Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Spinning math

I've been sampling for the gansey.  This Coopworth was beautifully prepped, and it spins like a dream.  It's definitely a coarser fiber (I'm not sure of the micron count, but I wouldn't wear this next to my skin), but it will make a great woolly sweater, I think.  (The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook says that the typical micron count for Coopworth is in the 30-39 micron count range - that seems about right.)

In spite of the fact that ganseys were traditionally knitted in a tightly-spun 5-ply (at something like 7 stitches to the inch, if I remember correctly), I decided that a three-ply was more realistic.  I also rather thought I'd lean towards a less-tightly-spun yarn, given that my very warm husband would like to be able to wear it once in a while, and a coat of woolen armor doesn't work so well down here in SoCal.  That said, I also wanted to be sure that my assumptions were correct, so I decided to start with two samples: a woollen-spun three-ply, and a worsted-spun three ply.

Here's the woollen-spun one.
This was spun using a long backwards draw, keeping my front hand still (managing the twist only slightly), and pulling the fiber back, letting the twist do most of the drafting work.

Here's the worsted-spun yarn.
This was spun using a short forward draw, keeping my back hand (my fiber hand) still, while pulling fiber out of the fiber supply and smoothing the twist into it with my front hand.

Here's my sample card (sorry for the PhotoBooth photo - it was this or nothing).  For each sample, the right-most one is the singles, middle is two-ply, left-most is three-ply; the worsted-spun is on the left, the woollen-spun on the right.
You can really see the difference there between them - the one on the right is much puffier and less compacted than the one on the left.  It also feels better; I think this particular kind of wool wants to be spun with some air in it - the worsted-spun sample feels a bit wire-y to me (any other Coopworth spinners out there who can tell me their experience?).

The numbers are rather interesting, too.  Both of these yarns came out at 13 wpi (wraps per inch), so between a sport-weight and worsted-weight yarn - exactly what I wanted for this sweater.  The stats on the woollen spun yarn (if I did my math right, and if my niddy-noddy really does give me one-yard loops) are as follows.  I spun 56 yards, which weigh 19g or 5/8oz.  That works out to 1424 yards/lb for the grist of this yarn.  The worsted spun yarn came out at 32 yards and 12g or 3/8oz, which works out to 1344 yds/lb. 

I'm planning to knit these each into a little sample before making the final call on spinning type, but at the moment I'm leaning towards the woollen-spun yarn for a couple of reasons.  First, it's lighter (as I mentioned above), so with luck it'll make a more wearable sweater.  Second, it's softer (so again, more wearable).  Third, I spin woollen faster than I spin worsted (which means that I might have a chance at finishing this sweater in this lifetime).  And finally, looking at that yardage/pound calculation, the woollen spun yarn maximizes what I've got.  (It actually just occurred to me this very minute that this gives me a rough estimate of how many yards I should end up with, if I know how much fiber I have by weight! - Yes, I'm slow, hush. - I need to weigh to be sure, but I think I have a titch under two pounds, which puts me at somewhere around, to lowball it, 2500 yards, which should be enough, right?)(Right?)

OK, I couldn't stand it and went to weight it all (I'm home working today with an erstwhile-sick kid), and the verdict is: 39 oz.  That's about 3400 yards, right?  If so, I'm in like Flynn.  (On the other hand, if my math skillz aren't as good as I think they are, it could all be bad.  If one of you sees that I'm math challenged, could you let me down gently?)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A plan in pictures

So here's the latest plan.

To use this:

To make one of these:

For him:

Even though he has the wingspan of one of these:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Alternate fiber arts

Two weeks down, thirteen to go!

I know how bad that sounds.  This is always the tough part of the semester, when I feel that I am still setting expectations for students, and they're getting used to me and I'm getting used to them.  By about week four, things get good for a while, and I stop counting until week 11 or so rolls around.  At that point, we're all counting down to finals, for better or for worse.

Meanwhile, I mentioned last time that I had a few things to share from our busy Labor Day weekend.  First, Younger Daughter, all got up for her feis.
It's hard to get pictures of her in action dancing, without catching other kids in the photos, too (and I don't want to put some other kid out there on the internet), hence the pose.  Rick did manage to get one action shot without identifiable extras, though:
That gives some idea.

As for the other activities of the weekend, I have to share something that I got myself at the Go Native Days gathering in Tehachapi.  I have long wanted a Native California basket.  In fact, I have long wanted to learn to weave a Native California basket, and someday I will.  However, learning to basketweave generally starts with gathering the basketmaking materials with a master weaver, then waiting for those materials to cure, etc, etc (not unlike asking someone how to knit and being told, "Here's a sheep"; it's an awesome way to learn, and maybe even a right way to learn, but not something I could take on right now).  The time will come when I can do that, but it isn't now.  So instead, I finally committed to buying one, and came home with this.
Isn't it lovely?  It's a Kumeyaay basket.  The Kumeyaay people were split, many many years ago, by the arbitrary imposition of what is now the U.S./Mexico border; the weaver of this basket comes from Baja California.  The pattern is called a whirlwind pattern, and it satisfies my abiding love of spirals.
It's woven of juncus grass; the black is dyed juncus.  It smells nice, too (it must be the knitter in me, but when I see a basket, I automatically smell it; am I the only one who does this with yarn?).

