Friday, July 31, 2009

Canada Trip, Long Version

As mentioned in the previous post, I took my first trip to Canada last weekend for a wedding. It was a trip I'll never forget. First of all, I get a little irrationally nervous in security checkpoint situations. We drove across the border, and this had the major benefit of allowing me to knit while going through customs. The border guard noticed and asked me what I was knitting, and I showed her my new scarf-in-progress:

Buckland Scarf

This is one skein of Berocco Ultra Alpaca in a lovely dark brown with reddish tints, and my skein of handspun Hello Yarn falklands wool in the Buckland colorway. I used the same pattern for my Apollo scarf, knitting one strip from the Olive's Afghan pattern in Knitalong. The scarf got finished yesterday evening, and I'm not sure if I love it too much for it to go in the gift box...

Back the the trip: I was traveling with the significant other and his sister to see their cousin get married. It was a very sweet, small gathering full of love, fun, dancing, playing camera, and a gorgeous view.

L'Hirondelle Wedding

We had four days after the wedding to tool around Vancouver, and I was extremely lucky that my traveling companions both understand the yarn obsession and were willing to make side-trips to see yarn and fibery places. We spent an afternoon at the Granville Island area in Vancouver, where I found two fiber shops. I say fiber shops because neither really matches with what I'd call a local yarn store... these were more like artist's studios with a shop attached. One was closed (we were there on a Sunday), and appeared to sell hand-dyed yarn, spinning fiber, and weaving supplies. The other, called Silk Weaving Studio, sold exclusively silk products: everything from spinning fiber to jaw-droppingly gorgeous woven scarves and jackets. I bought two skeins of silk singles, about 170 meters each. The yarn feels very similar to Alchemy Silk Purse. Delicious.

Silk Weaving Studio Yarn

The newlyweds also organized a two-day excursion to Victoria on Vancouver Island on Monday and Tuesday. I took my first ride on a ferry that can carry cars. Loading the cars is a surprisingly simple setup: you get assigned a lane when you go through the gates, then 15 minutes before departure everyone drives on, one lane at a time. The ferries were huge boats, holding about 150 cars each, and we were able to park the car and roam around the other decks during the 90-minute trip.

Victoria Ferry

The scarf and I enjoyed the views and the fresh air. We saw some beautiful flowers and fabulous topiary in the Butchart Gardens:

Butchart Gardens

and then had dinner and a stroll in Victoria. I find it endlessly pleasing to find little bits of brittania peppered throughout Canada:


I visited another great yarn shop near downtown Victoria, Beehive Wool Shop. I got some awesomely plump and squishy Canadian yarn from Tanis Fiber Arts (blog and Etsy shop).

Tanis Fiber Arts Yarn

We drove around the island that afternoon, and stopped at a shop selling First Nations art. I found a hidden treasure, a spinner and knitter:

First Nations Spinning and Knitting

The craftsperson was kind enough to allow me to take pictures of her work. You can see a hand-carved drop spindle in the corner of the shelf, behind a pair of handcards. It's huge; the whorl is about 8 inches across. Here's her workspace, where she was probably knitting away before we all walked in to the shop:

First Nations Spinning and Knitting

This photo shows about one quarter of the sweaters on display. It was probably about 100ºF outside, and just looking at them made me start panting, but I was infinitely impressed with her output. Despite the heat, I came very close to buying some of her handspun yarn. We got back on the ferry, and were treated to more cool breezes and an amazing sunset.

Canadian Sunset

It was a really great trip, one I would heartily recommend to anyone looking for a four- or five-day vacation. It has all the fun parts of traveling to another country without the hassle of a 12-hour flight or a foreign language. On the other hand, I was exhausted when the trip began. It's going to be nice to stay in one place for a week or so. After I've unpacked and had a few days to wind down from the whirlwind of the past 6 weeks, I am definitely looking forward to finding patterns for my new yarn, washing some fleece, and sewing up a sweater.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


Victoria Island

Dear Canada,

We had a fabulous trip this week. Thanks for being so welcoming, and allowing two wonderful people to join their lives together. My home country is still coming around to the idea, and I am so very grateful that you are wise enough to recognize their marriage. Thank you also for providing the world with such amazing natural beauty, I found it truly breathtaking. Your contributions to the fiber arts world are many and impressive: it was easier to find yarn and spinning fiber here than anywhere else I've traveled to. Also, I really appreciate that you have such an amazing spokespersonfor your country and fiber arts in general. Reading her blog made me feel like I had insider information, and I think I appeared really smart about things Canadian in front of my other American friends (if a little obsessed with her blog in particular). You showed us a good time, and I'm sure I'll be visiting again. I'm proud that my country is next door to you, and I'll try my best to be a good neighbor, in whatever limited capacity I can manage on my own.



