Friday, May 30, 2008

bamboo revisited

Yesterday I had a few minutes to wait for someone, so with great glee I pulled out my capelet to crochet. However, it's time to start a new color, and the next yarn is a very drapey gorgeous slippery rayon.

It came in a skein, not a ball. I unfurled it to attempt to start using it anyway, but it was so slippery and sloopy that it immediately became clear: this was not going to work. Better to wait until I got home and wound it into a ball. (Why didn't I think of that before packing it in my bag? Stupid stupid!)
So, thwarted were my noble intentions to concentrate on that capelet until I finish it, and I was left to consider which other project might make a good diversion while waiting for my lunch companions. The skew scarf was at home, but I rediscovered the fabulous purple bamboo. Remember this?

It's still a swatch; I half-forgot about it, to tell the truth. When I left off, I was working on some single crochet with a small hook and not enjoying it at all. When I picked it up again yesterday, though, it was love all over again.

The big flippy parts in the first picture are (right to left) hdc and dc using an 8 mm hook (L). Then I did a row of sc, a row of V-stitch, and a row of twice as many V-stitches. I wanted the end to be very ruffley, and it is, but it would be nice if it was also more scallopy or pointy or something. The small stitches in the second picture are sc and then, for the last few rows, sc through the closest loop only. I forget if that's considered the back or the front loop, and when I flipped it over to do another row, I still used the closest loop. For this part I was's where we find out that I'm really not that acquainted with my metal hooks...I think it was a 4 mm and then a 5 mm. (Note to self in case I put this project down for another month and forget: it was the lavender one and then the dark blue one.) I know this is standard issue crochet for most normal crocheters, but it's the first time since my very first learning-to-crochet swatch that I've used a hook smaller than 9 mm. When I was first learning to crochet, I stumbled upon Quick Crochet Huge Hooks at the local public library, totally loved it and adopted its approach to crochet, and never looked back. It's the book that showed me that you don't have to be all anal-retentive and have a perfect plan for all of your crochet projects. You can just kind of pick yarn that looks good together and figure out a hook and stitch(es) that work, and make it up as you go along! This also saved me from feeling compelled to buy every ball of the discontinued yarns I've fallen in love with--when you can mix yarns and wing it, even just a single ball is perfectly valid and useful, and it's really not necessary to buy up the entire dye lot. Of course, I embraced this philosophy with great exuberance, buying one or two of everything on sale that I liked--thus the yarny insulation covering the walls of my guest room. And of course using huge hooks lets you finish things much more quickly, which is exciting and cool. However, for this particular project, non-see-through will be a good thing, at least for the chest parts of the top, so a small hook it is. I hope I actually get to make this top before the summer is over--it's going to be so awesome!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

...and now for something completely different

I'm about to say something you never hear in yarn blogs: All my darn housework is taking too much time away from my yarn! Everybody has to do the laundry some time, and my time has come. Plus my parents are visiting but my husband is away, so the cooking and dishes are all me, plus there's the small matter of this full-time job. Sigh.
However, at least someone is crafting in my house!

My mom is a member of the Red Hat Society, and she's hosting a party next month. All of these hats will soon belong to purple-garbed Barbies, which will be the favors. I think she did a nice job of making them all unique. The ones with the feathers are my favorites.
As for our regularly scheduled yarn, I did manage to do a couple more rows on the skew scarf the other day while I was waiting for some software to install. I know, I should have been working on the blue/green kit. I'll never finish anything if I don't concentrate. But this was upstairs, and that was downstairs, and I was lazy.

You may notice that it's not actually skewing at all. For the garter stitch parts, that's expected, but the stockinette is supposed to skew. Well, from what I've read, if you let your singles sit around, they become content with being as they are, almost as if they were balanced yarn, but as soon as they get wet, they'll revive. (This is usually given as a threat, not a promise. We'll see.)

