Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Positive things

I had a post all planed out yesterday where I talked about waiting areas. About how much time I've spent in medical waiting areas over the last few months, about how funny it is when the receptionist has squeaky shoes, and about how annoying it is when someone spends over 50 minutes filing her nails in the chair right beside you and pretends to not speak English when you tell her it's not appropriate even though she spoke perfect English to the receptionist when she entered. I was also going to rant about people who are stupid enough to wear perfumed (that includes male products like aftershave) products into medical buildings when they have been designated scent-free places for almost ten years now....

But then I realized, that's not a very positive thing to post about.

Actually, I'm in rather a grumpy funk right now so I'm going to post about things that make me smile and with any luck, I'll be in a much happier frame of mind at the end of it.


So here we have it folk:

Things that make me smile!

  • Morning coffee. I love to start my day with a cuppa coffee and reading blogs and Ravelry, or simply browsing through knitting patterns.
  • That the surprises just went up on Knitty this morning (or last night, but I don't have my computer on in the evening so it might as well have been this morning).
  • Free Fleece! I should say free fleeces as I received more free fleece over the weekend. Thank you ever so much. I think I have enough wool in my house to last me quite some time.
  • Spinning makes me smile because it is an affordable way to increase my yarn stash.
  • Projects that knit up fast with stunning results. On the weekend I saw this most amazing vest called a Rib Warmer (Elizabeth Zimmerman pattern). It was so simple and elegant that I completely fell in love with it. I've also been working on several pairs of socks lately, most of them knee high socks, and I felt it was time for me to knit something that, how should I put it, showed results faster. Now, I love socks, I knit lots of socks and always have a few pair on the go, but...well...um...

DUKE Envy me? Tell me, Major, are you fond of toffee?
MAJOR Very!
COLONEL We are all fond of toffee.
ALL We are!
DUKE Yes, and toffee in moderation is a capital thing. But to live on toffee - toffee for breakfast, toffee for dinner, toffee for tea - to have it supposed that you care for nothing but toffee, and that you would consider yourself insulted if anything but toffee were offered to you - how would you like that?
COLONEL I can quite believe that, under those circumstances, even toffee would become monotonous.
DUKE For "toffee" read extra fine yarn, itty bitty needles, and slow to form fabric... (slightly modified quote from Gilbert & Sullivan Patience, see also this short clip, the quote is about 4:25min in from start)

So, even though I adore knitting socks, even I need a break from them every now and again. So I cast on for the Rib Warmer and it is knitting up wonderfully quick. Hopefully this act will be taken as flattery (rather than strict imitation) as it is a really nice vest and after I saw how good it looks in real life, I feel inspired to make one for myself.

  • Elizabeth Zimmerman. I think I've said this before, but if there were saints for knitting, EZ would be one of them. I can just imagine it now, little plastic bobble-head statues of her mounted on knitters' dashboards everywhere. Medallion stitch markers for luck and inspiration adorn needles around the world. Of course she wouldn't be the only knitting saint, but I think she would have the largest following.
  • The word 'housewife'. Pronounced Haz-if (rimes with "az if"), it is a traditional English word for small, personal sewing or needlework kit. Usually contains, sharps (sewing needles), blunts (darning needles), scissors, thread, pins, and other small, useful items which vary from individual to individual. Mine lives in an old Altoids tin.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Saanich Scattered Artists 2008 Studio Tour

This weekend was the Scattered Artists Studio Tour. As part of the tour, the Victoria Handweavers' and Spinners' Guild had a sale.





There was yarn...





...and knitted items...





...and woven goods...





...and these amazing bags.



(and those socks there in the middle were so soft...I almost took them home with me.)

All these were made by hand by guild members. It completely overwhelms me to see just how skilled these people are.





I stopped in for just a few minutes and ended up staying over three hours thanks to sarsbar (Ravelry link). She allowed me to help dress her loom which was an impressive amount of fun.





I worry that I am turning into a weaver sooner than I had hoped for as I also bought an inkle loom from one of the guild members who was there. The price wasn't too steep and well within my current budget - half a cup of coffee, black, no sugar.





Here is a photo of A Rose's inkle loom that she was weaving on at the guild sale. I have a really great photo of her weaving on it, but I forgot to ask her if I could put it online.



Sunday, April 27, 2008

Ramen Knitting

Okay, so if knitted violence isn't your thing, but you are still after a knitted related laugh, try Ramen Knitting 101.

