Saturday, January 26, 2013


It is fascinating how habits drive our actions. I had a morning routine in my house but it was split between the upstairs and the downstairs. Also, we had a coat closet near the garage door. Moving to Shanghai has necessitated changes in habits and I am constantly noticing how I do things by habit. On the other hand, habits seem easy to acquire.

When I wake up, my morning routine includes taking a puff of my preventive asthma inhaler and a couple of sprays of a nasal allergy preventive. It took about 2 weeks for me to acquire the habit of doing this in the bathroom, where I now keep the meds. In my house, they were in the bedroom. Not a big change but one that took a while to change.

Similarly, I also have a few tablets I need to swallow in the morning. I usually take them after breakfast so my stomach is not empty. At home, they were in the kitchen because we had space and I didn't want to go upstairs to get them. Here, there isn't room in the kitchen so I keep them in the bedroom. It has taken close to a month for me to be efficient in getting and swallowing them after breakfast.

We've always taken our shoes off as we enter the house. It is an Indian custom and we've felt comfortable with it. It also keeps the dirt and grit out of the house. Chinese do the same thing. They take their shoes off or put on shoe covers when they enter houses. We experienced this when we looked at apartments. However, whereas Indians are comfortable walking around barefoot or in their socks, Chinese seem to like wearing slippers. Most houses have a few extra pairs for the use of guests. This is not something I like. I'd rather walk barefoot than wear slippers worn by who knows who. Habits, once again. It is all what you are used to.

There is no coat closet in this apartment. We bought a rack and put it in the storage closet, which is in the middle of the house. So I have to collect my stuff, get my coat and then go the front lobby and put on my shoes. At home, I put on my shoes before I put my coat on. Similarly, I take my coat off and then my shoes. This habit has proven very intractable and resistant to change. I have still not mastered it after a month. Weird, isn't it?

Another habit that amuses me has to do with the ladies room at work. In the ladies room where I worked in upstate NY, the towel dispenser was on another wall from the sinks. In the one I use now, it is just above the sinks. You would think that after so many weeks of using the current ladies room multiple times a day, I would have mastered this habit. Nope. Many times each day, I find myself washing my hands and then turning to look for the towel dispenser. And then turning back and getting it from above the sink.

When I go to work, I enter the building through entrance A and go to the elevator lobby. The other day, I walked out with someone who exited through B and it took me a few seconds to figure out how I go home. Funny!

Lastly, one habit that I have picked up very quickly is drinking hot water. Chinese drink hot water or add water to their tea all day. Our water dispenser at work has both hot and cold water. The hot water is very hot. I have picked up the habit of filling my water bottle with 2/3 hot and 1/3 cold water to make a drinkable hot water that I drink all day. I go through about 4 16 oz bottles of water a day. For some reason, this is comforting. I don't put tea in my bottle as it will be a pain to wash the tea stains out.

Now on to other things.

First spinning: I have finished spinning the gradient. The top set is the first single, all wound up and ready to ply. The bottom set is the second single. These have to be rewound so the colors are in the correct order before plying. Each cop needs to be reversed so the part where I began is on the outside and the part where I ended is on the inside. I put chopsticks into the turtles to make sure they don't collapse. I could ply them from t.he inside but they collapse as you get near the end. I can put the chopstick into my shoebox kate or the bin with holes that I use with my spindles.

We also took a walk outside last night - to go out to dinner and do some grocery shopping. I took some pictures of the area all lit up at night. I think this is for Chinese New Year but I am not sure.
The ferry terminal at the end of our street.
A tourist bus outside the ferry terminal See the neon lights on the top deck?
The Oriental Pearl Tower lit up at night. The lights move so I would have to take a movie to show the whole thing but this shows you the tower.
Trees lit up outside a building. Oriental Pearl Tower is in the background.
The IFC mall (a very high end mall) and a near by restaurant all lit up.

Sorry for a long post but I had a lot to say!

Friday, January 25, 2013

A fable (but not a tall story)

Once upon a time, there were people. They were united by two things - a love of what they made with their hands and a love of a certain place. A magical wizard brought them together and they grew to know and love each other as friends. They lived far from each other but they were able to talk to and see each other via the magic that the wizard gave them. Sometimes, occasionally, they were able to meet and talk without the help of the magic, but these were far less frequent than their magical visits.

Many years passed and one of the people thought that it would be a good idea to celebrate their friendship with a festival. It had to be a magical festival because they lived so far from each other. When this idea was brought up, all the people jumped with joy because they loved the idea of the festival. In the place that they loved, festivals are common and much celebrated. Festivals also involve gifts and thus the people brought gifts for each other. They used the magic to talk and visit and chat with each other, using the festival time to get to know each other even better. A good time was had by all!

