Sunday, July 21, 2019

Slow and Steady

I am most definitely not winning any races in Tour de Fleece this year! Instead, I am just continuing on, adding a little bit to my bobbin at a time. I suppose my approach to TdF this year could be said to be savoring the spin rather than rushing to finish it. And as much as I wanted to blast through some stash this year, I'd rather end up with yarn I really like than yarn that's just done. So here is the latest bobbin shot. Though I'd hoped that this bobbin would be full by now, it's not, but it is getting close (the wonderful thing about the WooLee Winder is that is does pack an awful lot on there!).

I have some excellent motivation to finish up this spin in the form of the last two shipments from the Southern Cross Fibre club, which I have neglected to share until now.

The May shipment is called Forest Gathering, and it's a super luxurious blend of 70% superfine merino and 30% mulberry silk. The photo doesn't do the fiber justice -- it's got some seriously amazing shine.

June's shipment arrived last week. This one I adore. It's South African superfine merino in a colorway called One Fish, Two Fish, and these colors most definitely bring Dr. Seuss to mind!

I'm obviously going to focus on finishing up my Polwarth spin first, but I think this fiber will very likely be the next thing on the wheel. I'll either be splitting it to spin thinner strips end to end and chain plying or doing a barber-poling two ply. Thoughts? I'm sure there's no wrong way to go with this beauty!

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Three Thrills for Thursday

In keeping with Mary's theme this week of "good newses," here are three things making me happy today:

1. My Soldotna Crop is almost finished!

The body was bound off a little earlier in the week, and last night I started and finished the first sleeve. Tonight I plan to get the second sleeve done and, I hope, weave in all the remaining ends so that it's ready to block. I won't be wearing it anytime soon, as we're expecting heat indexes above 100 degrees the next couple of days, but at least I'll be able to model it around the house. I've got some less-than-stellar photos from this morning courtesy of Rainbow (who's a little shaky with the phone and, obviously, shorter than I am):

And here's a close-up of the sleeve so you can see the modification I've made (three rounds in the light blue, followed by two rounds of stranded colorwork and a round in the dark blue before the called-for ribbing):

As you can see, this sweater has a good amount of positive ease, perhaps more than I was expecting, though I'll take full responsibility for that because I'm still having trouble with accurately judging my size. I expect I'll get a bit more drape when I block it (and I'm certainly counting on it to loosen up in the collar area).

2. I'm hooking again.

One of my crafting goals for the year was to improve my crochet skills, and I decided to start with something relatively easy. Jen of the Down Cellar Studio podcast recently released a free crochet pattern for a cozy/sleeve for Ball jars, and as I unearthed a random skein of Knit Picks Dishie in my stash this past weekend, I figured it was as good an excuse as any to give it a try, particularly as we'd just bought a package of the special blue Ball jars. I was home with Rainbow a little early last night (I left a work retreat to pick her up from the camp bus, and by the time the bus came it was too late to do anything but go straight home), so I got down to business. In less than an hour, I was more than halfway done. I forgot how fast and satisfying crochet can be!

If I have time, I'll finish this up tonight -- I think I only have about a dozen more rows to do.

3. I have less than 100 pages left in my book.

I've been reading Twelve Years a Slave for the past couple of days, and I'm hoping that I'll find time to finish it up today or tomorrow. Despite the fact that it was written in the 1800s and uses language that's a bit old fashioned compared to today's books, I've found that it moves along fairly quickly. It's also a great (albeit heartbreaking) story; while it's incredibly sad that Solomon Northup found himself in slavery, it could be said to be to our benefit because, as a man who was born free and was educated, he was really uniquely positioned to write such a powerful account of what it was really like to be enslaved.

Stay cool and hydrated this weekend!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Divided Loyalties

Typically at this time of year I devote nearly all my crafting time to spinning in an effort to be as productive as possible for the Tour de Fleece. This year, however, I'm just not feeling it as much. I am spinning, but not in every spare moment. This is mainly because I have knitting projects that I really want to get done and I'm dealing with time pressure on design projects. You saw what I've been spinning in my last post, and frankly my bobbin doesn't look much different two days later, so I'll spare you an update. Let's turn back to the knitting.

I'm still working on Rainbow's shortie socks at lunch, though they haven't progressed too much. What I'm really focusing on this week is my Soldotna Crop, which is close enough to done that I think if I can just buckle down for a few evenings, I should manage it. It saw some attention over the weekend while the Mister and I finished up the new season of Stranger Things.

