Wednesday, August 29, 2012


I am a spinner, for those of who do not not know. I do not tend to blog about my crafty pursuits here, which is a little odd as I think that most of you reading enjoy crafting too. Anyway, not much is going on here in Madrid. August is a time when the residents are on vacation and the tourists pour in by the bus load. A lot of businesses (in the non-touristy areas) are closed, and it is a very lazy month. The heat does not help, and it has been in the 100-106F° (38-42C°) range for most of the month.

I plan to go on more adventures tomorrow (if I can get over this breathing trouble/cold that I having first). But today's post will be all about my spinning recently, so if that does not interest you feel free to come back soon for more adventures.

I have been doing a lot of spinning, for some reason in the heat it is easier to spin then knit. Some of these projects are projets that I started a long time ago.

For example this one:
About a year ago I ordered a "tastet box" from a Spanish seller. I felt like spinning Merino and silk and these blends from Ashford are so pretty. I roughly split the “tastlets” in half and then spun the singles in the same color order. I was hoping to get stipes with a pleasing mixture of the two colors in between the main stripes. It did not quite work out like I wanted (I had more singles on one bobbin then the other) so I had to break the singles at one point and do some creative plying.
It is so tweedy and soft, I love it. I got 1024.5 meters out of 200 grams.

It came out heavy fingering weight, and I am making a top down pullover out of it. I think the stripes are turning out just like I wanted them too.

This next yarn is one I might use to finish the jumper above if I need more yardage (and sleeves). I got this from my favorite UK supplier, World of Wool. It is a blended colorway, Lynx. I spun this during the Tour De Fleece and during all of my travels around the world this summer. I took spindles with me in my checked luggage, and did not have much time to spin, so this was basically what I spun during the "tour". I spun my usual spinning method (on spindle or on the wheel) a long attenuated draw. I was enchanted with the yarn as singles, then horrified with it, as I was plying it looked like the industrial carpets you see in public schools in the States! Now after finishing the yarn I am again in love. We shall see how it knits up.

100% BFL wool, in the color-way Safari. I got this wool as a present from a lovely friend. I wanted to do a quick spin so I decided to spin heavier then I usually do. I do not have much worsted weight yarn in the stash anyway. I separated out all of the colors as best I could to make the color runs longer, i.e. I spun all of the purple parts at once, and all off the purple/coral parts next etc.. I spun semi-woolen and chain plied. I have not perfected this method and there are thick spots and thin spots. I should pre-draft more the sections that are dyed with the darker color, they are always more condensed, no matter who the dyer is. (Just to make things clear Three Waters Farm has an excellent dyer and this was by no means felted wool.)

This was another ongoing project. I got this Polworth top at the Carolina Fiberfest the one time I had an opportunity to go (it is a charming fiber festival). I have been spinning this off and on for about 2.5 years. Spun on both, drop spindles and supported spindles, long draw. I used this yarn to test out a lot of spindles that I made. I plied (2 ply)this with a hard twist on my kiwi spinning wheel. It is a lace weight, 576 meters out of I believe 100grams. I think that I will leave this un-dyed and make a lace shawl. The yarn is very soft and perfect for lace with the right grist, plying angle, number of plies, everything.

This next fiber I got as part of a swap. I spun thick and thin singles of the natural colored gray BFL/Silk (75/25%) on my wheel and then plied with heavy (2ply would make worsted weight) Polworth singles (same Polworth fiber as above, just spun thicker) spun on a turkish spindle. I got 195 meters out of 125grams. This is truly a thick and thin yarn and I have no idea what to do with it. But one day the perfect project well come along.

These next yarns I spun from Part of a Rare Breed Fleece sampler from "lanitium ex machina" on Esty a UK Dyer. I got 5 different 50 grams samples from 5 different rare breeds. I picked the "Autumnal" palate and she dyed in whatever Autumnal colors she choose. The colors are beautiful, the Welsh wool was full of wiry guard hairs or vegetable matter and too hard to spin, hence you will only see four types of wool. I spun them all bulky and long draw. Since long draw is my favorite method of spinning I wanted to compare them all using the same spinning methods. All are two ply.

