Tuesday, September 26, 2006

I dyed!

Dyeing, that's another thing that I didn't see myself doing until, oh, maybe when we move to a larger place. But I thought it would be good to learn the process, to get some hands-on experience, to gain understanding of another aspect of the fiber art. So when I saw that John was teaching a class, I signed up.

The method that John taught is super easy and quick to do. It is less precise but it produces the kind of result that I am looking for. I am quite surprised and very happy. I won't go into the instructions since John is still teaching these classes. I don't want to be the one to put up his class details on the internet. That wouldn't be nice to him. But I am sure that some of you will know exactly the process once you see the photos.

This is Sandy. One of the partners of "the place". I don't want to come right out and tell you where it is because I am still weary of certain someone that might nab the info and use it for whatever.

Here's the sample that John created to show the process to the class. I am sure that some of you can figure out what that process is. I love it.

My partner in crime. Sorry, I didn't try to remember names. *blush*

John and Jill standing next to each other, and a very nice lady. Again, sorry, I didn't try to remember names.

Class in action.

Testing the PH level in the water.

This nice lady took a spinning class right after the dye class. I think she was hooked. :-)

This is my creation. About 3 oz. of superwash merino. It's nice, but not the colors that I wanted. I wanted the dominant color to be dark burgundy, with a little bit of orange yellow and navy blue mixed in. Darker colors. But, I decided to share my dye pan with another, and this is the result we agreed on. I might tweak it a little more later or I might spin it and ply the singles with something different.

The dye also sets really fast with superwash fiber. John warned me about this. I cut down the amount of the fiber I wanted to dye from 6 oz to 3 oz so there's less for the dye to work through. But then I agreed to share my pan and more fiber was added, making it difficut to get an even result. But I think I like the look.

I like dyeing un-spun fiber. I can have variety of ways to change the look of the final product.

Ummm... I think I am going to be dyeing more soon. LOL

Monday, September 18, 2006

More nature in the city.

Marianne and Kerry both wanted to know what kind of tree this is. Took a while to find it on Google. It is called Floss Silk Tree (Chorisia speciosa). The reason why it's called floss silk is that the fruits contain fluffy fiber. According to Wayne's Word (scroll down to Fibers From Seeds and Seed Pods) this fiber is difficult to spin and mainly used as waterproof filler for mattresses, softballs, life preservers, etc.

As you can see, the trunks and limbs of the trees are filled with thorns. They do not say "hug me". But there is a thornless relative, Chorisia speciosa "Majestic Beauty", that's suppose to flower as much.

The parrots that come to feed on the fruits are Yellow-Chevroned Parakeets.

Here are some more hummingbird pics:

The brown pods in the picture are old fruits. They don't show the white cottony fluff. I will have to remember to take photos of the new fruits and the parakeets in winter.

Here's a surprise. Well, at least a surprise to me. This common household plant bloomed! I've never seen this happened before.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Cables & Birds

I had a tough time trying take a decent picture of the sample I knitted with "mahogany". This is the best that I can do. I think it looks OK. The fabric is a little stiff. Oh well. It's only a swatch. I'll use larger needles when I am ready to knit something with it.

The neighborhood is filled with these trees. They are in bloom now.

Hummingbirds love them! You can hear the cute chirping all day. They chase each other around. I am not sure if it is to claim the tree or just being playful. Soon these trees will be filled with fruits, and the parrots will be here. They love breaking them open and eat what's inside.

Monday, September 11, 2006


What a mess! Wouldn't you agree?

But not from last week's accident! hehehe Did I have you going there? This is from earlier attempt. I don't know why I kept it on my desk. But it came in handy for a little fun. :-) Now it's time to leave them outside for the birds.

This is what I got from that spindleful of singles...

Spindle spun singles. Navajo plied on the wheel. I'd say a heavy fingering weight. The brown also looks better than the 2-ply. It has a little extra shine to it too. Interesting. I am going to knit a swatch with cable pattern to see how it does.

