Saturday, August 6, 2016

Summertime, and the knitting is…

…eeeeaaaaasy. I think I have enough data in Ravelry to pull a data set of all my summertime knits. It would be very interesting to look at all the projects I’ve started in the summer and completed in the summer. My hypothesis is that they represent some of the easier projects in my knitting corpus.

Before I left for Bali, I knit a really big swatch from my handspun Greynbow yarn, about 9x10”. I used a size 7 needle, and the result was a bit too drapey. So I knit another swatch on a US 6 and decided that one was “right.” US 7 swatch is on the left, US 6 swatch is in the middle. On the right is my original swatch worked from sample yarn I made just as I was beginning the project. It was a little bigger and poofier than I wanted, so I made adjustments in the spinning right from the beginning.IMG_3856

This photo shows how different the yarn can be from skein to skein. (It also varies within a skein, but that doesn’t show in these smaller pieces.) I decided early on to just embrace the wabi-sabi of this particular yarn and love the inconsistencies.

Once I decided on the US 6 needle, I entered all the swatch data into the CustomFit program and generated a pattern for the Drumlin cardigan, which is a simple v-neck buttoned cardigan with pockets. I felt like simple stockinette was the best choice for this nubbly, slightly variegated fabric. I printed the pattern, wound a bunch of yarn, cast on, piled everything in one place, and left for Bali. (Greynbow did not go to Bali.)

When I got back, it was time to regroup for Alaska. I thought the cool northern Pacific would inspire me to knit a sweater, and I was right. I finished the back of the sweater there and cast on for one of the fronts. But then I got home and just quit. IMG_3847

Today I pulled it back out to go public with it. I hope to get back on the horse. Maybe hours of Olympic coverage will inspire me to work on it more. This is the back of the sweater pinned out at the point of the key measurements. LOOK HOW MUCH EXTRA THERE IS AGAIN. Will I never rid myself of this CustomFit curse? Seriously, this might be the last time I knit a CF pattern. The area where there is ALWAYS too much is between the waist and the armhole shaping. I smoothed and smoothed and eventually got it looking like this: IMG_3854

It’s better, but if you look carefully you can see that it’s spilling over what should be its boundaries on the edges.

We’ve been home for 11 days now, and all I seem to want to knit are these squares for my epic sock yarn blanket. IMG_3849

I worked on ONE of those – a tiny bit – in Bali. I finished that square in Vancouver, the day before we flew home. Since we got home I’ve done the other seven. Want to guess how many I have in all? This little stack pleases me so much.IMG_3850

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Hot and cold

There has been radio silence here for many weeks, because I have been on the road (or in the air). First I went on a trip to Bali with the Gettysburg College gamelan – we rehearsed intensively for about 10 days and then performed at the Bali Arts Festival. What a thrill! If you want to know more about our gamelan and this trip, check out the Gamelan Gita Semara Facebook page. (I’m not on Facebook but everything about the trip is there, so friend us if you’re into that.)  Then I got home and turned around to go on a family trip to Alaska. Another thrill of a totally different type!

I didn’t knit much at all in Bali. As I expected, my brain was full-to-overflowing most of the time. That, combined with the heat and humidity, meant I just didn’t get out the yarn much. I retreated to my ebook instead (A Little Life kept me occupied the entire time - it’s plenty long).

Kris and I stayed in Bali a few days after the performance for a short vacation (3 nights in Ubud). During that time, we took an amazing batik class from Nyoman Warta. Here are a few pictures of the process:

IMG_1913_thumb[3] IMG_1924_thumb[2] IMG_1928_thumb[2] IMG_1936_thumb[2] IMG_1947_thumb[2] IMG_1986_thumb[7]It was really fun to immerse oneself in a new creative medium. I spent about 4.5 hours working on this and the time flew by. If I had just one more full day in Ubud, I would have returned and made another piece.

But I did embark on a mitten project right when started our long journey to Bali (which took 41 hours door to door). Boy 1 requested mittens at the very end of mitten season last year, so I thought I would get ahead of the game. He requested WARM mittens, so I decided to make double layers out of sock yarn. And why not make them reversible? We looked at Boy 2’s Double Happy Hat for inspiration, and Boy 1 picked two balls of Felici from the sock yarn stash.IMG_2226_thumb[7]

To begin, I worked a provisional cast on with waste yarn and knit one row flat. Then I did the “criss cross applesauce” move that I use when I join to knit socks in the round on two circulars, and began working in rib for the cuff. I used the Linden mitten pattern as a guide, but I ended up modifying it a fair bit (as usual). I finished the fourth mitten just after arriving home from Bali, while my jet-lagged self was up in the middle of the night.  IMG_2232_thumb[6]

It was rather tedious to get those live stitches back on needles, but I managed it. There were an awful lot of needles to manage. I did a 3-needle bindoff in purl to attach the mittens. And here are the resulting mittens!IMG_2236_thumb[2] They fit perfectly – as I knew they would, because I measured his hands against mine before I left. They are exactly the same size. Handy, eh?

