Toot, toot!

We'll both be there!

Before I get all crazed and forget, do stop by the spin-in on Sunday if you’re local, or live anywhere near central VA and want to see a bunch of spinners all in one place.  The link is to the Ravelry event page, but if you are planning to attend, you can also email me for more information. 

I shall endeavor to take photos, since I failed miserably at that task yesterday.  I took my little camera, so I had that AND a Blackberry with a decent enough camera within, and I was a good 10 minutes into my train ride home when I realized I’d not taken a single photo for you. 

I’ll get to yesterday’s adventures in a moment, but I might not have literally gotten there without Amtrak.  I’ve only taken the train once before, and that was about 15 years ago.  So, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I booked my ride from podunk to my college town and back again. 

It was the BOMB.  I somehow managed to have a seat to myself, which is to say I had two seats to call my own, both going and coming.  I know the drive well, since as I just said, DC was my college town.  The most thrilling part was driving through one of the farms I lived on in my teens.  Wow, what they’ve done with the place!  I couldn’t see much because I figure we were going around 70+ miles per hour, but the house and yard looked amazing.  You can’t see the house from Rt. 29, and I’ve never ventured any closer.

But you want to hear about my visit with Ruth, don’t you?   We met at Union Station, which was another blast from the past.  We used to grab lunch there all the time back in the day, and then wander around the shops.  And that’s just what we – and that we includes Ruth’s hubby too – did. 

I snagged some costume stuff for the fur-girls thanks to Ruth’s good eyes, but I honestly have no idea when I’ll get to take photos of such.  It’s way too hot out there now to get great photos of them, so just be patient.  Actually, I have a whole host of fun props to use with the fur-girls when time and medications and allergies allow…  And I snagged these Merrell sandals for me.  Mine are a little different,  with a solid brown footbed and a bronzy leather upper, but again, I don’t know what the chances are of getting a photo for you before I’m wearing wool socks and clogs again, so that gets you in the ballpark, so to speak.

It was a long day.  I figured up on my ride home that I spent about an hour in the car, about five hours on the train, and another hour either marching down to the right spot to board or de-train, or waiting to board the trains that carried me to and fro.  Still, I was in far better shape than I would have been if I’d driven, even to the nearest Metro station to take the subway into the city…  And it was all worth it to catch up with the Scrabblequeen and her hubby again!

Don’t look for another post before Monday morning, but in the meantime, those BonBon Rose Girls are giving away a ring I really want.   (That’s the catch-22.  To get more entries, I have to tell you about it, but that also means more competition.) 

So, will you be doing some resting and relaxing for me?  Or maybe folding the laundry I did last week that STILL hasn’t found its way into the drawers yet?

Toot, toot!  All aboard the weekend express!  Scratch that.  I want a good, old-fashioned steam engine to pull my weekend train, and one of those high-speed things from Europe for the weekdays.

Cuff of first sock... you're really in the dark on this one, eh?

P.S. – I am now working on the heel flap of my second sock.  Maybe on the 2+ hour ride to the family reunion later this month, I’ll come close to finishing them?

This used to be a knitting blog…

Finished Firsts

Finally, that finished report on the first yarn spun and plied on the new Aura.  It also happens to be my first beaded yarn.

Step 1:  I spun up some laceweight singles in a Corridale (wool).

That was the easy, breezy part, especially with the Aura, the wool-eater.

Step 2 is where it got dicey.  I bought some size 10 crochet cotton in a pale blue, and strung three small tubes of beads on it.  The stringing alone took almost an hour.

There were FOUR knots like that before I finished plying all 350 yards.  I actually had about 400 yards of the wool, but after going back for two more tubes of beads (still not quite enough) and cutting and RE-stringing those beads so many times, I wasn’t about to go buy more cotton.

The beads are actually blue lined with silver, and none of these photos  accurately reflect their stand-alone color.

As seen here with my yarn-guard in the background, I did quickly and sloppily navajo ply the remaining wool at the end too.  It’s hard to navjo ply laceweight!  I don’t think I’ll do that again.

Because my new bobbins don’t fit on my beautiful lazy kate, the Knight and I fashioned a very basic model.

