Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Weighty Subjects

I’ve been having a great time spinning some of the treasures I got recently. The grey is really a brown blended with white, which produces a real ‘grey’ shade. I don’t know what it is, but it does contain some very long fibres and some short ones too. There is a fair bit of kemp in it as well, but they slip right out without getting caught in the twist. It is buttery soft and so easy to spin. I forgot to tell you where it came from! We got it from http://www.thesheepshedstudio.com/ which is in Wyoming. Carol and her staff were very easy to deal with, and the huge package arrived within 2 weeks. This is quite unheard of here in Canada! We didn’t have any trouble getting it through Customs either. The grey roving is found on this page, http://www.thesheepshedstudio.com/Wooltoprovings.html at the bottom of the page. Unfortunately, this is the last of it – I think I should have purchased more!

Not all online purchases are this easy or as successful. Early this year, in our spinning class, one of the girls brought in the cutest little weigh scale. It is about the size of a pocket calculator, and when the top slides off, there is a fully operational electronic scale underneath! The capacity is not high, but for our purposes in class, this was ideal. The price was right too (about $40) and she found a site in Canada that sold them.

Several of the others in the class wanted scales too, and this company, Digital Scales Canada, had quite a nice selection of different kinds for all sorts of needs (I don’t wish to promote them so won’t post a link). After much consideration, I made my decision, and the others placed their order with me, and I agreed to place one order for them all. The company advertised that there was one price for shipping PER ORDER, and we thought that was a very good deal. We ordered 6 scales for a total sale of $681. They preferred credit card sales, but said they would accept cheques and would ship the order when the cheque cleared. I didn’t mind that, since I don’t have credit cards, and we weren't in a big rush.

Within 3 days of mailing off my order and payment, I received an email from them saying that they cannot accept cheques. Seems they suddenly changed their policy. I cancelled my order and told them to mail my cheque back. It’s now 60 days, and still no sign of it. I guess return mail takes longer.

We looked around locally to get something that we could use, but small scales like that, with a 0.1g accuracy, were selling for about $60 to $120 in the pawn shops!

One of the girls in the class decided she would try and place an order herself using her credit cards. She dutifully placed her order online, and paid with her card – only to be told shortly thereafter that they won’t process the order without photocopies of the front and back of her credit card, AND the front and back of her driver’s license!! Her bank advised her not to do this, and she also cancelled her order. We’re not sure what this company is up to, but selling weigh scales doesn’t seem to be one of them!

Shortly after this experience, we noticed that the company has suddenly started accepting Paypal payments. The same girl still needed a scale (as do the rest of us) and decided to give them one more chance. She placed her order for only one scale this time, with her Paypal account, and they accepted it, and she received her scale in due course! So it seems they don’t want to ship more than ONE item per order, and don’t really uphold their claim of one shipping price PER ORDER. After all, they were about to lose $47.50 in shipping charges on our multiple order!

So the result is that we don’t get our scales, and our homework is now on hold. I suppose I could take my little packages of wool and dye plant material to the post office and get them to weigh them for me. I have a feeling that won’t work very well. Well, there are always the scales at Safeway!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Weird Stuff

There are so many weird things going on around here lately. I just don’t know where to begin.

Okay, first of all, my poinsettia, which had some red leaves late in the year, before Christmas (see an earlier post), has decided that it’s time to do it again. So now I have ten branches with red leaves on the tips. I don’t know what this means. Is there some sort of strange cosmic shift going on, and this poor plant is getting all confused?

It’s been in this same pot, from the florist, since it arrived at my office about 5 years ago, I should think. One of the senior people in the office used to buy a large potted poinsettia for each floor. They didn’t last long, except for the one that I looked after on my floor. I knew what it liked, and kept it growing nicely and green for several years. Because the office lights are on almost all the time, it never got night, and didn’t know when it was time to change colour. But one year, after I came back from a Christmas break, I turned it around, and found all these red leaves on the side against the wall! That side had the dark, and they changed colour. So cool! I finally took it home when it was in danger of being thrown out (people are like that in the office) and it has bloomed for me during the two years I’ve had it here. And now once again this the spring. It’s really confused. Maybe it needs to be repotted, since they do tend to put out flowers when under stress.

Speaking of stress, I didn’t have internet connection for over a week. OMG! Talk about withdrawal! I knew that I spent a lot of time online, but I sure did find myself out- of-sorts last week. I depended on being connected to the rest of the world – no, I NEEDED to be connected with my friends and family. I tried to tell myself that it was only temporary, and I’ll get through it. I called my ISP, and got a recorded message that some parts of the city were not getting service, and will be rectified soon. Yah, sure. I stayed online until I finally got through to a techie who checked what he could from there, and said it all seems to be working just fine. No, it ain’t!!

Then one morning, as I lay in bed, I thought I should check all the connections. I would take them all apart, and reinstall them all one by one and see what happens. Since I use a router, I thought I would try connecting directly to the computer from the modem and see if the modem really is at fault. It worked! No problem! Alright, so it was my router. It’s fairly new, but I believe the warranty has just expired, and so has the router! Isn’t that a coincidence?!

So now I’m back into the swing of things, trying to go through 637 emails to see if there was anything really important I need to attend to. Nope, none at all. Wonder why someone thinks it was necessary to send them out in the first place? Oh, well. Now I have to try and catch up with all the podcasts and other downloads I get regularly. Oh, when will there be time to get any sleep?!

