Sunday, July 31, 2011

More navelgazing

The other day, while getting dressed for work - dress shirt, dress pants, tie, etc, Keith mentioned that he wished his uniform was a pair of shorts, polo shirt and tennis shoes. Who wouldn't wish for that with the high heat and humidity we've been having?

I laughed and said I got to wear my pajamas all day to work.

He said that some people had pride in their appearance.


Of course, it doesn't really apply here, does it? I dye yarn and fiber in my kitchen. Why in the world would I get dressed, even in blue jeans, to do that? It's hot and messy, and my ancient, threadbare flannel pajama bottoms and a tank top work just fine.

But his joke got me to thinking. There are more mornings than I care to think about when I do roll out of bed, slap on a pair of jeans, and head out. Do I need to really worry about my appearance if I'm going to Wal-Mart at 8 am to buy more birdseed? The grocery store or post office? Maybe it does.

I do have my excuses. It's been so hot and humid that makeup will slide right off my face. The interior of the car when parked in a lot reaches temperatures that would melt a T-1000 Terminator into a puddle from which it couldn't regenerate, and what will that do to my mascara?

Ok, so I don't want to wear makeup during July in the Deep South. Am I that confident in my own appearance, or am I just lazy?

Lazy. For one thing, a whole face takes some time to apply, and when you're trying to beat the heat, each minute counts.

But what about at other times? Times when I can't beat the heat because it's later in the day?

I think what has happened is that working alone in my dye lair has changed my perspective. When I used to have a "real" job, working outside the home and seeing clients all day long, I did have to put forward a neat appearance, which included makeup.

Now I may go days without seeing anyone other than Keith in real life, and the pets don't mind my old flannel pjs. Why should they? I can stop working for a minute if someone needs laptime, and I don't have to worry about cat or dog hairs all over my legs.

What it has made me realize is that I do need to be more mindful when I'm going out to meet friends. Is my outfit adding unneeded pounds to my butt? A little concealer wouldn't hurt as between the constant lack of sleep and probable allergies I have permanent dark circles. (Actually, they eased up while I was out of town. I'm starting to realize the bad air in Atlanta affects me more that I ever thought.)

And most importantly:

I'll have to start looking into mirrors again. :)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Navelgazing about aging

I recently had a birthday, which I may have mentioned before now, and while it didn't end in a 5 or 0, it's getting awfully close to one of those milestone zeroes. While it's just a number, and it's better than the alternative and whole bunch of other platitudes, it's getting awfully close to one of those big ones that ends with a zero. I'd be lying if I said I'd not been thinking about it and some of the implications.

With that as backstory, we were visiting with a friend, and Keith took lots and lots of pictures, as this friend has beehives, and I've loved bees since I was young. Having my own beehives is one of those fantasies I have, along with the organic farm where everything is perfect and I don't have to ever sweat.

I loaded the pictures onto the computer and found I couldn't look at them. It wasn't me in those pictures! It was my mother!

I've avoided cameras for much of my life. When I was young and thin, I tended to look goofy and gawky. There was a while in college and my young adult life when it seemed I took decent pictures and actually looked good in them, but in my 30's my weight started creeping up, peaking at another number I'd rather never mention, and I started some major camera avoidance. Yes, I later learned some of the weight was due to the hypothyroidism, but knowing that doesn't make me look any better.

Thus, I avoid cameras much as one would avoid the plague. I submitted, most unwillingly, to family photos when there was no way I could possibly escape them. Other than that, few pictures of me exist at this age.

Until now. There they were, a whole helluva lot of them, of me looking at bees. Well, it was supposed to be me, and it sort of looked like me, but the woman really looked like my mom! It was unsettling, to say the least. That's not the worst of it. Keith took so many of them with my back to the camera, which would be unflattering even to Kim Kardashian. Trust me on this.

This is a vanity that I'm pretty sure many other women have faced. We've all heard that saying about telling young men to check out how their future mother in law looks as that's how their wife will look one day. When we're young, we don't think that will ever happen. We know everything we'll ever need to know when we're young, and we know for sure that we'll never look like that. Middle aged and a little too well padded.

I'll never look like my 25 year old self again. I know that. That doesn't stop me from fooling myself by avoiding mirrors that I look younger than I am or wondering about plastic surgery in Brazil. I'd probably even bare my neck to a vampire if a bite could stop aging. (Yeah, there is that whole drinking human blood to survive, but I'll worry about that if I get bitten.)

