Sunday, November 16, 2014

Broke out the loom this weekend!

I was going to write about New Zealand but I spent a lot of time on fiber-related pursuits this weekend so this is a fiber post, not a travel post.

First of all, I finally warped my Flip rigid-heddle loom! I bought it shortly before I went to China and apparently had only partially assembled it. When I took it out to warp it, I found that the apron rods were not attached. I couldn't figure out the instructions so I had to search online for better instructions. Amazingly, there isn't a video on how to put it together. I guess since it is 90% assembled, one is not needed except for people like me. I finally found what I was looking for in a video on assembling the Cricket loom which comes in many parts. The instructions talked about a chain in the cord that was supplied and I couldn't see the chain until it was pointed out in the video.

After that it was sort of plain sailing. I have the Craftsy class on rigid heddle weaving and I went back and forth between the lesson on warping and actually warping my loom. I made a few mistakes. The warping paper wound on crookedly so a bit of the warp is on and off the paper. I also didn't do a surgeon's knot when I knotted the warp but it is quite tight.

It took about 4-5 hours to get it all done. Now I have loads of weaving to do which can be done in bits and pieces. I did a bit this afternoon.
 I was going to use this cone of alpaca for warp but it wasn't strong enough. So I ended up using it for weft. I warped with Silk City Kashmir - a merino, cashmere, silk yarn I got years ago. I have it in 3 colors and used the white to go with the white in the alpaca above.
 Here is the bit I wove this afternoon along with the warped loom.
 And a close-up of the weaving. It is going to be a stole - about 18x65". The loom is 20" wide so 18 is pretty close to the full width of the loom. To add some interest, I may weave a few stripes of leftover yarn when I run of the main yarn in the shuttle. Just to add some color to the plain stole. Let's see.
 I started a sweater for my husband last weekend. It is in Rowan Felted Tweed DK in a color called Midnight. It is a bit darker than the photo - almost black with tweedy bits. It is going to be a plain stockinette sweater with saddle shoulders, worked seamlessly per Elizabeth Zimmermann in Knitting without Tears. I started with a provisional cast-on because I only have 10 balls and am not sure if it will be enough. If I don't have enough, I can do the ribbing in a lighter blue or a very dark purple - which I have in stash. The idea is to bust the stash.
I have also been slowly spinning the Kraemer Sterling Silk and Silver roving. I had started this in China and spun the big ball you see in the photo. It was a full bobbin like the one next to it. I wound it off when I got here because I needed the WooLee Winder bobbins reamed out at Rhinebeck by Nathan Lee. I didn't want him to have to deal with the fiber on the bobbin. Since then I finished up the rest of that single and the other single and now I have 2 full bobbins and 2 partial bobbins worth. I will probably start plying this evening.

It is roving so I spun it long draw and hope to get a worsted weight yarn out of it. Let us see.

I am spending an hour or two spinning or now weaving after dinner. I found that if I sat in the family room and did something, I ended up munching on something even though I didn't need it. By going upstairs to the guest bedroom and doing something other than watch TV, or even be around the TV when it is on, I am not motivated to munch. It is a win-win. Good for my waistline and good for getting fiber-y things done. I watch spinning or weaving videos or listen to podcasts.

Last weekend, I organized my stash. Wow! I have a lot more fiber than I thought I did. I had a lot of partially filled boxes of yarn in my closet so they all got combined into large plastic tubs which have been put up high. I put yarns of the same type together and found quite a few that I can use for weaving. I was going to get rid of some of it but decided against it because the weaving will use up yarn faster than knitting. Plus I like all of it!

The fiber also went into plastic tubs but lives in the guest bedroom closet. Once that closet is cleaned out and decluttered, my yarn is going in there too. The good news is that I have less yarn than I thought I did. And a lot of it is fine yarn which is good for weaving.

I will try and get to posting about New Zealand during the week.

Sunday, November 9, 2014


After quite a while, we return to the travelogue. After our trip down the Great Ocean Road, we spent a day wandering around Melbourne. Melbourne is a lovely city. It doesn't have the glamour of Sydney's harbor but it is accessible, compact and I like visiting it. I've been there a number of times on business and one of the things I like about it is that our office is in the heart of downtown. Sydney used to be like that decades ago but Melbourne still is.

But this time we were there on holiday. Our vacation hotel was on the other side of the Yarra river from where I usually stay. This was nice as it gave me a different perspective on the city. Melbourne has gorgeous Victorian architecture so we spent the morning walking around the city center looking at buildings.

This is Melbourne's China town entrance up ahead. Melbourne and Sydney have a very diverse population which shows in the variety of foods and faces and culture that is visible.



Juxtaposed with the lovely Victorian architecture is very modern architecture. This is Federation square from which our tour left. The day we went on the bus tour was Superbowl Sunday in the US so there was a giant TV showing the game and people hanging out. But this was the next day and it was quiet.


Flinders Street station - across the street from the modern architecture above.

One of the government buildings for the Victoria provincial government.


