25 May, 2010

Too busy to blog

It sounds like a good excuse, doesn't it? So many days over the past couple of months, I have had the passing thought that I should update the blog, that I was being a very bad blogger. But then this or that would happen, and the next thing I knew, almost 3 months had gone by without a blog post.

I finished my second semester of grad school, and am still maintaining a 4.0 GPA. Years ago when I went to college after high school, my loving dad informed me that I could do as well as he did in school, but I could not do better. He graduated with a 4.0. I think he said that to appeal to my competitive side. I did well, but I didn't quite pull off a perfect GPA. Now I'm in it to redeem myself. I figure that if I can pull it off in grad school, then I have too done better!

My sons have all experienced their own changes in recent months. My oldest is almost done with his first year of middle school and is that much closer to becoming a real teenager instead of a "tween" (he hates that term). He is trying very hard to fill the role of the moody teen boy, but I still love him. My middle son recently celebrated the removal of his first round of braces and is enjoying chewing gum again. He will test for his blue belt in shito ryu this Friday, and has recently discovered a love for acting, and wants to get involved in local theater. My youngest graduated from preschool, complete with cap and gown, which was a bit too much pomp and circumstance for a four year old in my opinion, but I still cried. I suppose that is part of being a mom.

I haven't forgotten that I'm supposed to be spinning for a sweater. Progress is slow but steady.

I decided that the best way to avoid burnout was to alternate. A bobbin of brown, a bobbin of color. I also decided that I needed to get out of my comfort zone when buying fiber, I always gravitate towards the blues, greens, and browns. The best way to do that, I figured, was to join a fiber club. Given that I have always enjoyed spinning fiber from Spunky Eclectic, I joined the Spunky fiber club. If was truly hoping for something out of my comfort zone, my first shipment did not disappoint.

It is destined to become the brightest pair of socks that I own, and I'm loving every minute of it!

This past weekend, I went to my first fiber festival. The Carolina Fiber Fest was a relatively small event in comparison to Rhinebeck or MDS&W, but it was great fun, and I may win the prize for spending the most money there. You see, my dream wheel from the beginning has been the Majacraft Rose, and while I've been able to resist temptation when drooling over it online, it was harder to resist when the wheel was physically in front of me. So I brought it home.

(Ignore the baskets of laundry in the background, I've been a bit distracted!) I mean, really, who can resist that? A wheel that is not only one of the best wheels I have ever spun on, but is beautiful to boot? I couldn't! I'll be paying it off for awhile, but it is worth it. I've already spun my first hank of yarn on it, another of my club fibers from Amy.

Here's to hoping that another 3 months don't pass by before I update again...

03 March, 2010

Attack of the UFO

Okay, not really, there was no attack, it was actually a very nice experience, I promise!

A few years ago, my parents brought me a lovely gift from their trip to Winnipeg, Canada. As it turned out, the mom of my mom's best friend is a knitter. And a spinner. A pretty good one. Her name is Francine, and she, with one of her other daughters, owns Rovings. Yes, the same Rovings that I bought the box of never ending Polwarth from (more on that later!).

Anyway, the gift they brought me was yarn. Not just any yarn though, awesome yarn! Three (3!) 600 yard hanks of handspun. It was a wool/mohair/silk blend, dyed in the most amazing blues, greens, and golds. I wish I had a picture to show you, I really do, but, well, I can't get to those pics right now. You will just have to trust me, this was awesome yarn!

And I did what I think any knitter would have done, I placed it lovingly in my stash while I searched for the perfect pattern. The problem was that I couldn't find that perfect pattern, nothing I looked at seemed to work. The pattern I had in mind needed to fill a few criteria. It needed to use a lot of yarn (because, well, there was a lot of it!), it needed to show off the colors and the sheen well, and it needed to be something that challenged me.

There were problems with this criteria. For one thing, few things other than sweaters use a sweater's worth of yarn, and this yarn didn't really want to be a sweater. For another, finding a pattern that both showed off the yarn and was challenging was going to be difficult. A complex lace pattern would have been lost in the color shifts, and a simple garter stitch just would not have been as satisfying to me.

So, the yarn sat for a couple of years. Until last year, when I was browsing and found the patter for Nereides. It wouldn't use all of my yarn, but it fit the other criteria, sort of. It would show off the color variations very well, I thought, and while it is a simple pattern, it wasn't completely brainless! I cast on.

And then, as knitters do occasionally, I cast on for another project, and the shawl got set aside for awhile. Eventually, the bag containing the project got put in the closet. And I forgot about it.

Last month, I pulled it back out and decided to finish it, and I'm glad I did. It is done, and I love it. I can't wait for an event worthy of wearing it!

