Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Sock Yarn Experiment

Over in the Spin Doctor Ravelry group, several of us have started an informal spinalong to try out some new techniques for spinning sock yarn. I decided that this would be a great opportunity to use up some of the Crown Mountain Farms fiber in my stash, specifically some that I bought in a weak moment during one of their sales a few years ago. (Incidentally, they're having their spring sale right now. Yes, I am happy to enable.)

I used some of the Corriedale pencil roving, which comes in 8 oz. bundles. I didn't see the need to spin up that much, so I split the fiber in half, giving me 4 oz. to work with now and 4 oz. to do something else with later. I decided to spin up two skeins of yarn, one for each sock, so that I could compare the durability of the skeins/yarns, so I split that 4 oz. in half. Then I split each half into thirds; two-thirds of each half was spun onto one bobbin and the remaining third was spun onto another. All the singles, with the exception of one of the smaller bobbin's worth, were spun in the normal direction (Z). That one smaller bobbin's worth was spun S. Then I plied three singles at a time -- using both larger bobbins and one smaller one. When I used up all the singles on the smaller bobbin, I broke the other singles and started plying using the other small bobbin.

Still with me?

I plied the regular three ply first, then the opposing ply skein (the one with one ply going in the same direction as plying). The effect is that the opposing ply skein is much springier and twisty than a traditional three ply; this is supposed to add to the durability of the yarn.

Here are the two skeins freshly off the plying bobbin. Both are a little twisty because the plying twist is still active (this is before washing and finishing).

Traditional three ply on the top, opposing ply on the bottom

Here's a closeup for comparison:

Both skeins went into a hot bath, after which I vigorously snapped both of them by putting my arms in the middle of the skein and then stretching them out. After they'd dried, the change was significant, though you can still spot the difference in the skeins:

The opposing ply skein is still a little kinked up, but the skein hangs relatively straight. I ended up with approximately 190 yards of the traditional three ply and 153 yards of the opposing ply (there's more of the former because I started with that one and ran out of normal singles on the second skein).

Eventually I'm going to use the remaining 4 oz. of this fiber for a 2x2 cabled yarn (essentially two two-ply yarns plied together), but I need a little break from the fine green spinning and started yarn for a hat for Rainbow -- the Falkland she picked out about a week ago.

This'll be a two ply, probably sport to DK once it's plied -- it's amazing how fast fiber spins up when you're not doing superfine singles!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Shades of Gray

Today I am home with Rainbow, who is off today and tomorrow from school for "spring" break (I use the quotations marks because it was snowing again this morning and it certainly doesn't feel like spring). We did a little outing this morning to run some errands and get some new library books, but we're spending most of the day just hanging out. She's gotten pretty good at entertaining herself, so that means I can get some time with my sticks and string. After taking three evenings to work up a swatch (Passover seders plus a toddler who didn't want to go to bed meant two very short evenings to myself), I finally cast on for my Vitamin D this afternoon.

My gauge was a little off in the swatch, but I'm also fairly certain that I stretched it out a bit when I laid it out to dry, which could account for the difference. I'm close enough, though, and given the style of the sweater, it should be fine.

The pattern took a little getting used to (it's written using some tables with specific stitch counts for each size), but it's rather ingenious. The sweater is a top-down raglan, but the raglan increases are restricted to the sleeves and, on some rows, the fronts. The increases on the back and certain rows of the fronts are achieved through yarnovers that are increasingly more spaced apart. I'm using a new-to-me yarn, Imperial Yarn Tracie Too, which is a lofty, woolen spun (I think) two-ply sport weight. The skeins are positively enormous -- 395 yards in 4 oz. I have four skeins but, assuming the yardage estimate in the pattern is correct, I'll have most of the fourth skein left when the sweater is done.

Also, did I mention that I started some socks? I picked up Hunter Hammersen's The Knitter's Curiosity Cabinet a while back at my LYS and have been waiting for the right moment to start something from it. That chance finally arrived this week, so I pulled some Rowan 4 Ply Soft out of the stash that I picked up in a clearance sale years ago and cast on.

Are you sensing a color theme?

These are the Rubus suberectus Socks (a name that I can never remember, having never studied Latin), and they're moving along pretty quickly now that I've pretty much memorized the pattern. The yarn is sadly discontinued; it's a cabled yarn, so it has great stitch definition. I'm sad that I only had the two balls of it in my stash.

