Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas already?

Whew, it has been a looooong time since I posted!  Not that I haven't been working on stuff, but the kilt hose are slow going - seems that they still look the same after I've put in hours and hours on them.  But that is the nature of fine gauge knitting.
I did get some cool slippers done though - these are great! Felted on the bottom (soles) and ribbed on the top.  Did them in two different kinds of yarn - found the pattern in a book and they turned out better than I ever expected.
Kind of neat, the cuffs and tops are knitted in a superwash sock yarn called Wildfoot and the soles are knit in a worsted weight regular wool yarn.  Throw them in the wash with a couple pairs of jeans to felt them and ta-daaaa! Slippers to be happy in - warm and sturdy.  My typical objection to felted footwear is that it gets so loose and floppy, and these shouldn't have that problem since the tops are rib knit.
Here's another shot that shows the tops - and my Border Collie's butt - she just can't stay away from me when I get down on the floor.  Kind of weird to be taking pictures of my own feet, but I wanted to show these slippers off, and they don't look like much without a foot inside them to give them shape.
I'll be making more of these, they go pretty quickly and the felting is fun too.  Other stuff on the needles is moving along too.  Working on the sweater - still on the sleeves, but nearly done.  Then it is off to the knitting shop to pick out some fabulous buttons before I start the bands.  I've learned to get the buttons first, because it never fails that the best buttons are NEVER the size that the pattern calls for!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Time marches on...

I've been busy with a number of things, since I haven't posted much lately, I'll just put them all out here now.

Here is some yarn I've been working on:

It is another three ply with one variegated ply along with two tweed plies.  The variegated ply is from Frene Creek Farm and is a lovely handpainted Corriedale in purples all the way to lavender in some spots.  The tweed plies are 75% natural gray Rambouillet Finn crossbred with 25% bright purple merino blended in to get the purple tone.  I tried a sample of this using just the gray and it didn't read as purple as I wanted it, so I referred back to my color study to figure out how much I wanted to tint my colored wool for it to "read" visually as purple but not overpower the variegated ply.  I'm pleased with the way it turned out.
Here's a close-up shot of the same skein:
I'm extra glad that I put in the effort to do the color study.  The visual usefulness of such a project has already proven the worth of doing it.  I did do a small sample skein using the gray, and it didn't "read" as purple at all!  I saw it as gray and black, and I knew that wouldn't work for what I have in mind for this yarn.  Here are the vital statistics of this skein:
258 yards of 3 ply.  One ply Frene Creek Farm Handpainted Corriedale roving, two plies of natural gray Rambouillet Finn crossbred blended with 25% bright purple merino and carded four times to blend the colors.  I think this will work up at about fingering weight, it is finer than my typical yarn since the R/F is pretty soft.

Next up: the reworking of the red-violet sweater.

About two sizes smaller and doesn't it look nice?  Granted, it isn't assembled or blocked yet, so the stitches will even out and be smoother after blocking.  I used the ravelled yarn to reknit, so it looks "bumpier" than the first knitting did.  I'm working on the raglan sleeves now, and I'm doing those flat, rather than in the round like I did the body of the sweater.  I'm pondering what kind of buttons I'd like on this.  Picking up for the button band and collar are the last things to do on the sweater, so I do still have some time.  Surprisingly enough, even though this is an odd and somewhat bright color to most people, I'm finding that it goes with a lot of my wardrobe.  So I'm thinking the buttons can't be too bold.  I've heard of an outfit called "Moving Mud" that makes custom glass buttons, but I don't know what they cost.  That might be the next good investigation to make on the button issue.  I've also got 3 very good knitting shops close by, so I think I'll check out their offerings first.  Here is a picture of the front of the sweater:
I've learned a lot making this sweater - especially since I've gone down the path twice. I definitely preferred doing the body of the sweater in the round.  All the bands match up and the armhole is better supported during the knitting - much easier to remember which side is which since it is all together and very visible.  That being said, I had to re-write the pattern so that I would do the shaping at the right times.  With the raglan going on, some rounds had six different shapings happening at once.  That is a lot to keep track of.  I did the work on a 47" cable needle, which allowed me to try the sweater on as I went.  Very helpful to check fit that way.  Much harder to check that when the body of the sweater is in pieces.
Next work in progress is the kilt hose, they are taking forever to do.  Measured gauge over stockinette and it is coming up at 10 stitches to the inch.  No wonder it seems slow!  It is!
Here they are, pinned out flat so you can see both the front and back at the same time.  I decided that the bobbins just weren't working for me, so I am removing them as the yarn length gets under a yard or so.  I've read that many knitters just leave the long tails hanging and pick them up as they need them.  I'm finding that I like that process too.  These socks are pretty loud, but that is what the customer likes.  At the top edge where the two solid bands of ribbing are now, there will be a cabled band running around the sock right under the knee.  Flashes will be tucked under there to show the tartan and to keep the socks up - rather like garters, but around the calf of the leg up near the knee.

