Tuesday, September 26, 2006


I've just finished chapter three. I really didn't expect to have it done by today. You know what that means? Chapter Three Spinning - hoorah! I'm going to spend the season finale of Lost predrafting tonight, but I'm not sure when I'll spin it.

The out-of-date Kool Aid arrived today. It worked out at 12.5p a sachet, which is much better than the 47.5p I paid for the first lot. And the colours aren't dreadful, although nearly half the sachets are 'pineapple'. This is unfortunate, but not a disaster and I figure I can mix that with blue sachets to make green. That works, right? Now I need to order some more fibre!

My wrists are... hot. Elbows aren't too bad (I now wear a padded elbow support all the time because I'm so clumsy and keep knocking my elbows on door knobs/cupboards/walls/door frames, etc, and it was beginning to affect my tendons), but my actual wrists are... hot. Not full on burning bracelets yet, but if I'm not carefull I'll get there :-/

I think I might have tomorrow off. I'm probably seeing my supervisor about feedback re chapters one and two on Thursday, so it makes sense not to start the introduction/conclusion until I've found out how crap the chapters are.

So no typing tomorrow. Not even blogs :-0 And if anyone has any experience of using Dragon Voice Recognition software please let me know!

Labels: , ,

Monday, September 25, 2006

Nothing much to report

Chapter three is still not finished, so there has been no spinning. Although it's now over 4000 words long, so the end is in sight (unless it turns out that by putting all my quotes in both English and Latin - which seeing as I'm using my own translations I've been told to do - I'm 'articifically inflating my word count' and have to write more. I am desperately hoping this isn't the case). It bad when the stuff in brackets is longer than the proper stuff, right? Anyway, I've felt like I've been on 3000 words for ages. I've been reading on people's blogs recently that they get to this knitting void where they knit and knit and knit and their knitting gets no longer: that's how I felt with this; so it was such a relief to hit 'word count' and see 4000.

Every now and then I pensively touch the chapter three top and hope it isn't too felted. It's massively felted. I can hold it with my hands 10 inches apart and pull and pull and pull and get no movement. If I attack bits at a time I can draw it out so I'm trusting that when stripped into thin lengths it will draft easily. Of course, the way to know would be to finish chapter three, but that probably won't happen until Wednesday.

By the way - Friday's deadline? Got an extension. Well, no technically, I didn't. I discovered that research students are supposed to spend the allotted time of their course researching, and THEN write up the thesis, and that it is only 'exceptional' people who hand in their theses early (the allotted time of my course is 365 days, and Friday would have been 363 days - that means had it been finished by then, I would be 'exceptional'. Ha!). I also discovered that I'm supposed to fill in a form three months before I hand in my thesis. Oops. Apparently it won't be a problem.

I intend to finish within two weeks though. Partly because there's a weeklong literature festival I want to go to in the second week of October, and partly because I have my next physio appointment in mid-October and want to have done some knitting before it so that we have a clear idea of what my hands can and can't do.

I've also bought 170 packs of Kool Aid. It hasn't arrived yet so I'm not holding my breath: 50 of the sachets are coming from America so I'm worried about customs, and 120 are an 'assortment' which may well turn out to be lemonade, lemonade, lemonade and 'invisible' raspbery. Let's hope not, eh? Tomorrow I'll order more top - I'm thinking of about 300grams of different breeds of sheep. For example, I didn't really like the Dorset Horn as it had long guard hairs in it, but the Cheviot is quite nice, despite being cheaper. I just have to decide what I want to do with it all!

Labels: ,

Monday, September 18, 2006

Dyeing for Chapter Three

I've written the first 1500 words of chapter three today. It was a bit of a slog as I'm still not quite sure how chapter three is going to turn out - I'm pretty much just writing until I get to 5000 words and then hoping there's a coherent point.

To make the process move along a bit faster, I decided to make myself a new carrot, since I love my chapter two yarn so much. I split my remaining top into half, and decided to dye the first half once I'd finished writing for the day.

I did think, when I started the process at 9:30pm that maybe I should wait for another day, but I am nothing if not impulsive.

I decided to try Roarin' Raspberry Cranberry, since this has a gorgeous deep claret coloured packet. Unfortuantely, the colour of the actual Kool Aid is more like that of the Tropical Punch, so a strong reddy-orange. I couldn't decide which colour to put with it, since I only had an orange, a pink, a green, two other reds, and a dubious sounding colour-change one. I plumped for the Changin' Cherry: 'watch the green drink mix turn into a blue drink!' (apparently it tastes like 'red cherry' but a) I wouldn't know and b) I doubt it).

I think this camera just hates photographing pinky/orangy/reddy colours, since the RRC is all washed out, while the blue CC is pretty accurate. I tried to get a really strong claret colour (which, really, wasn't going to happen with orangy-red dye, no matter what colour the sachet) which is why it looks like I used less RRC than CC. I think the main reason why I'm not getting strong colours is because I'm not using enough dye. Everything I've read says use one sachet per ounce, and I had 2 ounches of fibre... Hang on . OK, apparently I had 3.5 ounches of fibre (=100g) which might explain it. I'm such a moron and really should've left this until another day!

This dyeing process was actually a little different to the previous one, despite the fact that I did the same steps. For example, this one didn't make exploding noises in the microwave (I was considering putting it in the proper oven since I had it on to make bread, but I realised I'd already wrapped the dyed top in non-ovenable microwave clingfilm). It also made heaps of mess - although the dyed had exhausted by the time the water decided to overflow everywhere so nothing is stained, I didn't have this problem last time.

And the final problem... well, that is my fault. When I came to rinse it I didn't pay attention when adding the detergent (I add a little bit to dyed stuff to make sure any extra dye washes out then), and instead of a 'teeny dash' I ended up with a strong glug. I have now rinsed the top about 3 times and it is still full of detergent :( At the moment I've put it out to cool down so I can continue rinsing in cooler water later. I really need to get the detergent out - I have a feeling that leaving it in for a couple of weeks will affect the colours. Sadly, the more I rinse the top, the more likely it is to felt on me.

Obviously, I just need to get chapter three finished ASAP so that I can spin it up and wash it again as yarn... but since that probably isn't going to happen I'll have a couple more goes at rinsing and cross my fingers.

Other news. New knitty. I don't know why I didn't get the email saying that it was up; I only noticed a few days ago. Sadly I love most of the patterns, especially Intolerable Cruelty (especially Intolerable Cruelty), Tamarah and I like the idea of Sugar on Snow.

Finally, I owe at least three people who read this blog an email. I'm very sorry, and I will get my arse into gear over the next few days. I have this weird compulsion that I never 'have time' to write emails because they take 'so long' and while it's OK to mess about felting dyeing top, I really 'don't have time' to write an email, because I want to dedicate time to it and there's 'no time'. I will try and spending tomorrow's messing around time on emailing :)


Saturday, September 16, 2006

The spinning is completed

I plyed my dyed yarn today, using Impromptu Lazy Kate #2. It's approximately 139 yards long, so my insane toilet roll counting system gave me a good estimate. It's soaking right now. I hope it turns out OK. Usually when I ply I pinch and semi-draft (no, I don't really know what I'm talking about) and control the twist. Today half the time I did this, but half the time I just let go, and let the yarn ply itself - it was pulled onto the bobbin at just the right speed to ply smoothly through my fingers. Since technically I didn't really need to hold the yarn, I am suspicious that this might be 'cheating' and that it's all going to fall apart.

The most awesome thing about plying, other than watching which colours were matching up with which, was that there were only six inches of yarn left over once the first bobbin had run out. Let me remind you that not only had I divided the top into two by eye, but my spinning still isn't consistent. Yet I managed to produce two lengths of yarn that had only 6 inches between them. Mr Bee said, with a somewhat scornful tone 'I suppose you're going to mention that on your blog?'

Damn right I am. I'm even going to post a photo of the remnant with a ruler:

There are a couple of issues with my yarn though.

