Finally a Handspun FO

DSC01391Oh, I have knitted with my own handspun, but it’s been a while, and it’s been ridiculously infrequent.   While I don’t have a photo of the fiber or the yarn in a hank, it appears I spun it in the fall of 2009 on my first wheel, the Heavenly Handspinning Bellus

It seems I never reported on the fiber to yarn process, so let me capture some of that now too.

Fiber:  Gypsyknits BFL, c/o Gypsyknits  Pure heaven.  If you haven’t spun with BFL, do.  It is a GREAT novice spinner fiber.  Its staple length (the length of each single hair from the sheepy-sheep) is long enough to not be too hard to spin, soft enough to be worn next to the face or neck, and even in a novice’s hands, it has sproing and a touch of loft.

Yarn:  Over-spun, under-spun, but roughly DK at 15 wraps per inch.    In reality, it ranges from laceweight to worsted.

Plying:  Navajo plied… the only way I ply unless I’m using an accent thread or something.   In plainer language, it is a 3-ply yarn.

Verdict:  For my first “real” effort with “good” fiber, it’s pretty impressive.  I’ve come a long way as a spinner, but this is nothing to be ashamed of.

Now, for the finished object report.

photo.JPG

Paws to observe…

Project:  Handspun Tea Cozy Hat

Pattern:  Wooly Wormhead’s Tea Cozy Hat.   A great, simple pattern, designed to “vent” a high ponytail out of the top of the hat.

Yarn:  See above, but note that this photo is the most accurate on my monitor for the hues…

Needles:  Body of hat, US #8 16″ bamboo circular.  At least a size too large for most of the yarn, but I like a hat that breathes, so it suits me just fine.  #6 metal dpns used for crown decreases and i-cord. 

photo.JPGVerdict:  This hat will work for the ponytail-less too, but unless you have a long enough mane for a HIGH ponytail, this probably isn’t the design for you.  I’ll get plenty of use though because when my hair isn’t a in ponytail (generally a lower one) for dog walks, it’s in a clip of some sort, and those  don’t sit well under most hats either.

Yarn verdict?  I’ve dragged out more of my handspun still in my stash and I’m going to knit with it more often!  I do regret that I didn’t use but about half of the ball for this project, but luckily, I have a friend with two little boys who is willing to care for an extra-finicky handspun handknit hat.  If I knit it this year for the eldest boy, the two of them should get lots of wear out of it, right?

Now, to find the right projects for more of my handspun…

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Do you have any Aura?

May 2010 006

No, I’m not talking about my Majacraft Aura, which is still my dream wheel and I am going to return to Friday night spinning with her this week… I hope. 

No, I’m talking about Wrangler’s Aura jeans.   I’m not about to ask the Knight’s uncle to take pictures of me in my jeans, so just trust me… they fit well, look awesome, and I can’t believe I found the perfect pair of jeans at Tractor Supply.   The Knight has snagged a few pairs of jeans, work coats, etc. there over the years, but I tend to forget they have a clothing section.

Stock photo from Aura's website

Who knew?!  These jeans are great.   Now that I know what size I wear, I’m tempted to order another pair in another style… 

Rest assured, my legs are NOT that long, and I’m wearing Clarks with a heel, not spikes!

A great-fitting pair of jeans is definitely a wardrobe staple, and its been a long, long time since I’ve had a great-fitting pair of jeans.  I was going to reward myself when I got to my goal weight with a high-end pair of jeans, but at this point, I’m wondering why I would bother, when I’ve found a “perfect fit” at Tractor Supply?

So… what should my new goal weight present to myself be?

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…

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.

Wrappin’ It Up

Day #7

What a Yarn

There’s one love that we all share: yarn. Blog about a particular yarn you have used in the past or own in your stash, or perhaps one that you covet from afar. If it is a yarn you have used you could show the project that you used it for, perhaps writing a mini ‘review’. Perhaps, instead, you pine for the feel of the almost mythical qiviut? You could explore and research the raw material and manufacturing process if you were feeling investigative.

I can’t pick just one.  I’m knitting with cashmere right now, and I love the softness, but I also love the smooth, slick strength of alpaca and the sproing of a nice merino.   I just love fiber.  Each fiber has its own charcteristics that make it ideal for some projects and out of the question for others. 

