Sunday, August 28, 2011

Transition Time

Classes begin tomorrow and I can't decide if I'm ready or not.  It's not that I feel unprepared, or that my workload is going to be overwhelming, it's simply that I don't think I've made that necessary mental transition yet.  You know, the one that allows you to switch from sleeping until noon to waking up at 6am.  The one in which you must develop a drive so strong that you can continue day after day with only four hours of sleep a night.  The one that helps you understand that even though you've already played your clarinet for seven hours that day, the next two hours of rehearsal are still just as important and you can't give up quite yet.  The one (and this is the kicker) that prepares you for the idea that for the next nine months of your life... you may not have enough time to knit.

It's a tough transition.  And one that I hope I have made by 6am tomorrow.  (I'm bringing my knitting to school just in case.  Sort of like a comfort blankie.  I just need to know it's there.)  Of course, I think I may have a bit more time to get from point A to point B.  The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is currently touring Europe until September 12, so although classes technically begin tomorrow, almost the entire school of music faculty is out of the country, so two of my classes won't start for three weeks and I won't be having lessons until then, either.  Sometimes it's best to take it slow.

Apparently that's my motto when it comes to spinning these days, too.  I've been spending a lot of time preparing for my ensemble placement audition (a necessary evil) and that combined with all the secret knitting I've been doing lately means I don't have much time to sit at the wheel.  It's quite sad.  I did spin up the first ounce of my Cupcake batts, though.  (Oh my, I should not have clicked over there to get the link.  I barely resisted buying the gradient ocean ones.)

When I first posted these batts, I got a few emails asking how I was going to spin them up, so here's how I'm preparing the batts to be spun.

First, I unroll/unfold the batt and lay it out flat.

That is the point in which I normally do the petting.  Then I split the batt lengthwise into four strips.

I then take each strip and draft it out a little bit to make sure that the fibers aren't too compacted and I think pulling it into a thinner, longer strip helps me with fiber control as I'm sort of new to the wheel spinning thing.  The cupcake batts come in a nice crush-proof box, so pre-drafted isn't really essential, but with other fiber preparations it might be.

Once each strip is drafted out a bit, I wrap them up into cute little fiber nests.  (Except in my head they're not cute nests, but unpredictable, manly fiber volcanos.  It sounds more bad-ass.)

I just wrap the strip around my hand and then pull the loose end through when I get to it.

If you'd rather not pull your batt into four strips, you could also split it into one piece by doing some zig-zag magic.

And then once you draft it into a single long strip, you can wind it into a big fiber ball and spin it from there.

I personally prefer the smaller strips because it gives me a natural stopping point.  If I were spinning an entire ounce from one strip, I'm not sure I'd have the willpower to stop spinning in the middle of it.

Of course, you could also not do any prep and simply start spinning from one corner and go and go and go until it's gone.  There's no problem with that, either.

And because I've been stringing you all along this summer with my knitting, here's what I've been working on.

See?  That's a sweater, a sweater, a sweater, a sweater, and now a sweater.  (Things are truly unpredictable over here.)  The second sleeve is almost done.  I can blog about this one because it's a sample of Hannah Fettig's Carrot Cardigan, which is already published, so I don't think there's any harm in showing you, right?  Right.

And now, as is usually the case, back to practicing.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

This And That

Thing A.  This is going to be one of those random-type posts.

Thing B.  Brittany has been complaining lately that she doesn't get enough face time on the blog.  So here she is exploring the new wheel.  (She has to inspect everything that comes into this apartment.  She's kind of a diva that way.)  (Don't mind the color of these photos.  They were taken at night and super ugly so I tried to adjust the color, but I'm colorblind and, well...  here you go.)

Don't worry, I held onto moving parts so it didn't turn into some carnival ride like "The Wheel of Death" or anything like that.

Thing C.  She also sometimes likes to help me knit.

Oh, garter stitch!  You know, that was named after one of my cousins.  Doesn't look at all like her if you ask me...

Hey!  Peter!  Remember this vest that you never finished?  Do you?  Do you?  It's right here.  Look!  Remember it?
Thing D.  We had a storm yesterday that knocked the power out for a while and flooded several areas in Pittsburgh.  I live on a hill so I didn't get the flooding, but I did knit in the dark for three hours.  This is what my evening looked like.

Some knitting, a good book, and a root beer (yes, root beer.  I don't drink alcohol.)  (I was also cuddling with Brittany because without power, she gets pretty cold.)

