UndyedYarnpire’s Fiber Opera

September 25, 2008

Being Part of the Trends

Filed under: discussion — UndyedYarnpire @ 10:51 am

Some of the people I have found through Ravelry or writing this blog or side-winder halfstep chain-links from participating tangentially in the fiber community are really amazing. I do get a real sense of community when I find someone else who shares my frustrations, especially when it is about something really popular. 

I did not want a Lendrum when I bought my spinning wheel because everyone else wanted a Lendrum and they did not appear to be any better than anything else and were just as impossible to buy as everything else. I tend to be contrary like that. They were less expensive than a lot of things other than the Fricke I bought; but no one knows about Fricke wheels– something Spin-Off made sure to perpetuate with their recent “comprehensive” guide.

Everyone saw my endless ranting about Elizabeth Zimmermann’s pseudo-patterns where she gives an overview of what was done but no detail because everyone is assumed to be a master knitter. If I were to give a cooking equivalent to the BSJ pattern, EZ’s recipe for an omelet would say to “cook eggs in butter.” Without describing the non-stick skillet that really helps, without saying to break the eggs and beat them in a bowl, without saying how many eggs or how much butter, and without describing how to swirl the egg to get it to cook through or how high the flame should be. Everything in the EZ patterns is true, but none of it helps unless you could have come up with the pattern on your own. It is really hard to credit someone as being the godmother of all knitters when you need to have years of experience to be able to make a garter stitch baby sweater with her pattern. 

But there are still times when I feel like I am all on my own out there. I really like garter stitch. I love how thick and plush and squishy the fabric is. I think plain stockinette is great for hats and socks and mittens. It is not that I cannot do cables or colorwork, really. I just like finishing things and rarely knit more than an hour in a day. 

I would love to have a cabled vest, well, really a waistcoat because I am obsessed with cardiganizing everything lately. But I know how much effort that will take and I know no one else would appreciate the sacrifice. That means I need to put myself ahead of everyone else on the to-be-knitted-for list and I feel guilty about doing that.

That is a way I am alone in the knitting world. I do not like making things for other people. I doubt when I make my mother-in-law her handspun vest that she will love it like it cost $1000. But I could easily see it taking 150-200 hours. ($5/hr is very cheap labor too, normally I pay myself better than that.) It will take me 40 hours just to spin and ply and wash and ball 2 pounds of yarn. Knitting a 3X tunic-length vest, even in worsted-weight stockinette is going to take scores of hours. It would take a month of full-time work to even come close to finishing it by Christmas. I am sure she is going to love it, but not sure anyone could love anything enough to be worth it. 

I like small projects from fat yarns because I can finish those just during the news in under 2 weeks. I know there are no other knitters who honestly think  it should take two weeks to finish a hat from heavy-worsted yarn. 

The strangest thing for me has been the desire for positive peer pressure while resisting the idiocy of the popularity-seeking peers. I want to be pushed by envy into making more lace shawls. I want to be pushed by praise to finish more things and to knit more. I want to know that if I spin every morning I will have a skein of fingering yarn in time to show off for the spinning group meeting and how I do not want to have to bring the “rose rot” yarn. So much of the fluffy news focuses on how to insulate children from peer pressure in schools, and I understand that because I did not want to buy a Lendrum just because that is what everyone else got, but no one seems to acknowledge that peer pressure also drives ambition and societal expectations. Without peer pressure children would grow up to be jobless nose-pickers.

I do not knit because everyone else knits. I started about 18 months before the craze started. It took me a long time to teach myself from library books with my pull-skein of craft-store acrylic yarn. I am usually a year or so ahead of the curve in terms of project types, wanting to make socks before there were any sock-featuring books and most yarn stores did not carry wool+nylon sock yarns (now it can be hard to get fingering weight yarn without nylon). I know I am in front of the pack, but it usually feels like “lone wolf” more than “trendsetter”.

September 20, 2008

The giving of knitted gifts: or you say potato, I could say fries, but really say onion rings.

Filed under: knit — Tags: , — UndyedYarnpire @ 10:38 pm

The origami sweaters were received. Since they went to a hurricane-affected region, that was not a given. 

I think I should talk about the disconnect between creating a handmade item and receiving one. I can drop by Walgreens and buy a Chinese-made acrylic knit cap, 3 for $10 most of the year. If I give you a handknit hat, especially from handspun yarn, that represents dozens of hours of my time. That hat is individual, it is more than a hat, it is wearable art. (I do not have a lofty opinion of myself, not really, but “art” does not equate to quality; there are a lot more bad paintings than good.) But being the recipient, from a functional standpoint, I might prefer a 10-pack of toss-it-in-the-washer dishcloths to a single handwoven one. The recipient sees the item. The giver sees the art. 

