Monday, February 8, 2016

Is this yarn cursed?


I finished the back of my Custom Fit sweater using the green Lark yarn that is already on its second incarnation. I soaked it, rolled it in a towel, and put it on my blocking board. Here is it pinned out to its proper dimensions.

There is a LOT of extra fabric here. Mind you, I’m used to some extra fabric when the piece is wet. I just smooth and smooth until it’s right. But this is TOO MUCH and it never smoothed out.IMG_9855

The photo above was taken after I had been measuring, pinning, and (mostly) smoothing for FORTY MINUTES. It looks better than the original shot, but there is still a lot of wrinkly web fabric there.

I gave up when it got to this point:IMG_9856

You can see that the sweater is pushing out against the pins (especially on the bottom edge) and is just too big. It seemed to tighten up a wee bit as it dried – here’s what it looked like when I took it off the board:IMG_9858

And all that smoothing wasn’t very good for the yarn – I kept getting little bits of fluff like this:IMG_9857

HMMMMM. I guess that my actual knitting is looser than the swatch was. I’m so frustrated by this yarn and frankly, I haven’t had a super rosy relationship with the Custom Fit software, either. My current plan is just to power through this sweater. And if it doesn’t fit, I’ll give it away. I can’t do this again!!!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Special delivery!

This past week brought me so much goodness in the mail that I’m almost embarrassed to share everything with you. Where should I begin?

First, I received the January shipment of the Sheepspot Fiber Club and Breed School:cormo crop

This is Cormo top and I wish you could touch it. Boy 2 has been petting it like a bunny (I make him wash his hands every time). Softness is a very important tactile quality for him, and he gives this fiber an A+. Sasha also sent a delightful upcycled WPI (wraps per inch) tool. I actually do not have one of these and have been wanting one, so the timing could not be better. My colorway (above) is called “December in Ontario.” Caitlin chose the other option, which is called “December in South Beach:”IMG_9835

So far we have chosen different color options 3 out of 4 times. I find that so interesting (we both chose the purple Coopworth last time.) All this lovely fiber reminds me that I don’t have any handspun on the needles right now. I need to consider that. Currently I’ve got socks in progress for the office, the green sweater for home, and also a green fingering weight hat that is a slow lace project (that hasn’t made a blog appearance yet).

The next special delivery is very special indeed – look: danish crop

A colleague at work spent last semester in Denmark and brought me back these lovely gifts. She said Denmark was a very yarn-y place, and she thought of me often and wanted to thank me for teaching her to knit! For the record, I don’t think I taught her to knit from square 1 – I just helped her work through knitting socks.

The Christmas tree ornament looks like a spindle and is from the Danish Design Museum (she said they had a whole tree full). That looks like an amazing museum, totally my kind of place. The yarn is… well, what is it? I can’t read Danish! It’s a singles yarn and there are 400 meters in 100 grams, so I’ll call it fingering weight. A close look at the ball band reveals the wool breed: Falklands Merino.IMG_9843

I’ll have to think very carefully how to use this special yarn. Should I use both skeins in one project, or keep them separate? Many delicious hours of anticipation ahead…!

And finally, I received a prize in the mail yesterday. I listen to The Knitting Boutique podcast – it’s a LYS in Baltimore that has a lot of their own yarn lines. (In fact, I think they might sell their own yarn exclusively now and not carry any commercial yarns?) They work with Sweitzer’s Fiber Mill in PA, which astute readers will recall is the place from where I got my greynbow mystery fluff. I entered a contest associated with their podcast and won a skin care kit from Sweitzer’s!IMG_9840

It contains Pumpkin Pie soap (made with oatmeal and pumpkin butter), Pumpkin Butter hand cream (made with goats milk), and Minty Cocoa Lip Balm. I’m not sure there could have been a better selection, as pumpkin pie and chocolate-mint anything are two of my favorite desserts. You can tell I cracked open the lip balm before I took time to take a photo.

This is an embarrassment of riches. I feel so lucky to have these delightful and beautiful things come into my life. This past week was especially bananas in both my work and personal lives, and these missives reminded me to take a breath and focus on the long game.

Now, I’m off to moisterize something… have a great weekend!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Phoenix sweater?

I have several sweater quantities of yarn that are meant for ME, and it’s time to get started!IMG_2990

To begin 2016, I wanted to use the yarn that I bought to make Sprig, knit most of, and then ripped out when it was clear the fit was horrible. That sweater was easy to rip out because I never wove any ends in (I just didn’t get that far). I rewound the yarn, washed it, and stowed it. This is Quince & Co. Lark in color “Cypress,” a rich, bright, emerald green.