From the cutest sheep of them all, Cheviot. This yarn tended to want to be spun thinner then the others. I like the feel of the finished yarn more then I thought that I would. It is bouncy and yet crisp. This is not next to the skin soft. 61.5 meters.

Norwegian, This wool took to being spun wollen much better then I ever would have thought. It is my understanding that long wools do not spin well using long draw. The fibers have a tendency to stick out more in a woolen yarn, and a long wool has longer fibers to stick out. Imagine my surprise when there was only a fiant halo. I really enjoyed spinning this fiber and if I could think of a project to use the yarn in I would gladly spin more. (It is not next to skin soft either.) 34.5 meters. 

Cotswold, I enjoy the shine of this one. Like the others it is not next to skin soft, instead it has a very stratifying crunchy feeling. It is a lot more bouncy then I would have expected too. The halo is more pronounced. 40.5 meters

South African wool. Very soft, it is in the micron count range that I am used to spinning. The wool spun woolen very well, i.e not much fuzz on the surface of the wool. I would spin more of this yarn in a heartbeat. 40.5 meters.

I had another 100 gram braid of Cheviot from another UK dyer, Dye Spin Knit UK. I decided to spin it bulky, it came out super bulky, in the same manner as the other long wool breeds. Maybe I can make a rug out of these yarns. 61.5 meters

Next, a special blend that they have at World of Wool, the "Glitzy" series the ruby color-way. There is a sizable amount of rainbow angelina mixed in with dyed merino wool. Which makes this a flashy yarn. This yarn I spun Worsted, which is not my favorite method but seemed to be the only way that I could trap the angelina in the yarn. It did come out a lot more even (the same grist through-out) then I am used to. This yarn is aran weight 126 meters out of 100 grams.

I am thinking of starting a Spanish Spinning blog, maybe a business, more on that as it happens.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Two museums - a review

As a matter of journaling I am going to do a quick review of two museums here in Madrid. We went to these two museums within two days of each other.

In full disclosure I would like to point out that I am not a fan of renaissance art (to each their own). There is almost nothing I like about the paintings of that era. I know that I am in the minority here, as the Prado is the most famous museum in the city, I am just pointing out my tastes so that you might have an idea of how my tastes differ from yours. 

Spain has a LOT of Renaissance art. I have made two little games to amuse myself as I walk through the many galleries that hold this art. In the first game - I look for sheep, I like sheep, I am a textile artist. For the second game I look for the bared breast. For some reason even if it is a most "proper" painting there is always a servant around having a "wardrobe malfunction". It is still funny (to me) if I turn to my husband and whisper "my! It was it windy that day".

The first museum is within walking distance of us. Museo Lazaro Galdiano is a somewhat small out of the way museum that we only knew about because it is to be seen from the bus on the way downtown.

It has a sheep!

I like this museum a lot. There is something for everyone. The man, whom the museum was named after, collected everything. Limber your neck up before you go though, the museum is in what was his house (he is now deceased) and there are paintings on every ceiling. The molding work is spectacular too. The mansion itself is a work of art. For those of you wondering, why yes that are mostly renaissance style paintings. However, he personalized the paintings to the room and for his family (ie, reading room, music room, dressing room) so they are worth the neck crick.

That is my husband hiding behind the tree. I guess he wanted to be on the blog, I did warn him that I could see him.

There are very impressive collections, of books, jewelry, statues, and watches. Very nice furniture is scattered around the house. I found an fancy antique brass bobbin winder on the second floor that I covet, and they had a temporary textile exhibit. 
It was an exhibit on weaving and it was nice to see very old, very decorated fabric, but the best part was the video. I usually do not sit down and watch videos in museums, but I am glad I watched this one. Although it was in French with Spanish subtitles (a fact that gave me mental strain) it was fascinating. It was about a man in France that was dedicating his life to learning about traditional weaving so that he could carry on the tradition and teach others, which is a cause near and dear to my heart.

It is definitely worth the trip. It is probably 20 minutes by bus outside of the city center. The entrance fee was only €6.

There is this cool vertical garden growing on a wall right next to the Caxia Forum.

The second museum was the Caxia Forum. La Caxia is a Catalonian bank, in adherence to a law in Spain about giving back to the community if you make a certain amount of profit, they have at least two free Museums (the other one I know of is in Barcelona). Because it is free, it is a good museum to go to if you are unsure wether or not you like the artist/style. There is no permeant collection, so every few months there is two new exhibitions to see. 
It is a beautiful space with nice galleries and one of the best museum gift shops I have eve seen. It is also on the Paseo del Prado near and on the same side as, the Renia Sofia . Walk north from the Renia Sofía on the Paseo del Prado and look for the vertical garden, then the museum is the oxidized building on your left.

So there are my thoughts, for what they are worth.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


So we are back out of Chueca. 
Side note - it is not as fun, in the heat after it has not rain for a long time.

Again a picture heavy post, which should be ok as people keep telling me that they enjoy my photos. The photos of the rooftop statues are not the best quality because I had to zoom in so much.

Modern design meets old, one reason to love living in a big European city.

I think this guy is riding a swan.

Another reason to love living in Europe is all of the statues and faces you can find carved in the buildings.

The building on the right is very interesting, the building on the left has a very famous sign on it.

An unexpected, pretty plaza.

Again modern meets old. We really have to come down here more to eat. there is such a verity of different types of restaurants.

A nunnery downtown.

The plaza surrounding the nunnery.

Read this t-shirt (click to enlarge). I hope it is a case of translation going wrong. I was tempted to buy it, but I would never wear it.

The oldest book store in Madrid is by the Monastery. It is also very small, the guy (who I do not know) is good to show the scale.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

a walk through Chueca

On Sunday it was decided to go downtown and explore more. I took a ton of pictures and will share them with you through two posts.

Things are going well with me I have been Spinning, looking for jobs, surviving over 100F heat, and practicing Spanish. I have recently gotten more opportunities to go out and explore. Expect a museum  review, or two, coming up soon.

OK on to the picture heavy post. Chueca is a neighborhood just North of Grand Vía downtown. It is known as a party neighborhood, and it is not a neighborhood that a conservative US citizen should take their children through. Chueca is an openly gay, openly adult neighborhood, much the same as parts of the French Quarter in New Orleans.

Starting out, Madrid has a LOT of metal sculptures on the tops of the buildings. I tried to take a many pictures as possible to show you how many are in a small area (remembering that the next post is of the same walk).

Even though we are by Chueca I think that is his sword.
The buildings downtown are gorgeous.

A cathedral.

If you go to the left in this photo you get to the heart of Madrid and Spain (kilometer 0), Puerta de Sol,  if you go to Chueca.

We saw a random sign of somebody knitting! I am pretty sure that it is an ad for the ad agency that it was hanging in front of.

I love this street name. "The street of the virgin of the dangers".

This was the street of the restaurant we ate at. This was my new word of the day. Clavel = Carnation.

I think that this hotel is exactly what you are probably thinking that it is.

Spain is good at picaresque plazas.

The entrance to this parking structure is the red ribbon of the fight against AIDs. I love it, how clever.

Tomorrow, more photos.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Long hot summer

Not much has been going on here in Madrid after our travels. We have caught up with friends, met some new people, tidied up, and got back into some sort of routine.

My routine is exactly what it was last summer, and I am trying desperately not to fall into that state of reclusion that I was in last year. I have three major things on my to do list everyday, excluding the errands of daily life.

I will inter mix my routine explanation with some pictures I took the other day at the Nuevos Ministerios Metro station. These penguins are all over town, and I was pleased to find this pleasant little collection while I was running my errands.

My favorite, I love simple line drawings.

1.) Practice Spanish. Better Spanish, better job. Or at least easier to find a job, but I have to be basically fluent in both languages in most jobs of that description. I can communicate, but I am not fluent, and communication is rarely easy. When it is easy it always surprises me. 

I have a good set of Spanish grammer books written in Spanish. Watching the Olympics helps a bit, as the comments are, of course, in Spanish. I am trying to watch Spanish tv (non-Olympic) for at least an hour a day to try to increase my speed of comprehension. I am again trying to slog my way through a Spanish novel. Whenever I can remember to I talk to DH only in Spanish.

