UFO sightings!

No, not flying objects (although Lake Huron did eat the frisbee on the weekend, whoops), but UnFinished Objects. Those projects that get started, often in a class, and then after a little or a lot of work on them, get put aside. Sometimes because you are wholly sick of them, sometimes because the next step is challenging and intimidating. Sometimes because you arsed it up and now it needs to sit in time out for an indeterminate amount of time to think about its wrongs. However it ends up there, it gets stuck in the UFO bin.


Literally an overflowing bin.

A few folks decided it was time to face the bin, and a few more of us jumped on that bandwagon. No competition, and no judgement if things go awry, just support for facing old projects that either need to be finished, or passed on to someone else (or the bin. Some projects never emerge from the time out corner.) A great many of my projects in the UFO bin ended up there  because I took six months off from knitting and needlework, and even still shouldn’t do /that/ much at any one given time. I haven’t included any of the ‘wanna do!’ projects in my UFO list, although my warp weighted loom project is rapidly becoming a UFO, which might encourage me to work on it again. So many projects, so little time and energy. The story of everyone’s life.

So of course, June’s UFO projects were mostly knitting and sewing. Because /that/ was a good idea. </sarcasm> There’s spinning in there too! Forgive the modern knitting, the bin is more than half modern projects, so UFO posts are not going to wholly period crafts.

Side comment.. I’ve just walked into something I routinely tsk at others about when talking A&S. There’s nothing wrong with modern projects, and even more so when it’s a modern project of a period skill. You are still shoving XP into that skill! My knitting skill is still improving even though it’s a wholly modern sock, and that skill increase will translate beautifully when I next do a period knitting piece. Sewing myself a skirt to wear to work absolutely helps my confidence in using the sewing machine for my next piece of garb. Not every project you do needs to be pentathlon suitable. (Excuse me while I repeat that a few more times just to remind myself.)

June had modest goals for UFO progress. Turn the heel of the sock in progress, and get all the pieces of an under-tunic hemmed by hand. I did not consider, when making June’s goals, the reality of a 4 day gaming convention in the middle of June. So the reality looks like a tunic hemmed and assembled and just needing final finishing, and a finished sock. (Sorry, no tunic photos. Think of a white linen t-tunic. There ya go. Looks like that.) And then my arms had comments to make about spending 4 solid days doing things that tick off my tendonitis. Second sock goes back into the bin (I am wholly and utterly sick of the pattern anyhow, it needs a time out) and finishing of that tunic is going to have to wait for July.


It’s a sock! It even fits!

UFO bonus round.. spinning! The Corriedale is almost done (and terrible. I will be glad to see the arse end of it. So nubby and fuzzy and grrargh), and the silk is eternal, because I never work on it. It is on tap as one of July’s UFO projects. I want to knit with that silk, dammit! (Yes, I have 1000 knitting projects in queue, but somehow this one is urgent. It’s really not, but forgive me my delusions about project queues).


Wool and silk.

So what’s your UFOs? Or are you a mythical crafts type who finishes what you start?

To ply, or not two ply

Aww c’mon, I couldn’t resist! (Yes, I should have resisted, I know, I know.)

Another post about spinning, you’d even think that’s what I’ve been doing the most of lately, and you’d be absolutely correct. I got the messy miserable nubbly fuzzy batch of corriedale spun up and looked at the lumpy thick mess and decided on the spot that it was never going to be good weaving yarn, so I should just suck it up and ply it.

I usually leave my spinning in singles, such that I can then make the choice when I go to use it as to if I want to ply it or not. Knitting and embroidery prefer plied fibre, I think naalbinding agrees. It’s got more strength against abrasion, more resilience against being untwisted, and some of that extra energy has been mitigated. (I also strongly dislike plying, its another argument for leaving it as singles.)

Plying, for those who have only ever considered it in relation to toilet paper.. is much the same notion as TP, really. Singles yarn uses a single strand of spun yarn. It is spun either S or Z (counter clockwise, or clockwise) and everything has the same twist. (Unless your piece makes a deliberate choice to use S spun for part and Z spun for another part, but that’s a different conversation.) Two ply yarn takes 2 singles (spun the same direction) and then spins them together in the other direction. (2 Z singles held together and twisted together S is my usual.). You can do 3 or more plies, skies the limit really, or your sanity.

So singles have extra energy? What extra energy? When you release the tension on freshly spun wool, it doubles back on itself, making little curlicues of yarn with all the extra twist in the yarn, or what most knitters would call extra energy. (And providing you with a sneak peak of what your 2 ply yarn is going to look like.) You can tame it to some degree by leaving the wool wound up in a spool, or lightly weighted and then either steamed and left to dry, or just wait it out. It relaxes, doesn’t curl up on itself anymore. Until you get it wet (or steamy) and ka-sproing! It wants to curl back up again, and depending on what that yarn is doing, it may or may not be able to skew things.


Ka-sproing! Singles!

