Monday, June 30, 2008

yarn extravaganza

I had a super yarnacious weekend. I went on a big dyeing binge, including sock yarn, some worsted weight yarn, and a little test roving. Here's a preview of one of the worsted skeins being rinsed.

So pleased. I hate trashing the kitchen and setting everything up, and I hate putting it all back in the garage, but I loooove dyeing, and even more than that, I love unwrapping it all the next morning, rinsing it off, spinning it out in the washer, and hanging it up to dry. It's like Christmas every time.
Also, I made a pilgrimage to Little Barn to return the problem child skein winder. While I was there I got some treats. This is what I love about Little Barn: incredible fiber.

That's 75% suri alpaca, 25% wool in color cafe au lait. It's super soft, even softer than the tencel/wool blend. It's completely fabulous.

This one is called Indian Summer. It's 100% dyed wool, Little Barn brand, no further information. I just love the colors. And finally, some yarn.

This is Sonetto FB Fashion. It looks more eyelashy in the picture than in person; in person it looks more like sari silk.
So Saturday was work day--ran errands, did the bills, did the laundry, and dyed and dyed and dyed. But Sunday is the day of rest--perfect for some relaxing spinning. I couldn't wait to try the alpaca blend roving. This is the first time I've tried spinning anything that wasn't at least half sheep's wool, and in fact, the 50/50 tencel/wool blend is the only other thing I've spun that wasn't at least 90% wool. Plus I just adore that fawn color. (They call it cafe au lait, but to me it's fawn.)
This roving came packed into a very small bag--it was really stuffed in there. I was a bit skeptical, thinking it was getting crushed in there, but as I started spinning it, I discovered that having it a little compressed actually makes it easier to spin. The fibers are extremely soft and fine, with no crimp I could detect. Thus they're very slippery and don't want to stick together.

As I was spinning the singles, I thought I was overtwisting, but every time I put in the tiniest bit less twist, the yarn broke. I was afraid I'd end up with hard, loftless yarn, but it came out pretty nice when plied.

Of course, now I'm eagerly pondering a use for this. It's super soft, so it could be anything--scarf, gloves, whatever. In fact, I think I may have just found a reason to buy some of the luscious alpaca yarn that I've been eyeing every time I go to Little Barn--a skein or two of blue or purple in the midst of this fawn color as narrow stripes here and there or something...the ghost of an idea is starting to form, and I'm liking it.

Friday, June 27, 2008

odd lots

So I had another huge to-do list for last night. I must be a madwoman. Actually, I can't decide whether it's better to have a big to-do list and get some of it done, always striving for more but never finishing, or to have a reasonable to-do list and usually finish it all. I love the idea of the second approach, but the first is the one I always take.
Well, last night I left work on time instead of late, drove home, drove over to the mechanic to pick up my husband's car, waited around, drove home again, contemplated The List, but decided to take a nap. I was really whipped, and I knew that I could do some of the dumber things on the list if I really pushed myself, but it wouldn't be good for me. I ended up going to bed around 6 and sleeping until 4:30 am, with the exception of about 20 minutes around 8:00, when my husband woke me up and tried to get me to eat dinner.
I feel a thousand times better this morning. I made the right choice. The big item on The List was dyeing, and it would have been physically possible, but I would have been absolutely miserable. I'm so eager to get this business going, I want to get everything done immediately, so I have to remind myself that it's supposed to be fun, and when it turns into punishment or torture, it's past time to stop.
Anyway, I woke up feeling rested and great at 4:30, and got a lot of weird little things done this morning. I got the router temporarily working again with the new teeny laptop! This is very exciting, but since it stopped working before for no apparent reason, I'm not counting on it to last. But meanwhile, I'm very happy. Also, I figured out the deal with the SD card reader on the laptop. I was pushing the card in, and it was making a click sound and coming back out a little bit. I thought that was just how it worked, but as I was playing with it, my finger slipped when I was sliding the card in, and it went the whole way in and went CLICK! And then it mounted just like it should. It turns out if you put just the slightest upward pressure on the card as you slide it in, it engages properly. Thus, my EEE PC is a fully functional, non-defective, wonderful little toy and I'm delighted with it. (I was really afraid something was wrong with the card reader and I'd have to exchange it or some crap, which I'm sure would be a huge hassle.) For anyone considering buying one, it's a great machine, and both of the problems I've had with it have amounted to operator error.
I also listed the kit for the green cape on my Etsy store. I still have not listed any yarn, so I'm disappointed in myself there, but I did wind six skeins for dyeing, which I'm semi-planning to do tonight, or tomorrow at the latest.
Also, I decided to do some spinning before getting into any serious to-do-list action. It has been days since I've spun, and it really does relax me and make me feel so great. The Crochet Dude posted about this here. He said he was writing his to-do list and it contained 39 categories, so he decided to make a to-quit list instead, and quit everything that made him feel "blecky." What a great idea, but how many of us can actually take the red sharpie and start crossing out all the bleck in our lives? I need to put more thought into this--everything we do is technically optional, but axing certain things would definitely have consequences I'm not ready for right now.
Anyway, I decided that the first item on my "to-quit" list was "putting everything before spinning" and spun some nice yarn this morning.
It started as a nice carded roving I bought from Little Barn, one of the BLB FLB (by Little Barn for Little Barn) blends. It's 90% 64s wool, 10% acrylic and angelina. It says it's for socks, but I don't think it's quite soft enough for that. Plus I don't spin that fine anyway. But here's the roving.

