Sunday, August 13, 2017

Mrs. Who?

In early June, I went to the Frederick Fiber Fest, a newish event I hadn’t been to before. It was smallish but packed with gorgeous yarns. I think I hadn’t prepared myself mentally for the bounty of beauty, and I fell off my yarn diet. But I got some beautiful things that I really love: IMG_5669

Now that I’ve knit two of the skeins in that photo, I’m ‘fessing up. I got these two with only the vaguest idea that I would make one of those two-skeins-of-sock-yarn shawls. After getting home, I settled down for some serious Ravelry searching, and eventually settled on the Mrs. Blandings shawl. (I still don’t know if the reference is to the 1948 film, the 1946 novel, or something else.) I cast on before our vacation – proof! IMG_3419

And then I proceeded to ignore it in favor of some grey socks until the socks were done. But now, it’s done: crop1

I think this will fit into my so-called wardrobe well. I have plenty of grey, and the multi color works with just about anything. It is LONG – 83” wingspan – but not so deep – only 17” at the deepest point.crop4

I really loved working with the multicolor, which I guess is hand painted but is probably splashed more than anything else. IMG_5663It was so entertaining to see which colors would come up against each other. Though at times, there isn’t enough contrast between it and the dreamy dove grey color. And I wonder if the fancy stitch pattern in the solid section even shows up against the riot of color: IMG_6491

The shawl was supposed to end with a striping section, but I added another 9 garter ridges of grey since I had the yarn and I felt it balanced that edge against the cast-on point. IMG_6485

I have a little bit of yarn left over, but it will go straight into my I Love Leftovers blanket. Overall, this is a serviceable shawl and I look forward to cooler temps that will cause me to pull it out again.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Cirrus

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This colorway is perfectly named – the fiber (organic Polwarth) is soft as a cloud, and the color (a dreamy semisolid dove gray) is really just a wisp of a color. I bought the fiber at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival last May and intended to spin a 3-ply yarn for the Pania of the Reef shawl. It was meant to go with this gradient yarn, which I spun in April 2016:IMG_0146

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I spun the top worsted style all onto one bobbin, which I then transferred to 3 storage bobbins (weighing to get them as even as possible):IMG_4277

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Then I made a 3-ply yarn. One bobbin emptied sooner than the other two. I tried something new at this point… I took the remaining bobbin that seemed the fattest and I wound it into a center-pull ball on my ball winder. Then I held that little ball in my hand, and I pulled from both ends of it – along with the remaining bobbin – to make more 3-ply yarn. I think I got about 30 extra yards by doing this! Boy 2 tried to capture an action shot:IMG_6473

This worked quite well – I’ll use this technique again in the future!

This photo shows the yarn before finishing (left) and after finishing (right). The color difference is just due to the light (evening light made it look bluer). I thought this Polwarth would puff up more than it did. It puffed a little, though.JLXK1248

This was a really lovely spin. I would definitely purchase from this farm again – it came from Middle Brook Fiberworks in Bedminster, NJ.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Color-and-Weave Towels

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They’re all done! I made these using Liz Gipson’s Color-and-Weave Towels pattern on my 15” Cricket rigid heddle loom (10-dent heddle). The yarn is 8/2 cotton from The Woolery in colors Nil Green and Aqua Marine.

Before washing, they were 14.5” wide and the length varied from 21.875 to 22.375”. After washing, they are 13.125” wide and the length varies from 19.125 to 20.125”. If I hadn’t messed up the warping pattern, they would be just an eensy bit wider… but not much. Do you see where I made the mistake? They are actually TWO mistakes near each other:IMG_6459

You can also see a couple of floats in that photo. I was so anxious to wash them after taking them off the loom that I forgot to check for those – OOPS! That was the first towel I made, and I didn’t notice any skips or floats on the subsequent ones. I guess I got my head in the game.

