August 11, 2009

Mud Season Cowl: Pattern Notes

Wow. So you guys are still out there reading. How cool is that? I would love to be one of those people who blogs for themselves, but honestly I really like hearing from all of you and I definitely think of you when I write. It would be weird to write without thinking of my internet friends, so I'm glad to see you're still here and even a little chatty. These aren't my usual pattern notes, but given the fact that I made the yarn and the "pattern" there isn't really much point to reviewing them, is there? We'll just do this all stream-of-conscious-like.


I finished the Mud Season Cowl in May. It's hard to say exactly when I started it because I spun the yarn first and I think it's fair to say that counts as part of the full project time. Prior to Griffin's appearance I was a happy member of the Spunky Eclectic Fiber Club - something I highly recommend. My hope was that I would spin up the 4 or so ounces of mystery fiber that Amy sent every month and get back into a spinning groove. I have lived with myself for too long not to know that was a doomed proposition from the start, but I decided that if I aspired to a 4 ounce a month goal I would at least spin 4 ounces a quarter, and for the most part I managed to do that (more Spunky on the bobbin right now, in fact). I bowed out of the club when I was 8 months pregnant, knowing that I would soon become in danger of my fiber stash equaling my yarn stash (and we cannot have that), but maybe if I'm a good girl and spin through what I have left I will allow myself a little fiber club treat.

This is the photo that shows the colors best. They are pretty hard to wrap your eyes around for some reason - hard to take in all at once. But oh, so pretty.

Okay, so what I think I was saying at the beginning of that paragraph was that I started spinning the Mud Season merino last fall. There was a short period of time when the stars aligned (read: the little dude could not crawl or roll far) and I did a bit of spinning. Then the skies went back to their former state of disarray and my spinning got put away until April. In April two things happened. The first was that I read The Intentional Spinner and got completely inspired to spin again, and the second was that I happened upon Connie's post about her knitting group's cowl swap, and I was determined that my little knitting circle do a swap as well.

The roving pre-spin, pre-knit.
Here's where I have to make a confession. The cowl you see was originally intended for my cowl pal. But when I finished it there were two problems. The first was that it was very chunky, and I wasn't sure it would be her thing (that's the altruistic reason) and the second was that it was my first handspun handknit adult garment of any sort and I just could not bear to part with it (that's the not so altruistic part). And honestly, I love it - the colors, the chunkiness, it is just so me. I don't think I could wear the cowl in good conscience if I hadn't written this, but I feel certain that my cowl pal will understand if it is indeed a cowl that she would have worn and loved, and that if it isn't she will breathe a happy sigh of relief to have dodged the cowl bullet. (She's getting a lovely merino-cashmere blend cowl, so there isn't too much to be sad about, either way!)

The singles wound into a center-pull ball ready to be plied.
There is a rather long back-story on the spinning portion of the cowl, but the short version is that I somehow managed to spin the singles in opposite directions and then had to figure out how to make them work together. As it turns out, the answer was not rocket science, though it did escape my poor little brain. All it took was winding each into a center-pull ball and then plying them on the wheel from there. It worked really well, and the difference in ply direction does not make a difference in the appearance of the knitting. I even have a bit of advice for those who employ this method, now that I have gained a wee bit of experience in the area. Leave the singles on the bobbins for a bit before you wind them into center-pull balls. And by "a bit" I mean about a week. This allows the singles to "set" which keeps them from becoming an unholy tangled mess when you go to ply them. Neat, huh?

Other than that the stats on the cowl are pretty simple. It's 100% merino, two-ply, Andean plied, knit in a traditional feather and fan pattern on US10 needles. The colors escape proper photography - you will just have to trust me when I say they are beautiful. It's rustic and organic looking and I had a wonderful time making it. There are few things as satisfying as spinning and then knitting something for yourself. I'm guessing that wearing it is going to be just as good, though.

Posted by Julia at 09:08 PM | Comments (17)

April 17, 2009

The Unintentional Spinner

That would be me. I've been reading Judith MacKenzie McCuin's The Intentional Spinner with a fervor - reading and re-reading it in fact, which is impressive attention to give to a single book given my current lack of reading time. I would love to say that I'm going to give you a review of The Intentional Spinner, but as soon as I say that I won't get to it, so I won't say it and we can all just be pleasantly surprised if I do. Fair enough?

The Singles, feigning innocence.

Anyhoo, this book has given me some real "Ah-ha!" moments, so if you are in need of one as an intermediate-ish (beginning intermediate?) spinner, I'd highly recommend it. As far as ah-ha moments go, this book shares a space with the Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook and Sew U for me. A real connect-the-dotter.

It would be great to be able to say that I have been practicing all that I have learned from this wonderful book, but so far all my fervor has produced the same type of spinning that I always do, on pretty much the same fiber, with the same preparation. I do want to work on my techniques at some point, but for now the book has simply been inspiration to spin.

So now for the unintentional part. The only way in which I deviated from my normal spinning practices was in the twist I gave my singles. Somehow I managed to spin one S and one Z. I'll give you a moment to contemplate that. One S. One Z. You can't make those play nice together. For all of you non-spinners who are glazing over right now (why are you still reading?) think oil and water, square peg, round hole. I didn't even notice until I attempted to ply them and one became very tight and wiry while the other practically disintegrated before my eyes.

I could have cried. I had been so intent on spinning that I had two bobbins with two ounces of fiber on each. I considered Navajo plying them, but I didn't want long color runs. I was really aiming for barber-pole 2-ply, and the only way one gets that is to ply the singles together. Luckily, I have a great resource in the Spunky Club on Ravelry, and soon after I posted about my spinning woes there were many suggestions about what I should do.

The one that really struck me was Andean plying. Why had I not thought of that? That was a D'oh! moment. I think it didn't occur to me because I've only Andean plied on a spindle, and with each bobbin holding two ounces, that's quite a bracelet. Again, there were several suggestions as to how to tackle that problem, including this nifty idea of "book plying." I am taking the path of least resistance and Andean plying from a center-pull ball.

So far, I have only managed to wind the singles off the bobbins into skeins, and look at them skeptically. There is no reason that Andean plying would not work -- all my spindled yarn is plied this way and I have made some lovely yarn and knit it with success (more on that later - my first FO of the year was a spindle-spun hat for Griffin that I have yet to blog). Still, I feel some trepidation, having managed to forget which way to ply a singles in the space of three months. I'm not sure I can blame it all on sleep deprivation. Cross your fingers for me and hopefully I'll be back soon with tales of pretty yarn.

Posted by Julia at 06:00 AM | Comments (9)

January 16, 2009

Old Friends

MH was in town with the ravelry crew and finally, finally got to meet Griffin. When I got pregnant I was so excited to have her around to share him with, because she is absolutely the best with children, but Albuquerque called her away and I lost out. It was so awesome to see her and have her make a new little friend.


MH and I have known each other for just over five years now. It's hard to believe that time has gone so fast. Even though she's far away now, I know we'll stay close and still get to share all the wonderful things - like babies. But it was still great to see her in the flesh and re-unite. The only thing better would have been a trip to the button wall at our place (Michael Levine - downtown, yarn and fabric).


MH also had the pleasure of seeing Griffin in the wonderful February baby sweater that she made him, which is absolutely adorable. As a bonus, we got to hang out with Jess and Casey and Kat and Felix. We're getting Jess primed for one of her own. And no, not any time soon, so don't take this as a hint! Still - looks like she'd make a great mom, doesn't it?


I'd be remiss if I didn't put up a shot of Kat's beautiful son, Felix. He brought along a wonderful dog that she knit him and a doghouse that he and his dad made out of a knitting needle box. What a great kid. Jess has some even better photos - Felix and Casey conspiring over an i-phone together. You'll have to bug her to upload them to flickr or something. All in all a wonderful if brief time together.

Posted by Julia at 05:10 PM | Comments (16)

December 23, 2008

Pattern Notes: Griffin's Tomten Jacket

Alternately entitled: "My kid hates wool." I know. Blasphemy. But it's true. Griffin will deign to wear merino, and I would hazard a guess that he would find cashmere acceptable, but mommy's beloved alpaca and all other potentially itchy fleeces are verboten. If I put him in a long sleeved T-shirt he will tolerate his Tomten Jacket for a short period of time, but will eventually scream his head off. I shall have to employ EZ's suggested method of sneaking little bits of wool into piries, slowly increasing the number of motifs containing wool with each fair isle sweater. Sigh.

James Dean goes Elven.

Cold weather does appear to sway him a bit, though, and when I take him for brisk walks outside Griffin will put up with sweaters, coats and hats of slightly itchier wool a bit longer. I just have to work to make him really get use out of his Tomten. At least I know now, though. The next handspun heirloom sweater that I make for him will be 100% merino. Or maybe I'll just put him in cotton hoodies from Tarzhay for the rest of his natural born life, the stinker.

Modular Tomten Jacket
The Opinionated Knitter
designed by Elizabeth Zimmermann
Knit with 2 skeins of my handspun yarn - one a medium brown alpaca two-ply and the other a merino two-ply spun from Spunky Eclectic "Burning Bush" roving (about 350 yards total)
on size US2 (2.75 mm) Addi Turbo circulars and US2 (2.75 mm) clover dpns.
Gauge: ? sts and ? rows per inch over garter stitch. (I'll fill this in later if I remember!)
Size: 19" chest circumference.

Take that, Legolas!
The Pattern:
I think I'm something like the 850th person on ravelry to knit the Tomten Jacket, so there is probably little I can say about it that has not already been said. It's one of those wonderful designs that is simple enough for an advanced beginner to complete, yet looks wonderfully sophisticated when finished. The jacket is susceptible to many permutations and modifications, with different closures, edging treatments, pockets, hoods, etc. possible with little extra effort. Most additions can be made as an afterthought. Sizing is also seemingly infinitely adjustable, and the different possibilities for yarn combinations make the jacket a nice choice for handspun. I can see why one might be tempted into making it multiple times in slightly different ways. This could easily become one of those "go-to" baby patterns for me - always dependable, always beautiful. It's just as great as everyone says it is - try it! (Oh, and although I am sure most of you have seen it already, Jared's version is a great reminder that this jacket looks smashing in an adult version, too.)

The Elven King with his daddy.

Modifications: None! I did follow Meg Swanson's advice, though and leave the armscye stitches live for seamless joining.

Techniques: The most difficult part of this sweater is the I-cord edging (and that is not difficult, either, just follow EZ's directions). It's a perfect beginner sweater - garter stitch and easy seams.