You know how you're actually supposed to do long-draw from carded roving? There's a reason for that. It's much easier!

Maybe tonight I'll do the other half and ply. Happy happy!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

not doing what I'm s'posta

Last night I intended to straighten out the finances, make a new household budget, list the green cape kit on Etsy, list some sock yarn in Etsy (in my dreams), and wind a bunch of yarn for dyeing tonight. But then I got an invitation to go to Starbucks and see one of the test socks in progress as it's being knit from my yarn. It was an offer I couldn't refuse. As an added bonus, when I arrived, some of my knitting buddies from Monday nights were there knitting! Since the tire incident, I have resolved not to go anywhere without my knitting bag ever again, so I was prepared to join them. As it turns out, I didn't get home until after 10:00, and I didn't accomplish any of the things on my list, but I sure like sitting around with nice people and playing with yarn. Here's what I did.

But you just saw that a few days ago, and I see it all the time. Here's the real exciting thing: the test sock. First, the yarn.

And, *drum roll*, the sock.

Isn't it gorgeous? It makes me want to squeal. One side is stockinette (top photo); the other side is linen stitch. It's probably obvious to all the smart knitters out there which side is the part that gets stepped on, but I don't remember. I think it's the linen stitch side. Anyway, it was just getting ready for a heel when I saw it last. Excellent work. As I've started to have other people express interest in this yarn, I've had a few moments when I regretted giving the four prettiest skeins to the test knitters (and I still regret not taking pictures of them first! Duh!!!!), but these are so gorgeous, and I'll get to see and have pictures of the finished socks. Totally worth it.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

mostly meta

It's amazing how much less I get done since I've been sleeping through the night again. I didn't get it at first, but then I realized I've basically lost five hours a day of productive yarn time to sleep. Of course, the tradeoff is that I can actually think and do my job at work, so overall it's good, but I for a while there I was wondering what was wrong with me--suddenly I hardly have time to knit or crochet or spin, I'm not winding a few skeins of yarn a day, no dyeing has taken place in a couple of weeks...
Anyway, last night I did a lot of meta work for the business and hardly touched yarn at all. But I do have something to show you: I went shopping at lunch yesterday and scored a good haul of materials for the little crocheted things I plan to make for the Ole Timey Crafts and Bluegrass Festival.

The day-glo colors are for hair scrunchies--I have pony tail elastics in those colors, and they're really quick and easy to make. The more sedate stuff is for sachets, little bags, things like that.
After dinner, I got it all out for show and tell. Now my husband is an artist, so he appreciates the necessity for keeping piles of materials around, especially if they're pretty, and he's always liked textiles, even when he was a little kid. So I'm not one of those people who have to hide their yarn--until I got all the yarn for the business, all of the yarn I owned was on display, hanging on the walls in the guest room. Now I have that collection plus the business's stuff, which is all in boxes in the dining room. So I spread out the new yarn and was showing it to him and explaining what I liked about it and what I planned to do with it, when he started exhibiting the first symptoms of the disease. He picked up the leftmost ball of yarn in the second row above (you really have to click on the picture and see the full-sized version--the one on the page is the biggest blogger will let me have, and it just doesn't do it justice) and started petting it and saying how luscious it was and how he just had to have something made out of it, but what? That's right, the dude fell in love with some yarn and started thinking up a reason to buy it. Two in one family, I think we may be in trouble!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

fun at knitting night

Can I just say for the millionth time that I love knitting night? It was a small crowd last night, but what a great group of people.
I was much later than I meant to be--I got absorbed in fixing my website, which was truly embarrassing before. Google is hosting my stuff, including my email, the website, and some other handy things, but what I didn't realize when I signed up for it is that if they host your website, you have to use their truly lame web page creator for your main page. You absolutely have to, it won't let you just write one yourself and upload it or whatever, and it won't let you change much about the page, even if you go in and edit the html by hand. It comes with a very small selection of lame templates, and as far as I can tell, it's impossible to create a professional-looking web page with their stuff. But, you can add a bit of javascript to your lame starting page to automatically redirect all traffic to some other page, and you can upload whatever kinds of pages you want for all pages other than the first. So I made a couple of decent pages and set up the lame page to automatically redirect to them. It will still be a while before any actual commerce occurs there--I think I'll need to get a real host for that, and of course all the shopping cart software and what-have-you. But at least it's not an embarrassment anymore.
After I got that to a point where I'm satisfied with it for now, I realized knitting night started an hour ago and hustled on over.
The seascape shawl is on hold until I get some better needles, but I'm working on a nice rectangular wrap in Jaeger Roma. This will be a kit when I get the pattern done.

