Thursday, April 28, 2016

Same Old, Same Old

I'm afraid my knitting isn't very exciting these days. I'm still working on the same two handspun projects, my toe-up socks and my Hitofude. Both are seeing progress -- I'm halfway through the heel of the second sock and I've added another lace repeat to the sweater.

When you don't have stitch markers when you need them, you make do with what's on hand.

I wouldn't say that I'm getting bored with either of my two current projects, but I am getting the itch to cast on something new. That's an itch that will soon be scratched, as I'm preparing to cast on for a new design this weekend for Mad May (it's something I've been swatching for this week). I've got a skein of Tosh Merino Light in the stash that will soon become a new shawl.

Today I received a package in the mail that I'm hoping will help to speed up my handspun production -- a new-to-me WooLee Winder and three bobbins for my Lendrum.

I'd been thinking about getting a WW for my first wheel for a while now, as I really enjoy spinning on it but find the stopping to move the yarn guide a bit disruptive to my spinning flow. The WW will allow me to spin continuously and will be especially helpful when I'm trying to fit an entire batch of fiber on one bobbin. I acquired this through a detash on Ravelry that I happened to spot at just the right moment.

At this time next week, I'll be packing for Maryland Sheep and Wool, so that means that this weekend I should probably take a good look at my stash and figure out what I can allow myself to buy at the festival. So far the only thing on my list is some honey to bring home to the family. Other than that, I expect that I'll just be doing a lot of browsing and perhaps making an impulse purchase or two. And I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the weather cooperates for a pleasant weekend!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

It's Good to Try New Things

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, then you know that I consider myself to be a serious sock knitter. Moreover, I am a serious cuff-down sock knitter. I've done a few pairs of toe-up socks in the past, but I was never fully satisfied with them. They never fit me quite as well as a cuff-down pair, and there was always the issue with the bind off being just a tad too tight.

Because I've gotten to the point where I can pretty much knit a pair of cuff-down socks in my sleep, I decided that I should really challenge myself and try something different. The impetus for this was twofold: First, I'd bought the pattern for the Fish Lips Kiss Heel a bit ago after hearing about it on podcast after podcast, with many hosts encouraging people to buy the very affordable pattern (only $1!) to support the designer, who's currently battling breast cancer. Second, I had a skein of handspun just begging to be made into socks but with somewhat limited yardage, so toe up seemed like the way to go. So I did it. And I'm happy to say that I'm very pleased with the results.

I finished the first sock on Sunday evening and it fits perfectly! Coincidentally, I'd been watching the latest episode of the Snappy Stitches podcast that afternoon, and Chrissy had mentioned that she'd used the Miraculous Elastic Bind Off on her latest handspun socks. I'd never heard of this bind off before, but it seemed like exactly what I was looking for. It's a variation of the lace bind off I generally use on shawls, and it's extremely stretchy. The top of the sock does flare a bit when it's off the foot, but that goes away once it's worn.

I haven't been all that pleased with the fit of short-row heels in the past, but I like this one. My only concern is that there is no added reinforcement like you get with a heel flap, so I'm worried that I might wear through the back of the heel sooner with this heel. I might restrict my use of this heel to more durable yarns (this handspun is a slightly coarse and very woolly Corriedale) and stick to my tried-and-true heel flap for superwash merino and the like.

I've started the second sock in the pair, and after a couple of false starts on the toe (first I messed up the cast on, then I was doing my increases differently than on the first sock), I'm cruising up the foot. I weighed was left of my yarn after the first sock was done and I have plenty left -- there should even be some leftovers once the pair is complete.

Meanwhile, I'm still working on my Hitofude, and I've now completed nine repeats of the lace pattern and moved on to the third color in the gradient. I can usually get through one repeat or so in an evening of knitting, so my hope is that I will be able to finish the sleeves before Maryland Sheep and Wool. I'll have the whole trip down and back to knit, plus the the evenings when we're sitting in our hotel room, so I'd like to get the awkward three-needle bind off out of the way before then.

