Spin

There’s such electric possibility in knowing nothing at all. And that’s why my world has a new gravitational center these days:

PocketWheel

This is Ginevra. She’s a pocket wheel, built by hand on Whidbey Island out of a few well-considered pieces of hardware and some beautiful wood. I’ve been curious about spinning for many years, and I’ve done some drop spindling here and there, but what pushed me over the edge—I cannot tell a lie—is the sheer beauty and economy of design in Jon McCoy’s pocket wheels. Ginevra is so little she can travel in a diaper box (though I really must find her a more dignified vehicle), so I didn’t have to commit a whole section of a room to this new craft; she’ll tuck right under my farm table work surface (just as soon as the paint dries on the legs). It took me a couple of moments adjusting the tension to find the right amount of draw (and here you’ll have to forgive me for knowing nothing of the spinning language, either… I can say the equivalent of “Dónde está el baño?” in Spinning, but I’m not going to understand the answer) and then I was away with my first ball of roving.

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My sweet little wheel hums along so agreeably that I don’t have to think about my treadling much, which is fortunate because I need to bring all my attention to bear on the drafting. I’m wholeheartedly committed to making some very ugly yarn in the beginning. I’m quite sure this is frightfully lumpy and overspun and I’ve already apologized to the blameless Cormo sheep who grew it, so that’s all fine. I saw a lot of improvement as I went along filling my bobbin.

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This puzzle remains: Cormo (or at least this roving) is full of curious little puffballs. I can sort of tease them apart and ease them in amongst the smoother fibers, but I hit patches of wool where there are so many it hardly seems worth it. These nebbly bits of sheep’s knickers invariably cause funny underspun lumps in my yarn, and for now I’m going to call them rustic character and let them lie, but I’d dearly like to know how real spinners cope with them.

What’s jolly grand is that I’m bound for Madrona in a few weeks’ time, and there I’m sure to get some sage advice from friends. I have thrown myself into the deep end and signed up for a class on spinning Shetland with Judith MacKenzie McCuin. The class description said “must be able to spin a continuous thread.” At first I assumed this meant not breaking the yarn every few meters, and I reckoned I had six weeks to practice and if I kept at it every day I was bound to have cleared that low bar. Later it occurred to me that continuous is rather a vague word. It might mean continuous in quality, in which case I’m up a creek. Judith might not be impressed that it took me 30 minutes of rising panic to get the tension right again after I switched bobbins for the first time. I’m about to try it again and I’d better be able to improve considerably on my pit stop time. (This time I also have to reverse the tension for plying. Thank Wool for the internet, without which I wouldn’t even know that I have to treadle backwards for this step. The good folk of the Pocket Wheel group on Ravelry have already saved me buckets of frustrated tears.)

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This is such a lark. I have no idea what I’m going to end up with when I assemble my smart new lazy kate and let my scraggly singles meet. I promise to show you the homely results. I love that I’ve grown up enough to savor being a beginner.

Inversion

Back in September I contributed an offer to knit a child’s sweater to the school auction. The winner was the president of the parent-teacher association, a lovely woman who does a great deal for the school, and she’s a knitter herself, so I pulled out all the stops. I was in the mood for colorwork and thought of Jared Flood’s Atlas design, but it’s written for fingering weight. The small nephew who’s getting the sweater lives in the frozen midwest, so we decided something heftier would be appropriate. I opted for Védís Jónsdóttir’s Kambur pullover as a good substitute. I’d just make it a cardigan by adding a steek. I can’t remember why I decided I’d also flip it upside down and work the yoke first… I must really have been jonesing for the colorwork. Anyway, it’s a Kambur Inversion and I finished it at the turn of the year. Our Jolly modeled it for me.

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In case you can’t tell, my boy quite likes modeling and he’s a bit of a clown. I should have just shot video; these are stills from a spontaneous boogie as he worked it for the camera in the parking lot outside his sister’s ballet class. I had to make him take the zipper out of his mouth first. I don’t know what it is with little kids and zippers, but they love them. Definitely the way to go if you can stand the extra work required to install them and finish them prettily. And boy did I finish this sweater prettily. Tubular bind-offs everywhere, including on the collar, which I picked up from a provisional cast-on. Natty applied i-cord edges to cover the zipper. And admire, if you will, this ribbon facing that conceals all the hand-sewing on the zipper itself:

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Kambur2

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(If you follow me on Instagram (@whistlinggirlknits), you’ve already seen that last shot, but I can’t help reposting it here. I just love the attitude.) Was it a little psycho to go to this painstaking level in the finishing of a garment for a toddler I’m never going to meet? You can say it. I know the answer. But as soon as I saw this ribbon at Bolt, matching the colors and motifs of the sweater so delightfully, I was helpless. And there’s such internal satisfaction to be had in knocking it out of the park even if no one’s watching. (Not that I’m quite so zen as that. I carried it around for a week and made all my local knitting friends coo over it. Plus I get to boast to all twelve of you reading here.)

The yarn is Brown Sheep Naturespun Worsted. I simplified the yoke motif to use only three colors because Twisted didn’t have a fourth shade on hand that I loved with the red and grays. I could happily make another Kambur in an alternate colorway… honey ochre with robin’s egg blue and coral pink and navy, perhaps? In Quince & Co. Lark, which I somehow still haven’t tried? Maybe just a pullover, though. I’m not sure my zipper mojo is back at full potency quite yet.

Selkie Hill

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The first of the year was as soft and shining a winter’s day as you could wish. The children went a-horseback, perched on two kind-hearted little Arabs all plush and patient in their winter coats. Today the clouds have called a gathering of the clans. Rain is freckling the windows. Indoors there is Hide and Seek in the double-depth coat closet, packing up for the journey home, winnowing of desk contents from my childhood in the house my parents will sell in the spring.

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The compensation for bidding my childhood home farewell is this view from the new dining room, which is lovely even through the murk. And I have the knowledge that my roots are in this land-and-seascape, not in the house that grew the year I was born. It’s the time of year for looking forward. This is the view my children will remember, the view from Selkie Hill. When the clouds lift you can see Mt. Rainier across the straits. The Olympics rise dusky blue in the south—my grandmother once insisted they must be clouds themselves.

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Between sweeps of the house for errant train cars and finger puppets to tuck into our bags, I pour another cup of tea and sneak in a few rows of knitting. Tonight I’ll finish sewing the zipper into another small sweater, having saved the fiddly bits for the very end of vacation. (By the by, zipper sewing is the perfect complement for stressful movies like “Captain Phillips.” It’s hard to get too anxious about desperate men waving guns when you’re trying to make your backstitch follow a course of stockinet without meandering.) I made the incredible blunder of forgetting the rest of the yarn I needed for the sweater I most wanted to finish, so I may suffer the agony of having not enough car knitting for the ride home. All I’ve got is two wee button bands to finish on a little sweater I cast on Christmas Day. I may have to… I don’t know… offer to do the driving?

Oh wait! I bought yarn! How could I have forgotten about the two skeins of dusty blue DK merino/cashmere for a nephew sweater and the sweet little hank of fiery handspun Ada chose for a cowl? Whew. All shall be well. I’ll have to leave this beautiful knoll and madrona grove in the morning, but all shall be well.