Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Aww yeah.

Last night, I designed my ultimate knitting bag. Then I created a pattern and cut out the pieces. Today I sewed it all together.

Aside from some details, the thing is done. I took it with me to my class tonight; my students were suitably impressed. XD Less impressed when I rolled over the strap a few times... XD

Anyway, the kick-assinest knitting bag is almost ready for its photo shoot. I am making a matching needle roll, too. I'm just totally enamored of this bag, because it is pretty much 100% my design. I used a very old Vogue pattern as a jumping off point, but never actually used the pattern itself. My bag has about a million pockets of varying sizes and positions, 2 zipper pockets, and space for my patterns. I made sure there was a spot for my cell phone and my wallet, as well as extra needles and plenty of room for even the sweater I'm working on. It RULES.

Here's a sneak peek at the lining fabric. I've been hoarding it for YEARS:

Anyone who can read Chinese--just let me know one thing. Is that real writing, or made up stuff? I am fairly certain it all means something, and I recognize a character or two, but I know of someone who wore a shirt that said "Prostitute" and she didn't know until someone told her. XD

And with that, I am off.

Friday, October 20, 2006


One of the many hats I wear these days is 'cabinetmaker', which means I'm an extra pair of hands for my dad in the woodshop when he builds awesome furniture for people. I also get to use the tools for my own stuff...which is very cool.

A few months ago, I made myself a peg-style swift out of some leftover poplar. For the non-yarny folk: a swift is something that holds the yarn while you wind it into a ball. You know that thing the yarny person in your life makes you do? Where you have to hold your hands out while the yarny person winds a seemingly endless ball of yarn? A swift does that for you, and spins. A swift is a good gift for the yarny folk. :D

This is what mine look like:

I started making these because recently, someone on a knitting community I frequent on LiveJournal mentioned that she wanted to find an affordable swift. I replied that I make them, and she immediately asked if I'd make her one. Shortly thereafter, another person requested one (it just went out in the mail!) and I made a couple extra out of some lovely solid cherry I had lying around.

The one pictured is cherry. My poplar one is paler, with a yellowish cast.

I do indeed make these, and I will be happy to put one together for you or the yarny person in your life. Email me for more info, or check out my etsy shop to see if one is up for sale. I will also do requests within reason, just let me know what you're looking for.

Oh, and check out what I devised for myself to help with my spinning:

The wood shop isn't safe with me around. :D

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Funky Scarf!!

I actually got this yesterday, but my camera and my computer don't like talking to each other for some reason. Making them work together is like convincing two petulant children that they have to be nice to each other. XD

I got my GORGEOUS Funky Scarf from my Funky Scarf Swap Partner, Jill, who sounds like someone I would totally hang out with in real life. :D Check it out--it's Silk, Rayon, & Wool...and the colors ARE that bright!! <3

Full view:


Closer detail:

In other news, last week my husband celebrated our 5th anniversary with SEX--Stash Enhancing eXpedition, that is. ;) (There was the other kind, too, but you guys don't want to hear about that, now, do you?) We ended up taking a long drive through beautiful Granby and Avon and Simsbury, CT, on a perfect day to view some awesome autumn leaves. We're talking blue sky, puffy white clouds, brilliant yellow and flame red trees, and...ponies?

Yep, East Granby was hosting some of the Painted Ponies. It really was too bad that I didn't have my camera with me, but suffice to say that the ponies were all awesome. My favorite was a geometric rainbow-colored one.

Then we reached our destination: the Wool Connection. WC has the distinction of being the first 'real' LYS I ever shopped in--I talked about it a few posts ago when I ran into Linda, a spinner who works there. I had some Citrine-colored Manos del Uruguay in my hand when I happened to find their bargain bin...HOT DAMN but they had four balls of Devotion in a delicious deep magenta. Let's see, what's more enticing: a yarn I can find elsewhere for the same price, or $40 worth of angora/nylon yarn that happens to be the precise yarn called for in a particular pattern I wanted to do...for $25? Yes. Twenty-five dollars. Be still my heart.

I also happened to notice a single skein of Mountain Colors Bearfoot that exactly captured the autumn colors of my drive up there...which meant it, too, came home with me. I JUST finished winding the skein into a ball, and I aim to make a pair of socks using the doubleknit technique described in Knitty. Oh yes.

Pic of my haul (total price: $44)

In sad news, DM's brother-in-law passed away last week on the very same day, so it's been a week of ups and downs. The funeral is tomorrow...so I'd probably better go get my clothes set now.

Much love!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Midnight Meadow

I have been showing off a lot of my spinning of Yarnpunk's colorful fiber lately. Today, I was helping DM ply her first handspun and happened to see my yarnpunk singles sitting next to my black Shetland singles. I'd toyed with the idea of plying them together, since I was concerned about the colorful singles ending up with a muddy effect from too much color on color. I've noticed that already with the heavier-spun skeins I did with the first batch.

I have to say I love the result of the color on black plying. This is my first time plying two different yarns together, and I'm very happy. I have about the same amount of black left to spin, so I'll only get another 90 or so yards out of it, though I have a ton of the colorful left. It looks like I'll be spinning up some white to ply with the next batch; maybe I'll think of a project that will let me use both at once.

So here you go: pics of the latest experiment, now known as "Midnight Meadow".

