Thursday, May 24, 2012

spinning with a wheel for the first time

On Tuesday, I took a beginner's spinning wheel class with my friend Christy at the Weaving Works down in the U District in Seattle.  I went into the class with a very basic skillset in drop spindle spinning, which I learned at the Sew Expo back at the beginning of March, and with never having sat at a spinning wheel before.  The slight familiarity I had with fiber and how to draft it was very helpful, but of course none of my other baby spinning skills translated in the slightest.

There were a variety of wheels set up in the class for everyone to use, and the one I ended up using was a Lendrum single-treadle folding wheel, similar to the double-treadle one available at the store now. It was easy enough to use once I had played with it, with a single treadle on the right side and three whorl sizes to choose from to adjust the ratio of the flyer speed to the wheel speed.  For this class (and so far at home) I'm keeping it on the slowest speed possible, as it's already very fast to me!  I had always wondered how you set up a wheel to spin, and it turns out to be quite easy once someone shows you how - the yarn comes out of the orifice (the black tube at the top of the photo above) to join with the fiber you're spinning in your hands, and once it's through the orifice it is attached to the flyer in order to wrap around the bobbin.

By the end of the class I had a bobbin about half-full of beginner yarn - some well turned, some not, some way overtwisted, and some not twisted enough.  My biggest challenge so far appears to be controlling the twist in the fiber - I'm using my right hand close to the wheel to control twist, while my left hand is managing and feeding the fiber to my right.  It's very easy to loose my right hand too much and then get twist in my fiber supply, which means a thicker slub of yarn forming since it's difficult/impossible to break that up once the twist is in it.  I also had trouble at the beginning with too much twist going into my yarn, which actually caused it to kink up and almost bind up the flyer, so that's going to take some time to get used to as well.  I only broke the yarn once, though, so overall I'm pretty pleased with the results for my first attempt.

At the end of class, we were shown how to use a niddy-noddy to pull the yarn off our bobbins, and then the teacher tied off the ends for us.  Apparently I wound onto the niddy-noddy very tightly, and it was difficult to get the skein loose once it had been tied off!  The yarn is only a single strand at this point, and of course when it's allowed to relax then all that twist comes out in curlies and overall twist of the skein.  I think it's kind of pretty, honestly - and it's amazing how much yarn was on the bobbin, and that was only about 2/3 of what I spun that night (my one yarn break was irredeemable and I started over at that point with a new leader).  That's probably the same amount (or possibly more) of yarn that I've spun on my drop spindles over the past few months!

The teacher gave us the option to borrow a wheel for the week between classes for a small deposit, so I took her up on that offer and brought it home along with the bag of fiber she gave to each student.  The fiber we're working with is plain undyed Australian wool mix, which she said is probably primarily Corriedale but is mixed with other things.  I spent a short time last night spinning again, but was having some difficulty and slightly different problems then I did while I was at the class.  First off, I was spinning in my dining room for the light and the wheel was moving on the hardwood floor as I treadled, so I used a silicone potholder to stop it from moving.  My first two sections of roving spun up very easily (and I was a lot more consistent with my yarn size, as you can see in the photo above), but then I started having more trouble controlling the wheel for some reason, with it going too fast for me at times and flipping direction when I didn't want it to.  After about the sixth time that the yarn wisped right out of my hands, I gave up for the night and pulled off the wispy bits and just wound off the edge on the guide hook so that I could just practice treadling a bit.  I'll try again tonight, maybe by moving my little ironing board so I can sit in my sewing room where there are rugs *and* good lighting.

And of course, after the frustration of having issues spinning, two of my dogs decided to be absolute brats one right after the other, which did not help matters.  That was when I cut my losses and headed to bed, as clearly anything additional was not going to be accomplished last night!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

the month of May in pictures so far

The month of May is passing quickly, and the blog posts that I write in my head somehow don't make it to the I'm going to do a photo post update!

May 4th was our tenth anniversary,which was spent with our friends in Canada for a flyball tournament.  Most of our evening was spent playing the horribly awfully fun card game Cards Against Humanity, but my wonderful husband did get me a beautiful anniversary band.  It's diamonds and sapphires in white gold, with a black finish applied on the parts where the sapphires are set - very different from the usual band, and I love it.  Right now I'm wearing it on my right hand, however, as a week later I somehow jammed my left ring finger and it's still swollen, so that I can't get my band off or my engagement or anniversary rings back on - very irritating!

At the tournament I got not one but two 0.000 perfect starts with Ezri - and earned a t-shirt for my accomplishment!

Phoebe was quite tired after the weekend, as again she ran as savage height dog and at the age of 13, that's finally starting to tire her out.  I was pretty amused by her choice of sleeping location, as it's only been two years waiting for her to figure out she could sleep on the little cushion I put up there for her.  In other news, we are looking for a wonderful retirement home for Phoebe will she will be loved, spoiled, and not have to deal with bitchy herding dogs for the rest of her life.  I hope we can find one, she deserves and has earned a quite respite for her golden years.

The Subaru has been inching steadily closer to the magical 100,000 mile mark, so one day last week I gave up and just drove around a bit until I got it to kick over so I could pull into a parking lot for a picture.  I had a picture of the 50,000 mark when I got my very first iPhone, but it was lost on a software update soon thereafter, which has always made me a little sad.

A friend of mine gave me this delightfully nerdy 80s version of the Aperture Science logo to put on my RV trailer.  It's fantastic!

Another Windstone dragon has come home to live with me, this one a Coiled Dragon in a limited edition color of Black Emerald Violet.  This is my first one of this type, and the black is incredibly rich and gorgeous in person, very different than the colored sculptures that I have already.