Working With My Very Own Handspun: This was the biggest treat I could imagine. I've spun quite a few skeinlettes of my own yarn and tried multiple times to knit with it, without success. Handspun is very particular about what it wants to be. Or at least mine is. To use it well, you have to be versed in the combining of small amounts of wool in various colors into a grand, harmonious whole. And usually a somewhat folksy whole. You have to walk that line between folk art and fashion, which is not my personal strength. The Tomten Jacket is like a wonderful "cheat." It's a tried and true way to get lovely results and a great way to pull yourself out of a handspun rut.

The Elven King on his "throne."
Every time I look at Griffin's Tomten I am inspired to spin more, and eventually, in some hour when I am not reading Dr. Suess (for the 100th time) or wiping spit-up off of god-knows-what with my sleeve, I will spin again. And most likely make another Tomten Jacket.

My merino handspun made of Spunky Eclectic "Burning Bush" turned out beautifully. It was squishy, springy, even and seemingly perfect. My alpaca handspun was less so - too tightly spun and inconsistent. They were slightly different gauges, so although I knit on US2's to accommodate the alpaca, the merino would have been well-suited to a US3 needle. If your handspun has these issues, don't despair. The I-cord edging can hide a multitude of sins caused by using a too-fine, overspun yarn. It will work. Just have faith. I did, and it paid off.

I will walk when I am ready.
For now I am exercising my royal prerogative to be carried.
Onward, Mommy!

[Read all entries on the "Possibly" Tomten Jacket.]

Posted by Julia at 09:42 AM | Comments (27)

October 03, 2008

Angry Baby Models Knitwear

It all started innocently enough with my desire to see which of the wee wonderful knit items that Griffin has accrued fit him. I had actually been quite worried that he would be too big for many things - especially the things I knit. But as it turns out, everything - with the exception of his Saartje's Booties from Aunt Jennie - is a little big, so he will get to wear all these wonderful handmade clothes. The booties are just right and he's napping in them now.

At this point we are still happily sleeping. Perhaps because our hat is so fierce.

Griffin tolerated the baby bell bottoms that I made him and Marnie's Alsace le Monsteur hat, but as I moved on to his homecoming hat (way too big when he was coming home), he began to get a bit peeved.


Griffin shows a lack of appreciation for mommy's handiwork.

He found the handspun Tomten Jacket that I so painstakingly made for him absolutely infuriating. As I snapped away with the camera I imagined him yelling at me with the voice of Stewie from Family Guy: "This is an indignity! I will not stand for it! I am going to kill Lois!"

Is it wrong that I find this hysterically funny?
He reminds me of a protester from the 60's donning a Nehru jacket.

Get this thing off of me! Now!

Happily, Griffin returned to his normal peaceful self as soon as I put him in MH's February Baby Sweater and Jennie's Saartje's booties. Perhaps it is best if I have other people knit for him....

Thank god I have been relieved of that itchy alpaca thing. Much better.

Posted by Julia at 01:47 PM | Comments (35)

May 04, 2008

Definitely Tomten

Merino "Burning Bush" 2-Ply and Baby Alpaca 2-Ply. Baby bliss!

Work has kept me extremely busy, and when I'm typing away at my keyboard so much, one of the last things I want to do in my free time is type away at my keyboard (or read anything). When I have had a free moment, I have either crocheted a pansy or spun, spun, spun. As a result, the handspun that I talked about in this post is finally all spun up, and some of it is even knit up. No time for any more designing than I already have going on here, so it's definitely Tomten. Plus EZ's designs are all somehow perfect for handspun, don'tcha think?

Handspun and the bottom half of the Tomten Jacket.
Babies seem just impossibly small!
Posted by Julia at 11:30 PM | Comments (8)

April 05, 2008

Adventures in Spinning: She Learns to Sample

I have really missed writing to you guys. It feels like time is moving so fast with this baby, and work is so busy that everything is just passing me by. There is so much that I want to document - in both my knitting and pregnant life - and somehow the opportunity eludes me. There are times when I don't write because I don't feel like it - usually I get tired of hearing my own voice and just need to go away to have something new to say - but this has been an involuntary hiatus. If I could I would stop time and just sit here and fill pages.

Cherry and Burning Bush singles - note the lightness in the singles to the far right which came from the "inside" of the roving.

When work is done I am usually tired enough that I can't do anything that requires math, deep thought, or being at the computer. (I have pregnancy brain so badly already that I went into the bathroom at the obygyn's office to give a sample - not because I had to go but because they needed a sample - and just completely forgot to pee in the cup. It wasn't until I got all the way back and the nurse asked about the sample that I realized I had forgotten. D'oh!) This lack of brainpower has translated into time spent spinning and knitting very simple things.

The spinning has been fantastic (the knitting has also been quite satisfying). I have some gorgeous merino/silk (80/20) roving from Spunky Eclectic in the Burning Bush colorway, that I decided I wanted to spin to make something for the baby. Surfing around on ravelry, I found this beautiful Baby Surprise Jacket done in 2-ply Burning Bush handspun, and fell positively in love. I decided that I would spin my roving up into a 2-ply for a Tomten Jacket. (Also an EZ design and kind of similar).

Gorgeous rich alpaca singles - slippery after working with merino silk!

The only issue was that I only had 4 ounces of Burning Bush and I wasn't sure how far that would go. (I really need to start documenting my handspun so that I have a good idea of how much yardage I can expect to get out of a given amount of roving.) To make it go further, I decided that instead of plying it all on itself, I would do one 2-ply of Burning Bush and one 2-ply of Burning Bush and Chameleon Colorworks Cherry or maybe just ply all of the Burning Bush singles with some medium brown alpaca that I have 4 ounces of and make it go really far.

The Burning Bush roving.
I should back up and tell you that when it comes to roving, I pretty much do things the exact same way every time, except that sometimes I will spin a singles instead of a 2-ply, and I also vary the weight. I know, so creative! Anyhoo, although I have read all about different ways to use the same roving and combine rovings, for some reason I just have very little patience for spinning a little, plying it, and seeing if I like what I get. Finally it hit me that my method of spinning was a lot like making a sweater without a swatch. When I taught beginning knitting I would always do my best to make swatching fun - both because it is so essential to gauge and because it is such a great way to get your creative juices flowing. I have always made a point of saying that if you don't swatch, your entire sweater becomes your swatch. It's the same with spinning - if you just pick a method and go until you are out of roving, what you've got is what you've got - your sample is your yarn. Sometimes that is great and a wonderful way to just let go. Other times, not so much.

So, after a very cool ravelry discussion on the zillion different things that I could do with these Burning Bush singles, I decided to take some sage advice and actually sample. I am so glad that I did. I knew that both the brown and the red would dominate the Burning Bush colors, but I really had no idea how much. In this case, I really like the bright crazy colors of the roving, so there is no real incentive to mute them with a solid, but in so many other instances, this would be a great tool to have in my back pocket. In one little session of sampling I learned a ton about how to mute or preserve bright color. I also completely changed direction and decided that for this project I would mute the color and use the brown. I really like the red as well, so I may order a few more ounces of Burning Bush to ply with the cherry for some other baby project.

The swatches - brown alpaca and burning bush for now; swirled with cherry for later.

I'm also glad that I followed the sampling sequence that I have. To make sampling fun, I spun up most of the singles for the Burning Bush and Cherry rovings first, and also spun up quite a bit of the alpaca as well. I knew that I would be happy with all of these singles at the same weight even if I didn't end up plying them together, and I also knew that I would have more fun if I didn't have to work through all of the singles after sampling. (Again, impatience.) This would not work when sampling different weights, of course, but since I knew I wanted to end up with fingering to light DK weight, it was a great method for my purposes. My method worked out especially well, because the Burning Bush varies quite a bit in intensity, getting much lighter near the "inside" of the roving. When I actually get to the knitting phase, I will counteract that a bit by switching between skeins to get a striping effect.

The sampling part was awesome. I wish I had some shots of the 10 yards or so that I spun so that you could see how different the yarn looks skeined as opposed to knitted. I have plenty more to spin, so I'll be sure to do that later for those of you who are as geeky and new to spinning as I am. I really love both the alpaca and cherry version. Now the only problem is the project. I love the Tomten Jacket and do want to make it eventually (Baby Surprise Jacket, too), but I think for such a special handspun I need to come up with something of my own. We'll see.....

Posted by Julia at 08:38 PM | Comments (12)

January 23, 2008

Handspun Handknit Braintrust? Bueller? Bueller?

I feel like I'm a little cursed when it comes to knitting up my handspun. I've tried several times and keep having to rip and re-start. It's funny, because I pride myself on being able to pick the right project for a particular yarn, and yet when it comes to my own yarn I'm a bit stumped. Exhibit A: the wonderful party dress handspun:

Gorgeous yarn, crappy swatch.

This definitely falls into the category of "what the hell was I thinking?" Clearly, this stitch pattern has got to go - the vertical welts are totally duking it out with the horizontal stripes. D'oh! So many rookie mistakes all in one project - yikes. I've been calling this one "The One in My Head," but I'm pretty sure it's the one NOT in my head - anywhere! I think my first mistake was spinning the roving into too thick of a yarn. It's totally fun as a skein, but for me the practical value of a brightly-colored, striped, bulky thick and thin yarn is questionable. I would have done much better to spin this as a DK or sport-weight. It is wonderfully squooshy, though, and I really do want to use it, so I'm going to soldier on after a little break. I'm thinking something on the diagonal would be good, and something for a child or baby would be well-advised. Maybe a funky chevron scarf for my niece? Or one of those diagonal scarves that everyone used to make with Kureyon? Or maybe even another so-called scarf? Sadly, I'm having trouble being terribly creative with this one! If you have ideas, puleeeze leave them in the comments. I could use all the help I can get! [Edited to add: I've spun it all and have about 310 yards to work with. You guys have already come up with a ton of good ideas! Keep them coming!!!]

My saving grace: Judy's Grandmother's Baby Sweater.

In general, I've been pretty stumped the last few weeks. I think it's partially because everything on my needles is my own designing and I've reached the point where I really need to either write things down or do some math or both, and my little pea brain just is not up to it. It's a shame, because I was so excited about all these ideas about a month ago, and made some real progress. (Luckily, I did type up the pattern for Mishka during that time period. It still needs to be charted and sized, but the instructions are there rather than somewhere off in the ether.)