I think I may have been crazy to think that 4 oz. was not enough for a scarf. Especially, this isn't a very long scarf. This is only my third knitting project, so I have no idea of how much yarn it takes to make what when you knit. Anyway, I like the way the natural color sets off the dyed yarn. Also, here's something smart I did somewhat by accident: I spun the colors in different orders and configurations throughout the yarn. I'd pull off a piece and then split it lengthwise but do some of them backwards by mistake, and then one night's piece would be a different part of the color pattern in the original roving than another night's piece. The result: no stacking or overly regular patterns of the colors throughout the scarf. Yes! Score one for lack of planning--I love how it's coming out so far.
Ooh, and I just discovered a super cool trick on Abby Franquemont (one of the year's SOAR mentors)'s blog about fixing slubs. I need all the help I can get on that. But get this: she explains how to fix slubs while you're plying! It's so hard to get a rhythm going when I'm spinning, I hate to interrupt it just to fix some dumb fuzzball I've made. I am definitely going to try this.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

slow progress

Tonight the dye is supposed to arrive. Yeah! Meanwhile, I was hoping to get at least one sample cape done. Not a chance. I'm still on the second color of the blue/green kit. I keep forgetting to put on the headset before answering the phone--I could get a lot more done and be a lot less squirmy during long conversations. (My husband is out of town again.)
I do like how it's coming out so far.

I was concerned about the yellow spots stacking like that in the chenille part, but actually, I like the effect. Since they're lined up so perfectly, it just looks like one tall stitch. I think scattered blotches would be less pleasant. But maybe I'm just telling myself that so I don't have to take out these two rows and put the increases in the second instead of the first row.

So far I'm really enjoying the textures of the yarns and the way they interact. I'm still amazed there weren't more glitches with the online ordering and how the colors look together. They're all going to be fabulous, if I do say so myself. I have one set of yarn for each kit on display in my kitchen (the future sample garments), and every time I walk by I have to admire them and pet the yarn. I wish I could work on all of the kits right now.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Fun at the fiber festival

My parents and I went to the Middle Tennessee Sheep, Wool, and Fiber Festival on Saturday. It was total blast. It's a small festival, but there was plenty of space to walk around and see everything--it wasn't crowded or cramped like some I've been to. And we got to talk to a lot of great people. I love how friendly and helpful fiber people are!
We talked to one lady at length about angora bunnies and what's involved in taking care of them. Here are some of her super-fuzzy bunnies.

We even got to watch her shear one of her bunnies. The bunny sat patiently and did not resist being clipped. The big question everyone seems to have around these bunnies is "how much of that is fur, and how much is actual bunny?" To answer that question, here's a before-and-after comparison.

They sure like a lot more ordinary without all that fluff!
Of course I had to get some fiber treats while I was there. There were a lot of beautiful choices.
This one is a 60% merino, 40% bamboo mix from Daily Fibers.

I love how the bamboo gives it a sheen. I've never tried spinning anything but pure wool, but this was too beautiful to pass up, and variety is the spice of life.
And then, I saw this one.

It was love at first sight, and I just had to have it too. It's a 50/50 blend of wool and tencel, dyed by Chasing Rainbows Dyeworks in their Crocus colorway. I talked with these folks at length and was assured that it will be easy to spin. It's so beautiful and so soft, and the tencel gives it a gorgeous luster. I can't wait to try it.
My spinning has fallen by the wayside this past week, between my parents visiting, all the yarn arriving, the tire incident, and all that mania, but last night I got out the plain BFL to get back in practice. It mostly went well. I had an audience: my mom developed a sudden interest in spinning after talking with everyone at the fiber festival, and I knew she'd want to watch. It probably would have been a little easier holed up in a room by myself, but my secret plan is to get her hooked on spinning too. So far she just wants to watch, though.
Maybe tonight I'll start spinning one of the new pretties. They're so beautiful, I almost hesitate to spin them in case I mess it up somehow. That was one good thing about getting rovings in colors that I wouldn't normally pick--I didn't feel this pressure to do the best spinning possible to do justice to the gorgeous fiber. But I'm going to spin it anyway--that's what it's for!

Friday, May 23, 2008

happy days

I missed you guys yesterday--the power was out in the morning, and the day never quite got back on track. And exciting things are afoot: the yarn has started to arrive!

It is so exciting to go home to big boxes of yarn waiting for me! If every day was like this, I would die of happiness. And that's just what came on Wednesday--more arrived yesterday! The final lot is supposed to arrive today, which is really good because currently each kit is missing one or two yarns. It's like a fantasy novel--when all of the magic yarns are united, we will have the power to take over the world! Mwahahahahahahaha!
Incredibly, so far all of the yarns are gorgeous and almost exactly like they looked on the internet, except one. Even the one bad seed is kind of growing on me, and anyway it was just supposed to be one row of trim on the bottom of one of the capes. If I decide it's too ugly, the kit will be just fine without it. Or there's another color of the same yarn that I should have bought instead; maybe I should exchange it. Unfortunately, this is the only yarn in its shipment that came in a well-sealed bag, so I can't even touch it before I decide.
Anyway, why dwell on the one bad one? The rest are absolutely fabulous, gorgeous, and wonderful, and I'm very excited. I've already started crocheting up a sample capelet for the blues/greens kit. Well, actually, I've only got one row done, but it is started. Basically, a ton of work just showed up at my house in the form of all these boxes of yarn, and it's my favorite kind of work in the world.
And, on top of all that, a bonus yarn I threw into the order almost on impulse has arrived and is ten times more wonderful than I even imagined.