Photo from SpringValley Yarns

So, it shouldn’t surprise you that my favorite yarns are blends.  Silk Merino, cashmere merino… They marry the best of two yarns together.

That’s Jessi‘s Cloud Nine in Sissy’s custom colorway.  That could be another definition of my most beloved yarns… the ones my talented friends create.  Kathy‘s creations, in yarn or fiber are pure joy going through my fingers.  Dianne’s cashmere blend was the first fiber love of wee Gretchen’s life.  Amanda’s Franconia is another cashmere blend that makes my heart sing.  Knowing that these gifted, gracious women are also my friends only makes the yarn that much more of a treasure. 

Yeah… that’s where my yarn treasures are… in the friendships I’ve made.  Knitting with the yarns my girlfriends have “colored” adds another layer to the communion that is knitting.  So, the yarns they’ve created are the ones I prize above all others, regardless of whether they are custom colorways that honor my dogs or whether it is a staple in their shop that caught my eye.  I promise you won’t be disappointed with any yarns from any of these gals. 

Now I also owe you a secret.  It’s not a secret anymore though.  The Majacraft Aura made its debut at Maryland Sheep & Wool yesterday, so I can tell you all about it now.  (Photos from Majacraft.) 

They were setting up their display model for MDSW when we arrived at Misty Mountain last weekend, so we promised to keep the secret and got to be some of the first to try the new wheel.  It treadles like a dream, as all the Majacraft wheels do.  It’s stunningly beautiful with its curved Rimu wood, but you can see all of that for yourself.  I’ll also leave you to read the specs yourself, because even if I had spent more time with it, I wouldn’t know how to explain the two drive bands and how they work.

What I can comment on is the unique dual function orifice, which I refer to as the delta with the curly cue in front.   You have to kinda’ wrangle the yarn through the almost standard delta orifice part  (the left most bend of metal on the right side of the photo), and then through the loopteedoo at the front (the right most part) to spin.  For chunky or art yarns, skip the delta and let the loopteedoo guide your just-spun single onto the bobbin.

And what a bobbin it is.  It looks huge, which isn’t a size I generally ascribe to bobbins.  I’m rather spoiled by my own Heavenly Handspinning bobbins which I have yet to max out, so I really can’t tell you just how much they’ll hold.  Frankly, bobbin size is something that gives me pause when I consider potential new wheels.  I can’t recall another bobbin that’s made me think I won’t miss the Bellus’s capacity quite so much.  Besides, I plan to keep it for plying and just because it’s my first wheel.

The Aura isn’t on my short list though, but spinning on it made me realize the Rose does need to be.  Those treadles are smooth, perhaps the smoothest in my opinion.  I’m looking forward to catching up with the Rose and its traditional flyer soon.

Now that I’ve tied up some loose ends, you can skip over to Nichole‘s and check some reviews.  Don’t miss the chance to win a Vogue stitch dictionary not available in stores, and don’t forget to say you heard about it from me.

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?

Spin Love

They say your wheel(s) choose you, or that you just KNOW when you find the right one.  Be still my heart; I’m a gonner.

Cathy inadvertently introduced me to the brand new Kromski Fantasia this morning, and I’m smitten.  It’s the wood hues, the shape… it’s pure lust, based only on appearances.   I have no idea how I’d like changing ratios by changing bobbins.   Talk to me, spinners!!  (Non-spinners, feel free to tell me how pretty she is…)

So, I think we all know what my weekend will look like.   I need to check in with my local Kromski dealer and see if she happens to have one on the way (the website says they begin shipping on the 12th.  From where?).  She also taught me to spin and has patiently watched me try 318 wheels (okay, so maybe not QUITE that many), so she’ll have a good idea of what changing the bobbin to change the ratio (how slow/fast you spin, which impacts the thickness of the yarn, to grossly over-simplify it) will do to my frustration level.

But tonight, I’m knitting another pair of baby booties, right after I do the Wii Fit Plus thing.  Yes, I really do enjoy it!  Sunday, I’m going to make a necklace with some League friends…  I’ve never tried to do more than make stitch markers, and I didn’t enjoy that one bit, so…  I hear our hostess and jewelry maker has a beautiful home, and I know I’ll have good company…

What will your weekend hold?