One box, one long, thin needle, and voila!  I’ve already put in a request for a proper Majacraft Universal Lazy Kate AND ordered the Knight to create an “adapter” rod that will allow my lovely Yarndemon Kate to continue to serve me well, regardless of what wheel/bobbins I use.

This was my first beaded yarn, and it could be my last.  That’s why when Ann begged me to make some for her, I told her this is hers.  I honestly don’t know if I’ll go to this much trouble again.  Although, I’ve since learned there are little spinny bead bowl thingees that literally spin the beads onto  the needle, onto the yarn for you… 

I love to ply, generally, but the knots and running out of beads twice sucked the joy right out of this for me.  It isn’t perfect, but I know Ann will love it anyway, so the yarn is getting a better home than it would have with me, I think.

Oh – and I’ve called it light fingering, but it’s a REALLY light fingering at 15 wraps per inch. 

I do want to try plying with metallic thread, and I would love to hear other ideas you have for blending handspun with something else (to take full advantage of the yardage).  I’m spinning that blue Fairy batt now, and it will be laceweight when plied.  I am leaning towards plying it with a metallic thread to keep it a true laceweight.  It does  have some slubs (chunks of fiber that simply do not want to yield and be spun into something smooth), and for a change, I’m leaving those slubs in the yarn.

I’ll be spinning that batt this weekend.  I’m also on Sissy watch.  You can read her blog to find out why, but so far, she hasn’t been sick, thankfully.  Y’all were quiet too yesterday, so catching up on my blog reading is already crossed off the to-do list.  I also want to figure out how and where to store my fiber stash, not to be confused with the yarn library.  The other spinners out there… how do you store your fiber?  In plastic tubs like the yarn, or ??

Oh – I also want new running shoes, and if Sis continues to keep those pills down, I might scoot in to Ragged Mountain Running Shop for a personalized fit and shoe recommendation.  I do realize running is high impact and thus, not ideal for my back, but I can’t just walk – seriously.   My body just sneaks into a jog when I’m not looking.   I’ve even tried race walking, and while I have been known to complain that I hate running, I ran track AND cross country in high school, and then would go run the stairs in the hose tower at the firehouse when I was working and couldn’t get to the gym.   I think I’m a runner, so I may as well buy shoes that will help protect my back as much as possible.  There’s also nothing like running to burn those calories which I must incinerate to lose this weight, which isn’t good for my back either…

What’s up for your weekend?


This week, Thankful Thursday needs its own post, not just a paragraph in my regular Thursday stuff. 

In a nutshell, I’m thankful for all the supportive friendships I have in my life.  More than one has played out in a grand fashion this week, and I am well aware that I am blessed.

Y’all saw the lovely blankie Gmarie sent to save me from myself.   It allowed me to give a promised gift to a family, without hand pain or the guilt that I think a lot of us have when we realize a craft project isn’t working out. 

Many of you know that I’m on an uphill climb to regain the fitness I took for granted earlier in my life.   It’s hard to go from power lifting firefighter to an out of shape bookkeeper.  Again, I’m blessed with supportive, kind friends.  A local, blogless friend also struggles with proper nutrition, also needs a higher protein diet, not that you’d know it to look at her. 

Both of us have tried – and tried – to catch the Greek yogurt wave, but we were stopped by the strong, chalky taste.   I didn’t doubt her but headed to the grocery store when she told me she’d FINALLY found a creamy, tasty Greek yogurt.  Dannon does Greek yogurt a little differently.  My friend swears by the honey and vanilla, while I was forced to try the strawberry and blueberry, because that’s all that I saw on the shelf.   If you see me in the store this weekend, don’t get between me and the Dannon Greek; I’ll be stocking up and making it my go-to breakfast with some granola sprinkled on top.

Of course, what would Thankful Thursday be without mentioning my new wheel?!  It’s a Majacraft tradition to sign the base of each wheel and number it.  Owen is the husband half of the owner team, and that four on the end?  Not that there was any doubt, but 4 has been my favorite number since I started playing sports and wearing uniforms.  My first track jersey made me #14, and the rest is history. 

