Seeing improvement

I noticed something during my whirlwind Christmas weaving frenzy that really brought home how quickly spinning can improve in a short period of time. Take a look at these two scarves.

Notice anything about them that strikes you, from a spinning perspective?

Let me clarify a bit. Both scarves are woven from SW merino handspun - the first is from fiber that I dyed at Yarn School in 2008, so about a year and a half after I started spinning. I spun it up in December of 2008, and ended up with 185 yds/4 oz of 14 wpi 2-ply yarn (approximately fingering weight). As I said in that post, this is some seriously dense yarn (740 ypp). I also made the comment that I was much happier with this SW spinning experience, as it was a lot less overspun then my previous attempt at a superwash fiber.

The second scarf is also woven from SW merino, this batch from Hello Yarn in the colorway "Peat" (March 2009 Fiber Club). This arrived right before we packed everything up to move to the UK, and might have been the first yarn I spun after we moved. I ended up with 200 yds/4 oz, about 12 wpi, a true 3-ply, coming in at 800 ypp. I loved this yarn so much I hoarded it away until the perfect pattern came along. Strangely enough, the perfect pattern was no pattern at all - just simple warp faced weaving with some brown sock yarn for weft.

After I washed the two scarves and let them dry, I noticed some really striking differences in the feel of the fabric. Note: they were both woven at the same epi and same ppi. But the blue scarf is much stiffer and has a less consistent fabric surface then the brown scarf (which I think you can see in the above pictures). Here's a few more to emphasize:

It's really obvious if you look at the fringe.

Although I may have felt (with my vast experience of 1.5 yrs spinning time) that the Yarn School SW Merino was an improvement in terms of overspinning, it's clear that another 6 months of spinning (and a sweater lot in the middle there) made a huge difference in the quality of the yarn I was making. The brown yarn was much more flexible and pliable, and the resulting fabric was super cozy. The blue yarn ended up making a fabric that, while still lovely, was quite a bit stiffer and crunchier.

Suffice to say that it was desperately hard to let the Peat Scarf go off to it's new home, but it's one of the few times I've finished something and thought: this has to go to Person X. I hope he appreciates it!!! I know the other recipient appreciates his...

It's always darkest right before the dawn

Last year I finished the last of my Christmas gift knitting at about 1:00 am on Christmas Day (since I hadn't been to bed yet, it still counted as Christmas Eve in my world). This year, I'm doing a bit better.

That's the last of my Christmas gift knitting - a Copenhagen Hat for Himself, with ribbing instead of an i-cord edging. I'd forgotten how much I like knitting this pattern, and I think that since I am apparently sending off New Year's gifts instead of Christmas gifts, I may slip one in for the Wee Nephew as well.

Happy Christmas to all of you, from this warm and wet corner of the United Kingdom. May you receive the perfect yarn, the warmest wool, and many merry Yuletide moments at the end of this year. See you in 2014!

Wheel surgery

A few weeks ago I made a wee list of Holiday Crafting Goals (TM). I got everything set up to whip through my Christmas gifts in record time, got a few done, and promptly turned around a began spinning up a sweater lot of Hello Yarn fiber (Dark and Stormy Shetland, so glorious!). Predictably enough, the Holiday Gift Gods saw my hubris, and decided that it was time to give me a swift kick in the ass, because there I was, happily treadling along, when suddenly, I wasn't...
Wheel surgery
I don't know if you can see so well in that photo, but my footman and my treadle are no longer connected,
Wheel surgery (1)
which means no more spinning!

I'll admit, a few tears were shed. And then a bit of money was spent on replacement parts from the lovely Morgaine at Carolina Homespun. After some back and forth about where to ship the parts, they were sent out, and arrived here in London yesterday*.
Wheel surgery (4)
So this evening, feeling flush about having finished the overseas Christmas New Year's presents yesterday, I took the wheel into Himself's lair for some surgery.

