Thursday, July 31, 2008

finally reskeining

Before I went to New Hampshire, I dyed the last of the blank sock yarn I had in stock. More is on the way, and it can't come soon enough.

I think this is the best batch I've done yet. Every time I look at these hanks, I'm filled with joy. And they're very soft and springy. I gave them a second washing to make sure the reds wouldn't bleed, and they fluffed right up. Apparently I didn't wash the earlier batches thoroughly enough to get all the mill oil out--these feel ten times nicer.
Most of this yarn will be going to Yarny Goodness--I'm very excited that she wants to carry my yarn. But it can't go until I reskein it!
Meanwhile, here's a preview of a couple that will be on my Etsy site soon.

If I could knit fast enough, I'd keep them all! I love this job!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

still biking

I feel like the guy in that song "The Distance"--the race is long over, and he's still pointlessly driving around the race course.
The sun has gone down and the moon has come up
And long ago somebody left with the cup
But he's striving and driving and hugging the turns
And thinking of someone for whom he still burns

I never got that song--why didn't that dude just go home? I guess there's some metaphorical thing about relationships in there that I'm missing. But anyway, the Tour de Fleece isn't really a race, and I want this yarn! So I continue even though the race is over.

I was sure I'd finish last night, but still not. It was so great to be reunited with my spinning wheel--when I started, I had this rush of zen and bliss. But as I kept spinning and spinning and not finishing, I started getting really tired, and I still had to balance the checkbook and do the bills. I can't believe how long this is taking, but I finally stopped in the middle of plying. It just wasn't fun any more, and I really needed to get to work so I could go to bed.
And I was so sure the Yarn Harlot would join me in failing--who the heck can spin more than three pounds of fleece in a few weeks? But she did. Go her--it really is an impressive accomplishment. Meanwhile I'm still struggling with my two ounces. On the other hand, she actually injured herself, and it doesn't sound like she had a lot of fun. That's exactly the sort of lunatic die-hard mentality I'm trying to train myself out of for all situations in which it's not absolutely crucial. So let's all chill and just try to make nice yarn for fun and be happy. That's my goal from now on.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

the friendly skies--yeah right

So I'm back home, back to work, doing my usual thing. The trip home was pretty rough, coming to a grand total of 14.5 hours in airports and planes, at least two of which involved involuntary subjection to very catchy, very annoying elevator music while pointlessly sitting in a broken plane at the gate. That plus a thunderstorm plus very rude airline employees plus Dunkin' Donuts being out of milk and cheese and biscuits plus not packing enough yarn or library books in my carry-on... let me tell you, I went from grumpy to surly to downright hostile as the day went on.
Luckily, I did mail all the yarn to myself instead of attempting some kind of baggage heroics involving a carry-on and a "personal item" crammed full of yarn. Schlepping all that through airports for 14 hours would have been hideous. However, unluckily, I didn't save a skein of it for my carry-on just in case I ran out of my travel project, which I did about halfway through the day. The bad news: I was miserable. Too bored to sit still, too tired to keep pacing around for all those hours, and too fidgety and pissed off to find any of the books in the airport bookstore appealing enough to buy. The good news: I finished my shawl!

This is the one I made out of my own Sock Pairs Bamboo Blend, the very first skein of it that I fell in love with and tangled up into a miserable twisted mess in the middle of the night a month or two ago. The skein that reduced me to tears is now a beautiful shawl. You can see the colors better in this one:

I think I'm just going to keep this one. It's warm but doesn't take up a lot of space, and it's pretty. And the yarn was my first baby, after all.
I also finished the Acero shawl while I was in Manchester, and not a moment too soon--I was freezing between the excessive air conditioning and the rain. As soon as I finished it, I put it on. I'll have to show you pictures of that one later, though--it's in the mail with the new yarn right now, and I didn't have my lovely model with me in New Hampshire, so I had to photograph it on myself.

And the other pictures were worse! Maybe I'm a vampire.

Monday, July 28, 2008

last day of the conference

The Knit and Crochet Show rocked. Saturday was the last day I was there, and it was a great day. I had a class with The Crochet Dude, who tells some funny stories in person. I also got to meet Jess and Casey of Ravelry!

Well, that's actually overstating the case a bit. I went to their table, got a button, took a picture, suddenly got shy, couldn't think of anything to say, and slunk off.
Despite having bought too much yarn to fit in my suitcase (I ended up shipping it back per Jaspher's brilliant suggestion), I had to make a pilgrimage to Manchester's local yarn shop, Pearl's Yarns, which was only a few blocks from the conference hotel.

It's a nice little shop with tons of gorgeous yarn and also a lot of finished objects. I really like that in a yarn shop--I love looking at other people's creations, especially when they're unique things, not just standard sample garments. The shop had a homey, friendly feel--very nice.
Having just shipped a box of yarn to myself earlier that morning, I did manage to restrain myself and didn't buy anything, although there were certainly candidates. Altogether, quite a satisfactory day.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Dudes. The yarn.

