A Priest Crafts Episode 5: Carding and Rambling

Good day, friends.

That last post exorcised whatever was holding me back from crafting at all, and I’ve tentatively picked up a few things. I’ve even found some time to make a new vlog post for you.

Believe it or not, after that post asking which project I should start next, I decided on the big carding effort. I got through six whole ounces of carding before I petered out, but now I’m motivated to pick it back up. In this video I talk about and demonstrate some of that carding project, and I talk about some of these big life changes during a complicated time of year.

I think I was really sleepy when I recorded this – sleepier than I realized. Some things going on with the kids have meant even less sleep than usual, so please forgive me if I look half-asleep. I know I ramble on even more than usual! But it was a lot of fun for me to share this with you, so I hope you enjoy it.

Hand Carding Resources:

If you’re new to hand carding, I hope my little demo piqued your interest. But please get more input than what I have to say.

Beth Smith’s book, The Spinner’s Book of Fleece, got me started. There are great basic introductions in this book to several fleece processing techniques, and of course a ton of info about spinning boku varieties of wool.

This tutorial, “Wool Carding and Combing” from Interweave is a long, free PDF. It has a more detailed introduction to both topics and I recommend reading it carefully.

Specifically on the topic of blending using handcards, Knitty had a great article on the subject in their Spring 2007 by Lorraine Smith: “Carding Beautiful Blends”.  But if you just google “blending with handcards,” you’ll find several lovely articles and blog posts to inspire you.

Additionally, get on YouTube and search for some handcarding videos. I did not do this myself as I found the still images were enough for me, but Beth Smith herself in her book recommends looking up some videos. If you find some you think are particularly helpful, would you please share in the comments?

Other Notes:

Rachel Smith is Wool N’ Spinning. Here is her blog, her youtube channel, her patreon, and the ravelry group. I know I’ve shared her stuff a lot, but right now her show is most of what is keeping me motivated to spin and prep, so I’m going to keep giving her shout outs.

Here is the blog post about the new color study. I love that Lakeside colorway too.

(Also, how cool is this! Rachel just posted the “Spinner’s Spotlight” bio I wrote for her.)

Katrina is CraftyJAKs. Here is her website, and her etsy shop.

And also a big shout-out to my mom, Linda. She did an awesome job at the Maryland Alpaca Festival this weekend. I always have her button in my sidebar to the left, but in case you didn’t know, she’s Colorstorms. She’s recently mastered indigo dyeing. She dyes yarn with only natural ingredients, and her colors get more saturated, colorfast, and lightfast every year.

What do you call pink + black? Hopefully not “plaque.” Happy crafting!

Not the Next Post I Thought I’d Write

So I have good news and… odd news.

The good news is, we're expecting again. Yay! Babies! To answer all the questions you are too polite to ask: 15.5 weeks at present, due mid-April; for sure just one; everyone says it's going to be a boy, but we'll find out (if possible) next month.

The other news… not bad, but just strange… is that I haven't been knitting. Or spinning. Or sewing. For a solid month now.

This baby, bless him/her, has been a bit of a personality transplant. I haven't been very nauseous (though I was more so six weeks ago), but I've had a sort of low-level feeling of illness that I can ignore most of the time by keeping busy. I only notice it when I sit down to knit.

That's right: knitting makes me sick.

The even weirder part is, I haven't missed it. It isn't as if I wanted to do all these crafty things and couldn't; for a while there, I didn't even remember why I would want to do something like that. 

The bit of knitting that has been sitting on the side table, staring at me with the empty eyes of an accusing cow. I finally had to put it away in a drawer because I would feel sick just looking at it. I don't even want to show you this picture, because, blegh.

 

The handspun I made in August for M's vest. I started thinking it was the colors – orange plus blue? But I think cause and effect has worked the other way. Because this project has been making me nauseous for so long, I now cringe when I see anything orange and blue together.

 

I did get through a whole six ounces of carding before also dropping that like a hot potato.

It looks redder in person.

