Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Five Things That Make Me Happy

1. The pooling thread on Ravelry. This thread is full of really interesting and often quite beautiful photos of pooling and flashing in knitted and crocheted projects. Not only is it an informational thread, where you can get a better idea of how certain yarns may act in certain kinds of projects, but it's just plain good eye candy. You'll be amazed at some of the stuff yarn does, seemingly all on its own. Now that I think about it, some of it is even kind of creepy...

2. The Yarnspinner's Tales podcast. This is an incredibly informative podcast, though it should come with a warning label, because I'm convinced that it was the straw that broke the camel's back in terms of me learning how to process fiber. The first couple of episodes don't have the greatest sound quality, but it improves, and you should listen to all of them, anyway. If you have even the slightest interest in spinning and/or fiber processing, you should subscribe to this podcast immediately, and make sure to download and listen to all the back episodes.

3. Rolags and iMovie. I've learned how to make truly soft, squishy yarn. Fuzzy wuzzy cuddly yarn. And I also learned how to document it. Or rather, I documented it in the roughest of manners, using the built in camera on my MacBook, and doing the barest minimal in terms of editing. I made the rolags out of commercially prepped merino top, that was hand dyed by Freckleface Fibers. These videos show you how I did it:

(It's not really that loud when I card it. The mic picked up mostly the high pitched noises, which makes it sound like I'm mashing the teeth of the cards together. They lightly touch, but I'm not scraping or digging them into each other.)

And here's how I spun it:

And here is the lovely yarn:

woolen spun merino

woolen spun merino

woolen spun merino

366 yards
87 grams (after sampling, and not splitting it evenly)
13.5 wpi (DK weight)

This yarn is not as even as what I'd get with worsted / short forward draw. That's the nature of longdraw woolen spinning, and I'm at peace with that. Mostly. Actually, I didn't realize how comfortable I was with my technique and what I was producing until I made this video, because it forced me to stop scrutinizing every tiny detail of the yarn, and notice that I was mostly doing a great job, and mostly doing what I've see in other longdraw videos on YouTube. It was a great confidence booster, and I suggest video for everyone. It's really interesting to see your process from an outside angle.

I plan to do this a lot more in the future. Of course, it's a bit dangerous, because it's so quick. Doing short forward draw worsted style spinning, it's not too hard to keep up with knitting the stuff I'm spinning. Woolen spinning is so fast that I could never knit it as fast as I spin it. I admit, I've already been thinking about buying a pound of hand dyed merino top for a sweater. The yardage you get with woolen spinning is so great that that's all I'd need for something fairly plain, and maybe even for something with more texture. I LOVE this!

4. My stash. I love my stash because it's limited in size, yet has so much potential. There's some blue Cascade 220 for an aran, a couple of skeins of Noro for an awesome mitten design idea, a couple of skeins of mostly solid sock yarn, because that is somewhat of a staple yarn for me, and a whole bunch of handspun that is special because I made it. This is not a collection of stuff, but a collection of future endeavors and untapped creativity. It is a collection of potential energy, waiting to prance across my needles. The best kind of collection!


5. You guys. Thank you so much for the comments on my last post. I was a bit scared to post what I did, and almost immediatley had second thoughts about it after I did post it. I don't crave or even particularly want attention. At least not for negative things that none of us have any control over. The spirit and tone of your comments was absolutely perfect. Thank you all for not being too sappy, and for saying a lot of really intelligent things that made me smile, nod my head in agreement, and think a lot. This blog wouldn't be the same without the people who read it, and I'm not really a spiritual person, but I do feel that the energy of the readers makes a difference in a blog. At least for the person who is writing it. You guys have a great energy, great hearts, and great minds. I am a lucky blogger.

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Saturday, November 01, 2008

Don't worry, only the Monkey Socks are contagious

Thanks for the responses to my last post. I know that fiber prep is not of interest to everyone, but I'm glad to see that some people found it interesting, and perhaps even a little useful. I do plan to write some about carding and combing at some point, but that post probably won't be as in-depth, since they're very physical tasks that are probably better served by in person or video demonstrations. But I will at least talk a little about what I have learned, and will make a list of youtube videos that I found useful in my own learning process.

Today is back to basics. You know -- knit, purl, and all that jazz.

I have hopped on board the primate love train, and produced my very own pair of Monkey socks. How 2006 of me. ;-)

Handspun Monkeys

I used my own handspun for these socks -- a 2 ply heavy fingering weight merino, from top dyed by Freckleface Fibers. I think I mentioned when I posted about the finished yarn that I really adored spinning this fiber. It was a particularly bouncy merino, and made a nice bouncy yarn that was well suited to the Monkey pattern.