Today I was scheduled for an all-day class about re-creating your favorite top in crochet. It was the only class I signed up for that actually involved making something, although it was still pretty heavy on the design. Anyway, I was looking forward to it, especially after having taken another class from the same instructor last night. Her name is Dora Ohrenstein, and she's the force behind Crochet Insider. She's very cool and friendly, and she told a lot of great stories. Also I've had a project brewing with that purple SWTC Bamboo for months now; I was hoping this class would help me get it together. Unfortunately, Dora was sick today, so our class was canceled.
I remember as a college student being thrilled whenever class was canceled, even if it was a class I liked. Well, not much has changed since then. As much as I was really looking forward to that class, I was thrilled to have a day off just to goof around (like I should have scheduled for myself but didn't). I arranged for a refund of today's class fees and embraced the day.
First of all, it was sunny for the first time since I got here, and I really like this town. I finally feel like I'm on vacation.

Better yet, the market was open for the first time today.

It's basically impossible to capture the total awesomeness of the market in one picture.

These cool ladies are knitting with enormous knitting needles. Some of their crazy huge projects are around them in their booth.
All in all, I made one lap around to get an idea of what was there. It was great to be able to get there right when they opened--everyone else was in class. Then I started picking up the best deals and the most irresistable yarns. I ended up with a really excessive but glorious collection.

I foresee packing difficulty, but how could I pass any of this up? I got the whole collection for less than $100 total. I feel like the queen of shopping. The yarns on the left are all Cherry Tree Hill in one form or another: some is Wool in the Woods yarn handpainted by Cherry Tree Hill, and the rest is Cherry Tree Hill mill ends, all gorgeous, all outrageously good deals from Discontinued Brand Name Yarn. On the right, clockwise from the Cherry Tree Hill, is three balls of Nashua Painted Forest (100% wool), a one-of-a-kind mixed yarn skein from ValKnitz, five balls of Gedifra Trendy Tweed, and a gorgeous skein of rayon, I believe hand-painted, from The Fiber Studio. I can't tell on my teeny screen whether the photo does it justice; maybe some close-ups tomorrow.
They had a lunch vendor in the market area, and there was a fashion show early in the afternoon. Between those things, shopping for yarn, and just observing booth design and traffic, I was there for four blissful hours. After that, I was too laden with yarn to walk to Ben & Jerry's, so I came back to the hotel. Now I may take a nap. (The hot tub is still broken--grr!) This is one of the best days ever.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

free yarn in the end zone--go team go!

As promised, here are my goodies from yesterday.

From Lion Brand, a very large tote bag, three skeins of Vanna's Choice (I love this color, which is called Eggplant), a very nice book about bags to make, a tiny (in my world) crochet hook, and other assorted small things.

From Coats & Clark, Red Heart Soft, Designer Sport, Luster Sheen, and Creme de la Creme yarns. I had never heard of any of these except Red Heart Soft, but apparently Luster Sheen is a big fave among crocheters who have been around awhile. The Creme de la Creme is a very nice, very soft cotton. They also gave me a tunisian crochet hook, some size 13 knitting needles, and many small pattern leaflets and things.

This was my door prize: a whole collection of booklets. To my surprise, I think Throws to warm you is my favorite--I'm usually not a fan of the crocheted afghan patterns that you see published in most books and magazines, but these look very nice. Four of the patterns are basically variations on the ripple, which normally I despise wholeheartedly, but I like three of the four. The other two patterns are granny square variations, which I'm also not a fan of in its stereotypical execution, but in this case, one has such garish colors that it's just this side of the order between compelling and godawful, and the other has a cool pinwheel motif going. There is some use of novelty yarns that even as one of the few remaining fans of novelty yarns I can't wholeheartedly endorse. Still, some nice stuff.
Another surprise is Beautiful Borders Baby Blankets, also not my usual cup of tea, but these baby blankets really do exhibit some unusual attention to detail, use of color, and beauty. (The one on the cover is not representative--the others are all way more interesting and colorful.) I just realized what sets these apart from most baby blankets: every last one of them is for skill level "Experienced." No wonder they're so visually appealing--they really are unusually complex, especially for baby blankets.
Also in the collection are:

  • Cute Little Animals, which, as advertised, are very cute. I should try this some day, although I don't see it happening any time soon.
  • Classic Bookmarks, nice but not my thing.
  • iCrochet, a book of sweaters. I was very surprised when this one turned out not to be my favorite of the bunch. I like sweaters, and I like the ideas behind these sweaters, but somehow the execution just misses me. They all seem really bulky and heavy. They all use worsted or heavier weight yarns, and I think that's why. One of the instructors I had today emphasized very strongly that garments, especially for larger sizes, are best made of sport weight or finer yarn, and these patterns definitely support that statement.