Until next time, I'm working on costuming for a Steampunk event...

Friday, September 30, 2011

Because I can...

I've been musing lately on the reactions I get from people who see me spinning or knitting.  Most folks know what knitting is and what it looks like when people do it.  The oddity seems to be that people are somewhat uncomfortable that someone would have the audacity to do such a thing IN PUBLIC!  My goodness, what would become of me if people saw me doing this?

I can tell you what happens... because I do it in public all the time.  People stare for a while, and if they get bold enough, they start asking questions. 
  • "What are you doing?"  Spinning wool into yarn, or knitting socks....
  • "Can I touch it?"  Of course....
  • "What are you making?"  Yarn, or a sweater, or whatever it is that I'm working on.
and my all time favorite question:
  • "Why would you want to make yarn when you can buy it?"  This gets interesting, if the person seems to be of the artistic nature, I can explain the colorwork or the blending of different types of fibers to get precisely the yarn I want.  If the person isn't the artsy type, it can be a lot of fun, but I usually end up answering simply: Because I can.
Most of the world is all about hurry up and get everything done as quickly as possible. The very nature of spinning singles, plying them into yarn and then knitting with what I have spun sets up all kinds of quandries in people's heads.  Most cannot even fathom making anything from scratch, be it a meal, clothing, furniture or what have you.  They think it is quaint and old-fashioned to make things.  Perhaps it is... but it is a skill all the same. 

I cherish the beauty of the things I create with my mind and hands.  I'm delighted that I've been given the gift of creativity, and the sense to use it.  I learned how to do most of this in my college fiber art classes, and have refined and improved my techniques over the years since then. 

So when the world and society whirl ever faster, I choose to slow down, deliberately and happily.

Because I can.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Finished yarn... love this one!

This is the finished yarn that I've been working on for a while.  The blue variegated ply came from Frene Creek Farm and is one of her lovely handpainted BFL (Blue Faced Leicester) rovings.  Since it is only four ounces, I wanted more possibilities, so I spun two extra plies to show off the variegation better and also to have a solid color yarn to go with the boldness of the pattern yarn.

For the solid plies, I wanted softness and blackness. That made alpaca my first choice.  A black that gobbles up light would showcase the brilliance of the blues.  So I started spinning.... and discovered that pure alpaca top doesn't agree with my spinning style all that well. I dug into my stash for the finest, blackest wool I had on hand.  It is a Corriedale fleece from my favorite Colorado shepherd, from her sheep Dusty.  Nearly as fine as Targhee, so delightfully soft.  I washed up some of the fleece and blended it at the drum carder at a 50% alpaca and 50% Dusty Corriedale wool.  It spun like a dream, and is nearly indistinguishable from the pure black alpaca.

The first shot was color corrected but not corrected for anything else.  This shot shows more what the yarn really "looks" like.  Cameras can be unkind at macro focal lengths... The dark yarn is a Navajo plied skein of my leftover black.  I can always spin more if I need to, but I wanted to have plenty for finishing up the variegated ply work.

The vital statistics on the finished yarn:

Variegated: 4 skeins of 3 ply yarn, total weight 291 grams (10.3 ounces) and 736 yards.  This yarn is about 1143 yards per pound... I think that lands it somewhere between DK and worsted weight.
Solid: 1 skein Navajo plied yarn, total weight 52 grams (1.8 ounces) and 176 yards.  This yarn is about 1564 yards per pound... a little finer, looks like about sport weight to me.  Haven't washed or swatched these yarns yet, but I'll bet they'll get even softer!

Spinning more yummy stuff... sampling the plies now.  I'll shoot pictures for next time.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Oooooooh, messy, messy, messy!

