Monday, December 22, 2008

Pharm knits

My friend Angela recently asked me to do some custom spinning for her. A Canadian friend of hers has hit a bit of a rough patch, to put it mildly, and Angela wanted to create a one-of-a-kind scarf steeped in sentimentality. She had very specific colors in mind: greens and golds of a summer field with hay rolls, sunshine yellow and sky blue, dawn and sunrise colors, bonfire reds, oranges, and smokey grays and browns, midnight blue with patches of white for the night sky and a little Glitz (fireworks and sparklers), and black. All of the colorways requested would progress from one end to the other, representing on some level the escape and solace in friendship and memories from life's darkess (the black).

Since finding pre-dyed fiber to match that order wouldn't be easy, I sent a request to my favorite dyer/supplier: Amy King. Considering the final project would have to be soft and hardwearing, I went with my current favorite fiber, superwash Corriedale. I gave Amy my instructions, allowed her some creative freedom, and in a matter of just a few days, had 8 oz of perfectly dyed fiber:

angelas roving2
Top arranged in anticipation of final knit - green progressing to the black and the the black moving back out to the green. Two nearly identical, perfectly dyed bumps.

I couldn't wait to start spinning, but still had a little more planning to do. One, Angela requested a bulky yarn. Two, she wanted a 2-ply. Finally, she wanted the two plies to sort of play off each other with the color - rather than have big chunks of color, she wanted something that would fade out of one color and into the next. I split each hunk of fiber into two equal strips and then exchanged one strip from one hunk with one strip from the other. This was sort of my control for the final yarn and I hoped that it would be enough to even out any discrepancies that might be glaring in the finished knit. Then, I spun the fiber on my Matchless using the 9:1 ratio and a supported long draw. I did very little pre-drafting and ended up with lofty, lovely singles.

The spinning went so fast that I never got a chance to take pictures of the singles, plus I was on a deadline! In a matter of days, though, I'd managed to plow through all 8 oz. I plied using the same ratio (9:1) and then wet-finished the yarn with a thorough soak in Eucalan, hot water, and some hand agitation once the water had cooled. The resulting yarn fluffed out to about 5-6 wpi. I calculated the yardage and want to say it all totaled somewhere over 200, but I can't find the receipt scrap that I scribbled that information on... Anyway, yarn!

angelas yarn7

angelas yarn black

angelas yarn6

angelas yarn

Angela's been knitting on the scarf for the last 8 days. When I saw her last Sunday, she'd managed to get through the greens and into the yellows and golds. By Thursday, it was reported she'd reach the halfway point. She's promised to take tons of photos of the finished scarf and I cannot wait to see them!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

From the edge

I'm at the edge of just jumping and calling this year (calendar or fiscal - not sure yet) done. Things were going great until the middle of October - since then, I've been sick. I've have head colds, sinus congestion, ear aches (debilitating, too), fevers, chills, and now, most recently, severe gastroenteritis. Whee? Through it all, I've tried to take as few sick days as possible and only when necessary. That there could be part of the problem - not allowing my body enough time to recuperate. But the other factor to consider here is my daily proximity to Children, many of whom Love Me.

I've been working as a public librarian for over three years now and expected the first year to be plagued with illnesses, and it was, complete with my first ever case of the flu. The Flu - oh, people, I had no idea that the Flu was that bad! All this time, I'd thought that coworkers or friends or family or strangers that complained about having the Flu were just weak. I mean, what's a little snuffle, eh? Well, I learned the hard way that year that the Flu? The Flu wants to make you its bitch, so STFU and suffer.

The next year, I got a flu shot (woot!), and managed to avoid any real, interfering illness. Yeah, I got lots of colds and probably took a few days here and there, but I really thought my resistance was building, the germs were losing, and I was on my way to being Super Girl.

