Archive for the 'Spinning' Category

St. Distaff and the Shark

Monday, January 7th, 2013

Today I picked up the phone and called Stringtopia Fiber Arts Studio, where the Remote Batt Bar was open all afternoon in honor of Roc Day, and I commissioned a little something-something.

We’ll have to wait until a little later in the week to see how it turns out.

I had e-mailed ahead of time so they’d have some idea what to expect; when I finally got through (that phone was BUSY today!) Shelly told me that Abby “has something in mind for you,” and I did not need to hear the giggle in her voice to know that devilment was afoot. Abby her ownself was slaving over a hot drum carder while this conversation was going on, but the whole time Shelly and I were on the phone I could hear her hurling the usual torrent of very audible invective at me from across the room, and I could just SEE the evil glint in her eye. Especially when Shelly said “She does know you pretty well, after all,” and I had to admit “Yeah, I’m afraid so.”

Something wicked this way comes, I am sure of it.

So here is the plan.

Remember I said the Shark Week fund-raiser for hurricane relief would run about a week?

Today is the last day of that week, and I’m still in some danger of getting choked up over the generous outpouring. It’s just started to taper off now, but at this writing the total is well over $19,000. So in amazed and thankful hindsight I’m setting a goal: If we haven’t reached $20,000 by midnight tonight I’m going to extend the period a little longer - long enough to reach that nice round milestone. At the rate things have been going, I’m betting it won’t take long.

Once that’s done, the logistics of moving money will take a few days, and while that’s going on I will figure out a clever way to do the random drawing thing I mentioned the other day. With a twist. I’m still going to be giving away three full shark kits, as promised, but now there’s another layer of cool randomness: A couple of lucky spinners will receive special shark-themed sock batts made by Abby Franquemont. What exactly these will consist of, or look like, I don’t know. The mandate was simply this: “Make something tsocky and tsharky for me, plz kthx.” How she interprets this is entirely up to her. I’m afraid I even told her to have fun with it.

Do I look worried?

Do I look afraid, very afraid?

Yeah, like I said - the woman knows me well.

Seriously… I can’t wait to see what she’s dreaming up. I am confident that it will be entirely awesome - as awesome as the recipients.

And that, my friends, is saying something.

Notes From the Cutting Room Floor

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

In case you missed it… (oh look, see my tongue in my cheek there?)… I’m in the new Knitty - twice!

There’s the pattern for Darrowby, the handspun sweater I’ve been living in and with for the past couple of years now, and there’s Sheep to Sweater, a companion article on the process that produced it.

Go ahead. I’ll wait.

I have to admit it’s a big relief to have this baby out of the closet and free to appear in photos and blogs at last.

Overall I’m really REALLY happy with the way both pieces came out, but there’s always some bittersweet in the publishing process. Some things should be cut, and I’m glad they were and that there are grown-ups in the building to make those decisions. But there are others that are harder to let go of - especially when you know that even the grown-ups found it painful to forego them for the greater good. Luckily, the power of the secondary press belongs to whoever owns a blog, so I get to indulge.

Case in point - these pictures:

If you’ve been around the blog for a while you may recognize the model who appears in the published pattern pictures. Yes, that is none other than my dear friend Barbara, who wears the sweater brilliantly - indeed, as someone rightly remarked yesterday, she could make a paper bag look elegant. And if you aren’t deeply familiar with the photographer who took those pictures - well, I predict that is only a matter of time.

But though I love those pictures very much, they were not the only ones taken, and not the only ones I was hoping to use. Remember the Stupid Wheel Tricks 18-Ply Challenge video?

Well, Fran and her dawgs spent Thanksgiving with me, and the next day she and they and Luke and I went for a long walk on the beach.

Fun was had; camera was wielded; sweater was put through its real-life paces… and I wanted you to see.

That’s Fran’s big beautiful goofball Rainey hogging the limelight and the lap, while my Luke pretends not to care.

(Of course Luke DOES care; he cares very much.)

But Rainey is a ham; he and the camera love each other.

Rainey’s aunt, Indy, is a little more laid-back about the whole thing - but she’s just as scenic.

And speaking of scenic… well, that’s Gilgo for you.

(Oh dear, I just realized how totally I am channeling my mother in that picture. Cookie, vade retro.)

Luke got his moment in the fading afternoon sun a couple of days later:

And there was some artsy playing around with the sculptural qualities of the cables:

On another front - I wanted to show you a couple of close-ups of the clasp that was designed to go with the sweater. Leslie Wind made (and named) these gorgeous things specially for Darrowby, shaping them to echo the diamond figure in the cable.