I'm starting to get very excited for the trip, even though it's more than a week away. I'm ignoring, for now, the fact that I've hardly used what I bought last year; I don't think I'll be buying very much this year, actually. I'm just looking forward to having a weekend away with my girlfriends, none of whom will care if I spend hours and hours knitting!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

I Need to Spin Faster

I thought that by limiting myself to my two fiber clubs and not buying additional fiber, I'd finally make a dent in my fiber stash. I think I need to spin more and faster if I'm actually going to do that.

After I finished the two batches of Southern Cross Fibre Comeback wool, I turned my attention the most recent shipment of the FatCatKnits club. The theme for this go-round is Under the Sea, so all the colorways are inspired by aquatic life. As a reminder, here's what the fiber looked like:

Sea Anenome (left) and Cinnamon Clownfish (right)

I liked the colorway on the left better, so I decided to start with the one on the right, figuring my desired to get to the preferred colorway would be good motivation to get through it. I had decided to spin each colorway on its own, from end to end, and chain ply. I just finished up the first bobbin this afternoon:

I thought I should let it rest a bit before attempting to ply, so I started right in on the second bobbin:

I feel obligated to point out that the little purple bump you see there is some fiber that was stuck to the end of the leader, not a giant nepp or something. As you can see, I've only just started this bobbin, so there's not much on there yet. I'm spinning fine singles that look like they should ply up to a light fingering, but as this is Targhee, I'm counting on it poofing up some in the finishing.

I had a bit of a surprise when I got home on Friday, and while it was not unwelcome, it's not helping the fiber stash situation any. I'd completely forgotten that I'd ordered a couple of coordinates for the March SCF shipment -- Silver Mine:

and Phaser Plum:

I think perhaps I'd better spend some extra time at the wheel this week just to keep things under control. After all, Maryland Sheep and Wool is coming up in less than two weeks, and there's no telling what might follow me home!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Adventures in Heel Knitting

I've been knitting socks for a long time, and I've knit a lot of socks. I've tried different methods and styles in that time and have always seemed to come back to a traditional top-down heel flap sock. It's just something I can do without having think. Doing the same thing again and again can leave you in a bit of a rut, though, so I felt like it was a good thing to do for myself as a sock knitter to try something new.

The Fish Lips Kiss Heel has been out for nearly three years, and in the past few months it has seemed like every podcaster I watch or listen to has been doing it. It seemed like it was high time I give it a try. I'm really not sure why I hesitated for so long -- after all, the pattern costs only a dollar and is very detailed -- other than the fact that I have not had great luck with short-row heels in the past. It did not seem like a huge sacrifice to try it on one pair of socks (I do wear my other socks with short-row heels, even if they're not my favorite), and I figured that knitting that pair in handspun would make it more enjoyable. So I dutifully had the Mister trace my foot to make my template, did all my measurements and calculations, and cast on.

I made quick work of the foot, no doubt in part because the way I spun the yarn makes me knit faster to see the colors change. By this morning, I was ready to start the heel, and it only took me a couple of rows to get the hang of it. By this evening, I had a completed heel.

I do like the look of this heel and found it easy to knit, but time will tell if I really like it. I've got to wear the socks a bit and get a better sense for how they fit my foot. If I like them, I can see myself using this heel method a lot, especially when I'm knitting with handspun and want to use up as much as possible. Is it crazy to think that I might become a converted toe-up sock knitter?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

I Kouyou'd

It turns out that when you work on something a lot, you finish it sooner than you thought you would!

Pattern: Kouyou by Angela Tong
Yarn: my handspun BFL/silk, approximately 430 yards
Needles: US 4 (3.5 mm) Addi Rockets
Started/Completed: April 2/April 16
Mods: added stockinette rows, changed up the bind off

This pattern was the second in my LYS's Shawl Adventure for the year. I'm attempting to do them all in handspun (or at least partially, in the case of the first pattern). This particular skein had been in my stash a long time, just waiting for the right project to come along. It seemed to work well with this pattern, and knitting with it was certainly a delight.

