Sunday, August 30, 2015

Socks and samples

IMG_8393This pair of vanilla socks has been on the needles at work this summer, and they are finally done. The yarn is Berroco Sox and I picked it up when I was at Twisted in Portland earlier this year. These are for Boy 1, whose growing feet need more new socks than anyone else in the house. The design is my usual top-down with 64 CO, eye of partridge heel, and round toe.IMG_8397 Look at those heels… you can’t even see the stitches! They are smooth but will wear well.

In other fiber news… One evening last week, Caitlin came over so we could practice spinning our new Dorset Down club fiber from Sheepspot. IMG_8359Remember this lovely stuff? We worked from the worksheet Sasha sent in order to get to know this fiber. I ended up spinning two samples. My first sample was spun exactly as I have been spinning my recent long draw yarns – singles on 14:1 and 2-ply on 16:1. Then I did another sample on a larger whorl (singles 10.5:1 and plied 12.5:1).Here is what my yarn looked like fresh off the wheel: IMG_8409 It is a little overplied, but that’s okay. After a nice hot wash, it looked like this:

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You can see that I got a fatter yarn when I went to a slower whorl (that’s the bluer yarn at the bottom), but I think the angle of twist is about the same in both samples. My next plan is to knit samples from both so decide how I’d like to spin the rest of the fiber.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Suriland!

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Remember this pound of gorgeous fiber I won from PLY Magazine last fall? It is Suriland roving from Fancy Fibers Farm in Farmersville, Texas, a 50/50 blend of Suri alpaca and Shetland wool.20150808_101624 The fiber came in four balls, about 4 oz each. I didn’t bother to weigh them. I just spun each ball onto a single bobbin. I spun long draw on my 14:1 whorl, intending to make 2-ply yarn.

The only problem is that I have only 4 Schacht bobbins that fit my wheel, and I needed to reserve one to play the yarn onto. In the past, when I’ve spun more than 8 oz of fiber for a project, I work in 1 oz sections and transfer them to these little storage bobbins. I could have done that here, but I didn’t want to split that last ball of fiber over 3-4 storage bobbins. Basically, I wanted a larger storage bobbin than I had.

When I asked the internet for advice, it directed me to this newish product called Bobbins Up. These plastic storage bobbins hold 5 oz of fiber and include a nifty insert that you can fit directly into your drill bit holder to power it. This is a significant improvement over the rubber-band-on-a-screw-bit situation I have now. Here is the bobbin with the insert out so you can see it:

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Aren’t all these singles pretty together?IMG_8371

I plied them up and got a total of 960 yards of 2-ply yarn that weighs 438 grams (I have a little bit of extra singles on one bobbin). IMG_8400

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This is almost certainly not enough yarn for a sweater for S1. I would buy more, but there is no more of the red fiber left for sale from Fancy Fibers on Etsy. I think I’ll wait until next season and see if they make more in a complementary color. Maybe I can put together a two-color sweater. Not Fair Isle (that would be VERY heavy and warm), but something else. Hmmm…

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Rethinking

Before we took our big trip earlier this summer, I considered taking a simple shawl along. Something very simple and repetitive, completed with a single skein of fingering weight yarn. As I was gathering ideas, this Loop pattern really caught my attention. I figured I could use leftovers for the contrasty bits, and a new skein for the background. I had a good leftover in mind: the Fleece Artist yarn that I deemed un-sockworthy and used some of on S1’s scarf. Remember this yarn?IMG_5571 I chose a grey skein from stash to go with it. But as I started working the pattern, I just wasn’t happy. The grey seems too cool, the variegated colors too warm. Neither was looking their best next to each other. See?

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I kept working on it, but very slowly, because I was considering ripping it out and using a different yarn for the loopy bits.

In the meantime, Laura Nelkin announced a new Mystery KAL: Circo. Mostly it’s a mystery, but she did reveal that we’ll be knitting a cowl. I’ve been following Laura since taking a class with her at Knitters’ Day Out in 2012. Her projects are clever and fun. This one caught my eye because she recommends a long-change gradient yarn, and I have one in stash: my Freia yarn that I bought a few years ago and ended up not using for the intended project. I also have a decent bead stash and I had coordinating beads. I figured I’d jump in. But then, an obstacle! It turns out that her pattern calls for 400 yards of yarn (that’s with a little buffer, as her test knits took 360 yards). The Freia yarn comes in a 322 yard put up. So she took it off the recommended yarn list.

By this time, I was kind of invested in doing this KAL, but I really didn’t want to buy new yarn. I looked at the beautiful grey yarn that wasn’t looking its best in Loop, and checked the yardage. We’re good! It has 424 yards. So I ripped Loop out. (Laura says that the project will look really well with long gradients, but also well in subtle hand dyes or solids. Mine is a subtle hand dye.)

