Sunday, December 27, 2009

Apparently I Am A Designer

Well, we all are designers really, whether we start from scratch, modify a pattern, or cobble several patterns together into something different. But here's what happened to me.

I bought this fabulous alpaca yarn from Knitpicks intending to use it for a specific vest pattern. That so did not work out. Then I tried it with some other patterns. No and no and no. But I really wanted a vest. I vaguely remembered seeing a demonstration of a very open, lacey drop-stitch, and I stumbled upon several sideways-knit vest patterns, none of which I was exactly crazy about, but the approach is pretty much the same for all. So I used the drop-stitch idea to improvise a vest, which I liked very much.

I liked it so much that I thought of making a few more in different yarns. It didn't take long to organize my notes into something that vaguely resembled a pattern, and I thought I would simply upload a PDF to Ravelry, to join all the other free patterns available there, so that it would be available for me and for anyone else who might want to use it too.

Well, the process is not so simple. First you must designate yourself as a "designer" and give yourself a "designer name." So I did that, although I felt like a fool ("it's just a few notes," this humble little voice was whispering). There were more steps – a pattern page, a store (yes, even though it's free), links, etc., but they are all done.

The last and most difficult step has been to get a link up on my blog that will allow people who are not Ravelry members to view and download the PDF. I think I have that working, although I'm not thrilled with the way it looks. More tinkering will be needed.

It's been a fun, although sometimes frustrating, experience, and having a place to put my improvisations has inspired me to take better notes and to work harder on writing an understandable pattern. Given the problems I've had with patterns written by others, I know how incredibly difficult that can be. Just when you think you've explained it all, someone comes along with a different mindset (like me) and just doesn't get it.

Right now, I'm reverse engineering the Staggered Lace Socks into a pattern. No notes anymore, but I have the actual sock in hand, and it's easy to count rows and stitches. Soon I will have two "designs" up on Ravelry. Woohooo!!

Monday, December 7, 2009

So . . . About That Spinning Wheel . . .

I have, in fact, purchased a spinning device. Notice, I did not say "spinning wheel." Although extensive research into spinning terminology suggests that this device may be considered to be generically a "wheel" despite the absence of an actual wheel. No treadles either. No footmen. Have you guessed yet?

Yep, it is an e-spinner. A HansenCrafts miniSpinner to be precise. What we have here is an Ashford jumbo flyer with sliding-hook yarn guide in Kevin Hansen's beautifully carved mount with a tiny but super powerful motor in the base. Also comes with a foot pedal that operates in two modes. I love it.

Alas, on the day it arrived I had just come down with a dreadful head cold and could do no more than set it on the table next to my laptop and admire it from afar between sniffles, sneezes, and naps.

But then, oh, then . . . when I began to feel better . . . I put the miniSpinner on a low table to the right side of the bed, plugged it in, piled my fiber on the left side of the bed, lay back on my pillows, and spun. Now that was fun!

The whole process was so different from spindling that I had trouble at first determining when the fiber had enough twist in it that I should allow it to wind onto the bobbin. Working with some hairly, snarly Coopworth/Columbia blend acquired several years ago, I drafted away, struggling to keep up with the spinner (at one of its lowest speed settings). But it got easier, and by the second bobbin I was doing better.

Plying was really exciting. No worries about direction. Instead of flipping the switch to the right, I flip it to the left. Done deal. Woohoo! And this is where the speed is seriously great. It was so quick that I had to remind myself to stop from time to time to move the yarn guide. The only oopsie came when I got down near the end of my singles. That stuff I spun at the beginning of the very first bobbin? Uh, not so spun. It just fell apart. Heh. Lesson learned.

So here is what I have to show for my first spinning experience. About 100 yards of a more-or-less-worsted weight "rustic" yarn.

It's the oddest stuff; reminds me a little of the Knitpicks Suri Dream I used recently to make a vest, although it is not nearly so soft. But, just like Suri Dream, there is a narrow core of yarn with a fairly decent twist and then a lot of hairs sticking out that make it much thicker. I certainly didn't set out to create this effect (wouldn't know how), so I'm guessing it's a feature of the fiber, which came with its own supply of little twigs, nicely embedded, no extra charge.

It feels strange to be a beginner again. I had just got to the point where I could reliably and consistently spin any thickness whatever on a spindle. Now I need to learn to do the same on my "wheel." Much fun to come.