Tuesday, March 28, 2017

I Packed My Mojo

Greetings from Southwest Florida! We're now a few days into our vacation and enjoying every minute. The first day, the weather wasn't so great, but I've managed to get a sunburn since then and have spent many hours outdoors, including about four at the beach today. I've finished one book and am halfway through another. And my knitting mojo is strong.

I've spent the last two evenings working on my Quill, and it has grown quite a bit! I've finished the first feather and am into the second, and when I measured the body before putting it away last night, I think I only had about three inches left before the start of the armhole shaping.

The other project that's seen a good deal of attention is the socks I started on Friday. I worked on them on the flight down (while catching up on the 90% Knitting podcast) and in the car, and I've already got half a sock done.

The sock may look all sweet and innocent, but it was not so good last night when I was trying to turn the heel and start the gusset. When I finished turning the heel, I found that I had an even number of heels stitches when I should have had an odd number. I figured I'd just fudge it and add in the missing stitch, but after I was a couple of rounds into the gusset, I spotted a dropped stitch in the heel flap. So I pulled the whole sock off the needles and ripped back to the issue to fix it. On the second go-round, I seem to have picked up different numbers of stitches on each side of the heel flap, so my gusset is going to end up being a little uneven. These are for me, though, so I'm ignoring it and moving on.

I haven't yet started my shawl, but I think I will probably start it very soon -- perhaps even as soon as I publish this post!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Better than Expected

I'm writing this post from my favorite chair in Florida, officially on vacation. But before we left for our trip, I did manage to finish up my spinning project. I didn't have many expectations for this FatCatKnits Polwarth/flax yarn, as I'd never spun such a blend of fiber before, so I was very pleasantly surprised by the outcome.

I anticipated that the Polwarth would poof up some when it was washed, and it did, but only slightly -- not nearly as much as a 100% Polwarth usually does. The skein was fairly balanced after washing, too, and it still seems to have good drape. After finishing the yarn is roughly light fingering and 272 yards for 2.5 ounces.

Another pleasant surprise was how well the colors lined up in plying. I had split the fiber in half (more or less) lengthwise, but there was a bit more on one bobbin than the other, so there's a bit of barberpoling, but I think it adds to the depth of color. The flax content gives a tweediness to the yarn that I really like.

My only complaint about this skein is that, as I suspected it would, it blend considerably when I washed it: The wash water was a dark purple. The rinse water was a much lighter purple, so I highly suspect that it was a case of excess dye. I didn't notice any purple on the towel I used to dry the skein or in the shower where it was hung to dry, so I'm hoping I got it all out.

I won't be doing any spinning this week, but I'm excited to spin up the other skein of yarn from this club shipment when I get back!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Hello, Old Friend

After finally finishing up the secret project last night (turns out a three-needle bind off takes way longer than I though it would), I can once again to return to my poor neglected Quill sweater. I haven't touched it in probably two weeks, and I've missed it. It has grown a bit since the last time you saw it -- I'm now into the waist increases and a good way through the first feather.

I am so happy to be knitting this again. This pattern is such a pleasure, just the perfect mix of mindlessness and mindfulness. I'll be taking it with me to Florida, where I predict it will see a lot of attention. I don't know that I'll actually finish it in a week, but I can certainly make some good progress.

I am still working on the Sockhead hat, though primarily only when I'm putting Rainbow to bed, so it doesn't look much different from the last time you saw it. I encountered a knot in the yarn last night, which very obviously interrupted the patterning, but I think that will be less of an issue in this hat than it would have been in a pair of socks. I know that knots like this are a fact of life but I can't help but be annoyed when they happen in something that has a very obvious pattern or repeat.

Tomorrow, in preparation for the trip, I'm planning to cast on for a new pair of socks using the Online Supersocke you saw last week so I'll have something for the plane. I've never had an issue with knitting getting through security before, but just in case I'm going to start them with my Karbonz needles and pack a pair of Addi Rockets in my checked bag.

While I'm looking forward to the extra knitting time (and extra sleep) that comes with vacation, I'm also really looking forward to reading for pleasure more than I get to do typically. I finally finished the seventh (I think?) Outlander book the other night, and last night I started Hidden Figures. I've only read the prologue and the first chapter thus far, but I'm really enjoying it. It is significantly shorter in length than my most recent read but also nonfiction, which means I have to slow down my reading speed to catch everything. That said, I don't think it will take me too long to get through, and I'm hopeful that I'll be able to read at least two books during the week away. I set my Goodreads reading challenge at 20 books again this year (I met and exceeded that goal last year), but if I'm going to stay on track, I need finish two more books by the end of the month. Fortunately I'll have plenty to choose from, as my mother has promised me a stack of books she's already read.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Need Some Color?

