Monday, November 17, 2008

Weaving supplies from the stationery store

I don't blog often, but this discovery is absolutely blog-worthy. I really hate it when my unused heddles migrate over towards the selvedge threads on my warp. I don't know if they're abrading it, but it sure seems like it sometimes.

I've tried tying them up in various ways, and then the string I use to tie them up gets untied and tangled up in the warp, which can cause problems as well.

So I was in the Japanese stationery store yesterday, and noticed these little paperclips.

They fit perfectly on the heddle bars. Easy to put on, easy to take off, and they won't get tangled in anything. That makes me happy.

Friday, August 22, 2008

What I did on my summer vacation

Some people blog daily, some weekly, some monthly. I think I'm working on seasonally. Today is the last day of summer vacation - that's for the kids. My vacation starts next week when they go back to school. But despite breaking up arguments over the TV and computers, it wasn't as bad as I thought it could be, and I did manage to have some fun and even get a few projects done.

The female half of the household started off the summer with our now-traditional train trip up to the Black Sheep Gathering in Eugene. I resisted many urges to buy wool, settling for living vicariously through the shopping joy of others.

Then the entire family spent another lovely week at Camp Mather, although this year was slightly marred by a forest fire that came a bit too close for comfort. But I still got some knitting done and the kids had a great time, as usual.

Back over in Ravelry-land, I participated in an organized knitalong and finished two projects for the Ravelympics.

And, finally, in these last few weeks of vacation, with both kids hanging around the house, I got working on their Halloween costumes. I know once school starts, my time will get sucked up by school stuff, so I figured I may as well get a good head start. I had been feeling guilty about making four Harry Potter costumes for my daughter, and absolutely nothing for my son. Every Halloween, he's worn something off the rack.

Determined not to fall into that second-kid gets nothing syndrome, I set out to make him a Doctor Who costume. No, not the one with the scarf - the current one. I hadn't realized it at the time, but I think I've been secretly itching to do some good old-fashioned sewing reverse-engineering. I found some patterns that worked well enough with just a bit of modification and fabric that was a reasonable approximation of the original. Although he doesn't have much patience for fittings, he was thrilled when the suit was done.

The female half of the household finished off the summer with the annual spinning guild retreat at Windrush Farm. A great time was had by all (even the sheep). Oh, and I got started on some more bookmarks.

I guess I didn't do too badly after all.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Confirmation of something my friends knew all along

Over on Ravelry (that would be the place I've been spending far too much time lately, which is why this blog is developing cobwebs), somebody posted a link to the Nerd, Geek, or Dork test. How could I resist that?

Well, after answering several dozen questions about my personal life and habits, it came up with this result:

Modern, Cool Nerd

70 % Nerd, 65% Geek, 22% Dork

For The Record:

A Nerd is someone who is passionate about learning/being smart/academia.
A Geek is someone who is passionate about some particular area or subject, often an obscure or difficult one.
A Dork is someone who has difficulty with common social expectations/interactions.
You scored better than half in Nerd and Geek, earning you the title of: Modern, Cool Nerd.

Nerds didn't use to be cool, but in the 90's that all changed. It used to be that, if you were a computer expert, you had to wear plaid or a pocket protector or suspenders or something that announced to the world that you couldn't quite fit in. Not anymore. Now, the intelligent and geeky have eked out for themselves a modicum of respect at the very least, and "geek is chic." The Modern, Cool Nerd is intelligent, knowledgeable and always the person to call in a crisis (needing computer advice/an arcane bit of trivia knowledge). They are the one you want as your lifeline in Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (or the one up there, winning the million bucks)!


Oh, and for the record, they misspelled knowledgeable ("knowledgable") and you know I just had to correct it before pasting that.

So yes, I am the mom that the other moms call when they get new wireless routers.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Abducted by Aliens

Bad blogger me. It's been a busy few months. First the holidays, then spring cleaning, houseguests, and a bit of writing.

One obsession that has gripped nearly the entire household over the past month or two is Doctor Who. Those who have known me for years may have seen this coming. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I was something of a fangirl. For my midlife crisis, I'm not messing about with fast cars and the like. No, I'm only interested in a blue box.

It's weird. Being a fangirl from way back, I knew of the Doctor, but never really got into watching the show. I had friends who knitted extra long scarves, and I watched a few episodes, but I just never got hooked. I remember watching when the fourth Doctor changed into the fifth Doctor, but that was mostly because I thought Peter Davision was cute. But still, I never got hooked enough to watch regularly. I hadn't even realized that the show had gone off the air in 1989.

