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.


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!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Starting new things


This is my current “at home” project. It’s a shawl made with two fingering yarns… but it uses a ton of short rows and is not conducive to office or social knitting. I’m using the Danish yarns that a colleague brought me earlier this year:danish crop

The pattern is Penrose Tile Shawl. The beginning is knit from end to end, like a scarf, except using short rows to achieve these sections of trapezoids: IMG_0376

Then the garter stripe section has very long rows. I’ve moved beyond this section now and am in another short row section that is also long, and lacy, and in general a little different. I’ve been a bit frustrated by the pattern errata, but I’m muddling through. The result is quite pretty!

The other project I began is a weaving project – remember the towel kit I got at MDSW earlier this month? Here is how my loom looked during the warping process. This is a rigid heddle loom (15” Cricket) so you use a direct warping technique. All those threads are connected to a warping peg at the other end of the room. IMG_0382

I worked hem stitch at the beginning and end of each towel to make the ends neat and tidy (though you won’t see that when I’m done, because I’ll turn the hems and sew them down): IMG_0384

Here is some of the weaving coming together: IMG_0389

I love the rainbow look! But I’m kind of frustrated because the work is too open and I don’t think it will look right even after it gets a vigorous hot and soapy bath in my washing machine (which is where it is right now). It is very hard to beat the weft tighter than this. The clamps aren’t holding my loom to my table. I’m getting pretty close to ordering the official Cricket stand to see if that works better. I visited Julie today for some weaving troubleshooting. I’ve already re-warped the loom for another set of two towels, and we’ll see if I can get a tighter weave on them. Wish me luck!

Friday, May 13, 2016


IMG_0147The fifth shipment of the Sheepspot Fiber Club was Perendale, a breed I hadn’t even heard of until now. When you look it up in The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook, it’s listed in the “other sheep breeds” section toward the back. It’s a newer breed, developed in the 1950s in New Zealand for both meat and fiber. Perendale is notable because it’s a longwool, but not the sleek lustrous kind that the English longwool sheep grow… Perendale is springy and bouncy. We received roving, a carded prep.


This colorway (called “Bird’s Nest”) is smack in the middle of my happy place. I love blue and green together, especially this bright, spring, apple green with a bit of acidity to it. This braid adds both gray and brown, making it match almost anything I could wear it with.

I figured I would want to spin this woolen because of the carded prep. Sasha tried several approaches and combed some of her fiber… but I don’t own combs so I spun it straight from the braid. Because of Sasha’s spinning notes, I decided to try to spin more loosely than I usually do – I didn’t want this yarn to end up wiry. So I worked on my 10.5:1 pulley (Judith, did you hear me use the correct word? “whorl” no more!) and tried to draft the same way I usually do for woolen spinning.

I started by dividing the braid into two sections and noticed the colors were really long, so I decided to try a fractal spinning approach. I spun the first half of the braid as it came. But for the second half, I divided the fiber into four sections – and then split each section lengthwise into three sections. Like this:IMG_0237

Then I rearranged these little sections thusly:IMG_0238

And I carefully spun them in order. The result was that the color changes were much shorter on my second singles bobbin and much longer on my first bobbin. I hoped to even everything out in the plying.IMG_0240

You can’t really tell how long the colors are in the singles above, but there they are for proof!20160502_205406

My plying bobbin was packed to the gills. I was starting to have trouble and probably should have started another. IMG_0244

And here’s my finished yarn – about 234 yards and 107 grams. It is NOT wiry! It’s kind of soft and poofy, but not in a bad way. It will totally hold together (I plied it on the 12.5:1 pulley – I always ply one pulley smaller when spinning woolen). The colors look pretty mixed in the skein, but we’ll really tell when it is knit.

I finished this skein a few days before MDSW and I took it with me to show Sasha and Kat. It TOTALLY got the reaction every spinner/knitter wants to get – a loud, audible gasp that turned heads. Thank you, Sasha!IMG_2529

And now the eternal question… what will it become? I agree with Sasha – I think its future is a hat of some sort. But we will see. Suggestions always welcome.

And if you’re intrigued, she still has Perendale in the shop!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Clothing a teen

I’ve got a couple of projects for Boy 1 to share with you.

