Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Truly Tuesday?

Is it really only Tuesday? It's been an interesting week so far. Yesterday the Mister came down with a Man Cold (the kind that requires one to take to one's bed), and today I took the day off due to Rainbow's first (half) day of first grade, so things have been feeling off all day. It's weird to go into work for one day, to begin with, and then there were the sleeping arrangements. We had enough foresight to buy a pull-out sleeper sofa for the den (the former nursery) when Rainbow moved into what was the guest room, so I encamped there last night so that the Mister wouldn't have to worry about disturbing me during the night. Add to that the fact that I didn't have to wake up at the usual time this morning (I went for a run after I dropped Rainbow off at school, so I waited until later to shower and eat breakfast) and I've been all discombobulated.

Luckily, the knitting has been going well. The Mister went to bed early last night, so I popped a movie in and knit the entire evening in the den before turning in. I managed to complete the last repeats of the scarf over the weekend, so I've now picked up for the ribbing on the first of the sides. I didn't think the scarf was that long until I saw it all bunched up on my 40" circular.

For some reason I had it in my head that I'd just zip through the ribbing on the sides, but the pickup alone on the first side took a good 45 minutes or so (400+ stitches in that pickup row!). I only managed three rows after that, but I'm feeling confident that this evening -- provided I can stay awake long enough -- I can at least finish this side. I expect that it will take me another two evenings to pick up and knit the second side, so I anticipate blocking by the weekend. I am very much looking forward to blocking this piece to see if I can get some additional length and width as well as some drape.

I've continued to work on my handspun socks at work, and I've finished the first one and gotten about three inches of leg done on the second. No picture, I'm afraid, but I'll show you them soon.

I'm really looking forward to the long weekend coming up. The weather is supposed to be beautiful, and it's always nice to have an extra day. Now let's just hope the Mister gets over this cold soon so we can celebrate our anniversary (nine years this Friday)!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Slow Road

I don't have much spinning to share this week, mainly because I just haven't done much spinning this past week. I've been focusing mainly on knitting, which has resulted in lots of knitting getting done, but my wheel has been sadly neglected. I did put in some time on Friday night and a bit yesterday and today. Unfortunately, given the thinness of my singles, the bobbin doesn't look that much different:

Poor lighting courtesy of severe thunderstorms

I can tell that I've made some progress because the ball of pencil roving is noticeably smaller. It's a nice change to be spinning from pencil roving compared to even stripped down top. This stuff spins so fast, so you feel like you make a lot of progress even if the bobbin doesn't seem to be filling.

I'll continue to plod on with this spin this week, and with any luck, I'll have a finished skein next weekend!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

A Small Falling Down

Although I haven't officially declared myself to be on a yarn diet, I have been trying to make an effort to use up stash and work with what I already have rather than buy new yarn for new projects. Obviously I haven't been sticking to that too well, especially with the news that my LYS is closing (something about knowing that I'll have to travel more than a mile to buy yarn brings out the hoarder in me, I guess). I thought I was pretty restrained in my last purchase, but then I got invited to a special "friends and family" type of event last night, and I went a little wild.

I took Rainbow along with me, in part because I wanted her to pick out yarn for a new school sweater (you may remember that the one I made her last year shrank in the dryer, so its days are likely limited). I really only had two criteria for yarn: It had to be the right color (dark green) and it had to be machine washable. I was hoping to find a superwash wool, such as Malabrigo Rios or Cascade 220 Superwash, but we had trouble finding the right color or a large enough quantity. Ultimately, we ended up with four skeins of Berroco Vintage -- the last four skeins the shop had. One is a different dyelot from the other three, but I figure I'll just alternate it with one of the matching skeins in the body.

Normally I'm not a huge fan of knitting with acrylic blends, but Rainbow really liked the feel of this yarn and it probably will hold up pretty well to the abuse this sweater is likely to see, so I'm dealing with it. I've used it for a sweater for her before, too, so I know she won't complain about it being itchy or uncomfortable. I'm planning to use it to make her another Gramps Cardigan, a pattern I've knit quite a few times and that always comes out well. I'm going to knit a size 8, the largest size in the pattern, with the hope that she might get more than one year of wear out of it.

Rainbow also made some selections of her own last night. For starters, we picked up a pair of 16 inch circular needles for her so she can learn to knit in the round, and she picked out these two skeins of yarn (Cascade 220 and 220 Superwash) for a hat and pair of mittens.

I wasn't planning on buying anything for myself, but I ended up making a couple of impulse purchases. First, I was drawn to this fiery skein (appropriately named Vesuvio) of Manos del Uruguay Marina, a beautiful merino singles lace yarn. I'll likely save this for a lace design of some sort.

Then I grabbed these two skeins of BMFA Woobu in Bleck to make a Driftwood Tee, something I've wanted to knit since the issue of the magazine the pattern is in came out.

I also bought a pair of Addi Rockets and some buttons that Rainbow picked out. I do want to note that I did not buy any fiber this time, though I was tempted! And I don't feel particularly guilty about adding to the size of the stash, because chances are good that once my LYS closes, I won't be spending much time in a yarn store for quite some time.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Embracing the Yarn Dandruff

Work continues on my cabled Shetland scarf; I'm now more than eight repeats done, and I think I'll likely go to about 15 or so. I've been working on it almost every evening at home, and on a good night, I can get about a repeat and a half done, so I think I should be through the main part of the scarf by this weekend if I keep up the pace. I have made my peace with the stuff that falls out of the yarn as I work with it (that which I'm lovingly referring to as "yarn dandruff"), though I have elected to keep this project at home for the time being so that I don't have to worry about trying to clean my work clothes off.

As you can see, it is curling up quite a lot, but blocking and the edging I'm going to add to the sides will help with that. I'm planning a rather aggressive block, and I'm hoping that will add some drape to the fabric in addition to getting it to behave.

Because I've been keeping the scarf at home, I've been bringing my handspun socks in to work for my lunchtime knitting. Given that these are just plain stockinette socks, it's a bit surprising how long I've been working on them -- more than a month now. Usually I can speed through socks like this. But in the case of these socks, they just haven't been getting very much attention. I cast on and knit the cuff in one day and then put them down for a couple of weeks. Then I knit couple of inches of leg and put them down again. It's been a pattern with these socks, which is part of the reason why I decided to make them my lunchtime knitting. I'm not in any sort of rush to finish them, necessarily, but it makes me a bit anxious to have them on the needles so long.

I finished up the gusset decreases yesterday and am now cruising down the foot, so I anticipate the first sock will be done very soon. I am finding that the yarn isn't as consistent as my three-ply sock yarn normally is; I guess I'm a bit out of practice at spinning two-ply sock yarn. There are definitely some thicker sections of the yarn, but you really can't tell from the knitted fabric. I am enjoying the texture of the yarn as I knit with it, so I predict more two-ply handspun in my future.

Stash Dash has now officially ended, and I'm very pleased to say that I not only met my goal, I exceeded it! My final total was 7,797.7 meters, or more than 8,500 yards. I'm pretty impressed with myself, as I wasn't entirely sure I was going to make it. Perhaps next year I'll push myself to get to 10K!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

I'm a Little Teapot

Well, no, not really. But I did finish up my Short and Stout on Perendale from Southern Cross Fibre yesterday, so naturally the song has been in my head.

Once again I split the fiber into long strips, spun them in succession, and chain plied the entire bobbin of singles. It perhaps was not the best plying method for this particular fiber, as the loops are still rather visible if you go looking for them, but it worked out okay overall, I think. I ended up with 387 yards of fingering weight.

I think this should make some good socks. The yarn feels a little scratchy on delicate skin, so I wouldn't necessarily use this for something that would go around my neck, but it feels fine on my less-sensitive feet.

It's a good thing that I'm going through some stash fiber fairly quickly, because two bundles of fiber showed up on Friday. The first was the first shipment in the next round of the FatCatKnits club (round two of the underwater/under the sea theme). This one is inspired by lobsters and is on soft, squishy Rambouillet.

Then there was this bag of 75% Bond/25% Suri alpaca from Southern Cross Fibre that I won as a prize a while back:

Before I did into either of these, however, I've dug into deep stash for my next spin, which I started this afternoon:

This is Corriedale pencil roving from the now-defunct Crown Mountain Farms. It spins up so easily and so fine; this will be yet more sock yarn. Spinning this makes me regret I didn't get more of this fiber before CMF closed!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Blocking Magic, Stash Enhancement, and Schmutz

Even though blocking takes away from my knitting/spinning time, I love the magic that it works. When the shawl was finished on Tuesday, it looked okay, but it was still a bit lumpy-bumpy and definitely didn't have the drape I wanted. Blocking fixed that. I wasn't even super aggressive in my pinning, either. I ran a couple of blocking wires through the top edge, pinned the two sides and the middle, and then pinned out the bottom edge along either side of the center by putting a yardstick in line with the side and center pins and pulling the fabric out to meet it. After drying overnight, the shawl finally had the drape I was looking for.

