Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Fiber keeps happening

I have been plugging away at various things here, and actually have something to show for it.   I have been spinning the BFL which I'm planning to ply with my already-spun Polwarth, and I am here to tell you two things.  First, it takes a LOT longer (for me) to spin four ounces worsted than it does to spin four ounces woollen.  A lot.  Second, the worsted-spun fiber takes up MUCH less space.  My four ounces of Polwarth (spun woollen) take up the better part of two bobbins.  I'm two-thirds or so of the way through the four ounces of BFL (spun worsted), and I think it's all going to fit on one bobbin with room to spare.  The wraps per inch look about the same, so it's got to be a function of the amount of air in worsted spun yarn.  I'll be sure to have pictures next time.

While that's been going on, I also pulled out the first of my one-ounce fiber sampler, deciding to start with the Lincoln.  I got out my trusty Pipy to do the spinning.
Lincoln is an incredibly long-staple fiber.  The staple length on this particular sample was somewhere upwards of eight inches.  And it has almost no crimp.  It feels more like holding hair than wool, in many ways; but this particular preparation was clearly wool - it had a lovely lanolin smell, not too strong, that hung about the fiber as it was spun, and my hands afterward.  For the first time, I understood why Clara Parkes describes that scent as "spicy" - it is, in a warm, cooking spices sort of way.

Because Lincoln is a prototypical longwool, and because the preparation of this sample was such a lovely combed top, I spun it worsted.  It came out fuzzier than I'd expected, given the fiber and the preparation and the spinning.  The BFL I'm spinning has less fuzz - weird, no?
I then made both a two-ply and a three-ply yarn out of the singles.
 That's the three-ply on the left, and the two-ply on the right.  The three-ply was (as one might expect) a much rounder yarn; interestingly, it seemed to me that it bloomed more nicely than the two-ply.  I'm not sure why that would be.  It also seemed to me to be more lustrous than the two-ply (luster being another hallmark of the longwools).  I do know that if I were to spin a project out of Lincoln, I would absolutely spin a three-ply.  In fact, I'm rather thinking that I'd love to source some dyed Lincoln to spin a colorwork bag out of.  I imagine that a bag like that would be absolutely stunning, and would wear like steel.  All in all, a successful first sampling session.

I have also been working away at the latest pair of Rick socks, in time for him to go out of town next week.
These are the Blunnie socks from one of last year's Rockin' Sock Club kits.  As soon as I saw them, I knew they were going to be for Rick, as he has a pair of blunnies that he loves.
These fit like a glove.  I really aimed for a tight fit this time (and they are knitted on size 0 needles), to see if that improves the wear of his socks (mainly by preventing the semi-felting of the soles of his socks, which tends to happen after a while).  We'll see.

So that's one project off the needles.  In the meantime, I've cast on for Vitamin D (a cardi), and am plugging away at the yoke.  With luck, I'll have something to show on that next time, plus I might (maybe) have finished the BFL and be ready to ply!

Monday, March 19, 2012

New things

Spring has sprung, and there are new things all over the place around here.  Last Wednesday, Tilly and I went for a walk at one of our local spots.  It's not a huge wilderness; in fact, it's what I might call an urban wilderness, if I lived in the urbs.  But I live in the 'burbs, and maybe I should therefore call it a 'burban wilderness?
You can see there on the horizon - houses.  And there are power lines, and more houses.  But it's a place with its own wholeness, its own integrity.  I have seen blue herons there, and coyotes, and there's a kestrel pair every spring, and I even saw a black-faced weasel there once. 
It has a hill to climb (from which I can see the ocean).
And a body of water to attract coots and ducks and herons.  (I hesitate to call it a lake - because to anyone outside California, it is not - but it feels a bit big to call it a pond in California, even though if I were from Michigan, I'm pretty sure it would be a pond.)

