The Mote Maintains

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Fire, Sky, and Socks

Today is my day off. I somehow managed to work every day since Sunday and not notice. I'm not sure how that works, but I think I'm working Sunday to Thursday this coming week. Guess I better make today count, eh?

Work hasn't actually sucked up all my time, apparently, because I have plenty of new stuff to report. There is yet more hand dyed yarn to show you! I've found that I really quite enjoy the whole process of dyeing, now that I've sort of got a routine. I've also figured out how to get more intense colours with the dyes I use.

This one is called fire:

This one is Sky:

And this one is Gem:

I finally realized that the reason I was getting colours that were more pastel than I liked was because I simply wasn't allowing the yarn to cook for long enough. So I've been letting them simmer for an hour for each batch of yarn, and the results have been much more pleasing. The red-and-tangerine one isn't as day-glo as it appears, but it's pretty intense nonetheless.

I'm going to pick one of these to test knit and make sure that there is enough here for a pair of socks. I'll probably use gem because I seem to end up making purple-green space-dyed yarn in every batch. I guess I like the colours. =)

I've also been working away at this big bundle of pink corriedale roving I bought at Romni Wools. It's slow going on just a spindle, but it's pretty enjoyable, especially now that I've figured out how to Navajo-ply on a spindle. So yeah, this is my very first three-ply yarn. I like the way it looks, although I still haven't figured out how to hide that weird little chaining bump.

I need to go back to Romni, because they seem to be the only place around here with yarn by the cone, and I need something I can easily wind off into skeins for dyeing. I've sent emails to a couple different manufacturers in the province, asking whether they sell direct by the cone, but so far no one's even replied. It's a little discouraging but I'll keep trying. In the meantime I've been knitting socks.

These are the Ugly Socks, so named because they are made from pretty much the ugliest colourway of Regia sock yarn on the planet. This was the only thing I found at the Creative Sewing and Needlework Festival that was even remotely worth bringing home. The pattern is my own variation on kathrynt's universal sock pattern. The rows of eyelets spiral all the way up around the leg of the socks. They actually fit marvellously, and I had only one false start with the first cuff - I cast on wayyy too many stitches the first time and had to rip out a few inches of knitting. But that was just a hiccup, because the rest of the project went off without a hitch. It's nice that something is going right in my life right now...

Now I think I'm going to go find a way to make this day count.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Good Day... Bad Day

Yesterday was a bad day, but luckily today has been entirely the opposite.

Yesterday - Woke up feeling horrible because of allergies, after hardly sleeping for not being able to breathe.

Today - Woke up with a clear head, feeling well rested and kind of happy. Okay, really really happy. Not sure why, but I always know it's going to be a great day if I wake up smiling.

Yesterday - Got rained on. Twice.

Today - So far, the heavens have not opened up to smite me. So far.

Yesterday - I had to admit a knitting defeat. Remember this sock?


Yeah. No progress on this sock all semester. I like the yarn - it's Fleece Artist 100% merino handpainted yarn, and the hand and the colourway are both extremely happy-making, but I can't. do. pomatomus.

This pattern seems to be cursed. While I have seen a handful of finished pomatomi, I've seen even more people who've cast on for this one and then given up. I think perhaps it just demands too much to be a viable sock pattern for me.

For me, socks are mindless portable knitting. They are gap-fillers and time-killers. Charts have to be memorizable, and I need to be able to have a conversation while I'm knitting them. Also useful is the ability to scrutinize the last row and know easily where I am in the chart. Socks that do not possess these qualities will almost certainly be relegated to the frog pond.

That was indeed the fate of my pomatomus. I frogged it yesterday and started swatching for something else - toe-up anklet socks with a short slouchy feather and fan cuff (inspiration from Wendy, of course), because my other issues with this yarn was that there isn't enough of it for full-size socks, by my calculations. So this will do nicely, I hope.

So that was yesterday. Today, however, has been a much better day in terms of knitting! Beth emailed me, letting me know that I'd scored some sock yarn in her birthday blog contest! I'm definitely going to send her some hand-dyed yarn in return, because nothing makes me happier than sock yarn.

And... I have some new handspun to show you! This is a purple merino singles yarn plied with a pink thread of quilter's cotton. I have to say I love the way it turned out - sort of like boucle but not a too-showy, too-nubbly boucle. I haven't checked the yardage on these, but I will whenever I get around to giving it a Eucalan bath to set the twist.


Monday, May 08, 2006

I'm sleepy and a little bewildered right now. I went to work this morning, thinking I had to work the 7-12 shift, but apparently the boss changed the schedule again, so I wasn't using the current one. So here I sit, drinking tea and thinking about going back to bed.

I've started dyeing yarn! I've been experimenting with handpainting, mostly, and the results have been good - good enough that I put in an order at Prochem for some better dyes than what I've been using.

Worsted weight merino wool, about 50 yards

I've been experimenting with handpainting/space dyeing, mostly, and the results have been good - good enough that I put in an order at Prochem for some better dyes than what I've been using. I've even been thinking that I might try to start selling some of this stuff.