I am sick of winter and have been craving color, so I find it pretty funny that the two projects currently on the needles are both gray -- completely unintended!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Years ago, back before the Internet and Ravelry, when I was still working primarily with big box store acrylics and didn't quite understand the concept of gauge, I decided to knit my mother a sweater. I used a burgundy-colored shade of Red Heart and the pattern that was on the ball band (with the suggested needles of course). When I'd finished knitting all the pieces, I followed the direction to sew them together quite literally -- I got some black sewing thread and a sewing needle and stitched the pieces together. My mother, bless her heart, was very gracious about the whole thing and seemed excited at the time, though, to the best of my knowledge, she never wore the sweater (and thank goodness for that).

I've come quite a long way since then and have certainly expanded my knitting knowledge by leaps and bounds. I've made at least a dozen sweaters since then (ones that actually fit, are knit to gauge, and are seamed using actual knitting seaming techniques), and I've made my mother shawls and socks, but until now I'd never made her another sweater. Now I can say that I've honestly made up for that error in judgement of my youth.

I used this sweater to test knit a smaller size of the sweater I designed, which conveniently was in the size my mother would wear. I used vintage, deep stash Cascade 220 -- seriously, I think this was some of the oldest yarn in my stash, bought before the Mister and I were married, so more than 5 1/2 years old -- that was bought in a closeout from WEBS.

The process of knitting the sweater was a lot more pleasurable this time around, both because there was less knitting overall and because the pattern was much more finalized than it was the first time (when I was working from handwritten notes rather than a full pattern). The pattern's been through two tech editors now, so I'm hoping and praying that all the kinks have been worked out now. My test knitters are due to be finishing up this week, so if all goes as planned, I'll be releasing it early next week. The only minor change I still might have to make is to update the yardage estimates; I used all but a small amount of a fifth skein of yarn (the skein I'd used for my swatch, which I didn't unravel) when my estimate was a little lower than that, so I may need to bump the totals up about 100 yards, give or take.

If you'd told me I'd still need a sweater in late March/early April, I'd have laughed at you before this year, but we got a snow storm that dumped several inches on us yesterday, and it looks like it's still going to be below normal temperatures for a while yet, so my mother very well may get to wear her new sweater before it's time to pack it away for the summer!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Better Late than Never

My spinning is still looking very much like it was last week -- I'm on bobbin #3 of 4 of my Corriedale singles:

I'm hoping to finish this one up tonight and get started on the final bobbin, which will be the one spun in the opposite direction (so it'll be extra twisty after plying).

The title of this post, however, doesn't refer to what's on the wheel so much as what might go on it next -- this fiber, which turned up Friday but which I didn't discover in the door until I left to go to yoga on Saturday morning.

This fiber is the last shipment of last year's Crown Mountain Farms fiber club, the surprise fiber, which should have arrived several months ago, but apparently there was a mill problem. In any case, it's here now, and it was kind of nice to get it so much later than I was expecting because in all honesty I forgot about it. So it's kind of like someone just sent me fiber out of the blue.

The mystery fiber ended up being Alpenschaf, if I'm reading Klaus's writing correctly; it's a fiber I've never even heard of, let alone spun. It feels very much like a Corriedale to me -- most definitely a medium wool, not too coarse but not super soft either. I haven't pulled it apart at all to see what the staple length is yet, but I'm in love with the colors. It's almost as if Klaus dyed this just for me, because (as I'm sure you know if you've been reading this blog long enough) I love blues. The camera and the light made this look like it has a little more contrast than it actually does; what looks like black in the photo is really more of a navy in real life. I'm excited to spin this up and mix all these blues together! But first things first -- and with that, I'm off to my wheel.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Sleeve and a Braid

Progress is continuing on my mom's sweater. At knit night last night, I made pretty good progress on the first sleeve.

I'm excited to be done with this, both so I can give it to my mom (who might even be able to wear it once before packing it away until the fall) and so I can start a new sweater for me. I mentioned the madtosh that I bought in my last post, but I think I'm going to keep that until May so I can use it for the annual Madelinetosh Lovers knitalong, Mad May. In the meantime, I think I may cast on for Vitamin D, which has long been in my queue. I bought some Imperial Yarn Tracie Too a while back (though I see now that I never entered it into my Ravelry stash) specifically for this sweater. I think it'll be a good garment for the spring, as it will be fairly light.