After Christmas, I got the swatch back out and began planning a CustomFit sweater for me – the first one to be worked from my new, professional measurements I got at Twisted PDX last March. I wanted an open-front cardigan, kinda roomy and long, with an interesting edge treatment around the neck band. I grabbed a stitch dictionary and swatched a couple of things.IMG_9768

You can’t see that swatch very clearly because it’s not blocked yet and I refused to get out of bed to take a decent photo, but you get the idea. (This book was a Christmas gift from Steven many years ago – so useful!) Here is the blocked edging swatch up against the original swatch:IMG_9812

Next, I went to the Custom Fit website to plan my sweater. I plugged in all the numbers and pushed the button. DOH! Not enough yarn (I only had 9 skeins to begin with). I shortened the length a bit – still not enough yarn. I changed the fit to make it not so roomy – better, but not good enough. I made the sleeves 3/4 length instead of long – now I was within 40 yards but was I willing to play yarn chicken?

I had a vague memory that Custom Fit builds in a 10% cushion on yardage, so I went to Ravelry to confirm. I never found that number, but I did find a post that was about 16 months old that said the calculator didn’t include yardage for “trims,” which includes the neck edging. I inquired and that has since been fixed, but I was spooked.

As a last ditch attempt to make the envisioned sweater out of this yarn, I contacted A Verb for Keeping Warm, where I had purchased the yarn in March 2014. I wanted 3 more skeins in the same dye lot. And you know what? They had exactly 3 skeins left in that dye lot. They made me a PalPal order and I paid it, and a few days later the yarn was in my hands. I rebuilt the pattern with my original parameters, bought it, and cast on!IMG_9817

I’m working my way up the back. Because this is longer, there are a lot of decreases for waist shaping. There is a section where I decrease every fourth row, twelve times. I tried a new-to-me technique for keeping track of those counts. Those little lines are just scrap yarn that I moved to the front of the work, then worked a stitch, and then moved to the back. It will pull out when I’m ready. I like it!IMG_9821

Here’s what I have so far. Stay tuned to see if I like this sweater better than what’s come before.

I’ve got to shift my projects so that I can wear my finished objects right away in the season for which they were meant. I’m not sure I’ll have this done in time to wear this year. Plus, Boy 1 wants mittens!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Over the greynbow


I finally finished my greynbow yarn! I actually finished the singles just before Christmas, but then I stowed my wheel for the holiday. It usually lives in the living room, but with guests, decorations, and presents, it was better to move it out of harm’s way. As soon as my family left town, I got it back out and started plying. This is a simple 2-ply yarn. I didn’t want to go for three because I want this sweater to be a finer gauge.

Here are some of the singles waiting to be plied:


You can see that there’s quite a bit of color variation here. I hope it will even out somewhat in the finished sweater. Time will tell.

IMG_9789I also got to use a new tool for this project – I bought a skein winder with some Christmas money (this one). I borrowed Caitlin’s skein winder when we got together to spin after Christmas, and it was so exponentially better than using my niddy noddy that I decided to get one of my own. I sat down and wound 6 skeins as soon as it arrived and could not be more pleased. It is exceptionally well-designed and crafted.


I spun this longdraw on my 14:1 Ladybug whorl, and plied it on 16:1. In the end, I got 8 skeins and a total of 2,084 yards. I should be able to make any sweater I want out of that!

Remember what it looked like when I bought it in May?IMG_5945

24 ounces of mystery fluff leftover from other jobs at Sweitzer’s Fiber Mill, transformed into 2,084 yards of yarn, to become a sweater. So much fun along the way!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

A long time coming…


I finished these mitts earlier this month, after a VERY long hiatus. I cast them on before we went to Europe last summer. They were one of only two projects I took, and I chose both because of their size. These mitts, from the Plain Jhaynes pattern, can be made from one tiny 25-gram ball of laceweight yarn. I’ve made them before, see:IMG_0136

Back at MDSW in 2013, I fell for this tiny ball of Zealana Air, which is a luxurious blend of 40% cashmere, 40% brushtail possum down (from New Zealand), and 20% mulberry silk:IMG_1220

There aren’t a lot of patterns you can make from only 25 grams of laceweight, but these mitts are on the list, so I returned to them. The ball took up almost no room in my bag and since I’d made the pattern before, I figured it would be easy to work on the go.

WRONG! It’s actually kind of hard to work such tiny stitches (laceweight on 2.0 mm needles). And the pattern is written to be worked on dpns, which I needed to “translate” for two circulars. Add to that the cognitive overload of being in places where English is not spoken (much), and I could not work on these. I finished the cuff on the plane ride over, but got hung up on the gusset increases while in France. I switched over to working on some vanilla socks instead.IMG_9750

As I tidied the studio before Christmas, I found this UFO again and resolved to finish. It’s not like me to leave a project hanging for so long. Once I re-focused, they were done in a jiffy. These are so elegant. They weigh only 19 grams (put together!) so they are light as air, and the yarn blend is very soft and luxurious.