Monday, July 20, 2009

I'm starting to miss knittting...

But I don't think I can stop spinning yet. I'm pretty sure I won't hit my goal of spinning half the stash, but I'll get close to spinning all the fiber I set aside a month ago. The problem is that I didn't take into account that at the end of the tour, I would simultaneously be inundated with grading (it's the last week of summer session) and getting ready to attend a wedding in another country that takes place on the second-to-last day of the tour. I did get quite a bit accomplished last weekend, though. I finally got sewing thread to ply the Sanguine Gryphon wool/silk yarn, and I've got all six bumps of Pigeonroof Studios fiber spun into singles. I'm inspired by this yarn, so the singles are rather fat and low twist.

I'd planned on having a marathon plying session last night for the challenge day, but it was all I could do to not fall asleep in my dinner plate after class. I managed to stay awake long enough to get the singles off the bobbins and into center-pull balls, but not long enough to take photos. The spindle project will be coming with me on the weekend, but even if I finish the plying tomorrow (our flight leaves in the afternoon, and I still have final exams to grade! See how my brain loves to torture me?) and the spindling in transit, I'll still be falling about 8 ounces short of my goal. Once we get back, I'm off for two weeks until the fall semester begins so I'll have time to baste up my sweater and gasp wash some more fleece!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Tour in Tahoe

We spent the weekend up at a friend's cabin near South Lake Tahoe, and although I didn't have a very large amount of time to spin, I did get a few things off the bobbins before we left and squeezed in some more spindle time while we were up there.

These got wound off and washed last night:

Finished Singles Yarn

Here we have two singles yarns: the Ripe Olives Merino/Mohair from Hello Yarn, and 2 ounces of Dew BFL from Tactile Fiber Arts. They're both going to remain singles, so we've got 6 ounces of fiber to cross off the list! Since I've finished one spindle project, this got started up in the woods:

Spinning at Tahoe

It's the 3.4 ounce batt from Aunt Janet's fiber mill, and I'm doing an airy, low-twist lumpy bumpy singles that will probably get navajo-plied for some bulk. No project in mind yet, it will depend on how rough the finished and washed yarn is. It was lots of fun to spin this out on the deck in the warm sunshine, and compare the greeny-blue of the fiber to the green of the pines and the blue of the sky. We had a great time hanging out with friends surrounded by nature. Some highlights:

Grover Hot Springs Falls Trail

Grover Hot Springs

Grover Hot Springs Falls Trail

Grover Hot Springs Falls Trail

Today I have lots of chores and unpacking to take care of, and it's officially a rest day for the Tour. However, I'm hoping to get at least one bobbin of Pigeonroof singles done so I can stay on target. I may need to convert one of my spinning projects from wheel to spindle so that I have enough to keep me spinning every day of the tour even when I'm not at home.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Quick Tour Update

So I still haven't gotten plying thread, but I've started spinning a bobbin of Hello Yarn Wool/Mohair in the "Ripe Olives" Colorway:

Hello Yarn Merino/Mohair: Ripe Olives

I got inspired by another Raveler's project, who knit a lovely lace shawl by splitting off individual colors from a multicolored roving and spun one long color transition. So over the weekend I spent a bit of time making these on my handcards:

Ripe Olives Rolags

I think I'll leave the yarn as a single, so I don't have to worry about one more thing to ply (or with splitting the fiber any more than I already have). I also got about halfway through the Tactile BFL on one of my drop spindles, and began the second half. I was a silly nilly and didn't read the Verdigris pattern too carefully before beginning to spin, and my singles are too thick to make a two-ply. On the other hand, I think this fiber will look pretty good as a single and in the pattern.