But by halfway through September, I didn't want to touch it anymore. Spinzilla was off the table. I couldn't even follow the action: by early October, even scrolling through Instagram looking at other people's yarn was making me queasy.

I was entertaining thoughts of some sealskin sewing, and somehow talked my husband into buying the skins I need for making kamiik. These are sealskin boots, the pinnacle of Inuit sewing skill, and I don't know what makes me think this is a good time to start some.

So I wasn't crafting, and I wasn't missing it. I wasn't feeling guilty about it. I was just… resting. My body, my brain, my subconscious, were all just saying, you don't have to. It felt less like a disability, and more like being miraculously delivered from an addiction. I'm suddenly physically allergic to the fictional crafting-related obligations I've been laying on myself for years and years.

It isn't as if I haven't been busy, or obsessed with random things. I've been playing a few video games. Oddly, I've been very much enjoying adventurous cooking again. And I've been circling the rabbit hole that is essential oils. But these are all very undemanding things. I could drop them tomorrow with very little consequence.

I mean, in a way it makes perfect sense. I am stepping into a season in my life with more responsibility than ever before: officially outnumbered by kids, first child in school, and some upcoming changes at work with a lot of unknowns. It makes sense that my brain would want to prepare by really letting go of all superfluous sense of obligation.

In January, when I took up spinning with a vengeance, I needed to learn about intention and focus in many areas, and spinning helped with that. Now, I have very little plans, very little concrete intention. I'm very much having to live in the present, one day at a time, because in the most important areas of my life, I don't have a choice but to do that right now.

Part of it is my own fault, for letting spinning and knitting become such A Big Thing. I've been struggling for quite some time with the question of how crafting fits in with the rest of my calling, with the fact that my spinning and knitting community online has almost no overlap with my real life as a priest, wife, and mom in the Arctic. This struggle had become so pressing that it seemed to permeate, almost poison, all of my crafting. One of them had to really lose for a bit, and I'm pretty relieved my subconscious (/the Holy Spirit?) picked the right one. My larger crafting ambitions really had to die.

It's been long enough now that I've started at least thinking about knitting again. I can't quite think about spinning – my new PLY magazine arrived today, and I had to put it away still in its wrapper. I might not be able to pick up that Orange Thing again (I feel like I owe it to M for Christmas, but even typing that makes me blegh, so maybe not)… but I could start something small. Something in bulky yarn. Something for the baby. Something I don't really have to finish. Or not.

At the same time, a week ago I also passed off outlines of my family's feet to an elder friend, and she's going to make kamik patterns for me. Because even though that project is enormous, and time sensitive once I get going, it has everything to do with my real life here.

It's very very strange. This is not the 1001st blog post I thought I'd be writing, and it's taken me these weeks to figure out how to write it. But here we are. Hm.

1000

This is the thousandth post on this blog, ever since I first started blogging about knitting in 2009. I’d blogged in fits and spurts before, about books and movies and whatever else was on my mind, but writing about what I was knitting was motivating and inspiring in a new way. It was a lonely, confused, transitional time in my life, but the combination of making and writing about it was a touch of order when not much else made sense.

This blog has followed my life ever since. From…
… those first posts on Xanga, whose pictures have been broken between blog migrations (though apparently you can still see some of them if you click the links!)
… to having my own dedicated site and wool business (I can’t find exactly where all that madness started, but here’s a good post)
… to learning about natural dyeing (fun fact: this is still my most visited post)
… to the first of the unspeakable sadnesses that changed my life
… to giving it all up to move to seminary,
… to the launch of my design career (such as it is),
… to starting a family,
… to a total obsession with food,
… to giving it all up again to move to a new life in the far north of Canada.

My life has changed so many times in those eight years. My calling has changed, and will go on shifting. My writing voice has changed, I’m sure. But I’ve always had this outlet: making and writing about it.

I just read a book called Me, Myself, and Bob, by Phil Vischer, creator of VeggieTales. I don’t remember the last time a non-fiction book gripped me like this. It’s a book about spectacular dreams and spectacular failures, and what God did with one ambitious, creative, gifted man.

