Sunday, April 23, 2017

Almost Like It Was Dyed for Me

If I had asked David of Southern Cross Fibre to dye a batch of spinning fiber just for me, based on my favorite colors, he couldn't have done any better than the fiber that became the yarn I finished plying earlier today. It had beautiful shades of my two favorite colors, blue and green, along with some deep blue-purple. It is exactly what I would have picked if I had my choice. It's one of many reasons why I have so enjoyed being in David's club -- he always seems to know which colorway you would like best.

To back up a bit, the fiber I spun for this yarn was Charollais, which was new to me. It felt rough and a bit harsh when I first pulled it out of the bag, but I was very pleasantly surprised at how much I truly enjoyed spinning it. It had a spongy texture to it and drafted easily, and I actually experimented with a bit of a woolen draft while spinning the singles. There's really no luster to the yarn, but the fiber really took the dye beautifully. I spun a three-ply fingering, splitting the original length of top into thirds widthwise and then dividing each section into fourth lengthwise. My goal was to distribute the colors as much as possible throughout the skein so that I wouldn't wind up with tiny bits of the bright green amid large areas of dark blue and blue-purple. I was surprised while plying, however at how often it seemed like two of the plies were the same color, and the effect was rather like a subtle gradient on the bobbin.

I finished plying late enough in the afternoon that I won't have a finished shot until tomorrow at the earliest (the skein is still drying from its bath), but here is a beauty shot on my niddy noddy:

I did my usual tight ply on this yarn, but I may have gone a little overboard, because even after washing and snapping to distribute the twist, the skein is still twisting up on itself and the yarn is corkscrewing a bit. Here's a (poorly lit) shot of it drying in the shower just a little bit ago:

I'll see how it looks in the morning and may ball it up and run it quickly back through the wheel to remove some excess twist, but then again extra twist never hurt anyone when knitting socks. I guess I'll have to see how much the skein shrank and get an estimate of my yardage first; my initial guess is somewhere in the 320 yard range, which isn't a whole lot for my big feet.

In the meantime, I got a very preliminary start on my next spin, some SCF Corriedale in the colorway Space. I'm spinning sock yarn again, so there will be plenty of time to see it in the coming weeks!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The End of One Slog

A simple stockinette item worked in the round really should not take a month and a half to knit, but I guess that's what happens when you knit a big slouchy hat in fingering weight yarn.

Pattern: Sockhead Slouch Hat by Kelly McClure
Yarn: Trekking XXL (75% superwash wool, 25% nylon) in color 143, approximately three-quarters of a skein
Needles: US 1 (2.25 mm) and US 2 (2.75 mm) Addi Sock Rockets, magic loop
Started/Completed: March 7/April 19
Mods: None

I was definitely late to the party on this pattern. It was very popular nearly a decade ago, and there are close to 14,000 projects on Ravelry. I guess I've just never wanted to "waste" a pretty skein of fingering weight yarn on a hat when I could use it for socks or a shawl. This yarn, however, was completely free -- I picked it up off the freebie table at Indie Knit and Spin back in February. These colors are not at all me, so I knew I wouldn't be tempted to use it for socks for myself, but I thought it would be perfect for charity knitting (and frankly that's the only reason I allowed myself to pick it up).

The pattern itself is super easy and straightforward, and other than remembering when to knit and when to purl for the ribbed brim, it's an entirely mindless knit. The only reason it took as long as it did was because I worked on it pretty much exclusively while putting Rainbow to bed until the past few days. The Mister and I trade off bedtime duty, so that meant I was, at most, working just a handful of rounds every other night. I probably would have devoted more concentrated time on it had I not had several other projects in the rotation as well, so perhaps calling it a slog is a bit of a misnomer. I wouldn't hesitate to knit the pattern again, particularly if I feel like using up some fingering weight yarn. Even with the self-patterning yarn, I don't think it's too busy, and it would be easy to enough to combine several partial skeins for some crazy stripes or color blocks.

I have not blocked the hat yet, but it will be getting a bath very soon and then will go into the donation pile that I'll be taking to SSK this summer. And because only having two current projects on the needles clearly isn't enough, I've started another charity hat to use up some extremely deep stash yarn (it was purchased more than a decade ago at a store that was closing, and it appears I never even entered it into my Ravelry stash).

This is Regia 6-fadig Crazy Color, which is now discontinued. I've tried to knit it several times but never been successful, so I'm sticking with something really easy this time around. I am following the Basic Hat Pattern from Ann Budd's Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns, so provided I can finish it before the end of the month, it will count both toward the SSK knitalong (because Ann Budd is one of this year's teachers) and for the charity knitalong. And it will be two more skeins busted from the stash!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Handspun Petals and Back on Sleeve Island

Over the course of the past week, I've felt a little bit like I've been juggling, what with all the projects I had on the needles at once. Usually I have only two or three, but I think toward the end of last week, I had four knitting projects plus spinning. Fortunately, I've reduced that number by one.

I cast on for Zuzu's Petals for the Knitsburgh Yarn Shop knitalong last Thursday evening and had the stockinette portion done by the time I was ready to turn in for the night. It took me just a bit of knitting time the following three evenings to finish it up, and I blocked it last night.

