Sunday, June 29, 2014

Skein Coordination

Don't you love it when something turns out even better than you were expecting? That's the case for the most recently finished skein of handspun off my wheel, the skein that coordinates with the one you saw last week. As a reminder, it all started out with a total of 5 oz. of Polwarth (my most favorite fiber to spin) from Fat Cat Knits in colorways called Vintage and Retro Chic:

I spun each braid up from dark end to light end and then chain plied. Both came off the wheel as laceweight and poofed up nicely to fingering. You saw Vintage last week; this week's skein is Retro Chic (if I have to be honest, it's my favorite of the two):

This skein ended up approximately 275.5 yards, so about a dozen or so yards longer than the first skein. Still, they're pretty well matched, which is good, as I'm planning to use them together. Here's what they look like side by side:

You can definitely see the autumn/spring-like color difference. My thought at this point is to do a two-color brioche cowl, though I'm still undecided as to whether I'll match up dark end to dark end or dark to light. I doubt I'd actually start knitting until the fall, so I have a while to ponder. Any opinions will be happily entertained, however.

I'm itching to start spinning something else, but the Tour de Fleece starts in less than a week and I feel like I should wait to start something new. Here's what I'm planning to have on the wheel for the Tour (all are Fat Cat Knits):

Falkland (left) in Gentiane and superwash merino/nylon in Boogaloo, both to be spun into three-ply sock yarn

Polwarth in Mon Ami, to be spun into a two-ply fractal lace or light fingering

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Pattern Release: Leventry

When I'm working on a pattern, often I'm so excited about it that it becomes my favorite design. However, this time, I think this really may be my most favorite of all the things I've designed to date. Meet Leventry:

Leventry started as my personal design challenge for Mad May in the Ravelry Madelinetosh Lovers group. I had picked up two skeins of tosh merino light at my LYS when they announced they were going to stop carrying all madelinetosh yarns and pickings were starting to get slim. These two colors -- Rain Water and Nassau Blue -- just seemed to want to go together. At that point, I had an inkling of what I wanted to do, but the idea wasn't fully fleshed out yet.

In the meantime, I designed my Corbusier Socks and because really enamored with the way lace and ribbing can play with each other. I wanted to see how that combination would work out on a larger scale, so I decided to use it in the band of lace at the bottom of the shawl.

The lace had real texture because it is not stockinette based, so I decided to play up that feature in the rest of the shawl. The lighter color already pops against the darker background, so I emphasized it by doing those stripes in garter stitch. And, to finish the shawl, I added more texture with a picot bind off done on the wrong side. I won't lie, it does take a bit of time to finish that last row, but I love the end result.

As lace shawls go, I think this is a pretty easy one. It's worked from the top down, starting with a garter tab. The top portion is all stockinette and garter, with directional m1's for the increases. The lace portion is both charted and written, and I think (and my testers have confirmed) that it's a fairly intuitive pattern. The only stitches used in the lace are knit, purl, yarnover, and a centered double decrease, so there are no crazy maneuvers to be done.

To knit this shawl, you'll need two skeins of fingering weight yarn. I've estimated roughly 400-420 yds., but my testers have used a bit less; I had leftovers from my two skeins of TML. The finished shawl is a nice size for wrapping around you -- roughly 60.5 inches wide and 30 inches deep. It could easily be adapted to a lighter or slightly heavier yarn.

I really couldn't be happier with how this shawl came out, and I've been so touched by all the positive comments I've gotten on it on Ravelry. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Too Close for Comfort

Last night I finally finished Rainbow's shawl. I was trying to use up as much of the yarn as possible, and boy did I ever cut it close. After binding off the last stitch, this is all the yarn I had left:

There was an intense game of Yarn Chicken being played on that bind off row; for a while, I really thought I wasn't going to have enough and was going to have to find something that wouldn't clash too much to finish the bind off. I knew Rainbow wouldn't care or probably even notice if that happened, but it would bug me. (Actually, if I'm being completely honest, I probably would have tinked back a few rows and done the bind off earlier.) In any case, I made it, so now I just need to weave in the tails and block it. I'm not sure that she'll necessarily need a shawl in the middle of summer, but I know she'll be happy to have it.