The place God took Phil by the end of his tale was eye-opening for me. I’ve wondered for years what God is going to do with my creative side, with my need to write and make, with this space. I’ve tried executing big schemes and visions on my own, and they mostly left me tired and disappointed. I gave up trying to seize my own vision for the future a while ago. But I still find myself uncomfortable without a BHAG (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal) to sink my teeth into, and I keep wondering why God doesn’t drop one into my lap. And why not? Doesn’t God want me to be motivated and excited? Doesn’t he want me to use my gifts? Doesn’t he want me to have an impact? I have ideas – no less than four ideas for pattern books, for a start – but every time I consider pursuing one, I hear from on high a resounding “nope.”

Then Phil says, with the calm confidence of a lesson learned with unimaginable pain: Where I am five years from now is not my business. My business is to walk with God. Anything worth creating comes from waiting on him.

Those statements landed in my heart with a “thunk.” I’m waiting for something that may never come. God has me exactly where he wants me: waiting on him. Probably forever. And he’ll happily let me squirm until I learn to be content with that.

So there it is. This blog has meandered through one thousand posts of wildly varied seeking, to arrive at a point where I have no vision at all. I’ll keep making and writing about it, until the Holy Spirit says I shouldn’t. Things will happen, and they won’t. I have to learn to live with that, and pour my passion into the things that really matter: cherishing my family, being present for my friends, loving my neighbors, and sitting in the quiet heart-to-heart with God. You know, the things I’m naturally not much good at.

So thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you for being with me on this journey. So many of you readers who have been with me the longest aren’t even crafters, but are open to learning just because we’re connected and you care. That means so much to me. Thank you also for enduring more of these naval-gazing posts over the past few years as I’ve come to terms with knowing less and less of my direction. There are a zillion things to do on the internet, and only so many minutes in your day, and you’re not obligated to spend any of them with me. So, thank you.

I’ll close with the words God said another favorite early-CGI children’s character: Wormie the common caterpillar. “I love you. But I’m not finished with you yet.”

Big Choices

I polished off two big projects over the last few weeks, and at present have nothing major on the needles, or on the wheel.* At this point in my life, I am done with having a lot of things on the go at once. I don't mind quick things on the side, or a plain sock for the movies or reading, but when it comes to BIG projects – sweaters, long spins, big shawls, major sewing endeavors, intricate things – I'd be more comfortable if I only had one on the go at any given time. Between knitting, spinning, and hand sewing, I'd like to really limit myself, so I feel like I'm actually making progress.

But… what to start? As the finish line approached and passed on these two big knits, I've hemmed and hawed on what's next, and I can't decide. Will you let me process out loud, so to speak, with you?

  1. Cabled Coat for Jared

Like most knitters, my husband likes to stash more than knit, but at his current rate of production he is already at SABLE (Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy). He's let me talk him into knitting him some of the sweaters he's had planned. Not a lot, just one every year or two, so the beautiful yarn he has acquired gets used.

The Appeal: Lots and lots of repetitive, simple cabling in a bulky yarn sounds right up my mental alley right now. I think I would really enjoy knitting it.

The Hesitation: My track record in knitting Jared things he will actually wear is… not great. Then again, he hardly wears any of his handknits, knit by anyone, so I don't think it's just me. But I have long thought that this sillouhette isn't really his style. He just really wants it, and has wanted it for years. Probably because he really likes the book (Knitting with Balls by Michael De Vecchio) and is even more of a completionist than I am. (Actually much more of one). I would be fulfilling a long-term request… but would it get worn?

2. Argonath

I pulled this yarn out to photograph it today, and oh my, I still love it. It's Dorset, it's my own natural dyes, and there's loads of it. I spun it something like 6 years ago, thinking to make the Argonath shawl. That's what the swatch is for. (I submitted the yarn, swatch, and pattern in a basket to Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival in the handspun "project plan basket" category and got a red ribbon for it; the yellow ribbon was from an individual skein I submitted as well!) I'm now thinking about adapting the stitch patterns from the shawl into a sweater of some kind.

