Monday, December 31, 2012

One Pair More

I'm still somewhat aghast at the fact that it's the last day of 2012 (though I'd be willing to bet that the fact that I'm on vacation in a warm climate might have something to do with my confusion with regard to the calendar). Nevertheless, I have one last finished project for the year*, and I think it's appropriate that I share it with you today.

More than three years ago, I bought a braid of superwash merino fiber from my favorite Etsy fiber dyer (who, alas, appears to have gone dormant; I think she may have gotten a bit burnt out after the last enormous spinalong).

All Spun Up Superwash Merino

I'd like to point out that this fiber was bought so long ago that I had to go to Flickr to find the photo, because the original is on my old computer!

In any case, shortly before Rainbow made her arrival in late 2009, I spun this 4.2 oz. of fiber up into approximately 352 yards of three-ply fingering weight sock yarn.

All Spun Up Superwash Merino

That yarn sat for a long time in my stash. I wound it into a center-pull ball shortly before our Vegas anniversary trip, but it wasn't until mid-November that I actually cast on for the socks.

I generally like to stick to plain stockinette for handspun; the yarn usually does such interesting things with color that I prefer to let it be the star and thus avoid patterns that will compete with the natural beauty of the yarn. For these, I cast on 65 stitches, worked in 3x2 ribbing for about 3.5", then switched over to stockinette for the rest of the sock (decreasing one stitch at the end of the first round to get me down to my usual 64 stitches).


I did a regular heel flap for these, but I moved the gusset decreases to under the heel (as in my Scullers Socks); I'm finding that this modification is my new favorite way to do the decreases because the sock really hugs my heel because of them. You can see this effect in this photo (though the colors aren't a accurate as they are in the photo above):


I was worried I was going to run short on yarn for these, so I made my legs only about 6" high rather than my usual 7". I probably could have eked out a little more length, but I have a nice little ball of leftovers that can be added to the bag for the long-neglected sock yarn blanket. (At this point, I might get it done for another kid or have to make it large enough to cover Rainbow when she goes to college!)

So that's the last thing I'll finish in 2012 (*there's still one unblogged FO, but it's about a dozen states away from me now, so it'll have to wait until next year). I'm still working steadily on the sweater and hope to have a progress shot for you in a few days -- we're headed on a little side trip to visit my aunt and uncle on the other coast tomorrow, so it'll be excellent car knitting.

Until we "meet" again, I wish you all good things for the new year -- health, happiness, yarn, and fiber. I'm looking forward to seeing what 2013 has in store for us!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Whirlwind

My apologies for the radio silence this past week; it was not intended. Instead, the forces of nature conspired against me and kept me from getting many things done that were on my to-do list.

To start with, we left fairly early Monday morning to drive down to the Washington, D.C., area to spend Christmas with some longtime family friends (yes, for nearly two decades now, their Christmas tradition has been to have their Jewish friends join them for Christmas!). When we started doing this, my brother and I, along with this family's three daughters, were all kids; now, three of the five of us are married and have kids.

We were busy doing last-minute shopping, gift wrapping, and packing all weekend, so I didn't get a chance to throw up a post before we left, though I did finished up some handspun in the course of the weekend. I had decided it was finally time to spin up the 50% alpaca/30% merino/20% tussah silk fiber I bought at the Yarn Hollow fiber tasting at my LYS back in the summer. The colors were so pretty on their own that I decided to chain ply to preserve them, so I just spun the top up from one end to the other. I made a bit of a rookie mistake, though. I was spinning on my miniSpinner, which has a switch to determine the direction in which it spins, and I'd neglected to flip it back after I'd plied up some yarn recently, which meant that my singles were spun in the opposite direction. I only discovered this after I'd spun a significant amount, and as I didn't want to waste what I'd already done, I just decided to keep going and ply in the opposite direction. It worked out just fine.


The finished yarn is a light fingering weight and just slightly less than 420 yards. It's incredibly soft and silky, too. I have no idea what to make with it, but I'm thinking something in the shawlette/cowl category so I can wrap this around my neck.

