A Gift…

A gift for me and now for you…

An etsy seller, Beth Stone Studio,  linked me to her blog this evening, and through reading her recent, inspiring post, I was led to another blog post – one which left me wistful with memories and awe-filled from exposure to an incredible writing talent. If you have ever been a mother, find a quiet moment to read A Word for the Storms. When you go to view A Word for the Storms, if you have a connection that makes dealing with background music problematical, you will find a pause button right at the top of the page underneath the header. Clicking that will stop the music feed for you. I found it easier to focus on the lyricism of the words with the music silenced.

Dare I try to make a 1000 Gifts list? Some years ago, I had a small daily planner that I used to record one joy for each day. It was a good exercise for me, and I should have continued it. I honestly don’t know where it is right now. I purposely lose it, then I stumble upon it unexpectedly, sit and read it and smile, and purposely lose it again for months or years… So maybe I’ll try this and see what happens. 🙂

#0001 – God loves me – even when I don’t love myself or feel like anyone else does, for that matter!

#0002 – After working up my planting beds tonight with the only tool I could find – a garden rake with a broken handle – while feeding the mosquitoes, I found my first strawberry of the season, fat, juicy, and sweet, and I forgot instantly how much my wimpy muscles were aching!

#0003 – Fleecy surprises… When my Gotland fleece arrived, I thought it was tricolor with shades of brown and gray and a bit of white. When I pulled it from the muddy wash water, shining and delectably silky, it was the most stunning selection of grays and white that I’ve ever seen. It’s the most astonishing and wonderful transformation of raw fleece I’ve witnessed.

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Doing the “Impossible”

Thought it might be easier to laugh at myself if I shared tonight’s accomplishment with you all. I managed to do something tonight that 2 hours ago, I would have claimed was impossible. I’ve noticed my knitting students tend to be good and doing that, but I’d not developed the knack – or so I thought…

In order to encourage my finished yarn toward more overall uniformity, I took the advice of the experts and didn’t just ply all my first bobbins of worsted together then start on a second round. Instead, I filled 3 bobbins and plied one big bobbin full, which left about 40-50% of my singles still single. The plan is then to spin another bobbin of singles and ply it with the smallest two remaining bobbins until one of them is empty, again leaving two half filled bobbins plus a dab on another. Using the nearly empty one, I’ll fill it and ply it with those 2 halves, continuing in a somewhat similar manner until I’m out of roving and then singles.

I filled another bobbin of woolen singles last night, so I was ready to ply again. Since I already figured out the rhythm for this yarn and love the results, it was going to be a quick, autopilot project. I stuck Abby Franquemont’s Drafting DVD in the player, sat down to the wheel, lined up my ends and tucked them through the leader, plied about 4-5 yards to make sure all looked well, then turned on the DVD to the first chapter. The 1-2-3-4-5-feed, 1-2-3-4-5-feed chant was virtually subconscious and I was zipping through my singles very quickly. I noticed at some point that they didn’t feel quite as soft as my finished yarn, but then remembered that washing and thwapping the finished yarn makes a big difference in appearance. Back to watching Abby spin magic yarn off the tip of her finger… 1-2-3-4-5-feed… not stopping even once until…

Swoosh! End of the shortest bobbin, and the DVD wasn’t even over! Wow! I broke off the other two strands and fed on the last few feet of yarn, again thinking it was acting just a bit differently than I’d remembered. I pulled up the end to admire my work and found myself looking at Shirley Temple yarn – all sorts of ringlets and curliques… Whatever? It was acting for all the world like grossly over-twisted yarn, but it looked like it was plied to match my first luscious skein. Then my household fiber fairy thunked me up the side of my head. I was looking at an unmistakable Z-twist, which was only extremely impossible, since I’d spun my singles with a Z-twist. It took another 5 minutes for me to really believe what I was seeing, then 15 more minutes to wind the lively little corkscrews back onto one of my smaller bobbins by hand. Sure enough, about 5 yards before I emptied my plying bobbin was a brief interlude of very confused, unplied yarn, followed by my double-checked perfect start up yardage.

If you had told me that it was possible to switch directions in the middle of plying without creating a major snarl of yarn, I’d have laughed – probably a bit too much. I’ve reversed direction while spinning before, and it’s never been a pretty sight. However, tonight I’ve learned how to do the impossible! Gold star for me! 😀

And for anyone who is wondering, there is currently a lovely skein of properly finished yarn destressing in a nice warm bubble bath out in the kitchen. It was actually much easier to fix than I’d expected, thanks to my having learned to ply with a rhythm at last. All I had to do was take the same length of yarn as I had been using for 1-2-3-4-5-feed and do a 1-2-3-4-5-1-2-3-4-5-feed. I did keep an eye on it to be sure that at the pronouncement of the first “5” the singles were pretty much separate, but that can be done without breaking the rhythm, so I had plenty of time to sit there shaking my head and thinking what a silly girl I’d been. One thing for sure, I know. I’ll actually look to see which way the wheel is turning in the future! This is one new skill I don’t want to practice again!

