Sunday, September 18, 2016

Knitters’ Day Out 2016

As usual, here is my report from Knitters’ Day Out ---

For my morning class, I learned how to pick up stitches and work a top-down set-in sleeve using short rows to shape the sleeve cap. This technique is pretty fiddly. The instructor had us work a strand of waste yarn along with the main yarn on the pick-up round. The reason for this was so we could identify the pick-up round later and tighten up that row of stitches so it looked better. I have to say that I did NOT enjoy this. It took me longer to tighten up the round than it would have to just seam in a sleeve using mattress stitch. This is the only photo I have. The bits of orange peeking through are from that strand of waste yarn:IMG_4038

I’m interested in top-down sleeves because I think it will be easier to get the length right, but I wasn’t enamored of this technique. I wonder if patterns are ever written to work sleeves flat (separately) from the top down? I am completely willing to try that. I’m also willing to take a look at this book, which just came out. Has anyone seen it yet?

My afternoon class was about afterthought pockets. I took a class with Lily Chin in 2014, so I knew she was a great teacher. She did not disappoint this year! For the first pocket, we worked some waste yarn into the swatch and then removed it later to open a hole in the fabric.



We worked a very simple pocket and discussed its pros and cons. Lily likes to round the bottom corners of the pocket to reduce the amount of lint, etc, that collects there. I worked Pocket #1 in red yarn:IMG_4014



This is a little tiny pocket worked over 7 stitches. It isn’t very deep, but you get the idea.

The next pocket required the use of a crochet hook, but no waste yarn. It is worked as you work the sweater fabric (making it technically NOT an afterthought pocket, I guess). The opening reminds me of a buttonhole. I worked this pocket in white yarn:IMG_4020


The final pocket was the most flexible because it is truly an afterthought – I marked a spot in the fabric where I wanted to insert a pocket, and just cut a strand of yarn in the middle: IMG_4021

I unraveled the yarn and placed live loops on needles. Then I worked a pocket in blue yarn:IMG_4032

You can see that the three pockets all look different at the opening. I won’t give you the full scoop on that because I don’t want to give away Lily’s Secret Sauce. There are lots more little details and tips that we got along the way. Let’s just say that some pocket openings are more stretchy (and therefore more prone to sagging, especially given the yarn and pocket size) and some are more stable. Our class even brainstormed a couple ideas about how to stabilize the pocket opening even more.

I really appreciate Lily’s attention to lesson planning. Her homework was completely appropriate (not too much, not too little, just the right amount to allow us to practice the techniques). Her handouts were correct and complete. Her learning goals were right-sized for a three-hour class. And she used technology to teach better – here’s a shot of her setup at the front of the room:


She is using the camera on a Microsoft Surface tablet to capture her hands and project them on the big screen. We students could see EXACTLY what Lily saw in her own hands, but much bigger. (The black and white things on the table are just lamps.) GENIUS! This is a big step forward from standing in front of the room with giant knitting needles held over one’s head (teacher’s back to students), which is a pretty good low-tech way to do a demo for a group (and also superior to just having students stand behind you while you sit in a chair and work a technique).

Lily also has lots of digital photos organized in folders on her tablet so that she can quickly show us projects that use the techniques being taught. But lest you think that she is all high tech… she still brings plenty of samples for us to study and touch. IMG_4026

I learned a lot in this class and am anxious to put a pocket in one of my Greynbow Sweater swatches as a test. Here is my completed pocket sampler:IMG_4031

As for the marketplace… I tried not to acquire too much this year since I am focusing on stash reduction. I did not buy any yarn or fiber, which shows some real restraint because there were some gorgeous things on offer! But I did pick up a few things:IMG_4033

First, I got another pair of folding scissors to replace the one I lost at airport security in Bali. I like to have a pair in each of my notions bags. I also got another Lolo Bar. I have one that is almost gone and I really like it. For my big purchase, I finally chose a pair of wool carders – these are the Clemes & Clemes ones and I got them at the Gurdy Run Woolen Mill booth (I’ve bought fiber from them before and been very happy with it – all roving which can be hard to find!). They are quite lightweight and comfortable in my hands. I’m looking forward to blending some fibers for future spinning projects.