Photo taken by Rainbow

Pattern: Zuzu's Petals by Carina Spencer
Yarn: my handspun (Frabjous Fibers merino/sparkle blend in Trapeze)
Needles: US 6 (4.0 mm) 24 in. Addi Turbo circ
Started/Completed: April 13/April 16
Mods: none

This was a fast and satisfying knit, and it felt wonderful to be knitting with my own handspun again. I think that perhaps I did not choose the best skein, as I think some of the barberpoling of the yarn is obscuring the lace a bit, but it still worked well in general. I especially like the very first part of the cowl, in the stockinette section, where the colors transitioned rather like a sunrise.

While I was knitting the cowl, I was a bit skeptical that the neck opening was going to be wide enough to get my head through, but it ended up okay after blocking. Blocking was a bit difficult, I'll admit, and I think I'll likely need to steam the top edge to get rid of some inadvertent points, but the wonderful thing about blocking is that it's not permanent. I think the job I did was perfectly satisfactory.

The other project taking my time over the weekend was my handspun shawl, which has finally moved into the two-color portion. I'll just give you a peek for now -- I want to wait until I've worked everything out before I do a big reveal (plus there will still be a commercial yarn sample to knit before I can even think about sending it out to my tech editor).

My main focus for the week, I've decided, is working on the sleeves of my Quill sweater. I've ignored it too much in the past week or so, and if I want to finish it up at some point in the near future, I've really got to buckle down and focus on getting it done.

Photo by Rainbow; believe it or not, this was the best one she took.

The first sleeve is about at the elbow, and I've got four more sets of decreases to go. I'm getting a bit faster at switching out my skeins, too, and I've already decided that I'll break off one skein when it comes time to knit the cuff. The rounds are getting smaller at this point, but I still think I'll be marooned on "Sleeve Island" for a while yet.

I completely forgot to share some happy mail last week -- I won a prize in the Cape Cod Socks KAL on Ravelry! Aren't these mini skeins just so much fun?

These are from Sonnet of the Moon, and they're a fingering weight superwash merino/nylon. I've got a total of 275 yards, and I think these would look great in a colorwork hat or cowl or something as the contrast to a neutral color.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Nothing at All Like That Scottish Play

I've been reminded a bit of Macbeth this week as I've been working on my latest spin, though it has everything to do with the name of the fiber's colorway -- Boil and Bubble -- and nothing to do with the fiber or the project. Quite frankly, it's been the complete opposite of my experience with The Scottish play -- every minute has been delightful! The first bobbin was finished up Friday afternoon, when I got to leave work early for the holiday weekend and found myself home alone (Rainbow had the day off from school, so she went to my in-laws' to sleep over).

Try as I might, I just cannot get my camera to capture the real depth of these colors. It's almost like David was inside my head when he selected these colors for me, because I can't think of any other combination I would be more drawn to. I've also been very pleasantly surprised by the fiber. It felt rough when I first pulled it out the bag, but it feels absolutely lovely to spin. It reminds me a little of Targhee, in that it's somewhat spongy, and it's got a very matte finish to it. I am spinning my default singles, which usually result in a three-ply fingering weight, but I have no idea how the fiber will change when I wash the finished skein.

Because the fiber contains only about three colors (with areas of blending), I have been splitting the top prior to spinning each bobbin. I split the original length of top in thirds widthwise, but now I'm taking each section and splitting each in half and then splitting each half in half again, which gives me four little bundles of fiber to spin per bobbin. I figure this will help to distribute the colors a bit.

Now here's the part where I must admit that more fiber entered the house this past week -- but I have to say that I feel zero guilt about it. A couple of weeks ago, Ginny of FatCatKnits posted in her Ravelry group that business hasn't been so good lately. Thus far this year, I'd been good about deleting the shop e-mails she's sent out without buying anything, but that post was all the motivation I needed to place an order. On Wednesday, after an extremely long and stressful day at work (9.5 hours with no break!), I came home to find this waiting for me:

This is, from left, 5 oz. of Rambouillet/silk in Little Sister,  4 oz. of Panda Sparkle (superwash merino/bamboo/nylon sparkle) in Algae Bloom, and 4 oz. of superwash Targhee in a new colorway called Eloise. I really should put these braids in with the rest of the fiber stash, but it's made me so happy to look at them and occasionally pet or squish them that they're still sitting in my bedroom.

In an effort to make more room in my stash for fiber and handspun, this week I finally took the plunge and opened up an Etsy shop! There are about 15 listings up now, but I'll be adding more soon once I did out the Big Box 'o Handspun from the basement. You can find me on Etsy at Fluvial Fibers.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

I Need a Knitting Vacation

Is it really only Thursday? It's been a very long, very busy week. On Monday and Tuesday, we had late nights due to Passover seders. Yesterday, under the stress of a crazy work deadline, I worked through lunch (so no knitting break for me) and stayed at the office an hour later than usual. All this is a way of saying that I haven't had very much time for yarn this week, and frankly it's making me grumpy.

