Thursday, January 31, 2008

For love of sock yarn

Remember how I said I'd made sock yarn? Well now I have pictures! I'm pretty tempted to let the pictures express how very, very excited I am to have made fingering weight yarn that's enough for socks!!

The Fiber:
Dublin Bay Fiber
4 oz. BFL fiber from The Painted Sheep, in the Dublin Bay colorway

The Fiber, unfurled
Dublin Bay unfurled
I divided this in half lengthwise, and then for half A I split it again, for half B I split it lengthwise four times, following a trick I saw on Ravelry about making space-dyed roving into barberpole-striped yarn.

(Click to make any of these bigger in Flickr!!)

Spinning the fiber:
Spinning DB

All plied up, it overflows from this bobbin said to hold 4 ounces:
Dublin Bay plied

What it looks like washed and dried:
Dublin Bay sock yarn 1 Dublin Bay sock yarn 2

All bundled up as a pretty little skein:
Dublin Bay sock yarn 3 Dublin Bay sock yarn 4

What we have here is 380 yards, 4 oz., fingering weight. It's not superwash, but it sure sounds like sock yarn to me!

Dublin Bay sock yarn 5

I think I'm in love. I'm half tempted to pull out the sock needles right now and cast on to watch this yarn make socks! The other half wants to stare at it, squeeze and pat it. It's soft. It's squishy. It's enough for socks. I'm a happy, happy spinner. I think I'll hang onto it a bit before turning this FO back into a WIP.

As we close this week and come to the weekend, I only hope you find something fibery that makes you quite this happy!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Handspun yarn or rejected writing?

As I considered my options this afternoon, I decided I'd rather tell you all about my latest spinning news than spend too much time worrying that an article submission I sent out a couple of months ago was essentially rejected for not having enough postmodern theory in it. Actually, they didn't reject it outright. They wanted me to revise it based upon a whole lot of theory I'm not entirely familiar with, and I'm not at all sure I want to write the article they want to read! Instead, I think I'll try it with another journal! On the bright side of the schoolwork, though, I have finished a draft of a chapter for the dissertation and will send it off to my advisor soon!

I've been procrastinating on showing you my latest bout of spinning, which occupied me from January 4 - sometime last week, at which point I sent it off to its intended recipient, Greta_Jane, for a belated birthday present. I haven't been showing you many pictures of this spinning because I didn't want her to see too much of it (and she tells me she liked what she saw when I let one little image slip through).

Warm wine yarn 1

What you see here is about 550 yards / 8 oz. of Louet Corriedale fiber in the colorway "warm wine." It worked out to be about worsted weight. Although it wasn't as even as I'd hoped it would be (it never seems to be, once it comes to plying), I was quite pleased to see that the yarn turned out pretty light and fluffy, not nearly as dense and tightly spun as my previous yarns have been. Maybe I'm getting the hang of this!

Warm wine yarn 2

The first picture is more true-to-color. I had a really hard time getting good close-ups of the yarn that weren't either entirely blurry or entirely washed out from the flash. This one will have to do.

I also managed, over the past few days, to spin up 4 oz. of yarn that, once it's dry, will be worth of the esteemed title "Sock Yarn." At about 17-19 wraps per inch, it ranges between sport and fingering weight, and has enough yardage for socks - 380 yards! This accomplishment, my friends, is a big milestone as a lover of socks and spinning! But you (and I) will have to wait until it dries to see pictures.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I thought I lost the sock love

I've been having a problem with socks lately. Specifically, socks using those hand-painted yarns I often love so much.  I mean, just take a look at this one. 

laburnum or not

This one, folks, is supposed to have a pattern. A pretty pattern called "Laburnum." (It's in the Sensational Knitted Socks book, a 5-stitch pattern).  You can see some examples over there at Flickr. But my sock, it does not have a pattern. Hence, it's been frogged.

Or there's this one, Cascading Leaves. Again, check these out. See those nice little leaves? Now look at this:

cascading leaves

Ugh, right? OK, it's not that bad, but it is a little bit, well, blotchy. I haven't quite frogged this one, but I'm tempted.

In desperation, I pulled out some Koigu last night, a nice, reliable handpaint. A colorway, I should add, that hadn't worked well with a pattern involving cables and lace. You'd think I'd have pulled out a nice, and definitely reliable solid color. But no, I decided I wanted to try this particular yarn. After all, it's blue and white and makes me think of winter sunsets. After a bit of poking around on Ravelry, I thought that the Hedera pattern might have just the right amount of interest, but I wasn't so sure about the whole handpainted business. I gave it a shot last night. This is what I found:

Hedera 1 Hedera 2

I like it. In fact, I really like it. Color me surprised, hand-paint me amazed! I think what you see there must be my personal record for the most sock knit in one evening yet! Thank goodness, my sock love hasn't, as I had feared, quite left me yet.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Handknit and handspun

Hey guess what everyone! It worked! I knit something with yarn that I spun! 

