Sunday, July 31, 2016

Plied and Surprised

This past week, I was determined to finish up the last Tour de Fleece spinning project I still had left on my wheel. I spent just about every evening working on it, including two full evenings plying, and while my back was not so happy with me, I was very happy to skein up the finished yarn on Friday night. Back in the days when I was spinning nothing but three-ply sock yarn, I had a pretty good sense of how much yardage I'd get from 4 oz. of fiber, but I'll admit I was really surprised when this skein was dry and I measured it to calculate the yardage. Granted, I probably did have more than 4 oz. of fiber in this spin, but I was not prepared for 508 yards of fingering weight!


This skein was spun from half of a Blue Moon Fiber Arts Sheep to Shoe kit (8.5 oz. total, and I roughly split it in half). I split the top lengthwise into fourths and then spun each strip in succession, then chain plied the whole thing to preserve the colors. I honestly wasn't all that enthused by the colors as I was spinning, but I find they're quite improved by plying and skeining.


I still have the remaining half of the fiber, and I'm planning to (eventually) spin it as a traditional three ply. I'm very interested to see how the colors play together when they're not being separated by chain plying.

While this skein was in the wash, I found I wanted to keep spinning, so I got out some Southern Cross Fibre Shetland from a club shipment earlier in the year and started spinning it in much the same way. I'm already nearly halfway done with the singles.


Spinning Shetland after superwash merino really makes me appreciate the differences in the fibers. This stuff is much more toothy -- it has a real grip to it when I draft it. It's also a little more hairy; the singles don't really have any sheen to them. I think this will make some pretty good sock yarn, though. I'm also not completely sold on the colors in this fiber, so I'm interested to see if I like them more after plying. I think that's one of the reasons I love spinning so much -- even when I plan out a yarn and my color handling, there's always an element of surprise.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Slip-ups

Since the end of the Tour de Fleece, while I've still been spinning, I've turned my attention back to my knitting. After finishing the giant shawl, my priority is once again projects for my collection of patterns. The next project on the needles was thus the fifth sample for the collection.

While this pattern should have been an easy knit, it was not without its difficulties at the beginning. Apparently the heat we've been experiencing for the past week or so has been frying my brain, and my failure to do simple math correctly resulting in my having to rip out and restart this project not once, not twice, but four times. Yes, you read that right -- it took four attempts before I realized where I went wrong. Luckily, once I got past the initial hurdle, things have been moving along relatively smoothly.


This pattern is a little pair of slipper socks, so really just a heel and a foot. The yarn I'm using is from the Ross Farm, and it's a very woolly three-ply Shetland. It's labeled a sport weight, but it's a very fluffy yarn and probably knits up more like a DK. I'm working it on size 2 (2.75 mm) needles and getting a dense fabric with a gauge of about 6 stitches per inch. And because it's very much a rustic farm wool, I find myself a bit covered with fuzz and little bits of VM after I knit with it for a while. I rather like it, though, despite the debris. It's really nice to knit with a yarn that reminds you so much of the sheep!

I've already finished the first slipper of the pair and am about halfway through the second, so I don't think I'll have trouble finishing these up by the end of the week. That leaves me with three samples left to knit for the collection. I'd hoped to have everything done by the end of August, but the three that remain are the largest patterns, all using multiple skeins of yarn, so it's going to be a busy month. This is the one main benefit to self-publishing, I suppose; if I miss my self-imposed deadline, it's really not that big a deal. I am planning to stagger the release of the patterns anyway, so I can always put the bigger patterns toward the end of the release schedule. I will say that I am looking forward to finishing them up so I can do some knitting for me. As much as I enjoy designing, it is work knitting, and it's a nice change to be able to let someone else do the math for me!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Slog's End

At last, at long last, this slog of a project is finally over.


Pattern: Waiting for Rain by softsweater
Yarn: Baah! La Jolla (100% merino) in Grey Onyx and Obsidian, one skein each
Needles: US 6 (4.0 mm) ChiaoGoo Red Lace
Started/Completed: June 7/July 21
Mods: ended the shawl early (see below)

I won't say I disliked this knit. On the contrary, I found the pattern quite interesting and even a bit challenging. Knitting short rows in lace is something I'd never done, for starters. I think my issue with it is more that I don't really love this shawl shape and there was the issue of not having enough yarn to finish it as I want.

