Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 in Review

I really enjoyed posting this last year. So here are this year's projects!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

I wasn't gonna ... but ...


I wasn't going to get into weaving. Really. I wasn't!

I didn't think it was right for me. It's a touch expensive, getting the starting equipment (although, really, haven't I spent about that much on knitting needles, crochet hooks, bags, cases, measuring devices, needles, etc...). But then I got this really nice gift certificate for Christmas, AND the store where I needed to spend said Certificate was having an ultra-rare 10% off everything (including looms!!) sale, AND I already got a bunch of lovely fiber and yarn for Christmas, so...

I have a loom!

I have a 20" Schacht Flip Loom that folds and slides right under my bed. It came today in the mail and I most maturely restrained myself from squeeling with glee, ripping open the box and playing with it all afternoon. Instead I let out a tiny happy yelp and put the box aside for a couple of hours to get other things done. Then, with restraint, I had my daughter come and assist me in unwrapping and assembling the few parts that needed to be put together.

This evening, after dinner when everyone was happy, I gave it a go at warping. It was easy! Of course, a lot of things are easy when you throw math to the wind and just give it a try. I figured I didn't care what I got out of my first project and I'd just warp it willy-nilly (but following the instructions) and see what happened.

Here it is!

Schacht 20" Flip Rigid Heddle Loom
I used yarn I had no intention of ever knitting. I bought the white yarn for.. Um. I don't know what I bought the white yarn for. The brown yarn was for the "Hilton of Cadbol" pillow, and would have been horrible for it. But I held onto it long enough I couldn't really return the ball and it has been sitting in my shelf every since, lonely and sad.

Now the two are taking shape as a.. um. A table runner. Or a placemat. Or maybe a bag. Really, it's probably a rag or trash. But it's learning!

Some of the things I've learned already:

  • Warping is not as hard as it sounded
  • A "pick" (one pass through the warp) is not like a row of knitting. If you miss a strand, you just back up. If you don't like the way the selvedge is, you just back and pull it through again. If you don't like the way you beat it into the cloth, you do it again. This takes no time at all and far less effort than it takes to tink a row of knitting.
  • Within 30 rows, my selvedges were visibly more even, and so was my beating. In fact, there is obvious improvement in the 30min I played at weaving.
  • There is nothing to fear about getting complicated. See the white stripe in the warp? It wasn't hard. Seriously. How long do you think I've been doing this? I'll give you three guesses. The first two don't count.
  • I can't wait to cut this off the loom (OMG, CUTTING YARN, AIEEE) and start a new project
  • Unlike a handspinner and knitter, I must overcome my fear of cutting yarn. I'm gonna have to cut yarn. A lot.

So all in all, this is pretty cool. I'll keep you updated when I start something new. Of course, since this is an at-home activity, and I still have lots of knitting to do, I can't say I'll be doing a ton. But I'm sure Weaving is about to sneak its way firmly into my blog.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Under my Christmas Tree

Christmas 2010
Originally uploaded by Project Pictures
This year I found sock yarn.. from my daughter.. for me.. to knit my daughter's new socks. (She requested socks before Christmas, and then went shopping with Daddy and picked out the pink yarn herself. Can't you tell? Only it was worsted weight Lamb's Pride wool/mohair blend. This yarn is the exact same shade. Only it will actually make socks. So will the Merino-cashmere-nylon yarn. But those will be mine.)

I also found a gift certificate to Paradise Fibers from my mother-in-law (which has now been turned into a super secret surprise I may unveil at a later date when I get over the glee).

Christmas 2010
And fiber from my husband in the form of four ounces of deliciously sparkly batts and six ounces of yummy merino-silk-yak blend. (He's a keeper.)

Merry Christmas to all and a Happy New Year. May it be filled with fabulous fibery goodness!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Christmas Gift Bags
Originally uploaded by Project Pictures
This year, I gave bags for Christmas.

In all honesty, each of those bags is also filled with a hand-made gift for four of my lovely family members. But you don't really expect me to tell you what is in them before the 25th, right?


I've been wanting to do gift bags for a while. This year I hit JoAnne's and found 50% off Christmas-theme fabric. Perfect! And then I went pattern hunting on the 'net. How hard can bags be, right?


But I found patterns! A lot of them. And I finally settled on this lined drawstring bag. The series of blog posts has several options, and in the end I modified even the plan laid out by "happythings" (but thank you "happythings" for giving me a great starting point!). If you read it and understand what she's doing, then my modifications will make sense. If not, then you'll just have to trust me that what I changed made it much easier to make a bunch of bags!