Decided that I'd had enough of the ribbing on the kilt hose so I took the plunge, got out all the bobbins I posess and started winding them with 5 yards each and started the intarsia.  I had no idea that it would take all thirty (Oh my gosh - THIRTY!) bobbins to get started on these socks!  As I'm not really crazy about weaving in ends, I use Kaffe Fassett's method and bind them in as I go.  Messy looking while it is happening, but no ends to weave in for later.  I call that a win!
I decided to take some pictures - even though it looks pretty messy at this stage...
Those little triangles will be diamond shaped as the knitting progresses.  This shot shows both the front and back.  Here's one of just the front...

And here's one of just the back side of the knitting.  You can see the woven in ends... not the prettiest finish, but I think it is one of the most flexible, since it is done as the knitting progresses.  Oh, and did I mention, no ends to weave in later?  That's my favorite part!
Once again, I'm very glad that I'm doing both socks at once.  This is really slow going, but they will be lovely when complete... I'm thinking ten years or so (not really, it just seems that way right now).

Next up, pictures of the finished yarn I've been working on!

Friday, August 12, 2011

The brothers three...

Over the last month or so I've been busy with another order.  This time it was hats for three brothers to match the Buchanan tartan.  Similar to the first one, but a tartan with a lot more color.  So I began...
I added a few rows to show the narrow bands of black and white in the tartan (Buchanan #151 on www.house-of-tartan.scotland.net)  This is, of course, an interpretation since this relatively narrow band can't duplicate an entire tartan pattern.  Lots of fun to do though, and I had the opportunity to make three of them!
As I was finishing them up, it was fun to see how they felted.  It only took 13 minutes of sloshing around to get them to the proper size.  Then the sewing up... Called the customer, one of the brothers three, and he was delighted with them.
He even posed for a couple of pictures:
Then I got the rest of the story behind these hats.  This brother has had some significant health issues and is doing this batch of hats for a "bucket list" adventure with his brothers.  They are going out to Oregon for some kind of a fishing trip together and this is one of the gifts that he dreamed up to give to his brothers.  I'm grateful and humbled to be part of such an adventure.  I hope they find happiness and joy in their time together!  He did promise to bring back pictures of the whole clan wearing their hats... I'll share them when they arrive!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Real horsepower!

Independence Day... one of my favorite holidays of the year.  Not for the fireworks - but for what it means.  Freedom isn't free, it was purchased at great cost from the blood, sweat and tears of soldiers, sailors, airmen and other people who have served in this great country's military forces for the last 200+ years.  God Bless America!

My celebration includes the annual horse pull in Edgerton whenever I can make it to the event.  This year was one of those years and my little phone video camera was able to capture this video of one of the heavy class competitors (these horses often weigh over a ton apiece!)

Unfortunately, I don't know the name of the competitors or their horses, but it was nice to see a Percheron in the mix this year.  Usually it is all Belgians.  I've got a special place in my heart for Percherons, since that was the breed of my first team - Dick and Dan.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Finished skeins of Alpaca blend...

Finally got a couple skeins done of the Alpaca/Dusty/Blue Faced Leicester.  Thought you might like a peek:

Back in January I finished the BFL handpainted roving and I remember not liking the magpie nature of the other handpainted singles that I Navajo plied.  So I sampled it with some pure black alpaca (back on 5/25/2011 in Next Up... Alpaca!)

I finished maybe a quarter of a bobbin of the pure alpaca and decided I was tired of all the drifting apart, it was forcing me to spin singles heavier than I really wanted for this yarn.

Having just washed Dusty's fleece, a lightbulb lit in my brain (don't worry, there wasn't too much smoke) and I decided to blend the two fibers and see what the result would be - sure couldn't be any worse to spin!
Here's a reminder shot of the original skein where the two black plies are pure alpaca:

Those two up above are the blended plies - the smaller one has one ply of the pure alpaca and one ply of the 50/50 blend.  Visually, they are identical.  You might be able to enlarge the pictures enough to tell the difference, but I really doubt that I'd let someone close enough to me to do that kind of visual inspection of any finished garment of this yarn!

These new singles are a lot more fun to spin, I can draft in my usual way and spin it up as fine as I want.  No slipping, no drifting apart and lovely fine singles so that the three ply finished yarn will be more like fingering or DK weight when it is finished.  Best yet, this is some of the softest yarn I've ever spun.  The fine wool and the alpaca seem to be made for each other!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Finished one and started another...

