Monday, August 29, 2011

For the Love of Shetland

I intended to post this last night, but we were out for dinner to celebrate my parents' anniversary and got home later than I'd anticipated, which meant that a certain toddler got to bed late and there were a bunch of things to do before I could go to bed.

In any case, I do have another yarn to show you, though this one might be called boring relative to some of the handspun you've seen here in recent weeks.

A month or two ago, while perusing the spinning corner of my LYS, I came across an 8 oz. bag of beautiful moorit-colored Shetland top from Louet. At $12.50 for 8 oz., it was too good a deal to pass up, especially because I'd been wanting to try Shetland again (my previous experience with it wasn't all that wonderful, and as so many people seem to rave about this breed, I figured it was worth another go). The first batch I'd spun was a little on the scratchy side, but I suspect that had something to do with the dye. This fiber was a natural color, and while it certainly wasn't the softest fiber ever, it was a much more pleasurable spin.

I opted to spin a traditional three ply and aimed for my usual fingering weight. This was my first time plying such a large amount on my miniSpinner, and I was pleased as punch that by the time one bobbin ran out of singles, I still had a little bit of space left of the bobbin. This monster skein is almost 550 yards. I was hoping for a little more than that, but I guess I didn't spin my singles as thin as I thought I was.

The leftovers on the other two bobbins were paltry enough that it wasn't worth trying to divide them up and do all sorts of crazy splicing, so I chain plied one bobbin's worth until it ran out and then spliced in the rest. The resulting skein-lette is about 22.5 yards.

The finished yarn isn't super soft, but it's not really scratchy either. I'm thinking that it will be good for a cozy shawl or a set of accessories, or maybe I'll keep it and spin up some other fiber to combine it with for a garment. Regardless, it was a fun spin, and I definitely see why so many people love Shetland now.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Baby List

There's roughly a week and a half left in the summer contest at my LYS, so I am still spending my evenings spinning and trying to get as much done as possible by then. A little bit of knitting has been creeping in from time to time, however. The past couple of Saturdays when I've gone to Natural Stitches (as I do most Saturday afternoons), I've been working on the Rainbow Chain Carriage Blanket that I'm knitting for a baby due in December. I'm following Courtney's mods, however, and making much wider color stripes with only three colors (three shades of blue, to be exact).

The mother-to-be requested a blue blanket, so I'm thinking this will fit the bill. I'm using Berocco Vintage (again copying Courtney's blanket), a 50% acrylic/40% wool/10% nylon blend, in Mochi, Dark Denim, Bilberry, and Misty. I am planning for 18 stripes total at the point but may add more if it needs more length. The knitting is a bit fussy because I have three skeins attached at any given time (one for right border, one for the stripe in the middle, and one for the left border), so I'm spending a fair amount of time detangling and rearranging skeins as I go, but it's going to be really stunning when it's done. I started it now figuring that I can do a stripe or two at a time at a leisurely pace and still have it done in time for the baby's arrival.

Really, baby knitting is mostly what I'm going to be doing for the rest of the year. I balled up a skein of STR Mediumweight on Monday night in preparation for casting on for a Baby Surprise Jacket for one of my coworkers. She is not finding out the sex of the baby, so I though it this was a fairly gender-neutral colorway (it's Muddy Autumn Rainbow from the sock club two years ago).

I'm planning on knitting up this BSJ pretty much exactly like I did Rainbow's, with I-cord edging and button loops. I know that it fit Rainbow as a newborn (although it was a tad large on her for going home from the hospital), and as this baby is due December 10, he/she should be able to get good wear out of it during those first few months.

I have a list of other baby projects in my head as well for the coming months -- a sweater for the other December baby (perhaps in handspun), a blanket and sweater for a little girl coming in January, and something for a baby due in March (though I'm waiting until the parents find out the sex). I'm still using my lunch break knitting to work on design stuff, and at some point I'm going to have to get back to my Essential Cardigan and finish it. I guess my hiatus from knitting (in favor of spinning) is officially over!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Unbearable Lightness of Romney

I finished another yarn late last week that qualifies for the summer contest. This was the July shipment for the Crown Mountain Farms fiber club (so I'm only a little behind!), Romney in a gorgeous colorway called the Unbearable Lightness of Being. I was so excited to spin it that I neglected to snap a picture of the fiber before I started spinning, but it reminded me very much of chocolate covered cherries. I spun up the two bobbins of singles on my Lendrum (surprisingly quickly, I might add) and plied on my miniSpinner.

The resulting yarn is light fingering weight and about 394 yards.

It's very pretty, but it's not as soft as I was hoping it would be. I'm wondering if it's something about the dye that makes it a little rough, because my Romney fleece is much softer, though of course it could vary by sheep.

I now have two weeks left to spin for the contest and have two projects in progress that I'm determined to finish. First, 8 oz. of beautiful moorit (that's the name for the light milk chocolatey color) Shetland top from Louet that I bought at the store and is destined to be a three ply. I'm on the third and final bobbin of singles now and am hoping to have it finished up by tomorrow night so I can start plying on Tuesday.

