Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Monday, April 13, 2015


There was a question in the comments, and I never know WTF to blog about these days, so yeah! I can answer that!

Measurement of hand-spun yarn is rather... hit or miss. Accuracy can vary quite a lot, and then it can vary quite a lot again, when it hits water. (It his highly advisable to skein your new yarn, wash, and dry it, before trying to use it for knitting/crochet/weaving/macrame/tatting/rigging sailing ships. Sets the twist [like setting a curl in your hair] and makes it easier to work with.)

There are two ways to measure. One that is PROBABLY, under ideal conditions, most accurate, is by weight. You need a really accurate scale:

This one is from Harbor Freight, and weighs in tenths of a gram. I think I got it on sale for $14. I know it was under twenty. You get a yard of your yarn, weigh it, weigh the rest of the skein, and do the math. If you stick with metric, the math is even easy. Drawbacks are, for real accuracy, you need to cut the yard from the rest of the skein, if you've spun frog hair (finer than frog hair? that saying?) you may need to weigh five or more yards to get it to freaking register as weight, and if you spin unevenly, the whole thing's out the window. 

The more traditional method is to wrap the yarn around something of known circumference, count as you go, and do that math. (This is where the song "Pop Goes the Weasel" is from. Around and around the swift, and old production ones would make a pop or click every one, five, or ten yards. Which is cool, except this song is guaranteed to piss me off thanks to my friend W, who introduced me to Plants Vs. Zombies. BUT I DIGRESS.) For winding off, I use a 1.5 yard niddy-noddy: 

(Fun story, since I'm digressing all the hell over the place anyway: I used to hang out with a former pro hokey player, and when he'd jokingly threaten about hockey sticks, I'd tell him I was ready to take him down with my niddy-noddy. After a couple years, he finally saw a picture of one and was all "THOSE THINGS LOOK DEADLY!" and I was "Well, duh, I'm not gonna threaten an intruder with a pillow for fuck's sake.") Anyway. My usual method is to count as I wrap, unless the hub, kid, and cat are anywhere near me, then I lose count, yell at everybody, and go back and count later. Depending on how much it shrinks in the wash, I will multiply by 1.25 instead of 1.5. Drawbacks include all the above, plus for true devotees of accuracy, the way the wrap gets larger/longer as you go on really big spins will make you kinda crazy. But it's a good way to get a ballpark when you can't even guess to within a hundred yards because you had a migraine while you spun it. I know I chronically underestimate this way, but I've never run out of yarn and haven't ever heard from anyone else who bought my yarn that it was underestimated. This is the method I use most often, and is used most by spinners, at least the ones I hang out with. 

Since I was taking pictures anyway, and this was on the niddy-noddy, I got a closeup: 

It's a four-strand hawser ply. It's how they used to make rope. Z-twist four singles, then do two pairs of them, Z-twisting AGAIN, then S-ply the whole shooting match. For as much twist as there is in this stuff, it is awfully not-squishy. When I finished it, my thought process went "awfully sturdy... feels like rope... no shit Julie, you think?" But there are spinners who swear by this for cuffs and socks. Dunno, I think I'll be sticking cable ply if I want to knit or weave body armor. 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Better! ...and then worse. Um.

I got a nerve block at the beginning of March. That and the milder weather combined to make me feel better. So I went insane, unpacked moving boxes (THERE ARE STILL MORE HERE OMG JULIE WTELF?) and cleaned half my kitchen.

Now I have an appointment next week to go in and arrange another nerve block. Whoops.

The good news is, in terms of drugs and my health, I can have pretty much unlimited nerve blocks. I'm only limited by the assholes making decisions at my insurance company. But I'm covered by two policies (military retirees, hub's work) so even then I should be good. Also, my pain doc gets operating room space to do this stuff one day a week at a plastic surgery spa, so the whole thing is just hilarious from start to finish. (We've all started calling nerve blocks "spa days".) They have to do the block in an OR 'cause they stick needles in my neck and if they miss I can quit breathing, so yay, life support equipment and all kinds of trained people nearby. I've had four now, and the three with this crew have all gone so smoothly I almost didn't even have a sore spot after. (The one at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center gave me a migraine for a month. I intend to rag on them incessantly, for the rest of my Old Sailor's Bitch Wife time on this planet.) So, the pain thing is leveling out, in that I've got qualified care that's serious about making things work, but it's not leveling out because as I feel better, I do more, and actually need more pain drugs.

