Thursday, June 30, 2016

It's All Part of the Process, Right?

It has been a long week, and I'm very ready for the long July 4th weekend. I have just about finished up my secret project (only one last bit of finishing and blocking left to do this evening), so I've started something new, and it's another project for the pattern collection. This is the humble start of a pair of mittens. I probably would have had more substantial progress to show you were it not for the fact that I've had to rip out and go back to square one on these -- a not infrequent occurrence when I'm designing, but still a frustration.


The problem in this case was the colorwork motif. I had already scaled down the motif from the one on the hat, but my initial version was a 10-stitch repeat. That meant that all my sizes had to have a stitch count that was a multiple of 10, and at my gauge, each multiple of 10 equated to a little more than an inch and a half of width. Hands don't vary in size quite as much as heads do, so this made sizing tricky. When I cast on for the first attempt, I ended up with a cuff that I probably could have comfortably fit both wrists through at the same time. That meant ripping out and rethinking my repeat. I mocked up another version of the motif with an eight-stitch repeat, and that seems a little more adaptable. Keep your fingers crossed that this attempt will be successful!

I'm hoping to find time to finish my Waiting for Rain this weekend; I'd really like to get it off the needles so I can focus on my design projects.

Because tomorrow is July 1, however, I am also thinking a lot about spinning, as the Tour de Fleece kicks off on Saturday. Due to my design stuff being front and center, I likely won't be spinning as much as I have in previous years, but I'm still hoping to make a decent dent in the stash. I have some fiber club shipments that have been piling up for several months that I'd like to get to, not to mention fiber I bought at MDSW last year (we won't even mention the two fleeces I've never managed to spin, either). So while knitting will continue for the next month, expect to see some more spinning on the blog over the next three weeks!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Repetition

I am still in the middle of my deadline project (the one I can't show you), but at least the end is in sight. My self-imposed goal to finish it is this week; I'd like to have it done by Thursday at the latest so I have time to block it and let it dry in time to get it in the mail by Saturday. It has to cross the Atlantic to its final destination, and I'm anxious not to hold it up any longer than I have to (the original deadline for the sample and pattern was this Friday, but the editor gave me an extension due to the lateness in the arrival of the yarn).

While I can't really tell you much about the knitting, I can talk about the yarn, which I've really been enjoying. It's Debbie Bliss Rialto DK, a really round and bouncy 100% superwash merino. It's a cabled yarn, meaning that it's made up of a bunch of two-ply strands twisted together. That construction makes it a bit messier when you're trying to weave in ends (there's a tendency for the cut end to fray quite a bit), but the stitch definition is excellent. It's been a while since I've knit with any Debbie Bliss yarns, mainly due to lack of local availability; there was a time when her yarns were among my favorites. I'm working this item at a fairly dense gauge for a DK-weight yarn, six stitches per inch, largely because my colors are white and a dark teal and I wanted the fabric to be dense enough that the dark color wouldn't show through the light. The fabric I'm getting is nice and squishy and very soft, and I think I can coax a bit of extra width and/or length out of it when I block it.

I did spend a couple of hours on my Waiting for Rain over the weekend, though it hasn't seemed to make much of a dent thanks to the length of the rows. Once the deadline project is off the needles, it'll be getting most of my attention until I can finish it up. I'm hopeful that the long weekend will help with that.


I am also planning ahead to the next collection design to go on the needles, which will very likely be the mittens to go with the hat you saw last week. I've got to do a little math first and figure out how many sizes I can do given that I need to accommodate a certain stitch repeat for the colorwork motif. I officially apologize to the math teachers I had years ago who I told I would never use math once I finished high school!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Unexpected Exercise

I spent my spinning time this weekend working on plying my Southern Cross Fibre organic merino singles, and it proved to be a bit of spinning gymnastics. I was planning to chain ply this bobbin of singles, and I decided to give it a go on my Lendrum with the WooLee Winder on. I used to chain ply all the time on my Lendrum, but since I got my miniSpinner, it's been faster and easier to ply on it because there's no need to stop to move the yarn guide. Because of that, I've gotten used to sitting a particular way, somewhat sideways to the wheel. However, when plying on the Lendrum, I actually have to have my feet on the treadles, so chain plying meant a lot of twisting -- and I certainly felt it in my back. Fortunately, I was able to squeeze in several plying sessions over the course the weekend, and I finished it all up this afternoon. Here's how it looked on the bobbin:


And here it is right off the niddy-noddy, before its bath (though the color is a little off):


The skein is now hanging to dry in the bathroom, and I'm hoping it'll be dry by the morning. I abused it just a bit in the finishing process in the hopes it would bloom a bit and not look so wiry, but the yardage looks good -- somewhere in the neighborhood of 450-500 yards.

