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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

I've started plying, I may never be heard from again


I've started plying the Opalessence. This is about 3 hours of work here. It doesn't look like much on the plying bobbin, but if you look at the bobbins of singles, it looks like even less. Either they are puffing up as I go, or I'm just not getting anywhere with this. I think my main problem is that there is so much twist in the singles, that even with my wheel set at the highest ratio (20:1), it takes longer than usual to get enough twist into the plying to balance the yarn. My other problem involves a large yellow puppy who keeps dragging his blanket around (in a very Linus kind of way) and sitting down to eat it. Explaining that if he eats his blankets he will only have a hard crate with nothing soft to snuggle with gets me nowhere. When I tell him, "No Bite," he just looks at me like, "You're spinning, what are you going to do about it?" He's definitely a teenager.
I've also been rereading the Harry Potter books in anticipation of Book 7 coming out this summer. I'm in the middle of Book 4, but had set it aside to read the Hap Shawls book (there's a link to Heirloom Knitting in yesterday's post). Sharon Miller has included about 8 or so pages of different color combinations traditionally used in the borders of Hap Shawls. Some of these are symmetrical ABCBA type pattern combinations, others are asymmetrical ABCBABA types of patterns, but the way she shows them is in a graph which shows how many rows were used for each color of each particular shawl. Now in the actual shawls, the stripes would be undulating from the Old Shale type of border that was traditionally used in Hap Shawls, but in her color representations, by using graph paper, the colors are shown in straight stripes. These stripes remind me of the stripes you would find on Rugby shirts, or school colors, or possibly Quidditch robes (like I said, I'm on Book 4, Harry Potter has been on the brain for a while now). So I thought, "Hey, a Gryffindor Hap Shawl!" But then I thought, well that doesn't make any sense at all, until for some reason, Professor McGonagall popped into my head. Couldn't you just see her all wrapped up in the evenings wearing tartan slippers, grading Transfigurations homework, with a gray Hap Shawl with burgundy and gold stripes on its outer borders wrapped around her shoulders? I mean we know Professor Trelawney wears a shawl, but I figure hers is mostly open lace, airy, and possibly with long fringe that would get in the way of any serious magic. Professor McGonagall would never wear anything so impractical, but I could easily see her in a simple, warm Hap Shawl. OK, maybe I should take a break from Harry Potter for a week or so after I finish Book 4, but I still really like the idea of a Gryffindor Hap Shawl. I might have to knit one this summer just to celebrate Book 7!

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Goodies!


I got a box of goodies from the Royal Post yesterday! Am I the only one who loves the sound of the Royal Post? Maybe it just sounds so magical, clean, and possibly jewel encrusted to one who is used to the good old USPS where the line is 25 people deep, there are 5 people working, but 3 of them are on break and one of the two who is working is new and has to keep asking the other one questions. Gotta love it! (Please don't tell me that the Royal Post is anything less than spectacular - I'm allowed my delusions, the doctors said so.)
OK, so back to the goodies. I've been shopping at Heirloom Knitting, home of Sharon Miller's extraordinary books, patterns, and very tiny yarns. I have known I needed a copy of Heirloom Knitting (the book, not the website), for a while now, but I kept putting it off. If you buy it directly from Sharon Miller, she'll give you a free pattern. If you buy it through one of Amazon's sellers, you get a better price. So, back and forth I went, better price vs. free pattern. Then she came out with Shetland Hap Shawls Now and Then which is only available through her website and the fact that I wanted several of her patterns made up my mind. So last week I went ahead and ordered. I got both books and 5 patterns (two were free!) and she sent along a bookmark with yarn samples of the very tiny yarns she carries - Kid Silk Haze is one of the thickest. So now I am in lace heaven! The only pattern I showed in this picture is the Melanie Shawl (how could I not get that one?), but I also got the Spring Shawl, Blue Diamonds, Green Moss, and the Dove Shawl. There is a possibility that Opalessence and Frostrosen might become a couple of these shawls - the one's that call for Kid Silk Haze probably. After seeing the size of some of these very tiny yarns, I realize I've got a long way to go before I'm spinning things like that.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Sharon Miller's designs, she wrote the pattern for Birch, which was in one of the Rowan books, it was very popular all over the Internets and is also the first lace knitting I ever did.

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Monday, February 26, 2007

I got a lot of spinning done this weekend!