The other thing that came home with me wasn’t purchased. Julie and Alison left these plates of Plötulopi on the swap table, and I scooped them right into my bag. IMG_4035

I don’t have any immediate plans for this yarn, but after visiting Iceland last summer, I felt that I just could not leave the yarn on the table with all the Red Heart Supersaver. I’ll do some reading and consider a pattern (here are some tips for working with Plötulopi). The absolutely worst case scenario is that I return them to the KDO swap table another year. Julie said she had a lot of trouble knitting with this because the strand kept drifting apart. It didn’t feel good, either, so she KonMaried it. Julie, were you working a particular pattern? Maybe I’ll try one of those Lopi style sweaters…

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Skeining again


I finished spinning the absolutely lovely Po-Mo-Silk top dyed by Spunky Eclectic. I spun it worsted style and quite fine. Here is what the singles looked like when they were done:IMG_3981

Then I plied, which took a while. The fiber kept going and going and going. When I put it on the skein winder, I realized I had a LOT of yardage. Like 528 yards!!! But it all fits nicely on one bobbin.IMG_3991

The weight of the skein (today, anyway – it can vary with the weather) is 118 grams. The fiber was labelled as “approximately 4 oz” and I think it was a generous serving. Still, I think 528 yards is quite a lot. I just love seeing how all the different colors look when they touch each other. IMG_4000

The yarn looks quite a bit more muted than the fiber did. This happens most of the time. I say, never be afraid to buy garish fiber! It will probably calm down when it grows up to be yarn.

With that project off the wheel, I turned back to the Targhee fiber that I got from Sheepspot in June, right before I left on my travels. I had started spinning it on a spindle but just wasn’t feeling the love. Then after I had my surgery, holding my arm up with something hanging down from it was NOT appealing at all. I didn’t have much on the spindle, so I decided to return to the wheel with the rest. Here is what the fiber looked like:IMG_4003

Yum yum yum! I decided to revisit the gradient idea and separate the colors. I ripped it all up, sorted it, and then I had this:IMG_4004

It’s not going to be a perfect gradient, but I think it will be an interesting yarn. I’m spinning this worsted style and quite fine, just like the last project.

In knitting news, Knitters’ Day Out is Saturday! I am taking Top Down Set-In Sleeves with Mary-Anne Posenau in the morning, and Afterthought No Sew Pockets with Lily Chin in the afternoon. I’m hoping to get inspired for sweater knitting season. All the pieces of my Drumlin Cardigan are done (and have been for some time), but I need to sew them up. The pattern calls for patch pockets. I’d like to have pockets, but I think they can be better than patch pockets. I’m hoping Lily Chin will school me in that department.

Once I finish that sweater, it is Boy 1’s turn for something new. He has long outgrown his last handknit sweater. He wants a warm wool vest this time! (Calm down Steven, I’m NOT doing colorwork…)

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Handspun Update

One of my goals for 2016 was to knit more of my handspun. I’m not sure I’ve done such a great job of it, though. So far I’ve only managed two cowls, a shawl, and most of a sweater (I haven’t shown you the Drumlin Cardigan in a while… but all the pieces are done).

I’ve been trying to have a handspun project queued up and ready to go at all times. This is the latest item from that “thinking ahead” list - I selected the pattern and wound the yarn for the Little BigWrap early in the summer (before my travels). I cast it on when I was home after my recent appendectomy.IMG_3974

I love all the versions of this shawl in Ravelry. It calls for a “special” yarn and a coordinating solid. I thought that this cake of gradient yarn could be my special yarn – I spun it from an Into the Whirled Falkland Batt earlier this year. The greige yarn is 3-ply BFL that I spun in 2012.

But as I ponder this WIP, two niggling concerns hold me back from working on it more:

  1. The many versions of the shawl that I love so much in Ravelry are much more colorful than mine. Their “special” yarn must be a variegated yarn with many color changes. I am still stuck on the first color of the gradient cake and it seems like it is lasting a long time. Will this project actually use the whole gradient? Not sure.
  2. The pattern calls for DK weight yarn. I’m not sure what my handspun is, but it’s probably more like a worsted or even an aran. This is a hefty fabric and one I’m not sure I will actually wear as a shawl.

The project has been in stasis for long enough that I’m pretty sure I’ll rip it out. But before I do, what do you think?



I may struggle with knitting my handspun, but the handspun keeps on happening. After finishing the latest Sheepspot Fiber Club shipment, I picked up a pretty braid from Spunky Eclectic that I got at MDSW last May. It is Polwarth-Mohair-Silk (65/25/10) combed top, in the “Peepers” colorway. I split it into two sections and am spinning it worsted style, pretty fine. I’m hoping to get something like a fingering weight yarn that can be used for a simple scarf/shawl. I’m done with the first bobbin and am into the second one. 20160831_184535

Other than that, I’ve been cruising through Dan’s Bus Driver Socks and thinking about Knitters’ Day Out, which is in less than two weeks. I’m not done with my homework yet so I need to get on that.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Will knit socks for transpo