The project used one 50-gram ball of each yarn. I have 4 grams of blue remaining, and 6 grams of red. Nice little project.

Before I left for Bali, I prepared a project to take to Alaska. I knew my mind would be mud during my short hiatus at home (3 days). I don’t have any pictures yet, so I’ll save that for next time… but it is a sweater project – for me – with my own handspun! Pretty exciting.

I visited two yarn shops in Alaska, one in Skagway and one in Ketchikan. The second one wasn’t very exciting, but the first one was right up my alley.

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Aurora Yarns was full of interesting skeins. I ended up not buying any qiviut. It’s very expensive and it’s also not springy like wool. The shop owner and I had a frank discussion about its lack of memory, so I decided against purchasing a small skein for a pair of fingerless mitts. But I did buy two skeins of yarn dyed in Alaska: IMG_3839_thumb[2]This skein of sock yarn spoke to me – the colors perfectly reflect the trees and waters of Alaska (and of my personal palette) and the speckles are fun. This might be my first Hitchhiker?

IMG_3834_thumb[3] This delicious skein is 60/20/20 superwash merino/yak/silk and will be something wonderful around my neck. I love how the cool jewel tones look dyed on a greyish fiber base.

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I also got a wee bit of fiber. This is just 2 ounces of yak-silk roving, also dyed in Alaska. It is a moody bluish-grey that reminds me of the northern waters we sailed through.

I’ll end this with a bit of Alaska. Here is Denali, which we were lucky enough to see two days in a row. There are some clouds at mid-elevation here, but the peak is still clear (it’s white):IMG_2362_thumb[7]

Moose in Denali National Park:

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Family hike (that’s my sister in the lead):

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Margerie Glacier calving (you can see a splash toward the right):

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The surreally beautiful Glacier Bay:

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Sea kayaking around Eagle Island near Ketchikan (I was in a tandem boat with Boy 2, so this was one of my main views):

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Why I love the Sheepspot Fiber Club

This post was composed for the Sheepspot blog and appeared on 6/15/16. I’m cross-posting it here. The club reopens on June 22, so get ready and join us!


IMG_9482Montadale in Fall Birch

When I heard Sasha Torres was starting a Breed Club, I was immediately interested. Sasha hosted a podcast called SpinDoctor from 2010-14, and those years coincided with my development as a spinner. My years of listening assured me she knew her stuff. I shared her interest in supporting farmers working to preserve smaller breeds.

I was confident Sasha would do the club well because she carefully queried her customers to learn about their prior experiences with clubs. I know, because I was one of many fiber fans who completed her survey. I hadn’t been in a fiber or yarn club in at least a decade, and I told her why!

The club options Sasha unveiled addressed every single one of my concerns:

  • You could choose to join for 6 or 12 months

  • You could choose yarn or fiber

  • You could choose dyed or undyed

  • If you chose dyed yarn/fiber, you would choose a colorway from two different options, assuring you would get something that you liked

  • You could choose the standard 4 oz amount, or double it

  • You could join the Breed School, which supported learning about sheep breeds with extra information in each shipment, as well as the opportunity to join an online chat about each breed

All of these options were mix-and-match, so you could customize the club (and its price) to fit you perfectly. This approach convinced me that Sasha truly heard what her survey respondents said and designed a club experience that would work for us. I was very tempted when I first saw the club announcement.

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Coopworth in Amethyst

But what prompted me to commit to the club was the Breed School experience, emphasis on the word “experience.” I have a lot of yarn and fiber in stash already… you probably do, too! And if I want more materials, I can obtain them easily. But Breed School sounded like an opportunity to forge new connections with other fiber fans, which is something you just can’t order online. I also wanted to strengthen connections with one of my local spinning friends, Caitlin - so we joined the club together and scheduled a special spinning date every time we received a new shipment. For me, this club was about creating an experience that would nourish me rather than just purchasing fiber.

