Two Left Needles

Knitting, spinning and dyeing
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June 2006 - Posts

I couldn't believe my eyes. Sunshine! I even managed to get these photos this morning between cloud cover:

Washed cormo lock (the top end is the slightly felted cut end):

Washed cormo lock

Based on feedback the other day, I'm trying to comb it with the Forsyth combs. We'll see how it goes (initial attempts are so-so).

Clover Leaf Farms silk/merino, 4 oz spun up:

Clover Leaf Farms merino/silk

Love the colors. The plan is to spin the other 4 oz which is a different (hopefully complementary) colorway, and then ply them together.

Pink Panther socks, just started the heel:

Pink Panther sock - in progress

The second pink band had much less black dye drool on it. I think both bands are interesting.

And last, a new project, Trellis from Knitty.com, in Rowan All Seasons Cotton:

Trellis - in progress

The yarn feels soft and squishy while knitting. It's the actual yarn called for in the pattern, which is so rare for me. I bought a few skeins specifically for this project at that yarn closing sale back in April. Anyone know if the All Seasons Cotton stands up to the washer and dryer?

It didn't rain at all, all day. I looked for pigs, but didn't see any. I wouldn't have been so shocked.

Thanks so much for your comments on the cormo. Some times I feel like I go on a bit and I'm not sure if anyone's interested, but I figure I'll throw it out there and see. It's nice to see the spaghetti stick to the wall every now and again.

Dye-O-Rama pal

My Dye-O-Rama pal got her yarn and liked it! My pal is Pippikneesocks, and you can imagine that when I drew her name I was a bit intimidated, thinking, crap, what am I doing in the experienced group, mebbe I should be in the WTF group! Have you seen all the yummy things she makes?

I wanted to come up with something different for her, and I knew I wanted to use pink and black, her signature colors. My first idea was to spin a 3 ply yarn with one ply variegated pinks, one ply variegated blacks and one ply either white or white with hints of pink and black. Dyeing the pinks went fine but somehow I had brown in my head instead of black and variegated browns just weren't happening. Ug-ly. I'll tell ya all about it another time. 

All's well that ends well, though. I'm happy with how things turned out.

I won!

Hey, I won something! I never win anything! I won something! I donated to Claudia's good cause by way of Anne and won some alpaca yarn from Deb of Sunrise Ranch Alpacas in the Prize Patrol! Heh. I won. Mebbe the rain will stop. If it does, maybe I'll see pigs. Flying. :)

Now that I've won something, does that mean I can no longer say I never win anything? I'll have to change to: I almost never win anything! I hardly ever win! If winning things were like batting averages, I'd be batting a .001!

Just doesn't have the same ring.

Family time

I'm heading to NC Thursday to visit my sister, niece, nephew, and brother. I so need a vacation and to hang out with family and be super auntie. My nephew turned 1 this month and I feel like I'm missing all his moments. You can bet I'll be soaking up the moments this trip. I probably won't be able to blog while I'm there, but I've been such a slacker lately I'm sure you're used to it by now.

Gram

I wanted to really thank y'all for being so supportive about Gram. I didn't say much after the last post a couple of weeks ago, and I couldn't return emails to your wonderful comments. All I could do was take it in and appreciate your words of support and the ideas you brought.

Last week I finally pulled myself together enough to look up Alzheimer's caregivers support groups and located a couple in the area that I might go to. I also did some research on Amazon.com and picked out a few books on Alzheimer's. It's strange. These are the types of things that, in other parts of my life, come naturally to me. Finding resources and information to help me understand something I don't understand. Somehow, I blanked. I had thought of support groups before, but it seemed distant and unattainable. Until a couple of you suggested it, and a week had passed, and I stopped to think, I felt like I had no idea how to find a support group or what to do. It's like my brain short circuited, was a skipped record stuck on a track, a program stuck in a loop, unable to compute.

When the books arrived, I couldn't bear to look at them. They sat. Until today. I started reading at lunch. I think they'll be helpful in finding ways to cope, finding ideas for how to respond to Gram when she says things that make no sense to us, when she tells us she's seeing things we can't see. For figuring out how to see the good things, the happy, the light, and not just the sad and heartbreaking. Or amidst the sad and heartbreaking.

We had a good visit with her yesterday. She seemed to be in good spirits, and she's moving around fairly well. She was talking about her family, and pulled out an old family photo, in black and white, with 11 "kids" ranging from teenager to 30's. I asked about each and she told stories. I loved that.

When the aide came to take her to dinner, Gram introduced us (again) to the aide, but couldn't remember my name, or Scott's. Lately she can't remember "grandson"; she knows who we are but can't remember the labels, the names.

Anyway, thank you. Your words touched me and helped carry me through the last 2 weeks.

Podcast help?

I often read my posts to Scott and have a lot of fun doing it. When he reads them on his own, they don't sound the same to him. So I thought mebbe I could record some of them. So you can hear them how they sound in my head! (yes, I admit, scary thought) Or listen while knitting. ('cuz I'm all about multitasking.)

'Cept, I know nothing about how to make that happen. And yes, I could find a book on it, or a website, but, um, I gots a lot on my plate right now. And I know there are some of ya out there with some experience? That would be happy to hook me up? :)

(Warning: Lots o' pics)

Soooo excited.

Remember that fleece I bought at MDSW? Remember I wanted to spin laceweight with it?

Ya, ya, ya, spun the laceweight. Tonight.

Well, just a bit. A sample.

