Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Spin Me Right Round

As part of my destashing efforts for 2009, I'm also attempting to spin up (and get good at spinning up) the fiber that I have. I want to buy another spindle and I'd like to try more fiber, but I'm restricting any yarn or knitting related purchases until most everything I have is gone. And I do mean GONE. I'm assigning projects to absolutely everything, and I want to knit it up into beautiful, wonderful things that I'll either keep or give away to people I adore.

So anyway - the spinning. Awhile back, you may remember that my friend Molly gave me some Louet fiber. Well, I spun about half of it up, and I spun, and I spun, and I spun, and then I plied, and set the stuff aside to soak later, since I was living in an itty bitty dorm room and had nowhere to soak yarn, much less to whack it and hang it about. Well, in the sorority house, I figured I had even *less* space to whack and hang, but at least there was a shower where the chances of people thinking I was nuts were slightly less, so I thought I'd give it a go. The yarn is going to sleep underwater over night and in the morning I'll hang it in a safe spot near the radiator, with the fan focused on it. When it's finished, it'll travel to my malabrigo swap partner.

What I've discovered about spinning is that you need more than a few tools. I spin on a drop spindle - a Butterfly Girl Designs piece - and while it's lovely, it's not really heavy enough to make much more than a laceweight or sportweight single that can then be plied, awkwardly, on the same spindle. I need something heavier, and so I'm going to save up money from giving knitting lessons and selling custom knit projects and buy a heavier spindle and eventually a niddy noddy. There's a shop down the street from me that sells both, luckily.

Of course, this lovely fiber doesn't have to wait for that, merely wait for my sweater to be finished. It's a Chocolate Liqueur Batt by Loop on She works up the loveliest, most beautiful fiber colorways - you can see quite a few of them in my Etsy favorites. Right now I'm craving her little 'babycakes' mini-batts. Chocolate Liqueur is 100% bamboo, which is why I haven't started it already. Bamboo is supposed to be a little tricky to spin, and I don't feel like I've got the hang of all the techniques (navajo plying, spinning even singles, etc.) that I want to incorporate into the spinning of this particular yarn. When I'm ready, though - well, it will be magic.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Frightened Rabbit at the Maintenance Shop

We have this great venue here on campus that brings in wonderful bands, both local and distant, to play for us. They also host comedians, their own comedy troupe, and a few fundraiser speakers here and there. The walls are coated in pictures of everyone who has visited the M-Shop, from bands to celebrity personalities.

On Friday, they were hosting a band from Scotland called 'Frightened Rabbit' - they just got off tour with Death Cab For Cutie, one of my favorite bands, and had received pretty rave reviews on various websites and music sources. Their newest album, "The Midnight Organ Fight" has a lot of touching and disturbing views of relationships, from romantic to worldwide. My favorite songs are "Heads Roll Off" and "Backwards Walk".


They were charming and funny, commenting on what hardy characters Iowans were, to suffer through the winters here (they came on a really cold night - I think it might have been 7 below). I'm surprised that more people haven't heard of them, yet - especially in their native country. You should all check them out!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Right now, the radiator is hissing in my little room, a comforting sound that nearly drowns out the wind whipping through the evergreen outside my window. Yesterday, there was a bright red cardinal hunkered down in that tree, and I wonder briefly if he's still there, just fluffed up and hiding so that the wind won't catch him. I have no idea how birds manage to stay on the branches of trees in this sort of weather. They're so lightweight and fragile, really, with their feathers and little hollow bones.

It's been a very pensive week for me. A lot of my time has been spent observing, rather than commenting, and I find my mind wandering everywhere I go - on the bus, in class (though I am managing to tame it long enough to get the notes down) and especially when I return home in the evenings. My thoughts lately have been largely about the moving film of my day-to-day life. I feel like there's so much strange beauty in the way the row of mittens and gloves grasping the bus bar tighten on the curves, or the way listening to music while moving seems to spur you in the rhythm of the notes themselves. Lately I've been listening to a lot of Death Cab for Cutie - it's been a winter staple of mine for a few years, now - and the music seems to fit the slowly shifting cold of Iowa. The way there's an occasional gust that sends glitter into the air. But especially the way that not many people seem to notice these things.

Texture and textiles become very important to me when the weather turns to mid-January. I crave the heavy weight of a blanket, the softness of wool between my fingers and the slight roughness of a wooden surface. It's no surprise to me that I've been knitting from stash more than usual lately - I get nostalgic about buying things, when I bought them, and I feel a need to experience that again. I've joined a destash effort on Ravelry to knit only from my stash.

Recently, I've been reading a lot out of Kate Davie's blog, Needled. She has really true and exacting insights on many things. Recently, she completed a year of just making things - her clothing specifically - and that's an experiment I want to give some thought to. While I cannot possibly make everything I own, I am trying to take up a more handmade approach when purchasing or creating clothing - I want everything I own to be a reflection of myself in the best possible way. For me, this means using largely natural fibers (except when it's impractical, simply because a polyester-blend coat keeps the wind out so much better than my wool pea coat), and perhaps choosing to sew myself a new dress or shirt instead of buying one online. In an economy like ours I find myself relating more and more to the History of 20th century class that I'm taking - the women of the wartimes who 'Made do, and Mended'.

My projects after Valia include Coraline, out of some buttery Malabrigo merino silk/wool blend, and then something with this alpaca, produced locally and even sold out of a tiny LYS near my college. I think it wants to become a lovely cowl for the fashion show this spring - I'll be sure to keep you up to date on the entries. The thing I have in mind will highlight some of the buttons that Devin gave me earlier in the year, or perhaps it will simply highlight the nature of a soft, luxurious, and completely natural fiber.

Who knows?

Monday, January 19, 2009

About Time

It's been a little while since I posted, I realized today, while knitting on my newest project - a Vaila sweater a la Twist Collective, 2008. I'm horribly in love with this sweater - not just for the obvious reasons (a, it's gorgeous, and b, it's made from Malabrigo worsted), but because the pattern presented through Twist is every bit what you'd desire for a sweater pattern. Clear, well-written, and laid out with every little detail you could possibly want. It even included instructions for the Norwegian cast-on, which I think is probably one of my favorite long-tail variations now. I was taught in a knitted cast on - how a lot of people learn - and have only just started to accept the other cast-ons as equally easy and versatile in my knitting arsenal.

The color I'm using for Vaila is Rich Chocolate. It almost makes up for the fact that, however simple the pattern is, I really stink at knitting lace. It takes me a million years and I have to rip it out all the time and I've already had to go back and knit the whole thing (ribbing and all) at least twice. But I am positively determined to finish this sweater! I will do it!

Yarn: Malabrigo Worsted in Olive

Something I have finished lately? The Hurricane Hat, by Andrea Goutier. She's an amazing knitter, and apparently an amazing pattern writer, too. This has got to be one of the most attractive FO's that I've got. And it even fit it's intended's rather large head (sorry, Jeff!) He wore it all week and I almost felt bad to see it go into quick retirement upon his return to Los Angeles. Almost bad because while I was suffering through -20 degree temps, Jeff gets to celebrate his happiness in the 85 degree heat wave Los Angeles is reveling in right now. My dad is modeling it in the picture. It looked so good on him, too, I'll probably make another. When my sweaters are finished, anyway. 

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Riders of Rohan

I have been having an utterly delightful vacation. Before I came home for winter break, I was stressed out, overworked, haggard and nit-picky. Now that I've been home for nearly two weeks (or has it been nearly three?), my stress levels have retreated to a low roar, and much of my time has been occupied with relaxing and pleasant endeavors, like knitting. And watching movies.

During my last few days of school I wanted very badly to see the Lord of the Rings trilogy again. Not because I'm obsessed with it - I'm very far from one of the girls who secretly wishes to be an elven maiden or a hobbit. I'm quite satisfied with being human, in this century and location, and wearing jeans instead of petticoats. No, I wanted to see the vast scenery and get absorbed into something fantastic and richly-woven. And since it's a lot easier to knit while watching a movie you've already seen than it is to read while knitting, watching the movies took preference over reading the books.

What was I knitting on? Why, my Chevalier mittens, of course - a project that has taken since last March, mostly because of my own frustration (I knit the same mitten twice and had two right-handed mittens). They had been selected as part of my knit-everything-before-the-start-of-the-new-year projects, as well as a part of the Great Mitten Finishing (which turned out to happen after all). After I tried on the first one again, I realized I'd be knitting two mittens from the beginning, not just one, mainly because I'd knit them on the wrong sized needles.

The word 'Chevalier', you know, means 'horseman' in French. I thought this was rather suitable knitting for watching Lord of the Rings - since, of course, my favorite characters are the Riders of Rohan, horsemen exiled from country for being true loyalists.