Because my yarn was so much thinner than either of the weights called for in the pattern, I made two big modifications. First, I went down -- way down -- in needle size. The size of the needle was still big relative to the thickness of the yarn in order to create lace that was actually lacy, but I wanted my stockinette to have some body to it, so I didn't want to go too big. However, because I was going down in both needle size and yarn weight, I added additional stockinette rows to prevent my shawl from coming out kerchief size. I started by following the directions for the largest size in the pattern and then did a bit of math to figure out how many stitches I would need for the lace to work out.

The other modification I made was to the bind off. At first I followed the directions in the pattern, but my bind-off edge was coming out way too inelastic, so I ripped back and started over, this time working the picots as specified but substituting the lace bind off (k2, *slip both stitches back to left needle and k2tog tbl; k1; rep from *) in between. The result is a very stretchy edge that I was able to block aggressively.

I did kind of screw up the picots, and I'm not sure if I miscounted or what, but they don't seem to fall where they're supposed to in order to highlight the lace patterning. I didn't really notice this until I was pinning the shawl out last night, and at that point I wasn't about to unpick the end I'd woven in, tink back, and redo the whole thing. I doubt anyone is going to look that closely, and it's not really bothering me at this point, but it's something I'd certainly pay more attention to if I was knitting this pattern again.

I am pleased that I finally managed to knit with this yarn, though I didn't use it all up (I had a feeling I wouldn't, but I expected to use about 100 yards more than I did). I will have to find something creative to do with what's left.

Because I finished the shawl just before going to bed on Saturday night, I got to Sunday evening and suddenly realized that I only had one project on the needles -- my handspun Hitofude -- and nothing to take to work with me. So I quickly wound up another skein of handspun (this Southern Cross Fibre Corriedale) and cast on for a new pair of socks. I've been meaning to give the Fish Lips Kiss Heel a try for a while now, and this seemed like a perfect opportunity.

I got the whole toe done on Sunday evening (yes, I'm actually knitting a toe-up sock!) and have been speeding along ever since. Watching the colors transition in handspun always seems to make me knit faster, and I'm enjoying this sock immensely. I can't wait to get to the heel and try out the magic!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Come On Get Happy

There are many things in my life that make me happy. Spinning is one of them, mainly because I find it so hypnotic -- it's a great stress reliever. So it made perfect sense when David of Southern Cross Fibre announced a spinalong with the theme of "Get Happy" to spin an easy, straightforward yarn from his fiber. You saw the first skein last week. It didn't take me long to spin and ply my other coordinate, Hibiscus, in an almost matching second skein.

As with the first skein, this is a fingering-to-sport two ply with a nice tight ply twist. It took less time to ply this skein, so I knew I had less yardage, but it turned out to be not that much less (331 as opposed to 369 yards).

I wish you could squish this skein. It's so amazingly bouncy. And spinning this wool (Comeback, an Australian breed) was pure delight. It was all I could do not to pull out another one of my two remaining bags of this fiber and start spinning it right away. But there is other fiber piling up, so I thought I'd do something a little different.

That something different is the first half of my most recent shipment from the FatCatKnits fiber club. This is Targhee, and I decided to spin the two braids separately. I'm splitting each batch of top in half vertically, then spinning one strip after another. I'll chain ply them in the end for some self-striping yarn. I'm spinning Cinnamon Clownfish first; it's my less favorite of the two colors, so I thought it would be good motivation to get it done so I can move on to the other color.

It's a good thing the spinning mojo is staying with me, because more fiber arrive this week! This is March's SCF shipment, a colorway called the Final Frontier on Bond, another yummy fiber.

A certain 6-year-old saw this and immediately asked if she could have it (she wants to learn to spin). I'd say it'll be a while before she'd be up to spinning this, so maybe, if I'm feeling extra generous, I'll spin it and knit something for her. I'm kind of hoping, though, that when I put it away in the stash, she'll forget all about it.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Still More Stripes

The stripe theme continues chez Knit/Wit. First up, a pair of finished striped socks!

