Posts Tagged ‘drop spindle’

Little Seeds

For just getting back to work after 4 days off, I am unusually exhausted and feeling pretty run down in general. Because I have committed to writing more, I very much want to post an entry, but my thoughts are as gray as the sky outside my window (rather, my conference room windows; I certainly don’t rate a window seat in this building). All weekend long, I had deep, serious, and interesting thoughts, but that was because I also spent several hours at my spinning wheel over the weekend. Now, I find it a struggle to string two syllables together and form a coherent thought.

I find a spinning wheel to be an excellent prescription for an unsettled mind. It is a balm to disordered thinking. Would that I could bring my spinning wheel to work and share its healing powers with my coworkers. Now I am about 75% of the way finished with 8 ounces of Ashland Bay Colonial Multi-Colored Blue-Green, which is hands down, now my favorite Ashland Bay colorway I have ever spun (and I have spun, quite literally, miles of Ashland Bay fibers in the past decade).
(Image borrowed from Paradise Fibers, whom I highly recommend as a resource.)

Long before I was a knitter, I was a spinner. Before I was a spinner, I was a sewer. I have had a fibery disposition since childhood, but it was not until I found the Society for Creative Anachronism in the Autumn of 2000, that I found an outlet, not to mention a real education, for fiber preparation and use. My tutelage began at home, many years ago, with my mother and Nana. Nana tried to teach me to knit when I was a young girl. I got as far as learning a backwards loop cast on, and that was it, I just wasn’t up for more than that yet. Mom tried to teach me her crochet stitch, but to me, crochet is like trying to write with my off hand. It just “feels” uncomfortable somewhere in my brain. As I got older, Mom taught me some basic sewing skills; even before I was in my teens, I had sewn several things from patterns including some basic skirts and an apron, and eventually, by my late teens, I had moved on to some fantasy costuming to include a “renaissance” dress, and a bunch of crushed velour hooded cloaks (I was so deep and cool back then, and wasn’t Emily Dickenson just the best poet ever?).

When I found the SCA, I had the basic skills to make my own very simple garb out of fabric scrounged from the $1 per yard bolts found at the Farmville Wal-Mart near my college. Then my education began on natural fibers, their properties, their pros and cons (mostly pros), and why oil-based manmade fibers generally suck. Linen, wool, and cotton fabrics became prized finds, particularly in the old $1 per yard Wal-Mart days.

Within a year, I had decided I wanted to be a weaver. I purchased an inkle loom at my first Pennsic, and within a couple of months of learning basic tabby woven bands, I wanted to handspin my own yarns to weave.

It turned out that handspun yarns did not work well for weaving inkle bands, but I had both skills anyway. I continued to spin and I continued to weave (using commercial cotton and linen yarns mostly), I continued to sew, and continued to learn more about the nature of various fibers and their inherent qualities.

Of all my various skills I had picked up through the SCA, I loved spinning the most. My main problem was that I had nothing I could do with my finished product. And not being a user of my yarn, I didn’t have a good grasp on the subtleties of yarns and how a yarn is spun could affect what its best use would be. But I continued spinning away until I reached a point where I either had to stop spinning because I had no purpose for all the wool I was turning into string, or I had to actually do something with all that string.

The short answer is that I stopped spinning for a while. I think it was about a year or two. But that wasn’t the right answer for me, it turned out. I missed the act of spinning and creating yarns; I missed having a reason to paw through deliciously colored and divinely soft fibers at SCA events, particularly Pennsic. I missed the mind-ordering act; the quiet time when you can turn your thoughts inward if you are feeling introverted, and the loud, laughing times when you can turn your voice outward and share good times with friends if you are feeling more extroverted.

So it was in 2007 that I determined that I would teach myself to knit and finally purpose all those miles of string I had created. I turned to online resources to learn the skill, and of course, that has been the genesis of my knitting blog and all you have seen here since.

It turned out that I actually knew next to nothing about spinning and making yarn once I learned how to do something with it. I learned all those singles I had spun over the years (because plying on a drop spindle is sort of a pain) were not very useful for much. Most were underspun, too thick or too thin, or just in too little quantity of for a real project. Knitting opened my eyes to the complexity of yarn. I never guessed something as simple as string could need so much thought and attention.

I spent this past weekend spinning, knitting, and sewing, among all the other normal domestic activities most people partake in on any given weekend, and I spent a lot of time reflecting on how thankful I am to my Nana, my Mom, and the various teachers and mentors I have had within the SCA, all of whom imparted to me some major and minor bits of fiber wisdom. My fingers were surprisingly retentive of the memories of a 6 year old when I cast on my very first ever knitting in this decade with a backward loop cast on. My garb all harkens back to those days at the kitchen table with my Mom, cutting out simple patterns and sewing things like aprons and A-line skirts as part of my homeschooler education. My knitting only happens because a lady whose name I only knew as Seraphina spent 30 minutes with me at an SCA event with some Jacob wool and a spindle.

