Sunday, September 29, 2013

Oh, Miss Crabtree!

Several years ago, I bought a braid of fiber from Kristin at All Spun Up for a spinalong but never spun it. When it arrived, I thought that the colors just weren't me, so I put it away (fiber hoarder that I am) for a later time.

When I decided to host the spinalong in the All Spun Up group on Ravelry, this braid was a frontrunner to be spun first. I asked the advice of the group, and most people who responded agreed that it was high time that I showed Miss Crabtree some attention. So I pulled her out and started spinning her when the spinalong officially started.

This particular braid was a BFL/silk blend; I don't remember the exact proportions, and it's not written on the bag that the fiber came in, but I suspect it was something like 85/15. I decided to spin it from one end to the other and then chain ply, with the goal of getting a three-ply fingering weight in the end, but apparently I can't spin anything that has silk in it in any way other than super thin. My finished yarn, even though it's a three ply, is still pretty much laceweight. And it's just over 600 yards, meaning I had 1,800 yards of singles.

As iffy as I was about the fiber (and the singles while I was spinning it, I'll be honest), I adore the finished yarn. It looks so much like fall to me, like ripening apples on a tree whose leaves are starting to lose the bright green of summer. Rather than packing this yarn away, as I so often do with my handspun skeins once they're done, I've left it out to look at for a while until it calls to me and tells me what it wants to be.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Me Time

I don't know about you, but I'm ready for this week to be over. Summer and early fall constitute the usual busy season at my job, but this year it's been unusually busy. Crazy days at work mean a grumpy and tired me, which means less crafty stuff gets done -- usually because I don't have the motivation to do it even though it's my way to de-stress.

This week, I've mostly been spinning in the evenings while I watch The Grand on streaming Netflix. Anna tipped me off on it, and it won't be available streaming after the end of the month, so I've been trying to watch it all before then. I have about an episode and a half to go and probably one more spinning session before my plying is done.

I've been working on the second Cascade during my much-needed lunch breaks at work, and it's nearly there. It has a sleeve and will soon have a second. In fact, I may be done with the knitting by tomorrow. Meanwhile, the first one has been washed and blocked and is ready to be packaged up for its recipient.

Tonight, though, I will be focusing on my Window to My Soul. I think I have about 10 rows left to do before I can split the sleeve stitches off from the body, and I'd really like to reach that point tonight. There's some good TV on tonight, so my plan is to decompress, forget about work, and enjoy my knitting for a couple of hours.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Working My Way Out of the Black Hole

After about of week of feeling like I was stuck in the black hole of knitting -- in which you knit and knit and yet don't seem to make any progress -- I feel like I'm finally starting to claw my way out.

I may have been a little foolish in thinking I could knock out a second baby sweater in the same pattern without getting really bored of it. I've been a little stalled since casting on, not really feeling any motivation to get moving on it, but now I've reached the bottom of the body. After I do all the edging (bottom hem, button band, collar), the sleeves should be a breeze.

I also finally got around to blocking the first iteration -- the recipient gave birth this morning, so it really needed to get done!

I pulled out the waffle-y baby blanket over the weekend and worked on it in the car (we had two long-ish drives) and on Sunday afternoon while I was cooking. It seemed like it wasn't getting any bigger, but all of the sudden it's significantly longer and I'm fast approaching the end of the second skein of yarn.

It's not as pink as it looks, promise

As if those two projects weren't enough, I also finally finished the singles of my spinning project last night -- amazing how 4 oz. can look like so little on such a big bobbin!

Now, if I could just through the yoke of the sweater for me -- I suppose that's the next challenge.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

No Cigar

So, I had really hoped that by the time I got to today, I'd be ready to start plying my Miss Crabtree. Unfortunately, a certain someone decided to have a complete meltdown last night and got to bed really late, so I only got about half of my anticipated spinning time in. The worst part is that I'm so close to being done. I mean, look at how little fiber there is left to spin!

I didn't get any time in today, either, so this is likely going to have to wait until tomorrow. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that by the next time you see this, it will be a plied yarn!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

It's Something

It's been another crazy week, and as a result, I haven't had much crafty time. That makes me sad (and makes for little fodder for the blog). But I did finish a hat. It still needs to be blocked to even all the stitches out, but it's something.

