Sunday, September 30, 2018

The Start of Something Big

It's been less than a year since my last sweater spin, and that one was certainly a big project, so you'd think I wouldn't be in a hurry to start another one. But I've been wanting to do a combo spin for a long time and decided I was in the mood to give it a go, so I got started on what I hope will be another sweater spin this past Friday night.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the term, a combo spin is where you take multiple braids or bundles of fiber that are dyed in different colorways but that coordinate with one another, split them up into smaller pieces, and then spin yarn that's essentially a giant mash-up of all the different bits of fiber. For mine, I kept things a bit simpler. I'd specifically bought three braids of Targhee/bamboo/silk (an 80/10/10% blend) from Gale's Art earlier in the summer to do a combo spin with. The colorways were different but similar enough that I thought they'd go well together. Because I had three braids, it made sense to do one ply of each colorway, which would also ensure that all three were evenly spread out over the whole project. Last week I split the three braids in half, and Friday I started spinning the first bobbin.


I picked the fiber at random -- it was just in the bag that was closest to my chair when I sat down to spin -- but it happens to be the one with my favorite blue, this gorgeous turquoise. The colorway is Fairy Tale, and it's a beautiful blend of this blue, a pinky purple, a gray purple, and a couple of shades of green. It's spinning up fine and effortlessly.


Something I really enjoy about spinning fiber with bamboo content in it is that the bamboo doesn't take the dye, so you get these little streaks of shiny white running through the fiber. They get diffused as you draft, but they do keep things interesting.

As I'm spinning very fine singles for a three-ply fingering, this is likely to be a slow-moving project. I'll end up with two 6 oz. skeins, and I'm hoping that when I'm done I'll have enough yardage to knit myself a Tegna. I think it would be something nice to knit when we go down to Florida over the winter holidays, as it'll be lightweight yarn with that bamboo and silk content, so ideally I'll have this all spun up and plied by mid-December. That gives me about two and a half months, and I think that's reasonable. Plus, it's not hard to convince myself to spin this fiber blend I love so much!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Do-over

Remember the shawl in progress I showed you in my last post? Well, shortly after hitting publish, I realized that I really didn't like how it was knitting up. I'd run into a bit of a design problem, on top of which I realized that if I kept going, the mini skeins toward the end of the shawl were going to have very, very thin stripes. Plus, I wanted a bit more mixing between the colors. So after dinner and putting Rainbow to bed, I yanked the needles out and frogged the whole thing. I know that will make some of you gasp, but when you design, you get used to frogging -- it's just part of the process. I had a better idea to get these minis to shine, so I cast on the next morning for iteration number two, and I'm liking this much better.


I'm using a technique I "unvented" for this that is sort of like intarsia but requires no twisting of strands or bobbins and is easier to maintain an even tension. My plan is to create distinct sections using two minis, a semisolid and its coordinating speckle-dyed, at a time, and if this small beginning is to be believed, the finished shawl should end up close to half-circle shape than the traditional crescent. I'd originally hoped to have this shawl done and ready to be published by mid-October, but now that I've started over, I may have to push it back a bit. The nice thing is that because I'm self-publishing, I can totally change my own deadline!

Meanwhile, I'm still working on Rainbow's Hyphen cardigan, and it's coming along nicely. Last night I finished up the final textured section of the yoke and knit most of the quasi-raglan increases (they're only on the body for this size). I have about four rows left to knit before I split the sleeves from the body. I had her try it on (as best she could) this morning so I could make sure that the fit was okay.


I'd say she's pretty happy with it, wouldn't you? My plan is to complete the body first, to the length that she deems good enough, and then knit the arms as long as I can before my yarn runs out. I have less yarn than specified in the pattern, but I have a feeling that the requirements are likely padded a little and my skeins also weighed a bit heavy, so I might be okay. But Rainbow has made it clear that she'd rather have a long body and slightly shortened sleeves than full sleeves and a slightly cropped body. And for this, she's the boss!

