Sunday, December 30, 2018

2018: A Retrospective

It's not the last day of the year, but it's my last post for 2018, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to look back on my crafting over the past 12 months.

It has been a very busy year, so I don't think it's been my most prolific, but I'm still pleased with what I accomplished. According to my Ravelry notebook, I've completed 33 projects this year and knit up nearly 14,000 yards of yarn in those projects. Those projects included:
  • four adult sweaters (three for me, one for the Mister),
  • four small person sweaters (one for Rainbow, one for her doll, and two baby knits),
  • fifteen pairs of socks,
  • seven hats (plus one more I'm hoping to finish by tomorrow),
  • two shawls,
  • three cowls,
  • and two gnomes (plus various other small projects).
I also spun about 6,500 yards of yarn and published 13 new designs. There's certainly more I wish I could have accomplished and have on my list for next year, but I'm feeling pretty good about my output.

My final two projects completed this year will be two hats for charity, which I think is apt considering that one of my intentions (I don't dare call them resolutions) for the new year ahead is to make more things for charity. I don't remember if I've mentioned it before, but we have a family member through marriage (don't ask me to explain the relationship, please!) has been teaching Head Start in a tiny village on an Alaskan island for the past couple of years. When we saw him this past summer, he was able to tell us a lot about what life was like there, and it was very clear to me that the natives who live there are in great need. What with it being Alaska, I of course thought about what I could knit to send, so I am trying to use up bits and bobs of leftovers to send warm accessories for the kids. I knit one hat earlier in the year and just finished a second yesterday:

This is the Megaliths Hat by Kino Knits, which was just released earlier this month, and it's the perfect pattern for partial skeins and leftovers. I used some of the Cascade 220 Superwash and Berroco Vintage leftover from the gnomes, roughly 170 yards. I cast this one on two days ago and finished yesterday, so it was a very fast knit. I started a second this morning and hope to have it wrapped up before tomorrow is over.

As we prepare to turn the page on 2018 and see what 2019 has in store for us, I want to thank you for reading my posts over the past year, and I especially want to thank those of you who have left comments so that I can continue the discussion in a dialogue. For a while there it seemed like the knitting blog was dying, but it seems like it is coming back, and that makes me glad because I feel like knitting blogs are what got me into this wonderful fibery world. I wish you and your loved ones a healthy, happy, prosperous new year!

Thursday, December 27, 2018

The Quickest of Knits

Something I really love about our annual winter vacation is that I get in a lot of extra knitting time and it's time I can count on. I generally bring more yarn than I end up using, but that's part of the fun. This year, I threw in a couple of balls of Patons Kroy at the last minute to make Rainbow some socks, as she'd picked it out on our most recent Michaels trip. I don't know if I've actually knit with Kroy before, but it was a pleasant surprise. While it's labeled fingering, at 332 yards per 100 g, I'd call it a sport weight. That means it knits up incredibly quickly. Remember that almost-complete first sock you saw in my last post? It's now an almost-complete pair:

The second sock was cast on yesterday and I knit while finishing up a book during the afternoon and until bedtime. When I put it down for the night, I'd done half of the heel. This afternoon, we went to see a performance of The Sound of Music, so I managed to get nearly all of the leg done. I have just a handful of rounds left before it's time to bind off, so these will be a finished pair in short order.

I've also put in a handful of rows on my Floozy cardigan, which has been on hold for the past couple months while I worked on the Mister's sweater. It's slow going, with several hundred stitches on the needles, but I'm hoping I can at least get to the split of the arms from the body.

The other nice benefit of this vacation is that there is lots of time to read and also usually a good selection of books available to choose from (when my parents come down here, they like to sit by the pool and read all day, so they usually leave the books for anyone else who wants them). I've read two so far and plan to read a few more if I can. In considering what to read next, I've been thinking about all the books I've read the past year, and this post seemed as good a place as any to highlight some of my favorites.

I really surprised myself by reading 69 books (so far) this year -- blowing my reading challenge goal of 25 out of the water. In large part, that was due to my full embrace of the digital book, which is so much easier to read when out and about than a physical book. I also finally figured out how to borrow e-books from the library, so I've been able to start things on a whim without having to go to a bookstore or shop online. You can view all the books I've read this year if you follow me on Goodreads, but for now, here are my top nine (in no particular order -- just the order in which I read them this year):
The last one on the list is the book I finished last night, and I was so engrossed that I knit past where I needed to start the heel on the second sock and had to rip back several rounds! All in all, I've read some great books this year and hope to read just as many next year. I'm also hoping to finish one more before the end of 2018 so I can have an even 70 books for the year. What's really notable is that 58 of these books were digital -- I suppose I've finally entered the 21st century!

