Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Seeing Red

Even though 2008 has been the year of green in my knitting, the past week has seen a lot of fiber in the red/pink end of the spectrum. Case in point: my latest spinning.

A little less than 4 oz. of Maine Woods merino/corriedale roving, spun into a two ply. Approximately 610 yards.

Although the ply isn't as tight as I'd like, I'm very proud that this yarn is extremely well balanced. I guess my spinning sense must've known that more twist would have unbalanced the yarn. You know what else? I finally seem to have achieved a true fingering weight yarn.

The yardage is certainly enough for a pair of socks, but I think I might want to wait a bit until I have some more durable sock yarn spun up and use this for a shawl or scarf instead. For now I'm just admiring it.

I had some singles left on one bobbin after I finished plying, so I used them to try Navajo plying. I was so excited about this little skein that I took it to work in my purse yesterday and pulled it out squeeze it once or twice when things were stressful.

This is definitely over twisted, mostly because I was getting the hang of working both hands and didn't always coordinate them well. Still, I love the effect, and I'm planning on Navajo plying the next batch of fiber:

This is some of the Sakina Needles roving that came in my Loopy Ewe order. It's much more orange in real life; the name of the colorway is Watermelon, but it looks much more like a carrot to me.

Meanwhile, the sock knitting continues (and sorry for the crappy photo -- my photographer is away again):

Pattern: Baudelaire by Cookie A. (summer '06 Knitty)
Yarn: Socks That Rock lightweight (100% superwash merino), colorway Ruby Slippers, one skein
Needles: two 12" US 1 (2.5 mm) Addi Turbo circs
Started/Completed: April 18/April 28
Mods: completed only 13 cable crosses on leg; shortened cuff

I used some MacGyver problem solving to finish the first sock. I finished it during my lunch break at work, where I didn't have a larger needle to use to bind off. But I did have my cable needle, which is about the width of a size 3 needle, so I used that. And, of course, I had to do the same to get the second sock to match.

Tomorrow is an unusual fifth Wednesday of the month, so the Hurricane Knitters are having a special bonus knit night. We'll be meeting to have dinner and knit at the Panera at Waterworks starting at about 6:30. Come and join us if you're in the area!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

So Worth It

Tell me that all the sewing up and pushing ends out of the way wasn't completely worth it.

Pattern: Bear in Lamb Sleep Suit by Debbie Bliss in The Baby Knits Book
Yarn: Patons Classic Wool Merino in colorways Natural Mix (approx. half a skein), Aran (approx. half a skein), and Black (approx. a quarter of a skein)
Needles: US 5 (3.75 mm) dpns and circs
Started/Completed: April 11/April 25
Mods: eliminated some unnecessary cutting/reattaching of yarn, thereby eliminating unnecessary seaming

This pattern makes for an adorable toy, but I won't lie to you -- it is a lot of work. There are lots of little pieces to knit, resulting in lots of yarn tails and lots of seams to sew. Contrary to popular opinion, I never intended to weave in those ends. I always planned on hiding them inside (and using them as extra stuffing!); my complaint about them had more to do with the fact that they constantly got in the way. Try seaming three small pieces together when there are about 8 yarn tails hanging in the way!

I did eliminate some unnecessary (in my opinion) steps in the pattern. Ms. Bliss asks you to do some shaping by working half the stitches back and forth, cutting the yarn, reattaching it to the other half of the stitches, and then working all the stitches together again. This means two yarn ends to deal with and an extra seam to sew at the end. Considering that you're dealing with four pieces for the head alone, I didn't think it would hurt to simplify things. Instead of cutting the yarn, I simply put a stitch marker between the two sets of stitches and worked the shaping for each side at the same time.

Here's an example, the leg:
Debbie Bliss says: "Cast on 26 sts. Work 5 rows in st st. Next row: P13, turn. Cont in st st, work on this set of sts only. Dec one sts at beg of next row and foll atl row, then at end of foll row. 10 sts. Break off yarn and rejoin at inside edge to second set of 13 sts, p to end." The shaping is then repeated on the second set of 13 sts, and then all 20 remaining stitches are worked together.