Since I already have a pair of Plain Jhaynes, I gifted these to a colleague who works in a very cold office. I should know – it’s my old office! Look how perfectly this muted lavendar goes with her nails:


I plan to make this pattern one more time, because I have one more tiny ball of Zealana laceweight in stash. IMG_1222

This is “Kiwi,” a blend of 40% NZ merino, 30% organic cotton, and 30% possum. Not quite as luxurious as the “Air” but will still make a nice mitt.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

2016–The Year of Handspun

IMG_3430My collection of handspun yarn has overflowed its basket and taken over the counter beside it. Near the end of 2015, I resolved that 2016 would be the year I knit much more often with my handspun.IMG_9778

Last week, I pulled a couple of skeins out of the basket and sat down with Ravelry to match them with patterns. I wound both of the cakes in the photo above before I realized that they weren’t exactly the same. The large cake is a 3-ply yarn, while the small cake is only 2-ply (I made it from singles left on the bobbins). Oops! I really should have rebalanced my singles to produce more 3-ply. I only had 279 yards, which isn’t that much. Most of those lovely fingering weight shawls use quite a bit more than 279 yards. (Kat, I thought 279 was too little for Honey Cowl… of course, we both thought I had more than that when you suggested it.)

I started to look for one of those “knit until you run out of yarn” patterns. [Is there a name for those? I want a label.] I came up with That Nice Stitch, a free Ravelry download. These photos aren’t stunning because the weather just wasn’t cooperating, but you get the general idea:


As I began knitting, I wasn’t really seeing the colors change much. But once I was done, I realized that the colors shift very gradually – and in a lovely way. You can see it if you look at both sides separately:IMG_9799


I challenge you to find where I grafted the ends together!


So there’s my first handspun project of 2016.

I also have some new handspun yarn to share with you. This is from the November shipment of the Sheepspot Fiber Club – it is Coopworth. Here’s what the roving looked like when I received it:IMG_9615

I spun it longdraw and made a 2-ply yarn. I got 300 yards total (such a nice round number!):crop

I wound those lovely skeins with my new favorite tool: a skein winder. I haven’t taken a photo of it yet… I’ll try to remember to do that next time. I got it with a Christmas gift and I LOVE IT!IMG_9793

Always open to suggestions for what to make. I think it could make a very handsome November Leaves hat. I’ve already made that pattern 3x, though.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

All done

I’ve mentioned Project Stashbust a couple of times. Recently, when taking a dip in my bin of leftover yarn, I came up with this:1019615639_16f7d03c0c_z

It is Tess’ Designer Yarns Superwash Merino, and it is OLD. I bought this at Maryland in 2003, intending to make a soft, washable sweater for my beautiful baby boy. And so I did. It barely fit over his ginormous head so this is the only photo I have. This mother learned her lesson early: never knit crewneck sweaters for small people. V necks or cardigans are the way to go!1019615693_0f72690c14_z

I have also learned a thing or two about buying yarn since 2003. Then, I really had no idea how much to buy. This Tess yarn comes in giant, 8 oz skeins, and the seller urged me to err on the side of “more” since it would be impossible to match dye lots later. That is true… but really, how much yarn can one use for a baby sweater? I honestly don’t remember how many skeins I bought, but it was probably three or four. This yarn predates Ravelry, so I don’t have the same kind of record I would have if I bought the yarn today.

Next, I made a tiny baby hat for a Loopy Ewe quarterly challenge back in the day. This picture is from 2007, so the leftover yarn marinated quite a while before this happened:1020341148_e947d0e4bf_z

I didn’t let the leftovers sit for quite so long after that summer hat. Near Christmas 2007, I got a hankering to make a scarf. I finished it when my mom was in town. She liked it, so I gave it to her:2129383330_f02ff63431_b

The next year, when it was time to make a hat to donate as part of my Knitters’ Day Out registration fee, I thought of this yarn again. Here is a child-sized hat made in 2008 (that climbing apparatus is LONG gone from our lives now!):2837170256_d789b251f5_o

And then the yarn sat in the box, probably drifting further and further toward the bottom, until Kris and I started talking about renewing efforts to reduce stash in 2015.

I recalled Susan B. Anderson’s series of Yowza Weigh It Shawls, which are designed to use every bit of an 8 ounce skein of Miss Babs hand dyed Yowza yarn. I decided that I could use up the rest of my Tess yarn with a Weigh It pattern (this is #4 in the series). 8 ounces is 227 grams, and I had 259 grams… but I used my old friend, Math, to cross divide and convert the pattern so I could use all my yarn. I knew I needed to knit the first section until 84 grams remained, and then begin the edging. Here is what I got:



IMG_9725BUT. While this pattern was easy and enjoyable, it did NOT use up all my yarn. I actually had 53 grams left! ARGH!

Determined not to let this skein get the best of me, I cast on for a small hat – only 80 stitches around. This should fit a toddler or small child, and it can be my KDO donation next year. I managed to use every last inch of yarn on the pom pom. So FINALLY, this yarn has been exhausted. It took 6 projects and 12 years, but it is finished!IMG_9732