Best part? Komari's little face!
To break this bad knitting mojo, I decided to start a baby sweater. I have a ton of baby knits to make this year - tis the season! - and it never hurts to start early. Ever since seeing LoriZ's grey Rambling Rose (which she needs to get off her butt and photograph! Edited to add: she did!) I have been dying to knit with my favorite Rowan Wool Cotton - the king of yarns. Lori's sweater doesn't even use wool cotton, but the yarn she's knitting looks like wool cotton and that was enough to set me craving for it. The whole time I watched her knit I was dying to snatch the yarn out of her hands and get in at least a few rows. Instead I had to be patient and start something of my own. The other advantage of the baby sweater is that it is involving and yet contained. I want to get a bit involved, but not overwhelmed, so this is the perfect project. Plus, after going through my grandmother's old knits I was pretty inspired. Everything she did was a little work of art.

I settled on Judy's Grandma's Baby Sweater from the Greetings from Knit Cafe book. I have to say that I have been fortunate to be included in two of my favorite pattern books ever, and GFKC is one of them. (The other is Boho Baby, which is bound to get heavy use this year.) I have wanted to make this baby sweater since I first spied it in Knit Cafe over four years ago. It' simply stunning in person and the unique construction makes it extra special. My love for this pattern is rivaled only by my love for Veronik Avery's Gansey Layette, which I have made three times (and will probably make again this year). I can't believe I didn't knit it earlier. Anyway, I am finally able to engross myself in knitting again, and that is a nice relief. I'm hoping that this little respite will allow me to return to my plans for a few other things on the needles. Some things will undoubtedly get pushed to the back-burner, because I have much more than usual in progress right now, but having tasted the fresh air again, I think I will be able to dive back into at least a few of those stalled projects. Thank goodness!

Posted by Julia at 12:25 PM | Comments (18)

December 31, 2007

Spunky Club December 07: Party Dress

Makes you want to dive in, doesn't it?
I seem to go through phases where I spin, spin, spin, and then my wheel languishes for months on end. After having my crew over for spinning recently, I was inspired to kick-start my own wheel time. I started spinning a little over two years ago using Amy Boogie's Spunky Eclectic Fibers, and I have never been disappointed in anything that I've gotten from her. More than half of my spindle collection, my niddy-nosty, and much of my past spinning fiber is from Amy, so I decided that it would be fun to keep up the collection and join the fiber club. Amy sends out 2-4 ounces of "mystery" fiber each month to fiber club members, and that sounded like just enough to keep my toe in the spinning waters without the possibility of becoming overwhelmed. Plus I love the idea of being exposed to new fibers (or old favorites) in new colorways. Surprises can really get the creative juices flowing. For December, Amy sent out 4 ounces of brightly colored Corriedale roving called "Party Girl." It looks positively edible to me.

PartyDressCIMG3674.jpg PartyDresscropCIMG3628.jpg PartyDressCIMG3640.jpg

The Superskein lives!!!

Although I love spinning bright colors, I don't usually end up wearing bright colors in combination. A single bright color? Sure! But three is a bit much for my earth tone wardrobe. So I decided to spin up a bobbin of party dress and a bobbin of white merino superwash that I found at my local spinning shop, Stick & Stone Fiberarts, and ply them together. Perfect. The colors come through bright and clear, but are muted just enough by the white, spongy merino to coordinate with other things in my closet. Honestly, the party dress roving is so pretty that if I couldn't use it for myself I would knit it into something for one of the numerous children in my life, but post-Christmas I am a little gifted out, so it is nice that I can selfishly dedicate the roving to myself!

PartyDressCIMG3590.jpg PartyDressSwatchIMG_0323.jpg

Birth of a Superskein, Swatch of a Superskein...

I love the results. I got so engrossed in spinning party girl that I just couldn't stop. The resulting skein is - as you can see - HUGE. It swatched quite nicely, too. I am not sure if I will knit it into something using the 2 by 3 broken rib in the swatch or something else, but I am definitely inspired to start contemplating what this yarn could be. I've only spun about half of the roving I have and already have 180 yards of aran-weight yarn. It feels like there is real potential to get a substantial finished object out of the party dress roving. So far this fiber club thing seems like a great plan!

[See what the spunky club has been doing with this fiber.]
Posted by Julia at 10:17 AM | Comments (7)

December 24, 2007

Orange Camo Christmas

At 4:57 p.m. on Saturday I ran gasping into the Fedex Kinko's and mailed off the last of my handmade gifts. The guys at the counter laughed at me, but assured me that my box would get put on the truck - although it would be the very last one. The recipients of said gifts, Ma and Pa T., are avid readers of this blog (well, at least Ma T. is, I'm not sure that Pa T. could survive the excitement of reading about knitting), so that is enough said until Santa has safely made his way to their house tonight and the gifts have been opened.

Bird's nests. A camouflage Christmas bouquet.

Singles on the bobbin.
Although it is fun to read about all you crazy knittin' folk running your fingers into the ground until all hours of the night (and early morning), I don't enjoy doing it myself. God forbid that I miss the big deadline, because a gift unmade at Christmas is a loathesome thing - I could never get myself to return to knitting it for the incredible resentment of the obligation. I have been smart enough to limit the handmade gifts to two per year, which keeps the level of insanity at a dull roar, but after the outright panic that I inflicted on myself this year, I've decided to go to an even lower-key system next year. I'm doing no handmade gifts, and will instead spend the season knitting Christmas gifts and ornaments for someday. That way I can enjoy seasonal knitting, look forward to giving handmade gifts sometime in the future, and be stress-free.

M's homemade sushi. Heaven.
Anyhoo, this is all a long way of saying that on Saturday night I found myself quite happily unoccupied. No work. No obligatory crafting. (That should be a four-letter word, "obligatory crafting.") No cooking. (Moxie kindly went to Little Tokyo and picked up the ingredients for his famous homemade sushi - yum!) So I pulled out the Rose and a tube of merino that Marnie and I picked up in Solvang on our Portland Roadtrip, and began some pre-drafting festivities.

Looks strangely like the sushi, no?
Pretty soon I began to realize that the color sequence in the tube was very likely to produce something akin to orange camouflage. But I was curious, so I persisted, and pre-drafted about half of the fiber into nests with four nests for each color. I spun half of the nests going in one direction on the "color wheel" and half on a second bobbin moving in the opposite "color wheel" direction. Each bobbin has two repeats of its individual sequence. Then I plied them together, and found that yes, an orange-olive camouflage-colored yarn was indeed produced by this combo, but I kind of like it. I'm not sure exactly what the heck I can knit with it, but it is pretty unique.

Orange Camo plied on the Rose. Just because.

The best part about the whole thing was that I got back to the (meager) level of spinning expertise that I acquired the last time I was spinning regularly. This is pretty nice, because I've done some "playing around" spinning in the interim that was piss poor, and I wasn't so sure that I would ever get back that feeling of simultaneous relaxation and focus that practiced spinning can provide. Even better, I feel like I am beginning to learn a little more. Some of the lessons that the fiber has to teach are sinking in and I'm beginning to employ some real techniques rather than just hacking my way through. Very exciting. Merry Christmas to me. And Merry Christmas to you, too. I'll see you on the flip side.

Posted by Julia at 07:12 AM | Comments (5)

February 14, 2007

State of the Rose

I know that some of you must be curious to know what is going on with the spinning projects. I've been doing much more knitting than spinning lately, both because I have been captivated by the projects I'm knitting, and because my fiber stash is in a place where I don't have too much that I feel I can play around with without having a plan. Right now I feel like playing when it comes to spinning. I have knitting plans; I don't want spinning plans. In between my knitting projects, I have played around here and there with a bit of merino that I got at the Santa Monica Fiber Festival last summer. Marnie spun a bit of it, too, when she was out here for work a few weeks ago. Here's what it looks like so far:

The first ply

This is a sister fiber to the lovely "mud" roving that I spun up in the fall. You might think that I would make more of an attempt to prepare it differently, but in this case I'm looking for the subtle variations of the "mud."

I have a bad habit of hoarding my handspun rather than knitting it. I have recently been reminded of the great error of my ways by Mary Heather, who I taught to spin in September. MH has not only taken to spinning like a fish to water, she has already gone on to complete her first handspun project (which is freakin' gorgeous!) and has plans for a second. Although I have started two handspun projects, both will have to be ripped (more on that later), so I still haven't finished a darn thing!

I keep telling myself that I hoard because I have been spinning such small quantities of each fiber and that I need to spin more before I have enough skeins that will work together in a finished piece. I have an idea for a handspun turtleneck based on a wonderful sweater from last winter's anthropologie catalogue, and I think I have several skeins so far that I can dedicate to that piece. My hope is that this skein will coordinate with those as well. I think that the more colors I add, the more likely it will be that no single color will stick out like a sore thumb. At least that seems to be the principle that the great color artists like Kaffee Fassett and Brandon Mably operate on. We'll see how well it works out for me. I generally work more with shape and texture, and don't consider myself particularly talented when it comes to the multi-chromatic word. This will be an adventure.

Posted by Julia at 09:14 PM | Comments (6)

November 08, 2006

I've Been Nupped!

Seriously, people. The next time I offer to write up a tutorial on anything, will you remind me to shut the hell up? Because honestly, no good deed goes unpunished. Offering to write up a tutorial on how to make sure you have enough yardage is really just a fancy and foolish way of asking, no begging, to run out. (Declaring that you have spun koigu probably doesn't help, either. I have a lot to learn from koigu.) So here it is, in pictoral format, my tutorial on how to ensure that you have enough yardage:

Look familiar?!

Go back to the freaking wheel and spin some more. Even if you have to order $2 worth of roving to do it. Suck it up, stop being such a scrooge, and for gosh sakes throw away that damn spreadsheet. Just make (or buy) enough yarn.

As you can probably tell from the title of this post, it was the nupps on the Swallowtail Shawl that got me. I am pretty confident that for the most part, my intricate spreadsheet that indicated I would have enough yarn if I made only a few little tweaks and cut out two of the initial repeats was right. The thing is, that even that estimation told me I was cutting it very, very close. And each nupp requires about 5 more stitches than the average stitch - 4 extra go-rounds and another stitch to account for the fact that you have to make them loosely and the stitch that brings all the yo's together is a fat one. And 5 stitches times 5 nupps per branch times about 40 branches (or something like that - I'm done counting!) is, well, a lot. It takes up some yardage.

I don't want to admit how much time I have spent tweaking this pattern and crunching numbers to somehow try to get a Swallowtail Shawl out of 290 yards of fingering. And what for? It is a small shawl to begin with. Why make it so tiny that I can't even wear it?

