Sunday, April 29, 2018

Zen and the Art of Spinning Wheel Maintenance

Spinning is incredibly relaxing for me. I've even been known to nod off while spinning if I happen to be a little tired because I get so in the zone. But my main wheel, my Lendrum, is now about a decade old, and in the past few months, it's developed an annoying squeak that has been decidedly not relaxing. The best I could tell was that the squeak was coming from somewhere near the treadles, where there isn't anything that can be oiled or lubricated, so it seemed like a good time to replace some connectors.

While in theory this replacement is an easy process, in practice it required some unusual tools and some extra muscle. I enlisted the Mister in helping, and between the two of us, we managed to replace both footman connectors.

I also replaced my drive band, which was yellowed and very stretched out. Want to see just how much these little pieces of plastic change over a decade? Here's a connector we removed (top) and a new one (bottom):

The new one is actually clear; it only appears gray due to the light. But you can see a big difference. The wheel is now all put back together and without a squeak to be heard.

And what is on the wheel?

This is Spelau (a Norwegian wool) dyed by David of Southern Cross Fibre and sent as last September's club shipment, so it's been in the stash for about half a year. I'm spinning up a three-ply fingering weight for socks, but to try to get those bright colors to be a little more evenly distributed, after I split the fiber into thirds horizontally, I split each section in half vertically and I'm spinning the two halves in the same order. It's spinning up quickly and easily, and of course it's always a bit of zen to spin my default yarn.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Poetry for Sleeve Island

Thanks to Kat, I now know that today is Poem in Your Pocket Day. So I'd like to share with you one of my favorite poems by my favorite poet.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
by Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.   
His house is in the village though;   
He will not see me stopping here   
To watch his woods fill up with snow.   

My little horse must think it queer   
To stop without a farmhouse near   
Between the woods and frozen lake   
The darkest evening of the year.   

He gives his harness bells a shake   
To ask if there is some mistake.   
The only other sound’s the sweep   
Of easy wind and downy flake.   

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.

This seems like an appropriate poem and sentiment for my current main project, my Humulus sweater. I'm a bit more than halfway done with the first sleeve, which means there's no much left to do in the grand scheme of things but still a fair bit of knitting.

That thing dangling off the sleeve is a stitch marker/progress keeper, in case you were wondering.

I will work on this some more tonight and hopefully get close to the end of the first sleeve. I'm taking the afternoon off from work tomorrow, so that means several bonus hours of knitting time. I'm really hoping to finish this before the weekend is over!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Finishing (Some of) the Things

When you complain for a while that all your projects are still in progress because you're working on three of them simultaneously, eventually they do get finished. Case in point: the two finished objects I have to share today!

FO number 1:

Pattern: my standard stockinette sock, worked over 40 stitches
Yarn: Fibernymph Dye Works Bounce (80% superwash merino/20% nylon) in Harlequin, one skein
Needles: US 0 (2.0 mm) 40 in. Addi Sock Rockets, magic loop
Started/Completed: March 27/April 21

I tried very hard to make these match, starting in the exact same spot in the stripe sequence and working what should have been the same number of rounds. As you can see, though, something got a little off working the toe of the second sock (that's the one on the bottom in the photo). When I put the socks side by side to compare them closely, I found that one of the black stripes on the foot of the first sock was a tad bit wider than the corresponding stripe on the second sock, so that (combined with some inattention when knitting the end of the second sock) may have been enough to require me to knit a couple of rounds of the toe in the red.

I am very thankful that Lisa's skeins are typically a little heavier than 100 g, because these socks used a full 100 g of yarn. The only leftovers I had were the portions of the red that I wound off to start the socks (I did a long-tail cast on using the red as the tail starting right at the point where the red stopped and the white started) and about a yard of red after I finished the second toe. Talk about yarn chicken!

Before I give these to the Mister (who's really in no hurry for wool socks at this time of year anyway), I'm going to give them the Knitmore Girls Citric Acid Soak treatment to try to prevent them from bleeding. I'm always wary of reds, and the black was coming off on my fingers a bit as I was knitting, so it can't hurt to be proactive.

Now, FO number 2:

Pattern: Hyphen by Lisa Chemery, size 3 months
Yarn: Knit Picks Shine Worsted (60% Pima cotton, 40% Modal) in Watermelon (discontinued colorway), three skeins
Needles: US 5 (3.75 mm) and US 7 (4.5 mm) circulars
Started/Completed: April 11/April 22
Mods: did only three buttonholes (more seemed unnecessary for a sweater this small)

This is now the second time I've knit this pattern and I can tell you now that it won't be the last -- Rainbow has one for her coming up soon! It's an easy, straightforward pattern, simple enough to be fairly mindless but with enough of an interesting texture to keep your interest.

