches just went into different things.  I find that garter dish cloths are easy mindless things to make while talking with someone or watching TV.  I can sometimes knit a dozen stitches in a row on a dish cloth without looking.  Sweaters, not so much.
     For those of you who have been keeping half an eye on my progress, let me remind you of the story so far.  I have made a handspun, handwoven vest and I have made a språng vest.  I have yet to make a complete handknit sweater.  This despite having started two and despite having been a knitter for eleven years.  In contrast I have made enough dish cloths that friends have urged me to start keeping a tally for their amusement.
     You might remember the Scraptastic hat I mentioned in the last post.  I finally got it knitted in the correct size after four attempts.
     In light of my ideal of clothes for me and in light of the obstacles in the way, I have made some moves forward.  This has been in the areas of my purchases and the way I use Ravelry.  They are preliminary steps merely.  I still need to do the work.
     I purchased four online knitting classes on Bluprint (formerly Craftsy).  One of the classes is Button bands and Buttonholes by Anne Hanson.  I have no skills or experience in this area, and the lack has held me up from finishing the Cullercoats sweater.  The other classes are by Amy Herzog, and I'm hoping they will give me the skill of altering a sweater neckline, the problem holding me up from finishing the pullover in dark brown Rambouillet.
     I enhanced my stash of commercial yarn this year with a couple of sweater quantities of undyed wool.  If you haven't heard the term before, sweater quantity (SQ) is a term for enough of the same yarn to make a sweater.  One SQ is dark brown Rambouillet sourced from a single flock direct from the shepherd and the other SQ is a dark grey in wool pool fiber from a large knitting company.  Both are worsted weight.
     It is sort of a push pull feeling, owning an SQ.  I want the SQ to fulfill its destiny and be a sweater.  Having an SQ in the stash is like having money burning a hole in my pocket.  On the other hand, a sweater project feels like a lot of responsibility with many factors that could go wrong.  So I hang back.
     As I hang back, I have been looking at the Ravelry pattern database for worsted weight sweaters.  Have not yet found a design I like.
     Besides a sweater, I could use a SQ to make a shawl.  I feel ambivalent about a shawl.  I expect I would feel like a weirdo wearing one, beyond my comfort level with weirdness.  It is an appealing prospect to have a shawl to drape over a chair at the guild's annual sheep to shawl educational demonstration.  A number of handspinners I know do this or wear their shawl at the event.  However, my goal is to own a wardrobe, not educational props.  I can afford to indulge a whim, but I don't know if I can bring myself to do it.  Possibly the book I ordered, with a Faroese shawl pattern in it, will be as far as I go.
     I have felt, in the past month, that I need to focus my mind on finishing works-in-progress.  To that end, I have changed my view of my project records on Ravelry.  I used to have an Internet browser tab open to show the default view of thumbnail photos and captions for all the project records in chronological order.  I now have a view of only the thumbnails for current projects I've marked as works-in-progress (WIPs) and the thumbnails for old unfinished projects I've marked as hibernating, the ones that have a little ZZZ marked on them.  I now see a to-do list, whereas before I saw a jumble.
     The change is good.  But I find myself working on my Ravelry queue, lining up the next several projects to do, rather than actually doing projects and getting them done.
     I really only started using the queue feature this year.  I enjoy planning and it is nice to see a plan written down.
     This month I updated my Ravelry stash record for the first time in ages.  I played with the default settings on the stash section, to my benefit.  I found that with the list view I could see the names of the colours of each yarn stashed.  With this, I avoid the necessity of having to take photos of each ball to indicate colour on the thumbnail view.  This only works because the amount of yarn is small, the colour ways are solid not multi-coloured, and the colour names are basic and factual, mostly, not fanciful and vague.  Black, not Cosmic Night and such.
     I filled in my Ravelry library section for the first time ever.  I limited it to knitting books and handspinning magazines only.  I don't see any point in adding weaving and språng books.  Those books' drafts and patterns won't become searchable in the pattern database like the knitting books' patterns do.
     Finally, I discovered that I can use Ravelry's search function to find commercial yarns that are undyed or naturally dyed.  The details include where to buy the yarn.  This should prove useful.
     My Kanban board for fibre projects remains useful and up-to-date.  It shows me my options, tasks I've committed myself to do, and works-in-progress ranked by level of service (fixed due date, first in first out, etc.).  The board duplicates the basic information on the Ravelry project records, queue, and stash record.  It is just a different way of arranging it.  I don't look at it enough, though, I look at my main Kanban board.
     I created one thing this year that I'm proud of.  I made it after a lot of experimentation with a new material.  It was a shawl pin made with lost wax casting, using a matt wax gun to extrude hot wax and create the model.  It is a circle of bronze, textured, with a pin of textured bronze to match.  The texture was derived from extruding wax onto a bed of coarse salt, the kind you top pretzels with.  The idea for the texture came from a direct casting technique, hot metal poured onto rock salt, the kind you spread on icy walkways.  I'd either read about that or seen it done on YouTube, I can't remember which.  It wasn't anything taught by my metal instructor.  If you want to see a photo of the shawl pin, you can here, listed on my Etsy shop.  The texture reminds me of the rocky slope of the beaches on Protection Island and Newcastle Island back home, pitted.
     So that's how things are here in my wool room.  All the best to you in the new year, with your own whims and plans.

