Monday, August 22, 2016

Spinning poker and a whole lotta DIY

I quit! I can't get this darn blog post to have a decent sized font! I've been formatting and reformatting it and it just isn't sticking!

This week hasn't had any spinning or knitting in it. I thought I'd get some done this weekend but I've been busier than I expected. But I want to get back in the habit of blogging regularly so I bring you spinning poker and some DIY.


Spinning poker, you say? What is that? It is something to get one out of a spinning rut. I read about it on a spinning group in Ravelry. It was apparently done in a spinning group that met f2f. I took it and adapted it for a small spinning group on Ravelry that I belong to. We use themes and such to keep ourselves motivated and spinning. 


I created a set of categories and put items in each one. Then I told people to pick.a random number in each category which would be like picking a card from a deck. The categories and items in each category were as follows. Based on the number they picked, they ended up with a series of selections that determined their spinning project. 



  • Fiber type: angora, primitive, luster longwool, alpaca, BFL, silk, Merino/Rambouilet/Cormo
  • Blend: blend or no-blend
  • Fiber Prep: hand-combed top, hand-carded roving, commercial roving, rolags/punis, commercial combed top, anything but the others
  • Drafting Method: backward draw/twist between the hands, backward draw/no-twist, forward draw/no-twist, forward draw/twist between the hands.
  • Finishing: thwacking, semi-felting, hot/cold alternate soaks, snapping, anything goes
  • Add-ins: sequins, beads, found objects
  • Plies: 1, chain, 3, 2
I had someone pick a set of numbers for me. I ended up with commercial carded roving, silk, blend, singles with beads and thwacked (or something like that). 

Since I had to a singles yarn with beads, I had to thread the beads on the fiber and that is where I ended up stuck. I started but ran out of time to finish so it is in the WIP pile. It did allow me to experiment with beads in spinning and I'm looking forward to finishing it. 




I had roving given to me by a friend so the first step was to pick out beads. These were the beads I considered. 


This is the roving. It is from the UK so a name I didn't recognize.




And my start at adding beads to the roving. I decided to put beads on 25% of the fiber and then spin these in with the rest as I spin the singles. 


I spent the weekend tackling a bunch of stuff around the house. My 4 basil plants were bushes so I cut them back severely and made a basil finishing salt with the leaves. I combined some sage, rosemary and lavender for a bit of depth of flavor although it is about 90% basil. I also put in some sea salts that I had bought in France along with kosher salt. I had previously made herb salt using a recipe from the Splendid Table but it didn't have the herb/salt ratio I was looking for. So I found another recipe that worked out very well. I highly recommend making herb salts as gifts. They are very well received, have the potential for creativity in packaging, and are a consumable gift so you can repeat them year to year. 


I also had run out of a couple of my staple spice mixtures. I have started making my own after years of getting them made in India and carrying them back or buying in the Indian store here. The acquisition of a Vitamix on my return from China made this possible. It grinds so well that I am able to get the spice mixtures as fine as the mills in India. In India, you prepare the spices - proportion and roasting - and then send it out to a mill to be ground. 


I made idli powder (also known as gunpowder because it is typically spicy). I also made a curry powder from a specific community in Tamil Nadu, whose flavors I like. I mix this with a similar one that is from my family. A lot of these mixtures are very individual to cooks and families and the one we use at home is my mother-in-law's recipe:



  • Dried whole round red chillies: 300 gm
  • Coriander seed: 400 gm
  • Black pepper: 100 gm
  • Toor dal: 100 gm
  • Chana dal: 100 gm
  • Fenugreek seeds: 2-3 teaspoons
  • Black mustard seeds: 2-3 teaspoons
  • Turmeric powder: mixed in when the curry is cooking. If I had access to dried turmeric root, I could grind it with the rest. 
I really want to be back to knitting/spinning this week. I've caught up with a lot of the stuff that kept me busy last week and hope to have freed up enough time to play.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

More fiber-y catchup

I was away in Bengaluru on a business trip for 2.5 weeks. I got a lot of knitting done. Most of the shawl I posted last week was knitted there and on the plane. But I also got the opportunity to go to the SilkIndian store. The silk here comes from cottage industries in the Indian state of Karnataka. Families specialize in various aspects of silk production - from breeding the silkworms to raising them to reeling the silk. Dyeing and spinning are usually factory operations as is weaving. But many Indian silk saris are woven on handlooms.
This weaver is doing a demonstration in an upscale sari shop but that is how traditional Indian saris are woven.

I didn't get to see all this but I got to sit and chat with the two men who run the retail store. You can follow them on FB where they post videos of the yarn and other information.

I bought some yarn and more interestingly, some fiber. I got 2 skeins of their 20/2 spun silk in a gold color. I swatched for Shleeves. I want to make a shawl that I can wear with dressy saris and other outfits in the winter.
That is the yarn on my window sill in the hotel.
The swatch I made and blocked this weekend at my son's place was spot on for the gauge. So I am ready to cast on.