I have about a round and a half of the body ribbing left to knit before I'm ready to bind off. I ended up saving a bit of the light blue so that I can add a bit of length to the sleeves. I'm planning to knit two rounds in the light blue, then add in the dark blue and make the sleeve cuffs look like the bottom hem of the sweater (so two rounds of stranded work with both colors before doing the ribbing). I'd estimate I have between two and four hours of work on this left, between knitting and weaving in ends. I'd say it's doable to get this done this week.

One of the reasons I'm so anxious to finish up this sweater is because I really need to get started on the next one -- and that's the one I'm designing. I did swatch again, using size 6/4.0 mm needles, and came up with a fabric that's not quite as dense (meaning that colorwork portion won't be bulletproof!) and a gauge that will make the calculations a lot simpler.

As you can see, the fabric is still a good density, and going up just one needle size has taken me from 5.5 to 5 stitches per inch. In addition to making my job easier, I think this gauge will also make the pattern more accessible to multiple weights of yarn -- not to mention that it will knit up a bit faster! Now that I've settled on my gauge, I can start calculating all the stitch counts and get started on my sample. I'd originally hoped to have my sample done and a draft of the pattern to my tech editor by the end of July, but I think if I aim for mid-August and she can turn the pattern around in about two weeks, that will still give me about six weeks for test knitting. It'll bit a bit tighter than I would have liked, but such is life.

Reading is still very much happening, and with the completion of a book yesterday, I have my first bingo!

The book I finished yesterday is the one in the top left corner, Prognosis: A Memoir of My Brain. It was a freebie from Amazon First Reads, and I was pleasantly surprised (so many of those freebies end up being duds). It's a memoir about an Australian woman who sustained a traumatic brain injury and her challenges and life struggles as she recovered from it. I found it fascinating to get an insider's view of what it's like to have a brain injury and be aware of one's own failings. I gave it four stars. If it sounds interesting to you, I'll note that there's also currently a giveaway for it on Goodreads.

My next book will fill in the "Originally published in the 19th century" box. I started Twelve Years a Slave yesterday and am already really enjoying it. I am once again doing things in the wrong order -- I saw the movie when it was out a few years ago and am now going back to the primary source. The writing is very much of its time, so if you don't care much for "old-timey" language, you might not like this one. After that, based on Kat's glowing recommendation, I have Middlemarch queued up for the "Classic you should have read" box. I pondered getting the audiobook from the library, but it's a long book (I think something like 32 hours) and I knew I likely wouldn't get through it all before it was due back, so I went ahead and bought the $0.99 Kindle copy so I could read it at my leisure. I'm still thinking about how to fill a couple of these squares (anyone got any recommendations for "Written in the second person" or "Non-human protagonist"?), but I'm sure I can fill up most of this board by the end of the summer.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Of Fiber and Fleece

I feel like a bit of a Tour de Fleece failure this year, as I haven't spun nearly the quantity I have in past years, but the days are busy and the evenings are short, so I'm trying to be happy with what I can get done. For one thing, I am very pleased with the skein I finished yesterday. Remember the purple singles I finished up last weekend? Yesterday, after I went for a good run and did my household chores, I sat down and chain plied the full bobbin. Then I skeined and washed the yarn last night. This morning it was dry and bouncy and floofy and so pretty.

Because the wool in the blend is Targhee, I expected (and got) a nice poof in the finishing. Fresh off the wheel, the yarn was a light fingering. After washing, the yarn is fingering to sport.

I ended up with about 343 yards, which is respectable, I think. It certainly would have been more without the poofing up. But I think it'll make a lovely shawl or scarf-type thing.

Meanwhile, yesterday I dumped the contents of my fermented suint fleece experiment and rinsed the fleece. I won't know until it's fully dry if it worked, but it certainly looks a little better. And I did pull out some more bits that looked dodgy and dumped them, but I've still got plenty of wool. Right now, the fleece that remains is sitting on some drying racks on our covered porch, with some additional drying racks on top so that no animals decide to grab some fleece for themselves.

