Correcting mistakes in Lace

Summer 2008 is the Summer of Lace, as far as I'm concerned. Lace, Lace, all the time, Lace. I'm working on a few doileys, and I'm working on my Here Be Dragone shawl, again. I'll post about that later...

I bought a cone of laceweight alpaca that I've had my eye on for over a year - see, it waited for me! - and I got right to work on a doiley design. Alpaca probably isn't the right fiber for this doiley project, but I don't care - I'm an alpaca freak, and I wanted to knit this doiley, so there!

As an aside, I've let go of some hangups - I no longer aim to knit something "useful" or "needed" or "practical" or "desired by somebody." From now on, if I want to knit it, I will! So there! The way I see it is this - folks work sudoku puzzles or crosswords for the pleasure of working these puzzles, right? When they are done, they don't have something useful or needed or whatever.

Well, for me, lace is a puzzle and if I want to work a doiley in alpaca, then I will for no other reason than I want to.

Anyway, so I'm knitting this big old alpaca doiley and before I knew it, I made a mistake. This doiley features a background of diamonds, and I had screwed up on two of the diamonds. I tried to fix it by dropping a couple of stitches and knitting them back, but I got all bumfuzzled and gave up. Then, I suddenly remembered these posts, by another Rosemary, Lace surgery...

Just so you know, when I first saw these posts on her blog, it literally made me gasp! Oh My Gosh! How complicated! What dedication! It made me so nervous, I had to go take a quick nap.

You want to know something? It's not as bad as it seems, honestly! It is sooooooo easy to repair a problem this way - try it, you won't believe your eyes! (I have no idea why I pinned everything to the very EDGE of my pinning board... sigh.)

Everything is all laid out, in plain view, and you can see what's what.
My mistake only involved a few rows, and a few stitches, so I found it quite convenient to just pin down each stitch, rather than work them on needles. I pulled each new stitch through with a teeny crochet hook.

I started the second one in the middle of the board, because I am capable of learning from my mistakes, heh heh heh.

I made this pinning board out of a piece of some sort of Styrofoam building insulation. I have no recollection, whatsoever, how this stuff came to be in my garage, but I have quite a few pieces of it - it's about 2 inches thick and pink and it works great! I covered it with dark purple fabric so that I could see my white yarn.

...just consult your chart, and work slowly...

The second time around went really fast. This time, I knew it could be done, and I knew that it was no cause for panic, heh heh heh.
If you are given to making mistakes in lace, then you really ought to visit the Lace Surgery posts at Romi's blog and see how she does it - be sure to check out the rest of her blog, too. Then, just give it a try! It's MUCH easier than it looks. Really.

Edited, later in the day, to add....

I am SURROUNDED by GENIUSES!!! Tammy Rizzo, Rosemary Hill, and now, Fleegle! Oh my goodness, look at what Fleegle posted in my comments, below. Just in case you aren't a comment looker, here it is:

fleegle said... I actually pin graph paper with the stitches in question inked onto it and then pin the lace on top of the graph paper. I don't have to take my eyes off the work to look at the pattern that way.

Now, why didn't I think of this? *smacks forehead* It make absolute perfect sense. Thanks, Fleegle! Oh my goodness, THANKS!!! In a sick and twisted sort of way, I'm kinda hoping for another mistake so I can do it this way and feel *especially* smart!


Tammy Rizzo's Navajo Ply on the Fly technique


NOTE ADDED SEPTEMBER 2010 - view my new and improved video!  I think you'll like it.

What you are about to see is pure genuis. Tammy Rizzo, a member of the spinning community, invented this spinning and plying technique, and it is so delightfully SMART that I can hardly stand it. It is also very useful - - make no mistake - - this is no parlor trick but a bona fide spinning technique. I've used it enough times now that I can say that yes, it honestly works to make lovely, wonderul yarn, just like other techniques, it's just that this method is smart - really SMART!!!

I've been trying to contact Tammy by email, but no luck. She changed her email address, and I can't find her. Tammy? Are you out there? Can you email me?

