Monday, July 30, 2012

Casting On and Binding Off

What a crazy weekend! I intended to post yesterday (though not for Spinning Sunday -- spinning activity has been suspended until I finish my Ravellenic Games project), but there was so much to do that I just didn't have the energy for it once I finally got to sit down last night.

Though the official cast on time was 4 p.m. Eastern, I didn't actually get to cast on for my Ravellenics project until about 8:30 on Friday night, which is also when I sat down to watch the opening ceremonies of the Olympics (I was DVRing it and eventually caught up to the live broadcast at about 10:30 or so). As a reminder, I am knitting the Wilshire Shawl out of one skein of tosh lace in the colorway Fathom, a deep royal blue. On Friday night, I managed to get through the first two charts (the first one being mainly a set-up chart and the second all stockinette with yarnovers at the beginning and end of right side rows and on either side of the center two stitches). On Saturday, I took it to my LYS and got through Chart 3, which is the first lace chart, and then yesterday afternoon and evening I worked on Chart 4, which is another stockinette section. I finished the last row right before bed last night and counted my stitches before putting it away only to discover I was two stitches short due to omitting two yarnovers at the center near the beginning of the section. You can see the spot where the split ring marker is here:

I had enough trouble finding it that I think I'm going to leave it be and just fudge it to fix the error; it's easy enough to plug in an extra stitch in an unobtrusive spot, and I can probably do some creative pinning when blocking to make the spot where the YOs are missing less obvious. I'm loathe to frog that much anyway considering it's about 3-4 hours of knitting time that I likely can't make up.

I didn't work on the shawl as much as I could have this weekend because I was also busy trying to finish up my second Peckish shawl. I had finished the stripes on Thursday evening with only about two or three yards of Candlewick to spare, so then all that was left were the long rows of the border and the bind off. Unfortunately, I ran out of Stovepipe with about 50 stitches left to bind off. Theoretically, I should have had enough, because I used the same amount of both colors in the first iteration, but I guess my gauge was off a little or the skein was a little short. I found a bit of leftover yarn in my stash that was a reasonably good match and used that to finish binding off, though, and I think it blends in well enough (I'm hoping no one will be examining my shawl that closely!), but I'm still a little irked -- though I guess I certainly got my money's worth for the yarn! It also reassures me that my yardage estimates in the pattern are not outrageously high; though a couple of my testers have used significantly less, I seem to have used roughly the same yardage both times, so my slightly higher yardage requirements should enable those who knit the pattern in the future to avoid my misfortune.

Yarn supply problems aside, I'm really happy with how this came out and I just love the color combination, though it's not my usual.

From here on out, it's all Wilshire Shawl, all the time. I'm taking the day off on Friday and expect to get a good six hours in at my LYS working on it (assuming my hands are up to the task). It's moving along at a good clip now, but I know that as I get into it further, the rows are going to get longer and longer.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Quick and Satisfying

Just a quick little post tonight, because I'm still in a mad dash to finish my Peckish shawl before tomorrow (all the while keeping my fingers crossed that the yellow yarn supply holds out). I did want to let you know that I finished up that quick hat for Rainbow last night at knit night:

Guess who didn't want to model the hat for me?

I also started a little bit of crochet to make an embellishment for it. I found this sweet pattern for a butterfly on Ravelry and thought it would be perfect (Rainbow's symbol at daycare is a butterfly -- they use symbols because the kids can identify them before they're able to identify their name). I found some leftover JaggerSpun Zephyr in the stash and got out a tiny crochet hook to get it started at knit night.

I'm on the last round, but it's going slowly because the hook is just slightly too small, I think, so it's splitting the yarn a lot. I'll finish this up in the next day or two.

The Olympics start tomorrow -- are you ready?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Preparing for the Next Challenge

Today is Tuesday, which means the Olympics -- and the Ravellenic Games -- are only three short days away. I am getting ready to compete in my personal challenge in the Shawl Sailing event. I will be knitting the Wilshire Shawl in madelinetosh tosh lace, which I wound on Sunday so I would be ready:

The pattern has already been printed out, so I just need to do another quick read-through of it and get out the required needles before I am ready to go. Unfortunately I will be stuck at work on Friday when the opening ceremonies kick off, so I'll need to wait until Friday evening to cast on.