I was prepared for a really bad smell, and there definitely is a smell, but it's not nearly as bad as I was expecting. I think I may still need to wash the wool once more, perhaps in some floral mint 7th Generation dish liquid I have, but it's looking pretty good! I'll still be keeping it in quarantine from the rest of the stash until I'm sure it's safe, but I'm pretty confident I've saved a good amount.

My main TdF project is progressing, slowly but surely. I think this bobbin shot does a good job of showing all the colors in the fiber.

I am just loving this spin -- and it's a good thing, too, because I still have an awful lot left to be spun!

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Three Things on Thursday

Is it really already Thursday? And is it only Thursday? It's been a long, busy, hot week. I feel like I've spent most of it walking around in the heat and not nearly enough crafting. So I'm keeping this post simple and breaking things down into three categories:

1. Knitting

I've added a few rounds to my Soldotna Crop (not enough that you'd be able to tell) and started the toe on the first of Rainbow's shortie socks.

2. Designing

I'm knitting one more swatch for my sweater design using a needle one size larger, just in case. I like the fabric I got in the first swatch, but it was fairly dense, which means the stranded colorwork would be practically bulletproof, so I want to see if I can get away with a slightly larger gauge. Plus, if I can get to a gauge of 5 stitches per inch, calculations should be a little easier.

Today I also published an update to my Non-Euclidian pattern that's a cheat sheet to help you insert the heel into any sock worked at any gauge. I know this is something that Mary, at least, will be happy about! If you've already got the pattern in your library, you'll see an update. If you don't already own it, there's no additional charge.

3. Reading

I've finished four books since my last reading update, though one of them was finished that same day and was a YA book, so really I've read three. Here's a brief summary:
  • Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson (audiobook): This was a quick, easy read, and a YA book to boot. It was good but didn't blow me away. I did think it would be a good read and a good basis for a discussion of difficult issues among younger readers. I gave it three stars.
  • A Fire Sparkling by Julianne MacLean: This was an Amazon First Reads freebie, and I'm glad I didn't pay for it. It's gotten good reviews on Goodreads, but I was really disappointed with it. I didn't find the writing to be particularly strong, and several story lines seemed to be repeats of stories from other books. There's also a bit of a twist at the end that I found to be completely unbelievable. I gave it two stars.
  • The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny (audiobook): I can now say without reservation that I'm completely hooked on the Inspector Gamache series. I loved this one, no surprise. I've found that the Gamache books make my runs a lot better because I'm so focused on the story that I don't spend the whole time thinking about how miserable I am to be running. This one got five stars from me.
  • Divergent by Veronica Roth: This is one of those books that everyone probably read years ago; I've seen the movies in the series but hadn't read the books, so I decided to give this a try when I saw it was available through Prime Reading. It was okay, a fun diversion, but not fine literature. I don't know if I'll read the other two. I gave it three stars.
I was able to fit all of these books into my Summer Book Bingo card under the following categories, in order: Protagonist with a different ethnicity from your own, Set in more than one time period, With an unreliable narrator, and One-word title. I've got 12 more squares to cover on my bingo card, and I'm in the middle of one book that I can put in the center squares. Think I can manage to get the rest covered? We shall see.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Swatching and Swatching Some More

When the Tour de Fleece rolls around, I expect I'll do less knitting in favor of more spinning, but I really didn't do much knitting this weekend in spite of wanting to. True, I did keep busy with the usual chores and errands plus an unexpected trip to to the Apple Store (I had to get my phone replaced because my battery was swelling), but I was hoping to try to finish up the body of my Soldotna. In reality, I haven't touched it in days.

My lunchtime knitting is now a pair of shortie socks for Rainbow, using yarn leftover from her sweater and a stitch pattern I'm playing with for a new pattern. I'm still not entirely convinced if I like it or not.

She says she likes it, and I do like what I've done with the rest of the sock (though it still needs some tweaks). I'll need to give it another try in yarn where the big yarnovers can be seen a little better, perhaps even some self-striping. I also think it'll look better when it's stretched on a foot. Still pondering.

Most of the knitting that happened over the weekend was swatching. You may remember when I came back from MDSW that I announced that I would be designing another sweater this year -- it was one of my design goals for 2019. I'm hoping to be able to release it to coincide with Rhinebeck weekend, so I really need to get moving. I first swatched the colorwork motif (which you can get a little peek of in the photo below) to see how it translated from paper to yarn, but to write and grade the pattern, I needed a good-sized stockinette swatch.

