Monday, January 15, 2018

Everything’s coming up rainbows


I am so excited about my latest skein of handspun. It’s had a long gestation period, but it was totally worth it. This yarn started way back on October 1, 2017, when I took a class called “Handcarding the Color Wheel” with Beth Smith at the Spinning Summit. We started with combed top in red, blue, and yellow, and then we blended it to make 30 colors. IMG_6727


I got 2/3 of the carding done in class and finished making the last rolags at home. Then I admired them longingly for a long time. Earlier this month, I pulled out a little leftover fiber to make another rolag for sampling. I spun it long draw on my 14:1 whorl and chain-plied it. I had an easier time chain plying because I moved to a slower whorl (10.5:1) and really slowed down my treadling. I washed my little sample and decided I liked what I saw:IMG_7045


Then I started spinning my singles, carefully lining up my rolags so as to preserve the gradient. I feel like this project spun itself; I never wanted to stop because there was always something beautiful just beginning to appear on the wheel. Here are some shots I took as the singles bobbin filled:







And here is how the bobbin looked after chain plying:


So pretty! I pulled out my skein winder:20180113_101859


And then this skein had a nice, hot bath. The finished yarn weighs 87 grams and is 212 yards. Grist is 1105 yards/pound (not sure why I need that, but there you go). It is light and fluffy and beautiful. I don’t know how I’ll use it – maybe as part of a sweater. But if I want a specific amount of gradient yarn, I am now confident that I could make it if I started with dyed fiber!


Saturday, January 13, 2018

January knitting

It’s January, which means there’s a whole lot of pink yarn around here again. There will be many Women’s March Anniversary events next week, including a march in my tiny little town! I was in Washington, D.C., last year and am very excited that there is still enough energy to sustain an event right here at home.

Pink yarns from The Hendon Stash (it really deserves a proper noun) were bequeathed to me, and I started knitting. First up, a hat for a friend in Atlanta. This one used some very special Neighborhood Fiber Co. yarn, and I wanted to use every last inch of it. A kitchen scale allowed me to do just that:IMG_7064

Then I got to work making hats for my kids, who didn’t go to the big march in D.C. but will be marching at home this year. I’m almost certain that this was Cascade 220 Superwash, leftover from a blanket that our knitting group made for Caitlin a few years back. I ran out of the dark pink on the second hat, so I started striping some very pale pink. More stash consumed! IMG_7092


Then I heard about a colleague at work who needed a hat, so I knit him one. This is from Knit Picks Wool of the Andes, which jumped into my cart when I ordered some needles I needed:IMG_7094

I’m just going to keep on knitting pussyhats until 1/20. Someone will want them.

Before I turned to the pink yarn, I was making great progress on my ZickZack scarf. It is very hard to photograph in progress, but you can get the idea from these photos.IMG_7046


That yellow bit is really pooling around. I don’t like it! But fortunately, my mother (who saw it over Christmas) DOES like it, so she will be the recipient of this scarf when it is done. It won’t take long to finish it if I just devote some attention to it. If it weren’t for our President, it would have been done by now. (Of all the things to blame on him, haha!)

Next up will be an update on my rainbow yarn, which I finished this morning. I’m in love with it.

Sunday, January 7, 2018


If you’re a spinner and you’re on Instagram, there’s probably no way you don’t know about #wemakeyarn. Participants post daily in January and respond to these prompts:wemakeyarn

I’ve been playing along, and it’s a lot of fun.

There’s ANOTHER Instagram thing called #spin15aday2018challenge, which is exactly what it sounds like. I’ve been double dipping on these and challenging myself to spin a little bit EVERY DAY no matter what. We’re only a few days into the year, but I’m doing fine so far.

Here is my first handspun skein for 2018:IMG_7041

It’s made from Corriedale roving from the Sheepspot Fiber Club, The color is a dreamy purple-grey, hard to photograph but really beautiful in actual life. Roving begs to be spun long draw, which I love… but I did not love this particular fiber. It looked so innocent when it arrived:IMG_6955

But it just didn’t draft well! It was lumpy and sometime sticky, and just wouldn’t behave for me. I don’t know if these lumps were nepps from the commercial carding process, or second cuts perhaps… but I did not like seeing them.  Can you see them in this photo? IMG_7023

I pulled out my hand cards and worked at the fiber a bit more, thinking perhaps another round of carding would open it up and make it easier to spin. IMG_7025

