Lackluster Spree

The increasing heat, moving to Chicago, and starting a new job have taken their tolls on my motivation to do anything productive lately which really bums me out. I’ve been thinking less, making less, and doing less which really is not so positive. I think it is an adjustment period that will dissipate soon but it is still pretty odd and annoying. And of course at the beginning of every summer it can be tough to reintegrate your body to the warmth so many things crafty fall to the side.

In hopes to reverse this lackluster spree of existence I’ve set some goals and bought some tools. This summer I want to make at least five really and truly wearable garments including one pullover sweater, one cardigan, one skirt, one dress, and one top. Sewing my own clothes is something I have been wanting to work on for a while and right now I just need to jump in and do it.

 

These two patterns are the top contenders for the project.

As for the two sweaters I’ve just upgraded my interchangeable knitting needles from the flimsy and melty plastic Denise needles to the sleek and pretty Knit Picks Rainbow wood set. These new needles have me itching to make something lovely but I’m lacking specific direction at the moment.

DSCN9984I’ve also completed spinning about 200 yards of springy thick and thin (bulky to dk) 2-ply Polwarth yarn so I am on the hunt for a pattern that will highlight the texture of the yarn. Any suggestions for what to make would be amazing! I haven’t knit much with thick and thin yarn so I’m not sure what it will look best as.

For now, I’m slogging through some boring projects in order to clear my WIP conscience so I can purchase some new patterns and materials and rekindle my drive to create.

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Documented Failure

I am afraid of failure. Terrified actually. I also abhor the possibility of other people knowing about my failures. But I think it is time to confront this fear and show off my most recent disappointment.

So even! I love this half and it looks eerily similar to the Cascade sport-weight in my stash.

So even! I love this half and it looks eerily similar to the Cascade sport-weight in my stash.

Behold the yellow merino of my nightmares.

So. I began spinning this four ounce bump on my trusty drop spindle. The first half went well, fantastic even. The first two ounces yielded nearly 300 yards of mixed fingering and lace weight yarn. While I spun this first half I noticed that yes merino needs a higher spin and tended to react better when I moved through the process as quickly as possible.

UGH. Look at all of those horrifying nubs.

UGH. Look at all of those horrifying nubs.

Then came the second half of the bump. For some reason I couldn’t keep the spin fast enough, the fiber was constantly breaking, the plying process resulted in tons of little twisted bobbles that I cannot get rid of, and the fiber continued to break as I plied so I ended up with a multitude of tiny overhand knots holding the fragile fibers together. There are a few stretches of unmarred yards of usable yarn but I am so angry at the sight of all of those little knots that this skein may be going directly into the garbage can.

Here are some more up close shots of the disappointment skein.

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Now what to do with 300 yards of nice yellow yarn and 300 yards of garbage yarn?

Masterpiece

This journey began way back in November 2013, in Dublin, Ireland. I picked up this glowing bit of BFL wool and started daydreaming about what it could be.

While with my family in Wyoming I began spinning the fluff into a simple fingering weight two-ply yarn. Each full wrap of the cop showcased a new hue of purple encouraging me to spin faster.

DSCN0058After a couple of weeks of intensive spinning I ended up with nearly five hundred yards of amazingly soft yarn. I let it adorn my desk area so I could pet it whenever I wanted.

I spent weeks searching for the perfect pattern that would stretch the labored yarn as much as possible. I landed on Henslowe, a popular pattern with a lot of detail. I cast on in March and the shawl kept me company through the homework, work, and interview speckled weeks.

DSCN9919On April 6 this piece was complete. This is my first real spin to finished product project and every second of it was completely satisfying. The final project is luminous with a fuzzy halo of comfort in person. There are a few mistakes in the lace and a few places where the yarn thickness changes drastically but I think those mistakes make it that much more exciting. This shawl feels like a masterpiece.

Details
Yarn: handspun fingering 2 ply 490 yards
Pattern: Henslowe
Measurements: 53″ in wingspan 18″ deep
Mods: added two repeats of the lace pattern

DSCN9916I ended up with about 4 yards left of the yarn and made it into a tiny skein and hung it on my bulletin board as a souvenir of the process.

 

 

 

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A Personal Homage to “Our Tools, Ourselves”

My absolute favorite thing to read blog-wise are Karen Templer’s posts from her blog, Fringe Association with the title “Our Tools, Ourselves.” It is such a great idea and a perfect look into a creator’s world. My favorite thing about crafts and making is all of the specialized tools. Tools are both visually enticing and of course functional.

Because I love “Our Tools, Ourselves” I wanted to lay out all of my main tools. They are simple and spare but I love them just the same.

I’d have to say my favorite tools out of everything would have to be my collection of aluminum straight knitting needles. They were passed down to me from a great aunt who was a frequent knitter and my great grandmother who was apparently a crafting genius.

What are your favorite tools? I’d love to see them!

On Spindles

I’ve written a lot about spinning since I picked up the hobby early last summer because it is something that has burrowed itself deep in my mind and will not let go for a lot of reasons. Spinning yarn is something that most see as an archaic activity made useless by all of the technology that is in use everyday. Though in a practical sense that may be true, the act of spinning is not useless. Spinning is a centering activity. It both produces a useful product and creates a healthy mindset in the spinner.

