Tuesday, December 5, 2017

As the wheel turns…

I have been gazing longingly at my spinning wheel for weeks now. Our schedule has been super busy since I got home from the Spinning Summit on October 1, and I’ve just now returned to my Ladybug. IMG_3383

I grabbed this bump of Polwarth-Silk from Sheepspot (the Breed School shipment from last May – I’m behind!) and considered it. I pulled it apart to see how the colors lined up: IMG-4678

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to keep the colors clear or to blend them. I decided to blend, since I don’t do that very often and I’m trying to shake things up a bit. The yellow-green part is roughly one third of the fiber, and it is also the strongest color. What if I made a 3-ply yarn with one ply of the greenish yellow, one of gray, and one of blue? Would the two calmer colors tone down the bright one?IMG-4680 The blues and grays might overlap some. It might look sorta like this?IMG-4685

Readers, I actually sampled. I almost never do this!!! I spun those three pieces onto a single bobbin but separated them with a little bit of bright red fiber. Then I moved the singles to three storage bobbins (the red told me when to change bobbins) and made a tiny skein of 3-ply. IMG-4688


I liked it well enough to keep going. I’ve found that making a little time to spin each morning before leaving for work, and each evening before going to bed, is very centering for me. In the whirl that December is, I really appreciate it. So even though I feel like I have no time to spin, I will have a new skein of handspun soon. This is my kind of self-care!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Gramps is the new black

IMG_6931Have you noticed that the shawl collar is seeing a resurgence in menswear? Everywhere on my campus, hip young and middle-aged men are sporting cardigans with shawl collars – and not just the librarians. Even the less-than-hip young men are wearing them.

Boy 1 is no fashion icon, but he has always loved shirts and pullovers with snuggly collars. He went through a phase when he owned a lot of quarter-zip fleece tops, which he always wore zipped all the way up. It didn’t look hip, but he loved that snuggly feeling around his neck. (Surprisingly, he does not care for turtlenecks.) So it was no surprise to me that he pounced on this pattern, Gramps by Tin Can Knits. It comes in sizes from 0-6 months all the way up to 4XL.IMG_6760

He picked out a shade of Cascade 220 from an online photo, and I bought the yarn when I was at WEBS for the Spinning Summit in late September (it is 9456 Sapphire Heather). I also found buttons there. IMG_6951

This was a pretty easy knit… a standard, top-down, raglan sleeve cardigan. I did a lot of the knitting in public – it was that straightforward. My swatch gauge was very close to pattern gauge. I chose to make the “Ladies XS” size, which has a 33” bust. Boy 1’s chest is 31.5”. I added some length in the sleeves and body, though. The finished sweater weighs 498 grams (with buttons). I had to wind my 6th skein, but if I had unraveled my swatch, I could have gotten this sweater out of 5 skeins. I bought 7 because I hate stressing about running out of yarn. Now I have some beautiful leftovers for hats.IMG_6922

I also used the “wrapless short row” technique on the shawl collar. I loved it so much on my Blank Slate sweater that I actually tinked a couple of rows of this one so I could use that technique throughout. Here is how I marked all my wrapless wraps with locking stitch markers:IMG-4658

As always, I used Margaret Fisher’s One Row Horizontal Buttonhole Technique (from Seven Things That Can “Make or Break” A Sweater) instead of whatever the pattern calls for. I feel it is superior to anything else I’ve tried. IMG_6925

He seems happy with it. If I were to make it again, I would have made the sleeves a little wider. This is a “slim cut” cardigan, but that’s fine, because he’s a slim guy.IMG_6923

I think that I’m going to have to start looking for actual men’s patterns now, though. Those shoulders are only getting wider, and we all know that “unisex” is not a thing in adult clothing.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

…in which she finally finishes a sweater

I have exciting news – my handspun, handknit sweater is done!greenbow1

Longtime readers will remember that I bought this fiber at the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival in 2015. It was called “Romoca,” a blend of Romney wool, mohair, and alpaca from Singleton Fiber Processing. The colorway is called “sea glass.” It’s mostly green, but you can see that it has a ton of other colors in it, too – hence, I called my handspun “greenbow.” IMG_2177

I finished a 3-ply yarn in January, and then the yarn marinated. I tried not to let it sit toooo long, though, since I resolved to knit more handspun in 2017.

