Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Best Quote I Heard All Day
People talk about "dysfunctional" families; I've never seen any other kind.--Sue Grafton

Today is going to be a down and dirty post because I have lunch with my mother at noon and coffee with the brother and sister at 3:30.

Mammy has bought the Knit Picks Fair Isle cardigan kit and is currently zooming through their Fair Isle vest. I'll be interested in seeing what they look like.

Weaving Redux
On Sunday, I managed to rid my loom of the sampler, finally. It's time to move on and make some towels or something.

A rather ratty looking effort--still, my selvedges were pretty even. I've found a nice, easy towel pattern in Interweave's Top Ten 4-Shaft Towels e-book.

This will involve doing a warp of 490 ends. And because I want to make four towels, not just two, I'll have to figure on about 5 yds. per end. That's a lot of fucking threads. I have the purple, lavender (see, Loop, I spelled it right!) and red 10/2 unmercerized cotton I bought at WEBS. That will do quite nicely. I'll warp with the purple and then weft with the other two, alternating the weft for each towel.

I rather imagine the first towel will be, um, something I keep rather than give to my mother and brother, who are asking for these.

Tomorrow will be warp-chain making. And Thursday I'll warp the loom. By God.

Booga Bag Boogers
So why did I end up with little white boogers on my Booga Bag? It felted quite nicely and as I thought, was done and felted in short order.

You can see the little white boogers on the bag and the handle. I felted the bag in a mesh zippered bag, along with three pairs of jeans and my Yankee sweatshirt. So what the fuck is this? I didn't see a stray Kleenex or anything else that might have caused this.

I picked most of them off anyway. And as you can see, I haven't yet inserted the other handle. But it's kinda cute, if not a bit small for my taste.

I need a suitcase and most of my bags are pretty much that. Big honkin' suitcases, sufficiently large enough to carry all my junk.

This was a good stoopid project that acted as comic relief while knitting the Melanie shawl.

Of course, neither Corinne nor Liz wants it. So I guess it just isn't cute or kewl enough. Perhaps if I'd done a Hello Kitty motif, Corinne might have liked it.

Write, Wrote, Written
Yesterday I spent all day writing. Between the book and working on the directions for the hoodie, I had scant time to do anything fibrous. And didn't feel like doing the blog after all of that.

But still, it amazes me that when I sit down at the keyboard, shit flows from my fingers like it never does from my mouth. I actually tend to be very quiet in person.

Unless, of course, I'm with my beloved Wolverinas. There's something about them--Joe, Franklin, Loopy, Selma, Kathy, Carol, Lisa and Liza--that makes me open up.

Everyone has their knitting crew, I hope. It's a necessary part of life.

And always a rare and handy bunch to have around, good times or bad.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Best Quote I Heard All Day
My alphabet starts with this letter called YUZZ. It's the letter I use to spell Yuzz-a-ma-Tuzz.--Theodor Geisel


(with many apologies to Dr. Seuss)

I do not like them on a frock
I do not like them on a sock
I do not like them on a hat
I do not like them on a cat

I do not like them in my hair
I do not like them anywhere
I do not like them on a tam
I do not like them, SamIAm

If I needed an extra nipple or perhaps a colorful tumor, I'd put strategically placed bobbles on all my sweaters. And in the current issue, Interweave Knits offers me the opportunity to add to my already-generous bazoom with a bobble here, there and everywhere. Not to mention pom-poms, the new bobbles.

I ask you, besides the fugly factor, which is a bigger pain in the ass to make? Bobbles or pom-poms? I opt for the latter because who the fuck can ever trim them properly? I made some once circa. 1975 and I couldn't. And let's not discuss the pom-pom maker. An accessory that should have been born a-dyin'.

Let's send bobbles and pom-poms back to the era in which they belong.

What I liked from the current IK issue: the socks, the mitts, the Prairie Tunic (which I would have made at 25 but not now), Evelyn Clark's lace scarf.

The rest you can have.

OK, you asked. Now I'm giving you a short list of good places to find good designs. Mind you, the decent patterns you'll pay for. But then, you're willing to pay for dreck like Knitter's and Vague, so why not fork over for these?

Disclaimer: I have not used the directions from most of these sites, so I can't vouch for their quality or accuracy. We're talking strictly visual here and not everything is always to my taste; however, I've found some really good stuff on these links.


