Monday, October 25, 2010


Well, it's not been a lovely week. Or weekend. I'm looking forward to more un-loveliness coming ahead. I'm cranky. At least one of the crank-inducers has been resolved: an unauthorized transaction on my Paypal account. I caught it right away and initiated the dispute. Called my bank, too. All's well that ends well, but it was nerve-wracking.

Before I get to the fibery stuff, a note to Tracey, who suggested I contact the school superintendent with the thoughts I expressed about pushing kids too fast in my last blog post. Thank you, Tracey! That was a good idea. I emailed him, but I haven't heard back yet. As a teacher, do you feel like your voice gets heard in these kinds of curriculum decisions? Also, you said that you have a 9th grader at that school. Is he or she in the IB program? Are you happy with the school? I'd love any input you could give me.

In my limited fiber time, I've done a little work on the Paper Crane sleeve, which I haven't photographed lately. It's not interesting enough yet to show.

I also started working on the Gothsocks that I showed last time:

I like how this yarn is knitting up. The stripes look watercolory and the cashmere makes for some soft knitting.

I'm also spinning some more. After last week's freewheeling woolen spin, I'm back to spinning thin worsted singles. I plan to n-ply this yarn for a 3 ply final yarn.

The braid comes from Cloudlover. It's a Falkland wool in the "Bonfire" colorway:

Here are a couple of views of the singles. I'm almost halfway through:

I know it's Fall and I'm attracted to these colors, but after several different projects in this color range, my next spinning project will definitely be in another color palette.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Art of Compromise, or The Tale of Two Bobbins

Sometimes spinning fiber is like raising a child. You get your raw material, and it's lovely, but you can't force it to be something it's not. You can shape it, and make it as lovely as it can be, but it has a definite personality of its own.

Enter Squoosh's October Fiber club braid, a BFL/Silk blend called Crunch:

My first glance at it had me thinking of a thinnish three-ply yarn, one long single, n-plied. So I broke off a bit of the fiber and started spinning. Blech. It did not like that. It didn't spin smoothly. There were blurps of fiber. It didn't feel nice. I did not want to spend my spinning hours fighting with the fiber. Spinning is supposed to be relaxing, after all. So when I finished that bit of fiber, I set it aside and put another bobbin on.

This time I just started out by grabbing hunks of fiber and letting it go. It finally settled down into a happy state. There were still some fiber blurps, which will require a bit more attention on my part when I do the final spin, but on the whole, the fiber was very happy being spun woolen-style, not too thick and not too thin.

In the meantime, I went ahead and n-plied the first bobbin of singles, just to see how that would finish up. Both samples got hanked up, washed and beaten up a bit.

The n-plied thin singles came out a bit crunchy, not soft. The colors seem a little harder, too:

It looks pretty in the picture (and it is in real life, too), but when I pick it up and feel it, it doesn't make me want to knit with it.

By contrast, the singles are softer. Woolen spun yarns will generally be softer than worsted spun yarns, but this was clearly the more appropriate form for this fiber. The colors also softened up and became more inviting:

Now, THIS yarn made me want to grab the needles and start knitting.

So, I will go with the flow and spin the rest of this braid to resemble the squooshy singles.

If I ever get to, that is. I was planning to spin it today, but then I forgot that I had Comcast coming in for a long install today. That pushed the spinning until tomorrow, except that somehow the install got messed up, and they're coming back tomorrow.

Thursday. I hope.

I also finished my Vintage stripey socks, here modeled by the very latest in blase-style cats:

Then I wound up some Gothsocks (OhMyGoth, Faery Folk) for the next pair:

Some of that has been knitted now, I just haven't taken any more pictures.

On a totally different note, last night was High School Information night. Sr. Jr. and I went together because he's interested in applying for the IB program at one of the local schools, and we wanted to learn some more about it. I came away generally impressed, but with some concerns (that are not limited to that school or program).

Several of the local schools are offering some of the ninth graders the opportunity to take AP World History. School officials readily admit that most 9th graders who take the class are not at all ready for that level of work. Only about 5% of the 9th graders who take the class get a 5 (the highest possible score) on the AP test. The vast majority get 1s and 2s.

So the school that houses the IB program has a summer "introduction to advance placement" class for the kids who will be enrolled in the class. There are before school help periods and Saturday morning help periods. As a result, the majority of the kids in the class in this school get 4s and 5s on the AP test.

Sounds good, right? But then the principal said that they noticed that the kids' scores on AP tests then dropped when they got to 10th grade. They realized it was because the kids didn't have as much support as they did the year before, and it was affecting their scores. So they added more support.

The intended message of the story was "Oh, what a great school, they provide so much support for the students." And they do. And it's very nice.

However, I wonder whether anyone stopped to think whether all this was really an indication that the kids aren't quite ready to take AP classes and tests that early. Because that's my takeaway from the evening.

I'm all for challenging kids and working to get the best out of them that we can. But I wonder whether the hyper-competitive environment that we live in is blurring the lines in our minds and in the minds of school administrators between challenging kids and in pushing them too fast. If so much support is required to get the kids to do well, they're not necessarily being challenged, they're being given crutches.

The hard part for me is that I'm pretty sure that Sr. Jr. will be one of the kids who is offered the opportunity to take that class. I know he's very bright, but I also know that he's not used to working hard at school. His study skills are not very evolved or sophisticated. I don't know if he would thrive or struggle in that environment. I guess we'll see.

