Sunday, October 4, 2015

This and that

IMG_8998Tomorrow Spinzilla begins, so I’ve spent a little time today clearing the decks and getting organized to focus on spinning. I have a few things going that I haven’t really shared yet. First off, I’ve been working on Dan’s 2014-15 Bus Driver Socks. He enjoyed last year’s socks enough that he asked for another pair this year! He shopped my sock yarn stash and chose this heathery blue yarn. My Ravelry entry says that I added this in August 2007, so it’s at least that old. (Ravelry opened in May 2007 and I remember waiting for my invitation all summer…) It’s nice to see this yarn get used and Dan loves it.IMG_9000Anyway, I’m using the Hermione’s Everyday Socks stitch pattern (of which I’m very fond, having knit it twice already) on a top-down sock with eye of partridge stitch on a heel flap. The toe is the rounded style I’ve been favoring lately. I’m done with Sock #1 and have just turned the heel on #2, so they should be done soon if I have more meetings at work.IMG_8486In other sock news, I have a new sock student! Kristin is in my book group and recently admitted she knits. Turns out she’s always wanted to make socks but just isn’t sure how to get started. I always recommend using fatter yarn for one’s first sock (otherwise it seems to take FOREVER), so she got some Regia 8-ply from Simply Socks Yarn Company (I might have gotten some more, too). I’ve knit two pairs from this weight yarn, and they work up fast at only 48 stitches around. I set up little test socks on dpns and two circular needles to see which method she preferred. She had a STRONG preference for dpns, as you can see above. She made a strong start at her first lesson and we’ll meet again when it’s time to work the heel flap.

Remember the Circo Mystery KAL I was planning for in the late summer? It’s in full swing now. There are four clues in all, and we’ve already gotten three of them. I’ve been working each clue as it comes in. This has been a really fun project with something very different in each step. It’s hard to get a real sense of the final product because it’s all bunched up on needles, but it’s going to be beautiful. It is a moebius cowl, so the needle cable goes around in a circle twice. The fourth and final clue released on 10/6 (this Tuesday), but it will have to wait until after Spinzilla.20151002_210952

I’ve also cast on for S1’s Fall 2015 sweater. Here are some swatches of the red Bartlettyarns I made:IMG_8435We toyed with the idea of that pretty stitch pattern for the cardigan fronts, but that vertical pattern just won’t work on a cardigan with a deep V (which is what she wants). I went ahead and generated a CustomFit pattern and have been working on it here and there. I just finished the back of the sweater this morning. This is easy stockinette knitting, so as soon as Dan’s socks are done I’ll move this sweater into my work knitting bag so I can speed ahead on it.

IMG_8988 And finally, I’ve been spinning the “greynbow” fiber that I showed you last time. I have 4 ounces done and have decided to concentrate on this during Spinzilla next week. I won’t be able to finish it during the week (especially because I’m leaving town Sat-Sun), but I can make a dent in it. I’ll figure out how to measure the singles later. I’ll do some rough estimating by sampling and weighing.

That’s it for now. I might not check in again until after Spinzilla. Happy yarn-ing!


Wednesday, September 30, 2015


IMG_8477 Remember the mystery fiber blend I got at MDSW earlier this year? This is from Sweitzer’s Fiber Mill, and it’s a blend of leftover this and that from many yarn orders. (Dianna at The Knitting Boutique said that some of it is probably from their yarn clubs!) I decided it was time to start spinning it.


I spun a small sample, washed the yarn, knitted a swatch from that, and washed it, too. I forgot to take photos before I washed either one, so I can’t show you how much this yarn puffs up after its bath. This swatch is more substantial than expected, even though I spun the singles on 14:1 and it is only a 2-ply yarn!IMG_8983 I really like that the yarn is grey from a distance, but lots of colors closer up. (I wish I could say I made up “greynbow” on my own, but I heard it somewhere…)IMG_8480 I measured the roving out into 1 oz pieces and wound them into little nests so they are ready to go. You can really see the color variation in some of these photos.IMG_8481There is even a little glitz every so often! Can you see the blue sparkly strand in this photo below?


I’ll keep my one-ounce sections separate in order to spread out the color variation when plying. This is what a bobbin looks like with only one ounce of singles on it:IMG_8986 I’m spinning this long draw and it’s very enjoyable.