And to do that, I had to wash it. And figure out how to prep it.

Ya, ya, ya.

Took a while to screw up my courage, eh? Almost 2 months? The experiment washing the corriedale fleece last month went so-so. Well, not so great. The majority went into a net bag and got a bit felted up. A few locks were washed in an experimental, painstaking way and came out fine:

experimenting with fleece washing washed corriedale locks
Left: tools used for sandwiching fleece; Right: results

When Barbara came over for my spinning lesson last month, I learned to use my forsyth combs, combed up a small lock and dizzed it:

corriedale nest

A few weeks ago, I spun it:

corriedale sample

Spinning stuff you've washed and combed is SO different than spinning commercially processed top. For one thing, you've still got all this crimp and energy in the fiber, it's not stretched out and flat like top. For another... well, I don't have another. It's a lot sproingier, not as slippery. It's nice.

I was going to find another way to wash the corriedale, one that didn't require a lot of work and didn't felt the fiber, before attempting the cormo. Barbara said she used water baskets (that's warter (war-der), to you non-New England folk) to wash her fleece, so I found some at Loews. It's got holes allover, except two squares on the bottom, so I thought I'd be clever and drill extra holes in to improve circulation:

adding holes to the warter basket adding holes to the warter basket

Man, love the drill, but it's so darned heavy. I only had the strength to do one side... and then I realized I couldn't file down the raw edges on the other side. Not so clever. (My pain is your gain.)

Uh oh, I'm crashing from the caffeine (from my decaf iced coffee; I'm a weakling)... better get focused...

I saw this article on washing fleece a few weeks ago and bought some tulle. Didn't use it. Thursday, I read Spinnerella's post on washing fleece and decided it was time.

I don't have the sink or baskets she does, and wanted to try the warter basket method anyway, so I did that first.

Locks o' fleece:

Washing cormo - locks

Locks sandwiched between baskets, sitting in hot water and Dawn:

Washing cormo - nested warter baskets

Locks rinsed x 2:

Washing cormo - in the warter basket

I only did one hot water wash, and it wasn't quite enough, as I could feel a little stickiness in the tips. It wasn't easy to remove the excess water, the wet locks on their own were a little awkward to handle. Also, they kinda stuck to the warter basket a bit where the basket's sticker had been. For a coarser fleece, it probably wouldn't be so bad, but for this superfine, easy to felt stuff, not good. I thought, a netting barrier ought to help. But, the size and shape of the fleece severely limited how much I could stick in there.

Instead, I placed some fleece in the netting, rolled and tied, and placed in the bucket.

Following Spinnerella's instructions, 2 hot washes with Dawn:

Washing cormo - soapy soak

2 rinses:

Washing cormo - rinse

The vinegar in the first rinse was KEY, it cut the suds big time. The use of baskets in her post, also KEY. Too bad I couldn't do that this time. I had to lift the netting sausage out by the ends, and that made the fiber slide around a bit. Upon later inspection, the cut ends of the locks got a bit felted from rubbing against the netting. Next time, I will orient the locks parallel to the sausage. Or use baskets.

(Also, I used a chopstick instead of the wooden spoon. 'Cuz, you know, I'm biased that way.)

Clean locks:

Washing cormo - almost dry

Man, stuff is SOFT. Soft, soft, soft. Sproingy. Soft. Did I mention it's soft? I kept going back to touch it. Pre-wash, it's got so much lanolin, you wouldn't know this was underneath.

So... prep? At MDSW at the Cormo Association / Foxhill Farms booth (this is a Foxhill Farms fleece), I overheard someone saying it was best to comb this stuff. I was thinking I'd use my forsyth combs, but Barbara was saying they might not be suited to fine fiber, since they only had 2 rows and the tines weren't as thin or closely spaced as a set of 4 row combs she had. On the plus side, my combs had good sharp points... but...

I also worried that the super sproingy-ness would not work well with the combs. I thought the fibers might stretch out and spring back into little knots and neps. It might be a mess.

Then I made a connection. My brother bought me some awesome spinning DVD's for my birthday (woohoo!) and in "Handspinning: Advanced Techniques", Mabel Ross combs some merino with an actual comb. What if that's what those Foxhill Farms people meant?

Off to the pet shop to pick up a lice (ewwww) comb:

pet comb for combing the cormo

Combing:

Washing cormo - combing
(actually, this is me combing the second lock; the first one was half the size and I didn't do it like this)

The ends did sproing a bit, but overall it went fine, if a little slow (esp on the slightly felted end). I created a ... roving? by pulling from one corner and gently stretching, similar to in the DVD. And spun. Laceweight. With the cormo. Ohhhh yeaaaaahhhhhh.

cormo sample

It's evener than the bombyx/merino laceweight from the last post. And finer. For comparison, Jaggerspun Zephyr laceweight on the left, and my cormo laceweight on the right:

Comparing cormo samples

And comparing to some of the other stuff I've been sampling -- the brown stuff is a sample of the Foxhill Farms cormo/alpaca from MDSW; and the blue stuff is the laceweight from the last post.

Comparing laceweight samples

The cormo I washed was not hard to spin. There were bits that bunched up, but for the most part, it went pretty smoothly. Comparatively, the cormo/alpaca was a little tougher to spin, but not bad. I definitely liked spinning my preparation better. The bombyx/merino was toughest of the three to keep consistent, but I didn't really pre-draft it. It's more handled than the other fibers from the dyeing, maybe that's part of it; maybe it's the silk.

