Sunday, May 31, 2015

I Plied All the Things

If you took a quick look at the pictures in today's post, you'd think I'd done nothing but spin in the past week. I did spend a fair amount of time at the wheel this week, but really what happened is that there was a three-day weekend last weekend plus I had a bunch of singles done that just needed to be plied. In other words, I had a plying party this week.

First, there was the coordinating skein to go with the one you saw last Sunday. This is Fat Cat Knits Targhee in Pepperspark -- the butterfly to go with last week's caterpillar. Like the first skein, it's fingering weight. This one is 274 yards.

And here's the pair together:

Once that skein was finished, I started plying the next two bobbins, which just happened to contain the next shipment of the FCK fiber club. These colors were called After the Fire and New Growth, representing the remains of a forest fire and then the rebirth of the forest. I spun both bobbins the same way: Each contained half of each color, spun end to end, and then the singles were chain plied. The fiber was 80% superwash merino/20% nylon, so naturally I decided to spin for socks. One skein will make each sock, and they should match, more or less.

In total, I have a little more than 500 yards, so my spinning was pretty consistent over both shipments and I was able to get roughly 100 yards per ounce of fiber.

I decided to throw something new on the wheel right away, though technically it's not really new. I bought this braid of Falkland last year at Maryland Sheep and Wool from Three Waters Farm. It's called Flowering Courtyard.

I've decided to spin another self-striping (sort of) sock yarn, so I split the top lengthwise into four pieces and am spinning them in order. I'm already about a quarter of the way through the singles.

There's been some fiber stash enhancement in the past week, but I'll save that for next Sunday!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Closer than I Thought

When you're knitting a sweater in fingering weight yarn, it always seems like you have a long way to go. That has certainly been the case with my Airflow, especially during the long rows of the body when there were increases thrown in for good measure. I sat down the other night to tackle the second section of short rows (two sets of them are worked on the fronts so that those sections hang lower than the back), fully prepared to only get through part of them, and completely surprised myself by finishing the whole section. That means that all that's left to do on the body is the 1x1 ribbing at the bottom.

Now, this isn't just any ribbing. This is 1x1 twisted ribbing, which means a bit of knitting gymnastics (purling through the back leg) on every other row. But I only need to do about an inch of it, so I'm hoping it won't take too long. Once the body is done, the sleeves should be relatively quick -- after all, there are fewer stitches and they're worked in stockinette in the round. The pattern has two sleeve length options, and I'm going for the longer sleeves, but those are still only three-quarter length. I'm still trying to decide what to do about the rolling fronts, though at this point I might delay that decision until the sleeves are done and I see how much yarn is leftover.

I have been working on the new shawl during my lunch break at work this week and have managed roughly two repeats per sitting. I'm not exactly sure how many I need to do (this is one of those design-on-the-needles projects), but I'm thinking it's likely to be in the neighborhood of 30 to 40. I want this shawl to be a good width when it's done, though given the spring of the yarn, I think I can block it out a fair amount bigger.

My Stash Dash progress has slowed somewhat this week, though I think my first weekend of activity gave me a good initial burst. My current total is 658 meters, but that will likely go up to closer to 1,000 by the weekend, as I should have two more skeins of handspun done by then. If I can get this sweater done soon, I'll get a nice push toward 5,000!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

More In than Out

Given that I'm participating in Stash Dash, you would think that my focus would be on using up the yarn I already have. Yes, you would think that, but I apparently did not. Despite the fact that I'm "supposed" to be knitting from my stash as much as possible, I did a bit of stash enhancement this weekend. In my defense, these were not impulse purchases but rather acquisitions for specific projects.

First, I picked out three skeins of Cascade 220 Superwash in a bright pink to make Rainbow a Berry Season Cardigan.

I was originally going to use stash yarn (an old, now discontinued Knit Picks yarn), but then I realized it was not superwash. Knowing my kid, it's very likely I'm going to need to machine wash the sweater at some point, so I thought this was the better option. I will likely swatch at some point this week, but I won't be casting on for this sweater until June 1, as I'll be knitting it as part of the 90% Knitting podcast Alphabet Knitalong.

