Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A small snack

I have been traveling and so don't have a real post this week. I thought I would dangle some eye candy in front of you and also provide a link to a useful beading tutorial.

First the eye candy:
That is my new Micro XL Trindle with a lavender arm sets and some lovely mystery fiber I got as a gift. It is a silk and something or a tencel and something blend.

Next the beading tutorial. Fleegle does lovely spinning and lace work. She posted an in-depth tutorial on beading-as-you-go. This is where you add beads to the stitch without pre-stringing them. This technique is best used in lace knitting where you want the beads visible from both sides of the work and there is no issue with the beads chafing against skin.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The end results of Fiber preparation

Whether that is dyeing or washing, combing or spinning, the feeling of accomplishment is there. I finished both the Vernal Equinox shawl and a beaded cowl with the locks I got in February.

This is the shawl. It is a nice large size and very comfortable to wear.

Here it is blocking...

And there's is the cowl, showing the entire process from start to finish:

  1. The unwashed locks from the fleece
  2. Clean and combed locks
  3. Singles on the bobbin
  4. The finished cowl (pattern is Abstract Leaves Cowl)
  5. Plied yarn
  6. Finished and washed yarn
On to other knitting and spinning and washing and dyeing...

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Review of Yarn U

A while ago, MaryBeth Klatt approached me to review her Yarn U app. At the time, I was  busy, and didn't have time to explore and write about it. But when time freed up, I asked her if she still wanted me to review it, and she said yes. She gave me a free code to try the app. The app is available for both iPad and iPhone. I chose the iPad app. I asked MaryBeth a few questions about the app. I am going to intersperse the Q&A in my review. I've put them in italics so they stand out from my own observations and comments.

Q; What is your name, and how can people find you?
A: Mary Beth Klatt 

blog: Mary Beth Makes Hats

When you first open it, you get a little animated help section that shows you all the different icons that you can tap to get various types of information. This is very helpful to those who are not comfortable with just tapping and exploring. It also highlights things that one might miss by just exploring. It is a good length. I tend to get annoyed by overly long help sections but I found this perfect in length.

 When you open the app, you start on a screen that has an alphabetical listing of all the yarns in the database. You can scroll through this to browse or you can tap on one of the alphabets on the left to go to the name of the yarn you want.

I decided to start with Plymouth Galway which is a good basic yarn I have used and like.
 When you tap on the specific yarn, you get a closeup of the yarn, a map that shows where the yarn is available, a little something about the yarn and links to other information on the web about it. You can click the little heart to record that this is a favorite yarn.
 Scroll down further and you see information about the yarn - including yardage and price, links to stores that carry it and links to comments about it. (Bonus points if you note that I switched yarns on you, and showed you Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock details instead of those for Galway)

Q: What was the reason you created the app? Was it a problem you had? A problem someone else mentioned to you? anything else that might have caused the app to be created.
 A: I had already written Fabric U another iPhone/iPad app…I just thought Yarn U would be a great follow-up since I was already hugely into knitting. Interestingly enough, Yarn U has become the more popular of the two. I think there are more people knitting than there are sewing. Or possibly more knitters have iPhones? It’s hard to know.

 For true eye-candy, MaryBeth has included lots of photos. I found these screens a joy to scroll through. I stopped and browsed, and scrolled some more... You access them by tapping on the photos icon at the bottom of the screen. At any point you can tap on a picture to bring it up fullscreen along with captions on the yarn, the color and where you might be able to purchase it. There is also a filter icon on the top left hand side. This is very useful if you want to filter by new yarns that have been added, weight of yarn or if you want to just see your favorites.

Q: How often do you add/modify/delete yarns from the app?

A: I try to tackle this once a month. Actually, it’s ongoing project something I work on nearly everyday. My goal is to add 20 new yarns a month.
Q: Why would I need the app when I have Ravelry or the web available to me?
A: I see Yarn U as a supplement to Ravelry, not a replacement. You can look up information on a yarn quickly…I also put in price information and where you can get discounts on that yarn. I add this information as often as I can in the comments section. So if I see Louisa Harding’s Thistle on sale at Jimmy Beans Wool today, I’ll post and publish a comment. That information will go live immediately, visible to all Yarn U users.

I also think that an app like this is useful when you are at a festival or fair or even a sale. You might not be able to get to the web to check on a price or availability of a yarn and having the app right at hand can be very useful.

