Monthly Archives: October 2009

What I Read in October 2009

Tithe by Holly Black (reread)
Pilgrim by Timothy Findley (reread)
Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing by Mignon Fogarty
A Pale Horse by Charles Todd
Liar by Justine Larbalestier
The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory
An Indulgence a Day by Andrea Norville & Patrick Menton
Spin Control by Amy King
Pattern Recognition by William Gibson
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling (reread)
Things I Learned From Knitting by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (reread)
The Drowning City by Amanda Downum
The Thirteenth Child by Patricia Wrede
Howards End by E.M. Forster (reread)

Lots of rereads this month. Hmm. I have a bunch of newish books on hold at the library, though, to be read whenever my turn come sup on the reserve list.

I loved The Thirteenth Child, despite the furor it caused when it was published (OMG, she writes an alternate history of frontier America and doesn’t include Native Americans!!! Well, yeah. So? That’s why it’s called alternate history.) The other book I really enjoyed this month was Justine Larbalestier’s Liar, although it was very problematic in that one has no idea what’s happened at the end of the book. (This isn’t due to authorial incompetence; exactly the opposite, as a matter of fact. It’s brilliantly written and very successful in what it sets out to do with an unreliable narrator.)

In Which She Rubs Her Eyes And Wonders Where The Time Went

Halloween tomorrow. I’m fine with that. It’s the fact that the next day is November that’s currently skewing my worldview.

I tend to journal about what excites or interests me, and I know I blog to primarily record things for myself rather than to entertain readers, but lately I feel that all I do is type out what we did on the weekend and post yarn stuff. I’d rather spin than write it all out. Although I should write it out; I should write it out differently than I’m doing, too, with more info about how/what I did so it’s there for me later. I’m taking notes in a notebook, but the online journal is where I go when I need to look back and see how I felt about it all. Ceri helped me figure out that if I journal about what interests and excites me that translates to my writing and entertains my readership regardless of what the subject is, which helped a lot. So now I don’t feel bad about rambling on and on about yarns and swatches and ratios.

(Also, if I journal more often instead of wibbling about boring people by nattering about fibre and posting pictures of yarn, then my posts won’t be unending screeds that sum up three or more days. There’s incentive. The longer the post, the longer it takes to write it up.)

On Tuesday Jan came by mid-afternoon, and we hit the yarn store then came home and knitted together for a little bit. Jan said something quite perceptive that I hadn’t considered before: decision-making takes up energy and effort, and if you work at home you’re self-directed, which means your entire day is composed of making decisions that you can’t hand off to a colleague or boss or underling. Add housework and meal prep and such to that, and no wonder I’m fried at the end of the day. She’s really good at laying things out in a sensible fashion so that I gain insight into my situation. She also brought us a chicken from her flock, butchered and skinned and frozen by her and t!, as a thank you for helping raise the coop this past spring. I’m looking forward to making a stew or something with it.

On Wednesday M. came over for our first rehearsal together of the Mozart duet we’re playing for the recital in December. Nothing like a practice session with your duet partner to emphasize that you’re really not as bad as you think you are. I sounded much better and steadier than I thought I did, with pretty good string crossings. This piece is all about waves and flow and steadiness, so I’m further along than I thought. There are still places that go ‘crunch’ so there is lots of room for improvement, but I felt a lot better about it than I did going in to the rehearsal. Orchestra that night wasn’t a compete disaster either: I got some of the harder bits but flaked out on the easier patches at the end of the Beethoven. I hate doing that. Just under one month till the fall concert, too.

A couple of weeks ago I saw a secondhand lazy kate extender and two bobbins for my spinning wheel listed for sale on an e-list. The price was unbeatable (everything plus shipping for the price of two new bobbins!) so I jumped on it, as I’ve been wanting more bobbins and a way to start making yarn with more than two plies. I sent the seller a money order and as of yesterday my new-to-me toys are officially on their way, and the seller wrapped them in a highly recyclable packing material… roving! Wow! I was looking forward to it before, but now I’m even more excited to see what kind of fibre is inside, and how it will spin up. The seller raises goats, so there may be some of that to be packing material, but no matter what I get I’ll be thrilled. Sometimes people are just wonderful, and I need to remember things like this to offset the overwhelming and ongoing evidence that humanity sucks. The parcel should arrive via UPS around the 11th of November.

