Monthly Archives: August 2011

Tom Foolery At The Office

Today I did something I thought I’d never do: I spun in public. That’s right, I SIPped.  Now, I don’t mind knitting in public.  I’ve been doing it for years, especially on my lunch breaks.  I used to half-expect a barrage of “hey, my granny knits” comments whenever I pulled out a project in the cafeteria and seven years on, none have come.  No one pays attention or even cares, except for the college boy who once asked me what I was making.

“A sock,” I replied.

“Are you going to make another one after that?” He asked. He seemed genuinely interested.

To which I replied, “I sure am!”

I don’t mind if someone is amused by my knitting in public but with spinning I’ve been more hesitant because, to the uninitiated, it looks weird and no one knows what it is.  I don’t want to have to explain it unless someone really wants to know or try it.  Also I need a lot of elbow room when I spin on a spindle.

Today I had a change of heart because I am deeply in love with this black Romney and alpaca blend I bought from The Woolen Rabbit last Saturday. Can I tell you that this stuff has changed my life? I’ve been getting up in the middle of the night to spin it.  I’ve been getting up an hour early in the morning to spin it. It’s bliiiiisssssss!!! I didn’t want to put my spindle and wool down this morning but I had to go to work.  I suppose I could have called out sick 😉 but I didn’t, so I did the next best thing. I packed up my Greensleeves Tom Foolery and some roving and took it to work with me.  The main cafeteria was out as far as a spinning location goes–I needed someplace with carpeting.  There’s a small lounge that’s carpeted and today it was  completely empty! I expected to use one of the swivel armchair, but when I got there I found they had installed tall bistro-style table with tall chairs! It couldn’t have been more perfect. I was able to spin almost down to the ground from my high perch and except for a couple of passing people I didn’t meet a soul. Of course I did drop my spindle on the carpet a few times but it’s my own fault; I like to see how fine a yarn I can spin, so sometimes I push the envelope and it backfires on me. An on-the-spot inspection each time showed no dents, nicks or things of that nature. It was a perfect break in what turned out to be a pretty sucky day and all I’ll say about it is spinning definitely saved some lives today… :0

So there’s a nice close up of my new Greensleeves spindle.  I like it a lot. It doesn’t spin quite as long as my Goldings but I am very impressed with it.  It does have a nice spin on it and the woods and the craftsmanship are just beautiful.  The whorl is is made out of pink ivory and pommel bubinga and the shaft is bubinga too. I love saying bubinga! Typing it, though, not so much.  Pink ivory is one of the woods I’ve been coveting in a spindle.  I would still like to get one on which it’s the primary or only color.  Other woods I want are purpleheart, ebony, and bois de rose. So many colors! I’m happy with the weight of the yarn I’m spinning on it so I think the combination of spindle weight, fiber and spinning ability are all coming together nicely here.

So this is my achievement after two days of spinning this fiber.  What a cute, fuzzy little ball of yarn, no? I’m so in love with this.  I should have stuck a dime in the middle of it for scale but I’ll do that another time.  I’m spinning it extremely fine, but all of my spinning so far tends to be thicker when plied than I expect it to be so my goal here is to spin as fine as possible an ply it two or three times.  If I play my cards right it will be fingering weight, and hopefully no thicker than worsted.  Then all I have to do is decide what to knit with it.  Does alpaca make yarn too slippery for socks? What are you all knitting with alpaca/blended yarn? Suggestions please!

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The Best-Laid Plans

The following is a list of the household chores I’ve been meaning to do for at least a month. I promised myself that yesterday was the day I would finally get to everything. In no particular order:

  • paint the front deck
  • assemble two DIY Home Depot adirondack chairs
  • paint the adirondack chairs
  • reorganize my study
  • hang mirrors

This is what I did instead.

Fiber Revival 2011

Yesterday the Newburyport Spinners held the 7th annual Fiber Revival, a small-scale one-day fiber festival held on the beautiful grounds of the Spencer-Pierce-Little Farm in Newbury, MA.  The weather cooperated; it was sunny and a bit cooler for a change, a perfect day for an outdoor gathering. I’ve been looking forward to this event for months and not even my sister bailing on me at the last minute could dampen my enthusiasm.  My plan was to bring beach chairs so we could sit and knit together, which is a huge element of the day.  Friday night my sister informed me that she would rather go to the mall instead so she could pounce on the Yankee Candle Company for more Boney Bunch collectibles before they sell out.  For those of you not familiar with the Boney Bunch, they’re an annual series of creepy cute candle holders featuring skeletons in Victorian costume.  Each year they sell out quickly and brand new items pop up on Ebay at inflated prices literally as soon as Yankee Candle puts them out.  Swayed by the lure of buying candles during the Massachusetts tax-free weekend, she headed out to catch the bus instead of a ride with me.  Whatevs.

