Wednesday… washing used objects, blocking, and the Elaborated Print o’ the Wave Scarf, FINALLY

Well, here it is, Wednesday morning, and I haven’t gotten that plying video done yet. It might happen today, but there’s also some production work that has to happen, it’s the boy’s last day of school tomorrow and he’s got a couple of days of early release, and lo and behold, it turns out we’ve driven right past a place on Main Street, time and again, called…

The Lebanon Electric Motor Service Company

…so at some point (since we’re still working on picking the right replacement motor or finding a gearbox), Cardzilla’s motor is going to get pulled and I’m going to just take it over there, smile winningly, and say “Hey, can I get a gearbox for this by any chance? It’s slipping under load going forward.”

Another example of my sheer brilliance manifested itself yesterday when, picking up the finished Elaborated Print o’ the Wave scarf to wash and block it, I thought to myself, “Hey, if I’m blocking stuff I might as well wash and block my winter wearables too, they need it! And I’ll just pin everything out on the deck, plenty of space…”

Right. Of course, I hate blocking; so making it “blocking outside in 92F weather” was an even better idea, right? As was attempting to shove quilting pins into a pressure-treated deck. I did get the Purple Mohair/Silk Triangle (I name my stuff so winningly, don’t I?) reasonably well blocked, which is actually tricky because (ssssh, don’t tell) it’s got a bad skew problem at the top of the triangle. But I had forgotten that when you wear something all winter long, and it gets scrunched up and crammed in your coatsleeve and stuffed in a bag and heaven knows what all else, well, yeah, it benefits from a reblocking.

Now, of course, I am starting to think I ought to pick up a dress form one of these days, for the sake of taking pictures of a few things. Well, and for being a dress form. I’ve grown to loathe the finished-object photography issues. I want to take both technical photos and sexy photos, but there’s not many good ways to combine the two; and in some cases I want to be able to show the items “in action,” which could happen with me wearing them and someone else taking a picture, but I’m never satisfied with those. Nor am I satisfied with having pressed a large fan into service to hold this shawl:

It’s totally frustrating; this is an awesome shawl, I wear it all winter long, and so help me, I’ve never been able to get satisfactory photos of it. The whole pile of ’em is here in my old photo gallery area, including the yarn.

I’ve never been satisfied with the Creme de Menthe scarf photos either. So this time around, I’ve tried to get photos I like better. I’m still not really satisfied. Once the Creme de Menthe scarf is dry, I’ll try a few more ideas. For now, here is part of it pinned out on the closet floor (where the pins will actually stick, unlike in the pressure treated lumber).

It’s particularly hard with the Creme de Menthe one, because it’s a sampler with weird variations and whatnot.

Moving on, though, hey, look, it’s a finished object! FINALLY! Started last September as a travel project, I found myself perpetually losing focus on this after I memorized the pattern about 3 repeats in. The pattern is a really pretty one, and it bears some conceptual similarities to the Andean weaving pattern jakaku sisan and variants, which is one of my favourites… and perhaps where I lost focus and found myself getting a little bit bored; I wanted to start improvising or turning it into other things, and that was not the goal of the scarf.

However, odds are that I will apply some jakaku sisan variation principles to the Elaborated Print o’ the Wave pattern at some point, and do a doubled and reflected one which travels over a wider space, with background infill from related patterns as well. I’ve dug around a bit to find something that I have a photo of which has some of those conceptual elements in it. I’m not sure that they’re visually so closely related — to me the connection is obvious, but it is a thing based in Andean weaving that makes the connection, and I’m not sure it’s readily visible if you’re not, say, trying to describe the way you work the pattern in Quechua.

Anyway, jakaku sisan in its straight, basic form is the brown-black one at the sides here:

(the middle fella is Loraypu, which is too complicated to get into today)

A jakaku is a bird, sort of a hummingbird; a sisan is, among other things, part of a flower. This is the conceptual interpretation, not the literal, as represented in Quechua woven thought.

The key conceptual thing that jakaku sisan teaches is the hooked bits and the diagonals, and how to attach them, reflect them, rotate them, and move them around. This next example is several steps more complicated (at least) and uses some other conceptual elements as well:

See the lobed curling hook bits? Attaching to the diagonals on the diamond part? They’re the same lobed curling hook bits in jakaku sisan. Notice, though, how they go up, and down — going up the bottom of the diamond, they curl under, and along the top of the diamond they curl over (not factoring in or discussing the negative space ones right now either).

Anyway, Print o’ the Wave in its base form, here:

has lobed thingies that move inward towards a central line, from points at the bottom. It has no up-curling lobes. However, you have an flow to it where the subsequent lobe starts at a certain point in the completion of the prior one, and there’s a reflection point, that is conceptually very similar to where those lines of symmetry occur in the fundaments of jakaku sisan, which is sort of like… a 4th grade pattern.

Elaborated Print o’ the Wave, then, resembles the diamond pattern with the lobed curling hooks in black & white above — not visually, but conceptually in terms of how you do it. Look:

As your diagonal centerline that the lobes come into zig-zags its way along, you shift at critical points to make it turn one way or the other, and your lobes still are under the traveling centerline. With knitting, it’s not possible to simply reflect the pattern either — if I did lobes that came off the top of the centerline, structurally it wouldn’t be possible to make them exactly match the lobes that start with a single stitch above a yarn over. So what COULD you do to reflect it in the same piece while the centerline travels?

That question plagued me, nonstop, the entire time I worked this scarf. I wanted so badly to go haring off wildly thinking about that, but I also really, really wanted the scarf in straight, unadulterated (well, mostly) Elaborated Print o’ the Wave. For me, it is easier to think in the textile than it is in an on-paper representation, too, so… it wasn’t working if I tried to sketch it. And I knew if I started a tester to see what I could do, I’d never, ever finish this scarf.

So, the scarf went with me on trips out, to dentists’ waiting rooms, visits to the in-laws, drives of more than 20 minutes, to serve as a hand fidget until I finished it. I started it shortly after Labor Day, and finished it on Memorial Day: September 16, I think, to May 28. For a simple scarf from about 600 yards of yarn. Oh! The yarn was Belisa Cashmere, and I picked it up at Stitches West a couple years ago. Decent cashmere yarn. You know, for a millspun.