See, a few months ago, Tammy posted this method on Spindler's, a yahoo list. Tammy and I exchanged a couple of emails and I asked her if it was OK if I were to teach this technique, and she said, "Why certainly!" because, not only is Tammy a genius, but she's also very nice and very generous. In those emails, I also asked her if I could make a video and post it on my blog, and I asked her if she would be a guest blogger here, to introduce the video, and she said yes to both questions. Then, life got busy for me and I never had a chance to make the video. Now that my busyness has waned, and I'm all finished with the little video, I can't find Tammy!

At any rate, it's a wonderful technique, and you should take a minute to learn it.

I've posted two videos - they are identical - one is on youtube and the other is hosted by blogger. This is a bit of an experiment - tell me which one you like best. The youtube one is larger, but youtube videos aren't all that dependable, imho, and if you are viewing this blog in a public space, such as the library, you might not be able to see it. The blogger one is so small, though. I couldn't decide which one to include, so I put them both, heh heh heh.

In a nutshell, here is the method -

(1) Begin by spinning a nice long length of singles, then with it still on the hook, fold it in thirds, catching one loop on your left hand and one on your right. Put the right hand loop onto the hook, and spin in the plying direction. Check for balance, take it off of the hook, and wind it onto the spindle. The loop which was on your left hand is now placed over the hook of the spindle, or over the shaft, if your spindle has a sticking-up shaft, and the singles is passed under the hook, and now you are ready to spin, spinning the spindle in the spinning direction.

(2) Spin a length of singles.

(3) When you've spun out a length of singles, you wrap it on your left hand, almost all the way up to the spindle. Place the spindle under your arm, to immobilize it. With the fingers of the right hand, pull a new loop through the old loop - standard operating procedure for Navajo plying. Unwind about 3 inches of the *old* plied yarn off of the spindle and hook it under the hook. Holding the new loop and the spindle in the right hand, move the hands apart from one another so as to unwrap the singles off of your left hand. Lift the right hand higher than the left, and let the spindle sort of ride down the length of singles. When the spindle has moved along the length of singles far enough, then you move the loop from the right hand onto the left hand and spin in the plying direction. Check for balance, wind on. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until you run out of roving.

Edit - April 30, 2009 - I'm leaving this up here so that folks can try all suggestions and make their own decisions about how they want to spin, but I now use the method as outlined below - see EDIT - July 11, 2009.

I STILL just love this technique! In the past year, I've come up with a few tweaks, which I'd like to share with you.

(A) Spin out an arms-length, just like you always do, but instead of wrapping it onto your hand, leave it on the hook, and then wrap it under the whorl, then bring it back up and under the hook. Spin another length and then wrap this second length around your hand, then wrap the first length around your hand, too. Continue with putting the spindle under your arm and fishing out a loop and so on. In this way, you have a much longer three ply bit.

(AA) continuing with the same idea - if you like, you can spin, say, ten arm's lengths, and then, butterfly them all onto your hand, and Navajo ply a comfortable length, then wind it onto the spindle, leaving a 3 or 4 inch leader (remember, you are holding the loop in your fiber-supply hand), then Navajo ply out another comfortable length, and so on, until you use up all ten arm's lengths of single. I've never done ten arm's lengths before, but I've done 4 or 5, and it can be very useful to work with color changes and so forth. You have to leave the first spun length under the hook, but the subsequent lengths you unhook from the hook, wind under the whorl, then go back under the hook for the next length. You'll see what I mean when you do it.

Give it a try and see if you like this little tweak.

(B) Instead of pulling out one length through the loop, as I show in the video, you can pull out numerous, shorter chains. If you use Tweak A, then you can pull out, say, 4 or 5 shorter lengths. This is the only way I do it, anymore. My "standard working procedure" is to spin two arm's lengths, then pull out chains of 6 to 12 inches, depending on the color shifts, and by doing so, I have one nice, long bit of three ply to spin in the plying direction. It just seems more efficient this way.

(C) If you choose to pull out numerous shorter lengths, then it can be difficult to keep the previous chain still - it can change it's length by the pull of the newest chain, so try this - pull out one chain, then gently, slowly set the spindle turning in the plying direction, and the previous chain-loops will get "consumed" and in this way, will be held still. This is one method you can use to control color shifts and reduce - or increase, as you desire - barberpoling of colors in hand-painted rovings.