While I wasn't able to get to the blog before we left, I did, however, manage to start a new sweater (my first sweater design, in fact) on the way down and nearly completed the yoke by the end of the day. Unfortunately, after I got Rainbow to bed on Christmas Eve and picked it up again, I discovered that I'd cast on the wrong number to begin with, so I had to rip the whole thing out and restart. Fortunately it didn't take too long to get back to where I was.


I'm knitting this in Knit Picks Capra, which is an amazingly soft and fuzzy merino/cashmere blend. They call it a DK, but I'm finding it knits up nicely at a worsted gauge (5 stitches per inch). It held up very well to frogging and if anything even developed a nice halo because of it.

When I say that forces of nature conspired against me, I mean it. We had intended to come home the morning after Christmas, but we kept looking at the radar of the big storm headed our way and decided to leave right after Christmas dinner instead to beat it home. It was a bit of a rough trip -- Rainbow wouldn't sleep soundly, it was dark, I was starting to have stomach issues, and we didn't get home until midnight -- but it ended up being very well worth it because we had near blizzard conditions the next morning. It also appears that we all shared some sort of stomach bug at Christmas, as both my mother and I spent all day Wednesday in bed and the Mister had it on Thursday (several others in the party, we learned later, were ill as well).

Thursday morning was spent rushing around trying to get everyone packed and ready for our trip to Florida for the remainder of the break, which is easier said than done with a stubborn toddler. As it happens, we needn't have rushed; our flight was delayed two hours, and then it took us nearly an hour to get a rental car, so it was after 10 when we finally go to my parents' house (and Rainbow went straight to bed, as she'd passed out in the car after being up and alert for the entire flight). The poor thing woke up screaming at 4:30 in the morning because she woke up and had no idea where she was (and that meant that I was also up).

But now we are settled in, we've all gotten a good night's sleep, and we're getting some breakfast ready. We're here for another week, and I'm hoping to get a decent amount done on my sweater (though I fully appreciate the eccentricity of knitting a wool/cashmere sweater in Florida).

I hope that whatever you are doing in these last days of 2012 is enjoyable and relaxing!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Pause

I had fully intended to get a spinning post up on Sunday, but in all the preparations of going away for Christmas, time got away from me.

In any case, I wanted to stop for a minute to wish those of  you celebrating a very merry Christmas (and a happy Tuesday to those of you who are not)! I'm on vacation for the next two weeks and am planning on doing as much knitting as I possibly can, so expect at least a few posts.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Things We Do for Love*

Although I really should have been working on something already on the needles, last night I took the Blue Sky Organic Cotton that had been marinating in the stash for a couple of years to knit night and finally cast on for Rainbow's baby doll. This is proof that I truly love her, because if there is one type of yarn I really don't like to knit, it's cotton. This cotton is better than most, but it's still pretty hard on my hands; I had to stop and stretch my hands several times during the evening because they were cramping up. By the time I went to bed, I was ready to start the decreases on the body, so I'd gotten most of that piece done.


I had hoped that this would be a quick-ish knit, but there are so many pieces to do, I can say with certainty that it's not. Fortunately I have not promised her that it's going to be done by a certain date or time, so I don't feel the need to rush. I am, however, going to read ahead to see if there is any way to combine some of the pieces (like the body and the head or the legs and the feet). I'm looking for a way to minimize the sewing, of course, but knowing how Rainbow tends to treat her stuffed friends, I think that having as many pieces connected as possible is going to be better for durability.

In other knitting, I have reached the heel of my second handspun sock and did manage to snap a photo of my new trick for minimizing holes at the top of the gusset to share with you. Although I know of many tricks to eliminate holes that result where stitches are picked up for the gusset, my issue has always been in the instep stitches right next to where the stitches are picked up; for some reason, those stitches always seem to stretch out, resulting in a hole that I've always had to sew up on the inside after the socks were complete.