Pattern: plain stockinette, with 3x2 ribbed cuff, heel flap and gusset, and wedge toe
Yarn: Fibernymph Dye Works Bounce (80% superwash merino/20% nylon) in Bubblegum, one skein
Needles: US 0/2.0 mm Addi Sock Rockets, magic loop
Started/Completed: March 24/April 12

Not much to say about these except that I'm happy I got them to more or less match without running out of yarn (and with only a bit of fudging). If you look closely at the heels, you'll see that I got just a bit off; to compensate, I pulled out a big loop of yarn just before the heel turn to advance my spot in the striping sequence. I could have ripped back to make them really match, but I figure no one is going to see that spot of my socks anyway.

This skein was the last self-striping one in my stash, and I must've had a moment of weakness when I realized this late last week and stumbled upon a Fibernymph Dye Works shop update. Take a look at what showed up today!

On the left is another skein of Bounce in a colorway called Bahamian. It's self-striping, but the stripes are mirrored, meaning that it'd be pretty tricky to get perfectly matching socks unless I really want to fiddle with the yarn. On the right is a new base, both for me and for Lisa, called Squoosh 2.0. It's a 75% superwash Corriedale/25% nylon blend, so it should be a little more rustic and perhaps a little more durable than the superwash merino. The colorway is called Bring Me Orchids, and I'm excited to try it!

I've been taking my Kouyou to work the past couple of days and have gotten a handful of rows done (they're long enough that I can't do very many in the 45 minutes or so I have to knit during my lunch break). I've even squeezed in a little time before the workday official begins, provided I walk in fast enough, but this morning I managed to royally screw up a row when I was nearly done with it, which meant tinking back. I almost finished correctly knitting the row by the time I had to put it away, so that means I spent almost 30 minutes knitting part of a row. Grr.

The good news is that I'm back on track and it's moving right along. I was getting a bit bored with this project when I was working the stockinette portion, but now that I've started the lace I'm finding it much more engaging. I'm maybe a third of the way through the lace portion, so I anticipate getting it done by next week, if not sooner.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Stripes All Around

Without having planned it, I find myself with three projects on the needles that all have stripes.

First there are the pink and gray socks, which I had expected to stripe given that they're being knit out of self-striping yarn. I worked to get both socks to match, and though I had to cheat a little bit after I finished the heel of the second sock and saw that I was a little off, from the front they're nearly perfect. I just have to finish the toe of the second sock and they'll be done (and that should happen very easily tonight).

Then there's my Kouyou, which is being knit out of handspun. The yarn was chain plied, so logically I knew it would stripe when knit up, but somehow it still surprised me. I do like the effect, and I'm moving right along on it. I did work additional rows of the stockinette portion to get it to be a bit bigger (the lace portion comes pretty much straight down from the stockinette, with no additional increases, so all the shaping has to happen before the lace starts). I plan on blocking it pretty aggressively, though I still think this shawl is going to come out more shawlette size. I don't really have an issue with that, but I'm hoping I won't have a ton of yarn leftover; if I do, it's likely to just wallow in my stash with the other leftovers.

Finally there's my Hitofude, which frankly hasn't gotten much attention the past week. I put in a handful of rows over an evening or two, so it hasn't gotten much bigger, but you can see that I'm now fully into the orange section of the gradient.

This project will, of course, have large stripes of each color as I work my way through the skein. I expect I'll be paying it more attention once I finish up the socks, because then the shawl will go to work with me. Unless I cast on a new pair of socks, of course (and there is some sort-of self-striping handspun waiting to become socks).

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Something's Wrong with This Equation

As you know, I've been trying to make a more concerted effort to decrease the size of my stash, which has meant more knitting from it (especially with regard to handspun) and more spinning of fiber. I felt very good about the most recent skein off my wheel, a project that was done very quickly. I spun pretty much all of the singles in two spinning sessions and had it all plied in another two -- and the yarn came out exactly as I was hoping!

This is Comeback wool from Southern Cross Fibre in the colorway Westringia. It was one of the coordinates from the November club. I spun it into a very springy, bouncy two ply that's heavy fingering to sport weight and 369 yards. This skein has amazing squish to it.