I love this yarn. It's a blend of angora, viscose, and nylon (except I thought viscose and nylon were the same thing, so what the heck is viscose?) (ok, I just looked it up. Viscose is actually a type of rayon, very breathable with excellent drape.) It's extremely soft, it's making a fabric with a wonderful drape, and it's very springy. It's awesome.
Also I got to see the progress on one of the test socks. Totally gorgeous and drool-worthy. The yarn isn't making those little blobs, it's making one-row stripes that don't go the whole way around. It's a very nice effect. It gets a little confused in the textured parts, but they're really awesome too. In short, it's working! :) I can't wait until somebody gets to the second sock so we can see it all (hopefully) match.

Monday, June 23, 2008

computers, computers, and yarn

I have lots of news to report. First of all, my new computer came! It's very tiny but very usable. I was concerned that the keyboard would be too small or that the 7" screen would drive me crazy by only showing three letters at a time or something, but it's fine in both of those regards. It's about the size of a portable DVD player. Here it is with my hand for scale.

Of course, having a new cute little laptop running around, I had to set up my wireless router so I could surf with it. I won't get into the gory details, but let's just say that it took nine hours on Saturday to get it working. This is one of my big downfalls--I know nothing about networking, I absolutely despise trying to make things work, and if in the course of trying to make something work I've broken something that used to work, I'm absolutely crawling out of my skin until I get it working again. Thus Saturday was quite the miserable day for me, but I did get finally get it working, which was exciting. Of course, this morning the laptop is not seeing the wireless router (why why why????) so it appears I still have more struggles ahead. Also, one of the things I was really excited about was the fact that it comes with an SD card reader built in. I finally got it to mount my SD card, but it won't read it. I don't know if this is because of all the Mac files sitting around on the card or what, but it's really infuriating. The Windows machine at work will read it, and they're not exactly known for their enthusiasm for compatibility and sharing. In short, I hate computers.
In other news, I finally got the bicycle computer I ordered and tried that out. Ingrid at Yarn Workshop, who suggested this to me, is a genius! I bought this one. Notice the distance display to three digits after the decimal--this bicycle computer displays down to the meter. That's pretty awesome and seems to be fairly rare. But what's even better is that I was telling my lunch buddy about this whole thing and entering the yarn circumference to get it to calculate the actual length of the yarn, and he said the magic words: "If you really want to know how many times you've gone around, just divide the distance by the circumference." It turns out this thing has you enter the circumference of the bicycle wheel in millimeters. If I wanted to know the actual length of yarn I was winding, I could convert 76" to millimeters and get that. But I already know that 107 wraps gives me a 100 g skein, so what I really wanted was for it to count wraps. I told it my bicycle wheel has a circumference of 1000 mm (that's 1 meter for the math impaired), so now my distance actually gives me the number of wraps, exactly what I wanted! This is totally awesome, and it's silent and smooth. I love it.
It operates by counting the number of times a magnet mounted on one arm of the skein winder (or one spoke of a bicycle wheel) goes past another piece that's mounted on a stationary part of the skein winder/bike. I was concerned about how I was going to mount these things. It came with cable ties, but I came up with something even better: that tacky stuff you put posters up with.

Here's a closeup.

This allows me to put the display anywhere I want, notably someplace where I can see it, unlike some counting skein winders, and watch it count as I wind.

On Sunday I decided to do some spinning. Normally I save the really nice fiber for when I'm feeling confident in my spinning abilities. Sunday I felt ready to spin the very best, most beautiful fiber I have: the tencel/wool blend from Chasing Rainbows Dyeworks. Remember this?

Here it is unfurled.

It's so beautiful, so soft and luminous, and it spun like an absolute dream. I have to get some of this stuff to dye--it is absolutely incredible. And I was actually spinning consistently enough that the trick of splitting the roving in half lengthwise and spinning both halves actually worked--the colors lined up nicely.

I was hoping for some sections of pure purple, but the purple parts in the roving were all shorter than the staple length of the fiber, so that was impossible as far as I know. But it came out better than I thought--some parts are clearly purple. I think I'm in love.

Friday, June 20, 2008

a little spinning

I went to the Sidewalk Arts Stroll last night. That was pretty cool. They had some musicians and other performers, as well as a whole lot of visual art. I would estimate it was 65% paintings, 28% jewelry, 2% wood workers, 2% glass artists, 2% gourd artists, and 1% lady with sewn bags and knitted and crocheted baby booties. It was cool, but more variety would have been better. They definitely need some fiber artists!
I did get a little spinning in--spun the other half of the one-day chunk of fiery roving and plied it.

This is some fun novelty yarn, which I did mostly on purpose. That is, I didn't set out to make novelty yarn originally, but when it seemed to want to go that way, I gave it a big push. I plan to make a business card holder out of it. Ever since I got Spin to Knit: The Knitter's Guide to Making Yarn out of the library, I've been longing to make some screwed up yarn and knit something out of it, like that hat on the cover. That hat kills me. I frickin' love that hat. That's kind of what I was going for with the crazy rose yarn a while back, but the thick and thin parts averaged each other out when I plied it. This yarn I intentionally made one ply wacky and the other pretty normal. That seemed to work a lot better.
In other news, despite the fact that I stuck with the free super saver shipping, my computer shipped yesterday and is scheduled to arrive today!!! According to UPS, it's already out for delivery. Some truck is currently driving around Huntsville with my computer on it, on its way to me. Yes! Talk about fast! If this turns out to be one of those Fridays with a pocket of infinity located right around 2:43 in the afternoon, I will die of impatience.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

time to geek

Dudes, I bought a computer!
Here's what it looks like.

