Remembering an idea

See, I have all these thoughts that occur to me and I need to get them down before I forget them. Sometimes it feels like an entire party inside my head.

Okay, so I have a friend who may be suffering from celiac — and she has requested a gluten-free bread, since I regularly make my own bread. So I start doing a little research, read some of a blog I enjoy who regularly has gluten-free recipes, and out of nowhere get the urge to re-read the book Bread alone that I’ve had in my recipe collection for eight years, because it occurred to me that it might be something I can do a better job with now that I mill my own grain. (I need to do some more looking in the KA recipe book as well.) But what does that have to do with the creation of a gluten-free bread? I dunno, but turns out that it triggered an idea. Pain au levain is akin to sourdough in that you go through this long process of creating a chef to create flavor and texture in the bread.  Not precisely applicable to gluten-free bread, or is it? What’s to stop me from creating that same kind of taste with an alternative grain like amaranth or teff or … I need to go look at the list of gluten-free grains. And it might improve the texture, too??? It won’t replace the gluten, but it might improve the things that a new celiac misses about wheat bread.

This is going to take some experimentation.

Before I forget

Two things I’ve heard suggested for sock yarn that is durable — a little mohair and a little silk. Apparently the mohair can even stand in for the nylon a bit, for reasons of durability. How about for reasons of elasticity? Isn’t the nylon supposed to contribute to that as well?

I wonder if it would be difficult to make a 70/15/15 blend of wool/silk/mohair?

What have I been doing? (Weaving)

Well, now I’ve added in a new fiber hobby.

In January, I finally succumbed to the silent pressure of my own curiosity, and bought a loom. After joining a spinning and weaving guild, I began to realize fairly quickly that being around all these weavers was a “bad” thing. It made me want to do it as well. Most earnestly. I resisted for over a year, but late last year began to think seriously about it. Always before it had just been dreaming and browsing. Then I realized it was pretty much a done deal inside my head when I set myself a maximum allowable price. It is a used Macomber loom, 8-shaft. I need to find out more about it, since I think there is something that needs a little bit of repair and/or improvement, although it fully functions as is.

I picked up the used loom through the guild, which was nice. It allowed me to stretch out the payment so that it sat well in my budget.

I started out learning what to do using the Deborah Chandler book Learning to weave, which is really good in giving those extremely detailed, step-by-step instructions that really tell you what to do. I’ve already done a the beginning sampler. Now to work my way through the rest of the book!

warping the loom

Here’s a picture in the process of warping the loom.

Here are some pictures of what I’ve created so far.first samples

The final picture is slightly blurry — I clearly need to try again on that one — but it is using some of my first handspun in the weft, attempting a 2/2 twill pattern for the first time.

handspun weft

The process of adding in this new hobby is slow, but I am already thinking of dish towels! And Christmas presents! And who knows what else? Eventually…

What have I been doing? (Spinning)

I have continued to work on my skills in spinning, trying to produce consistently fine yarns that can be used to knit, especially socks. I am also, however, interested in producing weaver’s yarns. I think the most important criterion there is that the yarn can take tension, since a warp yarn is by definition under constant tension while on the loom. Interestingly, for both sock yarn and warp yarn, the goal has been similar, spinning yarn that is tightly spun and tightly plied in order to increase its strength and resistance to abrasion.

I’ve only been partially succesful — I think.

At the same time, I’ve been experimenting with the different types of fibers, getting my hands on silk, alpaca, various sheep breads, and some ingeo that’s waiting for me. It’s been interesting feeling the difference in texture as well as the difference in spinnability.