Meanwhile, I'm in the middle of Clue 4 on my TTL Mystery Shawl. I'm really enjoying this pattern, though I think my yarn is obscuring it a bit. I'm hoping it'll be easier to see when I block. Kirsten recommended a gradient yarn set for the pattern, but I'm finding that I'm actually liking the solid or nearly solid ones in the spoiler threads. Perhaps one day I'll knit it again in a solid.

I'm getting the itch to cast on for a new design (for which I bought yarn last weekend), but I am forcing myself to wait at least a few days. I am taking this Friday off from work and am planning on doing a little pattern writing in the morning and then spending the rest of the day knitting and catching up on the DVR. I'll give you a preview of the yarn, though:

Isn't it pretty? I'm not usually an orange person, but this color kept calling to me (it's really more of a pumpkin, though, wouldn't you say?). The yarn is Baah! La Jolla, which my LYS only recently started carrying. It's a nice squishy merino, and as it's two ply, it'll be great for lace. I'm excited to start knitting it up!

Stay tuned for a design announcement later this week!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Chains of Wool

(My apologies to Aretha, but once this post title got in my head, I couldn't not use it.)

I have spent the past few days working on finishing up my latest Fat Cat Knits shipment. After I finished up the second bobbin of singles, I started plying the first one. The plying method I'm using for these two skeins is chain plying, sometimes also called Navajo plying. This method uses one bobbin of singles to create a faux three-ply yarn; essentially, you create long loops with the singles (like a single crochet chain) and add twist. The result is what looks like three plies but is actually only one in the sense that it's all the same strand of yarn.

I plied the Vintage bobbin first, as those were the first singles I finished. The singles themselves were very fine, so even the plied yarn was thin when it first came off the bobbin. Here's what it looked like on the niddy noddy at about 24 wraps per inch (solidly in the lace category):

Of course, this is Polwarth, and I was expecting it to poof up significantly in the finishing process. I skeined it up and washed it yesterday morning, and it was dry by the time I got up today. It's now roughly 16 wpi and about 262.5 yards long -- not bad for 2.5 oz.!

It's soft and squishy and wonderful, just as I'd expect Polwarth yarn to be. My hope is to finish plying up the second skein this evening, as I started it yesterday.

I must admit that I'm going to be a little sad when these two skeins are done. I really loved this shipment. But there will be another one coming next month, on top of which I have three other braids of FCK fiber that I'm planning to spin during the Tour de Fleece, so I'm sure there is lots of spinning fun still to be had.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Crazed and Confused

It's been one of those weeks. Work has been busy, the weather has been hot and stormy, and I just can't seem to get any traction on any of my current projects. Behind the scenes, I've been putting the finishing touches on the pattern for my Mad May shawl (hoping to release it next week or early the following week). I have another pattern to try to finish up this weekend. And I'm still trying to finish up the most recent clue for my TTL Mystery Shawl (though that should take just a bit of my time tonight).

On top of all that, have I mentioned that I started running again? The last time I ran with any regularity was about nine years ago, but I've been trying to get back into shape. The Mister has been an avid runner for several years now and likes to run 5Ks, so my goal is to be able to run one with him. There's a run around our neighborhood in October, so that's the target date to be able to run 3.2 miles. Right now, I'm managing just a bit more than a mile at a time (and when I say a bit more, I mean like I finish the block I'm in the middle of when I hit a mile), but I am starting to notice that it's just a tad easier to breathe when I run, so I'm hopeful that I can start to add a little more distance in the next couple of weeks. I started off running just on the weekend, but this week I started doing evening runs as well. I prefer running in the morning because it's cooler and there's less traffic when I have to cross streets, but I will say that I do get a good feeling from running off the day's stress.

The past two evenings were spent trying to finish up my second bobbin of Fat Cat Knits singles, which I did manage to do last night. I did do a bit of knitting last night as well, but it's a swatch for a submission, so I can't show you (not that it'd be all that interesting to see at this point anyway). Will you settle for a pretty bobbin shot until I have some actual knitting to show you?

