Tuesday, September 26, 2006

My Swap Partner Got the Box!

My Spinning/Roving swap partner got her box yesterday so I can put up some photos of what I sent her. The contents included two different colors of Alpaca, and a bit of Suri Alpaca, all purchased directly from an alpaca farm just south of the Twin Cities.

VERY nice stuff. This farmer has the ability to spin (mechanically) yarn so the roving is really, really nice. She has some sort of machine she runs the fiber through which makes the roving a bit thinner and very uniform and even. I bought some for myself too, of course, so I can't wait to spin with it. I also included a pattern for a headband made from natural alpaca colors (which I want to try myself!), one for fingerless mits and one for wristlets. I also made her three beaded stitch markers and included some Wizard of Oz bookplates. I read in her blog that she really likes Wizard of Oz stuff.

The really fun thing about my first ever swap partner is that our families are very similar. She also had a son with her partner, so we have that in common. That was one reason why the manchild decided to send her son a little gift too. [It's a small world, after all...it's a small world after all...it's a small world, after all, it's a small, small, world...it's a small world, after all...it's a small world, after all, everybody now, it's a small world, after all...] Ok, sorry about that, and now you'll have that stupid song going through your head all day.

In the knitting department, I'm working on some fingerless mitts. It gets really cold in my office during the winter months, so I'm looking forward to having something to keep my hands warm. The pattern is one from my favorite LYS, Borealis. I'm using Knit Picks Sock Garden in Hyacinth held with one strand of a kid mohair/silk blend, just enough to put a teeny bit of fuzz in the finished fabric. The colors aren't what I usually go for (pinks, purples) but I got it from a Knit Picks clearance bin thinking I would make socks for a gift. I like the way they're turning out so far. The pattern stitches up really fast too, I made the first mitt in a little over an evening. Now if I can just find time to make the other one. From the looks of things, I'll have more than enough yarn to make a second pair.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Sun at Last

After several days of dreary rain, the sun has finally decided to make an appearance. Perhaps fall has not quite given in yet...it's not even October! Here's the view from my office window on this gorgeous day!

I've added a fun new button to my blog, "Socktoberfest!" Thanks to Loribird for finding that one. It's a celebration of socks, the way October is a celebration of beer (and I'd MUCH rather spend my time knitting socks than drinking beer -- it's an acquired taste that I never seem to have acquired). I think I'm going to order the Victorian Diamond pattern from Knit Picks. These socks just seem so elegant (which means I'll never have a place to wear them).

There hasn't been much knitting or spinning time lately, work has intruded as things have been very busy this week. I'm thick in the middle of planning two conferences, one in a week and a half, the other in early December. They are essentially the same event, planned for two different places and times, but still twice the work. Especially since the venue for the December conference fell through last week. The South Dakota event should be fun, though, as I will get to hear President Bill Clinton speak. That should be such a refreshing change over the stunted, illogical, uneducated ramblings of our current president. Oh, did I mention that I don't care much for George Bush? Lest you be terribly impressed that I'm planning a conference at which the keynote speaker is Bill Clinton, let me say that I'm not involved in planning THAT event. I'm working on a sort of parallel/mini-conference on hunger issues that will hopefully draw some of the attenders of the BIG event. The BIG event is the dedication of the George McGovern Library on the campus of Wesleyan University in Mitchell, South Dakota. If you're curious, you can find out more here.

Interestingly enough, Bob Dole IS speaking. I heard him speak (at another McGovern event) about six years ago and was grudgingly impressed. He tells really great Viagra jokes. He and McGovern have been good buddies since they worked on the school lunch legislation back in the sixties. Dole has often co-sponsored legislation having to do with hunger, nutrition, AIDS, debt relief. I wouldn't (and didn't) vote for him for President but he's not a bad guy overall. Of course, if I had to choose between him and Bush, Dole would win, hands down. At least the man can put two coherent sentences together.

Lastly, here is a photo of the manchild's first attempt at spinning. Pretty darn good for a first attempt don't you think?

Ok, really lastly, GO TWINS!

Monday, September 18, 2006

The box goes forth!