I ended up not running out of yarn as I feared; in fact, I had a decent amount leftover. I've made most of the corrections to the pattern, so the next step is to finish writing it up and do a photo shoot, which I'm hoping will happen this weekend.

Meanwhile, I've turned my attention back to the baby sweater. I've just split the arms from the body, so I'll be cruising down the body now.

I'm sorry I don't have more knitting to talk about -- believe me, I wish I did! I'm hoping things will start to quiet down soon and I'll be able to get some more done. Will it help tide you over if I tell you that I'm running a pattern sale right now?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Stuck in the Middle

Though I still have to pick out and sew on buttons and block, I'm happy to say that the first baby sweater is done. What's more, I managed to get the whole sweater out of one skein of yarn, with just a few yards leftover.

Tonight I plan to sit down with my buttons and find something that works so that I can block and have this thing packaged up and ready to be given to the recipient by the end of the week.

I've started the second sweater, in the same size but a different color, but I'm putting this one on hold for the time being while I work on a design. Quite a few months ago, I submitted a pattern to KnittySpin. I never heard anything about it, and when the Deep Fall issue went live, I figured I didn't make the cut. I did e-mail in to see what happened, and as I suspected, there was an issue with their e-mail yet again (you may remember that the last time I submitted, my submission got snagged by the spam filter). I had tested the pattern in secret -- because I'd used handspun and wanted to get an idea of how it would work in commercial yarn -- and got great feedback on it from my testers, so I've decided to rework it in commercial yarn and self-publish. Here was the original, knit in my fractally spun Bee Mice Elf Polwarth back in March.

The new version is being worked up in some leftover tosh dk in Forestry; based on some rough calculations, I think I have about 180 yards of it, which I'm hoping will be enough. If not, I have a full skein of dk in Baltic that I'll use (but I love this green so much).

What else am I in the middle of? My Window to My Soul -- I put in a little more time on it over the weekend, so it's grown a little.

I still have almost 20 rows to do before I'm ready to separate the sleeves from the body, after which I hope it will grow at a slightly faster rate. I have a feeling, though, that it might be a bit too chilly to wear it when it's done, so it might end up waiting until we go to Florida in December.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Post of Opposites

It's Sunday, so it's fitting that I spent a good portion of the day spinning. After a morning that started early and was filled with the usual household chores, my friend Colleen came over with her wheel and we spent the afternoon talking, watching movies on cable, and spinning. I decided to start spinning up the Frabjous Fibers merino/sparkle blend that I showed you last week. I split the top in half lengthwise and then split one half in half again for a fractal spin (which is fast becoming my preferred color management method for brightly colored fiber). After spinning frog hair for the past couple of weeks, it was quite a thrill to spin up a full bobbin's worth in one day.

The colors aren't quite true to life because this shot used a filter on Instagram, but you can tell that there's quite a rainbow of colors. And boy is there ever a lot of sparkle. I had to take a lint roller to my pants and the couch when I was done. It's a bit of an annoyance, but the finished yarn is going to be a lot of fun. Rainbow has already requested that it become a hat for her, and who am I to turn down a request like that?

Meanwhile, after I hit publish on this post, I'll be turning back to the frog hair -- the BFL/silk blend from All Spun Up. I am making some progress on it, but there's still a pretty significant amount of fiber left to spin.

I will actually be amazed if this ends up fingering weight once it's plied; if it does, it will be on the very light end. I'd like to finish this up soon because there's more fiber waiting in the wings. My Bee Mice Elf club fiber showed up late last week, and it's a beauty.

This is Falkland in a colorway called Pool Party. I'm thinking that this will become another fractal two ply, with lots of barberpoling. Yes, I'm in a phase, but if it ain't broke, why fix it?

Thursday, September 12, 2013


I'm in the home stretch on the baby sweater, and with any luck, I'll finish all the knitting tonight (blocking and buttons probably won't come until the weekend). I decided to do the button band and collar before starting the sleeves, and I did them without breaking the yarn after completing the previous step. In other words, after binding off the bottom of the sweater, I left the last stitch live, rotated the work 90 degrees to the right, and proceeded to pick up for the button band. When it was done, I did the same thing for the collar. In my opinion, it really didn't make sense to add more ends to weave in on such a small garment, and it also kept things moving. In about an hour and a half of knitting time last night, I was able to get all of that done plus all of the first sleeve to the cuff.