You might imagine that I do not like giving away knitted gifts. You would be right. Only once have I received a thank you that I thought was worthy. That was probably because the recipient was surprised. Giving things to strangers is much more rewarding, because they do not color their appreciation with the knowledge that you had to get them something. 

In a way, that was how I justified the giving away of handspun yarn. If I give a knitter a couple balls of yarn, that is an awesome gift to someone who knows that handspun yarn is ludicrous in stores, but I see it as me not having to knit something for it to count as a present. 

There are definitely days when misanthropy and isolation seem like admirable goals. When I caught myself wondering if the woman with the good thank you notes could have a relapse so I could be properly appreciated, I figured it was time for putting the yarn aside and watching a DVD while eating popcorn.

September 17, 2008


Filed under: spin — UndyedYarnpire @ 3:53 pm


September 16, 2008

Spinning like a Whorling Dervish

Filed under: spin — Tags: , — UndyedYarnpire @ 12:52 pm

I have been insanely productive. That Paradise Fibers I ordered last weekend? I already have the first half spun, plied, skeined and washed. It is drying now.

What kind of shrinkage do most people get after washing? My homemade swift is 48″ diameter for the outer wind path, and there is an inner wind path that is 40″. Usually when ball-winding I use the inner path, and when skeining unwashed yarns, the outer. So I am getting a shrink factor of about 1/6th. Some fibers shrink less and sag on the swift while ball-winding. I do not think I have had anything shrink more.

I did actually count the loops for the rose rot yarn, which looks a lot better plied than it did on the bobbins (the pictures are not up yet), and I got 155 (ish, I was watching TV too). That is 172 yards or 159 meters. It is probably a DK on average, [3], but just barely. I would call it a [2] but that category includes everything from just bigger than lace to a thin DK. Corriedale is very sticky fiber with lots of crimp to it, so I am not unhappy with the resulting yarn. That was from 103g fiber, so it was 10% smaller than other rovings in the “4oz” class, which might also account for some of the variation.

The new fireworks yarn is 140 loops. 155yds/143m. That came out as a nice worsted [4] yarn. And I did not need to pre-draft it at all! It flakes like everybody’s business. I looked like I have a very affectionate black cat. 96g of fiber.

Perhaps my desperate need to pre-draft fiber is because of the fiber and/or source. I know Spunky Eclectic Fiber Club shipments were always these hard baseballs of fiber. It would take hours to tease out the ball and since the box was 2/3 empty, I figure the postal service uses them as maracas. The Crown Mountain Farms fiber is thin roving, but dense. I did a lot better spinning it when I pre-drafted. BFL is just heavy stuff, I guess.

Clearly I can see what taking 4 months off spinning has done, I have tightened up on my fiber and am making denser yarn. I am hoping to make the second batch of fireworks airy-fairy yarn to really take advantage of the mohair.

I neglected to mention why the photos have improved so dramatically lately. I got help. I flat out asked someone why I could not get great detail on my black yarns even in full sun. I was told that full sun was the problem and I needed a reflected source of light. I look way stupid/idiotic/retarded taking photos now, but me and my yarn sit under a white sheet. I tension the bottom with my feet and the slanted side with my head. That way I can catch as much light as possible but it is diffused. I am getting much truer color and much better detail. I think it is worth looking like Charlie Brown’s Hallowe’en Costume to get that. I know there are fancy light boxes and stuff, but this cost me nothing since I had the sheet already.

Has anyone ordered spare bits and bobs for a Fricke wheel? From where? No one seems to sell the stuff I want and the Fricke people say to email them to find out how to order. Like they are a customer+vendor dating service and will match you up with the right vendor for you.

September 14, 2008

this week in spinning and knitting

Filed under: fiber, knit, spin — Tags: , , , , , — UndyedYarnpire @ 1:15 pm

I like how this mitt is coming out, even though I am “winging it” and even though there is that odd space for an extra thumb knuckle. Handspun from Ashland Bay merino “pinedale” top.


