Monday, January 11, 2021

Kitchen towels in cool colors

I finally finished this quartet of towels that I warped over the Thanksgiving break. The photos could be better, but this is what you get in the winter. This is the time of year when there's very little of that "magic light" that works so well for photographs. Either the sun is out and it's very harsh and direct, or the sun is hidden and everything is washed out and gray. I took these photos in my living room, with all the blinds open, at midday on a very sunny day. Perhaps a different background would have helped. I just used the corner we had just emptied of the Christmas tree. 

These are the colors I used, which remind me of cool waters in the summertime. All are 8/2 cotton from Maurice Brassard. The darker blue is vieux bleu, the light green is lime, the light blue is bleu pale, and the teal is teal. I wound a pretty long warp (4.4 yards) and double stranded the yarn in the warp slots and holes. I used a Fibonacci stripe sequence, and I like the asymmetry of it.

For the first towel, I used each of the four colors in a quarter of the weft:

I was very interested in the blues, so for the second towel, I used the light blue for 2/3 of the towel and dark blue for the remaining 1/3:

For the third towel, I used 3 colors in the weft:

And for the final towel, my plan was to use 1 color for 25%, another for 50%, and a third for the remaining 25% - but I ran out of warp before finishing that. You can see that the design looks a little unbalanced.

How big are they? My target (as always) is 17.5"W x 25"L. These came out a little big - they are 18.75" wide and about 26" long (except for the last one, which is only about 22.5" long). I don't like kitchen towels that are too small. 

Overall, I got about 14% shrinkage/take-up in length and 14.7% shrinkage/draw-in in width. This is where my confusion begins. I calculated the warp length for 18% shrinkage PLUS 10% take-up, and my weft for 16% shrinkage PLUS 10% draw-in. If I had really lost 28% in length, my towel should have been 21.6" long... yet it was 26". I need to puzzle on this more. 

What else did I learn? I have been working on my selvedges. Usually my selvedges are bit tight (especially on the left side), so I tried really hard to be looser there. At the beginning, I was TOO loose - here is the left edge of the first towel. I think that fabric will be weak:

By the end of the warp, I was doing this, which is improved:

I also had a few quadrupled warp threads. (They were supposed to be doubled, so I doubled the doubles.) This happened 3 times. I noticed the first one while weaving the header, and cut it. I noticed the second one about an inch into the hem, and pulled it out. Someone the third one escaped my attention until I was nearly done with the first towel, so I left it in. Now it looks like a seam, or a vein (it's the teal color in the middle):
None of these imperfections will keep me from enjoying these towels. I find the combinations of warp and weft endlessly soothing.

I figured we could all use a little soothing this week. Hang in there.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

What a hat! I like that party hat!

When my kids were considerably younger, one of their favorite books was Go, Dog. Go! We had so much fun looking at all the dogs. There's a bit about hats that builds and builds until one dog wears a fantastic hat, which another dog dubs "that party hat." Well, I have a new party hat that any dog would like! 

This is a very simple, reversible hat made from Felici sock yarn. I needed an easy palette cleanser project after finishing the Bottoms Up socks. I've made this hat twice already, so I knew it wouldn't be taxing. And it's a stashbuster. I pulled out all my skeins of Felici sock and asked S1 to pick the two she liked best.

She was immediately drawn to this one, which is an old colorway called Aurora. I bought it in 2008. I actually bought two balls, but I made a pair of socks for a six-year-old and so I only needed one ball. The other one has been patiently waiting. Here are those old socks:

Then I puzzled over which yarn to use for the other half of the hat. None of my stash skeins coordinated very well with Aurora. I went pretty far down the rabbit hole of choosing a new colorway to order before snapping back to reality. Stash projects aren't supposed to require new purchases! The helix technique crept into my head, and I thought about my small stash of leftover Felici yarns. I keep them all in their own jar. I dumped them out and sorted them:

On the left are the Felici Sport leftovers; on the right are the Felici Sock leftovers. I thought some colors on the right were promising. I got out my scale and realized that if I combined the leftover Abracadabra and Cochineal, I would have enough for a second hat:
Abracadabra has more contrasting colors - here are the original socks:

Cochineal is a more tonal colorway - I've used it on socks and also mittens (the top one):

Helix knitting is basically a one-row stripe in the round, so it's really knitting in a spiral, and you don't see any jogs when you change yarns. I worked the second hat with this technique, and I really liked the result. I knit this quite quickly because I wanted to see what combination was coming next. To my eye, this side of the hat is a lot more dynamic and vibrant:

Here's the first side, knit with just one colorway (Aurora):

I started each with a provisional cast on. I joined the two hats by working three-needle bind off in purl. This creates a strong division between the two hats:

You can still pull them apart, but you'll only see the right side of the fabric.