See how clever? I love the way there’s no pin to lose, and the way the hooks are designed to grip the fabric without snagging it or getting lost in it.


On a more practical note… the original draft of the pattern included a couple of other items that really HAD to be cut for length but that I think may be useful to some people. So again I am glad I can invoke the power of the secondary press.

First, some ruminations on steeking - pros and cons, whys and wherefores, etc. You’ve probably heard me rant about this before, in the context of Fronkenshteek, but I’ve never been one to let that stop me. The really important point is that the sweater does not HAVE to be steeked; I did it as a matter of convenience, but my test knitter did not. For what it’s worth, here’s the Spiel on that subject:

Look, I know I can’t actually MAKE you steek this sweater if you prefer not to - I have to admit there’s no reason you couldn’t work the whole body flat. That said, I did choose to steek it because the back is all stockinette, and so is most of the body. And I’m glad I did. I don’t at all mind purling, within reason, but vast expanses of purling are not my idea of a good time, even in relatively mindless knitting. So I started a four-stitch steek at the base of the neckline, so that I could work in the round from that point forward; that being how I made it, that is how I have written it. (You could, of course, run a steek ALL the way down the neckline, but you’d have to be VERY confident about the fit of the shoulders. Even I am not quite that foolhardy.)

If you fear the cutting of the steek - particularly if you fear the cutting of your precious handspun - consider this. Yes, it is important to be very sure that the fit is correct before you put scissors to fabric. The cut is after all irrevocable, and in that regard it is wise to treat the steek with a certain amount of respect. BUT… if your concern is about cut edges raveling… I’m here to tell you, they won’t. They just won’t. Knitting obeys the laws of physics and gravity. It does not WANT to unravel sideways. If you’ve ever used a row of waste yarn to create an opening for a thumb or a peasant heel, you know how difficult and fiddly it is to remove that waste yarn. The principle is the same. Knitted fabric is vulnerable in the vertical plane, and it will happily run away downward if you drop the stitches that hold it up; but its strands have no incentive at all to run sideways if you cut them. I know a lot of people advocate securing the edges before cutting, with a line of crochet or backstitch or even machine stitching. I suppose there’s nothing wrong with that if it bolsters your confidence, but I have to say that I have never reinforced a steek in my life - and I’ve never had a raveled-steek disaster of any kind. Here endeth the lesson.

The other item is an aerial schematic of the superstructure. I have done my level best (said best immeasurably enhanced with the sane yet merry assistance of SuperTechEditor Kate Atherley) to make the sequence clear, but if you’re trying to visualize it there is only so much that words can do, and a picture is worth well over a thousand of them. So I made this roadmap:

… and you can download a bigger version in PDF here.

I was going to go on here to pontificate philosophically about another subject dear to my heart, that of one-piece top-down construction, but… nah, this is enough blather for now. Maybe some other time. Right now I’m cold; gonna go put on a sweater.

Edit: Sorry about the bad PDF link earlier - wrong filename. Derp. Is fixed now.

The First Day of the Rest of… mumble

Saturday, July 2nd, 2011

It’s July 2nd.

The Tour de Fleece kicks off today! I mean… HAS kicked off today!

Am I spinning? You bet. Have I started? Not yet.

I’m on the same three teams as last year: Abby Franquemont’s Team Suck Less, CPaAGg’s Team Bacon Cakewaffle (CPaAGg being, as eny fule kno, Ravelry’s Completely Pointless and Arbitrary Group Group), and of course my own Team Russian Underpants, devoted to Crazy Wheel Tricks and to the love and use of antique spinning wheels with a special side-order of CPWs. (I have some exciting plans for this Tour, too, though “plans” is hardly the mot juste. “Goals” would be more accurate, because at this point I can’t possibly actually plan. Honestly, if I told you which things I’m going to do and when… I’d be lying. I have no idea when they’re going to happen, except that I have the best possible intentions as to fitting them in around all the other more concrete stuff I have to do between now and… then. And you know what they say about good intentions.)

Some of my friends are having a kick-off party today in Connecticut, and I am… not there. Because I didn’t finish my homework in time.

To wit: Handout for Sock Summit class. Supposed to be sent off yesterday (so they can print it ahead of time); but at this writing still in the final stages of brain-marinating and idea-wrangling. I’ve got all the thinky stuff rounded up in my head and scribbled in the bit-bucket document, and I’ve even done all the infrastructure - all the graphical stuff, illustration, etc. - but I’m still struggling to wrestle the sequence to the ground.