I realized that I had a problem the other day when my best friend and I were discussing knitting the Marseilles Pullover together. I was going through my mental rolladex of stash and trying to figure out which yarn I had exactly enough of, and eliminating any possibilities that would leave me with too much leftover yarn - say, 25 yards! And I do this all the time. When I make a scarf, I cut the fringe near the beginning of the project, so that I can knit, knit, knit until the bitter end. I weigh my socks in progress, so that they use up as much of the yarn as possible. I did this with the River Stole, too. For many of my projects, I end up making modifications so that I can use some stash yarn that I don't have quite enough of. When the lace leaf pullover was done, I had a four-inch tail left. Almost scary, isn't it?

The thing is, I know myself well enough to know that I will never really learn my lesson. I like spreadsheets, and I like having inches of yarn left when I finish a project. It's just the way I'm wired. But I am going to give in and do the sensible thing with this shawl, because it is my first handspun project and I want it to be great. And I've chosen another yarn for the Marseilles Pullover, so I'm pretty sure that I have plenty of yardage for that. I may even have just enough to eek out a coordinating hat. Hmmm. Maybe I should make a spreadsheet....

Posted by Julia at 06:06 AM | Comments (23)

October 23, 2006

Knitting, Spinning, Family

The Knitting:

SwallowtailCIMG6265.JPG SwallowtailCIMG6267.JPG

Swallowtail shawl in merino tencel handspun: far and near.

It's going well. I thought that I might be a bit short on yarn, so after I finished the tenth repeat, I weighed the yarn I had used (40 grams) and the yarn I had left (75 grams). Then I made a spreadsheet to determine how many total stitches a full swallowtail shawl would take (18,583), and how many stitches I could expect to get out of 115 grams of yarn (~15, 900). I determined that if I took out two budding lace repeats I would have enough yarn, and that if I simply added two rows with 4 yarnover increases before changing to the next lace pattern, I would have the correct multiple of stitches for the following lace patterns. This shawl was actually pretty ammenable to tweaking, so I really lucked out. I'm sure that what I wrote here sounds pretty complicated, but it's doable. If enough people are interested, I'll write up a tutorial on adjusting this type of shawl sometime. You never know when you'll need to double-check yardage and re-adjust. It sounds dull as dust, but I'm happy to forego the excitement of running out of yarn close to the end.

My adjustments may very well make the shawl too small to be practicable to wear, but I've decided I'm enjoying it so much that I don't really care. If I can't wear it, I'll frame it. It's a lovely pattern and a really nice use of the yarn. I'll let you know if it's wearable or not, though, just in case someone else has 290 yards of fingering that they're considering using this way.

The red sparkly Christmas beret is almost finished, right on schedule.

This is an easy knit. No thinking, no tweaking, nothing. Perfect for a gift, and completely season appropriate. Normally I shy away from sparkly, but this really appeals to me, and the person it's for does sparkly quite well.

The Spinning:

Heart's Content: 80% merino, 20% bombyx silk from Chameleon Colorworks.

I spun this at the spin-in at my house on Saturday. It's only 57 yards, but I should eventually be able to incorporate it into a project with some other handspun. I love the colorway, and especially after washing, it is really soft.

The Family:

The crew, hanging out in bed the morning after the spin out.

We never used to allow the dogs (we had two) in bed, but now that Caia is an elder, we just put an old quilt on top and let her sleep wherever she wants. The night of the spin-in she insisted on sleeping with me, and when I finally woke up, exhausted and dazed, I found that I was under a pile of furry love. I slept in that little corner at the top! It's amazing the way the kitties pile on when Caia is in the bed. They find the tiniest crevasse and wedge themselves in. Not much sleep, but a lot of love.

Posted by Julia at 06:56 PM | Comments (18)

October 22, 2006

Postcard for Marnie

AndreaIcarusCIMG6224.JPG NonnahsBeretCIMG6216.JPG LoriMJMessCIMG6225.JPG LoriCupcakeCIMG6210.JPG MHGnomeCIMG6212.JPG FrancescaSpindlesCIMG6209.JPG NonnahsAndreaCIMG6220.JPG MHGnomeCIMG6214.JPG

Dear Marnie,

We just wanted to let you know that we miss you! We did much knitting and spinning in your honor, from 2 p.m. to 12 a.m. (!!!) yesterday. Much sugar, and some healthful foods, were also consumed on your behalf. Here are some of the highlights, top to bottom, left to right: Andrea shows off her recently completed Icarus shawl; MH chills with MJ's gnome; Nonnahs gracefully models one of my Christmas berets; Francesca shows everyone how it's really done on a spindle; Lori and MJ try to sort out Lori's handspun for Andean plying; Nonnahs and Andrea discuss the finer points of Icaurs' lace border; Lori enjoys one of Nonnahs' homemade cupcakes with buttercream frosting; MH checks under the gnome's beard to see what's on offer!

Not pictured are Kat (who I only photographed holding knitting for publication!) and myself. We also took a few group shots, but those are on my Contax, so we have to wait a few days to get the film developed. We can't wait to see you! Get here soon!

Love, Us

Posted by Julia at 12:08 PM | Comments (10)

October 20, 2006

Hemingway & Faulkner

I've heard it said that if you want to write, you should read all of Faulkner, and then read all of Hemingway to get the Faulkner out of your system. The styles of these two greats are well-known for being at opposite ends of the writing spectrum, and I enjoy them both. (Though if I had to pick, I'd take Faulkner.) This quote found its way into my head after the long ordeal of spinning the raspberry merino tencel was over. After all that precision, concentration, patience, and striving for evenness and perfection, I wanted to spin something positively organic. (Okay, so this is more like reading Hemingway and washing it down with Faulkner - bear with me.) First, I pulled out my Maggie spindle:


Mystery roving from Spunky Eclectic.
This was definitely an experience on the road to satisfying, and it was fun to play with a spindle again, but it was just a little wisp of roving (maybe an ounce?) and I was looking to make a big hank of soft, fluffy, thick and thin yarn, and really have some fun. So I pulled out the Rose, put it on the slowest ratio on the big whorl, and spun up the last few ounces of the chocolate-covered cherries bfl which was my very first roving purchase ever last year and the first thing that I really spun into something approximating yarn. The ChocCherries bfl has brought me good luck. It was also the first roving I spun on my Rose.


Treadling with Townes on board.
When you are first spinning, more experienced spinners will look at your lumpy yarn and tell you that at some point you will have to work to achieve thick and thin like that, and that you should appreciate not having to work for it now. (Due to woeful inexperience, no less!) I've taken this to heart and made note of exactly what it was that I've done "wrong" to produce such incredibly large slubs, so that I could later reproduce them at will. If you're just starting, take note - your own foibles put you in a position to learn a lot about making designer yarn. One of my favorite thick and thins from early on was this Tahiti handspun, which reminds me of Manos (but lumpier). I was going for an even more extreme, fluffy version. This is what I got:

ChocCherriesCIMG6206.JPG ChocCherriesCIMG6199.JPG ChocCherriesCIMG6202.JPG
So fluffy! So soft! So fun!

I'm going to set the twist using Priscilla Gibson-Roberts' method of simmering the yarn, but I'm waiting until I have a chance to hop over to the Goodwill and buy some old stockpots, because I think it's probably a bad idea to simmer dyed yarn in the ones we use for our soups and stews. I've been really impatient to knit with some thick and thin yarn, though, so in the meantime, I've pulled out my Tahiti skeins and started knitting a Christmas Scarf for my little niece, Sophie. I really like how it's coming along so far:

Zoom in, zoom out.

This is almost as good as reading The Bear.

Posted by Julia at 06:26 AM | Comments (13)

October 18, 2006

I Have Spun Koigu

I know. It probably sounds a bit boastful, and when I say it, I don't mean that you should all turn in your KPPPM and start begging me to spin for you. My yarn definitely has some "features" that you won't find in koigu, but that said it is shockingly similar. The funny thing is that it wasn't intentional, and that I didn't even notice until I started knitting with it. I just had a strange sensation of deja vu. And then it came to me. I had managed to spin something a lot like my absolute favorite yarn for socks. Happy, happy co-inckie-dink!


I cast on for the Swallowtail Shawl last night. Love it.

I think that the beginnings of the swallowtail shawl look remarkably similar to the beginnings of Charlotte's Web.* Oh happy, happy days. And can I just say that although I am only a wee bit into this Swallowtail pattern I am already hooked on it. It's totally fun, pretty and really easy to memorize. Now I just have to pray that I don't run out of yarn. It's going to be a very, very close call, but I'm optimistic. And I'm so into this shawl that I can't stop. May the knitting gods be with me. Tiffany, my spinning mentor from afar (Marnie was my spinning mentor from anear), is spinning and knitting this one with me. Tiffany, hon, you better spin fast. I'm so excited I may whip through this one despite all the other crap I should be doing.

Here's one last close-up for the knitters out there who are sick of all this spinning content:

See guys? I do still knit! Just with my own brew.

I have several other things on the needles as well, including another handspun project (check the sidebar if you're interested). I've just been so stoked about my handspun that it's been hard to make myself blog the knitting. In this case, it's two for one.

The State of the Koosher
I know that several of you have sent well-wishes to Caia, and I just wanted to let you know that she has improved a lot since last week. Caia is old enough (almost 14) that improvement means we may be able to give her a good quality of life for weeks, or if we're really lucky, months, and that is what we're going for right now. She's not in any pain, and she is still able to enjoy belly and ear rubs, chomping on a bone, and her favorite pastime, naps with Townes. I snapped this picture of them early this morning, before we headed in for her check-up with the vet:

Townes is obviously having blissful dreams of his true doggy love.

I love the way that these two often sleep in similar positions, or even mirroring each other. If there is anyone Townes is more devoted to than he is to me, it's Caia. It's a little bit like watching Pepe Le Pew and that poor black cat. Undying, almost suffocating, interspecies devotion. When we took Caia to the vet last week, we were very afraid that we were at the end, so we brought Townes along. He curled around her head on the exam table and stayed with her throughout everything - shots, having blood drawn - everything. Even the vet was surprised. He said he'd never seen anything quite like it.


*Okay, so that was a crappy Charlotte's Web picture, and never let us mind that I didn't ever get further than that on Charlotte's Web. That was what it looked like before I ripped it out!

Posted by Julia at 12:55 PM | Comments (20)

October 17, 2006

Raspberry Merino Tencel

Last week was rough. I pulled some pretty long hours preparing for a presentation in SF that I gave yesterday, and taking care of our sweet Caia girl, who is succumbing to age, despite our valiant efforts and her own. During the week there were only stolen moments of knitting and spinning here and there to maintain my sanity. So on Saturday, I allowed myself to have a complete and total Julia day. I spun the rest of my second bobbin of raspberry-colored merino tencel, plied the singles, spun another skeinlette on my maggie spindle, plied that on my pilchuck spindle, returned to the wheel to spin a wonderful thick and thin chocolate covered cherries singles, knit on one of my gift berets, and then knit some of my handspun for the first time ever. We take our Julia time seriously over here at chez MOW. It was blissful.

