Thursday, April 18, 2019

Crepe, part 2

It has been a long time since my last post. I worked diligently to finish my crepe yarn before leaving on an exciting trip to Scotland (more on that later) because I just hate leaving big projects half done at home. That spinning wheel wasn't going to travel with me, so I prioritized the finishing of that yarn before my departure.

Here are some of the singles as I spun them. Notice the cross-lacing - this was necessary to make the wheel take up properly. I guess I am nearing the edge of how fine a single I can spin on this wheel? Not sure about that, but cross-lacing solves all my take up problems so I do it. (Don't worry, I'm not in the market for a new wheel. Not yet.)

Here are the singles after being transferred to storage bobbins but before plying. They are always so pretty at this stage!

And here is the overtwisted S-twist 2-ply, ready to ply with the regular S-twist single:

How do you think the twist looks here? You never really know until you set the twist. I will say, though, that I knew I was off when I took this skein off the winder. It twisted a LOT:

Here is how it looked after wet finishing and drying. Meh?

Reader, I don't love this yarn.

I was in love with my sample skein, but I thought it was just a little bit loose. I started spinning singles with more twist, and I also plied with more twist, and the resulting yarn is... just too twisty! It isn't all the way to wiry, but it's headed in that direction. I'm disappointed that I took the time to make a solid sample and then deviated from it too much.

Bottom line: I think I overthought it. That's disappointing, since I devoted two full braids of fiber to this project and spent the extra hours required to construct a crepe yarn. My finished skein is a whopping 548 yards and 135 grams, so maybe my next attempt need only use a single 100 gram braid.

I will still probably knit socks from this skein. Handspinning can be tricksy sometimes. It is possible to love a fiber in the braid and not in the skein, or in the skein but not in the finished knitted (or woven or crocheted) project. I have been surprised before. Maybe this will be a case of not loving the skein, but not noticing in the final project?

One thing this project taught me is that I really can spin singles fine enough to make 3-ply socks yarn that is truly fingering weight, which is what I want. So yay for that! I will try crepe again sometime, too.

I have been away from my wheel for a little over a month. I got back from a fantastic trip to Scotland (I promise, photos will be coming), had a short time to recover and rest, and then went on a super fun trip to a conference in Cleveland. You know how I feel about Cleveland (it's the best). While the home and work schedule seem super hectic, I often feel like I don't have time to spin - but that is when I most need to spin. I just need to get started with a project.

During my short time at home between trips, I took an online spinning class called "A Dyer's Guide to Spinning Multicolored Braids" with Sasha Torres of Sheepspot. It was fantastic! So I kind of want to dive into some of those braids. But I also want to do something super calm and different. I am thinking about picking up these bags of roving I got at the Shenandoah Fiber Festival last fall:

They are a blend of Romney, mohair, and alpaca. I want to blend them with my hand cards so I get a very long gradient yarn that moves from green to blue. Sounds like fun, right? I think blending fiber sounds dreamy right now, so that's probably what I'll do. I just need to get out the scale and start separating my fiber so I can do what I want with it. That requires some brain power, which is short supply now. But I think it's coming back.

Sunday, March 3, 2019


After reading the most recent issue of PLY Magazine (devoted to sock yarn), I decided that I wanted to try making a crepe yarn. What is a crepe yarn? It's kind of a two-ply and kind of a three-ply, but really it's its own thing, and that's crepe. To make a crepe yarn, divide your fiber into thirds. Spin one third into S-twist singles. Spin the other two-thirds as Z-twist singles, then ply them together in the S-direction, using double the amount of twist you would normally add to get a balanced yarn. Then you ply the S-twist singles and the overplied S-twist 2-ply - in the Z-direction - to get the resulting crepe yarn.

I know, it's a lot to think about. The yarn supposedly has more elasticity, which is great for socks.

I decided to use my new braid of Cheviot top (from Sheepspot - colorway is Splash) for this:

When I went to my fiber bin to retrieve it, I found another braid of Cheviot top (also from Sheepspot). What?!? This one wasn't in Ravelry, so I didn't know I had it. After thinking about it for a while, I finally decided that this was the May 2018 shipment from the Sheepspot Fiber Club (colorway is Key West):

I didn't log it properly because it arrived during what my family simply refers to as "The Poison Ivy Time." Those were lost weeks, folks. It was bad. Anyway, finding this extra bump of fiber made me feel free to do some sampling that I would normally chintz on, in the interest of not running out of fiber. I decided to combine these two braids to make an extra large skein of sock yarn (about 150 grams), leaving about 50 grams with which to sample.