As I was knitting the first sock of this pair, I had a thought: Because creating the heel of a sock involves short rows, and with short rows often comes the wrap & turn, what if I wrapped those instep stitches when I was starting the heel and then picked up the wraps once I started the gusset decreases? That's just what I did, and I discovered it works beautifully. Here's how I do it: After the first row of the heel flap, I bring the yarn to the front and then wrap the next stitch (this'll be the first instep stitch later). On the next row (wrong side), I bring the yarn to the back and wrap the next stitch (which will be the last instep stitch). Here's what the first wrap looks like:

Untitled

Those wraps stay in place until the first round of the gussets, when they're lifted and worked together with the stitch they were wrapped around. The wraps help to prevent the stitches from getting too stretched out, and when they're knit together with the stitches, that little bit of extra yarn behind the stitch helps to hide any hole that might otherwise appear. This is such an easy thing to do and makes such a noticeable difference. I'm sure someone else out there has "unvented" this little trick, so I can't really claim it, but if you've not stumbled upon it before, perhaps it will be useful.

Tomorrow is my last day of work for the year (or, if the Mayans were right, my last day ever), and we have a busy weekend ahead. After that, though, I'm on vacation for two weeks. I plan to get at least a few posts up in that time, but don't be surprised if I'm so relaxed that I forget!

*My sincerest apologies for the earworm

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Regressing

The title of this post refers to my toddler, not my crafting. Since we got rid of the pacifier, I am spending an inordinate amount of time in her room in the evening while she falls asleep, which is seriously impacting my crafting time. I am hoping that this trend is short lived, and in the meantime I'm keeping sight of the fact that my vacation is only a few days away and I'll have much more time to pursue my passions.

During the non-nap time on Sunday afternoon, I did manage to finish up a baby sweater that is still in need of a few buttons and a good block; I'm hoping to be able to share that with you later this week.

Now I find myself in a weird position: At the moment, the only things I have on the needles are my handspun socks (which are worked on during my lunch breaks) and my handspun Breezy Cardigan. I've been spinning only the past couple of nights because I feel like I want to start a new project but am unsure of which direction to go (and I haven't picked up the sweater because, well, it's a laceweight sweater -- I think that's enough said). On the one hand, Rainbow did ask me to make her a new doll for her birthday, and I'd already planned to make this one for her with some Blue Sky cotton I bought for it a couple of years ago, but that would require both digging out the yarn and winding it. I know I'm going to have to do that eventually, but when I'm left with an hour before it's time to go to bed, I really just want to start knitting.

The other thing I'm eager to cast on for is a new sweater -- the very first one I'm designing. I'd originally submitted it to a call for a Knit Picks seasonal collection; while it was rejected for that call, I was asked to have it be part of the IDP program, so I received yarn support, swatched, and am now in the process of crunching the numbers. This sweater is a top-down raglan that is entirely seamless, with minimal finishing, and while it's probably one of the easier sweater styles to design, I'm trying to grade it for six sizes (ranging from 32" to 48" bust), and I'll readily admit that math was always my least favorite subject in school. I'm working my way through it, though, because I'm really excited to start working with this yarn.


This is Capra, an 85% merino/15% cashmere blend. Knit Picks classifies it as a DK, but it's knitting up a little closer to a worsted for me; it definitely poofed up a bit when I washed the swatch. My hope is to have all the math done by this weekend so I can cast on before we start our holiday traveling. If I'm really fast, I might be able to finish the sweater while I'm on vacation so that I can send the pattern out for tech editing and then start the test knitting process early in the new year!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Double Oops

This post is all about small mistakes.

The first oops is that this post is being published this morning rather than last night. Rainbow turned 3 on Saturday, which is somewhat irrelevant except for the fact that she agreed to give up her pacifier when she turned 3. That meant that yesterday was the first day and night without it. She refused to take a nap, so I had her around all yesterday afternoon (though I will say that she was pretty cooperative and played quietly, which enabled me to get some knitting done and wash some fleece), but the real challenge was going to bed last night. Without something in her mouth to soothe her, she was a bit of a basket case (I'm sure the lack of nap didn't help things). I had to sit with her and pat her back until she fell asleep, which meant by the time I managed to escape from her room, I was beat and forgot to post.