Overall, it's an interesting collection of things I would not have picked out for myself. It will be interesting to see how they expand my horizons.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Knit & Crochet Show rocks New Hampshire

Well, I made it to New Hampshire for the Knit and Crochet Show. And I finally got the wireless figured out, so here I am!
First of all, put me down as an epic fail on the Tour de Fleece. Too bad. Between the real estate agent and packing, I was up until after 11 the night I left, and when I was finally done with (not even all of) the essentials, nothing was standing between me and bed. Oh well; it's probably good for me to lose so thoroughly--maybe I'll learn to quit being such a perfectionist or something.
Meanwhile, I did end up with an extra half hour the morning I flew out, after I knew it was 100% hopeless, so I just spun for fun (on the same project). It went smoothly and magically, and if it wasn't for the fact that the end result would probably have been me paying the airline $25 in baggage fees to smash and then lose my spinning wheel (even just typing that made me cringe), I was very tempted to bring it with me. It was only half an hour, but it really reminded me how much I love spinning. Looooooove spinning.
Anyway, the current news. It is chilly here in Manchester, NH. It's presently 68 and cloudy. I'm actually wearing a long sleeve shirt and pants and thinking I should put on some socks. Very surreal after leaving behind temperatures in the high 90s or more. It was funny, when I landed and was standing outside the airport waiting for the shuttle to the hotel, I'd been standing there for about 15 minutes, when suddenly I realized "hey, I'm not hot!" I think the highs are supposed to be in the low 80s all week. Aaaah.
Also, my hotel turns out to be about a ten minute walk from the Mall of New Hampshire. I really don't think of myself as a mall rat--I think I've been to the mall a total of two times in the year since I moved back to Huntsville--but for some reason I found it really exciting to walk to the mall yesterday. I guess it's because I had time to just goof off. I'm miles from my yarn, my job, my house, et al, and last night I couldn't even get the computer to work. Nothing to do but shop! :) Plus they have an A. C. Moore, which was one of my favorite places when I lived outside Erie, PA., so I was excited to check that out. Like Michael's, they've gotten rid of all of their interesting yarn, though. I think I was there less than five minutes. But it was still fun to just wander around the mall and look at things. They're already starting with the fall clothes up here--summer stuff was on clearance but all the good stuff was either really tiny or really huge. I actually saw sweaters for sale! Having been here only a few hours at the time, just the sight of them made me feel like melting. Today I can see the appeal.
Anyway, about the yarn festivities. Today was professional development day, so I attended a lot of interesting talks, mostly about being a designer and/or author. Very cool. What I didn't anticipate is that as designers, we're targets for free goodies! Oh yeah! Here are Robyn Chachula and the Crochet Dude announcing some door prize winners.

One talk that was a bit out of the ordinary for the rest of the day was about crochet as art. The talk was given by Sharon Mann, who is quite talented and very nice. She gave us some helpful pointers on developing your career and getting recognized as an artist with your crochet. She was very encouraging, in contrast with the talk I attended right before that, in which I was basically scolded for being a boring individual and for not wearing any of my work. Sorry, it was really freakin' hot when I packed and I barely had room for two works in progress--I didn't pack a sweater, or even a cape. (I have no excuses for being boring.)
Part of what I wanted to find out was at what point you can start calling your crochet or knitting "art" as opposed to just a sweater or whatever. Sharon's philosophy is that it's all creative, so it's all art. I'm in favor of that idea but not sure I quite buy it. Anyway, here she is with a piece that she created while we were there.

And here's one of her other pieces, very cool.

I really like her stuff, and it actually looked like art to me, unlike most crocheted stuff, including all of mine. Maybe it's because it had other stuff besides just yarn in it, or maybe it's just that she was confident and convinced herself that it was art. Anyway, her talk was super cool.
I also loved the fact that during any of the talks, you could just whip out your knitting or crochet, and it wasn't considered rude! Three cheers for yarn conferences! In fact, we were actually encouraged to make squares for a charity afghan during the morning talks. Believe it or not, that was actually the first time I've crocheted a square of any sort, granny or otherwise. I get the appeal now--it was really easy. I should have taken a picture before adding it to the donation box. Yes, this was the perfect project--just make the square and throw it in, no sewing all those pieces together, no weaving in ends, just mindless bliss. Also, nearly everyone failed to follow the directions, which were to make a square either 6" or 12" wide out of all one color acrylic yarn. The other lady at my table who made one made an 8" cotton square. Most people did multi-colors. Even I, as it turns out, did not follow the pattern, which I wouldn't have noticed except the 8" cotton square lady announced that she had made the pattern, and her square looked nothing like mine. It's kind of funny to watch from my perspective--I know that if I was the person who organized the effort or the person stuck sewing them together, I'd be really mad. I hate it when people don't follow directions. But since it's not my problem, I have the luxury of thinking it will be a more interesting, better afghan this way.
Anyway, tomorrow if the wireless still works I'll post some pictures of my haul! Free stuff, oh yeah! The only drawback is that I totally failed to anticipate this in my packing calculations. I hope I can fit all this stuff and the yarn that I actually buy into my luggage.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Tour de Fleece continues