In the meantime, I am knitting furiously to try to finish what's on my needles, specifically my Grellow Peckish shawl. As of lunch today, I have 14 of 18 stripes done. I'm hoping to finish the four remaining by tomorrow night (knit night tomorrow should help) so that I have Thursday and lunchtime on Friday to finish the border and then can block over the weekend. The pattern is nearly done being tested and tech edited, so I'm hoping to get some photos of this version over the weekend in time for the pattern release (which I'm hoping will be mid-next week).

I also cast on for a quick hat for Rainbow on Sunday afternoon using some handspun from a few years ago. It was 4 oz. of Lorna's Lace wool top in the colorway Black Purl that I'd spun into a three-ply Aran weight. I'm knitting it up into a quick rolled-brim beanie, and I found a really cute pattern for a crocheted butterfly that I'm going to attempt to make to embellish the hat. This needs to be done by this weekend so I can get it to count as my last square for a special bingo at my LYS!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Yellow Jersey

Today marks the completion of the 2012 Tour de Fleece. I'm wearing yellow today because I met my spinning goals: I spun every day of the Tour (including rest days), I spun down a good portion of my stash, and I got caught up on my Crown Mountain Farms fiber club shipments. Here's a look at what I completed over the last three weeks:

That's a total of 26.6 oz. and 4,902 yards (or 2.785 miles) of yarn spun in seven skeins. Four of them are from CMF, three fiber club shipments and a semisolid. The yarn to the far left is the last one I completed last night.

This was April's club shipment, Cheviot top in a colorway called Dune. I spun it into a three-ply fingering weight, ending up with 282 yards -- a bit disappointing considering my usual yardage at this weight. I didn't really enjoy the spin very much. The fiber is a bit coarse, and the finished yarn is on the rough side, so I have no clue what I will do with it. I do like the colorway better spun up than I liked it as fiber or singles, though.

The only thing I did not accomplish during the Tour that I was hoping to was to spin up the yarn for my  Ravellenic Games project. That was due, of course, to the unfortunate incident with the WooLee Winder. I'm working on the yarn now (and still not completely satisfied with how the WW is functioning), but I have backup yarn for my projects -- a skein of madelinetosh tosh lace in Fathom. I'll finish the handspun -- eventually.

I hope all of you who are spinners enjoyed this year's Tour de Fleece and met your own personal goals!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

What Does Fiber Taste Like?

Last night I had the lucky opportunity to go to a "fiber tasting" at my LYS. The event featured a chance to sample six different fiber blends from Yarn Hollow and learn about the best ways to spin those different blends. Here's what my "plate" looked like before I dug in:

Fiber tasting!

The featured blends were merino/bamboo/nylon, superwash merino/tencel, merino/alpaca/silk, BFL/silk, merino/angora/silk, and superwash merino/cashmere/nylon. Because it was a rainy, humid day, I decided it was easier to bring my spindle than a wheel, so I did not spin up a ton, but I was able to get in about 15 minutes of spinning on each blend.

The angora was completely new to me; I've never had much of a desire to spin angora, and I've been wary of bringing any into the house because the Mister is allergic to cats and I've heard that many people who are allergic to cats are also allergic to rabbits. I must admit that I think that blend was my least favorite of the night, though that's all relative; I still enjoyed it, just not as much as I enjoyed some of the other samples.

My favorite blend was the merino/alpaca/silk. Between the alpaca and the silk, it was so easy to draft that spinning was practically effortless. The cashmere blend was a close second, and I was sorry that there wasn't any fiber in this blend available to buy in the cash-and-carry at the end of the event. I'm hoping that my LYS will stock some in the future, because I think it would make some great socks!

I did leave with one 4 oz. braid of my favorite blend, in a colorway called Red Rocks and Spruce. I think I might spin this all on one bobbin and chain ply to preserve the colors. I consider it a personal triumph that I left the store with only that one bit of fiber -- there were so many gorgeous colors and fibers available that I could have easily replace all the stash I've busted during the Tour de Fleece!

Speaking of the Tour, it ends this Sunday, and it looks like I will succeed in getting one more yarn done (unless I get in another quickie in the interim). I'm on my third and final bobbin of Crown Mountain Farms Cheviot, which I hope to finish tonight and ply over the weekend. I need to find a yellow shirt to wear on Sunday!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

More of the Same

Still Tour de Fleece, still spinning. Last night I finished my Crown Mountain Farms Jacob, which was a club shipment from earlier this year. I decided to do a quick-and-dirty spin, so this is a two-ply bulky weight and a total of 142 yards. I think this will make me a nice pair of mittens this fall.