I'm hoping that this weekend I'll be able to focus on one project or another and actually accomplish something. Then perhaps I can shake this funk I'm in -- I want to feel excited about my knitting again! Of course, the Tour de Fleece (also known as the three weeks or so when I pretty much ignore my knitting) is coming up soon. I'm guessing that's probably exactly when my knitting mojo will return.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Project Juggling

In case you were wondering, I did end up finishing the sock with yarn to spare. The socks have been blocked and are now awaiting their photo shoot. Now that those are out of the way, I finally started the mate to my current pair of handspun socks, though all I have to show for it is a cuff.

After spinning a lot over the weekend, I returned to my TTL Mystery Shawl yesterday (the clues arrive on Sundays, but I wait until Monday so I can print them out). I worked on it during lunch yesterday and today and a bit last night; another day should see me through to the end of the clue. This clue is only 32 rows long, but the rows are getting much longer now.

I'm still quite enjoying how the yarn is striping, though having seen some other shawls on the TTL board, I think the pattern might show up better in a solid color. Still, I'm happy to be using my handspun, and I think the look of this will be vastly improved by blocking.

I also put in some time on Rainbow's shawl, which is rapidly approaching the end. After the light blue that I'm working with, there are just sections of orange and yellow. I'm planning on knitting a garter border at the bottom and that will be it.

I did spend a little bit of time over the weekend working on my Sople, but I've reached the bottom of the body, which consists of cables and twisted ribbing worked on size 3 needles, so it's become somewhat of a slog. I don't usually mind knitting sweaters in the summer, but I think the fact that it'll be months before I can actually wear this is preventing me from getting excited about finishing it. I predict that this is a project I'll get out about once a week, spend an hour or so on, and then put it away. It'll get done eventually, probably when the weather starts to cool down.

I will continue plugging away at these projects this week, in addition to swatching for a submission and perhaps starting a baby gift that needs to get done soon, but I'm also fantasizing about future projects. My Mad May prize arrived on Friday and I can't stop petting it and thinking about what it will grow up to be.

This is six skeins of tosh dream alpaca dk (a 50% wool/50% alpaca blend) in the colorway Jasper. At 1200 yards, that's probably enough for a decent sized sweater; I'm thinking of something cozy and drapey, because this blend should be very warm. At the top of my list at present is Amy Christoffers' Bailey Cardigan, which has been in my favorites for some time, though I expect I will do a lot of pattern searching for the fun of it.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

It's All About the Gradients

I'm posting a little on the early side today because we're planning on spending the afternoon poolside and I'm sure I'll be rushed to get everyone ready for the week when we're back this evening.

In any case, I've been spending a awful lot of time at my wheel the past few days, and as a result, there is a lot of progress to show. It helped that I was home from work on Friday and spent at least a few hours at the wheel in total.

For starters I finished up the first bobbin of singles of my most recent Fat Cat Knits fiber club shipment. This was the more autumnal gradient called Vintage.

The lightest end of the fiber is what's showing here; I started with the dark end, which was a deep, russet-y red color.

On Friday, I started in on the more springlike fiber, a colorway called Retro Chic. As with the first bobbin, I started with the darker end of the top, a dark, plummy purple. That transitioned into a deep pink, which in turn transitioned into an apricot.

The next and final color in the sequence is a bright and cheerful yellow. If I can get in a bit more time at the wheel this evening, it's possible that I might actually finish this bobbin. Then will begin the process of chain plying (I'm probably going to do it on the miniSpinner to expedite the process a bit). My goal is to get both skeins finished by next weekend.

Speaking of gradients, I've been meaning to share my most recent acquisition, also a Fat Cat Knits polwarth braid. This is called Mon Ami, and it's the colorway of the month. There were two dyeing options for this colorway, and I chose the gradient. I'm pretty sure I'm going to spin this as a fractal two ply.

Pretty, isn't it? I'm tempted to throw it on the wheel next, but I think I'm going to save it for the Tour de Fleece, which will be here before we know it!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Playing Yarn Chicken

I've been working on my Knit Picks socks for the last couple of days, and I've reached that stage where I play chicken with what's left of my yarn -- you know, where you knit faster because you think that will help you to finish before the yarn runs out? I did weigh the first sock after it was finished as well as the remaining yarn, and I should have several grams leftover, but the ball that's left is starting to look awfully small.

