Saturday, December 13, 2014

Copyright, Copy Wrong

I am no expert on copyright law. I let one notion guide my actions: stealing is wrong.

I write knitting patterns. Not many, but some. And I sell those patterns. (You can find them on Ravelry.) I would hope that no one would make copies of my patterns without my permission. I would hope that if a knitter is interested in knitting one of my designs then that knitter would be willing to pay a modest fee for the effort I put into the design and pattern.

In the course of my knitting life, I have purchased many patterns. I mentioned one in a recent blog post: the Classic Elite pattern, Ruins of Dunstaburgh Castle vest. A few days later, a friend of mine told me she found the pattern quite interesting but she was having trouble finding a copy to purchase. She asked if I’d be willing to send her a copy.

I responded, “I feel uncomfortable copying the pattern, but I’d be happy to give it to you. I don’t plan to use it again.” So, I sent off the pattern to its new home. I’m thinking that I’ve at least held to the spirit of copyright if not to the letter.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

New-To-Me Stitch Dictionary

I’ve mentioned before that I volunteer for a couple hours on Tuesday afternoons at the Almira Township Library. It’s a small library. Anywhere from 0 to 10 folks will patronize the library on any given Tuesday afternoon. I typically while away my three hours by knitting.

A couple weeks ago, I finished my knitting and still had some time left. So I wandered over to the non-fiction section to see if there were any knitting books. There were a few books on needle crafts that included some knitting. But there was only one book specifically about knitting: Knitting Dictionary 800 Stitches and Patterns.

Jackpot! I love perusing stitch dictionaries. A good chunk of my personal library is dedicated to such books. The book I found on the library shelf is an older book. There is no explicit publication date, but it does say, “english translation and adaptation by Margaret Hamilton-Hunt (I.W.S. Knitting Design of the year Award Winner 1963) for MON TRICOT…”

The first 35 pages contain technical information. The rest of the book is filled with stitch patterns. Most of the patterns I’d seen before, many I’d knitted. But there were some that were new to me, or were variations I’d not noticed before, such as: Window Stitch, Wheat Germ Stitch, Slipped Granite Stitch, Swarm Stitch, Grain of Powder Stitch, Ladders, Fancy Zig Zag Stitch.

Not only were the patterns interesting to me, but I was totally charmed by the names of the stitches.

I had fun exploring this new-to-me knitting book.

The following Tuesday, when I arrived at the library, I chatted for a bit with the librarian, Shirley R. I mentioned that I’d looked over that book and that I had felt – and resisted – the urge to pinch it. (After all, this library is so small, there really is no card catalog, analog or digital. The last time the book had been checked out was 2005. No one would know…)

Her response was to ask if there were any other knitting books in the library. I mentioned the needle craft books. She then took the stitch dictionary off the shelf, blacked out the logo for the Almira Township Library, removed the library card from the back of the book, and handed me the book.

She gave it to me!

Oh boy oh boy oh boy!

I’ve already started swatching some of the stitches. And I’m finding some interesting tidbits in the technical section too. I love knitting books.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Old Dog, New Tricks

It must have been during my stint as a post-doctoral fellow in Ann Arbor, 1993-1995. I distinctly recall upon reading a certain scientific paper, I wrote on margin of the front page, “old dog, new tricks”. Although I remember my reaction clearly, I can’t remember the title of the article, what year it was published, which scientific journal it was in, or the authors’ names. I can’t even remember the methods, design, or results of the paper. (Ten years ago, when I was still in academia, this type of information would have been a breeze to remember.) I just remember that my quick conclusion was that new motor patterns can be learned even by the very elderly. It was convincing evidence to me that old dogs can learn new tricks.

My last blog post garnered a few comments about left v right, habit, and movement patterns. That made me think about issues of habit and motor learning. And about “rules” for spinning.

I may be a keen observer of rules of the road, but I am a scofflaw when it comes to rules of spinning. I do hold to just a very few rules:

  1. Don’t hurt yourself….or anyone else.
  2. If what you are doing results in what you want, then keep doing it.
  3. If you don’t like your results, change what you’re doing. (Yes, Dr. Phil.)
But to “change what you’re doing” can be difficult for some. Just know that it’s not impossible. To change movement habits is just like learning a new movement skill: it requires:

  1. A willingness to change/learn.
  2. Accepting that you will be clumsy, slow, and error-filled at first.
  3. A lot of mindful practice. Be aware. Pay attention. Adjust.
About a year ago, I read a post on Facebook about the issue of double spacing after a period in typing. I learned to type in High School and was taught to double space after a period. That was on a typewriter. Now, computer fonts allow for easy reading of sentences and it is recommended that only one space follow a period.

After 40 years of a well-learned habit, could I change? It took about two months of concerted effort, but now the single space is as natural to me as the double space once was. Two months of awkward hesitations in my typing. And a conscious effort to change. That’s all it took.

I will admit that I relish learning new movements. I trained as a dancer for 20 years. I immersed myself in the neuroscience and biomechanics of movement for another 20. I fundamentally value movement and learning new movements. I can accept that not all folks will have the same attitude about movement. That’s ok with me.

