December 31, 2009

That Skein Didn't Last Long

I knit the thirty-sixth skein into the scarf and now I must spin some more. Everything you see after the unsewn ends is progress.

December 30, 2009

Cue the Music!

Why do I tire of counting sheep
When I'm too tired to fall asleep?
-"Fireflies," Owl City
My spinning goes more quickly when I listen to music with a quick tempo. Yes, these are the things you only find out by trying.

December 29, 2009

thirty-sixth skein

I forgot to take a photograph before wrapping this skein into a centre-pull ball, so you get to see it this way in all its mathematical perfection.

1 ounce Ashland Bay merino top in peacock colour
102 yards, which is what I was going for. I checked the gauge as I went along rather frequently to make sure I didn't bungle this skein like the last one I spun in this colour. Needs to match the skein in the scarf so I can keep knitting.

December 28, 2009

Voyez, des Moutons!

You know handspinning has changed you when you watch a documentary called Food Beware: The French Organic Revolution and you get excited at the 101 minute mark when the camera pans over a flock of sheep, and again at the credits (a shorn flock this time).

The original film title is Nos Enfants Nous Accuseront, or "our children accuse us," because the film looks at the impact of organic and non-organic food and agriculture on children at a particular school district that changed its cafeteria policy to organic, local food sources.

December 26, 2009

Another Link to another Viking Whorl Artifact

Happy Boxing Day!

I just can't leave the L'Anse aux Meadows soapstone spindle whorls alone. Here's another link, this time to a page on the Parks Canada website.* Photo of the whorl is partway down the page.

The whorl looks something like the top half of a miniature pumpernickel bagel.

*Parks Canada administers the national historic site, the actual site of the excavations which is, to be redundant, a park. A park on land on which Vikings once settled. And in one field there is a sheep, one side of which is black...Sorry, that's the punchline of an old physics joke.

December 25, 2009

Fly-a-way Sheep

Merry Christmas!

Enjoy this comic strip from Orkney, a set of islands in Scotland where they raise sheep and where the wind must be something fierce: and this panel too:

and this panel which is a good one for today when hopefully we are all enjoying a bit of a feast:

The comic strip is called The Giddy Limit.

December 24, 2009

Haven't Quite Got a Handle on Wool Cards

I used a pair of cotton cards on the downy Icelandic fibre and made absolute hash out of the process.

December 23, 2009

Buying Courage

Bought a lightweight spindle from the Spanish Peacock to help me get the courage to spin Icelandic fibre from a fleece I labouriously scoured and combed last spring, back when I couldn't spin well enough to do justice to the fibre.

Did a little test spin.

Spindle is in cherry wood with a walnut shaft, and is about 15 grams or half an ounce.

December 22, 2009

thirty-fifth skein

The thirty-fifth skein I've spun.
Ashland Bay merino in ruby
1 oz
100 yards
a little underplied, so will set the twist with hot water

December 21, 2009

Palpable Difference

If you could touch this scarf in progress, you'd notice the new section on the right feels stiff and thick. I spun the yarn too thick and it doesn't match. I think it might also be spun more tightly, though I'm not sure how I managed that.

There's no sense having a scarf whose fabric doesn't drape, especially around the neck area.

Will need to pull out the stitches, use the skein for something else, and spin replacement wool.

December 19, 2009

No Longer a Beginner Spinner

A year has gone by since I took up spinning in earnest.

I fell hard for the process and results of handspun. This level of commitment and love was entirely unexpected. So was finding out I'd had latent natural talent all along.

I feel grateful. I feel cheesy for feeling grateful, but it's true. Spinning came easy, progress came after practice, many many friendly folks helped me and encouraged me, quality tools and materials were within reach, all that and more.

Here's the Coles Notes for the past year:

I love using a top whorl drop spindle, rather than a spinning wheel. I relish the way a drop spindle feels. It hums. I appreciate the price, the portability, the simplicity (no moving parts but me*), the quiet operation, the connection to thousands of years of history, the versatility of the tool for producing thick and thin yarns.

I love spinning Blue Face Leicester wool of all the wools I've tried because BFL is glossy, soft, and well-priced, and also because the sheep that grows BFL wool is derived from a heritage breed and I think that's cool.

I like using wool combs to prepare wool, even though the amount of waste and work is considerable. The result has qualities you just can't buy.

My favourite way to get spinning equipment and materials is directly from an independent, small-scale producer, preferably in person.

I love to demonstrate the drop spindle and get people to try spinning. I think the skill is useful and would like more people to know about the tool.

I don't want people to think of spinning as only something quaint done by folks in funny costumes on special occasions for spectators.

*see a video clip of me, spinning

December 18, 2009

thirty-fourth skein

the thirty-fourth skein I've spun
Ashland Bay merino in peacock
1 oz
didn't remember to count the yardage

December 17, 2009

In Line at the Post Office; Wish I'd Brought a Drop Spindle

I was in a very long line at the post office recently. Had to mail a parcel to Canada, so couldn't go for the automated machine's shorter line. (The automated machine only takes domestic parcels as far as I know.)

Should have made my trip to the post office very early in the day, since it is the holiday rush, but didn't.

Should have brought a drop spindle to occupy myself, but didn't. Would have loved to have seen the reaction from the parent and child in line ahead of me.

Would also love to have had the nerve to sing carols in line, but didn't. Do you suppose anyone would have joined in?

December 16, 2009

Inadvertent Gauge Increase

I need to return to checking the gauge as I spin. My gauge has inadvertently increased on two recent skeins. One skein was supposed to match a previous skein (which had gauge creep already itself) but this skein doesn't match at all. It's unsuitable for the scarf project and I'll have to spin another skein to replace it. Not that I mind spinning, but I regret not hitting my target because of mistaken, careless thinking.