The Sheepspot club worked perfectly for me. Five of the six breeds were new to me as a spinner - Dorset Down, Montadale, Cormo, Perendale, and Targhee (the only one I had worked with previously was Coopworth). We received both combed top and carded roving, so I practiced different drafting styles. I kept up with the club and managed to spin each shipment before the next one arrived. I have even knit projects from two of the yarns I made with Sheepspot club fiber this year. One of my fiber goals for 2016 is to knit more of my handspun, and Sasha is constantly asking “what are you going to make with this?”
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Fingerless mitts for my nieces, from Dorset Down in Sand and Sea

The club has been a huge win for me. My spinning has improved a lot this past year. Caitlin and I spun together six times that we wouldn’t have without the club structure. I have really enjoyed getting to know Sasha and Kat better through our online chats. We even met up at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival this year, and they taught me how to evaluate fleeces. (I didn’t quite buy one...but maybe next year!)

Are we doing Breed School again? Where do I sign up?

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Perendale in Bird’s Nest

Thursday, June 9, 2016

I inadvertently knit a snow pea

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My Penrose Tile shawl is done! I wish you could touch it… the yarn is a woolen spun single, and the finished product is much lighter than you might think. crop

The construction of this shawl was unexpected. You start at the top center of this photo and increase on both ends while making garter stripes. Then you start working the purple lace section to its left… using short rows:IMG_0503

There were lots of short rows in surprising places, and the end result is that the shawl is not symmetrical at all. Take a look at it laid out flat. Does it remind you of anything?

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Our first thought was “banana,” but then it became clear: this is the exact shape of a snow pea. It’s kind of blunt on one end and it curls on the other. Curious! I like the curly end better. The shawl sits very well on the shoulders and doesn’t slide at all (probably because it’s NOT a superwash merino type of yarn spun worsted). I think this will be a cozy addition to my wardrobe in the fall.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

A tale of five towels

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Remember the kit I bought at MDSW this year? It was supposed to make four towels on two warps. After a rocky start on the first warp (in which I had trouble visualizing the “double ends” and only warped half as much as I was supposed to), I started weaving. IMG_0389

This pattern is “basket weave,” which is like plain weave but with doubled thread. The designer said to work the first 20 picks with a single strand instead of double, to make it easier to turn under and hem later. She did NOT specify to work the hemstitch at each end, but I did that because I like it. Here is what the very end of a towel looks like:IMG_0388

The pattern told me how many picks to work of each color and that was easy enough to follow. I finished the first towel, wove a little bit of waste yarn, and then started the second towel. It soon became clear that I was running out of warp FAST. Hmmm. I might have lost a little warp length fixing my initial mistake, but only a few inches at most (which isn’t much over 2.5 yards). When I pulled the cloth off the loom, it seemed that something was pretty wrong. Towel #1 was super long (31” x 14.25”) and Towel #2 was puny (18.25” x 14.25”). They also seemed quite loose. Washing is supposed to tighten up the fabric and finish it, but I wasn’t sure how much this loose web would tighten. I washed it on hot with maximum agitation, and dried it on hot. That’s when I realized that my waste yarn was not superwash wool! IMG_0390

But no worries. I cut out that waste yarn and finished the hems, which were oddly deep – a little over 1”:IMG_0424

I consulted with Julie about all this. She found it odd that the designer did not indicate the PPI (picks per inch) for the fabric. This is kind of like gauge in knitting – it tells you how many passes of the weft yarn you should have per inch. I know I have the same sett (EPI – ends per inch) as the designer because I have 120 doubled warp ends on an 8-dent reed, but I have no idea how tightly she packed her weft after each pass. I assumed I should weave to get a balanced weave, which has the same PPI and EPI. See where the stripes with four warp threads intersect with the stripes with four weft threads? Those should make a square – and they do!IMG_0425

So I was left feeling that I hadn’t really done anything wrong, but the pattern was deficient. Grrrr.

After washing, Towel 1 shrunk down to 28.75” x 13”, and Towel 2 shrunk to 17.5” x 13”. Towel 1 looks like a runner for a small table (which is how I may use it), and Towel 2 looks more like a placemat:IMG_0493

Then I pulled out a pencil and calculator and decided how to attack Towels 3 and 4. My plan:

  • Target size for finished towels: 21.5” x 13”, which meant that my unwashed length would be 23.5” (thanks, math!)
  • Work only 12 picks of single thread for the hem ends (rather than 20)
  • Be intentional about packing tightly
  • Add more weft stripes (because why only have 5 weft stripes when you have 8 warp stripes in 8 different colors?)
  • Warp 3 yards instead of 2.5, just to be on the safe side

So how did it work out?IMG_0495

Here is Towel 3. I’m not sure why it’s not perfectly rectangular. I chose to work the weft stripes in the same order as the warp stripes (which I made as rainbow-y as possible this time). You can see the green-green intersection in the bottom left, and the yellow-yellow intersection in the top right. This sort of order pleases me. The finished towel is 20” x 13”, a little shorter than I wanted. I actually mismeasured something along the way and my unfinished length was only 22”. My mistake.IMG_0496

Towel 4 is very similar… but I didn’t mismeasure, and I worked the weft stripes a little differently. The finished size is 21.25” x 13”.