The box for my Spinning/Roving Swap secret pal is ready to go! If all goes well, it should begin its journey west tomorrow. I'll take a picture of the contents before I seal it up tomorrow, but since I blew it and she knows who I am, I can't post it until after I know she's gotten the box. I don't want to spoil the surprise! Likewise, I don't want to say too much about my field trip to procure the fiber. More on that later, too.

I will say that my very sweet manchild gave me a little present to put in the box for my sp's little boy. Awwww, isn't he just the sweetest kid? And speaking of the manchild, I spent some of the evening teaching him how to spin. Talk about a duck taking to water! Once it's set I'll take a photo of his first yarn. He's really good! Way better than my first attempt was. Of course, he did have an excellent teacher...

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Of lace, swaps and spinning

Lace may not be my thing... I have started and ripped the #%@&#+! alpaca lace scarf too many times to count. I finally decided that maybe it wasn't so smart to try my first lace project with actual lace yarn. So, I tried the same pattern with a worsted weight yarn. It was MUCH easier and I think I more or less got the hang of it. I eventually ripped it out too because it just wasn't the right yarn for the project and it looked awful. So, the scarf is kaput, may it rest in peace.

Does lace get easier? I lust after all these gorgeous lace shawls but I have to think it would drive me absolutely nuts to try to knit one of those suckers.

On to better things: I GOT MY SWAP BOX! It held gorgeous stuff, including some beautiful Merino Wool top, some Bluefaced Leicester and some Ingeo! Also included were lots of fun patterns to try. Thanks, Tamara http://www.spincerelyyours.com/, you made my first swap a real treat! I can't wait to get spinning. Here's another shot of the gorgeous hand-painted.

This afternoon, I'm going on a field trip to buy the fiber for my secret pal, so hopefully I'll have her box ready to ship very soon! This swap stuff is great!

Ok, did I mention that I love my new Minstrel spinning wheel? Presenting the very first handspun, handpainted yarn to come off my wheel and I'm pretty darn proud of it. It's not perfect, but it's definately usable! Now I just have to decide what to make with it!I have more fiber to spin, but this is as much as would fit on the bobbin (if I counted right, it's about 414 yards). Some of it is awfully thin though.

The socks for the spouse are finished! I told her she couldn't wear them until I took a photo, so I figured I better get that done. Here they are, made from Moda Dea "Sassy Stripes" yarn. The spouse is allergic to wool, so I have to make her acrylic socks. Yuck. (Yes, I'm a yarn snob.) I have to say, though, that as acrylic yarn goes, this stuff isn't too bad. It's a worsted weight, so it knits up really fast. I have more yarn to make her a second pair. She says they'll make great Birkenstock socks. The handspun and the socks are all I've accomplished this week, but considering I've been down with a cold (compliments of the new school year) I'll take it!

Fall is moving in quickly, tomorrow we're supposed to have highs in the 40's and low 50's. Sigh. I love fall, but I'm not so fond of winter.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Ramblings on a dreary day

I'm relieved that my secret pal recipient has posted the answers to the spinning/roving swap questions. I royally screwed up and mangaged to reveal myself to her on my very first contact. Ok, I said I was new to this, but how moronic can you get? Sorry again, SP!

It is a cold, dreary day here. The kind that makes you want to curl up with a cup of tea and a good knitting book. Or some actual knitting. I worked on my log cabin afghan all day yesterday. I was at a work-related meeting and was able to get a lot of knitting done. I haven't been thinking about the colors too much, just using up what's in the leftover stash, so I hope it looks decent when it's done.

I've been avoiding the lace. I find that I really need peace and quiet and large, uninterrupted blocks of time. All three of those are in very short supply, especially the last. So, as a result I haven't picked up the lace since the last photo.

I LOVE my new Kromski Minstel. As I get to know it better, I love it even more. I am spinning really well on it and the more I practice, the better I get. Funny how that works. I have nearly a whole bobbin of hand dyed spun. I don't know if I like it yet. As I said, I wasn't real happy with the way the colors turned out. It's ok, so far, but I can't wait to see what it will look like once it's plied (or is it plyed?)

