Archive for April, 2005

I’ve got about 6g of extra fine brown cotton spun for the two-ply skein and I think it’s taken me about 10 hours to do that much. I’m losing 25% in broken yarn along the way. I’m going to continue to use the Lendrum because it’s more than fast enough and I can see what I’m doing. I can’t find a comfortable place to spin with the charka at home and I still haven’t worked out how I can both turn the wheel and still see the yarn at arm’s length without inciting major back spasms. And after I finish this, there are still two more extra fine skeins, one cotton and one silk. I’m not sure quite what the second half kilometer of cotton is supposed to tell that the first doesn’t, that I know how to spin this fiber or that I have minimum 50 hours to sit there for each skein. Based on previous samples, I expect the two-ply skein to be around 450m and single 900.

I can only spin about four hours a day at most just because I can’t sit like that for longer. And that’s when I don’t have other responsibilities. This week I’m both driving to Los Angeles to pick up solar panels and planning a fundraising party. If I didn’t have a doctor’s appointment today, I’d be out picking up plastic electrical enclosures. As it is, I’m merely waiting for someone to come get the key for the truck instead. It’s probably best I not bring up the state of the kitchen. (When I’m not spinning, I’m planning a test deployment of wireless computers for Uganda with the “startup” non-profit we’re involved with. Fun and professionally rewarding but a lot of work and it is still mostly being funded by personal credit cards.)

Today was my spinning guild meeting, so I got to hang out with a bunch of spinners. The program was on handheld distaffs so I got several more pictures for the distaff page. One member was impressed with my photographic professionalism because I brought a black cloth to use as a backdrop. It’s the same one I’ve been using all along. It also happens to be one of my spinning lap cloths, too. I look at my yarn when I spin, and I can’t see it very well if I don’t have a contrast background. There were also several comments about my matched set of wrist supports. I don’t currently have major trouble with repetitive stress injury from spinning and I’d like to keep it that way. I was applauded for figuring this out beforehand and doing something about it. I’ve been meaning to write something about spinning ergonomics but I haven’t gotten there yet.

I’ve now got the borrowed charka. A very nice piece of equipment, I must say. Everything the Bosworths make is perfectly finished and finely tuned. I can’t come up with enough good words about their stuff even if it’s pricey. The fit and finish of the charkas just can’t be compared to the Indian ones, people I know who don’t care at all about spinning admire them for the engineering. I spent the meeting with the same brown cotton — I didn’t bring anything else knowing I’d have the charka. I even remembered to bring a towel to fold up and sit on, because they work best on a large flat surface and in this case that can only mean the floor. I’m not sure where I can set it up here because I can’t sit on the floor without something to lean against and floor space is already at a premium. Maybe I’ll go find a quiet corner at the library. One very nice thing about all the charkas is they fold up and fit in a small bag. The book charkas are quite literally that, less than the size of a good hardcover trashy novel.

I was also able to get a few more items from the guild library, I returned the copy of Spinning Designer Yarns and picked up some old Spin-Off issues and Fleece in your hands. I needed that book for some last details on wools for one of the tables. I could tell that the author of the wool table had it, as much of the required information comes directly from it. One thing I’ve noticed is that if you locate the correct book, filling out the tables is easy. Between Fleece in your hands and The essentials of yarn design for handspinners, I think I could almost do the whole wool table right there. But, ever the engineer, I have to look elsewhere to confirm that what I find reflects current reality. That was really important for the colored cotton data as much has changed in recent years.

One of the magazine issues had an article about one of the few sheep not covered, Tunis, and another on rare breeds (although I already have what I need about those.) The other has Rita Buchanan’s article about woolen and worsted and why she thinks the terms and the concepts both need to be allowed a graceful demise so the rest of us can move on. There was also the results of the 2000 reader survey, which I vaguely remember submitting. I recall at the time I was getting frustrated by the growing number of knitting articles. I added my own write-in reply of nålbinding for what I did with my yarns. I guess few other people did because it wasn’t mentioned. (It’s a looped needle technique somewhat related to crochet and far predates true knitting.) There are about a dozen issues in the guild library and going through them is both fun and frustrating. I started thinking about what I was working on at the time and that the reason I was rummaging through the box in the first place is because almost all my books are still in storage back east. With one exception, I own all those issues but I only have access to the ones since I moved to California. Same thing with Fleece in your hands, which is how I knew I would find the information I needed in there. I try not to get too whiny about that but it is annoying that my temporary storage is now three years and counting. Several details of my COE work, not to mention everyday life, would be much simpler if I had the things still sitting in Atlanta.

Oh, some other stuff about the site. I’ve been working on writing a lot but I haven’t been announcing it here. There are a lot of small changes, some new yarn here and there or an updated writing topic. I finally started on the blending one, but I’m still avoiding the whole design theory section for now. That is starting to look like a glaring omission, I’ll have to get to it soon.