I'm a little in shock at how much I got done. As you can see on the left, I finished spinning the Frostrosen singles, so now those are waiting for plying (in line behind Opalessence), and I also spun up half of the 5.25 ounces of pink GCNI/Mohair that I painted a few weeks ago. Obviously, I've got to figure out how to wind a bobbin on the Symphony - by weight, there is more fiber on the Frostrosen bobbin than the pink bobbin, but while the Frostrosen is wound nice and firm, the pink bobbin is kind of, well, fluffy. I think it has something to do with the stationary flyer hooks of the Symphony versus the sliding butterfly loop on the Rose. I've already started spinning on the second bobbin of pink and I'm about 1/3 of the way through (I told you I got a lot of spinning done!) and I think I'm doing a better job of loading this bobbin - I'm moving the singles along the hooks faster. Hopefully, doing that will load the bobbin more evenly. I've got the Rose all set up to ply but I know that plying the Opalessence will probably take a while, so I don't know if I'll get to it today.
A couple of people had asked in the comments Friday about cabled yarn. In a "normal" yarn, you spin the singles one direction, then ply them together the other direction. For Western style knitting (I'm not going to get into a big explanation of Western vs. Eastern styles of knitting - Knitting in the Old Way has a really good explanation of this if you're interested) you want the final twist direction of your yarn to be counterclockwise, or S twist. Still with me? OK, to make a cabled yarn, you spin your singles one direction, ply them together the opposite direction - but OVERPLY them. You don't want a balanced yarn at this point. Then you take your overplied yarn (either two ends of a center pull ball or two bobbins) and ply it again, in the first spinning direction, balancing out the twist. If you know you're going to make a cabled yarn from the first, you'd spin your singles S twist (this is opposite of what you'd do if you were just making a "normal" plied yarn), overply Z twist, then reply in S twist again. The advantages of a cabled yarn are that it will really make your spinning look even - doing all that plying gives you a very consistent yarn, it makes a strong yarn, and since its twisted back on itself so many times, it can really cut down on pilling if you've used fibers that tend to pill. The disadvantages are that you have to spin 4 times the length of singles as your finished yarn, there is an extra plying step, and if you don't spin the singles very fine, you will have a huge finished yarn.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

I've been thinking...


I've been spinning on the second bobbin of Frostrosen (more than halfway done now), and since spinning is such a wonderful time for thinking, my mind has been working too. Remember a couple of weeks ago when I mentioned that I wanted to do some stranded knitting/Fair Isle type projects? Rosemarkie was one of the ones I mentioned and it has been bouncing around in my head for days now. It's knit in fingering weight yarns which is also what most sock yarns are, so I took a look in the sock yarn stash (yes, I have a separate stash of just sock yarns, this is normal, don't laugh like that). Sitting near the top of the sock yarn stash was the Merino/Kid Mohair that I recently spun up as a cabled yarn. There is more than enough of this to use for one of the colors of Rosemarkie and because it's a cabled yarn, it's very consistent size wise. Then I remembered something else I had in my stash: 12 ounces of Merino Silk top in a blue color, but since it's an Ashland Bay fiber, it's not just a solid blue. It has different blues and some purples in it too so it will spin up into an overall blue yarn, but not a flat blue color - it will be a more interesting blue than it would be if it were all one shade of blue. I could spin this up (it would probably be best to make a cabled yarn out of it also) and use this as the other color (probably in place of the various background colors) in Rosemarkie. It would be a simpler design using only two colors, but I think the blue yarn, being an interesting blue, would compensate for that and keep things interesting. The fiber content of the two yarns isn't traditional at all, but I think it would work, and the fact that the yarns are cabled and not just a regular two ply should mean the vest will last forever. Can anyone think of a reason this won't work? Obviously, spinning all the blue will be a very long process, but since I have two wheels, I can spin smaller amounts of other things on the second wheel and (hopefully) not be driven insane.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

A little bag

Lately I've had knitted bags on the brain so the other day I decided to make Caleb one. It was really easy to do so I'll give some general directions here.

I used fingering weight wool for this, but you could use any weight. I used Shelridge Farms Soft Touch Ultra in Charcoal and Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks That Rock in Chapman Springs in the Medium Weight. (Let me digress here and say that if you've never knit with Socks That Rock, you need to. You really need to.) I did a provisional cast on (I used 60 stitches) with the Socks That Rock on a slightly smaller needle than I was planning on using on the body of the bag and knit just under an inch. Then I did a purl row which makes a nice turning row and switched to the main color of yarn and the bigger needles (I used size US 2's as my bigger size, I don't remember what size I used for the hem casing.) Knit about 3/8 of an inch, then you add your eyelets for the drawstring. I made four as follows: Needle 1 - K2, YO, SSK, K to end of needle. Needle 2 - Knit to last 4 stitches, K2 tog, YO, K2. Needle 3 is worked as Needle 1 and Needle 4 is worked as Needle 2. Then I continued in stockinette until the work was even with the provisional cast on when I folded the hem casing into place. (You could count rounds of the hem casing part and then count again on the main color, but since you change needles, you might need a different number of rounds to get them the same length, and I forgot to count anyway and then decided not to worry about it and just measured them against each other - it worked without any trouble.) When the hem casing and the main color outside are the same length, undo the provisional cast on and pick up the stitches with an extra set of needles. Then you just knit one stitch of the charcoal with one stitch of the Socks That Rock (make sure you don't twist your hem casing) all the way around to join them together. Start knitting the bag in whatever pattern you want to use, knit it as long as you like, and Kitchener Stitch the bottom together.

