Friday, March 21, 2014

Here Be Dragons!

I got an awesome package in the mail today! It's the "Dragons" kit from Mary Scott Huff & Abstract Fibers! It's gorgeous, it's beautiful, and the yarn (Alto) is so luxurious!


I ripped it open soon after I walked in through the door (right after I fed the kittens, because hungry kittens don't wait for any yarn kit no matter how squee-worthy).

I can't WAIT to start knitting on it....


As soon as I finish the mounds of WIP I currently have on the needles.....
Must. Knit. Faster.....

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

SpinU: Woolen Intensive - 2nd week

The second class of SpinU has come and gone, and I'm still learning new stuff. The homework due for class was to spin a 2-ply yarn out of our singles


The resulting yarn was a very lofty 2-ply yarn (80 yards.

For the second class, we worked on perfecting our woolen joins from both the fold and at the tips of our prepped fiber. In order to see if we were doing the joins correctly, we used alternating black and white merino fiber.

This was not as easy as I had thought or had hoped. Because you allow the twist to go into the fiber, when you join new fiber, you might get a thin & thick spot as the twist works its way through the fiber supply as you pull backwards.

A picture is worth a thousand words, so here is a shot of what I mean. I'm spinning relatively thinner yarn (about fingering weight as a single), so it might not be clearly obvious, but when you ply this yarn back on itself, you can clearly see that there are uneven spots


According to Sandi, we could "cheat" and do a worsted join into our fiber, as the joined fibers would be going in the "correct" direction as woolen spinning. However, for a "true" woolen spun yarn (for the spinning nazis out there), we should learn how to do a good woolen join instead, which becomes more important as you start spinning shorter staple fibers such as cotton, camel, and quivit!

For homework, we continued to work on doing woolen joins and creating a 2-ply yarn so we can really tell if our joins looked good.


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Handcrafted vs. Homemade

Blocking my sweater in stages is progressing slowly. The evening after I blocked the front pieces, I blocked the sleeves. It took 8 wires to block each sleeve; thus using up all of the block wires in my blocking kit.


Someone asked me why I block my knits as this unnamed knitter never blocked any of her knitted items.


There are plenty of reasons to block your knitted items. There are a lot of previously written articles on why you should block, especially if you're knitting a lace shawl!
I can understand why people don't want to block. It's extra time and effort that could be spent doing something more picking out your next project or starting something new.

But Vogue sums it up nicely for me:  "without blocking, your perfectly knit garment will look sloppy"

IMNSHO, blocking makes the difference between something that looks hand-crafted vs. homemade.  It's the reason why I press seams open when I sew and why I add grosgrain ribbon to my sweaters. It's the extra bit of effort into the finishing touches that can help a finished garment look more couture & polished, and less homespun.

It takes a lot of time and effort to block. For me, just blocking this sweater has taken three evenings. And it'll probably take me a bit longer to seam the sweater, add the edgings, sew in the grosgrain, etc.

 It took 10 wires to block the back piece.

But I know it'll definitely be worth it once I'm done.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Blocking in Stages

I'm finally getting around to blocking my St. Brigid Aran sweater — the one I had finished knitting for Ravellenics. I was hoping to have a chunk of time with which to block it over a single weekend, but so far that hasn't happened.

I really want to finish this sweater, so I decided to take some time in the evening during the week. My plan was to steam block the sweater and use a closed-off room to lock the pieces away from the kittens. The pieces were small enough to keep it confined to a room (unlike my Knit Swirl sweater).

However, as I started blocking the right & left front pieces, I realized quickly that I was going to need to block this in stages.  First, it took a lot long than anticipated to run the blocking wires through the pattern pieces to make each cable stand out. It took about 30 minutes to block each front piece (running the wires through the fabric, steam blocking, and pinning everything out to the measurements).

It took four blocking wires for just one front piece (8 wires for both left and right); I only have 13 blocking wires in the kit.
I left the some of the edges to be seamed alone, per Amy Herzog's technique

I could tell that the sleeves would require even more wires. I was not going to have enough to block everything all at once. I could wait until the weekend to run down to my LYS to buy more blocking wires or just do this in stages.

I'm opting for stages right now, because if I don't do it in stages and wait until I have all of the necessary elements in place, I won't be able to finish this sweater. At least in this way, I am making measurable progress. Patience is the very difficult key to this operation.

Blocking is really making the cables POP!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Learning to Become Better - SpinU Intensive on Woolen Spinning

Several months ago, Sandy from Purlescence Yarns pinged me. Would I be interested in taking a 6-week intensive class on woolen spinning?

You betcha! I love, love, love, love woolen spinning and I want to get better at it. The woolen yarn I create is lovely, warm, and very airy.