My antipathy toward the shape of the shawl probably stems from my difficulty in blocking. Despite the fact I added yarnovers in the edge stitches, the top edge did not have enough stretch, or at least it didn't have as much stretch as I would have liked when I blocked it.


As to the yarn issues, well, I'll fully admit that I did not swatch (for shawls, I rarely do -- I'll just start and then change my needle size if I don't like the look of the fabric I'm getting), so I'm willing to bet that my gauge was off and that's why I ran short on yarn. I actually bound off several rows early because I could tell that what yarn I had left would not hold out. In spite of this, I still didn't have enough to do the knitted-on bind off. I made it halfway across the shawl before realizing that I would run short, so I ripped back and did a plain stretchy bind off instead. I did have enough yarn for that, thank goodness.

After blocking, this thing is huge -- wider even than my wingspan. I used three blocking wires across the top and still had a bit at the very edges that wouldn't fit on the wires. I didn't bother to try to pin out the bottom edge. I just smoothed the shawl with my hands until it looked like the lace was sufficiently opened up and the edge was relatively even (there were a few spots where there was some waviness from the stretchy bind off).


I really have only good things to say about the pattern in general; the failings of this project are really only mine and due to my own execution. The construction is certainly very original and engaging. Were I to knit this again, I'd probably use a smaller needle and perhaps choose a yarn with more yardage. As it was, I used a bit more than 800 yards because both my skeins were a tad overweight.

My LYS has decided to give us a brief break before we move onto the next shawl in the knitalong, and frankly I'm glad of it. I've got lots of design knitting to keep me busy until we start the next one!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Tour's End

The Tour de Fleece is now officially over, and while I've certainly produced a lot more in past years, I'm quite happy with what I accomplished this year.

I did not finish another skein in the last days of the Tour, but I did adjust one I'd previously spun so that I'm more happy with it. You saw my skein of corespun in my last post, and you may remember my saying that it was still a little too twisty for my taste. So on Friday night, I decided to try to fix it. I put the skein on my swift and wound it up with my ball winder. Then I quickly ran it through my miniSpinner to remove some of that excess twist. I let it sit on the bobbin overnight and then reskeined and rewashed it Saturday morning. I'm very happy to say that it worked just as I hoped it would.


The skein is now well balanced, and the yarn has fluffed up a bit, making it look and feel much softer.


I ended up with 324.5 yards, a very respectable amount. More importantly, I've really developed my skill with this technique, and I think it's safe to say that there will be more corespun in my future.

The last TdF project is still on my wheel, and I'll continue to work on it this week. This is my BMFA Sheep to Shoe kit. I'm at least past the halfway point on this, having moved on to my third (of four total) little bundle of fiber.


I'll end tonight with something I forgot to show you last week, a new fiber acquisition. I've really been trying to spin up more of my stash than what comes in, but I couldn't resist this:


This is a gorgeous blended merino top from FatCatKnits in a colorway called Blue Footed Booby (inspired by and named for the bird of the same name). It was a limited edition run of the fiber, so I ordered a whole pound of it so I could spin for a sweater. If this fiber alone isn't enough, I have a chocolate brown merino cross fleece in the stash that would look wonderful striped with it. I'm really excited to get to this -- but I'm making myself finish the spin in progress first!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

A Reckoning

I haven't touched my Waiting for Rain since the weekend because I've been hoping that the amount of yarn I have left will somehow have magically multiplied in my project bag, resulting in my having enough to finish the lace edging. Alas, that has not happened. So tonight, I'll be ripping back what I've done this far and starting (if not finishing) a plain bind off. I'm disappointed, obviously, because I really liked how the edging was looking, but there's really no solution here other than to rip back. I'm not going to buy another skein of yarn to do half a bind off, and I don't have anything in my stash that looks close enough to finish it with. If there's any silver lining in this situation, it's that I should finish the shawl with very minimal leftovers and maximizing this project's Stash Dash contribution.

On the plus side, I have finished two things in the past couple of days. First, there's my skein of corespun that I started on Sunday. I now feel I've mastered this technique, and I also busted another 4 oz. of fiber from my stash.