For this sweater, I used Ysolda Teague’s pattern Blank Canvas. It is worked bottom up. It is a plain sweater which has one important detail that sold me: a shoulder that is a combination raglan/saddle shoulder construction. I know from experience that raglans don’t fit the best on me, and I looked forward to this mod. You can see it well on the back of the shoulder:greenbow5

Of course, my gauge with handspun did not match the pattern gauge. I worked the smallest size in the pattern (30” bust) in hopes of getting a 38.74” finished bust size.

Mostly, this worked pretty well. Ysolda writes her patterns with with numbers of rows, though, which meant quite a lot of math since length at her row gauge did not match length at my row gauge. I think I did not do this perfectly, as my sweater is a bit long. I also think the fiber blend has something to do with it – both mohair and alpaca grow a lot and you can never quite tell how much with a small swatch. There is definitely a bit of bunching in the back that I don’t love (but I can live with it):greenbow6

Some things I want to remember about this sweater knitting experience:

  • It is really difficult to judge size when knitting bottom up. The sleeves are supposed to be 3/4 sleeve, but they are a bit long for that. Since they were worked cuff-up, it is harder to alter them now. I could knit a new cuff and graft it on, but because of the color variation in handspun yarn, there will be a distinct line where the yarns change… a line I don’t want to see every time I look down at my hands. Perhaps I should have blocked the sleeve while it was still on the needles to see how much the fabric would change…?
  • Speaking of handspun inconsistencies… I tried alternating skeins as I got near the end of each skein, but I must not be doing it right. I’ll have to work on that more another time. I eventually gave up on that.
  • The pattern calls for a few short rows at the top of the back (near the neck), and it suggests using a “wrapless short row” rather than the traditional "wrap-and-turn” technique. I looked this up and used Carol Sunday’s video, which is excellent. I now LOVE wrapless short rows and will never wrap and turn again!
  • While this shoulder construction is an improvement over a straight raglan, I still think it produces some odd creases and bumps on me, especially in the underarm area. I’m still looking for a great shoulder (preferably in a top-down construction). And since I don’t mind seaming so much, maybe I’ll just go back to the set-in sleeve.


Overall, though, I am pleased with this sweater. I think it will be a bit warm for me to wear indoors (at least at the office), so this may be a winter weekend sweater for me.

Finished weight is 442 grams. I don’t know about yardage because I usually don’t bother to work that out. I know I should… but I also know that handspun is delightfully inconsistent. I bought 1.5 pounds to begin with, and between sampling for spinning and swatching for knitting, I still have a skein and a half or so left. Hats, anyone?greenbow3

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Knit the yarn

Life has been a little hectic lately, which means I haven’t been posting much… but that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been knitting. I’ve been trying to line up appropriate projects so I can just grab and go, and make the best use of the knitting time I have.

Here is some proof! I got most of the main body of this handspun sweater finished on the road trip to Cleveland a few weeks ago:IMG-4604

I got to the last 6 rows, which are short rows, and I wanted to reference some instructions about the technique before trying to do it in the car. So I stopped knitting and there the sweater has sat for the past few weeks. After finishing those 6 short rows, all that is left is to pick up the neck back stitches and work them. Exciting!

I also started knitting Boy 1’s Gramps cardigan out of the blue yarn. It is a simple and familiar construction (top down raglan, stockinette), so I was able to cast on and make good progress during a social knitting event. Last night, I finished the body, and now it is ready to work the sleeves. The color isn’t great in this photo (fall is tough for weekday photos), but here is proof: IMG-4603

And finally, my colleague with the cute baby who was the recipient of the first Gramps sweater about a year ago, approached me tentatively the other day. The conversation went something like this:

Colleague: The nights are getting a little chilly for the baby, and [my wife] was wondering if just maybe…

Me: Yes! What do you need!?!

Turns out they just wanted a little beanie hat. I said to send me some photos of what they had in mind and I would make it happen. I started looking on Ravelry but didn’t want to overwhelm a Muggle. My colleague, who is a librarian after all, said “what is that site?” And before I knew it, he had emailed me a link to the Ravelry page for Regan’s Aviator Hat. I should have known that a librarian would not be intimidated by a database! He wanted to buy yarn, but I wanted to work from stash… so I brought in a bunch of options for him to “shop.” He chose this handsome, heathered, charcoal gray that is left over from the eyeballs on my own boys’ Minion Hats. IMG_0546

This is 6-year-old yarn that I was very happy to use! As a bonus, I was even able to find those two buttons in my button jar. IMG-4601

I modified the pattern slightly – I eliminated the button closure at the chin (babies like to chew on buttons) and subbed in i-cord ties. It is so sweet I could just eat it. It might be too small for baby… since the sweater I knit him last year was too big, I chose the smaller of the two sizes I was considering. He is a petite baby. But baby hats are so small that if this doesn’t fit him, I will just make another one in the next size up. This took me one day to make and was so satisfying.