What knitting I have managed to accomplish this week has been on the sleeve of my Quill sweater. I finally finished up the short rows and have moved on to the sleeve, which is just about to my elbow. It would be moving a lot faster were I not alternating skeins -- I'm switching every round, to keep the beginning of the round neat, but that means a lot of moving of skeins to avoid tangling at the beginning of each round.

The shawl that I have been working on during my lunch breaks (when I get them, haha), is slowly growing. Though it doesn't look much different, there are definitely a lot more stitches on the needle (at this point, it's around 250) and they are getting crowded enough that I can't fully stretch out the shawl to get a sense of its size. I've got to weigh the skein of Corriedale to get a sense for how much I've used up, but I think I'm getting close to being ready to join the other color and start working the design.

The weather forecast for the weekend ahead is looking rather gloomy and rainy, but I'm thinking of that as the perfect opportunity to work on these projects and perhaps start a couple of new ones. For one thing, I need to cast on my Zuzu's Petals, the current KAL pattern for Knitsburgh Yarn Shop. I dug deep into the stash and pulled out this merino/sparkle that I spun back in the fall of 2013, originally intending to make something with it for Rainbow. It's been sitting in a ball ever since, so I'm claiming it for me.

The other thing I need to cast on is a baby hat for one of Rainbow's teachers, who is expecting a little girl next month. Rainbow has been taking in her knitting to school to show it off, and this teacher was so impressed that of course I felt I had to knit a little something. I've picked out the I Heart Cables hat pattern, and I'm using some of the pink Knit Picks Swish that Rainbow had set aside for her first piece of knitting but hasn't used (and likely won't). The teacher is on maternity leave as of tomorrow, so I really should have started this hat a long time ago, but I'm assuming that the school will be able to get it to her once it's done.

Do you have any big plans for the weekend?

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Just in Time for a Warm-up

It seems that the key to getting the weather to finally feel like spring was to finish a new pair of socks! I wore them today anyway, because my feet are almost always cold, especially in my office.

Pattern: my basic vanilla sock, worked over 70 stitches
Yarn: ONline Supersocke 4-fach Season Color, color 2077, 0.84 skeins
Needles: 40 in. US 0 (2.0 mm) Knitter's Pride Karbonz, magic loop
Started/Completed: March 24/April 9

I think I did a pretty good job of getting the patterning to match up on both socks, though obviously with the machine printing, some of it isn't exact. There isn't too much to say about these, as they're just plain socks, but they are my fourth completed pair for the year and the first time I've knit with ONline sock yarn in probably close to a decade. As with most yarns of this type, I found this yarn not the softest to work with, but I know that these socks are going to wear like iron. And certainly the self-patterning made it fun to knit.

I am holding off on casting on a new pair for the time being because there are enough other projects on the needles. My lunchtime knitting is now the handspun crescent shawl, which is still just all cream. I'm hoping soon I will be ready to incorporate color. But I'm already thinking ahead to its being complete, as I picked up yarn over the weekend for the commercial yarn sample for this shawl (buying yarn for a design is kosher under the rules of the yarn diet, don't you think?):

This is Neighborhood Fiber Co. Rustic Fingering, a gorgeous superwash merino singles yarn with a generous 475 yards per skein. The colors I picked are Lauraville (the gray) and Station North (the deep red). I'm fairly certain that I'm going to use the gray for the main color and the red for the contrast, but I may change my mind before I actually go to cast on.

Meanwhile, I'm still chugging away on my Quill, and I got to a key point over the weekend. I finished all the parts of the body and joined the shoulders, and on Sunday evening, I picked up for the sleeves and started the short rows to shape the sleeve cap.

It's a bit hard to see, given the needles going everywhere, but it's moving right along, and I think once I get past the short rows, the sleeve is going to fly. The sleeves are stockinette with a garter cuff, and once they're done, all that will remain on the sweater is the big, squishy garter collar. I've heard that part might take a while, but at least I am now free from the charts.

I'm also still working on the self-patterning yarn Sockhead, but it doesn't look too different from the last time you saw it. It makes for good knitting in the dark when I'm putting Rainbow to bed.

I did not get as much reading done this weekend as I'd hoped to thanks to a lot of Passover preparations, but I'm more than 100 pages into The Underground Railroad (which, incidentally, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction yesterday) and am enjoying it. Somehow I managed to order the large print edition when I bought it on Amazon, so I laugh a little when I take out at night, but truth be told, my eyes are a bit thankful for the larger font after a long day of reading at work.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Land and Sea

I am so thrilled with the skein of yarn that came off my wheel yesterday. You may remember that I finished half of this particular FatCatKnits club shipment (Undersea Life from January 2017) just before we went away; I was saving this colorway for last because it was my favorite. I think you'll see why -- just look at these colors! They were inspired by all the brightly colored fish you see around a coral reef.

As with the other colorway, I split the fiber in half lengthwise and spun each half onto its own bobbin, then plied the two together. There was definitely more overlap in the colors in this skein than in the first, but I think that's mainly because there were more colors and shorter sections of them. This skein ended up a little shorter than the first, at 255 yards, but I've got more than 525 yards total with the two, which should be plenty for a good-sized shawl. Here's a shot of the skeins together:

I love how the little bits of flax really give the yarn a tweedy look. And while they were a bit annoying to spin, I do like the finished result, and I'm interested to see how the yarn behaves when it's knit up.

