twist and shout

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like i was saying yesterday, i grabbed my joy wheel while running out the door for my long trip home and tossed it into the back of the car with a variety bag of wool rovings. i wasn’t really thinking straight—just that i always turn to the wheel when i need calm.

as for the rovings i chose, well, chose might not be the right word; i pretty much just opened the first boxes i saw in my work room and grabbed what was on top—a couple of grafton fibers
batts still in the bag from SPA

and an 8-ounce hank of crown mountain farms hand-dyed superwash merino that had arrived just the day before, in the secret agent man colorway.

(this picture shows the predrafted fiber, so it appears softer than it will on the CM website)

my mom doesn’t have room for all of us in her new, smaller home, so my brother joe, david, and i all stayed at a cousin’s house. the house was an incredible refuge for us during the week we were all together. our cousin was away for the winter in florida, so we had the place to ourselves. it was a quiet, comfortable, and restful place to go at the end of each day, and provided a nice environment for us three to have our own time and stay up late shooting the sh*t together. joe has a large family who stayed in texas, so it was nice for him and us to have time alone together.

i set up my little wheel right away on the first night we were there; i thought my brother would be completely taken with it, and he was (smile). it was like watching him watch a fire—all the time we talked he couldn’t take his eyes off it as i spun, and kept stoppping the conversation to ask questions.

it was great to show him about how the flyer works and how using the different whorls affects what happens to the wool and then, how the hands are involved. he completely understands all of this stuff mechanically, though he didn’t even try his hand at actual spinning. i was further impressed by the way he noticed that the dyed fiber looks so completely different as it is taken from one stage of spinning to another. first it is more intense in the roving, then it softens aftter predrafting, and then, more changes to the colorway as it is spun, then plied. he was extremely interested in the fact that an experienced fiber worker can control and manipulate all these variables to get a desired product. it reminded me of the intense discussions we used to have years ago about my painting and drawing, and how he always offered suprising and uncannily astute observations on art, though he is not an artist himself.

i love my brother.

seriously, i could sit and talk to him about all this stuff for a week . . . well, ok, i pretty much did. and we could do it for another week straight, i think. he always understands exactly what i’m talking about—even the most esoteric things. and he can’t even hear that well . . .

first i spun up the brown and turquoise grafton fibers batt. i was anxious to spin this fiber since i had heard so many wonderful things about it. though it’s not marked, i believe i have here their corriedale fiber. the batt was a mix of natural and dyed fiber, with the turquoise concentrated in the center. i tore the bat into strips, working from one side to the other in order so as to maintain the color sequence it came in. no special reason for that—alternatively, i could have mixed the strips up to get more color mixing throughout the yarn.

so what i ended up with was a skein that starts out dark brown and shades to turquoise in the middle and then back to the brown at the end. the fiber spins beautifully, acquiring the right amount of twist to make a nice-looking two-ply without much effort, probably due to the fact that the corriedale is still quite bouncy after carding, and the fiber is not combed.

i intended the yarn to be used for socks, but did not do a sample, so i ended up with a yarn that could have been a tad finer, after it was washed and dried. nevertheless, it is very attractive and i love it. i just wish there was more—i didn’t realize the batt was 2.5 to 3 ounces, and i only got about 230 yards. we all liked it so much though, that i’m checking in to see if i can get another. the men will have to fight over who gets these socks.

speaking of men fighting, the whole male half of the tribe went out on the last night they were together to see the 300, which was advertised as being “manlier than manly” (eye roll). they all came home grinning, grunting, and beating their chests . . . so it must have been good.

so let me talk the crown mountain farms fiber.
first of all, i need to sing the praises of teyani and klaus—they run a very tight ship at their place, and there is are few things i like more than an efficient operation. their attentiveness to each order is thorough and personal.

i went there looking for an additional hank of some silk to match one that i bought at rhinebeck. while i was there, i picked out another silk colorway and some superwash merino rovings in several colorways to spin for socks, since the actual sock hop yarn they offer is so rarely available. my order was at my door less than 2 days later, except for the additional silk which they needed to special order for me (no problem; i did not need that right away).