Well, it's officially spring now, even though it doesn't much feel like it just yet. Though all the plants and trees around our house seem to be sprouting, there are no leaves or flowers out just yet -- and I'm really craving color. We've had some warmer days, and obviously there's more daylight now, but what really says spring to me is the color of spring flowers and green buds on the trees (also seasonal allergies, but I've got that covered!). I guess I now know why I chose such a bright color for my most recent pair of socks.

Pattern: Cape Cod Socks by knottygnome crafts
Yarn: Youghiogheny Yarns Mon Sock in Pygmy Puff
Needles: US 0 (2.0 mm) Addi Sock Rockets
Started/Completed: February 18/March 16
Mods: substituted my usual wide toe

These were a fun knit. Once I'd gotten through about half a repeat of the stitch pattern, I had it memorized, so I was able to knit most of the socks without needing the pattern on hand. I think perhaps my yarn was a tad bit busy for the stitch pattern, as it's a bit lost, but the texture is certainly more interesting than plain stockinette. I think this pattern would make excellent man socks, and I have two skeins of gray Lorna's Laces that have been in my stash forever that will likely become another pair of these socks for one of the men in my life later this year.

My only significant modification to the pattern was to sub in my usual toe. The pattern calls for a spiral toe, which I find uncomfortable to wear because I can feel the decrease lines.

I really loved this yarn, though it is on the thin side of fingering, and I have about 130 yards left to do something with (I'm thinking some preemie hats). It was my first time using yarn from Youghiogheny Yarns, who are relatively local to me, and I'm looking forward to trying their worsted weight base when I knit with the skein Rainbow bought from them at Indie Knit and Spin.

In other knitting, the secret project should be finished up tonight, so I'll be getting back to my sweater knitting. I've also finally moved on from the ribbing of my Sockhead, so my speed has definitely picked up. I took it to work the past two days for my lunch break knitting, and that has helped it move along. I will say that I'm really glad I decided to use this skein for a charity hat and not for socks for me, because these are really not at all my colors!

I will likely be casting on a new pair of socks toward the end of the week to take on the trip, and I've wound up two skeins of handspun to take for a new design knit.

I think those plus the sweater should be enough for a week away, especially considering I'm planning on spending a significant portion of the week reading for pleasure. But knowing myself as I do, I wouldn't be surprised if a skein or two of kitchen cotton winds up in my suitcase as well.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

There's Always a Learning Curve

After neglecting my spinning for most of last week, I spend a fairly good amount of time at the wheel Friday night, yesterday, and today. I'm trying really hard to get through my unspun FatCatKnits club shipments, and I've been working on the last remaining one for the most recent round of the club (I still have a couple I haven't spun from one of the rounds last year, but as those are packed away in the stash, I'm not thinking of them for the time being).

The fiber blend this time was something really interesting and unlike anything I've spun before -- 80% Polwarth, 20% bleached flax -- so it's taken some adjusting to in order to get into the groove of spinning it. The flax seems to be in two main forms: soft clumps of fiber that seem more like silk or bamboo and wiry fibers that feel more like kemp. I've been resisting the urge to pull out every little bit of it, though I have tossed the stray fiber that didn't want to get twisted in with the rest and some slubs here and there. Here's a photo of the first bobbin, which gives a good idea of the texture I'm getting.

The flax occasionally gets doubled up on itself and pokes out a bit (you can see one bit of it just below the end of the singles in the middle of the bobbin above), so these singles definitely aren't as smooth or even as I'm accustomed to spinning them. They are more or less my default singles, though they do have thicker spots, and I think that with the poof that Polwarth tends to have when it's washed, the finished two-ply yarn will be fingering weight or so.

Ready to be plied
I've decided to once again spin this shipment up as two separate two-ply skeins, one for each colorway. This one is called Coral Reef, and though it looks like a fairly consistent green on the bobbin, there is more green at the beginning and a blend of blue and purple in the middle. If you don't believe me, take a look at what my hand looked like after I finished spinning that section:

The tips of my left thumb and index finger were also a rather alarming purple. This isn't typical for Ginny's fibers, so I suspect that the dye was coming off of the flax, which doesn't take dye the same way wool does. I'll just have to keep an eye on the finished skein when I wash it now that I know that there may be some excess purple in it. I'm interested to see what happens to the flax content of the yarn after it's washed and knit, particularly if it softens up.