It's gotten to the point where I'm being a little ridiculous about this Tour de Fleece thing. I'm going to be out of town from tomorrow through the end of the race, so basically today is the last day I can work on this. Now, I'm selling my house, buying a new house, working full time, running a business, and generally freaking out, all more important than some silly blog contest (except maybe the freaking out). Yet it really bothers me that there's a good chance I will fail. Part of it is because of that big f-word FAIL, and calling it "not succeed" isn't fooling anyone; part of it is because it's so public; and I've come to realize that part of it is that the goal was so small. I caught myself thinking that at least the Yarn Harlot will have a noble fail: nobody could possibly spin three-plus pounds of yarn in this time, whereas my failure will be utterly pathetic and inexcusable. Aha! This may be the key to my goal-setting issues: if I set a goal that's impossible and then don't achieve it, I'm kind of like, "eh, nobody could do that--why did I think I could?" and move on. But this goal is so possible. Basically I gave myself several weeks to spin two ounces of fiber. That's about two sessions' worth for me. Yes, I had to learn a new technique, so that took an extra session. So basically several weeks to do three days' spinning, and I still might not make it! Furthermore, my meta-goal in setting such a low goal was to experience setting a low enough goal that I could actually achieve it, so if I fail the main goal, I actually fail on two different levels.
I'm trying to console myself with "see, at least you learned something about yourself." There really is no hope if I don't finish it tonight--regarding the lunatic Mission Impossible spindle backup plan, there is no way I could do this with a spindle. I need both hands for the yarn. Hmm... well maybe some kind of silly park-and-ply process... no! No! Try to be rational here, Cara! Get a grip!
Anyway, I did work on this a little this morning. I decided to go ahead and do the Navajo plying on the singles I already spun from this roving last weekend during the mad thunderstorm. I knew that yarn was pretty uneven and crappy, so if I screwed up the plying, it's not like I did it to really good yarn. I had some problems with the yarn breaking, very annoying, but generally it went ok.

As you can see, it came off the bobbin pretty darn twisty. Yet the amount of twist in the plying looked right. I can't explain this, it just looked like it should be balanced, and I knew the singles were probably tired from spending the week on the bobbin and watching me clean the house like a madwoman all weekend, so I ignored their opinion on twist just did what I thought they needed.
A little dip in some warm water, and voila! It looks like I was right.

Or possibly when it dries, it will all coil back up into its former spoingy madness state. Whatever, I'm planning to crochet this yarn anyway, so it really doesn't matter if it's balanced. Meanwhile it is pretty, although it's a bit ironic that I've gone to so much trouble to Navajo-ply these singles when they're all purple anyway. The roving does change colors eventually, but in retrospect, of all rovings on the planet, this is probably the one where Navajo plying is least likely to buy me anything--the color changes are so few and so slow, the regular trick of splitting the roving lengthwise and plying the two halves almost certainly would have worked really well. Oh well, I learned a new technique, had some personal growth, and made pretty yarn. It's time to quit complaining.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Tour de Fleece progress

It sure is a good thing I decided to set an attainable goal for the Tour de Fleece. There's not much time left, and I'll be in New Hampshire all next week without my spinning wheel. I suppose I could try to do this on a drop spindle, but that idea is not holding a lot of appeal right now. Anyway, it was supposed to be fun, not yet another mission impossible like everything else I set for myself to do.
So after most of a week of not even looking at the spinning wheel, I decided to spend a little time this morning trying to get the hang of the Navajo plying technique. When I watched other people learn to do it, it seemed completely incomprehensible, but I got the instructions from "Plying Chained Singles," part of Spin Off's spinning basics series. They seemed a bit baffling at first, but my brain has had a few days to process them since then, and when I sat down and followed them with yarn in my hands, it worked.
The instructions wisely suggested trying it on some crap yarn first, so I got out the horrible yarn I spun a few months ago at Concerts by the River in Decatur. This yarn is so utterly lacking in structural integrity, there's no way I would have risked making anything out of it, so I figured maybe if I plied it again a few more times I'd get something useful, or if not, at least it would have served the purpose of facilitating my learning this technique.
Actually, learning on singles might have been easier. This yarn was already a two-ply with some fat places, so tripling it made it really fat. It didn't always want to wind on the bobbin, resulting in zinga zinga mega excess twist (aside from the fact that I was adding twist to yarn that was already fairly balanced anyway). I had to keep getting farther and farther away from the wheel and letting the twist travel along the yarn, and then try really hard to get it to wind on the bobbin so I wouldn't have to go even farther!
Other than that, though, I picked it up pretty quickly. I'd be willing to try it on yarn I cared about at this point.
It did make an interesting texture. Not sure whether this is actually how it's supposed to be, or it's because of some screwed-up-ness about the yarn or how I did it, but it's kind of cool looking.
On the bobbin, it actually looks like it might be usable yarn.