Let’s take a moment and laugh at the crabby chick (who needs to stop eating so much of her better half’s fabulous cooking) standing by the mirror, for… scale. Or something.

The truth is that I do really like this scarf, and look forward to putting into the rotation come fall, with Creme de Menthe and the purple triangle. I’m just crabby about photography today, and falling behind my self-imposed schedules for things again. Given that tomorrow is the lad’s last day of school and everything, I have no idea when I’m going to actually be able to pull off a dye day this week… but I’ll need to do something or I’m going to be really mad at myself for having no new inventory by the end of the week. I’ll have to pull something out of my hat one way or another.

Memorial Day

Knowing I have at least a few non-US readers, I’ll take a moment to set the stage, since everyone in the world is not necessarily familiar with US national holidays.

In the USA, the last Monday in May is Memorial Day, which serves a number of cultural purposes. Its original function is to be a day of remembrance for people who died during military service; culturally however, for most Americans, it also marks the true beginning of summer. It’s a three-day weekend for a large number of workplaces, a national holiday for which federal offices, banks, and so forth are all closed, and a traditional away-for-the-weekend time as well.

So, Memorial Day weekend typically features lots of traffic, many services closed, loads of people off work, no school, and lots of coooking out, barbeques, and the like (and retail places capitalizing by having sales). Many people enjoy the long weekend and participate in now-traditional Memorial Day activities like the back yard party, but don’t particularly do anything in observation of the military dead. Indeed, that’s usually us, but this year was different.

Yesterday was a very very long day, starting at 4:45 AM, hitting the road at 5:30, and making it to our destination a little before 9. A few years ago, Chad acquired a 1942 Willys Overland MB and started working on a bit of a restoration project. Not so much a turn-it-into-a-museum-piece kind of restoration project though; instead, a project intended to put it back into a working semblance of original form so it could be used for trips out for ice cream, afternoon summer jaunts, and that sort of thing. So not a project to put an old great wheel in a museum next to a mannequin in costume, but a project to make that old great wheel spin like it was meant to in the first place. Here’s how Jeepy looked when he first joined our family almost three years ago:

…and what he looked like on the trailer getting ready to go the night before last:

Chad is quick to point out that Jeepy isn’t done, and then go into a list of what’s not done. Jeepy is a WIP, but one that has been operable the entire time; it’s interesting to see the difference that makes. Whereas a yarn dork’s WIP really does reach a state of completion, a point where you simply could not do more with it, and the work really is done, a mechanic’s WIP… when you call it done, IF you call it done, is sort of a nebulous personal judgment call.

So, where were we taking Jeepy yesterday, and what does this have to do with Memorial Day? Well, Chad and his father are both members of the same American Legion post as Chad’s grandfather. The American Legion, a community service organization made up of veterans of war-time military service, does lots of different things, and my grandfather-in-law’s post sponsors and organizes the Memorial Day parade in his small Ohio town every year.

If you live in the USA, and you have no family involved with the military, or you are less than, say, 50 years old, or you don’t live in a smaller town, chances are you have driven past signs like these a jillion times, and never really thought about them; never thought much about parades, ox roasts, fish frys, pancake breakfasts, fundraisers, and so on which are put on by these folks all over the country. There are only 3 million people in the Legion, a pittance when compared to the entire American populace; and increasingly, they’re aging.

In my grandfather-in-law’s small Midwestern town, the Legion post is a focus of community and social activity for a sizable group of folks who are veterans or families of veterans. Most of the veterans are older, but of course they’ve got children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, many of them living nearby. To be a Legionnaire, you have to have been in the military (any branch) during time of war, wherever you served, whatever you did, whoever you are. So, spouses and children aren’t members, but can join one of several auxiliaries such as the women’s auxiliary or junior auxiliary, or can join in their own right if they are also veterans of wartime service. There’s no automatic membership or assumption of responsibility or anything like that. The Legion is, socially, sort of like a much larger, better-organized, and actually funded textile guild, which comes with more frequent social events and a members’ bar. Plus uniforms, and the magazine is monthly, flashier, and higher-circulation.

Chad and his father were invited to join by Bob, Chad’s maternal grandfather. Bob is so gregarious he makes me look shy and antisocial. He’s also rather mechanically inclined, and has put me through my paces explaining the technology of spinning wheels on more than one occasion. Yesterday, he said to me, “You didn’t bring a spinning wheel? You should come back up for the ox roast and bring a wheel and give everyone a demonstration and everything! People would love it! Nobody’s seen that done anymore!” He introduced me to all sorts of people, all of whom he’d told about me and my spinning of yarn and so forth.

Anyway, as you can see from the sign, this particular Legion post puts on the Memorial Day parade. It’s also the owner of one of a very small number of Gatling Guns preserved and not in a museum (it’s been rendered non-firing so it’s not technically a piece of armament anymore).


The Gatling gun comes out for parades, and normally lives on display in the Legion hall, where it’s preserved as an artifact but well-beloved by everyone associated with it — immediately upon our arrival, Edward made friends with the 8-to-12-year-old boy crowd, who took great pleasure in showing him how the crank operates the barrels and what you’d do if you were in charge of this historical weapon a century ago. I had never seen one of these; it’s absolutely fascinating from a mechanical perspective as well as historical, as it predates the era of true interchangeable parts and serious mass production. And it’s huge.

It fits through these double doors, though, and onto the hay trailer with minor modifications which the Legion has acquired in order to be able to parade the Gatling gun around. In past years, the Legion’s veterans have ridden on the trailer with the Gatling as it has been towed by a large tractor for the parade; however, this year, it was decided that another aging veteran would join the mix: Jeepy.

Bedecked with flags in his flagpole holders on the bumper, painted World War Two olive drab, stenciled with the Legion post number and his original hood number from when he rolled off the assembly line sixty-five years ago bound for Europe (we know he was maintained in Paris in 1944), smelling of fresh military canvas and hitched to a trailer full of armament that had been retired for over three decades when he was built, Jeepy definitely seemed to stir emotions for people.

