Anyone who is a Ravelry members is surely by now aware that the Ravelympics have officially begun, as of 8/8/08. The Ravelympics, for those not into fibre sports, consists of setting a personal goal(s) to be accomplished during the duration of the Beijing Olympiad. The official start time is whenever the actual start time for the Opening Ceremonies would be in the competitor's time zone (there's a world time converter on Ravelry, for those who need it as much as I did!) and will conclude at the Closing Ceremonies. For my time zone, that meant I could actually have begun at 5 am on the 8th, and will conclude at 8:59 pm on the 24th. I must admit that I did not start until 8 pm that evening while actually watching the Opening Ceremonies - the 8th was a work day after all, and I was A) far too sleepy to get up a 1/2 hour earlier than usually to begin, and B) not even remotely prepared yet.
But I have commenced on my personal challenge, which is to spin up 16 ounces of the 1 kilo (2.2 lbs) of beautiful vanilla merino top my Dad brought me from New Zealand a few years ago. I've already spun up 15 ounces of the deep brown Perendale he brought me, and once I finish the comparable amount of white I will make some pillows for his mountain house as a (somewhat overdue) thank you. I need to spin up 4 oz every 4 days on average to just spin up all the fibre; plying it as well will be a bonus. I'm going to be visiting my Dad next weekend for a long weekend and plan to take my wheel so hopefully I will get lots done and maybe get a little ahead of myself time-wise.
In the spirit of setting a personal challenge that requires a stretch of skills as well as a time commitment, I am trying something new. I use a variation of a backwards short-draw spinning technique, in which I control the fibre supply with my left hand and use my right forefinger and thumb to control the twist. This results in a strong pinching action in my right hand which over time makes that hand and wrist very tired. My new technique is this - I have a slight tendency to being ambidextrous and have experimented with reversing the hands while I spin - in other words, controlling the twist with my left hand instead of my right. It's become fairly easy to do with carded rovings but is a bit more of a challenge with a slippery smooth top as in this New Zealand merino. My technique is definitely a little different, and I lose the end of my yarn much, much more often this way, but about 1/2 a bobbin into the project I'm beginning to get the hang of it. The hardest part is resisting my perennial tendency to under-spin.
Other non-sports related news - I finished the Our Road Together scarf and it's beautiful. Jezebel is kindly modeling it for me here. I finished the scarf with a full repeat of the lace plus 4 rows of garter stitch, and had 12 1/2 inches of yarn left over. Once blocked the finished length is 62", which is exactly what I hoped for. My personal theory is that the ideal scarf length is the same as one's height - bingo on this one! The yarn is really beautiful - hand-dyed with natural dyes - and has subtle variations in tone. As is usual with vegetable dyes, the colour has a mellow patina that is very elegant and beautiful.
I've also been doing some sewing for little girls, and have indulged in all the pink, lace, and frills I can find. My niece Madi's 3rd birthday is coming up soon so I made her a jumper and blouse with two sets of matching bloomers. Too cute for words. The blouse and 1 set of bllomers is dotted swiss (the real woven kind, not flocked-on dots) with a pink embroidered eyelet for the jumper and 2nd set of bloomers. The lace is a scrap I've had from a fabric store I worked at in the 1980's - well aged stash by now, one might say. Madi's still small around but height-wise is about right for her age, so I hope the bloomers will work if she has dresses that still fit circumference-wise but perhaps are getting too short.
A 2nd sewing project was a gift for Suzanne - a museum colleague who is leaving for a new job this week. Suzanne has been a big supporter and very dear friend at the museum, and I wanted to give her something special as a farewell gift. She has a daughter who's just turned three, and she has always expressed admiration for a dress I made Madi long ago out of a fabric featuring a print of little 1930's style paper dolls and dresses. I had just enough of the paper doll fabric for part of the dress, but not all of it. But I ended up with a lot of the pink eyelet from Madi's dress to combine with the paper doll print, and ended up with something that I think Suzanne will like.