I used a Linen Stitch or a Linen Stitch variation - I didn't look it up but I know its similar to Linen Stitch. Here's how you do it:

Over an even number of stitches, worked in the round:
Round 1: *K1, Slip 1 purlwise with yarn in front, rep from * to end of round
Rounds 2 and 4: Knit
Round 3: *Slip 1 purlwise with yarn in front, K1, rep from * to end of round

I made the last round a Round 3, since the Kitchener Stitch bottom would look like a Round 4. The bag is about 4 inches square, not counting the hem casing. Then I braided some Socks That Rock and made a little drawstring, threaded it through the hem casing and knotted it at the end.

It was an easy little bag and now Caleb has a place to put some little things. I think if you worked the bag body in Heel Stitch or Eye of Partridge you could make a very strong little bag that wouldn't stretch out.

UPDATE: I just wanted to clarify that when I mentioned that Daddy had just had a heart attack the other day, I was being sarcastic with the dandelion/orchid comment. He's fine, but for those of you who wished him a speedy recovery, I appreciate your kindness.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Where we see things you've seen before, only they're different

I know I've shown you Frostrosen Singles before, but these are different. These are on the second bobbin! They seem to be spinning up very quickly and I think I can probably get them all spun by this weekend. Then its off to ply the Opalessence (I'll ply on the Majacraft Rose since I have a plying bobbin for that wheel). I've also pulled out some of the GCNI/Mohair that I dyed a couple of weeks ago. I'll be starting to spin that soon which will make for a nice change since I won't spin it laceweight.

I'm beginning to think I should have saved some orchid pictures just to give you something new to look at. Oh well. As for the blue violet orchid, I'm less concerned with what kind of orchid it is, than with the color. I had never seen an orchid that color of violet but I can't believe its only available on that one species - surely someone has come up with that color in other species.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

I'm Back!

Yesterday morning we got up early and headed into DC for a day at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History with some friends, so no time for blogging. Today I'll show you a couple of things I got done over the weekend, and then some pictures from the museum. Remember the wool that was used in packing and I thought it was really pretty? Well, I combed it and ended up with 3/4 of an ounce. Its just so soft and pretty, I keep squeezing it (gently, must not felt it), instead of spinning it. I will spin it eventually, even though its just a little bit. In spinning news, I finally finished spinning the Opalessence singles!
You can see them here, sitting in the Lazy Kate waiting to be plied (they are sitting with one bobbin of the Frostrosen, it will not be plied with the Opalessence, its just waiting for its second bobbin to be finished up). There are 3 ounces of singles on each bobbin, one bobbin is just wound better than the other so they look like they have different amounts of fiber on them. I've found that if I wait 5-7 days before plying when it takes me this long to spin the singles, I get a better plied yarn. The first bobbin of singles has been sitting around for several weeks and the twist is starting to set. If I plied it to the second bobbin of singles as soon as I finished spinning the second bobbin, I wouldn't get a great yarn, because the second bobbin of singles still has active twist. By letting them sit a week or so, the second bobbin can relax into the twist and then they'll ply evenly. Of course, I have to ply them just until they look slightly overplied so that when I wash the skeins (water will reactivate the twist), they are still balanced. I could also avoid this if I didn't piddle around so much during spinning and finished both bobbins much quicker. Oh well.
So yesterday at the museum, there were the dinosaurs and the fossils, and the mammal exhibits, but there was also a really nice orchid exhibit. My Dad grows orchids so I grew up thinking that orchids were as common as dandelions. OK, maybe not that common, and to the best of my knowledge, there are no orchids that do that cool thing when you blow on them like dandelions do - Daddy just had a heart attack - but still, I didn't realize that orchids were so exotic and mysterious.
I've since kind of figured out that most people think orchids are really difficult plants to grow and that you have to know special plant things to keep them at all, but you don't. I've kept them alive before and even gotten them to bloom (OK, it was a pretty hyperactive bloomer anyway).
When they do bloom, they usually stay in bloom for quite a while. (Side note to Daddy, if you're still here after the dandelion comment: see this one in the picture above? You need one like that. I've never seen one that was a blue violet color before, only the red violet kind of colors. If I had been thinking I would have gotten a picture of the label with it, but now you have kind of an adventure.)
Anyway, as you can see, I got a bunch of pictures of the orchid exhibit and I thought it was really well done.
If you're going to be in the DC area before April 22, you should come check out this exhibit.
And when you're done with the orchids, you can head upstairs to the History of Civilization section (or something along those lines), they have a display of ancient spindle whorls.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Hanami

