Sunday, June 30, 2013

Allons-y!

Well, the Tour de Fleece has officially begun! My goals for this year are relatively modest -- try to spin every day and try to get through some of my stash (no buying of new fiber!). I did not start at the crack of dawn, but I did get fiber and tools at the ready so I'd be set to go as soon as I had a chance to sit down and spin. I'm still recovering from the gum surgery on Friday -- thankfully, it's getting less uncomfortable every day, but I'm still somewhat limited in my physical activity, so sitting around and spinning most of the day is a good plan.

My first home project is 8 oz. of a 70% wool/30% seacell blend that I bought from the Loopy Ewe years and years ago (I think right after I got my first wheel). I'm planning a two-ply fingering weight for the Through the Loops summer lace knitalong, so I split the fiber in half and then split each section in half again to try to mix/blend the colors as much as possible. Of course I'm spinning this on my miniSpinner, as it's fast and has the huge bobbins. This shot is from yesterday, but I'm now about 3/4 of the way through the first half of the fiber.


My travel project is a spindle project; it will be going with me to work for my lunch break in lieu of socks. I pulled out this set of sock batts (from the Cupcake Fiber Company) that I also bought a while ago -- at least a year, but as I never managed to enter it in my Ravelry stash I can't be sure. This is a superwash merino/nylon blend that's specifically meant to be spun into three-ply sock yarn. Each batt is an ounce.


In the middle you can see my selected spinning tool, the Bosworth Mini (with a bloodwood whorl) that I bought at Maryland Sheep and Wool last month. This is its inaugural spin, and it's going beautifully. I started spinning the first ounce briefly yesterday afternoon and then put in a little time this morning in between flipping pancakes for breakfast.


Tonight, I think I will probably pick some Crown Mountain Farms fiber (perhaps something from my last order) and start spinning it on the Lendrum. I love this time of year!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Finishing Touches

After nearly a year of knitting on and off, my handspun Breezy Cardigan is very close to being finished. Last night I finished up the first of the front bands; tonight I plan to pick up for the second one (and, provided Rainbow goes to sleep at a reasonable hour, I hope to make some decent progress on it).


Tomorrow is my oral surgery, first thing in the morning, and I'm hoping to be with it enough for the rest of the day to work on this project exclusively. All that's left after this second front band is the collar and weaving in my ends, which really isn't all that much. My Ravelry project page tells me that I cast on for this sweater last June 29. Wouldn't it be spectacular if I finished it in time for its first birthday?

Meanwhile, my Sybaritic socks are still in progress. I finished sock #1 over the weekend and cast on for sock #2 during my lunch break on Monday. I am now through the cuff and into the beginning of the heel flap, though this sock is likely to be put on the back burner until the Tour de Fleece is over, as I'm planning to spindle spin during my lunch break instead of knit for the duration.


As for the Tour de Fleece, I am really itching to get started. My first order of business is to spin up some fiber from deep stash for yarn to participate in the Through the Loops summer shawl knitalong. (Kirsten is currently offering 25% off her shawl patterns through July 1 for those wishing to participate, if you're interested.) I've selected Water Music as my pattern, so I need to spin 800-900 yards of fingering weight. I know I can normally get about 400 yards of three-ply fingering weight from 4 oz., so I'm hoping that it won't be hard to get twice that from 8 oz., especially as I'll be spinning a two ply. If all else fails, I'll just go yarn shopping!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Mystery No More

It took me two nights to finish the picot bind off, but look what's finally finished!


Pattern: Through the Loops Mystery Shawl 2013 by Kirsten Kapur
Yarn: Louet Gems Sport Weight (100% merino) in Linen Gray (color A), Pewter (color B), and Caribbean Blue (color C)
Needles: US 6 (4.0 mm) ChiaoGoo Red Lace circs
Started/Completed: June 1/June 24

This was a really fun knit. I have long admired Kirsten's designs but had never knit one before now. After taking a lace design class with her a couple of months ago, I knew I had to knit one of her patterns, and I jumped at the chance when I heard about the mystery knitalong.


