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I am not a prodigy

Spinning looks so easy when other people do it. I watched a woman at the Door County Shepherd's Market spinning on a drop spindle while she walked around and chatted. Her spindle was like a little dog on a leash and the yarn magically wound itself from a loop of roving over her shoulder into neat singles without any apparent effort.

I was shown how to use a drop spindle last Thursday and all I could do was drop it, make a mess and wish I had about four more arms. My singles were puffy and under-spun, alternating with wiry, kinked and desperately over-spun. I couldn't keep it spinning, so it kept reversing direction and untwisting my yarn. As my teacher said, "they call it a drop spindle for a reason".

Once I had the general gist of drafting, my patient teacher moved me to my wheel. It turns out I have two gimpy bobbins that won't spin freely on the flyer. However, I did have a good bobbin with me, so I was able to get going on that one. My singles weren't much better, but I stopped wishing for extra arms. I wasn't too worried about treadling and drafting at the same time. My drafting was still dismal and I had a tendency to get excited and start spinning nearly invisible little threads that would snap while I held my breath and begged them to hold long enough to wind onto the bobbin. I did become pretty comfortable with adding new wool to the breaks, so it worked out for me.

Despite all of my frustration, I finally had a light bulb moment where I could feel I was doing something right. I found I can't hold the wool in my left hand because my hands get confused and keep trying to do the other ones' job. Once I moved the wool to my right, everything started to come together. I still can't control my drafting to save my life, but I keep telling myself people pay a lot for thick and thin yarns and Malabrigo is a popular single.

Say what you will, but I'm still stupidly proud of my first attempts.



I spun some more last night and I seem to create bulky weight singles with the occasional stretch of fingering/sport weight. My singles break if I try to make them thinner and it's just going to take a lot of practice to get strength and consistency at a finer gauge. I'm not even thinking about plying yet because these singles would ply up into a rope you could tie a boat with. I'll knit my singles into a little wool blanket for Lucy. She won't mind if it's a little nubby looking and it will be a nice reward since she's so good about cuddling but staying off my knitting (usually).

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You spin me right round

I was out shopping with my Mom on Saturday and we stopped in to a furniture consignment store. I was on a quest for an end table. When we were at another shop, she borrowed their phone book to make a couple calls. She called a consignment store neither of us had heard of before, but the woman on the phone said they only dealt with furniture and they had several tables that might work.

When we got there, I started poking around. I walked into a section of knick-knacks and saw a spinning wheel lurking in the corner. I thought it might be like my aunt's old decorative one so I didn't get too excited. When I got closer, I saw it was a working wheel with extra bobbins on the floor next to it. Okay, so then I got excited. I checked the tag and it said "Ashford Spinning Wheel". I know the name Ashford. They make very nice wheels. I also know they are about $500 and up new. I didn't know exactly which model this was, but it looked to be in good shape, other than a little dirt and missing the drive and brake bands. It had originally been marked at $298, but the price was dropped to $144. At this point, I was having heart palpitations. I couldn't resist this deal. Forget that I don't know how to spin. I've checked into it in the past but the cost of wheels was too prohibitive for me to think about it. I actually almost put a wheel on my Christmas list but knew it would cost too much.

I told my mom this was my Christmas present, either to myself or if she wanted to chip in and I almost ran to the counter. I told the woman I was still looking for a coffee table but that I was taking the wheel. I was looking askance at anyone near that corner, and was well prepared to tackle any little old lady that might have designs on the wheel. Once I had staked my claim, I was free to browse further, although my heart rate was still through the roof. I couldn't believe my luck!

After I got home I started doing some research on Ravelry and elsewhere. It's an Ashford Traditional, which is a popular wheel and is good for beginners. It also has readily available spare parts, which is a bonus. I drove out to Susan's Fiber Shop this afternoon and bought the Ashford maintenance kit. It has all of the bands, springs, hooks and wheel oil I need. I also bought delicious fiber so I can try playing with it. I have several books on reserve at the library that will be ready tomorrow. I'm also going to try to get back to Susan's on Thursday for her open spinning night. I can take my wheel so she can help me tension it and get started.

So, without further ado, here's my wheel as of Sunday night:



And here it is just a few minutes ago:



The lighting is the same. The second photo is after about two and a half hours of solid elbow-grease, scrubbing off dirty old wax and exposing the gorgeous New Zealand White Beech underneath.

