Saturday, March 21, 2009

I Am My Mother's Daughter

A year ago, I was in sunny southern Spain, sipping sangria on a sandy beach in Marbella. Every even-numbered year, we go away--preferably to to some place warm and sunny--and last year it was to Spain for a week, followed by five days in London before returning to the Bay Area. It was a lovely vacation.

However, this is an odd-numbered year. Even if it wasn't, the economy--both national and personal--have made travel next to impossible. Because we aren't traveling, the two weeks of Spring Break are a perfect time to do a Big Project. This year's Big Project is repainting my studio.

I love my studio. I love that I have a place to call my own, to mess up (and clean up) as I please. However, even the nicest place occasionally needs a bit of "freshening up." The studio was painted in a hurry-up fashion in March, 1994; a paint job necessitated by the absolute revulsion I felt whenever I walked into a room with bubblegum pink walls, and complicated by my being in a cast from my toes to my hip and unable to do much more than sit in a wheelchair. Stephen was a lamb and got rid of the pinkness in my studio, but I've had Sea Mist Green walls for fifteen years, and it's time for a change. It's time for the green to go, and with two weeks off, I have the time. I mentioned to Betsy that I was going to spend my Spring Break painting the studio; she just chuckled and said, "Of course you are--you are your mother's daughter." (My mother is famous for spending the spare time of a long weekend painting the interior of her house; we joke that the house is smaller inside from so many coats of paint.)

First big "problem": there is a lot of stuff in my studio. In addition to two file cabinets, there are two large bookcases, two small bookcsaes, a large worktable, a floor loom, several small small chests of drawers, and my combing stand. There are also a lot of boxes and baskets of things that need to be put away. All this stuff has to be moved away from the walls so we can get to them, plus everything has to be protected from the spackle, primer, and paint. I began moving things on Friday evening after work, and quickly realized that moving things when one is tired is folly. It takes three times as long to accomplish anything, and I won't remember what is where because I put it there when I was tired. I gave up, went to bed and vowed to make a real start on Saturday morning.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Spin Journal #12A: Silly Sally Spider Sat Spinning Silk

It's such a lovely feeling of accomplishment when you look at a finished skein of yarn. No longer are you contemplating bobbins full of singles. No longer are you sighing over the time it's taking to spin a very fine thread evenly and consistently. It's done! You can sit back and marvel at the beauty you have added to the world.

Back in November(?) I started spinning a batt I bought at Black Sheep last summer. It was a lovely batt: 40% pygora, 40% alpaca, 18% bombyx silk, and 2% yak, in a lovely shade of lavender. This was going to be my personal challenge--spin it as fine as I possibly could, and see if I could get enough for a large scarf or shawl out of its tiny two ounces, along with two ounces of something else that could be spun fine. I spun. I spun some more. Then I spun some more very fine thread. Who knew that two measly ounces could be so much!?!

I finally finished the batt, and turned to the next bit to be spun: two ounces of handpainted roving. Not just any roving: handpainted bombyx (silk) roving from Chasing Rainbows. The colorway is "Purple Haze," a variegated roving in shades of medium purple, deep purple, and silver gray. The medium shade was a match for the spun pygora, so I was looking at the possibility of creating a yarn that would have color definition both in minute detail, and over the range of several stitches. This could be interesting!

I finished spinning the silk at the end of February and started plying. I quickly discovered that, while my double-treadle Sonata is great for spinning, it's not so good for plying. I ply very fast, and, since I want to get it d.o.n.e., I try to ply everything all at once. Treadling away as fast as my little feet could go, I plyed, and plyed, and plyed, and still couldn't get more than half of the plying finished at one go. There was a lot of thread on those two bobbins! It took two days to finally finish all the plying.

Reeling the finished yarn off the bobbin was a shock--it just kept coming and coming. By the time it was finished, I had 837 yards of finished lace-weight 2-ply that tipped the scales at a tiny 123 grams (4.3 ounces). The finished yarn has been wet-finished (washed, thwacked against the side of the clawfoot tub to fluff up the fibers, and dryed). While not absolutely perfect--there are the odd slubs and occasional boucle loops from combining two strands with different characteristics--the yarn itself is a glorious combination of purple and silver. The silk, carefully spun as a true worsted, sparkles and shines, while the pygora and alpaca beg to be touched.

This finished beauty needs a design to show off its best qualities, so I'm swatching (with other laceweight) the lace pattern for a Canadian Cloud, originally published in Weldon's Practical Knitter around 1890. A Canadian Cloud is a combination hood and scarf: approximately 20 inches wide, and 72 inches long, one end of the scarf is finished with a large tassel that serves as a counterweight, while the other end is folded and sewn to create a hood. The Canadian Cloud is worn by putting the hood part on the head, then wrapping the end twice around the neck with the end thrown over the shoulder in a dashing manner. The tassel weights the end and keeps the Cloud closed. It should make a pretty, light-weight head scarf for next winter.