One of the cool things about this pattern is that it has four different patterns for the stripe of the towel that uses two colors. Above is #1, which used a teal/green/green pattern. #2 is similar – it’s a teal/teal/green pattern:IMG_6461 #3 is teal/green x4/teal/green x2:IMG_6464

And #4 is a simple alteration of teal/green:IMG_6467

I love this little detail that makes a “family” of towels. I definitely need to work more on changing colors at the edge. The instructions seem clear on paper, yet in practice I struggle. That will come. This is a particularly bad edge:IMG_6465

But my hems… I think they are quite beautiful. I defy you to see where I took the stitches:IMG_6468

I am definitely becoming more comfortable with all the little steps in weaving. I’m not sure what my next project will be. Maybe weaving with handspun? I also have ideas for using the cotton yarns that are left over from my projects so far. One though: I’d like to try mixing a single thread of 8/4 and doubled threads of 8/2 in the same project. I’d also like to use doubled threads of 8/2 in each slot/hole, but use two different colors in the same slot/hole.

But for now… the wheel calls.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Thinking long term

It’s about time for a check-in on the I Love Leftovers project, a blanket I’m making with leftover sock yarn:crop

I started this project back in October of 2015. I have made a lot of socks since I started knitting in 2002. While I don’t consider leftover yarn to really be part of the stash, it kind of is… especially when the leftover balls are multiplied by the number of socks I’ve made. My inspiration project is this blanket made of mitered squares. It uses the color purple to unify it, but I went with the rainbow approach since I wanted to use as many of my leftovers as possible.IMG_6452

I am knitting the edge of each square in black to create a windowpane effect in the final project, and I’ll also add a black border. Right now I have 121 squares. If I filled in this rectangle with 9 more, the project measures about 46”x62”. Of course, that doesn’t account for blocking or the border, which will make it bigger. It also doesn’t account for seaming, which would reduce size if I use mattress stitch or increase size if I use a crochet bind (I think Steven did this for one of his blankets?). I’ll have to fiddle around and see what I like later.IMG_6445

Initially I was thinking about 200 squares. I still have plenty of leftovers to use, so I’ll just keep going. IMG_6448

Sunday, July 16, 2017

I’m so square

I have been cranking out some sock yarn squares lately. My theory is that when my brain is occupied with something newer or more complicated (like weaving those towels), my knitting reverts to a more comfortable zone. I could make these squares in my sleep.

First up, I got 4 squares from the Crazy Zauberball left over from a pair of socks I knit for myself earlier this year. I really love these:IMG_6425

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The Zauberball entertained me so much that I dug around until I found the leftover ball from a pair I knit for Pam many years ago, in 2011:IMG_4201

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And when I finished with those, I went to the good, grey, Danish yarn I just made a pair from last month: IMG_6443

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One of these days, I’ll pull out all the squares to count and photograph them. I think I last did this in February of this year, and I’ve made a lot of squares since then. It’s kind of a project to do that, though. Maybe this week, when the kids are at camp!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Towels in progress

I decided to go for the Color-and-Weave Towels next. These are worked with the 10-dent heddle with double strands of 8/2 cotton. They use the entire width of my 15” Cricket, which reminded me that I have trouble tying onto the edge of the apron rod. As I puzzled over how to keep the threads from slipping off the edge of the rod as I pulled the warp through, I remembered a trick I saw in a video using rubber bands. Bingo! That made warping 100x easier – see the pink band on the left and the blue one on the right:IMG_6403IMG_6402 I used the direct warp method again this time, even though the warp was pretty long (4 yards). It was a lot of walking…IMG_6404

The next step is winding on, which always gives me agita. I haven’t yet figured out how to keep the paper straight, so sooner or later I end up with too much paper on one edge (which begins to crumple up) and too little on the other (unacceptable, because you have to keep each layer of warp separated by something). When you don’t have unused heddles at the edges, this is especially difficult. I ended up using different pieces for the left and right sides of this warp. (Got a tip? I’m all ears.) Eventually I got it wound on and threaded the holes:IMG_6405

That’s when I realized I had made two mistakes in the warping (and why you see a couple empty slots on the left)! I could have pulled it back at this point and fixed it, but I didn’t want to face winding on with the paper again. I’m going to live with that imperfection on this batch.

