Monday, September 19, 2016

New beginnings (spinning, knitting, book)

I finally have caught the spinning bug again. It started with the Spindolyn checkout and that reawakened the joy that spinning brings to my brain. While I don't seem to have the energy to do much in the evenings after work, I find that spinning late at night when I can't sleep works best for keeping the snacking monster at bay. I am really working on eating just 3 meals a day with nothing in between so snacking at night is a no-no.

I couldn't sleep last Tuesday night. I was up till 2 am in the morning and finished spinning the mystery fiber I got with the Spindolyns.

That is the cop on the Spindolyn. It went very well. I then wound off the cop onto a center pull ball and then wound that into a 2 strand plying ball so that I could divide the fiber evenly into 2 halves to make a 2-ply yarn.

To prevent the ball from collapsing, I left the center core from the ball winder in. I wound the plying ball onto a tennis ball so that the singles would stay nice and even. Sometimes I use styrofoam balls covered with bits of handspun yarn. 

There's the fully wound plying ball with the empty ball winder core. Then I couldn't sleep last night and plied the yarn on the Hansen Classic mini-spinner.

I haven't wound it off and finished it yet but it is yarn. 

I also took the Nano Trindle on a trip to the spinning guild meeting. We meet in a historic inn and I like to take spindles with me so I can not only spin during the business meeting but also walk around and spin while everyone else is eating and during the mini-workshops we run. This time the event was a Spin-in to collect money for the local 4-H shepherds. A couple of our members volunteered to donate $2 per spinner for the 30 min Spin-in. Plus, some of us also donated some money to the 4-H clubs. While we were spinning, we were entertained by jokes, spinning quizzes, information on ergonomic spinning, and prize drawings. 

I photographed the Nano against a dish at the inn. I wanted to get some of the historic aspects but there was too much rough wood and dust and the Nano is tiny and filled with cashmere/silk.

I also spun some more on Saturday afternoon when a friend visited. She brought me this luscious yarn.

I was nominally a member of Team Trindle for the Tour de Fleece, so I got a present from the sponsors. That was very sweet of them, given that I had not spun at all during the TdF. But they are very nice people. Jeremy, aka Trindleman, repaired my Nano last year for no charge when the hook came off during last year's Tour de Fleece. And he has replaced other shafts that split. Cat, aka Mrs. Trindleman, made me a lovely batt. It came accompanied by a bracelet which makes a great distaff and a card.

On the knitting front, I ripped out the shawl and restarted it. The increase rate on the edges is very high so the edge was tight and I was afraid it would not block properly and pucker. I am re-doing it with a yo at the edge that I drop on the subsequent row. This adds more yarn to the edge and allows it to stretch to accommodate the extra sts.
That's the current state of the shawl. Compare that edge with the one from before at roughly the same size.

See how much tighter the edge is? It is worth it to rip and re-knit and get the result one wants. 

Last night I also spun a little on the Gotland and am anxious to complete it so I can move on to spinning other things. Sadly, it all looks very much the same as it did when I left it so I didn't take any more pictures. 

Finally, a new book arrived today. Janine Bajus, aka the Feral Knitter, has finally completed and is mailing out her book. This is the essence of her 3-day 'Design your Own Fair-Isle sweater' in a book. I've never had the opportunity to take the class so I will be studying the book. I am anticipating diving into it with excitement.

I think I will knit a little more on my shawl and then head for bed with my new book. 

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Locks and locks

Last weekend, I spent some time spinning on one of my new Spindolyn spindles. I also pulled out the Nano Trindle that was repaired last year and started spinning on it again. And I continued to package up fleece for washing. So 3 new spinning things in one weekend. That is what happens when you have a 3 day weekend.

First up the Spindolyn. I took one of the pieces of fiber that was used to pack them and started spinning to see how it worked. I am quite impressed with my own speed. Since I don't have to support the spindle with my hand once it is spinning, I can use both hands for drafting so I am able to draft top much faster and with a more consistent grist. Usually I find this goes slow on a supported spindle. Roving and rolags or clouds go much faster as the supported spindle is really good for long draw. If I spin from top, I usually do it over the fold and that takes time as I run out of fiber and have to grab another staple length to fold.

Here, I just drafted straight from the length of fiber and kept going. So it went very fast. I am impressed. Next up, I am going to try some silk I have which I want to spin thin to go with some Corriedale that I spun on my supported spindle when I was learning. I will ply them together and make a scarf or something.
 That was in about 2 hours

This was at the end of the weekend, after a few more hours. You can see the difference in the length of fiber attached to the cop.

I spun a little on the Nano at my sister's where we went for dinner. The dog thought the spindle was her toy so I had to stop shortly after. She's a bit exuberant to say the least and doesn't have very much self-control although they are working with her. When she gets excited, she forgets all her training.
That is the Nano and the fiber with a coffee mug for scale.

