Friday, April 19, 2013

Park and Draft No More!

So, I've had my drop spindle for two years now.  It's just a basic beginners spindle that I bought from Fibre Space in Alexandria, VA.  It looks like it could be the same type that Louet sells in their spindle kits.  In all this time, I've been drafting, then spinning.  It hasn't been an all at once sort of thing.

After a fair amount of reading on Ravelry, I've realized that my spindle doesn't spin all that long, which could be part of my problem.  So, doing what any craftster would, I went shopping for supplies to make a new, longer spinning spindle.  I succeeded, sort of.  I wanted a whorl that was weighted on the outside and I couldn't find anything quite suitable at my local big-box craft store.  I ended up making two really ugly, but slightly longer spinning spindles and I can draft as I spin!!  Knowing that, I got a new, very pretty spindle that should be here any day now.

I still wanted to work on my new found spinning skills, but my homemade spindles weren't doing it for me, so I went back to my former spindle.  It still doesn't spin as long as I'd like, but I found that I could practice the drafting with built up spin.  Now I don't park and draft, I spin and park.  In my mind, this is an improvement.  I'm getting a consistant, thinner single without a lot of prep to the roving.  I've just been fluffing it up a little.

Here's my current plaything.  It's more punta roving that was dyed ages ago.  I'm not a huge fan of the green (love the teal though!), so I'm planning on this batch as a bit of a throw away.  If I get a nice amount, I'll see if I can learn Navajo plying with it.

Speaking of plying, the other batches of punta I was working on are spun and in the process of being plied. I wrapped them on empty toilet paper rolls using the same cake making wrap style one would use with a nostepinne.  The purple was wound haphazardly all at once and the blue was done in little bits as I spun it.  Can you tell I don't have the patience for repetitive activities except in small blocks?

To ply the two together, I'm using another homemade spindle.  I call it my ├╝ber-spindle because it's so big.  If a vampire ever attacks me, I could use it as a wooden stake.  The toilet paper rolls were threaded onto knitting needles stuck through a weighted cardboard box.  It's a totally classy Lazy Kate, don't you think?  Regardless of how classy it is, it gets the job done.

The finished yarn will be gifted to a friend who wants to learn to knit along with a nice pair of bamboo needles and a copy of Stitch and Bitch by Debbie Stoller.  Pretty yarn, nice needles, and that book are my favorite way to get people hooked on the craft.

In other news, the sock is still growing.  It's been living in my purse and coming out to play during odd moments of the day.  Rather embarrasingly, I realized while knitting it that I've been doing twisted knitting for the past decade.  Whoops!  Apparently, I've been wrapping the yarn clockwise instead of counter.  I've adjusted my knitting mid-sock and there is a definite difference in the flatness of the yarn. It won't be a big deal because the shift is in the foot of the sock, but I can't believe I've been doing this wrong for a whole decade!  Sock pictures will come...eventually.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Still Alive!

I'm still alive. I'm still knitting, still spinning. I'm still thinking about buying a spinning wheel, strongly considering this one actually. I'm taking my car to get inspected this week. We'll see how it goes before any decisions are made. Since I created this blog, there have been over a thousand views, which is pretty mind blowing to little ol' me. Having scoured the web for good knitting/spinning blogs that are updated with regularity, I know that there's a dearth of them. I'll see what I can do about keeping this one a bit more up to date. I'm still spinning on the drop spindle I purchased two years ago. My etsy shop was a bust, although if I get a wheel, I'll probably try again. Right now I'm spinning up some yarn that I dyed to sell. I love it! I'm still in love with color. I've got plans to ply the purple and blue together and gift it to a friend who is interested in learning to knit. I figure some hand spun, a set of nice bamboo needles, and a copy of Stitch and Bitch should be enough inspiration for her.

I'm slightly concerned because I've only ever plied once before.  It was, I think, some Jacob that I got at the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival in 2011.  This is how it came out and I like it well enough, but I worry that the ply wouldn't be tight enough for a new knitter.  Final decisions, of course, won't be made until the new batch is finished.

Life's not just spinning wool though; I'm also knitting still.  I've got two WIPs at the moment, an Aran sweater that might never come to fruition (I did loads of sweaters a couple of winters ago including an Aran, but this one just doesn't want to come to life!) and a plain pair of socks.  The socks are going to be brilliant.  They're totally boring anklets knit from Patons Kroy FX yarn to be worn with my Birkenstock clogs during warm weather.  I love wool year round and can't get enough wool socks!

Cross your fingers that I don't get second sock syndrom!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

One of those days...