This is going to be kits for a summer wrap. It's angora, viscose, and nylon, a strange-sounding combination, but it is incredibly soft. Not fuzzy bunny soft, though, super smooth luxurious soft. And of course the colors are killing me with their fabulosity. I was originally going to do one color with the white per kit, but I love how they look together, so I think it's time for a new plan. You all know what I'm going to be doing this weekend!
Actually, I am going to take time out to go to the Tennessee Fiber Festival tomorrow. My parents are in town, and I think we'll all have fun walking around and looking at all the goodies. I love love love going to this kind of thing! Fiber people are so friendly, and just looking at all the colors and textures is a feast for the senses, and almost any conversation you may overhear is yarn-related! Plus my dad is probably driving, so I'll have time to knit or crochet. Yes!
And as if all that wasn't enough good news and exciting happenings, Yarns to Dye For finally came! I won it on Kathleen Taylor's blog back in April, and I was beginning to think it was lost in the mail. But Media Mail came though at last.

This book is so awesome. I still can't believe I won a copy of it. I was flipping through it a little last night, and I can't wait to actually read it. It looks like she goes into a lot of detail about self-patterning yarns and how to get them to do what you want, which of course is exactly what I want to know. Stay tuned for a complete review as soon as I've devoured this book, which you can bet will be as soon as I can. Meanwhile, happy Memorial Day, everyone! Enjoy the long weekend!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

kit previews

After all the recent adventures, I was ready to drop by 8:00 last night. I did a little crochet on the bamboo yarn swatch--trying out a very small hook to get opaque fabric. It seems like this will work well, but it sure is tedious making tiny stitches with a tiny hook. I'm going to push it to see if I can make the hook a size or two bigger and still get opaque fabric. Otherwise, I plan to minimize this area as much as possible, and/or cop out and make a shirt that you have to wear something else under. Everyone else is doing it.
Meanwhile, I ordered the kit yarn on Friday, and most of that is due to arrive today or tomorrow. So psyched!
You've already seen this one.

Here's one that's a little more subtle and sophisticated. I actually had a bit of trouble with this one because one of the yarns stopped being available before I could order everything. It's so frustrating to spend all this time getting everything exactly "perfect" and then not be able to get everything you picked! But I found a replacement that I think will work well.

Next is my personal favorite. I love dark, rich, intense colors, especially purples and purple-y red/pinks. And these yarns are gorgeous!

Finally, the beach colors. It seems like suddenly these colors are everywhere. I never liked them that much before, but now I can't stay away. (Yes, I am still stalking the Kohlrabi CotLin on the internet; I hear it's considering seeking a restraining order. )

I was originally hoping to use different colorways of the same yarns to make the different kits, but that just wasn't feasible. Even with no restrictions other than cost, it was hard enough to find yarns that interacted well with each other. I combed the internet for yarn possibilities, compiled them into several different Word documents (by color) and then started arranging and rearranging.
The other wildcard here is the representations of the yarns on the internet vs. what they look like in real life. If there are no disasters there, I'll be really lucky. (If there are, I'll be taking snippets of yarn to the local stores and trying to find replacement yarns in person.)
So far I'm very pleased with how the designs have come out, and they've been approved by my husband, who is an actual artist with degrees and all that. They're color-theoretically correct. As the yarn starts arriving, I'll be making sample capelets and working on patterns, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

knitting saves my sanity again

The past few days have been a remarkable collection of madness that I don't even want to get into, culminating with a large surprise object in the road and a flat tire. Nobody was hurt, no worse accidents were caused by anybody swerving to try to avoid said object; as far as I know, no damage at all except to the tire. I was still quite shaken up, though. In life, we often go around thinking we're basically in control of what happens. If I leave the house to go on a simple errand, I generally have no doubt that I will get where I intend to go, accomplish my task, and make it home roughly on time. This chain of events has served to remind me that it's only an illusion that we really control all that, and we should be grateful that it usually works out the way we want. (If I was still in doubt about this after the tire incident, it was further demonstrated to me on my way home. The road I usually take somehow disappeared in some road construction and I ended up lost and really confused.)
Well, this would have all been a lot harder to take if I hadn't had my knitting bag with me. Instead of freaking out and being really bored for the 45+ minutes it took for the tow truck to arrive, I got out my scarf and knitted away. I think that from now on my new rule is never go anywhere without some knitting or crochet. This would have been a really miserable experience without it.
Once that was basically over, I definitely needed the solace of knitting night. Between the two, I got a good bit done.

