Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Ten More Rows (and I ran out of yarn)

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Just a short post. It has been a long time since I had anything to show. I've been very busy with the holidays so very little knitting had been done.
I had been knitting on my "Surprise" shawl almost to the exclusion of anything else. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel! Turns out it was an on-coming train. I ran out of yarn. It's hand dyed yarn. Each skein is different from the last. The kind folks at A Verb For Keeping Warm are dyeing me up more so I can finally finish. So instead, you get pictures of my "Stash Enhancement" efforts.
At the top, my new Bosworth Moosie spindle which weighs just under an ounce. I waited about a year to get it but it was worth the wait. I'm spinning a little Mohair that I bought from A Verb For Keeping Warm. It is part of their Farm Series and is fro Shaggy Bear Farms.
Below that you have 3 skeins of baby alpaca lace in the"Vamp" colorway from Pigeon Roof Studios and 2 skeins of the "Amazon" colorway.
Next, 3 skeins of alpaca lace from A Verb For Keeping Warm in the "10% Chance Of Rain" colorway and 4 skeins in the "Glenda" colorway.
Below that you have 3 skeins each of Kyoko Pink, Glacier and then Black Plum all in the Phoenix yarn and purchased from fleegle's Etsy store, The Gossamer Web. I also picked up some nifty stitch stoppers from her as well. I think they look like owls.
That's it for now. I hope to post again in the New Year when I have finished Surprise and update you on any other trouble I've gotten myself into :-) Here is wishing everyone a wonderful 2010!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Handmade (Little Grace Special Spinning Wheel)

I love things that are handmade. I imagine a lot of us do. I have spent thousand of hours knitting lace or spinning lace weight yarn in spite of being asked by non-crafters, "Can't you just buy that in a store?". I don't get mad anymore. Instead, I just show them a finished shawl and assure them they will never see one of these in a store.

That said, I have wanted a Little Grace Special spinning wheel since I first saw one in Spin-Off magazine many years ago. They are made by Mike Keeves of New Zealand as a more portable version of his "Grace" spinning wheel. If you follow the link above, you can see all the different versions of his wheel which he makes by hand out of marine grade plywood for durability.

Though I lusted after this spinning wheel there was no "on-line" store to order one. If you want one, you have to e-mail Mr. Keeves and get on the waiting list. I had also never actually had a chance to spin on one since there are not a lot of them around. I finally decided to "go for it" after giving away my "Little Peggy" spinning wheel earlier this year. She was pretty and vintage but spun too slow. This made room for one more wheel in our small house and I decided I just had to have that Little Grace Special wheel. Of course, I had no idea if he was still making spinning wheels.

I sent an e-mail to Mr. Keeves ( who is a lovely gracious man. Lucky for me he still makes this wheel though he is in his later years. I asked about the the whorl sizes since spinning thin is a big deal for me and found that this would be no problem so I went on the waiting list with an estimate of 6 months before my wheel would be ready. 6 months later and I got my first picture of the finished wheel sitting on top of Mr. Keeves work bench (the first picture above).

In order to arrange for payment, I had to go to my bank to initiate a money transfer in New Zealand dollars. The nice young man helping me at the bank was great until he asked,

Him- "What are you sending away for?"

Me- Smiling "A spinning wheel!"

Him- Blank stare

Me- Less smiling "You know, to spin wool or other fiber"

Him- Blank stare

Me- Not smiling "You know. Before they started making yarn or thread with large machines you had to make them yourself so you had to spin the fibers of animals or plants using a tool called a spinning wheel"

Him- Blank stare-

I gave up explaining at that point and kept my "eyes on the prize" so to speak and got through the rest of the transaction.

I had asked for a clear finish rather than the dark stain pictured in the brochure and she came packed securely in 2 boxes with excellent and clear assembly instructions. It took less than 25 minutes to assemble and she spins perfectly. I took lots of pictures of the various parts so if anyone in the future is considering getting one of these wheels they will have a better idea of what they would get. It's very cunning in design and can be either assembled for left or right side spinners. It comes with one whorl with many different sized ratios, (smallest is 5/8" diameter for a 22:1 ratio) is a single treadle wheel that utilizes a nylon drive band. The tension on the drive band is adjusted by a "tilt tension" system that can be adjusted easily. The scotch tension is very thin fishing line with a rubber band with a knob in the front. Simple and easy to adjust.

This wheel is virtually silent and has sealed bearings in the wheel and flyer head so it needs oil only on the treadle hings if they are squeaking and in the ball joints of the Pitman arm which connect the wheel to the treadle. The wheel comes with 7 bobbins, an orifice hook, pigtale attachment for plying and a reducing orifice attachment to make the orifice in the flyer smaller. The wheel is approx. 31" tall, 12"x 16.5 inches at the base with a 14" wheel diameter and comes with a lazy kate. It spins well as you can tell from the pictures so I'm very happy :-)

Last but not least, two spindles that were a gift from Wonder Mike who has a new podcast called "Fiber Beat" If you get a chance, check out his podcasts and video casts. The two spindles were made for me by Ed Ligenfelter of Tilt-A-Whorl. Both are about 0.7 ounces and they are great fun to spin with. Both were made with the theme of "lace" since Wonder Mike wanted them to reflect my obsession and Wonder Mike knit the lavender lace that tops one of the spindles which makes it extra special :-) Thank you Mike!

In case you wonder "Where's the lace?" I'm still knitting the "Surprise" as you can see from this crumpled lump. It takes about 45 minutes to go around the shawl one time if it's a pattern row now, 30 minutes if it is a plain knit row. I have also been taking Ukulele lessons and knitting fingerless gloves for my niece who is away at Philadelphia University so not as much progress as I would like. Of course, I never claimed I was a fast knitter :-) Until next time.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Excess? (Some things are too good to pass up!)

