UndyedYarnpire’s Fiber Opera

January 25, 2011

Your prejudice, it bothers me.

Filed under: discussion — Tags: , , — UndyedYarnpire @ 3:20 pm

There’s a local Ravelry (not sponsored, or technically affiliated, but they are allowed to call it that) meetup. They are holding it at the Women’s Building in San Francisco. The link to that location specifies that the building is to be used in support of women and girls. Shocking how extremely inclusive that feels, right? Obviously they are not going to come right out and say men are not allowed, and the meetup group does have a parenthetical comment saying men are welcome, but seriously, how welcome would women feel if there was a building saying “this space is intended to support men’s endeavors”?

That would be why I do not go to YMCAs. If they want to rename their organization to the effect of actually including old women and a-religious people, then sure, I can see them being a community organization for everyone.

I am honestly offended by how universal and understood the prejudice in the fiber arts is. I would really like to see other women stand up and say, “I like the idea of getting together with other knitters and crafters but not if your event is only open to some kinds of people.”

May 29, 2009

fiber clubs, or how the weight of too many holds back success

Filed under: discussion, fiber — Tags: , , , — UndyedYarnpire @ 5:32 pm

I got the May fiber club shipment today (in case of revisions, today is: 29 May 2009) from Susan’s Spinning Bunny.

This is definitely going to be my last fiber club. I like a lot of the things you cannot get any other way. Most fiber clubs are the only sources for odd fibers, because very few fiber vendors sell non-standard fibers. (Though Paradise Fibers does, and so did Yarn Barn when I was there in person, obviously I just live somewhere with a dearth of fiber-friendly stores. (A boutique yarn store is not fiber-friendly, it’s about looking good through the window.) ) I am not sure why no one sells baby llama. I am not sure why it is impossible to find naturally colored alpaca+silk. But I am extraordinarily picky about dyed fibers. Sometimes I admit that I chose my matching Rav username right around Halloween, but a lot of the sentiment behind it holds true.

Mass production certainly does not help, and that holds true for all clubs. Spunky Eclectic sent out an 80% white thing with random splotches of blue and brown. I bought fiber at Stitches that was still wet. I have seen shipments where the fiber is exposed during shipping. But the worst thing about mass production is how the perspective is wrong. When a dyer is doing umpteen batches of the same thing, there is a tendency to cut corners– leaving lots of white, using dyes straight up instead of blended, fingerprint splotches of other colors… and lousy packaging. Because it is hard to do a mass production, the final quality is usually lower. But each customer only gets one.

You see what I am saying? It does not matter if the dyer does 1000 or 2, each person only gets one. So each recipient can only evaluate one. I am not evaluating how big a project it was to dye 50 pounds of wool and get it shipped out even though there were supply issues and holidays. (The logistics of doing that as one person are a nightmare.) I look at my shipments for any fiber club and I am not seeing an artisan practicing a craft, I am seeing the 8-pack of fat crayons kindergartners use.  

I am disappointed while I know the dyer is damned proud of her*self because something went out the door and on time. (*her because 100% of the dyers I have dealt with and seen are female, but this is not about one person and there is a possibility that there might be men in this field somewhere. In fact, someone recommedn one to me and I will sign up for his club and we will see if I am non-sexist enough to tell you honestly whether his quality is better.)

Overall, I think fiber clubs are a good idea to push me out of my rut of buying the same fibers over and over and over and using the same kinds of colorways over and over and over again. But I hate pink. I hate orange. I hate yellow (until enough black has been added that it is an olive green, then it can be a nice foil for jewel tone colors). It seems like I should do something else with my money because it is extremely unlikely that something intended for a wide audience would exclude half the colors. 

I keep hoping that fiber clubs are going to be more like spin-alongs. But the spin-alongs I have seen prove that a group homogenizes on the mediocre (they always choose lousy dyers and hideous colorways and mediocre fibers— but somehow without saving any money). 

I guess spinning has to be about the yarn because I sure as anything certain am not making any friends this way.

March 4, 2009

From facts learned to weirdness shared.

Filed under: discussion, socks, stuff — Tags: , , — UndyedYarnpire @ 12:52 am

I am working on my as-yet-nameless March socks. 

I have learned to read and chart bias-knitting textures. I understand how to get sharp diagonals and how to get smoother arcs. I understand that I can substitute an M1 (or M1b, or the Bordhi variants therein) for YOs. Assuming this comes out even tolerably, I will not be hurting for textures ever again.  I will definitely look into that “jigsaw” texture without the YOs. 

I kept looking at those brocades done with purl stitches and dreading that. The transistion between knit and purl takes as much time as a whole stitch. Then looking at the end result, it was still mediocre. 

The Schaefer Heather yarn in “Gertrude Ederl” is 3 colors and they form non-uniform stripes of about 1 row. This is giving me the effect of a self-striping yarn, so the motif should definitely skew the row height in some way, otherwise I might as well not bother since the colorway would overwhelm anything else. I think this yarn would look good in a ribbing, but I am not masochistic enough to voluntarily rib an entire sock without knowing what needs atonement.


I am wearing my Raspberry Friday Socks today. They are very comfortable and attractive in my maryjane shoes. 


I spun some more of the silk thread I am planning to use for plying the llama from February’s fiber club shipment. Then I started spinning the llama. I am going to buy more of this baby llama fiber in future, it is really wondrous. I would like to have a blended llama+[soft sheep wool]. 

I am starting to suspect that I will be buying a drum carder. 


I could use some help on the naming of socks. (And yes, I do have that “Naming of Cats” poem in my head right now.) I think this is yarn is a “dark” variant on twilight. It reminds me, strangely, of Alice in Wonderland, only shadier. 

I made a joke tonight, while chatting with a friend, she said that at least my socks do not need three different names… but that is why they all have the same surname, Socks. I was deliberately misunderstanding the reference. 

I wonder if it will sound like I am mocking Indians (not from India) if I called this project, “Gertrude Looking Glass Socks”. I would like it to have a dark equating adjective without sounding actually evil (since I am going to wear these and I do not need to jinx myself.) Maybe like Marjorie? The villain from “Bernice Bobs Her Hair”. Frankly I am thinking this is getting too weird for most people.

January 31, 2009

Socks and Squee

Filed under: discussion, knit, socks — Tags: , , — UndyedYarnpire @ 11:55 am

Raspberry Friday Socks proceed apace. There was a lot of discussion on [a famous blog] about how patterned socks go faster than plainwork socks. I was skeptical, but I am a believer now. Not to mention how awesome the fancy socks are when they are done. There is no questioning point where you ask yourself, “Could I have just bought these in a store?” 

The Rav project says I started on the 25th. I did not really start the actual knitting until the 27th. I have finished 2/3 of the first sock. There is some urgency because when I admitted I wanted more sock yarn, my husband said, “Make another pair, then you can order whatever you still want.” This was good advice because I have a better idea about the diversity in sock yarn. And also because I had a chance to look around more. Now I am looking at nicer sock yarns. Obviously, since I only need 100g, I could afford the silk blends… 

A friend (seedlessgrape) turned me toward Sundara Yarns. If someone has tried their fingering silky merino, I would love to have a reference as to its thickness. Knitpicks Essential and Knitpicks Imagination yarns have the exact same suggested gauge, but in my experience it was 9sts/in on #0 for the Essential and 8sts/in on #1 (and it probably should have been 7.5 on #2, but with a 2-ply I wanted it knitted tight. ) And my current Pagewood Farm yarn says the same suggested gauge, but knits at about 7sts/in. (I am knitting it on #1s, but loosely and still getting. 7.5 ish.) So there is a wide range and the suggested gauge is random.

I am not certain I want to order from Sundara because there is just too much competition. I know it is a hand-dyed product, but a lot of the time it seems like places could hire some help and not have artificial shortages. Usually if I have to fight for a chance to buy something, I would rather shop elsewhere. This is true at the farmers’ market, it was true of fiber sellers. It seems like I could find something I like proportionately as well but there is enough to go around and a successful purchase will not come with a heaping scoop of guilt. If I get lucky enough to buy a Sundara yarn, (which currently has 4 months of look-ahead hype and a 3 month delivery timeframe and they sell out in under a week once the new colors are opened for purchase) I am denying someone else the chance. I am being selfish in a bad way because my success hurts someone else.

