April’s half over? I’d better make myself look busy.

Well, April has certainly been a busy month so far! I feel like I’m hardly sitting still long enough to get to about 75% of the things I thought I would… in March!

However, I do have a few things to show for my month so far. One of them is this:

Her name is Kaylee (yes, it’s a TV/movie name) and although she looks incredibly sedate and peaceful in all the photos so far, right this second she’s perched on the back of my office chair with her forepaws on my shoulder, trying to eat my hair. Essentially, if she can be caught on film, it’s probably because she’s sleeping!

She’s fitting in well with the big kids, however. She’s a chocolate European Burmese, and she is the playin’est kitten with whom I’ve ever shared a home.

I’m making good progress with spring cleaning and fiber rotation. I try to do it quarterly, but it sometimes ends up pushed out to 3x a year. But in any case, when I do it, every fiber item in the studio must be inspected and gone over; nothing can be allowed to sit in dark corners untouched, unmoved. I’m sure there are a few of you reading this who know exactly why that is — for the rest of you, let us just say that it is as a precaution against The Scourge Which I Shall Not Name, Lest I Invoke It; a pestilence which, the last time it visited, caused me to moan, “Why couldn’t it have been lice instead?” Or zombies.

Anyway, there are logistical considerations to all the materials rotation tasks; silks must have a long-term storage place which doesn’t have direct sunlight on it all the time, for instance, and I keep fibers to which some people react separated from other fibers as well– so the mohair and angora need their own safe spaces, just as cats aren’t allowed in the studio. Those things wouldn’t be true if it were all just fiber for me, but I’d hate for a customer to end up having a reaction despite everybody’s best intentions, so I do what I can.

The spring cleaning sale, ending tomorrow, has been pretty successful — I’m all but out of custom blends! Clearly, you all need me back in the studio slaving over a hot carder, not to mention making sure I have a couple of dye days this week. But here’s a little preview of what you can expect to see coming up for sale Wednesday:

There’s other stuff too, and there might be even more other stuff, if I can manage to get out from under this kitten and get to work today and tomorrow.

Of course, I’ve been spinning and whatnot as well, and doing a little light swatching and sample production…

I spun up some City Lights leftovers, and then — surprise, folks! — chain-plied them. This skein used roughly the contents of 2 batts, and spun up into 195 yards of chain-plied (aka Navajo plied, but I prefer to call it chain plying) yarn at about 10 wpi.

And then I chain-plied more, just to show you all that sometimes, I do things that aren’t what I usually do. Or something. Here’s how April Blizzard looks:

That’s 95 yards of 9 wpi yarn from 1 batt; and I spun it up as part of a photo tutorial on one way to spin from a batt. I’ll be adding to this over time, with additional ways of spinning from batts, but for those of you who have asked where to begin, here’s one place to begin!

And that little project has also resulted in a really interesting exchange with Velma. Go check it out, and weigh in if you’re so inclined!

Oh, and I just remembered: someone else asked me where I’d send a 13 micron merino fleece for processing. Without hesitation, I told her I’d send it to Morro Fleece Works. The next photo here is why; a few times a year I treat myself to something she’s selling, and it’s always been an incredibly good buy, and I’m saying that about having paid $45 a pound for merino. They ain’t what you’d call cheap, but if I had a really incredible fleece I was going to send out, that’s where I’d send it. Because of this:

It’s sad, but that really doesn’t do it justice. But I’m not going to go any further with this right now, because honestly, we’re entering the arena of purely gratuitous fiber porn.

So getting back to some of my spinning and sampling and whatnot, I did two other chain-plied things, one of which is some Indian Summer tussah that’s getting made into a Something right now, and it hasn’t been photographed yet. I did do up a sock blend — 3 batts, 465 yards, about 15 wpi chain-plied, this is Iris, which is sold out again already, and clearly needs to be repeated when I get my lazy blogging butt into the studio shortly:

I like this yarn. In fact, let’s see it again:

Yeah, I like that one.

Oh, I did manage to get my yarn off for the Yarn Thing swap; by way of documentation, before I split it into its requisite 25 skeins, here it is on a kitchen scale set to measure in grams:

So, ignoring the little bit of waste and loss from splitting it into so many skeins, every skein is about a gram, and 20 yards. I’d wanted to make every skein for the swap from a single ounce of silk, and have it be a plied yarn. It looked a little silly, I have to admit, stuck into individual tiny plastic bags so I could slap a label on it because the skeins were just soooo small.