Handspun Monkeys

I didn't deviate too much from the pattern, but as you can see, opted for 2x2 ribbing at the cuff, and a slip stitch patterned heel, instead of stockinette. Other than that, they're pretty much pure Monkey. Thanks, Cookie, for writing such a cute little pattern! I can see now why it's so popular.

Handspun Monkeys

I have to admit that I had doubts about these socks the entire time I was knitting them. I actually started the pattern once before, with a yarn that was way too busy for them. I worried that this yarn was also too busy, but in the end I think the results are quite nice, even if it might take a knitter to truly appreciate these somewhat frantic looking socks. (Really, who wears socks like this other than knitters or the people knitters love?)

My recent focus has been on hats. Most of you don't know this, but I spent the summer undergoing chemo for Hodgkin's Lymphoma. (Don't worry -- I'm going to be fine, the worst of the treatment is over, and in a couple of weeks I'll be done with radiation, too!) The hair loss wasn't immediate, and wasn't complete, but by about a week ago I estimate that 80 - 90% of my hair was gone, so it time to just shave the rest off and have a fresh start. (Really, the zombie look is not flattering for anyone. Except maybe zombies.) This means that I've been doing a lot of hat knitting. And really, what's better for hats on a bald head than Malabrigo?

My first Malabrigo project was Norah Gaughan's Sunflower Tam, from the book Knitting Nature. I want to knit just about everything from that book, and this seemed like a good place to start.

Sunflower Tam

Sunflower Tam

This pattern is a lot of fun to knit. It's very cleverly designed, integrating decreases into the patterning at the top absolutely seamlessly. It's also very easy to knit, and I made it in just a few days, when I was home sick. Really, few things lift the spirits as well as buttery soft merino. I hadn't used Malabrigo in 4 years, since I knit a sweater out if it. (My second sweater, ever!) While it's not suitable for a sweater (softly spun merino singles pill very easily), it's now my very favorite hat yarn. And I think that, as long as I don't go around rubbing my head on things, the yarn should resist pilling when perched atop my head.

My other Malabrigo hat is Ysolda Teague's Gretel. It's funny that I chose to knit 2 berets when I've never worn a beret before, and am not convinced that I look particularly good in one. But there are so many beautiful and interesting beret patterns out there that I couldn't resist.


This is also a cleverly designed hat, where the patterning integrates the decreases so that the top has a fluid and natural look to it. I wore it out today, and I could tell that it caught the eye of many people. Thank you, Ysolda, for such a beautiful pattern!


If you are knitting chemo caps for someone you know, I think that both of these patterns are wonderful. And if you know you'll be knitting for someone who will not throw the hats in the washing machine, Malabrigo really is the softest thing I could imagine putting on my sensitive, naked scalp. I think that berets/tams work particularly well for chemo caps because they give the head some interest in terms of shape. Seeing your bald, round dome can be a bit startling at first, and you really realize how much of a difference hair makes in the dynamics of your head. More closely fitting hats are still great, and I have one in the works, but something that isn't shaped like your bald head feels great to wear when you are bald.

Another thing to keep in mind when making chemo caps is that hot flashes can be a side effect of chemo. Another advantage of more loosely fitting hats, like berets, is that they are insulating without being suffocating. I think they are a lot more comfortable to wear than traditional hats for someone whose temperature is fluctuating a lot. Though I am happily beyond that stage, and so pleased that I don't spend my day tearing things off my head, then scrambling to put them back on.

So that's my chemo cap wisdom for the day! I was reluctant to talk about the whole cancer thing here. Part of it was that, when I was going through chemo and not feeling well, chemo was really the last thing I wanted to talk about, ever. Now that the whole thing is almost over (radiation is like a walk in the park), it seems a little weird to bring it up. But with all this hat knitting, I suppose the topic was unavoidable.

Another reason I decided to finally talk about it is that, as a woman suffering from a kind of cancer that is not breast cancer, the past few months have been particularly frustrating. Not that I don't think breast cancer is terrible (all cancer is!), and not that I don't think support for people with breast cancer, either monetarily or personally, is not important. But when you are feeling sick, weak, and scared, and the source of those feelings is some other type of cancer, it can feel particularly isolating to be inundated with requests for breast cancer support and pink ribbons around every corner. Supporting breast cancer research is absolutely awesome, but if you're a person who has the desire and the money to make donations, consider veering at least some of your money to more general causes, such as the American Cancer Society. Or, heck, Amnesty International is also a great cause, because there is a lot of suffering in this world that is caused by things other than cancer! Obviously, my illness has made me a lot more sensitive about this issue than most people are. But even though I know it's illogical, when you're feeling terrible and all you see are pink ribbons, it's hard not to feel even worse because you have the uncool kind of cancer, and it's hard not to feel that society cares less about you than it does other cancer patients because the tumor is in your neck, and not your breasts. So, as my favorite presidential candidate would say, spread the wealth? ;-)

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