Wednesday, May 16, 2007

done deal

There's no question about it -- spinning is for me.

My first handspun singles

My first attempt is balled up on the left. That was when I forgot anything I'd learned about any technique, and before I realized that I wasn't pre-drafting nearly enough. Then things clicked in, and I started getting relatively even, thin singles.

I'm only going to allow myself to finish that first ounce of fiber I bought with the spindle, and then it's back to sleeve knitting for me. I can't get off track with this sweater, because it really needs to be finished within a month and a half or so. I'm going away for much of July, and don't want to have to worry about whether it will be done for the fair while I'm on vacation. (Vacation is for plane-friendly knitting in one color, not monster sweater with 18 balls of yarn.)

More yarn? Okay:

My first handspun singles - closeup

As you can see, it's fairly hairy stuff. I really wish I'd written down the breed it's from. I do have the store's business card, so maybe I'll give them a call. I should also find out of they sell nostepinnes, because I'm really regretting not buying one at the festival. I wonder if my Romney will spin up softer than this. I guess time and finishing will tell. I can't wait to see what my yarn looks like after it's plied and set and washed. I'm sure that first ounce of mystery NZ wool will yield too little yarn to do much with at all, but I'll be happy to keep it as a skein, or just knit up a little square to have to show for my efforts.

What an adventure this is! Though I will contend that it should be called a "drop-and-roll-as-far-as-possible-under-the-couch spindle."


Monday, May 14, 2007

fashion statement?

AC Cardigan - sleeve 1 almost done

I was going to finish the first sleeve before I wrote another blog post. I really was. But then I did things like spend 3 days in the White Mountains, and climb the longest, hardest trail up Mt. Monadnock, and didn't get as much knitting done as I thought I would. But I'm almost done with the sleeve (8 rows to go), and it's been a couple of weeks since my last post, so here ya go.

I know the sleeve looks short. It's a bit scrunched on my arm in the photo, and will also be blocked out a bit for length, as my row gauge all over is a tad bit tight. That was the compromise I had to make so my stitch gauge wasn't too loose, and it's fine by me. I'll lose a tiny bit in body and sleeve circumference when I block for length, which is not a problem for me, given the size of the sweater.

If you're really interested in seeing some of what has slowed down my knitting, take a look at my White Mountains photoset and my Monadnock photoset from our latest hikes. (The Monadnock photoset may disappear soon, though. I only created the set to make it easier to do a "slideshow" for Alex's family yesterday.) I also got some amazing photos of fiddlehead ferns on a different hike yesterday, but haven't managed to upload them to Flickr yet.

Yesterday's hike was a side trip. The real destination was the New Hampshire Sheep and Wool festival. I'm glad I got there early, as I'm not a crowd person at all. I stopped in at the fleece to shawl contest a couple of times, marveling at the spinning wheels (the first time I'd seen one in use, in person), as well as the homemade loom a group of kids was using to weave their shawl. It looked like it was made of plywood and huge novelty straws. Ingenious. The vendor buildings were actually a bit much for me. Stand after stand of stuff. I was very goal oriented in my purchases, so I zipped through the vendors fairly quickly, doing some price comparisons, and trying to find the items I wanted. (Fairly quickly all being relative. As soon as I thought I was done, there was another building full of stuff.) I found someone selling Ashford drop spindles at a very reasonable price. She got me spinning right away, and if I may pat myself on the back, seemed pleased with how quickly I caught on. I just regret that I didn't take the foot or two of yarn I spun up with me, to press between the leaves of a favorite book, or pass on to my great-great-grandchildren. But I did get these:

first spindle

That's a 1 oz. bare-bones drop spindle, and an ounce of roving. I unfortunately don't remember the breed of sheep it's from. It's the same type I spun those first singles with, and is from a NZ breed. Later on I found a great deal on a 1/2 pound bag of roving from a Romney cross. I'm going to need more than an ounce of wool to play with. Also not pictured is my new niddy-noddy, which I still need to sand and assemble. I wish I'd bought a nostepinne, too, but I suppose I'll have to find one elsewhere. When I have that, I think I'll have all I need to spin and ply my first yarn.

What was really tempting were the big bags of fleece. Yeah, the dyed luxury stuff was pretty, but not nearly as inviting to me as the numerous big piles of crimpy raw wool. I think I'm going to pick up a fleece or three at next year's festival. I was really inspired by the first episode of the KnitPicks podcast, where the owner talks about learning to spin and knit, and her yearly cycle of buying fleeces in the Spring in preparation for having yarn to knit all winter. (I was pleasantly surprised by the podcast, in general. I was sceptical at first, wrongly assuming it was going to be a vehicle for advertising. It doesn't come across that way at all. Give it a listen.)

I look forward to reading about others' impressions of the festival. Next year I'm going to arrive even earlier, maybe snatch up a couple of fleeces, leave them in the car, and then spend the rest of my time communing with the animals. Even if I have to cringe at the signs that say things like "excellent carcass qualities." (For the record, I ate french fries for lunch yesterday. No lamb for me.)