Innovations I’ve Never Imagined

I get to try a lot of cool things in the fiber arts world. And that there, my friends, might be the understatement of the century.

In any case, today I wanted to share a little very early prototype that I’ve been playing with the last month or so. From the creative and innovative brilliance over at Akerworks, this device is currently called a ‘spindle crane.’


You might be thinking, “Um, what?”

on-kateWell, let me tell you! This simple little pulley acts like a little extension — or crane — off the AkerKate and it lets you to spindle spin from different positions or in smaller spaces.

Why would this be useful, you ask? Well, personally I have a very limited range of motion in my left hip — my hip doesn’t actually bend to a 90° angle let alone allow me to lean forward in order to, for example, spindle spin while sitting on my couch. If I wanted to spindle spin in our living room I’ve always had to get up and move a stool or kitchen chair into the living room. Now with the spindle crane…

in-actionI just set it up on the table next to the couch where I’m sitting and I can spin from a comfortable position — no special chair necessary! I know the idea was originally to put the crane on a coffee table in front of you, but it works great from the side — no worries, whatsoever and absolutely great news for me.

As I said, this item is in the very, very early prototype stage. In the Akerworks Ravelry Group, the Akerworks folks have said that in due course they’ll get it into a full & proper test phase. They’re working on it and I for one am more than happy to give them the time and space to work their magic on this genius design. From their Flat-Pack Bobbins to their Flat Pack LazyKate to their fantastic Modular Adjustable Spindles to the adorable little Flyer Threaders, just when I think the Akerworks team has outdone themselves, they wow me again. The spindle crane is another in a long line of innovations that I never imagined, but now that I’ve tried it I’m glad I don’t have to imagine life without it.

The Wool Wins

This week the weather has been cooperative and so my week has been largely about trying to get my FO photos taken in between all the stuff of life. And then in the free moments I’ve had when I probably should have been writing, I’ve been playing with yarn and fiber. Sometimes I’m just hopeless that way. Sometimes the wool wins.

The big WIP I’ve got going, my serious, serious addiction knit is my handspun Featherweight Cardigan. I’ve been talking about it a lot. And I’m going to be straight with you, you’re going to hear a lot about it until it’s done. It’s just the way it is because I’m so in love with the project and I can’t put it down. Last night after fussing a little about which bind-off to use on the body — I went with Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-off –I finished  it off  and I got the sleeves going. Once again I’m going the 2-at-a-time route for the sleeves so the length and decreases all match.

img_4919And finally a photo in natural light! Aren’t the colors awesome?!

Since I’m working the sleeves 2-at-a-time with 2 sets of needles (my preferred method), I’m excited that I’m able to use my Knitter’s Pride Royale and Karbonz tips. I’ve been using the Royales — my new loves — on the rest of the sweater and really like knitting with them. The trick for me with 2-at-a-time sleeves with 2 set of needles is that I like to get tips that are somewhat similar to keep things uniform throughout the knit. Since the Royale and Karbonz tips are very similar, if not identical, they are the perfect pair to get the job done.

Currently I have a 16″ cord on one side and a 32″ on the other because I couldn’t locate a free 24″ — generally I like to have just one cord size different on the “front needle” and “back needle”. The size difference helps me to easily tell the sides apart which is extremely handy, but keeping them somewhat close in length just feels more comfortable to me. I’ll make due for now, but I just placed an order for a 24″ cord from Dyeabolical, who now stocks a number of needles and notions including the 24″ color-coded cord from Knitter’s Pride I need. When it arrives, I’ll switch one of one of the current ones out. I’m not sure which I’ll prefer, I tend to go with short as it’s less ‘stuff’ to handle, but the 16″ is pretty short. By the time the 24″ arrives, I’m sure I’ll have developed a preference.

In any case, the rest of my fibery exploits have been of the spinning variety. I like to spin daily just to keep spinning, but I really do credit the flipping back and forth between knitting and spinning with keeping my hands, arms, neck, and back from having too much discomfort. That said, I’ve currently got three (yikes!) spinning projects on the go.

On the wheel, I’m working on Three Waters Farm Black Pansies.

img_4915It’s a merino/tussah silk blend and I’m spinning it somewhat fine from approximately 1gram nests which I’ll then chain ply. This is kind of an ahhhhhhh spin. It’s 100% in my comfort zone and it’s just a pleasure to sit back and spin it. Plus, I adore that super vibrant yellow.

