Sunday, July 20, 2014

Long draw

The style of spinning I was taught, and my default technique now, is informally known as “inchworm.” Technically it’s “short forward draw.” This worsted technique makes a smooth, dense, drape-y yarn that is quite beautiful.IMG_4262

But because I don’t do it, I’ve long wanted to spin the other way: woolen. The long draw is the hallmark of woolen spinning, which transforms a carded fiber into a lofty, airy yarn. A commercial example of a woolen yarn is Brooklyn Tweed Shelter (and also Loft). IMG_4263

I finally worked my way through Jacey Boggs’ article "Lying About Longdraw: Helping spinners get from worsted to woolen" from the Winter 2013 issue of PLY magazine. And look! Long draw! I diligently worked through all 9 steps of Jacey’s process, and it totally worked. Thanks, Jacey!

The fiber I’m using is mostly wool. I notice that the different colors are not the same in terms of density and “stickiness.” In other words, this roving doesn’t draft with perfect consistency. But it’s going pretty well. I’ve devoted some of this half-pound bag to pure practice and now have an additional bobbin of decent singles (in the first photo). I plan to spin one more bobbin of singles and then make a 2-ply yarn.


I bought this fiber at KDO 2008, just after I learned to spin, so I’m very happy to be using it now. It’s been waiting a while.

Next up: I have carded preparations of Icelandic and Jacob fiber, so I will try the long draw them them, too.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Maybe I am a process knitter…

I have two things to report on today. First, the cowl that I kvetched about for so long is finally on track. Here is how the tiny scale stitch looks in the yummy gradient yarn from Miss Babs:cowl It’s hard to see all squinched up on the needle, but you get the general idea. I’m headed back down the gradient scale again, getting darker and darker. I know I knit some of this yarn THREE times, but I’ll be happy with the final product.

So does that make me a product knitter because I want the final product to be right? Or a process knitter because I don’t mind investing in the process?

Now, for another tale of woe. I case on for the Sprig sweater in early April, just after buying a pile of Quince & Co Lark yarn when I was in California. Remember this? It’s a vibrant emerald-y green and the yarn is so springy and soft:


Sprig is basically a top-down raglan pullover with an interesting, asymmetrical neckline (this is the designer’s photo from Ravelry):Sprig

That ridge around the shoulders is the CO edge. At the end of the project, you pick up the stitches around the neck opening and work the leafy motif which makes the asymmetrical opening become symmetrical. You can see that if the sweater did not have that the leafy motif, it would hang off the shoulder in a Flashdance-y style. Can’t you just picture it? Wait, I’ll help. Here is my sweater at the point where one would do that neck edge treatment:IMG_3806Oh, what a feeling! Seeing’s believing!

I have it on over a shirt that doesn’t lay smooth, so excuse all the lumps and bumps. The holes you see are where I changed balls and the ends aren’t woven in yet.

Okay. I applied Amy Herzog’s CustomFit principles to this pattern. I used all my CustomFit measurements to modify the waist shaping so that it would hit my actual waist and be the length I wanted it to be. This is falling a little longer than I wanted. It isn’t absolutely terrible in front, but it isn’t great.

The real problem is in the back, where there seems to be a LOT of extra fabric:IMG_3807 I don’t think that putting the leafy neck treatment on will help that. My photographer, Barb, tried to put the fabric where she wanted it to be – you can see just how much ends up in the fold:


This just isn’t right. It’s got to come out.

I know I pledged not to knit a raglan sweater again, but I thought I would be okay on this one by (a) knitting the right size and (b) not choosing a cardigan. Part of the problem with raglans is that they slip over my shoulders. But with no cardi opening, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Still, this obviously doesn’t fit. Clearly I’m not meant to have this sweater from this yarn. I’m setting it aside for now and will pull it out later.

