Monday, April 20, 2009

Jenkins Turkish Delights

One should never say never.

I said I'd never knit lace.
I said I'd never spin.
I said I'd never spin on a wheel.
I said I'd never weave.

Clearly, I am not to be trusted when it comes to sweeping proclamations of activities I'll never do. Imagine my surprise when I "broke down" and got not one, but two Jenkins Bottom Whorl Turkish Spindles. I had been admiring several folks pictures on Ravelry (Marihana, Criminy Jickets and Eydeet. all evil, evil people.... which is why we get along so well) until I finally had to head over to Ed and Wanda's site to see what was still available.

They are so popular right now, that you have to "stalk" the list and make a request the moment the pix go live. They have updates about once every two weeks, but it helps if you send an email and tell them woods that you like.

The two spindles I got were a full sized Turkish in Cocobolo wood and Turkish Delight in Yucatan Rosewood (pictured here). Both are a joy to look at and have perfect balance. I was able to start spinning immediately upon opening the package because they ship with a little pouf of fiber. The TD had a silk hankie and the full Turk had some lovely dark blue/turquoise pencil roving.

I might be getting some additional Turks (and potentially niddy noddies/top whorls/wpi tools....) from the Spanish Peacock, but I have to wait until he's back from the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival. My bank account and budget can breathe a sigh of relief... for the time time being.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Yknit 19 "Fistful of Fibers" is LIVE!

Yknit Episode 19 was a very fun episode to record. I hope you like it. There's lots of big announcements and a contest!

Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Rigid Heddle Loom Class @ Verb

The very first of the month of April was my first Rigid Heddle patterns class at A Verb for Keeping Warm (no foolin'). I had looked forward to this class for several weeks because it was being led by the woman who taught me how to USE my Schacht Cricket RH loom, Kathleen Donohue. Kathleen is an omni-crafty-arty person and she has an ease and style that I really enjoyed during my loom tutorial. I knew she wouldn't disappoint.

All of the students had Crickets, but Kathleen (always the cool kid/early adopter) brought in her majectic Kromksi Harp. WARNING: tool envy... and I got it hard, my friends. As much as I love my cute little Cricket, the Kromski Harp is light years ahead in terms of functionality, versatility and pure style. I'm trying to figure out how to sell my Cricket to fund a portion of the Harp. I'll keep you posted.

But, the point of the class, besides stoking the fires of loom lust, was to show us simple patterns using warp and weft floats.Weft floats are created when a certain number of the down shed warps are lifted up (from the neutral heddle position), which produces a gap in the left-right threads (weft). Warp floats are created when a certain number of down shed yarns are lifted up (when the heddle is in the up position) which produces a gap in the top-bottom threads (warp). A multitude of patterns can be generated from combining and repeating these simple pattern "algorithms". You get even crazier beautiful textures by adding new colors, and, my favorite, handspun.

I had a little trouble following Kathleen's presentation because I have left-right dyslexia and up-down dyslexia. It's not a clinical assessment, but rather my explanation for why I always do/say the opposite of what I mean. I really have to concentrate when I'm working with students because I'll just say the first thing that pops into my head even though I know as I'm saying it, that I've reversed them. Crazy.

I only did about 4 inches of fabric in the class itself, but once I got home and reviewed a couple of texts, I started experimenting. I managed to churn out about 5 feet of a sampler and I learned quite a bit about how to manage the pick-up sticks and how to create patterns/shapes on the fly. I posted FIVE pix of my crazy weaving experiments.

A wonderful book with lots of exercises and patterns is Textures and Patterns for the Rigid Heddle Loom [Spiral-bound]by Betty Linn Davenport. I think Verb is sold out of it at the moment but you can order it directly from Bettty via Amazon. When I ordered my copy a while back, she had written a personal note in it. So cool. Betty has also authored an excellent RH loom introductory text called "Hands On Rigid Heddle Loom Weaving" as well as numerous articles for Handwoven and some other publications whose name is escaping me.

Friday, April 3, 2009


In case you haven't noticed, I have a problem. That problem can be summed up in the phrase, "lack of willpower". It's been the same my whole life through.