What can I do about it? I can keep avoiding having my picture taken. That's an easy form of self delusion, and I've got some experience. I can get back to the gym, lifting weights, doing cardio and going to yoga. Exercise is a sort of fountain of youth. Not a very fun or easy one, but it does work.

And those pictures of my ass? One of them is going on the fridge so I have to look at it every time I reach in there at mealtime or for a snack.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Towards the end of 2009 I received word that I would be the recipient of a prize of 1 round of Moonbeams, a wonderful fiber club from Moonwood Farm.

Moonbeams are amazingly beautiful. They are batts made from alpacas raised in Alabama and other fibers that usually include silk, Angelina, Firestar, rayon of bamboo and milk protein fiber.

They are labor intensive gems for the dyer, but delightful for spinners.

I oohed and ahhed over them every month, but didn't spin them because I just figured I'd really mess them up. After all, I'm a sporadic spinner.

As I've decided to spin along with all the Tour de Fleece spinning without officially taking part of any of the groups on Ravelry, I decided to start spinning my Moonbeams.

This gorgeous purple fiber is the Dark Crystal Moonbeams from August 2010. Each package of Moonbeams comes as 6 mini batts, so I spun 3 on one bobbin and 3 on another so that I could easily ply them together. What you see in these pictures is my two ply yarn that I plied together last night.

I'm afraid my photos don't really do justice to the Mermaid Moonbeams from April 2010.

They look a little grey in the photos, but they have brown, turquoise, blue, and pink in them.

Once again I spun them so that I could make a 2 ply yarn with them. I confess that I spun the second bobbin much too late in the evening last night (spinning it between 9:30 and 11:15, taking a break for a very late dinner about 10), and I discovered that I was alarmingly overtwisting the single. I ended up with some tight little coils in the yarn.
Plying the two together today helped some, but not enough. The yarn itself is overtwisted, but as I keep telling Keith over and over, it's all about practice. I need to keep spinning, and I'll keep improving.

Sure, my Mermaid yarn isn't as nice as the Dark Crystal, but I also understand why it isn't and what I'll need to do next time.

After all, mistakes are an opportunity to learn.

Have a great Sunday (or try to). Here we have 90%+ humidity with temperatures that will be above 90F. I expect some rain this afternoon. Going outside is like stepping into a steambath.

Is it too early to start counting down the days until September 1? I realize that the days will still be hot then, but at least the nights will start to cool down a little. I don't 75F is much of a low, but it makes a great high temperature!

These are the unspun Mermaid batts. Aren't they gorgeous?

Friday, July 8, 2011

More pictures about pooled knitting

I'm thinking that pooled knitting is a lot like turning the heels on socks. You look at the directions and think WTF? However, when you get started they start to make sense.

Of course, that may only be me, but I don't think so.

Anyway, for those of you who need another illustration of this, I started another one as an example to take the guild last night, and I took lots of pictures this time.

The very first picture shows the yarn stretched out and making sure that it will pool the way I need it to.

The second picture shows that after I wound it into a ball, I pulled out several paint repeats and put knitter's safety pins where the rows end/start. You may ask, how did you make them stay? Easy, I put them through the plies of the yarn.

Gladys, who inspired all this, uses a backwards e-loop cast on to get started. I rarely use this cast on, but I did for my samples. I discovered something very interesting when I started swatching, but I didn't take pictures of it at the time.

What I will do is do another cast on and show you my discovery. It's so simple you'll smack yourself on the forehead and say, "Why didn't I think of that?"

In all honesty, I'm sure I'm not the first knitter to notice it either, I just haven't searched around to see where else it might be on the interwebs.

Picture number 4, the blurry one, shows my first attempt at matching up colors and getting gauge. As you can very easily see, gauge was off that time.

I tinked that first row and reknit it, using my cunning discovery, and as you can see in the final picture, I got it right that time.

Full disclosure time. I got it right in two tries on this one because the first one was so (and still is) very fiddly. I think this one will work without needing two different sized needles for gauge.

For the record, this colorway is one I dyed, but this was a test or seconds skein. As you can see in the first picture, the yarn didn't dye very evenly with those dye concentrations. I put it aside, thinking I'd probably overdye it at some point. However, with the vivid colors, I thought it'd make a great, easy to see, example of pooled knitting. I'm pretty sure I'm just going to knit it up to have as a show sample for when someone asks what does "pooling" on the label mean?