This is how they look unbraided:

I decided to use all of Key West for the 2-ply part of the crepe yarn, and half of the Splash for the other ply. This left the other half of Splash for sampling.

This might provide a hint of what the fibers will look like together?

I was very careful about labeling my singles along the way.

To double the twist in the 2-ply, I chose to ply normally (for a balanced yarn) and then run the yarn through the wheel again using the same whorl and treadling:drafting ratio. Here is my overtwisted two-ply (on the wheel) and the bobbin of singles:

And what does the finished yarn look like? It's really nice!

It's truly a fingering weight - here it is next to leftover sock yarn from two recent projects. I could not be more pleased about the thickness of this yarn.

Finished yardage is 80 yards for 17.5 grams of fiber. If I can do 100 grams like this, it will DEFINITELY be enough for regular socks.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Back to the wheel

As loyal readers know, I got totally jazzed up about spinning sock yarn over the winter break. This excitement was fueled by the winter issue of PLY Magazine, which I read on our long road trip to Texas. I got home and decided to ease back in by spinning for a "3-ply 2 ways" project. The basic idea is to split your fiber in half. Spin one half as a traditional 3-ply, and the other half as a chain-ply (which is also 3 plies). When you knit socks, alternate from the two skeins every 4-5 rows. The result is harmonious yet distinct stripes. The sock sample from the issue can be viewed here.

I decided to devote my in-stash braid of Southdown top to this project. I have spun with Sasha's Southdown top (from twice before, and it is amazing to work with. Here is the first half of the braid spun as singles:

I rewound all my singles before plying. The 3 little bobbins are for the traditional 3-ply; the chain-ply will be made from the larger bobbin.

The plying went smoothly, but the two skeins are pretty different. The top one is chain-plied; the bottom one is traditional 3-ply. Can you see the difference?

I think the chain-ply is the better skein! Look at the close up:

The plied yarn is so much more even. Maybe this is because I spun that half of the braid second? I started the first half in early January, and then I got really sick. I quit spinning for a couple of weeks. I finished up those singles later, and then did the chain-ply bobbin.

Here is the traditional 3-ply close up:

It may be that these differences don't show up much in the finished sock (stay tuned to find out). But it's a reminder to me that it's quite possible to get rusty and that spinning a little every day results in better yarn.

I wanted to get another project on the wheel right away, and I wanted it to be something totally different. A palette cleanser, if you will. So I grabbed this braid of HipStrings fiber that I purchased at the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival last fall:

This is a blend of 37.5% BFL, 37.5% Shetland wool, 12.5% viscose (bamboo), and 12.5% tussah silk. It is sooooooo different from the single breed roving or top that I usually spin. First of all, it's hella slippery! After a little experimenting, I decided it was best to chunk the fiber and spin it from the fold with a short forward draw. This kept it from flying out of my fingers too quickly. I also slowed down my wheel (to 12.5:1). Yet, the singles still seemed to have more twist than I wanted them to.

I intended to make a 2-ply yarn, and I decided to try plying from a center pull ball. Look, so pretty!

But what a disaster! The singles had too much twist to behave, and I found myself fighting for every draft. I stopped and wound my center pull ball into a plying ball:
At this point, I wondered whether I should have run my singles back through the wheel to remove some twist before plying... but I felt like I was too far along to go back. Onward! Here is the finished skein:

It's not great. I think it looks a little weirder than it is, though. It almost reminds me of a cabled yarn in appearance, because the singles were so tweedy to begin with. Ply two tweedy single together, and the result looks like a cabled yarn. Here's a close up:
I am pleased to say that at least the finished yarn is softer than I expected it to be. I guess that's the viscose and silk talking?

Bottom line: combining these fibers together into a bit of a Frankenblend makes for a challenging spin. I have one more braid that is like this in construction, and I'll have to think about how best to approach it. Any suggestions?

I spent this morning's allotment of before-work spinning time lining up my next project. It will be Cheviot fiber in a crepe yarn construction (which I've never done before). More learning on the horizon.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Lucky Mittens

Much plötulopi remains in my stash even after using quite a bit in my Aito Shawl. I noticed that my current winter mittens have been wearing a bit thin in the thumbs, so I decided to make a new pair out of plötulopi. Mary Jane Mucklestone has a pattern called Heppinn Mittens, and "heppinn" means "lucky" in Icelandic - so these are my lucky mittens.

You may recall that I wrestled with stranded colorwork on a small circumference when working on Dave's Sheep Socks. For these mittens, I decided to give dpns the old college try. And it worked! It took me a bit to get the hang of working with this unique, unspun yarn on dpns, though. My instinct is to pull the yarn tightly on the second stitch of each needle, in order to prevent ladders. If you pull on this yarn, though, it breaks. BUT if you pull it very close to the needle (like with your fingers about a centimeter away from the needle), it does not break - because the staple length of the fiber is longer than that centimeter. I know this from spinning and was thrilled to see this Law of Staple Length in action on my knitting needles.

