Lab Goddess Fibre Club March 2016

Cortus on Wensleydale

Cortus on Wensleydale

The March club colourway was inspired by Virginia Apgar, an obstetrical anaesthesiologist who pioneered the testing of a newborn's transition from life inside the womb to life outside after birth. In addition to developing the ubiquitous Apgar Test, she was also the vice president and Director of basic research for the March of Dimes, and a strong advocate for vaccination in the fight against mother-to-child transmission of German Measles (Rubella), which was pandemic in the United States at the time.

The name of the colourway comes from the Latin word for birth, breaking out or originating. Given that March is the month in which my eldest daughter was born, this seemed like an apt name! The colours come from obstetrics - greens for the surgical scrubs worn by doctors and nurses in the delivery room, and for the tiles that are everpresent in hospitals, with a bit of mauve and dark blood red for contrast.

I've been away for the Easter holidays for the last week or so, and I took along my Cortus and a spindle to get a bit of work done on it. And I was struck, once again, but how much I like spinning Wensleydale. This fibre is certainly the polar opposite of last month's Corriedale: from a very straightforward easy-to-spin medium fibre, we've gone straight into longwool territory this month, and I'm finding it to be a lovely change! The Wensleydale is much more slippery to spin then a lot of other wools that we've used in the club, due to its lack of crimp, but the shine and lustre of the singles are amazing. I think I'm going to keep this one as a singles yarn, both to emphasise the drape of the yarn and to keep the colours from getting too muddied. Which means it's going to have to become some kind of lacey something to keep from biasing...anyone have any suggestions?

There is still some space left in the second quarter of the 2016 LGFC, if you'd like to join in the fun. Club membership gets you three monthly shipments of 4 oz/113 g of an exclusive colourway inspired by a female scientist, and also includes a brochure with information about the scientist, the development of the colourway and the fibre base. We'd love to have you join us!

Lab Goddess Fibre Club November 2015

This month's colourway comes from a suitably seasonal inspiration (at least it's seasonal this week if you celebrate American Thanksgiving). Behold, the lovely colours of maize:

What does this have to do with Lab Goddesses? Well, I'm glad you asked, because this month's highlighted scientist is modern, a woman who, even though she lived a century after Marie Curie, experienced many similar challenges in her scientific life. I remember when she won her Nobel Prize (I was 11), and the fact that my own scientific exploits have led me to use techniques that directly grew out her groundbreaking research makes this month's scientist even more special to me personally. I'm looking forward to spinning up my November fibre for some super sturdy, warm socks to brighten up cold winter days.

Barbara McClintock (1902-1992)

Barbara McClintock (1902-1992)

Mutable Loci on Cheviot

Mutable Loci on Cheviot

From the Fibre Club insert:

Barbara McClintock was the third of four children born to Thomas and Sara McClintock. She was a very independent and solitary child, but knew her own mind – her original first name was Eleanor, which she rejected at an early age as being too feminine and delicate. She grew up in Brooklyn, NY and had a love of science starting in high school.

In 1919, she went to Cornell University’s College of Agriculture over the objections of her mother, who feared that a college education would make her “unmarriageable”*. Her interest in genetics began in 1921, and a year later she was invited to participate in a graduate genetics course at Cornell by C. B. Hutchison, an early plant geneticist. She credits Hutchison as the reason she continued in genetics.

McClintock received an MA and PhD in botany, and her research focused on cytogenetics in maize, the structure and function of corn chromosomes, the coiled structures in the cell nucleus containing DNA. She developed a technique for staining chromosomes that enabled scientists to see chromosome shape for the first time. By studying chromosome shape, Dr. McClintock was able to link inherited traits to specific chromosomes. In 1930, McClintock was the first person to describe a specific chromosomal shape seen during meiosis, the process that generates reproductive cells like sperm and eggs. Together with Dr. Harriet Creighton, she found that recombination of chromosomes, the swapping of DNA between two chromosomes, was correlated with the appearance of new traits in the resultant offspring plant.

