Thursday, June 30, 2011

Waiting for Saturday

I've been quiet here for several days because I've been busy with a number of things, the main one being a frequently cranky toddler (we are trying to wean her off her pacifier, and she is not very happy about it).

Knitting has been sporadic, though I did manage to finish a cute baby hat for the service knitting.


It's been a while since I knit this pattern (you may remember that I made Rainbow one that she wore all her first winter), and I had forgotten how fast it goes! I'm using some Cascade 220 Superwash that I found in the orphan bin at my LYS and some scraps of Dream in Color Classy leftover from my FLS. This little hat used a shockingly small amount of the purple yarn, so I should be able to get quite a few hats out of this one skein. I need to make one more to complete my total number of pledged projects, which I think I can reasonably do over the weekend.

My main activity this week has been clearing off the bobbins of my Lendrum in anticipation of the start of the Tour de Fleece this Saturday. I've been plying the singles of my CMF Eye of the Tiger, and the resulting yarn is turning out to be extremely poofy even before finishing. Case in point: take a look at this packed bobbin:

I still have a fair amount of singles left to ply, and that's after I've been manually turning the bobbin to get more yarn to wind on (the bobbin is so full that the yarn is actually touching the sliding yarn guide, so the yarn won't wind on on its own). I really hate to have a big skein and a tiny skein, so I may continue with the manual thing for a little longer to get as much plied into one skein as I can. The rest will probably go on my leftovers bobbin, which is almost full now.

Have a great holiday weekend, if you're celebrating! Next post: the TdF begins!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sparkle Sparkle!

As promised, here is the green sparkly yarn that I finished a couple of weeks ago.


The fiber was Frabjous Fibers Merino Sparkle, a 65% merino/35% nylon sparkle blend. This particular colorway was called Balsam. This yarn is what made me fall in love with my Hansen miniSpinner. I had used it twice to ply some previously spun singles before, but this is the first yarn that was spun entirely on it. I spun the first bobbin of singles on one day, spun the second bobbin on another, and plied them on the third. All told, I think this yarn took four days from start to finish, and I'm pretty sure that's a new record for me (not counting the uber-bulky skein I spun up in the first two days after I got my Lendrum).


This ended up a little heavier than I was intending -- I was going for a fingering weight and this is more of a sport weight -- but I love it anyway. The sparkle is subtle, and it's not at all showing in these pictures; when the light catches the skein at a certain angle, it almost glows.


While my miniSpinner and I still have some getting acquainted to do (it doesn't put as much plying twist in as I usually like, for instance, though the yarns I've plied on it seem to come off balanced), I predict that this is the beginning of a long and beautiful relationship.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

On Design: Part I

First things first: A surprise was waiting for me when I got home yesterday. I took about 30 seconds to open the box before I had to run to pick Rainbow up at daycare, but later in the evening I was able to bury my hand in the fiber and enjoy.


In case you're wondering, yes, this is the fleece I bought at MDSW, a 5 lb. white Romney. I have yet to pull the fiber out of the box and weight it to see how much I lost in cleaning and carding, but the shipping label says that the whole box was 5 lbs. 9 oz., and I can't imagine that a cardboard box can be all that heavy. The fiber itself turned out beautifully -- creamy white, just a few traces of VM that will be easy to pick out, and fairly soft. I am looking forward to getting to know this fleece, but I think I am going to hold off on spinning anything more than a small sample until later in the summer. I'd like to spin for another sweater, and for that I need to focus just on that one spinning project. I'm reserving this summer for spinning all sorts of stuff in my stash.

I have not touched my Essential Cardigan in almost a week, and the knitting I've been doing has been for a service project or a design I'm working on. Because I lack any good projects to show you, I thought I'd start a series of posts on some of the designing I've been doing. I've been awaiting word on one design that I submitted for publication (and I may have a while yet to wait), but there's another pattern I've been working on that I'm planning to put up on Ravelry for download, so I can share it with you.

