Wha’happ’nd?

You know, I’d love to apologize, but frankly I’ve had entirely too much fun to even attempt to be sorry for it.

Yes, I’ve been gone for a little while… ok, a long while. I haven’t been sick, nor—to my knowledge—have I been dead. I’ve been busy. And I mean busy.

Actually, I started a post just after Easter that never made it past the cutting room floor because I got busy with other stuff, but I just had to go back and share the photo that Rob found.

Ruby L. Hunter and her fabulous hat

Atlanta Journal-Constitution
"Festive hats lend color to Easter"
Stirgus, Eric. 21-Apr-2003.

This, friends and fiber freaks, is Ms. Ruby L. Hunter pictured on the patio of Mary Mac’s on Ponce de Leon Avenue in Atlanta on Easter morning. She appeared in Easter Sunday’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and all I could think of is that she and her awesome headdress are two of the myriad things that I miss about Atlanta. God knows it ain’t always the best place in the world to live, but there’s fun and color and diversity and adventure everywhere. The weather in the MidWest can be very, very pleasant, but sometimes I could seriously deal with a little more flavor.

So while I may not get that particular post out to you, please join me in a ringing chorus of, "you go, Miss Ruby!."

ThreadBear is doing gangbusters business, folks, and frankly, I’ve had little time to breathe much less blog. But I’ve decided that I’m instituting a new policy. I blog at least three times a week regardless of the falling sky. If it doesn’t crush me, I’ll keep typing.

Oh, before I forget, my apologies (ah, I knew there was at least one in there somewhere) to LocQueen for whatever I’ve forgotten. I’m sure she’ll let me know. And my apologies to QueerJoe. I really do want to work on the color block colorway, but my personal projects are put on hold right now until I can get caught up with business projects. Expect to hear from me regarding the colorway toward the beginning of next week if that isn’t too late. Again, I’m sure you’ll let me know.

As for everyone else, OH MY GOD! YOU PEOPLE LOVE TO KNIT!! That’s so cool!! I LOVE all of the color ideas you’re throwing at me, and I’m having the time of my life working with all of you on your color ideas for your projects.

We got in quite a bit of Koigu and Noro about a week ago… actually a little over a week, now, and people have been going crazy with wonderful ideas for projects. Personally, I did have to start a Koigu "Charlotte’s Web" shawl to work on during our group visits around central Indiana and classes/functions here at the house. It’s gorgeous, if you haven’t heard of it. It’s a somewhat lacy shawl knit in five different colorways of KPPPM. Here are the five skeins that I chose:

I’ve never knit lace before, and while it really isn’t terribly lacy, it is one of those patterns that can’t be ripped when you have a mistake. You have to unknit each stitch. Given that I’ve also never knit from a chart (other than color knitting), I’ve been doing a lot on tinking (unknitting, get it. knit spelled backward… yuk-yuk-yuk… <sigh> yeah, I know. I’m a dork.).

Anyway, this is also my oh-my-god-when-is-the-Ashford-order-going-through-so-I-can-get-my-wheel-and-start-spinning-for-real project. I’ve ordered an Ashford Double Drive Traditional and a jumbo flyer unit. The wheel comes with four bobbins, so I’ll get a few more of those and a precision lazy kate because I’m very interested in playing with plying. You’ll see what I’m talking about when we get there, but I promise, it won’t be boring.

A few other local spinners and we are going in together on a drum carder. I’m particularly interested in this purchase, because since Fleece Fair that I blogged recently, I’ve been dying to get back into dyeing. I’m especially interested in dyeing roving in solid or nearly solid colors then carding different colors together into a multi-colored top. (Hmm… Is that the correct terminology? Help me out here, experienced spinners.)

Anyway, the groundhog (that’s me) has come out of his burrow (that’s my office) and not only has he not seen his shadow, he won’t be going back into the burrow to stay. I’m awake. I’m out. And like it or not, I’m not going anywhere!

Never Say Never Again… and Again…

Hi. My name is Matt, and I’m a fiberholic.

Anyone out there who’s addicted to anything and finds that offensive, I’m terribly sorry. No offense was intended. But you do have some idea of what to look for, so you tell me… am I addicted?

I always said, "I don’t have time for spinning," and "who on earth would bother spinning yarn when it’s so much fun to knit it?" A dear friend even went so far as bringing over a drop spindle and a bag of fleece. It hung in the closet for at least six months.

Then, another friend started a local get-together for spinners. Now, there have always been venues for spinning, and as I said, I have very good friends who are spinners. But because this particular group was started by a friend, Rob and our friend Helen (not of High Helen infamy) decided to offer their support and went to the first meeting. They came back with a glaze over their eyes that I haven’t seen since college. They had that geeked look, but I remained steadfast.