The color of the yarn is so hard to capture; it's a deep pink, very much like the pink of the flesh of a ripe, juicy watermelon. It's blowing out a bit in the photo, likely because I took this picture right after I finished sewing on the buttons at about 7:30 last night, when there wasn't much natural light left. This photo was also taken preblocking; it got a nice soak right after and is currently drying while it waits for its recipient to be born. I used just a gram less than three complete skeins of the yarn, though I had yarn left from the third skein after completing the first sleeve and broke into a fourth skein for the second sleeve so that I wouldn't have another join in the middle of such a small piece.

The buttons, though it's hard to tell, are a very pale pearly pink. I had Rainbow's help in selecting them, and we thought they were a bit less stark than plain white.

The next thing I hope to be finished is my Humulus sweater, which is moving right along. Last night I bound off the body and started the first sleeve.

I know it's a bit wrinkly, but that's only because I've been shoving it into a project bag that's probably a little too small for it now. I'll be pushing to get this finished up this week, which doesn't seem entirely unreasonable. At the very least, I'd like to get it done before Maryland Sheep & Wool because I'd like to start my handspun Boxy to take with me on the trip. Send me all your sleeve mojo!

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Full of Fiber

While I may have been focused on my knitting over the past week, don't think I haven't been thinking about my spinning! First, here's a proper look at the two skeins I finished last weekend with the two different preps of the same fiber blend.

This is the skein spun worsted from combed top, and it's a light fingering and approximately 370 yards.

And this is the woolen skein, spun long draw from batts, which is closer to DK weight (though variable) and 175 yards.

New fiber has come into the stash in the past couple of weeks. First, there was a batt that I won as a prize from the 90% Knitting podcast, 2.9 oz. of merino, BFL, Corriedale, milk protein, and nylon from Unwind Yarn Company -- a bit of a collector's item, as I understand that Dana no longer sells fiber.

Then my Southern Cross Fibre March 2018 shipment showed up; the colorway is Islander and it's on Falkland top.

And because I don't already have enough fiber in my stash, yesterday I finally had a chance to stop by the Ross Farm Mercantile in Washington, Pa., where they were featuring a Hobbledehoy trunk show, and I picked up some beautiful battlings (I actually bought two bags so I'd have a full 4 oz. to play with, but I didn't want to make a mess).

Lest you think all I'm doing is acquiring fiber these days, rest assured I'm still spinning. I pulled out some older SCF club fiber (last September's shipment of Squawk on Spelsau top) and am spinning up some three-ply sock yarn.

There's some yellow, burnt orange, and brown in the colorway as well, but I just adore this bright green.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

My Other Hobby

The problem with having a busy week and multiple projects is that you don't make too much progress on any one of them. I'm still working on my sweater, the baby sweater, and the Mister's socks. My sweater has a nearly complete body (I'm about halfway through the ribbing at the bottom). The baby sweater is a little further along than it was the last time you saw it, and I'll be working on finishing the body tonight. The Mister's socks are now in the home stretch, as I've gotten through the gusset of the second sock and am now cruising down the foot.

It looks like I might be playing a game of yarn chicken on this sock, but as the first sock weighed just slightly less than half of the whole skein, I might just squeak it out.

Seeing as the knitting is not all that exciting at this point, I thought I'd talk about what I've been reading lately -- I really haven't talked about books here in a long time! I've been reading more this year than I have in years past, probably because I am reading more e-books these days (which means that I can read while I knit or spin because there's no need for an extra set of hands to keep the book open).

One of my favorite books that I've read so far this year is Beautiful Wreck by Larissa Brown.

I'm fairly certain that I bought this book when it first came out in 2016 (it was published by Cooperative Press, which you might know more for its craft books) and started reading it shortly thereafter, but I didn't get beyond the first chapter at the time because I didn't really understand it. I thought I'd give it another go because I'd heard so many great things about the book, and I quickly discovered that the first part is meant to be a bit confusing because it's set in the future -- and then nearly all of the rest of the book is set in 10th-century Iceland. I found the story very compelling, albeit a bit implausible (as is any story involving time travel), but the writing is just beautiful. I have also recently read the first part of the sequel, which was good but not as good (and I'm anxiously awaiting part 2).