In the meantime, I’ve begun a big blanket project. I’ve chosen the Heirloom Chevron Throw and have six colors of Cascade 220 Superwash (purchased during the WEBS Anniversary Sale). I’ve begun and am almost done with the first ball. Only 17 more to go! Here are five of the six colors (from left: Turtle, Pacific, Walnut, Aporto, Provence):IMG_3449 And here is the sixth one, Doeskin Heather:


I feel certain I won’t have to rip back a garter stitch blanket that need only fit my couch, but I’ll still be careful. I’ve done as much ripping as knitting the past month.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Pink is the new black

Sorry for the radio silence. I’ve been fighting with (some of) my knitting again. I’m not ready to talk about the Sprig sweater. Maybe later in the week.

IMG_3805Instead, let’s talk about socks. I finished my easy portable project recently. These are super plain vanilla socks that look fun because of the yarn. They are for Boy 1, who still adores handknit socks and keeps growing out of them. He also happens to be a willing and cheerful sock model, striking poses without even being asked:IMG_3804You’ll notice that these are a bit long in the foot. That is intentional, since he’s growing pretty regularly and I’d like these to fit when cooler weather returns in the fall.IMG_3796And look at this – imported yarn! One of my book groupies just got back from a semester in New Zealand. I asked her to get me some possum yarn if she ran across it. I made some socks from a possum blend years ago, and I wear them all the time in the dead of winter – they may be the warmest pair I own. The New Zealand possum is not the same as our North American critter, and it is a menace. They are definitely killed, but they would be killed whether or not the fur was harvested. Here is a little bit more about it if you’re interested.IMG_3798This yarn that Ashlyn selected is a possum/merino/silk blend, which means it has both halo and drape, an unusual combo. I definitely have enough for socks. But… it is a 2-ply yarn, which makes me think more about a cozy lacy shawl. So I’m not sure yet what it will be, but I know it’ll be very warm.IMG_3797I don’t have a photo of my gradient cowl today because I left that project at work. But it’s behaving nicely now and I’m past the midpoint. The colors are going backwards again. I’ll show you that next time.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Gradient Cowl: A Drama in Four Swatches and Epilogue

I bought this fabulous gradient set from Miss Babs at MDSW. It was displayed next to a sample of Spectral, and that’s what I intended to make. aquarius crop The pattern directs the knitter to divide the yarn in a very specific way. You use a scale and divide 4 of the 5 colors into equal balls, and then you further divide one ball and mark it so you know when to begin the edging. It is very specific. I used a lot of baggies.IMG_3263So I was a little surprised when it said that gauge is super important and that you have to measure gauge after washing and blocking a swatch. Which color should be sacrificed to the swatch? Luckily, I had some Miss Babs Yummy Toes left over from last year’s Albers Cowl, so I swatched with it. And that’s where the problems began.IMG_3261

Swatch I

1 cropI worked the first swatch in the suggested needle size: US 3 (3.25 mm). You can see that I worked it in the round (because gauge can be different in the round vs flat) and I snipped my long floats after swatching. My gauge was way too small. Also, I kind of screwed up the pattern because it was hard to see on this darker color. Fail.

Swatch II

2 crop I worked this on a US 4 (3.5 mm). It is a little bigger than Swatch I, but nowhere near the recommended gauge of 5.25 st/in washed and blocked.

Swatch III

3 crop Now I am getting suspicious. I go to Ravelry to see if others have drastically changed needle size. I notice there are “only” 59 projects made from this pattern. This seems like a small number, given that the Yarn Harlot blogged about it. I notice one knitter who says that the stitch pattern as written does not create what you see in the photos. She suggests an alternative. So for my 3rd swatch, I use a US 5 (3.75 mm) and work half the swatch as written and half in this new way (the stitch pattern on the right half is different from the left half). I can see a difference, but it isn’t huge. And frankly, neither really looks like the photo on the pattern. I don’t like how loose and hole-y this is. I’m still not getting gauge.

I go back to the pattern and notice a mistake. The designer says she gets 5.25 st/in. She casts on 336 stitches. Do the math – the cowl should measure 64” in circumference. But the pattern says it is 54” in circumference. I slide deeper into skepticism about this pattern. I am getting the gradient grumpies.

The final straw is that I notice the finished cowl has a depth of 10.5”. This is too deep to wear easily (for me). I grab my favorite cowls and they measure 6 to 6.5” in depth. So I decide to scrap this pattern that I have paid for. I can do better on my own!