Those skeins weren't the only ones that came home with me, though. I also bought these two skeins of Yarn Hollow Tango, a super luscious blend of Polwarth and silk. I picked up two colors (Green Metal Roof and Eggplant) to be used in a design -- so it's a totally justifiable business expense, right?

The Ravelry page for this yarn says it comes in a put-up of 662 yards, but the labels on the skeins I bought say 330 yards. That's still pretty generous yardage.

Lest you think all I've been doing is buying yarn, let me give you some proof that some knitting has been happening. For starters, I finished the Madelinetosh hat. It was washed and blocked over the weekend, and I managed to get the Mister to take a quick photo of it yesterday (toward the end of the day, when I was a bit worn out).

I'm really happy with how this ended up. I have one more skein of Tosh DK left in my stash, so I might knit up a smaller size for Rainbow, perhaps substituting beads for the bobbles.

I also finished the short rows on one side of my sweater and hope to start the short rows on the other side this evening. I'll spare you a photo because it looks pretty much the same as the last time you saw it, but I can show you a photo of a new project I cast on yesterday:

If this looks a bit familiar, it's because it's adapted from my Ravessa Scarf pattern. I've decided take part of the stitch pattern and turn it into a shawl. The edging (which is what you see here) is knit first, and then stitches will be picked up along the side and knit using short rows to shape the body. The yarn is Jill Draper Makes Stuff Esopus that I picked up at MDSW last year, and I just love how it's knitting up. The tight ply makes for such amazing stitch definition.

Speaking of shawls, I did want to mention a knitalong that will be happening in my Ravelry group this summer. I'm hosting what I'm calling the Shawl-for-All from June 1 through August 31. All of my shawl patterns are eligible for the KAL, and I'm offering a discount on all my shawl patterns (including my e-book of shawls) from June 1 to 15. You can find more details and the discount code here. I do hope you'll join us!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Yarn Go Poof

One of the joys of working with finer fibers in spinning is the transformation they can undergo in the finishing process. One of the characteristics of many fine fibers is a fine crimp in the locks of the wool. Usually the finer the fiber, the finer the crimp. A benefit of this crimp is that yarn spun from crimpy fiber often puffs up when it's washed, in large part because the water allows the memory to return to the fiber -- the fiber, in other words, tries to go back to its original form, and the result can be a lovely squishy yarn.

That was certainly the case with the skein that came off the wheel yesterday. After allowing the singles to sit for several days, I finally chain plied my Hungry Horace Targhee. It came off the wheel as a thin fingering, perhaps even laceweight in some places. But after it got its bath, it poofed up to this sproingy stuff:

I am completely thrilled with this skein. The colors are obviously gorgeous -- I never doubt Ginny's color sense. But the squoosh factor on this skein is pretty amazing. I actually made the Mister squeeze it when I grabbed it from the upstairs bathroom where it was drying this morning.

This 2.5 oz. skein ended up being approximately 251 yards after washing (it did shrink quite a bit, as you would expect). I plied up its sister skein, Pepperspark, this afternoon and washed it, and it looks like I should have that much yardage or better, meaning I'll get more than 500 yards out of my 5 oz., exactly what I was aiming for.

I could have kept plying, as I finished up the first bobbin of After the Fire/New Growth combination singles on Friday night:

I decided to spin the second bobbin of singles, though, so I can have another marathon plying session when both bobbins are done.

When the current bobbin is finished, I will have officially spun up all the Fat Cat Knits fiber in my stash -- but not for long. The Tour de Fleece is coming in a little more than a month, and as I've signed up for the FCK team, I thought it was appropriate to order a little bit of fiber to work on. There's some pretty stuff coming, but you'll have to wait until it gets here to see it.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Getting Ready to Dash

My knitting has not changed much since last I posted. I did not get to knit during lunch yesterday (we had a work lunch function, so that meant I didn't get my alone time to knit), so my progress on my hat has been limited. I should still be able to finish it up by the weekend, though, so all is good on that front.