This was my first time spinning Jacob, and I really enjoyed it, though it's very difficult for me to put into words why that is. This is a really woolly wool -- it has crimp and body to it, and it doesn't feel like hair like some of the other fibers I've spun through the club. I'd definitely like to spin some more.

The last bit of fiber left for me to spin in order to be caught up on past shipments is April's Cheviot. This one I'm spinning as a three-ply fingering weight; I started the second bobbin last night. I'm hoping to have this finished by the weekend as my last completed yarn for the Tour.

If, by chance, I do finish before Sunday, then I have something else to get started, because July's fiber club shipment arrived yesterday. This is Portuguese wool top (essentially a regional merino) in a colorway called Cascadia.

Meanwhile, lest you think I've forgotten my needles, I have been doing a little bit of knitting on the side. On Saturday, I took my Breezy Cardigan to my LYS to knit on for a bit, and as a result, I'm now almost finished with the yoke. While I was at the store, I had a little falling down in the madelinetosh section; these two skeins jumped into my bag and came home with me.

stovepipe and candlewick

I'm now knitting them up into another Peckish sample -- I think the fact that I'm so excited to knit another one of my own patterns again says a lot about how much I like it! I'm going to be knitting up a storm (as soon as the TdF is over) in order to try to get this done before the start of the Ravellenic Games next Friday.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Usual and the Sublime

I finished up two more yarns over the weekend. The first is what I refer to as "the usual" -- it's the default yarn I spin when I'm not thinking about it, a three-ply fingering weight. In this case I started with 4 oz. of Crown Mountain Farms BFL fiber. Klaus (the genius dyer behind CMF) very generously offered 4 oz. to ever member of the the CMF Tour de Fleece group to show off his new semisolid colorways. I chose Violet for mine, thinking that I could spin it into something for Rainbow (who tells me almost daily that purple is her favorite color). The fiber arrived looking beautiful, as always.

I split the top into thirds and did a traditional three ply, ending up with approximately 346 yards.

I love how this yarn turned out, and it reminded me how much I love spinning this kind of yarn. Also, I realized anew how beautiful Klaus's colors are -- we even started a thread on the CMF board on Ravelry to show the semisolid colorways spun up. I think that (once I do some more spinning down of the stash) several of those colorways need to come live with me.

The other skein of yarn is a lot more precious. I think I mentioned some time ago that, before he left town, Steven presented me with a bag full of small samples of various luxury fibers. I was too much of a chicken to touch them for a while, but last December, I finally got up the courage to try spinning one of them -- specifically, the Blue Moon 50% cashmere/50% tussah silk. I had two ounces of it, which seemed like a perfect amount to spin on my spindle. The colorway was not marked on the tag, but I'm fairly certain it's Oregon Red Clover Honey. I finished spinning up the singles on Friday evening:

and last night I plied them on my Lendrum (I do not much care for plying on a spindle -- it takes longer and is hard on my wrist). I ended up with approximately 285 yards of two-ply heavy laceweight.

I really wish I could add the ability to pet this yarn to this post, because this skein is soooooo soft. I've already determined that this must be some kind of lacy cowl for me, because this kind of softness just demands that it be worn around my neck!

There's one week left in the Tour de Fleece, and I'm hoping to finish up at least one more yarn. Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Spinning Forward

Another blog post, another Tour de Fleece update. Since last I posted, I've finished up the singles of my Crown Mountain Farms BFL and started to ply. I haven't plied on my Lendrum in a while, so the biggest challenge has been remembering to move the yarn guide from time to time -- I guess I've been getting too used to the WooLee Winder on my miniSpinner! I got about halfway done last night and plan on finishing up the skein this evening.

CMF BFL, mid-ply

I've also been making good progress on finishing up the second half of the cashmere/silk on my Bosworth spindle. I've been taking it into work this week to do some spinning during my lunch break, and I took it to knit night last night, so I should be able to finish up this half very soon. It's rather amazing that it took seven months to spin up the first ounce and the second ounce will be done in a matter of days.