Chad told me later that everybody had a Jeep story. I heard a few, but he heard them all. I talked to old men, great-grandfathers, who had spent pretty much their entire lives within a few counties of where we stood, save for the years they spent overseas in the 1940s — with Jeepy’s 300,000 or so Willys brethren and the other similar jeeps built by Ford; the only motor vehicles built in the United States between 1942 and 1946 were built for the war effort. Not so many remain, or remain running — but Jeepy does, his history pulled out from under a later repurposing as a a farm vehicle and so on.

Jeepy’s not a big, super-powerful megavehicle. He’s no tank, he’s no truck, he’s not a lot of things. His old, old 4-cylinder engine puts out less horsepower than a lot of modern lawnmowers. There’s nothing fancy about him. He doesn’t have newfangled or luxurious things like anti-lock brakes, power steering, turn signals, seat belts, or a roof. But he’s a workhorse of a scope I don’t think I even truly realized until I saw him loaded up with four generations of the same family — great-grandfather, grandfather, father, and son — towing a trailer full of Gatling gun and 21-gun-salute firing squad.


Now I’m going to shift focus just a little bit, and talk about the idea of remembrance.

When I was little in small-town New Hampshire, I remember one Memorial Day where the schoolchildren (52 kids in grades 1-8, 3 teachers) took small US flags out to the three cemeteries in town, and everyone had a handful of ’em and was directed to look for the tombstones with special flag holders in front of them, and then read the tombstone and figure out what war they’d have been in. For me, that was very thought-provoking, particularly in the graveyards of a town whose historic marker on the way in reads “First town incorporated in the name of Gen. George Washington, Dec 13 1776.” There in this tiny town of about 200 lay some of the United States’ oldest war casualties, and people who’d died in every subsequent conflict since; and many of them, people with last names in common with my classmates, who could say “That was my great-great-great-grampa’s brother, and he was in the Civil War,” or “That’s my grampa, he died in France when my mom was 2 so I never got to meet him and she doesn’t even remember him.” This tiny, insignificant little town, not even big enough to warrant showing up on most of the maps, where everyone knew everyone else and had for generations, remembered its losses thus; losses which could not be shrugged off or belittled or distanced given the small size of the population.

Plymouth, Ohio, with a population under 2000, turned out almost in its entirety for the Memorial Day events.

Everybody had family in the parade, it seemed.

The high school marching band played, fresh from a parade in the next town over and well warmed up.

The Poppy Queen, the most senior girl in the American Legion’s Junior Auxiliary, rode atop one gentleman’s beautifully-kept 1975 t-top Stingray.

To the cemetery where everyone had family, us included, that being where Chad’s grandmother was laid to rest last year.

Chad was put to work in the firing squad; his father and grandfather raised flags.

He says the American Legion’s firing squad is far more relaxing than when he did similar things in the USCG Honor Guard in the 1990s; he never used to get a chair.

Not in the shade, though.

Our son’s there with the other kids, listening to the speakers.

The fire department came too, having been in the parade with all their old engines even.

The Little League team had dressed for the occasion as well.

A wreath was laid for the dead of each war in which the USA has fought, by the Legion’s women’s auxiliary; and then my grandfather-in-law raised the flag from half-mast.

and a 21-gun-salute was issued as well.

Chad’s grandfather, at 80mumble, has far more energy than I do, and I’m fifty years younger.

Our son, with a ceremonial M-1 Garand rifle.

Jeepy had waited out the ceremonies in the shade, before everyone headed back to the Legion hall for lunch.

…after, of course, the Legion’s flag was raised fully, and Jeepy and the Gatling gun were parked.

“What did you think of our little parade?” asked a Legionnaire named Wally who I’d met that morning.

“Wonderful parade,” I told him, “and a very moving ceremony as well.”

“We do allright for a small community,” he said, almost bashfully.

“I can think of a lot of big communities don’t do nearly as much,” I replied, and it’s true. In Plymouth, Ohio, like in Washington, New Hampshire in my childhood, the memory of those who died during military service was a personal one for the town at large. I expect it’s true in most small towns, that roots and connections and remembrance run deeper than in larger cities; that where many generations of a family live close to each other, too, the personal prevails, and that’s what Memorial Day should be about: personal and community remembrance. Not politics or stumping or campaigns, not the liberal nor the conservative nor any stance in between, not agendas and appearances — only, “You are gone now, your life lost in service to community, state, nation, world… and we who haven’t made such a sacrifice remember.”

I’ve no war dead in my own family; veterans, people on duty, yes, but no one in living memory lost their lives in military service. I suspect that’s increasingly true for large numbers of us. But Memorial Day in small towns can show you the personal side, and I’m grateful for that. And apart from that, you can see community in action — and that too is something that’s dying out. I feel fortunate to have gotten to be a part of yesterday’s events. I’d probably even do it again.

But not today.

We did make it home safe and sound too. It didn’t rain on the parade. And during the entire trip, how much work do you think I did on projects? That’s right, not a single stitch.

Last night while trying to stay awake till normal bedtime, however, I did finally finish that Print o’ the Wave scarf. This afternoon, I’ll block it and soon there will be pictures.

“That’s a sign of the apocalypse right there, you finishing that thing,” Chad said. Surely not. It was only September when I started it.

Beer o’clock!

Jeepy’s loaded, and ready to hit the road…

And because I’m so amused by Sara’s quandary, I’ll just take a moment to say…

…I won’t be without a project should a wildfire strike. Plus there’s a few more balls of yarn and the needles and hooks…

but now, it’s time for a beer. Aaaaah.

Sock Yarn Plying Teaser

Sunday has dawned, hazy and muggy, and with still no rain. It’s getting to be really dry — not Silicon Valley summer dry, but definitely not midwest-normal. We’ve only had one real serious rain in May, which is (I’m told, and have seen bits of) normally a very wet month here. Some of our baby trees are not doing so well; the rosebushes may be dead; the lilacs barely bloomed at all. Hopefully soon rain will come, and make sure there’s a decent growing season to supply things like my mad desire for fresh sweet corn, what fruit didn’t end up with problems because of the early thaw and sudden subsequent freeze, and so forth!