The screen is only 7 inches wide. It's tiny! And it comes with WiFi, an SD card reader, and three USB ports, plus a port for connecting it to an external monitor. And a headphone jack.
I've been dilemma-izing about this for about a month now. I stumbled on these little things on Amazon, and I couldn't decide whether I thought
a) this is a great deal! A teeny laptop for $350?! Usually the smaller they are, the more they cost!
b) Cute, but you could get a real computer for only $100-$150 more if you hit a good sale.
Actually, the one that first caught my attention was the 2 GB model, which goes for $299. Somehow, $300 for a computer seemed worth it, even if it is kind of a toy computer (only 512 MB of memory and 2 GB of "hard drive" space (no actual hard drive--it's flash memory, so no spinning parts to get damaged)). But even with Linux instead of Windows, the entire 2 GB is basically full when you get it, which seems like a bad idea. I decided I should really get the 4GB model, but I really didn't want to pay more than $300, so there the matter rested until yesterday. Yesterday, I discovered a 4 GB one that had been returned, so it was only $310. Bingo, that's what I've been waiting for. I bought it. It still has the same return policy as a totally untouched one, and it qualified for free super saver shipping. Yes! I added a 4 GB memory stick for $18, thus doubling my storage. I plan to use the memory stick for the primary copy of everything I'm working on and back it up to the big computer whenever I work there. It comes with Linux installed, a happy version with a very cutesy user interface, as far as I can tell from the pictures. That's another reason I wanted to buy one now rather than waiting much longer--it seems like they're selling more of them with Windows installed, and I can just imagine how slow and pathetic they are with all that bloated operating system and applications wasting up space and memory. I think it will be a dog with Windows but a reasonable computer with Linux, and the folks who have Linux versions have written that they start up way faster than their Windows desktop machines. I think I'll be happy with that. Also, it comes with a web browser and Open Office already installed. I can't think of much else I need for what I want to use it for. Well, GnuCash would be nice. I had a heck of a time installing that on my Mac, but it might be really easy installing it for Linux, since that's what it was built for. We'll see.
I'm so excited. I've been reading the reviews of these things, and the only complaints I've seen are that the keyboard is really small (ya think? It's a tiny machine! And I have small hands, so I think this should be fine) and some people have had a problem with the space bar being installed defectively. I've already read up on how to fix that, so if mine has that problem, I know what to do. Otherwise, people seem to love them, and if I'm running an online business, I really need to be able to stay in communication when I'm away. Getting this now allows me some time for it to show up and me to play with it before I go to The Knit and Crochet Show in July, which I'm also super excited about. The first day is a professional development day, and I'm going to learn all about designing and getting patterns published and book proposals and getting publicity for your business. I'm signed up for a ton of workshops. Plus I just love going to these things--I get so much energy from being around fiber people and all that beautiful yarn! I can't wait!
What about yarn, you say? Don't I have any pictures of yarn for you today? Well, just a small one. I've been brainstorming for inexpensive items that I could make quickly to take to the Ol' Timey Crafts and Bluegrass Festival, and I stumbled across the idea of crocheted hair scrunchies.

That's a pretty fun thing--easy to make and quick. I made a bigger one first, but it took way too long and didn't look significantly better. I knew I had a reason for buying extra novelty yarn, and now I have a perfect justification to keep doing it!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

a little spinning

Awhile back, I got a big order of roving from Sheep Shed Studio, including the brown and white stuff that gave me so much trouble the first time I tried to spin it and some custom-dyed roving.

Last night I wanted to spin something special, so I pulled out some of the custom-dyed stuff. It is really awesome. I don't know what kind of sheep the wool is from, but it's very soft with a long staple length. It took me a little while to get the hang of it (probably ten minutes or so); since then it's super easy and wonderful to spin.

I got really tired last night and only did a tiny bit; I can't wait to get back to it tonight.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I've been tagged

Cara in Exile tagged me, so here goes.

  1. Link the person who tagged you.
  2. Mention the rules in your blog.
  3. Tell about 6 fun quirks about yourself.
  4. Tag 6 fellow bloggers by linking them.
  5. Leave a comment on each of the tagged blogger’s blogs letting them know they’ve been tagged.

I'm not sure I can live up to the expectation of "fun quirks" but I guess I am a little odd.

