March 16, 2005

Hysteria and navajo plying

I hardly feel like I can blog today, after the start this week has had. No kids have left the nest, I have no major life events to report...nothing. I've finally managed to put the book down and have stopped carrying it around the house like the holy grail, since I only have one copy, I'm still protective (read: neurotically obsessed) about it. Many thanks for all the congratulations and well wishes for its success. I'm excited about the moment that one of you gets a copy or someone sees it in a bookstore. (I have decided that going to the bookstore to wait is not appropriate). Do me a favour and e-mail instantly will you? (Someone other than me getting a book is the final proof that this is real and happening.)

Q & A from the comments:

How do I get a signed copy? Well freak me right out. Seriously? Me? Of my book?
Tell you what, let's wait for a bit and see if the urge passes. If you still want it signed I'd wait until the list of places I'll be trucking to is revealed and see if I'll be in your neighbourhood. If that's not going to work, send me an email and I'll give you my address. You can mail the book along with a self addressed stamped envelope (or an "International reply coupon" if you don't live in Canada) and I'll sign the thing and ship it back. No bribes of chocolate, coffee or yarn are necessary...since the honour is all mine.

Where are you going on the book tour? Book tour? Those words make me nauseous and a little dizzy. As of this moment I can tell you that I'll be in Memphis (!!!) on the 25th of April, and New York City (!!!) on the 28th. Details of where, what time and so on are to follow along with other places..assuming of course that my brain doesn't explode and leak out of my right ear.

How on earth will Joe, the girls and Mr. Washie carry on? I don't know. These are things that are not being discussed. We are nervously avoiding the issue (along with the idea the Joe would need to get up at 7:30 in the morning for several days running, a feat that has no precedent for record producer/musicians). I think it's going to get all Lord of the Flies pretty quickly.

Nervous? Petrified. I can't shake the feeling that I'm masquerading as an author and any minute now they are going to figure out who I really am and what my hair really looks like and that I'm really five foot nuthin and stark raving mad and rethink the whole thing. I don't know what would be worse, cancelling, or going through with it. The only thing I'm holding on to is that you aren't complete strangers (in that virtual buddy internet kind of way) and that hopefully at least one of you will smile at me, thus allowing me to get my arse into a chair, hold a pen and stop quaking long enough to smile back. No promises. At this moment I can promise high entertainment value at each and every one of these things, since there is an equal possibility that I will be talkative and emotionally present or that I will snap and run screaming into the street babbling about sock heels, my cat and looking for my mummy. You have to figure that's going to be entertaining either way.

Naturally, all this angst has led to maniacal knitting and spinning and a failure to reply to email and clean the house. Big surprise.

I sat down to navajo ply the singles I spun from Laurie's roving.


Since navajo plying isn't as easy as a regular ply, (for me, anyway) I really need a good reason to engage in it. Basically speaking, navajo plying is a long chain stitch with twist added to it. You tie a loop onto the bobbin leader, and then pull the next loop through it, over and over, letting the twist follow along. There's several clips and photos available where you can watch someone do this. Look here, and here for starters.

Disadvantages: (reasons why I don't navajo ply everything)

-it's not that easy, and takes a little more co-ordination than a regular ply
-the spun yarn is not as strong as a regular ply
-it's easy to "overply" if you have poor wheel control.
- it is less forgiving of uneven spinning than ordinary three ply.
-the "knots" (where you pull a new loop through) are visible, especially in a bulkier single. I don't really notice them in sock weight yarn, but they might bug somebody else.


-no leftovers, since you are plying from one bobbin of singles.
-none of the crazy making insanity where you end up making yourself squirrly trying to get your singles divided evenly onto three bobbins.
-It keeps your colours separate. Because it's a long chain, the colour changes in the single will be preserved, just 1/3 as long.
-it makes a three ply, and theoretically speaking, a three ply is sturdier.
-Done right, (which would mean "done by someone else") It's sort of impressive to watch.

As with all plying the wheel (or spindle) is spun in the direction opposite to the one you spun the singles with. I cannot stress enough the importance of remembering this, since screwing it up leads to an unspun tangled disaster from which there is little recovery. (Experienced spinners are cracking themselves up over this one...but I swear that no-one told me, and I'd never seen it done...and I recognize that it is not a credit to my intelligence that I didn't figure it out for a little while. Let's just leave how long "a little while" was to the imagination. I thought my wheel was broken. Dumbass.)

I use the setup in the picture above, with my lazy kate between my legs so that I can draw the singles straight up. Trial and error has led me to tension the kate with a complex series of wool washers and elastic bands. If I don't put a little resistance on the kate, when I pull the singles up through the loop the kate continues to spew singles at me and the twist kinks them up into little knots that are an enormous pain in the arse to pull cleanly through the loop. I also set the tension on the wheel pretty high, so that the wheel is pulling in one direction, the kate in another and nothing can get away from me. I can tell you from experience that if your singles are softly spun and/or very fine, you might want to forget everything I've just said about tension. These more fragile singles can't take the heat. They break repeatedly causing uncontrollable bursts of foul language and yarn that sucks.


Here you can see what I do with my hands (more or less...I'm not the most co-ordinated of souls, and the picture does not describe for you the parts where I'm clutching, grabbing and tangled.) I hold the loop open with one hand, pull the new loop through with the other, and use my pointer finger on my left hand to keep the whole thing from collapsing. (Usually. I refer you to the above statement where this well designed system breaks down)

During navajo plying I find it helpful to treadle very, very slowly. Especially while you are getting the hang. For reasons that I cannot explain (possibly a doorway to the ninth dimension is involved) less twist seems necessary to properly ply this way. It could be that it's taking the same number of treadles, but that I don't notice because my hands are so busy. Either way, slower treadling seems to be key.
(I have now typed the word "treadle" so many times that no matter how I type it, it looks completely wrong. It probably is.) When you are finished, the twist is set the same way as with any other yarn.


Beauty, eh?
I'm thinking now about what I'll knit with it. Socks for sure, but maybe not plain ones. Maybe fair isle with black, the colour shifting against it up the leg? I can't forget how lovely Laurie's were. Suggestions welcome. It would be a pity not to do it justice at this point.

I'm going to my guild meeting tonight. If you are there and you care (or would like to pretend you care), I'll have the book in my bag. If you promise to be careful I might let you hold it and look at some of the pages. Maybe.

Posted by Stephanie at March 16, 2005 2:01 PM