Thursday, June 28, 2018

Shorter Rows

I feel like I've reached a very happy part of my Boxy progress: I'm pretty sure I've knit the last of the really long rows! Last night I reached the shaping/patterned part of the back and officially switched over to the final color in the sequence. I've knit about eight rows of welting and am ready to start the short-row shaping for the shoulders. If all goes well this evening, I might even be ready to join my shoulder stitches by the end of the night (though that depends on a lot of factors). The bottom line is that I'll be onto the sleeves by the weekend.

I've also cast on a new lunchtime project in the form of a charity hat. I'm using the leftovers from the gradient mini skein set I used for my Undamo Cowl -- basically just using each color in order until it runs out. I don't have a recipient in mind just yet, but I figure that I can just keep knitting with scraps and leftovers and that bit will take care of itself. There are so many bad things happening in the world right now that I don't feel I have the power to help, so of course my natural inclination is to try to make it better with wool. I certainly won't solve huge issues like hunger or poverty or inequality with knitting, but come winter, I can make someone's head a little warmer.

The weekend ahead looks to be a scorcher, so if you need me, I'll be knitting in the air conditioning.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Summer Rush

I can't believe that it's already the last week of June -- where is this summer going? I feel like I've spent most of the month rushing around, even when I've supposedly been on vacation, so I'm grateful that the 4th of July will fall in the middle of the week next week and give me some time to pause.

With the socks getting finished up last week, my only active WIP remains my handspun Boxy, which honestly is starting to become a slog. I am very close to being finished; I'm on the second-to-last color on the back, and once I finish the back, all I'll have left to do is join the shoulders, knit the collar, and knit the sleeves (which frankly aren't very long and will be fast because they're worked in the round). I originally thought I'd lengthen the sleeves because I had plenty of yarn, but I'm going to play that by ear. Because of the way the sweater is constructed, the sleeves start a good way down the arm, so I may end up with sleeves that are a comfortable length if I follow the pattern as written. Here's how it's looking at the moment, though because the back is rolling, it's hard to see how much has been knit.

Because I didn't have any smaller project on the needles before we went away, I did some digging and found a project bag with a barely started dishcloth. That proved to be a good take-along project for the weekend, and I finished it up in the car on the way home on Sunday.

I have no idea when I started this or what shades of Sugar'n Cream I used; I've got a bag of scraps and leftovers and have been using them up whenever I feel like knitting a dishcloth. As you can see, I ran out of the dark purple on the final stripe, so I made do with the lighter shade. I had a good deal remaining when I finished binding off, so I decided to add a little border to the sides. All I did was pick up stitches on each side, purl a row, and then bind off. It made for some extra ends to weave in but I rather like the look of it and may continue to do this for future dishcloths. The pattern is the famous Ballband Dishcloth; I've knit it so many times by now that I have it memorized.

I'm sure I'll be casting on another smaller project soon for my lunchtime knitting, but for now I'm doing some design swatching.

Meanwhile, though my knitting hasn't been very prolific, I have been reading quite a lot. In the past few days, I've finished up two books: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. These are both books I've long wanted to read, and I enjoyed them both immensely and gave them both five-star ratings. Though they're very different (the former is nonfiction and the latter is very much fiction with a bit of fantasy built in), they both appealed to my intellect. Quiet was a great insight into my own personality, as I'm very much an introvert (and a shy introvert to boot). Kavalier & Clay, on the other hand, might not seem like the kind of book that would appeal to me, as I'm not into comic books or superheroes, but I thoroughly enjoyed Michael Chabon's writing, as I always do. Notably, this was the first one of his books that I've read where I haven't felt like the storyline took a sharp veer in a different direction. I did feel a bit unsatisfied with the ending, but it felt correctly placed for the trajectory of the narrative, if that makes sense. Up next is an e-book I won in a Goodreads giveaway, The Lost Love Letters of Henri Fournier. I'm looking forward to losing myself in a little historical fiction (minus superheroes this time around).

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Just in the Nick of Time

We're back from our long weekend (and frankly, all things being equal, I probably would have preferred to stay home, but whatever). Before we left, I made it a point to finish plying all the singles I showed you last weekend -- I even skeined them up and washed them! They were dry before we left on Friday, so I was able to get a glamour shot or two in before we had to get on the road.

These skeins were so far outside my comfort zone but I absolutely love them. They all ended up well balanced and surprisingly consistent with each other (though certainly the yarn itself is a bit thick and thin as you'd expect). The fiber of each color weighed between 48 and 50 grams, and the finished skeins are all between 95 and 100 yards. I'd say the yarn is overall in the DK/light worsted range, and I think these three skeins would look really spectacular in the yoke of a sweater.

