Thursday, March 31, 2011

Where are they now? (K&C Blog Week - Day 4)

Knitting for other people isn't something I do very often - the legendary boyfriend sweater is most of the reason why.  And in my experience, exactly that happens every time I knit someone a treasure.

So this post will be mercifully short - I've done such knitting only a few times... twice for husbands that ended up being ex-husbands and then a couple times for my Mom, who, bless her heart will keep them forever.

The first one was a pair of socks - pretty good, I think they were my first pair, but they were in DK which was heavier weight than I wanted to wear.  So I gave them to my husband at the time.  Now he's gone and so are the socks.  But that's okay, I have one of his funny sweatshirts, so I suppose it was a fair trade in the end.

The second one was my first sweater - done in the round from the top down.  Lion Brand Wool Ease in a wonderful deep green.  I gave it to my husband (a different one) and he wore it a lot, not just because I made it, but because it fit well and he genuinely liked it.  Now he's gone, and so is the sweater.

I was beginning to see a pattern here... so I don't often do such things anymore.  I did knit my Mom a pair of socks for a Christmas gift.  I think she wears them with her clogs sometimes.  I knit her a pretty swirled tam in a yarn she picked out to match her winter coat.  Delightful stuff, and she's gone on to learn to knit things for herself.  She's decided that she's a yarn snob... cracks me up to hear her say that.

Somehow knitting for Mom is different.  She knows what she wants, and yet she will wear anything her kids make for her.  I remember when I was little, I made some dreadfully garish jewelry for her from little plastic shells and electric pink gimp.  And bless her forever, she wore them!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tidy mind, tidy stitches (K&C Blog Week - Day 3)

Hoooooo boy.  This is the tough topic for me.  In many ways, I'm very organized and in many more I can't begin to claim mastery over my stash. 

A number of ideas leap forward:

-I tend to buy stash in bunches, with long spaces in between.  For instance, my last buy was on my birthday last month.  Had a wonderful time, and didn't plan on buying anything except the green yarn for "Pretty Thing".  My prior buy was a Knit Picks order for yarn to make a Tam and Kilt Hose for a match to a Wallace Tartan kilt.  Before that, a couple fleeces from my favorite shepherd (one of them was a 13 pounder from a Corriedale ram named Jake, the other was a pale silvery blue-gray from a sheep named Sierra, whose fleece I'd bought the year before).  As I look at it, and think about it some, the sequence seems to repeat itself.  I'll buy fleece for a while, then some rovings or top in fun colorways, then yarn.  I love to spin and knit, but I tend to do a little of each, rather than long marathon runs of either one.  Hmmm, hadn't thought of that before.

-My stash includes yarn, of course, as well as roving, top and fleeces in various stages of processing.  If you've been following this blog, you've read about my adventures with the Nasty Romney fleece.  It is, at last, all washed and dyed.  Some left white, just for fun, but I've been picking and starting to spin the stuff.  I can't say that it has been purely wonderful to work with, but I am finding that I enjoy the silky nature of the Romney.  It really wasn't what I had expected, and that is part of the fun of spinning.

-I do tend to work through a fleece, start to finish.  Rather like I've been blogging about with the Nasty Romney and Dolly Dorset in earlier posts.  Instead of leaping from one fleece to another, I notice that I try out a lot of ideas with the fleeces I'm working with at the moment.  I do a lot of swatching and small batches and I really enjoy the process.  This way, I get to find out what I like about the fiber.  Like the Louet Northern Lights top in Wild Berry Jam.  Spun up the singles in January, tried doing a Navajo ply of it and just didn't like the visual overload.  So I backed up, spun some dark gray Dorset and did a two ply, then a three ply sample of that.  Preferred the three ply and made up the rest of the LNL in that configuration.  Incidentally, I have another colorway of the LNL called Violets that I'll probably process in a similar fashion.  Probably with a white wool, since there is a little white in the Violets colorway.

-I've noticed that I like to look at my singles for a while before I charge into plying them into yarns.  Sample a little of this, a little of that.  Find a yarn I like, knit up a small swatch and live with it a while.  If I still like it, I'll spin off the rest and stash the yarn.

