The kindness of strangers…

…I’ve decided to make a Sprout. Clearly I’m bingeing on Amy’s work right now, eh? I’ll have to spin something for it.

Several of you have suggested a dew themed name for the triangle. I like that. It is now the Dew Drop Shawl… and partly charted. I hope you can guess what that means! Thank you all for suggestions.

I’d planned yesterday to go to the bead shop in town and buy some nicer beads to switch to at the logical point in the shawl to do so — which was 2 rows away, so clearly, I had to go now. Unfortunately though, this was not to be. I had a pile of packages outbound from over the weekend, so I loaded them into the Trans Am and headed to pick Edward up from day camp, figuring I had a clear win with “Help me with all these packages and then an errand to the bead store, and you get a slushy on the way home.”

The proposal was definitely a win; unsurprising, since it was pushing 100F, and on the muggy side. We made it to the post office without event, and the manchild was a tremendous help getting everything shipped, then opining on the differences in cost between shipping to the UK and Canada. We hopped in the Mommy Car, I turned the key, and she went CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK WHINE, reset all the electronics, opened the rear hatch and popped the trunk.

Oh my.

Now, mind you, the Mommy Car, whose name is Ginny, is 7 years old; but she’s a creampuff. They really don’t get much more creampuffy than she is. In 2000 when I bought her new, there was talk of her discontinuation and you had to know that she was getting on towards being the last of the real American muscle cars. She was built to eat the Interstate Highway system for lunch and come back for dinner, then belch loudly, cruise slowly down the street with a V8 growl, hover in anticipation at a red light and, when it turns green, leave anybody else there in a cloud of rubber-scented smoke waiting to follow twin black streaks of rubber into the distance where, by the time they catch up, Ginny’s already set up a picnic and taken the t-tops off and makes a killer stereo too.

Or, you know, pick up the kid from day camp, run to the post office, hit the supermarket, that sort of thing. And let us not forget take the t-tops off and opt for the back roads at 45 or 50, smelling the breeze and blinking in the dappled sun filtering through the trees, hair a tangled mess and slathered in sunscreen, running an errand a few towns over. Mmmmm.

I mean, okay, so she isn’t built for heavy hauling. Or long road trips with more than one passenger. Or being easy to get in and out of. Or being easy to park, especially if you feel like opening the doors. And she definitely ain’t built for the ice and snow (as the snowplow guy warned me vigorously and earnestly this past winter when he saw her in the garage), and actually, with the wrong tires on her, I’d hate to drive her through a big puddle (even though she did brilliantly last summer carrying Edward and I safely home from New Hampshire through a thunderstorm so bad there was literally nowhere to pull off to the shoulder of I-90 through New York, because everybody else had already pulled over). And yeah, the driver’s side window keeps having that annoying problem with raising.

Make no mistake, though, she’s mine and I adore her. Man, did I pitch a colossal, epic, Latina-style temper tantrum in Spanish at the car wash guys who chipped her paint last year when I was getting her cleaned up for her trailer ride to her new home. Yep, I know where every scratch and ding she’s gotten is, and how they all happened. I know there are plenty of folks who think I’m silly about this — like the people who’ve tried to talk me into selling her over the years (seriously — like when we were buying Chad’s truck, and the guy, thinking he might make another sale, asked me what I was driving, and I told him, and he ended up trying to convince me to take $5500 less in trade for her than I’d paid new 6 years before — as if!) She’s good to me, my creampuff! She’s a loyal sweetheart. You can’t have her.

So there I was at the post office, Edward in the passenger seat, all the needles flat, the starter clearly working fine, can’t roll the windows up and down, everything that can be opened electrically open, miserable, her clock flashing 12:00 and the odometer not reading (even though I know full well it says 19,793). Oh, hell no. I turned off everything powered, and tried again, to no avail. “Oh no, poor Mommy Car!” Edward said. I gave him a warning look (you know, don’t talk bad about her, she’ll be fine! Watch your words, whippersnapper!) and got out to check connections on the battery.

“Do you need a jump?” asked the lady parked beside me, shutting off her car and stepping out.

“Dunno,” I said. “Looks that way.” I looked for my AAA card, and remembered I’d forgotten to send back that RENEW NOW thing a couple of months ago. Aw, crap. The kind lady then insisted on calling AAA on her card, and waiting. I couldn’t believe it, and thanked her profusely. “You would do the same for me,” she said, “and it’s hot, and you have a kid with you, don’t even think about it.”

No sooner had she gotten off the phone than a fellow in a battered pickup truck pulled up on the other side of me. “You need a jump?” he asked. “Yeah, but she’s just called AAA,” I replied. “Oh heck no,” he said, “You could be here waiting for hours!” But then he found his son had run off with his jumper cables. I’ve no idea where the ones I used to have in the back of my car are, either. The guy dashed into the post office, and emerged a minute later with a young woman who trotted over to her car and returned with cables. Everybody then proceeded to orchestrate the parking lot traffic such that the guy could pull his truck up in position to jump start Ginny, who started right up. “It’s probably just your battery,” said the pickup truck guy, “but you’ll want to get that checked out to make sure it’s not the alternator. You live close? You got everything you need to get home and whatnot?” I assured everyone that I did, and everything was allright, and thanked them all profusely, thinking again how much I like my small Midwestern town, where multiple strangers of obviously varying racial and economic backgrounds, ages, careers and so on, wouldn’t dream of not springing into action to help out a mom with a kid and car trouble on a miserable hot day.

The same thing proved out at the GM dealership not a mile away, as I decided — it being almost 5pm by this time — that if I just headed home, I’d have the same problem, and be down a dead end road a few miles out of town, so the smart thing to do would be to see if I couldn’t just manage to get the problem solved forthwith. I pulled into the service area, hopped out (leaving the car running and Edward watching it as I stood a few yards away) and explained my problem and that, with my better half out of town overnight, we’d no other transportation for now and so on. “We’ll take care of you,” they said, and some 90 minutes and a new battery later, all was well.