I made a bunch of these, and that was fun… but the fiber was only a little bit easier to spin. In the end, I just worked through it. Here are my singles before plying:IMG_7034


In the end, I got a 3-ply skein of 136 yards and it weighs 85 grams. It’s a little more bumpy and lumpy than I would like. Oh well, it just looks extra handspun-y. IMG_7044

And now I can get started on the next project, about which I am SUPER excited. Rainbow rolags!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Ms. Fix-It (since 1981)

IMG_7058Recently, Boy 1 and I were perusing my old badge book from my days as a Girl Scout “Junior.” Back then, “Junior” meant grades 4-6 (I think).  He was really interested in some of the badges, including the one shown above. The range of topics covered by these badges is really impressive compared to the list of Boy Scout badges I see today – and it’s mind blowing when you consider that the edition I worked from was published in 1980. (This is an interesting and related read: Things Boys Could Learn at Girl Scouts NYT 10-13-17.)

Anyhoo, I have fond memories of working on Ms. Fix-It. That’s when my dad showed me how to change light bulbs, what everything in the fuse box meant and how to reset circuit breakers, what all the dials and lights on the car dashboard meant, and how to turn off the water in the house. I think he gave me some bonus lessons, as well – like how to check the oil in the car using the dipstick, and how to top it off if necessary. We were a “fix it yourself” family.

Late in the fall, I set myself a couple of knitting fix-it tasks. The first one was a simple toe replacement on a sock for Boy 1. I knew that darning a big hole near the toe would result in uncomfortable bunching when worn in a shoe, so I decided to just cut off the end and knit a new toe. I had to use contrasting yarn, though, since I already used the leftover blue yarn in my I Love Leftovers blanket!20171218_075731

The second fix-it was more involved. Remember this sweater? I knit it from special yarn that a friend got at a mill in France, and it was my first CustomFit pattern. I made it in 2014.grey1

Take a look at the sleeves. They are supposed to be 3/4 sleeves, but they are pretty short. They look okay in this shot, but every time I wore it, that turned hem nestled into my elbow crease and was uncomfortable. I found I wasn’t wearing the sweater, and that was a shame.grey6

But wait! I can fix it! The sweater was worked from the cuff up, so I couldn’t just unravel the cuff and knit the sleeve longer. Instead, I prepared for sweater surgery. First, I knit new cuffs (this time in 2x2 rib) and the lower sleeve. I CO 42 stitches and increased every 6 rows to get to 54, which is the number at the bottom of the old sleeve.

Next, I carefully ripped out the turned hem on the existing sleeve and took out some of the seam (the sleeves were worked flat originally – luckily, I seamed from the armholes down to the cuff, so this was pretty easy to undo):IMG_7028

Then I snipped a single stitch on the turning row (which was a purl row). I did this in the middle of the sleeve, not near either edge of the now-flat fabric:IMG_7029

I was able to unravel that entire row (half in one direction, half in another) using a tapestry needle for help. I placed the new, live loops on a needle. Ready to attach:IMG_7030

Then I worked kitchener stitch over those 54 stitches. I found that it was easier to get it right if I didn’t try to get it right at first. In other words, I intentionally worked the kitchener stitch a bit loosely, like this. IMG_7031

I came back around and tightened each stitch to ensure that the tension matched the fabric on either side perfectly. IMG_7032

Then I had to block the new sleeve extensions, so the fabric would match even better. This also helped with the re-seaming that was necessary, as the edges were curling quite aggressively. I didn’t wet the whole sweater, just the new parts of the sleeves:IMG_7033

And then I seamed up that last bit using mattress stitch. Done! Now this sweater is much more wearable. Sorry, no photos of me with it on. It is WAY too cold to go outside for a photo shoot (and way too sunny, too). Just trust me. The sleeves are the right length now!IMG_7057

That’s the cabinet where I keep my sock yarn, by the way. It is visible and accessible, right in my living room. I love seeing it all the time.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Making new and using old

I finished that little skein of handspun Polwarth-Silk – it feels so soft and lovely!20171213_080504

I spun all three pieces onto one bobbin and just separated them by a little bit of red fiber. 20171208_193202

Then I was able to wind them off onto separate storage bobbins before plying.IMG_6971

After my little sample, this large skein yielded 85 grams of 3-ply worsted-spun yarn, about 312 yards. I’m totally not sure what to do with it, but it’s done. It felt so good to return to my wheel.