First off, my sewing skills are iffy. My seams are usually serpentine and let's not even get into me cutting a straight line in the first place. In addition, I hate hand-sewing up the hole where you turn a bag or pillow or whatever to be right-side-out again (I can never get it to look like the machine-sewed seam and that irks me to no end). So I didn't. I sewed the whole thing as per the directions leaving only the spot where the drawstring would go through and then pulled it through that hole. VIOLA! And after making a couple, I didn't see why I needed to make the liner out of two squares--because that's just one more place I can cut things unevenly. So I left the liner as a slightly-shorter-than-the-outside-material rectangle and sure enough, that works just fine!

Hopefully these bags will be unpacked tomorrow, and the contents appreciated on Saturday. And hopefully some gifts can be given in them again, next year.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Kitten Mittens

Kitten Mittens
Originally uploaded by Project Pictures
Three little kittens,
                   they lost their mittens,
    And they began to cry,

Oh, mother dear, we sadly fear
    That we have lost our mittens.

What! Lost your mittens,
                   you naughty kittens!

    Then you shall have no pie.
    Mee-ow, mee-ow, mee-ow, mee-ow.
    You shall have no pie.


I had a wonderful time this year preparing handmade gifts for family. These cute little things were knit with my nephew and niece in mind (four and two, respectively). Three mismatched mittens means that you never have to worry about finding an exact pair. And if one goes missing (as it likely will). Then.. Oh, well!

I had fun with them. Each was cast on using DPNs, but then I moved all the knitting over to a long circular needle and worked on all three at the same time. It's a bit fiddly keeping all the yarn balls straight, but after a while it becomes obvious how to flip your work back and forth so that after each row, everything is back in line again. The benefit is that you're always working the same row and it's easier to keep track of where you are in the pattern. And, when you're done, you're really done!

More Kitten Mittens
They are knit from the pattern I created for my daughter, working from Interweave Knits' article "Progressive Gloves" (no longer available online). I'm really glad I was able to download it and the related article on gussets for gloves and mittens back when a large number of these types of articles were available from Interweave's site. I had just begun to knit and went on a downloading rampage on all of their technique-based articles. It's a real shame they finally had to come down off the internet, because many of those articles were extremely useful. I love having them now, and know that if I had started just a year later I would have missed out on a huge amount of really useful information! Now I just feel lucky to have a nice library of PDF files carefully backed up so I won't ever loose them!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

WiseSweater KAL - Back

Here's the first part of my sweater!

We're waiting for the "widget" that generates our pattern to be updated with the next portion. Since Sandi Wiseheart is having it programmed from scratch, it takes a bit of time. That's just fine. I have plenty of other Christmas knitting to work on and I'm sure that would find itself on the back burner if I had the temptation of more of this sweater to finish!

I really love the yarn, but I'm concerned I'll run short. I don't really want to cut the sleeves shorter than they have to be, but so far that is the obvious "fix" to not having enough yarn. Buying more may be problematic, since I bought the last ball from WEBS a couple of weeks ago. Hopefully they'll get the color back in if I need more. Hopefully the dyelots will be close enough it won't drive me crazy.

But most hopefully, I'll have just enough yarn to finish everything exactly the way I want.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

AVFKW - Pro-Verbial club

This is the first bobbin of "A Whale's Migratory Tale", the first offering from the Pro-Verbial Club from A Verb for Keeping Warm. Four total shipments will be offered (the choice was given to receive yarn or unspun, and of course, I like to spin my own) of a shawl pattern and a particular fiber base dyed by Kristine.

This fiber is Blue Face Leicester and tussah silk dyed with Indigo. The original yarn for the club was a two-ply with 400 yards. The shawl is a lovely, textural piece designed by Stephen West called Blue Whale (Ravelry link). For the sort of knit/purl textures Stephen was focusing on, I really like a three-ply yarn (Okay, I always prefer a three-ply yarn. It's a weakness of mine). The beauty of spinning it myself is that I can have a three-ply yarn if I want it!

I really wanted to stay consistent throughout this project, so I spun some undyed BFL/Silk from Textiles a Mano first. That came out much too thick, so I adjusted my single and then taped a bit of it to a notecard so that I could refer back to it throughout my time spinning. This worked great! The bobbin shown above was the first of three, but they all came out very, very similar.

