Category Archives: Fiber

Knitting and crochet and spinning and shit.

Best. Class. Ever.

The Textiles department at RISD has graciously allowed me entrance into their Fibers and Dyeing class. It is so choice. I will be learning how to spin on a wheel, dye yarn and fabric, and all about different sorts of textiles. It’s pretty boss.

On the first day of class, I was sent home with

Hand carders: like a giant, super-sharp dog brush

Drop spindle, bottom whorl. For making wool into yarn.

Uncarded, unwashed, mercifully un-full-of-sheep-poop wool.

Now, I’ve done a little bit of spinning before, but I’d never used a low-whorl spindle, nor had I ever carded wool (which involves separating out the curly locks into something more useable), nor had I ever spun unwashed wool, which smells like sheep and is full of lanolin.

This was not made any easier by the presence of this nice fellow:

Who, me?

He’s very interested in the wool (“HEY did you know, this smells like farm!”), the spinning spindle, and worst of all, the yarn as it was hanging to dry.

The danger zone.

Thank goodness, I was able to prevent all major cat-astrophes (see what I did there?) and managed to complete my homework, which was to make 10 differing yarns from the different types of wool and other mystery fibers we were given.

It was process-intensive but lots of fun: I carded the wool, combined it, spun it, washed it and wound it.


Now I just need to figure out why the course isn’t showing up on my internal records yet.


Sock it to me!

Today may or may not be the first day of fall.

Evidence for:

  • It’s 65 degrees.
  • It’s raining.
  • I wore wool socks (hand-knit, obviously) and rainboots, jeans and a long-sleeved shirt.

Evidence against:

  • It’s still AUGUST! Stop that, Providence!

Either way, I’m definitely hunkering down for fall- although I’m not sure what classes I’m taking yet, I have at least ordered a new backpack. Also, I’m working on a pair of socks with the leftover yarn from my sweater- I’m almost to the toe on the first one. Observe:

The pattern is Nine-to-Five Socks.

Florida, day one.

Here I am, being in Florida. I am in “my house,” or as I refer to it when my mom’s not around, “my parent’s house.” SORRY MOM.

Having a ball of leftover yarn from my sweater, I decided to start on a pair of socks to match. I decided on a pattern I’ve used before, Nine to Five Socks, which is nice and stretchy and full of class, much like myself. I did some AWESOME technologizing and got the pattern onto my iPod Touch, because I’m much too important to own a printer and thus be able to print it out.

I cast on (read: put the initial stitches onto the needles) in the airport while waiting for my flight and immediately attracted the attention of a little girl, maybe around six or seven. She was full of questions. What are you doing? Why does it go on all those sticks? What are you making? Could you knit shoes? Mom, when will you knit me a sweater? How do you know how? What are you counting?

Her mom looked a bit embarrassed and tried to make grownup conversation but the kid was way having none of that and proceeded to tell me (after I told her mom what I was doing after college) that her daddy was a doctor and he works at the hospital and that’s where he meets his girlfriends like Miriam who is the one he is in love with. Her mother sighed. I can only hope that her parents have been divorced for a while.

I babysat all through middle and high school, and I learned one thing for sure. Kids are so honest- and you can’t get mad at them for hurting your feelings. Children I have babysat for have calmly informed me “Daddy likes beer a whole lot,” “Mommy and Daddy say the love us very much but don’t love each other anymore,” “Today I saw a really ugly lady,” and other delightful observations. It’s all quite hilarious, until it’s directed at you, which has happened more than once.

In other news, things about Florida:

  • Oh hi family!
  • My house is like those stupid puzzles where you have to find the difference between two pictures. I never liked those.
  • My dog has been shaved. That is all.
  • There are palm trees up in here.
  • Air conditioning is a thing! Who knew. I brought my sweater down with me to show off and I’m actually wearing it comfortably right now.

A bit of good-natured ribbing.

Guys. Guys. Guys. I finished the sweater. No seriously.

Note the ribbed area around the front: THIS TOOK SO LONG. So many freaking stitches I didn’t even count, back and forth for FOUR INCHES of ribbing. I hate ribbing. It is the worst stitch. Unlike stockinette or garter stitch*, it isn’t quite mindless enough to completely pay attention to something else, so you can’t fully devote your attention to watching Mad Men. Or some educational documentary. I actually shouldn’t say that too shiftily, I’ve been enjoying Boston Med.

But anyway: a finished sweater! On that fits! One that I will actually wear!

As you can see by the crappy mirror picture, I do need to wet it so I can even out the ribbing in the front, but other than that, woo! I can’t wait for it to get cold so I can wear it. I may make a belt for it, but it’s designed to be belted, pinned, or just hang open and I think it looks good open. I may also add pockets.

*Note on stitches:  grab a piece of knit cloth to look at. A t-shirt will work if you have good eyesight but a knit sweater is better if you have one. If you look at a plain area, you will notice small V’s, which are knit stitches. If you look on the reverse side (unless there is a facing), there are small bars, which are purl stitches. A purl is simply a reversed knit, and vice versa. Stockinette stitch is the usual, flat knitting: knit 1 row, purl 1 row, forming a plain fabric. Garter is knit every row, producing a ridged fabric. These are the two most basic knit fabrics. Rib is alternating knit and purl stitches, which end up scrunching together accordion-style, which is why I need to adjust the front so it looks nicer. The ribbing in this patter is 2×2 (knit 2, purl 2).


I know this is not a particularly reputable source, but considering the news broke like an hour ago, check it out! Edited to add: look, a reputable source! Thanks, Alexa.

