Sunday, September 14, 2014

Loose ends

As I tend to do every year, I’ve felt very scattered at the beginning of this school year. There are so many activities and commitments. I’ve been knitting and spinning, but in fits and starts. Here are a few things to catch you up on.IMG_4393First, I finished spinning the leftover bobbin of the yarn I showed you last time. I got about 40 yards more (this weighs 19g), which means I have a total of 235 yards of this yarn. That’ll be good for something nice!

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Next, here is a quick kid hat I made to donate as part of my Knitters’ Day Out 2014 registration fee. I followed the same general pattern as last year, but added a pom pom this time. I used bits of yarn leftover from the big Blanket of Love project.

So yes, it’s time for Knitters’ Day Out once again! This event has become a cherished tradition among my local knitting peeps. I have finished my homework and packed it away so it’s ready for an early morning departure next Saturday. Here is “Still Life with Hat and Homework”:IMG_4391The long skinny piece worked from multicolored yarn is for a class with Margaret Radcliffe called Introducing the Ouroboros Moebius:

This class is an easy new approach to the seamless knitted moebius. No particular cast on, advanced techniques, or special needles are required to make this versatile moebius scarf--you don't even need to know how to purl! You will make a small sample moebius in class to learn this simplified approach. We will discuss and experiment with options for color, texture, and joining that allow for infinite variations, and  learn how to apply the same approach to constructing other garments.

The other small bits worked in yellow, red, and green for for a class with Lily Chin called Tips, Trick and, Hints:

Learn all the little secrets to make knitting life easier and better. Find out how to cast on in 2-tail method without running out of the second tail. Join a new skein of yarn or a new color without losing that first stitch. See ways of attaching buttons as you work. Create invisible circular bind offs on a neck where the beginning and end are absolutely imperceptible. Weave in those little ends that are too short to put through a darning needle. Take away lots of small "fix-its" and improve those details.

I’ll report back about what I learn!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Batty for woolen

I’m still on my “learn to spin woolen yarn” kick and this is my latest project:IMG_4370

This yarn was spun from a batt I bought at MDSW in 2012 from A Paca Fun Fiberworks. It is an art batt made of alpaca, bamboo, silk, and firestar (that’s the sparkle – hard to see in photos but not in person). Here is what the batt looked like before spinning: IMG_4307

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I eyeballed it and tried to split it evenly into two sections. That didn’t work so well, as I have a bit left on one bobbin… but here is how the singles looked on the bobbins:IMG_4354 I plied this a little more aggressively than I usually do, thanks to a recent post by Jacey Boggs on her blog called PLY like an eagle. Specifically, she says:

Woolen and worsted yarns don’t get the same amount of ply twist.  It’s true.  A woolen yarn’s structure is in the PLY, that’s what really holds that light and fluffy thing together.  It’s what gives it strength and the ability to ward off the dreaded pill.  It needs more ply-twist than singles-twist.  For reals.  Worsted yarn, on the other hand, has it’s structure in the single and it wants less ply-twist, relatively speaking.  Truth.

Since I spun the singles woolen on a 14:1 whorl, I plied them on the 16:1 end of the whorl (which is faster). I drafted the exact same amount, which meant I inserted MORE twist in plying than I did in the original spinning. And I like the result! Take a close look at the final twist angle:

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This skein of 2-ply is about 195 yards and weighs 90 grams. I still have some singles on one bobbin that I need to split so I can continue to ply, but I don’t think I’ll get a whole lot more yarn. This skein is lovely. Suggestions for what to make? I’m all ears.IMG_4379 This spinning spurt is going so well that I’m going to join Spinzilla next month. Whee!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Back-to-school socks

Our friend Dan drives Boy 1 to school every morning, as there is no bus from our house and we’re on his way to school. This is a huge gift of time, since Boy 1 doesn’t have to be ready quite as early as he would if he were walking to school. (There is no bus from our house because technically it’s walkable – but walking 1.2 miles and arriving at school by 7:25 am is less than ideal.)IMG_4293As a special thank you to Dan, he is getting a pair of custom handknit socks. He shopped my stash and settled on this skein of Anzula Squishy which I bought at Sock Summit 2011. Dan has excellent taste – the fiber content is 80/10/10 superwash merino/cashmere/nylon. It contains at least a dozen gorgeous shades of brown.IMG_9701 Dan picked a bamboo pattern from my Vogue Stitchionary Volume 1 (thanks again, Steven & Jeff). I had to modify it a bit since it’s a 12-stitch repeat, which meant the sock would required a circumference of 60 or 72. I thought 60 was too small and 72 too large, so I rewrote it as an 8-stitch repeat and went for 64. We’ve had a couple of fittings and this will work for him.

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I can’t tell you how wonderfully familiar and comfortable it felt to cast on this pair of socks. Socks just feel right to me. I’ve been branching out more lately and not knitting quite so many socks (because a family can, in fact, reach handknit sock saturation), so I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to share the love. Dan envisions wearing these during gamelan rehearsal in the colder months. We don’t wear shoes when we play – but socks are fine.gamelan library steps 5-13 Here’s a photo of Dan (far right) and I (second from right) performing in May 2013 on the steps of my library. We were definitely barefoot that day, but our rehearsal room can be chilly in the winter!

P.S. – the kids walk home in the afternoon – no Dan-bus needed then!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Aquarius Gradient Cowl

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I finished this cowl weeks ago and somehow didn’t quite get around to sharing it. Here it is, all finished.cowla

I worked a picot edge which is folded and sewn down during finishing. If I were to write this up, I would try to attach the hem as I was knitting it. I think the turned stockinette section is a bit deep before it moves into the scale pattern, but I did that so it would be easier to sew the hem (reverse stockinette is easy to follow; the reverse of the scale stitch is not).IMG_4253Overall, I’m pleased with this. It’s not too deep for me to wear throughout the day in my chilly office, but it will still be nice to wear with a coat. The scale pattern shows off the shifting colors of this yarn well. IMG_4252Kris bought a Miss Babs gradient set in green and she might test knit a cowl just like this. If it works for her, I’ll post the pattern in Ravelry.

