Pink Argyle Rotating Header Image

Spinning

2012 Knitting Calendar

Last year I participated in a spinning challenge through one of the many Ravelry groups. The idea was to take 4 ounces of fiber purchased from one of the sponsoring fiber stores (Splunky Eclectic, Hello Yarn or Southern Cross Fibre), spin it and knit it into an original creation. It was a competition, with prizes. I did not win. The winner was Sweetgum by Stacey Simpson Duke.

But I was happy with my yarn and my finished product, so I submitted it (called the Lacy Girly-Girl Poncho) for publication in the 2012 Knitting Calendar. And it was accepted! No prize, but I did get a free copy of the calendar. And the surprise of seeing it on the back cover.

2012 Knitting Calendar

Yea me! Yea Andrea for taking the photo! Yea Eva for being oh so cute!

If you like the pattern but don’t want to buy the calendar to get it, you can download it here.

4! Oz! Challenge

A Ravelry group was started two months ago called 4! Ounce! Challenge! The challenge was to spin up 4 oz. of handpainted roving from one of three participating merchants (Spunky Eclectic, Hello Yarn and Southern Cross Fibre), write an original pattern, knit and publish the pattern, and submit it to the Challenge to win, what else, some roving! And to complete the task before September 30th.

I’m not an expert spinner by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, much of what I’ve spun over the years would fall under the tongue-in-cheek moniker “designer yarn” (wink, wink). But I thought, “Well, why not? Sounds fun.”
My 4 ounces of roving …

Sumac

… spun up to around 240 yards of thick-and-thin singles. As you can see, I spin a little on the tight side.

Sumac

To release some of the spin and get a softer, warmer, more neutral single, I sent it back through the wheel in a Z-twist, sort of massaging it into a nice soft thick-and thin yarn.

Sumac

I don’t have a “real” gauge to measure wraps/inch, and even if I did, I’m not sure how to get a meaningful estimate on a thick-and-thin yarn. I had a couple people give me their counts, and they came up with different numbers. So I tried to find a sort of uniformly spun bit, and going off that I’d say it’s about 10 wpi. You can judge for yourself.

Sumac

Also, to be able to suggest a commercial equivalent, I knitted the stitch pattern of the poncho in Noro Aya. I used the same needles for both. I’m not sure that tells us anything terribly useful, but in picking a commercial yarn, something like the Noro Aya should be pretty close. Aya is given a weight of worsted with 9 wpi, and knits 20 stitches/4 inches on US No. 8 needles, according to the ball band.
Side-by-side of handspun and Noro Aya
I just love the long color runs in the Noro yarn which also happens to pool in a way similar to the handspun I made, which is another reason to like the Noro as a commercial option.
Well, there you have it. Yes, I know all these photos are over-kill but I couldn’t decide on just one … she’s so c-u-t-e!







If you’re a Ravelry member, check out all the cool patterns and yarn people did in response to this challenge by searching Projects for the tag 4ozchallenge.

Stow Away Shopping Bag

Recently a friend was “de-stashing” (we all know about that, right?). Among other things, she tossed a ball of her first attempt at Navajo plied handspun yarn on the table and blathered to the knitting group, “This is so seriously overspun, it’s awful, if someone doesn’t take it, it’s going to be tossed out … blah, blah, blah.” (I just love the word “blathered” and couldn’t resist using it … no offense intended, D.)
It was pretty seriously overspun, no doubt about it. But her control of color was good and there are lots of uses for tightly-twisted fibers, right?
My brain went immediately to the Stow Away Shopping Bag pattern by Oat Couture, which I bought at Double-Ewe Yarn. The plan from the get-go was to surreptitiously knit it up and then give it back to her.
I didn’t have quite enough of her handspun so I Navajo-plied a bobbin of emerald green I had already spun and used that. Still not enough, so I took a little leftover reddish-orangeish-pinkish-purplish-with-sparkly-bits handspun I used to finish of a little cap, called That Hat, pattern also from Double Ewe Yarns. And here’s the finished product.

Market bag

I have to say, this bag is such a great little project. I made one for my daughter before her trip to The Czech Republic. It folds up into a pack about the size of your two fists…

Pouch

… and tucks into its own built-in pocket. Toss it in the back seat or glove box, or in a suitcase, and hit the road … easy-peasy.
(If you’re interested, here’s a good short video on how to do Navajo plying.)

