Math, Baby. Baby, Math.

Posted in FO, knitting, toys by tchemgrrl on June 18, 2012

I’ve got a little niece coming this summer, and will be seeing her mama very shortly, so I thought I’d whip up a quick toy so that I wouldn’t be showing up empty-handed. (I’m working on a vest too, but I probably won’t have it done in time.)

It’s the Braided Ball pattern. I somehow had it in my head that this was an entrelac project, but when I actually looked at it, it’s composed of 6 strips, which are woven around each other and then grafted into loops.

The knitting itself couldn’t be more straightforward, just a bunch of stockinette strips (not even tubes; you take advantage of stockinette’s curl so that part doesn’t show.) The piecing is a little more complex, though not too difficult. I sewed all the pieces together at my last knitting group meeting while chatting.

It looks really cool for the amount of work.

cool toy

I finished it, showed it to my knitting buddies, and happily went back home to look at more pictures of ones that other people had made.

But after looking at a couple, I realized that mine looked different. I’d made a mistake. A minor one; minor enough that I couldn’t tell by looking at the low-res copy I’d had to hand at the knitting group. Minor enough that it still works (by “works”, I mean that the loops are all held in place by other loops.) Minor enough that it took me a half hour of fiddling to even figure out what I did.

But there is a mistake.

Look at this view.

cool toy

If you trace one of the yellow strips from top to bottom, it goes over a pink strip, then under a pink strip, then over a blue and under a blue. That’s what they’re all supposed to do. Over and under each in turn. But if you trace the path of the upper blue strip from left to right, you’ll see that it goes over a pink strip, then under BOTH the pink and yellow strip before going over another yellow.

The correctly-knit versions have a more delightfully complex texture, and are a little fuller-looking. But! I still like how this one looks, it’s well-knit, and it’s a baby toy, not a final exam. I’m keeping it the way it is, after one run through the wash to full it slightly.

(Also, I wove in all the ends before I noticed the problem. Not a knitting jury in the land would convict me!)

What do you do with mistakes like that? Do you call them “design features?” Or do they keep you awake at night until you rip them out? I must admit that it does make me itch enough that I will probably knit another one for the baby gift pile just to see it put together the right way, but I’d probably knit another anyway because they are super fun and use very little yarn (each strip used 13-14 g of commercial worsted weight yarn that I got from the freebie bin at the yarn swap.)


Posted in spinning, toys by tchemgrrl on February 22, 2010

Okay, okay, I’m done sniffing the charkha, and I may have even started spinning on it. (Incidentally, my more knowledgeable friends tell me that the smell is just linseed oil. I thought that maybe cherry wood just smelled that way, the way pine and cedar have unique smells. It’s still lovely.) Let me introduce you!


And since I don’t feel like I’ve seen sunlight since early October, I can only show a picture with the flash to show off the grain.


So! Stats. This is a Bosworth book-sized charkha. It’s so perfectly book-sized, in fact, that it blends right when not in use:

book book book charkha book

After an hour or two of flailing, then comforting myself with just admiring all the bits and pieces, I got the hang of using it.

charkha spun cotton

Um, a little bit of spinning. I think this is a pretty clear demonstration that I like it. It’s so portable, and fast, and beautifully made. The yarn is still somewhat variable, but I am getting the hang of it and enjoying the process a whole lot. I think I’m going to be making a cabled yarn with this.

J was trying to explain the mechanism to his mom over the phone and it just wasn’t quite working. Fortunately while I was waiting for this baby to arrive I did a lot of Youtube wandering. My favorite video is probably this one, for the blinding obviousness of the spinner’s competence. She gives new meaning to the phrase “making it look easy”. It’s nice to see, and it’s an image I often have in my mind as I muddle through.


Posted in toys by tchemgrrl on February 11, 2010

Can’t talk now. Sniffing charkha. (’cause I sure can’t SPIN on the dang thing yet.)

Overflowing Fiber Riches

Posted in spinning, toys by tchemgrrl on January 31, 2010

So for the first 4-and-a-bit years that I spun (until a few weeks ago), I had a very consistent set of spinning tools. There’s my Ashford Joy, and about 3 spindles that I handle with any regularity.

There are a lot of things I like about the Joy. It was really the ideal wheel for me when I bought it–an intermediate beginner with a love of fine yarns, no spinners in my social circle, a moderate budget, and almost zero space. It was easy to set up and learn. It folded down to a very small size. There’s tons of information and parts lists for Ashfords available out in the world. It is happy to spin very fine yarns. It looks amazingly cool.

But for the last year or so, I’ve been keeping an eye out for something different. I’ve got more space and money than I did as a grad student in our tiny Madison apartment, though I still have a fairly “compact” sensibility. I’ve become a much faster spinner since I bought the Joy, and spent a lot of time bored on the highest ratio (the highest ratio was also noticeably harder to treadle than the lower ones). I’m a bit more willing to deal with complexity–something that can be tuned a bit.

