24 January 2011

A Productive Month

I'm pleased that 2011 seems to have gotten off to a good start. I have two patterns out in the world and under review. They may not make the cut, but at least I've gotten in a couple tries. I've received the materials for Level 2 of Master Knitter. I have more ideas on paper or in swatches than I have time to knit. Saturday I taught two workshops for Clicks & Sticks Knitting Guild -- my first time teaching all-day workshops for a guild. I've had good attendance at my classes this month at The Whole Nine Yarns. Next weekend I'll be teaching reversible traveling cables. The weekend after that I'll be at the South Carolina Knit Inn -- just hanging out, not teaching. We're even off to a good start with programs for North Georgia Knitting Guild. I have a tentative list for 2011, and most of the months are filled. I thought I might be stressed about being VP of Programs for this year, but I'm not. I'm managing to take most things at a steady but not frantic pace.

As we move into a new year, I tend to look around and see what is unfinished. There are quite a few swatches and half-finished experiments. I'm hoping to devote much of February to the Knitting Needle Liberation Front. I'm putting together some ideas about how to make the den more functional. And I've been doing some work in the studio as well. I've taken to leaving the spinning wheel set up in the middle of the room. This has turned out to be a surprisingly nice thing. For one, I can see the wheel clearly every time I pull up in front of our home. And as the studio is next to the kitchen, it has suddenly become very easy to just go spin for a few minutes while I wait for the tea kettle to boil or the microwave to zap dinner.

And it is funny how things work. One of my Mensa friends, Karen, had six small batts of wool roving that a friend brought her from New Zealand. Karen doesn't spin, just knit. So I invited her over in November to have a spinning lesson and see what she thinks of it. At the time, I hadn't been using the wheel all that much. Must of 2010 I was working on and off on Blue-tiful, a lovely skein that was a royal blue pain. I had spent a great deal of time hand carding blue sparkles into the roving. (Why didn't I get a drum carder?) Then I added even more sparkles at the wheel because I found that the sparkles tended to migrate as I spun, producing areas with a lot of bling and areas with none. It may be a beautiful yarn, but it was not a fun spin. Fortunately, with Karen coming for a lesson and bobbins filled, I was forced to finish Blue-tiful.

I don't have a big spinning stash, and that's just fine with me. Last summer, my friend Sue gave me a dark blue and gray batt. I wasn't all that impressed with it, as it looks as if someone took a Union and a Confederate jacket and ran them through the shredder. Those of you who have seen my stash know it is colorful. So Grant & Lee, as I named it, failed to woo me initially. But I needed something for teaching Karen. With a lack of spare spinning stash, I pulled out Grant & Lee. What it lacked in visual appeal it made up for in spin-ability. I quickly realized that I could spin it backward draw instead of forward draw. After Karen's lesson, I left the wheel sitting out in the middle of the studio. I found myself stealing spinning moments regularly. When it was time to ply, I figured I ought to learn how to Navajo (chain) ply. Granted, that's a technique usually used for multi-colored yarns. Grant & Lee certainly didn't need to be chain plied, but it gave me a chance to learn for later. I sat down at the wheel, thought about what I'd seen from both Debi Light at the shop and a Lucy Neatby class -- both of which were maybe two years ago -- and started. And I did it! Glee!

I finished Grant & Lee the first week of the month. (I think I was plying it when Atlanta Knitting Guild met in January.) I found I really enjoy backward draw. I like the fluffy quality of woolen yarns. And unlike worsted spinning, where you have to be more careful about when and where the twist enters the fiber, it seems to me that woolen spinning is more forgiving. You want some of the twist to run up into the fiber. And the fibers seem to grab onto themselves in a way that makes them spin a fairly consistent width. I felt so confident that I decided to spin a roving from Olive Ewe.
This particular roving was dyed like a rainbow. Alas, I think it wasn't completely light-fast, as when I opened up the roving the inside color seemed to be more intense than the outside color. I stripped the roving into three smaller rovings of equal weight. I spun the first roving as red-orange-yellow-green-blue-violet. For the second roving, I tore off one-third of the red and moved it to the end. For the third roving, I tore off two-thirds of the red and moved it to the end. I then rewound all three bobbins so that I could access the red end. Finally, I plied from the red ends of all three. Unfortunately, I had spun the first one a little thinner than the other two, so the colors didn't mix quite as I had intended. Still, it is an interesting experiment, and one that I am certainly willing to try again.

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