Archives for category: spinning

I demonstrated drop spindling with my Turkish spindles at the Great Midwest Alpaca Festival this weekend for the third year running. Many adorable alpacas to look at, as usual–even a few that submitted to light cuddling–but the crowd seemed decidedly sparser than in past years. It was nice that I got a lot more time this year to talk to and teach each individual person who came by, but it was surprising. Maybe the great alpaca pyramid scheme is finally starting to crumble.

Best quotes of the weekend:
“Oh, the lady who made it isn’t here? Well, can’t you sell it to me while she’s gone? I’d pay, like, $25 for it.” –young blonde fashionista who wanted to buy a white pure alpaca handknit lace cowl being displayed in the fiber demo area–the Flared Lace Smoke Ring pattern, if I’m not mistaken, worked in a heavier yarn

“I don’t know if I can do this drop spindling thing. It looks fun, but my cats would go crazy for it. (Pause.) I have eight of them.” –a nice lady keeping those crazy crafter lady stereotypes alive and well

“But the wood just feels so good!” “That’s what she said!” –an exchange between fiber demonstrators following the most (inadvertently) suggestive nøstepinde-fondling I have ever seen in my life or ever hope to see

And here are a few photos:
Well-dressed man leading cranky alpaca:

Ooh, topical!



Me in action! Note I’m wearing a goofy novelty t-shirt from the neighboring stall. It says “Suri.” I want my entire wardrobe to consist of novelty alpaca gear someday. A few other items I liked: a baseball cap that said “SPIT DEFLECTION UNIT,” another that said “No spitting below the red line” (with red line drawn just above the brim of the cap), a t-shirt saying “Beans there, dung that!” with a picture of alpaca poop and a smiling alpaca, thong underwear saying “ORGLE ORGLE ORGLE.” Oh, and a shirt that was basically Three Wolf Moon except with a trio of alpacas.

There was also a breeder called Green Bay Alpacas!!!! I can’t tell you how badly I wanted a green and yellow t-shirt with their logo.

And I didn’t see this at the show, but found it online just now. Look out, Sartorialist, I’m coming to getcha.

You may have gotten to the end of this post and wondered what the “grass mud horse” bit was all about. Here you go. I found out the other day that alpacas are apparently a symbol of resistance to Chinese internet censorship! Love it. My Suri shirt is now a protest shirt.

Also, I’ll be in Boston and New York for the next two weeks or so. Is there any exciting crafty stuff I should check out while I’m here?

Today’s featured picture on Wikipedia is this cool photo from 1919 of a man from Ramallah drop spindling wool on a Turkish mid-whorl spindle. He apparently has not yet spun enough wool to make himself an actual garment, and has been forced to wear a raw sheepskin in the interim.

Alpaca time!

I’m going to be demonstrating drop spindle spinning at the Great Midwest Alpaca Festival again this year (look, I’m on their webpage now!) I had a great time last year and although I’ve been doing way more knitting than spinning in the last six months, I plan to bring my family of Jenkins Turkish Spindles to entice people into spinning. (How ’bout that referral program, Wanda?) Because so many people asked me about my spindle last year, I think I might make up some cards to give away with spinning info/resources:

Anything I’m forgetting that would be helpful?

Anyway, if you happen to be at the festival browsing for alpacas that day, please stop by and say hi 🙂

I got really inspired by this blog post of Heather Ross’s about ideas for converting her Summer Blouse pattern to a sleeveless shift dress using a Marimekko print or some other fabric with a large central motif, taking off the sleeves, and lengthening the pattern pieces.

So I ordered some home dec fabric with a giant vertical flower motif and set to work! Last things first, here’s the end result:

I re-traced the pattern pieces and made a bunch of modifications before cutting them out, based on my earlier Summer Blouse: lowered the front neckline, lowered the shoulder seams to make the armholes smaller, took in the sides a LOT, added back darts, and lengthened the dress, using my hip measurement as a guide and cutting straight down from there for a straight skirt style.

I made a muslin out of a thrifted bedsheet, made further adjustments to the pattern, and finally decided (after confirming I could get in and out of the dress without a zipper) that I was ready to cut it out from my fashion fabric.

I hit a slight snag, though–I had bought 2 yards of 60″ fabric, which was indeed more than enough to make a shift dress out of, but unfortunately not enough for a centered line of flowers down both the front and the back. I ended up having to cut the back in two pieces (adding a seam allowance to each) and lost the kind of neat colorblocking effect of the single vertical stripe on the front of the dress. Behold the weird double line of flowers:

I finished both the armholes and the neckline with 1″ bias tape cut from the main fabric, and sewn on using the method described in the book (I think)… I can’t find a photo tutorial for the life of me, but basically this is what I did:

  • fold the double-fold bias tape in half
  • align the raw edges of the bias tape with the raw edge of the fabric (neckline or armhole edge), on the right side of the fabric, and pin in place
  • sew the bias binding to the fabric, removing the pins as you go, stitching in the line made by the ironed folds of the bias tape
  • fold the bias tape to the inside of the dress neckline/armhole and carefully topstitch in place.

My bias tape and sewing were not entirely even, so I had a little trouble with this last part and spent quite a bit of time ripping out seams and re-sewing to make them look decent on the outside while also catching the folded bias tape on the inside.

When I made the Summer Blouse before, I didn’t read through the book’s instructions and just stuck the neckline into the fold of the bias tape and topstitched, which I think works just fine as well, but maybe doesn’t look quite as neat, and also doesn’t fold away the seam allowance accounted for in the other method, which might be why the neckline seemed so incredibly high first time around.

I thought about using this method as well: with this method, the bias tape is not visible from the outside. It also seems like it might be easier to sew. Maybe next time.

You can see the bias tape finish a little bit better here, and also the amazingly long placket that goes down to about my belly button (I think I did a pretty good job sewing up the center opening so that it’s not too obvious that there’s a big central chunk missing from the flowers in the placket region, but next time I might just skip the whole stitch-up-the-placket bit and just cut the placket to be shorter in the first place):

Pattern: Summer Blouse from Weekend Sewing by Heather Ross, heavily modified as described above
Size made: Small
Fabric used: 2 yards of Anna Maria Horner’s Anna’s Drawing Room home dec fabric, from, “Trellis Stripe” in Rose. If you buy anything from them, make sure to use a coupon code, they have tons of them out there! I believe I got 20% off with the code “SIMPLICITY”
Date started: forgot.
Date completed: forgot, but it took about two evenings to put together.
Mods: described in detail above
I think this dress looks a bit better with something to define the waistline, like a sweater on top:
(I love this red sweater… sadly, it’s not a handknit, but an end-of-season cashmere sweater from Old Navy)

The perfect dress for a visit to the zoo to see the capybaras enjoying the sunshine!

Sadly, the lovely weather in these photos didn’t hold up over the weekend, when I volunteered to demonstrate drop spindle spinning at the 2009 Great Midwest Alpaca Festival. It was a rainy and dismal day, but I had a great time meeting alpacas, spinners, and spinners-to-be. Rahul came with me and even he enjoyed himself, even though we were there for almost 3 hours and normally his patience with fiber events wears pretty thin pretty fast.

These bedraggled ones are suri alpacas.

These puffy ones are huacayas.

Alpacas are cute. And they hum! It makes them sound kind of annoyed all the time, like Marge Simpson when she makes that disapproving noise.

This dude has the smallest neck and biggest head in the entire world.

It was a nice way to spend a rainy Saturday. I spun up about half an ounce of silvery gray alpaca while I was there, and wrote down the Jenkins Woodworking contact information for about 10 people who were very interested in my Turkish spindle. (If only they had a referral program! I know at least one of those people bought a Turkish spindle after seeing mine.)

In addition to all this sewing and fiber festivaling, I will also have some actual knitting to show off soon. Really. I finally finished the accursed never-ending mittens I’ve been working on for the past month! However, continuing the trend, after taking forever to knit, they are now taking forever to dry. I think this is the third day they’ve been sitting there on a towel in a room with good air circulation, and they’re still faintly damp. I have faith that one of these days, they’ll finally be dry, and I can finally take some pictures and call them done and dusted.

I think it is customary, after a long craft blog silence, to say something like “Life’s been crazy! I’ve been so busy!” or “Look at all the amazing things I’ve been making in the meantime!” but I really don’t have much of an excuse or anything super exciting to show off.

I have been sewing a bunch and have at least 3 new dresses to show off at some point, but only have photos of one of them and they all came out too ugly for me to show off here, so I will just tell you that two are from Weekend Sewing and one is a Vogue pattern. (And the photo below is not actually any of them–it’s a vintage shirt pattern that turned out HORRIBLE, giving the effect of a pregnant linebacker, so lucky the gingham was a dollar a yard and I could just scrap the project.)

I got a really exciting copy of Hansi Singh’s Amigurumi Knits–you may remember Michael Phelps from a while back, who was a Loch Ness Monster knit from a Hansigurumi pattern (included in this book, so now I own two copies of the pattern);

I’m excited about it–so many things are in my queue from this book; I want to make some crazy-ass toys for my best friend, who’s expecting a baby in June. The jackalope, octopus, hermit crab, and squid/kraken are all pretty high on the list, but I also really loved the Nessie and kind of want to make one for myself (I still have a lot of green and white yarn left). I think the book looks pretty good overall, definitely a good buy if you plan to knit up more than two of her patterns, but a few patterns in there felt like filler–the earthworm and cucumber spring to mind. I guess they’re meant to cater to beginners, so you can build your skills on a simple toy before embarking on a full-on cephalopod or preying mantis. I do still want the Horned Owl pattern, which has gotten good reviews on Ravelry but is not in the book.

I went to a Fiber Jubilee (what a hokey name, right?) in Richmond, WI, about an hour away from Madison– I went with Mary, Liz, and Liz, from my Wednesday night knitting group:

It was pretty great. We saw goats being sheared, I bought a sweater’s worth of locally grown white merino yarn (and she threw in a skein of natural gray laceweight as a bonus) for $16, and we sat on a picnic bench in the sun and ate Sloppy Joes made by the ladies of a local church.


The stall where I bought the merino:

Various scenes from around the farm:

I met Minou from Ambrosia and Bliss–she spotted me as I was going upstairs and we got to meet in person, so that was cool! We had corresponded on Ravelry/via blogland for a while but never actually met up.

I bought some natural-colored Corriedale there that I’ve already spun and plied into about 310 yards of worsted-weight two-ply. I only have pictures of the singles right now, but the other ply is a sort of creamy oatmeal color and it’s a really nice, squishy, bouncy marled yarn:

And I will be volunteering this Saturday from 10-12 at the Great Midwest Alpaca Festival, demoing spinning for a couple of hours, and I can’t even tell you how excited I am about going to a gigantic convention center full of alpacas. And I get to keep whatever I spin while I’m there (incentive to spin faster!)

Knitting-wise, I’m currently working on some Herringbone Mitts (warning, PDF link) for a swap. It took me weeks to get the pattern of the every-other rows so that I could do it without referring to the chart (k2 MC, k1 CC, k1 MC, k2 CC, k1 MC, k1 CC, repeat) and once I finally got it I felt really dumb and annoyed for not being able to figure out and memorize it sooner. But I am nearly at the top decreases now, and the end is in sight! I seriously don’t know how I can finish a sweater in a few days but take a month to knit a pair of mittens.

And I’m working on a shrug for my friend Casey’s wedding next month (whoa, time flies!) I hope it works out–the fabric is so delicious: one strand of Malabrigo in Stone Blue held with one strand of Kidsilk Haze in Hurricane… fluffy, smoky, tone-on-tone blue.

Anyway, that’s what’s been going on in craft land here. It’s finally starting to feel like spring around here! It makes me want to sew cotton dresses more than knit woolen mittens/mohair shrugs, but knitting is so much more fun and portable.

Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, The Yarn Harlot, was in Madison on Saturday at the Madison Knit-In! She was great, as was the event overall–I just wish I had gotten there earlier so I could have spent some more time browsing in the marketplace. When I walked in, I immediately gravitated towards the Plucky Knitter’s piles of glowing cashmere and merino and was unable to tear myself away, so I spent about 90% of my time rubbing skeins of cashmere against my cheek and about 10% dashing through the rest of the marketplace looking at stuff.

And guess what, I won a door prize! The Yarn Stash Workbook. I walked in and as I was looking at my map, Gina, whom I’d met at the Harmony Bar knitting group, walked up to me and said “Guess what, you won a door prize!”

I made a beeline for the back of the marketplace and picked up my prize.

Wandered over to the Plucky Knitter where I met Miss Plucky Sarah herself and had a chance to ogle the Yarn Harlot’s fantastic handspun February Lady Sweater close up as she was talking to someone nearby.

Wrecked the budget I’d set for myself within the first 10 minutes of being there by picking up some semi-solid aran weight cashmere and being unable to put it back down.

Ran over to the Briar Rose Fibers booth–Mary couldn’t come, but she asked me to keep an eye out for some Briar Rose fiber, so I picked up some gorgeous huge bundles of BFL (spring green and icy blue).

Stopped to pet the angora in the Kimmet Croft stand, then grabbed a color card from Blackwater Abbey, whose yarns are sort of crunchy and rough but the colors are fantastic (and I love this free cardigan pattern, Faery Ring).

A couple of fellow knitters stopped me to ask about the Noro The Water is Wide scarf I was wearing. “Oh, and did you know you won a door prize?” they said. I had never met them before, but I guess they remembered my name and recognized it on the name tag.

It was 1 PM by then, so I rushed off to see the Harlot, completely missed out on the lunch that was included in my ticket (I did get a muffin and a Coke) and spent a happy couple of hours listening to the reasons knitters are awesome, and laughing my ass off over her story of getting locked out of a hotel room in Calgary while wearing only a pair of powder blue panties with the word “Cowgirl” written on them in lasso rope.

Here is Stephanie,

and here is a view of all the knitters behind me:

I actually didn’t have any mindless knitting on the needles, so instead I spent the time spinning on my new(ish) toy, a 1.2 oz. Jenkins Turkish spindle made of spalted tamarind wood (the fluff is some awesome Type B pygora from eXtreme Spinning):

Saw Jaala of Knitcircus on the way out (keep an eye out for their interview with the Harlot in their next issue!) “Hey, did you know you won a door prize?” she said.

I went and patiently waited in line to see the Harlot, got my copy of Knitting Rules! signed, and got a picture with Stephanie as well. See? I’m holding the sock! Yay!

Rahul had come to pick me up and he asked her if she would also sign his copy of The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature, but she said she would only do it if she could sign it “Steven Pinker.” (Sadly, she didn’t follow through. Too bad. It would be even more valuable than a rare photo of Sean Connery signed by Roger Moore.)

It was a really lovely way to spend a Saturday, and that’s lucky, because the rest of the day went rapidly downhill from there–we were headed to his parents’ house in southern Missouri for his spring break, but took a wrong turn along the way and only realized it when were were nearing O’Hare, with the end result being a 3-hour detour, a bunch of toll roads we had to pay for twice, a lot of grouchiness and yelling, and what should have been a 7.5 hour trip turning into an 11-hour ordeal that landed us in Missouri at about 3 AM.

Anyway, at least we’re here and relaxing with his parents now, and it’s about 10-20 degrees warmer here than it was in Madison–crocuses are out, lawns are green, star magnolia and forsythia bushes are flowering, and we don’t have to wear massive down jackets at all times. And hopefully the trip back will go more smoothly. (We are putting some serious thought into buying a GPS before we go back). We’re spending next weekend in Chicago with some friends, should be fun!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Erin Go Bragh, etc.

I will leave you with some Dutch commercials for a candy called Super Dickmann’s! These are really hilarious if you have the sense of humor of a 12-year-old, which apparently I do.

1, 2, 3.

This morning I woke up late to an empty house. The weather outside was classic autumn weather, cool, gray, drizzly. As I made my coffee, even with the windows closed, I could hear the lion at the zoo roaring from about half a mile away. Auuu–auuu–auuur. It was a strange, sad, peculiar sound, coming over the blazing yellow treetops, over the hills and houses and neatly raked leaves. Inside, the infestation of ladybugs continued, and the lion’s roaring was punctuated with the tinny tapping of ladybugs buzzing against the lightbulbs and windows.

It’s been a beautiful weekend so far. On Friday night, we headed out to the High Noon Saloon, where the Halloween concert was one of the best I’ve been to in the past few years, and the costumes made it even more fun.

Here are two of the winners of the costume contest. I love that Beaker outfit.

I started out in the beard hat, but eventually got too hot and put on the kitty hat instead. Rahul wore a ski mask topped with a trucker hat. Here we are with a couple of friends–they are dressed as a witch and what I thought must be some European soccer player but is in fact “a bunch of things I found at Walgreens.”

The lineup (local bands pretending to be other bands):

We arrived around 8:45, during the Low Czars’ set as The Kinks. They did a fantastic job–very tight, lots of energy, and they dressed up nicely. I was impressed with the fake gap the lead singer put between his front teeth to impersonate Ray Davies.

Next up were the appropriately nerdy band The Shabelles as Weezer clones “The Buddy Hollys.” They played lots of my favorites from the blue album, and their pigtailed female lead singer took the place of Rivers Cuomo.

Apparently Nothing played Nirvana. They were a kick! The lead singer had this ridiculous fake-looking shiny blond wig on to play Kurt Cobain, and the classic grunge outfit as well. They played 99% of Nevermind (skipping “Polly”) and their set featured some guest appearances from Courtney Love and a crowdsurfing Zombie Kurt Cobain.

Tangy played as “Manchester United,” covering songs from the Manchester 80s and 90s music scenes: The Stone Roses (I was thrilled by this, they’re one of my favorite bands) and Oasis. They claimed they’d play The Smiths, too, but I don’t remember hearing any Smiths songs. I was a bit distracted, though, because their guitarist thought it would be a great idea to toss soccer balls into the audience, so I ended up mainly paying attention to the rambunctious soccer game in front of the stage so I wouldn’t end up with a ball to the face, or with someone’s drink spilled all over me.

Last up were The Gomers as Spinal Tap. They set it up so their drummer “died” between the songs! I was kind of hoping they would lower themselves onto the stage in big pods, but I guess logistics didn’t allow for this. It was after 2 AM by this time, and I’d started the complaining-nonstop-about-my-feet portion of the evening, so we left partway through their set. Here are the Gomers. (Most of my other concert pictures didn’t come out very well.)

The next day, I was up bright and early (well, at 9 AM; that’s early considering I went to bed at 3) for OMG A FIBER FEST!!!11!!!!1

The Wisconsin Spin-In was nearly 2 hours away. Mary’s Hindi teacher kindly offered to drive, since he wanted to check out the charkha selection–we’d been teaching his daughter to spindle and wheel spin; being Indian, he had spun on a charkha in school, and was thinking of getting her one so she could try it as well. I guess the charkha thing didn’t work out (apparently even the best, top of the line charkhas in India top out around $75, while the cheapest one at the show was the Babe’s Fiber Garden Liten Spindle and cost around $120). They did get some other fun stuff, though, like some sparkly pink roving and lavender soap.

In a curious juxtaposition for a charkha-shopping trip, there was a gun show located next door. I was curious about it, but ultimately didn’t end up going.

Here’s the Spin-In marketplace:

My excellent companions:

Some stressed-out alpacas, who spent the whole show making urgent humming noises, biting each other, and putting their ears back:

And last but not least, an overview of my amazing haul. I thought I’d have kind of a remorseful shopping hangover this morning from buying too much, but when I woke up, I still felt really excited about each and every one of these purchases, and looking forward to using all of them. Click through to the Flickr page to see annotations of the photo listing what the various goodies are.

Particularly exciting finds (well, all of it is exciting, but a couple of things to call your attention to): the Spinner’s Control Card, which I balked a bit at first at paying money for (it’s just a little piece of acrylic, and I found out it’s $1 cheaper from the same vendor online!) but I love it already. It would be easy to make as a DIY project, if you’re willing to put some work into it. Basically, it’s a clear piece of plastic with lines on it corresponding to a wpi measurement. You can just lay your yarn over the card every so often as you’re spinning and compare it to the thickness of the lines to make sure your grist is consistent. It’s faster and easier than doing the WPI “the proper way,” so it’s really good for just checking quickly on your yarn every now and then.

And the Bosworth Mini spindle in the middle of the picture. It’s a lovely piece of work, rim-weighted, with the grain of the dark wood showing through clear and beautiful. It’s made from Morado, and weighs 22 grams/0.77 oz. I love spinning on the wheel, so I wouldn’t have bought this, except that I heard through the grapevine that Jonathan and Sheila Bosworth will be retiring soon, and their spindles (widely considered to be top of the line, the creme de la creme of spindles) will soon be very scarce in supply and high in demand. I told myself that if I ever did become a spindle spinner at some point in the future, I’d really kick myself for having the chance to buy a Bosworth spindle and not doing it–and with the quality and reputation of the product, I shouldn’t have any problems unloading it for retail or near-retail value in the future if I changed my mind.

As it turns out, this spindle may have converted me to spindling (at least for fine yarns). I’m having a great time spinning the lustrous raspberry-colored Corriedale-silk from Handspun by Stefania. Spinning on this spindle is a wonderful, a real pleasure–it spins fast and stabilizes quickly, and it cheers me up just to look at the beautiful wood as I wind on the singles. I wonder if I should have bought more of them. Maybe three of them. (What do you think, Mary?)

Sooo… fiber fest over, I headed home and Rahul and I went out to the Halloween Freakfest party on State Street (infamous for the rioting, mayhem, and tear gas in previous years) but decided to skip the $10 admission fee and just people-watch from the perimeter for a while.

On the way home, just two blocks from our house, we saw a couple of young guys going from car to car, accompanied by the sound of broken glass. “Are those guys breaking into those cars?” I asked and Rahul biked up to see. I looped around and came back–they were still heading up the street and I could see that they were carrying drumsticks and apparently banging on the passenger side of the cars. “Hey! What the hell are you doing?” I yelled.

“Don’t worry about it,” yelled back one of the guys, and fixed me with an intense stare. I got kind of scared and biked away to find Rahul, who had vanished in the meantime. I found him around the corner, calling the police. Unfortunately, by the time he got off the line and we went back around the corner, the two vandals had run away. We went to take a closer look and it seemed like they hadn’t actually broken windows, but had broken or broken off a number of side view mirrors and dented car doors with their stupid drumsticks. I just hope one day those two morons find themselves having to file an insurance claim for property damage. Scratch that, I hope they find themselves having to pay out of pocket for bodywork as many times as the number of cars they thoughtlessly damaged last night for fun. If only I’d had my camera with me!

“What do we want?”


“When do we want them?”


This was the rousing call to undead political action that echoed through the streets of Madison, Wisconsin last Saturday at the 2008 Zombie Lurch. Like dead rights activist Reg Shoe, whose livejournal can be read here, these fine members of the postmortem population were lurching for zombie rights (and delectable brains.)

We stopped by to see them and saw an impressive zombie “Thriller” synchronized dance routine:

The zombies included hikers who had met with some kind of unfortunate ancient evil on their backpacking trip, a scientist who had been bitten by a rabid possum, and a zombie holding a “Zombies for McCain” sign–unfortunately, I didn’t get close-ups of most of them.

Check out the zombie biker at the left of this photo:

A neuroscientist was monitoring the situation while protesting zombie brain waste:

Local news story here, youtube photo montage with excellent soundtrack choice here. (You can see the top of my head (in turquoise bike helmet) in the foreground at 1:36. I’m faaaamous!)

The zombies started at the Capitol building and lurched down the main drag, State Street, until they reached the university. Every so often, the calls of “BRAAAAAINS” would be interrupted by a moan of “BUUUUSSSS,” and the seemingly chaotic mob of zombies would flow smoothly over to one side of the street to let the bus go by.

A woman standing outside Ben and Jerry’s said to me in a puzzled, wondering tone, “What would ever possess a group of people to get together and do something like this?”

Whatever the reasons–delicious brains, camaraderie, Halloween, a sense of humor, raising awareness of Election Day next Tuesday–it was fun! Our friends Steve and Jeanne were visiting us over the weekend, and even their dog Nola got into the undead act:

Back in the land of the living, here’s what’s on my needles (STILL Flicca: I’m perhaps 1/3 of the way through the sleeves now, and then I’ll have to set them in and knit the collar and front bands. This cardigan is taking forever):

And here’s what’s on my wheel:
3.5 beautiful ounces of hand-painted merino in “Tapestry” from my new favorite Etsy seller, Bee Mice Elf. I’m currently trying to produce soft, thick, knittable, self-striping singles, but I have a tendency to spin too fine:

She also sent along this little sample with my order:

It’s the same stuff I spun up for my Quantette, and I also spun up some of her merino in the “Early Drop” colorway last month–spun over the fold for extra bounce, and twisted into a two-ply:

She doesn’t have too much listed in her shop at the moment, but you can special order a 4 oz. braid of any of her fall/winter color collections anytime, and they’re all totally gorgeous. I think the Quiet collection is my favorite, particularly Pensive Plum.

The Urban and Coastal collections aren’t up on her photostream yet, but you can see them in her sold items by clicking through those links.

I’m probably going to wind up making knitting nemeses or something by posting this, but I just came home from the weirdest Stitch ‘n’ Bitch of my entire life. Dude.

I’d been to this particular group once before. I’d made plans to meet up there this week with turtleknitter (Mary)–we were going back and forth between either meeting up on Thursday or going to the S’n’B tonight (Wednesday) to see the musician they’d booked. Apparently he’d come to play once before and a lot of people liked his show. Having listened to some clips on his MySpace page, I said I was interested in going to see him, so Wednesday it was.

I almost cancelled–I had a bunch of work to do by EOD today (spent a couple of hours finishing it up once I got home from knitting)–but decided no, I should make the effort to go see some live music and meet some new people.