Currently I am reading Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries by Kory Stamper. This book has been on my wish list for several months, and I finally broke down and ordered a hard copy last week when I was ordering some books for Rainbow. I'm glad I got a physical copy, because I can already tell that this is a book that I'm going to want to display in my library. I'm only about 30 or 40 pages in so far but am enjoying it immensely. Being a word nerd, the subject matter appealed to me right off, but Kory has a wonderfully humorous way of approaching the field of lexicography. (It also doesn't hurt that I've since found out that she's a knitter!) If you enjoy reading about the English language and its idiosyncrasies, and you don't mind a bit of profanity, then you'll enjoy this book. I'm looking forward to reading more of it this weekend.

Do you have any great books that you've read recently that you'd like to recommend? I'm always on the lookout for good books to add to be "to read" pile!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

WIP Wrangling

After a beautiful, warm weekend, we've been plunged back into winter here in Western Pennsylvania. I walked to work in a snow squall this morning, and while it's nice to have another excuse to wear my woolies, it feels a bit like torture after Mother Nature has teased us with some truly lovely weather (not to mention that it's really depressing to see all the spring flowers drooping under the weight of snow).

At least with this cold snap it no longer feels so ridiculous to be knitting a colorwork sweater! After neglecting my Humulus for several days to work on the baby sweater (and then doing a lot of spinning over the weekend), I picked it up again Sunday night and am now extremely close to starting the ribbing at the bottom of the body.

When I started this project, I'd hoped to get it done by the end of April, but I'm not sure if that'll actually happen. I'm sure the sleeves will go quickly, but there is still the baby sweater to finish -- and as the baby is due in less than two weeks, I really do need to get a move on!

Late last week, I finished the yoke and put the sleeve stitches on holders, so I'm on to the fast part of the body. I know it won't take long to finish this, but it's so tempting to keep knitting on my sweater instead. If I can be really focused and productive and get both sweaters done by the end of next week, I'll be very happy.

I'm also still working on the Mister's socks, which really haven't been any sort of priority and have only seen action during my lunch break knitting. But I'm in the home stretch now, having just turned the heel of the second sock. I have reached the boredom stage with them at this point, so they're a bit of a slog. At least they require a minimum level of attention!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Ready for the Plying Party

I did a lot of spinning yesterday. It was a beautiful day here, so I got up and went for a run first thing (my first run of the season!). Then we walked to get some breakfast, and after that I took care of all chores around the house I needed to do -- cleaning, laundry, etc. The Mister took Rainbow to the park to meet a friend, so I didn't feel at all bad about spending the afternoon at my wheel.

First, I finished up the second bobbin of Pebble combed top singles (from my HipStrings Synergy Club shipment), which really didn't take very long.

The first bobbin had been resting for nearly a week, so I didn't want to ply right away, but I wasn't ready to get up from the wheel just yet. I figured I might as well get the carded version of Pebble out and start spinning that. I had forgotten just how quickly woolen spinning goes, and before I knew it, I had both bobbins of those singles done, too (I think it helps that it was only about 2.7 oz. of fiber total in the batts, too).

Spinning these two preps back to back really gives a good illustration of just how different your yarn can turn out given the method of fiber prep. These two batches of fiber had exactly the same fiber content, but look at how different they look spun up:

You can really see so much more of the colors of the sari silk (and the regular silk, for that matter) in the woolen-spun singles, though they're also much more inconsistent. I'll be doing my best to get these both plied up today, so soon I'll be able to compare the finished yarns.

I also had a little fun yesterday afternoon with my drum carder and the leftover fiber from my Boxy spin. I had 2 oz. each of the darkest and lightest colors (Mussels and Sky), so I thought I'd blend them up. I also threw in some silk, though that didn't blend so well and I ended up pulling most of it out. Rainbow helped with these battlings.

They're a bit darker in real life than they appear here; for some reason, my camera doesn't like to capture the color of Buoy accurately. These aren't great, but they're certainly spinable. I think I need to learn more about how to use my drum carder, as I have a feeling I'm doing something wrong or not optimally. If anyone knows of a good class or resource, I'd love to hear it!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

A Baby Break

Knitting continues on my two WIPs and they don't look much different from the last time you saw them (though the body of my Humulus is now about three inches away from the ribbing at the bottom), but I've put them aside for the moment to knit a quick baby gift. I can't remember the exact due date of the baby in question, though I believe it's later this month. Regardless, I didn't want to be scrambling to whip something up right after the baby arrives, so I figured I'd cast on now and make quick work of it. I pulled everything out and got started at about 9 p.m. last night, so this is about an hour's worth of knitting.