I couldn’t help thinking how if this had happened in the parking lot at, say, Fry’s Electronics, I’d probably still be sitting in the parking lot today, unless somebody had called the cops on me for loitering, or something. It wouldn’t have been a virtually stress-free inconvenience causing nothing worse than missing the bead shop’s hours and a late dinner.

“Hey, Edward,” I said later, over that dinner, “Did you notice how lots of people went out of their way to help us out today?”

“Yeah!” he replied. “Why did they?”

“Well,” I told him, “we were lucky, for one thing. And we should be sure to remember to be grateful for it, and be the same kind of people ourselves.” I reminded him of the time he and I had given a lady with a flat tire a ride to her in-laws’ house, taking 30 or 40 minutes of our evening to do so, somewhat to his irritation at the time.

“Does that mean we’re all even with the karma of it now?” he asked.

“Well, some folks would definitely say it was karma that meant we got helped, when we’ve helped someone before, but I don’t think there’s any real making it even,” I said. “I think the way it works is that if you want there to be people in the world who’ll help a stranger, you have to be a person who’ll help a stranger. After all, if you wouldn’t do it, why should anybody else?”

He nodded, thinking about that. “Makes sense,” he said. That’s the thing I’m happiest about with this whole story — that it makes sense to him in that way, that it’s good for a person to be helpful and kind without a clear motive other than kindness and doing right, because the world needs people who are kind and generous and helpful and not looking to get something out of it. I’m glad of an object lesson that shows him one gets out of the world what one puts into it.

I’m also glad that, instead of having a dye day today as I had planned, I decided to sit down, have one more cup of coffee, and write this up! Why? Because shortly after I sat down, it began to thunder and rain, and close to an inch has fallen while I’ve been writing this. With lightning getting closer, I think I’m going to shut off unneeded electronics and go sit and spin a while instead.

And hey — Ginny’s battery could have given up the ghost in this downpour instead of last night. We’ve just got all kinds of great luck, and I’m thankful for all of it.

Triangle Progress

In-progress shots of lace are always so disappointing. But I’m sure enough of you are lace knitters to know that, and thus be able to do a little light imagining…

The Triangle (will somebody name this for me? I am no good at naming things, I fear) has grown to the point of being about 30 inches, unblocked, across the top.

I’m not sure if I have enough beads to complete this as I desire. I’ve also reached the conclusion that these beads are not of particularly high quality, and this means I’ve reached that point in a project where the first real pangs of remorse set in: this was a time-consuming yarn, it’s time-consuming knitting, and I’m putting $3 worth of cheap glass beads on it? What was I thinking? Could I not perhaps have shelled out, oh, $5? What if, when I get this sucker wet to block it, the beads turn into crap?

But I’m committed.

Oh, for a better view of the beads, look here for the mega-fullsize version, Flickr style.

Of course, that’s them in the full sun… and they’re sorta iridescent. So they almost look better here:

In other news, I’m less than 20% done, it would seem; the remaining ball of yarn weighs 3.25 ounces, and the skein weighed 4 ounces. But because of how it’s built up, I do not anticipate that this means the finished shawl will be 12 feet across. I’m guessing more like 6 feet.

This weighing, too, creates project angst and remorse. What was I thinking? If I work on this straight through in all my evening time till August, I’ll have… a massive thing. Maybe my original plan is flawed. Perhaps I should change it (No, Abby, continue with the plan, you know you always do this, continue with the plan!) Maybe I should put it aside for a while (You can’t do that, it’s on your 60″ 2.5mm circular needle and you are NOT to leave that stuck in a UFO!)

Nope. Nope, it’s time to summon up the project faith. It is a good plan, and a good project, and it will work out wonderfully. Keep going.

Oh, the random! But there is fiber content, I promise.

Saturday morning dawned, and with the boy at his grandparents’ house we were waking up slowly. Chad made some smart-aleck remark, and I retorted, paraphrasing the episode of “Deadwood” we’d watched the previous night: “I no more need your witticisms than I do a balloonist!”

I looked out the bedroom window and there, drifting just above the trees bordering the neighbours’ horse pasture, was a big red hot air balloon. “Hey Chad,” says I, “There’s a balloon out here, really close!”

“What was that about a balloonist?” he quipped. I laughed. “Can you see how many people are in it?” he asked.

“Two, maybe three?” I guessed. Heading downstairs with thoughts of going out for breakfast, we both watched out the windows as we went. Standing in the kitchen, we looked out and saw the balloon was now very close, with two guys in it. I peered out the sliding door to the deck, and one of ’em waved, from his vantage about 20 feet over the corner of our deck. I waved back, and opened the door.

“Can we land?” the guy asked.

“Sure!” I said, and he told me he’d land right over in the front yard. “Sounds cool!” I replied, looking for my shoes. Having found them seconds later, and grabbed my camera, I headed out the front door… and saw no balloon. Instead I saw this, down by the neighbours’ driveway.

Plainly a ballon chase vehicle, having found its way down our dead-end road, no less. I left the porch and rounding the corner of the house…

As I walked over, the two fellows in the balloon introduced themselves; one was an instructor and the other was a balloonist getting his certification for commercial balloon work. The instructor hopped out, and making it look like nothing at all,

walked the balloon over to the driveway as the chase truck backed its trailer up the driveway.

We chatted as they prepared to pack up (and the chase truck driver brought up the newspaper! Delivery by balloon crew!) They made it look like an absolutely trivial thing to do…

Ever the yarn dork, of course, I was intrigued by the process of dropping the deflating balloon without the fabric or lines tangling.

I hadn’t realized there was an opening at the top of the balloon as well as the bottom, and some sort of rigging lines inside as well as out.

They just laid the whole balloon down right there evenly along the driveway. Packing it up involved tipping over the basket, and then the chase truck crew fella brought out a device that looked like nothing so much as a giant Majacraft flyer hook (you know, an open-ended twist of metal tubing, like the yarn guide on ball winders, too). They passed the fabric through this smoothing things out, then started to cram the balloon into a giant stuffsack. Once this was done, they loaded the basket on a small wheeled trailer, put everything in the truck trailer, and thanked us for letting them use the yard and driveway for landing. The instructor gave me his card and then they were off; it might have all taken half an hour.