There’s something else I was going to mention… Ah yes! Here’s a swatch for my Indian Summer handpaint colourway, on some handspun wool/silk/mohair single. Expect to see the pattern for this scarf shortly; I want to think about it a bit and make a functional scarf, as really this is only a swatch.

Well, phooey! There’s not really all that much to show for a few busy weeks, but I’ll still pat myself on the back for spring cleaning. Which reminds me to let you all know I’ll be throwing items from the “I’m not going to do anything with this, am I?” pile up on eBay sometime later this week; presently there are a few yarns listed, like several boucles I just know I’m not going to do anything with, ever. There’ll be more… lots more.

Spring cleaning SALE!

Spring cleaning time is definitely here. I’m getting ready to do fiber rotation, destashing, and that sort of thing, and I definitely need to make some space because it’s a game of Tetris as it is. So I’m having a SALE!

Franquemont Fibers is offering free shipping and 10% off your purchase between today and April 17th, 2007! Give yourself a treat for getting those taxes filed, or something to ease the stress between now and when you get them in! πŸ˜‰

All handpainted yarn…

All handspun yarn…

All custom blends…

All hand-dyed silks…

All assorted fibers!

Just mention this post at checkout to receive your discount and free shipping!

Brighter Days

Thanks very much to each and every one of you for your kinds words about my poor old lady cat, who I would much rather remember as the mighty Inanna. We are all adapting, though from time to time, I admit I keep thinking I see her out of the corner of my eye (but then it turns out to just be dirty laundry or something). So let’s see if we can’t bring the mood up a little bit today.

I’m told that here in southern Ohio, it’s unlikely that the spring which has set in is only a cruel hoax, tempting us to shed the outerwear prematurely, weakening our resistance to the inevitable April blizzard. Spring, they tell me, is probably really here; the April blizzard doesn’t happen. So this means that the first flower of spring, here…

…is not going to be poking its way through frost and snow suddenly, and the buds on the trees are for real, and it is in fact time for me to put some thought into which shorts fit and which ones don’t. And break in my new sandals and rebuild a flip-flop callus. It was in the lower 80s Fahrenheit yesterday afternoon! So that’s when I took a few sunny-day pictures.

I couldn’t decide whether that one should be yarn porn or weather porn, so it’s a bit of both…

And this one’s the pure yarn porn. 640 yards, 2 ounces, a resupplied Chasing Rainbows merino/tussah.

But then, too, I’m clearing out a few things I’ve had lying around in my personal stash for what seems like aeons. I need to reorganize and it’s time for the every-few-months fiber rotation; nothing in my stash goes unmoved for long, because fiber that sits is where the moths can breed, and I’m not having that. So here’s some Ashland-Bay-looking multicolour wool top:

…which also got to go outside for the pretty day…

4 ounces, 2-ply, 400 yards, aka 1600 ypp, at 15 wpi, variegated.

Oh, and that reminds me, Melanie had asked:

Are all your Majacraft bobbins wood? Do they spin any differently than the plastic ones or do you just prefer the wood?

Nope — most of my Majacraft bobbins are the standard plastic ones. I do have some very very old ones that came with my used “Parts” Suzie, which I think is presently buried under a toppled sack of mill-ends (I did say I needed to bring order to the yarn room, right? Because I do) — and those very very old ones are wood ends with a PVC core, but I mostly don’t use them. The wood bobbins that have been seen so much lately around here are the lace bobbins. For most purposes, I actually prefer the plastic bobbins, but when it comes to really getting lacy, I use the lace flyer and that requires the small, fat-core wood bobbins.

And that in turn reminds me I failed to answer another question for Gert:

I have a question about the the high speed adapter. I noticed you have one on your majacraft. I was looking for one and find that there are not many people selling them. I emailed majacraft and they said they are phasing them out and selling the high speed whorl. My question is what do you think? Do they compare in speed? Should I get a high speed adapter?

My first reaction to this was simply NOOOOOOOOOOO!

If you like to have high flyer speeds, my vote is YES! Get a high speed adapter head, as quickly as you can, and that is an absolute disaster that they’ll discontinue it. From reviewing the specs on the high-speed whorl, no, it’s just not as fast as the accelerating head. I’d bet it’s less prone to slippage under certain circumstances, like with a Woolee Winder at super-top-speed, and I’d bet that most spinners just rarely want to spin as fast as I do; it can’t have been a huge seller, which is too bad. I should have bought two.