This is a close-up photo after I took the flyer off:



This is after scrubbing half of it and you can see how dark the rest of the wheel is in comparison:



This is the bobbin that was on the flyer, after I unwound the old wool that was in the middle:



The wheel still needs to be waxed but I'm letting it dry. My fingers turned black and sticky and even dishsoap hasn't taken it all off. It was worth it because I now know every inch of my wheel. I took the rusty hooks off the flyer so I can replace them with new ones. I found the conrod joint is leather, which dates the wheel back to the mid 1980's. The flyer is also a two-speed instead of the newer three-speeds. It looks like all of the joints are solid and there are no cracks or splits. The wheel doesn't wobble and looks to be true, but I won't really know for sure until I hook up the drive band and see how it treadles.

Look how pretty!



I bought myself some luscious roving to practice with.

First is some Frabjous Fibers Hand Dyed Blue Faced Leicester ("Biffel") Top in color "Jewel". BFL is supposed to be fairly easy to spin and I love the colors in this one.



And although it's beyond beginning abilities, I had to get this second one as my inspiration to learn quickly. It's so beautiful I couldn't help it. I was actually hugging it in the shop because it's SO soft, silky and smooshy. It's Frabjous Fibers Hand Dyed Superwash Sock Merino (50% superwash merino, 50% tencel) in color "Deep Space".



My plan now is to read up between tomorrow and Thursday so I can go to spinning night with an idea of what I am in for. I'll also prep my BFL so I can start working with it when I get there. I'll wax the wheel tomorrow and have it buffed and ready to take out in public. I'm REALLY excited about this! Spinning sounds like a lot of fun, and although I have tons of knitting in the queue, it's going to be interesting to learn more about yarn from another angle. It can only help my knitting.

Stars in my eyes

I wish I could paint. I really do. I dabble occasionally, but I'm more of a realist. I can look at something and paint it, but I can't paint something in my head. However, if I could paint the sort of thing that makes me happy, it would look like this (double-click to enlarge):



This was painted by Liz of Primoriginals. I am completely addicted to her work and had the pleasure of meeting her on several occasions at her booth at On Broadway. I have to keep myself from checking her Etsy shop too often because every time I do, another irresistable little gem has been posted. This painting was exactly what I needed to jazz up the wall behind my chair in the living room. It's not too big and the red in the bird is the color of my loveseat. It has little metallic stars embedded in the surface and they twinkle, especially after the sun has gone down and the lamp is shining on it. I'm calling it my housewarming present to myself.



With the pretty little redhead and her birds to inspire me, I've been working on a new scarf design. I think I've worked out the bugs and my test swatch is beginning to look like what I had hoped. I'm now busily knitting away and will post photos when I've finished. It's modular, so each piece doesn't take too long. I knit a module, seam it to the scarf, and then carry on with the next. I'm going to post it as my first pattern for sale and I hope the seaming doesn't scare people off. The seams are only about 12 stitches each and not terrible at all. I know there are knitters out there who hate anything with seams and others who hate purling. Alas, this has both. But it's a scalloped lace scarf with odd construction and there's just no way to do it in one piece. It's going to be called "Scallopini" and I will hopefully have it posted within the next couple weeks.

Now that the weather is getting colder, I'm ramping up my knitting and will have more things to share soon!

Purple Bliss is done!

I finally blocked and finished the Purple Bliss Baby Surprise Jacket and it was gifted to the mom-to-be this past weekend. It went over well and I can't wait to see it in action!

This was knit on US5's using sport weight 100% hand-dyed wool for the body and Sublime Yarns Cashmere Merino Silk DK for the button bands. I had 360 yards of the purple at the start and still have a bunch left over.

Blocked dimensions - should fit 12-18 months:
20” chest circumference
5.5” sleeve length
11” center back



I finished it off with little purple hippopotamus buttons. I couldn't resist adding something totally goofy to one of these jackets. This one somehow looked more serious and I like the touch of whimsy.



I am continually tweaking the pattern as I knit more of these. Keeping the stitches on hold on the circular really helped keep the corners tight. I broke the yarn and started knitting the held stitches at the collar so I could pick up both sides on a right side row, same as previous. It helps keep the ridge from picking up the stitches on the inside of the jacket on both sides. I added a step this time and knit two rows in the purple before I started with the pink. It prevented the jog of color at the corners where the stitches are picked up. Since they're not quite in line with the stitches that were being held, it has been a problem in my past ones. This time.. it's lovely!