Unlike Amy’s recent experience, we didn’t get rides; but it would have been on the early side for me to think about anything like that anyway. I was just sorry that Edward missed it. However, you know, one of the things about this particular part of Ohio — and maybe it’s Ohio at large — is that it’s nutty for anything that goes up in the air. Seriously nutty.

From spring to fall, every single weekend, the air is filled with hot air balloons. I’ve been standing on the deck and been able to see 8 at a single time (though 3 or 4 is more common). Last summer, one landed across the road. And I think there are roughly a trillion small airports around here. There’s more than one hot air balloon festival. And I’m serious about it being aviation type stuff in general, of every type — there’s a small neighbourhood not a mile away as the crow flies which has a little airstrip of its own and folks have their small planes parked next to their driveways or in little hangars on their property.

In 2003, for the Centennial of Flight, well, that was a year when the aviation-type activity here was heavy. We were out visiting, and one day driving down the road, there were literally 8 dirigibles (blimps, airships, you know) visible in the sky — and it seemed like practically every “bigger” airport had an airship hanging out at it. That year, we all met the folks crewing the Fuji blimp, which was at a nearby airport. We were there keeping our distance looking at it, and someone walked up to Edward and said, “You guys can walk right up and touch it and stuff if you like. Wanna see inside?” He got to get in. And I can’t find those pictures!

My periodontist is up by the Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB, and one recent visit I was sitting in the chair watching big planes land — like I hadn’t seen since the year they landed some of those same unbelievably massive planes at Moffett Field a few years ago. As an aside, let me tell you, those things are BIG. I mean BIG. I will never forget driving along 101 as one of ’em came in for a landing and there it was in front of me, over me, blocking out the sun, looking far too massive to possibly be in the air — those things just defy the brain’s image of what it’s possible to put in the sky.

Let’s see, what other evidence of local aviation-madness can I find… ah! Going to do certain kinds of shopping requires driving past the home of the Wright “B” Flyer and nothing in the area lets you forget the Wright Brothers did their thing in Dayton. And occasionally, here in town, you’ll hear about Neil Armstrong, who recently moved closer to Cincinnati, but lived here for decades, leaving an almost disconcertingly unassuming mark on the place, in things like teeny tiny plaques that are all but hidden from sight in places he helped out at (like the Y where Edward goes to summer camp).

In fact, digressing a little bit, that whole attitude largely characterizes the local mindset — everybody’s just some dude who wants to be a regular schmoe, mow the yard, wave to the neighbours, be regulars at the same restaurants and businesses, raise kids, go to school plays, watch the fireworks from the back yard, and be generally friendly and personable but not intrusive in anyone else’s life. I swear the culture shock almost killed me (but in a good way), moving here from Silicon Valley.

Anyway, so the hot air balloon guys are just out doing what they do, which is no big deal or uncommon thing, and they’re very polite about the use of someone’s yard for landing, which is a routine enough matter that — I later heard from my mother-in-law — the standard, acknowledged convention is that people put a bedsheet in the yard to let balloonists know it’s totally cool to land. So, it wasn’t like it was a special occasion or anything; in fact I’m sure if I walk outside right now and look up, I’ll see hot air balloons. Just not one landing in my yard.

Oh, and before I move on to the actual fiber content for the day, I’d just like to state that in my opinion, the Transformers movie is the best summer blockbuster type movie in quite some time. Therefore I won’t say anything else about it, really, save that Edward totally numbed my arm clinging to it during incredible CG effects-laden fight sequences, when he wasn’t sitting with his mouth agape in glee or identifying which guys were which for me. And yes, it’s an incredibly good GM commercial, and that doesn’t detract from the summer-blockbuster-ness of it at all. Special effects galore, no more than 90 seconds without action sequences, exactly what you need in a summer blockbuster. Pure entertainment.

So anyway, yeah, the fiber content. It’s still too hot to spin, even with the air conditioning on (as it has been and will continue to be), so I’ve been working on that triangle again.

It’s now that big, or actually maybe 2 inches wider at the top part now, so 25 inches across the top unblocked. Shown here, I was moving it from the short 2.5mm circular needle to the long one, so this was a great chance to take a picture.

I decided that certain design elements in this shawl were simply going to end up being far too understated, and that disappointed me as I felt they were among the cleverer parts; the parts that I had to throw in to keep me on my toes so I’d finish the project (since, as I’ve explained before, if I get bored, I stop knitting). Soooo….


Yeah, beads. Iridescent beads which I decided I needed to sort by colour. Talk about an exercise in … uh… trying to go blind perhaps.

Anyway, the shawl is top-down from the top center out, around a corner, so that the yarn will stripe in an interesting way. Building on that are diamonds, at a 45% angle to the stripes. Moving out from there, diamond-shaped blocks of 5 diamonds on a side are bordered with lines of leaves, which will be progressing in diamond shapes. This was the design element that I felt was too understated. So, now it’s being punched up with the centers of the leaves being beaded, so that when the shawl is all said and done, there’ll be lines of beads at a 90% angle to the stripes, along the centerline of some of the diamonds, progressing in a diamond-shaped pattern throughout the shawl. Lastly, a beaded edge is planned for the legs of the triangle (not the base, at the neck side).

Wow, does that ever make no sense to describe! You’ll just have to keep watching as this progresses. And it promises to be large — remember, there’s 1100 yards of this yarn, and my plan is to go till I’m done. I’d say that right now I’m probably through the first 20% of the skein. Maybe. Honestly I’ve no idea; I would have to weigh the skein or something, and I can’t be bothered!

Friday Morning, huzzah!

Friday morning, and Thursday did result in almost all the batt club boxes making it out the door. The remaining 4 go today, whew!

Yesterday also brought me this:

Thank you, Amy! As it happens, I was just thinking, “man, I need a little bag to put some of these things on my end table into, it’s a disaster area.” But more important…

…she nailed me with these batts. Again! These are BFL, mohair, silk, and alpaca, with the mohair and alpaca being from farms in Maine. I love love love this colour, too.

While I was snapping pictures, I threw this in the White Reflective Box Thingy With Lights Pointing At It (that’s the technical term).