Here’s another perspective on the left v right sided flyer: My friend, Sylvia VM, who is selling the wheel, sent me an email today in which she commented: “Kinda like how to hold chop sticks? It’s about getting the food to your mouth.”

So, whether the flyer is on the right or the left, whether you’re right-handed or left-handed, whether you hold the right hand in front or the left….it’s about spinning fiber into yarn.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Used Spinning Wheel for Sale

My friend, Sylvia VM, has several lovely wheels. She even has a Reeves upright castle wheel just like mine. She has too many wheels. And she wants me to help her sell one of them.

She bought a Schacht-Reeves wheel new in 2005. This wheel was made by the Schacht Spindle Company . It’s serial number is #1-0170. It’s got a 24” drive wheel with the flyer on the right, it’s double-treadle, and it’s made of cherry wood. It comes with 2 whorls (for 4 drive ratios), a lazy kate (in ash), the owner’s manual, and 5 bobbins (in cherry). The original orifice hook is missing, but I’m contributing an original Reeves orifice hook (in cherry). The wheel can be used in either double drive or Scotch tension. It is currently set up in Scotch tension.

This wheel is very handsome, beautifully engineered, and in very good condition. I’ve just oiled it, and put new leaders on all the bobbins. It treadles very smoothly. New, this wheel and extra bobbins would cost about $1600. Sylvia is asking $1000 (other reasonable offers will be considered). I would rather not ship this wheel, but if I did, the buyer would cover shipping and insurance costs. I am willing to drive a bit to deliver or meet. I live in Lake Ann, MI.

If you are interested in buying this wheel, you can contact me at

A Note on Left Versus Right

When Sylvia ordered the wheel she asked the folks at Schacht whether she should have the flyer on the left (most typical for a Saxony-style wheel) or on the right. They asked her which hand she uses in front, closest to the orifice. She uses her left hand in front. They then suggested she get the wheel with the flyer on the right.

Some folks would argue that the location of the flyer matters, but I don’t agree. Whether you use your left or your right hand forward, or whether you are left or right hand dominant, I think you can get used to – and become skilled with – whatever spinning wheel setup you have. It may take awhile; facility and skill do require practice.

I understand that a spinner might have a preference. I’m ok with that. However, I’m pretty well versed in the scientific literature of neuromotor control and motor learning (MS and PhD), and I know of no evidence that would suggest there is a physiological or mechanical rationale for location of the flyer on a spinning wheel.

I can say that I had no trouble spinning on this wheel, even though I mostly spin on upright wheels, and the Saxony-style wheels that I have owned in the past have all had the flyer on the left.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Into Darkness

Sometimes I buy fiber just because it is unusual. That’s what happened in September at the Interlochen Fiber Arts Weekend. (Expect to see more fiber events at Interlochen in 2015.) There was a handful of vendors at this inaugural event. I did my best to buy from many of them. The vendor that was closest to the entrance is a friend of mine, Tracie Herkner. Her business is It’s Sew Ewe . She had some lovely carded rovings that were blends of Huacaya alpaca and wool. I got 4 ounces of a medium brown, luxurious blend of 85% alpaca and 15% Finn (a.k.a. Finnish Landrace) wool. Sounds like a match made in heaven. This roving may well become a cowl or scarf or hat and mitts that I will keep for my very own self. I expect to spin it up sometime in the next couple months.

I also got 4 ounces of a dark brown blend of alpaca and Babydoll Southdown wool. Now, this blend seemed unusual to me. Huacaya alpaca is characterized by a silky feel, with some crimp, a reasonable staple length, and not much in the way of elasticity. Babydoll is pretty much the opposite: not overly soft, seriously crimpy, short staple length, and loads of elasticity. Spring, sproing, sprang, sprung! My immediate urge was to make socks from this fiber blend: taking advantage of the elasticity and strength of the Babydoll and the softness and warmth of the alpaca.

A couple weeks ago, I pulled this roving out of my to-do-in-the-near-future bin. I’ve been spinning it. And, well, it is unusual. I’ve spun a lot of different fibers and fiber preparations, but this one required something new from me.

I tried to use my default short draw (worsted) technique, where I draft untwisted fibers then allow twist to enter. I was having a heck of a time getting a consistently thick singles. The roving behaved like alpaca: silky and somewhat slippery. And the roving behaved like Babydoll: super elastic. My drafting strategy just wasn’t getting the most out of this weird combination.

And, I was having trouble seeing what I was doing. I was spinning a thin singles (expecting to make a fingering weight 2-ply yarn suitable for socks). And my eyes aren’t what they once were. I’m experiencing very typical age-appropriate changes in my eyesight. But I don’t have to like it. I really don’t like it. I really don’t. I need “cheaters”, and good light. Dark fibers are just plain harder to see and spin than they used to be. D**n it.

I got out my Ott floor lamp. I turned on all ceiling lights in the room. I even started using a white lap cloth (a sweet kitchen towel that my sister had given me for Christmas one year).

