Spinning My (Borrowed) Wheels

(Really, that should be singular, but it didn’t look right.)

Years ago, I bought a drop spindle and set about learnning – with the aid of books, downloaded videos, blogs, and YouTube – to spin yarn. Spindles are fantastic. They can be very affordable: a Louet Beginner Top Whorl goes for less than $20, a Schacht Hi-Lo (“the best of both whorls”) is just under $25, and a full starter kit including a spindle, a yarn gauge, a niddy-noddy, and 4 oz. of fiber can be had for under $75. When it’s in stock, anyway.

All those links go to WEBS – I’m not an affiliate, I get nothing for sending you there; I’m just a happy yarn customer. I actually haven’t bought spindles or fiber from them myself, but I’ve bought yarn several times, and I like them.

I bought my first spindle, along with some mystery-wool fiber, from someone on Ravelry back in late 2007. I took it with me to a class with Merike Saarniit at Stitches West 2008:

Spindle for Stitches Class

Since then, I’ve acquired several spindles and a slightly alarming amount of fiber. You can spin quite a bit on a drop spindle – there was a time, of course, when all yarn was spindle-spun – but a wheel can really up your speed. At least, in the short-term. The portability of spindles means that while you generate yarn at a slower speed, you can spend more time actually spinning. You can spin while waiting just about anywhere, for anything.

All that said, I really wanted to learn to spin on a wheel. But the price point for wheels is considerably higher, and with so many kinds to choose from, it’s good to try before you buy. Fortunately for me, my local Parks and Recreation Department offers a class on handspinning, and it was offered late enough in the day that I could make it after work. The teacher has several Ashford Traditional wheels that students can borrow for the duration of the class, as well as rent in between class series. (Since there is only one class offered, and it’s small enough that the teacher is able to spend time individually with students, people simply repeat the class in different sessions.) I’ve just started my second session, so I’ve had this lovely wheel since the beginning of July.

It’s an Ashford Traditional; I estimate from Ashford’s timeline that it’s from the mid-to-late-1970s. I’m really enjoying it, and I definitely want to get a wheel of my own. I’d like something easier to move around, though. While the traddy does fit into the back seat of my car, it’s not ideal. I’m considering the Ashford Joy, which is designed to be a portable wheel, but I haven’t had a chance to spin on one yet.

Spinners, what wheel(s) do you have? Any tips for the first-time buyer?

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Merry Christmas!

All of us here at La Casa G* hope that you and yours had a lovely Christmas and/or a lovely Tuesday.

The nice folks at Tin Can Knits are giving all the knitters out there a very nice Christmas present: one free pattern (thanks to Nik for the heads-up!). After much deliberation, I finally chose the Sunflower shawl pattern.

sunflower shawl
Photo from Tin Can Knits

I think it will look fabulous in some Sheep of a Different Color laceweight I’ve been hanging onto for a while.

SDC Ginger, close-up

 

I would give you a link to the shop, but the dyer behind SDC stopped dyeing yarn several years back, and the shop I bought it from went out of business. In 2010. So, yeah, I’ve kind of had it for some time now.

Head on over to Tin Can Knits before New Year’s Day and share the knit love!

Coming soon: a wrap-up post on my 2012 Reading Challenges. Spoiler: they really didn’t go very well.

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Phat Fiber Unboxing

Several months back, I tried to get a Phat Fiber Box, but I was little slow on the mouse, and even though I saw the listing go up, I wasn’t able to get one for myself.

Last weekend, I tried again, and, this time, I got it.

What’s a Phat Fiber Box, you ask? The quick description is that it’s a box full of fiber, yarn, and notions samples. (The longer explanation can be found on the Phat Fiber site.) Every box contains a different assortment of contributions, and you can choose whether you want a box with spinning fiber samples with no finished yarn, a box with finished yarn samples and no spinning fiber, or the classic mixed box. It’s a great chance to try out new-to-you vendors so you can blow more money on Etsy find fabulous fiber arts folks. Every month has a different theme, and November 2012 is “Harvest Festival”.

I went for the classic mixed box. I let my daily spindle practice slide long ago, and I’d like to get back in the habit. The box arrived on Wednesday, and it did not disappoint.

Want to see?

Phat Fiber Box
Such an unassuming little box

 

Phat Fiber
Still unassuming, but I like the green gingham tissue

 

Phat Fiber
All the things!