I did add a few more stitches than specified to the collar, and I also changed the order of the stitches a bit so that I would start and end both the button band and the collar with knits rather than purls, as I think it creates a cleaner edge.

I'm still on my first skein of yarn for this sweater, and I suppose it's possible that I will get the entire sweater out of that one skein (which would be a very pleasant surprise). If that does happen, I may even knit a third one for another baby gift, because I'll certainly have the yarn for it. I'm also contemplating knitting a much larger one for Rainbow, after which I suppose I will be thoroughly bored with the pattern (not to mention likely have it memorized).

I've been devoting all my knitting time -- which, let's face it, has not been much -- this week to the baby sweater, but I'm hoping to turn my attention back to my own sweater this weekend. Saturday is Yom Kippur, and I'll be fasting, which means I can't really do much but sit around and knit. After the week I've had, a quiet day is likely to be very welcome, even if I'll be hungry and headache-y all day.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

In a Jiffy

I knew I had some more baby knitting to do, but I thought I had a little more time. Late last week, the Mister informed me that at least one of the babies I was planning on knitting for was due to be born in the next week or two, so I realized I really had to get moving. I picked up some yarn at my LYS on Saturday (Cascade 220 Superwash in bright, but gender-neutral, shades), dug out the pattern I was planning to use, and got to work. I cast on for the first sweater Sunday afternoon -- the good news is that baby sweaters go very quickly.

What you see here is the work of a couple of hours of knitting on Sunday afternoon plus about another hour that evening, my lunch break yesterday and today, and about an hour of work last night. As you can see, the work left to do is minimal -- the rest of the bottom band, the sleeves, one button band, and a collar. This should be done and ready to be delivered to the recipient by this weekend, and then I'll get to work on the other one (which doesn't have to be done until October or November, I think, but I'd like to get it off the queue). If only me-sized sweaters worked up this quickly!

Sunday, September 08, 2013

The Joys of Sampling

I will readily admit that I have at least one bad habit when it comes to my spinning. Though I am adamant about swatching when it comes to knitting a sweater, I never take the equivalent amount of time to sample when I'm spinning. That's mainly because I usually spin yarn the way the fiber seems to want to be spun rather than trying to spin a particular yarn for a particular pattern (and this might be why there's so much unknit handspun in my stash), but I'm also a bit lazy. When I want to spin, I want to sit down and get right at it. My knitting is so much more portable than my spinning, so that means that spinning time is limited to when I'm at home and therefore constitutes a smaller portion of my overall crafting time.

So, when I got a small amount of fiber to try out from my LYS, it forced me to confront this bad habit. And while it's still a bit early yet to say this for certain, it's possible that this small exercise in sampling may have changed my ways.

As a reminder, this was the fiber. Though I didn't weigh what I had to start with, I think it was about an ounce total that I split into three roughly equal parts.

This was a BFL/sparkle blend, and with this colorway, the fiber and the resulting yarn looked rather metallic, which was a cool effect. I decided to spin the fiber three different ways: as a singles yarn, a two ply, and a three ply (chain plied). Here are the resulting mini skeins:

And a detail shot, so you can see the texture and composition of the yarns a little better:

The singles yarn, on the far left, is roughly fingering weight and looks a lot like Tosh Merino Light; I have approximately 42 yards in this little skein. I was pleased that after finishing, the skein looked as balanced as you could hope for a singles yarn. If I were spinning a full skein like this, I'd be a bit rough in the finishing to full the singles a bit. In the middle is a two ply, approximately 33 yards. It's very well balanced and would be lovely for lace. On the far right is the three ply (chain plied to maximize yardage). It it a lovely round yarn, and the loop ends aren't as obvious as I thought they'd be given that BFL is a longwool. I have approximately 27.5 yards.

I quite enjoyed this sampling process and the fiber. It drafted evenly and beautifully, though if I had one complaint, it's that the sparkle content seemed to be a bit concentrated rather than blended in. I found that I was able to blend it a bit more while drafting, though. I like all three yarns I made, and I'd have a tough time choosing how to spin this fiber blend without having a particular project in mind from the get go. I do hope that my LYS decides to carry this blend, though, because I think it would be a fantastic way to add a little bling to something (like as an accent in a sweater or in some accessories).