I had a bit of time after I finished plying the final skein and before I needed to get into bed on Thursday night, so I got a very preliminary start on my next project, the Southern Cross Fibre Corriedale that recently arrived. I just spent about an hour working on it this afternoon in between loads of laundry.

I am spinning this for sock yarn (surprise surprise!) and split the top into four strips so I can do a pseudo-self-striping skein. I'm nearly finished with the first strip, but that's probably less than a quarter of all the fiber because I didn't do my splitting very evenly. My goal is to finish this up in the next two weeks or so, before the start of the Tour de Fleece, so I can start fresh.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Yarn Therapy

It has been a very long, very exhausting week for me. Without getting too political, it's a hard time to be an American right now, and I've been utterly devastated by the current administration's policies toward immigrants in general and child immigrants in particular. I'm generally the type of person who is easily emotional, so you can imagine how emotional I've been the past several days as more and more heartbreaking information has come to light.

At times like these, when I feel anxious and sad and powerless, playing with yarn and fiber is a comfort. It seems frivolous, but it's good to know that I can always get out my knitting or my spinning and find a small measure of peace. So while I'll continue doing what I can to help those in need and fight against the injustices I see, when I become overwhelmed, I'll be turning back to crafting time and time again.

I am fortunate that at the moment my projects are fairly mindless, because frankly I have not had the mental energy to do anything more complicated than stockinette or some simple ribbing (I think that was perhaps the problem with the sweater shoulder the other night). And thanks to that, my latest pair of socks are off the needles as of earlier today.

Pattern: the toe-up version of my Non-Euclidian socks, currently in testing (to be released early next month)
Yarn: Fibernymph Dye Works Bounce (80% superwash merino/20% nylon) in It's Wine O'Clock Somewhere!
Needles: US 0 (2.0 mm) Addi Sock Rockets, 40 in., magic loop
Started/Completed: June 9/June 21

I made these slightly smaller than my first pair (68 stitches total rather than 72) because the first pair was just slightly loose. The stitch count was in between sizes for the pattern, so I had to adapt it slightly -- luckily I knew how to do that because it was my own pattern! The resulting fit is just perfect. The yarn came from Lisa's Happy Hour Sock Yarn Club, which has been quite enjoyable. The third and final shipment should be coming soon; as the first colorway was inspired by beer and the second by wine, I suspect the third will be inspired by a cocktail of some type.

My Boxy now has a second front shoulder, and I've done just a bit of knitting (a row or two) on the back. It will be my main project this weekend; we're going away for a long weekend with the Mister's parents and brother as a belated celebration for my father-in-law's 70th birthday. It looks like the weather isn't going to be very favorable to outside activities, so I should get a lot done. With any luck, all that knitting will help me relax a bit.

I hope that if you've been having a difficult week as well, you're able to find some relaxation and stress relief this weekend as well.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018


I've now had several days to digest the TNNA experience and reflect on just how amazing it was. Really, the main highlight of the trip was the classes I took. I signed up for two: a class on "leveling up" your social media presence with Gale Zucker and Beverly Army Williams and an introduction to tech editing class with Kate Atherley. Both classes were intended to help me with my designing, but I discovered that I actually have a knack for tech editing, so it seems that I may have another crafty job in my future!

Thursday evening at TNNA was a fashion show and an event called Sample It. The latter is an event where exhibitors offer show specials on some of their products. Because the main exhibition is primarily designed for shop owners to place wholesale orders, this is in many cases the only opportunity to buy individual items -- and a bonus is that those items are often offered at a great price. I, of course, didn't need anything, but there were some lovely things for sale that I couldn't resist bringing home.

That's a package containing a full skein of Wonderland Yarns Cheshire Cat and a gradient set of mini skeins, a three pack of Dream in Color Smooshy with Cashmere, and two skeins of MollyGirl Yarn Honky Tonk Lite. I'm not entirely sure what I'll be using all of this yarn for just yet, though I'm sure some of it will used for future designs.

An added benefit of going to a knitting even is, of course, the extra knitting time. I worked on my handspun Boxy for most of the drive to Cleveland and a little bit while we were there, and now I find myself almost finished with the front. It took me three attempts, but I finished up the first shoulder last night. (Why three attempts? Well, the first time I clearly missed a row or worked a row incorrectly, so I tried to tink back to the spot with the error, but then I couldn't figure out what row I was on, so I tinked back the entire way to the beginning of the shoulder area.)

