Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Ladies and Gentlemen, Please, would you bring your attention to me...

I think I've finally got it figured out.

From this point forward *crosses fingers* I should be posting directly to my website, using WordPress's lovely blog feature. I have set it up so that you don't need a special ID to post (though you can create one if you want), you can still comment, you can still see the art/yarn/woodworking, and I THINK you can even get an rss feed going.

If you would, please check it out and let me know how you like it, then bookmark it for future updates. I will continue to be a member of my LJ communities, of course, but will likely not post much of anything here from this point onward.

Eventually, I'll have divinebird.com point to the divinebird.com/wordpress/ address, but that's for when I have brain cells left to process the, uh, process.

Divine Bird Website Grand Opening!


Friday, September 7, 2007

Still Here!

Wow, I have been a BUSY girl these days! Between getting a new job, spinning up a storm, and doing a demo at a local fair, I'm beat! I've spent the last couple of days photographing, arranging, and posting my latest yarns on my actual site. I thought about posting them here, but some of the collages are quite large. I don't want to break your screens, so check 'em out here: http://www.divinebird.com/textiles.html

I've also updated my Etsy shop with a whole bunch of the yarns pictured on my page! The crazy thing is that even MORE are coming...wait til you guys see the sock yarn that's on my wheel right now! It's fabu.

Tomorrow or Sunday, I'm dropping off my entries to the Big E skein contest (that's at the Eastern States Exposition, for you out-of-towners)...wish me luck. I've never entered yarn before! I planned to at this year's Massachusetts Sheep & Wool, but you may remember that I missed the deadline, making the Big E my actual first competition!

Speaking of which, I got the best compliment of all the other day. The guild member who told me about the competition is someone to whom I look up when it comes to spinning. When she heard that I had officially entered, she gave me a big grin and said happily, "Well, it's nice to know we'll actually have COMPETITION this year!" This is the kind of person who always places in these things, and rightly so. She and a couple of other guildmates usually compete and I think they've been hoping for some fresh competition. Though the statement could sound haughty to some, I know this woman, and I took it in the best way possible. If she thinks I can compete against her yarns, well...I feel better about entering now. :)

Ok, so I said I wouldn't post my collages here, but I can't resist a few. If they're too big, just go to my site and look at 'em there. :)


Thursday, August 9, 2007


Pretty 3-ply yarn, spun from the July batch of Abby's Batt Club batts.

The process: spun 2 blended batts on separate bobbins, then spun the color-separated batt on a 3rd bobbin. Plied those 3 singles together.

The result: 430+ yards of 3-ply yarn, 26wpi, 3.75 oz.

The remaining batt: will be spun and chain-plied for heels & toes of socks. No, seriously, Abby, I will SO be making socks from this. ;)

The pics:

I hate how flash photography turns out, but this was the best I could do for the crappy light we had today. I will try to get better pics tomorrow.

I think this is the finest I've ever spun, and the most even yarn. This is for me.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Yarn. Harlot.

Wow, so the evening was a mix of ups and downs that ultimately balanced out on the positive. I suppose you can't ask for much more in life, you know? I may go into detail later, but for now, here's the recap:

Went to see Yarn Harlot in Madison, CT at RJ Julia Bookstore. Of course she has a name (Stephanie Pearl-McPhee) but since I talk about like 8 million people here, I am not going to add yet another girl's name to the list. So she's YH for this entry. (Sorry, Steph!)

We got there about 20 minutes late due to waiting for someone who had specifically told me he'd meet us elsewhere (major mistake on my part and MAN am I sorry), trying to stop for gas at a gas station that was...closed(!)...and a set of the very worst directions I have EVER gotten from Google Maps. No, really. I have no clue why we ended up on back roads when there was a perfectly good highway nearby! Grr.

Still, we got to hear YH speak, and I got one good picture of her--because we were late, we sat on the floor almost at her feet. Here she is:

I tried to get a few others but they didn't come out. :(

So she finished her talk, and then everybody piled out of the room to get their books signed. I met up with Jenni and Briana, two more of my friends, and bought my book for YH to sign. We got in line to wait for the signing, dragged out our knitting, and just chatted for a bit.

Then this other girl came up to me and asked if my shirt was a Threadless shirt, which it was. And then it turned out she was on Ravelry. And so I brought out one of my Moo cards--the ones with my yarn on them--and I said, "awesome, friend me on Ravelry! I'm on there as Divinebird."

She blinked. "Are you a Yarnie?" she asked, and when I nodded, she said, "I need to give you a hug! OMG! I can't believe it's you!"

WTF? Someone recognized ME? Huh? Had she bought yarn from me before or something?

Turns out she was the recipient of a yarn swift I'd made. The moment she told me her screen name, I almost freaked out. What are the chances, really?? I hadn't thought about her being in the area, and I'd never seen a picture of her. Man, that ruled. So we all ended up at the back of the line, and I realized we needed pics all together. It was like Six Degrees of Yarn Harlot.

YH signed my book and chatted with us for a while, and then we got this pic (ignore my exhausted-hot-out-of-sorts expression--I wish I'd hopped to the back of the pic, for reals! And wtf is up with me looking taller than everyone?? I'm like 5'4".) of the whole group.

We all decided to go over to Village Pizza for dinner, as I had not eaten a real meal all day and it would give us a chance to hang out & talk. YH asked if we knew of a place to eat in the area. Props to Briana for immediately suggesting she come with us for the pizza. :) YH agreed, and we planned to meet over at the pizza place after she finished up some of her work at the store.

Briana was laughing at me when we walked down the street (we were on our way over to a new little tiny yarn store that had stayed open for the event) because apparently she's never seen me fangirl anyone before. I guess she's only seen me around people who, though famous in some way, don't impress me the way YH does.

To put it another way, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee is one of my personal heroes. Not because she's a funny writer who writes about knitting (though that does make her COOL), but because she uses her powers for Good. She never shoves it down our throats, but somehow she manages to convince her fans over and over again that Medecins sans Frontieres could use a few bucks. She turns her tour stops into opportunities for local shelters to receive hand-knitted hats before the winter. She raises our collective awareness of individuals and groups in need of help--monetary, emotional, and physical. She seems to do this as a matter of course, and that's an aspect of her personality that I would like to emulate. I always fall short, but it gives me something to which I can aspire. It's like thinking of others and how we can help in a tangible way is something that's second-nature to her, and through it all she remains an exceptionally cool chick who enjoys a drink and some pizza with absolute strangers.

