Thursday, June 29, 2017

A Peek Ahead

Is tomorrow really the last day of June? I'm in a bit of denial, I think. After waiting for so long for the summer -- more specifically, for warm weather and longer days -- it seems like it is going by much more quickly than it should be.

Fortunately, the end of June also means that it's nearly the start of the Tour de Fleece and that SSK is coming up very soon. I am very excited about both of these events but especially about the latter. While I've had annual "knitting trips" in the form of MDSW weekends in the past, I've never attended a full-on knitting retreat, and I've certainly never gone to anything like this by myself. I'm a bit nervous, being an anxious traveler and a shy person in general, but I'm sure it's all going to be fine. I know that there will be plenty of other people there who have never been there before, and we're all going into the event with one very big thing in common -- our love of fiber arts.

On a related note, I think I completely forgot to share a bit of stash enhancement. I managed to snag one of TheKnitGirllls' seventh anniversary kits, and mine arrived about two weeks ago, I think. Included were a project bag from Twist Fiber Studio and a coordinating skein of self-striping yarn from Desert Vista Dyeworks (which I'm planning to use for my July socks) as well as some KnitGirlls-branded swag. Also included were two stickers, which were immediately claimed by Rainbow.

As to my knitting, I am still working on the shawl (which got a bit bigger thanks to knit night at the Steel City Fiber Collective last night) and the stack of dishcloths, which has now grown by one. I'm now in the middle of six and likely final dishcloth in this series.

When I'm finished with this last one, the only dishcloth cotton I have left is a larger skein of plain white, and I may keep that around for swatching or waste yarn. I'm sure I also have some partial skeins of various colors in my stash, so maybe those will be turned into some scrappy cloths at some point in the future, but I think I've burned out the urge for now. I really want to focus on finishing up the shawl, and then in addition to some design work, I'm hoping to knit a summer sweater and finish it in time to take it on vacation toward the end of August. Perhaps I'm a tad optimistic, but you don't finish what you don't start, right?

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Stripes of All Types

I am, apparently, in a bit of a stripe phase at the moment. First, there are the socks I finished up  last week -- in self-striping yarn, natch.

Pattern: My basic stockinette recipe worked over 70 stitches, with a 3x2 ribbed cuff, heel flap and gusset, and wide toe
Yarn: Fibernymph Dye Works Bedazzled (75% superwash merino, 15% nylon, 5% Stellina) in Impressionist Spring, 0.8 skeins
Needles: US 0 (2.0 mm) 40 in. Addi Turbo Sock Rockets, magic loop
Started/Completed: June 1/June 21

These were knit as part of the FDW S-S-S-Summertime KAL, being hosted over in the FDW Ravelry group. For each of the three summer months, there's a different focus. For June, it was stripes, so it seemed only right to cast on using this skein of yarn that was an impulse purchase last month. These aren't anything fancy, so there's not much to say about them other than the fact that I very nearly got them to match. I wasn't going to sweat it if it didn't work out (given that the striping repeat is six stripes long), but it just happened that I managed to finish the first sock in the right spot in the sequence. They aren't a perfect match, but I think they're close enough that a casual glance won't tell you otherwise.

I've also been seeing stripes in the dishcloths that I seem to have gotten addicted to knitting.

These are all the same pattern, the Chinese Waves Dishcloth, and I've been churning them out since the very end of May. I decided to knit the first one for an SSK knitalong (the designer is teaching at SSK this year), but once I started I couldn't stop. I picked up a number of skeins of cotton at Michaels several weeks ago and have been burning through them -- there's just one colored skein left after I finish the current dishcloth. I don't necessarily need a ton of dishcloths at the moment, but they're serving the purpose of busting stash, counting toward the KAL and Stash Dash, and giving me a stack of completed cloths for whenever I need some or need a quick gift (a hand-knit dishcloth with a bar of nice soap is always a good gift when you need one in a hurry). The other benefit is that it's very satisfying to finish up a project every two or three days, especially when other WIPs are larger projects.

Speaking of larger projects, this one doesn't have any stripes yet, but it soon will. I've started the commercial yarn version of the handspun shawl you saw last week. I'm using Neighborhood Fiber Co. Rustic Fingering in Lauraville (which looked like plain gray when I bought it but seems to have a bit of purple in it) and Station North (a deep red) for the contrast stripes.

