Helluva Gal

Despite a tenuous start, the Bad Woman Wrap and I are getting along famously!

It seems I was a little more uptight than she preferred when I first cast-on, so after knitting about 8 inches I frogged her (sounds naughty!) and started over again. Second time around I found my loosey-goosey groove casting on over two needles, and she's been a happy gal ever since.

I even took her with me to the Northwest Folklife Festival on Memorial Day. No pictures to corroborate the occasion, but I introduced her (i.e. knit publicly while I listened) to Jim Page (topical and politically astute folksinger and raconteur who changed Seattle's street-performance laws in 1974 and is largely responsible for our robust busking culture) and Artis the Spoonman (if you're not a Seattlite, you know him as the subject of that Soundgarden song). Here's a sampling of what I saw at Folklife — the video's not mine, but it was shot by someone who might as well have been sitting in my spot! And for those interested, here's another recent video of them at the venue where I first encountered them 9 years ago, the sidewalk outside the Original Starbucks at Pike Place Market, where they still busk. You may not always agree with the politics, but you have to admire the spirit, tenacity, and talent!

Also at Folklife, I introduced the Bad Woman Wrap to Ockham's Razor, a young group of truly remarkable musicians playing hard-driving, foot-stompin', beer-drinkin', get-up-on-your-feet-dancing, punk-rockin' contemporary and classic Irish folk music. Simply amazing. (And yes, I included punk-rockin' as one of the descriptors for their Irish music. You should hear them Celt-out The Ramone's "I Wanna Be Sedated"!) Their fiddle player, Katie Corcoran, is astounding. Sorry I don't see any recent, good-quality videos to link to, but their website has a multimedia section where you can check out a studio version of their work—doesn't quite compare to catching them live at Kells but gives you a sense of what they do.

The Bad Woman Wrap likes the musicians, as evidenced by the fact that I completed nearly 30 percent of the project at Folklife. The Ultra Alpaca practically dances off my fingers. I had to switch from nickel-plated to bamboo needles to get more grip.

In other news, I'm preparing to teach a sock class at A New Yarn this summer. I want to teach basic magic loop, toe-up, two-at-once, with heel flap and gusset. Haven't found a good, ready-made generic pattern that gives me absolutely everything I want, so I'm putting together my own. It's what I do when I knit them for myself, I just never bothered to write up formal instructions. I'll post the pattern here eventually!


Experimenting With Color

It's been killing me to have a drum carder and not be playing with it, but I vowed to wait until after I finished the stealth project. With that done, I could begin my new experiment, starting with this:

Unorthodox to card already beautiful, commercially prepared wool top, I know, but I wanted to play with color, and I didn't want to teach myself dyeing just yet. What you see is (L-R) 2 oz begonia, 1 oz blue ice, 3/4 oz khaki, and 1/4 oz peach.

My color selection was dictated largely by current stock at Weaving Works, which got cleaned out between the big Mother's Day sale and the LYS Tour.

The percentage breakdown, on the other hand, was sheer guesswork on my part.

The carding process itself isn't rocket science. You put the fiber on a tray and turn the handle, pulling the fiber under the "licker drum" (the small one) and distributing it onto the big drum. The machine does its thing. You add more fiber. Periodically you burnish the fiber on the carder, which smooths and compresses the fiber into the teeth so you can add more. And you wait to see what happens.

Okay, maybe you long-time fiber artists — or those of you who've been through MFA programs or color blending workshops — don't just wait and see because you already know how things will work together. Since I'm just figuring things out as I go, I wait and see! First batt off, and I'm liking what I see.

It's so darned cool! The next picture shows the first batt next to all the original roving. What a difference! How interesting! I'm hooked!

I originally intended to do the entire 4 oz at the exact same mix and had split down the top into four equal sections so I could do so. That's what you see in the batt above. But then I realized it would be much more interesting to experiment with gradations of the colors. So that's what I did.

I think the batts look like cotton candy!

The amounts of peach and ice blue stayed consistent throughout the four batts, but I varied the amounts of begonia and khaki in each. The top-left batt has no khaki and extra begonia. The bottom-right batt has half the normal amount of begonia and twice the normal amount of khaki.

Remarkable how much the colors get knocked down, no? Surprisingly tame. The picture above does a pretty good job showing the subtle color differences. What the pictures can't do, though, is show you how very, very fluffy and soft and wonderfully light these are!