As I worked, some of the first feedback came in on the shawl. At least one knitter ran short of yarn, and I know that handspun usually achieves less yardage than millspun yarn (especially since I'm working a three-ply instead of two). So in order to increase my yardage I decided to add in some of that oatmeal-colored BFL/silk blend. I purposefully divided the indigo-dyed fiber unevenly so that it would run out at different points, and as it ran out I simply switched over to spinning the other, undyed fiber.

Because of this, there is a lovely transition in the yarn where each ply of blue runs out and turns into oatmeal-brown BFL. There are hints of brown in the indigo-dyed fiber that tie it all together. And the transition also reminds me of the unique white patterning displayed on the underside of Humpback whale tails.

I'm chomping at the bit to get knitting on this one, but I really must finish up the last few Christmas projects, first.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sample, Sample, Sample

BFL/Silk - undyed
Originally uploaded by Project Pictures
Sampling is the Swatching of the spinning world. In order to spin yarn for a particular purpose, you need to figure out how to make the fiber conform to your needs. Thus, you sample. You spin some small amount of the fiber (hoping, of course, that you have plenty more to actually spin for your project) and see if what you create has the properties you want for the intended end-use.

This fiber, unfortunately, does not conform to my needs. I need light-fingering weight yarn. I spun sport, maybe DK. It's really pretty though and I'll enjoy using it eventually. The fiber is a BFL/silk blend that I picked up at Textiles a Mano. I spun it as a test for working with an indigo-dyed BFL/silk blend I have from a Fiber/Shawl club I'm in this year (The Pro-Verbial Club, from A Verb for Keeping Warm). We only have four ounces of a limited colorway to produce about 400 yards of yarn, and this sample isn't going to cut it.

Guess I'll just try again!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hless is More

AbbyBatts - Hless
Originally uploaded by Project Pictures
500 yards more! For a three-ply yarn, that's a lot of spinning, but every moment was worth it. To prolong the enjoyment, the singles were spun on my Bosworth Cherry Midi spindle, but once that was complete I plied the entirety on my wheel. The spindle gives me a lot more fine control and good speed for creating the singles, but the wheel shines in the plying process.

This yarn was made from three AbbyBatts (a delectable treat I allow myself only on very rare occasion due to the high-but-totally-worth-it price of each batt). The final skein is just about four ounces and at that weight the yardage is excellent. It is firmly in the "fingering weight" class of yarn.

I suppose I could knit socks from this yarn, but that would be crazy! I'd like to design a specialty cowl and use beads I've picked up specifically to match this yarn. I have a general idea in my head but will have to start sketching out particulars sometime soon. Designing always makes the process go slower. I'm even tempted to knit the idea first in some commercially-spun yarn so as not to court disaster with my "precious" one-of-a-kind skein.

So there will be more installments of this particular saga, eventually.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

vSOAR - Fine Fibers

SOAR is the Spin-Off Autumn Retreat, held every year in (duh) Autumn. The location varies each year, shifting across the United States from West, to Central, to Eastern locations each year. This year, SOAR was in Wisconsin. Not only is that a bit too far to travel, I'm just not in a point in my life where I can pick up for a week and flit off to enjoy an idyllic week on my own, far from family and other responsibilities.

Luckily for me, I don't have to go. The Friends of AbbysYarns group on Ravelry decided to hold a "Virtual SOAR" where each of us would design our own three-day workshop, and continue on with other activities.

I decided to spin fine fibers. I had originally intended to spin my special sampler of cashmere, yak and guanaco fiber. But since I chickened out once again, I broke into a package of pure angora fiber.

vSOAR - Angora spinning
I started with a supported spindle. I expected things to go well, but ran into several difficulties. Despite the fact that I have spun quite a bit of cotton on this supported spindle, I couldn't get the angora to behave. It didn't want to even out as the cotton would. I also started to have a horrific allergic reaction just a couple of grams into spinning. So I did a little bit more on the wheel and threw in the towel.

The next day, after recovering from my allergies, I decided to try and get as much done as I could outside. I carded my remaining angora fiber into rolags with my hand-cards out on the back porch. And when that proved to be too cold, I moved into the garage. I ended up with angora all over me, but no allergic reaction. So far, so good. Rather than push it, I left the spinning for the next day.

vSOAR - Angora spinning
Finally I got to work on the wheel for a bit. Again I spun out in the garage. But this time I bundled up in a raincoat and threw an old jacket over my lap as well, so I wouldn't end up covered completely in fiber. It spun much more easily from the rolag, and by the end I felt really competent again.

