Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Green! Green?

I’ve been itching to start a new spinning project – a big one. I have two quantities of fiber in stash that are enough for a sweater, both purchased at the 2015 Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival. I bought this Coopworth with a sweater for S1 in mind:IMG_2159

It is roving that the seller calls “swirl” – part of it is dyed burgundy and part is left undyed (the natural fiber is called “light blue” but is really just a shade of sheep). I bought 2 pounds, which is a LOT. A “grand sac” indeed!IMG_2146

I started spinning a sample and it just didn’t feel right. It wasn’t drafting smoothly and I was fighting with it so much that my hands hurt. No good! Back to the closet it went to await my attention another time. I wanted a simpler, more comforting spin instead.

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I got my OTHER grand sac of fiber from SVFF – this is a blend the seller calls “Romoca” (Romney wool, mohair, and alpaca). I don’t know the percentages, and it’s a roving prep. I am spinning it long draw on a 14:1 pulley and it’s spinning like a dream.

I decided to be a grownup about this project and actually make some sample yarn. I spun some singles and then made some 2-ply and also some 3-ply. Here is proof of my 3-ply yarn (which I prefer):IMG_2178

I haven’t knit that little sample ball yet, but I will. After that initial test, I divided the roving into one ounce puffballs and commenced spinning. I can store an ounce of singles on each of these 6” weaving bobbins. IMG_2208

You can see a ton of color variation here. It’s green, but it’s also a LOT of colors. IT’S A GREENBOW! I seem to be spinning a green variation of my greynbow spin. IMG_2209 adjust

I LOVE IT. I have 9 bobbins in this photo and another ounce spun, as well. I’m trying to do an ounce a day. If I’m lucky, I’ll have the singles done before our holiday travel, and I can ply after we return home.

In the meantime, MORE green fiber has arrived at my home. The November Sheepspot Fiber Club shipment arrived, and it’s Southdown top in a gorgeous semisolid colorway called “Mexican lime.” It looks green in my house – kind of a yellow-y green, but still green. But when I took it outside to photograph in natural light, it looked much more golden yellow:IMG_2195

And when I held it up against my decidedly green front door, the fiber looked completely yellow!IMG_2198

Color is so tricksy that way. This lovely braid will have to wait until I finish my greenbow, though. I’m monogamous in my spinning projects.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Getting the perfect fit

IMG_2120I’ve made a lot of socks since I started knitting. Like, a LOT – Ravelry tells me I’ve made 144 pairs. The first ones were kind of big and saggy, but now I made socks that fit very well. The trickiest part is getting the foot length right.

If I’m making a sock for someone besides myself, I measure their foot length by having them stand on a piece of paper and marking the toe tip (pencil held vertically) and heel (pencil angled in, where the heel turn will be):IMG_2189

This is Boy 1’s foot. It measures 9 5/8” today. I will make the sock 9 3/4” to give him a bit of grow room.

Then I measure my foot. Mine is 9 1/8”, a full half inch shorter than his. Noted.

After I’ve worked the gusset decreases and knit the straight cylinder part of the foot for a while, I try it on to check. I measure the distance from the sock edge to the tip of my toe, averaging the measurement from the top and bottom of my foot (they are never the same!). Then I measure my gauge on this sock in rows per inch, and figure out how many rows I have left to work from where I am until I want to close the toe.

The only other piece of information I need is the number of rows for the toe decrease. Lately I have been fond of using the rounded toe. If you start with 64 stitches, it goes like this:

*K2tog K6* for one round

knit 6 rounds

*K2tog K5* for one round

knit 5 rounds

etc until the last round is *K2tog*

My rounded toe on a 64-stitch sock takes 28 rounds to finish. But this sock is 68 stitches (due to GROWTH SPURT) so I had to add another decrease round with only 4 stitches decreased earlier.IMG_2191 crop

It is time to put the toe on this sock!

I like this method a lot because it only requires the recipient to be measured once. By comparing the recipient’s foot to my own, I can use my own foot to determine when to start the toe decrease. I like measuring that with the sock ON A FOOT, because the fabric is stretching some, just as it will when one wears it. If you measured it laying flat on a table, you would get a different length.

After I figure this out for sock #1, I count the number of straight rounds between the gusset decreases and the toe decreases. I note this on my pattern so I don’t have to measure anything on sock #2.

It works for me!IMG_5439

On a side note, I have been getting so many oooos and ahhhhhs about this cheerful yarn. It is Poste Yarn, Striping, a lovely house yarn from Simply Socks Yarn Company. Her colorways come and go, so if you don’t see your favorite right now it might come back later. This colorway is “Danxia Landform” and I don’t see it in the shop right now. This year Allison has a number of special holiday colorways. I am especially fond of Jollyville (currently out of stock), and Festival of Lights is pretty lovely, too. And J’adore. But – I don’t need any more sock yarn…….do I?

