Friday, September 26, 2008

Space Invaders

Warning! The Earth has been invaded! Or at least, my socks have.
Aren't these the coolest socks ever? If anyone asks you why on earth you would knit socks instead of just buying them at the store, point them here. I have space invaders socks. They are the bmp from knitty.

These were a long time coming, actually. They started out almost exactly a year ago as socks for an ex-boyfriend. Had abnormally shaped heels, and there was no way to get the cuff over his heel and yet stay up on his leg afterwards. This was a big pain, because I had already finished one sock, and was very nearly done with the cuff of the second sock.
In the end, it actually wound up being a good thing that these were on hold, because we broke up not too long afterwards. (He still made off with a pair of Irish socks though.) Seriously, I might have gotten myself arrested for something if he had broken up with me after I had made him hard-core colorwork space invaders socks.
Eventually, I got to looking through my stash, and realized that I still had these in much the same condition as when we had broken up. I decided it was time to reclaim these socks for myself. This wound up being a fantastic decision, because most of the hard work was already done. I had about 20 rows to do on the second sock's colorwork, then just the foot remained. On the first sock, all I had to do was rip it back until it fit my foot, and then re-work the toe. Socks seem really fast when you do them this way.

In retrospect, keeping the socks and getting rid of the boyfriend was a much better decision than doing it the other way around.

Oh, and I wore them with this shirt.

In Summary:
Yarn: Base yarn for Dream in Color Smooshy. White is undyed, black custom dyed for me. Orange is a bit of the Regia color from the heels and toes of the Irish socks. I thought it was fitting.
Pattern: Bmp from knitty
Needles: Size 0 , two circs
Cost: Probably about $30 for the yarn, but I used store credit at the time
Time: Over a year in jail, but not nearly that much knitting time

Friday, September 12, 2008

Weaving Pictures

Okay, here's some pics of the woven mat thingie.

The warp (the vertical part on the loom) is Lion Brand Kitchen Cotton in colors that match my mom's kitchen - it goes from golden, to yellow, to white. That's where all the variation comes from.

The weft (the horizontal part on the loom that you weave back and forth with the shuttle) is Bernat Cotton Tots (100% cotton).
Here's a closeup.

Except for that one glaring mistake at the bottom, I think it looks really good.

The trouble with weaving is that it takes up a lot more yarn that knitting. In addition to what you use to actually make the finish piece, there's a lot of "loom waste" from tying it in place.
Other than not using expensive yarn for the warp, I'm not really sure what to do about that.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Best Deal Ever

You might have thought the spinning wheel was enough. You might have thought that I had acquired enough fiber hobbies to last more than a single lifetime. You might be correct. That won't stop me.
At the lab, people are constantly moving and in out of the area and the country. They often have things they need to buy or sell, and the grad student mailing list sometimes becomes an unofficial craigslist (not that craigslist is all that official, but you know what I mean). When people send out messages, I usually browse what they have for sale. Most of it is IKEA crap they're trying to sell for too much, but occassionally you get really good deals. I got a very nice DVD player for $35.
This time, as I browsed, there was something the seller called a "tapestry maker" for $20. I sort of expected it to be a cheap kit like you would buy at a hobby store, but for $20, I was willing to take a risk.
Best Decision Ever.
It actually wound up being a pretty nice Schacht rigid heddle loom. I had seen one of these at the craft fair I bought my spinning wheel at, and the lady had explained the basic principle. I thought it was pretty neat, and that maybe in the far, far distant future, I would look at weaving. At that point, I completely put it out of my mind. Then this "tapestry maker" came up, and even you would take this for $20. The guy really didn't think he would sell it at a physics lab, but he underestimated the number of crafty people here (I know at least 4 knitters scattered throughout the lab, and those are just the ones brave enough to knit on site).

Not only was it this complete, good quality loom, it also came with 4 shuttles, a little thing to brush the yarn into places, a complete set of warping pegs (things used to measure out the length you need to put on the frame), the manual, two beginner books, and several magazines.
I remind you, this was $20.
Luckily, about a month before I had run into that lady at the craft fair, or I would have absolutely no clue what was going on. There are all sorts of crazy new words you have to learn for weaving, like warp, weft, and heddle.
The warp is the bit that goes up and down. You have to measure out the full length all at once, and this is by far the most annoying part of weaving. If you're doing something long, you have to wind it all up at the top wheel with sturdy paper (from grocery bags, in my case) between each layer so you don't get all tangled. It looks like this.

It gets threaded through the heddle, that white bar towards the top of the frame. Half of the strands go through slits between plastic teeth, and the other half goes through holes in the center of the teeth. When you move the heddle up or down, only the yarn going through the teeth moves, the ones in the slits just hang along for the ride. When you lift up all the teeth, you move up every other thread. Then you can pass the shuttle through without having to go over and under each strand individually. When you do this, you make the weft, the horizontal bit. Then to go the opposite direction, you push the heddle down, which moves the strings in the opposite direction, making the normal looking weave you're probably thinking of. Each time you do this, you push the weft strand into place with the heddle, which slides all the way down, or use the little brush thing if that didn't do it tight enough to suit you.
It took a long time to figure out how to set up the loom, but naturally I did it the first day I got it, and wove up a little piece. As usual, it matches my mom's kitchen, so it went directly to her. She was *ahem* supposed to take a picture for me since I forgot. But really, there was a pretty steep learning curve and I still managed to get it done in one (rather devoted) night. Plus, the Olympics were on, so I wasn't going anywhere anyway.
So in the first picture, you can see I've started on some dishcloths for myself to practice. It turns out you can do some really complicated-looking stuff right away. It leads me to ponder about the directions of things, which I suspect will have to be another post.

