Category Archives: Yarn

Brain Spinning

I have long wanted to spin yarn — because now that really nice yarn is readily available, why not make my own on a fiddly machine that will likely engender much cursing?

Actually, it would be neat to take fiber all the way to yarn and then knit that yarn into a scarf or shawl or socks or whatever, and, like the nicotine addict who rolls his own, I hope spinning my own will slow me down — because how many scarves, shawls, blankets, socks does a person really need? (I do donate quite a few items, and gift even more, but still.)

Plus, I’m fascinated by fiber/textiles, I love learning new things, Iowa winters are long and dull, and summers, well, I’m not a big fan of gardening.

So I have some $ coming in mid-June and I’ve earmarked some of it for a spinning wheel. I’m planning to attend the Iowa Sheep and Wool Festival in early June to try out some wheels, since the nearest dealer who carries more than one brand is 5.5 hours away, north of Minneapolis. In the meantime, because it’s so much more fun than grading or vacuuming, I’ve obsessively been researching spinning wheels online.

For most of human history, yarn was made on spindles, including drop-spindles, which I have used, but I’m much more adept at the DROP (clatter, roll away) than the spin. No, as the Chinese discovered early on and Europe figured out by around 1200, spinning wheels are the way to go. The first ones were just a more efficient way to turn a spindle (this would be what did in Sleeping Beauty), but they soon became more sophisticated, both spinning the yarn and winding it on a bobbin.

Speaking of fairy tales, traditional spinning wheels have the coolest names for their parts — maidens, mother-of-all, footmen — and for the wheel styles: saxony, castle, great wheel.

Today, wheels come in tons of styles: saxony, castle, modern castle, direct drive. They are also made from lots of different materials: rare wood (multiple thousands of dollars per wheel), hard wood, plywood, even PVC pipe and wheelchair wheels.

Based on my obsessive research, there are four wheels I’m considering. One is the best all-around, most sensible deal: the Fricke S-160 double treadle. But the romantic part of me wants a Bluebonnet Shamrock castle wheel (still a good deal). The cutesy part of me wants a folding Thimble. (an okay deal). And the gadget-loving part of me wants a Queen Bee, but that part, luckily, is not going to pay so much for a hobby item.

A used wheel purchase is, of course, possible, but wheels tend to hold their value, so when you factor in shipping to the butt-of-nowhere, Iowa, you might as well buy new and get the warranty.

Until then, the weather is nicer, school is almost over, and I have a novel to plan. Summer! Sabbatical! Sheep — I mean, Sleep!

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Semester….almost…over….(and a pattern!)

Between teaching, helping with gen-ed assessment,* faculty senate, and committee work, this has been a stressful semester. Plus, each semester seems to whiz by faster than the one before. I fully expect, in the near future, to come to my senses enmeshed in finals week with a memory of the first week of school and nothing in between.

I have had a few odd moments** to develop a pattern and produce crocheted neck warmers as xmas gifts for university staff and for friends. Notice how all my pattern (“all” meaning three, but hey, I’ve been busy) are for crochet? I still consider myself primarily a knitter and I prefer knitting, but I just find crochet to be so much faster!

Anyway, here’s some pics and then the pattern.

Four neck warmers. Notice how nicely the blue one patterned.

Four neck warmers. Notice how nicely the blue one patterned.

Spokespup Violet shows us my personal neck warmer with button. If she knew the difference between a vowel and a consonant and were taller, I think she could nudge Vanna off Wheel of Fortune.

Spokespup Violet shows us my personal neck warmer with button. If she knew the difference between a vowel and a consonant and were taller, I think she could nudge Vanna off Wheel of Fortune.

Who is that attractive, curly-haired woman? I think the neck warmer makes her even more mysteriously fabulous!

Who is that attractive, curly-haired woman? I think the neck warmer makes her even more mysteriously fabulous! (I have a rich fantasy life)

Crocheted Neck Warmer

Neck warmers aren’t as dramatic as long scarves, but are a lot more practical. Just as warm, they take up less room under your coat and are easy to fold into a pocket.

I did the same pattern (number of stitches, length) with both a soft, springy worsted and a single-ply bulky.

The worsted was on the fat side. I used Bernat Berella “4”. This is a nice acrylic in some colorways – there was a lot of variation in thickness and in “plastic-y-ness” between the various colors. The quality within each colorway seems very consistent, however. At any rate, one skein makes two neck warmers.

The bulky was something from my stash that had lost its label. It was a fluffy, hand-wash wool. It isn’t pictured, as it is an xmas present for someone who reads the blog!

Hook: I used an “I” hook for the worsted and a “K” for the bulky.

Stitch used: Woven crochet stitch. Worked over an even number of stitches, woven crochet stitch consists of alternating single crochets and chain-one spaces, with each single crochet being worked in a chain-one stitch of the previous row.

Pattern: Chain 19

Row one: In the third chain from hook, single crochet. *Chain one, skip stitch, single crochet in next stitch. Repeat from * to end of row. Chain two, turn.

Row two: Single crochet in the first chain one space of previous row. *Chain one, skip stitch, single crochet in next stitch. Repeat from * to last chain one space. Single crochet in last chain one space, chain one, single crochet in loop formed by the “chain two, turn” of the previous row. Chain two, turn.

Repeat row two until piece measures about 21 inches – this gives about a 4” overlap when the warmer is worn. For a fuller-than-average neck, simply add a few more rows.

Final three rows:

Row one: Instead of chaining two at the turn, chain only one. Skipping the base of the turning chain, single crochet in each stitch across (16 stitches). Chain one, turn.

Row two: Skipping the base of the turning chain, single crochet across first five stitches. Chain six. Skip the next six stitches (for buttonhole), single crochet in seventh stitch from the start of the chain. Single crochet in next four stitches or to end of row (hey, a miscount is not the end of the world!). Chain one, turn.

Last row: Skipping the base of the turning chain, single crochet in each stitch to the base of the button hole. Single crochet around the buttonhole chain (not in the stitches, but completely around them) – eight to ten single crochets to nicely cover the buttonhole chain without becoming stiff. Slide and adjust single crochets across the buttonhole chain. Single crochet in opposite base of buttonhole chain, single crochet in each stitch to end of row, cut yarn and bind off.

Weave in ends.

Center button at four inches from non-buttonhole end of neck warmer, or at appropriate spot for intended wearer. Using tapestry needle and yarn, stitch on button and then weave in ends.

You’re done!

*Anyone who uses the adage “like herding cats” has never tried to get 80+ faculty to do something, do it correctly, and do it on time. Cats are easy and, in general, a lot less self-centered.

**Okay, yeah, all my moments are odd.

Updatedness

I haven’t posted for a bit, which has nothing to do with the new computer game I just got or the stack of novels awaiting my attention or my newest crochet fixation, muffatees.* Or just a little bit. No, a tad more than that. Yeah, there you go — that much.

In other news, in early November I’m going to a conference at Grinnell College and its local prison to see how the faculty and students have created a writing program for the prisoners. We (another faculty member and two students) will be studying their program to see how we can implement one at our nearest prison, Rockwell City. And since “Rockwell City” has the same number of syllables as “Folsom Prison,” I’ve been Johnny-Cashing about it all week.

My next post will likely be a crochet pattern for muffatees, featuring a slip stich short row, which is pretty darn clever, if I do say so myself, which, obviously, I just did.

*Crochet because I knit so slowly, winter would be over before I finished a pair. Crocheting, I can do a pair in one evening. I’m outfitting the members of my department because our building heat hasn’t been turned on yet!