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Free Knitting

My secret projects are done, finally, so now I can get back to my "fun" knitting. I still have one design project on the needles, and that's the shawl using Fibernymph Dye Works mini skeins that I started last month and that has been in forced hibernation for quite some time. It's coming along nicely, and I've now wound all the remaining mini skeins so that there won't be any need to pause my knitting. For the time being, the shawl is my lunchtime knitting.

It's reached that awkward teenage stage
I was happy with the way this was knitting up, but I've run into a slight snag with my plan, and I might have to rip back and start over. I'm hoping I can still make it work, but if not, I'm off to the frog pond -- that's just the way it goes sometimes.

My evening knitting project is now Rainbow's Hyphen sweater. I'm nearly finished with the yoke at this point.


It would be great if I could get this sweater done by the end of the month, though I recognize that that's a stretch goal. I'm really anxious to cast on my Floozy cardigan, especially because I just confirmed yesterday that I will be going to Rhinebeck once again this year with the folks from the Ross Farm. I'm under no illusion that I can finish a fingering-weight sweater in time to wear it to Rhinebeck, but the trip up there means lots of knitting time, so it would be good to have it on the needles and at least be done with the yoke so that it's mindless knitting. But watch me say this now and then get distracted by something else in the meantime!

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Allegorical

After being forced to ignore my spinning while working on deadlines, I tried my best to make up for it this weekend. On Friday night, I sat at my wheel until my Southern Cross Fibre oatmeal BFL singles were done, even when we had a brief power outage and even when our air conditioning stopped working after the power came back on. And today, after taking care of the errands and getting the laundry done, I sat down and plied the entire bobbin.


I didn't wait very long before winding it into a skein and plopping it into the bath to finish it. I think it looked particularly nice on the niddy noddy.


I was trying really hard to spin my singles very fine to try to get decent yardage on this skein, because that's something I always struggle with when I'm spinning BFL. It looked pretty good right off the wheel, but of course I won't know for sure how much I have until the skein is dry. Based on a conservative estimate, I think the worst it will end up being is about 350 yards, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it'll be a little more than that.


Meanwhile, I've got my next spin all ready to go, and I'm rather excited about it. This will be a combo spin with three braids of Targhee/bamboo/silk from Gale's Art:


I've divided each braid in half vertically, more or less (I didn't feel like weighing and redividing, so I just eyeballed it), and I'll be spinning up two skeins, each with one ply of each color. I'm hoping that there's enough similarity between the three braids that it won't turn into mud, and I'm hoping that when I'm done, I'll have enough for a Tegna.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

A Time of Reflection

If you follow me on social media or Ravelry or pretty much anywhere else online, then you likely noticed that I was very quiet yesterday. That's because yesterday was Yom Kippur, an annual holiday that encourages us to reflect on how we live our lives and the impact we have on others and on the world around us. It's also a day for fasting, meaning from the conclusion of dinner on Tuesday until dinner last night, I didn't eat or drink anything. That makes for a necessarily calm day, as I typically have very little energy to do much once we get home from services, and yesterday I had a pounding headache from dehydration all day. I did spend a little time at my wheel yesterday afternoon (because I couldn't really think clearly enough to knit and follow a pattern), and as usual that time was very meditative more me -- and also very relaxing, as I found myself nodding off more than once.

Now that I am more or less back to normal and can think more clearly, I'm reflecting a bit on my crafting and reading life this year and how those aspects can have an impact beyond just being pleasurable ways to spend my time.


I am about 75% done with my final secret obligation project, with the hope that it will be all done by the end of the week, and I've realized that as much as I enjoy the creative aspect of designing, I really do not enjoy having to do it on a deadline. Putting aside the fact that these secret projects for third-party publishers make it really difficult to keep up with the blob, I've found that the pressure I've felt to get these things done has meant that in my free time, when I should be doing things with my family, I've instead been focused on knitting. While I can knit while I do other things, I've been so focused on the deadlines that I've largely been isolating myself to get the work done. So once these deadlines have passed, I will be making a better effort to spend that free time in the company of my daughter and husband (even if I'm knitting while we're together).