Knitting is a series of interconnected loops, and it has a lot of freedom to wriggle within the stitches. Knitting with singles tends to skew fairly dramatically, which can be fine if that’s the look you want, but most people prefer nice evenly straight knit stitches, and therefore use plied yarn. Embroidery tends to be well pinned down, but that abrasion factor is huge going through cloth, and singles tend to unspin just enough to want to disintegrate. There’s also the reality that plying gives another chance for thread that is somewhat uneven to even itself out, where thin patches line up with thicker spots. Sometimes you lose, and thick spots line up with thick spots, but overall, it tends to even out fairly well. Odds are in your favour, and all of that.

Weaving, however, puts the threads into a rather rigid structure, and forces them to stay there. The singles don’t really get to /go/ anywhere, re-energized or not, and so a lot of weaving is done with single ply yarn. It changes little, due to the structure already in place. It might take longer to weave, but less time than a spinner having to do more than twice the work. (For 50 metres of 2 ply, a spinner would need to spin 100 m of yarn, and then twist that 50 metres a /third/ time.. so 150 m of work, for 50 m of yarn. Boooooo. For a 3 ply yarn, they’d have to spin 150 metres, and the ply 50m, so 200 m work for 50m of yarn. You get the idea.)


Corriedale messy 2 ply

So, because of all of the fuzzy, and the thick and thin, and generally enh of this bat of corriedale, what little I had of the dark brown got plied up into a 2 ply yarn. There’s not much of it, and it’s going to go sit in stash ’til I think of something that wants not terribly soft yarn, but I have faith that something will come up eventually.

Spin me right round

I bet more blog posts about spinning have quoted that song than anything else in the world, and I just acquired another check mark on a right of passage or something. But in any case! Spinning! That’s what I’ve been working on of late. (Not <coughahem> the flax so much, cause wow, that is not my happy place yet. Apparently you actually have to practice to get better, how irritating.)

I’ve been continuing my wander through the stash, some of which is a few years old, some of which is ‘I think I’ve moved this twice, and we’ve been at the ‘new house’ for 8 and a half years’ sort of elderly. The colourful mystery wool yarn I was working on in the status update at the beginning of the month.. done. The purple/charcoal alpaca that came next.. done. The dark brown Cormo that came after that.. done. Now I’ve got some spectacularly terrible Corriedale on the spindle, dark brown first, but I have an equal amount of white. All of those have averaged between 25  – 50 grams, so none of them are especially long projects to get them spun up. I’ve been leaving them as singles, to wait and decide what they want to be when they grow up.


Colourful mystery wool!

That being said, the differences in spinning so many different things in quick succession has been fascinating. Basically after you wash the fleece you need to take the wool and make it ready for spinning. There are two main kinds of fibre preparation. (Spinning from locks of wool is a third, that’s a really light processing to just open them up, but I’m not covering it here.. I’ve never actually tried it. Another thing for the list.)


Purple alpaca

I’m working in big generalities here, there’s exceptions everywhere.. but carded wool tends to have its fibres all willy nilly and puffy full of air, and combed wool has it’s fibres all lined up in perfectly neat rows. Everything in my stash was commercially prepared for modern spinners, which means my fibre tends to not be a perfect example of either, but lean strongly one way or another. That carded wool all willy nilly and puffy? It is supposed to be spun with a long draw and makes woolen yarn, which is all bouncy and full of air and vaguely fuzzy. Combed wool that’s all straight and lined up? It is spun with short draw and makes worsted yarn (which is not the same as worsted weight yarn, because language is cruel.) that’s all firm and solid and has awesome stitch definition and makes great warp.


Cormo in a sunbeam

My colourful mystery fleece, the lincoln and the alpaca.. all worsted. The Cormo and Corriedale.. woolen. Oh the bounce! Oh the fuzzies! Oh I am such a worsted spinner! Long draw and I have a frustrating relationship, but we’re working on it. I’m also trying to let go the notions of perfection in these woolen yarns, there’ll be fuzzy bits, and kinda extra bits and please stop overtwisting the snot out of it! (That’s not panning out for me so much.)


Messy Corriedale batt

Still, it is nice to move a few things from the overflowing fleece bins to the overflowing yarn bins. Hrm. Perhaps not quite the stash busting I was hoping for!

Project Status Report

It feels appropriate, on the first of the SCA year (Welcome to AS LIV!) to have a moment of ‘what’s where’ and ‘you’re doing what!?’.

I eternally have lots of stuff on the go. Little stuff, big stuff, A&S stuff, modern stuff. I learned (the hard way) that too much focus makes me crazy, and drives my unreasonably fussy joints nuts. It takes me longer to get things done, but it suits my SQUIRREL! brain, and changing what I’m working on day to day, or even hour to hour keeps the stress injuries down. Even if I failed on that hardcore in the fall, and am still paying for it. (It’s healing! Slowly! I’ve never been so grateful to do a few minutes of mending in my life. Gratitude for mending will not happen again, I enjoyed it while it was there.)

That being said, there are a few projects that are in the current main rotation, and so I figured I’d share what’s on the worktable and in the project bag.

