Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Update on Project Fleece

To buy a fleece is to embrace process, and I am doing just that. There’s nothing fast about creating clothing from a freshly shorn fleece! It’s been a while since I talked about Tamarind, the beautiful chocolate brown sheep whose fleece I have half of (Dave has the other half).

I decided to stop spinning singles after I had 17 one-ounce bobbins. I have many more batts I could spin, but I know I’m going to use this color as the accent on a yoked sweater – so I don’t need much. I wanted to move on to spinning the main color so I can cast on. My goal is to finish the sweater before I go to Scotland in March. Here are my first two bobbins of 3-ply yarn, along with some singles still on storage bobbins:20181024_081604

By the time I was done, I had 16 ounces of yarn. I twisted up those four skeins together so you can see that a pound of yarn is bigger than my head!one pound

Here’s a close up:20181103_135837

I want to knit the body of the sweater in the lightest grey that Muesli’s fleece provides, and I got 21 one-ounce batts in that color. That is probably enough. But I wasn’t sure, and I wanted to go ahead and process the medium grey fleece into batts in case I needed to use them (I thought I might ply 2 singles of light grey with 1 singles of medium grey). The medium grey had more cotted ends (matted together). At least, I think that’s what they were. I knew from my previous spinning that it would be best to remove these at the outset rather than expect the carder to open them up all the way. I used my flick carder to do this.

Here is how the clean fleece looks right out of the basket. Beautiful crimp but the ends are stuck together:20181104_090051

I twist the lock in the middle and flick from the middle out to the tip – just like brushing hair. Then I turn it the other way to flick the other side from the middle out to the cut end (where it was shorn). This is what it looks like after that:20181104_090244

When the fiber is already this well aligned, it goes through the drum carder more easily and, by extension, spins more easily.

Back to the light grey – here is my first bobbin of singles (4 oz) snuggling into a fluffy batt:20181112_142104

My goal is to spin one ounce per day. That’s doable and doesn’t result in muscle ache. Why speed up now, right? Slow and steady wins the race.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Time out

Having acquired yarn for Dave’s 50th birthday socks at SVFF, I decided it was time to cast them on.20181001_081118

Dave watched my video and sent in his measurements. I like to knit my socks cuff-down, but I decided to try a different cast-on that would be stretchier. I chose the Twisted German Cast On. It’s always fun to learn something new, but it did slow me down and I lost some potential meeting knitting because I didn’t have this method memorized.

I drew out the sheep on graph paper and decided to place them just under the cuff. Originally I envisioned them closer to the ankle, but I thought it might be hard to get the sock over the heel if that were the case. It took me quite a while to get to this spot (there were bumps in the road), but they do look cute so far, don’t they?IMG-5065

Don’t let that photo fool you – there are problems. The first problem is figuring out how to manage the floats when I switch needles (I prefer to knit socks on two circulars). I did not always succeed. Here, you can see that I accidentally got the floats on the RS of the sock in at least one round:IMG-5064

And here, you can see big ladders at the other join (which I don’t get when working with a single yarn):IMG-5063

I was knitting these inside out (sort of – not sure that’s the right way to describe it) so that the floats would not be too tight. Here’s what I mean – I’m ready to begin a row but it’s the one on the back needle. IMG-5070

So here are all my problems so far:

  • Working on two circulars isn’t going well. I don’t know how to “turn the corner” with 2 or 3 colors.
  • The floats are often too long and require me to twist the yarns in the back.
  • There are four rows (the ones with the sheep face) that use 3 colors in the same row. I got so tangled in these and they took forever.

I emailed Steven for help since he is a master of stranded knitting. He reminded me (I knew this but had forgotten!) that you should go up a couple of needle sizes for colorwork when using it in the same piece with stockinette. I did all this on 2.0mm needles. The rubbed cuff is nice and stretchy, but the stretch disappears completely with the sheep – and that will make the sock impossible to get on. He also recommended catching floats every 3 stitches, which is much more frequently than I did it. I will definitely be ripping back these 7 little sheep.

For now, this sock is in TIME OUT. Today I ordered one of those tiny 9” sock needles in 2.5mm. I figure I can use it for the section with the sheep and just work the rest of the sock in my normal way. I don’t think I will like it (the needle tips are short and hard to hold), but it’s just for 12 rounds.