My reading has seen a major uptick in activity this past year, thanks in large part to my embrace of the e-book. While the increase in volume/number of books read is a good thing for me, what's more notable is that I've been making a real effort over the past year or so to read books by or about people who come from a very different background. Specifically, I've been trying to read more books written by or about people of color in an effort to broaden my perspective and, in a way, experience different points of view of what it is like to live one's life. While the books I've read have been predominantly fiction (because that's my preferred genre), I've also read a fair amount of nonfiction books, many of them featuring women as a primary focus. Since I last posted about my reading, here are some of the books that I've finished:
  • A Tangled Mercy by Joy Jordan-Lake: This is fiction, but it features some real-life characters and addresses serious real-life issues like the legacy of slavery and the shooting in Charleston, S.C., several years ago. I gave it 4 stars.
  • A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline: I think this came across my radar because I'd read and enjoyed another book by the author. This one is another fiction story based loosely upon the life of a real person, the woman who inspired Andrew Wyeth's famous painting "Christina's World." It was beautifully written if somewhat depressing, and I gave it 4 stars.
  • The Rule of One by Ashley Saunders and Leslie Saunders: This was a Kindle freebie and I have to say that I'm glad I didn't pay for it. It seemed like an intriguing concept, and the story certainly moved along at a good clip, but in the end I wasn't very impressed and felt like it was just a pastiche of other post-apocalyptic YA fiction works. I gave it 3 stars.
  • The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman: This one had been on my want-to-read list for a while after a friend recommended it to me, and I really enjoyed it. Though I anticipated the plot twist virtually from the beginning, that did not lessen my enjoyment of the story. I think the book's real strength is in the excellent character development; each chapter is told from the point of view of a different character, and I think altogether there are maybe eight or 10 different characters whose voice is heard. I gave it 4 stars (probably closer to 4.5).
  • Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple: This was one of those books that I was seeing everywhere when it first came out but never got around to reading, and luckily it was available from the library without a wait. I didn't really know what to expect, and I was pleasantly surprised. It was quirky and funny and certainly original in the way the story is told. I gave it 4 stars.
  • Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain: This was a book I'd been meaning to read for a long time, long before Bourdain died, but I only got around to it recently when I found the paperback at Costco. It was my before-bed reading, so it took me a while to get through it. I mostly enjoyed it. It was an entertaining and enlightening read, but there are some things I kind of wish I hadn't read because I think now I'll be overthinking things when I go out to eat. I gave it 4 stars.
I'm currently reading only one book, The Night Circus, another one I missed when everyone else was reading it, and I expect that I'll finish it today. That's good, because I just got notice from the library that The Woman Who Smashed Codes is now ready for me!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Pattern Release: Emblematic

All my life, I've been a doodler. I did it in the margins of my class notes when I was school; I do it now when I'm in meetings at work. Part of it stems from not being able to sit still, but part of it is also because the creative side of my brain almost never shuts up. More recently, my doodles have taken the form of stranded colorwork knitting patterns. I sit down at a computer with a charting program and see what I can come up with. Sometimes it looks great on the screen but terrible when knit. Sometimes, though, I get lucky and end up with something that translates beautifully from computer screen to yarn.

The pattern I've released today started out its life as one of those doodles. I wasn't trying to get the pattern to look like anything in particular when I first sketched it; I was just seeing how the pattern developed as I went along. It ended up not only looking good as a knit pattern, but it's also a very beginner-friendly colorwork pattern, as the repeats are short and there aren't any long floats. I call this pattern Emblematic because, when knit, the colorwork motif looked a little to me like a heraldic shield or emblem -- not to mention that nothing screams "warm hat" more than one with a thick doubled brim and a band of colorwork for extra warmth.


