Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Few of my Favorite Things

Good morning, fiber friends! It's bright and early here in New York - just before 7am - and I've been buzzing around the house with the  'just-a-few-more-days-until-Christmas!' spirit. The tree is lit up, there's a warm cup of tea nearby (orange-mocha pu-erh, to be precise), and I have a lot of things to chat about today, including a few reviews of things I've been really loving lately. I hope you enjoy this post! :)

In my last post, I mentioned that I'd soon be reviewing a new fiber tool that I recently purchased. It was something that I'd been eyeing for awhile, and finally decided to splurge on as an early holiday present to myself.

So, without further ado, allow me to introduce you to the Kate 45!

The Kate 45 - my new best friend!
The Kate 45 is a very special lazy kate made and sold by cjkoho (aka Carla) on Etsy. Mine is made of solid maple (though it can also be purchased in cherry or oak) and it weighs a substantial three pounds - the perfect weight for anchoring it to the floor, so it doesn't scoot around when I'm pulling on the yarn during plying. The bobbin spokes accommodate a variety of bobbins - my Kromski and Ashford bobbins fit perfectly - and because there are four spokes, it's possible to make a yarn with up to four plies. This is a huge advantage in and of itself, because both of my other kates would only accommodate three bobbins. I'm super-excited to try my hand at a 4-ply yarn!

But perhaps the most awesome thing of all is that this kate doesn't need a tensioning device. (Strange, but true!) My Kromski kate, which I've struggled with for years, has a tensioning band that wraps around the bobbins and tends to be extremely fiddly and annoying, losing or gaining tension in precisely the worst possible moment. The Kate 45 solves this tensioning problem by angling the bobbins at 45 degrees, an angle that somehow, almost magically, adds just enough tension to keep the yarn tangle-free... without a brake band!

45 degrees is the magic angle!
The only cons I can think of about this kate is that sometimes it can be a bit noisy, which could also be attributed to my rather vigorous pulling on the yarn as I was plying. And at over $100 after shipping, it is a bit more expensive that the other kates on the market, but because the design and customer service are so excellent, I consider it money well spent. :) If you'd like to check it out,  click here to visit cjkoho's Etsy shop!

With the weather getting colder and the nights so long, lately I've been wanting to hunker down with some knitting and a good movie. But unlike the epic fantasy and sci-fi films I love to catch at the movie theater, at home I generally prefer my television-watching to be of a more quiet, subdued nature. Costume dramas and British TV usually fit the bill quite nicely, but eventually even I reach my limit of Sherlock and North & South.

So why not watch fiber-arts DVDs while I knit?

During Interweave's holiday sale, I bought a copy of How I Spin with Rita Buchanan, and I've been absolutely loving ever minute of it!

Rita Buchanan is a former editor of Spin-Off magazine, and she's been spinning steadily since the 1970s. Her joy about spinning is infectious, and she clearly loves to share her knowledge and could talk about spinning all day long. (My kind of person!) This double-DVD set is full of wonderful gems of wisdom and inspiration, and I've already watched it several times, sometimes rewinding and re-watching to help a new idea sink in further. My personal favorite sections are her techniques on counting while drafting, which she relates to the rhythm of music; her recommendations on how to keep spinning samples; and her sections on the varieties of ways to prepare fiber. Also, I was greatly humbled by watching her spin cotton on her e-spinner... while relaxing in a comfy chair and reading a book. She's amazing!!

To get an idea about Rita's joyful personality and wonderful teaching style - as well as the soothing, peaceful style of the DVD, which is like instant comfort! - here's a clip that I found on YouTube. I think every spinner, from beginner to advanced, can find something to learn in this amazing DVD, and I know that I'll be watching it and learning from it for years to come. I definitely encourage you to check it out!

 So, with all this inspiration at hand, what have I been spinning and knitting lately?

After finishing up my latest skein of yarn - which is drying as we speak: yay! - I rummaged through my fiber stash for something new to spin. And though this pink, orange, and yellow BFL had been languishing in the stash for months, mystifying me with the very un-Sara color combination, it suddenly dawned on me that it was destined to become warm, squishy socks. Yep, it was time to spin some more sock yarn!

This fiber is superwash BFL from Into the Whirled, and the colorway is called "Fierce and Flawless". And while I wasn't crazy about the colors in the braid, I'm loving them spun up!

Here be sock yarn!
And because I'm always looking ahead to my spinning future, I have to share what arrived in the mail yesterday: more Into the Whirled! This is December's club colorway, "The Woods", on Masham, which is a new-to-me fiber! I can't wait to spin this up. :)

Super-yummy Masham from Into the Whirled!
My Christmas knitting is finally complete, after finally (finally!!) finishing what I've dubbed the Endless Scarf of Doom last night. So after months of knitting for others, I got to work on something for myself!

Remember my handspun sample shawl that I started working on months and months ago? It started as a way to use up my copious collection of Phat Fiber samples, but has grown into a way to use up scraps of all my other handspun, as well. (It's great for using up the bits left over on my bobbins after plying.) It's knit in garter stitch, and whenever I run out of the yarn I'm using, I just join in another little ball and keep right on going. There are a bazillion ends to be woven in, but that's another concern for another day, far in the future. :)

The important thing is that I love, love, love this crazy, funky shawl, and know that someday, when it's finished, I'm going to treasure it forever. It's like a memory quilt of my spinning life, and that makes me very, very happy, indeed. :)

Getting there, slowly but surely!
A close-up of the latest few rows.
Wee yarn balls, patiently waiting their turn to be added.
 Thanks so much for reading, and for all the wonderful comments on my previous entry! Reading them always makes my day. :) Have a wonderful weekend, everyone, and talk to you again very soon!


  1. Wow. That shawl is a genius idea, I love how it is coming along. I am still trying to think of ways to use up the scraps of handspun I have. I was thinking maybe Christmas ornaments?
    Also, that Kate is probably one of the coolest things I have ever seen. I have been wondering how other people successfully ply yarn for a while now, seeing as I use toilet paper tubes and let them roll around the floor. :) And I also love the sock yarn to be, I can't wait to see it knitted up!

  2. As always, I'm so happy to hear from you Sara! I'm glad to see that you have been creating lovely new things and adding some new toys to your fiber studio. Firstly, I really want to try some of that tea you've mentioned, it sounds divine! I'm excited to see the handspun shawl coming along so well, it is going to be a fun day when you finally finish it! I recently received some unprocessed mohair as a gift, and I am so glad that you took the time to write some tutorials on working with unprocessed fiber. Also, I realized that we have been following each other for almost a year now, isn't that fun?

  3. So excited to catch up here! A very late congratulations on your Rinebeck ribbons,your sweater is a masterpiece and your spinning- well it leaves me breathless! All the best to you for a New Year filled with fibery fun.

  4. What a great post! I am going to have to get that DVD now, 2 minutes was not enough! Also, the yarn you are spinning and the shawl you are knitting is gorgeous.


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