First, the fix is in on the Windschief hat. I could tell that he just wouldn’t wear it unless it came over his ears, so I ripped back the crown decreases. I added only 4 additional rounds before reworking the crown, but those 4 rounds make a BIG difference in his happiness level. IMG_0355

His eyes are closed in blissful appreciation and anticipation of colder temps again in the fall. (I’m pretty sure that’s what he was thinking about, anyway…)

I’ve also got an easy sock for Boy 1 on the needles. Remember this colorful Regia sock yarn I picked up at a department store in Munich last summer?IMG_8308

Now it’s a sock:IMG_0371

The lighting isn’t great here… it’s been raining or cloudy or both for about two weeks straight here, so you get what you get. I’m using the Vanilla Latte stitch pattern, which is dead simple:

Round 1: *K6 P2*
Round 2: K

There is no pooling in this yarn. In fact, it is VERY entertaining to work with. It is a four-ply yarn and each of the plies is a different color. The colors change after just a few inches, so you are almost never looking at the same combination of colors. Let me show you a little bit of the ball:IMG_0372

I’m not sure this would be the best yarn for a brand new knitter to use, but I am definitely enjoying it.

I asked Boy 1 what he saw in the fabric – because remember, he is red-green color blind. His response: “rainbows!” (and a big smile). I’ll take it!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

I didn’t buy ANY yarn! MDSW ‘16

What a great year it was for the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival! Here are some highlights:

Judith MacKenzie class

IMG_0251On Friday, I drove in for a class with the famous Judith MacKenzie called “Drafting Techniques to Make the Yarn You Want.” We spun many samples and practiced techniques from worsted to woolen. Every time Judith opens her mouth, I want to write something down. I took lots of notes!

Whenever I take a spinning class, I inevitably learn something from my neighbor. My neighbor Michelle showed me how to make a “fauxlag” out of combed top. This is a useful technique if your top is too slippery to spin easily and you want to calm it down a bit. (For my non-spinning readers, a “rolag” is a carded preparation that looks like a tube. This fauxlag is a combed preparation that looks like a tube. You draft off the tip.)IMG_0261

This last one isn’t a dreamy picture, but it proves that I made some samples in class and that my future spinning will be better for it. Most of those samples are made from wool, but there are also some wool-silk blends and even some 100% cashmere – what a treat!IMG_0279

It rained ALL DAY on Friday. I had to carry my spinning wheel in and out of class with a big black yard bag over it (so humiliating for my sweet Ladybug). I really felt sorry for all the vendors who were struggling to set up in the rain, especially the ones in outside tents. But, the show must go on!

Festival Part 1 – with the knitters

Judy, Kris, and I rode to the festival early on Saturday and got there about 8:45. We snagged good parking spots and commenced shopping, stopping for what have become predictable breaks for snacks and lunch. We are a well-oiled machine after all these years of fest-ing together. It was grey, chilly, and damp, but NOT RAINING. First stop: Brooks Farm. Can you see the mud here? I wore my hiking boots and they were absolutely the best footwear choice.IMG_0281

While I was at Brooks Farm, I heard a baby crying. It turned out to be a lamb that was born just that morning. No ewe would claim it and the owners weren’t sure which one was the mother, so they had to bring it.IMG_0282

Next I scooted up to the Main Hall, where I spied Clara Parkes signing books at Spirit Trail. Note that she didn’t expose her new wool shoes to the festival mud! I never got to say “hi” to her this year, but I spotted her a couple of times.IMG_0283

I did some serious shopping during this part of the day. I got some consumables: IMG_0361

Everyone knows what Eucalan is for. I tried the maple cream last year and it was DELISH, so I went back for more. They also had maple seasoning this year – it’s a mix of maple sugar, salt, and other seasonings…kind of sweet and salty. I can’t wait to try that on everything. And the last thing is a tube of cuticle cream.