That's all lies, though. Here it is in a "skein."

Yeah, don't think I'll be knitting with that any time soon.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

the ufos are getting ready to abduct me

You can tell when the freaking out that's going on in the rest of my life starts to spill over into Yarn Land. Suddenly it starts to bother me that I have so many unfinished projects.

That's just the ones I've been carrying around in my knitting bag: counterclockwise from the top, we have the seascape shawl (for a kit), the skew scarf, the sock yarn shawl, the bamboo swatch (not even a real project yet), and in the center, the Acero shawl. Plus a stray ball of yarn that isn't even a swatch yet. Meanwhile, lurking around the house, there is also the hat that's been six stitches and a seam away from completion for several months now and the pond scene afghan that I started last summer, plus probably some more that I can't even think of, and it's starting to freak me out. Time to finish something. Unfortunately, the easiest to finish is also the perfect travel project: the sock yarn shawl. That's all I seem to want to work on lately, though, so its perfection for travel keeps getting reduced. Oh wait, the easiest to finish is that hat! Maybe I'll do that tonight.
Meanwhile, I missed the deadline to submit my rainbow baby afghan design for next spring. I forgot all about the spring deadlines being this week until yesterday, when I was already too late for Interweave Crochet and Crochet! had less than a day to go. I could have barely been technically not late if I had submitted it last night, but it just didn't happen. Given what they were looking for, I think it would have had a good chance, too. Definitely bummed about that, but life just got in the way. I guess I need to just go back to my approach to the Tour de Fleece and try to make small goals and actually achieve them, instead of all this impossibility and freaking out and getting disappointed.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

a little spinning and dreaming

I finally made a little progress toward my Tour de Fleece goal. Well, I did the easy part: I started spinning the roving into singles. I started at the purple end.

As you can see, it's not the most even yarn I've ever spun. I was doing it during a huge thunderstorm, and I blame the humidity or electricity in the air or something. There were no concrete flaws in the fiber, but the spinning was just not going well. Also I did it early on dyeing day, when I knew I'd be up until the middle of the night with the dyeing if I didn't get on the prep post haste (which is exactly how it turned out) so I think that kept me from really relaxing and enjoying the spinning. Also, in retrospect, it might have been a better idea to learn to Navajo ply and then spin the singles so they could be plied while they were still fresh. Oh well. I think I'm going to crochet this computer cozy anyway, so it won't really matter if the yarn is unbalanced.
In other news, I'm looking for a new house with studio space, so I can do my dyeing without trashing the kitchen. My current setup is a real hindrance to accomplishing much--it's a big hassle to set up and tear down the operation in the kitchen, I coat everything with plastic but still fear ruining something with dye, and food preparation and eating is rendered nearly impossible while dyeing is in progress and until I clean everything back up. I adore my current house--it has huge windows and skylights and is a beautiful house--but it is kind of far from work, and there's just no way to get around the logistics of the lack of dye studio. I've found a couple of good prospects; I'm very excited to see how it all turns out.

Monday, July 14, 2008

dyeing days

I got to dye some yarn this weekend.

It was drying in the bathtub, but I've proven time and again that it's impossible to get a decent picture of yarn drying in the bathtub, so I took it out to the front porch this morning for a small photo session.
I'm very pleased with this yarn. The colors came out really awesome. It's all the superwash/nylon blend because I ran out of bamboo blend base yarn. In fact, this is the last of all of my sock yarn. I should have ordered more a few weeks ago but was hoping to have a better idea by now of how much I'd need. (I don't really, though.) Time to order more yesterday.

Friday, July 11, 2008

more shawl

Still no progress on the spinning. But I did manage to read the directions on Navajo plying. I guess that's sort of like pre-progress.
I did spend a lot of time waiting last night, which was good for the shawl.