  • The Knitting Vault--lots of good designs here, including Joe's great Koigu scarf pattern. Even Lucy Neatby has some stuff here. (Fredda, I promise you, I'm working on the directions for the hoodie.)
  • Chic Knits--I like Bonne Marie's simple styles. Classic and nicely styled.
  • White Lies Designs--I love this site and I swear that one of these days I'm going to get one of these patterns. Joan McGowan-Michael does knitted lingerie and retro stuff better than anyone I've seen to date. And her sizes range from petite to plus.
  • The Girl From Auntie--Home of the Rogue. I wish Jenna would do some more designing.

Note: Most pay-for sites also have their freebies. And most freebies are what they are. Pretty basic because who's going to give away something complex?

  • GarnStudio--I wrote about this site several months ago but it's worth repeating. Talk about a pile of freebies, and good ones at that--GarnStudio has put up patterns from their old books. Something for everyone here.
  • Knitting-And.com--I like the vintage patterns here. Lots of other stuff as well. Sarah has quite a bit on her site and it's worth perusing.
  • wiseNeedle--You know it for its yarn reviews but Kim has a number of free patterns and graphs as well.
  • BoogaJ--Home of the Booga Bag, a basic but nicely designed felted bag that uses Noro Kureyon. (BoogaJ was one of the group of us, Bonne Marie included, who started blogging in 2002. This woman has knitted more bags from Noro Kureyon than anyone I've ever seen.)

Just to prove that I put my mouth where my money isn't, I downloaded the Booga Bag and decided to make one last night because I really wanted to watch the skating finals and didn't want to concentrate on the Melanie.

BoogaJ calls this "mac and cheese" knitting and that's a perfect description. Her directions are excellent, by the way. And who doesn't have three balls of Kureyon lying around doing nothing? I know I did. You can make this in a weekend, easily.

Weird going from #1s to #10.5 needles, though. I find the larger the needle, the more it irritates my CTS, for some reason. I had to dredge out the big needles from my case and dust 'em off.

Quick Spin
After giving the Matchless a tune-up (cleaning, tightening the bolts, oiling), I decided to give that raspberry merino/tercel a go. Changed the whorl from the medium to the small, set the tension to nothing and off I went. In fits and starts.

I started by doing some predrafting. Bad idea. The twist was entering the fiber much too quickly. I changed the whorl and I slowed down my treadling. The fiber drifted apart. Spinning from the fold didn't help either. Put the small whorl back on. Feh. Not spinning smoothly. So I ended up by spinning right from the roving, keeping the small whorl and no tension. Perfect.

Noo Yawk
I enjoyed reading about Franklin's Sister Sue's trip to NYC last weekend. We went to some of the same places on Saturday because Liz had a hankering to go to Times Square and to the great punk mecca, CBGB, which is due to close next October. Ya gotta have the sweatshirt to amaze and impress your friends, dontcha know? It was fucking colder than shit.

Virgin Records is not my idea of a fun place to visit, despite its amazing selection of music, movies, and such. But then, I'm no longer 13 either. Dinner at Wo Hop's in Chinatown assuaged the old woman in me. Some very welcomed chicken and corn soup and shrimp egg fu yung. And the biggest fucking dumplings I've seen, ever.

I love my hometown--yeah, I was born in Manhattan, which makes me a native to some degree. But when you have to fight traffic for an hour going in (Lincoln Tunnel) and going out (Holland Tunnel), it ceases to be a rare and handy experience.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Best Quote I Heard All Day
There must be courage; there must be no awe. There must be criticism, for humor, to my mind, is encapsulated in criticism. There must be a disciplined eye and a wild mind.--Dorothy Parker

My writing philosophy, precisely stated by Dottie.

So I ate a little crow in the last entry's comments. I think that perhaps many of you think that I am set in stone when I opine.

That is far from true. My opinions can always change, given the intelligent argument. I still find big-population knitalongs to be a bore. But I do acknowledge the need for many to belong, to be part of a community. So we're done with this now.

What Knitting Magazines?
From the New York Times, Saturday February 18th:
"The State of the Blogosphere" presented at sifry.com this week by David L. Sifry, the founder of Technorati, a leading blog search site, shows just how complicated things have become. According to Mr. Sifry's data, mainstream media sites, as measured by the number of blogs linking to them, are trouncing news-oriented blogs by a growing margin.