Two bobbins of merino tencel, side by side.

Although I know I'm famous for my long-ass windbag posts (and this will no doubt be one, too!), I'm not enough of a windbag to cover everything I did and saw this weekend (Sunday was another Julia day, spent in SF with Emily at the DeYoung Museum, but that, too, is another post), so I'll start with telling you about the raspberry merino tencel here.

The plied singles on the bobbin. This made me soooo happy.

As I've said before, the raspberry merino tencel project was my first somewhat longer-term spinning project on the wheel. Before this, everything that I've done could have been accomplished in a single day, albeit a long one. For this project however, I was going for a finer plied yarn than I've created in the past. The singles were so fine that it took me about 6 sittings to spin each bobbin, and I'd estimate that each represents about 8 hours of work at a minimum. The plying took me about 2 hours, and I was afraid that it was going to take a heck of a lot longer.

Moxie played the role of Margene (of whom he is completely and totally unaware) while I was plying. I was so excited to see the finished yarn I was almost jumpy - chomping at the bit. He kept reminding me that I was supposed to be enjoying the entire *process* and that I shouldn't be concerned about getting to the end product as much as enjoying the spinning that I was doing. I knew he was right, but I thought I was going to kill him. I wanted to see the yarn!

When I was finally done plying, I was left with less than two feet of unplied singles. This made me insanely happy, as I have an obsession with using every little bit of yarn - to the point where it is not unusual at all for me to come very dangerously close to running out of yarn on a knitting project. It's stupid, I know, and I always counsel people to buy more yarn than they need when asked, but I can't help it. I save everything, and I can't stand to have half-skeins of unused yarn hanging around.

Plied singles on my brand spanking new niddy-nosty from Amy at Spunky Eclectic. A truly wonderful tool.

I wound the skein onto my niddy-nosty (love this!) and ended up having about 290 yards of yarn. To be honest, I was hoping for closer to 400 yards, but still, this was almost three times as much as I've ever spun in a single skein, so it was still really impressive to me.

Here's the skein right off the niddy-nosty.
For a zoomed-out shot click here.

Because I had spun the singles over the space of two weeks, there was no way to tell whether the skein was balanced right off the niddy-nosty. (I warned Moxie of this, and his disappointment was palpable. He revels in the fact that I make him guess whether each and every skein is balanced, just prior to niddy-noddy removal. It is prime entertainment for the entire family.) Here it is all curly, but after wetting it hung straight, and is still straight after drying (I thwacked the hell out of it, but did not weight the skein). It looks balanced to me, though I'm sure that there are more experienced spinners who could chime in and let me know how to be sure. (Hint, hint - chime in!)

I love this skein. There are still thick and thin points, but overall, it represents the most professional-looking yarn I've made to date. I'm hoping to knit a shawl from it. I'm not sure that I'll have enough to make Evelyn Clark's Swallowtail Shawl (I've been drooling over Jared's since he finished it), but I'd like to give it a go. If anyone has a good approximation of how much fingering-weight yarn it would take to make the swallowtail, or even exactly how much lace-weight it took, I'd love to know. In the meantime, here are the stats for the yarn:

Fiber: Raspberry Merino Tencel (70/30)
Weight: 4 ounces
Source: Carolina Homespun
Wheel: Majacraft Rose, fastest ratio on the slow whorl
Yards: 290
WPI: 16-17 (fingering weight)

Posted by Julia at 06:15 AM | Comments (24)

October 09, 2006

She is (was?) Having Fun....

The pink and blue skeins are from the week before last - the yellow one is the Lemon Sherbet, which you've seen before. The pink and blue are Indigo Moon Brushstroke Batts - alpaca, merino & silk - procured for me by Cara, with guidance from Julia FC at last year's Rhinebeck festival. They are delectible. This week there will be very little spinning or anything else - work, work, work! But, in honor of the upcoming weekend in Rhinebeck, I thought you might like to see the before and after shots.



Cara, would it be too boring to ask for more of the same? I love this stuff!

Posted by Julia at 06:13 AM | Comments (14)

October 08, 2006

I'm a Twisted Sister Part II: How to Turn Pencil Rovings into Mud

When last we left my beautiful Rose Quartz merino roving, I was doing a little experiment to see how the roving would look if I split it lengthwise into several multi-colored pencil rovings and spun it up. If I had actually remembered what I read in the Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook, or perhaps gone back to reference what the workbook said, I might have known to expect a little mud. Being the intrepid ignorer of the wonderful books I read in preparation for such exercises, I did not. In so ignoring, I have re-invented the wheel and performed the experiment all over again, in living color (or not so much?) for you, dear readers. I give you mud:

But it's a rather lovely mud, isn't it?

Happily, I think mud might be the preferred color of choice in this case. When I purchased this roving, the name Rose Quartz seemed to fit it better than it does now. It had a definite overall pinkish sheen to it, with tons of other colors as little accents. Photograhed, it appears that purple is the dominant color, with strong accents of green, and when you ply it, that is really how it turns out. I know that I read somewhere that the best way to figure out which colors will dominate is to photograph the roving and see what dominates (I can't remember if this was in Twisted Sisters or not), and I'm here to tell you in this case, at least, it works. I like green, and I like purple, but honestly I *think* I'd rather have brown with accents of both than see the two try to compete in a barberpole yarn. We'll see for sure if that 's the case when I try to figure out how to get them to do that.

As promised, here are some shots of the process:

One of these bobbins is not like the other...

Here's a shot of the two bobbins prior to plying. The one that looks bigger actually weighs a smidge less. I like how the purple has a bluish cast here. It doesn't make it through the plying.

The plied yarn on the bobbin.

Here's what it looks like plied on the bobbin. This is where the brown effect really starts to sink in.

All niddy-noddied up.

When you view it from a distance on the niddy-noddy, the overall effect is a purpley brown. Subtle, and nothing like the original roving, which had a distinct lack of subtlety.

The dregs.

You might remember that I attempted to weigh out the roving so that I would have equal amounts of yarn in the singles with very little leftovers. Even if I had weighed everything perfectly (which is hard to do with a kitchen scale that does grams, but not tenths of grams), my uneven spinning would likely throw the lengths of the singles out of balance. And it did, but not by too much. I'm not sure exactly how much I have sitting there, because two weeks later it is still hanging out on the bobbin, but I'm guessing only about 5 yards at a maximum. It could be worse!

All skeined up and hanging out with the lantern.

Here's a final view of the skein in its native habitat. This was actually the heftiest skein that I have spun yet - a total of 140 yards. (Woo hoo!) Eventually, I will return to this roving and alternate ways to prepare it, but for now, I'm knee deep in several other rovings which have distracted me in the last few weeks. In the meantime, if you want to see the differences between spinning from pencil rovings and spinning from the fold, as demonstrated by a much more experienced spinner than myself, check out this post from the other Julia.

Posted by Julia at 06:44 AM | Comments (10)

October 04, 2006

Some Help for Achieving a Balanced Ply

The other day, Marnie wrote about how to check to see if your plied yarn is balanced while it is still on the spindle (or wheel). I found this really useful, and was suprised that I hadn't thought of checking my plies this way, especially since I know a similar trick for checking to see what your plied yarn should look like before you actually ply it. Sometimes the rudimentary things just don't filter down! Anyhoo, along that line of thought, I'm sharing the trick for checking to see what your plied yarn should look like in advance. For most, this will be old hat, but perhaps it will help a relative newbie (like me!).

Check your ply in advance in four easy steps.
1. Hold a length of yarn out taut from either your bobbin or your spindle shaft.

2. Place a pen (or any other lightly weighted household object with a hook) over the yarn.

3. Allow the yarn to spin until it slows and begins to spin in the opposite direction - don't let it actually backspin, or if it does, let it go back to "zero" where it isn't twisting in either direction.

4. Take a look at the twist - this is what your yarn should look like when it is plied!

The roving that I've been working with is a merino/tencel blend from Carolina Homespun. It's a little more slippery than what I'm used to, but oh, so nice. No pre-drafting is necessary with this stuff - just grab a hunk and spin.


My individual plies seem very fine, though, in fact, I think the yarn produced will be a DK weight when plied - we'll see. This is a longer project for me. Most of the rovings I've spun up thickly enough that I could easily spin and ply two ounces in one sitting. This roving will take 4 to 6 sessions, depending on how long I spin each time. It's a real exercise in patience, as I am dying to see the finished yarn.

TownesCIMG6067.JPG Here's the roving in its original state, with my patient little boy in the background.

This was a long spinning session for the Nounie as well. He loves to sit close by and watch the wheel spin. (When I knit, he sacks out on my lap.) This morning, I spun for so long that he fell asleep at his post by my flip-flops. He is so sweet it hurts my heart a little to look at him.

TownesCIMG6070.JPG "You're hurting my heart, little boy."

Townes, on the other hand is completely un-sentimental and non-plussed:

"I'm asleep mom."

TownesCIMG6074.JPG "No, really. I am."
Posted by Julia at 06:30 PM | Comments (9)

September 24, 2006

When Something Orange This Way Comes

Another balanced yarn? I'll fix that!
TownesCIMG5876.JPG TownesCIMG5880.JPG TownesCIMG5886.JPG TownesCIMG5906.JPG TownesCIMG5908.JPG TownesCIMG5909.JPG TownesCIMG5910.JPG
Cute, but not exactly recommended.
I particularly like the photo where he's using his back foot for leverage. He is nothing, if not determined, the little stinker.
Posted by Julia at 06:56 AM | Comments (24)

September 23, 2006

I'm a Twisted Sister, Part I: Roving vs. Singles

We're quickly approaching my one year spinniversary, the day that Shirley and I learned to spindle spin under the tutelage of Marnie. When I decided that I wanted to learn to spin, I sought out the advice of Tiffany, whose gorgeous spinning I really admired. Tiffany responded with a great list of books and resources and a care package of fibers to play with. Her number one book pick was the Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook, and it was the very first spinning-related book I purchased.

RoseQuartzCIMG5847.JPG "Rose Quartz" merino from Carolina Homespun, still on the bobbin of my Majacraft Rose.

The Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook will not teach you about spinning per se, and honestly, the best pamphlets I've seen on spinning itself are the free pdfs offered by spin-off, but it delves rather extensively into dyeing, roving preparation, and sock knitting and is incredibly inspiring. I devoured the whole thing in a weekend. I've been meaning to write a review of it for some time, but for the moment I will just tell you one of my favorite things about the book.