Rainbow has also selected my next small project for me. Somehow the handspun hat I made her got lost a couple weekends ago, I suspect at a birthday part. It wasn't anything fancy, but it was purple, so naturally it was her favorite. She asked me to make her a replacement, and of course she wants it to be handspun as well. On Tuesday we did a bit of a dig in my fiber stash so she could pick out what she wanted me to use, and she selected this braid of Gwen Erin Falkland that I picked up at the first Indie Knit and Spin about a year and a half ago.

So it looks like as soon as I finish up what's on the wheel, this will be going on it. I have a feeling that it will be much too warm for a hat by the time I spin the yarn and knit it up, but I can't turn down a request like this!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Return of the Pink Blob

I didn't post yesterday because I didn't have much spinning progress to show you. I'm still working on my sock yarn experiment, and I'm on the second "big" bobbin (it's a bit confusing to explain how I'm splitting it up, though I'll try once I have a visual of all the singles spun up). I put in another hour and a half or so last night while I watched a DVD, and I'm nearly done with this bobbin's worth of fiber.

The real progress has been made on my mom's sweater. As I mentioned last week, I had Friday off, so I spent the bulk of it knitting and chatting with my friends who staff my LYS. By the time I left, I had finished the body through the pleats to where I could put those stitches on waste yarn. I took the evening off (lately my Friday nights have been spinning nights), then tackled picking up all the stitches for the front bands/neckline on Saturday.

I photograph badly in all light, and especially with a flash!

After working on the thing during every moment I could over the weekend, I find myself just a handful of rows from finishing this section. I should be able to take care of that tonight, which means I'll be starting the sleeves by tomorrow. If I can keep up the pace, I might even have a finished sweater by the weekend!

The other good news is that the pattern is nearly done, too. Although my test knitters have run into some snags that have slowed them down a bit and necessitated a small deadline extension (several of them missed a key word in the original instructions, so I've rewritten that section to make sure there's no ambiguity), I've gotten the pattern as updated as it can be and sent it off to the tech editor for a last look. Ideally I would have liked to have released the pattern this month, as it's still enough like winter to think about sweaters, but I'd rather make sure everything is correct than rush things to meet a self-imposed deadline. I know that in my climate I'm still going to be needing sweaters for another month or so, even as my second layer rather than a coat -- after all, we had snow and freezing rain/sleet today! Next time I design a sweater, though, I'm going to start it in the summer so it'll be ready by the fall!

My urge to knit sweaters also hasn't worn off. I may or may not have purchased another sweater's worth of tosh dk at my LYS on Saturday. (Okay, I did. I admit it.) I was absolutely entranced by the colorway Forestry when I spotted it on Friday, but I didn't have a pattern in mind for it and had to do some queue searching. I told myself that if it was still there on Saturday and I could find an appropriate pattern, I'd buy it -- and it was and I did. Once I finish my mom's sweater, I'll start swatching for a Gnarled Oak Cardigan. There are several Coastal Knits sweaters that I've been wanting to knit, but this one just begged to be knit in a vibrant green. It will likely not be sweater weather by the time I finish, but I figure it'll be nice to have some new things to wear come fall!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Down and Out

Thanks to all of you who left me birthday wishes on my last post! I'm usually not one to draw attention to my getting older, but I knew that you'd all appreciate the surprise gift I got.

I managed to finish up a deadline project on Monday, so the focus this week has been on my mom's sweater. I started the pleat increases last night, so by my count, I have about 40-odd rows left to do on the body. I'm also getting very close to the end of the second skein of yarn.

This color is impossible to capture accurately

I was moving at a fairly good pace up to this point, but as I continue, the rows are getting longer. I have the day off tomorrow, so after I take care of a couple of pesky errands (I have a consultation with a periodontist and then have to get some blood drawn -- lots of fun!), I'm planning on spending the day with the ladies at my LYS and putting in some serious time on the sweater. I'm reasonably optimistic that I can finish off the body tomorrow, which means I'll have about a week to finish up the front bands and sleeves to meet my deadline.