The yarn I've used in the sample is a familiar one to me: Shetland Sport from the Ross Farm. This stuff is fantastic if you're a fan of woolly wools. It's minimally processed and completely undyed, so what you're seeing here is the natural color of the sheep (and the sheep are Marigold and Nassau, if you're curious). This yarn is by far the softest Shetland I've ever used, and it blooms beautifully when you wash it the first time. An added benefit of working with a minimally processed wool is that there's still some lanolin left in it, so your hands get nice and soft while you knit!


The hat is available in three sizes, from child to adult large, and uses about 170-240 yds./155-220 m total of the two colors of yarn. The Ross Farm Shetland Sport is on the heavy side of sport, so you could also use a DK-weight yarn. I had two skeins of the Shetland Sport and make this hat for me and another hat (with colors reversed) for Rainbow, and I still had some leftover. I won't say that I'm ready for the cold weather to come, but at least the two of us are prepared with cozy new hats!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Falling Back into a Routine

Crafting was all back to normal this weekend. I spent Friday evening (and a good portion of yesterday afternoon) at my wheel, working on this Southern Cross Fibre BFL.


I am nearly halfway done with the singles and am enjoying this spin, though I'm also keen to get it done.

In the meantime, my HipStrings fiber club shipment arrived a couple of days ago -- a complete surprise! I am way behind on this fiber club, as I haven't even touched the previous shipment, but that's okay.


This shipment is a blend of BFL and Shetland in four different shades. I think I will likely spin up each color on its own so I can combine them in some sort of colorwork something-or-other. The thing in the center is a cute little notions tin -- always useful!

It's a good thing that my spinning mojo is high right now, because I have quite a lot of stash to get through (remember that haul from last week?). I think once I get all the obligation projects done, I'm going to be devoting a larger portion of my crafting time to spinning to see if I can make a dent.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

An Itch Scratched

I said I really wanted to do it, so last night I did: I cast on a new sweater. I ended up finishing the crazy deadline project Tuesday evening, so last night I wound up the yarn that Rainbow picked out for her next sweater way back in March and finally cast on.


This is the very start of the Hyphen sweater by Lisa Chemery (aka Froginette) in Spencer Hill Molly, a worsted-weight Merino that is naturally dyed. The colorway is called Raspberry Beret and is a blush pink that seems to be hard to capture on camera, particularly in the early morning light. You may remember that I've knit this pattern a couple of times before as baby gifts; this time I am knitting the largest size, size 8, in the hopes that it will still fit Rainbow when I finish. She seems to have gone through a growth spurt over the summer and is noticeably taller, but she's still a bit of a string bean, so I figure if anything it might end up a bit short on her. That might not be an issue, as I actually have less yardage than the pattern calls for and thought I might make it a bit cropped anyway. The beauty of the top-down sweater is that length is completely adjustable, so we'll figure it all out as I knit.

I'm hoping that soon I'll be able to cast on for my Floozy cardigan, but that hasn't stopped me from planning ahead for yet another sweater for me and ordering some yarn over the weekend that arrived a couple of days ago.


This is Fibernymph Dye Works Bounce in the colorway Runaway, a colorway I've coveted since Rainbow bought a skein of it and used it for her first hat. I am very close to earning two skeins of yarn through Lisa's Conversion Rewards Program, and I'm planning to get two more skeins of Bounce in this colorway so I can use them all for a sweater -- perhaps another Boxy or a similarly shaped pullover. I must be a glutton for punishment if I'm pondering another fingering-weight oversized sweater, but I can't help it!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

A Yen for a Sweater

There's nothing quite like having projects you need to knit to give you the urge to start things you want to knit. In my case, I'm really dying to cast on a sweater or two. It felt so much like fall the past few days that I really wanted a new, cozy sweater to wrap up in, and it was so frustrating to not be able to cast on immediately. But my extreme deadline project is in the home stretch (I'm hoping it'll be done by tomorrow, at the very latest), and the two remaining projects are small enough that I can finish them up fairly quickly, so I predict that I will have a sweater on the needles by the end of the week.

