More HRSFA Yarn

This yarn isn’t actually HRSFA-related, other than its recipient is a HRSFAn. I have a big box of wool (I’ll post pictures of my stash at some point, I’m very proud of it) and I wanted to spin something. I’ll eventually be spinning ridiculous amounts of alpaca from my friend’s alpaca farm, and since they’re selling the yarn, I want it to be professional quality. While I was waiting for the wool to be carded I decided to practice on my stash. After all, I have infinite wool, so there’s no reason not to spin.

But for some reason I couldn’t make myself start something. So I IMed Silkspinner, who does, in fact, spin, and asked her if she could use more yarn. She said sure, and she was working with thinner stuff at the moment, like around sport weight. So I took out a pretty thing of blue and purple merino roving. I filled two bobbins and plied it together, and this was the result:

Yarn on the jumbo bobbin

Yarn on the jumbo bobbin

Close up of skein

Close up of skein

I’m very pleased with how it turned out. Though I did run into a problem where there was significantly more yarn on the first bobbin than on the second. I fixed it by winding some onto the other and doing some yarn gymnastics around it, but I learned my lesson: always separate the roving before you spin it up.

There might be a sequel to this post, if Silkspinner makes something shiny out of it and wants to share it with us.

Gryphon Tapestry–done!

We finished the tapestry this weekend! We’re still pretty obsessed with it, and want to share.

We finished weaving on Thursday night, closing in the last bit of wing around the shoulder.

For the most part, I had been working top to bottom while esqg worked bottom to top; however, for this last part, we divided it into horizontal sections (the arms; the belly; the horizontal wing feathers; the feather tips) and coordinated the closing of the gap for each. The constraints of space, in combination with the coordination task, entailed various extreme measures, including esqg’s stitch-by-stitch plan of the lower claws, and my schematization of the wings in rows 1-12 (with my 1 equal to esqg’s 12, for added excitement).

And then the last stitches were set in place (cramped in some places and loose in others, despite our continuing efforts to keep the lines straight) and we had before us a completed double tapestry!

It’s amazing, really, how different a tapestry looks when it’s done than when there’s even a little bit left to be woven. All the mistakes you remember making fade into insignificance before the perfection of the whole. And despite the many compromises and rash judgements made in production, there’s a sort of magical determinism about it–as though it could never have been any other way. Esqg interjects: we always joke about how the creature is going to come to life when we finish weaving.

Then came the Ordeal of the Paranoid Knots. We had to cut the tapestry in half along the space we’d left for it, and although spare string was generously allotted in the middle, as the curve grew steeper at the top and bottom the space between the two tapestries shrank to millimeters. Hence: Paranoid Knots. We tied off every raw edge in the middle of the tapestry before cutting it out. I’m not going to describe the process–I don’t want to write about it any more than you’d want to read about it. Fortunately, our experience with the Dragon Tapestry had taught us that similar precautions were unnecessary at the edges where the warp threads ran through the frame.

esqg was moving out this weekend, and her sewing kit had gone back to Princeton. Fortunately, silkspinner was in town to help her move, and she had brought a pair of tiny embroidery scissors. With those, along with some sharp kitchen knives, we hacked our tapestries out of the frame and separated them.

After that, it remained only to line the tapestry (with green cloth) and edge it with (very green) ribbon. Fortunately, we were able to call upon the benevolent assistance of the costuming guru of the UtenEva LARP–silkspinner, once again. We sewed a couple of ribbon loops to the top, and the project was complete!

Baby stuff!

I have a friend who has a friend who is having twins. When she asked for recommendations for baby gifts, I offered to do baby hats and booties on commission for her.

She wanted the softest yarn possible, and pastel colors. I had some light blue merino wool spun up which was about the softest substance in the universe (not necessarily all merino wool in general, but this specific wool top). It wasn’t plied yet, so I plied it. I spun it rather largely (it had originally been intended for another project) so I used size 10.5 needles. The hats took me approximately 2 hours each. Maybe even less than that (I finished the first and made the entirety of the second during a game of Dogs in the Vineyard).

The large yarn, however, was not going to work for the booties. So I spun up the rest of the wool at a much smaller weight. The booties took surprisingly little time and yarn; I finished them in about 2 days. (Of course, it took a while for me to get to those 2 days, being in the midst of giant term papers, but once I started it was 2 days.)

I also needed to do some pink and purple trim and flowers, to distinguish the sets, and because blue was probably not a “girly” enough color for the mother of the babies. The pink was also handspun merino from a bunch of small rovings with assorted colors that I pulled the pink parts out of. Actually, maybe we should call it an approximation of pink.