I decided to take Jane's advice and just push whatever I could back up the shaft of the spindle and continued spinning. (Thank you all for the pointers. They will be needed in the future!) After I was done, I carefully made a Andean bracelet, then I plied it on the wheel. I didn't have to sacrifce anything. Yay! However, my Navajo plying skill leaves much to be desired. I have to find someone to demonstrate it for me in person.

I have to start spinning thicker to see what that's like.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

In trouble?

What you see here is the result of an accident. I was spinning away with the rest of the mahogany fiber. I was very eager to have it done so I could try my hands at Navajo plying. Did I lose concentration? Too rushed? I dropped the spindle. The singles popped off the spindle a third of the way. Yuck! I can't slide it back up. I can't continue to spin with it. I guess I'll have to take it off and ply with what I have. Will I have a tangled mess? Ugh!

Note to self: must get "yarn stopper". I have to get a bag of rubber bands.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Have your forgotten?

No, I haven't forgotten the book meme. I usually avoid memes. (Don't believe me? Check the whole blog! hehe) This one I am inclined to do. Maybe because it would involve one of my favorite topics, Buddhist Teachings. Like I stated in a previous post, I read mostly Buddhist materials. So, some of you might not find this interesting. Oh yeah, thanks Ken and Knit Picking for tagging! :-P

1. One book that changed your life: I have to give two answers. There was a little Chinese book on the introduction of the philosophies of "Mind Only" Buddhist tradition. The teaching broke down human experiences layer by layer. It is my nature to get to the bottom of things so it suited me really well. I started to look deeper within myself and was able to find sustainable peace for quite some time. Unfortunately I didn't keep up the practice. But I gained a clearer picture of what it meant to practice "the ending of suffering & stress." This also started me searching for a temple that focus on mediation.

Then a few years ago I went to a local Thai Forest Tradition Temple to be a monk for seven days (I got picture to prove it), I took along "The First Discourse of the Buddha" by Ven. Rewata Dhamma. He gave a clear teaching of the Four Noble Truths and the steps of Buddhist meditation practice. With the book and the opportunity to practice sincerely, I was able to say that I finally understood the path. I left the temple with a clear direction. I also realized that I "knew" very little. Meaning that I lacked direct experiences. I could not claim that I "knew" without "seeing". I was humbled. Practice is the path. And I am walking surely on the path again.

2. One book that you've read more than once: "Venerable Acariya Mun Bhuridatta Thera - A Spiritual Biography" by Acariya Maha Boowa. Ven. Mun did not write a biography himself. Using stories told my his students, Ven. Maha Boowa was able to put together his life story. It gives a good picture of the practice of a forest monk. It contains some stories that usually do not get passed beyond the monks' circle, which makes it a very interesting read. But the important part is how it shows Ven. Mun as a fine example for Buddhist practictioners. He's the founder of the Thai Forest Tradition after all.

3. One book you'd want on a desert island: Oh, I dunno. Something like "How to Build a Boat"? I would prabably spend more time meditating. Hmmm... Maybe something like "How to Build a Hut"? I will want a hut to meditate in. :-)

4. One book that made you laugh: Well... considering the kind of books that I've been reading in recent years, I can't think of any. LOL (<--- does that count?) But, I did get a book called "Who Ordered This Truckload of Dung?: Inspiring Stories for Welcoming Life's Difficulties" by Ajahn Brahm. I haven't read it. But I have listened to Ajahn Brahm's audio talks. Ajahn Brahm is a British monk in Australia. He is very clear and super funny. I imagine that the book would be very funny and inspirational too. Just look at the book title!

5. One book that made you cry: This is a tough one. Nothing recent. Maybe "The Heritage of Hastur", a Darkover novel by Marion Zimmer Bradley, with a big question mark. I read this book 20 years ago. Not sure if I cried. But the Darkover series sure have a lot of tortured souls in them.

6. One book that you wish had been written: Another tough one for me. I think there are enough written down. People just have to want to read it. Also, there are stuff that need to be experienced and not read about.

