Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Back to the Knits

Now that the Tour de Fleece is over, I thought it high time to return to my knitting. My Fountain Pen Shawl has been seeing a fair amount of action the past several nights in particular. I'm through five repeats (of ten) for the body. I've been weighing the remaining yarn after each repeat, and if the trend continues, I should have more than enough for some extra repeats should I wish to enlarge the shawl.

I also started another sweater for Rainbow -- this time a February Baby Sweater with the lace (hooray!) using some of my handspun. I've knit a little more since taking the picture, and I'm getting a nice striping effect from the color changes.

You may recall my lamenting the fact that there was a serious lack of purple in my sock yarn stash and that I had one square in Rainbow's blanket that would be unfinished as a result. Well, I should have known that knitters would never let another knitter go without yarn to complete a project -- Jess very sweetly came to my rescue an offered to send me some purple leftovers she had in her stash. I gratefully took her up on the offer, expecting just enough to finish that one square. I never expected to see this when I opened up the package waiting for me yesterday afternoon:

There's not only enough here to finish the one square, I think there's more than enough to do a second purple square. And there's an entire skein of some absolutely gorgeous Hazel Knits Artisan Sock yarn. There's generous, and then there's generous. Thank you so much, Jess!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

TdF: The End

The Tour de France ended today and, along with it, so did the Tour de Fleece. I have two more finished yarns to show you.

First, what was my "challenge" yarn -- a singles yarn. This is BFL from Gale's Art; the colorway is Deep Blue Sea.

Although this didn't turn out quite the way I was hoping it would (namely that it's a lot thinner than I was intending!), I consider it a success because it did hold together, even when I thwacked it aggressively in finishing. Moreover, after finishing, the skein hung fairly straight, which was a pleasant surprise. I ended up with about 330 yards of slightly thick and thin that averages about heavy fingering weight or sportweight.

I also finished up the last of the Lorna's Laces Rainbow fiber. I had spun the remaining 2.5 or so ounces into a thin single and then chain plied it. I ended up with about 190 yards of fingering weight.

I really like how this one turned out. It's a different effect from the other Rainbow yarn, but it should still stripe nicely and should make something cute for my Rainbow.

The last of my Tour de Fleece spinning is some Dyeing Arts superwash merino that also is destined to be something for the baby. I spun most of the first bobbin at the spin in at Natural Stitches the other night; here's what I managed to get started on the second bobbin this afternoon:

Overall, I'd say it was a very successful Tour for me. I had three goals: spin (or do something related to spinning, such as prepping fiber) every day, spin something thicker than sock yarn, and spin down some of my fiber stash. I accomplished all three goals. I spun every day but one, and on that one day I think I skeined up and finished some completed yarn and prepped the next day's fiber. I spun two yarns that were decidedly thicker than sock yarn, and by my count I spun through more than 22 ounces of fiber, not including what's on my wheel right now.

Finally, while watching the end to the bike race this moring, I finished up Rainbow's lastest socks (the usual pattern, Reynold's Soft Sea Wool, size 1 needles):

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Day 19: The Challenge

The Tour de Fleece is beginning to wind down toward its conclusion on Sunday, but there's still a fair amount of spinning to do. For one thing, I'm almost done with the singles of the last of the Rainbow fiber:

This will be resting on the bobbin for a day or two and then Navajo/chained plied. And then I will officially be done with all 10 ounces of that fiber.

Today, however, is challenge day for the Tour de Fleece. Once the Rainbow fiber is done, I'll be tackling this Gale's Art BFL. My challenge? Attempt to spin my first singles yarn.

I'll be heading over to Natural Stitches tomorrow evening for a special TdF spin in. If you are of the spinning inclination, I hope to see you there!

Finally, a word to all of you who aren't really into the spinning thing. I promise that after Sunday, this blog will return to its normal (i.e., knitting) content. Please stick with me while I get all this twisting of fiber out of my system!

Monday, July 20, 2009

I CAN Spin Thick!

I had a fun experiment with my spinning over the weekend. I started with this fiber, 4 oz. of BFL top from Miss Babs in a colorway called Van Gogh.

I decided to spin quickly and thicker, so I ended up with this two-ply yarn that's approximately worsted weight, about 167 yards. I had some singles leftover on one bobbin, so I Navajo plied them for about 10 additional yarns. Unfortunately the sun didn't want to come out when I took this picture, so colors aren't quite accurate in this shot (they're better in the shot of the original fiber):

One of my challenges for myself in the Tour de Fleece was to spin thicker, and this definitely met that challenge. It's amazing how quickly you can spin up some yarn when you're not spinning the thickness of sewing thread!

