Sunday, November 29, 2015


I’ve been alluding to S1’s Christmas sweater on and off for a while. The plan was hatched back in May when she picked this lovely heathered cone of sportweight Bartlettyarn at MDSW:

IMG_5927She wanted another cardigan with a deep v neck, basically with the same shape as the Cushing Isle I made her last year. I did all my swatching, including some in a pattern, and then decided to build a CustomFit pattern in plain stockinette.IMG_8435S1 picked a stitch pattern out of the Vogue Stitchionary v 1 (thanks again, Steven) – she settled on #166 Arrow Stripe (below, not above!). The original idea was to run the pattern around the bottom of the sweater above the ribbing. But the waist shaping decreases were in this area and I decided not to use the stitch pattern there. Instead, she wanted them on the sleeves near the cuffs…so she could see them all the time. That’s logical.IMG_9520You can see from the book photo (in green below) that the arrow only goes in one direction. I didn’t think I’d love this for the sleeves, so I re-charted it to have a center square with arrows emerging in both directions from it. I learned that you can do this from the sidelines of a soccer game! Here is the page from the book with my messy homemade graph paper chart: IMG_9551Knitting the back and fronts of the sweater was very straightforward and much like the Cushing Isle. The sleeve was slightly trickier since I added the arrow pattern.  IMG_9184 IMG_9522Normally the next step would be to seam these pieces together, then pick up several hundred stitches for the button band. That is worked in 2x2 rib with button holes in there somewhere. But for some reason, I wasn’t loving the 2x2 rib button band. It feels a little less substantial than the body of the sweater. I’d read somewhere about sewn-on button bands and noticed that many commercial sweaters are made like that, so I thought I’d give it a try.

First, I knit a couple of sample button bands and sewed one onto my original swatch. Here’s my first button band, which is only 9 stitches across:IMG_9550I decided this was too narrow and made the next one 11 stitches. This is mostly 1x1 rib, with an extra knit stitch on each edge (the right edge is slipped – it will be exposed in the finished sweater --- the left edge is worked normally and will be concealed in the seam). I wasn’t sure how to work buttonholes with this so I just did a YO in a purl column. Normally I spurn the YO buttonhole but I just didn’t know any other option. IMG_9548What do you think? I think it looks very nice at the edge. It looks almost like stockinette, but of course it’s not because the purl columns are hidden in there.  My final button band is worked over 13 stitches so that it matches the 1.5” button band we specified in the original CF pattern.IMG_9549 I have two niggling concerns:

  1. This beautiful button fits through the YO buttonhole, but I worry that it will stress out this yarn over time. The yarn is woolen spun and you can rip a single strand apart quite easily. S1 says this won’t be an issue because she tends to put on and take off her purple sweater over her head rather than button and unbutton it every time she wears it. Still, I would feel better if I knew how to reinforce this buttonhole somehow.
  2. I’m not sure how long to make the button band. The pattern directs me to pick up approximately 302 stitches, but that doesn’t apply in my situation (because knit stitches are wider than they are tall, and you can’t just rotate them a quarter turn and expect all to be the same). My button band stitches are oriented 90 degrees from where they would be if I picked up the button band. So… is my ratio 1:1? Do I want as many rows on my band as there are rows in the sweater? This is fairly easy to figure out for the fronts of the cardigan – I have row counts (though some of those rows have nice vertical edges, while other rows are on the neck slant, which might be different). And as the band winds around the back of the neck, the rows don’t match up exactly right. I’m going to have to experiment with this. My initial plan is to work a band with 428 rows but not bind off. I’ll bind off when the seaming is close to done and I know where I stand.