There’s something meta about this: Being stuck at the point where I’m writing about stuckness. Here I am consulting and quoting Robert Pirsig (good old Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance), and at the same time I kinda feel just a leetle bit like giving him a good taint-kicking for telling me that stuckness is actually a GOOD and DESIRABLE state to reach in the course of a creative endeavor. Of course I know from long experience that he’s right - or I wouldn’t be preaching his doctrine to my students, would I. But I’m at exactly the point where that is NOT what I want to hear! Sheesh, I want my one-time exemption, my Get Out of Jail Free card. Let everyone else struggle with this stage of the creative process, and let me for once have the plain sailing: Think it - write it - do it - kthxbai. Hey, come on, Universe! is that really so much to ask?

Oh, right. It is. Sorry - forgot where I was for a moment. It’s way too much to ask.

And I suspect I’m also about at my threshold for cheating by way of displacement activities, too - there’s something amusingly beyond-meta about blogging about the stuckness encountered while trying to write about stuckness, though I note with some irony that the blogging itself flows freely, doesn’t it. Now if I can just get the bit-bucket of thinkyness to do the same.

But I will spin something later, if necessary by moonlight, though hell should bar the way etc. Meanwhile - back to work. Wish me luck.

Tying It All Together

Monday, May 9th, 2011

Hard to believe that it’s actually almost a week since the end of Stringtopia.

I know, I know - officially it’s slightly more than a week. But for me and at least two other people Stringtopia didn’t end until we got home late on Monday night - just as it began before the beginning, when we hit the road on Friday morning. Foretaste; aftertaste; 11 hours each way, totally part of the fun. It’s almost not surprising any more - almost - that three people who have never actually met in person before can embark on this sort of adventure together without the slightest qualm; almost axiomatic (almost) that they will discover along the way that they have a LOT more in common than a shared love of fiber. (Not that that wouldn’t be enough, if it were all. But it wasn’t.)

We knew we were headed in the right direction when we saw this:

photo courtesy Jenny Sethman

And we knew we were in the right place when we saw this…

The Golden Lamb

… with this parked behind it:

The YarnVee

That, in case you have never seen it before (I hadn’t, oddly enough), is the famed YarnVee, legendary home-away-from-home of Morgaine Wilder and a beautiful Siamese cat and, oh yeah, Carolina Homespun - and its contents are a wonder to behold and to wallow in.

A closer look at the outside of the YarnVee, incidentally, reveals a lot about its owner.

The YarnVee

Closer look at the individual stickers? Sure:

The YarnVee

Looks pretty benign, doesn’t it? But I’m here to tell you, that placid exterior conceals the workings of an evil, evil enabling genius. If you’ve ever had dealings with Morgaine, in her shop or at any of the myriad festivals served by the YarnVee, you already know what a horribly tempting array of merchandise she offers. But get this. Morgaine WAS the market for this event, and what did she do? What, I ask you? This: she kept the shop open all day and late into the evening, and she invited each of us to… wait, I’m not sure I can even say this, it’s so awful… :: deep breath :: …she invited each of us to RUN A TAB for the weekend.

Dastardly. Diabolical.


And that is only one reason it’s appropriate that the first picture I actually took at Stringtopia was this one:

Watch Your Step

That’s the main lobby of the Golden Lamb (for more and better pictures of the hotel itself check out Missy’s blog and also Ercil’s photo album) on the Friday evening before dinner and Kickoff Bash, and no sign was ever more prophetic.

And this is where I find myself on the horns of a dilemma. Because if I tell the truth about just how overwhelmingly awesome Stringtopia was, then EVERYBODY is going to want a piece of it.

So I think I’d better tell the other truth instead; the Dark Side of Stringtopia.

You already know about the brilliantly devious trap Morgaine set for our wallets. (It won’t surprise you, I suspect, to know that mine fell right into it, over and over again.) But what you haven’t heard about yet is Abby’s dreadful behavior.

Has anybody else had THIS PROBLEM with Abby Franquemont? That she begs you to behave all nice and sweet so as not to embarrass her in front of her home town and get her tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail… and then she turns around and mires you in temptations, sets an example of general iniquity that you can’t help following?

Plus there’s something hypnotic going on there, because apparently we all fell for it. Hook. Line. Sinker.

It started with the Bag o’ Swag. I haven’t the heart to show you pictures of all the goodies in there right now, though I have to say the local chamber of commerce obviously fell as hard for Abby’s special line of blarney as all the rest of us did: not an establishment in town that didn’t throw enticements our way. Beads. Cupcakes. These people KNOW what we like. The fiber community was also represented in both the goodie-bags and the door-prizes - hell, I fell for that one myself - there may just be a story here for another time, but if I told you all about all the door-prizes Shelly and Abby kept giving out…

Shelly and Abby Giving Door Prizes

…(two apiece, as it turned out; they just kept coming, and coming, and coming) I’d be here all night on that alone. You’ve never seen such hedonism and general depravity.

