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February 2015

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Spinning a Yarn

For #nerdy9th. Rules of #nerdy9th are to gush about something you are nerdily passionate about, and no criticizing or denigrating that thing (even in comments)

I learned to crochet when I was about 5 or 6 years old, taught by my godmother. But I didn’t learn to spin yarn until I was 30, and I didn’t learn to knit until six months or so after that.

Today, I am a spinning and knitting machine, I tell ya! And here’s a little project I want to share, because it completely resonates with the fiber nerd in me. It’s a condensed version of a sheep-to-shawl challenge. In essence, I have a few ounces of fiber, a drop spindle, knitting needles, and a nice little pattern I think will look good in handspun laceweight yarn. And time. I have some time. Not much, mind you. But I have enough that working in chunks of 5-10 minutes here and there is sufficient, and this project is perfect for "I only have 5 minutes" moments.

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In essence, the process has been:

  1. Spin a spindle-full of yarn.
  2. Pull it off the spindle.
  3. Ply (on the same spindle).
  4. Pull the yarn off the spindle.
  5. Splice the yarn in using a Russian join.
  6. Knit until the yarn is nearly gone.
  7. Repeat from step 1 until the pattern is complete.

The Fiber

The fiber is a camel/merino blend. I bought it 5 years ago at the Madrona Fiber Arts retreat, which is an excellent fiber retreat over Presidents Day weekend in Seattle, Washington. I highly recommend it to any fiber fan, whether you spin, knit, crochet, weave, or just want to learn.

It’s soft, lightweight, and spins easily. According the The Knitter’s Book of Yarn by Clara Parkes (a highly recommended book for every fiber nerd), camel fiber does not felt easily– one of its properties that makes you realize that, indeed, it is a different species of animal from wool. Camel also doesn’t take bleach easily, so it’s usually either a natural tan shade, or it’s been dyed. Natural-toned yarn that’s been dyed is usually a richer color than pure white or bleached yarn. I don’t intend to dye this project, but I won’t completely discount the possibility.

One of the few frustrations I’ve had with this particular fiber is that it’s challengingly short-stapled. That means each fiber is fairly short, so they don’t keep the twist particularly well, and more importantly– I have a very hard time spinning a long piece of yarn before I either wind it up onto the spindle, or it breaks and I spend a few seconds muttering obscenities while I pick up my drop spindle (aptly named) and carry on.

The Spindle

The spindle is a Turkish drop spindle by Ed Jenkins. It weighs .9 ounces and is made of rosewood. It’s small– probably about 5" long. I also bought it at Madrona, and it is my second-favorite spindle, after my Golding spindle.

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Turkish spindles are interesting. A standard circular whorl spindle looks like a child’s toy top. On a standard spindle, when you are done spinning, you unwind the yarn, sometimes by spinning it onto another spindle or spool. In general it’s a longer process that is hard to put down in the middle.

Turkish spindles have an odd cross-piece shape, but what they do is downright magical. To remove the yarn from the spindle, you pull the center shaft out (through the base– the shaft is tapered), then slide one of the cross-beams out from the other.

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The resulting ball of yarn is ready to be knitted from directly, if you so wish, because it’s already in the form of a center-pull ball!

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You can also do as I have and take both ends of the center-pull ball and ply them together to make a 2-ply yarn. Since the plying takes place on the same spindle, once again, you end with a center-pull ball.

The Knitting

The pattern I chose for this little project is a French lace cuff. It’s a small project, and I was hopeful of getting a pair of cuffs out of it. I knew I didn’t’ have a lot of fiber, though, since I had already made a scarf out of the same fiber, using the same spindle and technique (spin, knit, spin more, knit more).

The cuff is easy and easy to memorize. I did have to pause when I found myself out and about, finishing the last row one can do on size 1 needles, and not having a set of size 8s on me. Ah, well– out came the spindle, to catch up on the spinning!

The effect of knitting straight off the spindle is that the yarn has a lot of energy when it goes into the piece. It’s lively and moves around a lot while you’re knitting and afterwards. The stitches do not idly lie down in an orderly fashion, but instead have a kind of dynamic quality that I rather like. Slanted stitches slant even more than usual, and in general, I like the lively way the knitting comes out.

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This project will likely be done and off the needles by the end of #nerdy9th. I’ll update the post tonight once it’s done.

Organizing a Public Game

I wrote an article on the ConTessa blog about Organizing a Public Game! It’s a bit logistics/nitty-gritty for organizers of Adventurers League and similar programs. Gleaned from the past 3+ years of organizing D&D at local game shops here in Las Vegas.

Go there to read it!

Knitting a Tentacle!

I knitted the Tentaculum pattern this month. It’s very pretty– and LONG! It’s about 8 feet long, and I probably could have gotten another inch out of the yarn I had left.

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The yarn is Knit Picks Bare in fingering. I dyed it myself about 7 or 8 years ago. It is not superwash– as I learned when I made some socks out of it and felted them a few years back.

I also spun this over the winter, mostly in the past couple of weeks:

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Started it in March of last year, and finally finished it in January. It’s a wool roving I got as part of a reddit swap, and it didn’t have a tag so I’m not sure what it is.

BryceCon Writeup

A quick writeup of games I played at BryceCon in mid-January!

BryceCon is a very small (100-200 attendee), first-year convention in Bryce Canyon, Utah. It’s pretty remote, but a lovely area, and a nice little retreat for the weekend. I will definitely go again next year– the organizers are super nice folks, and I had a good time. That’s despite being on the tail-end of my cold and discovering that cold air and altitude! are not good for my ability to walk and speak at the same time. I attended with a friend of mine, who also ran one game at the con.

We didn’t play a lot of games, mostly because I was still sleeping quite a bit and we were generally enjoying the vacation.

Night’s Black Agents: I ran the first playtest of the Night’s Black Agents adventure I’m writing for Pelgrane’s Dracula Dossier project. The players really grabbed one of the plot hooks and ran with it, which pleased me a great deal. They didn’t push for the mainstream, murderhobo storyline, opting instead to follow the "fellow agent is in trouble" hook.

My friend played in this game and threw a wrench in the plans when he decided to change up the mystery and have his character embrace the supernatural transformation he was about to undergo. Needless to say… PCs fled, an NPC became his thrall, and if this were an ongoing campaign, there would be a further adventure and adversary for the PCs to deal with!

Tanto Cuore: This is my favorite deck builder. I hoped to get more people into it, but alas– nobody bit. My friend doesn’t like deck builders at all, so we quit about half an hour into the game.

Mice and Mystics: This is a fun, tactical board game with a story element to it. I had 4 new players– two had played Hero Quest before. I explained the game to the players and read the story Prologue and opening of Chapter 1, complete with little heroic mouse voices. The players were very much on top of things, and they even completed the chapter with only one or two mice being captured.

The problem I have with Chapter 1 is that, instead of being a straightforward story, every tile introduces new rules and mechanics. That’s a problem to me, because I think the first play of a game should be the basics, and then escalate the game with additional rules as you go on. Not to mention the rulebook is convoluted at best.

I facilitated the game by playing (and role-playing) the adversaries– rat guards and cockroaches, mostly, who are there to threaten and capture the mouse heroes!

I demoed this for the Double Exposure program.

Epyllion: Well, you know how much I love this game! My friend ran this one on Sunday morning. We had some challenges in getting players– a 12 year old dragon-crazy boy and a younger girl joined us, though, and we had a blast going through what was essentially an ancient draconic chapel with a trapped book and a dragon who was fully Shadowed due to the book’s Darkness. I was playing a Seer and used the consume the Darkness move a few times, eating some pages from the book and becoming more and more obsessed with the book. Eventually, I ate the whole book and became utterly paralyzed. At that point, we were about out of time  and the other two got help from some older dragons to cast a counterspell.

The cool thing about this session, and the group was that the younger players effortlessly added to the scene and story. "What does the chapel look like?" the GM asked and the girl answered with a rich tapestry of details about the statues in the courtyard and the overgrowth all throughout the misty chapel area.

It was a fun, short (3 hour) session and we told a complete, engaging story that made both of the other players want to pick up Epyllion as soon as they could.

January 2015 books and games

#51in15, #50bookchallenge

Books (#50bookchallenge)

#1: NPCs by Drew Hayes (m)
#2: Silas Marner by George Eliot  (f)
#3: Confessions of a D-List Supervillain by Jim Bernheimer (m)
#4: The Midwife’s Here, by Linda Fairley (f)

This year, I’m marking my books with (m) or (f) for male or female authors. Anonymous/non-binary/unidentified authors and books with more than 2 authors will not be marked. My goal is to have half the gender-identified authors I read this year be female.

In-progress: Lisey’s Story

Games (#51in15)

#1: Pass the Pigs (<30 minute, 2 players)
#2: 13th Age (5 players, rpg)
#3: Night’s Black Agents (5 players, rpg)
#4: Tanto Cuore: Romantic Vacation (2 players)
#5: Mice and Mystics (4 players)
#6: Epyllion (4 players, rpg, f)
#7: Dungeon World (5 players, rpg)

This new category includes tabletop games: board games, card games, RPGs, dice games, miniatures games, and LARPs– it does not include video games. Hybrid tabletop-video games like Cthulhu Wars and Ultimate Werewolf count. Each game only counts the first time I play it during the year. Partial plays, if we make it to the point where it’s fairly clear who will win, or someone just isn’t having a good time, count for the list.

#51in15 Achievement Badges:


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