I had a number of leftover partial balls of the Ross Farm Shetland Sport in my stash, so I used up some of those rather than break into the skeins I'll need for the sweater (though I did compare the yarn I used for this swatch to the sweater yarn to make sure it was comparable). I know some of you will tell me that I can always reuse the yarn from my swatch in my sweater, but I had a good reason for using separate yarn:

I steeked this swatch! I wanted to get a really accurate representation of my gauge in the round, and I didn't feel that the usual way of faux swatching in the round was going to do that. So I cast on something like 50 stitches and knit a tube. Then I secured two columns with slip-stitch crochet using a contrasting color and cut between the columns. Ta-da -- instant flat swatch to measure knitting in the round! I've got a nice sturdy fabric that still has decent drape, and it's measuring up at 22 stitches and 32 rounds over 4 inches/10 cm. Now I'm ready to sit down with measurements and a calculator to figure out my sizing and adjust the colorwork chart. Sounds easy, doesn't it? Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Sunday, July 07, 2019

The TdF and a PSA

It's the most wonderful time of the year for spinners: The Tour de Fleece is here!

For the uninitiated, the Tour de Fleece is a handspinning event that was created to coincide with the Tour de France. It's a three-week-long celebration of handspinning and handspun yarn, and the gist of it is that on all the days that the cyclists are riding, we spinners are spinning our own wheels (as well as our spindles). In past years I've gotten very competitive about it and challenged myself to spin large quantities of fiber, but this year I'm being much more realistic and just taking the event in the spirit in which I think it was originally intended -- to enjoy spinning.

While I had hoped to be able to finish spinning up the singles for the purple gradient I started last week before I started my Tour spinning, I didn't quite manage to do it. So I spent my spinning time yesterday working on finishing those up.

I had been spinning short forward draw but discovered that I could spin from the combed top using a supported long draw, which is a much faster way to get the spinning done. So the whole skein might not be consistent (using long draw, for instance, results in fuzzier singles), but I wasn't really aiming for perfection here, and good enough is good enough. I'm planning to chain-ply these singles, so I'm letting them rest on the bobbin for a day or two.

Today I got started on what I was planning for my TdF project, and that's the pile of little fiber bundles you saw here last week. I've got a total of 550 g/19.4 oz. of Polwarth to spin into what I hope will be a sweater's quantity of yarn. Here are a couple of bobbin shots so you can get a sense of the colors.

I really love these colors and am excited to see how they play out as a three-ply yarn.

Now for the PSA, which will really only apply to you who spin and buy fleece: When you've bought a fleece, please wash it as soon as possible after bringing it home, even if you don't get around to prepping it for a while.

A bit of back story on this one: Some months ago, a friend of mine posted that her mother was looking to sell some fleeces from her sheep, so I bought one. She sent it to me, and I promptly put it in our laundry room so that I could wash it "soon." I think you can all guess what happened -- I never got around to. Fast forward to about a month ago, when I kept seeing moths every now and then. Like any knitter and spinner, that concerned me a bit. Though most of my stash is safely stored in various bags and bins, I do have some yarn and fiber out, particularly if it's yarn or fiber I'm working with at the time. I saw quite a few moths in the laundry room, and I very quickly discovered the source: an infestation in the fleece. Yuck. So this past week (on the 4th of July, actually), I took it outside, pulled out a big portion that seemed to be where the moths and eggs were concentrated, and tossed all that into the composter. The rest of the fleece I decided to clean outside using the easiest method possible: the fermented suint method. I pulled a spare plastic bin out of the stash room and a contractor's trash bag (because the bin wasn't opaque), popped the rest of the fleece in it, and used the garden hose to fill it up. It's now sitting on our deck and, I hope, getting clean over the next week.

The trap on top is just to keep critters from sneaking under the lid.
Next weekend I'll dump out the water and rinse the (fingers crossed!) clean fleece. If it needs further cleaning, I can always wash it in our utility sink as I normally wash fleece, though my hope was that this method would save water and allow me to dump the wastewater out in the back of the yard rather than down the drain. I'm also hoping that this method will kill any moths or eggs that were still in the fleece, but I won't be precious about what's left and will happily toss any compromised wool. Assuming it comes out okay, it'll also be quarantined from the rest of the stash until I'm sure there are no more critters coming out of it. Let my laziness be a lesson to you: wash your fleece!