The lack of rain when we want it, clearly, means what we should expect is that we’ll get the World War Two Jeep on the (massive) rented trailer today in preparation for taking it to northern Ohio tomorrow, where it gets to join some other WWII veterans in a parade… and overnight, the skies will crack open, drenching the topless Willys, making the drive a knucklebiter, and — how trite could we be? — raining on the parade.

It’s going to be a long day tomorrow, so I’m trying to get as much done today as I can, and that includes having a look-see to tell if I’ve got a decent enough set of photos to show more about plying sock yarn. And it looks like I’m getting closer! Wednesday or thereabouts, we’ll be looking into the step-by-step details showing how this happened:

and it includes the fun stages like this:

and the self-taken one-handed action shots like this:

But, I think there’s going to have to be some video, which in turn will mean different yarn spun and plied; so exactly when it happens, Wednesday or thereabouts, is going to depend on the yarn getting spun, plied, shot in video while being plied, me explaining as I do that, a little editing, and a few more pictures. If I get that all done by late Tuesday, I’ll be surprised.

Thanks, everyone, for your words of moral support and empathy regarding the dentist! The truth is, I’m a dentist-phobe. I have often said I fear dentists more than I fear the zombie apocalypse. After all, everybody knows what to do in the zombie apocalypse — you board up the house, don’t let ’em in, and you have to shoot them in the head and not get bitten. Easy. Dentists? Much, much harder to survive. But in the past year, I’ve made great strides in overcoming my fear of dentists, and I’m terribly proud. I almost feel like a real grownup or something — in time to be of an age when I’d be simply losing all my teeth if I lived without modern dentistry, so it’s not like I can claim any major achievement for it, I suppose!

I’ve got another problem to solve today, it turns out. There’s less than half a repeat worth of yarn left for my travel project, the Elaborated Print o’ the Wave Scarf…

Half a repeat of it is not enough to sustain me for a drive to the other end of the state, and back. So, I’ve got to hurry and come up with another travel project too. Uh-oh. I’m thinking maybe I’ll swatch this by making a scarf:

But then again I could make myself a trangle scarf/shawl thingy from this:

or this:

or I could see if I dare go stupid fine on the travel project — probably not desirable since I’ll be in the truck — and play with this…

or I could be realistic and decide what I’m going to do with Pagoda here…

and you know what the truth of the matter is? You know what’s really going to happen? The same thing that happens every time I face this quandary: I’ll pack the materials for 3 or 4 different projects, and the tools for several others, plus a spindle and several batches of fiber. Because, you know. I could be on the road with nothing to do, and that would be a disaster. So instead of taking 6-12 hours worth of stuff to do, I’ll take a month worth of stuff to do. And then I’ll do 4 hours of stuff all told. Phobic about not having a project, Abby? Guilty as charged. But there is no way I’m alone in that, is there?

I didn’t think so.

The Work Week Draws to a Close…

The work week is drawing to a close, and it’s been a strange one. My trusty Cardzilla, I fear, is begging for a vacation; after years of incredibly faithful, incredibly hard-working service on a near-daily basis, service far above and beyond the call of mere duty, Cardzilla’s motor’s gearbox is showing signs of wear. This could well mean motor replacement! And for the short term, it means no new custom blends for a bit; so the ones that are presently up for sale will be the last until… well, further notice, I suppose. Rest assured Cardzilla will be back in action as quickly as possible, but at this time there is no time estimate.

One thing I want to take a minute to point out is that what wore out and needs fixing is NOT a standard part. Were I to affix a handcrank to it, I would be able to operate it in handcrank mode, just fine. What has worn out is an aftermarket part, in the aftermarket motor that isn’t supplied by Strauch, Cardzilla’s maker. Had I been cranking through all the years that the motor drove Cardzilla for me, I think my shoulder would have worn out for sure. Based on all this, I have to say that I don’t think there is a way for any normal human being to wear out a Strauch carder. That thing is a tank. Let’s take a moment here and give it up for Cardzilla, the Strauch 500-series:

That photo was taken early in Cardzilla’s service with me, before I installed the brush, but after the installation of the very important Edelbrock and MSD stickers. And Cardzilla’s importance cannot be understated: he’s been named, and has a gender role! I almost never name, or assign perceived gender, to my tools. None of my spinning wheels are named, for instance. But in this case, well, it just happened. So you can imagine I’m stricken by his motor ailment, even though I rationally know everybody deserves a little rest and recuperation now and again and I’ve worked Cardzilla about as hard as I tend to work myself, so he’s earned one.

And in honor of how little I seem to pat Cardzilla on the back, tell him thanks, and talk him up… anybody making a purchase from me by the end of May, and mentioning Cardzilla at checkout time, will receive free shipping and a fibery surprise gift.

As it happens, I, like Cardzilla, am now something that can be wrenched on, and the dentist appointment yesterday really drove that home. I’m in the end stages of having a dental implant installed, a process which may be more sterile now than in Mayan or Egyptian antiquity, but somehow, I think, no less time-consuming or frustrating; surely no less bizarre. Since January, I’ve had a titanium screw in the root area of what was once a tooth (a tooth I first broke biting into a piece of toast on my very first Mother’s Day as a mother, resulting in me always answering the question about what I’d like for Mother’s Day by saying “No emergency dental work!”). My Mother’s Day Crown, alas, broke in turn right after last Thanksgiving, and the diagnosis from multiple specialists was that although it might be possible to crown the tooth again, the smart thing to do would be a bridge or an implant. I opted for the implant, though it would take longer.

Longer is an understatement. Yesterday, almost 5 months after the initial screw installation, casts and impressions were taken and the small screw cover was replaced with, I kid you not, a large flathead screw type thingy, the technical term for which is “healing abutment.” The not-so-technical description is, seriously, I have a flat-headed screw cap in my mouth that was installed with a fancy ratcheting screwdriver setup. Now I wait *another* month, and at the end of June, get a temporary crown. After that, I wait some other length of time, and then get a permanent crown, by late summer sometime. And this, folks, is the newfangled shorter-duration, lower-impact process. Becoming a cyborg is weird, and slow. And I’m sure, worth it in the end. But I remain a little crabby about the mouth screw.