This is Murray. On His Couch. Murray is a silver standard poodle and is way too smart for his own good. Poodles are very smart dogs. He's also very sweet, very loyal and very protective of his family. I always have to give my plug for standard poodles as a great breed for a family pet. [Gets up on soap box] Standard Poodles get a bum rap because of the stupid hairdos and the little yippy versions. Poodles are not foofy lap dogs. They were bred in Germany (not France) as a water fowl hunting dog. They are outstanding retrievers and trackers and can and do run circles around labs and retrievers in many hunting and tracking competitions. They also don't shed, don't bother people with dog allergies and you can spin their hair to boot! What's not to love?[Gets down off soapbox] He does not, however, understand knitting. He thinks my time is spent much more productively when I give him attention, and most especially when I take him to the Dog Park. I actually have to spell the word p-a-r-k and I don't think it will be long before he learns how to spell. The Dog Park is a medium-sized (5 acres?) off leash park where Murray can go to socialize with other doggies and run at full gallop (and I do mean gallop). It is his favorite place on earth. We are blessed in the Twin Cities to have several first rate off-leash dog parks. Murray's goal in life is to try each one at least twice.

This is Chuckie. On His Couch (a different couch). Chuckie is almost exactly the same color as Murray. We call them Twin Sons of Different Mothers (w/apologies to Dan Fogelberg). Chuckie and Kimi (any of you with children younger than 14 will know exactly where those names came from) were adopted from Second Chance, as teeny, tiny kittens. For a photo of Kimi, see a couple of posts below. They were bottle fed because their mom disappeared before they were weaned and Chuckie was not in very good health when we brought him home. As you can see, he survived nicely and is now in robust health. He's a big cat. His sister is even bigger. Most of the time everyone gets along fine with everyone else but Chuckie and Kimi find it very annoying when Murray barks. So do the rest of us for that matter.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Meet the neighbors!

There have been four houses up for sale on our immediate block this summer (trying not to feel paranoid.... is it us?). One of them is right next door. The housing market has really cooled here so it's been on the market almost all summer and has gone through two price drops. As you might guess, we've been a bit anxious about who the New Neighbors will be.

Well, after sitting all summer, the rumors started flying around the neighborhood that it had not only sold, but that they were going to close that week and move in over Labor Day weekend! The spouse and I went on a fact-finding jaunt and discovered the following (all purported to be Absolutely True).

1) The buyers were two brothers, single, both "middle aged," who came to the house with their parents.

2) The father-parent had a clipboard and spent many hours looking the house over, including climbing on the roof.

3) The mother-parent could be seen measuring things. Many things.

4) No description of the brothers, except to say that one of them was balding.

Anxiety increased. Two BROTHERS? Single? Who had to bring their PARENTS along when buying the house? Ok, all my biases are showing but I was thinking that this couldn't be good. The vision I had in my head was from the old Bob Newhart show, you know, "This is my brother Daryl and this is my other brother Daryl..."

Just as we were making plans to keep our son well away from them, another neighbor reported that she had gotten herself over there to say "hi" and discovered that it's a gay couple!! You can't imagine the relief.

So, we did what any self-respecting lesbian couple would do, we immediately invited them over for dinner and told them the wherabouts and life story of every other gay or lesbian couple in the neighborhood! They are a delightful doctor/professor pair that just got back from spending a year in Germany. They like dogs. We couldn't be happier. And yes, we really ARE taking over the neighborhood. Suburbia, who'dv guessed?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Back to school

The manchild headed off to 8th grade this morning, grumbling under his breath. Something about "...why....stupid...hate...school....anyway..." It's a shame he doesn't like school more. Except for a few teachers here and there that I didn't particularly get along with, I really enjoyed school. I have to admit that it's different these days. For one thing, I never had as much homework as he does. Last year he often brought home an hour to an hour and a half of homework a night, which I think is a bit excessive for a middle schooler.

What really amazed me when we went to orientation last week was the girls. What a huge difference there is between the girls and the boys in eigth grade! They suddenly look like young women whereas the boys are still all over the place. When he came home, I asked the manchild if he thought the girls looked different and he said "yeah," with this sort of deer in the headlights look. We're still waiting for the BIG change, you know, the voice dropping, hair growing, height shooting overnight morphing. Although the kid already wears size 11 shoes. Surely it won't be long now.