S1 has claimed this hat and I just saw it walk out of the house for a grocery run. 

I have two balls of this more staid colorway, Meridian (purchased in 2009):

Now I think I'll enliven it by helixing it with some other Felici leftovers. What a great way to use up this yarn. I used to knit a lot of socks from Felici, but I don't anymore - I find that it felts with wear. It's superwash, and I wash my socks very carefully, but they still felt at the heel and toe. This shortens the sock and makes it increasingly uncomfortable to wear. The yarn is very soft, though, and perfect for hats - especially when the thickness is doubled for warmth.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Perendale (and Cheviot)


Perendale was the November breed for Sheepspot Breed School 2.0. Breed School shipments leave Sheepspot on the 15th of the month, but because they come from Canada, and because both Canada Post and USPS have been overwhelmed in recent months, this fiber did not arrive until December 5. I was still working on the Southdown then, so I didn't even really feel behind on this project.

Perendale is a New Zealand breed that appeared in the mid-twentieth-century and it's a Cheviot/Romney cross. It's interesting because it doesn't fall neatly into the standard categories of wool breeds. Deb Robson puts it in the "other sheep breeds" category, but she also sometimes describes it as a longwool (the typical staples are 4-6", which is long). Sasha Torres says it's a "weird longwool," because it has crimp rather than the usual ringlets. This crimp results in a bouncy yarn rather than a sleek, lustrous yarn (which is classic longwool behavior). 

I ended up making three samples. First, I tried the short forward draw. This fiber is a bit slippery, so it was difficult to get a consistent single. And I blanked out and forgot to ply my sample before winding it off - DOH! So this is a single that I meant to ply but didn't. Pretty worthless except that the process told me I didn't want to spin a lot with this technique:

Next I tried short forward draw from the fold. My results were lumpy and bumpy. There are some shorter fibers in this top that make it kind of tricky to spin. I did not love this process.

Finally I tried long draw from the fold, and this was definitely more pleasant. My sample reminded me that I should ply on a smaller whorl when I use this technique.

I wanted to get a floofy, airy yarn, so I decided to spin long draw from the fold on my 10.5:1 whorl, and ply the yarn on the 12.5:1 whorl. Great, a plan!

THEN I remembered that I spun some Perendale a few years ago. I decided to check to see what I did then, thinking perhaps I might try to match it so I could use the dyed and undyed yarns together in a project. When I checked my notes, I laughed out loud - in 2016, I made a 2-ply yarn spun 10.5:1 and plied 12.5:1. That was EXACTLY what my 2020 sampling suggested I should do now.

I spun all this undyed fiber and got a yarn I really like. It's not perfectly even, but I find it hard to get perfectly even yarn with a "from the fold" draft. It'll be lovely when knit up. My skein was a whopping 139 grams, which is the absolute limit of what my flyer can handle!

Yardage is 240 yards measured on the winder (it may be a little less after finishing).

The dyed skein I spun in 2016 was 234 yards in 107 grams. Both skeins measure 10 WPI (wraps per inch), so this tells me that the dyed yarn is denser. I think they will work fine together in a project. I'm thinking something brioche, for extra squish.

I finished this project in under a week, which felt like flying compared to the Southdown from last month.

To insert a bit of color into my spinning life, I started spinning a braid of dyed Cheviot on my cross-arm spindle. Yummy.

And the December Breed School fiber arrived on December 29, so I'll turn to that soonish. It's undyed Herdwick, a new-to-me fiber!

Thursday, December 31, 2020

These socks were too much for 2020

I have one last project to share in 2020 - these ambitious socks for S1 (Bottoms Up pattern by Laura Nelkin - Ravelry link). She spotted the pattern on Instagram and loved them. Given that her sock drawer is completely full and she certainly doesn't "need" another pair of handknit socks, her excitement was a clear signal that I needed to make them. But she wanted a full sock, not a shortie, and no beads. This is the designer's photo, for reference (© Laura Nelkin). The "regular" design is the sock to the left (on the model's right foot) - the other one is a simplified version:

"No problem!" I thought. We went to my sock yarn stash to find appropriate yarn, and came up lacking. (I know this is astonishing ... but my acquisition of wild handpainted sock yarns stopped years ago.) We ordered these sale yarns from WEBS:

I printed the pattern and read it carefully. It's a toe-up sock that begins with brioche on the top of the toe. I have never really enjoyed knitting toe-up socks, so this was deflating. I find the toe-up cast-on to be incredibly fussy, and the length of the foot is difficult to fit. It quickly became clear that this was not a PB&J sock project, but something that would require my full attention and wits at many points. "Full attention" and "wits" are both in short supply at this point in the pandemic, so there were often many days or weeks between sections. Laura's video tutorial was invaluable.

