Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Another Day in My Crazy Life

Well, I'd better put something on here before I'm out of the house again. Tuesday is always my CRAZY day. This morning, I went to the YMCA for my weekly "Charity Knitting" group. Those ladies are so fun to sit with. I'm almost finished making a cute topknot hat. Here's the pattern: http://www.vintageknits.com/babyhat.html It's so cute! I'm making it with Unger Fluffy yarn. The main color is pale orange, and the hearts are yellow. I'll try to take a photo to show you the finished product. Everyone there thought it was just adorable.

It's fun to knit for charity, because you have no idea who will be wearing the item you are making. I usually say a prayer for the family that will be receiving it, so I feel connected to them in some way. The whole group said a prayer together today, so that was pretty cool. Our group is called "Knit Wits". I guess that's a pretty common name among knitters, eh?

Right now, I'm working on getting packages ready to mail for eBay. Marvin and I sell things on there all the time. He always lists "manly" things like military or sports items. My auctions are usually old crochet patterns or needlework kits, or just anything I happen to find around the house that we don't need. We've made some good money on eBay. It's fun to do too! I pretty much waste all the money I make, though.....I turn right around and spend it all on eBay for knitting and spinning stuff! : )

So, since I have about an hour here, I'll talk just for fun. I have to teach piano lessons tonight starting at about 5:00, and ending at 8:30. I teach about 12 students right now. On Tuesdays, I teach at a studio in Charlotte. On Wednesdays, I go to a home where I teach 3 sisters. On Thursdays, I teach one student at my church, and then my night is filled with practicing organ for Sunday morning, rehearsing with a men's quartet, then playing for two choir rehearsals. I'm usually absolutely exhausted by the time that's all done.

Fridays are my fun days. I usually spend the whole day knitting or spinning or looking for new patterns on the internet. www.google.com is my best friend on Fridays. When I look for patterns, I am invariably led to other people's knitting blogs, where I get caught up reading and laughing about their exploits. I tell you....some knitters are just crazy people! Spinners are too....I think it's from staring at that wheel going round and round and round. Loopy!

Yesterday, I wrote all about my very first experience with spinning - using a drop spindle. My experiences with spinning have been interesting and challenging to say the least. It's much harder to learn to spin than it was to learn to knit. There are so many things to consider. The thing I'm having the hardest time with is TENSION. I just can't figure out what knob to turn to make my yarn turn out right.
My Ashford Traditional Spinning Wheel
I have an Ashford Traditional Wheel. It's so beautiful. I got it for a GREAT price at a local consignment store. That purchase makes a wonderful story. I'll tell you all about it tomorrow, hopefully. Believe me, you'll enjoy reading about it. Anyway...back to my tension problem. My wheel is an older model, so it has been very hard for me to find any kind of guide on the internet that matches my model. I have had to figure it out by trial and error mostly. So, needless to say, my yarn is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. Right now, it is all twisted WAY too tight. I laugh whenever I try to knit with it, because whatever I make ends up looking slanted. :P

One day, I'll go to that spinning class in Greensboro. I think that will be the best thing for me to do. I mean, I have the video from Ashford called "Spinning and Weaving the Ashford Way", but it only has instructions for the new models of course.

My other plan is to go to the Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair. http://www.saffsite.org/page.php?page=home.htm They have classes for EVERYTHING!

Well, I gotta sign off and get ready to go to the post office, pay my car payment, and teach piano lessons. Busy, busy, busy!

Catcha later. :)

This looks like my drop spindle. I got the picture from www.mielkesfarm.com. Posted by Hello

Monday, May 30, 2005

My Entry into the Spinning and Knitting Blog World

I guess I'll make my first entry in one of my favorite colors - Green. You know, that's the color I used when dyeing yarn for the first time. It was with Kool-Aid, of course. I used Lemon-Lime and Arctic Green Apple mixed together with a quart of water and a spoonful of vinegar. (I later learned that I didn't need the vinegar after all, but it worked, so THERE!)

Anyway, let's get this story in order. I'll start over again......cue the orchestra, Maestro! My first attempt at spinning was with a drop spindle that I made in my step-dad's woodshop. I bought the dowel and wooden wheel at Hobby Lobby. When I asked my step-dad to help, he said, "You're making a WHAT?" I said, "I'll bring some pictures of a few drop spindles to show you what I mean." So, I found tons of photos that were excellent examples, and then printed them out for him. He was interested when he saw them, and encouraged me to pursue the craft of spinning. Thanks, Ken!
Spun Yak Hair
After I got back home with my spindle, I decided to find some fiber to spin. I mean, I wasn't ready to buy a sheep fleece or anything! So, I went back to Hobby Lobby, hoping they would have a small bag of wool or cotton or SOMETHING. To my dismay, the only thing they had was huge bags of polyester fiberfill. I didn't know if that would work, and I really didn't need any fiberfill for anything, so I decided to look elsewhere.

While driving, I was thinking, "Hey, maybe I can use cotton balls!" I mean, when you don't know anything about spinning, you're grasping at straws, you know? I saw a Michael's store on the road, and decided to see if they had any wool before I resorted to buying cotton balls at the drug store.

Lucky for me, Michael's had a small bag of wool called, "Royal Fleece". It was a small amount of real sheep's wool, and it cost about $4.00. Ecstatic, I grabbed the bag and carried it to the front check-out. I fished out the money and was all smiles. I'm sure the lady at the register thought I was crazy. (Or maybe she thought I was coming on to her. I wasn't...I promise! I'm a happily married woman....to a man!)