The Appeal: This is the last pattern for me to knit in my Fellowship of the Ring knit-through. It would be glorious to bring this project home. And dear me, I love the yarn still!

The Hesitation: This is another very intensely patterned piece, like Galadriel's Mirror. I just don't know if I have this in me right now. If I adapt it into a sweater, it would be even more complicated. I could push through if I basically gave up spinning for a while, though.

3. Colorwork sweater for Moi

This is Brooklyn Tweed "Loft." I had originally bought the six skeins on the right to make Rohan, but I decided a while ago that I didn't really want the shawl. I love the colors I picked, and I love the stitch pattern (to say nothing of the theme), so I bought a few extra "Hayloft" skeins this summer to adapt it into a sweater (see a theme here?) putting the Rohan colorwork into a fair isle yoke.

After my success (Okay, dubious success) with the Blendlings sweater, having thoroughly fallen in love with The Opinionated Knitter, I would like to use the instructions from Elizabeth Zimmermann's very first self-published pattern: a bottom-up fair isle yoke sweater. (And yes, actually follow the directions this time.)

The Appeal: All those miles of stockinette sound really nice right now. The colors are my very favorites, everything I miss about fall.

The Hesitation: Can I really start a Two Towers Pattern before I've finished with Fellowship? I honestly don't know if I'm capable of such an act. Also, Mum wants to knit one with me (though she wants to knit it top down and we haven't hashed that out yet) and I don't know if she's ready.

So those are my knitting meditations. What about keeping the knitting on the small side, and diving into a larger spinning project instead?

4. Alpaca + Shetland Sweater Quantity

This is a carding project as much as a spinning project. I have 12 oz of Shetland that I handdyed with pokeberries a shocking number of years ago, and a good lb of (unwashed?) black alpaca that mom gifted me about as long ago. I'm thinking of blending them together to make a proper big sweater quantity in a lovely ruddy brown. (I might throw in a little of that orange on the right if things get too dull or black.)

The Appeal: I really like carding (well, OK, I say that based on one six-ounce card that I've done ever, but it was a really good experience). And this would be a solid, fun, fast sweater spin. I'd do it as a two-ply worsted weight, woolen spun. My dream is to get it prepped for Spinzilla and spin it all in a week. Wouldn't that be fun?

The Hesitation: I just… I don't know if I can do it. I'm straight up intimidated. What if washing the alpaca goes horribly wrong? What if the blended color is gross? It seems very overwhelming right now. I know I just need to sample a bit, but I haven't wrapped my head around it.

5. Orange & Brown Sweater Quantity

This is the other big, fast sweater spin I have planned for this year, another potential candidate for participation in Spinzilla. There's a lb of the brown (not all pictured) and 8 oz of the orange, so my idea is to spin 1 bobbin of the orange for every 2 bobbins of brown and make a nice worsted-weight 3 ply.

The Appeal: No prep, aside from fluffing the batts a bit. A relatively low-risk introduction to a larger woolen-spun project.

The Hesitation: Well OK, there isn't one. If Spinzilla rolls around, I'm up for it, and our family decides we're in a place that I can participate, and I don't have anything else major started, I'll do this.

6. Long Shawl Spin

Now it's time for me to own up to that * after the first sentence. I could, of course, go back to this big spin I've had on the wheel since May. I started this a couple weeks before vacation, knowing it was ill-advised, but I was still so into spinning, and had literally nothing else to spin. I sampled the living daylights out of it, came up with a beautiful plan, and had this excellent start. But I haven't wanted to touch it since I got home. I've been so tired, and this just seems so long.

The Appeal: I do like finishing what I start. I have never hibernated a spinning project, or taken singles off a bobbin just to set them aside. (I'd have to do this for #5 above; I'd want all four bobbins handy.) It is gorgeous.

