Wednesday, May 09, 2007


I've been pondering the stunning colorway of Ray Whiting's new "Carina" yarn, inspired by the Carina Nebula, and available on his web store, Knitivity. Right up front I have to admit that I am beyond admiration. I deeply and profoundly envy (but in a good way) Ray's skill with capturing color in the dyepot:

I knit seriously. I spin seriously.

But with dye? I am on the same skill level as a six-year-old at the kitchen table on Easter Saturday with a bunch of boiled eggs and those tiny plastic squeeze bottles of food coloring: Splat! Goop! Purple! Whee!

My creative energy has been drained lately (thus the dearth of posts) for various reasons, not the least of which is the process of writing grants, which consists of a tremendous amount of detail, and cost projections, and projected supply inventories. While I can competently perform number crunching tasks, they eat my soul. I'm much, much better at the persuasive part -- why Giant Philanthropic Foundation, Inc., should give me money to open a non-profit spay/neuter clinic. But somebody has to do the numbers, and right now the grant-writing staff consists of me, moi and yo.

So this evening when I got home, I realized that part of my creative block has been a lack of balance: lots of exhaustive attention to minute details at work. Chores at home. Bills to pay. A knitting project on a deadline, which has now been met. Charting out an original lace pattern and writing it out in line-by-line form so knitters of both verbal and visual inclinations can use the instructions. Proofreading the pattern. Gah!

Lots of fastidious, detailed things. Lots of micro.

I realized I hadn't had any playtime. No macro.

So I lit some incense to clear the air and I made this:

And I shamelessly admit to being a copycat, at least insofar as pirating other people's sources of inspiration. All day long I have been thinking: nebulae. What a great inspirational source. I have always loved how nebulae look like gargantuan pre-dyed fleeces waiting to be spun by some cosmic hand.

(Note to self: add nebula-spinning to do-list in afterlife)

Anyways, I perused my large plastic kitty litter buckets of oddments, scraps and partial balls, and I looked for a nebula to inspire me, and I glommed on this one, which is a closeup section of the Dumbbell Nebula:

Photo courtesy of

I wasn't ready for a dyeing adventure, but I was very much ready for an adventure in tying random bits of yarn together, and then plying them into a chunky three-ply to be knit up on really fat US17 needles -- an outside-the-box creative exercise for me, as my favorite needle size range is US one through five.

So here is a swatch. The colors in the first picture (above, on the niddy-noddy) are much more true to the actual yarn, although the green bits are a bit obscured. While everything looks a bit washed out in the picture below, you can see a swatch on the needles, and you can also see my groovy niddy-noddy from New Zealand without any yarn on it:

The niddy noddy is supposed to resemble a dolphin. I also like it because it has a handle, and it stands up on its own on the flukes when you set it down. Sadly, I bought this about 15 years ago, and I cannot remember the name of the namufacturer to save my life, though at the time I was buying most of my knitting and spinning supplies from ethnic and indigenous sources.

Total yarn: 82 meters, 3ply.

Approximate method: Trust chaos. That is the first and only rule. Trust the random and use a weaver's knot to secure the end of one oddment to the beginning of another.

Assembly: Choose a range of yarn oddments in a pile of coordinating and/or complimentary colors that inspire you. Divide by type: textured yarn (eyelash, chenille, etc) ... ribbon-type yarn (ladder, ribbon, mesh, metallic, etc.) ... and smooth yarns (various thicknesses and colors). It's good to have a little of everything: bits of metallic and bits of weird nubby yarn to throw in at random. You can use everything from a few inches to a partial ball of leftover yarn.

Close your eyes, and grab a small leftover ball from the first pile. Let's say it's eyelash. Now grab a yarn of a different texture (say, chenille). Attach and start winding that onto the first ball. When you run out, randomly choose another textured yarn, making sure only that it is not exactly the same as the previous yarn. You might alternate eyelash, chenille, a fuzzy yarn, some loopy mohair, more eyelash, more chenille, some boucle, some eyelash.

Do not try to arrange or graduate or blend colors or textures. Your choice must be random. The only rule is not to repeat an identical texture or color. Reach into the pile, randomly grab an oddball, and use it. You may only make an alternate choice if you managed to grab two yarns of the same texture or color in sequence.

When you run out of textures, do the same with smooth colored yarns, randomly tying one to another.

When you run out of smooth colored yarns, go through your ribbon and ladder scraps in the same way. You should have your metallic bits (whatever type or texture) in this pile.

Now you have three balls: a texture ball, a smooth-colors ball, and a ribbony/shiny stuff/ladder yarn ball.

Holding one end from each ball , start winding them together in a three-stranded ball. If one or more balls run short, add more yarn as needed ... just randomly tie any remaing oddments to the end, until all three balls have been wound into one big fluffy ball.

Note: you will not be able to do this on a mechanical winder. You will have to make the ball by hand.

Now grab some big needles. For starters, make a scarf. But the possibilities are endless: afghans, rugs, you name it. Use thicker needles if you like, or make thicker yarn.

This one is the beginning of an art piece, because all the oddment yarns were salvaged. Some salvaged embellishments will be added, and the end result will remain a secret until it it submitted to Artes Descartes.

More on that later.

And Ray? Thanks for the inspiration.


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At 12:10 PM, Anonymous Heidi said...

The niddy noddy is from Majacraft. See link below.

Sounds like the yarn was a lot of fun to create.

At 10:23 AM, Blogger SheepsPyjamas said...

I was going to ask about your groovy niddy -- I've seen them before on Majacraft's and other vendors' sites, but I've never seen one up close and personal, or even being used in a picture. Obviously, you like it -- is it easy to use? How does it compare to the more usual version?

And I love the chaos you were skeining -- chaos and infinity, anything goes and anything is possible....

At 4:48 PM, Blogger Scarlet said...

You're going to have to teach me to spin. I want to learn so bad, but I can't find anyone in Lafayette who does.

At 8:15 AM, Blogger Dez Crawford said...

Heidi, many thanks for the reminder that it was from Majacraft! I was totally stuck, one of those things I certainly OUGHT to remember, but you know how that goes.

Sheepspyjamas, I love the niddy-noddy. It is a tad heavier than a standard one but well balanced and it holds a lot of yarn, also it has a handle and is easy to unload.

Scarlett, I'd love to teach you to spin! Do you have a wheel or drop spindle?

Next time I make chaos yarn from oddballs, I will take "before" pictures, which I forgot to do. :-(


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