Swatch IV

IMG_3324 I head for my trusty Vogue Stitchionary Volume 1 and swatch stitch pattern 222, “Tiny Scales.” I like it!  You can actually SEE the yarn here. I decide to knit this instead. Those little diagonal lines pull the fabric in and keep it from being too stretchy. I used a US 4 (3.5mm). I measure gauge, decide about circumference (54” is what I was shooting for), and cast on. Coincidentally, my custom cast-on number was 336 (same thing the designer calls for in Spectral – but which I don’t believe will yield the specified size).IMG_3458Here is what I have so far. It took a long time to get going on this project. I mis-knit the first pattern round and didn’t notice until the 3rd round, which meant a lot of tedious ripping back. But then I got moving in the right direction. I had to decide whether to move across 5 colors only (A-B-C-D-E) or to go “out and back,” so to speak (A-B-C-D-E-D-C-B-A). “Out and back” is what Spectral does, but it does that over 10.5” of depth and I’m only shooting for 6.5”. I’ve settled on “out and back” but I’ll be changing colors a lot more frequently.


Did you notice the edging? More specifically, did you notice that I have to hold down the edging so you can see the stitch pattern? I chose a simple stockinette edge that would roll. That’s what the ubiquitous Honey Cowl pattern does, and mine looks good. But I don’t think it’s working here for some reason. Maybe the stitch pattern of the Honey Cowl stops the rolling somehow. Here is what happens when I let go of the edge:


That’s not pretty! And I’m not having it. After staring at it all last evening and not adding a single stitch to it, I’ve decided to rip back AGAIN. I love this yarn and want the cowl to be right. I’ve decided that if I don’t like rolling and curling, then a turned hem is a sensible response. I’ll do a picot turned hem and sew it down. I think that will frame the “tiny scales” well.

If you hear strange sounds coming from my locale, it’s me. Frogging. Again.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

I made yarn

I’ve been away from my spinning wheel for too long. I declared that I wouldn’t buy any spinning fiber at MDSW this year – because I “didn’t deserve it.” Well, I bought one 4 oz braid after all. To assuage my guilt, I spun it right away. This is 85% Polwarth and 15% Tussah Silk prepared as combed top from Three Waters Farm. Here is how it looked when I bought it (the colorway is “Riverbank”):IMG_3229 I wanted to jump right in and not think too hard, so I divided the braid into 3 equal sections (by weight) and spun in my standard style (worsted, pretty thin, 14:1 whorl). I forgot to take a picture of the singles on 3 bobbins, but here is what was left on two bobbins after I plied some 3-ply:


I got 277 yards of 3-ply and it weighs 79 grams. That’s pretty thin…IMG_3427

IMG_3430 Then I made some 2-ply from what was left on the 2 bobbins – I got 129 yards and it weighs 25 g:IMG_3435And then I took what was left on the last bobbin and chain-plied it (which produces a 3-ply yarn) – I got 45 yards and this weighs 12 g: IMG_3438I’m not sure how I managed to get such drastically different lengths of singles on the 3 bobbins. I’m also not sure that I LOVE how I spun this. I was initially disappointed when I saw how much I’d muddied the colors when the barber pole plying happened. But I guess the yarn is still pretty in its own way.IMG_3441Any way you look at it, though, I’m back at the wheel and that is a good thing.

My next project is to work my way through Jacey Boggs’ article about turning a worsted spinner into a woolen spinner. I want to finally wrap my hands around the long draw. There are 9 steps that inch one into a new spinning style. Hopefully this weekend I can manage steps 1 and 2.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Happy Pam Socks

These have been finished for over a week, but I finally got some photos and a few minutes to share. IMG_3271

I feel like I should get double points for these (haha, sock knitting humor) because I knit socks from the stash of stash. Lemme ‘splain. All this yarn came from leftovers from other projects. I didn’t really consider it “stash” to begin with because it had already been used. But I got still another project out of it!

IMG_0845I once had two balls of this Felici in color Aquarium, but I used one of them for Boy 2’s Double Happy Hat.

