Saturday, April 22, 2017

Handspun mitts

I finally finished these fingerless mitts made from my handspun. This 3-ply yarn was made from Whitefaced Woodland from Sheepspot’s Fiber Club last fall.IMG_2988

The pattern is Sugared Maple, which I cannot really recommend due to poor editing. For example, it only directs the knitter to place one marker, but later talks about how many stitches are between the two markers. Also, it directs the knitter to put an odd number of stitches on waste yarn for the thumb, but that leaves an odd number on the needles to continue in a pattern that requires an even number of stitches to work correctly. I fixed everything, but this would be confusing to a newer knitter and is really unacceptable in a pattern that is for sale.IMG_2986

I also had to adjust all the numbers in the pattern, but that is because my handspun was different than the DK yarn called for. The designer listed three sizes to fit a 6”, 6.5”, or 7” palm circumference. My palm circumference is 7.25-7.5”, yet I had to cast on 34 stitches to get the right fit, which is 4 stitches less than the smallest CO number. I ended up reknitting most of the first mitt in order to get the numbers just right. Then the second one was finished in a single day.

I gave these a bath in water with a little hair conditioner to soften the fiber more. They are sturdy mitts – maybe even a little crunchy – but certainly not unwearable. I love the way the colors transition so gently due to the 3 plies. The finished mitts weigh 54 grams and I have 39 grams of yarn remaining.

Next up is a simple scarf made from the Targhee 2-ply I just finished. I’m using a cartridge rib pattern over 47 stitches. It is easy and soothing, which is exactly what April calls for in knitting.


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Targhee Take 2

IMG_2869I found another bump of yummy fiber in my closet – it turns out I bought this online in 2008, when I was a brand new spinner! I’m not sure why I didn’t try spinning it right away. Maybe I thought I wasn’t good enough yet? That happened a lot back then. (If you are a new spinner, my advice to you is: get over it. Just spin what you have - the sheep are growing more and you can get it!) Anyway, this is 4 ounces of Targhee top from Mountain Colors. Targhee is a finewool (same category as merino).

This top sat on my coffee table for a few days while we reacquainted ourselves. As I pondered it, I got a shipment of the Sheepspot Fiber Club. This month we received Teeswater, which is a longwool. I was struck by how different these two top preparations are:

IMG_2871 (1)

They aren’t exactly the same weight (Targhee on the left is 111 grams; the Teeswater came in at 94 g), but you can see a huge difference in their mass. The Targhee is puffy; the Teeswater is smooth and slinky.

I started to spin the Targhee from the fold, but I found it was actually easier to draft longdraw. Even though it is top, it seemed doughy and not very slippery. I spun it fairly fine and here are my two finished bobbins of singles:IMG_2888

I wanted the colors to blend as much as possible, so I prepared the fiber in advance. First, I split the entire braid down the middle, because it was quite wide. I spun one half as it came – that’s all on one bobbin. With the next half, I split it lengthwise again into four sections before spinning – this meant the colors shifted four times as fast. On the left is a piece I spun for bobbin #1; on the right is a piece split 4x for bobbin #2:IMG_2876

When I prepared the fiber for bobbin #2, I mixed up the sections to distribute the color as much as possible. In other words, I did not spin those four skinny pieces in the above photo one after the other. They were interspersed among the other skinny pieces. I warned everyone in the house not to touch my fiber ottoman!! IMG_2879

In the end, my 2-ply skein contains 424 yards and weighs 109 grams:IMG_2924

It’s really soft. This simply must become something for the neck. I suppose a hat would be fine, too, but the yardage is making me think scarf or shawl.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Southdown Socks

I have finished my first pair of handspun, handknit socks – these are made with the Southdown fiber from the Sheepspot Fiber Club:IMG_2901

Regular readers will know that I was worried about running out of yarn, but as you can see, I finished with a tiny bit of reserve (a mere 3 grams). The finished socks weigh 91.3 grams. I used the garter rib pattern on my standard top-down sock with an eye-of-partridge heel. IMG_2896

I gave them a bath with some hair conditioner (as suggested by Whatzitknitz) and I think these will be a lot more comfortable than I initially thought. I am certainly eager to try them – though I think spring is really, truly here now and I have missed my window until next fall.

