Monday, October 31, 2011

Renaissance Festival

This past weekend a group of us got together and headed to the Texas Renaissance Festival. We arrived Saturday morning,  set up our tents, changed into garb, and headed in. I could go on about the mead (very tasty), and the food (so bad for you, fried and usually on-a-stick), how beautiful the weather was (until it got cold that night), but really I'm here to talk about drop spindling. And fiber, of course.

I walked around the fest with a bunch of fiber tucked into my skirt and a drop spindle in my hands. I took in the sights, talked with friends, and thoroughly enjoyed myself - all while making yarn. And fairly decent yarn at that. I had some brown Coopworth fiber that lent itself to the spindle nicely.

I haven't used my spindle much since I bought my wheel. But I think all the practice I've had spinning on the wheel has helped. I'm getting a much more consistent yarn.

On the way to the festival I cast on for the Southern Lights Hat using my bright blue handspun. I finished that evening at the campsite. Well, when I say finished I mean it was wearable. The ends weren't woven in, it wasn't blocked, and it was missing it's pompoms.

But it got rather chilly that night, so I was glad to have it. The hat is a bit small, so I'm going to block it bigger. If that doesn't work I'll rip back the decreases, knit another inch, and then do the decreases again. It's very quick knitting, so I don't mind, but let's see if we can block that sh*t out first.

When we were comparing notes that evening, I realized there was a stall with yarn and fiber that I'd missed. I had to go! So the next morning after breaking camp, we headed back in. And after a bit of searching, we finally found the lady with the wool. Her name is Sunni Florance, she was from Flat Rock Farm.

She also had goat milk soap, and spindles for sale.

There was also handspun yarn.

But, I only had eyes for the fiber.

This is what followed me home.
It's Shetland roving.
 Oh, and there was a goat. It was dressed up for Halloween.

A friend of mine bought a spindle and Sunni gave her a quick demonstration.

After that we played on the giant swings, caught the last bit of the Dead Bob show, and then it was time to head back to Austin.

On the way home we happened to go through Navasota, so of course we stopped by WC Mercantile. I may have gotten a bit more fiber.
The blue is Merino and Tussah Silk. The yellow is Superwash Merino. The green, blue and brown one is Falkland Wool.
I also picked up a new whorl.

I'm hoping this larger whorl will help when I spin silk or bamboo. I hope larger whorl will spin slow enough to prevent me from making overspun yarn when using long staple length fibers. Although, considering the bounty of wool I've recently acquired, I might not have to worry about that for a bit.

Good friends, camping, dressing up, fiber, yarn, and meat on-a-stick - sometimes the world is perfect.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

These are the pumpkins you're looking for.

Have I mentioned how much I love Halloween? I love Halloween. It might be my very favorite holiday. I love to dress up, always have, so a holiday devoted to dressing up and getting candy? What’s not to love?

So, yesterday I took the evening off from spinning, knitting, or going to the gym, to indulge in one of my all time favorite crafts. Pumpkin Carving!

Growing up I carved pumpkins with my family. And as the years went on the designs got more and more elaborate. We’d buy the Pumpkin Masters book and look and try the hard ones in the back. And then I went off to college and didn’t carve pumpkins for a few years, and I missed it. Since college I try to carve at least one pumpkin (if not more) for Halloween.

I carved one at a party a week or so ago. I’d show you, but it’s gone all black and fuzzy. I almost always carve pumpkins too soon for them to last till the great night of candy. So when DH asked if I wanted to carve a pumpkin for his work I jumped on the chance.

Set up:

Pumpkin guts are messy, so if you are going to do your carving inside, I highly recommend getting something to cover the floor. This year for easier clean up we took a large garbage bag, cut open, and laid it out. Previously I had used cardboard, but I think the garbage bag offered more coverage if less padding. To keep from sticking to the bag I put an old paper bag on the spot I was going to sit, and for comfort I put a pillow under the garbage bag. It worked like a charm, and I’m keeping this set up in the act.

The tools:

I have a favorite scraping spoon. It may, or may not, have been liberated from an old dorm cafeteria, but there is no way I’d ever give it back. It fits comfortably in most pumpkins and really digs into the insides so you can make the walls thinner. I used to only use the pumpkin kit tools. You know the ones - they’ve got black or orange handles, and there are different lengths of saws and things to poke holes and the like. They are great for your basic black and white pumpkin pattern. But one year I tried to do a complicated version of the Tardis and I gave up halfway through because I couldn’t make the cuts small enough.

Enter the woodcarving tools! These are great! And sharp! And I cut myself last year! More than once! With these a whole world of carving opens up. I got mine at a wood working shop here in Austin, but I’ve seen the exact same set sold on the Pumpkin Wizard website. I’ve also seen clay carving tools being sold for pumpkin carving and I think I may have to go get some. They are mostly used on the inside so you can get an even wall. When you are removing the skin but not cutting all the way through, you want an even thickness on the pumpkin wall because that way the same amount of light shines through. If it’s uneven you end up getting weird shadows.

My walls aren’t as even as they could be, but that’s not important because the pattern I picked out is plan black and white. No real scrapping required.

You attach the pattern to the front of the pumpkin. I get the paper just a bit damp, so it conforms to the pumpkin, and then tape it down. If you are old school, like I am, you poke holes through the pattern into the pumpkin to transfer the pattern. On that same pumpkin website there was transfer paper for sale. I may go new-school next year; I haven’t decided. Doing all the dots is a pain if you are in a hurry to carve, but if in no hurry it’s kind of relaxing. Maybe that’s just me.