The purple was actually baby llama left over from a hat and scarf I had made last year. It was just as soft as the blue merino, and probably softer than the pink.


The trim was a crocheted border around each of the booties. The flowers were the beginning of this pattern: Flowers!

(I only did the inside flower.) The hats and booties were my own pattern (or non-pattern).

I’m impressed that I managed to do all the crocheting without hurting myself. In the summer of 2007 I injured my wrist whilst doing archaeology. It was the repetitive motion of scraping the balks which did it, because it pinched a nerve in my wrist. That same nerve is pinched when I crochet. Luckily, knitting and spinning have different motions that do not strain my wrist. I can crochet for short periods of time, but if I do it for too long my hand starts to tingle and go numb, and this is even worse when I use tiny hooks and thread, as is the case with my kippot.*
So I decided to give up crocheting for at least a year. This bit of crocheting is the exception; I’m not sure if I can actually go back. Kippot are probably impossible since now it hurts after I do even 10 stitches, and those things take hundreds of stitches.

But I don’t really miss crocheting that much. The kippot I did were shiny, but they took forever, and I couldn’t charge more than $30 (or $36, which is a nice, Jewish number since it is a multiple of 18) for them, which would never make them worth it. Commissions in general are never enough that I would be making minimum wage, but kippot are probably the least economical. Say I could do two scarves in the time it takes to make a kippah. Each scarf is made with $40 yarn, and I charge $80 for each, leaving me an $80 profit. (Or even more if I buy raw wool and spin it myself.) One kippah, yarn costs me $2 (I use so little that I can make a ton of them) I sell it for $36, giving me a $34 profit, which is much less than $80.

The other type of project I would crochet was blankets, which are large, and I used acrylic yarn for them. At this point I pretty much only knit with natural fibers. Thus, I like my knitting projects better.

Though now if I were to crochet a blanket I would use nice scrap yarn and bamboo hooks. Maybe some day…

*This also happened while I was archaeologizing, but I just continued working. I was with a bunch of Montanans, mostly guys, who would work through their pain, and I wasn’t about to be the weak one when I could still physically work. Except in this case I was only further injuring myself. Had I not been stupid I might have just had to take a couple of days off rather than having to leave the dig. It also didn’t help that off dig I was crocheting kippot, since they are small and portable and easy to bring to Israel. Had I had a knitting project instead, I might have fared better.



I wanted to make tangrams for my school, and I discovered that lined 3”x5” index cards are perfect for making tangrams! This is because the distance from the top line to the bottom line is exactly 2.5” and the lines are 1/4” apart, so the middle line is marked.

To make tangrams out of an index card:
0. You could cut off the top and bottom outside the lines if you want, to give yourself straightedges and not get confused. Or you can do that at the end, and use another index card for a straightedge and perpendicular.
1. Fold the index card in half, to make two squares, and trace the resulting line. Draw the diagonal in one square to make the two big triangles. Make sure to check that the two diagonals meet at the center card-line, thus:

It's hard to see, but the topmost index card is showing the diagonal on the bottom, which meets the pencilled line in the middle.

It's hard to see, but the topmost index card is showing the diagonal on the bottom, which meets the pencilled line in the middle.

2. Start the diagonals in the other square, but only to the center point of that square (which, again, you can find using the index card’s middle line). Now you have the medium-size triangle.

3. Using the other index card to make a perpendicular line, draw a vertical line halfway up in the middle of the second square. Mark the same line at the top. Now you should have the square and one small triangle.

4. Draw the last diagonal from the side of the card to the midpoint of the top line, so that you have the parallelogram and the other small triangle.

I am in the Madrid Café at 45th and Sansom, Philadelphia.  The owner was happy to try tangrams.

I am in the Madrid Café at 45th and Sansom, Philadelphia. The owner was happy to try tangrams.

I also discovered a tangram alphabet, whence the title picture.

Finally, I made my own “paradox.” I’m sure this has been done and googling will reveal it; nevertheless, I invented it myself. 🙂 Having gone back to tangrams with a much more mathematically trained mind than I had as a child, I always consider the lengths of sides and parallel positions and so on, so it’s much easier to solve tangrams and to puzzle out things like that.

Wait, one of the squares has a hole in it...

Wait, one of the squares has a hole in it...