Detail shot (from which I've made my current wallpaper):

The two skeins next to each other:

A bigger pic of one skein:

Because of the difference in the two sets of colored singles, one skein ended up about DK weight while the other is more fingering weight. There's a definite difference in the two skeins that's not immediately apparent in the pictures. The thinner yarn actually has about 10 more yards on it than the heavier one, but it weighs LESS. I am feeling really good about my spinning right now. :)

Sunday, October 8, 2006

Revised Spinning

First, before I go on and on about the Guild meeting & stuff, here's the purple yarn I ended up with from the last post. It's not nearly as bright, but it's a pleasing effect. I spun 2oz of both a bright purple and a grey purple, then plied them together. There were about 6 or 8 yards plied left over of the grey purple, so I gave that to a friend who knits for her to play with. I think this will be one of my submissions to a spinners' swap that will take place next year.

So anyway. Guild.

Saturday was my second meeting with the Nutmeg Spinners' Guild. I brought a good friend (Dragonmaille, who I've mentioned in the past) with me...she showed up as a guest, and within an hour decided to go whole hog and register as a full member. I love having RL friends who spin. :)

DM and I were among the only people who weren't doing the workshop that day, so we set up our chairs toward the back of the room and pulled out our drop spindles. DM is new to spinning, and I've been spinning about a year. I was able to help her get started (indeed, I think I'm the reason she started in the first place...sorry, DM's husband) but honestly, I muddled through a lot of this on my own, and my technique isn't the best. Or wasn't, until Saturday.

Soon after we got settled, another woman came in. I vaguely recognized her, but figured I'd seen her at a previous meeting. She grabbed a chair, announced that she was 'going to sit right here next to these girls' and quickly struck up a conversation with us. She praised DM's wonderfully even single (makes me JEALOUS, I tell you; that girl has been spinning for a tenth of the time I have and her stuff looks better than mine did until like six months in), showered both of us with encouragement and generally exuded an aura of 'ultimate spinner' that was pretty impossible to resist.

However, it wasn't until she produced her own (tiny) spindle and set it twirling by running it along her leg instead of the wrist-wrenching motion DM and I used that it clicked for me just HOW I knew her. She was L, the woman I credit (blame?) with truly making me WANT to spin.

Back when I learned how to knit, my husband took me to my first real Yarn Shop. We were greeted and led around the store by an energetic, enthusiastic slip of a woman who had awesome hair (no really, it defies description) and seemed to know just what to show me. At one point, she showed me a hand spindle and described the process of hand spinning. I left with two balls of yarn and a fierce desire to find out more about this cost-effective method that I hadn't known was available.

A year later, after I've spent this time learning the craft and becoming obsessive about fiber, who should sit down with us but that herald of handspinning, the lady who made me realize I COULD spin (and gosh wasn't it fun), L. She laughed when I blurted out, "It's YOUR fault I spin!"

From there, she REALLY started to help us out. I watched her work on some wool samples she was thinking of buying. It was impossible not to notice her techniques and compare them to my own. Everything she did seemed effortless, which only was fair, since she'd been spinning for much longer than I. However, what could I learn from her? I don't know many other drop spindle spinners in real life.

To show the difference, here is a little collage that shows the difference one afternoon made in my spinning. First is a pic you've seen before, from my last batch of this fiber from Yarnpunk. Next is my new spindle, with a new batch of the same stuff. On the bottom, you see the new spindle next to a ball of the first batch, which REALLY shows the difference. I think my new yarn will be thinner PLIED than my singles from the first batch. HUGE difference.

Now, if you've made it this far, here are the tips I learned and would like to share with other hand spinners who are at the same 'kinda-got-it-but-need-more-guidance' stage:

1. Instead of twisting the spindle with your fingers, roll it against your thigh. This puts a powerful spin on it, without the jarring movement of wrenching your wrist. It's especially good on heavy spindles, but works for light ones as well. For a standard z-twist single, roll it from knee to hip; for s-twist, roll it from hip to knee.

2. Get a new spindle if necessary. I love my Ashford that I received through a secret pal exchange, but it was too heavy for the yarn I wanted to produce. I found a lightweight bloodwood-topped top-whorl spindle that let me spin yarn so fine it brought tears to my eyes. I kid you not. The benefit: the Ashford is ideal for plying, while the new one is better for spinning. The other benefit: I don't have to worry if one is full and I want to spin something different. :) The other other benefit: now my husband can learn on a spindle and I don't have to give up the one I'm using. :D

3. Learn to draft while you spin. No, really. I have been a yearlong advocate of pre-drafting, but I don't know if I can even go back to that now. There is nothing like seeing how much control you can have over the thickness of the yarn.

4. Don't draft too close to the spindle, and don't keep your hands too close together. I didn't see how holding my hadns farther apart would help, but help it did. Loosening up my grip also made a huge difference; rather than losing control of the roving, I had a much greater control and could spin MUCH finer singles.

And that, my dears, concludes my long rambling post about how kickass it is to run into the people who inspire you to do something in the first place.

The end.

Art vs. Artisan Craft

I belong to several communities on DeviantArt under two different identities--one is my personal ID, "chocobogoddess", and the other is my community about spinning, "daspinners". DASpinners is part of a larger network of 'artisan crafts' communities. One of them posted a poll asking what we thought the difference was between an art and an artisan craft.

I voted "something that gives priority to function over design" because I think that's really the only difference. As a spinner (of yarn, not of wheels ;)), I know that my end product can be utilitarian as plain white wool with no embellishment or as frivolous as cashmere and silk spun with glass beads and flowers.

Honestly, for me, the difference between art and craft has always been the same as the difference between talent and skill. You are born with a talent, but you can learn a skill. I know many skilled people who can draw pictures with amazing detail, and people who have little skill but form pictures that evoke an emotional response. The talent lies with the second person, not the first. It's the same way with artisan crafts--the question is not how technically well does one do their craft, but how beautiful is the product?

Food for thought.