Archive for February, 2008

I went to Stitches West at the Santa Clara Convention Center this morning to do a spinning demo, and of course since I was then in for free, some shopping.

It’s kinda like MacWorld for yarn. It would be dangerous if I bought knitting yarn, but typically I don’t. There were more vendors with spinning equipment and fiber, which was nice. I of course bought stuff I didn’t intend to. I wasn’t organizing this demo but only showing up to spin for a couple hours. I did teach so I wasn’t a complete slug. But I might have been more focused if I had actually had breakfast. Or lunch.

The demo was not the usual guild thing but for the Spinning and Weaving Association, a trade group of manufacturers and retailers. We were teaching, but not with the box of CD spindles the guild has. I got to play with a Ladybug wheel from Schacht, a beginner wheel less expensive than the Matchless.

It’s a nice little wheel, but I have to say I’m still a Lendrum partisan. The way it was set up was too slow for the kind of yarn I spin and too fast for real beginners. From looking on the website I think it had the medium whorl rather than the slow one but I’m not really sure. I found the scotch tension adjustment a little fussy, with the small plastic knob slipping when I tried to adjust it. Apparently it can also be set up for double drive, which I wouldn’t recommend for a first wheel. (Yes, when it works it’s wonderful. But getting it set Just Right is a bother.)

We had several small rigid heddle looms designed to use typical knitting yarns. They were already warped, I didn’t play with them but they seemed to be typical for the style. They had floor stands, which was nice. I really don’t know the manufacturer, I thought they might be the Knitter’s Loom, but it seems that Ashford is not a member of the association.

There was a small drum carder also, I carded some random layered batts and was spinning huge fluffy woolen yarn. Entirely unlike what I normally do, but suited to the fiber and equipment. Everybody seemed to like it and it got people’s attention.

I then spent about 90 minutes doing a fast tour of the show. I got a new spindle, some hand-dyed silk fiber and a length of Japanese silk fabric. Here’s a summary of the haul:

Hand-painted tussah silk from Fiber Fiend. It’s in blue, gray and purple in a colorway called Blackberry Swirl. Also a Maggie spindle from Carolina Homespun (27g I think the label said, before I lost it.)

dyed silk and spindle

The silk from Japan with a floral design was from John Marshall. No way I can afford any of his own work, but this was a nice piece he found in Japan. He told me how they are turning up now because people aren’t doing much traditional work anymore and you can find them discontinued. Good for shoppers, at least the Americans who are buying wholesale and bringing them back, but bad for the craft. I’m not sure of the exact technique but boy is it nice. It has a large group of flowers on branches on each end and some additional flowers between. I’m guessing it was originally intended for kimono, with the large design.

purple floral silk

I’ve got both yarns skeined, blocked and measured. The second S yarn came out slightly finer but not enough that it’s a problem. I still have fiber left so I can always spin more. It came out a bit hairy, what I would expect for a coarse fiber, so I’ll need to thread it on more shafts than you might think for simple plain weave. In this case, I think 4 should be fine.

Z 643m, 145g
S 707m, 142g

matching s and z twist yarns

The hard part is going to be keeping them straight. I already had to check my numbers several times to make sure I got the right measurement with the right yarn. I hope to have this warped and well underway while The Boyfriend is out of town else I’ll never get enough quiet time to get it done right.

I went hunting for a piece of fabric buried in the closet this afternoon and ended up doing a minor re-org. That happens when what I’m looking for has been in there a while. It’s much wider than it is deep, which makes it a pain to organize. I have several large utility shelves and still stuff is stacked on the floor and hanging off the back of the door.

I’ve been pretty good about not buying more than I can figure out where to store. I have years worth of project material in there already. Of course, my usual solution to that dilemma is to get better at packing it all in. Because, well, today Thai Silks had some really nice batik half off.

fiber closet view 1

fiber closet view 2

With my jury duty date looming, I decided to start a knitting project with the county fair yarn. The rest of it is still on the bobbins but I have tons of the fiber so I can use this and still do something substantial. I’ve been wanting some scarf-like thing but not an actual scarf that will flop around and come undone. So I started knitting a 3-1 rib tube, about the diameter of a hat. There is 78 g and about 250 m so we’ll see how far I get. I have no clue about these sorts of things.

merino scarf thing

So I’ve been on Ravelry for a couple weeks now. It’s in beta and by invitation only. I found out about them a few months ago when people started linking to stuff on this site and it showed up in my logs. Eventually I got off my ass and signed up for an invitation.

Being an experienced software professional I know what beta means: if we let too many people in, our product will fall over. It’s pretty much an all-purpose excuse for when something doesn’t work. I could get into a long thing about that (why the hell is gmail still “beta”?) but that’s for another blog. They are doing a pretty good job, and certainly have the hot ticket in town as far as yarn people go.

The site, for anybody living under a rock, is social networking for fiber. The interface is very much targeted to knitting and crochet, those being the only two choices of project types in your online project notebook right now. But there are lots of spinners and a good number of people interested in other things.

And anybody who has any sort of online presence seems to be there. People I haven’t talked to in years have found me already, as have new folks looking for fiber friends. I’ve had a lot more site visitors lately coming from links to my stuff and people looking at my profile.

The UI is clearly a work in progress (there is a skeleton iPhone version!) but it’s good enough to be functional. Some of my complaints have been odd toolbar behavior in MobileSafari (not to mention crashing it regularly) and the fascination with Flickr (can’t use self-hosted images in project notes.)

Really, the last thing I needed was another social networking site to suck up time, but Ravelry has interesting forums on pretty much any fiber topic you can think of (nalbinding!) and some you hadn’t (I’m doing Mac online tech support?) I’ve been meaning to ask Abby how she feels about having a fan club. She’s already got a popular blog and online yarn and fiber store. I occasionally post on various online forums, both for my own entertainment and to get interest in the site, and this is the biggest fiber thing I’ve seen come along yet.

The project notebook section is promising, allowing people to share work in progress and things you are contemplating as well as finished items. The Stash section does allow for handspun yarn although I’m still trying to figure out how to link yarns and patterns together into projects. I don’t know if it’s just because I’ve got my own special yarn (and not one of the thousands of commercial ones listed) but the UI still seems kinda clunky.

I’ve experimented with the project notebook some, but I still have my own site to post things on so I’m less inclined to put everything I do on theirs. That it will pick up my RSS feed and link to my blog posts in my profile is very cool. I’ve been thinking it may be useful as an RSS reader alone.

Overall, I’ve been spending way too much time trolling the forums and looking at pictures of what people have posted. It looks like a good online community, for people with and without personal blogs and sites. That is one thing about posting online, there isn’t much integration with my own site to get people interested in coming over here to visit other than the occasional link. But with my blog displayed in my Ravelry profile people can easily see what I’m up to without having to pick it out of twelve different messages on as many sites.

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© 2004-2007 Andrea Longo
spinnyspinny at feorlen dot org