The Queen Is Dead, Long Live The Queen

All Hail the mighty Inanna:

That’s the oldest picture I have — she’s the one in front. The one in back is her sister, Anath, who moved on to greener pastures long ago. This photo is sometime not longer before the September that never ended. They were Chicago alley kittens weighing 6 and 7 ounces, less than 6 weeks old, when I got them; Inanna couldn’t eat on her own at first and had to be fed carefully by me.

You could pretty much always count on Inanna finding a box, and loving to curl up in it. Especially if it was important for something else or too small for her. Here’s Inanna early in the California years.

At first she wasn’t too pleased about the manchild, but within a few weeks she had pretty much claimed him. She outweighed him 3 to 1 when he was born, 22 pounds to his 7 and 6 ounces, and at first I was worried about her crushing him — but you never saw a more careful giant cat with a tiny baby.

She could always be found right nearby, all the time.


She’d help the manchild with anything, too. She was tireless and tolerant and the most patient cat ever to live with a small boy. She would stand still and let him pull up on her when he was a baby, before he could walk. One time he was tugging on her tail and she decided she wasn’t having it, so she left. He didn’t let go of her tail. She dragged him down the hall. It was a long time before he outweighed her, and a real milestone in our family.

Inanna was never supposed to be an outside cat, but she had dreams of being a mighty huntress. She hadn’t learned to meow — her sister did, but Inanna could only make this tiny meeping sound. But she could make all the hunting cat noises, and she would run around the inside of the house chasing birds from window to window, desperately wanting to go out. Finally, there came a time when she simply pushed out a screen in a window, and let herself out. I don’t mean she broke the screen; I mean she bent the screen’s frame. The neighbour behind our house called me up at work one time to say it looked like someone had tried to break into our house. “It’s just the cat,” I told him. “Well there’s a screen that’s totally mangled, and tool marks or something on the outside wall…”

“Yeah,” I said, “Just the cat.” Her sister wouldn’t put up with this crap from the boy; Inanna simply loved him and would let him get away with anything. Even trying to ride her.

She slept with him for many, many years. And as his mother, I can tell you the boy has never been an easy sleeper. This was Christmas morning, 2000.

It was Edward who named her The Queen — one night we were telling him, get settled in to sleep and then Inanna can come in and snuggle with you. He ran in, got himself tucked all nicely, made her a cozy spot, and then hollered, “BRING IN THE QUEEN!”

Summer, 2003, in her prime, the era in her life when she’d bring her prey into the house in the night and lay it carefully on Edward’s breakfast spot or his little rocking chair.

At night, she’d sit at my shoulder while I did yarn stuff, or on Chad’s lap.

She’d keep my chair warm for me, too. Sometimes she wouldn’t want to get out of it when I needed it, and we’d have to share — no small feat. She spent a lot of time taking care of me when my dad died in 2004.

She took good care of all of us when we didn’t feel good.

She helped Edward model clothes I made him…

…one time we all left the house and I left a merino/silk blending project sitting out on the dining room table. Inanna helped with that, too.

Inanna, like me, felt that the Fricke S-160 was a pretty good buy.

No matter the place, she would always strive to find her spot by my shoulder for the evening; her queenly right. Seen here in early 2006, she is not amused by kittens…

…though eventually, she tolerated them too. Eventually, Paimei (front) even taught her to meow a really Siamese-sounding meow. So you can teach an old cat new tricks.

Inanna outlived many, many things. She moved with me from Chicago to California to Ohio, and she was the longest-standing member of my adult family, having loved me since I was a snotnosed 21-year-old kid. She weathered chronic asthma and allergies in California, which went away and she was doing so much better here in Ohio… till a few months ago, she started having troubles.

She was down to a little over 11 pounds, half her weight in her prime, skin and bones and arthritis and misery, almost all her teeth gone, gum infections, unable to keep down antibiotics. The play had gone out of her, and it hurt her to be picked up or to move around too much. She started hiding and trying to disappear; no more was she the everpresent Inanna. By the end, the mighty Inanna wouldn’t even walk out a wide open door onto the deck, and she rode with no fight left in her on my lap to the vet, another sign she wasn’t doing well. And it was there we learned her liver was enlarged and covered in nubbly things you shouldn’t have been able to feel, and there really was nothing more that we could do for her but send her on to play in fields of catnip somewhere, queen of a new place where she slipped off to while we held her.