I grew up lower middle class although, when I was younger, I would have said poor. I've since seen truly poor and I definitely was NOT. Foolishly, I thought that since we were living in the projects (brand new apartments that were subsidized), we were poor, but really, it was just a single parent household with 2 (later 3...) kids. My mother raised all 3 of us on her salary as an accountant for Federal job assistance program called CETA (late 70s). This didn't leave much for my obsessive compulsive need for toys, comics and candy, so I applied for and got a job delivering newspapers after school in the 4th grade.

It was the first time that I had money to spend any way I wanted. My mother would have preferred I open a savings account and put aside a percentage of my earnings (she was a book-keeper, after all), but in all things fiduciary, I was my mother's son. Shopping was therapy and more things meant more love and more happiness. So, all my subscription receipts from the paper route furnished me with an unlimited supply of Now & Laters, DC Comics (with a sprinkling of Marvel) and Micronauts. There was no greater pleasure to be had than riding that sugar high and reading about the exploits of the hunky Green Arrow or sultry Spider Woman.

And, it's been the same with each new level of "maturity". Comics gave way to books. Toys gave way to music (albums, cassettes and finally cds). And I never stopped eating candy. Just ask my dentist or orthodontist.

My current shopaholic tendencies revolve around all things fiber: yarn, books, tools, patterns, bags and now, god help me, fiber, spindles, rigid heddle looms and wheels. Fortunately, wheels are a much bigger hurdle to clear, but that doesn't prevent me from constantly looking at Carolina Homespun to see what new wheels I should test drive. It doesn't matter that I have more than 40 spindles (at last count) or that I have a lovely portable wheel and a nice RH loom. I'm always seeing other people's tools and thinking how efficient or proficient I would be with their equipment. Oh, the sins of envy and covetousness.

That was a lot of confession to get to the essence of today's post and that is about simplicity and the joy of living (and spinning) in the moment. I truly love spinning. I love doing it on a drop spindle. I like teaching it. I love doing it on a wheel. Perhaps in the future, I'll teach that too, but for now, I am smitten with spinning. There's something about it that never ceases to amaze me. The moment that the twist travels up the fiber is always magic, no matter who is doing it. And then there's the plying and the combination of color and texture that arise. Finally, there's the knitting or weaving that creates even more glorious patterns.

This latest entry into the halls of my spinning FOs is the December 2009 "Wooly Wonders" fiber club shipment from A Verb for Keeping Warm. It's 4 ounces of Blue Faced Leicester (BFL) that is postively glowing with reds and peaches with a splash of purple/gray. This skein marks the very first fiber club installment that I have spun up and I'm quite proud of breaking the inertia and of the finished product. I'm going to add it to my handspun stash and figure out what it needs to be, but for now, I'm enjoying admiring it and petting it.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Judith MacKenzie McCuin - Genius

I could listen to Judith MacKenzie McCuin talk ALL DAY LONG. In fact, I could have done just that AND treated myself to her workshop on Selecting a Quality Fleece, but I was a spaz and didn't sign up in time. Fortunately, I had a second chance as she was a guest lecturer at the Spindles & Flyers Guild meeting this past Sunday and I was able to meet her and chat. I also brought both of my books in for Judith to sign (Teach Yourself Visually Handpinning & The Intentional Spinner).

Judith's lecture was on the evolutionary history of sheep and how it has co-evolved with man. It was an inspired talk and I took copious notes. If you ever have the opportunity to hear her speak or take a class or just have a coffee with her, do it! You will walk away so much smarter and inspired by her passion for wool. Plus, she's got that adorable Canadian accent which just melts my heart every time I hear it.

I'll add some groovy fun facts after I review my notes, which I don't have in front of me at the moment.

Before Judith's presentation, we were able to check out a vintage fiber journal that Julia (HistoricFibers) brought in to share. It had been willed to her by a friend and before she fully documented it, we had a chance to check it out. I was quite taken with the penmanship and the wonderful swatches that were included. Even more amazing was the fact that they were still attached. Not sure how the author achieved that, but it was impressive.