The week ahead should be an interesting one, though I'm hoping to find some time to ply up this skein and perhaps make a good start on the other. Rainbow is on spring break and the Mister is traveling for work, so our schedule should be a bit odd. On the plus side, our mornings won't be as hectic, as I won't be rushing her to get out the door, but I will be on bedtime duty every night (though that means bonus knitting and reading time). We are leaving next Saturday for a week down in Florida with my parents, so I'll also have to find time to pack and plan the knitting projects. And my main goal for the week is to finish the Outlander book I've been reading so I can start something new on the way down.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Status Quo

I fear my knitting this week is fairly unexciting. I've been spending most of my time on knitting I can't show you (it's a design commission that has to stay secret until it's published), so my only real progress that I can share with you has been on my Cape Cod Socks.

These are actually getting close to being done, in large part thanks to the fact that last night I finally got to go to knit night at the Steel City Fiber Collective again. I've been trying to go for the past few weeks, but the Mister's work schedule has prevented it. Last night I managed to get through the entire gusset and get a bit of foot done, and after knitting during lunch today, I only have one repeat left on the foot and the toe remaining before I have a finished pair.

Should I feel the need to cast on another pair right away, I have some choices now -- and here's where I have to admit that I did buy some yarn last week when Rainbow and I visited Knitsburgh. Rainbow actually spotted this skein first, and I liked it so much that it had to come home with me (along with some wool wash, which I was really in need of and had intended to purchase):

This is Online Supersocke. It's self-patterning and one of those wear-like-iron wool/nylon blends, so the socks will likely be indestructible. I'm thinking that this will be good for the spring break trip that Rainbow and I will be taking to Florida the week after next (we're headed down with my parents; the Mister has a work trip during that week and can't make it).

We've got very little planned for the weekend ahead, and I'm planning on taking advantage of that. In addition to knitting and spinning, I have about 200 pages left to read in my book (of about 1,150 total), and I'd really like to finish it before we go on our trip so I can take a couple of shorter books with me. And I suppose part of the weekend should be spent planning the most important part of the trip -- what knitting I'm taking with me!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

We're Not Done Yet

It seems that winter is back. For a brief period of time, it seemed like we were getting an early spring, but I guess we're not through with the cold weather and snow just yet, so the handknits have been getting a lot of wear. And somehow I feel better about having multiple projects on the needles when knitting seems seasonally appropriate.

Still on the needles are my Cape Cod Socks (the first sock is done, the second sock is almost to the heel), my Quill sweater (which has had maybe a dozen rows added to it), and the charity Sockhead Slouch Hat. This last project has seen a good amount of attention the past couple of nights as I've put Rainbow to sleep, and I'm nearly to three inches on the ribbing. I think it'll go much faster once I get to the stockinette, as I won't constantly have to stop and check -- in the dark, by the light of my iPad -- if I've got the ribbing right. I'm glad that I decided to use this yarn for this project, as it definitely isn't my colors.

In all the excitement of finishing up Rainbow's sweater last week, I completely forgot to talk about my weaving class of the weekend prior. I did enjoy the actual weaving part of it, but I did not care as much for winding off the warp and warping the loom -- it's a lot of work, and it takes a while. In comparison to knitting, weaving is faster, but you can't just sit down and weave like you can sit down and knit. There's a lot of setup and planning that has to happen before you actually get to the weaving part.

The class ended up being a private lesson, as I was the only person who'd signed up, so we were able to get through the material pretty quickly, and at the end of the first day, I'd made a little scarf with part of an old skein of Cascade 220.

I wove until I ran out of warp on the loop (though there was still yarn left for weft) and ended up with a scarf that's only long enough to drape over the neck and perhaps pin in place for an adult -- but the perfect length for a certain small person, who promptly claimed it without any suggestion from me.

On the second day, I wound off warp that was much longer than what I'd done the first day (about four yards or so) so that I could get a full adult-sized scarf. I had dug through my stash and found a gallon-sized bag full of skeins of Elsebeth Lavold Silky Tweed that I think I bought on closeout at WEBS many years ago. I'm not sure what possessed me to buy so much at the time (other than perhaps the price); I made a sweater out of one color several years back but still had maybe eight skeins left. I ended up using two skeins of the blue for warp and about two skeins of the gray for weft, and the finished scarf is approximately 78 inches long (excluding fringe) and 6 inches wide after blocking.

It's a little more blue in real life

I'm pleased with the finished scarf, for all its wonky selvedges, but I'm feeling pretty confident in saying that I'm not going to be taking up weaving. Perhaps someday I'll feel differently, but for now, I'm pretty satisfied with knitting and spinning. There's always the option of buying a day pass or monthly pass to the fiber collective and using their looms if I feel the urge to weave (for instance, if I need a bunch of gifts in a hurry), and I still have my little Zoom Loom at home if I'm in the mood for a quick little project.