October 06, 2019

Yarn and Cynefin

     I just knitted a black beanie in fingering yarn using Jane Tanner's pattern Scraptastic Hat.  Didn't get gauge at first.  I haven't sewn in the ends and blocked the hat yet, so am still not entirely sure the size is correct.
     There is a framework for decision making developed by Dave Snowden.  Being Welsh, he called Cynefin.  It divides contexts into different categories such as obvious, complicated, complex, and chaotic.  Depending on the context, you take a different approach as you make decisions.  I like to knit and listen to talks on YouTube by Liz Keogh on the subject.
     Non-knitters, or at least the non-knitters who don't live with knitters, think knitting is, at most, complicated.  And not terribly complicated.  You learn to knit, you get supplies, you follow the pattern, and you get what you expected.  Like clockwork.
     Certainly there are best practices in knitting.  So it can be complicated.  Many knitters like to choose unfamiliar patterns and learn new techniques, which increases the level of complication.  That in itself can stall a project.  But it's not the only thing.
     Knitters know that knitting is not just complicated, it is complex.  There is stuff we don't know, that we cannot know, going in.
     One yarn is not exactly like another so a substitution is a gamble.  Having scanned a lot of Ravelry project listings on pattern pages, I'd say substitution is the norm.  And from the discussion boards and conversations I've had with yarn folk, a lot of time is spent deciding what yarn to get.  Or spin.
     Then there is gauge.  One person knits tightly, another loosely.  Some people change gauge when they relax.  I am fortunate, as my knitting is fairly consistent.  I am also fairly consistent when I spin yarn.  But my gauge is not always the same as the pattern writer's, and it takes a while to figure out what gauge I have.  In my first crack at the hat, it came out inches too big.
     Another factor is that knitters like to throw pattern modifications in to the mix.  It's equivalent to changing a baking recipe and hoping for the best.  But with more math.
     Some knitters make up their own patterns.
     I think non-knitters don't get into knitting because they think they are not up to the challenge of learning the complicated steps, they'd rather spend their time on other things, and they wouldn't get enough of a payoff out of the investment of time and supplies.  After all, they can get clothes they like from the store without a hassle.
     Whereas knitters know knitting can be akin to an epic quest.
     I found weaving to be similar.  Same yarn, same draft (pattern), wider width, and different loom resulted in a looser cloth.
     I and others find it very tough to make decisions on warping interlinked språng.  I believe that would improve if we got more patterns to follow.  Språng is a whole other pair of sleeves, as the French idiom goes, because it is a bias construction.

