Exploring the world of fiber, one draft at a time

My posting can be as frequent or infrequent as my spinning, so be as patient as that fiber, sitting in my stash.

Friday, November 28, 2003

A New Knitter

Yesterday, after a family thanksgiving dinner out (a lovely restored Inn from the 1880's) I got to teach my neice how to knit. I am still grinning about it. I thought she would like to learn, because any time we are together and I have my knitting out, she was right beside me watching. So I got the Leisure Arts book Teaching Yourself to Knit, four balls of the soft bulky Lion Brand Jiffy, and raided my stash of needles to get her a few sizes. I put all this in a big shopping bag, and surprised her with it when we went to her house.

I had originally planned to cast on for the scarf in the book and show her how to knit by knitting the first row. But I had only cast on about 10 stitches and she was reaching for the needles. So I put my arms around her and guided her hands for another five stitches, and then let go. It reminded me so much of that letting go of the bicycle, when teaching a youngster to ride! With only a little coaching, she was casting on just fine.

So I then took the needles and showed her the knit stitch by doing three stitches. Then again I guided her hands for several stitches and then she was knitting! On her own!

I was surprised how quickly she picked it up. I was reminded of reading Harry Kelley's writing in the book Knit Lit, when teaching a dancer friend, how quickly he picked it up. This neice has figure skated, not the same thing for sure, but still a source of coordination that others her age may not have.

I didn't have to coach much although I sat beside her the whole evening as we knitted. I was suppose to be knitting on a sock, but I found it was so pleasurable to sit there and see her remember stitch after stitch just how to do it. Oh, she looked very ackward to be sure, but that didn't matter in the final fabric. At one point, she straightened out her needles, held them aloft and said LOOK! becoming aware at that point that a lovely soft blue fabric was forming from those needles, because she was knitting.


Friday, November 21, 2003

Threadbear Fiber Arts Studio

is a wonderful place! I went last night for the first time, to their Thur night knitting and eating group. I was made welcomed and felt so at home. I am sure it is because it IS a home, their home, which just happens to look like the wet dream of all of us knitters. Imagine, yarn wherever you look, touch, walk...

I asked at one point how they could even go to sleep at night with all that yarn demanding attention. After seeing all the details put into the wonderful Persian food served, I know that sleep would probably come easily.

So where to start with impressions. Color. That is what hits you before you even get in the door. As we were driving down the street in the dark looking for the right house, I looked right and there was a window of bright light and color! Yarn! We knew we were at the right house.

My immediate impression of the color though was how nicely balanced it was by the warm brown wood floors and woodwork of the old house. The walls were not tamely painted either by any means, just a rich rose color in the front room that seemed the right backdrop for those shelves and shelves of color.

The next impression was one of touch. Sample garments were everywhere. A coat rack full of scarves in every yarn and style currently in fashion. Sweaters, felted bags, even a wall of socks. Inspiration hung from every nook and cranny.

I had to stop at this point from overload. Comfy couches, a big table and chairs (with everyone knitting) and a library with soft music in the background was the cure for overload. The yarn still beckoned, and again I went back to look.

Ahhh the chance to finally, finally touch some of the yarns I had seen in the catalogs flooding my mailbox these last few weeks. Firm functional wool yarns. Funky and fun sock yarns. Exotic silks and silk wool blends. Alpaca...alpaca...alpaca, still my favorite. Hugh arm full bundles of yarn in kilo skeins. Fibers that had traveled the world's currents to get there. Who could not want one of each.

Overload again. Back to my spinning wheel, which I brought thinking more folks would be spinning on that night. I had lots of pleasant conversations with those around me, as I carded and spun. New stories to hear, inside jokes to figure out, the fun of having those new friends laugh at one of my jokes.

Finally unfortunately it was time to leave. Since I knew I could not take one of everything home (now what a sweater _that_ would make!) I settled myself with a new book, a booklet, some sock yarn, and one glorious skein made from recycled sari fabric.

It actually is just like having a box of very good chocolates nearby. One for now, and many for later. I look forward to a monthly trip there, not only for the shopping, but for the joy of sharing what I make with those purchases with knitters that understand.