Monday, November 28, 2016

What would you do with a magic wand?

The colorway of this fiber is “Magic Wand” and I adore how it came out. I started with about 6 oz of 70/20/10 wool/mohair/silk roving. I almost always spin roving in a woolen style and this is my go-to technique, which I believe is technically a “supported long draw.” IMG_2126

I weighed the fiber and divided it into 3 equal sections… so I ended up with 3 bobbins:IMG_2140

You can see some lovely color variation there already. I made a regular 3-ply yarn (not chain ply) and ended up with this gorgeous pillow of deliciousness:IMG_2151

I ended up with 280 yards (166 g) of yarn. It’s in two skeins but I twisted them together here for documentary purposes. I haven’t wound it into a ball yet so I haven’t inspected the yarn closely to “size” it, but here is a photo with a quarter for scale:IMG_2156

I love this yarn so much. S1 commented that it looks like something I would buy at a shop. That is part of why we spin – to make the exact yarn we want to work with! So – I LOVE this yarn, but I did not think about what I wanted to make with it when I spun it. What would you conjure with this magic wand?

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Invested

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I have been slowly laboring on this vest for Boy 1. It is not a portable project because of the stitch pattern, which features cables and twisted stitches. When I work on it, I have to have two pieces of paper out (with charts marked with highlighter tape) and a good place to keep my cable needle close at hand. Oh, and I have to have my wits about me. These are impediments to rapid progress!

In fact, I’ve made a couple of mistakes on the cables. Can you see the mis-crossed cable in this photo? It’s about 8 rows down from the top:IMG_2083

I decided that I was going to fix that cable – and without ripping back. So I got out a blocking mat (to pin into), a bunch of dpns, some locking stitch markers, and a good light, and set myself up at the table to perform surgery.

IMG_2084 correctedI dropped the four stitches in the cable and carefully pinned out each strand that was released when I dropped the stitch. Then I used my trusty crochet hook to pick everything up again and cross the cable the correct way. Success!

IMG_2086 corrected

It wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. This yarn is really “sticky” so I wasn’t worried about it running away from me. And having the mat and the pins and all my surgical tools at the ready made the process go smoothly. When the same mistake happened again, it didn’t raise my blood pressure at all. I just stopped knitting (this time only about 6 rows up) and fixed it before moving on.

The “real” color of this is the brighter blue in the photos taken outdoors:IMG_2174

I am now 9 or so inches into the front of the vest. It will require a bit more attention because I have to work the neck opening and the armhole at the same time. I’m not there yet. I would love to have this done before Christmas so the boy can wear it, but I don’t know if that will happen.

Also, he does not have a shirt that would go well with this. That means shopping - which we all loathe. Hrmmm….

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Hidden treasure

We recently had some work done in our living room that required moving a large, antique rolltop desk. It had not been moved in about 15 years. (I adore this desk. It was a high school graduation gift from my parents.)IMG_2127

Since we had to remove all the drawers anyway, I decided to KonMari the whole thing. And in that process, I decided to move some things out of the desk that I don’t often need to access, and replace them with things I use all the time – like fiber tools. IMG_2129

 

This process also prompted me to completely empty two of those large African baskets full of random fiber. I got rid of some of it. I stuffed one bag with promising bits and labelled it “practice fiber for beginners.” And I also found some good stuff! Like about 3/4 of a braid of Gale’s Art BFL. I started spinning this on a spindle years ago and it never really took off. I did the rest on the wheel and spun it worsted. I got 138 yards of 3-ply yarn (73 g) and then a tiny bit more of 2-ply (27 yards, 9 g). IMG_4442

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It was a very pleasing spin. The colorway, by the way, is “Stormy Sea.” My trusty blog reveals that I bought that at MDSW in 2009.

I also unearthed a ziploc bag containing 6 ounces of roving purchased from the Steam Valley Fiber Farm in Trout Run, PA – I got it at Knitters’ Day Out in 2010. Whoa, that was a long time ago. I learned to spin in 2008 so this is vintage fluff. This is a 70/20/10 lend of wool/mohair/silk and it is a roving preparation, so I’m spinning it longdraw. I’m planning on a 3-ply yarn. The colorway is called “Magic Wand.” IMG_2125

I’ve been working on this a little bit every morning before work. It is really lovely to hear the wheel whir and make yarn before heading into the office.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Babies, rainbows, friends

This week sucked. I am still cycling through a range of emotions – disbelief, rage, anguish, fear. They don’t proceed in any particular order and can be revisited any number of times.

BUT.