I also watched a video about knitting with 3 colors, and I think I’ll try it again. If it doesn’t work, I might duplicate stitch the black faces on the white sheep. I don’t want to do a lot of duplicate stitch because it adds bulk, but the face isn’t that much – and it might make it look a little more three-dimensional which would be neat.

The only other thing I have to figure out is calf shaping. I was going to CO 76, but when I started working with this yarn, it just felt a little on the plump side and I only CO 72. I decreased to 70 just before starting the sheep (they are 8 stitches wide and separated by 2 stitches so the math worked out). I’ll probably decrease a little bit more… but since I will be in a field of stockinette by then, the placement isn’t worrisome.

Whew! I also realized that this sock is NOT my simple, portable project for the next week. I quickly wound some yarn and started another Sockhead Slouch hat. This is handspun Montadale:20181110_110447

And finally, I whipped up this hat as a donation for an upcoming holiday party. The pattern is Vegamot (free), which I have knit before and really liked. This took a little more than half a skein of Cascade 200.vegemot1

Friday, November 9, 2018


Longtime readers may remember that when the Hendons destashed 7 plates of Plötulopi at Knitters’ Day Out a couple years ago, I swept them into my bag. I had no specific plan, but I was plötu-curious and wanted to try knitting with it.IMG_4035

What exactly is Plötulopi? It’s unspun “plates” of wool from the Icelandic sheep. It is very delicate in this unspun state and can be easily pulled apart. There is no twist in this “yarn.” As a spinner, I think of this is unspun singles rather than yarn. But you CAN knit with it, and knitting adds enough twist to create a cohesive fabric that that is also incredibly warm (because the heat gets trapped in all those air pockets). For more about this unique yarn, see Helene Magnusson’s post Knitting Tips: Working with Unspun Plötulopi. 20181101_074227

I got wind of a knitalong for the Aito shawl on instagram (#aitoshawlkal). It calls for 6 different colors of Plötulopi and I had them, so I read more closely and then decided to jump in. This shawl looks very lightweight and warm. I have in mind that I’ll throw it around my shoulders while reading in bed.

The weather here could not be more perfect for this type of shawl. It has been chilly and blustery and often rainy. Here’s the very beginning of my shawl. I decided to work lightest color to darkest (the pattern goes the other way round).20181103_092839

One very interesting design feature of this pattern is that you don’t change colors abruptly. Instead, you ease each new color in by introducing small bits of it (2-5 stitches) on top of the first color. Because Plötulopi is unspun, it lends itself particularly well to spit splicing. Can you see how unspun it is here?


To introduce the next color, I just tear off a bit of it and splice it right on:20181109_184935

I think the effect is very subtle between these first two colors, as the light grey and light blue are quite close. All the transition happens in the lace section. If you look very closely here, you might be able to see some bits of light blue:20181109_184953

I think this lace pattern looks best from farther away, too. It’s a curious knit! The rows with splicing really slow me down, and of course this isn’t a portable project. Here is where I am right now, just a few rows away from changing over to blue as the main color and splicing in some bits of grey to ease the transition:IMG_20181108_080836_837

I’ve decided to use only 4 colors. I’ll skip the grey that is third from the top in the tower photo above. It’s value is darker than the lightest blue, but I think it will look better if I just move through the blues after the initial very light grey. I’m also not using the dark charcoal grey at the bottom of the stack.

This project is a bit of an adventure. So far it still has my attention.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Can’t stop won’t stop

There will always be sock knitting in my life – what other project is so perfectly portable and tolerated by my co-workers? Here is my latest pair:20181103_133621

These are made from a Wandering Wool North Country Sock Set. These little matched cakes are irresistible.20180218_125835 crop

These socks are for S1. We both thought it would be fun to make them fraternal socks. They are both worked top down, but I re-wound one ball so it is VIBGYOR instead of ROYGBIV.20181103_135206

This pair presented some unique challenges. First, I wanted to be sure that the whole rainbow would appear in each sock. I ripped out my first try after realizing that the red section was going on and on and on. I decided to wind off part of the red yarn and set it aside, and also to make the sock legs longer than I had planned. This required adding some calf shaping. So the sock has 72 stitches in the CO, and then decreases to 66 by the time we’re 24 rounds in. I don’t love the way the shaping looks, though:20181103_135312

On the first sock (ROYGBIV), I started with K3P3 ribbing, and then decreased so that two columns each of K and P disappeared (6 stitches). It isn’t pretty! But S1 said “don’t rip back because it will never show under my pants.” I also didn’t quite realize that it wouldn’t be centered on the back of the leg. I could have kept it centered if I had been willing to start and end the stitch pattern on the top of the foot with P3, but I wasn’t – I thought it would look nicer with K3. So the feet look great, and the top of the back leg does not.

