30 June, 2010

A Midsummer Night's Dream

I'd forgotten that the character Bottom in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream is a weaver.

While spinning yarn and listening to a BBC production of the play, I managed to catch the bit when Bottom, as Pyramus, discovers Thisby's mantle torn and stained with blood, and he rails, saying, "O Fates, come, come/ tear thread and thrum."

29 June, 2010

As You Like It

While spinning, I listened to an old BBC production of Shakespeare's As You Like It. The conversation between the fool and the shepherd went by pretty quickly but I caught some things relevant to wool production. I am pretty sure I heard the word tar in connection with sheep shearing, which I'd heard about before. (They would daub tar on places they accidentally nicked, in order to keep flies out.)

28 June, 2010

A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23

I was very happy to get a chance to read a friend's copy of Phillip Keller's book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23. Very heartening look at the technical aspects of keeping sheep and how that relates to the psalm's content.

I had never connected the line "He preparest a table for me in the presence of mine enemies" or however it goes, with the tablelands for grazing on top of mountains. Mesas, to use another term.

26 June, 2010

They Appear to be Simple Dish Cloths

I have been knitting some dish cloths for a family member who likes them. The cloths are made of commercial cotton yarn, so you would assume that this project has nothing to do with spinning and therefore has no place on a spinning blog.

To the contrary! These humble cloths are in fact practice for getting the edges of flat knitting to lie flat and not curl. I am doing pretty well.

Why am I practicing? I dream of spinning enough to make a sweater, and construction of the sweater might have to be flat. I don't know if I really like the look of pullover sweaters done in the round, and I don't think I could bear to steek.

25 June, 2010

Give Me a Push

At a couple of the spinning demonstrations I was at in the last while, I was really glad to have a chance to give a new spinner and an aspiring spinner answers to their questions and give them practical help. One had a drop spindle and the other bought a drop spindle on the spot.

It's curious how much I like orienting people who are new. I guess the match works because newbies need answers in order to move forward and I live to give people useful information.

24 June, 2010

Kid-Powered Spindle

When I demonstrated spinning at a fibre farm's open house this spring, I got to teach two girls how to use drop spindles. The younger, after trying drafting, preferred to spin the spindle while I did the drafting for her.

I discovered a kid-powered spindle is pretty zippy.

I wonder if an electric spinning machine could be arranged with the orifice pointing upward for a similar effect? No stopping to twirl the spindle or wind on, just drafting.

I would miss the hum and feel of the spindle, though.

23 June, 2010

Demo for the Disabled

I was demonstrating spinning at a living history museum when a woman came up to see my method of spinning. After I told her about drop spindles and she figured out how they worked, she excitedly called a man over. The man had considerable vision impairment. He got to feel the spindle and the strand of spun wool, which was pretty long because I hadn't wound on, and up to the mass of fluffy BFL top. We described to him how the spindle spins in mid-air, creating twist that goes up the strand and forms yarn out of the wool.

I have heard or read that blind people can spin. I use my sight almost all the time to help me control my gauge so I don't know how well I would do.

22 June, 2010

Spinning? Cool. Now, About Your Project Bag

I was spinning in a park when a woman stopped to talk to me. She said she spun in India when she was young. She talked about the importance of spinning to Mahatma Gandhi and how she sees the relevance of his national vision today: she hopes that India will increase domestic production of goods for domestic consumption in order to make their country great.

The woman's daughter-in-law, who was with her, remarked on my project bag. That sort of bag, she said, is used by grandmothers in India. Everyone used to use them but now younger people use modern plastic.

I made the project bag myself a while back out of a hemp and cotton muslin fabric from Hemp Traders. You can see it in the background in the photo.

I am pleased to find that this bag has pleasant cultural associations for someone. I thought it was just a bag when I made it.

21 June, 2010

How Old Did You Say The Wheel Was?

I was spinning with my drop spindle outside at a cafe table, and an old man passing by called out, "Where's your spinning wheel?" He said he had one that had belonged to his grandmother's great-grandmother before the American Revolutionary war. That's one serious antique.

19 June, 2010

fifty-seventh skein and eleventh hat

Here we have the fifty-seventh skein that ever I spun, or rather a portion thereof after knitting and frogging.