Almost as soon as this skein was off the wheel, I started a new spinning project. I don't think I ever managed to photograph and share this fiber when it first arrived in the fall, but here's the Southern Cross Fibre October shipment, a colorway called Boil and Bubble on a new-to-me fiber called Charollais.

The fiber is on the coarser side, so I figure it will be good for socks, and I'm spinning into a traditional three ply (hoping for fingering weight, but I have no idea if this fiber will bloom when it's washed). I split the top into three sections widthwise, and then I'm splitting each section into fourths lengthwise in order to spread out the colors a bit.

So far it's spinning incredibly easily, and the colors are just amazingly vibrant. I'm excited to see if they stay so bright in the finished yarn.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Pattern Re-release: Viola's Stockings

Many years ago, maybe even before I self-published my first pattern, I wrote a sock pattern and submitted it to a book collection. The pattern was accepted, but it took several years before the book was finished and published in Defarge Does Shakespeare. It was a thrilling moment for me to see my name in print after all that time had passed!

Unfortunately, the book didn't sell as well as we all hoped, which meant that designers didn't get much in the way of payment (the Cooperative Press model meant that contributors were paid royalties or dividends, as it were, based on total sales and their contribution size). Recently, those who were involved with the production of the book decided that we designers could do better by selling the patterns ourselves, individually, and gave us the rights back to our patterns.

All of that is a long way of saying that my pattern, Viola's Stockings, is now available through my Ravelry store!

These socks were inspired by the character Viola in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, one of my favorite plays. In the play, Viola is shipwrecked in a strange place and finds herself alone and dependent on her own intelligence and strength to survive. She quickly realizes that things will be much easier for her if she disguises herself as a man. She succeeds in passing as a man but finds herself conflicted about her identity when she falls in love with Orsino, the handsome duke for whom she works.

When I imagined how Viola might dress herself, I though she would likely wear something hidden to others that would nevertheless remind her that underneath the men's clothing, she was still a woman. Thus, the cuff of these socks is lacy and feminine, with a touch of sparkle in the form of beads.

These cuffs, of course, would be covered by her pants when worn, so all that anyone else would see is the diamond lattice pattern that forms the rest of the leg and instep.

The socks are knit from the cuff down, starting with a beaded picot hem. They use a traditional heel flap and gusset and are finished with a wide toe that is grafted with Kitchener stitch. You'll need about 100 g of fingering weight sock yarn (the sample shown in the photos used Cascade Heritage Silk); your actual yarn usage will depend on how long your feet are. The pattern is graded to two adult sizes, to fit a foot circumference of 8 (10) in./20.5 (25.5) cm. The stitch patterns are both written and charted, and my tech editor and I have just spent several weeks whipping this pattern into tip-top shape.

Even though this isn't a new pattern, I'm very excited to have it officially join my portfolio!

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Firing on All Cylinders

It's only Tuesday, and it's already been an incredibly long week. There's a reason I so rarely take time off from work -- I end up paying for it when I get back! Thank goodness I have knitting to help me maintain my sanity.

And there's been a good deal of knitting, though perhaps not as much as I would like. For one thing, I am getting closer to another completed pair of socks. I did manage to finish up the first one before we left Florida and promptly cast on the second, which saw some action on the plane. I'm a little more than halfway through the leg.

I've also picked up my wild self-patterned hat again (it's being worked on pretty much exclusively on the evenings I put Rain bow to bed). It's hard to tell, but the pattern is interrupted somewhere in the middle of the stockinette because I encountered a knot. The patterning is so busy, though, that I don't think anyone will be able to tell.

The main focus of my knitting time the past few days, however, has been my Quill sweater. I finally reached the point of the armhole shaping on Sunday night and managed to knit up the entirety of the left front (that sounds more impressive than it is; it's a relatively thin strip of stockinette). Last night, I tackled the back, and I'm hoping to get that done tonight.

Once the back is finished, the other front should be a breeze, and then it will be time to start the sleeves. The sleeves on this sweater are worked from the top down, with short rows to shape the sleeve caps. That's really the only tricky part; once I'm past the short-row shaping, I think the sleeve should go very quickly, as stockinette is the round does. The final challenge will be the collar, with its miles of garter stitch -- but at least that will be relatively mindless and I won't need to keep track of a chart.

I've also added some additional rows to the handspun shawl I shared last week, but it doesn't look much different, so I'll spare you another bland shot of cream-colored knitting. Once I start working in the other color, it'll start to look a lot more interesting.

On top of all this, I'm tempted to cast on some new projects, but I am holding off for the time being. I think four projects, plus spinning, is enough for right now!

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Back in the Spin of Things

After a week away from my wheels and fiber, I was very eager to spin something when we got home from our vacation yesterday afternoon. I was good and did all the unpacking first, but as soon as everything was in its proper place, I plopped myself down behind my Lendrum and started in on the other half of the FatCatKnits Polwarth/flax. I'd saved this colorway for last because it was my favorite -- so bright and colorful! Here's about half of it all balled up as I was spinning yesterday:

It's actually a bit more vibrant than it appears here; yesterday was very overcast, so the light when I took this photo was not the best.

