Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Round and Round I Go

As much as I wanted to keep spinning like I did during the Tour de Fleece, there were also some projects in the queue that I really wanted to start. On Saturday, during my weekly visit to my LYS, I finally cast on for Water Music. I'm knitting it as part of the Through the Loops summer shawl knitalong on Ravelry, and I'm using my handspun (is there anything more wonderful than knitting with handspun?). Because my yardage is on the very low end of the amount required, I went down a couple of needle sizes from what's recommended in the pattern, from a 7 to a 5. I block my lace pretty aggressively, so I'm not too worried about a smaller needle affecting the appearance of the lace too much. If anything, the shawl will be a little smaller, which really won't be a problem considering that I usually wear shawls more like a scarf.

At the moment, I'm about two-thirds of the way through the first chart (40-ish rounds) and the pattern is becoming apparent. It's really a treat to be knitting in the round -- the only purling is part of the pattern! It's been a while since I knit any lace this way, and the last time was a circular shawl. This is the first time I've done a square, though it's not all that novel because it's essentially the same as knitting two triangular top-down shawls concurrently.

While I'm trying to get through this shawl first, pretty soon I'll need to start some baby knitting. A woman in my office is due on Halloween, and two of the Mister's coworkers are expecting babies later in the fall. On top of that, there will be another new baby boy at Christmas this year who will need a sweater and a blanket at the very least. My coworker is having a girl, so I'd already decided to knit Maile for her because it'd been in my favorites for a while without having a girl to knit for. While I was at my LYS on Saturday, I picked up a skein of Dream in Color Smooshy to use for this pattern; the colorway is called Forget Me (which, having just finished binge watching the entire new season of Arrested Development on Netflix, I immediately started thinking of as "forget me now").

Somewhere in all this, I also want to start Window to My Soul for me so that I can wear it before it gets too cold. There aren't enough hours in the day sometimes!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Bonus Fiber

Shortly after my Bee Mice Elf order showed up, the next club shipment arrived.

The fiber this time around was a 60% superwash merino/30% bamboo/10% nylon blend in a colorway called Herbs on Ice. I've spun merino/bamboo before, and it's a very shiny, somewhat slippery blend to spin. When knit up, it's silky and has great drape, and it's also a bit cool to the touch. I think the yarn might have a tad too much drape for socks, but I was in the mood to spin sock yarn again, so I started a three-ply fingering. The first bobbin is done and the second is about halfway through.

Isn't that shine amazing? I'm interested to see how the colors will blend in the plied yarn. With the exception of that dark purple you can see there at the end of the bobbin, most of the colors are fairly pastel.

Meanwhile, I've been pretty good the past week and have been continuing to work on my spindle project during my lunch break. As of Friday night, I have five sock batts spun up and one still to go.

Yes, I'm still using my uber-fancy storage "bobbins" to hold my singles. I predict that the last batt will be all spun up by next weekend, which means I'll be able to ply. I'm going to be plying on one wheel or the other -- I really don't care for plying on a spindle because of the weight, and it's a lot faster and more efficient for me to ply on the wheel anyway. Perhaps that's cheating, but the goal is to end up with yarn, right?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

I Touched the West

Last night, my LYS hosted a "yarn tasting" featuring several yarns from Mountain Meadow Wool, a smallish wool mill in Wyoming. We got to hear about the history of the mill and its philosophy from the yarn rep and got to swatch with five different yarns: Cody, a sport weight; Jackson, a DK; Laramie, a heavy worsted/Aran; Lilura, a fingering; and Aladdin, a bulky weight. Cody, Jackson, and Laramie are all merino, while Lilura is a merino/alpaca blend and Aladdin is made up of one ply of merino and one ply of silk.

Blue is Cody, brown is Jackson, white is Laramie, crimson is Lilura, and bright red is Aladdin

It was a lot of fun to play with these yarns (though I certainly would have liked more yardage to play with!). As you can see from my swatches, I played around with all sorts of stitches -- stockinette, garter, seed stitch, lace, cables, and ribbing. My favorite of the bunch was Laramie, with Cody coming up a close second. These yarns have lots of bounce and body; you can feel the elasticity and the life in them. They also have a somewhat cottony feel to them -- they're cool and dry to the touch -- though they knit like a real wool.

At the moment, my LYS only carries Jackson, though they told us last night that they were using the yarn tasting like a consumer focus group. I'm hoping that that means that the responses from the attendees will encourage them to order other yarn lines!

