Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Indecision

I am still plugging away at my Stripe Study Shawl, but I've come to a bit of an impasse. I was planning on making it bigger (i.e., adding more stripes) because (a) I had much more yarn than called for and (b) because of my smaller gauge, it was going to turn out smaller if I knit it as specified in the pattern. So now I've done 13 stripes (the pattern calls for 12) and there's still a decent-sized ball of GWAT left. I could do another stripe and then the border, but the rows are getting really, really long, and the border rows will only get longer.



The way I see it, I have two choices: do one more stripe in GWAT and the normal border or start the border now and make it wider if I want. Okay, technically I guess there's a third option: do the border now and make it the normal size. Thoughts?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Sunday SIP*

After finishing my last two spins, I decided to go back to my spinning roots, so to speak, and do what is generally my default yarn. Most spinners, when they're not trying for a specific style and weight, find that their fingers automatically spin the same kind of yarn over and over. For me, it's a three-ply fingering weight. I had this vibrant roving from Crown Mountain Farms -- 4 oz. of Debouillet in a pink/orange colorway called Trinity -- ready and waiting by my wheel, and a semisolid colorway seemed perfectly suited to the yarn I usually spin.


It's a bit toned down in person, but the colors are pretty vibrant. I split the roving more or less into thirds and started spinning up the singles last Sunday, I believe. I didn't spend a huge amount of time on it this week, but I'm working on the third bobbin now.


As you can see, I have about half a bobbin to go, so I will finish tonight or tomorrow, most likely. Unfortunately, it's not going as quickly as it could (despite the fact that I'm spinning on the miniSpinner) because this is roving, not combed top, and thus more susceptible to neps. There's also a fair amount of VM in it, so I'm stopping roughly every 30 seconds or so to pull out a piece of hay or a fuzz ball. It's mildly annoying to have to stop so often as well as to think about the waste stuff I pull out of the yarn. For instance, here's the pile of stuff I've removed just from the first half of the third bobbin's worth:


This doesn't include the small bits of VM that have fallen out on their own and onto my lap while I've been spinning, either. It's annoying, yes, but it's also part of dealing with wool. I think I've realized, though, that I really prefer a combed prep (combed top) to a carded prep (roving). I guess it's as good to know what you like in spinning as it is to know what you like in any other aspect of life!


*Spin in progress, that is

Thursday, March 22, 2012

More Cables

In spite of the fact that is most definitely summery outside (I've been wearing capris and sandals to work for two days!), I am still chugging right along on my handspun sweater. I know there's probably a snowball's chance in hell that I'll actually be able to wear it when it's done (at least, not for anything longer than the photo shoot needed to prove it's actually done), but I'm not the sort of person who usually leaves projects unfinished*.  So I will finish this sweater this spring. I will admire it and then pack it away until the weather is appropriate for it.

Last night at Hurricane Knitting, I got through another repeat of the cable chart on the front, which was what I had calculated I needed to do for it to be the proper length to start the underarm shaping. I measured before we left and I was about half an inch short of where I needed to be, but holding it up against the back this morning, it looks like I might just be there:

I Heart Aran, front in progress

I will do another comparison to be sure tonight, but things are looking promising. The front should go much faster from here on out, as the neck shaping starts at the same time as the underarm shaping (or very shortly after it) and I'll be working on the front sections separately. Then it's just the arms, which I'm planning to do at the same time, and the shawl collar. And, of course, there's the making up, but that shouldn't take me more than a solid evening of work. I'm fairly confident that this sweater will be done before it's time to head to Maryland Sheep and Wool -- which means I will give myself permission to buy another fleece!


* That is, except for my Noro Lady Eleanor stole; it's languished for a good 2+ years. But I have a good excuse for that -- I did start it just before Rainbow was born, so I was a bit distracted for several months. I swear I'll get around to finishing it one of these days!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Studying Stripes

For about three weeks or so, my lunch break knitting has been Veera Valimaki's Stripe Study Shawl. This pattern had long been in my favorites/queue, and this past Valentine's Day, I decided to buy it as a gift to myself. I'm not sure what took me so long, because I knew exactly which yarns I wanted to use for it -- these skeins of All Spun Up polwarth that I spun last summer and the summer before:

ASU GWAT on Polwarth
Goldfish Wearing a Tutu

Koi Pond
Koi Pond

These were part of the summer 2010 spinalong that Kristin of ASU ran; the three colorways all had something to do with fish, and they were all stunningly gorgeous. These two were probably destined to be together because they both contained that stunning orange-y gold -- goldfish color, really.