Then Patsy, the friend who’d been so kind as to lend me a drop spindle that remained sadly unused for so long, invited Rob and Helen, April (remind me to tell you about April later), and me over for dinner and some spinning. I packed up my knitting, and went along for food and moral support.

Then they put me in front of a wheel.

Now, I really should have known. I’ve always had what some people refer to as an addictive personality. As a teen, I did it with alcohol (though by the grace of God, I managed not to develop alcoholism). In my late teens/early twenties, I did it with um… shall we say physical affection? Ahem… <blush> Not long after, I did it with um… herbal remedies. <wink> When I find something I like, I tend to go whole hog. A few years ago, I found knitting again (real knitting this time, not the hack stuff I did as a kid), and a few weeks ago, I found spinning.

Where’s the hook and line? I know I’m the sinker.

Drop Spindle and spun Irish Fog Wool/Silk

And did Rob help? Oh, no. Rob is, as many of you already know, The Great Enabler. My birthday last week? (Thanks for all the birthday wishes, by the way) Rob called Brown Sheep and purchased ten pounds of Beast roving. I’ll definitely need a wheel to spin it, but he’s already called Ashford and Schact, and we have orders pending. <single tear> God love him. <wink>

lol… Ok. Enough of the drama. I love it. It’s so not a problem. Is there enough time for it? BWA-HYEE-HYEE!! You’re kidding, right? Hell, no, there’s not enough time for it, but I’m doing it, anyway, and I can’t tell you when I’ve been so excited. (Yes, Joe, I’m still working on the colorway, too, but this is fiber. I’m sure you understand.)

So here goes.

First Blood: Patsy's roving

This is first blood. This was the roving that Patsy brought over sometime after the Jurassic Period. I let it sit forever, then spun every inch of it over the course of about fifteen hours on the drop spindle pictured above. I got up the next day and plied it (two-ply) on the same spindle.

My understanding is that the lumpiness is typical of beginners’ spinning. Eh… I enjoyed doing it, and I’ll always be able to look back and say, “look at this.” Beyond that, it’s mostly my grateful tribute to Patsy and her quiet patience in my stubborn unwillingness to try to do something that I now find both fascinating and fulfilling. Thanks, Patsy

Helen's Pink, White, and Blue Bump

When Helen stopped laughing at me, she gave me a bump (a ball of roving—I’m not sure if there’s more specific meaning, but I’m sure I’ll learn) of a pink, white, and blue space-dyed roving. That took me about a week of spinning a little less manically, but it’s plied the same way.

If you’ve paid attention to the calendar at ThreadBear, this past weekend was Fleece Fair in Greencastle, Indiana. I busted Putnam County Fairgrounds wide open. If I’d been rich… or even moderately wealthy, I could have cleaned them out, but as it is, I came home with several buttons, sixteen bear fetish beads for stitch markers, and three more bumps of dyed and carded roving. The difference here being that space-dyed roving looks like Lorna’s Laces hand-dyes… or Noro. Dyed and carded rovings look more like Cascade Quatros where you have colors side-by-side along the strand instead of in blocks of color across the strand.

Wool/Silk Irish Fog

This was the big surprise of the day. I bought all three bumps from a single vendor, and I really didn’t pay attention to the fiber content until I got home and was ready to spin. While the other two bumps are all wool, this one—called Irish Fog—is 85% wool and 15% silk. It’s incredible to spin, and because of the strength of the silk, it’s very easy to spin very, very fine. This is what’s on the drop spindle above.

Seafoam Bump, 100% Coopworth wool

This is 100% Coopworth wool in Seafoam. I haven’t spun any of this yet, but the sample yarn that the vendor had of this roving was beautiful. I’m waiting for the wheel for this stuff. I’ve never heard of Coopworth wool before, but all of the wool that I saw at this vendor’s booth was of this breed. If the Irish Fog is any indication of how nice this will be, I’ll definitely enjoy spinning it.

Autumn Oak Bump, 100% Coopworth wool

Called Autumn Oak, this is also 100% Coopworth wool. I love the woody tones and the little pop of pale green. As Rob would say, this is very typically my palette. Any of you who have worked with me on color know that I do prefer rich tones, and rich earthy tones are particularly easy for me to work with. What most disturbs me, though, is that Rob has also decided that I need a fall of this one. The brown’s a little light for me, but the reddish tones work, I guess. The green? Let’s hope not. Denise? Please, tell him this is not to go on my head.