This yarn is a superwash merino singles yarn, so it's behaving quite a bit differently than my handspun, which had a firmer hand to it, but I know this will have wonderful drape when it's blocked out. These skeins have quite a bit more yardage than I had with my handspun, so I can knit the whole shawl without having to worry about running out of yarn. This shawl will be my main focus as soon as I've finished up the last of the kitchen cotton; the second sample will be photographed for the pattern, but I only need to knit up to a certain point to double-check some numbers before I can send the pattern off to my tech editor. Considering the overwhelmingly positive response the pattern has gotten already, I'm certainly anxious to get it published as soon as I can. It would also be great to be able to take the samples with me to SSK to show them off!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Plying and Preparing

I had really hoped that by the time I posted this, my Fibernymph Dye Works Falkland singles would be all plied. I had grand plans to spend the afternoon at my wheel -- but then I got a text from my boss and had to go in to work for a few hours to deal with an emergency. I ended up spending just a little more than an hour with the miniSpinner, so I'm still not done, though I'm definitely getting close.

These WooLee Winder bobbins will hold somewhere in the neighborhood of eight to nine ounces, and I only had six ounces of fiber, so I know that the end is in sight. I'll sit down at the wheel again after dinner and try to get the last bit done and then likely skein and wash tomorrow.

In the meantime, I am doing the prep work I need to do to get ready for the start of the Tour de Fleece this coming Saturday. I am planning to spin at least one of the two braids of FatCatKnits Rambouillet that arrived earlier this month, but first on the wheel will be the purple Charollais from Southern Cross Fibre. I've split the 550 g of fiber into six roughly equal lengths so that I can get two skeins of three-ply yarn.

When I was spinning the original batch of SCF Charollais I received, I discovered that it spun long draw quite easily, so that's what I'm planning to do with this bath. I hope that I will be able to get through it quickly and end the Tour with, if not a sweater's quantity of fiber, at least a partial sweater's quantity. (I'm not sure if I mentioned that after I bought this clearance batch of fiber, David offered up some undyed chocolate brown Bond at an insanely good price, so 550 g of that is on its way to me and, I think, would pair nicely with this purple.)

I am not setting any outrageous goals for the Tour this year (other than to spin every day, if I can), but it would be great to get through the fiber that has recently entered the stash. I also have three projects currently on spindles, all of which have been in progress for at least a year, so I will be giving them some special attention as well. I am really looking forward to having a good excuse to spend more hours spinning!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Pattern Rerelease: Durango Socks

I'm happy to let you know that as of today, you can now buy my Durango Socks pattern in my Ravelry store. These socks originally appeared in Knitscene Handmade, which was published more than a year ago now, and I very nearly forgot I had the rights back because I actually wrote the pattern and knit up the sample closer to two years ago (time flies!).

These socks use a fairly traditional cuff-down construction -- ribbed cuff, heel flap and gusset, wide toe -- with the addition of a traveling twisted stitch pattern down the front of the sock. That stitch pattern is both written and charted.

The pattern has been graded to three average adult sizes and is easily adapted if you want to change the length of the leg or foot (just add or subtract pattern repeats). I've put it through my tech editor, too, even though it was edited for print in the magazine, just to make sure everything is good.

You'll need approximately 100 g of fingering weight sock yarn (or more, if you have very wide and/or very long feet). The yarn used for the sample is Brown Sheep Wildfoote Luxury Sock Yarn, a 75% superwash wool/25% nylon blend that, despite its name, is a fairly hardworking yarn. It's on the thicker side of fingering, I found, and knit up to a dense fabric on size 1 (2.25 mm) needles. Any fingering weight yarn that knits up at a gauge of 8 stitches per inch will work well for this pattern -- a solid or semisolid is an obvious color choice, but think of how cool these socks would look in a speckled yarn or even a self-striping! Or handspun! Hmm, might have to knit myself another pair of these just to try out these ideas.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

It's Always a Little Bit of Magic

Of all the finishing tools available to a knitter, blocking might be the most magical. Even years after my first experience of the magic that is blocking a piece of lace, I'm still completely amazed by how some water and pins can completely transform a piece of knitting.