(CC) Another way to prevent the previous chain from changing it's length, once you have pulled out enough length in chain loop(s) that the spindle is hanging down, is to grab the spindle between your feet, and hold it still. You can gently pull against the spindle in such a way that it prevents the earlier chains from shifting, but still allows the newest chains to be pulled through. This method works very nicely. I put short lengths of aquarium tubing onto the bottom of my spindle shafts to make it easier to hold - to give me something to grip with my feet. Then, it's quite easy to set the spindle in the plying direction by throwing the right foot forward (or the left foot to the back). This works best in bare-feet, or with shoes which have a hard, rubber sole. It doesn't work very well with sock-feet and it doesn't work at all with bedroom slippers, lol. You can read more about how I make my spindles here - Make your own spindles - and somewhere in there is a photo of the tubing on the shaft. You don't have to set the spindle in motion with your feet, this method still works well with the hand, but give it a try and see how you like it!

(D) If you are especially adventurous, you can pull out one short chain, then set the spindle turning in the plying direction with force, chain like mad, and then when you run out of singles, all of the plying twist which you need has been accomplished, and all you need to do is to wind on. I know in my head that this is possible, and I have even accomplished it, once or twice, but I'll need much more practice before I can depend on it. It makes the job soooooo fast, and more than just a little exciting, heh heh heh.


EDIT - July 11, 2009 -

I have something NEW to share with you! Look at the edit above - scratch all of the above - do it this way -

(i) - begin like (1) in the original post - make a long length of singles, make the beginning of the Navajo Ply, and wind it onto the spindle shaft - but... let the loop just dangle there. It's not going anywhere. The part which I'm suggesting that you skip - I've changed the text color to green. Just skip it. Just hold onto the loop until it winds onto the shaft, and when you get to the shaft, then just - let it go.

You can't let the loop go ahead of its being wound on because the 3 ply is spun in one direction, and the little bit of a leader is spun in the other direction - get it. So, by immobilizing the 3 ply until it's wound onto the shaft will keep these spun parts separated. Get it?

(ii) Run the leader under the hook, and just like in (2) above, spin a length of singles. The only thing under the hook is this single - no loops or anything, just the one strand of the single.

(iib) when you run out of arm-length, wind on this length of singles onto your spindle, just like you always wind on, by taking the singles out from under the hook, and wind onto your spindle. Bring the leader out from under the whorl and back under the hook and spin again, another arm's length.

(iii) wind onto your hand, as in (3) above. When you see that you are about to get to the loop from the previous round of N. plying, wind on closer so that you'll be able to grab the length which has the loop. Once again, if you let this loop "run free" you'll see that you are loosing your plying twist because it was spun in the opposite direction from the single. It's perfectly OK if some twist runs out, just be aware that this length is twisted in the other direction from your single.

Pull out about - oh, about 8 inches of the 3-ply, and go under your hook. You are going to be plying next and I find that in the plying step, it always pays to go around the hook an extra turn or two.

So, now you have a length of 3 ply under your hook, wrapped around it securely, and then approx 4 inches of 3 ply extending above the hook, with your little loop there, and approx 6 feet or so of singles wrapped around your hand, right?

Now, holding the single still with your fiber hand, and pick open the loop with your twist hand, and proceed as in the video - fish the new lengths of singles through the loop, and chain away. You can either make one long loop as in the video, or you can make multiple chains (which is now my preferred method.)

Here's another tip - you've gotten your one chain(s)s pulled through. Your loop is now in your fiber hand, and you are getting ready to spin in the plying direction. First, push down on your spindle, gently - if there is no twist in your chain(s), then this will really help to even out the tension in the three legs of the 3-ply. It doesn't need to be a vigorous or strenuous push, just a nice, gentle, steady, quick pull.

Once you get everything chained, leaving a leader for the next round, then spin the spindle in the plying direction. Wind on and repeat until you run out of fiber.

I hope you like these new tweaks! They just occurred to me last weekend, and I've spun a bunch since then, and I'm sure that these new recommendations will work out well. I like it sooooooo much better this way. Not fiddling around with the loop-over-the-shaft makes a huge difference. Spinning out two arm's length so that you get a decent length in the chain ply stage makes a huge difference. That last little gentle tug to even out the lengths of the chained portion makes a huge difference.