There has been one little complication in my TdF spinning, however. On Sunday afternoon, having just finished up a skein on the miniSpinner the previous evening, I decided it would be a good idea to finally take apart the WooLee Winder and clean it before I started the next project on the wheel. Though this is something you're supposed to do from time to time, I'd been naughty and hadn't done it once since I got the wheel (I know, I know). It was really filthy and clearly needed a good cleaning. I got it degunked as best I could, carefully following the directions, and then put it back together. When I tried to spin again, however, I discovered that it was not working, so clearly something was wrong.

After allergies kept me awake nearly all of Sunday night, I called in sick on Monday morning and went back to bed after dropping Rainbow off at daycare. When I woke from this long nap, I decided to give it another go. I pulled out the directions again and once again took apart the WooLee Winder, cleaned out even more gunk, and then put it back together again. This time, the pieces seemed to be where they should have been, but there are still some idiosyncrasies. For one thing, if I screw in the fixed yarn guide all the way so that it is flush with the flyer, the gears on the WW will not turn, so I have it unscrewed a bit (meaning there's now a space between the yarn guide and the flyer where stuff could conceivably get stuck). When I spin, the WW is also a bit erratic in that there are times when it seems the yarn is not winding on and then it will suddenly lurch ahead and jerk the yarn a bit. Needless to say, this is really frustrating. I've posted in the miniSpinner group on Ravelry, and it seems at least one other person has had a similar experience. It sounds like the only possible solution might be sending the thing to Nathan Lee (the inventor and maker of the WooLee Winder) to fix. I think I may try to hold off until after the Tour de Fleece, because the yarn I'm currently trying to spin is meant to be used for my Ravellenic Games project, but it's starting to sound like there might not be another option. This is what I get for trying to clean!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Spin All the Things

Spinning continues here, as you would expect. On Sunday night, I finished my third yarn of the Tour, my chain plied Loop Bullseye Bump.

The fiber was a blend of merino, bamboo, tussah silk, and angelina (the sparkly stuff), and the batt weighed 4.6 ounces to start. The batt was really fun to spin. I'm not exactly sure how she does it, but the batt is rolled up and prepped in such a way that you pull a strip of roving from the center -- much like you'd pull yarn from a center-pull ball or yarn cake -- and thus your singles look exactly like the color progression in the batt. I chain plied to preserve that color progression. The finished yarn is fingering weight and approximately 439 yards. I think this probably wants to be a shawlette of some sort.

I'm also nearly finished with the singles for a three ply from my Crown Mountain Farms BFL semisolid. I have just the last bobbin to finish up tonight and then I can ply. This should be fingering weight when it's done.

I'm also working on the second half of the cashmere/silk on my spindle. I took it in to work again today to get some spinning time in during my lunch break. It's a bit slow going, but I figure that if I can put at least 10 minutes on it a day, I should be able to finish up this yarn before the end of the Tour de Fleece.

Tomorrow night is Knit Night! And I'll actually be able to go for the first time in about two months!

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Into Week 2

We are now into the second week of the Tour de Fleece (and the Tour de France, for that matter, though I haven't been watching as much of the coverage as I have in years past). I started the Tour with a bang, starting and finishing a skein of singles yarn from Karakul top from Crown Mountain Farms.

I ended up with roughly 253 yards of fairly scratchy and very sheddy (is that a word? it sheds a lot) singles. Still planning on felting this, so the extra energy/twist in it shouldn't be a problem.

I took my spindle into work on Friday so I could put in a little time on it during my lunch break and wound up finishing the first ounce of BMFA cashmere/tussah silk (after only about seven months!) that evening.

I've now gotten the spindling addiction (for lack of better word) back and will probably take it into work for the next few days so I can finish up the second ounce. I will probably ply on the wheel, though, because it's a lot faster and a lot easier on my wrists than trying to ply on a spindle.

My second finished yarn came off the wheel last night. This was spun specifically for a Team Footloose (the team for the Hansen miniSpinner group) challenge to spin a fractal yarn. Fractal spinning has to do with the way the fiber is split and it's primarily a way of dealing with color and color repeats; the idea is that the color sequence is the same in all plies of a yarn, but the rate at which the sequence progresses varies by ply. For my yarn, I opted for a two ply. I split the top in half lengthwise and then split one half in half again. This means that one ply of the yarn went through the color sequence once while the other ply went through it twice.

