13 October 2016

A Couple of Spinning Challenges

I haven't done much knitting in the last month. I do have a project on the needles, but it isn't a design for publication. Instead, I've devoted a fair amount of attention to spinning.

Last week was Spinzilla. The Whole Nine Yarns did not field a team this year. I joined the Kromski team. I don't have a Kromski wheel, but Kromski North America is based in Georgia. They have been wonderful, gracious corporate sponsors of Georgia FiberFest for the past two years. And you'll recall I came back from the festival this year with a big pile of Polish merino in the Pavonia Peacock limited edition colorway.

My goal was to spin all that fiber into a 2-ply lace weight yarn. I am envisioning a circular shawl in reversible lace. Remember, reversible lace takes twice as many stitches, therefore twice as much yarn. Magic always comes with a price. Well, by the first day I could tell that I wasn't going to get to the plying stage. By about Wednesday, I could tell I wasn't even going to finish all the singles. Sigh.

I did end up with a very full bobbin and a partly filled second bobbin of lace weight singles at 40-50 wraps per inch. I had exactly 2000 yards on the first bobbin and over 1000 yards on the second bobbin. My total for the week was 3114 yards. I think this is more than what I spun last year. And I made the monster mile again, so that was good. Still, I would like to spin faster. If someone offers a class on Spinning for Spinzilla, I'd like to take it. I'm in awe of the people who spin more than 10,000 yards in a week. In the meantime, I know I'll have this spinning project ongoing at least through the end of 2016.

The other spinning challenge I approached involves Twist: The Art of Spinning by Hand. This is an exhibition opening next month at Black Rock Center for the Arts in Germantown, Maryland. The curator is Jennifer Lindsay, who is also in her second year as president of Center for Knit and Crochet. Jennifer challenged spinners to spin a yarn based on a story. I wanted to use a well-known story, so I picked the first 15 minutes of Star Wars to be my muse.

I spent a month or two of thinking about what I wanted to do as well as embarking on a scavenger hunt for beads, gears, fiber, and threads. The final yarn is only about 10 yards. It is corespun. It incorporates beads, threads, wool, silk, alpaca, Angelina, wire, and even some metal pieces from the hardware store.

As an intermediate spinner, this was right at the edge of my skill level. Those of you who are better spinners will, no doubt, notice places where my skills fell a bit short of my vision. And I have no clue how I would keep going with this. How to represent Luke? How to deal with the spaceships in the big battles? I can say that in terms of technique, this is far and away the most difficult yarn I have even attempted. If you only improve by stretching yourself artistically, consider me stretched!

12 September 2016

Georgia FiberFest 2016

Whew! I've just come off the whirlwind that is Dragon*Con followed by Georgia FiberFest!

As usual, a big thank you goes out to Kromski North America for their corporate sponsorship of the event. Kromski showed off their beautiful wheels and looms this year. They now have a wonderful jumbo flyer option for the Fantasia, if you like to spin art yarns. And they had a Fantasia wheel painted to resemble Polish pottery. In the photograph above, the blue fiber at top is the special edition Pavonia Peacock color. When Kromski gave out fiber last year at the vendor and teacher reception, it was fairly easy to get people to part with it. Not this year! Next year I must remember to be sure to sit at a table with non-spinners. The drop spindle was also included in the vendor and teacher gift bags. No excuse not to learn how to spin. And the gift bags also had assorted packets of Eucalan wool wash. I got the jasmine Wrapture "flavor."

Attendees and teachers also receive goodie bags. The goodie bag itself is pictured in the center. The celebratory "Dances with Wools" sheep (by artist Conni Togel of Sheep Incognito) is on the front, and the back has the long list of sponsors. The goodie bags also included:
● fabric squares (upper left) from Sunday Best Quiltworks
● tape measure (upper right) from Han Den Saori
● jar opener (center) from Camelid Cottage

I won the two skeins of "Buddy" yarn from Lunabud Knits (lower right) and the button as a door prize at the Friday banquet. Both this year and last, the Friday banquet was very good. The food was prepared by 5-star chef Jamie Keating, owner of Epic Restaurant. The door prizes were plentiful, too.