Can you guess what this is about? I'll tell you at the end...

But here are my gifts from the festival, made by hand because that is one of the things we love.

They came in a bag with two letters inside
One letter was fun and the other was rather boring. I'll leave you to figure out which is which.

There was a project bag, to carry the things we make by hand.
There was a spinner's lap cloth, although the person who made it isn't a spinner.
There was tea, and a sachet and a pin.
And last, but not least, some other things to help make the things we love by hand.
It was all tied together with love and a big red ribbon.
The love and creativity and generosity in this gift is making my heart sing.

Have you guessed the magic? It is Ravelry and Casey is the wizard. My gifts were sent to me by Ru, who I have actually met in person.

I had a post all set to go today that was unrelated to this but when my gift arrived yesterday, I had to throw that out and write this one instead. I'll post the other one later this weekend.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Slow but steady wins the race

I am not sure what race the title applies to but it sounded good. I didn't spin very much this week, or knit for that matter. I went to Beijing for a series of meetings on Monday. Yes, in the middle of the record air pollution that lasted through the middle of the week. I thought I would take some pictures of the pollution but I doubt my phone would have done justice to it. I had to go because this meeting had been planned for months and a number of my colleagues from the US were coming. We couldn't cancel it at the last minute without a delay in months to get everyone's schedule to line up.

My goal was to minimize time outdoors, use my inhalers to the max, if needed, and breathe as shallowly as possible. Monday was the worst. I was staying in a different hotel from everyone else - about a 3-4 min walk. When I landed, visibility was about 100 ft or less at the airport. It was like being in a yellow fog. It was also very cold - below freezing.

Tuesday morning, it was better though still very high. By Thursday morning, my last day, the sky was blue and it was clear. It just kept getting better and better. The traffic and distances in Beijing are much worse than in Shanghai. I spent about an hour each way in the taxi commuting to work and back. The long days were lengthened by the commute. I am so glad I picked an apartment close to work in Shanghai! So no photos for you!

I did spin a bit after I got back. I am making progress on the gradient. I find that the Jenkins Delight spins a lot slower than the trindles. So I have to pay attention and add more twist without drafting to make sure I have a sound yarn. I won't even begin to tell you how many times I've had to recover when fiber I thought was spun started coming apart.
There is the first turtle that I took off. I put it next to my iPod for scale.

Here is what is left
I may be done with this this week if all goes well. Then I have to wait till my air shipment luggage shows up to be able to ply. I don't have enough Hansen bobbins to ply. I have been filling the one I have up with singles from different fibers.

Chinese New Year is coming up. Every place is decorated with red and gold decorations. There are lanterns and hanging decorations but also small things on desks and other places. I took this photo outside a mall yesterday when I went grocery shopping. This location had a Christmas tree the last time I was there.
Just inside the same mall, there is another decoration, this time the focus is the Snake. The next year is the Year of the Snake. This year is the Year of the Dragon. Being born in the Year of the Dragon is good so there has been a baby boom in China and other countries like Singapore. Being born in the Year of the Snake is also good, maybe not as good as the Dragon, but I don't know that for sure. The expectation is that the baby boom will continue.
I will continue to take pictures of various decorations for Chinese New Year and post them. This is my first one here and I am excited about experiencing it.

Red and gold are auspicious colors so it is considered good to decorate with them and to give presents in red and gold colors. The grocery store has a whole section of gifts in red and gold colors along with decorations.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Spindling a gradient part 5

I have been slowly but surely making progress on the second single in the gradient. I don't have any weaving bobbins to wind off the cop so I decided just to keep spinning on different spindles of roughly the same weight. I've been focusing on keeping the grist of the single consistent and I think I've succeeded. I will know when I go to ply it.
The first single was all spun on my regular Trindle (the top one in the phot above). I started the second single on the same Trindle. The arms are the golden dragon arms on the bottom. Once that filled up to a point where I wasn't comfortable continuing, I put the same arms on my microXL and continued spinning. You can see that in the middle of the picture. Now that one is full to the point of discomfort. I find that the bottom and top of the cop gets messy and then it becomes difficult to wind off. So I prefer to stop at that point.
Last night I started on the Jenkins Delight. You can see how much of the fiber remains on the right of the photo. I don't know if I will get all of it onto the Delight but I have a lightweight Golding left that can become spindle number 4, if I need it.
To slow myself down, I am focusing on a neat and pretty wind-on. Usually I start like this and then get bored and go back to the messy one. But so far, this is working out.

