Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Leveling Out

Some days I wonder how I got so busy, and how I ended up with so much drama. The answer to this question is usually a greater interaction with people, which is a good thing, but I am an introvert at heart so I occasionally have to set limits on what I do so that I have time to recharge. Of course, I am awful at this, so generally speaking I end up with an overabundance of interaction for a period of time, followed by a period of hermitage. 

All of that is a rather long-winded intro to say that I am finding myself utterly relieved to finally be free of appointments and obligations, at least for a while. My church choir doesn't meet for the summer so that is about to end, my vacation is over, I have fulfilled all the craft obligations I had to other people, and I am more at my own disposal than I feel I have been in months. What did I do with my new found freedom?

I spun. At last. Spinning has gone by the wayside for quite some time, because I can't spin and knit at the same time (if anyone has figured out how to do this, please tell me your secret). Really, I can't spin and do anything at the same time, not even really hold a conversation. Maybe when I get better it will require less focus, but for now, I really have to pay attention to what I'm doing. I also have more trouble feeling the progress when I spin - it's not done until it's done and there really isn't any satisfactory progress indicator. So, when I'm stressed and feeling the futility in life in general, I tend to stay away from the wheel and gravitate more towards the knitting. I need the feeling of accomplishment.

I can say that I do absolutely love plying. Spinning singles is a long, slow slog which, while enjoyable, is work and takes forever. Plying, not so much. It requires less thought and attention and it goes so much quicker than spinning singles. I love it. It's the payoff at the end.

I subscribe to the Spunky Fiber Club and so every month I get a shipment of fiber in the mail. I love this. I love getting yarn and fiber in the mail so much that the SO has occasionally threatened to snitch some of my stash sometime when I am having a grumpy week and mail it to me. I have done nothing to discourage this idea.

However, because I have not been spinning I have quite a bit of fiber built up from the club, in addition to all the fiber I bought at MD Sheep and Wool and fiber I have received as gifts. The fiber stash has thoroughly outgrown the bin I was keeping it in and continues to enlarge every month, because even though I haven't been spinning nearly enough to justify maintaining my fiber club subscription, I just enjoy it so much I can't bring myself to cancel it.

I have decided, therefore, to participate in this year's Tour de Fleece. I'm hoping that I will be able to chew through some of the fiber I have accumulated and reclaim some of my fiber space - or at least, reassign it to yarn. I plan to spin as many fiber club bags as possible. Although 4 ounces of fiber doesn't really make a significant amount of yarn (especially if you are making 3-ply super bulky yarn, which is mostly what I have managed to accomplish so far), it is a comfortable amount to spin without getting bored. Also, see above statements regarding progress. I think I will be more motivated during the tour if I have the accomplishment of actually finishing stuff as I go.

Of course the tour doesn't start the first week in July (conveniently and inconveniently, it starts on the 3rd, which means I have the long weekend for the 4th to get a good start, but also means I will have to work around several forth of July activities that are happening that weekend) so in the meantime, I am spinning whatever I feel like spinning. First I finished off the yarn that was already on the wheel, which was a Spunky Club merino/bamboo mix in a colorway called Beach Day that I really loved when I received it. Loving it did not keep me dedicated to it, though, so I only spun up the first half and then it sat untended for a long long time. Last week I spun up the second half of it, let the singles rest overnight (I should have waited longer since the original bobbin had been sitting so long, but I'm impatient) and then I plied the two bobbins together. Often I have Navajo plied my spunky club fiber since I'm not a fan of barber pole yarns, but these fiber had such a watercolor effect to it that I thought it would be fine just to let the colors fall against each other as they would, since I felt it would all blend together prettily. I was really pleased with the result. I haven't actually checked the WPI but I'm pretty sure it's at least a worsted weight, and I have hopes that it might even be a little finer than worsted. It's by far the thinnest thing I've spun and one of the only yarns I've ended up with that I felt I would actually knit with. The only problem is, there are places where it is very underspun, where I made a mistake and got a really thick spot and it just doesn't have enough twist. As evenness goes, it's definitely an improvement over past mistakes, but it's still pretty textured. Even so, I love it, I feel like it shows progress, and that makes me happy.

The underspun-ness bothers me a bit, though, because I was already spinning on the smaller circle of the whorl. My Kiwi only has two ratios so if my yarn isn't getting enough twist, I will have to learn to hold onto it longer or treadle faster. Since I'm still learning anything that involves changing my spinning style makes me a little wary. Ashford does sell a lace flyer for the kiwi so that's a consideration also.

As it happens Techmuse sent me some fiber some time ago via a third party, and I finally picked it up from said third party this weekend. There was some purple fiber and some white fiber and this:

I squealed a little. They're just so cute! This looks like a sampler of naturally dyed fiber (cochineal, indigo, and another word that started with c that I can't remember which I assume gives you the yellow; the green is a combo of indigo and the other c word) and the bag says it is 4 ounces total, which means each puff of color is probably around 1 ounce. It just looked so happy there in its little bag, and I petted it all the way home (I was not driving) and put it on the wheel right away (I may have gained extra amusement from imagining tiny colored sheep wandering around a meadow). It's a BFL crossbreed, according to the label, and I really enjoy spinning BFL so I was extra excited. On the way home I pondered it and decided that I would spin each of these little colored samples in a row, and then spin some of the white fiber I received and then ply the colored together with the white. I didn't find a label for the white fiber but the staple length and crimp appeared to be similar to that of the colored fibers. The only problem with this is that I don't think I have a scale capable of weighing out four ounces of the white fiber. I have a tiny little scale I occasionally use for yarn but it's not nearly big enough for fleece. Maybe I can borrow the SO's kitchen scale.

Anyway, then I could conceivably find a white commercial yarn and stripe it with my handspun to make a scarf (similar to the famous noro 1x1 rib, 2x2 striped scarves) that would go from yellow to blue to red to green. If all went according to plan. Which is always a question, really.

I spun all of the yellow fiber:

And then some of the blue before I had to quit because my drafting hand and my back were wearing out. I wonder if a single treadle wheel is easier on one's back, since you can have one foot on the floor and conceivably not have to be slightly rocked back the way you do when you're treadling with both feet? I do find that spinning is a little tough on my back, which may have to do with my chair. I'm not sure what the ideal height for a spinning chair is. Right now I just use my dining room chairs.

In knitting news, I bought a subscription to Romi's Seven Small Shawls To Knit e-book and I have mostly completed the first shawl to be released, Merope:

Yarn is Shaeffer Audrey in colorway Nellie Bly, and I really got lucky with the pooling. Visually interesting and miraculously symmetrical! I still have to knit the edging. There are options in the pattern for either a knit-on border or a reverse stockinette icord and I haven't decided what I want to do yet. This was primarily my vacation knitting, since Evenstar is 100% silk (and also huge) and not really feasible as portable knitting. I have held off on Evenstar since I got back so I could go ahead and finish this project off. Speaking of my vacation, you are not supposed to take pictures at the Jamestown museum, but I could not resist just snapping an iphone pic of this display:

This looked so much like the tools I use today (especially the needles) that I really doubted the veracity of the display. I expected colonial knitting needles to look more rustic, somehow. I can only assume, however, that the museum knows what it's doing.

They were also selling "Intentional Spinning" in the book shop, which I found interesting. There was a drop-spindle class in Colonial Williamsburg as well, but schedule didn't permit me to go watch.

I hope to get Merope finished by the weekend, and then spend this weekend chugging on as much as the Evenstar edging as I can. I'd love it if I could finish that edging before the TdF starts. I love the project, but I'm ready to be finished with it!

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