[extraneous verbiage snipped]

The report also shows that while blogs may present no real threat to top news organizations, niche publications are far more vulnerable. "This realm of publishing, which I call 'The Magic Middle' of the attention curve," Mr. Sifry writes, "highlights some of the most interesting and influential bloggers and publishers that are often writing about topics that are topical or niche. And what is so interesting to me is how exciting, informative and witty these blogs often are. I've noticed that often these blogs are more topical or focused on a niche area, like gardening, knitting, nanotech, MP3's or journalism."

So where does that leave the knitting magazines? As I've said before, scrambling and getting nowhere fast.

Do we now see the knitting magazines each doing a blog? I'm betting on it. Because they're so far behind the eight-ball at this point, what do they have left? Certainly not their paper. They can't compete with what's being written and designed by bloggers.

I haven't seen the new Interweave Knits yet, despite my subscribing two months ago (so where the fuck is it, IK fulfillment department?). I still hold out hope that IK will at least improve but I don't know. I've not been tremendously impressed with the designs recently but I still think it's the best of the lot. Interweave still publishes quality books and I still love Spin-Off, Handwoven and Piecework. I always get the sense that the editorial staff for all four magazines cares about what they do and how they present it. Must be my editor's sixth sense.

I've been trashing Knitter's for so long, it's almost a waste of my cyber-breath. And Vague? Garbage.

Cast-On doesn't even merit a mention, the disgrace that it is. INknitters? An initial good idea that has gone so far south that it should be euthanized.

Starry Night Over and Out
The last bit was spun on Friday and I've got two half-full bobbins left to ply.

Three plus pounds, 230 yards of roving. Ten fat skeins. This is the most I've spun of one thing. And I learned a lot from it.

First, I honed up my drafting skills. This made for some inconsistency in the finished product.

The ball on the left was the first spun. The one on the right was spun somewhere in the middle of the project. You can see, even from this not-so-clear photo, that the yarn in the first ball is a bit heavier and quite a bit more loosely plyed than the ball on the right.

I knew this was happening while I was spinning Starry Night, which is why my gut told me that the yarn will ultimately become a shawl. Although most of the yarn was spun like the later ball, I still don't think that this would work well in a sweater necessarily.

So here's the test swatch:

I did this in the car on the way to New York City on Saturday. It's Old Shale, the only lace pattern I could remember from memory but it worked for what I wanted to see--how the yarn would perform in a balanced garter/eyelet pattern, which is what I thought the yarn would need.

It works for me. [Ed. note: I will not be using Old Shale but probably a pattern from Heirloom Knitting.]

This is a heavy fingering weight, in my mind. And it will make a very nice, heavier shawl to wear with jeans and the like. This will be my stupid project when I knit the Wedding Ring shawl.

So what do I spin next? I could go on to the next large project, which is Emerald City. However, I feel like a short shot between biggies. So I may spin this merino/tercel, which is 2 ounces:

Or this, a merino of which I have a pound and a half:

I'm sick of blue, though. So it will probably be the raspberry.

The Melanie
I'm on row 55 now and things are finally going the right way.

The blue isn't quite this lurid in person. It is a true ice blue. But at least the picture shows some progress. There are 60+ rows to each repeat and I am only on the first one; however, I would guestimate that it will take me roughly three weeks to complete this center square, so that's not too bad. The border is self-edging, so it is only a two-part shawl. This should be finished by April sometime.

And then there's the dressing. Fun.

The best thing that I've learned from this and gotten through my thick skull is this: With k2tog, the yo follows. With ssk (or k2 tog bl), the yo comes first. Generally. Once I had this solidified in my brain, working the knitted lace medallions at the bottom and sides came easily. Although I generally use ssk, I am doing the k2 tog through the back loops as Sharon Miller recommends and I find that it's actually quicker when I am knitting the center pattern stitch. Whether you use one or the other method matters little in the finished product, in my opinion.

Break Time
I took a four-day break from e-mail, blogging and so forth because I needed to spend time on the aforementioned projects. Plus the family was home, which makes writing a bit dicey, since my "office" is right next to the kitchen.

However, in the course of this break, I decided to suspend writing Swing Time, simply because I don't have the time to devote to this blog, that blog and all my other projects. I did Swing Time as an experiment to see if I could sustain that much writing. I can't. So I will leave the site up for the nonce, since it has some good links. And of course, if you want, you can always reach me at knitz at optonline dot net.