I decided on solid colors so that the yarn wouldn't compete with any pattern, and I'm very pleased with my choices. These colors go well with my wardrobe (I wear a lot of blue, black, and gray), so I know that this shawl will actually get worn. I'd worked with the fingering weight version of this yarn recently and really enjoyed it, so I knew the sport weight would be a great choice. Now that I've had some more experience with it, I like it even more. I think it would be a good yarn to design with in the future.


As to the pattern, I really like it. It was a very easy knit pretty much until the last clue, when I had to pay attention to both the right side and the wrong side of the lace. And it blocks out so beautifully -- it's attractive right off the needles but it's even more so once it's gotten a good soak and pin. I'd consider knitting this pattern again; I think it'd look really interesting in two colors, especially if one of the colors is a solid and one has long color changes. I might try it with handspun.

Someone wanted to get in on the action
If I have one complaint, it's the number of ends to weave in. It really doesn't make sense to carry the striping colors along the side when you're working the lace sections, so that means four ends for every striped section plus two for the adjacent lace panels. I tried to be diligent about weaving in as I finished each section, but it still made for a lot of work.

Photo by Rainbow
Overall, it's a winner. It was fun to race to finish each clue as it was released, and it's great to have a finished shawl after just a little more than three weeks.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Thunder and Lightning

You know the feeling you have when you work on something for a long time hoping that it will come out a certain way and then you finish and it comes out exactly as you wanted? I've been having that feeling all weekend about my latest handspun skein.

I started out with this 80% merino/20% silk gradient braid from Fiber Optic (picked up at Maryland Sheep and Wool this year) in a colorway called Thunder and Lightning:


A gradient of course begs to be spun into a chain-plied yarn, so I started at the deep orange end and spun fine singles onto one bobbin on my Hansen miniSpinner. Then, on Friday, I plied it (for the record, it took a total of about two and a half hours to get it all done). I skeined it up and finished it Friday night after Rainbow was asleep, and by yesterday, it was dry.


I wish I'd been able to snap a photo of this skein on the niddy noddy; this twisted hank doesn't do the colors justice. But I love the yarn. It's a light fingering and approximately 420 yards.


This was a great spin, from start to finish. Aside from the occasional silk nepp (which is pretty common in silk blends), it drafted smoothly and evenly, and the shine on the finished yarn is pretty amazing. I'm now on the lookout for the perfect shawlette pattern to show off these amazing colors. Share suggestions if you've got 'em!

I'll be staying away from my wheels for the week until the Tour de Fleece kicks off next Saturday, but after that, expect a flurry of skeins!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

When You Knit ...

I know this is a fairly obvious concept, but did you know that when you actually knit on things, you make progress on them? ;-)

I have been working on my handspun Breezy Cardigan the past two evenings (and stayed up a little late last night to finish watching a movie), and as a result I find myself with less than three inches of ribbing to knit before I have -- count 'em -- two completed sleeves. If I can match last night's pace tonight, I may even get started on the first of the front bands. I'm not going to delude myself that I'll have the sweater done by this weekend (there is another mystery shawl clue coming, after all), but this is looking like it could be finished in the next couple of weeks.


Tomorrow I'm taking a day off from work, which is much needed after a very busy week. Because I've make such good progress on the sweater, I've given myself permission to start plying the Fiber Optic gradient. 



It may not look like all that much, but you have to keep in mind that one of these bobbins can hold in excess of 8 oz. I've spun my singles very fine and will be chain plying, so I have a feeling this is skein that's going to take multiple plying sessions to get though. Want to guess how many hours it'll take?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Somewhere in the Middle

I'm at that somewhat boring stage in all my current projects where there's not very much exciting happening. My Sybaritic socks are still moving along slowly (they get about 40 minutes of attention each day during my lunch break). I've now completed the leaf design on the foot, so I'm at the point where I work even until I'm ready to start decreasing for the toe. The good new is that despite a very tight cuff that takes some effort to get over my heel, the sock does fit, as you can see.


