Sunday, July 05, 2020

And Now for the Fun Part

This weekend I reached an important stage in my Rambouillet fleece spinning project: Last night I officially finished spinning all the singles with the completion of my 11th bobbin, and this afternoon I started plying. Here is a look at all the singles, wound off the spinning wheel bobbins and placed on my uber-fancy "storage bobbins":

I weighed the singles and recorded the weight of each "cake" (subtracting the weight of the empty tube) to verify the amount of fiber I started with, and it was indeed about 22 oz., or, to be more exact, 624.6 g. I was pleased to see that my bundles of fiber were pretty uniform, with the cakes of singles ranging from about 55.9 g at the low end to 57.4 at the high end.

The reason to spin all the singles at the outset before plying is that it allows for mixing up singles spun at the beginning, middle, and end of the project. Any human is going to have some inconsistencies, so by mixing up the singles, the idea is that those inconsistencies even out. So because I am making three-ply yarn, I'm working from three of these bobbins at a time. For my first skein, I used the first, fifth, and ninth bobbins of singles spun. The second will use the second, sixth, and tenth bobbins spun, and the third skein will be plied from the third, seventh, and eleventh bobbins of singles. The only unused bobbin at that point will be the fourth, which I'll ply with leftovers remaining from the other bobbins (as I spun 2 oz. for each bobbin of singles and am thus starting to ply with a total of 6 oz., which is more than my WooLee Winder bobbins can hold, I'll have leftovers from all of them).

I managed to get the first skein plied today, and I pretty much just plied until the bobbin couldn't hold anymore yarn and it was falling off the end:

If it looks a little sloppy, that's because I hand to hand-wind on some of the last few yards. I immediately skeined it up and washed it. It's still drying now, but here's a peek at it before it got its soak:

Woolen-spun singles are fairly delicate -- they can be pulled apart really easily -- so I'm adding quite a bit of plying twist to the finished yarn. The first skein kinked up rather impressively when I pulled it off the niddy-noddy, but it seems to have calmed down enough with a wash and some snapping. I think the finished yarn is going to have a good amount of elasticity, and it's still got the fuzzy texture you see here after washing. Actually, when it was wet, it looked a bit like velour or chenille!

Given how quickly this first skein plied up, I have a feeling that the rest will be done in short order over the next week, and I already have the next project lined up because my most recent Southern Cross Fibre shipment finally showed up:

This colorway is called Pebbles, and yes, it is that subtle in person. For this shipment, the wool base was a mystery, though it's something from David's regular rotation so the number of possibilities is still limited. It's softer than the previous month's Corriedale but not quite merino soft, so my best guess would be Bond or Falkland. For my birthday, I treated myself to some extra bags of February's club shipment, which was a semisolid purple called Thunderstruck (if you're okay with viewing Ravelry, you can see it here). I'd already planned to spin that up into a fingering weight for a sweater, and it just occurred to me that I could use it for the main color and Pebbles for the contrast in a Tiny Dancer (note: Ravelry link).

Lest you think I spent my entire holiday weekend behind the wheel, let me show you what else I did, with Rainbow's assistance:

Thanks to the link that Katie posted on Friday, and the serendipity of having all the ingredients on hand, we made this delicious strawberry custard pie yesterday. We had some difficulty with the crust falling apart on us, but we made it work and it was delicious if not beautiful. We served it last night, when my in-laws came for dinner, and there's still quite a bit left that will be tackled this evening. We also watched the Hamilton movie on Disney+, went on a 12-mile bike ride, watched our neighbors set off fireworks, and ate way too much. Though I'm not feeling especially patriotic this year, it was good to have a long weekend and to spend it with family (all outdoors, properly socially distanced). I'm not exactly excited to get back to work this weekend, but I feel rested and recharged -- and a bit bruised from the bike ride, if I'm honest! I hope whatever you did this weekend, it recharged your batteries for the week ahead and brought you some piece and contentment!

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Pattern Release: Slipdash

Earlier this year I was so much not in a headspace to be designing that it was kind of a surprise when this pattern came off the needles, almost as if I designed it subconsciously. I had come to the conclusion that I've reached a sock saturation point -- i.e., I have no room for more hand-knit socks right now -- but that has not stopped me from buying more sock yarn, and I still have a healthy stash of it in addition. So this started as a way to use up some of it in a project that wasn't socks. I've always noticed that self-striping yarns do fun things when there are slipped stitches involved, such as in the heel flap of socks, so I thought that I'd toss some slipped stitches into an otherwise plain cowl. The result was pretty stunning, especially given how simple it was to knit. And it got such a strong response on Instagram that I decided to write it up. Meet Slipdash.

