I bought two Corriedale cross batts from Grafton Fibers, colors 203 and 204, and attempted to make striping yarn. Now I have the Eagles stuck in my head, because this yarn looks like nothing so much as a Tequila Sunrise.
I spun from the two batts in succession, one chunk of 203, one chunk of 204, trying to keep the chunks about the same size throughout two bobbins and trying to make the second bobbin match the first. There was some transitional barberpoling, for you barberpole haters out there, but I was pleasantly surprised by how often the colors matched up. Here's how it looked on the bobbin:
and here's how it looked, plied and blocked:
(I know, crappy photos--sorry! There was no light this morning, not even outside.)
It was wildly entertaining (you know, if you are very easily entertained) and the anticipation of how it would all ply up kept me spinning all day yesterday. The real proof of the pudding, knitting it up, will have to wait for quite a while because I have a backlog of projects into the beginning of summer. But I'm hoping it will be well-suited for sock yarn. Now that I know at least how it plied up, I can concentrate more on my knitting. Seriously, that's how easily amused I am.
A little music story for you: years ago, my roommates and I had a piano and one of us was trying to learn to play "Desperado." Every night, she would come home from work and pound away at the keys, belting at the top of her lungs "Desperado, why don't you come to your senses? You've been out riding fences for so long now..." To this day I cannot listen to that song.
And, for Rosemary, here is a photo of my second attempt at a sourdough starter. It's not a purist version--it does use 1/8th of a teaspoon of yeast and will be put in a bread machine. I had to toss my first attempt because it looked like it was fermenting, but it didn't smell or grow any. As you warned me, this batch doubled in about six hours and is unquestionably livin' large.
Monday, January 30, 2006
Saturday, January 28, 2006
Odette & I have been spinning silk this week. Here are my unplied singles, post-blocking:
I snagged this silk blend at Claudia's destashing event. As it turns out, when I asked her about it, she said it wasn't hers and suspected it might have been donated by Rosemary.
It was surprisingly easy to draft--so much easier than the wool I'd been spinning!-- and really helped me inprove my drafting skills. Because I wasn't constantly tugging away on the roving to draft, I got better at controlling the speed of twist with my forward hand and keeping my back hand ahead of the twist. I had planned to spin the silk fine, to maximize what I could get out of the roving, but it wanted to spin up even finer than I had intended, so we got on well.
I've never spun silk before, and as a result, the singles were as active as a toddler after a quart of expresso and 2 pounds of gummy bears. Each individual strand corkscrewed when I took them off the bobbin. If I had dropped the skein, I'm pretty sure it would have bounced across the floor singing the Tigger song.
They had to be tethered with a 5 pound weight (read comments here) to achieve their current state of inner peace.
Before one of you wags makes the inevitable joke that this is the most exercise my weights have seen in a long while (sadly true), be forewarned that I have been working out. Occasionally. When it doesn't cut into my spinning.
If my singles are so energized I could take my house off the power grid, you ask, why didn't I ply them? Because then I wouldn't have 540 yards, silly. I'd have 270 fairly useless yards. My singles may be generously twisted, but now I have a prayer of knitting a shawl from them.
And I have a friend who shares my love of this shade of green, so I'm hoping to knit her a silk shawl before the next holiday season. Like I've said before, I like to plan ahead.
Monday, January 23, 2006
2:00 a.m. Woke up, partly because husband had to get up to go to work (I know, crazy) and partly because I was still jonesing from spinning at the lovely Claudia's fabulous fiber party. Stop laughing RIGHT.NOW. Got out of bed and looked at pretty pictures of Lendrums on the Internet. Some people look at porn, other people look at spinning wheels. Google, I beg you to release my search requests to the government.
4:00 a.m. Fell back asleep after reading Vogue. Odd fact about me: I have subscribed to Vogue for decades, even though I am so laughably not Vogue. I can explain this. They used to be all about arts, culture and politics, which was interesting. Recently, however, they've become all about the clothes, which is boring. It's like the magazine went from being intelligent dinner party conversation to being a gaggle of high-schoolers giggling about prom dresses. I ended my subscription, but they keep sending it to me anyway. So now, since I ran out of Ambien (fyi, really does work like a dream), I use Vogue as a sleep aid.
8:00 a.m. Woke up and it was snowing like a bastard. I rolled out of bed, threw on some sweats (you know, 'cause homemade fleece sweatpants and Merrills are so Vogue) and went to work. I was so excited about the snow I took my cross-country skis with me, in hopes of hitting the trails after work. Damn snow turned to rain.
::all day long:: chatted incessantly via email with knitters and spinners, sorting out everything that had happened on Sunday. It was so great to see everyone and meet new faces.