This is from a while ago (last year). I had this pretty purple and green roving that I was spinning. A friend saw it and said “Purple and green! Is that for HRSFA?” [Harvard Radcliffe Science Fiction Association for those of you out there who wonder what a HRSFA is…] (HRSFA colors being purple and green, I think, since those are the colors of our t-shirts). “No, but now that I think about it, this is totally HRSFA yarn!”

So I continued to spin it up, and came up with this:

I was pleased with the results. It was also kinda springy in texture in a good way. In the end, I decided to give it to a friend who had been admiring the colors as I was spinning, and had recently taken up knitting again. I am not sure if she’s knitted anything from it yet.

Cables, cables, and more cables

I’ve been working on a lot of projects with cables recently. I made an alpaca scarf for myself, with celtic knotwork, from this pattern, slightly modified to add a 2×2 cable on each side. (This also results in the scarf being 42 stitches per row instead of the original 32. This was mostly unintentional, but cool anyways.) I spun the dark brown yarn myself.

From HRSFA yarn
From HRSFA yarn

I then decided that I also needed a pair of socks for myself, since when I was making a pair for a friend, I tried them on every so often, and they were really comfy. Originally my socks were just plain old socks, but I thought they were a few stitches too wide, so I frogged what I had. (I actually went on a bit of a frogging spree that day and took out a few other unfinished projects that really needed to be restarted or scrapped.) I started anew, and this time decided that the sock wanted a cable. I charted out a pattern which was based on part of the middle of the scarf.

From HRSFA yarn

I ran into one difficulty, which is that in the scarf, there was a right side and a wrong side, and on the wrong side you knit the knit stitches and purled the purl stitches, moving nothing and crossing nothing. On the right side you did all the cabling. You could easily tell which row you were on and what needed to be done.

However, with the sock, there is no wrong side because it is knit in the round. Thus, every other row is a row without cables, and if you lose track of where you are it isn’t always instantly obvious whether or not you just did a cable row.

Still, I managed to finish it. Now I need to make a second one, and then I will have a very shiny pair of socks.

Scarf II: the sequel

Here’s what I did with my hands during Vericon.


I’m afraid you can’t see it very well, due to lack of an actual camera. It’s about 47 inches long and made of handspun purple and gray heathered wool (the pinkish purple yarn from my last post, in fact). The center design is a five-stranded braid made by alternating crossing the first and third strands on the left rightward below the second and fourth, and crossing the second and fourth rightward above the third and fifth. Hence the pattern repeat is much less complicated than it looks. The outer edges have a simple cable in three stitches. The scarf was quite quick to make, because the yarn is comparatively thick (about bulky weight, although of course not precisely so). The original pattern came from As before, it doesn’t belong to me, posting my results here is not for any commercial use, etc, and many thanks to its author.  Here’s a closer look.


Now, off to ship it to my aunt. The esteemed esqg and I will be posting about the embroidery project soon! We promise!

Pretty colors

Whilst I still have access to a digital camera, I may as well post pictures of some recent miscellany.

We found large quantities of wire hangers in the basement while cleaning up after a flood two weeks ago. So, given that one has to use up one’s scrap yarn somehow, the following resulted.cimg08394


Yarn is wound around a pair of hangers from both sides in the basic friendship bracelet stitch, as you probably already know. There are sixteen of them, counting the rather eyesmarting set of five.

Also, some  work on my new spinning wheel, which continues to be great fun. (The most recent batch is actually shows some improvement in evenness, but it’s in NY.) I have an upright wheel worked with both feet. Each color below represents between 2/3 and 3/4 of a pound of wool, spun into 2-ply yarn.


I continue to be delighted by how much faster the wheel is than my drop spindles – each color’s worth of yarn was finished in about an afternoon. Whee!

Wet-folding Origami

In my last (and first) post I said I’d try wet-folding, because some of these models seem to require either thinner or more malleable paper. So I decided that the African Elephant would be a good place to start, partly because the pattern (although tricky) doesn’t have very many folds overall (and doesn’t require any particularly precise folding), and partly because the instructions suggested it. So first I folded it in the usual way (i.e. with dry, normal paper):

Elephant (dry)

It worked, more or less. The hand-drawn instructions failed me when they tried to describe the fold for the tusks, but I made something up, which seemed to work. The model, however, only gives the general 3D shape of an elephant, requires a certain amount of paper-sculpting at the end, which is hard to do with normal paper.