In 1941, after five years at the University of Missouri, Dr, McClintock went to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, where she remained for the rest of her career. There she began to analyse the mechanism of mosaic colour patterns of maize seed, and their unstable inheritance. This led to the discovery in 1948 of transposons, mobile genetic elements that are regulated by a mechanism that allows for cells with identical genomes to have different functions. This research was initially met with puzzlement and hostility, and unfortunately, she stopped publishing her research on transposons in 1953 due to fears of alienating the scientific mainstream.

Although she officially retired in 1967, Dr. McClintock continued to pursue research at Cold Spring Harbor. Although a French group discovered similar genetic controlling elements in the early 1960s, Dr. McClintock’s pioneering work was not acknowledged until the early 1970s, when she was widely credited with discovering transposition, and ultimately the discovery of genetic regulation.

Jumping genes in a nutshell

Jumping genes in a nutshell

Barbara McClintock was the third woman ever elected to the National Academy of Science, and was the first female president of the Genetics Society of America, both in 1944. In 1981, she was the first recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Grant, also known as the MacArthur Genius grant. She was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 1983, and was the first woman to win the prize unshared. Her work on “jumping genes” and genetic regulation paved the way for the incredible explosion of molecular biology and genetics in the 80s and 90s. She continued to work at Cold Spring Harbor after winning the Nobel Prize, and died of natural causes in 1992 at the age of 90. True to her mother’s fear, she never married.

* I'm realising as I continue to research future women scientists for these colourways that I am running into a number of similar issues regarding how to convey their work and why I've chosen them without descending into strident feminist outrage, and telling the same story ad nauseum. I hope you'll find these overview interesting and not off putting. Please let me know your thoughts.


I came home early this afternoon with a wicked bad cold, and was thrilled to find the November installment of the Hello Yarn Fiber Club on my doorstep. Meet Toxic:

Toxic superwash corriedale

8 oz of superwash Corriedale top. Can you say socks? I love the colors, and have great plans in mind for the 3-ply yarn I want to end up with. I signed up for the doubles option, so instead of getting 4 oz, I got 8 oz. I figure that should be enough for some serious socks. I can't wait to get started on it, but it will have to wait until I finish the Wild Raspberry Targhee that is currently on the bobbin.

There has also been some serious work on The List. I finished one entire Endpaper Mitt (sans thumb ribbing) and discovered that, while it fits me perfectly, it is a wee bit large for its intended recipient.

Endpaper Mitt, version 1.0

My gauge was only off by 0.5 stitches per inch, but over 56 stitches, it works out to 7.5 inches around instead of 7. My Fair Isle gauge is definitely looser then my non-stranded gauge.

Endpaper Mitt, version 1.0

I loved the pattern, and it went incredibly quickly. I went down a needle size on both the ribbing and mitt (from 0 and 2 down to 00 and 1), and the new version (not pictured) seems to be the right size. Hopefully those will be done by next week, but we'll see.

Progress is also being made on Mr. Redjeans, but the pictures wouldn't be terribly interesting, so I'll save it until the body ribbing is done.

FF: Baked Alaska

Baked Alaska

Fiber: Hello Yarn Fiber Club October 2007 fiber, Romney wool in Baked Alaska colorway

Spun on ST Lendrum at 10:1, plied at 7:1, 12-13 wpi

200+ yds, 5 oz

Baked Alaska

This was my first attempt at both spinning from the fold and spinning long draw. I didn't mean to try two new things at once - spinning from the fold was the goal, but once I started I was having so much fun letting the fibers flow off of my finger that I tried just pulling back with that hand and, lo and behold, I was spinning long draw (or sort of long draw. Maybe more like medium draw). And boy, is that a lot faster then inchworm drafting.