The app also has links to free patterns and photos of those patterns. I found this free pattern rather cute and a great way to use up leftovers!

Q: Do the yarn manufacturers give you information to add or do you do it yourself? How many people work on the app?
A: I update this baby all on my own. It’s a one-woman shop without even a cat to help me out although the dustmites try and I tell them to scoot! As for the information itself, it’s a compilation of data from the yarn manufacturers and other sources. 

In case you were wondering, the app is $2.99. That is less than a coffee these days and for that price, MaryBeth is providing a lot of useful information in the palm of our hands. One of the advantages you get for this price is comments that other users have added for the yarn you are looking at. So the value will continue to grow, not only with MaryBeth's additions but also those of other users.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add or talk about?
A: I’m continually trying to improve Yarn U besides adding new yarns. I’m a little limited in what I can since I’m not a developer and I need to work in the framework that’s been set up by my publisher, Sutro Media. But still that framework is pretty awesome. I think one of my favorite features is the favorites button. See a yarn you love and adore? Hit the favorites button. Another is the sort button. Sort by manufacturer! Sort by yarn type! Sort by what’s new. The list goes on. I also like hearing from my users. So send me a comment once you’ve got Yarn U uploaded.
Also…an Android version of the app is in the works. Stay tuned!

Overall, I think this is a great addition to the portfolio of knitting/crocheting apps that are available for smartphones and tablets.

Thank you, MaryBeth, for giving me the opportunity to play with the app and review it. Good luck to you as you continue to grow and update the app.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

If at first you don't succeed, or

a study in contrasts. That was the theme of the weekend. I was going to title this post A study in contrasts at first, but it really is both about reworking plans and trying again as well as contrasts of different kinds.

Remember my first spindle spun yarn that was underplied? I ran it through adding more plying twist and I am happier with the result. Here it is on the bobbin after plying.
I skeined and finished it. As you can see, there is a lot of contrast in the thickness of the yarn throughout the skein. There is quite a bit of yardage.
 This was the first in my try, try, try again theme. It didn't work plying it the first time so I plied it again.

I also plied the Dorset-Hampshire Cross that was my Feb 2012 Fleece of the Quarter Club. This is a freshly spun single plied back on itself.  Not bad, eh?
And here it is, freshly washed and drying. There is more yardage than I expected here. All I can say is 'pretty'. I love the creamy natural color of the two skeins.

Here they are, hanging together in the shower.
 Now contrast that lovely color with this lovely color below. Also, contrast how easily that plying went with the plying I am about to describe. I was going to chain-ply some lovely Targhee that I had just finished spinning. But the singles kept breaking on me because they are so fine. After struggling with it yesterday, I decided to change tactics. This is my second try, try, try again theme for this weekend. 

I pulled out the quill attachment for the Hansen and a bunch of weaving bobbins I had bought after last fall's eSpinner retreat with Judith McKenzie. She had demonstrated using the quill to wind bobbins. Judith also recommends rewinding bobbins before plying as it redistributes the twist. She says twist is like a river, it flows up and down the fiber. I think this is a great analogy. Anyway, I had invested in the fixing because I wanted to try her methods. They came in handy to rescue the Targhee.

 There is the Hansen with the quill and a bobbin on it. An O-ring secures the bobbin on the quill. In front are some re-wound bobbins and a bunch of empties. There are only 2 empties right now. A Hansen bobbin holds a LOT of fiber.

 In the photo below, you can see the original bobbin with the singles on the kate and if you look at the picture carefully, you will see the single going from there to the weaving bobbin on the Hansen.
 It took a while and a whole lotta bobbins but the singles are all wound off onto the smaller bobbins. I am ready to do a real 3-ply. The kate is now all set up with the weaving bobbins. Aren't the colors gorgeous? This is the contrast with the natural creamy white. Bright, saturated jewel tones. Yum! I love both sorts of colors. Natural and rich, dyed colors. I even like pastels. In fact, I haven't met a color I didn't like.

 And last but not least, I got my MicroXL Trindle yesterday. It weighs about 4 gms. The two arm sets get added on. The lavender quartz arms on the left weigh 7.1 gms so I can get a spindle that weighs 11.1 gms or one that weighs 16 gms with the arms on the right. The green ones weigh 12 gms. I put the Spin-Off next to it so you can get an idea of the relative length of the MicroXL. It is a very portable spinning project.
Now back to plying....