When I say this skein is finished, that's with a caveat. You can see just from the picture that there's quite a bit of excess twist in the yarn, despite my best efforts to counteract it by adding twist to my core. I guess there's wasn't enough, so the yarn is twisting up on itself pretty aggressively. I'm likely going to run this back through the wheel quickly to get rid of some of that twist, though I'll have to be careful that the wrap doesn't unwrap itself from the core in the process. I was pretty rough with the skein when I washed it, so I'm hoping the wrap has fulled a bit to itself and to the core.

I also finished my double-knit cowl:


I was surprised how quickly this knit up, given that I really was only working on it during the workweek while on my lunch break. This will be getting blocked and photographed this weekend so I can get the pattern off to my tech editor.

One last Tour de Fleece spin remains on the wheel, and it's my Sheep to Shoe kit. I highly doubt I'll finish it by the end of the Tour, but perhaps it'll get done by the end of the month. It has been good to spin some deep stash and feel like I'm making progress in cleaning things out. Baby steps, right? Once I do finish, I'll still have the other half of the fiber to deal with, plus the second S2S kit still in stash, so it's not like I'm going to run out of fiber to spin anytime soon!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Time for Another Round

I'm playing that game again. You know what game I'm talking about -- it's a game all knitters play at some point in their knitting careers. That's right: I'm engaged in yet another nail-biting round of Yarn Chicken.

This time the opponent is the yarn in my Waiting for Rain. Knowing that my remaining yarn supply was looking low, I decided to omit a handful of rows at the end following the last lace section. I soon found myself with only a small bit of my main color leftover -- not enough to do another two rows. So I worked one more garter ridge in the contrast color and then started the bind off (the alternative, fancier bind off option -- also the one that takes more yarn). I'm now about halfway through it, and this is all the yarn I have left:


I have to be honest: I'm not feeling very confident about this one. I'm pretty sure I'm going to run short on yarn, and there's no way I'm buying another skein just to finish binding off. If I do run out, I'll rip back and just do a regular stretchy bind off. That would disappoint me, because I really like the look of this bind off and think a plain edge just won't be as pretty, but a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

Fortunately this is the only game of Yarn Chicken I'm playing at the moment. My double-knit cowl is getting close to being done (fewer than 10 rounds remain), and I've got plenty of yarn. The image is really apparent now -- as is the fact that this cowl will need a serious blocking to tidy it up.


I also cast on for a pair of socks over the weekend on a bit of a whim (we went to see a movie Saturday afternoon, and I wanted something I could knit in the dark). This is the BFL from FatCatKnits I finished a couple of weeks ago. I'm just knitting a plain stockinette sock with a ribbed cuff to let the yarn do all the talking.


The first order of business tonight, however, before I square off against the remaining yarn in my shawl, is finishing up my corespun. I have just a couple of strips of fiber left to be spun, and the amount of core left on the bobbin is quickly dwindling, so it shouldn't take me too much time. I love how much this yarn is filling up the bobbin.


I'm only using 4 oz. of fiber and the yarn itself looks to be about sportweight on the whole, so the fact that this WooLee Winder bobbin is almost full tells you just how fluffy this yarn is. I'll be really interested to see just how much of it there is as well as how wild it is off the bobbin, as I suspect there's a fair amount of twist in it. Finishing this yarn should be a good way to get out any pent-up aggression!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Two-Thirds

We are now through two weeks of the Tour de Fleece, and I have a second finished skein. I've had better output in years past, but I'm still pretty satisfied with what I've gotten done over the past two weeks.

The finished skein is a Bond/Suri alpaca blend from Southern Cross Fibre. I split the top in half lengthwise and then split one half in half again for a fractal spin. My finished yarn is a two-ply light fingering that's approximately 416 yards.


There was a lot of orange in the fiber, so I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about the finished yarn, but I surprised myself by absolutely loving it.

I've still got some superwash merino on my Lendrum, but today, while the Mister and Rainbow went to a water park with some friends, I decided to do something a little more challenging. I missed the first challenge day (and by "missed" I mean I knew it was challenge day but pretty much ignored it), and as today was the second one, it seemed an appropriate day to do something a bit outside my comfort zone.