I never feel like I have enough time to get shit done. And there's that rare and handy loom sitting next to me that needs attention. Yeah.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Best Quote I Heard All Day
If you don't try to win, you might as well hold the Olympics in somebody's backyard.--Jesse Owens

I'm not a joiner. If 4,000 people decide that they are going to do something in unison, I'm immediately disinterested.

There must be a reason blind followers are called "sheep." Besides the fact that sheep travel in packs and tend to be dumb animals.

If someone can provide a convincing argument that explains to me why everyone rushing to complete something by the end of the Olympics is fun, I'll eat crow.

The Real Knitting Olympics
So yes, I am knitting while watching the Olympics. The Melanie shawl is finally off and running.It's hard to stretch out the knitting so that the pattern is clear and take a picture at the same time. However, you get the idea. Finished with the first horizontal band of "rosebuds" and into the main pattern stitch of the square, which is a simple 6-stitch pattern and thankfully has plain rows on the even-numbered rows.

I was half-watching the men's single skating the other night while finishing up the band of rosebuds and I had a vision.

A real Knitting Olympics. None of this "let's all knit something and finish it in two weeks" bullshit.

What if you were really knitting for gold? I could easily equate knitting a lace pattern with skating a short program. And I envisioned QueerJoe and Franklin as the commentators/color analysts.

Let's go to the videotape:

QJ: Roberts has been training all year for this Melanie shawl. She had problems early on, Franklin, with injury to her right hand but it looks like she's back on track and ready to compete.

Franklin: True, Joe. I saw her earlier this season at Rhinebeck, where she displayed astonishing speed in finishing the Field of Flowers. But you know, speed has not always been her strong suit. I'm looking to see how she fares in this most demanding program, one of Sharon Miller's designs. And look! She's begun the first row!

QJ: This is a particularly difficult challenge for her. She's got to watch her yarn-overs. I've noticed in past competitions that she gets sloppy going into the corners and losing those yarn-overs are what caused her disastrous showing at Atlantic City in 2002.

Franklin: OH! She missed one! The judges will certainly mark her down for that! But she's recovered, ripped out two stitches and gotten the yo onto the needle. Remarkable recovery!

QJ: That's gonna cost her time, though, Franklin. And frankly, her color choice sucks. That's going to cost her points too. Good color selection is definitely something the judges look for.

Franklin: Her coach is her mother, did you know that, Joe? Growing up in a wealthy family and living in toney Montclair, New Jersey, didn't stop them from learning a craft that has suffered the stigma of Red Heart and Lion Brand in the past.

QJ: I understand that when Roberts retires from competition, and this may be her last year, Franklin, she'll be moving onto weaving. OH NO! She's lost half of her stitches! This is a huge defeat for the veteran knitter!

Franklin: I'd say she's out of the medal competition now. This is a serious error on Roberts's part. You have to blame it on her choice of equipment, Joe, no question. Those Addis are notoriously slippery.

QJ: Hold on! She's picking the stitches up! She's got them on the needle backwards, though. If she can knit 'em through the back loops, she may just pick up some speed here.

Franklin: We're coming to the end of the row now, with a time of 6:45. This is not bad, considering her faulty performance.

QJ: And she's reached the end of her short program, with a 6.5 from the judges. This puts her way back in the pack, Franklin. A valiant effort from a seasoned pro. No medal for her this year.

Franklin: But she'll be back in 2008, Joe. As Roberts always says, "Knitting is a rare and handy thing." We'll see her again. Back to you in the studio.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Best Quote I Heard All Day
Silly things do cease to be silly if they are done by sensible people in an impudent way. --Jane Austen

Happy Valentine's Day

Jen Tocker sent me this a long time ago and I used it at that time. It bears using again. You can make your own here.

So here are some Valentine hearts. For some of my favorite people.


or possibly

The Boys from SD

Tiny Diva

What the Dog Did

Yarn Company

It's a real challenge to write something with only 8 characters.

But here's one for the Wolvies, with Merrick in mind.

I'm done now.

Is There an '80s Song for This?
Because I know Daryl Hall wrote some crappy song that might reflect my struggle to get the Melanie shawl off and running.

Finally, something on the needles.

Even though it's hard to tell from the picture what the motif looks like, I know that this time I have it down pat. Knitted lace is a hell of a lot trickier to work than lace knitting, the difference being that knitted lace is patterned on every row, lace knitting has a plain row between patterned rows. These little rosettes/medallions that border the center panel have several rows that are ballbusters and require total concentration.