2:30 p.m. Thought to myself, thank god my work day's almost over. I can go home and start spinning up that yellow and orange roving. Maybe I can process some of Cate and Maggie's advice and figure out the long draw. By the way, sincere and heartfelt thanks for all the help, you guys. And Cate, thank you for letting me spin on your wheel.
3:00 p.m. Boss rolls in, actually wants to do some billing (to be fair, he was out snowplowing much of the morning, then he had lunch with his family, because this is the only time of year he gets to see them during daylight). I still can't get him to do the estimates our customers are waiting for. Slacking off is officially mandated around here; the orders come straight from the top.
3:15 p.m. Boss rolls back out, destination unknown. I start blogging (the billing can wait a little longer). Another forty-five minutes or so and I can hit the wheel!
3:30 p.m. The phone actually rings, for the first time today. But who, you ask? Who else? Telemarketer.
4:00 p.m. Boss and I play phone-and-radio-tag for fifteen minutes, trying to find out what's wrong with his cellphone, which he dropped in a puddle. But the good news is he says I can leave. Odette, here I come!
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
The spinning wheel had me at 70 yards, spun and plied, in four hours.
It would have taken me a week to spin that much on a spindle. Granted, it would have been substantially more even, but I expect that will change with practice. And in spots it is barely plied--but it is yarn.
I really thought I was a spindle girl. I am clumsy and careless, so I tend to be leery of tools that move fast. You have less control over their actions, and if a finger gets in the way, uh oh. Even a sewing machine is dangerous to me--I almost sewed over my finger once because I wasn't paying attention. We don't have power tools in our house; we have 3 handsaws, a crank-driven hand-drill, perfectly ordinary screwdrivers and non-electric rachet sets. I feel like an idiot every time I get a handsaw out to do something, and people laugh at the drill, but at least I know how to use them and I'm unlikely to lose a body part. I need to go sssllloooowww.
But the only thing endangered with a wheel is your nice fluffy soft wool, soon to be mangled, and you can readily control the speed with your foot! (Yeah, I know, the sewing machine too, but it's really not the same.)
I love how everything on Odette is wood, metal or string. String! Somehow I expected that by now, in our planet's development, maybe spinning wheel drive belts would be made out of plastic or rubber. But no, it's pretty much the same wheel our foremothers used. It's like technology ground to a halt.
And yet, it still produces. It is awesome.
There's just one problem: my wrists did hurt after the first day (Melanie had warned me that might happen).
It's possible that I just overdid it in my enthusiasm for wheel-spinning, but it's also possible that I need to look at how I'm drafting and tweak it some. I started trying to learn the long draw (as described here (pdf)), thinking it might help, but so far I have found it challenging to control the draft that way--mostly my singles have been veering toward the too-thin rather than the too-thick. I pull against the yarn, and presto! I pull too hard and the yarn becomes a thread. My wrists do hurt less, though.
I have spun up the beginner's wool Melanie gave me already, and started in on some beginner's wool I ordered from Mielke's Farm. The skein above is a combination of the two. Last night I also started in on some of the red roving I bought at Mind's Eye, because I have four bobbins, why not? When you have two spindles, having four bobbins is an unimaginable luxury.
Just like spinning 70 yards in four hours (for me, at least!)
*I would take a picture of Odette in her foster home (my living room) but the light is too dark for the camera phone :(
Monday, January 16, 2006
This is my slow season at work, which gives me the time to try lots of new things. Come spring, I'll be lucky if I have time to cook dinner when I come home. So I do try to take advantage of the wintertime to do stuff, not just sit around and watch tv.
This week's creative endeavor was to carve, on a wood plank, a scene of Amesbury's Main Street (old houses lining the Merrimack River) two different ways: one positive image, one negative image. Here's how they came out:
Umm, not so good. I learned something from this task: I'll stick to linoleum. I was initially attracted to wood because it's so much cheaper, but for a beginner I think lino is the way to go. Wood is harder to carve, and absorbs the paint, so even when you think you've inked the image enough, you're lucky if you get an image on the paper.
I found an interesting thing every day this week but Friday--wasn't really paying attention on Friday, oops. Some days there were so many choosing one was difficult.
Monday there was a border collie pup at the vet's whose stomach was full of rocks (word to the wise, don't let your puppy eat stones);
Tuesday I received my favorite local sports figure's cell phone # and address, which I will never use (or share). I am contemplating embroidering it on a pillow, surrounded by hearts and flowers;
Wednesday there was an omnipresent low tide--all over town the air smelled briny and muddy like a clam just pulled out of the bay;
Thursday had the most amazing reddish-gold sunset, like a glowing blood orange suspended over the ocean (there's an image);
and on Saturday I had a spinning wheel lesson from Melanie, who is very kindly loaning me Odette for a little bit (that's called "burying the lede" in journalism, friends).