I’m about 3/4 done with the button band I think I need. Then, seaming! I’ll keep you posted.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Project Stashbust begins

IMG_9527Lately it seems a lot of my conversations with friends return to the idea of “enough.” This is hardly unique… it’s in the air right now. There are some really interesting bloggers writing about using what you have, squelching the knee-jerk impulse to acquire more for every project one desires, and exploring creativity within the limits of resources at hand. Since my yarn stash sometimes threatens to overflow its boundaries in various bins and cabinets, I am happy to join this movement. Or re-join it, as it were. I did a pretty good job back in 2013 when I joined the Stash & Burn “Use it or lose it” project, in which we made 13 things from stash in 2013.

To this end, I’ve been matching up some of my yarn with projects so they are easy to grab and go when I need a new one. I’ve been making an effort to assign some of my older yarn to projects… especially yarns I’ve been hoarding because it is so precious. If you see the tag “stashbust” in my Ravelry queue or favorites, that is what it’s about. In addition to knitting some of my older stash, I am making a concerted effort to find projects for my handspun skeins. Suggestions always welcome!

So… remember when I took a mitered square class at KDO last September? I had a vague idea that I’d start a long-term project knitting blanket squares from leftover sock yarn. And so I have. IMG_9530I’ve decided that it’s totally fine to knit the project in little pieces, because that will make it portable and I won’t have to have a solid plan for arranging blocks ahead of time. I took inspiration from this project in Ravelry (go look!). It has the color purple as a focus, so mine will be less unified in that way. Or maybe I will have so many squares that I can make two blankets with different palettes? It’s too soon to know.

Here’s how I make my squares: Using a 3.0 mm needle, CO 61 in black and knit back. Begin mitered pattern and work one more garter ridge in black before switching to CC. The mitered pattern has a double decrease on all RS rows (I’m using: slip 2 stitches purlwise, K next stitch, pass both slipped stitches over the K stitch). IMG_9528My finished squares weigh 8 grams each. When I’m done, I’ll have a lot of seaming to do… but the black edges of the squares will create a windowpane effect on their own. I’ll just add a border around the edge. (I did have to buy the black yarn to embark on this project…)

That’s it! Check back with me in a few years and maybe I’ll have another blanket.

Here’s another small stashbusting project I finished recently – a new hat for Boy 1.


The yarn, Julia, is a 50/25/25 blend of wool/mohair/alpaca, and it’s very warm. I knit a hat from Julia a couple years ago, and Boy 1 modeled it for the photo. He commented then on how warm it was, and I’ve been meaning to make him a new winter hat with some of my Julia stash ever since. I showed him some of the hat patterns I’ve favorited in Ravelry and he immediately picked the Alewives hat. I showed him my Julia yarn and he immediately picked this cheerful green. So I cast on - immediately!


The fabric is super textural and I love it. I did make some modifications, though. The pattern calls for 113 stitches to be cast on. I knew from experience with this yarn that it would be too big. After much study of the pattern (which is carefully charted), I decided to cast on 99. This gave me 98 stitches after the joining round. When I got to the chart for the hat body, I eliminated stitches 1 and 13 from the garter ridge panel, and 1, 14, 16, and 29 from the alewives panel. This make everything line up correctly when it was time to begin the crown decreases – I just started with row 3 of that chart. The finished hat weighs 102 grams and is very cozy. This slouchy look is new to Boy 1 – he calls it “poofy.”

I know I promised an update on the red sweater last time. Rain check? I’m working on the button band now!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Knitting my handspun

Last time I promised you I was trying to turn over a new leaf and actually knit with my handspun. I haven’t done it often, but I always love it when I do. So today, I have THREE projects to share!IMG_9483

First up, Christmas gifts for my nieces. They live in balmy Texas  so I didn’t want to knit anything warmer than fingerless mitts. I intended to use Susan B. Anderson’s Waiting for Winter pattern (for mittens and fingerless mitts), which indicates size as the hand is measured around the knuckles. So I obtained knuckle sizes from my SIL: 5.75” and 6.5”. (For comparison, Boy 2 is 6.25” – he was my fitting model –and I am 7.25”.) IMG_8438 I decided to use this handspun Dorset Down, which I just made in September. It was the first shipment of the Sheepspot Fiber Club (and breed school). I had 90 grams of yarn and wasn’t worried about getting two small pairs of mitts from it.