But most importantly, it changes with the changing of the seasons.  And I can get my feet on the dirt, and see those little intimate changes that mean that the year is turning.
Those are purple wild sweet peas there, with the lemonade berries, a mixing of winter and spring that makes me happy.  The monkeyflowers are out, too.
And the willows are starting to leaf out.
I love going on this walk, week after week, year after year, watching the small changes.  It reminds me of some of the essays in The Wild Places, one of the most beautiful books I've ever read (and I say that as a person who doesn't like beautiful books just because the writer can turn a phrase; they also need to say something).  Macfarlane goes looking for the untouched places of Britain, only to find that the most remote places he can get to show the unmistakable marks of the millenia of human habitation of that small island (which in itself I find awesome - in the original meaning of the word); but instead of despairing of ever finding his wild places, he instead describes in loving terms that feeling of deep connection that comes from having one's own small place to be in, season in and season out, as the years turn, whether it's a backcountry preserve, or something like my small 'burban wilderness.
As I walk, I find myself composing little internal paeans to what I could perhaps call grace (I will not subject you to them, I promise); little hymns to that feeling of weighty warmth that is thankfulness - not the weight of burden, but the weight of a supportive hand on the shoulder, or a heavy comforter on a cold night.  And last Wednesday, my little internal songs of praise were for the durability of fragile things.  They go, but they do come back - they really do.

And sometimes they come back brand-new.  Like this little fragile thing - long may she endure.
Isn't she stunning?  I haven't met her yet, but she's our cousin's new baby, and I bet she, too, is a weighty warmth in her parents' arms.  I knitted her a blanket (which is really a much prettier dusty rose color than it looks here, I promise):
But all of those stitches, even the 1200-stitch cast-off row (it had to have ruffles, didn't it?)
can't even come close to encompassing the love I feel for that little girl and her parents and big brother.
I tried, though - in that way that knitters do.  And I even finished it (more or less) in time (I knitted madly for seven days) to be waiting for her at home when she got back from the hospital (thank goodness she was willing to be a little late)(even though I'm pretty darned sure - speaking from experience - that her mother wasn't feeling thankful for her lateness at all, at all - that's a whole different kind of weightiness! and waityness, come to think of it).

I'm a day or so early, but I guess this is all by way of saying, Happy Equinox, everyone - spring is here at last.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Friend, or foe?

I have often had to face the sad realization that technology is a mixed blessing.  I'm pretty sure that everyone in human history has come to the same conclusion since the beginning of technology.  You just know some poor sod stabbed herself in the foot with a digging stick, back in the dawn of history, and entered into a rant on the pitfalls of technology, a rant that probably would sound familiar to anyone today: "F*& gr^$&@!! digging stick.  Was it so bad when we used our hands?  No, no it wasn't.  Could we have gone on just using our hands?  Yes, yes we could have.  Has anybody ever stabbed themselves in the foot with a hand?  I think NOT!  Should have just left well enough alone, shouldn't we, but noooo, some punk had to come along and say, hey, lookit this here sharpened stick!  Saves your nails, saves your back - everyone should use one!  But has anyone ever stabbed themselves in the foot with a hand, I ask?  And I think we all know what the answer is..."  On and on and on.

I am feeling much like my digging-stick wielding foremother today, wondering whether I just should have used my hands.  Except I wasn't digging, I was (attempting to) read.  And I wasn't mining for tubers for the dinner table, I was mining for information to help me finish writing a paper that needed to have been finished (like that past perfect passive conditional, there?) some time ago.  I had a very small hope this afternoon that I would be able to work my way through a few articles while Older Daughter was at her fiddle lesson.  It didn't seem like a lot to ask...

An hour before it was time to leave to get the girls, I could be found sitting at my desk, making my little plan, and thinking about what I would need in order to achieve it.  On my desk was a book of collected articles, loaned from the library at UCSD (through the magic of interlibrary loan, and, to be fair, THERE's a technology I wouldn't give up in a hurry), and therefore not write-on-able.  Out of it, I hoped to read four articles, about which I was going to want to make notes.  And then I had A Thought.