Next I need to decide if I will continue working on this during Spinzilla (which starts October 5), or put it aside to do another project that I might be able to start and finish inside of 5 days. Spinzilla will be truncated for me this year, because we’re going camping on the weekend at the end of the spinning week. Doh! That causes me to lose a LOT of potential spinning and plying time. But camping will be great.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Oh Shenandoah…

IMG_8950Sometime during the past year, some of us knitters decided we wanted to have a festival road trip experience similar to Rhinebeck 2012. Kris “found” the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival, and we went!

When I saw that the featured teacher was Deb Robson, I signed up for a class without even having a class description. She’s the expert on rare breeds and I knew I was lucky to have her teaching so close by. This was an all-day class (6 hours), during which we spun and sampled 8 rare breeds of wool. Wanna see?IMG_8906 #1: Clun Forest. You can see that this fiber has been washed, but not carded or combed or prepared for spinning. I borrowed some Louet mini combs from Deb and learned to use them quickly. Pretty soon I was spinning top right off the comb:IMG_8904 Deb showed us how to use these big combs which clamp to a table, but I stuck with the minis.


#2 was North Ronaldsay, which comes from an island near the Orkneys. The sheep eat seaweed and are triple coated. There is some hair and kemp along with the soft undercoat here. My sample had so much hair that I didn’t try to dehair it. That meant that the yarn was rough and wiry, but so be it. Deb predicted that we’d have some trouble with this fiber, and she was kinda right.IMG_8913 #3 was Hog Island. This is the kind of sheep they have at Mount Vernon, though no one knows for sure if that is the breed George Washington owned. Deb thought we’d struggle a bit with it, but mine was fine. It went so well I forgot to take a picture of it.

#4 was Wensleydale, which is a long wool breed with these gorgeous curly locks:


I had trouble coming it because the staple is so long (7-12”) – I probably should have used a bigger comb than the mini. I must have goofed creating my plying bracelet (aka Andean plying), because my yarn just did not come out. But I spun it okay.

Then there was lunch, during which I wolfed down a bowl of soup and this pretty piece of pumpkin pie with little pumpkins on it. Yum!IMG_8920

After lunch, we worked with Border Leicester (#5). That was nice. Deb mentioned that it is a great alternative to Coopworth, which is not rare. If you like Coopworth and want to support rare breeds, look for Border Leicester. I forgot to photograph it.

#6 was Leicester Longwool, which is TOTALLY different from Border Leicester. It’s long and silky, kind of like Wensleydale. Again, so busy combing, spinning, and plying that I forgot to photograph it.

#7 was something familiar: Jacob. I have loved spinning Jacob before and was excited to get this. It comes in 3 colors (all from the same animal). You can separate it before spinning to keep the colors pure, or blend them together. (Deb discouraged us from just spinning it as it comes, as that will result in ugly blotchy yarn.) Here’s my Jacob fiber:


#8 and our final fiber of the day was Romeldale/CVM. I had such a hard time combing and spinning it that I ripped it off my wheel and borrowed my neighbor’s cards to try again. That didn’t go much better. I never did get a yarn sample from this fiber.

Combing fiber creates more waste than carding it, and since I wasn’t very proficient at combing, I probably created more waste than normal. I turned around at one point and noticed how big my waste pile was getting. The birds will love this!IMG_8926I left with a small amount of sample yarn and a lot of knowledge. Here are the 6 yarns I actually plied. I wet finished them after getting home:IMG_8971After spinning all day, I was on fire to get more spinning fiber. I was also prepared to invest in some mini combs so I could finish spinning the rest of the fiber in my sample baggies (I did not find any, so those may go on my wish list). I wasn’t quite ready to buy a fleece and really prepare everything from start to finish, so I gravitated toward dyed fibers. In the end, I bought enough fiber to spin yarn for two sweaters. Neither of these is a rare breed. I’m a tiny bit ashamed about this, but then again, Deb said that buying ANY wool supports an important market. The commercial market is almost totally focused on synthetics, so buying wool at all is an important act in the marketplace.IMG_8963 This roving is from Singleton Fiber Processing. It’s mostly green and they call the color “sea glass.” It’s “Romoca,” a blend of Romney, mohair, and alpaca. I got 1.5 pounds and I hope that’s enough for a sweater for me.