I started knitting and found that my gauge wasn’t close enough to Susan’s to use her pattern. In the end, I mashed up some patterns and kind of winged it. This is the first pair, which is the larger one. The CO number is 28, which is conducive to 2x2 ribbing at the edges. The finished mitts weigh 32 grams:


I love that the mitts coordinate but aren’t identical. I hope they do, too! To make the second pair a bit smaller, I only cast on 26 stitches… which is why they feature 1x1 rib. I also figured this would help them know which mitt belonged to which girl. This pair weighs only 25 g: IMG_9485I have about 30 grams of yarn left… so I didn’t use it all, but I made a good effort. I’m very pleased to have turned this fiber into yarn and then a garment so quickly. Here is a shot of Boy 2 modeling the larger pair:mitts crop

Next up, another pair of fingerless mitts made from handspun. These are for a friend who had surgery last week. Some of us arranged to leave little gifts each day in a basket on her front porch. I made these to go in our family’s contribution to the “smile” basket.

mitts crop

The pattern is Lambing Mitts (free!) and I love how rugged and handsome these are. The garter edge can be flipped up for more coverage of the fingertips, or flipped back for more finger function. I figure this would be as helpful for a mom wrangling kids with car keys in hand as for a farmer birthing a lamb. I spun the yarn from Jacob roving about a year ago. Even though it is “just” brown, it has a depth of color and richness that is hard to describe. It is so alive. My friend has an aggressively plain personal palette and this brown is so her.IMG_9468 The finished mitts weigh 52 g and I have 36 g remaining.

In other knitting news, my next priority is to finish S1’s Christmas sweater. All the parts are knitting and blocked (I finally blocked the sleeves yesterday, which had been sitting for a couple weeks) and now I need to tackle the button band. I’ve decided to experiment with a sewn-on button band instead of the usual. I can update you on that next time. In the meantime, here’s a blocking shot for evidence of progress: IMG_9521

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Spinzilla Report

I’ve been running to keep up with my fall schedule and finally it overtook me (and ran me over). I had not realized it had been soooo long since my last post! When last we spoke, I was preparing for Spinzilla.IMG_9170This is what I managed to get done in the M-F week I had available to spin. Each of these is about an ounce of fiber. I wind them off the wheel bobbin onto these storage bobbins using my power drill. I just tie the single on with a knot: IMG_9002 And then I get really loud and cramp my fingers holding the drill with one hand. (The other hand is needed to guide the thread onto the bobbin in an even way.) The green rubber band keeps the bobbin firmly on the drill bit:IMG_9003 I number the bobbins for a reason. The first time I spun a sweater quantity of yarn was for SPAKAL 2012. The Knitmore Girls recommended labelling the bobbins so that you could ply them randomly. The idea is to distribute any variation in your spinning out over the entire batch of yarn. I’m less worried about variation in my singles and more worried about variation in color. You can really see that the fiber changes a lot as I move through the giant cloud of fluff I bought:IMG_9171 I had difficulty measuring this yarn. Last year for Spinzilla, I finished all the yarn I spun. I plied it and measured it on the niddy noddy. But this year I really wanted to keep chipping away at this Greynbow fiber. I knew there was no way I’d finish it during evenings after work. I needed a way to measure the singles I actually spun during that week. So I wound some off onto my niddy noddy, weighed it, and measured it. Then I did math. I wasn’t confident about this method because these singles are fairly fine, but I forged ahead anyway. Using this method, I calculated that I finished 1,406 yards (266 g). But later I learned that one of my knitting buddies owns a yarn balance. She brought it to knit night last week and we tested my singles again. Using the balance I calculate that I finished 2,170 yards – that’s 50% higher than my original measurement! Bottom line: who knows how much it is. I had fun spinning it and look forward to getting back to it.