I got the swatch pics of the two handspun knit samples up on Ravelry yesterday. It amuses me that the colours are inverted. (Also, go self-striping dye job!) This is why we swatch: The handspun n-ply for Gran looks smashing in the lace pattern on the left, and just kind of pained in the handspun scarf swatch on the right. Pics:

I tried swatching the handspun scarf pattern again on size 10s, but no, the yarn is just all wrong for the pattern. The swatch is stiff and a bit scratchy. I love the pattern, but it needs a fluffier, thicker yarn, possibly in earth tones. (What, me planning more spinning? Why would I do that?) So the lace pattern it is. I ran the yarn back through the ballwinder and it loosened up a bit as well as growing a bit softer; this is a trick I will remember for the future. (Surveying my Ravelry project list, I wonder when I became a lace knitter? Stupidly easy lace, but it’s lace all the same.)

The kerfuffle about needle size for this handspun scarf project (I don’t have size 8s; or I do, but it’s an Addi Turbo circular and I hate working with the Addis, I should sell them; I have size 8 Harmony tips but both cables are being used; what happens if I use my size 6 needles, oh, ick; what’s the next size I have close to 8s, the circular 10s? those don’t work either, argh) made me realise that while I can theoretically just go out and buy the confirmed size of needles I need for projects as they arise, it’s rather stressful for swatching to determine the correct size required when one does not yet have the needles, and now holds up the entire yarn production process until I can swatch to figure out how to finish plying the yarn. This led me to remembering that once Halloween is over there will be family members asking me what I want for Yule, which then led to exploring what equipment for knitting/spinning I don’t have and want. First up were needles, because if the project doesn’t call for 10s, 8s, or 4s I’m pretty sunk. So I checked KnitPicks and lo and behold, the sets of Harmony needles I love to work with are on sale till 4th January 2010! And as I need both a set of 10″ straights and a set of interchangeable circular tips and cables, I’m putting both on my list. If I don’t get them for Yule I’m buying them myself because that price is astonishing. (The straight set works out to less than $7 per pair, and they’re incredibly good needles.)

And this got me to thinking about what kind of yarn I want to work on. More plies theoretically mean thinner singles, and to make a thinner single one needs to use the highest speed whorl on one’s bobbin, slow take-up, and treadle faster to get as much twist into the thinly drafted fibre as possible. The highest speed ratio on my wheel is 10.5 revolutions of the bobbin to one revolution of the drive wheel. Now, that’s not bad, but it can be done faster, and Louet makes a high-speed bobbin with a highest speed of 15.1:1. So I pinged my eternally helpful local yarn store Ariadne Knits to ask about the high-speed flyer/bobbin set, and it looks like it’s almost $300. So I have quashed that plan. The high-speed flyer looks identical to the basic flyer with a 3/8″ orifice instead of the 1/2″ one my wheel has, and the set looks like it comes with the high-speed fatcore bobbins, which are twenty dollars more expensive than the regular high-speed bobbins (which sell for same price as the basic bobbins). Twenty dollars for a clear plastic tube that goes around the bobbin shaft to enlarge the core? I don’t think so. I’ll get a plain high-speed bobbin to test out, and use the trick I found online: I’ll slip some foam pipe insulation over the regular highspeed core to make it an instant fatcore. (In case you’re wondering, the fatter core reduces strain on the fine yarn being wrapped around it and reduces the chance of it snapping. We’re talking some pretty fine thread-like yarn, here.)

So yes, I am looking at making finer yarns, because I seem to have somehow become a lace knitter (or so the current lineup of works in progress on my Ravelry page would suggest), and an increasing number of my friends are getting into knitting socks. So what did I do last night instead of putting myself to bed where I could read until I fell asleep? I pulled out a half-ounce of fibre to see how thinly I could spin it. I removed the brake band entirely, set the drive band on the smallest whorl, and treadled relatively quickly while drafting out about five fibres from the narrow strip I tore off the combed top. The idea is to let the yarn sit and gather as much twist as possible before allowing it to wind onto the bobbin so the yarn doesn’t just drift apart when you pull on it, but not for so long that it overtwists and starts kinking back on itself. It took about an hour to do an sixteenth of an ounce, but I did it. (No wonder people use higher-ratio bobbins to increase production speed; at this rate it would take forever to spin enough for something like a shawl.)