The lilac bush that lives in the middle of the stairwell in the back deck has grown even bigger and this year it produced about 16 flowers - the most ever!  The poor thing hasn't held up well to the heavy rain we had yesterday, however, so I went out and clipped several of the flowers to bring them in for me to enjoy.  I think we're going to have to strap or tie the main stalks of the bush upright, as they've been leaning a bit for a while (aiming for the sun, I think) and are now laying across the guardrail on the deck.  Very beautiful, nonetheless.

On Saturday my friend Christy and I spent quite a while doing squilt-related things, including a trip out to a quilt shop that was having a 25% off sale for their anniversary as well as sewing time.  I managed to complete the quilt top started in the class I took at the sewing expo in March, and I've conceptualized what I need to do to piece the backing so that I can put it all together.  I also spent some time working on the baby quilt that I am making for a friend's son, and of course I have one that I have started for my nephew that I hope to finish before his birthday in September.  I need to get rolling!

But even with all of the quilting I want to do and need to do, I'm still doing some spinning.  I was getting frustrated with the first batch I was working with, so I grabbed another spindle and a different batch of fiber and started a different one.  It's a lovely color and is working a little more easily for me, which is very nice and relaxing.  I just need to do it more often - like so much else!

And as if all of that wasn't enough, tonight I am taking a wheel spinning class - whee!

Monday, May 14, 2012

London, part two

Oh dear, it's been almost three weeks since I made my first post about our London trip - and it's already been four weeks since we were there.  How time flies!  Anyway, here's part two of our trip to London last month!

On Wednesday, I spent nearly the entire day at the Tower of London, which is very impressive both physically and historically.  The building above is where the Crown Jewels are stored and displayed, which was well worth the time I spent there - it was my first destination that morning, in order to minimize the crowds that would be there later in the day.  The exhibit is beautifully done, with several holding rooms that show videos about the coronation process throughout the ages, including a loop of the video footage of Queen Elizabeth II's coronation in 1952.  The first room shows the jeweled sword, golden cloak, and coronation gown worn by the Queen, all in glass cases that allow you to walk around and look your fill.  The next room is where the actual Crown Jewels are located, including the scepters, crowns, and rings, and they are in glass cases with slow-moving walkways on both sides.  You can walk back around to take the walkways again if you like, and I went down each side twice - not only are the jewels themselves impressive (including the Cullinan and Koh I Noor diamonds), but the artistry and craft that went into making the items is just phenomenal.  I was particularly impressed with some of the beautiful enamel work that went into the shafts of the scepters - lovely blues and whites, simply gorgeous.  The remainder of the space shows the very impressive gold plate and banquet collection, including a punchbowl that's big enough to hold something like 115 bottles of wine (and is big enough to wash a border collie in!), as well as the collection of the custom built cases that are used to transport the Jewels when they are required for official occasions.  Unfortunately the room was besieged by a large group of ill-behaved and poorly monitored children at that point, which marred my enjoyment of the rest of those items, but it is what it is.  Another display which I found later in the day shows the gem-less frames of several additional historical crowns, which was also quite intriguing and worth finding for a look.

The White Tower is the main building in the center of the Tower of London complex, and is the one that most people associate with the Tower itself.  Its previous uses are many, and now it is a large museum space that displays all kinds of things from suits of armor to keys to torture devices to cannon to guns, and even beyond.  My very favorite display was the incredible dragon sculpture (named Keeper) that was built out of all kinds of things that represent what the Tower has stood for in the history of England.  He was very impressive, especially with all the detail and creativity that went into his creation!

Parts of the Tower have been used as royal apartments throughout history, and parts of them have been restored to what is believed to be accurate representations of what they looked like hundreds of years ago.  The room above was a small personal chapel for the king (Edward III, I believe), and showed the most beautiful handmade and hand-glazed tiles that were made in the same manner as they would have originally been created hundreds of years ago.  The overall effect is very beautiful, and it is always amazing to see the beauty and craftsmanship that was present in the past and is sometimes sadly lacking in the present.

On Thursday I went to visit the British Museum, which is full of amazing artifacts and collections from all around the world.  There is so much to see there that I think I could go visit for several days and see different things on each day!  The Enlightenment Room was a particular favorite of mine, especially the parts that were full of scientific instruments such as the model of the universe shown in the photo above - how amazing it must have been to be part of the age of discovery and learning as the scientific method and the sciences themselves were born!

The Egyptian collections in the building were also amazing, including not only the Rosetta Stone but plenty of funerary items as well as things recovered from archaeological digs from around the world.  The shabti in the photo above are just a few examples of those found in various tombs and crypts, and they were included with a burial so that the deceased would have servants to do whatever work was requested of them in the afterlife.  They were amazing, both in the variety and in the detail that were put into them, in addition to the meaning behind their use.

On Wednesday evening we went out for dinner and wound up wandering around the Piccadilly Circus area for a bit, including going into a toy store that had a large Lego department, where we found the above - a copy of the Imperial crown made out of Lego!

Friday was our last full day in the city, and the only day Chris had away from his work, so we went out in the morning to ride the Eye of London and were rewarded with some amazing weather that allowed photos such as the one above of Big Ben and Parliament.  We also headed out to see Harrod's, but the weather was heavy rain at that point and after a long walk we were both overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff there - there was an opera singer in the stairwell! - that we didn't enjoy it as much as we had hoped.  I would definitely like to visit it again someday, when I'm in a better mood to appreciate it.  Friday night we went out to a lovely little French place near where we were staying for an early celebration of our tenth anniversary, where I had the best steak frites that I've ever had along with a wonderful chocolatey dessert.  Saturday morning saw us take a walk to a quilt shop near our hotel before we headed to Heathrow to fly home to Seattle.

I loved my week in London, and I hope that I will get to visit again someday!