Last night was knit night for my little group, and it was a meeting I was finally able to get to (the Mister has been out of town or at work events for a lot of meeting dates recently). I spent the evening working on my Airflow. I managed to reach the required body length and just start on the short row section for the first front before it was time to go home. Once the short row sections are done, all that will be left on the body is the ribbing at the bottom (I think it's only about an inch), so the sweater is moving right along. It doesn't look much different from the last time you saw it, so how about a picture of pretty yarn instead?

Fibernymph Dye Works Bounce self-striping in Doubletree

I recently started watching the KnitGirllls video podcast (with some difficulties, because my iPod is apparently too old to handle some of the video files). If you watch or watch or listen to other podcasts, you may have heard of their Stash Dash competition. The idea is to challenge yourself to finish projects during the summer, and you can choose a goal for yourself (3K, 5K, or 10K). I've decided to sign up this year, and I'm setting myself a rather lofty goal of 5K -- it seemed fitting, given that it's also my running goal. Things that have been started prior to the kickoff of Stash Dash count toward your goal as long as they're finished during the competition, which is part of the reason I haven't tried to finish the hat sooner or plied some of the singles I've been spinning. I'm going to try to use this event as a good excuse to try to burn through some of my stash (both yarn and fiber). As the Tour de Fleece falls in the middle of it, I'll have two good excuses to do a lot of spinning. Stash Dash officially starts tomorrow, so don't be surprised if there's a sudden uptick in my knitting and spinning activity.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Less than Anticipated

In case you were wondering, it is not really possible to hold an ice pack to your face and knit simultaneously.

I spent last Friday recovering from my oral surgery (gum grafts on two sites), and though I had high hopes of knitting all day, that didn't really happen (though I did get caught up on the DVR). I thought I remembered knitting a lot last time I went through this, but then again I only had one graft that time, on a tooth right at the front, so I think I spent the day after the surgery lying down with a bag of frozen peas leaning against my chin and my hands were pretty much free. This time it didn't work out as well.

I managed to squeeze in a round or two on my hat in between icing sessions, but I realized later that I didn't like how the pattern was knitting up and ripped back to the brim, so my net knitting progress was pretty much zero. Now, though, I'm trying something else and liking it much better, but I'll save a full reveal for when it's completely done (I hope by later in the week).

While I did spend most of the weekend spinning, I did pull my Airflow out and have worked on it the past two evenings. I finished all the back increases and have just a handful of rows left to do before I start the short row sections of the fronts.

The one thing I'm not loving about this sweater is the front edges. I knew to expect rolling because it's all stockinette, but it might be a bit too much for me. I'm thinking about maybe picking up stitches all along the fronts and around the neck and doing something like applied I-cord. I'll wait until everything is done before making a decision, but it's something to think about.

Meanwhile, I finally wound a skein of yarn I bought at MDSW last year (Jill Draper Makes Stuff Esopus in Greyhound) for a new shawl, which will likely be cast on as soon as the hat is done.

This stuff is super squishy and bouncy, so I'm hoping it'll work well for what I have planned. The skein is a whopping 500 yards, too, so it will make a nice big shawl.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Singles Party

Usually when I'm spinning, I'm anxious to get to the plying stage because I want to see the finished yarn. Lately, though, I've been more into spinning the singles and admiring them on the bobbin. Last week you saw the start of my Hungry Horace singles. They were finished up earlier this week.

I really like this bobbin shot because you can see all the colors in the fiber at once. It's not a full rainbow, but it does have a lot of bright colors that make me happy.

As soon as those singles were done, I started in on the other colorway, Pepperspark. (In this pairing of colorways, Hungry Horace is supposed to be the caterpillar and Pepperspark the butterfly.) This colorway has fewer shades -- deep purple to blue to a bit of greeny yellow to dark pink -- but I love it just as much.