(But yes, he came away wanting to apply to the IB program. There are 84 slots, and it's a lottery. We'll see how this goes.)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sweater Weather

Hallett's Ledge is done, blocked, dried, off the board, and in the armoire. I took advantage of the cooler weather to try to get some good shots of both it and my Pas de Valse, which I finished a while ago.

Here are some Hallett shots:

The cat was complaining that we just weren't paying enough attention to her.

Hallett's Ledge was great knitting. I had no problems with the pattern. It went quickly but held my interest.

Here's Pas de Valse:

I think both sweaters are serviceable, but I'm not in love with either of them. I feel a disturbance in my sweater force. I used to make sweaters that I loved (still love) and wear all the time. I feel like I haven't made a sweater that really makes me happy in a long time. If Paper Crane disappoints, I'll be very sad. I'd like to finish that soon, so I can get on to some other patterns in the queue, hopefully ones that I'll like.

I did also finish the first of my Vintage socks:

I love these socks and I love this yarn. I got my sock club and fiber club installments on Tuesday and I love them both. I'm not posting pictures out of respect for Kippi, who hasn't received hers yet.

So, back to Paper Crane sleeves...

Monday, October 11, 2010

Columbus Day Catch Up

Busy week! Last week was a short week. The elementary school was out Thursday and Friday for conferences (Jr. Jr. gets rave reviews), and the middle school was out Friday. On Tuesday, I acted as an interviewer for the 8th grade resume project. The kids made up resumes, dressed up (somewhat), and sat through "job interviews." It was really fun. The kids are so cute. I mostly really liked the kids I got to interview.

All that was lots of fun, but it meant less knitting and spinning, of course. Mostly less spinning. I haven't even started a new spinning project since that last skein I showed you. There's always knitting, even if it's just plain stockinette socks.

Speaking of which... I'm knitting up stripey socks for the Ravelry group's contest/challenge. I finished the first of my Yarn Chef Plum Waves socks:

The yarn is very soft. I'm going to like these socks. I need to cast on the second sock. I'm working on another pair of stripeys, as well. This pair is in Twisted Fiber Art's Playful yarn. I love this yarn. I knit another pair in this yarn recently (my Lagoon socks) and I wore them the other day when the weather got cool. They felt so warm and cushy. I'm also in her sock club, impatiently awaiting the first shipment, which should get here tomorrow (stupid Monday no-mail holidays). Anyway, here's where I am in the first sock of that pair:

I finished Hallett's Ledge! It's blocking now, plus it's 90 degrees. Not heavy sweater-modeling weather. My first stop for buttons was at Fibre Space, but I wasn't thrilled with their selection. They sent me down the street to an antique store that has a ton of vintage buttons. They had a beautiful selection, but I needed 7 buttons for the sweater, and they didn't have 7 matching buttons. Finally I went to G St. Fabrics, which has a huge button assortment. The buttons I ended up getting aren't fancy, but they are the perfect brownish-grey shade to complement the sweater.

I tried the sweater on before the final block, when it measured about 2 inches smaller than the finished dimensions. Even though it was a little bit snugger than I needed, it still looked good. I can't wait for it to dry to try it on. Now, of course, I'm a little concerned that it will be too big, but if that turns out to be true, then I can just re-block it.

I recommend the pattern highly. It was not hard to knit, but interesting enough to keep from being boring. Plus I think it looks great!

And yes, true to my word, I did cast on for the Paper Crane sleeves, so back to the teeny tiny yarn on the teeny tiny needles.

In the non-knitting part of my life (yes, there is one), I'm back on the treadmill and starting to run again. It feels great. I'm doing lots of incline (walking, not running) to strengthen the ankle and slowly adding in a running component. So far no pain at all. It's such a relief.

Last but not least: today's horoscope. No kidding, this is really what my horoscope was today:

"Sometimes you feel guilty about taking off for 'me time,' and yet you really needn't. You're a creative being, and you need time to explore your ideas in your own way."

I think I'll frame that.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Homespun, Handknit

It's getting chillier here, finally. This morning I broke out the first handknits of the season: a pair of socks and a vest. On Saturday morning, I sat with my hands shoved up in my sleeves at Jr. Jr's soccer game, thinking that fingerless mitts would be just right for this time of year. And I had that cushy but messy handspun at home...

These whip up very quickly. Unfortunately, fat cat decided to sit down on my yarn last night, so I couldn't finish the second one in time for this morning's bus stop trip. The pattern is Vancouver Fog, and they're just right. The handspun may look very rough, but it's cushy and warm.

I finished my next handspun project, too. I took this fiber from Squoosh:

and turned it into this:

It's better than the last spin, but the spinning is still not where I want it to be. But the more I do it, the better and more consistent it gets. It's a busy week, with stuff I need to be in school for, plus a 5-day weekend made up of conference days and Columbus Day. But I will try to sneak some more spinning in there if I can.

I also finished up the second sleeve for Hallett's Ledge. I'm using those needles now for the Vancouver Fog mitts, but when I'm done, I'll do the collar and button bands for Hallett and then I can block it and sew in the sleeves. It'll be my first sweater of the season! I hope it fits.

Then I can turn my attention back to Paper Crane and get that done, too.

I'm already pondering what to knit next...