7. One book you wish had never been written: Any book that distorts truth that eventually causes harm to people.

8. One book you're currently reading: "Patipada: Venerable Acariya Mun's Path of Practice" by Acariya Maha Boowa. Deeper exploration of Ven. Acariya Mun's practice. I've been reading this book on and off.
(Off at the moment.) Slowly digesting the information.

9. One book you've been meaning to read:
"The Alden Amos Big Book of Handspinning". I have taken it off the bookshelf since my last post, and will start reading it soon. People are tired of me asking spinning questions. LOL

10. Tag 6 people: Well, since I don't like to do memes, I will not push this on anyone. But if you want to, do it, and consider yourself tagged! :-)

Thursday, September 07, 2006

How would you like it plied?

My "Hearts" spindle from Woolly Designs was getting really full. The amount of singles had been steadily building up ever since I started spinning. I decided it was time to ply the singles and get it off the spindle, or I'd be dropping more than spinning.

Fiber: Ashland Bay Multi Mahogany Top
Spindle: "Hearts" from Woolly Designs
Spindle spun singles, spindle plied, 2-ply.

The color is a little "bleh" for me. I don't dislike brown. But this one is not working for me. Not sure what I can knit/make with it.

The photo on the left shows (from left to right) KnitPicks' "Shadow" lace weight, "Mahogany", KnitPicks' "Essential Tweed" fingering weight, and Trekking XXL fingering weight. So, I'd say that I have a fingering weight yarn here.

I took the photo to compare the thickness of the yarn. But I couldn't help but notice the differences in the look of them. Do you see what I mean? The two on the left are 2-ply and the two on the right are 4-ply. 2-ply yarn looks more textured than the 4-ply yarn. This didn't surprise me since I recently had discussions with Randall from the guild and Ted the Oracle about what kind of yarn is more suitable for textured knitting. (Don't hit me, Ted. hehehe) But it was really interesting to see it with my eyes instead of just understanding it in my head.

If you take a bucketful of sand and a bucketful of gravel. Smooth out the top and look at them. The sand would have a smoother surface and the gravel a more textured surface. The reason is that sand is smaller and has less space in between each grain of sand. Gravel is larger and has more space in between. I hope this is making sense.

Now look at the yarn. Two yarn with the same weight, one 2-ply, one 4-ply. 2-ply yarn has two strands of larger singles, 4-ply has four strands of smaller singles. The 2-ply looks more textured because of the larger singles and the bigger space it has in between the singles when plied. It's more bumpy. The 4-ply with samller singles have smaller space in between the singles. It's a smoother look. Phew! I am really wordy. But I am not done. LOL Still make sense?

The amount of the twist can also affect the look. Look at KnitPicks' "Shadow" and my "Mahogany". I am not sure how to say this. "Shadow" has more twist. More twist seems to squeeze out more space and make the yarn appear to be less bumpy. Know what I mean? I look at my yarn and I know I will want to add more twist to my singles in the future, so there will be more twist when I ply them. That is if I want less bumpy yarn.

Another thing to consider when plying is that 2-ply yarn is more "flat", 3-ply yarn is more "round" and 4-ply yarn is more "square". But I am not so sure if it is correct to describe them as such. I must read "The Alden Amos Big Book of Handspinning" from cover to cover. I am sure all that stuff is in there.

So, if I want to do textured knitting like cables, I will want less textured yarn to show off the texture of the fabric. 3-ply or 4-ply will probably be better choices. Hmmm... I think I've convinced myself to try Navajo-plying ASAP! LOL

I untwisted some yarn to see how they were plied. I took photos of them. Here they are:
Yarn that I've used for textured knitting with success. 1) Plymouth "Encore Worsted", 3-ply. 2) KnitPicks' "Wool of the Andes", 4-ply.

Yarn I have used or am using for lace shawl. 3) KnitPicks' "Shadow", 2-ply. 4) KnitPicks' "Palette", 2-ply.