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

All Obligations Complete

As of last night, I am officially done with my gift knitting. Even better? I didn't have to be done until the end of the week, so I find myself with bonus knitting time! The final items to be crossed off my list were these cuties:

Pattern: Here We Gnome Again by Sarah Schira
Yarn: scraps of Cascade 220 Superwash (yellow and royal blue) and Berroco Vintage Worsted (navy and white)
Needles: US 4 (3.5 mm) and US 5 (3.75 mm)
Started/Completed: December 11/December 24

These might get a little more blinged up before they're gifted (perhaps a pompom on the tip of the hats and a school pennant in the form of a piece of paper on a toothpick), but I'm counting them as done. I am enchanted by them and am a bit sorry that I'm giving them away, so it's very possible that I'll be making more to keep. We had to take a trip to Michaels on Sunday to buy stuffing and poly pellets, so now I'm quite well stocked to make some additional gnomes. My plan is to have these sitting on the bed waiting for my brother and his fiancee when they come down on Saturday, and then they'll be able to take them home when they leave. I'm still undecided about whether or not to sew the hand of the two gnomes together (a snap might have been a good compromise, but I didn't think of it when we were at the craft store).

Now that all the gift knitting is done, I'm turning back to fun knitting. Mainly, that is knitting for me, but Rainbow will benefit from it as well. I cast on a new pair of socks for me on our way to the airport on Saturday morning, and I started a pair for her on Sunday night while we were waiting for dinner at a restaurant. The latter pair has seen much more attention over the past two days.

Rainbow's socks (on the left) are plain toe-up stockinette using the Fish Lips Kiss Heel template, and I made a new foot outline for her before I started. Her feet are now 8 inches long! I finished up the toe and knit most of the foot yesterday and did the rest today (about 3.5 inches of leg while we were at the movies, too).

My socks -- the more colorful ones -- are a special treat. My dear friend Lisa (the dyer behind Fibernymph Dye Works) had texted me on Thursday that she was sending me "a little something" that she hoped would arrive on Friday so that I could open it before we left. Thankfully, we live close enough that it did only take a day to arrive, and I was so excited when I opened the package and saw a skein of her special Dyer's Favorites 2018 colorway that she is offering as her final Yay of Christmas. She had previewed the colorway on her most recent podcast episode, and I'd told her how much I loved it and how I was going to have to set myself a reminder so I could get online and order a skein when they went up. So she surprised me by sending me one! The stripes in this colorway are the colors she's dyed most frequently the past year, and the contrast mini skein has speckles of the same colors. It's been a while since I last knit myself a pair of socks, and coincidentally I've had a couple of older pairs bite the dust recently, so these will be a lovely treat.

If you are celebrating Christmas today, I hope you have a wonderful day surrounded by those you love. If, like me, you aren't, I hope you enjoy your evening and that you are surrounded by yarny things. Cheers!

Sunday, December 23, 2018

The Final Skein

Greetings from southwest Florida, where it is a bit cooler than we'd like but sunny and relaxing! We flew down here yesterday, and before we left, I made sure to finish up one final skein of handspun. In between doing laundry, packing, and various other last-minute things on Friday, I plied up all the singles from my Fibernymph Dye Works Merry Month of Minis. Though I left out three of the 31 minis (two because I felt they were too coarse in relation to the other ones and one because it was pure silk and I wanted to save it for something else), my finished skein was a whopping 260 grams and just barely fit on one of my miniSpinner bobbins.

Here's what it looked like freshly skeined and waiting for the bath to fill up with hot water (I twisted it up like this in order to weigh it):

And here's what it looked like yesterday morning, still a little damp (and not quite as vibrant as it is in real life thanks to the gloomy light):

The skein is positively enormous and more than a little messy, and I'm estimating I got a bit more than 560 yards. This year, I wasn't as careful as I have been in the past about keeping my singles consistent, so it does run a bit thick and thin, exacerbated by the fact that some of the silk blends obviously wanted to end up thinner and some fiber poofed a lot in the finishing.

I'm pleased with this skein but am really undecided about what to do with it, given that I already have three handspun brioche infinity cowls and probably don't need another. I might make one and give it as a gift. I might put it up for sale in my Fiber Crafty shop. Or I might see if I can commission a weaving friend to weave it into a scarf for me. If you have another good suggestion (and no, it can't be "send it to me!"), feel free to make it!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Pattern Release: Mini Maximization

Although it's been a busy month for pattern releases already, I have one more to squeeze in before the year is over! This new shawl actually started back in June, when I traveled to Cleveland for the TNNA summer show with my friend Lisa of Fibernymph Dye Works. We were talking about future pattern collaborations, and I can't remember which of us brought it up, but somehow we got to talking about ideas to use up mini skein sets. As I contemplated it more, naturally my head went right to my favorite item to design: a shawl. It occurred to me that the biggest challenge in using mini skeins is that your yardage is limited, so why not design a shawl where you use each mini skein until it basically runs out? After all, a shawl doesn't need to be any particular size, and it's easy to bind off when you're done or out of yarn. So Lisa dyed up two sets of minis for me in beautiful autumnal colors, one semisolid and one speckled, and I started knitting. It worked out just as I'd hoped.

