Sunday, June 28, 2009

Chunky Knits

Square One
Originally uploaded by Project Pictures
Whenever you need a break, or just need something to make you feel a little better.. pull out the chunky yarn, I say. After sock yarn, nothing is more fun.

I've been trying to work through the skeins of yarn I bought early in my "stashing" career... the ones I purchased when I didn't know that one skein of bulky yarn wasn't enough to make anything out of, even if it is luscious and soft.

I picked up two skeins of Mirasol's "Sulka" yarn (50% merino and 50% silk). This is a fabulous soft-spun single that has 55 yards in 50 grams. It was on sale, and it was gloriously soft and what did I know? I figured out later that I would have needed to go back for... way too much to do a scarf or anything else. But hats, now, hats are great. I was going to do this hat alternating my two skeins (one is a lovely aqua blue and the other a soft tan). But then I remembered "Turn a Square" and I started looking into Noro yarns.

You see, Noro has many beautiful yarns and originally this hat is knit using one of them. It doesn't match my Sulka, tho. Luckily, my LYS carries Silk Garden Chunky -- a match all around! It's wool and silk, spun as a single, and well.. chunky. The slow color changes are what make the hat so fun, combined with the gradual shift of stripes that seem circular to stripes that appear to be square at the top.

Square Two
They knit up in about a day and used exactly one skein of Mirasol "Sulka" and one-half skein of the Silk Garden Chunky. I actually ran out of the blue Sulka, but bound off the hat with Silk Garden and I don't think it makes a bit of a difference.

And now I have two fewer skeins left to be knit! Two fewer skeins that I had no idea what to do with. That makes me terribly happy.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Big, bigger ... big enough

Tussah Silk
Originally uploaded by Project Pictures
Lately there has been some talk on the Ravelry Spindler's group about how heavy your spindle needs to be, how weight on the spindle changes its profile, and just how much fiber can you pack on a spindle. The acknowledged master of this, Abby Franquemont, posted a thread and picture of an amazingly packed spindle with a massive amount of fiber on it.

I'm not quite that talented (yet).

But this is still a fair amount of fiber. This cop uses Abby's technique of cross-winding the single for stability, as well as circular-winding to compact it. Packed on this 23 gram spindle are 50 grams of spun silk. I could get more on there, but it's about half of my total, and so it's time to stop.

Tussah silk is the slightly lesser cousin to bombyx silk which comes from the fabled silkworm fed only mulberry leaves. While the wild moth that gives us tussah silk is less picky about its food and enjoys munching on oak leaves, it is still no slacker in its spinning and the combed top is lustrous and beautiful.

A Bunch of Lilacs
This particular batch was dyed by the Etsy seller HandOverTheWool. The colors are lovely white, pink and violet and titled "A Bunch of Lilacs". I'm rather amused by the differences in light between my picture and the seller's photo shown here. I was certainly expecting rose much more than pink, and nothing as deep as the purple I received. I love it anyway.

Silk is slippery and it wants a lot of twist. I want laceweight and I want it to be tightly plied. Since lace is traditionally 2-ply, and I like 3-ply, I'm putting not just a lot of twist in this single, but a WHOLE LOT of twist. I'm getting somewhere around 47 WPI in the single, which will hopefully get me around 20 WPI in the 2-ply (maybe 25). That's firmly in lace-weight. This is consistent with what I learned from my test cards.

Amusingly enough I picked up this silk mainly for practice. I have another four ounces of tussah silk in another color, and a coordinating merino roving for a future planned project. I wanted to see what would happen if I spun my "default" single with silk, even with a heavier spindle. My planned project is going to be a lot bigger, and it's going to be for an elaborate shawl, so I want it to be as consistent as possible.

I'm really looking forward to the finished 2-ply yarn but it took quite a while to spin this much. It's going to be quite a while longer to finish the second half.

