Friday, May 30, 2014

Yarn Along: beginning Benson chapter 3

Okay, let's see if this works. I'm trying out blogging from my phone, so this should be brief. Yay for that, right?  :)

I finished my Olan kerchief this week but haven't gotten to photograph it yet. So now I'm back to working on this blanket made from my TDF handspun. It's a large project, but I have lots of reading to do. Hopefully it will be a happy relationship. 

Tonight I graduated to Chapter 3 in Dr. Herbert Benson's book on the use of sound in healing.  It is helpful for introducing the concept, as it is a fairly new idea for me to entertain with much seriousness. There is so much to learn, I am finding. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Sheep To Shawl Contest video MDSW

It's been a couple weeks since the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival came and went. I like to think that I don't geek out about much, but when it comes to all things yarn, I make an exception.

Here's a short video to give you a taste of what Sunday morning is like at MDSW. It's a completely different experience than the frenzied crowd of Saturday shoppers. Each team (this is a competition) has selected a theme and is judged for its presentation as well as the finished product. I love that the Maryland festival takes education so seriously. This is only one of the ways a newcomer can learn about some of the facets of yarn production done by hand there.

After taking this video, I parked myself near the musicians so I could knit a bit and just watch the people and sheep move around the fairgrounds. I really enjoyed the harp in particular, and I came across two of this trio later on in Maggie Sansone's booth (link to a video) and stalked them some more.

This contest is great to watch if you don't yet know how to do spinning or weaving, but it really doesn't compare to the fun of being a participant, as I got to experience at Twist a few weeks prior. Either way, its good fun all around.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Yarning along

I'm joining Mel in joining Ginny at Small Things and her Yarn Along...

I'm a bit surprised to say it, but I've actually completed more than one book recently, and am working on several more. I should qualify it by saying that "book" includes ebook and audiobook formats. Reading has always been a bit of a challenge for me. I enjoy books quite a lot, and often intend to read them, but somewhere in high school I developed a guilt-based line of logic that a certain few books were required reading, ultimately resulting in my ceasing from almost all reading. In college, I even took lower marks rather than do the required reading for my classes. It's not that I didn't try; I just had problems disciplining myself enough to focus on the page in a productive manner. I often found myself bouncing back to the previous paragraph or preceding page, and quickly became bogged down and gave up.

One summer during college, I worked the night shift cleaning carpets in the education building. (It was a small campus.) The machine I operated would propel itself slowly forward with a mere twist of the handle. You can imagine how much I struggled with falling asleep while walking very slowly up and down the long halls in the wee hours of the night. Thanks to a shelf of free books placed in the hall one night, I discovered that I could keep myself engaged by balancing a book on the carpet cleaner. 

This was before the rise of the digital age, with its podcasts and myriad audiobooks. But even then, I had found a way to get myself reading, partly by tricking myself into 'multitasking.' That's often what I have to do even now.  Thanks to today's technology, I have found the not-as-inviting-as-print format of electronic books to be a great aid in my ability to finish a book. I think part of it has to do with the fact that I like to bounce around depending on my mood and the suitability of the occasion in which I might be able to read; carrying a stack of books just wouldn't travel well. In addition, I believe the ability to tweak font size and the small window for a limited amount of text helps me move continually forward, rather than bouncing backward to the previous page. (I have heard about students in the days before e-readers being trained to compensate for a learning disorder using a piece of paper with a window cut in it; my Kindle helps in the same way.) And in the common event that I abandon the book for a length of time, I can pick up where I left off rather easily.

With an e-reader, I never have to hold the book open, and this frees my hands up to knit or perhaps spin yarn, though I have yet to try the latter.  Multi-tasking is not my strongest suit, so I revel in my ability to "knit read," and have been scoping out patterns that lend themselves to it. It seems that the otherwise boring kind of knitting and the reading work together to keep me in one place long enough to work on both, so I like to think of it almost as a symbiotic relationship.

With the options of e-books and audiobooks available to me, I have managed to read through several fascinating books -- some of them for classes I am taking for my bedside harp therapy certification. These include The Relaxation Response and The Diving Bell and The Butterfly. Two more books I'm currently working through are The Healing Power of Sound and Words That Hurt, Words That Heal. These books are all very thought provoking, and I wish there was a book club for them in my workplace; healthcare workers could really benefit from them. Maybe some day I'll find a way to encourage such discussions in settings like the nursing home I call mine. 

I've been utilizing audiobooks more for spinning, since I feel I need to look at the yarn a bit more than my knitting. A book I finished for fun this week was Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, and I loved it (of course). And now I'm currently spinning a handdyed colorway named "Hugh" after my favorite William Darcy portrayal in film.  I might have to rewatch one of my favorite movie versions soon...

What are you reading these days?

Monday, May 19, 2014

Good intentions

Now that Louie Esteban (Louet S10) and I are on speaking terms, I have decided to do my own "Spin the Bin" challenge, though I am not participating in any group forum on the subject.

The idea is to fill a bin with fiber that you intend to spin up; each spin must be at least two ounces, and there must be at least twelve spins in the bin. Things can be added to the bin, but the only way to get things out of the bin is to spin it.

