A change of pace

Phew.  I think I’m just about over my massive sulk about the colour differences now.  And looking forwards to using the yarn I *do* have, too.

But I still needed a change of pace.  This year’s spinning group project is all about longdraw – but I need to do some serious prep work for that, and I also needed some comfort spinning.  So I’m going with this 120g chain of 70% alpaca/30% BFL roving from The Yarn Yard:

This was gifted to me just under a year ago, and I’ve been going to spin it ‘soon’ ever since.  I’ve not spun alpaca before, and I’m finding it…. interesting.  It’s slippery, a bit like superwash wool, and it needs just the right amount of twist.  Too little, and it fluffs up like crazy and won’t be stable; too much, and it quickly becomes very, very wiry and hard.

If I get it right, I’ll have a luscious, smooth 2-ply yarn with a heavy drape.  My original plan was to spin it to a four-ply thickness and add it to my Fair Isle stash, but I don’t know if the hand will be right.  I’m looking forwards to finding out, though.

This is about an hour’s worth of spinning, and I estimate that I’m around a sixth of the way through it.  Perhaps slightly more.  Maybe.  That means I should be able to finish this one off by the end of February, if I spin for 15 mins a day before work, and add in a little extra at the weekends.  (N.B. this is not a goal; it’s an observation.  It’ll be interesting to see how my guesstimation works out).

In other news, I’m part-way through migrating my blog to a new host.  You might have seen some weirdness over the last few days, and the banner isn’t currently working properly at all.  I hope (but don’t guarantee) to fix that tomorrow.

A tale of two projects

The January project roundup post left me with the distinct feeling that I was going to abandon the Nightingale Wing stole, but that the Wiseheart Wool spinning was going well – if slowly.  How things can change in a few weeks.

The colour difference issues in the spinning project have proven too great for me to continue.  If I’d spun all the singles before plying, maybe I’d have gotten away with it, but I have no storage bobbins, so I’ve been plying as I go.  (Actually, I avoid having too many bobbins, or acquiring storage bobbins, for fear of WIP-accumulation.)  The only way to *really* get this one right would have been to card everything together at the beginning.  I’m not willing to have that great a colour shift in my project; it goes agains too many of the reasons why I make things by hand in the first place.  So I had a junk-TV-and-ply-athon on Wednesday afternoon, after my kind and lovely boss sent me home from work, and plied up all the singles from the first batch of roving.

Result: just over 1000 m of light DK/heavy 4 ply yarn (14wpi), in a rather awesome heathered blue colour:

Considered objectively, I’m rather pleased with it; nice colour, pretty good spinning.  But I am disappointed that I won’t have enough for the project it was intended for.  I’m now thinking that a vest with some sort of texture – probably a knit/purl pattern rather than cables – might do it justice.  And, of course, I have a similar amount of nearly-the-same-colour fibre remaining, just in case I can’t make up my mind.

By contrast, great progress has been made on Nightingale.  I decided that if I didn’t want an itchy mohair shawl, I wanted an itchy mohair cowl even less, and decided to just knit on it for a bit, and see.  And now, both in terms of the total number of repeats, and the available yarn, knitting on this has now reached the official half way mark.  Unblocked, it’s big enough to act as a blankie for Kita (just in case a rough-and-tumble border collie cross should need a kid mohair, lace knit blankie, you understand).

The yarn you can see remaining is the last of the second 25g ball off kid-mohair laceweight (not KidSilk Haze, and not Drift, either, though it’s similar to both).  I have two more remaining, and this photo was taken a few rows after the half way point: pretty perfect on yarn use, I think.

For some reason, this project has suddenly taken on a potato-chip quality: just one more row!  Can I make it to the end of the repeat?  Can I make it halfway?  All of a sudden, I’m seeing the bigger pattern, I’m used to the yarn and the needles, and I can work twice, if not three times, as fast as I was before.

That Dog
Incidentally, Kita has a minor obsession with being under things.  She loves to be tucked in under a cover, often with just her nose and maybe a paw sticking out:

Last night she fell asleep on the sofa beside me, and was completely unbothered by the shawl-posing-and photograping shenanigans.  Though she was a bit indignant when I took it off her again.

Chronic fatigue, 2011

I keep thinking that I’ve beaten my CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome, post-viral chronic fatigue – call it what you will), or at least that I’ve gotten it under control, but every so often, up it pops and bites me on the bum.

Let’s be clear: I am so, so, so much better than I was.  But bad days, and weeks still happen, and I’m not 100% of my former capacity.  And I don’t know if I ever will be again.

