Saturday, April 30, 2011


The trip to Yarnorama in Paige was a lot of fun. I bought two bottles of spinning wheel oil and two braids of fiber.
Isn't it pretty?

I got to pet the angora bunnies. They were deliciously soft. The island sea cotton fiber (I think that was what it was called) was just as soft. And unlike the bunnies didn’t make the odd growling noises. The cotton had a staple length* three times that of normal cotton. Susan, the very nice lady who was at the store showed us how she spun the short cotton fibers on a box charkha.

The box charkha is a spinning wheel, but closer to a great wheel than the treadle wheel I’m used to. Instead of a flyer or treadles, it has a sideways spindle** and a hand crank. Because one hand is busy turning the wheel you have to use the long draw method, rather than the two handed short forward draw that I prefer. Another major difference is that it is an accelerated wheel; it has three wheels instead of just two. Instead of having ratios of 1:15 (the bobbin spins 15 times for every one time the wheel spins) you have ratios of 1:65 to 1:100. That is an insane amount of twist. And that’s why it is used for cotton, with its very short staple length, because more twist is needed to keep the short fibers together.

The store was a wonderful trove of fiber and fun yarn. If I hadn’t been hanging out with non-yarny folks I’d have spent much longer than an hour roaming and pawing and marveling over color and texture.

We had dinner at the Roadhouse in Bastrop; my blue cheese burger was divine. It was the perfect end to an adventure not very far away.

*Staple length is generally used to mean the length of the each fiber in the roving.
**Sleeping beauty could have pricked her finger on this thing, it looked rather sharp.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

If it is not important, let it go.

I enjoyed yoga this morning. As we were coming back from Savasana* we did a couple of deep breaths focusing on letting go of anything negative or “anything that does not serve you.” I am trying to internalize that idea and let things go that are truly unimportant.

Case in point, normally if I discover any mistake in my knitting I will either obsess about the mistake to where I see nothing else, or I rip it out and fix it. If it is a gift, and the mistake is not obvious then I can let it go. If it is for me, I have to fix it or every time I look at it all I see is the mistake. I am trying to let go of this need for perfection. If I’ve shown the mistake to other people and they can’t point at it two minutes later, I should let it go. I am practicing this on my stole.

I finished a lace stole that I started 3 years ago. It’s the Quick and Easy Lacy Stole. (Yes, the irony amuses me, too.) It really is not that hard a pattern; I started it three months after I started knitting. It took me so long because I made it harder than it is, and there was no deadline since it was for me. If I had focused on it I would have been done within three months of when I started. If I started it now, it would probably take me a month, at most.

There is a mistake in it. You can’t tell unless I point it out.

I couldn’t tell except I was counting pattern repeats to see how long it had taken per repeat. As soon as I found the mistake I picked up the stitches the row below it and prepared to rip back and fix it. The pattern is a 4 row repeat and the mistake was 25 repeats ago. Probably about 6 hours of solid knitting ago, which probably translates into six months, I skipped a row. If it had only been a few rows below I would have ripped it out without thinking, but I would have to rip out a significant chunk of shawl. So I debated the merits of ripping verses leaving it. I showed friends the mistake and they couldn’t see it. I showed DH the mistake and he couldn’t see it. So I finished the stole, and now I am trying to let go of the itch at the back of my neck. I figure it’s like a mosquito bite, if I don’t stare at the mistake, after awhile it will quit bothering me.

At the same time, I kind of like the way the mistaken repeat turned out. I can see using it as a pattern for a future shawl. I just wish it wasn’t in this one. So this is practice, letting go of this one mistake may help me let go of other things. Feelings hurt unintentionally by friends, feeling disorientated when I’m not in control, frustration with people in general, these things do not serve me, but they are very hard to let go of. I’ll practice on a shawl and work up from there.

* Savasana, or corpse pose is usually the last pose in a yoga practice. It is a meditative pose.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Have wheel, need more fiber

So... I've not cast on that garter stitch scarf. I have gotten further on my handspun lace scarf.

I’ve also been spinning like it's going out of style. I finished spinning up the Potash fiber, plied it, and now need to wash it and let the twist set.