So, changing the subject to happy and less-weird things, some of you asked about the black yarn in yesterday’s post. And I’m so glad you asked! It’s a neat new fiber, and this skein was spun from a leftover/tester bit of it. While I was fondling it and pondering it, I concluded it really, really wanted to go fine; this fiber is slicker’n… uh, something really slick! But yet, it’s got a little grip to it, so it doesn’t just drift apart while you’re spinning — it’s slick, but not purely slippery. And shiny. And it drafts really nicely too, and takes dye just beautifully, look:


“Yes, yes, Abby,” you’re thinking now, “but what IS it?”

Oh, very well. It’s superwash merino/tencel, a 50/50 blend in commercial combed top. Wanna see more?



Man, I just don’t think any of these photos do this fiber justice! It’s soft, so super-soft, it’s shiny, it’s smooth-drafting and easy to spin thick or fine, it’s stunning sock stuff, is what it is. Or lace stuff. Or all kinds of things. It’s really, really neat stuff.

Well, I did a few other bits of dyeing this past week too, carder and human maintenance notwithstanding:

Just a few new tussah silks — the main new round of ’em will probably be next week. By “just a few,” of course, I mean 20-some odd.

Also some merino/tussah 50/50 commercial top, that I’m thinking about adding to the long-term repertoire, if only so that I can have an excuse to be dyeing it for myself lots and lots…

…and this baby camel top (there are other colours, of course, of the merino/tussah and the baby camel). I’m on the fence about the baby camel; it’s high-maintenance to handle while dyeing, and although I love camel, it seems to be an underrated fiber that people don’t know they’d love and therefore don’t buy.

This particular week’s dyeing came out really, really nice, which I guess is some consolation for the dentist trip, screw in my mouth, Cardzilla’s woes, and everything.

Oh that’s right! The black yarn! I forgot to talk about the yarn itself. Well, that’ll have to wait till tomorrow at this point, I think. In short, it’s 280 yards of 2-ply from 30 grams of that superwash/tencel blend, making it about a 4300 ypp yarn. I’d actually hoped for better yield… but I’m probably going to have to play with this fiber more regardless, so it’s not like this is my last chance!

A little bit about plying, part 1

I’m starting a whole series on plying now, by popular demand, and because it’s a skillset and a set of thought processes that is often overlooked when we talk about spinning. Plying is a big subject and not one that can be boiled down into a handful of simple rules, alas. To begin with, Jen commented and asked:

Your fiber is SO nice to work with! I just finished my second sock batt this weekend and plied it (tried to anyway). I’ve not been spinning very long and I don’t feel like I ply correctly. Previously my yarns have been light and lofty, I made an attempt to put more twist in my ply this weekend to get more of a ’sock’ yarn and think I might have gotten carried away with the twist. Can you offer some advice? How do we know how much twist to put in? Could you maybe do a walk through on how to get a nice ply?

Well, I guess the first thing I’d say (other than thank you, Jen!) is to not assume you’ve put in more plying twist than you want. To illustrate this point, I took pictures during the finishing stages of my most recent yarn, and pictures of some other recent yarn that just so happen to illustrate this point nicely. I’ll start with the latter:

Would you believe these are the same singles from the same material? Really! The difference in grist is completely because of plying. Here’s another view of different bits of the yarn:

Now, for my preferences, the pink yarn is a little underplied, and just barely at the point of having enough plying twist in it. It’s sort of hat or sweater yarn, puffy and loose with a lot of loft to it. There’s nothing wrong with it, but I prefer a more firmly plied yarn — I like the fabric I get better, it wears better, and to be honest, I just like it better. The purply-blue yarn, on the other hand… I like that one.

So let’s talk a minute about what’s the same and different about these 2 skeins of yarn. Both were spun from test batches of Falkland top which I’d dyed with low water immersion, rinsed aggressively, and air dried. Both were spun on the same wheel, with the same drafting methods, ratios, settings, everything the same. Both skeins weigh 70 grams exactly, or about 2.5 ounces. The multicoloured pinks and orange one (colourway Dawn) is 254 yards long; the deep purply blue one (violet from here on out, not a named colourway) is 261 yards long.

But…

…this one comes out to 11 wraps per inch, and…

…this one comes out to 16.

Now, to be fair, there is a very slight difference in the grist of the singles, as evidenced by example 1, Dawn, being 254 yards long and example 2, Violet, being 261 yards long. So if we were to say that I had 508 yards of Dawn singles and 522 yards of Violet singles, the difference in yards yielded was about 2.7%, and pretty much unmeasurable in the singles if I’d measured them for grist before plying by using the wraps per inch method. These were also not terribly high twist singles; I’d call ’em moderate/medium twist. But if you look at the plied yarn, and figure there’s a 2.7% difference in grist over the length of the singles spun, compared to a 5 wpi difference in the plied yarn… if we use Dawn as our baseline, the addition of plying twist gave us 45% more wraps per inch with Violet. To think about it another way, if we were to say that Violet has a diameter of 1/16 of an inch ( .0625) and Dawn has a diameter of 1/11 of an inch (.09), less plying twist in Dawn gave us a yarn that is 33% thicker than Violet.

So, what factors other than twist are in play here, and how does the amount of plying twist affect the finished yarn?

Well, the first consideration is the fiber: Falkland top, commercially prepped, a medium wool with a fair amount of crimp to it. As it happens, I knew going into this exercise that this particular fiber has a huge amount of POOF to it. Moreso than many fibers, this one will, when washed, puff up quite a bit if given half a chance. In a moderate-twist singles, or a plied yarn with less plying twist, it’s got the chance to do that. In a high-twist singles or a tightly plied yarn, it’s not going to have the chance to poof so much, because the twist will trap the crimp and poof tendencies it imparts.