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And wait, what’s this?! I got a Towel 5 out of this warp. I worked stripes regularly, because I didn’t know when the warp would end and I would have to stop. I didn’t love the idea of a white center area that wasn’t centered, so this doesn’t have a white center area. But I had plenty of warp, so this towel is the exact same size as #4.

I like the hem depth much better, too (and notice the hem on the bottom towel in the second picture is much neater than the top one):IMG_0443

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A few more things to keep in mind for next time:

  • I had trouble clamping my loom onto the tables available to me, so I went ahead and bought a Cricket stand. I haven’t used it yet (you have to take apart the loom to put it on, so I could not pop the loom onto the stand in the middle of a project), but it’s ready to go for next time.
  • I need to cut a new piece of craft paper to place between layers of warp. I had a very hard time jimmying two pieces, trying to reach the very edge of the loom, and sometimes I missed. I think this caused the warp threads on one edge to be tighter than the others, which contributed to my trapezoidal towel shape.
  • I like the hemstich / handstitched hem and will continue to do that. The pattern designer did NOT call for the hemstitch, but I’m glad I did it.
  • I will check patterns carefully for PPI info.
  • I might weave a sample to get a better idea of shrinkage in the finished product (just like working a gauge swatch for knitting)

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One good thing about the kit is that it contained plenty of yarn. I got 5 towels instead of 4, and I still have this much left!IMG_0504

I don’t really know how much it is, because I didn’t weigh the cones before beginning, and I don’t know how much the cardboard cones weigh without any yarn on them.

The rainbow yarn is 5/2 mercerized cotton, which is a little on the thick side. When I ordered the loom stand, I threw some more yarn into the basket. This is 8/2 unmercerized cotton (I also got the color card, for future reference):IMG_0505

If you’re curious about the difference between 5/2 and 8/2, here is what it looks like:IMG_0506

I have the pattern for Yarnworker’s Color-and-Weave Towels, which calls for 8/2. That’s what I plan to use this new yarn for. But that project will probably wait until after my summer travels. I don’t love the idea of leaving a job half done before walking away for weeks, and I don’t think I can finish it in the time I have. But there will be more towels!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Socks are always happening

IMG_0422At one point in my knitting life, socks were the main thing. Once I mastered the basic form, I challenged myself with fancy stitch designs… the kind of thing that is harder to work during a meeting. But for the past few years, I hardly ever knit socks at home. The socks I do knit are plain and simple.IMG_0419

Here is the latest finished pair – these are Boy 1’s Vanilla Lattes I mentioned a few weeks ago. The finished pair weighs only 74 grams, so I have some extra yardage to add to my sock yarn blanket.

Oh, how’s that sock yarn blanket coming along? I try to work one square after finishing every project – as a palette cleanser and also to make sure I don’t forget about it. Sometimes I get excited and do more than one. Right now I have 16 finished squares:IMG_0435

I actually have a 17th square, but it came out too big so I won’t be able to use it in the final blanket. The yarn was just a teensy bit heftier than standard fingering yarn, and it made a big difference in the final square. (It was the Shelridge Farms Soft Touch Heather that I used for these socks, in case you’re interested.)

I’m going to Bali for 2.5 weeks this summer (!!!), and I know the cognitive overload will be intense and I won’t have a single extra brain cell to devote to my knitting. I’m thinking of taking the blanket bits. They pack up small and are totally mindless at this point. I might take something a little more complicated for the (very long) plane ride over… but from my travel experiences last summer, I don’t expect to long for a complicated sweater project.

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This is the sock I started as soon as I finished the lattes… This yarn isn’t logged in my Ravelry stash because it’s not mine! This is the skein of Into the Whirled’s Bukavu Sock that Zakiya bought at MDSW. The colorway is “Rimfisher” and it is a 4-ply 75/25 superwash BFL/nylon blend – it’s the skein on the right in this photo: 20160507_180558

This is my most vanilla of vanilla socks. 64 stitches, top-down, 2x2 rib cuff, stockinette body, eye of partridge heel, and round toe. Notice how carefully the yarn has been dyed so that you get a nice one-round stripe. It’s very entertaining to work.

For my “challenge” fiber work, I’ve been working on weaving those towels for the past couple of weeks. I will have an update – and probably some analysis – for you next time. Weaving has been happening, too!