And to bask in that aura again. Whether it comes from the yarn, the colors, the textures, or the people, the aura in that place is amazing. Vibrant but pleasant. When I laid down to go to sleep that night, I could still feel it, just as if my aura had taken up knitting and was now cocooned in the soft energy of those colors.


Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Testing 1 2 3

OK I can not put pictures in this blog, but I can put links. I got it to work at my live journal, this is a test for this blog.

If it works, here is a picture of one of the many baby bunnies in my life.


oh poo, that one has to be cut and pasted.

Oh wow, now THAT was interesting. Under edit, I tried using the 'add link' button for the above link, and got the blue screen of death.

Computers...ever a source of practice of cuss words.

Let's just see what happens if I try the button again. Snort it went right back up to the one at the top.

I give up. I am going outside to play in the sunshine.


Thursday, November 13, 2003

Frog hair exchange

Well, there is frog hair, and then there is my froghair.

Let's just say when my spin group members saw my exchange they thought it was for the rare breed, not froghair.

Oh well.

I did learn alot, and have a great time doing it. I have mailed it in, and will get 10 other peoples exchange sheets back. I love having the notebooks around of these exchanges. It gives me another excuse to look at fiber.

Here are some of the stats on my froghair samples.

I did two different wool breeds, a shetland and a cormo. Both were raw fiber when I bought them and both were washed by the lock method recommended by Margaret Stove in her book Merino. I had written about the washing of these in an earlier blog.

I spun both on my Ashford traditional, with a lace flyer. I have found it very hard to make fine yarn on my Roberta electric, the pull-in is too hard and will snap the yarn. My Haldane only has two ratios, and I usually end up with about the same type of yarn, around 16 WPI for a two ply, just a nice sock yarn.

I have not had much experience spinning on the Ashford with the lace flyer, so I used this froghair exchange as an excuse to get me spinning on it.

Before doing this spinning, my usually yarn was running around 11-13 WPI for a two ply. Just your average mid weight yarn.

I spun the shetland first. I am very addicted to spinning from the lock. It is simplicity at it's finest. Just wash the lock, let it dry, pile them beside you, grab one, and latch the tip fibers to what you are spinning, and away you go. Eventually, the lock is all gone and you have yards of a fine yarn. When I would occasionally hit a pill of wool, I could just pull it off before or after it got spun. The small amount of VM, even very fine, would just drop out as the yarn was too fine to even hold it. Yes, it is very addicting spinning.

The shetland spun easier than the cormo. However it had quite a halo to it, making it look thicker than it really was. I was able to spin a single of 40 WPI with the 2 ply being 22 WPI.

The cormo was nice and lanolin free, that was one problem I had before trying to do the lock washing method. It didn't draft quite as easily as the shetland. It's single though is a halo free tight yarn. I got a 36 WPI single with the cormo.

It was very noticable how soft the cormo was, compared to the shetland. The shetland was soft but obviously wool, the cormo did not even feel like wool.

After wrapping single and 2 ply samples on cardboard, I plied the rest and skeined it. I then washed the skeins. I did not weight the skeins while they dried. The shetland did not change much, but the cormo skein really reduced in size. It also looked twice as fluffy as the shetland even though they were close in WPI. By the time I made a small skein for the exchange sheets, the lovely fine singles looked just like regular old sock yarn.

I used plastic sheets from Century Plastics to make my exchange sheet. It really is a plastic sheet for photos, I used one pocket for the cardboard with shetland wrapped on it, and another pocket for the cardboard with the cormo wrapped on it. I put a small skein behind each of those. In a top pocket, I put the write up sheet. Small locks of the washed fiber were put in pockets beside that. It did make a nice presentation.

I will admit to being disappointed that I could not spin finer. I can see the technique, it is just not in my fingers or my wheels adjustment yet. I need to try a lighter drive band, and maybe even brake band. I still have plenty of fiber left, a lock will just spin yards and yards of yarn.

And it is a big improvement for me, as far as fine yarn. I am really looking forward to spinning a rust colored shetland fleece that I have. I think it would make a stunning lacy shawl.


Monday, November 10, 2003


No, I didn't frog it, I had to unknit it. I didn't really think there was a difference, but I found out this weekend that there is.