That’s the plied, skeined Hummingbird yarn from a few posts back, when it was shown on the bobbin.

I had big plans of spinning those Spunky batts right up, but by the time I got downstairs to the slothing chamber and seated in my La-Z-Boy with a fresh bobbin on the Suzie Pro, I realized it was just too hot and muggy for me to feel like spinning anything. So instead, I gave in to startitis!

…what? Okay, it’s this:

which is that merino/tencel skein from yesterday, and some US 2 Bryspun bendy needles, and a bit of random started lace.

By the end of the evening it was this:

and soon, it’ll move to circulars.

Oh, why is this so early, you might ask? I was awakened.

Good morning!

Can’t talk, nose to grindstone!

Well, okay, nose to drum, I guess. Enlarging the Batt Club membership a little means that instead of having a pile of boxes to take to the post office this morning, that pile will be heading out this afternoon, except for a few of you, whose packages I managed to get out the door Tuesday afternoon, with my son’s help.

You’ll have to let me know if you can tell your box was packed by a 9-year-old eager to earn a new video game.

In the madness of it all, I received a great big box from my Knittyboard spinning secret pal, who revealed herself to be LICraftGal! She really outdid herself, just look:

I almost don’t even know where to start! Wonderful buttons and clasps, beautiful dyed mohair locks, fun glittery stuff, a huge pile of sari silk (which I have actually never had any of in this form!), a wonderful-smelling vanilla candle, mandarin-lime hand lotion (I never, ever have enough hand creams and whatnot), a ball of really beautiful Navajo Churro roving from Long Island, (from the lady who taught her to spin), a postcard of Montauk Point lighthouse, and oh, I’m sure I’m forgetting more… and absolutely jawdropping pile of loot, and with a Long Island theme through it, too. And it touched me quite a bit — a lot of things Long Island make me a bit emotional, as my father grew up there and he’d always tell me stories about his childhood there, in which beaches and lighthouses and the seashore figured prominently, and I’ll always remember just managing to get him to the hospice on the Connecticut shore of Long Island Sound, where he breathed his last. My dad used to say Long Island was a microcosm that ran the gamut of practically everything about the United States, but most people don’t realize it.

So, I scored an amazing pile of swag that’s going to keep me quite entertained, and that makes me sentimental besides! LICraftgal is clearly a secret swap genius. Anybody doing a secret swap should totally hope to be spoiled by such a swapper!

Being chained to Cardzilla, as Sammi put it, and with the excitement of a holiday, it seems I’ve gotten very little done (because after all, those boxes just keep making their way out the door, so they aren’t here, so it looks like nothing has happened). But I have actually managed to get some knitting done (and a huge pile of laundry, I’ll have you know, and I even tidied my spin-me pile and put most of my bobbins in one place), and I did spin this…

Well, two bobbins of that, actually. Each one was an evening of somewhat leisurely laceweight. It’s Chasing Rainbows merino/tencel, which is one of those things I treat myself to when I’m looking to give myself a “someone else’s fiber” gift. So I spun and spun on that (working on keeping the colour changes in order, which can slow me down a bit what with “paying attention”), and then I plied it.

And then I plied it some more.

Then it took even longer to fill the bobbin up, but eventually I did! Huzzah! So, I skeined it (with poor broken Mr. Skeiny, presently held together with glue, wire and silk after the accident he had moving here from California), lauded myself on 1100 yards and started thinking what to make with it, threw it in a hot soapy soak for 20-30 minutes, rinsed it out cold, thwacked it around, skeined it again while it was damp, hung it to dry unweighted, and lo, this morning now that everything’s dry, we have…

Mmmmm, tasty. Probably worth the mild ropeburn… er, yarnburn… that I got skeining it repeatedly and watching the tension on it.

But now, I have probably procrastinated with my coffee for as long as I can, and I have to get in the studio and start finishing the club stuff and getting it out the door. Realistically, too, it needs to be out the door before the new dye-me fibers are in (any minute now): a bump of tussah silk, a heap of cashmere/silk, more superwash/tencel, more merino/silk, another bump of merino, that sort of thing). Here’s hoping I’ve had enough coffee to get this day on the road!

“Wait, mom, you have a blog?”

“Wait,” my son said, “Mom, you have a blog? Like a real blog?”

“Of course I do, honey,” I told him, taking another sip of coffee, and wondering exactly what makes a blog a real blog.

“Well what is it about?” he asked.

“Oh, you know… yarn! What else would I write about all the time?” He pondered that soberly, nodding. After all, he was standing by my shoulder in my office, where in arm’s reach there are 3 skeins of finished handspun yarn totalling almost 2,000 yards, a small sample batt for a tweed I did for Helen, a dyed tussah top I decided to spin for myself, a toilet paper tube covered in random spindle-spun oddments, several notebooks recording yarn data, a handspun, handwoven plaque commemorating the opening of the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco’s Avenida Sol location, a small all-but forgotten work in progress, 4 spindles, a half-empty box of business cards covered in photos of yarn and fiber, 2 lint rollers, several smallish tufts or twists of various kinds of commercial fiber, and a folder displaying paperwork proving Franquemont Fibers is a legal entity.

Well, and the odd Happy Meal toys, Lego constructs, and so forth that my son routinely brings me. I’d called him in to bemusedly show him a picture I had run across of someone’s Lego sheep farm (which of course, now I can’t find). Right now, there’s also a melting wizard’s hat made from Floam atop an empty jar of dry-roasted sunflower kernels, and a superball where one side’s Spongebob and the other side’s Patrick. And a big bottle of Advil, along with my coffee in the cup Chad gave me a while back, featuring (as Edward has noted) “the bad F-word.” Best coffee cup ever. The picture’s facing away from me, too, as a caution to others — if you can see this, careful: it means Abby’s still drinking her coffee.

