Monday, December 28, 2009

Fiber Holidays

This past $WinterHoliday, we drove down to see family in the southern part of the state. So, per usual, I packed up my holiday knitting (socks, what else?) along with two spindles and extra yarn (just in case).

I managed to finish 1.5 pairs of socks on the trip (my socks as well as started a new pair for DH).

But, on the way back home, we stopped by Village Spinning & Weaving in Solvang. What a *wonderful* fiber shop. I walked inside and was really pleased. They had a very healthy selection of coned yarn for weaving and a rather ample section of fiber all neatly bagged and assorted. There was a nice assortment of merinos of various counts, BFL, Jacob, different alpacas, colored tops, and assorted luxury fibers (yak, bison.....). They had a gold wrapped ounce of quivit! Oh, and they had some lovely lovely yarn, but I was there primarily for FIBER!

It was like being a kid in a candy store. I didn't know where to start!

Unfortunately, I had totally forgotten my list of what I wanted, so decided to just go with some pretty fibers that caught my eye. I picked up some lovely soft merino, some nicely dyed merino (purples & dark reds), and a LOVELY mottled BFL (oatmeal, dark, and white). I seriously debated on the quivit, but knew that I had no knowledge of spinning short fibers so it would have to wait. However, the already-spun quivit from Musk-Ox farms was SORELY tempting....But I held myself back.

DH started a lively conversation with the owners about sheep and indigenous species, which tangented onto man's involvment in breeding & environments. They were lovely people and very helpful.

So, now, I think I shall have to make this stop on our trips whenever we go and visit family. The shop was lovely, well-organized, and had a healthy selection of fiber-y goodness, AND the owners are just nice, nice people.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Charity Knitting

Charity knitting is a wonderful idea. The thought of knitters getting together to help make the world a better place is great. It combines the love of knitting with the kindness of giving to others less fortunate.

However, this past week, I read on Ravelry someone being "guilted" into doing charity knitting. No one should ever be guilted into doing something they might not be able to do.

Perhaps that one lone knitter doesn't have enough time to complete their own knitting let along anything for charity.

Perhaps they are helping in other ways, by giving a monetary donation or donating time (like helping out in a soup kitchen).

You don't know and can't assume otherwise. And it would be wrong of us to assume that just because they're not doing charity knitting that they aren't otherwise contributing to their chosen charity.

We all love knitting. It provides a relaxing way to unwind and to create something. However when we are *forced* to knit something, we start to look warily on knitting or the knitting groups to which we belong. It's the reason why some knitters don't like to knit gifts -- it causes too much stress and worry to the point where knitting is no longer enjoyable, but a chore. I don't see knitters "guilting" others into gift knitting. So, why should charity be any different?

Charity should be given from the heart and provide the giver a sense of doing good in the world. Being forced to *do* something makes people resent not only the process, but the end product as well. And we don't want someone to resent a charity or their knitting.

We all give in our different ways. We need to respect each others' abilities to do what we can, when we can, and not force the issue just because everyone else is doing it. It makes that person not only resent knitting, but the person or group that is forcing the issue.

And, that is not in the spirit of charity.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Night Sky Karius

I finally took some photos of my Night Sky Karius project. I've been a total slacker. It knitted up rather well. The Karius pattern formed some nice striping that I hadn't expected at all. I'm rather pleased with how it turned out.

At first, the knitted fabric from the handspun was a bit 'coarse', but a good soaking in wool wash softened up the handspun by quite a bit.

Nighty Sky Karius

Nighty Sky Karius

This was spun from my Night Sky handspun that I created for the Ravelry Spindler's SAL.

Handspun: 3ply Nightsky

Handspun: 3ply Nightsky

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Re-purpose & Re-use: The making of a cable needle

I'm working on the Trilobyte hat from's Summer '09 issue for my BIL who is a geologist. He has a lot of fossilized trilobytes at their house.

However, it does require cabling, and I walked out of the house without a cabling needle. My crochet hook is just too awkward and long to use and I'm incapable of just taking the stitch to be cabled off the hook without it laddering downwards. I was a tad frustrated at what should be a simple cabling project.