It's Friday! Have a great weekend! I'll be back with spinning pictures.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

On Klingons and spinning

Yes, reading that you would think I've been drinking or have totally lost my mind.

What actually occurred is we went to dinner with a neighbor, and somehow the conversation veered into religion. Our neighbor said their congregation invited other faiths to come in and talk about their beliefs.

I think that sort of thing is wonderful, because communication is key in any good relationship, and that includes groups as well as individuals.

Yes, I'm getting to it. He mentioned that jihad as we see it in the news isn't really what jihad is. Me, and I'll admit to knowing very little about Islam, said, "That reminds me of a Klingon saying. The greatest battle is the battle within."

Our neighbor said yes, and Keith rolled his eyes because his wife is linking things to Star Trek again.

Anyway, it's the whole battle within that leads to spinning.

I don't spin nearly enough to be really good at it. I'm a sporadic spinner at best as it interferes with knitting time.

However, I've signed up for some spinning classes in August, and I need to improve my skills before I take them. I also need to be able to spend long hours in front of the wheel without my legs falling off.

Thus, I decided to unofficially join Tour de Fleece.

While I don't have mountains of fibers, what I have is more than molehills. I joined a fiber club awhile back, and anytime I've spent some time spinning, I inevitably buy more fiber. It doesn't help that I've got friends who dye incredible stuff.

I kicked off TDF with that black yarn you see with the red, grey, yellow and green flecks. It's name - Resistance Is Futile. Nothing like a Borg inspired yarn for a Star Trek KAL to kick things off!

They were spun and Navajo plied for a self striping yarn.

The two pastel bobbins were actually some fiber I purchased from Three Rivers Farm at the last SAFF. It's a blend of 75% BFL and 25% silk. I'd spun 3 of the 4 ounces, so I spun the last ounce and Navajo plied them to keep the colors separated.

Last night I started on some Moonbeams from Moonwood Farm. Moonbeams are batts from her own alpacas mixed with other fibers such as bamboo, milk protein and the sparkly stuff.

The colorway is Dark Crystal, and as you can see it's an amazing deep purple. (Did the opening for Smoke on the Water pop into your head? I can never say the words "Deep Purple" without hearing that riff playing.)

I'm still spinning too fast and overtwisting my yarn, but even if I only do a little each day, I'll improve.

The best part is it takes less brainpower than knitting does, and after I've been on my feel all day dyeing yarn, I find that I can spin. I can't always knit, but spinning is very meditative.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Pooling knits

Last summer, one of the members of the Atlanta Knitting Guild brought in a scarf she had knitted in which the colors pooled into vertical columns. Can I say amazing and beautiful?

She had read about pooled knitting on Ravelry and found Gladys We, one of the yarn floozies. Gladys has explored using handpainted yarns to their full pooling potential and sharing that knowledge with masochistic knitters everywhere.

Masochistic, you ask? Yes.

I've been working with one of the skeins I dyed. I love the colorway, Mood Ring. I had dyed a skein of Knit Picks Bare, the silk and merino blend, which I had purchased before I had started Fiber Charmer and could get yarn from wholesalers. Besides, I figured I'd keep this for myself as I didn't think that Knit Picks would really be a good source for undyed fiber.

So, some of the knitty gritty about why I think this is good for masochists.

1. There's swatching. Lots and lots of swatching. When I'm working at the LYS, I advise people to swatch. You can learn a lot from swatching. That said, I rarely swatch. I knit a lot of toe up, plain stockinette socks, and I never swatch for those. I know there are times when I should swatch, and I have done it, but I've also discovered, as Yarn Harlot herself has mentioned, that swatches lie.

With pooled knitting, you have to swatch. There is no way around it. Swatch and rip, swatch and rip, swatch and rip, eye the bourbon and switch to spinning.

Actually, that's the only reason I think it's good for masochists. Once you get past that, get your gauge and your needles, it's smooth sailing.

Well, I assume it is once you get all that. What I've discovered is that this skein, wound by Knit Picks mill, is shorter than the skeins I wind. I'm talking about a smaller circumference and not the yardage of the skein. I've been getting 37 -38 stitches as my magic number, but when I start knitting, my colors travel. I can correct that by examining every single row and then determining if I need to switch needle sizes yet again.

Honestly, that's way too much work for me. This one is getting frogged, and this yarn that I bought and dyed for myself is going back into the bin. I'll see what I've got in inventory and start again.

I hope that you have a happy 4th! I won't be working on pooled knits today, so I plan to enjoy mine!