Melbourne has a trolley system in the city center. The trolley cars are old and acquired from other cities. They are gussied up with paint. There is a free trolley that goes on a circular route around the city center. We took that a couple of times. We didn't take the others because the ticketing is complicated. You need a card, which you have to get from specific places and which need a deposit. It wasn't worth it for a day. We did take a hop-on-hop-off tourist bus to see some of the further out places.


There was a protest going on outside this government building.

A row of yarnbombed trees.

RMIT - one of the universities in Melbourne - has a lot of really intriguing modern architecture. This is one of their buildings.

After wandering around the city center, we went a little further on the tourist bus. We wanted to see the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the Tennis Center (home of the Australian Open) and the Botanical Garden.

See that tiny bit of green in that picture? That is how close I got to seeing the cricket ground. From the outside, it is a giant sports stadium which I could not capture in a single picture. It was rather boring. We went inside and were told we had to pay to take an hour long tour. We didn't want to spend the money or the time. I thought I could sneak up and get a photo of the grounds but this as close as they would let me. Darn!

From the cricket ground, we walked across a long over-pass which went over the railway tracks to the tennis arena.

These are the outer courts of the tennis center. We couldn't get into the Tennis Center either.

Next up Botanical Gardens. These were not as nice as Sydney's. But it was nice after being in the sun all day.

We also went to the Shrine of Rememberance - Melbourne's war memorial.

The top provides gorgeous views of Melbourne.

Looking up at the shrine.

The actual shrine.

The four corners have these structures that are meant to evoke the trenches of World War 1. They are quite interesting and serene to spend time in.

And with that, we walked back to our hotel. A very long walk because we missed the last tourist bus to get back. We were able to get it from the shrine to the Botanical Garden where it ends. But we couldn't get the next one that starts from there and goes to our hotel vicinity because we had just gotten off the last one.

The next day we flew to Auckland for the New Zealand leg of our trip.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Blocked and wore shawls at Rhinebeck

In my Rhinebeck excitement, I forgot to talk about the blocking of the 2 completed shawls. Those of you on Ravelry would have seen the finished results.

I got tired of waiting for my blocking pins and wires so went out and bought the cheapest pins I could find - and yes, they are awful but they worked.

I wasn't about to go buy new blocking wires so I had to pin it out without their help.

 Here's the pink shawl I made from Miss Babs BFL. I don't even remember if I showed you the fiber and the beads. I was able to find beads from the Shanghai yarn/notions crawl that matched. They are very subtle as they are an almost perfect match for the yarn.

I pinned out the top curve first and ran out of room. That is a door to my deck in the back. Unpinned and started over. Then I just roughly pulled out the points and pinned them. They are not very even but it doesn't show when the shawl is worn - the ultimate test of success.

Yarn and beads, pre-knitting. I had about 330 yds per my calculations but I only used 2/3-3/4 based on the written pattern. No mods.

Here are the two shawls blocking. The rainbow shawl ended up under the bookcase. I started with the top edge but realized that due to the curve, I had to start at the bottom edge so I unpinned and restarted and planned badly. See all the room below the shawl! I could have used that instead of trying to pin under the bookcase. That doesn't work, by the way, for future reference.

Glamour shot of pink shawl. I knew that one end of the fiber had a lighter color as there was more white in the braid there. I decided to start there and then the rest was pretty random. There are darker and lighter spots but the finished effect looks like a gradient. I am very happy with the result. The yarn is a 3-ply that I plied rather tightly thinking I would make socks, but it was not to be.
Lastly, the l-o-n-g rainbow shawl. I am very happy with the result although it is very long. I ended up with it wrapped twice around my neck and then pinned in the front to show the left hand side down the front. It is very warm and soft and I think it is going to get a lot of use. The teal cashmere/mink is perfect as the contrast to break up the rainbow and make it not look like a clown collar. I am also happy with the mods although I should have started them earlier. 

I wore the rainbow one on Saturday without a coat as it was warmer. It did suddenly get cold so I put on my Large Lace Collar for a bit but ended up taking it off less than an hour later when the sun came up. On Sunday, which was much colder and windier, I wore the Rose Lace Collar Bohus and the pink shawl. I was inside most of the day so it worked. When I walked back to my car, I was chilled by the wind and didn't warm up till I got home!


I am in a very Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde type of mood these days. On the one hand, I think I have too much stuff and am busy de-cluttering. Some of the things that are burdening me right now are my yarn, my knitted sweaters and my fiber books. I love all of them but they are taking up too much space. I am not ready to get rid of them yet but I feel a weight on my shoulders when I think about these.

I have happily donated lots of things from my kitchen and my wardrobe (and more are packed up to go to Goodwill). These are things I have parted with regularly for years. If I don't use it for a couple of years, it gets donated. But knitting books, hand-knit sweaters and yarn are not in that category. They don't lend themselves easily to that sort of black and white decision making.

At the same time, I was ecstatic to get my stuff from China. As you may remember, this came by sea and it was packed up in late August in Shanghai. I missed many things that were in the shipment - my Hansen bobbins, my Hansen orifice hook, my niddy-noddy, a couple of my smaller purses (would have loved to have had those for Rhinebeck last week), my cheap headphones that I wear at night (story to follow), my lemon squeezer, and my chapati and idli making gear.