Maybe this way I will have all this done by the time the luggage arrives and I will be able to ply this immediately. I am hoping that it doesn't come to that. I would rather have the luggage here.

Shanghai tidbits

I wish I could take good pictures of the buildings here at night. Each one is lit up in a different way. Some have lights that move around the building in various patterns, others have lighting that shows off architectural features. In fact, buildings that you would not even give a second glance to during the day look fabulous at night. Maybe New York City or Chicago or other big city has many lighted buildings - for example the Empire State Building is typically lit up - but coming from a suburban-rural area, this is fascinating to me. I enjoy my walk home just looking at the lights. I am sure I will get used to this and then it will all become blase.

I see a lot of young couples on the streets and in the malls. In a crowded country, privacy comes in crowds. Frequently, the man is carrying the woman's pocketbook. I believe this is a common custom when couples are dating or courting. It stops once they are married. So it is a fun people-watching experience to see which couples are in this phase of their relationship. We had an interesting experience when we were here looking for apartments. We went into the Haagen Dazs store to get ice-cream. The entire store was filled with young couples - we were the only ones over 30 I think. And there were a number of public displays of affection. The store has the usual sundaes and cones/cups but also very elaborate sundaes with fanciful names. There is a coffee-table book like menu with these mouth-watering concoctions. The young couples were sharing one of these items, as compared to the long-married ones (us) who each had a scoop of a plain flavor. We did taste each other's ice cream - does that count?

There are always a few people wearing masks - like the ones surgeons and dentists wear. I wonder if they are to protect the wearer against germs or the other people from the wearer's germs. Or maybe it is to avoid breathing in fumes. I haven't noticed the air being particularly bad but it has been raining this week and the rain does clear the air.

As someone who rarely buys brand name items, it is amusing to see all the high priced brand names in the malls and streets here. But this is the downtown area and probably is closer to 5th Avenue than Main Street.

The big supermarket we go to, and the smaller ones that are local, all have sections of foods for various cultures. In the big supermarket, it is a small section. In the ones locally, they are much larger as they cater to the ex-patriates living in the area. But what I find fascinating is that they have foods from around the world. There are Japanese brands, Korean brands, European brands (Swiss, French, German and British) as well as American. I wish I had more time to browse these sections.

Everything except fresh produce is more expensive than in the US. Produce is fresh and readily available and the variety is very large. Even though I struggle to come up with dinner ideas given I have one saucepan, a pressure cooker and a rice cooker to cook in, the food is tasty because of the quality of the produce.

It is a challenge operating appliances where all the buttons are in a language you can't comprehend. Of course, sometimes it is easy - I've figured out how to turn on the microwave by setting a time and starting it. But I have lots of buttons on my rice cooker and I haven't the foggiest idea what some of them are. I found an app that translates Chinese characters and that gives me some ideas. Some of the buttons are for soup or congee. But the app only gives me a literal translation and sometimes the context isn't enough to help figure it out. The same problem exists with our washer. We use the default setting even though there are 8 wash cycles. I hope the dishwasher is easy to figure out. We haven't had to use it yet as we don't have enough dishes.

Two crates of household goods have been shipped by air but they can't clear customs until I have my permanent residence permit. So there are a few more weeks of living in this minimalist fashion before I get them. Work has interfered with my spinning this week so there is not much to report. But this means that I might have sufficient projects in hand to last till the crates arrive. Last week, there was a short period when I was actually worried.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

A quick update (sans photos)

I plied the samples I spun yesterday. The plying balls worked brilliantly. But I can't go further as I don't have my sample niddy noddy with me. I could skein the yarn using some other method like winding around something else but I don't want to bother. So it will sit till the sample niddy noddy arrives.

I pulled the Hansen out and, would you believe that, I spun 2 oz of the Into the Whirled Romney this evening? This is the problem with spinning thicker yarn. It goes so quickly! The Romney is a little rougher on the hands than the other fibers I have been spinning. But I think it will make a durable set of mittens.

Given how quickly that has been spun, and the fact that I can't spin the other single since I have only one bobbin, I am debating whether it is worth spinning half of another braid on top of the Romney. So I would have two different singles on the same bobbin and I would repeat that on another bobbin later. Then ply the first set together and the second set together. The Hansen bobbins hold so much fiber that this is a definite possibility.

That is all... I just needed to get that out of my system.

Getting used to an apartment

It has been 32 years since I lived in an apartment. I had forgotten a lot of things about it. So it is also an interesting learning experience.

We have a lot of space in this apartment but it is nowhere near what we have had in our houses. We had basements and attics as well as storage space to buy things in bulk and store them. Here we have to be careful about what we buy because storage space is so limited.