This pattern is designed for self-striping sock yarn, especially self-striping sock yarn with a lot of colors. An easy-to-memorize slip stitch pattern allows the colors in the striping pattern to shift and intermix, creating the look of colorwork without any of the complexity.

For the sample, I used my favorite sock yarn, Fibernymph Dye Works Bounce, a durable but soft superwash merino/nylon blend. The colorway is the one Lisa created for her shop's ninth anniversary based upon her customer's favorite shades, and fittingly it has nine stripes. There's a good mix of bright and more subtle shades in this colorway, which I think goes so well with the stitch pattern.

And speaking of the stitch pattern, a bonus feature I discovered after the fact is that the wrong side looks great, too, so if you weave in your ends carefully, your cowl can be reversible.

The pattern is $1 off for the first week when you use the code SLIPIT on Ravelry. Because of the issues some are having with the new Ravelry site, I've also made all my self-published patterns available on LoveCrafts (though unfortunately I'm unable to offer discounts there). You can find Slipdash here on LoveCrafts.

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Finished and Fabulous

Even though it's not one of my normal days for blogging, yesterday's post was kind of a special one (my monthly One Little Word check-in), and I still have some knitting and reading to talk about, so today I'm joining up with Kat and the Unravelers.

I have a big finish to talk about, too!

Pattern: Tegna by Caitlin Hunter, size Small/38 in. bust, with minimal ease
Needles: US 5 (3.75 mm) and US 4 (3.5 mm)
Yarn: This handspun; I used approximately 717 yards
Started/Completed: May 29/June 28
Mods: sleeve adjustment (see below)

I really could not be happier with how this turned out. It was so long in the planning (I started spinning the yarn way back in September of 2018) that it had the potential to be anticlimactic, but I'm really thrilled. And it turned out to be a pretty fast knit, too, considering that I was working on this at the same time as several other projects.

The only modification I made was to pick up several extra stitches for the sleeves, so I added some additional length to decrease those extra stitches and still get a good fit. The sleeves are fitted but not tight (I guess I should avoid doing too many bicep curls so that they continue to fit!).

The planning I did to spin the yarn so that I had two very similar skeins worked out pretty well overall. I discovered as I was knitting that they were ever so slightly different in thickness, so I occasionally threw in an extra round using the thinner skein so that the colors would transition at more or less the same time. The tricky part in maintaining the colors, of course, came when it was time to do the shaped portions of the front (the right and left of the neckline) and the sleeves. I ended up winding off various lengths of my original skeins to get to later points in the color sequence, and it seems to have worked out okay. If you look closely at the shoulders on the front, there is a noticeable stripe, but I did that purposefully so both fronts would look like they matched. The sleeves don't quite match as well, but at least they share a lot of that green.

I'm delighted that this is done and I can now wear it (though where, I can't really say). My sweater mojo is still pretty high, and I dug out yarn to start another one soon.

I'm also still working on my Through the Loops Mystery Shawl, and I finished Clue 5 yesterday. Spoilers ahead!

I know that's not the best photo, but it's getting large enough that it's difficult to get in the whole shawl and also show details (not to mention that the lace really won't be that apparent until it's blocked). Clue 5 used only Color B (the rust color, in my case) and was all lace. I was happy and surprised to see that when it was done, I had knit stems of flowers with curling leaves:

Can you see them? Again, apologies for the poor photo. This lovely shawl deserves a decent photo shoot, and it will definitely get one when it's finished and blocked. Next week's clue will be the final one, and I'm excited to see where this goes!

Now, as to reading, there is still quite a bit. On Friday night I finished reading the eighth book in the Inspector Gamache series, The Beautiful Mystery. This installment was a bit of a departure from the others, as it took place in a decidedly different setting: a remote cloistered monastery. It was a great read that kept me guessing, and the only reason I gave it 4 rather than 5 stars is that there is a turn at the end in the relationships of the main characters in the series that I did not like (though I suspect it's somewhat necessary to keep the recurring story lines interesting).

I'm now in the middle of three books (totally strange for me, but these are strange times). I have less than 100 pages left in How to Be an Antiracist, but it's a book I am purposefully taking my time with in order to fully digest what I'm reading. I'm also 40% or so into the current Read with Us selection, Wild Game. And I did finally borrow the audiobook of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall from the library. Though I'll continue to listen to it via Craftlit because I so value Heather's additional commentary, I wanted to finish it much faster. The version I'm listening to is narrated by Jenny Agutter and Alex Jennings, two people you'll likely be very familiar with if you also watch a lot of PBS period pieces, and it's delightful. I have quite a bit still left to listen to, but it's a treat to enjoy while I'm spinning.

That's all for me for today -- but I'll be back tomorrow with a new pattern!