So yeah, I fangirl her. I can't help it.

Meanwhile, back at the description of the evening...the wool shop was tiny. No, smaller than that. And it was warm. I mean, something like 8 people who are already warm from walking on a hot night suddenly pile into a small room filled with wool--that is a recipe for HOT. I grabbed a card, though, and I will def. stop back in next time I'm in the area. When I'm not distracted by personal heroes and heat and a strong desire for food.

The Village Pizza folks were lovely and very tolerant of our taking over the middle of their restaurant, half an hour before they closed for the night. We hung out, had some food, drank some birch beer, and generally had some nice conversation. I do hope I didn't make too much of a fool of myself (see above fangirling) though Melissa and Lilith said I wasn't too bad. ;)

After YH left to go back to her hotel, we headed out ourselves. We made a quick stop for gas (at a gas station that WASN'T closed, take THAT, other gas station!) and water at a grocery store, then got on the highway.

I don't get down to Madison often. On average, I go once every year or two for specific events. I don't know the area well, or oh, which exits to take on the way home. I somehow missed the exit for Rte 9 and didn't realize it until I'd gone about 20 minutes past it. We got our bearings again, turned around, and went BACK to the right exit. Once back on track, we didn't have any problems the rest of the way home.

This was totally going to be a short entry but I guess there's no way to talk about the evening in ten words or fewer. I kicked myself all night about missing Aaron, because that really was my fault, but there wasn't anything I could do by the time we connected. Lilith DID say later, "Jenny, next time we go to see YH, we are leaving TWO HOURS EARLY."

Sounds like a plan.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Oh, and furthermore...

For the non-yarny folk, here is a cute picture of my newest CHOCOBO. He is winking, and walking, and he has a little feed bag. He is SO CUTE.

That is all.

Bag, v.2.0

This is a VERY LONG POST about the process I used to design a new knitting/sewing/drawing bag; I will try to title further entries about the process the same way I did this one, so you non-yarny/textiley folks can skip it (or at least be WARNED). ;) --JBB

ETA: Now with 100% more pics!

Last year, I designed what I hoped would be THE ultimate knitting/sewing/drawing bag for myself. I used some black twill, some gorgeous cotton printed with Chinese horses, and a few metal findings I'd been hoarding for some time. While I still love the bag, it never really gelled as THE bag for me. I know this because I took the strap off to use on something else a couple of months ago, and never put it back. The bag has since been sitting unused in my bedroom, which means it's time to attempt an upgrade.

This entry is mostly for my use & my notes, but I know many of you sew, and some of you who don't sew have wondered what goes into planning a project. You'll notice that I am not using a premade pattern. While I have a huge collection of them and could probably find an easier one to get my desired result, I wanted to do this entire thing from scratch. This may make me a sucker for punishment, but this also allows me to sell my work later, or even sell my design. Everything here came about through my observation of how the hardware works, what I want and need from my bag, and my particular aesthetics. This design is also not for reproduction (though I highly encourage you to use the process) or sale except by me, because man, I did a lot of math for this. :)

The Process

Before I did anything else, I made a list of the things that I did & didn't like about Bag v.1. I came up with the following:


  • washable
  • sturdy
  • large enough for multiple projects
  • easy to transport
  • got to use fabric from stash
  • able to use for spinning, sewing, knitting, crochet, and even artwork
  • specialized pockets: needles, pens, folders/patterns, phone/wallet/etc, medical & emergency
  • very roomy
  • color scheme was very striking: black outer fabric, brown/blue/red/black fabric inside, red zippers

  • no structure, falls down
  • flap gets in the way
  • strap never properly made
  • strap pulled bag out of shape every time
  • hard to get into bag when carrying it
  • too many pockets--collected junk & weighed bag down
  • black fabric shows dust, kitty fur, sand, lint, fuzz from yarn, etc.
  • black fabric is boring
  • clips for strap kept getting twisted or caught
  • didn't usually bother to close zippers, making them unnecessary
  • hard to transfer projects out of bag; had to dig in pockets to find things

This list was mostly in my head; I started to think about the things I would do if I made a new version for myself. From the above items, I was able to get a better idea of what I wanted from my next bag:

  • Plenty of pockets, but now most with assigned uses (to cut down on clutter)
  • No zippers (not really needed)
  • No flap over main opening
  • Matching removable small notions bag
  • Matching drop spindle bag
  • Mylar sheets in sides & bottom for structure & shape
  • Fabric interlining for extra body, nice sleek feel
  • Defined, clean-lined, vertical design
  • Stay open when I want it to
  • Want to use "Rowan" fabric from England for lining
  • Must be washable, or at least dry-cleanable
  • Must be able to carry multiple projects, like old bag
  • Convertible from hand-carry to shoulder-carry
  • Most importantly, must look like "me"


After all that thinking, I finally started to write & draw things on paper--partly to get them out of my head. I like to sketch out designs on large paper using woodless colored pencils. They're like China markers, except there's no wood or paper to seal them; think of conte crayon with a plastic casing to protect your hands. I like them because I can use different colors to edit my drawings, keep layers straight, and define sections without redrawing the whole thing each time. I use a large 18x24 spiral-bound drawing pad for paper; it allows me to flip to different pages without earlier ones falling out, and later I can go back to refer to the drawings if I need to.

Pic: the sketchy notes

I have a multi-step process for creating the actual pattern pieces. This helps me figure out the basic shapes needed to make my sketch into a 3-D object, how they will be placed on the fabric I have to work with, and allows me to fix my math BEFORE I ever put scissors to cloth. Once I have the design sketched out, I will grab some graph paper, note that each square=1", and draw out some boxes. I don't worry too much about the pieces' overall shape yet, since I just want to see the area required and to see how the pieces relate to each other. I don't worry about seam allowances either, yet.

Pic: graph paper & little pieces

Once the pieces are graphed out, I color them different colors (orange for interior pockets, green for sides, etc) and cut them out. A second piece of graph paper becomes my fabric. It's like setting out a pattern for a Barbie doll at this point. I arrange them in the tightest formation possible (adding a rough estimate for seam allowances) and then it's time to move on to full-size graphing.