So this morning I'll have to show you what I've been spinning, and you'll have to forgive me for this dark photo snapped with my phone this morning (it was dark and rainy yesterday anyway, so you wouldn't have gotten a much better shot had I remembered to take one with the good camera yesterday).

Untitled

This is some Yarn Hollow alpaca/merino/silk that I picked up at the fiber tasting at my LYS several months ago. As you would expect with this blend, it's soft and slippery, and it wants to be spun very fine. I'm spinning it from one end of the top to the other, and I'll chain ply to preserve the color sequence.

If you look closely at this photo, you'll see my second oops. When I spin on my Lendrum, I have no problem remembering which direction the wheel should go to spin singles versus ply. On my miniSpinner, however, I have to flip a switch to tell it which direction to spin. I made a rookie mistake when I started spinning this fiber, because I'd just finished plying up some yarn and forgot to flip the switch back to the other direction. By the time I realized my error, I'd already spun enough singles that I didn't want waste them (or deal with the hassle of winding them off and reversing the twist, which might have been a futile effort anyway), so I just kept going and I'll ply in the opposite direction. I figure that, at the very least, the resulting yarn will be a good experiment in seeing whether how I knit has any bearing on the twist in the yarn.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Inevitability

If you knit enough socks, there are certain things that you can expect to experience, and I got to experience one of those yesterday morning. I was preparing to put my socks on (I usually stick my hand in first to pull out any fuzz that may have accumulated from the last wear and wash) when I discovered this:

RIP sock

I know it's blurry, but I'm sure it's sufficient for you to see the big hole that seems to have magically appeared in the sole.

My Ravelry projects page tells me that I finished these socks in April 2008, so they had a pretty decent run. To be honest, I kind of knew all along that these socks were not long for this world. I knit them out of Claudia Hand Paint yarn, which is beautifully dyed but is only a two ply and feels a little too soft (to me, anyway) for sturdy socks. They felt a little delicate every time I put them on, and I didn't wear them as often as I wear some other pairs because I was worried about them wearing out. In truth, I was starting to get a little annoyed with these socks because, although they were knit from two skeins in the same dyelot and have been washed exactly the same way for their entire life, one sock had recently become noticeably lighter in color than the other.

There is still a very thin thread remaining where the stitches were (it's almost like all but a few fibers in the strand of yarn just dissolved), so theoretically I could darn this sock, assuming I still have some yarn scraps leftover. I'm not sure how worth it that would be, though, so I'm thinking about just throwing them in a hot wash to felt them and using them for sock puppets or something.

I think it is appropriate that on a day when one sock bit the dust, I finished a new one:

Handspun sock

This is the first of a pair knit out of handspun superwash merino (this yarn, if you're interested). I'm not doing anything really fancy with this pair (though I did move the gusset decreases to under the heel, a la my Scullers Socks, for a bit of fun). Any real stitch pattern would have gotten lost in all this variegation, so I kept it to simple ribbing and stockinette. I have just started the cuff of the second sock, but I expect I'll be able to finish it up fairly quickly. Unlike the sock above, this one should last a while, judging from the tight twist of the yarn and the firm gauge at which I'm knitting.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Two Hats in One

(Well, one post, anyway!)

We're playing catch up here today, because I have two projects that have been done for varying lengths of time but go together thematically. First, there is Rainbow's handspun hat, which was completed nearly a month ago, but, in usual toddler fashion, she refused to let me take a picture of her wearing it until a few days ago.