It's been several years since my first attempt at core spinning. It's a fun technique and one that I wasn't great at the first time I tried it (as you'd expect the first time doing anything). I also had this sparkly merino blended top that I won in the Tour last year from FatCatKnits that was just begging to become corespun:


The last time around, I only had one wheel. This time, I thought the miniSpinner might actually be the better tool because I could set it to a relatively low speed that would stay constant so I could focus on what my hands are doing.

The first step was to add some twist to the core; with core spinning, there's usually no plying, so if you want your yarn to be moderately balanced, some twist needs to be added to the core that will be lost when it's wrapped. I used some leftover Knit Picks laceweight from years ago and ran it quickly through my miniSpinner and onto a bobbin.


Then I prepped the fiber by splitting it into fourths and then stripping each piece into four lengths to make the fiber easier to manage and easier to draft. To core spin, you hold the fiber perpendicular to the core and allow it to wrap around the core. Here you can see what it looks like:


While my yarn isn't completely consistent because I clearly haven't entirely mastered the technique, I felt a lot more comfortable doing it this time around. I'm roughly halfway done and will do a little more this evening with the hope of finishing up tomorrow. Then I'll be fairly rough with the skein when I wash it in order to full the yarn a bit (that'll help the wrap stay on the core better). Now that I have a better feel for core spinning, I predict you'll be seeing it more from me!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Is It the Weekend Yet?

Phew! It has been one of those weeks. There have been all sorts of surprises at work (no Internet for the first part of the day on Tuesday, then discovering my computer had been broken by an overnight construction contractor when I got in yesterday), plus late nights and really hot days, so I'm pretty much done. I'm looking forward to what I hope will be a relaxing weekend with extra time to sleep.

Tour de Fleece spinning is continuing. Last night I started plying my Bond/Suri singles. I didn't get too far, as I didn't actually sit down at the wheel until after 9 p.m., but I'll put in more time tonight and Friday evening, so I should have a finished skein by the weekend. I'm also still working on the Sheep to Shoe singles, though they don't look that much different from the last time you saw them.

I've still been knitting, and I managed to finish up another project (and another sample for the pattern collection) on Sunday evening. They've now been blocked and the pattern's been sent off to my tech editor, so you can now see them.


These are meant to match the hat you saw a few weeks ago, though the colorwork pattern is slightly modified to make sizing a bit easier. What you cannot see in the above photo is the surprise inside the cuffs -- an extra ribbed lining!


This lining gives the mitten a really cozy fit -- because, honestly, is there anything worse on a really cold winter day than cold air getting into sensitive spots like your wrists?

I'm also working on the next sample for the collection, a double-knit cowl. I'm a bit farther than what you see in the photo, but the light has been weird today, so I didn't want to try to take an updated shot only to be disappointed.


Like the mittens and the hat, I'm working with Fibernymph Dye Works yarn for this cowl. This base is Bona Fide, her DK-weight yarn, and I'm using Red Hot Chili Pepper and Soft Black for my colors. I am once again finding double-knitting to be a really addictive technique, so I predict it will not take very much time to get this finished.

The last project still on the go is my Waiting for Rain, and I'm getting very close to finishing it. I finished the final lace section last weekend and got started on the garter stitch rows that follow it, so really the end is in sight. The problem is that each row now takes about 15 minutes to knit, so progress is very slow, and on top of that my yarn supply is dwindling. I'm hoping to have enough of the darker color I used for the stripes and lace to do the knit-on edging, and I'm hoping to get to that point by the weekend, when I'll have time to devote to it. Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Pattern Release: Pinola

We now pause our regularly scheduled Tour de Fleece content to bring you this breaking news: I have a new pattern out today!


This is the Pinola shawl, a one-skein project worked in fingering weight yarn. This shawl likely looks familiar; it was my entry to the Mad May Original Design Contest. It ended up coming in third place, which is just fine with me. I was very pleased with how it turned out!


Pinola is worked seamlessly from the top down, starting with a garter tab. While the two outer sections are worked in an easy-to-knit stockinette/garter stripe pattern, the center section is the real star. It features a cascading leaf motif superimposed on a mesh background. As the shawl gets wider, the leaves get bigger. Finally, the lower edge is finished with a picot bind off for a bit of frill.