I'm thinking it's about time to learn to change yarns after this row.

Monday, May 19, 2008


More yarn tools came over the weekend. I am now the proud owner of a skein winder and a ball winder. When the yarn shows up, I'll be ready for it!
The ball winder is a Strauch Jumbo ball winder. It is well made, attractive, and very smooth to operate. It's everything I hoped it would be. I adore it.

Then, the next day, my skein winder arrived. I was ten kinds of excited about this, especially once the ball winder arrived and I kind of needed something really great and smooth to feed the yarn to it. You may notice the balls of yarn in the photo above are a little loose--that's because I made them by unfurling the skeins on the counter and just letting the ball winder pull the yarn up from that. It works much better with a skein winder/swift.
So the swift arrived to much rejoicing. I got it from ScottsMountainCrafts on Etsy. It's the upright one called "Solid Oak Yarn Swift," and I wanted to buy it as soon as I saw it, but I felt compelled to do a little more research first, and then they sold out! (I guess I'm not the only one who saw that ad on Ravelry!) But they listed more, so I snapped one up.

I actually found the construction to be a little disappointing. The wood isn't all that smooth--it should have been sanded more, in my opinion--and the holes for the pegs still had little wood splinters attached from the drilling process. Worse, the design is such that when you wind a lot of yarn in one direction, the nuts that hold the arms on get looser and looser until the whole thing wobbles. When you wind a lot in the other direction, the nuts get tighter and tighter until it won't turn. This is going to be extremely annoying in a production situation where I'm winding tons of yarn for dyeing. But my dad and husband each have a plan to solve this (lock washers and some kind of blue spray stuff), so I think it will work out ok. For the price, (about $50 plus shipping) I still think it's a decent deal. If you want professional-grade equipment, I guess you just have to shell out the dough for professional-grade equipment. But I was expecting better from this. Even for home use, that nut business would get really annoying.
In any event, I had a lot of fun winding yarn into balls and back into skeins and back into balls. One concern I had about this type of skein winder versus the infinitely adjustable kind (like the Ashford skeinwinder) was that I might have some weird in-between size of yarn skein that wouldn't work with any of the peg configurations. That's totally not a problem. If you arrange the pegs at the closest size to the circumference of the skein, it will be within two inches of the actual size, which is plenty close enough. No problem.
I even managed to wind some of my active singles off of my homemade lazy kate onto the skein winder and then onto the ball winder. (I was afraid it would be too much tension going straight from the kate to the ball, and I didn't want to stretch my yarn all out.) As a result, I was able to start my crazy skew scarf!

I'm so excited about this. I wound a ball of the white singles, too. And doesn't this look so official, like something a real knitter would be packing around? I guess I've made the big time, ha ha!
I figured I'd start with a few rows of garter, then do a row or two of stockinette for skew, then maybe some crochet. I don't really have a plan yet, but I love how the colors are coming out. And the wool is so soft and glorious. Love it!

Friday, May 16, 2008

insomnia, my new friend

I finished picking the yarns for the kits yesterday. I'm so excited to have that settled. So excited, in fact, that I went to bed late and then woke up at 2:30, all wired. I couldn't get back to sleep, so I got up and decided to spin until I got tired. Well, I spun and spun, the cat came and went, the sun came up, and I was still spinning. I got the long-draw thing to work on the BFL from Little Barn, and it was totally awesome. (Now that I have read at least one official spinning book's passage on long draw, I've concluded that I'm not doing it wrong or in a weird way. As far as I can see, the only thing that's different is that I'm using both hands to control the fiber supply and you're supposed to use only one. But since nobody shows up in my yarn haven with a ruler to smack my knuckles, I can get away with this.)
I kept expecting to get sleepy, but I never did. I just kept at it. Also, since I'm not planning to ply this yarn, I could fill the bobbins totally full--yes! Here's the first one.

