Saturday, August 23, 2014

Back-to-school socks

Our friend Dan drives Boy 1 to school every morning, as there is no bus from our house and we’re on his way to school. This is a huge gift of time, since Boy 1 doesn’t have to be ready quite as early as he would if he were walking to school. (There is no bus from our house because technically it’s walkable – but walking 1.2 miles and arriving at school by 7:25 am is less than ideal.)IMG_4293As a special thank you to Dan, he is getting a pair of custom handknit socks. He shopped my stash and settled on this skein of Anzula Squishy which I bought at Sock Summit 2011. Dan has excellent taste – the fiber content is 80/10/10 superwash merino/cashmere/nylon. It contains at least a dozen gorgeous shades of brown.IMG_9701 Dan picked a bamboo pattern from my Vogue Stitchionary Volume 1 (thanks again, Steven & Jeff). I had to modify it a bit since it’s a 12-stitch repeat, which meant the sock would required a circumference of 60 or 72. I thought 60 was too small and 72 too large, so I rewrote it as an 8-stitch repeat and went for 64. We’ve had a couple of fittings and this will work for him.

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I can’t tell you how wonderfully familiar and comfortable it felt to cast on this pair of socks. Socks just feel right to me. I’ve been branching out more lately and not knitting quite so many socks (because a family can, in fact, reach handknit sock saturation), so I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to share the love. Dan envisions wearing these during gamelan rehearsal in the colder months. We don’t wear shoes when we play – but socks are fine.gamelan library steps 5-13 Here’s a photo of Dan (far right) and I (second from right) performing in May 2013 on the steps of my library. We were definitely barefoot that day, but our rehearsal room can be chilly in the winter!

P.S. – the kids walk home in the afternoon – no Dan-bus needed then!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Aquarius Gradient Cowl

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I finished this cowl weeks ago and somehow didn’t quite get around to sharing it. Here it is, all finished.cowla

I worked a picot edge which is folded and sewn down during finishing. If I were to write this up, I would try to attach the hem as I was knitting it. I think the turned stockinette section is a bit deep before it moves into the scale pattern, but I did that so it would be easier to sew the hem (reverse stockinette is easy to follow; the reverse of the scale stitch is not).IMG_4253Overall, I’m pleased with this. It’s not too deep for me to wear throughout the day in my chilly office, but it will still be nice to wear with a coat. The scale pattern shows off the shifting colors of this yarn well. IMG_4252Kris bought a Miss Babs gradient set in green and she might test knit a cowl just like this. If it works for her, I’ll post the pattern in Ravelry.

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I have just noticed that Miss Babs is now making a gradient set in that green color I am such a sucker for (this is her photo): Cetus - Gradient Set

Be still my heart. Please let me be satisfied with just the Aquarius!!!IMG_4254

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Small and big

I have a small project to share and the beginning of a very large one.IMG_4292

First, here is some more yarn I made with the new longdraw technique. This is 2-ply Icelandic. I had about 2 oz of roving and the finished yarn weighs 1.85 oz (52 g). I have about 115 yards.IMG_4286

You can see that this isn’t terribly even yarn. I had to fight with it more than I did the other stuff I just finished. The yarn label says that the black fiver is from a sheep named Beauty and the white is from Felicia. Well, Beauty and Felicia are pretty dissimilar. Beauty’s fiber was more coarse and long-stapled; it had lots of grip. Felicia’s was softer and tended to drift apart. In sections of roving where the two types weren’t equally balanced, funky things tended to happen.

I’m not at all sure what to do with this. I might make a slouchy hat, but I would want to line it with a much softer yarn. We’ll see. I’m glad I only had 2 oz of that!

Now for the LARGE project. I told you I was making a blanket (Heirloom Chevron Throw). Watching it grow is going to be like watching paint dry, so I’ve decided only to share it when I change colors. I have 3 balls each of 6 colors, and currently I’m on ball #2 of color #2. It’s too big to spread out properly while it’s on the needle, but hopefully you get the idea:IMG_4297 Color #1 is a lovely neutral green called Turtle that looks warmer in person than it does in this photo. The Turtle section is a triangle. Next up is a teal called Pacific which is right up my alley. Here you can see the point of the chevron:

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The yarn I’m using (Cascade 220 Superwash) is skinnier than the yarn called for, which means I have more stitches per row. I have 329 stitches per row, to be exact. It takes me about 15 minutes per row. My goal is to do a minimum of two rows (one garter ridge) per day, sometimes more. IMG_4301 Here are the rest of the colors. Doeskin Heather (the greige) is up next.

If you want to make this blanket, I recommend choosing a BULKY yarn! Hindsight is so clear.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Handspun, now with more poof!

I finished the yarn I was telling you about last time. I wish you could squish it to see how much poofier it is than the worsted-style yarn I usually make. IMG_4272It’s not perfect, but it’s not bad either. My first skein (Skein A, above) is about 250 yards and weighs 94 grams. It is a 2-ply yarn. If you look carefully, you can see that the plies aren’t always exactly the same, but the yarn is serviceable.

Here is Skein B. It’s about 195 yards and weighs 89 grams. It has an inferiority complex. I had to use some of my practice singles to finish plying my “good” singles, and it really shows here. IMG_4278 The fiber is mostly wool (90%) – the label said 10% nylon and that’s the sparkly golden bit, which I’m not sure comes through in the photos.

IMG_4268The photo above shows the skeins before washing (sorry about the indoor lighting – it was night). See how much more defined the plies are and how the yarn is less poofy overall? 

When I washed the skeins, a lot of dye came out in the water. I did a hot water soak to set the twist, followed by a cold water plunge. Then I repeated those two steps but with a glug of vinegar in each wash to help set the color. The final rinse was much more clear, but the resulting skeins felt a bit sticky. Tacky. Like, too much lanolin or something. So I did another soak, this time adding some hair conditioner. The finished skeins have no tackiness, lots of softness, and now that they are dry, they exude no whiff of coconut. Victory!

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Skein A is on the left; Skein B on the right (I used one blue tie on Skein B so I’d be sure to identify them correctly). I think even the casual observer can spot the difference in consistency.

I’m ready to try more long draw spinning. I found a small, 2-ounce bag of Icelandic roving and have started spinning it. It’s quite different than working with this more generic wool, because the staple length of Icelandic sheep is so long. I’ll show you that next time!

And if anyone has suggestions about what to do with this poofy yarn, I’m all ears.

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.

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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.