The lace pattern in this shawl is both written and charted (and here I must credit my tech editor for helping me to come up with a way to chart the pattern in a much more succinct way, resulting in very manageable charts). To be able to knit this pattern, you'll need to know how to use a provisional cast on, pick up stitches, do directional increases (m1L and m1R) and decreases (ssk and k2tog), do yarnovers, do a centered double decrease, and cast on using the cable cast on (for the picot bind off). You'll need about 420-440 yards of fingering weight yarn; my sample used all but about a yard or two of one skein of tosh merino light.


I'm really excited about this one, and my testers were enthusiastic about it as well, so I'm hoping you'll enjoy it, too!


Sunday, July 10, 2016

Tour de Fleece Report: Week One

The first week of the Tour de Fleece is officially gone, and while I don't have a ton to show for it, there has been a lot of spinning, particularly this weekend. I had most of yesterday to myself, as the Mister and Rainbow were off at our local amusement park for the day, so I took full advantage of it.

First, I made excellent progress on my Southern Cross Fiber Bond/Suri alpaca. As a reminder, I'm spinning it into a two-ply fractal that should be fingering to sport weight when it's done. I had just started the first half of it in the middle of the week, and I spent about an hour and a half at it on Friday and then finished it up yesterday morning. The second bobbin was just started yesterday afternoon, and I put in about another hour today.


The second bobbin is the half of the fiber I did not split further, so the color repeats are much longer, and unfortunately I'm in the middle of a gray section. But you can see some of the brighter colors in the unspun fiber peeking out from behind the miniSpinner, and you can definitely see them when you look at the first bobbin.


If all goes according to plan, I should have the second bobbin finished up in the next day or two and will be able to ply by mid-week.

Yesterday afternoon I once again took my Lendrum to my LYS and worked on my Sheep to Shoe kit. It's still going slowly -- in fact, I haven't even finished up the first little bump of fiber -- but the bobbin is noticeably fuller.


I'm still not convinced I really like this colorway, whatever it is, but I do like this interplay of colors on the bobbin that I get thanks to my WooLee Winder!

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Trying to Keep Up

For a short week, this has sure been a long one, and all week I've felt like I've had to catch up (I suppose when work is busy, a four-day workweek means trying to cram five days of work into four). On the plus side, I did finally finish plying my first completed skein of handspun for the Tour de Fleece! Here it is, in the gloom of an overcast day:


This was the last shipment of the most recent round of the FatCatKnits fiber club, and I decided to go very simple this round. I spun up both colorways separately and then plied them together. The yarn is mostly fingering weight (there are a few spots where it tends more toward sport) and nearly 397 yards, with a good amount of plying twist -- even after snapping it vigorously in the finishing, the skein still has an overall slight twist to it and there are corkscrews here and there. I'm not terribly concerned about that extra twist, as I'm planning to use this for socks, but in theory I could have gotten a bit more length with a bit less twist. I'm not complaining, mind you; this skein took me past the 4,000 meter mark for Stash Dash!

While this skein was soaking in the tub upstairs, I decided that, rather than working on a spinning project I've already got going, I'd start another one. (This time of year is pretty much the only time I do that sort of thing, by the way.) I grabbed my most recent Southern Cross Fibre shipment, a yummy Bond/suri alpaca blend, and got to work. Here's what the fiber looks like:


I decided to spin another two-ply fingering weight with this, and to keep the colors a bit interesting, I split the top for a fractal spin. Specifically, I split the entire length of top in half, right down the middle, and then split one of the halves in half again the same way. So one ply will go through the color sequence once and the other ply will go through it twice. Here and there the colors will match up, but overall there will be a lot of barberpoling.


Over the past several days, I've also pulled out a spindle project when I've had a few minutes here and there. While in past years of the TdF I've taken a spindle to work to spin during my lunch break, I've skipped that this year as I have knitting to get done during that time, but I haven't wanted to ignore the spindles altogether because the projects I've got going on them have been languishing for a long time. This one, for instance, was started last year at MDSW. It's a chocolate alpaca/silk blend that's an absolutely dream to spin, but as it wants to be spun into frog hair, it's been very slow going.