Mini Maximization (so named because I believe in truth in advertising!) is an amazingly flexible design in that you can use any amount of yarn, in any weight, and work at any gauge you'd like. My sample used fingering weight (Lisa's Bounce base), but if you have scraps or leftovers of heavier yarn, they will make a very cozy shawl. You may need to do a little swatching to determine your needle size, but the goal is only to get a fabric that you like. The shawl is constructed from the top down using a typical crescent shawl construction, but because of the way I've worked the stripes, it actually ends up being more of a half-circle shape.

What makes these stripes different from a typically striped item is that they use a technique that I guess is technically intarsia but without the fiddliness that intarsia usually entails. There are no yarn bobbins to juggle or strands to twist or tangles to undo. Instead, I've "unvented" a way to insert intarsia stripes by employing short rows. That means that you've got two strands of yarn attached to the knitting at all times, and when you use one, the other one just hangs out until you're ready for it. You simply switch colors when one essentially runs out (i.e., you don't have enough yarn left to complete another stripe) and you bind off on the last row when you're almost out of yarn or are ready to be done.

Lisa has dyed up a bunch of kits for this shawl, and for the next two days only (December 20 and 21), they're on sale as part of her 12 Yays of Christmas promotion. You'll also find the pattern in my Ravelry shop if you've already got a bunch of mini skeins on hand and want to get started right away.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The Last 5%

My apologies for the awful photo (there's only so much I can do when the sun is just barely up), but look at this!

Yes, that's my shadow. Thanks, overhead lights.

This is the Mister's Neighborly Cardigan, all complete except for sewing in the collar (that's the weird shape at the top still attached to the ball of yarn). I've sewn in the zipper, sewn up all the other seams, and woven in all the remaining ends. I'm thinking that I have about half an hour of work remaining before this UFO is officially an FO.

The event that precipitated the knitting of this sweater is tomorrow evening, so I don't have time to do a full wet block of the finished garment (though I did wet-block all the pieces, save the collar, prior to seaming). That leaves me with two choices: I can use an iron to do some careful steam blocking of the seams, or I can spray it a bit and then toss it in the dryer briefly. On the one hand, steam blocking is a safer bet because I can keep an eye on it, but on the other hand, it's knit from superwash wool and did get a little stretched out, so it could do with a little tumble through the dryer to get the superwash to bounce back. I can certainly put it in the dryer on its own and check on it every few minutes, but my only hesitation is that I don't want it to start pilling before it's even been worn once. What would you do?

Now that this is (nearly) finished, my focus is turning to the gnomes for my brother and his fiancee. I would love to have them done by the end of the week so I could drop them off for them to open on Christmas, but I figure that if it's too much of a stretch, I'll finish them in Florida and have them waiting when the two of them come down about a week after we arrive. It would be wonderful to get them done before we leave, though, because I'm counting on the extra knitting time to work on some of my projects!

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Down to Five

I have only managed to spin this past week for a measly 45 minutes, and that was all done this morning. I've been devoting nearly all my crafting time to the Mister's sweater (and as a result, it is thankfully almost done), but I plan to work in more spinning this week. As of this morning, I had five fiber minis left to spin for the Merry Month of Minis from Fibernymph Dye Works.

In my brief time at the wheel this morning, I put on a new bobbin and got through one mini (the one at the bottom right in the photo) and started in on a second (the one just above it). I think it takes me about 20-30 minutes to get through each one of these, so I probably have about two hours of spinning at most to finish up the singles. I am taking Friday off from work because Rainbow has a half day, so I figure that if I haven't gotten around to it then, I will ply all the singles that day. We leave for our trip south on Saturday, and assuming I do get the skein finished before then, I will have met my goal. And I hope that if that does happen, I can take the rest of the year -- at a minimum! -- off from ridiculous goals!

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Needed: More Time

We're getting down to the wire on the Mister's sweater, and I am starting to panic. The party to which he will wear it is next Wednesday. I'm still working on the sleeves, and while I've finished the increases, I need to get to 18 inches before I start the shaping for the sleeve cap. Last night I was at 16 inches. I knit a few more rows, measured again, and was still at 16 inches. So clearly I have entered that black hole of knitting in which you keep working but never make any progress. I'm going to keep working on them every chance I get, but my knitting time will be limited over the next several days. Tonight I have a board meeting, and they usually run late, and Saturday we've got Rainbow's birthday party at home and then a holiday party that evening. Sunday morning is basically shot because I have Hebrew class with Rainbow first thing and then a meeting. So it's going to be down to the wire on this one. I've blocked the back and fronts already and will block the sleeves as soon as they're done. The last piece to knit is the collar, which is all in 1x1 rib, so it likely won't be too fast even though it is the smallest piece. The zipper should be here by Monday at the latest. I'm hoping that I can finish the sleeves and block them by sometime this weekend and have the sweater seamed up by the time the zipper comes so that all I'll have to do is sew in the zipper. (I say "all" like it's a little job, but the reality is that it will probably take me several hours to do that.)

In the meantime, I've been working on a new project that was intended to be a Christmas gift but might get put on hold until after the sweater is finally done. I am finally knitting a gnome -- well, more accurately, I am knitting two, but only one is currently on the needles. They are going to be for my brother and his fiancee (they just got engaged last weekend). Their alma maters have very similar colors, so the gnomes will be coordinating. I am nearly finished with the hat of the first one:

I really can't get over the cute. I think I could whip these out in no time if I could focus on them, but that time isn't there right now. Worst case scenario, I'll take them to Florida with me and give the completed gnomes to them when they join us a week later (and just call them New Year's Gnomes instead).

