Saturday, July 31, 2010

I'm trying to write my bio for The Fiber Cooperative online fiber market. My space starts running tomorrow, so I really need to get it written. So far this is all I've got:
I dye yarn. Why is this cat tapping me with his paw? Forgot cat food. Damn. Bored. Bored. Bored. I dye yarn. I knit. I drink coffee. I"m awesome. I'm awesome except 2 people mistook me for a dude today. Sam's sample pusher offered me men's deoderant and got all confused when I reached for the ladies. I hate being called a lady. Prolly why she called me a dude. DUDE. Doooood. Too old to say dude. I should blog this. Stupid cat. Bored still.

 So...yeah, great big waste of my time trying to do this.

[Update: About 10 minutes after I posted this blog post I managed to pound out an okay bio. Apparently I just need to blog first. Yay blog!]

Monday, July 26, 2010

Back to Normal

Le sigh, le moan, le creaky groan. The Tour de France/Fleece is over finally and it is time to step away from the treadles. I was so ready to give up on the last bit of plying. I love the capacity of the bulky flyer on Mr. Matchless, but treadling on the bulky flyer like my own personal mountain stage. It takes a lot of effort to make that 8oz bobbin go around, but I kept at it and finished plying with just 1 kilometer left in the Tour de France. I watched Contrador cross the line looking so happy, as opposed to his normal serious looking self.

These are the last 2 bobbins I plied. I will take an official Tour picture later today of all the yarns I spun. Oh great, now I have "To all the yarns I've spun before...." running through my head. That won't be out of my head all day. Thanks, Willie Nelson.

 I'm looking forward to moving on from the Tour project. My laptop has been hooked up to the TV for most of the last 3 weeks. It's annoying to unhook it and move it to the office to get work done, so I've been doing most of my work from in front of my TV. The larger screen is nice, but it is 5 feet away, which is less nice. I predict a 20% increase in the amount of twittering blog reading work I get done in August over July. Oh jeez, August? It's almost August?

I'm looking forward to getting back to doing that knitting thing I used to love so much. I managed to knit the Purlieu scarf from this issue of Knitty and a single sock. I am doing an informal Yarn Harlot-esque sock club with Deborah, 6 pairs in 6 months. I need to get knitting if I'm going to make my first months goal.

I have another longer term goal of having a sweater finished by the time the new Harry Potter movie comes out. It took me 2 years to talk myself out of this sweater, which looks great on this little boy:

and in to this sweater, which is more appropriate and attractive for an extended plus-size grown-up woman to wear:
Except...I am 4 whole rows in to this sweater and I hate it already. The pattern is clever and well-written, so that isn't the problem. The problem is the first 2.5"is almost 500 stitches of 1x1 ribbing, followed by 20" of 250-stitch boring stockinette that isn't even done in the round and that's not including the sleeves or hood.

I am very fond of the plain mindless knitting, but only within reason. I was so enthusiastic for this pattern before I read it, which just goes to show you that it doesn't always pay to read your patterns in advance. I am pretty sure I am going to rip and knit a plain old v-neck cardigan with a reasonable number of stitches per round and no clever, but mind-numbing, detailing. I'm pretty sure I used too many commas in that last sentence.

I am happy that Scott is back to work this week. He took a week of lazy and lovely vacation followed by 2 more weeks where he only worked 2-3 days because some of his jobs canceled. Thank God for extra vacation time. He's back to a full schedule for at least the next 5 weeks and, hopefully, longer than that. I will miss him during the week, but I am eager to get back to my established work routines in the kitchen. It's hard to get any dyeing done when someone wants to use the kitchen to, you know, make food. What crazy notions that boy sometimes has.

Finally, I am happy that the Tour is over because that means I get my mornings back. I love the Tour, you know I do, but it does suck up a lot of time. That's 5 hours every morning, or evening if I miss the AM broadcast, that I'm spinning, watching the Tour and not blogging, not leisurely drinking coffee, not blog reading and not even pretending to get ready for my day until mid-afternoon. I love spinning and I love the Tour, but it's no knitting. Oh, and knitting? I miss you. Time to cast on for that second sock.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

TdF: Days 16-19

Day 16-- I make a concerted effort to spin a few hours. 