Re: headphones - I go to sleep listening to podcasts. Over the years, I have realized that this destroys headphone. I go through them about every 2 years or so. Therefore, I will not use my expensive headphones at night. i buy the cheapest ear-hook headphones I can find and use them till they die. Usually one side will die out and then the other. Back in August, the one I was using was working fine so I put its backup in the sea shipment. Of course, as soon as I landed here, the one I was using started acting up. When it is in the process of dying, the sound will sometimes come on and off in the side that is failing which is a very weird sensation. I was very happy to toss the failing one and start using the new one.

Anyway, back to the philosophical struggle. I knit a lot and if I kept everything I knit, I would have a house full of hand-knits. I give away a lot of shawls but it is hard to do this with sweaters. I am just donating 2 sweaters that no longer fit me that were knitted in the 90s. But I have another one I knit earlier that is still something I love and wear. How many sweaters does one person need? Occasionally a family member will ask for a sweater but I am not surrounded by sweater lovers. They like to wear sweatshirts and fleeces rather than sweaters. Or, they are too concerned about the shape of the latest season and  I won't knit sweaters that won't last 2 seasons because the wearer doesn't think they are fashionable enough.

I am actually resisting knitting more sweaters because of this but I really like knitting sweaters. I think my handspun is good enough now for a sweater. But what to do with the old ones?

Most of the stuff in the 32 boxes has been put away. The kitchen stuff needs to be washed so some of it is still on the dining table. Linens have to be put away as do books and fiber/yarn. Gosh, I have a lot of knitting needles!

However, I have been in a fiber-y mood after Rhinebeck and being re-acquainted with my tools has only intensified the mood.

I finished up the yarn I started in the 2 classes:
 First up, a gradient yarn made up of solid fiber. This is a very simple and crude gradient to illustrate the process. I took yellow and rust fiber - 2 ply. First 1/3 is 2 plies of yellow. Second 1/3 is one ply of each color and third 1/3 is 2 plies of rust. It will be better if I had done a 3 ply - or if I had blended the colors to achieve a more subtle gradient.
 Second, a fractal spun yarn. I divided the fiber into half. One single was one half. I divided the other half into 1 quarter and 2 1/8ths and spun them in order for the second single. One of the epiphanies I had in the class is that I don't have to spin it this way. I can actually spin 1 single of the half, the quarter and the 1/8ths in order. Then chain ply that single to create the yarn. This way I have shorter repeats at one end of the fiber and longer ones on the other. This would make great yarn for triangle or circle/half-circle shawls where the shorter stripes can go at the top and the longer ones on the bottom so you get roughly even stripes all the way through.
 Abby gave us fiber to warm-up - adjust our wheels, get used to spinning, etc. I made my warm-up into a leader which I will put on one of the bobbins that has nylon twine for a leader. Judith McKenzie and Maggie Casey both recommend hand-spun leaders so I am gradually spinning leaders for my bobbins. By the way, a warm-up period in class is a wonderful idea.
 You have to look closely at this skein. The white part is the thick and thin fiber that we spun in Jacey's class. It is loosely spun and a single. The colored part was also spun thick and thin but with more twist and then plied into coils. I made a single sample skein of both parts. You can see the coils! I didn't think I could spin either thick and thin yarn or coils but I did both!
 I also started a new spinning project. The one I was in the middle of in China can be continued because I now have the fiber. But I was in the mood for color and now I have enough bobbins to spin 3 projects on the Hansen - one on the WW (the white fiber I am spinning long draw for a DK/worsted weight), this colored one on the Hansen jumbo flyer and something on the lace (I am not doing anything on that right now). Being Halloween week, I decided to get into the mood with a colorway called Moldy Pumpkin from Gale's Art. I got it at Rhinebeck in 2012 or 2011.  I analyzed it based on Abby's class and found that it has a repeat. I've folded the fiber for the second single so the repeat shows up in the picture. I am going to try and make a self-striping yarn out of it.
 It is spinning up beautifully and fast. It is on a Humbug base - which is grey/brown (?) and white BFL blended together. I've spun about 2/3 of the first single already. I am aiming for a heavy fingering-sport weight yarn. Not too thin. The photo is the the spun single and what is left of the fiber.
Lastly, I played with the Zoom Loom a few times last week. It took me 3 tries to get a decent square. But I undid the two failed ones (I hadn't woven the last row on the outside so one of the warp threads just came off) and rewove them. I found this leftover Dale that I used in a fair-isle hat. I'm going to make as many squares as I can and then sew them together to make a scarf. The Zoom Loom is like a potato chip. You can't make just one square. It is now taking me about 30 mins to make one but it gets faster with each square (the first one took me close to an hour and was a fail).

I'm ending with a couple of shots of the Turkish votive holders I bought in Istanbul. I lit them for the 2 nights of Diwali (it is actually 3 nights), but I ran out of tea light candles.

They look very boring without lights inside but are gorgeous when lit up.