Sunday, January 22, 2017

So Sheepy

It's been a very busy weekend -- I attended the local Women's March yesterday morning, then we had Rainbow's birthday party in the afternoon, then she went to sleepover at my brother- and sister-in-law's while the Mister and I went out to dinner with his parents, and then today we had errands and chores followed by a lunch for my father-in-law's birthday and dinner with our new neighbors. All of that is a long way of saying that my spinning time was limited and done in fits and starts, and I didn't manage to finish plying up my Corriedale until this afternoon. But it is done!

Here's how the skein looked fresh off the niddy noddy (I only just put it in to soak a few minutes ago), so it looks a bit wiry from being freshly plied, but I'm already very pleased with it. It's in the heavy fingering weight range, provided it doesn't poof too much in the wash, and it looks like I'll have upwards of 400 yards. I was hoping for a bit more than that, given that this was 6 oz. of fiber, but I think my singles were not as fine as they could have been. I did, however, use up pretty much all of the singles. When the first bobbin ran out, I wound the singles on the remaining bobbin that looked more full into a center-pull ball and plied from both ends. When the second bobbin ran out, I chain plied from what was left. That was a bit tough, as there was quite a bit of twist in the singles and they kept tangling on me. I finally gave up and broke off the yarn, but I was left with only a very small amount, so I was pleased. The finished yarn looks like it'll have a nice round twist to it, and it smells so nice and sheepy.

I'm sure you're wondering what that bright colored fiber underneath the new skein is -- it's my current spinning project, which I started after I finished spinning the last bobbin of Corriedale singles. It's Targhee from FatCatKnits in a colorway called Juicy Fruit that I bought on a whim because it was so darn bright and cheerful.

I absolutely love spinning Targhee. It's hard to explain how it feels, but it has a lot of spring to it and you can tell even spinning the singles that the finished yarn is going to be poofy and bouncy. I'm also finally using one of my Akerworks bobbins for my Lendrum -- I think I bought them almost a year ago, but it's taken me all this time to use one. I really like it. It's definitely lighter than my regular bobbins, and the combination of that plus my regular fast flyer (instead of the WooLee Winder) has made my wheel noticeably quieter.

I'm spinning this Targhee into another fingering weight yarn, though this one will be chain plied to preserve the color progression. The plan is to use the two skeins together in a shawl, a new design idea. I have an image in my head, so it will be interesting to see if I can make it come out that way in real life. I know that however it turns out, it will be wonderful to knit with my own handspun again.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

I Can Totally Explain This

A rather large parcel of yarn arrived today. I know what you're thinking -- I'm supposed to be on a yarn diet, right? That means no yarn buying, doesn't it? Well, kind of. Let me explain.

My yarn diet is designed to achieve two objectives: reduce the size of my stash overall and save money so that I'll have some to spend at SSK this summer. I know it seems simple, but there are extenuating circumstances. For one, I signed up for a three-month yarn club from Fibernymph Dye Works in the fall, so one of the skeins in the package was the second shipment for that. Then, I happened to win the quarterly FDW drawing on Ravelry (pure luck, I tell you!), giving me a $25 gift certificate for the shop, so I splurged on a merino/cashmere/silk skein from a limited run Lisa was offering, and with the gift certificate, I really only spent a few dollars. Finally, Lisa and I have been planning a design collaboration for a while, so she sent me four skeins for a couple of samples that I'll be knitting up and then offering the pattern as a kit through her shop. She was kind enough to combine all six skeins in one package, and that's how I ended up with this pile of yarn.

I'm still working my way through stash otherwise, so I guess you could say I'm bending rather than breaking the yarn diet.

Speaking of using stash yarn, I've busted (most of) another skein with the completion of these rainbow-striped socks, just in time to wear tomorrow!

These are just my basic vanilla sock pattern worked over 70 stitches on size 0 (2.0 mm) needles. I used the Karbonz again, but I think I'll go back to my Addi Sock Rockets for the next pair, as the drag on the yarn was starting to get a little annoying. I did manage to get the stripes to more or less match, though I sort of wish I'd paid a little more attention to how the yarn was going to stripe so my rainbow sequence wasn't in reverse order going down the sock.

I should be able to finish up my PussyHat this evening (I was very close to being done when I had to put it down last night), so I'll be all ready for the Pittsburgh women's march on Saturday. I know a couple of people who will be there in hats, and if you will be there, keep an eye out for me in my neon pink!

We have a fairly busy weekend coming up, but the thing I'm looking forward to most is the grand opening of the new Knitsburgh Yarn Shop tomorrow evening! My friend Yvonne, who was previously the manager of my now-closed LYS, is behind this new venture, and I couldn't be happier for her. The new shop is a bit of a drive for me (which might make it less easy for me to swing by and buy more yarn), but from the teaser picks she's been posting online, it looks lovely. I can't wait to get inside see it in person!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017


While I really should be working on the baby blanket (the baby is due around February 3, so I don't have much time left), instead I'm finding myself focusing on projects with a message. The first is the rainbow socks, which you saw last week. I am cruising through the foot of the second sock, so I anticipate having a finished pair in the next day or two.

