Posts Tagged ‘spinning’

Two Autumn Challenges

This entire year is proving to be a roller coaster of a year. Ups and downs, 180 degree turns, and sudden stops. I am ready to embrace autumn with open arms if for no other reason than maybe it will provide some relief from the nonstop hits.

I finally made up my mind and placed a KnitPicks order today, following up from my post a couple of weeks ago.

Rather than take the Triple Dog Dare challenge and go for the Dogwood Blossoms Pullover sweater, I ordered the Blue Corrie Vest. I could better easily afford it and I am twice as likely to finish it, I think. I am looking forward to what will probably be a significant challenge for me, between the small gauge, the intensive charts, and simply because I don’t usually finish really large projects. I wanted something to keep my hands and brain busy this autumn and I think this vest will do it.

I also ordered the appropriate needles, a set of Harmony 2.5mm dpns, and because my balance was then $46 and change, and less than $4 more would get me free shipping, I went ahead and ordered a skein of Shadow Tonal Lace yarn, in colorway Pearlescent. I will get a small shawl out of that.

While Hurricane Irene was raging and the power was out, I did something I haven’t done since probably as far back as March. I sat down at my spinning wheel. I had already spun up more than 4 ounces of Ashland Bay colonial wool, and it was a matter of spinning the second half and then plying.

On Monday, a holiday, I spent 2 hours plying.

That is a uncomfortably full bobbin of about 8 ounces of fingering weight, 2 ply handspun beauty in the form of wool. No clue on the yardage. I need to find my niddy noddy and get it into a couple of skeins, wash, whack, and then contemplate its future. Once I have a better grasp on its yardage, I will decide on its ultimate purpose, I think.

Autumn puts me in a knitting mood. I hope so anyway because I have lots of socks to finish for Christmas and the 2011 Self Created Sock Club has washed out for the past several months. Autumn also puts me in a cooking kind of mood. Squashes, stews, beans, and the like. I already did mashed butternut squash a few nights ago and it was very yummy. I got a single volunteer butternut squash out of the garden, completely by accident, and after it has had some time to cure and let its natural sugars build up, it will probably become butternut squash soup.

Last year I made stuffed acorn squashes that were delicious. Then this blog post got me interested in things I can make with pumpkin.

The week I got home from Pennsic, I was so frazzled, so crispy, weary, and worn thin, in spite of just having had a vacation, that I requested another week off, this time for the week of October 10-14. That request was granted and I have been thinking up fun things to do with my time and with the time Grace and I will have together. I decided I will take her to Chesterfield Berry Farm and she and I will pick her Halloween pumpkin, and I think I will pick up a few baking pumpkins. I want to try my hand at pumpkin bread and pumpkin pie NOT out of a can this year for Thanksgiving.

In fact, I have been toying with the idea to attempt a 100 Mile Thanksgiving Feast Challenge. How much of our Thanksgiving spread can we get from a 100 mile radius to our table? The fact that we have already ordered a Heritage Breed Turkey from Empress Farm is the inspiration behind all of this. We did it for two reasons: first, because I have wanted to try a turkey from a small farm for years, and second, because my sister-in-law cannot eat the nitrates that are injected into CAFO turkeys that help make them moister and more flavorful, and every year we go through a whole list of hoops to jump through to make sure her food is safe for her to eat and not become ill.

Maybe no one else at the table that day would care but me (and probably Byram, as he is getting on board with eating local too), but how fun and cool would it be to serve dinner and then announce at the end that pretty much everything we served came from a local farmer? Admittedly, some of the stuff we normally serve like corn and green beans, can be purchased from almost anyone at the farmers market, but they have to be bought soonish and preserved, either through canning or freezing, because late November is honestly kind of a lousy time to celebrate the harvest that was done 2 months earlier. But I think this will be a fun opportunity to challenge myself and challenge my ideas about what a Thanksgiving Feast should look like.

I will post ideas, recipes, and progress throughout the Autumn as we head towards Thanksgiving.

Anyone want to join in on the fun?


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.


There is an inherent problem with blogging about knitting. I blog in my spare minutes at work. Same with my knitting. But you cannot knit and type simultaneously. (If you can, let me in on your secret please.)

So, I need to keep this short. Meet the handspun Peacock and Leaves Scarf. My camera will not accurately capture the colors of this yarn. It is not nearly that green. Much more teal really.
My bead modification. They are far more subtle than I think I was after. The beads are clear with an iridescent lining, and I think they were called “Peacock” or something like. (I know; I have clearly gone overboard with the whole peacock theme.) I did consider using some small pearls I have but nixed that thinking they would contrast a little too much. What I really wish I had used now was clear, silver lined beads. Those would have been really striking without being quite as in your face as white pearls would have been.
I think it is interesting that my camera picks up the red of my needle very close to true, but the color of the yarn is so wrong.
Here is my handspun, or at least some of it. These colors are a little more true, but only because I manually adjusted the saturation and hue levels. It is as close as I am going to come to true in this light anyway.
Anyway, I have burned an hour not knitting between the blog and the stuff I am paid to do, so back to the grindstone.

Have a great weekend.

Finding My Voice

I have been struggling to find my voice for the past month, as any regular visitors here might have noticed.

This year has been a very difficult one: too many untimely deaths, too many illnesses, too much darkness, not nearly enough money.