May 27, 2019

"Getting More Satisfaction From Your Fiber" podcast episode

     You can hear TJ King interview me on her podcast The Peahen's Pondererings in episode six, "Getting More Satisfaction from Your Fiber" available on iTunes and Google or on her site here, https://thepeahenspod.com/2019/05/26/getting-more-from-your-fiber/.
     We talk about stuff including the way I keep track of my works-in-progress and to-do list with the Kanban method.
     After the podcast was recorded, I asked David J. Anderson exactly what commitment to a work-in-progress (WIP) means in Kanban.  He defined commitment to a WIP as a commitment to deliver goods or a service to a customer.  Similarly, regarding the book The Goal, I said in the podcast that the goal in the book was for the factory to finish its work, but actually the goal for the factory was to get paid for the products they produced.  I hope that you get my point in the podcast that we do things for a payoff, and that with yarn, usually we are our own customers.  For a fiber artist the payoff can come from having a finished product or from enjoying the experience of the production process.
     When preparing for the podcast, I came up with 31 different common problems I have seen keep people from being satisfied with their projects and finishing them.  TJ and I were only able to cover a handful on the podcast.  But there's nothing stopping me from giving you the list here, along with the solutions I propose.

  1. Beginner problems, where you lack equipment, supplies, and know-how.  TJ points out the problem of buying too much and buying the wrong things because you don't understand what you need.  Solution: get the stuff, get the skills, and above all get support and feedback as you go along.  
  2. Intermediate problems, where you make larger items or take on more stages (like fiber prep or dyeing), and as a consequence you run into more problems that block progress or you get discouraged because it takes longer to finish.  Solution: expect these problems, maybe limit your focus, and get any technical help you need.  I was talking to someone about this and she said that doing larger projects and doing more crafts is not actually a problem.  And it's true, it can be one of the joys of a fiber artist's life.  Assuming you don't get lost in the weeds.  
  3. You modify a pattern and thereby cause problems you don't get from a tested published pattern, or you don't start a project because you are daunted by the difficulty of making the modifications you want.  Solution: get help, get more skill at making mods, be brave, or search harder for an existing pattern that is close to what you want.  
  4. You are bored to tears at spinning two pounds of white wool or knitting miles of stockinette.  Solution: don't do it, or break up the work so you don't do it all at once, or get an e-spinner or a knitting machine so the work goes faster.  
  5. Your project is a poor match for the context you work in.  For example, you are trying to knit something that demands all your concentration but you are out in public with friends who want to talk to you.  Solution: keep the complicated project for a time when you are alone, and keep a simple portable project in a pretty bag to take to parties.  My evening knitting bag is black hemp/silk and contains a Granny's Favourite dish cloth.  Also, schedule a block of time for the complicated knitting.  
  6. You use modern patterns not traditional production patterns (or modern methods not production methods of spinning, knitting, and weaving).  Again, not necessarily a problem.  I've just observed that modern charts for lace and colourwork start with an image and go from there, and take a lot of concentration.  In contrast, charts from a hundred and twenty years ago have a rhythm to them.  So if you want to forge ahead, consider production patterns and methods.  I haven't knitted any stranded colourwork myself but I have done metal stamping in a Fair Isle pattern. I found stamping down the columns awkward.  Then I started stamping from right to left, bottom row to top row the way a knitter approaches the pattern, and it went extremely smoothly.  Similarly, traditional construction, such as knitting stockinette in the round and steeking, can be faster than knitting stockinette flat and seaming pieces because there's no purling.  As for methods, there are teachers like Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, Abby Franquemont, and Sara Lamb who teach production methods of knitting and spinning.  There is a possible downside to this solution: the look and fit you get with traditional patterns has been around for a very long time and some people may consider them unpleasantly dated-looking.  Not to mention that a stranded sweater can be too hot to wear in a place with central heating.  
  7. You keep poor records and so you cannot easily knit a pattern again or you cannot spin an identical skein.  Solution: either accept this about yourself, or keep records with the details you need about modifications, yarn type, tools used, and so on.  
  8. Your project does not fit your taste in processes.  For example, you are knitting lace because you want to have a lace scarf but you dislike knitting yarnovers and decreases.  You buy a fleece because it is beautiful but you dislike fiber prep.  Solution: practice self-awareness and acceptance.  Only do the process you like, or do the process you dislike in a way that you can take, like in small doses or in the company of a friend.  Or, get minions, or commission someone to do the work.  I know most fiber artists don't consider this an option because they buy yarn intending to use it themselves.  We tend to think of clothes as either homemade or bought ready-to-wear.  But if you really don't like a process and you really want the product, you can commission the work.  There are people who knit for money and take custom orders.  