The other project is one you've likely seen on the news or on Ravelry -- a pussyhat. I'm not following a particular pattern, though I'm using this one (the original) as a guide. The pattern has you knit the hat flat and then seam the sides, but I much prefer to knit in the round, so I cast on 96 stitches and went with it. When it's the length I want, I'll use Kitchener stitch to graft the top together.

So bright no camera can capture it accurately

I'm using a skein of Universal Yarn Uptown Worsted that I had in my stash from a while back (I had bought two skeins and used one to knit a hat for when I run in the winter) in a positively eye-searing shade of neon pink. It's pretty much impossible to capture on camera, but it will serve the purpose of being very visible. I'm not able to attend the women's march in Washington, D.C., but I will be going to the sister march here in Pittsburgh.

While I was digging through the stash, I found some partial skeins of Cascade 220 Superwash that I'd used for a couple of sweaters for Rainbow:

Neither remnant is probably enough to make a hat, but I think I can manage enough if I combine them, so I will likely copy Kat and knit this stranded version so that Rainbow can have her own hat. It won't be quite as loud as mine, but then a 7-year-old probably doesn't need an obnoxious protest hat. I think she'll be happy to have something cute, and I'll certainly be happy to have removed more yarn from the stash. And if someone happens to see her wearing it and know what it is, then that's just fine, too.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

It All Looks the Same

Spinning undyed fiber (and blogging about it) can get a little frustrating. Don't get me wrong -- I really like spinning undyed fibers. There's something very zen about it. All the same, it gets really hard to look like I'm making any progress in my spinning when all the bobbin shots look the same. I'm finally on my third and final bobbin of cream Corriedale singles, with the end in sight, but it looks pretty much like the first and second bobbin. So here's a shot of all three, for proof that I have actually spun up nearly all the fiber:

This has been a good project to work on while I've been working through my backlog of video podcasts (I generally watch them on my laptop while I spin, and as I was away from my wheels for two weeks, I didn't watch in that time and they piled up). Because I'm not having to manage color at all with this spin, I can pretty much go on autopilot with it. At this point, I've got about an arm's length of fiber left to spin, which I think should probably take me in the neighborhood of two hours or so to get through. I'm hoping I can find that time this evening and tomorrow, when we'll all be home, so that I can ply a little later in the week and get started on the colored fiber that will go with this.

I think it might be good for me to alternated dyed fiber with naturally colored fiber this year. I don't have a huge stash of undyed fiber, but I do have two fleeces that would be good to finally spin (one is even all prepped and already divided into 2 oz. bundles).

Thank you to those of you who expressed interest in buying my handspun! I wanted to let you know that I have started the process of opening an Etsy shop. I've got a shop name reserved, and I've ordered mailers and a pop-up lightbox, so now I just need to find some time to take photos and set up the listings. I'm hoping to have it up in the next few weeks!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Distracted by the Shiny and New

I was so hoping that I'd make great progress on Rainbow's sweater once I started taking it to work to pull out during my lunch breaks, but I got a wee bit distracted. Rainbow had a sleepover at her grandparents' on Saturday, so the Mister and I went to go see La La Land. I find it really hard to sit through a movie with nothing to do with my hands, so I grabbed a skein of sock yarn from the stash, wound it into a cake, and cast on. By the end of the movie, I had nearly 5 inches of a sock leg knit. And I'm so enamored with the stripes that I've swapped out Rainbow's sweater for these socks for my lunchtime knitting.

This is one of my favorite sock yarns, Fibernymph Dye Works Bounce (a superwash merino/nylon blend) in the colorway Rainbow Riot. I've always loved rainbow stripes, and in fact I've got a cowl I knit from yarn spun from fiber in the same colorway that I bought from Lisa years ago. I'm hoping to get the socks finished up in time to wear on Inauguration Day -- I don't like to get into politics on a knitting blog, but suffice it to say that I am a proponent of kindness and inclusiveness, so I want to show that with my socks. I'm about half an inch away from the toe of the first sock.

I haven't been working on the sweater at home, either, as I've been spending the evenings I have been knitting working on the baby blanket. I've managed to finish one square thus far and the second is nearly done. I realize that they don't look all that great in their unblocked state, but I'm really liking the pattern.

The two squares will have used less than one full skein of yarn, and I have five skeins, so it's likely I'll have a little bit leftover, perhaps enough to make a baby hat to go with it. The squares are definitely moving along a bit faster as I've gotten used to the pattern, but I'm starting to feel a bit of time pressure to get it done in time (my friend is due toward the beginning of February, and I don't want to be madly stitching up to the last minute). Thankfully we do have a long weekend this weekend due to Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday -- all three of us are actually off -- and the Mister is planning to take Rainbow skiing on Saturday, so I'm hopeful that I'll be able to get in some extra knitting time and perhaps get an additional square or two done.