If the source is correct, Prop 8 has been overturned! For those of you who live under a rock, Prop 8 was a ballot proposition passed in California in November, 2008 that banned gay marriage, an institution previously legal in California as of a ruling in May of that year.

Of course, this is not the end of the line for gay marriage in California- I’m sure there will be appeals and the article above speculates that the case will end up at the supreme court, which could result in a precedent set for gay marriage nationwide, no?

I support the right of humans to do whatever the hell they want if it’s not hurting anyone else. As many others have noted, I think that in the future people will compare the resistance against gay marriage with that against interracial marriage- a hateful reminder of how bigoted society once was. In the words of Liz Feldman, comedian, writer for The Ellen Degeneres Show, and generally awesome lady who happens to like other ladies,

Personally, I am very excited about “gay marriage”, or as I like to call it, “marriage”.  Because I had lunch this afternoon, I didn’t have “gay lunch”.  And I parked my car, I didn’t “gay park” it.

She makes an excellent point. Marriage is a universal right. Her video blog can be found here.

In other news, I am reading an excellent compilation of short fiction written for Nature, one of the most, if not THE most, prestigious science journals around. Each piece is less than a thousand words and depicts a small snippet of how the world might one day be. It’s great for picking up and reading just a story or two.

In other other news, my sweater is beginning to look more and more like a sweater. I’ve finished all of the pieces, and the fronts and back have been blocked. I just need to block the sleeves, add the ribbed front band, and sew it up. (Note: blocking is a method used to even out stitches and smooth out knitting; for example, in this case the eyelets in the main pattern cause the unblocked fabric to pucker. The method I use is simple: wet the fabric, gently wring it out, then pin it out in the shape you want on a towel and let dry.)

Tea in Providence

I go to a weekly Stitch and Bitch on Wednesdays. It’s a nice place to hang out with actual, non-college-age humans, knit, crochet, or spin, and enjoy a cool beverage. I’ve met some very awesome people at the S’n’B. We usually meet up at Malachi’s on Ives street, but this week we switched it up and went here instead:

It is not, in fact, in Sahara but rather in Fox Point.

Tea in Sahara is a Moroccan-themed café. They also sell a number of products (housewares, clothing, jewelry) imported from Morocco, and they have hookah, but I haven’t actually seen anyone partake while I’ve been there. I tried the zaalouk and the iced mint tea. I really enjoyed the tea- very refreshing, if a little sweet, and overall perfect for summer. The zaalouk, an eggplant-tomato dish served with pita for dipping, was tasty but nothing to write home about. I’ve heard good things about the hummus and the taktouka, a tomato and green pepper salad.

Tea in Sahara is located at Governor and John.

I got some work done on my sweater, though I’m still not done with the back panel.

In other news, I found this compendium of horrifying situations: MFIF, or “My fault, I’m female:” stories of how people can be super-assholes to you simply due to gender. I don’t know why I read things like this, it probably says something about my subconscious. Either way- read if you desire some righteous indignation, or especially if you think you might tend towards sexism without being entirely aware of it.

In that vein, I’ve been reading a book called Silent Racism by Barbara Trepagnier, which deals with the issues of racism among people who identify as “not racist.” She proposes a shift from the idea of a dualistic racist/not-racist approach to thoughts and acts, but rather a continuum between more and less racist. She also discusses racism inherent in institutions, a topic that has interested me since I first researched the death penalty for high school debate.

Her research practices are not entirely to my liking- the book is based on a series of discussions held by small focus groups of white women. This was done in order to facilitate open communication. However, I would have liked to see a larger sample. Either way, so far I find that the book has been useful in helping me address ways in which I can shift myself from the “not-racist” to the “less-racist” mindset.

An example: take a situation in which a peer has just told a racist joke. According to Trepagnier, a “not-racist” person would simply not laugh at the joke. However, the correct response in this situation is in fact to call out the person’s racism; by not doing so, one gives implicit approval. It can be difficult to call out a person on their prejudices, but Trepagnier assures the reader that it becomes easier with practice. Please try to call out prejudice of any kind, wherever you see it.

Film and fiber

The Providence Place Mall movie theater used to suck. The tickets were once $10 without even the hope of a student discount. Now? Not only is there a student discount ($8), but there is also Bargain Tuesday, during which all movies are $6, including those that would normally have a surcharge for IMAX or 3D glasses.

Because of this delightful idea, my friends and I have been seeing a lot of movies on Tuesdays this summer. Last week, it was Despicable Me (a charming animated film). This week, it was Inception.

Yeah, that just happened.

Holy balls, ladies and gentlemen.

We saw it in IMAX, meaning the screen was an estimated 4 elephants wide by 3 elephants tall. According to this highly reputable source, the African elephant is approximately 20 feet long, and this says up to 13 feet tall, so for an IMAX screen size of 72 feet wide by 53 feet high, we weren’t too far off.

I greatly enjoyed the film, even though we were close enough to the screen and far enough to one side that the faces were distorted in close up. Maybe if SOME PEOPLE didn’t show up LATE then this wouldn’t be an issue. Jeez.

Either way, an excellent film, in terms of visuals, plots, and characters. Plus it was full of actors I like, including Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon Levitt (amirite, Sasa?), Michael Caine, and Cillian Murphy, who on occasion wore a bag on his head reminiscent of the one worn as Scarecrow in Batman Begins. Note: Michael Caine was also in that film, which was also directed by Christopher Nolan, and after a quick glance at IMDB I like every film I’ve seen of his, and plan to watch the ones I haven’t yet seen.

In other news, I’ve finished the first sock-equivalent of my sweater. At this point, most of the back is done: