Friday, October 26, 2007

I'b god a code

The kind that affects my head and throat, not cryptographers. It's not really that bad yet, but he had it last week so I know it WILL be. So I'm getting things done while I have the energy. I've done the shopping, stocked up on soup and the ingredients for soup, and stuff that will become a giant vat of stew so I can say "Never mind me, leave me to die here, there's stew in the refridgerator for your dinner". Nobly. You know :-)

There's also some knitting! First, Teyani was right (how could she not be, she dyed this stuff): the Chain of Fools 2-ply bloomed beautifully after washing and some serious whacking on the table. It's gorgeous.

It's soft and bouncy. And [blush] one of the senior Tuesday spinners looked at it wistfully and said she'd never been able to spin sock yarn like that, soft but with enough twist that it should wear well. I'm so proud! In my head my feet were dancing in my first pair of socks from my own handspun... then I realised he was actually looking at the finished yarn with more than interest. Intent, that's what it was. He's been showing interest all the way through, and I recognised the difference. "Do you want a pair of socks that look like this?" "Yes please". *sigh* Fortunately 8 oz of fibre yields a lot of 2-ply. I think there's enough for both of us. Thanks, Teyani!

But no more socks until these are finished (I'm on the ribbing). Here's a preview:

I love the back. I need to knit striped socks with garter stitch heels and toes.

And there's spinning. Never a dull moment, even when it's black and grey.

That's a UK 5p piece, which is about the same size as a US dime. And I'm sitting here grinning at that picture of my alpaca singles, just as I did when I started spinning the fibre. Which looks like this:
The mostly black with some grey/white is an alpaca batt (I think that's the right term) purchased
with the express intention of spinning lace at Woolfest from Norweft Alpacas. Lying on it is some hand-dyed silk top I fell for at Alexandra Palace. I saw it gleaming in the light and instantly thought of it glinting in the depths of the alpaca. It's interesting spinning, though: the strands are about 2' long and even after a lot of pre-drafting I couldn't persuade it to spin on the wheel, although the drop spindle deals with it easily. I have to evaluate my technique for this. Anyway. Here's the result of my experimentation:

Now, first of all I'm intrigued by the fact that this spinning lark has made me come over all scientific. On the card from left to right are freshly-spun singles, the singles plied back on itself, followed by the singles plied with the silk. Followed by notes on supplier and treadling during plying. I honestly didn't expect I'd have the patience for this sort of thing. I must want to be good at it :-) The mini-skein of the finished yarn IS soft; I was worried that I'd put too much twist into the singles, even though I had planned to run the entire contents of the bobbin counter-clockwise to another bobbin before plying, just to even the twist a bit, after watching the twist move on the yarn while taking a singles off a spindle. That's about 4m of the alpaca 2-ply entwined with 2m of the silk/alpaca blend, which seems about right: you may not be able to see it in the photo, but the silk catches the light occasionally, subtly. I was carrying the mini-skein around the house making excited noises when he asked what I was going to do with it. "Make lace" "Will you have enough?" I did some calculations. The 2-ply is about the same weight as Zephyr, perhaps a bit finer. I've got 250g of the alpaca. Yes, I'll have enough. I think I've got enough for about 5,000 yards of singles, 2,500 yds of 2-ply. Will I live that long? Who knows.

Lest you think he has no fun:
On Wednesday he collected his new bike (as in cycle). He's increasingly enthusiastic about cycling, clocking up 50+ miles per day on weekends and holidays in less than 3 hours, planning routes ever further afield. Our 10-speed tourers were good lightweight bikes when we bought them 25 years ago, but they're antiques now. Technology has moved on. For months I watched him poring over the specs of today's equivalents
or watching other cyclists. Eventually I pointed out that even an expensive road bike was a lot cheaper than most mid-life crises I'd read of: he should just buy one. I cherish the memory of his grin :-) The above was my attempt to preserve for posterity his first ride on his Scott CR1 Pro. He's too fast for the camera now!

So. I'm probably going to have a cold. I'll just have to make the best of it.
Which means sitting on the couch drinking hot liquid and knitting. Finish the Gairloch Socks, start the Chain of Fools for him. Play with New Pathways for Sock Knitters. And there's always Autumn Rose. I have the needles, the wool, the pattern; I just needed the time. I'm smiling again!