This particular pattern is for a pair of mittens. It all started with a motif that occurred to me as I was trying to fall asleep one night, which seems to be when design ideas come to me!. Partly because of this, I have a little pad of paper on my nightstand, so I was able to jot down a quick sketch of what I was thinking; it looked something like this:


From there, it was a matter of creating a chart to see how I could get this motif to fit into a mitten shape. I have a set template in Microsoft Excel I've been working with that gives me a mitten shape and size I like, so I plopped the motif into the chart and played with it to get it to fit to my satisfaction. I've already designed and knit some mittens from this chart template, so I know that the stitch counts work, but I had to make sure that this motif had a repeat that would fit well. Luckily, it did, so that was one obstacle down.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Eye of the Tiger

I had intended to show you the super sparkly yarn I spun last week today, but it is still at my LYS being evaluated by the spinning teacher for the Summer of Socks and Lace contest, so alas, you'll have to wait to see it. (Trust me when I tell you it will be worth it -- I am ridiculously in love with that yarn.)

Instead, for this Sunday's post, here's a look at what I've been spinning on my Lendrum in the past week.


This is the Columbia wool that came from Crown Mountain Farms as May's shipment for this year's fiber club. The colors aren't registering exactly true here (it's more orange and brown in real life), but doesn't it remind you of an old crocheted afghan your grandparents used to have on their couch? Okay, maybe that's just my memory, but the color scheme does seem a little '70s to me, which is certainly a perfect fit for something called Eye of the Tiger.

This is the first time I've spun this particular breed, and I'm finding it an interesting spin. It's very springy and spongy, so I have a feeling this will be a yarn that will poof up in the finishing process. I'm spinning this on my Lendrum rather than my miniSpinner -- and you may wonder why when I tell you that the green yarn I have yet to show you was spun and plied in four days on it. Unfortunately, this particular batch of wool is very neppy and has a somewhat surprising amount of VM in it. I don't mind it so much, as I can easily pull out a piece of hay every now and then, but because of how often I'm stopping to do that, it really makes more sense to use the wheel I can start and stop easily. Plus, as amazing as the speed of the miniSpinner is, the Lendrum is my first love and it's so relaxing to sit and treadle and enjoy the process -- not to mention that the beauty of having two wheels is that I can work on two projects at a time.

I'm planning on finishing up the first bobbin tonight and will spin up a second bobbin probably this week. I'm hoping that this will be about a fingering weight when it's done so it will count toward the contest, but more than anything I'll be looking forward to being done with it so I can spin something in a different color (orange is not my favorite!). Although the June shipment from the fiber club is orange and yellow ...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Wowed

I have to say that I am truly amazed by the response to my last post. I greatly appreciate what you all had to say and the fact that you said it; while at its heart this blog is about me and my process, it really wouldn't be the same without readers and without the interaction and dialogue that your comments create. I've responded to those of you who have an e-mail address associated with your Blogger account, but for those of you who don't, please consider this my most heartfelt thank you for sharing your thoughts. Had there been no response, I would have likely given up the blog in favor of more time to knit and spin, but I am really pleased and happy to know that there are people out there who are interested in what I'm doing, and so rest assured I will continue blogging!

I certainly understand that there are many of you who don't like to comment or just choose not to, and that's fine. Please know, though, that it really makes my day to know that someone is interested enough in what I have to say or in what I'm working on that they leave me a comment. I'm going to do my best to comment more often on the blogs I read (even though I'm guilty of reading many of them through Google Reader!), even if it's just a couple of words to say, "Hi, I'm reading and I'm enjoying!"

I'm going to keep the poll up until it runs out, but I'm getting a sense that what I have been doing has been working, so I'm not going to mess with what's not broken.

Since last we talked about actual knitting, I've been dutifully working on my Essential Cardigan, for which the end is finally in sight. Because the sleeves were so close to being done, last Friday morning I blocked the other pieces so they'd be ready once I finished up the sleeves. That happened on Monday, and as soon as they were bound off I sewed the shoulder seams of the body. The pattern says to sew all the seams before picking up for the button/neck band, but that just seems silly to me -- why have to turn an entire sweater if I can avoid it? On Tuesday night, I sat down and picked up the 200+ stitches for the button/neck band (it's one long piece up one side, around the neck, and down the other side); amazingly, I managed to get the specified number of stitches picked up and I did so on the first try! That has to be a good sign. The rows are very long, and the WS rows especially take a long time because they're essentially 1x1 rib, but once I'm done, I'm done. By the end of knit night last night, I had about an inch done, and I have to get to four inches total, so I figure it should take me about another week to finish knitting and get the rest of the seaming done (assuming I'm a good girl and work on this project).

