Monday, January 27, 2014

Where Has the Time Gone?

I'll tell you where...  right down the drain!

Skip this paragraph to avoid egregious whining.  I started this post with a long description of my last five weeks or so, but no one who happens to read this is interested the gory details.  So I will simply say that I had the flu and it took forever to recover.  Last weekend was the first time since mid-December that I felt good enough to do anything I didn't absolutely have to do, and I took full advantage of the day. Enough said!

So to catch up with the end of 2013...

Late last spring, I came across a spinning wheel that I just fell in love with.  Came to find out it was made by Betty Roberts, lady in Washington state who builds the most beautiful wheels.  She makes several styles  in a number of different woods.  What makes her wheels easy to spot is an inlay of wildflowers and butterflies with different colored backgrounds.  After several email conversations with Betty,  I found myself ordering a custom-made castle-style wheel with a Chinese red inlay.  It arrived in November, and has been gracing my living room since then.  I'm sorry to say that I was so busy making pens that I didn't have time to do more than admire the wheel until this month.

I've had just a little time to play with the new wheel this month.  It's a double-drive, which I've never tried before, and I'm challenged by a bit of a learning curve...  so far I've managed to spin the drive band right off the wheel within seconds each time I begin treadling, but I WILL get it together.  In the meantime, I'm enjoying just gazing at her while pretending to watch TV and trying to get her to tell me her name.

Last weekend I felt great and spend most of my free time in the shop turning pens.  I had several "novelty" pen kits that included fanciful details and thought it would be fun to do those as well as my favorite Manhattan style pens.  Also had a couple of pens that needed adjustment and took care of those.  Results:

Manhattan Pen in Green/Terra Cotta Acrylic

Knight's Armor Pen in Ironwood
Detail of Knight's Armor Pen
Celtic Pen in East Indian Rosewood
Detail of Celtic Pen

Manhattan Pen in "Lava" Inlace Acrylester

Royal Pen in Holly
Detail of Royal Pen

Detail of Victorian Pen
Victorian Pen in Mahogany

Detail of Nouveau Sceptre Band
Nouveau Sceptre Pen in Laminated Woods
Manhattan Pen in Olivewood from Bethlehem

Lancer Pen in Violet Inlace Acrylester

And had time to inventory my unused pen kits (100+!) plus get a dozen or so in the prep stages before turning.  All I need know is a few more days in the week.

Also started a couple of baby blankets in novelty yarns.  Actually meant to do only this one:

This is Loops and Threads Pom Pom yarn from Michaels.  Didn't start it until Wednesday night for a baby shower on Saturday - not realizing that knitting between all the little pom-poms would slow me down so much -- not that I'm a fast knitter to start with.   Realizing after a few hours of knitting that night that I wouldn't be able to get it done in time even if I did nothing but knit until Saturday, I made an emergency dash to Michael's Thursday afternoon and found this:

Bernat "Tizzy" super-bulky baby yarn in "Green Pea."  Even though it's highly textured, this yarn knits up really fast and I love the feel of it.  Reminds me of a thick shag rug, but in a good way, and I'm tempted to make a lap-robed size for myself.

I did manage to get about a third of this done before the baby shower.  Good thing Baby Z isn't due for another month or so...  I WILL have it done by then.

Last weekend I was invited by a friend of a friend to go to an "Eat 'n Stitch Yarn Swap" with her crochet/knitting group. Karen is a new spinning wheel owner and we were both planning to bring our wheels along for the group to try out.  Never having been to a yarn swap, I imagined each person bringing a few skeins of unwanted yarn, doing a little horse-trading back and forth until all the yarn was traded and we got on with our knitting/crochet/insert-name-of-craft here.  I didn't have time to grab anything out of my stash, so I decided to go just to meet Karen and her friends, and see what they were working on. 

To my surprise, when I arrived I was handed a large space bag (one of those giant baggies you vacuum the air out of to compress whatever is in it) and ushered into a garage bursting at the seams with bags and plastic tubs full of yarn.   I tried to demur, saying that I hadn't brought anything to share, but the hostess, Heather, insisted that most of the yarn came from her stash and her goal was to have it all find new homes.

I liked the way she was doing this exchange -- she had an app on her iPad, and when she spun a virtual wheel, it randomly picked a name.  Then that person got to choose five skeins of yarn to take home.  After this had gone on for a while, I think Heather realized that we could be there for a few days before all the yarn was taken, so she announced that it was time for people to just start stuffing their bags with yarn.   It was actually a lot of fun - there was no grabbing or fighting -- in fact there was more "enabling" going on than anything else.  You know, where you find a yarn that someone else would like and make sure they have a chance at it.  I came home with several really nice skeins - some sock yarn that I will use to make socks I can donate to a project my sock knitters' club is starting, and some heavier weight yarns that might go into the shawl-making bin or get passed on to friends.  I hope I'll get invited to one of these again, because I would love to destash a few cubic yards of yarn that I will never touch.

Just a Little of the Yarn Being "Swapped"
  After all the swapping was done, we retired to the house, where we chatted, snacked, and knitted/crocheted/spun.  I had a chance to let people try out my Hansen MiniSpinner, and just had a nice, relaxing afternoon.