Needing more meds as you feel better is weirdly common, and with experienced people, you only get eye rolls and "We know, we know."

I'm rambling. But anyway. Oddly better yet not. Bodies are weird.

When I'm not cleaning or throwing things away, I finished the pink to orange spin. Got really crap yardage, like 200 yards, so I'm dyeing 8oz (this was four) and trying again. Because damn it, I want a really elaborate shawl in this gradient, DAMN IT.

Been knitting. The chart I'm on looks like this:

Something about the fiber has made Honu goony, and she's been scent-marking it every chance she gets.

So far all she's done is rub her face on it, so I've let her live. That can change if the evil fucker starts messing with it.

Spun some tencel and wool, got crap yardage. WTF do you do with 185 yards of something?

Also spun a cabled yarn, copying the structure of a 15,000 year old cord found in the caves at Lascaux, with the paintings.

Twenty yards from four ounces of fiber (!!!!) but at least this is six ply, really thick, and practically bullet proof. I'm actually teaching a class on cabled yarns at the end of May at Natural Stitches. Just sayin'. This went to the shop as a sample. I get better sign-ups when there's something for people to touch and fondle.

I'm also experimenting with hawser plying, but that's how they make rope and so far my efforts are pretty bad. Pictures when they don't suck.

Also, fed up with the shitty yardage I've been getting, I started on a practice run for some lace yarn I've wanted to do for years. Orenburg lace (Rav link) is traditionally knit with yarn made of one strand of silk and one strand of "goat" that's essentially cashmere (they're right over the mountains from Kashmir). I'm doing the same, but with an American-ish twist. Western Europe, for sure: one ply silk, and one ply angora.

So far I'm working on the silk ply.

It's pretty slow going, but it's really shiny and kinda blue. Love it. Will dye the angora the same way I dyed the silk. (Bottle cap for scale, by request from my Kiwi friends. They pointed out most of them have never seen an American quarter.)

So, yeah, same old, same old. Once I finish this purple lace monster (I'm on row 205 of 257, but each row gets longer, exponentially) I'm going back to the blue and white stranded color sweater I started last winter. It needs sleeves. Two. TWO SLEEVES.

In the mean time, Honu is laying on my lap, and occasionally reaching out to smack the ruler that keeps my place:

Elizabeth Wayland Barber is giving a talk in Pittsburgh Tuesday night, and I'm going. After, there will probably be shrieking over fiber history. Or Scythians. Or frozen tombs containing felt fabric in Kazakhstan. Or something.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Musings while re-knitting lace mistakes.

While "mostly stockinette" does translate to "less difficult", having umpty-eleven double yarnovers all over the place bumps up the difficulty again. Pulling the whole thing off the needles and simply unraveling is almost impossible with double and triple yarnovers, so you have to tink back stitch by stitch to correct mistakes, and that's always fucking tedious. Especially on center-out laces that have more stitches per row, the further on you knit.

Various types of yarnovers jumbled into a single row also ups the difficulty. I've got here, I shit thee not, a row with single, double, and triple yarnovers in it. You'd think 'oh, it's just like any other stitch', but no. It can get pretty damn confusing.


I really like a good blurple.

Variegated yarn and lace to not mix well. Even an ombre/semi-solid like this one isn't the best choice. BUT, the varied colors do make it easier to see where in hell the yarn is going, when you need to tink back or fix something later.


COUNT YOUR FUCKING STITCHES AND QUIT WITH THIS SMUG "I can read my knitting, I'll go by landmarks" BULLSHIT. This is how you wind up ten rows into something going "hey, where did that fourth pattern repeat go?" you idiot.


...brain, you piece of shit. I said EIGHTEEN.

I need more medication. Or less. Hmmmm. Caffeine could solve this. Sleep is for the weak.

For a balanced single decrease (hey, I'm obsessive about symmetry), slip one, knit ONE, pass the slipped stitch over. Two stitches into one, and it doesn't lean in either direction. You're welcome.

Back to where I started tinking back. Pretty sure all my yarnovers are where they belong and the stitch counts came out right. Instead of hitting post, I guess I'm gonna stay on, blather a bit, and then do some commentary about a shawl I need to block.

Next, row eighty-two. Of two hundred and fifty-seven.

"It'll be an interesting zombie project" I said. BULLSHIT, BITCH, YOU'RE ALTERING GERMAN LACE ARE YOU CRAZY?