I’m also thankful for each of you, even those lurkers who swing by and I don’t even know your names.   I started blogging just because I wanted to swap and it was a requirement, but now, some of the women I chat with most came into my life through blogging!

Making Time

Isn’t it interesting how we carve out time for the things that matter most to us?   When I first began hanging out with the rude jerk inside my Wii Fit, I hated the knitting time I was losing.  Last night, I was two minutes late for the NCIS season finale because I was boxing. 

Of course, you won’t be surprised to hear that I’ve found a few minutes to spin every day since Saturday either.   Two ounces of Corridale, most likely to be plied with some crochet cotton with beads strung on it…

I’m an addict.  I’ve known this about myself for years.  I think reading was my first addiction; I devoured books and was reading long before I ever went to school.  I don’t know what came next, but I’ve been obsessed with horses, running, the oboe, tennis, roosters, Winnie the Pooh, weight lifting, baking, dark chocolate, craisins, candy coated sunflower seeds, loose tea, key limes, alfredo, pesto, cookbooks, knitting, spinning, scrapbooking, stamping, photography, dogs, fire trucks, fancy dresses, pearls, charm bracelets, teddy bears, wine with bubbles, shoes, Vera Bradley, history, The Civil War, fine china, antique flatware…

You get the point.  I tend to go overboard when I get into something.  Sometimes, I outgrow the phase – teddy bears are a great example.  Once I packed up my college dorm room, I think the urge to collect novel bears faded pretty quickly.  However, most of the time, I remain at least kinda’ interested in the former rabid fascinations.  But there are only so many hours in a day, so when something new tickles my fancy, something has to give.

I don't mean to be greedy, but I hope I have more than the one bloom this year!

As I look forward to having the current study move into another room and become a hobby room, I’m going to have to make some hard choices.  (Personally, I think a huge addition with a room for each of my obsessions would be the ideal solution, but then the Knight would want space for his hobbies too, so…)  I know some of you are naturally minimalists, and I envy you.  I know some of you have downsized, and still others have had to make room for new additions to your household.

What do you do with old collections that house gifts from special people?  What do you do with all the supplies from one crafting category when another catches your eye?   

Oh – and if you see my knitting mojo, tell it to enjoy the vacation, but at some point, I will want to actually DO something with all this yarn I’m spinning… 

… like knit socks from the new book by the woman who finally wrote instructions I could follow to do two socks at the same time.  Nichole is giving a copy of said book away, so be sure to say I sent you!

The One I Want

Okay, so the most accurate statement is one of my searches is over.  The Knight is back to insisting I’d be happiest with a sedan, but that’s another story…

The Bellus on the right with its new sister

I was bound and determined to buy a new wheel yesterday, whether we bonded or not.  I was tired of shopping and not sitting down to that magical feeling that THIS is THE wheel, and I was becoming distracted by the weaknesses in my stalwart little BellusAnita sweetly assured me she had a good feeling about my shopping agenda, and while I am often oblivious to my own intuition, I honor everyone else’s.  With all of that going for me, I headed to Stony Mountain Fibers  with my mad money in hand.

Does she look familiar?  She should.  I had a feeling it was fortuitous to get to spin on the Majacraft Aura before her North American debut, but it wasn’t love at first sight.  I liked her, but I think there were several factors at play that distracted me that day.   Nevertheless, yesterday we hit it right off.

Barbara had some great, older pop ‘n rock music playing in the shop.  I’ve always loved soundtracks and musicals, but Grease was the first one that I found on my own, so to speak, so it was more than a little ironic that at one point, You’re the One that I Want caught my ear.   Maybe I’ll name the new wheel Sandra Dee or Honey. 

She’s Majacraft’s Aura.   Part of what won me over on this, our second introduction, is that what is now MY wheel was put through her paces at Maryland Sheep & Wool by Glynis, half of the owner/director team for Majacraft.  All that was left to do was to figure out which bobbin ratio made everything perfect for me.   I was able to spin yarn so fine it was scary, which might also read that as soon as I was comfortable with this beauty, she gladly produced a single that would be a fine laceweight when plied.