I went a slightly different direction with sock #2 (VIBGYOR) and CO a P9 segment. Then I decreased until those 9 purl stitches are only 3:20181103_135324

I don’t love that, either. When positioning the heel flap on this sock, I realized that I could have centered it correctly if I’d worked a 9-stitch section of K, not P. Alas!

These socks are quite snug fitting, thanks to the slipped stitch pattern. The pattern is simple:

R1: *K3 P3*

R2: *K1 slip 1 wyib K1 P1 slip 1 wyif P1*

But the handsome slipped stitch pattern makes the calf shaping even more important, as this fabric is not nearly as stretchy as regular rib (and not as flexible as stockinette, either, in my opinion).20181103_135445

BUT – the socks are very wearable, extremely cheerful, and also educational. I need to plan better for calf shaping in the future! Do you have a preferred approach?

It is almost time to start Dave’s 50th birthday socks. I neglected to measure his feet when I saw him in July, so I had my personal videographer (Boy 2) make a video with instructions.  If you’re curious about how I measure feet for socks, wonder no more! I definitely think I need to plan for calf shaping for his socks, so I will be reading more about this.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

New tools are fun

I’ve already told you that Annette lent me her drumcarder to help process my MDSW fleeces. Once you have a drumcarder in the house, you want to card everything!

When I finished carding Tamarind’s fleece (the chocolate brown), I cleaned all the fiber off so it looked like new. Then I decided to card the blue and green dyed fiber S1 brought me back from Canada. This is what it looked like when she brought it home:20180617_133502

I experimented with a few ways of opening the fiber before putting it on the drumcarder. First I flicked it: 20181008_191125

This was fine, but it was more efficient to open it with hand cards so I transitioned to that. It was so fun to load on the fiber and see the layers build up:20181008_191504


The first batt I made was the big one, and it was VERY hard to get off the carder. After that, I went back to weighing fiber and only loading on 1 ounce for each batt. I have about 4 ounces here, but one batt is twice as big as the others:20181010_124827

Don’t you just want to SQUISH them???20181010_124724

Those batts are waiting patiently for me to spin them.

Then I cleaned the drumcarder again and started thinking about Muesli’s fleece. Muesli is a mix of gray and brown, and I didn’t want to mix them together and just get a homogenous middle gray. I sorted the fleece into light, medium and dark:20180806_124650


I’m planning to knit the Humulus sweater with Muesli’s lightest colors as the main color, and Tamarind for the yoke pattern (for maximum contrast). I had two baskets full of the lightest gray, but I took this photo after picking one of them. I cranked and cranked and ended up with 21 batts:21

The color is a bit off because it’s inside, but you get the idea.

I’ve already started plying Tamarind. I haven’t spun all the singles yet, but since I only need a small amount of the brown, I’ve decided to switch to Muesli. I want to start knitting this sweater sooner rather than later.

Saturday, October 20, 2018


Sometimes I realize I’ve been working within a theme without intent – does that ever happen to you? This time, the theme is MARL! Marled yarn is created by plying different colored singles together. Think “candy cane” or “barber pole” and you’ve got the idea.

First up: my mom’s scarf. I restarted this so many times but I’m very happy with the result:


The variegated yarn is a marl and I think it looks nice with the solid natural. I was right that those two skeins of variegated yarn would not be enough for a scarf on their own – it would have only been 52” long and that’s too short in my book! This version is 71” long. I am especially happy about how it looks exactly the same on the front and back:20181018_080210

I also like how beautifully neat the edges are – on both sides!20181018_080235

I will set this aside and wrap it up to go under the Christmas tree later this year.