Who knew that each of those moments would turn into something greater? Each little learning moment was like a little seed planted in my brain, some which lay dormant for decades, and as each little seed has blossomed, it has in turn planted a new seed which would become some new interest and skill.

And how cool is that? I cannot wait to find out what comes next.



In roughly 2 hours, I will hopefully be on the road to Pennsic.

For a combination of reasons, I am not quite as excited as I have been in previous years, but that’s okay, and I really, really, need this vacation. Rather than my normal “war” vacation, I am looking at it as a knitting, spinning, shopping, and visiting vacation.

So here is my Pennsic Shawl.
Meet Haruni. The yarn is Knit Picks Palette, color is Iris Heather. I cast on this morning because Pennsic does officially open today, but I won’t get there until after 1 a.m., and will spend many hours driving, not knitting. My theoretical goal is to start and finish Haruni while I am on vacation. Don’t laugh.

I am not really sure how I feel about Haruni, yet, even though I am only on the 23rd row. It may not be the pattern but the yarn that gives me pause. I have been knitting with so much of my own handspun lately, that a soft, very lightly plied commercial yarn just looks and feels strange in my hands. I am sure that it will block out very nicely, and honestly, all top-down triangular shawls start out with the same sort of rumpled look, but right now, I cannot find any definition in the stitch pattern.

Speaking of handspun…
That is a relatively miniscule quantity of cobalt blue lace weight I have given up on. I bought the roving MANY Pennsics ago and over the years, the roving has felted and gotten more and more difficult to spin, so I plied what I had, and skeined it as it is. What shall become of it? Who can say.

Then there is this:
That is the delicious handpainted roving from JenyaLoves. It is soft and cushy in spite of my best efforts to overspin it. I tend to really overspin my yarns on my spinning wheel, and so I have committed to spinning this yarn on a spindle. I want a very soft, plush yarn to make a very comforting shawl from.

So that is it then. When I get back and settled, I will post pictures of whatever fiber-haul there is and hopefully, a completed shawl (or close to).

Have a great week.

Pennsic Panic

I had pictures for you, and I left them uploaded at home and on Facebook, totally unreachable from work.

So, it is that magical time of year called Pennsic Prep at the Manor by the High Bridge. The only thing magical about it is how spending a week outdoors can motivate me to achieve efficiency levels not seen at any other time of the year.

I have sewn my heart out in the past 8 days. I have made a very nice early 12th century bliaut for Byram, two cyclases and a mantle for a new guy in our camp, ironed nearly 100 yards of clothing of my own, and taken in 8 or 9 dresses for myself. I also rolled and sewed an edge for my new wimple and will likely get to work on its matching veil sometime this week, or it will simply have to come with me to Pennsic and be a War Project.

Now I have been going to Pennsic for almost a decade and you would think I would know by now to start my Pennsic Prep about the middle of June, but it never fails that I don’t start until the middle of July, and then we shift gears from Pennsic Prep into Pennsic Panic. I hit the Pennsic Panic button over the weekend, but since finishing and delivering all the new garb, I have been able to dial it back a bit.

That means I shifted from sewing to painting. I am currently helping Byram get his new shield painted; a task I very much relished yesterday as I was wielding a paintbrush and not a needle. Once I hit the wall on painting, I cooked for 7; also an easy task as it did not involve tiny little stitches. After eating and getting the girl child in the bath, I indulged in spindle spinning and after that…playing stupid little computer games until the wee hours of the night. It was blissful to not have to be doing Pennsic projects.

My reprieve is temporary. Tonight, it is my greatest wish to cut out a piece of pre-gessoed canvas and line draw my heraldry on them, in hopes of getting it painted before I leave for Pennsic on Friday afternoon. I have been in the SCA a few month short of 10 years, and I have yet to own something bigger than 4×8 with my arms painted on it. It is high time the encampment I help fund, organize, run, and invest hours of man power (never mind emotional energy) into is decorated in some way with my colors.

In case are curious:
So Friday, at 5:01 p.m., I am out of here, out of Richmond, out of the MidAtlantic, and off to the western edge of Pennsylvania for a week of vacation with some 10,000 other SCAdians. Seeing as I am only going for Peace Week this year, I will not have any structured activities like I have in a normal year. No battles. No courts. No pre-planned bardics. I am not quite sure what I will do with my week, but I suspect much of it will be spent in a hammock with knitting in my hands.