Then I went back to beads. The pattern calls for 27 grams. The size 8/0 beads generally come in 40 gram boxes (at least, that’s how I buy them). So I could use a partial box, but I would need to be careful.

I test drove 9 bead colors by wearing this scrap around my wrist for a couple of days:IMG_8387The winner is this blue-ish lavender bead, which is a Matsuno Dyna-mite 8/0 round hole, silver-lined bead called “blue.”IMG_8384

It looks darker when the beads are all together; on the yarn it lightens up quite a bit. Hard to tell here, I know: IMG_8385

So now I have to work my gauge swatch to determine the right needle size, and then just sit tight and wait for the first clue to be released on September 15. This will be a fun way to use some stash yarn (and beads) in an unexpected way.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Stretching

Remember my big realization that my blue Bartlettyarns CustomFit sweater didn’t fit perfectly because my measurements were off? One of my goals was to fix the problem this summer, before beginning another big sweater project. All I wanted to do was add 2” to the sleeve length. Here is the original sweater:blue2 I was prepared to rip the entire thing apart, reknit the sleeves, and reseam it… but I was also interested in avoiding that if possible. The thought of undoing all my seams was daunting.

The sleeves were cast on at the cuff and knit up, so I knew it would not be simple to cut off the CO edge, pick up stitches, and knit down. If you knit in the opposite direction, your stitches are half a stitch off. Plus, the entire sleeve is knit in 2x2 rib, which makes the situation trickier than if it were stockinette.

Still, I tried. I cast on and knit some 2x2 rib. Then I cut my knitting, picked up the stitches, and knit down in 2x2 rib. Here you can see the CO part that I cut off at the bottom. The top is bound off at both edges. Look carefully in the middle – do you see the half stitch “jog”?IMG_8338 I thought it was too noticeable. Also, the fabric was much less stretchy right there. I didn’t like it.

So I went to Plan B: grafting. I thought that if I kitchenered two live edges together, it might look seamless… just like the toe of a sock looks seamless. But with the toe of a sock, all the live stitches were knit from the same direction. In my scenario, we were still dealing with stitches coming from different directions – PLUS the rib issue. I know it’s possible to graft in rib, but it’s weird and hard. I found some instructions and tried it, but I think it is self-evident why I rejected this solution: IMG_8344 At this point, I did some googling to gather more ideas. One writer recommended picking up stitches just above the CO edge (rather than cutting a thread and unraveling to get live stitches), then knitting down. Rather than making a whole new swatch, I just tried that technique with the Plan B swatch (which had a CO edge at the bottom). You can see that the 2x2 rib columns line up better, but there is still a really obvious line and it is a very inflexible line of stitching. Rejected!

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I googled some more. Somewhere I read that to disguise the half-stitch offset, you switch from stockinette to rib on a cuff. This wouldn’t work for me since my sleeve wasn’t stockinette. But it also suggested that if your main fabric was rib, try transitioning to another rib. And that, Plan D, was what I did.

First, I unseamed the cuff of the sleeve for 6” or so. The sleeve was knit flat, and the fix was also knit flat. It was a little tight to work with but doable:IMG_8348

Then I cut my knitting, picked up live stitches, and started knitting in 1x1 rib instead of 2x2. I auditioned many “stretchy” bindoffs, since I didn’t want the cuff to feel tight. (Leslie Ann Bestor’s Cast On, Bind Off: 54 Step-by-Step Methods is a great resource – there is a whole chapter on “stretchy”).The one that worked best in this case was the Lace Bind Off. Here is how the cuffs look now:

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If anything, the sleeves are now just a smidge too long… but I can live with that. I do still need to find an appropriate collared shirt to wear under the sweater. This Bartlett wool is NOT soft!

Whew! Now I can entertain thoughts of my next sweater project. I’ve been swatching…

Monday, August 10, 2015

Good Mail Day: Dorset Down

I’ve been following Sasha Torres since her podcasting days (she hosted SpinDoctor, now sadly discontinued). Maybe you remember I mentioned meeting her at MDSW earlier this year?

Sasha’s current venture is Sheepspot, which specializes in small batch, sustainable, breed-specific yarns. Caitlin and I decided to join the Sheepspot Fiber Club together, and we doubled down by subscribing for a full year AND adding on the Breed School option. This means we’ll get 6 shipments of dyed fiber (you could also get “naked” fiber, but we chose the dyed option) along with some extra information that helps us learn about the breed. You know I’m a sucker for anything in a class format…

Our first shipment arrived last week and this is what it looks like! (We are having both our club goodies delivered to one address to save a little money on postage.)