I need to get some oil for my wheel. I shouldn't be spinning without it, but I can't seem to help myself. The only spinning wheel oil in captivity in the Austin area is in Paige, Texas. Somewhere east on 290. So I'll be going road trip on Thursday to get it.
Meanwhile, here's some fun yarn I spun up:

I took different colored fiber (left over from my spinning 101 and 201 classes) and carded it together to get the multicolored striping. I'm planning on spinning up some white wool and plying them together so that there is a continuous color tying the random stripes together.

Here's what not to do when you wash a skein:
This is what happens when you forget to tie off your skein and don't realize it till after you've washed it. It's all good, I got it all untangled and hung it up to dry then wound it into a ball. And now I have NO idea what to do with it.

It took me so long to spin any yarn while I was using a spindle, or a spinning wheel once a week, that I had plenty of time to decide what I was going to make with the yarn once I was done. Now that I have my own wheel and I’m on a spinning kick, I find I don't know what I want to do with the yarn I've made. I guess should start making thicker yarn, as most of the time I prefer to knit with worsted weight. But I don’t have very much fiber of the same type much less the same colorway, and I feel like I’m getting the most out of the fiber when it’s lace weight. Of course, this means I need more fiber. DH might have something to say about that.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Finding Balance

Yoga Scott is back and I’m so glad! I’d been going into yoga withdrawal. I was out of practice both getting up early and in stretching. But the weird pain I’d had in my side went away after practicing yoga for an hour. YS said something that stuck with me, “Allow your practice to bring balance to your life.” I had been off balance. I’m still slightly off, but I’m getting better.

One of the girls I spin with at Gauge Knits was commenting on the speed of my treadling. I was getting faster and faster. She said I needed to relax, that listening to me treadle was like listening to someone get stressed out. I had no idea I was treadling so fast.

I think I’m a fairly laid back person. For the most part, I try to let things wash over me rather than get upset. But, I do knit too tightly and now I spin too fast? Perhaps it is control issues, perhaps it is OCD tendencies, or perhaps I was just listening to fast music.

Should I change hands and knit everything continental? Most of the time I knit for the challenge of the pattern, I guess could go knit a garder stitch scarf or two. It would probably help me let go of things that are not important. But… I’m not sure that I could make myself do it. I think that I’d be frustrated that it takes me so long to knit something, unhappy with the uneven results, and - rather than being meditative - I’d be bored out of my skull.

So a compromise. I’ll cast on a garter stitch scarf with some random Simply Soft yarn that I have in my stash. I’ll knit it up continental. But it won’t be for anyone in particular, it won’t be my main project, and I’ll only work on it when I feel like meditating. No pressure to get it done, it could take me a year and that would be ok.

As for spinning, for now I’ll spin at whatever speed is comfortable and gets me the yarn I like. But I will consider that slowing down might help fix the over twist issues I’d been having. And I’ll try to be mindful while spinning, focusing on what the yarn wants rather than thinking faster equals better.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


I promised a lot of pictures last time, so here they are.
The wheel came in just a few parts.
Most of the wheel:

The treadles:

Here’s what it looks like put together:

So I didn’t get pictures of actually putting it together because, well, I was the one putting it together and the one taking pictures, and it is hard to do both. Also, the instructions were really well written and it was a snap to put together, so I didn’t feel like there needed to be documentation for later.

Fiber from the Fiesta:

A blend of merino, bamboo, and firestart (sparkle) called red tartan, I can't remember who I bought it from.
2 parts wool, 1 part cashmere, 1 part silk from Wooden Spinner 

Recycled sari silk from WC Mercantile 
Milk top, yes that is yarn made from milk proteins, incredibly soft. Also from WC Mercantile

Here’s the fiber that I spun from the Frabjous Fibers Merion Sparkle in Deep Space:

I took it with me to the fiesta and ran it through a hand crank carder there to unfelt it.

SO much easier than hand carding it all. I wish I’d done the same with the blue crunchy stuff, but I hadn’t brought it with me. I did end up hand carding and spinning the blue crunchy. I haven’t decided what to do with it yet.
Look, I finally got a niddy noddy! Now I can tell how much yarn I’ve made!