And that makes me, for today, a very happy knitter.

Oh, that sweater? It's done too, but the batteries went dead on the camera before I had a chance to take some pics. Next time, I promise!

The Polwarth is coming along, slowly. Very, very slowly. My spinning has been curtailed in recent weeks by schoolwork, kids, and a host of sickies that made their way through my house. I think I have a grand total of ... 3 oz. done. Only 29 more to go, or something like that!

15 February, 2010

Keep on spinning

It is amazing how fast time flies when you are busy. Every day for days now I've said to myself, "need to update the blog today." But then, all of a sudden it is the end of the day and I haven't done it.

I have been busy though, not just watching TV and eating bon bons, I promise. I handed in my two papers on time and am now working on the next round of essays and papers. I told a friend last week that graduate school was definitely one of the hardest things I've done so far, but also one of the most gratifying. I was always the type that did well in school, and I am very happy to be back in my element.

Last week was crazy on the personal side of things. "They" say that things happen in three's, and last week that was evident in my life. Within a 24 hour time span we had two minor crises, and just when I was beginning to calm down, my husband called to say he would be late getting home, as he had been rear-ended on the interstate. He is fine, and that was my 3, and hopefully I'm done for a bit.

Despite all of the writing and crisis management, there has been some spinning happening. Knitting too, for that matter, but I don't have any pictures of that yet. Look for a finished sweater next week, though, if all goes well.

I have swatched for my Polwarth sweater, and am quite pleased with the results.

Two swatches, that I intentionally knit into cuffs so that I could wear them and see how the yarn held up. I would not be a very happy spinner and knitter if I spent the better part of a year making my masterpiece, only to have it pill and wear out quickly. I am happy to report that these swatches, one knit on size 5 needles and one on size 4, are both holding up very well, which makes me very happy! To that end, I started the long process of spinning up the remainder of the 1kg of wool. Sad to say, I haven't gotten very far.

But any progress is still progress, so I'll take it.

I'll freely admit that one reason I haven't gotten very far is that I have recently acquired some new toys, and we all know that sometimes playing with the new toys has to take precedence. You see, I realized that, as much as I love this wool, if I am going to tie my wheel up with spinning for this large of a project, I'm probably going to get bored with it from time to time. A second wheel is out of the question for the time being, but spindles are not! And spindles are portable. And you can have lots of them without taking up too much space. With all that in mind, I set out to find some nice spindles.

I already had this one, a .88oz Spinsanity. It was my first spinning purchase, actually. It is currently handling a bit of a long term project itself, some merino/silk from Ashland Bay.

My second spindle was purchased a month or so ago, a beatiful Bosworth Mini that spins something akin to frog hair! Currently it is preoccupied with a sample of this lovely BFL/Silk from Spunky Eclectic.

This lovely fiber came in the same package as my latest spindle purchase, a Kundert and a Jenkins Turkish Delight. I bought the Kundert for plying, and here it is, performing a quite admirable job of plying my first singles off of the Bosworth, a little bit of the Polwarth that I snatched from the sweater project.

The Turkish Delight has been working hard at spinning another Polwarth Sample that Francine sent me last year. I just adore the way it spins. It also keeps following me around the house whispering "spin me." I try to ignore it, but it is just so cute I can't resist.

With all of that, someone still suggested I needed a new spindle yesterday! I think I'll wait just a bit on that one!

04 February, 2010

Taking a break

I'm taking a short break from paper writing. I wish I was spinning, or knitting, or really, anything else. But papers it is this week, and now the deadline approaches for two short papers, and as usual, I'm down to the wire. I'm the queen of procrastination in many respects, though I have gotten better in many regards over the years. This time, it was not my fault though, I swear. I'll make it, I (nearly) always do, but it will be close.

That little bit of snow we had? Yeah, it messed up my whole week of carefully laid plans (that, by the way, involved having both of my papers done by now). I think I mentioned that here in the south, even a little bit of snow is a very big deal. Enough to keep the kids out of school for three days. Three days that I intended to have at least part of to myself for research and writing ended up being three days with three very restless chidren. Add a head cold for me into the mix, and understandably, I did not get as much done as I had hoped. Today, they all happily left for school after a one hour delay, only to have one child call home sick after only an hour at school. So yet another challenging day. Sigh. It will be a long night.

Once papers are handed in however, I plan to take a little time to myself to finish knitting my swatches for the sweater, and maybe work on the sleeve of the other sweater that is almost done. With any luck, my next blog post will include some pretty pictures to show off, maybe even of one completed sweater. Hopefully, I'll have some good grades to report as well.

For now though, I'm signing off to get back to work.