As I continued to drink said coffee, I scrolled through a post or two in my blog. “Kaylee!” he laughed at one photo. He is, of course, totally inured to yarn. As he’s gotten bigger he’s realized that, yeah, everybody does not live in a world as filled with yarn as he does — but I’m not entirely sure it’s dawned on him that there are folks who really think it’s interesting enough to do things like read about in a blog, or that people other than his family have such books and magazines. I can’t fault him there — I’m not sure I really believed that until, oh, 3 or 4 years ago. So for him, the interesting thing about my blog is the very thing I sometimes feel a little awkward about — pictures of cats, talk about my family, and that sort of thing. You know, the fluff and the personal.

“Do you have any pictures of Inanna?” he asked me.

“Why yes,” I said, “I do.” We scrolled through the pictures together, reminiscing. She was a good cat, and we still miss her.

The online world has been a huge part of my life since long before my son was born. I was a BBS’er, then a sysop, then a UNIX sysadmin, a USENET news admin, a developer of web crap once the web came around and took over… I must have 16, 17 years worth of public online presence, all with my own name. And my son says, “Wait, mom, you have a blog?” Part of me reacts by thinking, “Kid, a blog is the least of your mother’s online life, even if it is the most recent,” and yeah, as long as I’ve been online, I’ve known that stuff is all out there, that someday my kid would find various kinds of online records of his mother’s existence, and most likely shrug ’em off and think, “Yeah, whatever.”

Thinking back even further, there’s my childhood’s worth of journals — which sadly I no longer have — and for reasons I can’t entirely put my finger on, I used to always view those as potentially open to the risk of someday being Wildly Public Information. A cringeworthy thought when you consider that includes my adolescent and teenage years, and those journals were last seen in the ownership of my ex-husband (one assumes, however, that they’re simply long gone). Or letters. It occurs to me that I’d have essentially no written record of all that time, given the loss of my journals, if it weren’t for Ayse having happened to save so many, and then sent them to me a couple of years ago.

Sort of like the lost journals, there was also a hard drive (2GB Seagate 15150, I remember it well) that contained a home directory filled with years of things I’d written, and one day it died — but we kept it around for ages and ages, thinking someday perhaps we’d send it to some hard-core data recovery joint, but then when I tried a few times, I used to keep getting “Uh, and it was… UNIX? Huh.” Those data too, then, written off.

So where am I going with this? Well, I don’t think I’ve drawn any real conclusions about what a real blog might be. I will, however, assert this is one. Whatever one is. But beyond that, you know, there’s just no telling about the permanence of any kind of data. You don’t know. Would I have guessed, 20 some odd years ago, that a letter I sat writing in a pissed-off teenage angst would outlast and outlive my carefully worded and considered journal entry in a nicely-bound, sturdy book? Never. And apart from the question of permanence, what ends up being of interest is also unpredictable. To my son, it’s that I wrote about the cat when she died. To me, well, I don’t even know — trying to decide is like trying to look objectively at my own life. An interesting exercise but arguably senseless navel-gazing and I might as well get up and do something, or just react viscerally.

One thing I do know for sure, though, is that I’ll be trying, all my life, to leave words behind me. Words words words! as someone once nicknamed me. I know I value words left behind for me, by folks who are gone now — including the me I used to be. So, I dunno, what’s a blog? Words words words. With pictures, and people can leave comments, and all sorts of random people can see it. Some you know, some you don’t. And when all is said and done, maybe it lasts and maybe it’s gone in a puff of splattering disk bearing. You never know.

Batt Club!

Yep, you read that right — batt club! It’s almost a pun.

I’ve decided that with what remains of summer, I’m going to do a small batt club subscription deal. What does this mean? Each month I’ll do a special run of limited-edition batts which will only be available to the batt club members. If you join, then in the first week of July, August, and September, I’ll ship out the club batts (there’s that almost-a-pun again) and you’ll be on the receiving end of some luscious fibery surprises.

July’s club batts will be luxury sock batts containing superwash wool, silk, and nylon; August will be non-superwash luxury batts containing fine wools, silks, and luxury fibers; and September… well, to ease us back into the school year and that sort of thing, September’s will be a serious luxury blend, containing fine wools, silks, and cashmere, with matched hand-dyed silk. There will be no mohair or angora, as some folks have allergy issues with those fibers.

Everyone will receive the same fibers, weighing 6-8 ounces total, and shipping is included in the subscription cost, which is $90 for the 3 month run. You’ll save about 25% off what you’d pay if you were buying the batts at retail. I have 10 slots open, and I’m taking sign-ups in email to If you’re one of the first 10 people to email me, I’ll invoice you via PayPal, and you can pay with your credit card through them (or any other paypal means).

Signups are open! July’s shipment will be going out on the 5th, so make your move!

ETA: Batt club is FULL! The first round of batts goes out next week. Thank you ALL for your interest!

ETA More: Okay, okay, I’ll take another 10. But the first 3 have already signed up, I mean, talked me into it, so, 7 slots left!

ETA Still More: Okay, now we’re *really* full. If I tried to do any more, there’s no way batts would be going out next week!

Contest Results! And eye candy.

As of this writing, there have been 82 responses guessing the yardage on this bobbin:

And the finished skein is dry.

I’m sure you have all been waiting with bated breath for this, too. It was rough on me waiting to skein it and finish it, let me tell you! I skeined it yesterday, so I know what it measured before finishing… but now, now it’s time to re-skein it neatly and see how it came out.

Secretly, I have been hoping it would be enough for a lacy cardigan for me. Because look:

it’s really my favourite shade of green.

It would even go with my car.

(okay, okay, so that photo of my car’s paint is almost 7 years old. So’s the car. It’s still mostly that colour.)

Holy crap, look at me 7 years ago, with my first ever (and likely only ever) brand-spankin’ new car off the showroom floor. Huh.

Oh, why yes, I am stalling. Here’s more stalling. Look how that Autumn came out:

I don’t think the photos are really doing this one justice. It’s very drapy, with an understated sheen — it was superwash/tencel, and there are 385 yards there (Hi Wednesday, that’s 352 meters) in a skein weighing 136 grams (also known as 4.8 ounces).

This was an 80 gram (2.8 ounce) Falkland that I hoped might sorta go with the Pagoda, but it really didn’t. 265 yards (242 m). Just that yardage would have bought me the remainder of the Pagoda… but no, it’s not right. I think I’m going to be stuck with yellow, when I get to dyeing it.