So here's my bin:

And here's what I have completed so far:

I'm not fond of how the bright skein turned out. My partner is the veteran spinner, and suggested that I take some twist out of the singles; I tried that with the leftover brown yarn and came up with a yarn that is much more pleasing. It's alright that it was a bit of a train wreck, though, because the next skein was a delicious success.

I've long been interested in spinning up this gorgeous braid of Finn wool dyed by Dan of Gnomespun Fibers:

When I was in Maryland, I also fell for this ridiculously bright Finn fiber:

Then I got the hair-brained idea that perhaps I could ply both colors together to brighten up the orange-green, and tone down the yellow-green.

I moved ahead with trepidation, but I love the end result:

That's over 1,000 yards of Finn 2-ply that I spun up! I am unsure how to knit it up, but it's not like I'm in a rush.

As you can see from my Spin The Bin, I am full of good intentions. I am trying to devote more of my time to harp and to reading as part of my studies for Bedside Harp, and spinning should be helpful for creating space to listen to some of the supplementary reading, thanks to the marvel of the audiobook.  

I've also always intended to share clips of my music on this blog, so here's me making good on that intention:

It's a bit rough; I'm not a YouTube star. I recorded a couple songs for my mom to send her on Mother's Day, propping my phone on a stool and MacGyver-ing a stand from a knick-knack and a bit of cardboard. So while the film quality and my playing are both lacking, I offer it for your enjoyment. I count myself fortunate to have you gracious folks reading my blog, and I thank you in advance for being kind. :)  The tune is Fanny Power, by Turlough O'Carolan.  Enjoy!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

One reason I have fallen for handspinning

A poem which I enjoy reading to the folks at the nursing home is composed by Billy Collins. Its title reads, "Another reason why I don't keep a gun in the house". You can read it here. (It's short and enjoyable. Go ahead and read it; I won't go anywhere.) As I typed out the title for this post, I was reminded of it, and I like having a little bit of poetry in my life. So there.

One of the questions that comes up whenever the uninitiated person observes me or my partner spinning yarn is the inevitable "why spin yarn?" The typical assumption is that it is cheaper, as if money is the only reason for doing anything. In my case, though, spinning yarn has nothing to do with saving pennies. 

Recently my partner, a far superior spinner to myself (he's developing a collection of competition ribbons), did an experiment with some lovely dyed Romney wool he scored at the Garden State sheep and wool festival. He spun half of it by drafting the fiber in a worsted manner (pulling the unspun fibers forward to where the twist is added to the yarn), and the other half he spun using a supported long draw (pulling the unspun fiber away from the twist, so that the fibers are drafted forward by the pull of the twist itself).  I explain this horribly, but suffice it to say that the difference in that single step of spinning created a dramatic difference in the finished yarn. Check it out:

Woolen-spun single, chain plied

Worsted-spun single, chain plied

One of the reasons I love handspinning is that there is so much more potential for the final result than a mere skein sitting on the shelf. I love the lofty, rustic, and inviting nature of the woolen-spun yarn, whereas I might choose the worsted-spun yarn if I wanted something with a cleaner aesthetic.  But it's not just the practicality of the matter; indeed, it's mostly the whimsy that draws me in and drives me to spin. Different wools spin up in dramatically different ways, but even the same wool can appear in different forms. I'd go so far as to make the generalization that knitters take the wool for granted, but spinners get to experience firsthand the nuances and inner workings of different types of wool and various preparations. It really is a sort of an adventure. 

Side by side

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Sheep to Shawl fun! A Story in Pictures

This is the big process-oriented post. I have another in mind, but it is probably gonna be small - very small. I've taken longer to get this out to you, but here it is at last:

On April 12, my partner and I were delighted to take part in a local yarn shop's second annual Sheep To Shawl fundraiser event for Autism Speaks, at Twist Knitting and Spinning in Lahaska, PA. We had a blast, and I think much of it has to do with the kinds of folks that run and support Twist. I took it upon myself to document the day through my camera phone, so you can get a taste of the fun you missed.

The shearing actually took place midday (we spun last year's fleece), but I've reordered things a bit so you can see the sheep-to-shawl progression:

Bamma the Romney

Drumcarders and hand cards were used to prepare the washed wool for spinning. 
I should interject that only half of Bamma's wool had dried in time for the event, so you can imagine how far a single shearing can go!

One of the fabulous staff members at Twist knit these gigantic mittens for an art installation. I think it set a new record for largest mittens, if I heard correctly.

About a dozen wheels were spinning away through much of the day.
Visitors came to watch the yarn being created for weaving and knitting 
I tried out someone's wheel and fell in love with it. I actually felt civilized! 
My contribution to the yarn supply became part of a woven scarf.
The scarf in process 
Meanwhile, knitters joined in the fun as they worked up squares in different stitches for a pillow.
The Romney fleece had a beautiful range of light and dark wool. 

The large shawl on the loom

The large shawl ready to be taken off the loom

The small scarf off the loom. My yarn's in there somewhere!

The day's work yielded a scarf, a shawl, and twelve squares to make a pillow

Adding the finishing touches before the next day's auction

The finished pillow with knit squares

The remaining yarn spun from Bamma's wool. One of the things I love about Twist is that they have baskets with handspun yarn sitting around - not to mention stitch dictionaries, calculators, and glasses. It just makes me feel at home.

Fun was had by all. Gads of fun. Those who didn't make it really missed out, in my opinion. I'm already looking forward to next year!