I am knitting a pair of socks for my mother. Nothing special, just an acrylic/nylon yarn in a soft minty color for those occasional nights it is chilly in Florida. I started them on DPN size one and did the ribbing, I am knitting these cuff to toe. Then I got the small circular needle and it was in size three, which was what the pattern wanted to use. I completed the sock, and really liked the way it looked, except the pattern has a very long heel to cuff area. That put the tight ribbing about half way up the leg, unless you wore them in a slouch style. I don't think Mom would do that, so I decided the ribbing should be removed and reknitted. I envisioned pulling the ribbing down to where the pattern started, picking up the live stitches and knitting the ribbing in the size three needle.

I found out soon after I started pulling, that frogging backwards from how something is knitted just doesn't work. At first I thought I was having problems because I was trying to undo the cast on edge, but it became apparent that I was going to have to undo each stitch in a way different from what I am use to in normal frogging. I came to the conclusion that it was because I was going backwards.

My 'take it apart and fix anything' hubby had two very unhelpful suggestions, as he watched me fuss with this, while we were driving. One was to just cut the cuff off, unravel that yarn and reuse it. Well, that's a valid suggestion, I just DID NOT have the nerve to take scissors to the sock. I did not need to save the yarn, I have plenty leftover, so the only thing stopping me from doing that is the stubborness I was born with to undo things slowly and correctly. BTW his other unhelpful suggestion was to unravel from the toe up (snort) in otherwords redo the whole sock. NOT.

I did try for awhile to keep the yarn intact that I was unknitting, but finally decided that was not worth the extra tangles, and later would cut the yarn short again after it reached about a yard or so.

I finally hit a point where there seemed to be a repeat of three 'undoings' By now I had the yarn in a blunt needle, and all the stitches on two DPN's. I was basically using the needle to follow the path of the yarn to undo the stitches onto a third DPN.

This is what it would read like, if there were pattern directions for unknitting a K2P2 ribbing.

Stitches to undo on left hand needle, work onto right hand needle.
Pick up base of stitch on left hand needle. Hold it on right needle. Thread yarn through base of right needle stitch, front to back, unwrap yarn from left hand needle, then go again through right needle stitch from front to back. One stitch removed. Pick up base of stitch on left hand needle and hold it on right hand needle. Thread yarn through right needle stitch back to front, unwrap yarn from left hand needle, then thread yarn through right hand stitch back to front again. Second stitch removed. Third stitch on left hand needle (which looks like a knit stitch) can be remove in normal way, by picking up the base stitch below, putting it on the right hand needle and pulling yarn free.

Continue with these three methods to remove all stitches.

Now I know the readers' eyes are glazed over after reading that last paragraph. It must sound as confusing as knitting directions did, long ago (or maybe now if you are not a knitter)

I worked like this for about 7 rows and still was only about half done. There was a rhythm for sure and it did help to have the needles and yarn under slight tension, just like when knitting. But it was slow, slow, slow.. And occasionally there would be nothing else to do but the same thing that all of us have done when untangling yarn, just slowly and patiently follow where the thread has gone, and undo it. I suppose this happened when the live stitch I picked up on the needles was really several rows down, and not next in line. I finally unthreaded the yarn from the darning needle, and just used the needle to pull on the yarn. I kept the yarn cut short, and would just pull it out which ever way it was going next. It took many hours of my knitting time, and probably was only good for the experience of knowing I won't do it again.

I could have used all of this experience to really study the stucture of the knit and purl stitch, to know how it is really constructed, and connected. But I just could not wrap my brain around anything that intelligent. It was a strange study of the zen of doing something so well known to my hands, backwards and therefore so unknown to my hands. It was like watching me knit in a mirror. The best analogy for those of you that do not knit, it to think about a stretch of road that you drive all the time, and then have to drive it backwards.

Fibering along the way

I just got back from a lovely week's vacation. Oh it had it's moments, but those tidbits are in my livejournal

I looked forward to lots of knitting time as we traveled. I only got about a third done though. I found that when in Florida, especially at the beach, I have no desire to knit at all. A good book and a foo-foo drink (as the bartender and my hubby called Pina Colidas) is all I need.