Let me demonstrate this with a few examples from my blog:

Friday, August 26, 2005: I buy Within Temptation gig tickets.
Sunday, August 28, 2005: those are my feet, in stripey blue socks. Note the black velvet skirt with the lace hem.
Thursday, October 06, 2005: see those boots? They're mine. Both pairs. As is the black and silver ornate umbrella.
Saturday, February 11, 2006: I give you a long, floofy black skirt with a lace hem.
Tuesday, March 07, 2006: note the stripey socks in tandem with a black floaty chiffon skirt.
Monday, March 13, 2006: I am demonstrating my new armwarmers while wearing a Zeraphine vest.
Wednesday, May 31, 2006: a Hug, shown with a Cruxshadows t-shirt, displaying a skeletal spine and wings.
Thursday, September 14, 2006: my yoga kit: you will see that while the shorts I made from some random material are blue, the rest of my kit is black.

So. What am I going to do with this?

I love it. Even though it's mainly candy pink, with swirls of candy lilac and candy blue (I cannot capture the real colours, and have given up) I love it. I actually found myself just holding it for about half an hour this evening. Even Mr Bee said "it looks like something you'd buy in a yarn shop." I love each different twirl of colours. I love the fact that I made this; I dyed it and I spun it and I plyed it. I can't wait to see how it knits up. I'm thinking maybe this (when I can knit again, of course; there's always a downside).


Thursday, September 14, 2006

Yoga Shorts

Today for the third week of a row I didn't make my yoga class (this is not just me being lazy, my class is 1-2:30pm but I have to set off at 10am to get there and don't get home until after 4:30pm. I can't spend the whole day going to yoga right now). So in an attempt to make up for it, I present...

My yoga shorts:

I made these a while ago, from some random stretchy fabric in my stash, to wear over my leggings. I used to wear big baggy t-shirts, but felt that I really need my yoga teacher to be able to see my upper back and shoulders. With a pair of baggy shorts over my leggings to cover my bum and tum, I feel a lot less self-conscious wearing skin-tight vests.

The irony of me making baggy shorts to cover my lumpy bits is that these are made from a pattern for pyjama trousers for a nine year old. Not only was I using a pre-pubescent pattern, I had to take it in by over four inches. Before you start thinking that I'm only this big --><-- let me assure you that I also had to remove four inches between the waist and crotch. I don't know what kind of freaky nine year olds the pattern makers know, but I don't think they are real nine year olds.

Spinning-wise, I've now wound the second bobbin onto the toilet roll and hopefully I'll ply them tomorrow. It's exciting! The yarn didn't break while winding onto the loo roll, so I trust it will ply safely. I should have at least 118 yards, due to my insane idea to measure the circumference of a toilet roll and then count how many times I wrapped the yarn round it. There isn't too much of a discrepancy between length of singles either, which is promising.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Dorset Horn 2-ply

Here's something from my photo archives, the finished object which was plyed on the Impromptu Lazy Kate #1 a while back:

I spun this up for a friend's birthday. It's undyed Dorset Horn, 2-ply. I was so chuffed when I skeined it up, it looked like there was loads and loads and loads. I was pretty devastated when I measured it to discover that not only was it only 60 yards long (admittedly, it's only 1oz of fibre), but that when wound into a ball it was about the size of a large duck egg:

But it was appreciated! My friend wants to try out natural dyeing, so I thought that giving her some 'blank' wool would be beneficial... but quite what she can do with 60 yards I don't know. She claims she can get a hat out of it.

Breed: Dorset Horn
Fibre prep.: Commercial Top
Weight: 1 oz/ 30g
Yardage: 60 yards
Colour: Natural
Method: Wheel spun on Haldane Lewis
Spun: Can't remember!
Plyed: 2-ply, using 'Lazy Kate' for the first time

Labels: ,

Monday, September 11, 2006

Impromptu Lazy Kate #2

You remember the attempt at spinning I made the other month? The stuff that looked, uh, crap?

Well, never one to let things go (the hoarding thing, remember?) I decided to try and unwind the mega-over-twists onto some toilet rolls and see whether I could ply it. Lazy Kate #1 (aka - our towel rail) worked well, but I had to attach the toilet rolls to the towel rail *before* winding on the yarn. Since I already had my yarn wrapped on toilet rolls, I couldn't use the towel rack.

Sticking with the laundry theme though, I realised that with some long knitting pins (hey! They finally get some use!) I could use our smaller washing basket:

It worked jolly well, and I was able to turn that overtwisted snarl into a respectable small skein (get this: there were only FOUR INCHES left over after plying). I shall use this as a tester for my next Kool Aid experimentation session.

