The 7% solution
Tuesday September 26th 2017, 11:10 pm
Filed under: Spinning

Usually Colourmart will twist a very thin yarn into a thicker one for you for $5 a cone.

But this one? No way, too twisty, they’d tried, don’t ask, it didn’t work out.

For what it was (a mill closeout of cobweb-weight 93/7  14.5 micron black ultra-ultra-fine merino/vicuna) and how much it was ($18/150 g ppd), I was willing to find out how hard it would be to do on the wheel. Pure vicuna yarn ran $400 an ounce last time I checked. I had bought a cone of the 2% vicuna, was amazed at what an incredible yarn that 2% made it into, and then this one showed up on their site. I didn’t buy it all, but I bought enough to make into a usable yarn on the third spinning-wheel bobbin.

So here’s what I learned today. Yes it kinks back on itself in a heartbeat. It will literally throw your yarn for a loop. Once you start plying that wheel has to keep going until you’re done, with one hand holding the strands slightly aloft like a distaff, bringing them together and keeping them from snagging on your clothes, and the other hand controlling the twist as it feeds onto the bobbin.

If you stop and wind it around the knob to place-hold it and come back, you’ve lost your slight tension on that multitude of strands. Suddenly thinking, wait–if I’d put a book on them next to me on the seat before getting up it probably would have been okay? One time the mess was bad enough that I broke it off right there and declared it done: those strands were not willing to straighten out individually. At all. I felt for the woman at Colourmart.

My finished first skein, held in the air, twisted slightly at the bottom. Given the cobweb’s original twistiness, I think I improved it. I think.

But oh my goodness there is no way to describe how soft that yarn felt running through my hands as I aimed for a knittable thickness, and that was with the mill coating still on it. It was like there was almost nothing there to feel, it was so light and so extremely soft.

I’m glad I bought it. It will take a lot of time to ply all those cones (4703 yards each) and ply again, two done S twist, then Z twisted together to balance. Scoured and preshrunk, it came out with a slightly nubbly look. It is not a perfect yarn.

But oh the vastness of that softness… Even Richard squishy-squished it. (Okay, yes, I asked. “Soft,” he duly pronounced. Thank you, honey!)

Yeah. So. Unless there are a few in someone’s cart, where they’re allowed to stay for a month, that one is sold out. But the 16 micron merino with 2% vicuna (direct link fixed) that started all this? Amazingly soft, smoothly and commercially spun, and good to go–it’s 4-ply. Knit it doubled makes fingering weight, double that, worsted weight, no spinning wheel needed. Oh, and: right now everything on their site is 20% off.

As I told my sweetie re the 7%, I’ll probably never get a chance to knit with a yarn like this again. Knowing I’d have to do all that work, it was worth it.

Neck afghan
Friday September 15th 2017, 10:25 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift,Spinning

Somewhere between these two attempts at showing the color was the knitting equivalent of reading a big-print book. Next time I’ll spin up fewer plies, but it did the job (on size US 9 needles no less) and got it done in a day. 

Note to self: quick, go run in the ends and block the thing to make an honest statement out of that sentence.

Thursday September 14th 2017, 10:53 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Spinning

A former law school classmate of my son lives here these days.

I checked: she wasn’t in sight. “What’s your wife’s favorite color?” Quickly followed by an assurance it was okay if he didn’t know, most men when cornered with that question are unsure.

He was sure. “Cerulean.” With a little nod of the chin in emphasis.

Well then that’s what it was going to be. And thus commenced over a week of no-driving-no-yarn-store stash diving and considering. Dyepot? Wheel? I do have some sock weight–it’s just that it’s all mixed in with shades of green. Amazing how uniform my stash was on that count. I know I…

Right. I knitted it all up and I gave it all away.

(They’re a little lighter in real life.)

My back didn’t want to do wheel time and I didn’t want to ply that laceweight but I also didn’t want to guess at getting the right blue nor have to haul that heavy pot around–and then goof.