I also bought some silk/linen yarn and some 20/2 spun silk in variegated colors. The silk/linen will be a summer-y top in a loose gauge. The kind of thing you throw on when it gets chilly. The variegated colors are to blend with some other silk yarn I have for woven shawls on the rigid heddle loom.
 Silk and linen yarn.
Two colors of variegated yarn on cones. The bottom one is to go with a blue (kind of turquoise but a bit more blue than turquoise) and the top is to go with a bright orange. They are still wrapped in cellophane which is why they are reflecting the light so much.

The fiber is packed into a brick so I am going to give you some different shots so you can see the colors.
 That is the plain red silk top. I have about 200 gms of it.
 I also got some carded sari silk roving. This is the stuff that sari silk yarn is made of. Judith McKenzie carded sari silk yarn and then spun it loosely to create a more lofty, tweedy yarn in The Spinner's Color Toolbox. Link to Interweave store, if interested. I'm hoping to recreate it without the carding step. I think I will have to ply it with a solid yarn to make it useful but one never knows. I have about 500 gms of this.
This is another shot that shows other colors in the roving. It is very colorful!

I also bought some silk strings. These are just lengths of reeled silk with the glue (sericin) still in them so they stick together. I am thinking of incorporating some of it into jewelry.
There are 10 colors in the package. Each string is one color.

This past weekend I also made some progress on a shawl that I've been knitting on planes for a long time. It is light and portable so I've just been working away on the body. I'm done with it now. I need to pick up sts for the lace border and edging which will get done at home. Then it will go back to being travel knitting. The yarn is Elann's Kid Silk Haze equivalent.  I bought some when they closed their internet store because I had a bunch of credits that I had accumulated. I figured I couldn't go wrong with this yarn! I have 3 balls and did the body with 1. I think I'll use one more in the lace border and edging and have the third for a scarf or something else. The pattern is Katy Jubilee.
Not much spinning going on here but i hope to change that this weekend. I have to weed quite a bit in the garden but won't be able to do much during the day so I'll work on spinning and cleaning and cooking CSA produce.

I am done with the catch-up so from now on, it will be what I've been working on during the week.

I also need to get back to spinning. I am missing it a lot. I haven't spun in over a month!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Apologies on the photos

I just went back to look at the last post and realized a lot of the photos didn't show up. I don't know why. I was trying to link to Google Photos, where they lived but it didn't work. Oh well.

I've uploaded them into the post directly so you should be able to see them now.

Apologies for a very boring post. I think I'll stick to uploading from now on.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Over-due update on fiber activities

I have been very negligent in reporting on my fiber activities. I've been very negligent in blogging and that is mostly because the travel related stuff takes a lot of time. I take many hundreds of photos on a trip and sorting through them to tell the story takes time.

Fiber stuff is easier - or so I think. :-)

Spinning

If you remember, I bought part of a Gotland fleece at Rhinebeck last year. I washed it over the winter and am now combing and spinning it. There is a decent amount of waste from the combing but it looks like excellent carding fiber for future use. I am spinning this on the Jensen Tina II and falling in love with the wheel again. I had not spun on her since I left for China.
 That was the dirty fleece.
 This is the sample skein I spun

Next up fibre combed and spun into a single. I have a little left to comb and finish. It is hairy but quite soft. I am trying very hard not to add too much twist as it can get wiry if I do.  I made a 2-ply sample which I really liked. But I am thinking of plying with this beaded thread that I bought in China.

It looks like this when unwound from the bobbin.

I will sample and see if I like it. In any case I am spinning onto 2 bobbins so I can do a 2-ply like my original sample. 

I finished spinning a Lisa Souza alpaca/silk on spindles and plied it on my Hansen e-spinner. That is it on the bottom. 
I combined it with most of the yarns on the top (I removed the bright yellow and the one on the extreme left which is my 3-ply sock yarn sample) and made a shawl. I just finished it. Pictures are in the knitting section. 

I started spinning a roving from Handspun by Stefania on a larger spindle to practice long draw on the spindle.

That is on a new Snyder Spindles 3-D printed spindle. I bought 2 just to try them out. The other one is a small Turkish spindle. I finished the cop on that one and started another one on a Forrester spindle that I bought at Rhinebeck. I thought it would be good to have a couple of less expensive spindles for travel.

And last but not least, I got another Hansen e-spinner. This one is the Pro model and I haven't even had a chance to try it out yet. I've been busy with vacation and business travel and garden work along with putting away CSA produce each weekend.


Isn't that wiggle in the grain cute? 

I didn't participate in the Tour de Fleece this year. There was just too much going on so I sat out.

Knitting

The aforementioned shawl. I had to knit most of it twice. This was the first attempt. I thought I would make a curve to sit on the shoulders. I made it on the wrong side. So I ripped it out and re-knit it. 

This is the second version. Much nicer but it is very long. I wore it and it wraps nicely around the neck and shoulders. I love the way the colors ended up on the final shawl.


I also started and ripped out half a sock. A friend gave me 2 skeins of Drops Delight to sample. It is too loosely spun for socks and I had a tough time with it. I started them 2 at a time and the tip on my Karbonz needle came off. That should have been an omen. But I had dpns and switched one sock to the dpn and knit it to the heel turn before I decided I really hated it and ripped it out. The yarn has become this.
It is a narrow but long cowl to wrap around the neck a couple of times. You could also call it an infinity scarf.