Yesterday I went to a crank-in at my new friend Loan's home in Calabasas.  We've been in the same spinning guild for a couple of years, but as I told her, I've been in such awe of her spinning skills, I have been afraid to talk to her.  We got to know each other a little through Ravelry...  She was one of the first people to join the SoCal Crankers group I started for circular sock machine enthusiasts.

My loss for letting two years go by without getting to know this remarkable and talented woman.  Not only am I in awe of her spinning, now I'm in awe of her knitting skills.  There was only one other guest, Anita, at the crank-in, so it turned out to be a private knitting lesson for the two of us.  Loan could sit down at either of our machines and crank out a perfect heel, and she could tell us what was causing any problem just by looking at the knitting in progress.   Loan has (by my count) four working CSMs and one she is restoring.  Which turns out to be a good thing, because somehow I managed to leave my yarn guide (the y-shaped thingy that sits on top of the yarn mast) at home.  No problem...  Loan opened a cupboard door and pulled out the mask from her antique Gearhart machine.  It fit my machine base perfectly and I was in business.  Kinda.  The weight from my mast was way too heavy and made the heel spring not work properly, so I spent a lot of time tensioning the yarn myself.  And Loan, bless her generous heart, spent quite some time holding the yarn for me.

I meant to take photos when all the machines were set up, but naturally I forgot until Anita and I had already put ours away.  But here's a photo of Loan's living room, which was the perfect setting for several people to sit and crank.  In the foreground with all the holes is my traveling machine table - I got it with a coupon for about $12 at  Harbor Freight.  This was the first time I'd used it and I was concerned that it might be a bit flimsy.  But it was plenty sturdy and didn't even wobble when I cranked.  Plus it's light enough that it takes almost no effort to fling in the back of the car.

The table to the left is Loan's.  I'm pretty sure it's this projector table from Very attractive table and Loan says it's sturdy enough to hold two machines at once.  If I didn't already have my Erlbacher table, which I love, I would seriously think about this one.  The table to the left of the fireplace is Loan's Erlbacher table.  This is the one she takes to all of her demonstrations.  And Anita uses a barstool for her machine.  All four great choices for supporting a machine.  (Note - barstools should have a weight hung over a rung on the side opposite the machine to provide some extra balance).

Speaking of portability, I used my Fat Max (how offensive is that name?!) rolling workshop to transport my machine and tools.     Bought it several years ago for another hobby and haven't been using it lately so I thought I'd give it a try.  Not good.  Getting it in the car was a challenge - it's pretty bulky and VERY heavy when loaded with everything.  Getting it out at Loan's house was worse.  Getting it back in yesterday afternoon was even worse -- I'm not even going to try to explain the massive bruises on my leg but I will say it's not a good idea to use one's leg for leverage.  And I waited until this morning when I absolutely HAD to unload the car to try to get it out.   Going to pick up this rolling workshop on my way home from work tonight because it can be broken down into three separate pieces for transport. And probably ordering a transporter made to fit in it from Dewberry Ridge.  I've been eying this ever since it came out and it looks like I will be traveling with my machine enough to justify paying for the added safety.

By the time we left, Loan had gone through heel-turning on each of our machines, had Anita finish her first cast-on bonnet, turned a sock and grafted the toe so we could see her Kitchner technique from start to finish, and done a lot of hand-holding and cheerleading.  As much as I learned (and forgot) at my first crank-in, I learned even more from Loan.  I feel like I could go home and make a sock now.

As an added bonus yesterday, we had a nice lunch, and Loan served her homemade (!) macarons for dessert.  They were perfect.  Even though I told her I shouldn't have all the calories, I didn't exactly object when she sent me home with this box. 

All I will say is I didn't exactly share them when I got home, either.

I wonder if there's a low-calorie version of these?  I would totally love to learn how to make them!

In other CSM-related news...  I've failed to mention that a few months ago I joined a newly formed society for CSM enthusiasts...  which is now called the Circular Sock Knitting Machine Society.  There has been at least one organization for CSM users before this, and I gather it imploded last spring.  I don't know exactly what happened (and I don't particularly want to know).  But the new society's board was looking for writers and an editor for their newsletter, and I volunteered to write.  When no one came forward to be the editor, I volunteered and somehow I find that I'm not only the newsletter editor, but a board member. (Thanks, Mom, for teaching me that if you're going to join an organization, you should be an active participant.  Am I being sincere or sarcastic?)

I have to say that every one of the board members is really dedicated to getting this organization off the ground and has put in many hours of work in meetings, budgeting, dealing with governmental red tape, writing articles for the newsletter, etc..   I spend about 40-50 hours myself just assembling one issue of the newsletter and collecting all the bits and pieces that fill it in.  Not complaining, because I really enjoy it, but thank goodness it's not a monthly! Although the newsletter is a members-only benefit, we made the very first issue public.  Last month I redesigned it to complement our new website design, and have replaced the ugly graphics with a very attractive (I think) design.  We're also getting some great content.  If you happen to have come to my blog looking for CSM info and you're not already a member of CSKMS,  I hope you'll consider joining us.  We're already planning a conference to take place in August 2014 - and hope that it will be just the first in a series of annual conferences.