Monday, October 15, 2007


Now you see it.
Spinning wheel and lazy kate as I left them Sunday afternoon when the oven timer pinged to say my afternoon was over. I didn't even fill the bobbin! Note the chair pointing sternly, steadfastly toward work as it has all Monday morning.


Now you don't.
The results of my visit to the Knitting & Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace last Thursday.

I prepared properly by assembling a train timetable, packing lunch, collecting phone numbers for people I'd be meeting. I was told in no uncertain terms to buy spinning fibre to use on the new wheel (he decided to order the Schacht but it hasn't yet shipped), so I added this to the shopping list. I remembered to take the shopping list.

I made a strong start: I was one of the first people at Habu, so was able to collect everything on my list. I admit it was a long list, but no UK store stocks that variety of their yarns. Then I went *straight* to Jamieson's of Shetland for the Autumn Rose kit I'd been coveting since Eunny blogged about its creation. Then I just had time to gulp some water and buy 2 lengths of charcoal/bronze/grey silk top (sold for silk paper, but it will add interest to some charcoal alpaca fibre), some Finn fibre in three shades of grey for an icelandic shawl, and a length of beautiful blue merino/silk top from Fyberspates before it was time to meet TussahSilk at the Habu booth. Fortunately Takako was serving someone else (she'd said she wouldn't allow me to buy any more) so I was able to
add 500m of neutral bamboo laceweight and 2 cones of charcoal and rust silk-wrapped stainless steel (on sale!!) for a scarf I hadn't planned. Doesn't everyone wonder what it's like to knit with steel? And that was the start of the long slippery slope down which I tumbled, becoming entangled with 2 skeins of laceweight qiviut and some Suzanne's ebony circulars from Arnica apparently they became familiar with muskox and qiviut in Greenland. Look at her shawl designs; I was able to handle that Hyrna Herborgar, it's wonderful and three skeins of Dream in Colour Smooshy from Socktopus. Two for gifts, one for me. Alice (the owner) was enjoying the show but a bit worried by the speed at which yarn was disappearing from her shelves. I hope everything worked out, she had a lovely smile!

OK, that's the confession. I still feel quite remarkably confused about the qiviut. I love it, I am desperately looking forward to knitting it, but I didn't need it and it was relatively extraordinarily expensive.

Spinning. Ah, spinning. I love my drop spindle. I love spinning silk. I discovered that spinning in public is easier than knitting. The train's at your stop? Stuff everything in the bag and leave, you don't have to worry about dropping stitches or markers, finishing rows, remembering precisely what was going on. Got 3 minutes to spare? Pull out the spindle and continue. I spun on the train (to the polite consternation of the male commuters, who watched whenever they thought I was looking the other way), I gave a basketmaker her first spinning lesson in the queue to enter the hall, I spent lunch teaching TussahSilk how to spin, I spun while she started to learn continental knitting at 'Relax and knit'.

I devoted Sunday afternoon to spinning. I want to finish the 'Chain of Fools' superwash. He's been watching its progress with interest; on Sunday I asked whether he'd like a pair of socks that colour and the answer was a (for him) enthusiastic 'yes'. I filled two bobbins with singles twisted a little more tightly than I wanted (for the plying) and then a little more tightly still (to compensate for quickly feeding the singles counterclockwise onto another bobbin to even the twist). Here are the bobbins on the Louet Victoria's lazy kate with a loop of string to add more tension: the built-in tension on the lazy kate isn't enough to stop the bobbins unreeling madly.

And this is the end result:
I love the colour, I love the barber-poling. I started spinning to make sock yarn that looked like this! and then I fell in love with silk and laceweight and who knows where this affair will end...
I'm not sure about the weight, though. It looks a bit thinner than I wanted – I might have gone for a 3-ply if I could have put another bobbin on the lazy kate – but it should thicken a bit after washing/whacking/etc. The singles are more uneven than I'd thought, due to failure to concentrate on the length of singles mounted on card as a guide combined I think with the sheer length of time it's taken to spin. I suspect that for consistency in singles I should aim for occasional long sessions instead of odd half-hours. Mind you, I have an awful lot of very odd half-hours :-)

