Little Golden Notebook

Where fiber art, inspiration, and words meet.

Iris, the CSM, and Other News

Although I’m having trouble getting going with my CSM, I’ve named it Iris, after Iris Murdoch, the author & philosopher. (Philosopher? I didn’t know that, which means I don’t really know Iris Murdoch’s work other than having read The Sea, the Sea, which I loved.)

Oh trouble, set me free
I have seen your face
And it’s too much, too much for me” –Yusef (aka Cat Stevens)

Oh yeah, I’ve got a little bit of trouble. Certainly nothing compared to many in the world today and I have a plan to conquer it: perseverance. What? What’s going on?

I took Iris apart following a very helpful video, except I also completely unscrewed the tension knob while the video was paused just before the maker declares “Whatever you do, don’t touch the tension knob!”

Well, I touched it. It, the V-cam, regulates the stitch length and determines tightness of the thing that turns around the cylinder holding the needles. Fun. From everything I’ve watched and read, tension is really tricky to set. So if you get a new or new-to-you CSM,

don’t touch the tension knob!

(I feel like they should have said that at the beginning of the video but okay, maybe it’s my bad for not watching the whole hour-plus-long video before beginning Iris disassembly.)

I haven’t been able to use the new split-ring cast-on bonnet I received last week (or the week before last?) despite many, many tries, with a lot of tries ending with me frustrated and walking away to cool off before trying again.

In the foreground are my thumb and index finger holding a metal CSM needle (it looks like a latch hook needle). In the background is the CSM, the stool it's attached to, and some machine oil.
A broken needle

So this happened. I decapitated a needle. Thankfully Iris came with a slew of old and new needles (neatly separated) but I’m worried I’ll damage or have damaged her. So when I discovered this needle last week, I immediately backed off on doing much with it and have been watching videos and reading for clues about how to proceed.

I figured out that the tighter the tension knob is, the looser the stitches, which is the opposite of what modern life as a technical writer conditions me to intuit: tighter knob should equal tighter stitches, right? If you think about things from a an end-user usability perspective, not from a machine design perspective, that sure holds true. As a result, I have dialed down the knob (instead of loosening it) but still haven’t had success using my split-ring cast-on bonnet. I’ll keep looking for a solution, though!

In other CSM news, I ordered a few things so I can wind my yarn onto cones. (Iris reportedly prefers yarn wound onto cones which would have become a problem by now if I had figured out how to cast on using my new split-ring bonnet.)

A simple machine with a small circle and a big circle with a handle. The drive band goes around both of these. It's black-painted cast iron (I think - cast metal, at least) with some wear and rusty spots. From the other side of the machine, a tapered wooden rod extends from the machine, from fat near the base by the drive band, which admittedly isn't visible, to almost a point. It's mounted to my standing desk contraption that sits on my regular (and messy) desk.
The antique spool winder

First, I ordered a new band for the antique cone winder that came with Iris via Angora Valley. The cone winder originally had a leather drive band that presumably wore through a long time ago. I also ordered two more cylinder springs for my two extra cylinders (the spring keeps the needles in their slots on the cylinder). Of course one of the cylinders already has a spring – oh well, I have a backup now.

I’d happily use this spool winder except I don’t have any spools that would fit it. I’m thinking of modifying some cardboard paper towel rolls to fit the shape and wind onto them, but haven’t gotten that far. If anyone knows a spool source that might fit, let me know!

A drill attachment, a stack of cardboard cones, and a yellow DeWalt cordless drill on top of my standing desk and a messy Yarn Office in the background.
The drill attachment from Dean & Bean

I also ordered and received a cone winding kit from Dean and Bean. I have yet to try my hand at winding a cone because I can’t get Iris to cast on. (How many times have I said that? And I’m positive it’s user error, unless it’s the upthrow cams in my V-cam, which aren’t readily available.) I may have to resort to using the cast-on tool that came with the machine – it looks like a Medieval torture device or one of those scalp massagers they used to sell in mall kiosks.

Video of how to use the original cast-on basket

And using it looks tricksy.

In other knitting news, I started a throw blanket for my middle son. I realized after all this baby blanket knitting that I never knit him or his older brother blankets because I didn’t start knitting again until after they were born. And they never, ever wore sweaters growing up, so none of those. I did knit them bears when my youngest was still under a year old, but my older boys were 5 and 7 at the time and already attached themselves to other lovies.