As far as the spinning goes, I'm planning a 2-ply and will spin to keep the colors separated, tracking the gradation from the "khakier" one to the "begoniaier" one with maybe a little overlap at the transitions. Even though the color is perfect for my mom, I've promised this fiber to C. Once I see how much yardage I get, I'll decide for sure whether to make C a tank top or a skirt. We checked out some patterns on Ravelry this afternoon.

Before I could test-drive the drum carder (which works fantastically despite being nearly as old as me), I did need to pick up a couple other implements. Thanks to a recently arrived birthday check from J's aunt in Ohio, in combination with the 15% discount on total order card I got from Weaving Works on the LYS Tour, I was able to get a burnishing tool, a doffer stick, and a carder cleaning brush thing. You know the thing I mean... it's the flick-brush-type-tool with bent bristles that you use to clean fiber out of the carder fabric once the batt's been removed. I am now pretty well equipped for the carding process. Next time I'll try carding from locks!


Crossed The Finish Line!

The stealth project is done. I twined my last twine, criss-crossed my last criss, around 1am last night. Stayed up later than usual so I could have the pleasure of waking up to a neat, FO this morning!

Pattern: Basic Twined Hat by Lisa Ellis (available via Ravelry or see retailer links here).
Started: May 1, 2008
Completed: May 22, 2008
Materials: Crystal Palace Yarns' Taos in Cochineal colorway. Just 1 skein! (128 yds)
Needles: US 9 / 5.5 mm (16" circ and DPN)

What's not to love? I know it doesn't look fancy from the outside, but this was one heck of a knit, and the thick, lofty, wonderful fabric more than makes up for the extra time spent on every single stitch!

Although I found the Taos frustrating during the knitting, I'm so pleased with the finished results that I'll happily forget those pains.

Since I've blogged about this little hat before, here and here, I don't have much more to say about it now.

It's tough to photograph the colors, so apologies in advance for the image below (the colors in the image at top are accurate). I just had to take one more look at the awesome edge produced by the twined ribbing.

It's a gift for my friend's birthday, which isn't for a couple of weeks yet. She'll never expect a winter hat in June! Hey — that kind of craziness is what knitting friends are for!

C has asked me to make her a hat just like it. On further clarification, she indicated that her primary interest is in the yarn. I'll probably do some kind of variation on this hat for her. Maybe experiment with different possibilities opened up by the twining technique to design my own twined hat.


For The Family

It's been awhile since I made these spindles for J & C. Time to share!

This one's for J. He's really going to town on that multicolored Merino roving I gave him, which we rolled off Seattle Spinner and onto this one.

I think the mandala looks amazing. We did cut in a notch since there's no strong visual line for him to align off of.

Here's C's:

This one gave me fits. You may recall from this post that we intended her spindle to have a mommy and baby horse. I could not find a decent image that would work around the spindle hole. Everything I pulled looked awful. You know, massive holes in baby's head and the like. Even though one of the horses is cut off in this image, it still looks good overall. C loves it. She has even done some spinning on it! Not a lot, though, which is fine by me. I'm not going to push. Just want it here when she's ready... a pretty bit of inspiration.

I used two CDs each instead of one this time. Adds weight and may even stabilize a bit more. Both are really long spinners, which impresses me to no end. I know people complain about cup hooks on homemade spindles. Frankly, I don't have a problem with them at all. You do have to be careful when putting them on — don't want to split the shaft — but it's not that difficult adjusting your wrap so it lands in the hook.

Yup... I really like these spindles!

In knitting news: The twined-knitting, stealth project has hit a whopping length of 6 inches! Time for some decreasing. The end is in sight!


Humble Pie

After watching Stell's video on holding yarn for Swedish Tvåändsstickning (i.e. Twined Knitting), I thought for sure my oh-so-mysterious stealth project would be done in no time. It's not a very big project, and at my normal knitting pace, I would have expected the entire thing to be done in 2-3 sittings at most. Boy was I wrong!

We should bless all the dear Swedish, Norwegian, and other women who placed such a premium on their family's warmth that they developed and practiced this technique. Prior to finding Stell's video, I had completed the ribbing (which was a breeze using both hands) and had gotten just 2 rows into the body of the piece. Since finding Stell's video, I've worked on the hat two more times—with healthy knit sessions each. Am I done? Judge for yourself:

Alas—at this pace, I'm far from finished. It is truly humbling to do this work!