The Queen is dead; long live the Queen. Rest in peace, Inanna, 1993-2007. Thank you for all those years. We will all miss you.

And the last of the fresh batts for the week, plus a few answered questions.

First, new batts have hit the eBay Store And some murky colours are even included this time.

Oh, and if you head on over there to buy something, let me know you arrived via my blog and you’ll get free shipping plus a little extra surprise.

On the subject of colour, June asked a little while ago:

You talk sometimes about colors you don’t like, but you rarely mention the colors you prefer. I glanced at your store and saw nearly all bright colors (and dare I say – pastels?), but the CR yarn you show above is quite dark and broody. Will the real AF please stand? πŸ˜€

Mmmmm, so I’m busted! Well, I guess I’ve had enough coffee today to try standing.

Here’s the deal: there are colours I like, and appreciate in the abstract, and sometimes these even include really really bright colours. There are combinations that I like, as well, and will use repeatedly; things that I reflexively gravitate towards, and things that I like for specific purposes but not others. And there is the list of colours, and combinations of colours, that I’ll wear. That’s a much, much shorter list. Lastly, there is a list of colours I have historically refused to use, wear, or anything, and which have specifically turned me off; this is the shortest list of all.

Part of my colour sense comes from Chinchero; specific weaving patterns are done in specific sorts of colour combinations traditionally, and everyone accepts that variations on these are less traditional. If something’s going to be a real Loraypu pattern, for instance, and it’s going to have a central different-colour stripe, then the outer two colours should be white and red; the inner two can be yellow and purple, or orange and green. If it’s only two colours, then you can shake it up more; and yes, you can do different things, but it’s not traditional, and there could be… implications. And it’s a bad idea to use contrasting colours that have similar values in those patterns, regardless of what colours they are. Strong contrast in terms of everything but texture — very important.

For a small ch’oro pattern, you can use bright aniline pink and grass green; but you really shouldn’t use that combination for things other than a small ch’oro pattern. Yes, they do in some other places, but that’s their problem and it’s certainly not something that my roots would really agree with, and it’s radical. A pink and green Loraypu is right out.

This list goes on and on and on, and very much defines my senses of what’s really “right” in certain contexts where colour contrasts happens. Although my sense of these things is shaped very much by Chinchero, that’s far from the only influence. Having a cultural colour sense from someplace that wasn’t the US made my US social life a challenge when it came to clothes, particularly when we’re talking the middle school years, which of course are a challenge for anybody. Prior to that, my big colour problem was one that set in and became really, really strongly entrenched for other reasons. You see, I’m a girl.

Yes, I know, that’s obvious. But I was a total tomboy. People in the US would do crazy things like give me pink stuff, and dresses that were pink, and dolls, and all sorts of things, and so in short order I learned about the “pink is for girls” thing and grew to detest all things pink. Which was not helped, of course, by the fact that my little sister loved pink. My US girlhood at times felt like a constant struggle against the injustice of being given a totally non-functional pink hammer when I wanted to pound nails in something. Perhaps if the 1970s and 1980s had featured any pink things which weren’t crap, and my little sister hadn’t liked pink, and everything… but such was not to be the case. I used to fly into a rage at the suggestion that I’d look good in pink.

Eventually, I came to terms with fuchsia and and really super-saturated dark pinks. But hot pink, petal pink, no way. No pink. Pink was evil. Everybody in Peru thought my pink aversion was very funny, as nobody there had any such issue; but they did notice that gringos in general didn’t tend to go for things that were pink in most cases.

I still viscerally react to pink in a negative way. I only started a campaign to make myself open my mind to pink in early 2006.

So, what do I wear? Well, honestly, I wear jeans all the time, except for when I’m wearing cutoffs or jean shorts. Perhaps 5-10 times a year I’ll wear not-jeans. Jeans, you see, have the right pocket configuration for the stuff I wish to carry. Not-jeans often lack pockets altogether, and therefore, might as well be a pink frilly tutu, even if they’re not. So yeah, I wear jeans. And t-shirts. Preferably dark colours for the t-shirts, but I’ll wear bright green, because green is my favourite colour. Last year, I bought a sky blue top, and wore it numerous times over the summer. But for the most part, what I can be found wearing is jeans, with a top that’s short-sleeved or 3/4 sleeved (because my arms are shorter than off-the-rack clothes that fit my bust and shoulders), and is either black, grey, navy blue, burgundy, brown, or deep forest green; occasionally, white, lighter blue, or fuchsia.