 

The samples fall into three categories: spinning fluff, yarn, and goodies.

First, the fluff, clockwise from top left: Inspiration Fibers, Fiber Fancy, Giffordables, The Painted Tiger, BeesyBee Fibers, Wonderland Fiber, Fiber Faire, Huckleberry Knits, and HilltopCloud.

Phat Fiber
Click through for Flickr notes!

 

Then, the yarn, clockwise from top left: Lady Dye Fiber Arts, StimpyLab, R.A.D. Fibers, Little Alice’s Yarn Stash, The One String, Wandering Wool, Sheep Dreamery, and Plum Crazy Ranch and Fiber Art.

Phat Fiber
Click through for Flickr notes!

 

And the goodies, clockwise from left: GloriaPatre, The Contented Knitter, Cofanetto, and R.A.D. Fibers, plus cards from Phatties not in my assortment.

Phat Fiber
Click through for Flickr notes!

 

It’s a great assortment. Now, to go add some shops to my bookmarks start trying out these samples!

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Lots of Tiny, Tiny Beads

Last week, I was at a meeting with someone wearing a beautiful shawl. She mentioned that it was made from Wollmeise. And I remembered that I had a barely-begun Wollmeise shawl project sitting in my closet: my Entomology shawl. I pulled it out of the closet and read through the instructions again. I had not quite finished stringing all the beads.

The Beading Continues

The instructions for the shawl give a handy little tip. Instead of counting out each of the 1205 beads, string a bunch on and measure how many beads fit in an inch. Do a little multiplication, and you can simply measure the string of beads for an estimated total. I did the math. And I realized that, at 14 beads per inch, 1205 beads would measure just over 7 feet.

Beading

That’s a lot of beads. I strung them all, plus an extra inch or so for insurance, and cast on this evening. During a couple hours of tv watching, I worked my way through the 20 rows of chart A. And then realized I completely forgot to place the beads that were between stitches – I only did the ones in the yarnovers.

My little shawl is back to being a ball of yarn with a whole lot of little tiny beads. And that cross-stitch stocking is looking at me reproachfully.

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Picture Book Knits: Three Little Kittens

Three Little Kittens by Jerry Pinkney

Caldecott medalist Pinkney adds some very special knitterly touches to the classic nursery rhyme about those careless kittens. Busy playing outside, all three kittens lose their lovely hand-knit mittens, and Mama tells them they cannot have any pie. The kittens quickly go out and find their mittens, then get pie all over them! After washing and drying those messy mittens, the kittens are ready to head back outside to play.

Music is provided on the inside of the dust jacket to sing the words of the book (sadly, nearly inaccessible in my library copy, as the dust jacket is covered with plastic and firmly fastened to the cover; some libraries will likely remove the dust jacket entirely), and the text definitely works better sung than simply read.

The best part of the book, though, is the artwork. Pinkney’s watercolor and graphite pencil illustrations form double-page full-bleed spreads with wonderful details. On the title page spread, the kittens peer out the window at three birds, one of which is wearing a knitted hat with earflaps and a pompom on top! In the next spread, the reader sees Mama Cat knitting, her mitten pattern open on the floor. And, of course, one of the kittens’ favorite playthings appears to be a large ball of yellow yarn.

A sweet addition to any picture book collection, with details that will be especially appreciated by knitting parents.

(Source note: I checked this book out from my public library.)

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354 Days ’til Christmas

Little, teeny, tiny bit of progress:

Stocking Progress

Of course, it would help if I hadn’t been distracted by finding a nearly-forgotten sock project.

Socks in Progress

I started the first sock at Stitch ‘n’ Pitch back in August. It’s a vanilla sock, done without a pattern. Now, I’m just trying to remember what I did on the first one.

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Science Doll

(Or, Hey, Look, There’s Some Knitting on the Supposed Knitting Blog!)

This is my friend, Sarah:

Well, a toonified representation of her alter ego, Science Doll, anyway. She’s smart as a whip, and you can follow her at her her site or her twitter feed.

I’d wanted to make something for her for quite a while, but I wasn’t sure what to make. And then I heard about the Stitched Selves that went on display in London last summer. How could I not make her her very own Sci Doll doll?