It is finally cold here – this morning we have temps in the 40s – so sweaters feel right. But as luck would have it, I’m about to fly to a place that is 40 degrees WARMER than here for a conference. Go figure! I’ll be back in this lovely, chilly weather soon enough though…

I hope your sweater knitting is going well!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Another good hat

Earlier this fall, my boys’ scoutmaster announced that he was retiring from troop leadership. I was very sad, because he’s been an excellent influence in my kids’ lives… but I also understand, because his own boys have long since graduated college and he has put in a good, long run. An urge to knit him something welled up in me (you know that feeling, right?). I immediately thought of the 1898 hat, because it was released by the Seaman’s Church Institute and designed for mariners. In addition to being a scoutmaster, this hat recipient is retired from the Coast Guard. A mariner’s hat was perfect!IMG_6846

He looks pretty happy with it.

I made some modifications from the first hat and the pattern as written. I had the good scoutmaster try on Boy 1’s hat, and I noticed it was a little roomy on him. So I went down to a US 6 needle. On the headband section, I slipped the first stitch of every row purlwise with yarn in front, then passed the yarn to the back between the needles – this made a clean line along the picked up stitches for the crown. On the crown decreases, I eliminated the plain knit round after the [K6 K2tog] round and thereafter (which eliminates 5 knit rounds total). This eliminates the slight pointiness in the pattern as written. Finally, when grafting the headband, I used the garter stitch graft on most of the seam but reverted to a stockinette graft (plain old Kitchener) on the 3 stitches in the middle. This looks better than the first hat did!IMG_6761

This was a quick project and one I was so happy to make. This scout will always be prepared for cold and windy weather!IMG-4549

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Wishing for sweater weather…

Like many folks in the mid-Atlantic and New England, we are experiencing unseasonably warm temperatures. It was in the mid-80s today, with an even hotter RealFeel. In mid-October. Odsbodikins, I say! (This is a new word I learned recently – it was a mild curse word in colonial America. Let’s bring it back.)

I am trying to move the temperature with the power of my knitting. In other words, I’m knitting a sweater. I shared a glimpse of it when it was just beginning, remember?IMG_6699

The pattern, Blank Canvas, is knit from the bottom up. First I knit the body (with waist shaping). Then I knit the sleeves – a conference this weekend helped me finish those up. When I got home, I had to attach the sleeves to the body and start working the yoke in the round. Here they were just before attachment:IMG_6757

Not the world’s best photo, but you get the idea. I am doing the shoulder decreases now. I am cautiously optimistic that I can finish it this weekend, as we have a longish car trip and I don’t have to drive. IMG-4383

I would like to finish this sweater so that I can begin another one. Boy 1 has long outgrown the gray sweater I made him 4 years ago, and he never quite got the hang of wearing the vest I made him last year. I guess he’s just a long-sleeved sweater guy.

Remember the tiny Gramps sweater I made for a colleague’s baby last fall? gramps

It spent some time on top of our living room piano, waiting first for buttons and then for wrapping. This mama noticed that Boy 1 kept going over to look at it and pet it. When I mentioned that the pattern came in sizes from baby to adult, he lit up. We didn’t spend hardly any time looking at other patterns – clearly he wanted a Gramps sweater with a shawl collar. We looked at a bunch of color options in Ravelry, and he decided he wanted a single color sweater. No contrast for the neckband, cuffs, and ribbing. He looked at the Cascade 220 color palette and chose Sapphire Heather:IMG-4497

It’s a little bright, but not too bright. I appreciate knitting with a heathered yarn when I want a solid look – it provides interest. I picked up the skeins I needed when I was at WEBS a couple weeks ago. I also found buttons to match:IMG_6760

Here’s hoping for sweater weather SOON!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Spinning Summit–a MASSively fun time

Here is a belated post about the fun time I had at the Spinning Summit. I drove myself up to Northampton, Massachusetts, to what some call “the mother ship” – WEBS, America’s Yarn Store:20170929_155929 I got there late Friday afternoon, in time for a book signing by the teachers. I owned three of their books, which luckily I remembered to grab off my shelf before leaving home. We had time for introductions and spinning/knitting in the store later that evening… but during the dinner break, I motored over to Amherst to meet my sockworthy friend for dinner. I’d say she likes her socks! It was such a treat to give them to her in person ad to catch up. 20170929_183654

