Thursday, April 26, 2012

Spinning My Wheels

The phrase spinning my wheels has taken on a whole new meaning for me.  First, there's the Lou√ęt S10 I still have on loan.

A little clunky, but it works.

And then there's baby Victoria, the adorable portable wheel I bought.

Smooth and sweet.  Like a good cuppa java.  Folds up neatly in its own little sleeping bag.  So light, I can pick it up with one hand!  Never needs oiling!

I finally understand why people have more than one wheel.  The travel wheel has smaller bobbins.  If I'm going to ply on the Victoria, I can't fill the bobbins all the way.  Since I have both wheels at the moment, I am filling up those little bobbins to almost overflowing, then plying on the Big Wheel with the enormous bobbins.  (Why does that sound like slang for something else?)

My friends told me that's what they did, but I didn't really "get it" until I was in the same bobbin boat.

I also didn't believe I would ever be able to spin as fine a thread as my talented friends, but miracle of miracles, I'm getting there.  And all it took was not quitting.  Funny how lots of things in life are like that.  I've gone from this (not too bad, but not what I wanted):

Funky Chunky
To this:

Actual sport weight!
Update:  I have now knitted the yellow into a scarf.  See what it looks like and get the free pattern here:  It's Not TV, It's Cable.

I am spinning something now that I think will be fingering weight once it's plied!  I am excited.  So for all you newbie spinners out there: never surrender!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Hinterland Throw Redux

Here's the status of Hinterland Throws numbers 7 and 8--or are they 8 and 9?  I forget how many I've done so far.  The pink still needs blocking, the lemon is close to done, but here are early pics with attendant Yarn-in-Waiting.

Day 2

Day 3

Other than the color, what makes these pictures different from the Hinterland-Throw-in-progress pictured in my earlier post, "Is It Maryvale-Worthy," on April 10th?  If you answer correctly, you win!  The prize: the knowledge that you are very observant.  (Sorry, I don't know how to run a real contest on a blog.)

The answer is: the balls of yarn look different because I BOUGHT A BALL WINDER!

Yes, after crocheting for ninety-umpteen years, overcoming my Fear Of Dropped Stitches (FODS syndrome) and learning to knit, even after graduating from The Cheap Stuff to become a yarn snob in 2007, it still took me five years to indulge in a ball winder.

"I don't need no stinkin' ball winder," I would say to myself with an arrogant snort.  "I don't need no swift.  I just put the dang skein over the back of a chair the way my great-great-grand-granny probably did back in Lithuania, after she no doubt herded sheep, sheared them, washed the fleece, combed and carded and spun and plied the yarn, and washed and wound it, and then stuck it over the back of a chair like the salt of the earth she clearly was, because her lazy, good-for-nothing husband was off fleeing the Cossacks or something and couldn't hold the skein for her, and she wound it by hand into a PERFECTLY USABLE ball of yarn, gosh-dang-it."  If it was good enough for great-great-grand-granny....

Well, last October at the first annual Fiber in the 'Boro festival in lovely Murfreesboro, Tennessee, since it was my birthday and my mom gave me some birthday money, I bought myself a swift.

Handcrafted in America, from Knitting Notions

It's cherry wood, easy to take apart and slide into its little bag and store in the closet.  Perfect!  I like that it's a table-top version that needs no clamping to a table, as I have somehow ended up with highly unclampable furniture with thick, wooden edges that I don't want getting all scarred up.

Still, I resisted the ball winder.  I didn't want to spend more money.  I was running out of storage.  (Right, like a ball winder takes up so much room!  Okay, I never said this was logical.)

But as I've gotten more into spinning, and I was at yet another fiber festival, I did buy a nostepinne.  It's really pretty, but it takes me forever to wind anything on a nostepinne.  I don't think even great-great-grand-granny would have bothered with one.  She'd just do it by hand, by golly.  I'm sure some people are very talented with the nostepinne, but I don't have the patience.   (But I do like saying, "nostepinne.")  Anyway, that did it.  The ultimate motivation.  Or the last straw, however you want to look at it.