That meant no Olympics-watching for me last night. However, once I get past the bottom band of these motifs, the rest is pretty easy. I was looking at the border chart last night and that's not difficult either.

The trick to knitting Sharon Miller's designs (or any lace pattern for that matter) is to break the knitting down into manageable gulps. Looking at the shawls as a whole can be somewhat intimidating. But as with other complex knitting, it's usually just a matter of cementing the symmetry into your head.

I always like to equate the things I enjoy doing, like writing and knitting, to music. When I was an aspiring music student, I found that I could sight-read easily. Same thing with translations in Latin class. It's all about sectionalizing the work.

Once you have the tune in your head, you can knit anything.

And now, it's time to go back to some rare and handy editing work that my prospective employer sent me to do. A test, as it were. Five web pages to edit and one introductory chapter of a software manual to rewrite. I did them yesterday rather than blog. We'll see if this job becomes a reality.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Best Quote I Heard All Day
Beauty isn't worth thinking about; what's important is your mind. You don't want a fifty-dollar haircut on a fifty-cent head.--Garrison Keillor

Buddy sez: Everywhere I go, people remark on my spectacular fur coloring. So why is it on her head?

My new haircut and dye job right after a restful night's sleep.

You may write fawning, twee comments elsewhere. The pink garment is my nightgown, so don't get all smart about it.

So I slip-slided my way to the job interview yesterday, dangerously tottering on heels that have not been worn in months.

And standing on the train platform in Dover, freezing my ass off because we are finally getting some shitty cold winter weather here in Sopranoland. But the interview was un succes fou, as someone I know and love might say. You realize that if I'm gainfully employed again, blogging will happen only twice a week.

Tough shit, you know? I need the benefits. But thanks for all your good wishes.

Besides the usual questions, review of my writing/editing samples and discussion of the position, the CEO did ask me what my book was about. When I told him, he got it completely and was seemingly impressed. But then, he's European. If he had been American, I doubt there would have been a glimmer.

Rag Mags
I posted a comment over at Joe's blog, as I am wont to do, because the topic of lousy designs in the knitting magazines has once again surfaced.

As if it ever goes away.

I thought I might expand and expound a bit on what I wrote in the comment.

Most people don't know how magazines operate as businesses. You develop what you think is a relationship with a magazine and then it goes south on you. You get personally offended. Well, it's a business, and a cut-throat one at that. While magazines do care about what their readers think to varying degrees, they care much more about how their advertisers react to ad response.

Knitting magazines are subject to the same forces as are other consumer mags. Their advertisers. If you think that your subscription money carries them, think again. The almighty advertising dollar is what counts. Sure, circulation counts too; every magazine tracks circ numbers. (Did you know that magazines have to pay newsstand distributors big money to have their issues given prominent position on the stands?) However, the biggest source of revenue for most magazines is advertising.

So there is a constant pressure on the editorial department by the advertising department to use goods manufactured by advertisers. Do you honestly think that the editors really like the shitty yarns that they feature? Other than Dragon Boy, who I am sure begs for them, probably not. The editors will ask designers to re-do submissions in the Yarn du Jour because the manufacturer has just paid thousands for a big, whompin' ad up front and this is will augment the selling of said yarn. Advertiser will be more likely to sign up for another year's worth of ad space if they sell a pile of yarn this way. I'd be willing to bet that more yarn sales come directly from designs than from specific ads.

(You know there are plenty of people who cannot or will not knit a pattern in anything other than what is called for in the directions. And with many of these so-called "fashion yarns," substitution is impossible anyway. So there is a "captive" audience, as it were.)

I'm not saying that every design is chosen in this way. But many of them are. Just look at the selection of materials used by many designers and you know that the yarns reflect what the yarn industry has deemed "hot."

When the sales for these wretched yarns start plummeting, then the magazines will improve. And the only way that will happen is if people stop using them and go back to the tried-and-true yarns that have value and are versatile.

One hand washes the other. Sorry to say it, but knitting magazine publishing is a business, pure and simple. You are the consumer. If you don't like what is in the magazines, don't buy them, don't buy the yarn and definitely complain about it.