I'm also trying to finish a spindle project -- Masham top from last year's CMF fiber club on my Bosworth.

What you see here is the first half of the fiber. I was hoping to get all 2 oz. on the spindle at once, but my cop started falling about on me and I had to wind off. I'm going to focus on my winding a little more on the second half and attempt to get it all in one cop. This'll be plied on the wheel, though, because my wrists just can't stand the idea of using that giant plying spindle again!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Finished Stuff Friday

It's Friday, I haven't blogged in a while, and I haven't been doing much that's blog-worthy or inspiring, so I thought I'd take a page from Jenn's book and at least show you something that is finished. It's a mitten.

It still needs to be blocked (it just came off the needles last night), but this is the second in a pair. The pattern, of course, is my own; this sample is done in the medium size without the picot hem. I used Jamieson's Shetland Spindrift for these, though I still have to weigh the remains to see how much yardage I used. It's definitely more rustic and fuzzy than the Knit Picks I used for the pattern sample, but this yarn is kind of like velcro in that it really sticks to itself, so I know these are going to felt up nicely with wear. The reason I can't show you a complete set is that the other mitten is now a shop sample at Natural Stitches, which is also now carrying the pattern! So if you're local, you can stop by to fondle the other mitten if you'd like.

The mitten knitting has been done primarily during my lunch hour at work because my evenings have been filled with mad spinning to try to get as much done before the contest ends as I possibly can. I'll save the spinning update until Sunday, though.

This afternoon, however, I got to leave work early because of a power outage, so I'm going to spend a couple of hours working on a sample/prototype for a new design. Here's a peek:

Happy weekend!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Finishing Spree

I've gotten a little crazy with my spinning lately. Time is running out on my LYS' summer contest, though, so I've been keeping my wheels busy. For tonight's post, I play catch up.

All Spun Up Polwarth in Goldfish Wearing a Tutu, chain plied, light fingering weight, 576 yards

Crown Mountain Farms Lincoln in Magic Carpet, two-ply fingering weight, 275 yards

Yarn Hollow merino/bamboo/nylon in Eggplant, two-ply fingering weight*

Leftovers scrappy skein -- leftover singles from previous spins, chain plied, fingering weight*

*Both of these skeins were dropped off to be judged for the contest before I had a chance to record my yardage, though the merino/bamboo/nylon was somewhere in the 500s and the scrappy skein was somewhere in the 300s.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Bit of Lace

There's only a little more than three weeks left in my LYS' summer contest, so most of my evening leisure time has been spent at one wheel or another trying to get as much spun up as I can. Last week, however, I took some time off to do a little knitting. I've been working on small projects as usual during my lunch breaks at work, but it's been some time since I worked on a big-ish project at home (yes, my Essential Cardigan is still hibernating!). I wasn't necessarily looking for a project to do; rather, one kind of came to me.

Having used the Free Pattern Testers group to test my mitten pattern, I've peeked in from time to time to see the other patterns in testing. About a week and a half ago, I happened to catch a test for a small shawl before it filled up (I've found that the lace patterns test to fill pretty quickly). The pattern was written for one skein of sock yarn, so I knew it wouldn't be a huge time commitment and promptly signed up. I cast on for it on a Friday night (the week before last) with a skein of Dream in Color Smooshy in Happy Forest that was wound and waiting in my stash. Before I knew it, I had a shawl:

Obviously I did a poor job of photographing it because I cut off the right edge, but I really like how this turned out. The slightly crescent shape is achieved though six increases on every two rows (four on the right side, two on the wrong side) through the stockinette section. Then, when you get to the lace, you increase with yarnovers just twice on each right side row. I think what's notable about this shawl is that all the increases before the lace border are m1s, so there are no holes along the top edge or along the center spine.

The lace itself was pretty straightforward, though I made a couple of errors (just some extra yarnovers) that had me scratching my head a couple of times. Fortunately, all were easy to fix and no frogging was needed.

It may sound silly, but I think what I liked best about this shawl was how easy it was to block! I put two pins in the center point and two at each of the end points (more for stability than anything else) and then one in each point along the border. I didn't have to get out my blocking wires, and even though I did repin the points a couple of times -- it's not in my obsessive, perfectionist nature to not repin! -- the entire process took less than 10 minutes.

The pattern is not yet available, but I can fully recommend it, so keep an eye out for it!

Sunday, August 07, 2011

TdF Wrap-up

I skipped my Spinning Sunday post last week because the last of my Tour de Fleece yarns were at my LYS, waiting to be judged for the summer spinning contest. They're now back in my stash, so I can show them to you.

The first was spun from a set of three mystery batts -- I say "mystery" because their contents were unknown. They came to be from a friend who got them from another friend, so there was really no way of finding out what fibers were in them. I suspect wool of some sort (not a particularly soft wool, either) and something like firestar or angelina, because they had a little sparkle to them. They were not particularly fun to spin, as they were sticky (lanolin, perhaps?) and neppy. I had about 3.25 ounces when I started, though I lost a little of that weight from all the nepps I pulled out while spinning. In spite of this experience, I quite like the finished yarn.