Day 17-- I'm pretty sure this bobbin will never get full. I have 2 bags of alpaca, 10oz total, and the first bag is still half full. I decide to weigh it. I have only spun 1.5 oz. I will never ever ever ever ever ever ever finish spinning this alpaca. Goodbye dreams of returning to something colorful and fun before the Tour is over. I return to spinning the giant bag of grey alpaca which, under bright light, turns out to be more brown than grey and not more grey than silver at all, which means I've accidentally spun Scott's grey/brown alpaca roving and not my silver/grey alpaca. To my credit, it does look grey with silver, right? Please don't tell him. Spin. Spin. Spin.
Day 18-- Time to catch up on the real Tour. I'm 3 days behind not including today. I do my real work until I remember that it is July and my long-standing rule is that I don't work when the Tour rides. This self-employment/self-preservation thing is a good habit the rest of the year, but it is getting in the way of my leisure time. I try to delude myself that watching the Tour de France is work if I sell the yarn I spin while watching it.

I give up on the first bobbin and decide to do a 3-ply, instead of a 2-ply. I load the 2nd bobbin and spin it in a stage and a half, about 5 hours. Wait, what? Yeah. I spun the second bobbin super fast. I even took lots of breaks to eat junk food and stare at cyclist butt in that 5 hours.  I have no idea what I did differently. I start the 3rd bobbin and spin for another 3 hours. It is a hard 3 hours where I discover I have forgotten how to spin. There is a big pile of alpaca left to go. That second bobbin must have been an anomaly. I think I hate alpaca.
Day 19: I sit down to watch yesterday's stage. Before they even get up the 2nd climb I'm through bobbin 3 and on to plying. I'm plying so fast I break a sweat, although that might have something to do with cuddly cats and a heat advisory. Still, I was plying fast. It made the floor squeak. Good.

Everything clicks and bam! Yarn. I am not even finished watching the stage and there are 5 skeins of lofty, fluffy, woolen, super-soft, super awesome, rustic, slightly fulled, alpaca 3-ply handspun straight off my wheel and in to the sink.

I can't believe I'm done with that alpaca. I'm not sure why that first bobbin took so long. Bobbin black hole? It was like spinning on the Traditional again before I upgraded the flyer to a faster ratio. My experience with my new wheel is that it takes me about 5 hours to spin 4 ounces of singles and the old Traditional was more like 12 hours for 4 ounces. Weird. That's over now. Look at my pretty yarn!

5 skeins, 108 yards per skein, 3-ply rustic alapca, pre-washing. See how under a bright light that it is brown and not at all grey? Oops.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

TdF Days 9-15

Day 9:

Day 10:

Day 11:
Progress! I spun for 7 hours today!

Day 12:
More spinning! Lots more spinning! After I'm all done spinning for the day my bobbin still looks like
It seems that a little bit of alpaca goes a long damn way when you draft long draw.

Day 13:
Coyotes whistle and the wind howls. Or something like that. I managed to ride a mile on my under-desk bike while checking my email and ....woohooo! I got in to the Strange Folk Festival again this year!

Day 14:
Hot day. I spun until my hand got sweaty. The bobbin still looks like this:
If this were the real Tour de France I would have been kicked out by now. Instead of spinning more than 2 yards, I ordered the Strange Folk roving (a few pounds each of polwarth, falkland, wensleydale, mixed bfl, sw merino/tencle and a bfl/silk blend) and a few cones of one of a kind, limited edition yarns for the table (merino/silk lace, alpaca/silk/wool blend and brushed kid mohair). It was "only" 27 pounds. Paltry to the average hand dyer who has her own studio, but somewhat overwhelming since I still have 20 pounds of yarn on my shelf and I'm limited to dyeing only 2 pounds a day until....well, until my body decides I'm not limited anymore.

