Daily Archives: October 30, 2009

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.