Here is a tip for you: If you want to waste a few hours of your life, go to YouTube and search for 'knitting'. There are over 18,000 videos on there about knitting, some of them really funny.

Edited for spelling.

Scary Knitting

Thanks again everyone for your support. It means a lot to me.




I'm going to ease back into blogging slowly by posting about a video.

Before I give you the link, I want you to know that what I found extremely funny is not funny to everyone. This video involves knitted blood, knitted gore and knitted scenes of violence. If you don't want to see any of those things, don't click. (One or two images were a bit too much for even me - poor little knitted cat.)

Now that you have been duly warned, I give you Scary Knitting.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Thank you

Thank you everyone for your words and encouragement. You are all very kind. Thank you.

The scary medical thing went well. It was scary, but the drugs they gave me were much stronger than I expected, so I don't remember much of it. I'm still a bit tender at the moment (and technically, legally impaired for the next five and a half hours, so hopefully I don't say anything stupid or mess up my spelling or something).

I'm still going to take the rest of the week off from blogging, but I'll be back come Monday with stories like why goats are funny and what crazy adventures I get into when dying with rhubarb leaves for the first time (weather dependent).

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Blogging holiday

I usually don't blog on Sundays these days. Even if I am not religious, I quite enjoy having Sunday as a day of rest and of baking. Waking up late in the morning to the sounds of birds singing and church bells ringing is a wonderful way to start the day. But I make an exception today because I have something important to tell you all.

I won't be blogging this week and maybe part of next week depending on how I feel. I have a scary medical thingy happening this week. Apparently I'll be legally impaired for at least 24 hours afterwards, so I had best not blog (who know what I might say under those conditions). Since I have to take half a week off, I thought to myself, self, why not take the entire week off? I seemed reasonable to myself, so that's what I'm going to do.

The "long and the tall of it" is that I will be back in the land of blogging in about a week. Wish me luck.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

weather update

The weather report has gotten worse:




Greater Victoria. Snowfall warning in effect. Today..Flurries ending late this morning then cloudy with sunny periods and 40 percent chance of flurries or rain showers. Local snowfall amount 2 cm. Windy. High 6. UV index 3 or moderate. Tonight..Cloudy with 40 percent chance of flurries. Windy. Low plus 2. Sunday..Cloudy with sunny periods and 60 percent chance of flurries or rain showers. Windy. High 7.




My beautiful alpaca-silk hat from soft, heavenly yarn, did an excellent job of keeping me warm on my walk this morning. I figured I should get out and exercise before the snows return, so I walked down to the Moss St Market. They have what is called a half market today, meaning there is almost nothing there. I did manage to get three different kinds of local honey, which is always nice.



There are itty bitty snowflakes starting to fall now, and I hear that about fifteen minute drive from my home they already have three inches of snow on the ground. What is this world coming to?

Such a strange occurrence

I'm so glad I mulched my potatoes last weekend. They have already had one set-back due to frost, they don't need another one due to snow.



That's right, snow!



I've never seen it snow after February in this part of the world, but we got snow yesterday. At first there was only a little bit and I could convince myself it was just weird shaped flower petals.





But then there was more,





and eventually, there was even more.





My father and I were having our biweekly (that's the traditional meaning of the word meaning twice a week, not once a fortnight which is how most people seem to misapply the term lately) dinner at my Grandfathers home. The snow was coming down really heavy, so we decided to sing Christmas carols. This is what I do on my Friday nights, sing Christmas carols and play crib. What else would I do?



When I got home, I decided I needed a hat, so I cast on and completed Minds Eye Hat by Shannon Okey from the book Spin to Knit.






I used some alpaca-silk blend I spun up a while ago. It's Navajo plyed and quite bulky. It's also absurdly soft.




The weather forecast threatens more snow again today, so I'm glad to have an extra warm hat to wear.
PS. I officially hate Blogger right now. 3 stinking hours to make such a small post work. That's three hours of frustration (well, 1/2 an hour was spent wrestling with my photo editing program), but still, that's too much frustration this early in the day and when I'm already quite ill. If this keeps up, I'm switching blog providers. Blogger, why can't you be good today? And they can't even get the stinking paragraph formatting right, it's been, what four years using thing system and the paragraph formatting is as bad as ever, maybe worse! Pressing 'enter' twice means that I want a gap between paragraphs, not five gaps, not no gap, but one gap! - why is that so difficult to understand? Why?!?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Ohhhh, road trip to Vancouver.