Once I did everything correctly, it didn't take me long to complete, so I should be able to breeze through the second shoulder this evening and move on to the back, which is just mindless knitting back and forth for a while.

My socks saw most of my attention while I was away, and as you saw from my post from last Thursday, I was able to finish up the first sock thanks to a lot of knitting during my classes. (And can I just say how nice it is to be able to knit during a class? I'm so much less fidgety when I have something to do with my hands!) I cast on the second sock pretty much right away and was almost though the heel increases by the time I got home.

I'm now in the home stretch on the second sock and hope to have it finished up in the next day or so. That means I'll need to cast on another smallish project, which might be a new pair of socks or perhaps a charity hat using some leftover scraps. Even with the purchases at TNNA, I may have ordered some yarn for a new sweater in the Knit Picks summer sale, so I'm feeling the need to stash bust big time.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Free Spin

I got home from TNNA yesterday, and almost as soon as I was unpacked, I sat down at my wheel -- I had missed it that much.

But before I get to what I've been madly spinning the past two days, let's talk about what I finished earlier in the week. You saw the finished singles from that fluffy pink batt last Sunday, but here is the yarn that I plied up Monday evening:

The finished skein is pretty uneven but probably is about sport weight on average and measures up at about 208 yards. I'm actually very happy with it because the spinning of this batt was really outside my comfort zone. I have been working on my woolen spinning and really letting go (the opposite of my usual short forward draw, where I'm in complete control). I was so pleased with the experience -- and with how much faster it is by comparison -- that I figured I should do more of it. And that's where the most recent spinning comes in.

At the beginning of this year, after Ginny of FatCatKnits announced that she was closing her business, I bought a set of three batts from her Etsy shop (this photo is from the original listing):

These have been patiently waiting for me to work up the courage to spin them as they were intended to be spun, and when I saw them yesterday, I knew it was finally time. The set weighed something like 5.2 oz total, but long draw is so fast that I managed to spin up the singles from all three batts since yesterday afternoon. I am, in a word, enchanted.

I plan to ply these in the same way I plied the pink batt: I will wind off each single using my ball winder and ply it back on itself. But I'll let the singles rest a bit first, and in the meantime, my latest Southern Cross Fibre club shipment arrived while I was away:

This is Divergence on Corriedale -- should makes some excellent sock yarn!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Postcard from TNNA

As I'm sitting down to write this, it's about 9:20 p.m. and I'm just back at the hotel from all the fun of my second day at TNNA. My brain is a little fried, so this won't be a long post, but I did want to get something up. It's really been an amazing time, and I'm so thankful to Lisa for bringing me. I've taken two classes that have really been excellent and met some really nice people. Some yarn may have also followed me home from the Sample It event this evening.

This has been an excellent knitting trip as well, especially considering that it's totally acceptable to knit through classes at this type of event. Remember the sock that I started last weekend? Here's what it looks like now:

I finished binding off while waiting in line for Sample It earlier this evening. Everything from the stitch marker (just above the heel) up was knit today.

I'm sure I'll half a lot to recount once I'm home and more coherent, but suffice it to say that it's been a great time!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Travel Knitting

I'm leaving for TNNA tomorrow, so naturally instead of thinking what clothes and toiletries I need to pack, I'm thinking about the knitting I'm taking.

Of course my Boxy is coming along -- I'm hoping that all the extra knitting time will help me get closer to finishing. I hit a big milestone over the weekend: I officially finished the body (after adding about four inches of additional length) and started working the front piece.

That's a Fat Squirrel sweater-sized bag on the left for scale -- this thing is enormous!

After dividing the last transition skein into its constituent sections, I'm now in the process of dividing each of those sections in half (so that I have one bit of it to use on the front and one to use on the back). I also wound the final skein (all the lightest blue) last night and divided it in half for the sleeves. There will be lots of little balls of yarn and extra ends to weave in, but I think it'll work and give me the outcome I was envisioning.

Meanwhile, I couldn't let the sweater be my only WIP, particularly as it's a rather large one that's not especially portable, so I cast on a new pair of socks. This is the most recent shipment from the Fibernymph Dye Works Happy Hour Yarn Club, called It's Wine O'Clock Somewhere! The stripes are the colors of different types of wine.

Cheese plate stitch marker from the Victorian Studio Shop

I am again knitting toe up, using my newest pattern (which, by the way, is now in testing). I'm adapting it to a slightly smaller stitch count, as I think I've relaxed in my gauge; the last pair fit but didn't have as much negative ease as I'd like.

