[Warning: Really long post with lots of pictures.]
I'm a year older. Friday was my [mumble-mumble]th birthday. Once upon a time, my birthday totally rocked my world. A friend and I, both born May 9, would celebrate with a major party and all our friends and theatre colleagues would join us. That was half a lifetime and half a country ago. These days things are much more subdued. My daughter loves making every little thing special, though. Friday morning, I woke up to a smattering of post-its with little love notes wallpapered all over my chair at the dining table and this:
We eat together as a family every morning, so the breakfast itself wasn't a surprise, but the pretty tissue-wrapped goodies and the use of J's special Microsoft sustainable world plate were. J's team of co-workers all went to a paint-your-own place to make their own dinnerware for use at lunch each day rather than consuming so much throw-away paper/plastic products. About a week after they all started using them, catering services nixed the practice as a violation of health code, so all the dinnerware got sent home with the employees. Oh the joys of our litigious culture.
Yes, that's a knitting project I'm working on just visible at the right of the picture. More about it later...
Here's just one of the special notes from The Girlio.
There were many, many more with many sweet-nothings she'd come up with without prompting from her dad, too, but that one killed me. She also made me a cute key chain in her jewelry making class at YMCA's Kids University.
Didn't she do a nice job? I'll either use it for my scooter keys or for the orifice hook on my spinning wheel.
After putting C on the school bus, I made coffee. Decaf iced soy latte. 7 ice cubes. I'm just not a hot-drink kind of gal. Give me iced drinks year-round!
That's the pretty LaPavoni espresso maker we got ourselves for Christmas last fall. It's copper and brass and about 20 years old. We upgraded from the Starbuck's Barista espresso machine, which I still need to sell. The LaPavoni was another great Craigslist find. Where would we be without it? I can't begin to tell you how much I love this espresso machine. It's so nice to put the art back in my morning coffee ritual!
Checked out Ravelry while I drank my latte and enjoyed the blooming cherry and apple trees in the back yard.
See that bag the coffee's sitting on? Yes, it's a cafe bag. Thursday evening on my way home from work, I popped by Diva Espresso for some no-bake cookies. My favorite! Figured I should have them on-hand just in case I decided to lay around all day for my birthday.
The cookies would be in the pictures, but I had already scarfed them down by the time I thought to grab the camera. See that?! I hadn't even made a dent in the latte before the no bakes were gone! I know, there are many more sophisticated bakery options out there. For some reason, it's the no bakes that drive me mad. I also know I could make them, and I have a great recipe perfected from many fine years' use. Problem there is that I also eat them... all... better to indulge only on more special occasions!
I promised myself a guilt-free day of knitting, spinning, napping, and no dissertation or work. Couldn't quite manage that last one, so I did do a little work. But I also spent some time spinning before I came up with a great idea for birthday fun in the afternoon! First, the spinning.
The roving came from Village Yarn & Tea more than a month ago.
It was on the clearance rack. The label only said "Topknot" and the price. The woman at the store said it was 100% wool but a mix of some kind, and they weren't sure what. I'd been saving this one and was really looking forward to working with it. The green seemed perfect for today's indulgence since the emerald is my birthstone.
I used the spinning wheel (now named Kingston—my wheel is male gendered) for this one. Turns out it wasn't the most pleasant wool to spin. I had some trouble getting consistency on the singles, so I decided this was the perfect time to try the Navajo plying technique, since I'd never done it for more than a couple dozen yards at a time.
Here's what I ended up with:
Two skeins, each is 67 yards. Total weight: 4 oz. The first skein has more twist than the second. I adjusted between the two when I realized I was over-twisting and figured out how to get more comfortable with this 3-ply technique.
I haven't checked wpi yet, but I'm betting it's worsted. Of course, I only spun half the singles on Friday afternoon, the other half and the plying happened later that night and the next morning.
As for the rest of my birthday afternoon, I picked up C from school and took her for an afternoon water battle on the bumper boats at Funtasia ("Where a kid can always be a kid"—and a mom can pretend she's still a kid!)!!!
We had a blast! C's wicked with the squirter but indignantly insists I got her more wet than she got me. My camera might beg to differ. On the way home, we swung by Village Yarn & Tea. I touched everything and spent a lot of time fondling spindles and roving. I really, reaaaaaallllyyyyyy wanted to get something, but I resisted.
That's right, I didn't buy any fibery goodness on my birthday.
Why? Remember... the spinning wheel was my birthday present, even though it came early. When you purchase off Craigslist, you look for a long time so there's no question and you can jump at the perfect deal when it comes along. My deal happened to come along a month ago. And I've gotten so many good things to go along with Kingston already, that I felt anything more right now would be irresponsible.
I know, I know. I can't believe I was so strong, either!
Fortunately, my mom (who's back at her house in Ohio for the summer, after spending 7 months in New Orleans with my sister) bailed me out. She sent a card with a birthday check and strict instructions to spend it on something for spinning.
Next day during C's 45-minute Irish Step Dance class, J and I went to Weaving Works for a spindle. All the local yarn stores carry spindles, but Weaving Works has the best selection and the most careful display. Of course, I had totally forgotten that it was their Mother's Day sale weekend, so the place was a madhouse. Everything on the shelves was 10% or more off. Call me crazy, but I resisted everything. I had set my sights on a spindle, and I stuck to my mission.
Imagine my disappointment when the only spindles out were the learner's variety! The specialty spindles had been put in the back room because they weren't part of the sale. Fortunately, one of the women took J and I back and waited patiently while I made my selection.