The one bit of good news is that I did finish the doll-sized sweater to give Rainbow for her birthday (I haven't had time to wrap it yet, but that's another story):

It fits the doll -- huge relief! -- and I found some reasonably matching buttons. I can't wait to see Rainbow in her sweater holding the doll in this wee one!

Finally, I did want to mention that after I posted my latest sock pattern earlier this week, I found out that two more had been published. These are both included in the December Sock Crush shipment, but they're also available through my Ravelry store. You can click on the links to see the pattern pages and read more about them.

Eternal Flame Socks

                                                                         Bookbinders Socks

Hope you have a great weekend! See you back here on Sunday, when we find out if I've managed to squeeze in some spinning time.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Pattern Release: Trap a Zoid

I know you may be surprised hearing from me on a Monday, but sometimes surprises merit a surprise post!

If you're familiar with my designs, then you know that one of my favorite indie dyers to work with is Lisa of Fibernymph Dye Works. I've used her yarn a lot over the past several years, both for my designs and for my personal knitting, so I have a lot of leftovers and partial skeins sitting around. A while back, I saw a call for submissions that got my gears turning, and I pulled out some remnants of Lisa's sportweight Traveler base and started swatching. The resulting submission didn't get picked up for that particular call, but I liked the swatch so much that I decided to keep going with the design and self-publish.

Lisa was so excited about the design when she saw it that she not only offered to (unofficially) test knit it, but she asked if I'd like to collaborate with her again and make this pattern part of a kit for her 12 Yays of Christmas. Of course I wasn't about to refuse her! So I'm announcing this new pattern launch today because in addition to being able to get a kit for this pattern through Lisa's shop, for the next two days, you can also get it at a special lower price (an even better deal that she normally gives over the usual reduced price of buying the kit versus all the components separately).

I'm guessing some of you are wondering about the name of this particular design, so let me explain. Way back when I was in the seventh grade (we'll avoid, for now, the subject of just how many years ago that was), I had a fairly wacky math teacher. She was known for being quirky and a bit offbeat, but it worked well in terms of getting us interested in the subject matter. When we were starting our geometry unit, we began by getting familiar with the names of various shapes. She surprised us all by drawing a little alien figure on the board:

This, she explained, was the dreaded Zoid. Zoids are, apparently, very destructive and dangerous, so if you see one, the only thing was to use a polygon to capture it. What kind of polygon? Well, I think this speaks for itself:

This is Zoid that's been captured with a Trap-a-Zoid. Get it? Yes, I realize it's a bit silly, but as a 13-year-old, I found it mildly amusing and certainly a useful trick for remembering the name of the shape.

Math and socks have been on my mind a lot this past year, and it occurred to me that there are trapezoid shapes already in a standard heel-flap-and-gusset sock with a wedge toe. So I decided to throw in a bit of colorwork to enhance this.

If these socks look familiar, it's because they're very similar in style and execution to my Palestra pattern. They've got the same little short-row tab above the heel and the same general shape, but there are fewer ends to weave in. The stranded colorwork is restricted to the rows of trapezoids around the middle of the foot, but there are pops of the contrast color around the cuff and under the heel.

While I highly recommend Lisa's yarn (and that you get your hands on one of her kits, if you can), if you're trying to knit down your stash, the colorwork uses little enough yarn that it's great for small amounts of leftovers or mini skeins. I'm also finding that I really love a little stranded work in the middle of my sock -- it makes it hug the foot so nicely and adds some extra cushion. And this stranded pattern is super easy, so if you're just dipping your toes in, it won't be too difficult for you.

The special price on Lisa's kits is available only today and tomorrow (December 10 and 11), but she will continue to have the kits in stock at their regular price after that. You can also buy the pattern on its own through my Ravelry shop.

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Off Kilter but Full

I'm definitely in the home stretch on my Merry Month of Minis spinning. As of this writing, I have five minis left that are lined up to be spun and one full bobbin.

For once, the uneven-looking bobbin in this shot isn't due to perspective. Rather, it seems that my WooLee Winder needs a bit of an adjustment to wind on evenly. You can see that there's still a fair amount of room at the far end of the bobbin, but there's no more room at the near end, so I figured this would be a good place to stop. I'll start a new bobbin for the remaining minis, but all the singles will eventually get plied into one big skein.

Here's what's been spun since last week:

Clockwise from top left: Color Comin' Outta Your Ying-Yang on 85% Polwarth/15% silk, Fading Peacock on Gotland, Don't Tell Him It's a Rainbow on mixed BFL, and Seventh Year Stitch Color Pops on Targhee

Two minis were added today:

Top: Secret Garden on Falkland; Bottom: Beach Wedding on 75% BFL/25% silk
If you're looking closely at the numbers on the little slips of paper that go with each fiber mini, you'll notice that there are two days missing. I decided to leave out two of the minis that I opened this week:

First, there was a beautiful mini of 100% Mulberry silk, and I decided that I wanted to save that to either to spin on its own or to blend in with something else. The other mini was Welsh, which is fairly rough/coarse and hairy, and it didn't really feel like the rest of the fiber, so I just left it out; perhaps I'll combine it with the Karakul at a later time.