I may continue it today, just for kicks, in between drafting the programme notes for the upcoming fall concert.

And remember: The clocks go back between Saturday night and Sunday morning! So when you come home from trick or treating, or your Samhain ritual, or whatever party you’ve attended (or, you know, when you just turn out your light at the end of a perfectly unusual evening) don’t forget to reset your clocks.

Halloween 2009

School party tomorrow. Here’s who will be in attendance.

He’s already planning to save the attending princesses from dragons and supervillains. Never hurts to be prepared.

The sheer glee as he put it all on and ran to a mirror was very gratifying. He kept backing away and running heroically at the mirror to watch himself rush to save someone. Then we had to place one of his stuffed rabbits in distress ( “Help! Help! I’m trapped in a building on fire!”) so Superman could run into the room, dive onto the table, scoop up the bunny, and roll off the other side in a dramatic rescue. Very impressive.

Weekend Roundup

An excellent cello lesson always begins the weekend nicely. Things have improved over the past couple of weeks, which is great, but I’m still a month behind where I ought to be. The six-week breakdown of technique while my subconscious implemented the new lesson stuff really crippled my progress in orchestra.

I got home to find the boys still in pyjamas watching a movie. An hour or so later the boy went to his room to get dressed and closed the door, and an hour after that it was lunchtime, so HRH went to get him and found him still sitting on his bed with his clothes next to him. HRH was a bit miffed, especially as we’ve been having trouble lately with the boy focusing on getting dressed so we’ve been working on it. Then he discovered that the boy’s general body temperature was warmer than usual, so I took his temperature and discovered that yes, he had a fever. He said he didn’t want lunch, just wanted to curl up in bed, so it was Tylenol and an early nap for him, which lasted three hours. He watched another movie once he woke up, had a bit of pasta for dinner, then went right to bed and proceeded to sleep hard. He was awake when I checked on him around 3:30 AM and the fever was really high, so I gave him the last of the Tylenol and cuddled him. He asked to come to our bed instead and I said yes, so we curled up there and he actually slept. Overall he got about twelve hours, and when he awoke at 7:30 the fever had broken completely. Other than the fever there were no symptoms, although we kept a very close eye on him all weekend. I’m not overly concerned, as this is how HRH’s body handles some illnesses too: the body ratchets up the temperature and burns whatever it is right out over a day. Still, it meant that we couldn’t in good conscience send him to his monthly Pagan playgroup meeting on Sunday morning, which was sad because it was to be a costume party with games and treats. But he was very good about it, saying, “I don’t want to give my fever to my friends at Magick Stars!” It also gives me a couple more days to finish his costume. (A good thing, as on Saturday when we were trying the different bits on him to adjust and size them, he accidentally got stuck with a pin that was in his cloak and howled. He went from “Can I wear my costume all day?” to “I want to take this off right now!” I know a lot of that was his fever and under-the-weatherness. I wouldn’t have been able to finish in time anyway. ) As of this morning he was over twenty-four hours symptom-free, so off to school he went.

Over the weekend I spun up 130 yards of chain-plied sport-weight Corriedale with which to knit a scarf for my Gran. I space-dyed half of the fibre in two shades of yellow and left the other half natural, and alternated a strip of the coloured fibre with a strip of the natural. My second batch of dyed fibre was a bit more intense than the first so with most of that I spun from a strip of the dyed and undyed fibre simultaneously to tone down the yellow a bit. I was envisioning something a bit less saturated than this, but I’m sure it will knit up just fine. (I called the colourway Buttercups & Daisies on a whim last night. While photographing it this morning I saw that the colours also remind me of sweet corn on the cob when you’ve just husked it, but that’s a bit less poetic.) Also, my grandmother will be bowled over by the fact that I dyed, spun, and then knit my own yarn into a gift for her no matter what I give her, so the lack of perfect colour match to what was in my mind isn’t a deal breaker. We photographed each step so that I can make a little album with captions outlining each step to wrap up along with the scarf come Yuletide, so she can see how it started from plain fibre, went through the dyeing and spinning process, and then the knitting.