Day 15:
I finally accept that I can either work or I can knit/spin. Not both.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

TdF Day 6, 7, 8

Day 6:
I spent the afternoon pouring over samples and crunching numbers. I am just waiting on one final price and I will be ready to place an opening order with a new supplier. I will be reanimating Alpacalips 100% alpaca yarn and rebranding it as a limited edition run of Zombie Alpacalypse which will be an alpaca, merino and silk blend. I am wavering between a softly spun silk single or a tussah silk/merino blend yarn. I am bringing in small 20-bump runs of Falkland wool, polwarth and either silk or tencel. All that thinking about what others want to spin counts as spinning myself, I think.

I started a bobbin of merino wool in Chocolate Covered Cherries. It fought me for half an ounce before I gave up.

Day 7:
I finished the first bobbin of CCC. It fought me the whole way. My enthusiasm for this project is waning. When is the rest day? Soon, I hope. Half an ounce from the end I realized, dumbass, you didn't draft enough. I drafted the remaining fiber and it spun effortlessly. Half a braid to go.

Day 8:
Today I spun a great big pile of nothing. I was going to finish up the singles of the 4oz braid I was working on. I was contemplating pulling the other 3 braids out of the shop and spinning up yarn for a sweater, but then they sold. All 3. Just like that! It was meant to be! Hey, I am not complaining in the least about that, but it did curb my enthusiasm for finishing the current braid. Tomorrow is a rest day. I rediscovered some alpaca fiber I forgot I had in the freezer (what, you don't keep your fiber in the freezer?) that I think I will spin tomorrow evening even if it is a rest day.

Hours too late

This started off as a nice blog updated and then got long and ranty. That's sort of a simile for my entire week. It was nice with long and ranty parts.

I woke up hours too late this morning to watch today's mountain stage in the Tour de France. I will wait until they are done riding in a few hours and watch it from the beginning this afternoon. In the meantime, I'm enjoying having my computer at a distance reasonable for getting some work done. My laptop has been hooked up to the TV so we can watch the Tour feed from the computer on the television. It's great for watching internet shows, but rotten for checking email. I've been balancing my keyboard on my lap and squinting for a week trying to read my email on my TV 8 feet away. I finally gave up even trying.

The feed from Versus has been awful. I paid $30 to, according to Versus ad, "not miss a minute of the Tour" or something like that. I paid $30 to, according to Versus advertising, get the full uninterrupted feed in HD streamed from the Tour directly to my computer. Then on the very first stage the race started and the feed still hadn't. Later, when trying to watch the feed on demand, the technology on Versus didn't work. The next day, same thing. The day after? Ditto.

Versus finally sent an email apologizing (but not offering any kind of refund) for the failure of service. Fans were riotous in the 2.5 days it took Versus to send that email. This is their biggest sporting event of the year. Versus had advertised what to expect. Furthermore, they advertised the same thing LAST year and failed to produce. The fans were upset last year, but nothing like they were this year having been duped for their money twice.

Versus had chat rooms, facebook and twitter feeds devoted to the Tour and talking about the Tour. Fans went to the various forums asking why those of us who paid $30 couldn't get the feed, so Versus did know there was a problem.

At any point Versus could have put up a twitter or a quick message saying they were working on the problem and that would have bought them a few hours. Instead they waited to act until fans started filing dispute claims with their credit card companies to get the $30 they paid back. Versus may have well been working on the technology issues for the full 2.5 days it took them to email us, but they didn't let their fans know that and the fans, rightfully, filed disputes getting their money back.


Scott's been on vacation this week. That's reason number 2 why I have 1000 unread emails in my inbox. Did I say 1000? I meant 7174, but only the last 1000 are from this week. Sadly, that's not including the spam folder, although it does include an email a day from QVC, Land's End,, One Stop Plus, Amazon, JCPenny, Writers Digest, FansEdge, Walgreens, Old Navy,  and Groupon and at least 2 emails a day from Interweave Press, Facebook and nearly defunct social media sites that desperately wish I would validate their existence by logging in and connecting with people I don't know. How the heck do I unsubscribe from some of these emails because clicking 'unsubscribe' sure isn't doing it.