Oh, very well. I’ll stop stalling. Right after this, which is drying now:

Here’s the glittery single:

It’s a leftovers bit from some other sock batts. I’m calling it “Hummingbird.” There are 2 ounces here, composed of, as I say, some leftover bits from other sock batts — superwash, silk, and multiple colours of firestar. It came to 330 yards (301 m). This yarn, I have to say, is one of my favourites that I’ve spun in some time. It’s sooooo pretty.

Well, okay, I’ll stop stalling. It looks like that green CVM / tussah silk blend yarn, which is decidedly laceweight if on the thick side thereof by my standards, weighs in at 146 grams, or 5.15 ounces. And it is…

1,026 yards. Which is to say (Hi Wednesday!) 938 meters. Or metres; but lest we get started on that spelling debate, I’d like to point out that my own personal style uses -ize, -er, and -our. You know, so I would, for instance, scandalize the neighbours at the theater, rather than scandalise the neighbors at the theatre. I do not know why these are my personal spelling conventions, but they have been for a long time.

Anyway, yes, 1,026 yards! From 146 grams / 5.15 ounces, meaning the yarn, roughly a 60/40 blend of CVM and tussah silk, came out to be a roughly 3200-ypp yarn. And at around a thousand yards, not an easy row to hoe if I want to make a lace cardigan for a chick my size. Fooey! Fooey I say! Fooey!

Mind you, I didn’t really need another lace cardigan to sit on my WIP stack.

You guys were great with your guesses. And I’m amazed. We have a first place winner, with 1025 — off by only one yard. That’s Karen of Cook’n’Knit, who needs to bring that young rocker lad over to party on with my son, dude! Karen, you get first choice of the three prizes.

In second place, with a guess of 1037, off by 11 yards, we have Ellen of Sheepwreck. Ellen, you get to choose from the 2 prizes remaining when Karen’s had her pick.

And in third place, betting her birthday, we have Moonrose Sammi, who you’ll all be seeing a little more of in an upcoming post. Sammi, you get whatever Karen and Ellen don’t make off with — and you’ll take it and like it!

I’m astounded — many of you were closer than I was. I thought I had about 1150 yards.

Rainy Day!

It’s an utterly bleak and gray rainy day. I’m thrilled.

Unfortunately, they’re saying on the radio that even if it rains all day today and all day tomorrow, it won’t likely be enough to make a huge difference to the crops, and we’ll still need several more inches of rain, soon. So we’re keeping our fingers crossed.

Thank you all so much for your responses to my 100th post! You still have through Friday to weigh in on the contest if you’re so inclined. And I have still not skeined, finished, dried, and measured that bobbin — and it’s killing me! The suspense! We’ve got votes from the 500s to the 1200s for yardage, and my old friend Wednesday (hah! You’re old!) pointedly notes she really can’t guess at the meters on account of all the yards. This is pointed, because she knows full well I grew up as much metric as SAE, and am prone to switch between the two at random, and have generally tried to be conscientious about using both when I’m referring to measurement type stuff. My excuses are that a) I am lazy sometimes, and b) my skeiner measures yards. However, I am duly reminded and will make an effort to remember to include meters on my numbers from here on out!

Oh, so yesterday I was chit-chatting with Pippi, who updated her store, but did not include any more Pagoda! I hate her so much! So I told her so. That resulted in me promising I’d take at least one in-progress photo of what I was doing with the Falkland Pagoda, even though it just looks like a giant sack of nothing. Or as my mother-in-law has joked, a toilet seat cover! Everything looks like a toilet seat cover when you do it in the round on a set of circular needles. This shawl is not in the round, but nonetheless…

What I can tell you about it is that structurally, it’s a triangle shawl knit from the top down, but getting longer. So there’s a set of central increases — a mitered corner at the centerline. Doing it this way means the long colour repeats I spun into the Pagoda are triangle stripes throughout the fabric. Meanwhile, to counterpoint that (or deal with my tendency to grow bored with one single pattern), I’m doing sections of different patterns, delimited (that’s a geek word for “separated”) by eyelet stripes. These pattern sections are also triangles, but they’re at a 45-degree angle to the triangles that appear because of the striping effect.

I had decided that the final section would go to having all one pattern for the outermost or lowermost edges… and now I see that I won’t have enough yarn to make that happen. So, since Pippi is all out of Pagoda, I thought I’d see if my own Falkland inventory didn’t happen to have something that sorta worked, maybe kinda.

And that looks, in the fiber, like it could match the pink-purples. Or work with them. However, sadly, with the first bobbin of single spun up, the answer is no, not at all. So I probably will have to dye some Falkland yellow and work with that. Given that dilemma and the lead time involved in turning some Falkland top yellow with maybe flecks of pink or orange here and there, I decided to finish something that had been sitting on my table for… since… when did the spring IK come out? Since then.

You see, I’d never actually done this entrelac thing, and I had some problem yarn — a chain-plied tussah silk seconds for “Indian Summer,” which had blurred too much and I lacked confidence in the light brown dye in it (since discontinued). So I simply followed the directions in the magazine and used up the yarn.

I was right to be suspicious of the light brown dye. It ran in the hot water wash.

So, I gave the entire thing a half-hour acid bath at about 180 degrees F, rinsed it very aggressively, and then ironed it to the point of mostly dry.

I’m actually happier with this colourwise than I was with the yarn. I mean, the yarn wasn’t bad. But there were pink overtones I didn’t like so much. The running brown changed those, as did the hot iron.

And really, this was a fun little learning project, with a pleasant end result.

Having that off the needles, of course, allowed me to cast on something else. I took this leftovers skein here, which Chad tells me our cat Paimei has been bringing to him in his office with some regularity, and started fiddling with it.

I think it was somewhere around 125 yards, and was the leftover merino/tencel from this sock yarn. That should be quick and entertaining.