My friend Dan drove Boy 1 to school all through middle school. I offered to make him something as a thank-you after the kids finished sixth grade. He chose socks and got these yummy bamboo-patterned beauties. IMG_4618I thought he might choose something different after seventh grade (hat? mitts? handwoven scarf?) but he went straight back to socks and got this rugged denim blue pair. IMG_9175

So I wasn’t really surprised when we talked again earlier this summer, and he wanted socks again. He knows the drill by now, so he rummaged through my sock yarn cabinet to see what he liked. He chose this handsome skein of Cascade Yarns Heritage Paints. The colorway is “David’s Eyes” (a favorite of Kris’s) and I got it at Knitters’ Day Out waaaaayyyyy back in 2010. Score one for #ProjectStashbust!IMG_7170

Then we hit the stitch dictionaries and he was drawn to Diamond Seed Brocade in my Up, Down, All-Around Stitch Dictionary. I put a post-it in the book and left for Bali. When I returned to the book later, I realized that the stitch pattern was repeated over 12 stitches. I usually cast on 64 for Dan… maybe 68 if the yarn is especially thin. 12 doesn’t divide neatly into 64 or 68… and I knew 60 would be too small and 72 too large. So I cut the pattern down to repeat over 8 stitches, and I swatched to see if it would work. It didn’t, really. There wasn’t enough open space between the diamonds to show off the pattern. IMG_3910

So I went big instead, and enlarged the pattern to repeat over 16 stitches. I didn’t swatch again but just cast on. IMG_3900

I think this is going to work out quite well.


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Saturday, August 27, 2016

Breed School is back in session

club cropA new year of the Sheepspot Fiber Club and Breed School has begun! Breed School is so much fun that it starts in July and everyone is happy about it. Well, by the time my shipment made it through U.S. Customs, it was early August, but that’s okay. Sheepspot is worth waiting for.

IMG_3861The first shipment of the 2016-17 club year is Shetland top. This year, we have can choose from multicolor and solid options. I picked “Bronte,” which is blues and purples on a natural base that includes grey and brown. At least, I think that’s the base and not the dye. Even though this is top, it feels more like roving to me. I was inclined to spin it long draw. [Side note: I feel a little guilty about not sampling, but this was the first thing I spun after an unexpected appendectomy and I was inclined to do one of my default yarns. 14:1 whorl at the ready!]IMG_3865

As I held the fiber in my lap for a couple of days, I realigned it and quite liked the progression from grey to blue to purple. This made me want to make a gradient yarn. So I started tearing it up into smaller sections:IMG_3872 crop

Even though I could not spin for very long at one sitting (my back muscles ache from compensating for my compromised abs), this spun up pretty quickly. Soon enough I had a bobbin that was purple on the outside. IMG_3885

I planned to chain-ply it in order to produce a gradient yarn in one skein. And I did… but let me tell you, it was one of the most frustrating plying experiences I have ever had. For some reason, my singles bobbin wasn’t unwinding very easily from my kate. I really had to pull to get the yarn off. Then, when pulling the single through the loop (which creates a chain, hence the name), the working yarn abraded against the loop. My woolen yarn wasn’t always strong enough to withstand that abrasion, and it broke. Like, five times. There was cursing. I’m pretty sure it was breaking at the joins, of which there were MANY because of how much I had torn up the top. I guess my chain ply technique is not very elegant, because I feel that one needs five hands and several lengths of scotch tape in order to keep everything under control. I could use a lesson on that! But it got done. I just tied knots at the breaks and I’ll cut those out of the skein when I knit with it. IMG_3887

Here is my gorgeous skein winder which I still adore. I put washi tape on one of the pegs (the one on the left) so that I can easily count each time the winder does one full rotation. I have the pegs set to a 72” circumference, so if I count while winding, I know my yardage right away. I always found counting the yarns on the niddy noddy so tiresome…this is a big improvement. IMG_3891

Chain play makes a 3-ply yarn. You can see that I had a fairly tight angle of twist… my understanding is that this is preferable in woolen-spun yarns to add strength. Plus, I think it looks nice. After a nice wash, this is what I had:IMG_3897

I’ll admit that I have strategically wound the skein so you can’t see all the knots. But even so, it looks pretty good, right? It is only 186 yards, though… that 3-ply really eats up your singles. The tighter twist angle contributed to that a bit, too.IMG_3893

So, I’m glad to be back in the saddle in the spinning department. My hope is to squeeze in another spinning project before the next club shipment arrives, which will probably be sometime in September. DOH, September is next week! August is just a blur.

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.


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.


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:


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


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


The surreally beautiful Glacier Bay:


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