The section on roving preparation is very, very thorough, and emphasizes the benefits of taking the time to carefully divide and pre-draft your roving.

RoseQuartzCIMG5854.JPG Here's what my Rose Quartz merino looks like before any preparation.

The author, Lynne Vogel, talks about how she spends a great deal of time considering the roving itself and whether to spin from pencil rovings, created by dividing the roving length-wise, or to spin from the fold, a cross-section of the roving. She determines how long she wants her color repeats to be, whether she wants to spin a singles or a plied yarn. She does all this while simply looking at the roving and contemplating what it might be. The choice of how to prepare the roving will greatly affect the look of the yarn that you produce, and Lynne shows us the differences in beautiful color photographs.

RoseQuartzCIMG5857.JPG For my first skein of Rose Quartz, I made individual pencil rovings and rolled them into bird's nests.

For me, seeing the Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook's pictures of finished yarn next to the roving that produced it was very akin to what I experienced as a new knitter when I could actually see different yarns worked up into swatches. Before you have experience with a given fiber, color, or technique, it can be hard to envision what the result of your efforts will be. (Hence my first lace scarf that I designed using lovely, but thick tweedy wool - not a huge success. Now, I think I could probably finesse a tweedy wool into a lovely lace scarf, because I know the rules and can break them in new and interesting ways. Then, it was just a mess!)

RoseQuartzCIMG5859.JPG See the vast differences in coloring between the individual pencil rovings?

This particular roving is dyed with long runs of lengthwise color, so when I separated it for spinning prep, I ended up with pencil rovings that vary from one another pretty significantly. The result is a pretty obvious transition between one pencil roving and the next on the bobbin, which you should be able to discern in the top photo. I have always spun from pencil rovings, primarily because I find this the easiest way to manuever on my spindles, but I thought that this time I would experiment, and see what kind of a difference spinning from the fold would make in the final yarn. I believe that spinning from the fold will give the yarn a much more subtle, heathered color, as the individual color runs will mix more rapidly, but we'll see.

RoseQuartzCIMG5855.JPG Here's a view of the spun singles next to the roving. Would you have known it would come out this way?

I'm on the second bobbin of pencil rovings right now. Either tomorrow or later today I'll ply the yarn (I'll take pictures of the effects of that, too), and then next week we'll see how spinning from the fold works out.

Oh, and if you are wondering about the scale in the bird's nest photos, I use it to determine how much fiber to prep for each bobbin. Theoretically, if you use the same amount of fiber each time, you should not have any leftovers once you ply the yarn. In practice, I'm so new to spinning and to the wheel, that the difference can be significant, but that makes it a good measure of my consistency (or lack thereof!) and spinning progress. I'll take shots of that, too, if you promise not to laugh too hard!

Posted by Julia at 06:50 AM | Comments (10)

September 19, 2006

Crater Lake

It's hard to believe that Crater Lake is so far behind us now. It seems like a lifetime and yet only a day. I had a hard time deciding which pictures to post, since there are so many I like, so I opted for a lot. Eventually, I will put up a gallery, so that I don't have to choose. The last thing I'll say, is that we were in Crater Lake at the time that Episode 34 of Cast-on aired, which was significant to me. In that episode, Jennie Spotila spoke about her knitting, her disability, and her remembrance of Crater Lake with such eloquence and poignancy that I will never forget it. For me, it crystallized a beautiful day in my life and made it so much more. Thank you, Jennie. If it is possible to enjoy such things vicariously, I dedicate these pictures, and the spirit of our happy day to you. I am so glad that you saw Crater Lake when you could.

CraterLakeCIMG5482.jpg CraterLakeCIMG5470.jpg CraterLakeCIMG5501.jpg
CraterLakeCIMG5507.jpg CraterLakeCIMG5451.jpg CraterLakeCIMG5513.jpg CraterLakeCIMG5474.jpg CraterLakeCIMG5480.jpg CraterLakeCIMG5483.jpg CraterLakeCIMG5453.jpg
CraterLakeCIMG5495.jpg CraterLakeCIMG5455.jpg CraterLakeCIMG5487.jpg

Jennie's essay is also posted here, but you should listen to it if you can as well.

Posted by Julia at 06:30 AM | Comments (15)

September 18, 2006

Perfectly Balanced

Not me - the skein! Now I know that this is not always going to happen, and in fact, may rarely happen again, but please take a moment to revel in the fact that my second skein of yarn off the Rose is perfectly balanced. Overspun, thick and thin, yes, but perfectly balanced.

PinkLemonadeCIMG5756.JPG Not the most artistic photo I've ever taken, but you can see the balance. It's so freaking great, I can't bring myself to wash it.

This was one of the few times that a shout out to cyber space simply was not enough. I called both Marnie and Andrea, e-mailed Tiffany and Cara - why the hell don't I have your phone numbers? this is ridiculous! - and would have searched madly for MJ's number in my inbox if I hadn't known full well that she was hanging off some cliff face in Utah having "fun". It was just one of those times when I needed you guys in the flesh, rather than on the net - which is always darn great in itself.

PinkLemonadeTownesCIMG5758.JPG PinkLemonadeCIMG5764.JPG PinkLemonadeCIMG5766.JPG
With Townes, for scale.

Also, Mia asked for a review of the Rose in the comments to my Wheelspun post. I feel somewhat inadequate - okay, very inadequate - to do this, simply because I am so new to wheel spinning. But, I'm not going to let that stop me. I have tried a LOT of wheels in the last month (15 maybe?), so I will try to write up something based on my own experience and the very, very little that I know. Just remember to read it with that caveat. In the meantime, I can tell you that the Rose is my wheel of choice. So much so, that instead of sending it back to The Weaver's Cottage, I'm sending those guys my hard-earned cash. Well, mine and Moxie's. He's paying for half as a Christmas/Birthday present. You knew he had to be nice sometime to make up for all those "witticisms," didn't you?

Posted by Julia at 03:07 AM | Comments (14)

September 17, 2006

Pink Lemonade

Moxie: "Where do you get all these colors? It looks like Cotton Candy....."


[wait for it]

"That someone peed in."

Pinewoods, Tina's Hand Painted Fibers Lemon Sherbet Blue-faced Leicester, procured at the 2005 Rhinebeck Festival by the lovely Cara. Even Moxie admits that this roving is much more evenly spun than the last. With the Chocolate-Covered Cherries, my aim was simply to get used to spinning and to create enough yarn to ply. With the Lemon Sherbet - more Pink Lemonade to my thinking - I'm going for an even yarn, that is a little less overspun to ply into DK to sport weight sock yarn for footies. I think I've got it!

Posted by Julia at 05:03 AM | Comments (13)

September 16, 2006


In a matter of days - hours, maybe - fall has come to Southern California. For the middle of the day, this means we have temperatures like coastal Canadian summer days - 70's and sunny, dry and perfect. The main changes occur in the night, causing dusk and dawn to be pleasantly chilly. I've put aside my flip-flops for my shearling booties, and this morning, I had to grab Clementine out of the closet to keep cozy, since I refuse to close the screen door or the windows.

ChocCherriesCIMG5664.JPG The first real skein spun and plied on the Rose.

This one's for Marnie.
This happy chill brings on thoughts of real, stovetop cocoa (like my mother used to make with real milk and baker's cocoa, but doctored with a cinnamon stick, vanilla, and a dash of cayenne if Moxie isn't drinking), comfort foods (for me this means huge vats of Indian okra and pulses from the pages of Madhur Jaffrey, God bless her!), and wool - much, much wool. So after finishing up Thelma and wearing her to death, this week I laid aside my knitting and just spun, spun, spun.

Over the last month, I have tried a lot of wheels, and I have even spun up a skeinlette here and there. But this is the first time I've really had to sit down at the Rose - rented from The Weaver's Cottage - and spin a really big hank of yarn. So as not to overwhlem Moxie, who fears that I may be spontaneously transported back to the 17th century where I obviously belong ("Who invited Holly Hobbie into our living room?"), I spun one bobbin of Amy's Chocolate-Covered Cherries each night, and waited until a third night to ply them.

I have to admit that for a while I had to tell myself that it was all about the process. My singles were clearly, seriously, way overspun - so much so that I had little dreadlocks popping up on the bobbin. And the situation didn't improve much with plying, nor did it look better on the niddy-noddy.

Moxie: "Wow! Your first ugly chunky yarn! Tell me again why you wouldn't just buy that finished rather than spending $700 on a wheel? What are you going to knit with that - a hammock?"

Me: "Yes!" "A banana hammock - for you! I may strangle you with it in your sleep."

We have a special love, Moxie and I.

But then I tied it off and took it off the niddy-noddy, and everything changed. I won't tell you this is like blocking lace, because honestly, this stuff really is a poor specimen of yarn. The thing is, I love it and I don't care. To me, it looks like designer yarn. I can easily see Colinette selling stuff like this for $30. It's freaking gorgeous. And it's not even too unbalanced, if you look at the shot on the lanterns. The only sticking point is what to knit with it. Perhaps a Christmas gift for Moxie. Heh, heh.

ChocCherriesCIMG5662.jpg ChocCherriesCIMG5665.jpg ChocCherriesCIMG5660.jpg

Posted by Julia at 07:39 AM | Comments (17)

September 01, 2006

When you run out of bird on an Andean Ply...

AndeanPlyCIMG5532.jpg Make use of that fourth finger!

Sometimes you have to utilize the odd ends that evolution leaves you. I always knew that finger had a purpose.

This little bit of yarn is the product of some time in front of a lovely Schacht Matchless for a few hours last night with Satchi and Andrea at Stick & Stone. Satchi took a few pictures.

Posted by Julia at 12:15 PM | Comments (6)

August 21, 2006

Santa Monica Fiber Fest

JuliaMorgaineCrop5272.jpg Spinning on a Majacraft Rose under the expert tutelage of Morgaine.

Sweet alpaca.
I have been incredibly spoiled the last few weeks. Last weekend, I went to a spin-in at Andrea's and spent the whole day (and much of the night) surrounded by really talented spinners. I got to try out MJ's Lendrum DT and Andrea's Kromski Minstrel, which was so fun. I was the second least experienced spinner in the room, so I had an opportunity to check out a variety of great spinning techniques. It was bliss.

This past week, I have been completely spoiled with Marnie occupying our guest room and joining me in ultra-crafting adventures every day. KnittingRing5224.jpg
Knitting Ring.
On Saturday, we made our way over to the Fabulous Fiber Fest in Santa Monica. This was the perfect fiber festival for me. There weren't an overabundance of vendors - there were one or two very nice vendors for each type of material - beads, buttons, fiber, yarn, fabric. I loved it because I didn't have to wade through a lot of wares or people. There were a select number of vendors of incredible quality, and the crowds were manageable. It was fun without being overwhelming.