Estimating based on the size of the remaining yarn, I think this will be a 6-day shawl. Eight at most. (That's 6-8 days on which I actually work on it, of course, not an actual prediction that I'll finish it next week.) But you know what I just realized? It's tiny and requires no concentration whatsoever--the perfect travel project. I should save it for my trip to the Knit and Crochet Show, which is only about a week and a half away now! I am so psyched about it. I've saved my tax refund all this time to pay for the travel and registration, relentlessly monitored the plane tickets and pounced the second the prices dropped, and generally done all manner of OCD travel anticipation. Can't wait!
What I'm most excited about is the day before the conference actually starts, which is a whole day devoted to professional development. The morning session is all about how to get a book published. I have always wanted to do this, since I was about ten I think. Of course, back then I was going to be a novelist. The only problem was I could never really think of enough plot to even fill a short story. I guess I could have written one of these cerebral books that never really go anywhere, but that doesn't sound like much fun, and anyway I don't think I have the style to carry it off. But I discovered when I was writing my dissertation that I can write all day if I just have something to write about. I don't know if I'll ever know enough about anything yarn-related to write a book about it, but I still think it will be a lot of fun to hear about how it would work if I ever did. Then, in the afternoon, there are sessions including "How to Join the 'in' crowd," which I already attended in Pittsburgh but had to mention because it's one of the things that pushed me to start actually doing this stuff instead of just dreaming about it, "How to get publicity for your business," obvious interest there, "crochet as art," "designing for publication," and some more on book publishing. The hard part is picking only three. Then of course I'll be taking tons of classes during the conference proper, including one on designing for larger sizes, which I think will be really useful, some others on design, and one on successful blogging. Looking through the list, I realize I'm not signed up for anything that directly results in something pretty--it's all publishing, design, and meta stuff. But I know I can count on the vendors to provide me with enough eye candy and wonderful textures (finger candy?) to more than make up for that, plus all the fabulous energy that results whenever fiber people get together. And I'm really psyched just to step away from my responsibilities and out of my routine for a few days and see someplace new. When I made the travel arrangements, I considered taking a few extra days to just chill and have my own retreat in the mountains up there or something, but I never really came up with any kind of plan or concrete idea for how that would work, so I just bought the plane tickets for the days of the conference. Now I'm thinking that's too bad. How awesome would it have been to hole up in some cabin in the woods with all of the new yarn I will undoubtedly buy and just knit and crochet undisturbed? Dude. I will definitely have to do that next time.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

more deviations from the plan

Well, I got as far as bringing the directions for Navajo plying home, but I still haven't made any progress on that. Also, contrary to all of my better judgement, I've started another project.

It's going to be a sock yarn shawl. I'm using the very first skein that I tried to reskein and ended up needing an army of knitters to straighten out. It's a bit twisty from its four passes through the ball winder, but otherwise great to work with. I love how springy it is. I'm using a big hook for an airy effect, and the yarn holds its shape wonderfully for this purpose. It's really nice. Unfortunately, the sock yarn shawl already in progress (made from Brooks Farm Acero--see post) is definitely angry that I've started another copy of it without finishing it first. It has a point. I wish there were more hours in the day.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

not what I planned

I got myself all psyched to start on the Navajo plying thing last night. I've been wanting to learn it ever since I saw what you can do with it at Lynne Vogel's Color in Spinning class, and now that it basically stands between me and the glorious BFL I dyed, I have to figure it out. At the end of the day yesterday, it was all I could think about. I couldn't wait to start, so right before I left work, I looked up a tutorial on it and printed it out. Then I cheerfully went home, leaving the printout on the printer. :P
It's not like I don't have a printer at home, but in the end I reskeined some sock yarn and messed around until almost dinner time, which left not enough time for spinning before dinner, and after dinner I knit about two rows and crashed. I've mysteriously changed back into a morning person since this whole steroid adventure, which is really great except for the undeniable sleepiness starting around 9:30 pm.
Anyway, here's what I'm working on.

It's going to be one of the kits. I tried to start it on World Wide Knit in Public Day, but I was using those awful circular needles with the immensely long tapering points, and it was just a misery. I decided to give it one more try on 14" straight needles, and it's much better. I love these needles. They're aluminum, so they're very smooth, and they're purple, and they have very short points. I wasn't sure I'd be able to get the whole thing onto straight needles, but I managed to stuff it on there.

It's a pleasure to knit, and I like how it's coming out. When I was swatching, I tried some little lace effects, but they just ended up looking like mistakes, so I'm going with straight garter stitch, at least for the boucle yarns.
As nice as this is, though, I'm really in the mood for some color right now. Specifically, I'd rather be knitting (or crocheting) this.

It just came. The colors did look a bit more sophisticated on the internet, but still, it calls to me whenever I walk by. "Cara," it says. "Your life is boring! You fall asleep at 9:30 at night! You need me! Come over here! Knit me!!!" I believe it's using "knit" in the generic sense of "do yarn craft with me," especially since I certainly don't have the needles that would be required to make, say, a really awesome shawl out of this. That's what irritates me about knitting: I like making things with the rows going lengthwise. In crochet, you don't need some extra special stick for that, you just use the same hook you'd use for everything else. But somehow with knitting you need some $10 piece of equipment, and then it's probably the wrong size, so you should really buy another one in the right size, and you probably already have one in the size you want except it's a really crappy one because you're a cheapskate and bought the $20 plastic circular needle set, only to discover that it completely sucks except the smallest one... plus they come in all different lengths, but which length do you want? You don't know. And what you should probably do is just spring for the interchangeable set with all the needles and the different cables so you never have this problem again (hah!) but who wants to spend $60+ on a bunch of boring knitting needles? They are not colorful or soft.
Oh wait, that's all just me.
Back to the yarn, it's British Mohair Silk & Mohair Boucle. It's 54% mohair, 23% silk, and 18% wool. The color is Tequila Sunset, and I got it at Discontinued Brand Name Yarn for $15 a (200g) skein! Ok, we all know I've had some "you get what you pay for" experiences lately, but the fact that I got this glorious yarn for less than 40% of the retail price makes me love it all the more.
Of course, despite not having time to work with the yarn I have, I've also fallen in love with a certain pattern from Exquisite Little Knits. It's a very airy lace scarf/wrap. It would be my first lace pattern, but it's extremely simple. It's just gorgeous, and I've been thinking about it for a while. It requires two balls of Rowan Kidsilk Haze, which, aside from going through my stash and finding nothing suitable, didn't mean much to me until yesterday I actually saw some at Yarn Expressions. Turns out Rowan Kidsilk Haze is the super soft yarn that I pet and drool over every time I go there! I totally would have bought it, but none of the colors on display really did it for me. I kept looking at them and petting them, but really nothing jumped up and said, "I am the yarn for you! I must become that gorgeous scarf!" Kind of disappointing. Now that I know what yarn it is, I want it all the more. Maybe they'll get some more colors in the fall yarn shipment. It's definitely a treat yarn, but I've been working hard--I deserve a treat!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