Ethan's Blanket
Ethan’s blanket (alt text: a blue and white striped blanket on a table. One of the blue stripes is partially finished, with the remains of a yarn cake also on the table)

The blanket pattern is These Days Blanket by Fifty Four Ten Studio and can you guess what yarn I’m using?

Yes, that’s right, it’s Neighborhood Fiber Co Organic Studio Worsted. I just can’t give this yarn enough praise! Is it expensive? Yes, but I can (mostly) afford it and I’m making what I hope become functional heirlooms so I want to use something that will feel good long-term. I still cringe at my acrylic baby blanket that my Mom passed down to me many years ago for my boys, but don’t tell her or whoever made it, please: I know she used the best available and affordable to her at the time, which was acrylic. But the squeak … it makes me shudder.

At any rate, I didn’t calculate the yarn I needed for the stripes, which aren’t in the original pattern, and have run out of yarn. Oops! I ordered more this weekend, which also happened to be Rhinbeck/NY Sheep & Wool Festival. One of these years I will make it up to that festival but because I couldn’t and didn’t plan to go this year, three more skeins of Chromium ended up in my cart along with another skein of the blue yarn.

Chromium is a 69% silk wrapped around a 31% stainless steel core, so it somewhat holds shape. I’ve been experimenting with it, with earrings in mind.

Chromium Leaf
The leaf (alt text: A green knitted leaf on a page from a knitting book with three other knit leaves and knitting instructions visible)

I like the leaf and I don’t like the leaf. Chromium is lace-weight yarn so I held 2 strands together but the stitches still look too loose and empty; I think I would need at least a 4-5 ply (4 or 5 strands held together) to get the texture I’m looking for. Or some smaller needles, but I don’t trust myself with anything smaller than a size 0 (2mm) because I’ve already bent (but not broken) two DPNs.
My spiral (alt text: A lacy green spiral of yarn held up against a white wall)

I experimented with a spiral or Very Large Ruffle, which is really what a ruffle ends up being if you smooth the edges of it so they lay flat and the smaller, less voluminous sections. I like this but it was too time-consuming to make; I cast on somewhere around 40 stitches. I was focused on length but forgot the the outer bands of the spiral would add some length to it. I plan to try again with 10 stitches and see if that makes a more pleasing spiral. Then come the stitch pattern variations.

Finally, I’ve reached the end of my post … well, almost.

This is a picture of an empty 1,000 seat lecture hall at Tel Aviv University. On each seat is a photo of someone killed during the October 7, 2023 attack by Hamas. Please speak up about this and about your thoughts on the Israel-Hamas war. Many of my Jewish friends are noting the difference in our shiksha response to this in comparison to our non-Ukrainian response to Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine. Your Jewish friends need to know you support them, it’s important: the silence sounds like anti-semitism.

My thoughts: I’m hoping for (demanding?) peace to minimize civilian casualties on both sides. I do think Israel is within its rights to go after Hamas. I don’t think it’s right that Hamas is basically using human shields (no big surprise there) nor do I think it’s right that those shields be sacrificed for some greater good.

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.
–Walt Whitman

I don’t think the two wars are comparable yet the comments on the reaction to the Israel-Hamas war are warranted – I see silence in the media, silence online, and I haven’t been around people enough to know if it’s a topic of conversation but suspect it’s not. Please: make a topic of conversation; your Jewish friends need to hear your support for them and will thank you.


2 responses to “Iris, the CSM, and Other News”

  1. sixthirteen Avatar

    I don’t know what to say about your knitting thing-a-jig because fussing with it looks like hell and it kind of reminds me of some medieval torture device! 🤣 But I will say kudos to you for knitting a blanket for your bebe out of quality yarn. I think most of us gen x’ers have a few too many of those acrylic monstrosities lying around that (while our moms and Granny’s might have lovingly knit them) we can’t bear to use or display them where someone (including ourselves) might have to see them. So many fiber crimes committed in the 70’s and 80’s. 😆

    1. Fiber crimes!!! That’s perfect! I don’t want to commit any more of them than necessary – that’s kind of what today’s post is about. Thanks for reading, Val! The machine is kind of a medieval torture device but for the mind not the body, lol!

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