This was my first time spinning this particular type of wool, and I thoroughly enjoyed it -- so much so that as soon as this skein was off the wheel and soaking in the tub, I grabbed the other coordinate I got (Hibiscus) and immediately started spinning it. I finished up the first bobbin earlier today (the second one is already in progress as well).

Given how fast these two batches of fiber have been spinning up, you'd think I was doing a great job of getting through the fiber stash. Well, I was -- until this week. My friend Colleen, who I've known for about five years and who has been one of my MDSW travel companions for the last four years, is moving back home to Michigan. She's done a lot of getting rid of stuff in the process of packing up her house, and she arrived at knit night this past week with a garbage bag full of fiber. Another friend took some of it, but I came home with nearly a pound and a half of fiber from her. She said it might be good stuff to give to someone learning to spin, as it's all well prepped but undyed, but I might also have fun playing with it. Here's what was in the bag:

Natural cream Corriedale, 6.75 oz./191 g

Natural brown Corriedale, 5.375 oz./124 g

Dark brown Jacob, 8.5 oz./240 g

Natural gray Norwegian, 5.875 oz./167 g

I might try some dyeing or even card up a blend of something on my drum carder. Or perhaps I'll just leave them as they are and spin them up as is. Either way, I have a lot of spinning to do if I hope to make a real dent in the fiber stash. It's a good thing the Tour de Fleece and Stash Dash are coming up soon!

Thursday, April 07, 2016

The Old and the New

I didn't skip a beat between finishing up my sweater and casting on for the next project. Starting the first of the month, there's a new pattern in my LYS's yearlong shawl knitalong, and I came to the shop on Saturday with my yarn all wound (all I had to do was buy the pattern). The pattern this time around is Kouyou by Angela Tong. Although it's written for either worsted or sport weight, I decided to be a rebel and pulled out this handspun from my stash, a light fingering BFL/silk that I spun back in 2013:

I'd been saving this skein for quite some time because I wasn't quite sure what to do with it, but I think this is a good choice. It's chain plied, so I'll have basically stripes of color that shouldn't be too busy for the lace pattern.

Because the yarn I'm using is lighter than what's called for (and I'm using smaller needles as well so that the fabric isn't too droopy), I'm making the largest size shawl. I have a feeling it will still come out more shawlette size, but I'm okay with that. Thus far I've only had one small hiccup -- a forgotten increase, which I decided to fix by adding in a stitch rather than ripping back. The stockinette section is fairly mindless and moving right along.

My other bigger project on the needles is my Hitofude, which has seen minimal attention since we got back from vacation (mainly because I was focusing so much on finishing the other sweater). I have, at least, gotten to the first color change, so that's keeping things interesting.

This is one of those projects that I have a feeling will creep along at a slow but steady pace. Fortunately the pattern itself is simple enough that it's easy to put down and pick up -- I don't even need to mark my place on the lace chart.

The only other project on the needles at the moment is my pink striped socks, and those are about 75% complete.

I'm starting to give the ball of yarn the side eye, as it looks like it's getting smaller sooner than I would like, but I have confidence that I should have enough even though I wound off several yarns to get to the right spot in the striping pattern to start the second sock. I have used this same yarn several times before and have knit socks with the same stitch count and measurements, and I've always ended up with a good-sized ball of yarn leftover, so there's no reason to think that won't be the case this time. Right?

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Gray Light

It's done! (And I promise it isn't blurry in real life -- the Mister hadn't yet had his coffee when he took these photos!)

Pattern: Evenlight by Jennifer Dassau
Yarn: Blue Moon Fiber Arts Targhee Worsted (100% Targhee wool; 616 yds./250 g skein) in Deep Unrelenting Gray, 2.13 skeins (approximately 1311 yds.)
Needles: US 8/5.0 mm
Started/Completed: January 9/April 2
Mods: slight adjustments to the collar (see below)

First, I have to apologize to my fellow Pittsburghers for taking so long to finish the sweater. I'm worried I might have brought on the cold weather because I was so excited to get it done and wear it before packing it away for the spring and summer. I did in fact wear it today, and it was in the low 20s (in the teens with wind chill) with snow and ice around when I walked to work this morning.