Here we also have my eleventh hat, knit from the fifty-seventh skein along with the previous three, one of which was composed of small skeins of blue, red, and light blue each mixed with the base colour.

This hat entailed quite a lot of frogging until I got the results I wanted.

I like how tidy the brim is. I learned provisional cast on for this, and knit the provisional cast on together with the live stitches for a seamless turned hem that covered up all the many sewn ends. You can't see them, but I put extra stripes on the underside and they added more loose ends.

The brim had to be knit twice, since my gauge was off the first time.

I like the look of the decreases. I originally decreased the stitches in two places, after the pattern Whitney's 70s Ski Hat. The yarn refused to drape and stuck out in an unpleasant fashion. I tried no decreases and sewn seams making a four point peak. That did not produce a wearable hat either. Finally I decreased in five places, slowly at first, then more rapidly. This resulted, as I'd hoped, in a natural-looking shape that conforms to the head. As a bonus, the five-point decrease has the beautiful proportion of phi, the golden ratio 1:1.618 found in starfish, the cross-section of apples, and such.

18 June, 2010

The Look of Naturally-dyed Wool

I got to watch friends dye wool with natural dyes. Madder stole the show for me, producing a beautiful colour like garnets.

17 June, 2010

The Feel of Undyed Wool

Spinning the undyed BFL wool reminded me of the difference between that and dyed wool. The stuff felt so nice.

No wonder Peter Teal writes in his book about how he would comb dyed and undyed wool together to keep maximum softness in the finished product.

16 June, 2010

Telling Myself No

The yarn I showed you yesterday was a triumph of telling myself no. No, I will not purchase undyed dark brown BFL and undyed oatmeal BFL to make the stripes even though they would look beautiful and coordinate so well. No, I will improvise with what I have.

Same idea as that poem about how the constraints of a sonnet work to enhance creativity.

15 June, 2010

fifty-fourth, fifty-fifth, and fifty-sixth skeins

The first two skeins are spun from undyed BFL roving made of 75 per cent plain and 25 per cent natural brown colour.

The little skeinlettes with colour are spun from the same stuff combined with a few clear, intense portions of colour extracted from my leftover Frabjous Fibers BFL in chocolate cherry and deep space.

You can see that the light blue skeinlette looks more clear than the dark blue and the red. I removed some of the natural brown from the undyed wool to acheive this effect.

I'm spinning for another hat project. (What a surprise, you say.) The skeinlettes will form thin stripes around the hat.

If you were wondering why the ball of yarn at the back is wrapped differently from the others, they are all straight off the spindle, but that one is the one I swatched with to figure out how many stitches to cast on and what size needle to use.

14 June, 2010

fifty-third skein

This skein is just like the last one. I've knitted them up into the brim of a hat and promptly run out of yarn again. Must spin more. Must wait until I can get more roving.

Since I took out one of the colours out of the roving and spun chunky yarn from the remainder, this project is using up more wool than expected. The effect is worth the additional materials, naturally.

As a bonus, because the wool is cabled into chunky yarn, there is more spinning going into this hat and less knitting.

12 June, 2010

Tribble Homage

When I tore the Frabjous Fiber BFL roving in stained glass into strips and made them into balls, I couldn't help but think of Tribbles from Star Trek.

They're no Tribble at all.

11 June, 2010

fifty-second skein

This yarn is spun from Frabjous Fibers BFL top in the colour stained glass, but with the orange sections removed. You can see behind the ball of yarn there are balls of roving torn into thin strips ready to spin, and these contain the orange sections still.

While I respect the vision of dye artists and understand that the orange is supposed to give the other, darker, colours a lift, the intended recipient of this yarn asked for no orange.

So, no orange it is. I understand. The last time I wore orange I was tying granny knots in my Brownie scarf. The orange sections are saved for another day and for someone who likes that sort of thing.

I spun at the usual gauge and then cabled and cabled the yarn back on itself.

10 June, 2010

Wrapping the Cop

So many people remark on the way I wrap my cop when they see it.

Their attention always bemuses me. Is the way I wind on so very remarkable?

I read how to do it in some book. I sort of pass the strand back and forth at 45 degree angles while I twirl the spindle. Supposed to put less force on the twist energy and retain the bounce longer, if I remember correctly.