Disposing of garbage is easy. Out in a service area on our floor are two bins. One for compostable (kitchen waste) items and the other for everything else. They are emptied twice a day. We just take the stuff out there and get rid of it. Easy peasy.

If something doesn't work, we call the management office and they send over a repairman. Yes, language is a problem. When we need to communicate, we call our leasing agent who translates for us. But mostly we just show them in, they do what they are supposed to and leave.

We are entertained by someone who plays the piano every evening from above us. I think it is a child because the session starts with scales and warm-ups and then moves on to music. This is lovely. I love the sound of the piano and always enjoyed it when my children practiced.

When you go shopping, you have to plan on what you are buying and how you will bring it home. Taxis are cheap and plentiful so that is what we have been doing but once or twice, we bought a few things and the bag got heavier and heavier as we walked home.

We are in a rather large apartment complex that is encircled by walls with gates in all four sides. Three of the four are for vehicles as well as pedestrians. One is just for pedestrians and bicycles although a motor-bike could also come through. This is the one closest to us and the one that is most convenient for us to take for most of our ventures - going to work, going to the local supermarket, or mall, etc. Last night we went out to dinner at a friend's apartment that is just across the street from the pedestrian gate. While coming back, another guest offered to drop us off on his way home by cab. I refused because it was such a short walk home. Well, the pedestrian gate closes at 10 pm. We were coming back around midnight. We had to walk around to one of the vehicle gates in the other side and then find our way back through the complex. Did I mention the directions in the complex are all in Chinese? No? Well they are. So we had to back track by keeping our building in sight and making a bee line for it.

The amazing thing is that this part of Shanghai is very safe, even that late. You don't feel afraid. The streets are well lit and there is traffic. No loiterers or hangers about.

We are getting in a decent amount of exercise just running errands. Things are close enough that we tend to walk and that is good. It is cold and windy, though. But since I have lots of nice warm handknits, I don't mind it so much. DH is a little more uncomfortable as he didn't bring his warmest coat with him. It will come in a few weeks with our shipped luggage.

The washer and dryer are small. We are doing a load of laundry most days because the washer holds so little. We tend to hang the clothes out on a rack to dry so the dryer has not been a problem yet.

Tomorrow I have to wash our single set of sheets and ensure they dry by bed-time. More sheets will come in the shipped luggage. I figure I'll wash them first thing in the morning and hang them out. In the evening, if they have not dried, I can put them in the dryer to finish the drying.

I took a photo from my bedroom window showing my route to work. I walk the length of the red arrow. It is exactly a little over 2 blocks. The row of satellite dishes at the tip of the arrow is at the base of my office building.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Plying from a turtle

I spun quite a bit of the gradient that I have been working on but I haven't found a good way to wind off the cop yet so I have put it away and started working with my new Turkish spindles. Wanda Jenkins always sends some lovely fiber with each spindle and even spins a leader so you are ready to go when you get the spindle. I love that little touch.

I started with the Delight, which is the smaller of the two I bought. The fiber sample here was from Abstract Fibers, in the colorway Maleficent. The fiber is Organic Polwarth and silk and it was just dreamy to spin. It drafted beautifully and the singles came out fabulously smooth. I tried to spin it a little thicker than I am spinning the gradient but it was a little thick and thin. Since these are just samples, you get instant gratification.

I am posting a flash picture because it shows the colors better.
I let it rest overnight as I had trouble with the plying the last time I tried it (on the Kuchulu). While I was thinking, I realized that a plying ball is the perfect answer to the yarn barf that results from the inside-outside plying from the turtle.

In the meantime, I picked up the Swan and spun a little on it. This came with a fiber sample from NewHueHandspuns BamHuey in the colorway High Tide. The color is very pretty and the previous sample of this fiber, that I got with the Kuchulu, spun up very easily. This sample though is a little tough to draft. Also, since I was spinning on a much larger spindle, I went much thicker. This time, I got a fairly even draft.

This morning, I created my plying ball. Again, this is a little bit of fiber so all this takes very little time.
I started with my usual styrofoam core wrapped in a bit of handspun.
I slowly wound the single from both the inside and the outside of the turtle together on the ball. You have to maintain tension on the singles as you do this and make sure both are feeding evenly. I did break a single, but I discovered it a few inches past the break and I was able to join it and continue without too much effort.
Here it is midway through the process
The advantage of winding it onto a plying ball is that you can keep the turtle under control. If it isn't feeding properly, you can set the ball down without worrying about the fiber untwisting. This is what happened to me when I was plying directly from the turtle. The turtle would hang and start untwisting. Also, you can control the turtle by holding it in the palm of one hand while you hold the ball in the other hand. The fingers of the turtle hand feed the fibers under tension to be wound onto the ball.