The most recent issue of PLY magazine is all about down and down-like breeds (like Southdown), and I was especially interested in Rachel Smith’s article called “A Down Breed Sock Experiment: 2-ply versus 3-ply.”  She found the 3-ply handspun sock yarn to be more difficult to knit on small needles – as I did, especially on the heel flap. She was happier working with the 2-ply yarn, and also felt that the sock fabric draped better. BUT THEN… she did the “intensive month of wear” experiment, and her 2-ply handspun socks completely disintegrated. The 3-ply socks survived the experiment, which included daily hard wear inside boots and machine washing every two days. Despite being uncomfortable to knit, they were very comfortable to wear. I hope this is true for my socks, as well… but you’ll have to wait 6 months to find out! (There is a second round of experimentation in the article which is equally interesting, but I won’t reveal that… you should get your hands on the magazine and read the whole account.)IMG_2898

Did you know that down and down-type breeds are supposedly felt resistant? There is a whole article about that in PLY magazine, too. A skeptical writer spun and knit a lot of swatches, and put them through their paces in a washing machine. It seems that the true downs are the most felt-resistant. I’ll be keeping my eye open for down breed fiber (or… even a fleece?!??) at MDSW next month.IMG_2895

After years of knitting socks with millspun yarn, this project was especially satisfying. Boy 1 seemed especially impressed, so he will probably be the recipient of my next pair of handspun, handknit socks.

Saturday, April 1, 2017


I was digging around in my studio closet the other day, and I found a couple bumps of fiber I had totally forgotten about (the ability to add fiber stash to Ravelry is quite recent, and I did not retroactively catalog that stash). IMG_2790

Isn’t it pretty? This is a 60/40 blend of merino and bamboo, prepared as top (that means combed not carded). That also means slippery and fast. I know I received this as a gift when I was a new spinner, and I probably put it away thinking I wasn’t “good enough” yet. That may actually have been true, as these slippery fibers can be tricky to handle. But I was up for the challenge when I rediscovered it!IMG_2795

I split the top into three sections by weight, then started spinning worsted-style with a short forward draw. I vaguely remember stripping the first third so that the color changes would happen a little more quickly. (Stripping means to separate the fiber in half vertically.)

Then I went a conference and forgot everything about this project. When I came home a mere 4 days later, I just picked up those other two nests of top and started spinning. There was no stripping or any attempt to control the color. Merrily I spun away.

When I started to ply, I saw that the first section was all green – green was coming off all three bobbins. And it kept coming that way for a long time. So I cut one singles and rewound it onto a storage bobbin. I thought if I reversed that single, I would get more color variation. Guess what – green was at the other end, too! I decided to just go with it and plied from there.

When I wound this yarn onto the skein winder, it seemed like there were very long sections that were all green or all blue, and only occasionally did the colors mix. It will be hard to know for sure until this skein is knit. It looks mighty pretty in a pile like this:IMG_2845

I got 334 yards of 3-ply yarn, and the skein weighs 108 grams. It is very soft, slinky, and drapey, suitable for next-to-neck wear.IMG_2865

This experience sent me back to a book I received for Christmas, Yarnitecture: A Knitter's Guide to Spinning: Building Exactly the Yarn You Want by Jillian Moreno. There is an excellent section on color. Now I want my next project to  be from a hand-dyed fiber so I can try some of the techniques she talks about. What to see what’s next? It’s the other bump I found with this one in the closet!  This is Targhee top. Targhee is a finewool, similar in many ways to merino. Stay tuned. (Yes, Judy, I know these are your colors!!)IMG_2869

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Field Trip–Baltimore ed.

20170325_131326I was in Baltimore for a conference last week and was able – FINALLY – to make a visit to the Neighborhood Fiber Co. I have seen their yarn at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival, but never been able to visit their shop. I was especially motivated to do so because of this post by owner Karida Collins: Neighborhood Fiber Co. Takes a Stand.


The shop is gorgeous. It’s in an old firehouse and the shop and studio are in one big room. You can see exactly where all these yummy skeins are dyed. I was there on a Saturday and there was no dying, just drying. 20170325_124731

Like many LYSs, there were many small, artistic touches that gave the place a distinct personality.20170325_130627

The gradient sets were out of control. Fortunately for my wallet, I was so overwhelmed by the beauty that I could not settle on a colorway or a project, so I didn’t get one. (But I’ll be musing between now and MDSW!)20170325_130509

I couldn’t leave without getting something, though. I was intrigued by a sample of the Seashore Cowl, which uses two yarns with very different textures. All the Ravelry photos show it being worn as a capelet, which I’m not likely to do… but I can definitely see wearing it as a loop. I chose colors that are very “me” and will fit in with my wardrobe. Gone are the days when I listen to that little voice that says “but you already have a gray and green cowl” – if it’s in my color palette, that’s fine. I’ve learned that I’m a lot more likely to wear those things that are in “my” colors even if I have choices in those colors. What’s different for me about this project is combining two yarns that are so different. IMG_2817The gray yarn is a laceweight merino/cashmere/nylon, and the green is 60/40 mohair/silk. I’ve already cast on!