Suddenly single, I nixed my plan of bringing a beach chair and a WIP.  Once I got to the festival I regretted my decision.  The farm’s setting is gorgeous and there are so many huge, shady maple trees there was plenty of room for everyone to relax with their craft.  I arrived at ten in the morning. The festival started an hour earlier and there were already dozens of spinners, knitters and crocheters taking advantage of the museum’s beautiful grounds.  Look at all these spinners in front of that beautiful 305-year-old farmhouse!

With no project in hand there was only one thing to do–shop! I made a beeline over to the Spunky Eclectic booth, eager to get my hands on some of her hand-dyed spinning fiber.  I’ve placed a couple of orders on her online shop but sadly, a trip to Maine is not in my foreseeable future (not that there’s anything wrong with Maine). There’s nothing like being able to shop in person, especially when being able to see accurate colors is key. Amy King had tons of gorgeous fiber and yarn, as well as some nifty project bags and a variety of spinning wheels.  I didn’t see any copies of her book Spin Control on hand, and that surprised me.  That book helped me to understand my wheel a lot better, and it’s a great primer. Despite being surrounded by spunky goodness, what did I put my hands on first? A project bag.  Because I am a Bag Ho. I’m obsessed with bags/totes/zippered pouches, you name it. Seriously, it’s a real problem. I need help. I chose a spindle bag in a beautiful blue and mustard kimono print. This was quickly followed by a cute little zippered pouch with a chicken-and-egg print.  Once I got around to the yarn and fiber I had a hard time choosing what to get. I swore to myself that I wouldn’t go overboard with the spending (ha!) so I finally decided on a 4-ounce braid of BFL in a colorway called Sex On The Beach.  The name made me giggle–not because I’m an immature idiot, though opinions on that may vary–but because it reminded me of Sex On The Beach shooters I used to drink when I was in college.  I spent several minutes handling the variety of Greensleeves spindles Amy had for sale and seriously debated whether I really needed another spindle.  I’ve never seen Greensleeves in person and the woodworking and colors were beautiful.  I was torn between a large purpleheart and a smaller spindle with a checkerboard red and natural pattern on the whorl.  I put them both down and left the booth “only” $50 poorer and congratulated myself on my remarkable self-restraint.  More on that later.

In addition to Spunky Eclectic I was also looking forward to visiting The Woolen Rabbit shop from New Hampshire.  She had a lovely selection of sock yarns but what caught my attention were the big 8-ounce bags of natural undyed spinning fiber.  Let me tell you, this stuff is like buttah! There were two colors, white and black.  I hugged a bag of white fiber for five minutes before falling in love with the black.  I’ve never spun natural black fiber before and it beckoned to me.  The fiber is a blend of Romney wool and alpaca, and the 8-ounce bag was $15.  You know I grabbed one at that price.  Not only was it twice the amount of fiber than a standard braid or bag sold for spinning, it also contained luxurious alpaca.  I’m looking forward to getting started on it and I am already envisioning some sort of elegant winter hat.  Or a cowl.  It’s hard to say, since stitch details will be hard to see.  In the meantime I’m just going to put the bag under my head when I sleep and use it as a pillow. 😉

Shopping can only get you so far.  I was still insanely jealous of everyone who was spinning and knitting,  Only one vendor had knitting needles for sale but in a rare moment of retail self-control I decided I truly didn’t need to buy any more yarn. *ducks flying knitting needles* I wandered the grounds instead, which are beautiful and serene and should be visited by anyone able to make the trip to the Merrimac Valley.  The fields go on forever, and there are lots of animals to visit who live on the farm in comfortable retirement, all MSPCA rescues.  For the day of the festival Historic New England included free house tours (of the first floor only) with the price of admission to the grounds. I guess the house tour is normally a separate charge? Because we paid the full HNE $6 admission fee in order to enter the site.  Maybe they limited the tour due to the higher number of people normally on the site at any one time for the entire day.