Fingering weight sock yarn. 5) KnitPicks' "Essential", 4-ply. 6) KnitPicks' "Essential Tweed", 4-ply. 7) Trekking XXL, 4-ply.

Ted, I know I know. I've said that I didn't want to get "technical" when I start spinning. Guess I just couldn't help it. It's fun to look at things this way.

Sylvia, you really know my brain better than I do. LOL

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Mudita (appreciative/sympathetic joy)

I often feel uneasy after I put up a post about the gifts I receive from friends. I know that I don't do it to brag. I make sure that my intention is about thanking others and to show how generous they are. The givers are the ones deserving merits. But still, I feel uneasy.

This time it is no different. After the last post I started worrying if I was bragging. I wonder if I was being perceived as boasting my good fortune. This led to self questioning, "What do I feel when I see that others are the fortunate ones?" I can honestly say that most of the times I don't really feel anything. Other occassions I feel very happy for the lucky ones. But, I have to admit that there are also times that I feel jealous and envious. Wishing that I was the lucky one.

Fortunately, I was doing this reflection in front of the altar. So, my thoughts wandered toward the Buddhist practice of mudita, sympathetic joy.

Why feel happy when someone else is getting all the good? First, we have to keep in mind the Buddhist practice of ending suffering and stress, which leads to Nibbana (Nirvana in Sanskrit), to awakening.
Nibbana is...
"This is peace, this is exquisite — the resolution of all fabrications, the relinquishment of all acquisitions, the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Nibbana."
— AN 3.32
Nibbana is not...
"There is that dimension where there is neither earth, nor water, nor fire, nor wind; neither dimension of the infinitude of space, nor dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, nor dimension of nothingness, nor dimension of neither perception nor non-perception; neither this world, nor the next world, nor sun, nor moon. And there, I say, there is neither coming, nor going, nor stasis; neither passing away nor arising: without stance, without foundation, without support [mental object]. This, just this, is the end of stress."
Ud 8.1
OK, all that copying and pasting was to give an idea of Nibbana, which requires the practice of ending suffering and stress. Without getting into details of Buddhist practice, I think it's easy for us to see that peace and happiness cannot occupy in the heart at the same time with suffering and stress. When we are happy, we are not sad. When we are suffering, we are not peaceful.

Isn't jealousy suffering? Isn't envy stressful? They don't make us smile. And all that suffering and stress belong to us and only us. No one esle is feeling it. So wouldn't we want to get rid of them from our heart? How? Replace it with joy, sympathetic joy. When we have joy, suffering and stress cannot enter. It won't be easy at first. But just remind ourselves that stress really comes from our own heart. Not from others. It doesn't help anything to feel envy. In fact it might be harmful to our health. Even harmful to others when it gets out of control. So try replacing it with joy. For our own benefit, if not for others'. Stop suffering and stress from entering our heart. Choose peace instead.

Next time I start to feel jealousy or envy, I will think of mudita and smile instead.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Last day of the long weekend...

I can't believe it's the last day of the Labor Day weekend. What a week.

First thing I want to mention... I got tagged. Not just by one person. But by Ken and Knit Picking at the same time with the same list. LOL This one will take some thinking. It's about books. I haven't been a big book reader in recent years. Most of what I bought and read were about or related to Buddhist teachings. Some science fiction/fantasy here and there. A lot of reading online about Buddhist meditation. So, it's not going to be easy. But stay tuned. I will come up with something. If not, I'll just take a picture of our bookcases. LOL

Last Thursday I received a package from Dave. I knew it was coming. But I was completely floored with what he put inside. Such a generous man.

