Knitter’s wrist

Last week I took a pause from knitting and rotated my wrists in concentric circles. It sounded, as it always does, like a Rice Krispies commercial. Snap. Crackle. Pop. Pop. The person next to looked horrified.

Oh…so everyone’s wrists don’t make those noises?

It’s been getting worse. I spend my workdays typing emails and notes, only to have my hobbies – spinning and knitting – put strains on the same muscles and tendons. I’ve also gotten less interested in big-gauge projects, so the tiny needles and sockweight yarn I’m always working with are exacerbating the issue.

I’ve been trying two things for the past month:
1. Using both pinkies to hit shift on the keyboard. For some reason I use only my right pinkie for all capitalization work, and it definitely hurts worse than the left.
2. Knitting with the yarn in my left hand (continental style). I’ve wanted to try this for years and all of the plain garter stitch rows of Waiting for Rain were a nice opportunity.

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Unfortunately the pain’s getting no better. My hands and wrists hurt all the the time. I need to just take a complete break from knitting until things feel better….so says the internet.

I could sit and watch television and night without a pair of knitting needles or a spinning wheel, but I’m not sure I have the willpower. Maybe you have some good book suggestions to help me through this hiatus?

A little more yarn, a little less fiber

Still plugging away at the bags of spinning fiber. I miss the old couch+movie setup that always complimented spinning so well. Have I complained enough about these apartment futons yet? Or the slow and erratic internet?

Obviously I just need to figure out a new entertainment setup. Podcasts, perhaps. My favorite is Judge John Hodgman, and then a coworker clued me into Serial, which I binged through in just a few days of bus travel to/from Mexico City. Any other winners I should try?

The yarn with a colorway inspired by the Oregon coast photo is all finished. So pretty. If we have a girl it’ll make a great baby sweater, so I’m just setting it aside while we wait out this last month.
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In the meantime I finished a baby kimono sweater in a more unisex colorway.
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Family visiting for Christmas are scheduled to bring me another stockpile of yarn plus 2 lbs. of Haribo sour grapefruit gummies. Hard to say which I’m more excited about.

Dyeing fiber from a photograph

PicMonkey CollageI’ve been spinning up 8 oz. of merino and am loving the colors. All artistic credits go to Skeinnydipping, who dyed the fiber for me using this photo of the Oregon coast as inspiration. Isn’t it gorgeous?
UntitledI think I’ll probably end up with something close to 300 yards of light worsted. I wrote once before about my fondness for stripes and handspun, and I could see that working again here. But not necessarily. It’s such a playful colorway. Maybe the Summit scarf again?

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What do you think the yarn wants to be? Any favorite handspun patterns that you’d like to share?

Handspun

Monstrous piles of alpaca fiber

Shearing Alpacas
This is a fun one that I just didn’t post at the time. In July we visited Oregon and while there, helped my in-laws shear their two alpacas.  Sal and Pepe had been growing their coats for over a year, so as my title suggests, the day ended with ginormous piles of alpaca fiber. Enough to make any spinner drool. I was SO excited to not only see this process happen, but help with it.

Here’s Sal and Pepe, getting a little nervous about being herded into a smaller pen. The goats were curious as well…what was about to happen to their fearless pair of leaders?
Shearing Alpacas
Shearing Alpacas
We started with shots of sedative from the local vet. The previous shearing was sans sedative, and according to R., Sal and Pepe do not take kindly to shearing while sober. Pepe really fought the sedative this time, but eventually even he nodded off. We laid each in turn on the shearing table, restrained their legs against errant kicks, and got to work. None of us have much shearing experience but thanks to a few youtube tutorials the night before, I think we did a pretty solid job.
Shearing Alpacas
Shearing Alpacas

Underneath all that fiber was a very petite pair of alpacas!