I think in the future I would combine the angora with some wool fiber. This would stretch the angora, and still halo. But it would have more body and memory. Still, the skeins I spun are deliciously soft. I'm going to knit at least one small rabbit out of this yarn. I think it's a perfect project!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Zombie Attack!

ZAS Processing
Originally uploaded by Project Pictures
I don't let myself get drawn in too often, but from time to time a group of friends online will propose a gift swap, and add into the mix an amusing idea for a theme and a reasonable price limit and all of a sudden I'm in for a bit of fun.

The Phat Fiber group on Ravelry decided to have a $35-limit swap with the theme "Surviving a Zombie Apocalypse". I have to say I'm not a huge zombie fan. Well, I am, in theory. I like reading the whimsical books. I've seen a movie or two, and although they're not my first pick I have somewhat enjoyed them. But I'm not much of a blood-and-guts gory slasher invasion movie person.

I still had to do this swap. There were too many fun possibilities with it. For instance, the picture above is not what I received, but the gift I sent to my swapee. It has fiber, yarn, crochet patterns, a brain-on-a-stick supported spindle, and above all, a flow-chart detailing what to open when in order to survive the Zombie Apocalypse. I had $35 of fun just putting this thing together (and then splattering it liberally with "blood" before sending it off).

Swap! -
What I got in turn was just as fun!

First, I got cool stuff. I got a bag (hand-lettered with "ACME Zombie Attack Survival Kit") filled with goodies. It was filled with various personal care items, camouflage face paint, zombie notepads, fingerless mitts with a compass, an ACME Combo Laser Zombie Disorientation and Beer Can Opener Device (awesome!!), lovely handmade buttons that look like eyeballs, and a Twinkie cookbook, so I could have haute cuisine in the aftermath of the invasion (since Twinkies will survive anything).

Swap! - Fiber
Second, I received lovely fiber. There is wonderful yarn that I can't wait to find a great pattern to knit, and then two batts which I had a huge amount of fun spinning. The radioactively-green batt has all sorts of interesting fibers in it (banana, alpaca, silk, bamboo and superwash merino), and the other is just as lovely with yummy fibers and a bit of sparkle. (According to the creator, Lampyridae, it "would be the 'Love Sparks at Night' - Midsummer Nights Dream blend It has SW merino, firestar, bamboo, some angelina, the deep purple is soy silk, and the brown is alpaca.") The Midsummer batt really caught my attention and weighing in at a little over two ounces, I felt it needed a little extra love to make a full project.

Lampyridae + Textiles a Mano
I was convinced by a local store-owner (Laura, owner of Textiles a Mano) to blend up a batt of my own to go with the Zombie Swap batt. She helped me put together a combination of fibers I never would have picked on my own (yellow, green, orange, brown, blue and lavender with a little sparkle) that blended up into a batt that spun up a luscious purple-brown. The two together look fabulous, with just enough shine and just enough loft. While I was too excited to get a picture of both batts together before spinning, you can see the results of Laura's batt on its own in the smaller skein, as there was a little extra single of that one left over, and I plied it back on itself.

I was especially happy to have taken a long-draw class so recently at OFFF to help me out with this yarn. I'm already planning on knitting it into a small shawl/scarf. I think it will be quite elegant when done.

And it all happened thanks to a little Zombie Apocalypse fun.

Friday, October 29, 2010

ITW - Chancellor

ITW - Chancellor
Originally uploaded by Project Pictures
For a while, I got on a real green/purple kick. Without realizing it, I bought several different colorways that it were mainly green and purple. I couldn't help it! They were all lovely.
This is Into the Whirled's 80/20 Merino/silk top dyed in the "Chancellor" colorway. I had no idea what inspired "Chancellor". (Unfortunately the first thing to pop into my head upon reading that word was "Chancellor Palpatine" from Star Wars. Yeesh. After that I spent a good deal of time trying to figure out if it had British inspiration. Two strikes. I was nearly out.)

Fortunately, Ravelry came to my rescue and as I showed pictures of my work-in-progress, a fellow Raveller piped up with her own picture.. apparently "Chancellor" is the name of a wine-making grape! And a lovely "Chancellor" this is, too. There are a lot of subtle variations in the green and the purple, as well as the points where the two mix.

I really love Merino/silk blends. The 80/20 blend is especially nice because it brings just enough silk to the mix to have a lovely luster, but still be primarily bouncy Merino. It spins easily, without much thought. It takes almost no effort to create a bouncy yarn.