And also on Saturday, I finished my Jaywalkers, the first pair of socks I have ever knit for myself!
please ignore the skinny white legs
I never understood the handknit sock obsession before, but now I get it. They're soft, they're warm, they're unique, and they fit. More socks for me! I love them so much that I immediately cast on for a pair of Juta's socks, from Folk Knitting in Estonia, with some Knit Picks sock yarn I bought (yes, I caved on my de-stashing pledge--I promised the hubby a sweater, so I had to buy yarn, and some sockweight stowed away on the package).
And thanks to that, combined with Odette, who is rocking my world (but that's another post for another day), I have Resolution #4: Learn to Spin Sock Yarn.
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
I dreamt about an old friend again last night--let's call him Liam--for about the third time in two weeks.
About eighteen years ago, Liam and I had our own brief, very tumultuous romance, after which we settled into being excellent friends. Occasionally friends with benefits, but primarily friends, the kind who hang out together after work and on weekends, talk for hours and help each other through relationships. He dated and was very, very briefly married to my best girl friend, before she dumped him for another friend of ours (long story). After that, we thought about buying a two-family together but instead wound up buying separate houses a short drive apart. When I started dating my now-husband, Liam was the one who kept me in the game (he loves to use sports slang to discuss relationships) when the going got rocky early on. "I don't know, he's a great guy," he said slowly when I floated out the idea of breaking up. And if Liam thought he was a great guy, that was enough for me. He's a lot of the reason my hubby and I are married now.
About five years ago, Liam found a new wife and a new job at the same time, and he and the wife moved to New York. It became clear within the first year that when he was around any of his old friends that he would start obsessing about his first wife and what went wrong--we were such a tangible reminder of the past. So I have good reason to suspect the new wife put the kibbosh on us, all of us, even his guy friends. She made it quite clear to us, and I'm sure to him also, that she didn't like any of us and didn't want us around. I can understand her position up to a point: if Liam was to move forward, he needed to put the past behind him.
But, to put it mildly, we're not her type, either. I mean, really not her type. Her idea of a party would involve wine and caviar; our idea of a party, until fairly recently, would involve a keg and a trashed house (usually Liam's--he hosted some great, memorable parties). Now that we're old, we're a little more sedate, but we're still not classy. You get a bunch of us in the same room and the conversation goes downhill in a hurry. Suddenly, you go from a nice dinner party to raucous laughter and food coming out peoples' noses.
The new wife was fairly aggressive in putting Liam's past behind him. Besides kicking out his old friends, she banished his beloved musical instrument collection (he used to be a talented musician) to the basement and unloaded all his old furniture and possessions. She hired people to decorate their new house and redo the landscaping; Liam, who once hand-built a beautiful vegetable garden in his backyard, complete with vine fences and gate, hasn't touched a spade in years.
He's never been back here to visit, he never calls, and he almost never emails. Once a year on my birthday I get a Happy Birthday email, and if I email him in the interim, I'll get a brief "how's it going? everything here is fine" email. Never any details, never any substance. When I pressed him recently for details, he responded, "I just got back from London and I'm going to Paris next week. Don't worry about me." I haven't seen him in four years.
It makes me sad, because I miss him all the time. We all do. His old best guy friend never hears from him, either, and his eyes fill up with sadness when I ask him about Liam. All the old Liam ever wanted was lots of kids and a house in the suburbs. Instead he chose a fancy wife and a jet-setting career that keeps him from home more often than not.
It makes me wonder how far you can travel from what you were, how many friends and hobbies you can give up, and still be happy. How can he not miss his music? Gardening? His friends? Can you successfully toss all your old dreams aside and replace them with the lights of the Eiffel Tower? Or is he making the best of a bad hand? (he and his wife have tried unsuccessfully for children).
I wish him nothing but joy but I worry all the time that he hasn't found it, because I don't understand how you can find a new joy by rejecting things that used to bring you joy. Can your definition of joy change that drastically?
These are all rhetorical questions, because I know no one can answer them.
When I ask, he always says he's happy. So I need to face the probability that he's so different I wouldn't know him now, that if I met him tomorrow we wouldn't be friends, that he's much happier living the high life than he ever was with us. I need to make peace with the fact that my dear beloved buddy is no longer the same person, and no longer really my buddy. Maybe I need to say goodbye.
I suspect it's sort of a mourning process, which is why I keep dreaming about him. I just needed to vent. Thanks for listening.