This is going to seem like an abrupt topic shift. I bet you're not used to those in this blog. Ahem.

I can't speak for other artists or crafters, but I like knowing what shows I have coming up months in advance so I can prepare for them. It makes me itchy to have someone approach me with a show that's in 2 weeks. Sometimes it makes sense, like if the shows is short on vendors or someone canceled, but sometimes it means the show is so unorganized that they forgot to get vendors.

There have been several shows pop up lately that I have either been interested in or been asked to be a part of that are coming up really soon and the vendor application paperwork still has not been finalized. I have a big gaping hole in my summer shows, so I am interested in finding a good fit, but I am rapidly losing interest in doing poorly organized shows no matter how cool they sound. How do you tell which are the organized shows running short on vendors and which are the disorganized shows who treat their vendors badly? You don't. You just gotta go with your instinct.

I will occasionally see people, especially people on Ravelry, say that we the vendors ought to be more patient and understanding because the people running the events are volunteers. Absolutely! I agree with that 100% however, while organizers are volunteering their time, we vendors are paying to be there. There has to be a little give and a little understanding on both sides, I think.

This is going to seem like another abrupt topic shift, but in my mind it is related.

I took two classes this summer. Both were online. One was supposed to last 8 weeks and the other approximately 1 month. Both cost about the same amount per hour of instruction. The two classes produced completely different experiences.

The 8 week class came with a class description, a syllabus and an statement of what the student can expect from the teacher, what the teacher expects from the student and the consequences of either student or teacher failing to followt he syllabus. I completed the 8 week class and feel like I got my money's worth.

The 1 month class came with a class description, sort of, from a teacher that is well-respected and well-known in the industry and, furthermore, one of my favorites in the industry.  There was no syllabus, no topic list, not expectations of the class or the teacher. There was just a statement that we were going to cover the principles of the topic and that's okay because we all trust the teacher to give us our money's worth.

The class started right away with the first topic. It was way over my head at first, so I decided only to observe and read rather than participate. I know I wasn't the only student who had decided that. The second lesson came out a week or two later. It was still over my head. The third lesson was delayed even longer so, since I had extra time, I put my head down and plowed through the first two lessons until I understood it. The third lesson was posted on June 13. Nothing has been posted since then.

I have read in places other than the classroom that the instructors are having personal issues that are delaying the class. In the classroom itself we were told that the primary instructor was a victim of a crime, no one hurt, and that it was taking time for the instructor to get back on track because she had to spend so much time on filing paper work. Completely understandable, but don't make us guess what's going on. We were given a schedule, finally, for the rest of the class and that schedule has long since blown past us with nothing new being posted. In the meantime, the instructors have started a new class on the SAME TOPIC while we are still waiting for our to resume Uh, WHUT?

I have been trying not to rock the boat too much, because I still kind of idolize the teacher. Like, so much so I just bought her newest book in two different formats. I notice that none of my other 34 classmates have said a word, either. I wonder if this is because it is verboten to speak a critical word in the knitting community? Or I wonder if it is because we are new designers and the two instructors are, right now, our only gateway in to the mystical word of tech editing? I finally said something. I cannot be the only one wondering If that was $60 I just threw down the drain.

Here's where I'm putting the parts of this post back together. We may be a friendly community. We may value our volunteers. The arts, crafts and cycling community, may be a kinder, gentler community, but those of us who have paid money to participate in it are entitled to receive what we have paid for. If that cannot be provided or if there is going to be a delay in providing services, then JUST SAY SO and keep us in the loop as you figure things out. Don't make us guess.