New fiber from Paradise Fibers, “bombay nights” which is one of their “microblends” of mohair+”wool”+sari silk. I think it looks like fireworks. Once I managed to find things and get them into my cart, I was really happy with the professional order handling from Paradise Fibers. If they had a less crippled search capability, and a more polished online storefront, they could be one of my favorite sources. But even knowing they had a black fiber with sari silk, I could not find this fiber again from a different computer. I had to go back to the browser history to find it (I literally had to IM myself the direct link). I love this stuff, so it was worth the headaches and I am thrilled that their back-end order fulfillment is so much better than their website’s search.

And last week, I said I had started spinning again after taking the entire summer off. This is the “Rose Bud” from the May 2008 Spunky Eclectic Fiber Club. It is corriedale and I already loathe this yarn, I mentally tagged it “rose rot”.

September 11, 2008

Spinning Group: she argues in favor

Filed under: discussion, spin, stuff — Tags: , , — UndyedYarnpire @ 2:49 pm

Normally I do not post to Ravelry Fora because of the Rav policy, paraphrased, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, you’re not welcome.” But I get really tired of people who protest loudly whenever something fun is suggested because *gasp* it might cost money. For spinners, this is ridiculous. I spent hundreds on my wheel and most of my fiber purchases qualify for free shipping (usually a $100 minimum). It is not a cheap hobby. I do not spin because it saves me money. If I wanted to save money, I would not spin or knit at all, I would buy commercial sweaters, hats, and scarves at the end of the season.

If you know me personally, you know I tend to be argumentative and antagonistic. I pasted in what I said, below. I might take constructive criticism, though probably not with an easy grace because I worked really hard to make sure I did not pick a fight. If I had been vicious I would have said, “Some of us have adult hobbies and adult money to spend on them, come back when you grow up.” See what maturity grants us? The knowledge that we should not say what we really think.

[Pasted from: http://www.ravelry.com/discuss/bay-area-spinners/231946/51-75#59 ] which is a discussion of having a Berkeley/Oakland spinning group. That idea fell through months ago and a couple people started a group several towns away and co-opted the thread. Recently the thread was resurrected on topic.

I think we could have two groups. I don’t have a problem if people want to keep meeting at that place in El Cerrito, but that’s not really Berkeley/Oakland. It is just too far away for me; I would never be a regular participant. Not to mention that Spindles and Flyers already meets in El Cerrito, so it seems like there is enough coverage of that area. Spinning groups are rare enough that they shouldn’t all have to be in the same town.

I would like to spend an evening with other people who also think this is fun and who enjoy it. But I don’t want to be the organizer. I was thrilled when Orange suggested a group at all, and doubly thrilled when it turned out to be a well-suited location (the Knit-One-One studio has parking, which is essential if I am bringing my wheel.) Then suddenly seemingly everyone was upset because it would cost money. Frankly I think it would be worth paying something to have space reserved and where everyone could spread out. Elbow room is especially useful for spinning, after all. Most spinning wheels cost hundreds of dollars, so I really want a location that has known floor conditions. I also want good lights and non-slouchy chairs. I think a lot of people feel that way, they’re just not vocal because it’s societally frowned upon to contradict someone who cries poverty.

If someone else wants to organize it at Knit One One (or another location with similar facilities), I’d be happy to sponsor the first meeting. If this is a stable group, it might need to be more organized than the casual drop-in knitting groups, perhaps a subscription or membership, if we’re really going to spend $60-90 per evening just for space rental on an on-going basis. I don’t see a problem with that, considering the dearth of spinning magazines and groups and with what good fiber costs. If it was more than just a social group with spinning, we could even try out particular fibers or share new techniques. There really is no reason this has to be limited for the future. For now, let’s see if there’s actual interest.

I know I am not social enough to handle corralling people, so I do not want to be the face of the group. Wondermike? Someone else? Were you volunteering? If you want behind the scenes help, PM me.

September 9, 2008

Fibery Goodness.

Filed under: fiber, spin — Tags: , — UndyedYarnpire @ 12:29 am

I ordered some naturally black Wensleydale. Linda from Riyescott Ranch sent me samples. It is carded roving, not combed top and much softer than the horse’s tail that was my previous experience with Wensleydale. I also ordered some Shetland+mohair which is a fawn+gray blend. I loved it.

I ordered the black blended fiber from Paradise Fibers. I finally decided I just wanted that and there was no point in waiting to see if I would find enough stuff to get free shipping. Later it turned out that the shipping on a half pound of fiber was ~$2.50. That is definitely fair.

Tonight I spun up half of the rose rot fiber. Corriedale is really not my favorite. But still, first spinning in 4 months.

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