I will be casting on for one or more new projects in the next several days, so tonight's goal is to wind some yarn. I have my handspun for my Water Music, and also these three skeins of Tosh Merino Light in Baroque Violet that I bought several weeks ago when my LYS got a Tosh shipment in (though I don't think I ever showed them to you):

These are going to grow up to be a Window to My Soul, which frankly I could really use right now. After a couple of weeks of hot, humid weather, it's gotten noticeably cooler and much more comfortable the past couple of days, though apparently my office's air conditioning did not get the memo. I had my space heater on all day yesterday, and today I took in my Breezy Cardigan to wear. Wool to the rescue!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Bit Aimless

After three solid weeks of spinning in every possible free moment, it was a bit weird yesterday when I sat down for my lunch break and then again after I put Rainbow to bed and realized that I could knit again. To be perfectly honest, picking up the needles felt a bit weird.

During lunch, I worked on my second Sybaritic sock, which was not as far along as I'd remembered. I finished the heel flap by the end of the break, so there's not that much left to do, but it wasn't particularly exciting knitting. Then, last night, I pulled out the baby doll I started knitting for Rainbow many months ago (I had to pull up my Ravelry notebook to check -- I started it in December, yikes!). I had completed the body shortly after I started but stalled when I started the head. I think it would go a lot faster were it not for the fact that I'm knitting heavy worsted weight cotton on size 4 needles -- not so hand friendly.

What I'd really like to cast on for is my Water Music, but the yarn is not quite ready. I did finish plying it on Sunday night and skeined and washed it last night.

It looks like I may be cutting it a little close on the yardage. My skein is roughly 807 yards; the pattern calls for 800-900 yards. But at least one other knitter has made one with less than 800, and I think (as my yarn is on the light side of fingering) I will use a smaller needle. The pattern calls for a US 7/4.5 mm, but I think I may use a 6 or 5. I don't really need this shawl to be gargantuan, so a smaller needle will mean a more manageable shawl size in the end anyway in addition to (I hope) using less yarn. Worst case, I can use something else for the edging if I run out.

I've decided that I really want to finish up the spindle project I started during the Tour de Fleece, so I'll be spinning during my lunch break until the last 2 oz. are done. I guess the socks will have to wait a bit.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Up to the Last Moment

I'm posting this pretty late for me (I'll be going to bed as soon as I hit publish), but I did want to post today because it was the last day of the Tour and I spent every last minute I could spin today plying up my corriedale singles, which I finally finished spinning yesterday at my LYS.

I'm happy to report that as of about half an hour ago, all 8 oz. are plied. I don't have the time to skein and wash it tonight, so I'll have to wait at least another couple of days to find out if I got enough yardage for Water Music. It is considerably thinner than the first attempt, so I'm optimistic.

Overall, it was a good Tour de Fleece for me this year. I finished three yarns -- the merino/seacell from the first week and the corriedale that's still on the bobbin as well as the Crown Mountain Farms superwash merino in Material Girl, which was skeined and washed earlier in the week.

I ended up with 377 yards of fingering and managed to salvage some of the tangled singles (I added them to my designated leftovers bobbin).

I also finished four of the six 1 oz. sock batts on my spindle.

I'm determined to keep spinning at a regular pace until I finish all six; at the rate I was going, that shouldn't take me more than a couple of weeks. Then I will ply the two skeins on a wheel.

This certainly wasn't as productive a Tour as I've had in past years (based simply on amount spun), but I spun everything from stash. If you count the singles, I got through a pound and a half of fiber -- not too shabby, if I do say so!

My spinning mojo is still in full force, but I'm also looking forward to picking up my needles again. With any luck, I'll be starting to use some of this handspun in the next few days.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Back to Basics

Today is challenge day of the Tour de Fleece (corresponding to the hardest stage of the Tour de France, in which the cyclists have to climb the Alpe-d'Huez twice -- ouch!), so I thought it would be a good idea to shake up my spinning a bit and work on something completely new to me: support spindling. You may recall that I bought a beautiful Bolivian rosewood Russian spindle at the Spanish Peacock booth at Maryland Sheep and Wool this year on a bit of a whim. It's been sitting untouched ever since, and I thought this was the perfect opportunity to try it out.

While it's clear I need a lot of practice, the brief bit of spinning I've done on it has been really fun, and I am starting to get the hang of it. It seems to work best for me if I spin the spindle and then use a long draw technique to draft -- sort of a park and draft method. Of course, I may be doing it all wrong, but it's resulting in yarn, so I must be doing something a little right. I suspect that some of my difficulties might be with the fiber. This is some undyed mixed BFL that I bought several years ago and has been sitting in my spinning basket for quite a while, and as a result, it's gotten a little felted. I think using some well-prepped fiber that drafts easily will make for an easier experience, so I might have to go digging through the stash for something else to practice.