Now, while I do know that I can't dedicate myself appropriately to learning to weave something like this, Rick and I took advantage of the fact that there were weavers at the event who were offering lessons in things like basket starts and pine needle baskets.  We headed off to the pine needle basket booth, and an hour and a bit later, had these.
Little bitty pine needle basket trays.  (Very, very little bitty.)  They're made of pine needles and raffia.  And because one should always give one's first basket away, I'm going to sew hair clips to the backs of these for the girls.  And because I am an honest person I'll answer for you this question:  Guess which one is mine and which is Rick's?

Hint:  Engineers apparently make very good basket weavers.

(His is on the right.)

Monday, September 5, 2011


We have certainly put the mileage on this weekend!  On Friday, Rick had to drive down to Coronado (about fifty miles south of here) to help lay floors for Younger Daughter's dance school's feis.  As soon as he got home, we loaded the car up, and headed 200 miles north (about 3.5 hours) to Tehachapi (feeling very grateful that the Cajon pass had reopened after a brush fire shut it down; the traffic still wasn't pretty, but at least it was rolling), where the tribe that I work with was hosting a huge fundraiser on Saturday called Go Native Days.  We worked at that all day on Saturday (well, the girls and I worked; Rick went for a well-earned bike ride), and then drove home on Saturday night.  Then on Sunday, it was back down to Coronado for the feis, before finally coming to a rest here at home last night.

Tilly was really glad when we didn't leave again this morning.

Today has been a catch-up day, and as part of that catch-up, I finally got a few pictures of some recently-finished projects.  Alas, I completely forgot to bring my camera to Saturday's event!  (But I do have a few things to share from that in another post.)

First up, Stripe Study (modelled here by Younger Daughter):
I really love these colors together, but I have to admit something - I'm not 100% sure how to wear this to its best advantage.  By its nature, it is asymmetrical (it reminds me very much of a fiddler crab), and that has me stumped.  In this picture, it is aligned so that the point is at about the middle of the back, with the long arm of the shawl tucked over the shoulder under the shorter arm.
That's how it looks from behind.  I see that as one option.  The other option is to make the arms about even in front, which puts the point over one shoulder.
Then it looks like this from the back.

And front.  Opinions?  Those of you who have knit this, how do you wear it?

In any case, to recap, this is Stripe Study, knitted in Zen Yarn Garden Serenity Lace II, on size 6 needles.  I love the yarn - it was wonderful to work with, it has a lovely hand, and it knitted up beautifully even before I blocked this.  The pattern was clear and easy - very good travel and meeting knitting, in spite of needing to haul two yarn colors around.  This is definitely one I'd knit again (assuming I figure out how to wear it), and that's not something I say often of a garter stitch project.

The next project is a pair of socks that I'm embarrassed to say I started on the trip to Peru and only just recently finished.  Honestly, they should have gone faster, but I got distracted by the siren call of stripes (and cashmere, let's not forget the cashmere).
These went to Younger Daughter, since they fit her perfectly.  They're knitted out of Vintage Purls Vintage Sock yarn, which I have knitted with before and just love, on size 1 needles.  (I am happy to report that there's enough of this left over that I think I'll make myself a pair of clog socks with the rest.)  I used my usual toe-up pattern, with a slip-stitch heel flap under the heel, and the gusset stitch reductions happening on the back of the leg (rather than at the side).  I added a little travelling stitch thing just for fun.  Younger Daughter seems to like them.

So that's it for finished projects.  Right now, I am working my way glacially slowly through the fifteen inches of linen stitch (over about 300+ stitches) that I need to start out Vancouver.  Thank goodness I love the colors and the yarn (BFL, mmm...), because otherwise this one would be a chore.  But I plug away at it, a few rows here and there, and someday it will be done.  I am also working on the pair of Silk Road socks that I am knitting for myself.  I had a totally delusional moment on Saturday night while I was packing them up to go to the feis when I wondered why I couldn't find the first sock to take along (so I could be sure to compare the second sock to it so they match).  Until I realized that there is no first sock - I am still knitting it.  Alas.

And finally, as the secretary of my union local, I would be remiss if I didn't wish you all a happy Labor day, and leave you with this quote from the Department of Labor's description of why we celebrate Labor day:

"The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation's strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker."