Saturday, June 18, 2016

More fine yarns

Most of you know that I like to spin on a spindle and that I like to spin very find yarns. Late last year, I got myself some Merino-Silk blend fibres, and started spinning them on the spindle. Because they were so well-prepared, it just naturally wanted to be spun very fine. I had nothing to do with it!

I really enjoyed the spinning. It is beautiful fibres, very well-prepared (there were no short hairs and it was combed top) and just a joy to spin. Every moment I had, I would pick up the spindle (which sits beside me when I am at the computer) and would spin while watching a movie or TV show. I find I fall asleep if I have to sit still for only a few moments! And little by little, I collected quite a number of cops of very finely spun singles.

I wanted more fibre, since I spun it all up. I was able to get a bag of Merino-Silk-Alpaca blend, as nice as the earlier batch, and it also wanted to be spun very fine. So I acquired a number of cops of that as well!

A couple of months ago, I was all done, and had to start plying. It would be quite impossible to use the singles in any way, and plying was the only thing to do. I decided on a 2-ply. However, I could quickly see that even a 2-ply was too fine to be used in any way! I did think of doing a 3-ply, but decided I wouldn't get much yarn that way, and left it as a 2-ply.

It took me several weeks of plying. It just seems to go on and on and on! As I watched the cops empty, they didn't seem to change at all! I would ply many, many metres, and when I looked back, they were still the same as before! But little by little, and a lot of spindle twirling!!, I finally finished all those cops and I had a lot of plied yarn made. When I wound them off into skeins, I had seven skeins of very fine Merino-silk-alpaca 2-ply yarn! I washed them and hung them to dry, and twisted them into skeins. Here is a pic of one: this one is about 585 metres. I don't have a weight for it, but will try to get that one day soon.
That is a dime under the strand of 2-ply to show you relative size. You should be able to click on it to em-biggen it.

I still have no idea what I will do with it!

I am Back!

Well, the truth is I haven't really been away. I just haven't posted anything here for a very long time. I have been busy -- there are many changes around here. And one day seems to go by and then another. Things just get left for "tomorrow".

I have written several posts, in my head, but not actually in print. I did write some posts here, but left them in draft form. And I am quite certain that I did post something before, which has just vanished! That is our new technological world -- nothing lasts as you expect! 

One of the things that have changed here is that I have a new computer since the last time I posted. Well, in fact, I have gone through TWO other computers since the last post!! They just don't make them like they used to. The new computers are designed to fail in a very short time. Then you have to buy a new one -- that is the point of the whole thing. If anything lasted too long, business would fail, so we have to make sure that you have to buy new things all the time. Nothing is made to last these days.

We live in a throw-away society. I see that all the time in this apartment building -- people throw out so many things that are still in fairly good shape, but may no longer work and no one wants to spend the time -- nor the money -- to repair anything now. After all, it will cost too much to repair, so we will just buy a new one! Most of the time, these items are still in good working order, but people just can't be bothered to take them with them when they move. They simply buy another one!! Money isn't a problem for many here.

But about my computers. I had one which was getting old and it just couldn't continue to work any more. After all, it was about 5 years old, so you can't expect anything to still work as it did when it was new! I wanted a small little laptop-type of machine, mainly to be used for internet access, and not as a main computer. I found one at The Source (formerly known as Radio Shack) and the price was acceptable. It was a nice little size (about 10" screen, I think) and it had enough buttons on it to do what I needed. It had only 250 GB storage, which was enough for my purposes. I wasn't going to keep much on that machine anyway. I did have a desktop for the main work. This one was an Acer, which is a lower-end brand.

But shortly after a year was over, it just stopped working. No big bang, no explosion, no whimper -- just shut down, and wouldn't start up again! It was no more!

I looked around, and found that the prices were best at The Source again. I eventually found one that had the things I needed and told the sales guy I wanted this one. It was another Acer. He went to the back room, and brought a box saying it has a different model number, but is the same machine. When I got it home, I could see it wasn't the same! The one I looked at had more USB ports and on the side. This one had only a few and on the back, which is most inconvenient. But it had to do.

I enjoyed working with it, and it was small enough that it fit into my little briefcase, and did what I needed. I used it mostly for access to the internet, and it did that well enough.

One day, just short of 6 months after I purchased it, it suddenly got really sluggish, and then starting closing programs, and shut itself off! And I could never boot it up again. It simple stopped working! No more to be said. I tried so many times, and it just would not start up again. I took it back to the store where I bought it, but they didn't want to have anything to do with me. They only make sales; they don't do repairs. I had to take it to some repair shop, or contact Acer and let them handle it.

But I needed one urgently, so ran around looking for a replacement. I went over to Best Buy and they had a couple that looked like they would fit my purposes, but the prices were far too high. In talking to salesperson (they all tried to avoid me at all costs), I was told that I should wait for about 2 weeks  until Black Friday and I should be able to get one of them at a substantially reduced price.

So I waited. It was torture! I was able to go over to a friend's and use the computer to check on emails, and I used the computers at the library as well. When the Big Sale came around, I went back to Best Buy and looked for the big deals. No such thing!! In fact, the little machine that I quite liked 2 weeks earlier had INCREASED in price by $100! That is the way Best Buy works -- raise the prices, and then pretend to put them on sale. People are so easily duped!

So I turned around and went over to Staples, and found a nice laptop that I liked. At the cashier, when he started adding in all sorts of "extras", the price was going up and up! I said I am not paying for anything extra; I want the computer only, and nothing more. You have to watch everything they do! Suddenly, all the things that come with the machine were "extra charges". However, when I brought it home, I discovered it was so HUGE! It was much larger than I had wanted -- somehow I was anxious to make sure it had enough USB ports and other features, that I overlooked the size of the machine. And it is heavier than I like. But it was too late to take it back now, so I had to keep it. It will have to do for now.

I had been in touch with Acer tech support to see if they had a suggestion on how I could get this machine to boot up. No ideas. A few weeks later, I contacted them again, and we went through a bunch of check-points and still couldn't get it working. I was really frustrated -- obviously, he didn't speak English, and seemed to be using Google translate for our communications. I gave up!

Eventually, I had to contact them once more. I HAD to know what to do with this thing -- it still had a warranty in effect -- and he (or she; you don't know who you are speaking to from India) said I will have to send it back to the head office and they will try to repair it. I know all it needs is a new HD and O/S -- but all my files were lost forever.

So in late March, I packed it up and sent it back to Ontario to the head office. I still haven't heard anything from them since -- I guess it takes time for them to get to all those machine being returned. I was told by a tech guy here that Acer is junk. He has seen so many of them needing fixing, and there is nothing you can do with them. They are very poorly made, and aren't worth buying. That is why they are so low priced. Now I know!! We will see what Acer will do with this one; it is still covered by the new warranty. The other one I had was just over a year and the warranty had expired, so there is nothing I can do about that one. But lessons learned!

Now I have a HP -- which my tech shop tells me is very poorly made as well. He says he has seen so many of them coming in for repair as well. He thinks they are junk -- not worth buying. Well, that may be. I am not expecting this one to last much longer. I don't put anything important on it, so that when it does fail, I won't have lost anything. Just can't take chances any more!

Thursday, January 01, 2015

In with the New

I have just taken down the old calendar of 2014 and put up the new one. It is the start of a new year, a new start. The days are getting longer (really, they are!), and summer will soon be here.

What better way for a youngish single man to celebrate New Year's Eve than to do some knitting! And that is what I did. Actually, I started this on Dec 30, and completed it on the 31st.

I was looking around for something to do, and reached into a bag laying nearby, and found a ball of cotton, in black. Now I have learned many years ago, not to do anything in black! It is so very difficult to see the stitches, no matter how bright the light is. I found that only natural daylight worked the best. Even a cloudy day was better than the brightest tungsten light in the house.

One of my favourite go-to things for me to knit is a dishcloth. I have one in the kitchen that I use all the time, and needed more. My usual pattern is the basketweave, in various sizes. It is a combination of knit and purl, which makes for more interesting knitting, although doesn't require constant attention. It is my usual mindless knitting while watching a movie or a TV show.

I did this one in 3-3 design, but could have used any other combination. I kept the 3 outside stitches in garter, and that blended in well. 
As I've said, black is not easy to work with. This yarn had some thick and thin sections, which does add texture, but was much more difficult to read the knitting itself. I have done this in several colours, as you can see, and the light pastel shades are better for showing off stitch patterns. But these dishcloths do get stained very quickly, so the black may be better. I did find that a lot of the black/purple dye came out when I first washed this one, and it will continue doing so for many washes to come. As long as I don't lay the wet black dishcloth on anything white to dry, I should not have any trouble with it. I had it blocking before midnight.

To all my virtual friends, I want to wish you all the best of good things in 2015. May there be plenty of knitting in your future!

Monday, December 22, 2014

New Sock!

Right after I finished those last grey socks, I immediately cast-on for another one! I had been thinking about this one while working on the grey pair, so had to get started while it was still fresh in my mind.

I have been thinking about doing a small workshop with a few girls at work that had asked about knitting socks. But I wanted to have a "teaching sock" to show them the different things involved in knitting a sock. I had seen this somewhere on a site, but really needed to make one for myself as a teaching aid.

So here is my "teaching sock":
-- and yes, I just made one!

Each colour represents a different part of the sock. There is a different technique or pattern used in each section. Looking at it this way, I think it will be less daunting for anyone to start on a sock. It really is not that hard! By working each section, one at a time, in the right order, you can easily complete a sock. There are no new techniques used here that any intermediate beginner doesn't already know, so there won't be anything new to learn. You already know everything necessary to knit a sock! You just need to know which to use where and how to switch from one to the other.

That's why I find knitting a pair of socks so interesting to do. Each section is quite short -- there really isn't time to get bored with it before you have to switch to something else. There is always something "new" to do to keep your interest high. And each sections is quite short that you are finished the sock before you know it! This one took me about 3 evenings, which is a lot faster than most other things we knit.

Now all I need is to get the girls together all at the same time, and we can get started!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Uncle socks

About two years ago, I decided I wanted to knit something for my uncle. And, looking around, it seemed obvious that he would like a nice pair of socks. That is something everyone can use. He was having some trouble with his feet, or legs, or something, so socks seemed like a nice idea.

I started on the socks with commercial yarn since I had it handy. I started on the toes, and when I got to the heel, I couldn't decide on how to do them. I wanted to reinforce the bottom of the heel in some way since that is where most socks get holes. But I had trouble determining how to do it properly, so I just left them. For a very long time! And there they still sit, mocking me!

Eventually, I started a new pair but with my hand spun this time. It is not the softest wool, but I wanted these to wear well. They aren't scratchy, but are good enough for socks. Since it is not very fine yarn, they are a little thicker and will work well in boots, or sandals. And that is how these will be used, I think.

I started these at the toes, since I like that construction. I just love doing Jenny's Magic Cast-on! I think it is so ingenious, and so simple to do, and looks great! So that is what I used.

I couldn't find long enough circulars to do two at a time, so used only one circ and then double points! Hey, you use what you have handy. You can see below how I did them -- one circular needle for the top and then double points for the sole of the sock. I decided to put in some ribs on the top half of the sock, just to make it fit snugly. (Yes, I used red yarn markers)

I increased for the gusset, then turned the heel -- which again is very interesting to do -- and did the peasant heel flap in reverse.
Again, all fun to do. I did the ribbing all the way around the leg.

I decided not to do anything different for the cuffs -- just use the ribbing I had already established, and they worked just fine. I cast off loosely, and darned in that one end! Done.
I had originally planned on doing the toes and heels in a contrast colour, and completely forgot when I got these started! I was so excited doing the Magic Cast-on that I didn't realize I was using the wrong colour. Never mind. These work just fine as they are. Next time, I'll pay more attention. Which reminds me -- I should cast on for a pair for myself!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

More Spinning

I think I may have mentioned some time ago that I had received a part of a fleece from a woman I know that has three "pet" ewes. They are of indeterminate breed, but do have quite a nice fibre. I had used some of it before, and asked if I can get some more. She very kindly brought me more.

It was raw fleece. There is the usual dirt and grime in the fleece, but were relatively free of vegetable matter.

I was able to pick out the locks, and I washed them individually. I then laid them out to dry, making sure they were in the same direction. Later, I combed them carefully, and made a sliver out of each combing. I spun all the singles from the cut end, naturally very fine and all on my trusty CD spindle.

Because I wanted a very soft spun yarn, I put only enough twist in the singles to hold together. Usually, I put in added twist, which produces a good firm yarn and give me good definition when knit. But I wanted something very light this time. I used my spindle as a supported spindle, so that there was little weight on the very fragile single strand. Being so fine, it could not support that much weight. But it only took a few spins to give enough twist to hold these fibres together. You really don't need that much twist in a yarn!

It took a very long time to fill one cop on the spindle. Of course, I am spinning as fine as possible, and I think as I get more practice, I am getting finer and finer! It was fun to do. I would put on a movie or some TV shows, and spin away. I can get many kilometres done in very little time!

I have plied all these singles I had. Then this weekend, I decided it was time to put them into a skein and wash the yarn, and get working with it. I have a project I want to make with it, and there is a time crunch now! I didn't measure how much yarn I have in the skein.

The fleece is natural white, which is actually an off-white. I washed the two skeins I produced, and then hung them to dry. It really didn't take that long to dry. Our climate is very dry and now very hot, and perhaps the finer yarns meant it dried very fast.

So here is a look at my skeins. That is one strand on the dime, but there is a reflection off the mirror finish which I didn't notice at the time I took the photo. This is all two-ply, even though you can't see the strands too clearly this way.
There is a great deal of elasticity in the yarn -- it looks very soft and delicate, but when you put some tension on the yarn, it stretches very far, and holds together surprisingly well! It is quite strong. I'm very pleased with it.

So now to start the knitting. This time, I will do a gauge swatch!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Newest Lace Project

For the last little while, I have spinning some wool I got from a friend. I am enjoying washing the locks, combing them, and spinning the very fine singles.

But to take a break from all that spinning, I wanted to have some knitting on the go as well. I have been watching Chicago Fire (and the companion series, Chicago PD) and need to have something to do with my hands or else I fall asleep!

I found a really nice shawl called Ashton shawlette, by Dee O'Keefe, free on Ravelry. It's very simple to do, basic design of double-down triangular shawl. As I was working on it, I thought it looked rather small, so repeated some of the patterns to add more rows than usual, and I'm glad I did. It ended up being a good size this way, and I do like the additional pattern repeats. It is really very simple to do, rather basic and boring if you are used to something more complicated, but is interesting enough to keep you going through it. It's a very good introduction to lace knitting, since it is very logical, and you will be able to "read" your knitting as you work, and can predict what is to come just from seeing where you have been! Simple pattern with astounding results.

Here are some pics of it on my blocking wall:

I used a bright red yarn for this from my stash. I thought it was wool, but there was no label on the cone. As I was working with it, it felt rather harsh in my hands, so I thought it was some sort of acrylic. But I stayed with it, despite the feel. When I washed it, a lot of the red came out in the water, so I knew it wasn't acrylic! It softened up really well once washed, so I think it is wool. It has a very high twist to the ply, which is probably why it felt hard. But I like the elasticity in the yarn because of that.

I really liked doing this one, and I think I may do another, in a different colour. Maybe with the yarn I am spinning now!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Check Everything!

Last week, I went over to Safeway since there were a few things in their flyer that I wanted. The prices were acceptable, although not at any reduced price. I know the regular prices, and Safeway (as well as every other store) will artificially inflate the prices for a short time, and then "reducing" the price down to regular, and we [less-than-bright] shoppers think it is a good deal. But you can't always trust those lower prices.

So they had 10-lb bags of potatoes for $3.99, which a good price considering they normally are at about $9. On the other side of the table were 5-lb bags for $3.49...and the 10-lb bags were $3.99. Now I don't understand the logic here! I don't normally like a large bag like that because I don't have anywhere to keep potatoes for so long, and by the time I get to the bottom of the bag, they are soft or have sprouted.

However, I decided to take the larger bag, and will have to use them up quickly in some way. I picked up a few other things as well.

The cashier was one of those chatty types, which I find annoying, but I was civil and tried to respond when I really had to (at the minimal). And there was some confusion about which bag I wanted to use, since I had brought my own. Anyway, I filled my shopping bag and left the store. The one thing I always have to do is go over the receipt before I leave the cashiers counter, no matter how long the line is behind me. This time, I didn't. I have been surprised by what they charge me other times.

When I got home, I started supper, and had to cook up a couple of potatoes. I really do enjoy my potatoes! And while it was cooking away, I went to the computer and entered my expenses on my accounting program. I am a former bookkeeper, so like to do these entries and get all kinds of reports (okay, so I am a nerd), and see who is taking all of my money! That is when I discovered that I was charged $8.99 for the potatoes! I know the sign at the store clearly said these were on special for $3.49!! I made the mistake of not checking the receipt at the store, even though I thought the total was slightly higher than it should have been for a few items. I think it was this same cashier that tried to distract me at another time and she failed to give me a $10-dollar bill in change. That is why I always check before I leave.

So my warning to you is always keep an eye on what you are being charged. Check it before you leave the cashier counter... and you can catch any error right then. I don't know if the cashier takes the extra herself, or whether she gets any kind of bonus, but I was overcharged, and I don't like it much.

This is one of the reasons I haven't been to Safeway for a long time. This kind of thing has happened a couple of times, and I just scratch them off my list of places to shop. I thought I was being careful, but got distracted once more. I am very careful when I go to any store, but this time I slipped up. I have to say she was pretty good. Very unassuming, really slick and that is why she is so successful.

You just can't trust anyone anymore!