I'm really looking forward to it.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


This month's theme for the Spindler's Challenge is "Bollywood". The spindler's challenge each month has simple criteria. Spin a skein, any size, within the current month and have it somehow relate to the theme. The prize is equally simple: your yarn pictured on the group's front page for the next month, and the pick of a following theme. The only restriction is "no seasonal themes" (I think they got burned out on that last year).

bollywood June Spindler's Challenge - Bollywood
Bollywood is a pretty fun theme. I was introduced to Bollywood by my friend Arjumand. She's a wonderful person and her enjoyment of these movies is undisguised. The singing is a little over the top for me, but the imagery and energy are unmistakable and enticing. In short, these movies are bunches of fun. It is also very easy to turn up hundreds of great pictures for inspiration. Above are my choices of an album cover that exactly represents the colors I think of when Bollywood is mentioned, and what I was able to dig out of my stash to match it. The largest piece of roving is 20g and is fiery reds and oranges. The smaller piece is dusky red, gold and purple. And the white is a merino/silk blend I picked up from Dyelots here in town. My intention was to make a cabled yarn so that the merino would pop out like pearls all down its length.

First cop - 10g "fiery" roving 2nd cop - 12 g merino/silk "pearl" 3rd cop - 10 g "dusky" roving
Here are my various cops spun for this purpose. I split the bright red roving in half down the middle to start. I then took the first half and split that into finger-wide segments and spun it onto the first cop. The second was my merino/silk blend. The third was the dusky roving and my fourth (not pictured here) was the orange/red again, but this time spun without being split. This gave me one strand with fast repeats of red/orange, one white, and two that had longer repeats of color but didn't match each other.

Plying balls 2-ply strands for cabling
I plied the short-repeat red with the white single, and the two longer repeats together, turning them so that hopefully the similar colors wouldn't line up (this wasn't entirely successful, but close enough). I knew I would be plying these strands together again, so I put a lot of extra twist in them and then wound everything together into another plying ball. Unfortunately, it still wasn't enough twist to make a nice cabled yarn. So I had to un-ply what I'd done, and then unwind the two parts onto separate balls so I could add even more twist. Unfortunately this turned what had seemed like fairly lofty 2-ply yarns into super-dense, over-twisted strands with little springiness left in them.

4-ply cabled yarn
Plied back together we get my cabled yarn. This time they twisted around each other nicely, but still remained pretty dense. I was going for something a little bit more squishy and luscious. What I got was a very compact yarn. It still looks like it was strung with seed-pearls, which was my original intention. But it doesn't have the hand that I want, so I suppose I'll just have to spin a cabled yarn next month, too!

Leftover 2-ply
It did leave me with just the smallest bit of leftover 2-ply of the merino/silk and red yarn. There are only five grams of yarn here, but they're still really pretty. I let the extra twist back out, so the plies fluffed up nicely. I like this yarn, but would love it as a 3-ply.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Variety in Laceweight

I have been working on spinning laceweight. This is important because I have 4oz of gorgeous silk top and coordinating ultrafine Merino top waiting to become enough laceweight for a shawl. To facilitate this (and to not screw up a limited quantity of a uniquely dyed batch), I purchased another 4oz of Tussah Silk top from a different vendor so that I might practice.

The four cards pictured above are about one gram of material, each. And each time I tried spinning slightly differently. The first was "lets get a feel for silk, and make sure it's laceweight thin". So I was trying moderately hard to spin thinner than I usually do. The second card is "let's see just how very thin I can spin silk on this spindle". The third is moderate-thinness, but one ply is silk, and the other is some of my random unknown top (probably BFL). And the last is silk/wool spun to what I consider my "default" single weight. This is what I revert to spinning whenever I stop thinking too hard.

The funny thing is they are all laceweight. The last one is the thickest, and it's right around 24 WPI. I think the pure silk ones are 30+ WPI. So really, how thin does laceweight have to be? (Really, Andrea. How thin?) When is it too thin? My WPI-gauge page tells me that anything over 16 WPI is "laceweight" (AskTheBellWether says 18+WPI). But that's a huge range. I've seen pictures of people spinning frog hair so thin you'd wonder if there were more than three strands in it at any one point. But that would be "cobweb" weight (and a quick internet search here in another tab reveals AskTheBellwether's references of cobweb weight at 40+WPI).

So I guess my answer is somewhere between 18 and 40 WPI. That's still a huge range! And it doesn't really tell me what knits up nicely into a shawl. I've decided to spin my practice lump of silk on my "default" single and see what it becomes. If it's a little thicker that's okay. I have a lovely shawl pattern picked out that's written for lace-to-fingering weight and I'm good to go.

But what's really driving me crazy is that I've missed two weeks of my "knitting night" already, and I'm going to miss another two. I can't sit down with anyone and get their personal opinion on these samples, and I still won't be able to actually SEE anyone until the 22nd.