This pattern uses four colors. Only two are used on any given row, but sometimes you change from two colors on one row to two different colors on the next row. This left a TON of ends to weave in on the first mitten.

For the second mitten, I tried a technique for weaving in ends as you work them (thanks for the tutorial, Andrea of Fruity Knitting). This helped a lot, though I was unable to figure out how to weave out two colors at once and then weave in two colors at once... so I only did one at a time. This meant that I had only half as many ends to weave in with a needle. You can see the ones I knit in here - I cut them off a couple of inches away from the fabric:

The longer ends need to be woven in with a tapestry needle.

Here is a tidy mitten needing only a thumb where that festive orange yarn is:

See how it looks on the inside? So satisfying!

It was snowing today, so I took these out for a spin. Even though I blocked these in water with hair conditioner added, they are still a little rough. I wear them over a pair of thin, fleece gloves, so that is not a concern for me. The unspun wool traps a lot of heat, and these were quite warm. I'm not sure yet how well they will wear, but we will see. This is an experiment!
My only complaint is that the ribbed cuff is not tight at all. The designer calls for it to be worked on the smaller needle, the same as all the single-color knitting (for stranded rows, go up one size). I think the cuff requires an even smaller needle, though.

This was a fun little project. I am feeling more confident about my colorwork, and I think I'm ready to try a fancy tam. Maybe something like this?

Cheers to wool and snow!

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Tenure Hat

My friend Kim earned tenure last December, and so naturally, my response was "Congratulations - you get a hat!"

We got together for a hat consultation in January. She tried on all the handknit hats we could round up at our house, and one of them made her squeal. Interestingly, it was the very same one that Emily liked. So I retrieved my bin that contains my decreasing stash of Julia, and we looked at colors.

Side note - I often feel a bit guilty about stashing yarn that has no specific purpose, but this stash has been nice to have. Years ago, when Nashua Handknits discontinued Julia (Kristin Nicholas's signature yarn, a 50/25/25 blend of wool/mohair/alpaca in her color palette), I bought 2-3 balls each of a whole bunch of colors. WEBS offered a great price and I loaded up. Those balls of yarn live in their own small bin and don't mix with the rest of the worsted weight yarns.

Anyway, Kim selected a sophisticated blue and gray combination, and I knit her hat just a little longer than Sharon's so it would completely cover her ears. It is cute and sassy and she loves it, so I love it, too!
It has a flap on one side (that is stitched down), and a stripe that peeks out worked in a woven stitch.

It is nice to have a stash of excellent hat yarn that I don't have to work a gauge swatch for anymore. Just find my size US7, 16" circular, and I'm ready to cast on.

Bonny, I thought you might be interested to know that Kim is a mathematician.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Wrapping up

This is the time of year when we want to wrap up (here in the northern hemisphere), and the Aito shawl is perfect for that. I’ve been using it in my reading chair in the living room, which is located next to a window. The window brings in welcome natural light, but also a lower temperature than the rest of the room. I love having this right there so I can continue reading in my favorite spot!
If I wrap it all around my neck like a scarf,  it looks like this:

But when it’s near freezing, this is a better way to wear it:

I really enjoyed knitting with plötulopi and am so glad that I rescued it from the giveaway table at Knitters’ Day Out a few years ago. I still have plenty left, and I’m considering a pair of mittens. Perhaps these? I noticed that the wool mittens I wear over a pair of “fleece” (the polyester kind) gloves is wearing thin, and perhaps that’s why my fingers are colder.

In other shawl-knitting news, I planned to begin the Parallelogram Scarf next. Are you familiar with this pattern? It utilizes sequence knitting (which I love) and the pattern is in Mason-Dixon Knitting Field Guide #5. This particular pattern caught my eye because it uses the very long gradient yarn dyed by Freia Fibers. I’ve had my eye on this pattern since it appeared in November 2017. I didn’t buy it because I kind of wanted the little book (in print), and I felt that it would appear in my path at some point. And finally, it did. When I was visiting my parents last month, Mom and I stopped into The Knitting Cup, where my copy of Field Guide No. 5 was waiting for me. (A beautiful mug was also waiting for me.)