Before I tell you about yesterday's road trip, I want to share with you what Y told me when she saw my post about her quest for love. She said;




“Thank you for your immediate action for my future husband hunting!!! You did a very good job about describing me. I hope someone will reply to your blog, hopefully.”



Well, here is hoping. Let me know if you or someone you know is also looking for love in this big wide world of ours. Don't forget to check out Y's criteria.











My father, Y and myself woke up far too early in the morning to catch the first ferry of the day over to Vancouver. It was quite interesting watching the people untie the boat from the dock and polish the bell. I don't know why polishing the bell was such an important task, but apparently they do it for the first sailing of each day. It was a beautiful brass bell and very shiny. I wonder what they use it for. Something to do with fog I suspect.


Y was very tired for having to get up at such an unreasonable hour. So was I. That is saying something since I consider 6:30am to be a reasonable hour.


Whereas back in Victoria it was sunny and warm all day, Vancouver was decorated in a typical winter sky. It was very grey and threatened rain at every moment.





Even in the rain, Vancouver is beautiful. There was a lot of construction going on, I suspect to get ready for the 2010 Olympic games. Aside from the crazy drivers, the city has a great deal of charm.


After accomplishing the main errand that brought us to the 'big city', we had the day to ourselves. So, we went to Granville Island. I love that little Island. We use to go there when I was a kid. They have a mall that is just for children called, Kids Market, and a vibrant artistic community with, I'm told, several art schools. There is also great shopping with fresh organic produce, artisan crafts and what I suspect are some of the best lunches in the country.



Any thoughts on what this is?







It's a Tiffin. A word that comes to our language from India which is also where we get the word Tiffiny, meaning lunch.






The Indian food here was so good that we all had lunch our very own new tiffin. We also get to keep the tin and bring it with us next time we visit Granville Island.





I decided that since Indian food is one of the only kinds of foods that does not use ingredients I am allergic too, I will learn how to cook it and eat it several times a week. So I bought a cook book.





And as you can see, I also discovered Maiwa. My friends at the spinning group talk about it sometimes, but I didn't really understand what it was like. They have two shops on the island, one mostly imported things from different countries like India, and one, recently moved to a well ventilated location, that specializes in making things coloured. Dye stuff! I think I must of spent an hour in there looking around and asking questions of the very helpful shopkeeper. I left with a starter kit for natural dyes and a beginners book on how to make my own.





Near Maiwa, there were crows nesting in the awning. They are cute now, but they will be all so aggressive once they have eggs in the nest.








After that, we drove around Stanley park.






And here is Y running down some steps in hopes of getting a better view of the lighthouse which was hidden somewhere at the bottom of the cliff.



Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Spinning flax

Before I got distracted by botany and Helios' journey across the sky, I was telling you about the flax sample I spun.



I spun some water retted flax top for my first attempt as it was the most affordable flax I got from Fun Knits when she was in town last month. I believe this is what is called tow flax, in that is a combed or carded left overs from making flax sticks (which are the long fibres you traditionally see dressed on a distaff). These fibres are arranged in something like a pencil roving. The individual fibres are about two to five inches long and are all aligned the same direction ready for spinning.



In a way, it was like spinning wool because the fibres were prepared very much like how wool is. But it was also very different from spinning wool as well. Hum, how do I describe this? Wool fibres feel soft and squishy so that you can bend them to you will quite easily, but flax fibres feel very firm and unyielding. Flax feels as if it should be brittle and that if you bend them even the slightest bit they will crumble; however, the fibres behave quite the opposite.



I had two sources of reference for spinning flax, of course I referred to knitty, specifically Spinning Line Flax (even though I wasn't spinning line flax, the article proved to be very helpful) and I also found an article in an old Spin Off magazine: "Spinner's Question; On wet-spinning flax", Summer 1999.



To spin the flax I had my Quebec wheel, a towel on my lap, a little jar of water, and some fibre.



Despite first appearance, the fibre was quite flexible and very strong. It does not have the springiness that wool does, but I was more than pleased with it. Flax fibres are very forgiving and after only a few minutes I was spinning a relatively even yarn. I found that this particular fibre spun better from the fold than it did when I tried to spin it from one end. I've never spun fibre successfully from the fold before, so I was quite surprised that I had so much success with this method. But that is what the flax wanted, and who am I to argue.