Because the sweater I'm going to cast on for me is worked in fingering weight yarn (and thus will likely be a long-term project), I thought I'd start by casting on Rainbow's next sweater. You saw this yarn back in March when I bought it at Indie Knit & Spin, but as it's been sitting in a bag since then, I thought I'd show it again.


This is Spencer Hill Molly, a naturally dyed worsted weight, in a lovely deep pink color called Raspberry Beret. I'll be using it to make Rainbow a Hyphen in the largest size (though I have a bit less than the recommended yardage, so we may be making some adjustments like a more cropped body or shorter sleeves). I also bought a skein of fingering weight in the same color from the same dyer so that I can make a matching mini sweater for Rainbow's American Girl doll.

As soon as all the remaining obligation knits are done, I will finally be casting on for my Floozy cardigan. I don't imagine I'll be able to whip it up that quickly, but as the majority of it is plain stockinette, it will be a good project to have on the needles for when I need something mindless.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

I've Been Spoiled

After super hot and humid temperatures all last week, this weekend it has felt decidedly autumnal. It's been raining pretty much nonstop since early yesterday morning, and it's been much cooler -- I actually had to break out some handknit socks last night! So it feels right to start spinning some fiber that looks like fall foliage.


This is oatmeal BFL from Southern Cross Fibre; the colorway is called Allegory and reminds me a lot of fall leaves just starting to change. I've only just started to spin the first little bundle of fiber (there are four total).


I'm spinning this as fine as I can and plan to chain-ply for sock yarn. I always struggle with my yardage when I spin BFL (in the sense that it's always much lower than what I get with other fibers), so I'm trying to spin my singles as fine as possible.

I'm sure you're wondering how I've been spoiled, so I won't keep you in suspense any longer (and it's not that the weather has finally been seasonal). I can't say that this was entirely a surprise, because I knew it was coming, but the real surprise was the magnitude. Last week, I got a text from my friend Colleen asking if she could send me some spinning fiber, as she's planning to move soon and needs to downsize a bit. Of course I'm always happy to get free fiber, so I said yes, expecting a braid or two. Instead, what arrived in a large box yesterday was this beautiful bounty:


There's quite an assortment in here -- some fiber from the now-defunct Crown Mountain Farms, some Abstract Fiber, some Yarn Hollow, and some new-to-me dyers. This should keep me busy for a quite a while! Colleen was exceptionally generous, and though I offered to spin up some of this for her and send her the yarn, she simply asked that I consider selling some of what I spin up and donating that money to charity. So you may see some of this available to you in yarn form before too long!

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Project Me

I regret to tell you that all the projects I'm currently working on are still things I can't share publicly, which is very rare for me and, I hope, something that's not likely to happen again soon. I'm trying my best to get these secret projects wrapped up so at the very least I'll have something to talk about on the blog (though it will of course feel good to get those deadlines dealt with as well).

Because I can't really talk about my knitting, I want to talk about a different sort of project today, and that's me. Over the past six months or so, I've really been making a concerted effort to get healthier, and it's not something I've really talked about online until now. The story really starts about a year and a half ago, when I went in for my annual physical and blood work and learned that my cholesterol was borderline high. At the time, I thought I would adjust my diet to deal with it, so for the next year or so, I pretty much stopped eating all meat and added more vegetables. But when the next year's testing came around, my cholesterol not only hadn't gone down, it actually went up. So I figured that more drastic measures were needed, and I resolved to lose weight.