Fast forward to 2007. I'd seen the ads for the new show, and tried to avoid it. I guess I figured any new version of a classic tv show would just naturally suck rocks. But, one day while channel flipping, I decided to have a look. It was great - clever, witty, and the special effects absolutely rocked. My son walked into the room and he was hooked as well. We ended up spending most of winter break watching the first three series on DVD.

And you know, I had to find the knitting angle as well. I mean, c'mon, who couldn't resist a knitted Dalek.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

UFO Time Capsule

I first learned to knit when I was 16. My mom taught me continental style, as that was the way she was taught. It made sense to me - I learned to crochet when I was 9, so holding the yarn in my left hand felt natural.

The downside was that my purl rows were always looser than my knit rows, so I hated the way my stockinette stitch looked. (And before you try to suggest garter stitch - I've never liked it, unless I'm using yarn that totally hides the stitches.)

So then my mom gave me a circular needle and explained knitting in the round. Stockinette stitch without the purling. Spectacular! But what to knit? Why, tubular scarves, of course! I knit striped tubular scarves for myself, my friends, probably even my cat, during the next year or so.

What you see here was the last tubular scarf I knit from that period of my knitting life - probably when I was around 17 or so. I remember getting kind of bored with just knitting tubes, but being too lazy to learn anything further. And it was another 9 years or so before I forced myself to practice and figure out a way to even out my tension. Not much (if any) knitting happened during those years.

I found it in a box of old yarn I was going through in preparation for the kids' school rummage sale this weekend, still on those first circular needles my mom bought me when I was 16. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it. It's only half-done, and I have no idea what happened to the rest of the yarn (Unger Fluffy). Not that acrylic yarn, even amazingly soft acrylic yarn, is really in my knitting repertoire anymore.

But for now, it will remain simply a piece in my own personal knitting museum.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Surprise Win

Now, I'm not all that big on competition. So when friend Amy suggested that our guild put together a Sheep-to-Shawl team for the Alameda County Fair's contest, I shuddered a bit. It's been a few years since I've participated in one, and all I remember from the experience is that it seemed unnecessarily stressful.

We did a couple of knitted Sheep-to-Shawl teams in the intervening time, and they were a lot of fun, mostly because we were just doing it to prove a point, and didn't expect to win against a much faster weaving team.

This time, we put together a totally laid-back team - none of us cared if we won, nor did we expect to. Amy and I spun the warp out of gray Montadale roving - I tended towards too thin, and she tended towards too thick, so we plied them together to make a mostly consistent warp yarn. Amy wanted me to weave, since she thinks my selvedges are less wobbly than hers.

Then I had some fun with my Earthhues kit - the purple is cochineal, the green is osage orange, and the oranges are various combinations of madder, cochineal, fustic, and osage orange (if you've got the kit - they're "True Red," "Terra Cotta," and "Poppy."). Probably more complicated than it needed to be. If I were to do it again, I think I'd do at least one less color, just to preserve my sanity when warping.

I chose a simple herringbone pattern, with direction changes at the centers of the color stripes. I freely admit I stole the general idea from one of the other local teams, except that they use different stripe combinations and a bit of basketweave. Also, I used a bit of the same color changes that many of us veteran Peggy students picked up from fellow student (and color genius) Antoine. But the main objective was to use a pattern that is easy enough to weave in a public setting, but still looks nice.

So, here's the hitch... the contest was held the day after I returned from a solid week of family camp with my family, in a location far away in the Sierras, with absolutely no cell phone service nor internet access. And on the day I was packing up the car, our team members were dropping like flies. Not that I blame them - life interrupts sometimes. So I left it to Amy (whose idea this was to begin with) to find some replacements. Pleasantly, I discovered when I returned that she'd put together our eight, with even a few reserves in line just in case.

And what a team it was - everyone spun consistently. It also helped that I had serendipitously picked a really nice gray corridale fleece (from Hub Corriedales of Bonanza, Oregon) at Black Sheep to use as the weft. Everyone said that it spun up like butta, with just a bit of teasing or flicking.

So against all odds, and six other teams (including several perennial winners), we won! I was totally shocked, as was the rest of the team. We walked away with the team members saying how much fun it would be to do it again. Although this is the only Sheep-to-Shawl contest I know of that is held in an air-conditioned building. We San Franciscans are total heat wimps.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

My Knotty Weekend

I spent last weekend at CNCH in Asilomar learning how to weave knotted cut pile rugs with Sara Lamb. It was easily the most enjoyable workshop I've done in years.