At the end of last summer, I decided to deal with this by getting on the waiting list for a Bosworth book charkha. A ratio of 70:1 makes my inner speed demon drool, and so does the craftsmanship and adorably teensy size, which I can easily toss in my backpack before I ride my bike to a guild meeting. I’ve done a little playing with cotton on a support spindle, and I think that this will be a really fun way to continue working on that. The charkha should be coming within the next week or two, and I’m wicked excited. Pictures and more details once it arrives.

The charkha is a pretty specialized tool, though. While I’ve been waiting for it I’ve still been spinning like crazy on the Joy, and spending most of that time close to the limits of our mutual mechanical abilities. I wasn’t in a rush for a new wheel, but I was keeping an eye out for something interesting.

And that something interesting popped up locally just a few weeks ago, in the form of a Schacht Matchless.

New wheel!

This particular wheel is 21 years old, although the Matchless is still in current production, so parts are easy to come by. I like the nice clean lines and castle wheel construction. The fact that it’s an older wheel gives it a bit of quirk (I’ll need to do some work on the bobbins before I can use the wheel in Scotch tension, frex), but it’s in excellent shape and when I have things arranged correctly it’s amazingly quiet. I’ll be buying some some new high-speed bobbins and whorls for higher ratios soon, but the current top speed I have is slightly faster than the Joy and not nearly as tiring.

Never rains but it pours, I suppose.

And what of the Joy? Well, within about a week of buying the Matchless I realized that I’m probably a one-spinning-wheel person. The Joy is already loaned out to a friend that’s a newer spinner–spreading those riches around, I suppose. If I don’t miss it and she likes it, it may stay there. It does mean a loss of portability–the Matchless isn’t too cumbersome, but in a portability contest the Joy wins that hands down. But I do have spindles, and soon I’ll have a charkha. I don’t think that will be too much of a loss.

New Spinning Toy

Posted in spinning, toys, WIP by tchemgrrl on October 13, 2009

A new spinning toy! One that doesn’t actually do any spinning, assist in holding singles or plying, or even help to make my yarn look prettier.

What is? Just a gram scale, that I got during a clearing out of some less sensitive equpiment at work. But wowwie, it is giving me some useful info.

Take this yarn,

2 ply laceweight

2 ply laceweight

I’ve been working on spinning the singles off and on for ages now–I had a half-filled bobbin that had been set aside at least two years ago, possibly three.  Finally, FINALLY, last week, I actually get around to finishing off the second bobbin of singles and plying everything up. I knew I had about 10 ounces of fiber, and that Ashford claims that their standard bobbins hold about 4 ounces of fiber each. The two larger skeins, 720 and 700 yards respectively, each filled the bobbin pretty thoroughly, but at the same time they weren’t completely maxed out. The pile of fiber that was left sure looked like a lot, but how much did I actually have left, and how much yarn might I have at the end?

2 ply laceweight wpi

2 ply laceweight wpi

Now that I have a gram scale, I know all that, and I also know how similar the two skeins are. I’d been spinning to match a small sample I had, but this was spun up over such a long time that I had little confidence in its consistency.

First skein: 105g. Second skein: 97.5g. Third tiny skein: 6.2g.

So, it looks like with really well-packed, worsted spun, fine yarn, the practical limit for an Ashford bobbin for me is about 3.7 ounces. If I had a Woolie Winder and cranked down on the tension I’m sure I could get it up to 4 ounces, but 3.7 is good “best usual case” info for me. The grist was reasonably consistent between the first and second skein. Considering the many life changes that have happened in the intervening time, I’m pretty pleased with that.

I also weighed the remaining fiber: 93g. So I’ve got one more skein, slightly smaller than the first two, left. That’ll give me about 2100 yards of this 28-30wpi 2-ply wool-silk blend, which means that I can start looking up useful patterns even as I spin up the remainder. The yardage is actually less than I’d guessed–somewhere in the 3000 yards-per-pound range, when I’d been thinking vaguely of Jaggerspun Zephyr which is in the 5000 ypp range. But over 2000 yards is plenty for a nice-sized shawl, probably knit on US2’s or 3’s.

I’m finding it to be a useful thing to have around. In the couple of weeks I’ve had it, I also used it to weigh all my spindles. I have six which is not too many for a happy spindler. They all look totally different from the others, but  three of them are 14-15 grams, and three are 37-38 grams. Apparently I had preferences I wasn’t even aware of. I’m also clearing off all my spinning bobbins, so I can weigh them. I’ll make a small note of their weight on the bobbin itself, so I can try to have the same weight of singles on each bobbin for a multiply yarn. I have a few different styles of Ashford bobbins, so this will be considerably more accurate than my current “scratch my chin for a minute and then guesstimate” method, which is entirely dependent upon my inconsistent spatial awareness.

So yeah, a convenient tool, one I should have gotten a long time ago.