  9. Your taste in processes gives you nothing near your taste in products.  You like to knit garter stitch flat but hate the look of it, that sort of thing.  Solution: stick with your taste in processes and give the result away.  Or, see if you can tweak the process to get a product you like more.  For instance, instead of plying your laceweight singles into laceweight 2 ply yarn and then knitting lace, try cabling those singles into a thicker yarn or making a 5 ply yarn (again, thicker) or holding a couple of 2 ply strands together when knitting something substantial.   
  10. You produce products that do not fit your lifestyle.  For example, you love to buy chunky mustard yellow yarn and knit boxy mustard yellow sweaters but you need a lace shawl to wear to a wedding and all those cocktail parties you attend.  Solution: knit what you love, keep it in a drawer, take it out to admire it, but buy ready-to-wear clothes.  Or, go against your instincts, grit your teeth, and knit products that fit your lifestyle.  Whichever makes you happy.  You may need to get extra technical help to be able to finish making wearable items, if something is holding you up and keeping you from wanting to produce wearable things.  
  11. You make technical mistakes.  Solution: learn the technical solutions, like how to drop stitches and redo them, how to swatch and block to get gauge so your items fit, how to use a life line in lace knitting so you can undo your knitting easily, how to fix a slub when spinning, and how to choose a flattering pattern.  For that last one, the most flattering results I've seen are from people using Amy Herzog's Custom Fit patterns.  
  12. You have trouble meeting deadlines.  Solution: set a reminder in your calendar and start way ahead.  Or, do what you love, whenever you fancy.  
  13. You have little time to spend on the fiber arts because you have a demanding job or demanding family responsibilities.  Solution One: choose a project you can pick up and put down so you can integrate yarn into your daily life.  Solution Two: make yarn part of your vacation and leisure time by taking a class, going to a meetup, and so on.  Keep duplicate sets of tools and project bags you can take with you.  Solution Three: make sure you get out of your yarn time what you are looking for, and what you need to counterbalance your job or family.  Examples are a sense of completion, time among women (or whatever demographic your meetup group is), time spent on math and science, and the experience of touching beautiful fiber.  Solution Four: do not take on a volunteer task for a guild or festival until after you retire or your family no longer needs you, because if you have seriously demanding day job you have no spare time to spare.  You need your yarn time.  Defend it.  It does you good.  Solution Five: Practice selfish knitting, and keep what you make rather than giving it away so that you have a tangible record of your yarn accomplishments.  
  14. You can't make what you want because you can't get the right materials.  For example, you need one more ball of yarn, and it's discontinued.  Solution One: find the yarn; do a Ravelry search for yarn in people's stash that's for sale, post an ISO (in search of) message on a Ravelry discussion board, or look up the company's distributors and call them about old stock.  To use a ball of yarn from a different dye lot and make a less noticeable transition, in between the old and new dye lots you can knit a section that alternates rows of either dye lot.  Solution Two: work around the problem; use different yarn for the cuffs or shorten the sleeves. 
  15. You take on a commission, paid or not, and it goes badly.  Solution: have an out clause and agree in advance on how you will handle change requests.  Or, refuse commissions.  
  16. You wind up working with materials or tools you never planned for, because they were given to you, or you picked them up in a destash sale, or your friend left them to you in her will.  Not necessarily a problem, as you may luck out and get something you like.  Solution: do not look needy.  Casually say things around friends and family like, "I get so much fun out of selecting just the right fiber," and "I have so much wool, my stash is awesome."  When you're around non-fiber friends, be their friend, not the person in their life who is all about yarn.  Be careful around destash sales: the seller cast off that stuff for a reason.  And, check for moths.  
  17. You spend $1000+ on fancy equipment but forget to budget money for lessons, time to learn to use the stuff, and space to set it up.  Solution: either budget for this, or don't saddle yourself with an obligation to live up to the equipment.  
  18. You wander into interesting but odd things to do with yarn, such as nalbinding and språng, for which there are few teachers and few patterns.  Solution: keep to the mainstream and focus on that.  Or, dive in.  Contact the teachers for advice, watch online videos, travel for classes to places like the John C. Campbell Folk School or Scandinavian cultural centers, or get together a bunch of students and invite a teacher to come to you.  