One thing that was good out all this was that I got a chance to do some real spinning. I’m working on my second bobbin of that lovely grey/brown roving I got. I’m really liking it, and am visualizing something nice for me out of it. It’s not going to happen for some time yet, so don’t wait for it.

There are a few other things I need to get off my chest too, but that will have to wait for the next time.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

New Additions

Although last week tended to be pretty crappy, there was something that makes me smile -- a lot. I received a nice pile of fibres to play with. Well, I had to pay for it, but it came very quickly.

One of the girls in my class discovered a place in the US that was selling some punta wool. This is a breed that comes from Mexico, and we’ve used it in class. It’s quite nice and soft, long lustrous fibre which we blended with all manner of other fibres. So why not get some for myself to play with? Well, I looked at the site, and found a few more things that I might like to get my hands into: superwash merino, dyed superwash, dyed Cotswold, a spinning bell, a nice grey, some random roving … well, it went on and on, and by the time I tallied up my order, I knew this was out of hand! So I trimmed down to a few essentials, trying to stay under $100 – well, okay, just a little over that!

The order arrived very quickly. We expected a couple of weeks, but it was less than two weeks that it was here. Very good service from them. It flew over the border with no problem, with out duty charges, and only the US exchange is what really got us. So it cost me about $175 for 12 pounds of fibre. That should do me for awhile.

In fact, as soon as I got home that day (I picked it up from the classmate at noon -- thanks Sherry), carrying two large bags of loot, I had to spin up a small handful of the black and white roving, and because I like a 3-ply, I Navajo plied it. Then I had to knit it up too, to see if I could maintain that random colouring. I liked the effect. There was some blending of the black and white, but I think I will work harder at keeping them separate. I am thinking that a sweater for myself might just be in order.

I’ve already started spinning what was supposed to be the grey, although it does appear to be brown mixed with white. I quite like how it is working up, being quite soft and fine, and fairly long-stapled. I will also do it in a 3-ply, and this time am spinning up three bobbins. I’m trying for a uniform yarn this time, since there was some unevenness in the b&w that I did earlier.

All of it looks so very nice! I haven’t had a chance to get my hands into the rest of it yet. There is one bag of random odds and ends that looks interesting. There is a handful of red, and black, and white, and even some brown/gold roving in there too! I’m not sure what will become of it all, but I think I could make something out of it yet. Maybe it will join something I already have, or mix together into a project, or maybe I’ll have to get more of one that I really like to make up an item. Hmm, now that is a possibility too.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Spring Arrives!

Although Spring arrived almost 2 weeks ago, this is the view that greeted me this morning when I got out of bed and looked out the window:

It was so very nice early in March, and was quite shorts weather. The little shrub outside the front door has already set out it's leaves, and the dahlias have pushed up several inches of shoots. Then this.

Those of us that have lived in this city for a number of years should be used to this now. I'm not quite used to it, but I am resigned to it; it changes all the time, so be prepared for anything. There is a new co-worker at the desk next to me that has arrived a month ago from "the other side of the mountain" where winters are rather mild, and the snow is heavy and wet. By now, spring has taken a good hold "back home" and she is expecting the same here. No, no, I keep telling her, never put away your winter coat! You can never tell what will happen in the afternoon, so be prepared for anything. Even this.

Now, I imagine some of you were waiting for the second sock, and the description of the wonderful discovery I have made. Which should have been here, if only it weren't for a small little thing that happened: I was told that it looks so much like a pattern that has already been published. Oh, damn! So I took a look at Widdershins, and indeed it is very similar. I did my turning of the heel slightly differently, but with very much the same effect. Incredible that we could come up with so similar results! I knew what I wanted to happen, and so created my pattern to do just that; apparently the creator of Widdershins had the same thought, and we reached almost the exact same solution.

Well, in reality, there are only a handful of ways to knit a sock. I think we've about developed all methods possible; we now will focus on variations and developing a library of pattern stitches. That's as it should be.

I still will go ahead and knit the second sock. Right now, it's all on hold. I was put into quite a downer once I learned I hadn't discovered anything new! I really had no desire to continue with this once-exciting project -- in fact, I had no interest in doing anything whatsoever! I have now sufficiently recovered to start moving again, and will go on to finish those socks (because I'm stubborn enough to do it) and maybe I might try to do them again -- once the pain is long forgotten. Perhaps I should try something completely different first. I think it would be a good learning exercise to document the development of the sock, with photos and text, just for my own use. However, someone has beat me to it as well: Charles has written a very good description of how he did it, along with VIDEOS of how he casts on, turns the heel with short-row and wraps, and the sewn cast-off. So go look at his, and I won't have to bother.

I am still continuing to spin. I was lucky enough to acquire about 3 lbs of some really wonderful grey wool. I have no idea of the breed, but it is so soft, and silky. It is spinning up very nicely, into a strong yarn, and I have about 3 skeins now, and continue to work on it almost every day. And yes, I am still using my CD spindle. A fellow knitter called me this week to say that he has the chance to buy a Louet wheel (at a very low price) and he wondered if learning to spin would be easy. He is going to take some lessons in a month, and has also purchased a lovely top-whorl spindle made by Ed Tabachek. Well, all I could tell him was that, as with all things, it's a bit awkward at first, but I have confidence that he will do very well with some practice, because he is very determined and a perfectionist.

I also got some really exciting news tonight! But I will have to tell you all about it next time.