New Tools

One of my new philosophies has to do with having the tools you need to achieve the results you want.  Can I weave tapestries with a picture frame?  Yes, but I will not like the process or the results.  Given that I have decided to invest in a couple of tools to make my crafting life a bit easier and my results a bit better. Before I get to the actual reviews, a disclaimer, I am in no way affiliated with any of the products below.  I purchased them using my own funds, I am not making any profit from these reviews/products.

Recently I have decided to up my knitting and crochet game.  I have started with socks, but I hope to progress to garments like cardigans, shawls, and sweaters soon.  Learning Tunisian Crochet, filet crochet, and lace knitting are also on my list of projects to work on.  With fitted garments gauge is extremely important.  To this end I have invested in the Akerworks Swatch Gauge, but I went all out and invested in the knitting tool kit.

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This includes, tape measure, scissors, two darning needles, knitting needle measuring tool, locking stitch markers, and various magnets across the back in addition to the gauge swatch tool.  Essentially this is everything that I would need to knit or crochet on the go in one compact tool.

The stitch gauge has the numbers engraved on the side that is facing down toward the fabric, but they are engraved backwards so when the tool is being used the numbers show in the right direction, but there is no real explanation as to what the numbers are.  Going horizontally across the top there are the numbers 1-4 and under the horizontal line are the numbers 1-10.  Comparison with a ruler proves that 1-4 measures inches while 1-10 measures centimeters.

The tape measure can be slid out of the compartment that houses it, but can also be easily used from its nest in the tool.  The scissors have comfortable finger holes as well as proving themselves quite sharp when put to the test against yarn.  The darning needles in addition to the stitch markers are standard but since they are metal they stay where the magnets put them quite easily.

When my studio is completed I believe that this will have a place stuck to the metal rack I intend to install.  The swatch gauge will be just at home measuring picks per inch as it will stitches per inch.

I have been lusting after the Eszee twist tool for about 2 years now.  Spinning is still my main passion, however all of the math tends to intimidate me.  No longer!  With the Eszee Twist tool I can measure the angle of twist, but more importantly I have a gauge which I can put my yarn on and have a  fairly good idea of what the wraps per inch are going to be without making a mini skein of yarn.  This kit comes with much more than just the measuring tool, it has a bookmark, knitting needle gauge, yarn tracker, in addition to a user guide that does double duty as an Everything You Need to Know to Get the Yarn You Want guide.

In addition to explaining what twist is, s twist, z twist, and angles of twist, this guide goes on to explain different yarn constructions such as 2 ply, 3 ply, Navajo plied, core spun, cables, worsted, and woolen.  The part that I find most useful is the simple math needed to calculate what size your finished yarn will be.  This simple formula was well worth the investment, but the guide and other tools provide everything you need to gain a deeper understanding of yarn construction.

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Yes, they are stitch markers.  Actually what they are is a charm bracelet I purchased through amazon and repurposed using some split rings and lobster clasps.  I just love the BBC production of Sherlock (except the last season and I HATE Mary) so I wanted stitch markers that reflected me.  However, I did not want to spend $5 for one to three stitch markers that really had little to do with Sherlock.  So I found a charm bracelet, there were 20 charms on it, a little manipulation, and I have 20 stitch markers that I thoroughly enjoy.  Since I made the entire batch in less than an hour I can certainly see the appeal in buying up a lot of charms and making these by the hundreds.  I wonder if I can recoup some of my yarn/fiber expenses by starting a stitch marker business?

Happy Crafting!

Ravelry: What is this?

Have you ever wished that there was a way you could go to a website and see what yarn you have and what projects they might be good for?  Is it a dream of yours to be able to share your Love of All Things Sherlock Holmes and your Love of All Things Knitted/Crocheted with a group of like minded people?  Do you want somewhere that you can see what yarn/fiber/tools/wheels/looms people are willing to trade?  Have you ever had a dream where there was a magical website that knew what yarn you had and could suggest patterns that you could knit/crochet with that exact yarn?

Well, Ravelry is all of that and more (Except the magic part, you have to enter your stash in but it does make suggestions, it rocks like that).  Now I can already hear you advanced to intermediate crafters saying “I am not spending my precious crafting time taking three years to enter my stash into anything, no way, no how.”  To that I will say, “Start with your newest acquisition, then make some project pages, and go from there.”  While I do know someone that inherited their grandmother’s stash and fully intends to put that entire stash into her Ravelry account, that is not something that you have to do.  Like any other tool this is as useful as you make it, but if something overwhelms you then you can give that part a miss, (this is what I keep telling myself is my reason for not putting my stash in there).