If I run out before finishing the toe on this sock, I'll be in a bit of a pickle. I'm not sure I'd be able to get more yarn, so I'd probably have to chop off a bit of the cuffs to get enough yarn. I really don't want to have to do that, so keep your fingers crossed.

Tomorrow I'm taking the day off (I have a couple of personal days that go poof at the end of the month if I don't use them, so I'm taking two Fridays off for myself). I have an errand or two to run, but mostly I'm planning on spending the day doing crafty things. One thing that I'd like to get done before the end of the month is carding up my Rambouillet fleece. I bought a flicker brush at my LYS last weekend (I didn't think the dog brush I had was going to cut it for an entire fleece), so my plan is to flick open the locks and then drumcard them. Ideally, I'd have a bunch of batts ready to spin up for the Tour de Fleece. I haven't touched the fleece since I finished washing it up (which was more than a year ago, because I did it before we started our basement renovation project last summer), and I'd forgotten just how pretty it is. I'm really hoping I don't destroy it trying to drumcard it!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Keeping Pace

The second clue of the Through the Loops Mystery Shawl came out over the weekend (though I didn't actually get to look at it until Monday), so I am working to keep up with that. I am nearly done with this portion. The rows are now getting noticeably longer.

I'm still very much enjoying how the colors are playing in the yarn, and the color changes combined with lace mean that I'm thinking "Just one more row!" quite a bit.

Meanwhile, I spent a bit of time working on my Sople over the weekend. I'm just about ready to start working in the third skein of yarn, and I'm about four rows from switching over to a smaller needle for the ribbing and cables at the bottom of the body. That means that I'm nearly done with the body! I'm excited to get to the sleeves -- it's been a while since I did top-down set-in sleeves, and the last go-round didn't work out too well, as I recall. I have faith that this time will be better.

Finally, I gave my Knit Picks socks some attention over the weekend, and as I result I'm on the heel flap of the second sock. These will go back into rotation as my lunchtime knitting once I'm finished  with the Mystery Shawl for the week, and my hope is to have them done and ready to be photographed by the weekend.

In other news, remember the shawl I designed and knit for Mad May? I'm very happy to report that it won the Mad May original design contest! I also have the pattern in testing right now, and one of my testers has already finished (would you believe she knit the entire thing in five days?). Everyone else seems to be well on their way, and it's possible they'll be done before the deadline. The plan is to release the pattern by the end of the month (or, at the very latest, by the beginning of July). There's been a lot of interest on Ravelry -- I even had someone PM me yesterday to show me the yarn she's already bought for it! -- so needless to say, I am getting anxious to get it out into the world.

Sunday, June 08, 2014


Okay, I know I said I was intending to spin more during the past week. Unfortunately, that did not happen. I usually spin on Friday nights, and I was planning to do so this past Friday evening (I even had a Netflix movie ready to be watched), but it was my night to put Rainbow to sleep and she just did not cooperate, so it was almost 9 o'clock by the time I left her room. I settled for a little TV and some sock knitting.

Today, however, I finally got my chance. We were all up early, two of us went for a run, and then we spent the better part of the day running errands. When we got back around 3, both Rainbow and the Mister passed out for at least two hours. That was my chance to sit down at the wheel, and as a result of that time, I'm nearly finished spinning up my bobbin of singles.

Fat Cat Knits "Vintage" on Polwarth
I have about six inches of top left to spin, and as soon as this is posted, I'll be sitting down to finish it up. I'm excited to finish this bobbin and start in on the other colorway!

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Jump Around

One of the symptoms of my current bout of startitis seems to be an inability to focus on any one project for any sustained period of time. As a result, I've been jumping from one project to the next the past few days.

On Tuesday evening, I finished up the first clue of the TTL Mystery Shawl. I quite like how it turned out (and know it'll look even better when it gets blocked).