The cormo sample is about 8 yards, spun from a small portion of a lock. I think I'll spin up a larger sample at about the same grist and then knit up a swatch to see how it behaves. My eventual goal: to spin enough laceweight to knit a shawl. Ohhhhhh yeaahhhhhhhhhh.

I've wanted to spin lace for a while, since before MDSW. Lately, I've been spending some time here and there doing a bit of spinning, mostly samples, mostly thin stuff. I've been frustrated because I've got little to show for whatever time I spend spinning.

A couple of nights ago I started spinning some of the Chasing Rainbows Dyeworks bombyx/merino that I bought at MDSW. I bought 4 oz with the intention of making a lace scarf and put off using it until I was "ready" (you know, when you hoard lovely yarn or fiber, waiting for the perfect project or improved skills to do it justice). After sampling the optim last week and seeing how little I actually used and how helpful it was to get a feel for the fiber, I decided to sample the bombyx/merino. Just to see/feel.

I spun about as thin as I could get it, and I spun for a while. Two small bumps appeard on the bobbin, and that's about it. I stopped because I thought it might be too thin for knitting. I'm not much of a lace knitter and I've never knit with anything so thin before, so who's to say I'd like it? Better to knit up a sample before going any further. Before going to bed I wound it onto my trusty water bottle so I could ply it later. It took a LOT longer than expected. It looked so darned itty bitty:

Chasing Rainbows Dyeworks silk/merino

Last night I plied it. I plied by sight, visually checking the amount of twist before winding on. Besides having trouble seeing it (not the best lighting), I struggled with the plying-from-both-ends-without-ending-in-a-tangled-mess thing. Here's what I ended up with:

Chasing Rainbows Dyeworks silk/merino

40 yards of ... less than laceweight? I had trouble getting it to register on my scale, it might be ~2 g. The plying's not particularly even, and I definitely need to practice the spinning, too. But it's laceweight, and relatively consistent (when you squint or hold at armslength).

I made laceweight!

After gently holding the lace and marveling at its itty bittiness, I sat down at the wheel again and started spinning Clover Leaf Farm silk/merino, also from MDSW. I bought 8 oz to make a shawl type thing. I aimed for a dk/light worsted yarn, and BAM! Instant progress on the bobbin! Fiber flowing through the fingers! The pile, it doth diminisheth! It hit me like a ton of bricks.

The laceweight, she take very very very little fiber. The fiber pile, she does not much diminish when you're spinning the laceweight. The bobbin, she does not fill much when you're spinning the laceweight. The laceweight, she is itty bitty. She takes lots of time. And care.

If you want to see the progress, do not spin da laceweight. If you want to see the stash diminish, do not spin da laceweight.

*     *     *

I love the colors of the Clover Leaf Farms merino/silk:

Clover Leaf Farm merino/silk

Coupla things I forgot to mention yesterday:

Thing 1: I used more pink than calculated (9 mL instead of 6) because it didn't look as dark as I would have liked. Of course, it migrated a good bit, so that accounts for the larger pink sections.

Thing 2: I chose 1" and .5" bands because I guessed that socks were usually knit over 72 stitches, so 30 loose stitches would be roughly half that. Ergo, 1" stripes would actually be .5" stripes, and so on. In practice, I think I was on crack to think that you'd knit 72 stitch socks with Kona. The socks I'm knitting now are over 52 stitches, and while my feet are small, maybe, perhaps, one might work over 60 stitches, max. Max. Despite my inability to think straight, the calculation ended up being pretty close. The knit stripes are roughly half the depth of the dyed stripes:

Comparing stripe sizes

Also, I mentioned the yarn fluffs up when washed/cooked, I think you can see the difference here:

Comparing dyed and undyed Kona

Goals

Because of the way the first batch dyed, there aren't grey and light pink sections, so much as black and pink separated by the littlest bit of white and off-whites. As I mentioned yesterday, the dye migrated quite a bit. The initial black stripe was skooshed within the 1" section, but migrated about half an inch beyond that. When I added the "grey" dye (diluted black), there was already so much black that it just made the slightly fainter black more black. Same with the pinks.

Goals 1 and 2: I wanted to eliminate as much of the black drool as possible, and get a little more definition in the greys and light pink, as well as white sections.

Things I changed:

Thing 1: I eliminated the grey and light pink dyes completely, figuring the migrated dyes were enough. I think this was about right - you can see more greys and light pinks in the second batch, and you can definitely see it pre-nuke:

pre-nuked

Also, this meant there was a LOT less liquid on the blanks so that meant less liquid to carry the black dyes around. This decreased the black drool considerably. It also meant less dye, which meant less migration and more distinct white areas post-nuking. Excellent.

Thing 2: I also remembered to spritz the vinegar BEFORE nuking. This meant not having to unwrap and possibly contaminate the non-black sections.

Thing 3: I carefully folded up the packet accordian style with black at the edges and put a small glass jar under the pink section to keep it elevated. I figured any black dye that wanted to roam would stick to the lowered areas and stay away from the pinks. I think this helped.

Support

Thing 4: I had to nuke for smaller amounts of time because, as the temperature went up, the packet started inflating and falling over. I nuked until it was about to fall over, and then let it cool a bit before repeating. I think I had 4 nukes instead of the usual 3, so this wasn't too bad.

So, what do I think?

I think, no matter how you look at it, making self-striping yarns is time-consuming.