Sci Doll

Project Specs:
Pattern: Stitch Yourself (Knit) by Whodunnknit
Yarn: Cascade 220 in Natural for the body; Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks that Rock Lightweight in Thraven for the shoes, and a bit of some alpaca blend for the hair.
Needles: Size US4 bamboo DPNs for the body, size US1 bamboo DPNs for the shoes

I made her a little skeleton of chenille stems (what we used to call “pipe cleaners” when I was a kid) so the arms and legs are poseable and attach to a spine that keeps the head from just flopping over. Her skirt is made of wide wired Christmas ribbon that I folded in half before bending it into the pleats. It’s sewn in place, right onto the body. The shirt is made of white felt, cut and sewn on. I made the hair by looping a length of yarn around and around a little toy beeper (it was the right size), sewing through the middle, and cutting the loops on either side, then sewing it to the top of the head. Finally, I embroidered the face.

The knitting itself was super quick. The clothing was a little trickier. I would have liked to give her some knee socks, but couldn’t quite get them scaled right.

When I handed it to her, she said, “It’s a little me!” The best reaction I could have asked for, really.

Lil Miss also really liked the doll, so I’m going to have to knit up a mini-Lil-Miss for her.

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Picture Book Picks: Knitter Appreciation

What knitter hasn’t had the sad experience of working for hours on a gift item, only to discover that the recipient doesn’t like it, never wears it, or hid or gave it away? I like to call it UGGS: Unappreciated Gift Giver Syndrome, and I still avoid it by mostly knitting just for me. But UGGS also rears its ugly head in fiction, so here are three picture books about knitters looking for a little appreciation. As an added bonus, they all happen to be animals.

Annie Hoot and the Knitting Extravaganza by Holly Clifton-Brown.

Published in the UK and Australia before hitting the States, this book stars a sweet if slightly dim owl who loves to knit. Unfortunately, her strigine friends refuse to wear the brightly colored clothes she creates. So, she travels around the world (in various partially-knitted forms of transport) in search of some happy knitwear recipients. She tries the rain forest, the African plains, and the Arctic before getting a bit homesick (and running out of yarn). When she gets back home, she discovers that the other owls have come to appreciate her and her gifts. The storytelling is a little clunky, but the watercolor illustrations are adorable, even if it does look like Annie is knitting with two very large iron nails in a rather peculiar style. (It’s probably very hard to knit with wings.) I take issue with the depiction of penguins frolicking with polar bears up in the Arctic – it’s a pet peeve of mine – but they’re so darn cute!

Derek the Knitting Dinosaur, by Mary Blackwood, illustrated by Kerry Argent

In this rhymed-text import from Australia, Derek is a little green dinosaur with a problem. His brothers, Fang and Fearless,  are big, fierce, scary dinosaurs who roar and stomp and fight while Derek just likes to sit inside, knitting and chatting with his friend Montmorency (a cute but quite toothy spotted mouse). Fang and Fearless aren’t all that bothered by Derek’s homebody ways, but he seems to worry that he should be more like them. When the weather suddenly turns colder, Derek’s brothers come to him for the one thing they can’t scare up: some warm clothes. The book closes with Fang and Montmorency agreeing what a good thing it is that “dear little Derek / would rather just sit, / and go / knittety / knittety / knittety / knit!” And Derek himself seems to be pleased enough to have finally found his place. Blackwood conveys an important message about appreciation of differences without being didactic, and Argent’s illustrations are charming. They also add some additional humor; there’s just something about the knitted underpants that makes me giggle.

Knitty Kitty, by David Elliott, illustrated by Christopher Denise.

“Clickety-click. / Tickety-tick.” A grandmotherly cat, complete with half-glasses perched on her nose and a cozy red shawl, sits in an armchair by the fire, knitting up a hat, a scarf, and mittens for three little kittens to wear while playing outside. They’re warm and cozy during the day, but having dressed their snowman in the knitwear, they find themselves chilly and uncomfortable in their sleeping basket at bedtime. Knitty Kitty, of course, has a solution; she curls up along with them in the basket. Denise’s acrylic and ink-on-paper illustrations depict a quaint little country cottage. While Knitty Kitty herself is very human-like, the kittens definitely act like kittens. They pounce on tails, wrestle with the mittens, and poke curiously at a stray ball of yarn. It’s easy to feel the energy of the three little kittens contrasted with the cozy room. A lovely twist on the Three Little Kittens nursery rhyme, this would be a good choice for a bedtime story.

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