As I was eating lunch with chopsticks, I thought, "Hmmmm....." So, after lunch, I washed said chopsticks and used my scissors to score the wood so I could break it. Then using a handy-dandy pencil sharpener to give either end a point, I made myself a small cable needle.

It works just fine.

Photo taken with my mobile.

Letter to Myself

Dear Self,

Starting a last minute gift is probably not the best idea. But you're going to probably try and get it done anyways, right? Not that you need the additional stress and stuff. I don't care if it's a "quick knit". It's not a good idea.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Day without Knitting?! Perish the Thought!

The other day as I was packing for work, I found myself almost done with a knitting project (with only several rows to go) and realizing that it would only take me a short time to finish.

As I do a lot of my knitting on my daily train commute, this would mean I would finish my project on the train even before I got to work. I'd have *nothing* else to work on for the rest of the day.

Obviously, this was a horror I couldn't imagine going through, so to save myself the hassle, I quickly finished up the last few rows, then cast on another small project that I had thought about starting.

Knitting has saved my already frail sanity on many occasions (when my train was delayed by OVER TWO hours) or when I find myself waiting in line that should have been "fast". Even for short errands, I find myself grabbing one of my knitting project bag (REI ditty bags in assorted colors) and stuffing it into my satchet before heading out the door.

One time, I accidently left the house without my knitting and had to wait...boringly.....bereft of reading material (magazine or book) and felt myself slowly go mad....I vowed *never* to do that again.

I find it amusing that short amount of time that I've been knitting (less than a year), it has become a part of my daily routine. Yet I had been crocheting for the better part of 20 years and it never grabbed my attention like knitting. I surmise it's because extended bouts of crocheting actually cause my hands to ache just a tad, whereas knitting does not.

DH laughs at me sometimes. I brought a knitting project to the movie theatre and I sat knitting during it. He says I've turned into one of those grandmothers that can knit through anything....Now, he barely blinks an eye and just chuckles. He did this the other day when we were at the Dicken's Fair and I pulled a small knitting project out of my muff.

As I've mentioned previously, knitting is a very active form of Zen; something that keeps my hands busy and lets my mind go into a meditative state (that is until I make a mistake or foobar a pattern....but I digress).

It's something I won't leave the house without, much like my wallet, cel phone, or house keys.

I find this particular comic strip rather apt:

Monday, December 14, 2009

Holiday Knitting

Normally, I'm not the type to do holiday gift knitting, because it's just too much stress on ones nerves. But, this time around, I felt like I needed to make something for that one person, just because. (I'm not mentioning said gift or person until *after* the receive said gift)

I knew what this person's favorite color, and s/he had mentioned being cold during certain times despite the warm weather climate where s/he lived. S/he had tried on a knitted item I had with me and said that s/he might actually wear something like those.

So, knowing that, I got the right color and found a wonderfully quick knitted project. Each of the pair (you get that clue) was a very very easy knit and only took 2 train rides (30 minutes a piece) to finish. There was no complicated stitches, but it wasn't a boring knit either. I made a few changes to the pattern (specifically a gusset) much more to my liking.

Now, they're currently blocking so I can ship them off by Tuesday to the unsuspecting person.

But, if I ever have to do any holiday knitting, this is one relatively quick project that takes less than 1 skein and about 2 hours to make.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Practicality of Knitted Items

Today's blog entry is about practicality versus beauty of knitted garments.....

Some time ago, I knit myself a variation of the Cigar Gloves (ravelry link). I added 'removable' fingers to the thumb, index, and middle fingers. (They attach on the top of the hand, and I can slip my fingers out of them). I wanted to make them for use on my photography outings, when hands can get cold, but mittens are highly impractical; camera controls *need* to have the deftness of ungloved fingers.

Photographer Gloves

But, I've find myself wearing them on a regular basis despite how "dorky" they look with the dangling fingers because of the practicality of using them.

The other day, I walked into a store to buy part of a birthday gift, and slipped off the fingers in order to pick up a box. The store was part of an enclosed open mall so it was cold in the store, so I didn't want to take my gloves off.

The store clerk looked at my gloves and said, "OMG, those are so practical!".