It's a little thicker and twistier than my ideal, but that's a clear reaction to all that air yarn and breakage earlier in the week. The second bobbin is more like it.
Now, I only own three Kromski bobbins, and I do want to spin other things before I'll have a chance to get all this yarn knitted, so I had to park this stuff somewhere else. I made some storage bobbins for myself before I bought Anastasia, my spinning wheel, but they're too long--I wasn't expecting to be able to use the wheel to drive them, but you can't even just hang them from the rod the bobbin usually rides on and spin them yourself by hand. I did make a lazy kate, but its patented friction tensioning system (ha ha) was really dragging the process down a lot. But then it occurred to me that if I put a little bit of wool between the wood base and the end of the bobbin, the bobbin would probably spin very nicely. Sure enough, it worked like a charm. So I had the Kromski bobbin on the wheel with no tension to feed from, and I just turned the storage bobbin with my finger on the lazy kate, and it did not take forever. I was pleased.
I don't even have enough storage bobbins to put the second bobbin of BFL onto, though. I guess it's going to have to go on a t.p. roll.
Meanwhile, here is the yarn collection for the crazy skew active singles scarf. (Yes, the purple yarn in the front is plied, but it's going in anyway for a little bit of different texture. I may make some active singles from that roving too.)

I can't wait to cast on!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

does meta-yarn count?

I'm putting together capelet kits for my Etsy shop, and last night I was determined to finish picking and ordering the yarn for them. I had already spent several hours on this and was convinced I could finish it by the end of the evening. Not even close, though. There are so many great yarns to choose from, and although they're all beautiful (all the ones I picked as candidate yarns, anyway), they don't all go together. Plus, it's kind of hard to compose a good capelet when you actually have the yarns in front of you, let alone based on what you think they'll look like from pictures on the internet. Needless to say, I did not finish or even get close enough to order anything, and it took all evening, so I didn't even get to touch any real yarn!
Here's a preview of kit design in progress.

Despite not being finished, I'm still really happy because I had such a blast with this last night, looking at all the yarn and rearranging pictures of it. I even dreamed about yarn all night--bonus!!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

no such thing as bad yarn? au contraire.

I plied the yarn from Monday night. Remember when I said this was the worst yarn I've made in a month? Turns out I grossly underestimated this yarn. It's the worst yarn I've made ever. Even my very first yarn, as wonky as it was, at least had some structural integrity. The junk I made Monday night must have broken at least twenty times while I was trying to ply it, maybe more. I kept plying it anyway, who knows why. It's totally useless yarn. It would be good to send to your knitting enemy, but otherwise I can't think of a single thing to do with it. It's 58 yards of wasted wool. It's pretty, too, more's the pity.

The good news is, my yarn equipment is starting to arrive. My scale came yesterday! This is the first thing in a long time that's arrived before I was expecting it. It's a My Weigh 7001, which has a 15-pound capacity and accuracy down to the gram or .1 ounce. It's not legal for trade, but I plan to sell the yarn by the yard anyway, so the approximate weight is fine. Plus this scale is accurate enough for calculating postage, which will certainly come in handy. Very psyched. Since none of the yarn has shown up yet, I was going around weighing everything I could get my hands on: a pack of crackers, a pear, taco seasoning, the accessories that came with the scale. I even weighed the bad yarn, although I don't remember what the result was. Anyway, the scale is very compact and comes with a plastic bowl, an envelope holder, and a mailing tube holder, all of which will come in handy for keeping stuff from falling off while you're trying to weigh it. It switches among a bunch of different units, too, including grams, kilograms, ounces, and pounds. Oh yeah, and it doesn't take some bizarre-o never-to-be-found-again special battery either--just regular old AA, or plug it into the wall with the optional A/C adaptor, which you'd have to be crazy not to buy. It's only $5. I wish I could get one for my iPod that cheap.
Anyway, I did end up doing some new spinning, too, but it's shy and wouldn't show up in a picture. I had had enough of the brown mix for one night, so I broke out the 8 oz. of BFL I bought from Little Barn over the weekend. This yarn will be the companion to the yarn I made from the Hoobody roving. I want to do all of it in active singles and make a crazy skewing scarf.
The BFL is actually remarkably similar to the brown mix, as it turns out--so similar that I suspect the brown mix is in fact BFL. At the moment I'm very much over the inchworm technique, so I decided to try my longdraw approximation on it. I thoroughly fluffed up the roving, got it going from the side, and watched the magic work. Very cool. The little bit that I did last night was a bit unstable and should probably not be used as singles, but I bet if I do more tonight it will be usable. I was just starting to get to that point last night when I realized it was 9:30 and I was exceptionally late for dinner. It was good to do something that worked before calling it a night, though. Now I just have to remember to make a label for other stuff. I'm thinking "Bad yarn, give to enemy" should do the trick.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