I have been trying to come up with good Pennsic knitting projects. I plan to take the beer socks and hope to finish them at the War. I am also about half way done with the Peacock and Leaves scarf, and I have finally reunited yarn, needles, pattern, beads, and crochet hook, all in one place, so I can work on it again, but I am not entirely sure that using tiny beads and a tiny crochet hook that can easily be lost in camp is totally a good idea. There are a LOT of parts and pieces to knitting that particular project. I should take my Sienna Cardigan and finish it, but the idea of a wool sweater laying in my lap in my non-climate controlled environment does not seem like a good plan either.

More socks? I do need to rip back and start over my failed Jaywalker socks (when she says the pattern doesn’t have much give, she was NOT kidding). I decided to only knit the pattern from the ankle up, and even increasing from the 72 stitches in the foot to the 76 in the leg, the sock was too tight to pull over my heel, much less my poor mother’s, for whom the socks were intended. She has rheumatoid arthritis, so there is just no way I can knit that pattern large enough to accommodate her swollen and painful ankles. I am hunting for another really good looking pattern that looks amazing with a great self-striping yarn; something that is not just ribs or stockinette.

I intend to knit the Leyburn socks out of a relatively busy yarn I have for my Grandmother. Those could work.

The real problem is that I am not generally in a sock kind of mood. I am deeply in a lace mood. I have long planned to knit Haruni, which is a shawl named from the Tolkien elven language, which seems strangely appropriate given the adventure I am going on. I bought the appropriate yarn back in January. It is just a matter of collecting the needles, yarn, and fifteen page (!!!) pattern all into one place. No beads or anything to have to drag with me.

So many choices and so little time. Then, there is the question of do I pack my spinning wheel or not? There should be space. There will be gobs of delicious wool to buy in the Merchants. My spindle is definitely going, and since I have broken two spindles in the past year, I intend to purchase a new spindle from The Spanish Peacock. I never get to participate in the Tour de Fleece because it always falls in the middle of the aforementioned Pennsic Prep, but this year, I have at least tried to do a little spinning when not neck deep in various lengths of linen and wool fabric.

Here is what is on the spindle currently. Four ounces of this delicious merino in various shades of blue purchased from Jenya Loves who was awesome to work with. She even pardoned me when I thought I had submitted my payment late on a Friday afternoon and it apparently didn’t go through. She was very polite about it and understanding.

In only 4 days, I will be up at my summer “home” where the temperatures are running 15-20 degrees cooler than they have been here in the River City. I cannot wait. Pennsic is calling.

Autumn’s Herald

I would like to show you pictures of the really neat sampling I did last night with my FiberOptic roving, but my camera disapproves. I smudged the lens apparently without noticing until I uploaded all my images and the samples look like crud. As did all the other pictures I nabbed.

I did manage to get this:

You can see I am using a drop spindle for portability and also, because now that I have a goal for this yarn, I want it as close to perfect as I can spin it. I decided, after sampling a cushy and chunky weight two ply that as lovely and soft as it was, my heart preferred the easy spinning/hard knitting project of Hansa to the hard to spin/easy to knit multidirectional scarf I would have knit with the soft and squishy version. I have knit 4 of those scarves, and while I think they are tremendous fun, I want to try something totally new and different.

One of the aspects of spinning that I love best is that the finished product isn’t the only beautiful part of spinning. I love looking at the fiber as it slips from my left hand into the space between my right thumb and forefinger, and appears on the other side as a beautiful strand of yarn. I love looking at the luster and crimp of the fiber; I love watching the twist pull in individual fibers and seeing how the colors come together. I even really like winding on. I am trying Abby Franquemont’s method of winding on to achieve a heavier cop for the first time, and it is really pretty to watch in action.
Far less messy looking that my normal wind-on (the “cone style”) ends up becoming, and I hope to really pack some yarn onto this spindle. I loved the wind on and I noticed just how pretty that deep gray single looked against the cherry red of my spindle. It was even pretty to watch the single change from gunmetal gray to a lighter gray, to a blue gray, and now I am up to varying shades of cobalt blue.

That is all I have for now. I put a few more stitch markers up on Etsy today. If you want something to pretty up your knitting, I might have just what you need. And with that, I leave you with an image that just barely heralds the coming of Autumn to Richmond. Just a hint of color in those trees. Wait for next week and we’ll see if it’s a little more pronounced.