Here's what I did: After working the five rows in stockinette (placing a marker at the center of the row), I worked a decrease at the beginning of the row, before the marker, after the marker, and at the end fo the row; repeated that shaping on the following alternate row; and then decreased at the beginning and end of the next row. It requires a little bit of thought and attention to make sure all the decreases are in the right place, but to me it's well worth it not to have to deal with the extra finishing.

I feel I should also mention that part of the difficulty in this pattern is the fact that there's no schematic, so you have to just trust your instincts when it comes time to sew up everything. I'm still not completely convinced that I sewed the bear's head to his neck and not his bum, and I completely had to fudge sewing up the (for lack of a better word) crotch of the sleep suit. That said, if you've had a fair amount of finishing experience with other garments, you can probably muddle through as well as I did. Frankly, the hardest part came at the end, when I couldn't find three matching buttons of the right size and in an appropriate color for the suit! (The ones I ended up with aren't a perfect match, but they were close enough.)

I'm glad I finished this when I did, mostly because it's in time for Aidan's birthday, but also because the weather has been reminding us this week that this is no time to be working on a wool sweater. Even Mr. Bear couldn't stand to wear his sleep suit for very long during his photo shoot earlier today:

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Not Half Bad

In the end, the sewing up of the bear wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Fiddly, yes, but bad, no. I used some of the many yarn tails to sew his pieces together and stuffed the rest inside.

He's pretty cute, don't you think? Now I just have to finish his lamb suit so he doesn't have to lay around on our deck naked.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Enough Ends to Drive You Crazy

I finished spinning up the second batch of roving last night and am dying to ply tonight, but I've been cheating on my knitting lately, and one project in particular requires some serious attention.

I realize it's still in pieces and, yes, there are a horrifying number of ends to weave in (or at least hide well), but perhaps you might be able to deduce that this is a teddy bear. In fact, it's the Bear in Lamb Sleep Suit, from Debbie Bliss's The Baby Knits Book. If you do a Ravelry search for this cutie, you'll notice that there are very few finished projects, and with good reason. There are a ton of ends (many of them unnecessary, if you ask me), lots of little pieces to sew together, and no schematic to help you assemble the bear. Fortunately the lamb suit is a lot easier to figure out, and the general consensus seems to be that it hides all manner of mistakes in sewing the bear up.

Why, you may ask, am I putting myself through all this, knowing as you all do how much I hate seaming? The answer is simple: Aidan is turning 1 next week! Now that he's old enough to at least have some appreciation for his gifts, I thought it appropriate to make him something he can play with, rather than wear. And, because his birthday party is next weekend, I'm going to try to get it ready to mail out this weekend so it'll be there in time for him to open.

I will be the first to admit that my sewing up thus far is not wonderful, but I'm going to attempt to disguise it further by gently fulling the bear before dressing him in his sleep suit. And you can bet I'm going to be giving the lamb suit my very best finishing job. Worst case? I just have to hope Aidan isn't interested in undressing his bear!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Beauty in Simplicity

Sometimes there's nothing better than a pair of plain stockinette socks.

Pattern: basic stockinette worked over 60 stitches, with a 3x2 ribbed cuff and an Eye of Partridge heel
Yarn: Claudia Hand Painted Fingering Weight (100% merino), colorway Teal Party, two skeins

Needles: two 12" US 1 (2.5 mm) Addi Turbo circs
Started/Completed: April 13/April 19

Unfortunately, as lovely as these socks are, they do have a dark side. The first sock was fine. It was fast and a pleasure to knit. The second skein, however, had some dye issues -- namely that the dye came off on my hands as I knit. I am hoping that it's just a matter of too much saturation and that the extra dye will come out in the wash, because if it doesn't, my foot is liable to turn black (like my fingers did while knitting). Has anyone else had this experience? This was my first time knitting with Claudia Hand Painted, and other than the dye issue it was quite pleasurable (I'm pretty sure it's the same yarn base as Koigu).