This was the one sure thing. And not only that, it was cashmere. I had 50g, 50g, and lots of grams. Just one hour. And by 3×2-plying the stuff, it will knit up quickly once it’s dry.

(It’s a little brighter in real life and there’s no purple to it.)

Guess what tomorrow’s going to be about?

Friday September 08th 2017, 10:12 pm
Filed under: Spinning

When does 2263 x 4 = 1013?

When it’s 4 plies from 2263 meter cones twisted together plus 4 of those plies twisted together minus those new 2 yarns plied together, the strands traveling around and around and back around each other and the result measured in yards.

Not all the cones were that length but the ones I finished off tonight were.

Now, one tries to get the two original bobbins to the same length as humanly possible so they’ll match up. But still. Twenty-three inches out of 172 yards? I’m going to brag a little. (This time. Till next time.)

My friend Karen yesterday observed, You’re using your wheel.

I handed her some of that finished, scoured yarn to fondle a moment–and then she understood why.

Begin: the rest is easy
Monday September 04th 2017, 11:12 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,Knitting a Gift,Spinning

Mom! Something’s wrong! That thing is noisy!

He concurred: It is, dear.

Oh. Sorry, guys.

So I oiled the wheel and they and it still squawked. I told them I would take care of the rest as soon as I finished this bobbin so I could oil the shaft it was on. And that did it.

This morning I was looking at some cones of near-white 30/70 cashmere/merino (link correct now) and palest beige merino that had been bought to help me finish off some very old stash of brown cashmere laceweight single ply that was far too thin and fragile to knit as is. Last night I had set four cones together and considered how they actually looked together. Today they didn’t want to be admired, they wanted to be plied, now!

Plans vs inspiration: having wanted to want to work on this for some time, now that I actually wanted to do it, do it!

I weighed one of the cones of the near-white cones after the first hank was all done to see how much of it I’d used up in the plying. I loved how much more interesting it made the light browns look. (And I can always overdye the result.)

Wow. Looks like I could make probably twenty-five hundred more yards of aran weight. Let’s see how long the enthusiasm holds out, but I won’t stop till I’ve got an afghan’s worth.

Meantime, thank you for the suggestions on the yarn for the girls’ hats. I spent a lot of time thumbing through ideas at Webs, since mobility is still a dicey prospect, and they have just about everything (snagging the domain name of early on in the internet surely didn’t hurt.) I finally bought something that, if it isn’t enough colors, I think I can make do from stash.

And while I’m making headway on lots and lots of pale brown, soft, quiet, practical, (and, shhhhh–boring, don’t tell), those colorful hat projects in the middle are going to help me plow through.

Her friend’s wedding done, an airport run, and now it is just us two again.

Round and round and round it goes
Thursday July 27th 2017, 9:07 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Spinning

If you ever want your inbox to go weirdly silent for an entire day, offer a lot of very nice people something you only have one of. Niddy-noddy? Anybody? Drill a hole and reposition an arm? Use as is? Take one arm out, thread a string through the hole to suspend it by and hang cat toys from the bottom arm? Help me out here.

Meantime, I was discussing something with a friend the other day and she tried to describe her favorite shade of purple. She finally pulled out her phone, went to her alma mater’s site, and there it was in full and official color.

(Actually, I had something like that kicking around…) So today, it didn’t matter what I’d planned on, it leaped onto the needles.

Funny how that happens.

White elephant
Wednesday July 26th 2017, 10:38 pm
Filed under: Spinning

I’ve long debated saying anything because I just have the one to offer–but who would I ask? It has stumped me.

This is a niddy-noddy that I bought about twenty years ago via a tiny ad in a spinner’s magazine–I think, if memory serves, from the artist who made it but I have no idea now what their name was. I had a cheap unfinished Ashford one, which is fine, but I found myself wanting something pretty as well as functional.

Overall, it is 20″ long, with 18″ (a half yard, which makes sense) from arm to arm.