I thought, I could scan these articles, pop them onto the i-gadget, and then use GoodReader to read them, marking them up with my Deep Thoughts as I go along.  All I need to do is to use my printer to scan them, email them to myself, open up the email on the i-gadget, and bob's your uncle, hey-presto, I've got mark-up-able articles!

Rick, I says, says I, our printer, she surely scans, yes?

There was a pregnant pause.  Not so much with the scanning, he replied.  Except!  he added in upbeat tones, except!  You could log onto Older Daughter's computer (the only computer in the house that the printer will listen to, for reasons which surpass understanding), open up a nifty HP scanning app, stick a thumb drive into that baby, and convince the HP scanning app to tell the printer to scan, saving the documents to the thumb drive the while, then stick the thumb drive in your computer, email the documents to yourself, open them up on the i-gadget, put them into GoodReader, and bob's your uncle, hey presto, you're on the road to easy reading.

Hmmm, thought I.  I have the better part of an hour (minus the time it took him to say all of that), I can do it.  How hard could it be? I bet I'll even have time left over to see what's new at Knitty.  (Cue Music of Doom here.)

I went to get the computer belonging to Older Daughter.  It was not plugged in on the office shelf where it belonged.  It was not on her desk.  It was not in the living room.  It was not in her bed (I was getting desperate).  Nor on her bookshelves.  Nor on her desk chair.  It was finally found lying on the floor under a heap of dirty clothes (and you can bet your bottom dollar that Words Were Had about that one).  I logged in, I found a thumb drive, I booted up the program, I convinced the printer and the computer to see each other, and, finally, I scanned.  I merrily scanned away, noting - and thinking it rather odd at the time - that while the documents scanned in right-side-up, there came a time at the end of each scanning cycle when the scanning program, for reasons unfathomable to anyone not working at HP, turned them up-side-down.

Never mind, thought I, I can turn them back right-side-up on my computer, through the magic that is Adobe.  (More technology.  More foreshadowing.)  I scanned, I saved, I moved the thumb drive, and I saved again onto my desktop, feeling increasingly wise and smart and like some kind of technological maven.  (Cue more Music of Doom.)

I opened those documents, rotated as necessary, saved, and closed them.  One by one.  Then I attached them all to an email and hit send, and turned my attention to the i-gadget, which I plugged into my computer.  I think I had some delusional notion that perhaps I'd be able to simply upload the documents without engaging in any email rigamarole.  Really, I don't know why I thought it was a good idea, because it promptly began to sync.  And it turns out that my beloved daughters have downloaded quite a few of the app-thingies to the i-gadget, and as a consequence, there was quite a lot of syncing to be done.  Time passed.

I waited with patience.

Eventually, I noticed that a) this sync thing was taking quite some time, making me wonder if my generous hour (I'll be done with time to spare!) was going to be enough, and b) that my email program had sent me a quiet little notice saying that my email was too big to go through.  So I a) deleted an attachment from my email, and b) looked hard at the sync bar to sort of encourage it along.

Three attachments was still too many.  (I should note here in my defense that my email generally swallows ginormous attachments whole; this was well within its capacity.  Except apparently not today.)   So I deleted one more, re-sent, and sent the other two in a separate email.  That seemed to work.  I started thinking harder at the sync bar.

Finally, it was done.  The i-gadget had sunc, the email went through, and I opened it up.  Then I opened each document (comeoncomeoncomeon), and, lo and behold, there they were in GoodReader.

Upside down.

What the ^%#??!!

Yup, upside down.  I checked on my desktop, and they were upside down there, too.  I re-rotated, re-saved, re-sent.

Still upside down.

Are you %$^ing kidding me?!

And time was up.  So I left.  Without my articles.  Without the i-gadget (which is now sitting on my desk in disgrace).  Without anything to induce in me the sorts of Deep Thoughts that will enable me to finish this article by its (now long past) deadline.

No-one ever stabbed themselves in the foot with paper and a pencil.  And that's all I have to say on the matter.