To give you just one small taste of the cavalier attitude with which this shindig was organized - well, here, take a look at this:

Name Tag

That’s my name tag, and I would like to draw your particular attention to the string from which it hung:

Abby's Handspun

Yup, you’re seeing that right. That’s not a proper self-respecting lanyard, not at all. That’s yarn. And it’s not just any yarn. I knew it at first glance: it’s Abby’s handspun. See what I mean about her? Instead of going out and buying nice normal dime-a-dozen Walmart lanyards, she actually palmed off a piece of her own leftover yarn on each and every one of us. What a scam. Not only that… she even put the remnant of that ball of yarn in among the door prizes. And when somebody won it… there was cheering. Snake oil, I’m telling you.


Check out the baleful glare. She knows I’m onto her.

It gets worse. A lot worse.

This is the scene after an evening of fibery debauchery among the drum carders.

Batts and Beer

This is the wreck of a formerly respectable dining room after being populated by spinners for a day or two.

Spinners' Mess

(Standing, to the left of the doorway, is poor dear Josh, the miracle worker who ran interference between us and the bar for three evenings in a row, and who somehow managed to bring the right people together with the right drinks and the right tabs throughout, even though we were constantly moving targets, rampaging - as unruly spinners are wont to do - all over five different rooms, not counting the balcony and the hallways.)

Now… one of the recurring themes of Stringtopia was tiaras. And it all started innocently enough… until Abby’s corrupting influence set in.

See, here’s Lara being crowned by Sandi Wiseheart.

Lara and the Tiara

Nice, huh? Sandi makes these amazing sparkly tiaras, and she was wearing one of her own most of the weekend, but this was one she made specially for Stringtopia, as a door prize.

Tiara Girls

Well, so then there was trying on of tiaras. Here’s Shelly wearing Sandi’s pink-flowers one:

Shelly Models Sandi's Tiara

(And incidentally, I would like to mention here that of all the awful goings-on during this dreadful wicked weekend, none of it was in any way Shelly’s fault. Shelly is just as you see her; she was wonderful. If Shelly had been in charge of organizing this thing without any interference from Abby it would have been lovely and nice and respectable and irreproachable, instead of the sinful sojourn it became.)

Well, at dinner on the final evening it was Morgaine’s turn.

Morgaine Models Sandi's Tiara

Now I know I’ve made it clear that Morgaine was not the most innocent participant in the events of the weekend at large, but in fairness I have to say that at first she did at least display a proper sense of the solemnity of this moment.

Morgaine Models Sandi's Tiara

Until Abby got ahold of her…

Morgaine Models Sandi's Tiara

Morgaine Models Sandi's Tiara

… and started undermining her natural dignity.

Morgaine Models Sandi's Tiara

Morgaine Models Sandi's Tiara

Morgaine Models Sandi's Tiara

See? No respect, that Abby. None.

And Abby’s own Tiara Moment?

Abby Models Sandi's Tiara

Abby Models Sandi's Tiara

Abby Models Sandi's Tiara


Now you might be wondering about the classes? There were classes, right? I hear you wondering to yourselves.

Oh yes, there were classes, all right. And some of us actually really learned some stuff - even I did, in the few rare moments when I wasn’t busy being bullied by scapegrace You-Know-Whom.

Of course we did. You wouldn’t dare NOT learn from THIS.

There’s the Authentic Public Long-Draw-Gasm - seeing half a dozen people experience it in unison is a rush that somehow never pales.

And then there’s the more esoteric revelation, the kind of thing you didn’t even know you wanted to learn, but dang, doesn’t it turn out to be cool to know how to do it and understand why it works. Here’s Sandi after a triumphant run of Intentional Structurally Sound Thick and Thin Yarn.

Sandi Spins Thick and Thin

Sandi shd haz a proud.

Sandi Spins Thick and Thin

She does. (Ahem. Hers was way better than mine. I stick my tongue out at her. Here and now.)

So then what happens?

On Sunday afternoon, just as we’re getting lulled into a false sense of security, what with with all the mind-splodey learning and the new ideas and stuff… Abby pulls a fast one.

First she cozies up all nice and friendly-like to Jacey

Jacey and Abby

And then, instead of spending the afternoon teaching us stuff about plying structures, that slacker Abby brings Jacey into her own class and makes HER take over, giving us a pretty amazing lesson on how to make a proper structured bouclé - under the thin pretext that this too, after all, is all about Plying Structure, right? Uh-huh.