Shearing Alpacas
Shearing Alpacas

The goats eventually lost interest and started climbing on farm machinery.
Shearing Alpacas

I worked at skirting for most of the afternoon. The place I send fiber for processing, like most mills, charges a steep fee if they have to skirt your fiber for you. I wasn’t sure how clean was “clean enough” so I just kept clipping. Even after all the waste – due to skirting and perhaps inexpert clipping on our part – there was nearly 7 pounds of fiber per alpaca.
Shearing Alpacas
Shearing Alpacas

The next morning I walked into UPS holding these bags and they helped me smush them up and ship them off to Mill Creek Fiber Works. I like a little bit of wool mixed in with my alpaca, so Sal is mixed with 30% merino and Pepe with 30% pygora. The mill owner, Kate, is awesome. She rushed the order and got it to me in Ohio in time for our move to Mexico.

Including everything – shipping, wool additions, blending – the final roving cost works out to about $21/lb. Not cheap, but still less than half of what it costs to buy alpaca roving retail. Of course, I am not the one paying for the care of these alpacas either…if I were it might make the DIY cost equal to retail. I’m very thankful to have in-laws who raise alpacas and don’t have need for the fiber…as if I needed any more proof that I married the right person.

And now for the picture I promised – monstrous piles:

PicMonkey Collage

When it’s 8 degrees Fahrenheit out….

…this is the most lucrative bit of cat real estate in the apartment.
UntitledThey love the warmth of the pilot light. It also provides a nice vantage point for spying on a brown Boston terrier who we’re dog-sitting. He is very cute and nice, but he and the cats aren’t quite sure about each other.

UntitledEdith took her own safety very seriously at the beginning, and for the first time ever I found her perched on top of the shower door.

If you were caught up in Storm Hercules, I hope you’re safe and warm. We didn’t get too much snow here – maybe 8 inches with some drifting – but it was incredibly cold out. My walk in the snow didn’t last long.

UntitledSo…naturally I worked on some knitting and sewing. The sockyarn that I spun up this fall yielded a pair of Christmas socks for my mom and there was still enough left over to make myself a pair. I’m finishing up the second one now. I also started working on a new quilt. Kind of a wonky chevron thing to use up a bunch of scraps. Did you have any snow day projects?

socks

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Slowing the process

I think I’ve talked on here before about feeling like I need to slow down production on the handknits….it came up again the other day. I was trying to rearrange the pile of sweaters in such a way that the dresser would close, I realized that if I keep knitting garments at this rate I’ll own over 50 sweaters by the time I’ve 50. I do not want, not to mention need, anywhere close to that many.

It’s a strange notion – slowing down a hobby – when all you want to do in the beginning is knit faster!faster! You make yourself enough hats that you can wear a different one every day of the week, then saturate your friends and family until you fear they might be starting to dread your presents. And then you move on to projects that take longer, like sweaters. But because fit is tricky (and Goodwill has an alarming quantity of handknits) I’ve never quite felt comfortable gifting sweaters to anyone but my mother.

My friend suggested making more socks. They wear out more reliably and require replacements. For the first time in a long while I have some socks on the needles.

There’s pattern design, which I’ve done a little of. It’s so much trial and error for me that it takes about three times as long to make something. Spinning the yarn up yourself also significantly extends a project’s timeline.

So all of this was on my mind when I was at the local thriftstore and came across a wool/cashmere Max Mara sweater, knit top-down with a seamless yoked construction. A couple thousand yards of cashmere blend for $3. YES PLEASE.

sweaterI’ve frogged all but one of the sleeves, and am busy working on a seed stitch infinity scarf. The yarn is unbelievably soft. It’s all on sz. 1 needles so it’ll probably take me….oh two years. If recycling yarn is something you’re interested in trying, I recommend this post from weebleknits. She covers all of the dos and don’ts and even includes some photos of what to look for.

All of this hunting for ways to slow things down may have tempted fate, because this morning when I was reorganizing some spaces in the bedroom I made a HORRIBLE discovery. The stuff of knitting nightmares.

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MOTHS!!!! Dozens of holes in my handspun sweater…so many that most of it was a complete loss. I salvaged what I could and swept up the revolting pile of what I can only guess is moth poop.

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Yuck. Undoing sweaters because they’re half-eaten wasn’t how I hoped to reverse my accumulation of sweaters. I think the handspun was especially attractive for the larvae because I haven’t found them in anything else. Of course to be safe the freezer is now full of yarn and fiber, and there’s another bag waiting on deck for it’s turn. It’s always disturbing to find an infestation…all the more so when it’s in your handknits.