I can buy undyed similar yarn from Paradise Fibers for about half the price. I suck at dyeing, but Paradise Fibers will not send my yarn with free Guilt Trip tickets. That would be why I stopped buying from Spunky Eclectic, in case you were wondering…. the month she hyped the new colorway of the month for 2 weeks and it sold out in under 10 minutes, I was just gone. There were hundreds of people clamoring on the Rav group and they were all so disappointed. I could not imagine having gotten some while all those people were so upset. I would not even want it any more after I saw that. I looked, and worse yet? I did not even like it. It did not seem like the kind of thing that would have been popular without the extraordinary difference between supply and perceived demand. Popularity sells yarn. The more seemingly popular something is, the better people think it must be, so the more they want some. And the more popular something is, the harder it is to get some, the more people want their share of it. Which drives the cycle. There is not always a positive correlation between perceived quality and actual quality either. 

I like my dyers successful enough to stay in business, but not so overwhelmingly popular that the whole thing implodes. 

I also came up with the sock-knitters extreme project. I want Fair Isle OTKs. Not for the next project. It is a sort of goal project. “By next winter, I want to be experienced enough to make myself Fair Isle kneesocks.”  I might actually work on that… I have a Shetland fiber sampler I was intending to spin for Fair Isle mittens. I do not know why I thought I might want mittens, but I could really come up with something fabulous, idea-wise, and do my own motifs. I would have a gray-scale version of Fair Isle… I could really, really enjoy that.

January 25, 2009

Selfish and Snaky Thoughted

Filed under: discussion, knit, socks, stuff — Tags: , , , , , — UndyedYarnpire @ 7:19 pm

I read the Selfish Knitters group on Ravelry. Corry sent me there. I find that most of it is useless for me, because I am a selfish knitter already. The women (and they are all women) are all trying to learn to refuse favors. 

Most things I make are for me. If I make something for someone else, it is of acrylic and simple. But that is not selfish of me, since most people prefer acrylic yarn gifts because they are going to want to wash them but will not have a clue how to prevent felting. 

Anyway, today I saw a discussion of what to have on Selfish Knitter badges and I found my favorite, “No I can’t knit something for you, I don’t like you enough.” 

I took up knitting as an excuse to buy yarn. Later it occurred to me that if having yarn was the goal, then I should spin it instead. Even now it is hard for me to give away handspun yarn. I like the yarn better than I do most of the people I know. 

I finished my first real pair of socks this week,

and I have been looking  for my next sock pattern. I am wavering stil, but these are the front-runners: Nagini, Fawkes, Phineas, Leyburn, Anastasia, Wyvern. I really dislike the Monkey socks, even though everyone raves about them and the no-purl variant looks fairly simple. But by the time I added in the toe-up mod, the short-row heel mod, the foot-sizing mods (because I have wide insteps and short feet. 8.5″ foot length is generous, but I have 8.5″ circumference feet at the widest part) I might as well just start from scratch. Then add in the fact that I really do not like the texture, and they seem really pointless. 

[Later, but before posting] I did a swatch on the yarn I have. It is Pagewood Farm “Hand Dyed Sock Yarn” from before they had several types, this one is 80/20 Merino/nylon in some blue+green colorway (the band says “custom”):

 Colorwise, I am seeing a combination of cerulean and cerulean blue. 


I find that it really does not knit to 8 stitches/inch gauge. I can get it there but I have to really tension the yarn harshly and the resulting fabric feels very inflexible. (It just really is not very nice yarn.) That pushes the decision toward Leyburns. 

This is almost a disappointment because I really liked the Nagini texture (although, honestly, that is a lot of cabling) and I had a name for it based on the wyverns in Might and Magic VIII. Next sock yarn has more purple in it and looks more like the couatls. So, maybe all is not lost for that pattern…. there will be other socks.

You would not believe the research that goes into these project names. I have a dozen wiki tabs open full of various mythological systems bestiaries. Did you know the Chinese and Japanese have a Black Tortoise and a Blue Dragon? The Norse have a dragon that eats oak trees’ roots. Then there is the Evil Overlord List that says #34: “I will not turn into a snake. It never helps.” Then most cultures have had some sort of serpent-based myth. There was an unbelievable amount of interesting stuff to read. 

There is so much Norse mythology about magic and sorcery being the province of women because it is all about the weaving of threads, but there was the idea there that the weaving would bind the enemy or free allies. Weaving and warrioring were of equal value. Bound in Freyja’s [blue] Eyes. Weirdly that bothers me because it is incredibly rude to take someone else’s deities in vain. I find myself interested, but not enough to convert just to name my socks!