spinning al fresco

Last night I went to Concerts by the River in Decatur--Meg from Yarn Expressions was there because her husband is in the band. We sat together and spun all evening. The weather was absolutely beautiful, and the music was great. They played some of my favorite Big Band songs, including "Take the A Train" and some great Charlie Parker stuff. It was a wonderful evening.
On the other hand, the spinning was a disaster. Well, just my spinning--Meg was making some absolutely gorgeous yarn in shades of red. To die for. I, on the other hand, made a bunch of air yarn, had to find the broken end and start over about a hundred times, and generally got irritated. I finally switched back to 12:1 (I had been using 6:1 because I was inchworming) and removed almost all of the brake tension on the bobbin so that it had virtually no takeup. Finally, the yarn quit breaking--instead, I was making super-tight pigtail spaghetti. I have two bobbins of nightmare plying waiting for me, one of which has no end that I could find last night. I think this is the worst yarn I've made in a month. And what do you think the chances are that the overtwist parts will line up perfectly with the air yarn parts and form a strong, reasonable yarn? Yeah, me neither.

This is the overtwist stuff. It actually doesn't look bad on the bobbin, but the second it gets loose, watch out!
I've been asking myself why it went so badly last night. For one thing, it was new fiber that I'm not used to. I had gotten very accustomed to the vagaries of the merino, and this wool has a much longer staple length. I don't know what kind of wool it is; it's Brown Sheep mill ends from Sheep Shed Studio. It just came last night.

I was so excited to see it waiting for me when I got home! That's two pounds of the brown mix and a pound and a half of custom-dyed superwash, plus a little brown sample they added as a thank you gift. The dyed stuff is beautiful, and the brown mix is extremely soft and glorious.
Whatever kind of wool it is, it's very fine and will be great for something that's worn against the skin. But it's not very grippy, and I think that was part of my problem with the spinning last night. Also, that was my first time spinning outside--maybe the humidity had an effect, too. And between the music, an unfortunate train that kept making noise right next to the park, and the sound of Meg's wheel, I really couldn't hear my wheel at all. That seemed really strange--I must get more auditory cues from the wheel than I realized.
Anyway, since last night was such a disaster, I'm due for a really great spinning night tonight. Or maybe because Sunday was so great, I was due for a disaster last night. No, I like the first idea better.
I'm really excited to have this new mountain of fiber at home waiting for me, especially since the brown mix is so soft. Once I make friends with this fiber, I'm sure I'll be loving it and ordering more.

Monday, May 12, 2008

shopping and better spinning

I went to Little Barn over the weekend--that's always fun, but I especially went because I wanted to meet ~P~ of Spin, Knit, and Life--it's so cool to talk to someone on the internet and then get to meet them in person!
I considered taking my spinning wheel and joining the spinning bunch, but I had a ton of stuff I wanted to get done, and I just didn't think I could sit still with it all hanging over my head. I did get to pet some beautiful alpaca yarn that was an insanely good deal. As soon as I figure out what to make out of it, you can bet I'll be back and buy some.
As it is, I exercised admirable restraint (laugh if you want) and only bought three things: 8 oz. of BFL in natural white sheep color to go with the active singles I made from the Hoobody fiber way back here (needed and planned), a ball winder, and this hand-dyed roving.

It looked a lot darker and richer before I unfurled it, but I'm still very excited about it. Here's all I know about it: it's 100% wool, hand-dyed by Wild Thing exclusively for Little Barn. (Which type of wool is not specified.)
The ball winder was the most practical purchase--I will definitely need one for the dyeing operation. Unfortunately, it seems to have a manufacturing defect. When you put the clamp in place in its proper position, it ends up being up against the teeth of the cranking mechanism, preventing it from turning. So you have to choose between having it well clamped and but nonfunctional or having it insecurely clamped and still not very smooth. Needless to say, I'm returning it. For as much of a yarn nut as I am, I never actually saw one of these things in person before, so I had no idea how it even worked or was assembled until I got it home and read the directions. It's too bad, but I got something out of the experience anyway. For as much yarn as I intend to dye, I think I will probably be better off springing the extra bucks for a jumbo one. If I had bought a small one that worked, I would have kept it and then probably been wishing for a jumbo one within a few months, so in a way, this has saved me a step.
Also, I'm still playing with my version of long draw. I finished the rest of the merino from Asheville and moved on to some gorgeous purple carded roving that I bought way back at Useful Knowledge. Now I know why people recommend doing this technique with carded fiber--it sure does work a lot better!

