Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Spinzilla: The Final Photo Shoot

Spinzilla is over and the plying has ended. The first three skeins are double-plied, the next two are Navajo plied, and the last one on the right is a singles, and will stay that way.It has all been washed, thwacked and bashed about. In other words, it's all ready to be made into some fantastic object.

Though right now, I am not entirely sure what that will be. Some things to consider: all the yarn is a wool/silk and at times, something else blend. It's sleek, fine, and has potential for a lovely drape.

The only skein I have plans for is the Waterfall one. That one is the fourth from the left. It was done in an Ombre mode, so the colours blend in a long colourway. That one begs to be a shawl. Over the weekend, I'll tour around Ravelry and see what's possible.

I will of course keep you posted.

PS - Team Sweet Georgia - the team I spun for, came in 6th out of 34 international teams. I'd say that's a good showing.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Knit City 2013 - Intro to spinning with a spindle class

On Saturday I taught a class at Knit City 2013 in Vancouver. It was an early class. I had to be up at 6am, to pack the car and leave the house by 7am, to get there by 8am, to set up the class and teach at 9am. I tossed and turned in bed from 3am onwards. Convinced that I was forgetting something, I taught and re-taught the class in my dreams. By about 4:30am the idea of flat tire on the Port Mann bridge had me consumed. I am just being stupid? or is this an important premonition?

It ended up that I was just being stupid. Surpised? The workshop went well, people who signed up learned to spin and had achieved the learning goal they identified at the beginning. That's pretty good for a three-hour workshop. It all went so fast that today I keep going over things that I meant to tell them; things that I would normally mention in my longer workshops, but never had time in this one. Does it matter?

People wanted to learn how to spin and I really worked hard to show them how it happened. I gave them one-on-one help when needed and then backed away so they could do it. That was the hardest thing. I kept wanting to fill the space with the stuff that I needed to tell them. But I know how annoying it can be to have someone tell you something that may be important - Do I need to take notes? - while you are concentrating on getting this spindle to keep a spin while learning the process of drafting out fibre.

I'm having the post-workshop blues. You wait and wait and plan and plan for the event and then poof! -- in three simple fast hours it's all over. And now I look back and ask -- did it make a difference?

It did for me, because I have learned some important things that will help me on my journey to being a spinning instructor. I think/hope it did for the participants. They smiled, laughed, expressed their frustration when things weren't working, shared their pleasure when it did, purchased spindles and thanked me profusely.

Are they just being "Canadian"?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Spinzilla 2013 - the final tally

Last week from Monday, October 7th until 9pm on October 13th, I spun every single moment I could for Spinzilla - a Monster of a Spinning Contest. I got up an hour earlier than normal and spun in the morning. (Some days that worked better than others.) I carried around my Houndesign spindle and spun in the car, on the train and on the bus during my commute to the city. It is not easy to spin on the bus. You don't have much room sitting down, and it's impossible to do so standing up what with all the starting and stopping. And people stare at you. I am used to folks looking over at me while I'm knitting, but they really STARE at you when you haul out a spindle. And of course, I spun in the evening after dinner.

There were many times during the week that my leg or back got sore. When that happened I got up, walked around a bit and then got back to the wheel. Like a marathon, it's all about pacing yourself. And as you are part of team, you know that everything you do will help the team. I was on Team Sweet Georgia - as all the fibre I used during Spinzilla was from there. It's wonderfully prepared and the colours are simply lovely. They propelled me forward.

Yesterday was particularly tricky as I was working on a final push - and preparing a Thanksgiving feast.  But I got it done. I finished this duo (London Town in Panda) at 8 pm last night. I only had one more hour left and didn't feel like starting a new braid of fibre. As well, my back and leg were sore, so I got out my spindle and spindle-spun myself until the clock said 9 pm. Done, done, and so very done.

The final result was 4,496 yards (4,150m) of singles yarn -- from 630 grams of fibre - that's 1.4lbs.  All the fibre I worked with was blended - super fine wool like merino, BFL or polwarth with bamboo, tencel, nylon, and or tussah silk. It was easy stuff to spin fine and once I got going, that was the plan. Yardage was the goal. If the contest was how much weight to spin, I'd have spun chunky weight. But as it was all about the yardage, so I cranked my wheel to the second highest speed and treadled away. 