Anyway, let’s look at some of what I’ve produced.Grafton Fibers orange This is something I produced from a batt of Grafton Fibers, although I couldn’t tell you what the colorway is. It’s a slightly deeper orange than the picture shows. I span this over a period of time, so if you look at different stretches of the singles, it shows a tighter and tighter spin. I was focusing on the sock yarn goal when I worked on this, but I’m not sure I met my goal. There should be enough, but it’s not, in my opinion, tightly spun enough to give sufficient resistance to abrasion. I may end up using it for something different.differing ply color

I continued to work with the Grafton fibers orange, but then I plied it with some yellow and red Coopworth that I picked up at the VAS&W festival. I was less pleased with the texture and more pleased with the color combo of the yellow, not so much with the red. I have a little bit more of the orange waiting for me to do something with it, but I think I need to find more yellow to ply it with, since I ran out of what I had.

purple and gray pliedNext, I had another batt from Grafton Fibers that is nicely purply and green, but considerably more dark than I had realized when I ordered it. There are always penalties to buying based on what you see on the monitor, and this was darker than I really wanted, but it was still nice to experiment with. As a test, in order to mitigate the darkness of it, I plied it with the gray Shetland that I am using to spin for a sweater. gray Shetland for sweaterI had extra, and this was the end of a bobbin that I wanted to empty. It worked rather better than I expected. The gray lightened up the black beautifully so that you can see the purples and greens a bit better. I’ll be interested in seeing what it ends up becoming.

A somewhat longterm project that I’ve been working on is (once again) some Shetland Shetland on drop spindle that I used to practice my drop spindling skills. I was rather inconsistent in working on it, but it nevertheless came out okay. It was considerably more fuzzy and neppy than I really liked, but I wasn’t overly fussy. Anyway, here you have three different plies, 4-ply, 3-ply, and 2-ply respectively, all from the spindle. I truthfully find little difference in the 4 and 3-ply, but the 2-ply is perceptibly thinner and flatter. I’m beginning to realize that when I am plying, the 2-ply is somewhat, mmm…, uninteresting, compared to the 3-ply and up. That makes me want to try a cabled yarn something fierce.

Next I did a sample of Dorset sheep that came out very nicely. I was very pleased with how it looked and felt, though I wouldn’t recommend for something against the skin. It span rather fine and chain-plied Dorset chain plynicely. I liked the look and feel of it. It definitely tempts me to get some more of this breed, but I think there are others to try before I get into them any more.

Right now, I am trying to spin some silk to make something that is both 3-ply and somewhere in between laceweight and fingering weight. I picked up the Tussah silk from Shadeyside Farm at the Maryland S&W Festival two years agoShadeyside Farm tussah silk, and have finally gotten around to spinning it. It is responding very nicely to my attempts to spin fine, and I don’t know if that is me or the fiber. It certainly feels very different than wool does.

In the meantime , I have several other fibers waiting for me, such as Teesdale sheep, alpaca, both from a first year and an adult, and a few other sheep breeds that I can’t think of off the top of my head. As the sun shines longer, I want to spin and craft even more. Hopefully, I’ll achieve even more this year than last.

What next? Not sure, but there has been progress in every craft, at least a little bit.

Clearing my head

Okay, so, I need to join in the “fun” in order to figure things out in my head. That’s what this blog is for, anyway. And it doesn’t always have to be about crafts.

So, there’s this really interesting question going around on some blogs, especially in the biblioblogosphere, about technots. What technologies do you not use and are you still a techie regardless?

I’d been thinking about this already, with the smartphone question in my head that I posted about last week. So, what am I techie about and what not? And what’s the principle behind my techiness? And what does techie mean? Actually, I think the principle for me is easy to figure out — is it useful to me and will I use it? (which are not necessarily the same things) Regardless, I want to list out what technology I use and how I use it — and why. It helps me clear my mind on decisions about where I want to spend my time, money, and energy.