I’m also working on a spindle project with my 0.85oz Golding ring spindles.

img_4916I haven’t been very nose to the grindstone with this spin, but somewhere in the last couple of weeks I wound my way into spindle #2 of this spin. These are rolags from Classy Squid Fiber Co. that I picked up at the end of last year as part of her Iceland Perspectives series. This colorway is called “Reykjavik”, a place I’ve always wanted to go. You know what they say, if you can’t go to a certain place, you can spin the colorway inspired by said place. OK, I’m guessing no one says that except me. In any case, I’m loving the textures and colors here. I have a total of 6oz of these rolags and I haven’t yet decided if I’ll spindle spin them all or spin some on the wheel. And I have zero clue how I want to ply them. This spin, like many a trip I’ve taken, I’m kind of leaving wide open to possibilities.

And finally, as I’ve been playing with a very, very new prototype from Akerworks (I’ll share details in time), I was curious to try said prototype with my Akerworks mini-spindles. Since I didn’t have a project on them at the moment, it seemed only right that I start a new one.

img_4917In the interest of full disclosure, the kids and I have been reading through The Hunger Games Trilogy and I’ve kind of got Katniss Everdeen on the brain. So now — because it’s just the brand of nerd that I am — I’m spinning her tale with these puni style rolags from Naturally Knitty named “Miss Everdeen.” I think I got the last 2oz of “Miss Everdeen,” the most lovely, earthy blues, green, and browns with just a hint of a spark with a touch of true red. I intend to ply it with 2oz of “Mockingjay” (still available in the shop) which is similar, but with fewer earth tones and more of an overall grey tone with the blues and greens. It’s just such a fun project.

Somewhere around there’s a stripey sock I have around in case I find myself with some windshield time that doesn’t lend itself well to sleeves or spinning. As I’ve either been the driver or not in the car, I haven’t really done much with it the last week. I’ll save that for another day.

As you can see, a lot’s been getting done behind the scenes here even if my posts have been a bit sporadic lately. So the wonderful, wonderful truth is that the fact that I’m hopeless and lose myself in my projects isn’t all bad at all. No, when the wool wins the results are generally awfully pretty. I think that’s a pretty decent trade-off.

Five Days, Five Spins: Day 3

img_3724‘Satisfied with Summer’ was the July Top of the Month Club from Three Waters Farm. This 40/40/20 Merino/Superwash Merino/Tussah Silk braid was a definite WOW when I opened the package. The colors were so vivid and stretched from so light to so dark that it kind of took my breath away. I had a particular adventure in mind for this fiber and it involved these…

img_4004My four Akerworks Mini Spindles. Since I started this fiber during the Tour de Fleece, I thought this would be a grand fiber to use as my ‘take everywhere’ project. The Mini Spindles are perfect for this as they are very small and travel extremely well.

I split the fiber in thirds and made some of the sloppiest rolags you could imagine out of the first third.

img_3807And I grabbed these “rolags” and  started spinning.

img_3904And I kept spinning.

img_4037And I spun some more, so much more fluidly than ever before with spindles.

I did indeed take my spindles with me everywhere, including my rather dark basement on those hot & humid days of late July & early August.

img_4185And eventually I finished that first third of the braid.

It was at this point that I had a decision to make. Do I keep spindle spinning the remainder of the braid or do I finish the final two-thirds with my wheel?

img_4192I went with the wheel.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was kind of a big deal for me. This was the first time I really looked at both my wheel & spindles as equals, as tools that do the exact same thing. I wasn’t thinking about how clumsy I am with the spindles or how uneven my spinning on them might be and how much more fluent I am with the wheel. I didn’t ‘give up’ on my spindles to finish with my wheel. I just made the choice to spin the last two thirds with my wheel only because my wheel was free and because I was excited to finish up and see my new yarn.

So I wrapped up the singles spinning…

img_4257The spindles were a bit more blended thanks to my “rolags” (in quotation marks as they were more of an attempt at rolags than the real thing) and the two bobbins, as is my habit lately, I divided differently so for the most part the color changes wouldn’t line up.

I didn’t snap any plying photos. I used my Lendrum Kate for the bobbins, but set up my AkerKate to handle the spindle. And because the spindles were so full, I had to pop off the whorls to get them to work in the set-up. When I popped the whorl off of spindle #2, this is what I found…

Just perhaps my favorite photo of my fiber arts exploits ever.

It’s interesting to note that where I thought for sure my wheel spinning would be more consistent than my spindles, the exact opposite was true. On a whole, my spindle spun singles were actually more consistent! I think this is largely because, being more of a novice with spindles, I take more time with them. When you’re more focused, of course, you are more consistent and pay more attention to details.

The final skein, a traditional 3-ply, came out to be roughly 330yards of sport weight yarn.

