Saturday, October 27, 2007

When Spinning Tragedy Strikes

It's 9am on a rainy Saturday, so what the hell am I doing up blogging instead of staying abed with my new husband?

The Nice Men are here.

My landlord, God bless 'im, sent plumbers to finally, really and truly fix our pipes in the basement. Imagine, doing a load of laundry without mopping up water at the end of the cycle. Magic. I would have appreciated a phone call before The Nice Men arrived but hey, they're here. Quitcherbitchin. ;-)

The Spinning Tragedy

Last night I spun up the first singles of the Apple Butter yarn -

Not bad, eh? I'm very pleased! I showed it off to the intended recipient, Kath, and she was also pleased. Actual squealing was involved.

The tragedy part is that I rebroke the Babe. :-(

I think all the plying was too much for her. I had finished and plied the BFL, then finished and plied the Apple Butter, after which the wheel was definitely running funny. I poked her and oiled her, but she didn't feel quite right. I shrugged and started spinning up another spool of Apple Butter singles and we were really whizzing along! It was going great: yarn was appearing as if by magic - I was in the zone - and then....


Uh oh. Bad noise. Very bad.

A closer inspection revealed that she had re-injured that joint at the back. Classic athletic stress fracture, no? ;-)

Ah well. She taught me to spin and, really, what else could I ask from her?

With the weather as crappy as it is today, the Maine Alpaca Open Farm Day is out anyways, so a trip to Home Depot will probably be in order (and the yarn store, but I digress). If I can get The Mister up and moving in this gloom, I'm sure he can think of something. If nothing else, I realized this morning that the Babe contains all the parts he can't make to build me a wheel - the wheel, the rods, and the flyer assembly. Cool. So the saga continues.

The Babe is dead. Long live FrankenBabe!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

just keep spinning, just keep spinning...

The weather here has just been incredible. Warm, sunny - perfect fall weather!

This past weekend I spun with the ladies of Island Pond Spinners at Strawberry Banke. It was beautiful, and the weather was perfect - plenty of sunshine, and warm with just enough breeze to remind you it's October. What a place!

The ladies of IP Spinners were unfailingly gracious and generous with their time and their wheels! I got to try just about every wheel there - a Majacraft Suzie, Majacraft Rose, two different Saxony wheels (a single and a double treadle), and a Louet (was that a Victoria, Kelly? I forget!). I'd have to say that the Majacraft Suzie was my favorite. I spent most of the day spinning some more of the Apple Butter roving on it and it was a real delight. The Louet double treadle was also very very nice to spin on. I did not love the Rose, nor the Saxony style wheels - but it was fun to try them and I know alot more about what I like and don't like than I did before. For example, I now know that I prefer a double over a single treadle, and a taller over a shorter wheel. Right now, the Majacraft is my favorite, but I am a little concerned about the composite wheel. I'll have to do some more research, but I'm never crazy about fiber board, even if it is a very nice fiber board. I worry about what would happen if it should get wet; a distinct possibility given that I live in New England and love to spin outdoors. I'd still like to try a Ladybug after finally seeing a photo of one. The wheel is plastic, which I loathe, but the reviews are good.

Here is a photo of the ladies and their gear set up under the maples. At this point in the day, we were playing Musical Wheels.

I did do some spindle spinning as well, which mesmerized any husbands that walked by. Something about a spindle really draws them in...

But the best thing that's happened since last week is this:

I'm so friggin' proud of this yarn.

I finished, and plied, the BFL I bought from Amy at Spunky Eclectic when I picked up the Babe. I did all the spinning on the Babe, as well as the plying, and I must say, not only do I love love lurve this yarn and the colorway, but plying is a BLAST! I put chopsticks into the first hole on either side of the base, divided up the singles as best I could based on weight, and just went at it. Seeing the singles turning into actual, real yarn, right there in front of me... wow. It was quite a thrill. I think I'm actually getting pretty okay at this wheel spinning thing. ;-) I ended up with about 93 yards of bulky weight yarn - not too shabby. I have absolutely no idea what I'm going to knit with it, but knit it I shall! And soon!

Some knitting also happened. As you can see, I finished A Sock (no suprise there, right?)

I did love the toe-up thing, and the short rows look pretty good, but picking up and knitting those double wrapped stitches about killed me. Fortunately I have a crocket hook that's about the right size. I used that to do it instead of the knitting needle, then just picked the finished stitch up off the crochet hook and onto the needle. Fiddley, and annoying, but it made the impossible possible, and that's all I was looking for. Julia assured me at knitting circle that there is a way to knit toe up and flap heel at the same time, thereby avoiding at least one set of double wrapped stitches. I will of course take her word for it and wait patiently for enlightenment. ;-)

Also, I made some very good progress on the Cheery Winter Raglan, finishing the body and making it almost all the way down one arm.