I spent several hours over the course of a weekend winding the skeins up into balls (yes, I could have used my winder, but there's something to be said about handling your own handspun as often as possible!) and cast on while watching the Oscars. Once I got into the rhythm of what to do where, it grew quickly. Here it is as of late last week:

Stripe Study Shawl in progress

My yarn is a little lighter than the fingering called for in the pattern (really it's more of a heavy laceweight -- both 4 oz. skeins are 550+ yards), so I went down to a US 3 from the recommended US 6 to get a fabric that wouldn't be too flimsy. I am now approaching the end of the 11th stripe, I think, but I have pretty much decided to do more than the 12 called for in the pattern. I have a fair bit of GWAT left, and I've barely touched the ball of Koi Pond, so there should be plenty for maybe two or three more stripes as well as a generous border at the bottom. The challenge is figuring out just how much more to add, as I can't really tell just how big it is now, when it's still on the needles!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Double Your (Handspun) Pleasure

Two yarns for you this week, mostly because the first one took so long that I needed a little instant gratification after it was done and spun up the next one in two evenings.

First is the December 2011 shipment from the Crown Mountain Farms fiber club, 4 oz. of 74 Organic in a colorway called Lemuria. Here was the fiber when it first arrived:


I really have not been able to capture the colors very well; in reality, it was a slightly orange pink (almost a salmon color) and pale green running into brown.

The fiber itself was very soft and seemed like it wanted to be spun fine, so I decided to use it for my first attempt at a cabled yarn. For those of you unfamiliar with this particular technique, a cabled yarn is achieved by spinning two 2-py yarns and then plying them with each other in the direction the singles were originally spun. Because any plying takes out twist, you need to have more twist than usual in the first plying so that your yarn holds together. Fortunately, I like a high amount of twist in my yarns normally, so while many instructions for cabled yarns tell you to run the first plied yarns through the wheel to add extra twist before plying them together, I just skipped to the last step. Here's the result:


I suppose I was in laceweight mode after finishing my Millifiori, because the singles I spun were so fine, the finished yarn (which is effectively a four ply) is still fingering weight. The skein is approximately 348 yards, so a good amount for some project or other. I think this fiber is a bit too soft for socks -- unless I want them to be felted socks on the first wearing -- but it would be heavenly around the neck, so perhaps a cowl or shawlette is in order.

After all that plying, I knew the next yarn had to be a singles yarn -- one step and done, in other words. Remember that fiber that showed up in my mailbox by surprise about a month ago? I'd been staring at that green the whole time I was spinning singles and plying, so it practically leapt onto my wheel. I ended up with a skein of fingering-weight singles that is just as pretty as the original fiber:


I think this just has to be knit into something for the classy lady who sent it to me, but only about 288 yards, so I'll have to get a little creative in picking a pattern. I am not sure how sensitive she is to wool (Wensleydale isn't exactly merino, either), so at this point I am thinking a lacy scarf or shawlette that she can wear outside a coat or over a sweater if it's too scratchy for her. Any suggestions are welcome!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Did I Jinx Myself?

Sometimes it really seems like Mother Nature is plotting against me. Don't get me wrong, I've really been enjoying the mild winter we've had this year (particularly days like today, when it was sunny and in the low 70s!), but it always seems to get warm just as I'm working on a sweater I'm really excited about.

Last week I had Thursday and Friday off from work, so for much of those two days, I parked myself in a comfy chair at my LYS and worked on my handspun sweater. As you can see, I made very good progress -- the back is complete and I'm a good way through the front.


The front is going rather slowly -- as is the nature of all that cabling -- but I love how it's turning out.


This piece will definitely take the most time, but it's at least quite engaging to work on. It's never boring because every row is just a little different, so I do need to pay attention to where I am on the chart. My yarn supply is also holding out well, too; I'm close to finishing my second skein, and I still have the three largest skeins (yardage-wise) left to knit.

I highly doubt I'll be able to wear this when I finish (too warm!), but it'll be really nice to have a new sweater to look forward to come fall.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Pattern Release: Teleidoscope Tam

Three patterns in three weeks! I swear I am not that prolific; by some happy accident several patterns that were in the works for several months all were ready to be published at roughly the same time. After this one, there are more in the works, but you won't see any of them for a bit.

In any case, the last of this bunch of three is another stranded colorwork pattern (I'm addicted, I'll admit it), the Teleidoscope Tam. This one is a great first project for someone who's just getting their feet wet with stranded colorwork, because there are only two colors and no long floats involved.


This is knit from the bottom up, starting with some simple 2x2 ribbing that transitions into the stranded part. There's some simple shaping on top of the crown, and the tam ends with a little nub of I-cord.