There were a lot of spinning wheels for sale and for demonstration and I had a great time trying some of them.  Not a lot of LYS’s have wheels in stock so Fiber Revival is a great opportunity to try out spinning and weaving equipment. I had an hour to kill for the next tour and it was too early for lunch, so I had a Fresca (so refreshing!) and decided I needed another spin around the vendor booths. This brings me to Spunky Eclectic, Round 2.  I headed back to her booth lured by the call of the Greensleeves.  This time it really wasn’t that hard to talk myself into buying one.  The purpleheart was large and had a heavy whorl and shaft. I like smaller spindles because I try to spin as fine as possible for sock/sport/worsted weight yarn. So the checkerboard spindle it was.  This model is the Tom Foolery, and the checkerboard work is like a court jester’s costume.  The whorl is made out of pink ivory and pommel and the shaft is made out of bubinga.  The label didn’t list the weight but Amy held it and figured it was between 1-1.5 ounces. I bought a small 3-ounce bag of cotton in a gorgeous cinnamon color even though I don’t have a tahkli.  By then I didn’t want to go looking for one so I’ll put cotton-spinning on the back burner for now. But this little bag of cinnamon-colored cotton was too cute to pass up.

As I left with my new spindle–which brings my collection to ten by the way–I realized the irony of what I had just done.  Earlier that day I chided my sister for going out and buying more Yankee Candle collectibles because she already had a large collection of them. They were things that looked basically the same and did the exact same thing, and she was going out to buy more…Yeah.

This year there was an added event taking place.  Several teams of men in vintage 19th-century uniforms played a triple-header baseball game, 1861 rules (no mitts. Ouch!) Go Ipswich Brewers! Speaking of Ipswich Brewers, they had a mobile beer truck at the event. Because nothing goes better than knitting and drinking, am I right?! I don’t know how many people imbibed or how much they imbibed but I didn’t see any beer-related incidents that I know of.  Fiber enthusiasts are a responsible crowd.  I was tempted but man, one beer makes me incredibly sleepy and I was driving.  It’s really sad.

All in all Fiber Festival was fantastic. I had a great time, picked up some nice things, and met a lot of nice people, including a woman from Nova Scotia.  Let’s see…There was

Amy King, aka Spunky Eclectic. I don’t know what I’m more jealous of, the fact that she plays with yarn for a living or her awesome tatts!

cute, curious, smiling alpacas!

this little guy, my new friend for the day. His name is Appleton. Don’t you just love that? He was surrendered to the MSPCA while still being bottle-fed and is four-months old now.  He was the star of the show, led around on a long leash but was allowed to roam wherever he wanted.  He jumped up into this wheelbarrow and nuzzled my hand.

There were chickens…

…and chickens.

I ended the day with a stop at the Tendercrop Farm store down the road.  I wanted to make a veggie stir fry for dinner. I promised myself I’d keep it healthy until I saw the Biggest Bag Of Tortilla Chips in the world.  It was like they emptied two bags of those round tortilla chips and packaged them into one giant one.  Next to the giant bags on the shelf was this:

I think we all know what I had for dinner last night.

New Beginnings…

…because sometimes you get sick of wearing the same outfit over and over, even if it’s your favorite.

After six years of writing a knitting blog under the name Ruby Plaid, I’ve decided it’s time to change things a little bit and head out in a new(ish) direction.  The blog itself won’t really change. I’ll still write about the things I love the most: knitting, spinning, fiber-related crafts, and crafts of other kinds.  If you’re lucky you may even stumble onto a sickeningly adorable picture of my dog Spike if the mood strikes me.  I simply felt a name change was in order that reflects what my blog is really about, a name that’s more descriptive, less…gimmicky.  Ruby Plaid was born out of my excitement of attending Boston’s Knit Out in 2006.  I wanted a clever blog name so I could put the word out and maybe attract some readers.  I chose Ruby Plaid to sound like a person’s name. Ruby is one of those great, old-time sassy-gal names that you don’t seem to come across as often these days. And the plaid? To be honest, I just wanted to use the pink plaid digital illustration I drew, because I have to admit, I am attracted to plaid (not  that there’s anything wrong with that!).

I retired the plaid last year and I replaced the ruby and pink with a pleasing blue palette.  Sadly, local Knit Outs are no more, replaced by one gi-normous National Knit Out at the obscenely huge, agoraphobia-inducing Mall of America in Minnesota.  While I enjoy watching their mall cops on TLC take down roaming groups of shoplifting teenagers, or bust the same Chinese takeout joint repeatedly for breaking mall directives as much as the next person, I’m not a big fan of flying, crowds, or flying to someplace where I know there will be big crowds.  I’m not so interested in making a wacky entrance as I am in simply attracting and maintaining a dialogue with like-minded people.

I’m excited about the future of my blog.  spindyeknitlove has been my Twitter name for a year now and it’s my online identity. Spin. Dye. Knit. Love.  It’s kind of like Lather. Rinse. Repeat.  You can take it as a set of directions for those who are so inclined.  My previous  blog home has a lot of display and layout issues, depending on what type of computer I’m on. I hope I can import my entire blog from its previous home to WordPress.  If I can’t, I’ll just go forward from here.  Thanks for reading! 🙂