I figure that if I can fit in 10-15 minutes on the spindle every day (or at least most days), I might actually see some real progress!

Tonight there's a chance I might skip spinning in favor of knitting -- I really want to get that shawl done!

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Juggling

Normally at this time of year, I'd be doing all the spinning I could. This year, however, I have knitting that has to continue, so I feel like I've been bouncing from one thing to another.

I did primarily focus on spinning over the weekend. Yesterday turned out to be a pretty crummy day (overcast all day, with showers in the afternoon and evening), so we all pretty much sat around all day. I watched two movies on my laptop and spun for much of the day, which resulted in finishing up the second bobbin of FatCatKnits BFL singles:


I started plying later in the afternoon, and I'm a little more than halfway through. I'll try to finish this evening while the Mister puts Rainbow to bed. I'm plying on my miniSpinner, so it's a pretty easy and mindless project.


While the above bobbins were resting, I spun a little bit on my Sheep to Shoe kit, which I'm spinning for three-ply sock yarn (well, I'm going to chain ply this bit, anyway). These singles are very fine, as you would expect, so it's not a fast spin by any means, but I think it will be a good one.


Because each S2S kit comes with 8.5 oz. of fiber, I thought it would be interesting to do a bit of a comparison. The first half, which you see above, I will chain ply after splitting the top vertically into four strips (so the colors will repeat and the knit fabric will stripe). The other half I will split into thirds horizontally and do a traditional three ply. The colors will obviously be the same, but the two finished skeins will be a good representation of the ways you can play with color in spinning.

The knitting that is still going on primarily consists of two projects: my Waiting for Rain, which is nearly finished, and the colorwork mittens, which are about halfway done. I pulled out the shawl last night for about an hour and got to the final lace section, so I'll attempt to finish that tonight. The mittens are turning out to be a quick and easy knit, so I may have a finished pair by the end of the week.


I'm still a little bit in denial about it already being July -- the summer seems to be going by way too quickly. I had hoped to have all the collection knitting done by the end of the summer; once the mittens are done, I'll have five more samples to knit up (but two of them are the largest patterns and will likely take the longest to knit). The good news is that the first two have already been through my tech editor and are in testing, so at least I'll get those squared away while I work on the rest. And fortunately the deadlines I've set for these patterns are entirely my own, so I can give myself an extension if I need one!

Sunday, July 03, 2016

The Tour Begins

I never used to like July much. It was always too hot and steamy. But since I started spinning and participating in the Tour de Fleece, it's become a month I actually look forward to!

Before I get full into my TdF spinning, however, there's last week's just-finished skein to formally show you. This skein is Southern Cross Fibre organic merino in the colorway Resistance Is Futile -- an appropriate name, considering I started spinning it very shortly after it arrived. Here it is, all dry and slightly poofed up from its state fresh off the wheel:


I ended up with a whopping 507 yards of light fingering -- more than I was expecting or even hoping for! I have no idea what to do with this skein just yet, but I'm sure I'll figure something out eventually. I know for sure that it won't be socks, as I think this fiber is just a little too soft for socks. But it would make a fantastic shawl or scarf or cowl -- anything that will be draped around my neck.

I did not get up early to get my TdF spinning started, but I did do a fair amount of it on the first day. I took my Lendrum over to my LYS in the afternoon and finished up the first bobbins of singles for my most recent FatCatKnits club shipment. This round was BFL in colors inspired by sea slugs, of all things. I spun up Molly, the brighter of the two colors, first:


Still on the wheel is Jesse, which I started last night; I'd estimate I'm about halfway done, and I'm going to try to finish it up today so I can ply tomorrow.

What I didn't get a picture of is the other bobbin I started while at my LYS. The team there has suggested doing a BMFA Sheep to Shoe kit, and as I've had two of them in my stash for several years, I thought that was a good idea. I've had the kits so long, in fact, that I don't even know what colorways they are. I picked one, split the fiber in half (each kit is 8.5 oz.) and then split half into four strips that I'll spin in order. Naturally I'm going for sock yarn, so it's likely to take a while.

I don't have any big goals for TdF this year other than to spin as much as I can comfortably manage and to try to spin down some of the stash. I've got a serious backlog of some club fiber, so it would be great to get to some of that over the next three weeks.