Prize shawls.
Although I don't usually blog about my purchases, I'm considering doing it for this festival. The things that I got are just too special. If I'm still feeling the vibe after my trek to Portland, I will at least post a list of my favorite vendors - they are too good not to share.

For now, I'll just hit the non-vendor highlights of the festival. We were greeted by three lovely Alpaca outside the Convention Center. I have long wanted to have a small herd of my own, but this little group of animals really cemented that feeling. They had the sweetest faces. The Alpaca were escorted to the festival by the women of Fleece Unlimited - a new group of women Alpaca Ranchers.

Claudin & Andrea.
Another wonderful sight outside the festival was a ring of three women all knitting the same piece with three circular needles. Each woman knit with one end of the circular needle to the left of her and one end of the circular needle to the right of her, so no one ever had to move - genius!

Once inside we were able to locate the area where the shawls for the Spindlicity contest were displayed, including our own Marnie's shawl (the orange shawl on the right). Andrea5243.jpg
Andrea spins!
I am glad that I didn't have to choose. Each shawl was lovelier than the last, and the fact that they were all handspun original designs blew me away.

In addition to all the wonderful sights, we were surrounded by good friends. We met up with Caroline, who we met at Andrea's spin-in the previous weekend, and then ran into Andrea as well, who brought her beautiful sister Claudin along for the fun. Claudin didn't craft before, but I think she's ready to start now.

Marnie spins!
Marnie attracted many on-lookers and wanna-be spindlers by spinning some beautiful fiber on her Golding spindle, and even enticed Andrea to try her Golding out.

Personally, I got lost in the wheels. My blogging pal and spinning enabler Tiffany recently made the wise observation that I would know my wheel when I saw it, and I think she's right. I got to try out a Majacraft Rose from Carolina Homespun. I loved the wheel and got a lot of special attention from Morgaine, so unless I fall to the siren call of the Schacht Matchless, I will be getting the Rose from Carolina Homespun in December when I go back to San Fran for work. Yippee!

P.S. If any of you have wheel preferences and experiences that you want to share in the comments, I would be thrilled! Until December, I will be window shopping.

Posted by Julia at 01:28 PM | Comments (25)

August 09, 2006

Still Spinning

GoFlyAKite5165.jpg Go Fly A Kite Merino Top from Amy Boogie's Spunky Eclectic shop

Merino singles spun on my Cascade Cougar spindle and Andean plied upon itself using my Cascade St. Helens spindle. Plying does hide a multitude of sins. Read more here. Good times.

Posted by Julia at 07:31 AM | Comments (6)

January 13, 2006

I told you I was a little addicted

This is Cougar, the third of my three Cascade Spindles from Spunky Eclectic, weighing in at a mere 0.5 ounces:

GoFlyAKite 001.jpg The wildflowers bfl (DK to worsted, 79 yards) is for scale.

This is a really delicate, lovely little spindle. I was afraid that after using larger spindles to make chunky yarns it would prove difficult to work with, but the first spin went amazingly well. In addition to using a teeny tiny spindle for the first time, I tried a new fiber as well. Prior to this, I'd been sticking to bfl (Blue-Faced Leicester for the not yet initiated), due to its reputation for being dummy-proof.

GoFlyAKite 003.jpgWith Cougar I stepped out and tried some of the lovely "Go Fly a Kite" merino roving that Amy sent me as an extra with the spindle. Contrary to my belief, the merino wasn't hard to spin at all. It's got a lovely feel to it that I can only describe as "sproing". I only have two ounces, so I'm going to spin it into very fine singles and then Andean ply it for sock weight yarn. I have several rovings like this already in my stash, where there's enough to get excited about but not enough to do a lot with, so my plan is to spin them up and eventually meld them together to make some scrappy socks.

Posted by Julia at 08:30 AM | Comments (11)

January 10, 2006

Wildflowers and Southern Snow

One of the things I've been sneakily trying to do over the last few months is get rid of all the WIPs on my needles - sort of a naked sticks by 2006 without actually announcing anything (because, of course, it's 2006 already). I'm closing in on that goal. You may remember that I started a scarf for my friend Hope earlier this fall. I had to lay it aside for a few months while other projects took over, but after Christmas I picked it up again with a vegeance:

SouthernSnowfall004.jpg This photo doesn't do it justice. The yarn is not at all grey, but instead a lovely oatmeal.

I wanted to finish it for Hope's birthday (which was Sunday!), but I have absolutely no hope of blocking it until our furniture and towels arrive, so that's a no-go. Instead, I'm following my latest scarfy bliss and continuing to knit until it is very, very, almost obscenely long, and then adding some luxurious fringe, the way I did with my so called scarf. I think luxury is a great attribute in a scarf.

The photo above curls around to show the right side and the wrong side. I'm starting to think I may prefer the wrong side. It's got kind of a lacey, snowflakey thing going on that appeals to me.

After I finish off my Southern Snowfall Scarf - it's a freebie, so you guys will get the "pattern", too - the only project I have left staring me in the face is River. When I get to that point I'll decide whether to forge ahead and finish before picking up anything new or to let her languish on the back burner. At this point, I'm thinking River may get shelved, as I have some important projects coming up with and for friends and my MIL that will need attending to soon. For such a lovely looking project, River unfortunately engenders a certain ennui.

Oh yeah, I said something about Wildflowers in the title, didn't I? I've spun up almost all of my 4 ounces of Wildflowers bfl and it looks like this:

WildflowersSpun001.jpg Click here for a different view

This is even more thick and thin than my Tahiti and because I started spinning it a few months ago I stuck with the general plan and let it be overspun. This wouldn't be a problem if I decided to ply it, but I kind of like it as a singles yarn. Do any of you spinners out there have advice about knitting with overspun yarn? I've read that you can counteract overspinning by knitting through the back loop. At this point I could still ply, I suppose, but I think instead I will forge ahead and try the ktbl, unless you guys have other suggestions. Thick and thin and overspun aside, I love it! How fun!

Posted by Julia at 08:46 AM | Comments (17)

January 08, 2006

Sunday Spin?

And now there are two:


I have a little confession to make. Up until recently I have been in love with the idea of spinning. I've read several books on spinning and dyeing with relish, I've savored the process of choosing spindles and roving, but when it came down to the actual process of spinning itself, I've felt pretty inadequate.

TahitiCop4203.jpgWhen I think of a spinner in my mind's eye, I have a vision of a person who works in a continual motion, with the spindle in a constant and perfect rotation, fingers gently moving along the fibers making the most minute adjustments with ease. This vision has not been lessened by watching Marnie, who spins with a lovely fluidity, or Mindi, who got me started on my spindle, and is a beautiful spinner.

My own spinning is a slow, if not inelegant process. I am a regular park and drafter, and must confess to spending a lot of time "parked". I give the spindle a good whorl, park it and spend a good deal of time making adjustments to the roving - backspinning thicker parts, smooothing twist, predrafting long segments, backspinning and spinning again.

I don't often spin in front of others, particularly other spinners, because I feel like I have to justify my methods - "I'm new, if you were to watch a more experienced spinner they wouldn't do it this way," etc., etc. I can be quite the apologist.

TwoSpindles4227.jpg I've been spinning the Tahiti with my new spindle, a Cascade Mt. St. Helens, pictured in the thumbnail above. Here it is next to my trusty Cascade Pilchuck. The Mt. St. Helens is the smaller spindle. The Pilchuck is loaded with Wildflowers BFL, pictured again in the thumbnail below.

I'm not sure when the tide changed exactly, but sometime over the last few weeks, I became more comfortable in my spinning. When I say that, I don't mean that I've changed my methods much. I still spend a lot of my time in park. I'm just less embarrassed about doing so. I think one of the major reasons that I'm feeling more confident is that all of a sudden I can identify what amount of spin it will take to make a single balanced. It's not an easy thing to articulate, but I can now feel when the yarn has the right amount of twist to hold it together and not so much that it's loaded like a spring. It's a feeling akin to understanding whether a knit stitch is properly seated, and if it isn't, instinctively knowing to simply knit through the back of it rather than having to perform some more complex manuever on the needles to correct it.

WildflowersCopCloser4225.jpgI've also been reminded - by a few wonderful books which I'll write more about later and a new friend at the Knit Cafe - that spinning, like knitting, is a craft. What this amounts to for me is that there is not a right or a wrong way to spin, as long as a I achieve the results that I want and enjoy myself. I remind my beginning knitters of this in classes all the time and am constantly encouraging them to experiement and to make mistakes. Sometimes it is hard to take my own advice, I guess!

The two skeins of Tahiti BFL above are fairly balanced singles - the one in the foreground is a little more so than the one in the background. (I'm getting more consistent, but I still can't match skeins exactly.) These are my fourth and fifth skeins of yarn (and the first that I consider to be real skeins rather than "skeinlettes") and I'm pretty proud of them.

Like Marnie, I finally had a "D'oh!" moment and figured out how to measure yardage on these puppies. I unwind onto my leg - knee to foot and round again. To measure yardage, I measure the distance around, count the number of times I loop each hank, and multiply. These two skeins represent 2 ounces of roving and approximately 65 yards of finished yarn. With 4 ounces left to spin, I can look forward to 195 yards of Tahiti yarn. Now I just have to figure out what to do with it.

Posted by Julia at 09:38 AM | Comments (14)

December 30, 2005

Holiday Goodies

I was spoiled to death with fibery goodies this year, not the least of which included a new Cascade spindle (pictures later) and some lovely bfl that my MIL picked up from Amy's Spunky Eclectic Shop. I've already spun half the roving into this:

TahitiHandspun4143.jpg A little thick and thin, but I love it. It reminds me of Manos.

You might also notice a new scarf peeking in at the corner of the photo. More on that later!

Posted by Julia at 07:10 PM | Comments (10)

December 01, 2005

Spindlicity is Live!

JuliaDraftClose0044.jpgThe premiere issue of Spindlicity has hit the net! I know all you knitters are out there chomping at the bit to see the new issue of a certain mag of the Knitty persuasion, and I'm right there with you, but if you've ever considered spinning, you should definitely check out Spindlicity. It's a great new resource that promises to grow with you in your new fiber habits. Plus your knitting pals are in it. You can find my article on how to get started, and Marnie's (two!) cute patterns for your first handspun. And don't miss Janel's article on her attempt to make an Optim sustitute at home - it's the perfect example of just how intrepid spinners can be. Finally, there's a CONTEST! Spin and knit your own shawl and you can win a scholarship to SOAR. I am so in! (And I'm guessing someone else is, too!)