So I took the advice of Wikipedia and wet both sides of a piece of paper using a damp kleenex, to ready it for wet-folding (using, of course, the same type and size of paper as before, albeit of a different color). As I tried to manipulate the paper I  noticed a couple of things:

  1. The paper I’ve been using has a grain–most of the fibers run in the same direction. If it’s wet equally on both sides it doesn’t wrinkle much out of the plane, but in the plane it expands different amounts along different axes when wet. So to start off, my paper wasn’t square. Like, really not square, with a difference of maybe a third of an inch (out of seven inches) between the two directions. But I was afraid it would dry out if I wasted time trying to trim it, so I just ignored it, and did all of my folds to within a 1/6 inch error. Good thing the pattern didn’t require much precision.
  2. The color on the paper is water-soluble. I could swear I ended up with almost as much color on the tissue I was using to wet the paper as on the paper itself.
  3. My (unvarnished) wooden table-top is much dirtier than I had thought. It turns out that wet paper picks up a lot of dirt. Of course, the more I tried to wipe off the dirt, the more color I lost…
  4. In this condition, I started folding the elephant, completely botching the folds leading up to the tusks, which in turn made even my makeshift tusk-fold impossible (I sort of skipped that part, just twisting the tusks into existence, which seemed to work, more or less). And I noticed some more things:

  5. Wet origami paper does hold creases (I’d been rather suspicious that it wouldn’t at all), but they become very hard to see after a while.
  6. The paper dries quite quickly. That is, too quickly to finish folding a (simple) elephant. And furthermore, re-dampening a semi-3D elephant with a wet kleenex is hard.

Anyway, here’s how it came out:

Elephant (wet)I suppose the non-crease folds tend to be somewhat smoother, and the model holds its shape better, but if I was hoping to use wet-folding to facilitate folding through thick sections in complex models, I am bound to be disappointed unless I can significantly improve my technique.

Conclusion:  Next time I should try using a spray bottle, a ruler and exacto knife, and a clean, non-absorbent hard surface, and maybe I’ll be able to make a better elephant.

This is what happens…

…when Caltech doesn’t give me any work for the first two weeks:


Of course, since I took that picture, several more models have been added to the collection. I’ve been going through the nicer-looking models on Most of the ones I’ve been doing are listed under ‘complex,’ with a few under ‘intermediate,’ but I can for the most part place them into categories as follows:

  1. Straightforward and elegant. Which is not to say easy to fold with little prior experience; it merely means that I could understand the instructions, didn’t run into any problems in the folding, etc. These tend to make nice, simple-looking, and furthermore, recognizable models the first time around. (This category includes the eagle, caterpillar-on-a-leaf, and chameleon near the front of the picture, and probably the shark, as well.)
  2. Hard, but elegant. Similar to the first category, but requires either a long period of staring at the diagrams from oblique angles in an attempt to make sense of them or else going to outside help, such as youtube videos of the folding process. Of course, this category depends on prior experience, but there are definitely some folds out there which just can’t be portrayed in a 2D diagram. (This category includes the dragon, pegasus, horse, and perhaps the wasp in the back, although that might fall under category 4, below)
  3. I’m stuck. Of course, anyday now these models might move to category 2, but as it is, these are the models I’ve tried and altogether failed to make. For instance, there’s a sea-turtle pattern that looks nice, but halfway through, having apparently understood all of the instructions hitherto, my model inexplicably no longer looks like the diagram (Sea turtle not pictured… maybe someday I’ll put up a picture of its current state… I think I threw away the blue crab.)
  4. Straightforward in theory, but impractical. That is, I understood what I was supposed to do, but couldn’t do it. You know how they say you can’t fold a piece of paper in half 7 times? This category includes all of those models which want you to make clean creases through 30 layers of paper (not as many as 2^6, but still impractical). (This would include such nigh-unrecognizable models as Dr. Octopus, an alien as from AVP, and the grasshopper, as well as an unrecognizable unfinished model on my desk, whose instructions started asking me to pull out almost non-existent flaps I couldn’t reach.) Many of these, though, might benefit from the art of wet-folding, which I have yet to try. I’ll post more when I get around to it.
  5. I suppose there’s also Technically Interesting but not particularly pretty, which includes the hedgehog and maybe the armadillo (and to some extent the shark, though it actually looks pretty nice if you squint at it). These tend to take a long time, but end up pretty angular and not so lifelike. On the other hand, if you need something to do with your hands while you talk to your friends, try folding 200 hedgehog spines (not on the hedgehog pictured here, but the more complicated model, which I foolishly gave away–so of course I had to make another. But I wasn’t foolish enough to make the complex version twice).

If people want, I can post pictures of individual models with little blurbs about what I did and didn’t like about them, the things I changed/ignored, etc.