I’m deep in another fatigue-dip, the first since, oohh, October last year.  I’ve been here for a week.  Last Monday, I felt, well, a bit crappy.  On Tuesday, I woke up and felt as if I’d run into a brick wall.  Actually, I’m sure there are better descriptions.  Let’s see.  Imagine you wake up, and a switch has been flipped.  All of a sudden:

  • You are moving through thick treacle, so it takes twice as long as usual to get ready for the day;
  • Simple mental tasks, such as adding two numbers, are impossible;
  • Your arms feel weak and heavy; even winding yarn feels like far too much work;
  • You feel, inexplicably, as if your centre of awareness has been moved to the back of your own skull, so you are looking out down a long, poorly lit tunnel;
  • You are so clumsy!  You are liable to smack your arm on the doorframe as you walk through, or stab your hand on the contents of the dishwasher as you put something else in it;
  • Walking up the stairs makes you breathless – yet normally, you can run a mile or so;

I could go on, but I can’t think straight.  I can’t remember the other things I could list.  I have brain fog.

There’s an irony in the fact that it’s only as I get generally better that I realise how ill I have been, and how genuinely crappy this makes me feel.  I used to feel like this every single day, and yet I vaguely felt that I should be able to put on my big-girl panties, and just deal with it.

Part of the problem, I think, is that chronic fatigue is insidious in onset, and because most symptoms are are mind-issues rather than body-issues.   It’s hard to recognise that the symptoms really are present and to give them their due.  And there is the ‘psychological fatigue trap’; I have no pain, just fatigue (and there we go. Just fatigue.) Everyone’s tired, right? Why can’t I just have an extra cup of coffee and deal with it? How tired could I possibly be, anyway? Feeling tired isn’t feeling ill, surely?

So your symptoms are difficult even to discuss.  On top of the actual symptoms, you have secondary, additional symptoms, like shame.  Would I rather have a chronic pain condition?  Hell no!  I am so glad that I am no more in pain than the average man on the street – but sometimes, I think it would make things easier to explain, even to myself.  I wouldn’t have to apologise for only feeling tired, or rate my illness as less bad than someone else’s, just because everyone gets tired.

Getting better
My recovery from the worst of the chronic fatigue has been like climbing out from the centre of an onion. Each time I escape a layer, I look back and see the difference, and am amazed that that’s how it was. And think, “But I’m better now”. Except I haven’t been, really, not yet – and a few months, or a year, later, I shed another layer. At no point have I realised how not-right I’ve been; I only see it when I’m past it.

For years, I have been frustrated with the very typical CFS ‘survivor’ quote, which boils down to, “The key to getting better was to accept that I would never be able to do as much again”.  In my mind, that translates as, “I am not better, but I am as good as I’m going to get”.  That takes a lot of accepting, and I’m definitely not there yet.

But there are parallels between living within your health means, and living within your financial means, in that accepting today’s limitation usually means that tomorrow will be sweeter.  There is no point in borrowing against your future energy (or money), because if you do, you will lose a lot of it to the interest repayments.

Looking forwards
I’ll continue to get better, and I’ll continue to have bad times.  But, whilst respecting my limits (Ha! Or trying to), I need to stop letting the fatigue stand between me and the best bits of my life.  When I’m tired, I get withdrawn.  I stop posting here, stop socialising online or in person. And it doesn’t help.

Also, if I can document the course of this illness, maybe – just maybe – someone else can find some hope, or comfort, or guidance in my ramblings.  And maybe I can encourage a tiny bit more openness about these weird conditions, that no-one can really understand, or cure, and which even the sufferers find it difficult to take seriously.

Waiting for daylight (and I should know better than this)

This post was supposed to be updating you on the progress of the Lorna’s Laces top that I’m spinning for the Sandi Wiseheart Sweater-along. And, it is. But I don’t think I’m spinning for that project any more.

I thought I was going to be able to tell you that I was half way through spinning the singles. But actually, I think I’m done.

I had two 10-ounce bundles of this hand-painted roving.  I’d been bitten before by strikingly different dye lots in roving, but I’d checked the numbers.  I’d eyeballed the colours in the two bumps, and they looked the same.  So, way back in the summer, I carded up the first braid of roving, and set to work.

Yesterday, I started carding the second lot (and I can’t tell you how much I love my drumcarder.  This kind of colour blending would be next to impossible using hand carders, at least over 20 ounces of wool top) – and immediately I thought the blend looked ‘light’.  Sure enough, spinning up a sample shows it’s significantly different in both hue and value to the first set:

I’m not sure it shows in this photograph, but the two sections on the rightmost end of the bobbin are lighter and yellower than the rest.  It’s seriously noticeable in real life, even under electric lighting (which I think makes *everything* yellow).