Now, she didn't say, "Those are lovely!" or "That must have been a lot of work" or "Wow, that's some fancy stitch work!" or "That's beautiful yarn"

I've heard those things about my other knitted projects. This was a brand new compliment indeed, and it took me slightly aback. I thanked her, and admitted that they were quite practical indeed.

Now, granted, I didn't do a lot of fancy cabling or stitching on the the gloves, but the yarn (Socks that Rock Heavyweight) is pretty darn colorful and it's superwash. An important thing when gloves can get dirty when working in the field with a camera.

Admittedly, the dangling extra fingerrs can be rather weird at times, but I've been glad of them on many many many occasions as I slip them over my very cold fingers. Yet, I still hadn't quite expected to hear someone gush about the practicality of my knits.

But, then, I thought about it briefly, especially given the cold weather we've been having lately. What was the purpose of original purpose of knitting? --

The purpose of knitting was to provide someone with something warm, practical, and function to use day to day in a time when commercially available clothing was too expensive or not available. The knitted item might or might not have been 'pretty'. The yarn used to make said item might or might not have been colorful. Practicality & functionality were the primary purpose.

Today, with the advent of so many types of yarn (from luxury wools and silks) and so many colors, we can now choose to make our knitted items works of art.

But many knitted items still serve a practical purpose, especially in cold weather environments. And herein is where the strength of knitted items lie. Imagine going out into the cold blustery day without your scarf or hat or gloves, and only a jacket. How much warmer would you be with these items? I, for one, have been immensely glad that I made my own scarf, hat, and gloves now that the weather has turned. I've made them with nice warm wool and they've been instrumental in my not turning into a popsicle on those particularly cold days.

So, in that sense, noting the practicality of an item is a wonderful compliment.

No, my gloves aren't exactly wonderful work of art compared to some of my other knitted items, BUT, they keep me warm during this cold season and are immensely practical.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Continuing Looking at Wool Types & Micron Counts

Previously on another blog post, I was looking into micron counts and wool types in order to learn about "micron counts" and why they are or not important. I also wanted to research some of the wools that fall into the Fine/Medium/Long (Coarse) categories as suggested by the guidelines so that I would have a better idea when planning on projects on exactly what wool types would be best suited for it.

There are apparently two books on the subject of wool types that I need to acquire:The Knitter's Book of Wooland In Sheep's Clothing: A Handspinner's Guide to Wool.These have been recommended on the Ravelry boards by a multitude of people.

However, Ravelry and the general Internet has been a wealth of information. You just need to go to many sites and piece things together; and even then, you still have an incomplete picture.

But, here's what I've determined thus far in terms of wool (I'm not including things like silk and plant fibers):

Fine wools (16- 22 microns): most Alpacas, Merino, Cormo, Rambouillet, (some) BFL(x), fine shetland(x), camel, angora, possum, quiviut, cashmere, vicuna

Medium wools (22- 31 microns): Corriedale(x), Falkland(x), BFL(x), mohair(x), (inner) Icelandic(x), Shetland(x), Dorset, Cheviot, Jacob

Long wools (31- 36 microns):Romney(x), Wensleydale, Border Leiscter, Lincoln(x)

(X)s mark those wools I've already spun as part of my Spinning Study.

When correlated with the information from the previous post, it gives me an idea of what projects to use with different types of wool:
  • 16-19 Fine worseted & intimate wear
  • 19-23 Apparel, outerwear, quilt batting / felts
  • 23-28 Sweaters, light upholstery coatings, fiberfill
  • 28-32 Upholstery, tapestries, some carpets
  • 32-38+ Carpets, industrial use.

  • Obviously, these are only guidelines. There's nothing preventing anyone from using one type of wool to make something out of the "category",

    Wednesday, December 9, 2009

    Fabric Goodness

    This past week has only been partially filled with fibery goodness, but lots of fabric goodness.

    I'm currently working on an outfit for Dicken's Faire, which is an event that runs from the day after Thanksgiving to Christmas eve. It recreates the time in England during Charles Dicken's life. People dress in period appropriate clothing, and the actors stay within the confines of the speech and mannerisms of Dicken's England.

    It's a lot of fun. My previous Dicken's outfit needed upgrading, so I worked on creating a Spanish jacket & matching waist belt. I'm currently building up layers of trim on both the jacket & belt.