In 1912 the city of Tokyo gave 3000 cherry trees to the city of Washington, DC as a gesture of friendship and goodwill. Today those trees, and others given later, still bloom every Spring for a few short days, in a stunning display of nature's beauty. Hanami is the Japanese word used for traditional cherry blossom viewing activities and it is the combination of this tradition and the gesture of friendship that inspired the design of the Hanami stole.

Asymmetrical in design, the stole begins with a beaded cast on and a basket weave lace design inspired by a traditional Sashiko, or Japanese quilting design. The basket weave symbolizes the friendships and interweaving of our lives. The second half of the stole is dedicated to the cherry blossoms and the reminder they give us of the beauty of life. As anyone who has seen cherry blossoms blow in the wind can tell you, they make a beautiful pink and white cloud of blossoms. Starting out with just a scatter of blossoms, they get thicker until at the end of the stole, there is a full cloud of blossoms. The second end of the stole is finished with a simple, flirty ruffle that is reminiscent of the delicate blossoms themselves.
A striking combination of the geometric basket weave design and the organic cherry blossoms, this stole is the perfect accessory for any special occasion. Complete directions, including a pictorial guide to the beaded cast on and full charts are included in the pattern. The stole can also be worked either entirely in the basket weave pattern, or entirely in the cherry blossom pattern and I have included directions for both variations. This gives you essentially three stole designs in one pattern!

Finished size of the stole as written is 19 inches wide by 70 inches long. Yardage required is 880 yards of laceweight yarn. Shown in KnitPicks Alpaca Cloud in Peppermint. Please see pattern for additional notes about yardage as knitting either of the alternate versions could change your yardage requirements. Also requires 47 size 8 seed beads for beaded cast on. Supply list calls for 44, but this is an error. The whole pattern is 12 pages long and is available in a pdf format for your immediate download once payment has cleared PayPal!

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Just a fleece to distract you from a lack of real progress on my part

Ooooh, look at the pretty wool! Look at that crimp, that shine. Yummy, yummy, yummy! OK, this is a Polwarth fleece that I got from Warm Threads. They are importing Wendy Dennis' Polwarth fleeces to the US now and while they are still rare in the US (and not exactly cheap), this is one gorgeous fleece. Polwarth is almost as fine as Merino but has a shine to the fiber that Merino doesn't have and it has less grease than Merino does. (Less grease = less loss when you go from raw to washed fiber. This is important since most fiber charges are priced by weight.) I will be sending this off to be processed into roving, but I haven't decided yet if I'll try to wash it and possibly dye some of it before I send it. Part of me is thinking this would make a really pretty twin set, probably a lightweight yarn, maybe some cables, the small, tasteful, classic kind. Who knows what I'll actually decide.

In pattern writing news, I have started getting some pictures of Mindy's Stole and I hope to get detail shots and pictures of the beaded cast on. The charts were proofread when I knit them so I know those are correct, all I have to do is re proof the text of the directions and put it all together (text, charts, pictures) and we'll have a pattern!

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Clean Dogs and Wicked Sweaters

Yesterday it was 45 degrees F here, which seemed downright tropical when you compare it to the way it has been. Since it was so warm I decided it was finally time to do something that has desperately needed doing for several weeks now - wash the dog. Poor little Finn has been a bit aromatic lately but it's been too cold to give him a bath because it takes pretty much all day for him to dry out. (Finn does NOT do blow dryers.) So yesterday I tossed him into the shower with me - he's not a crotch sniffer, so there is no gross doggy rudeness - and soon we had a giant, blond, lavender and vanilla scented, wet doggy. Of course I realized that apres bath pictures of Finn would make good blog fodder, so here he is, in all his dampness! Its important to shake yourself out really well after a bath. (For any non doggy people out there - the shakes start at the nose end and work their way back to the tail. Finn is displaying the shoulder section of the shake here.)
Make sure you get all the water out of your ears - even if your mommy has already wrung them out several times and dried them with a towel. (Retriever ears are like sponges and you can literally wring them out-kinda weird, but fun too.)
Then you should run around in circles, attack the towels (it was probably their idea that you get a bath in the first place), roll on the carpet, and then start over again with the shaking off.
After about 20 minutes of the shaking and water removal, you're probably feeling pretty tired. Go ahead and have a lie down. Then you can show off your lovely bathtime curls! Finn spent most of yesterday sleeping, curled up in a little dog ball. By dinner time he was all dried out and so soft and fluffy! I think he was even glad to be clean.