I have been so excited to spin that I've already finished up the first bobbin of singles; here's a composite of progress shot that gives you an idea of all the colors in the fiber:

The second bobbin is well under way, and I have a feeling I'll be done with this skein by the end of the week, if not sooner.

While we were away, a package from Australia showed up, a replacement from a September club extra I had ordered some time ago but that seemed to have gotten lost somewhere along the way. This time around, David was able to use his new shipping method that enabled me to track the package's progress, so I knew as soon as it was delivered (though, sadly, I wasn't there to fondle it at the time).

This is Flanders Field on Rambouillet, which I know will be an absolute joy to spin. The colors aren't very accurate here, either, I'm afraid -- there's a pale sage-y green in there that's showing up as white.

The week ahead is going to be stupid crazy (big project deadline at work), so it's quite possible that I'll be doing more spinning than knitting this week, as it takes less brain power. I'm sure my fiber stash won't complain.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Split Three Ways

Our vacation is quickly drawing to an end. Tomorrow is our last full day here, and we'll be home by mid-afternoon on Saturday. I'm not complaining, mind you -- as nice as it has been to have the week off and to get some extra sleep, I do miss my own bed (and, of course, my husband), and it will be not that bad to get back into a normal routine.

That said, I've been trying to keep busy while we've been here. I've been exercising a fair amount (though I've only managed to run once, as either a cold or a very bad allergy attack has left me very congested and with some difficulty in taking a deep breath or being able to go more than about 10 minutes without blowing my nose) and reading quite a bit for pleasure. And it goes without saying that I have been knitting quite a lot.

My knitting time has been divided into three projects. First are the self-patterning socks that I started the day before we arrived. They've been good for working on in the car when we drive to restaurants or the beach, and I'm probably between an inch and a half and two inches from starting the toe on the first sock. I'd like to get this one done before Saturday so I can have the second sock in progress for the flight home.

I'm still working on my Quill sweater as well, though it doesn't look much different from the last time you saw it. I've got two inches of body left to knit before I'm ready to start the armhole shaping, and I'm hoping to get that done tonight. Here's a close-up of the feathers:

Finally, there's the shawl I started on Tuesday. It doesn't look like much at this point because it's just garter stitch in cream-colored handspun.

This is the first time I've designed a top-down crescent shawl -- though not the first time I've knit one -- and I love how quickly it's getting big. It will look a lot more exciting once I start working in the blue handspun. If it looks half as good as the swatch I worked up last week (as I was experimenting with numbers and techniques to get it looking as I'd imagined), I'll be very pleased.

When I have been knitting this week, I've been reading up a storm, and I've actually finished some books! On the flight down, I finished reading The Girl with All the Gifts on my iPad (though that sounds more impressive than it actually was; I only had about two chapters left to read, and I think it only took me about 10 to 15 minutes to finish it off). I have to say that I did not much enjoy the book, and I only read it because I kept seeing it being mentioned by a bunch of friends who had read it on Goodreads. The blurb sounded intriguing, so I'd marked it as "want to read" and (thanks to the magic of technology) had gotten an e-mail from Amazon when the Kindle version was on sale. I'm thankful I did not pay very much for it. If you've been considering it, let me caution you by telling you (and this isn't really a spoiler, because it's revealed in the first chapter) that this book involves zombies -- a lot of them. I do not care for zombie-related stuff at all, and had I known, I wouldn't have read the book. Of course, once I started, I had to finish to find out how it ended.

The second book I read, which was infinitely better, was Hidden Figures. I have not yet seen the movie but had heard that the book was really phenomenal, and it did not disappoint. I don't real a ton of nonfiction because sometimes all the facts and figures and whens and whys cause me to lose interest, but this one kept me focused the whole time. It's a very good blend of the historical context of the time and the stories of the women who are at the center of the story. I highly recommend it.

When I finished that, I picked up A Man Called Ove from the small collection my parents have down here, and I finished it this afternoon. It was an easy and entertaining read, and the beginning reminded me very much of something else, though I haven't been able to put my finger on just what.

I'm now reading Orange Is the New Black on my iPad (Kindle app), but that's mainly when I'm putting Rainbow to bed, so I need to find a new physical book to read for the last day and a half we're here. There are some to choose from, but I suppose I could always stick with the Kindle book and wait until we get home to read whatever is atop my bedside stack of books. I have to say, it's nice to be able to sit down and read for a good length of time -- and finish up a book in a couple of days. I guess that is what I'm going to miss most about vacation.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

I Packed My Mojo

Greetings from Southwest Florida! We're now a few days into our vacation and enjoying every minute. The first day, the weather wasn't so great, but I've managed to get a sunburn since then and have spent many hours outdoors, including about four at the beach today. I've finished one book and am halfway through another. And my knitting mojo is strong.

I've spent the last two evenings working on my Quill, and it has grown quite a bit! I've finished the first feather and am into the second, and when I measured the body before putting it away last night, I think I only had about three inches left before the start of the armhole shaping.

