Thursday, May 2, 2013

Stringtopia Spring String Thing

So I'm good at not blogging Stringtopia, right? Third time's the charm, maybe? There are actual photos this year. Last year I had some blurry things, and never got back around to recording things besides the wondrous return of spinning mojo, which sort of lasted. I still like spinning, but I also still don't do a lot of it. But I'm mostly ok with that. So here, in one fell swoop of a mega-post, is my account of the Stringtopia Spring String Thing. (New addition to the name, you see, because Stringtopia exists all the time as a studio in Lebanon now. This may be dangerous to my car's odometer.)  

My friend Carol and I drove over on Friday morning, got lunch with new friends we made basically immediately (this is one of the magical things that happen there - I don't know you, but you're a yarn person too, want to have lunch?), and made it back to the Golden Lamb in time for afternoon classes. I took a class on Pre-Columbian textiles. Obviously not making them, because I'm firmly a Post-1492 kind of girl, but we looked at fabrics that are so old I kind of can't imagine it. We were a couple in before I remembered my phone.

I had talked to Abby (Franquemont, the teacher of all the classes I took this weekend) on ravelry and at other fiber events about the weaving she had done growing up in Peru, and one of the things that had me curious was her talk of the complex symmetries involved in weaving, and how the ways in which the Chinchero did things involved mathematics while not actually having names for numbers. It's kind of mind-boggling still.

This piece illustrated all kinds of symmetries, but of course I only got a picture of half of it. I loved the geometric pattern, which was reversed on the other end. There were more ducks or whatever birds on the other end, slightly different from the ones shown in beaks and feet, and facing the other direction. You can almost see the men in the center, flanked above and below by the ducks. There were interesting things done with color here, too, but I can't remember what all. I took notes, and sketched things. It was way cool.


The thing most of us related the most to were two boxes full of spinning tools. These boxes were buried with their owners, and included several spindles each, plus bits of fiber and a couple of plying balls. The idea of actually burying all evidence of things unfinished resonated with me.


This was a nifty piece of resist dyeing that's lasted oh, about forever. The two different parts had been dyed differently - one had red and blue, the other just blue. I also like the Abby reflection in the glass.


I loved this geometric piece, and not just because of the great green in it.

One of the things mentioned in the class description was an authentic quipu. This piece of stuff is an historical record. How? I'm not sure. The knots are turned in both ways, and there are more wraps on some than others. The combination of discrete units and strings and switches and the continuous length of the strings makes it possibly way versatile. I was reminded of Madame Defarge, whose "reading" of her knitting always
 mystified me, and this is the same kind of mysterious. Awesome, though. Definitely sparked my math-brain.

And here's a much larger and more elaborate quipu, held by its owner. Charles Gerhardt owns one of Lebanon's many antique stores (specifically, the one next door to the Stringtopia studio), but his shop is like no antique store I've ever seen. Museum-quality and really old and valuable stuff from all over the world and all of human history. It was full of "oh, wow!" All of the pieces we saw in class were from his collection.


After class Carol and I went to check in at our off-site hotel, then made the 2-block walk back to the Lamb for dinner. Their lamb meatloaf was crazy good. Also I love their house salad in an unreal way. I may be trying with limited success to copy it for my lunches this week. The Friday Bash was a good time, as always. There were spinning contests and door prizes and lots of people and party, oh my! I have no pictures. I barely had a thought in my head by that point.  

The next morning, went to breakfast bright and early, then to class. I had a day of Andean Backstrap Weaving. Which was way cool. Those of us who were total n00bs were informed that we were now 5 years old, and so all of the work of warping and setting up the looms had been done for us. We were shown how to tie ourselves into the looms and tension the warp (with our feet) and actually start to weave. Abby was really good about making us try things, and doing things to make us screw up so we would learn how to fix stuff. This was a more hands-on class than the day before, but I still managed a few photos.

 Here's Mandie weaving (She's writing a pattern for those socks - keep an eye out, they're fantastic).

And here's Lara weaving. She's been a favorite pal through all the String Things and I was so glad she was in all my classes this year.
And here's mine, as I saw it.

Backstrap weaving is fascinating in that your body essentially becomes multiple parts of the loom. You control the tension with the way you sit, and so of course that changes as you weave down the warp. The pick-up pattern we did is called tanka ch'oro, it's the most basic thing, but lovely in a symmetric way and really clever in the way it minimizes pick-up work. I learned a lot, and I want to learn more. The 7-year-olds (ie, people who had done some of this before) were assisting, and weaving cool stuff I want to learn too.