I spun the single S (counter clockwise) and plied it Z (clockwise) which is opposite to how I spin wool. I don't think there was much advantage to this as it was only short bits of fibre and not the long stems (a meter or so each) which would have a definite natural twist to it. But I'm not one to argue with tradition (well, not on this point anyway), so I spun it the way it was recommended.



As you can see from the photo, I have one hand (the back hand) holding the fibre mass and one hand (the front hand) pinching and pulling the fibre towards the wheel. To make the flax into a smooth yarn, I moistened the finger and thumb of my front hand in the bowl of water every so often. This smoothed down the ends and made the yarn feel more soft. The Spin Off article I mentioned has a recipe for a concoction you can use instead of water, which creates an natural sizing agent. I think I'll try that next time I spin flax.



All in all, I love spinning flax. I think, however, I will keep this for summer spinning, as spinning wool in the summertime is not that enjoyable. This will make a great project to spin in warm weather.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Y is looking for love

I often talk about my friend Y on my blog. She is a very good friend of mine and a vital part of my life. Last night after sharing a scrumptious dinner with Y, she asked me to tell you about her. She is looking for love you see, but doesn't know where to start. I'm not very good at this sort of thing myself, but I said I would do what I can. (here is a photo of her doing a happy-dance)



Y is seeking partner for long term relationship and possible marriage. Must be male, have Canadian citizenship, and be between the ages of 25 and 35 years old. Must live in or around Victoria BC, or be willing to move here pronto. Must love good food and be an active person.


Y (a pseudonym in case you were wondering) is from Osaka, Japan but has lived in Canada for the last few years. She is a very mid-pacific kind of woman in that she loves living here but she still retains much of her Japanese culture. She is hard working and cheerful. In fact I would say she is the most optimistic person I know. There is so much energy to this woman that she can make the most miserable of days seem brighter by just entering into the room. She loves to cook Japanese food and also enjoys trying new dishes. She is an honest person. Y loves to exercise and do Yoga and stuff like that that I have never really understood. She also enjoys being outdoors on walks or going on road trips.


Although Y is not an avid knitter, she does have a high respect for yarn and yarn related activities. She does enjoy playing with beads and makes exquisite accessories for knitting (such as stitch markers). She also enjoys other domestic activities like sewing, but don't think for a moment that makes her an old-fashioned girl. She has a nice balance between domesticity and all other areas of life.


Y feels that it is time for her to settle down and have a family with someone she loves. If you think you would like to apply for the position, leave a comment on this post (with an email address). I'll make certain Y gets it.


Oh, one more thing, Y is shy when it comes to the Internet and I'm not allowed to show any photos with her face in it. I think it's wise to be cautious; it shows good sense.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Why spin flax counterclockwise?

As you may remember, I picked up some flax fibre recently. I decided to give it a whorl on my Quebec wheel as this wheel was originally used for spinning flax.







I spun up a few meters of water retted flax top counterclockwise and plied it clockwise using the Andean plying method (where you wrap it around your hand and ply from both ends).






Wool is traditionally spun clockwise, so why spin flax counterclockwise?



Have you ever seen a been plant grow up a pole? It wraps itself around the pole as it grows and it does this because it follows the sun as it makes its way across the sky. Combine the movement with the sun with all sorts of other factors that don't need exploring at this juncture, and you discover that plants are amazing.




All plants (well, land plants at least) have some tendency to follow the sun and the taller they get and the faster they grow influences how much twist this movement creates in the plant. Trees tend to have very little twist, perhaps a couple of turns for their entire length; whereas beans, have a tremendous amount of twist, almost one twist for every day they have been alive and growing above ground. The amount of twist (and it's direction) is also influenced by how far north or south the plant lives. If the plant grows near the equator (where the sun stays for the most part directly above the land - I'm being loose with the details here, but you don't want me to get too technical do you?) then there is relatively little distance for the plant to travel each day and therefore very little twist enters the plants. If the plant grows closer to the north or south pole (say at about 50 degrees latitude - for example in Canada or southern Chile). In the summers (aka. growing season), the sun remains in the sky longer and travels along a longer route (technically not true, but appearance is what counts here). What this means for the plant is that it follows the sun further as it travels from east to west (because the sun does not travel directly above the ground like it does at the equator, rather, depending on where you are, it travels slightly to the north or to the south). Because of this, the plant develops more twist.