And I shall use Lazy Kate #2 for plying my current Kool Aid spinning. In a way it's good that I don't have a camera right now. Otherwise there'd be [more] pictures of the dyed top; pictures of the particular colours which appeared during the predrafting process; the glorious coiled nest of predrafted fibre I made prior to spinning; pictures of the bobbin every 5 or so minutes as a new colour combination appeared... well... let's just say that this post would otherwise have been a real pain for anyone on dial up.

The colours are beautiful. I know they looked clashing and muddy in the photos below, but they're not. The 'muddy' sections are a deep burgundy, and because the Tropical Punch is actually reddy rather than muddy-orange, there is no clashing. I hope it all plys nicely - I've decided to go with 2-plying rather than Navajo plying, so there is going to be a barberpole effect, but I've tried to aim it so that the colour sections will kinda match up (ha!).

I split the top in half - one for each ply - then predrafted into smaller strips, and spun the first half on Saturday. It spun so nicely - no felted bits at all. My spinning is getting more consistent, and I realised that often I was spinning totally by feel and not looking at what I was doing. I managed a respectable average of 27 wpi (go me and my terminology). Then yesterday I wound off onto a toilet roll and predrafted the second half. The second one wasn't quite as effortless as the first: I think I over drafted occasionally (in my defence, I was watching Lost and not always paying 100%) and as tonight wore on (maybe spinning past 10pm is not the best thing to do) the yarn kept breaking. *Hopefully* this won't be too much of an issue whilst plying. Hopefully.

Labels: ,

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Let the spinning BEGIN!

Yee-hah! Chapter two is finished :-D I haven't yet sent it to my tutor partly because I'd like Mr Bee to look at it first and he's away at the moment, and partly because my tutor still hasn't looked at chapter one ( :( ) and I don't want to overwhelm him. However, other than any suggestions Mr Bee makes, I shall not be changing it until I send it in, so I'm counting it as done (I even spent today double checking my footnotes and reading poems I didn't need to just in case they were important).

I'm not going to jump straight into my spinning, but at least now I know I can do it without feeling guilty! Unfortunately, clicking 'ignore' on the spell-checker for every Latin word in my thesis about Latin poetry that came up has made my elbows twinge.

Also, as Mr Bee is away for a week (don't worry - I've emailed him my chapter, and if I don't get a reply over the weekend I'll send it to my tutor anyway) he has the digi-cam, so I won't be able to take photos. But this means that throughout the week I should be able to find all the random photos I've taken in the past and not yet posted, and stick those up here instead.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Today I've been doing quite a bit of weaving with, *fingers crossed* no apparent discomfort (ahem, I'm putting the twinges down to typing, OK?). I have very nearly finished the second half of the scarf, and since we have heaps of videoed stuff to watch, may well get it finished tonight. Then I just have to deal with how to attach the two halves together. Hmm...

One of my new black'n'blue Oh So Goth (as long as you cover over the sports company logo ;) ) tennis elbow bands arrived today. The seller forgot to put the other one in the parcel *rollseyes* These are a different design to my other one. My original one is just a padded band, whereas this new one has a 'tendon pad' which pushes into the skin quite a lot. It's taken some getting used to (in that I nearly emailed the seller to say forget about the other one, I want a refund), but I've been trialling it this afternoon and think it'll be OK. If the worst comes to the worst I can try and hack the tendon pad off the second one and see if it's any better. I've also ordered some heatable/freezable straps, which - if they work - should be a better way of icing my arm rather than balancing ice packs on it.

The dyed top is pretty much dry now - I put it by the window this morning to catch some sun. Some bits seem a little felted :-/ but I'm hoping if I pre-draft well enough and take it slowly it should spin OK. It's all a learning process anyway. I may try and hold out until at least tomorrow before I start it though. How about trying to keep it for a 'congratulations I've finished chapter two' present? I hate chapter two. I've been writing it for aaaaaaaages and just want it finished! I can't believe I've signed up for a PhD (got my confirmation letter today) when I'm whinging about writing a 5000 word chapter :P

OK. I'll try and use the beautiful top as my carrot. No spinning until chapter two has been sent to my tutor. Eek!