I couldn't stand the sight of two wheels sitting empty, so I immediately started my most recent FatCatKnits shipment (this one was in BFL). I started with Molly:


What you can't see in this shot is that the fiber started with a beautiful golden orange and then transitioned through a pale yellow before it turned blue. I'm planning to spin the other colorway, Jesse, on another bobbin and then ply the two together; someone in the club has already done this, and I loved the look of the finished yarn so much that I decided to shamelessly copy the idea.

While I sadly do not have photographic evidence of it, we had a big moment here this weekend: Rainbow has started to learn to spin! I got out a basic spindle and some undyed Corriedale top and gave her some basics. She clearly needs a lot of practice, but the desire is certainly there. She woke me up bright and early this morning asking if we could spin some more!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Knit Therapy

Is is really Thursday already? It's been a heck of a week. I'm not sure if it's been the chaos at work or the heat outside, but I've been utterly exhausted every night this week (and then, illogically, not sleeping well). Thank goodness I've got my knitting to de-stress -- although I suppose it's less than effective if the knitting is so meditative that you start to nod off while doing it.

Last night I finished off a quick project and it was super satisfying. You got a peek at this the other day, but now that it's all done, I'll give you the full view.


This hat (and the socks that you've seen a bit of before) are part of a collection of patterns I'm planning to release this fall. All the patterns are inspired by my beloved hometown. This hat will eventually have a coordinating pair of mittens; once I'm finished with my commission knitting, they will be the next thing on the needles.

I'm particularly proud of my even tension on this hat. Just take a look at these floats!


My hope is to get the pattern finished up (I just have to do some calculations for the other sizes) and off to my tech editor this weekend. Here's hoping that the rest of the patterns in the collection move along this easily!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Picking Up Speed

Most would think of the summer as a slow time for knitting, what with the high temperatures. For me, though, the pace seems to have picked up significantly.

I spent a pretty good chunk of time on Friday working on my Waiting for Rain. I haven't touched it since then, but I now have only the last garter and short-row lace section to work before the bottom border. And are the rows ever long now!


This shawl has officially reached blob stage; there's just no way to stretch it out on the needles in such a way that you can actually make sense of what it looks like.

Where real progress has been made is the socks I've been working on -- they're done! I Kitchenered the toe of the second sock and blocked the pair last night (I don't usually block socks, but these really needed it).


This is just a peek at the finished socks until they're ready for public consumption. The next step is to put all my jotted notes into a cohesive pattern, lay it out, and get it to my tech editor. I'm excited about finishing these because they're the first sample in the planned collection I'm going to release this fall. The next sample has already been cast on (and is going a lot faster, not least due to the fact that it's in worsted weight yarn). You can have a peek at that as well:


As if all this wasn't enough, yarn support arrived yesterday for a magazine commission, and it arrived way behind schedule, so I'll be doing some speed secret knitting for the next week or two.

I do wish there were more hours in the day to get all these things done -- I could really use extra time to stay on track with my deadlines and to get more meters in for my Stash Dash goal. My current total is somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,600 meters, give or take. I was hoping to get to 7,000K this year, but I'm not sure that I'll make it. I did get a fair chunk of my current total done in the first couple of weeks, but that was mainly due to having three bobbins of singles spun and ready to be plied beforehand plus finishing up my Hitofude. I really need to up my game if I'm going to hit that goal!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Much More In than Out

There's a bit of fiber imbalance going on here, and it's been magnified this week. I've been trying not to buy fiber (save for my two fiber clubs) in the interest of getting the stash under control, but there have been times I've been weak. And this week, there has been more fiber coming into the stash than has been spun up.

First, both of my fiber clubs showed up. Here's the Southern Cross Fibre May shipment, a 75% Bond/25% suri alpaca blend. I got the colorway Get Happy.


Then the final shipment of this round of the FatCatKnits club showed up, in two colorways called Molly and Jesse on BFL:


Because there wasn't nearly enough FCK fiber in the stash already, I went online to order the special Tour de Fleece colorway. Another braid (a Day's End braid, so one of a kind) fell into my shopping cart as well. Ginny apparently happened to have both on hand when my order came in, so she got it right in the mail and I had it in hand in a couple of days.