Here's the finished shots of the navy blue tam that I finished on Friday.  It worked out well, a little different from the first one, partly because it is all one color and partly because the single color band felted far differently than the multicolored band of the one I did for George.  Evidently the second layer of wool in the Fair Isle dice pattern makes for a more rapid and firmer felted band on the finished hat.  I'll keep that in mind in case I ever do another one in a solid color.  Felting certainly is full of surprises and isn't an exact science!

The next one I've started is for another order - this time three matching tams for a group of three brothers.  This set matches the Buchanan tartan #151 (if you want to look up tartans, here is a great site to do it: http://houseoftartan.co.uk/house/tfinder.htm)  Could not find a way to cut and paste the image of the tartan, but it is a lot of fun to look up family tartans on that site.

Tam to match Buchanan tartan #151

Here's a shot of the work in progress: 
This is one of the most complex tartans I've ever seen.  Not only is it asymmetrical, it has more colors than any other tartan I've found.  There may be others - but I did the best I could to match it.  Missing the blue in the original, but this was getting pretty busy with color already.  Vertical lines are tough in this kind of knitting, I think duplicate stitch would be the only way, and I'm not sure how the extra layer of yarn would behave in the felting process, so I'm not taking any chances.  That is an experiment for another time - when I don't have a tight deadline to meet!

I'm up to the point where I knit even for 20 rounds or so, which forms the outside edge of the turned edge before the tam begins to flatten out across the top and the decreasing rounds.  These are a lot of fun to do, even with all the surprises that happen in the felting process.

Onward and upward...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Another felting project... big wooly bag part is done!

Well I'm finally done with the knitting part of my next big, wooly bag.  It will become a rather stylish hat for a man who saw the other one I did and wanted one for himself.  Just waiting to hear from him to find out if he wants to be here for it to be fitted exactly to him.

This yarn knits up beautifully - the heathers from Knit Picks are just to die (or maybe dye?) for in my opinion.  This one is Solstice Heather in the Wool of the Andes Worsted yarn.  It looks like navy blue, but has touches of purple, teal and even fuschia if you look really close.  My camera didn't even come close to capturing all the colors - so I fiddled with it so it looks pretty close on my screen.  Anyway, here's a close up of the fabric of the hat as it is now.  Maybe you can see a little of the color range here.

This was done up on size 10.5 needles and took about three balls of yarn.  I've got the yarn ordered for the next three hats like this - they'll match the colors in the Buchanan tartan.  Wowee - it is a bright one too!  So, next thing is to felt and finish this one for Jeff, then I'll be knitting more wooly bags in very bright colors!

On the spinning side - I found a fascinating blend of fiber from a mill in California - Corriedale wool and Samoyed dog hair.  I can hardly wait for it to arrive!  I used to have a Samoyed and I collected a lot of fiber from him.  Beautiful stuff - develops a halo like angora rabbit fur and is exceptionally warm to wear.  Many of the people who climb Mt. Everest are said to have worn dog fur blend hats to stay extra warm.  Of course, I don't know any of them personally, so it is all hearsay... but I'd believe it.  Statistics say that dog fur is about 10 times as warm as wool.  This particular roving is a blend of 80% wool and 20% dog, so it should be easier to spin and a lot more wearable in a finished item.  Besides, the halo is really a neat effect in a finished piece.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Meet Dusty...

Dusty - Corriedale
Ahhh, nothing like the joy of a freshly washed fleece!  This is from Dusty, a covered Corridale fleece from my favorite shepherd in Colorado.  I have a number of fleeces from this flock. I was pleased by the color and couldn't wait to start spinning, so I grabbed my hand cards and made a couple rolags.  Dusty's fleece is very fine and has a nice sprinkling of silver fibers mixed in that sparkle in the very fine singles I'm spinning. No idea what I'll do with this yet, just sampling a bit for now.  Plenty of wool for several projects here - the raw fleece was 6.75 pounds.  I'll post pictures as soon as I get a little skein of the yarn done.

Frene Creek Farm roving in process
Also in the works... this pretty handpainted roving from Frene Creek Farm.  Originally, I thought I'd blend it with a couple plies of purple merino, but as it is spinning up, I think I'll do a pale gray instead.  I've got some very soft Rambouillet/Finn that will be just the ticket.  I'm about halfway through the 4 ounces of roving.  This is such pretty wool that I am always disappointed when I have to stop spinning for a while.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Next up.... Alpaca!