Meanwhile, I have started the second bobbin of my Crown Mountain Farms corriedale on the miniSpinner and am hoping to have it all spun by Saturday so that I can ply on Sunday (or sooner). This second half of the fiber seems to be spinning faster, but of course that may be an illusion.

I'm also into ounce number four on my sock batts and am hoping to finish this one before the end of the Tour. Now that I've come this far, I'd like to finish spinning the rest of the fiber on my spindle, so I think I will continue to take it in to work with me so I can spin during my lunch break until I've gotten through all six ounces. Then, I'll ply on a wheel.

It's been wonderful to focus on spinning so much and to get so much done, but I'll be the first to admit that I'm starting to miss knitting! I have a pair of socks that are about half a foot away from being done, and I've also been thinking that I should get back to the baby doll I started for Rainbow months ago. Then, of course, there's the Tosh Merino Light that I bought at my LYS a few weeks ago that wants to become a light sweater ASAP, and I'll want to cast on for the shawl with the finished corriedale yarn as soon as it's done. Sounds like I'm going to be knitting just as furiously as I've been spinning!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

In the Home Stretch

There are six days left in the Tour de Fleece, if you include today, and I am moving right along in all my projects.

Yesterday I finished up the third one ounce sock batt on my spindle, so it's now ready to be wound off onto a storage bobbin (aka, an empty toilet paper tube).

This means that I'm officially halfway done with all the singles in this batt set. If I can keep up the pace I've had thus far, I should be able to finish one more ounce by the end of the week.

Then there's the Crown Mountain Farms superwash merino sock yarn I've been spinning on the Lendrum. I stayed up a little late last night to finish plying and as a result have a full bobbin this morning.

There should have been a little bit more than this, as I had one bobbin run out before the other two, but I made a bit of a mess of things when I tried to use up as much as I could with what was left. Usually when this happens, I wind off the singles on a remaining bobbin onto a TP tube to make a center-pull ball, then slide it off so I can ply from the inside and outside at the same time. Unfortunately, I wasn't doing a very good job of keeping an eye on that last night, so I got a big tangle. I managed to undo it for a bit, but eventually it got so bad that I decided to cut my losses and call it a day. There wasn't much left on my third bobbin at that point anyway, so I don't think I would have gotten that much more yardage to be of any significance. Tonight, I will skein and wash.

The main goal for the rest of the week will be to try to finish spinning up the CMF corriedale on the miniSpinner. I'm nearly done with the first four ounces, so provided I work on spinning only that for the rest of the week, I think it's an achievable goal.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Life at High Speed

Wow, I kind of disappeared for a while there, didn't I? Sorry about that -- it wasn't my intention. I also haven't gotten nearly the amount of spinning done in the past week that I'd hoped, mainly due to a very challenging child who lately has not wanted to go to bed. That's meant tantrums and long evenings in her room with her, which has translated into very limited time to myself. There's a week left in the Tour de Fleece, so I'm hoping to make up a little lost ground in the next seven days.

After a whirlwind end to the week, I did find some significant time to myself yesterday. The Mister took Rainbow to a swimming lesson in the morning and then to our local amusement park for the whole of the afternoon, so once I'd gotten some things crossed off the to-do list, I took my Lendrum to my LYS and spent a good three hours or so spinning. As a result, I now have three full bobbins of Material Girl singles ready to be plied into sock yarn.

I started the plying this morning but didn't get very far before we had to go out. It was very hot and humid today, so we decided to spend the afternoon at the pool. The good news is that it sufficiently tired out the kiddo, so she is now blissfully sleeping and I will be able to get through as much of this as I can tonight.

I also came home on Friday to a very pleasant (and long-awaited) fibery surprise:

If this looks vaguely familiar, it's because it's very similar to the Bee Mice Elf fiber club shipment from the beginning of this year. Although the fractal yarn I spun from that fiber was a lot of fun, part of me regretted not spinning it from end to end and chain plying for a gradient, so when the coordinating braids went up for sale, I bought these two gradients to combine together. These are both Polwarth (my favorite) and 4 oz. each, so assuming I can spin fine singles, I'll have enough yarn for a good-sized shawl. I've been waiting for these for quite a long time (there was a six-week lead time on them to begin with, and then the dyer moved studios, and then the USPS seems to have walked it across the country to me), so it was a wonderful surprise when they finally showed up. I think I'm going to save these until after the Tour de Fleece is over, though, as I want to get through my current projects.