And the weekend ended with a fabulous installment of our steampunquian horror game, where Things Were Revealed and the Bad Guy Was Vanquished (for now?), and there was dramatic character fallout. This marks the end of the first story arc after twelve months of playing one session per month; we have voted to continue, and I’m glad. It’s a good world, the party is very well-balanced with excellent characters, and the story is grand. The company is pretty stellar, too.

Ahead this week: The next freelance project (the last report was accepted and approved within half an hour of submitting it on Thursday, woo!), cello work, and I should start knitting some of the things I’ve spun yarn for. I have a yarn shop date with Jan on Tuesday afternoon (not that I can buy anything at the moment, so it will be a recon and perhaps a special-ordering of new fibre for more Yule gifts mission), my bi-weekly anime evening with Marc on Tuesday night, a cello session with M on Wednesday afternoon, and whatever else comes up along the way. There’s a story or a book lurking in deep subconscious, but all I know is that it’s lurking. Now and again I get a murky idea of a phrase or a character, but it’s at the frustrating phase of brewing without tangible development or even clear recognition.

Also, tonight I roast a chicken. I think I’ll roast diced potatoes, cauliflower, parsnips, and some more of the garden carrots with it. I would have done the chicken yesterday but it wasn’t defrosted in time, so instead I made beef stew, and tiny bite-sized apple pies with half of the leftover apples from the apple-picking session a month ago. I made a half-yield of a pastry recipe but it wasn’t enough for the apples I’d prepped, so I dug in the chest freezer and found six mini tart shells left over from something and used those, too. The tarts were thoroughly approved of by the gaming group and our babysitter. (The other half of the remaining apples got made into applesauce.)

To work!

Gnarr Take Two

I washed and am currently blocking the swatches. Then I realised that I couldn’t retake the swatch photos, because the swatches are currently pinned with blocking sticks to a Styrofoam block.

This is so not my day.

OTOH, the n-ply swatch seems to have softened up. The two-ply hasn’t really redistributed its unevenness as much as I’d hoped, though; it really is an issue of thick/thin yarn. (I apologise for the orange towel. It’s the current scrap towel in the bathroom and so was what I had at hand when the swatches were rinsed and needed to be dried.)

That’s the two-ply on the left and the n-ply on the right. The border on the n-ply looks a bit cockeyed because I was knitting three stitches on one side and four on the other, and I switched them accidentally after the rows of straight knit stitch in the middle. So it’s thicker on the upper left and lower right. Not a true reflection of how the border will look in the finished product, because I’ll be doing the full stitch count and won’t be having to make up numbers on the fly. (I did learn, and subtracted a stitch from my cast-on for the two-ply sample, which is why the borders at the top and bottom are even.)

I really don’t know. The n-ply looks crisper and the pattern is really textured. The two-ply looks softer and the pattern is somewhat blurred. They’re about the same to touch.

While the swatches dry completely, this is as good a place as any to paste this reply I recently made in a Ravelry forum. Someone was prepping a fibre arts presentation for classmates in a fine arts program, and was collecting answers for the inevitable question of, “Why bother spinning when you can just go the store and buy yarn?”

As others have said, it’s a tactile thing for me. Soft, pretty fibre feels so good on my hands. It’s also very meditative. I can sit down to spin and disengage the monkey-chatter of my mind, focusing solely on the feel of the fibre in my fingers, the tension between my hands and the fibre as I draft, the slide as the drafting pulls the staples along one another, and the draw of the wheel. But it’s also pleasing on a sensory level in other ways, too: I love the rhythm my foot, hands, and body get into. I love the mellow glowing stain I used to finish my wheel. I love seeing how the colours of my fibre blend as they move from the drafting triangle and begin to twist together, and I love seeing how the tones and hues of the new single wrap around the core of my bobbin. I even love the whooshing sound the wheel makes (just not the squeak that develops as the orifice spins in the cup until I dab a bit of Vaseline on it).

I’m not much of a knitter, so while I’m currently working on a specific yarn to use for a project, that’s not really part of my thing. I spin for others, though.

And yes, there is a large dose of “I made something useful out of fluff!” as well as “I made something beautiful!” that goes along with loving the process.