In all fairness, I should say that the knitting moves along much faster than before I found the video and figured out how to hold my yarn. While I'm surprised by how long this little project is taking, I'm still very happy with it. The fabric is thick and luscious. In fact, I wonder if it might not be a little too warm for our normal Seattle winters. More than that, I'm learning a really useful technique and practicing some skills that I know will serve me well on future projects.

Twined knitting is not the same as double knitting. The reverse side of your stockinette stitch has an almost herringbone affect.

Moreover, you'll notice that it kind of looks like it's knit side-to-side on the back.

You have to look carefully here to distinguish the ribbing from the body, so here is the WS again, with a guide to help you.

Remember that twined ribbing doesn't look like we expect ribbing to look. Instead, it looks like the wrong side of normal stockinette stitch (all purl bumps up), and the ribbing's identical on both the right and wrong sides.

In the next image, you can see that the piece is turned right-side-out again. At bottom left is the ribbing, then the body of the piece (RS), then within the needles you see the WS of the twined stockinette.

Cool, no?! Another shot showing all the components—this time (L-R) it's WS of ribbing, WS of stockinette, RS of ribbing, RS of stockinette.

And another chance to check out the difference between the rib and stockinette on the wrong side.

The Taos yarn is not plied, which I think adds to my knit time a bit because the working yarns twist together as I twine and need untwisted so much that they sometimes felt together a little bit and I have to pull them back apart. So in addition to the technique, I also focus considerable attention on the integrity of the yarn itself. I suspect twining works a little better with a plied yarn. It is quite pretty, though. I like the way Taos's striping is interrupted by the alternation of the working yarns.

As I've mentioned, I saw the twining method as a good practice step before trying to knit one sock inside another—a technique I'm interested in learning so I can prevent second-sock syndrome when I'm working DPN, top-down patterns. For the ribbing section, that definitely is the case. However, the stockinette section does not require the same manual technique and isn't really applicable to the my ultimate, extreme sock goal.

Here's hoping that the next time you see this project, it's finished!


Just When I Needed It

As you know, I'm currently working on a stealth project for a certain birthday girl. Super hush. (First discussed at the end of this blog post.)

The project uses the Swedish Tvåändsstickning technique (i.e. Twined Knitting) to make a smooshy, double-thick fabric. I moved through the ribbing section of my pattern quickly and easily, but the regular stockinette section has slowed down. It seemed the only way to proceed was literally to drop the working yarn, pick up the other working yarn, re-wrap the tension, knit (repeat) for every single stitch on the hat. In other words, just muddle through. No "go with the flow," you know?

Miracle of miracles, the day after my birthday (as if sending me a belated present even though she's a total stranger to me), Stell from New Zealand (found on Ravelry and her own blog) posted this great video called "Twined knitting (Tvåändsstickning) holding the yarn."

Stell has renewed my hope that soon—perhaps even tonight—I'll find myself happily knitting in a twiney flow! Thank you, thank you, Stell!


2008 LYS Tour—Destination: YARN

All year long I've looked forward to Puget Sound's LYS Tour.

The graphic image even looks like me tooling around town on my scooter.

Except that I drive a retro Yamaha Vino, not a Vespa... ...and it's silver not pinkish brown... and I wear a helmet and other smart safety gear rather than looking like a fashion plate... and I'd never leave my yarn and needles sticking out the top of an open bag as I zoomed down the street even if I were keeping my eye on the WIP more than on the road! But I do ride a scooter, and I do wear cool boots on my scooter, and I've got the same haircut as Tour Girl.

Last fall when my sister and I initially talked about the possibility of doing the LYS Tour or the Sea Socks 2008 Cruise and Yarn Expedition (also out of Seattle), I said I couldn't guarantee that I'd be done with my dissertation by May and that if I weren't, I wouldn't be able to take the time away from my dissertation to do either fun fiber thing this year. Of course, in the back of my mind I kept open the what if. Last month I started thinking the tour would do me some good. My sister and I dreamed up schemes for getting her here from New Orleans so we could tour together. That didn't work out. As the date approached... ...I thought maybe I'd go it alone and even considered posting a carpool call for other north-end knitters. Then, about a week before the big event (which started on J's birthday), I flipped back and decided I wouldn't participate at all. Believe it or not, I was actually feeling a little LYS burned out! For a few months now, I've been in one if not two of my favorite's each week, and while I may not be satiated, I wasn't so sure that I cared to hurl myself through the gauntlet of 24 stores around the Puget Sound region in 4 days—with what I imagined would be massive crowds.