But for me it’s all wrong. The arms are at right angles to each other rather than perpendicular and to my arms that makes wrapping the yarn awkward. My Ashford eventually fell apart and I bought a Kromski  in mahogany finish and I love it. It’s a well-thought-out piece of equipment, designed to keep the yarn from slipping off the ends when you’re doing major fluffballs.

I only used this one all of once. It just doesn’t do the job well for me. Maybe it needs a taller person? (I’m 5’5″.) Or maybe just someone who didn’t start out using the perpendicular variety. Or–someone who isn’t such a klutz. Ding ding ding!

If you know someone whom you think should have this one, tell me why and I’ll mail it off to them. Rocking chair not included.

Straight off the needles
Friday July 07th 2017, 11:08 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift,Spinning

Bedtime. That satisfying snap as the last of the ball is broken away at last. Lights, action, camera!

I’m just really glad right now that I made two more skeins of this yarn, because it exactly matches a sweater I love. I’ll have plenty of time to knit another before it gets cold.


Thursday July 06th 2017, 10:44 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Knitting a Gift,Life,Spinning,Wildlife

Dropped my glasses off the top of my head when I stood up to answer the phone and then I stepped on them.

It was bad. There was just no putting those back on. All I could do was wait for Richard to get home from work to drive me over to For Eyes.

A dozen feet away was close enough not to be too fuzzy when a Cooper’s hawk skidded to a stop on the concrete just on the other side of the glass door. It considered me a split second as a finch on its back flailed away wildly trying to right itself (its hard thwack on that window had snatched my attention) and he grabbed it and was off.

The younger employee went, “Wow, you really stepped on them,” and given their age (I’d reused the same lightweight metal frames through several prescription changes–I bought an extra pair eight years ago so I could) she was afraid she would break them; the more experienced middle-aged guy, the one I took a tumble in front of last week, was sure he could do it and she was sure he could if anybody could and handed them over.

At this point I’ve been in there enough times that they were not surprised to see me pull out the knitting project I started today (after I did indeed add a repeat to yesterday’s.)

He was glad to see me back and looking none the worse for that fall and made a point of getting those exactly right. He totally rescued me, and was very pleased to be able to make such a difference. I can see again. I can do things again. I have my life back.

They both adored the picture of Mathias in shades and even asked to see more pictures of the baby, and I thought, I really like you guys…!

(Yarn: two strands of a dusty purple-plum cashmere laceweight, a gift from Sherry in Idaho, and two strands of a brick red merino with a touch of sparkle to it, plied together on my spinning wheel.)

Coming along
Tuesday October 11th 2016, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift,Spinning,Wildlife

I didn’t quite fill three bobbins before the white ran out.

Four-ply was surprisingly thick, so, two by two it was: 234 and 224 yards’ worth, with a bit left over on one bobbin that I then plied it with an end-of-bobbin of brown cashmere, making 78 yards. (Hmm. Baby hat?)

The yarns I was working from were very close in thickness and yet I used up 98 g of the merino/silk and only 67 g of the butter merino.

Now to go scour the mill oils out. The strands should bloom, fluffing out a bit with the wools felting together slightly. A little preshrinking is a good thing.

Meantime, yet another Cooper’s hawk sighting today–there have been several of late. Again it was one with its juvenile markings, which are starting to fade now; its chest kind of looked like that last hank. I think I’ve seen both a male and a female juvie in the past week.

Two=one, then three=one or two=a bigger one. Decisions.
Monday October 10th 2016, 11:18 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life,Spinning

Or rather the second two=one is bigger than the first two=one.

Ten years that white cobweb merino/silk had been waiting for me to wind it up. It had arrived in a hank (never again, not that fine, not that many yards) and I always knew it would take a lot of time to wind it up by hand. It did, snagging on itself much of the way. But it looked better with Diana’s soft-butter-yellow than anything else I put next to it and that got me to finally go do it.

So I wound those two strands together on my wheel. That sets in twist going one way and I need to make more to put them together, the wheel spinning the other way so as to restore balance so the fabric to come from it doesn’t torque. Like twisting your swing on the swingset and then letting go and watching it twirl till it comes out straight again. Only in this case you’re making the thing thicker with each stage.