I think this method means a lot less winding for self-striping yarn. That's a definite plus. No walking around chairs or keeping track of peg boards.

I think if you know how to use your knitting machine, it's not bad making up the blanks. If you don't, you may curse or sweat.

I think applying the dyes is not difficult but probably less mindless than the usual ways.

I think the mottled and unpredictable transitions between stripes is very interesting and fun to watch.

I think carrying around a dyed blank is less fiddly than a skein of yarn: no tangles or knots.

I think intentional frogging of dyed blanks as you're knitting up socks is fun and satisfying. Frogging is not fun when it's endless, when it's because of a mistake you made, or when it means you're negating hours of work. None of these apply!

I think I'm done with self-striping socks for a while.

My Dye-O-Rama yarn is finally dyed and dried and ready to go out! Wanna see?

In the knit:

Pink Panther

Skeined up:

Pink Panther skeined

A light steaming and a bath did not entirely remove the crinklies, but I don't think it'll be an issue in the knitted item. I wonder if the cooking or the cooking and drying in knitted form made the crinklies so pronounced.

This time 'round I made several changes in hopes of having clearer color bands. Overall, the changes worked great. But first things first... How I did it the first time.

Knitting blanks

Here's my knitting machine (one of them):

knitting machine

It's a Studio SK860, I think, bought new several years ago. Suffice it to say, I had grand plans.

And me using it:

using the knitting machine using the knitting machine

Scott took them, despite protestations of unwashed hair and grubby clothes.

This machine knits primarily dk to light worsted weight yarns. I'm no machine knitter so don't hold me to that. But that's a rough range. I "cast on" with grippy waste cotton over 30 needles at dial setting 6 and knit about 8-10 rows. Then I switched to the Kona superwash and knit 200 rows (I weighed as I went; 200 rows = 2 oz). Back to the grippy waste cotton for another 8-10 rows and then off the bed. Rinse and repeat for the second skein.

knitted blank

Note: this made a very loose fabric, which worked out fine. The yarn fulls when washed and dyed, and you don't want a tight gauge getting in the way of dye penetration.

Prep

I soaked the blanks in hot water with a bit of dish detergent and rinsed gently before using. When ready, I laid out my protective plastic drop cloth and plastic wrap and unrolled the blanks onto the plastic wrap (stockinette stitch, as you know, wants to curl up something fierce, so I did my best to lay it flat).

blanks laid out

Dye calculations

I based my numbers on Deb Menz's Color in Spinning, past experience and guesstimation. Good old guesstimation. Here's how it went. (If you really hate numbers and would rather skip to the fun part, jump to the Aside).

My color pattern was:

Pink Panther - color repeat

To figure out how much dye to use, first I figured out what dye intensities I wanted. I knew I'd get good saturated colors with 4% dye solution, and then I figured 1% ought to do it for the greys and light pinks.

Pink Panther - color repeat

Next, I figured out what percent of the whole each band was. The total was 6", so each (non-white) color was 2/12 of the whole. Here's where it gets a little interesting. If you like math. If not, maybe the opposite.

If I were doing a straight 4% intensity calculation, I'd have:

     4 (percent) x 2 oz = 4 x 56 g = 224 mL of 1% dye solution

But, since we're only looking at a portion of the whole, say the black band:

     4 x 56 g x 2/12 = 37.3 mL

because the black takes up only 2/12 of the whole. Right. And for the 1% bands, I decided to dilute the 1% dye solution to .25%, so that the calculations would be the same as above. Same amount of liquid, different amount of dye.

Last step (are your eyes glazed over?) -- my knitted blank ended up being 36" when laid out, so I was able to fit exactly 6 full repeats in there. What luck. So for each 1" stripe (or set of 1/2" stripes), I used:

     37.3 mL / 6 = ~6 mL

Aside

To be honest, you can just wing it and put as much as looks right to you. If you want consistent stripes, then use the same amount for each stripe. It's that easy.

Dyeing

I laid out measuring tape next to my blank. Following the color pattern, I added the dye and skooshed in to make sure it got all the way through to the other side. I started with black and did all the black stripes, then did the pink stripes, then the lighter colors.

dyed blank

Above, the black bands were placed and skooshed between the 6" and 7" marks, and 12" and 13" marks. The grey was placed over the migrated black sections. I used more pink than calculated because I wasn't happy with the intensity. Hence, it migrated more.

dyed blank

I spritzed a nice layer of vinegar over the whole shebang. After nuking and forgetting. Doh!

Time to fold the plastic wrap in to the middle to seal it up and then carefully roll:

wrapped and ready to go

Nuked for the usual [~2 mins on, several mins off] x 3.

I was worried that the black would run, so I unwrapped fairly soon after and soaked in hot water with a bit of dish soap. (Ideally you'd let it sit and cool so the dyes absorb in, yada yada. Also, Kona is superwash so I knew the temperature change wouldn't felt it.)

cooked and cooling

You can tell there is much less white here than before nuking.

ready to dry

Also, there are a bunch of areas where the black drooled, plus one section where I accidentally spattered black... I wasn't quite happy with how it turned out so I made a bunch of modifications and tried again. That's the photo at the beginning of the post! Details on that coming up.

Thanks for the links to the calculators. Alas, I got them just a bit late. I knit on. With only 4 rows to go, it looks like I have enough yarn for 2 rows. Heh. So close. I want to use every last inch of the yarn so I'm going the improvisation route. If that doesn't work out, I'll rip back.