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I have just noticed that Miss Babs is now making a gradient set in that green color I am such a sucker for (this is her photo): Cetus - Gradient Set

Be still my heart. Please let me be satisfied with just the Aquarius!!!IMG_4254

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Small and big

I have a small project to share and the beginning of a very large one.IMG_4292

First, here is some more yarn I made with the new longdraw technique. This is 2-ply Icelandic. I had about 2 oz of roving and the finished yarn weighs 1.85 oz (52 g). I have about 115 yards.IMG_4286

You can see that this isn’t terribly even yarn. I had to fight with it more than I did the other stuff I just finished. The yarn label says that the black fiver is from a sheep named Beauty and the white is from Felicia. Well, Beauty and Felicia are pretty dissimilar. Beauty’s fiber was more coarse and long-stapled; it had lots of grip. Felicia’s was softer and tended to drift apart. In sections of roving where the two types weren’t equally balanced, funky things tended to happen.

I’m not at all sure what to do with this. I might make a slouchy hat, but I would want to line it with a much softer yarn. We’ll see. I’m glad I only had 2 oz of that!

Now for the LARGE project. I told you I was making a blanket (Heirloom Chevron Throw). Watching it grow is going to be like watching paint dry, so I’ve decided only to share it when I change colors. I have 3 balls each of 6 colors, and currently I’m on ball #2 of color #2. It’s too big to spread out properly while it’s on the needle, but hopefully you get the idea:IMG_4297 Color #1 is a lovely neutral green called Turtle that looks warmer in person than it does in this photo. The Turtle section is a triangle. Next up is a teal called Pacific which is right up my alley. Here you can see the point of the chevron:

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The yarn I’m using (Cascade 220 Superwash) is skinnier than the yarn called for, which means I have more stitches per row. I have 329 stitches per row, to be exact. It takes me about 15 minutes per row. My goal is to do a minimum of two rows (one garter ridge) per day, sometimes more. IMG_4301 Here are the rest of the colors. Doeskin Heather (the greige) is up next.

If you want to make this blanket, I recommend choosing a BULKY yarn! Hindsight is so clear.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Handspun, now with more poof!

I finished the yarn I was telling you about last time. I wish you could squish it to see how much poofier it is than the worsted-style yarn I usually make. IMG_4272It’s not perfect, but it’s not bad either. My first skein (Skein A, above) is about 250 yards and weighs 94 grams. It is a 2-ply yarn. If you look carefully, you can see that the plies aren’t always exactly the same, but the yarn is serviceable.

Here is Skein B. It’s about 195 yards and weighs 89 grams. It has an inferiority complex. I had to use some of my practice singles to finish plying my “good” singles, and it really shows here. IMG_4278 The fiber is mostly wool (90%) – the label said 10% nylon and that’s the sparkly golden bit, which I’m not sure comes through in the photos.

IMG_4268The photo above shows the skeins before washing (sorry about the indoor lighting – it was night). See how much more defined the plies are and how the yarn is less poofy overall? 

When I washed the skeins, a lot of dye came out in the water. I did a hot water soak to set the twist, followed by a cold water plunge. Then I repeated those two steps but with a glug of vinegar in each wash to help set the color. The final rinse was much more clear, but the resulting skeins felt a bit sticky. Tacky. Like, too much lanolin or something. So I did another soak, this time adding some hair conditioner. The finished skeins have no tackiness, lots of softness, and now that they are dry, they exude no whiff of coconut. Victory!

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Skein A is on the left; Skein B on the right (I used one blue tie on Skein B so I’d be sure to identify them correctly). I think even the casual observer can spot the difference in consistency.

I’m ready to try more long draw spinning. I found a small, 2-ounce bag of Icelandic roving and have started spinning it. It’s quite different than working with this more generic wool, because the staple length of Icelandic sheep is so long. I’ll show you that next time!

And if anyone has suggestions about what to do with this poofy yarn, I’m all ears.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Long draw

The style of spinning I was taught, and my default technique now, is informally known as “inchworm.” Technically it’s “short forward draw.” This worsted technique makes a smooth, dense, drape-y yarn that is quite beautiful.IMG_4262

But because I don’t do it, I’ve long wanted to spin the other way: woolen. The long draw is the hallmark of woolen spinning, which transforms a carded fiber into a lofty, airy yarn. A commercial example of a woolen yarn is Brooklyn Tweed Shelter (and also Loft). IMG_4263

I finally worked my way through Jacey Boggs’ article "Lying About Longdraw: Helping spinners get from worsted to woolen" from the Winter 2013 issue of PLY magazine. And look! Long draw! I diligently worked through all 9 steps of Jacey’s process, and it totally worked. Thanks, Jacey!

The fiber I’m using is mostly wool. I notice that the different colors are not the same in terms of density and “stickiness.” In other words, this roving doesn’t draft with perfect consistency. But it’s going pretty well. I’ve devoted some of this half-pound bag to pure practice and now have an additional bobbin of decent singles (in the first photo). I plan to spin one more bobbin of singles and then make a 2-ply yarn.

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I bought this fiber at KDO 2008, just after I learned to spin, so I’m very happy to be using it now. It’s been waiting a while.

Next up: I have carded preparations of Icelandic and Jacob fiber, so I will try the long draw them them, too.