Tonight's activity? Spinning, and lots of it. I'm hoping to finish up the second 2 oz. of the "watermelon" roving; I'm eager to ply it with the batch I finished late last week -- not only because I'm excited to finish that yarn, but also because I can't wait to dig into the new additions to the stash!

Finally, a message to my fellow Pennsylvanians: DON'T FORGET TO VOTE TOMORROW!

Thursday, April 17, 2008


Some pretty surprises from the Loopy Ewe were awaiting me today:

Sakina Needles superwash merino roving, 4 oz., colorway Tabula Rosa

Sakina Needles BFL roving, 4 oz., colorway Watermelon

Dyeing Arts Dazzling Duos superwash merino roving, 4 oz., colorway March Hare

Dyeing Arts Dazzling Duos superwash merino roving, 4 oz., colorway Little Umbrellas

These colorways are so pretty, I can even forgive an errant apostrophe!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Knit Night Reminder

Tomorrow night is the second-Wednesday meeting of the Hurricane Knitters -- but this time, we have a twist. We'll be trying out a new location (one that we hope won't kick us out at 9 p.m.): the Coffee Tree Roasters in Fox Chapel. Come and join us if you're in the area!

Monday, April 14, 2008

All Wool, All the Time

This past weekend was truly the break I needed after two very stressful weeks at work in a row. I spent the majority of Saturday and Sunday exploring fibery pursuits -- easy to do, as we spent most of the weekend at home.

We did venture out for a bit on Saturday, first to get lunch at one of our favorite pubs and then (because The Mister offered) to engage in some stash enhancement. I guess my complaints that I only had one bunch of fiber left to spin had a receptive audience, because he drove me there and very patiently waited for me.

Because I still had gift cards burning holes in my pockets, I decided to splurge a little. For instance, this may be the most expensive skein of yarn I've ever bought:

This is Prism Wool Lace, in a colorway called Terra Cotta. It may have been pricey, but there's a whopping 1460 yards in that skein; I'd bet if I calculated the cost per yard, it might not seem that bad. (Besides, it was free to me! Thanks in-laws!)

I also bought a bottle of much-needed Soak; the much-coveted Fiber Trends Felted Clogs pattern; and, because I enjoyed the last bit so much, four more ounces of Main Woods merino/corriedale roving:

Doesn't this color make you think of a watermelon? I started spinning it up last night, making some very thin singles.

I think I spent close to four hours at my wheel, which may have been a little too long; my right thumb was aching a little last night. I'm going to have to be a bit better about balancing my spinning and knitting time, although it's very hard to tear myself away from my new toy. (I may or may not have placed my first Loopy Ewe order today for some more roving; don't worry, Amy, I clicked through from your blog!)

My knitting this weekend was relaxing and fairly unexciting. I started a little project that, if it turns out well, will be for Aidan for his first birthday (I can't believe he was born a year ago!); right now it's in a bunch of little pieces with a bunch of yarn tails, so it's not very interesting to look at. These, on the other hand, are delicious, if I do say so:

Nothing but the first sock in a pair of very plain stockinette socks in a gorgeous colorway of Claudia Hand Painted -- Teal Party, to be exact -- that is really more chocqua than this picture shows. I started these at about 1 p.m. yesterday, knit a few hours, knit a couple today, and I'm already through the gussets. I love that.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

My Lucky Feet

For those of you not so into the spinning content, would you like a return to the knitting? Here's my latest offering -- my new favorite socks:

Pattern: Leafling by JC Briar (March '08 Rockin' Sock Club shipment), size S (60 sts)
Yarn: Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks That Rock mediumweight (100% superwash merino), colorway Lucky, one skein
Needles: two 12" US 1 (2.5 mm) Addi Turbo circs
Started/Completed: April 1/April 11
Mods: none

There are so many reasons why I love these socks. The fact that they're STR (squishy!) and green -- apparently my color of the year -- is a given. What really made these a fun knit, however, is the construction. The way these socks are made is very original and different, yet it works.

