An IRC friend and I struck up a deal that she would buy some fibre from Mulberry Fibers’ etsy shop and I would spin it. Several days later, a package came in the mail for me with three braids of a superwash merino and nylon sock blend. She requested that I spin this bluesy-greensy one first.
I got started without much delay, eagerly unbraided the fibre, and spread it out on the bed. It seemed to want to split right down the middle, and I wondered if that was intentional – it would be easy to stripe that way! So I split it and then weighed the halves, and they were pretty even – 42g and 57g. That will be easy enough to adjust and make exact. Except… the colour isn’t right for striping. One end of the braid has a dark blue section and the other doesn’t. An easy solution: I’m going to spin one half this way, and the other half that way, and then the blue will appear twice instead of striping with itself.
I was pleased to find that the fibre drafts well. There are no big chunks of nylon; it’s blended perfectly. After the challenge of the blue merino-tencel (more on that another time) this feels like super-easy spinning! Of course, I’m aiming for a sock weight. Here’s my plyback test; the tan strand on the bottom is a standard commercial 4-ply sock yarn, probably Lana Grossa Meilenweit. Lookin’ good!
I had planned to sleep in and then go to the spinning meetup this afternoon, but the week of getting up early had me wide awake at 07:30. And then this is what I can see from my front door, which makes me want to hunker down in the house and be cozy. Maybe light a fire. The crockpot is simmering, the kettle’s almost boiling, the cats are snuggling, and all in all it seems like the kind of day to stay indoors!
Since the weather and the clocks have turned, I’ve been doing lots of spinning! The beautiful blue merino-tencel is resting and waiting its turn to be plied on the jumbo bobbin, which means that first I have to skein this off:
It’s 8 ounces of green Ashland Bay merino, spun in three sections during the Tour de Fleece (and for the rest of the summer, and into the fall) and now a squishy three-ply. I don’t think I’ve ever packed a bobbin so full!
Cats are supposed to love this toy, but Floyd and Kipling only care about it when I put catnip on it. I have to get it way down into the cardboard, or else Kipling will devour it all as if he’s some kind of herbivore. They take turns proclaiming ownership of the thing, first snorting and rolling and forgetting their dignity, and then fighting over it. One will chase the each other away, then spread himself out as wide as possible over the toy.
Then comes the realization that, on one’s side like that, one has not taken a defensible position – one is vulnerable to attacks from the side. One must be attentive and protect the property!
This is very serious business indeed.
After sighing about the Symphony for over a week, I concluded that it would be a bad idea to buy a wheel without having tried it first. I also decided that waiting a few months and buying myself a birthday present would be a good idea (this gives me some time to save more money, and to sell the Traditional first). Then I thought, “Hm, I could sell some handspun yarns to pad the wheel-buying fund,” and got started right away with this gorgeously blue merino-tencel blend from Bonkers in the “Indigo” colourway that I got at Maryland Sheep and Wool in 2010.
The texture of this fibre is fascinating, and it’s a pleasure to spin. It drafts easily, but doesn’t slip. The merino half is amazingly soft, and the super-fine tencel is like silk in how smooth and strong (and slightly sticky, in a good way) it feels, but it is wavy and almost wants to clump together. I couldn’t resist taking a few macro shots.
Starting a new fibre always makes me a little nervous, and I spend some time (perhaps too much) thinking about how many plies, how thick or thin, how twisty. This time I cut myself off at only a few minutes of consideration, and just got started on what will be a fairly fine two-ply yarn. The sheen from the tencel is beautiful; the colour almost glows. I keep stopping to do plyback tests and to admire how the light glistens off the yarn.
It may be hard to sell this one, but it’s slated for the shop!
I’ve always loved the style of Saxony wheels, which is why I was drawn to the Traditional for my first wheel. From what I can tell based on her spokes and other design features, she’s only a few years younger than I am, probably from the mid-1980s. Here she is the day I brought her home:
This is the Kromski Symphony (picture from New Voyager, shown in mahogany finish). I am pretty sure it’s going to be my next wheel, in the walnut finish to match my Sonata. The biggest hurdle between me and the Symphony is convincing myself to spend the money – but I can defray a chunk of the cost by selling the Traditional. I’ll be sad to see her go as she was a birthday-present and I have the happy memories of learning to spin on a wheel with her, but I don’t spin on her enough anymore and I feel bad about that. She should go help someone else learn to spin, rather than sitting around collecting dust and being decorative in my house.
While they’re different styles, the Traditional and the Sonata are similar in many ways. Their drive wheels are close in size; they’re both single-drive scotch tension wheels. The Symphony is double-drive (but can run single-drive with scotch tension) with a 24 inch wheel, so it would give me more variety. It’s also double-treadle, which I’ve found I like better than single. As a bonus, it can share bobbins with the Sonata! The Ashford bobbins seem very small, and the Kromski bobbins are larger than most others. I’ve easily fit four ounces of laceweight singles onto one bobbin, and there’s no way I could have done that with the Ashfords.