Speaking of this weekend, I wanted to mention for those of you in the Pittsburgh area that the Steel City Fiber Collective is hosting a pattern party this Saturday from 2 to 4 p.m. to celebrate the release of my Stitchburgh collection. I'll be there with all my pattern samples, so you can see them in person and ask any questions you might have. The collective also will have kits available to knit several of the patterns for those of you interested in a truly local knitting project. I hope to see you there!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Pattern Re-release: Prairie Lace Shawl

Last spring, I had a shawl pattern published in the online subscription-based magazine I Like Knitting. I've had the rights back for a couple of months, but with all the work surrounding my Stitchburgh collection and then the holidays, it sat on the back burner for a bit. Today I'm very pleased to tell you that you can now buy the pattern in my Ravelry shop.

The Prairie Lace Shawl was inspired by a re-read I did over the course of the last year or so of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series. The books were much loved and read many times when I was little, but it had been years since I'd last read them. Many details I had forgotten over the years, but I was not at all surprised that my favorite parts were those involving crafting and making (I think I did gain a new appreciation for Almanzo's mother in Farmer Boy, however, when I read about her carding, spinning, and then weaving wool for their clothing). It wasn't surprising that, in making their clothes and accessories, the Ingalls girls were very thrifty and wasted nothing; fabric, after all, was expensive, and money was scarce. But what struck me this time around was how the women strove to make even the most plain and utilitarian items pretty by adding small details. I immediately thought of a shawl that was predominantly garter stitch but had a touch of lace.

(Incidentally, I think I should mention that when this pattern was submitted to the magazine, it had a different lace. The publisher changed the name -- a fairly common practice in the industry -- and I think it's quite fitting!)

This shawl is knit from the top down, starting with a garter tab. The majority of the shawl is knit like a regular top-down triangle, with four increases ever right-side row (at the beginning and end and on either side of the center stitch). Near the bottom, however, a lace panel is inserted that grows out from the center stitch, serving both to "pretty up" the garter and soften the lower edge at the center (great for those of us who prefer not to have our shawls point right to our bottoms). The shawl is finished off with a simple crochet edging -- and I promise you don't have to crochet to be able to do it! As long as you've got a hook and can use it wrap yarn and pull it through a loop, you'll be able to do this edging.

Matilda likes a little lace covering her assets

This sample was worked in Quince & Co. Finch, a fingering weight 100% American Wool. I haven't used many of Quince's yarns, but I'm a fan. This base is bouncy and round, so it makes incredibly squishy garter stitch fabric. I used a bit less than three skeins in the Sorbet colorway to create the sample. Of course, you can use any yarn you like (with something like a shawl, gauge usually isn't critical as long as you like the fabric you're getting and have enough to finish), but I liked the idea of using an American grown, processed, and dyed yarn for this shawl given its inspiration.

I'm excited to finally have this pattern in my Ravelry store, and I'm looking forward to seeing what you do with it!

Sunday, January 08, 2017

A Clean Start

It seems so arbitrary to use the start of a new year on the calendar as the starting point for a new project, but as luck would have it, I started 2017 off with empty bobbins on both wheels. I had many choices when it came to my first spin of the year, but ultimately I decided to start off the year with something simple: an undyed fiber spun into my default yarn. I'd inherited a bit more than 6 oz. of creamy Corriedale top from a friend who moved away, so I split it into three bundles of 2 oz. and began spinning a three-ply fingering weight. The first bobbin is done.

As much as I enjoy spinning dyed fiber, there is something to be said about spinning fiber that looks pretty much like it did when it came off the sheep. There's no worrying about colors blending in an undesirable way, so I can focus solely on the experience of spinning the fiber. I'm planning to pair this with some dyed fiber (which I'll spin up to a similar grist) for a shawl idea.

Meanwhile, when I've had enough of the cream and I'm craving color, there is new fiber to pull out. Both my Southern Cross Fibre and my FatCatKnits club shipments showed up while we were away. The SCF shipment (actually October's selection, but it took a long time to cross the ocean) is Charollais -- a new-to-me fiber -- in a colorway called Boil and Bubble. The colors are amazing, as always, and the fiber feels both spongy and toothy, not unlike Shetland.

The FCK shipment is BFL/silk, and the colorways are called Trigger and Twister. I would never think to put these two together, but I love them!

I believe I have one more shipment from both clubs before they go on hiatus for a bit, so I'll have a chance to get caught up. It would be great to make a good dent in the fiber stash in addition to the one I'm trying to make in the yarn stash.

And now I'm going to go start the second bobbin of my Corriedale while the chicken soup I'm making for dinner simmers on the stove.