ITW - Chancellor
I opted to spin most of this wool at my Saturday spinning group. I had no plan for the fiber, and spinning wool in a brainless, default manner is perfect when you're with a bunch of people and want to split your attention between working and chatting. The problem with green and purple is that if you mix them too much, you end up with a muddy mess of color. That's the trick with so many hand-dyed offerings. They look lovely and inviting in the braid, but can be tricky to spin so that you don't loose the brilliance of the dyer's eye for color. I kept thinking about this while spinning the single, trying to figure out how to split up the wool or the single to get a yarn that still reflected the qualities of the dyed braid.

ITW Chancellor - plying ball
I opted to Navajo-ply this yarn. Once the bobbin was full, I worked on creating very long crochet-like chains. Each loop in the chain was several feet long, sometimes even three yards long. I worked from my wheel, all the way across the room creating each loop, and then wound it into a ball for storage. The "Plying ball" is something that was introduced to me by Abby Franquemont (author of Respect the Spindle). When plying on a spindle, it makes for an excellent and portable method to store singles for plying. It still works wonderfully when you're sitting down to ply at a wheel, too.

ITW - Chancellor
When I'm not working at it, I tend to default to a sport-weight yarn. This came out at about 340 yards of Navajo-three-ply yarn. It gently changes from green to purple to green again at random intervals throughout its length. I think I may use it to knit some arm-warmers, or perhaps something to wrap around my neck and shoulders as the rainy season comes on.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Ambrosia and Bliss

Ambrosia and Bliss
Originally uploaded by Project Pictures
I have started attending a spinning group on Saturday afternoon. I has been a lot of fun! I spend much of the morning giving my husband a break by making pancakes and taking the kids to their gymnastics lessons. And once that is wrapped up, I give the children "Daddy time" and take off for Textiles a Mano to spin for a couple of hours.

Since we like to chat a lot, I've hunted through my stash for fiber that isn't earmarked for a particular purpose. The first thing that came to my hand was a bag of these lovely batts from Ambrosia and Bliss. Based on "Jareth" the Goblin King of the Labrynth movie, the batts are a blend of organic Merino and a whole host of other fibers.

They were delicious to spin up. The batts were nicely blended, with a few thicker chunks of silk and bamboo fiber in a few places. Four batts were included and I spun for three-ply yarn by putting one and 1/3 batts on each of three bobbins. Plied together they created about 370 yards.

There is just the right amount of heathering and sparkle in this fiber. I'm really looking forward to knitting up something like a Traveling Woman shawl.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

OFFF - Fast, Furious and Fluffy

OFFF Class
Originally uploaded by Project Pictures
I've been spinning for almost two years now, but I am largely self- and internet-taught. It leaves you wanting, fairly often, to know exactly what it is you're doing. There is only so much that long-distance-explanation can do.

So when the Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival came up on my radar, I immediately checked out the class listing.

"Long Draw" is something that is rather difficult to do on an unsupported spindle (although it can be done), but it is quite a natural technique for the wheel. Now that I have a wheel, I couldn't resist some hands-on instruction.

Jeane DeCoster was the instructor for this class, and she was great. She got everyone involved right away with a pledge to allow ourselves to "Really #*@$ things up" while we were learning. It got a big laugh, and got people to relax enough to learn.

What I found out is that I really knew how to long-draw already. I just didn't know for sure that was what I was doing. She did give me some really good pointers, and one counter-intuitive piece of advice that was really helpful.

In the end, I spun a nice skein of purple yarn that is very, very fluffy. I'm quite happy with it.

I also have a better understanding of what I'm doing, and how to go about it.

In addition, I bought a little bit of wool at Abstract Fibers. I got a small sample of their stuff at Black Sheep Gathering and fell in love. (You know, the lost-and-found skeinlet. It was so pretty, I knew I had to find them to look at their stuff in person.

My class was Sunday morning. Almost all Sunday, it rained. It certainly was dreary and overcast for the entire day. So when I walked into Abstract Fibers' booth, it was a respite from gloomy grey. The people working the booth were awesome. I had as much fun just chatting with them, and showing off my mini-skein, as I did buying fiber.

OFFF - Abstract Fibers
They were able to find a one-off of "Kaliki" in 80/20 Merino/silk blend. "Kaliki" is what I spun from BSG. This particular skein doesn't have the pronounced red in it that my sample skein does, but it is still brilliantly gorgeous. And I was more than happy to nab it at a reduced price. On a day where grey and mud pressed in from every direction, it was impossible to resist such a brilliantly sunny colorway. Plus, I'd had have a mind to buy it even before I walked in that morning.