My plan for both of these bobbins is to chain ply to preserve the colors, but as I was finishing up the second bobbin, it occurred to me that it might be fun to spun up a bunch of bobbins of singles first and then do a marathon plying session of all of them. It works out well because I've also decided to chain ply my most recent Fat Cat Knits shipment, a duo called After the Fire and New Growth (you can see the fiber in this entry). As the names imply, the colors look like ashes and charred trees left behind after forest fiber and the beginnings of regrowth, respectively. Because I got the sock blend fiber (superwash merino and nylon), I thought it would be fun to spin two skeins that would more or less match for two somewhat-matching socks that transition from one colorway to the other. So I split each braid in two down the middle and rolled them up into two balls of fiber.

The plan is to spun up both batches of fiber and then start chain plying all four bobbins. With any luck, I'll be able to start the plying (or at least be getting close to it) by next weekend.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

I Made a Thing

When I finished my handspun socks last week, I was kind of at a loss for what to do next. I still had a fair amount of handspun leftover, and I needed something to work on during lunch on Friday, so I decided to knit a tube. You saw it in progress earlier this week, but now it's officially done.

I didn't use any pattern for this; I simply estimated how many stitches I'd need based on the socks and made adjustments as needed along the way. This is such a non-thing, really, that I didn't even bother to make a Ravelry project page for it. So, what is it? I'm intending to use it as a soft case for my sunglasses (they came with a hard case, but it's rather big and does not fit into a smaller purse). It also works well as a sock for a cell phone, if you need such a thing. The "pattern," if you can call it one, was simple: I cast on 60 stitches, knit five rounds, purled a round, knit five more rounds, and joined the cast-on edge on the next round for a turned hem. Then I knit until it was long enough to cover my sunglasses. Before grafting, I did a couple of decrease rounds as I would at the beginning of a sock toe. Easy peasy lemon squeezy, as my daughter would say. It's not much, but it was a way to use more of this beautiful yarn (and there's still a bit left of it, if you can believe it -- it's like the magical skein that never ends).

So after that was done, I needed a new small-ish project for my lunch knitting. I decided to cast on for a new hat, another Madelinetosh original design for Mad May. I'd sketched out an idea for the stitch pattern earlier in the week, so I decided to give it a try. I happened to have a skein of tosh DK in Dr. Zhivago's Sky already wound, and I cast on after putting Rainbow to bed. Unfortunately, the sketch I'd made had disappeared, and once I redid it, I realized that the number of stitches I had cast on was not a multiple of the stitch count for the pattern. Oops. So I ripped and started over, and that's why there's not much to see here.

This hat isn't going to be terribly complicated. The stitch pattern is a mix of twisted knit stitches and purls -- I guess you could say that I haven't gotten the twisted stitch obsession out of my system just yet.

Tomorrow is my gum surgery, and while I'm not exactly looking forward to it, I will say that I don't mind having to lay low for a couple of days. I have about four episodes of Mad Men to catch up on and a lot of sweater knitting to do.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Somewhere in the Middle

I have been all about the spinning in the past week or so, and that means knitting, while it continues, has taken a bit of a back seat. Still, progress is being made, albeit slowly.

My main knitting project has been my Airflow, on which I'm somewhere in the middle. I'm partway through the back increases, and it's actually starting to resemble a sweater. Oh, and it fits, too.

This project should get a lot of attention this Friday, when I'll be home all day following gum surgery in the morning (fortunately it's a relatively minor procedure, but I have to take it easy for a day or two afterward to avoid any bleeding issues). My plan is to sit and knit and catch up on the DVR for the day. I actually had the same procedure done a couple of years ago, and I spent my recovery time working on my Breezy Cardigan. Seems I have a bit of a theme going with gum surgery and lightweight sweaters.

My lunchtime knitting has been a bit boring. I had a fair amount of my handspun leftover after finishing the socks, so I decided to try to knit it up. I'm basically just knitting a tube (though I started with a folded hem), and I'll use it as a soft sunglasses case or something when it's done.