Part of me really wants to keep spinning until I finish the last five minis, but I also know that I have some sleeves to be knit!

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Mild Panic Knitting

When I finished the fronts to the Mister's sweater last weekend, I felt like I was going to have no trouble whatsoever getting in done in time. Then I started the sleeves, and my progress seems to have slowed to a standstill. I know, intellectually, that of course the knitting is going to be slower doing both sleeves at once -- I have twice the stitches to work for each row, plus each time I turn to start a new row I have to flip my yarn around so the two strands don't get tangled. I also know that it will likely take me just as long to knit them simultaneously as it would have to knit them separately. But that hasn't stopped me from feeling like my knitting speed is now as slow as molasses.

As of last night, I had about 60 rows left to knit before I get to the sleeve cap shaping. So I'll keep plugging away at them and hope for the best. The sweater needs to be ready to be worn on the 19th, so really it needs to be done before then if I'm going to block it. I think I may block the back and the fronts this weekend, while the sleeves are still on the needles; I've ordered a zipper, and the fronts will need to be blocked to their final measurements to install it, so I can at least get that out of the way. Once the zipper is in, I can seam the shoulders and get ready to set in the sleeves as soon as they're complete.

In the meantime, I should soon be done entirely with the doll sweater I've been knitting for Rainbow. I finished up the body and knit most of the first sleeve today, and the knitting that remains to be done should take no time at all.

The big challenge for this project will be blocking it and then hiding it so she doesn't see it while it's drying -- she does seem to know how to find things I'm trying to keep secret!

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Status Update

Much knitting happened over the weekend, so I have actual visible progress to share on the Mister's Neighborly Cardigan!

Apologies for the early morning photo

Both fronts have now been completed, and I've cast on for the sleeves. I'm knitting them at the same time, on the same needle, to ensure that they come out identical. On the one hand, this means they will take twice as long, but I'll also be done with both at the same time (isn't the worst thing about knitting a sleeve having to knit a second one?). The sleeve progress is entirely from Sunday evening; I didn't touch them last night at all because I was busy working on something else. But I'll be picking them up again tonight and seeing if I can get through the rest of the 1x2 ribbing at the cuffs and move on to the much faster stockinette.

The other project that jumped on my needles yesterday is my first official Giftalong project, and it's a little something for Rainbow. You may remember that when we picked out yarn for her Hyphen sweater earlier in the year, we also selected a coordinating skein of yarn in fingering weight to knit a matching sweater for her American Girl Doll. Rainbow's birthday is a week from Saturday, so I thought that if I cast on now, I could have it done to give to her as a gift (she does know that I had the yarn for the sweater, but she doesn't know that I've started it, so it will still be a surprise). Here's where it was as of the end of my lunch break yesterday:

I have since added another increase row and another band of the stitch pattern and put the sleeve stitches on waste yarn. I'm using some notes from another Raveler but also winging it a bit -- I had to steal the doll from Rainbow's room last night while she was sleeping to hold the WIP up to it and check the fit. Fortunately I think it'll be close enough, and blocking will help. The one benefit of knitting for a doll is that it's unlikely to complain if the fit isn't perfect -- not to mention that this sweater will never be outgrown! Considering that I only cast on yesterday and have already divided the sleeve stitches from the body, I think this will be done fairly soon.

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Slow Bobbin Filling

This post once again contains spoilers, but I'm not going to hide them because it's going to be the case for every spinning post going forward until I finish all the minis.

I've added four more bits of fiber from my Fibernymph Dye Works Merry Month of Minis bobbin, and it is slowly filling up (I expect that I will have some overflow onto a second bobbin when all is said and done). These were for days 15, 16, 17, and 18.

Clockwise from top left: Down at the Pub on Falkland, Expanded Rainbow on 80% Targhee/10% bamboo/10% silk, Cotton Sheets on BFL, and Winter Shore on Norwegian

Obviously one of these things was not like the other, and it looked so beautiful on the bobbin thanks to the even winding on of my WooLee Winder:

I've got the next four minis unwrapped (I wanted to do that while the sun was out so I could snap pictures) and lined up ready to spin. I'm going to try to fit in a few minutes every evening to get them spun so I can try to spin up the remaining minis next weekend. That may be a bit of a pipe dream on my part, but it would be lovely to finish up in the first week of December and have the yarn finished should I choose to start knitting it later this month. Plus, I wouldn't mind getting back to my combo spin before we leave for our annual trip to Florida. If only there were more hours in the day!

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Sometimes, Science Is Slow

I am still chugging away on the Mister's Neighborly Cardigan, though the right front isn't much different from the left, so I'll spare you another photo until there's been significant progress. Instead, today I want to talk about a long-awaited update to an experiment that began roughly five and a half years ago (yes, I verified the date because it did not seem like that long!).