Random

Did you know that these:

t-shirts

are t-shirts? Funky packaging, eh? These were from TechEd. They come out all wrinkly and accordian when you open them but they're nifty, brick-like and easy to tote around.

More random

We picked up the quilty coverlet thingie and it's been great. Except for the oppressive heat last night when we stripped down to just sheets, we've been working with only shared, communal layers. It's wonderful!

We never make our bed and it never stops raining around here so it'll be a while before I can show it to you on the bed. But here it is in the store when we bought it:

new coverlet

Just a bit more random

Is it normal to walk around stores like Target, Walmart, Lowe's, Home Depot and the Dollar Store, and look at, er, scrutinize everything in terms of useability? For dyeing?

Goodbye, Jaywalkers.

Jaywalkers - goodbye

Your funky pooling intrigues and boggles, but you defy gauge on needles I own and I can't buy another pair of Addis for you. You're high maintenance, I'm cash poor. Except when it comes to yarn. Or fiber. (Didn't you see how many needles I own???)

Hello, handspun socks!

handspun socks

You're a lovely addition to my sock collection. Your irregularly spun parts remind me of those early days of butterflies when my Joy came home and endears you to me. Your mismatched stripes are charming. We'll do some walking come fall.

handspun socks

handspun socks
Started:
4/21/06
Finished: 6/5/06
Pattern: my own
Yarn: handspun 2 ply superwash merino, dyed by Paradise Fibers
Needles: #3 (?)
Notes: Love 'em. Not my best yarn, not my best socks, but coolness, they're pretty much my first wheel spun stuff and now they're useful.

Is this enough to finish the edging of FBS??

FBS - in progress

When I said my posting would be spotty, I didn't mean non-existent. Hehe.

The conference was actually quite good. It was Microsoft's TechEd, and a LOT bigger than I expected. There were 10,000-12,000 attendees, another ~3,000 Microsoft employees and ~2,000 vendors. Yeah, a lot of people.

The exhibit hall was immense:

TechEd - exhibit hall TechEd - exhibit hallTechEd - exhibit hall TechEd - exhibit hall

with lots of giveaways to be had. I walked away with 10 tshirts, a bunch of pens, a yoyo, 2 flashlight, some squishy lego like pieces, blah blah blah. Typical conference loot, eh?

The food hall was also immense, here's 2/3 of it:

TechEd - food hall

When they opened for lunch the words "cattle call" came to mind: mindlessly following the masses towards food lines. The food: not so hot, in all senses. On the first day I walked for 5 minutes after getting my food, looking for a friendly place to sit, preferably with women, preferably with people still eating... I was near the other end of the hall before I ran out of options and sat down at a table that matched neither criteria. And had an interesting time nonetheless. One of the people at the table was from Turkey, another from Dubai. The next couple of days I didn't search so hard, met an interesting person from Australia who started up their own business and who made me want to buy a video iPod (he showed me the cutest videos of his kids singing itsy bitsy spider; I showed him my knitting).

Besides the sessions/lectures/workshops throughout the day, Microsoft folks were on hand at Technical Learning Centers to answer questions, show demos, etc. They wore identifying blue shirts:

TechEd - TLC
look at all 'em blue shirts

I sat down with a Business Intelligence guy to talk about the reports I'm setting up at work and got great guidance on what to change, how to improve. That made my day. (I also laughed at myself trying to explain to him what I'm doing. I'm used to "dumbing down" the geek speak and hardly ever talk to peers so I can't actually do the geeky geek speak.)

They also had hands-on labs where you could walk through tutorials of various technologies:

TechEd - hands-on labs

It wasn't just a developers conference, it was all things Microsoft, from servers, networks and connectivity to data, websites, web services, applications, Office, and so on. A broad audience. There were over a thousand sessions, and then informal presentations that were not listed online, so it was hard to wade through and find the ones that were most relevant. A bit overwhelming. But I did sit in on some excellent sessions and walked away with good tips and a glimpse of what the future will hold. Some cool stuff.

Oh yeah. The building was huge:

TechEd - location

so walking from session to session was quite a chore. It took me until Friday to get oriented. And then it was all over. Figures, eh?

My new summer shoes performed well under all the stress:

new shoes
happy shoes

It was a little weird seeing so much Microsoft everywhere. Although all my programming is with Microsoft technologies, I have mixed feelings about The Empire. I prefer Firefox to IE, google to MSN... But I can't see building websites with anything but ASP.NET now. It makes it way too easy to build complex data-driven websites.

Hey, you want to know one of the funniest parts of the conference? With a roughly 10:1 men to women ratio, the women's bathrooms were always empty and the men's had lines. Ha! HA!

But you didn't come here to hear about Microsoft. You're here for the fibery stuff, right? :)

That many sessions means much progress was made on FBS:

FBS - in progress

She's almost done!

I also started a sock using Pink Panther to see what the striping looked like. This method leads to splotchy transitions between stripes.

Pink Panther socks

The first pink stripe was the most mucked up one, so it's rather spotty. Even with my mucked up pink band, I think it's still a cool effect. I think it would be easier and less stressful to have color transitions that don't need to be so distinct, like gradual color shifts or color blending.

Oh yeah. On the last day of the conference I saw this:

TechEd - exhibit hall

and was actually sad.

Thanks so much for your words and thoughts. Just. Thank you.

This week I'm at a technical conference in Boston so posts will be spotty, but I've been dyeing and it's been fun so I hope I can squeeze something in here and there.