Instead, I've spent more time sick than not in the last two months. And I'm learning, whether I like it or not, that I do need to take day(s) off to truly get better. I'm also learning that without cable, there is nothing on television (we have antenna service which means we pay $12/month and get all the channels you'd get with an antenna, plus some public access channels, home shopping channels, and Spanish language channels - all without static). For instance, this last round of illin' has found me tuning in to NBC for much of the day. Public television has loads of kids' programming or food programming - I couldn't stomach either of those. Home shopping channels annoy me - I think I've watch any type of home shopping channel a total of one minute in my entire cable-television watching lifetime.

Anyway, I've been exposed to a lot of commercials these last few days.

  • Hair Cuttery's new ad with Nick Gilder's Hot Child in the City. Is it just me, or does this chick look like she's tweeking out on some bad high? Dear Hair Cuttery - I do not want you anywhere near my hair even more now.
  • There's the ad about how your local car dealers have access to all kinds of different credit to get you in the car you want. Um. Where to begin...
  • Progresso vs. Campbell's. Who knew this was the latest heavyweight matchup? I saw one for Campbell's on Tuesday (I think, I looked away when I saw it was food) wherein Campbell's claimed to not have MSG in any of it's soups, but Progresso? OMG, MSG! THEN, yesterday, I saw a Progresso ad that claimed some 20 varieties of their soup have no MSG and they're working to remove MSG from all of their soups, unlike MSG-laden CAMPBELL'S. I am so confused.
  • CD commercials - I don't care that Toby Keith has a new album out. Plus, I only see these CD commercials, like, ever 6 months. It's like some weird cycle. Fortunately, it's not the same CD being offered each cycle. That would be awful.
  • I like butter as much as the next person. But the absurdity of this commercial?

  • Dear NBC - Momma's Boys is not, I repeat, NOT the most eagerly anticipated show of all time, or whatever claim you are making. I'd expect that type of "entertainment" from Fox. Now that the show's debuted, the commercials for that event are over, but I'm dreading the weekly pixel-barf touting the next episode.
  • The Jewelry Exchange in Norristown suggests great stocking stuffers, such as pearl necklaces. Am I the only sick mind that snerks like a schoolyard boy at both stocking stuffers and pearl necklaces, especially when the two are used in the same sentence?
What commercials bug you these days?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


I had a dozen or so wannabe titles for this post, Bats in the Belfry, Batt-ers Up!, Batt-shit Crazy, Batt-tastic, and so on. But, I think calling it what it is, plain and simple, is sufficient.

After one pass through the drum carder:
batt first pass

Two passes for a blended batt:
batts 3

And the resulting yarn:
84 yds batts

78 yds batts outside

The fiber is shetland and was the November installment of Spunky Eclectic's Fiber Club. The colorway was Raisin Wannabe and originally had broad splashes of purples, pinks, and bright green. After seeing some batts on Ravelry, I felt inspired to lug the drum carder downstairs and experiment. I passed the fiber through the carder twice and during the process added a pinch of glitz - I wanted there to be just a hint of sparkle. Once the batts were ready, I spun the fiber using a supported long-draw technique - wow, spinning that way is FAST. I'm satisfied that I was able to spin the entire 4 oz using that technique, but I definitely feel like I'm not in control of that skill. Guess this means I have to practice more ... Oh darn! I did a 2-ply yarn and have 162 yards of light bulky weight yarn. The longer skein (84 yds) has been wet finished - an overnight soak with hot - cold water (that is, I put the skein in a sink full of hot water and some Eucalan, and then forgot it was in the sink until morning...) and some slight hand agitation before a few thwacks on the side of the tub. It's remarkably fuzzy and lovely. The shorter skein has not yet been wet finished, but I will give it the same treatment.

I'm eventually going to make myself a hat using this yarn - funny, but for as many hats as I've knit, I don't have one to call my own! I might also try to get another 4 oz of the colorway and do another batt for a pair of mittens.

Chico approves of fiber. Actually, Chico approves of sunbeams. He couldn't care a fig about fiber...
life of glitz 2