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

One Little Word: June

Is it just me, or does time seem to be speeding up? March felt like it was about three years long. April wasn't much faster. But June feels like it started last week. Crazy! In any case, we now find ourselves on the last Tuesday of the month, also the last day of the month, so it's time to join Honoré and friends to look back on our word for the year and how it's been playing a role in the past month.

My word for 2020 is SAVOR. When I selected it, I had no idea that I'd be spending a large part of this year essentially trapped at home without the ability to do many of the things I associated with the word. I can't eat a meal out at a good restaurant. I can't go to the movies or the theater. I can't visit a museum. I can't spend an hour perusing the shelves of the library or a bookstore. But the beauty of the One Little Word practice is that there is always a way to find your word in your life, no matter the circumstances. So my world may have gotten smaller over the past three months, but there is still plenty to appreciate.

One thing I've really come to savor, much to my surprise, has been my daily exercise. As of yesterday, I have a streak of 43 days of hitting at least 10,000 steps, and I've tried to get out to either walk or run every day since we've been home. Take a look at the last three months versus the three months prior:

I know it's helpful that the weather has been amenable to getting outside, though I distinctly remember taking a walk in early April in a rain/snow mix! I'm still not quite to the point where I can say I truly enjoy running, but it has definitely gotten easier. I'm now covering about five miles per run in total and even managing to run four miles straight before I have to slow to a walk for a bit to catch my breath. On days when I walk, I typically cover about four miles over an hour or so. No matter what my activity, I've been listening to audiobooks and podcasts while I exercise, making my time working up a sweat also a period of entertainment for me. There are so many things to savor about these workouts -- sunshine, fresh air, feeling strong and healthy, learning new things. I suspect these daily outings are going to be part of my life for the foreseeable future.

Another thing I've been really savoring about working from home is how much extra crafting time I've been getting. My job tends to be very much feast or famine -- I'm either really busy or have nothing to do. When I was still working in the office, I had to appear busy during the lean times, which meant I could bum around on the computer but that was about it. I occasionally get a lot of reading done, but my knitting has always been relegated to lunch breaks. Not anymore -- I can knit, crochet, and spin to my heart's content now when I'm not busy. And that ability has meant not only that I'm getting more projects done but that my stress levels have decreased. I am much calmer about the state of the world because I am getting plenty of that meditative practice of stitching and treadling.

Finally, I'm getting a lot of joy from my garden, which is not nearly as impressive as some of yours, but I savor my time out there and my ability to get things to grow, especially because I do not seem to have a naturally green thumb. Our back garden is doing so-so, which is generally the case because it doesn't really get enough sun to grow as much as I'd like, but some things are doing well. Here is the vegetable patch, where I have one surviving tomato plant, peas (which seem to be the only thing doing really well), and just-planted cucumber and butternut squash seedlings. That huge green thing on the left? That's what happens when you plant the root of a head of celery. I did that last year and have just let it grow.

The flower side is doing well, as it gets more sun. The marigolds are going strong, as are the bits of Russian sage I transplanted from along the driveway in an effort to get more bees to the backyard. Those things with the chopstick supports? Those are our recently transplanted sunflower seedlings.

Finally, I have the herb corner next to the porch. The very tall green things are garlic; we had a few cloves that were sprouting last fall, so I stuck them in the ground just to see what would happen. We should have several bulbs to harvest at the end of the summer. The lower pot looks a bit scraggly because I've recently transplanted some of the herbs (the rosemary into the larger pot to join the two plants that have been there since last year and the oregano into the ground), but it still contains chives, basil, parsley, and sage.

Above all, what I've most been savoring this month has been the slower pace of life in general. There's been extra time to appreciate the sunshine, the warmer weather, the time spent with my family, the time to read good books and get extra sleep and cook good meals. I hope that when this pandemic is finally over, that's one thing that sticks around.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

The Tour Commences

Today is Day 2 of the Tour de Fleece. In previous years, I've basically abandoned by knitting for the duration of the Tour, but considering how much spinning I've gotten done this year, especially during that first bit of lockdown when spinning was all I could do for any extended period of time, I figured it was okay to be more relaxed about it this year. I am still working on my Rambouillet fleece and am determined to stay focused on it until it's done!

In addition to spinning a bit already today, I also took the time to wind off the singles from bobbins 5 through 8:

I think the color is finally pretty accurate here -- it's a lovely milky brown, kind of how I like my coffee. I was very pleased that I had no breakage while winding these, which means that the singles are a lot stronger than I think they are! If they can withstand the force of the ball winder, then I shouldn't have any issues when I'm plying.

This evening I'll continue to work on bobbin number 9, which looks very much like its predecessors:

I am cautiously optimistic that I will be plying by week's end!