But then a curious thing happens. Because… Jacey is supposed to be teaching this class, right? But look who’s doing the talking.

Look Who's Talking

And look how polite and ladylike Jacey is about it.

Jacey Laughing

Now, of those two, which one would YOU think was known as Insubordiknits?

The rude disruptive one, right? with all her bawdy talk about the shaft sliding in the thumb crotch.

So that’s how it was. All weekend long and then some; Abby poured the KoolAid and we all drank it and kept asking for more. It wasn’t until afterward when I looked at the pictures that I realized how completely we had been duped - hell, on Monday morning, after we’d somehow bamboozled ourselves into helping Morgaine load out before leaving, I had another wallet accident right out on the sidewalk, snapping up two lumps of crack Abby-batts in mid-air as they were about to disappear into the Magic YarnVee. All kinds of scary JuJu going on there.

And that’s my story and I’m sticking to it, and I figure we were all lucky to get out of there with our souls more or less intact.

And I’m not going to tell you about the outrageous quantities/variety of astonishing ice cream from Jeni’s that Iza brought in for us to wallow in.

And I’m not going to tell you about the gorgeous fleeces Nada brought.

Or about the Sekrit Project we did for Shelly right under her nose.

Or about how funny/smart/fascinating/warm/fuzzy everyone was.

Or about how silly we got on Saturday night.

Or about how lovely it was, on a balmy spring evening, to take our wheels and spindles out on the balcony overlooking Lebanon’s pretty Main Street.

Let alone about the outrageous mind-bending eye-opening stuff we actually did learn in the actual classes.

I’m certainly not going to tell you how good the food was, or how well-organized the whole operation was from the standpoint of feeding and housing and herding an hungry horde of spinners.

Remind me, also, not to mention the addictive apple butter.

Or to admit that from soup to nuts it was all-ointment-no-flies.

Because I wouldn’t want anybody to get the wrong idea about this crazy thing that was Stringtopia.

If I’m not careful, however… if I let my guard down for a moment… I might be beguiled into mentioning what I said to Abby (while still under her influence, obviously!) on Monday morning just before we left. Which was something along these lines:

Look, it’s apples and oranges, and I wouldn’t want to have to choose, and I’m lucky not to have to choose - but if I DID have to choose between this and SOAR… or in fact any other fibery event I’ve been to… it would be this.

But don’t tell anybody I said so, ‘K? Because I want that to be our little secret.


Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

I said it would be, and it is.

I haven’t been forgetting the camera, but after all day in the car and precious little sleep for…

Hah. Apparently I actually wrote that far on Friday night, and didn’t even remember the fact until just now when I set out to start a new post under the same title. Must have dropped off in mid-sentence from sheer overwhelmedness.

So now here it is Tuesday and I’m back from Stringtopia, sad to see it in the rear-view mirror instead of all laid out before me, because it truly was as epic - in a cozy intimate sort of way - as I expected, and then some, with a cherry-colored cocoon on top. It’s going to take time to pull together a proper post about it, not least because of the photo triage and sharing, but mostly because my mind is still in such a whizzy whirl from it all. So for now, get a foretaste here; I haven’t seen my pictures yet but I can guarantee you Missy’s are way better and they really show the Golden Lamb to advantage. That’s BEFORE we totally trashed the place. And before we made sodden wrecks out of Abby and Jacey.

Epic. It was. There will be more about this. Soon.

Past My Bedtime

Friday, April 29th, 2011

I mean, not on a normal night, or whatever passes for such with vampire me. On a normal night I’d be up until maybe 4:00 AM. But tonight is not a normal night. Tonight I should be asleep by now because I have to GET UP shortly after 4:00 AM.

Somebody flip my body clock, please?

So anyway… right now I’m comfortably camped out at a friend’s apartment in the Bronx. Shortly after the above-mentioned crack of dawn we will be joined by another friend and the three of us will pile into a car loaded to the gills with spinning gear, and we’ll hit the road for Ohio; we are on our way to Stringtopia, and after an insane week culminating in a crazy crazy day I am only beginning to grasp how very exciting this is.

Which is probably not conducive to grabbing a couple hours’ shut-eye… but I gotta try. It’s going to be a LOT of weekend.

No idea whether I’ll be able to get near the blog while there - maybe the occasional tweet between classes. (Oh yes, kicking and screaming - see over there in the sidebar? yep, I’m on Twitter now. It was inevitable, wasn’t it.)

But you can be pretty sure my brain and my camera (both carefully emptied out in anticipation) will be FULL when I get back.

Overflowing, in fact. Right into this space.

Time for my nap now. Must rest up. It’s going to be… EPIC.