-I am also starting to catalog my stash in Ravelry.  Since I didn't know that it existed until recently, this is an ongoing work in progress.  But I'm pleased to have found a system that is workable.  I may develop some kind of scrapbook to show the start to finish nature of fleeces to fabrics.  I do enjoy the process and being able to keep shreds of evidence along the way is a nice little bit of personal history.

-Once I launch a project, I'm pretty organized about keeping the whole package together while it is in process.  I dislike the waste of time when things I need aren't in my working bag.  At the moment my knitting bag has a couple projects in it.  The instruction/pattern sheets are all on a clipboard together.  Swatches and extra balls of yarn are there along with my plastic zipper bag of tools - crochet hooks, needle tips and cables, cable needles, yarn darning needles, gauge measuring tools and such like.  I've got a separate bag that I take to work, single project, idiot-proof stockinette.  I work on it until I get to a part that requires a lot of attention and switch it out for another piece of idiot-proof stockinette.

-I've got a lot of patterns and books, but I don't carry them around with me.  I make a copy of the page I'm working on, and then I feel free to write on it, mark it up and use it to work the piece.  When I'm done, some of those pages go back into the original book - notes about what worked, what didn't and where the pattern had things that didn't seem clear - those things are VERY useful if I ever use that pattern again.

So, overall, I may not be completely organized.  But I'm getting better all the time!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Skill + 1 Up (K&C Blog Week - Day 2)

The new things I've learned this past year could fill pages!  It seems that most anything I attempt, I jump in with both feet and lots of ambition - and sometimes very little sense.  For example, I never knew about all the video help available online until my Mom decided to start knitting.  She thought I could teach her, and I was flattered, and gave it a shot.  But.... she's left-handed.  I thought (all this thinking - I smell smoke!) that it would be easy - just have her sit across from me, right?  Well, maybe not, since not only are the hand positions reversed - the good thing.  The stitches are also reversed - not so good.  I also learned that it is far more difficult to teach things that sound so simple in a book.

With that experience crawling through my cranium, I started digging for more technical information about why knitting "works" the way it does.  I found it in books by Cat Bordhi, Barbara Walker, Elizabeth Zimmerman and one called Knitting in the Old Way by Priscilla Gibson-Roberts and Deborah Robson.  Being rather designer-minded since childhood, these things flooded into my brain and did their own version of the hula in there, showing me possibilities I hadn't thought about for designing my own knitted things.  Only trouble - finding time to knit the samples and (of course) the finished things!

Specifically, I've learned entrelac, which has led me out to the land of madness in terms of picking up stitches and knitting off in other directions - what a design possibility!  Those ponderings led to cables combined with knitted lace patterns, mosaic knitting, really cool Fair Isle ideas and more!

In the last year I've also discovered knitting groups, Ravelry and Etsy.  These are wonderful, each in their own way.  Knitting groups allow me to knit (and spin) in public (not that I was ever opposed to doing that - I don't care if people think I'm weird - I AM weird, and I'm okay with that).  They also challenge me to look at what I'm doing in new ways - other people do different things with their knitting than I do.  The Brain hat comes to mind here... no, I don't have pictures (sigh).

Ravelry..... what a great concept!  I don't even really know how to describe it.  Part pattern library, part social network, part project journal and stash organizer.  I'm still learning my way around in there - so much to see and do!  Might be able to catalog my stash, but that will take a while methinks!  I've found patterns and lots of inspiration in that wonderful electronic environs!  Wandering through French patterns (wishing I remembered more of my high school French so I could use them!) marveling at the differences between designers.  Rediscovering yarns, sources of supply and designers that I'd forgotten, and finding some I never knew before.

Etsy is also a great online venue for all things artsy.  I can look for (and find) most anything I could desire for my fiberish life.  I also have a shop there where I sell my handmade pens and even though I haven't really talked about it much here on the blog, it is one of the ways I feed my inner artist that actually makes me a few bucks.  People know what to do with a pen.  Hoping to save up the sheckles to insulate my wood shop so I can work out there year around.  But I have had a wonderful time inside with my wool this winter.

