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.)


Scott T. said...

Hello, besides being a crutch, that's more work than I did in college or Law school. Saturday mornings....Screw that. Seriously.

Tracey said...

Could you send this to the superintendent? Seriously - I have a ninth grader at that school, and teach at another one in the county. This is a message they SO much need to hear.

Sharon said...

While I believe that we seriously need to ensure that our kids know how to study by the time they get to college (mostly because my sister, an Engineering school dean at UNCC, says that the majority of their incoming Freshman do poorly solely because they do not know how to study), I am not willing to make my child do extracurricular work to the extent you've described. She already plays sports, which takes up 5 days/week. That is insane! Let them enjoy their free time before they're in college and then in the work force! I agree with your concerns, Loren. Thanks for letting me vent.