Pic: Large pieces, cut out with notes

At this point, there are two ways I can go. I will either grab a Sharpie, my cardboard cutting board and a bolt of nonwoven interfacing, or I'll use my colored pencils with a giant easel pad pre-graphed with 1" squares. Since I am doing a bag and the pieces aren't too big, I chose to use the easel pad this time. Using the small pieces as a guide, I drew out the first piece: the side of the bag. I had planned for the bottom to be 13" long, and the top edge to be 16" long, giving me the shape I wanted. Out of curiosity, I noted where all the pockets would go on both sides, the handles, the d-rings...and something felt wrong.

This is why I draw things out many times. I had forgotten that my 13" base was an oval, NOT a straight seam. When thinking about the shape of the bag, I had pictured a soft, flat-bottomed V. The piece was shaped like an upside-down trapezoid, which worked with my mental image. However, the pieces wouldn't have added up when I sewed them together if I had left them that way. In order to go around the edge of the oval, I would need to have a 16" bottom edge! Therefore, if I wanted the final bag shape to be that flat-bottomed V, I would need the side piece to be a rectangle, NOT a trapezoid. The trapezoid would occur when the pieces were attached and viewed in 3-D.

The above doesn't make sense to you? No worries. Just so long as you understand that my math was off for that one line--which meant I went back over the rest of the entire pattern just to make sure nothing ELSE was out of sync. I re-drew that piece, then the rest, and cut them out after making notes on each one about how many I needed to cut out of each fabric.

Pic: Pattern piece comparison. The tiny piece is the original graph paper version.

The Actual Design

This bag evolved around the piece of hardware I'll be using as a closure. It's a 16" "snap purse frame", which opens up into a six-sided lozenge shape. I have been wanting this kind for some time because it stays open on its own. It's the type used for carpet bags and such. When closed, it's 16" but when open, it's 13" long and 7" wide. I envisioned a trapezoidal bag that would become a rough cylinder when open. The bottom is a long oval, and there are only two pattern pieces for the upright sides (meaning there aren't gussets or shaped sides, like my old bag had).

There would be two pockets on each broad side, with unsecured flaps and box pleats; one would be 8" and the other 3", for wallet, phone, keys, sunglasses, etc. These would be lined with the same fabric as the interior of the bag.

Inside, I plotted out seven pockets. On the right side, pocket 1 would hold patterns even if they were in pocket folders, and then the remaning section (pocket 2) would be divided at every inch for tall knitting needles. On the left, pocket 3 would be pleated with a flap, to hold extra 'supplies' and a pillbox for emergencies. Pockets 4, 5, and 6 would be the same size but without pleats or flaps. Pocket 7 would be shorter; this and #6 would also be divided at each inch for holding pens, crochet hooks, and small knitting needles.

Even with all these pockets, I think the bottom will remain uncluttered. Between the structure of the Mylar and the overall shape of the bag, I think this time the center will stay roomy and open--no matter how full the pockets end up! I have only two small sections that haven't been 'assigned' a use, so I can use them for holding my business cards or a small notebook. They're small enough that even if I try to throw yarn labels, receipts, or test projects in there, I can't take too much.

Notions & Accessories

To carry the bag, I will be looking for a pair of arch handles that are 6" between the ends. I may make them myself if I can't find some I like, but I plan to do a lot of looking around. I might go with leather ones depending on the outer fabric. There will also be a 'D' ring attached securely at the right corner on both sides of the bag so I can add a shoulder strap. I wanted to keep this as simple as possible: one strap, attached at either end on opposite sides. It should maintain the balance of the bag without affecting the hardware.

The hardware will be hand-sewn into a casing made from the main body fabric. It will be added after the mylar inserts go into the sides, probably after the handles are added. I will reinforce the seam with grosgrain ribbon, also hand-sewn in.

While I work on this bag, I will be making some accessories as well. I have always wanted a spindle bag for my drop spindle; I have seen them at my local Guild meetings and it seems like a much nicer alternative to the plastic bags I've been using up til now. I have enough of the lining fabric left over to make a few, so I might just do just that. I will also be making a removable notions bag out of the same combination of fabrics, styled somewhat after my current one, which is a zippered makeup bag. I might monogram them both, just because I want to do some embroidery.


As I mentioned above, I know for a fact that I want to use my "Rowan" fabric for the lining. It's a lightweight calico cotton printed with blue and lavender knitting swatches, needles, and balls of yarn. I bought it on Ebay from a woman in the UK, which is the only place it seems anyone can find this line. I have about a yard, and it's 60" wide--PLENTY for the project and then some. I knew when I got it that I wanted it for a knitting bag someday.

Unfortunately, I don't have a specific outer fabric in mind. I think I'd like it to be one of the colors of the fabric, or at least a complementary color. Naturally, I'm thinking greens right now, which honestly wouldn't be bad. If I can find a nice bright--but not too acidic--green or green & yellow fabric, I think this would be a really pretty bag that would look nice at least two seasons of the year. One idea I had was to use some velveteen I have in my stash. I have a sagey green and a nice buckskin tan; I can envision the tan as being a nice neutral counterpoint to the busy calico. It would also give some additonal structure overall, which again, this bag seriously needs. I might use the green velveteen for my practice bag.

Interlining will be of plain white cotton muslin, pre-shrunk and ironed. I'll baste it to each pattern piece and treat it as one with the fabric. I thought about iron-on interfacing, but I like the look more of an independent layer. I used this technique when making bodices, which were very stuctured, shaped garments, and it was always easy (for me at least) to tell when I used it and when I didn't.

Back to the Present...and Future

Now I'm armed with the design, some ideas for fabrics, and most of the hardware & notions I'll need. I will add updates as I work--at this point, there may not be many if I can get to the fabrics I'm thinking of using & I can clear out my sewing area again. I WILL be making a practice bag, as noted above, which will let me tweak the design further and experiment with the fabrics, textures, etc. before cutting into my hard-to-get "Rowan". If this works, I might consider adding them to my Etsy shop or giving them as gifts.