Took a break to play one of those stupid Facebook-integrated games on my iThing. I have been destroyed by fanged Easter eggs and a zombie bunny. Where do I file the complaint.


Checking on a calculator to make sure eight and eight make sixteen. It is turning into that kind of a day. Now singing the inchworm song I can only remember the numbers part of.

If this ear worm doesn't back off soon, I will play John Phillip Sousa and show it who is boss. Except then I'd have JPS marches stuck in my head. Decisions.

If Honu had thumbs, I could teach her to make me tea.

I cannot begin to express how much I wish medical marijuana was legal in this state. LOTS. LOTS AND LOTS. AND THEN MORE.

Got the blocking boards out of the basement while I threw in a load of laundry. I think I heard the husbeast muttering something about an apocalypse while I was sorting laundry.

Dropping the needles in the middle of a row to explain fractions and ratios and numerators and denominators to the Goober is not doing a single damn thing to help my ability to count to eight.

My beloved child has decided to play SkyLanders loudly in the same room I'm in. May the sweet baby Buddha and his eight tiny reindeer save me. Upcoming, Goob quotes.

"Wait, that guy's a guy?" Now spelling out her name with destruction and shrapnel. "Okay, this is awesome!"

Me: "You do know, if I catch you doing this to real, actual sheep, I will kill you, right?"

I met a gin-soaked barroom queen in Memphis. She tried to take me upstairs for a ride. (Kid doing backup vocals.)

As soon as I picked up the knitting after dinner, the laundry buzzer went off. Heavy sigh.

...right. Headache medication finally kicked in and I've decided tomorrow is soon enough for blocking ANYTHING that requires eleventy-hundred pins. I'm going to bed. Here, have pictures of the finished spinning and the cat helping me knit.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

And then, fiber!

Yay, I'm back to my 'normal' behavior of hunkering down over yarn and spinning wheels and similar things when I'm running low. It's maybe kinda slightly possible that my brain is kicking back into gear. This is the best winter I've had for pain control since we moved north.

A couple days ago I pulled out some "Into the Whirled" 80/10/10 wool/cashmere/nylon fiber and started spinning. The colors hooked me, and I'm making good progress.

I loooove it and want to hug it and keep it and love it. I'm settling for making it into a scarf. 

I finished the grey-blue-lavender-periwinkle lace shawl (except for blocking) and am casting around for another lace knit, since my brain seems to be going for it. 

I think I'm going with this. It's "Herbst", one of the insane German lace patterns. Not sure if it's a Niebling, don't think so. Just kinda crazy. I'm dividing it in half and knitting it flat for extra challenge, because I'm crazy. 
This ought to be interesting. (No, that's not the right chart, but it gives you an idea what these charts look like, if you've never seen one.) 

I finished the pink and orange. 
275 stinking yards. What in hell am I supposed to do with 275 yards?? I think I'm going to re-dye on eight ounces of fiber this time (that was five ounces), get more serious about producing frog hair, and TRY AGAIN. 

There's a Fiber Optic gradient here, "Blackbird" waiting for me to get my shit together. Hmm. 

Oh, and this was a class project, I was teaching how to ply from both ends of a center ply ball. 

Oh, and this, just for the hell of it. 

I know it looks like I was super productive and stuff, but imagine me in a corner (literally, my wheel and knitting nest are in the corner of the living room) communicating in grunts and fighting with the cat. 

And, in the middle of all that, while bitching about my hair, I managed to get a picture of myself that I kind of actually like. 
We had this discussion: 

ME: I'm changing my name to Ursula and getting some pet eels. 
HUSBEAST, without missing a beat, knows I'm talking about Little Mermaid: Hey, I'm not the one who did my hair that way. 

I'm thinking that silver needs some color. Like purple. 

I've been thinking of doing more history. There's a show on TV here called Drunk History, where they get people drunk and have them tell the story of their favorite episode in American history. There is lots of bleeping. And famous people stop in to help act out the stories. I was thinking hey, I could do that on my blog, but then I realized, I kind of already do. I mean, my history posts aren't composed while LITERALLY drunk, but they're definitely bleep-able and not exactly ivory tower material. Maybe I just need to do more history posts. I'm thinking Africa. People need more African history. 

In the mean time, I'm gonna go cast on this shawl like a lunatic, and yell at the cat when she smacks the ruler off it and I get lost. Must be Tuesday. 