For those of you who are reading who weren't around back then, a refresher: Back in 2013, Sarah Anderson's The Spinner's Book of Yarn Design came out and was much discussed in the Ravelry spinning community. One of the ply structures she discussed in this book was an opposing ply yarn -- in other words, a multi-ply yarn with one ply spun in the same direction as the ply -- that was supposed to create a more durable yarn and knit fabric. I was intrigued by this idea and decided to do an experiment with a pair of socks, one knit with a traditional three-ply yarn and one with an opposing ply yarn, with both skeins spun from the same fiber and knit the same to keep all the other variables consistent. I used some Corriedale pencil roving from the now-defunct Crown Mountain Farms and spun up my two skeins, one for each sock:

This photo was taken before the skeins were washed, so you can see that both have active ply twist, but I think it's fairly obvious which skein was the one with the opposing ply.

After finishing the yarn, I knit up the socks, which were identical save for adding some cable twists to the ribbing of sock knit with the opposing ply skein so I could tell them apart.

The next stage of the experiment took a bit longer. I wore the socks regularly for the next five years. I didn't pay attention to which foot which sock was on when I wore them (one foot is a bit more calloused than the other) and didn't treat them any differently than my other hand-knit socks. They were probably worn about once a month during sock season and handwashed after wearing. When I was wearing them last week, Rainbow noticed that they were finally showing signs of wear. So at last I have some results to share!

Here you can see thinning on the heel flaps (top photos) and under the ball of my foot (bottom photos), where I usually wear out my socks. You can see that the wear is pretty much the same on the heel, but it's noticeably worse on the bottom of the foot on the sock on the right -- and that's the traditional three ply sock.

I'm not convinced that opposing ply sock yarn is inherently more hardy than a traditional three ply, especially as both of these socks are showing wear, but it's at least clear that it doesn't hurt to have the added twist of an opposing ply. I think nylon content is probably better at preventing wear, as I have some very sturdy generic wool/nylon socks (knit from yarn like Regia) that are a decade or more old and aren't showing any signs of their age other than some fuzzing. Ultimately, given that socks probably get the most vigorous wear of any item of knit clothing, I expect them to wear out, but it's good to know that there is an option that might help a little. Is is worth the pain of dealing with extra-twisty yarn? That remains to be seen.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

It's Looking More Likely

... that I will actually finish the Mister's sweater in time! Though I ended up working on it less than I should have over the holiday long weekend, I did get started on the left front, which, I have to say, was a lot more entertaining than the back due to the simple inclusion of one cable and a bit of ribbing. I am apparently very easily amused.

I have worked on this here and there, including during my lunch breaks and during a conference call this morning at work. And all those little bits added up enough that I finished the piece just before the end of lunch today. I even won at yarn chicken!

I usually prefer a longer tail than this, but this is long enough to weave in securely, and I have a long enough tail at each of the shoulders on the back that I can use those for seaming. I'm just grateful that I did not have to join a new ball of yarn just to knit the last couple of rows.

I haven't touched my own sweater in more than a week, and I think by now I've pretty much accepted that it won't be done in time for the Cardigan Party. But I can always take it with us to Florida, where knitting time will be plentiful.

In the meantime, I cast on a new mindless project in order to have something to knit on at the movies last Wednesday night (we have a long tradition with some family friends of going to dinner and the movies together the night before Thanksgiving) and at the theater this past Saturday. I figured I might as well dig into the newest stash enhancements, so I pulled out one of the skeins that was purchased at Indie Knit & Spin a couple of weeks ago and started a Sockhead Slouch Hat for Rainbow. I've only knit on it during those two excursions, and it's already pretty far along.

I discovered after the movie that apparently I cannot accurately count to 2 while knitting in the dark, so I had some mistakes to fix (nothing that a Handi Tool couldn't fix!). The ribbing is, you will notice, about half the length that it should be, and that's because Rainbow decided that it was long enough. That was just fine with me, as I'm much faster just knitting stockinette in the round. I'll be trying it on her periodically so she can also tell me when the total length is long enough (I expect it'll be a lot less slouchy than the pattern specifies). This yarn comes in a very generous skein, so I expect I will have a good amount of leftovers to play with when I'm done -- unless I can convince her she needs a very large pompom, of course.

Sunday, November 25, 2018


Well hello there! It's been a little longer than I intended thanks to the Thanksgiving long weekend. I meant to put up a post on Thursday, but I was busy with cooking and baking and just never got around to it. And that's really okay.

Today's spinning post is full of spoilers that some of you might not want to see, so if you've got a Fibernymph Dye Works Merry Month of Minis fiber collection and don't want to know what it contains, now's the time to close this post! So that you won't inadvertently see a spoiler, I'll start out with some information that I meant to post on Thursday.