I'll be at TNNA through Saturday, and I'm not sure if I'll be able to get a post up on Thursday, but I'll certainly try. I did want to mention for those of you who have left comments recently that Blogger seems to be having an issue with e-mail notifications of comments, so if you've left a comment, I haven't been aware of it. I do usually try to respond to all comments if I can, but it's hard to do when you don't know you've received them! I hope the issue will be resolved soon, but in the meantime please know that I really appreciate it when you take time to comment on a post and I do read every comment!

Sunday, June 10, 2018

The BFL Curse

There's something about BFL: No matter how fine I spin it, I can never seem to get very good yardage. I suppose it's just a denser fiber compared to, say, merino. In any case, it seems that in my latest spin, I was once again cursed with low yardage.

This was my April 2018 club shipment from Southern Cross Fibre, a 70% BFL/30% Tussah silk blend in a colorway called Windrose. I decided to spin it end to end and chain ply, but to get a bit more color in the length of the skein, I split the fiber in half lengthwise before spinning. I had hoped that the silk content would aid in my attempt to spin finer singles, and they certainly looked very fine as I was spinning them, but the yarn puffed up a bit in finishing.

The finished yarn is in the neighborhood of heavy fingering to sport, and my final yardage is about 282 yards. I'm a little disappointed in that respect, but in truth I didn't really love the colors for me so I'd assumed the finished skein would likely go in my Etsy shop, and it still might.

Meanwhile, I thought I'd do something completely different for my next spin, so I grabbed a batt that I won as a KAL prize not too long ago:

This has a blend of merino, BFL, swirl BFL, Corriedale, milk protein, and nylon. I figured I'd spin it woolen to take advantage of the prep and spin it up quickly, so I opened up the batt, split it into four strips, and then fluffed up each strip before spinning it. It went incredibly quickly -- so fast that I started yesterday afternoon and already finished all the singles.

I know the photo is a little blurry, but the singles are also rather soft and fuzzy -- that's the nature of woolen-spun yarn. I spun this mostly supported long draw; the spots where I got a big bunch of the white shiny stuff (I'm not sure whether that's the milk protein or the nylon) required a bit of short forward draw to get them to draft. I'm planning on letting these singles rest on the bobbin overnight. Tomorrow I'll wind them off with my ball winder and then ply from both ends.

Meanwhile, though it's still several weeks away, I am getting ready for the annual spin-fest that is the Tour de Fleece. My order from HipStrings arrived on Friday:

I know this isn't the best photo; it was snapped not long before sundown (and I didn't want to pull the fiber out of the bag until I was ready to spin it). On the top is the HipStrings Tour de Fleece colorway on superwash domestic wool top. On the bottom is what I will likely try to spin on challenge day -- more cotton! This is Jill's EZ Spin cotton, which is supposedly great for beginners. I figure that with more progress, it has to get easier!

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Visible Progress

I've been known to say that there is a black hole in every knitting project. You know what I mean -- that point where you feel like you've been knitting a ton but haven't actually made any forward progress. That's a bit how I've felt with my WIPs, but it seems that I've done enough knitting on them to finally escape the black hole.

For one thing, I finished the socks:

This is the sample for the toe-up version of my Non-Euclidian pattern, and it did turn out rather nicely, if I do say so myself. For one thing, I managed to get the stripes to match almost perfectly (perfect matching is probably impossible, given that humans are involved in both dyeing and knitting the yarn). But the heel also turned out well and fits as I'd hoped, so I'm very pleased. The pattern is already with my tech editor and should be back to me and ready for testing soon.

My handspun Boxy sweater is also suddenly enormous:

I put half the stitches on another needle when I reached the specified length and tried it on (though I use that term loosely -- it's so big that it was really more a matter of stepping into it and holding it roughly at underarm level), and at that point I determined that I could definitely add several inches more in length. I'm now at about 19 inches, so I need to decide if I want to go to 20 or just start the front and back now. I love that in natural light you can see the colors actually changing; I've mostly been knitting this at night, when it looks solidly dark. At the top you can see the next colors to come in the fade. The four skeins you see where actually knit all as one giant 8 oz. skein, but I realized that in order for my front and back to match, I'd actually need to divide each segment in two, so I split apart the sections when I was winding the skein. I'm kind of astounded at how much I've gotten done, and when I look at the pattern, there's really not that much left to do in the grand scheme of things.