To start you need to create a Ravelry Account.  From there I did a search on what interested me and joined several groups.  Okay, I joined a lot of groups, darn my varied interests.  Fortunately the active threads of the group tend to float to the top of that groups feed so you can see what people are talking about, and peek in on what they are up to.  I really enjoy checking out my feeds, especially since I can organize them into different tabs, Podcasts, Everything Else, and Literary Interests.  Since I have really become interested in listening to podcasts, and discovered the Sherlock and Cthulhu boards, I have taken advantage of the tabs to get a bit more organized.  Eventually I hope to create more tabs such as Sales, Weaving, and Spinning.  Instead of doing that I am creating this post, lol.

In addition to the  interactive elements your Notebook allows you quite a bit of creativity and organizational capabilities.  Inside the Notebook menu you have options like:

Projects, Handspun, Stash, Queue, Favorites, Friends, Groups & Events, Needles and Hooks, Library, Message Box, Blog Posts, Contributions, Purchases, and Upload a Photo.

Whew, that is quite a bit to get through.  Some of them are fairly obvious, Favorites are favorite patterns/yarns.  Friends are the friends that you have made within ravelry, message box is like your e-mail inbox, purchases are patterns that you have purchased within ravelry, and Upload a photo is where you can upload a photo to add to your stash/comments/etc.  This function does cost a nominal fee every year, I think $5.

*Projects, these are your current WIPs or Works in Progress.  You can choose your yarn, pattern, progress, name your project, and show off to everyone.  This is a great way to get people interested in what you are working on and also to give yourself some motivation to continue.  As a general rule people are very encouraging and helpful!

*Handspun, if you are a spinner (or just like to buy other people’s handspun) then this is the tab for you.  You can upload information about your yarns, and keep track of what handspun you have available to work with.  There are some great suggestions for information you might want to include in your description of your yarn, some you might not have even thought of but that will help you decide what you want to do with your handspun in the future.

*Stash, okay so this is pretty obvious and I have covered it pretty extensively in an earlier paragraph, but I cannot emphasize it enough.  Once Ravelry knows what yarn you have and how much of it, it Makes Suggestions about Patterns.  That really does rock.

*Queue If you know that you are going to be working on a particular pattern next with a particular yarn, put it in your Queue so that your friends know, and so that you don’t forget what you bought that yarn for.  This is a great way to keep track of what future projects you might want to work on.

*Needles and Hooks Say you are out at your LYS (Local Yarn Store) and you want to know if you have a set of size 8DPN (double pointed needles) for the yarn you are looking at.  Do you buy another set just in case you don’t or do you buy the last three balls of that color and hope you have the needles at home?  You don’t do either, you check your Ravelry page and see Oh, yes I have those needles so I’ll buy the extra yarn instead.  While I’m on Ravelry Anyway I’ll just add this yarn to my stash, oh look at that pretty pattern I can make with that extra yarn!

* Library  I love the library function, I am able to add patterns that I find/purchase on Ravelry as well as patterns that I have available to me through my own book collection.  I have not had a chance to go through my mothers (many decades) of patterns that she has accumulated, but as I discover my own interests/passions I am finding that I can record what patterns I have acquired and where I can find them for future use.  Actually that is one of the most useful tips I found on Ravelry.  As I get a new Magazine, mark it in my stash and mark what patterns are found in that issue.  That way if I go back and look for a pattern I can find it in my library and know which magazine to look for it in.

*Blog Posts  Ravelry is linked up with my blog and so I can see my blog posts, and others can see my blog posts right from Ravelry.  This is a good way to obtain some exposure for my blog.

*Contributions If you are a pattern designer, or if you spin/paint/dye your own yarn then this is where you can make contributions to the fiber arts community, whether for free or for profit.

As you can see, Ravelry is a great way for you to get organized as well as sharing your love of fiber arts with a lot of like-minded individuals.  Whether your love is very general or very specific, if you are organized/would like to be organized/have no interest in organization at all Ravelry has a place for you.  This is a great resource, that I under-utilize, but I hope to become more active in the near future.

Happy Crafting!

 

Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival

IMG_1748I cannot for the life of me believe that MS&WF was a week ago already.  I feel as though I am just beginning to process all that I saw and did while there.  In addition, the tools and fibers I brought home are simply overwhelming!  I had so much fun thanks to my Aunt Debby, Uncle Fred, and Aunt Mikey.  They ferried me around and Aunt Debby and Uncle Fred let me stay with them, it was such a blast to see some of my younger cousins (okay Aunt Debby is my Father’s Cousin so her Grandchildren are probably my second cousins twice removed or something.) and teach them how to spin silk hankies.  They caught on so quickly, I was amazed at how much the boys seemed to enjoy the spinning!