I don't suppose anyone will be at BSG on Friday morning? I'm thinking about roping someone into a little childcare and taking off to ravage the marketplace solo for a couple of hours!

Monday, June 1, 2009

A day of "ARGH!"

I've just frogged my sock for the fourth time.

I decided to try Cat Bordhi's "Veil of Leaves". It's a lovely pattern in the Cedar architecture. I wasn't entirely certain about it. I'm very mathematically minded and this sock has a little bit more of an organic feel than I really like. But I figured I could work with it.

Let me present to you my last couple of days knitting.

First Attempt
Hmm. Cat says to cast on 72 sts for a "Cobblestone Cuff". Okay. Oh, wait. She says cast on with Judy Becker's Magic Cast on... that's.. good heavens that's 144 stitches. Well. Okay. Casting on 144 stitches with JBMCO.. Hmm. Judy's doesn't work really well with more than 10 or so stitches. But. She says do it. Okay. There's 144 sts. Knit. Knit. Knit. Urg... getting tough here. Stitch #10.. crud. This is too tight. Let's try again..

Second Attempt
Okay. Cast on 144 stitches with Judy Becker's Magic Cast on and do it LOOSELY, you ninny. Hum-de-hum. This is a lot of stitches. Okay. This still seems pretty tight. Doesn't Cat Bordhi like to work on two circs or something. I think I'm going to begin to hate DPNs at this rate. Knit. Knit. Kniting. Too. Tight... what exactly am I doing here? Knit 5 rows and turn inside out then join together and decrease a bunch of stitches. Hmm. It didn't LOOK like a purled cuff in the picture. (Picture me frowning at the example picture here). No. That's not a Cobblestone Cuff by any stretch of the imagination. Sure, there's a little purl ridge at the top, but it's clearly knit, and there are CLEARLY no decreases.. blast it. rrrrrrrrrrrriiiiiiiiiipppppppppp

Third Attempt
Okay. Where's my book? Nevermind. I can remember. I've done this twice now. CLEARLY I need to cast on my final number of stitches (63). That'll be 27 for the sole, and 33 for the instep. Provisional cast on with the crochet hook. Hook. Hook. Hook. Isn't this a pretty green? Hook. Hook. Hook. Okay. Knit those in my nice red yarn. Join in the round. Knit Knit Knit... pretty pretty. Okay. There's three rows, we'll just purl one row for that ridge in the pictures and then maybe knit four to make sure it lays flat against my leg. Wow. This red yarn is gorgeous. Knit stitches from my needles with the provisional cast on. Great. Looks awesome. Start lace and remember it's a nine stitch repeat.. here we go. Wait. 9*7=63 .... 27+33=60. CRUD. Okay. I'll just.. skip a couple of the lace decreases until I have the right number. There we go!

Knit. Knit. Knit. Ugh. I really don't like this lace. I want symmetrically paired decreases, not this leaning-one-way nonsense. (glaring) rrrrrrriiiiiiiiiiiiiippppppp

Fourth Attempt
Alright. This isn't working. Where's my graph paper? (Much math and planning ensues wherein I completely redesign the lace pattern into a standard leaf-lace AND figure out how to manage the increases in it at the ankle AND match gauge and stitch count and row counts to match Cat's pattern within one to two stitches/rows at any important point.) Ah-ha! That's a workable pattern.

Provisional crochet cast on 64 stitches (for 8 repeats of an 8-stitch lace pattern). Knit 3 rounds. P2tog+yo around. Knit three rounds. Join two parts and start lace. Oh, this is really pretty. The picot edge looks positively firey in this red yarn. What a great idea! And this lace is working. I like it much better. Hmm. It looks a little bigger than I thought. I'll just finish this repeat.. Wow. That looks like it'll be baggy. But.. socks always look different while you're working. Maybe I'll just slip it over my foot and.. blast it. It's probably an inch too big! But I checked my gauge! Twice. Sure, it was on an old sock but.. dagnabit, it's the same yarn and the same needles and ought to be close enough to gauge. Where's my ruler and... You must be kidding me. 7sts/in? I'm supposed to be getting 8.5 sts/in!!


Current Status
I have yarn in a ball. I have a good idea. Now I need to sit back down with my proper gauge (and maybe knit a swatch again to make sure, dagnabit) and recalculate my master numbers and totally toss Cat's "Veil of Leaves" to the wind and redesign my "Veil of Flames" from the master Cedar pattern.

At least I'm getting better at this. I think.