Woolly Mutant

One of my very favorite handspun, handknit sweater is made out of woolen yarn.

Gretta's Sweater 3

But I want to get better at woolen spinning. Sandy is an amazing teacher and this class was going to be an opportunity to become a better woolen spinner.

The first class was going over the basics. Some students hadn't spun woolen yet, and some had.  I usually have a problem starting a woolen draw, which usually end in a lot of cursing and wasted fiber until I get into a groove. There is a fine line between ensuring that enough twist can get into the fiber so it won't fall apart and too much twist where the fiber breaks. On my own, it can be hard to determine this fine line.

Sandy went over some of that information including some basic exercises -- short forward draw, short backward draw, supported draw, and a few other draws with which I was not familiar. She showed how we could use these different draws to learn woolen. These exercises really helped me start woolen spinning a lot faster than normal, with less cussing and less waste of fiber.

love learning new things!

As per usual, we got some homework --
  • spin a woolen single yarn and to set the twist (but not to full). This would help determine what our "natural" spinning tendencies, in regards to WPI.  I ended up with a 28-30 WPI skein, which is about a fingering weight yarn.
  • Untitled

  • spin two bobbins of woolen spun yarn to to make a short sample 2-ply skein during class.
I'm really looking forward to the rest of the 6-week class and see how my spinning technique progresses.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Escapee from Area 51

Have you ever had those Un-Finished Ojects (UFOs) that are hiding away in a little corner of your Stash (i.e. Area 51)? Maybe you even had a UFO that's been a forgotten secret for a number of years, or perhaps even decades?

Mine is from 2009. Now, I first started knitting in 2009 (or thereabouts) so this UFO is one of my very first projects -- the Irish Hiking Scarf -- out of Lion Brand Wool Ease (80% acrylic + 20% wool) It was my very first cabled project, and at the time, I hadn't quite discovered the joys of knitting with pure wool. I knit on it, learning how to cable and I found that I did quite enjoy cabling.

It was a scarf, which means that it needed to be LOOONG to wrap around my neck several times. Over time, I got very bored with it, plus I really didn't like the feel of knitting with the Lion Brand, so I tucked it away into a corner of my Stash Room and it laid there unforgotten.

Sometimes, it got pulled out when I was cleaning up, but, it would get tucked away again. I was determined to eventually finish it, but just "not right now" (as I would tell myself).

This past weekend, I was tidying up (again -- an unending task) when I pulled it out. I looked at it, and realized that, while not long enough to be a scarf, it was PLENTY long enough to be a cowl! So, I bound it off and seamed the ends. Voila! One finished object brought into the light of day from the deep dark recesses of my Area 51. It feels good :-)



Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Stitches West 2014 Summary Report

Ah, Stitches West. It comes right after GallifreyOne, and is another geeky type of convention, except for fabric artists of all kinds. This year, I went for two days.

Day 1: Shopping! I had made a list of a few things that I definitely wanted. I was a fiber artist on a mission!
Day 2: Hanging out with friends, taking photos, and picking up little things I missed before. I didn't want to lug around a camera whilst I was looking at ALL THE PRETTY THINGS on Day 1.

There were booths offering everything up from fiber to yarn to ready-made goods. And lets not forget all of the accessories for fiber arts. I picked up a lovely shawl pin and a beautiful hand-turned wooden yarn bowl.

It was a bit hard to see every single booth at Stitches because there were just so much to see.


It was crowded on the floor on both days I was there. The line for the Knitmore Girls Meet & Greet wrapped around the Purlescence booth and then some.

However, they got a TON of Halos of Hope hats.

People were wearing some of the beautiful garments they had created ranging from cardigans and many shawls. There were also some um...very interesting fiber art creations.

 A lot of folks got some shopping done at various booths, like the Verdant Gryphon:

And some of my friends fell hard over at Woodland Dyeworks -- a very dangerous place for spinners.

I might have spent some money at a variety of booths this year....

The YarnOver truck came up from Southern California! I've been following them on Facebook and I didn't think I'd ever to get to see the truck in person. If you haven't heard of them, they are basically a mobile yarn store, which I think is an awesome idea. They just drove their truck right onto the convention floor.

But, it wasn't just a lot of vendors selling products. Amy Herzog of Custom Fit was giving consultations and whatnought.

If you weren't taking any of the many offered classes at Stitches, there were many demonstrations on the floor and mini-workshops for free.


It was a pretty awesome year, but also exhausting as it was back-to-back from GallifreyOne.  I'm glad I went for two days this year, and spent the second day doing more social activities and seeing friends. It was good to connect with the fiber arts community.