If we did the same exercise with different fiber (and I’ll see if I can’t come up with a good example soon) we’d see different results. But in general, the balance between crimp and twist in wools is a huge part — perhaps the biggest part — in what a skilled spinner can manipulate to make yarn behave different ways. To an extent, being able to take advantage of this when you do your fiber selection for a given project just depends on knowing the fibers and how they act, and that’ll mostly take experience to develop.

For more reading about crimp, twist, and their interactions, check out Mabel Ross and Peter Teal. Instead of going into lots more detail here, I’ll just move on to say that the functional difference between Dawn and Violet, other than their finished wpi, is that Dawn is puffy and lofty, while Violet is smoother and uses the same forces Dawn used to puff itself up, to be springy yarn with bounce and elasticity. Violet has no choice but to stay denser, but the crimp in the fiber acts against that density to be a stretchier yarn. If you put your hands inside the loop of Dawn’s skein and pull apart till it’s stretched taut, you won’t have a lot of travel; if you do the same with Violet, you’ll have more. When Dawn stretches out, it’s going to thin down a bit. When Violet stretches, it’ll stay similar in thickness. Dawn has more fiber ends and surfaces not held in place by twist in the ply; Violet’s individual fibers are held more closely in check and won’t be able to rub against each other quite so much.

Neither of these characteristics is inherently better than the other, but they are suited for different purposes. Violet’s density, elasticity, and tougher wear resistance make it a good choice for socks, mittens, or garments for people who are rough on their clothes (like 9-year-old kids). Dawn will be easier to felt or full, and there’s more air moving through it — in some respects, depending on how things are worked up of course, Dawn will insulate better and be warmer. It would make a great hat for those reasons, or a snuggly warm sweater.

Many millspun sock yarns make themselves springy by manipulating these considerations. Take a crimpy wool low-twist singles, and ply it really tight: you’re going to get bouncy yarn. Millspuns use this in other ways too: take a crimpy wool moderate-twist singles, and ply it loosely, and you’ll get a more drapy yarn that can do things like block out huge in knitted lace, or one that blooms and puffs up to be thicker in grist without containing more fiber. But even though millspun commercial yarns can of course play with these qualities, the mill will never have the range of options or control that you do as a handspinner. What if, for example, you were to change the amount of plying twist throughout the yarn, in orderly sequences? You would have a finished yarn that would behave differently, and work up differently, within the same object — you could make one single yarn that puffs up in places in a hat, and hunkers down being elasticky in others.

Of course, there are limitations and things to consider. For instance, even though your plying twist can make a huge difference in what the finished yarn is like, you shouldn’t rely on only that, as some of the millspun yarns actually do! While the plying twist will trap many fiber ends and keep them from moving, you still need to have a fair amount of twist in your singles to be counterbalanced by the plying twist, or else you’re going to see premature wear. This is part of what the premise of the “balanced yarn” looks to address — you want the plying twist to have a clear relationship with the spinning twist in order to achieve a stable yarn. You’ll generally also need to have both of those amounts of twists give at least a passing nod to the fiber’s properties, such as crimp, staple length, and so on.

However, I’m heretical in some respects about the whole “balanced yarn” premise. Just picture me as a pirate captain in a Hollywood movie waving my hand and saying, “…Guidelines, really.” The doctrine of the balanced yarn states that you always want to have your yarn end up so that the fibers in it are back in their natural, relaxed state and so you put in only the amount of plying twist that takes the spinning twist back to that condition. However, there exist numerous examples of yarn, and entire yarn traditions, which diverge from this doctrine, and all the references to it in so many words that I’m familiar with are from the 20th century onwards.

Here’s a merino sock yarn of moderate-to-high twist in both spin and ply (because merino is a fiber prone to pilling, more twist reduces that likelihood). Though the spinning twist is moderate to high by US/European standards, the plying twist is outright high. If let to sit untended, this 2-yard skein of yarn shrinks in length immediately, from being about a yard long to being about 2 feet, 7 inches long. Pick it up and stretch it, and it goes back to being about a yard long… relax your hands and it snaps back to the shorter length. It’s springy. It has bounce. But it also has sufficient twist to keep the singles together under wear, and that combination of things makes it a good yarn for socks, from a fiber that feels nice but doesn’t tend to wear incredibly well if spun to “balanced yarn” specifications.

“But what about what everyone says about balanced yarns being essential to prevent bias in knitting?” you may be thinking. To that I say, swatch it. Seriously — swatch it. Much of that, too, depends on the state the yarn is in when you work with it, and how you knit. You would have to be really, really far out on a limb to see bias from most plied yarns, in my experience. If not-balanced plying truly caused the kind of bias it’s purported to in knitting, then you’d be seeing it in a large number of the presently-popular high-end millspun sock yarns! You’d be seeing it in some of the most popular lace knitting yarns out there, which feature less plying twist than spinning twist. And technically it is there in those examples — but the effect is insufficient to cause the disastrous skew it’s purported to cause, in my experience. Call it the yarn world’s Coriolis Effect myth (that’s the one about water swirling down the drain differently depending on which side of the Equator you’re on). The effect exists — but isn’t as powerful as the mythos suggests, and other factors have a huge impact. And worst case, if we’re talking about sock yarn here, what would you rather have: socks that bag and fall down, or socks with a smidgen of skew that goes away when you put them on and they stay where they go, and hold up to real world wearing?

Outside the scope of modern-day first world knitting, too, there are all sorts of uses — even within the US and European-derived textile traditions — for yarns which don’t conform to the balanced yarn premise. These are uses with long histories, habits, practicalities, and rationales — and they’re worth exploring for any handspinner who wants to really gain the kind of control that allows you to produce exactly the right yarn for a given job.

So, how do you ply and control how much plying twist is getting in there? What are some mechanical considerations, how can you tell if you’re getting it right, and what are some common plying questions and answers? Well, that’s my teaser for Part 2 of the plying series, and you’ll have to tune back in for that.

