Spin like the Wind

1. Handspun, hand-dyed hat for Bob, 2. Duran Duran Yarn from Cuckoo Batt, 3. Mystery yarn, 4. 2-ply Pagewood Farm Hand-dyed Merino

I can’t believe how lax I’ve been about posting lately. I have been working pretty steadily all summer – knitting and spinning. I’m going to try to get caught up in the next few days.

Pictured above is some of the spinning I’ve done in the last month or so. I really have been busy. I spun about a half a pound of hand-dyed orangesicle orange Corriedale and then plied it into a worsted weight 2-ply. Its the first totally useable fiber I’ve spun which was totally thrilling! I used just a bit of it for this hat so I have plenty left for mittens or a scarf – or both!

I followed it up with the Pagewood Farm Merino. It spun up a little more uneven because the merino fiber is so slippery and I am still just getting the hang of things. The color of the Pagewood fiber is so yummy and its light and lofty so I’m hoping to knit it into a lovely Morning Sunset Scarf.

With two successes, I was ready to spin up my Duran Duran Cuckoo Batt. I’m glad I waited because the fiber lengths were very varied. I tried to spin it as thick-and-thin as possible to use later in the Urchin pattern.

The multi-color fiber on the spool is from a little 2 oz. bag of fiber from my Yarn School goodie bag but I misplaced the tag so I don’t remember what it is! There’s just a little bit of it and it spun pretty nicely so I’d really like to buy more from the same person. If anyone recognizes it, drop me a line.

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Prairie Stampede, or How I stormed a fiber shop

Wamego/Settler's Farm Mosaic

What did I do this weekend? Funny you should ask because I did what I’ve been wanting to do since Yarn School. I got in my car, drove two hours to Wamego, Kansas and I bought a Louet Victoria, gobs of fiber and some yarn. If I could have rolled around on the floor in the fiber without getting strange looks from Jennifer, the charming owner of Settler’s Farm, I would have. Instead, I knit for a bit on Nikol‘s giant scarf project and then drove two hours back home. It was an amazingly beautiful summer day making the drive gorgeous and feel like a picture-perfect road trip. The sky was cartoonishly blue with little fluffy white clouds and everything was amazingly emerald green. It was fitting that the Oz Museum was two doors down from Settler’s Farm – it really was the emerald town.

I was terrified that I would have forgotten everything I had learned at Yarn School but I hopped on the wheel and grabbed some of the Corriedale fiber I dyed at Yarn School and started spinning. I remembered how to adjust the tension, I remembered how to treadle and I remembered to pre-draft. I think I can do this! I spun and spun and spun until I could hardly hold my eyes open any longer. I dreamt about spinning and kept waking up at night wanting to check and make sure my wheel was still in the closet and that it hadn’t been a dream.

PS: I cannot called my wheel Victoria, that’s my sister’s name so I need to come up with a suitable name. I considered PeeWee and then I remembered the whole PeeWee Herman debacle so I’m back to the drawing board. I am accepting suggestions.

[More pictures of my trip are in my Wamego Road Trip to Settler’s Farm Set on Flickr]

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My sneakers match my fiber!

The package fairy (AKA Robert the Postman, but don’t tell him that he’s my postal fairy godfather, he might take it the wrong way) delivered not one, but two packages full of joy. First, is my Pro-Keds Rocawear sneakers in (of course) lime green. I had to send the first pair back because they were a men’s size 7, not women’s so they were ginormous on me. These are the perfect size and a lovely color. I might have to order another pair while I still can. Plain Pro-Keds are so hard to find these days and they are way more comfortable than their poor cousin, Chuck Taylor low tops. (If you promise not to buy the last pair of size 5 lime green ones, I’ll post the link to the shop where I found them.)

Then there was a little tiny box from Sarah at Maisy Day full of her hand-dyed Vermouth Corriedale fiber in rich midnight blues and dappled with olive-y lime green. The colors complimented my sneakers perfectly and made me want a martini. Oh, for a spinning wheel!!!!

Could my day be any better?

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Wheel Lust

Since I went to Yarn School (has it been a month already?), I have been dreaming about spinning. I mean, at night, as I sleep, I actually dream I’m spinning. My muscles remember pulling the fiber and treadling my feet. Its like taking a landlumber to the ocean for the very first time and teaching her to swim then shipping her back to Nevada. That’s Yarn School for the wheel-less. A vast ocean of spinning joy.

I have accumulated at least a dozen hours of research about each of the wheels I had the privilege to test at Harveyville as well as looking at a few I didn’t get to try. I prefer the look of the modern wheels – they make me feel less like a historical re-enactor at Colonial Willamsburg. Not that there’s anything wrong with re-enactors. Some of my bestest pals are re-enactors. Its just not my thing. I’m a mid-century modern girl influenced more by Rae Eames than Susan B. Anthony. I’ve been considering the Fricke, the Louets, the Lendrum and a couple of others (Ashford Kiwi and the Ladybug). The only wheel I hadn’t actually had a chance to try is the Ashford Kiwi which looks nice and petite, has loads of options but is continually described as “a beginner’s wheel.” I don’t really want to invest money in a wheel I’ll just want to sell in a year or two because I’ve grown beyond it. I’m also not a fan of the hooks used to feed the yarn onto the bobbin. The Fricke is a good wheel, reasonably priced but its looks are so-so. (I am such a design snob!) The Lendrum is a great value but seems to have clearly been designed for someone over 5’6″. Louet has some budget wheels and some higher tier wheels but the most diminutive is the Victoria. The Ladybug is small with a red plastic wheel and big pedals, it accepts all of the same accessories as the more pricey Matchless wheel including the tensioned Lazy Kate so if I ever decided to upgrade to a Matchless, all the additional accessories would transfer. I think its the only wheel I’ve considered that has the double drive band (translation: extra fancy). Its pretty appealing but is definitely one of the more expensive wheels.