I tried a new method over the weekend:

dyeing

It's about time I got started on my Dye-O-Rama sock yarn! I knitted up some Kona on the knitting machine and then dyed stripes of pink, black and white. The results were a little unexpected with some bleeding of black dulling the pink, a few black splotches, and a lot less white than expected from dye migration. But, overall, I got the effect I was looking for, so with a few tweaks I think it will suit my purposes. I'll post more details on the whats and the hows soon (you know me, there were plenty of calculations flying around, some useful, some not so much).

Last weekend we took a break and didn't go to see Gram. Scott called her to let her know and Gram said noone comes to visit anymore. She was including us.

She forgot about the previous week's visit, when we were laughing hysterically when Gram kept cutting off Scott's head in every photo, laughing about her telling me I'm getting old. Scott tried to remind her, how we were all dressed up getting ready to go to a wedding, how we had a good time.

Fuck.

I'm at that point where I feel like I can't take any more. She seemed to be doing so well! For a few weeks, she seemed to be closer to her old self, walking better, able to carry a conversation, remembering things, not falling asleep mid-visit. I knew it was temporary, but I had no idea it would be so quick.

I'm pissed! Of all the sweet people this could happen to... Gram always took care of everybody. Always. She took me in from day one, welcomed me without hesitation. She bought groceries for us, cooked dinner, tried to shoo me away when I tried to help clean up. Yeah, that didn't last. Like I'd let her do the dishes after cooking for us. As if. We'd take home leftovers and groceries, milk, bread, cookies, Cheezits that she kept buying for Scott (which he didn't have the heart to tell her he didn't like). And give us some gas money, a little spending money. Every week. Until the Alzheimers.

Now we take care of her, as we can. Groceries, bringing dinner, and until recently, bills and mail... It's not enough. We can't do enough. And there isn't anyone else. After a lifetime helping others, she's on her own with just us and our (almost) weekly visits. A couple of kids.

I feel like a kid. I feel like I'm too young to be going through this, taking care of someone. Well, as much "taking care of someone" as you can call it. Because, and excuse me while I'm being hard on myself, it's just not fucking enough.

Where are relatives that she helped raise? Where did everyone go, I wonder. But then, I know that when the symptoms first appeared, Gram tried to keep us from visiting. Told us we didn't have to come by anymore. That we shouldn't come by anymore. That she preferred us to not come by anymore. Yeah. As if. She gave us pause, but she couldn't stop us. We came back anyway, hesitant about whether we'd get shooed back out or find anger or coldness. It was awkward. But we got past it.

I thought we had been through enough hard parts that we'd, I don't know, get "used to it"? We knew it would be hard. I knew that one day, we'd go and she wouldn't know who we were. But knowing in the head, and having it happen: very different things. And every week, seeing her a little bit (or a lot) worse, has been pounding away at us, sledgehammer-like but in a dull roar kind of way. You know it's there but you don't realize how little your defenses have become until suddenly you have none. Squashed, wondering, what more?

Beaten down until the fight is knocked out of me.

And excuse me again while I beat on myself: Maybe I'm weak? Maybe someone else could handle this better?

I can't take any more of this. And yet I will. Go. On Sunday. And next Sunday. And maybe take the next one off. Because someone who has given to everyone else all the rest of their life deserves to have someone there for the last of it.

And PS, you don't need to respond or anything, just needed to word this out. It's what's going on. And, heh, it's what's keeping the knitting and spinning from going on.

I haven't been in a spinning mood but I've been wanting to spin. Not sure how that works.

I've managed it by spinning small samples of different fibers, playing around. Mostly MDS&W stuff, spun thin, fingering to laceweight.

Buffalo from Little Barn came in fluffy batts which were harder to spin, with fibers going every which way:

Buffalo

It's very soft and short fibered. I sampled it in 2 weights:

Buffalo samples

Hoh boy, that's itty bitty stuff. I think my spinning and plying have improved quite a bit! I'd like to try carding (when I get cards) to line up the fibers, see how that works.

I tried a bit of the Blue Moon Fiber Arts merino/tencel:

Blue Moon Fiber Arts merino/tencel sample

I'm not sure I liked spinning it, and I definitely overplied it. I'll have to revisit it some other time.

I also tried some of the Happy Hippy optim:

Happy Hippy optim sample

It's a thin fingering to lace weight. I started out thicker and gradually spun thinner as I got more comfortable with the fiber. Of course, when plied to itself, the thickest parts meet up with the thinnest parts.

The optim is very soft, and kinda limp, which I'm guessing will make a very drapey knit. I kinda liked spinning it. The fibers are very fine, but the staple is pretty long. At this weight a little goes a long way.

I confess to feeling no guilt to those I made sushi-hungry. Sushi gooood.

Here's a good birthday thing I failed to mention. My sister recently returned from a month long trip to Japan (boy did I miss her) (and boy was I jealous). I asked her to bring me back some Japanese binders for my knitting projects. This is how I've been keeping track of my projects for as long as I can remember:

Knitting notebooks

Why? I can't say. It just fits. I keep all my projects listed at the very front with start and end dates, kinda like a table of contents, and create new project pages for each new project:

Knitting notebooks
Well, I haven't been as good about it since the blog...

As projects are completed, they get archived into separate binders by start date. That way I can find them again if I need to. It's come in handy.

With all the knitting I've been doing recently (ie, before learning to spin), I ran out of binder space and have had loose papers lying around in disarray. In fact, I just found another batch lying on my desk.