I have also been venturing out into jewelry making and photography. 

Jewelry

The jewelry making started innocently with this.

And then the following materialized

The next one was created to showcase the fabric flower that I got in a swap. It was a pin but I rarely wear pins. I found a tutorial for an Anthropology knock-off and used it for inspiration. The other two items are buttons layered on buttons.

I also played around with the chains I bought in China and made this one

And lastly made this for a friend. The other two pearl items and the peacock feather one also ended up as gifts.



We were in Prague on vacation and I had some time on the last day. I found a bead shop and bought some Czech glass beads to make a couple of necklaces and I have some more ideas in the works. But it has to wait for winter when I have more time.

Photography

I bought some photography classes from Craftsy. I haven't watched them all yet but concentrated on the mobile photography ones. My album of trial pictures - homework as well as learning to use my iPhone camera are here. I learned about a lot of apps that can help mitigate the effects of the fixed focal length lens in the phone. I also invested in a good lens system for it. I had bought a cheap macro/wide angle lens combo but hated the photos because the lens quality was not good. The new lens system is made of high-quality optical glass. I have a 2x telephoto, a super wide-angle and a macro. I mostly use the 2x telephoto but occasionally the wide-angle. The macro is seriously neglected because the built-in phone lens works well in macro mode. 

Next up I am going to work on the DSLR and learn to use it properly instead of just in automatic mode or with a manual focus. It also has a lot of features that I don't know how to use and practice is the only way to learn.

That is a quick catch-up on hobbies. I am pondering my next knit and I will probably do a post a week on my antics from now on. Next up is probably recent acquisitions. Fiber, yarn and the beads.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Last days in Sri Lanka

I have been very busy with the garden. Since I only have time on weekends, I have been spending most of the day outside trying to get everything under control. The garden got weed-choked with our 2 years in China. Last summer, I was able to clear and keep clear a number of beds but of course, what I didn't get under control still went to seed and re-seeded it self. Plus I was unable to keep things weeded through the summer due to my business travels so while it helped, it was not as good a job as it should have been.

This spring, we've managed to get most of it weeded and I plan to try and keep everything weeded through the fall to prevent another year of weed-choked beds.

So I haven't got much of anything done. I've been combing and spinning the Gotland fleece I got last Rhinebeck and it is almost done. But it is very boring. Just grey. I comb a batch and spin and then comb another batch. This way I don't over-tax my wrists and arms with combing.

And here, finally, is the last installment of the Sri Lanka trip. After this I will be back to my usual topics of spinning, knitting, etc.

Our next to last day in Sri Lanka began in Yala NP and ended in the port city of Galle. We drove along the southern coast and there were many beautiful views out over the Indian ocean as we drove along.
 We stopped here to see the stick fishermen. They came up with this way of fishing because they have to get clear of the rocks at the edge of the shore. These days, i wonder how much fish they catch and how much they are there for tourists because they are barely clear of the rocks.

 Our destination was Galle, a Portuguese fort at the south-western end of Sri Lanka. The fort has been preserved with all the buildings within it having historical landmark status. This is the interior wall of the fort - the one that faces the town.
 The fort has good views over the water, which is needed for defensive purposes. This is a view from the landward wall.

 The building inside the fort definitely have that colonial feel. It is quiet for now. As we were leaving, the schools let out and it was pretty crazy and noisy with the traffic.

 This is the seaward side.


 The Indian ocean is a gorgeous color.




 After we wandered through the fort, we went to our hotel which was right on the beach. I couldn't have picked a better spot to spend our last night.
It was built around an old lighthouse, I think.

 We spent most of the evening camped out on the lawn watching the sun set.

 The best colors are after the sun actually sets.
 The next morning, we set off for Colombo. It was our last day and we flew out in the evening. Now we were driving along the south-western coast of Sri Lanka, heading north. Surfing is very popular here. This is also where the tsunami hit at its worst. If you have seen the youtube video of the train being washed away, it was from around here. Our first stop was at the tsunami memorial.
We also drove by one of the more important Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka but we didn't stop. 

Our driver took us on a city tour of Colombo. It looks like any other city! But there were a few differences. There are Hindu temples.
 A Dutch hospital that is now turned into a restaurant complex. We stopped here to cool off and get some lunch.

There was a beautiful golden Buddha as we drove around.
I think this is the seat of the government.
 Then we drove to the Independence Square. It is a national monument surrounded by parks and other buildings. The monument is the Independence Memorial Hall.
 Inside are traditionally carved columns with scenes depicting Sri Lankan history.
 You can't really see the vignettes as they are on those plaques. The columns reminded me of the hall in the Temple of the Golden Tooth at Kandy.
 It is surrounded by parks on most sides. That building over there is a colonial building that is now a mall.
 We sat on the steps of the hall and watched a school sports day in a field across the street. There were heats and races.

And then we left for the airport and headed back to Chennai.

I'll try and get in a catch-up post on what I've been up to spinning and knitting-wise in the next day.