Sunday, April 29, 2012

Deep Stash Spin

After I dug out some very old fiber from my stash for my corespun yarn, I figured I'd might as well finish spinning up the rest. I haven't devoted very much time to it in the past week because I've been so focused on finishing my sweater, but I'm slowly but surely adding to what's on the bobbin.

This is colonial wool, meaning it's likely a mix of a number of domestic wool breeds. From far away, it looks like a dark green, but you can see from this detail shot that it's a mix of dark green, red, blue, and yellow. The plan is to spin all the fiber that's left into a fine single and then chain ply. It should come out approximately fingering weight, but because I don't know how much fiber I started with, I have no idea what kind of yardage I'll end up with. I imagine it'll be enough for a pair of socks or a small shawl at the very least.

In the meantime, just as I'm trying to reduce my stash, some new fiber has arrived. My May shipment from the Crown Mountain Farms fiber club came in yesterday's mail. This is Jacob top in a colorway called Season of the Witch (yes, I have had the song stuck in my head since I opened the package):

I'm excited to spin this because I've never spun Jacob before. It's on the scratchier side (I would not make this into something to wear next to my neck!), but it has a good body to it and should make a fairly bouncy yarn, I think.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Positive Outlook

Things are looking good on the sweater front, and barring any unforeseen emergencies or complications, I should be able to finish it this week. I seamed the shoulders and picked up for the collar on Sunday evening and then got through the short row portion last night. Tonight or tomorrow I'm hoping to finish the collar off, and then all that will remain is seaming, which should be able to be accomplished in an evening.

I think I am going to cheat and wait to block until after I've seamed; usually I block the pieces first to make seaming easier, but it'll be more complicated with this sweater because the front and back are already attached, so I think I'll just suck it up and deal with some curling edges. I would normally block the whole thing again anyhow, so I'm only saving a little bit of time and effort by skipping that one step.

I'm really amazed by how well my yarn supply has held out given that I only had a little more in the way of yardage than the pattern specified. Clearly the yarn requirements were a bit inflated, which I really like -- always better to have too much yarn than not enough. Once the sweater is done, it looks like I'll only have used about five of my seven skeins.

It seems rather apropos that I will finish the sweater this week given that it's been unseasonably cool -- cold, even. We were under a winter weather advisory yesterday and were supposed to get snow, although it seems to have skipped the city (we just got rain) and landed mainly in the higher elevations. In any case, I may not need the sweater once it's done, but it'll certainly be cool enough that I won't be sweltering when it comes time to take a modeled shot of it!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sensing a Theme?

I have two spinning things to show you today, and until I sat down to start this post, I didn't realize that they kind of go together.

First is the most recent yarn off my wheel, which I finally finished nearly a year after buying the fiber. Last year at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, I picked up a 4 oz. bundle of Cormo top. I started spinning a tiny amount of it on the Jenkins Turkish spindle I bought there as well but never got beyond what you see in this photo:

A couple of weeks ago, as was starting to mentally plan for a return trip to the festival, I realized I'd never finished spinning this and decided it was high time that I did so. So, in a fit of "git 'er done," I spun up a two ply as fast as I could -- and that means I was a little lackadaisical about my consistency.

You can see there are some thin sports and some thick spots, but overall it's about sportweight and around 325 yards. What it lacks in consistency it makes up for in softness -- it's divine! I haven't even begun searching for a pattern yet, but this is definitely destined to become a cowl or shawlette -- something to wrap around my neck (that is, if Rainbow doesn't steal it because it's her favorite color!).

Meanwhile, I finally got my Lendrum out again this weekend; I'd moved it up to the stash room when we were having our bedroom painted back in, oh, December, and it'd been neglected there ever since. But yesterday I had a special spinning class at my LYS and my first love had to come with me. I was learning how to spin these:

Frabjous Fibers Silk Hankies
The class was a lot of fun. As it turns out, they aren't that difficult to spin -- the hard part is prepping the silk (you have to predraft this fiber) and getting it not to stick to you and everything else. Actually, the spinning is the easiest part because all you have to do is add twist. After about an hour and a half of spinning time, I had a good layer built up on my bobbin:

Although it's almost impossible to get a perfectly consistent yarn with this type of prep, my singles are, for the most part, the diameter of thread. It also looks like I've barely made a dent in my supply, too. I'm planning to do a two-ply, but I've got to do some serious exfoliation and moisturization before I sit down for another spinning session on these!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Inching Along

I am getting closer and closer to a finished handspun sweater. I completed the front over the weekend and cast on for the sleeves on Sunday (I'm doing both at once in the interest of both getting them finished faster and having two sleeves that match). Thanks to knit night with the Hurricane Knitters last night and staying up to watch the end of the Pens game, I now have sleeves that need just five more inches on them before the sleeve cap shaping starts.

I had run into a bit of trouble with the pattern instructions for the increases on the sleeves that had me scratching my head for a day or so, but I PMed the designer on Ravelry and she was super helpful. Seems it was the term "repeat" that was the cause for confusion for me -- a general theme when it comes to my not understanding something in a pattern! Fortunately, thanks to some great customer service/pattern support, I had it figured out so fast that there was no delay in my knitting time.

It may be a bit unrealistic, but I'm hoping to have this thing wrapped up by the end of the month. I really don't have that much left to do -- I have to finish the sleeves, seam the sweater, and knit the shawl collar. Provided I can put in some serious knitting time this weekend, it just might be doable.

Speaking of this weekend, my trunk show opens at my LYS tomorrow. If you're local, I hope you'll stop by sometime in the next couple of weeks to see it. All of the designs you've seen on the blog already will be featured, but there are also a couple of items in the show that you haven't seen yet that I'm prepping for a fall release.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Study in Stripes

It took about six weeks, but it's done!

Pattern: Stripe Study Shawl by Veera Valimaki
Yarn: my handspun -- polwarth from All Spun Up in Goldfish Wearing a Tutu and Koi Pond
Needles: 32" US 3 (3.25 mm) Knit Picks fixed circs
Finished dimensions: 66.5" wide by 26" tall
Started/Completed: February 26/April 13
Mods: added almost (see below) two additional stripes to maximize my yarn usage

If you're on Ravelry with any regularity and look at the patterns that are available, chances are you've seen this pattern -- as of this writing, there are 2,275 projects logged on Ravelry. I'd had it in my favorites for some time before I finally got around to buying the pattern a couple of month ago. I knew I wanted to use these two yarns for it as soon as I finished the second skein during last year's Tour de Fleece and discovered that the two skeins had nearly identical yardage (not to mention that they both shared that beautiful goldfish color!).

The pattern is actually very simple but also very clever. It starts as a typical top-down triangle shawl, but it quickly becomes asymmetrical through the use of short rows. In essence, you work increasingly longer sections of each stripe at a time, adding more stitches each short row, until you're back at the beginning. It's quite smart, I think, and because of the way it's constructed, it's very easy to add or subtract stripes to accommodate your yarn supply. In my case, I tried to add two additional stripes (for a total of 14), but discovered that my GWAT was going to run out before I finished the full last stripe (I needed five more short rows to finish it), so I just knit to the end of the row. That means my 14th stripe is a little uneven, but frankly I don't think you can tell.

The only other mod I made was to go down three needle sizes from what was recommended in the pattern. My yarn was closer to laceweight than fingering, and I knew if I used what was called for, my shawl would be really flimsy and would probably stretch out a lot. I was worried that it might end up a little on the small size, but as you can see, it's plenty big.

You might think that after spending six weeks on this shawl I'd be sick of garter stitch, but apparently I'm not, because I bought the pattern for Color "Affliction" (as my friend Anna has named it) today. There is lots of garter stitch in my future!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

For the Heck of It

One of the podcasts I listen to regularly is the SpinDoctor podcast. Sasha's 'cast is great for new and experienced spinners alike, as it's filled with great reviews as well as discussions of her own spinning. So when she announced that she was hosting a spinalong of art yarns to go along with Jacey Boggs' book Spin Art, I thought I'd spin along for a bit.