Frene Creek Farm Blue Face Leicester
Finally done with green and gray for a while, so I wanted some color.  I've had this bobbin of singles done for a while and have been pondering what to ply with it for a stunning yarn.  I'm so pleased with the way the LNL and Dorset turned out that I'm thinking to go in a similar direction with this... only bolder.  Thinking a neon looking barberpole stripe.  So I dug up some black alpaca from my stash and spun up some singles.  It is difficult to get a good picture of a light-eating black fiber, but this is what I got.
It is a pure, rich black. Little to no shine so I thought it would set off the electric blues and violets in the singles nicely. 

Alpaca is not the easiest fiber to spin - it is rather like dog hair.  Not much crimp - compared to wool - and it is somewhat slippery.  It barely holds together in the ball of prepared top.  It drifts apart and misbehaves if drafted too fine.  Seems easiest to handle if spun directly from the prepared mass of fiber rather than pre-drafting like I usually do with wool.

Black alpaca and BFL

But here's the best part - I'm thrilled with this sample skein, only a few yards, but I love the color play and the softness of this yarn!  This shot gives a more accurate color on the alpaca as well.  Deep, rich black and the brilliant blue - pleasing to me, and I'll have enough of it by plying this way to make something fun - like a vest, a shawl or maybe a sweater if I plan it right.  I've got plenty more of the alpaca should I need more yarn to match.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Color study completed...

100% DD
Nice to finally have this finished.  The last skein is a bit larger than the others since I had some leftover singles from the LNL to use up.  The Dolly Dorset spun very nicely since all the fiber was the same length, so none of the color pooling that happened with the blended skeins.  This kind of study is very useful to keep on hand to predict what heathered colors can be produced from a single dye batch.  In some ways this comes full circle from the initial process of learning to do dyework, since I have now created for myself a simple way to estimate the amounts of colored fiber needed to create a particular shade of heathered yarn using any of the colored wools that I have on hand. 

My personal opinion is that the natural colored wools are far more interesting than white wool dyed to black, gray or brown.  That being the case, I have many black sheep fleeces on hand.  For those who don't know, any sheep that isn't white, is referred to as a black sheep and the wool is processed separately from the white wools - it takes more time for a mill to do this.  Perhaps that is my reasoning for having primarily black sheep in my own flock when I was raising sheep. 

I love happy endings, so this project has been wonderful in so many ways.  Learning new things, creating things from my own skills and being able to keep them and learn more things from them.  What's not to like?

Here's a shot of the whole batch done, and a remembrance shot of the original batts.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Introducing Poppy...

Poppy's locks: unwashed on the left
Ohhhhh, I've made a new friend.  Her name is Poppy and she's a Cormo sheep.  Laugh if you like, but this is one amazing breed of sheep!  I've wanted to try Cormo for a very long time and finally found a small covered fleece to try out.  Cormo is a very fine wool, rumored to be some of the whitest fleece available.  I begin to believe it as I washed it yesterday.  Here's a shot of an unwashed lock and a bit of a washed lock.

I've never had such blocky tips on covered wool.  Good, bad or otherwise I don't know yet.  What I do know is that the fleece washed clean very easily - and that surprised me, usually a very fine fleece is tough to de-grease.  This one washed clean in two washes and two rinses.  I could have kept rinsing but it was so white that I decided it was good enough.  Here's a larger clump of clean fleece.

Brilliant white and as soft as a cotton ball - no wait - softer than that.  I can hardly feel the fiber in my hands as I start to card on my fine toothed hand cards. Before the fiber purists aim their bazookas at me, I will say that the wool did very well in this preparation.  Most of what I read from others about Cormo is that nothing is acceptable but a combed, worsted preparation - yet I chose differently because I wanted to have a woolen preparation to spin for my first go at this. Very gently carded a couple of transfers across the cards and then I rolled off this rolag and started spinning from the end.

One interesting thing about this wool is that it nearly demands to be spun very fine.  So I chose my lightest spindle - which I've put aside for a while because I had trouble keeping it in motion on the wools I usually spin.  I have now found that spindle's true calling.  It spins fast and long with Cormo drafted to about sewing thread size.  This fiber is amazing to spin - drafts like a dream and it will go as fine as your courage allows.  It is nearly weightless - gives the impression of spinning the air itself.  I've done a lot of spinning and I have never experienced this before.  Spinning angora rabbit is the closest to this sensation I've ever encountered before this.  Spun up a little and shot this of the rolag and spindle with my bit of progress. 

