Monday, October 31, 2005

Still around

I had hoped to have some pictures up by now, but someone (Terry) packed the digital camera, but not the cable to transfer the pix to the computer. Suffice it to say, we are having fun, and we will prove it in a day or two.

NaNoWriMo starts in ten hours where I am. I thought I was ready, but I'm not. As usual. See you there.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Stretching my wings

Last Thursday, for reasons that I won't bore you with here (since most of my faithful readers have already heard the story anyway), I ended up singing at a company-wide meeting. Suffice it to say, it benefitted local charities, and it got me major brownie points with management.

I'm an adequate singer, by no means a great one, and not a particularly interesting performer. I've always preferred blending in, being part of the ensemble rather than the one out front. I reasoned, though, that most of the people watching would be impressed that I even had the chutzpah to stand in front of everyone and open my mouth. If I stayed reasonably on pitch, I would be able to walk out with my head held high.

So they fired up Walking After Midnight on the karaoke machine, and two lines into it, I knew I had them. They applauded when I started. They applauded when I hit the key change before the last chorus. (Yes, really.) And they cheered at the end. What a rush!

My friends gave me hugs and compliments, and even now, almost a week later, people will get on the elevator with me and make a comment. Looking back on it now, I still feel like I am on top of the world - all because I took something I knew I could do and pushed it a little further than I would ordinarily do. I stretched my wings, and for a moment, I flew.

Then, that night was the last night of spinning class. I have not become a brilliant spinner by any means, but I had four little balls of yarn in front of me that I had prepared with my own hands. I knitted sample pieces of yarn and held them against my arm to feel their warmth. A month ago, I didn't even know which end of a spindle was up. Now, if I had to, I could turn fiber into yarn, and yarn into clothing - all because I took a chance on something I had never done before.

And in a few days, I will once again embark on the NaNoWriMo journey. The Pikers will verify that I don't write fiction, and my previous NaNo efforts would certainly bear that out. So why do I continue to subject myself to this totally voluntary and slightly crazy activity? Because as much as I bitch about it, it feels good to push beyond my comfort zone for awhile.

But before I have any more astounding breakthroughs, I am going on vacation. Terry is taking a laptop along, and we have scouted out the free wifi spots, so you may hear from me. Or not. It's vacation, after all.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

A couple of animal pictures

Apparently, the birthday girl is getting ready for some post-Nanowrimo editing sessions. How deluded she is. We don't edit. We only type.

I saw this fella in the back yard the other day. It's not the greatest picture, since it is through a dirty window and a screen. Use your imagination.


Autumn arrives, one tree at a time.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Katie is This Many Years Old

We acquired Katie slightly used, and don't know her exact birthday. The vet estimated she was between six and seven months old when we got her. He did some math, and declared her birthday to be October 15, 2002.

I wanted to take a beautiful birthday picture of her, but she has been a brat and most unwilling to sit still or look fetching. You know what she looks like, and if you don't, just scroll down a bit.

In fiber news: I spun the last of the pretty roving. I put another six rows on the cashmere lace scarf. It has been neglected because the green sweater is now ready for the yoke and sleeves, and I would like to finish it for winter. I started knitting some hot pink wrist warmers. These are at the instigation of the knitters at NaNoWriMo, who noted that Chris Baty (sigh) recommends having a special item of clothing just for novel writing. The last I saw of Katie, she was sitting on the wrist warmer pattern. Fortunately, the pattern is mostly ribbing and does not require much of my attention until the very end.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Spinning update: Week 4

Last night was the fourth installment of the "Sheep To Scarf" class. Having already learned spinning, carding, and dying, we had already learned the basics. Last night, we continued to work on carding and spinning. Kay also taught the basics of crochet, first using just our fingers and then using a crochet hook. I practically came out of the womb knowing how to crochet, and I was on my third row of finger-worked half-doubles while the beginners were still doing chain stitches. Why? Just to see if I could.

Kay also brought some roving (wool that was professionally cleaned and carded) and also dumped out the contents of her scrap basket for us to help ourselves to. The scraps were small and dirty, but I flicked a couple of bits that were big enough to spin. I just added them onto the onion-dyed wool from last week.

Then I spun up my piece of roving - and fell totally in love. It's so soft and smooth and clean, and it spun up beautifully. At the end of class, some of the students left their pieces of roving behind, and I snapped them all up. I was doing pretty well at resisting the lure of spinning, but this may push me over. I find myself thinking, "If I had a better spindle and some pretty dyed roving, this would not be such a bad hobby." I know from some of the knit bloggers that buying a real spindle is the first step down the slippery slope to a spinning wheel. Must... be... strong...

Here is my output and stash after four classes:

From left: the pilfered roving, the spindle with four different yarns going, some gold fleece that was also abandoned last night, the black wool spun and hand-wound into a ball, and the previously displayed natural wool on the nostepinne.

Here is a close-up of the yarn currently on the spindle:

If you look carefully, you can see tan, white, and two shades of yellow/gold.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Terry flips me the bird

The latest in Terry's collection of wildlife spotted during his daily constitutional is this blue heron.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Ready to knit

Tonight, I wound my little skein of yarn into a center-pull ball from which I can knit.