Normally, I'm not that into art yarns; I can appreciate how interesting and pretty they can be, but I've never spun any myself because I don't know what I'd knit with such yarns (not that I end up knitting that much of the yarn I spin anyway!). There were a few yarns in the book that I wanted to try however. The first was a cabled yarn, which I did last month with a Crown Mountain Farms club shipment. Another was a corespun yarn, which is the most recent thing off my wheel:

The core was a bit of fiber leftover from last year's sweater project; I spun it, with lots of extra twist, in the direction I normally ply so that I could do the wrapping in the direction I normally spin my singles. For a corespun yarn, you hold the fiber perpendicular to the core so that it can literally wrap around the core. This means that some twist is introduced as the core is wound on, so you need more twist than usual in the core so that the yarn is balanced in the end. For the wrap, I dug deep into my stash and found some colonial wool top from Paradise Fibers that I bought for practice (and evidently never used) when I first got my Lendrum four years ago.

This skein is about 111 yards and pretty wildly inconsistent -- not surprising, given how awkward the process felt the whole time -- but it's pretty well balanced and fairly soft, so I'm pretty happy with it. I still, however, have no idea what to do with this yarn! I didn't love corespinning, but I suspect that's mainly because it felt so awkward; it's hard to love something that's hard. I'd be willing to give it another try -- eventually. For now, I am spinning up the rest of this colonial top into my usual yarn (I started with 8 oz., so this'll make a good dent in my stash).

Thursday, April 12, 2012

An End in Sight

Thanks to those of you who chimed in on the decision of what to do with the edging on my Stripe Study Shawl. I have decided to knit to 4 inches or as much as I can by Friday night, whichever comes first, so that I can weave in the ends and block it in time to show it off at my LYS on Saturday for their annual Show Us Your Shawl event. As of last night, I had 3 inches done, so I think that's a reasonable expectation. It looks like I will use up most of the yarn, too, so I won't have to worry about what to do with a lot of leftovers.

In the meantime, look! I finished a blanket!

This is my Gothic Leaves Baby Blanket, knit exactly as specified in the pattern with Cascade 220 Superwash in a cheerful lime green color. If you recall, I gave away the original earlier this year as a baby gift, so I needed to whip up another for my trunk show at my LYS later this month. This was a very fast knit (started one weekend and finished the next) and fairly mindless except when I apparently stopped paying attention and forgot yarnovers only to put them in the wrong places, resulting in a couple instances of required tinking. Despite the amount of time I've spent with this pattern, I still enjoyed it, and I especially love how easy it was to block -- I took advantage of the yarn's tendency to stretch and just smoothed it out on my drying racks. While this is going into the sample pile for now, it'll be good to have on hand should I need a baby gift in a hurry.

I've also given my I Heart Aran sweater a bit of attention this week; one front is now complete and the other side is partially done. I'm still amazed by how well my yarn supply is holding out -- I haven't even gone through three skeins yet! Assuming the shawl is off the needles by tomorrow night, the sweater will get my full attention this weekend.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

This Is the Shawl That Never Ends ...

I have just about reached my limit on my Stripe Study Shawl. I'm a little more than 2 inches into the border (after working on it for nearly a week and a half) and my progress is moving along at a snail's pace. The rows are so long now that I can only get about two done during my lunch break. The thing also has overgrown its project bag and has been relocated to a gallon-sized ziploc bag.

As you can see, there's still a good amount of yarn left, and I could conceivably knit until I run out of yarn. The question is whether I want to. I spread the shawl out after taking this photo, and it appears to be pretty big. Some gentle encouragement in blocking will make it bigger.

So, dear readers, what do you think? Should I knit the requisite 4 inches and call it a day? End the misery now? Or bite the bullet and use up the yarn?

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Leftovers Spinning

Maryland Sheep and Wool is now less than a month away, and I'm planning on buying some more fiber to spin there (mostly in the form of a fleece), so I thought it would be a good idea to finish spinning what I bought at the festival last year before I acquire anything additional. For nearly a year, I'd had a bundle of Cormo top shoved in the back of my closet; I'd started spinning it at the festival on the Jenkins Turkish spindle I bought the same day but never made much headway. This week I put it on the wheel.

