Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

Shetland Wool - Brindle roving from Bramble Wool Farm
This blend is 49% Black/51% White Shetland in natural colors.
So begins another adventure!  Since I work third shift, I was awake for the midnight change of year.  I celebrated by spending the night spinning some lovely Shetland Brindle roving from Bramble Wool Farm.  It is part of a Rare Breeds Spin-a-long with Joanna and the folks over at the Knit Spin Farm podcast.  This wonderfully prepared roving followed me home from the 2012 Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival back in September.  I had a hankering to experiment with Shetland wool, but the tiny skeins I found for very high prices at my local yarn shop certainly put a damper on my enthusiasm!  That being said, there are wonderful rainbows of color available in those gorgeous Jamieson yarns!  Since this wool is so often used for Fair Isle knitting, I suppose that it makes a certain amount of sense to have small skeins available.  I think I'll chain ply the singles I'm spinning and perhaps dye it in several colors to play around with some Fair Isle.  Here's what I have done so far:
1.8 ounces spun into singles on the Kromski, pretty fine singles
This will probably be a chain plied yarn.  I prefer the rounder cross-section of three strands to the flat nature of two-ply yarns even though the two-ply is what is traditionally used for Fair Isle work.  I have four ounces of this roving, so I'm just about halfway through it already.

Some things were surprising as I spun this Shetland.  I was sure it would feel very scratchy and rough like the commercial yarn I saw at the shop.  To my delight, it is softer than expected and it drafts well.  As I browsed the farm's website, I did discover that they hand wash their fiber, which may account for the softness and the very slightly "oiled" feel of the roving while I draft it.  Hand washing the wool allows it to retain just a touch of the natural oils to remain in the strands of the wool.  It is a matter of opinion whether this is a good thing or not - but I prefer it for spinning, since it allows the fibers to slide along each other more smoothly.  Commercial preparation strips out all the natural oils and, to me, makes the fiber seem parched and dry.  It also straightens most of the wave and crimp in the fibers which deadens the bounce and lively nature of hand processed wools.

As I mentioned in my last post, I have started the Shipwreck shawl and I'm thrilled with the way it is turning out.  Here is the first "in progress" shot I took at the end of the 5th section, called Bleeding heart lace, of the pattern. It is pinned out on a blocking mat for the picture, since knitted lace is less than lovely just sitting on the needles.  This measured about ten inches in diameter when pinned out.

I have continued into the next section, called Madeira, and shot another picture after stringing a very long cable through the stitches.  You might notice a white thread strung through the stitches a few rounds from the edge.  This is called a "life line" and is a clever way of retaining sanity while working complex lace patterns.  Lace is difficult to rip back in the event of a mistake since the holes cross the boundaries of the rows.  Life lines are threaded through the stitches of a round, and make it possible to replace the knitting needle correctly in the round if the knitting has to be ripped back.  The needles I'm using have a nifty way to accomplish this.  There is a small hole in the end of each cable connection to tighten the interchangeable needle tips - this is also useful to make life lines, just string some sewing thread through the hole at the beginning of the round.  This draws a thread through each stitch in the round.  At the end of the round, the life line is placed - much easier than other ways!  The only trouble is that it also takes the thread through all my markers.... This time, I did slip the thread out of the markers, but I think next time I'll just do another life line about five rounds later and leave the thread in the markers.  In any event, here is a picture three rounds into the Madeira pattern.
Notice that in just a few rounds the size has increased enough that it takes four of the mats to pin it out into round now!  Probably about eighteen inches in diameter now.  This style of shawl construction is called "Pi shaping" since the increases come at intervals where the stitch count doubles in a single round.  Makes it simple to keep track of the increases.

The other project, the cabled sweater, is in time out at the moment.  I've made an error when I converted the pattern to knitting in the round that altered the stitch count and the cables didn't line up exactly as I had hoped.  I'm not sure anyone would notice but me, yet part of the appeal of the sweater pattern was that the cables grew up out of the ribbing.  So I'm trying to decide if it bothers me enough to pull it out and fix it.  I'm about twenty rounds into the pattern, and it is gorgeous, but the mistake at the edge is pulling at me.  I'll probably frog it back to the ribbing and re-knit it unless someone has a slick solution to fix it without having to pull out all that work.  In any event, here is a picture of the sweater so far.
I don't see the mistake in this shot, so it is probably on the other side.  So in the interest of full disclosure, imagine the pattern offset by two stitches so the cables don't line up over the ribs at the bottom edge.  One of the many things I really like about this pattern is that the sides of the sweater are in regular stockinette stitch as well as the panels between the cable sections.  I find that more appealing than the reverse stockinette that most cabled sweaters have as the background.  Reverse stockinette means lots of purling, but it also means a nubby surface that seems more likely to pill than the smoother stockinette surface.  This particular yarn is the rugged Wool of the Andes Worsted in Amethyst Heather from Knit Picks.

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