Everyone was telling me that there is no way I could see everything in a single day.  All the while I was thinking, it’s a fairground how much can there be to see, some sheep, some vendors, it’ll be a blast and I can do everything I want to do, no problem.  Well I was not right, they were.  I managed to see quite a bit the first day, and even more the second, yet I did not get to see the speakers, nor many of the special events that occurred.

Since there really is too much for me to talk about in one post I will break this up into two posts, the first will be about the tools and wheels I was able to interact with, the second post will focus on the fibers and sheep I was able to interact with.  Each of these posts are going to have some length to them.

The Classic Carder Company, classiccarder.co.uk came from England to sell their wares at MS&WF.  They were absolutely delightful to speak with and kept their sense of humor despite the difficulties they and the american credit card companies were having with communication.  From this company I purchased a doffing pin and a doffing brush, both are intended to assist in getting batts of of a drum carder cleanly and with as little trouble as possible.  The quality of these tools is astounding, and I cannot wait to begin using them in earnest.

IMG_1757From Finnsheep.net I did buy some wool, which I will discuss in the next post, but I also obtained a flick brush.  This is a brush specifically designed to take locks and gently open them up so that they are easier to spin from without losing their alignment.  I was very happy to find this tool and see how well it would work on some of the locks I had obtained.  The results were amazing, and the tool was well worth the price.

From Snyder Spindles I obtained the three spindles I had been eyeing.  A ‘Dizzy Sheep’ spindle made from a fidget spinner with 3-d printed sheep on top, is a very lightweight and cute addition to my spindle collection.  A 3-d printed turkish spindle allows me to have a turkish spindle with quite large arms yet not very much weight at all.  I am very excited to take my time and learn to love this spindle.  The final spindle, actually the first that I picked up, is the Scottish Spindle the Dealgan.  This is a tapered piece of wood with a cross cut into the wide base.  This spindle can be spun and the base wound on so that the yarn being spun forms a center pull ball.  This is a very neat spindle rediscovered in Nova Scotia, an article can be found in Spin-Off Magazine Winter 2018 issue.  As with many things that I covet, I am finding the reality to be a bit different from my imagination.  I am sure that I will learn to love this spindle, we just might have to come to terms with eachother.

The final major tool that I obtained during this Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival is a Mini-Hackle with a cover created by Indigo Hound.  This amazing hackle was a fraction of the cost that I had seen similar items on sale for, actually I managed to obtain some very good sales at this event.  Previously I had seen individuals recommending the use of combs intended to get honey from honeycombs as wool combs so I had purchased a pair of these intending to use them as wool combs.  Now I hope to use them in conjunction with my new hackle to create some amazing combed fiber.

IMG_1760Speaking of purchases before and after the festival, my Christmas 2017 present finally arrived.  I had ordered an Electric Eel Wheel Mini from the kickstarter, and mine arrived the day before I was to leave for Maryland so it went with me.  I had so much fun learning to spin with this mini delight.  If you are looking for a completely silent electric spinning wheel, then don’t get this one.  There are amazing premium wheels that cost twenty times as much as this little delight that will give you a soundless experience.  For $60 I obtained a mini spinning wheel, accessories (orifice hook, spin control card, plying band, extra brake band, etc) and two extra bobbins for a total of three bobbins.  From other companies electric spinning wheels tend to start around $800 so I feel that I came out ahead.  This is not going to be my new default spinning wheel, however it might become a new tool for teaching drafting to new spinners in an easy way.  I did put the push pin in the front of the wheel to hold my working yarn.

The last experience I want to discuss, in addition to how amazing the entire festival was, is the opportunities there were for trying out different wheels and other tools.  The Yarn Barn of Kansas had a vast number of wheels available to test spin.  Everyone at that tent was very helpful and I managed to test spin two of the wheels I had been looking at for purchase, the Ashford Country Spinner 2 and a wheel with an orifice about 8 inches shorter than my current wheel. I discovered that the Ashford wheel is amazing, but the very heavy bobbins make it a little too clunky for what I was hoping to accomplish.  The Mini wheel was a lot of fun to spin with, very responsive and easy to use. but I am just tall enough that the yarn rubbed against the top of the orifice every time I fed it onto the bobbin.  Though this rubbing does not have any effect in the short term, I am concerned that it might be just a little too much wear and tear for a longer spin.