OK, now that you've had your puppy fix, here is Wicked in all its finished glory! This is the kind of picture you get when you ask a 6 year old who's at least 2 feet shorter than you are to take your picture. I love the way it fits and the pattern was really easy to make.

Here's a bathroom mirror shot just for another view.
Details: Wicked pattern, for worsted weight yarn. I adjusted the shaping to fit my body and added the twisted rib pattern at the bottom edge. I used 10 balls of Jo Sharp Silkroad Aran in Opal. I made the 34 inch size and it called for 800 yards of yarn - 10 balls of yarn is 930 yards - I'm wondering if the yardage requirements are for the short sleeved version. The only other thing I'd watch for on this pattern is something I've already mentioned: the twisted rib pattern is an 8 stitch repeat, not a 4 stitch repeat and you might need to adjust numbers for cast on and then at the sleeves and lower edge of the sweater if you add it there.
In the comments yesterday, there was a question about where I like to get fiber to spin. If you look in the sidebar, under "Got Fiber?" there is a list of places that has fiber, yarn or both. Also there was a question about when the pattern for Mindy's stole would be available - I still haven't written it up, but I haven't forgotten it either.
UPDATE: If I can get good pictures this week of Mindy's Stole, I hope to have the pattern available on Friday for sale! Cross your knitting needles for me! (Yes Mindy, this means you might get your stole soon, seeing as it was your Christmas present for 2006.)

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Something New


On Saturday I finished weaving in all the ends from Wicked and its being blocked (finished pictures tomorrow), so I started something new yesterday. Those of you who have been reading my drivel for a while, might remember me spinning this - its the yarn from the Spinner's Hill batts I got at MDS&W 2005. I bought half the weight in a teal kind of blue green and half the weight in an almost royal blue and plied them together. I spun up a total of 3 skeins in the 450+ yards ballpark. If you look in the archives around March 7, 2006, you'll see a small gauge swatch from the first skein. I then spun two more skeins, I thought, the same way. I wasn't paying much attention to my spinning (at least the technique of it) at the time and as it turns out, Skein 2, while the same number of wpi as Skein 1, isn't spun as tightly as Skein 1 and knits up looking kind of hazy and fluffy but at the same gauge as Skein 1. Skein 3 is a larger yarn (a little fewer wpi than the other two) and also fluffy - I think I just wanted to get done with it by then. I also have about 5 ounces or so left of each color, which is unspun. This might be what saves my life.

So, what you see above is the left front of the Grannie Smith Cardigan. I am knitting from Skeins 1 and 2, two rows each, for two reasons. Number 1 is to keep the fronts looking the same (Skein 1 is a smoother yarn than Skein 2), and it also helps to avoid color pooling. I am loving the way its looking so far, but I'm going to have to knit the fronts separately instead of at the same time like I usually do because the idea of 4 working yarn ends just makes me woozy. Once I finish this front, I'll do the right front and then the back. At that point, I'll see how much yarn I have left from Skeins 1 and 2 and decide if I have enough for the sleeves - I'm planning on making long sleeves instead of the 3/4 sleeves in the pattern - or decide if I need to spin more yarn for the sleeves. As you can see, the pattern has a picot hem and then goes into the diamond lace pattern (very easy to memorize). The original pattern calls for Kid Silk Haze* and uses bigger needles. I ended up using US 1's (2.25 mm) to get gauge. I also decided to work the body of the sweater straight - the pattern is an inverted slight A-line shape.

*For a bit of enabling: Woodland Woolworks has Kid Silk Haze (regular, Night, and Spray) on sale until March - I think - double check the date. Also, Janette's Rare Yarns is a great place to get any Rowan yarns for great prices any time. She's in the UK, but her shipping is very fast and reasonable. Just thought I'd mention that in case anyone else wants a Grannie Smith cardi. Also, a bunch of the patterns from Victorian Lace Today use Kid Silk Haze.

