27 October 2007

Reclaiming unloved yarns

I've been keeping myself occupied recently by reading way too much stuff on Ravelry and adding to my already crippling list of hobbies. Thanks to the "Thrifty Knitters" group on Ravelry, I've been having a blast recently unraveling sweaters picked up for next to nothing at my local thrift shops. With some careful deconstruction, a sweater can be quickly reduced to 4 panels of knitted fabric awaiting the gentle tugging pressure of a 3 year old cranking the handle of my antique skein winder. In a matter of moments, the fabric is reduced to a skein of interesting yarn ready for a soak in scalding hot water and then hanging to dry while the kinks of its previous life surrender to gravity.

Right now, there are pieces of 2 sweaters folded neatly beside me. My first successful unraveling experiment is in the process of being crocheted up into a lap blanket for Sprout because she became oddly attached to the yarn during the unraveling process.

I spend a lot of time in thrift shops. I love finding cool things and giving them a renewed lease on life. Looking at sweaters as raw materials or future fiber projects has really expanded the range of yarns that I can work with. I currently have a cashmere sweater awaiting the attentions of my seam ripper, and I have almost 1/2 pound of 75% silk, 15%wool, 10% nylon fingering-weight yarn waiting to be washed and hung. What I'll do with 1300 yards of this beautiful brown yarn, I'm not sure, but the list of possibilities suggesting themselves have provided me with more entertainment than I would have thought possible from a $1.00 thrift shop find.

Once unraveled, I usually have 4-6 skeins of yarn to add to my stash. Usually, in spite of my best efforts, there's a little skein that works out to about 15-25 yards. I hate to throw it away but couldn't figure out a real use for it. Then I had a brainstorm. The small skein becomes a swatch skein, perfect for swatching the project before winding the skeins on the ball winder. I staple the original sweater label to paper wrapped around the mini skein with the information about the total yardage and weight available.

One disadvantage to all these skeins of reclaimed yarn is that they don't come with ball bands or care instructions. I think that I've found the perfect solution. (opens as PDF) I sat down and designed a ball band with blanks to fill in for the weight, yardage, fiber content, and care instructions for my "new" yarns. Basically, a generic ball band with all the information that I'd like to keep with each skein. Feel free to print and use the PDF for your own recycling efforts.

24 October 2007

Fold, spindle, mutilate

I've been dragging my feet on this post for a while. To be honest, I don't like the uncertainty of all of this and it's taking so long to figure it all out that I'm feeling very adrift.

The status of things so far... I've had 3 physical/occupational therapy appointments. She gave me 6 pages of exercises intended to help with carpal tunnel syndrome, cubital tunnel syndrome, de Quervain's tenosynovitis, and trigger finger. In subsequent visits, we've discussed modifications and variations of the exercises to relieve some of the discomfort and other problems that I've experienced doing the exercises as illustrated.

Last week, I met the orthopedic surgeon to whom I've been referred. Since appointments almost never start when scheduled, I brought my drop spindle to the appointment with me so that I could spin while I waited. I managed to spin for about 45 minutes in the waiting room before being escorted back to an exam room where I spun for another 20 minutes while I answered questions for the patient history and then waited for the doctor. (Met an interesting woman in her late 60s who told me with tear-filled eyes that she hadn't seen anyone spinning since visiting her grandmother as a child.)

When the doctor looked at my hands, I had the weirdest impression that he was disappointed. He reminded me so much of a young boy who opens the door to go outside after the first snow of the year only to find it disturbed by someone else's footprints. He performed a quick physical exam, gave me some instructions while he tapped on my wrists and elbows and then ordered a nerve conduction study and EMG.

The test is scheduled for next week and sounds like a laugh riot. I can't imagine why people aren't lined up around the block to have teflon coated wires poked into their muscle tissue so that electrical current can be zapped directly into the muscle to simulate nerve commands.