The toe with brioche on the top looks pretty cool, I must admit:

Brioche fabric is thick and squishy. I suppose this will feel comfortable as long as the wearer has enough room in the toe box of their shoe to accommodate the extra bulk. The bottom of the toe is plain stripes:
Once I got the fancy toe completed, the foot was pretty straightforward... except that I had to figure out how long to make it and I overshot the first time. There was a bit of ripping back and reknitting. Once all the gusset increases have been worked, the heel turn is worked with German short rows. I like German short rows, but have never worked them on such tiny yarn. I had to pay attention during this section (unlike my usual eye-of-partridge heel flap and turn).

The mind-bending really began when it was time to work the heel flap. It contains a center panel of brioche surrounded by corrugated rib (which is just ribbing in two colors). The tiny brioche section had to be worked in the MC before slipping the stitches back to the LN and then working them again in the CC. This was fussy and fiddly, but it gets you this result:

The next part of the pattern calls for working some beautiful increases and decreases that make a fancy brioche section on the back of the ankle, but I was suspicious of this feature. I looked carefully at every photo I could find, for both this sock and its sibling the Bottoms Up Slipper, and I saw a bulge at the back of the ankle on every single one. I predicted that this would cause the sock to sag and bag, no matter how much one yanked it up. Plus, this section required a LOT more slipping of stitches and working them again in the other yarn, and it was all just too much for me to contemplate. At this point, I felt like this pattern was an exercise in showing what can be accomplished technically, without enough regard for wearability or knitability.

S1 agreed about the bulge risk and we decided to work some sporty stripes at the ankle, which is exactly what Laura calls for in the simplified version of the sock. Then it's easy knitting up to the cuff. Here's where I ran into issues again. My first approach was to work the cuff in corrugated ribbing, which is what the simplified shortie version of the sock calls for. However, corrugated ribbing does not have the stretch of regular ribbing, so it was too tight around the calf. I ripped it out and replaced it with brioche rib, which is very stretchy. This is comfortable to wear. Visually, brioche is puffier than stockinette, so the cuff is thicker than the leg, but I guess that's okay.

I worked the allegedly stretchy bind off called for in the pattern, but it was not even close to stretchy enough... so I ripped it out. After reading about several supposedly stretchy bindoffs, I decided to try the Invisible Sewn BO. It's similar to the Elizabeth Zimmermann Sewn Bind Off, but just a little different. I picked it because the description said it is especially effective next to garter stitch, and the brioche rib cuff is capped off by a couple garter ridges. This bind off worked perfectly!

I blocked these socks like I always do, but I think their profile looks a bit odd. The proportions look quite different from the socks I usually knit - the sock looks short and fat. S1 has long, narrow feet, so this is especially surprising. But they fit perfectly and she loves them, so that's a job well done.

I started the first sock on Halloween and finished it on December 23. I started the second sock on December 24 and finished it on December 29. I'm pleased with the result, but the process wasn't the kind of comfort experience that I've needed from my knitting in 2020. I'm ready to enjoy a celebratory drink for finishing these socks. Bottoms up!

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Almost instant gratification

It's fun to whip out quick projects, especially in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. I had a few this month.

First, I experienced a not-exactly-unexpected surge of interest in weaving potholders. I find them to be so useful - especially the larger, PotholderPRO size, which makes an 8" square finished potholder. And they are little works of art. Harrisville Designs sells the looms and the 100% cotton loops, all made in the U.S. I got my nieces a potholder and lots of loops for Christmas, which naturally reignited my own creative interest.

Here's the first potholder I whipped out this December. I chose Hanukkah colors, as this was a gift for the hosts of a latke gathering (ingeniously re-engineered for COVID safety).The pattern looks complicated, but it's actually quite simple. It uses three colors which are arranged in a simple A-B-C-A-B-C pattern in both warp and weft. There are 27 loops in warp and 27 in weft, so this pattern works especially well. 

I found this pattern in the Potholder Design Wizard tool, which is SO MUCH FUN. 