  19. You suffer from second sock syndrome or get stuck on sleeve island, or you change gauge mid-project and can't get identical pieces.  In other words, you have trouble finishing a whole project.  Solution: get two identical sets of sock needles and knit two socks, switching back and forth between them, or do the magic loop technique, or knit one sock inside the other (if you dare).  Try to knit always under the same conditions, with no fast music or tense TV shows.  
  20. You hate sewing up, or you create an overwhelming number of ends to sew up by using up scraps or doing involved colourwork.  Solution: sew in your ends anyway.  Or minimize the amount of sewing up by buying large balls of yarn, doing little colourwork, knitting raglan or yoke sweaters, and knitting toe-up socks.  Also, me, I like to take the sting out of sewing up by using a really nice needle that TJ's husband Mike made for me as a custom order, out of bone.  (Sorry, vegans.)  It is shaped like his Spanish Peacock single-point nalbinding needles but a little slimmer.  The regular nalbinding needle will work for worsted yarn. 
  21. You like to spin but not to ply.  Solution One: don't.  Spin singles and set them, or spin energized singles to knit or weave with like Katherine Alexander.  Solution Two: get better equipment, such as a lazy Kate that holds bobbins at a 45 degree angle.  Solution Three: improve your form, by taking a class or watching a DVD by teachers like Judith MacKenzie, Sara Lamb, or Rita Buchanan.  
  22. You need to spin and ply 3 ply yarn for your knitting to drape well but you hate to make 3 ply.  Solution: do 2 ply and knit lace or weave, because 2 ply is great for this.  Or, cable your yarn.  Or pass the singles through a spice jar top to ply 3 ply.  Or, n-ply, also called Navajo plying.  
  23. You use self-striping yarn but get fraternal socks not identical socks.  Solution: start at the same place in the colour progression when you cast on, which may mean discarding some yardage and settling for shorter socks.  Or, use solids, semisolids, speckled yarn, or chromatic yarn to avoid the problem.  
  24. You buy space-dyed braids because you love the way they look but you dislike the resulting barber pole yarn you spin, and the rest of the braids sit unused in your stash so they will be beautiful forever.  Solution: split the braid in half lengthwise, spin two bobbins, and ply a 2 ply yarn.  Or, spin the whole braid and n-ply it.  Or, divide up the braid following directions for fractal spinning and 2 ply the yarn.  Or, combo blend and combo spin.  Or, spin and ply each colour separately by tearing out sections of colour.  Or, commission the dyer to make you a coordinating solid braid.  
  25. You are too intimidated to use yarn or fiber that is frankly too good for you.  Solution: if you have the skills to use it, use it anyway.  If you don't, get the skills.  
  26. Your stash contains a little of this and a little of that, but not enough to make something.  Solution One: going forward, focus more when you buy, and buy enough.  Solution Two: use what you have by searching for low-yardage patterns on Ravelry, reading one-skein wonder pattern books, doing colourwork if the yarn is all the same weight, holding yarns together for bulky projects, and doing combo spinning and combo blending.  
  27. You find you made a mistake warping the loom, after you've sleyed 200 more threads through 200 more heddles.  Solution: dig deep and consider why you're doing this and whether you really want to be doing this.  Then either fix the threads or live with the mistake.  
  28. You want to wind a warp onto a loom but don't have a buddy to put tension on the warp while you crank.  Solution: make new friends.  Or, weave at a studio with an instructor and other students.  Or, get a gadget from Harrisville Designs to tension the warp.  Or, warp front to back.  Or use a rigid heddle loom with a weight.  
  29. You try to weave with knitting yarn and it goes badly.  Solution: use a narrow rigid heddle loom and a short warp.  Or, wet your skeins of yarn and dry them under tension, maybe.  Or, switch and use proper weaving yarn.  Spend the money, and treat it as a new stash.  
  30. You lose yarn to marauding moths or destructive kittens, or you lose your project.  Solution: use a Gamma seal lid on a 5 gallon bucket, use a Gripstic closure on a bag, and be cautious about bringing secondhand wool into your stash.  And just generally be careful.  In the podcast, TJ asked me about my general level of satisfaction with my fiber arts productivity.  I forgot to say that my one regret was leaving a couple of skeins of handspun Wensleydale out where the moths ate them.  Also I forgot to say that if someone announced to me, "That's it, you're done, no more yarn for you," I would be upset because there are things I still want to make.  
  31. You like to knit but hate to purl.  Solution: knit continental.  Or knit with the Irish Cottage Knitting method.  Or, knit sweaters in the round.  Or, knit the patterns in Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knit One, Knit All, which have no purling.
     To sum up, don't let problems stop you from getting satisfaction from your fiber arts.
     When I receive a gift from someone that could influence me, I disclose it on the blog so you know.  Here goes: TJ gave me a Spanish Peacock spindle storage stand.  If you haven't see one, it is an affordable stand that's sold as a flat pack.