When I got home, I whipped out the drop spindle and opened up the bag of wool. I was so excited, I could hardly keep my hands from shaking. I know...I'm a dweeb. The night before, I had googled everything I could find on spinning. There were some good directions for using a drop spindle on http://www.mielkesfarm.com/spndl_inst.htm. Using that as a guide, I pulled off a little of the wool, and tried to attach it to a yarn leader. It didn't work, of course, because it was my first try. I was thinking, "Ok, so how is this stuff supposed to attach?" Eventually, I just got a thick strand of the wool loose and tied it to the leader.

Then, I started spinning the spindle. It just fell to the floor, along with a little tiny bit of my wool. SIGH "Let's try that again," I said. Well, I tried....over and over....and after several attempts, I finally got the stupid thing to start twisting the wool. It's a good thing, too...because I was this close to throwing the dadblasted contraption out the window!

Well, silly me....I didn't know anything about fiber yet. Little things like "drafting" and "a few fibers" didn't mean a thing to me. I was just letting the spindle pull the wool. So, my very first attempt at drop spinning made a hunky piece of craft yarn about 1/2 inch thick! "This can't be right," I mused.

So, long story short, I had to go back to the internet and study some more. I realized that I needed to fluff out my fiber first, and since I didn't have a hand carder, I just pulled out little bits of fiber and laid them in a pile on my leg. Then I held the pile lightly in my left hand, while learning to draft with my right, while trying to spin the spindle with my right, while trying to keep the spindle from swinging around too much with my knees. Needless to say, it was quite acrobatic, and a little more work than I originally intended! My husband would have laughed his head off if he'd been home. I could have been his entertainment for the day, that's for sure.

I eventually resorted to just rolling the spindle on my right leg while fanning out the fibers with my left hand. It was just too hard to try to spin that thing while doing all the other stuff with my hands. So, with my improvised technique in spinning (rolling), I made yarn out of all that wool.

When my husband came home, I said, "Look Marvin! I made some yarn!" He was impressed, bless his heart. He is always so encouraging. If I had showed yarn to my first husband, he would have pushed me out of the way and told me it was stupid. Thank God for my sweet new husband. We met on Yahoo Personals about 5 years ago, and we haven't been apart since. He's such a loving person, and so sweet to me.

Anyway, back to my spinning story. I'll tell you more about Marvin later. After making dinner for my sweet man, we rested on the sofa and watched a little television together. Then, I said, "I'm gonna dye this yarn with Kool-Aid." I had found instructions for Kool-Aid dyeing here: http://www.woolfestival.com/articles/koolaid.htm

So, I mixed the Kool-Aid and water and vinegar, and then added my yarn. The really strange thought that came to my mind was "You know, this is really sheep hair....Yuck!" It really felt weird putting yarn in a pot on the stove like that, especially knowing it was originally on the back of a sheep. After I got over my initial "freakazoid" moment, I took a deep breath and said, "Here goes!" I turned the heat up to high to set the water boiling. Using a plastic spoon (I just couldn't bring myself to using a regular eating spoon), I pushed the yarn down into the water, and squeezed it against the sides of the pot.

After boiling it for about 5 minutes, I noticed that the water was clear! "That is so cool!" I said. My husband came in the kitchen and looked over my shoulder. "Wow...that IS cool!" he said. I just love him! So, seeing that the yarn had absorbed all the color, I took it off the burner and turned off the stove. While it cooled, I went back to spend more time with Marvin. I think we watched "Vegas" or something. That's his favorite show, because he is a Las Vegas fan. I'm not at all, but I'll watch it with him. Josh Duhamel is not that bad to look at. ;)

So, after my yarn cooled (it felt so good to call it "my" yarn!), I rinsed it with cool water, squeezed out the water, and then took it out to my back porch to dry. Proudly, I stared at the small hank of yarn, saying, "That wasn't hard at all!" I felt connected to my ancestors who had to be spinners, I'm sure. After all, I am mostly Irish or Scottish. My red hair, green eyes and fair skin are proof of that. After considering my heritage, I went back inside and tried to clean up the kitchen a little. Just a little, mind you. I HATE to clean house. I wish I had money so I could hire a maid. That would be heaven.

Since MY yarn was wet, I decided to go back to my knitting projects. I was working on several things, and it was hard to choose: a feather and fan shawl made with white Lion Microspun yarn http://www.lionbrand.com/patterns/kms-rippleshawl.html, a cotton dishcloth, a cotton hand towel, some furry flip flops made with Lion Fun Fur, a pink and white baby afghan made with Bernat Coordinates, a teal mohair shawl, and a few other things. So many projects, so little time. I chose to work on the furry flip flops. They were finished in no time, so I started making another pair. Those things are so easy to make. Here's a pattern if you haven't tried them yet: http://www.yarnmarket.com/yarn/Yarnmarket_Free-Fuzzy_Flip_Flops_Free-1083.html.

I finally went to sleep very late that night, after bringing in my almost dry yarn. I hung it up to dry completely on our DVD rack. The smile on my face was glorious.

The next morning, I decided that I wanted to make something special with my very first yarn, so I looked for a pattern for something simple and SMALL to make. After all, I didn't have a lot of yarn to work with. I found a pattern for a little change purse, so that's what I made. It turned out so cute! It has a little button to hold down the flap in front. I really like it. I don't use it as a change purse, though....instead I use it as a Treat Purse! It holds little candies and gum in my purse.
Handspun, Dyed, and Knit!
So, that's the first entry of my blog. I have more to tell about spinning and knitting, so I'll continue my drivel tomorrow. Be good!