Finished …

I finished That Hat.
That Hat
Thank you, Kelly, for the free pattern. I did end up using one skein of Ivy and filling in with a little handspun.

This week’s “Fiber Fascination”

For Mother’s Day, Andrea gave me some fantastic wool fiber from Aisha Celia Designs . It’s quite an interesting mix: just a little gold metallic thread mixed in with the a wide range of reds, rose-pinks, browns to tans.
fiber for spinning
I spun up a little of it.
spun single strand
And surprise, surprise! When plyed, it’s a great match to my favorite sneakers …
2-ply strand,
… and that newly repaired beaded bag.
2-ply strand
Just looking at the fiber, I actually expected a result that was more toward pink than rose-red. But that’s one of the really fun and interesting things about spinning: you just don’t know for certain how it will look until it’s spun and plyed.
Anyway, I just love the way it’s turning out.
Thank you, Andrea.

Digging into the stash

Well, my stash contains absolutely nothing of interest to me. I totally frogged the socks I started from yarn in my stash. Once I learned how to do the magic loop, that was it, no further interest, bored to death.
On the subject of stash, if you’re a Girl Scout supporter and charity knitter, looking for stash-busting opportunities, you might be interested in this. It’s the blog of a young lady in Florida who is hoping to get donations of caps for kids in need, preemies to teens. Kaitlyn has also started a Ravelry group called Knitted Cap Knitwork.
I think the only answer for me right now is to find an exciting summer knitting project … and that probably means I’ll need to yarn-shop. Honesty, seriously, believe me, I just don’t have a thing in my stash that screams “summer project.” Or maybe I need to take a little break from knitting and do some spinning. Now there’s an idea….

On being a perfectionist

I’m stuck in sort of an endless loop of perfectionism in my knitting/spinning lately. I have a love-hate relationship with perfectionism, and it’s because I’m also kind of an impatient person. I want to figure out how to do something perfectly, but I don’t want it to take forever. In the past, I’ve let impatience win out and ended up making a bunch of stuff I wasn’t too happy with. Lately, I’ve been letting perfectionism take over, which means it’s hard to finish anything.
I need balance!

This is what I’m currently working with, and it’s destined to become a scarf for a friend of mine. She saw the singles I was spinning in this colorway and loved it and wanted a scarf. I started to have some very specific ideas of what sort of scarf would be perfect for this person, and that’s what led me down the path of perfectionism. I’ve never spun anything with a knitting project in mind. I’ve always just spun yarn and then figured out what to do with it. So this adds a whole new realm in which I can be a perfectionist and take forever to accomplish anything.
I plied the singles I had spun. They weren’t right. I wanted longer, slower color changes. I wanted a thinner yarn, yet still soft and lofty. I then spun and plied four different versions. Navajo plying gave me the types of color changes I wanted, but it used up the singles so fast that the color changes were distinct, but very short.
I finally settled on splitting my rovings in half lengthwise and labeling the other half of each one that I used to spin my first single, so that I could spin a second bobbin using other halves of the rovings in the same order. I added very little twist, creating a fluffy, squishy yarn. The colors lined up surprisingly well when I plied them together.
So now I’ve been knitting and reknitting swatch after swatch trying to come up with the perfect pattern that will be just right for my friend. I’ve come up with about five different scarf patterns that might be right for some other yarn or some other person, but I think I FINALLY hit on the right one, last night.
Creating this scarf is taking way longer than it really needs to. But it’s satisfying to have a vision and try to create something that’s right for a particular person or a particular situation. The key is to be able to realize when it’s good enough or it will never get done.
My latest swatch has promise, but I made it a little too narrow. I think it’s safe to say this will be the last time I’ll have to rip this out and start over. Stay tuned….

Installing a zipper

I recently added a zipper to a sweater and people asked how I got it in straight, without having it look all “ruffly.”
It’s pretty simple. In addition to a sewing machine, your garment and the zipper, you’ll need a sheet or two of white tissue paper.
This technique works for all sorts of finicky fabrics …
Here I’m putting an open-end zipper in the front of a sweater. First, carefully block the sweater, making sure both edges for the zipper are the same length, that they’re straight and any stripes or patterns line up left to right.