I also got 2 pounds of this Coopworth “swirl” roving:IMG_8965

The base fiber is “light blue” (which is really a shade of beige), and half of it has been overdyed in burgundy. We’ll see how that comes out. It is for a sweater for S1. IMG_8966 I saw a couple of really interesting spinning wheels. This is essentially an electric walking wheel:IMG_8933The next day, I saw the same woman trying the same type of wheel driven by bicycle pedals: 


I also succumbed to another set of raku buttons made by Dimensions (I got some at MDSW this year, too). Look!IMG_8968


These are like tiny pieces of artwork. I got them to go with the sweater I am knitting for S1 out of the Bartlettyarns I got at MDSW this year. Here is one button on the sweater swatch:IMG_8980Since I was in class most of Saturday, Kris and I stayed overnight in Winchester Saturday night. Then we went back to the festival on Sunday and met up with Julie and Alison, who drove in for the day. We were all really impressed with this event. It’s so much smaller and more relaxed than MDSW, with a great vibe. There were tons of interesting vendors. We appreciated the different food options (delicious coffee, wine tastings, soup, BBQ, pie, cobbler…). Parking was easy. Admission was $5 but so worth it. There weren’t even lines at the restrooms! It’s in Berryville, VA, which is only about a 90 minute drive from here. This is definitely a festival we’ll return to.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

KDO 2015

This weekend knitters from central PA and beyond enjoyed another fantastic Knitters’ Day Out. I registered for both morning and afternoon classes on Saturday, so it was a full day.IMG_8463In the morning, I took Laura Nelkin’s Beaded Waves Cuff class. I knew this would be a quick and satisfying project, based on the Butin Collar class I took with her in 2012. Here are some sample cuffs that Laura brought to class:IMG_8466 We were supposed to get one of her project kits in advance, but I made my own because I had enough supplies in stash. I chose a bit of yarn left over from making these socks, two colors of size 6 beads that I had in my little bead supply, and some clasps I had on hand from a previous project. I only had to buy the pattern and the special Super Floss (which I found at Rite Aid). Laura uses an ingenious technique for loading beads onto yarn with the floss (watch her video if you’re interested). You could use a very tiny crochet hook (1 mm or smaller) or a Fleegle Beader instead. I tried placing a few beads with Laura’s crochet hook, and it did not work for me. My fingering weight yarn was too big and fluffy for that tiny little hook. The floss worked best! My box had 50 strands so I should be set for life at this point.

Here’s a picture of my cuff with the first wave completed (there are 3 waves total):

IMG_8461And here is my completed cuff! Well, it hasn’t been blocked and I need to sew the clasps on after that, but it’s nearly done:IMG_8462

Here’s a shot of Laura showing us how to place the beads:IMG_8458

That was a lot of fun, and I’ll probably make a few more of these as Christmas gifts. I may have to invest more heavily in pink and purple to meet the expectations of my nieces, though…

After class, I sat down to an excellent buffet lunch at a table full of knitters I know and knitters who are new to me. It’s always fun to chat about the morning’s classes. And the dessert spread is very exciting. I spent some time in the market, as well. I had a short list of things I was looking for, and I found two of them: 2.75mm dpns, and highlighter tape (my roll is hiding from me). I also bought some felted wool insoles, thinking these might extend the life of S1’s felted wool slippers. IMG_8474 The insoles are from the Gurdy Run Woolen Mill in Halifax, PA. I’ve bought fiber from them in the past, but I resisted this year. My stash is VERY healthy and I want to finish up some large projects before restocking much.

The 2.75 mm dpns are related to a sock knitting lesson I’ll be giving later this week. I’ll tell you more about that later…

Also in the exhibit hall, I met Dianna, one of the owners of The Knitting Boutique in Baltimore. I’ve never been to this shop (it’s only 4 years old), but I’ve been listening to their new podcast: Saturday Morning Breakfast Club. I really like their emphasis on locally sourced yarns. They have quite a few of their own yarn lines which are milled to their specifications. They work with Sweitzers Fiber Mill in Seven Valleys, PA – does that sound familiar? It should, because that’s where I got 24 oz of mystery fiber at MDSW last May!


Dianna and I were having such a nice chat that she whipped out a microphone and interviewed me for the podcast. Our Gettysburg area knitters will need to arrange a field trip outing that includes both the mill and the shop – that would be a blast!

After lunch, I went to a class on Mitered Squares. This is what I made: IMG_8472 I chose this class because I’ve been ruminating about starting a long-term blanket project involving my leftover sock yarn and mitered squares. I thought this class would kick start the project. I learned a few useful pieces of information that will help me:

  1. My squares will be garter stitch, not stockinette. The decreases are weird on stockinette and I don’t like the way they look.
  2. My mitered squares will not contain adjacent decreases like the ones above. That leaves too much of a hole.
  3. I will not be joining squares as I go along. I want to be able to lay out squares and decide on final placement before attaching. Plus, the project will be more portable this way.