I'm having one of those days. Spinning my rainbow wool is helping though because it's going so well. Here's a preview of it:

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Selling Wool

I've joined the Etsy world and set up a shop! Here's a preview of the first round of goods:

I've got two more chunks of wool in progress and another idea in my head. I figure eight is a good number to stock the shop with until I see if people will buy what I'm selling. Please buy it and support my addiction!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

I'm a happy knitter.

My cabling is working! I realized that I forgot to post my hand drawn asymmetrical cabling schematics last post, even though I wrote as if it would be there, so here it is, followed by a picture of the actualized cables. I'm far too excited about it.

In other wooly news, I broke one of my knitting rules. I started a second project before finishing the one already in progress. I don't let myself do that often because I know if I do I won't get anything finished. I blame my pretty handspun, the purple, blue, and white stuff. I placed the pretty skein on my bookshelf and it kept staring at me, begging me to use it. The original plan was for it to grow up into an entrelac scarf for my mother. The colored bits are too short for entrelac to look good with it though. I ended up with tri-colored patches and after very little time spent on it I decided it just wasn't working for me. Ribbet! It got frogged. New plans emerged. Meet my mitten zygote.

Feel free to spend a moment admiring the center pull ball attached to above mitten zygote. It's my first successful center-pull.

As with most of my projects, I'm not really working from a pattern. The thumb gusset seems like it should be the trickiest bit and I'm happy with how it turned out. I'm going to finish off the fingers part with a little decreasing to shape it and then bind it up with the kitchener stitch...something similar for the thumb; we'll see what happens.

I need to keep notes to ensure both mittens match, so I'll try to transform them into a pattern.

On the spinning front, I'm still working on the blue/green BFL. I'm also still dyeing wool. Once I have a few more 4 oz braids ready, I'll set up an Etsy shop. I only have one totally finished, but two more are on my balcony drying. Here's a peek:

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Project Updates

I've been cabling almost as long as I've been knitting. I read about it in "The Complete Book of Handicrafts" (the book that taught me to knit) and it clicked how crossing the stitches over one another would create the look I wanted. I never did get the hang of interpreting other people's cable charts or instructions. When designing my own patterns with cabling, I make a spreadsheet and fill in x's wherever I want knit stitches to be and leave the purl spots blank. Whether I'm crossing stitches over or under gets worked out as I go.

This technique works wonderfully for symmetrical cable designs. On one row all of the stitches get crossed over and on the next the get crossed under. Over, under, over, under. I can handle that.

If you recall, I'm working on a knitted stole with an asymmetrical cabled pattern, a diagonal lattice going from the bottom right to the top left. Have you caught on to my problem yet? My technique works beautifully when I have ribs from both sides coming together in a woven pattern. It works significantly less well when the ribs are only coming from one side and weaving over pre-existing ribs.

The moral of this somewhat long winded story? I've pulled out the cabling pattern more times than I care to count on this darn stole. This morning I finally sat down and drew a very precise picture and solved my problem. I needed to alternate over-under in the rows. Here's my lovely picture:

The stole is still not worth sharing photos of. Once the cabling gets far enough along to see that it's working out like I'd like it to, I'll post pictures. Either that, or I'll post photos of something entirely different done with this green yarn. I'm sick of it now, but if this cabling works, my opinion might change.

I've got spinning news too. Do you remember my initial goal for spinning? I wanted to spin enough yarn to make an entrelac scarf. I've got it, spun and dyed. The scarf is after the stole in my knitting queue.

I dyed the yarn after it was spun and photographed the process.

The finished yarn, waiting to be dyed.

I wrapped it around a table so I could spread the dye out.

I soaked it in water and laid it out on a cookie sheet.

I dribbled concentrated, unsweetened Kool-Aid on to the parts I wanted dyed.

I took some time to contemplate what life as a smurf would be like.

The finished product! Dyed and's so pretty!

After I finished off the 210 ids of yarn for the scarf, I started on the blue-green BFL I bough at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. I'm in love with spinning color and have some white roving that soaking right now so it can be dyed. It may get spun by me or it may get stashed away to be sold on Etsy. We'll see. The thought of opening a shop is an enticing one.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival

I wish I had a million dollars. My apartment would be overflowing with fiber if that was the case.

My mom and I celebrated Mother's Day by going to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. This is one of the many, many reasons she's an amazing mom. She knit a scarf about two years ago and knit on a machine some when I was very small (small enough that I don't remember her ever knitting), but so far as I know that is the extent of her fiber fondness. Nonetheless, she happily accompanied to the festival today and even bought me a funnel cake while we were there.

The funnel cake was pretty fabulous, but that's not what you're here to read about, is it?