Not terribly exciting, I know, but it's something. I have to figure out something to knit next during my lunch breaks, and I'm tempted to start another pair of handspun socks (despite the fact that my sock drawers are full to bursting and I'll have to cull some older pairs to make room for the new ones first).

Did I show you the cowl I made while I was away for MDSW? I don't think I did. It doesn't have a name yet, and I only have the barest of notes for how I knit it, but eventually I'll sit down and put together a proper pattern.

I knit this for the Madelinetosh Lovers Mad May original design contest. It's an idea I'd been thinking about for a while, so I figured this event was as good a time as any to try it out. I used a bit more than half a skein of tosh merino DK in Warm Mushroom, a skein I won in some event or other several years back. I think something may have been nibbling on it at some point, because I found several areas where the yarn looked a bit frayed (it's a singles yarn, so it looked like several fibers had been snagged). I'd like to make another version of this in a longer length -- more of an infinity cowl -- but I'll have to find some more yarn for it. I'm going to try to come up with another original design before the month is over, too, perhaps a hat. Stay tuned!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Color and Sparkle

Ever since I got back from MDSW, I've felt more like spinning than knitting. And that hasn't really been a problem, because there is plenty of fiber to be spun. This past week I finished up two skeins. The first was the other half of the fiber from the first batch of my Fat Cat Knits club shipment. This colorway is called Pepperspark, and like the first skein, I spun it into a two-ply fractal. I spun my singles a bit thicker this time around, so the skein is more of a sport to DK weight.

As with the first skein, I seem to have put a bit too much plying twist into this one, so it's not as neat and tidy as I'd like, but I do love the colors.

This skein is roughly 139 yards, which is a bit less than I was hoping for. Rainbow has requested that I make her fingerless mitts, however, so this might be enough. It will be a while until she needs them, of course, but I think it's a good plan.

As soon as that skein was finished, I sat down to ply the singles I'd finished on my spindle just before leaving for the festival. They were spun from an ounce of punis I'd bought from Gourmet Stash at the festival last year; this batch was a blend of superfine merino, merino, Seacell, cashmere, silk, milk fiber, and just a touch of angelina. Here's what they looked like before:

I spun very fine singles that plied into a laceweight, albeit an uneven one.

This skein may be tiny, but it's really luscious and soft. Seriously, I wish you could pet it through the screen. It ended up being pretty close in yardage to the other Gourmet Stash skein I spun -- 169.5 yards this time compared to 165 yards in the other.

Today the Mister let me have a day to myself, for the most part (after he hosted the family and made us all a scrumptious lunch). He and Rainbow went out to do stuff, and I spent the afternoon spinning. I am working on the second batch of FCK fiber (the batch for me), and I'm spinning fine singles from Hungry Horace. The plan is to chain ply to keep the color progression.

I actually put quite a bit more on the bobbin since I took this picture, and I'm planning on spending a bit more time on it this evening, so it's very likely that it'll be a finished skein the next time you see it!

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Addiction Fed

They say that knitting with self-striping yarn is addictive because you always want just one more stripe. If that's the case, then I'd say that knitting with handspun self-striping yarn is even more addictive, and that's probably why these socks were finished as fast as they were.

Pattern: plain vanilla socks with a 3x2 ribbed cuff and afterthought heel
Yarn: my handspun from Fat Cat Knits 85% superwash merino/15% nylon in Boogaloo, with Knit Picks Essential Kettle Dyed (75% superwash merino/25% nylon) in Soot for cuffs and heels
Needles: US 0 (2.0 mm) circs
Started/Completed: April 22/May 7

There isn't much to say about these socks except that I absolutely love them. They turned out better than I was hoping, and I just know I'm going to wear them to death. This pair was the first time I ever used an afterthought heel, and while I still prefer a traditional heel flap, I was surprised at how well these heels fit, especially given how much I do not care for a short-row heel. Based on how much yarn is leftover, it's possible I would have had enough to do the heels (and perhaps even the cuffs as well) in the handspun, but I'm glad I tried something new.