Thursday and Friday went by with no pangs of regret. I did enjoy reading all the interesting comments in the LYS Tour Forum on Ravelry, though. Saturday morning, as Seattle experienced a record-setting heat wave, I even felt something akin to a smug justification that I would not be attempting the tour in my freon-challenged Volvo.

See that temp? I took this picture at 10am, and it was already 86 degrees...

... in the shade! See the overhangs?

The day passed in a sweltering, uneventful haze. And then it was time to take C to her Irish Step Dance class. Usually J and I both take her, but this week I went alone while J assembled our new and much-needed lawnmower and grill. I hopped in the car with my Pysanky Spindle and Song for Dalai Lama fiber in-hand, ready for the hour's wait while C twinkled her little toes off.

C's class is located in her dance studio's annex, though, and it doesn't really have anyplace for parents to sit and wait—and it was really, really hot. Often, J and I will use this time to pop over to Acorn Street or Weaving Works because both are nearby [see sidebar for links to my LYS sites]. I wasn't even thinking about the LYS Tour when I started driving. I was thinking, "Mmmmmm... air conditioning!" It was a bit of a surprise to realize I'd air-conditioned myself smack into the middle of the tour.

DIGRESSION: Recognize a pattern here? I did the exact same thing when I spindled my way smack into the middle of Weaving Works' big Mother's Day Sale—which I also had resolved not to attend. Not that I don't want to support the store(s), mind you. I'm just not much of a crowd person. I prefer to take my time in a state of relative ease, luxuriating at the touch of each fiber. And for the smaller amounts of money I usually spend, the 10-20% discounts don't really mean that much.

BACK ON TRACK: C's Step class was the beginning of the end. I knew I wouldn't do the entire tour, so I called it my LYS Light Tour. I hit both Acorn Street and Weaving Works before C's 50-minute class ended. Then today I convinced the family to hit "just two" shops with me after church. Two that turned into four for a total of six nearby shops on my tour. My passport got the appropriate stamps:

Of the six, I had never been to three before: Tricoter, Full Circle Yarn, and Bad Woman Yarn. My LYS Light Tour didn't even include two of my regular area shops: Village Yarn & Tea (which was part of the tour) and A New Yarn (which was not part the tour). I trust they'll forgive me, especially since I see them so frequently.

Here are the fun, free patterns I got on my journey:

  • Acorn Street: Spring Purse (felted)
  • Bad Woman: Knit Buttoned Necklet
  • Bad Woman: Crocheted Eyelet Necklet
  • Fiber Gallery: Mountain Shokay Baby Sweater
  • Full Circle: To Felt Or Not To Felt Double Knit Clutch Bag
  • Tricoter: Diamond Lace Scarf w/Ruffle Edge
  • Weaving Works: Plain or Fancy Felted Tea Cozy
  • Weaving Works: Bamboo Crocheted Hand Towel

Acorn Street gets a prize for nicest presentation of its free pattern, which came in a plastic protection sleeve. Bad Woman gets a prize for most aesthetically pleasing design of its patterns—simple but elegant. Tricoter and Weaving Works both get major snaps for handing out 15% off coupons good for the total order of my next visit (I'm soooo using those!). Full Circle and Fiber Gallery both get heartfelt thanks and kudos for tracking down obscure, non Tour-related patterns for me. They really went above and beyond the call of duty. Full Circle, of the four shops I visited today, gets an especially high mark because the ladies working actually took an interest in C, asking her about her own knitting, talking to her as a participant rather than just as a kid to shuffle off to the play area. (Most of the stores had some kind of play station set up for kids, but none of them came close to the amazing play room at A New Yarn—which will continue to keep that shop at the top of my list locally even though I don't have C with me every time I visit a yarn store.)