I learned to spin on a Fricke S-160 DT, so I suppose it’s natural for me to prefer a delta orifice.  (The place on the right where the yarn meets the wheel, if any non-spinners are following along.)  A true delta orifice lacks that curlycue in the front, which Majacraft sweetly calls the halo ring.  Rightly so, because this wheel is heaven-sent.

See that white cord?  That’s unique on a Majacraft wheel, and simply put, it is double drive in a fashion we can all understand.   I’ve linked to the Mechanics page that came with my wheel, because there’s no way I can explain it better than they do.  Dear Barbara read it to me while I was spinning, and helped me figure out what fine adjustments were needed to make this wheel truly my own.   No more feeling as though my wheel is snatching the yarn from me!

Just so you know, that pale orange was spun at MDSW, and the bright coral is what I spun at the shop.  I’ve since stripped that from the wheel and have some blue Cormo on there.  Some of you who know me well will appreciate that I fell in love with a wheel that came home with a bobbin dressed in shades of orange.

That’s specifically for Anita.   Top, the huge Aura bamboo (drive wheel and bobbins are bamboo, one of my favorite renewable resources), and bottom, the seemingly limitless Heavenly Handspinning bobbin we love so dearly.  I think that while they are shaped very differently, the Aura bobbin will still hold all I care to spin onto it, with the advantage of double drive and its ability to stay the course as a bobbins fills.

I could write for days, but that only takes away from my spinning time.  Oh – and the silly Knight wanted to know why I didn’t trade the Siren (aka: Bellus) in.  In case anyone else is wondering, here’s a little list of whys:

  1. He is my first wheel. 
  2. Anita has his sister or cousin or something, and we’ve plied new layers of friendship in learning to spin together.  (Okay, I tempted her into spinning, she learned and then helped me take spinning out of the classroom and into my life.)
  3. I might still want to ply on the Bellus, because plying has always delighted me, and Irish tension plies like nothing else.
  4. It’s a novelty.   You can’t walk into your local (or nearest) spinning shop and find one.
  5. At least two of my friends have hinted that Siren can live with them if he needs to relocate.
  6. It is lighter and more forgiving of banging around, should I ever opt to take a wheel to the beach or something.
  7. It’s arguably the best beginner’s wheel out there, because of price and its very simple design.  I don’t know that I would have ever figured out all the parts to a wheel had I started with anything fancier.

For the record “everyone” was right.  I did sit down with the Aura yesterday and everything clicked.  I wasn’t distracted by a single treadle Matchless at a bargain price, and there was no Lendrum that was almost as nice at a much cheaper price.  I never even spun on anything else in the shop, and I am quite certain that while I will continue to enjoy trying out other wheels, I’ll walk away shrugging it off because MY wheel and I just fit.  There are no extra flyers or different bobbins for lace to buy.  If I don’t ply with the Bellus, I’ll need a lazy kate (hint, hint to the Knight for my birthday), and truly, that’s it. 

And yes, I paid dearly for that bond and the limitless potential for art yarn, chunky yarn, and other things I might never want to spin.  However, the Aura also did what I wanted in my next wheel flawlessly, and that was all that mattered.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go spin.

Tulip Faerie Fiber

I am beside myself with glee.  Anita and Kathy have chatted about batts in group emails before, and I thought they were neat, but…  I get it now.  I totally get it and want – no, NEED more batts.

This wonderful blend of soft, fluffy fiber comes from Beth of Blue Mountain Handcrafts.   She has a special Flower Fairy Spin a long on Ravelry, and is offering the “kits” in different flower/color options via her Etsy shop (linked above).   If you spin, think about joining us!

Don’t mind the super-sized tulip stitch marker.  I just love the detail Anita puts into her markers.   Since not the first one of my tulips got to bloom this year (thanks critters that eat my garden!), I now have a faerie tulip to ward off the naughty flower munchers…

The kit even includes wildflower seeds.  Isn’t that fun?  Isn’t the card lovely too?

And because you need a point of reference, Gretchen is glad to step in.  (Yes, that white smear in the bottom of the photo is Sissy being possessive and making sure she’s closer to me than Gretchen is!)

Somewhere, I read a legend about Jack Russells being used as steads for faerie princesses.  I sure wish I could find it again.

Tilt o Wheel!