Although I really love all the gorgeous Cascade spindles I see around, for weeks I've been yearning for the Katherine's Cup or Damsel Monique by Greensleeves Spindles. Weaving Works had both in stock, but at the last minute, I made an unexpected switch to the new Ethan Jakob, a smaller, lighter version of the Damsel Monique but with a longer shaft.
The longer shaft length is what sold me. I spin fairly large cops, and I flick-spin off the bottom so I wanted to make sure the shaft was long enough so I'd have room for my fingertips.
The Ethan Jakob weighs 0.4 oz. It's crafted from redwood burl and purpleheart, with a mahogany shaft. It is gorgeous, and has an incredibly fast spin. Unfortunately, it doesn't have a very long spin. Bummer. I'm hoping I'll get used to it. I tried it out Saturday night on this pretty, multi-colored mystery fiber that I got from A New Yarn a few weeks ago (remember, A New Yarn is the non-profit that sells both new and donated stuff).
The roving's so silky. At first I thought it was mohair. It was pretty tricky to spin. The roving itself kept pulling apart. Very unusual experience for me. I started spinning around 9:30 at night. J and I had planned to watch The Kite Runner, but he was really tired and crashed out early.
Left to my own devices, I stayed up until 2:30am, by which time I'd spun the entire lot of roving into a fine thread. Reason did persuade me to resist plying it until morning, but I was at it again immediately after breakfast (a lovely, soaring German Dutch Baby made special for Mother's Day!). Before church, I had produced this:
See how pretty and fine it is? The way the colors plied, the pinks, lilacs, and silvers got plied together while the gold fell smack in the middle of the skein and plied back onto itself. I used the Andean hand wrap technique, which I really love. However, I can see the benefit of other techniques for greater control of the color combinations.
That's 83 yards, produced out of just shy of 1 oz of roving. Interestingly, when I took the yarn off the niddy noddy and skeined it up, it became readily apparent to me that this is not, mohair. In fact, it's probably not animal fiber but, rather, protein fiber. It smelled reedy when I was winding it on the niddy noddy — which I hadn't noticed at all during the spinning. And there's a certain stiffness to the finished yarn that I wasn't expecting in a yarn so fine. See how it kind of stands out on its own? I have to take this stuff to Weaving Works to compare with their fibers. Right now I'm thinking flax/linen. (Note, it hasn't been washed yet in the pictures.)
If any of you can tell from the pictures what this fiber might be, by all means please let me know!
After seeing how much yardage came off the Ethan Jakob with that last project, I decided it was time to ply some Merino/Silk (70/30) blue/multicolor I've been spinning off-and-on for the last few weeks on Fang, my Schecht Hi-Lo. The cop was at least half again as big as for the one above.
So after church and a trip to Trader Joe's, as the family sat down to watch The Water Horse, I started the Andean hand wrap. Seventy-five minutes into the movie, I finally finished wrapping it all onto my hand and started plying. No pictures of the massive bulk of thread on my hand, but I can tell you it took a couple hours to ply it all off.
Here's the yarn:
Believe it or not, that's 176 yards of gorgeous, squooooshy, silky, and [party time] consistent yarn out of just shy of 1.5 ounces of fiber! It's more blue than it looks in these pictures. I did the blue a disservice by trying so hard to show the other colors in it, as well. Here's what the roving looks like:
That's more than 10 ounces of this stuff! Yet another happy find from A New Yarn.
I didn't think I'd be saying this for a long time, but I'm going to be knitting socks from this handspun! I've still got about 9 oz of the roving left. Once I ply it up, I'll have more than enough for a pair of socks and then some. Definitely going into the mix for Summer of Socks 2008!
And lest you think I've been ignoring my knitting...
This is a stealth project, so I won't say what exactly it is since I don't know if my non-knitting friend (whose birthday is coming up) is reading this blog, but I will tell you that I'm totally psyched about the project because it uses twined knitting (aka Tvåändsstickning, which is Swedish for two-ended knitting).
See how the stitches sit on both sides of the circular? It's making a double-thick fabric with air between (no connections except the cast-on). This is two-fisted knitting so far, so I'm brushing up on my Continental style. (Yes, I'm a longtime thrower, not a picker.)
The part I've completed in these pictures is the "ribbing," which looks like the purl-side of stockinette stitch on both the front and the back. It's not garter stitch. here's a picture of the cast-on edge — it's invisible.
Definitely looks and functions like a hemmed edge. I'm totally going to use this technique for some sweater or mitten edges in the near future!
The project, which I'm not going to go into more detail about until I've gifted it, is a smaller one. The reason I'm so psyched about it is because it's also a stepping-stone project for me as far as technique goes. Twined knitting is a good introduction and practice run for my ultimate goal: extreme two-at-once knitting. After reading the Fall06 Knitty last fall, I knew I needed to learn how to knit two socks at once on DPNs. There are just too many socks that I'm interested in knitting but want to work on DPNs rather than magic loop [gasp!] but I'm worried about second-sock syndrome. I do so much better when they both come off the needles at once.
So there you have it. A massive report on my (mostly) guilt-free birthday and Mother's Day. Lots and lots of fiber fun. More than I ever expected. Much appreciation to my family for loving me through all of it!
And now, I'm waiting with baited breath for a reply to an email I sent responding to yet another Craigslist post. This time for a used drum carder. I've been looking and researching for awhile. This one's a respected model at a great price. I responded within minutes of the post going up. Oh please let me be first in line — the birthday may not be completely over!