I didn't go into the fest with any detailed plans on what I wanted to buy. I knew that I couldn't spend a lot and I knew that I wanted to get some non-wool fibers. Here's what I walked away with:

My first purchase was this gorgeous blue-green roving. It's hand dyed Blue-Faced Leicester from Bullen's Wullens. Out of the three vendors I purchased from, Pat Bullen was the only one without a website. Complete contact info for the three vendors can be found at the bottom of this post. I'm pretty sure that Pat was the woman I spent most of my time interacting with at this booth. I had the conundrum of being sure I wanted to buy roving from her, but not being able to decide which color I wanted. She gave me just the right amount of attention as I stood there staring and stroking the wool. I wish that she did have a website because I would definitely buy from her again.

Next up were two small purchases, silk caps and an ounce of bamboo top. These were both from Shadeyside Fibers. A man was working at this booth and he patiently explained the difference between silk caps and silk hankies to me. Honestly, I'm still not too sure what the difference is other than the shape, but he was very friendly and patient with me.

Finally, I bought this amazing superwash merino from Fiber Optic Yarns. I'm so in love with this colorway, called "Polkadots and Moonbeams", that I'm understanding other people's fear of spinning pretty roving. It's so pretty just as it is...what if I mess it up when I spin it?

Everyone I interacted with was very friendly and helpful. My favorite was the woman who raises corgi and was wearing a shirt with a picture of sheep driving a convertible with a corgi in the backseat and "Corgis are back sheep drivers" across the top.

We checked out the animals and the working sheep dog show too.

The entire festival was wonderful. If you're in the DC metro area, I would definitely suggest it. If you're interested, here's the contact info for the three vendors that I purchased from. All of them were helpful and come with my recommendation.

Bullen's Wullens
Pat Bullen

Shadeyside Fibers LLC
109 Brown Road
Oxford, NY 13830

Fiber Optic Yarns
Kimber Baldwin Designs
PO Box 42782
Cincinnati, OH 45242-0782

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Flower Sweater Done!

I finally finished the flower sweater! I finished up the knitting bit of it on Tuesday and it took until today, Saturday, to sew on the flowers and leaves and to tuck all the loose threads in. I loathe finishing. Here's a photo of it blocking:

Yeah, I just lay sopping wet clumps of wool out on the floor and call it blocking. I straighten out the patterns and when it's a little less sopping wet I'll straighten my hems a bit more, but that's about it. The only measuring I do is to make sure the arms are the same length. The rest I eye ball. Don't judge me lazy blocking. It's not nice and my sweaters still turn out pretty.

I've started my next project and even written something that vaguely resembles a pattern. Here it is:

CO 252 (size 8 needles)
knit 31 rows
knit body of shawl
knit 10 rows stockinette
k4, k2 tog
k5 rows
k3, k2 tog
k5 rows
k2, k2tog
k 8 rows
Bind off.

Know what it is? It's a tubular shawl/wrap/thing inspired by the Totally Tubular Boob Tube designed by Stefanie Japel and published in Stitch 'n Bitch Nation. Here's another photo, one of the book and the started project:

I'm planning for more curled hem lines and I'm thinking the body of the top will be mostly double knit with asymmetrical lattice cabling going on a diagonal from the right hip to the left shoulder on the front. I haven't entirely decided yet though.

The yarn is merino wool that was donated to me to make something for the holiday craft sale that I do so much of my knitting for. My next project for myself will probably be a dark brown cardigan with wide lattice cabling on the back and some other sort of cabling on the front and arms. I haven't worked out the details yet. I'm waiting for Lion Brand Fisherman's Wool to go on sale at the local big box craft store. I'll need two skeins for my project, so if I can get on sale it'll be under twelve buck total, which would be pretty awesome.

I'm still spinning my big box of wool up. I'm slowly adding to the wool wrapped around one of my kitchen chairs. At last count it was around 100 yds. Once I have two hundred I'll set and dye it. I have two packets of Kool-Aid waiting to meet my yarn and turn it into a blue/purple varegated lump of wooly love. If it turns out, it'll become an entrelac scarf for my mother. Shhh...don't tell her.

Here's a close up of my freshly spun wool:

It's getting a lot more even, which I'm attributing to a longer staple length and splitting the roving into eighths instead of fourths. The extra split means less drafting, which I suck at.

In mostly unrelated news (I'm feeling chatty), I baked my first loaf of sour dough bread today. I made the start myself and I think it needed to mature a bit more. The bread has an awesome sourdough flavor, but didn't rise quite enough.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


My wool from Sheep Shed Studio came today! Three pounds of white merino roving. I picked it up around noon and managed to make it home without opening the box because I thought it would be a good picture for this blog. You know, the box waiting to be opened. It isn't. Here is what three pounds of wool looks like:

It's gorgeous and I immediately buried my face in it. That's the natural reaction to wool, right? I was vibrating with excitement and have already spun up about 150 feet of it in a nice, neat worsted weight single. I don't know if it's my practice with spinning plastic or the slightly longer staple length (probably the latter), but I feel like it's been significantly easier to spin this batch of wool evenly than my first batch, which was Shetland. The fact that it was my first batch probably has something to do with it too.