Oh, right — and I’ve been working my way through my “Spin Me” stack. Monday night, I wrapped up the second bobbin of a fine laceweight merino/tussah leftover, and spun up these fellas:

This was another of the superwash/tencel batt trials. There were two, one of which had been through one more pass to even out the colours more. The superwash/tencel batts took more passes than I really felt like doing, oy! Pictured above is the more-blended one, which spun up into this single:

while the second one, less blended, spun up into this single:

which brings us to the end of Monday night’s spinning. Tuesday night, also known as last night, I was thus forced to have a ply-o-rama. It would seem I took no pictures of the 350 yards of merino/tussah, nor have I weighed it, nor anything! For shame. But I did snap this picture of the superwash/tencel once I plied it…

And supposing it ever dries, well. You know. Same goes for that merino/tussah one. This Autumn coloured yarn here came to 385 yards (352 m) before its long long hot soak and whatnot. Simple hot soak for… well, I can’t be sure; the truth is I forgot about it and when I went to take it out later it was far from hot. Ahem. I followed that up with a cold rinse and hung it to dry on the towel bar, as it was, by then, evening and a thunderstorm. That’s why it isn’t dry yet. But I can tell it’s going to be rather nice. Maybe nice enough to make me willing to blend superwash and tencel more. I can’t say for sure yet.

Speaking of blending, that’s really what I ought to be doing right now. So, without further ado, and without telling you more of what I’ve determined thanks to all your wonderful responses to my 100th post, I must now finish my last coffee and head into the studio, lest there be no new exciting batts for Friday’s shop update. Yay, batts!

Oh, and actually that reminds me — a sale! I’ve just marked a whole pile of handspun and handpainted yarns to 15% off, now through July 3. Or, well, starting in about an hour. And your shipping’s on me if you let me know you came from my blog, at checkout time. It’s here:

100! 100! 100!

I guess I’ll start off with some light eye candy, having finally gotten halfway decent photos of some of the laceweight tussah silk singles.

Let’s see, according to my records (this is last week’s evening spinning, mostly), those 9 come to 3,320 yards, and this…

…which was horrible to photograph, is 600 yards, so that’s just shy of 4,000 yards of laceweight silk singles last week, plus…

…a chained single (aka Navajo plied) coming to 200 yards.

These were all from seconds from my tussah silk dyeing — seconds, because the silk got too beat up, or was under an ounce when all was said and done, or something. Stuff like this:

which turned into this:

So, it’s not like those aren’t spinnable, nicely so even… they just didn’t make the grade to be Franquemont Fibers product as fiber. Thus, instead, every single one of ’em became enough yarn to make a nice scarf, and in some cases a shawl.

Since the sun came out today for a bit so I could take these photos, I also snapped one of those Pond Scum batts!

I really wish I could come up with a way to get these photographed next to the scum on one of the ponds across the road, but I can’t — the pondscum only looks the colour I was after from a distance. Ahem, but anyway, the Pond Scum batts are superwash/silk/mohair. I like them more than I expected to.

Oh, let’s see, here’s what I did Saturday night! Remember this?

Well, unbeknownst to all y’all, I embezzled some of that blend and put one large batt of it into my “to-spin” stash. It was a superwash/tencel blend, and I really liked the blend, but it was high-maintenance to produce so I don’t think I’m going to keep doing it. Though I enjoyed spinning it, so… perhaps. This one is “Sea Breeze,” and there was a Pink Lemonade one as well, but that went to its rightful home.

I really, really like how this one came out. I got 330 yards of 2-ply yarn in a middling sock weight grist, which is actually probably enough for a pair of socks. Except I might like it more than socks. Anyway, it’s destined to be something for me. The carded blend with tencel in it is interesting — the shine and glimmer from the tencel is there, but it’s more distributed, meaning that the yarn looks relatively matte until the light catches it, at which point it glints in a crystalline way, rather than looking wet-shiny like the commercial combed top merino/tencel blends tend to do.

But by now perhaps you are wondering about the title of this post. I’ll explain.

Here it is, June of 2007, and this post right here is my 100th post in this blog! What a whirlwind it has been since going live last November! I guess blogging is a little bit like plying — it takes forever to build up on the bobbin, so to speak, and while you’re doing it, it seems like it’s taking forever, but then when all is said and done, there is more there than you thought, and it makes sense that it took as long as it did.

To demonstrate what I mean, let me show you this blend of California Variegated Mutant and tussah silk. It looks really, really luscious, like you could just dive right in and get totally lost. So you get started, with a clear vision in mind for where you’re going.

Is that… a toe of some kind on the bottom left? Why, yes it is!

And voila, just like that, surprise! Distraction. But then you knuckle down and get to spinning

Friday night you finish spinning two out of four batts onto your first bobbin. There’s a little disappointment when you stop, and you feel like the blend is just not quite as luscious as you felt like it was, and there were a few tiny neps and noils around, and… fine. Do something else for a bit. Let’s look back at what I thought this blog was going to be like when I started it.

The first big surprise for me, looking back, is realizing that despite having thought, in November, that I’d gather up lots of my legacy content and clean it up and put it online here, I ended up producing mostly new content. But it was a fun stroll through memory lane all the same, and I’ve no doubt I’ll do more as time permits. Here are a few things I did gather up from other places I’d posted them, and put here:

I know that way, way back, archived in all sorts of scattered places, I have hundreds of other things I’d like to gather up and post too. I expected to clean those up and have them online as part of the first 100 items, and it’s amazing to me that I haven’t.

Perhaps it’s because instead of just getting on with that second bobbin, I did this instead with Saturday afternoon.

It was quickie, leftovers, needed to be done and cleared of the “spin me” pile anyway. 220 yards of 2-ply sock yarn from a test of that superwash/tencel top.

Speaking of the “spin me” pile, wanna know what I’ve got for titles in my “drafts” pile? Dig on this:

  • What Do I Need To Start Spinning?
  • Make Your Own Spindle!
  • A Little Bit About Working With Batts
  • Spinning A Cabled Yarn
  • Yarn Tech: Plies
  • Measuring Your Yarn, ala Mabel Ross
  • Some Timed Spinning Results
  • Is It True You Hate Art Yarn, and Spinning Without A Purpose In Mind?
  • Spinning Wheel Drive Systems
  • Some Customer Results!
  • How Can I Spin Laceweight Yarn on a Wheel?
  • So What’s Really The Right Fiber To Start With?

