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.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Another quick time-management/organization update

I have recently been using the Pomodoro technque to get things done. I often get distracted easily, especially when I have to work on tasks that require concentration or tasks that I don't enjoy. The Pomodoro technique allows me to focus on the task at hand, but for a limited amount of time with a break after.

It is also good for making sure that I don't sit for too long. It gives me reminders to get up and stretch, get a drink of water, and generally move around.

I use a simple timer, the XPomodoro app, to help with this. The app costs money but I got it when it was free for a limited time. You can use anything, even just the timer on your phone or watch. It needs to give you an audible signal because you want to be concentrating, not looking at the time!

The app has a 30 min repeat built-in. That is all it is. I work for 25 mins and then I take a break for 5 mins. Lather, rinse, repeat till the job is done or it is lunch-time or time to go home.

I find this is attractive for jobs that I don't like doing because it is a finite time that I have to commit to it. Then I can have fun for 5 mins! Or, as I said, I use it a lot when I have to concentrate but my mind is resisting the concentration. Once I commit to the 25 mins, I find that I get absorbed in it and don't find it unpleasant. It is all just mind-games, but it works.

I don't use this for things that I enjoy doing, but I probably should. I am quite capable of sitting and spinning for more than an hour without a break. That is not good for body or mind.

I find this simple technique really easy to incorporate into my day and it helps me power through work quite effectively.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Happy Diwali!

Today is Diwali, the festival of lights in India. It is India's biggest festival.

I am not very consistent in my celebration of Diwali. I try to light lights and make sweets if I can. I did not do this in China as I didn't have my lights with me. I have tiny glass cups in which I put tea lights as they extinguish themselves and the glass keeps the flame contained.

This year I took out some lights that I had bought in the Grand Bazaar in Turkey. I offer you a view of the lights in our study reflected against a dark, rainy, stormy night.
You can see two of the Turkish lights in the middle.

Diwali is the celebration of the triumph of good over evil. In North India, lights are used to outline windows and doors. In South India, we don't light lamps for Diwali. Instead, we get up very early in the morning, have a ritual oil bath, put on new clothes, and then set off fireworks before dawn. The rest of the day is spent visiting friends and relatives and eating sweets.

A very happy Diwali to all of you!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Rhinebeck 2014

It was fabulous to be back at Rhinebeck. I have been enjoying the fall colors, which I missed in China. Rhinebeck gives me the opportunity to see them as I drive up and down and walk around the fair grounds.

I was there for most of 4 days this year. I signed up for two classes on Thursday. i took self-striping yarns with Abby Franquemont. We went through many different striping options and I spun two. I finished only 1 single in class so I have to finish up the other single for both of them and then show you what I did.

In the afternoon, I took Thick and Thin Coils with Jacey Boggs. I was pretty pleased to end up with coil-looking things on my yarn! Jacey and Abby are both wonderful teachers who can work with people of different abilities. I had fun and learned a bunch along the way.

On Friday afternoon, I volunteered to scribe for the fleece judging. I had done this for the skein judging and learned a lot but I knew I needed to learn more about fleeces. We scribed in pairs which worked very well. There was a lot to do. We had to take down the jedge's scoring on Uniformity, Density, Crimp, Length, Weight and Handle along with any comments they had. On the sheet we also had to put the number of the fleece (in case it got separated from the fleece) and a sticker indicating if it was excellent or merely good quality. It meant juggling a clipboard, sticker sheets, a pen, paying attention to what the judge said without dropping anything. The evaluation had to be peeled off the sheet after it was done and stuck on the fleece bag.

Our judge was responsible for the medium and long wools in the white category. There were some beautiful fleeces and also some really dirty ones. Really, really dirty. I didn't envy the judge having to get up close and personal with those fleeces. We went through a lot of fleeces. 3-4 tables of closely packed fleeces occupying the entire top of all of them.

Once that was done, he had to select the top 3 from each category. We had been putting aside the best fleeces so we didn't have to go back and find them. These were opened up and spread on the table and examined in more detail to select the #1, #2 and #3 fleece in each category. I learned a lot about crimp and fiber breeds and also found a couple of farms that breed prize winning spinner's flocks. If I want to buy one, I know where to go.

All in all, that was about 4-5 hours of standing. We took a few breaks but they were just for a drink or potty. Not very long at all.

On Saturday, I went up early as I had volunteered to help Jennie the Potter with the morning rush. Jennie was sharing her booth with Jill Draper, so there was more stuff to set out and organize. But also more help. I am always amazed at the crowd and the desire to buy stuff - as in 'must have' stuff. People stood in line for hours to buy things from the booth. I would not have the patience to do this.

After 1 pm, I was free to wander around with my friend. We ate Artichokes French and Beans and Greens to fortify ourselves and then headed out. I succumbed to a couple of bags of Jacob roving, a cute hedgehog puppet, some Into the Whirled fiber. I then went to Carolina Homespun to get a flick carder and... fell down a rabbit hole. I fell in love with a supported spindle and ended up getting it, a spindle bowl AND a Zoom Loom.

 It was a pretty exhausting day and we hung around in the car for about 20 minutes to avoid waiting in line to get out.

Sunday was a more relaxing day. I had some errands to run. I needed to get my WooLee Winder bobbins to the booth to get them reamed out to specification. The plastic screw end had collapsed slightly inward and they weren't fitting on the flyer shaft any more. Then I needed to get my Hansen espinner over to their booth to get the soft-stop feature installed as well as pick up a couple of bobbins. My espinner is old enough not to have the newer feature. Thankfully, both vendors held my stuff so I didn't have to carry everything around with me.

My friend and I both bought some paco-vicuña roving from Victory Farms. This was pricey but oh-so-soft and cheaper than buying the yarn. Yes, I am delusional. I also got some one-of-a-kind braids from Fiber Optic Yarns, beads and a set of stitch markers. After that it was time to stop shopping and head off to volunteer at the workshops. I helped people sign in and find their classes, hand out and collect feedback forms, chat with the other volunteers - who are mostly people from my spinning guild - and then start cleaning up and packing stuff to be stored away for next year. It is a big undertaking to organize the workshops and we are not even responsible for the rooms. We have to leave them clean. But there are signs, office supplies, coffee/tea supplies. decorations, and a myriad set of items that had to be sorted and packed away. I didn't stay till the very end as I had to come to work today and I had about an hour drive home.

I am satisfied and content and tired.

Here's my haul in pictures
 This is Adalin - one of the paco-vicuñas whose fiber I bought.
 Clockwise from top left, the paco-vicuña fiber, the two Fiber Optic braids, beads, Hansen bobbins and the Zoom Loom and the flick carder in the center.
 The hedgehog puppet. Isn't he cute?
 My KCL supported spindle. Can you see the lovely shaft and the color on top of the whorl?
From left, the Jacob roving, two ITW braids and ooops! a Gale's Art braid that I completely forgot about.

The only things missing are the little supported spindle bowl and the stitch markers, both of which were put away before I took the photos.

I think I would be totally exhausted if I had to deal with Rhinebeck each week but there is a part of me that wouldn't mind. i'd have to hide my credit card, of course, but there have been many years where I spent very little. I love meeting my friends from out of town who come in for the festival, among them many vendors who I have known for years. I love running into local people unexpectedly - like a long-time friend, someone from work, and the lady who took over my Tuesday night class at the yarn store. I like making new friends like Gloria Smith of Victory Farms who was very patient with us and our questions. I will be visiting her and the animals again, though I may not buy more fiber.