Besides, all the interesting design work and writing is now being done out on the blogs. I've seen more incredible garments done by independent designers who blog and sell their patterns themselves than I've seen in the magazines over the past four years. The magazines need to wake up to this trend because they're being left in the dust.

And with that quasi-polemic, I take myself off to the rare and handy coffeepot for a fresh, pod-spewed cuppa. Storm's coming this weekend to the Northeast, so I'm ready for a marathon Melanie knitting session, something I haven't been able to do this week, damn it.

Gotta wash that head. Jesus, this haircut makes me look like Raggedy Ann.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Just a quickie because I've been out all day and no time to blog.

Joe has had trouble with the connection between his domain, queerjoe.com and blogger. I won't bore you with the technical details but you can reach his blog by clicking THIS.

I hate to say it but my days this week have been taken up by headhunters and a job interview tomorrow for an editing gig. This is a big fucking deal and it means bucks and health insurance. So rather than blog today, I spent time getting my corporate ass together (hair, clothes, putting together writing portfolio).

And no, it's not for a knitting mag--those guys would rather choke on their own spit than hire me, I'm betting. Their loss, too.

Anyway, by Friday I'll be back to regular blogging. Finished that little Gigi scarf and went back to the Melanie shawl. Perusing weaving drafts to determine which one the kitchen towels I'm making for Ma and Rich would be best suited.

So play nice and I'll see you all Friday, when I return to the Land of Fiber.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Best Quote I Heard All Day
I'd rather be dead than singing "Satisfaction" when I'm forty-five.--Mick Jagger

There's nothing like a few bucks to make a dead man come.

ABC did censor him--twice. But I guess it's just fine to sing "Satisfaction" when you're 62 as long as the money keeps rolling in. He moved damned good for a senior citizen.

I saw the Stones in 1964 at the old Academy of Music on 14th St. in New York. Tickets were $5, if memory serves. They were amazing then and they are amazing now, despite a lot of crap records over the years.

Best Stones album: Exile on Main St.

In With the In Crowd
I don't usually go along with blogging fads but I couldn't resist this one:

I'm not quite sure what this is supposed to prove but it does include expletives. The essence of moi?

Working with the Gossamer Merino
As Jean surmised, I was a bit taken aback by the fineness of the gossamer merino. However, Friday afternoon I took a pair of #0 dps and knit a swatch from the yarn and the chart provided by Sharon Miller.

No big deal at all.

Mind you, I am not going to block this. Sharon gives you different yarns to try out and the real swatch for the Wedding Ring shawl will be done later this spring, probably. I may fiddle with the sample of gossamer silk that she sent. However, I've bought the gossamer merino and I like the way it knits.

It's amazing how fast brain and fingers can switch from knitting one weight and adjust for another.

I've done some work on the Melanie and it's coming along well. I should have enough done by Wednesday to take a decent picture.

Blogger Issues
Blogger had some weekend problems with outages. Just so you know. According to them, they've been fixed. I have my doubts since earlier this morning I couldn't save my text as a draft.

But who am I to complain? Freebie blog publishing is not so rare but eminently handy.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Best Quote I Heard All Day
The life so short, the crafts so long to learn--Geoffrey Chaucer

Every day, as I go about my fiber business, I find something on which to improve and something wonderful that heretofore escaped my notice.

Once that stops, I'm a dead woman. No flowers, please.

This Spinning Life
My day begins (and often ends) at one of my spinning wheels. This was not always so. For a few years after I bought my first wheel, the wheel languished as I unsuccessfully tried and failed to spin a merino/silk/angora blend that no beginner should attempt, gave up, started again, and failed again.

But I'm nothing if not stubborn. My late husband was fond of calling me "the original headbanger" because I'll keep at something until I get it right. This can be a most annoying habit, I suppose. However, it's stood me in good stead.

A few of us have been having an e-mail conversation on what's the best wheel to buy (Franklin) and who's a closet spinner (Carol). So I'm writing this for them and for those out there in the ether who are thinking about spinning or just starting.

Here's my very first skein of plyed wool, done just two years ago:

Pretty bad. But I plyed two skeins of this "novelty" yarn and I have a great fondness for both of them, simply because they are first efforts. The wpi is 10. And I might still knit them--maybe a hat.

But at some point over the past two years, brain connected with hands. I realized that if I wanted to become proficient, I needed to spin every day. So I did and do. And here is what I learned that may help you become a better spinner right off the bat. However you draft, these hold true.