I was also able to test out two electric spinning wheels the Woolee Ann from the WooLee Winder company, and the Hansen Crafts spinning wheel.  These two delights are how I discovered that my Electric Eel Wheel mini is certainly the most basic form of an electric spinning wheel.  If you are looking for an electric spinning wheel and have the scratch look at these wheels or any of the ‘big brother’ versions of my Electric Eel wheel.  They are all delightful to spin.

In conclusion, I did not talk too much about prices, but I will let you know that all of the tools I purchased were well under the price points I had discovered online.  This in addition to the savings I accrued from a lack of shipping costs resulted in quite a bit of savings on the price of these tools.  Since I am a bargain hunter at heart I was very happy to discover this fact.  It will be my greatest delight in the rest of this year and the beginning of next to start to explore my acquired treasures and delight in the joy that they are all going to bring me.  I also plan on dreaming about next year’s Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, wondering what delights that will bring me!

Happy Crafting!

Prepping For Class & Akerworks

This has been a very exciting week.  Let me start with the parts not mentioned in the title of this post:

  • My copy of “51 Yarns to Spin Before you Cast Off” By Jacey Boggs Faulkner has arrived, and I have submitted my ‘Default Yarn’ for her competition.  So far I adore this book, although I’m only about 20 pages in.  I plan on reading more today, and writing a review as soon as I can.  For my submission on Ravelry I used my current favorite skein from the Paradise Fibers Olympic Spin, and mentioned that I am more likely to crochet than spin.  Jacey Boggs Faulkner asked if I’d share what I crochet, *squee* so now I’m working like mad to crochet up a shawl using that yarn.  I’m loving how the shawl is turning out and really hope it will be done for Maryland.
  • I added a listing of my spindles owned/desired to my leather notebook I’m taking with me for MS&WF, trying to think of what else to put in there.
  • Ordered & received little presents for my Aunts who are hosting and hauling me for MS&WF.
  • Will finish ordering tickets for all three of us to get into the festival Friday.
  • My first guild meeting of the year we are going to start a lace project, it should be a ton of fun.

Okay, on to the titular subjects.

For my first dyeing class of the year I created samples.  Part of what I hope to get across to the students is that the dyeing is only the beginning of their fiber journey, it changes so very drastically from step to step that you cannot even begin to predict where your fiber will end up.  Not to mention that since it really is just wool, spinning is not the only place that your fiber can end up. wet felting, needle felting, or just using it as an applique.  They are all viable choices, but if you want to spin it, the results can be very different that your starting dyed fiber.  I know, that was almost like a mini class, lol.  I dyed up some samples and carded half of each color into rolags.  This shows how very different the carded rolag is from the original dyed fiber.  Then for one of the colorways, the pink at the top of the post, I spun one of the rolags into a mini skein of yarn.  I don’t have a photo of the mini skein yet, but it again shows how different the fiber is.  I am really looking forward to this first class!

Now the other half of my title, Akerworks Bobbin.  I received my collapsible Akerworks Woolee Winder compatible bulky bobbin for my Schacht Ladybug.  I absolutely adore it.   My minor, well for most people it would be minor but it was driving me insane, problem with the WooleeWinder bobbins was the rattle.  To be entirely fair and honest it wasn’t really a bad rattle, it didn’t shake the teeth out of your head or anything, it was just this noise while I was spinning.  Since I love the convenience of not having to stop to change hooks all the time and still wind up with a nice even bobbin, I thought I would just have to deal with the noise.  Not so!  I still use Lithium Grease on my shaft and orifice, but the rattle is just about gone.  I have a squeak that I think is due to either uneven foot height on my wheel or a loose screw at the back that I need to work on, but that tiny sound is not a problem at all.  The bobbin fills up evenly, it spins beautifully, I can see the fiber between the spokes when the bobbin is filled up more which is just pretty, they hold a ton of yarn, and there is no annoying rattling sound.  I honestly think I’m going to pick up at least 2-3 more of these bobbins once they are officially on sale.  (Probably 3 if a 3-ply is going to be my new default spin I’ll need something to ply onto).

That’s it for this past week, so much more to come next week!  Happy Crafting!

Weaving Tools

https://www.interweave.com/article/weaving/free-weaving-tools-guide-from-weaving-today/?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=wt-alo-fb-180223-Freemium-WeavingTools

This is a brief article to promote the free pdf guide to weaving tools.  I thought that the article, though I really recommend the PDF as well, was thought provoking.

