Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Things are getting fuzzy!

Knit Picks Galileo in "Gem" on size 3 (3.25 mm)
Spinning and swatching have taken up my fiber time lately.  I've been working on wooly goodness to put into my Etsy shop as well as spinning more singles for another embellished yarn.  Swatching for some new projects as well.  Sometimes it is nice to start looking into my next few projects when I feel ready to stall out on my current one.  Shipwreck is in that particular spot right now... a little too much time on really fine yarn and fiddly lace has me hungry for some super simple take along type of projects.  That being said, naturally the first thing that grabbed me was the extra-super-duper fiddly cabled cardigan called Tapestry.  I'm nuts - I know.  But the swatch was plain stockinette with garter borders, so it met the need of super easy knitting that I needed just then.  Of course the photo also gives me away - I've cast on for the sweater and I'm a couple rows into it.  Didn't I just frog out a cabled sweater?  Ummmmm..... yes, but I guess I'm ready for more punishment on even finer yarn and smaller needles.  Learning from recent mistakes doesn't always happen in my case evidently.

Combed Romney nests up for sale
Other fiber madness includes this batch of delightful fluff.  This is hand combed Romney that I processed on my English 4 pitch combs.  I mentioned them and discussed the process back in the Wicked post.  It is a very nice way to get lovely spinning fiber out of clean but trashy (with VM) fleece.  Spinning from hand combed top is such a pleasure.  The fiber is arranged in parallel fashion, so the spining is so smooth and wonderful!  I like texture too, but nothing beats combed fiber for a lovely smooth singles when spinning.  This Romney is pretty typical of the breed, long and silky fiber.  Not as harsh as most of the longwools and a terrific fiber on which to learn spinning.  There is also something about spinning the pure, undyed, creamy natural wool.  My passion for color in spinning doesn't often give me the time to do much white, but this fiber may just find a place in the lineup sometime very soon.  This particular batch is listed here in my Etsy shop.  I'm working on more of this fleece in dyed colors as well.  Those will go up in the shop as soon as I'm finished combing them.

Original pair of swatches for Knit, Swirl jacket
Another fun project that I'm still swatching is a jacket from the book Knit, Swirl by Sandra McIver.  I've wanted to do one of these lovely knitted works of art for several years, so I finally bought the book and raided my stash for these swatches.

The rich purple is a mohair that has been in my stash for years, just waiting for the right project to showcase it's beauty.  Being mohair, it isn't next to the skin soft, but it has such a wonderful fluffy halo that it should work well in this jacket.  The one on the bottom is the handspun that has made several appearances in this blog.  It is the Dolly Dorset with Louet Northern Lights in Wild Berry Jam.  These swatches were done on the same needles with the same stitch count and pattern, and they don't match up for size.  Bummer, but that is why I do swatches, to find this kind of thing out before I charge into a project.  I've learned this the hard way... so I do a lot more swatching than I used to.  Since the tags aren't really visable, I'll give the details here.

The mohair swatch is done in Millie Mohair that I've had in my stash since 1992 or so.  I remember buying it back when I lived in Colorado from a shop called the Recycled Lamb.  I believe that they are still in operation - I've encountered them on Ravelry from time to time. 

Back to the swatch: I cast on 24 stitches with the plan of a three stitch garter border and worked it up on size 7 (4.5 mm) needles.  Did four rows of garter stitch and then worked the stockinette center section and finished up with another four rows of garter stitch.  Bound it off and gave it a bath.  Who knew such fine yarn would work up in nearly Aran weight?  The fabric is light and airy, but the fuzz really fills it up!  I also notice that it has a definite tendency to bias which is good to know.  I didn't block it hard because I wanted to know what it wanted to do on its own.  Worked up at four stitches per inch, just a bit too big for the gauge called for in the pattern.

The second swatch is the handspun done up in the same fashion.  But it washed up nice and square - being a three ply yarn really helps it to behave as a more stable yarn construction.  This swatch worked up at just over five stitches per inch. 

New swatch showing the welted construction,
done in two different needle sizes
Tough decisions now... do I switch yarns, or switch needles to make these yarns work together?  The first thing I sampled was to change needle sizes to make the gauge match and it worked pretty well.  But, and here's the big problem, I don't like it as much.  Knitting the mohair on size six (4 mm) needles makes it firmer than I really want and really compresses the fluffy fun that makes the yarn such a treat.  I also find that I'm not as wild about the handspun on the size 8 (5 mm) needles.  A bit too floppy for my taste, and I think the colors just don't really go together as well as I'd hoped.  So, I'm back to the drawing board.  What I'm considering now is a very plain yarn with the mohair so there is less competition between the yarns.  I'm also thinking that I may alternate rows to spread out the fluff a bit.  The welts will still show up well I think, but I'll need to swatch it to be sure.  I'm not wild about the visible purl bumps between the welts, so I may match up the yarn on those rows to help them blend in better.  So, now I'm in search of a new background yarn to use with the mohair.