one thing i love about the way they sell the dyed merino roving is that the bundles are 8 ounces. there is plenty there then to spin the same colorway in different weights. often, when working with the usual 4-ounce bundle, i find i wish i had a few more ounces so that i could spin some for socks, and some in a heavier weight for a hat or scarf. with the CM bundles i can try the roving in several weights and have plenty for a project in each.

anyway, i spun up about 3 ounces of the secret agent man for socks and it looks like this

now, i have a thing about secret agent men; when i was small, in the early 60s, my favorite show was the saint. the green hornet was another favorite, but i later found out that was sort of a spoof. i also loved all things mission impossible as well as get smart. i’m attracted to anything that has a spy theme.

naturally, this yarn caught my attention. and it does have spy written all over it, don’t you think?

it has all the mystery and shadiness of a shadowy figure, with a hint of pink as a telltale sign of a secret lady friend. ok, that might be investing the yarn with just a little more life than is warranted, but hey, it’s a game i like to play, ok?
(i can’t decide which picture is the best of all, so you’re getting more than one of each today . . .)

teyani puts a lot of care into her dyeing and it really shows in the finished yarn. i can’t wait to knit it and see what it looks like in a fabric. i think it will be somewhat stripey, but not too. the fiber is superwash merino combed top, so it’s slippery; it was a little hard to spin on the joy wheel; i thought i was putting way too much twist into it, but then when i plied it, it’s actually looser than i’d hoped for. and the joy just doesn’t handle merino all that well in my experience—it jerks it around too much and it’s hard to get consistency in the singles. and then, while plying, the brake kept seizing up the bobbin for some reason.

it would have been better to spin on my schacht. that’s why i saved the remaining 5 ounces or so to work with here at home—i can’t wait; i know the schacht will handle it much better. i am spinning the remainder into a bigger, loftier yarn to use for other kinds of projects requiring worsted weight yarn. once i get it done, i’ll show you how the color compares when changing the yarn weight. one other note about the color—i washed this yarn in water that was a little too warm and it lost a tad of it’s intensity; next time i’ll use cooler water as teyani suggests
(yeah, yeah, i didn’t see that part before i plunged it into hot water . . .).

now that i’m home and have completed the two pair of sox from last month, i needed another desk sock, so i went foraging in my drawer and dusted off this one that i started last summer from a wool/hemp/mohair blend yarn. it’s a little heavier weight, and not very soft on the hands to work with, but i think david will really get into having hemp-blend socks, so i’m going to persevere on it.

hopefully they will knit up quickly on the bigger needles compared to the size-0 sock knitting i’ve been doing so much of lately.

you’ll also be glad to know that i got right back to the starlight evening wrap last night and am working away on the edging for the second end.

i am about two evenings away from being finished! i better get busy on the pattern because i know a bunch of people are looking forward to it. i finally broke down and bought some new software from knitfoundry that i can use on my mac for charting stitch patterns. previously, i had to work between two computers and that got to be a real hassle. i’m looking forward to putting the new software through its paces on the starlight pattern.

well, that’s about it for today, and good thing, too, because i see i have run on and on and on.
good thing there’s pictures, eh??

YOU are my sunshine

Posted on 86 CommentsPosted in book reviews/events, Uncategorized

hello everyone, it’s me. finally back, and it’s good to be home.

it has been a very rough couple of weeks. the untimely death of my youngest brother, john, tore into my family with shocking and savage carelessness, and has left us feeling such a loss. thankfully, we do pull together well in a crisis, and good thing, too. really, life is just too short to mess around.

with even the very weather being surly and uncooperative most of the time we were in new york, it was with plain gratitude that i sat here yesterday in my sunny office, reading hundreds of consoling letters and emails containing soft assurances and sincere condolences for our pain. i am so very appreciative for each one. thank you.