Remember this bit of overspun, blue tweediness?

Blue lagoon.JPG

Well, with it I made a hat!!

Tweed beret

Pattern: Tweed Beret from Interweave Knits Winter 2006
Yarn: My Own Handspun!!
Needles: Size 7 in DPNs and various circulars
Time: About a week

The overspun tweediness of the yarn ended up working out really well for the pattern. I also had the perfect amount of yarn: just a tiny, smaller-than-a-ping-pong ball's worth at the end. I was surprised; I'd thought I'd have too little yarn, but no, it was all fine! It was a big tough on my hands: very little stretch to the yarn and therefore not the nicest to knit with. I also could have made the hat a bit floppier.  It's pretty thick yarn, and was nice and toasty when Coffeeboy took this picture yesterday during a snowfall.  Overall, though, I really like how it came out and am terribly excited that my yarn actually "worked"! 

I have another FO that I've been forgetting to post: Coffeeboy's socks. I finished these while we were in Colorado, a few days before New Year's - the last FO of 2007.

Retro rib socks

: Retro Rib socks from Interweave's book Favorite Socks
Yarn: Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in Pioneer, 2 skeins
Needles: size 1, magic-looped
Time: Nov. 2007-Dec. 2007

I really enjoyed this pattern; the socks were easy to knit and the ribbing controlled some of the pooling of the yarn. Coffeeboy seems to like them too! I "gave" him the yarn as a graduation present, with the promise that they'd become socks, and I finally have kept that promise!

I've been spinning a lot lately, as you might have seen in that last post. For the past almost 2 weeks I've been spinning 8 oz. of red, "warm wine" yarn. It's amazing how much longer it takes when I'm really trying to do things right and spin more even, consistent singles!  Last night I plied it onto 2 bobbins; today I need to take that off the bobbins and finish plying the yarn, probably a bobbin and a half. Then I will have a spinning FO to show you, too!

Friday, January 18, 2008

January's Effects

January has a way of doing things to me. You might guess that what happens in January is hibernation, the effect of darkness, the quiet of the snow. Instead, I often feel a sense of things moving and shifting, as if on some level, I must be able to detect the after-solstice lengthening of the days.

Maybe I'm thinking about all this because a week ago a very good friend converted religions and entered a new decade of life, all in the space of a weekend. Somewhere in there, my talk of spinning into a new phase of life must have got me thinking about the deeper things in life that only rarely write about on this blog. Or maybe it was seeing the past twelve or so years of my life flashing before my eyes, sometimes literally, as I set up my new computer.

Juniper the spinner
Juniper likes the spinning, too, and sometimes checks out the fiber

I'm not kidding about the computer and the flashing. Things really did flash, and it wasn't a trick of the mind or eye. I went quickly through the past seven or so years of digital photos, which is as long ago as my first digital camera. iPhoto for some reason had only imported some of my pictures, so I needed to get it set up in order to download the latest knitting photos. As I merged different collections of pictures together, they literally flashed across the screen. (When there were sets of pictures of the cats, it looked like a movie of squirming and wiggling, I swear). Transferring from Eudora to Mail meant that I had to literally reopen and rebuild files of email that I wrote home during my first semester of college.

So what is it about January? My first January in graduate school, the seclusion of writing papers and exams turned some corner of my brain into a monastic, hermetic retreat. One the one hand, I was totally stressed and anxious (I think I ate nothing but reheat-able, frozen Trader Joe's dinners for two straight weeks I had that little spare time) - and on the other hand I finished the exams, ended a relationship that had gone on far too long, and came out the other side feeling really great. I didn't yet, for that matter, know how to knit, but life was still good.

Tweed Beret WIP
And now I knit with my own handspun!!

This January, we finally got some snow, just like all the Januarys I used to spend in the northeast. On Wednesday night it finally snowed here in this little mountain town, and the world got really quiet and slippery. I drove home from knitting in Asheville through the snow, doing 25 in a 45 zone so I wouldn't slip down the steep slope. I got out of my car. You could hear the hisses of snow and sleet and ice, but not much else. The world had hunkered down by 10 o'clock at night. I woke up yesterday to the sound of drips and told the cats to look for icicles.

Snow in our complex
It's supposed to snow again on Saturday!

This January is not the same as all those other Januarys. But the quiet of the snow and the essential aloneness of writing a dissertation makes me pause and think of Januarys past. I wonder what the next ones will bring?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Rest in Peace, Old Mac

Well, it's finally happened. My trusty old iBook has been set aside and replaced. It didn't die in a horrible crash of unutterable proportions, but simply got old, as few computers get to do. Old, slow, cranky, but thankfully never wrinkly.