I got a bit of yarn barf at the end but I was able to find the end and once it was under tension, I could untangle it. I had to enlist the use of another hand (my husband's) to hold the end while I untangled it. But it was less than a yard long so I could have used my toe or some other object to hold it in place. Plying ball is all completed here
Now I can ply on any spindle or even a wheel. Since the two singles are evenly wound on the ball can go anywhere without worrying about them. I will create another plying ball from the Swan's current turtle and then ply them both one after the other.

I am enjoying the slightly thicker singles I am spinning on the Swan. Once I see how thick the finished yarn is, I may do this as my next project. I have some lovely Romney from Into the Whirled which I got at Rhinebeck in 2011.
It is the one on the right. I think a DK/sport weight yarn in this color would make me a lovely headband and fingerless mitts. I am walking outside quite a bit here and my ears get cold. I hate hats so a headband is perfect. Also, I lost one of my lovely ski gloves yesterday. That leaves me with just one pair of fingerless mitts for warmth and I think a thicker pair would be better. The ones I have are stranded sock weight yarn.

So let's see how the thicker single ends up and I can plan spinning the Romney based on that.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Not fiber-related at all

I am going to take a tangent here occasionally and talk about what it means to move away from home for a bit. I'll sprinkle in some Shanghai specific stuff also.

It is exciting to start over. We are currently living a very spartan life because we have very minimal stuff with us. The rest of the stuff is coming over in a few weeks. I am relearning how to cook with one saucepan, a griddle, a pressure cooker and a rice cooker. I am mostly cooking simple, South Indian comfort food because it is easy to do with these tools. I don't have the ability to grind spices so I have to use whole spices and spice blends that I already have. Fresh vegetables and fruits are available in plenty so that makes it easy.

We have our electronic gear with us so entertainment is not a problem as long as it is available digitally. Books will come later. I also have enough fiber stuff and tools to keep me going. I think I would have become crazy had I not done that.

It has been rather cold since we got here. It snowed on Sunday night, which is unusual for this place. So we have limited our ventures out as we have to either walk or take a cab everywhere. Also, with the holidays, every place is crowded so that has also kept us indoors. I expect that to change today as it is warmer and the holidays are coming to an end.

China has done something that I find strange. Jan1-3 are holidays but Jan 5-6 are working days. So everyone gets 3 days off but then has to work 8 days in a row. Fortunately, this does not apply to me.

I had made a very comprehensive list of things to bring and while I think I did reasonably well, there are some things that I did not anticipate, or forgot. For example, I packed coat hangers in the household stuff but didn't in our luggage. It is very difficult to manage without even one coat hanger. We went out and bought some.

On the fiber front, I packed fiber and spindles, my Hansen mini-spinner and one bobbin. So I can spin but I can't wind off cops onto temporary weaving bobbins. Fortunately I have brought lots of spindles so I can just build up cops on each one before I run into problems. See, I knew I needed lots of spindles!

Living in a big city means different noises and things to get used to. For example, it is very light in the early part of the night as there are lots of building with lights on outside. As the night wears on, lights go off and it gets darker outside.

Overall, I am pleased to see how little I need to keep me happy. A few more kitchen items, a few more fiber items, a few more books and I think I could be happy. What this means is that when I go home, I will be going through a serious de-cluttering effort to rid myself of excess stuff. The minimalist life is definitely very pleasant.

Happy 2013!

A very happy New Year to all my readers! I hope 2013 brings you peace, happiness, health and prosperity.

I started the year by finishing my Infinity scarf. It was a very pleasant knit especially in the well-spun parts which are soft and silky. Of course one has to knit it without mistakes!
But there were other parts that were not so nice to knit. This where the spinning resulted in wiry yarn, or almost unspun fiber or worse, a thick bit plied with a thin bit which created a boucle yarn.
Then there was the bit in the middle which looks darker than the rest. This is some other fiber that I included. It is much rougher to the touch (rustic in spinning terms) than the rest. Most of the fiber is Blue-faced Leicester which is a long silky wool. There is a little silk in there somewhere too but I guess I also used this rougher mystery fiber.

And finally, the entire scarf
I thought it would be long enough to wear tripled but it isn't. I can wear it as is or wrapped twice around my neck. It is stiff enough to stay away from the skin - which I like. All in all, a good knit.

While I was grafting the beginning and end together, I was chanting k,p,p,k to myself. And, I never stop a grafting sequence till the last k of that four-some is done. That way I always know where to start the sequence again.

I hope 2013 brings you much fiber-y fun!