The rest of the photograph shows what I acquired in the market. The market gets better and better every year, although I do have to admit I'm not sure anybody showed up with an assortment of Firestar or Angelina. The rolags are by The Sample Family. Her sister, Kimarie of Kimarie's Knit Knacks, had gorgeous brightly-colored yarn for sale, including self-striping sock yarns and mini-skeins in eye-searing neon colors. The white silk — which I have dubbed "blinded by the white" — is from Swan Hollow Studio. I'm glad to see them every year, as they carry a wonderfully wide range of spinning fibers, primarily in undyed natural colors. If you want to craft a yarn to your specifications, Swan Hollow Studio can help provide the ingredients. The sand-colored mini-batts are from The Hippie Homemaker. I'm planning to spin a yarn based on the first 15 minutes of Star Wars; and I was stumped how I was going to spin Tatooine. I'm very glad somebody else has figured out how to dye a complex color like sand. The silk ribbon is from Alpaca Trading Post. If I decide to spin more of Star Wars, I am thinking this ribbon would be perfect for sand people! The Saori book is on clothing design. I bought one last year that includes skirts; this one is tops. I haven't tried Saori weaving, but I am sure the simple and clever ways to make clothes from basic rectangles will be useful for any sort of hand weaving. The jump ring opener and the bead reference card are, I think, from Primitive Originals. They brought kumihimo materials, including looms, threads, and beads, as well as a wonderful variety of jewelry clasps. I always have to look up bead information when I want to use beads with my knitting. I might make some chain maille accessories for a Dragon*Con costume; thus the jump ring opener could be helpful. And the wooden domino racks are from Allen B. Carr Works in Wood. As a gamer with a set of double 18 dominoes, the racks seemed like a good idea. I may want to sew, weave, or knit a carry bag to keep them in good condition.

I taught "One Color, Two Layers," "Daring Double Cables," and "Introduction to Reversible Lace." Thank you to all my students!

Next year's 6th annual Georgia FiberFest will be Thursday through Saturday, 7-9 September 2017. The featured guest speaker and teacher will be Franklin Habit! I already have the dates saved in my day planner.

06 September 2016

What We Do For Others

Last weekend I attended my twenty-second consecutive Dragon*Con. I've written about Dragon*Con before. Cuddly Hubby and I refer to it as the best weekend of the year, even better than Christmas. Over the years we have attended a variety of panels and activities. With 40 programming tracks, this is the sort of show where you could wear out a time turner. It isn't uncommon to decide to do something this year and to skip it next year in favor of something else we had to skip this year. But this year I did something I had never done before — I donated blood.

The Cuddly Hubby donates blood every year, usually on Thursday. Our tradition is to go pick up our badges on Thursday afternoon. Then Cuddly Hubby spends an hour or so donating blood. Then we go eat a good dinner at Max Lager's brew pub. But this year, Cuddly Hubby had doctors' appointments the week before the convention. Some of his test results weren't back. He wasn't able to donate.

It helps to know that every year the blood drive has Dragon*Con-themed t-shirts. Donate blood, get a t-shirt. I do not care about t-shirts. I rarely wear t-shirts. Getting a t-shirt is not motivation for me. But Cuddly Hubby has gotten a t-shirt year after year. At this point, he wears a different blood donor t-shirt every day of the convention, including Thursday. He was bummed when he couldn't get this year's t-shirt.

I never donate blood. In my youth, I had a couple bad experiences with needles. I have a pronounced fight-or-flight response. I almost passed out during the blood test for our marriage license. I also just barely make the weight requirement for blood donation. So I never donate.

By Saturday, it was clear Cuddly Hubby's results wouldn't be back in time for him to donate. So on Sunday morning, I psyched myself up. I walked into the Hilton and down the escalator. And I did it! There was a point when I first got in the chair that the fight-or-flight response really kicked in and I just wanted to jump up and run up the stairs. I kept my eyes closed almost the whole time. About halfway to three-quarters of the way through I got dizzy. All of a sudden, people were tipping my chair back and putting ice underneath my neck. I'm sure I changed colors. But I did not pass out. The person behind me actually threw up while I was donating. (Yes, they wisely put me at the far end with the experienced technicians dealing with the "problem children.") And it took a little bit of work to get my arm to stop bleeding afterwards. But, I faced down my fear and I did it!

And I got a t-shirt in Cuddly Hubby's size.

Later in the day, we met up at a panel. Cuddly Hubby sat down next to me. I had the t-shirt draped over my bandaged arm. I handed him the shirt and said, "I got your t-shirt."
He asked, "How'd you do that."
As I handed him the shirt, I pointed to my bandaged arm. "I donated blood."
It was worth it for the way his face lit up. He knew I had faced down a fear to do this for him.