In my final unrelated blog news, we went to Meramec Caverns on Friday. I had never been before. I loved it. It was all of the stunning natural cave formations with none of the mud, snakes or arduous walking conditions, with a whole lot of kitchy cornballishness (is that a word?). It was just my kind of thing.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

TdF Day 5?

I finished spinning the singles and plying the masham wool. I ended up with 224 yards of a worsted weight. The yarn has a gorgeous lofty hand, but it is hairy and hairy usually equals prickly. This is not, as Annie would call it, yarn good for underpants.

I did not wake up early enough this morning to mentally prepare for working/spinning before today's Tour stage started. The stage is half over and I'm still slumped on the couch eating leftover chicken for breakfast and blogging with you. My TdF contributions for today may be limited to finally committing to an opening order with a new fiber supplier (maybe) and starting a scribble lace scarf with some handspun I did a few weeks ago.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Dust on Christ's Head and Tour de Fleece: Day 4

I practiced supported long draw using the masham wool that Annie brought me and that I dyed. My preferred method of spinning is a worsted short forward draw.

I love the heavy dense yarns it makes, but it sucks up the fiber. I wanted to get better yardage from this masham wool and give it a softer hand, which means spinning woolen. I watched Abby Franquemont's Drafting video from Interweave and picked up some good tips on just how to do that.

I'm not sure I'm getting enough twist in it yet, but just under an ounce of lace-to-fingering singles in an hour ain't bad. Scott and I watched the Tour de France from the overpriced, undersupported Versus streaming feed (don't get me started) and spun for about 4 hours. I have about another half ounce to spin tomorrow and then I'll ply. I'm hoping to get 200+ yards of a sport weight with a decent halo.
I went to a funeral this morning at Christ Church Cathedral of a family friend. I would rather not have had a reason to be at the Cathedral in the first place, but since I was I spent a few minutes admiring the beautiful hand work.

There were needlepointed kneeling cushions in the chapel that depicted various saints. Some people used them as seat cushions, which was amusing. The chairs were not comfortable, so I can't say I blame them. If I hadn't known what they were in advance I may have done the same thing. There was a hand embroidered vestment hanging from the ceiling between the sanctuary and the administrative part of the building. The stained glass was beautiful. By far the showpiece of the place was the carved altar. 

 I wasn't thinking about the carved altar when, during the luncheon, a member of the church asked me if I wanted to see the dust on Christ's head. Intriguing. How could I refuse? He took me to the back of the kitchen, shoved a few boxes out of the way, pointed towards a narrow utility closet door and gestured me through. WOW, if only all utility closets had this view. [Click the image to make it larger]

Monday, July 5, 2010

Tour de Fleece, Day 3

I gave core spinning another try today. In core spinning, fibers are pulled out and laid perpendicular floating on an inner core instead of being attenuated and twisted like traditional yarn. Spinning this way leaves the fiber as soft as possible, since no twist is introduced. It also allows the color transitions and fiber to be shown off to its best advantage. It also takes a crazy long time. I spun 68 yards in 4 hours.

It takes some practice to core spin without overspinning. My first two core spun yarns were a disaster. I feel like I really got the hang of it today. I practiced spinning in foreign objects, too. In this case, ribbon flowers.

I was curious as to how core spun yarn knitted up, so I knitted this first skein in to a garter rectangle large enough for a cowl. I like the way it spun up, although next time I will either use a lot more flowers or no flowers at all.

Tour de Fleece: Day 1 and 2

Day 1:  I spun 4 oz of thick and thin merino singles.
Day 2: I plied 2 bobbins, 8 ounces, of merino singles that I spun last week.
The resulting skein was huge and heavy at 444 yards of semiworsted DK weight.
 I broke the skein in to 4 110-yards skeins. I will have them for sale soon. I call this yarn "Brussels" after today's Tour stage.
I also plied the merino thick and thin singles from Day 1 with a thin cotton yarn.