As a reward for getting so much done with the sweater (and partly because the sweater's just a tad too big to carry around in my work bag now), I started a new lunchtime project using some of my handspun. I'm contemplating submitting it to a publication, so I can't show it to you, but I will tell you that it's using this yarn:

Knitting with handspun is truly one of life's great pleasures. I really should do it more often.

Don't forget that my birthday sale is still in effect through 11:59 p.m. EDT tomorrow!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Saturday was my birthday. It wasn't a really big birthday, and I'm really past the age where birthdays are a big deal (in fact, I kind of wish I could stop having them for a while), but nonetheless it's still nice when people remember and try to make the day special. I went to yoga as usual in the morning while the Mister took Rainbow to her gymnastics class. Normally we're all back around the same time, so I was a little surprised when I got home and they weren't there -- and they didn't show up for about another half an hour. When they did walk in the door, Rainbow had a stern look on her face and wouldn't talk to me. I thought something was wrong, but as it turns out, the Mister had taken her to my LYS to pick out a present for me after her class. He told her not to tell me what it was so as not to ruin the surprise -- and she took that to mean she shouldn't say anything to me! In retrospect, it was very cute.

In years past, the Mister has gotten me jewelry (which I often don't wear because I'm a creature of habit and wear the same thing every day), but this year he got very smart and decided to ask the ladies at my LYS what I would like. They directed him toward this gorgeous laceweight -- Fyberspates Scrumptious Lace, which is new to the shop; they'd clearly noticed me petting it when I was there the week before. Rainbow insisted that they had to get me blue yarn, because that's my favorite color, so they came home with two skeins in Midnight, a deep navy blue. I had to use the flash to get the color to show accurately, but you can also see the shine from all the silk. I have 2100+ yards of it, and I think I'm going to use it to make this sweater (though I'm going to make myself finish my other laceweight sweater first).

Rainbow also picked out a Stitched by Sasha mini for me (though I think she thought she was getting it for herself, seeing as it's purple).

I'm really addicted to these bags and have two minis already (one of them is my travel notions bag). I think this one may end up in my purse to hold all the little things I can never find -- lip gloss, gum, etc. That is, it will if a certain toddler doesn't snatch it from me first!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Everything But the Kitchen Sink

Though I haven't made a real resolution about it, I've been trying to make an effort to spin through my fiber stash this year. It had gotten to the point where I had more fiber in the house (at least by volume) than yarn, so action needed to be taken. After finishing up the Bee Mice Elf yarn, I wandered into the stash room looking for the next thing to go on my wheel. I quickly settled on this batt, which I'd won during last year's Tour de Fleece and been too chicken to spin until now.

As you may be able to see from the label, there's a little bit of everything in there -- merino, cashmere, soysilk, tussah silk, young alpaca, colonial wool, mohair, and firestar. I was anxious about spinning this first and foremost because I had little experience spinning from batts, but the mohair in there worried me too. I don't think it's an official allergy, but I'm very sensitive to mohair; it makes me horribly itchy, even if I'm not touching it directly (like in a sweater with a shirt between me and the sweater). As it turns out, I needn't have worried. I did feel a little itchy at first, but I suspect that was more psychosomatic than anything. The bigger problem was the large quantities of sparkle -- I got up from each spinning session sparklier than a Vegas showgirl.

I decided to split off this batt in strips, from one end to the other, and spin them in order, then chain ply. It soon became clear that the batt was rather roughly blended, and you can see in the finished yarn where I hit a big chunk of silk, for instance. Nonetheless, I do like the texture that this rough blending created. There's a bit of thick and thin going on from the spots when I hit a clump of unblended fiber, and the sparkle ended up pretty well distributed by the end.

The finished skein is approximately worsted weight and roughly 170.5 yards. Although it didn't bother me too much to spin it, I think this skein will likely make its way into my for-sale-or-trade tab; I just can't see myself knitting this up into anything for me.

It feels really good to have this converted from fiber to yarn in the stash, and I've already started in on an 8 oz. bundle of Corriedale from Crown Mountain Farms -- something that's been in the stash for far longer.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Surprise Sale!

Today is my birthday, so in celebration of my reaching another year, I'm having a sale on all my patterns! Today through next Friday, March 15, take $1 off any pattern in my pattern store. The discount is automatic -- no coupon code needed!

