Sunday, February 19, 2017

Squee Indeed

It turns out that the combination of a week away from spinning and an amazing fiber blend are enough to make me well and truly addicted. I've spent quite a few hours at my wheel the past few days, and as a result, I already have two of three bobbins of singles done.

This is HipStrings' merino/Tussah silk/Stellina blend in a colorway called the Legend of Squee, and I feel that that name describes my feelings about spinning it very well. It drafts pretty effortlessly, with only the occasional small silk slub, that it's been hard to remind myself to take a break when I sit down at the wheel (and I certainly noticed that my forearms were sore yesterday morning after spending perhaps a bit too much time at the wheel over the course of Friday). The camera is having a really hard time picking up the sparkle, so trust me when I tell you that there's a lot of it. I've been finding strands of it in some strange places because it has a tendency to stick to everything. And I'm not usually someone who is into a lot of bling, but I really love it in this yarn. I have a feeling that the third bobbin of singles will be done soon and I'll have a finished skein of yarn in another week or so.

After a great deal of waiting, my final shipment from the Southern Cross Fibre club showed up this week (it was meant to be November's shipment). It's not my final final shipment, but David is putting the club on hiatus for a while, which I actually don't mind because it will give me some time to try to catch up on the backlog. (I also have one more package coming, an extra from September that apparently got lost somewhere on its way to me, so David has sent me a replacement.) This one is Corriedale in the colorway Space.

I really like this one, and I think it'll make some great socks. Now to find more hours in the day to spin all this fiber!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Signs of Neglect

Now that the baby blanket is finally done, I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Even though the deadline on that project was somewhat self-imposed, it was still a point of stress. Usually when I finish a big project I'm keen to cast on something new. But the truth is that I have projects already on the needles that have been languishing and it's really time I stopped neglecting them.

Chief among those is Rainbow's Dancing Leaves Cardigan. When I last worked on it, I had just done the set-up row for the ribbing at the bottom of the body. I've now got about eight more rows left to knit before the body is done.

The ribbing is being worked on size 0 (2.0 mm) needles, which are small for a sweater but the usual size I use for socks, so they don't feel so bad to me. I'm not sure I could knit an entire sweater in this size, but I can deal with it for a dozen or so rows. I'm hoping to be able to finish off the ribbing tonight and then I'll likely weave in all the ends on the body before I start in on the sleeves (mainly because I don't want to get stuck dealing with all of them at the end). The sleeves should go much faster, given that there will be fewer stitches and that I'll be working in the round, and I'm hopeful that if continue to give this project some attention, I can get it done in a reasonable amount of time.

The other project on the needles is a pair of Arne & Carlos Regia socks that I've been knitting on in fits and starts. They're just a plain vanilla pattern, so I've discovered that I can work on them while I sit with Rainbow in the evenings (she's been having trouble getting to sleep the past couple of months, so she likes us to sit with her under she nods off). I can knit stockinette in the round without looking, so it's perfect for knitting in the almost dark -- almost because I've also been reading a Kindle book on my iPad while I sit there (might as well be productive with the time, right?). The first sock was knit finished up last night, and I'm well on my way with the second.

I'm not wild about this yarn, if I have to be perfectly honest. I mean, the socks will wear like iron, I know, but the patterning is not as nice as I'd hoped. The sequence even seems to have changed somewhere in the middle, because the patterning on the foot is not the same as the patterning on the leg of the first sock. I'm not sure if that was meant to happen or if it's just a screw up in the machinery that dyed the yarn. In any case, I'm not too concerned. They'll be sturdy, warm socks that are likely to be in my sock drawer for many years, and they'll represent another skein knit from the stash.

Rainbow and I will be home tomorrow (she is off school for an in-service day; I'm taking the day off), and then the Mister and I will largely have the weekend to ourselves, as she's got back-to-back sleepovers at the grandparents' planned. There will still be the usual chores and errands to get done, but it will be nice to enjoy some time when we don't have to worry about being home in time for bedtime or being awakened earlier than we'd like. Of course, I'm planning on some extra knitting and spinning time, too!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

It's a Wrap

Okay, technically this isn't done done, as I still have about a bajillion ends to weave it, but I'm calling it close enough! (And weaving in the rest of the ends is on the agenda for tonight anyway.)

Pattern: Sweet Gemma by Triona Murphy
Yarn: Yarn Hollow Tor DK (100% superwash merino) in [INSERT COLOR NAME], approximately 3.5 skeins
Needles: US 6 (4.0 mm)
Started/Completed: January 4/February 14
Mods: none

This blanket took a bit longer to knit than I expected, but I fully blame that on my short attention span and ability to get distracted by other things. It generally took me about three evenings to knit a square, and I definitely got faster as I got used to the pattern and could anticipate what came next in the stitch pattern.

