Friday, June 29, 2007

What I meant was ...

I guess I wasn't very clear in this post. I was trying to say that, much as I admire the works the artists have produced, I'm glad I don't have that single focus. Or maybe I'm glad that I have the family that doesn't let me have the single focus. Or maybe just that, while I love to look at their work, I wouldn't want to be them.

But speaking of obsession, I'm spending way too much time with Ravelry. Because hey! I can make lists! And better yet, I can edit patterns! Oh, I should have been a cataloger.

Some knitting is occurring, and even some spinning. But not much to talk about yet. I'm too busy taking a trip down memory lane, pulling old sweaters out of my cedar chest.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


I've finished my first Sidewinder sock. Here are some not-so-pretty pictures:

The toe is a little blocky but comfortable.

I like the vertical construction. I sort of thought the stripes would go straight up but they wobble over my instep. I have very high arches, and the sock is a little tight over the top. Normally I do my heels over about 60% of the stitches and that takes care of it. I can't quite figure out how to do the same thing here. At first I thought of doing fewer heel decreases/increases, but doing the same number of rows. But that would just change the bend, which I don't think is the issue. Short rows across the top of my ankle? It's not tight enough to make the sock uncomfortable, but it's noticeable.

Here are the decreases in the inside of my foot,

and here are the increases on the outside. They're much less noticeable. On the next sock I think I'll try to match up the increase (K in the row below) and decrease better. I might even follow Nona's suggestions; I was worried about them being too tight but it might look better.

I have enjoyed knitting this, although I'm not sure I'll make another pair. I think I like a more traditional construction better because you can adjust the fit as you go. It's a well written pattern for a nicely made sock, but I think Nona must be more adventurous than I am!

The jury is still out on the wool (Reynolds Swizzle). It seems kind of scratchy right now but we'll see how it wears.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Badge of honor

The kids and I have dyed some t-shirts and shorts gray to serve as pajamas. The idea is that we will paint them to look more armor-like. But on Saturday I decided to embroider some sort of badge on Charlotte's shirt.

I really enjoyed doing it, although it's clear I should have spent a little more time in planning. The sequins are oddly grouped on the right, and there's an unexpected gap between the rows of chain stitch there. But when we add metallic paint I'm sure it will all work out!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Focus, obsession, and interruptions

I love my family. But before I got married I lived alone for 15 years, and I was shocked to discover how much time it took to have a day to day relationship with someone. Although Dean and I had courted for five years, we had been living in different states the whole time so there was none of this "Morning, honey, did you sleep well" chitchat.

Now, as it turns out, I like that sort of chitchat. But it does eat up time.

Then we had children. Talk about a time sink! Not only do they want me to do things with them -- read books, play games, go places, talk -- but then there are the things I need to do for them -- the laundry, the dirty bathrooms, the clothes they keep growing out of, the meals they need, you name it.

They have seriously cut into my fiber arts productivity.

A digression: I have always been intrigued by people who focus on something to the point of obsession. I was bowled over the first time I saw James Hampton's Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations' Millennium General Assembly
at the Smithsonian:

It's very hard to get scale from this, but this collection of altars and other furniture fills a garage. Every time I see it in person I am bowled over; it makes me think about the time he spent and the focus he maintained over about 14 years -- with no feedback from anyone else.

Just the other night I watched a documentary about Henry Darger, who makes Hampton seem like a trifler. (It's called In the Realms of the Unreal.) He spent over sixty years working on one major book? piece? story? artwork?, as well as many related materials, an autobiography, and other odds & ends. He lived in one room, had very little human contact despite working steadily, and left about 30,000 pages of illustrated manuscript. Here are a couple of pictures from it:

I also met someone rather Darger-esque when I volunteered at the Brautigan Library. A young man came in with a hand made, hand sewn book. The pages were flattened out grocery bags -- he worked as a bagger -- on which he had spent the previous winter writing a sort of autobiography that seemed to revolve around his birth. (It reminded me of Tristram Shandy.) There were many collage pieces on the pages to illustrate the story, and the text and the collage interacted in fascinating ways. I tried to convince him that his book was art as well as a story, and ought to be shown to art dealers or rare book dealers as well as to the Brautigan -- a special place, indeed, but not one equipped to deal with that sort of manuscript. He was unwilling to leave his manuscript at the Brautigan (and who could blame him); I never knew what happened to it or to him after that.