The other project that's seen a good deal of attention is the socks I started on Friday. I worked on them on the flight down (while catching up on the 90% Knitting podcast) and in the car, and I've already got half a sock done.

The sock may look all sweet and innocent, but it was not so good last night when I was trying to turn the heel and start the gusset. When I finished turning the heel, I found that I had an even number of heels stitches when I should have had an odd number. I figured I'd just fudge it and add in the missing stitch, but after I was a couple of rounds into the gusset, I spotted a dropped stitch in the heel flap. So I pulled the whole sock off the needles and ripped back to the issue to fix it. On the second go-round, I seem to have picked up different numbers of stitches on each side of the heel flap, so my gusset is going to end up being a little uneven. These are for me, though, so I'm ignoring it and moving on.

I haven't yet started my shawl, but I think I will probably start it very soon -- perhaps even as soon as I publish this post!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Better than Expected

I'm writing this post from my favorite chair in Florida, officially on vacation. But before we left for our trip, I did manage to finish up my spinning project. I didn't have many expectations for this FatCatKnits Polwarth/flax yarn, as I'd never spun such a blend of fiber before, so I was very pleasantly surprised by the outcome.

I anticipated that the Polwarth would poof up some when it was washed, and it did, but only slightly -- not nearly as much as a 100% Polwarth usually does. The skein was fairly balanced after washing, too, and it still seems to have good drape. After finishing the yarn is roughly light fingering and 272 yards for 2.5 ounces.

Another pleasant surprise was how well the colors lined up in plying. I had split the fiber in half (more or less) lengthwise, but there was a bit more on one bobbin than the other, so there's a bit of barberpoling, but I think it adds to the depth of color. The flax content gives a tweediness to the yarn that I really like.

My only complaint about this skein is that, as I suspected it would, it blend considerably when I washed it: The wash water was a dark purple. The rinse water was a much lighter purple, so I highly suspect that it was a case of excess dye. I didn't notice any purple on the towel I used to dry the skein or in the shower where it was hung to dry, so I'm hoping I got it all out.

I won't be doing any spinning this week, but I'm excited to spin up the other skein of yarn from this club shipment when I get back!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Hello, Old Friend

After finally finishing up the secret project last night (turns out a three-needle bind off takes way longer than I though it would), I can once again to return to my poor neglected Quill sweater. I haven't touched it in probably two weeks, and I've missed it. It has grown a bit since the last time you saw it -- I'm now into the waist increases and a good way through the first feather.

I am so happy to be knitting this again. This pattern is such a pleasure, just the perfect mix of mindlessness and mindfulness. I'll be taking it with me to Florida, where I predict it will see a lot of attention. I don't know that I'll actually finish it in a week, but I can certainly make some good progress.

I am still working on the Sockhead hat, though primarily only when I'm putting Rainbow to bed, so it doesn't look much different from the last time you saw it. I encountered a knot in the yarn last night, which very obviously interrupted the patterning, but I think that will be less of an issue in this hat than it would have been in a pair of socks. I know that knots like this are a fact of life but I can't help but be annoyed when they happen in something that has a very obvious pattern or repeat.

Tomorrow, in preparation for the trip, I'm planning to cast on for a new pair of socks using the Online Supersocke you saw last week so I'll have something for the plane. I've never had an issue with knitting getting through security before, but just in case I'm going to start them with my Karbonz needles and pack a pair of Addi Rockets in my checked bag.

While I'm looking forward to the extra knitting time (and extra sleep) that comes with vacation, I'm also really looking forward to reading for pleasure more than I get to do typically. I finally finished the seventh (I think?) Outlander book the other night, and last night I started Hidden Figures. I've only read the prologue and the first chapter thus far, but I'm really enjoying it. It is significantly shorter in length than my most recent read but also nonfiction, which means I have to slow down my reading speed to catch everything. That said, I don't think it will take me too long to get through, and I'm hopeful that I'll be able to read at least two books during the week away. I set my Goodreads reading challenge at 20 books again this year (I met and exceeded that goal last year), but if I'm going to stay on track, I need finish two more books by the end of the month. Fortunately I'll have plenty to choose from, as my mother has promised me a stack of books she's already read.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Need Some Color?

Well, it's officially spring now, even though it doesn't much feel like it just yet. Though all the plants and trees around our house seem to be sprouting, there are no leaves or flowers out just yet -- and I'm really craving color. We've had some warmer days, and obviously there's more daylight now, but what really says spring to me is the color of spring flowers and green buds on the trees (also seasonal allergies, but I've got that covered!). I guess I now know why I chose such a bright color for my most recent pair of socks.

Pattern: Cape Cod Socks by knottygnome crafts
Yarn: Youghiogheny Yarns Mon Sock in Pygmy Puff
Needles: US 0 (2.0 mm) Addi Sock Rockets
Started/Completed: February 18/March 16
Mods: substituted my usual wide toe

These were a fun knit. Once I'd gotten through about half a repeat of the stitch pattern, I had it memorized, so I was able to knit most of the socks without needing the pattern on hand. I think perhaps my yarn was a tad bit busy for the stitch pattern, as it's a bit lost, but the texture is certainly more interesting than plain stockinette. I think this pattern would make excellent man socks, and I have two skeins of gray Lorna's Laces that have been in my stash forever that will likely become another pair of these socks for one of the men in my life later this year.