Speaking of which, there's some yarn waiting to be plied.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Wheels Keep on Turning

We're pretty much at the halfway point of the Tour de Fleece, and I am moving right along on all my projects. Usually I don't work on more than one spinning project at a time, but amazingly I'm finding it completely manageable to have three spinning projects going at once this year.

For starters, there are the sock batts I've been spinning on my spindle. I've mainly been working on them during my lunch break during the week, but I've found that the spindle is also handy on the weekend when a certain 3-year-old wants me to hang out with her in the family room while she plays and there's no convenient place to set up a wheel. I've finished the second of six batts (so 2 oz. out of a total of 6), and I'm making a marked improvement at building a stable cop to get everything on in one go.

I'm doubtful that I will spin all 6 oz. by the end of the Tour, but I will have made a decent dent in the project. More importantly, I've rediscovered my love of spindling -- it's quite addictive. I still, however, do not much care for plying anything but a small amount on a spindle, so if all the singles are finished after the Tour is over, I'll likely ply them on a wheel.

I also finished the second bobbin of Material Girl singles (Crown Mountain Farms superwash merino) on the Lendrum, which turned out very different from the first. I have no doubt that the third will be different still and that I'll be quite surprised at what the plied yarn looks like. I'm hoping to finish up the third bobbin and ply by the weekend.

Finally, on the miniSpinner, I started my second attempt at spinning for Water Music for the Through the Loops summer shawl knitalong. This is Crown Mountain Farms corriedale pencil roving, and with this prep, I'm spinning a lot finer.

This has been a great project for the evening, because it's fairly mindless. The roving is so thin that it only requires a tiny bit of drafting, and I'm able to do that without having to look at it constantly. That's great when you've had a long, exhausting day and you'd really like to watch something pleasant (this week it's Lark Rise to Candleford season one again) instead of thinking!

Monday, July 08, 2013

Pattern Release: Newlin

Today is the first rest day of the Tour de Fleece, and while I'll still be spinning, I thought it was a perfect day to release my new pattern. Meet Newlin:

Newlin is a top-down women's sock pattern that features a swirling stitch pattern that goes very quickly and is easily memorized. It's available in two sizes, to fit a foot circumference of 8 in. and 9 in. It features a twisted rib cuff, an Eye of Partridge heel (flap and gusset), and a wide toe. I found that it knit up very quickly -- I even had a test knitter who finished a sock in about two days!

A pair of socks should use about 100 g of sock yarn, depending on the length of your foot. I knit these in Cascade Heritage,  which is fast becoming my favorite workhorse sock yarn. Although I chose a solid, I think these would look just as lovely in a semisolid, lightly variegated, or even self-striping yarn.

I'm very excited about these socks and am so happy to be "releasing them into the wild" today. I hope you like them!

Sunday, July 07, 2013

First Skein

It's taken me a week, but I finally have my first Tour de Fleece skein done.

This is a total of 8 oz. of Creatively Dyed 70% merino/30% seacell that I bought years and years ago (from the Loopy Ewe, I think). I was aiming for a two-ply fingering weight to use to knit Water Music, but I got only 598 yards. It's a bit thicker than fingering (it's a bit thick and thin, but most of it looks to be about sport weight).

Despite the setback, I'm not that disappointed with the yarn. It's nice and silky, so it'll have great drape. I just have to find the right pattern for it.

Meanwhile, I've decided to have another go at spinning for the shawl, so I pulled out an 8 oz. bundle of Crown Mountain Farms corriedale pencil roving and split it into two. It's really a shame that I forgot to take a photo of what looked like fiber noodles in a big pile on the floor as I undid the whole hank to find the halfway point; this is the tidy photo after I untangled it all and wound it into two balls.

I think this prep will allow me to spin much finer, so I'm hoping I'll get the 800-900 yards I need for the shawl. If not, I will have busted another 8 oz. of stash!

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Freedom to Spin

We're now on day six of the Tour de Fleece, and while I haven't been able to spin as much as I'd like, I've been making considerable progress. Today, however, is the first day of a four-day weekend for me, so I'm hoping that by the time I have to go back to work, I'll have some actual yarn to show for all this time off.

I've been spindling during my lunch break every day this week and took the spindle to my knit night last night as well. As a result, I finished my first 1 oz. sock batt -- and, what's more, I managed to get all the singles in one cop, without having to wind off.

I was really hoping I'd be able to get everything on at once but wasn't sure it would happen. Now I know it's possible. I did wind off these singles when I got home onto a very "high-tech" storage bobbin:

The plan is to spin all six batts and then ply for two skeins of three-ply sock yarn.