I also decided it was time to graduate to the next ratio on my spinning wheel. The choices are 6:1, 12:1, and 14:1--watch that first step, it's a doozy. But I was noticing with the merino that unless I treadled like mad during the parts when the long-draw was actually working, I ended up making air yarn--poofy yarn-shaped fiber fluffs with way too little twist. They'd usually make it onto the bobbin but break during attempts at plying. So for this wool, I switched to 12:1, and that definitely helped. This yarn actually looks like I knew what I was doing!

Friday, May 9, 2008


As some of you may have noticed yesterday, there's a new link on the blog: Fire Lizard's Yarn Books. It's basically a collection of all the best yarn books I've read or wanted (with a few classics thrown in like Alden Amos.) As I was setting it up, aside from wishing for loads of cash so I could buy it all, I was struck by how many authors I have a connection with. Some, like the Yarn Harlot and Franklin Habit, I've only read their blogs, although they've become a daily part of my life in that way. But a few I've actually met or exchanged electronic comments with. I met Robyn Chachula at a very interesting seminar that she gave on becoming a yarn industry insider, so I'm happy to include her forthcoming book Blueprint Crochet: Modern Designs for the Visual Crocheter. Of course, I loved The Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook even before I met Lynne Vogel and attended her class on spinning with color. And I've exchanged comments with Kathleen Taylor since I won Yarns to Dye For from her blog contest. As I was picking books, it was exciting to offer some that I have a connection to. I guess Ialways thought authors were these mysterious deity-type beings or something, but now I sort of know a bunch of them.
Anyway, I worked some more on the bamboo swatch last night, and I'm really liking every stitch I try. In fact, the swatch is starting to look like the beginnings of a very cute sleeve.

I want the actual sleeves to be a bit longer than this and floopier, but it's a start. Also, I found my little bitty (normal to everyone else) crochet hooks. I can't wait to see what they produce with this yarn.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

swatching the bamboo yarn

No spinning last night, but I finally got to play with that bamboo yarn. It may not be super soft, but it is exceedingly drapey. Crocheted up, it's not scratchy or rough at all, as I feared it might be. It feels like it would be very cool against your skin.

I was using the smallest hook in my favorite set, an 8 mm (L-11). I usually use huge hooks to make everything--crochet is so stiff if you use the recommended hook size, plus I usually use pretty bulky yarn. But this yarn is DK weight, and I want to make a summer top out of it, and not one of those tops where you have to wear something else underneath. Therefore, I will need to break out a much smaller hook for at least some of this. (I should have put something else in the picture for scale--it looks smaller in person. The holes in the fabric are small enough to be nice for something like a sleeve, just not a whole shirt.)
I do like this yarn. I think it's going to make a fabulous top.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


I'm still working on the beautiful merino roving I bought in Asheville. It is so soft, I just love it. I was starting to get a little grumpy about the colors, though. There was a patch or two that had some green, which just looked weird in the midst of the mostly pinkish beige background. Here's what the roving looked like.

When all that's showing is the purples and grays, it's gorgeous, but where the green is, the beige looks sickly pink and weird. I almost didn't want to work on it, but I had a little bit left over on one bobbin, so I decided to spin some more. It turned out that the rest of the wool is mostly beige with purple and gray, much prettier than the green part, so I was rewarded. I split off two almost equal pieces--the goal was to add on to the little leftover bit on one bobbin, start with nothing on the other, and end up with it all matching up when I plied. It was a good plan, but I forgot about it halfway through and started each half on an empty bobbin. So now all three of my bobbins contain singles of this yarn and I need to get one empty before I can ply. Sigh. The leftover bit is very little, though. I'm going to try to join it to one of the others before plying. We'll see if I guess correctly as to which is the shorter one. Last time I tried this, I just ended up with twice as much leftover as I started with!
Anyway, I was making some more attempts at long-draw last night, with some better success. I still need to read up on how you're actually supposed to do this, but going from memory of watching others plus some inspiration from a post on Spin, Knit, and Life about spinning from the fold, I'm starting to get it to work. Also, something finally clicked in my mind: the big fat rope phenomenon I was getting happens when the twist works its way over to the end and starts pulling the fibers lengthwise instead of pulling from the side of the roving. The twist had been kind of travelling around and spontaneously grabbing from wherever. Once I broke the roving into short pieces and insisted that it grab from the side, this worked very smoothly. I still had to intervene occasionally with a little inchworm when I got to a weird bit of fiber, but mostly it was just working.