OFFF - Abstract Fibers
I also couldn't leave without this 50/50 Merino/silk blend called "Rosewood", although it makes me think more of the copper-bottomed pots I have. They did have a "Copper" colorway in the same base, but it was much more muted and similar to a camel/silk blend I spun up last year. I loved the brilliant, shiny red of this fiber and almost chose it over "Kaliki". But then again, why pick one or the other, when you can have both... and still leave the fair without having spent your whole budget?

OFFF - Abstract Fibers
And last, but not least, they shoved a huge handful of blue fiber at me as a sample after seeing what I had done with the Kaliki sample from BSG. It is also 80/20 Merino/silk, and I couldn't help but spin up a bit of it as soon as I got home.

I can't wait to dig into these, as soon as I'm able to get a few things out of my ever-growing queue!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Shetland Triangle

Shetland Triangle
Originally uploaded by Project Pictures
The Shetland Triangle pattern was lovely enough that even though I had obtained it by borrowing Wrap Style from the library, and didn't plan on every knitting any of the other patterns in that book, I bought myself a copy anyway.

I can tell I'm going to have to knit more of them.

Shetland Triangle
I was introduced to the Shetland Triangle when I received a shawlette of this pattern as a "thank you". I was a part of the Rockin' Sock Club for Blue Moon Fiber Arts, and one of the members lives outside the U.S. (actually, many do). This member in particular was unable to get standard U.S. three-ring binders since she lives in a country where A4 is the standard size.

I figured I could fix that, and went to Staples for a really nice binder, and some plastic page-inserts and mailed it to her, in Dubai.

She sent me back a fabulous Shetland Triangle knit from Sundara Silky Merino Fingering yarn. YUM.

Shetland Triangle - pre-blocking
I had to knit one.

I also had this gorgeous green Malabrigo Yarn Lace.

It knits up fast. The pattern is extremely easy to memorize. Except for the edge and center stitches, it is the same row over and over until the very end. And yet it creates a really attractive lace.

It's also really interesting before it's blocked.

Shetland Triangle
I was lucky enough to happen across a sale for beads at our local craft store. I have to admit I agonized over buying some muted amber beads versus milky green. In the end I went with the amber and I'm really pleased with the result. I added the beads in the final chart in the one knit stitch between two yarn-overs. I also knit an extra row in the final chart before using Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off. It makes for a lovely and elegant edging.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

AbbyBatt - Hless

AbbyBatt - Hless
Originally uploaded by Project Pictures
I have three of these, and they are GORGEOUS.

My plan is to spin each batt separately, and then ply them all into a single yarn. It's almost hard to wait long enough to be done, but the merino/silk blend is so lovely to spin, I don't really want to rush, either.

More on this, later!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Northfield Swatches

I swatched again.

I'm really loving this KAL with Sandi Wiseheart. It's making me think a lot more about my knitting than I usually do.

Because the handspun is really quite so special, and because I don't really understand where Sandi is going, and because she wanted something "with drape", I opted to knit new swatches using WEBS's Northfield yarn. It is a Merino/silk/alpaca blend and should drape a bit more than my handspun will.

I also thought my handspun was a bit thick, but after swatching Northfield my gauge came out almost exactly the same as with the hand-spun yarn.

I'm still going to knit this sweater with the Northfield yarn.

Then I'm going to design my own for the handspun. :)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Into the Whirled samples

If I have been happy about anything from my Phat Fiber box, it was the introduction to Into the Whirled on Etsy. Into the Whirled does really lovely fiber. We've had a lot of fun doing bi-monthly Spin-a-longs. And in addition to your purchase, Cris always sends a 1/2-ounce sample of some other colorway.

Here you can see two of those samples. One is "Grape". The other is "Dark Night, Deep Purple". I spun both on a spindle and N-plied them in separate skeins, but then wrapped up the two together, since most likely I will knit them in the same project.

The fiber blend is Merino/bamboo. I have said time and again I'm not a huge fan of "reconstituted" fibers (bamboo, soysilk, milk-silk, etc). But when blended they can add a lot to a yarn. In this case the bamboo, really "viscose" made from bamboo cellulose, adds a lovely luster to the otherwise matte Merino wool. I like this blend, and the dye job is surpurb!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Can you spin on an airplane?

Airplane Spinning
Originally uploaded by Project Pictures

Yes, you can.

(Although it does help to be in Economy Plus.)