So there. That’s where I’ve been. And now it’s tax day and ad day on the socklist and that means I’ve got updates to complete at ThreadBear. Wish me luck, folks. Love you much!

Playing Catsup… or Ketchup… or Horseradish?

<whew> Does anyone know what you get when you cross a yarn shop owner with a web developer? One seriously behind but terribly happy queer boy in Indiana, that’s what.

Last week, I promised to explain my technique for repairing C’s sweater. I’m almost ashamed to admit how easy it was.

First of all, let’s clarify what I was fixing. Sade was excited, but her results were more cosmetic than structural. There were two very significantly pulled stitches (probably about four to six inches of yarn on each), several smaller pulls, but thankfully no actual breaks.

Second, let’s discuss my tools. First and foremost, I needed light—lots and lots of light. While I don’t yet own an Ottlite, our living room overhead light has four or five bulbs, so I sat on the sofa most directly under the light. Keep in mind that I was working on a dark charcoal sweater, so it was going to be very difficult to see what needed to be fixed if I didn’t have enough light. Beyond light, I had only two other tools: a small knitting needle and a heaping helping of patience. The needle is optional (I could have used a crochet hook, a cable needle, a darning needle, or my fingers if I’d wanted to work that hard), but the patience is critical. This kind of work is best taken slowly and methodically. Fast and furious is what messed things up in the first place.

Finally, my techique was this. I went to the largest problem first. In this case, that was this pick. If you look closely, you should be able to see how embedded the yarn is in the fabric where it has been pulled so tight. That’s what we’re trying to fix.

I divided the loose, picked yarn roughly in half, and because I wanted to work in the right side first, I held the left half of the loose yarn tightly down on the left side of the pick. The purpose of that was to keep that left-side yarn available to work in to the left when I had finished with the right.

With the needle, I then pulled all of the remaining slack into the stitch to the right and immediately adjacent to the pick, basically moving the pulled yarn over a single stitch. I only pulled as tight as was necessary to make the yarn as snug as it would be in the normal fabric of the sweater.

Then, I moved right one more stitch and pulled all of the slack into that stitch. Again, I was careful that all of the stitches to the left of where I was working were only as tight as the stitches in the rest of the sweater. After all, that’s what I was working toward: getting all of the stitches back to the same tension.

As I continued to move to the right, I continued to pull all of the slack from the previous stitch into the stitch that I was working on. Each time, there was a tiny bit less slack as the yarn was taken up in getting the worked stitches back to their normal tension (or gauge). Finally, I got to a point where there was no longer any slack, and the fabric to the right of the original pick looked normal.

Then, I went back to the pick, held the right side of the stitch, and started working in the slack to the left one stitch at a time.

When the largest pick had disappeared back into flat, uniform fabric, I went to the largest of the remaining picks. In this way, the bulk of the work was done up-front, and it actually got quicker as I went along. All told, I spent maybe ninety minutes fixing a problem that would have taken days to reknit.

There are a couple of things that made this much easier, though. First of all, the sweater was made from a very nice processed commercial fiber. I’m assuming that it’s all wool, but I’d be willing to swear that if it is anything other than 100% wool, it’s all protein fiber. My point is this. Even months later, the picked yarn had held the shape of the stitches somewhat, and I was able—to some degree—to simply snug the stitches back into place on the yarn exactly where they’d come from. Synthetic fibers hold their shape less, and natural cellulosic fibers tend to relax very quickly (wool’s tendency to hold its shape is often referred to as its memory, and you see the same behavior in your own hair when you blowdry or style it; cotton doesn’t behave that way). The fact that the yarn was commercially processed also meant that it was relatively smooth, consistent in weight or girth, and therefore easy to draw back through the fabric without significant tugging and strain on the yarn or the rest of the fabric.

Second, as I mentioned, there were not actually breaks. If there had been breaks, I’d have had to somehow patch the gaps, and that can involve color matching for another yarn (if the original yarn is unavailable), how to incorporate the new fiber (do you tie it somehow? knot it? felt it to the old fiber?), and other quandaries that I’m probably not thinking of because, thankfully, I didn’t have to.

Finally, I’m just built this way. For me, a problem like the one in C’s sweater is like a puzzle. I can’t put it down, and I’ll work on it for hours on end without significant discomfort or impatience. It’s an interesting riddle in fiber, and it actually keeps me entertained. Of course, it didn’t hurt that I was also sitting in front of the television with Wanda Sykes "actin’ a fool" (love her, but the jury’s still out on Wanda at Large). If you find this kind of problem fascinating, then have at it. If you get frustrated with the deliberate slowness of water filling a glass from the faucet, let someone else fix your sweater; you’ll be happy you did.