The Hesitation: Trying to spin this right now feels like trying to knit Galadriel's Mirror did back in March. It just doesn't work for my life right now. Besides, even starting it was breaking one of the guidelines I set for myself back when I made my Spinning Goals for 2017: No Fingering (at least in large amounts)! So, setting it aside might even be construed as following rather than breaking my personal rules. This spin has been hanging over my head so heavily that it's the reason I didn't spin for a month after Tour de Fleece. If I'm really honest with myself, it might be a choice between setting this aside and not spinning at all for a while. Unless I'm ready to exert a supreme act of will, which effort I should really save for parenting my toddler.

***

So… I'm a little stuck. I have a wee spinning snack I'm almost finished with, and a couple little knitting projects I'm pecking away at. But I know I'll want to sink my teeth into something bigger soon. Do you have any advice? Can you hear what I really want, even though I can't seem to hear it myself?

 

Made of Blendlings and Learnings

Have you ever noticed that big projects tend to wrap up around the same time? In that vein, I finished a sweater last week.


Remember the Blendlings? My blazing re-entry into the spinning world in January and February of this year? (First post here, last post here) These wee skeins mean a lot to me, hand and heart, and they deserved to be used.

This was a leisurely project. It seems odd to me now, in my present state of urgency and indecision, but this was a project where I took my time, followed my gut, and persisted until I got it right.

My basic plan was to make Elizabeth Zimmerman’s “Scandinavian Ski Sweater” from a very early issue of Wool Gatherings. I was inspired by this sample sweater from The Opinionated Knitter, a book which fills me with nostalgia for a mid-century midwest I never remotely knew:

I considered my contrast yarn very carefully. I went with Imperial Stock Ranch Columbia 2-ply, because it was one of a very few 2-ply worsted yarns I could find. It’s woolen spun, so it’s a lot lighter than the dense worsted-spun Blendlings, but in the end that meant the sweater is a lot lighter than it could have been, and it was very adaptable to the varying gauges.

I knit a swatch in which I measured each yard used in different rows of fair isle, so I could estimate the yardage of a given band of stitch patterning, and choose a Blendling with sufficient yardage. These estimates were very successful.

It traveled with me at first- even to the dentist.

I kept hearing that the best way to learn from your handspun is to use it – in my case, to knit with it. Boy was that true.

This project could even be decent company for a card game – if the stitch pattern was simple enough.

The Blendlings are all 2-ply, some kind of nondescript British wool (likely BFL), and somewhere in the remote vicinity of worsted weight, but that’s about all they have in common. Some were underspun and overplied; some looked dull but were soft and balanced; some were tightly spun and plied into a plump, colorful rope. Some were noticeably thicker than the contrast yarn; others were so thin that I had to double them. I got to see them all knit up, and how they each acted in a fair isle pattern with woolen-spun yarn.

Gotta love the wrong side of a piece of fair isle.

The long and the short of it is that handspun is very forgiving. My least favorites were the ones that were so ropey that the stitches looked like jagged teeth, or so underspun and overplied that you could see a visible lean in the band of patterning (see the sage green S pattern below). But honestly, both of these came out fine in the wash. Colorwise, I learned that the yarns with the highest amount of color contrast within themselves (see the Xs below, and the flowers below that) were the most ungraceful in a fair isle pattern. But these complaints were exceptions. Overall, I was happy with how the yarns performed, independently and together.

Pre-steeking. I briefly considered leaving it as a tube top…

Now, the really great thing about Elizabeth Zimmermann is that she encourages the knitter to be an independent thinker. She gently chides those who ask for very specific directions by addressing them to “mindless followers.” I was looking forward to trying one of her sweater patterns and embracing the spirit of her work by putting my own spin on it.

However, I overdid it a bit. I got so excited about being an independent, knowledgeable knitter… that after a certain point, I didn’t actually read or follow any of her directions. (So much for my caution of the early stages.)

I thought to myself, “I know how to make a hemmed collar.” So I did. Then I thought, “I know how to do a steek.” So I did one. Then I thought, “I know how a sleeve is shaped.” So knit two of them. Without reading a word of what the actual pattern said about them.