Monday, October 11, 2010

I'm not a writer

Abby Batt Blue
Originally uploaded by Project Pictures
I'm really not. A friend pointed this out, although not to me personally. But I do try to keep up with my projects, from time to time.

So we're really due for a post, aren't we?

This fiber is a Merino/silk/cashmere blend created by Abby Franquemont. I purchased it as a package deal from Bosworth spindles as part of their "Batt, Book and Birdseye" promotion. With the purchase I got the batt, a birdseye Mini Bosworth spindle, and a signed-bookplate-copy of Abby's Respect the Spindle book (worth every penny of the purchase all by itself).

Abby Batt Blue
It. Is. Awesome.

It spun up wonderfully on my "default" spindle, the original Bosworth I purchased almost two years ago. I had a great time working on it while on vacation. Once plied, this thicker single puffed up lusciously into a thicker yarn than I usually spin. I estimated about 150 yards of 2-ply when finished. Plenty for a luxurious hat!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Is it silly?

Tour de Fleece - 7/12
Originally uploaded by Project Pictures
I lost this skein. It isn't even 25 yards. It might be 10 yards. I forget. It's a tiny little sample of Abstract Fibers that I got in a grab-bag at Black Sheep Gathering.

And yet I was really upset to loose it. I tore the house apart trying to find it, mostly because it simply annoyed me to misplace something so small and simple. It offended my sensibilities of being organized and knowing where everything is in our house.

Today, I found it! It was i a bag of stuff I photographed all at the same time. It's pretty amusing to me how happy I was to find it. I still don't know what I'll use it to make, but I'm extremely happy to have it at hand once again.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Grandma's Ulmus

Grandma's Ulmus
Originally uploaded by Project Pictures
This lovely shawlette stayed with my mother this year after our wonderful visit. It's had an interesting journey. You may recall that the yarn actually started out bright golden and took some extensive baths in dye. It also had a tiny mistake I just couldn't leave alone.

In the end it came out lovely. The yarn is 100% silk (Louisa Harding's "Mulberry", which is gorgeous, but normally far too pricey for me at $15/50 gram ball). It has a great hand and it knits up really easily. It isn't quite as forgiving as a more elastic yarn and I do prefer having some wool in the blend. However, working with a non-elastic yarn is not enough to stop me any longer, and everything still came out really even and the shawl blocked wonderfully.

Grandma's Ulmus
Without wool in the mix, the silk has a fantastic drape, and is wonderful to wrap on to wear. It goes on cool but doesn't chill as it warms almost instantly against your skin. Mom and I also had terrific luck finding a lovely shawl-pin to hold it in place. I usually just tuck the ends in, but this little twisted stick makes everything really secure. I didn't get a picture of it, but I'm sure Grandma will love the pin, too.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Short Garden Update

Garden - 8/4
Originally uploaded by Project Pictures
Ladies and Gents, I am happy to say, I am on vacation.

Yes, I am far, far from home and yet I bring you a picture of our garden just before we left. We have watermelon! My daughter and I are terribly excited about these little babies and hope they are much, much bigger when we get home again. Since the sprinklers are on automatic and the neighbors agreed to peek in on things, I have a fairly good feeling that plants will still be growing when we get home.

There is also some occasional knitting and spinning going on here, but that will have to wait until we return and pictures can be properly downloaded, edited, and uploaded again!

I'm also really looking forward to getting back to Stitches Midwest. This is the second time our family vacation has coincided with StitchesMW, and I promise I didn't plan it that way. But I sure am going to take advantage of the fact!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Good swatch, bad swatch

Did you know there are good ways to swatch, and bad ways to swatch? I did, but ignored most of the finer points of this advice just as I ignored swatching for the most part.

I'm "frugal". I don't like to spend too much money and I don't like having "waste" at the end of the project. I'm finding this is directly in opposition to sweater-knitting which, quite frankly, takes a whole lot more yarn than you'd think at first glance. Especially if you're somewhat tall. Or busty. Or both.

Above is one bad way to swatch, which is a shocking thing to say because, hey.. it's swatching, and I don't swatch. But then again, a swatch that doesn't tell you the truth is probably worse than no swatch at all.

The point of the ever-dreaded swatch is to make sure, when you knit something as large (and expensive) as a sweater, it actually fits. The problem with the swatch above is that it involves three different needle sizes in the same swatch. It turns out that the knitting coming before, and after, actually affects the gauge of your swatch. Go figure! So doing multiple needle-sizes in one is a "no-no". I suppose you could knit it long enough to overcome the fabric's desire to conform to the area around it, but that would then negate the yarn-savings of doing it all together, and you might as well just do three separate swatches.