That's not all. If you are in the northern hemisphere, the plant will twist one way, but if you are in the southern hemisphere, the plant twists the other way. How cool is that? Very cool. In the northern hemisphere the top of the plant moves clockwise. Think of a sunflower flower that twists around on the stock throughout the day so that the flower's face is always pointed towards the sun. It faces east-north-east when the sun gets up in the morning, twists and follows the sun as it moves more south at midday, then continues to twist to the west-north-west as the sun sets in the evening. The next day, as dawn begins on the eastern horizon, the sunflower flower twists along the shortest path (north) to greet the sun as it rises in the east-north-east thus completing the circle and starting it all over again. From our point of view, looking down on the sunflower it moves clockwise, but if you are the sunflower stalk looking up at the flower, it actually moves counterclockwise as you will see in a moment.


(image from: http://www.eso-garden.com/)




If you look at a plant grown north of the tropics the same way you would look at yarn, it has an S (counterclockwise) twist to it and in a plant grown south of the tropics will have a Z (clockwise) twist to it. But what does this have to do with spinning flax?




(image from: http://www.botanical.com/)

Flax is a plant that is usually grown in the temperate zones. It is fairly fast growing and somewhat tall, so it too develops a twist as it grows. The further from the equator it grows, the more twist it develops. As we all know, twist is a vital component when it comes to making yarn. So when spinning flax, or any other natural plant fibre one should work with the twist that is already inherent in the fibre. (I'm suspect about the chemically extracted plant fibres such as soy silk or bamboo silk as they are not fibres derived from the plant itself, rather they are fibres created from the plant's proteins through a chemical method and any twist in the unspun fibres would not be from the way the plant grows; but rather, from the way the fibres were drawn from the protein bath and the molecular structure of how the proteins are combined)





(image from: http://www.botanical.com/)



Traditionally, in the northern hemisphere, flax is spun counterclockwise (with an S twist). I'm not certain how this takes advantage of the S twist already in the fibre, but I haven't found any books or sources that specify how exactly it works.






ETA: I took some liberties with the technical aspects here. I just wanted to give a basic explanation of how plants grow and what that has to do with spinning flax. My aim was not to give an in-depth overview of astrophysics or botany, &c.. Please keep in mind that the prevailing theory of how the solar-system works (don't even think about arguing on whether or not it should be called a theory; remember, I'm a philosophy major and I will whip the floor with you on this one) does not have the sun moving across the sky, but if you are a plant stuck in one place, it certainly appears as if that is what the sun does all day. Also the sun's apparent trajectory in the sky is dependent on the time of year and your latitude &c.. There are several details I didn't go into. If you know (or care) what they are, please don't hold my omissions against me. I just wanted to keep things simple so that everyone could enjoy this post.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Crazy question one

You know how in one of the Jane Austin novels there is an older lady who knits pincushions, right? Does anyone know of any sources for pre-20th Century knitted pincushion patterns?

Happy day in Cowichan Bay

Yesterday I went on a road trip up to beautiful Cowichan Bay. I don't think I've ever been there before, as it is hidden off to one side of the main route to 'up island'. There is this adorable little community, with a strip of shops along the waterfront, nestled in true West Coast fashion between green hills and gray-green ocean.




If you have never been to our coast, it is hard to describe: our mountains are blue, our ocean is gray and our hills are green in the winter and have a tint of brown in the summer. The trees are huge and even the most domineering city scape cannot compete with how imposing nature is in these parts. You cannot capture this with a camera; the scale is all wrong and the light somehow plays tricks on the camera so that you cannot capture exactly what your eyes have seen. Really, oil paintings are the only things I've ever seen that comes remotely close to representing what it is like. Emily Carr captured it better than most (these photos of her paintings are from that website).





Nature here is imposing, yes; but, fragile as well. Less than 20 minutes from my home they were constructing a new cloverleaf in the highway. To do this the construction crew had to blast the rock and cut down all the trees. It looked like a festering wound on the otherwise beautiful landscape. What made it all that much worse is as we drove by, I saw a baby black bear at the edge of the new tree line, not ten meters from where one of those big yellow tractors was working. (If you are interested there is a good article about this in the Martlet which has been put online for our benefit. This is also an interesting blog. It does appear to be extremely bias, it gives you an idea of how emotional large scale development is around here.)