my brother was ill for many years with crohn’s disease and lived a quiet, simple life on a very small income, as he was unable to work full-time. his job at the county library led him to achieve a degree in classics and he was working toward a master’s degree to become a librarian. he was passionate about his studies and readings, and when asked, could talk for hours about greek and latin writings. he did not mix his work life with his personal life, though his colleagues from work and school held him in very high regard, and have let us know that side of him finally.

he was not terribly social and didn’t have a lot of friends, but he was thoughtful, honest, and knew what was the right thing to do. he could be very stubborn about his convictions, and i respected and liked that in him, even when i did not agree.

when my brother, joe, david, and i went to clean out john’s tiny studio apartment, we found a neat room with extraordinarily few items. clothes, textbooks, and toiletries all stowed in an orderly fashion—he was not one to collect doo-dads or keep non-essential items around. there was nothing there that did not serve a purpose. in one of the drawers i found this

i knit this sweater for him 18 or 20 years ago, as a christmas gift. it doesn’t look as if he wore it much, and i’d always wondered if he still had it. there it was, clean, neatly folded, and stored in a plastic bag, as were all his nice sweaters. i was so touched that he had it with him, had kept it as one of the few things he moved from one apartment to another over the years.

seeing it made me know that to him, this was an important item, something that was, indeed, to be kept around. i’m sure he admired the workmanship (my brothers all get that) as much as the love that went into making it. it’s presence in that drawer let me know that i made an impression on him.
i was so very happy to see it there.

as with any family mourning time, the days around the funeral involve spending a lot of time waiting, thinking about the deceased, talking with relatives, and sharing meals. catching up with my brothers and sister was good—the kids that were present added laughter and fun to the mix. i am fortunate that i live in a family that understands and even expects me to knit during a time like this. they egged me on through two socks that completed two pair

i also made two hats which i sent home with one brother. then my grown nephew, james, requested a black hat for which i will need to buy some black, easy-care yarn. (i like the mission falls 1824 wool for these hats a lot—it’s really easy to take care of and not at all a compromise for the knitter.)

i packed my knitting as i would for any other trip of indeterminate length—a profuse number of small project WIPs accompanied me, along with a few balls of extra yarn in case i needed to start something new. at the last minute i also threw my joy wheel and a (big) bunch of wool into the back of the car. and guess what?

i almost ran out. . . . you can imagine the panic i felt.

especially when it decided to blizzard last friday, the 16th of march, near the end of our trip. we had to drive from NYC to albany that day and the normally-three-hour trip took TEN hours. at the end, i was out of yarn on one sock and had no more knitting i could do.

on saturday, in the wake of a blizzard which dropped 18 inches of snow on albany, and still snowing somewhat, we drove all over looking for a new yarn shop i had heard about at SPA. i mean, they cancelled the st patrick’s day parade—that’s how bad it was. but i was out of yarn, and my husband loves me, so out we went.

i thought i could maybe find the yarn i needed for my nephew’s hat, or at least some sock yarn. stupidly, i had not gotten the exact information from susan, who works there. we could not find the place, and slunk home, yarnless.

then, when i was tearing through my suitcase like an addict looking for a rock, i found a ball of austermann step i’d forgotten i packed. happy at last. i knit and my mom baked. she made cavazoni (italian chick-pea and honey calzone-like pastries) for st joseph’s day. sorry, no picture of those, but here’s the sock . . .

you see? it really doesn’t take much.

as to the spinning, it was such a smart thing to bring the wheel that i cannot believe i actually had the presence of mind to do it. aside from being the perfect accompaniment to relax and contemplate things, it is extremely entertaining for a family like mine. we are a big bunch of inquisitive, mechanically-minded people whose attention is easily snared by anything that moves and makes something in the process. we like to figure things out. at night, i would pull out the wheel and my brother joe, david, and i would talk about all sorts of things while i spun. i’ll show you what i did tomorrow.