It all started when Mama-E received a gift from her friend. To share the joy with others, she created "Pay It Forward". Dave just loved the idea and went on to search for a target, um, I mean recipient. He came to my blog, and I just happened to have a post up sharing Francesca's Italian Tubular Cast-on with the blog community. So, in the spirit of sharing, he decided to choose me to "Pay It Forward". Hence the package:

OMG, full of stuff! In a written note he said he was "worried" that I've strayed from the socks. This hopefully will reel me back in. LOL Let's see. Two skeins of Koigu Premium Merino (on the left), one ball of Regia Loop Color (center), one ball of Lana Grossa Colortweed (right), a package of colorful Clover Coil Holders, one set of SRK US size 1 Bamboo DPNs, two beautiful postcards showing Ottawa's Rideau Canal, one bottle of Gold Medal winning maple syrup. Hmmm... postcards and a taste of Canada. Is that a nudge for a visit? ;-)

Dave, that's not a gentle reeling in. LOL That's everything a sock knitter needs. I don't even have to get into my stash. Not to worry, I am not abandoning sock knitting. There are just so much learning going on here lately. Thanks a bunch, Dave! Now it's my turn. :-D I'll try to keep it as much a surprise as possible.

Friday, I was floored again. I received this beautiful wrist distaff from Ted:

All that talk about fiber drafting difficulties and sweaty palm must had driven Ted to make a wrist distaff for me. I have to say, it's truly a gift from heaven for this new spinner. There was no waiting to give it a try on Friday night. I couldn't believe the difference it made. The fiber stay wrapped around the distaff until I pulled it off little by little. No fiber sticking to the palm. I absolutely love it! I will not spindle without this wrist distaff again.

And what a beautiful piece of art it is too. Ted spindle-spun Sea Island cotton into singles. Then he Navajo-plied the singles on the wheel. I can't believe how fine Ted spun the singles. This 3-ply yarn is only a fingering weight or finer. Just look at the pictures. It's incredible work. And so soft. The colors are super gorgeous too! Not only did he make one for me, he also made one for my local spinning teacher, John. John just marveled at the beauty of the work. And what a perfect color to match the turquoise necklace he was wearing. :-) It's just incredible. Thank you, thank you, Ted!

Speaking of John, he picked me up Saturday morning to go to the support spindle class sponsored by our guild. (What great timing for the package to arrive, Ted!) We met Mariko and the three of us drove out to Torrance to attend the class taught by Gwen Powell, one of the founding members of the guild. What a great class! It's so much fun to have so many friends in one place. John, Mariko, Jill, Kathy, Francesca, Patrice, Helene and so many others. A bit chaotic, but great fun. :-)

Gwen taught the basics of support spindle spinning. Then she went on to show us spinning with out-of-ordinary materials like Christmas tencil and strips of paper. She also showed us how to spin "Catepillar" and "Boucle". Think outside of the box she stressed. What an eye opener the class was. There are now endless possibilities with spinning.

Here's something to show Ted. I don't have a picture of "Suzie", YET. But before John and I parted he grabbed a big wad of "Suzie" out of his bag and gave it to me. He also loaned me a pair of Strauch hand cards so I could practice carding. I love the silver grey color. Ooooo, I can't wait to blend some fiber.

I don't know why I am so fortunate to receive so much during this last week. I am a little embarrassed, but very very thankful. Understand that I am not trying to show off my gifts (maybe a little? I am just so hyped.) But to show the generosity of these people and to express my gratitude. I am so lucky to have friends and mentors that are so willing to help (enable hehehe) a newbie to learn and create. :-)

Now some scary pictures:

The above is a swatch I made with my wheel-spun purple yarn. I think it's OK for a beginner. I am not so happy with the stitch definition. But hey, it's a learning experience. This will be made into a pair of fingerless gloves for my partner. I was quite surprised that he was accepting of the color. :-)

Oh, the yellow yarn. The singles was spun when I was trying to figure out how the wheel work for the first time. I then plied it with a spindle. Is that a little backward? LOL The yarn is very thick-and-thin.

The above is a picture of the current state of our apartment building. Shocking? LOL Rest assured, it's not normally like this. The building is being re-painted. They sanded some rough spots. Too bad it's not Halloween. It would be a perfect haunted house look! :-)

Long post. Sheesh! And lots of links. LOL