I used to joke that I could spin, weave and dye without strong drink.  I finally did more serious work on dyeing this past winter.  I've documented a lot of that early learning here in this blog, in fact, that's why I started the blog in the first place.  Most people get a glazed look when I start talking about fiberish things - and invariably ask "Can't you just buy yarn?  Why would you spin it yourself?"  To which, I have learned to answer "Because I can."  So, in this format, I don't have to encounter the glassy stare.... I can prattle on at length about what is important to me.  So, for the first time in my life, I've found a place to say the things that are "all about me".  Selfish?  Maybe a little, but I've found that there are people who are enjoying my little flight of fancy here.  Maybe not too many, but enough to keep me writing.

Thanks for the challenge Renee Anne, this is FUN! (wink!)

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Tale of Two Yarns.... (K&C Blog Week - Day 1)

Ahhh, nothing like a challenge to get me rolling again!  My lone follower on this blog offered up a challenge to write this week about fiber addiction and specified the topics: see the full challenge here: (and play along if you'd like!)

My love/hate relationship with acrylic yarn is one of the oddities of my wool-filled life.  I use it for things that I know will be used hard and knocked around some.  One of my favorites is this shrug that I did several years back in Caron Simply Soft Shadows - from the ball band pattern, modified with a deeper ribbing band.
Shrug in Caron Simply Soft Shadows

I wear this a lot since it goes with most things in my wardrobe.  One of the things I particularly like about it is in the general nature of shrugs - no front "ends" to get caught in things and it keeps my neck and shoulders warm.  The variegation of this yarn is what really enthuses me... I have a couple other colorways waiting for me in my stash - I know there is a fuschia and I think white as well.  I've also worked with the plain color Simply Soft and it is pretty nice stuff as well.  I use it when I'm doing a gift for someone who wants soft, but might not know how to care for wool.

Front view of shrug

Here's the front view:

Necklace by Chico's (another one of my favorite artsy stores)

Then there is the other side of the acrylic equation... the not so happy stuff.  Usually this involves chenille or boucle yarns.  I love the look, but the actual knitting is a different story.  With high hopes (and no sense, apparently) I charged into an afghan.  Double stranded with blocks of stockinette and garter stitch with a zigzag edge (also a ball band pattern).  Thought it would be an easy no-brainer kind of knitting.  That didn't turn out to be the case at all!  It tangles, snarls and basically misbehaves all the way through the process - although it does look pretty nice:
Afghan started with whopper ball of boucle

I've decided to frog the afghan and remake this yarn into a swingy, hip length jumper with a handkerchief hemline, the pattern is in Creative Knitting, March 2011 called "Sandy Shores".  I'm doing it from the top down so I can fit as I go, I want the bustline and the waistline to be at the proper spots.  If I have enough yarn, I might also add short sleeves.  This yarn is a stinker to work with double stranded on plastic circular needles.  I'll swatch it single on nickel circulars hoping that it will slide better.  I'm excited to see how the striping will look on the garment.

Now, on the yarn I really love: wool, marvelous and splendid, often imitated but never duplicated.  Fabulous fine or knockout chunky blends, I love my wool yarns!  Here's a shot of an alpaca blend done up into a big slouchy vest - worked up very fast from a Lion Brand pattern that I've lost track of.  This one appeals to my inner Viking.

Viking vest - front view
Ordinarily, I'm not a huge fan of the furry yarns, but I like this accent.  I used two different types, one a sparkle black and one a regular furry black.  Even though it is black, this vest has a cheery and fun feeling.  

This is the first piece I ever worked in bulky weight yarn.  The speed is nice, and it is a very pretty vest, but my taste runs more toward the fine and very fine yarns.  Cables and fussy bead knitting are personal favorites of mine, and yet, I don't have any of either one on the needles at the moment.  Need to finish up some other things first.

In the planning stages are a couple of things with cables (in wool yarn - of course!)  Carol Sunday's Tapestry cardigan and the Wicked vest from Classic Elite.  I think I'll do the cardigan in a Knit Picks yarn and the vest - hmmmmm, haven't decided on that yet, although I have a wool and silk blend that I just stashed that might be enough to do the job.  What a delightful quandry!

Viking vest - back view

As the week goes on I'll get to wander into territory that I haven't thought about in a long time.  You'll have to check the challenge if you want a sneak preview of the topics.  I'm still deciding what I want to write about...

Until next time, knitting, spinning and feeding the fish....

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Stashdown update...

100% GNR at top, 75% GNR 25% DD at bottom
Two down, three to go.  Here's a shot of the first two skeins in the color study.

I really like this heathered yarn. The DD tones down the brilliance of the green just enough.  Very pleasant tweedy yarn.  The colors didn't blend perfectly and I rather like that feature.  Probably a function of the different staple lengths more than anything.  The GNR is probably about one and a half to twice the length of the DD. Spun well, washed and air dried. The DD didn't really fuzz out much in this blend. I'm expecting more "bounce" as the percentage of DD increases.

Vital statistics of the 75% GNR 25% DD:
100% Wool.  75% Green Nasty Romney, 25% Dolly Dorset.  Batts carded three times to blend colors.  Singles spun clockwise, Navajo plied counterclockwise.  80 yards, 1 ounce skein.

Next up: 50% GNR 50% DD.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Works in progress - Part Four

Pretty Thing for Janet
Well, here is "Pretty Thing" in Regia.  I'm doing it for a friend of mine and her favorite color is green.  Made sure that she likes lace before I started on it though!  I'm finding that I really like this pattern... not too fiddly, but very pretty all the same.  I found a link on Ravelry for this one too.

I've always liked the look of knitted lace, and this piece is going much faster than the shawlette.  I'd like to finish this one up and get back to my other works in progress.  But for now, I'm really enjoying the process, watching the pattern come to life on the needles.  Gets prettier with every row, she really gave this pattern the right name!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Spinning of the Green...

Green Nasty Romney on the picker
 Here's a Stashdown update.  Picked the Green Nasty Romney. It turns out that it does have pretty long staple, and surprisingly it is somewhat glossy and silky feeling.  Still a lot of veg falling out at this stage.

Weighed out and carded all the batts, ran them through three times to completely blend the colors.  I also noticed that I missed one combination in the original posting, so I did that one too.  I think it was the 25% Green and 75% Gray that was missing from the lineup.

Here's a shot of the completed one ounce batts.
March Stashdown Color Study Batts
From left to right on the picker:
100% Green Nasty Romney (GNR)
75% GNR 25% Dolly Dorset (DD)
50% GNR 50% DD
25% GNR 75% DD
100% DD

Being the orderly sort, I started on the green end and started spinning.  The GNR is a delight to spin, long and silky, still picking out veg and second cuts and a few noils. As I mentioned, not the most impressive fleece I've ever worked with, but it is making up a nice yarn.

Finished up the 100% GNR batt, plied and washed the skein and here's the result:
100% Green Nasty Romney yarn
Details: 84 yards, 1 ounce. Spun singles clockwise, Navajo plied counterclockwise. Hand dyed in the fleece with Dharma #447 Emerald Green Acid dye.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Works in progress - Part Three

Here is the beginning of a lace shawlette that I'm doing as a knit-along with my Mom.  I'm doing the Annis shawlette from, here's the link:
Mom's working hers in Malabrigo Sock in one of the purple/blue colorways.  I'm doing mine in handspun from one of my own Corriedale sheep named "Wiggly". I may have to spin some more, since the yarn I'm using is a bit heavier weight than recommended.  I wanted a wrap with some warmth to it.  I've got a full fleece of another Corriedale named "Sierra" that is the same color.  I'm stalled out at the beginning of the row of bobbles.  I don't like to work bobbles, even though they are a very nice accent on this particular shawlette.  I did a swatch of the lace and did the first bobble in the purist way with my knitting needles, decided that it was a sure road to madness and picked up a crochet hook to finish the swatch.  Since then, more pondering, and I am going to use a cable needle to make it easier still to draw the working yarn through the seven strands on these bobbles.

I also worked on my March Stashdown.  Got the batts carded and the green one is spun, plied and washed.  I'll put up pictures of that for next time.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Works in progress - Part Two

Here's another episode... Bought this lovely kit from Knit Picks ( since I wanted to try out entrelac.  I just checked and the kit isn't available any more but here is the link for the Andean Silk yarn (  I've decided that I just love the hat, but I'm not as crazy about the long cuffed mitts.  I also changed one of the colors to suit me better, I swapped out the bright red for a blue.  The color starts at the ribbing in Sangria, then the first entrelac triangles and first round of blocks in Merlin, then Hyacinth for two rounds of blocks, then Imperial for two rounds of blocks and then back to Sangria for the decreasing sized blocks at the top of the crown. It will be a big slouchy beret which should be nice and warm.  Update: I found the pattern on Ravelry here's the link

To answer the obvious question, no, I don't actually knit this way - I just strung the hat onto a cable so I could shoot the picture.  I do confess to having a wonderful time using my ebony double pointed needles from Germany on this project.  I never really thought of ebony as a good choice for knitting since it is so brittle, but it is a delight to knit with! Smooth, but not slippery, holds this silk and alpaca blended yarn just right for the way I knit.

Entrelac is a neat concept that I'm really looking forward to using for some design work. It is an illusion of a diagonal weave and technical enough to keep me interested.  Stockinette is nice, but boring, and I do keep some plain stockinette projects on the needles for when I knit somewhere I can't devote my full attention.

As for this project, I'll finish the hat and probably do a scarf in entrelac to finish up the set. I question whether I'll do mittens to match since I think the alpaca wouldn't hold up as well as wool for the hard wear that mittens or gloves get compared to a hat.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Works in progress - Part One

Spinning aside for a while, I've got several knitting projects running now.  There is the Knit-a-long sweater that I started in October, the back is done:

Sweater back

The yarn is a lovely red-violet worsted weight.  Wool of the Andes from Knit Picks in a color called Fairy Tale.  I discovered that even though I like the looks of moss stitch, it is a pain in the rear to knit.  All that back and forth takes a long time, but it does give a nice edge - the small stripe below the armsceye is also 4 rows of moss stitch.  I'm rather fond of the color and the way the sweater is turning out.  I've only done one other sweater and that one was a gift.  Knitted it in the round and from the top down.  I really liked knitting that one.  But I figured that I should do a sweater from a pattern written the "normal" way, as a sort of experiment I suppose.

Then I started knitting the fronts (note to self - why did I let anyone talk me into knitting in pieces rather than in the round?) and finished those up a short while ago.  I'm pretty pleased with them as well... nothing is blocked yet, but I'll do that when I get all the pieces finished.  Here are the fronts:

Sweater front
This will be a raglan sweater - so the sleeves are next.  I'm knitting both of them at the same time on a circular needle with two balls of yarn.  It seems to be going faster that way than doing each one separately.  Also none of the "second of a pair" problem this way.  When these come off the needles, I can go straight to blocking and sewing up.  I think I'll choose buttons when I get the pieces assembled and before I do the bands and collar.  This sweater has a mandarin-type collar, but it doesn't join in the front.  Planning on going back to those wonderful yarn shops to find the perfect buttons - or maybe some of those neat Scandinavian clasps - I'm not sure which I'll like better on this one yet.

I'm knitting the sleeves during lunch at work and whenever I need mindless knitting to do.  I've got a lace cowl going at home that I can only work on when I know I won't be disturbed - pretty, but demanding enough that I don't want to find (and sort out) problem yarn overs in such fine yarn!  Back to work....

Thursday, March 3, 2011

March Stashdown Goal

Ta-daaaaa!  I had an idea (it didn't hurt either...)  For this month, I'm going to do a color gradation study.  I'll do four one-ounce batts in different amounts to test heathering on color tones.  I'll use Dolly for the neutral and the green Nasty Romney for the color. 
Dolly the Dorset

For the first batt, I'll do 100% Green and no Dolly.  Spin it and knit up a swatch to attach.