Today, I’ve carded up the rest of the second ten ounces, in the hope that the first batt was some sort of outlier in the batch, but they all look pretty close to me.  (The first batt is the one in the middle, that has been pulled into roving.  It looks lighter in this photo, but I think that’s the flash.)  However, I’m not hurrying to a conclusion.  I’m going to wait for daylight and give these batts a close inspection, to see if there are any I can use to continue this project.  If not, I redistribute the singles I have (not including the yellowish bit) and ply up what I can; I should still have around 750 m, I think.

What I wove for Christmas

Blog stalwarts may remember the scarf I started to weave over a year ago.  The plan had been to weave both of my brothers a scarf each for Christmas (2009) – and I failed miserably.  It seems that the last time I mentioned the Maze scarf was at the beginning of May, when I finally got the thing off the loom and wet finished.  No photos appear to have been taken of the finished thing in all its glory, ever.

This year, I managed to complete the second scarf, in time for New Year if not Christmas itself.  (This is OK, because I didn’t visit family or do gift giving until the New Year.  Therefore, not late):

The scarf, all in one shot

This is an advancing twill pattern from the Handweaver’s Directory of 4-shaft patterns; the same book as I used for the previous scarf.  Again, the warp is an acrylic machine knitting yarn, and the weft is something 100% synthetic which approximates a brushed mohair.  As last year, I feel there’s no point weaving stuff for my brothers that requires special handling/laundering.

Close-up of the weave structure

Fortunately, I managed to avoid the drama of the previous scarf, getting the warp onto the loom with only one or two threading errors and no swearing.  And the weaving itself was a dream.

I learned hemstitching for this project – you can just about see it in the lower left hand corner of the first photograph – and love the effect.  I used the directions from Peg’s Talking about Weaving blog, here, and found them very easy to follow.

I do have one top tip for hemstitching: use a curved needle!

Friday is dye day

I’ve spent today up to my elbows in dye – almost literally at times, because I’ve had a spate of leaky gloves.  I now have three blue fingers on my right hand, and a greenish index finger on my left.

And I can’t show you today’s results, because they still look like a mess of soggy wool, indeterminate colour.  But I can show off the stuff I dyed last week.

I’ve been playing with some old favourites:

Bluefaced Leicester roving, in ‘Violetta’

And some new yarn bases:

Merino/tencel laceweight, in ‘Geode’

Revisiting colours from last year’s favourites:

‘Moorland’, on brown Bluefaced Leicester roving

And a few new experiments:

D.K. and a (new!) wool/silk sock yarn in ‘Seaglass’

I’m delighted to announce that I’m  going to be exhibiting again at Textiles in Focus this year.    And, if you check out the programme (PDF), you *might* just notice that a certain Alison is teaching a course. Eeeeee!

One thing that Twitter is not

Twitter is not a log book.

I had a grumpy moment this morning.  Someone on Twitter was encouraging people to:

Scare yourself sh*tless about your caffeine intake: for a week, #tweeteverycoffee – comments on quality/location optional…

My response, slightly shamefully:

sorry- sounds a bit pointless to me. Track your own caffeine intake, sure, but don’t expect me to be interested.

Again: Twitter is not a log book.

I’m aware that a lot of people think that the whole of Twitter is pointless.  It’s not.  People all over the world are using it to stay in touch with their friends, promote their businesses, announce everything from blog updates to the birth of their children, 140 characters at a time.  You can say a lot in 140 characters.

Unfortunately, you can say a whole lot of nothing in 140 characters, too.  And, for me, a bald statement (“I ate cheese!”  “I collected the mail!”) is more nothing than I want to deal with.  I don’t care how good a friend you are; the fact that you are eating takeout for the third time this week is not going to set my world on fire – unless you tell me something interesting, touching, funny or thought provoking to go with it.

Why Twitter is not a log book

There are two problems with using Twitter to log things like your caffeine intake, or your exercise regime, or what you had for lunch.

One is that your Twitter archives aren’t really very searchable.  You can put the information in alright, but can you get it out again?  More importantly, can you get it out in a usable format?  How will you actually find out how many cups of coffee you drank in a week?  You’re better off getting a habits tracking app for your iPhone (GoalMaster is good), or using a spreadsheet, or even tally marks on the back of an envelope.