  • I don't crochet like a normal person. My method is to normal crochet as English knitting is to Continental knitting, roughly. Legitimate crocheters have been known to shriek "what are you doing?!" when they see me crocheting. (This happened again just last night.)
  • I'm wildly addicted to Chapstick, but I seem to have developed a sudden allergy to the mint kind, which is all I've used for the past four years.
  • I periodically attempt to quit swearing. I guess it's like that quote about quitting smoking: "Quitting is easy. I've done it lots of times." To make it easier, I try to come up with suitable replacements for the things I usually say. I went through a phase where I would yell "Boutros Boutros Ghali!" in traffic when someone was rude to me.
  • Every three years, I uproot my life and start over. Not that I plan to do it that way, but so far that's how it's gone.
  • On the rare occasions that I write on paper instead of typing, I make the same typos/writos as I would at the keyboard. Apparently it's not my fingers, it's my brain.
  • I can't stand the sound of chewing.

Now for the tags. I don't want this to be some obnoxious chain letter sort of thing, so if you think this is lame and don't want to do it, just don't do it. You won't hurt my feelings. I'll even take the seven years of bad luck for you, as I'm sure I'm already doing by breaking the rules and only tagging three people ;)
Helen at Knitting & whingeing in Abalama-ding-dong
Sarah at Sarah Knits
~P~ at Spin, Knit, and Life

Now for some yarn.
Last night was knitting night, the best night of the week. I worked some more on Roma Shawl I. Still not quite getting what I envisioned, but it's pretty nice.

What I really wanted here was upside down V-stitches, which I was thinking was impossible until just this second I had an inspiration: maybe that really solid chunk of dcs could be the middle instead of the edge, and I could work my way out from it in both directions. Then I could make a symmetrical thing with V stitches pointing in opposite directions on opposite sides (well really top and bottom) of the shawl.
Remember that vow I made that I would swatch from now on? What was that, last week? Yeah, I should really keep that.
Also, in the immortal words of the Beatles, I get by with a little help from my friends. It took four of us, but we got the crazy twisted mess sock yarn from yarn crisis night into two beautiful balls.

Is that not luscious? I have got to learn to knit socks!

Monday, June 16, 2008

two new projects

I started two new things over the weekend, but I'm not exactly happy with either of them. One is the seascape colors cape. Well, due to the unavailability of a lot of the yarn I originally planned for this cape, it's actually not going to be a cape at all but a very open, drapey wrap, perfect for summer nights and air conditioned restaurants. I got all inspired by the fact that I was working on it at a World Wide Knit in Public event and decided to knit this one. I made a swatch, trying a bunch of different things to add texture or interest, but actually, the yarn is all rayon boucle except one, and all the stuff I tried just looked like mistakes. It looked best in simple garter stitch. So, I cast on with a plan to do that.

So far this hasn't been any fun, though, to my surprise. I was having a blast with the swatch, but I'm doing the real thing on these plastic circular needles. That's not a problem in itself--I'm doing something else on one of the other circs from this set, and I'm loving it. But on this one, the tapered part is exceptionally long.

That means you have to pull each stitch way up on the needle before it gets to the full thickness. This has resulted in one three-stitch kamikaze disaster already, and I've only done one row, plus you end up with all this extra slack yarn between the stitches. And it's just no fun knitting this. I need to get some better needles. Honestly, I really don't like working with circular needles that much anyway, although it does make me feel like an official knitter--I like to prop the end of one needle up in my lap when I'm throwing the yarn, and that just doesn't work with circs. I'm considering just buying a pair of 14" straight needles in this size and stuffing it all onto them. Well, except I'd start over due to the kamikaze thing mentioned above. But then I was thinking, if it's just going to be garter stitch, does anyone really need me to knit this (with the purpose being to make a pattern)? Maybe I should just say "cast on 165 stitches with yarn A. Do garter stitch until you feel like changing yarns. Switch to yarn B. Repeat process until you run out of yarn. Bind off." and be done with it. I really was having a great time knitting the swatch, though, and I really want to make this.
The other thing I started is a rectangular wrap in that luscious Jaeger Roma.

It's a lot denser than I really want; I'm definitely not doing the whole thing in solid dc like this. I was trying to figure out Solomon's Knot from the stitch explanations on Lion Brand's website, but I must confess it makes no sense to me. (That's what the three little confusion stitches are in the last row.) I guess it's time to make something up.
Also, I found this great quote from the Mishnah in The Complete Spinning Book:
And these are the duties the wife performs for her husband. She grinds, bakes, washes, cooks, nurses her child, makes the bed and spins wool. If she has brought one servant with her, she doesn't grind, bake or wash. If she has brought two, she doesn't cook or nurse the child; three, she doesn't make the bed or spin wool, four, she sits in the salon. Rabbi Eliezer says: Even if she has brought a houseful of servants, he should force her to spin wool, because idleness leads to insanity.

As far as the husband forcing her to do anything, forget that! But wouldn't you love to be the woman with three or more servants who has no duties and is free to just spin for her own edification?

Friday, June 13, 2008

rolling along

I went to Little Barn and bought the big counting skein winder. I hooked it up to the other one, and bingo.

It works it works it works! Thank goodness. I plan to rig up some sort of feeder system to keep the two yarns going to the two sides of the destination winder, probably involving dowels and drinking straws. This will become a streamlined process.
However, after winding my first skein, with the winder clicking away, here's what the counter said.