Enter the birthday care package:

New Knitting notebooks!

and they're already (all!) in action! Thanks, sis!

Also in the package was an awesome drawing from my niece, which will go to work with me:

Awesome birthday drawing

a handmade card, the best kind:

Awesome birthday card

some yummy snacks, and some birthday money, destined to help make yarn. That's a lot of love.

Speaking of birthday money, my parents always send some, so I chose this as part of their gift:

Noro Silk Garden Lite

Noro Silk Garden Lite. The plan: Clapotis, for me. (Isn't it odd that all the skeins have different colors on the outside? I just hope I don't have as many knots as Anne did...)

Speaking of Noro, did you know that Kureyon is the Japanese way of pronouncing Crayon? Interesting, hunh? And last time I visited Japan (or the time before?) there was a cartoon called Kureyon Shinchan, about a little kindergarten (?) kid that had a strangely deep voice and whose antics cracked people up. I could never figure out what was funny. Was it his voice? Was it a series of inside jokes? According to the link above:

Much of the humor in the series stems from Shin-chan's occasionally weird, unnatural and inappropriate use of language, as well as from his inappropriate behavior. Much of this humor is untranslatable for non-Japanese speaking readers and viewers.

Ahhh. I see.

This seems like a good time to show a picture of Obaachan (my grandmother) from my sister's visit to Japan, she's as Japanese as they come:

Obaachan
My parents, sister and her kids visiting my grandmother in her "group home"

Obaachan was having a really good day, recognized my mom, smiled, laughed:

Obaachan
Obaachan with my sister

Isn't she cute? (My mom tried to teach us to laugh that way, covered mouth, lady-like. Never worked.) Obaachan's been eating well and her spirits have really lifted since she moved into the group home. I'm so glad they had such a wonderful visit.

I been sick. Slept most of Sunday. Sat zombie-like in front of the TV Monday watching The 4400 reruns in preparation for season 3. TiVo, baby. Managed to finish the handspun socks! That brings me down to 23 projects, in case you're counting. In progress pic:

handspun socks - in progress

This shows the colors better:

handspun socks - in progress

This was the second yarn I spun on the wheel, and man is it inconsistent. Thicker and thinner spinning, tighter and looser plying. It's a mess. And it's mine.

It was cool to knit up, even with all its flaws. The whole "I made this" thing again. Plus, much better to use it now and chuckle at my mess, than to look at it 6 months from now and not want to knit with it. 'Cuz now they're socks!

We have a winner!

I was entertained by your guesses on the contest. My two favorite guesses were:

Anne:
i've been oberving your shopping habits carefully, and i know you never buy just one of anything. i'm going to randomly go with the original number of WIPs—67.

So true, can't eat just one. But what a scary guess! So high!

Kimberly N:
I guess 24 - it's a good, solid number, divisible by 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, and 12.

Girl after my own heart.

Most guesses were in the 10-40 range. Since you liked my geeky WIP Management chart so much, here's another:

Contest Guesses

I don't know much about statistics, but I hear tell there's something called a bell curve, shaped, wouldn't you know it, like a bell. The chart does have a nice bell shape to it, doesn't it?

Guess where in the curve I am. Here's a hint:

Kimberly, a better guess would have been a nice solid number divisible by 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 12, 15, 20 and 30. Or better yet, a prime number less than 65.

The answer: I'm an outlier (surprise!). There were 61 needles in my circular solution:

circular solution

About half again (or twice for some of you) what we expected.

[Pause to let that sink in.]

(Scary stuff.)

Anne, your guess of 67 was closest. Email me your address and I'll send you some fun stuff!

FBS update

FBS suffered a setback:

FBS - in progress

I thought I could perform knitting surgery. I was wrong. I frogged 10 rows.

All you can eat

Thanks for the Birthday wishes! The actual birthday was not great. It was my first one "alone", and Scott bore the burden of celebrating with me. The highlight was all you can eat sushi at Minado's.

Preparing for battle:

birthday sushi

Round 1: Sushi, mostly eaten sashimi style (sans rice)

birthday sushi

Round 2: Non-Sushi, mostly eaten

birthday sushi

Round 3 (not pictured): A smaller version of Round 1, eaten sashimi style

Round 4: Banana strawberry crepe and green tea ice cream

birthday sushi

Round 5 (not pictured): more crepe to finish off the ice cream

The key was leaving most of the rice. Can't fill up on rice.

We rolled out and headed to the movie theater to see X-Men. Great movie. Loved it.

On the way, I insisted on stopping by Macy's to photograph this:

would be comforter set

We saw it while hunting for a comforter,

would be comforter set

and wondered why we couldn't find a bed set that looked like it

would be comforter set

for under $300.

would be comforter set

I went up and down the escalators twice trying to get a good photo. Scott thought I was mad.

Thanks for your great ideas and suggestions for bed sets. You guys rock! I've got a good list of new shops to try and am feeling cautiously optimistic. Seriously, that's a good thing.

A couple of notes:

  • I had no idea blanket piling was so common. I feel less freakish! Or, just as freakish, but in good company.
  • No down for us. I loved my down comforter until it wouldn't stop shedding. Like Allouette I (unhappily) plucked myself each morning at work. (Plus, Scott might be allergic to down.)
  • Ginny said, "Blankets make me sneeze!" Dude, what do you use???

Changing gears...