Monday, January 09, 2006
Interesting things that happened last week:
Tuesday: all our annoying whiny customers called. Snow threats--no matter how improbable snow actually is--appear to trigger the loonies. Good to know!
Wednesday: In book group, I learned that Tom Stoppard co-wrote the movie Brazil (probably interesting only to Monty Python fans);
Thursday: My boss and his kids found 6" wide scallop shells on the beach. Those are scallops you don't want to piss off.
Friday: I plied up the half-felted, orange and brown roving I have tormented myself spinning into the crappiest of crap yarn. While it looks a lovely bronze under low light, it becomes a cloying mauvey pink under bright light. I hate to throw the roving out because it was expensive, but like the Seinfeld episode where Jerry's girlfriend is a "two-face," in the wrong light, it's a killer. And it's half-felted.
I don't think you can see the horrific pink in these photos; you'll have to take my word for it. Ms. Melanie can vouch for it, too.
Saturday: During our walk in the woods, the dog and I startled a great blue heron on the banks of the creek. It flew slowly, like a pterodactyl, up to roost in a pine tree.
Sunday: Snow flurries in the morning, ice skating in the afternoon.
Grammar is tough to report on, so I'll skip that one. But I'm pretty sure I said "ain't" or "nothin'" at some point during the week.
Creative efforts put forth this week: Worked on a new garden design (I decided this counts, because I am completely overhauling the perennial bed and trying to bring in more compatible colors) and carved a linoleum block tree print:
I know the lino cut is simple and basic, but I am a baby beginner and these are the first wood or lino cut prints I've managed to make that actually came out and looked like something (thick paint laid directly on the lino seems to make the difference). So I am inordinately pleased with them.
I also made myself a fabric wrist distaff. I do understand that they are supposed to be made out of wool, but fabric seemed like the quickest and easiest way to go. I thought about using the half-felted roving, but I guess I am still holding out hope that a miracle will happen. It took a little tinkering and a little getting used to (at first it was distracting), but now I like my new distaff.
In knitting news, I am up to the heel of my first Jaywalker. I can report that the Jaywalker pattern makes even boring sock yarn look more interesting. Yay, Grumperina!
Thursday, January 05, 2006
After much deliberation, I have decided on Resolutions #2 and #3:
2. Improve my speech. I don't mean the cussing--I work at a landscape company and given the environment I pretty much have to cuss as a protective colorant, like a chameleon blends with foliage. I mean the poor grammar. I am not one of those people who write exactly like they speak. When I talk, I say things like "I gotta go" or "you did good." My primary reason for wanting to correct these bad habits is that my friends have small children, and I say these things to the children. The poor toddlers are trying to learn verb tenses and verb-pronoun agreement, and Auntie Moo comes over and says "you did good." I'm not doing them any favors. Kids do change everything--even when they're someone else's kids.
3. Do something creative most days. To some extent I agree with Margene in "do or not do, there is no try," and I know "most days" seems like a cop-out, but if I say "every day" I am setting myself up for failure. I decided that knitting doesn't count unless I'm creating the pattern, and blogging doesn't count as writing (although perhaps it should). The intention behind this resolution is for me to get my watercolors out more, try woodblock printing again, write some stories, that sort of thing.
While I've been mulling over resolutions, I completed a pair of socks for the hubby. I neglected to mention that when his holiday presents finally arrived (Dec. 30th--still in time for Hanukkah!), we discovered that I had screwed up the order. So I am awash in holiday guilt. I know he loves, loves, loves his Lite Lopi socks, and I happened to have 3 balls lying around the house, so I whipped up a pair (as you can imagine, they knit up quickly).
I also found him the Family Guy DVD he had been pining for, at BJ's of all places (after spending hours searching Best Buy and Circuit City).
Then I cast on for a pair of Jaywalkers.
Do I feel less guilty? Not really, no.
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
"Something interesting happens every day, she said."
Nigel Nicolson (Vita Sackville-West's son) quoting Virginia Woolf
Blockbuster Video was having a sale on pre-viewed DVDs, and I bought The Hours. Amongst the special features was an interview with historians and literature professors about Virginia Woolf, and it included a bit with Nigel Nicolson, who remembered Woolf from when he was young and she was cavorting with his mother. Woolf would grill the children every day, asking them what they had done, what they had seen, what interesting things had happened. And she wouldn't take "nothing" for an answer; the kids had to find something interesting, a pink sunrise, a surprise meeting, to relate. Nicolson said he realized later on that with those interrogations, Woolf was gathering material.
And it made me think of the number of times I come home and say nothing has happened, I had a boring day. So Resolution #1 is to find the interesting part of every day, or do something interesting to create it if need be, because it's just wrong to have boring days.