That's right, 2! #$&^&(#%$@#$!@$@^!!!! It looks like the counter trip mechanism is just getting almost, so close but not actually tripping to trigger a new number. Why can't things just work?! Also, you can't tell from the picture, but this skein winder is the right height for a midget. It has a big, bulky floor stand, but I had to set it on a box to get it to a height that would not involve hurting myself while winding the yarn. Clearly not well thought out. I hate to take another thing back there--we're two for two on equipment returns here--but it's really not meeting my needs. And I swear that counter thing was working in the store! Maybe I'll call first and see if he has any suggestions or adjustments or something.
Anyway, I also finished the green cape yesterday!

I am so happy with how it came out. And I had just enough gold yarn to add that little embellishment near the top, which had exactly the effect I was hoping for. Yes!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

happy dyeing

A strange thing happened to me last night. I think I officially used up my last speck of energy yesterday, and when I got home from work, I went straight to bed. Around 9:00, the cat concluded that she'd never get fed if she didn't take matters into her own hands, so she woke me up. I fed her, puttered around a little, considered transforming the dye studio back into a kitchen but decided I was too tired. "I'll do that when I wake up at 3 am," I thought, and went back to bed.
The next thing I knew, there was this weird voice telling me the weather, and it was light out. Huh??? It took me a few seconds to realize what happened: I slept through the night! That weird voice was the alarm clock. It has been so long since that happened, I forgot what it was like!
Anyway, while I was napping, I hung the yarn out to finish drying.

Can I just say I love this job?
Now everything is dry.

Oh yeah, life is good.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

yarn crisis! call the wah-mbulance!

Last night I dyed more yarn. This has been the plan since I didn't un-disaster-fy the kitchen after the last dye-fest--I figured I'd just have to set it all up again to dye more, which I definitely needed to do, so why bother. That's all fine and well, except of course there have been all these delays of various sorts, so I didn't get started until around 8:00. I hope to reduce the time it takes me to do this by a lot as time goes on, but for now that's pretty dang late to be starting a dye job. But my husband is getting back into town tomorrow, so it would really be best if the entire house wasn't completely trashed with yarn stuff by then. Also I've taken over his bathroom for the drying station, which will not work when he's here. I decided to just go ahead and do it--I haven't been to bed before 11:30 since I've been on these drugs anyway.
I had a good time dyeing--that went great. I have a decent process going, I just need to streamline it a bit, but I was in the zone and happy. Finished around midnight, very tired but pleased. Then I remembered I'm supposed to take some of the yarn from the first batch and wind it into two separate skeins for the test knitting. I have had a niggling doubt in the back of my mind this whole time that something could go wrong with that process, so even though I was exhausted, I figured I'd better just do it in case something went wrong.
My plan was to wind the double-strand skein into a ball, then from the ball wind one strand onto my skein winder and the other onto the ball winder, and then wind the half-skein on the skein winder into a ball, making sure to get the same end into the middle of both balls. So I went through all the yarns and picked my favorite.

I liked it a lot in skein form, but there in the ball, all shiny and with the colors interweaving like that... the only way to express it is with the Italian expression "ti mangio vivo!" which is literally, "I want to eat you alive!" but, you know, in a good way. There was my magnum opus in all its luscious yarny splendor, full of potential and joy.
Then I tried to execute the plan of winding the yarn from the ball onto the skein winder and ball winder. I'm surprised I didn't wake up the whole planet with my mood crash. The process of winding the yarn into the ball resulted in the two strands being twisted together, and not just a little. The only possible way to execute my plan would be to stand there turning the ball around and around while feeding the yarn off of it, and meanwhile cranking the ball winder (and keeping an even tension to prevent mid-ball meltoff) and turning the skein winder evenly so that it doesn't keep turning around and dropping the yarn back off itself. So picture the scene: it's now 1 am, I haven't slept more than three hours a night in 11 days, and I did four hours of dyeing before starting this task, which would require about six arms to do properly. Yeah. It went that well.
I totally freaked out. Also, I was afraid that the two strands were somehow inherently twisted together and every single skein (all 23!) was like this and it would take all night to wind just one skein, if it could even be done that quickly, so basically it would be quicker and cheaper to actually throw away all 23 skeins, scrap the idea of matching socks, and start over. And of course there is nothing in the world that seemed more important at that moment than getting this yarn to the test knitters this morning, which was 100% gee-golly impossible. But the 23 useless skeins of yarn were what loomed large, especially after having seen how absolutely gorgeous they could be with the colors interacting, as opposed to all lined up as they were dyed.
Well, it did occur to me that the ball winding is where the twist came from, so I tried just laying a skein out on the table and winding off that. But it turns out that doing it that way also introduces twist, only I was too tired to see it. I tried a series of absurd machinations before finally declaring defeat, bursting into tears, wailing loudly, having a total meltdown, and going to bed. Incredibly, I did manage to sleep some, and I had an inspiration.