The second-biggest hurdle between me and the Symphony is that I’ve never tried spinning on one. I called around and the nearest one that I could try is at the Mannings, which is a two hour drive from here with nothing very interesting in between. I already drive about four hundred miles a week, and the idea of spending half a Saturday driving isn’t too appealing. So I’m considering buying one without giving it a test spin. On the other hand, I do have the Sonata, so at least I have some Kromski experience. On the other other hand, I don’t have any double-drive experience. But how hard could it be?
Cons: Spending money on myself is hard, haven’t tried a Symphony yet.
Pros: Gorgeous, double-treadle, double-drive, Saxony, big drive wheel, matches my other wheel and shares bobbins, comes with $50 gift card for future purchases, currently on sale.
I seem to go through this type of wembling every time it comes to spending a big chunk of money on myself. Agonizing over the decision gives me a little reassurance that I won’t have any buyer’s remorse and helps me feel like I’m not making a snap decision. Even though I know what’s going to happen eventually, I almost feel like I have to go through the process before I can accept it.
(How do I know what’s going to happen eventually? I’m already thinking about names for the new wheel…)
The idea behind a Pi Shawl, or in this case a half-Pi shawl, is that you double the distance between the increase rounds, which double the number of stitches, and you end up with a round (or in this case, half-circle) shawl. It’s not really so much about pi as it is about geometry: a circle will double its circumference in doubling the distance from the last doubled distance/circumference… which is confusing, and so it’s a lot easier to say pi.
I’m using Lisa Souza “Montreaux” laceweight to knit the EZ 100th Anniversary Camping Half-Circle shawl, which was designed as a tribute to Elizabeth Zimmerman, who was to knitting what Julia Child was to cooking. So far it doesn’t look like much – but this is pretty much what lace looks like at the beginning, before the designs really start to show up and before a good blocking makes the stitches and yarnovers stand out properly.
The rows are rather short now at 79 stitches, but soon it’ll be 154 stitches per row, and then 309. Shawls are tricky because they start so fast, but then as the rows get bigger and bigger, each one takes longer and longer. I’m sure there’s a mathematical way to figure out what percentage of Pi I’ve completed, but I don’t know what it is other than by figuring out the total number of stitches in the whole thing – and that seems like it might be discouraging.
The variegation shows up much more in the picture than it does in real life, but it’s a fairly accurate representation of the colour – a rich, plummy purple. The sheen of the silk content should help it show up against a black dress, as it’s fairly dark. If that doesn’t work, I’ll just have to get a lighter-coloured dress!
Oct 23 2013
On Saturday morning, Michael and I got up (not too early) and headed off to Rhinebeck. The trees – ohhh, we don’t have leaves like that here in Virginia. They’re much duller this year. These are just gorgeous!
We went through a few of the buildings and then stopped to admire the alpaca. There was a guy there taking pictures of them with what looked like an original Polaroid camera, which was pretty cool. The alpaca doesn’t seem too impressed, though.
Of course, there was lamb for lunch. Except the line for lamb sandwiches was really long, and really slow, and they ran out of sandwiches before we got there. I ended up getting a gyro, and Michael got sausage, and I guess that was all right. (On Sunday, we made lamb for dinner. That made up for the lack on Saturday.)
The day became a Quest, as my Dancing Cranes stole is still shedding all over everything despite a good soak. Maybe one day it will get past that, but meanwhile I want a shawl that won’t shed. Michael suggested that I get a plummy purple laceweight to match his tie and pocket square, and we began to search for it. I was surprised at how difficult the quest was. There was the right shade of purple, in all the wrong fibres. There was beautiful laceweight, in all the wrong purples.
I did find this gorgeous green semi-solid sock yarn, and bought it so excitedly that I forgot to get the vendor information or any details about the yarn. When I got home and took pictures, I realized that it had no tag, and I paid cash so I have no receipt. I’ve got a call out on the Rhinebeck group on Ravelry, and hopefully I’ll know what it is soon!
Edited to add: It is Oasis Yarn Aussi Soxxi! Many thanks to AnissaH, who was able to solve the mystery.
We stopped at Bittersweet Woolery because she had some beautiful laceweight, and she even pulled out the bins to check Sunday’s yarn supply, but the colours weren’t quite right. Still, that was one of the highlights of the day – because I got recognized! “Hey, you’re KnittingPirate,” gives me such a thrill! Hi, RowsRed – it was great to meet you!
Then, finally, in the last building… the right colour purple, in the right kind of fibre. Lisa Souza “Montreaux” in the Marionberry colourway seems Just Right. I may have jumped up and down a little bit. That evening we checked it against Michael’s pocket square, which of course we had forgotten to bring with us, and it’s perfect.
On the way out I stopped at Fiber Optic to admire the huge gradient shawls, and finally – after years of thinking about it – bought one of the gradient tops, in a light aqua to deep chocolate colourway. It is simply gorgeous. I’m going to split it the long way and do a two-ply gradient, when I get up the courage to spin it.
I’m swatching the purple lace by simply starting the shawl. I’m on the second try – the first one was too loose, and I dropped a stitch that I couldn’t recover, so I began again. The rows are so small at this point that it seems to make sense to just start. (But I did order a slightly smaller needle, just in case.)
There are a few too many projects going on at the moment, and I’m planning to blog about them all! I’ve missed writing, and I’ve missed your comments, and being recognized as me was so exciting that I’m super-inspired to get back here more often. :)