Take, for instance, the handspun shawl design that finally came off my needles last week. I spent part of my day off on Friday giving it a fairly aggressive block, stretching it in all directions and securing it with a plethora of pins and blocking wires. It was beautiful even on the floor on top of some old towels, and I couldn't wait to get up on Saturday morning and unpin it. (There really is no better feeling than pulling out the pins and wires and having the knitting stay in exactly the same place, is there?)

The shawl is, in a word, enormous. It is wider than my wingspan, which I never would have guessed just looking at it on the needles. Even freshly bound off, it didn't seem so large, but garter stitch will stretch quite a bit, and I took full advantage of that fact. I really couldn't be more pleased with how this turned out, and that applies to the design as well as the finished size. It really did turn out as I saw it in my head, if not better. I will get some proper pictures later in the week, but for now I have to rely on my "junior photographer" to snap some shots.

I have some Neighborhood Fiber Co. Rustic Fingering all wound up and ready to be cast on for another version of this shawl (I want to check a couple of numbers, but I also feel it's important to give a commercial yarn in the pattern in addition to my handspun version). I have a feeling the second iteration will go a bit faster than the first, especially considering that I won't be designing as I knit this time around -- not to mention that I am anxious to get the pattern done and out into the world!

The second shawl would have been cast on already were it not for the fact that I seem to be addicted to knitting dishcloths. I finished another Chinese Waves on Sunday night and promptly cast on a third, which is already more than halfway done.

The second one was done in a colorway called Sunrise Ombre, and I quite like it. The current cloth (not pictured) is in a very patriotic red, white, and blue colorway. I have a feeling there will be more after it's done, too, particularly as I just stocked up on kitchen cotton and it's so easy and so satisfying to go through the relatively small skeins. I was very proud of myself for using just about every last inch of yarn on the second one -- I ended up with about two inches on each of the two tails at the end. I did encounter a knot in the middle of that skein and doubled up on the yarn for about 10 stitches or so, and frankly I don't think you can tell where it was unless you look really closely. I've found that it takes me maybe 3-4 hours of knitting to finish one of these (I knit a bit slower with cotton than with wool, as it's a bit hard on my hands), so theoretically if I keep one on the needles all the time, I should have a good stack of them done in a couple of weeks. At the moment I don't have a huge need for dishcloths (I primarily use them to wipe up splashes on the counters after I do the dishes, so they don't get dirty or worn out very quickly), but it's always good to have a stack on hand.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Long Ply

The long weekend is drawing to a close, and I'm enjoying the last few hours of leisure time before it's back to the regular crazy schedule at work tomorrow. I've spent much of the weekend at my wheel, and by the time I went to bed yesterday, all the singles of my Fibernymph Dye Works Falkland had been spun.

The multicolor singles in the top bobbin were spun pretty much entirely Friday and Saturday. The colorway is called Shetland Jellyfish -- appropriate given that for much of the time that I spent spinning them, I was watching Shetland on Netflix. I've now watched all the episodes that are available and started plying, which I think is likely to take quite a while.

What's surprised me as I've been plying is that the colors in the multicolor braid -- which appeared so vibrant as I was spinning them -- are so toned down by the semisolid single. There are even some places where both singles look almost the same color. I think the finished skein is going to be a lot more even in tone that what you'd expect from something designed to barberpole, and I quite like it. I've got a total of 6 oz. of singles to ply, so I expect it's going to take several sessions at the wheel over the course of the week. With any luck, I'll have some finished beauty shots and final specs to share with you next Sunday.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

I'm Ready for the Bind-off Party

My main knitting focus this week has been my handspun shawl, and I've been working toward the goal of getting it finished before the weekend. When I put it down last night, I decided it was big enough, so tonight I'll be knitting one more row and then binding off -- and finally getting a sense of its size (preblocking, anyway). I will weave in all the ends and be ready to block tomorrow.

I'm really excited for this project to be done, even though I'm planning to cast on a second shawl in commercial yarn almost right away to double-check my numbers. It feels like this particular project has been on the needles for a really long time, and to be honest I've felt a little guilty about neglecting it the past couple of months. It will be interesting to see how long it takes me to knit the second shawl, assuming I can continue to knit it uninterrupted until it's done!

