Happy Porpoise Spin-Along

This is an example of how Twitter is either the greatest community builder of all time or a path to a lovely tropical hot spot paved with good intentions...spinner be warned!

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Jacqui Tweeted about her new book, and about how excited she was to spin in all sorts of new and exciting ways. Her Tweet reminded me about my excitement when I got the same book, and how I'd meant to spin my way through the entire thing. One Tweet led to another, which led to emails back and forth, which has now led to:

Button courtesy of J's brilliant children

The Happy Porpoise SAL, in which we work our way through the brilliant Sarah Anderson's "The Spinner's Book of Yarn Design", thereby expanding our spinning skills, and broadening our handspun horizons.

Everyone is welcome to join us in this quest: we're running it out of my Ravelry group, the Porpoise Pod for ease of having everyone in one place, so grab whatever is in your stash and come play with us! 

We'll be going chapter by chapter, and starting the frenzy tomorrow (April Fool's Day seems like a reasonable beginning date, no?) with Chapter 2: Singles for plying. One of us will start a thread tomorrow morning in the group, and we'll be off and running! I, for one, will be running to catch up, because I'm pretty sure Jacqui hasn't been able to restrain herself...

Hope to have you all join us in our spinning adventure!

The cure for grumpy pants

I've been in a crappy mood all week. Grouchy, out of sorts, irritated by everyone and everything around. I'm not sure what's going on, but I'm pretty much ready to be done with it...

I think I've found a solution to my mood, though, and it involves wool (big surprise, right?) Lots and lots of wool.
Hello Yarn Fiber Club Shetland, colorway "Dark and Stormy", June 2013 offering
Spun singles on Lendrum, 15:1 ratio
Plied (3-plied) on miniSpinner

WPI: 8-10, so somewhere around aran/worsted weight.
Grist: still needs to finish drying, so check back later
Yardage: 1100 yds total.

This comes out at heavy worsted weight according to wpi, but it feels bulkier to me. I pulled out all the fiber I had and tore each length in half, and then each piece into fourths and mixed them all up randomly before spinning. I spun the singles woolen, using a long backwards draw, to get fluffy, airy singles. The yarn is super light and cozy - I can't wait to knit it up! I'm thinking this is going to be a sweater with deep ribbing at the hem and cuffs, a loose fit and cables around a turtleneck or cowl. Kind of like this sweater that Allison pointed out to me this week, only my own design because I don't have the pattern.

So my cure for the grumpies is Shetland wool. At least this week - next week it will probably be merino and silk...

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...

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).

SWG Recap, in brief

This past Friday I hopped in a car and drove with Alli and Karen to Peddington Manor near Berkeley, for The Small Wool Gathering, an event that grew out of the cancellation of this autumn's Plug-and-Play Pembrokeshire retreat.

I picked the girls up just before lunch and we headed westward, with stops at Avebury,
and a lovely shop in Bath, called (appropriately enough) Wool.
Finally we arrived at the SWG, to be greeted by handknit washclothes and big fluffy beds,
not to mention divine food in copious amounts.
Saturday morning, after a much-longer-then-planned-or-anticipated run (10K does not equal 5K in any universe),
I sat down to Amy's latest sock class - Autopilot Socks (pattern here).
Yarn and fancy Alice in Wonderland stitch markers from Inked Yarn on Etsy, one of the fabulous GLYC sponsors

I've knit a lot of socks, in a lot of different ways, and I think I have a new favorite go-to pattern. This is a toe-up recipe that you knit to your own specific measurements (determined mostly by trying the socks on as you go) and uses a new-to-me short row technique that I love. On Sunday afternoon, I cast on for a pair in handspun worsted weight (more on those later).

Saturday afternoon we had a class on photographing your knitting, aka digital cameras for non-photographers who use macro all the time. Part of the class was lecture, part was practical, which had us wandering around the grounds of the Manor draping knitwear over walls, fences, plants, horses, and (in my case) recycling bins.
Then there was more glorious food and hanging about with yarn. By the end of the evening on Saturday I had a sleeve and a half done on my sweater project:
Sunday morning was spinning, more specifically spinning silk. Aka: porpoise's spinning kryptonite. We learned all about where silk comes from and how it is commercially farmed in China. Then we got to dive into some silk hankies. I've played a bit with hankies before, but this is the first time I've ever gotten real live yarn out of them.
There was also some gorgeous tussah silk top from Sweet Georgia in the goody bags, which is going to be next up.

Sunday afternoon was all about the hanging around and knitting/spinning/napping. We had grand plans to go for a walk with Jacqui (who lives nearby), but come time it was pissing down rain and we all just hung around instead. I cast on a sock, and by the end of Sunday, this is what I had completed:
Sweater for Mom, spindleful of silk hankies spun up, 4 oz of Hello Yarn Finn spun up, and most of a sock. I finished the sock yesterday and am most of the way through sock two, thanks to an after school Year 4 music concert and hanging about watching Harry Potter movies with Boo, who was home sick. Sadly most of my good pictures are on my real camera, which is somewhere in Basingstoke with my spinning wheel, and I had to abandon it to Catherine's mercy when we needed to fit a fourth person in the car on the way home. Plans are afoot to sneak down her way and retrieve it soon.

All in all, it was a fantastic weekend, with a chance to catch up with a number of P3 almunae, meet some new folks who were brave enough to join us, great classes from Amy, and wonderful catering/organization from Catherine and Jenny. Thanks so much to all of you - I had a blast!