Apparently, I know none of those things. Hold your breath, then look below at the horrible tragedy that was the initial steeking attempt.

I have steeked before, but apparently it was so long ago that I quite forgot how to do it. My crochet chains were too loose and too close together, but my really big mistake was that I picked up stitches (thinking to knit the sleeves top-down, since I’m oh-so-independent) right next to the crochet chain. That pulled the short cut floats right through the crochet chain and turned my neat cut into a gaping wound.

I did recover, but only after hours of delicate work that could have been avoided. EZ, it turns out, sewed down her steeks three times with a sewing machine before taking scissors to her work. Good grief.

The sleeves were… well.

I wanted to knit the sleeves top down, so I could use up the largest amounts of yarn on larger stitch patterns near the top. Fair enough. And I thought, reasonably, that I knew what a sleeve should be shaped like; I have enough sweaters and have knit (and designed!) enough of them myself. Well, first off, I did not have an accurate idea of my row gauge, so I was not decreasing fast enough. Second, I know how a sleeve is shaped on a fitted sweater… but this is a bag sweater. My mom is a bag-sweater master, so I grew up in and around the things, but it never occurred to me: have never made a bag sweater before. In a bag sweater, the top of the sleeve has to be enormous to be comfortable.

As a result, after two weeks of careful two-at-a-time work, I had two perfectly matched sleeves which squeezed awkwardly on my upper arm, and flapped stupidly around the wrist, while bunching up from being four inches too long.

I took my medicine. I ripped one out entirely (except for the cuff, which I had forcibly decreased down to the correct size), and followed directions this time, knitting from the bottom up. Increasing every four rows still sounded drastic, but I complied, and barely came up to the correct number of stitches at the top! What do I know, indeed.

It went very quickly, though. It turns out knitting one sleeve goes much faster than knitting two. I left the other sleeve intact while I was knitting the first over again, and used it as a pattern. It helped a great deal that I had already made my decisions about what patterns and colors to use, and so wasn’t stopping every half-dozen rows to dig through my bag of Blendlings and leaf through the pattern book.

Old sleeve on the left, new on the right. I also got the chance to flip those blue birds around which I had inadvertently knit upside-down.

The second sleeve was re-knit in a trice. A hearty blocking evened everything out, though it took a full four days to dry through all those layers. I had to deepen the steeks for the wider sleeves, but a couple evenings of careful work had it all put together.

This sweater is so… wearable. I don’t wear handknit pullovers much because I get sweaty, then the thing has to be handwashed, which means it never gets worn again. But I threw this on over a long sleeved shirt on a mild arctic August day, and wore it comfortably all day. There isn’t a gram of acrylic in this thing, and with all that woolen yarn mixed in, it’s so light.

About the hem collar – I didn’t follow those directions either, and made the hem all the way around the top, rather than just around the collar (which is what EZ actually describes). As a result I have a much thicker area at the shoulders where the doubled portions were sewn together. It creates a very shoulderpad-like effect. But I think I can live with it, as a reminder to pay at least some attention next time.

I love it. Both because it works, and because it is doubly made of learning experiences. I hope I wear it to bits.

Reflections in the Mirror of Galadriel

On a mid-December day in 2002, a few friends and I went to an opening-day showing of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. But we didn’t just go: we really went. We’d spent the previous several months deciding on characters, making costumes, buying accessories.

It was the first and almost-only time I cosplayed. We were homeschooled, we were nerds, we were glorious. And we were by no means the only ones who went all-out. I’ll never forget a middle-aged paunchy fellow who I think was supposed to be Aragorn, who approached me to show me his Nenya ring. I was mostly terrified of him; I don’t even remember if I said anything.

Illustration by Fabio Leone. Click for link to page.