And yeah, I got the Unity shirt and pin, too. I’ve already worn the shirt, so I guess it was a good field trip. So glad I skipped lunch after the Carla Hayden talk to go! (She was amazing btw.)

Other than that, there has just been a lot of blanket square knitting. Like these:


And I’ve been spinning a new project, which is ready to ply. Maybe that will be my next post.

Saturday, March 18, 2017


I finished the yarn spun from Olivia’s Romney cross fleece and it came out so beautifully! This top photo is its true color (it was taken outdoors):

FullSizeRender (10)As you probably expected, I made a classic worsted yarn since I had a classic worsted prep (hand-combed top). I used a short forward draw on my 12.5:1 pulley. This was a bigger pulley than I started with but it just felt right somehow. When it was time to ply, though, I needed my smallest pulley – 16:1 (with ten treadles per pull). I think this is technically a little overplied, but it felt appropriate. The resulting yarn is pretty fine. I haven’t measured wraps per inch yet because I haven’t wound it, but you can get a sense of it here:IMG_2767

Initially I was thinking that since this wasn’t super soft, I would weave with it. But it seems softer now. Lace would be appropriate given the fineness and 2-ply structure, but I’ve never been a big lace knitter. Perhaps a SIMPLE lace pattern for a single skein. Any ideas?

This top was beguiling to spin. The change in colors was subtle and dreamy. I took one last photo before starting my final cloud:IMG_2723

Now that I have the basics of hand combing down, I’m ready to try it again. Sasha’s second Fleece Club shipment is also appropriate for combing. Meet Oliver:IMG_2618

Oliver is a CVM (California Variegated Mutant), which sounds ominous but really just means a colored variety of Romeldale. It is a fine wool with 4” staples, which means it should comb well. Sasha also says it can be “flicked” but I don’t have the right tool to try that. I’ll return to my ominous combs.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Always sock yarn

I’ve been making slow progress on my Southdown handspun socks – but I finished one! We have inside photos today due to the 10”+ of snow that are on the ground here today.IMG_2760

I’ve been worried all along that I wouldn’t have enough yardage for two socks. I got 352 yards – but that measurement came when I wound the skein off the bobbin. THEN I set the twist, and this springy yarn definitely shrunk in length. I’m not sure how many yards I really have. When I finished the first sock, I weighed it – it comes in at 44.9 grams after weaving in ends. My remaining ball is 46.7 grams. That is very, very close – perhaps too close for comfort. Handspun yarn isn’t as uniform as commercial yarn.

I also wasn’t sure that I liked the feel of the sock. It’s kinda crunchy. S1 commented that it could probably stand up by itself – and you know what? She’s technically right! IMG_2758

I should block the sock and see if that causes it to calm down a bit. I’ll throw some hair conditioner in there, too, to soften this fiber a bit more. Bottom line: I think I probably put too much twist into the singles. Maybe I need to get some more Southdown from Sasha and try again. Or wait to see what turns up next in the fiber club – maybe an upcoming shipment fiber will be good for sock yarn, too? This is why it’s good to knit with one’s handspun, and wear one’s own handknits. You learn a lot from those experiences. My next handspun sock yarn will be better.


In other news, I have been knitting almost exclusively on my I Love Leftovers sock yarn blanket. During the past two weeks, I have cranked out 19 new squares: IMG_2748

I am close to finishing the first skein of black yarn I have, which I use for the first four rows of each square. When I run out, I’ll count how many squares I’ve done and predict needs. I bought 4 skeins of black, thinking I would also use it to edge the finished blanket. I just love revisiting these little balls of yarn. I always know what I used the original yarn for. Here are a few examples:

Top row, square two (and row 2, square 1): Asymmetrical Cables Socks for S1IMG_0226

Top row, squares 1, 3, and 5 (and row 2 square 2): Gyllis shawl for meIMG_2771

Top row, square 4 (mostly) and row 2, square 3: Braided Cable with Garter Bead socks for S1IMG_7600

Row 3, square 2: This is a really old yarn – in 2005 I made basic cable crew socks for me. These were knit from Koigu and soon developed holes that darning couldn’t begin to fix. I later learned to knit socks on smaller needles and to avoid 100% superwash merino sock yarns.Koigu Brown Socks

That’s enough memory lane for now. The more I work on this blanket, the more I love it!