Right now I have the rest of the Rainbow fiber on the wheel. I'm spinning fine again, planning a Navajo-plied fingering weight to match the other yarn in order to make some matching accessories for the BSJ.

Speaking of the Tour de Fleece, the spindle I won arrived today, from Jesh. Isn't it pretty?

There was a bit of fiber wrapped around it (for added padding), so I tried out my spindling skills. Unfortunately, it looks like my skills are very much where I left them when I abandoned my original spindle for my wheel, so I may have to take a class or two so as not to be so embarrassingly horrible.

Oh, and also? The Mister and I went for another ultrasound over the weekend, and I've picked out the yarn for Rainbow's next pair of socks:

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Woolly Rainbow

My Rainbow yarn is done, and it has exceeded my expectations.

I ended up with approximately 435 yards of three-ply worsted weight. In real life, it's not quite as bright as it appears in these photos. I think the red (which is a true, cherry red) throws the camera off. Perhaps one day The Mister will teach me to use Photoshop and I can correct my images. Until then, I'm sorry for burning your retinas.

I'm really thrilled with how this yarn turned out, and I have more than enough to make my Rainbow a Baby Surprise Jacket (along with some matching accessories).

Up next, this delicious BFL in a colorway called Van Gogh. It does make me think of one of Vincent's paintings.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Wee Ones

Up next in the parade of tiny knitted garments: some accessories designed to keep Rainbow's hands and feet toasty when he or she arrives.

Everything is knit from some leftover handspun. The socks are a variation on my Baby Ribs pattern. I made them a newborn size by going down to a size 0/2.0 mm needle and doing fewer rows on the heel flap and gusset.

The thumbless mittens were inspired by the pattern as well. Using the same needles, I cast on 40 stitches and worked 15 rows of 2x2 rib and 20 rows of stockinette before following the directions for the Baby Ribs toe.

Here's a peek at a project that you haven't seen in a while. Remember the sock yarn blanket?

I've lost some steam on this project in recent weeks, in part because (believe it or not) I've started to run short on yarn. I've completed five squares and gotten close to finishing a sixth. The problem with this sixth square is one of shortage -- the little bit of yarn you see here is all I've got left in some shade of purple.

The brown square is the most recently started. You might recognize the chocolatey brown and the tan yarn I've just joined -- they're leftovers from Mr. Foster! I'm not sure what will happen to this project once I finish the current square, though. I've certainly got a fair amount of yarn that could be used in squares, but most of it is blue, black, or gray, and ideally I'd like this blanket to represent all the colors in the rainbow. I'm starting to regret that I have such predictable tastes in sock yarn!

If it's lots of color you want, look no further than the yarn I started plying last night. This photo is especially for Amy, just to prove that there were other colors hiding on my bobbins!

I'm hoping to finish this ginormous bobbin up tonight. Stay tuned for the final results.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Spin Away

I spent a fair amount of the weekend working on my Rainbow yarn. I finished the first two bobbins, which are a pretty good match for each other:

Unfortunately, these colors are virtually impossible to photograph accurately, probably because they're so bright. Here's another photo for proof:

I have probably a little more than half of the third, and final, bobbin filled. I'm hoping to finish it by tomorrow, if not tonight, so that I can have this yarn plied up this week. I'll still have a quarter of the original bump of fiber left, so I'm thinking about spinning that up a little thinner and Navajo/chain plying it for a coordinating yarn. (Perhaps for a hat and booties to match the sweater the main yarn will make?)

In the meantime, I received my prize fiber from the Tour de Fleece on Friday. This is a delicious 50% merino/25% silk/25% bamboo. I can't wait to get to it. I think it wants to be laceweight.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

And Another

These baby sweaters practically knit themselves. Another one came off the needles yesterday.

Pattern: Baby Sweater on Two Needles (aka February Sweater) from Knitter's Almanac by Elizabeth Zimmermann
Yarn: Brown Sheep Nature Spun Sport (100% wool), colorway Bordeaux, approximately 1.5 skeins
Needles: US 5 (3.75 mm) Addi Turbo circs
Started/Completed: July 1/July 8
Mods: widened the neck by casting on more stitches and changed lace pattern to all stockinette for a more gender-neutral garment; also picked up four additional stitches under each arm and decreased them away in the first several rounds

I fully admit that I copied what Jen did with this sweater. I think the result of changing the lace to stockinette makes this look like a cardiganized, child-size version of Cobblestone, a sweater I still love and want to knit one day.

As usual, I knit this sweater entirely in the round. I put the sleeve stitches on scrap yarn and cast on the underarm stitches before finishing the rest of the body. Then I picked up stitches for the arms and knit them using magic loop. The only finishing was weaving in the ends and sewing on the buttons.