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


It's so exciting! My 10 sachets of Kool Aid arrived yesterday, so I popped out to get things like microwavable tubs and cling film. Being an English person and having never seen Kool Aid before, I have to say I am unsurprised at the rising levels of kids in North America diagnosed with ADHD, if this stuff is common: I felt hyperactive just smelling the sealed packages, never mind adding A WHOLE CUP of sugar and drinking it!* E-number-licious!

I searched the interwebs for instructions for dyeing, and ended up following an amalgam. First I soaked the yarn and roving in hot water with a dash of vingar. Then I applied the Kool Aid! I wasn't sure what the colours would turn out like, and didn't want to 'waste' my packets, since I paid a fortune for them (worked out at basically $1 for each sachet - I'm sure these are usually around 10cents in the US). As such, the colours might be a little weird together, because I had to guess.

First I trialled the Tropical Punch, which is in a blue packet but comes out bright blood-orangey-red (this is on the thick yarn I spun at the weekend, in the last post):

Obviously, the colours photograph badly, they're not as washed out.

Then I tried a little bit of Tropical Punch with... ah, crap. The name is on the top of the sachet which I ripped off and chucked away... *rifles through bin*... Grape. Grape comes out a lovely purple, but the weaker the solution the more bluey-grey it goes.

In person the colours look a lot less weird together, but I admit I could've chosen better. This is the yarn I had 'challah hanked' a couple of posts ago.

With both the yarns I put the yarn in a plastic tub with the dye (even the two-tone one had both colours in the same tub - one at either end; I didn't measure how much water I used, and I think I could've used more) and microwaved it (yay! Knew the microwave would be useful for more than just the monthly hot-bean-bag warm up). It sounded terrifying in the microwave - lots of pops and explosions, but didn't set on fire.

With a leetle bit of Tropical Punch and quite a bit of Grape left I had a go at dyeing rovings. Or top. Actually, I think it's top**. I had a 2 ounce length which I laid out (folded into thirds) on some microwavable cling film. I found applying the dye very awkward, as it seemed to just suck it all up at the bottom, and I was left with loads and loads of white between the dyed places, and the dyed places themselves tended to take the dye underneath but not at the top layer.

So I decided to sacrifice another sachet, and went for Swirlin' Strawberry Starfruit, which was a pastel pink and actually a very good choice. It goes beautifully with the Grape. And actually, the Grape goes nicely with the undyed white bits too. I was able to squeeze more out of the dye already applied by adding some water and gently squishing it all down (I hope I haven't felted it :-0). I ended up with about 4 splodges of Grape, two of Tropical Punch and the rest is the SSS.

I then wrapped the clingfilm round each third and popped it in the microwave. As I couldn't really see if the dye had exhausted, after a couple of goes in the microwave I took the clingfilm off, and zapped it once more. It looks so exciting (seriously, it doesn't look this bad normally)!

Look! Look what colour the Grape goes sometimes! Beautiful blue...

And here they are all laid out to dry.

I was a little nervous that they might drip dyed water, since we have a crap plastic bath and I was worried it would stain. But once the dyebath exhausted absolutely NO dye was given off at all! The rinse water was totally clear (even though I used warm water with detergent). Amusingly, I was thinking about how my bath at my parents' was so great, being enamel, that it never stained, no matter how much red/pink/purple/blue hairdye you washed down it. Only to get a message from my mum today to say that that wonderful bath is currently in the front garden, and my dad is redecorating the bathroom. Oh well! Given that they've already got the kitchen sink for me in the shed (no, I'm not joking. It's a double sink and they were getting rid of it, so I asked if they'd hold onto it on the offchance the housing market collapses, I get to buy a house and have enough left over to redo the kitchen) I don't think they'll keep the bath too :P

Back to the wool! Dyeing is loads of fun! I have 7 sachets left and have just had to stop myself placing an order with an American company for 100 more :P I only have 2 dyed ounces of top left, LOL! I think I can wait before I get any more.

I want to spin the dyed top sooooooooooooooo bad. It's there, taunting me every time I go in the bathroom. Luckily it's still wet otherwise I'd be spinning it right now ;) I have no idea whether it will spin up nicely, or ply nicely, but it means that practising spinning will become more fun. Can't wait to get to the bluuuuue bits :D As for the yarn... I'm just sad that I can't do anything with it. The two-tone one could possibly be a skinny drop-stitch scarf (the Tropical Punch skein is too short to be anything really), but will I ever get to knit it?