I have two packets of Kool-Aid waiting to dye this yarn blue and purple once there's enough of it for a scarf.

The skirt is coming along well, but I think it will be too short for conservative dressing little me to wear on Easter Sunday. Also, that lovely silky thread I wrote about...turns out that thread loves to tangle itself up on the bobbin. My machine winds bobbins pretty loosely anyways, so that combined with the lack of friction in this thread makes bobbins go nutty. I have a firm belief that stress relieving activities shouldn't be exceedingly stressful. Crazy belief, right? Right now the tangling bobbin thread (three bobbins worth so far!) is more stressful than stress relieving, so I'm taking a break. It's going to be a fab skirt though, great for going out. All that's left is the bottom hem, so once I decide what to do with the thread, it'll be a quick finish.

I'm off to visit my dear little two year old niece for Easter, which means very little crafting until next week. Hope you have a grand holiday weekend!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

An Easter Skirt

This is a sewing-heavy post. If you are a die hard yarny and refuse to read about other needle crafts, skip down to the last two paragraphs.

It occurred to me this afternoon that I don't have a thing to wear to Easter Mass. Being the crafty gal that I am, the obvious solution was a trip to the fabric store to buy materials for a new skirt.

Before I get too far into this post, let me warn you that I don't like. I see yarn or fabric and I get a picture in my mind of what I want the end product to look like. I find it frustrating if I can't find the appropriate pattern to make that mental picture come to life. I also get frustrated following the pattern. They either end up too easy to the point that it feels like monkey work or they're ridiculously difficult and I end up not having a clue what the designer wants me to do. Designing my own patterns give me a creative outlet for my problem solving skills. Crafting becomes a puzzle that is a joy to solve.

So, back to my skirt. I headed off to the fabric store with the thought of an A-line skirt that falls beneath the knee and has a side closure done with neat row of bra-snap type clips and possibly some decorative buttons. I figured it would be made out of cotton and have a built in slip. All of this is fairly flexible though.

The fabric store, of course, has all sorts of wonderful fabrics that make me wonder if I should give up looking for a traditional job and become a full time seamstress. The answer to that wondering is no, I shouldn't. I can sew, but I'm over casual about silly things like totally even hemlines. Also, I like health insurance.

I meandered around the fabric store for even longer than I'm meandering about topics in this post and then I saw it. You've had those moments, right? You are sure what you're looking for, but then, there, the one thing that you need to make your life complete and it's on sale! For me, today at least, that one thing was hot pink brocade with little gold flowers. It was gorgeous and entirely impractical. Love at first sight. Plus, I wouldn't need to worry about a slip! Life was good.

I picked out the appropriate notions, including some wonderfully silky thread, button snaps, and cute little gold buttons and was on my way after practically arm wrestling the fabric cutting attendant to get just a snip cut off of the corner of my (already bought) fabric so I could bring it into the craft store down the road to match necklace making supplies. I basically wanted a postage stamp sized swatch that I could stick in my pocket so I didn't get clashing shades of pink. You would have thought I had asked her to scribble all over my pretty, pretty fabric with a permanent marker the way she acted though.

Long story short, here's my pretty, pretty fabric, the gold buttons, and the necklace I made to go with it.

Remember when I said that I don't like patterns? It's okay if you've forgotten. It was ages ago. There's one significant problem with being a pattern renegade. Patterns have nice, neat supply lists. These are beautiful things for people like me who have the tendency to be ditzy when they're overcome by beautiful pink brocade at fifty percent off. I only got a yard of fabric. Being a lazy person who cuts out two pieces using the fold to make them symmetric means I needed two yards. Whoops.

I think I'm making it work though. I cut down the factory fold and then cut the two rectangles that produced down the diagonal. This left me with four triangles which I used to make panels. The skirt will fall a little above the knee instead of below, but whatever, I'm not a nun-in-training anymore so that isn't a huge deal. It does mean that my decorative buttons would fall on a funny place, mid left butt cheek, but I have thoughts for putting them on a leather band as a necklace. We'll see.

In knitting news, since this is a knitting blog, the flower sweater is coming along. I'm done with the first sleeve and have five or six inches of the second one done. I'm visiting family over Easter and that will either provide me with a whole lot of time to knit or very little.

My white wool for spinning has been shipped and is due to arrive on Tuesday. I keep checking the shipment tracking page, but it hasn't made the shipping go any faster yet. Don't worry, I'm not giving up...I'm still checking it obsessively.