Therefore, if I’m going to make myself a wearable item, I tend to try to fit it in the core colour range of things I know I wear with comfort.

But in the abstract, in the sense of “This isn’t a thing that I’m going to wear,” I love bright colours, and surprising contrasts and vaguely disturbing secondary and tertiary colours. I like complex colours that involve multiple other colours that you don’t expect; I love to carefully darken a blue with pink, or warm up a brown with some orange, then throw in a frostier purple or lavender. With colour blends, when I am shooting for specific colours, I know what to do with the palette I’ve got to get the results I want, and sometimes, I like to not quite blend them fully, for the… shock value, or something, of being clear about the colour components.

Well… I think that’s about all I’ve got for now.

New Sock Blends This Week…

…all on eBay. There are a few others, too. And most of these are more my speed in terms of colours… murkier, I suppose.

The bottom right, called Olive Bar, is my favourite this time around. Mmmm, murky purples…

I’ve got lots of questions answered coming up shortly! And no, I haven’t finished that pink scarf yet.

The Salmon Electric

This counts as a Finish-A-Thon project, because I set this top aside to spin for example purposes last fall, and hadn’t spun it yet:

It’s one ounce of tussah silk top, dyed with acid dyes using low water immersion — a stock technique for my hand-dyed silks.

June asked about striping in a previous yarn — did the yarn stripe, and how did I do that? The answer is, yes! I split the commercial top straight down the middle as evenly as possible, and spun each half onto separate bobbins trying to carefully preserve the colour sequence.

This tactic works best with a handpainted top rather than one dyed with low-water immersion; in a top where the colour shifts are pretty even across the whole width of the top, rather than having occasional randomness to it or parts where a colour shift is longer on one edge than the other. So, I knew I wouldn’t be able to get a totally striping yarn in this case, just one with closely related shifts in colour and a handful of surprises.

I spun these tugged-off tufts of yarn using my Majacraft Suzie Pro at its top accelerated ratio of 32:1, with worsted technique; specifically, forwarding drafting using a 6-8 inch make or draw. Depending on the colour saturations, though, in some cases I spun from the fold while in others I spun from the end of the top, trying to control the drafting with more of an eye towards colour than anything else.

Spinning fine also makes a big difference in how defined colour shifts are when working with a multicoloured fiber. The finer you spin, the fewer fibers in your yarn, and the less the likelihood of muddying up the colours completely.

One bobbin layer into plying, you can see that although there are some barber-pole spots and some muddying, there are still distinct colour shifts in the 2-ply yarn.

It’s unfortunate that the depth of field isn’t better on this plying flyer shot, or you could see that on the right flyer hook, many miles of very fine yarn, much of it silk, over the years have in fact sliced a small groove in the brass. My resident brass expert tells me there is no real solution save replacement. It’s mostly not a huge problem, but it can affect the takeup a tiny bit here and there, and when you’re spinning really fine, that’s annoying.

Whenever I split top down the middle, I wonder, oh yes, I wonder — just how close to even am I really? Then when I finish the first half, and start the second, I invariably think, “Crap, this is not as thick as the other one,” and experience has shown me I’m right about that at least half the time. So I do a gut check — just how confident do I feel about that? I pull off a few tufts of the top, and think about whether or not they really do contain less fiber than their prior counterparts. If I’m pretty sure they do, I thin down the second single a tiny bit — not so much it’s really noticeable, but to about as much thinner than the first as I think I can go and still have them seem even in plying. And when I get down to that final layer on the bobbins of singles, I’m always thinking, “Oh hell.” But at the same time, the colour shifts are usually lining up allright in the plied yarn, so I keep going.

I also know that experience has shown me that for whatever reason, my first layer on the second bobbin is always deeper and thicker than the first layer on the second bobbin. It just is. So even though it looks flagrantly obvious that there’s not nearly as much on the bobbin at right, I can’t be 100% sure. Like I say, I’m only right about the uneven split about half the time; as often as not, instead of running short on the second bobbin, I’m running long. If I’m within 10 yards I figure that’s running even and pat myself on the back for being so great.