some nice spinning

I skipped knitting night last night to get some work done. I wasn't exactly happy about this, but decided to make the most of it by spinning a little before getting started. I still hadn't finished the rest of the brown mix roving that I dyed, and I was really eager to see how it would come out.
I spun it, and it went well, but when I plied it, I didn't like how it came out at all. It was all thick and thin and stupid, and instead of the glorious purple, wine, and suede colors it was as roving, it just looked kind of brown. Needless to say, this did not improve my already foul mood.
However, when I looked at it this morning in the sunlight, it looked a whole lot better.

I actually like it quite well now. I guess there's no accounting for taste.
It did inspire me to join the Tour de Fleece, though. When I first saw people writing about the Tour de Fleece, I thought "nice idea, but not for me." The thing about me and goals is that we usually make each other miserable. If I set a goal, it's usually some insane, impossible thing, and then I get mad if I don't accomplish it. For instance, you should have seen the list of things I planned to accomplish over the long weekend. It was about 20 things, most of them big. It was just as ridiculous as the Yarn Harlot's plan to spin almost three and a half pounds of fleece by the end of the month, and I don't want to do that to spinning. It's my treat, my relaxation method. Goals are not welcome in this arena!
But I do want to learn to Navajo ply so I can make one long color change out of the other roving I dyed. Being a roving I already have, it fits with the original challenge, and having watched other people learn Navajo plying, I'm fairly confident that it's something that will take about half an hour to initially get the technique and then the rest of my life to practice and keep getting better. And spinning two ounces of fiber in a month--I know I can do that! I was mad enough that it took me four or five days to spin the one I just finished, and that wasn't because it takes a long time, it was because I never got to it. Therefore, I set this as my goal: to Navajo ply the BFL roving I dyed a few weeks ago. This will give me a new skill, hopefully some beautiful yarn, and also the new experience of setting an achievable goal. Allons-y!

Monday, July 7, 2008

a finish

I didn't get nearly as much done over the long weekend as I would have liked--to tell the truth, I mostly slept. I think I was fighting off a cold. (So far, so good!)
I did finish the small rectangular wrap I was working on, though.

It's light and small, perfect to keep in your bag for cool summer evenings or overly air conditioned restaurants. I'll be listing it on Etsy as the finished object and as a kit soon. I just loved working with this yarn. It's Jaeger Roma, which is 63% viscose, 22% nylon, and 15% angora. It's super soft and very springy. Totally luscious.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

some luscious spinning

On my last dyeing day, I decided to do a little bit of experimenting along with the sock yarn. I've been planning to do hand-dyed rovings as well as yarns, and I've been contemplating how much roving would actually result from buying the minimum initial order. Well, it's a lot, and it occurred to me that dyeing roving is different from dyeing yarn and I might just end up with 30 pounds of felt balls or something. So I figured I better try it out before I make that big order.
I had some BFL that I bought from Little Barn, and I bought a few pounds of brown mix roving from Sheep Shed Studio a while back, so I took a few two-ounce pieces and started playing.
Here's the BFL:

This is some of the brown mix from Sheep Shed Studio:

After I dyed those two, which were all I was planning to do, I had a whole lake of dye left in the bins I do my hand-painting in, so I used another piece to soak it up.

I like how you can see the brown through the purple in this one--it kind of gets lost in the other one. I'm also surprised it's so much paler than the others--it seemed quite saturated, and the dye goes all the way through, but maybe the puddle was misleading and a lot of the dye was already exhausted out of it by the previous rovings.
Anyway, I'm delighted with the colors of all of these, and they don't seem to be too felted. That's what I was afraid of--that I'd make a big felted mess like that rose-colored roving I had back here. But I was very careful with it, and there are a few little felted spots, but mostly it spins beautifully and seems to be comparable in quality to the two good hand-dyed wool rovings I've spun (BFL from Three Waters Farm and South American Punta from Hoobody Fibers, both pictured and discussed here).
I spun a little of the brown mix this morning.