The Leyburn socks use quilted lattice stitch, my yarn is an blue-green colorway. But I have nothing beyond the obvious. “Caribbean Blue” is a song by Enya. It does not resemble mermaid scales because it does not have the look of overlapped sections. The lattice makes a diamond pattern… but “blue diamonds” feels like it should be followed with “and purple horseshoes, all in Lucky Charms!” But that shows you how old I really am. General Mills no longer makes Lucky Charms with blue diamonds. It would be too obscure if I called my socks, “They’re magically delicious!” The color also reminds me of those blue raspberry freezer pops. Raspberry Parade! (The common household misnomer for Prince’s song, “Raspberry Beret”.) That is a little too obscure also. The diamonds also remind me of cyclone fencing.

Strangely I am going with Raspberry Friday Socks.

January 21, 2009

Abacus Bound, Unchained Doggerel for Memory

Filed under: discussion, knit — Tags: , , , — UndyedYarnpire @ 2:15 pm

Normally I would have expected a lot of progress on the sock, which remains at that ~half-done state, because there was a lot of news I planned to record. What I had not expected was how redundant and useless the news covering the inauguration was if one had actually watched the inauguration. So I had very little knitting time. Of course I could have re-watched Kung Fu Panda, but it was easier to just go off and read instead. 

I have started the cuff of my second sock. (It is toe-up, so 2/3 done.)  Then today I worked on it again and it occurred to me that most people do not talk about how they deal with complicated patterns and motifs. 

What helped me the most was coming up with a method for the one lace row in feather-and-fan. In this pattern, the lacework is done with three rounds plain stockinette (all K* since the sock is in-the-round) and one round: [k2tog, k2tog, k2tog, k, yo, k yo, k yo, k yo, k yo, k yo, k2tog, k2tog, k2tog]*. I flubbed this several times, when I got to the end of a section, I would not have the 18 stitches back again. I fudged it on subsequent rounds because tinking back lacework in the round really bites for an off-by-one error. Add in the cumbersome-ness of keeping track of 3 rounds of plain knit, because it was easy to have just 2 or go on to 4 rounds. It was too much to store in my mind. I am a “bear of very little brain” some days. 

So I pulled out my homemade abacus. ( I should take a picture of it to share. ) I said the hundreds would be for keeping track of which round of the pattern and the ones would count how many sets had been done. Now I can easily track where I am in the patterning and where I am on the sock.  Row counters have nothing on an actual abacus!

The internal stitches for the lacework row were another issue. I came up with a counting for that. A, B, C, 1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 3, 4, 4, 5, 5, 6, 6, J, K, L. I had to count the YO as its own number or I was losing it. 


When I started knitting I had no problems with any texture or colorwork. It just took more attention than plainwork does. Since I was a very slow knitter anyway, I would often choose something with a more complex motif. That way when I was done with the project no one wondered how I could have been working on that for months. 

Now that I have some speed improvement, I find the complex motifs frustratingly slow. And I find that I am not thinking ahead as much so it is easy to make mistakes just when they are hardest to fix. 

It would be really nice if motifs came with mnemonics. If there was a poem or a song, that might help. What about for this feather-and-fan: Fist bog, fist  cog, fist dog, thumb around, two around, tree ground, ring around, five no rosy, thumb around [again], fist fog, fist hog, fist jog? The -og words would be for together, “fist” for knit… because when I am doing a k2tog, I end up with 2 clenched fists. By incrementing the starting letter for the -og words, there is a means to track where you are. I like “around” for yarn overs and counting by fingers, but I suspect that is just a lack of creativity. If I was creative, there could be a rhyming couplet poem:

Cyclops needs another eye, sun and moon,
Fill an empty lie, clock rings noon,
Don’t ask why, just be home soon. 

Feel free to share how you keep track of your complex motifs or pattern segments.

October 23, 2008

Holding my cards somewhere far far away from the vest.

Filed under: discussion, knit — Tags: , — UndyedYarnpire @ 5:21 pm

I have been knitting a lot. Which conversely cuts down on the posting about fiber stuff. When I come to blog, I am reviewing the movie Netflix sent or ranting about the idiocy of network executives who insist on scheduling all of the shows I watch at the same time as other shows I watch, but leaving Thursdays a barren wasteland. (My sense of humor is drastically different than the norm so sitcoms not only are not my bag, but I am mystified as to why anyone would bag them.)  I do not talk about media stuff here because the few knitters I have corresponded with seem to like Project Runway. I am really good at that game. I can pick the losingest garment in the bunch when they first walk out and the thing (usually with the commentary, “That is a dress?”) I find the most repellent is the winner. 