I'll also note if I change things; the handles might end up being switched with a different style, or pocket sizes may adjust...whatever.

Comments? Suggestions? Questions? Been there, done that, don't do X? PLEASE let me know. :)

Monday, July 16, 2007

ConnectiCon is OVER

How would you like some pics?


View as a slideshow and you'll see 'em all. These are just the photos of my friends & my table; the rest of the cosplay is coming soon.

However, there were a couple of characters who had something to say to some of you...

Drakon, Cendri, you know these guys? ;)

Much love. More coming. Now, I go get breakfast with some of the money I earned at Con. :D

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


Some new yarn for ya.

I got the fiber from Street Legal Designs during one of Jo's awesome sales. I'm not really a rainbow person, despite my obsession with color, so when I opened the package I remember thinking, 'what possessed me to buy this?' However, the fiber was very very soft and dense, and the colors were pretty, if not 'me'. I brought it with me to show my uncle & aunt how my spinning wheel worked.

Once started, I just went ahead and finished it the following day. I gotta say, the singles were UGLY. I mean I was sitting there, spinning, wondering again what I'd gotten myself into. There was so much...PINK! And the colors didn't seem to do anything for each other, either. There were, however, spots that I thought lovely, and I suppose that's what kept me going.

As you see, the resulting yarn reveals NONE of these color flaws. I did a simple center-pull ball and plied the ends on themselves, and this is what I got. 240+yards of soft, smooth wool, in muted, transitioning colors that run up and down the plies. If I had any clue of a project to do with it, I'd save it for myself, but I bought it with the intention of selling whatever yarn I spun it into, so...there we go.

The yarn is called "Aeris" after one of my favorite characters in Final Fantasy VII. Aeris was a flower-seller who wore a pink dress; the main pink in this yarn is actually a perfect match to the official art of the character. :) The other colors are obviously flowers, and there's a wonderful couple of sections where the pink is plied with a pale green, which is a significant color that you'll get if you've played the game.

I'll be offering this at ConnectiCon this weekend, and if no one buys it then, I'll put it up on my Etsy shop.

In other news, I've done some knitting & crocheting:

The ubiquitous Mystery Stole 3:

A pair of green socks (still on the first one):

And a purse for myself, crocheted out of some organic cotton:

What have you been up to?

Oh, the Ravelry!

Yep, I finally got my invite to Ravelry, the new online community for knitters, crocheters, and other yarny folk. The site is still in beta, so they're still on an invitation-only basis. If you haven't yet, go to the main page and sign up for the waiting list. I waited a few weeks--almost a month--to get in, but they're adding people by the truckload every day now. Check out ALL of the screenshots, too!

Here's the link for the folks who are already there: My Profile

This means that I've also fleshed out my account on Flickr, so if you're there, please add me as a friend! I'm Divinebird on both sites, and though I've added a few people I knew off the bat, I'm certain there are more of you out there.

ConnectiCon is this weekend, which means I'll be incommunicado for a few days. Here's hoping some of my prints sell, some of my yarn sells, and I drive a bit of traffic toward my website. :D

Thursday, July 5, 2007


It's been a busy month for me, involving very little spinning. Most of what I've done has been Sock Hop-related, though I managed to take a bit of a break to spin this:

The fiber is wool/mohair from The Painted Sheep, handpainted by my friend Kristen G. She'd offered some of this at our Guild's Scotch auction last month, and I ended up having to get some for myself. :) There are 2 skeins of this, each about 85yards of 3-ply. I spun and plied it on my Babe using the 'Navajo' or chain-plying technique. I got about 18wpi, which isn't bad, but nowhere near what I wanted. (I was going for 22-24wpi) This will probably end up as an accent on socks or gloves. The color changes were preserved nicely with the plying, so I'll have a nice stripy fabric when I'm done knitting.

The other fiber-related thing of note is...Batt Club. How perfect is this? 3 packages of luxury spinning batts, each with enough to make, say, a pair of socks. Hee. The first package looked like this:

It's merino/silk. Three batts are fully blended to make a nice mixed-color yarn, while the fourth is left for stripes or other color effects. They make me happy.

Other than that, there's not much to tell. I'm doing MS3 (Mystery Stole 3) and am falling behind a bit, though it helps me that one of my LYS is having a knitalong every Friday night for the locals who are participating. My stole is being knitted from some white vintage yarn I acquired through a swap last year, with beads from EarthFaire. I recommend them for beads--they have a nice selection of colors & sizes, and the beads I ordered came with some sample packets & a bead threader. Not bad, plus they take PayPal. :D

I promise a more cohesive update in the future. Right now, I'm trying to deal with the chaos in my house after we moved ALL of our furniture around. It's nuts. I had no idea there was so much stuff in my apartment that I won't ever use again. Salvation Army, NADA, and FreeCycle will be hearing from me within the next week or so. :)

Drop me a line and let me know if you're still reading my stuff--sometimes I wonder if I'm just shouting into the void.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Blocking Handspun Yarn

An in-depth, step-by-step description of one way to do it

So you’ve got a spindle or a bobbin full of your newly spun and plied yarn. You’re aching to knit or crochet or weave or sell or do whatever with it, but it’s not quite finished—there’s the final step of blocking it (or setting the twist, to put it another way).

Blocking is wicked easy, trust me. It requires about an hour of your time to prep it and then about one night to dry, and that’s a generous estimate.


Niddy-noddy or something to wind the yarn into a hank

Several lengths of undyed cotton dishcloth yarn

Shower curtain rod & hooks (I use book rings, those hinged metal rings that snap shut, or old shower curtain hooks work too)

Soap suitable for handwashing delicate clothes (if desired)

Clean, dry towel (I have two I only use on yarn, lest dyes run, etc.)

Your Yarn, duh


1. Wind the yarn into a hank.

This is accomplished using a niddy-noddy, skein winder, swift, back of chair, someone’s hands, arm of couch…you get the picture. You want it to be between one and two yards AROUND, measuring the distance from one end of the loop to the other. Any less and your skein will be too small to twist neatly and it will tangle; any more and it will be hard to manage when you eventually wind it into a ball for use. You can buy niddy-noddies for $10 to $30 on average for a decent one; I made one using a ¾ inch dowel and a 1 ½ inch round. Directions are available if you want ‘em.