I've still got to get real shots of this shawl, but you can see how nicely the cables opened up and the garter stitch relaxed. I'm quite pleased.

In my excitement over finishing the shawl on Tuesday, I neglected to share my stash enhancement from the weekend. In addition to the fiber that you saw on Sunday, I did pick up a little bit of yarn (I figured that there are some things I won't be able to get locally once my LYS closes, so they are acceptable additions to my stash at this point). First, I picked up two Wonderland Yarns mini skein sets to make Rainbow a Dancing Leaves Cardigan. I gave her several options and this was what she picked.

If the colors look familiar, it's because it's one of the sets I used for my Zeccola Cowl sample (though that used the sport weight version -- this is fingering).

I also bought a skein of Arne & Carlos Regia sock yarn, which I'd been meaning to try for while. It's nothing particularly fancy as far as fiber content goes, but sometimes self-patterning sock yarn makes vanilla socks much more exciting.

Finally, as soon as the shawl was off the needles, I wound up my yarn and cast on for the sample for the penultimate pattern in the collection, a cabled scarf. I am once again using Shetland from the Ross Farm, this time in a lovely moorit color.

I really love this yarn -- it's fuzzy and squishy and even makes my hands soft while I knit with it, as it still has a bit of lanolin in it. It is, however, a real farm yarn. There's quite a bit of VM in it still (most of which falls out on its own; the rest is easy to pull out), so I'm finding that I'm a bit covered in "wool schmutz" every time I knit with it. It's not a big deal to me, but I noticed yesterday after my lunch break at work that I still had some fuzz on my black t-shirt, so I suppose it's better to wear a light color when I'm knitting with this yarn!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Time for a Blocking Party

Very soon, that shapeless blue blob that I've been telling you is a shawl for the past few weeks will start to actually look like a shawl. I finished binding off today, so tonight is all about blocking. I'm pretty happy with how the piece is looking fresh off the needles, but it is badly in need of blocking to help settle the stitches and stretch it out a bit so that it has more drape.

The pattern needs just a bit more polishing, and then once the shawl is dry I'll take some pictures and do final measurements so I can get it off to my tech editor.

That leaves just two patterns left for the collection, and true to form, I've left the biggest ones for the end. These are both multiple-skein projects, so I'd say it's unlikely I'll finish both by the end of the month, but I think mid-September is probably a reasonable goal. My plan is to start releasing the individual patterns in September and stagger them throughout the fall (releasing one about every two weeks), so I'm on track. I just need to get in my on-site photo shoot some weekend soon when the weather is good and I can stand to wear wool to model!

Until I cast on for the next collection sample, the only project I have active on the needles is my handspun socks, which frankly have been rather neglected. I'll finish them eventually, I suppose.

I'm just about to the heel of the first sock, and honestly I'm happy to let these languish a bit so I can pick them up from time to time when I don't want to have to think or count. There's nothing like a stockinette sock when you need a mental break!

One more thing I did want to mention about the shawl -- it officially pushed me past my Stash Dash goal of 7K! I'll likely get a bit more than that when Stash Dash ends this Sunday, but I was beginning to doubt that I'd hit my goal for a while there, so it feels good to cross the finish line well before the final minutes.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

A Turn for the Better

First off, the good news -- I am posting this from my brand-new, tea-free laptop! It turns out that there was significant corrosion in my previous computer, enough that it would require quite a lot to be replaced. As the computer was almost five years old and the cost to replace all the necessary parts was fairly high, we decided that it made more sense to just buy a new one. Thankfully, most of my data was backed up (the last backup was a few days before the tea incident, so I only lost a few minor things that are easy to replicate) so I can pretty much pick up where I left off.