If you're on Ravelry and do holiday gift crafting, then you've likely heard about the Indie Design Gift-a-long. This is the event's sixth year, and I'm once again participating as both a designer and a moderator (you'll find me in the KAL/CAL thread for feet and legs). Through this coming Thursday, all 349 participating designers have between 10 and 20 of their designs collected in a special bundle and on sale for 25% off using the coupon code giftalong2018. You can use the code as many times at you like. Then, you can participate in the knitalongs/crochetalongs to get your holiday crafting done and have a chance to win some prizes. You'll find my bundle, containing 20 of my patterns, here; these patterns are on sale this week, but all of my patterns (and all participating designer patterns) are eligible for the KALs, and all paid patterns are eligible to win prizes.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's talk spinning, shall we?

The Merry Month of Minis collection this year has 31 minis, but because we'll be away at the end of December, I decided I wanted to start in on them early in order to get them all spun up before we leave. So I started spinning last week, and I've gotten through all of a dozen so far and done part of my 13th mini. I thought it would be easiest to show you in some collages.

Clockwise from top left: Chambray on Polwarth, Wisterious on BFL, Winter Sun on 60% wool/40% flax, and Beach Glass on 80% Targhee/10% Bamboo/10% silk

Clockwise from top left: Sequoia on Gotland, American Rust on mixed BFL, She Sells Seashells on 85% Polwarth/15% silk, and Golden Overdye on Manx Loaghtan

Clockwise from top left: Raspberry Bramble on Targee, Wild Honey on 75% BFL/25% silk, The Overlook on Cheviot, and Rhodochrosite/Tangelo on mixed BFL

Finally, the mini in progress is Citrus Grove on Polwarth:

I've actually skipped one mini, and that was Day 13, which was Karakul. The color is beautiful, but it's not a wool I enjoy spinning, so I left it out.

My first bobbin is filling up nicely, if I do say so:

I imagine that I'll use a good amount of a second bobbin when all is said and done. As with last year, I plan to chain-ply all the singles I spin, though I anticipate having a slightly thicker yarn this year because I'm spinning a lot faster and thus not taking the time to make sure my singles are very fine. It'll be a surprise no matter what I come up with!

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Two on Tuesday

This week, the "two" refers to the two sweater WIPs, both of which are still in progress and not likely to be done anytime soon. But there has been some forward movement.

For one thing, I finished the back of the Mister's Neighborly Cardigan on Sunday evening, right down to weaving in ends from joining in new skeins (the little yarn butterflies you see are reserved for seaming).

This is decidedly the most boring piece of the sweater, so I'm glad to have it finished up. I plan to start knitting the first of the front pieces tonight. The fronts at least have cables on them, so the knitting should be a little more engaging.

Meanwhile, I've added a handful of rows to my Floozy and have finished the very fun spiky section:

Please forgive the quality of the photo, but it's the best I can do when it's as gray outside as it has been. I think you can still see the stitches, which is what's important. The way this effect is achieved is really quite ingenious, but I don't want to give away the secret sauce by telling you how it's done. It's certainly the slowest part of the colorwork, so I'm glad that it's finished.

I've actually got one more WIP on the needles as of yesterday, a second sock for a pair that was started as a pattern submission that didn't make the cut (and thus is now with my tech editor for self-publishing), but there's not much to see just yet, so I'll share when it's done.

Because my WIPs aren't terribly exciting at this point, let's talk about reading! I've finished quite a few books since I last posted about what I'm reading, but I'm just going to highlight a handful of the best.
  • The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton: I enjoyed this but found that it seemed to go on a little longer than it needed to. I didn't see the plot twist coming, and that always makes me happy (I just hate it when I've figured out a mystery long before the answer is revealed). I gave it four stars.
  • Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng: I had gotten on the wait list for this book at the library because it was one of those books that everyone seemed to be reading and talking about, and it did not disappoint. I adored this book. It's beautifully written and has amazing character development. I gave it 5 enthusiastic stars.
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: This was also a book with a lot of buzz, and I enjoyed it, though at times it was difficult to read. I gave it four stars.
  • Exit West by Mohsin Hamid: I started reading this book when (no joke) I was waiting to give blood and needed a way to pass the time. It was a title that I'd heard from award and best-seller lists, and it was available from the library, so I borrowed and started it then and there. While it's hard to describe the plot of the book because the setting is so vague, the writing is simply gorgeous. Hamid has a way of making run-on sentences a thing of beauty rather than something to avoid. I gave it four stars.
  • Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng: After loving Little Fires so much, I was very keen to read Ng's previous book. I enjoyed it a lot, though not as much as Little Fires. The premise of the story is a sad one, and once again Ng triumphs in her amazingly in-depth character studies. I gave it four stars.
  • Circe by Madeline Miller: I very much enjoyed this book and the imaginative way that Miller has chosen to take the stories of notable characters from Greek myth, but it didn't pull me in quite as strongly as The Song of Achilles did. I gave it four stars.
Goodreads tells me that I've read 64 books so far this year, which is just bonkers considering that my initial goal was 25 and that was a step up from last year. Three cheers for the library and ebooks!

Sunday, November 18, 2018

A Perfect Combination

I didn't know quite what to expect when I started my combo spin. I knew I liked the colors in the three braids I started with, but combining them was a gamble. In spite of their similarities, the blend could have come out completely muddy. Or it could come out just perfect -- and it did.