On the plus side, I look to be finishing a sweater vest in ~2 weeks. I expect to finish the major knitting tomorrow, then damp blocking, seaming, and finishing details. I need to make the right front piece and I have already cast on for it. 

People are already talking about Stitches West 2009. I went to the 2008, but it was kind of a wasted trip. I know there will be more fiber sellers this year, but I really do not know if that will be enough to make it worthwhile. I would have to be using it as a social activity, not a shopping excursion to make it worth the trip, and then people would want to go on Saturday when it will be more crowded and more chock full of children who would rather be anywhere else and whose behavior will make that feeling contagious. 

Sometimes I think I should take spinning classes, but nothing seems that hard to me. Some things will take some practice and finagling but I went from pinching along to modified long draw just by realizing I needed to relax or I would start to hate spinning. Then my yarn got a lot better too. I taught myself to knit from library books using chopsticks and a buck’s worth of acrylic yarn, 2 years before other people decided this was a craze they needed to join. I think I have an attitude problem toward classes because some of the first knitters I met, most of whom were much less adept than I was, were teaching other beginners including the bias against purling and cables and lace and knitting-in-the-round because those things were “hard”. Sometimes I think taking a class just poisons the new knitter and gives them unfounded biases and yarn phobias. I took a spinning class and I think it really helped because I had that “Ah ha!” moment when everything finally worked right. It lasted about as long as a newbie surfer stays up on the board the first time, but I was sold. I started hunting around for a cheap spinning wheel, but there were no other classes advertised anywhere until just recently a LYS (one I detest) had a drop spindle class.

I have thought about going to Madrona or Yarn School. But then I went to my local spinning guild’s meeting where they had Sara Lamb speaking and I was convinced that weavers are intolerant sexist people because that was the example set. Feminism is fine and I believe in equality, but speaking about how men oppress women in a mixed gender audience is extremely rude. (Generally I find the worst oppression comes from other women who cannot stand to see someone making her own path. And I know whereof I speak as a childfree woman who dislikes children, the number one thing other knitters say to me is “It will be different when they’re your own.” Not something about yarn, or how I need to make a sweater, but how I cannot be a “real woman” without bearing a child.) I think the guild leaders should have said something to diffuse the sense I got that men were unwelcome. But the one man who showed up at the spinning group meeting in Berkeley last time said he went to a later meeting of the same guild (different speaker though) and did not feel discriminated against. I am not sure what a weaving person was doing speaking at a spinning guild, but spinning does rather seem like a precursor craft.

It makes me leery of going somewhere to take a class, because what if the people there are just as jerky as the knitters in various knitting groups have been… Yarn School says nursing mothers are welcome. Ew! Then I started looking at what they were planning to teach and a lot of it seems pretty basic. Going to Madrona would be a huge hassle because I would need to figure out a way to travel with my wheel. 

Now that the November spinning group was announced, people are piling on with what alcohol they are planning to bring again. Maybe most of those people will not show up again, like last time. As of right now, I am planning to stay home, but have not officially said. I really want to make friends (speaking of which, I need to update my blogroll, so you can all see the new people I am watching)  but I am just too old to hang out with drunken college people. I have nothing in common with the new mothers though, so the older people are not interested in talking to me. I think I am ready to find a new hobby for being social. Fiber hobbies will be my dirty little secret— not like having more than one hobby can be anything but a secret in the current society anyway. People who have jobs and kids and obligations just cannot have more than one singular interest and they usually feel guilty for enjoying something they like doing. Most of the people at the spinning group said that they did not spin unless time was set aside for that. I do not see how driving 30 minutes away and spending 2 hours with strangers is easier than just spinning for 30 minutes at home. It seems like, to me, it would be easier to make time if a smaller block could be allocated. 

Before I manage to depress myself into thinking I have no place in this world, I will say that I have fully 75% of the sweater vest’s major knitting done. Now I will be going off to watch the news and try to convince myself that I should cook even though I really want to go out for Thai food.

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