Now the question becomes, do I three-ply the two-plies I’m making or settle for just two bobbins per for a four-ply?

I’m drastically revising my earlier assessment of her cone’s being a month’s worth of work: there’s nothing that says I have to use up every bit of it right this minute, just that I make something good and pretty and that honors her while she can still get to see that happen.

All I had to do was start working with that yarn and it started telling me how I was going to do that. Now I’m just working out the details.

This is something I can do
Saturday October 08th 2016, 11:19 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life,Spinning

Bins and bins: Diana was giving away her yarn to all of us.

She had one big cone specifically squirreled away for me, though, since I’m a spinner, and she went in the back room (with me taking the measure of every step as she went, having a good idea of what it took out of her to do that and wishing I could rush over and get it for her) and she brought it back out: 602 grams of a cobweb weight that she knew was natural fibers, and it clearly was, but she wasn’t sure if it had a little silk mixed in or not. The label had fallen off the inside of the cone and she said it had always been quite faded. She still had it–she’d tried various electronic tricks to try to copy it to come out darker but no go.

It was, at the least, a very fine merino wool if not cashmere. Very soft, and certainly not a synthetic. Not baby alpaca. I would guess probably yes on the bit of silk mixed in but I’ll be able to tell a little better once it’s actually running between my fingers; lots of experience there.

I told her I had cones of cobweb cashmere in a natural light brown that I could ply it with and that the two would compliment each other very nicely. But I’ve also thought since then that it would go well with white, too, of course, so I have to figure out what it wants to be when it grows up–and get to it, and quickly.

I’d like her to be able to see something made out of it. That much yardage could easily become a month’s worth of work, I know, and it’s nearing Christmastime knitting-wise. It’s nice stuff, though, and she would so love that.

“I wonder what color it’s going to be when you’re done,” said Richard.

Well yeah, I could dye the coming hanks, yes…

If I do that, he said it first.


Edited to add, I told her I’d gone to Andy Mariani’s farm to buy the figs and she just beamed: “Don’t you just *love* that little store?” She was so delighted that they’d come from there. I was a little blown away that she knew, and loved that she loved the place, too.

Because that’s all there was left
Thursday October 06th 2016, 10:02 pm
Filed under: Spinning

Cashmere and silk: 196 yards. Not a lot but enough to have fun with.

Mel and Kris time
Saturday September 03rd 2016, 10:58 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life,Lupus,Spinning

I was thinking that after this weekend I could tell the rest of the story.

Only, it turns out there was a lot more to it than I had anticipated.

Back at Stitches West in February, my potter friend Kris told me that not only did they have sheep at the farm they’d bought, but her son had learned to spin and he had a wheel now.

He was there helping her and they surprised me with the great gift of a skein of his very own handspun yarn. From their sheep! So cool.

This is Kings Mountain Art Fair weekend, where I’ve seen Mel and Kris every year since long before they started going to Stitches.

But that new head injury. It’s certainly not bad, but not pushing it is a good thing. Richard wasn’t up to doing that much walking yet–parking is all car-by-parallel-parked-car along the narrow mountain road there with many many many people coming. Michelle couldn’t make it and it would just be me. Which normally I wouldn’t mind.

So I did the only thing I could do: I said a prayer and asked, if I shouldn’t go, please help me feel bad or hesitant about it and I won’t. If I should, please help me feel reassured, because I honestly don’t know what the most-right thing to do here is.

I very much felt reassured. It was a bit of a surprise. I had thought that waiting till the last day of the fair made the most sense, for that matter, but felt like, no, today. Don’t miss out. Go.

Huh. Okay, then. I really wanted to see my friends and feeling that it was okay to helped a lot. (That’s also why I had to be careful in that prayer, so that I was actually listening to the guidance I was asking for, not just hearing what I wanted the answer to be.)