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Friday, February 09, 2007

Almost done being Wicked



As you can see, Wicked is about 1/3 of a sleeve short of being finished (and a few thousand yarn ends). Yesterday I finished the first sleeve which gave me the number of rounds to knit for the second sleeve. Its amazing how just having a number in my head I'm able to knit faster. This hasn't been a slow sweater to knit, although you'd never believe it from reading my blog. The biggest thing to slow me down has been finding a time when I can try it on to figure out what to do next. I tend to work on it in little spots during the day and changing clothes, measuring where I am and where I'm going, and then getting dressed again doesn't work in those little bits of time. On the other hand, since I was able to double check the fit as I went, I know this will fit the way I want it to - no surprises when I finish. I should be able to finish the knitting today and I hope to get the ends woven in and get it blocking - it desperately needs blocking.

I've enjoyed knitting this pattern and I think I'll probably wear the finished sweater quite a bit. The only things I would note about the pattern are to double check the number you cast on for the neck - the twisted rib is an 8 stitch repeat, not a 4 stitch repeat (you might have to change your cast on number depending on your size to have a number divisible by 8), and definitely try the sweater on as you go like they recommend. That way you can make sure its fitting the way you want it to. Otherwise, its a nicely written pattern, easy to follow and understand and I think the finished sweater is pretty cute. Next time you see it, it will be finished and not a moment too soon - I'm getting tired of coming up with post titles for this thing! Have a great weekend!

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Please try to contain your excitement...


...at the 28 new rounds of sleeve you see here compared to yesterday. Yep, 28 rounds knitted yesterday. (I'm counting rounds as I knit this sleeve so I can get the second sleeve to match. It seemed like a good idea - matching sleeves.) I think I've got about 2 or 3 more inches before I start the cable edging (that takes up 2 inches), but I've got to try on the sweater again to double check. I have pretty long arms and almost always end up adding a bit to sleeve lengths as patterns are written, but that's the great thing about knitting, you can make your projects fit your body the way you want them to fit.

Yesterday wasn't a total loss, I'd just like to say. Those of you who read Wendy Knits know that she is currently working on Cromarty from Alice Starmore's The Celtic Collection. I have that book (its not hard to find or crazy expensive like some of her other books) but in my opinion, it hadn't really grabbed me with any one project. I think now, its more a function of limited color palettes available than any bad design choices on Ms. Starmore's part - I mean, have you seen what she can do with the full color range of her own yarns? I think, but I'm not sure, that the book was done by Rowan Yarns or for Rowan yarns because that's all she uses in the book. Now I do love Rowan yarns (at least the classic, traditional yarns they make - we will not discuss their designs lately), but the color range is not as complete as some of the yarns more traditionally used for stranded color work*. Because of this, Ms. Starmore makes some "unconventional" choices for yarns in some of her projects, I'm assuming, to get specific colors. (Cotton chenille for stranded color work, really?) Even with the additional color palettes offered by these more non traditional yarn choices there are some designs that just don't seem to work well to my eye. So, after seeing Wendy's Cromarty, I decided that maybe I needed to take another look at this book. After really taking some time looking at the designs, I came to my above conclusions about the possible design constraints imposed on Ms. Starmore when she was designing for this book and have realized that while there are some yarn choices that I would not personally make, I am not under contract by Rowan and can choose any yarns of any colors that I please. Looked at in this new light, I have realized that some of the designs are not shown to their fullest due to color restrictions -several of the designs just get lost due to background and foregrounds being too close in value. I have found a number of designs that I would like to knit, but in my own color and yarn choices. The three that really popped out at me are Rosemarkie, Dalmore (scroll down to Oct 11 to see one in progress), and in the category of Epic Knitting Adventures, Erin (click the third picture at the top - the lady standing beside the tree). I've pretty much decided that I will do Rosemarkie sometime this year, but in colors that I can wear and that work with my wardrobe.

*By "stranded color work" I'm referring to the technique used where two or more yarn colors are used in each row and the colors not in use are stranded behind the knitting until its time to use them again. This technique is used in the traditional Fair Isle style of knitting (with no more than 2 colors per round) and is sometimes referred to as Fair Isle knitting, but not all designs that use this technique can be called Fair Isle. The yarns used are typically a two ply jumper weight (fingering weight) Shetland wool yarn. Jamieson's and Jamieson and Smith are two brands that manufacture this kind of yarn, both of them have extensive color ranges.

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

A one sleeve wonder


Well, as you can see from the picture above I finished the body of Wicked and am partway down one sleeve. I have 271 yarn ends to weave in at some point which you can see hanging out of the sweater. I tried working the sleeve on two circular needles as the pattern says, but my dislike of circulars changed my mind after two rounds and I got out my DPN's. I figure if it's good enough for socks, it's good enough for sleeves. I've got to double check, but I don't think there's any shaping on the sleeves which will make them look slightly belled, but hopefully not be so big as to get in the way. I love the way bell sleeves look, but for practical use they are sometimes more trouble than they are worth. You can't cook in them (Holy Flaming Sweater, Batman), they don't always feel good in a coat, but they do look dramatic when you stand in a forest with elves. I'm hoping that Wicked will be wearable for the more day to day activities of my life, but also be ready to fill in for those impromptu elf social events that always throw us for a loop. A woman's wardrobe has to be ready for anything these days!