I think the best kind of adventures are sometimes the spontaneous.  Late Friday night, Rosanne suggested that I might pop up for lunch and to swap up the completed shop sample for another to cast on.  Of course, we lunched at It’s About Thyme.  I had the steak salad and finished with the citrus cheesecake.  Heaven.  Love the wait staff there too. 

But you want to hear about the shop!  It’s very close to ready.  It’s bright, it’s cheery, and the big chair closest to the door is MINE, so vacate it when I walk in, okay?!  No, no, I’ll share.  I know my way to the back, and the chairs at the table in the classroom aren’t uncomfortable either. 

Photo from Gypsyknit's Etsy site

I can’t wait to share it with the rest of you.  There are bags EVERYWHERE, in splashes of color.  Kathy‘s Sock It bags are sprinkled all around, and I love the new addition to her line, the larger bag for larger projects.   LINK to Dog House Yarn’s blog post about the bags…

However, the bulk of our time was spent on my first visit to Misty Mountain Farm, not at all to be confused with Misty Mountain Campground.  (Oh Robin… isn’t it time to camp there again?  Gretchen needs a Rudy fix, and I think I’ll soon have a new wheel that wants to sit and spin with you…)

I don’t have photos for you because we got a special treat of which I cannot speak until next weekend or later.  (Remind me.  It’s worth the wait and I apologize for the tease.)  Because not a single online photo exists of said secret, I felt it best to be a nice guest and leave my camera in my purse.

Luckily, the internet will fill in most of the voids.  You won’t get to see Leanna at work, creating hank blanks to get dyed up for those of you headed to Maryland Sheep & Wool, but I can show you photos of the wheels I tried.

Get food and water (or your beverage of choice), because this is going to be a looooong post.  If wheels aren’t your thing, we’ll chat tomorrow.

We’ll start with the Kromski Fantasia that stole my heart a week ago.  I actually spun on the walnut version, which is dark where this one is light, and then the “swoosh” in the middle is light. 

Pros:  Smooth, beautiful and user-friendly.  The magnetic flyer attachment is fun and practical!   I was able to thread the leader through the orifice without a hook, which ALWAYS makes me happy for some stupid reason.

Cons:  Quirky as it is uniquely beautiful.  The flyer is square where others are more rounded.  (See page 3 of the assembly instructions if you really are interested.)  Even the flyer hooks are square, and slide on little pieces of leather. 

Verdict:  Oh, it’s lovely to look at.  I wouldn’t be disappointed if I’d ordered one without spinning on it, but it’s not my dream wheel.  I don’t know what it is about Kromski’s treadle braces (that honey-colored piece in the VERY bottom of the photo), but both Rosanne and I have consistently found them to put our legs in uncomfortable positions with every Kromski we’ve tried.  I did readjust my seat height and closeness before I spun on the wheel, and that helped enough that for the few minutes I enjoyed a test spin, it wasn’t bad. 

There was also a bit of a vibration at the flyer that I was aware of, but this was a brand new wheel, assembled in anticipation of next weekend’s big event.  For the price  – just under $500 – I don’t think there’s a prettier wheel on the market. 

Oh – one other thing.  The wheel AND the flyer are weighted, so that flyer will keep going forever once you stop spinning.  I had trouble remembering to keep my feet on the treadles until both hands were on the flyer.  Okay, I’m blowing it out of proportion, but not much.  Still, worth noting, as is the wheel’s striking beauty.  If ever the Knight builds me a fiber room, don’t be surprised to see a walnut Fantasia on the wall as art, if nothing else.

Anita giving a Majacraft Suzie a whirl at Stony Mountain Fibers, fall 2009

I should stop here and note how I test spin.  First, it’s all about the looks.  I open the doors and try the radio – oops!  wrong product.  I do check the baby out and try to figure out where all the nobs and such I might want to adjust are.  Then, I treadle.  If my feet and legs aren’t happy, ain’t nobody gonna’ be happy for long.  Then, after several minutes of the foot test, I move on to spinning fiber.  I like to spin fine and fast, and all the wheels I tried yesterday did that with great ease. 

I think that’s a pretty standard approach.  Do you do anything differently?