I must've caught the sparkle bug from this stuff, because look at what followed me home yesterday:

Frabjous Fibers Merino/Sparkle blend in Trapeze
In truth, I'd seen and admired this a week ago but resisted. Yesterday, after thinking about it all week, I realized that I had to buy it. I'm planning to spin this up into a barberpoling two ply, worsted-ish weight, for a hat and (if the yardage allows) mittens for Rainbow for this winter. Or maybe for me. We shall see.

Thursday, September 05, 2013


I am home today for Rosh Hashanah (which is probably a good thing, because I've come down with some sort of cold/sinus thing and am a snotty mess). We were at synagogue this morning and then went out for lunch with my parents, and now I'm enjoying some quiet time with my wheel. My knitting projects look very much like they did the last time I showed them to you, so I hope you'll excuse a midweek spinning post.

I think I mentioned that I was hosting a spinalong on Ravelry in the group of my former favorite Etsy dyer (she's now out of business, or at the very least taking a long hiatus). Several of us decided that we should actually spin some of the fiber we had from her shop rather than hoarding it, so for the next three months or so, we're all digging deep in the stash. I decided to spin up this braid, which was for a previous spinalong (though I never actually spun it); the colorway is called Miss Crabtree, and if I remember correctly, it's a BFL/silk blend.

I'm spinning this from one end to the other, and then I'll chain ply. As is usually the case when I'm spinning anything with silk in it, my singles are coming out very fine. What you see here is several hours worth of spinning.

At least when I'm spinning my default singles like this, I don't have to think very hard!

For those of you celebrating the holiday with me, I wish you a happy, healthy, sweet new year! For everyone else, happy Thursday!

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Short-lived Monogamy

After finishing the baby sweater last week, I found myself in an unusual position for me: I had only one project on the needles. Even more unusual is that I stuck to that one project all through the weekend. I figured that it would be good to focus on the baby sweater for a few days to make some decent progress, and it has paid off.

When I've been working on this during my lunch break during the week, I've been able to complete about eight rows in a sitting (so two repeats of the stitch pattern). At that rate, it probably would have taken me several months to finish. Spending an hour or two on it at a time makes it move along much faster. As you can see, I've started working in the second skein of yarn. I quickly determined that the two I had were probably not going to be enough to make this blanket the size I wanted, so luckily I was able to pick up a third skein at my LYS this weekend. To minimize any noticeable color changes, I'm alternating the old skein and the new one over the course of several rows (working two rows in one skein, then two rows in the other). I think the new skein is close enough that it won't be too obvious, and the texture of the stitch pattern does help to break up any pooling.

So I'm nearly a third of the way done with the blanket, which is not bad in my book. Technically I don't have to have it done until around Christmas, when it will be delivered, but I don't want to leave it until the last minute and have it be a real slog.

Meanwhile, in the middle of working on the blanket over the weekend, I did take a bit of time to swatch for a sweater for me, and yesterday, I finally cast on. This is the beginning of my Window to My Soul in Tosh Merino Light:

I knew that the stitch pattern in the yoke would be a little involved, but I did not expect to have to keep track of so much at the beginning -- there are short rows almost from the get go, which is really a rather ingenious way to shape the neckline. It wasn't really hard so much as fiddly to keep having to flip back and forth between the directions and the chart; fortunately, I was able to get enough done before putting it down for the night that I can just look at the chart for the next 40 or so rows. I expect this will not be a particularly fast knit (what with the fingering weight yarn and a fairly involved stitch pattern), but it's nice to be able to spend some time on something for me amidst all the baby knitting.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

One for the Browncoats

When I heard that Into the Whirled was going to have some Firefly-themed batts at Maryland Sheep and Wool, I knew I wanted to get my hands on one. I made sure the ITW booth was my first stop when we got to the fairgrounds on the first day of the festival, so I was lucky enough to snag a Falkland batt in a colorway called Captain Tightpants.

A batt like this of course begged to be spun as a gradient, so (starting with the blue on the outside) I split off and spun a strip at a time until I had spun the whole batt onto one bobbin of singles. After the singles had rested overnight, I chain plied them. The result is this colorful skein:

The batt weighed approximately 5 oz. when I started, and the finished yarn is roughly sport weight and around 358 yards. I really love how the colors transition into each other, and I think this should be a lot of fun knit up.