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The best laid plans...

...are pretty much asking to be messed up. Yesterday I was planning on spinning for at least an hour and working on the pattern for Mindy's Stole. Instead I ended up spending 4 1/2 hours defrosting a frozen pipe. The temperatures here yesterday started out at 10 degrees F, and went all the way up to the subtropical 18 degrees F but we had a 20 mph wind slamming against the exterior wall that the pipecicle lives in. There's nothing like sitting in a bathroom with a space heater running, drilling holes into the wall (hoping each time that you don't drill through electrical or plumbing stuff that might be in weird places), and holding a blow dryer up to the holes to get warm air into the wall. In the end, I got the pipe unfrozen without it bursting, my pores are all steamed clean, and the bathroom in question now looks like an homage to Swiss Cheese. Good times. Last night we got down to 4 degrees and we left the faucet dripping.
Anyway, after I got the pipe unfrozen, I opened the mail and look what I got! Actually this was the packing material. Don't you just love it when you order stuff from other spinners and they use wool for packing material? I ordered a high speed whorl and extra drive band for my Symphony and Sharon packed it in wool. Its washed but unprocessed. I thought it was a nice, fluffy, soft wool, but she says she uses it for warp! She's going to send me a sample of what she considers her nice wool. Maybe I was a little punchy after spending all afternoon in the Swiss Cheese Sauna, and maybe I'm just a really bad judge of wool in its unprocessed form (I know I need more practice with that), but even this morning when the euphoria of running water had worn off a bit, it still seemed pretty nice. I'm going to play around with it with my combs and see what it feels like then. I mean, its wool, I'm not going to throw it away!
Finn thought it was nice too. He's never seen wool this close to the sheep (washed but unprocessed) before. I showed him a lock of it and he promptly put it in his mouth. I gently pried open his jaws and got my lock of wool back, but he thinks it needs further tasting, um, testing.


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Monday, February 05, 2007

You know what they say about rabbits

I think its happening with the Opalessence roving. Yesterday I decided to time myself as I spun on it and after 4 1/2 hours (not uninterrupted, but I didn't time the interruptions either) of spinning, I barely finished the second ounce of roving. I still have one more ounce to go before I finish this second bobbin and I can move on to something else. The only thing I can figure out is that maybe the Angora in the blend is doing what bunnies do best, and making more faster than I can spin. I mean I realize that spinning anything this fine is going to take a while, but I'm pretty sure the pile of unspun roving in my lap was actually getting bigger. I think this week I'm going to try to spin on the Opalessence for at least 1 hour a day and I also really need to get the pattern for Mindy's Stole written up, so I'm going to be working on that. I might have to let Finn and Ramius blog some this week.

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Friday, February 02, 2007

Big Storm

So yesterday we were supposed to get 1-3 inches of snow or "winter mix" (snow and freezing rain) between noon and sometime this morning. Right up until 7:00 PM last night they were still predicting this. When we woke up this morning, this is what had happened. See that little dusting of white on the deck? Finn isn't even excited about this and we're talking about a dog who can amuse himself for 30 minutes or more with only his back foot.

In knitting news, I have finished the body of Wicked and have begun the first sleeve but opted not to bore you with a picture. I'm also almost done spinning the second ounce of Opalessence (one more to go on this second bobbin), but again, you've seen so many bobbins with Opalessence singles on them, I really hate to show you another one (or rather the same one, with more singles of the same kind).

About the only other thing I have to say here is that as of today, I have been blogging for 2 years! Yes, Groundhog Day is also my blogiversary! Thanks for stopping by all those times, thanks for reading all my drivel, and I hope everyone has a great weekend - even the groundhog.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Dyeing with the Pink Lemon