Other than the exciting idea of going on a day trip, you might be wondering what drew me out of my cozy fleece-filled home. No, it wasn't yarn, it was grain that enticed me to 'Cow Bay'. First off I stopped by True Grain and had a look at the bakery and the mill which you can see through a thick sheet of what looks like Plexiglas. I bought some oatmeal there and I also discovered that I can eat some of their breads (I'm on a super strict diet for medical reasons at the moment, no eggs, no sugar, no dairy, no barley, no garlic, no this, no that, &c.) which made me very happy. I just have to be certain that I don't eat too much because I'm not suppose to eat anything with bakers yeast in it either. But a girl's gotta enjoy herself once and a while, and their pretzel roles are simply divine.




We also stopped by a place recommended by several friends to pick up a very large bag of wheat. Then drove around the country side looking at farms. South of 'Cow Bay' seemed to be mostly horse farms and new vineyards. There were a few sheep here and there, all of which unshorn and some llamas or alpacas (I cannot tell the difference while the fleece is still on the hoof). I really wanted to go up to the farmer's doors and ask them what they planed to do with the fleece (they didn't really want all of it did they? I could take some off their hands for them and I wouldn't charge them a penny.) but I was convinced that the farmers didn't want strange girls knocking on their door on a Thursday afternoon.




We also went for a walk on the beach. The tide was out and we saw lots of sand dollars.




When we stopped to take down a number from a real estate sign, I just about stepped on a snake. I think he's glad I didn't and so am I.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Black alpaca for honeycomb?

I dug through my rather small fibre stash (it use to be larger, but there seems to be this odd phenomena where as my fibre stash decreases, my yarn stash increases - couldn't imagine how that happens she says tongue in cheek) and I found some black alpaca fibre.



I like it. It does, as you can see, compliment the yarn I've made already.



There are only a hundred grams of this fibre, so perhaps it would be acceptable for the edging around the neck and arms and perhaps for an inch of twisted ribbing at the bottom of the Honeycomb vest. So I do have this option.



Still, I really like the idea of knitting the vest all in one colour. The uniformity of the pattern is what draws me to it. I like the way it merges together to make one complete item and I worry if I used different colour yarn it might look disjointed.



I also like the idea of knitting a stst back if I cannot come up with enough yarn. I am selfish though, and I enjoy knitting cabled patterns better than I do knitting stocking stitch.



For the time being, I think I'll wait a few more days to see if I can get some more of the original fibre to spin up. I'll content myself by working on my clessidra socks. That should help satisfy my desire to knit cables for a while.



(oh, when I referred to my small fibre stash, I didn't include the fleeces as they aren't finished being processed and aren't ready to be spun)

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The dangers of Ravelry

I haven't talked about Ravelry much on my blog yet, well, because not everyone is 'in' yet. Ravelry is still in Beta. This means two things to us yarn-people. First, you have to apply to get in. Don't worry, it's not a screening process - they are not going to test you to see if you know 5 different ways to knit the heel on a sock - simply applying to get in is proof enough of your love of yarn. All you do is enter your email address and wait. Because it is still Beta, they add only a few hundred people from the wait list each day. They don't want it to get too crowded and break the server.

Second, being Beta also means that Code Monkey Casey is constantly changing and improving the site, always adding new and exciting things for us users to play with. And as marvelous as that may sound, what the other users add to the site is even more amazing.

I think of Ravelry as a love story: Out of his love for Frecklegirl and her love of yarn, Casey invented Ravelry as a gift to her. (read more about it here). Ravelry is a project that began with love and Casey and Frecklegirl have done a wonderful thing for the world of yarn by inviting people to join in and participate in Ravelry. Ravelry is just a young thing at the moment, and like any love story, there have been ups and downs. Sometimes disagreement arises between members, but it isn't long, as in any love fable, before someone steps in and reminds everyone that although we are all unique, we are all here because of our love for yarn and yarn related activities.

On Ravelry you can search patterns, learn about yarns, meet new people who share the same interests as yourself (everything from world peace to House MD., from medieval textiles to knitting cables-all Ravelry links) and all sorts of other exciting things.