I had wanted to surprise them back with something made from their wool, meantime, because nobody could treasure it like the ones taking care of the sheep it had come from. One large skein of aran weight: a cowl seemed the sensible thing to do for potters and farmers. It could keep one of them warm while leaving them free from having it blowing around in their way.

The yarn refused. It wanted to be a hat.

I started to cast on for a cowl.

I cast on a hat.
I made that hat. I put it in my purse last night to make sure I wouldn’t forget it.

I came around a curve in the hillsides of 280 and found myself driving into a dense fog as I approached the mountain pass and marveled, This is summer. That’s winter looking. It’s way too early for that. (It was bright and clear not too many miles away at home.) It softened the light, which rested my brain from the sharp reflections that otherwise would have irritated it. It was beautiful and it was perfect. As I drove upwards and turned left towards the fair at the spine of the mountain, there were splashes of raindrops from both trees and sky.

Rain here is the distilled essence of ocean: warm summer showers are not even a concept, locally, and I can remember trying to convince my then-young children that such a thing existed. If it’s raining in northern California it’s chilly, and for the first time that I can remember, it was cold at the fair. That forecast of 67 up there was way off–my thick turtleneck and sun jacket and wool knee socks were not enough at 52 degrees but not so bad as to get me to walk the quarter mile (I got a really good spot!) back to my car for the spare fleece jacket that’s always in there. (There’s a chartered shuttle bus for the really-way-out-theres.)

Mel had one on himself but he was still cold. Kris was comfortable in her jacket, but he was in sandals and his socks and warmer clothes were simply out of reach while they were working their booth.

So much for waiting till they’d rung up my purchase before surprising them–he needed that hat now, and I pulled it out. I told them, referencing their son, You guys are all going to have to work out whose this is.

They laughed. They loved it. Mel not only wore it, he doubled over the cuff for extra warmth and I was glad I’d knitted it to a good length so he could, and I could because they’d given me a generous amount.

If I’d waited till Monday like I’d half-planned, then…

If their son hadn’t felt like sharing what he’d made, and when he did…

And yet all that had happened and it had come out exactly right. Mel kept marveling at the chill, exclaiming, In California! On Labor Day weekend!

The show ended for the day and as Kris pulled the covers over their booth, Mel walked my purchases all the way to my car for me. I in turn drove him to where fair vendors are required to keep their vehicles, well away–and to where his socks were. He was then to drive back to Kris to pick her up, but just before he got out of my car, I told him this:

I get to wake up every morning to beautiful art, to Kris’s and your talent, your skills, your colorwork, and your love in my home and it makes every day of mine better and I just wanted to thank you. It makes such a difference.

Come to think of it, I need to go tell my sister that, too. (Edited to add: done!)

Grandma got slobbered by a reindeer
Tuesday June 14th 2016, 10:57 pm
Filed under: Life,Spinning

Yes. Yes that happened Monday. Fingerless gloves are a good and useful thing as an extra layer of sun and cold block but for feeding reindeer alfalfa pellets, maybe not so much. But we just stepped in the door and I’m only still up because one load of laundry must be done before the morning–I’ll handwash those later.

This is the one I got to feed.

I asked the guy, Don’t they have a thick undercoat to keep them warm in the winter? Is it soft? What do you do with it?

Oh they’ve lost all that right now. It is soft. We don’t do anything with it. It’s hollow so you can’t, like, do anything with the stuff so we don’t.

(The fiber artist’s mind. It boggles.)

I tried to explain that qiviut is hollow too and highly desirable stuff. (Thinking of the musk ox farm up the road we’d just gone to on Saturday–more on that later.)

He thought he was having to explain to someone who wasn’t getting it.

I told him I’m a handspinner with a spinning wheel and I assured him I could put next year’s undercoat to very good use.

You could see the realization dawning in his eyes…

Yeah. Yeah I’m getting back to those guys. When I mail them back, by way of re-introduction, the two little alfalfa pellets their little guy tossed into my sagging sweater pocket while slobbering eagerly all over my fingers. My sweater smells a bit like reindeer too.

I kinda like it.