I finished plying the first skein last night, after several sessions at the wheel, and didn't go to bed until it had been skeined and washed. Of course I checked it first thing this morning to see how it had turned out, and though it needed to sit on a radiator for a few more hours to fully dry, I couldn't be happier with the results. The colors mixed up enough that no one shade completely jumps out but also didn't get muddied. Overall, there's a soft pastel-like look to it.

After I skeined it up, I was hoping I'd have about 600 yards, but I forgot that I was working with Targhee and Targhee poofs up when you wash it. So my finished yardage is in the range of 550. Still, if my second skein is in the same neighborhood, I should have plenty of yardage for a Tegna to fit me.

The second skein will be under way soon, but I'm going to take a brief break to spin up some minis. Once again this year I am doing the Fibernymph Dye Works Merry Month of Minis in fiber form. There are enough minis this year to do one a day for the entire month of December, but because we'll be away for the end of the month, I thought I'd get a head start. I'm going to try to do one a day from here on out, maybe more than that if I have extra time, so that I've got finished yarn before we leave for our trip. If you're participating and don't want to get spoiled, look away now!

Day 1 is a colorway called Chambray on Polwarth (my favorite!), and it came with a lovely little soap sample from Dusty Tree. It smells wonderful and will definitely be put into use when we use up the Dusty Tree soap we're already using.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

I'm Having Too Much Fun

You might think that knitting a fingering-weight sweater on size 2 needles would be a slog. It might get to that point, but for now, it's a delight. I can't seem to put it down.

I'd estimate I'm about halfway through the colorwork yoke of my Floozy cardigan, and if I keep up this pace, I'll be on to the boring part (the single-color stockinette body) before I know it. It might just turn into a slog then, but for now I'm focusing on how much I'm enjoying it. Surprisingly, I'm not even minding the small needle size. For one thing, they feel big to me because I'm used to knitting socks on size 0 needles. But the yarn is also quite robust for something classified as fingering; I think it's really closer to a sport weight, so the fabric feels pretty substantial and, I think, will even bloom a bit with blocking. It's definitely a rustic, woolly yarn, and I can definitely see myself knitting with it more in the future for other colorwork things. It would be excellent for steeking!

The other sweater WIP is pretty much the antithesis of my sweater -- plain old stockinette. Still, it's going well.

It's getting too big for my desk!

I started the armhole shaping yesterday, so now I just need to get to about 10 inches in length above that point before I do the shoulder shaping and finish off the back piece. I've just joined in the fourth ball of yarn, making me very glad that I ordered extra skeins!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Cardigan Club

My daily decision about what to knit just got easier, because I now have a choice of two cardigans: the Mister's Neighborly Cardigan and my Floozy cardigan. Those are my only projects on my needles now because, thanks to a late (for me) night on Saturday, my Fibernymph Dye Works minis shawl is done!

It's pretty big -- you just don't get a sense of scale here -- and, more importantly, turned out as I was hoping, so now I just have to finish writing up the pattern, take some real photos, and get it off to my tech editor. I stayed up late to finish and block it so that I could take it to Indie Knit & Spin on Sunday to show to Lisa. Of course, I didn't go just to show her the shawl; some shopping occurred as well (it turns out that Rainbow is growing into quite the enabler).

Aside from the bit of show and tell, my primary reason to go to the show was to get yarn to make Rainbow a Little Boxy. I had already checked with Lisa to see if she would have some semisolid in a blue available, and so we came home with three skeins of Bounce in Peacock Blue (the three skeins in the center). After that, we went a little wild. I'd like to point out that of everything you see in this photo, only the braid of fiber from HipStrings and the two skeins of Dusty Tree Dyeworks ROOT on the far right are for me -- everything else is for Rainbow! She picked out the HipStrings Double Major (just to the left of the yarn for her sweater) for some thicker socks for her and then went gaga for the skein from Wren House Yarns on the far left. As if that weren't enough, she then won the purple skein of DK from Unplanned Peacock Studio in the raffle toward the end of the show. I guess I should take her yarn shopping more often!

Obviously there will be a lot of small person knitting in the future, but for now, the focus is on sweaters. Now that the shawl is complete, the Mister's sweater has become my lunchtime knitting, and I'm a good way into the back. It doesn't look very exciting, so I'll spare you a progress photo until something interesting happens. Working on that during the day has freed up my evenings to focus on my sweater, which finally seems to be making some progress. Last night I did my first rows using the third and final color, and I'm really pleased with how nicely the colors are playing.

The contrast isn't quite as stark as it looks here, but that's early morning November light for you. I'm glad I decided to use the contrast colors in this order because I think the medium blue really pops well against the yellow.

Knitting this sweater is so different from knitting the Mister's, namely due to the yarn. His is knit from a supersoft superwash merino, and this Blacker Classic is decided not that -- it's much more rustic and wooly. I don't really need such a sticky yarn for this pattern, but I can see that this yarn would be perfect for stranded work that is steeked -- it's not going anywhere!