But it might feature this yarn…




…if the sun comes out and makes for good pictures, if it dries fully while I’m at the dentist, and if the pictures of black yarn come out decently enough. At least one of these plying articles is going to require a marled example to show how things look, and the next one may be it.

No, this time, really, I’ll take a weekend off!

I’ve made it to Friday again, huzzah! This was a hectic-seeming week and production just was not what I had ambitiously planned for at the outset. But I did manage to get all of these up on eBay:

…which is to say, some 6 pounds of superwash top, some oddments of very nice fibers, a few pounds of new sock blends, all containing alpaca, and repeating a few favourite colourways:

like Tiger Lily…

…Heartbreaker…

…and Berries.

Plus, there’s a huge batch of 400-yard / 1 ounce skeins of handpainted merino/silk millspun yarn (millspun, as in machine spun, lest anyone not be sure what I mean by that — I tend to prefer to say “millspun” rather than “commercial” as there are plenty of commercial handspun yarns, after all):

These are the same yarns I used in this fella here:

the Falling Leaves Isosceles — and each skein has enough yarn in it for something similar, scarf-sized!

My faves from this batch are the Indian Summer shown above, and…

…this Autumn Stroll.

This weekend, I might do fibery stuff, but I swear it’s going to all just be personal. You wanna know what non-work yarn dorkery I got to this week? This is it:

Hardly anything. Fewer than 800 yards of yarn all told that is actually for me. The horror!

Since some of y’all said it wasn’t a cop-out…

Right, some of you said it wasn’t a cop-out to just post fiber and yarn pr0n. Well, that’s really all I have for today, so bear with me.

It was a dye day.

It might not look like it, but that’s about 6 pounds of superwash top, 2 pounds of merino/silk millspun yarn (maybe more), a pound of 125’s merino top, a little bit of 80’s merino top, and some new test fibers, namely some CVM…

…and a likely regular from here on out, 50/50 merino/tencel:

Awwww yeah. Here’s the pair of those that I’ve culled for sample spinning:

I already know how those are gonna look, but you don’t know yet, so you’ll just have to check back. Mwaaahahahaha!

Here’s a closeup of some of the superwash and the yarn:

And this, right here, is a tester of a thousand yards of millspun really really laceweight superwash 2-ply yarn.

I didn’t think I liked it… but maybe I do after all.

In not-pr0n news, thank you to those of you who’ve let me know there’s an issue with the categories right now. Later this week, I’ll be having a web development day, and it’s likely to include a complete template redesign. I think. Either way, I’ll be incorporating some feedback I’ve received from you, my loyal readers, and I think it’ll be good stuff. Lastly, I’ve grown weary of reading my moderation queue filled with “What is tramadol? Can you get cheap vicodin while pregnant from viagra? Do you need more phentermine?” Crikey, I don’t want ANY of those things! What I do want, though, is shoes which are like waitress shoe flipflops, for these days of being on my feet all the time. Ow. But that digression aside, I’ll likely be implementing Haloscan or something similar to reduce the comment spam moderation situation — there are just more of ’em daily than I want to wade through, and I’m afraid I’m losing real comments by blasting through them quickly.

Victory! It’s Friday!

…and I’m definitely taking the weekend entirely off. Of course, you realize that in my case, when I take a weekend off, odds are I’m still doing something fibery… ssssh, don’t tell my boss, she’s a real hard case and if she knew that, she would probably make me work even longer hours than the already-punishing ones she’s been setting for me.

Remember how Wednesday, I was too tired to take pictures? Well, I finally got to at least the photos of the new wares, and finally got ’em uploaded. I’m delayed another week, it looks like, on the plain ol’ shopping cart stuff. But here’s what I did manage to get done:

That’s 2 days of blending, 1 day of dyeing, and somewhere around 15 pounds of fiber. It felt like more while I was doing it all, I swear! But perhaps Marcy has a point with her comment about my expectations. Like I was just saying, my boss sets them for me, and as soon as I meet them she raises the bar. Still, that’s averaging out to like 5 pounds of fiber a day and that is not enough, not by any measure. I have to leverage synergies to heighten my efficiency or something. Or I’d have to if I hadn’t left the world of doing such things behind me a year ago, at any rate. Instead, like my boss is always saying, I’ll just have to work harder.

So, all of those are done, inventoried, catalogued, and listed for sale! Man, it is going to be beer o’clock here soon!

Oh, Hope? I apologize in advance. There’s going to be more pink and orange, starting with this:

Yeah. Sorry, Hope. That’s the Optim that I was spinning when I got the Pagoda in and had to spin that instead — the Optim that I thought was 2 ounces total, but then realized was 4. I haven’t weighed the finished, washed yarn yet as it’s still a tiny bit damp, but I did finish it last night, and it came to 1250 yards. With the quickie measurements, it’s 35 wpi, so not as fine as the other Optim. And one single was spun on the Suzie Pro, and one on the Saxonie.

The manchild said it looked like hot lava, so, “Hot Lava” it is.

Stephanie says she’s not a pink person, but likes the pinks here lately anyway. Kneejerk me, I wanted to holler back, “I’m not a pink person either!” but before I did so, I thought about it more, what with June having pointed this out recently too. I’m not a pink person, or a super-brights person most of the time, even though I appreciate almost all colours in the abstract sense of “not being something I’m about to wear.” So what’s the deal with all the pinks lately? I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of days, and you know, I think part of it is just that they photograph really well, and that makes them a good candidate for samples. So here’s another:

This is actually a really really awesome blend, it’s super cool, I swear! It’s hand-dyed merino blended with Tencel, roughly 75/25, in Cardzilla (have I mentioned lately that I’m a huge fan of Strauch carders? Well, I am). But you know, the sheen of this was so hard to photograph I thought I’d try it again cooler, and this time with little bit more tencel, more like 70/30:

Why yes, I did make an extra one of those for a sample. And it spins up really, really nice — drafts much easier than the commercial merino/tencel top, and it’s different, but… nice. Really nice.

