Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Use the handspun

My big 2017 fiber resolution was to knit more of my handspun. I’m not sure if I’ve done a super awesome job so far… but I have churned out 2 scarves, a pair of socks, and a pair of fingerless mitts.

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HOWEVER, 2017 isn’t over yet! I have a couple of things going now.

First up: I have a little phone pouch that my mother made me back in 2012. Long time readers may remember it: IMG_2440I use this all the time and it is now completely threadbare:IMG_6694

I asked my mom if she would make me another one, and I told her I was thinking about weaving the fabric for it. What did she think? She was game but neither of us really knew what I would make. I wanted to use wool so that I could full the fabric and make it denser than the cotton fabrics I can weave on my little Cricket. Honestly, I decided not to overthink it and just went by instinct. I took these two yarns which I had spun earlier this yearIMG_2767IMG_3084

…and jumped right in. I double-threaded the undyed, 2-ply yarn on my 10-dent heddle and used the dyed Teeswater singles as weft. IMG-4388IMG-4393

It is hard for me to predict how woven fabric will look. Here is the result! IMG-4409

It’s kind of gradient-y, but also kind of stripey. I honestly don’t know if this fabric will work to make another phone pouch. Will it be durable enough? Will the sewing machine be able to handle a layer of this wool handwoven with batting and a quilting cotton liner? Will it look stupid? The jury is out on all of those questions. My mom is visiting in a couple of weeks, and we will consult. She might end up taking the fabric back home with her, because she gently pointed out that her sewing machine is way better than mine. I get that.IMG-4412

Even if this fabric doesn’t end up working for the phone pouch, I can say I wove with my handspun – and the undyed yarn is completely gone, out of stash.

In other handspun news, it’s time to knit another sweater. Remember the sweater quantity of Greenbow I spun last year? I spun the singles at the end of 2016 and plied it up in January of this year. I spent a little quality time with Ravelry and decided to try making Ysolda Teague’s Blank Canvas sweater. It’s simple, which is good with a colorful handspun yarn. It also has an interesting shoulder construction I’m eager to try.

I swatched on both a US 5 and a US 6, in the round (it kills me to cut all those floats, but the swatch didn’t lay right without doing so):IMG_6696

Of course, I didn’t have gauge. But I my old friend, math, to help me out: IMG_6697

So here I go, hoping it works out. I’m trying not to overthink it and just knit the yarn.IMG_6699

Saturday, September 9, 2017

A Good Hat

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Last Sunday, I got a text from a friend that said “Do you like to knit with Brooklyn Tweed yarns? If so, do you want some?” The answer, of course, was YES and YES. She was finding it difficult to knit with this very woolen spun yarn and wanted to switch to something she could knit on autopilot (I think the way she tensions the yarn pulls it pretty taut, and the yarn was drifting apart on her). So I became the owner of FOUR skeins of Shelter in this lovely teal color (“Tartan”) and one skin of the bulky yarn, Quarry, in a deep purple (“Hematite”).  IMG-4431
Boy 1 immediately spotted the bag on the coffee table. (In his defense, it was a Chipotle bag – and you know teenage boys and their burritos.) I think he expected to see chips when he peeked inside. Instead, he found yarn – but he grabbed it and said “Ooooh, this would make a good hat! I love the color!”

This knitting mama knows how to seize the moment. We went to Ravelry and I showed him some hats I had favorited, including the 1898 Hat. This is a free pattern from the Seaman’s Church Institute, and I think it’s brilliant. The headband features curved earflaps and a doubled garter stitch fabric that is super squishy. The crown is a single layer of simple stockinette. I know slouchy hats are all the rage right now, and I’ve knit some for Boy 1 – but he prefers a beanie style hat because it doesn’t slip down over his eyes. He also yanks his hats down over his ears – this design eliminates the need for extra yanking. The hat is quick to work on a US 7 needle and came out perfectly! IMG-4444 crop

You work the garter stitch part flat, with increases and decreases to make the curvy ear parts: IMG-4425

Next, you graft the edges together (see the provisional cast on at the beginning in dark purple yarn?). For instructions on how to graft in garter, I used this helpful video (which just appeared on the Mason Dixon Year of Techniques series last week – perfect timing). I should have switched to regular Kitchener stitch instructions when I got to the 3 stitches of stockinette in the middle – you can see here how a garter ridge runs right across it. Next time I’ll do better:IMG-4427

Then you fold it in half. The center ridge of the flat part becomes the bottom edge of the hat, which leaves you with two edges where the crown begins. You just pull yarn through those two edges with a crochet hook and then start knitting in the round to finish the hat in the normal way. So clever.IMG-4426