Between doctor's waiting rooms and my weekly depression support group, I'm getting quite a bit of spinning in. Enough that I felt justified in purchasing a "real" spindle instead of the CD drop spindles I'd mostly made do with until now. (I have a spindle that I made using a toy wheel and a dowel. It works quite nicely, but still feels somehow illegitimate.)

My new baby is an Ashford Turkish Spindle. What I love about this, and the reason that I just ***HAD*** to have it and managed to justify the purchase to myself and anyone else who would listen, is that Turkish spindles break apart leaving the spinner with a center pull ball from which to ply or knit. After spending more hours than I care to think about hand-winding 300 and some odd yards of handspun singles into a center pull ball using a make-shift nostepinde fashioned from disposable chopsticks from Sprout's favorite Chinese buffet, I realized that my hands/wrists are not equal to the task of regularly winding singles for plying. I know that I could just use my ball winder, but I have found that I lack the patience to wait that long to move forward with the next step of my spinning.

The next addition to my spinning arsenal... A Golding Aromatherapy Spindle... I've heard nothing but good things about Golding spindles from other spindlers and I can tell myself that this one has therapeutic benefits on top of the meditative benefits of the spinning itself.

On a completely unrelated note... to balance my whining about medical stuff... here are the results of an online quiz that I stumbled across thanks to Ravelry.

What Kind of Knitter Are You?

You appear to be a Knitting Apprentice. You've got the basics down pat and you might just be falling in love with this hobby. Big needles, funky yarns and simple shapes are the name of the game shudder, but it doesn't mean you don't experiment a bit, here and there. As an apprentice, you probably fall back on other people to get you through those rough spots, and if you don't know anyone who knits, you probably have a few books or online sources to tap.
Take this quiz!

Image Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Galvani%27s_legs.gif

14 October 2007

My head is spinning

Originally uploaded by MysticSpiral
I'm currently working on spinning up about an ounce and a half of black superwash merino which I've blended (in the loosest sense of the word) with glow-in-the-dark spiderweb from one of the 1,000,000 Halloween stores that has suddenly opened in the greater Dayton area. I've visited more of these stores than is my usual custom (I generally try to avoid them) because I specifically wanted phosphorescent spiderweb rather than black light spiderweb. On some level, it disturbs me that these shops spring up to sell fetish costumes to 7-year-old girls and then they pack up and disappear for another year on Nov. 1st. I actually tried to find what I needed at one of the Foy's stores in historic downtown Fairborn, Ohio. I always kinda liked Foy's and I like that they are a small, locally owned company with strong ties to the community in which they're based and that they operate their stores/businesses year round instead of only seasonally.

I've learned that glow-in-the-dark spiderweb doesn't draft well at all. Spinning with this stuff is a little like wrestling with a toddler while you attempt to brush rubber cement out of her hair. (or at least that's what I'm guessing, so far Sprout has stayed away from the rubber cement...) I don't think that I've ever spun anything this inconsistent. Heather may joke that i'm some kind of spinning prodigy but I'm tempted to post pictures of this stuff, once I finish it and get it posted for the spindling challenge, to the beginning spinners forums as an example of the kind of drafting challenges that will be overcome with practice and well prepared fiber.

Don't get me wrong... Part of me looks at the masses of this stuff that I'm going to have left over (I bought two bags of the stuff when I finally found it at the 5th Halloween store that I went to) and thinks, "Surely this would work better if I had access to a drum carder and could incorporate it into a nice fluffy batt."

I should write something about the results of my hand adventures but since I'm still processing and I won't actually meet the specialist until Wednesday, I don't really feel like I have much to report.

Likewise, my adventures in random psychopharm roulette have yeilded a combination/doseage about which I feel mildly optimistic but I don't want to say too much too soon. I've been attending meetings of a support group for people dealing with depression (including family, friends, care givers, etc although none of those have shown up yet...), but don't really feel like I can blog about that except to say that if I get nothing more out of these meetings than an uninterrupted hour to spin each week it will be better for my mental health than almost anything that I have yet tried.