Last night was knit night, and as I couldn't decide what to work on, I took three projects with me. I started the evening by Kitchenering the toe of my first Knit Picks sock, which I'd finished knitting at lunch. Then I spent a bit working on Rainbow's shawl, which is easy but -- let's face it -- a little boring. At least I got past the point where I had frogged my original experiment.

For the last hour or so of the evening, I pulled out my Sople and did a handful of rows on the bottom of the body. I've just started the stitch pattern at the bottom of the sweater, so the end is in sight. Amazingly, I'm still using only the second skein of yarn, though it is starting to look noticeably smaller.

Tonight I'm headed to the Ravelry night at my LYS, and I'm going specifically to meet up with Jan of the Twinset Designs podcast, who's in town for a conference. I'm not sure what I want to knit on tonight, either, so I'll be taking the bag with all the projects once again. Supposedly variety is the spice of life and all that, but I'm hoping I can focus on one of these projects so that I can make some actual progress on it.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Inspiration and Startitis

On Sunday, I took an all-day class with the amazing Sivia Harding, who was in town this past weekend to teach several classes through my LYS. The class was a side-to-side lace shawl design class, and it was a blast. If you ever get a chance to take a class with Sivia, do it. She's a wonderfully patient teacher and very giving of her knowledge and talents.

We discussed things like the elements of a shawl of this type, different styles of edgings, rates of increases/decreases, and bead placement (if you know Sivia's designs, you know she's a big fan of beads). We sketched and we swatched, and while I didn't come up with a finished design or even necessarily the beginning of one, I have a lot of ideas. Here is my swatch, though it's not necessarily the color/bead combination I would have chosen (I went with yarn and beads that would be easy to see while I worked) and it hasn't been blocked:

I will be playing around with this construction a lot more in the coming months, I suspect.

Meanwhile, I've been fighting with a bout of startitis -- quite simply, I want to cast on a million things. I wound three skeins of handspun over the weekend that were intended for new projects. The first was the skein of BFL handspun that's already becoming a shawl for Rainbow, as you saw in my last post. The second was spun several years ago and is destined to become a baby gift. The third was also spun two or three years ago and has been cast on for the Through the Loops 2014 Mystery Shawl, which I started yesterday.

The yarn is Targhee from Mountain Colors that I spun as a fractal, so the colors are going to slowly fade into one another as they change. The recommended yarn for the shawl was a gradient set, so I figured this was a close approximation. Using this yarn is reminding me how much I enjoy knitting with handspun. I've done it recently with socks, but sock yarn tends to be rather dense in order to be longer lasting; this stuff is fluffy and sproingy and delightful. It's a bit lighter than fingering, so my fabric is likely not going to be as dense as those being knit in commercial yarn, but I love how it's turning out. I am nearly done with the first clue, so I'll have to wait for the weekend for the next installment.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Making Up for Lost Time

After barely touching anything spinning-related for most of the month of May, I spent a lot of time behind my wheel last week. First, I finished spinning up the very bright Gale's Art BFL singles and plied them into an almost shockingly bright skein of yarn.

The yardage was a little on the low side for socks (~316 yards), which is just fine because I think socks knit from this yarn would be way too loud for my taste. Although I'd split the fiber randomly into thirds, the colors aligned for much of this skein, making for very distinct bright orange and yellow sections. Luckily, I live with a 4-year-old who loves bright colors and has requested that I knit her a shawl of her own. Perfect!

I started out playing around with the design, but it wasn't coming out anything like I hoped, so I ripped back to the beginning and started with a basic top-down triangle. This is something I can knit without having to think, which is much needed after some very busy days.

Meanwhile, once that was off the wheel, I started in on the first braid from the May Fat Cat Knits Mixed Blessings club. As reminder, here's what the two braids looked like:

I started with Vintage, the braid on the inside of the swirl, starting with the chocolate brown end. After a couple of evenings, I'd gotten into the rusty red/orange section.

I'm spinning fine singles with the plan to chain ply when I'm done to preserve the color progression. This fiber is Polwarth, so I'm planning on it poofing up to a heavier fingering or perhaps even a sport weight after washing. That's always the fun part with Polwarth!