Here's the photo of the entire fleet of spun singles. I'll be spending the next while plying these into two-ply and three-ply yarns and will proudly display the results.

Go Team Sweet Georgia -- I hope we do well. I know I did my best for the team. And I'd do it again in a heartbeat. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Spinzilla - Day One

Today is the first day of Spinzilla - a monster of a spinning contest that spans miles and time zones. I am a member of Team Sweet Georgia. (#teamsweetgeorgia) I am working all week so I have to plan my spinning around the work. So, I got up early today and was down at my wheel by 6am. This tray awaited me -- 36 carefully prepared rolags that I would spin in order to get an ombre effect. 

I spun until 9am and then started my (paid) work. I took three 10 minute breaks throughout the day and spun a rolag. At lunchtime I spun for half and hour. I had a couple of tele-meetings so was able to spin through those. The fibre is Waterfall - merino, bamboo and tencel from Sweet Georgia Yarns. In fact, all the fibre I'm spinning this week is from Sweet Georgia Yarns. They are of exceptional quality and have such amazing colourways, they are a delight to spin.

At 5:30 I spun for another 15 minutes and then finished up. Here's the finished braid all spun up. It weighs 128 grams.
That finished I started on the next one - this is a contest after all. There's no time to rest. Well really, I had a hot bath because my leg was sore. After the bath I spun for another 45 minutes on this - Indian Summer. BFL and 15% nylon SGY.

I'll see how far I get with this while I watch M*A*S*H Season 3.

More tomorrow.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Skein from the spinning cotton workshop

Yesterday I participated in an all-day spinning cotton workshop. I've spun cotton before and hated it. Wondered why anyone would want to do it, and was increasingly in awe of those who did it well.

At this workshop, a dozen other veteran spinners and I learned some wonder techniques and experimented with an amazing variety of fibres all thanks to an excellent instructor named Heidi from Vegan Yarn.

Here's the skein I produced. The first shot is with the flash off, and you can better see the texture. That's a regular sized marble there so you can judge the size of it. It's 40g and 100m. A decent sized skein.

And here's a shot of it with the flash on so you can better see the colours. All the colours of the cotton we spun with yesterday were natural colours. Not natural dyes. The cotton grew that way. There are a variety of shades of browns, several greens and of course white. All were a wee different to work with, but I managed to spin all the samples.

By the end of the day I really had the knack for spinning it sorted out. I think I may even spin some cotton during #spinzilla week cause the long-draw technique really creates good yardage.

Thanks Heidi.

Drying the Glen Valley flax

I've had a difficult time this year drying my flax. I got the first batch dried, rippled and retted. Then the rains started coming, so the next drying stage was delayed. Meanwhile, the rains caused the other flax beds to fall over so one of them was quickly harvested.

That flax was put up against the fence in the hope that it would eventually dry and I could ripple it. The rains kept coming and coming. Nothing was drying. So I decided to use the rains to my advantage and instead of leaning them up against the split rail fence, I put them on the grass. At least the downpours could continue to rinse the smelly swamp water from the first flax. And the hope was that the steady stream of water could start to dew rett the other flax, despite the fact it hadn't been rippled and was still full of leaves and seed pods.

The sun finally came out yesterday and it's still here today. So I decided to take advantage of the sun and heat and do some active things to encourage drying. I got the drying rack and stacked the retted flax onto it.

Then I had a look at the non-rippled flax that I threw on the ground. I flipped it to get the really wet side in the sun. Lo and behold! It's starting to rett. You can see the fine wisps of linen fibres on the edges. It doesn't go all the way up the stem, it's mostly happening down near the root end, where there are no leaves.

About an hour later, encouraged by the heat and sunshine, I moved the drying rack over to the driveway. The gravel in the driveway heats up and we can really push this drying number today. I took the flax from the shade of the second and third level of the rack and put it on the ground.

Inspired by the retting results of the non-rippled flax, I moved it from the lawn over the driveway next to the retted flax. Using the jet stream on the hose, I power-washed as much of the rotten leaves from it as I could manage. And now the whole lot is drying. I'll flip it every hour or so, until the sun comes down. And then everything is going under cover. Enough of this.

And last but not least is the harvest of the final bed. I have this off the ground, all stacked up on the garden bench. It can't stay there. I have to fashion something that will help it dry - but we have some more rain coming in this week. I need an Indian Summer to get this stuff finished off.

Time to head back out and flip the flax.