Wound this on and was still amazed by the fineness and also by the relative strength of the singles.  I really hadn't expected that at all.  I was prepared for a very fragile single that I'd have to spin supported, much like cotton.  This one is spinning gloriously as high as my arm will reach, and the spindle keeps its speed much longer than I would have imagined.  As fleeces go, I doubt that I'd want very much of this unless it was covered.  Burrs and veg would be difficult to remove methinks, but I'd probably try it if the price was right on the fleece.  (After all, I made it through the Nasty Romney - I KNOW how to handle a trashy fleece! But I digress...)  Since this is somewhat rare, it tends to be rather costly.  This is going to be a fun exercise, but if I want economical fine spinning, I'll probably use the prepared Merino that is relatively inexpensive and far more commonly available to handspinners.  Merino comes in fabulous colors, blends of colors and blends of fibers and seems to be a very common type of wool for handspinners for these reasons.

Verdict: Cormo is indeed worth the price if you want the whitest wool possible and really have a penchant for (or contest to win) finely spun singles or laceweight yarns.  I'll enjoy working through this fleece, and by the end I'll either have decided I was absolutely crazy to try it or I'll be so enamored with it that I won't want anything else when I want to spin really fine singles and yarns.

I guess this would be called Poppy Love....

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted...

Ahh, the joys of screwing things up... I'm well trained in clothing design.  At least I thought I was.  I did the things I was supposed to: knit the swatch, big enough to take measurements in several spots. Check.  Start knitting, check the gauge again.  Check.

This all went well, started knitting and didn't really think about it much more.  Until the wee hours of Monday night.  Blocked the cardigan pieces, and they kept growing and growing and growing.  Took some measurements - that sweater would fit King Kong.  I did what any sensible person would do - I walked away to keep from doing something horrible to all that knitted work.

It took another day for me to calm down enough to decide what to do next.  Declared it frogged on Ravelry, banished the pattern to the back of the work in progress clipboard, and announced a new project in that yarn.  At that point, I knew I'd be ravelling out the yarn.  Just finished doing that.  In a way, it was cathartic (though disturbing) to see how quickly I could undo the mistake I'd made.

More pondering, and now I'm thinking that I may re-knit the sweater.  A size smaller and on a size smaller needles, making all the changes I thought of as I worked it the first time.  Like doing the knitting in one piece as much as possible.  As I looked over the pattern again, I noticed it had knit up about two sizes too large - certainly not King Kong, but I'd never have worn it the way it was.  So I'll go back to Ravelry, update my projects again and begin again.

Now I have experience...

25% GNR 75% DD
 On the good news front, I finished the 25% Green Nasty Romney (GNR) and 75% Dolly Dorset (DD) skein of the color study.

Vital statistics on this skein:
25% GNR, 75% DD, three times through the carder to blend colors, singles spun clockwise, Navajo plied counterclockwise. 92 yards in this one ounce skein.

50/50 GNR/DD

I got a lot of carding done.  I was getting tired of looking at all that Green Nasty Romney.  So I chose the blend I liked best of the color study and that was the 50/50.  Carded up seven batts of that, about 300 grams total.  Might do some more, but this amount would give me enough to make a nice vest for myself. 

Pink NR, Sierra and white icicle

I also carded up four smallish batts of Pink Nasty Romney, Sierra (silver gray Corriedale) and a little white icicle sparkle fiber.  I've had batts of the Pink and Sierra sitting around for a while, and I got inspired by the Helix Scarf pattern in Spin Off magazine.  I really like the fact that the brilliance of the really hot pink was toned down by the silver gray of Sierra and a bit of sparkle from the icicle fiber.  Should spin up well and knit up to a pretty scarf - enough going on to be interesting, but not so much as to fight with the interest of the ruffling of the scarf.

More good news - got my first Cormo fleece in the mail yesterday.  What lovely stuff that is - washing it up now.  I'll take pictures when it gets dry...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Third skein of color study...

Here is the group so far.  The 100% Green Nasty Romney (GNR) is in the back, the middle skein is the 75% GNR/25% Dolly Dorset (DD). The one in front is the 50% GNR/50% DD. 