The TdF colorway is called On Your Mark, and I ordered it on 72% superwash merino/14% bamboo, 14% nylon.


Its travel companion was 4 oz. of 75% Polwarth/25% mulberry silk; Ginny calls this Day's End color Gorgeous, and I think it is rather.


I'm doing my best to spin as fast as I can, and I'm almost done with the merino on my wheel:


That strip of fiber there is all that's left to be spun, and while I don't think I'll get it quite done tonight, it should be done by tomorrow. It's a good thing that the Tour de Fleece is coming up and I'll have a good excuse to spin as much as possible!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Stripes of Happiness

Stripes seem to have become a theme for me this week. For one, there's my Waiting for Rain, in which the stripes are occurring with increased frequency as I go along, not least because the ball of the lighter gray is starting to get noticeably smaller (yes, I have officially started my worrying that I will run out).

I completed the second short-row lace section the other evening, which means that the number of rows between lace sections is now diminishing dramatically. That's a good thing, because these rows are starting to get seriously long (now upwards of 300 stitches per row)! Each lace section gets a little wider, though they're all the same number of rows, and I really feel like I have a good handle on them now. I'm hoping to spend some serious time on this project this weekend, as I would really like to free up these needles to use for another project.

Earlier in the week I made an impulse purchase. Heaven knows I do not need any more sock yarn, but the events of the weekend had me feeling pretty low. I happened to go over the the Fibernymph Dye Works shop on a whim and spotted this skein:


Immediately I knew I had to have it. It was in the mail by the end of the day and arrived at my doorstep yesterday. I suppose that's one great benefit to living in the same city as one of your favorite dyers!

This skein wasn't the only stash enhancement this week, as luck would have it. Two fiber club shipments showed up this week (you'll see them on Sunday in my weekly spinning post), and this beauty made a surprise appearance as well:

It's even prettier when it's in focus!
This gorgeous skein of madelinetosh tosh lace (now sadly discontinued) in Spectrum was my prize for taking part in the Madelinetosh Lovers Mad May original design contest on Ravelry. My shawl design came in third place.

Tomorrow I get a rare day off by myself; I'm using up my last personal day before I lose it at the end of the month. If the weather cooperates, I'm planning on going for a run in the morning, spending a little time at my wheel, and then spending the afternoon knitting at my LYS. Try not to be too jealous -- I only get to do this once or twice a year!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Tension

First, I want to thank those of you who left comments or e-mailed me about my little incident. You'll be happy to hear that I am officially on the mend and my broken nose will be able to heal on its own without any further intervention. The scratches and bruises are starting to fade, and perhaps in another week it will be hard to tell that anything happened.

But you came here for knitting, right? Okay then, let's talk about knitting!

I did manage to find a couple of hours on Sunday afternoon to work on my Waiting for Rain, and I'm now ready to start the second short-row lace section. The rows are getting noticeably longer, and the yarn balls are starting to get smaller, so I can tell I'm making some significant progress.


This is a fun knit, but it's definitely one I need to pay attention to, at least when it comes to the lace sections. That made it not a good contender for my knitting on Sunday evening.

And why was that? Because on Sunday evening I was watching game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals, when my beloved Penguins finally clinched the title, and let's just say I was a little tense during the game. I had finished the first of the new design socks earlier in the day, so I cast on for sock number two to work on during the game. I'm sure that my gauge at the beginning of this sock is a little tighter than it was on the first sock as a result of my nerves.

These socks were also to blame for another injury I sustained over the weekend (luckily not nearly as dramatic as the injuries from earlier in the week). I have a tendency to push the tip of the right needle with the tip of my left index finger as I finish up a knit stitch, and I guess my hands were too dry and the needles I was using (size 0/2.0 mm Addi Sock Rockets) were too sharp. The result was that I managed to poke a hole in my finger -- basically the skin just split, more or less along a groove in my fingerprint. Ouch! No blood was shed and it was easy enough to put a bandage on it, but it was in a mighty inconvenient spot. I ended up leaving that finger pointing up in the air while knitting, as I do when I'm doing stranded colorwork and have a strand of yarn coming over that finger. It worked but was a little awkward. The wound has since healed, and I'm trying to be more mindful of my technique in an effort to keep it from happening again.