Doesn't this look exciting?
I also finished up a pair of baby socks yesterday. I'd been working on them during my lunch breaks, so only a little bit at a time, but luckily baby socks are so small that they go really quickly. These are being added to the pile of baby items I'm making for a Ravelry service project; I still have to make another washcloth and a couple of hats to fulfill my pledge. These were made from some Patons Stretch Socks that I picked up on clearance at Michaels for about $3. I found another ball that is a pink variegated colorway that might have to be turned into some socks for Rainbow. It's certainly not a luxurious sock yarn, but it's washable and knits into a comfy fabric, and the price was certainly right!


I will have some pretty spinning to show you this weekend and I've been dreaming about some designs in addition to working on them in my waking hours, so it looks as though my mojo may be coming back!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Thoughts on Blogging

I've been thinking a lot lately about blogging and what it's become for me. I started this blog about five and a half years ago, just when I was getting serious about knitting and just when I was first discovering all the online resources that were out there. Because of the blog (and, more generally, due to my discovery of the fact that there were such things as knitting blogs), I've made good friends online and in real life. I've truly developed into a Knitter-with-a-capital-K and become a spinner as well. I've even started doing some designing.

The blog started out as an outlet for me when I was between jobs and alone much of the day. I'd always kept diaries and journals, so this was yet another way for me to think things through and record my thoughts, though in this case they were specific to crafting. Then it became a way for me to keep track of projects -- what yarn I'd used, what adjustments I'd made, what problems I'd encountered and how I'd solved them. Finally, it became a way for me to connect with other knitters, both those I knew in real life and those I only knew in the virtual world.

Obviously, once Rainbow was born, my time to blog shrank dramatically. Still, I knew (or at least hoped!) there were people still reading, so I tried to post regularly, albeit with some reduced frequency. Lately I've been aiming for two posts a week, which has been pretty doable. I've tried not to let spinning take over the blog because this was, after all, started as a knitting blog. But I've also struggled because there are times when I'm just not doing much knitting and I don't feel like I have much to say.

I think it's also important to note that the blog started in the days before Ravelry. At the time, it was great for me to have a place to document all the stages and details of a project, but now that I can do that in my Ravelry notebook, the blog starts to seem a little redundant. That said, I do still like the writing aspect of a blog post; I suppose I could write copious notes in the relevant section of my project page, but hitting "Save" doesn't seem to give me quite the same sense of satisfaction as does hitting "Publish Post."

I guess where all this is going is that I'd love to get your feedback, dear readers (if, in fact, there are any of you left!), on where this blog is heading. I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a bit of a comment "hoar," as they say on Ravelry, and I've notice that for the past month or so, there have been very few comments on my posts. I know that I read a lot of blogs and don't always post, so I'm sure some of you are still reading, but it would be nice to know for sure! If you're reading but not commenting, I'd love to know why. Are you too busy? Not interested in what I have to post? Something else entirely? If I do decide to keep this blog up and running, I would like it to be useful, and one of the most useful things I've found about it is the dialogue it has started with readers.

In the interest of doing some market research, I've put up a poll in the sidebar. It'll be up for the next week. Please feel free to leave a comment as well! (Oh, and you'll also notice that I changed the layout again. Seems I was still in the dark ages of Blogger and wasn't using all the tools available because I hadn't upgraded my template.)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Down to Earth, Part I

Those of you who know my spinning know that my favorite dyer is Kristin at All Spun Up. When I first discovered her Etsy store, very few people knew about her, so it was relatively easy to get my hands on some of her hand-dyed fiber. Of course, once handspun from her fiber started showing up on Ravelry, it wasn't long before she became incredibly popular -- to the point where if you didn't pounce the minute she posted an update to the store, you couldn't get any of her fiber.