Butterfly Slouch

Pattern: Slouchy Butterfly Beanie by Faye Kennington
Yarn: handspun East Friesian top from Crown Mountain Farms
Needles: US 0 (2.0 mm) and US 2 (2.75 mm), magic loop
Started/Completed: November 8/November 17

I'd seen this hat when it was being tested and knew that it would be perfect for Rainbow because a butterfly is her symbol at school (they use symbols before the kids can read their own names -- clever, isn't it?) and loves all things butterfly. She also loves purple, so this yarn was destined for her. I really liked the finished hat, though I must admit I didn't really love knitting it -- too much purling! I also couldn't make sense of the written directions for the cable part, so I just followed the chart and my own intuition; it seems to have worked out okay. And really, the most important thing is that Rainbow is happy with it. She wears it on a regular basis (it's in rotation with several other hats, including two others that I knit for her).

Who else is happy? My kid brother:

My brother, in all his glory

Pattern: my own, improvised
Yarn: Berroco Comfort (50% nylon, 50% acrylic) in navy and brown
Needles: US 6 (4.0 mm)
Started/Completed: December 1/December 5

When my brother sent me a link to a beard hat that was for sale online (but sold out at the time) and asked me if I could make him something similar, I couldn't say no. I browsed several patterns on Ravelry but then decided that I could just as easily make my own. After all, this was just a basic beanie with a beard, and the beard was the only thing that would require a little thinking. I took some basic measurements of his head and face on Thanksgiving so I'd have some numbers to work with.

I did four inches of 2x2 ribbing on the hat (so that half of it could be folded up) and did a basic stockinette beanie with a spiral decrease pattern on the top. For the beard, I cast on enough stitches to stretch across the middle of his face (under his nose) and added an additional five stitches on either side so that I could put in a buttonhole on each tab. After the buttonholes were done and there was a little bit of fabric below them, I bound off those extra 10 stitches and then decreased two at each end every right side row until the beard was just about the right length (and somewhere in the middle I bound off about 15 stitches for the mouth and cast them on again on the following row). To finish it off, I did a few short rows in the center so that it would curve around and hug his chin.

Although he modeled the hat for me when he came over for dinner on Saturday night, he hasn't actually received it yet because I still have to sew in the buttons. They'll be hidden inside in the ribbing, and they'll enable him to attach the beard when he wants to wear it and remove it when he just wants a plain hat. A friend suggested that in the future I could make him different beards, which I think is a brilliant idea. I could have gifts covered for several years!

Sunday, December 09, 2012

All Over the Place

I am, primarily, a worsted-style spinner. It's not the most efficient/fastest way of spinning, and the yarn I get is certainly dense, but it's how I like to spin, for the most part. Occasionally I'll push myself outside my comfort zone and spun woolen, like when I happen to get roving rather than top. That was the case with the October fiber club shipment from Crown Mountain Farms.


This shipment was 4 oz. of Clun Forest roving. This was a new-to-me fiber, and it looked to be relatively short stapled, so I decided that, given the prep, it would be a good choice to use it to practice my long draw technique. I split the fiber into halves and spun up each half in a relatively short spinning section (only about an hour to an hour and 15 minutes each). I think this may have been the first time it ever took me longer to ply a yarn than it took me to spin the singles.

The finished yarn is about 205 yards.


The title of this post refers to the consistency (or lack thereof) of this yarn -- it's really all over the place, ranging from fingering in some spots to super bulky in others. Still, this may be the fluffiest, squishiest skein I've ever spun. I so wish you could reach into the screen to give this hank a good squeeze! I have absolutely no idea what to do with this yarn (I'm a broken record, I know), but for now I'll be satisfied to hug it.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Cross It Off

I can now officially say that my holiday 2012 knitting is complete! I took the beard to knit night last night and had finished it in about 15 minutes. All that's left to do is block it somehow (maybe a steaming?) and then sew in a couple buttons.


As soon as I finished weaving in the last end on the beard, I got started on another obligation project. This is the beginning of yet another Gramps cardigan that will be a gift for my cousin, who's expecting a baby early in the new year. She and her husband have decided to wait until the baby is born to find out the sex, so I chose what I thought was a nice gender-neutral color: tosh dk in Cousteau.