Meanwhile, I finally finished up all 8 oz. of singles of the merino/seacell on the miniSpinner:

These will sit for a day or so to rest and then will be plied together for what I hope will be a pretty substantial skein. While I'm waiting for that step, I'm turning my attention back to my Lendrum and my Crown Mountain Farms superwash merino:

I'd like to finish up this first bobbin today, if I can. It's a nice change to be treadling after doing all the work with my hands and arms with the miniSpinner and the spindle!

To those of you in the States, I wish you a very happy Independence Day! To everyone else, happy Thursday! I hope it's a good day wherever you are.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

An End, at Last

It seemed only appropriate that on the first day of the Tour de Fleece, I finished a long-suffering WIP from my own handspun.

Pattern: Breezy Cardigan by Hannah Fettig
Yarn: my handspun -- 85% Polwarth, 15% silk from All Spun Up, 8 oz.
Needles: US 4 (3.5 mm) Chiago Goo Red Lace circs
Started/Completed: June 29, 2012/June 29, 2013

This sweater started way back in October of 2011, when I received two beautiful twists of fiber from my favorite dyer (who is, alas, now out of business) as part of a spinalong. The colorway for this fiber was Tapestry, a name that, in my opinion, was a perfect fit for the deep colors in the fiber. It took me a good two months to spin up one huge skein of two-ply laceweight -- a total of 1,630 yards. I knew that with that much yardage, I had to knit a sweater, so at some point last summer, I wound a really enormous yarn cake and got to work. I cast on for the sweater leading in to last year's Tour de Fleece and made a good start on it (as you do when you're working a top-down raglan and the rows are still short).

As you would expect would happen with a laceweight sweater, I soon grew bored with it, so into the bottom of the knitting bag it went. Every now and then I'd pull it out again and put in a few more rows, so it continued to grow, albeit slowly. Then, as spring gave way to summer, I realized that my poor neglected sweater was nearing its first birthday, and it's usually not in me to let projects linger that long without being finished (with one notable exception). So I decided to focus on getting it done, hoping to finish before this year's Tour de Fleece started and I put it down once again in favor of spinning all the time. I'm very happy to report that this happened, and in fact I finished it on the day the Tour started (I figured that it was acceptable to take time away from spinning in order to finish a project out of handspun).

There's not too much to say about this sweater. I knew I'd like it because it's the lightweight version of one of my favorite hand-knit sweaters to wear. The knitting itself was pretty mindless; it's a top-down stockinette raglan, so for the body I really only had to pay attention every other row, and for the sleeves, I just had to count rounds in between decreases. The real challenge in this pattern was keeping the motivation to finish it; when you're working with laceweight, it can take a long time to see any perceptible progress, so sometimes it felt like I'd been knitting for hours and only added half an inch in length. I'm glad I stuck with it, though, because this is an incredibly wearable sweater. It's actually perfect for this time of year, because I almost always need a light layer in the office to keep warm in the aggressive air conditioning. This sweater adds just a little warmth without bulk, and I can easily shove* it in my bag at the end of the day and not notice any extra weight on the walk home.

I will note that I did discover one pretty significant error in the pattern, and I have been in touch with the designer about it. When I was ready to start the ribbed cuff of my first sleeve, I realized that the stitch count I had -- which matched what was listed in the pattern -- was not divisible by four and thus wouldn't work out with a 2x2 rib. I though maybe it was just an issue with my size, but then I got out my calculator and realized that it was an issue for all the sizes. I immediately sent Hannah a PM on Ravelry, which was answered several days later by one of her helpers, who said that I should work one more or one less set of decreases in the arm. I wasn't about to rip back several inches' worth of work to add another set of decreases, so I worked them into my first round of ribbing. I don't think you can tell a difference, and frankly I don't think it's such a huge deal; I was just surprised that this type of error hadn't been caught before (but bear in mind that I was working with a hard copy; it's very likely that the error has been corrected in the digital version).

Silly photo (c) Rainbow
Now I'll bet you're thinking that after this experience I'd never knit another laceweight sweater again. You may be right, at least in part. I'm not in a hurry to knit another right away, but I wouldn't say I'd never do it again. In fact, I have two gorgeous skeins of laceweight that the Mister and Rainbow bought me for my birthday this year that are just begging to become a sweater (because, frankly, I'd be buried alive by a shawl that used all that yardage). The key is to start it knowing that will take me a good amount of time to finish and not plan to have it done by a certain date -- unless I want to eschew all other projects and crafts until it's done. So I'm not casting on just yet, but don't be surprised (or call me crazy!) if it happens again in the near future.

*And by "shove," I mean "fold it carefully and wrap it in a bag or something so it doesn't get snagged by anything."