It's a little hard to tell from the picture, but this is some pretty uneven yarn. Cormo is a very fine wool, so it gets neppy and felty easily. I thought the fiber was a real steal at $4/ounce, and I'm seeing that you get what you pay for. The prep on this fiber wasn't great, meaning it was difficult to get a really consistent yarn, but it wasn't horrible either. I decided to go with the flow and enjoy the experience as much as I could. The color is great and it's very soft, so the finish yarn should be nice. I finished up the second bobbin this afternoon while Rainbow was napping and will ply later this week.

While the singles are resting on the bobbins, I decided to challenge myself and spin an art yarn. I had a small amount (probably less than an ounce) of fiber leftover from my sweater spin last year that I knew I was never going to use for anything really because it was so rough. I hate to waste fiber, though, so I figured it would be perfect for the core of a corespun yarn. I spun the singles up quickly last week with lots of extra twist, and this afternoon I started "plying" with some Colonial wool top I've had for probably as long as I've been spinning.

Apologies for the dark photo -- using the flash was the only way to get the camera to focus and really show the yarn! This is definitely a spinning technique that's outside my comfort zone, but I'm enjoying it!

Thursday, April 05, 2012

A Replacement

Although I'd really like to finish up my handspun sweater (and my shawl, which needs at least three more inches of border), I've been spending the past week mainly focusing on knitting a Gothic Leaves Baby Blanket for my collection of samples. My LYS is hosting a trunk show of my designs later this month, and as I'd given away the original some time ago, I needed to knit up a replacement!

I'm using the same yarn (Cascade 220 Superwash) that I used for the original, but this time around I chose a bright springy green. I'm into the seventh repeat and am hoping to have this wrapped up and blocked this weekend.

I am still working on the shawl, primarily during my lunch break, though I got in about four rows today while I was home with Rainbow. It's gotten to be a struggle to get it to fit in my Stitched by Sasha project bag, so it needs to get finished soon!

Finally, a bit of housekeeping. You may have noticed that the pattern images are gone from the sidebar. There's now a tab at the top (it's marked Patterns) where you can see all my original patterns. I'll add to the list as more come out and I may put a photo or two up in the sidebar from time to time, but I felt that all those images were starting to clutter things up. If you have strong opinions about them being there, they can always be put back!

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Minor Adjustment

The opinions in the comments of my last post on my Stripe Study Shawl seemed to be pretty unanimous, so I plowed ahead and started a 14th stripe. Unfortunately, because the rows were getting so long, my yarn supply did not hold out. I was hoping to just eke out that last stripe, but I got to the point where I had five rows left to finish the stripe and only a small ball of the yarn (smaller than a golf ball) remaining. I decided to just knit to the end from where I was when I realized this rather than risk running out somewhere in the middle, so I have a last stripe that's a bit thin on one end. I'm hoping it's not too obvious.

So now I've started the border, which I may or may not make wider than the pattern specifies. I have plenty of yarn to do it, but the rows are also now 400+ stitches, so it takes a good 10-15 minutes to finish just one row. I'm not sure I have the stamina to keep going past the specified 4 inches, but we shall see!

Sunday, April 01, 2012

More Poof, Fewer Yards

The latest yarn off my wheel is the February 2012 shipment from the Crown Mountain Farms fiber club, 4 oz. of Debouillet roving in a colorway called Trinity. Here was the fiber:

I decided to do a traditional three ply fingering weight (usually my "default" yarn) with this, so I split the roving into three roughly equal sections and spun up each of them. It was not, I am sorry to say, an entirely enjoyable spin. I encountered a fair number of neps and bits of VM, so I was stopping frequently to pull them out. This isn't what you want to deal with when you want to get into the rhythm of spinning and just relax.

In spite of the frustrations, I got the yarn I wanted, for the most part. There are a few thick spots where I encountered a neppy or felty bit of fiber, but overall it is fingering weight.

The color in these photos is really not at all accurate -- in real life, it's much more of a pinky orange, almost like what you might see in rainbow sherbet.

The yarn did fluff up considerably in the finishing process, which I was happy about -- it's now a lot more light and airy. But that fluffing up did come at the cost of some yardage, so I have only about 318 yards in this skein. That's probably not enough to make myself a pair of socks, but that's probably for the best -- I don't think this fiber would make great socks anyway.