My point? Cut off from much of normal human social interaction, these people achieved a lot. Their productivity was pretty impressive.

Gotta go now. My kids need breakfast -- and boy, am I glad.

(P.S. In the interest of accuracy I should point out that I didn't achieve anything very impressive or meaningful in my 15 years of solitude. But I sure did get a lot of knitting & spinning & reading done!)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

See you later ....

Here I was, pouting because my Netflix movie hadn't arrived for tonight and the projects I'm working on do not absorb my full attention, and my husband is out of town so I can't go to knit night, when my Ravelry invitation arrived.

I guess I know what I'll be doing with my free time for a while. I'm really looking forward to sorting out my needles -- pathetic, but true.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Jumping on the blogwagon

Yes, I'm making Sidewinders, too. Not much I can add to the general discussion -- they are interesting, it's unnerving to knit socks without being able to try anything on or measure anything as you go. But I'll tell you this:

Oh, how I hate the join on the Inox 2.25 mm. needle.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Paradise .... and some silk questions

Doesn't look much like paradise, does it? But it is. My two children are in summer school for a couple of hours each morning for the next month. This means (oh, bliss) that I can spin OUTSIDE while it is LIGHT out and yet it is QUIET enough to hear the birds. And since there are no fast-moving, shrieking dynamos in the yard, just one sluggish middle-aged spinner tucked back under the porch roof, there are lots and lots of birds and squirrels and rabbits and so forth to watch. No pictures -- I forgot to take my camera out and I was having such a lovely time I didn't want to go in.

The drying racks surrounding my chair are filled with the Icelandic fleece I bought at Rendezvous last month. I'm going to card it without separating the coats since the outer coat is not very coarse. I think I'll spin the darkest areas separately, but blend the rest.

The fleece only weighed about a pound and a half before washing, so I expect to get a vest out of this. I'm thinking of a puffy three ply in a light worsted weight, but I'm not sure yet. I've got a sample batt waiting to be spun but right now I'm absorbed in this:

Silk! I don't have much experience spinning silk. This is some tussah sliver dyed with drink mix at the OKC fiber retreat last fall (can't remember the event's official name right now). I'm enjoying it a lot but I'm having some problems.

If you look at the bobbin you can see some spots where the yarn is kinked. This puzzles me because I'm having a hard time getting enough twist into the yarn -- that is, when I do a test two ply by pulling some of the singles off the bobbin and letting them twist back on themselves to make a balanced yarn, the two ply has a lower angle of twist than I want. Everything I read says that silk should be spun with a lot of twist. I'm using my woolee winder with a ratio of 19:1, and drafting about an inch and a half with each treadle, maybe even a little less. It's as little as I can bear to move my hand! I could switch to the lace head for a higher ratio, but I'm not trying to spin laceweight, and I really don't think I should need a higher ratio. Plus spinning with the WW is so hypnotic and relaxing -- I really love it.

I think the kinks might come when my hand is moving a little faster than the bobbin winds on, and that maybe a little more tension on the bobbin will fix it. But I also think that more tension on the bobbin makes me draw out a little more yarn with each hand movement.

All in all, it's nothing that spinning a few more ounces (or pounds...) won't fix. I'll figure it out.

But this has me puzzled:
On the bottom is the sliver as it looked after being dyed -- all shriveled, compacted, and crunchy; most unattractive. On the top is the sliver after it has been "popped" between my hands to open it up -- lovely, soft, easy to draft.

Except that there are spots that stay hard, crunchy, and compacted. I'm sure you can see them in the top section. Is that sericin? I have popped that section of the sliver over and over, and they never open up. They don't draft smoothly, and I'm not sure what to do about them.

I don't have much of this dyed sliver left, so I'm just going to keep spinning it as is. But in the future (I have lots more) should I degum the sliver? Before or after dyeing? Anyone have more experience with this?

No pictures, but I also spun up some silk hankies that we dyed the same day. What fun! Knowing that there really wasn't any way to spin a truly smooth yarn from hankies made me pretty casual about the whole thing. I think I might get some more and try knitting from drafted but unspun hankies.

And now for something completely different: an onion flower. This isn't any fancy ornamental allium, just an onion that didn't get harvested last year. Isn't it lovely?