Archive for November, 2007

Icarus II


Somewhere, in my house, rests a zip-top bag with 250 blocking pins. Can I find it? Of course not. Good thing the blocking wires were out in the open!

You’ll recall (or maybe not) that I knit the Icarus Shawl last May, using Claudia’s Handpainted silk laceweight. It came out beautiful, of course. Then, in September, I started another Icarus, this time using Baruffa Cashwool. The yarn caught my eye one day while I was at the local yarn shop, and I purchased it thinking that it would look fabulous on my mother.

Last Friday, the shawl looked like this. The stockinette portions were finished, with all of the lacework still to go.


At that point, the realization that I would be seeing Mom soon hit, along with the intense desire to cast on another complex project. So, Saturday, I sat down to knit, and Sunday night, 18 knitting hours later, the thing was finished.


I loved the Baruffa. It was a bit of a pain to wind, but the stitch definition is great, it blocked well, has a lovely drape and feels wonderful. I don’t typically think of laceweight yarn as being soft and cuddly, but this really is. The blocked shawl just floats through the air.

I’ve actually been on something of a finishing streak, having completed 4 projects within the past week. I tend to work in cycles like this. Of course, the camera, the computer, and WordPress can’t seem to cooperate to upload all of the pictures today, so I might have more photos after Thanksgiving. Sufficient to say, there’s some fun stuff going on around here!

A sneak peak at my next shawl:


I’ve also cast on for the Venezia pullover, also for Mom. Why do I do so much stuff for Mom? Because I know that she will appreciate the work for itself (not just because it came from her daughter), she will take care of it, and because I can predict her tastes!

Just for fun, here’s one last photo, of my husband cooking breakfast for me. We had a great time camping last weekend and attending Kid ‘N Ewe. Note that when you tell a non-crafty person that you attended a “fiber festival,” it’s good to make sure that they know that you are talking about sheep and not whole grains. My doctor and I had a very funny misunderstanding yesterday!



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This post is mostly for my students, although of course anyone who is interested can read!

Once again, a warning: If you are feeling the slightest inclination to take a screwdriver to your own instrument, STOP. Back away from the horn. Do not try this at home. One of the reasons that this instrument that I am working on needed so much work is that someone tried to take it apart without knowing what he was doing. This of your horn as you would your car: It’s great to change your own oil, but you wouldn’t crack open your engine or transmission without knowing exactly what you were doing, would you? Well, it’s good to be able to change out your strings and oil your own horn, but leave those valves alone.

The horn I’m working on is a Yamaha 664D, about 12 years old. I haven’t been able to play it yet, so I can’t tell you much more. It’s a Geyer wrap horn. This means that the tubing is wrapped a little differently from Conn 8Ds or Holton horns, which most of my students play. When I get the horn put back together, I might take a photo of it and my own Conn side by side so you can see the difference.

This horn has a detachable bell. The bell screws off for storage and transport. This means that the case can be either flat, or very compact, like this, for travel.


Here is the actual rotor valve:


You can see how it slides down into the valve casing, where it can rotate around in the horn.


Here I have one valve inserted into the middle casing – you can see the top spindle shaft poking up. (The valve is only inserted part way into the casing.) The right-most valve also has the back head bearing plate, which goes over the top of the spindle. If you’re lost and trying to figure out which parts I’m referring to, pull out your copy of the Farkas book and look at page 9.


Here are the parts of the valve, laid out in the order that they sit in the horn. The parts that go on the bottom are on the left. They are, in order from left to right, the stop arm retaining screw, the stop arm and some more retaining screws, the stop plate with corks, the valve spindle, and the back head bearing plate.


And lastly, here’s my whole work area. You can see all of the slides, waiting patiently over by the fireplace.


Our landlord has been doing some work on our house, and I have everything from one closet piled in our guest bathroom. As soon as he’s done, I’ll be able to put those things away and then wash out the horn in the guest bathtub, to get rid of all of the heavy oils I used to get the horn apart (the valves were frozen). Then I’ll lubricate and reassemble the instrument, and give it a test play.

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I have 40 French horn pieces scattered across my living room. dscn0749.jpg

A  note of warning: I am a trained professional. (Just ask about my student loans!) Do not attempt to do this at home. No, I’m serious. Never, ever attempt to disassemble a rotor valve unless you have been taught how by someone who knows what he or she is doing. You can ruin the instrument faster than you can play a C major scale.

One of my friends asked me to take a look at her horn. Her father tried unsucessfully to fix it some time ago. (See the note above about not messing with rotor valves. Just say no.) She gave it to me Thursday, I brought it home, took off all the strings, applied a little oil, and… nothing. Three of the valves were frozen fast.

Off I went on Friday to the hardware store for some penetrating oil and a mallet. Luck was mine, as all of the slides pulled out just fine. I took off everything I possibly could, laid down some towels, and started applying oil. I poured in oil, tapped on a few spots, waited an hour, tested the valves, poured in more oil, forced it in with air pressure from the valve slides, waited a few more hours, tested, poured in more oil, pulled and tugged in a few places… and voila, a spindle started to slide out! Ten minutes and a few taps later, I had the whole thing apart.


It’s resting comfortably on the living room floor, waiting for a nice soak in the tub tomorrow, followed by massive lubrication, reassembly, restringing, some slide grease, a little more oil, and a test play.

Lest anyone think that I’ve been idly experimenting on innocent French horns all week, here’s the balance of my works in progress.

A few yards of laceweight merino/silk blend, all spun, plied, washed and ready for swatching:


Icarus continues to grow, ever-so-slowly. It would help if I worked on it a little more; it’s last on my priority list at the moment, unfortunately. I know Mom is waiting impatiently.


Socks, in a three by three rib with brioche stitch. The socks are also low on the priority list, but they get worked on a little more often because they fit in my purse and don’t require concentration. I’ve discovered that both the credit union and pharmacy lines start moving a lot faster when I pull out and start knitting on a sock. Perhaps they think that my obvious display of boredom is a poor advertisement of their service?


The Green Tea Raglan, halfway seamed! The pieces are blocked and the raglans seamed. I only need to seam down the sides and arms, massage a few bits around the neck and re-block!


And, the project currently getting my highest level of attention, Santa #4!  He’s finally moving along.


Better photos next time, I promise. As you can see, I’ve been a little busy!

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