Speaking of which, the buttons came from my grab bag and are a light faux horn -- not nearly as light as they appear in the photo.

The Tour de Fleece is continuing, and thus far it's been very successful for me. I'm on my second bobbin of the Rainbow wool top (it's amazing how fast bobbins will fill up when you're not spinning super thin!). I also managed a feat I never imagined -- I won first place in the daily voting for my most recent sock yarn! So I guess you could say I won the yellow jersey for one day of the Tour.

I've been doing so much knitting for Rainbow lately that I thought it was time I started a project for myself. As it is the middle of the Tour de Fleece, I thought it only appropriate that the project be knit from handspun. So I finally wound my merino/silk laceweight and cast on for the Fountain Pen Shawl. I've made it through the set-up chart and the first several rows of the main body chart, and so far, I'm loving it.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Spin, Wheel, Spin!

While to the casual observer it may appear that I spent my Fourth of July weekend doing nothing but sitting around, the more well informed will realize that I was actually quite productive -- at least as far as the fiber arts are concerned.

You see, I signed up for the Tour de Fleece this year, with the hopes of spinning down some of my fiber stash and (gasp!) spinning something other than sock yarn for a change.

Alas, my first Tour yarn failed miserably to meet one of these goals. Yes, it is another sock yarn. I had hoped to have it off the wheel in time for the start of the Tour, but life intervened and prevented that from happening. I did manage to get all the singles spun by Friday, so when competition officially opened on Saturday, I was ready to ply.

I started with yet another superwash merino braid from my favorite fiber pusher, this one beginning at 4.3 ounces.

In the end, I got approximately 446 yards of three-ply fingering weight. This was a rather pleasant surprise, as I had no idea how it was going to turn out. My wanting to see the end result was probably what motivated me to ply it all in one day.

As soon as that was done, I broke out an enormous bump (10 ounces!) of Lorna's Laces wool top that I bought from Sonny & Shear about a year ago. I'd hoped to split it in half and use five ounces for a two-ply worsted weight in order to knit Rainbow a stripe-y Baby Surprise Jacket. Unfortunately, it looks like I'm really having trouble not spinning thin, so it looks like it might have to be a three ply. Here's the first section in progress:

Did I mention that the colorway of this fiber is also called Rainbow? Quite a happy coincidence, if I do say so!

Friday, July 03, 2009

Baby Chic

The sweater you saw all bunched up on a circular needle in the last post is done! (And I assure you that it's red, not pink.)

Pattern: Cabled Cardie with Shawl Collar, from Sirdar's "Little Kisses" booklet, size 0-6 months
Yarn: Crystal Palace Merino 5 (100% superwash merino), color 9798, three skeins
Needles: US 6 (4.0 mm) and US 3 (3.25 mm) Addi Turbo circs
Started/Completed: June 20/June 30
Recipient: Rainbow
Mods: I had to wing the button band and collar (see notes below)

I knew that I had to knit this sweater when I saw the sample hanging up at Natural Stitches; it was just too cute. However, the yarn called for -- Sirdar Snuggly Kisses DK -- is a nylon/acrylic blend. While there are certainly uses for synthetic yarn, I prefer to knit baby garments in natural fibers. This Merino 5 just happened to jump out to me, and while it resulted in a slightly chunkier sweater than the sample, I love how it turned out.

I followed the pattern exactly for all the pieces, but when I got to the collar and button bands, I basically had to throw the directions out the window. To begin with, I did not knit a gauge swatch. I know, I know, I really should have, but I wasn't really interested in knitting a sweater that was a particular size. After all, babies come in all sizes and they grow quickly, so I knew that there was a good chance that the finished sweater would fit Rainbow at some point. Because I wasn't knitting to gauge, when I went to pick up stitches, I didn't have the right number. On top of that, the pattern has you knit one button band and half the collar, then knit the other button band and other half of the collar, and finally seam the back of the collar. I didn't see a reason to knit two pieces, so I decided I was going to do it all in one piece.

I knit about three rows over all the stitches, then marked the center of the collar and worked a series of short rows around the neck for the shawl collar. On the next row, I made the buttonholes, and then it was just a few more rows of ribbing and a bind off. I think it worked pretty well, all things considered.

A good blocking helped to even everything out, and the buttons (picked out by The Mister himself!) were the finishing touch.

I really did enjoy working with this yarn, and I wouldn't hestitate to use it again. I feel I should mention that despite the fact that this color is shades of red and orange, there was absolutely no dye runoff in the water when I washed the pieces before the sewing up or when the whole sweater was done. It was such a pleasant surprise!