  • Don't grip the fiber; support it. If you clench your hand around the fiber mass, you can't draft and it becomes a fight. Let the fibers slip out freely so that your drafting hand can control them. As Mabel Ross said, "If all the fibers are under the control of one hand or the other, drafting is easy."
  • Draft the same amount of fiber into the twist.
  • Start with as little tension as possible. All you need is enough for take-up onto the bobbin.
  • Be consistent in your spinning rhythm. Treadle evenly as you measure your fibers going into the twist.
  • When you ply, tension is everything. Tension on the lazy kate, tension on the wheel.
  • Plying will hide small inconsistencies but not big ones.

Spinning is really a courtly dance, a gavotte if you will. So after learning these lessons and putting the dance steps together, I can now spin this:

This is the Starry Night, 18 wpi. My critical eye tells me that I can learn to ply even more consistently. However, the more I do, the better I get. This wpi is categorized as "laceweight." I would say perhaps a fine fingering weight.

I think Starry Night will become a shawl. I can't see it as a sweater.

If this left-handed klutz can spin, so can you.

Wedding Ring Cometh and Melanie Woes
Haven't had much time the past two days to knit because I've been working with a headhunter who called me regarding an editing gig. So it's been a flurry of phone calls, e-mails and writing samples. But I did get the gossamer merino from Sharon Miller for the Wedding Ring shawl.

This shit is thin. I mean, really threadish. Loopy's already worked her sample swatches in the cotton and silk with much agony and finally success with the merino. I ordered the merino off the bat because I didn't want to make the shawl in either silk or cotton.

Look at this stuff. Boggles the mind.

It makes the Jaggerspun Zephyr I'm using for the Melanie feel like Lopi. I had been struggling with the decreases on the Melanie and went to my lace guru, Ted, for advice. He saved my sorry ass and I'm once more back on track. Should have some pictures either Monday or Wednesday.

Corinne has picked out her flowers, more or less. And they will complement the shawl beautifully. Now I just need to get some mileage on it over the next few weeks.

I'm a rare and handy Mommy to knit this shawl for my Bumbawoo (childhood nickname, have no idea where it came from).

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Best Quote I Heard All Day
Here's a good trick: Get a job as a judge at the Olympics. Then, if some guy sets a world record, pretend that you didn't see it and go, "Okay, is everybody ready to start now?"--Jack Handy

And here's my team button:

Remind me to start a knitting "event" the next time I wash my kitchen floor. The Great Knitting Pinesol-along.

Wouldn't it make more sense to finish something you already started while you're watching the Olympics?

Just sayin'.

Wednesday Downtown Lunch
Spent a little time with Mama and Sis having lunch today. Before that, I went to my mother's apartment to gather up some old Knitter's that she didn't want anymore and to see the finished Wensleydale vest.

This is the vest, hot off the needles and not yet blocked. And for some reason, the picture came out lousy. She's pleased with it, although now she's decided that she's shrunk because I did the directions from the measurements she gave me and the vest is too large for her. I guess one does shrink when you reach 82. Her next project will be a Fair Isle vest so at least her brain hasn't shrunk.

Just to give Morehouse credit, that scarf I am knitting is their Gigi pattern. Of course, it's hardly an original design, since it's just the ubiquitous Old Shale, which truly can be found in virtually every knitting reference book.

Old Shale Thoughts
Even though it's a well-used stitch pattern, it's always been one of my favorites. In fact, it was the very first lace stitch I ever did, in a ghastly afghan for my late mother-in-law. Picture five shades of avocado green, two strips in each color with garter stitch borders, and you get the picture. This was around 1974 and the afghan was a Columbia-Minerva kit, if memory serves.

There are so many great variations on this stitch pattern that you could collect them all and put them in a book. I'm using one now for a shawl that's been on the drawing board and swatched but not yet started. This will be a DK weight because I'd really like to have something to wear with jeans.

Laceweight looks impressive when knit up but sure doesn't keep you warm.

Short entry today, chiles. Not much to write about or pictures to put up. Mostly working out my personal issues with the Melanie shawl, thinking about taking a scissors to my weaving sampler and getting it off the loom, and working on the book. Franklin's done some amazing sketches so far, including the cover drawing, which is of course perfect.

However, my rarest and unquestionably most handy feat of the week was to avoid watching the Idiot-in-Chief last night. A clueless liar I don't need to hear.