Installing zipper Installing zipper

I generally leave the zipper zipped when I do all this, but if it’s easier for you to take the two halves apart, that works, too.
Position the first side of your zipper along the edge of the sweater as shown, and pin it in place. Then lay a sheet of thin tissue paper over it. The tissue paper permits the sewing machine foot to glide over the knitting without pulling at or catching on the yarn. With the tissue side up, carefully stitch through tissue, sweater and zipper, making your row of stitches far enough back from the teeth so the zipper pull will be able to move freely along teeth without any yarn catching in it. It’s pretty easy to see what you’re doing right through the tissue paper.

Installing zipper Installed zipper

Then carefully tear the perforated tissue paper away and remove the pins. Repeat for the second side of the zipper.

Finished project
Photo by Andrea

That’s all there is to it. When you’re finished, you’ll want to give it a good blocking, of course.
I just grabbed a bit of scrap yarn and tied it to the zipper pull on this sweater, but it’s fun to find an interesting bead or bauble to dress it up. I’m keeping my eyes open for just the right thing!

Hand-dyed, hand-spun, hand-knitted pinwheel vest

We celebrated “second Christmas” on Sunday since Steph wasn’t able to make it home from Boston for “real” Christmas.She’s been a busy girl with work and school, but she still had time to complete some pretty fantastic homemade Christmas gifts. I was left slack-jawed when I opened my gift from her. She had made me an amazing pinwheel vest, using a combination of commercial yarn and her own hand-dyed, hand-spun! Andrea commented earlier in this blog that I might have teared up a little. She’s right, I’m a wuss about stuff like that. And I know how incredibly many hours she put into that gift. I absolutely love it!
Dyeing the fiber
She used a free pattern from Elann as her starting point, then made it into a vest.
Pinwheel vest
I just love it! I wore it yesterday and it made quite an impression on people at work, many of whom are knitters themselves.
Front of pinwheel vest Back of pinwheel vest
We had our after-work knitting group last night and I added a few more inches to the Knit a Mile Project. So I’m up to maybe 325 yards done. It was fun to see what other people were working on, I wish I had taken some pictures. We had a needlepointer there, and a crocheter, in addition to a half-dozen knitters. One of the women brought her 7th grade daughter who does some crocheting already and is now wanting to learn to knit. I love it …

Survived Christmas, hopefully will survive St. Mawes

Finally. I went to my first knit night at Double Ewe Yarn last night. I’ve been meaning to go to one of these ever since I learned of the existence of a yarn shop five minutes away from my house, went in a few times to browse/shop, and learned that Kelly the shop owner is super nice.
I was glad there was a smaller group there than normal due to the holiday, because otherwise it would have been overwhelming. As it is, I’m not sure I’m remembering everyone’s names correctly. It reminds me of something the teacher of the felted clogs class said; she said she had a hard time remembering names, but she could remember exactly what everyone knit! And I can say there was some lovely knitting last night. A very girly pink dog sweater. A ginormous felted hat (pre-felting), a lovely baby sweater for a soon-to-be-born grandchild, a fun fair isle hat, a top-down child’s sweater knit from some self-striping yarn, and the beginning of a green cabled sweater. There were also some delicious caramels. I am definitely going back next week.
As for me, I tried to knit a Calorimetry out of some yarn I spun, but two things went wrong: my yarn was too thick for the pattern, and I realized after I got home that I did my short rows one stitch off so it was getting to be too thick around the middle. This Calorimetry was never meant to be, and I ripped out when I got home, but it was fun while it lasted. I only brought it because I was afraid all my other knitting projects would be too complicated to bring to knit night, and I couldn’t bear the idea of working on the neverending Multidirectional Diagonal Scarf of Boredom (I really need to just learn once and for all that I’m not a scarf-knitting sort of person, and almost every one of my scarf projects is doomed to languish).
What I really need to be working on at this point is sorting out the mess that Brad’s St. Mawes sweater is in and getting the sleeves to a point where they’re wearable. What I would rather be working on is spinning more of this, which I spun on Christmas day:

This is my Dusk colorway that I dyed back in November.

I’m trying to get it to a sock weight. I’ve never spun anything nearly this fine before, but I’m still not sure if it’ll be sock weight by the time I ply it.
This spinning project is going to be my reward to myself once I get Brad’s sweater fixed. I want him to be able to actually wear it sometime this winter!