On Saturday morning, I took a class with Amy King on chain plying called “Spinners in Chains.” Here is Amy showing us how she holds her hands during this technique:IMG_670520170930_105424

First we made a small chain play sample (the purple yarn at the bottom). Then we tried some 4-ply yarn (which is chain play with one more strand held alongside). Finally, we started a new sample of whatever we wanted, and I chose to try to make the most perfect yarn I could. I’m not sure how I did. Here are my samples after they got a proper bath at home – the bottom one is the final one:IMG_6742

I think it’s a bit harder to get a smooth, even, 3-ply yarn with the chain-ply method than with the regular method, so I’ll probably continue to reserve it for when I want to retain a clear color sequence.

My Saturday afternoon class with Jillian Moreno was called “Batts in the Belfrey,” and was all about spinning batts. (Batts are those fluffy rectangles of carded fiber that come through a drum carder – they are often rolled and bagged when you see them for sale.) And boy, did we look at batts. There was an extra materials fee for the class (above and beyond what was included in registration), and that was because we came home with SEVEN batts. We got a pair of each of three types of batts: blended, layered, and striped. The idea was that we would learn on one in class, and have a fresh one to take home and practice with. Here is Jillian showing us the various ways batts can be constructed. IMG_6718

As we moved into each new type of batt, Jillian would dump a bunch of different colored batts into the center of the floor – and then tell us to choose one. I won’t lie to you… elbows were thrown. Spinners often have very clear ideas about what colors they want! Jillian managed us quite well, though. First she only let us choose one batt. Then we regrouped before grabbing the second one. Here are the moments just before one of the batt scrums:20170930_145958

The interesting thing is that you can’t always tell what is in a batt when it’s rolled up. I chose this one because it was “doorsy” (Pam’s new adjective for the shade of green I often choose), but it was eggplant purple on the inside!IMG_6722

Math-inclined readers might have noted that 3 pairs of batts is 6 batts, and I said we came home with 7. We only got part of a “wild” batt – these have all kinds of fiber in them as well as deconstructed upholstery fabric. IMG_6723

I can’t wait to spin up some of the batts I brought home, but I haven’t had time yet. Just you wait!

My final class, on Sunday morning, was “Handcarding the Color Wheel” with Beth Smith. I don’t think I managed to snap a single picture of Beth – but we started with three balls of fiber in primary colors:IMG_6727

Hand cards hold about a tenth of an ounce of fiber comfortably, so we used food scales to measure our blends. My first one was 90% yellow and 10% blue. I blended those on the cards and then rolled off the fiber in this airy tube, which is called a “rolag.” I have struggled with carding in the past, but somehow I got it right in Beth’s presence. Here is my first rolag alongside her sample of the 90/10 yellow/blue blend, both in yarn and fiber forms:IMG_6732

We measured and carded and measured and carded. The goal was to have 30 rolags that represent the whole color wheel (and Beth’s secret goal was to get us comfortable with carding, which we were). I only got 2/3 of my rolags made during class, but I finished up at home and laid them all out. They are in little plastic bags to keep them separate and labeled, so there is a bit of glare here. But you get the idea:IMG-4511

These please me so much that I almost hesitate to spin them – but I will! I intend to spin them in order to get a gradient yarn. I think it will be a singles yarn – no plying. And then… maybe I’ll weave something with it? Not sure yet. The view around the circle was enchanting:IMG_6741

I think part of the reason I finally “got” handcarding this time was because it was about the 4th time I’ve tried. Recently, I spent some time studying this video from Schacht that features Beth – How to Card Wool with Beth Smith. If you can’t take a class with her and have her give personal feedback on your technique, this is a great resource.

Attending the Spinning Summit was a great opportunity to take classes with some of the top teachers in the U.S. It can be hard to find intermediate spinning classes in shops or even at festivals. It was also a way to spend time with like-minded spinners. We had such a fun time hanging out in the shop on Friday and Saturday nights. On Saturday, we had a team scavenger hunt that was quite competitive! And because of that, I have no pictures – ha! Let’s just say that our team did very well, and that every spinner was a winner in the end.

Thanks to WEBS for a great event, and I hope this is only the first of many Spinning Summits! I’d love to attend PLYAway at some future point, but it is a longer drive and I don’t have a wheel I can fly with, so it seems a lot more unlikely that I’ll make that in the foreseeable future. Northampton is a 6-7 hour drive for me (depending on traffic), but it’s doable. Kansas City is quite a bit further.