Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Let's go fly a fleece!

This past weekend, I slipped down to the beach with someone special, and we got some spinning time in.  Thankfully, the air there was significantly cooler than in my area.


While we were spinning yarn on the boardwalk, we had a few amusing encounters with passers-by.  I think I'm decent with children, but it turns out I'm not so charming to little children - especially when I'm shoving a spindle in their faces.  

My favorite moment was when a young couple asked what we were doing.  When I explained that I was spinning yarn to knit with, I don't think it computed.  The next question out of the guy's mouth was, "Oh, are you making a kite?"  

Yarn = kite.
But to be fair, the way the roving was trailing in the wind and the yarn wound on the spindle did look very reminiscent of a kite.

Let's go fly a fiber!

Yesterday we slipped away again, this time to a grassy park further inland.  It was situated happily by a waterfront, and the breeze was again making for quite a delightful spin.


In the following picture, you may be able to see that I'm chain plying the singles yarn that I butterflied back onto my left hand.  I'm loving this technique!


I have a little buddy that helps me with my spinning; it's the container that used to hold those fizzy Airborne tablets.  You'd be amazed how handy they can be.  I store the Trindle arms in there when I'm traveling.  When I'm skeining up the yarn, it keeps me from poking holes in my shorts, hands, or anything else.  And in the absence of a ball winder, it makes great center-pull balls: just tuck in one end, snap the lid on, and wind the skein into a ball; when you're done, you have no trouble finding the center end!  Whee!


Here you can get an idea of the color combination I'm favoring for the Westknits mystery shawl.  The grey yarn is represented by the dock.


Maybe it's my new-found love of spindle spinning; maybe it's the weather; maybe it's the joy of new little skeinlets; or maybe it's just the company, but I feel like a lucky guy.


Friday, July 22, 2011

One Little, Two Little, Three Little Mini-Skeins

I'm currently trying out a couple color combo options in preparation for the Westknits Shawl KAL.  Here's one, sans the "frame" color.  Of course, it will probably be my darling grey.


Yeah.  So it's coming out kinda a different color palette than I'm used to, so I just started spinning up some mini-skeins in a delicious blue-green mix.  The mini-skeins are turning out to be about a quarter of a four-ounce braid, and that's simply because the trindle doesn't seem to like holding too much on it.  


When I was ready to start sampling the lighter purple, I took the fiber in to the nursing home and gave my ladies a little wool workshop.  One woman with poor eyesight shuddered when I held the uncoiled braid aloft; I guess she thought it was a snake.  As best I could, I tried to fill in the gap a bit between the somewhat recognizable sheepy fleece and the more familiar yarn by letting them feel and split the roving with me.  


To show the women the finished product, I referred to my newly-spun Niji Bunraku yarn. I happened to hold all three partial skeins together and found that it made more sense of the color progression.  It seems so substantial in weight, and it's really quite soft.  I can't wait to start knitting with it!  I told them of the delightful Scottish woman who first introduced me to spinning; this Tour de Fleece adventure has had me thinking of her a good amount.  This is for you, Carla! (Hugs inserted here)


I also brought a couple knitted items for show and tell, to round out the wooly fun.  One of them is the Habitat I had just finished grafting, which was still damp at the time I shared it with them.  I'm feeling a lot of love for this hat now.


It's not perfect, but it's happy now.  And I feel like I accomplished something pretty nifty!  (Read: It's good to finally have it off my back and to have my circular needles free again.)


Yay!  Just a couple days left in the spinning mania, though I have a feeling this is just the beginning of a good friendship...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

TdF Update: Since It's Nearly Over, Isn't It About Time?

Alternate reading-challenged option for this blog post:
I'm still alive and spinning.  Enjoy the pictures in the bliss of ignorance.

The long version:
Though I've been quiet online, I've been quite busy with the strings.

Last weekend I got to see one of my old college buddies married off.  And the harp came along for some very special music during the prelude.  Yay!  But get this:  The bride turned out to be a harpist and a knitter!  So I'm convinced she's good for the guy, and I wish them all the best.  In hindsight, I'm glad I didn't give them the ball of dish cotton and needles and the "I taught myself to knit my own bridal dishcloths" kit that I imagined.

I've been doing as much spinning as I can manage for Tour de Fleece, while not having any clue what is actually transpiring in the Tour de France.  Haven't seen a single bit.  I did wander over to a website at one point, but couldn't figure out how a guy is supposed to watch it without having much face time with the computer, not to mention zero TV access.  