How do you know you are married to the right person? When that person makes you a better person. I wouldn't donate blood on my own. I wouldn't donate blood for a t-shirt. But I thought of Cuddly Hubby getting out his Dragon*Con blood donor t-shirts every year in the future and seeing that hole in the sequence where 2016 went wrong. I didn't want him to have an unhappy story. So I made it a happy story.

24 August 2016

Artistic Fraying

Sometimes part of the fun of writing a knitting pattern is coming up with unique instructions. For awhile, I've wanted to write a pattern that ends with, "Tie yarn securely to the roof of your car. Drive around for a couple weeks. Untie. Attach yarn 'feathers' to project."

Unfortunately, I have discovered this works only for very specific yarns.

Those of you who have seen my car in person may know that I typically have a little streamer "poof" coming off the radio antenna. This is made from several strands of Filatura Di Crosa Timo in color 13. Sadly, this yarn has been discontinued. I only change out the streamer about once a year, so I figure my one skein (60 meters) should last the life of the car.

I purchased this particular yarn because I was looking for a ribbon yarn in a colorway that would look good with my very red little car. What I did not realize was how the yarn would change when tied to the roof. The ends start out plain.

 But after driving around for awhile, they feather.

I've come to rather like the feathered look.

A couple years ago at Georgia FiberFest, I bought an art batt in the ‟flame thrower” colorway from Alpaca Trading Post. This was a wonderful batt with all sorts of different textures. I spun it up into over 75 yards of corespun goodness. The art batt included a couple yards of ribbon yarn very similar to Timo. I decided the feathered texture would be great fun. So, I dutifully cut the ribbon yarn into smaller sections and attached it to the roof of my car. I drove from Maryland to Georgia. I drove around Atlanta. I drove in the rain. I don't remember how many miles I put on my car, but this yarn would not feather!

As you can see in this ultra-closeup, both yarns appear to be the same construction. (Timo, both feathered and un-feathered is on the left.) It looks to me as if the central stitching migrates to the center and the weft breaks at the edges. I have no idea why one will feather and one will not. Ideas, anyone?

16 August 2016

Mach Wave Cowl

In early summer I was knitting projects quickly. It seem that knitting is much faster than pattern-writing, photography, videography, and all the other elements that go into self-publishing a pattern.

For the Mach Wave cowl, I decided to use some stash yarn. I had purchased Wool2dye4 Tweed Worsted in a "learn to dye with Kool-Aid" kit at The Whole Nine Yarns. This yarn has three plies, two of which are wool and the third is superwash wool. The third ply takes dye differently from the other two, creating the tweedy effect. I did quite a bit of outdoor dyeing back in June. That first burst of scorching summer weather triggered the impulse to execute the dye projects that had languished through the cooler months.

Although I have a big pile of Kool-Aid packets in my dyestuff stash, for this project I used Jaquard acid dyes. Before applying the dye, I decided I wanted the skein to become a center-out möbius. I divided the yarn into 11 lengths, placing a pin at each division. (Note to self: Next time, take the pins out as soon as possible. They will rust!) I wanted the stripes to be the same width. If the möbius is worked center-out, then the first color needs to be half the length of the remaining colors. Thus, the first color section was only one length, while the remaining color sections were two lengths.

Just for the record, here are the dyes I used:
1st section: 636 gold ochre
2nd section: 612 lilac
3rd section: 621 sky blue + 631 teal
4th section: 627 kelly green, 628 chartreuse, 629 emerald, + the tiniest bit of 620 hot fuchsia
5th section: 607 salmon + 617 cherry red
6th section: 600 ecru, 607 salmon, + 636 gold ochre

I laid everything out in aluminum pans, covered them with clear Plexiglas, and let the yarn bake in the sun for the day.

The cowl pattern is a center-out möbius worked in a reversible lace feather and fan pattern. You'll recall I figured out how to work chevron/wave patterns in a center-out möbius when I designed the Sonic Boom cowl. Sonic Boom was reversible because the feather and fan pattern was applied to a welted fabric. For Mach Wave, I instead used feather and fan as a reversible lace.

If you are working your way up the reversible lace learning curve, this in an intermediate project. The cast-on is Cat Bordhi's möbius cast-on. The lace pattern itself is a fairly basic reversible lace pattern. If you don't like the möbius shape, you can make a cylindrical cowl instead.

In September I'll be teaching a series of classes on reversible knitting at Georgia FiberFest. The festival will be producing their own magazine this year, and I've submitted Mach Wave for inclusion. You can also find the pattern as a paid download on Ravelry.