January 15, 2019

Racism and the Knitting Community

     This week the topic of racism came up on two knitting-related Instagram accounts I follow, @yarnharlot in this post and @ysolda in this post.
     Following the trail of Instagram stories Ysolda Teague gave, I found many stories of racist incidents in the knitting community collected on the @su.krita account.  I found stories on the @thecolormustard account too.
     From there I followed the conversation back to Karen Templer's blog post, "2019: My Year of Color" which triggered the discussion, and her apology post on January 12, "Words Matter."
     I found on the @thecolormustard account the question "where is your outrage" over racism.  Also questions from @lynacassimir: "Please see what's going on in our Instagram community, Who is dominating them, are they speaking up against ignorance, are they against inclusivity by race, are they noticing these problems or are they low key on the problem."
     I'm not much.  I'm speaking as a flawed person.  I've put my foot in it and said the wrong things that hurt people at least half a dozen times that I know of.  I've been told it was hurtful, and done it again thoughtlessly, which is deplorable.  At least twice I've failed to speak up, letting overt racist speech pass.  I haven't made a push to befriend people of colour or support them.  But I am outraged, am against ignorance, and am for inclusivity by race.  I notice the problems, and I am listening.  I am up for being told like it is, without tone policing, if anyone is so moved.  I am considering how I will act with my time and buying power in order to support people of colour (POC), and I have plans for learning more about what POC have gone through.
    And yes, it is sad that I'm only saying something about this because people started making waves.
     I know personally few handspinners, knitters, machine knitters, and weavers who are people of colour.  (I think they're great.)  Attendance at the wool festivals I've been to has been almost all white.  That does not go with the overall demographics where I live here in Virginia.
     I could think offhand of only one minority-owned business that sells equipment or supplies to fiber artists, SweetGeorgia.*  Can't think of any POC producers like shepherds or cotton growers.  Understandable given cotton's past.  I am ignorant about POC knitwear designers.  I have only heard of one fiber arts business that goes out of its way to give employment to people of colour, Lantern Moon.  So the POC Fibre Folx stories on the @booksandcables account were good to see.  If you missed that, they were slideshows of many, many account names and pictures of people of colour in the fiber arts.
     If you are interested in hearing about racism from a person of colour on the receiving end, and want to listen while you knit, I recommend the radio segment "Ijeoma Oluo urges us to have better conversations about race" on the CBC Radio show Tapestry from April 29, 2018, at www.cbc.ca/player/play/1220830275504.
     Besides the interview, Ijeoma Oluo wrote a book, So You Want to Talk About Race (Seal Press, 2018).  She mentions that African-American people are not encouraged to go into the arts.  I mean, she mentions a lot of aspects of racism and in light of the fact that racism can be a matter of life and death, the arts are just a tiny fraction.  But it jumped out at me.  That and the enormous difference between white and black income levels.  I learned about that a few months before, from reading Chokehold: Policing Black Men by Paul Butler.  At the end of the book, Oluo challenges people to go beyond talking and to take certain practical actions to combat racism and benefit people of colour.
     There is also Sylvia Olsen's book Working with Wool: A Coast Salish Legacy & the Cowichan Sweater (Sononis Press, 2010).  It touches on racism, and it presents an ethnic minority as fibre artists doing excellent work.  If you know me personally and would like to borrow my copy, please let me know.

