Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tour Prep

I've been thinking a lot about whether or not I'm going to participate in the Tour de Fleece this year.  I'm nervous that my plans for what I would spin are going to take up more time than I have to dedicate to spinning.  The thing is, the day after the Tour is over I will be shoving my apartment into a U-Haul and moving back to Minnesota.  This means that the weeks leading up to that day should be spent packing and organizing, not spinning.  But doesn't it seem to be the nature of our craft that the more we have to do in our day, the more often we find ourselves instead stealing away to knit, spin, crochet, whatever?  And if I spend the time I'm pretending I don't have to pack spinning instead of, say, playing Angry Birds or eating ice cream then at least I would still be productive, despite the fact that I would still not be doing what I should be doing.  (Wow, I'm not sure that sentence made any sort of sense.  I hope you can figure out what I mean to say.)  So I'll tell you what my plans are for the Tour de Fleece and then I'll also tell you about what I'm thinking about doing instead (which would be cheating, but only a little bit.)

Last year when I visited Joan we went a little crazy and dyed up a bunch of fiber and then turned it into a ton of batts so that I could spin enough yarn for a sweater.  And you know how our Joan does thing.  We didn't just dye a solid color and call it a day.  No, we dyed five different vibrant colors and then blended them all together to make really beautiful batts that still read "brown" if you squint, but are much, much more than brown.

Plus, the fiber that we dyed was mixed BFL, which means that the undyed fiber itself was several different natural colors, giving each color we dyed a depth that adds to the complexity of the final batts.

They're super colorful, but the resulting yarn isn't unwearable because spinning further blends the colors together and makes the whole thing incredibly amazing.  I know this because yesterday in preparation for the Tour I decided to spin one of the batts up as a sample to see if I could produce the kind of yarn I intend to make with these batts.  I'm still not incredibly confident in my spinning abilities and I didn't want to dive right in and muck everything up.  But I love the yarn that I ended up with.

I can't help but spin carded fiber using the long-draw technique because I am over the moon in love with the light, lofty, airy, soft, springy, warm yarn that it produces.  An added bonus is that I can spin long draw much faster than I can spin a smoother, denser yarn which makes my goal of spinning enough yarn for a sweater in about three weeks more achievable.  So the tentative goal is that all of these batts will have been turned into yarn by July 22.

So now onto how I plan on cheating making things a bit easier for me.  Because I have to be ready to vacate my apartment the day after the Tour is over and I don't want to stress myself out and I do want to spin up all these batts this month, I'm thinking about starting NOW, a couple of days earlier and then simply spinning along in the spirit of the Tour, but not really participating.  Of course, I came up with this idea last weekend which, had I begun last weekend would have given me an entire extra week to spin, but as it stands, I'd only gain three and a half days.  But listen, three and a half days could make or break this project.  So what do you think, should I wait?  Should I just start now?  Do you think I can get those all spun up in time?  Let's not forget that I'm also supposed to be spending my days practicing.  Practicing and packing, that's what I need to be doing.  But this batts are so pretty, aren't they?  How could I say no....

Friday, June 22, 2012

Déjà Vu

Now, I know that I just showed you some handspun and a blue shawl in my last post, but I guess sometimes that's all there is to show.

I started this shawl (Lacewing, by Anne Hanson) over a year ago for our Joan as a thank you for putting up with me when I went to visit last summer.  I intended it to be finished much earlier than this summer, but once school began again last fall all hell broke loose.  I developed tendinitis in both hands because of all the clarinet playing I was doing and could no longer knit in my (minimal) free time.  Everything related to knitting got put on the back burner for about nine months, but I would pick up this shawl every once in a while when I wasn't playing as intensely.  This meant that I only worked on it during Thanksgiving break, Winter break, and Spring break, which gave me just enough time to finish it up as I reached the one year mark.

I used a bit more than 1.5 skeins of Fleece Artist Suri Blue (discontinued).  The pattern itself was very thorough, but went on for pages and pages and at any given time you had to be working from charts on at least three separate pages.  It was difficult to keep track of everything that was going on, but I don't see how the pattern could have been written more concisely and I believe that if you want to end up with something like this shawl, there's no way to avoid putting in the work.