I took a break from the Greynbow to play with the latest shipment of Sheepspot’s Fiber Club – this is Montadale top in color “Fall Birch”:IMG_9179 To be honest, I had a little trouble spinning this. I kept hitting sections where the fiber fought me. It didn’t draft well (even though I had predrafted). I got little nepps that destroyed my smooth, worsted style yarn. It just wasn’t easy. At first I thought maybe it was the dye, but the white parts had the same issue. Then I thought maybe I was seeing second cuts. Let me show you:


Can you see those? IMG_9442

I logged in to participate in the Breed School Chat with Sasha and some other club members, and Sasha said that this wasn’t the best combed top that the mill has ever produced. Those pieces aren’t second cuts, but they seem to have gotten caught at the edge of the combing equipment or something. She’s going to speak with the mill about it.

Anyway… I persevered and kept spinning. These singles took me a long time and the “nepps” were only partly the reason. I also spun it pretty fine, even though I used a much bigger whorl than usual (10.5:1). I think I’m developing a real default single and it doesn’t matter what whorl I use… I’ll still get what I get!IMG_9465I didn’t attempt to manipulate the colors in this at all. When I started, I was tired, and I just wanted an easy spin. I hoped the yarn would at least barber pole to distribute the color. For the most part, it did. Here is what the 2-ply looks like on the bobbins:IMG_9472And here it is in a skein. The final count is 419 yards in 101 grams, so it’s pretty fine. IMG_9482As usual, I have absolutely no idea what to do with this. I would like to get better at planning for projects before spinning them. At the same time, I would also like to be more relaxed and just knit with my handspun more often. Susan B. Anderson has some great advice about spinning for knitting that is worth reading even if you don’t spin.

Next time, I will update you on TWO knitting projects that use my handspun!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

This and that

IMG_8998Tomorrow Spinzilla begins, so I’ve spent a little time today clearing the decks and getting organized to focus on spinning. I have a few things going that I haven’t really shared yet. First off, I’ve been working on Dan’s 2014-15 Bus Driver Socks. He enjoyed last year’s socks enough that he asked for another pair this year! He shopped my sock yarn stash and chose this heathery blue yarn. My Ravelry entry says that I added this in August 2007, so it’s at least that old. (Ravelry opened in May 2007 and I remember waiting for my invitation all summer…) It’s nice to see this yarn get used and Dan loves it.IMG_9000Anyway, I’m using the Hermione’s Everyday Socks stitch pattern (of which I’m very fond, having knit it twice already) on a top-down sock with eye of partridge stitch on a heel flap. The toe is the rounded style I’ve been favoring lately. I’m done with Sock #1 and have just turned the heel on #2, so they should be done soon if I have more meetings at work.IMG_8486In other sock news, I have a new sock student! Kristin is in my book group and recently admitted she knits. Turns out she’s always wanted to make socks but just isn’t sure how to get started. I always recommend using fatter yarn for one’s first sock (otherwise it seems to take FOREVER), so she got some Regia 8-ply from Simply Socks Yarn Company (I might have gotten some more, too). I’ve knit two pairs from this weight yarn, and they work up fast at only 48 stitches around. I set up little test socks on dpns and two circular needles to see which method she preferred. She had a STRONG preference for dpns, as you can see above. She made a strong start at her first lesson and we’ll meet again when it’s time to work the heel flap.