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Pink and Growing

It's been a long, rough week. I'm still trying to catch up on sleep, and I'm not sure if that will actually happen this weekend or not (having to turn the clocks forward sure isn't going to help). Rainbow's been a little under the weather, and my sinuses are once again torturing me (I'm guessing due to the crazy weather). Needless to say, I really needed knit night last night.

I've been spending much of the week working on some deadline knitting, so it was nice to be able to take a break to work on my mom's sweater, which has now grown several inches below the underarm. I also just joined in the second skein of yarn, which means I got the whole yoke plus a bit more from one skein.

For a bit there last night, there were three of us around the table working on the same sweater, because two of my friends from the group are test knitting the pattern for me. I don't think that's ever happened before. Amy is the speed demon of the group and is just about done with the body. She's using the most cheerful shade of green for her sweater (click the link to see). I'm getting really excited to see all the testers finish up!

As soon as I finish up my own deadline project, this sweater will be my main focus for the next two weeks. I have a day off next Friday, and I'm planning on using most of it to work on this project. There's some spinning calling my name, too, though, so stayed tuned until Sunday to see what's happening on the wheel.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013


It took me longer than I'd hoped, but I finally managed to finish binding off my cowl on Friday night. Though I was initially worried that it'd turn into spring as soon as I finished it, it seems I ought not to have worried: There's a winter storm warning in effect through tomorrow, and we're expected to get 3-5 inches of snow. Clearly winter is still here!

Pattern: Ruche and Welt Cowl
Yarn: Dream in Color Calm (100% domestic merino), colorway Scorched Lime, ~2.5 skeins
Needles: 40" US 8 (5.0 mm) ChiaoGoo Red Lace circs
Started/Completed: January 28/March 1

While I followed the pattern exactly, I did make one major modification in using a thicker yarn than the one I used for the sample, and I went up a needle size to accommodate it. Dream in Color Calm is relatively new to my LYS, and I'd been eyeing it for a while before I finally bought this batch. It's a 100% wool singles yarn, very much like Malabrigo Worsted, but it seems a little hardier to me because it appears to have been ever so slightly fulled. This means the yarn holds together quite nicely and doesn't kink up. Despite the fact that I was using my pointy ChiaoGoo circs, I didn't have a problem with splitting, and the finished cowl is soft and warm while still feeling pretty substantial. I don't know how this yarn would stand up if used in a sweater, but it's definitely a great accessory yarn.

I have not blocked the cowl yet, and I have a feeling that I'll gain some additional length once I do. Even unblocked, it's long enough that I can loop it around my neck twice to really block out the cold wind (which I did when I wore it over the weekend).

As soon as I finished weaving in my ends on the cowl, I felt the urge to cast on for something new, so I pulled out some really deep-stash Cascade 220 (the color used for the pink swatch seen here) and cast on for a sweater for my mother.

I'm actually test knitting my sweater pattern again, in part because I didn't have anyone signed up to test the 32" size and in part because my mother had so admired the sample that I thought I should make her one. As an added bonus, I'll be getting another sweater's lot of yarn out of my stash when I'm done. I've already separated the arms from the body and gotten in a few rows below that. Assuming the weather cooperates tomorrow evening and I'm able to make it to knit night, I'll be hoping to put in a few more inches on the body. It's amazing how much faster a smaller adult sweater knits up than one that's in my size!

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Be What You Want to Be

After finishing up the spin of last week, I thought I'd try to stash bust a bit. I pulled out an enormous batt that I won as a prize in last year's Tour de Fleece. It's a bit of a kitchen sink batt -- there's a little bit of everything in it. I decided to tear off strips and spin them in order, from one end of the batt to the other. When I'm done, I'll chain ply. I originally started out spinning fairly fine, but there are some spots in this batt (particularly where there's silk) that aren't especially blended, so there are definitely some thick and thin spots.

In spite of the inconsistencies, I do like how it's spinning up. I haven't touched it in several days, but I'm hoping to put in some more time on this it evening.

For reference, here's the rest of the batt that's still waiting to be spun:

This batt is challenging me in my spinning, because I tend to like really well-blended, smooth fibers. It's hard for me to spin a yarn that's not completely smooth. But I like to think that spinning something outside my normal comfort zone is what allows me to grow as a spinner, so I'm trying not to force this yarn to be what I'd normally spin and instead allow it to be the kind of yarn it wants to be. Stay tuned.