Yesterday, I decided it was as good a day as any to try some dyeing! I went stash diving and came up with some GCNI blended with 15% mohair (the GCNI is from Running Moon Farm and the Mohair is Yearling Mohair from Hill Shepard)that I had planned to make socks with. I had just under a pound so I divided it into 3, 5.25 ounce balls of roving. (Socks usually take 4 ounces of fiber, but any extra can be used for striped socks.) I decided to paint the roving instead of just trying to dye it a solid color because I figured painting it would let me use more colors at once and it might be a bit faster. (I was trying to get as much done as possible while Caleb was at school.) I soon discovered that while Caleb was safely out of the way of my little project, Finn was really wanting to help. He kept standing up on his hind legs and putting his paws on the island so he could see what I was doing. While I can't blame him for being curious, retrievers like to taste stuff and I didn't really want to kill the dog in an attempt to make pretty sock roving, so Finn went into his happy place (crate) and took a nap.
Once I had the fiber divided into the amounts I was going to dye, I set it in the kitchen sink to soak. You have to get your wool thoroughly wetted before dyeing so while it was soaking I mixed up some dye. I used the Landscapes brand of dyes. They are acid dyes, have a beautiful color range and because you don't have to add anything else to them (like a mordant), they are a little easier to use than regular acid dyes. I used Wattle - yellow, Grevillea - red, and Marine - blue for my experiments yesterday. (Let me say here that while Wattle and Marine are two of the three colors recommended for use as primary colors, Grevillea is not. I chose to use Grevillea since it was a blue red and that's my favorite shade of red.) Just as another side note (sometimes I feel like my entire blog entries are one big parenthetical after another), I did not dye anything to 100% Depth of Shade so the colors you see here are not representative of the full intensity of the dyes used. Make sense?

I covered the island in our kitchen with a plastic tablecloth (side note: for safety reasons, all food and dishes were put away or moved across the room to the kitchen table while I was dyeing), covered that with newspapers and then laid out Saran wrap. I squeezed out the first mound? clump? bump? glob? of roving and laid it out on the plastic wrap in as straight a length as I could. I wasn't sure how much to put on the plastic wrap this first time, so I divided it by eye and laid the first batch -yeah, that's the word - on two pieces of plastic wrap. Then I grabbed the Grevillea to paint it on the roving - Oooops! No foam brush or any other type of brush to do the actual painting. Not to worry though, grab a paper towel, wad it up and voila! A cheap disposable dye dabbing tool. Problem averted, I began making stripes of dark pink on the white wool. It kinda looks like a crime scene doesn't it? I decided on this first batch, to just make some pink and white stripes since pink has been my nemesis when it comes to dyeing and I figured that spun up, pink and white stripes would possibly look like a pink and white ragg yarn and really, who wouldn't want pink ragg socks? So, everything got covered with a second piece of plastic wrap (which I have almost as many problems with as tape), rolled up like a jelly roll, and plopped delicately into the steamer. Then I double checked the directions and according to Deb Menz, Color Goddess of Wool Everywhere (and also author of Color in Spinning), I should let the roving sit for a bit (30 minutes or so) before steaming. So, unroll the first batch again, set it back on the newspaper and let it do what ever its going to do (maybe this gives the dye more time to move around and soak into the fibers, maybe the wool likes to meditate on the colors it will become, maybe its so I can stare at its delightful pinkness some more - I don't know.)While the first batch thought about its deliciously pink future, I got started on a second batch. This one was painted with large blue stripes, then pink, yellow, pink, and back to blue. You can see I left white spaces between the colors. I wasn't sure what that would do, but I figured I'd find out. I also got all 5.25 ounces on one strip of plastic wrap and was able to paint the whole batch as one. By the time I finished painting this second batch, I was ready to steam the first batch, so I put that back into the steamer and moved the second batch up on the island to do its presteam wooly meditations - or whatever. On the final batch of roving I decided to go a little crazy. I had leftover dye from the first two batches so I decided to dribble the dye liberally through the roving. I started with blue, which I had the most of and drizzled it on the roving. Then I added the pink/red color, and then I made some random yellow dots. I knew not to use equal amounts of all three colors or I'd have mud (basic color theory in action).

After all three batches of roving had been steamed and cooled enough to handle, I unwrapped them from their plastic wrap and gave them a quick rinse in the kitchen sink. Then, into washing bags they went and were washed once and rinsed twice in the washing machine (soaked then spun - no agitation). I spread out the clean and dyed rovings in the bathtub to dry and...
...TA DA! On the right you see Roving Batch 1 (AKA Barbie's Dream Roving), in the center is Roving Batch 2, and on the left is Roving Batch 3. I am very excited about all three of them and can't wait to spin them up and see what kind of yarn they become.

I did learn several things from doing this. All three batches of rovings were too wet, even after squeezing the water out. Next time I'll prewet them in the washing machine and then I can spin the water out. I think I also used too much dye (not so much the dye color, but the water I mixed it with) - this could have also been related to the too wet rovings in the first place. Remember the white spaces I left when I painted the rovings? Can you see them now? That's why I think there was too much liquid of one kind or the other, or both. The other thing I learned is that we really have to work with Finn on the "Get Down" command - he stinks at that one!

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