Now on to the spinning, as it is Sunday. I finished plying my Shetland after posting last week and ended up with a lovely skein that had more yardage than I was expecting -- 424 yards! That's probably the best I've gotten from a bag of SCF fiber when I've spun a fingering weight. Here's what it looks like after finishing:

I'm quite happy with it, even though it's not exactly my colors, but I'll be putting it into the "to sell" pile and I'm hoping it'll make someone else quite happy.

I started spinning the most recent SCF club shipment on Monday night and put in a little bit of time at the wheel just about every evening this week. I'm not as far along as I'd hoped, but I should be able to finish it up this week. This is a rather bad photo, as it's been gloomy and raining all day and I had to use the flash:

This colorway is called Short and Stout (yes, as in "I'm a Little Teapot"), and it ranges from that deep navy blue you see on the top layer to a bright almost peridot green. I've stripped the top lengthwise and am spinning all the strips one after another; I'll chain ply when I'm done. I was a bit concerned that I might have made a poor choice in my plying technique, as this Perendale is a bit long in the staple and spins up a little wiry, but my plyback testing is showing that it should be okay.

Of course, there's plenty of fiber in my stash already and more coming in every month, so we know I don't need more fiber, but some did come home with me from my LYS yesterday afternoon. I'd been eyeing this braid for at least the last month, and given that the store will be closed in a month, I thought it wise to grab it while I can.

This is Polwarth/silk -- probably my favorite blend to spin -- from Yarn Hollow in a colorway called Zen. This photo doesn't do it justice, I'm afraid. I'm planning to spin this from end to end and chain ply it to preserve those beautiful colors and then knit myself a shawl or cowl or something else I can throw around my neck and cuddle.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Still in a Daze

It's Thursday, and by now I've at least somewhat come to grips with the fact that in a month or so, my LYS will be no more. I want to thank those of you who left comments or messaged me with your commiserations. I know what's happening here has happened many other places and it's really not the end of the world, but I'm still feeling the loss even though it hasn't happened yet. Frankly there are plenty of other places I can buy yarn, including other LYSes that are relatively nearby (though none as close or convenient as my LYS), but what I'm really mourning is the loss of the community. I have spent at least several hours every week at my LYS, almost since it opened, and am friends with almost everyone who works or teaches there as well as many of the regular customers. I've participated in knitalongs, spin-ins, charity knitting drives, classes, and special events there. I've gotten help with knitting problems and received praise when I've gone in with an FO to show off. I've been introduced to new yarns and fibers, new tools, and even new crafts. Above all, I've received friendship and support, and I'm going to miss those most keenly.

On top of this, I am still without a computer at home. My laptop is currently sitting in a plastic bin covered with rice in the hope that it will absorb any water that I didn't get out fast enough, and I have an appointment at the Apple Store on Saturday morning to get it checked out. I figure the worst-case scenario here is that I have to buy a new computer, which would certainly be a hit to my checkbook but not a disaster. My laptop is several years old already and has been doing some odd things, so it's likely I would have needed to replace it in the not-too-distant future. I've been managing to stay on top of things with my iPad and work computer, but design work (with the exception of actual knitting) has been put on hold for the time being because all my files and charting program are on the laptop.

I'm still working on my shawl, and it doesn't look all that much different from the last time you saw it, though I've added quite a few rows to the body.

I can now see the end of the unworked stitches on the sides, so the short rows will soon be coming to an end. Once the body is done, I want to play with the bottom edge a bit and see if I can add a little something more to it.

Finally, I wanted to mention that it looks like I'm going to make my Stash Dash goal! I'm less than 200 meters away from hitting 7K, so I just need to finish one current project (the shawl, the handspun socks, or a new spinning project) to pass the finish line!

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Say It's Just a Dream

The last two days, I've felt like I've been in a daze. I opened my e-mail on Monday morning to read the most horrible news: My LYS is closing. The owner has decided that she wants to retire, so in about a month, that wonderful place will be no more. There was no warning, no sign that this was coming. And I am utterly devastated. I've been going to the store about once a week for the past eight years. My friends work there. It's been my knitting community. I'm not sure what I'm going to do without it.

As at all times of sorrow, I've turned to my knitting for comfort. I've been working on my shawl, which is finally starting to look more shawl-like.

(Apologies for the crappy photo. As if the bad news weren't enough to ruin my week, I managed to spill half a mug of tea on my laptop this morning, so it's in time out until I can take it to the Apple Store this weekend and I've had to find a workaround for posting.)