I’ve been searching Ravelry for inspiration, and so far this project most aligns with my vision. You can read more about it in this blog post. I need to decide what color I’d like my border/windowpane to be and acquire a few skeins of that sock yarn before beginning (I had my eye out for this at KDO, but didn’t find it).

And since we’re on the topic of leftover sock yarn, take a look at these:


Remember the socks I made from the Gale’s Art Sock Blank? I had two pieces of blank left, so I thought I’d skein and soak them in preparation for use in this blanket. I though that I could get the yarn back to smooth and straight again. BUT NO. I soaked these twice – once in tepid water and once in very hot tap water (which is what I do to set the twist in handspun yarn), and there is still some waviness. This is definitely not ramen-type kinkiness, which is what the yarn looks like when you unravel the blank… but apparently blank yarn never loses its wave. Interesting. For this reason, I think that gradient yarns like these are dyed in blank form, then skeined, washed, and caked for sale.

That’s enough for today, knitters. Oh, and naturally I found my highlighter tape last night. Oh well, now I have orange AND yellow!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Felted Clogs V

Sometime last winter, I looked at all the felted clogs around my house and thought “why don’t I have a pair of these?” This pattern by Bev Galeskas is genius and has earned its place as a classic in the knitting canon. I’ve made 4 pairs.

The first pair was for S1. In these, I held together one strand of yellow and one strand of orange yarn, which results in this marbled look. (The pattern uses 2 strands of worsted weight yarn on US 13 needles.) The yarn is Nature Spun from my stash of feltable yarns.2063765774_e35fffc68f_b The next pair was for Boy 1, who admired the first pair. These are made from some leftover Lamb’s Pride I had in the stash. Lamb’s Pride is 85% wool/15% mohair, and it takes MUCH longer to felt. He loved these (and Boy 2 still wears them on occasion):

2203902365_df0738c21b_oWhen S1’s first pair wore out, I made her another. This time I bought new Lamb’s Pride. This pair came out so well. I still love them.5824986585_cb2ed8d7a7_bThe fourth pair was for Boy 1 again, who outgrew his first pair and wanted more. I sent him to my stash basket of worsted yarn and told him to pick anything he wanted. He picked this garish combination (but remember, he’s red-green color blind so he doesn’t see what you do!): 8573389000_18e693a70a_kThis is a long preamble to the current story… which is that when Steven was here for MDSW last May, we happened across a cute little LYS in Waynesboro, PA, called The Knitting Cottage. They had some “seconds” skeins of Lamb’s Pride on sale for only $5 each. I took that as a sign that it was time for me to have my own pair of felted clogs, and I bought 2 skeins of green and 1 of brown. It’s a little counterintuitive, but you need MORE of the color for the sole (which is double thick) and edging than for the upper. I forgot about that when I was buying yarn… I envisioned a green clog with brown trim. But I had the yarn to make a brown clog with green trim, so that’s what I made. Here is what they looked like before felting: unfeltedThe slippers are on my hands and forearms – that crease you see is the inside of my elbow!

I threw them in the washing machine. I remembered that this yarn takes a looonnnnggg time to felt, so I walked away. This was a mistake. My machine entered the spin cycle and kind of flattened things out. See what I mean? IMG_8449 The bumpers aren’t all perfectly rounded like they are on all the others I’ve made. They are all smushed in places and the slippers look kind of misshapen as a result.

I think they may look less weird after I wear them around this winter, but I’m not sure. I’ll have to report back on that.

I’m thinking of this pair like an ugly pie. It may not look great, but it will still taste good. These slippers will be warm and cozy when the temperature drops.

Also, I’m pretty sure that this won’t be the last pair that I make!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Dorset Down - Done


This is a pretty skein of yarn. The spinning isn’t precisely even, but the fiber was stickier in some places than others. I just went with it, which I’m finding is the best approach with longdraw spinning.

I ended up spinning it the way I spun the first sample: 14:1 for singles and 16:1 for the 2-ply. I knit both my samples and liked the first one better (the one on the bottom right):


This yarn is so fuzzy. You can really see it in this photo – these are the sample balls before I knit them: IMG_8428

The yarn is really light and lofty. The finished skein contains about 216 yards and weighs 90 grams. IMG_8438 I’m not sure what to make with this (suggestions welcome). It is not the softest yarn ever, but it is so warm and lightweight. Perhaps a hat is the best idea. I could always knit a liner for the brim if I wanted a softer yarn right next to my forehead.