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!