You start at the center and work your way out. This isn’t as important for this particular pattern, but for intricate work you want as much stability as you can keep as you work your way out.

It may not look like much when it’s in the light.

But I think it’s pretty cool when it’s lit up.

I’ve found a tutorial on how to do the death star pumpkin. I am seriously considering doing one this year. I just need to find a very round pumpkin, and have 4 to 10 hours to spend carving it.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Back at the wheel

This past week my ankle has been feeling better so I've been spinning a bit more. I've taken the blue Corriedale from this:
 to this:

I've misplaced my wraps per inch tool, but I'd say that it's approximately 236 yards of worsted weight/bulky yarn. And that's more than enough for a hat. I think that's what this yarn has decided it wants to be. It's squishy, but not as soft as I would want for a scarf.

I've been knitting like my friend's baby is due any minute, but I've got a couple of months. So I think I may turn my focus more to spinning. All the new fiber I've collected is calling me. Also I'm really looking forward to spinning the purple and silver merino that I got at the same time as the Corriedale. I think that if I start now I can get a little spinning in before we need to go to yoga.

Tonight is the last night in partner yoga and I'm really looking forward to it. I'll miss going on Monday evenings, but that does leave more time for spinning.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Meeting the Yarn Harlot

What is it about meeting famous people that you admire that causes one to come across like an idiot?
I should back up.

I met the Yarn Harlot today. She was at BookPeople on tour promoting her new book All Wound Up*.

She was as funny as you would want her to be and sweet and self deprecating and I really liked her. And since I've started writing this I've thought more and more about how I would love to make my life about writing and yarn and yoga and how awesome that would be and here is this woman who as done it** and I would love to grow up to be her. And I didn't even really know who she was a year ago.

So I'm in line to get my book signed and I've come up with a grandiose thing to get her to sign: to me, "the next great knit blogger." It's my turn, she thinks it's funny, I tell her about my blog, and I take a picture of her...
...and she takes a picture of me holding socks and I'm feeling great.

I walk out of BookPeople on top of the world thinking I might have made an impression (I know she's met a lot of people), and even a good one. And then as I'm driving home it occurs to me, she had to walk here and it's still pretty hot. I wonder if she has a ride back to the hotel? I should offer her a ride. No, I shouldn't that will seem creepy and kind of like a stalker. But wait a minute, if she wasn't famous and she'd said she had to walk here and we'd talked for a bit, I'd have offered her a ride back to her hotel. Why should I act any different because she is famous? I shouldn't. So I do a u-turn and go back. I walk up the stairs to the line where she is still signing.

Do I wait in line again, or not? I don't really want to hang around if she doesn't need one, I just thought I should offer. So I go up to the front and as quickly as I can I ask if she needs a ride. She was very polite turning me down, but I felt like I'd broken some book signing rule.

And I guess I had, I cut the line, and took up more time of an already tired author. I had the best intentions, I wanted to be friendly and helpful but I ended up acting like a fan girl.  Not like when I got something signed by Neil Gaiman and couldn't speak except to say my name and that I loved his work, but a fan girl none the less.

So by trying to not be a fan girl, by trying to act towards her like I would anyone else, I ended up acting like a fan girl. Darn.

But it's not the end of the world. I am sure there have been way worse fan girl moments for the Yarn Harlot. And while I felt embarrassed at being one, it was still really cool to have met her.

*If you have an independent bookstore near you, you should buy it there.
** Ok so I'm not sure about the yoga part but the rest of it.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Yarn Crawl wrap up

So I didn’t win the grand prize. Nor did I win any of the prizes at the shops. I am slightly disappointed, but all the goodies that were given as gifts and all the fiber and yarn I got made going on the Yarn Crawl more than worth it.

Here’s the haul


Yarn I bought:

Yarn I was given:

Random extra gifts:

And now I’m looking forward to Kid ‘n Ewe. I’m hoping I can convince DH that he really wants to spend three days in Boerne. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Austin Knits

Seeing so many yarn stores in such a small amount of time made it easy to compare them. It also helped me see my local yarn stores with fresh eyes.

Monday at lunch, I headed over to Hill Country Weavers.

You walk up and are greeted with yarn even before you make it in the door.

There’s so much yarn and so much fiber and so many books, I’m just going to guide you through it using pictures.
View from front door.

Look right.

View into book room.

The book room.

Leaving book room.


Wall of needles.

The back room has fiber!

And it's where they teach classes.

They also have basket weaving stuff.

There is also a whole different house where you can sit and knit, but I didn't go in there so no pictures, sorry.

HCW was the first yarn store I went to as a new knitter and I have a lot of love for the place and the ladies who work there.

By the time I got to Gauge Knits, I was just about yarn shopped out. I felt a bit bad because I really like the ladies who work there but my small talk skills were kaput at the time. Gauge is the closest store to my house, and I’ve been known to hang there on craft night. It felt a bit odd to be taking pictures since I’ve been there so often. But I felt that I should in order for the 9 shop reviews to be complete. I was not as thorough as I’d been at other shops.

There’s a cute little courtyard right outside of Gauge where one can sit and knit.

There’s a seated area right as you come in the door.

And then there’s yarn all along the walls.

There's a back room that has a table and fiber and... I didn't get any pictures. I was crawled out.

Next time: the spoils of the yarn crawl