For reasons I forget, I dressed up as Galadriel. Probably because the other two girls in our group wanted to be Arwen and Eowyn, and that was the extent of the female cast. One of them was the sort of ridiculously talented person who could measure me, freehand a dress pattern on some butcher paper, and produce something that would fit. Her mother donated lace she had used to make her wedding dress. The rest was down to me: I bought liner fabric, sewed the thing together, even hand-beaded the belt.

I had a really good go at unearthing the incriminating picture. I’m almost sad I failed.

2002 was the year I got into the Lord of the Rings. I saw the first film and read all the books before the second came out. As I’ve gotten deeper and deeper into the books, I can appreciate their maturity more and more, and the ways that the films’ attempts to make the characters more relatable made them profoundly less mature. But the experience of the books and the movies remains intertwined in my mind, and I will always look back at that December day as the moment when my devotion went over the top and never looked back.

Image from Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings. Copyright New Line Cinema. Image taken from Lotr Wikia. Click for link.

Galadriel’s Mirror” is the penultimate pattern in my knit-through of Susan Pandorf’s Fellowship of the Ring series. I confess, I’ve really struggled with some of these knits. Usually because of my choices, many of them have come out wonky or unusable, and all of the best ones I’ve given away to some special people. I was determined that Galadriel’s Mirror would be different. It would be a wearable piece, and it would be for me.

I started it back at the beginning of Lent, in the fool’s dream of completing it by Easter. After a few weeks I realized I would not be able to continue knitting it at all. There is just no time in my life for this kind of intensely intricate knitting, requiring a chart and a couple hours of time to make any appreciable progress. I set it aside, and committed it to be my vacation knitting.

That was definitely the right decision. On vacation, I have one thing that I never have in the arctic: lots of time in the car. In airplanes and automobiles, I clocked in hour after hour of knitting time. On my solo trip to Yellowknife, I even had time in airplanes that didn’t involve entertaining a small person! I haven’t had that since 2009!

Just for this project, I developed the unusual habit of marking off my rows with a different color every time I sat down to work on it. You can see the sessions getting shorter and shorter as the shawl grew, then really take off again on Chart 3. That’s when vacation started! The really good day from Charts 3-4 was, I think, our five-hour drive to Pittsburgh. The last several rows are all different colors, because that was after we got home.

On the last flight, from Rankin Inlet to Iqaluit. Around 700 stitches per row.

By the time I landed back in Iqaluit, I had maybe a dozen rows left. That meant a dozen hours, but I was determined to fit that in. I even overcame running out of yarn twice, contacting Ravelers who had used the same yarn, and who sent me their leftovers for the cost of shipping.

On a chilly August day, probably not much warmer than that first day in December, I used nearly every straight pin I own (I had six left) so she could reach her final shape. It blocked to about six feet wide, though I didn’t measure.

Little pin-removing helpers. They haven’t graduated to putting the pins in yet, of course.

This is one of the most beautiful and taxing patterns I have ever tackled. Susan’s patterns are always lavish, intricate, original, and tasteful, and often quite hard. This one, with its combination of twisted stitches, bobbles (how I dreaded the bobble rows!), odd wrong-side things going on, wrapped stitches, and complex increasing areas, was intense. It wasn’t difficult to execute, per se, but it demanded attention. It took ’till chart 3 for me to even sort of memorize the main motif, and I was still checking the chart every row.

If this sounds like a criticism, it isn’t. Someone should be making things this amazing. I just have to accept that it isn’t usually going to be me anymore.

Water is everywhere in these stitch patterns. The main motif, in the sharp relief of twisted stitches, looks like sinuous ripples interrupting each other at the wrapped points. There are droplet bobbles.

The ripples eventually branch out and join together as the energy disperses.

Towards the border, the ripples deconstruct and re-form into leaves, maybe mallorn leaves that have fallen on the mirror’s edge.

And finally, additional in-repeat increases and merciless twisted-stitch openwork create dramatic undulations along the edge.

The way these complex patterns emerge from the center in a large triangle remind me of the endless complexity that can be created by a single disturbance at the edge of a quiet pool.

There is sharpness there, too – a reminder of the hidden strength Galadriel represents, and the fall that could have been if she had taken the ring.