That's lampshade-as-swift yarn source, with clothespin divisions on the destination skein winder to allow me to wind two parallel skeins while turning only one thing. If I had more clothespins to hold the yarn onto the lampshade, or a bigger lampshade, it might actually have been feasible to do the whole ball this way. I definiitely wouldn't say it works well, but it was enough to prove to myself that this yarn is not ruined and I can wind it just fine if I get a swift or another skein winder. Phew! to the tenth order of magnitude with a cherry on top. Seriously, the one that I wound into a ball, even someone who knits two socks at a time wouldn't want because they'd have to be untwisting the ball all the time. It really was awful.
So, this brings me to my new plan. In the process of winding the 23 skeins I have done so far, I haven't suffered, but I have had to really concentrate to make sure I get the right number of turns of yarn to get the size skein I'm trying to make. That has meant that when anyone called and I was supposed to be winding skeins, all yarn production shut down, which is what caused the lateness of last night's dyeing session. Little Barn carries a skein winder that has a counter, and I considered buying it when I bought the skein winder I have, but at the time I thought it was kind of expensive, and it's not pretty. I went on Etsy and bought one that was smaller, cheaper, and looked pretty on the internet. However, when it arrived, it's actually not all that pretty either, and it really doesn't matter. Well, every time I see it, I want to refinish it, but I doubt I will. And if I do, I'll do the new one while I'm at it! The counting functionality is worth it.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

a small sock yarn preview

The first batch of sock yarn is about dry. Here are a few samples.

I'm really happy with this yarn. The bamboo gives it such nice qualities. While a few knitters take it for a test drive on socks, I'm going to crochet a super lacy shawl out of it. I've already got a stitch in mind. I will insist that I finish the green cape first before starting this, but otherwise I can wait no longer.
I also dyed one skein of my other sock base. This one is 75% superwash wool, 25% nylon. It's finer than the bamboo and not as drapey, but it absorbs the colors more intensely.

I'm so pleased with how this yarn has come out. I've heard about all these problems people have had with hand-dyed yarn and the dyes not setting, and then when someone goes to knit the yarn, they turn blue or whatever. I resolved before I started that I will not put this yarn on the market until I'm absolutely sure that will not happen. Well, it looks like all systems are go! I followed the proper procedures and made sure I applied plenty of acid and heat to set the dye, and I am using professional dyes. When I rinsed the yarn, there was not a speck of color anywhere but in the yarn--the water was perfectly clear. I'll observe how it behaves when I crochet it and get feedback from the test knitters, but it looks like we're good to go.
Meanwhile, I'm still working on the green cape. I was really hoping to finish it over the weekend, but I didn't. I hoped maybe I could finish it last night at knitting night, but still no.

What's left is one row of the spangly yarn at the bottom, and maybe a little embellishment near the top to unify it a bit more. Also, I keep staring at that white fuzzy trim yarn at the top and thinking it doesn't really go. I may take it back out. (Any opinions?) When you look at it close up, it's really cool because the colors in the fuzzy yarn are exactly the colors in the yarn below it, which is practically a miracle considering that all this yarn was ordered off the internet and none of it is related. But the white is so white, and there is no other white on the cape. I keep thinking it might look better without it. Of course, when I had it on just part, I thought it looked better with it, so maybe I should just stick with that. Anyway, thank goodness I added it on instead of starting with that yarn--I still have all options open! (I didn't want to be trying to crochet into a chain of that fuzzy convolution, and I figured nobody else would either, so I started with the next yarn, which is more normal.)

Monday, June 9, 2008

a little spinning

I'm still on the crazy meds, so the weekend was kind of like a line from a John Denver song: "didn't get much sleep but we had a lot of fun." I dyed my first batch of sock yarn, which totally rocks. (But did any of the pictures come out? No. Hopefully I'll have something for you tomorrow.) I also had lunch with a good friend from Pennsylvania and his family. This was a rare chance--I met them in Decatur on their way to visit family farther south. It was so great to see them. Man, what's better than old friends?
Also, I reunited with my spinning wheel this weekend. I've been so spazzed out lately, I just haven't been making time for it. That can't go on.
Since it's been a while and I figured I'd be out of practice, I didn't want to jump into the fiber from the Tennessee thing a few weeks ago--that stuff is so gorgeous, I want to spin it when I'm on top of my game. Instead, I broke out a little bundle of roving that I bought at Little Barn.

It's Wild Thing custom dyed for Little Barn. It was such a steal, I just couldn't resist--the price was about half of my idea of what four ounces of hand-dyed roving costs. Obviously I don't believe in "you get what you pay for." Well, in some cases you do, and this is one of them. Don't get me wrong, it was still worth what I paid for it, but it was felted and messy inside and very difficult to spin. I was making all this crazy slub thick-and-thin mess, even after an intensive three-phase predraft attack on it. I actually ended up doing it in two different sessions (not that I spun the whole roving, just the piece I broke off as one usual session's worth) because it was so difficult. But I was enjoying myself, and I started getting into the novelty yarn thing. I just read within the past few days that you can never again make yarn as crazy as the first yarn you make when you're a beginner. "Aha!" I thought. "These people must not know about buying cheap fiber! I can so make screwed up yarn! Look at this stuff!"
But wouldn't you know, just when I got all excited about seeing what crazy yarn I'd end up producing and what wild thing I'd do with it, plying evened a lot of it out.