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Sasha very generously provides two colorway choices, and you can see that Caitlin and I chose differently. I love both of them (but mine is the blue one). IMG_8357 The breed this month is Dorset Down, and we have some fiber samples to play with here. Each is meticulously and attractively labeled. (I love her logo so much. It’s perfect.) Sasha describes Dorset Down as a “minority” breed; The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook uses the term “conservation” breed. There are no known flocks in the U.S. so this is a fiber few have tried here (certainly I have not). IMG_8354The fiber preparation is roving (not top) so I’ll likely start spinning it woolen style. Sasha’s notes say she sampled it SIX different ways. I’m not sure if I’ll make it that far. But because I’m good at following directions, and also, I like homework, I will make a good faith effort to complete the questions on the Spinner’s Worksheet. 

I’m anxious to jump into this first section of the breed study, but I need to clear my wheel first. I know some spinners have lots of stuff going at the same time, but I prefer monogamous spinning. I’m currently working on this alpaca-Shetland roving I won from PLY Magazine:

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I have 16 oz total. As of today, I’m halfway done – two bobbins full. I intend to make a 2-ply yarn, which means I need 5 free bobbins… and I only own 4! I just learned about these Bobbins Up storage bobbins that have a special insert that fits perfectly on your drill bit, so I ordered a few to try. I think they’ll be here just in time.

Now, gotta get back to my wheel…

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Passing

S1 recently spent a week at Hamilton College for a combined institute/conference for work. She said, more than once, that Hamilton was “in the middle of nowhere” and that “there is nothing to do” (actually, this is a good thing if you want to get work done, which was the point of the institute). At one point, I looked up Clinton, NY, and immediately noticed that there is a LYS that looks pretty lively. My evidence? They have their own line of handdyed yarn named after “loose women,” and they’re open until 9 pm on Friday night. That sounds like a party LYS to me. So I mentioned that it looked like there was plenty going on in Clinton, NY, if the LYS stays open late on Fridays.

So on Friday night, when I was hanging out with Kris, I texted S1: “I assume you’re hanging out at the yarn shop?” She responded with this photo of The Two Ewes: 20150731_134042

Then came this: “They dye their own line of sock yarn. Today was the last day of their summer sale. I think you know where this is going.”

People, my long range plan of training S1 to buy sock yarn is finally coming together. It turns out she not only went to the shop and bought sock yarn, but SHE PASSED HERSELF OFF AS A KNOWLEDGEABLE KNITTER. Upon noticing an attractive pile of Trekking XXL yarns, she commented that she loves her Trekking socks and they are holding up well. The shop person directed her to the room where “the good yarn” is, and then pointed out their own line of hand-dyed sock yarns. S1 noted the fiber construction and continued chatting about color pooling. I don’t think the salesperson ever knew that she wasn’t a knitter. Want to see what she bought?

First, she saw a sample of this yarn (colorway Beezee Bee) knit up and thought that Boy 1 would love it (he does). This is a 80/10/10 blend of superwash merino/cashmere/nylon in a generous skein of 496 yards. IMG_8368

She also selected a skein for herself. She has been loving the soft neutrals of this pair (which I just now realized I never blogged about) – so serviceable with work attire! – and thus she picked a similar color scheme named Hackamore Lane:IMG_8370This is on their “Street Walker” base, 75/25 superwash Corriedale/nylon.

If you can catch them when they’re stocked, The Two Ewes sell all the Loose Women yarns on Etsy. The line includes Street Walker, Drunken Strumpet, Coquette, and Tartlets – don’t you just love those names?IMG_8369

Apparently my loose woman is so well informed that she can play it fast and loose with the knitting chit chat, enough to pass as the knitter in the family.

My work is done.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Sock yarn stash FTW!

pixie cropOne of the women in my exercise class just had a baby. When the call went out for small items to fill a care package, I felt a strong urge to knit a baby hat. So I did! This is the Stella Pixie Hat, which I’ve knit before. The first one was a huge hit with the mom and the whole baby shower crew, so I thought I’d make it again. The first time it only took 35 grams of leftover sock yarn, so I went looking for a similar quantity.IMG_8363Once again, I chose to leave off the weird looking neckband and instead work applied i-cord over the neck edge. More precisely, I knit regular i-cord for about 9”, then kept going with applied i-cord around the neck, and then did another 9” of plain i-cord. So simple.IMG_8361 My only improvement to this version was to use the alternate cable cast-on, which results in a beautiful edge. This is the one that should end up around the baby’s face. Isn’t it so much nicer than that tight chain you get with long tail?

When positioning the hat for the photo above which shows the cast-on, S1 commented that I had made a tiny witch’s hat:

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It does look witchy here, but imagine a baby’s round head inside. All that 2x2 rib and faux rib will stretch, except for a little bit at the top which should give the child an elf-ish look. Adorable.

This only only took 33 grams of yarn. I like using up those bits! I hope that this baby has the type of mom who will put a slightly goofy hat on her child.