The finished yarn is roughly worsted weight and about 270 yards. It's Polwarth from Bee Mice Elf in a colorway called Room with a View. It was a club colorway; I got it in a swap with someone on Ravelry for another bundle of fiber. Polwarth is probably my favorite fiber to spin, and this was a delight. The bright colors were a lot of fun, too, and I'm looking forward to knitting this up into something for me.

Yarn #3 of the Tour was finished moments ago and is now in a bath. I'm very excited about this one, too, but you'll have to wait a bit to see it!

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Almost All Spinning, All the Time

This is the time of year when I'm primarily spinning during all my crafting time, and I've mostly been sticking to that plan this year. I'm still doing a bit of knitting to keep me sane, though, and to give my hands some rest from the motions needed for drafting and fiber control.

My slow-moving Shur'tugal Socks, for instance, have still been seeing some action during my lunch break at work. I finished the first one Friday night (but for kitchenering the toe, which I did at my LYS on Saturday in order to earn a spot on my bingo card).

I'm into the leg of the second sock, and now that I've gotten used to the stitch pattern, I think this one will go much more quickly.

I also started what is likely to be a long-term project last Friday, when I took the day off from work and camped out on the couch at my LYS for the day. You thought I was crazy to knit a worsted weight sweater in the middle of June? Well, here's really crazy for you: I'm now knitting a sweater in laceweight. The yarn weight is probably more suited to the weather, but obviously this project is going to be very slow going.

This is Hannah Fettig's Breezy Cardigan, the lightweight version of her Effortless Cardigan. My Effortless is one of my favorite hand-knit sweaters, so I knew that this version would be well loved as well. I'm planning on using it as an extra layer at the office -- or anywhere else there's excessive air conditioning. I've put in a few rows here and there, but I expect this won't see a lot of attention until after the Tour de Fleece is over.

As to the Tour, I've finished, finally, spinning up the Loop bullseye bump that I bought at MDSW. I'm letting the singles rest for a day or two before I start chain plying, and in the meantime I've pulled out a very old spindle project (BMFA cashmere/silk that I started last December). There are two other yarns in progress as well.

Monday, July 02, 2012

We Have a Winner!

Thanks to all of you who entered the contest. After getting a bunch of great suggestions, I finally settled on Megan's suggestion of Peckish. So Megan is our winner, and the random number generator also selected himauera as our runner up. Both of you will receive a copy of the pattern when it goes live (please e-mail at paknitwit(at)gmail(dot)com when you have a moment to give me your Ravelry ID).

The shawl pattern is now complete and has been sent off to my tech editor, and my very talented friend Jenn has done a layout for me, so I'll be putting it for testing in the Free Pattern Testers group on Ravelry later this evening. If you're interested in testing, please go look for it! I'm hoping to have the pattern available by early August.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

It Has Begun

The calendar says July 1 (crazy, isn't it?), so that means one thing in spinning circles: The Tour de Fleece -- that annual celebration of spinning that goes along with the Tour de France -- has started. Yesterday, instead of taking my knitting, I took my Lendrum to my LYS along with one of this year's Crown Mountain Farms shipments. I managed to knock out 4 oz. of singles in the time I was there:

CMF Karakul singles on Lendrum

(Apologies for the poor photo -- in my excitement at having gotten this much done, a poor iPhone photo was all I could manage).

This is Karakul -- the first time I've spun this fiber and not one of my favorite fibers to spin, to be honest. It's on the rough side and is probably better suited to rugs than garments. I decided to keep this as a single, and at my LYS owner's suggestion, I will probably carry it along with a softer wool for a felted bag or basket I can use to hold my fiber while I'm spinning. Unfortunately the singles are a bit energized because I forgot to switch out my fast flier for my regular flyer before I left home, but I don't think that'll be an issue with felting.

What I'm working on now is finishing up a Loop bullseye bump that I bought at MDSW; I'd started it last week foolishly thinking I'd get it done before the Tour started, but of course that did not happen. I'm now probably three-quarters of the way through it, though, so a couple more spinning sessions should do it.

This particular batt is a blend of merino, bamboo, tussah silk, and just a hint of angelina for sparkle. I'm planning on chain plying this when it's done.

Expect to see a lot more spinning in the next few weeks!