The Big Stupid Project: Ahh, scope creep is at me again. This is going to be, someday a Hedeby bag. (The Norse bag with the wooden handles, for those wondering what I’m on about). The warp weighted loom has been borrowed! The spinning for the wool has been completed! Next up is a sample warp on the loom to have some sense of what I’m doing, spinning the flax for the strap, and learning about warp sizing. There are many many steps after those ones, but let’s focus on the immediate ones, lest I fall over in a heap from my own crazy.

Pink Practice Lace: This bit of lace had exactly two purposes. To remind my hands that we still knew how to make bobbin lace, and to use up some pink tatting cotton that has been in my stash forever (and is probably easily 60 yrs old. Much of my cotton stash is vintage, that’s a whole conversation in an of itself. It’s a good thing I like stripes.) The plan was to just go ’til I ran out of cotton, there’s not THAT much on a tiny ball of tatting cotton, right? Well apparently I have an artifact of endless cotton or something, because while my bobbins are getting low, they aren’t out yet, and I’m 16″ + worth of lace done. And there’s more on the ball. So while my picots are still a dog’s breakfast, there should be at least 20″ in this (maybe more if my artifact theory pans out) and it’s been promised to a friend whose eyes lit up at the pink.


Random spinning: Now that the easy spinning for the BSP is over, and I still can’t reliably knit or use a needle (5 whole minutes! A /day/. But progress!) I still need something portable and moderately not obtrusive to work on at lunch hour at work, or when I’m sitting watching court, or just to keep the hands busy. I have some silk I’ve been spinning forever (It has a Plan!), but I also have been digging out the oddballs of dyed fleece I’ve accumulated over the years. Awesome dye jobs, totally not SCA period, but colourful and fun, generally not much more than 50g each. What I am going to do with not much colourful yarn? Excellent question. It’ll age in stash ’til needed or inspiration strikes.

Garb: I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it a few thousand more times. Garb is not my A&S. I can do it, sometimes its even not terrible when I’m done, but I drag my feet and grumble every moment of it. I do, however, like having new clothes for the weekend wardrobe. That last bit usually outweighs the bit that comes before it. The fact that I can’t hand sew more than mending at the moment is not helping, as I rather enjoy hand sewing, but the machine and I mostly tolerate each other. (The serger and I are not currently on speaking terms. There was an Incident involving polar fleece, and we both felt it better for everyone involved if the serger just went and lived in my husband’s workspace. It’s for the best.) There’s a few pieces I want for the coming camp season (wool coat, underdresses, chemises, new kirtle etc), and while the coat is mostly done. (see the aforementioned heel dragging), the rest are at the ‘gosh, I should probably do that, but oh look, a loom!’ stage.

That hits the highlights of what I’m working on.. there’s always more little projects here and there, and I reserve the right to Oooh Shiney! off to a new one at any moment. What are you doing at the start of AS LIV?

The Big Silly Project

This project is a study in scope creep.

It started with ‘hey, I can’t knit atm, and I picked up some fleece a couple years ago that is early period pretty close.. I should spin it up’. Dig out spindle (A modern one that I’m fond of, nice mid weight, conveniently empty), dig up the bag of lincoln longwool, start spinning. I spin thin naturally, and this was all about just ‘hey, let’s do some spinning’.


As I’m spinning, I start thinking of what I might do with my freshly spun yarn. It’s not the softest in the world, which is fine, I don’t begrudge it that. So not really next to skin sort of projects. I only have about 120g, so there’s not a whole lot of it either, so this is not about to become outer garments either. I’ve always wanted to make myself one of those Hedeby bags with the wooden handles, that seems reasonable for this yarn. Alright, project decided. Spin, spin, spin.


Brain then starts chewing on the weaving part as I’m spinning, and that internal conversation sounds something like ‘well if I’m weaving an early period bag.. then I really should weave it on a warp weighted loom.’ Because the 4 looms that live in this house aren’t sufficient, I clearly need to acquire another and learn a whole new technique of weaving. Clearly. Start reading up on the making of warp weighted looms, and how to weave on them. Arrange to borrow one, acquire books (and articles and conversation with other artisans) to help the process. Spin, spin, spin.

More thoughts as I continue to spin.. the mottled grey of this fleece is just gorgeous, it’d be a crime to dye it and not just embrace the sheepy colours going on here. Thank you brain, for saving me one step worth of scope creep. Spin, spin, spin.

Brain continues to chew on the project, and there’s a thought that the strap for this bag really shouldn’t be wool, it should be linen. Wool stretches far too much, it’ll start at my hip and end at my ankles by the end of the day. Alright. Tablet weave up some linen for the strap. That’s easy enough. Spin, spin, spin.


But wait! Says my traitorous brain.. you’ve long wanted to give flax spinning another try. It’s been a good 15 or more years, and there’s flax just hanging out in the stash. Remember this was going to be a stash busting exercise? You should spin the linen for the strap. You’re spinning everything else, after all. Gee brain, that sounds like a fine idea. Look up some suggestions for flax spinning, chat with experts in flax spinning, find the flax in the stash and another free spindle. Spin, spin, spin.

And so, that’s the state of the Big Silly Project (BSP). The dye thoughts for the linen strap are just starting to creep in, and the documentation for this is going to be a novel. I’ll keep you informed. For now? Spin, spin, spin.