As a side note, when they are clearly not lining up, sometimes I’ve been known to break the single that has too much of whichever colour it is, and remove some yardage, setting that aside on a storage bobbin of some sort (like an empty toilet paper tube or one of my 12o-some-odd antique pirns). I then splice that single coming off the bobbin to the point going onto the wheel where I broke it off, and proceed until there’s a spot where I can cram those removed yards of single into the colour sequence how I want. In other words, I cheat.

When all was said and done, this time, in fact, there was less yardage of singles on the second bobbin — by about 30 yards. Since that 30 yards had one more colour shift in it, I opted to discard it rather than use the Andean plying bracelet technique to stick it on the end of this skein, as I didn’t really want a barberpoled end. Plus it was past my bedtime, and I’m known to have a bad tendency to say “I’ll just finish plying this, there’s not that much here, and…” So Chad was tapping his feet and clearing his throat reminding me that, as someone complaining of tiredness and difficulty adjusting to DST, I really shouldn’t fall prey to that one.

So, I didn’t skein it or measure it or any of that sort of thing either, reserving that for the morning. It took me at least 4 tries over my coffee this morning to get a decent semblance of a WPI count, and even longer to get it to settle on a ruler to try taking a photo (silk can be slippery). It ended up at 42 wpi. I never did get it to stay settled on the ruler for a photo that would actually show it clearly, alas.

Oh, and it came to 520 yards, thus bearing out my theory that “about 500 yards” is the most I can get out of an ounce of tussah on the wheel I’ve got now.

And now we’ll just look at pictures.

(and next, the other side of the skein)

I guess I should be piling up a list of really fabulous projects for about 500 yards of 40 wpi silk.

So this is Wednesday

I know, I know, and I was just bemoaning Monday. There’s no real reason to bemoan anything, save that being thrown back into getting up while it’s dark out, it’s been harder and harder to really get moving in the mornings. We’re getting the boy off to school and all that, but here it is coming up on 9 AM and I still feel like the living dead. There’s just not enough coffee.

I’m told “the government” is under the impression that people like Daylight Savings Time. What I want to know is, if they really are under that impression, how did that happen? I’ve never met anybody who actually likes it. Or if I have, they haven’t admitted it. So let’s hear it: if you like DST, comment and tell the rest of us what’s so great about it.

In other news… or not-news, as the case may be… it has been delightfully warm, but today is expected to be the last of it for a while. It almost hit 80 degrees F yesterday. It’s in the upper 60s now, but drizzly. I failed to take any pictures outside in the bright sun, because it’s been windy too, and that doesn’t usually make for great fiber pictures.

I did ship a pile of boxes yesterday that was as tall as I am! I actually forgot to count how many there were; 14 I think. I’d have to say my vote for Happiest March Box o’ Fiber is probably the one containing this incredible bundle of bright and cheer, which I would never ever have looked at all right next to each other, if it had not been for someone buying them:

If I say so myself, that right there is a Party In A Box.

And I worked for a while on the Elaborated Print o’ the Wave scarf, actually completing the 12th repeat, and concluding that since I’ve still got several more repeats of the yarn left, the thing to do is KEEP GOING.

But I don’t know if I can. Seriously, I don’t! I really and truly might need to put it aside and work on something else for at least a few days. I put it aside last night when I realized, in my irritation at its constant and unchanging nature and the resulting predictability which had started to weigh heavy upon my flexing wrists, I kept making bonehead mistakes which I had to unknit — just things like not reversing the direction of the interspersed zig-zags, nothing hard to unknit, and nothing that went unnoticed until it was too late to fix with ease — but all the same, it was as if my subconscious were attempting to liven things up for me with errors. So last night, I put it down and started working on some charts.

I did finish, and ply, and take video of the plying for, what I suspect is the last of my Chasing Rainbows stash, a cashmere/tussah in “Forest.”

At 660 yards and 2 ounces (well, 54 grams, I shed a bit of fluff while spinning this one, here and there, and it’s the product of a Bad Yarn Day when nothing was spinning how I felt like, thus the mass iconsistences) I think this would make a beautiful new version of the purple mohair/silk triangle shawl I did a while ago, and which I really ought to chart as it is.