Posted by Julia at 03:43 AM | Comments (7)

November 28, 2005

The Monday Spin

SpinBanner3711.JPG For those of you who would like to see more fiber than shoe, click here.

Spinning this week has consisted primarily of the kind in the background. Now that I'm back at my favorite DC gym cycling with my grrls, I'm starting to remember the things that I liked so much about this place. It takes a while to make friends, and although I have wonderful fiber grrls in LA, I still haven't come close to making the cycling friendships that I cultivated here. Sunday was a particularly nice day for riding, so I suited up and went out into the cold (I've got a Mind of Winter, remember?) with my friend Bonnie and we did a lap or so around the National Arboretum. Our vigorous outing was punctuated by stops to check out the gardens, and ended with a tour of the Bonsai exhibit, which we had all to ourselves over a nice mug of hot cocoa and peppermint schnaps (Bonnie makes a mean cocoa). Later this week we plan to cycle at Mount Vernon. Life is good.

The cycling shoes pictured are my decade-old Nikes, which I've been using since my first foray into clipless pedals. After all this time, the left shoe came unglued, but Moxie, always the economical one, had at it with some adhesive cement, and it withstood the Arboretum ride quite well. We'll see how much more I can get out of these faithful friends.

The fiber is my San Capistrano BFL. This time I'm spinning it more finely, in the hopes that when I ply it, I'll end up with a nice aran to dk weight yarn. Perhaps I can get some hand-warmers out of it. I have it on good authority that the pattern for these beauties will be out in Spindlicity later this week. Perhaps I'll have to whip some up. Speaking of, Marnie isn't the only lucky girl to work her way into Spindlicity's Premiere Issue. Look for my article on my newly acquired hobby and pick up some tips on how you can get started, too!

Posted by Julia at 08:00 AM | Comments (4)

November 21, 2005

The Monday Spin

I've long enjoyed the ritual of the days of the week genre. At Alison's I get my Tuesday Knit-Along fix, on Fridays, a certain Curly-Haired Knitter sends out a postcard from NYC. It's good stuff. So I'm going to institute a little ritual of my own over here - the Monday Spin. This way, you'll get to see what my roving has turned into at least once a week. When I'm all out, you may just get pictures of me on a bike (in keeping with the "spin" theme). We'll just have to see.

Anyhoo, a few weeks ago I spun up my second and third skeinlettes, and hung them up to dry prior to heading out for DC. As promised, here they are:

Skeinlettes.jpg A little thick and thin, but cute overall. I like 'em!

The top is my first roving ever, the Chocolate Covered Cherries BFL from Amy King's Spunky Eclectic Shop. (If you buy a spindle from Amy before December 1, you'll get 2oz. to play with for free - it's a nice deal.) The bottom is the second BFL that I purchased, a (sadly) nameless, but beautiful colorway from Lori Lawson of Capistrano Fiber Arts Studio (also sadly, without a web link). It's so pretty I'll have to come up with a name for it. I brought the rest of my 4 oz. batts of Chocolate Covered Cherries and Capistrano BFL back to DC with me, because I am determined to spin all of my BFL and get some much needed practice before going on to more difficult spinning, like this:

CaraRoving.jpg If you know the right people you don't have to go to Rhinebeck. Rhinebeck will come to you!

The very generous (if slightly sock-crazed) Cara was kind enough to pick these goodies up for me at rhinebeck last month. Yummy! The lemon sherbet in the center is BFL, and it's flanked by two batts of gorgeous alpaca/merino/silk. Heaven. I can't wait to spin this stuff!

Posted by Julia at 05:34 AM | Comments (7)

November 09, 2005

First Steps - Spinning

This weekend I briefly attended the Southern California Handweaver's Guild Spinning and Weaving Festival in Torrance. It is the only shindig of it's type in my area, so as soon as I heard about it I made plans to head down. I didn't stay long, as I've been running myself ragged trying to get ready for an extended stint in DC with Moxie, but I did catch a quick glimpse of the charming MJ and I found enough time to scout out some wonderful roving.

My enablers were my new spinning friend Janel of Chameleon Colorworks (She'll be publishing a new on-line mag called Spindlicity in December, so look for it!) and Lori Lawson (one of the Twisted Sisters of sock fame), who runs Capistrano Fiber Arts Studio in San Juan Capistrano. Janel has just begun dying roving (though you couldn't tell by looking at it - her merino/silk blends are scrumptous), but Lori is established and sells her roving through La Petit Knitterie in Ladera Ranch, CA. I didn't think to snap pictures of my roving prior to packing it up Sunday night, but I did leave out one BFL roving from Lori's booth (along with my Chocolate Covered Cherries BFL from Amy Boogie) to spin with in DC. I was so inspired by the Festival that I spent the afternoon lounging and spinning my BFL (Blue-Faced Leicester - some of the easiest stuff to spin). Here are my skeinlettes nos. 2 and 3 hanging out to dry:


I'll post some pics of the dry skeinlettes once I get settled in. They're very cute, if not as perfect as Marnie's. Also, I owe both MJ and Marnie a Knitting Meme. That will most likely happen next week as well. Until then - knit (& spin!) on!

Posted by Julia at 12:16 PM | Comments (12)

November 01, 2005

First Skein-



Chocolate Covered Cherries hand-painted Blue-Faced Leicester from Amy (Boogie) King at Spunky Eclectic

S-twist single plied on itself using the Andean ply method with my beautiful Cascade Pilchuck Spindle. (For those looking for chocolate, this is from the blond portion of the roving. I think we'll see more chocolate soon!)

Posted by Julia at 06:03 AM | Comments (11)

October 17, 2005

Shirley Spins (and so does Julia)

I had an absolutely fiber-filled weekend, which included Friday night dinner and maniacal Griffith-finishing with Mary Heather, a full day of "work" at the Knit Cafe, and then a Sunday of spinning with Marnie. Marnie is an excellent instructor. Here she is teaching Shirley, my foster kitty, how to make magic with a drop spindle:

ShirleySpins3197.JPG Shirley is a fast learner. Notice how she perfectly mimics Marnie's technique.

I have to warn you up front that there are no pictures of me spinning, because I was so taken with Shirley that I had to drop everything and take an entire series of her first spinning attempts. Here's another cute one:

ShirleySpins3200.JPG Notice the funny position of the back paw. She's so intent that comfort goes to the wayside. This is what spinning does to you.

And, at Marnie's request, here's a close-up of Shirley from the same shot:

ShirleySpinsCrop3200.JPG When she saw this one, Marnie's first response was "Oh look, I think her eyes were even a little crossed!" Spinning is dangerously mesmerizing.

In between doting on Shirley and clicking away with the camera, I did manage to learn to spin, and I actually found it to be really fun. I wasn't frustrated at all, which I attribute to the fact that I was using a kick ass spindle. This is not to say that I didn't experience the usual beginner pitfalls. I put too much spin in the yarn, let the twist hit the drafting zone, and ended up with my very own "handspun":

BatBarf3202.JPG See Amy even new wool spinners can create "cat barf"!

I just had a heck of a time doing it. One more round with the brown batt and I'm moving on to the chocolate covered cherries bfl. Look out world!

Posted by Julia at 12:15 PM | Comments (21)

October 13, 2005

Spin me a yarn....

I knew it would happen eventually. I've gone over to the dark side:

SpindleBanner 018.jpg Witness the beautiful instrument of my undoing.

I have wanted to dye and spin yarn since I was a young girl (yes, I have always been a geek!), and recently I've found myself frequenting the blogs of virtual pals who spin and knit (like Tiffany and Boogie and Felicia). These women are so inspiring that I've found it hard to contain my interest in spinning. So, after a little careful budgeting, I e-mailed Tiffany to get some advice on resources for spinning. I expected her to send me a book title or two, but instead I got a wonderful e-mail full of links to great resources in book format and on-line. Tiffany has mentioned that she may make the e-mail into a post. I heartily recommend that you go over to Princess Knits right now and beg her to do so. It's fabulous information.

In this wonderful information-filled e-mail Tiffany reminded me that Amy King (aka "Boogie") sells spindles and roving in addition to her beautiful pottery in her on-line store Spunky Eclectic. The moment I read those words I was sold. I love Amy's pottery, I love (or is it envy?) that she makes her living in such a wonderfully creative way, and I was very excited to be able to purchase from an on-line friend. Looking over her stock, I was even happier as I discovered that she carries a beautiful line of handcrafted spindles from Cascade. The craftsmanship and quality of these spindles on a computer screen is impressive. In person, mine is pure heaven. If spinning with it is anything like the silly twirling around that I've been doing, I think I'm going to be really happy with my choice.

Since I know that you're dying to know, my spindle is the Pilchuck, made by hand out of maple.* Here's a closer view:

SpindleNotch 013.jpg Each spindle from Cascade is named for a mountain in the Cascade Range and marked with the comapny's mountain seal.

I should mention that I chose the day that Amy went in for her C-section to e-mail her about the spindle, and she still managed to get my order out to me within a week and a half. She even tucked in the 2 ounces of merino wool that you see pictured above so that I'd have a little extra something to play with. I would've waited a few months if necessary. That is customer service. Insane! I also purchased some of her handpainted Blue Faced Leicester Roving:

BoogieRoving 016.jpg It's called chocolate covered cherries. Yum! Click here for a close-up of the fibers.

But wait! That is not the end of the fibery tale. You may remember that I entered this contest a week or so ago and won this beautiful yarn:

TiffanySockYarn 012.jpg Can you believe that Tiffany was willing to part with this?

Since Tiffany knew that I was going to start spinning, she included a few other goodies in my contest package:

TiffanyRoving 015.jpg

There are little samples of different types of roving to play with, including a delicious red merino roving and a hand-painted roving, and some of Tiffany's handspun (the photo does not do it justice). There was even a bag of fine chocolates that I managed not to completely devour before photographing. (Chocolate is, we know, the Breakfast of Champions.)

I am so set. Now the only question is:


(Seriously. Feel free to include your opinion in the comments. Do I begin with merino or bfl? Undyed, because the dyed stuff is too pretty to mess up? But what if I want to dye the merino? I'm thinking I may start with the brown roving in the back. It's plain and "regular wool" which should mean its good to start with but not so special that I can't "ruin" it with my uneven first attempts.)

*Just in case you are wondering, Amy recommends either the Little Si or the Pilchuck for beginning spinners. Also, a wool or wool-blend roving is purportedly easier to spin than other fibers.

Posted by Julia at 12:05 PM | Comments (22)