Thankfully, Kristin has been doing regular spinalongs. She posts ahead of time what the fiber blend will be (though the colorway is a mystery), and if you want to participate, you post in a thread on her Ravelry group so she has an idea of how much fiber to dye. The listing is then up for a couple of days, and as long as you check within 24-48 hours of the listing, chances are good that you can get some of this much-coveted fiber.

For this May/June, the fiber blend was merino/silk (an 80%/20% blend), so I signed up for a double dose of 8 ounces. The dye job did not disappoint -- she calls this particular colorway Down to Earth.

For now, I started with half of the fiber and spun a very thin single (I'm not sure I realized just how thin it was), then chain plied it to keep the colors distinct.

I am completely thrilled with how this turned out. As I was spinning it, it made me think of a seascape -- the pale blue of the water, the white of the sea foam, the brown of the sand and pieces of driftwood, and the gray of a cloudy sky. And of course there is nothing like the experience of spinning this fiber blend; it is just luscious going through your fingers, and the resulting yarn is soft, silky, and light.

This skein also marks my first entry into my LYS' Summer of Socks and Lace contest. I was aiming for fingering weight, but at more than 600 yards for my 4 ounces, it's on the light side of that.

I have no idea what this will grow up to be, but in the meantime, I will be very happy just wearing it wrapped around my neck! I still have another 4 ounces to play with, so perhaps I'll have a matching skein for this in the near future.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Playing Hooky

Wonder why I'm posting at 9 a.m. on a Friday? It's because I'm playing hooky today -- well, actually just taking a day off. I had a couple of days that I was going to lose by the end of the month, so I figured I'd take a couple of Fridays off just for me. As soon as my LYS opens, I'm planning on taking my miniSpinner, some knitting, and some brownies that are in the oven right now and planting myself on their couch for the day.

I've spent most of my crafty time this week at my wheel, plying up some yarn that you'll see on Sunday, but I've also been a good girl and have been working on the sleeves of my Essential Cardigan. As of last night, I have about 20 rows left on my sleeve caps.

I'm still pretty bored by this project, but at least the end is now in sight. I'm going to block the back and front pieces while I finish the sleeves, and then I'll be able to start on the collar/button bands while the sleeves block. I have a feeling that last part of the knitting is going to take a while, but I'm hoping that the fact that it's the last thing to do will motivate me to keep going and get it done.

I had some handspun leftover from Steven's socks, so I made a quick pair of baby socks during my lunch breaks this week.

These are going toward a charity knitting project on Ravelry. I'm hoping they'll make someone's feet very happy!

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Spinning Sunday: Handspun FO Edition

Today's edition of Spinning Sunday comes not with shots of handspun or handspun in progress but rather something actually knit with handspun (it's rare, I know! I'm doing my best to remedy that). You may remember that I've made some reference in recent posts to a pair of handspun socks that I'd been working on. I couldn't show them to you before because they were a surprise, but they were presented to the recipient yesterday, so I can finally reveal them.

Here they are! As of yesterday, these are now gracing the feet of Steven. I'm sure you're wondering what he did to deserve a pair of handknit, handspun socks. Well let me tell you. A couple of months ago, when he thought he was soon to be leaving town, he did a bit of fiber destashing, and apparently he thought I was worthy of some really nice stuff. I haven't had a chance to document it on the blog just yet, but boy did I get an extraordinarily generous surprise from him -- in the form of samples of uber-luxurious fiber. We're talking silk, silk and cashmere, and yak (or was it bison? it's super soft, whatever it is). I haven't yet worked up the courage to try to spin any of it yet, but I've been petting it plenty.

This unexpected windfall was such an amazing surprise. I knew that the proper way to say thanks was with wool, and if you know Steven, you know that he loves handknit socks but rarely makes any for himself. I had the perfect man-friendly skein of superwash merino sock yarn in the stash and I knew it would be perfect for him.

Thankfully, Steven prefers ankle socks -- I say thankfully because he has large feet, or at least large relative to the feet I'm used to knitting for! With 80 stitches cast on, I kept it simple: an inch of 2x2 ribbing and a stockinette foot with a wedge toe. For such simple socks, they did take a while! Here they are with a pair of my socks on top for reference.

In any case, when I gave them to Steven, he immediately took off his shoes and socks and put them on, despite the fact that it was 80+ degrees outside. I think that means they're a success!