Friday, December 5, 2014

It's almost like Christmas!

The proofs came yesterday for my chapter in the next volume of Medieval Clothing and Textiles! That will be Volume 11 - coming out in the spring. While I have been working with the editors for many months now to perfect the wording in the article about my spinning experiments, it seems so much more real now that it looks just like it will look in the published book. Just a couple of typos to fix, then I get to wait a few more months for the real thing.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Choosing the Right Tool

This is a topic that is near to my heart. I am reminded time and again how important it is to fit the tool to the task at hand. This is true whether I am spinning or knitting or nalbinding. And I'm sure the same is true for you, no matter what art or science you choose to pursue.

The importance of the right tool was made abundantly clear to me as I began to knit a pair of fingerless gloves. I prefer using bamboo needles for knitting. I like that they feel warm and light in my hand. Some people swear by metal needles because they can knit so quickly with them. But my experience is different. They actually slow me down because I don't like how they feel. For these gloves I designed a pattern to use some fine alpaca yarn. I chose size 1 needles so that the resulting fabric would be dense, but not overly so. I was ready to start, but couldn't find my needles (turns out I was using them to knit a sock). I began the gloves using metal needles. I was not having fun. The needles were cold, hard, and too long for this project, making them hard to balance. It not only changed my speed, it affected my stitch tension. I changed needles as soon as possible. Here is a picture of the gloves so far (I don't know why the picture is rotated):

On the completed glove I can see where I changed to bamboo needles. Even though the needles are the same size, the stitches are not. The second glove, knit with bamboo needles from the beginning, is a much more consistent fabric.

So, the lesson for today: The quality of my work is not just due to my skill or lack thereof. It is also a product of the tools I use. The right tool for the task is not just a factor of the quality of the tool, but also how the tool fits the user. If you are having trouble with a project that you think should be going better, perhaps the problem isn't you. Maybe it's the tool.

Sunday, November 16, 2014


So, I promised myself that I would finish the Ribe nalbinding mittens this year. After all, I had spun the yarn for them by the end of 2013 - there was no excuse. But, once again I procrastinated. At the end of October I finally decided I could not put it off any longer, and got out the yarn to begin. What did I find - moths! and their little worms! So, once again, the project did not begin. The yarn is currently in my freezer. Hopefully I will be able to salvage enough to complete the project. But now I am in the midst of holiday gift making (which is going quite well), so 2015 will have to be the year for the mittens.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Another Question to Explore

I've been spinning up the merino/silk and alpaca/silk roving that I purchased at Pennsic this year. I love them both, and I am looking forward to having enough yarn spun to make something beautiful. Which got me thinking.

I am using my "moosie," a modern top whorl, rim-weighted spindle (made of moose antler) to spin this yarn. I fill the shaft with as much yarn as will comfortably fit without reducing the efficiency of my spinning - about 155 meters. I am spinning at 10 wraps/cm, the optimum size for this spindle. I will knit with this yarn.

Here is what I have spun so far. The spindle is full and ready to be plied. While it may look like there is more room on the spindle, at this point the weight is such that it is difficult to keep a consistent thread size (81 g vs 36 g when empty), and if winding the cop is not done carefully, the thread tends to slip while spinning.

If I were spinning with one of my Ribe reproduction spindles (a lighter weight and longer shaft), how many meters would comfortably fit on the spindle? Assuming I will spin to weave, how many spindles-ful will I need to make a useful piece of cloth, say .5 meter x 5 meters with a sett of 10/12 ends/cm? (Two spindles-ful from the moosie would make a piece approximately 10 cm x 20 cm.) And while I am at it, how long will it take me to spin that much?

Monday, September 15, 2014

a mini vacation

I was lucky enough to go to Cape Cod for the long Labor Day weekend to celebrate my birthday. As always, it was very relaxing. It was especially nice because my son cooked the birthday dinner - a wonderful barbecue.

Here is a picture of the dunes at Sandwich, one of my favorite places:
Global warming is changing this beach. Much of the dunes have eroded away. It used to be that the marsh would only flood at exceptionally high tides. Now it is a regular occurrence. When we hiked in Brewster, we came across beach plums:
Aren't they beautiful? They taste just like big plums, but they are the size of cherries. They range in color from light pink to dark purple, all on the same plant.

And, just so you don't think I am ignoring my crafts, I bought a niddy-noddy in an antique store. Here it is with some alpaca/silk blend that I spun while we were there:

Monday, September 8, 2014

Some knitting projects

In between everything else this spring and summer, I have been knitting. I started with a simple shawl. It's just an over-sized rib pattern with a couple of stripes to add interest.

It kept me very warm on cold nights at War of the Roses and Pennsic this year.

Then I did a bit of sock knitting. I started with a pair for my husband. I liked the slip stitch pattern so much, I made another pair for me, then adapted the pattern for a hat, to use up the leftover yarn.
I can't wait for it to be cold enough to wear them.

I also knit a small shawl - more like a scarf. I'm waiting for fall weather to try it out.

Finally, I knit a swing coat. The row after row of stockinette was boring, so I am glad to be done (that was part of the reason for the rest of these projects - to give me something interesting to knit). I haven't blocked it yet, but I'm happy with how it turned out. The pattern called for a striped yarn, but I preferred a solid color, with just a bit of accent.

So, there you are. I have another pair of socks, and a summer sweater on the needles now. My plan is to finish the socks by Christmas and the sweater by spring. I've finally learned to knit my sweaters out of season so I can actually be finished when it is time top wear them.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

the nalbound hat

I promised in my last post to show you the hat I made. It was made for Kenric when he joined the Order of the Laurel. Here is a picture of the hat:

It is done in the York stitch. I wanted to make "leaves," so I attempted making spots, as can be found in some mitten artifacts. It's rather abstract, but I like it.

Here is Kenric with the hat:

Yea! It fit!