 I am painfully aware of how clumsy and slow I am when talking in my new language and it is discouraging. There is a "sweet spot" where you warm up and that words seem to flow almost easily, but you have to get past the clumsy bit first. This includes reading. Sometime I have to just pick up the novel and slog long for a page or so, barley knowing what is going on before I hit the "sweet spot". It is tricker with novels though because my mind has a tendency to wander if I hit a patch of vocabulary that I do not know. Then I have to start all over again.

All of them in a row

2.) Look for jobs.
Anyone who has ever done this knows what a tedious process this is. Add to it that fact that I am in a country in a economic crisis, that 80% of this country is currently taking the month of August off (no this is not an exaggeration) and there is the language barrier. The last thing that makes this search difficult is that there are not many official places where jobs are posted (at least not that I have found). so you end up trolling around until you find something.
I could go back to my other job in September if I want. This is something I would rather not do and does add some terrible motivation to my search.

A Sevilla penguin

3.) Try not to go crazy. Ouff, this one is hard. With everything closed and the weather so very hot, it is going to be 107F° or 42C° today it is hard to make the effort to go out. I like to get things done (ie study and look for jobs) in the morning, which means I either brave the heat in the afternoon or I am a recluse. Something has to change. I will keep tweaking my routine until it does and see if that helps. Going to the center of town and to museums IS always an option. However, as the people of Madrid leave in the city in mass exodus for some reasons the tourists from other countries come here. The museums will be crowded. DH goes out of town next weekend, and I fear for my sanity. I really wish my apartment was bigger, It really can not hold more then four people comfortably, and that is total. Good thing I am obsessed with all things craft, I will have to throw myself into it.

I liked this one a lot too. It is very Pacific Northwest to me.

On hot days in August in Spain there is only one thing to do.
Please keep in mind that this blog is acting as a "journal" for me. Some people read my journal entries as complaining and not as just fact. I am not unhappy in Spain, life is pretty good. I am just blogging the difficulties so that one day I can look back and see how much better things are.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Barcelona a quick trip

After a day of rest after Germany we boarded a 5:50am AVE to Barcelona. I took this photo about 30 minutes into the trip as the some came p over the hills. Sorry about the smudge on the window. But if you click to enlarge, it is a good picture.

It was HOT and we were tired, so we did not do much on Tuesday. It was a good lesson on humidity as it was 10C degrees cooler in Barcelona but feel 10C degrees hotter.

I spent Wednesday morning with just my Sister-in-law, yarn shopping. The Corte Ingles has a yarn section so we stopped by there as well and I was able to show my SIL something that she had never seen in her own city: the amazing view from the cafeteria on the top floor. I have included a video. Yes that rather slow and bad Spanish speaker is me. It is just as good with the volume down. 

Wednesday evening we went on a quick hike in the hills by my SIL's apartment. She lives in the hills behind the resent shape of Barcelona. Therefore when she goes hiking there is a very good view. This is the Northern side of the city.

The middle part with the Olympic torch in the center of towards the green bit. Of course this photo also includes the all important Camp Nou, where the Barça team plays.

As we were walking back I could not help but to take some pictures of the sun setting over the hills. I think that the umbrella pines make a dramatic accent.

This one came out well as well. The camera on my phone is alway amazing me. All of the photos in this post were taken with my Iphone 4s

The next day we went to my favorite park in all of the world. This park Parc de Labirint d'horta. It is an old garden with many different areas. It might be one of my favorites because of the romance of my husband taking me here on my first trip to Barcelona. I think that in all the times that I have been to Barcelona I have only missed going to this park once.

It was hot, but still pretty.

I do not know how I missed this before. At the entrance to the Labyrinth there is this statue recording the handing of the string to Theseus so that he could find his way out of the maze of the Minotaur. DH had to explain this as I was not thinking and very excited about the "handing of the string" plaque. Haha

A close up of the famous string. What must strangers think of my blog now?

The Statue was trimmed with rams too!

I will leave you with a view of the sea and the city from the park.