Where There’s a Woolen, There’s a Way

I’m confessing right up front that I’m really pumped tonight. 🙂

Probably my biggest problem and mental sticking point with working on my Master Spinner certification has been that in order to pass Level 1, a person has to be able to spin both worsted and woolen yarn. Now that’s a perfectly logical requirement, but I was barely spinning worsted when I walked into class, and didn’t even know that I WAS spinning worsted. I was only a little bit wet behind the ears… Everyone else there was extremely comfortable with their wheels, and experimenting and doing new things was an interesting challenge for them. On the other hand, I was pleased when my yarn didn’t fall apart, and whereas I passionately adore learning new things, me trying to spin woolen was a bit like starting second grade without having gone to first. The day we covered it in class, I was exhausted from lack of sleep and had taken a very big emotional blow first thing in the morning. I stood watching our instructor making yarn by a method that looked like enchantment, and I couldn’t understand what she was doing and how it was actually working, because I didn’t have a big enough experience base to which I could add this new technique. But I bravely tried to spin woolen. And tried… and tried… And I failed miserably. And much to my embarrassment, it was all too much for me, and I eventually had tears streaming down my cheeks. I wanted desperately to become invisible. I have never had something like this happen to me in any sort of class I’ve ever taken, and it was horribly humiliating.

That’s not something one easily forgets, and ever since then, I’ve been more than a little bit terrified of spinning woolen. I’ve been so terrified that I’ve been creeping around the edges of my MSP homework. I honestly couldn’t believe I’d even be able to complete the project. I’ve been getting fleeces and dyestuff and putting together my notebook framework, and I’ve been talking positive about it everywhere I turn, but I didn’t entirely believe it was really going to happen – until now.

Trying to coax myself to at least TRY the woolen spinning, and having some more spinning hours under my belt, I bought an entire pound of into the Woods Romney roving from KattyKnits on Etsy. It was a color I could love, milled with little intervention, so still lanolin rich and oh so fun to touch and smell, a reasonable price, a big enough quantity that I could not give up quickly because I ran out of fiber fast, and it was something that I’d not fallen in love with previously and would stew about messing up. If I happened to come out with some usable yarn in the end, then so much the better. When I filled a bobbin with fine worsted spun Merino the other night, producing a very logical stopping spot for my current spinning project, I realized it was now or never. There’s a lot of work to do for this MSP project, and there IS a deadline to submit it. I grabbed the recalcitrant ‘fraidy cat in me by the nape of the neck, and took a mammoth ball of roving in the other, and the three of us sat down at my spinning wheel, quickly joined by a pair of very sweaty hands.

The first hour didn’t go well, unless I get points for my creativity in name calling. My favorite moniker for the roving at that point was Son of a Manure Tag. I really wasn’t having fun. The few folks who knew what I was doing were checking in every so often (from a safe distance) with a “how’s it going?” I started feeling like I was in labor – except I was better prepared for childbirth, and there was a predictable outcome.

Sometime during the second hour, there was a fleeting moment of brilliance. It startled me so much that I promptly lost my focus, forgot what I’d done right, and found myself back at SoaMT stage – except now there was a spark of possibility lit. Surely, if my hands had figured it out for five seconds, they could do it again?

Six hours later, I had a bobbin and a half filled, my head and legs ached, but at least my palms were dry.

By the end of the next day, I was almost enjoying myself.

And last night, I found out I’d made real yarn – and good enough yarn that I absolutely love it!

In all honesty, as much as it shocks me to say this, it may well be the best yarn I’ve spun yet, and I’m finding that more than a bit amusing! I suppose I was right; it WAS time to learn to spin woolen. 🙂 NOW it’s time for me to get very serious about doing my homework project! 😉

Specifications: I’ve only plied part of the first 8 ounces, so I’m not sure how much my still damp skein weighs – guessing about 4 ounces? This is about 7 wraps per inch, which is a victory in itself, since spinning this thick is a serious challenge to me. This first skein is 139.5 yards long, and I’m really hopeful there will be enough when I’m done to make something special. The 3-ply yarn is smooshy and has nice elasticity. It’s Romney, so not next to the skin soft, but it would make a nice vest, perhaps…

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