IMG_6393I once had a ball of SSYC Simply Sock Yarn in color Chartreuse, but I used some of it for Boy 2’s Fjordland socks.

IMG_3270I knit these toe-up, using Cat Bordhi’s Whirlpool toe. This toe is a little roomy, as it increases by 6 stitches every other round. I like the toe but I think I’ll back it down to 4 stitches every increase round in the future.

I divided my ball of Felici into equal parts (thanks to my trusty kitchen scale) so that I could use every bit of it. When I got to the end of my first ball, I was at one of the light green stripes. That color is too close to the chartreuse, so I fretted. I didn’t want to rip the cuff back and make it shorter. Then I remembered that I had a bit of Felici left over from the first ball and the hat project. I keep all my little balls of leftover Felici in a jar – they look so pretty:IMG_3329It’s a pretty big jar – I put the coffee mug in for scale. In the end, I used 55 grams of Felici and 21 grams of Chartreuse.

These socks really look like spring, don’t they? I hope Pam loves them.


Sunday, May 18, 2014


grey1 My sweater projects tend to be endurance runs rather than sprints. I got this yarn as a gift in August 2013 and it took me forever to figure out how to use it (including an emergency shipment of extra yarn from France). I worked on CustomFit measurements and swatches throughout the fall. On December 30, I cast on – and I finished the final seam on April 30, 2014. Four months for the knitting, longer for the gestation.grey6BUT IT FITS! LOOKEE!

I follow Amy Herzog’s advice and made my first CustomFit project a plain stockinette garment. I chose a boat neck, 3/4 sleeves, and turned hems on all edges. I really love the turned hem on the waist and sleeve cuffs, but maybe not as much on the neckline. The waist and cuffs are very smooth because those were cast on edges – just CO, knit some rows in a smaller needle size, change needles, work the purl turning row, and proceed. Fold hem and sew down. grey5But the neckline is a bound off edge, and stitches need to be picked up to work the turned edge – that leaves a little seam bump on the inside of the hem so it’s not as smooth. Also, the neckline instructions were a little too sparse for my taste. They were exceedingly clear about how many stitches to pick up (the ratio varies depending on whether you’re picking up on the diagonal, the vertical, or on a BO edge), but then it just says “Join for working in the round. Work in folded hem for 6 rounds. BO.” After a first attempt which I ripped back, I settled on purling a round after I  picked up stitches in knit, then knitting 6 rounds on the smaller needle, and binding off.


I’m pleased with the fit of the body. As I was knitting, I was SURE it was going to be too long. The pieces just seemed really long. But after seaming, the fabric stretches some horizontally and pulls up. At least, that’s what I assume happened.grey4 The setting in of the sleeves went really well. This gets easier every time I do it. I do have one quibble about the sleeves – they seem an eensy bit short for 3/4 sleeves. And the pattern-creating elves made an error on the sleeve instructions which caused me to have to reknit one sleeve. My pattern said:

Work even until sleeve measures 7 3/4 in/19.5 cm (17 rows from last shaping row, 58 rows from beginning), ending with a WS row.

17 rows from the last shaping row isn’t 58 rows from the beginning… it’s only 52. I checked it half a dozen times and the sleeve wouldn’t have made it to my elbow if I’d stuck with the 17-row instruction. I do love that they give the instructions both ways, and I made liberal use of locking stitch markers to keep track of shaping rows…


The finished sweater weighs 346 grams, which means I used 924 meters/1011 yards. That’s about 3.5 skeins (I think I used half a skein in my liberal swatching). I have an entire untouched skein left for some kind of shawl project perhaps.

Overall, I’m pleased with my first CustomFit sweater and there will be more in my future. S1 is already asking for one and we’ve purchased yarn for it – I couldn’t resist the WEBS anniversary sale and got a sweater’s worth of this Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool for her. The color is Blackcurrant. Maybe for fall 2014?IMG_3250 But first, I have a blanket to make for our living room. A new couch will be arriving soon and of course it requires a special blanket. OF COURSE IT DOES.