My old computer

RIP: August 2001 - January 2008

The new computer's on-board camera
takes a picture of the old,
now shut down, its sleep light no longer glowing. 
Goodbye and Hello. 

That old iBook and I have seen a lot together. It's been my trusted technological companion since August of 2001, a few months after Mac OSX and the new, square, white iBooks came out. It saw during its 7.5 years of service:
  • an upgraded hard drive, from 10 to 40 gigs
  • new memory added
  • an airport/wireless card added
  • a new keyboard (after the cats kindly removed the 'E' key)
  • an external screen when its own became dim
  • a new battery after the old one failed to charge
It helped me through many projects, fun times, and transitions:
  • 1 close call in which I nearly left the Mac universe (I've been a Mac user for as long as I've used computers) for the PC universe, and this Mac kept me so securely in the fold that now I can't imagine using anything else
  • 1 master's program and over half of a PhD
  • 2 autumns of PhD applications
  • seemingly countless term papers and their associated documents
  • 1 breakup (one which was a very good thing, too)
  • 1 wonderful spouse (really and truly: way back when he first met me, Coffeeboy was impressed that I had an iBook and that it was running beta software. He figured I must have been a fellow geek of some sort). 
  • 1 year of wedding planning
  • 44716 emails stored in Eudora, now successfully and safely transferred to Apple's Mail program
  • 5 homes in 3 different states
  • all the photos for a knitting blog, slowly, slowly opening up in iPhoto, and slowly loading in Flickr
  • innumerable history files in my web browser for knitting patterns and yarn
  • the beginnings of a dissertation, and its very many documentary demands
You almost never crashed, old friend. You never lost my data. (I have all my emails going back to 1996, freshman year of college, for example. That's almost an insane amount of memory and data). You would have kept on trucking along, maybe at 15 mph instead of 60, if I had let you.  You got me through a good majority of the previous decade of my life, and I can only hope that my new computer proves to be as excellent a machine as you were, that it can assist me through whatever comes next with just as much ease and style!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Stranded for the New Year

Guess what? I've now fulfilled a childhood dream... of being stranded in the mountains by a snowstorm. Coffeeboy and I spent the new year's holiday with his family in Colorado, and a week ago Friday, we went into the mountains to spend time at their condo at a ski resort. We cross-country skiied happily on Saturday, were joined by friends that afternoon, and snowshoed Sunday morning. As you can see, it was quite snowy! After a leisurely late lunch at a local restaurant, we went home to the condo to pack and leave.

Snowshoing at Copper.JPG

We ended up leaving at about 5 pm, the same time as everyone else heading home from the slopes after Christmas week, in this case, east towards Denver on highway 70. (You might have read something about this on the news a few days ago.) About an hour and 5 miles later, we decided to turn around and call it a night. This was a wise decision, as the tunnels and passes were all closed by the time we returned a half-hour later. Everyone decided a trip to the hot tub to relax was in order, followed soon by a plate of what cheese we had left and simple dinner of pizza.

When we woke up on New Year's Eve, we figured they'd open the passes soon, and we'd leave that morning. But the passes didn't open till late afternoon, by which time it was getting dark, snowy, and stormy--not looking much better than the night before.

This is how I came to run out of yarn for Cobblestone, knitting away the time in a condo at Copper Mountain while the snow, -30 windchills, and 0-degree temperatures kept us inside reading and playing games. Being stranded on New Year's Eve turned out to be not so bad, to put it mildly! I'd happily strand myself there any time, for anything!

Speaking of strands, when we returned to my in-law's house on New Year's Day, I found the remaining yarn for Cobblestone (just a partial ball, a lot smaller than I thought it was) and knit up the rest of the sweater, giving it to Coffeeboy late that evening after weaving in all the ends. But now, it is finished. Except for blocking.

Cobblestone sweater.JPG Cobblestone closeup.JPG

Pattern: Cobblestone pullover
Yarn: Mission Falls 1824 Wool, 15 balls
Needles: KP Options size 6
Time: about 2 months

It was a long trip, those two weeks. Great to see family, and i actually finished a bunch of knitting (the sweater, a pair of socks for Coffeeboy, a hat for my BIL, etc). I'm glad to be home with my kitties, my wheel, and my stash. I'm also looking forward to getting back to normal life. My list of to-dos grew and grew while away, and the amount of dissertating shrank considerably as well. It's time to put my brain to the grindstone once again, and turn the wheel on the productivity in more ways than one. With Coffeeboy off in Salzburg Austria this week for a fancy seminar (paid for by school), I'm sure I'll have plenty of quiet time in which to get caught up!