The S’n’B is held in a very large local cafe with lots of different rooms. The concert was in a room all the way in the back. When I arrived, people were sitting around four tables arranged in a circle; on the other side of the room was a stage with folding chairs set up in front. I sat down, started chatting to the people around me, and not long after that it was time for the music to get going. The organizer of this S’n’B asked if we should perhaps either move to the chairs in front of the stage, or move the tables forward so they all faced the stage. Since yarn and coffee was already spread out everywhere, there wasn’t a lot of enthusiasm about either idea, and the musician ended up just sitting at a chair at the circle of tables.

He requested that perhaps we could all stop talking and quietly listen while he played, if that would be OK. I have to admit I was kind of put off by this, since I had come to the S’n’B pretty much specifically to socialize, and the postings about the concert hadn’t really made it clear that we weren’t supposed to talk at all. I guess I’m not sure whether the default at a concert should be talking or not talking, but I’ve been to a lot of coffeehouses over the years, worked in one in high school, and I’ve never been to one that demanded absolute silence from the audience. Usually the normal background activities go on during the music–talking, drinking coffee, studying, working–and if the musician is really good, people will shut up and listen.

The woman next to me kept talking to me and showing me her knitting. I admired (she had some great fingerless mitts made from Rowan Scottish Tweed Chunky in a deep purple color, and a newly finished merino hat) and after the first song, we were admonished again by the musician: “please, it would be really helpful if you would not talk while I’m playing, it’s really, really distracting.”

“Well, it’s not like you even wrote that song yourself,” said the woman next to me (he’d just played a cover song).

“Well, this one is one I wrote myself,” he said, and went on playing.

So we sat quietly for a while and listened to the music. Mary came in, and sat down across from me–I sneaked over and gave her the skein of handspun I’d been saving for her:

(posed below alongside my new Sundara yarn:)

Mary had given me a huge chunk of this delicious purple Miss Babs BFL batt at our last spinning meet-up, so I thought it would be nice to give her the squooshy, lofty, pretty Navajo-plied handspun that the batt became. (As it turns out, it was great timing, since it was her birthday on Monday and I didn’t know! Happy birthday, Mary!)

I admired the mittens she was making vewy, vewy quietly and then went back to my seat.

The musician played a cover of “Androgynous,” by the Replacements, which I appreciated, and a fun song about sneakers. He apologized if he had sounded bitchy earlier, and told us he had been to Africa and “it’s amazing how it changes your life.”

After a bit, the musician took a break, and the organizer made an announcement that anyone who felt like talking should go into the other room before the music started up again. “It’s not just distracting for him to play, it’s distracting for us, who want to listen.”

I may be misquoting a little here, but this is the gist of what happened next:

The musician called out to the woman next to me, “You should try working on your attitude!”

She retorted, “Well, you should try working on your singing!”

He started talking about how his singing might be an acquired taste, and maybe you would have to have refined tastes and appreciate music in order to like it.

The organizer said to the woman next to me, “Go fuck yourself!”

And about half of us trooped off into the Talking Zone and the rest of the room arranged themselves adoringly before the musician for the rest of his set.

So, yeah. We got kicked out of the S’n’B for being too loud. And the organizer swore at us. It was really weird. Now I’m kind of afraid to go back! It wasn’t even that I was trying to make a statement about the music, or identify myself as a troublemaker… actually, I thought the guy’s music was nice; he sings and plays the guitar well. It was just that I came to S’n’B for socializing in general, and Mary and I had specifically made plans to meet up there to chat, and neither one of those goals was being met by the concert setup. But now I think I may have been blacklisted.

I also found out afterwards that the organizer is engaged to the musician, which would explain a lot about the interpersonal dynamics there.

It was just a very, very odd experience all around.

Amusingly enough, one of the people who left the room with us was an anthropology student who had come to the meeting because she had to write a paper about a group of people, and she had chosen to come observe a group of knitters in action. She had expected to write a fairly boring paper about a standard Stitch ‘n’ Bitch session–looks like she hit the anthropology jackpot.

On the bright side, I’m now about 4 inches into both sleeves for my Flicca coat. Soon, cuddly sweater coat goodness will be mine! I’ll have to decide soon if I want to close it with buttons or a belt or leather toggles (I’m leaning towards toggles, but I think they’ll be the most trouble to locate). It is pretty gigantic and heavy already (10 skeins in) and I can only imagine how heavy the versions on Ravelry knit in Rowan Yorkshire Tweed Chunky must be–I have both yarns in my stash, and RYC Soft Tweed seems pretty airy and lofty, while Yorkshire Tweed Chunky is much heavier and denser. I did the math and ten yards of RYC Soft Tweed weigh 5.7 grams, while ten yards of Yorkshire Tweed Chunky weigh 9.17 grams!