*edited to add: after I wrote this, I remembered the shop Knotty by Nature in Victoria, Canada, which is partly minority-owned.  And Maiwa sources some of their dye supplies from people of colour.
     Also, my experience sitting with other knitters has been mostly at events run by two non-profits which have inclusivity statements in their bylaws.  That means everyone is welcome to become a member or visit meetings, and we serve the whole community through education.  I also belong to a handspinners group that is a part of a co-operative that I assume has an inclusivity mandate, and an informal machine knitters group which meets in a government-run space that requires meetings to be inclusive.  From what I understand, a commitment to inclusivity is not the same as a commitment to diversity and it doesn't guarantee that individual members will act in an inclusive way but it is something.
     If you're wondering what the racist incidents told on Instagram looked like exactly, well, nothing beats hearing the stories in the people's own voices.  But to sum up, they were treated as though they were too poor to afford yarn, likely to shoplift, unworthy of attention, and undesirable to be around.

December 01, 2018

Ignoring Shiny Objects

     I tried to hold the line on my crafting to-do list this week, despite temptation.
     I had to buy some fructose from Maiwa to replace some old stuff.  I also wanted to buy a scarf.  I was out for a walk the other day when the temperature was just above freezing and I thought, a scarf would be nice.
     So I added fructose to my cart, and then the linen scarf I've had my eye on for dyeing with indigo, and then a white wool scarf for shibori dyeing with weld and indigo because a pattern of white, yellow, blue, and green would be interesting, and then a jar of weld because I'm out, and then a natural grey wool scarf because I'm on a synthetic dye diet and the picture looks beautiful, and then a small jar of walnut powder to qualify for free shipping, and then a stack of wool scarves on sale with bulk discount because I could dye extra scarves and put them up for sale in my shop.
     I've long thought that of all the knitters, weavers, handspinners, and dyers that sell their goods, dyers are the ones making sales and earning a profit.  Certainly I know a couple of knitters and a weaver who sell their work but not in the same volume as dyers.
     After loading up the cart online, I thought about my budget, my long to-do list, and the cold weather that prevents me from dyeing with indigo outside.  Outside is the only place I'd want to dye with indigo because the dyed stuff has to be spread out to oxidize when it comes out of the vat.  It's messy.  With all these considerations in mind, I removed everything from the cart except the fructose and grey scarf, and went through checkout.
     It is awkward set a limit, to deny myself the joy of stash acquisition and project planning.  However, I've already said yes to a lot of other things that I should get around to finishing.
     I did say yes to one new thing: I backed the Electric Eel Wheel Mini 2 Kickstarter campaign.  The cost of being a backer is affordable given the product category and when I receive the e-spinner, many months from now, I hope to discover whether I can get used to spinning yarn with a flyer instead of a spindle.  When I spin yarn with my drop spindles, I stand up.  Sitting with an e-spinner might be a nice change.
     When I first looked at the campaign, I decided against participating because an e-spinner would add to my to-do list.  I'd have the task of learning to use the thing, and the "spin yarn" part of my existing to-do list would become more pressing in general.  When I got a second email about the campaign I took another look and discovered that a quarter of a million dollars had been raised already.  My change of heart may have been tinged with FOMO.
     I have been bent over bench and anvil making stuff with silver, bronze, and copper this month rather than with wool.  You can see what I have managed to make and put up for sale in my shop at www.rosetwist.com.  The sterling silver circle shawl pin is back in stock and so are bronze weaving shuttle earrings.  There's also a pair of silver earrings that have nothing to do with fiber arts but are made with the proportions of Fibonacci numbers, which I think are quite harmonious.  If you can use Fibonacci numbers in your knitting and weaving, I say do it.