I'm going to have plenty of yarn left over, so I'm very relieved. I'm always afraid I've underestimated. But it's taking just a bit over one skein per arm, so I'll most likely end up with two full skeins when I'm finished. Hurrah!

And best of all - I finished those damned bags! *cue trumpets* There's still the i-cords and end weaving and felting to be done, but all that dead boring knitting is over. I will admit, they came out super cute, and once the landlord fixes the plumbing (again) and it's safe for me to run the washer, I'll felt them up and post a photo of the pile of them.

Hey, if they don't sell, at least I won't have to do any Holiday shopping. ;-) heh.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Spinning, and knitting, in public

Knitting in Public
Today was all about the KIP. The Mister had a meeting this morning down at Panera Bread, so I tagged along and set myself up in a corner seat far from the action and laid out all my tools of the trade - crochet hook, large capucchino, US5 double points, scrap yarn, directions, Walker's Treasury of Knitting Patterns, a croissant, and two skeins of Knit Picks Shine Worsted in Watermelon - then got right down to the business of wrestling my Sock Issue to the ground.

And I succeeded.


The key, as The Lady Wyvern kindly pointed out to me some months ago, is the size of the needles. I am not a size 1 person. No indeed. I need at least a 4, but no more than a 9, to find my comfort level. So the Shine Worsted is perfect. The suggestion for this yarn is US6, but I've heard that for socks you should go down one size, so US5 it is. I love this yarn far more than a cotton blend deserves. There is something about the softness of it, and the beautiful colors it comes in, that really gets to me. I've been collecting up pairs of skeins of this yarn for socks for months now.

I also think it helped that I went with Amy Swenson's Universal Toe-up Sock Formula from Knitty. The toe-up is the only way to go. And the math, and the instructions in general, were easy to understand and follow. I even went a little crazy and found a braided rib pattern to add to it so I wouldn't get bored. And it worked. I can't put this project down!
Spinning in Public

Tomorrow I am joining some of the ladies up at Strawberry Banke in Portsmouth to do some public spinning. I'm bringing my Ashford spindle and that delectable merino/silk roving, as well as a small quantity of wool roving that a friend needs spun up and plied. But the real story is that I'll be given the opportunity to play with a Louet Victoria! Hooray! Kelly started this "sampling" by letting me sit at her wheel for awhile on Thursday night, and it's amazing what a difference a "real" wheel makes. I took the Babe with me, and did spin on it quite a bit, but it is what it is. She's noisy in a squeaky, plasticky way that is quite different from the wooden creaks and sighs that come out of the fancier wheel. But thanks to Cheryl's unflagging enthusiasm for mechanical objects (or possibly just spinning wheels) we determined that not only was the wheel not turning as easily as it could (hello oil!) but the pedal could be moved from where it was, on the left, to a more comfortable position on the right. This made a huge difference in my ability to treadle with a more regular rhythm. And with those adjustments, I was finally able to spin a fine (for me) yarn that, when plied, will give me a sort of light worsted.


I think I'm still underspinning the yarn, but it's a lot better. Maybe soon I'll be able to increase my ratio...

Yeah, listen to me, using spinning lingo like I have any clue what I'm talking about. Feh. ;-)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

SP11 Package #2

After a long and aggravating day at work, what could be better than finding a Priority Mail box on your porch?


The tags read "eye candy" and "pet me". Hmmmm... sounds like my kinda stuff! ;-)

Open it! Open it already!!

A spinning package! There are not enough "e"s in SQUEEEEEE!!!!!!! to let you know how happy this package makes me! There is the Fall issue of Spin Off magazine, which the ladies were just telling me that I must subscribe to. After a quick glance at the interior, I know why. Wow!

Then there's the fondling material. Oo la la! 4 oz of 80% merino 20% silk roving in the color "lichen". Not only is the color awesome and perfect, but the feel of this stuff is just exquisite. I'm thinking this will be spun on the spindle so I can prolong the joy. Then there's something special for my tiny handmade spindle - 4 oz of cultivated silk top. Incredible. This stuff is almost too good to put down. You just want to roll around in it nekkid. But, you'll be happy to know I confined myself to an extended cuddle. ;-)

My pal is super. I mean, she is just made of awesome. Thank you thank you thank you! You make me want to be a better Pal. :-)

Now it's on with my lone handknit sock, and off to spinning night to show off my bounty to the jealous masses!


Sunday, October 14, 2007

O yes I can SPIN!