Tibetan Puyok Support Spindle from Malcom Fielding on Etsy

Tibetan Puyok Support Spindle from Malcom Fielding on Etsy

Spinning can be done using a spindle or a wheel and what I am most curious about and often think about, are the differences between the two tools. After spending nearly a year working from a spindle I find myself wishing for a wheel some days and cursing the idea of them the next. Spindles are so personal, so delicate, and so variable that there is an infinite amount of information and techniques related to them. Spindle spinning is also one of the oldest handcrafts in existence. The connection to the past and the wealth of human history experienced when spindle spinning is comforting to me as a modern spinner.

 

 

Russian Orenburg Support Spindle from Russian Lily Designs on Etsy

Russian Orenburg Support Spindle from Russian Lily Designs on Etsy

The spindle is a tool that has been a staple in cultures for centuries and I love knowing that I am doing my part to keep it somewhat alive and present in the current culture. Spindle spinning offers you the opportunity to experience different cultures and styles of creation through a simple adjustment of the tool type. You can spin as a Tibetan craftswoman when you use a Tibetan support spindle or a Russian spinner with the Orenburg supported spindle. These tools are similar but immensely different when their origins are explored.

Cassandra Spinning Wheel from JMSwheels on Etsy

Cassandra Spinning Wheel from JMSwheels on Etsy

Wheel spinning is also doused in history but of a different kind than the spindle. The wheel signifies to me a step closer to industrialization. This form of industrialization specifically is obviously more personal than the massive factories that came soon afterwards but you cannot deny that the personal spinning wheel helped pave the way to a mass-produced society. The spinning wheel took many forms before it reached the treadle version that is most common today but no matter what its form it still signifies a shift in culture and the attitudes towards creating items for use. The wheel no matter what its form called for a dedicated amount of time to the craft because it was not and is not as mobile as a spindle. I believe this immobility solidified craftswomens’ roles in their societies too much. The wheel needs a dedicated spinner to sit and spin where the spindle allowed for the spinner to travel with the spindles and partake in other activities or chores while still being able to create materials necessary for living.

Heavenly Handspinning "Fidelis" from Heavenly Handspinning on Etsy

Heavenly Handspinning “Fidelis” from Heavenly Handspinning on Etsy

Quality wheels from traditional manufacturers are now so expensive that it is a challenge for modern crafters to experience them regularly. The increase in independent wheel producers and designers draws me and many others, based on the multitudes of sales these people have, closer and closer to the world of wheel spinning. I’m interested in assisting this designers who are making an effort to design a usable, visually interesting, and affordable tool like the Etsy sellers (some have also branched out to distributing their wheels to vendors like the WooleryBlue Bonnet Spinning, JMS Wheels, and Heavenly Handspinning. I appreciate the work that these people have put into making wheel spinning more accessible for a wider audience.

 

 

Bumble Bee Wheel from Blue Bonnet Spinning on Etsy

Bumble Bee Wheel from Blue Bonnet Spinning on Ets

 

Though the wheel presents a powerful argument as to why I should whip out my wallet and cough up a few hundred dollars for a quality tool, I want to cling to the spindle and all of its variations because there is so much that I don’t know about them yet. Someday when I wish to produce more material in a shorter amount of time and wish to commit myself to the immobility of the wheel craft a wheel will find its way into my house. For now I will keep spindling and acquiring the histories of different cultures through their individual methods of textile creation.

 

I want to know what others think about the spindle versus wheel debate. What do you use? What brand or style of wheel or spindle? Are you a practical use spinner or an art yarn spinner? Why do you spin at all?

Keeping Cozy During the Never Ending Winter

I swear I have some real content a-brewing but for now I’ve got project updates galore. I’ve gotten into the habit of always having a pair of socks on the go for travelling/at work during downtime and I just finished a pair for my sister and promptly cast on another for my brother.

DSCN0084They are both in a dk weight acrylic knit on size 4 needles. Although I have come to see that knitting with acrylic really isn’t the most luxurious of experiences, it is a hard-wearing and cheap material that is great for making things that are likely to be lost by (relatively) small siblings. The purple stripes are for my sister and the blue for my brother.

 

DSCN0092After completing the Beurre shawl I began the infamous French Cancan shawl. I have had this shawl pattern on my radar for at least two years and finally decided to conquer it. I am using a soft grey wool/acrylic blend that I had left over from a Christmas sweater. Though this shawl won’t have quite as much drape as the original it will be incredibly cozy and perfect for wrapping tightly around your shoulders.

IMG_20140301_153952Moving beyond knitting, I finished the first half, about two ounces, of the Lemon merino. I ended up with 294 yards of fingering weight yarn. It is my most even spin to date and highest yardage from two ounces of fiber! I’m going to begin the other half this evening.

I have a question for other spindle spinners out there, have you ever used a Russian support spindle? What was it like? What fiber did you use? What fiber would you recommend? Do you recommend a certain spindle maker? I am really interested in trying a new spindle breed and am captivated by the action of spinning supported. Let me know if you have any tips or tricks!

Future Spinner on the Loose

I have long admired those who can deftly handle a drop spindle and ably turn a mountain of fluff into usable material. This timeless craft is so hypnotizing to watch with the added bonus of creating something useful. Textiles and fiber crafts are so ingrained in my existence that I could not stay away from spinning anymore. I want to be closer to my materials. I want to be a part of the process. I want to know that I am creating something natural. So I bought a spindle and a pound of fiber. I am ready to begin.

Schacht Hi-Lo Spindle-- Just ordered and on its way to my itching fingers.

Schacht Hi-Lo Spindle– Just ordered and on its way to my itching fingers.

There is something really enticing about being part of a reviving tradition. In a world where everything is outsourced and manufactured to be devoid of originality and charm I find great value in hand crafts and am so glad that I have come from a familial background that supports them.