My original goal was to lose 20 pounds, which would more or less get me back down to the weight I was when I graduated from high school, before I gained the college "Freshman 15" (really more like 10 for me) and weight that never came off after having Rainbow. I knew I wanted to do it in a healthy, realistic way, so I used the Fitbit app to count the calories I was consuming (something I'd never done before) and made smarter choices about what I ate. And of course I tried to be more physically active, which meant making exercise a priority when time allowed for it and spending less time sitting around and knitting, I'm sorry to say.

It's now been about six months since I first started the process, and I'm down 18 pounds. But it really isn't about the number on the scale; what's more important is that I feel better. My clothes fit better; in fact, some are now way too big and some items that haven't fit me in a long time are now comfortable. I feel like I'm consistently making healthier choices about what I eat, and I've noticed that my digestive issues are less of a problem than they used to be. I can even drink coffee again without feeling horrible afterward! And I'm seeing muscles where I only saw flab before, and generally I feel stronger and more physically able to do things. Most of all, I feel more comfortable in my own body, and I don't feel like I need to hide myself behind loose clothing. That self-confidence has been more than worth it.

So where do I go from here? Well, I anticipate that if I stay on track with my diet, I'll hit my weight loss goal in another month or so. But that doesn't mean I'm going to slip back into my old ways of eating whatever I want and sitting around a lot, and certainly I'll have to wait until my next cholesterol test to see if it's really been effective. But I do think it's been a massive success for me in the way that I feel about myself, and certainly in that way it's the only diet that's ever been a success for me. I've realized that it isn't about how much you weigh or what size you wear, it's about feeling healthy, confident, and comfortable in my own skin. And while it's great that I've lost the weight, that's really secondary.

Because this is a knitting blog, and not a weight loss or health blog, I'll leave you with a picture of pretty yarn that I'm using for one of my secret projects. I think it's okay to show you this, given that the final pattern will use different colors, but all you can see is the yarn (the WIP is off camera):

How do you like my Rainbow-original window ledge decorations?

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

All Squared

It's Tuesday, right? I certainly hope so -- Monday holidays always get my internal calendar messed up.

It was a relaxing weekend in spite of a number of obligations, but I did manage to get my second and final blanket square done just before bed last night (and before the long weekend was officially over). Unfortunately I didn't have enough time to block them before it was time to turn in for the night, so you'll have to settle for a still-wonky shot.


As I suspected, it was much easier to knit the square and end up with a tidier result the second time around. I also saved myself some grief by weaving in all ends but the last one as I completed each miter, so when I finished binding off, I had only four tails to weave in.

I plan to block these neatly tonight and then send off both squares and my leftover gray to Kat this weekend so that she can seam them. I'm very glad to get this obligation done because I have some crazy design deadlines to deal with and didn't want the rest of the group to be waiting for me. It feels good to be knitting for someone else, though next time I think I might choose a less crazy time of year to do it!

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Oh So Beachy

Thanks to an early dismissal from work on Friday, I got in some extra spinning time this weekend and, as a result, have a finished skein today!


This is Fibernymph Dye Works Cheviot in the colorway Beach Wedding (a colorway that you can totally see was inspired by Lisa's actual beach wedding). I split the fiber into two strips lengthwise and spun them each end to end, chain-plying all the finished singles. I'm happy to report that I successfully achieved fingering weight this time, and I'm quite happy with the ply twist I got -- I put it a bit more than usual, but the yarn is nicely balanced after finishing.


I ended up with about 350 yards after washing, which is a bit less than I was hoping for but still should be sufficient for socks for me, particularly if I knit them toe up.


This was a fairly easy spin and certainly more successful than my last attempt at Cheviot sock yarn, and I'm eager to see how it knits up and how the resulting socks hold up.

Up next on the wheel will be this Southern Cross Fibre oatmeal BFL for a SCF Ravelry group spinalong.


I'm planning to split this vertically and chain-ply again for what I think will be a very autumnal sock yarn -- even if it doesn't quite feel like autumn outside!