And really, once you reach that finish line and pick up the blocked shawl from the floor for the first time, all that work is worth it.

The handspun I have to show you didn't take nearly as long.  I think it must have taken two weeks tops, but I didn't really pay attention to how long it took.

This was 4oz. of Into the Whirled merino top that I split in half and spun into a two-ply yarn.  The colorway was "Brown."  Totally right down my alley.  I ended up with about 370 yards.

(That last photo is bad because I took it on my phone in my practice room, but y'all have seen yarn before, right?)

Alright, it's time for me to head home now, but hopefully I'll be back soon to show you the sweater I've been working on, some mittens that I haven't, and my plans for participating (or not) in the Tour de Fleece.  Catch ya later!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Just Like That

Oh my gosh, you guys, I completely forgot to show you the coolest part about my trip to Montana!  So, the morning after my audition I went to the hotel "restaurant" to have breakfast and the very nice waitress lady looked at me for a bit and then said, "You look familiar..." to which I simply responded, "Yes, I was here yesterday, too."  She would have none of that, though.  She continued to ask me if I was a musician and I explained that yes, I am a musician and there were currently a lot of musicians in the hotel because the symphony was having auditions that week for seven different positions and then she just said, "I knew it! That's why you look familiar" and walked away to get my food with no further explanation.  Of course, I thought this behavior a bit odd, but I was tired and coffee-less and to be quite frank, I didn't care enough to be bothered.  It was only when I went to check out of my hotel room that I figured out how she knew me.  As I was waiting to turn in my key I glanced over to a stack of newspapers on the edge of the desk and saw, well...  this:

Dudes, I made it onto the front page of their newspaper!  Right below a $225 million dam and above a spelling bee was me making my embouchure face.  After one day of being in that town, I had already made it onto page 1, just like that.  They sure do know how to recognize a star when they see one!  Naturally I grabbed two of the newspapers and stuffed them into my bag on the way out the door to the airport, where I was once again recognized.  I was sitting at the gate waiting for the boarding to begin and there was a man sitting across from me and I saw him pull out the newspaper and I simply waited.  He opened up the front and glanced at the headlines as one does and then I saw him pause, look up at me, look back down, look up... look back down... and then he went and brought the newspaper to his wife, where he proceeded to point at my picture, and then over at me and then she nodded, I think to confirm that it was, in fact, me on the front of the newspaper.  Of course, that's about as far as my starlight shone, but we all need our 15 minutes of fame, right?

Anyway, on to woolier things.  I promised you some yarn and a shawl, so let's get to it.  The yarn was spun from 4oz of carded Hampshire wool and I loved every minute of it.  It was dyed by Dan at Gnomespun and was part of his Mythic Fiber Club from a couple of months ago.  The colorway was named "The Dagda" after a figure in Irish Mythology.

I spun the fiber long-draw for an incredibly airy and bouncy 2-ply yarn and I couldn't be happier with it.  Seriously, I love this kind of yarn and I have been racking my brain for something to do with it, but for now it sits in waiting.  It's about a worsted-weight and 270 yards and ...all of a sudden just right now as I am typing my mind decided it's going to be mittens.  So I guess that's that.

The yarn was actually finished back in March, so for something a bit more recent I give you Miralda's Triangular Shawl from Knitted Lace of Estonia by Nancy Bush.

Yeah, it doesn't look so great unblocked, does it?  This little shawl knit up lightning fast and I enjoyed every minute of it.  I used about a skein and a half of Davidson Domy Heather in the Slate colorway.  I don't think the company has an online presence and the last time I checked, the only place to buy it online was through my Minnesota LYS, The Yarnery.  It's really some nice yarn - not the softest, but not as scratchy as something like Jamieson's and it has great yardage, as well.

It took me less than two weeks to knit this shawl and I have to tell you something about the nupps - they didn't slow me down at all.  Really, they just flew by.  It turns out they're not so hard.

I almost want to knit this shawl again because it was so fast.  The only thing I would change if I were to do it again would be the border along the top.  It's written to begin each row with a k2tog, yo and I think that with that knit two together right on the edge it makes it look a bit sloppy, but maybe that's just my own sloppy knitting style.