I've finished the edging and picked up stitches for the body, and now I'm into the long process of working up the short rows (though, considering that they're getting progressively longer, they might better be called long rows). I have to say, lots and lots of garter stitch is good for the soul. I hope it does the trick this week.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Don't Sweat the Shetland

I really thought I'd have another finished skein of handspun to show you this week, but all did not go according to plan. My goal was to finish spinning my singles Friday night. That didn't happen -- I had to finish up last night. Today, I started plying (in between doing laundry and cooking and various other things). I'm almost done, and I'm hoping to finish up once I hit publish on this post.

This is another chain-plied yarn, so the colors will be relatively distinct. It was rather entertaining to start plying this during the day, having spun the singles mostly at night in a fairly dark corner of my bedroom -- I finally saw all the colors!

Up next after this skein is done will likely be the next shipment from the Southern Cross Fibre club, which showed up last week:

This is Perendale wool, a breed I've only spun once before. It feels more rustic, more like the Shetland I've been spinning, so I'm going to try another sock yarn. Expect to see it in progress next week!

Thursday, August 04, 2016

On Repeat

It hasn't been a very good week for knitting for me. Work has been brutal, both physically and mentally exhausting, so while I have knit a little every day, I've been spinning rather than knitting most evenings because it requires less attention. I've been looking nervously at the calendar, however, and realizing that my self-imposed deadline to get all my pattern collection samples done is getting very close, so that means I'm going to have to pick up the pace. Luckily I seem to have been able to do that in the past day or so. Remember the start of the shawl you saw earlier in the week? I'm now just about 14 repeats away from finishing that edging strip.

Fourteen repeats might seem like a lot, but I think I got about five done last night while watching TV with the Mister and about three more done before work and during my lunch break today. I'm pretty confident that I can be done with the strip and moving on to the next part of the shawl by the weekend. I'm also toying with the idea of doing an applied edging, so there will need to be some swatching as well. And I need to find some time to finish up the pattern for the slipper socks at some point. (Gee, Sarah, weren't you hoping to have a relaxing weekend?)

Because of my self-imposed deadline and the design work that I'd really like to get done this month, I have decided not to participate in the Ravellenic Games this time around. I'll still be watching plenty of Olympics coverage on TV while I knit, but I felt like I didn't need to put any extra pressure on myself. Besides, I have less than 1,000 meters left to hit my Stash Dash goal -- and that's enough motivation!

And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go spin for a bit and try to decompress from the day. Thank goodness there's only one more work day left this week!

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

An Ending, a Continuation, and a Beginning

Although I can be a monogamous knitter when I need to be, most of the time I have more than one project on the go at once. I like having the variety and the ability to choose what to knit at any given time. I like the endless cycle of projects -- when one is finished, another one is still in progress and a third can be cast on. That's certainly been the case in the last half week or so. On Friday, I finished my slipper socks:

I still have some weighing and measuring to do, but the pattern is almost ready to go to my tech editor.

In progress are my handspun socks, which hadn't seen any action since the first day I cast them on. I pulled them out again late last week while I was up late watching the convention coverage.

Isn't it something how the color changed right when I switched over from the ribbed cuff to the stockinette leg? I assure you, it wasn't planned, just a happy coincidence.

Because the collection samples need to keep moving, I started the next one over the weekend. This one suffered a similar fate to the slippers. I originally cast on using size 6 needles. I got through two repeats and decided the fabric was too loose for my taste. So I ripped and started again on size 4's. The fabric was better, but the pattern wasn't knitting up how I saw it in my head. So I ripped again and revised my chart. This time, the third time was the charm.

This the beginning of another shawl worked by knitting the edging first and then picking up stitches along the edge to knit the body. I may also add a knitted-on edging once it's done. The fun thing about this pattern is that it's completely reversible, and the whole shawl will be as well. That's the reason for the orange stitch marker -- it's hard to tell your right side from your wrong side when they look the same! This project has become my lunchtime knitting, and it's been the perfect thing this week when I've been extremely busy at work and need something easy and relaxing to clear my head in the middle of the day. I've already completed 10 pattern repeats, and I'm planning about 36, so it's knitting up quickly. I suppose it helps that almost every row is exactly the same, so while I do need to keep track of what row I'm on, I can zone out a bit.