Asilomar was lovely, even though the weather didn't cooperate very well - it was rainy on and off throughout the weekend. I don't remember seeing any deer at the conference two years ago, but they were out in abundance this year.

When we first walked into the classroom, we were presented with an assortment of copper piping. The first order of business was to build our looms. The design is absolutely ingenious - the loom is both portable and adjustable, and the warping method is pretty simple. Most people had their looms assembled and warped and ready to go by lunchtime.

The actual process of weaving isn't all that difficult. You weave a couple of rows in plain weave, and then tie all your little lark's head knots, and trim them as you go, following a chart. Easy, but time-consuming. As you can see, in roughly two days, I got about 3/4 of the way through the 5"x5" pattern. But speed isn't necessarily a goal here. I probably won't finish the piece (a bag) until I get a proper beater - I don't have anything heavy enough to do the job right.

While I don't expect to be weaving new carpets for the house at any point in the future, I can see a lot of possibilities for this technique, and I find it much more attractive than tapestry, which is just too right-brained for me. I couldn't draw my way out of a paper bag.

For inspiration, see Sara Lamb's web page.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

First Warp

Not my first warp. The loom's.

I've been gloating about my Craigslist score to several friends, so now it's time to gloat about it to the entire internet (or at least to the few of you who may actually read this blog).

A couple of months back, I saw a listing on Craigslist for a Dorset loom down in Santa Cruz for $100. The photo wasn't very big, so I couldn't tell what kind of condition it was in. But, I figured it was worth checking out, so I emailed the guy. He took at least a week to get back to me, so I didn't hold out much hope, but then he emailed me back asking if I'd like to come down and see it.

So I headed on down to Santa Cruz, with daughter in tow. I figured if it turned out to be total crap, we could at least go hang out in that lovely (if cold) beach town for the day. When I saw the loom, it looked great. No rust, nothing broken, the shafts moved up and down. He said it was his girlfriend's and that she'd bought it used, never used it, and finally came to the conclusion that she wasn't going to weave after all. I handed him $100, and threw it in the back of the car (catch that? Threw it in the back of the car - it fits, even with a kid in the back seat!).

It wasn't until we got home and I took a good look at it that I realized that it has never been used. Its 600 heddles were perfect. The end sticks weren't even attached.

I'm not sure how long it's been since Dorset stopped producing looms, but I took a glance through the few old issues of Handwoven magazine in my collection and found the last ad for the company in an issue from 1997.

That poor loom has gone at least 10 years without ever even seeing a warp. So, I threw on some of my hand-dyed rayon chenille yarn to make a scarf for the kids' school auction. It weaves wonderfully.

Sure, it's only got 4 shafts, it's direct tie-up, and it only weaves about 20 inches wide, but it fits in the back of the car. Perfect for workshops or the kids' sheep-to-shawl team. Of course, when I mentioned that to Olivia, she got all excited and wants to weave on it.

Worth every penny.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Cardwoven Calligraphy Spells F-U-N!

I've become something of a cardweaving maniac over the past few months. I took a class in basic cardweaving from Gudrun Polak at Lacis last year, but all that C-clamp business just didn't appeal to me. I mean really, what if I'm in the middle something and the kids need to use the dining room table for something crazy like eating.

So, at CNCH in Modesto last spring, I sprung for a Gilmore inkle loom, which is WAY cool for cardweaving, as it has warp and cloth beams (just like a REAL loom!), so you aren't limited to a certain length warp, and you don't need to worry about all the twisty business that goes along with cardweaving, which can create a hellish mess on a regular inkle loom.

I also picked up a copy of Linda Hendrickson's book, Please Weave A Message, which tells all about the mysterious art of cardwoven calligraphy. It actually not all that hard to do, as long as you follow the tips in the book. Particularly, the one about drawing a line from the A-B holes on all the cards so you always know which way you're going. I just colored the side edges of all the cards (using a different color for the border cards). In doing about 3 feet of words, so far, I've only made one mistake.

I'm using DMC Cebelia size 30 for this band (destined to be bookmarks and name badges), but I think the next time I'll try size 50, as this seems to be a big bigger than I anticipated.

If you're interested in cardweaving, and want to make some holiday gifts that will impress the heck out of anybody on your list, give it a try!