WIP Management

Way back in November I began a campaign to get my WIPs in order. I was swimming in WIPs and it was choking the creative breath out of me. I counted all my projects and was surprised shocked startled dismayed bewildered to find 67. projects. in progress. 67. Going back as far as '95. Too too many.

Thus was born WIP Management. The goal, to weed 67 projects down to 18-24 within 6 months, or by my birthday. Attainable and reasonable, given effort, focus and will.

I laughed (and inwardly cried) when I saw others beginning similar campaigns to get their out of control WIP lists down from 8 or 12 to a manageable 3 or 4. Or 1 or 2. Ha. Ha! You want to see a WIP list? You want to see unmanageable??? That's right, check out my WIP list. Oh yeah. Feel the... fear.

WIP Management posts appeared regularly until the Knitting Olympics squeezed it out of the limelight. Progress continued, however, steadily, surely. I resisted urges to begin projects on a lark. I discovered the wonder of project monogamy and marveled at the resulting finished objects. I examined the WIP list with an impassioned, practical eye, eliminated disasters, projects I had already subconsciously abandoned, projects that no longer suited me. I picked up forgotten projects, finished 10 year old socks, baby cardis that lacked buttons. I started -- and finished -- many projects as well.

Today, only a few hours shy of my birthday, I present the results:

WIP Mgmt Progress

Started with 67
 Missing projects added +3
 Abandoned projects -40
 Finished projects -28
 New projects +25
Final count 24

I made it!!! And I desperately want to start a few new projects, but I'm at the limit. Man.

Things I learned:

  • I get bored easily. (Duh.)
  • When I got bored I started a batch of new projects. Only 1 or 2 in each batch would get finished.
  • When I'm on a WIP Management campaign, I'm MUCH more careful about starting new projects. The projects I do start tend to get finished.
  • Pre-WIP Management, when the going got tough, I got going. Post-WIP Management, I try to make it work.
  • An -along with a deadline not only motivates me to finish a project, but also pushes my creative limits: eg, Knitting Olympics, Sockapaloooza
  • An -along with a deadline wears me out.
  • Spinning is an excellent diversion which allows me to play with many small and varied projects and thus maintain relative knitting monogamy.
  • Knitting takes a long time. Buying yarn does not.
  • I can't knit while spinning. I have a hard time knitting while watching foreign subtitled films.
  • 18-24 projects is still a lot of projects. It feels MUCH lighter than 67, though.
  • There are a handful of people out there juggling many many projects. Most are in the closet.

I'm dissatisfied with all my current projects and fiber options. I don't want to spin, I don't want to knit, I'm feeling definite fiber blahs. I couldn't tell you why. I haven't been motivated to work on FBS, despite the delightful yarn, despite its perfect appropriateness to the pattern. It bores me. Only 4 repeats into the main pattern, 6 more to go, and those ever increasing rows to look forward to. I remember with the last lace shawl, also knit top down, the first 1/6 raced by, the next 1/2 was torture, and the last 1/3 was sure and steady, in the groove. Have I reached the torture point? Or is the weather getting to me?

There's no A/C in this house. We need it. We will melt without it. We've got a couple of window A/C units but the windows are the old casement variety, opening side to side. Not a good fit. After 2 drippy, sweaty summers, will this one push us to desperate measures?

Speaking of desperate measures, Monday night Scott declared this ultimatum:

We have to buy a comforter/sheet set by Friday!

Woah. For Scott to make shopping ultimatums, the situation must be dire! And it is. Oh boy, it is.

For the last 3 winters, we've been sleeping beneath piles of blankets. Piles. His and Hers piles, with one or 2 shared layers. Old comforters. Fleece blankets not long enough to cover a body, paired and overlapped with a second fleece or cotton blanket. Afghans crocheted by Gram. Blankets upon fleeces upon afghans upon... us. This past winter was especially brutal; with the rise in oil prices and simultaneous loss of jobs, we turned the thermostat way down. The blankets were piled so high we could hardly move beneath them. Fixing blankets before sleeping was a time consuming ritual. Then we'd jump into bed, shiver, and wait for our body heat to warm us up. It took ingenuity and perseverance to place them just so, to prevent blanket avalanche in the night. We talked about buying a comforter, one comforter to replace the piles. A sheet set to match! We dreamed. And waited.

We made it through the winter, found jobs, removed piles of blankets when the cold abruptly turned to warm. We no longer need a heavy comforter, yet push has come to shove. While making the bed with mismatching sheets that barely fit our extra deep mattress, Scott's last straw snapped. Hence, Ultimatum!

We've been shopping the last 2 nights: Kohls, Linens 'n Things, and Macy's, where we found a possible set, but at $300 for a duvet cover, we balked. We did, however, buy The Magic Bullet, which was on sale and further discounted by a $25 off coupon. Impulse shopping at it's best.

We finally found something at Bed Bath and Beyond, a simple quilt-style coverlet, not at all what we were searching for. Not a comforter, not reds or earthy, rich colors. Instead, faded bright colors reminiscent of a summer home on the lake. Perfect for summer. We'll pick sheets to coordinate. They'll seem to (gasp) match. For the summer, our bed will look grown up. And light. And come fall...? Will we remember our long suffering immobile nights and preemptively BUY A COMFORTER??? Only time will tell.

Birthday contest

If you've made it this far, I salute you! For my birthday contest, I'll keep it simple. Super simple. Simply leave me a comment guessing the number of circular needles currently in my circular needle solution. It's that easy! And random! Winner will receive some yummy hank of something or other yarn.