Monday, March 09, 2015

It's all fun and games

until you see the hand specialist.

Honest, I'm sitting here trying to figure out where the entire last week went. I mean, I know where it went, but dude. AN ENTIRE WEEK.

Last Wednesday, I saw a hand specialist. One who didn't suck. His conclusion was pretty much "you're doing better than any other case like this I know of, OMG, don't look at your hand wrong or breathe funny, you'll jinx it". (Okay, thanks, I think?) But the exam consisted of lots of poking and twisting and at one point shifting the bones in my wrist, and when they ground together, the doc goes "you feel that?" and I said "you're kidding, right?" and he looked sheepish and said, well, that was the arthritis and messed up cartilage taking. Then he went on to smoosh the other wrist to show how it doesn't do grinding stuff. THANKS. I WOULD TAKE YOUR WORD FOR IT.

Anyway. That torn ligament that's driving me nuts? Fixing it would make a worse mess than it already is. All those little bones and tiny spaces between them, So apparently the laundry list of WTF that is setting off the pain thing is a permanent fixture and I'm back to the usual bullshit.

Although, a steady diet of nerve blocks is helping that, too, so with luck I might be functional one of these days.


Last night was the shop's holiday party (everyone's always busy at Christmas, so they do it in the spring, it is very awesome, no one is stressed and it is a very good time). Everyone gives each other knits, and I'd done a Batkus with some yarnovers and beads, in some of my hand spun.

I never got a full picture of it, because I'm a ding-dong. But! World's easiest beaded edge! You know how when you're normally knitting along, for a selvedge, you slip every first stitch in the row? Use a crochet hook and put a bead on every other slipped stitch. Looks fab, is fast and easy, and it's never so many beads at one time you go crazy. I love how it worked, and now want to put beaded edges on everything. (And probably will.)

The person I gave it to made squeaky noises and wore it the rest of the night, so that's a win.


The spinning continues. Remember the pink and orange gradient? Honu decided to help me with that.
Did the fucker eat one of the ENDS? No. It's a gradient, so OF COURSE she chewed up a hunk in the middle. I picked out the cat spit and kept spinning. Damned cat.

Uh, still working on the blue shawl? And some evidence for why I let the cat live. She's very warm.

Oh, the foot stool? Yeah. It's got storage space in it. We were buying it, and hub said oh, we should get a bigger one. I told him a bigger one would be filled up with fiber. Right then, small one! (Instead of fiber, it's full of electronics odds and ends - cords, Wii bits and bobs, the usual. So far no fiber. I'm fighting the urge.)

Ah! One last bit. My buddy W does millinery, and hooked me up with an on line shop that sells hand dyed silk ribbon for not-extortionate prices. is the place. Ordered last Friday, and here they are.
Aren't they PREEEEETTY? I love how silk takes dye. Hub was muttering until I said this may finally motivate me to unpack my work room. That cheered him right up.

With luck I'll actually do something this week, that'll be more interesting than taking painkillers, watching Netflix, and going "buh?" blearily at loud noises. At the least, no more doctor's visits for a while.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

And then-

Nothing really happened. I've got a nerve block Tuesday and the cold's been brutal, so I've been hunkered down reading and doing fiber stuff. How about pictures? That's all I've got.
Honu's getting into this spinning thing. She keeps investigating the wheel, poking at it mostly. She tried to bite the drive band WHILE IT WAS SPINNING the other night, I'm waiting for it to pull out a whisker.

She also likes yarn, which is news to no one.

A couple weeks back, I had the dye stuff out and decided to do a gradient. They're getting more popular, but are hard to find in really bright colors, or unusual combinations. This one probably counts as both.
I'm trying to get some decent yardage, so I can knit a lace shawl with it. Something really traditional. So far, so good:

That's a comparison shot, with my hand. On the left is the spinning, on the right is #10 crochet cotton. I'm hoping for 800 yards but would settle for 600.

I also am trying to knock out a really quick gift, a shawl, "Damask".
I feel rather 'eh' about it. It's not a bad pattern, just not one of my favorites. Part of the problem is that the lace charts use a blank square for purl and I'm used to blank meaning no stitch or knit, so it's really screwing me up. And apparently I can't count to seven, either.

So, not much going on. Typical end of winter behavior for me, I've hunkered down with some fiber and I'm not moving again 'til it gets warmer out.