NB: When you wind the yarn, try not to pull it too tightly. Keep some tension on it so the yarn doesn’t curl back on itself, but don’t go nuts with yanking on it. Stretching the fibers too much will weaken the yarn and can lead to breakage, among other things. More on this later.

2. Tie the hank in several places.

Do this BEFORE you take it off whatever you wound it on. If you have a lot of yarn, my preferred method is to take a piece of undyed cotton dischloth yarn, make a figure-eight through the skein, and then loosely wrap it once around the entire section. This is mostly if I’m not planning to use the yarn immediately, because it keeps the strands secure and organized. If you plan to wind the yarn into a ball right away, then just tie a loop around the section with a half-bow. Make 2 to 4 ties like this.

I usually take the ends of the yarn and use them as ties as well. This makes it easy to find them when I’m ready to start winding the yarn later. Be sure the ties are NOT too tight—you want them just tight enough that they don’t slide all along the yarn, but also loose enough that they don’t pull the yarn into a clump.

3. Carefully remove the now-tied hank from whatever you wound it on.

It will likely want to curl up on itself like ramen—this is ok. I try to keep a little tension on it but it’s not a real issue normally. That curl will go away soon. :)

4. Fill the sink about halfway with lukewarm water.

Add the soap if you desire; it’s not necessary unless your fiber is dirty or you want a scent added. Plain water works just fine.

5. Holding one of the ties, dunk the hank of yarn into the water several times.

You want to be sure the yarn gets completely wet at this point. Don’t agitate the fibers too much, since you don’t want to felt them! You’ll notice that most of the ramen curl goes away once it’s full of water. Let it drain a bit, then gently but firmly squeeze the water out as much as you can.

Once you’ve done that, neatly lay the hank on the towel and roll it up very tightly. I like to lean on it to squeeze as much water out as humanly possible—you will be surprised how wet the towel is when you unroll it! Wool especially can hold up to three times its weight in water before it feels wet, so the towel step is very important. It keeps your bathroom floor from getting flooded!

6. Thwack it.

This is a great step for getting out some frustrations. Take the hank by each end and gently but firmly (sense a pattern yet?) tug on it to align the strands. Gather both ends in one hand and then thwack the folded end against the side of the tub a few times. Make it a good solid thump—this wakes up the fibers and causes the yarn to ‘bloom’. If you think the yarn needs it, do this from the folded section as well. Find one of your ties and then realign the strands by putting your hands into the center of the hank and pulling outward a few times.

7. Hang it up to dry.

I put book rings through one of the ties and then around the shower curtain rod, though I have also used shower curtain hooks, plastic hangers, and lingerie hangers to do this as well. Make sure the hank has a lot of space around it for air circulation and if you want, put the towel you used under it on the floor to catch any drips. Realign the strands one last time if you need to, and then let it dry overnight. When I have the A/C on in my apartment, a skein of 300 yards of sock weight will dry completely within 8 – 10 hours. Usually I’ll get these hung up around 8pm, then slightly rotate the skein on the hook just before bed. This also helps prevent a hanging divot from appearing in the yarn.

NB: Do NOT weight the skein! As noted before, this can cause the fibers to weaken if you’re working with a fine yarn, meaning it can break the strands eventually. Not good! Also, if you weight a skein when it’s wet, it will dry that way…but beware, because the first time you wash an item knitted with that yarn, the yarn will want to revert to its natural bounciness, and you will have puckering where the yarn contracted. Some books talk about weighting yarn, but it’s not necessary. At most, if you’re having issues with it still curling up on itself, loosely roll a washcloth up and set it into the bottom of the hank while it dries. That will keep the strands from curling too much and won’t affect the shape of the yarn.

8. When it’s dry, twist it into a skein.

Unhook the yarn and put your hands into the center of the hank. Pull your hands apart until the skein is taut between them. Twist your right hand away from you and your left hand toward you until you can’t twist them anymore—the skein will be VERY tight. Grab the center of the hank under your chin and then bring your hands together, looping one end over the other. Let the part under your chin go. The hank will want to twist around itself very prettily, so just arrange it so the twist is even and the hank is attractive. The yarn will rest like this until you’re ready to use it. It’s better to store your yarn in hanks rather than balls, since they’re under less tension like this.

…And you’re done!

WHEW, that seemed like a lot, didn’t it? It’s really not that hard, though, just involved a bit. I often wait to do this until I have several skeins that need it. Just about every fiber works with this—wool, silk, cotton, linen, alpaca, etc. If you wonder what this does for your yarn, here’s a short list of benefits:

--makes the yarn drape better

--softens the twist

--sets the twist so it won’t curl up on itself or untwist

--evens out the skein

--makes the fibers lie neatly

--fluffs up fluffy fibers (think of angora and alpaca)

--acts as a double-check for dyes that run, etc.

If you are in a rush and you need this done, you have the option of steaming instead. I have one of those travel steamers, the kind you plug in and use to un-wrinkle suits & stuff. An iron set on ‘steam’ works the same way—just NEVER actually touch the yarn with the iron! You can also turn the shower on VERY hot and close the bathroom door to steam up the room. I found that direct steam gives a much better effect than the hot-shower method, but either works in a pinch.

Remember, this is only one way to do it. I have read many different ways to set the twist, but the fundamentals are the same.

Hope this helps! Enjoy yourself!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Meddling & Lateness: A Cautionary Tale

So today was the Massachusetts Sheep & Wool festival, and Dragonmaille and I were planning to go up, enter our respective skeins into the handspun contest, and hang around. We had also planned to go for both days.

I got to D's house, where she was almost ready to go except her skein entry hadn't been wound long enough to twist back on itself, and was too thick to dry properly from the night before. (Don't worry if you non-yarny folk don't understand this; suffice to say that there was stuff that needed to be done to it before we could enter it in the contest.) I took it upon myself to wind it for her while she hopped in the shower. Big mistake.

Upon untying it and getting it ready, I managed to pull out the wrong end of the yarn, and immediately tangled the entire thing. No, wait--I didn't tangle it--I made it EXPLODE. Cue much frantic scrambling by me and then D and then me AND D to get it into order. A few hundred yards of Romeldale went SPROING and then CLUMP and I think it was then we realized that I had royally screwed it up.