On the way, I convinced hubby to stop at the Opryland Mall at the Bass Outdoor World. I found exactly what I wanted, which was one of those zippered ring binders with ziplock pages. I saw the suggestion for using those to organize circular needles, and I must say it is a grand idea. I got the binder and ten extra pages for under $15. Before we had left home I did an inventory of my circs, because I am being very tempted by a seller on ebay of complete sets. I had to figure out if I was at the point it made sense to get complete sets, or just add to my supply. I found I had several sets of one size and thought I would trade for sizes I don't have, then remembered I probably have them to make two socks on two circs. I've done that once, and have not decided if I want to do that again or not, so I will probably hold on to them for awhile.

While traveling I finished one sock for mom, but was unhappy with the ribbing. After I fixed that (there's a whole entry on here about that called unknitting) I started the second one, but only got about two inches into it. I am doing them on size 3 twelve inch circs. I like doing the sock on the small circs, except I find it had to do lace patterns, the K2tog are harder, trying to manipulate the circs.

I made one pair of slipper socks while visiting mom. Those are quick and easy and are usually done in several evenings of knitting. I had lots of yarn left over, I am thinking of doing a hat or something with the yarn (Lion Brand Homespun).

On the way back north, we happened to go through central Georgia. The cotton fields were full and bursting. I was driving on the freeway and hubby was asleep. I drove past acres and acres of open cotton. It was also all over the side of the freeway. I do not know if it blows from the cotton fields, or if it is blowing off whatever trucks they are using to take it to the mill. It was all I could do to keep driving and not pull over and grab the handfuls of cotton on the side of the freeway. We finally went off the freeway, and through lots of back roads. Hubby pulled off one by a field that had already been picked, and gleaned a few handfuls for me. He said the bolls are prickly and that hand picking would be quite painful. I had not known that about cotton plants. So I will play with carding some of this and spinning it. I do not have a chakra, and I have never had much luck spinning any kind of cotton before, but I just had to have some to try.

Alas, we are now home again. The knitting is unpacked and back beside my comfy chair. There is much to do, and two days home to get it all done, before going back to work again.


Saturday, November 01, 2003

I wasn't going to post, because I feel like I have not worked on any fiber related projects all week. I knew tonight I was definately in withdrawal, when I just had to spend some of my internet time cruising Ebay, looking at spinning wheels, looking at angora (this is sales research LOL) looking at handspun yarn, and mostly looking at fiber for sale.

And I know I am definately on overload, when I didn't really want to buy anything.

I didn't spin all week. I probably got overloaded on that after spinning for two days straight, a total of 13 hours last weekend.

I did knit some on Monday night, while watching the football game. I turned the heel...now I have always liked that phrase, turning the heel. It makes something so mystical about the process of just rearranging stitches, and decreasing. Anyway, I turned the heel on a sock that I am knitting for my mom for xmas.

I carried a stole I am knitting with me last Thur, but did not have an opportunity to work on it. Didn't have the free time I expected. The stole is out of a commercial kid mohair/silk yarn.

On my days off this week, I worked on plucking angora. I currently have 21 rabbits, and since most of them had their fur plucked or sheared last July, it is again time to remove loose coats. It amazes me that they continue to grow that fur in the heat of the summer. Course, I do everything I can to keep them cool, from fans to ice bottles. I plucked three rabbits on Thurs, two on Friday before work and two today before work. Weds I had to clean cages, which in a round about way, is fiber related work too :)

I am in the mood to spin some angora, I have not spun any in awhile. I have a big rubbermaid tub full of fiber wrapped in tissue paper, some is labelled for carding, some for dyeing and some, the best, for packaging up to sell. It will be a rainy winter's day off project in a couple of months.

One other thing I did recently was to join the Knitting Guild of America. I got the packet in the mail yesterday, and spent last night reading over the classes they offer. I am very tempted. I am also tempted by some of the knit alongs I see in Yahoo groups. I have also found the website of a new yarn shop, not real close to me, but close enough to go to now and then for a class.

I made a list of what I want to finish by the end of the year. It has 2 pairs of regular socks, and two pairs of big slipper socks, a scarf (all of those are xmas presents) and my shawl. After those are done, I will consider a group project, or class.