More worsted weight merino, 50 yards

100 yards worsted weight merino

Sock yarn! This is probably about 440 yds of wool-nylon blend. I think it's my favourite so far.

So that's one more thing for me to play around with, on top of the knitting and the spinning. I really do like the handpaint and steam set method. Immersion dyeing just hasn't worked for me yet. Now I just need to find a good source for stuff to dye... I might buy a nice cone or two, when I get paid again.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

I made this.


The learning process continues; I've been trying to do a little spinning (sometimes a lot of spinning) each day, as that is the only way I'll stop making crappy singles which turn into even crappier plied yarn. Most of this stuff is the good. That doesn't mean that there haven't been bad bits, because OH YES, there has been much yarn carnage at this house. But pictures of that stuff aren't fit for public consumption. Besides, I prefer to dwell on the beautiful, and these diminutive skeins are, to my mind, just that: gorgeousness.


I think this one has been my favourite so far. It's a 65-35 merino-silk blend, and it is soooo easy to spin - I couldn't believe how easy it was to make those skinnnnny singles, and it was pretty cool to see them become just lofty enough during plying.

I love plying. It's a very satisfying process, because that's when you feel like you've actually made yarn.


This is the stuff that I used in spinning class when Laura taught us how to ply properly. Even though I had tried it myself the week before, with the pink-and-orange merino, I was glad to have the extra instruction, because my plying looks much better now.


Pictures always seem to look nice when I take them in this room - it's my parent's room, but it's got the most light in the whole house.

On Sunday when we got home from Lettuceknit, I accidentally dropped one of my skeins (used to learn Andean plying) in the garden. Below is a reenactment.


Monday, April 03, 2006

This weekend, I made yarn for the very first time.

Earlier in the year, I signed up to take a drop spindle class at Lettuce Knit in Toronto's Kensington Market.

It was heaps of fun, and it resulted in this:

Using Fleece Artist 100% Merino Roving and an Ashford drop spindle, we basically learned the park and draft method to start with. You can see that I didn't quite get the idea at first, so the yarn is very thick and thin - my very first attempts are plied with the stuff I spun later, which showed at least a little improvement - it was a little finer and has much more twist. I love it all to death.

When I got home from school today, it was finished drying, so I skeined it up. And of course, then I couldn't resist taking pictures... It is so colourful! I'm glad I chose something kind of day-glow (not quite as day-glow as the pictures make it seem, though - my camera is a little evil today), because the bright colours just might distract everyone from the slubbiness of bits of it.

And just for fun, this is my handspun taking a bath. It looks so pretty in the water, but then when you take it out it looks very bedraggled and smells strongly of sheep. I expected no less.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

School has been stressing me out, so I just shut down for a few hours and read a novel.  An entire novel, in fact.  In four hours.  hm. 

It was Bitten and Smitten, by Michelle Rowan and it allowed me to just... escape.  It's a good book, a charming book - passably written with an endearing lead, even if the male love interest is kind of mute throughout the book.  I loved just slamming through it in four hours - it's nice to feel that I can escape for a few hours and the world won't fall apart - that I don't always have to be "on" and "available" to everyone around me.  The full-timer at work was very understanding and told me to "take care of myself"  and I sent an email to my bosses to explain the situation and ask for mercy.  So I did get calmed down - it just took a whole lot of unproductive mental health time to do so. 

After my recuperative afternoon, I felt up to getting back to work - I think that was also good for me - I felt kind of soothed once I actually got settled in to get some work done.  I got my term paper prospectus finished for English 2120, and I sent a few emails to profs I need to discuss things with and/or set up meetings with.  I tried to read a little more of Frantz Fanon but gave up on that and read a few more Cicero articles.  I really am having fun with that paper, despite all the stress.

So I guess my day was salvaged.

I'm knitting two pairs of socks, a pair of wristwarmers, and a lace shawl right now.  Maybe I'll post pictures tomorrow when I have a camera and some decent light!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

That smile of Liz's from the other day? It was because of the yarn I used to make this:

The Odessa hat, from Knitty! It was made using the softest, cuddliest yarn I have worked with in a long time: Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk. Such a nice yarn. It's loosely spun, and tvini has warned me that it may pill, but it's beautiful nonetheless. It made Liz extremely happy - she wore it all through our study party at the library yesterday, and it looked just fantastic on her, if I do say so myself.

I love the way this yarn looks, despite my unevenness, which I think was a result of me trying to get used to the stitch pattern. It's so fuzzy and soft and pink. Makes me smile. I'll use a different cast on next time. Long tail never looks right with ribbing, unless you alternate with purled long tail, which I hate doing. And even then it still doesn't look right, in my opinion.

Dusty is smug because he doesn't have to spend reading week studying. See what I mean about the cuteness-while-sleeping? He's irresistible.