By Saturday we had the wheel repaired to everyone's satisfaction and it works great! It took a little fiddling, and I learned the importance of ratio, but yarn did happen. There was cursing, foot stomping (yes, I am a frustration stamper), and threats to definistrate the machine altogether, but after a break and a walk around the block, I went back to the box of spare parts and found a much larger spool. That did the trick. And now, I give you, my first yarn spun on a spinning wheel...

It's handpainted BFL from Spunky Eclectic and although I don't think I did it justice, I don't think it's half bad, do you? :-)

This is actually the second spool. The first is not as nice as it was during the ratio learning curve part of the experience. ;-) So I'll spare you that one. lol!

Going shoeless helped, as did taking heed of all Kelly's excellent advice. Thank you so much! I am sitting back in my chair now and I am working about two feet from the orifice. The other trick is to predraft the dickens out of the fiber. It made it so much easier to coordinate my feet and my hands. That part was a little embarassing, I must admit: I'm a biker! I drive a stickshift car! How could it be possible that I can't work my feet and both hands at the same time??? Geez!

I'm not giving up my drop spindles, but this is definately a quicker way to spin up a quantity of yarn. It requires more attention than drop spindling, and it's a little less portable, but I think I really like it.

I have one other piece of knitting news to add, then I've gotta go finish helping cook dinner (hubby is in charge of a big pork roast tonight!). This is especially for my Secret Pal...

I couldn't resist - I cast on for Bee Fields this morning. I made it all the way through the set up rows (although it took me 4 tries to get it right!). It's awesome.

Friday, October 12, 2007

I love autumn so much!

This time of year I just love where I live.

The leaves are just starting to turn...

And soon, the boats will be coming out of the water for the winter, but for now, they're still a handsome sight out there on the river...

While the leaves are just getting going, the marsh grass is going at it in style. Don't you just love the color?

I'm optimistic that the weather will clear over the weekend and I can get some less gloomy shots.

In the meantime, here's something distinctly more cheery - this week's delivery from Boston Organics. They deliver fresh-to-your-door organic fruit and veg and assorted sundries. And autumn is when the service really shines...

And now for the knitting/spinning content, lookee the spindle I made! There was a discussion on the Spindlers group on Ravelry about making your own spindle with an old knitting needle... a trip to the local bead shop later and I give you, my fine .4 oz spindle:

That's a bamboo US6 knitting needle, an etched bone disc, and a very pretty glass bead. Viola! Now to order me some of those fancy fibers I've been lusting after - silk hankies, soy silk, bamboo, etc. Wheee!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

I feel like a knitting slacker!

I've been wandering around Ravelry this morning and I'm realizing that I've done nothing but knit stupid felted purses for a month! Gah! I promised an undisclosed number of them to a friend's shop by the end of October but they are seriously starting to suck the life out of me. Talk about boring knitting... egad. It's just knit knit knit knit around and around and around. The only "excitement" (and I use that term very loosely) is the occasional color change or short row design. I can't wait to be done with these damn things. What the heck was I thinking? I'm bored to death!

The only thing thats keeping me focused is the knowledge that as of the end of October my knitting will be all about me for awhile. I have so many projects queued up (and I even have the yarn for them!), but don't dare to cast on for anything - I can't afford to be distracted from the purses! If I bail on them now, I know I'll never get back to it, especially with something as delightful as Bee Fields waiting for me! And I'm going to try socks again. Really. I think the superwash wool that I spun will make really nice socks, if I can just decide what pattern to use. The plain rib I tried when I first attempted socks bored the crap out of me, which may have been part of the reason I lost interest.

And then there's my new wheel... I have her set up in the corner of the living room, across from my knitting chair, so I can view her at all times. This weekend I'll have time to unwrap her temporary repair and see what needs to be done. It's killing me to wait, but I don't want to get into anything during the week; by the time I get home, it's already pretty dark, and my vision in low light is just not what it used to be. *sigh*

I do have one exciting new project - Kath's sister is a painter, and she's considering doing a swap with me for one of her pieces! She wants a reddish-brown alpaca cardigan of undetermined, but probably lacy, design. Not only does this sound like a fun project to undertake, but I'll get to play with super yummy yarn. Bonus! Time to dig out the magazines, knitting books, and peruse Ravelry for the perfect designs for her to pick from. But I'll be steering her heavily towards something from Joan McGowan-Michael!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

O Maine, how I love thee...

We had a lovely trip up to Maine, taking the more scenic coastal route 295 through Portland and up through Brunswick and then across to Lisbon. It was unseasonably warm, and there were some incredible views, which we did take time out to admire...

Above is the view from Spunky Eclectic shop (which we are told is having a Grand Opening Extravaganza the first weekend in November!)

