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.