I am very happy with this sweater, despite some minor problems. I don't knit pullovers for myself all that often (I think this may be my third ever), but this pattern looked to me like a comfy sweatshirt-type sweater, one that would be extra cozy and comforting on a crummy weather day. It didn't actually take me three months to knit; for a good part of that time, it was just sitting and waiting for me to get back to it. When I did actually knit on it, it moved along pretty quickly -- one of the great benefits of knitting with large needles! The stitch pattern is very squishy and completely reversible, so I suppose I could wear the sweater inside out if I really wanted to.

The main challenge with this project was that I had bought yarn based on the recommended amount in the pattern, but it wasn't enough and I had to buy more. The pattern recommends 1110 yards for the size I was making, and I chose the yarn in large part because it comes in huge skeins, meaning I should have only needed two skeins (a total of 1232 yards). Once I finished the body, it was clear that I would not have enough yarn left to knit both of the sleeves and the collar. That necessitated a trip back to my LYS, where they luckily had one skein of yarn left in the same color (and, even more luckily, from the same dye batch). It's certainly possible that my row gauge was a tad off (I can't remember exactly what I got in my swatch) and that accounted for some difference in yarn usage, but 200 yards does seem like a pretty significant amount.

I only made one modification to the pattern and that was to the collar. I picked up more stitches than specified for the collar (about 25 more, actually), so I was a bit worried it was going to flare out. To counteract that, on two rounds, I worked two pairs of decreases roughly at the raglan lines. This worked perfectly. The collar sits very nicely and isn't too tight (it is a rather wide neck).

In spite of the challenges, I'm very pleased with this project and I have a feeling this sweater will get lots of wear in the years to come.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Done and Done

This weekend seems to have been good for finishing things. I finished a big project yesterday (you'll hear more about it this week). I finished a 1,000-plus-page book. I finished seven loads of laundry. And I finished spinning my Comeback wool singles.

I hadn't touched my miniSpinner all week due to my effort to finish my sweater, so it wasn't until yesterday afternoon that I finished up the first bobbin and started the second. I finished up the second in a couple of spinning sessions this afternoon. So now they will rest for a day or two and then I'll ply. I'm very interested to see how this fiber behaves when I wash it. It looks like it will end up a heavy fingering weight when plied, but if it poofs up at all when it gets wet, it could end up thicker than that. It will be a fun surprise for sure!

Friday, April 01, 2016

It's Now or Never

I know I'm a day late with my usual post, but I have a good reason! We went to a hockey game last night and didn't get home until late, for starters, and it's been the kind of week that results in my being completely brain dead and not very coherent by the time I get home anyway. I figured it was better for everyone to wait a day.

Due to the aforementioned hockey game, I did not get any knitting time last night, so my sweater isn't quite done. It's very close, though. I have about six more rounds to knit before I start the cuff on the second sleeve, and I predict that it will be finished tonight. Then all that's left is the collar.

The collar is only eight rounds of garter stitch, so it shouldn't take very long once I pick up the stitches (always the most time-consuming part). If I don't get that done tonight, it will happen in short order tomorrow. And as luck would have it, the weather forecast is calling for a high in the low 40s on Sunday, so I can probably wear the sweater once before I have to pack it up for the season!

I did manage to finish up my first striped sock during my lunch break today (and also cast on the second and got a whopping two rounds knit).

These pink stripes have been such a great pick-me-up during some very stressful days this week.

I got another pick-me-up when I arrived home today -- a package from Canada was waiting for me! Thanks to the random number generator, I won a project bag from She Is Sew Whimsical through a giveaway from Chrissy on the Snappy Stitches podcast.

How cute is this bag? And it's reversible, too -- the inside has little girls on bikes. This will be perfect for a new project that I'll likely be casting on tomorrow.