I think I’m going to continue the cotton for a while, a friend is lending me her charka this weekend. I’ve managed to get decent results from the Lendrum but I’d like to try something else. I got to play with a Bosworth book charka last weekend and now this one is the larger attachè one. If you think you hate charkas because you have an Indian one, try one of these. They are an amazing piece of design and they work like you would not believe. Not fussy at all.

Much to my amazement, the cotton/silk fit on the high-speed bobbin. Barely. I plied until the first single bobbin ran empty and I had 30g of yarn. Just enough, and I couldn’t get much more on there. I didn’t boil this one because of the silk. When I get some time, I should look into more about that to see just how far I can go without damaging it. The chemistry of the water is involved, too. But it’s not critical so I’m not going to worry about it now. I did wash it well and the water turned nasty brown from the cotton.

I’m going to also use the cotton for something else, I want to do the cotton two-ply with the same fiber to make a complementary skein: warp and weft. I think I might even use that for my cotton swatch. I had some practice plain single so I plied it with the leftover cotton/silk to see what I got. I tried an experiment with the Insanely Fast Flyer, one of my yarn-guide clips is loose and tends to slip when I don’t want it to. So instead of stopping to move it to fill the bobbin, I tried tugging on the yarn. It works, sorta. It does move the clip and I can continue plying at full speed (a frightening thing at 44:1) but sometimes the yarn breaks. Generally a single breaks in my hand, so I am snagging it in the process. An interesting idea to look at later, but not now. One day I might actually get some replacement clips, I’ve been trying to get some through my local shop with no success. I still have one that works and I might be able to doctor up the other with a pair of pliers if I tried. I know the wheelmaker intends this for teeny tiny delicate yarns but there are other things that also require high twist.

As for that little sample, it’s a tiny skein and I was curious about how much was there so I counted it: 100 meters! Yikes, that’s fine. I took it to sock-knitting-chocolate-eating night over at Carolina Homespun and everyone was duly impressed. Judith MacKenzie McCuin, who is in town for some workshops, thought it amusing I considered it throwaway sample yarn. (My friends know me so well they joke about it.) Actually, I do toss a lot of yarn. Usually because I’m so frustrated with it I can’t imagine it being any good for anything. Or it’s such a small amount and I really need that bobbin. Lately I’ve been trying to at least ply some of the random singles I’ve got around and get them to good homes. I sent a package a while back to a primary school teacher and some for a charity art project. I have some I think I might give to a few of the folks I know knit for charity. I’ve had this idea that after I’m done with the COE work I’ll card up the growing odds and ends pile and spin some basic yarn for Afghans for Afghans. I’m feeling guilty I haven’t been able to do much work for them lately and the office is literally two blocks away. I got back into knitting when I first came to San Francisco by doing hats with donated yarn.

Yesterday was Fiber Extravaganza, I went to go hang out with a friend I haven’t been able to see in a while and we did fiber stuff. Lots of fiber stuff. I finally learned some Peruvian weaving I want to use for one of my swatches and did a few things on the amazing electric drum carder. And a most excellent dinner, even. I like hanging out with my fiber friends. Everybody else is at our regional annual conference going on this weekend a few hours south of here.

Some of the stuff I’m working on really needs a drum carder. I wasn’t happy with blending the fiber for two of the spindle skeins with the equipment I have: one had too much variation in texture and color than I wanted to deal with on combs and the remaining llama down isn’t making nice rolags like the first batch. I still have the really short tow flax to card, if I’m not able to get down there for another visit I’ll just have to do it by hand and I’m not thrilled at that.

The second cotton/silk bobbin continues, I’m more than half finished now. I have a ball of trash from broken yarn collecting, I thought maybe it was just I would get better at spinning it after the first bobbin but it’s still breaking just as much. I’m trying to get a nice thick and thin mix of both fibers to contrast the colors and textures and it’s actually very difficult to get a good thick and thin yarn on purpose. If it weren’t for this short staple silk I happen to have, I would have never tried to blend combed silk and cotton. The staple lengths are usually very different. I think a uniform blend would be interesting also, but not even the fancy electric drum carder I used yesterday could do it. As nice as it is, it’s pretty mundane as fancy electric drum carders go.

I should finish the cotton/silk in a day or two and then comes the plying. That will take at least another two days. I have to think about how I want to handle it because I don’t know if it will all fit on the small high-speed bobbins. But it will take much, much longer to ply on the other flyer. Supposedly it’s ok to have two lengths in a skein if it’s because it doesn’t fit the equipment. I don’t know how much that is actually true other than for the small supported spindle or maybe something done on a charka. I’ll have to think about that.

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