This color study has been fun to do.  I've still got two more skeins to go, but I like what I'm learning from the process.  Good to know that I can make many shades of yarn from one dye process.  These skeins are also proving that the blending works, even when the two types of wool are vastly different and actually can make the finished yarn more interesting.  The GNR is very long and wavy in structure with a luster, while the DD is a shorter, crimpier wool with a lot of bounce, but very little shine.  The difference in length is also making the heathering more interesting - little "blips" of color appear once in a while, and I find that I rather like that effect.

50% Green Nasty Romney/50% Dolly Dorset
 Here is the newest skein and it's stats:
50% GNR/50% DD, carded batt three times to blend color well.  Singles spun clockwise, Navajo plied counter-clockwise.  Spun singles entirely by handspindle, plied on the wheel.
106 yards, this yarn is a bit finer than the others, somewhat by intent, since I wanted to test the fineness I could reliably attain on the spindle.

I'm pleased with this yarn, I'll be doing more like this for a project I'm planning.

Monday, May 2, 2011

You'll never believe this...

The knitted hat before felting
Well, here it is.  All knitted up but not felted yet.  It bears an odd resemblance to a large woolen bag.  Sure doesn't look like a good Scottish tam.  At least, not yet.

The knitting went fast and really was a relaxing, easy knit.  The increases and decreases were no big deal, since the stitches don't show up in the finished felt.  No worrying about precise, straight lines and matching everything up.  In fact, the decreases were not lined up in the pattern on purpose - isn't that amazing!

The colors are wonderful together - bright and brilliant and yet it looks right at home with the kilt colors.  It should be a lovely hat to add to George's Renaissance Faire outfit.

Anyway, this thing is HUGE!  Really hoping that it will felt down to something that will fit a human head, since it sure doesn't do that right now:

George is in there somewhere

So, George comes over to get this wooly bag fitted to his melon.  Just for fun, took a shot of him wearing it before it went into the hot wash with the jeans.  Backed him up against the laundry room door and snapped this one:

Into the suds it went, for ten minutes to start.  Amazing how much faster the felting process goes when the object is bigger.  Maybe because it is more fabric for the jeans to agitate against, or maybe there is some other reason, but after fifteen minutes of sloshing it was about done.  Squeeze out the water and smooth it out a little so it doesn't drench him to try it on.  He sees it and gets pretty excited.

It finally looks like a hat, no longer the wooly bag that it was just a few minutes before.  Still some finishing work to do when it dries, but now it looks like this:

Amazing.... it seems like magic every time I do this kind of knitting.  Looks like George is pretty happy too.

Next up: Kilt hose.  Going to cast on later today.  Much bigger project since they work up at 8 stitches per inch.  They'll match the colors of the hat, but will be much lighter in weight.  Still worked in wool, since it is traditional and wears better than synthetics or cotton.

Off to bed for now...

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Where are they now? Part two...

Mom in her socks
After writing the bit about Mom's socks, I thought I'd check on them.  I found that she still has them and was willing to model them for me:

They were made of some self-striping yarn, I don't remember what brand, but I do remember really liking the yarn and the pattern it made.  Bright bands of color, these socks just scream out "FUN!" to me.

Busy with the tam and washing up a new fleece.  It isn't turning out the way I thought it would - but I can fix that - I'll dye some of it and see what happens.  More on that later on.

I've finished up all the pieces of the sweater, just need to block them, assemble them and pick up the stitches for the front band and the collar.  Probably take it to the LYS and hunt for some gorgeous buttons before I start on the button bands.

I'll keep you posted...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Felting of the swatch...

This is so cool... I'm amazed every time I do felting.  All the things you are NEVER supposed to do to wool, doing them and coming up with the most amazing and dense fabric you can imagine!

Hot water, strong agitation  with a pair of old jeans and extra laundry detergent.  After five minutes, I got this:

Five minutes

Still some small "holes" in the fabric, this photo is shot with the swatch very wet and plopped on top of the washing machine lid with most of the foam blotted off.  Not much shrinkage yet, but the yarn is starting to fuzz out a little. 

The measurements at this point were 6 3/4" wide by 6 1/2" high.

Back into the washer it went for another five minutes of sloshing around in hot water.  As an aside, trying to find the little swatch in all that foam and the wet jeans was a bit of an adventure.  That water is HOT! Thank goodness for rubber gloves!