    Spanish Jacket & Waist Blet

    Of course, this doesn't mean I haven't been knitting or spinning. My knitting bug gets satisfied on my daily two hour commute, plus last night, I took to finishing off a bobbin of two-ply that I had kept putting off.

    Monday, December 7, 2009

    That Shrinking Ball of Yarn....

    Ever look on with dread at a shrinking ball/cake of yarn and know that your project isn't quite yet done? While hoping that you might have just enough to eek out?

    I had that happen to me this past Saturday as I worked on my Lacy Karius project with my handspun. And I realized I definitely was *not* going to have enough yardage.

    I love handspun, but if you start to run out of yardage, you can't exactly run to your LYS and find another skein. I had two skeins of yarn (3oz/85 grams and 2 7/8 oz/81 grams) of my Nightsky handspun which totaled about 200 yards. The nice thing about the Lacy Karius/Baktus pattners is that you don't need an exact amount. You knit increases until half the yarn is gone, then knit the decreases.

    Unfortunately, I started with the 3oz/85g ball of yarn first and went a wee bit too far past where I should have stopped midpoint before starting the decreases. But, I hadn't thought about it until almost completed. ICK.

    So, I had to completely frog back to the half-way point, then frog back another inch or so. Then I started knitting the decreases again. This time, I should have enough yarn (*knock on wood*)

    Luckily, this is a relatively fast knit, and I'm almost done with it.

    Friday, December 4, 2009

    Cozy Bed Warmers

    I saw something on Craft magazine that had me intrigued. I, of the perpetually cold feet, needed something to warm up the bed without a wasteful blanket heater (because I always forget to turn it off although the cats love it).

    It was a Cozy Bed Warmer that used corn feed from the Pet & Feed store and a bit of fabric.

    Well, I have excess fabric in spades, and I always make a trip to our local Pet & Feed Store to pick up food for the cats. On my last trip, I picked up some whole corn feed (about 3-4 lbs) which is incredibly cheap. Then I took some scrap muslin and made myself a Cozy Bed Warmer. I didn't feel the need to make it out of fancier fabric because a) it's not a gift and b) I'm going for functionality and ease of making. Trim? I don't need no stinking trim! Plus muslin was the most copious and easily readible fabric in my whole stash (plus I have quite a bit left over from various mockups)

    With cutting and sewing, it took maybe 8 minutes top on the sewing machine.

    Love, love, love this thing. It goes into the microwave for about 3 minutes (while I'm brushing my teeth, etc) then gets shoved in under the covers just as I crawl into bed.

    It stays warm an incredibly *long* time, and (not) surprisingly, with my feet warm, the rest of me isn't as cold. And of course, the cats love it, and they have a tendency to sleep around my feet now. I can also see using it as a nice warm heating pad for aching muscles.

    If I make any more to give as gifts, I'll definitely be using much nicer fabric than my plain muslin, as well as some trim :-)

    Thursday, December 3, 2009

    On Saving Money.

    With the economy the way it is, I'm trying very hard to stay within the confines of my Stash -- both Fabric & Fiber -- in order to save $$$.

    Staying within the Fabric Stash is easy, because I have an entire garage wall full of fabric with which to play, garnered by years of hoarding and purchasing (although in fairness half of the fabric belongs to DH).

    Staying within my Fiber Stash is a bit more difficult, because I've tried to contain the yarn to one 32-gallon Rubbermaid bin, and the unspun fiber to a bin half that size. Plus I've only been actively knitting & spinning for less than a year. So I haven't had much of a chance to increase the Fiber Stash as much as the Fabric Stashes. But my LYS is such a place of temptations, plus everyone seems to be having really good sales on fiber/yarn.

    And I think, "Wow, that's a good price!"

    But even with a good price, you're still spending money ($$$) no matter "how" much you save from the full retail price. And spending money means you're not actually saving any money at all.

    I've mentioned my Backlog of Fiber before, which should keep me busy for at least several months without needing to buy additions to the Stash, so says the Logical & Practical part of me. But, that doesn't stop my inner ferret from looking at all the pretty pretty yarn/fiber and squeaking, "PRETTY SHINY!"