Then, a couple days later in Austin, Steven and I visited Hill Country Weavers, where they stock Freia yarns. I had picked out two ombre shawl balls and was nearly ready to check out when I noticed an older put up of this yarn. Both are fingering and they come in the same colorways, but the older put up is 75 grams of a plied yarn while the newer one is 100 g of a singles yarn. Well… I had one ball of the older put up in my stash already, so I picked another older ball to go with it to make this shawl (figuring I’d adjust the cast on number, too). I was so pleased with myself – I was using something from stash AND spending less (don’t worry, I bought other stuff there, too!). Here is the new ball I bought, in colorway “lichen” (which I adore):

And here it is with the ball I already owned (which I also bought at Hill Country Weavers, many years ago):

These colors are both very “me” so I didn’t hesitate to combine them. I mean, PERSONAL PALETTE, right?

But. When I cast on and started alternating colors, I wasn’t happy at all. I think the values are too different in these balls, and I stopped knitting after just this short amount. It looks garish to me instead of beautiful:

I needed a new project (and fast), so I decided to stick with the pattern and find another yarn. Just one yarn, not two colors to alternate. I dove into my basket of handspun and came out with this semi-solid blue. I only have about 80 grams, so I reduced the pattern size quite a bit (the CO number is 49). I’m  not sure yet if this will become a clever, understated scarf, or another item for the frog pile, but time will tell. Here is how it’s coming so far:

The weird color at the bottom is a provisional cast-on. I left a long tail to be used for binding off.

Stay warm, everyone!

PS - It seems that Blogger, Google, and Open Live Writer no longer play well together. I'm not sure what that means for the future of this platform. I've had to fight to post the last two entries. Is it time to switch to WordPress or just give up?

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Birthday knitting and a trip down memory lane

Knitting for birthdays and other special occasions is my new favorite thing. But like many knitters, I hate making things that recipients don’t like or appreciate. As a younger knitter, I was much stingier with my knitting time – you pretty much had to live in my house to get handknits. Now my home is overflowing with handknits, and I find myself in a more generous state of mind… yet I still want people to love what I make them. The solution, it seems, is to let them pick it themselves.

I started using this approach last summer, sort of. By “sort of” I mean that when my friend Dave celebrated his big 50th birthday in 2017, I sent him a certificate for a pair of handknit socks. I wasn’t able to celebrate with him in person. But I WAS able to celebrate #51 last summer in Cleveland, and that is when our consultation began. The result is this special pair of sheep socks. Dave is totally worthy of these socks because he and Pam introduced me and S1 to the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival back in 2001, which predated my ability to knit. I KNOW IT IS HARD TO REMEMBER A TIME WHEN I DID NOT KNIT. But trust me, knitting lessons came in early 2002, and the rest is history. Here are Dave’s finished socks:20190112_132023

Just for fun… I was able to find some photos of MDSW 2003. Dave and Pam visited us and we all went together (although they had already moved to Cleveland by then), and Boy 1 was nearly 12 months old. Here are S1, Boy 1, and Dave hanging out on the porch:IMG_0572

At the festival, Boy 1 checks out the baby sheep:


He isn’t so sure about the bunny, though:IMG_0580

He’s definitely a fan of the sheepdogs:


And while I’m pretty sure Boy 1 didn’t eat these, I distinctly remember that S1 and Dave did:IMG_0595Now that I think of it, I haven’t seen fried Twinkies at the fair in years.

So a year and a half after he actually turned 50, Dave will be getting these socks in the mail. I really, really hope they fit… but they’ll probably spark joy even if they don’t. Happy Birthday, Dave!

On to simpler projects. Last August, I gave two people hats for their birthdays. Our friend Ed was visiting from Oregon, so we had our pattern consultation and stash shopping experience while he was here. Ed gets double bonus points for choosing handspun yarn from my stash. Boy 1 modelled it before it went out in the mail:20180915_111008 crop

And Ed was kind enough to send a photo of him wearing it later (S1 painted the robot)!adjust

And Emily also got a hat, but we deferred the consultation until cooler weather arrived. We postponed our meeting several times for one reason or another, but finally got together earlier this month. She tried on many of our “house hats” (as the pile of handknits is called) and declared “I want one exactly like this. Is that possible?” This is the hat she tried (made for S1 in 2015):lucy crop

And this is the hat she got:IMG_20190115_133634_653

I only just now realized that the brim folds to the opposite side on these two. Hmmm. That is probably because I experimented with using German short rows instead of using the wrap-and-turn technique called for in the pattern, and I didn’t end up in exactly the same spot.

I have one more celebratory hat to make and we haven’t yet had the consultation about it, so we’ll wait to see how that turns out.

This is the document I share with hat recipients. Some people dig it, and others just want to come over and look at actual hats.

Do you knit gifts that are planned with the recipient?