I’ve picked a pattern for my first lace weight (sort of) yarn. I’m going to make Air Deluxe
Here’s how far I am already:

I wish that I could make a really fabulous triangular shawl with this handspun, but I just didn’t have enough yarn when all was done. Also, I think that the pattern that I picked both shows off that it is hand spun, but doesn’t judge the unevenness as harshly as a traditional shawl might. Is that a nupp* in the wrong place, or did you just spin the yarn poorly?

I’ve been going back and forth between lace projects, here’s the other one I’ve been working on:

It’s the Echo flower shawl, and I know that it’s bunchy now, but should block out beautifully.
I got some yarn to make an even longer shawl from Gauge Knits [link] last week, but I may be overdoing it on the lace. I might make a little tank top from it, but we will see.

*A nupp is a bump in a lace shawl added for texture. To create one you knit a bunch of stitches into one stitch on the first row, and then the next row you purl them all together.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


So when I started this blog I was going to try to post at least twice a week, if not three times. It’s been a week since I posted last.

I went to the Yellow Rose Fiber Fiesta and had a blast. I know that it was just a little show, and if I’d been to more fiber festivals it might have seemed lacking. But, as it was my first, it was slightly overwhelming.

I took a class to learn how to needle felt. First, we learned how to needle felt appliqué style:
It was a lot like coloring with very sharp, slightly dangerous crayons.
Then we learned how to make sculptural objects:
 It's a sheep I swear.
Ok so maybe the sheep worked better than the Easter eggs, but I think they are still cute, and they weren't easy. After sticking myself multiple times with the really scary looking needles, I decided it was time to look into spinning wheels.

As anyone who has talked to me recently knows, I’ve wanted a spinning wheel for a while. The main reason I hadn’t bought one, aside from cost, was I felt like I hadn’t tried out enough wheels to make an informed decision. So, I went from vender to vender trying out all their wheels.

The Kromski wheels I tried were the Minstrel, the Sonata and the Symphony. They were lovely wheels, beautiful, well made and they spun like a dream. They just didn’t fit me. The Minstrel and the Sonata both had orifices that were just a little too high, although I suppose I could have used a taller chair. I really liked the Symphony, but it was a traditional style, not the castle style I was looking for. Don't get me wrong, I love the traditional look, but it's hard to fit one in a car.

The wheels from Spinolution were very strange. Once I got used to the treadling motion, I really dug the Mach II. The treadles were connected as a seesaw rather than two independent pedals. But as cool as it was, the price that was quoted was a bit much for a first wheel.

I tried out the Spinolution Hopper, but it was just too different for me to get into. Perhaps if I was an expert spinner I’d love it, but the orifice, a hook really, was in between and below my knees. The angle I was drafting at was weird, and the darn thing did not want to spin for me. Having tried out a bunch of other wheels I felt confident it was the wheel and not me. Now, I will say that the Hopper I tried was slightly broken, so that may have been the issue, but there was a weird hesitation that turned me off.

The Spinolution Queen Bee Travel Wheel was very cool. Had that funky side to side action, and folded down fairly flat, and rather small. It just wasn’t quite what I was looking for.

I tried out some Majacraft wheels, the Rose and the Suzie. I’m not a fan of the metal triangle as an orifice, even if it means you don’t need to use an orifice hook. I wasn’t sure where the yarn was supposed to be coming from, and it got all twisted. I won’t fault the wheels on this one; I’m pretty sure with enough experience I could learn to love it, just not yet.

I tried at least 10 different wheels. And then I tried it. The wheel I had to have.
Here's a hint:
I know, you aren’t a bit surprised.

I am head over heals in love with my wheel. I’ve had a hard time dragging myself away from it, even in order to gush about how much I love it. Next time I’ll post the “putting it together” pictures, as well as pictures of the yarn I’ve already made on it. I’ll also post pictures of the lovely fiber I got at the Fiesta too.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Setting aside time

Yoga Scott is out of town.  He has given us suggested poses we could be doing while he is a way, but it is not the same. Truth be told I've thought about doing yoga, but haven't actually gotten 'round to it. It's unlikely that I'll get up extra early and do it before work, and I have a hard time finding time in the evening.

I really benefit from a class, more than just for learning new things. It is a time set aside for yoga, and only yoga. Well, there may be a bit of socializing, but for the most part it's just yoga. I'm out of my house away from the distractions of the computer, the dog, the DH, the TV and the yarn. I'm more likely to go to a yoga class, than decide to do yoga for myself at a certain time and actually do it. Maybe today will be different.