My only significant modification to the pattern was to sub in my usual toe. The pattern calls for a spiral toe, which I find uncomfortable to wear because I can feel the decrease lines.

I really loved this yarn, though it is on the thin side of fingering, and I have about 130 yards left to do something with (I'm thinking some preemie hats). It was my first time using yarn from Youghiogheny Yarns, who are relatively local to me, and I'm looking forward to trying their worsted weight base when I knit with the skein Rainbow bought from them at Indie Knit and Spin.

In other knitting, the secret project should be finished up tonight, so I'll be getting back to my sweater knitting. I've also finally moved on from the ribbing of my Sockhead, so my speed has definitely picked up. I took it to work the past two days for my lunch break knitting, and that has helped it move along. I will say that I'm really glad I decided to use this skein for a charity hat and not for socks for me, because these are really not at all my colors!

I will likely be casting on a new pair of socks toward the end of the week to take on the trip, and I've wound up two skeins of handspun to take for a new design knit.

I think those plus the sweater should be enough for a week away, especially considering I'm planning on spending a significant portion of the week reading for pleasure. But knowing myself as I do, I wouldn't be surprised if a skein or two of kitchen cotton winds up in my suitcase as well.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

There's Always a Learning Curve

After neglecting my spinning for most of last week, I spend a fairly good amount of time at the wheel Friday night, yesterday, and today. I'm trying really hard to get through my unspun FatCatKnits club shipments, and I've been working on the last remaining one for the most recent round of the club (I still have a couple I haven't spun from one of the rounds last year, but as those are packed away in the stash, I'm not thinking of them for the time being).

The fiber blend this time was something really interesting and unlike anything I've spun before -- 80% Polwarth, 20% bleached flax -- so it's taken some adjusting to in order to get into the groove of spinning it. The flax seems to be in two main forms: soft clumps of fiber that seem more like silk or bamboo and wiry fibers that feel more like kemp. I've been resisting the urge to pull out every little bit of it, though I have tossed the stray fiber that didn't want to get twisted in with the rest and some slubs here and there. Here's a photo of the first bobbin, which gives a good idea of the texture I'm getting.

The flax occasionally gets doubled up on itself and pokes out a bit (you can see one bit of it just below the end of the singles in the middle of the bobbin above), so these singles definitely aren't as smooth or even as I'm accustomed to spinning them. They are more or less my default singles, though they do have thicker spots, and I think that with the poof that Polwarth tends to have when it's washed, the finished two-ply yarn will be fingering weight or so.

Ready to be plied
I've decided to once again spin this shipment up as two separate two-ply skeins, one for each colorway. This one is called Coral Reef, and though it looks like a fairly consistent green on the bobbin, there is more green at the beginning and a blend of blue and purple in the middle. If you don't believe me, take a look at what my hand looked like after I finished spinning that section:

The tips of my left thumb and index finger were also a rather alarming purple. This isn't typical for Ginny's fibers, so I suspect that the dye was coming off of the flax, which doesn't take dye the same way wool does. I'll just have to keep an eye on the finished skein when I wash it now that I know that there may be some excess purple in it. I'm interested to see what happens to the flax content of the yarn after it's washed and knit, particularly if it softens up.

The week ahead should be an interesting one, though I'm hoping to find some time to ply up this skein and perhaps make a good start on the other. Rainbow is on spring break and the Mister is traveling for work, so our schedule should be a bit odd. On the plus side, our mornings won't be as hectic, as I won't be rushing her to get out the door, but I will be on bedtime duty every night (though that means bonus knitting and reading time). We are leaving next Saturday for a week down in Florida with my parents, so I'll also have to find time to pack and plan the knitting projects. And my main goal for the week is to finish the Outlander book I've been reading so I can start something new on the way down.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Status Quo

I fear my knitting this week is fairly unexciting. I've been spending most of my time on knitting I can't show you (it's a design commission that has to stay secret until it's published), so my only real progress that I can share with you has been on my Cape Cod Socks.

These are actually getting close to being done, in large part thanks to the fact that last night I finally got to go to knit night at the Steel City Fiber Collective again. I've been trying to go for the past few weeks, but the Mister's work schedule has prevented it. Last night I managed to get through the entire gusset and get a bit of foot done, and after knitting during lunch today, I only have one repeat left on the foot and the toe remaining before I have a finished pair.

Should I feel the need to cast on another pair right away, I have some choices now -- and here's where I have to admit that I did buy some yarn last week when Rainbow and I visited Knitsburgh. Rainbow actually spotted this skein first, and I liked it so much that it had to come home with me (along with some wool wash, which I was really in need of and had intended to purchase):

This is Online Supersocke. It's self-patterning and one of those wear-like-iron wool/nylon blends, so the socks will likely be indestructible. I'm thinking that this will be good for the spring break trip that Rainbow and I will be taking to Florida the week after next (we're headed down with my parents; the Mister has a work trip during that week and can't make it).

