Monday, April 15, 2013

Spinning Challenge: sampling 'n starting

Disclaimer: If you are reading this blog from a different cultural background, I apologize for the inordinate number of local idioms in this post. It's probably better that you miss some of the embarrassing details; hopefully you can at least enjoy the pictures. 

I mentioned yesterday that I have been working on the spinning project I've challenged myself to do. Here's the knitty-gritty update:

Yarndude asked if I'd be spinning my rolags using a longdraw method. Now, this would be a problem, since I am a bit of a one-trick pony when it comes to spinning.

I figured this is as good a time as any to learn, so I carded up a different braid for practicing, watched several videos on YouTube, and broke out the spinning wheel.

Sundry unpleasantries ensued. (That is, I whined and cursed like a two-year-old sailor.)

After giving me a couple days to recover, my partner (did I ever mention how great he is?) sat me down and showed me an Interweave video he had recently purchased. Abby Franquemont gave much more help than the comparatively brief YouTube videos, and it helped to see the different drafting methods demonstrated side-by-side, so to speak. So I tried again, and even got to try out my partner's far superior wheel.

This is what I ended up with:
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Okay, so it wasn't all for naught; there were moments when I felt like I was getting a sort of long-draw thing going. But spinning on a wheel just isn't my strong suit, either, so I decided to resort to my standard -- the trusty Trindle.

Despite having several Trindles, I had none free of fiber, so I had to finish up one of the old spinning projects that had been languishing in a box. The result is about 100 yards of fingering-ish chain-plied yumminess.

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As I was mulling over how to handle the rolags properly, I consulted a book from my shelf authored by Abby Franquemont, and she actually describes spinning longdraw method on a spindle! As I read more, though, I decided I would simply use what came easiest to me. The book really is excellent; Abby begins by describing her childhood in the Peruvian highlands, spindle always in hand.  Be still, my heart! What a lovely couple of pages!

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Feeling empowered to spin rolags using my default spindle method (minus the usual chain-ply), I did a bit of sampling with the practice fiber.

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I didn't like the look or the experience of knitting up a rather energetic singles yarn, so I plied the remainder on itself and achieved a more pleasing result:

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So I decided then and there to spin my gradient with a bit less twist than the sample, and create a two-ply fingering weight yarn, probably for a lace shawlette. I split the rolags into two rows, weighed them, and moved rolags around as needed in an attempt to even out the weight of the two sets of fiber.  I figure that if I spin fairly conisistently, the gradient might work out well enough between the two plies. That's the plan, at least.

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And now for a gratuitous kitty pic:

Spindle kitty

 Jake likes to seat himself in close proximity when I'm spinning.


He seems fascinated by the movement of the spindle--but then, aren't we all?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Soapbox knitting: Vegetable Matters

I hope your April is going well! Veggie season is coming, and today I'm talking all about Vegetable Matter(s)!

Quinoa, Beet, & Arugula Salad

I'm so proud of myself; this weekend I cooked beets for the first time, and then used them in this Quinoa, Beet, and Arugula salad. It's pretty good, and I am amazed at the ease of cooking beets. I vaguely remember being turned off to beets at a young age, partly after reading some story in class about a giant beet on a boat that had to be as large as a child... I could be way off on the details, but I think the phonetics indicate that I was at least right about the beet and the boat being elements in the gripping plot. Whatever the story, I am over my youthful aversion to beets. I think I've even been craving them.

I realized I never showed you my latest socks all finished, though you've already had a nice look at them.  

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The pattern: Sprouting by Beata Jezek of Hedgehog Fibres (haha, even the pattern sounds vegetable-y)
The yarn: Nate's Sock Yarn by Briar Rose Fibers

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These are a bit thicker than normal sock yarn, which is how I managed to knit the pattern without having to modify it for my size. Thankfully, we've had enough chilly days that I've been able to get decent use out of them.

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From my project page notes:
This is a happy combination of yarn and needles and pattern; it moves surprisingly quickly and easily, and the yarn is both beautiful to the eye and the finger. I love the spongy sheepiness of the yarn enough that the frequent pause to pull out a prickle of VM is less a nuisance and more of a vehicle to transport me to some idyllic notion of life on the farm. I’d use it again in a heartbeat.

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I had a thoughtful conversation with the lovely woman who dyes Nate's Sock Yarn when she expressed regret over the veggie matter being a detriment to this otherwise lovely yarn. Lest I be misunderstood, let me reiterate that I think the finer qualities of this yarn far outweigh the occasional need to pause from my knitting. This particular wool is so very reminiscent of the place from which it came - in the best way - and in my opinion it makes a bit of VM a trivial issue.  Actually, speaking of my opinion, I pooh-pooh the mindset that says every yarn must have every fiber in place and must look sleek and feel like cashmere. Part of the reason I love knitting is that it seems to connect me to a simpler and more human way of life; I defy the obsession to have everything so perfect that the only memory it evokes is that of a factory. Can you tell I'm not a city boy? I love an especially sheepy yarn, and I think that is why I love spinning, too.  (I'll have to update on that soon...the deadline approaches, and despite appearances I have been working on my MDSW Challenge.)

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I'm not overly concerned with getting everything perfect.
I'm even willing to experiment on the second sock.
Which do you prefer: with the purl ridge or without?

I add to my defense of this yarn that I have been working with a couple more VM yarns since finishing the socks, and those make Nate's Sock Yarn look like a walk in the park. Both yarns are actually being used for my adaptation of the Easy As Pie blanket:

Easy As Pie
A gold star for you if you can tell which square has been washed.
Of course, the Noro Kureyon is easily recognizable. The VM in this yarn is much harder to remove, as it is usually hidden in a tuft of rather softly-spun wool; it seems to cause more damage to the yarn than is the case with Nate's Sock Yarn. I still weed it out, but it puts up a fight.

The second yarn is a flax and wool blend, and I can see why it is discontinued. The 10% flax content seems rather like 10% veggie matter, in the bad sense -- the sense that makes me want to pull it out of the yarn until I realize that I'd be fighting a losing battle. (On a different note, I have observed that the flax/wool blend takes longer to dry than the 100% wool of the Noro.)

In conclusion, Nate's Sock Yarn is a delicious knitting experience, and the VM is not all that bad; it's the kind that you can remove without being slowed down much. Chris does a wonderful job dyeing it, and I'm sad that I only get to see it in person at Rhinebeck.  On second thought, maybe my wallet thanks me; her yarn is so beautiful that it's hard to buy anything less than a sweater's quantity. That's where this unique sock yarn comes in handy; it's a way to revel in the joy that is Briar Rose Fibers even when I may not have enough money available for a sweater. The yardage is awesome. And it's one you need to feel to believe.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Perseverance in Purple

My House Colors project is done! And what an accomplishment it feels like!

Tungata 9

The fabric smoothed out enough that I can rest easy; I love how the colors pop, and the design reminds me of a woven fabric from some exotic warm-climate culture.

Tungata 1

It feels lovely, especially with the extra-thick padding it makes. The design is Stephen West's TĂșngata,  and once again, he's come up with a very rewarding knit accessory.

Tungata 6

I seem to have a purple and grey theme going on. Check out these other projects:

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Vest 5

Yeah.  And I still plan to make socks out of this:

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Heck, you'll be able to spot me from all the way across the fairgrounds at Rhinebeck if I keep this up!