The crown decreases are in seven places, which I think has a very pleasing effect:IMG-4437

This hat was a joy to make, and the perfect companion when I was recovering from a bad cold (maybe even flu?) last week. Fingers crossed that he doesn’t lose it (the last hat was lost). But if he does, I’ll just make another one. This pattern is a keeper!IMG-4440 crop

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Seeking rainbows

A friend from a very warm part of the world just started a new job in Massachusetts. She is very excited about the institution and the job itself, but NOT the climate. As we parted last spring, she said “I need some of those warm, wool socks you are always knitting!” IMG_6670

That’s just the kind of request I love. We consulted a bit on color (she likes all of them) and ultimately, I decided to knit her a classic, ROYGBIV rainbow. I settled on this skein of Vesper Sock Yarn from Knitterly Things: IMG_6669

We have talked before about how appealing an afterthought heel is when you don’t want to interrupt a stripe sequence. I have knit many afterthought heels using the structure of a toe. It works, but that heel doesn’t fit me nearly as well as a flap heel. So I thought I’d try the Procrastinatrix pattern, which features an afterthought heel worked without picking up gusset stitches and in the style of the flap.

But this pattern…is pretty terrible! First it calls for an “open provisional cast on” at the heel, which is terminology not used in exactly that way in any of the references I consulted. The designer made a video to demonstrate the technique, but the video has no sound. I finally decided to use whatever provisional cast on I wanted (I only needed 9 stitches at each end of the heel)… so I made this thing (waste yarn is gray): IMG-4363

But when I worked the next round with the working yarn, it left the most terrible ladders despite my yanking and pulling. I pulled it out and decided to try again, but with the extra stitches in the middle of each circular needle instead of at the edges of one. While the sock was in time out, I read more about how to attach the heel later. It sounded like that was even more fiddly than the provisional bit in the middle. I finally determined that just because you can make a sock in a new way doesn’t mean it’s a better way. IMG-4401

You can see that I returned to my tried-and-true, top-down, heel flap ways. And I think the stripes look pretty good! I cut the yarn to achieve this look, though. First, I worked the leg until I had finished a purple stripe and just started blue (only enough blue to finish the needle). Then I worked the heel flap and turn. When I was ready to pick up stitches and rejoin in the round, I skipped ahead to the very beginning of a blue section. So when you look down at the top of the sock, the stripes continue in order… they just get a little skinnier because there are 22 extra stitches there. Every other round, there are 2 fewer stitches… until we are back at 64 total and each stripe is about 3.5 rounds wide. Of course, the stripes get thicker as I decrease stitches for the toe.

I rather like that the sock begins and ends with yellow, but that was just luck.

On to #2!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Finish line Saturday

I always get a perverse thrill when I finish more than one project on the same day. Such was the case yesterday, when I finished this scarf:IMG-4377

I used the free His (Birthday) Scarf pattern (astute readers will recognize it, as I made one for Boy 1 years ago) and some delicious yarn I got in Maine this summer: IMG_6345

It’s called “Acadia” (which was mighty tempting since we just spent 5 days in Acadia National Park) and it’s a “rustic blend” of silk noil, baby alpaca, and merino wool from The Fibre Co. The color is “Jack Pine.” I used almost all of 4 balls, and the scarf is 7.5” wide by 8’ long. It is rather longer than I expected, but the recipient is a tall man. I’ll get a modelled shot when I give it to him! (Steven: it is not you. Don’t want to get your hopes up. I know you love your green and all!)

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I also finished this handspun skein, which is Targhee top from the Sheepspot Fiber Club and started out life looking like this:IMG_6480

The color is a little greener in real life… I’m not sure why the camera wasn’t reading it correctly. Greens can be so tricky to photograph. I spun this worsted style and made a 3-play yarn. It poofed up quite a bit during finishing… but I have 390 yards and only 74 grams. It is deliciously soft! It took a long time to spin because it was so fine, but every minute was pure pleasure. I think I need to try to make a thicker yarn next time, just to make sure I still can. Experienced spinners often bemoan not being able to spin thick anymore. I guess one usually spins finer and finer and finer with practice. Maybe you can see how fine the singles were here:IMG-4337

What’s next? I have a pair of gift socks on the needles that I’ll tell you about soon, and I’m swatching… for fall sweaters!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Mrs. Who?

