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!