Thing E.  Before the power went out, I managed to bake a loaf of bread.

I want to start making my own bread (you know, because being a graduate student leaves me SO MUCH free time...) and this was my first attempt.  Simple, plain, white bread.

Thing F.  It makes unbelievable toast.

Thing G.  Any suggestions for good bread recipes?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Is This Real Life?

I have a friend who often says things like, "What is my life?" or "Am I a real person?" and I think both of those sentiments can be applied to my life at this moment.

As many of you know by now, this last trip found me traveling to visit our Joan and her family for a while.  Joan and I have known each other through our blogs for several years and I was very happy to be able to meet her in person and spend some quality time with her (and, by the way, I was present for the birthday package extravaganza and it was amazing.)

Several times during my trip I found myself thinking the above.  Is this my life?  How did I get to a point in which I drive around the country meeting cyber-friends for days jam packed with excitement?  I mean, come on!  Niagara Falls?

Heck yes.  We also went to the zoo, which, I must say, is always a favorite for me.  I almost always have to go to a zoo when I travel to a new city.  Not that this information shocks you with me being the animal nerd you all know me to be.  Ooh, and the pier.  That was really peaceful and wonderful.  I think it was Lake Ontario.  (Joan?  Yes?  Ontario?)

What really had me questioning the reality of my life was the fact that when I arrived, there was a spinning wheel waiting for me!  Because I've been all over the country these past few weeks, Joan and I decided to have my wheel delivered to her house because it seemed to be the most practical place to send it at the time.

We put it together the day I arrived and spun and spun and spun all weekend long.  It was glorious.  And now that I'm back in Pittsburgh, I can prove to you that there is indeed a new spinning wheel in that bare corner I showed you in the last post.

See?  A beautiful, beautiful walnut Kromski Minstrel.  I couldn't be happier!  The wheel and I seem to get along incredibly well and I haven't run into any major issues with breaking it in so far.  I did break the brake band it came with, but with Joan close by it was a quick fix and I was able to get back to spinning immediately.

I think I spun over 10 ounces of fiber while I was there, and she sent me home with much, much more.  Rambouillet, corriedale, merino, silk, pygora, yak, targhee, alpaca, BFL... I really don't think there's anything I don't have in my stash now.  Wanna see my first wheel-spun yarn?

Not too shabby, eh?  It's about 4.5oz of Corriedale, 208 yards.  I'm not going to show you my fourth skein.  It's worse than the first.  (How did that happen?!  You can see it on the bobbin in the second picture.)

Of course, Joan couldn't send me home without some of her own Cupcake batts.  I got to spin some of her batts while I was there and I have to tell you, they're incredible.  I want to spin her batts for the rest of my life.  I'm going to start spinning up these beautiful brown ones next.

But trust me, the pictures don't do them justice.

And again, I'm left thinking, "Is this real?"

Many, many, many thanks to Joan for making my new wheel possible and for being so hospitable during my visit!  And don't worry about the wheel taking over my life.  I've already established a rule that I can't spin until I've met my practicing goals for the day (and right now, as I'm still knitting on deadlines, my knitting goals have to be met too.  Oh!  Check out Hannah Fettig's big announcement!  You'll see a few of those secret projects I've been talking about lately.)

And now it's about time I use this practice room for its intended purpose.  Until next time, happy knitting!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Brief Hello

I don't mean to repeatedly go AWOL on you guys.  I just got back into Pittsburgh from a nearly month-long stay in Minnesota where I tend to ignore my email, my phone, my computer, and my clarinet.

I continue to be knitting things I can't show you, but maybe after two more sweaters and a scarf I will return to things I can take pictures of.  That would make this blog a bit more exciting, right?  (I promise what I'm knitting isn't incredibly mysterious.  They're just samples for things that haven't been published by the designers yet, so I can't show you.  That's all.)  Of course, by the time I finish those three projects the school year will be starting up again and I will be back to clarinet-ing all day long.  Let's hope we don't have a repeat of last year's Fall semester in which I didn't knit a single stitch and didn't blog for months.  (How did I manage that?)

I leave tomorrow on another trip, which I expect will be entirely too much fun and incredibly exciting.  I'll tell you all more about it when I get back, but know this:  When I return, that corner of my apartment will be occupied by a brand new spinning wheel!  Yippee!!!  (I felt that this post lacked exclamation points.)

See you in a few! (Exclamation point.)