The pattern itself is excellent and really well written. I used the chart exclusively and only had one or two minor problems that were entirely due to user error. The squares are made from the center out and then connected with slip-stitch crochet -- and on that note my one tip for knitting this pattern is that you really want to make sure that you do your bind off loosely so that you don't have to struggle to get your crochet hook into the stitches when you're seaming. Because of the way this is constructed, it'd be really easy to work the squares in any thickness of yarn and to make the blanket any size by adjusting the total number of squares used. It would make a great afghan, and because you're making it one square at a time, it would be really easy to make it over a long period of time and end up with a really large blanket.

While the slip-stitch crochet method is fast and works well to join the squares, I will say that it's not as stretchy as the knit fabric (though I will admit that there's also a possibility I did it too tightly, novice crocheter that I am). If I knit this again, I might experiment with leaving the stitches live after a square is complete and using a three-needle bind off to join them. Actually, I should probably say when I knit this again, because I so enjoyed knitting it this time and it really does make a spectacular FO. And Rainbow was admiring it quite a lot, so I have a feeling it's only a matter of time before she asks me to make her one!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Yarn of Happiness

Sometimes you need something bright and cheerful to bring up your spirits. Winter is always tough for me because of the darkness and the lack of color, so it seemed like a no-brainer to choose the brightest yarn in my stash to spin. This certainly fit the bill -- FatCatKnits Targhee in a neon colorway called Juicy Fruit.

I spun the fiber from one end to the other to preserve the colors, then chain plied. I anticipated that the Targhee would poof when I washed it, so I spun the singles very fine and didn't overply. The finished skein did indeed puff up quite a bit and is quite balanced. After washing, the skein is roughly 421 yards, a very respectable amount. But when you consider that the prefinishing length was about 550 yards, you can really get a sense of how much this fiber shrinks up!

Unfortunately, while I have enough yardage for the shawl I'm planning, I think the light parts of this skein are too close to the cream Corriedale, and I really need a strong contrast for what I have in mind. So I've started spinning up the HipStrings fiber I showed you last week into another three-ply fingering weight.

It's hard to capture just gorgeous this is spinning up. There's a ton of sparkle in it as well as silk, and it's so easy to draft that it's practically spinning itself. I am really tempted to spend all my free time spinning, but there are knitting projects that need to be done first.

There's some more fiber in the spinning queue, thanks to the arrival of my final FatCatKnits club shipment (Ginny is taking a break from the club for a while). This shipment is a really interesting fiber blend -- Polwarth and bleached flax. And I love the colors!

I'm not really sure how to spin this, as I've never spun flax before, but I'm sure it'll be an adventure.

Speaking of good mail, look what else finally showed up this week:

I had subscribed to Ply back in the fall, but it appears that my first issue got lost in the mail. They were nice enough to send me a replacement issue, though, and now I'm going to have a lot of fun digging in to this.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

So Close I Can Taste It

I'm almost done with the baby blanket -- I have just one more square left to knit and then seaming (which I don't think will take that long because the squares are joined with crochet). The eighth square was finished this morning, thanks to Rainbow's school having a two-hour delay, and I'll get started on the last one tonight. In the meantime, the first seven squares have been blocked and are ready to be seamed.

I love the way the pattern really opened up with blocking, and I think this is going to be a really stunning piece when it's all done. I just hope that I can even the edges out a bit after it's all seamed; I'll admit I didn't do a very good job blocking the individual squares because I started to get a bit impatient. Luckily, all the squares will be clean, so I think I can get away with steaming for the final block.

At Rainbow's suggestion, I think I am going to knit one more thing for this baby, and that's a mini Pussyhat. I have about 100 yards of the hot pink I used for mine leftover, and that should be plenty. Moreover, it should be a super quick knit with minimal finishing. We're still not sure when our friends will be ready to receive visitors, so I likely have a little time to get both gifts ready and wrapped up. Still, it will feel really great to get this big project off the needles for once and all -- and to get back to the other projects that have been cast aside in the meantime.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Is This a Curse?

For a while there, I was starting to think my knitting was cursed. But let me back up a bit.

I managed to finish the design sample I was working on Friday evening, so for lunchtime knitting this week, I figured I'd get the other sample done (I'm doing two different colorway pairings). The yarn was already wound, and the needles I used for the first version were still in my project bag, so I didn't have to do much to get everything together to start. Then things started to go wrong.

First, I managed to cast on four extra stitches. That wasn't a big deal, because it was easy to drop those extra four off the needle -- it just meant extra counting to double check (and more time counting is less time knitting). Then, while knitting the first half of the first round -- just the first half! -- I managed to lose my ability to count to two reliably. I had to tink and reknit not once, not twice, but three(!) times. I finally thought I was on my way and my counting issues were behind me when the next disaster struck: I pulled on the cable of the needle to get set up for the start of the next round (I'm knitting magic loop), and the cable pulled completely out of the end of the needle and about 30 live stitches. It will probably surprise you not much at all when I tell you that this was a Knit Picks interchangeable needle -- this is not the first time this has happened to me.