A Turn of the Wheel

I love spinning. Let me drive that point home. I love spinning. I have been a spinner since 2003, and my desire to begin spinning again was a big part of taking up knitting. I am finally in a place where I can spin and knit my own work and that makes me very happy.

I spent much of my weekend spinning up and plying an aran weight two ply from the “Red Hot” merino I picked up at Pennsic, in my quest to spin, ply, and knit a scarf for Grace’s god-mother and my dear friend Ann, and it all needs to be finished by Friday evening.

I drop spindle most of my spinning, but I needed a heavier weight yarn which I am not as good at achieving on a drop spindle anymore, and Miss Louet does a fine job with heavier weight spinning, so I pulled her out. I ran a quick practice single and ply on the $1 wool I got, which came out lovely, so I went to work on my spinning.

Speeding through a good 2.5 to 3 ounces of wool in as short a time as I accomplished really drove home the importance of the spinning wheel in history. I am still only spinning in smallish batches- 150-200 yard singles to be Andean plied since I still lack more than one bobbin and a kate. The speed difference is quite amazing. When I consider how many hours women in the 12th century poured into making garments for their family, from the shearing, to the cleaning, combing (carding came later, like the spinning wheel), to the untold miles of spinning, then the weaving, and finally the cutting and sewing, it gives one a great and awe-inspiring sense of the magnitude of each project.

So I have been spinning for a scarf, and I chose the “My So-Called Scarf” pattern. I have wanted a fabric look for this scarf, and I didn’t love how the linen stitch worked out, so I went with this amazing looking pattern with a herringbone look to it.

I would like to report that I love the pattern, I love my yarn, and I love my needles, but I am not 100% in love with the result of the combination. This is a very dense pattern, and I could have gone up a size in needles (using 6.5mm, could easily have gone to 8mm) and it would likely have improved the situation. I am not in love with the very raw looking edges of the scarf either. If picking up a crochet hook does not leave me with a bad case of hives, I might attempt a single-crochet edge around it to neaten it up. Finally, I think this pattern looks best with either a bulky single yarn or a yarn whose plies aren’t dramatically noticeable. I loved the ply I did on my yarn, but I think it detracts from the interesting slants and twists of the stitches giving the whole thing a sort of jumbled look. Still, it has to be ready by Friday evening, and I have 18 inches of it knit; I may not love it, but I do like it, and there is no going back now. Just because I am not in love with it doesn’t mean Ann won’t love it. I would definitely like to make this scarf again with a few modifications and changes.

If I hadn’t forgotten my stupid camera, you would have gotten pictures.

In other news, that big SPLASH you heard last week was Moonlight Sonata hitting the frog pond. It is no more. I screwed up the beginning of the second repeat and considering I hadn’t knit a row I hadn’t had to tink in 4 rows, and considering thinking of all those “moons” I had to knit ahead of me made my eyes bleed, I decided it was time to send it to lace heaven.

That being said, the desire to knit lace is still very strong with me. It is really my favorite kind of knitting, and I had 880 yards of lace weight Shadow left, minus the amount of yardage I lost in some of the Moonlight Sonata neck band that broke as I was tinking. The trouble is that I want a shawl and I want to use up what I have of my lace weight Shadow. I settled on knitting the small version of the Faroese Shawl from A Gathering of Lace.

Knit from the bottom up instead of top down, I thought it would be fun to work from the opposite end and narrow down as you knit. The end of a lace shawl knit from the top down can be agonizing as you get to those last rows with unending numbers of stitches. So I started casting on that unending number of stitches last Wednesday night. Cable cast on to boot, which I find to be painfully slow.

421 stitches. I placed a marker every 25 stitches, and had 16 paper clips dangling by the time I was finished casting on on Thursday afternoon. Holy crap that took some work.

So when I am tired of knitting the scarf or I get blinded by its pinkness, I switch from 6.5mm needles and aran weight wool to 3 mm needles and lace weight. It is quite strange to make the switch when you fingers are adjusted to a larger or smaller size, but I am enjoying both knits.

Still, I am finding the Faroese to not be “lacy” enough, and I am setting my sights on the Percy Shawl next.

My poor husband will never get his Beer Socks at this rate.

There and Back Again

Home from Brigadoon. Or Pennsic. Whatever.

Four days home but my nights are still filled with visions of the past week; a week of heroic deeds, songs shared around a camp fire, great mugs of ale passed around, warm days walking through the market, and delicious food shared under a tent. It is rare that I miss Pennsic so soon after getting home; some years I swear I won’t even go back until about six months later when the pains are forgotten. This year was different and it was different in a very good way.

Once it dried up, the weather was phenomenal. There was no drama in our camp of about 17. The food was better than it has ever been in my 8 total Pennsics. My dear husband and I never fought.