Try all three of the "options" mentioned in this blog post, and see how YOU like to do it! Maybe you will come up with more improvements? If so, PLEASE let me know! I love LOVE this method, and would really like it if you discovered A Better Way.


Like any other spinning, you can put a lot or a little spin into the singles, which in turn determines how much spin you put in the ply. You can make, on purpose, under plied or over plied yarn, just like you can with "regular* Navajo plying. It works exactly the same in that sense.

It feels very awkward at first, just like many other new techniques. Once you get the hang of it, however, you can spin and ply very rapidly, and very well. I just love this technique! Try it!

I hope you enjoy the video(s)! Please, tell me which version you like best - blogger or youtube.


Shearing Day!

Yesterday was shearing day at EyeDazzlerAlpacas! I had so much fun last year that I nagged and nagged Allie until she finally said YES, YOU CAN COME AND MAKE A NUISANCE OF YOURSELF AGAIN THIS YEAR!!! Actually, she was much nicer about it.

Honestly, we worked so hard that my hair follicles hurt, but it was a good hurt, kwim?

Here are the lovely ladies, browsing in their hay bin, not knowing what is to come.

Look at that baby. Too cute! Allie and Phil put name tags on them because, once they are shorn, it is hard to tell one from another. (Actually, they all look kind of stupid post-shearing, but please, don't tell the alpacas I said so, K?)
Here is the first visitor to Paul's Beauty Parlor. Paul is the shearer - he's from New Zealand. Looks like he's praying over this girl, doesn't it? Actually, I think that his back was hurting him, and he's trying to find a position that won't hurt. Poor guy. It must be difficult to do this all day, every day. I have back trouble - I understand.
This is the second packy of the day. I include this photo for my friend, Peggy - she bought the fleece off of this animal, Nellie. What beautiful fleece you have, Nellie! This year, Allie offerred the whole fleece off of certain animals for those who want to do their own processing. Allie will have most of the fleeces turned into roving, but a few animals were sold as complete fleeces. Should this interest you, contact Allie at her website. Wait until you see Micah's fleece - later.
Last year, a distraught animal, Kahlua, entered the barn, singing her head off. My friend and fellow alpaca cleaner, Dana, is a fantastic singer, so she sang to Kahlua, who calmed down immediately.

Well, this year, we knew right away when Kahlua entered the barn, because she was singing her head off, and Dana worked her magic once more. I think that Dana is getting better at singing "alpaca" because Kahlua was entranced.

Just so you know, Dana is not pasty white - it's the pesky flash on my camera. Darn thing.
Once again this year, Emma and Clara kept the place clean. It's hard to believe that all of these girls, Annabelle, Clara, Emma and Grace, were in a ballet recital just two weeks ago, wearing the girliest of girly ballet costumes and today, they are doing barn work. Life is truly grand.

Emma wore blisters onto her hands. Poor kid didn't have too much fun at cello lessons today.
Phil cuts toenails...
...on the alpaca who is in the waiting area of Paul's salon.
Ree's blog isn't the only one to feature cowboys!!! Mine features a genuine Colorado Cowboy. He talked about ropin' and heelin' and workin' calves and rodeos and I wanted to say, "I know exactly what you are talking about because I read Ree's Blog every day!" But, I don't think that he would have cared one way or the other. He also mentioned his wife, frequently, which made me think of Ree and how much she loves her husband.
Girl, it's long past time for a manicure!!!
Next, a little dentistry...
...then, a nice relaxing wait until the shearer finishes with the previous alpaca and is ready for her. Isn't Cowboy so gentle? I complimented him on his gentleness and he said that he surprised himself - that he's so used to being rough with barnyard animals, and he didn't know that he had it in him. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
Paul travels the northern hemisphere in our warm months, and in our cold months, he shears in New Zealand. I guess he shears all year long. No wonder his back aches. The young fellow at the head is 17 year old Darcy, also from New Zealand and who is doing a great job. What a wonderful life experience for this lad!
Paul is an extremely gentle and knowledgeable shearer, but gosh, I wish he'd do a better job selecting his clothing. Gasp!
Here is a shot of the front half of the barn, where the shearing is taking place. There are two mats - while one alpaca is being shorn, another one is being readied for her turn, and is having her nails and teeth done. Grouped around the alpaca in the front, you see, in the brown shirt, young Darcy, the man in black is Steve, the "leg man," Annabelle is in green and she's doing "leg girl" duty, Paul in orange, and Allie on the far right.