Now for the older yarn. Some of the knitters in my group have made the ZickZack scarf – has that craze hit your neck of the woods yet? You are supposed to use two different self-striping yarns. The more different they are, the more spectacular the results. Kris and I decided to start ours over the holiday break, and I was just itching to choose yarn. I found every single skein (and partial skein) of self-striping yarn in my stash: IMG_6967

It was nighttime, sorry about the poor light. One of the most interesting things about this project is that everyone has completely different ideas about which colors to pick. I posted this on Instagram and got three different combinations, none of them using the same yarn! And none were what I was drawn to.

I start knitting with the Opal neon rainbow skein, which I planned to combine with the blue and brown Felici. As soon as I cast on, though, I started doubting my choice. This is a SCARF and it has to be soft. Opal sock yarn is rugged and toothy, not really neck material. So I went back to Ravelry to look some more.

That’s when I noticed that some people were using hand-dyed skeins that were not technically self-striping. HMMMM. I went back to my stash cabinet and looked for wild skeins that were also soft. Here is what I chose:IMG_6968

The green and purple skein is Knit Picks Stroll in a colorway called “Make Believe” – I think we’re supposed to think about fairies and princesses with the purple, and frogs with the green. It actually has quite a few different colors in it, which I like. I got it in 2009 (won it in a contest). The pink and yellow skein is Tess’ Super Socks and Baby. I bought it at MDSW in 2006!!!! 2006, people. I think I should get double points for using a skein this old. I never made it into socks because I knew it would pool like nobody’s business, but this seems like a good destiny for it. Both are merino/nylon blends, and the merino makes them a LOT softer than the Opal yarn.20171213_194530

Here is how they play together. The yellow is minimal, and the shades of pink and purple blend beautifully into a delicious plumminess. I think this will be a good travel companion over the holiday break.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Gift knitting

I didn’t plan any large gift knitting projects for this holiday season, but I do have a couple of small ones to put under the tree.IMG_6966

First up is this versatile piece of jewelry designed by Laura Nelkin. The pattern is Fetish and it can be worn as a necklace or as a bracelet (two different bracelet options). I’ve had my eye on this pattern since it came out, and felt that knitting for my SIL justified the acquisition of a couple findings (the hammered ring and the clasp). The yarn and beads are from stash, though. IMG_6963

My SIL loves this turquoise and red combination. I hope she’ll enjoy this small gift. These pieces of jewelry are so fun to make!IMG_6965

In other knitting news, my sister requested a lightweight beanie. She lives in a warm climate (Georgia) but sometimes it gets chilly enough that she wants a light hat when running. I showed her the 1898 hat – specifically, how the headband dips down to cover the ears – and she liked it. But making a hat like that out of worsted weight yarn (double thickness in the ear band, no less) would be far too warm for her. I decided to recreate the look in fingering weight yarn.IMG-4659

I worked from the top down, starting with a pinhole cast on (for a tidy look) and 8 points of increase. I totally winged it on when to start adding more plain knit rows between the increase rows. I knew her head circumference (a petite 21”). Fortunately for me, Boy 2’s noggin also measures 21”, so he served as my head model. Since my gauge was 7 st/in, I worked to 136 stitches, which gave me about 1.5” negative ease. IMG_6958

To knit the ear/headband part (does this part of that hat anatomy have a proper name???), I used the applied garter stitch edge technique over 10 stitches. I cast on 10 stitches provisionally onto a dpn and then attached each garter stitch ridge to one live stitch on the hat crown. That sounds more complicated than it is… it’s the same technique that created the attractive edge on this Weigh It Shawl:IMG_9716

I did some math to determine how deep to work the earflaps. Cross-multiplication FTW! I just made them the same proportions as on the 1898 hat, which meant they were 17 stitches deep at their deepest point. And when I got all the way around the head, I unzipped my provisional CO and did a garter stitch graft to close the seam cleanly.

I’m not going to lie – I was pretty chuffed with myself for figuring this out without a pattern. The finished hat is so wee – it only weighs about 29 grams! I’m not sure that it will fit my sister perfectly, so I have not woven in the ends. If it turns out that it needs more length in the crown, I’ll rip off the head/earband part and rework it. Now that I have all the math and technique worked out, that won’t take me any time at all. I’m packing a hat repair kit to take with me to our Christmas gathering so I can fix it right away if needed.

I think there will be another one of these hats in my near future. Yesterday before school, Boy 2 was looking for this hat. Somehow he thought it was for him. In his defense, we have been discussing making him a new hat out of sock yarn, but this particular hat isn’t for him. No matter – I’ve got it down now!