Monday, October 01, 2007

This is taking *forever*

Or at least I feel as though it is. That's part of the 'Shoulder Shawl in Cherry Leaf Pattern' from Victorian Lace Today, in Mini Maiden 'Periwinkle'. A rod for my own back: 'shoulder shawls' don't really appeal to me, I prefer something a little more like a hug (especially if it's to be a gift). So I added 5 pattern repeats. Which wasn't a problem, as the body stitch pattern is easily memorised. I was (I can't believe this) actually looking forward to my first knitted-on border, my first 'fully-fashioned' (ie pattern stitches on every row) lace. Gah. Only 12 rows, but can I remember them? I must have the pattern in view at all times. And it seems to exist in a parallel universe where time runs more slowly as soon as I pick up the needles: the rows are short, I seem to be constantly k-ingtbl into a shawl stitch, and yet the border creeps along more slowly than I'd have believed possible. The virulent green bit is another learning experience: the pattern called for a provisional cast-on, leaving the first row of stitches open and ready for a crochet border (I am so looking forward to that...). I decided that knitting a pattern repeat in a contrasting yarn would have the same result and allow me to learn the pattern. OK, one part of the plan worked. I have learned something else from this, though. The finished shawl will be very... Victorian. The large bold body pattern, surrounded with lots of twiddles (the knitted-on border, finished with crochet loops) is very reminiscent of Victorian parlours [site is slow to load, but the 360° works well] with boldly patterned walls and decorative dust-traps on every surface. It really should have been red or dark green or gold, not periwinkle. Probably all three. Anyway, it's not to my taste. I find I prefer more finely-detailed lace. Shetland here we come...

There's not been much other knitting lately, everything seems to have stalled. I don't like what's happening with the colourwork on the heel of the Gairloch Socks, so when I finish the shawl I'll sit and work out what to do about those. The Alpaca Thing is laughing at my lack of stamina. I've got lots of work, too: I've assessed, touched-up, or drawn from scratch about 300 illustrations in the last 3 weeks, with another 100-odd to go. My own typesetting project is drawing to a close, but we're so far behind that the next volume isn't far away, and I've got lots of other stuff in the queue... I need to find some energy! I'm swatching for the Cinnabar pullover from IK, but I need a 6.5mm Addi or other shiny needle for the linen stitch; I should, I could use the Denise set but they feel so clumsy by comparison with Addis. After reading so many good reviews I've given in and ordered a set of Knitpicks Options from GetKnitted. That's a cheering thought. Another cheering thought... for me, at least. Some might disagree :-) I have a Big Birthday soon. Half a century. I've started to think about all the things I've seen and (with luck) the things I've yet to see! A semi-birthday present materialised on the route of a walk through London on Saturday:
I have a thing about skeletons and bones, skulls in particular. I like them. I think they're wonderful structures, amazing feats of engineering, and for me they symbolise both life and death. This ring from The Great Frog incorporates all that; I love the contrast between its meaning for me and the Heavy Metal 'skull with rats' design (the rats are investigating a gaping hole in the back of the skull :-). I must confess that I also enjoy shocking people who don't know me. The other birthday gift is under discussion: he wants to buy me a really good spinning wheel, something that I'll use and love for decades (he is a keeper, isn't he?) and my sister wants in on it too. I've been reading reviews wherever I find them, paying attention to the wheels used by noted bloggers and professional spinning folk. I think... I think my dream wheel may be a Schacht Matchless double treadle. But it's a lot of money and my spinning wouldn't do it justice. Yet. It's very tempting, though.

Update: I've just been told he's made a Management Decision and ordered a Schacht. I'm thrilled for two reason: 1. I'm getting a new wheel! and 2. I don't have to faff about it anymore. So that's 3 birthday gifts, more than enough for a half-century :-)

Back to work. I have to finish something so I can invoice someone so I can justify drawing up a shopping list for the Knitting & Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace. I wonder if anyone there will have a Schacht I could look at?

PS. I've just remembered I should have mentioned: the handspun Wool Peddler Shawl was delivered to my mother's door the day before her birthday. When I rang to wish her Many Happy Returns she was wearing it, or at least said she was. It's a great success! Hurrah!