We've got very little planned for the weekend ahead, and I'm planning on taking advantage of that. In addition to knitting and spinning, I have about 200 pages left to read in my book (of about 1,150 total), and I'd really like to finish it before we go on our trip so I can take a couple of shorter books with me. And I suppose part of the weekend should be spent planning the most important part of the trip -- what knitting I'm taking with me!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

We're Not Done Yet

It seems that winter is back. For a brief period of time, it seemed like we were getting an early spring, but I guess we're not through with the cold weather and snow just yet, so the handknits have been getting a lot of wear. And somehow I feel better about having multiple projects on the needles when knitting seems seasonally appropriate.

Still on the needles are my Cape Cod Socks (the first sock is done, the second sock is almost to the heel), my Quill sweater (which has had maybe a dozen rows added to it), and the charity Sockhead Slouch Hat. This last project has seen a good amount of attention the past couple of nights as I've put Rainbow to sleep, and I'm nearly to three inches on the ribbing. I think it'll go much faster once I get to the stockinette, as I won't constantly have to stop and check -- in the dark, by the light of my iPad -- if I've got the ribbing right. I'm glad that I decided to use this yarn for this project, as it definitely isn't my colors.

In all the excitement of finishing up Rainbow's sweater last week, I completely forgot to talk about my weaving class of the weekend prior. I did enjoy the actual weaving part of it, but I did not care as much for winding off the warp and warping the loom -- it's a lot of work, and it takes a while. In comparison to knitting, weaving is faster, but you can't just sit down and weave like you can sit down and knit. There's a lot of setup and planning that has to happen before you actually get to the weaving part.

The class ended up being a private lesson, as I was the only person who'd signed up, so we were able to get through the material pretty quickly, and at the end of the first day, I'd made a little scarf with part of an old skein of Cascade 220.

I wove until I ran out of warp on the loop (though there was still yarn left for weft) and ended up with a scarf that's only long enough to drape over the neck and perhaps pin in place for an adult -- but the perfect length for a certain small person, who promptly claimed it without any suggestion from me.

On the second day, I wound off warp that was much longer than what I'd done the first day (about four yards or so) so that I could get a full adult-sized scarf. I had dug through my stash and found a gallon-sized bag full of skeins of Elsebeth Lavold Silky Tweed that I think I bought on closeout at WEBS many years ago. I'm not sure what possessed me to buy so much at the time (other than perhaps the price); I made a sweater out of one color several years back but still had maybe eight skeins left. I ended up using two skeins of the blue for warp and about two skeins of the gray for weft, and the finished scarf is approximately 78 inches long (excluding fringe) and 6 inches wide after blocking.

It's a little more blue in real life

I'm pleased with the finished scarf, for all its wonky selvedges, but I'm feeling pretty confident in saying that I'm not going to be taking up weaving. Perhaps someday I'll feel differently, but for now, I'm pretty satisfied with knitting and spinning. There's always the option of buying a day pass or monthly pass to the fiber collective and using their looms if I feel the urge to weave (for instance, if I need a bunch of gifts in a hurry), and I still have my little Zoom Loom at home if I'm in the mood for a quick little project.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Twist and Shine

When you've got a really pleasurable fiber blend, it's hard not to spin it up right away. For me, anything with silk in it feels like a real treat. So it's not surprising how quickly I finished up these two skeins of BFL/silk from FatCatKnits.

I decided to spin the two colorways in this club shipment, Twister and Trigger, as individual skeins, splitting each length of fiber in half lengthwise for two-ply yarns in which the colors match up in some spots and occasional do a little barberpoling. The finished skeins are in the fingering to sport category and -- amazingly -- both 195 yards.

After the plying twist fiasco on the first skein (that's the one in the top in the photo above), I took a slightly less aggressive approach on the second, allowing the brake on the wheel to pull the plied yarn in before too much twist could build up in it. I was a little surprised at how overplied the first skein was, but then I realized that my usual amount of twist works better for a very crimpy fiber like merino or Targhee or Polwarth; BFL is more wavy than crimpy, so I was simply overpowering it. It's a good reminder that your twist should really match your fiber.

I've just started spinning my last FCK club shipment, which is an interesting blend of Polwarth and flax. The flax, while very well blended, feels quite strange to spin, and I'm having to resist the urge to pull it out as I spin because it feels a bit like kemp. I am spinning this shipment much like the last -- two separate two-ply skeins -- though this batch will be a bit thinner, probably a light fingering weight. There's not much to see just yet, as I've only just started, so stay tuned for a progress update.

In other news, I have a new spinning toy! I think I mentioned that my birthday was this past week, and when the Mister asked if there was anything I wanted, I gave him a strong hint in the form of a link. And now I am the proud owner of an Akerworks lazy kate!

I had been thinking of getting one for these ever since they came out, but it was Becks' review on the Tiny Fibre Studio podcast that convinced me that I really needed one. This is my third lazy kate, but it's the only one that will hold four bobbins. I also love that I can use it to hold a spindle, which will make winding off singles so much easier. Obviously I haven't had a chance to use it yet, but I'll be giving it a try as soon as I have some singles ready to ply. I'll give you a full review then. I'm excited to give it a full workout!