In knitting news, I've finished the Rainbow Brite socks. I haven't been able to accost the significant other to take my picture with them on, so we did it at knit night on Tuesday: check it out here on the Pink Viking's flickr. Plus, I am just about ready to start sewing up Halcyon! I think I'm going to baste the pieces together (hopefully this weekend) and decide if I want to add an extra cable repeat on the sleeves. I think I'll have enough yarn to do so, and if it's the difference between wearing the sweater more often, then it'll be worth the wait!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

First Day Blues

Yesterday we had a big ol' 4th of July bash to attend in the afternoon, so I got up early to spin some and get myself off to a good start. I kinda hoped I'd be able to spin and blog the spinning before we left, but it was not to be (I'm sure nobody wanted to read the post that was forming in my brain around 1AM last night). So here's my first day's progress, the Arabian Nights wool silk all prepped:

Arabian Nights Silk/Wool

And spun into thick-and-thin singles:

Arabian Nights Thick-n-Thin

It only took me about an hour to spin both bobbins, and maybe half an hour of prep and wheel cleaning beforehand. It makes me think that perhaps my problem with spinning (or knitting, for that matter) is that I no longer have large chunks of time to devote to a single activity. By the time I got to the second bobbin, pulling a big tuft of fiber into the drafting zone every now and then was becoming second nature, and it was a real treat to get two whole bobbins worth of yarn in such a short time, when my last two spinning projects have been laceweight yarns!

Today we're visiting with family and probably not returning home until dinnertime, so it's a spindle grading day. I have a stack of homework that needs to get done, and I'm bargaining with myself that if I get through the whole pile before going home, then I can allow myself to spin all evening. I am also allowed to look for a beautiful shiny binding thread to ply the singles with while I'm out and about today.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Anticipation and More Tour Training

So I've got my 6 bobbins all emptied this morning, and I realized that I desperately need to blog/knit/do something to keep myself from starting my Tour de Fleece spinning too early! Yesterday I finished up one spinning project that I started a while ago, and am very excited about:

Spinning for Artichaut

This is "The Silent Undergrowth" Falklands wool from the Verb fiber club. I'm very glad I didn't decide to make this project part of my Tour de Fleece goal, because it was a bit of a time suck and I wanted to take it slow with the spinning. I mentioned that I knew the color was perfect for Anne Hanson's latest Twist Collective shawl pattern, but when I spun up the first 3 ounces, I didn't really get enough yardage to do the full shawl. So I put the word out there on Ravelry that I was looking for more, and would trade another club shipment so I could spin a double-dose for Artichaut. Another awesome Raveler came through, and now I have just over 1,000 yards of yarn! The weight of my yarn is actually somewhere between the two weights the pattern calls for. It's written for either a fingering weight yarn at 100 yards per ounce with a size 7 needle, or a laceweight yarn at 312 yards per ounce with a size 3 needle. Mine worked out to be around 180 yards per ounce. So as far as the weight goes, I'm going to pretty much split the difference and knit in size 5 needles, and just knit until I run out of yarn. The second skein of yarn is drying as I type, so maybe I'll cast this on once the knitting on the Halcyon is finished.

In other news, I wanted to officially announce my intentions known for tomorrow's grand beginning. As per yesterday's preliminary rules, I have three categories of spinning that I will accomplish as part of this year's Tour De Fleece:

Tour De Fleece 2009 Goal

1. Spin for specific projects. I have earmarked 25.4 ounces of Pigeonroof Studios fiber in various wools (BFL, Merino, SW Merino, and Shetland) and various colorways (Millefiore, Circus, Calla, Persimmon, and Cornucopia), to be spun in a worsted/heavy worsted weight for the Danish Heather Shawl. Additionally, the Sanguine Gryphon wool/silk blend will become another thick & thin yarn so I can have a deliciously bouncy Morning Surf scarf all my own.

2. Spin on a spindle, so I can keep spinning every day of the tour even when I don't have my wheel. There are two projects here, one with a project in mind and the other without. I'll be spinning my 2 ounces of Tactile BFL (in "Dew") for the Verdigris pattern on my Cascade Ranier spindle, and the lovely 3.4-ounce jewel-colored batt from Aunt Janet's Fiber Mill on the good old dependable Maggie spindle.

3. Spin for the joy of spinning. Here my sub-goal is also to spin up more of my Hello Yarn fiber, so I've got three 4-ounce bundles to be spun as the mood takes me, without committing to a specific project. Two are club fiber shipments, and one is some merino/mohair blend that I was lucky enough to get during a shop update.

The overarching goal of all this is to reduce my stash, and this is where my declaration gets really scary. If I spin all this, I'm cutting the fiber stash in half. Yup. Half. Whew. Is it just me, or is it a little stuffy in here? Maybe I need to sit down. Pre-draft some fiber into little bundles for spinning tomorrow morning. See you in the morning, I kinda like this blogging every day thing!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Tour De Fleece 2009 Preparations

It's that time of year again, time for all spinners to race along with the athletes in the Tour de France, to complete their own fibery goals in the Tour de Fleece. Last year I set myself goals that I thought were achievable but not too stressful, being on vacation in Europe and knowing that I would be limited in the amount of fiber I could spin.