Then I decided that Christmas potholders were also necessary, so I ordered more loops in burgundy, pine, and winter white. First, I made the same design:

Then I did this one, which uses slightly more red than green:

And then I did its inverse, which uses slightly more green than red:

I can't tell you how pleased these made me. I gave two away and kept one for our kitchen. Here they are as snow is beginning to fall:

I also whipped up a quick hat for Boy 1. I got these two balls of Reggae Ombre yarn from Lancaster Yarn Shop earlier this year. 

The shop created the Upstream pattern (Ravelry link) specifically to showcase this yarn. It's a very simple hat with stranded colorwork, but since the yarns keep changing color, it looks more complicated than it is. I picked these colors with Boy 1 in mind - the gray ombre because gray is his favorite color, and the blue because it reminds me of his (college) school colors. The result is lovely!

Out of two 50-gram balls, I have about 35 grams remaining. While that isn't enough for a second hat, adding just one more ball would make enough. Getting two hats from three balls of yarn is a pretty good deal, so I will probably pick up another ball next time I'm there.
If/when I make this again, I think I will work double fabric on the brim. The main part of the hat is extra cozy because of the stranding on the inside, but the ribbing on the brim is not ... yet that is on the forehead which needs extra warmth. Modification is likely coming.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Finishing some spindled yarn

During the seemingly endless ever-the-same days of COVID home time, I found myself wanting to experiment with spindles. I was definitely influenced by the Summer 2020 issue of PLY magazine, which was devoted to Supported Spindles. I ordered this beautiful supported spindle from Straddle Creek Spins on Etsy and began playing around with it:

I've spun a fair amount of singles yarn on this spindle, but I haven't plied or finished any (yet). Stay tuned!

Not long after this arrived, I realized that I had purchased a cross-arm spindle at MDSW in 2019 that criminally, I had never used. I got it from Subterranean Woodworks at their booth in the main exhibition hall. 2019 was the year I also got my new Flip rigid heddle loom, which I immersed myself with in the weeks following the festival (and the two weaving classes I took there). I think the spindle just got forgotten in the excitement! It was small, out of sight, and therefore out of mind. But NO MORE. I got it out and found some leftover Cheviot top from another project to play with. 

(By the way, I am using the term "cross-arm spindle" rather than "Turkish spindle" because there's nothing particularly Turkish about this style. It is used around the world. In Turkey, this style and others are used. I'd rather use descriptive, culturally neutral language since this spindle is not actually from Turkey.)

One thing I adore about cross-arm spindles is the appearance of the cop You wind the singles yarn over and under the arms, and as it builds up, it makes a "turtle." If you spin colorful hand-dyed fiber, the look of the growing turtle is endlessly fascinating. 

This fiber coordinated especially well with the spindle arms, which only added to my sensory pleasure. By November, I had removed one turtle and was coming to the end of a second one. 

I let my turtles rest for a LONG time - like maybe a month. I read that it is helpful to rest them much longer than singles on wheel-spun bobbins. One thing that many spindlers like about this style of spindle is that you can make a 2-ply yarn right from the turtle (a turtle is essentially a center-pull ball). I decided to try this with my first turtle, with mixed results. 

The turtle became quite tangled toward the end, and I had to throw away some of the fiber. I had trouble with my singles being caught in each other. Perhaps my singles were a bit too loosely spun? I suspect that my problem areas were at the joins, when little wisps of fiber were able to embed themselves in nearby singles in the turtle. The resulting mini-skein is only 66 yards long and weighs 14 grams. It is very light and lofty. I may have spun it a bit loosely, but the result is a fairly soft yarn:
I didn't want to try to ply from both ends of the second turtle. I rewound the singles into a storage bobbin to help me manage it better, and then I chain-plied it (this makes a 3-ply yarn). I only got 40 yards of this and it weighs 13 grams. My twist angle seems to be a bit tighter in this yarn, as well:
Here are the two skeins together. The 2-ply yarn on the bottom was made from the first turtle, and I imagine my consistency probably improved in the second turtle. I'll just have to spin more to find out!
I plied both of these on my wheel. I wasn't feeling quite confident enough to ply on the spindle... and one should probably use a heavier spindle to ply than is used to spin singles, anyway. I have a heavier spindle, but I wanted to work with the wheel because I knew I would need my hands to manage the turtles.

This little cutie is so portable. It's easy to pick up and put down. I look forward to more turtles and tiny skeins of yarn. I bought a course on spinning with cross-arm spindles and learned about a way to splice turtles together to get a longer length of yarn. I want to try that, too.