It’s midmonth, and I’m really underwhelmed by this month’s productivity so far. Of course, at midmonth, I usually am. So with that in mind, rather than trying to keep pouring coffee down my gullet in hopes of it causing wakefulness, I’m going to get moving, and churn out a few more exciting blends. Mmmmm, movement!

Monday? MONDAY?

Yeah, definitely Monday. I can’t wake up yet it seems, and I clearly need to refill my coffee.

The coffee’s on the right, next to the chocolate-covered strawberries Chad made me yesterday (that’s right, I’m keeping him, no you can’t have him, don’t even think it, I’m a dangerous woman, make your own strawberries). As for the coffee, it’s strong, diluted only with heavy cream. And yeah, I definitely am going to need more of it today. I’m not sure I support this earlier daylight savings time thing — actually I think daylight savings time is silly in general — and I swear that as I age (yeah yeah, just stick me in a rocking chair on the front porch with my knitting and a cane to shake at the passing kids, already) even small time changes have a bigger impact on me than they used to. All the more when it’s back to waking up in the dark. I hate waking up in the dark. It’s uncivilized.

That said, changes in the schedule for daylight savings time being hyped as the new Y2K with respect to information technology bemuses me at best, and causes eyerolling. Please.

But indeed, coffee. It’s going to take coffee for me to get everything done today that I’ve got on my list of bright ideas. I’ve got boxes to pack and a subsequent post office run and sundry other errands while I’m at it. I have at least 4 loads of laundry to get done, and the inevitable folding-and-putting-away backlog from last week as it is. I’ve got to edit photos for my cabled yarn tutorial and finish that up, I’ve got a plying video I want to make while I have some thinner yarn ready to ply, I need to do some more batts, I’ve got batts from last week I need to get listed for sale, vis:

I’ve got a fearsome backlog of email and comments that I actually need and want to respond to, a handfull of balls to wind for my personal projects, I need to make Gert a chart of that edging for the Falling Leaves Isosceles, I want to chart my changes on the elaborated print o’ the wave, if I’m smart I’ll chart some of that other improvised shawl I’ve back burnered till I finish some other things, and I’d really like to do some straightening in the yarn room, plus I need to do drum carder cleaning and maintenance… okay, we’ve exceeded the scope of today again. I think we did that a while ago. I think I say “we” here in hopes of cloning myself with the power of words alone. Hasn’t worked yet.

On the sad side of things, as of yesterday I’ve survived three whole entire years as a fatherless child. The second week in March is always hard for me, ever since the year he died; but at least now that the date is past, I won’t be thinking about how it’s coming up. I think the world changes forever when a parent dies; I’m no stranger to death and loss and all that sort of thing, but man. As Hope said, it doesn’t really get any easier, just familiar. So it’s good to have chocolate-covered strawberries, and plenty of good, strong coffee with heavy cream. In fact, let’s see that again just for good measure:

Yep, still looks good.

I did stretch out the rassafrackn pink scarf on the floor last night to see how big it is now, and how many more repeats I really need, and if I want to put an edging on it. Here’s the montage of progress from a couple of days ago:

Did I really think it was long enough? Or needed an edging? Well, in all honesty, no. But this scarf — well, there’s a reason it’s not done. That reason is, I chose everything about it for the sake of it being travel knitting, an in-the-car project, a memorizable and straightforward pattern that’s easy to read, easy to remember, and not horrific to execute, but using small yarn and therefore also not hard to take with me places. And then I didn’t finish it on a trip, with the net result that I’ve been stuck with a travel knitting project to do while not traveling; and that bores me.

I clocked it last night; 2 rows, a down-and-back, takes me 3.5-5 minutes. So it’s about 90 minutes for a 35-row repeat, so for around 12 repeats or thereabouts, it’s a mere 18-20 hours of knitting total… but I’ve been at it since September, because I put this thing down and stop working on it so often, since it’s travel knitting and boring the crap out of me if I do it while I’m not also otherwise engaged. And what happens then is that I start thinking, “I wonder what mad flight of fancy and departure from plan I could throw into the mix now to spice this up a little.”

The truth of the matter is none. The right thing to do with the project is knit till I’m out of yarn and the project is completed as per plan. I simply keep losing focus on this project. Which is why it must be completed.

Once it’s done, too, I think I’m also going to wash my two main winter scarfy objects that I actually wear, the Creme de Menthe one and the purple mohair/silk triangle. They’ve both been worn all winter and are in need of washing and re-blocking. And probably new and better pictures. With warming weather, perhaps some outdoor good-light pictures may be forthcoming.