SatwithSummerI didn’t really have a plan in mind for this beyond making it a 3-ply so I am just plain smitten with the results.

satwithsummer2It’s shiny & has loads of drape. I can’t help but imagine it as some simple little shawl like Echolocation or Leticia. Whatever it becomes, it’ll be the cherry on the sundae of this yarn. I’ve already gained so much from spinning this skein.

satwithsummer3The realization that I can use my spindles and wheel as equals is not only a huge confidence builder as I feel stronger as a spindle spinner (and spinner in general), but it’s a boon for productivity, too. Now when I start a spindle project it’s not a project I can get “stuck” spinning for months on a spindle — that’s what used to happen to me. No, now I can work an entire braid, a portion of a braid, or any combination I can dream up on spindles and my wheel. I’m not anchored to one method or another. Maybe this is something other spinners feel right away, maybe not. For this lady, though, it certainly is a big deal and it absolutely leaves me satisfied with the lessons of this braid, satisfied with the lessons of this summer.

Squeezing It All In

Planning and goals and deadlines.

That has been my week this week. If things go according to plan, this will be our last full week at home before we start our school year with the kids so I’m trying to squeeze in everything. Cleaning, gardening, spinning, knitting — it is ALL on the list. As I work on mentally shifting out of the relaxed summer schedule to our more regimented school one, I have lists upon lists of things I want to wrap up and goals I’m trying to hit before my days become math & history lessons, reading & writing 5 paragraph essays.

I’ve made some very good progress. We got our last shipment of school books and I managed to get them all organized so we are all set to begin the new year. My landscaping project is slowly, but surely being mulched with grass clippings from our wonderful neighbors and the weeding continues to be minimal and all the plants are looking great. I finally got around to washing our picture window so I’m not looking through a heavy coat of dirt while I spin. The floors got some deep cleaning and I’ve been keeping up (better than usual) with the laundry. In short, the housework — inside and out — is in a good place.

In my craft, I finished my July installment of the Summer Sock Club from Feel Good Yarn Co.

img_4025This is just a quick snapshot of the first sock, but the pair is done and awaiting some FO photos. Look for a complete wrap-up next week.

From the socks, I shifted my knitting to a special test knit.

img_4063I can’t show you the design just yet, but I can say it’s in Bijou Basin Ranch’s Lhasa Wilderness. It’s my first time using this yarn and it is seriously incredible. Not only is the yarn absolutely scrumptious, the shade of blue is perfection in my book. It’s such a treat this project is just flying off my needles. I can’t wait to show you more!

On the spinning front, you saw this project yesterday, but I thought I’d take an updated picture.

img_4065You can see my less than graceful first attempt at creating rolags. They are HUGE, but they’re spinning fine. I’m at the point where I’m debating a switch to a fresh spindle or shaft as it’s getting pretty heavy. I know I could remove the BBs from the spindle to lighten it, but as I have extra spindles and shafts I’d much rather go that route. I’m going to hang in there a bit longer though, as I’d really like to try to fit this rolag on there. We’re see how she spins.

When it does get too cumbersome, I have my lovely bouquet of Akerworks Mini Spindles to fall back on…

img_4004Have I shared this photo here? It was one I took for Instagram, but I just love it. Honestly, it reminds me of a pretty little bouquet and I have dreams of people giving their spinning friends & loved ones a bouquet like this for birthdays and holidays in lieu of flowers.

But I digress.

I also finished spinning my August Top of the Month Club fiber from Three Waters Farm.

img_4064This is Red Hot & Blue — it’s on Polwarth/Silk 85/15 and I spun it with the intention of having some wonderful barberpoling. I had so much fun with my worsted barberpoling skeins during the Tour de Fleece I decided to spin this one up the same way. It’s a little less organized as I quite literally was spinning it within an hour of receiving it and didn’t overthink the prep. It’s been one of my favorite Three Waters Farm spins to date, so I can’t wait to see it plied.

While that spin rested, I start in on Dyeabolical‘s 66 Sunset on Fawn Shetland.

img_4059It’s one of the shop’s new colorways this summer and I just love the earthy tones in this one. I’ve not gotten as far as I was hoping on this one because I really dove into knitting at the start of this week, but I’m enjoying every moment I steal for it.

And there you have it — my attempts to squeeze about a month’s worth of work into a single week. Even though I went into the week knowing my goals were unreasonable, the planning and goals and deadlines have carried me through. I have to say that I cannot complain with returns.

While I’m Away…

If you’re a regular reader, you may have been following my growing infatuation with spindle spinning. It started in earnest this spring and has been steadily growing. In fact, I’ve even started grabbing a spindle and some fiber either along with or instead of my travel knitting these days. It’s something I truly never envisioned I would do, but here I am, travel spindle spinning.