It occurs to me I failed to take pictures last night of further hopping up that was afoot. I got in the first of my Majacraft tune-up and hop-up packages, you see, and got started tweaking the Saxonie, and then that was a slippery slope… right now, I’ll wager that I also have the fastest Suzie Pro around (and also the one that requires the most leaden foot, oof!) Speaking of speed, that reminds me, Sarah, you’re not the only one to break a Roberta flyer — I thought I was. And yes, it happened at speed, and yes, half the flyer went, well, flying, across the room, making such a thunderous sound it attracted every other member of the household. Definitely dramatic.

Oh, but the tuneups and hop-ups! Well, the stock whorl came off the Saxonie and was replaced with a Suzie whorl; counting flyer rotations while turning the drive wheel, this ups the top ratio on that to 25:1. With that whorl off (and it had one BIG groove on it), I got to thinking — what if we put that on the Suzie Pro’s accelerator head, on the intermediate whorl? Well, we did that, and… okay, pictures, and details another time. It needs a little more tweaking and tuning still. Back to the fiber pr0n!

This was a weirdly splitty brown. I mean, it should have been brown, but it split instead, and struck different on the outside and inside of the top… so I figured I’d spin it and see what it did. I really wanted to name it something like “Technicolor Yawn,” but that was… too blatant. I couldn’t think up a similar, but more subtle, euphemism, so I copped out and called it “Painted Desert.”

Here’s a watered down variant of Divine Bird’s colour combo:

as is this…

Well, that second one she suggested as an alternative, but the other one just works better if you ask me.

There’s a lot of lilac type action going on, because this is my first lilac spring in seemingly forever — you realize they don’t grow in California, right? Spring with no lilacs — what a penitential sentence. But here:

Baby lilac bushes… but they’re blooming. I can hardly wait till all the lilac bushes lining the roads and towns and everywhere around southern Ohio fully explode into bloom… while it’s t-tops off weather to boot. Oh, what a backroads driving spring I’ll have to have… perhaps this weekend. If I’m not just geeking on wheel tech.

Speaking of which, I have to thank my better half for his mechanical gifts, and his willingness to take a break from Jeepy here, to help me out with wheel tuning.

Jeepy’s a bona fide veteran of World War Two, having served in Europe and come to us with maintenance records from France, and everything. A 1942 Willys, Jeepy is being restored to 65-years-ago glory, give or take a few things here and there, so as to participate in a Memorial Day parade, as well as take us out for ice cream on nice summer afternoons.

Riding around in, or sometimes driving, a 65-year-old vehicle is, incidentally, something that provides a lot of food for thought about technology, preservation, what’s worth holding on to and what leads to what kind of developments… and it makes me wanna say something along the lines of those things people say about spinning, weaving, and the fiber arts, about feeling so in touch with my forebears. Only, you know, about a vehicle whose history I can’t help but wonder about, and imagine in the very few stories my grandparents would ever tell about World War Two… what the heck, when 65 years old am I, look as good I will not, to paraphrase Yoda and change the context.

Oh but before I knock off and call it beer o’clock, one last thing:

I still have plenty more work cut out for me Monday. The next time you see these guys, things won’t be the same, as the song goes. Colour will happen. You know… just… happen.

Way Too Tired For Pictures…

I’m way too tired for pictures, so I’m going to put up a few photos of some recent yarn. What’s got me so tired? Well, I’ve been in production mode: a few carding days and today was a dye day, all to move stuff from “materials” to “inventory” to make room for new incoming materials, due any day now. I think in the past 3 days I’ve done some 6 pounds of blends and 10 pounds of dyed fibers… geeze, that doesn’t sound like all that much, does it? Ah, but my aching feet…

So, anyway, some recent productivity:

This was a tester for some hand-dyed superwash. I call this colourway “Mai Tai” — pinks, oranges, some diluted with cream. This one’s a 2-ply sock yarn measuring 360 yards from 62 grams or about 2 ounces, at 16 wpi.

Again, a test skein. “Holly” — Hand-Dyed, handspun superwash wool. 2-ply, 420 yards, 86 grams / 3 oz, 15 wpi.

This one’s by special request, for Divine Bird. Your basic sock blend, superwash/tussah/mohair, sparkly firestar. I liked it so much I repeated these colours on something for me to spin for kicks.

Fakeberry sock yarn. Same thing — a tester. It’s, you know, sock yarn.

I might have to try to get other photos of this guy. It’s just got amazing sheen to it that this doesn’t capture. It’s a merino/tussah/mohair single, again, a tester from some new blends. Merino/tussah silk/kid mohair/firestar nylon; handspun 22 wpi laceweight single. 780 yards /96g / 3.4 oz . There’s a 440-yard skein too, that has knots in it because I kept skeining it under no tension like a moron, and breaking it. I totally know better. It was going to be this one massive, stunning 1200-yard skein, but nooo, I had to push things and go too fast.

This is that blend, basically, but in “Peach Fuzz.”

I finally dyed this Falkland/Tussah/Baby Camel sock yarn I spun… uh, probably last year:

Here’s a sampling of a few things I’ve dyed lately…

And a look at a few of the recent batts…

…and the latest 15 pounds or so of fibers, like I say… not even photographed yet, I’m TOO TIRED!

Oh, but I liked this one…

and strangely enough, I like this too:

Aw geeze, I finished plying round number one on the cabled yarn for Chad’s new hat, too…

…but I have to do the final ply. I’m torn: it’ll probably all fit on a Majacraft bobbin (definitely on a jumbo one), but then I could make a mindless thing of it with the Roberta.

Trouble is, there’s that ball on the Roberta bobbin. And please don’t ask about the Roberta jumbo stuff. I broke my jumbo flyer with insane speed (and that was dramatic). But anyway, so I know that this…

…is no way, no how cabling back onto one bobbin. And I kinda want it to. Even though Chad’s hat isn’t going to use more than maybe 20% of this skein… but that’s not the point.

Have I mentioned the spring weather? It’s been occasionally dramatic, like this:

(oh, so somber!)


Summer might as well be here though, or so it feels. Here’s hoping the days and days on my feet have a positive impact on my waistline before I have to buy new shorts.

I know, kind of a cop-out blog entry, but maybe some of the yarn and fiber porn does the trick for you.