The stitch pattern is in a strip down the top of the instep. It's one that's easily memorizable, and the fact that it's worked over relatively few stitches (roughly a third of the total stitches) makes the sock go a lot faster. What I really liked about it was that the increases are lifted increases, which means that, instead of lifting the bar between stitches to create a new stitch, you instead lift the leg of the stitch one or two rows down (depending on the way the new stitch will lean) and knit into it.

The coolest part of the sock, however, at least in my opinion, is how the gusset and heel are worked. It's entirely opposite of usual cuff-down sock construction. You see, the gussets are created before the heel is turned. The section of stitches on either side of the patterned panel is gradually increased, increasing the total stitch count by 50 percent, while the traditional slip-stitch pattern is worked over heel stitches on the back. The heel is then turned using short rows over those heel stitches, and finally the heel flap is worked in the slip-stitch pattern working back and forth along the bottom of the heel. At the end of each row of the heel flap, a heel stitch is worked together with a gusset stitch, thereby connecting the heel flap to the rest of the sock and working away the extra stitches. The result is a cushion all the way down the length of the heel that hugs the foot nicely and has extra reinforcement where it's most often needed. And the best part? No holes at the top of the gusset to sew up after the sock is done!

There's a fair amount of yarn left over, so I see another pair of baby bootees in my future.

Now, for those of you wondering what my singles from the other night turned into:

Maine Woods Yarn & Fiber merino/corriedale roving, 2 oz. spun into approximately 165 yards of two ply. I think it ranges from a fingering weight to a sport weight. I love it, and even The Mister was impressed -- he saw it drying in the bathroom and at first mistook it for a commercial yarn. I guess that means I'm getting better!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Slimming Down

Take a look at the singles I finished spinning up last night -- I'm getting better at going thin!

This is 2 oz. of merino/corriedale I bought the weekend the wheel first came (or maybe it was the weekend right after I ordered it), and this is all of it. I was goign to try Navajo plying, but with such a small amount, I want to maximize the finished yarn I have, so I may just make a center-pull ball and ply from both ends.

Something tells me I will want to stick with a technique I already know, as I'm planning on spinning while watching this movie. I've heard the sauna scene is a tad bit distracting.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Ribbed for His Pleasure

The Mister has decided that he LOVES these socks -- shocking, I know, considering they're not a shade of gray or black. It's unfortunate that it's a tad too warm for him to wear them now.

Pattern: 2x2 rib worked over 68 stitches
Yarn: Dalegarn/Dale of Norway Baby Ull (superwash wool), color 5545 (I think), two skeins
Needles: two 12" US 1 (2.5 mm) Addi Turbo circs
Started/Completed: March 18/March 31 (can you tell I was bored?)

The Mister would like you all to know that he has learned a lot about sock construction. For instance, he knows that this part of the sock

is the gusset (and he pointed it out entirely unprompted my this knitter). More proof that my knitty talk is rubbing off on him? After I finished taking these shots, he pulled the socks off, handed them to me, and said, "You still have to block them, right?" Oh, Mister!

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Like Toffee, But Calorie Free

Plied on Thursday, washed and "thwacked" last night, my second handspun:

Two ply spun from 8 oz. of Louet Northern Lights 100% wool top, in a colorway called Toffee. Reds, browns, yellows, and violets. I just love the barberpole effect.

It's not a very consistent weight, as there's still a little thick-and-thin action going on; it's somewhere between a DK and a worsted, I think. I have approximately 286 yards, so enough for a pair of ankle socks or a cute hat. Maybe a jaunty beret? Or maybe this is just going to be another contribution to my own handspun museum!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

"You spun my fiber, prepare to ply!"

At least that's what I imagine my wheel might be saying to me, if it could talk and was possessed by the spirit of Mandy Patinkin as Inigo Montoya.

(I know this photo is on the blurry side, but it's the closest I could get to the actual color of the singles.)

Tonight I'll be breaking in my jumbo plying head and turning these singles into a two ply. Yarn pr0n shots to come!