Monday, May 24

She is not afraid of the snow for her household; for all her household are clothed with double-knit.

Spinning and Knitting
Lately, I have been taking stock of my yarn stash and getting a good feel for what it will all grow up to be. I am one of those people who like to plan ahead, more because I can do so in my leisure activities but not very much in my job (homemaking tends to run around everyone else's schedule since the job is primarily to take care of them). And this is part of my job, too--I knit things for the people in my household. Also for extended fambly and for those who seem to need it, and for a charity of baby-blanket-ing run by a woman of my church. It is important to keep one's family warm and serves not only the practical goal of physical warmth: it is impressive to the general public since it basically serves as a sign saying "SOMEONE LOVES ME THIS MUCH". I happen to know personally that when one is lonely or self-doubting or just plain misunderstood, there is very little better than the tangible (if somewhat lopsided) reminder of love and care that others have for you.

Anyway, my stash falls into approximately three sections: sock yarn, handspun, and Other. I always have a sock project in the works and so use that up pretty steadily and don't feel the least pang of guilt on that account. My other yarn is sort of a collection of yarns from various places and times--some of it gifted to me and some of it purposed for some projects I haven't yet begun; this is fun yarn since it tends to be of a greater variety than my sock yarn. Some of it ends up as hats, some of it shawls, some armwarmers; I am getting together a more rigorous schedule for these projects to be completed too as I have some particularly lovely yarn.

The handspun is most problematic since I am only a beginning spinner right now and have spent most of my time trying out different fibers, rather than spinning up substantial amounts of a few types of fibers. However, I am discovering that although the yarn may be odd, slubby, nebby, over-twisted and uneven, the fabric made when the yarn is knitted, washed and blocked somehow evens out a bit and makes the mistakes smaller and less noticeable. Like these pictures--you'd be astonished if you'd seen what the skeins of yarn looked like that made these.

Some of my first laceweight yarn I am knitting into an Estonian lace scarf by one of my favorite designers: it shall be pretty and delicate and possibly good enough for the county fair:) The design looks like little ferns and lilies of the valley, but you have to look pretty close; the whole thing is rather wispy and soft.

Oh, and the first picture with the colorful roving was a sample of recycled sari silk--very interesting to spin, but a pain to work with otherwise. I am gifting the yarn to my mother who is curious to try and crochet with it.

I have just finished the audiobooks of ├że Clowde of Unknowyng and Interior Castles and find myself even more interested in contemplative prayer. My doctors used to recommend calming exercises to keep my asthma at bay (it exacerbated my allergies and made my frequent bouts of pneumonia panicky and hellish). While I had trouble focusing on my breathing (or lack thereof) then, I am now enjoying ever so much more the practice of being still and listening. It feels so good to feel healthy.

I also had the chance to visit a university library today and am excited to have found a reference to half-fingered gloves for knitterly maidens as far back as the 12th century. This makes me happy.

Friday, May 7

O frabjous day!

This entry will be full of bad photographs and excited gushing, so if you are allergic to either I recommend you go back to whatever you were doing.

My family went to the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival this year and there my parents gave to me the gift of a spinning wheel. I don't know if it makes much of a difference to most of you, but to me spinning is a way to relax even more so than knitting. It is a particular favorite amongst my ridiculous collection of hobbies because it provides me with gifts to give to my friends and various other geometrically implausible textiles with which I burden my family, all in the name of love! I can work with my hands rather than paper-shuffling or maintenance (read: cleaning), and the whole knitting/spinning combination makes an excellent post-apocalyptic skill set. A relaxing post-apocalyptic skill set, and you can bet we'll need some kind of stress-relief after the zombies find the bunkers and velociraptors start showing signs of intelligence.

Spinning and knitting are both crafts that are mostly done by machine in our days, but there are some places where traditions are still being shared and passed along; I've met a few crafters who are very proud to be second- or third-generation knitters, crocheters, weavers, or spinners. I learned to knit ages ago by my mother's younger sister (unfortunately my hands were too small to hold the needles comfortably) and more recently (with complete fine motor skills!) by my own younger sister. I learned to spin by mentioning my desire to learn in front of my knitting pals. Immediately, I was given opportunity, information, and an endless stream of enthusiasm and advice. Sometimes that sort of thing is overwhelming, but it was the right time and with the right attitude, as well as a dash of obsessively purist medievalism (I tried different spinning techniques while my instructor raided my library). And really, knitting is a lot cheaper when you spin your own yarn because rovings/batts/fleece/etc. are generally cheaper than yarn.

I've been learning to spin since January this year and because I said I might like to spin for myself one day, my instructor has trained me up to go shopping for a good wheel. I learned about the disposable parts of the wheel, the history of their use and what they look like on other wheels, how to manage if you break one of them and aren't in the vicinity of help and the Christmas panic is upon you. It was because of this that I was able to find a used wheel of good make and model despite the aging and yellowed pieces, the drive band that made the wheel clunk unevenly, the undone spring and the wood that looked only patchily treated with a protective coat. For +$200 less than the price of a new wheel of the same type, this wheel spins just as well. It just needed a little care. Honestly, it took me about 45 minutes and a few bucks to get her back to working order--a new drive band (twine), brake band (nylon--something like fishing line), spring, conrod joint, and some polish & oil! The pieces in the above picture are pieces I took off of the wheel. They are a lot nastier if you see them with your own eyes; and the drive band smells like it has been dipped in something icky.

I first spun on it at the spin-in (akin to a knitters' group, quilting circle, etc.) after the MS&WF was officially disbanded for the night and all the vendors had left. I realized that, having sent my beautiful new fiber packages home with my family, that I had no fiber to spin for myself at the spin-in! So I stopped at a small booth of alpacas and their ambassadors and bought a good bit of unwashed fleece for a very low price--I am sure that the heat of the day was very helpful here. While smelly and a bit dirty to spin, the yarn from this fleece was so soft and fine after it was spun and washed! The fiber I'm spinning in this picture is some creamy merino wool, which will grow up to be Christmas presents. Probably arm-warmers. Anyway, I've spent most of my spinning time outside recently, in my little garden with the herbs there that are going quite wild with all the bright sun in the day and the light rains at night. The cats, too, are loving the company outside, and particularly approve of my presence when there is yarn involved.

Anyway, I thought I ought to introduce you, since you will both be seeing more of each other on this blog. If you visit and you want to talk to me your best chance of finding me in a lucid state (not one of hysteria over the approaching velociraptors) is if I'm spinning. Further goodwill can be purchased with Hunt Valley cashmere fleece.

I have named her Katheryn.

Wednesday, May 5

Watch this space!

I shall today or tomorrow post about my new spinning wheel. Sorry for those who've been asking:)