The only other project on my needles at present is my Impressionist Spring socks, which are about 75% complete (I just finished the gusset decreases on the second sock). These will be done in short order.

I think that thus far I've totally neglected to mention that I'm hosting a stranded colorwork knitalong in my Ravelry group (though if you follow me on social media or are signed up for my newsletter, you already know about it). All of my stranded colorwork patterns are eligible, and they're all currently on sale for 20% off with the code COLORWORK until 11:59 p.m. Eastern tonight. I hope you'll join us!

Tomorrow, I am taking the day off from work (I had a use-it-or-lose-it day I needed to take), and I plan on spending it relaxing. If the weather cooperates, I'm hoping to take a long walk in the morning and then spend time with my knitting and at my spinning wheel. The Mister and I are going to a fancy schmancy black tie event in the evening, so I won't have a ton of time, but it will be nice to sleep in a bit and not have to be in the office for the day. Whatever you have planned for your weekend, I hope it includes some fiber time!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Small Victories

After finishing so much in May, I feel a bit like I've been a knitting slacker this month. Thus far, all that's been finished has been small things, like this sock:

I am nearly halfway done with the second sock of the pair as well and hope to have both wrapped up by the end of the week.

Last night I also finished a dishcloth, which is something that's small enough that it hardly merits a real FO post.

This is the Chinese Waves Dishcloth in Lily Sugar'n Cream Ombres in Moondance. I used a size 6 (4.0 mm) needle and cast on 51 stitches, and I ended up using all but a few inches of the entire skein of yarn (I'll admit I did an extra-long weaving in of the end after I bound off to use up as much of the tail as I could). I didn't have time to start it last night, but I already pulled out another ball of kitchen cotton to start another one -- ideally, I'd like to get a stack of these knit up before SSK, as they count toward an SSK knitalong because the designer is a teacher this year.

The other project that's still on the needles (though I hope not for long) is the handspun shawl. It had been seeing a lot of attention during the Stanley Cup Finals, as long rows of garter stitch proved to be perfect for nervous hockey watching, but now that the season is over, I'm anxious to get it wrapped up. I only have a handful of rows left to work before I'm ready to bind off, and I have to say that I'm really pleased with how it's turning out. Here's a peek at it (though once again it's hard to get the full effect when it's all bunched up on the needles):

It will be fun to bind this off and block it if only to get a sense for how large it actually is. To be perfectly honest, I've been kind of designing this as I go, so I really haven't planned for it to be a particular size -- it is what it is. Given that my stitch count is approaching 500, I imagine that it's going to be pretty sizable -- and that's rather impressive considering that I'll have yarn leftover!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Shades of Sand

This past week, I've been working on spinning up the first half of the singles for the first shipment of the Fibernymph Dye Works Barberpole Fiber Club. I started with the semisolid of the pair, figuring that it would be the less exciting of the two colors to spin. What surprised me is that it had much more depth to the color than first appeared, with tones of white and even pink appearing. I spent several hours on it yesterday so that I could finish the bobbin.

This is three ounces of singles, and now I have three ounces of the multicolored fiber left to spin. With any luck, I'll be able to do that this week.

The BFL skein I finished last week has been washed and dried, and I have its final yardage. It ended up being about 366 yards, less than I hoped for but not surprising -- I always seem to get lower yardage with BFL compared to other breeds. It and the Corriedale skein from two weeks ago are now up in the shop, if you're interested.

I'm posting this early because it's hot and sunny today, and temperatures are supposed to be pushing 90, so we're headed to the pool for the rest of the day. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Pattern Rerelease: Kerameia Cowl

I know I've talked about this design relatively recently, but I'm bringing it up again today because it's now available for everyone to purchase after previously being available only as part of a kit. My Kerameia Cowl is a quick, fun stranded colorwork cowl worked in two colors of DK or light worsted yarn with an ancient Greek pottery-inspired design.

This pattern was originally available as a kit through Fibernymph Dye Works using two exclusive colorways that Lisa of FDW created for the pattern. While those colorways have since sold out, I will mention that Lisa has some semisolids currently in her shop and is always happy to dye custom orders (and her DK-weight Bona Fide base is a delight to work with, too). If you'd rather work from your stash, no problem! The pattern uses about 205 yards total, and any two DK or light worsted weight yarns will work.