We got a late start, with the nearly-always-Zen D actually showing irritation (well-deserved by me) and trying desperately to restore order to what was essentially a slightly damp ball of sheep that kept reverting to its pre-blocked curly state. I drove for 45 minutes from her place to the fairgrounds, and the entire time she fiddled with knots that appeared and disappeared at some cruel cosmic entity's idea of funny.

Of course, the late start coupled with some rotten slow (FOR NO REASON) traffic on Route 9 meant that we were late getting to the fairgrounds, which meant we were late getting to the building where the judging was being held. Which meant that we staggered up to the doors about five minutes after they had finished judging the skein contest entries. Which meant...yeah. No skein contest for us this time around.

I suppose it was karma, since I had--no matter how unwittingly--made D's entry impossible through my own meddling-in-helping's-clothing. I don't know how she felt inside, but I know I was ready to cry. Actually, we talked about it a lot, and I think she was pretty much at the same point. At least her problem was that someone else made a mistake, not her. *hangs head* It sucks, because I was really happy with all the yarns we both planned to enter, and I think we both had a shot at placing at least.

OK, so the crappy part is over. Now the fun.

After I chucked my bag of skeins into my car, we walked around the booths to see who was there, what was for sale--you know, the REALLY fun stuff. We ran into some vendors we'd met a couple of weeks ago at WEBS's tent sale--it was nice that they remembered us. It's ALWAYS nice when a vendor remembers us. It's harder for them than it is for the customer; they see so many people everywhere they go, so standing out (in a good way) is always a pleasant surprise. They even remembered what we BOUGHT. That was cool. :)

One booth had silk waste, the stuff used for spinning recycled silk. SO cool, and a good price--we each picked up a bag. We also grabbed a knot of silk thrums, though I have no clue what to do with them. I think they're for weaving, but I'm not sure--got to figure it out. Til then, I'll be playing with the knot and admiring the deep turquoise color. :D I also found a trio of dyed mohair locks in cobalt blue, bronze, and gold. I really mean those colors, too--the bronze & gold are almost metallic, they're so deep. Last, I grabbed some casein needles (made of milk protein) and some maple spread & candy. Some people will be receiving maple candy from me in the next week or so...some of you have specifically mentioned missing/wanting some. :)

We decided not to go back again tomorrow, since we didn't have stuff to pick up from the contest, and we had pretty much spent our budgets, and we'd seen everyone and everything we'd wanted to see. I actually uttered the words "I'm tired of looking at yarn." I thought D would pass out in shock. ;)

It really was nice to walk around, and though we didn't do any of the contests/spinning/workshops, we still had a good time. I think next year it will be easier to participate in stuff, and the staff was really nice about us being late and they were very apologetic. We'll just have to make sure next time, our stuff is ready way ahead of time--and next time I will NOT interfere with D's yarn, no matter how well-meaning I am. Because meddling cost us both the chance to show off our badass yarn, and that sucks.

And now, if you don't mind, I'm off to spin some of the fun stuff I bought today. :)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Jenny-colored Part 2

I couldn't keep my hands off it. :)

Jenny-colored yarn:

This is half of the fiber; I tore the long piece in half, then split it down the middle, spun 2 almost-exactly-equal-length singles and then plied them together, ending up with a nice shaded striping yarn. I'll do the same thing with the other half, and I should have a pair of mostly-evenly-striped socks when I'm done. :D This skein: 2oz Superwash wool (merino?), 145yd. Let's see if I can do the same thing with the other half!!

(the other sock batts will follow once I've finished the rest of this one :D)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Knitting Skills Meme--because I was tagged :P

The Knitting Skills Meme

Bold is for things you have done
Italic is for things you want to do some day
Leave anything else plain

Garter stitch
Knitting with metal wire
Stockinette stitch
Socks: top-down
Socks: toe-up
Knitting with camel yarn
Mittens: Cuff-up
Mittens: Tip-down
Knitting with silk
Moebius band knitting
Participating in a KAL
Drop stitch patterns
Knitting with recycled/secondhand yarn
Slip stitch patterns
Knitting with banana fiber yarn
Domino knitting (=modular knitting)
Twisted stitch patterns
Knitting with bamboo yarn
Two end knitting
Charity knitting
Knitting with soy yarn
Toy/doll clothing
Knitting with circular needles
Baby items
Knitting with your own hand-spun yarn--OH YEAH baby <3 Slippers
Graffiti knitting
Continental knitting
Designing knitted garments
Cable stitch patterns (incl. Aran)
Lace patterns
Publishing a knitting book--Sort of--have a pattern in a calendar. Does that count? :D
Participate in an exchange
Teaching a child to knit - I keep trying with my girls!
American/English knitting (as opposed to continental)
Knitting to make money
Knitting with alpaca
Fair Isle knitting
Norwegian knitting
Dyeing with plant colors
Knitting items for a wedding
Household items (dishcloths, washcloths, tea cosies…)
Knitting socks (or other small tubular items) on one or two circulars
Knitting with someone else’s hand-spun yarn
Knitting with dpns
Holiday related knitting
Teaching a male how to knit
Knitting for a living
Knitting with cotton
Knitting smocking
Dyeing yarn
Knitting art
Knitting two socks on two circulars simultaneously--not this, but I've done it on 1 set of DPNs though
Knitting with wool
Textured knitting
Kitchener stitch
Knitted flowers
Knitting with beads
Long Tail CO
Knitting and purling backwards
Machine knitting
Knitting with self patterning/self striping/variegated yarn
Stuffed toys
Baby items
Knitting with cashmere
Knitting with synthetic yarn
Writing a pattern
Knitting with linen
Knitting for preemies
Tubular CO
Free-form knitting
Short rows
Cuffs/fingerless mits/arm-warmers
Knitting a pattern from an on-line knitting magazine
Knitting on a loom
Thrummed knitting
Knitting a gift
Knitting for pets
Knitting with dog/cat hair--Does it count that everything I knit ends up containing a bit of cat hair? ;)
Hair accessories
Knitting in public

And a question: What have you learned to do that has marked a definite change in your knitting life?