I've spent most of my knitting time the past three days working on my Through the Loops Mystery Shawl and completed clue 3 last night. I was not as diligent following the last clue and, as a result, have a ton of ends to weave in (I'm trying to do it as I go so I'm not stuck with all of them at the very end, when I just want to weave in the last one and block the thing). I got a good start on it last night but will have to finish up this evening.

Hello, I am too big to spread out on a 40" needle

I'm predicting that the last clue, which is due to be released this Saturday, is a lace edging in the third color (the blue, in my case). I'm guessing it'll be 30-ish rows, and with the length of the rows these days, that will likely take a bit of time. If I get lucky, Kirsten will release the clue a day early -- I have a day off on Friday, so it would be great to use that uninterrupted knitting time to make decent headway on finishing the shawl.

Of course, on top of all of this, my Breezy Cardigan is still hanging around. I did put in a little bit of time on it the other night, but it's still making slow progress. As much as I'd like to start plying up my Fiber Optic gradient this week, I'm going to make a point of devoting time to this sweater. I have other things I'd like to start but don't want to cast on for something new until this longtime WIP is finally an FO.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Disproportionate Fiber Flow

Considering that my default spinning is very fine (usually a three-ply fingering weight), it always amazes me how quickly it can go when I'm spinning much thicker singles. You may recall that last week I showed you most of the singles spun up from some of the fiber I bought at MDSW. I finished the second (and final) bobbin that evening, and on Friday night I plied, basically in one sitting. I ended up with approximately 184 yards of two-ply worsted weight (it came off the bobbin looking slightly finer than that but puffed up nicely in its bath).


I'm quite delighted with this yarn. I split the fiber for a fractal yarn -- I split it in half lengthwise and then split one of the halves in half again -- so it should stripe a bit when knit up. This will eventually be come a hat or mittens for Rainbow for next year; she can get away with the bright colors at her age.

If I could keep spinning things this fast, I'd make a pretty big dent in my spinning stash. I may have to start doing that soon, because a big box arrived on Friday from Crown Mountain Farms with my last (sob!) order. I had enough trouble deciding between colors that I ended up ordering them all in 4 oz. amounts. Are you ready for picture overload? Here we go.

Superwash merino in San Francisco Nights:


Blue Hotel:


and Material Girl:


Polwarth in Black Sun:



Eternity:


and Hymne An Die Nacht:


And finally BFL in Buttercup Yellow:


I'd really like to start spinning all of these right away, but I feel like I should save them and savor them because they're the last I'll ever get.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Confession

I have a confession to make. I haven't been working on my handspun sweater even though I said I would. The call of spinning has been too strong, and I've spent the past several evenings at my wheel. I did finish spinning all the singles for my Fiber Optic gradient last night, but those have to rest a couple of days before I start chain plying, so tonight I will focus on the sweater -- I will!

When I left it last, I'd done a little more on the second sleeve, which is moving right along. This really isn't hard knitting; it doesn't require much thinking, other than remembering to decrease every 11 rounds. I'm just not feeling any strong desire to finish it (which is ironic, given that I could really use a lightweight sweater at the office to combat the often enthusiastic air conditioning).


Meanwhile, I have been working on the socks, which are now through the heel and into the gusset. There's a possibility, though, that I'll have to frog.