I initially started plying with a new, less expensive binder thread than I have used in the past. The stuff I normally use is a clear metallic $3.50 a bobbin on sale and only gets me about 3.5oz of finished yarn. That's more than I want to spend.  The new binder is clear, but not metallic. It seemed strong enough when I did the break test, but it popped every few yards when I pulled it off the bobbin. Frustrating and unacceptable! I switched to some cotton I had on hand for another project and it worked great. It is a completely different look than I was going for, but not bad at all.  Plus, there is no chance of cotton popping.
I really love how the medium thick slubs coil around the cotton. 

All you art-yarn haterz are probably cringing right now. Wait until you see what I spin today. I'm corespinning a Sugarbee Studios batt and trying to spin in foreign objects.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Hey hey hey!

Hey hey hey! Do you know what day it is? It's my favorite day of the entire year!

Le Tour de France begins today!

Which can only mean one thing.
 The Tour de Fleece begins today!

Did I ever tell you that my first name means lamb, sheep, ewe, female sheep or little lamb? I don't know that I ever knew what my middle name meant until last week when a Dr. Who character introduced herself as "(my middle name), it means 'bringer of joy'". I had to pause the episode and let it sink in that my full name meant "sheep, bringer of joy". According to the internet, my middle name can also mean joy of the Father or God's joy. So even then, my name would mean "baby sheep, God's joy". I pretty much have the best name ever. Thanks, parents.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Still angry and, as always, completely random

  • I'm still angry and it is interfering with my ability to have conversations with people. Who is this little anger monster inside of me who peppers her phrases with exclamations of violence?  I'm not a violent person. I'm a knitter, fergodssake. 

  • I bought one of those bike pedal things that fit under the desk and had it overnighted. Thank you, Amazon Prime*.  I have been so fidgety this week that I am up and down every few minutes and can't concentrate. In theory I will be able to redirect some of that extra energy elsewhere so I can focus on what I am trying to do. Too bad that extra energy doesn't come all at once so I can, you know, actually get something accomplished. Any thing I have accomplished this week was accomplished by means of insomnia and that's no good. 
  •  I haven't been keeping up on Balcony Homestead. I guess I'm okay with that. Better to not update than to engage in hours of frustration trying to get the post in my head on to the screen. I type between 72-90 WPM and yet I have trouble getting thoughts typed in to words quickly. I'm thinking of getting, someday, one of those voice translators so I can dictate my blog posts. The Grammar Girl podcast keeps advertising one that seems good and has a discount. It kind of seems like cheating, though.
  • I just spent an hour watching "I Love Lucy" clips on YouTube trying to find the episode where Lucy has blown her budget until 1993.
  •  I'm not sure what is going on with my BH blog. Almost instantly I had more readers that I have on my business and this blog combined. I think that might have been some sort of error, because a week later I was down to 8 readers and that's where it stayed. Or maybe, as is my real suspicion, readers can sense that I don't really have anything valuable to say about gardening in general on any kind of regular basis but can talk endlessly about the minutia of my own garden. 
  • Speaking of my garden, I wholeheartedly endorse the Earthboxes, either bought from someone or made yourself. A lot of DIY instructions seem to leave out the all important fertilizer strip. I think why the commercial Earthbox works so well is a combo of self-watering container and a strip of fertilizer that is laid down under the plastic box cover.  Look at the size of these 2 tomato plants! I thought it would be all foliage and no fruit, but that doesn't seem to be the case. I'm going to have about 20 tomatoes coming ripe here pretty soon. Now we know they grow produce well. We will see how the boxes themselves fair after a winter outside. I should think they would be fine.

  • I finished 2 kerchiefs yesterday out of some handspun art yarn I traded for. They fit my head about as well as anything ever fits my head, which is to say, they don't fit at all but fit less bad than they might. I'll wear them anyway. My office gets so cold in the wintertime and so warm in the summertime.

*I suppose this is a good time to remind you that I, like every other blogger out there, belong to Amazon Associates. As far as it being a blog money maker, I have made $2.42 in the last 2 years. That's not even enough for them to issue me a gift certificate, but I still feel like I need to be transparent about it.