I learned to break things down to their base forms--patterns & charts are reduced to individual stitches, rather than looking at a complicated design as a whole. By doing that, I found that there is NOTHING that is 'too difficult'. It's all just knits and purls, ones and zeroes. :) Complex patterns are much less scary when I remember that they're formed one stitch at a time.

I don't usually participate in stuff like this, but I REALLY liked the list and anyway, Lucy tagged me. :D How could I not?


Abby sent me a box of sock batts and a surprise--special "Jenny-colored" superwash roving. I had asked once if she could do colors like the ones I love, so she came up with this:

And here's the "Jenny-colored" fiber. Aptly named, ne?

My only question is--which do I play with first? :D

Monday, May 21, 2007

Yarn, redux

To wit:

Merino/silk/firestar from Abby's Yarns. 314yards, 2.3oz, 30wpi

Wool/mohair from the same source. 150yards, 2oz. One ply is mostly solid green, the other ply varies from aqua to lime to green to blue.

Friday, April 27, 2007

How the Time Flies

WARNING: HIGHLY PIC-HEAVY. If you're on a slow connection, you may want to go fix yourself some lunch or something.

Ok so--I've been so busy that I haven't even taken the time to make a real blog post for most of the month. This should catch you up to what's going on in my world--at least the fibre-enhanced portion thereof. ;)

It started with the arrival of a box from Crown Mountain Farms. I am spinning some of their Sock Hop yarn, so three pounds of it are sitting in my living room right now. :D I plan to do about a pound a week, but the first one went VERRRRRRRRRRY slowly as I was getting used to my new wheels, the fibre, and concentrating on making it to their specifications. Teyani (and everyone else) warned me that spinning for production is a very different mindset than spinning for oneself, and I completely understand it now. I'm about halfway through the box, which is good, but much slower than I'd anticipated. I see myself speeding up a lot in the coming weeks, though, so I should do pretty well with this.

A massive collage of pics I took a couple weeks ago of my first 2 skeins (in colorway Great Balls of Fire):

Here's a couple of collages featuring yarns I've finished. You may recognize the Iris Garden Stripe as the yarn that was on my wheel in the last entry.

My crochet class ended on Wednesday, on a high note. I was thrilled to bits to see everyone making something--even the two who had never done any yarn crafts before! It's so amazingly wonderful to see progress like that. Even the one who was frustrated because she didn't think she'd ever get it was changing colors, experimenting with yarns, and gaining confidence. My work here is done.

About midway through the month, I was struck with an inescapable urge to dye silk. What a success! There's nothing like seeing a brilliantly-colored swath of silk fibre to make one feel like one can do ANYTHING. I used McCormick's food coloring, citric acid, some plastic containers and my microwave, and in one afternoon I had this:

The pink/orange/purple one is spinning up beautifully.

I finished two pairs of the mittens in my 3-pair commission; I got slowed down considerably when I had a few weeks of no knitting at ALL. I worked in the wood shop, babysat, ran errands, did taxes (both personal AND business), cleaned my apartment, did a mountain of laundry, and cleaned out the van & my car. Oh, then I helped my sister pack for moving (she's coming back to CT! YAY!), worked for my dad, and went through a series of doctors' appointments for various small things. I have discovered that I am highly allergic to cats (though mine doesn't bother me symptom-wise), somewhat allergic to dogs and some pollen, and not allergic at all to dust mites or cockroaches. Eww. I...guess that's good?

I got the Babe spinning wheel at this month's Guild meeting, and though I loved its portability and durability, it just wasn't working out. I was kind of disappointed after spending a tidy sum on it, and couldn't figure out why I liked using Debbie's so much but disliked mine. Why was it so difficult to spin?

It turned out to be a combination of things. First, I had used Debbie's on her hardwood floor, whereas I have thick carpeting with double padding. The entire apparatus would wobble when I treadled, meaning it was extra work to keep the wheel going. This wouldn't have been a problem, except that the very design of the wheel put it off balance. The maiden juts out unsupported over the treadles (you'll see it in the photos below) and once it starts to move, the only thing keeping it upright is a single pole along the back of the wheel. Think of a flagpole in the wind--it's still upright, but it snaps back & forth at the top. It affected the takeup as well, making it hard to wind the yarn onto the bobbin.

My solution was to add stability to the design by placing a support under the maiden that would attach to the bottom frame between the treadles. I found a piece of cherry (my favorite!) that had a slight warp in it, and therefore was unusable for furniture. It's unnoticeable in this situation, though, so I cut it to length, then cut out the areas for it to surround the frames on each end. I put a small nail into each end, then drilled a tiny hole in position on the frame to correspond with the nails. After adding a decorative cutout and a good sanding, the piece was done. Check it out!

The wobble is gone, and I can even use the support piece as a carry bar. It's like a totally new wheel.

On the shop front, I have seen my sales pick up a bit. Instead of months between sales, it's been a few weeks between each one. This IS an improvement, though far from my goal of a few sales a week. I've got a bunch of new yarns that will be posted in the next week or two; I want to do a few craft fairs over the summer and I'll need stock! I've also got a crochet project in the works for the shop; not sure what it's going to be but the squares have built up throughout my crochet class.

Not sure if you remember the Tiger Lily yarn I spun up from Abby's luscious batts, but I was JUST getting ready to wind it into a ball after the guild meeting so I could start knitting my socks. I was showing the fat skein to one of the lovely ladies of the guild when she gasped and said, "You HAVE to enter that into the skein contest this fall!" I demurred (I really wanted my socks) but when I talked to Abby, she was like, "GO FOR IT." And so I'm gonna re-skein it (it's gotten a bit out of place from being handled so much), tag it, and enter it in pretty much ANY skein contest I can find this summer. :) Why not? It remains my favorite skein to date--and I'm a girl who LOVES all of my yarn. It would be kind of cool to even say I participated, y'know?

Geez, I think that's enough for now. I'm sure there's a ton I've missed, but it will have to wait til later. Enjoy the pics, check out the shop, and drop me a line to let me know someone's reading this! :D

A quick PSA

...Before I post my real entry later this morning.

As knitters, crocheters, and spinners, we often feel the need to 'knit/crochet/spin/DO SOMETHING' in support of people affected by tragedies. Thankfully, there's a way to let our hearts speak through our yarn for those affected by the VA Tech massacre earlier this month. Click on the image below to be taken to the yarn shop's blog and mailing address.