The verdict? I want an expensive, largely impractical (not a lot of ratios, no bulky flyer) but physically tiny wheel (fits in a carrying bag that can go in the overhead bin on an airplane) called a Louet Victoria. I think its the prettiest and most comfortable wheel I tried. If I ever get really good at spinning and want to spin production quantities of yarn to sell, then maybe I’ll want to upgarde to a wheel with a larger capacity bobbin and a wider range of ratios.

More wheel lust:

2004 model

While we’re on the subject of wheel lust, I have another brand of wheel lust at the moment as well – new bike lust! Several years ago, I bought a shiny, new Kona Dew Deluxe. It was a considerable upgrade from my previous bike which was a low-end Specialized mountain bike, my first bike since childhood. The Specialized served me well through years of Chicago city abuse including wiping out at a red light on my birthday. I was looking forward to putting just as many miles on the Kona. It didn’t happen. The Kona was a longer bike with ergonomics more consistent with a road bike (think Lance Armstrong not Amsterdam girl). So the Kona spent years collecting dust in the basement. This spring, with the worst case of wheel fever, I decided I was either going to figure out how to make the Kona ride-worthy or I was going to sell it and buy something like this:

It’s the Specialized Globe City bike. It has fenders, a chain guard, a kick stand and a light so it would be the perfect town comuter bike. It’s a little bit Copenhagen, a little bit urban and a whole lotta expensive (clocking in at a little over $900). It does have a super cool 8-speed internal hub which adds to the cost of the bike as do all the accessories. The stripped down model clocks in at about $550 which still seems expensive for a kind-of-nice knockabout bike. The City model is inspired by the city bikes of Amsterdam and Copenhagen where cycling is part of the urban lifestyle and not an extreme sport. With gas prices the way they are and the environment continuing to decline, I feel like its my responsibility to ride more and drive less so finding a comfortable bike that appeals to my aesthetics (again with the damned aesthetics!) seems to more important than ever. Besides, its gorgeous weather right now and I want the wind in my hair as I tool around town.

So yeah, I have wheel lust bad.

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Yarn School Rocks!

The Water Tower in Harveyville!

I got back from Yarn School yesterday afternoon. What an adventure!

Yarn School is essentially a 5-day handspinning camp held in an old high school in Harveyville, Kansas hosted by Nikol and Company. The 30+ Yarn Schoolers (all women with a few male companions) spent the long weekend sleeping in converted classrooms, eating cafeteria-style and playing with fiber every waking hour. We learned to use acid dyes and drum card fiber, met alpacas, pygora goats and angora bunnies, and spent an inordinate amount of time spinning fiber on spinning wheels.

Initially, I thought it sounded like a great getaway – a chance to hang out with some really interesting people who were as interested in knitting as I am. I hoped that I would learn to spin my own fiber but I didn’t know if I would become a spinner as a result. Oh boy, did I ever underestimate the amazing joy of spinning my own yarn. Its unlike any activity I’ve ever undertaken. Its incredibly zen, once you get the hang of it and incredibly rewarding to hold yarn you created yourself. I thought I would like spinning when the weekend was all over but I didn’t expect to LOVE it. I love it!!

Personal wheels waiting for their owners

[A collection of personal spinning wheels!]

My first handspun

[My first handspun yarn… a little lumpy but its actual yarn!]

I’ll post a more detailed account in a day or so… I’m still recuperating!

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Seven Days….

Art Club Fiber

…’til Yarn School! I’m so excited! It certainly helps that work has been dismal so I could really use a get-away.

Let me diverge a moment… I have been taking a weekly class on hand lettering and it is the most humbling experience. Trying to get my hands to go the same direction that my brain insists it should go is very challenging. Unlike drawing, calligraphy clearly has a “correct” and an “incorrect” way of doing things. Certainly, there are some beautiful, interesting things accomplished that are incorrect but, at the moment, the purpose of this class is to master the correct technique before diverging into more experimental styles. Unfortunately, the harder I try the less willing my hands have been to do this. At the end of my class yesterday, my instructor suggested that maybe I focus on a “printed style”. It made me feel like I was a first grader who was trying to write like the big kids and had been sent away. A lot of my work life leaves me with this feeling of overall inadequacy. A friend and I were having lunch a few weeks back and talked about how we were much more confident on the day we were hired and we’ve slowly had our confidence eaten away. The kicker? At my end-of-year review, I was told that I needed to be more self-sufficient and confident. Argh. Okay, I’ve frustrated the hell out of myself. Back to our regularly scheduled blog post, already in progress….

I hope that I can actually learn how to spin fiber and make something pretty. My greatest fear is that spinning will be like lampwork bead-making which I discovered I’m utter rubbish at doing. That would make me so sad. (See this? That self-doubt is now creeping into other parts of my life! Damn you, bossman!)

I’m already building a fiber stash. I found that my hostess for Yarn School, Nikol (AKA Art Club), sells fiber on Etsy so I just had to snoop around and found some wool batting called “Duran Duran”. It is lovely and was almost kismet because I had just been listening to Duran Duran so I had to buy it. I emailed Nikol to ask if I could pick it up when I get to Harveyville. She emailed back and said she’d “reserved it” for me and to go ahead and order it. When I went to Etsy to make my purchase, this is what I saw… its a screen grab from Etsy. Bob asked, “Is that what they’re calling you? Ana Duran Duran?” Sheesh, I hope not, that’s a terrible nickname.

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