It's certainly nothing like that shetland I was so proud of a few days ago, but it's not really all that crazy, either. Dang it. Oh well, I guess it will make a nice normal something. I do love the colors. The roving was a bit garish--this is the only one I've bought that my husband didn't like when he saw it--but the white parts really tone it down. It will make a pretty something.

Friday, June 6, 2008

cape quickie

In a grand anticlimax, I undid the swatch-on-cape and both rows of Yarn X. It's surprising how long that took, and a bit unsettling that the big resulting accomplishment was being back where I was two days ago. But I did get the first teal row done. (from the back, for a different perspective)

It's well worth redoing it--this new plan is so much classier. And luckily I decided to stop at the end of the row to check how the drape is. The drape is good, but while I was analyzing everything, I noticed that it seemed like I had used an awful lot of yarn. Sure enough, when I weighed what's left of the ball, I discovered that there will not be enough to do four rows of teal as planned, only three. That's too bad, but can I just say how totally ecstatic I am to have realized this now, not on the last row and end up re-re-frogging the darn Yarn X in the middle of the teal to move it again! Thank you, awesome little scale! This scale has revealed depths of nerdiness in me that were previously unknown: I am so irrationally excited to be able to weigh stuff in grams. 50 gram ball of yarn minus one row equals 34 grams? No way four rows are coming off that ball of yarn! At least I know.
But it's not all business around here. I took a detour to the library last night, and in the course of some "very serious research," I stumbled upon Exquisite Little Knits. This book has been around awhile (copyright 2004) but I've only been knitting since February. The way I learned to crochet was to go to the library, check out crochet books with pretty pictures, and fall asleep staring at them and studying the pattern directions. (There's just something about ch 567 sc 12 dc sc 3 tc...) I kind of got out of that habit, especially since the selection of crochet books at the main library here is grossly insufficient. But now I'm a knitter, so I can enjoy this gorgeous little gem of a book. Nearly all of the projects are beautiful and sophisticated, most fewer than three balls of yarn, and they're simple enough that I can understand them. A majority use high-class fibers such as cashmere, mohair, silk, or wool, but some designs use novelty yarns, and they're quite elegant--I think even the die-hard anti-novelty folks would have to admit it. I think I'm actually going to buy this one, and it's rare for me to say that about a book that's owned by my very own branch of the library.
Just for fun, I also got Keep Your Paycheck, Live Your Passion: How To Fulfill Your Dream Without Having To Quit Your Day Job (peppy but a bit unfocused) and Crochet Workshop. I am so disappointed that Amazon doesn't have a picture of the cover of Crochet Workshop--it's this white 70s guy with a huge afro, smoking a pipe and sitting in what looks like a wood shop class with a crochet swatch. I burst out laughing and disrupted the library when I saw it--it's too hilarious.

Thursday, June 5, 2008


Last night the (prescription) drugs and mania and lack of sleep finally caught up to me. I've had a similar effect from going too long without food, but this was pretty intense. You know those people at Walmart who kind of wander around looking like they're not sure what planet they just came from or how they got here, and it will take them at least the next 45 minutes to choose one of the identical gallons of 2% milk, and meanwhile their friggin' cart is rudely blocking the entire aisle? I guess now I know where they come from--that was me last night. The longer I was there, the stupider I got, so the harder it was to leave. Eventually I took myself in hand, bought some honey roasted peanuts (protein and sugar--surely these would take care of it!) and fled. I only wanted one thing: big cheap plastic trays for dyeing my yarn in. Most people use them for something to do with gardening, but I guess gardening season is over, so they didn't have any, so the whole thing was a completely wretched waste.
I obsessively wanted to work on the cape, and after a little dinner, I was up to that for about 15 minutes before expiring altogether. Let me tell you, if there's a better thing on this earth that going to bed early and getting a long, deep, solid sleep, I can't think of it.
But back to the cape. Yesterday I was noticing that the gold rayon and the yarn after it (hereafter known as Yarn X) don't have that much contrast between them, and although I like them together, it might be even more awesome to take out one row of Yarn X and move it into the stripe of the next yarn, which is a dark, rich, teal. I decided to try this by swatching right onto the end of the cape, and I love the effect, but it produced more possible changes to the design in my mind. Maybe instead of the original fuzzy trim yarn, Yarn X should be moved away from the gold altogether and become the bottom trim as well as a stripe in the middle of the teal? (Read picture from right to left.)

Love it! But then maybe it would be better to use the original fuzzy trim after all. What would that look like?

I like this too, but I'm leaning toward the first option (the change of design so that Yarn X is the trim). There is something to be said for the rhythm that would be established by starting and ending with the same fuzzy trim, but in this case, it really seems too corny. It's too symmetrical or something. So, new plan: frog back through all of Yarn X, redo one very thin row of Yarn X, stripe teal, thin row of Yarn X, stripe teal, finish with Yarn X. It's not going to be done tonight (I am so obsessed with finishing this thing!) but the new design is so much better, it's worth it.