Fortunately this yarn is not too slippery and the stitches didn't drop, so I was able to push the cable through them and get it back into the hole in the end of the needle. I figured that it would stay put as long as I didn't tug on the cable too hard, at least long enough for me to get a bit more knitting done during my lunch break. I started again, only to realize that somehow I had twisted my knitting and it was too late to fix it. At that point, the only solution was to completely rip out the two rounds I had knit and start over.

I'm happy to say that the second attempt went much smoother. I counted correctly and didn't twist my cast on, and last night I transferred the whole piece over to a pair of Addi Rockets (I am thanking past me for being wise enough to buy a 40 in. size 7!). I'm already about a third of the way through the piece, so I'm hoping there are no further hiccups.

I love corrugated ribbing!

In un-cursed knitting news, I am on the home stretch of the baby blanket. I finished square number 7 and started number 8 last night. It's a good thing I'm almost done with it, because the baby was born last night! I may block the squares I have done this evening so that once the last two are done I can begin seaming. If the new parents are up for it, we may take them lunch or dinner this weekend, and it would be nice to deliver a finished blanket as well!

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Happiness in Fiber Form

Spinning always makes me happy, but sometimes there's a particular combination of wheel and fiber that brings me extra joy. That's certainly the case with the project I've been trying to finish up this week. The fiber was Targhee from FatCatKnits in brilliant highlighter pink and yellow, and I decided to spin it up on one of my Akerworks bobbins -- the first time I've used one, despite having bought two of them almost a year ago. I finally finished up the singles last night.

There are many things to love about the Akerworks bobbins -- the colors, the designs, the fact that they come apart and pack flat -- but I think the main reason I was drawn to them was the fact that you can see all the layers of singles or yarn from the end of the bobbin.

I'd estimate I'm a third of the way done with the plying at this point, and I'll try to do a little more this evening, but I highly doubt that this skein will be done today. I'm also starting to question my plan to pair this skein with the cream Corriedale you saw last week. Some sections of the yarn are coming out very light (the very pale pink or very pale yellow sections), and I'm not sure there will be enough contrast. I'll wait until the skein is done, of course, to make a final decision, but it's highly likely I'll be spinning another skein of yarn for this shawl. Like, perhaps, one I'm planning to spin up from this fiber:

I know, I know, I'm supposed to be on a yarn and fiber diet, right? Well, yesterday Rainbow and the Mister went skiing, so I had the day all to myself. I decided to use the opportunity to visit the HipStrings studio (they have an open studio day the first Saturday of every month), and I just couldn't resist this gorgeous blend of merino, Tussah sillk, and Stellina. It's not really breaking my diet if I'm supporting a friend and indie artist, right?

I usually watch video podcasts or movies on my laptop while I spin, and this week, thanks to Chrissy of the Snappy Stitches podcast, I discovered something new to watch. The Tiny Fibre Studio podcast is a lovely video podcast focusing predominantly on spinning hosted by Becks. She's only got four episodes up so far, but they're very enjoyable and very well produced. Becks has a very ambitious goal for 2017, and that's to knit only with her own handspun. I'm excited to see how well she does, and I encourage you to give her a watch!

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Keep Calm and Carry On

Things are still weird thanks to our water advisory, but we're adjusting. I was actually home all day yesterday with Rainbow, as her school was closed in order to make plans to deal with the water issue. We found out about the closure before we went to bed on Tuesday, so I was able to sleep in, and we had a relatively lazy morning. We went to the library for a bit in the afternoon, but other than that, we were pretty much just lying around all day. I got in a bunch of spinning and a bit of knitting, and aside from having to remember not to drink the water out of the tap, it was a pretty nice day. Fortunately, the water advisory was lifted at midday today, so we can now go back to normal (and we've got a ton of bottles water on hand now should we need it).

I probably should have taken the day off to make more progress on the baby blanket, but spinning was more appealing at the time (and, if I'm being perfectly honest, I really didn't want to have to listen to the cartoons Rainbow was watching, so spinning while watching video podcasts on my laptop seemed like a better choice). That said, I'm closing in on the end of the sixth square of the blanket, so I'm well more than halfway done.

My friend's due date is tomorrow, but as of last night, when I last talked to her, nothing was happening in that department, so there may still be some time to wait until the baby makes her debut. I'm still trying to finish the blanket as quickly as possible, however, because there are plenty of other things I want to knit and I don't want any project staying on the needles any longer than it has to.

I've added some more rounds to the colorwork thing that's been my lunchtime knitting, and I'm finding stranded colorwork as addictive as ever. Here's another peek, again of the wrong side (but at least this time you can see the color):

I'm about halfway done with this, but there's going to be another sample to be knit in two other colorways, so there's more stranded work ahead.

The weekend is looking like another relaxing one. The Mister is talking about taking Rainbow skiing on Saturday, which would give me the day basically to myself. There are the usual chores to do, but I'm hoping to spend at least part of the day at Knitsburgh. We only stayed for a short amount of time when we went for the grand opening a couple of weeks ago, so I'd really like to have a chance to take a proper look around -- and, of course, catch up with my friends who work there, as I've really missed seeing them every Saturday.