The "magic" here is in the yarn; I again used Knit Picks Chroma fingering, but any sock/fingering weight yarn with long color repeats (Noro Kureyon Sock or Silk Garden Sock, Crystal Palace Mini Mochi, Wisdom Yarns Sock Poems, etc.) would work just as well. The long color repeats make it look like you're changing colors when in fact you're only ever using two yarns the whole time, meaning just four ends to weave in.


The tam is finished with a little gentle blocking -- over a small dinner plate, if you like, but I found that I could obtain just as good a result by laying it flat on a drying rack and patting it into shape.

I had such fun knitting up this hat -- I'm only sorry that the weather seems to be improving and I don't need to wear it to stay warm!

Monday, March 05, 2012

Pattern Release: Gothic Leaves Baby Blanket

I've been a busy knitter/designer lately! I had a bunch of things in the works in the fall and early winter, and as luck would have it, they all seem to be ready at the same time. So here's my second pattern release in as many weeks, the Gothic Leaves Baby Blanket.


I originally designed this as a gift for a friend who was expecting her first baby earlier this year. While flipping through one of my Barbara Walker stitch dictionaries, I came across this stitch pattern and thought it would look lovely in a blanket. When Rainbow was born, I knit her a lace blanket that was used constantly during those first few months -- when you have a newborn in the winter, it's a bit impractical to get a winter coat, but you need something to keep them warm on those trips to see the pediatrician and the grandparents!

The lace stitch is framed by garter, which I always like in children's knits. The blanket's also very easy to upsize if desired; as written, it comes out to a pram-sized blanket (approximately 23.5 in./60 cm wide by 30 in./76 cm long), which I found to be just the right size for covering Rainbow up when she was in the carrier as a newborn -- and now is the perfect size when she wants to put her dolls and stuff animals to bed.


The lace pattern is both written out and charted, and what I really like about it is that, unlike a lot of lace, it doesn't need an aggressive blocking to open up. In fact, I worked the sample in machine-washable Cascade 220 Superwash, and although I handwashed my sample and laid it flat to dry (just smoothing out the lace a bit to open it up), you could easily throw this in the washer and dryer. Because this was designed for new mom, I wanted the care to be as easy as possible.

The blanket was a big hit with my friend; I hope you like it as well!

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Millefiori

This yarn has been done for most of this past week, but it took until this weekend to get a decent shot of it (though I still couldn't seem to get my camera to do it justice). It started out as this twist of fiber, 50% merino/50% silk from All Spun Up:


I set out to spin this a medium weight (sport to DK), but with such a high silk content, it really wanted to be spun ultra fine. So I went with it and ended up with two-ply laceweight.


The final skein is approximately 796.5 yards, so plenty to do a large shawl.


Trust me when I say that it's a lot prettier in person -- for some reason, my camera either wants to capture the color accurately or the shine accurately, but not both. The colors are rich and the shine factor is high. I'm extremely satisfied with this spin, and once I finish the current projects, this just might be the next thing on my needles.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

All Handspun, All the Time

Although in truth I haven't been doing a whole lot of knitting lately (I've been too seduced by spinning while rewatching Downton Abbey season 2), the two current projects on my needles are, somewhat amazingly, being knit in handspun.

The first is my I Heart Aran sweater, which is being done in the Romney I just spun up in the last couple of months. I started with the back, which is plain except for the requisite ribbing at the bottom, so not very exciting thus far.


I'm just past the waist shaping, so now it's just knit and purl until I reach the length to begin the underarm shaping. Before I cast on for this, I was a good knitter and remeasured, and as it turns out, my bust size is a good two inches less than I thought it was -- which means I can knit a smaller size sweater and be sure that I have plenty of yarn. I might even add some length. Of course, the finished sweater will have zero ease (I was worried two inches of ease would be too much), so I might have to be a bit heavy handed when it come time to block.

My other project is a lot more fun to look at. I had two skeins of handspun in my stash that were just begging to be knit up together, and for months now I'd been intending to turn them into a Stripe Study Shawl. This past weekend, I decided the time had come to cast on, and I'm really glad I did -- this pattern is addictive! I partially blame it for the fact that I stayed up to watch all of the Oscars on Sunday night (and then was really, really tired Monday morning!).


The colors are not quite true here because of the flash, but you can see the nice contrast I'm getting as well as how there are stripes within each stripe from the gradient in the yarn. My yarn is closer to a laceweight than a fingering, so I'm using considerably smaller needles (US 3 rather than US 6). I have way more yardage than the pattern calls for, though, so I can easily do more stripes to get the shawl to be the right size. This is going to be so cozy and bright when it's done; I have a feeling that it's going to be a regular accessory to my work wardrobe.