I also seamed the sleeves using the seam from my Knitting Answer Book to join a top edge to a side edge. It's pretty easy looping back and forth and makes a nice flat seam that isn't too obvious. I don't have a photo, but it was a significant improvement over a crochet seam because it's more flexible. Yarn Harlot has a post showing how it turns out. http://www.yarnharlot.ca/blog/archives/2007/07/11/surprise.html

I have a couple more of these in the queue. Everyone seems to be having babies all of a sudden, so I'll be handing them out left and right.

Kitty Breath

I've spent the past year without a cat for the first time in 17 years. It was a lonely year without purrs and kitty breath.

On Tuesday, I had the sudden urge to the Humane Society. I checked out the cats online and decided to go to one of the satellite adoption centers because they had a cat named Emma that looked sweet. The cats are all let out of their cages to roam together in the room, so I sat there talking to the adoption woman and meeting various cats. She pointed out all of the females, including Emma, and I met most of them except for a little red tabby who was hiding in a cat igloo in the corner on top of the cages. Emma was nippy and naughty and I didn't like her. I looked at some of the others and then started getting introduced to the males. None of the cats really interested me. They were nice.. but no spark.

After an hour, I was getting ready to leave my application and either check back another time or else go to one of the other locations when the little red cat came out of hiding. She walked across the top of the cages, hopped down, walked right up to me and started rubbing on my leg and arching her back while I petted her. The adoption lady was amazed because she usually hides and is very shy. She started playing with me and was so soft and sweet and not really scared at all.

She came home yesterday and I named her Lucy, after B.B. King's famous blues guitar Lucille. She was dropped off as a two year old in April because she didn't get along with the other animals in the house (I suspect they all picked on her). She wasn't happy with her previous owners and she's spent six long months waiting for someone to take her home, so I figure she's been singing the blues most of her life.

She has settled in so well since then. She's been purring, kneading when I talk to her and has started talking in little chirps and meows. I even trimmed all of her nails with no fuss because she was clicking all over my hardwood floors. She checked everything out and has been very curious and outgoing. The only thing that scared her so far was my hair dryer. Unlike any of my previous cats, she is a lap cat. If I sit still long enough, she jumps up and makes herself at home. Earlier today, she was curled up on my lap almost entirely upside down on her head.

Not a lot of knitting has been happening since this happened, but please note she's curled up in the Popsicle Kitty Pi. She has all three kitty pi's to choose from and hopped right in as soon as she saw them - even the gimpy purple and pink one that didn't felt properly. I knitted them after my last cat died and it's nice that they are finally keeping a kitty tuckus warm.

So, without further ado, here's Lucy:





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It's easy being green!

I am becoming more aware of my shopping and I try to buy local when I can. Now that I've moved back to my hometown, I went to the farmer's market to see if some of my favorite booths were still there. I am happy to report they were!

First on my list was a booth that sells all heirloom apple varieties. My grandfather had an old tree in his yard that gave a bumper crop of apples that were small, crunchy, tart, and green with red streaks. I loved those apples and am happy when I can find something similar. The huge, sweet mushy apples in the store don't come close. I bought a mix and match selection of about seven different tart varieties. The booth has gotten bigger, and is still very busy. My only disappointment was they weren't offering samples. They used to have little cubes of each variety so you could sample before you picked them out. Each variety does have a description card and they are sorted in order of sweetness, so I could skip one half of the booth entirely. That crazy brown one is described as very tart and zesty. I can't wait to try it!



Second was an Amish bakery. I found the booth, but either the bakery has sold or they have gotten so big that they have non-Amish workers manning the booth. Either way, the almond scones are exactly as I remembered. I have to restrain myself, but man are they delicious.



I also wanted to pick up a few veggies and so I scoured the market for good deals. I came back with a bunch of carrots, some patty pan squash (which I MUST learn how to cook), cherry tomatoes, a quart of raspberries, three cucumbers, and a huge club of brussels sprouts. People were commenting on my sprouts as I wandered around in the rain. As an adult, I've learned they are really delicious with a little salt and butter, but they have to be fresh. Frozen are not good and canned are unspeakably foul.



On the way there, I also drove past a yarn shop that is literally minutes from my house. I dropped in on the way home and checked it out. It had a nice selection of yarn and knitted samples and friendly staff, so I'm sure I'll be back. There are a few others in the area that I will get to eventually. I'm trying to behave since moving was a big expense and I have so much work to do in the apartment. Knitting will be my reward when I finish painting, especially since the second bedroom is going to be my office (boring) and studio (exciting!).