But I struggled. So, I changed my drafting. I let some twist enter the fibers I was drafting, rather like a version of point-of-contact long draw. Something was still not right. I then started drafting the fibers forward instead of my typical backward. That helped a bit. Then I allowed more space between my front hand and my back hand. Way better.

Near the end of the filling the first bobbin, I finally found my groove. I don’t think the change in drafting technique was the key. I think it’s more likely that all the things I did to be able to see better helped more, especially increasing the distance between my front hand and my back hand. I realized that my front hand was casting a shadow on the lap cloth and that shadow was right under the drafting triangle. Once I put more distance between my front and back hands, the shadow was no longer an issue. I could see a bit better, and that made my drafting much easier to control.

Into – then out of – darkness. The second bobbin is half full. I expect to have some lovely sock yarn – for my very own self – next week sometime.

I am thankful. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Vest Again

Years back I knitted a vest that quickly became one of my favorites. It was a Classic Elite pattern, #632, “The Ruins of Dunstaburgh Castle”, designed by Susan Mills. I distinctly remember seeing a knitted version of this vest in a yarn shop and being smitten. I asked to see the pattern. The photo of the vest does not do it justice. But the actual vest was quite lovely. I bought the pattern. And I knitted the vest within a couple months. That was in 1996.

Here’s a picture of the pattern. (I think the plaid pants are as charming as the sweaters.)

My vest went through thick and thin. So useful, so versatile, so … me!

But nothing lasts forever. Last year, the edge of the buttonhole band started to fray. I couldn’t find any of the original yarn in my stash for repair, so I tied knots. The fraying continued. I finally had to accept that it was time to retire the vest.

I still love the pattern, so I decided to knit it again. (It is most unusual for me to knit any design more than once ... except for socks.) After rummaging through my stash, I chose a tweedy grey Annabel Fox yarn, “DK Donegal”. This yarn has been in my stash for longer than the vest pattern. In fact, long ago I’d knitted the yarn up for a cardigan but I’d never gotten around to sewing the pieces together. I finally accepted that I really didn’t like the pattern that I’d chosen, so I ripped out the whole sweater and stuck the yarn back into the dark corners of my yarn drawers.

Now the old yarn and the old pattern came together. I dutifully swatched for gauge. Good thing I did, because this yarn knitted up at a different gauge than the pattern called for. I was obliged to make adjustments. No problem; my math is good.

I finished the vest yesterday, sewed the buttons on (quaint pewter buttons designed after the old buffalo nickels), and washed and blocked. It’s drying now. Here’s a picture of the vest in the construction phase. My crappy camera and the grey weather conspired to make the vest difficult to photograph.

I plan to wear my new old vest for Thanksgiving. And I plan to save some of the yarn for repairs – 18 years from now. And I plan to felt the first version vest for some as yet decided upon future project.

Everything old is new again.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Time Flies When You're Having Fun

So, you haven’t heard from me in awhile. September and early October were packed with teaching events, travelling to Wisconsin, then New Jersey, then two events in Michigan. At the end, I was pooped but happy. I met so many delightful and kind fiber folks. It was a wonderful wooly whirlwind.

Upon the heels of this teaching frenzy, I started – and finished – a new project and article. Earlier in the year, I’d proposed to write an article for Spin-Off  magazine for their “stash busting” issue, Spring 2015. Here is my initial suggestion to the magazine’s editor:

“I've got a bin of miscellaneous bits of handspun yarn. I'd like to use these bits to do some rug hooking. I've got the equipment for hooking, and a couple books, but I've never done it before. I've always wanted to. It could turn out great, but maybe not. It would be a gamble.”

You read right:  “…I’ve never done it before.”

My proposal was accepted. I also mentioned to the editor that my September was rather full, so they gave me until the end of October to submit the article.

I got home from teaching at Yarn in the Barn on Saturday, October 4. (What fun I had!) I allowed myself two days to relax.

On Tuesday, October 7 I started the rug project.

On Sunday, October 26 I finished the rug.

On Monday, October 27 I started writing the article.

On Thursday, October 30 I emailed off the finished article. I was so very proud of myself. I was so very relieved that I actually finished on time and the rug wasn’t horrible.

All I can remember about October is hooking, hooking, hooking. Then writing, writing, writing. I know that the leaves on the trees changed colors and then dropped, but I did not witness it. Other things must have happened too, or so I’ve been told.

After a few free days, I prepared for teaching at the Fall Fiber Retreat in Boyne Falls. This annual retreat is a sweet, relaxing event that almost always coincides with the first real snow fall of the season. Friends, fiber, and delicious food (especially the French lentil stew). My nerves were mending. Since then, I’ve experienced a more comfortable pace. I’ve been cooking and baking and knitting and spinning and thinking about new classes and starting new projects. (Oh, and I’ve been shoveling. We’ve had an amazing amount of November snow. Today is the first day in over a week that I have not had to shovel the walkway. It’s supposed to rain today and tomorrow. Bleh!)

I have some blog catching up to do. I look forward to it.