The author, Interweave Editorial Staff, I guess they know who wrote it, begins with an interaction they had with a very enthusiastic “Earth-Mother” Type.  *I like to think of them as the Simplicities.*  Those that eschew any tools that are above the bare bones basic.  Those that say “I didn’t buy a Niddy Noddy, I just use my foot.” Or “I’ll never buy a wheel, why waste the money when I can just spin with a stick.”  Or, “There isn’t any need to buy a big loom, I can do anything I need with Backstrap Weaving!”  (Okay, the last is an exaggeration but you get the idea.) *

So the author is being lectured about how tools can be very simple and don’t have to be complicated, then they ask the killer question.  Why?  Why would you want to stick with the simple tools when there are more sophisticated tools out there?  *Not that we should all go out and buy a Golding Loom, though that would be pretty neat.* If there are tools out there that help you be a better crafter, and let you get the results you need, then take advantage of them.

*If you have foot, ankle, knee, joint issues, and want to spin then either a drop spindle or an electric wheel might be better for you.  If you have rotary cuff problems then you probably don’t want to mess with a drop or supported spindle too much but a nice wheel or electric wheel might do the trick.  For weaving, if you have knee, etc. problems then a floor loom with treadles that you have to push down might not be the thing for you, a table loom where you can just flick a switch and the shafts respond might work.  If you have shoulder issues then a backstrap, inkle, or perhaps rigid heddle loom might do you more good than a table or floor loom.  (I”m not an expert, this is just some advice, for more information contact a guild, health professional, or support group.)

If you just HAVE to try everything in existence out, (and  can afford it) then go for it.  Honestly you don’t know if something works for you unless you try it out.*

This synopsis is almost longer than the article.  But, in conclusion, don’t let anyone shame you.  There is NO Cheating in crafting.  Even if you haven’t shorn the sheep, washed, processed, and dyed the wool, then spun it, finished it, wove it, cut the cloth, and sewn the shirt, your project is still handmade no matter which step you started your process on and no matter what tools you had to utilize.

Happy Crafting!

Making Notebooks with Their Felt

All of the notebooks look so Great!  My students used their wet felted wool to create these amazing notebooks.  Since there were a few issues with thin spots on their felt and a desire to add decoration I introduced some needle felting techniques to the process so that they were able to create the notebooks of their dreams!

Since our spinning class is coming up in a few weeks I decided to look into the plans available for the inexpensive ‘DODEC’ wheel.  They look very easy to use if you are, or know, a woodworker.  However, the gentleman that created the plans also sells the wheels already made.  At $178 for his 2 wheels and 4 spindles you might think that expensive.  Consider this however, an Ashford Kiwi (single drive, bobbin/flyer wheel) starts at $450.  Given this information I have ordered his complete package to be sent to the Library.  These are similar to the old fashioned ‘great wheels’ insofar as they use a spindle instead of a bobbin and flyer to add the twist into the fiber and to store the fiber.  Honestly, for me, they are a beautiful step in between the drop spindle and a wheel, they allow the mechanics of a bobbin flyer wheel to be introduced gradually to the students instead of going from a drop spindle to this complicated looking wheel.

I do hope that they are simple to use, or at least that I can get the hang of them quickly.  I will let you know when they arrive and I stain/assemble them!  The link below is to the store, from there you can purchase a wheel or access the plans.

http://porterthreads.weebly.com/store/p4/Dodec_Spinning_Wheel.html

Happy Crafting!

Class 3- Wet Felting

The ladies, and occasional gentleman, are having so much fun with these classes.  I find it so heartening that all of my students just jump in full force with all of the classes I am teaching!  I admit I keep forgetting to get pictures of everyone crafting, mostly because I am having a ton of fun right along with them!

Most of my students had created mini batts in our last class and they were using those to make their felt.  I had them wet down their batts and use soap to gently begin felting.  Since they were just mini batts they felted very quickly, though some had thin spots.  This felt is going to be considered the basis of their bookmarks as well as mini notebooks, so I would rather it be as solid as I can help them get it.  Since wet-felting doesn’t seem to be doing the trick we will be playing around with some needle felting (after another quick lecture on safety).  I hope that they will be able to needle felt in some filler for their thin spots as well as some embellishments.  (I’m going to experiment with bamboo and patching today).

These classes are so very exciting!  My supervisor has recommended I look for a grant to offset some of these costs in the future and this is certainly worth looking into.

Happy Crafting!