The yarn I used was Araucania Huasco, also known as Botany Lace. Mum had bought it for me when I specifically asked for a blue fingering weight for Christmas, maybe four years ago, hoping for something to make this very shawl.

What made this yarn an excellent choice was its roundness. It’s a superfine Merino, spun into a three-ply light fingering, and it’s very bouncy. This would normally be a terrible choice for lace, as it would erase most of the openwork. But for this pattern, I was more interested in a round yarn that would make the texture stand out than a flat two-ply that would open up the yarn overs. I may even get the best of both worlds, as the yarn overs are quite visible after my severe blocking.

Naomi took this picture for me. I couldn’t wait for her daddy to get home. She always wants to play with my DSLR, and managed at least one with me in the frame! (I cropped it.)

Dressing up as Galadriel felt impossibly pretentious fifteen years ago. I was an insecure high school student pretending to be the last representative of the Noldor race of the Eldar on the eastern side of the sundering seas. One who had lived in the undying lands. I went with it, but I in no way inhabited that character.

In the intervening years I’ve read the books another half dozen times. I’ve tried to understand the Eldar as Tolkein wrote them. I’ve become convinced that their ancient mystery, which seems so glamorous onscreen, is not more important than their inherent playfulness. They were sometimes quite serious, but only the worst of them took themselves very seriously, and they don’t desire power like men do. As for Galadriel, what her agelessness gives her is an unconscious inner strength, a perspective and presence bordering on timelessness. What outsiders call “magic” is just the inherent power of her integrity.

I still can’t pretend to inhabit that kind of character. But wrapped up in intricate merino, which seems now too intricate to even be something I made myself, who knows. Maybe I will remember to lay aside the insecure sixteen-year-old, and inhabit instead the ageless future I look forward to in undying lands.

A Priest Crafts: Episode 4, How TDF Went

Slightly belatedly, here are my reflections on Tour de Fleece 2017 – my first time participating. I focused on one big (for me) spin, which challenged me in a couple of ways. I’m happy about how it went, and hope you’ll check out my thoughts about it, and that you share your thoughts as well!

Show Notes

These original three braids are all one-of-a-kind braids from Woolgatherings. For easy reference I call them “blue,” “orange,” and “pink.” They were purchased in May 2010, at the Cloverhill Yarn Shop booth at the Maryland Sheep & Wool festival. (OK true confessions: I think they were actually purchased at the shop, before the festival, when the box arrived and we started unpacking it.) I had actually always envisioned putting them together in some kind of massively multicolor gradient.

IMG_5128_medium2

Spreading out the top. Isn’t that floofy BFL crimp just gorgeous? I was actually surprised at the amount of VM still present. This was quite comforting; I hope this means it was processed in a relatively low-impact manner. The silk was, for the most part, well-blended in, though there were cut bits of silk I had to pull out at times. There were some nepps as well, but I blame that on how long I left these poor dears in my stash. Two thumbs up; I would definitely recommend woolgatherings! They’re still doing handpainted tops, but have branched out into some interesting color blends and breed specific rovings.

IMG_5129_medium2

Stripping away on a hot June day in Maryland, while getting eaten alive by mosquitoes.

IMG_5130_medium2

Top left: Ply #1: 4 bumps blue, 3 orange, 2 pink.
Top right: Ply #2: 3 blue, 3 orange, 3 pink.
Bottom: Ply #3: 2 blue, 3 orange, 4 pink.

I absolutely filled my instagram and ravelry accounts with bobbin shots of this spin, so I will not re-post them here. If you’re interested in more details, here’s the ravelry page for this spin.

SONY DSC

The Nerd Numbers:

  • Total yardage: 884 yards
  • Total weight: 11.7 oz
  • Grist: 1208 YPP
  • Finished by soaking and snapping
  • WPI (finished): 12 WPI, or about DK-weight
  • TPI (plied & finished): 3.5
  • Twist angle: ~35 degrees

SONY DSC

Thanks so much for watching and reading.