Remember the Circo Mystery KAL I was planning for in the late summer? It’s in full swing now. There are four clues in all, and we’ve already gotten three of them. I’ve been working each clue as it comes in. This has been a really fun project with something very different in each step. It’s hard to get a real sense of the final product because it’s all bunched up on needles, but it’s going to be beautiful. It is a moebius cowl, so the needle cable goes around in a circle twice. The fourth and final clue released on 10/6 (this Tuesday), but it will have to wait until after Spinzilla.20151002_210952

I’ve also cast on for S1’s Fall 2015 sweater. Here are some swatches of the red Bartlettyarns I made:IMG_8435We toyed with the idea of that pretty stitch pattern for the cardigan fronts, but that vertical pattern just won’t work on a cardigan with a deep V (which is what she wants). I went ahead and generated a CustomFit pattern and have been working on it here and there. I just finished the back of the sweater this morning. This is easy stockinette knitting, so as soon as Dan’s socks are done I’ll move this sweater into my work knitting bag so I can speed ahead on it.

IMG_8988 And finally, I’ve been spinning the “greynbow” fiber that I showed you last time. I have 4 ounces done and have decided to concentrate on this during Spinzilla next week. I won’t be able to finish it during the week (especially because I’m leaving town Sat-Sun), but I can make a dent in it. I’ll figure out how to measure the singles later. I’ll do some rough estimating by sampling and weighing.

That’s it for now. I might not check in again until after Spinzilla. Happy yarn-ing!


Wednesday, September 30, 2015


IMG_8477 Remember the mystery fiber blend I got at MDSW earlier this year? This is from Sweitzer’s Fiber Mill, and it’s a blend of leftover this and that from many yarn orders. (Dianna at The Knitting Boutique said that some of it is probably from their yarn clubs!) I decided it was time to start spinning it.


I spun a small sample, washed the yarn, knitted a swatch from that, and washed it, too. I forgot to take photos before I washed either one, so I can’t show you how much this yarn puffs up after its bath. This swatch is more substantial than expected, even though I spun the singles on 14:1 and it is only a 2-ply yarn!IMG_8983 I really like that the yarn is grey from a distance, but lots of colors closer up. (I wish I could say I made up “greynbow” on my own, but I heard it somewhere…)IMG_8480 I measured the roving out into 1 oz pieces and wound them into little nests so they are ready to go. You can really see the color variation in some of these photos.IMG_8481There is even a little glitz every so often! Can you see the blue sparkly strand in this photo below?


I’ll keep my one-ounce sections separate in order to spread out the color variation when plying. This is what a bobbin looks like with only one ounce of singles on it:IMG_8986 I’m spinning this long draw and it’s very enjoyable.

Next I need to decide if I will continue working on this during Spinzilla (which starts October 5), or put it aside to do another project that I might be able to start and finish inside of 5 days. Spinzilla will be truncated for me this year, because we’re going camping on the weekend at the end of the spinning week. Doh! That causes me to lose a LOT of potential spinning and plying time. But camping will be great.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Oh Shenandoah…

IMG_8950Sometime during the past year, some of us knitters decided we wanted to have a festival road trip experience similar to Rhinebeck 2012. Kris “found” the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival, and we went!

When I saw that the featured teacher was Deb Robson, I signed up for a class without even having a class description. She’s the expert on rare breeds and I knew I was lucky to have her teaching so close by. This was an all-day class (6 hours), during which we spun and sampled 8 rare breeds of wool. Wanna see?IMG_8906 #1: Clun Forest. You can see that this fiber has been washed, but not carded or combed or prepared for spinning. I borrowed some Louet mini combs from Deb and learned to use them quickly. Pretty soon I was spinning top right off the comb:IMG_8904 Deb showed us how to use these big combs which clamp to a table, but I stuck with the minis.


#2 was North Ronaldsay, which comes from an island near the Orkneys. The sheep eat seaweed and are triple coated. There is some hair and kemp along with the soft undercoat here. My sample had so much hair that I didn’t try to dehair it. That meant that the yarn was rough and wiry, but so be it. Deb predicted that we’d have some trouble with this fiber, and she was kinda right.IMG_8913 #3 was Hog Island. This is the kind of sheep they have at Mount Vernon, though no one knows for sure if that is the breed George Washington owned. Deb thought we’d struggle a bit with it, but mine was fine. It went so well I forgot to take a picture of it.