  1. I really like the computer and the Internet and I love having them at home. If I had to choose between tv and computer/internet, I’d probably dump the tv. I use the computer for a greater variety of things, including the entertainment and background noise that the tv provides.
  2. I am not a total computer geek, but I still built my own computer and am going to do so again. This is, however, not really a love of technology, but rather frugality and the enjoyment of customization. Also, I enjoy the challenge of figuring things and understanding my computer. Not that I completely understand it, but truth be told, I think I have more problems with the software than the hardware.
  3. Software: I do use quite a few pieces of social software online, which I find useful. But much of it leaves me cold. For examples, blogging software, flickr, wikis, delicious, feed readers, IMAP email, etc. are thing that I find useful. Others are completely boring, useless, irritating, or disruptive to me, such as Twitter, myspace, Linked In, Second Life, etc. In another area of software, my html skills are out-of-date, and although I’ve tried, I have not had time or sufficient reason to give to other programming languages, such as php or xml, though I have tried. I do try to continue to be aware of what they are capable of in general, even if I have no clue of how they are able to do it.
  4. It took me a long time to buy these things, because of that whole question of usefulness/use question, but now that I have them, I love them: my pda and an iPod. It took me three years to decide on the pda, and I’ve had it for three in April (I think). My reasons for changing are detailed in the post on smartphones, so I won’t go into detail here, but if it weren’t for those problems of battery life, weight, and simplification, I would continue to use it. It took probably three years again for me to decide on an iPod. I considered the other brands and whether or not I would use such a thing; I finally decided it was worth the expense, but I also waited for the price to come down. That never really happened, but I did get more bang for my buck (80GB instead of the earlier 30 GB, for the same price). I have found in the now five months that I’ve had it that I love having it and thoroughly enjoy using it.
  5. A cell phone also took me a long time to get, which was based on my dislike of the telephone in general and the endless availability that it encourages (that’s why I really don’t want a Blackberry). I finally caved and have found it convenient and helpful, but I still use a prepaid plan because I’ve never used it a lot. And I still don’t really like the phone. I will probably go to a monthly with the new smartphone, but only because I am thinking that it’s finally time to get rid of my landline phone. And even then, it will be the cheapest of plans and text messaging ain’t gonna happen, unless somebody sends me something. (Although the WiFi capability that comes with the new phone is interesting. But there is NO WAY I am paying for mobile internet access.)
  6. I am interested in the newer tv’s, but that is not because of their new capabilities, but rather because I really like the space considerations. Although I do like the sharper image that comes with the LCD screen and high-def tv, I’m just not obsessed with it, because the tv is ultimately not as important to me as other sources of information and entertainment. But it’s only recently that they’ve come down enough in price that I would even consider one. However, my old one works well enough that I’m in no rush. When I do get a new one, however, I am not getting the really big sizes; somewhere in the mid-twenties will give me plenty of screen space. I will like being able to plug my DVD player directly into my tv without that RVF(?) splitter thing and getting rid of the cable box.
  7. Some years ago (five?) I bought a stereo amp that I really never used to its fullest extent, mostly because I couldn’t figure out how to plus in the sub-woofer properly. The directions were less than enlightening. I found this frustrating, but I think I just need someone to show me how to hook it up and get the most out of it. And I’ve found a way to hook up my iPod to it, so that I can listen to my music with full sound capability rather than through the dinky computer speakers I have. I would then be able to leave the DVD player permanently hooked up to the tv rather than to the stereo and — who knows? I might actually get rid of all my CD’s, now that I listen to them all through the iPod far more than I ever did through the stereo. I’m not quite ready for that, however, it is coming.
  8. So where am I now? Oh, yes, the digital camera, which, like the ipod and the pda, I bought slowly and after research, but I really like it now that I’ve got it. I’m going to get rid of my other small camera, but I’ m keeping the old 35mm Canon AE-1 that is a hand-me-down from my mother, because I’d really like to take a class with it and learn how to use it properly, as a potential hobby.
  9. Next, I have a Bernina sewing machine that is computerized. It is not the latest and greatest — in fact, I think you could call it a transitional one in the computer connection sense of the word — but that’s okay. The capabilities that it does have are advanced enough for me to have plenty of room to grow before I even think about a newer one, and that will take quite a few years more.
  10. In the house, all the other technologies I have are the normal types: car, kitchen appliances, household appliances, power tools, HVAC, etc. I’m not interested in the latest and greatest; I’m interested in the ones that will suit me best and last a long time. For example, I would really like a gas stove, not electric, but that will come eventually, if I’m in the house long enough. And unlike many people, I do regard these as technology.

I am such a list-maker.

I’m a usability techie; if it’s not useful to me, I’m not interested, except in an abstract way. I do like knowing about technologies that I don’t use, but that’s all.

In reaction to all this, my greatest hobbies are all non-electronic in the technology they use: spinning wheel, needles and thread, loom, etc. And I’m going to keep it that way as much as possible.

That makes reflect on what technology really is. How philosophical of me.