I'm hoping to cast on for at least one more project by the end of the week, the next in the collection of patterns. Incidentally, I put up a little notice about this collection in my Ravelry group, so if you're interested in test knitting, you might want to take a look. I will be very happy to be using some larger needles and thicker yarn for a bit!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Gift of Time

My crafting time is precious, as you know. I have a full-time job and a small (and demanding) child, so I find time to knit and spin and design here and there but often not in large chunks of time. So it was a wonderful gift yesterday to have several hours in a row to spin at the inaugural (and I'm hoping not the only) Indie Knit & Spin Spin-In. It was a fairly small event, with six spinning-related vendors and probably less than 40 people overall, but it was a very fun afternoon. I took full advantage of the uninterrupted spinning time to make some progress on my Southern Cross Fibre merino, which is now more than halfway done:


This fiber is spinning quite fine and has such a beautiful luster to it -- another spinner at the event asked if it was a silk blend because it looked so shiny. I'll continue to spin away at this, perhaps finishing up the singles this week -- perhaps. Singles this fine do tend to take a lot of time.

Though there were plenty of beautiful things to buy at the event, I was fairly restrained and came home with only one thing, which I bought in the name of research:


This is a 6 oz. sampler pack of HipStrings Buoy, a really interesting blend of BFL, Shetland, and Manx Loaghtan wools. I have an ounce each of six color blends -- from left to right, Dry Dock, Breeze, Lobster, Pine, Mussels, and Breakwater. They're prettier out of the packaging, but I was worried about the fiber exploding and not being able to get it back in neatly. My plan is to spin small skeins from each colorway so I'll end up with six minis with which to do colorwork or stripes or something else fun. I'm really excited about this blend, so it will be good motivation to get through the rest of the merino!

Thursday, June 09, 2016

That Was Not What I Had in Mind

I've frequently said that I wouldn't mind not having to go to work because it would be great to be able to spin and knit all day. Well, I got to do that today, unexpectedly, though not necessarily for a good reason. A sort of freak thing happened yesterday. I was at work and feeling a little lightheaded, like I was going to faint. I remember sitting down in my office chair and trying to breathe slowly, and the next thing I knew, I was face down on the floor. Seems I did faint and fell out of my chair. I managed to scrape up my nose, my forehead, and a bit under my eye and (as I found out hours later in the ER) fracture my nose. Some luck, eh? So, on doctor's orders, I stayed home today and spent some quality time with my wheel and my yarn.

In more pleasant news, look what's done! (And you can thank me for sparing you photos of my face -- it really doesn't hurt much, but it looks pretty horrible.)


Pattern: Hitofude Cardigan by Hiroko Fukatsu
Yarn: my handspun, 100% Polwarth from Bee Mice Elf
Needles: US 6 (4.0 mm) ChiaoGoo Red Lace circs
Started/Completed: March 23/June 6
Mods: worked fewer repeats for the sleeves; added length to the body

Sometimes it felt like this project was in progress forever, but in reality it really took less than half a year -- not an unrealistic amount of time to spin more than 1,100 yards of yarn and knit a lace sweater, if you ask me! I probably could have finished it sooner had I worked on it more consistently, but it was a pattern that was fairly easy to put down and pick up, especially as I'd had the lace pattern memorized from about the second repeat.

I only made two modifications to the pattern. The first was to work one less lace repeat on the sleeves; I probably could have eliminated two, as they were still a bit big before blocking, but I solved that issue by stretching them horizontally when I blocked the sweater. I also added two additional lace repeats to the body, in part to make the body longer but also to use up more yarn to get to the last color in the sequence.


I blocked the finished sweater fairly aggressively, and the result is that the sweater is a little loose and has a lot of drape -- just as I wanted. It's a bit wild compared to what I usually wear, but I'm immensely pleased with it. It was a fun knit and a really interesting construction, and it was definitely a great use for my handspun!

Since this project came off the needles, I've been working on my LYS's newest shawl knitalong, Waiting for Rain. I decided to go with the lighter gray for the main color and use the darker gray for the stripes and lace portions.


I did the first lace section today and really enjoyed it. Short rows and lace sounds like it would be really challenging, but once you get the hang of it, it's actually pretty fun. I don't know that I can do it late at night or while watching the Stanley Cup finals, but I think if I can manage it a day after whacking my face on the floor, it can't be as complicated as it would seem.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

At Long Last

Did you know that knitting rows of 200+ stitches in 1x1 rib takes a long time? And did you know that binding off that many stitches using a two-step stretchy bind off can take as long as an hour? If you didn't, then now you do. Those long rows are the reason why it took me three evenings of knitting to finish and bind off the ribbed border of my Hitofude. But, finally, it is done. I finished binding off last night while watching the hockey game, and it will be blocked tonight while the Mister puts Rainbow to bed. I'll do a full, official write-up once it's blocked and I can take some modeled pictures, but here is a preview:


Now that this longtime project is done, I can finally cast on for Waiting for Rain, my LYS's next knitalong shawl. The yarn has been wound and patiently waiting for the past week and a half or so, and the needles I wanted to use have been freed up now that the sweater is off the needles.

