Friday, April 27, 2012


I've had a good week just dabbling with this and that.

 I've been re-reading Judith MacKenzie McCuin's The Intentional Spinner for the second time. What a fabulous book!    This is one of those books that has something to teach spinners at every level.  Things that I sorta glossed over the first time I read this really clicked with me this time.  And the next time I read it, I bet I will get even more out of it.

The first sixty or so pages are devoted to fibers.  Excellent overview of the most common (and some not-so-common) types of natural and man-made fibers.  Very clear descriptions of how these fibers are formed, with quite a bit of folklore and history thrown in.   First time I read this book, I had only spun a bit of sheepswool.  Having spun bits of several other types of fibers, I found myself relating to much more information.  Makes me want to try every fiber she describes.  Chapter Four, on "science of fibers" has more information on how to identify "mystery" fibers than I have seen in one place and now I feel the need to start burning bits of my stash.

Now I'm into the section on drafting techniques, ogling all the different tools I haven't yet added to my studio.  She shows some absolutely wicked looking wool combs, among other neat things.   Only critique I have of the book so far is that the type is too small for me to read clearly in the early morning or late evening hours when my eyes aren't at their most alert.   But I suppose the book would have to be twice as large if the type face was bigger, so guess I'll invest in higher magnification reading glasses and stop griping.

This book is high on my list of recommended reading for serious spinners and fiber geeks. 

After a hiatus of 30 or so years, I finally decided to try my hand at knitting again.  Like I need any more hobbies.  But a book of prayer shawls that I received automatically from my craft book club and forgot to return in time has been calling to me.

Straightening out my stash the other day (and I have been keeping my promise to spend a few minutes every day cleaning out the studio), I saw the perfect yarn for one of the shawls.  Naturally the shawl design requires intermediate knitting skills, so I decided to give myself a break and knit a simple K2P2 pattern with some Lion Brand Moonlight Mohair I found at Big Lots a couple of years ago.

Figured out why my hands used to hurt when I  knit.  I keep a death grip on the left-hand needle.  The right hand action is not so easy to describe.  Picture playing jacks, with the knitting needle as the ball.  I have the yarn gripped in my ring and pinky fingers, which are folded as tightly as possible.  I drop the needle, grab the yarn with my thumb and forefinger, wrap it around the needle, and grab the needle again.  No wonder that a) my hands were killing me and b) WTH?

As goofy as it sounds, I was actually a pretty fast knitter.  Had to be, I guess, to be able to keep any control over the right hand needle.   Decided to work on technique and learn to loop the yarn with my index finger and R-E-L-A-X the ring and pinky fingers on both hands.  I'm doing quite well on the left, but have to keep stopping and purposely opening up the fingers on the right.  Did a few dozen practice rows earlier this week, until I stopped dropping stitches.  Today I finally cast on and knitted just five rows of 80 stitches in an hour.  At this rate, I'll be done in 3.5 years.  Or so.

Been studying more about preparing alpaca fiber.  I'm still not happy with the amount of VM left in the fiber after washing, picking and carding.  Seems that a lot of people who work with alpaca use tumblers to help clean and open up their fibers.  There are several people who make tumblers just for this purposes, but they seem awfully expensive.  Of course, I thought batts were awfully expensive till I actually prepared my own, so who knows?  Yesterday I ran across someone who uses an old gas dryer as a tumbler.  It's not connected to a gas supply, so there's no issue with heating the fibers.  Did a little searching, and found out there are quite a few people doing this.  You can pick up an old gas dryer for $15-30.  A couple of people have hot-glued big nails to rare earth magnets, and stick these on the drum to help pick open the fibers.   Genius!  So guess who will be looking for a used gas dryer one of these days?

Have just about doubled the amount of spun yarn on my kick spindle.  Blood pressure doing just fine, thank you!

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