I'm thrilled with the "Navajo Ply On The Fly" technique I learned while at the Men's Knitting Retreat back in May.  During my weekend away for the wedding, I finished spinning a 4-ounce braid of fiber that's been dyed in a rainbow sequence, separated by shots of black.  As one spinner predicted, I had a blast spinning it, and the N-ply technique was perfect for keeping the colors in the order they were laid out.  Once removed from the spindle, they were already plied and ready for a bath!

I'm also very fond of my Trindle.  Especially since the arms come off the new model of this nifty spindle, I've reveled in the portability of spinning, which is perfect for my lifestyle these days.   Actually, this whole process has been a real blast, and I never would have had the discipline if I hadn't been conned into spinning for TdF.   

I managed to spin the fiber in three batches.

All three batches
Everyone said "rasta" when they saw the center hank.

Ooh, there it is!
All three skeins laid out side by side after their bath.  So exciting!

I intended this yarn for a Westknits scarf called Spectra, but I'm still trying to come up with a complimentary yarn that hits the right gauge.  I may have to find some different fiber to spin up, as the stuff I tried for the second color was not right for this project.  

Meanwhile, I'm spinning up yarn in the same manner for another project.  I started with the lighter of two purple fibers I bought together; my thought is to possibly use these in the upcoming Mystery Shawl Knitalong Stephen's holding in August.  Sheesh.  Because I need another shawl.  Here's what I've got so far:


I've been giving spinning demos to everyone around.  Last night that included a pleasantly interested little girl whose mother was relearning to knit.  Start 'em young!

In other news, I have still been knitting when spinning has not been feasible (such as in the car or bus), and am proud to tell you that I finally finished grafting my Habitat!  WOOT.  Someday I'll get a photo of it.  It's not perfect, but the yarn forgave me once it had a nice bath.  A supersized swatch with contrasting yarns was my saving reference point, but during the last stretch I was able to eyeball it.   Just in case anyone is wandering in and wondering why I'd graft the hat, here's a recap: I knit the hat, including some stupid fussing along the way, and when I finished it seemed just short enough to be annoying.  So I decided to take out the stitches near the cast on and graft the ribbing to an additional bit of ribbing that I knit seperately.  As far as I know, this is the only way to fix the situation while keeping the pattern intact; had I simply knit ribbing downward, the ribs would have been shifted sideways by half a stitch, and I wasn't interested in that.  My way may have been complicated, but it made me feel smarter, and I think I have internalized grafting that much more.  It sure makes regular kitchener seem like a piece of cake.

I'm tired and you must be too, after all this reading.  Happy knitting (and spinning)!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Starting at the finish...

*Another lunch break post*

Tour de Fleece is on, and I'm using it to brush up on my spindle skills!

My end is my beginning.
If you don't know what TdF is, let me enlighten you.  The classic bicycle race is running during most of July (you know, the Tour de France) so while they're over there spinning, someone got the idea that yarnies should challenge themselves by spinning as well.  Hence the name "Tour de Fleece."  It's like a knitalong in that while some groups have prizes, but it's mostly just a chance to challenge yourself in the company of others.

So this yarn I'm about to share isn't really spun as part of TdF, but rather in training for it.

I had this fiber on my spindle for ages... by the way, this is my first spindle, and the fiber is a cousin to my first fiber.  In anticipation for not having a wheel available for TdF, I decided to unload my spindle and get some practice in.  In the process, I got to give a couple spinning demonstrations at the nursing home.  The spindle was great for walking up to the residents and letting them see and feel the different stages of the yarn, and I let a few of them help me wind the single onto the cop.  It was fun to hear a former NYC woman exclaim that this must be something new, since she always got her yarn from the shop.

My end is my beginning.Friday night, July 1st, I raced to get the fiber all spun and plied, so I'd have a free spindle to begin the 'race.'  I was so proud that with such a primitive tool, I was able to spin and even ply the yarn.

I got the yarn into its bath that night and went to bed.  On the day of the start of the race (not taking into account time zones-- I'm not that hardcore), I began by finishing my yarn with a bit of thwacking and hanging to dry before heading out to the mountains.
My end is my beginning.

When I got back from my weekend away, I had a pretty little skein waiting for me.  Does it look familiar?  It's the same fiber as is currently the header picture for my blog!
My end is my beginning.

I'll fill you in later with details about the actual TdF posting.  Oh, there's so much to catch up on!