Just spreading the word. :) More yarn, fibre, dyeing, and wheel modification photos coming later today. :D

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Mine. ALL MINE!! :D

Thanks to the lovely Yarnyoga from Livejournal, I am now in possession of a nearly-new spinning wheel. It's an Ashford Traveller, which is one solid hunk of wood, let me tell you! I feel like I could knock it over and it would still spin just fine. :D

And I CAN spin fine on it; took me a half hour of fiddling around with the tension and learning how it acts differently from the Thumbelina (my borrowed wheel)--which is in just about EVERY way. I do think this is far more adjustable, and at least I won't have to make replacement parts!

I love that it's unfinished; there's nothing on it except a single coat of furniture wax that YY put on it in 2004 when she got it. I can do anything with this wheel!

So the plans are still to purchase the Babe production wheel, to use for my Sock Hop spinning, and to use this one for my personal spinning--that way, I can have one dedicated wheel that is always used for the same purpose so I don't have to adjust it repeatedly, and the second wheel will handle my stuff for my shop, my personal use, and testing out new techniques or fibers.

Isn't she beautiful? :D

(please ignore the craptastic low-light pic. I'll take better ones later. :D)

So far, the things I've noticed:

The wheel will stop if I stop treadling. The Thumbelina would keep going, so I have to get used to this.

I love having the maiden (the part on the top that holds the yarn I'm spinning) on the left. I draft from that side of my body, and this makes it more in line.

Treadling is much more work overall, but the double treadle makes a huge difference and puts less strain on my legs than the single treadle did.

Adjusting the tension is FAR more complicated on this wheel than it was on the Thumbelina.

The bigger wheel puts a LOT more twist into the fiber with MUCH less effort. Spinning is, therefore, faster.

And there's more, I'm sure, but now I want to get back to the delight of spinning on a wheel that is not only nearly brand new (it was built in about 2004) but is also...MINE.


Lookee! Alpaca!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Sometimes It's Good to be a Woodworker

When I got to borrow the Sleeping Beauty wheel, it had been used for a long time by several different owners. The wheel itself is at least as old as I am, perhaps more--this model was made only during the early 1970s before it was redesigned. I got it with two bobbins, and there were some worn parts. So I decided to spruce it up a bit (with the permission of the owner, of course!).

First, the brake on the maiden was simply worn out. I just needed to cut a new piece that was 1/16" larger than the old one.

A more complicated fix was the broken bobbin. While not completely necessary for normal spinning, the section that had broken off the whorl rendered the bobbin too short to fill completely. I sanded the broken edge smooth, cut a new piece from a thin scrap of wood (poplar, I think) and glued it on, then sanded it all smooth. This removed some of the old finish, sadly, but it's worth it to have a better working bobbin. Apparently, this also cured an issue with balance, as it seems to spin better now than it did. I also filed out the bushings (the interior liners for the openings) a bit, as the wood had compressed them over time. It's still noisier than the other original bobbin, but MUCH better than it was.

And yes, that's the beginning of my work on the Sock Hop yarn. :D Colorway: Great Balls of Fire! :D

Last, and most complicated, was the reproduction of a new bobbin. Bobbins (and frankly, any parts) for this particular wheel are extremely rare and hard to come by. My dad and I got out the lathe and designed a replacement whorl and head out of Spanish cedar. The shaft is just a normal 3/4" dowel, drilled through. It's pictured here before I polished it with steel wool, to get rid of any tiny roughness raised by the tung oil used to finish it. For reference, the bobbin with blue singles on it is the old one, while the empty one is the new one. :)

The hardest part was reproducing the drive whorl--it had to be at least ALMOST exact if not perfect, so this bobbin would turn at the same rate the other bobbins do.

After giving it a whirl (hurr hurr), it looks like the bobbin is just right! The brake works beautifully on the maiden, and the broken bobbin doesn't act up as much as it did. All in all, not a bad day in the shop. :)

Back to spinning!!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


See this?

Yeah, this?

Look a little closer...

That got me a job.

Spinning this.

...I am a very, very happy little bird right now.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Periodic Updates

1. New Online Portfolio Here. Nothing you guys haven't seen before, but I love the interface and how nice the images look on the page.

2. Nearly done with my current knitting commission; I encountered a snag when I had to change the size from adult to child on part of it, but now it's smooth sailing. I am aiming for the end of the week to be finished.

3. Received a box of Wensleydale locks in a yellow orange and a pink orange, as well as some more Zwartble roving and a darling wrist-style yarn holder--for the yarny types, it's like a distaff for spinning but you can use it to hold a ball of yarn to help facilitate knitting while walking. :D

4. Getting rid of the van. Husband got a raise, a bonus, and a nice tax return--and so we got a new (for us) car. Hey, look, we have two cars that are decently reliable!

5. Reinventing myself as a spinner & textile artist. Will it work? Stay tuned.

6. Teaching two classes through Adult Ed: Basic Knitting (on Monday nights) and Basic Crochet (on Wednesday nights). Both are fun, though hard work, and totally worth it. Thursday nights are now taken up with SnB at Starbucks. I taught my husband and a male friend to knit. :D

7. At this rate, I will never have to buy coffee at Starbucks EVER AGAIN. :D

8. I got the spinning job. :D I will be spinning sock yarn for Crown Mountain Farm's Sock Hop line. :D Can not wait. :D

9. Experimenting with Limonata-can crochet. This should be amusing.

10. Godzilla movies rule. I just watched three of them with my husband, and we are so hooked. Again.

No pics this time around, sorry. :) 'Night!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Small Yarns

Working through my stash some more--today I've got just a few small skeins to show off. Some of these were spun a couple of weeks ago but the weather hasn't cooperated to give me good light lately. It's a bit on the bright side today, but still MUCH better for photos than dull grey!

First, here's the purple contrast for the Tiger Lily yarn, also displayed against the striped skein to show how they'll look together. It's the same blend of colors only MORE blended, with an emphasis on the purple.

And this is a little collage of three different sock yarns. Yardage is noted on the collage.

I may be posting more later--I am spinning up some mystery fiber in a beautiful range of light blues and greens, among other things. :D