One challenge I’ve been facing, however, is how to keep my spindles safe when I’m on the go. Having invested in some higher quality spindles, I’ve been worried I might accidentally break one while in transit. They are small and although pretty tough, they aren’t invincible and I found myself stressing about the possibility of breaking or injuring one. This worry, of course, led to me picking and choosing when I’d bring my spindling along with me. So I started searching for spindle cases or bags or anything that might be a little tougher than the regular knitting project bags I’d been using. And then I caught a photo from a fellow spinner on Instagram, @keninmaine, who found a small container designed to keep food fresh that he showed holding his spindle & fiber. Perfect, I thought!

His, I believe, was sized for cereal or spaghetti, but I thought I could find something a little smaller so it would more easily tuck away in my bag for everyday tagalong purposes. While perusing the kitchen wares at a local store I notice the travel cups. The first day I did not buy because nothing was on sale and I was not about to spend $30 for this item. I resolved to keep my eyes peeled. The next time I found myself in the kitchen wares department, I found a hot/cold travel bottle on sale for $10 and I thought I’d give it a try.

img_4054Perfect, indeed!

It’s got a wide mouth, so getting the spindle & fiber in and out is no big deal, it’s more or less watertight, and it’s slim enough that it easily fits in my bag — the three main criteria I had. The photo shows one of my Akerworks Mini Spindles and my current spindle project, but this container actually just fits my longest spindles (the Bosworths), too. It’s definitely not as nice as the one I saw on Instagram, but for $10 it does everything I need it to do. Perfect, indeed.

So this little bottle can travel with me where ever, whenever now and I never worry about my spindles’ well-being. In fact, we took a last minute trip up to my parents’ house at the end of last week to celebrate my dad’s birthday and my little tagalong tagged along.

It went from where I’d left it at the end of the Tour de Fleece…

img_3934To this…

img_4031To this…

img_4037And all the moments in between, my spindle was in its $10 ‘protective case’ perfectly, wonderfully safe.

The best part of this little development is that it is totally enabling my desire to spindle spin daily. I appreciate that my little spindle spins so nicely, that my Three Waters Farm Top of the Month from August is so beautiful, and that while I’m away from home it all can be safe & sound as it comes along with me on all my adventures. I’ve found that there is something beautifully meditative and relaxing about spindle spinning. I adore that it is a practice in patience, in slowing down, in simplicity.  I’ve become a true believer that it’s a worth-while daily practice on a number of levels. How exquisite that making it a daily practice just got easier!


Tour de Fleece 2016 Week 1 Recap

My first week of the Tour de Fleece has been not quite as dramatic with wooly exploits as other years. The stars finally aligned so that a friend and I were able to schedule some long-awaited time to make an effort to tidy up my yard & gardens, so many hours were spent with a shovel in hand. Some was spent with my friend’s most wonderful company & guidance and some working furiously on my own to carry out the plans we’d laid. I’ll share more on this experience later, but I am happy to report that I completed the last big push for the job yesterday — whew-hoo — and I’m so incredibly happy with the results.

As you might suspect, the hours spent in the garden has been time not spent with my wheel and has been a workout for my hands and back that hasn’t necessarily been spurring me forward in the Tour de Fleece. But I’ve spun daily and made steady progress and really that was the main goal this year.

I finished up the 4oz of the luxuriously lovely blue called During the Day.

img_3804I photographed it here with my bobbin of Early Blooming  with which I plan to ply it.

I also managed to spin up 4oz of the lustrous ‘Laundry Pile’.

img_3805I spun these singles a bit thicker and I’m hoping to have about a worsted weight 2ply with lots of barberpoles in it.

Currently on the wheel I’m working on the Three Waters Farm official Tour de Fleece 2016 colorway, Summer Jubilee in the Superwash Merino/Nylon blend.

img_3803I’m a bit over halfway through the braid and I’m hoping to maybe finish up the singles today. I’m aiming to create a yarn that’ll be appropriate for socks. My mind’s eye sees fun, bright, stripey socks. To me, perhaps the perfect

Also in progress, I have one Classy Squid Fiber Co spindle spin in the works.

img_3806This is my very let-your-hair-down spin — something I’m learning to embrace with batts and rolags from Classy Squid Fiber Co. I’ve really come to love just letting the texture have their way. This is my first experience spinning texture on spindles and it’s been such a treat. I have another ounce of rolags to spin which I’ll do on spindles and then a coordinating 2oz batt that I plan to spin on my wheel and then ply the two together.

And last, but definitely not least, I’ve got the teeniest, tiniest start on a new project…

img_3807This is Three Waters Farm ‘Satisfied with Summer’ just started on my new Akerworks mini spindle. I’ve been spinning just a staple length or so per day, so the progress is very slow but I adore how quick this little .41oz spindle flies and the ultra lightweight yarn it loves to create.

And that’s it! That’s my week 1 for the Tour de Fleece! I hope you’ve had a great week, too, if you’re spinning!