Baked Alaska

I split the top lengthwise in to two equal sections (by weight). One half I tore into 4-5 inch chunks, stuck them in a ziplock bag, and pulled them out randomly to spin the single. It took me about 1.5 hours to spin the first 2.5 oz (hardly any time at all, for me). The second half I also spun from the fold, but tore off pieces as I went down the length of the top, maintaining the color sequence as dyed.

Baked Alaska

I've become a big fan of rough finishing my handspun, aka soaking it in really hot water with a bit of agitation, so that any changes that are going to happen, happen before the yarn gets knit up into something. I also tend to overply, so this kind of finishing helps even out the yarn and get it closer to balanced once it's dried and ready to go.

Baked Alaska

Some very over-plied yarn before its bath

The spinning for this was fast and furious. It was all done (spun and plied at least) in three days, assisted immeasurably by the fact that I was home with sick kids for at least two of those days. It is pretty fuzzy around the edges, due to my attempts to spin "woolen". Now that it's done it's very pretty - I love the combination of the colors - but I'm not such a fan of the Romney wool. It just feels coarse to me. Maybe I'm spoiled from the merino I've been working with recently, but this feels too scratchy for me.

Baked Alaska

I'm thinking this one will go in to the stash to marinate for a bit. Maybe it will be a wee Christmas present for one of the few friends/relatives I have that knit. And now I may have to call a moratorium on spinning for a while until I get my list down to something more managable.

FF: Thistle Redux

The spinning has not been happening so much. When last it made a serious appearance in these pages, I had started spinning Adrian's June offering (nothing like attending to these things in a timely fashion, yes?) after a long time away from the wheel.

Thistle in progress

My plan was to spin up the entire 4 oz as one single and then chain ply it to keep long stretches of color. This fiber was just wonderful to spin - soft, easy to draft, flowed through my fingers so smoothly that before I knew it I had a full bobbin.


Once again, I was pleasantly surprised at the difference between the fiber as dyed top and the fiber as singles. I wasn't convinced by the colors as roving, but the combination as a single was just gorgeous.

About the time I filled this bobbin there was a thread on the Spin Tech group at Ravelry about chain plying. One general consensus was that de-energized singles were easier to chain ply then active singles. So I decided to let the bobbin sit for a few days so that the plying would be easier.

Ahem. A few days stretched into a week. And then another week. And finally Ironman went off to South America for a few days for work, and I was free to stay up too late watching the Jon Stewart show and Project Runway reruns and ply to my heart's content. Which I did. The first 2/3s of the bobbin were plied in one go that took about 4 hours*. This was my first "real" attempt to chain ply, and I used the plying head for my Lendrum and went very, very, very slowly. It took a little doing, but I eventually got comfortable with the motions. And the finished yarn is absolutely gorgeous!

Picture 522

This shot is truest to the colors on my monitor

I finished it by submerging in very hot water, agitating a bit as the water cooled. Then a dunk in cool water, a squeeze to get the extra water out, and hung to dry.

Picture 524

Fiber: 18 micron merino from Hello Yarn Fiber Club in Thistle colorway, June 2007

Spun at 10:1 on ST Lendrum folding, chain plied at 5:1.

Specs: 204 yds, 10-12 wpi, soft and cushy!


I've decided that I'm a big fan of the three ply yarn. It's just so round and bouncy. I can see why you'd want to do a two ply for lace projects, but for anything else, I think I'm going to go for the three ply.

I couldn't stand not knitting with this stuff, so after some searching on Ravelry for an appropriate project, I'm going for a mini-Clapotis scarf. I'd like to pretend that it will be a Christmas present, but who am I kidding?

Thistle Clapotis
Thistle Clapotis

After one bus ride home (~1 hr) and a couple of hours in front of the TV last night, I'm well into the straight sections and flying along. Watching the colors come together is so entrancing that I even knit a few rows this morning as I waited to head out to meet my neighbor for a run. Usually I'm not much for scarves (neverending...), but this one looks to be a winner.

* Ow my aching right knee!