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Plans for My Three-Day Weekend

Today is my Friday. Although my employer has temporarily removed the limits on the amount of vacation time we can accrue, the two personal days I get each year will still go POOF! at the end of the fiscal year (which is the end of this month), so this month, as I've done for several years now, I've taken two random Fridays off. In the past, one of those has typically been Rainbow's last day of school, but of course this year everything is different. Taking a day off now pretty much just means doing what I normally do every other day but not being glued to my computer. Tomorrow is my second of those days off, and while I don't have any specific plans for the day, I do have an idea of what I want to do this weekend.

For starters, I want to put some serious time in on Rainbow's crochet blanket. I must admit that I've missed a couple of days of work on it, completely unintentionally, though I'm still tracking my days so that I make sure I put in at least 100 days. As of this morning, this is all I have left to add of the original yarn set aside for the blanket:

It's now measuring about 40 inches across, which is a good size for a lap blanket but not as big as Rainbow wants it to be. So now I will start adding the additional six skeins of Felici we discovered in my stash. We will reassess the size after those have been added.

I also want to see how much I can get done on my Tegna. I finished up the back on Tuesday evening and got started on the front last night. There really isn't that much knitting left to do, though I may make the sleeves longer than specified given that it looks like I'll have plenty of yarn.

Finally, I want to devote some serious time to reading. I'm about 30-ish% into The Beautiful Mystery and am absolutely loving it, but I haven't been able to read it for any extended period of time just yet. The weather forecast for the weekend looks steamy and rainy, so it will be a good excuse to curl up in the AC with a book.

I'm off to see what Carole and friends are up to. Please share what you're working on and planning for the weekend ahead in the comments!

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

I've Been a Busy Little Bee

You know one really great thing about working from home during a pandemic? When work is slow, I can craft! And I have I ever been crafting lately. Last week was pretty darn slow at work, so although I had to keep an eye on my computer throughout the day, I pretty much always had something going in my hands. And that means I've made a lot of progress on my current projects. I just discussed my spinning two days ago and have only just started a new bobbin of singles since then, so no update is really needed there, but look, I finished a project!

These are the socks that I've been knitting for my sister-in-law as part of planning way ahead for holiday gift knitting. I finished these up last Thursday, getting the foot of the second sock done in just a day or two. I used my regular sock recipe and size 0 needles, working them over 68 stitches. The only modification I made, of course, was to add a little visual interest by slipping every other stitch for a round when the yarn changed color; I did this all the way around on the leg but only on the instep on the foot. I did take steps to make the stripes match on both sock, and I also manipulated the striping a big after I finished turning the heel by pulling out a little yarn to get to the next color so that I wouldn't have one awkward round of gold as I started the gussets. That meant a couple of extra ends to weave in, but I did that under the heel, which I figure will just add a bit of extra durability. My sister-in-law's feet are a bit smaller than mine, so I knew I wouldn't have to worry about running out of yarn, and I still have some leftover. I have yet to block these, but I will soon and then pack them away until December or until I can't wait to give them to her, whichever comes first.

I also made quite a bit of progress on my Tegna -- I've now split for the front and back and am ready to start the shoulder shaping on the back.

It looks like a silly face, doesn't it?

Now that I've made the split, I'm working with only one strand of yarn; the purpose of alternating the skeins every round before was to keep the color progression without too much variation, and now I should have front and back pieces that more or less match. This project was great company last week while I was reading, but now that I have to count and do short rows, it requires a bit more attention.

My main focus yesterday, as it has been for the past few weeks, has been the Through the Loops Mystery Shawl. I didn't have to tink or rip back at all to complete Clue 4, but I also didn't manage to get it all done yesterday, so I literally just finished the last four rows. Spoiler alert -- here comes a photo with Clue 4 all done!

I think this photo doesn't do it much justice because the lace is all scrunched up and it's hard to see the small section with mosaic knitting, so trust me when I tell you that it's stunning. This has definitely been a fun knit, and I'm really looking forward to seeing where it goes in the last two clues. I'm also thankful that I've been able to keep up with the clues every week!

Though I haven't been able to do it as part of multitasking as much in the past few days, I have still been reading. I finished Such a Fun Age last week, which was just so-so for me. It had the potential to be better, in my opinion, but it wasn't bad. I gave it 3 stars. I am now onto The Beautiful Mystery, which I've anxiously been awaiting from the library. I'm fighting simultaneous urges to rush through it (because I know others are waiting for it) and to savor it (because I love these books and I've been waiting to read it). I expect I'll make it through all of it this week. I'm also still reading How to Be an Antiracist and am taking my time with it because it deserves my full attention.