Friday, January 20, 2012

Spin Happy

I continue to be thwarted in my knitting plans by my constant wrist/hand pain (yes, I am seeing a doctor.  Yes, I am taking medication.  Yes, I am wearing braces.), but I seem to be able to do a bit of spinning each night without suffering too much.  It's slow going, but I have been making a bit of progress, whereas the knitting has practically stalled.  In the two weeks since my return, I have accomplished roughly two hours of knitting, which continues to drive me crazy.  I have been self-medicating nightly with tea and chocolate to try to calm myself down, but did you guys know that knitting can't be replaced?  Not even by spinning or reading books about knitting or really reading any books at all.  My list of things I wish to knit gets longer and longer with each passing day as I continue to only be able to plan my projects and not execute them.  I feel like a masochist spending my free time on ravelry looking at projects or digging through my yarn stash looking at a world of possibility.  It's torture, I tell you!

But this post is for spinning, not knitting.  I wasn't able to bring my wonderful wheel with me to Minnesota for my Winter break, but during the last few days I spent in Pittsburgh in December I got back into spinning and was enjoying it immensely.

This summer, perhaps back in May or June, my friend sent me some fiber that she picked up at a Farmer's Market in Connecticut.  The fiber came from Sankow's Beaver Brook Farm and was a blend of natural-colored alpaca and lamb's wool.  It was wonderfully rustic and a joy to spin up.  The fiber was carded, not combed, so I turned my spinning time into a long-draw exercise.  The point was to create a lofty, airy yarn and for the most part I think I succeeded.

I really don't think I could be happier with this yarn.  It is the exact kind of yarn I love to work with and I am overjoyed that I was able to make it myself.  Typically the bobbins on my wheel can hold about 4oz. of fiber.  As you can see, however, I had to split this batch in half because the loft factor was so high that there was no way I could cram the whole shebang onto one bobbin.  I ended up with about 260 yards of a heavy worsted yarn and my mind is full of possibilities for what I can do with it.  (Thanks, Kate!)

Once I got that off the wheel (really, from start to finish, it only took about two days), I threw on a completely different spinning experience in the form of some superwash BFL from Anne at Wooly Wonka Fibers.  I didn't get a picture of the fiber before I started spinning, but it was in the "Wood Duck" colorway and, really, it was right up my alley.  I know I've made my love for birds quite apparent in the past, but you guys - BFL dyed in colors inspired by a bird, which I can then spin up and knit into something unique and wonderful?  I was over-the-top in love and I personally believe that my finished results do not disappoint.

I was actually quite shocked by how it turned out.  Not because I thought it would end up as a lumpy pile of crap, but because I was expecting something thicker with less yardage.  I'm not sure why I thought that's how it would be because I kept checking my singles by letting them twist up on themselves to see what the finished yarn would look like, but still... I was surprised.  What I have now is a 4oz. skein with 780 yards of light fingering-weight yarn.  And it's purty, too.

Overall it's pretty consistent, but clearly each of the plies has, well, character.  They play well together, though.

And lest you think that I have completely forgotten about the wonderful Cupcake batts that I was working on this summer, I have slowly been spinning my way through those as well.  (If by slowly you understand that I mean at a glacial pace.  Not even a fast glacier.  More like a glacier that goes nowhere for months at a time.)  I have spun up three of the six ounces now and have just begun working on the fourth.  I have been very tempted to ply the first three together first, but I can't allow myself to do that.  Instead I'm going to spin them all up, then ply 1, 3, 5 and 2, 4, 6 together (that makes sense in my head, does it make sense in yours, too?).  I think this will help keep things as consistent and mixed up as possible considering the fact that I have been spinning this fiber up over the course of months and months.

It's gonna be really nice, though.  I can tell.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Souvenir Yarn

Whenever I travel (even if the destination of such travels is somewhere quite familiar, such as my parents' house) I find myself buying yarn with the excuse that it's "souvenir yarn."  You know what I'm talking about.  I'm willing to bet that the majority of us do this.  You do some research to find out where the closest yarn shops are ( helps if you're having trouble, have you used it before?) and off you go to explore.  Some people buy a single skein of beautiful sock yarn while others go for luxury blends of cashmere, silk, qiviut, etc.  I've even heard that some people buy yarn in a color that reminds them of their trip.  My strategy (or rather guideline) for acquiring souvenir yarn is twofold.  This is one of the few times I allow myself to buy yarn "just because" without an idea of what I'm going to use it for.  Usually I'm pretty good about only buying yarn that is needed for a specific project, but when I'm traveling, anything is fair game.  So that's my first rule: You can buy anything you want to just because.  My second rule narrows it down a bit and it is this: I can only buy yarn that I have never used and/or seen before.  It's a helpful little thing to remember when I find myself walking around with an armload of my go-to yarns and it forces (ha!  As if I have to be forced to play with yarn) me to explore new territory.  The blue mittens I'm making that I showed you a few posts back are made with "souvenir yarn" and I love love love it.  (I'll show more about the mittens in my next post.)

While in Minnesota I acquired a decent amount of new yarn, for several reasons.  The first is simply that I know where the yarn shops are.  The second is that my mother knits AND my sister was visiting for the holidays, so a trip to the yarn shop was a must.  The third thing (and this is the trickiest one because you end up with purchases you weren't expecting, even if what you were expecting was the unexpected) is that I had to make several trips to the shops to get non-souvenir yarn - yarn that I needed for specific projects and if I was going to be there already anyway, well... it can't be helped.

So, because I have a brace on my wrist and a band-aid on my finger and therefore can't knit or spin (and consequently don't have much spinning or knitting to show you), I thought some pictures of yarn might tide you over.  (Although it would appear that I have lost my ability to take a decent picture of yarn.)

Hmmmm, now I really wish that I weren't in a practice room writing this post because I don't actually remember any of the details about these yarns.  I'll do the best I can.

Above is some yarn that I picked up at The Yarnery in St. Paul.  This is my Minnesota LYS.  When I'm in Minnesota and you hear me say "I'm going to the yarn shop", this is where I mean.  The yarn is Davidson's "Domy Heather" in the Slate colorway (what a shocker.)  I couldn't resist the heathery, woolen quality of the yarn.  I originally only bought one skein, but then went back for a second when I decided it should become Miralda's Triangular Shawl.  (You see that?  I made a plan.)  It turns out that The Yarnery may very well be the only place to get this yarn.  The company doesn't seem to have an online presence and the only online seller Ravelry has listen is The Yarnery, so I'm glad I picked some up while I was there!

While at The Yarnery, my sister, my mother and I all picked up a ball of Rowan's Kidsilk Haze Stripe.

It's pretty spendy because it has Kaffe Fassett's name on it, but it's also prettier in person and will one day make a nice, airy, stockinette scarf (or infinity cowl.  TBD.)

We then all ventured to a shop in Minneapolis none of us had ever been to, Bella Lana.  They carried a lot of nice yarn, but I ended up walking away with two skeins of Cascade Soft Spun.  It's a familiar company, but I had never seen this yarn before.  (I won't be using the two together, don't worry.)

 And lastly, at 3 Kittens I picked up some yarn that is now discontinued - Reynolds Whiskey.  (Yes, Deirdre, I went back and got it.  At 50% off it was hard to resist!)

One of the balls is wound up not because I've started knitting with it already, but because my dog thought it would be fun to roll around in it for a while.  He had draped it all over the main floor before he came to the basement, presumably for help untangling himself.

Well now, it's pouring rain outside and the wind is blowing, so I think it's time for me to head home and put some tea on the stove.  I'll have some knitting and spinning to show you next time, I promise!