When I started these, I looked at the total stitch count (64) and figured that I'd be fine, as that's usually my number for socks. What I neglected to take into account, however, is that all the twisted stitches in the stitch pattern were going to pull in -- a lot. I did try on the cuff before I started the heel flap and had a lot of trouble getting it over my heel. Once I did, the cuff wasn't uncomfortable on, so I decide to carry on and see if they were still workable with a little of the foot done. If not, I'll probably have to frog and start over. It may be as simple as using slightly bigger needles (perhaps my old standbys, my 2.5 mm Addi Turbos), but this yarn may also be a little on the thin side. I'm a bit annoyed because I really like how it's knitting up, but we'll see what happens. I have other socks that are a royal pain to get on because they're tight, but once they're on, they're fine. That might be the case with these.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Dividing My Time

When last we discussed knitting, I mentioned that I was once again working on my handspun sweater, which has been on the needles for almost a year. That's still seeing a bit of action here and there, though I'll admit the call of the wheel has been strong the past week or so. I worked on the sweater for a bit on Sunday night while watching the Tonys and got about another couple of inches done on sleeve #2 (I have no photographic proof, so you'll have to take my word for it). Although the sweater is relatively light, being knit out of laceweight yarn, it's still a bit too much to carry in my work bag, so I had to start another pair of socks for my lunch break knitting.


This is most of the cuff of the first sock in the pair. The pattern is Sybaritic by Hunter Hammersen; it's one of two single patterns I got as a freebie as part of a promotion for preordering The Knitter's Curiosity Cabinet, Volume II. I didn't realize until I started knitting just how involved this pattern is. As you can probably tell from the photo, there are a lot of twisted stitches (there are also two kinds of double decreases and some lace). What I didn't realize at first is that the entire instep of the sock has every stitch knit through the back loop, so needless to say, these will not be a really fast knit. I'm really loving the fantastic texture, though, so I'm okay with that. I have about six rounds left on the cuff of this sock, provided I don't make it longer, so at least I'll be getting to the heel flap soon.

Meanwhile, the second clue for the Through the Loops Mystery Shawl was released a day early, so I was able to knit up all of it before the end of the weekend (actually, most of it was done Saturday night).


As you can see, this clue added another, larger, lace section with slightly larger motifs and another stripe section. It's now big enough that I cannot stretch it out over my 40" needle, and I'm noticing a pretty significant reduction in my yarn. I'm guessing that the next clue will have an even larger lace section followed by stripes and that the last clue will be a lace edging. We'll see if I'm right!

Sunday, June 09, 2013

In Training

The Tour de Fleece starts toward the end of the month, and considering how little I touched my wheels during the last month (when I was so focused on knitting), I thought I should spend some time getting back into the "spin" of things so I'll be ready for the serious spinning the Tour requires. After finishing up the cabled yarn last week, I thought I should start working through my MDSW purchases.

I started with this Fiber Optic merino/silk gradient.


A gradient like this of course begs to be chain plied to preserve the color changes, so I started with the orange end and began spinning very fine singles on my miniSpinner. I've put it a decent amount of time during the past week, including about three hours on Friday (I had the day off and was dealing with what may have been a migraine rebound headache for much of the day, so it was good to just sit and spin). As of yesterday, I'd gotten into the beginning of the blue. Unfortunately, the color is not showing accurately here; it's a much deeper purple/blue. I'm hoping to finish spinning the singles in the next couple of days so I can let the bobbin rest before I start plying.


This afternoon, a friend came over to spin for a bit. It wasn't practical to bring the miniSpinner downstairs and try to run the cord across the room, so I got out the Lendrum and this BFL from Gale's Art that also came home with me from MDSW.


I bought this with Rainbow in mind, and I decided to split it for a fractal spin. My thought was that these bright colors would be perfect for a winter hat and/or mittens. I'm spinning it up significantly thicker than the Fiber Optic braid, so it's no surprise that in three hours of spinning, I got through about a bobbin and a half.


I love instant gratification spinning!