Didn't get much actual knitting done yesterday after all. Instead I changed this:

Into this:

It took pretty much ALL afternoon. Even with my really cute helper (whose name is Kimi). Not sure what possessed me, but decided to get it all done at the same time. Several of these (but not all) are from my pilgrimage to Web's. The four on the left in the back row are ones that I dyed myself. I'm not completely happy with them, I really wanted more vibrant color. The one skein directly in front of those, the sort of orangey one on the left is a skein that I won for getting first place in the "fulling or felting" category at Shepherd's Harvest last spring. How did I win first place? With this guy, isn't he adorable? I got a blue ribbon and everything!

And he still needs a nose. Don't cha just love Fiber Trends?

Monday, September 04, 2006

Lazy Labor Day

The spouse and the manchild are at the neighbor's wood shop for the afternoon, so I have the house to myself. Bliss! Today I'm knitting because every muscle I use in spinning is killing me.

I've knit a tiny bit more on the lace scarf. This is for the spouse, who is unfortunately allergic to wool. The scarf is to see if she reacts to alpaca too. I hope not, because it would be very nice to knit something for her in something other than acrylic! I have had many people tell me that most people who can't wear wool don't have the same reaction to alpaca and llama. We'll see. I've heard about the "magic" of blocking when working with lace, now I can kinda see why it makes such a huge difference.

The is the Fair Isle bag I've been working on for awhile. Also my first attempt at Fair Isle. This is the project for a class I took at http://amazing-threads.com another LYS that I like. It has yet to be blocked and there are about 4,638 threads to be woven in yet. Then I make a cool twisted cord that is used for the drawsting. The pattern is an adaptation of one that appeared in Knits
magazine (http://www.interweave.com/knit)
several issues ago. My teacher rewrote the pattern so it could be done on circular needles rather than straight, which seemed to be a definate improvement on the original pattern. I love the colors in this bag, which is why I took the class. (Must have this bag.) The little spots of white on the photo are little dapples of sunlight, I didn't accidently spill bleach on it or anything.

I'm also working on a pair of socks for the spouse (acrylic, of course). Does anyone know of a good cotton yarn blend suitable for making socks? I've tried Cascade's Fixation but really didn't like the way they turned out at all. To thick or something. They were just weird. Surely there's got to be a decent all cotton or cotton blend sock yarn that doesn't have any wool in it. If not, there's a MARKET out there people!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Here she is!

Assembled the Minstrel tonight and even got a little spinning done! Here are some photos:

This is what she looked like after finishing but before assembly.

And here is what she looks like completely finished. Is this a gorgeous wheel or what?

Here's another angle.

I even got a little spinning done. I love this wheel!

It went together pretty quickly, once it was ready. It came with a video and printed instructions which were helpful.

So far I'm really, really pleased. It is spinning beautifully, especially for a brand new wheel. I oiled the heck out it and there are no creaks, squeaks, sticks or bumps. Just silent, smooth, even spinning. Wow!

Back to spinning...

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Glad that's done

Finished the first sanding and the second coat tonight. Geez, that's a lot of work! I have to say it's really beautiful though. I'm glad I decided to put on the second coat of stain, it darkened it a little more but it also has a really nice patina now. I'll give it another 24 hours to dry and then put it together. I can't wait to get spinning on it.

On another note, I finally figured out how to put a button on my blog and I'm psyched! How lame is that? I'm a novice when it comes to website speak. I can navigate my way around the web with the best, but when it comes to figuring out how to actually put together a website I'm clueless. But I do like figuring things out so it was fun to see the little button finally appear where I wanted it.

I think I'm going to join another swap. This one is more involved but it looks like a lot of fun and it goes longer than the spinning roving swap. Seems like a fun thing to keep me busy this fall/winter. So, I'm off to sign up for Secret Pal 9.

Spinning Roving Swap Questionnaire

Ok, here are my answers to the spinning roving swap questionnaire:

1) How long have you been spinning? About 2 months.

2) Are you a beginner, novice, or experienced spinner? A pretty good beginner. My teacher said I was a "quick study."

3) Do you spin on a drop spindle or wheel, or both? So far I only spin on a wheel. I can sorta see the attraction of a spindle for really portable spinning, but am trying to hone my skill on a wheel right now. Might be fun to try a spindle sometime in the future.

4) What types and weights of drop spindles (or what type of spinning wheel(s) ) do you currently own? I have a borrowed Ashford Traveler (which must go home soon) and a brand new Kromski Minstrel which is still in pieces in the garage in the process of being stained and finished.