In any case, it's a lovely shawl and I have promptly stuck it in a drawer because I have absolutely no idea why I made it.  Sometimes knitting is just like that, you know?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Road To Unemployment

You guys, I feel a little bit like I went through some sort of time machine last week, only it wasn't the kind you see in movies where you're instantly transported to a different decade.  No, this one was a bit more trouble and took the form of four airports, three airplanes, and two standby flights and I'm pretty sure I was still in 2012 when I landed, but man, I was in a different place for sure.

The place, if you're interested, was Great Falls, Montana.  If you want to get there, it seems you have to spend half a day trying to catch flights to numerous cities around the country before landing within this hidden gem of a city.  Self-described as "a small prairie town," Great Falls is known for it's less-than-impressive waterfalls (think feet tall, not meters or stories) and for being the location of one of the first filmed UFO sightings in the United States.  So I suppose I should have been prepared for what I was getting myself into.

But I was still blindsided by the abundance of 1950s hairstyles, outdated gender roles, and well... the mermaids.

You see, all my life I have been told that mermaids were not real.  That they were simply a mythical creature dreamed up by sailors who had spent too long at sea away from women and looked upon manatees with too much lust in their eyes.  But no, dear readers, I am here to tell you that mermaids are real, and Great Falls has them.  Not only does Great Falls have them, but they have kindly put them on display at the Sip 'n' Dip Lounge for all the world to see.

Yep, right there behind the bar so that I could order my drinks and watch these wonders of the sea at the same time.  One of them even waved at me.  (As an aside, I was in Montana to audition for a symphony there - I didn't get the job - and this was the hotel that they recommended I stay in.  It would appear that this town prides itself on these little mermaids.)

I always thought that mermaids and their sisters of the sea, the Sirens, would have little effect on me as a gay man, but I have to admit... I couldn't tear my eyes away.  Now, I don't think I was experiencing the same draw that the group of boys in the corner taping dollars to the glass were experiencing, but I was nonetheless intrigued - at least until my beer was gone.  (The beer was really only a prop for me to use so I had an excuse to sit there and take pictures.  I felt like ten kinds of creepy.)  Besides, I had more important places to go, like the yarn shop.

It didn't take me long to figure out that Pam's Knit 'n' Stitch (man, Great Falls really loves that abbreviated "and") was just down the road from my hotel (although, truth be told, everything in this town was "just down the road."  It wasn't the largest city in the world...) and I headed off in search of some souvenir yarn.

Along the way I passed NYC, which is what tipped me off that I had somehow stumbled upon some sort of time/space-bending machine.

But it was a quick trip and I was soon in Great Falls again at the entrance of the LYS.  Now, at this point I had already learned what to expect from this town and wasn't holding my breath for anything worth looking at in this shop, but I was once again pleasantly surprised.  We can always count on a yarn shop to put our minds at ease, no matter how far-flung we are, am I right?  The books and magazines were up to date, the yarn selection was great (and current) and the woman working was very pleasant to chat with.  She didn't even miss a step when she saw a man walk into the store.  She simply asked if I was a knitter or a crocheter and then showed me all of the new yarns they had just gotten in.  Now, you guys know my rule about souvenir yarn buying - I can only buy something if I don't have any in my stash, if I can't get it at home, or if I have never seen it before.  With that in mind, I left with a great hand-dyed sock blank made from locally-grown and spun Targhee wool that I'm sure will make a great accessory that is not a pair of socks for me.  (Don't bother googling "Rockem Sockem."  You'll just end up with a bunch of results for boxing robots.)

I continued my Montana-based theme and also picked up a skein of Mountain Colors Winter Lace (50g).  Of course, when I got back to my hotel I realized I didn't really have anywhere to put this yarn in my luggage, but where there's a will, there's a way.


I was planning on showing you guys a finished shawl and some handspun in this post as well, but I think there's plenty here for you to absorb, so I'll pop in sometime in the next couple of days to do that.  And don't forget - if you're looking for mermaids, they're in Montana.