This is the Hyphen pattern by Lisa Chemery, which may look familiar because I knit it earlier this year for another baby gift. I'm using some very deep stash Knit Picks Shine Worsted -- and by very deep stash, I mean that it's been in my stash for more than a decade now. I think I originally bought about eight skeins of it but used three a number of years ago for another baby gift. I'm making the smallest size of this sweater, which calls for 275 yards, so that should use up most of what's left.

The color here isn't completely accurate due to the dim light this morning. The colorway is called Watermelon, and it's a really deep bright pink. It seems to be a discontinued colorway, so I can't even link you over to the KP site for a better picture. Suffice it to say that it's a little less orange that it appears here.

This yarn isn't my favorite, mainly because it's a bit slippery and has such low yardage per ball (75 yards per 50 g), but it works well for this purpose -- and it was sort of free, as it was already in the stash. I think the sweater will be adorable, and that's really what counts.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Theme Is Stockinette

I am in a very stockinette place right now. Considering how busy life has been the past several weeks, it's not entirely a bad place to be. For me, stockinette is soothing because it is mindless and repetitive. I know that last week, after very long and very mentally arduous days at work, it was such a balm to be able to sit down with my knitting and just knit in the round for an hour or two.

The main stockinette project at the moment is my Humulus. Though I'll be the first to admit that the body isn't as stimulating as the colorwork yoke, I am still very much enjoying knitting this, and I like seeing the small variations in color and fabric density in the fabric I am creating.

I believe I'm about halfway down the body at this point, if not a little more, and I can get a couple of inches knit in a good evening of knitting, so I expect that body will be finished before too long. I'm now alternating my second and third skeins of the main color and have enough remaining on both that I'm confident I will finish the body before they run out. That could mean that I will end up with an extra skein of yarn -- and that means more Buoy to play with once the sweater is done!

The other stockinette project is the socks I've been knitting for the Mister. Even though his feet are only about an inch longer than mine, they seem so much longer, so there's a lot of stockinette. I finished the first one last night and weighed it and the leftover yarn, and it looks like I should just barely be able to squeak out the second sock from what I have left. I'm glad I decided on a shorter leg!

Office still life with giant man sock

Soon I'll be knitting something other than stockinette in the round, as it's just hit me that we're already a third of the way through the month of April and I have some baby gift knitting to do -- our neighbors are expecting a little girl, and I believe she's due to arrive later this month. I've had this bright watermelon pink Knit Picks Shine Worsted in my stash for years (I only used three skeins of it for another baby gift several years ago) and think it will be perfect for a spring/summer baby.

I'm planning to knit another Hyphen, this time in the smallest size, as I know it knits up quickly and adorably. It will be the first of several additional sweaters from the pattern, as Rainbow's next sweater will be one in the largest size and I'll also be making a miniature one for her American Girl doll. And all of these will be some shade of pink. If I get sick of it halfway through the second one, I have only myself to blame.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Comfort and Challenge

After finally finishing my sweater spin last weekend, I wasn't quite ready to be done spinning my default yarn, so I pulled out some of the fiber from my first HipStrings Synergy Club shipment. This fiber is a really interesting blend of Merino wool, Zwartbles wool, Tussah silk, and sari silk. Though the Merino was originally in three shades, blended with the Zwartbles and the silk, it has a brownish gray look to it. Every so often, though, there's a pop of bright color from the sari silk. It's really quite lovely.

I finished up the first bobbin yesterday, after spinning most of the singles on Friday night, and it was quite a surprise to look at it yesterday morning and see all those colors that I just couldn't see at all when I was spinning in the evening.

I very nearly started the second bobbin straight away, but I thought that before I did, I should try to challenge myself a bit. I had purchased an ounce of dyed cotton on a whim from Jill when she had her Small Business Saturday sale last November, and I actually tried to spin it last weekend with no success. I got some really great advice from some folks in the HipStrings Ravelry group, though, including from Jill herself, so I decided to give it another go. This time went much better!