5) What type of fibers have you spun with before? I have just spun with some pretty basic stuff, mostly a corriedale sliver. I've also spun (with some success) a merino, angora, rayon blend. I have a superwash wool mill end roving that is giving me fits, but I'm gradually getting better with it.

6) What fibers do you prefer to spin with? Hard to say since I'm so new, but I love the corriedale because it's SO easy. It's in a light silver so I've also had fun dyeing it.

7) What fibers do you dislike? Haven't met a (natural) fiber I didn't like, at least so far. I prefer softer ones rather than scratchy, but then who doesn't? :)

8) Do you prefer natural colored fibers, or handpainted/dyed fiber? I absolutely love handpainted/dyed stuff, but the natural is fun too because then I get to play with the dyes.

9) Would you prefer all one type of roving or smaller amounts of different types to sample? Wow, that's tough. Maybe divide it so that half is all one kind and the other half is made up of smaller samples. Does that make sense?

10) What are you favorite colors? I tend to like rich, vibrant colors rather than pastels. I like fall/foresty colors (deep rusts, greens, earthy browns, pumpkiny sorts of colors). On the flip side I like blues, purples, greens, golds, too. I also like this gorgeous stuff. The picture is from See Eunny Knit: (http://www.eunnyjang.com/knit/). I just show it here cause I think it's beautiful and is a great example of what I'd like to be able to do someday. Wow, she's good.

11) What colors do you dislike? Pastels. Colors which do not appear in nature.

12) What would you like to do with your handspun yarn, or what do you plan to do with it? (pattern clarification here). Dunno. Maybe socks or mittens? You can never have too many pairs of mittens here in Minnesota. I'm into fair isle right now and would also like to try a headband. Maybe a fair isle headband and matching mittens, but I'm open to just about anything. And for heaven's sake, feel free to send me a freebie pattern!

13) What spinning projects are you currently working on? Putting my new wheel together! Right now I'm mostly practicing. I'm spinning the corriedale and the merino blend and trying to spin the superwash -- I'll figure out what to do with 'em once I get a bunch done.

14) Do you have a wishlist? Roving, roving and more roving. I have my eye on a couple of spinning books: Yarn to Dye For and Color in Spinning. I'm also looking for a basic, "how to" spinning book like Hands On Spinning or something similar). Dyes. I only have four colors right now (Country Classics "pumpkin," "rust," "chestnut," and "kiwi."). It might be fun to have some more.

15) What are your other favorite hobbies? Are there other hobbies? Pretty much all I do these days is knitting, spinning, dyeing, weaving, pretty much in that order. Oh wait, I also like to garden, I have a big perennial garden just outside my front window. When I start getting too pale, I go outside and garden. Someday I want to have a dye garden and learn how to do natural dyeing.

16) Do you have any allergies (pet, smoke, food, fiber,etc...)? Nope. Well, sulfa drugs but I don't think that will come into play here... And, as someone else said, "smoke is bad." I agree, smoke is really, really bad.

17) What is your preferred shipping method (USPS, UPS, Fed Ex)? Doesn't really matter. Use whichever is cheapest.

That's it, hope it's helpful to my Secret Pal!

Up to my elbows in wood stain

My new beautiful Minstrel spinning wheel arrived yesterday! I came home from work and there she was, sitting on my doorstep. I pulled her in, unpacked her and had to marvel, she really is a thing of beauty.

So of course, the family had to troop over to Rockeler to pick out just the right stain. The spouse and manchild love Rockeler anyway (sort of a wood-workers equivalent to a LYS) and never need much of a reason to go there. I came home from Rockelers with a can of General finish in "Nutmeg" and started to work. At 9 p.m. Five and a half hours later I was finished with the first coat. I love it. It's gorgeous. But that wheel part was a bitch. Not looking forward to putting a second coat on that wheel.

I have 2 inches of a lace scarf done. I really, really like the new needles I got at Borealis. They're called Bryspun and they are from New Zealand. And, as I mentioned in my last entry, they're plastic and flexible. But they're working really well for lace. Now, this is the first lace project I've tried and I have to ask: That tangle of thread hanging off the needles really does turn out to look like something? Talk about knitting on faith...