Tuesday, January 06, 2009

in which the New Year has started out soggy

Despite all my griping about the snow, I think I liked it better. At least it was a lot less muddy. (I honestly don't mind snow all that much; the problem is that no one is prepared for it here and that was the challenge.)

Plus, snow is pretty. At first. Rain never is. Rain is just, well, wet. Plus it's been pouring, so even my MIL, who really loves her daily walks, is not too eager to venture forth. Poor woman. She traveled several thousand miles to visit us (for which I am very happy) and the weather has been so freaking crappy that we've been housebound for most of the month.

Even though it is raining, and is thus warmer than when it was snowing, it's not all that much warmer. In short, very cold rain. Barely too warm for snow and instead miserable cold rain, so it actually seems colder than it did when it snowed. The dogs certainly felt that way. They were outside for about five minutes in rain to do their business and then they all huddled in front of the furnace to get warm:

Three brown dogs and one white one. All I need now is a black dog to provide me with enough dog hair colors to show up on everything. 

In a random change of topic, I tried needle felting the other day. My Local Yarn Shop also carries needle felting supplies so I bought a kit there. I brushed Sasha, my long haired cat, and got a nice supply of fiber and tried making a little cat out of cat hair. Oh c'mon, it's a great idea. Why buy little cat toys when I make them out of the cats themselves? There's a few things I learned about needle felting. 

1. Those frakking needles are sharp. I jabbed myself a few times and drew blood every time.
2. The shaping process is really just a matter of practice, it seems. I got a few books from the library on needle felting, and while there are some basic directions on how to make a ball, a cylinder, or a tube, the directions for making animal shapes are essentially "make a cat/squirrel/dog body shape". My little cat is most definitely an abstract beast. 
3. Sculptural needle felting is actually rather fun. It's rather cathartic to repeatedly stab something (except thumbs and fingers). The process actually gives you quite a bit of control over the sculpture, so it's not as fast (using a single needle) but allows the possibility of very unique pieces.

I also tried my hand at spinning the other day. My friend Rachel from Knit Night invited a group of us over to spin. We all brought our wheels and had a very pleasant time spinning and socializing. The spinning bug hasn't hit me the way the knitting bug did. When I learned to knit, I was very enthralled and Ready to Learn and so was able to work through the learning curve. To be honest, spinning hasn't quite ensnared me. It's more like a theoretical interest than an actual one. I guess I should have figured that out when I got a spinning wheel last summer, stained it and assembled it and then let it sit in the corner until, well, last week. 

Spinning on a wheel is a heck of a lot less difficult than spinning with a drop spindle. In my opinion, drop spindle spinning makes patting your head while rubbing your tummy seem like a walk in the park. That said, wheel spinning is still a lot like learning to drive a stick shift: feet and hands are all doing separate things and it's not so hard to just do one or two things at a time but controlling all extremities is a challenge. (And yes, with drop spindle spinning, both hands are doing all the work that in wheel spinning is distributed between upper and lower limbs.) And I did spin. What I created was complete and utter crap which I didn't even bother to keep but instead cut off the bobbin and threw out. My friend Ickyfishy had given me a handful  of fiber to practice with, and it's really amazing how much fiber it takes to make a little bit of yarn. Fiber is very fluffy and what I thought was a pretty sizable amount of fiber spun up into a very small amount of yarn.  Rachel had received a spinning wheel for Christmas (a complete and utter surprise to her) and apparently had just learned to spin, oh, the day before? But she has been bitten by the Bug and was producing quite lovely yarn. AbsoluteJeanius had some pre-dyed fiber that she was spinning and it was just gorgeous stuff. (She gave me a skein of her handspun for a Christmas gift and I treasure it. It's lovely color, and beautifully textured, and I just have to figure out the Perfect Thing to Make with it.)

It seems that for those of us who dream of making our own yarn that the way to a beautifully colored yarn comes from dyeing the fiber and then spinning it up. Perhaps I've just not seen too many master dyers of yarn (Tina of Blue Moon Fiber Arts being an exception) but for really interesting colors, ones that have depth to them, you have to spin up dyed fiber instead of just dyeing yarn. You can create colors by either blending several fibers that have been dyed various colors and then spinning that or you can dye a large amount of fiber in various colors which blend to certain extent as they are spun. 

So maybe the spinning bug will eventually seize me. I keep trying, slogging through the learning curve until eventually everything will click and I won't have yarn that looks like ass. (Rachel said very encouragingly that master spinners have a very tough time recreating the thick and thin overspun slubby yarn that we beginners produce effortlessly. My thought, as I looked at that fuzzy curly thatch wrapped around my spinning wheel bobbin and which reminded me somewhat uncomfortably of pubic hair was "why would they want to?")


L J said...

Use your spinning "mistakes" for needle felting projects. Those peices can be bundled up and used as the bulky "core" of your animal body then flesh out the critters with the "outer" fiber of your choice. Nice way to hide the unmentionable pubic yarn. :-)

jeanius said...

look here:
and then specifically here:

Some of them I don't believe are 'first skeins', but it can help assure you that it does get easier!

beginner skeins are great for needle felting (that is a great idea LJ!)