Finally, I continued packaging up the Finn lamb fleece I bought over the summer. One of my guild members raises Finn sheep. She had brought in a fleece for someone who didn't want all of it so she offered me the remainder. I thought it was 2 lbs but I'm not so sure any more. It seems endless!

I started packing clumps of locks into laundry bags as I thought I might want to spin from the lock. This preserves them the best so I have the widest set of options for further processing. I can spin from the lock, comb or card. But previous experience has taught me that if I just put the into bags they all get jumbled. So I thought I'd sew them into the bags. I did the first lot on Memorial Day weekend.
 That is the fiber. It is a lovely brown color.
 This is my first set of bags with the sewing. My first thought was actually barrettes. Clip on and clip off. But they didn't hold. So I sewed with a polypropylene thread so I could just unravel it when I was done. It took too long! I only created 4 bags in the course of most of a day. All the supplies are from the dollar store.

I took a picture of the locks outside the bag as you can see the crimp and lovely lock structure much better. It is very soft and crimpy.


After that day, I needed more bags and I thought of safety pins! So I went and stocked up at the dollar store. This is faster. I make 4 pockets side by side across the bag with the pins, put the fiber inside, close up that set of pockets with pins, make 4 more and repeat.

In a couple of hours I had 4 more bags filled. But there is more fiber! Once they are all packed up, I can pull out a couple of bags at a time and wash them in the evenings when it is dark. The VM and bits of stray stuff gets tossed outside rather than having to be swept up inside.  It also keeps the smelliness outside.

I have some Cormo fiber I bought at Rhinebeck last year that needs the same treatment. But it is only 1 lb. I will have to weigh this after I am done to see if my 2 lbs was on target or not.

It is supposed to be nice tomorrow so I might try and finish this up then. If I have bags left, I will move on to the Cormo. Else it will have to wait till this is all washed and out of the bags.

Finally some eye candy from my train trip yesterday along the Hudson river.
 These two are around Bear Mountain bridge.

 That is Bannerman Castle.
Going under the Newburgh Beacon bridge.

That's all for today! I've been very chatty.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Gold silk, beads, and spindles

I started knitting my silk shrug and it is progressing along well.  This is a picture from earlier in the week. It is a bit bigger now but the same shape.

I also managed to photograph the Czech beads I bought on vacation to make jewelry
 This lot is meant to be used together. I also have some gold beads and some clear beads with gold crackle that might be nice to combine. The beads on top are hand made and the rest are machine made.
This is the second set I bought to mix with some other beads that I have. I can't really tell what is going to look nice till I put them all together because the sizes and proportions and the colors all make a huge difference to how they look. The ones on the top left are tear drop shaped. I got them all at Miss Bijoux. The store is right on Wenceslas Square, which is very convenient for anyone who is going as a tourist. That is right on the tourist track so easy to get to.

I haven't been spinning at all which is strange since I love it. I have been very tired in the evenings and weekends have been jam packed with yard work, preserving CSA produce, exercise, etc. I made some herb salt using this recipe, which is for basil salt. Mine is about 90% basil but I threw in some rosemary, lavender, sage and oregano just to add some other notes. I used this recipe vs. the one I used last year because this uses more herbs. My basil is growing like Jack's beanstalk this year. I have already frozen pesto twice, and basil mixed with olive oil twice and that is about all I can use. It suddenly struck me that I could make salt now and give it as Christmas gifts later. So I did.

I also dried mint leaves for tea and will be drying sage leaves this weekend just for cooking.
Those two jars in the back are the basil/herb salt. The rest is the mint.

I got a spiralizer on Amazon Prime day and have been spiralizing everything since. Mostly zucchini. It is a great lunch alternative to soup. I make stir fries, thai curry, Mediterranean flavored, etc. veggie noodles and divide them up for lunches during the week.

And since I haven't been spinning, I decided to indulge in a little spinning retail therapy and bought these 5 gorgeous Spindolyn spindles. I like supported spindling in odd moments and am hoping that this will help me get more into it. These are all made from American woods.
They have a base so can sit beside you and the hook on top means that you can draft against it instead of a pure long draw as with other supported spindles. Now I need to get back to spindling! With my new Hansen Pro, that is two sets of tools that I need to play with.

But I've been mostly just knitting at night while listening to podcasts or reading a book.

My plan for the weekend is finish making packets out of my Finn lamb fleece so I can start to wash them as it gets colder. To preserve the lock structure, I am putting them in large mesh laundry bags with safety pins separating them from each other. It was too much work to sew them into bundles and the pins work quite well. This way I can wash 2-3 packets in a sitting and let them dry without having to handle the locks and mess them up. I'll get pictures as I make these so you can see what I'm doing.

It is a smelly fleece so I prefer to work outside to make the packets and then i only need to remove what I'm going to wash from the bag. I got half a fleece from a spinning guild member who raises them. I also have a Cormo that I bought last year at Rhinebeck to wash. But the Finn is smellier so I am doing it first.

Have a great Labor Day Weekend everyone!


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.