The yarn came out pretty even--certainly better than last time I tried!--and the spinning was free of frustration. It was so exhilarating! I've seen others do this, and it looks like magic. Last night I was the one working the magic. It rocked!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

I'm in business

I went to the courthouse at lunch yesterday and filed the paperwork to start my business. Fire Lizard Studios LLC is now a real entity, not just a dream, and I'm a small business owner! Next step: setting up shop on Etsy and getting some products up there. This is so exciting. The ladies at the courthouse were super nice and encouraging, too. Huntsville has a lot going on, but it's still very small-town-y in many ways that make life pleasant. It's a great place to live.
All of the legal stuff about starting the business seemed impossibly overwhelming at first, but I think I've got it under control. The only thing that's not done is setting up an account for county sales tax for my county, and I sent off the paperwork for that today. Even that isn't really super urgent unless my first Etsy customers happen to be from this county.
Well, that's the news. After I took care of that stuff, I felt like queen of the world, but I was ready for a nice, relaxing knitting night. I packed my bag yesterday morning with the two yarns I'm most eager to swatch with: the purple bamboo yarn and the fancy pink organic cotton yarn.

You can't really tell from the picture, but the pink in the organic cotton (Rowan PureLife in Brazilwood) has beautiful subtle variations to it. That's why I bought it.
Anyway, I drove over to knitting night, reached over to grab my yarn bag, and discovered I had left it at home! Duh! I was so mad. I figured I'd stop in and say hi and then just go home and crochet, but I had so much fun talking to everyone, time flew by and before I knew it, Barnes & Noble was closing and throwing us all out. I sat around all evening and did absolutely nothing. The knitters are such a cool group of people, it was a lot of fun. About the only thing that would have made it more fun is some yarn!

Monday, May 5, 2008

weekends were made for yarn

It was a beautiful weekend for yarn. Some people hate it when it rains on Saturday, but I love it. When it's a gorgeous sunny day, I feel like I'm wasting it if I stay inside and do exactly what I want to do (yarn!). When it's raining, I can spin, crochet, or whatever guilt-free.
I've also done a lot of plotting and planning for the business. I'm hoping to get the legal stuff squared away this week if that's physically possible--most of the paperwork gets filed at the courthouse, so I'm hoping that I can just go there and have it processed immediately. That's not how it is if you apply for a marriage license, but starting a business is less rash, so I'm hoping it doesn't come with a required cooling-off period.
Meanwhile, I finished my capelet.

During the pink and gold rows, I was starting to doubt the whole thing, but when I added the wine-colored row, the whole thing really came together, and now I love it again.
Everywhere I've taken it, people have asked me how I picked the colors and yarns to go together, so I'm thinking of designing similar capelets in three different colorways and offering them as kits. I really like the way this one turned out, and it's mostly bulky yarn. I used a huge hook to make a drapey fabric, and that also makes the whole thing quick to make (that is, if you don't interrupt it with two baby blankets, a shawl, a scarf, and a hat, like I have). Etsy, here I come!

Friday, May 2, 2008

socks vs. shawls

Lately I've been thinking a lot about sock yarn. I've decided to focus my business on hand-dyeing and hand-spinning yarn for the time being. I will probably add other areas later, but I tend to pull myself in too many directions at once and confuse myself. Starting a business is complicated enough without doing that. I'm working on all the legal stuff right now, and let me just say blech.
For dyeing, sock yarn is so popular right now, it seems like a good place to start. And last night I had a small epiphany: one of my favorite yarns of all time is actually a sock yarn, though I didn't know it when I bought it.

This is Brooks Farm Yarns Acero. Acero means steel in Spanish, and its metallic look is what made me exceed my yarn budget and buy it. It's a fingering weight yarn, 60% Superwash Wool, 20% Silk, and 20% Viscose. It comes in 4-ounce/420 yard skeins. It is springy and bouncy and gorgeous. I bought it at the Pittsburgh Knit and Crochet Festival as an antidote to my scratchy yellow Red Heart learning-to-knit project, and it is a total joy to crochet with. It's also my first "real" (non-mass-produced, mostly natural material) yarn. Love love love it!

This project has been on the back burner for a good while, but I pulled it out last night and fell in love all over again. It's a shawl.

It was going to be a really big shawl (I bought two skeins), but the more I think about it, I may just finish off the last of this skein (probably another 3 rows or so) and leave it at that.
So I already have an easy pattern that I designed that I can post with my new line of sock yarn for the non-sock folks. Bonus!