    Monday, November 30, 2009

    Holiday Trip Knitting

    Whenever I go on a trip, I have to plan out whatever knitting I need to bring. We were driving for this particular trip so I didn't have to worry about bulky or packing effectively, but I did want portability and ease of knit, because there were going to be plenty of younger kids (4-7) around for the holidays, not to mention conversations with the adults. So I needed something(s) that was going to be easy to memorize and the ability to knit while talking...or to stop if necessary due to child antics.

    Two projects came to mind:

    --> a pair of vanilla socks -- two at a time; toe-up; on two circulars. The pattern was a SideStream master sock from New Pathways for Sock Knitters: Book One by Cat Bordhi.

    --> Night Sky Karius shawl -- an easy 8 row pattern with increases in specific areas. Plus, I could use my hand-dyed / handspun yarn (Nightsky handspun)

    I started both projects (because I hate casting on in a moving car) and got both to a point where it'd been easy to just pick it up again. I also decided that I would bring two spindle spinning projects as well.

    So, I loaded up my Nantucket Knitting Bag (I picked up used on Ravelry) with my 4 projects.

    I found myself knitting on the parts of the trip where I didn't need to drive, and during the family get-togethers.

    Unfortunately, I had left my generic sock pattern at home (OH NOES!) but some very nice people on Ravelry were able to give me the rest of my Master Numbers (I had my gauge, RPI, and foot sizes, but didn't know the rest) and I was able to finish the sock (sans cuffs) on Thanksgiving Day.

    I'm also about 40% done with my Nightsky, knitting most of it during the drive up and down, as it's a relatively easy pattern to memorize. I also managed to get some knitting done while sitting on couches and talking to friends at LosCon. My Nightsky Karius easily fit into my little travel purse so I could leave the large Nantucket behind.

    Unfortunately, I didn't touch either of my spinning projects the entirety, but of course, if I had left them at home, I would have desparately wanted them.

    Wednesday, November 25, 2009


    My little dishcloth project has been bound off then steeked. Yaay. It was actually really easy, once I bothered to fully read and comprehend the instructions from Eunny Knits.

    Luckily, I used a contrasting purple yarn to crochet the steek stitches up both sides so I could see WTH I was doing.

    Steeking 1

    Then I double checked to make sure I had the little ladder as shown in the instructions from Eunny. I had to undo my stitches at least once because I caught the wrong front loops at one point.

    Then it was cutting that ladder!

    Steeking 2

    Resulting in a steeked dischloth! So, now I'm relatively confident I can steek a bigger project with minimal fuss.

    The two things I learned in this project:
    1) the chart I designed does actually work. I have to tweak certain parts of it, but I feel relatively confident that I can put it on the intended project and have it work well.

    2) steeking is relatively easy once you get past the "OMG, I'M GOING TO CUT MY STITCHES" phase of it.

    Friday, November 20, 2009

    Mending on the Go

    This morning while getting off the train, I found that my replacement Dashing handwarmer had started laddering! Oh Noes! Apparently, during a cable twist, I must have dropped and stitch and never noticed.

    I had been wearing the glove for about a week now, and never noticed the slow progression of the dropped stitch. So, I grabbed my crochet hook out of my bag (it permanently lives in one of the built in pen pouches), and started to bring the ladder back up. But, then what? I didn't have any of the same yarn to catch it, then weave in the ends, so I opted for the next best thing.

    Once I got to the top of the ladder, I relooped the last stitch through the previous row several times to give it a nice firm knot. Then used a bit of spit to felt the knot between my fingers. From the right side, you can't even tell there's anything wrong.

    Two Color on the Train

    Currently, one of my projects is a sample two-color version of Swirling Gauntletts. I've done two color work before on a double-sided knitted project when I first started, but this is the first time of two colors on a single row. I only usually work on this while on the train, which affords me a good 30 minutes of just working the simple cabling pattern without interruption.

    So far, so good, and I've learned a lot.
    For example, when too tight is too tight. A tip that I read (after I was half-way through this glove) was that you can't pull the yarn too tight or you get puckering. Well, couple pulling the yarn too tight WITH cables (which pulls the yarn even tighter) and you get a LOT of puckering & decrease in size. The middle of the project is a lot smaller than the beginning of the project. So, for the last few rows I've relaxed my death grip on the yarn, and it's starting to even out a bit, which is good.