The classroom was full of people having a really good time learning something hard and totally new, and that gave me such a charge. I loved it. I miss that kind of thing about going to school. And even then, I was often having way more fun than my colleagues (Finite Geometry, I'm looking at you).

Another night, another awesome Golden Lamb dinner. Lamb Shepherd's pie was the entree, just delectable. The Saturday evening gathering was also big and crazy. There were competitions for longest long-draw and creative use of a sample we all got in the amazing goody bag. I was so totally worn out by the end of the night, mostly in a really good way.

Woke up, breakfasted, and back to the Lamb. Sunday was the only class Carol and I took together, Spindle Techniques for Long Draw and Double Drafting. I think I might need to take this class again sometime when I'm fresh - it was way cool, and there was lots of good information, but I just couldn't process all of it. Here's Abby coaching a couple students in a cross-classroom long draw. I'm not sure a spindle is even involved here.


And then Carol and I went around the corner for lunch, did some last shopping, and went home. I was on my sofa by the time the afternoon classes got out. I'm sure I missed some things, but I'm sure Monday was better for me not getting home as late as I have in past years. 

All the superlatives, man. What a weekend. Huge thanks to Abby and her whole Stringtopian army. I'm already looking forward to next year, but in the meantime, I might have to spend some of my summer at the studio!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Pi Day

So today is March 14, and in the part of the world that puts months before days, that means it's 3/14 or Pi Day. My friends who are not on break are having various events on their respective campuses. There are bake sales and pi runs (approximately the length of a 5k, or 3.14 miles), and pie-a-prof booths. I am on spring break, and therefore celebrating this fake approximate holiday in a somewhat more staid manner. I had my morning tea in my math mug:
(The sock-in-progress is the handspun from the last post. I'm almost through the gusset on the second sock.)

And I've been watching pi-related videos on youtube. Here are my favorites.
Vi Hart has a whole amazing channel of stuff. This one amuses me, because while she makes the pie crust from scratch, she uses canned filling, which is entirely backward from my pie-making usual. I am neutral on the pi/tau debate, but the math here is excellent. This morning Vi posted a video of herself singing pi, but my favorite of that kind of thing is below.

I've only seen a few Numberphile videos, but I really dig this one. I'm so amused by the process here. Pi calculated in terms of pie. Also note the video length.

This one is just bizarre in a wonderful way. (Warning: there's a little inappropriate language.) I had seen and loved this video a couple years ago, and it turns out it's from Chris Hardwick, the Nerdist, who I have since come to love for other reasons.

As for other celebrations, I don't know. I was thinking of taking myself out to see Life of Pi this afternoon, but I may start knitting a pi shawl instead. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Handspun and Millspun

So Jillian Moreno wrote a great column about knitting handspun yarn in the new Knitty, and people at knit night last night were talking about it. You should read it, but essentially she knit commercially spun and handdyed yarn and handspun fiber dyed in the same colorway by the same dyer, and there are swatches, oh so many swatches. Of course, I've been (much more slowly) doing the same sort of experiment. In 2010 I knit a pair of socks in Socks That Rock mediumweight, in one of my favorite patterns. The yarn is a softly-spun three-ply with a lot of plying twist for bounciness and density. Here's a ravelry link to my project, but pictures are below IMG_0475 The start of the socks with the ball of yarn. IMG_0558 Finished socks, which long held court as my favorite pair, but have now been worn through and patched enough times that they have been retired. (I think I darned the heels at least four times before deciding there wasn't enough there to darn anymore.) Sometime in their long and glorious reign, I ordered a sheep-to-shoe kit from Blue Moon in the same colorway (Jabberwocky). I spun the fiber (slowly, I don't spin fast) long-draw from the fold, and three-plied it with a lot of plying twist. This was one of the methods discussed and sampled in a Spinning Sock Yarn class I took with Abby Franquemont at the Trading Post (in 2010). I cast on this past summer, but socks haven't been a thing as much lately, so they've been moving slowly. So these are a handspun equivalent pair of socks - except for the missing garter rib, but no big. IMG_1384 They're going to be fantastic, but they're not really at all like the millspun ones, are they? The above is an older picture, I'm halfway through the second sock by now and hope to knock the pair out by the end of my impending Spring Break.