Total love. The only thing that was a little poorly planned is that I dyed the roving kind of like a hank of sock yarn--a bunch of purple over here, then some wine, then some suede color. With the sock yarn, this makes sense and results in color repeats. With the roving, it's just one piece, so you end up with one long piece of roving that's purple at one end, then goes to wine, then suede. I thought that would be a bit odd, so as I was spinning it, I tore off chunks and alternated between the purple part and the suede part. I did about half of it, and I plan to do the other half the same way. I really didn't have a plan here, so it's exceedingly unlikely that the colors will line up when I ply it, but I think it will make an interesting interaction. Sometimes they will line up, and sometimes it will be barber pole.
I dyed the BFL the same way; maybe for it I'll just go with the colors as they are and finally try Navajo plying. Then I'd really get a slow transition from purple to wine to suede. Maybe it would make a cool bag or something. Or a cozy for my teeny computer! I tried to put it in the protective thing from my laptop bag to protect it when I carry it around, but it's about half the size of the protective thing. That doesn't make it any less protected, of course, but it kind of defeats the purpose of owning a teeny computer if you're still dragging around something twice as big. I must confess, normally I scorn "cozies" in general--cell phone cozies, toilet paper cozies, etc.--puh-lease. But my iPod sort of started converting me. First I bought it a little case with a belt clip for when I went for walks or cooked dinner. Then I bought it a recharger/radio transmitter for the car. Then I bought it a little silicone raincoat, basically, to keep from getting scratched when it's not in either of the other things. Then I bought it an arm band for when I run (which is never, as it turns out). Basically, my iPod has more accessories than I do. I don't plan to get so carried away with the laptop--for one thing, it has a sturdy pebbled exterior instead of a shiny scratchable one like I expected--but I would like to wrap it in something cushiony for when I travel, and if it's made out of my work, it's practically an advertisement. I wonder if two ounces of yarn is enough to make a teeny laptop cozy. This is the sort of thing that would be really handy to know, as would "and how many grams is that anyway?!" (I looked it up--about 57.) I have a decent feel for the amount of yarn in a 50 g ball or a 100 g ball because that's what most of the commercial stuff comes in, but the ounces escape me.
Hm, so if I was going to buy yarn to make a laptop cozy, I would probably buy two 50 g balls...I guess I could stripe in the dye sopper one every few rows, or make the back out of it when/if I ran out of the other stuff. In the end, what I've bought usually turns out to be twice as much as I need, unless I'm doing a project to use up leftover yarn from another project, in which case it becomes necessary to buy a whole 'nother set, somehow leaving me with exactly the amount of yarn I had before I started, if not more. Yet during the project I ran out and had to buy more to finish. This seems like it should be physically impossible. Perhaps "using up yarn" actually causes rifts in the space-time continuum that can only be repaired by buying more yarn. Yes, I think that's it. When we buy yarn, we're really doing our part for the space-time continuum, and everyone should thank and encourage us! It's an awesome responsibility, in both senses of the word.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

my first order

I shipped my first order this morning!

Also, today's featured yarn in the Etsy store is called Enchanted Forest.

That's it before reskeining and after. It's the bamboo blend, so it's very soft and drapey.

In other news, Crochet Me is having a very odd contest based on the phrase "Do you have a crochet pattern for a pirate hat small enough to fit a goose?" It's worth checking out for your daily dose of silly.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Grand Opening Celebration

At long last, I've got my first yarns listed in my Etsy shop! Fire Lizard Studios is open for business at
Huzzah! Pictures, pictures!

All six yarns are available on Etsy. Each day I'll be adding more, so check back!
These yarns are dyed using professional acid dyes, and I make sure the dye is completely set, so no fading, bleeding, or coming off on your hands. For all of the sock yarn, I skein the yarn with two strands held together to maximize the likelihood of being able to make two matching socks. It's still a hand-dyed process, so there will always be variations, and of course the degree of matching between the socks also depends on the knitting tension being consistent, but this process makes it more likely that the socks will match.
I use two different base yarns. One is 40% bamboo, 40% superwash wool, and 20% nylon. It has excellent drape, is cooler than all wool/nylon, and is very durable. The other base yarn is 75% superwash wool, 25% nylon. This yarn is a bit finer than the bamboo blend and is also very durable. In comparison with the bamboo blend, it absorbs the colors to greater saturation--you will notice that the same colorway looks much more intense on the wool/nylon blend than it does on the bamboo blend. That's because wool and nylon both dye well with acid dyes, but bamboo, being a plant fiber, doesn't, giving the dyed bamboo blend yarn a bit of shine and more subtle colors. Both yarns are 4-ply to stand up to being worn and walked on.
I'm very pleased to present this yarn, after what seems to me like a very long time but has actually only been about a month. I released the yarn to some test knitters first, and I've had a lot of positive reviews, so off we go!