We took a side trip through beautiful Brunswick, getting totally lost wandering around the back roads. :-) It's all good! It was a little colder and more hazy/foggy/cloudy down by the water, but I did get a couple of halfway decent shots...

And, o yeah! I got a wheel!!! Some roving may have worked it's way into the plan as well... who can blame me - it's handpainted Blue-Faced Leicester! droool!

A close up of Amy's awesome artwork...

What could be cooler than flaming purple balls of yarn??? I meant to dig out all my motocycle gear and do a big fancy layout shot, but honestly I'd been up since the crack of dawn today trying to get a yard sale accomplished in the pouring rain (you can guess how that went) and I still had promised a beef stew dinner to The Usual Suspects, so I wasn't really up for the big dramatic shot. ;-) Maybe another day, when I actually have her running.

She's in great shape, by the way. The base of the upright has a couple of cracks and it definitely needs reinforcing before she sees any real action, but I'm sure we can get her fixed up. I'm dying to try her out but I'm resisting temptation until she gets her fracture set. The last thing I want to do is make things worse.

Also, considering it took me - what, 6 years? - to pick up and use my spindle, I may need a little encouragment to dive in. Mechanically inclined, I am not. Heh.

Friday, October 5, 2007

It's a spinning extravaganza!

I am just so thrilled with Ravelry....

I have a wheel!!! Zowieee!

Boogie of Spunky Eclectic had a spare, broken Babe wheel that she offered for free in the Beginning Spinners group on Ravelry. Three of us asked for it, and when the name was pulled from the hat, it was ME!! I am never ever lucky like that. Not lottery, nor door prizes, nor raffles - forget it, they'll never pick my number. But this time, this one wonderful time... I was lucky! I have a wheel!!

The Mister and I are headed up there tomorrow to pick her up. The ladies at Tuesday knitting circle are sure we can fix her up just fine. Aren't they wonderful? I'll take loads of pictures of the drive up and back (Maine in the fall... drool!!) as well as some shots of the wheel. Wait until you see her - it's a total scream. So a biker chick's wheel... just you wait. I may even dig out my biker gear for the first "spin". lol

While I was running in circles squealing about the wheel yesterday afternoon, I heard a truck pull up out front and a mystery package was delivered to our door. What could it be?

MY FLEECE!!!! My fleece is done!

I bought this half a fleece years and years ago at The Common Ground Fair and dropped it off with Pogo at Friends Folly Farm when I was at the Fair last month. I was expecting to not hear from them for at least 6 weeks, but here it is! All done!

And I guess I did a good enough job cleaning it because all I was charged for was carding. Are you ready for this? A whole $17, including shipping. Wow. For two glorious pounds of my very own chosen fleece. I have long since forgotten what breed it's from, but Pogo seemed to think it might be a Romney/Corriedale cross. Whatever it is, it's just lovely.

Here are the before and after pictures:

Before (this shot is from before I had even washed it):


It's everything I had dreamed it would be. It's soft and fluffy and all the colors a sheep can be - it's grey and brown and even has some black in it. It is going to be so beautiful. It's going to make the most wonderful heathery yarn. SQUEEEEE!!!!!

Now to have the nerve to dive in and spin it. This is definately getting spun on the wheel. No question.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

to act or to be

It's autumn in a tourist town, and the local theater season is winding down. And that can mean only one thing - it's time for the local talent to run amok! It's time again for Random Acts, a local project held here in town where the local actors, writers and directors are given the challenge of creating and producing a 10 minute play in 24 hours.

Here's how it works.

Day 1. Evening. A collection of writers is divided randomly into pairs and given a line, or several, and are told how many people of what sex are in their play (two men, a man and a women, three men, etc.). They then have until midnight (or so) to write a 10 minute play based on these criteria.

Day 2. Early morning. The actors and directors gather at the theater and put their names in a hat. The plays are taken up one by one and randomly assigned a director and actors. The groups then divide up and are given their scripts and a location to rehearse. By 8pm that night, everyone is back at the theater and the plays are performed, on book, for the general public.

It is super cool.

Last year I "angeled" for the productions, meaning that if they needed anything - a prop, for example - they had my cell number and I was at their disposal to find it and bring it to them. There were three of us last year and we had a ball. But having "angeled", I now have first choice to act this year.

Act. Me. On stage. In front of, you know, people.

... eep ...

Now granted, it is on book, meaning that you have the script right in your hands the whole time you're on stage, and I have done informal readings before. I've taken a few of Marc Clopton's classes too, so I have some idea of what to do, and I am married to a director and have helped him produce plays before, so I also have a basic understanding of staging and blocking and such.

But to actually be up there, on stage, in front of strangers.



I think I'm gonna do it. :-)