#4 was Wensleydale, which is a long wool breed with these gorgeous curly locks:


I had trouble coming it because the staple is so long (7-12”) – I probably should have used a bigger comb than the mini. I must have goofed creating my plying bracelet (aka Andean plying), because my yarn just did not come out. But I spun it okay.

Then there was lunch, during which I wolfed down a bowl of soup and this pretty piece of pumpkin pie with little pumpkins on it. Yum!IMG_8920

After lunch, we worked with Border Leicester (#5). That was nice. Deb mentioned that it is a great alternative to Coopworth, which is not rare. If you like Coopworth and want to support rare breeds, look for Border Leicester. I forgot to photograph it.

#6 was Leicester Longwool, which is TOTALLY different from Border Leicester. It’s long and silky, kind of like Wensleydale. Again, so busy combing, spinning, and plying that I forgot to photograph it.

#7 was something familiar: Jacob. I have loved spinning Jacob before and was excited to get this. It comes in 3 colors (all from the same animal). You can separate it before spinning to keep the colors pure, or blend them together. (Deb discouraged us from just spinning it as it comes, as that will result in ugly blotchy yarn.) Here’s my Jacob fiber:


#8 and our final fiber of the day was Romeldale/CVM. I had such a hard time combing and spinning it that I ripped it off my wheel and borrowed my neighbor’s cards to try again. That didn’t go much better. I never did get a yarn sample from this fiber.

Combing fiber creates more waste than carding it, and since I wasn’t very proficient at combing, I probably created more waste than normal. I turned around at one point and noticed how big my waste pile was getting. The birds will love this!IMG_8926I left with a small amount of sample yarn and a lot of knowledge. Here are the 6 yarns I actually plied. I wet finished them after getting home:IMG_8971After spinning all day, I was on fire to get more spinning fiber. I was also prepared to invest in some mini combs so I could finish spinning the rest of the fiber in my sample baggies (I did not find any, so those may go on my wish list). I wasn’t quite ready to buy a fleece and really prepare everything from start to finish, so I gravitated toward dyed fibers. In the end, I bought enough fiber to spin yarn for two sweaters. Neither of these is a rare breed. I’m a tiny bit ashamed about this, but then again, Deb said that buying ANY wool supports an important market. The commercial market is almost totally focused on synthetics, so buying wool at all is an important act in the marketplace.IMG_8963 This roving is from Singleton Fiber Processing. It’s mostly green and they call the color “sea glass.” It’s “Romoca,” a blend of Romney, mohair, and alpaca. I got 1.5 pounds and I hope that’s enough for a sweater for me.


I also got 2 pounds of this Coopworth “swirl” roving:IMG_8965

The base fiber is “light blue” (which is really a shade of beige), and half of it has been overdyed in burgundy. We’ll see how that comes out. It is for a sweater for S1. IMG_8966 I saw a couple of really interesting spinning wheels. This is essentially an electric walking wheel:IMG_8933The next day, I saw the same woman trying the same type of wheel driven by bicycle pedals: 


I also succumbed to another set of raku buttons made by Dimensions (I got some at MDSW this year, too). Look!IMG_8968


These are like tiny pieces of artwork. I got them to go with the sweater I am knitting for S1 out of the Bartlettyarns I got at MDSW this year. Here is one button on the sweater swatch:IMG_8980Since I was in class most of Saturday, Kris and I stayed overnight in Winchester Saturday night. Then we went back to the festival on Sunday and met up with Julie and Alison, who drove in for the day. We were all really impressed with this event. It’s so much smaller and more relaxed than MDSW, with a great vibe. There were tons of interesting vendors. We appreciated the different food options (delicious coffee, wine tastings, soup, BBQ, pie, cobbler…). Parking was easy. Admission was $5 but so worth it. There weren’t even lines at the restrooms! It’s in Berryville, VA, which is only about a 90 minute drive from here. This is definitely a festival we’ll return to.