I recently de-stashed a large amount of spinning fiber. It wasn't bad stuff since I don't buy bad stuff. It was just "second string". You know what I mean. You look at your stash of fiber, yarn, whatever, and you reach for the "Really good stuff I want to use before I die you have to take it from my cold dead hands touch it and you will pay with your life" stuff. So the second string fiber just sits there. Unused, unloved and so very very sad. I gave it to someone who will use it well.

As a result, I have "space". Good thing too since fleegle opened an Etsy shop "The Gossamer Web" It started out simply enough. There was a yarn that was no longer being made and fleegle still wanted it and thought others might like some too. Well. I just had to have some since it is a cashmere, silk and merino cobweb weight yarn. I know that 20 skeins at 2,600 meters each might look a little excessive to some but to me it's like storing nuts for the winter. You know. Be the ant, not the grasshopper. Besides, I'm thinking of taking that natural dyeing class at A Verb For Keeping Warm. Anyway that's my story and I'm sticking to it. For those who don't want to dye their own, you might just mosey on over to The Gossamer Web and look at the beautiful hand dyed roving's, lace weight yarns and the fun "tools". I picked up cashmere roving in the Hydrangea colorway which you can see I'm spinning into a nice single. It's very short staple and I ended up spinning it like you might have to spin cotton. Cashmere does not have a lot of strength as a single so I plan to ply it with a silk single that I also got from fleegle's shop which you can see in the little plastic bag. I believe it's a 30/1 weight single and should give me the strength I need. The little box fleegle gets from Japan is perfect for my various tiny little stitch markers so I don't have to keep hunting through little containers to find what I want. It was great to go to a shop that had lots of what I need rather than having to hunt all over the internet and fleegle is even making me more of that cashmere roving since I want to make a large project from it. You can't ask for more than that :-)

I have been knitting on my "Surprise" project and I'm up to row 213 of a 314 row pattern. Since it's a square, it just feels like "forever" to go around once, but I think it will be worth it. In the mean time, I did pick up a new book on Estonian lace called, "Haapsalu sall " by Siiri Reimann and Aime Edasi. You can get it at the Apollo book site if you are really interested. I posted a few pictures of some of the shawls on Flicker but I'm sure if you google the title you will find others. The stitch key is in English though the rest of the book is not. If you have knit from the Nancy Bush book then you will already have the basic information you need to use this book. It's a "coffee table" over sized hardcover book with pictures of all the lace designs and charts for the patterns. There are no actual patterns for the lace stoles you see pictured in this book. It has the charts for the centers and the edging but this is a strictly "Make up your own stole" kind of a deal. I plan to use the cashmere I'm spinning now for one of these stoles once I finish "Surprise". Last but not least, I got 4 more spindles from Kevin Rhodes. These are great little spindles at a reasonable price and he is willing to make them to order for you.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Spinning Frenzy and Surprises (What you can and cannot do when you have the flu)

It's flu season. How do I know this? I know because I have had the snotting, coughing, wheezing, loss of voice and fatigue associated with the current flu bug for weeks. Did you know you can still spin a fair single while you have the flu? Did you also know you knit lace at your peril if you are doped up to the gills on drugs? I also want to mention that shopping for spindles on the internet is not a problem for me even when I'm sick. I'm better now, thank the Lord, though there is a stubborn cough that just won't go away. Here are a few pictures of what's been going on.

The first two pictures are of a "Surprise" project I'm knitting. The yarn is 100% Baby Alpaca lace weight yarn from "A Verb For Keeping Warm" in "Vermillion" (4.0 ounces, 1,000 yards). The next picture is of the actual project. You won't see clear pictures of this baby until it's all done and blocked, hence the surprise factor. I'm about 2/3 of the way through and the pattern is 313 rows long. I'm using Addi Lace needles in US 0. Fleegle might have a good guess as to which pattern it is and there are a few folks at Verb who also know. This is proof that I'm still knitting lace though you wouldn't think it looking at the rest of these pictures. As my concentration improves, I will go back to Goldregen but at US 000 needles, I just couldn't hack knitting on it while I've felt so under the weather.

The next pictures are of singles spun from my Verb fiber club shipment of alpaca fiber in “Bleeding Heart” colorway. It was heaven to spin. I have the bobbin on top of some pigeonroofstudio rovings that I was considering to ply with it. I eventually choose the green roving which is a combination alpaca and merino and I'm still working on that project.

It's no surprise that I got more spindles. I didn't mean to but it's boring being sick.

Butterfly Girl Designs : Hemalyke stone whorl .8 ounce

Golding "Acorns" made of a Danecraft Sterling Silver Inset with a Walnut shaft .89 ounces.

Spindle Bowls from "The Wheel Thing" for me and my sister in Bubinga and Cherry (We took a support spindle class at Verb and I sucked major at it)

Tabacheck Tibetan Spindles from "The Wheel Thing" 2 in walnut, a cherry and one in Honduras Mahogany.

Tom Forrester Russian Spindesl from "The Bellweather"

4 spindles from Kevin Rhoads ( Yew, Red Palm, Monkey Puzzle and Laburnum)

I also bought fiber from Corgi Hill Farm as well and finished spinning and plying my other Verb fiber club shipment "Intergalactic Space Travel" in Cashmere and silk plied with Indigo dyed merino/silk also from Verb.

That's all for now I'm afraid. I hope to be able to post blocked lace next time but the rows for the Surprise project are getting ever longer as the shawl grows. I've finished one ball of yarn and I'm onto the second one. Hope I actually have enough of it!