It's a three-ply fingering weight, roughly 189 yards, and has just a slight touch of iridescence to it from whatever the sparkly substance was. The stickiness also seems to have washed out, though the finished yarn isn't really all that soft. This is definitely going into the stash to marinate until I figure out what to make with it.

The other yarn is one I'm very proud of. It stared out as 4 oz. of mixed Corriedale from Gale's Art that I bought at MDSW -- mainly because it was inexpensive and I wanted something that was nice but not too nice to break in my Bosworth spindle. I ended up spinning all 4 oz. on that spindle and then plied it on that gigantic Louet beginner's spindle. Toward the end there was so much on the plying spindle and it was getting so heavy and unwieldy, I had to wind the rest of the yarn off the plying ball and onto a TP roll so I could ply the rest from the other end with the Bosworth. I did manage to get it all plied in one skein, though. (The small skein you see in front here is extra singles from half of the fiber that I wound into a center-pull ball and plied from both ends.)

I had completed my first official spindle-spun yarn earlier in the TdF, but this is officially my first 4 oz. skein -- all spun and plied on a spindle. It is a two-ply fingering weight and rougly 329 yards, with an additional 15.5 yards in the small skein. This skein taught me that I really enjoy spinning singles on a spindle, but plying? Not so much. I think from this point forward, unless I'm working with really small amounts, all of plying is going to be done on one wheel or the other.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Pattern Release: Eidetic Mittens

You've had some peeks at the design from my previous blog posts, but I am so excited to share the final pattern with you today. Presenting the Eidetic Mittens:

These colorwork mittens are knit using two contrasting colors of fingering weight yarn (the sample you see here used Knit Picks Palette in Peapod and Ash). The pattern is the same on both sides of the mitten, meaning that the two mittens are interchangeable -- no figuring out which is the left and which is the right on a cold day! The cuff is a 2x1 corrugated ribbing and features an option for a picot edging.

The thumb on these mittens is gusseted, meaning that stitches are added gradually at the side of the hand. I personally find this kind of thumb much more comfortable to wear, as, anatomically speaking, that's where the thumb is on my hand. Once the necessary number of stitches have been added, the thumb stitches are put on waste yarn until the hand has been completed, and the thumb is then finished to fit the wearer's hand.

The standard size is achieved through a gauge of 10 stitches per inch in the stranded colorwork pattern and results in a mitten that is roughly a 7.5 inch circumference. It's very easy to size these up, however, as all you need to do is use a slightly larger needle to change the gauge. No recalculating of numbers necessary!

The pattern is now for sale on Ravelry. I hope you enjoy it!

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Starting in Style

I mentioned recently that there's a bit of a baby boom going on here (we found out about yet another baby on the way over the weekend!), so baby knitting has officially commenced. I've got a while before the others arrive, but the first of the group is expected later this month by my coworker and we're having a shower for her at the office tomorrow. I needed a quick but cute knit, as the mama-to-be is pretty stylish and is a knitter herself, so I did a search on Ravelry for some baby patterns that I hadn't knit yet. I found this one, which looked perfect to me for a summer baby.

Pattern: Abigail Sweater by Kay Squared (free Ravelry download)
Yarn: Knit Picks Shine Worsted (60% Pima cotton, 40% Modal) in Watermelon, just under three skeins
Needles: US 5/3.75 mm circs
Started/Completed: July 14/July 24, 2011

If this sweater looks familiar, it's probably because it's a variation on Elizabeth Zimmermann's Sweater on Two Needles (aka February Baby Sweater). The changes are in the yoke, which incorporates top-down raglan shaping, and the scooped neckline, which is achieved through casting on stitches at the beginning of several rows. The gull lace is the same, so if you've knit the EZ sweater or its cousin, the February Lady Sweater, you'll be very familiar with it. The pattern ends the sleeves at the end of the garter stitch, but I can see how this could easily be turned into a long-sleeved sweater. For my purposes, though, I didn't think it was necessary.

The pattern is a free download on Ravelry and was only a page long (like EZ's patterns, it is pithy), which made it very convenient to carry around, as I was working on this sweater mostly during my lunch break at work. I wouldn't recommend it to a true beginner, as it's a bit difficult to follow in a couple areas if you haven't worked the EZ original before, though I suspect some spacing in between directions might help in this respect. As you can see, it results in a really cute interpretation of the classic FBS that I think it just perfect for an August baby.

To finish it off, I kept the last bound-off stitch live and put that loop on a crochet hook. Then I did a row of single crochet up one button band, around the neck, and down the other button band, incorporating the two button loops with crochet chains. I did a row of single crochet around the armholes as well, as the underarm areas were a little sloppy.

This yarn had been in my stash for years, so it was nice to get it out again. I was reminded of the frustration I've had with the sport weight version of it -- it sheds. I had to put together several pieces of Scotch tape (what I had on hand in my office) to make a poor man's lint roller after each knitting session because I was covered in deep pink fuzz. That said, the yarn is soft and silky and, of course, machine washable, so I am not disappointed in it. I have seven skeins, or about 525 yards, leftover that will likely eventually become something for Rainbow. I'll just have to remember to have my lint roller on hand then!