December 15, 2009

Smallest Hole on the Diz

The diz I used for the first time recently has three holes in it of varying sizes. I used the smallest hole. Strands go through and then puff up amazingly, at least the springy Romney fibre did.

I used the smallest hole to get something like pencil roving, a very thin long strip of fibre that holds together. With such a preparation, a novice* can spin the combed fibre on a drop spindle without drafting at all, in order to get used to managing the spindle.

I suppose you could tear top into very thin strips to spin without drafting. Predrafting a roving is another option. I find when I predraft top too much the fibres drift apart, probably since the fibres are aligned rather than randomized like roving and have fewer points where friction can keep the strands together.

*by novice I don't mean me, I mean someone who has never spun. I gave away the combed fibre as a gift.

December 14, 2009

Wool Comb Plus Clamp, Hackle, and Diz

Took the Romney wool I was combing and used the comb to lash the wool onto my blending hackle, then used a diz to pull the wool off into long pieces of prepared wool that's ready to go.

Used upper back muscles I forgot I had.

Could have stood to comb the wool once more, as a few little bits clogged up the hole in the diz every so often.

The result looked really soft, lofty, and orderly. The wool has gone as a gift so I can't report on how it spun up, and since I prepared the wool at night there are no photos to share, but I assure you the endeavor was a success.

December 12, 2009

Autumnal Cowl

I made a cowl in a spiral rib stitch.

I'd expected it to hug the neck more closely but discovered spiral rib doesn't draw in the way a straight rib does.

I think the look of the texture will suit the intended recipient's taste.

December 11, 2009

Will the Scarf Never End?

And it was at this point that I decided I like knitting slightly better than I like vacuuming the carpet, which is to say not much.

Perhaps I shouldn't knit until my fingers bleed, trying to finish the ball.

I do like spinning wool into yarn, though.

December 10, 2009

Wool Comb Plus a Clamp

A clamp on one wool comb, to make the comb stationary, is brilliant. Half the work, feels like.

Not that combing becomes effort-free or anything. But compared to holding the comb stationary on the knee, a clamp certainly makes the whole operation more comfortable because you don't have to withstand the pull of the moving comb.

December 09, 2009

thirty-third skein and the BFL Earwarmer Band

One windy day recently, I came home and spun and knit this earwarmer in one sitting.

one ounce of Blue Face Leicester from Louet
singles spun about 28 wpi
finished 2 ply yarn is about 10 wpi
Cast on 96 stitches using long tail cast on with double point needles, knit 2 purled 2 around, then bound off.

Should learn to do a more stretchy cast on, and could have used a bit more yardage.

No laddering with K2P2 the way there is with my stockingette knit in the round on dpns, which is good.

December 08, 2009

thirty-second skein and a Hat

Imagine, if you will, that the red band on the edge there was once a small skein. The thirty-second skein I've spun, in fact.

superwash merino

December 07, 2009

To Fix or Not?

So I'm knitting the blue merino into a K2P2 scarf. I accidentally purled one stitch and only noticed inches later. Showed it to a passionate and experienced knitter who offered to drop the stitch for me and knit up the ladder, effectively putting it all as it should be.

You can do that? And more to the point, I could learn to do that? Ah! Scary. No!

Maybe next time I will be brave and fix a stitch.

I learn a lot from other people. So great to be around people and bring up something, and have them tell you and show you what they do in such a case.

December 05, 2009

Releasing Knit Hats into the Wild

I will soon be releasing into the wild the second and third hats that I knitted. In other words, I'm mailing them to relatives. Feels weird.

December 03, 2009

Advantages of a Head Start

Franquemont stresses in Respect the Spindle how other cultures today and in the past have incorporated thorough, early childhood training in the use of spindles to develop advanced skill.

I've heard Max Hamrick, Jr., the weaver at Colonial Williamsburg, say much the same thing, that someone who started weaving younger than he did will get much farther along in skill and understanding.

Never too late to start, though.

December 02, 2009

The Spindle, and Long-lost Routine Skills

Earlier this month I posted about America turning to a crash course in domestic handspun production shortly before gaining national independence, then dropping production. Wealthy Americans turned back to imported Asian silks.

In Respect the Spindle, Abby Franquemont states
although Europe's production of fine flaxen and thicker of heavier-weight wool yarns had expanded thanks to the flyer wheel, almost all fine yarns and fabrics were imported to Europe from other parts of the world, specifically Asia and the East Indies, where such textiles were still produced with handspindles, driven spindles, and relling systems for silk.

Because practically everyone in the English-speaking world (and much of Europe) has been accustomed to buying these goods from far away for centuries, they've lost the routine skills needed to produce them. (p. 40)
She urges people to develop skill with the spindle.

She also points to the spindle for getting skinny yarn. For skinny, read fine, refined, smooth yarn that yields a luxe fabric. She describes on page 39 the physics that make rapid insertion of twist, and very skinny yarn, difficult for a flyer wheel.

Right on the cusp of the Industrial Revolution, spindle-spun Asian silks were produced in quantity for export. Shows you what can be done when there's enough monetary incentive, a desirable luxury product, a trade monopoly, capital investment, established trade relations and trade routes, and a skilled workforce. Low carbon production and distribution, too. The mind bogs.

December 01, 2009

Blue Merino Scarf in Progress

Here is the blue merino scarf in progress. I got to knit in public with this a little, at a cafe and some other places, so this scarf has been out and about.