Yesterday, a total of 8 out of 30 bulbs that my son planted last fall could be seen to be sprouting! Surely that’s a sign of spring, along with warmer weather which I’m sure can’t possibly really be here to stay. But I’ve got no real gut sense of winter here; certainly it’s been milder so far than anywhere else I’ve lived that had winter, despite being a record-setter on occasion. It’s a mystery. But soon! Soon, there’ll be lilacs, and that I await eagerly. Lilacs don’t really grow particularly well to the West of the Mississippi, apparently, which means I had none in California; and for many years before that, my urban Chicago lifestyle didn’t feature much in the way of lilacs either. But yet in my childhood and teens, lilacs were the surest sign of true spring and they’re my favourite flower. It’s been seventeen years since I really had lilacs.

Of course, I mentioned my lilac anticipation to my mother yesterday, and she gently reminded me that lilacs may not bloom the first year after you plant them. Damned ethnobotanists with their knowing stuff about plants! “Even if ours don’t,” I argued, “there’ll be lilacs here in Ohio.”

A Few Thoughts on Woolen and Worsted

Do You Prefer To Spin Woolen or Worsted?

Totally depends. Some things I simply must have be worsted, and others I want woolen. For the most part though, it’s sort of a spectrum depending on what I think the yarn will be for, and which technique I use with what prep is decided by what I think the use will be.

A few generalities…

Socks: Woolen prep, worsted technique, or worsted prep with woolen technique. I want a little bit of bounce and give that I don’t usually get from a pure worsted.

Weaving: worsted. I don’t care about bounce or stretch or fluffiness; in fact I don’t want those things.

Sweaters: Woolen prep, woolen technique, or worsted prep and woolen technique. I probably want a bit of memory and bounce, but the exact amount doesn’t matter. Since it’ll be a lot of fabric, odds are I also want a fatter yarn.

Lace: almost always worsted technique, but prep can vary. I consider the fiber combination when thinking about how much it’ll stretch in blocking. I want it to stretch, but not stretch forever. My favourite lace yarns are usually just slightly lower-twist than weaving yarn, and sometimes less exacting about perfect smoothness.

From commercial top: depends on the fiber, and if I want fuzz or smooth. Either result can be achieved from commercial top.

How Do You Like To Mix and Match Techniques With Prep

1. Commercial top spun with woolen technique:

Spin from the fold with long draw or supported long draw. When I spin this way, I move as fast as I can, keep the wheel going really fast, and stay as hands-off as possible. The goal is to, regardless of prep, draft the fibers against the twist, with twist in the drafting zone, correcting slubs not by adding more fiber from the undrafted mass, but by pulling harder on the existing yarn. What I try to allow for is the maximum amount of air in the fibers as they’re being spun, without me squeezing any out. This produces a much loftier thick yarn than the predrafting methods in my experience, and would be worsted prep, woolen technique.

In some cases, with some fibers or variants on commercial top, this requires some double drafting, where an initial long draw of 18-20″ leaves slubs that must then be resolved directly with either another draw out to 30-36″ inches, evening the slubs, or by going back over that length and correcting the slubs from the spun points at either side. If I have to really get into the slub and manhandle it, a lot of the woolen-ness is lost, and I deem the prep sub-optimal for spinning with woolen technique.

2. Carded Preparations Spun With Worsted Technique:

Taking carded roving or sliver, drum-carded batts, or rolags produced with handcards, and spinning short draw (not more than about 6 inches on a draw), keeping twist out of the drafting zone by making sure it stays downstream of my forward hand. I then slide my forward hand tightly along the drafted portion of the fiber, smoothing the fibers and pushing air out, while allowing twist in slowly.

For me, whether or not there’s twist in the drafting zone and whether or not you compress the yarn as you let the twist in and/or before you wind on, define the most important distinction between worsted and woolen techniques.

Twist in the drafting zone, no compressing of the yarn = woolen technique

No twist in the drafting zone, smoothing the yarn as you go = worsted technique.

A note: If I’ve got a true combed top, I’m going to spin it true worsted. A real top combed by hand is labor-intensive and I do it for specific results.

Thanks to Mr. Jimbobspins for asking the questions about this on the Knitty forums.

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