I skipped going to the gym today. I had weight training yesterday and I'm really sore.  Instead I went to HEB to pick up some milk and stopped by the pet store to pick up a bone for the dog.  We need to trim her nails, and the bone will be a good treat when we are done.  Once the dog's nails are shorter, and a few quick errands are run, and dinner has been eaten and digested. I'll set aside time for yoga.

For now, I'm going to work on my knitting.  I've just started the echo flower shawl. I'm using the yarn I was thinking about using for the endpaper mitts.  I'll find other yarn for them. Right now lace is calling me louder than colorwork. And knitting is calling much louder than yoga.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Fiber Festival Prep

I’m preparing for my first fiber fest; actually it’s a fiber fiesta. The first annual Yellow Rose Fiber Fiesta will be held Friday and Saturday in Seguin, Texas. If I lived in San Antonio there would be no problem going to both days; San Antonio closes for Fiesta on Friday. Austin does not celebrate Fiesta, so I can only go on Saturday. Unfortunately, I didn’t find out about the fiesta until after the April 1st deadline to sign up for classes. I’m hoping that there will be some open spots and I can register the day of.

It’s the first year they are doing it, so I’m not expecting much. But, as I missed out on Kid 'n Ewe in November, I’m determined to go. There is a needle felting class that I’d like to take. I’d also like to take the Spinning III class, but it is just a little too advanced for me.

The first goal when you are learning to spin is a continuous yarn. The second goal is a consistent yarn. As long as I’m using fiber that isn’t felted, I’ve got both of those down for the most part. Now I need to learn how to make woolen vs. worsted. I also need to learn and practice the different draws. Oh, and getting a spinning wheel so that I can practice more than once a week might help.

I’m undecided on which wheel I want. I really like spinning on the Louet Julia. It is smooth and doesn’t fight me on which direction I want it to go. I love the look of the Ladybug, but it’s a little more finicky. Also, they have a tendency to make a click or thump when you get them going. I’d like to try the Sidekick, before I make my decision. Having a spinning wheel that folds up nicely, but is not just a travel wheel sounds perfect. Maybe someone will have one at the fiber fiesta and will let me try it.

I need to make some more rolags and take them to HCW to spin on the Ladybug. Last time I spun on the Ladybug I was having issues because I had not carded the felted fiber. It was also on a day when I had just an hour to spin and had not found my rhythm before I had to leave. If it works out better next time I’ll really consider the Ladybug, if not I may have to get the Julia. But I’m not planning on making any decisions until after this weekend, at the earliest.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Difference

If you google "types of yoga" you can find this. It says that Anusara yoga combines alignment of the body with finding the divine in yourself and others. Ashtanga yoga, on the other hand, is physically demanding form of yoga that uses flow from one pose to another to create purifying sweat and leaves you stronger and more calm.  Ashtanga is not for beginners.

I thought this past Saturday's class was going to be Anusara, and it was actually Ashtanga.  HUGE difference.  I didn't push myself to go further than I was comfortable with, but I was still very tired and sore after.  It was rather humbling to find out there was so much out there that one can do with one's body, that I can't do.  It was also inspiring, I don't necessarily want to do all of these poses in a quick flow, but I'd like to slowly work towards being able to do more of them.

After yoga, I went to HCW and spun this:

This is spun from some of the fiber that was sightly felted.  I carded it together and made rolags and it spun like a dream.  I had a single in a ball with me, so I plied the two together and got this:

I am glad that I decided to ply them. The yarn is more even and less likely to break. It just cuts the amount of yarn you have made in half. And while it makes sense, it is startling how much less yarn you have now than you did just half an hour ago. I need to spin about 20 more of these in order to make enough for a shawl.  But, I've got one down. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Remembering How to Write, or how I learned to relax and love the linen stitch

I’m currently working on a little yellow mug mat as a way to use up the rest of the yarn that I used for the blue bird*, and the Serpentine mitts. The linen stitch pattern is a pain, so is using US size 1s (2.25mm). But the fabric I’m making is great, stiff, with a little bit of give, dense but light weight.