I'm also using this pattern rerelease to launch a colorwork knitalong in my Ravelry group! All of my stranded colorwork patterns will be eligible for the KAL, with prizes and an initial discount offered. I'll be sending out special editions of my e-mail newsletter with some tips and tricks to help you be successful in your stranded knitting, and we'll do a lot of chatting in the group about matching yarn to project, how to hold the yarn, finishing, and so forth. If you're not yet subscribed to my newsletter, you can sign up here. I myself am going to be knitting up two more Kerameia Cowls with the leftovers from the original samples (and the colors reversed). I hope you'll join us!

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

A Little Bit of Everything

After finishing all the deadline projects in May, I felt a little scattered with regard to starting new projects -- something about being free from obligations made me want to cast on about a dozen new things. But I restrained myself, mainly because there is a design project that's been patiently waiting for my attention again. I have pulled that shawl out and worked on it a bit in the last week, and I'm officially past the part where I really have to pay attention.

Unfortunately, it's really hard to show a crescent shawl when it's still on the needles, particularly when it gets wide enough that it's longer than the length of the circular. I've now got a bunch of rows to do in cream and then I'll pick up the blue again for the border. The rows are quite long now, but I'm also excited about this pattern again, so I have a feeling this shawl won't take me too much longer. Once this one is off the needles, I have some commercial yarn to knit another sample for the pattern, so I'm anxious to get it moving.

I'm also working on this month's pair of socks, which I started on June 1; I'm already through the gusset decreases on the first sock, and I'm just loving this colorway.

It's impossible to tell in this photo (and I blame the old point-and-shoot camera I'm using until I replace the good camera), but there are sparkles in this sock. I certainly don't feel the need for sparkles in my yarn, but it never hurts when they're there.

To curb the urge to cast on a bunch of new things, I cast on just one, and I made it a quick project. I started a dishcloth.

The pattern is Chinese Waves, which I knit years ago and am enjoying again this time around. This one will count toward the SSK knitalong (as well as Stash Dash), and as this skein of kitchen cotton was the last one I could find in my stash, I stocked up again at Michaels when Rainbow and I had a day of fun last Friday (she finished school with a short ceremony that morning, so we took the rest of the day to shop and relax). This pattern is very easy and I had it memorized after less than one repeat, so it should be a good one to knit several times to add to the stock of dishcloths in the house.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Twisty and Fluffy

Spinning has happened this week. So has plying. First, there's the yarn I plied last week, which you saw before it had its bath. I'm happy to report that it was very well behaved and well balanced after finishing, and I wound up with a bit more than 440 yards -- excellent yardage in my book.

Today I finished plying up the Fibernymph Dye Works BFL that I started a couple of weeks ago (shortly after finishing the singles for the yarn above). Just like last week, I don't have final yardage for this skein, as it's still drying from its bath. But here's how it looked freshly skeined:

It looks all nice and well behaved here, but to give you a sense of the plying twist, here's what the skein looks like when it's removed from tension:

Some of that excess twist does diminish in the wash, as some of the spinning twist is reawakened when it gets wet and the snapping of the skein I do after washing evens out the twist, but there's likely to be a little bit more plying twist left in the skein even after it's dry, and frankly I'm not too bothered by that. This skein is intended to be used as sock yarn, and a little bit of extra twist is good for long-term durability. I'm pretty sure this skein will be going into the shop, but I'm going to wait until it's dry to see if I'm able to part with it.

In the meantime, as I've been catching up with spinning, there has been quite an influx of fiber into the house in the past week. First, my first shipment of the Fibernymph Dye Works Barberpole Fiber Club arrived. Lisa designed this three-month club to play up the barberpoling effect of handspun, so each shipment consists of one semisolid and one multicolor braid of fiber (three ounces of each). The first club is already (just barely) on my wheel:

Sand (left) and Shetland Jellyfish (right)
I'm spinning this as another two-ply fingering(ish) weight, one ply of each color.