The "leg man" and "leg girl" are responsible for getting the loops of rope around the alpaca's legs and are also responsible for letting the tension out of the ropes at the end of the job. My son, Sam, was going go do the leg man job this year, but he had a job interview so he had to decline the invitation. (He got the job!!! Yay!!!)
My darling, Grace, holding a day old alpaca. What this little guy must think of his world, eh? Less than 24 hours ago, a complete lifetime for him, he had to endure the rigors of being born.
Now, he has to watch his mama get tied up, and laid on the ground. He has to listen to the clippers (loud), my vacuum (loud), Paul's CD player (loud), Paul singing (loud), and people talking (not terribly loud) and it must all be very confusing for the little dear.
But, Oh My Gosh, what a cutie pie!
Oh wait little guy, it gets better!!! YOU get shorn, too!!! What must this baby be thinking? Something along the lines of, "What next???"

Then, today (the day after shearing), all he hears is the wind and the birds and the soft sounds of his mother. He must be very deeply confused.
Here you can see Micah, a proud male, getting ready for his turn at the spa. Cowboy is going to lift him (he's a BIG alpaca!) while Grace and Steve tie his legs.
I never did get a photo of him standing out in the field, darn it all. I kept forgetting. Well, just imagine how wonderful he looks, all fluffy and proud of himself. He doesn't look terribly dignified right now, but trust me, this guy is a Dude. He's a Rose Grey Dude. He's stunning.

Getting his teeth trimmed.
Relaxing with the Cowboy.
What do you think is going through the Cowboy's mind, right about now? Maybe he's contemplating the green splotches on his clothing? Maybe he's wondering if his wife will be thrilled by the green splotches? Do you know what the green splotches are? It is the way that the alpaca demonstrates his disdain for the day's events, and let me tell you something, it stinks beyond your wildest imaginings. Alpaca spit.

This "tough cowboy" expression never left his face. Not once.
Finally, it's Micah's turn! I had my camera ready. I really wanted to see him get shorn because, see, I am currently knitting with the yarn made from his last year's fleece, and it's to die for gorgeous, so I was anxious to see the preview, so to speak.
It kept coming, and coming...
...and coming, and coming....
..until, finally, his blanket is shorn! I think that now, he looks like a cat.
Oh! I forgot to tell you! Allie and Phil have branched out! They are not going to focus only on Alpacas any more. They are going raise PushMePullYous, too! How cool is THAT?

The back end of the barn is where the fleece sorting is taking place, with the sorter, Nancy, doing a bang-up job of it. Peggy is the official "scribe" - this is all part of a new shearing and fleece handling system known as "Certified Sorted." I'm just a helper girl, I don't know too much about the whole deal, but it's something relatively new in Alpaca Circles.
Anyway, Nancy went through each fleece in fine detail, grading it for fineness, length, color, and a bunch of other characteristics.
Margaret was the "fleece runner" - she carried the bins from the shearer to Nancy. I wish I could have gotten a better photo of her, but she was really FAST, and BUSY. See all of the bags, waiting to be sorted? Nancy didn't have to throw alpacas around, but she sure worked hard, and she and Peggy worked LONG, too.
I don't know. It's just a little hard for me to look at this guy (Micah) and think, "Studmuffin" - what do you think? *snort*

But, Studmuffin he is. He is lots heavier than are the girlie girls. Wait until you see them, they look like waifs.
Last year, we were able to look at the mountains through the barn door. This year, it was way too windy for the door to be open, but look at *my* view! This is the window in the area where Dana and I cleaned the alpacas, and I admired the view all day long! It took my mind off of the smell of the alpaca spit. Urgh.
Someone is feeling a little left out, today.
The minute mother and son were reunited... dinner!
Do you remember Bri from last year? She's all grown up, now. She looks like something straight from Doctor Seuss, don't you agree?