Monday, November 06, 2006

SOAR, the long version

Now that I've had a chance to recover and do the laundry, here's the long version of my SOAR review...

This was my first SOAR (Spin-Off Autumn Retreat). I figured I needed to take advantage of the fact that this is the last year both my kids will be in the same school, and it was within driving distance.

It was held at Granlibakken Resort in Tahoe City. Very nice, woodsy location. I get the impression that it's always held somewhere in the mountains. Gives you that high-altitude, cold feeling that you need to be playing with wool. There were people there from all over -- several had come all the way from the UK.

I just went for the Retreat, but would have loved to have done a workshop. My non-weaving roomate had taken Sara Lamb's silk knotted cut pile workshop, and loved it. (More info on Sara Lamb and her gorgeous weaving projects here... Another friend did Deb Menz's dye survey -- she came away with a HUGE binder of dyed wool samples -- a fabulous reference. I understand that Judith MacKenzie-McCune and Nancy Bush's spinning and knitting mittens class was the hot ticket -- 88 people on the waiting list for that one, but nobody in my guild got in.

Anyway, back to the retreat... I arrived Thursday afternoon, because I had to drop the kids off at school on the way out of town, so we totally missed the feeding frenzy in the vendor rooms that apparently went on when they opened in the morning. One booth, Rovings (, looked like it had been visited by a swarm of locusts.
By the time we got there, we only had a half hour to shop, so I didn't get much - just a couple of Woodchuck weaving doo-dads.

Thursday evening, there was the class signups for the Retreat. You sign up onsite, so everyone gets a chance to get something they want. Unfortunately, EVERYONE apparently wanted to take Judith MacKenzie-McCune's three wild downs class (one of only two that actually involved spinning). I was lucky - my group was called second, so I was able to get in, but just barely (yea!).

Then we had a lovely dinner (the food was great), and were treated to a keynote address by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (The Yarn Harlot). She was incredibly funny. They're supposed to post a podcast of her address on the SOAR blog (, but it hasn't appeared as of the last time I checked.

On to the classes... I took Sharon Costello's Felted Soap class, which was really fun. It would be a great kids' project. You wrap wool around a bar of soap and gently felt it, making a sort of soap within a washcloth. For added pizzaz, she had us make felted ropes for sort of a wooly soap-on-a-rope.

Then it was Sara Lamb's cardweaving class, which I already know how to do, so I didn't really learn anything new, but there were some friends there, and I was able to play around with some techniques I hadn't tried before. Sara is a fun teacher, and I just loved seeing some of her samples. She's an amazing fiber artist.

Saturday morning, I had Stephanie Gaustead's basketmaking class, which was fun, but a little hard on the fingers. Also, we had to run out into the cold to get our wet reeds out of steaming buckets of water, and weave them in before they dried out. That was challenging. My basket looks more like a football than a basket, but I learned some basic basketmaking techniques, which was fun.

Then, finally, I had Judith MacKenzie-McCune's three wild down fibers class. Judith was wonderful, as usual. She is, hands-down, the best spinning teacher in the country. Even if she's teaching something I already know how to do, I learn something from her. As one person said in a class I took with her last year, "if she were teaching Advanced Toilet Bowl Maintenance, I'd sign up for it." We got to play with about a dozen samples of bison down, yak down, and cashmere, as well as blends involving silk and merino. Lots of fun, and I actually finished all of my samples at the Saturday Night Spin-In.

The Spin-In was amazing. Over 200 people in a ballroom, spinning, knitting, and enjoying some nice country music. The resort staff set up the chairs in nice even rows, but within half an hour, most people had rearranged them into little circles of friends, old and new. We were towards the back by the door, away from the music, and within sight of anyone who came in. Great fun -- there were at least 10 people from our guild there, and we had a great time.

Oh, and the door prizes. I've never seen so many door prizes in all my life. Just about everyone won something. I got a Pat Green doffer brush (for cleaning a drum carder), which I actually really needed, as mine looks like it's been run over by a truck. The grand prize was the new super-portable wheel by Louet, which I got to try out in the vendor room -- it's a nice wheel, and not outrageously expensive ($550 retail with carrying bag). If I hadn't already bought my daughter a Majacraft Little Gem, I would have been tempted to get that for her.

All in all, it was a great experience. I don't think I'd be that up for flying 6 hours to get to it, but the next time it visits the West Coast (probably 2010), I'll definitely want to go again.