Combining the trauma of the bus accident with surprising loss of Kitty Sexton, known in the SCA as Kolfinna sent me pretty deep into a funk. That was the straw that sent me over the pharmaceutical edge and for the first time in over a year, I went back on Wellbutrin. This turned out to be an excellent thing to do since in the weeks to follow, Byram took a 20% pay cut in the form of a one day per week furlough, scary news that something could be wrong after an ultrasound test he underwent in September showed some abnormalities, and then this week, my office lost a colleague and friend, unexpectedly. You know what “suddenly” or “unexpectedly’ is often code-speak for in obituaries.

I am coping with all of this now through knitting, spinning, exercising, and the aforementioned Wellbutrin. There are bits of good news in all of this. Byram’s tests came back negative and he is hale and whole. His pay cut is hoped to only last through the holidays. I have lost 15 pounds in the past month. My family is more budget focused than we have been.

Those are good things.

So is this:
Ruba’iyat Mittens (Rav link) in my handspun. There is only one so far, I am ashamed to say.

The back of the hand.
The inside of the palm and the thumb.

The handspun was FiberOptics’ one-off Blue and Charcoal colorway, and colorway Agate from Ashland Bay Trading Company.

Right now, I am closing in on finishing the “One Row Handspun Scarf” that I started back in August (I know. Its shameful, really.), and I started a Drop Stitch Scarf out of some handspun I picked up at the Fiber Festival last month.

I promise more pictures of knitting stuff soon, and I also promise some super-cute kid pictures of Grace who was Tinkerbell for Halloween.

Be well, and I hope to be back here more often.


After the lows of the past week, I decided that recovery might come in the form of fiber over-indulgence.

I went to the Virginia Fall Fiber Festival early Saturday morning, where, sadly, I was cameraless. What a lovely way to spend a morning. I started with shopping. I went to get fiber, and I was not disappointed.

My first purchases were made at Misty Mountain Farm’s booth, where I picked up VERY reasonably priced 4 oz. rovings.

My next purchase was the major purchase of the weekend. Stony Mountain was there. This is a pretty well-known fiber store from Charlottesville, and I was looking forward to seeing their shop and I was not disappointed. They had the find of the day when I came across a set of Viking combs for $49! It is a standard set with a single row, nothing fancy, but good enough to get me started and I am excited to try them.

I went with the intent of buying a fleece as well, but I became intimidated by the sheer variety, range of colors, prices, and breeds. I now intend to educate myself and come back next year prepared to bring home a fleece.

I got to meet Gale of GalesArt, which you can find there at Etsy or over at The Loopy Ewe. I picked up my long-desired Proud Peacock roving, but it was a close call between Proud Peacock and Gumball, which was also very attractive. All of her work was very nice looking and of all the fibers I have brought home, it gets the most attention.

The last purchase was from Wild Hare Fiber called Citrus Tonic. It is greens and yellows and a hint of light blue in there and it was delivered to its intended receiver- my Mom. She seemed to like it; she liked the Lemongrass colorway from Blue Moon Fiber Arts. I don’t think I can do socks out of the three ounces I have, so I have to come up with something else. I could tell she was disappointed when I told her I couldn’t do socks.

Mental note to self- mom wants spring-green socks.

My only disappointment about the entire festival was that not a single merchant and not a single spinner there had a Kromski wheel. Of any model. At. All. This made me pause in my quest for a Kromski, since when you see most people at a fiber festival spinning on either Majacraft or Schact wheels, you have to wonder what makes these so popular; and if there isnt a SINGLE Kromski there, why was that? Must investigate this further.

After I had shopped myself broke, I went and looked at the competitions. I saw Ms. Ashley’s Moonlight Sonata shawl which made me jealous that I lacked the skill to make my own Moonlight Sonata shawl, but after seeing how pretty her shawl was, I think I will give it another shot with a heavier weight yarn.

I was thrilled to see a friend from the SCA had entered her stranded knit silk bag and won first place with it. It was quite pretty and Ms. Maggie was the person who inspired me to jump off and start knitting this time last year when she showed me a pair of handspun naalbinded socks she had made for an SCA event last October. Yay for her winning first place.

There was a stunning white circular shawl there too that made me want to get another circular shawl on the needles. I am thinking of doing either Rona or the very beautiful but somewhat scary Wedding Peacock shawl by MMario on Ravelry.

After oohing and ahhing over the beautiful hand knits and handspun skeins, I went and watched the sheep shearing demonstations, which was cool to see, and also made me rethink the idea I had this year of learning to shear sheep and doing it as a side-job to help fund my hobby. Shearing is not a hobby job. No way.

Then I watched the sheep dog trials which were phenomenal! I have never seen sheep dogs at work, but wow, it was cool to see. They are lightning fast and smarter that a few humans I know. Really, it was the most impressive display of animal behaviour I have seen before.

The rest of my Saturday was spent exploring the eastern end of the Virginia Piedmont; New Kent Winery in particular. Wow was their wine good. They had a red Meritage that blew me away, and in general, I am not a wine drinker and especially not a red wine drinker, so this was really special.

I finished the first Ruba’iyat mitten this morning. Need a little kitchner on my thumb and to weave in a couple more ends from the thumb, and it will be done.

No, no pictures today. Camera was left at home. One of these days, I promise you, I will get around to posting pictures again; hopefully all the neat stuff I picked up this weekend will make it up here shortly.

In the meantime, wash your hands, get your flu shots, and stay home if you feel poorly.