For the second batt, it will be 75% Green and 25% Dolly.  Spin and swatch.

For the third batt, 50% of each. Spin and swatch.

For the last one, 100% Dolly. Spin and swatch.
Green Nasty Romney

I saw something like this in Deb Menz's book Color in Spinning a long time ago.  My copy is packed away in a box somewhere.  When the weather warms up I'll try to find it and do some more of this kind of testing for myself.  I have a sweater that I just adore that is made up of several heathered yarns, and each color is so much more interesting than a plain, single color yarn.  So I would like to examine some of those possibilities for myself.

Off to the carder...

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Spinnable Stash

So here is the great stuff I found at the wool market!  There were several vendors there, all with wonderful things available for sale.  Since I have waaaaaaay too much fleece on hand, I tried to restrain myself.  Did pretty well - but a couple things followed me home anyway.

Corriedale cross dyed rovings
 These pretty pink/red/burgundy rovings from Frene Creek Farm.  My closest shepherd, she's just outside of town which is very handy!  I need to learn how to do this kind of painted roving, but for now, it is nice to be able to pick it up from Frene Creek.  Besides, she has an amazing collection of fleeces.  Some from her own livestock and some from other shepherds and fiber farms.

She's also got the most amazing lotion bars, I've nearly used mine up.  Guess I'll be making a trip out there again soon to replenish my supply.

Superwash BFL and Alpaca and Silk Top
The other batch of goodies I couldn't resist came from a farm that was new to me.  Bumblebee Acres Fiber Farm in Harvard, Illinois.  A nice superwash BFL handpainted roving in blues/purples/teal with a touch of white left intact. The colorway is called Lincoln Park. Very nice!  Also an exquisite Alpaca and silk top in a colorway called Eeyore's Brooding, in heathered purples/blues/grays.

I suspect the lotion bar will come in very handy when I start spinning the silk.  Haven't spun silk in years, but I remember it being a little hard to handle since it wants to stick to any rough spot on my hands.

Now I need to pick a Stashdown goal for March... what shall I choose?  I'll let you know next time...

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Stash and Stashdown

Probably the fattest bobbin I've ever plied!
 I did it! Completed my Stashdown goal... the LNL and Dolly yarn is spun and skeined!  I did take a picture of the full (and do I mean full!) bobbin.

I'm very pleased with the way it turned out. Pleasant to work with and somewhere between fingering weight and DK.  Handspun isn't perfectly consistent, no matter how hard I try.  Perhaps that is part of the beauty of it after all.

Stashdown goal - February

Anyway, here is a picture of all the skeins after they're wound off, including the ones I finished for the original sampling, the small ball is what was left from the knitted swatch.  I'm really glad I sampled this yarn, because originally I was thinking socks.  Now I'm thinking maybe a shawl or cowl as well.  There should be plenty of yarn to do all of that.  I may spin some more Dolly yarn and use the remainder of the Stashdown yarn for accent on a cabled vest that I've had in my head for a while now.  Working out the design now...

As promised, here are the shots of the new stuff I got to add to the stash.  Birthday presents to me, from me.  Kind of neat to be a grown up and to be able to do that.  Found a great sale at one shop and picked up some high end sock yarn to play with.

Goodies from Studio S
There is some pretty Berocco Jasper in the mix too.  Thought it would be a nice accent, I don't often see olive green and purple together, and I find that I rather like this combination.  The green sock yarn is going to become a neck gaiter for my friend Janet using the "Pretty Thing" pattern from the Yarn Harlot's blog

More goodies were found at Needles and Pins (lucky me to have found TWO great yarn shops within a mile of each other).  Interesting that they have such different things, and probably gives me a reason to visit both places - but not too frequently - my budget couldn't handle that!

Needles and Pins stash additions
Found that pretty purple wool and silk blend, and a ball of sock yarn with no apparent match - kind of neat - but it won't be made up into socks, might have a future as a scarf - maybe in entrelac.  That would be fun!

The two small skeins are merino - ahhhhh, such pretty and soft stuff.  I think that is what a cloud must feel like.

Next time, I'll show you the neat stuff I found at the wool show!