I'll be working on this sweater a lot next week when I go on a little road trip. I don't think I've mentioned it here yet, but I'm going to the TNNA Summer NeedleArts Trade Show in Cleveland next week with Lisa of Fibernymph Dye Works. She's a member and had an extra ticket (her husband has gone in the past but decided to pass this year) that she offered to me. It's my first time attending this show, and I'm really looking forward to it. I'm signed up for a couple of classes and hope to meet some folks I've only interacted with online in the past. Most of all, it'll be fun to have several days away with a friend who totally understands why I want to spend most of the trip knitting!

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Pattern Release: Undamo Cowl

When Marian of Marianated Yarns approached me about doing a collaboration and I decided to do a mini collection, I knew that I had to come up with a piece that used one of her gorgeous mini skein sets. There are plenty of dyers out there who do mini skeins, but I was so drawn to Marian's sets when I went to look at her Web site the first time that I had to get my hands on one. Luckily Marian was happy to enable!

My Undamo Cowl started with the same swirling motif as the coordinating socks and hat, but that motif was only a starting point. This cowl is entirely stranded -- in fact, the only two rounds that don't use two colors are the cast on and the bind off. If you're relatively new to stranded colorwork, this is a great way to practice. There are no long floats, plus the six background colors you use keep things interesting the whole way through even though you are repeating the stitch pattern.

This cowl uses DK weight yarn, specifically Marian's Playtime DK for the main color and a gradient Jujubee DK mini skein set (the yarn is the same base). I've honestly never used a gradient that blended so effortlessly from one color to the next as well as this set did -- Marian's clearly got a real touch with her gradients! The all-over stranding makes for a really warm, cushy fabric, and the cowl is long enough that if it's a really cold day, you can pull it up over your ears and face.

I'll admit that I saved this pattern for last because I was so looking forward to knitting it. I enjoyed every minute of it, and I'm really pleased with how it came out. I hope you like it, too!

Sunday, June 03, 2018

Mojo Overload

It must be summer, because all I want to do lately is spin -- and I'm certainly doing a lot of it. Remember that pink bobbin from a week ago? Those singles only stayed on the bobbin overnight before being plied the next morning. I ended up chain plying in the interest of avoiding tangles, and frankly I like this skein as a nice, bouncy three ply.

It's mostly worsted weight (there's a bit at the end where I started spinning the singles that's a bit thinner) and approximately 184 yards. As this was spun specifically for Rainbow, she got to decide what it will become, and she's said she's pretty sure it should be a hat, perhaps combined with a neutral color (maybe some brioche with a natural wool?). I'm not casting on anything yet as we have quite a bit of time until a new hat will be needed and it's highly likely she'll change her mind by then, so for now I'm just enjoying this bright and happy skein.

On Friday afternoon, after taking a little nap, I pulled out some of my MDSW fleece, my hand cards, and my mini combs to do some sampling. As I was working with the fleece, it really became even more apparent what a spectacular fleece it is -- and now I have zero regrets about bringing it home! Despite the relatively short staple length, I was able to comb it a bit, though I did need to spin off a comb because I was not able to pull off any top. I spun up four samples in total (two each combed and carded), let the singles rest overnight, and then plied them Saturday morning -- chain plying one sample for each prep and Andean plying the other so that for each preparation method I'd have a two ply and a three ply.

Left to right: worsted two ply, worsted three ply, woolen two ply, woolen three ply
I'm honestly so enchanted by every one of these skeins that it's not making the decision of how to prep and spin the fleece any easier! A worsted-spun yarn will certainly be more durable, but I love the soft fuzz of the woolen-spun samples. The locks are likely a little too short to comb -- I can spin off a comb for a sample, but it would probably get pretty tedious for an entire fleece -- so I think I will likely use my drum carder to make batts and then spin the fiber semi-woolen, basically getting the best of both worlds.

Meanwhile, I've got a new spinning project on the wheel, some fiber that's so new I don't think I've even snapped a picture and put it in my Ravelry stash yet.

This is 70% BFL/30% Tussah silk from Southern Cross Fibre in a colorway called Windrose. It was the April 2018 fiber club shipment, which means I just got it last month (it takes a bit of time to work its way across the ocean from Australia). I decided to spin this fiber from end to end and chain ply, but in order to get more repeats of these beautiful autumnal colors, I split the top lengthwise first.

As you can see, I'm spinning these singles quite fine; I think the plied yarn should be in the range of fingering. It's practically spinning itself -- I'm already more than halfway through the singles and I only started spinning this yesterday!