Edited to add a few corrections to clear things up as per some comments made by the organizer (Mackenzie), since it looks like I did misquote:

  • The person who was talking was talking loudly and yes, her comments were rude. I think that was already clear from the description of what she said, but just in case that wasn’t, there you go. I also missed reporting an additional bitchy/sarcastic exchange between her and the musician, which you can read about in Mackenzie’s comments below
  • I was wrong; it wasn’t the organizer who said “go fuck yourself,” but the person sitting next to her.
  • I accidentally gave the impression that the Africa comment had to do with asking people to be quiet, which it didn’t. I was just summing up the different things he said during the first part of the set. It was unrelated banter between songs and had to do with the content of one of the musician’s songs.
  • Mackenzie wasn’t the one who organized the show; the owners of the cafe did that.

1 skein of Sundara Sock Yarn in Roasted Persimmon over Green Papaya, Seasons Sock Club, Autumn, October 2008 shipment: $25.

Average monthly per capita income in Cambodia: $24.16

Ashford Traditional single-drive, lacquered, single-treadle spinning wheel: $535

The gross national income per capita in Benin, 2006: $540

The theme of this year’s Blog Action Day is Poverty. All over the blogosphere, people are writing about poverty and how it relates to their little corner of the world.

I don’t hold a lot of illusions about people stopping their yarn stashing, eating out at restaurants, buying new clothes, going to the movies, or what have you, and donating all that money to charity instead while living a virtuous, ascetic life in the cheapest place they can afford. It’s just not the way things work in this day and age and place, for the vast majority of people. I’m certainly not saintly enough to live that simply. And despite their ideals, people have a strong tendency to want to spend their hard-earned money on fun stuff rather than donating it to someone they don’t know and will never meet.

Knitters, crocheters, spinners, weavers, let me suggest 3 simple actions that will change little about the way you live your happy, well-fed, yarn-filled life from day to day, but will make a difference (be it ever so slight) in fighting global poverty–and without making you feel guilty about spending your money as you please:
1) Download the AidMaker browser plugin and shop online as usual. When you shop from online stores like the Apple Store (or Ultimate Colon Cleanse, apparently!) while using this browser plugin, receives a commission, which (aside from operating costs) they then donate to the charity of your choice, at no extra cost to you. Let’s say you go to Amazon and buy Knitted Lace of Estonia or some Cascade 220 yarn–or even an Ashford Kiwi spinning wheel–they’ll donate 3% of your purchase price to the charity of your choice, without you spending an extra dime.
2) When you feel like you need a shopping fix, or decide you could use some retail therapy, consider going to a charity site instead and spending your money on a charitable donation. If you’re a stasher, you can just pretend you bought some yarn and it went straight into the stash, hidden under the bed or in a drawer out of sight somewhere. But instead, you can spend the money on a sheep, llama, or goat from Heifer International, a camel from Mercy Corps, or a loan to a textiles entrepreneur via (at the moment, one of the open loans seeking lenders is for a group of Peruvian weavers trying to start a textiles factory)
3) Or if you feel like you need something tangible as a result of your shopping spree, consider spending money on products that help the economies of developing countries. You could buy some yarns via The Hunger Site–that angora-cotton blend looks especially tempting, doesn’t it? In your LYS, a few yarn brands you can look at include the Snow Leopard Trust, Manos del Uruguay, Malabrigo, Shokay, Lantern Moon, and Mirasol. If you’re feeling indulgent, splurge on some qiviut from the Oomingmak cooperative. If you’re feeling even more indulgent than that, how about some vicuna at $300 per 28.5 grams? According to Peace of Yarn, after maintaining state control and protection of the wild vicuna herds since 1825, the Peruvian government “handed ownership of the animals back to the common villagers of the country, creating a viable and stable source of income for struggling villagers” by sponsoring traditional shearing days called chacus in which the vicunas are trapped using traditional methods, sheared, and released.

So in honor of today, I’m going to go install that plugin, lend some money via Kiva, and ogle qiviut on Ravelry for a while.

P.S. I just bought the Ashford Traditional used on Craigslist and it was actually closer to the GNI per capita of Afghanistan. I’m pretty excited about it–I’ll have enough bobbins to actually do a two-ply without having to wind off into centerpull balls! Lots of ratios! A nice big drive wheel! I can adjust twist and pull separately using the Scotch tension!–though I’m surprisingly feeling sort of anxious and attached about selling my old wheel. It’s prettier, and easier to treadle.