Which is what I finally did.

WiseSweater Swatches
Here are three "proper" swatches. In general, I know I'm going to try and get between five and six stitches-per-inch with this yarn (assuming I properly spun the yarn to somewhere between DK and Worsted weights). Typically this is knit on needles between the US sizes 4 and 6 (which range from 3.5 to 4.0mm in diameter). It doesn't seem like a big difference, but it's amazing what those little quarter-millimeter changes can do.

The bumps you see in the lower right-hand corner of the knitting are my "Key". Four bumps for size 4 needles, five bumps for size 5 needles, and so on. This means if I want to re-measure things later, I don't have to guess which swatch is which.

Also, knowing that I was headed for 5-6 sts/in I cast on accordingly. I want to measure over four inches, so 4in x 6sts/in = 24 stitches. But I don't want to go right to the edge in my measuring, so I add a couple more. Let's say 3 stitches of stockinette on each side. And because rolling edges are a pain, another 2 in garter stitch. That gives me 34 stitches. I knit them until they were "long enough". I'd planned to make them all the same number of rows, too. But honestly I mis-counted and it wasn't worth the effort to go back and add two more rows.

The character of the cloth changes with your gauge. On size 4 needles, this cloth is dense. I'm getting 5.75-6 stitches per inch on those needles and while "bulletproof" isn't quite what I'm going to call the fabric, it's getting close.

My swatch knit on 5s is deceptive. At first glance it has 5.5 sts/inch and a lovely, drapey character. But on closer inspection, the yarn doesn't look quite as round and fluffy as my other two swatches. Likely this is owed to the fact that I'm working with handspun, and this swatch came from a very slightly different batch of yarn. If you finger this swatch, and the next one knit on 6s, the 5s swatch actually feels thinner.

The swatch on 6s does seem slightly thicker than that on 5s, but it still has very nice character. It is opaque, and not too holey. The stitches have a very nice definition, but don't feel crammed together. And it was easy to knit. I was surprised but even with the loosest tension, knitting on 4s felt like work. On 6s, the yarn flew over the needles happily.

I do have a little more yarn left and I may attempt to get a swatch on 7s. It may be slightly smaller than the others, but who knows. It still could tell me something useful.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Sometimes, you just gotta

Let's face it. We all know I'm a little... compulsive about my knitting. I have dropped back a 12-stitch cable over 20 rows in order to fix it (trust me, it was worth it!). I've done well to let go a little of this, especially when the error is not immediately obvious to the eye. After all, there is an art in the imperceptible fudge. But when I can see the problem, and I will see it every time I look at a project, well. That's gotta go.

Which is why I winced so hard when I noticed this little boo-boo. Apparently, I became slightly distracted at some point, and when I turned to knit back along my shawl, I forgot to slip one stitch at the start of the row. Fixing the last stitch on a row is an absolute bear.

Grandma's Ulmus Fix
Fear not, intrepid knitters! While I had resolved to let this little nub go, the solution occurred to me out of nowhere. Yes. Inspiration struck and it told me exactly how to deal with this little issue.


Yes... pins! These are the answer to all the floppy, loopy little tangly ends. (That.. and the fact that a slipped-stitch edge is actually MUCH easier to fix than I thought. I can see where it might still be an issue to fix a garter-stitch edge. But really, back to the pins.)

Grandma's Ulmus Fix
With everything pinned out all nice and neat, those loops stay exactly where you think they ought to be. The pins also make sure that the next stitch in line doesn't borrow yarn and get loose and floppy. Not only that, but you can count on your edges to stay open in the correct orientation that you can simply hook them back up into place. Mine all had a nice half-twist when I started, and they all had that same half-twist when I was done. And never was I worried that this would run further down than I wanted it to or in any other way get out of hand.

Grandma's Ulmus Fix
Easy as pie. Easier, really. Pie can be pretty complicated. And don't get me started on the crust. After many dismal failures at following the instructions of very credible chefs, I just say "Thank you Pillsbury" and get the pre-made kind at the grocery store. But back to the edging. Put your hook through one loop. Insert it into the next loop. Remove pins. Pull the higher loop through the lower loop. Go on to the next loop. Do this until you get back to the top and slip that sucker onto your needles. Don't forget to put the pins back in your box (please!).

Grandma's Ulmus Fix
Finally, here we are at the end, and isn't it a pretty sight? No little obvious bumpies anywhere. This little exercise was totally worth it and I'm very, very happy.