So let’s hear it: out of all these subject lines, which one would YOU most like to read next? Or, well, how about “soon,” instead of “next?” A few of ’em have been lingering because they’re slow going, very technical, or require spinning to be photographed.

This is not unlike when you finally spin up that second bobbin of the CVM/Tussah blend on Sunday afternoon, and immediately set about plying, but 15 minutes in, you decide you’ll have a pint while you’re at it.

Because just look how much there is to go.

(no, don’t look at the couple of silks from the “spin me” pile behind the lazy kate)

Half an hour and a pint of Harp later…

Hey, that’s great! Looks like lots of progress! Except…

Back to work. But you can have another pint while you’re at it.

While we’re straw polling here, and while I’m going down memory lane, I got to thinking about which of the articles I’ve done are ones I’m genuinely happy about, and why. I was going for a top 20, and I managed to pull off… an top 16. In no particular order, here it is:

  1. The Louet Victoria Review I assigned myself this piece as much as a writing exercise as anything else, and approached it in a principled manner, modeling it after reviews I’ve really liked in non-fiber publications, taking pictures and notes, coming up with a test plan, and so on. I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out.
  2. Can You Explain Spinning Wheel Drive Ratios? In this case I’m proud of brevity. Brevity is a challenge for me (no, really?)
  3. What Are Batts, Top, Roving and So Forth? Again, brevity! Well, relatively. In retrospect though, I think it needs pictures.
  4. Drop Spindle Basics Video This is essentially a demo routine I’ve done for US audiences since I was about 8 years old. It’s my first sort of principled bit of video.
  5. Waylaka While I’m nowhere near my parents’ caliber of ethnographer, it’s hard to be one about one’s own life, especially when it’s about a subject that’s essential to the core of one’s own sense of self. I’m resolving to do more writing like this in the next hundred posts.
  6. Choosing Your First Spinning Wheel This one took me months to pull together, and sat in my drafts pile for what felt like forever.
  7. What Difference Does Drive Wheel Size Make? An important mechanical question that we don’t talk about much.
  8. Chullu Knitting Geeze, does this one need cleaning up. I still like it, though.
  9. The Queen Is Dead, Long Live The Queen More of that emotional stuff, a remembrance of my old lady cat.
  10. The Salmon Electric I admit it: I just really like this yarn. And I’m fairly pleased with the process post.
  11. Woolen vs. Worsted I’m pleased with this mostly because I want to see more discussion of the subject as a continuum.
  12. The handspun yarn pricing discussion is another thing I just want to see discussed and thought about. Am I trying to tell everyone what to do? No. But I do think folks considering selling their wares ought to think about some of these things.
  13. Stupid Tangled Bobbin Hah. Oh yeah.
  14. Pagoda processIn this case, it’s largely the photos I’m pleased with.
  15. Memorial Day Again, emotional writing.
  16. Making a Tweed Blend It took longer to document and write this up, by FAR, than to make the blend.

So, yeah, I guess we’re making progress here after all. Another pint and half hour in, there’s actually some content on the blog, er, I mean, yarn piling up on the bobbin.

Of course, this is also where it becomes clear you’ve got uneven amounts between the two source bobbins. Not like you didn’t know that would happen, but even so, it’s more than you expected.

I guess another pint wouldn’t hurt, for this home stretch.

So let’s hear it: what are your favourites from my first 100? Pick any number — I’m totally curious. I have a hard time looking at my own generated content, within a matter of months, and telling if I actually like it or not. In general, if an article took lots of work and many edits, I seem to feel more positive about it than if it didn’t — but, some of the articles that people have told me that they’ve really found helpful have been ones I took almost no time with at all, like the half-hitch one. And I always feel like simple yarn porn and eye candy is a cop-out; I always want to be producing Brilliant Technical Articles, or something. And as my draft list might indicate, I’ve also got a problem with being unwilling to declare something finished, or good enough.

When it comes down to the end, there’s always some fiddling. With producing yarn, at least, I’ve gotten pretty good at accepting this and moving forward. If this weren’t a fancy custom blend, I’d just toss what’s left on the one bobbin…

But nah, I’m not gonna be a total waylaka about this. I can fit that on here.

And what’s more, I’ll be glad I did.

A quick butterfly pulls a bunch (about half) off that bobbin, and after splicing it in and grabbing the end from the bobbin again, back to work. The butterfly, having a cross in it, won’t tangle too easily. I’m in the home stretch here and just want to see how this yarn is going to come out, after all.

And finally, then, we approach the moment of truth — the singles are all gone, and the bobbin is full.

Look! Something to show for the seemingly endless effort. I mean, not that it wasn’t fun and interesting and not that I don’t enjoy it; but it was still work. Looking at it there, just one bobbin, I feel like, “Is that all there is?”

But you know, it’s a full bobbin. And 100 posts is a lot.

So, what’s the contest? Well, first, the prizes: featured items from blog articles.

The tweed from the tweed blend tutorial:

Merino/Tencel Testers Pair, about 4 oz total:

and, not pictured because I can’t, 4 ounces of a you-ask-for-it custom blend, that I’ll make for you if you win.

All you have to do to win is…

…guess how many yards are on this bobbin.

I don’t know either — I won’t find out till later this week; I’ll force myself to be patient. I play this guessing game with myself with every bobbin I fill, incidentally.

Now, here’s the dirt. I’m looking for how many yards of yarn I end up with once I’ve finished the yarn, which I intend to do with the hot-cold, hot-cold fulling wash. I’ve got no clue — because I didn’t write it down — how many ounces of fiber there are. Well, I’d guess it’s around 5-6 ounces, or 150-175 grams. I really can’t be sure. It’s on a standard Majacraft bobbin. You have until this Friday, June 29 2007, and you must post your guess as a reply. The closest guess will get first pick from the 3 prizes; #2 will get to choose from the remaining 2 prizes; and #3 will get the last prize. If for some reason a winner can’t use the prize he or she gets, like if it’s fiber and you don’t spin, well, we’ll figure something out.