Next marled project is the most precious little baby hat. Technically, it’s a bonnet, since it has ties (I think that’s what makes it a bonnet?). I made this for colleagues at work who are expecting a baby. My rule with baby knits is to ask what the mother’s favorite color is and to knit that – whatever mother likes is what baby will wear. In this case, mom likes deep reds and purples. I knew I had to use the skein of sock yarn I just bought at the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival last month:yarn hero crop

The pattern is Anker’s Bonnet and it’s from a Danish designer. The ribbed part is worked back and forth (flat), and then you join to work the crown in the round. It is tiny – just 21 grams of yarn – and adorable. I knit the smallest size because a baby due in November is likely to need a light hat much of the time.20181020_165017

You can’t see the neck opening in the side shot – this gives you a better idea of the construction. It reminds me of a sun bonnet:20181020_165040

I love how the yarn subtly changes colors. Overall color can be shifted much more gently by changing just one ply at a time rather than all of them.

And finally, I find myself needing ALL my storage bobbins for my sweater spinning project, which means I need to clear off these leftover singles:20181019_080337

I once read that people collect these leftovers and then ply them together to make a fun skein. Worth a shot! I divided them more of less evenly based on weight and then made a 3-ply plying ball. I just tied the ends together when I needed to change singles… it seemed much easier than trying to switch bobbins on the kate while plying. This is the first time I’ve made a plying ball. It was lovely to work with, so I might do it again sometime:20181019_191303

I’m calling this skein Frankenyarn #1:20181020_164647

It’s quirky for sure and I’m really not sure if I’ll ever use it, but it was fun to try. My little Frankenskein is 120 yards and weighs 46 grams.


Saturday, October 13, 2018

Wheel care

The Sheepspot Podcast is a great way to feed your learning about spinning and to receive weekly shots of inspiration. I’ve been a fan of Sasha Torres since her SpinDoctor podcast days (2010-14). Then she started Sheepspot, and in December 2017 she launched a new podcast about handspinning: The Sheepspot Podcast. It’s a weekly and it’s only about 30 minutes long.

Podcast 13 Facebook.png

I’ve been following along but somehow never blogged about it. In episode 13, Sasha talked us through spinning wheel maintenance issues and recommended we do a “spa treatment” for our wheels. At that point, I realized I’d owned my wheel for 10 years and never done any maintenance beyond dusting it. It took me through May to gather supplies and finish all the steps, but I did it – and my wheel spins better for it. (I realize that I got away with this for so long because my Ladybug was brand new in 2008 and the ball bearings are sealed, but it still benefitted from some TLC.) In the process, I replaced the drive band, replaced one of the front feet (which was missing – I didn’t even know this until I turned the wheel upside down to clean underneath, which Sasha encouraged), and cleaned every wood surface with Wood Beams. Wood Beams is a beeswax-based product that is “good food for wood” and is even safe for food surfaces like wooden bowls. I rubbed it in and rubbed it off. I loved the result (and the process – it smells great) so much that I also rubbed down my 4 wood bobbins. I bought it at the Bosworth booth at MDSW18.

Sasha made another great suggestion in episode 14:

Podcast 14 Facebook.png

See that cute little belted bag hanging off the front of her wheel? (free pattern) I finally decided that it was time for me to have one. I have been using the cup holder for these little tools and things, but recently I’ve learned that my cup holder is perfect for holding a battery-operated light that really helps in the dim corner where my wheel lives. Here is the light setup:20181012_080547

After much musing, I decided to dig into my stash of handspun to select yarn to use for the bag. In pawing through the baskets that contain my handspun stash, I realized (again) that my spinning has improved A LOT over the years, and that I was unlikely to want to knit with some of these older yarns. But felting with them would be perfect, as the visual imperfections in spinning would be completely erased by the felting process.20181007_094542

I chose this skein of 2-ply Polwarth. I bought the fiber at MDSW10 and spun the singles on a spindle while on vacation that summer. My drafting is not as even on a spindle, and there is a lot of variation in the twist. There are some big fluffy sections, and some that are wound too tight. The resulting knit fabric is especially pebbly – here’s a closeup:20181007_094418

Felting is so fun, though! Here are before-and-after pictures of the bag, with a knitting gauge for scale.20181007_094408


I used size 10.5 US (6.5mm) dpns on this, which left huge ladders at the joins – but I knew it wouldn’t matter after felting.

And here is the wheel kitted out with the bag:20181012_080422


I still have my orifice hook hanging down (as before), along with a large paper clip on a bit of yarn. I clip my notes and samples (which are on a little card) to the clip for easy reference while working:20181012_080505

And finally, here is what is tucked into the bag at present:20181012_080718

This was a quick, gratifying, useful little project!