09 June, 2010

Improvised Gauge Guide

If you look at the photo in yesterday's post, you'll see I drew a few lines on a sticker, which was taken from the edge of a sheet of self-adhesive postage stamps, and I stuck this on the underside of the spindle whorl.

When I want to check my gauge, how thick my strand is compared to how thick I started with, I lay the strand over the lines to measure it. Frees me up from needing to carry a separate tool like a Spinner's Control Card.

The sticker is curling at the edges and the sticky backing sometimes catches the strand as I go which is a bit of a nuisance, but I haven't gotten around to trimming the corners and the way I wind my cop keeps the strand from brushing the sticker much anyway.

08 June, 2010

Taping up my Spindle

I bought a used top whorl drop spindle that wasn't anything special yet had a pleasing length and weight. I believe the shaft is a softwood dowel.

Unfortunately while spinning, I dropped the spindle and fractured the wood around the hook.

The spindle is now sporting blue painter's tape around the top of the shaft to hold the wood together and the hook in place. Looks about as glamourous as thick plastic eyeglasses taped at the corners, but the fix holds most of the time.

07 June, 2010

Flexible Ruler

I bought a flexible plastic ruler to put in my knitting project bag. I'm really pleased with this ruler. It's hot pink, my favourite colour. The shape and texture also delight me because they remind me of a candy we used to buy as kids at park concession stands and corner stores. The candy was a wide strip in Neapolitan flavours. Can't remember what the name was.

I have a couple of perfectly good wooden rulers, one I kept from elementary school complete with childish doodles and one clever one inscribed with a list of the rulers of England but I bought the flexible ruler thinking that I wouldn't want a wooden ruler to break in my bag. However, this begs the question, what exactly do I think my wooden knitting needles might do?

05 June, 2010

Went Back for the Chair

I went back for the spinner's chair and bought it.

Bought it to rescue it from obscurity in a secondhand store. Bought it for a conversation piece. Bought it for fun. Bought it because I don't often discover something serviceable for sale at a tenth the price new.

The fact that I spin standing up with a drop spindle and do not own a spinning wheel, those facts are completely beside the point.

Antique Shop Sightings

I saw a wooden sheep statue, a couple of great wheels, a flax wheel in terrible shape,* a skein winder, and a spinner's chair at antique shops recently.

The spinner's chair was my favourite. The style wasn't to my taste, all florid with gilt and turnings. The shape of a spinner's chair's skinny back always strikes me as ill-proportioned, too. But the chair was my favourite find because of the label that read, "Unusual chair, $18."

"Hah!" I said to myself. "Little do they know," I said.

The clerk promised to pass on to the shop owner the fact that such a chair is not at all unusual to handspinners.

*The shop owner told me that the wheel got damaged in the shop because customers would walk by and fiddle with it.

04 June, 2010

Yard Sale Sighting

A non-spinner friend saw a pair of wool cards in good condition at a garage sale for three dollars. No, she didn't get them. Yes, she choked when I told her how much wool cards cost new.

03 June, 2010

Weaver's Estate Sale

A number of guild members and I went shopping at a weaver's estate sale. How bittersweet to think of someone leaving supplies and tools behind, and to have a chance ourselves to put them to good use.

I got some dish cloth cotton yarn.

I also got a warping board. Someday I will gird myself and try it, but not right now.

02 June, 2010

Monster under the Bed

I put two boxes worth of roving into one of those bags you vacuum air out of so I could store the bag under the bed.

We lost containment.

Fortunately, I was able to pull the bag out again but I had a moment of panic there.

01 June, 2010

Stack of Stash

All my spinning, knitting, and weaving supplies and tools are in these containers. Don't know if that looks like a lot to you or a little. (No wheel, I use drop spindles.)

To me who knows what's in there, it looks like the right amount of tools* but far more supplies than I want to keep on hand.

There are a number of types of fibre in there that I don't plan to replace once I spin them up or judiciously destash, such as merino, mohair, cotton, mixed-breed wool, wool-bamboo, alpaca, Corriedale cross, and Icelandic.

If you are keeping track, that leaves Romney and my beloved Blue Faced Leicester. I'm not sure how I feel about the purebred Shetland. Haven't tried spinning that yet.

*except I dream of a huge and impressive warp-weighted loom, and a couple styles of sprang frames, and maybe an electric spinning machine