I am still knitting the socks you got a peek at last week, and they will soon be joined by some other design projects. This beautiful pile of yarn -- the last batch of yarn support I was awaiting for this collection -- arrived yesterday.


It's all from Fibernymph Dye Works -- two skeins of Bounce (fingering weight), two skeins of Bona Fide (DK weight), and two skeins of Cozy (worsted weight). This squishy pile will soon be turned into four new designs. I can't wait to get started!

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Underestimation

Now that I have two WooLee Winders, one of which is on an electric wheel, I think I've started underestimating how much time it will take me to spin or ply a set amount of fiber or singles. I keep assuming everything will be fast -- and usually when that's actually the case, it's because I have very little yardage.

I definitely underestimated today, when I figured I'd be able to ply two bobbins of singles together in just an hour or two. I'd finished spinning the second bobbin on Friday afternoon, while home for the day with Rainbow following her kindergarten graduation. It ended up taking most of the day, and I didn't get the finished yarn skeined up and in to soak until just before dinner. Here's what it looked like still on the bobbin:


This is FatCatKnits Falkland in two colorways inspired by giant clams. I ended up taking the easy way out by spinning each colorway on its own and then plying then together (that rather solid blue you see in the photo is what remained on the second bobbin when the first ran out, plied to itself so as to have no singles leftover). The skein is currently hanging to dry, so I'll see what I ended up with tomorrow.

On Friday night, my usual designated spinning time, I was letting the second bobbin of Falkland singles rest, so I started a new project. This is organic merino from Southern Cross Fibre:


It's a little hard to capture the depth of the color in these singles; they almost look a bit like they're glowing. I'm spinning up this batch of fiber, which arrived just last month:


The colorway is called Resistance Is Futile, and this fiber was true to its name -- I couldn't resist it, despite having plenty of fiber in the to-be-spun queue. I'm spinning this merino into fine singles after splitting the top vertically, and I'll chain ply once all the fiber is spun. Here's hoping it doesn't take four times as long to spin as I think it will!

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Magic Handspun?

For most projects I knit, I usually have a moment when I'm worried I'm going to run short on yarn. Rarely have I had a project that didn't seem to want to use up the yarn. That's certainly the case with my Hitofude, which is still in progress. I'm now on my second extra lace repeat, and I still haven't made it to the last color in the gradient. I'm hopeful that will happen soon, because I am ready to be done with this project -- and frankly I'm getting worried that it'll be enormous once I block it (though it looks to be a reasonable length at the moment).


I knew when I started this project that I had nearly 200 yards more yarn than called for in the pattern for my size, but I figured I would add a bit of extra length. I suppose that in my concern that I would have enough yardage when I was spinning the yarn, I may have overdone it, as I now seem to have the magic ball of yarn that refuses to run out!

In any case, I'm hoping to be done by this weekend. I should be able to get through six or eight more rows tonight, so there will just be a handful of rows left in the lace and then the ribbing at the bottom to finish up. I am taking the day off tomorrow (it's Rainbow's last day of kindergarten, and they're done at 10:30), and I imagine at least part of the day will be spent stretched out and relaxing -- which means some bonus knitting time for me!

I am holding off on casting on my Waiting for Rain for my LYS's knitalong until after the sweater is off the needles, and frankly it's a good thing because I still can't decide which color I want to be the main color and which I want to use for the lace and the stripes.

For my lunchtime knitting, I did cast on something new, and I'm rather excited about it. I don't think I've mentioned it here on the blog, but I'm working on a themed collection of patterns that I'm hoping to release later this year. I spent the earlier part of the year sketching and planning and arranging yarn support, and now I've cast on for the first sample.


This is the start of a pair of socks with some cables and texture, and I'm knitting them out of SpaceCadet Oriana 8-ply, which is a really interesting yarn. It actually has eight plies, so I have to be careful that I don't split the strand with my needles as I knit. The knit fabric has an almost cottony feel but with the elasticity of wool. The color varies ever so subtly, too, so it's working very well with the texture of the pattern. I know I'm kind of teasing you with this little glimpse, but you'll be seeing a lot of projects for this collection over the coming months.