Enough! I've already had my weekly intensive two-hour crying pity-a-thon this morning; no more!

* I know. I'm being facetious. I apologise.
** Note to Mancunians: While it is also 'great', 'top' is used here as the technical name for the long wad of fibre as pictured in the photos.


Sunday, September 03, 2006



I finally figured out how wpi (wraps per inch) works.

I realise that this is not really that ground-breaking, and that most people will be saying 'and...?', but this has been a real confuddlement for me since I started spinning in February.

So. To determine wraps per inch you wrap your yarn round a ruler, and see how many wraps there are per inch. Simple right? Well, for some reason I had a massive brain fart with this, because I just couldn't understand it: surely it depended on how wide the ruler was? I used to lie awake at night trying to figure it out: how can everyone use wpi as a generic guide if they're all using random rulers? Or maybe there's just a spinning ruler that everyone knows about but me and no one mentions it because it's so obvious? Let me emphasise this: I have been wondering about this for seven months. It was getting to the point where I was going to have to ask on a spinning list (and I am soooooooooooooo glad that I didn't!) - I was so perplexed that no one else had asked this, and I've been reading spinning lists for seven months, and surely other newbies must not know about the special spinning ruler?

Of course, I could've just tried it, but without the special spinning ruler, I didn't see the point.

So. Anyway. Yesterday I decided on a break to do a little spinning, to see whether I could still spin thicker yarns, and I also decided to read Mabel Ross's 'The Essentials of Handspinning' again, because I need to start being more technical in my spinning. Darnit - I wanted to figure out wpi!

And then it clicked: it really doesn't matter how thick the blimming ruler is!

(rest of world chorus: 'and...?')

I think I was getting confused with length and wraps (as in, you'll get more wraps from 10 inches of yarn around a pencil than you will a ruler, and more round a ruler than you will a mug, etc). (Yes, OK, and I was just being stupid)

Now then. What's grist?


Saturday, September 02, 2006

I can never keep to things

Personal deadlines fly by (what? You mean the first draft of my entire thesis was meant to be finished by 31st August? And that was two days ago you say?), and I, erm, can't keep off the fibre!

Pretty much just after I made that entry the other day on pain, I plyed the singles which have been sat on the bobbin for a while. Oops. I used the Andean plying method, even though there were lots of fine singles, and it worked just fine (and it didn't hurt either :) ). I do need to buy more bobbins though - I thought I'd spun loads and loads since my bobbin was quite full and the hank reeeeeeeeally long, and am pretty devastated that preliminary calculations suggest it's only 33 yards long.

This is my cheapy cheapy wool that I'm using for practice, since it's only £1 per 100g. I bought 300g of it, but there's only about an ounce (=30 grams) in that skein. It's my first attempt at trying to make a skein look pretty, using this method on the Two Sheep blog. Not too bad for a first try.

I've decided to leave the yarn in a hank/skein (please please - someone tell me the difference!) mainly because I don't want to risk stretching it by winding it into a ball and leaving it for yonks because I can't knit it up (plus: winding stuff hurts my arms). Also, I've finally decided to suck it up and buy some Kool Aid from ebay to try dyeing. I emailed the ebay people at the beginning of August to ask about getting brightly coloured sachets, and they said they often get requests from dyers, LOL! I'll try dyeing this skein, but I also want to dye the rest of the top that I've got since it's going to be reeeeeeeeeeeeally boring spinning 270g worth of white white white white white top. Since Kool Aid dyeing requires no further mordants, and is safe (apparently!) to drink, I'm assuming that it's a relatively environmentally friendly form of dyeing, and I won't be polluting the water courses.

AND I need to get the guts to post to one of the spinning mailing lists asking for help with my wheel. Someone somewhere must have a guide to using the Haldane Lewis!

Labels: , ,

Friday, September 01, 2006

Is it wrong...

... to be tempted by the Boye Interchangeable needle kit, when I already have the Denise set (oh yeah, and can't really knit at the moment) just because they are pretty colours?

But they come in blue. And purple. And green.