In early June, I went to the Frederick Fiber Fest, a newish event I hadn’t been to before. It was smallish but packed with gorgeous yarns. I think I hadn’t prepared myself mentally for the bounty of beauty, and I fell off my yarn diet. But I got some beautiful things that I really love: IMG_5669

Now that I’ve knit two of the skeins in that photo, I’m ‘fessing up. I got these two with only the vaguest idea that I would make one of those two-skeins-of-sock-yarn shawls. After getting home, I settled down for some serious Ravelry searching, and eventually settled on the Mrs. Blandings shawl. (I still don’t know if the reference is to the 1948 film, the 1946 novel, or something else.) I cast on before our vacation – proof! IMG_3419

And then I proceeded to ignore it in favor of some grey socks until the socks were done. But now, it’s done: crop1

I think this will fit into my so-called wardrobe well. I have plenty of grey, and the multi color works with just about anything. It is LONG – 83” wingspan – but not so deep – only 17” at the deepest point.crop4

I really loved working with the multicolor, which I guess is hand painted but is probably splashed more than anything else. IMG_5663It was so entertaining to see which colors would come up against each other. Though at times, there isn’t enough contrast between it and the dreamy dove grey color. And I wonder if the fancy stitch pattern in the solid section even shows up against the riot of color: IMG_6491

The shawl was supposed to end with a striping section, but I added another 9 garter ridges of grey since I had the yarn and I felt it balanced that edge against the cast-on point. IMG_6485

I have a little bit of yarn left over, but it will go straight into my I Love Leftovers blanket. Overall, this is a serviceable shawl and I look forward to cooler temps that will cause me to pull it out again.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Cirrus

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This colorway is perfectly named – the fiber (organic Polwarth) is soft as a cloud, and the color (a dreamy semisolid dove gray) is really just a wisp of a color. I bought the fiber at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival last May and intended to spin a 3-ply yarn for the Pania of the Reef shawl. It was meant to go with this gradient yarn, which I spun in April 2016:IMG_0146

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I spun the top worsted style all onto one bobbin, which I then transferred to 3 storage bobbins (weighing to get them as even as possible):IMG_4277

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Then I made a 3-ply yarn. One bobbin emptied sooner than the other two. I tried something new at this point… I took the remaining bobbin that seemed the fattest and I wound it into a center-pull ball on my ball winder. Then I held that little ball in my hand, and I pulled from both ends of it – along with the remaining bobbin – to make more 3-ply yarn. I think I got about 30 extra yards by doing this! Boy 2 tried to capture an action shot:IMG_6473

This worked quite well – I’ll use this technique again in the future!

This photo shows the yarn before finishing (left) and after finishing (right). The color difference is just due to the light (evening light made it look bluer). I thought this Polwarth would puff up more than it did. It puffed a little, though.JLXK1248

This was a really lovely spin. I would definitely purchase from this farm again – it came from Middle Brook Fiberworks in Bedminster, NJ.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Color-and-Weave Towels

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They’re all done! I made these using Liz Gipson’s Color-and-Weave Towels pattern on my 15” Cricket rigid heddle loom (10-dent heddle). The yarn is 8/2 cotton from The Woolery in colors Nil Green and Aqua Marine.

Before washing, they were 14.5” wide and the length varied from 21.875 to 22.375”. After washing, they are 13.125” wide and the length varies from 19.125 to 20.125”. If I hadn’t messed up the warping pattern, they would be just an eensy bit wider… but not much. Do you see where I made the mistake? They are actually TWO mistakes near each other:IMG_6459

You can also see a couple of floats in that photo. I was so anxious to wash them after taking them off the loom that I forgot to check for those – OOPS! That was the first towel I made, and I didn’t notice any skips or floats on the subsequent ones. I guess I got my head in the game.

One of the cool things about this pattern is that it has four different patterns for the stripe of the towel that uses two colors. Above is #1, which used a teal/green/green pattern. #2 is similar – it’s a teal/teal/green pattern:IMG_6461 #3 is teal/green x4/teal/green x2:IMG_6464

And #4 is a simple alteration of teal/green:IMG_6467

I love this little detail that makes a “family” of towels. I definitely need to work more on changing colors at the edge. The instructions seem clear on paper, yet in practice I struggle. That will come. This is a particularly bad edge:IMG_6465

But my hems… I think they are quite beautiful. I defy you to see where I took the stitches:IMG_6468

I am definitely becoming more comfortable with all the little steps in weaving. I’m not sure what my next project will be. Maybe weaving with handspun? I also have ideas for using the cotton yarns that are left over from my projects so far. One though: I’d like to try mixing a single thread of 8/4 and doubled threads of 8/2 in the same project. I’d also like to use doubled threads of 8/2 in each slot/hole, but use two different colors in the same slot/hole.

But for now… the wheel calls.