The second problem is bigger.  Twitter is really about one long, ongoing, distributed conversation – and announcements like “I fetched the mail!” both interrupt the existing conversation and fail to start a new one.  You’re not giving your readers anything for their brains to latch on to.  By peppering your tweets with this kind of comment, you are decreasing your signal to noise ratio (the number of ‘things’ you say compared to the number of ‘nothings’) significantly, and you will start to be ignored.  People will glance past your best tweets, assuming they are yet more noise.  When you want to announce something really important, your friends will think you’re just checking in at the store again.  You will not be included on anyone’s “people I really like to follow” lists, and your posts will be missed.  In the end, people will stop following you.

A better way

I’m not saying you can’t use Twitter as a motivational tool in your quest to better your habits, but if you’re going to post your progress in a public forum, don’t you want us to cheer along with you?  Don’t you want to record how high up the hill you’ve climbed, not just the fact that you’ve taken another step?

Let’s say you want to start taking your own lunch to work instead of depending on the mayo-based sandwiches sold by the catering van.  Tell us that, and tell us why.  Cost?  Health?  The van’s sandwiches are just plain grim?  You’ve added a human touch already.  I know something about your thoughts and your motivation.  Set yourself a goal, publicly – and check in in a few days, or a week, and let us know how you’re doing.  Now I can cheer you along!  Example time:

Lunch: leftovers from last night.

Lunch: homemade sandwich – ham and tomato

Lunch: Bought ham salad baguette from van.

Lunch: Homemade sandwich – peanut butter.

Lunch: Pie and chips down the pub.

Or as an alternative, let’s try:

Remembered to pack leftovers for lunch today; would have been easier last night. Did you know that chili reheats really well?

Celebration! Packed sandwiches for today’s lunch last night. Downside: sliced tomatoes made the bread v. soggy.

Forgot to make lunch last night; too tired this morning. Managed to avoid mayo though: ham salad baguette from van

Peanut butter sandwiches from home today.  Running out of ideas – can anyone suggest easy/healthy lunches to bring from home?

Pub lunch! I love Fridays. Money saved Mon/Tue/Thur paid for my pie and chips. Had homemade lunch 3/5 days this week!

Which would you rather read?  The second one is still a bit facile, sure, but it passes on the finding of the week (chili reheats well; tomato sandwiches don’t keep so well; three days’ worth of sandwiches pay for the pub lunch on the Friday); it asks for user feedback; it records progress over the week.  I’m likely to unfollow the first writer.  But I’m likely to cheer on the second.

By the way…

I’m @yarnscape on Twitter, and I’m not normally this grumpy, honestly.  And I’d like to apologise to @danielsladen and @giraffetweet, who happened to get in the way of my grumpy moment this morning.

More baselining – health and fitness

Again – just a statement of the way things are…  I don’t intend to change all (or even most) of these things, but I do want to have a record of how things are now, for comparison.

  • This is the first year that my weight has gone steadily upwards since the worst of the chronic fatigue; that needs to turn around.  I’m not enough of an exhibitionist to state my weight in public, but let’s state that it has been noted.  I’m actually right in the middle of the healthy weight range for my height, but since I currently carry little muscle and am of a light-boned build, that means my body fat percentage is probably higher than it should be.
  • Other than (sporadic) running, dog walking is my main exercise year round, supplemented by gardening.  I’m still stuck around the week 4-5 area of the couch to 5k programme; if I’m lucky, I run two or three times per week, but I’ve not done much at all since mid November.  I’m not practising Pilates or Yoga on a regular basis, and nor am I doing any weight training.  My bike hasn’t moved in months.  I’m pretty darned inflexible right now, particularly in my hips and upper back.
  • I’m taking a complicated set of supplements designed to combat the worst of the chronic fatigue, and have finally got into a steady habit with them.  They definitely help, and I have no intention of messing with them right now.
  • As well as the supplements, the quality of the food I eat is generally good.  I feel I would benefit from increasing my vegetable and whole grain intake.  I succumb too often to the ‘tuck box’ at work, eating cakes/chocolate around three times a week, I estimate.  I’d rather that was two to three times per month, though I don’t plan to record details.  I’m also on the near-permanent hunt for a healthy, savoury snack which stores well.  A tricky ask, I know.
  • Fatigue-wise, I haven’t had any major setbacks in the last three months, and only one moderate one.  My major concern is that I’m about at capacity with my energy expenditure, and that attempting to boost my fitness by doing more exercise, or losing weight at any but the slowest rate, will push me back into another bad place.  Add in Textiles In Focus in February, and I’ve got a narrow tightrope to walk for a while.

The state of things – January 2011 WIP roundup

I’m feeling a need to sweep the decks at the moment.  It’s partly a new year thing, but also just a feeling that quite a lot of loose ends have accumulated around me in the past few years, and it’d be nice to either tie them off properly, or snip them short.  Having them floating around all over the place like this means my mind and energy are likely to get all tangled up in them.