This is what I bought for myself on our Saturday trip to the Needle Emporium in Ancaster: 450m of Fleece Artist Mo, which I have since wound into the hugest ball of yarn ever and am knitting a simple shawl to show off the colours in this beauty. I'm finding myself cold all the time in this house, so I thought a shawl would be okay. No granny jokes from the peanut gallery though, please. I know jujitsu. Posted by Picasa

Monday, February 20, 2006

Yarn, how I love thee...

Reading week has been nice, so far. Saturday, Derek and Liz and I made a trip to Ancaster, which is where the yarn lives. There's a nice little yarn store there called The Needle Emporium. Before we left, this is what my sock looked like:

Dusty wisely opted to stay behind. As you can see, there are in fact moments in which the Beast sleeps. He looks so peaceful, so peaceable, but of course he's awake and a nuisance just as often. I love him all the same.

I didn't have the camera out much, but I couldn't resist snagging a picture of The Fabulous Liz. We went to Ancaster in hopes of finding yarn to make something pretty for her. We succeeded in this endeavour, and that accounts for the smile pictured below.

This is what my sock looked like once we got home and had spent a little time just hanging out:

It is so snuggly, so soft, so warm. I've already cast on for the next one, in order to avoid the much-abhorred Second-Sock Syndrome.

Saturday was a nice day. Posted by Picasa

Friday, February 17, 2006

Yarn is, surprisingly, a very nice thing to photograph. Perhaps that has something to do with the profusion of knitting blogs in this age.

For instance, I seem to have a thing for socks at the moment.

This is Fleece Artist 100% merino sock yarn. The colourway is actually very green, with shots of pink and purple and gray throughout. I'm using it to make...

knitty's pomatomus socks! I fell in love with this pattern, well, not at first sight, but I fell in love nonetheless. I was actually really put off by the photography at first, but then I noticed a few completed and in-progress pomatomi on the livejournal knitting community, so I decided to jump right in. The yarn was purchase at the not-so-local yarn store in Ancaster, Ontario.

This gorgeous stuff is Classic Elite Yarn's Waterspun 100% merino kettle-dyed felted yarn, found on sale at Romni Wools, in Toronto.

I'm making bedsocks for myself out of this stuff, using the Universal Sock Pattern. Socks are, as you can see, my new obsession. I'm also making a pair of black socks (woohoo! black socks!) for D, but it's much harder to photograph black socks.

I wrote a midterm this morning, and now I'm on my reading week. While I fully intend to do a helluva lot of actual reading on this break, I'm also making an Ancaster trip tomorrow, and I plan on making time for some hardcore knitting as well. We'll see how these things progress.

Sunday, February 05, 2006


In the past couple weeks, I've managed to find time to read three books that have absolutely nothing to do with school. It's nice to finally get back into the habit of making time for reading for pleasure. This change might have something to do with the fact that garnigal has excellent taste in books, and lent me some singularly amazing novels a little while ago.

I read The Gate to Women's Country by Sheri S. Tepper, which drew heavily on popular legend and folklore surrounding the Trojan War, in order to create a post-apocalyptic culture with strong ties to knowledge from the distant past. The twist ending was spectacular; it came as a total surprise and yet seemed logical and obvious to the extreme, as twist endings are wont to be. I spent the entire book revelling in the amount of reference to Ilium and the conflict there. It was amazing how well that worked as a foil for the dynamic between the women living behind the walls of Women's Country (compare them to the somewhat emasculated, doomed defenders of Troy) and the hostile garrisons camped outside the city, just as the Achaeans camp for a ridiculously long time outside of Troy, threatening violence but making no real headway. The comparison is useful but not perfect, of course, but I'll leave it at that so as not to spoil the ending.

Next was The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle. Having only ever seen the film version of this book, I'd been hunting for a used copy at any used book store I happened to visit, but I'd yet to come across the book. It's fallen out of print, or at least out of fashion. I loved how dream-like and solemn the movie had been, considering that it was a children's animated version, and I wanted to see how the novel compared. I was surprised (in a good way) to find that the same solemnity was there, but it was mixed with deliciously outlandish parody of fantasy as a genre - this mix of tone was the best I could have hoped for. I don't know how much I would have enjoyed it as a child - it can be a little slow at times - but Beagle is definitely shaping up to be one of my favourite newly discovered children's authors.

Finally I read Connie Willis's Doomsday Book. This one was written in the 90s and took place in a time where influenza pandemics have wiped out a large proportion of the population. Time travel is a new technology, and the protagonist Kivrin ends up sent back to 1320 to study Medieval England. Naturally, Something Goes Wrong, and there are all sorts of crazy mishaps in the past and the present. Mayhem ensues. This one was also rife with bits of ecclesiastical Latin and amazing descriptions of Medieval life. Add in the elements of 'soft' science fiction, and I was in heaven. I neglected schoolwork for hours at a time because I couldn't bear to stop reading this one. It comes highly recommended. I'll be seeking out more of Willis's work sometime soon.