Everyone was very friendly, across the board. The most vocal about their friendly factor was Tricoter, which seemed to be aggressively working to live-down the bad rap they've gotten on various internet forums as being a shop that projects aloofness and elitism. Every single Tricoter employee not only spoke to me and eagerly sought to help me but also delivered some variation of the following line, "We are a friendly store with outstanding customer service. We will help you with anything you need." They did the same for J. They may even have done the same for C. Now, she's a bright, self-possessed 8-year-old, but she's not packin' anything in her pocketbook except play money!

What did I buy? I had promised myself that participating in the tour didn't mean I had to buy anything. I have more than enough to work on right now, thank you very much—I just wanted to explore some new shops and check out the tour patterns (since people rave about many of last year's). Actually, I felt really good not buying anything and functioning as tourist rather than consumer. That's directly in line with the premise of the enterprise, if you ask me.

Will it surprise you, then, to learn that I cracked under the pressure? Not a big crack, but a crack, nonetheless. Blame it on the bad woman... bad, Bad Woman Yarn in Wallingford, just up the street from one of my previous homes. Can you imagine the carnage if they'd been open when I lived there?! The shop, which was founded in Oregon in 1999, moved to Seattle about a year ago. This was my first visit. It will not be my last (and I'm not just saying that because they set out chocolates and it's located 50 yards from a scrumptious cupcake shop called Trophy Cupcakes). Lee, one of the owners, was absolutely delightful. The first thing I did when I returned home was look up her and the shop on Ravelry, and I friended her instantly. She may be one of my favorite yarn store ladies ever. She's right up there with Claudia at A New Yarn, although for very different reasons. Bad Woman Yarn was the revelation of my tour. It's a lovely store with a great atmosphere and a nice selection of samples and shop patterns.

What broke me? The Bad Woman Wrap:

Lee designed it. It's elegant and understated. I had to have it. It called to me on that deep, indescribable level of yearning we've all felt at least once. She showed it in two yarns. I went for the Ultra Alpaca version and selected a rich teal. Unfortunately, there's no FO picture on the pattern to show you, I didn't have a camera with me at the store, and it's not up on Ravelry yet. I guess you'll just have to wait until I get mine done to see what it looks like!

Thank you to all the participating shops and tour organizers. It was enlightening to see the unique offerings at each store. Even though I didn't buy much on this year's tour, I will be back in months to come to buy things from each of the stores I visited—and I'm hanging on to my passport so I can visit those I didn't get to. More than that, I will most definitely do the full tour next year. I've already called my sister and requested the honor of her presence so we can enjoy the fun together.


I'm Looking Over ...

... a mountain of Clovers!

Yesterday was J's birthday. I got him these:

Nearly 80 various Clover knitting needles and accessories — not even close to all of them in the picture. Long straights, short straights, circs, DPN, crochet hooks, stitch markers. They're all there. How I love having a spouse who knits! He mentioned awhile ago that he prefers wood needles, and since they're not really my thing, I only had one pair in my collection. I went on the hunt and found these as a lot on ebay for a killer price. You might get 6 needles in the store for what I paid for all these! They've been in my possession for nearly two months, and it's been killing me not to give them to him sooner!

Don't worry, he got more conventionally guy stuff, too: a new tent for camping and saddlebags for his motorcycle (the hot Honda Rebel which was, technically, also part of his birthday this year). Have I shown you the Rebel yet?

That's a pretty lousy picture, but it's the best I have of him actually on the motorcycle. When I tried to get an action shot, I just landed this blur:

The motorcycle is relevant to knitting, though. Check out the neckwarmer he made to match the bike!

He's developed a two-layer design that lets him adjust based on temperature. Pretty ingenious!

For those of you paying attention to dates, the answer is "Yes, we are both Tauri."

I'm happy for springtime. Yesterday we had record-setting temperatures in Seattle at 85 degrees. Today's supposed to be up there, too.

My favorite blossoms are out: lilacs and chestnuts. I don't have any recent chestnut pictures, but here's a gorgeous, fragrant lilac I buried my nose in last night.



I was first in line after all for the carders posted on Craigslist yesterday. Yippee — they're mine!!!

The price? Not free but simply unbeatable, especially considering it included this...

... and various other things I'll post more about in the future. I couldn't believe my eyes when the post went up.

Oh, the wonderful things I'll be able to do with these carders!


Happy Guilt-Free Birthday & Mother's Day To Me!

[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!