October 20, 2018

Red Språng Sash

     I made a red sash using a lace pattern for språng taken from a Coptic turban in the Metropolitan Museum of Art's collection.  The warp was circular, and the meeting line was woven in two places then cut.  It took two balls of Knit Picks Shine Worsted yarn, which is a blend of cotton and Modal which is like rayon.
     The curl is strong and as you can see I held it in place with pins to show the pattern.
     When I did a språng program at the weavers guild recently, I said that while officers wore språng military sashes to indicate rank and pregnant Greek women wore språng sashes for religious reasons (at least according to Wikipedia), it is possible that they also wore them for back support.  Everyone said, oh, yes, of course.  I still think somebody needs to test this idea.  It is tempting to assume that språng acts like a tensor bandage, which Americans call an Ace bandage, putting compression on an area by stretching in width and length.  However, språng only stretches in width.  If you wore this sash, it would feel like an ordinary belt when you tied it.
     A friend put it on and remarked on this fact, as well as how soft the fabric was compared to a tablet-woven belt.  It drapes.  She knew that there was a Medieval drawstring made of språng and worn by Bishop Timothy, so she had been curious as to what it might have been like.
     I showed the sash around at a fiber festival.  Most people asked if it was knitted.  This reaction has only happened with this lace piece, not with the other pieces I've done in plain interlinking.
     I made the sash because I wanted a lace sample of språng for the program.  I told the weavers it was a good thing I love them, or I wouldn't have made the thing.  I like a pattern where you do the same thing all the way across a row, the opposite of lace.  Fortunately, with enough repetition I got used to following the pattern and making the holes.  I even think I could tackle the språng chicken pattern in Herborg Wahl's book Nytt liv i gamle sprangmonstre.  It's hilarious to look at and name.

September 22, 2018

It's Been Ten Years Now

     It's been ten years this weekend since I first tried a spinning wheel at an old-timey festival and changed the course of my life.
     To mark the occasion, I spent time today at the same festival.  This time I was the one demonstrating handspinning with a drop spindle.  A lot of people just walked by, rubbernecking at the windmill, the country music singers, and the cannon fire.  A few stopped to talk which was great.
     I had some time before and after my demo to walk around and see other demonstrators.  I talked about språng with some re-enactors for the American Revolutionary War period, because språng was used for officers' sashes.  Would have been a whole lot more impactful if I'd finished the small sash I have half-warped on my loom and had it on hand for show and tell.  Oh, well.
     Talked with a chip carver about spinning wheel chairs and Northern European distaffs, because those items were chip carved.
     If you get this post through email, for some reason Google did not send you the posts I wrote during the past several months.  You can catch up at thesojourningspinner.blogspot.com.  Thanks for subscribing.

August 25, 2018

Hemp Dish Cloth in Seed Stitch

     You may be interested in Twist Collective's article about hemp, "High Fiber," www.twistcollective.com/collection/107-articles/2601-high-fiber.
     I prefer the idea of 100% hemp yarn rather than a blend of hemp with wool but that's me.
     I knitted another dish cloth out of hemp, using seed stitch.  I had to make the dimensions quite wide and stubby because of the way the first one shrank.  It looked ridiculously ill-proportioned when I was knitting it but you can see that it shrank to pretty much square.
     I was hoping that seed stitch would provide a better drape than garter stitch but it doesn't.

August 18, 2018

Free Offer: Tunis Sheep T-shirt Design

free t-shirt design of a Tunis sheep
     You can download a t-shirt design of a Tunis sheep from my Dropbox account using this link: https://www.dropbox.com/s/j68w8roz3ue2m07/Tunis%20design%20for%20dark%20shirt%20white%20ink.JPG?dl=0.  There is no charge to get the design and you have the right to use it for non-commercial purposes.  You do not have the right to alter it or create derivative art.  My company's name is in small type at the bottom; I created the design to advertise my shop.
     There is no account needed to get the file.  When Dropbox prompts you to create an account, just click the link at the bottom that says you want to proceed without an account.
     I also have a Bitly URL if you want to share the design on social media: http://bit.ly/2mAVl9C.
     The design is meant to be printed with white ink on a dark t-shirt.  I used CustomInk's printing services.  I picked the Anvil jersey woman's t-shirt in purple and the selection "one colour ink, in white."  If you print the design with black ink on a light shirt, it will look wrong, like a photographic negative.  You'll see that that's what the file looks like.  The file is sized so you can fill up a good part of the front of the shirt.
     The price of the Anvil shirt might strike some people as a bit high as t-shirts go.  For the price you get soft fabric and a feminine cut.  CustomInk has other styles to choose from and quantity discounts.
     I took the Tunis sheep's photo at the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton, Virginia.  Tunis is an endangered breed of sheep with historical significance for the States.