I also received a big pillow of fiber from Australia this week in the form of the clearance fiber I ordered from David at Southern Cross Fibre. I enjoyed spinning the club shipment of Charollais so much that I ordered another bag of it in this beautiful deep purple colorway called Hollyhock -- even prettier out of the bag, but I didn't want the fiber to explode until I was ready to spin it.

I'm hoping this will be enough for a lightweight sweater, and I might spin it for the Tour de Fleece.

Speaking of the Tour, as if all this fiber weren't enough, I also received an order I placed from FatCatKnits for two of the TdF exclusive colorways:


Dame Godel
These are both on Rambouillet and will be a delight to spin, I'm sure. It's going to be hard to wait until the start of the Tour before I dig in to these goodies!

Thursday, June 01, 2017

An Abundance of Sock Mojo

There must be something in the water lately, because I am all about the socks and have been knitting them up at a rate that I haven't done for many years. First, there's the pair that I was trying to squeeze in during the last part of May --  and I actually succeeded.

Pattern: my standard plain vanilla sock recipe, worked over 70 stitches
Yarn: Fibernymph Dye Works Squoosh 2.0 (75% Corriedale, 25% nylon) in Bring Me Orchids, one skein
Needles: US 0 (2.0 mm) 40 in. Addi Sock Rockets, magic loop
Started/Completed: May 19/May 30

These socks served to fulfill two knitalongs, the Yarngasm podcast Box 'o Sox KAL and the May challenge for the 90% Knitting A Year in the Life KAL. They also used another skein of sock yarn from my stash, so that's an added bonus. I think the stripes match up pretty well, though if you look really closely there's a difference of a couple of rounds right when the gusset decreases start (I doubt anyone but me will really notice that, though). This was my first time using this base from Lisa, and I really liked it. It's a little more robust than her other fingering bases, so the socks actually knit up a bit faster because I got about 11 rounds per inch rather than my usual 12 or 13. My one complaint is that I found the yarn to be a little splitty in the sense that I'd often snag a couple of fibers/loops from a strand, but that may be more due to the sharp needles I was using than an actual fault of the yarn.

Once these were off the needles, I turned my attention to a repair job. These socks might look familiar because I actually knit them last year. I stupidly shoved the socks into one of the bags I keep on the floor next to my bed and forgot about them, and when I dug them out again, I found that some wool-munching critter had chewed right through the toe of one of them.

I figured that rather than patching the hole by darning it, I'd probably get longer use of the socks if I just hacked off the toe and knit a new one. So that's just what I did, and luckily I still had a mini skein of the leftover yarn handy. While the repair job might seem straightforward, it was actually a bit more complicated than you might think because these socks were knit toe up and the replacement toe would be knit in the opposite direction. Fortunately I had the foresight to note on my Ravelry project page how many stitches I cast on with, so it was just a matter of unraveling enough to get workable stitches back on the needles, knitting a few rounds, and then decreasing for the toe.

I decided to use this opportunity to try a clasped weft join on these, and I have to say that I rather like the appearance. I worried that it would look too thick, but it seems to be blending in pretty well. Of course, the real test will be when I put the socks on and see if I can feel the area of the join (though I did the join on the instep of the sock for just this purpose).

Now that it's a new month (seriously, how is it already June?!), I needed a new sock on the needles, so I wound up the most recent skein I purchased from Lisa at FDW and started another pair of plain vanilla socks.

This is Lisa's Bedazzled base (superwash merino/nylon with a touch of sparkle) in a beautiful colorway called Impressionist Spring. I'm normally not one to go for the sparkly stuff in sock yarn, but I was lusting after this colorway and it was the last skein left in the shop, so I went for it. As it happens, it's perfect for the three-month KAL that starts today in the FDW Ravelry group.

Tomorrow I'm taking the day off from work to hang out with Rainbow, who will officially be done with first grade (yes, really) after a short ceremony in the morning. We have plans to do a little shopping and have lunch out but will likely spend at least part of the afternoon at home relaxing given that the weather forecast is not looking great. I have already promised her that we can go to the craft store, as she's recently been introduced to plastic canvas needlepoint in her after-school program and wants to get some supplies, and I'm hoping to get some materials to make stitch markers for a swap at SSK. I love that I can now look forward to regular crafting time with my girl!