Now, strengthened by an almond scone, some carrots and a few cherry tomatoes, I feel ready to face the rest of the taping in the kitchen. Painting shall ensue!

Daydreamer

I've moved and everything is still in disarray. I've been concentrating on painting the walls so my living space is fresh and welcoming. I'd rather do that first and then unpack, so everything else has been on hold. I did take a few days off to visit with my family and in that time, I churned out four dishcloths. Two were gifts, and two were for my new kitchen.

Next on my list is some gardening. I brought my gardening tools to my new place and I have some neglected beds waiting for me. I'm excited to jump in and make some improvements and my new landlords are happy to let me. Mostly I need to do some pruning and weeding to see what structure I have to work with. There's a large shrub outside my bedroom window that the landlord wants to cut down, but I think I'll convince them to keep it. It gives me privacy and so far I've seen a warbler, a woodpecker and a female cardinal in it while looking out my window. The cover it provides for the birds is worth salvaging. It does need a little pruning, so I'll tidy it up and give it some shape.

Last but not least, my newest additions are three orchids and a goldfish plant. I visited a local grower at the Farmer's Market last week and bought the plants on sale. I have a Brassidium "Dragon Wings", Paphiopedilum Maudiae alba (Lady's Slipper) and Phalaenopsis "Paper Moon". They're all beautiful plants and suited to different windows in my apartment. I love having the flowers inside since I left my flowering garden behind. Nothing is blooming outside here yet except some neglected black-eyed susans.

Interesting quiz. I agree with parts of it.

Your result for The Perception Personality Image Test...

NBPC - The Daydreamer

Nature, Background, Big Picture, and Color

You perceive the world with particular attention to nature. You focus on the hidden treasures of life (the background) and how that fits into the larger picture. You are also particularly drawn towards the colors around you. Because of the value you place on nature, you tend to find comfort in more subdued settings and find energy in solitude. You like to ponder ideas and imagine the many possibilities of your life without worrying about the details or specifics. You are in tune with all that is around you and understand your life as part of a larger whole. You are a down-to-earth person who enjoys going with the flow.








The Perception Personality Types:


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Take The Perception Personality Image Test at HelloQuizzy

Free Patterns!

I now have official patterns offered on Ravelry! They're both free and in pdf format with color pictures. I'm currently working on a new one that I think I'll offer for sale. It's taking some time to work out the design I see in my head, but once I do, I think it'll be nice. I'm pretty excited about it!

The Rotini Hat is here.



The Flame Chevron Scarf is here.

Red Scarf Project

I just found my next project! Thanks to a tip on Scout's Swag (http://scoutj.com/), I am going to knit a red scarf (or maybe two!) for the Red Scarf Project. The Orphan Foundation of America takes in hand-knitted scarves and gives them to foster children who are going to college. Since this is a cause close to my own heart, I'd like to knit something.

For more information, check out http://orphan.org/index.php?id=40!

Scallop Blanket

I finished my Scallop Blanket. This was another shining example of my inability to plan yarn requirements. I ran out three rounds from the end and had to order a single skein to finish. The kicker? I extended the pattern because I didn't think it would be big enough. Well, thanks to my extensions, it ended at 62"! I added 12 rounds, so it would have been about 55" if I had left it alone and four skeins would have been plenty.

I knitted most of this blanket while I was waiting for the yarn to finish Kometenstern. Then I finished Kometenstern while I was waiting for the yarn for this. Both were knit with Beaverslide Dry Goods McTaggart Tweeds, so I'm now on quite friendly terms with the owner, Leann. I think I've mentioned once or twice how much I love her yarn, so I'm happy to contribute to the care and feeding of her sheep.

The color is "Snowberry", which looks like old fashioned strawberry ice cream. It's pale pink, with darker strawberry flecks and it looks good enough to eat. I used 4.25 skeins (900 yards) for 98 rounds on US 9 needles. The pattern is from Burda lace special #554, which is almost impossible to find due to the fact that it's chock full of Niebling designs. This isn't one of his, but it's listed as nice beginner lace. It's simple and repetitive, but I love the finished effect as a blanket. It's warm where it needs to be, looks dainty and is perfect for this yarn.

As usual, I'm so excited to be done, that my photos are all taken during blocking. It's still damp on my bed, so I'll have to wait for action shots. Maybe I'll get it out with Kometenstern one of these days and play Glamour Shots with both of them.

As always, click the pictures, and then click them again to see them larger.