Normally when I knit for baby gifts I make things on the larger side (usually around a 12 month size), but this is going to be a Chicago baby born in the winter, so s/he will need a warm sweater right away! I'm going to be making the 6 month size and following the same mods I made the last time around. There's been an update to the pattern since then, and I haven't compared the two versions, but I'm hoping my stitch count issue at the end of the raglan decreases has been resolved. Regardless, as this is the third time I've knit this pattern, I think I've certainly gotten my money's worth! The next time I knit it, though, it's gonna be for me.

I've picked up my handspun socks again for my lunchtime knitting and am on the gusset of the first sock. I tried out a little something on this one to see if it'd eliminate the holes I tend to get at the top of the gusset, and it seems to have worked. I will try to take some photos on the second sock so I can share it with you.

We're headed into a busy weekend -- Rainbow's birthday party and the start of Chanukah, followed by the Mister's departure for a business trip -- so I'm going to need my knitting to keep me sane!

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

The One and Only

If you've been reading this blog for a while, then you know that I usually knit a fair number of holiday gifts. In the past, there have been socks, scarves, shawls, and goofy hats. This year, though, with the craziness at my full-time job, my designing obligations, and my toddler, I've had my hands full, so I swore off holiday knitting. That was until I got an e-mail from my brother.

My brother, you see, has always been the last one to ask me for anything knit (and that's a good thing, too, because he's about 6'2" and has feet to match). The last time he requested anything was when he was in college and requested a Harry Potter-type scarf in his school colors. He was so appreciative of that scarf that when he sent me an e-mail asking me if I could make him a beard hat like these, I couldn't say no. I looked at a few patterns on Ravelry and then decided I could wing it on my own. So on Thanksgiving, I took some key measurements, and on Black Friday I picked up the yarn.

Because this is my brother, and his laundry abilities are doubtful, I picked out Berocco Comfort, which I figure should be pretty indestructible. Despite the fact that he has an enormous head (23.5" circumference!), I cast on for the hat Sunday afternoon and finished it up last night.


Next up is the beard part, which will be the trickier component. I'm planning to add tabs to each side with a buttonhole in them so that the beard can be buttoned into the hat or removed if he wants to wear the hat on its own. I'll probably work some short rows at the chin to make it curve nicely, and of course there will be a little cutout for the mouth. Chanukah starts this Saturday night, so my goal will be to finish it by then -- and considering tomorrow night is a knit night, I think that's totally doable!

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Rapprochement

On Friday night, my miniSpinner and I finally made peace again. If you recall, I had the less-than-brilliant idea to clean the WooLee Winder on it during the Tour de Fleece, just before I was intending to start spinning the yarn that I hoped to use for my Ravellenic Games project, and the result was that I messed it up somehow. Although I did eventually get it back in working order, it never felt quite the same to me, so I'd been avoiding it for months.

On Friday, though, I had finished spinning up some fluffy woolen singles on my Lendrum that I knew I'd have to ply on the miniSpinner (the finished yarn would never fit on one Lendrum bobbin), so I decided it was high time I finished up that bobbin of yarn. I'm happy to say that I met that goal:


This was some turquoise merino top that I hand blended (rather roughly, I should add) with some silk sliver. Originally I thought I'd wind off what was on this bobbin and ply from both ends, but I like the look of this so much that I think I may just blend the rest of the fiber and do a proper two ply. The rough blending means that the yarn is tweedy and a little rough/rustic, which I'm actually really liking.

Before I can get to that, though, I'm plying up those woolen singles, spun from last month's Crown Mountain Farms fiber club shipment of 4 oz. of Clun Forest roving.


This colorway is called Catman (aka, Klaus's alter ego on Ravelry), and I thought this shipment would be a good excuse to practice my long draw. It's clear my technique still needs some practice (my singles are not very consistent), but it was such a nice change to be able to fill a bobbin in just a little more than an hour. I've plied up about half of it so far and hope to finish the rest tonight.


Now that the miniSpinner and I are friends again, I think it's high time I spin up some larger batches of fiber -- and there's certainly enough of it in my stash!