I used the nostepinne I bought this summer. It was my first time using it, and the ball turned out not too terrible for a first attempt. The top side looks good. I didn't get the hang of the bottom side until I was well into the process. It will still work for knitting, though.

It was fun going back and seeing the first few yards I spun. At least it was fun in that "I'll never be able to use this part" sort of way. It's all tight, twisty, thin string. After the first class, Kay sent a link to this site, and I watched the second video several times until I understood how to hold the fiber and allow the twist to move up the yarn.

I carded most of the black wool today, and cannot wait to start spinning it. It is loaded up with lanolin, and I am curious to see if I can make a more consistent yarn now that I have had some experience.

commented, "This must be such a satisfying process for you." I can't say that I would want to take on spinning as a major hobby, but I have enjoyed getting some hands-on experience. Considering how clumsy we all felt after the first class, I'm very pleased with the last bit of yarn I spun wound onto a ball, moderately consistent in size and twist. It looks like yarn ought to look, so yes, that is satisfying.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

We have achieved Yarn

Today, I flicked and spun the last of the natural-colored wool. The next step was to get the yarn off the spindle and into a skein. There is a tool for that, called a niddy-noddy, but I don't have one. Instead, I used one of the oldest tools known to man: my arm.

Here is my entire output, next to a standard 100 gram skein of commercial worsted yarn.

If you look closely, you will notice the thickness of my yarn varies quite a bit. In a couple of spots, the yarn is very thin and very much overtwisted, even doubling back on itself. Those parts, I'm happy to say, were from my first day's spinning. I got better at distributing the twist the more I practiced. Some of the later parts don't seem to be twisted enough, but I think that will all work out when I knit with it.

The skein is now hanging over a door knob with the spindle stuck through the bottom to provide a little weight. This is supposed to set the twist. Next I will wind it into a ball so it is ready for knitting. I bought a nostepinne at Stitches, so I may try to use that for winding.

I also washed a couple of handfuls of black wool.

Notice how there are some lighter bits? Even sheep go gray, it seems. This fiber is quite a different consistency from the first batch, which I believe was Lincoln. (You can see Lincoln sheep here.) I don't remember what variety the black wool is, but it shorter and less curly. It was also cleaner and less smelly. That's a mercy.

Need I mention that Katie loooooves all the wool? She loves it so much that there are two pictures today. She likes to attack her own slicker brush, but she especially loves the brush that has been into the wool.

Aser asked about the onion skin dying that was used on the golden fiber in this picture. Kay made up the dye pot before class, so I didn't see whether the onion skins were yellow or brown. (She said her husband is grateful when the dying class comes around, so they can get rid of all the skins that have been collecting in the refrigerator.) The dye bath was in a stock pot, and she said the onion skins filled maybe a fourth to a third of the pot. She added alum to the mix, but I forget why. Something about making the dye "take", I think. This fiber was in the dye for about an hour.

Katie also loves the plastic bags that hold, or have held, the wool. Today she was diving into them, looking for sweet wooly treasures. I explained to her that plastic bags were not good toys for kitties. She replied:

Devil eyes!

Friday, October 07, 2005

Spinning, week three

Last night was the third week of the five-week "Sheep to Scarf" class. I've made progress in getting some of my fiber spun into something vaguely resembling yarn. I still have a bit more that can be flicked and spun, so it is still on the spindle.

Last night's topic was dying. Kay is big into dying with natural substances - flowers and whatnot. The fiber at the the bottom of the picture was dyed with yellow onion skins. I am afraid it might have felted a bit. I'll have to wait until it has dried to see how much of it I can salvage. I love the color, though.

We had three dye pots going. There was also marigold, which gives a brighter yellow, and walnut, which yields anything from latte beige to rich brown.

I also got to try out the spinning wheel. I could probably learn to like that. Spinning with the drop spindle seems like it requires three hands - one to spin the spindle, and two to draft the fiber. (*Draft: pull the fiber into right-sized bits and feed it into the twisty part of the yarn.) With the wheel, your foot is the third hand, keeping the spinning going.

Have I ever explained why spokeskitty Katie is always around when there are photo shoots in the kitchen?

She has some bad habits, and wanting fresh water directly from the faucet is one of them.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

You turkeys!

Terry took this picture of four wild turkeys on his daily walk. You can click on it to see a slightly larger version.

Kris mentioned that he did not know if groundhogs were a nuisance. Many people consider them, and all burrowing animals, to be so. They can wreak havoc on gardens, for example. We are pretty relaxed about yard maintenance, though, so Chuckie is not a problem for us. My desk is by the window that looks out over the back yard, and it pleases me to see a bit of wildness living comfortably, and safely, just a block away from a highway.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Seen around town

Thursday, I came home and saw something fat and furry run across the driveway.

It was Chuckie, or the son of Chuckie - we aren't sure what the life span of a groundhog is. At any rate, a groundhog always seems to billet under our garden shed. He's clearly plumping up for his winter nap.

Today we saw this on the freeway.

A used helicopter on a truck. What else are ya gonna do in Sunday afternoon?

NaNaWriMo opened yesterday, and almost immediately crashed a server. Not before I got a spiffy participant icon, though.