Also, I’d like to be able to state, categorically, what projects I’ve completed in the year, so starting with a kind of baseline would be nice.  It would be brilliant to be able to come to the beginning of 2012 and look back at the things that were unfinished – and see what progress has been made – as well as to list the new projects that have been completed.  So, what’s currently in the works?


Basil is still only partially seamed.  It’d be nice to get this one off the list, though it won’t be Summer Tweed weather again for a few months yet.  (Embarrassingly, this was supposed to be my “two-week” sweater).

Cast on in June. Seamed...?

Dad’s Christmas Sweater is now officially a WIP again; I detached the ribbing from the main body of the sweater just before Christmas, so I can lengthen it.

Needs alterations to fit...

The Nightingale Stole is on the needles, and has been for over a year. This has been an on again/off again project when I need something small and portable. At this rate, it’ll still be on the needles in three years’ time! I think the problem is that it’s not really very interesting; every row is lace, including the purl rows, so you have to concentrate and progress is slow, but it’s all the same, from one end to another. Another issue is that, though this is a beautiful pattern, I’m knitting it in a mohair lace yarn, and I’m not sure I actually want the finished object, or would actually use it.  There’s no way I can rip out this much mohair, though, so I have to decide – hibernate indefinitely, crack on and finish it, turn it into something else (a cowl??) or throw it out?

To finish or ...?

There’s also a pair of socks (anklets, really) that have been languishing for about 18 months.  I think they’d be better turned into a woven something, so I’m pretty sure they’re going to be unravelled.  No photos of these, but the yarn is this:

Lorna's Laces, 'Get Knitted' colourway


Spinning for the Sandi Wiseheart Sweater KAL.  This is my main wheel project: I am still plying my first set of singles, though that should be finished soon.

No plying pictures yet...

A second linen strick.  This is currently languishing as a second wheel project, whilst I tackle the Wiseheart Wool.

The Titania batts, on my Bosworth Midi spindle.  I’ve plyed the singles I’ve spun to date, Andean-style, but I think I was getting better results with using plying balls for the last of my tussah silk, so I might revert to that method.

Merino, angelina - soft and sparkly!

The Mauve it on Over Abbybatt which will be the weft for a scarf, eventually.


Some cotton, which is on a spindle at work.  I’m not sure whether this is really a project, or an extended exercise in sampling.

Some BFL top, which is on a big, heavy spindle and which I haven’t touched for at least two years.  Need to make a decision about this one, because I suspect that even if I was to go back to it, my spindling has evolved so much that I’ll never match my previous work.


(This is the point where I run out of photographs…)

I have nothing on my looms right now!  Oh, wait, that’s a lie.  I have nothing on my Klik right now.

A card woven band which was intended to trim my SCA cloak.  This is a huge job; only half the warp is actually on the loom, and I know the other half is horribly tangled.  Might be another ‘throw’ job.

The very beginnings of my cut pile sampler, started way back in July at Sara Lamb’s awesome workshop.  I definitely want to do more cut pile stuff, but I don’t know if I want this on my loom at the moment.  Not least because a lovely lady from the workshop actually owns some of the hardware currently tied into the loom to make warp spacers, and I really should return them.

Anything else?

The sword dance quilt which I started (crikey) probably almost a decade ago now.  Needs quilting (tying, actually) and binding – that’s it.

Mum’s filet crochet curtain, which I started at least 20 years ago!  In my defence, it was a truly giant project, and it’s nearly done – at least in relative terms.

The Tudor costume could use a few final updates – lacing holes for the sleeves, in particular.

The damn sleeves would not stay put...

Dipping a toe into the new year

It seems to be something of a habit of mine, posting near the winter solstice, then disappearing until sometime in the first week of January.

Christmas - our tree in the corner

Of course, I have a million things to tell you, a thousand half-written blog posts, thoughts aplenty fizzing in my brain.

Success! Second scarf finished for Christmas

There has been a lot of looking back/looking forwards in the blogosphere – and the world in general – recently.  Unsurprising.

Last year, I made vague goals, but I don’t think they worked as well for me as concrete ones.  This year, my thoughts are still vague, but I want to pin them down in a more concrete form at some point.  Themes include:

  • making a life that fits me;
  • joining in;
  • making space;
  • following my inspiration;
  • feeling the joy.

Quiet joy; Woody snoozing

I’m aware that if I let the blog drift much longer, these thoughts will become stale, so this is me, dipping a toe into the new year, looking forwards, and looking back.

December 30th; Whitby at dusk

(One thing I’m not doing is numbering my posts any more.  I’ve done it for two years running, and it’s a hassle).

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