This year, the training wheels (ha-ha wheels, I kill me!) are coming off.

This year, I come home to my spinning wheel on almost every day of the tour. Interspersed are a couple of weekend trips that will necessitate some spindle spinning in order to truly meet the goal of spinning on race days along with the cyclists, but it's not like I'll be confined to the car nearly every day like last year.

This year, I have a METRIC TON of stash that I want to spin up. Okay, maybe not that much, but here's some stats from my Ravelry stash:

- 20 4-ounce bundles of combed top (80 ounces!)
- 14 ounces in other put-ups (some batts, some angora fluff, etc.)
- Some leftover gray fleece locks (maybe 6 or 7 ounces)
- About 7 pounds of dirty raw fleece (for you role-playing nerds out there, raw fleece carries a 2-point "fiber deliciousness" merit, but a 3-point "difficult prep" flaw.) There's a small pile of washed locks from the first batch, probably not more than 3 ounces.

Looking just at stuff that I could start spinning tomorrow, that's somewhere around 6 pounds of fiber. 6 pounds. Two years ago, I stashed sock yarn like it was on the endangered species list. It's been a big old fiber fest over here since then.

Now for some vendor statistics:

1. About 12% of the fiber stash is unspun Verb Fiber club fiber (I am very good about spinning this right away)

2. About 29% of the fiber stash is unspun Pigeonroof Studios fiber. I got a little carried away with my stashing rule for hard-to-find fibers. The rule is, if you normally see it less than once a month for sale, you are pretty much allowed to buy it whenever you do find it, even if you don't have a project in mind or are only mildly interested in the color.

3. About 45% of the fiber stash is unspun Hello Yarn fiber (28% club fibers, 17% from shop updates). This is what I hoard the most. With Adrian's colors, I still suffer from "I don't want to screw it up" syndrome so often found in new spinners. In fact, I have yet to actually knit with any of my Hello Yarn handspun! Clearly there are some issues I need to work through here, but until then, I have some very lovely stash to pet.

So here's what I'm going to do. I want to assign real, honest-to-goodness projects for a large chunk of the fiber stash, and spin for projects. There's already a couple I have in mind. I bought some Tactile BFL with the Verdigris pattern in mind, and there's my idea for the Danish Heather Shawl(Rav link) using Pigeonroof fiber. That one should take four or five bumps out of the running! I also have a bump of Sanguine Gryphon merino/silk roving that I'd like to spin to duplicate the Morning Surf Scarf I made last winter. Interspersed with this, I want to have a few skeins that I spin specifically without a really solid idea of what they will become. The idea is to balance planning with letting go of my need to control everything. On top of this, I need at least one spindle-appropriate project, singles will be done on the weekend of the 10th-13th, and to be plied at the end of the tour, the 24th-26th.

There's an awesome team called "Raw Power" who are all spinning a pound of fiber they've prepped from raw to spinnable form for the Tour. I'd love to do this if I wasn't working, and I think it would also be neat to see how much prep I could do during the tour on Blake's fleece. But the work schedule would just make me crazy, since it takes a few hours per washed batch of fiber, doing it the way I am now in my bins.

So I'm spindling, wheel spinning, spinning to reduce stash, spinning for projects, and spinning for fun. I nice side effect of the tour is that it keeps me blogging regularly. I did manage to get 4 posts in for the month of June, even though they were a little light on the knitting content. Today and tomorrow, I'll be clearing out the bobbins. Here we go! Vive la France!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Uh... what work?

SO. When I said I had 8 hours of driving to work on the Halcyon, it turns out I actually had 4 hours (gotta split the driving time with the guy) all of which got taken up with grading papers. I'm not sure if I like the summer gig, the class is great but it's so fast-paced (and the money is always welcome in these times). I'm finding it difficult to do anything else but crash after I get home on the days I teach, and then I'm playing grading catch-up on the weekends.

I promise, pictures of the sweater pieces soon. What do you all think: should I block the sleeves and front and back individually before sewing it together and knitting the neckband, or should I just wait and block the whole thing when it's done?

In the meantime, follow this link for cute kittens (yes I will do anything to distract from my lack of knitting progress).