This Pennsic was especially a good fiber Pennsic. Spanish Peacock was carrying lots of yummy roving for Feeling Sheepish and I picked up 8 ounces total. I got five $1 baggies of some handdyed unknown wool to practice on my spinning wheel with. I got a pound of Ashland bay colonial top in two colors (Agate and Goldenrod), and one 2 ounce bag of Ashland Bay black top for something small and lacy (maybe a mobius scarf?).

I wanted a new niddy noddy, but chickened out. I wanted a couple of new spindles (I only have a half dozen or so), but my wallet had been lightened by my load of fiber. That is okay; I suspect I will see Miguel of Spanish Peacock in about two and a half weeks and maybe I can score something then.

With all that fiber, I spent a lot of time in camp spinning up small samples, plying, and knitting up little swatches. As a result, I never started the socks I had brought to work on (which is good since I kept using one of my DPNs as a hair stick), and Moonlight Sonata remained in my bag for the most part. Unfortunately, ten minutes before we pulled out of town on Friday, July 31, as I was knitting happily along on Moonlight Sonata, I realized I had misinterpreted a symbol on the chart and what I thought had been three Purl Two Togethers in a row was actually Purl Two Together, Purl Three Together, Purl Two Together. Argh. Of course, 10 minutes later, I was on I-95 headed north and, sadly, I am not able to knit while riding in the car. I get horrible motion-sickness. With 4 days between when I made my error and when I picked it up to try and recover it, I made a solid mess of things. Once I got all my “moons” corrected, and was knitting away happily, suddenly, as I lay in the hammock, I realized I was knitting stitches off the wrong row on the chart next. I set Moonlight Sonata aside, not to be touched again until I got back to the real world.

I did manage to correct all my mistakes yesterday at least.

So want to see some of what I have started since Pennsic?


That is “pre-yarn” or roving, in colorway “September” that I picked up from Feeling Sheepish by way of Spanish Peacock. I have been spinning it on a drop spindle and then chain plying or Navajo plying it onto another spindle. I have a confession. I absolutely suck at Navajo plying. Really, I do. That being said, I do not suck so bad that I cannot work up a three plied yarn out of it, and once it is all knit together, you really cannot tell that I suck. See?

One Row Scarf

That is The Yarn Harlot’s One Row Scarf pattern. I am very proud to say I achieved the self striping yarn I was looking for, but I have a LOT more spinning to do.

Also, I have roving in colorway “Red Hot” that is varying shades of red, pink, and hot pink, that I am spinning for a scarf (I want to try and make it in a linen stitch) for my dear friend Ann, who has an appreciation for all things pink. I had to get something that varied away from my ordinary blue theme. “September” really didn’t. I think the Red Hot roving will be spun on the spinning wheel since I would really like to have it spun, plied and knit, by…haha, get this…next Saturday. So, my September Scarf and Moonlight Sonata be damned. Since next Saturday will be the first time I have seen Ann in nigh on a year, I want to gift her with something really special, and her birthday is only a few weeks away as well.

How exactly do you think this is all going to work out?

Warm Days

I spent some of my morning staring intently at my favorite city in the world via Google Earth. New Orleans. I love that city. I hate what has happened to it in recent years, but my desire to visit is not lessened.

I first went in 2004. We spent 3 days tooling around the city, staying with friends in a mansion just outside of the bustle of the Quarter. We went again in 2007 and stayed only for an evening. It was very different. Driving along I-10 looking at the still devastated communities was appalling. The Quarter was still the Quarter; misty and magical in the midnight fog, but it was quieter with so many shuttered doors that there were whole sections that just seemed abandoned.

I have this intense desire to go find a warm spot to sit in Jackson Square and knit a few rounds of a sock.

Anyway. Last night was spent at the drop spindle. I probably could have finished the remaining rows of Clue 4 of the VE Shawl, but something was calling me to my spindle. After spinning up all my Ashland Bay, I took a swing a plying, something I have never excelled at and do not feel well equipped to do, but I did get about half of the skein plied before it was 11:30 and my eyes were crossing from being so tired. I was hoping for laceweight, but while I haven’t measured wraps per inch, I am guessing it will be more of a baby or sport weight, possibly as much as a DK weight.

It is going to be something like 72 degrees this afternoon and I am hoping to find a warm spot outside and go knit. Maybe I’ll just take the sock that needs work and leave the shawl here. I wish there were leaves on trees and green things growing, but this is just a foretaste of spring. I see a few more days with highs in the 30s in our future.

I am counting the minutes to spring. Can you tell?