So now that I have the ball winder and the swift, which make fiber life so much easier, I can't believe I waited this long.  Now if I just had a table where I could keep them set up all the time, instead of on my dining area table, which rarely exudes a "dining" atmosphere, but more of a workshop/office vibe.  Maybe someday.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Ribble

Bear-Bear says, "Where's the picnic?"
Yes, it's the amazing RIBBLE!  Doesn't that sound like something that would slice and dice and be on sale for $17.95 on late-night television, and if you act now, they'll throw in an amazing Dribble absolutely free?

Well, it isn't.  It's a blanket.  It cuddles, it warms, it toasts your toes.  Yesterday, I put the Ribble Blanket pattern up for sale (for cheap!...  or rather, for a low, low price...) in my Etsy store.  I sold two copies of the PDF right away!  Yippee! My first sales on Etsy!  Click here to get there: The Ribble pattern.

The yarn for the blanket pictured was donated by (or through, I'm not sure which) Bliss Yarns in Brentwood, TN, and after I made it, I donated it to Alive Hospice through Threads of Kindness.  It's the great circle of the yarns of the earth.  Paying it forward.  Did I mention, yarn in, yarn out?  YIYO!

It's a really easy pattern, by the way; if you can knit and purl, you can make it.

I also have a couple more blankets sitting primly on my couch, waiting for the next opportunity to be donated.

First comes Preemie with a Twist.  The free pattern is now available (click here) on my blog.  Anyway, the lavender one is made from Plymouth Encore.  One skein is all it takes.

I actually bought this yarn--yes, it happens!  A lot!--or else my mom bought it; I think I was trying to buy her a gift and she was probably saying, "No, no, I'll pay, why should you pay?" and I was probably saying, "But Mom, I want to give you a present," and she was saying, "That's silly.  I have the money right here," and I was probably holding out money already too, and so on until the poor shop clerk was probably ready to spit, but was masking her inner eye-rolling with incredible diplomacy.

Anyway, Mom used some and tossed the rest to me, which came in handy when I wanted to make a sample of the Preemie with a Twist out of a solid color.

I had made a couple out of a variegated cotton, which happened to come out in a really cool diamond design, and some people seemed to think that any variegated would do that and, alas, I doubt it, but it's worth a try!  Go for it!  Let me know what happens!

Last but not least, my version of the Moderne Baby Blanket brought to us by Mason-Dixon Knitting.  Again, donated yarn, Mission Falls 1824 Wool.  Let us pause for a moment in silent sorrow that Mission Falls is no longer in business.  (Sigh.)

For the most part, I just grabbed a skein and knitted a section until I ran out of that color.  On the first section, after about ten rows, I thought, I am doing nothing but garter stitch.  For an entire blanket.  I am going to go insane.  But then I kinda got into the rhythm.  It's a fun pattern and I want to make another.  And I have more Mission Falls in my stash!  Naturally.  Not that I have to use Mission Falls, of course, but it came out so soft and cozy and it will show off the beautiful colors I have in my stash so well, and I. . . 
Wait, I have at least seven projects going right now.  I've lost count.  And I have a Hinterland Throw to finish by June.  Plus, the Mission Falls is in a bin under a couple of other bins and bags full of yarn.  So I guess I won't cast on a new project today.

Maybe tomorrow.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Hooking in a Happy Hinterland

Instead of "Walking in a Winter Wonderland," get it?  Of course you did.

So here's what I did last night after I got the email that said Maryvale would have five to six grads this year:

This is actually a lemony yellow that is very pretty; the pic doesn't do it justice.

Anyway, I'm happy for the graduates, and at the same time, six blankets?!  By June?  Well, it's my own fault for not starting these in January the way I usually do.

"Hinterland Throw" and Threads of Kindness to the rescue.  I've got the pattern, I've got the yarn, I've got the enthusiasm.  The pink one is done; it just needs blocking.

A note or two on the King Tut cotton.  It's a nice, smooth cotton, a bit splitty, but I've gotten used to its splitty wiles.  Also, while some skeins are fine, others have a lot of slubs.  This requires cutting them out and weaving in more ends, not my favorite pastime, especially with cotton, as the ends don't stay put as well as woolly ones do.