Before I go, a final word (really more of a public service announcement). If you've been reading this blog for any length of time and paid attention to my spinning posts, then you know that Crown Mountain Farms is one of my favorite purveyors of fiber. We found out this week that Klaus, the owner and dyer, is quitting the business to move back to Germany to be near his parents. The online business is for sale, but after the end of the month, Klaus's gorgeous colorways will no longer be available. I already placed a pretty decently sized order, but if you've been considering making a purchase, I'd advise you to do it now. CMF's fibers are always wonderfully prepped. and Klaus's color sense is amazing. I've never been disappointed with anything I've ordered from CMF and will certainly miss them.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Then There Were Two

Two socks done, two WIPs left on the needles.

I knit like a madwoman last night at knit night and managed to get nearly the entire foot of my second sock done. I finished up the toe when I got home. They could probably use a blocking to get all the stitches to even out, but I love how they turned out. (And they're much prettier and brighter when it's not a rainy, gloomy day outside.)


Although I will continue to work on my Through the Loops Mystery Shawl as the clues are released, my main goal this month is to finally finish up my long-languishing handspun Breezy Cardigan. My Ravelry notebook tells me that I cast on for it last June 29, so it's coming up on its first birthday. At the moment, all that stands between me and a finished sweater is a sleeve and the ribbing on the neckline and fronts, and it'd be great to have that all done by the end of the month.



Worst case, I know I have a day off on the 28th (I'm having some minor oral surgery done, so I'm supposed to keep my feet up for a day or two afterward). I'm planning on parking myself on the bed or couch with some good movies queued up and minimal, if any, interruptions, so I should be able to plow through whatever's left to do by then. Ideally, I'd like to have it done before the Tour de Fleece starts on June 29 and I turn all my attention to spinning!

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

The Mystery Revealed: Part One

Note: This post contains spoilers! Don't scroll down if you don't want to see!

You may recall that a few weeks ago I mentioned that I had signed up for the Through the Loops mystery shawl for this summer. As a reminder, this was the yarn I picked out (Louet Gems Sport Weight):


The first clue was released this past Saturday. I am far past the age where I can stay up until midnight to cast on the moment the pattern is released, so I downloaded when I woke up and then cast on after breakfast and yoga. I was able to complete all of the first clue before going to bed that night.

I already knew the shape of the shawl, more or less, and that it would use three colors, but the rest was a surprise. So far, the main body of the shawl is done in two-row stripes with colors A and B (with yarnover increases) and has a strip of lace done in color C.


So far, I'm liking it, even if the stripes do make me a little dizzy. I expect that there will be more of the lace in the blue in the future clues based upon the yardage listed for color C. I hope I can keep up with the pace of the knitalong -- after all, this clue didn't take much time, but the shawl only gets bigger from here!

Sunday, June 02, 2013

So Many Steps

I finally finished a skein of yarn this week that really should have been done quite a while ago (I blame the Mad May knitalong). In reality, it probably didn't take as long to spin as I think, but because this is the second yarn I've spun from the same fiber (Crown Mountain Farms corriedale pencil roving in Eire), it feels like I've been working on it for months. In any case, here it is:


This is a cabled yarn, which means it's a yarn made of plied yarns that are plied together. This particular skein is a 2x2 cabled yarn. I split my approximately 4 oz. of fiber into quarters and spun four bobbins of singles. Then I plied two bobbins' worth together twice (so I had two bobbins of two-ply yarn). Finally I plied the two-ply yarns together. You can see why this took so long, right?


Yes, it took a long time, but the texture of the resulting yarn is just incredible. This is the second cabled yarn I've spun, I think, though I've yet to knit any up. This skein is roughly sport weight and about 236 yards, so probably not enough for a pair of socks unless they're really short socks (which kind of defeat the purpose for me if they're wool), but I think it'd make some interesting fingerless mitts.

Now that this fiber is finally all used up, I'm craving some color that isn't green. I think this is going to go on the miniSpinner next:


Clearly this is calling out to be chain plied to preserve the gradient, so I'll start spinning from one end and just keep going until I get to the other end. This merino/silk will be such a treat after the corriedale!