Taking out the first bit of the broken connector was straightforward, involving one screw driver. Then things got a bit more complicated: the second end of the connector is held in place by a screw with a square hole in it.
Wheel surgery (7)
No problem, thought I, and I pulled out the drawer of small wrenches for all sorts of things.
Wheel surgery (8)
Apparently I need to rename this "The Drawer of Small Wrenches for All Sorts of Things that Need Hexagonal Wrenches".

No problem, I thought again, I live with a man who has more hand tools then I have skeins of yarn (no joke!). Surely there is something in this garage that will work. Some pawing through another few drawers and, ta da!
Wheel surgery (9)
A square headed screw driver type-thingie! That is too big...le sigh.

Ok, I needed to bust out the big guns - time for the power tools:
Wheel surgery (10)
Not one, but two square drivers. One the same size as the above screw driver, and one bigger. Bugger.

Now I am trapped at the point of having a half-way repaired wheel, with a spinning lesson tomorrow morning at 10:30 am, and no way to unscrew this damned teensy screw. The Holiday Crafting Gods are not to be messed with people, not to be messed with...

So I'm going to go drown my sorrows in Peter Pan pantomime (with The Fonz!!!), and see if I can't puzzle this out later. Or maybe just get Himself to do it - I'm sure he can come up with something, right?

* It should be noted that Morgaine sent them out immediately, the delay came from the fact that they went to Houston, then to Himself's office mailroom, and then to Himself (and, by extension, me).


I have a hard time getting started with weaving. I think of it kind of the same way I think of going out to ride my bike: the initial activation energy is much higher (getting on the gear, pumping up the tires, etc, etc) so I'm much more likely to through on my running shoes and head out for a run. Weaving is on the same order of effort: there's getting the loom out, finding the right heddle, figuring out yardages and lengths. Then there's warping (OMG warping), which always seems like such a HUUUUUGE deal, that it's easier to do something else more accessible.

Of course, once it's set up, weaving is way faster then knitting or crochet. And I think I've figured out a solution to the activation energy problem: as soon as I finish one project,

I need to warp for the next one.

Finished: washcloths (that is, the weaving is finished), warped: table runner. As a complete aside, I adore hemstitching...

This brings the status of the holiday list to:
one table runner - warped, to be woven tonight/tomorrow
three washcloths - DONE
set of dish towels (3) 
four scarves - one of which is next up

2 scarves - 1 done, one may be woven instead
1 cowl - have yarn, will cast on and start today

one pair of adult socks - cast on, on leg of sock #1
one adult hat
four child hats
one child mittens - now fingerless mitts instead
one child fingerless mitts
two baby sweaters -- DONE

The number projects that have to be done in the next two weeks so they can be shipped to the States?

5/11, with 5 woven remaining (including already warped table runner), and one crocheted. Totally. Doable. 

One down, 4,592 to go

Et voila!
Ravensprings Scarf
This post could also be titled: Reason #1 to worship crochet and the ground it walks on - it's freakin' fast!

I purchased 2 balls of Noro Obi on Monday, cast on a loooooong crochet chain Monday night, was done with ball 1 on Tuesday, and ball 2 on Wednesday. Easy peasy lemon squeezy,  as my children would say.
Ravensprings Scarf (5)
Ravensprings Cowl
Pattern: inspired by Ruth's Ravensprings Cowl (also pictured, and also done in Noro Obi, from the RK Retreat)
Hook: US L/8.0 mm
Gauge: 2.5 hdc wide x 2 hdc tall = 1"
Comments: I took Ruth's simple but perfect-for-Noro pattern of casting on and working hdc until you run out of yarn, but did it on a much longer scale, and worked back and forth instead of in the round. I have no idea how many were in my base chain - I basically kept chaining until it wrapped twice around my neck and hung down an appropriate amount.
Ravensprings Scarf (2)
I originally intended this for my Dad, but Noro is tricky (hello surprise purple! And gold!), and it ended up being not as neutral as he would be comfortable with. Not to worry - there are a number of people on my list who this would be suitable for, so that's one more item done. Hooray!

Next up tonight: warping the loom. For something!