Babies are still being born, and they need to be enveloped in love and warmth. On election night, I blocked this sweater for a baby expected by a colleague. It is a deep blue that is hard to photograph – I know the picture looks more like black but trust me.gramps

A few notes about it:

  • Even though it is one of the recommended yarns (Spud and Chloe Sweater), it was impossible to get gauge without creating a bulletproof vest. Even though I knit the 0-6 month size, I think it will be quite big on a newborn. We shall see – babies are definitely not all the same size. Even if it’s too big this winter and too small by next fall, I’ll just knit the kid another sweater.
  • I knit the elbow patches but ultimately decided to leave them off. Every Ravelry photo of a baby wearing the sweater with patches looked weird – the patch made the whole sleeve stiff and it didn’t bend naturally. The pockets, though, are ADORABLE. Boy 2 said that the baby could put his nooky in the pockets.
  • I did not work the buttonholes as specified, because Margaret Fisher’s one-row horizontal buttonhole is simply superior to any other buttonhole I have ever seen. It’s my go-to and it’s from Seven Things that can "Make or Break" a Sweater.

 

Then I cast on a new pair of socks for Boy 1. He loves bright stripes and we all need a rainbow right now:IMG_2120

And finally, spending the day with knitter friends on Saturday was a balm. Four of us trekked over to York, PA, to knit at a friend’s house there. On the way, we went out to lunch and visited a York yarn store (Uncommon Threads). We also passed a demonstration against hate downtown and whooped and hollered in support. That all happened too quickly to get a photo… but here is a shot of a beautiful table on autumnally inspired knits:20161112_132327

When we reached Heidi’s welcoming home, we were delighted to find that she was the first one to complete our On the Spice Market KAL project! Here is her version:20161112_140102

I very much regret that I didn’t get her face in the shot – but you can tell she’s happy. She used up a lot of balls of this and that in this shawl. It’s a great stashbuster.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Sweet and spicy

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First off, let me share my latest skein of handspun – this is the most recent shipment from Sheepspot’s Breed School Fiber Club. IMG_4190The breed is Whitefaced Woodland (super rare) and the colorway is “Painted Lady.” That sounds a little lurid, but I think these colors are so sweet together. I spun a worsted yarn and made a 3-ply yarn. I was aiming for a DK weight yarn and might have achieved it (how do you tell REALLY – those control card gizmos are so subjective to use). At any rate, I got about 208 yards in 96 grams. Think that’s DK?IMG_4424

I understand there will be a handspun KAL soon in the Breed School group, and the pattern I liked best is DK. So I’m ready.IMG_4049

In other knitting news, this adorable pack of mini-skeins fell into my cart when I was shopping online for yarn to make a baby sweater. In my defense, I had no yarn in stash that would work for the baby sweater. And also in my defense, if your order at WEBS goes above $60, you get a 20% discount – so these beauties were an amazing deal when you factor that in. This is a Party of Five set from Sweet Georgia yarns and they are every bit as luscious in person as they look in this photo.

Fast forward a few weeks. I ran across a Gilmore Girls KAL on Ravelry and was intrigued. Kris and I dug a little deeper, and naturally, came up with a pro/con list:

  • Pro: We love GG and were already rewatching seasons 1-7 in anticipation of the A Year in the Life miniseries coming next month
  • Con: We did not adore the main color yarn in the kit
  • Pro: the contrasting mini-skeins were adorable
  • Pro: maybe we could make it from stash instead of buying the yarn kit
  • Con: the pattern calls for Aran weight yarn and we had hardly any in stash… and we didn’t want to buy new yarn for this
  • Pro: we reminded ourselves that we are in charge of our knitting and we can have our own KAL that happens to coincide with the GG miniseries if we want to!

Long story short, we decided to make the On the Spice Market shawl and work from stash. We shared the idea with our knitting group and a bunch of people are making it now – maybe 5 or 6? I’ll try to get some photos of everyone’s version! I actually swatched for this:IMG_4422

My initial vision was to use that gray yarn (hardy sock yarn that I got in Iceland) for the main color, and the gradient set as the contrast colors. But as I worked, I could feel a big difference between the gray yarn and the greens… the gray was toothsome while the greens were sleek. They just didn’t seem right together. So I dove back into the sock yarn cabinet and came up with a skein of Knit Picks Bare (“bare” as in “undyed”) that had been there for years. I bought it when Steven and I dyed sock yarn forever ago and apparently I bought a lot. The yarn doesn’t have nylon in it, so I ignored it for socks after some point in my sock knitting development. I think it will work here.2016-10-31_1854

Also – the pattern calls for SIX contrasting colors, and the Party of Five set only has, well, FIVE. So I entertained a lot of ideas for color number six (which is actually CC1). Eventually I went with a deep blue. IMG_4438

Here is the very beginning of it. You can see my beautiful green Needle Keeper. Bonny, that was an excellent tip – and it came at just the right time for my son to give it to me for my birthday. He actually got me two of them. So YES I matched my green Needle Keeper to go with this project. Sometime in the future you might get a glimpse of the blue one with another project!

That’s enough of an update for now… I hear the siren call of Halloween candy.