It's very irregular, has some pigtails and corkscrews, and it's not particularly balanced, but it's cotton! That I spun on my wheel! I didn't end up with very much yarn, maybe only 60-70 yards, but it's a start. I found it difficult to spin and a little hard on my hands (probably because I was not spinning it optimally), but I did definitely get into a groove toward the end. I can't say that I'm a total convert to spinning cotton now, but I'm proud of myself for not giving up after a disastrous first try. I always think it's good to stretch yourself as a spinner (as any sort of crafter, really) -- but I think that for the time being, at least, I'll probably stick to wool.

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Still Sweater Weather

Starting a sweater in late March in Pittsburgh can be somewhat of a gamble. Depending on how fast you are, you might be able to finish it in time to wear it once or twice before the weather gets too warm. Or, even if you're super speedy, you might have to pack it away as soon as it's done because you find yourself in the middle of a heat wave. I'm still not sure what will happen with the sweater I cast on last week, but given that we've had snow, thunderstorms, and high wind warnings just in the past several days, I'm ready for almost anything. And I'm really enjoying the project.

Humulus in HipStrings Buoy DK in Lead (MC) and Spring (CC)

I split the sleeves from the body on Tuesday night and added about two inches of body last night. The body of this sweater couldn't be easier -- just knit until it's the specified length. I've joined in a second skein of the gray now that the yoke is finished, so the only thing I have to pay attention to is alternating skeins at the beginning of each round.

The fabric I'm getting with this Buoy DK is interesting. Though it's classified as a DK, I find it to be a light DK/heavy sportweight, and in this sweater I'm knitting it at a DK to worsted gauge. So the fabric with a single strand of yarn is on the light side. I'm sure the yarn will bloom a bit when it's washed, but it seems that, in spite of the stranding, this is going to be a lightweight sweater when it's done -- and provided we don't jump right from winter to summer weather, I might just be able to wear it when it's finished!

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Pattern Release: Undamo Socks

A few months ago, a fellow designer introduced me to an indie dyer she'd done some collaborations with in the past who was looking for more designers to work with her yarn. I was so tickled that this other designer had thought of me, and I was so excited to work on something with a new-to-me dyer. That dyer is Marian of Marianated Yarns, who does really beautiful work. (Seriously, go look at her gradient and "Marianade" sets -- I dare you not to drool!)

Marian and I discussed the ideas I had for her yarn, and of course what I finally decided on was some more color work accessories. We thought it would be fun to do a mini collection using the same (or similar) colors and the same (or similar) stranded motif. The first pattern in the collection is the one debuting today: Undamo Socks.

These may look like your run-of-the-mill stockinette socks, but a band of swirling colorwork around the leg takes these socks up a notch. They're knit up in Marian's Practicality 75/25, a sturdy superwash Merino/nylon blend. The beautiful purple I used for the main color is called Hidden Peak, and that lovely golden yellow is Peach Delight. You might remember that after knitting these socks, I reversed the colors and knit a coordinating pair for Rainbow, which is a great way to use up your yarn if you've got two skeins, but the small amount of colorwork in these socks makes them a perfect candidate for mini skeins to complement the main color.

The socks are graded to fit the whole family, with five foot circumference sizes ranging from 6 in./15 cm to 10 in./25 cm. They use a standard cuff-down construction, with a heel flap/gusset and wide toe, though because the colorwork is all done high on the leg, it's easy to sub in a different heel or toe if there's one that fits you better.

If you like the look of these, then you'll be happy to hear that there will be two more coordinating designs coming from me in the next couple of months. The next one is a hat and is currently with my tech editor. The third is a cowl that I'm really excited to start because it uses a gradient mini skein set! But if you got unexpected snow like we did early this week, you might want to start with the socks to make sure your feel stay warm!

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Phase One Complete

Well friends, I did it: I finished my Boxy spin! It's taken me since mid-November (with a brief break in December), but I've spun up 32 oz. of fiber into five skeins for my sweater. The last skein was officially finished yesterday.

The last skein (the one on the far right in the photo above) was spun from 6 oz. of Sky, the lightest colorway, and ended up being about 450 yards. In total, I have a bit more than 2,300 yards -- plenty more than what's called for in the pattern. I won't have any worry about running out, and I should have more than enough to lengthen the sleeves. I can't wait to cast on (but I will have to wait, because I just cast on another sweater and want to finish that one first).

So what's next? There are so many things I want to spin, but today, when I had a bit of time, I grabbed my HipStrings club shipment because it was the closest thing. I'm spinning the top first (there's 4 oz. of it) and then I'll do the batt. If I'm being honest, I got so used to spinning the Buoy that it feels a little odd to be spinning something else. If it starts to feel too weird, there is more Buoy in my stash!