I wonder if these properties are scalable. If I used a thicker yarn with bigger needles would the fabric be similar? If so, I might consider using this stitch pattern for a yoga mat. Even if it isn’t scalable, I could see using the same fabric for little boxes or baskets of some sort.

The linen stitch is actually kind of meditative, like seed stitch only more so. It is neither stockingette stitch boring – where I must distract myself with TV or conversation – nor does it require as much attention as lace.** Paying a bit of attention to the pattern is required, because the rhythm changes only slightly from one side to another, but my mind can wonder without fear of messing up.

I am reminded of the point of concentration exercises from middle school theater class: drawing a square with one hand and a triangle with the other at the same time. It’s not hard, but you do have to focus to do it. By engaging one part of my brain with the knitting, the rest of my thoughts have to slow down and I have to pay attention to each one. Knitting this stitch while writing has, I believe, permitted me to craft this post more thoughtfully than I generally would. I have not intentionally sought this mental state in quite a while – not since writing papers for college. It might be the knitting, or it might be I've remembered the state I need to write my best.

*I’m still working on the pattern, but I need a bit more time to have passed before I’m excited about test crocheting another.
**Hush, I’m counting.

Fingerless Gloves vs. Socks

Some people love to knit socks; I am not a fan. Oh, I’ve made a few, and there are plenty of reasons to love making them. They are fairly quick, very portable, and you can play with all sorts of different designs and patterns. But. I don’t live in a climate where you need to wear socks often. I wear Birkenstocks as often as I can. And I have a hard time spending so much time on a project no one, except another knitter, is ever going to understand how cool it is.

That’s probably why I’ve fallen so hard for fingerless gloves. I’ve finished two pair recently, and I’ve got another two in mind. Not counting the ones I promised a friend. I might go back and try socks again now that I’ve mastered (sort of) knitting two on one magic loop. I’ve got two thirds of one sock done. I’ll probably rip it out. It has sat unloved for so long that frogging and starting over won’t hurt.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Sun and Earth

I enjoyed my yoga class this morning. I feel like I'm getting better at some of the strength poses, although my balance seems to vary day to day. Watching the sun fill the room as I'm going through my practice is both calming and energizing.  I am actually saluting the sun as it rises.

And now for more gardening. We are trying to get everything set, all the major gardening done.  That way we'll just have to do maintenance during summer. The weather is perfect now, in a month it will be too hot to enjoy gardening.

Beatific weekend

I couldn't go to Scott's yoga class on Saturday at 1pm, so I got up early and went to the yoga class at Lelu Lemon. I'm really glad I went. It was a great class of Anusara yoga. I didn't know what Anusara was before the class, and I'm not sure I know exactly what it is now. But I want to learn more about it, because I think it might end up being one of my favorite types of yoga.

In class we focused on getting all the poses right rather than just flowing quickly from one to the next. We stopped in the middle of class for the instructor to demonstrate a more radiant Cobra. This is where you push the top of your arms back so that your shoulder blades are on your back and your heart is more open.

My favorite thing the instructor said was, "You don't create radiance, you already have it. You are discovering it."  I think she called the class Beatific Flow, and by the time we were done I was in a blissful state.  It helped keep me in a good mood when I didn't get to spin for nearly as long as I would have liked, especially since the fiber was fighting back.

One of the many reasons why I like both yoga and knitting is that there's always something new to learn. There's a 100 hour Anusura Yoga immersion that I am considering taking.  It's not inexpensive, but it might be something good for me. Or it might be a waste of time, and money. I'm torn. Do I want to learn enough yoga to teach? I don't know the answer to that, yet. I'll check and see if they are going to do the immersion next year, and if so I might be ready for the 100 hours then.

The rest of the weekend was spent hanging with friends, working on yard, and general upkeep.  I did squeeze in a little bit of spinning, and I finished my Serpentine Mitts:
The color is much closer to the first picture than the second.

RuinosaAncilla gave me some fabulous wool fiber:

She is unfortunately sensitive to it, but her loss is my gain. I'll have to find some angora to send her.
I've already started to spin it on the drop spindle:
I hope it turns out well. I'm afraid it might be scratchy. I don't know how to make it smooth so I'll probably use it for hat yarn.