Next I made these nifty little guides:IMG_6408

This long warp will make 4 towels, each with a different pattern on part of one end (the rest is plain weave). I cut this into strips and pinned a strip to the work as I went. This way, I didn’t have to keep getting out my measuring tape and tracking my progress on another piece of paper. I like this technique. Here it is in action:IMG_6409

When I reach the end of each towel, I need to leave about 2” of waste yarn before starting the next one. I found a 2” plastic ruler that works perfectly for this purpose. Here you can see it inserted – I took it out right after this to finish working the hem stitch on this end (that’s what makes all those little knots you see):IMG_6417

I am currently working on Towel #3. I’m getting the hang of things, mostly. One thing I’m NOT happy with yet is how my edges look when I’m using two colors in the weft. I need to do some more reading about that, and/or ask my weaving friends (tips? all ears). IMG_6418

The color differences you see in these photos are just due to day/night and lamp/no lamp.

Towels are happening.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Weaving revival

IMG_6037Having almost finished my set of cotton dish towels before leaving on vacation, I found that weaving was on my mind. Then I visited Halcyon Yarn in Bath, Maine, and got an inspirational boost. If you’re ever in the area, you must go! It is heaven for knitters, spinners, and weavers. When you walk in the front door, you are greeted by a display of samples:IMG_6034 Of course, I zoomed in on the dishtowel right away:IMG_6035

Pretty pretty pretty. I picked up some nice things at Halcyon, including some yarn for knitting a gift scarf (I didn’t have anything appropriate in stash). I also got two skeins of yarn for weaving a scarf. I was so intrigued by the Noro Taiyo, which is a funky gradient made of 40% cotton, 30% silk, 15% wool, and 15% polyamid. After consulting with the shop employee, I decided to use it as weft and pair it with Cascade 200 Superwash for warp:IMG_6338

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I also got a magazine at Halcyon, which I proceeded to read cover to cover over the next few days. As you can see, I had lots of thoughts and ideas while reading it! IMG_6400

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I got home and immediately warped the loom for the scarf. I used my 8-dent reed and the direct warping method. I think the direct warp allowed me to keep the threads very organized, and everything wound on smoothly:IMG_6349

Dealing with the weft is a little tricky with a gradient yarn. If you wind some yarn off the ball onto the stick shuttle and weave it, then when you do the next section they will not match up. You have to rewind the yarn backwards. This is totally a pain, but also totally worth it. I also (thanks to a tip by my weaving teacher in May) took the time to wind my Noro into a center pull ball before doing anything else – this allowed me to know that there was a KNOT in the skein that interrupts the gradient! Fortunately, it was very near one end of the ball, so I could just ignore that bit:IMG_6350

Once I got this on the loom, it wove really quickly. I actually warped and did all the weaving in one day. The next day, I just had to hemstitch the end and make the fringe. I used my new, nifty fringe winder to do this:

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Just for fun, I alternated between fringes that were 2x2x2 and 1x1x1. Then I threw it in the washing machine with some towels to wet finish it. Right after that, I started cleaning up, and I noticed that the Noro ball band says NOT to wash this yarn! I flew down to the basement and fished my scarf out. It got some wet finishing, but not the full treatment. Here is the finished scarf:IMG_6382

The Noro color changes are so beguiling. IMG_6398

And the fringes are cute! IMG_6399

After two days at home, we had to get in the car again to deliver Boy 1 to camp. I pulled out my cotton towels to finish the hems, as I had acquired the 8/2 cotton in WHITE that I decided I needed for this. I hemmed the second edge of the first towel, and then compared it to my first hem. I worked a regular old whip stitch in green for the first hem (top of photo), and what I guess is called “slip stitch” (according to this blog post) in white on the second hem (bottom of photo). I never knew what that was called… it was just something my mom taught me years ago. Slip stitch in white totally wins, so I ripped out the green and redid that one. Now I have 3 towels ready to go, even if they’re smaller than I would like. IMG_6388

And for the next set of towels, I will use white weft in the hem area now that I have the skinnier yarn (hem in 8/2, main area in 8/4).

I would like to warp the loom again before the holiday weekend is over. I know the next project will be towels again… I just have to decide whether to tackle another set similar to the ones I just did, or to try the Color-and-Weave Towels by Liz Gibson (I have yarn and pattern ready to go).

The urge to spin is battling the urge to weave. There was a new issue of PLY Magazine waiting for me when I got home, and I’m reading it now. Even though the entire issue is devoted to bobbin-led wheels and my wheel is NOT bobbin-led, it still makes me want to spin!

I’m also thinking about using handspun in my weaving……….

I could retire today and be plenty busy!