Now that this pair is complete, I feel like I really need to spin up some more multicolored fiber into self-striping yarn so I can do it again. I certainly haven't gotten the craving out of my system!

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

The Festival Report

I've now had a full day to recover from the weekend, a weekend that was a lot of fun but not at all relaxing. We were up early and running around for much of both days, so it's no wonder I was about ready to collapse when I crawled into bed on Sunday night! It was a great time, though, and the weather was absolutely perfect, so I can't complain. But enough about that; you want to see the loot!

I was actually fairly restrained this year. I have a well-curated stash, so I didn't feel the need to go crazy. The only thing I had on my list was a maintenance kit for my miniSpinner, which I got pretty early on on Saturday. Other than that, my plan was just to stroll around the festival and see what was there, taking home things that really called out to me.

On Saturday, the focus was fiber. One booth I know I wanted to visit was Gale's Art. Last year, Gale had some gorgeous undyed alpaca/silk fiber that I had fondled on Saturday but not purchased, and it was gone when I went back to buy it on Sunday. I wasn't sure if she'd have it this year, but I certainly planned to check. Luck was on my side this time, and 4 oz. of incredibly luscious chocolate alpaca/silk came home with me. I even started spinning it Saturday evening.

I also stopped at the Knitty and Color booth after having seen a preview up online. That photo showed a lot of bright colors, which appealed to me a lot given the socks I've been knitting. I've decided that my new thing when it comes to spinning sock yarn is going to be spinning sort of self-striping yarn, so I thought this braid would work very well. This is superwash merino in the colorway Ain't It Fun!

That 8 oz. of fiber was the sum total of my fibery purchases for Saturday (I also bought a small jar of Justamere Tree Farm maple cream, which is now residing in my refrigerator), so I decided that I really should buy some yarn on Sunday when we headed back.

The Miss Babs booth had been way too crowded to even approach on Saturday, but it was much more manageable on Sunday, so I snuck in and picked up a gradient set for a new design idea. The yarn is probably much prettier out of the bag, but I thought if I took it out, I'd never get it back in neatly, so I'll wait to take it out until I'm ready to wind and use it.

Finally, I made a stop at the Verdant Gryphon booth, where in the past I've often stopped to fondle but rarely purchased. This year, I decided it was high time a skein of Bugga came home with me (this one is in the colorway Persephone).

At least part of this skein is destined to become a Star Anise, a pattern I bought during the Giftalong last year but haven't yet knit.

All in all, I'd say it was a really good year. I could have gone crazy and bought a lot more, but I kept reminding myself about the size of my stash and restrained myself. Perhaps this year I'll actually manage to use what I bought before it's time for the next festival!

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Hungry Horace

Just a quick post today, because I am just back from Maryland Sheep and Wool and have a bunch of housekeeping to catch up on. But it is Sunday, and I have spinning.

I finished one colorway of one of my Fat Cat Knits Mixed Blessings shipments last weekend. The theme for this round of the club is "Transformation," so the two colorways reflect that in some way. In this pair, Hungry Horace is meant to be the caterpillar (the other colorway, Pepperspark, is supposed to be the butterfly). This skein ended up roughly sport weight and 198 yards for my 2 oz. I was expecting the Targhee to puff up a bit more in the finishing, but it seems like I may have put in a little too much plying twist. Nevertheless, I am happy with how this ended up as a fractal. There's just enough barberpoling in this skein.

The second skein is also under way, and I'm hoping to finish it up this week.

Meanwhile, while I was away, my next shipment showed up. It's a much more subtle pairing than the first shipment, but I love it.

These colorways are called After the Fire and New Growth, and you can definitely see what looks like charred wood in one color and new leaves in the other.

I picked the superwash merino/nylon base for this shipment, so I think I'm going to spin sock yarn. I'll split each color in half and spin one half of each on each bobbin. Then I'll chain ply so that the yarn will transition from After the Fire into New Growth.

Some other new fiber is now in the house as well, but you'll have to wait for the next post to see it!