Image courtesy of Spinners Choice

Next up was a used Schacht Matchless, single treadle.  Pre-owned is truly more accurate here.  Linda, the shop owner, isn’t even sure this wheel was broken in by its previous owner.  Even though I love a double treadle, I very nearly came home with this baby.  I treadled on it in double drive, but I spun on in Scotch, because that’s what I know best, and that’s what the other wheels I tried were.

Pros:  Another beauty.  See the slips of walnut in there?  It really does spin like a dream.  If you’re going to be at MDSW, visit Linda early, because if the price she gave me – $500 – is the festival price, this baby is leaving the dance early with a happy partner, I’d bet.

Cons:  It wasn’t silent.  Again, it wasn’t broken in, but I also had trouble making the treadle do precisely what I wanted it to at the precise moment I wanted it to happen.  I know it’s rude to talk about a lady’s weight, but this wheel is hefty.  She definitely wouldn’t want to travel much, not with my back problems.

Verdict:  Did I mention I very nearly brought it home anyway?  Nothing at all wrong with this wheel, and I can see why it’s so highly praised.  The Ladybug  with her red plastic wheel is a distant memory right now.  I want to try her once more, but she really is this grand lady’s kid sister, at least in appearances.  The Ladybug is much lighter though, so…

Julia, Julia.  I didn’t love Julie & Julia the movie as much as some of you did, and I don’t even like the Louet Julia.   At $750, she’s not in the same price range as the other wheels I tried, and I’d say that’s ridiculous. 

Pros:  Lightweight.

Cons:  Priced far above her value, in my eyes.  No visual appeal, and I found her less stable (because of her weight, I’m sure) than my Bellus.  

Verdict:  She’s adequate, but really, for the price, there’s SO much more out there.  Unless you really need a really light, full-sized wheel, I can’t see why she’d appeal to anyone.

Photo courtesy of Misty Mountain

Last, but to my surprise, far from least, is the leaning Lendrum

Pros:  Spins almost silently, right out of the box.  Folds nearly flat for storage or transport.  Because of the lean, you can see the bobbin quite clearly as you spin.  Orifice hook has a great little hole, right on the wheel.

Cons:  Crickets chirping…  The lean, maybe, when I’m not spinning?  It is a little heavy, but not prohibitively so.

Verdict:  I like him very, very much.  (Yeah.  Masculine.  Don’t ask.  I don’t know.)  For the price – less than $500 – I seriously don’t think there’s a better wheel on the market, lean and all.  Anything else is going to have to out-perform him, or I’m going to join the ranks and own a wheel that tilts at spinners.

So, today Lendrum is the most likely candidate, but I still want to try a Schacht Matchless double treadle, the Schacht Ladybug again, the Majacraft Rose and I think that’s it.  I’m a little put off by Majacraft’s off-center orifices, but I love the way they look and treadle.  Still, those wheels (except the Ladybug) cost a lot more than the leaning Lendrum, so they’re going to have be THAT much better than him to make the final cut.

I didn’t talk about bobbin size.  That’s in part because nearly everything pales to my Bellus, and I will likely ply on the Bellus, so… 

Here’s a quick ranking, as to where my head is on the wheel search at this very moment:

  1. Lendrum
  2. Majacraft – but I need at least an hour with that offset orifice to know for sure if it’s a contender at all
  3. Schacht – something double treadle

Photo from Schacht

What will knock the leaner out of purchase’s way?  Beauty, frankly.  I don’t find the Lendrum repulsive, but it doesn’t make me swoon the way the Fantasia does either.  The Ladybug and the Lendrum are in the same mess.  Some days, the red makes me want to whistle, as in whistle while I whirl, not a catcall.  Other days, it makes me think cute and castle wheels don’t go together.  Still, both are top contenders, along with the more expensive, beautiful Majacrafts and the Matchless.  Go figure.

I am hoping to make it to the Maryland Sheep & Wool festival, but I don’t have firm plans yet.  We have plans Saturday evening, so that would be a very long day, and the Knight would have to drive me up on Saturday morning and we’d have to leave after a late lunch.  Sunday would still make for a long day after our Saturday night out.  My back is always a wild card too.  Are you going?