we drove home this past sunday and as we worked our way west, the snow receded; apparently the storm hit a very narow strip along the east coast and barely touched points west of amsterdam. the sun graced our trip with calm weather and we made it back here in record time. i can’t tell you how good it feels to be home. it’s good to be writing and to be talking to friends.

thank you all again for the incredibly nice things you have said and done for me, my brother, and my family over the last little while. it has been strengthening and comforting, and i can only hope to be able to pay it forward some day.

a moment of silence

Posted on 134 CommentsPosted in Uncategorized

due to a terrible family tragedy, i will be away for an undetermined time, hopefully brief. please keep my family in your thoughts. i am very grateful in advance for any good karma you can send our way. thanks, friends.

a post of various and sundry items

Posted on 16 CommentsPosted in Uncategorized

this was our friday sunset—a smashing cacophony of booming clouds with BIG gold light striking through. everything shone from the melting snow and a day of blinding sun. the wind whipped hard too, exfoliating as it went and leaving a fresh face on things. nice.
march strode in very much a lion.

and, being march, the rest of the weekend has been gunmetal gray, snowy, and cold, but that’s nice too (laurie, i’m being non-grumpy). gray is OK when we have a day or two like friday to balance it.
i’ve been sleeping a lot this weekend, but in a very irregular way, so i feel all weird. but good, too because i’m just doing what i want—staying up til morning and sleeping for a few hours at a time.

well, almost what i want. i did have to tackle THIS over the weekend

i know—it looks all very tame and good, right? huh. i am so not a bookkeeper.
it’s not that i don’t love math, or that numbers make my brain freeze. i love numbers and i especially have a secret love for math.

i just don’t love bookkeeping, or organizing the books. i really don’t get it.
but i’m trying! my friend and her husband showed me how to use a bookkeeping program recently, since i now have an official retail business. i’ve been practicing. it’s awkward, but i’m starting to get the hang of it. i still get the feeling i’m doing it wrong, but that’s what questions are for.

anyhow, after spending (i kid you not) all DAY entering data in the computer and wondering where the hell it went, i DID manage to get my tax info in order and am ready for my date with the tax guy tomorrow. the data was there, right where i put it (but where, though??). if helaine is reading this, i bet she’s really glad she wasn’t watching me. it was a real nail-biter. painful.
like a first knitting lesson

i’m actually (sort of) looking forward to a fresh start with the books for the new business. that is, if i can figure out just a couple of small things. like if i put something in the wrong place, i can see it, but i can’t move it. but someone out there wants me to succeed

this came in the mail from a pen vendor, along with an invitation to buy just 1,000 more for 35¢ each. this is what you get when you secure a vendor’s license. bahgains galore.

it got me thinking though. wouldn’t it be cool to have DPNs imprinted with my business name?
maybe with an olive on each end to hold the set together? (watch—within a week, debbiKnitter will have tracked this exact thing down, and ordered twelve dozen).

meanwhile, i also did a lot of knitting (yesterday at least), and am barreling down the homestretch on the starlight evening wrap. i am well into the large star motifs on the other end of the shawl and should be able to complete that tonight.

then it’s just the edging, and it’s done. maybe even by the end of the week, though i’m hoping even sooner. i don’t expect this week to be terribly stressful with work or anything
(ha! famous last words . . .).

i’m starting to get psyched about our trip to NYC in a couple of weeks. we haven’t been back for a visit in quite a while, and our boss asked us to come out for a work-related party event.
mainly, we’ll get a chance to spend time with david’s dad, who is in hospice now (and still without social security, believe it or not).
i’m very much hoping to meet up with friends too, though i don’t know of i can extend the trip to include the yarn harlot’s book launch. but i’m working on that. i’d really love to be there.

normally i am not a fan of the sheep card (sorry). for many reasons.
however, i had to chuckle when this arrived from my friend karan yesterday

demented, verily.

sorry there are no yarn or knitting pix today, but tomorrow there will be.