I'm crocheting along like wildfire, and Suddenly, Slub.  I curse.  I cut.  I try not to take it as a personal affront, as in, "Why doesn't the yarn manufacturer love me anymore?  We were so close!"

But never mind, we have a common goal: yarn in, yarn out until the blankets are done.  I'm thinking of all the yarn in my stash and imagining the perfect pattern for another Maryvale-worthy blanket.  Do I have time to design one?  I don't think so.  But you never know....

© 2012 Reyna Thera Lorele

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Is It Maryvale-Worthy?

Somewhere between, "To be or not to be," and, "Are we there yet?" lies the burning philosophical question we have been asking ourselves every year about this time:  Is it Maryvale-worthy?

Back when my friends Susan, Sonja and I were donating blankets to Binky Patrol in Santa Monica, California, someone came up with Maryvale as a place where our blankets might be welcome.

What is Maryvale?  It started as an orphanage in Los Angeles in 1856, and has grown into a facility offering many programs, including a residential treatment program for neglected and abused girls.
It is now located in Rosemead, California.  (Check out for more info.)

We didn't think we had enough blankets for all the girls in residence, so we thought, why not give a special blanket to each girl who graduates?  Each blanket would have to be large enough for a teenager, and it would need to be above-average in beauty in order to honor this important and hard-won graduation.  In other words, the blankets would have to be Maryvale-worthy.  Something crib-sized with pink bunnies, however cute, simply will not do the trick.

The number of graduates varies each year.  We like to have a few blankets in reserve, as we can never predict how many we will need.  One year there were seven graduates!  Yikes!  I admit, I was a little frantic.  We enlisted help--Joan at Monarch Knitting & Quilts in Pacific Grove made a lovely one.  We got all seven blankets done in time.

I usually start making mine in January, but I got a late start this year, in part because I knew Susan was way ahead of the game with one already finished and another almost complete.

Luckily, this past year, I found a cool pattern in the May 2011 issue of Crochet! magazine, called The Hinterland Throw, designed by Shannon Mullett-Bowlsby.  It is the perfect throw for a California girl when made out of cotton, and I can whip out one of these babies in a week or so.  I've already made several for hospice (see the pics on Ravelry).  There are quite a few errata in the originally published pattern, so if you decide to make one, be sure to get the corrections from the Crochet! website.

So here's how the never-ending thread was spun this time:  Haus of Yarn gave a ton of King Tut cotton to my pal Christina for Threads of Kindness.  Christina shares the donated yarn with a bunch of us so we can make preemie blankets, hats, and lap blankets for Alive Hospice.  She also gave me a pile of King Tut cotton specifically so I could make the charity blankets for the Maryvale girls.  Yay, Christina!  Yay, Haus of Yarn!  Behold the newly arrived yarn in all its glory:

Here's what the throw looks like in its beginning stages, surrounded by happy balls of yarn waiting eagerly to be crocheted (yes, I anthropomorphize my yarn.  Doesn't everyone?):

A couple of days ago, I finished the throw.  It just needs blocking.  I will post pics when it's done.  Soon we will know how many blankets Maryvale needs this year.  My crochet hook stands at the ready (I anthropomorphize my hooks, too.  I think I hear it saying, "Aye, aye, Captainhook.")

© 2012 Reyna Thera Lorele

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Never-ending Thread

I am a yarn magnet.  (Not a yarn magnate, alas.)  It's true that I buy a lot of yarn, and fiber as well, now that I am learning to spin.  I also receive a lot of yarn and fiber for free, probably since my friends know I love to knit and crochet for charity.  In fact, now I have some yarn I've spun from free fiber that I received because a couple of people knew I had some other yarn I had spun from some other free fiber that I was trying to match so I would have enough to make a lap blanket for Alive Hospice.  Here's how the yarn looked as I wound it into a skein from my borrowed spinning wheel.  (Yes, I even have the use of a free wheel!)

Skein in the making
Finished skein

Soon I will begin knitting this.  I just have a couple of other charity blankets to finish first.  And then there's that scarf I'm making for myself.  (Occasionally I do make things for myself.)  And then there's that sweater, which might even fit me when I'm done.  And then there's that... never-ending thread.

© 2012 Reyna Thera Lorele