31 January, 2010

Sidetracked by Snow

In the South, snow is a big deal. On average, we get one snow event a year, usually in January. My children were starting to get quite disappointed this year as January came to a close with not a trace of snow to be seen. But we were not to be let down, and Friday night, it finally came. All in all, about five inches of snow and sleet fell throughout Friday night and Saturday. Very pretty for me to look at while curled up in front of a window with a cup of hot cocoa, and much fun for all the little children to romp around in.

Unfortunately, it also necessitates that many plans for the weekend have to be re-thought a bit. Even though my original plans did not involve being out and about town or anything, there is still something about the snow that sidetracks everything. Maybe it is the fact that getting children ready to go outside is suddenly a major undertaking that involves unearthing outerwear that rarely gets pulled out in the South, and then getting them all properly dressed so they don't freeze. The reverse of this is also a major undertaking not usually expeienced here, as children wait in line to shed frozen wet clothes while Mom frets over wet floors and muddy boots. Or maybe it is just that the view is so pretty that you end up looking out your window much more than usual. Regardless, as I said, sidetracked.

But not totally. I'm still in the honeymoon phase of my latest project, fascinated by each step, even, to some degree, the sampling. So I did spin.

I even finished a step in the process, sampling!

I decided early on that the best way to approach this would be to start with spinning a single that I was comfortable with and rely on the plying process to create the yarn I desired. I hoped it would work out, since the alternative was to try to spin a single I was not used to and risk inconsistency. I was not disappointed, though I was fully prepared to be. I spun my single, and plied the majority of it, about 100 yards, as a 3-ply. The smaller sample is about 10 yards of cabled plied yarn, not much, but enough to knit up a small swatch. After washing, the 3-ply is a pretty consistent 14-15 wpi, the cable ply about 13 wpi. Both fall well into the range of the yarn I intended to create, and today, that makes me a very happy spinner!

I also managed to complete a knitting project as well, so maybe I wasn't as sidetracked as I thought. For one of my closest friends, I knit Yarn Harlot's One Row Handspun Scarf out of some yarn I finished back in December.

She doesn't know my blog exists yet, so I think my surprise is safe!

In other news, my middle son tested for his orange belt in Shito-Ryu on Friday and passed! I am very proud of him, he took a year off of training last year after getting quite frustrated and returned to karate a few months ago with a new determination and focus that is wonderful to see. He stayed after his test to watch one student advance to black belt and left with a renewed determination to be the best he can be.

27 January, 2010


Sampling. It is kind of like the dreaded gauge swatch in knitting. On the surface, a spinner should be fine with it, it is, after all, spinning. And we all enjoy that, right?

So, why does it seem so tedious? I'm not doing anything differently than what I would normally be doing if I were already spinning for the sweater, right? I don't understand this phenomenon, but there it is and no spinner or knitter can deny it

Usually, my sampling consists of a half hearted effort, kind of like my attempts at gauge swatches in knitting. I spin a bit, pull out a length, let it ply back, check the wpi, tinker with the wheel a bit, then lather, rinse, repeat until I get the results I want. Then, I tape that sample to an index card along with a sample of the single. If I'm not planning on spinning, say, a 3-ply or a cabled yarn, I'll also do a sample length of 2-ply for quick ply-back checks on the fly.

This time, however, I'm planning on making a lot of yarn. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 2 lbs of it. And then turning said yarn into a sweater. So, I'm going to do it right. To that end, I'm spinning a sample that is actually going to be substantial enough to knit a swatch with. Then, I'm going do all of those things you are supposed to do in the spinning and knitting process when you are "doing it right." I'm going to set the twist, knit a swatch (or maybe a few swatches), wash and block that (or those), and then I'm going to wear it around for a few days to make sure I've made a durable yarn that will make a good sweater. And, if that doesn't go well, I'm going to start the process all over again. I won't like it. But I will do it.

And yet somehow, I know there will still be problems. Just like the knitting swatch, spinning samples can LIE.

26 January, 2010

Knock knock

Is anybody out there? Of course not.

I'm Amy. I'm a mom, a spinner, a knitter, a library science grad student and hopeful future librarian. At any given time, I may blog about any of those aspects of my life, or something else entirely. Mostly though, if I can manage to be a good blogger, I imagine that the majority of my posts will concern my obsession with fiber related activities.

So, my first post will exist to hold me accountable for my grand plan, to spin for and knit a sweater out of this

That, my friends, is 1 kg of Polwarth wool top from Rovings. I love Francine, she is so wonderful, and this wool is simply a delight to spin. And, there's a lot of it. A LOT.

The way I figure it, between parenting duties and school obligations, this project will take me at least a year. More if I get distracted, which, well, I'm pretty likely to do!