It sounds like such a wonderful site, what could possibly be dangerous about it? Well, it is a little too wonderful. I've spent hours researching different patterns and learning about yarns. Not to mention organizing my own yarn with the really cool stash feature. All these toys and such that Ravelry gives us are the least of the dangers. The thing that captures me most is the brilliance of other people. People can create groups in Ravelry. Members of these groups share a common interest (as I expressed above) and I have learned so much from these people. I've learned about spinning, sewing, weaving, knitting, baking, cleaning home, and, well, the list is very long, but perhaps you get the idea. There is also a weekly newsletter that members of Ravelry put out. This newsletter tells us about what is going on around Ravelry - improvements and the like. It also tells us about different groups and this is where the most danger arises.

Every week I add two or three new groups to my list (this week it was Yarnographers and Organized Knitting club - Ravelry links) and I do read them all. I also end up adding a few new blogs to my reading list as well (this week it was Organized Knitting Club Blog). As if I need more things to read.

I should really get some self control as at this rate, I'll need two cups of coffee to get through my morning reading lists. But I love it all so much and I learn so many new things. How could I pass up on the yarnographers group? It is all about how to improve your yarn photographing skills - it's exactly what I aim to learn. It's like they totally knew how to hook me in to their group.


The moral of this post: Ravelry is a good thing. It has completely revolutionized how the Internet can aid yarn-lovers. Ravelry is a community in which every member adds to the overall benefit of the place. 'Though it was founded out of the love of two people, it is the love of yarn that each of Ravelry's members shares that has made it grow into such a magical world of yarn and friendship.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Honeycomb and Kant

I wrote three large essays in three short hours last night. It was my take home Kant exam and it required two pots full (or six mugs full) of very strong tea in order for me to complete it. But I was very lucky, I finished it in less time than I thought I would - with enough time left over to watch the final part of Sense and Sensibility and enough energy (due to the absurd amount of caffeine I had just consumed) to ply the remainder of my alpaca-silk singles.


Now that it is all spun and all plyed, I have 619 meters of yarn just perfect for knitting Honeycomb. Well, almost perfect. You see, I need 700 meters for the size I want to knit. I don't have enough, but I'm out of fibre. This makes me sad.


I should have gotten the right amount, at least I think that I should have. I had the same amount of weight (actually a little bit more) than the recommended yarn called for, so if I spun the same thickness, shouldn't I get the same length? Not almost a hundred meters difference? It is possible that I miscounted the yardage (meterage?) so I'll go back and count again... no luck. It's still the same amount. Maybe alpaca weighs more than wool so that if I spin the same weight to the same thickness it comes out shorter? I don't know.


So, what are my options? I could give up on the vest (doubtful), I could spin something else in a different colour and knit the hem and the edges with it (don't really like that idea either), or I could wait a week or so until I have the chance to visit the mill that produced the fibre to see if they have any more in stock. I think I'll go with the latter and in the mean time I'll work on some of the other projects I have on the go.


I do really want to knit this vest, but I don't want to start unless I have enough yarn to finish it. In the mean time, I'll wash the rest of my skeins (and my swatch, thanks Holly), then put it to one side and work on something else until I can find a solution.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Swatching Honeycomb

I made yarn.



I still find it hard to believe that I have the skill to make yarn. It is a magical process that turns formless fluff into that most vital ingredient for life: yarn.


Half a pound of alpaca-silk roving filled two bobbins from my Quebec wheel. Thing is, I only have one bobbin for that wheel. Once the first bobbin was filled, I set up my Ashford wheel so that it would wind the yarn from the Quebec wheel onto the Ashford bobbins. Sounds a bit complicated, I know, but by putting the tension on the Ashford wheel tight enough that it wouldn't add any twist into the yarn, just wind the yarn onto the bobbin, it worked really well. One Quebec bobbin fills up one and a half Ashford bobbins, so this isn't something I want to be doing very often. I think the best solution is to find someone (in town) to make me a few new bobbins for the Quebec wheel. But all in all, it went well.


I plyed up 50 meters or so of yarn, washed it, and swatched it. Can you imagine how surprised I was to see it knit to gage in the recommended needle size?



I've been carrying the swatch around with me all day to see how it wears. The alpaca blooms a little bit but overall, the fabric feels softer with wear and tear. All that remains now if for me to finish plying the rest of the yarn.


So my yarn passed the first test: the test of gage. That makes me happier than I imagined it would. The second test is the test of length. Did I make enough yarn? If not, what am I going to do about it?