I also got excited in one booth and bought a weaving shuttle – with appropriately-sized bobbins – to use with my Cricket loom: IMG_0360

AND I got some yummy fiber to spin from Spunky Eclectic. This is the first time she’s shown at MDSW, and I’ve never used her fiber. I really liked this special limited edition colorway called “Peepers.” It’s top dyed on a base of 65% Polwarth, 25% Mohair, 10% Silk:IMG_0364

Then, because I have REALLY enjoyed spinning Jacob roving in the past, I snagged a couple more 4 oz balls of it. This particular fiber is from Spot Hollow Farm.IMG_0369

I stumbled across a new button vendor, too: Favour Valley Woodworking. They make buttons from wood and antler – and they are washable! (Hand wash or gently machine wash.) I loved them and thought they were very reasonably priced, so I bought a card of 6 buttons for some unknown future sweater. Normally I don’t buy buttons until I have a sweater, but these were too good to pass up. IMG_0359

And this was my big splurge of the day: a kit to make rainbow towels:IMG_0366

It has two big white cones and eight smaller cones in multiple colors. I should be able to make four towels on my Cricket loom with it. This is 5/2 cotton for my weaving readers:IMG_0368


Festival Part 2 – with the spinners

Around lunchtime, I met up with Sasha Torres from Sheepspot and Kat (AsKatKnits). Kat is a fellow member of Sasha’s Fiber Club, and the three of us have been chatting online about breeds throughout the past year. During our last chat, we made a plan to meet up at Maryland and go to the fleece sale. I was interested in learning how to choose a fleece wisely. Here’s Judy with Kat (note that Kat is wearing a gorgeous Vodka Lemonade sweater made from Sasha’s Clun Forest yarn):IMG_0286

And here is Sasha petting my latest skein of yarn spun from club fiber – this is the Perendale that I finished last week. (Oh wait, I might not have showed you that yet. Surprise!)IMG_0287

I learned a LOT about how to evaluate a fleece, and I feel much more confident about choosing one. If you’ve never peeked into the fleece sale, this is what it looks like – a lot of tables covered with plastic bags holding fleeces:IMG_0288

I learned that if you want to spot the knitting celebrities, they will turn up at the fleece sale. I saw Clara again here (but no photo). Here is Judith MacKenzie admiring something: IMG_0292

And Maggie Casey, too. I took a spindle spinning class from her a few years ago. She is so nice to chat with!IMG_0293

I didn’t buy one this year. Maybe next year! (You know it’s coming…)


Festival Part 3 – a new knitter?

By this time, my knitters and spinners were gone and I was waiting to meet my friend Zakiya, so I went back to my car and dropped off purchases. Then I watched a BFL fiber prep demo and perused the skein and garment competition. It’s so inspirational to see the winners.

My friend Zakiya does not knit or spin or weave or know anything about sheep, but she was interested in experiencing the festival. She arrived about 3 pm, which I’ve learned is a really great time on Saturday. The crowds have calmed down a lot by then and you can walk around easily. The frenetic energy of the morning is gone, and the whole atmosphere is more chill. And yesterday, the sun actually came out in the afternoon! We started at the sheepdog demonstration – always interesting to watch the dogs work:IMG_0331

Then she sampled some festival foods and music. My next move was to take her to the Rabbit Building with the fiber demonstrations. She was really interested in the lace tatting and the angora rabbits.IMG_0339

Next we walked through some of the sheep barns and admired the various breeds. Check out the horns on this Jacob!IMG_0345

Then, and only then, did I take her into the main hall. I popped into the Into the Whirled booth (which had been too crowded to enter earlier in the day) and found another Falkland batt that I just love:IMG_0362


And that is where it happened, my friends: Zakiya picked up yarn and said “can I knit this?”

Some of you know that Into the Whirled has mainly fingering weight yarns, and I didn’t think that was the place for her to begin. But I said I’d make her a pair of socks if she loved the yarn – so she bought it. That was step one – buying yarn at a festival:IMG_0347

Then we went looking for something in more of a worsted weight. She flirted really hard with a skein of Yowza at Miss Babs (again, NO LINE and NO CROWDS after 5 pm), but she fell in love with Hudson at Jill Draper Makes Stuff. IMG_0350

We envision a long cowl that can be doubled. Knitting lessons shall commence within the week, if my hunch is correct!IMG_0352

Then the announcer got on the loudspeaker and said “The Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival is now closed. Please make your way to your cars.” (I’ve never stayed long enough to hear that before.) So we went outside for one last photo, and then called it a day.IMG_0353

I don’t know why I shot that sideways. I guess I was just excited. There is a new knitter in gestation!

I didn’t buy any yarn, but I bought plenty of making stuff and maybe made a new knitter, too. Another great year!