After another five minutes, ten minutes total now,  the swatch was 6 3/4" wide by 5 1/2" high.  Interestingly enough, the knitted fabric was pulling in more in length than in width.  I guess I hadn't expected that.  Back in to slosh for another five minutes, fifteen total, the swatch measured 5 3/4" wide by 4 1/2" high.  Finally starting to pull in widthwise and firming up in texture.  Fewer holes in the fabric.  Back in for another slosh, after 20 minutes the swatch was 5" wide by 4" high.  Back in again, after 25 minutes the swatch measured 4 3/4" wide by 3 1/4" high.  One more time and after 30 minutes total the swatch measured 4 1/2" wide and 3 1/4" high and looked like this:

I've got pictures of the whole progression for my own files, but I noticed that the garter stitch edge behaved differently than the stockinette center.  The main difference can be felt (I couldn't help myself - sorry!) in the density of the fabric.  The stitches are no longer visible anywhere, although the garter stitch ridges are still there with a very firm touch.  The fabric got quite "hairy" and dense.  Very little drape so the tam should hold its shape well as long as it is blocked properly.

Now that the swatch is done and felted, I spun it out and rinsed it twice in the washer with the jeans.  The swatch is sitting out on the counter to dry, the jeans went into the dryer to await their duty as companions to the tam when it comes time to felt it.

All that being done, I started knitting on the tam.  Patterning is from Piecework magazine's feature on kilt hose and bonnets from the Royal Highland Regiment Black Watch.

Balmoral Bonnet to match Wallace Tartan
Some part of me recoils from calling a hat intended for a very large man a "bonnet" so I've been referring to it as a tam.  Although not technically correct, it sure beats the mental image of said big man wearing a frilly Easter bonnet.  So, it remains a tam for the purposes of this blog.

I'm pleased with the way the color work is going.  I haven't done any Fair Isle color stranding in a long, long time.  I knit with one color carried in each hand and the stranding almost happens without me thinking about it much.  I remember that tip from Alice Starmore's fantastic book on Fair Isle.  The long rectangles of color will become square in the felting process and, of course, much smaller.  I like the look of the brilliant yellow with all the dark colors.  The tam will be trimmed out in a black grosgrain ribbon edge with swallowtail ends in the back.  There are adjustment ties concealed in the ribbon edge that will adjust the fit.

Back to knitting!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Swatching for the Tam...

Swatch for tam before felting
Ahh, the joys of felting... I think I'm one of those oddballs that actually enjoy the swatching process.  I've done up the swatch in Firecracker Heather Wool of the Andes Worsted from Knit Picks (find it at: http://www.knitpicks.com/ ).

Before felting this swatch measures 6" wide by 6 1/2" high across the full swatch.  Just the stockinette portion measures 4 3/4" wide by 5 1/2" high and is 19 stitches by 28 rows.

The tam is an historically correct version from Piecework magazine (love that historical knitting!) and will be paired with a set of kilt hose done in intarsia.  I dyed the yarn for the yellow in the Wallace tartan since it wasn't available in both of the yarn types I was using and I wanted the pieces to match as much as possible.  The kilt hose will be done in a lightweight two ply yarn called Palette (also from Knit Picks).  Here are the shots of the yarn with the magazine photo so you'll have some idea of what I'm talking about.

Yarns and photo of kilt hose
Here are the kilt hose, very interesting pattern.  These are knitted flat and seamed, that will certainly make the intarsia easier, but I'm thinking that I'd be supremely irritated by a seam on the foot of my sock, so I'm going to modify the pattern to do the foot in the round so that there will be no seam to irritate the foot.  The tartan is Wallace, red, black and bright yellow although the photo doesn't show it well.  The yellow yarn is hand dyed by me in Brilliant Yellow acid dye from Dharma Trading Co.  It is a great way to get the colors I want for this project.  Fun to do too!

Then there is the photo of the tam along with the yarn, tartan and photo from Piecework - interestingly enough these both came from the same issue of the magazine, how cool is that?

Yarns and photo for tam
So, next thing is to go and felt the swatch and to re-measure and adjust the pattern for size.  Then I can start on the actual tam, I haven't done felting like this in years and I really enjoyed it in the past.  Did a pair of slippers as a gift for my brother years ago - styled like chukka boots, the two eyelet ankle high style.  Remember those?  The felted "fabric" turned out so thick and soft - the knitted stitches became nearly indistinguishable.  I have also located a neat felted pattern for slippers for myself.  It uses both a superwash and a feltable wool... more on that later since it is quite a way down the knitting queue.