Update on that spinning thing

Um, so, I told you all I bought a spinning wheel, right? I can't really explain it. I went to Midwest Folk and Fiber Festival planning to browse, maybe pick up a skein of handspun or two. I really wasn't expecting to buy a wheel. It's not like I don't have a wheel, it's beautiful. It's just also a big pain to work on, because it was definitely not made for a beginner. See, the foot pedal likes to fall off from the wheel itself, and the drive band confuses me a lot.
So I met these cool people from spinundrum , sitting there with their spiffy Hitchhiker wheels,
and they talked me into trying it. I played with it for a bit, and I started to get the hang of it. I thought it would be a great way to learn, especially because the wheel is small and portable - it even came with its own tote bag. I should get some better pictures later, but here it is with some pretty blue wool I'm spinning.

As you can see, it has a cute little foot-shaped pedal. The drive is friction based, which means it's all simple points of connection. You pump the pedal, and it turns that big wheel. The big wheel turns a little black gear, the gear spins the flyer that holds the yarn. It's all very straightforward, and just a bit noisy. It's not enough to bother me, but I've read that it's noisier than other wheels.
Naturally, I went crazy right away. I had bought two bats of roving from the sellers, one cotton candy colored bat, and one tonal red with a little bit of gold sparkle. I spun the cotton candy first.
It can only really be described as beginner's handspun. It's not so much thick and thin as thick and thicker. But I'm pretty happy with it for a first attempt.
Here it is sitting on the spare bobbins. The bobbins are apparently interchangeable with the Ashford Joy, so finding more shouldn't be a problem. I'm going to have to get some more, because three just isn't enough.

So I have about 60 yards of very bulky, very random yarn. I'm not sure what to do with it. It's about enough for a hat or a small clutch. I'm leaning towards hat, but I might just pet it and love it and call it George for a while.

Here it is with my couch. This picture shows the texture pretty well.

And here it is with the Spanish Inquisition....I mean, with Duncan. It's not a great picture of the yarn, but we always need gratiutious cat pictures.

Of course, I couldn't stop there. No, that would be sane. I had to immediately begin on the other bat I bought (say that three times fast) and spun it up within a day or two. I am so incredibly happy with this yarn. I would buy this yarn if I saw it in a shop. It's so very me, it's irresistable.

I managed to spin a lot more thinly and consistently this time. I couldn't believe how much I improved from one yarn to the other.

Oh, and the wheel also came with a PVC knitty knoddy. The knitty knoddy is a way to estimate the yardage of the yarn, and also to put it into a nice skein. The advantage to the PVC is that you can wash the yarn to set the twist (don't think too hard about that, it just needs to be done) and you never have to take it off the knoddy. Sure, the wood ones are a lot prettier, but this is just convienient.
I think this is about 80 - 90 yards of this yarn, and it's probably about an aran weight. I am utterly in love with it, and can't imagine anything special enough to make out of it.
As you can tell from the first picture, you can see I started spinning some pretty teal blue wool as well. I'm done with a lot of the spinning the first part of it, but it's also going to take a while to ply, and I'm running out of bobbin room. I'll get to it though. I'm sure it's going to be something for my mom, because it's exactly her color.
I am spinning some white and purple wool on my other wheel, which is going to go a lot better now that I've got the hang of the whole spinning thing. Besides that, the only fiber I had left was some alpaca. Apparently alpaca is just a bit trickier than wool, so I'm going to hold off on that for now. I picked up two more things (I'm not sure what to call them. One is in a bag, the other is in a ball) of roving at Stitches - one is firey oranges, reds and yellows, a blend of wool and silk, and the other is grey wool with bits of recycled sari silk fiber thrown in. I'm looking forward to those. I guess that means I better get working on the first stuff

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Computer Issues, still

Well, it looks like I'm going to have to send the laptop back again, since it keeps crashing every time I try to play a video game. And really, what's the point of a computer you can't play games on?
But I am going to wait until I get my desktop built to send it back, which hopefully I will do the bulk of this weekend. I've got an awesome case now - clear with light up LED's! I can't wait to see how all this nonsense looks. It sounds silly, but it was the same price as most other cases that fit my motherboard. Why not light up?
Before I do, I will upload lots of pics. I've made some lovely socks (me? socks? no...) to show, especially the awesome Space Invader socks that were a long time coming.
I'm also working on a really gorgeous commission piece. It's a white lace shrug a lady want's me to make for her daughter's wedding. I like the knitting for hire, I really do, but sometimes I get stuck with questionable materials. This is Kid Silk Haze, which is an absolute dream, and the pattern is turning out to be pretty fun too.