    I've finally figured out how to hold both strands of yarn: the knit stitch in the right hand, and the purl stitch in the left hand (as this is a 2x2 rib). It's a bit slower than my normal knitting speed, but it works. English-style knitting is very weird, but for this project it works.

    Two Color on the Train

    I may or may not make the matching set of gloves for this one. This was really meant to be a sample test with some extra yardage I had left over from my Hexagon Blanket. Plus, it's way too small to fit anyone (except maybe my neices & nephews who are still in the single-digit age bracket).

    Of course, this means that I'm going to try my hand at a small Fair Isle project next. :-)

    Thursday, November 19, 2009

    Project Updates

    On the Spinning Front

    --> I spun up my first two-ply on the wheel, which went surpisingly fast. Normally I was plying on my drop spindle, which takes *forever*. However, my plys on my drop spindle look a heckuva lot better than on my wheel. Of course, this could be because I was plying two totally different thicknesses of yarns......

    But I am going to need to practice a lot more on plying, because I seriously see the wheel as a much easier way to ply.

    --> I have picked up the Shetland I have currently on my Kundert. I've been ignoring it while I practice on the wheel.

    On the Needles

    I have three things on the needles still in progress:

    1) a dishcloth done in the round that I'm going to steek; it's located next to the computer

    2) still slogging my way through the cardigan; for when I need something mindless,

    3) a small 2-colorwork glove; for the train ride to work

    #1 & #3 are learning projects: steeking & colorwork. I may or may not make the 2nd glove of #3 -- it'll most likely fit my niece or nephew, but it's a nice litle exercise in color work.

    Insofar as the dishcloth, I actually charted a simple pattern for it, so it's also the test ground to see if the chart is even do-able or if I need to scale it up in size to make it more obvious. So, in this project, I'm learning two things at once. :-)

    In regards to the cardigan, I will most likely NEVER work another cardigan or sweater FLAT again. It will be *in the round* because I am hating all the miles and miles of purls required (as this is a simple stockinette stitch). This is the reason why this darn thing is taking too long.

    Wednesday, November 18, 2009

    The Smell of Sheep: Making Connections

    As I noted previously, I purchased about 1/2 lb of dark BFL wool to spin up. As I was tearing apart the long roving into sizeable chunks, I noticed the smell.

    It was a slight smell, but a smell nonetheless. It was the smell of sheep; albeit it was the smell of clean sheep. (Much like a freshly washed dog smells of clean dog, versus smelly dog).

    It was a nice scent, and one that most of my other rovings and tops I had purchased previously did not have..or at least that I noticed. Maybe it was because this was 8 oz of wool versus 2 oz of sample fibers? Maybe because this wool was bagged at the mill versus being separated then bagged at a fiber supply shop.

    I met a spinner who once told me that he was able to tell what wool he was spinning by the smell. I don't know if that's true or not, and it would certainly be difficult for me to 'test' at this moment, as I normally buy prepared fiber, versus raw fleeces.

    However, I found that I LIKE the smell of the BFL. Admittedly, I sniffed the wool vigorously and have taken quick sniffs whenever I spin it (also keeping it tightly closed in a container, lest the cats decide they like the smell of sheep!)

    It reminded me that this fiber came from a living, breathing animal that has frolicked (do sheep frolick?) on some pasture somewhere. I find myself connecting with the wool (and thus, to the animal(s) that provided it) and enjoying the process of spinning that much more.

    I think in our modern-every-day life, we are so far removed from the land and the origins of so many of our daily products (food, clothing, etc), that we take for granted what we have. Our lack of 'connection' with our daily wares makes us more of a disposable culture - throwing things away because we have no connection with it.

    If we ruin a meal, then it's no problem to go buy the ingredients again. But what about the plants or animals that were harvested or killed to make that food?

    I read an article where two chefs went through the process of making goat tacos by picking out the goats from a ranch then watched the butchering process, and taking home the still warm meat. They wrote how they were so much more extra careful in their preparation, because of the process they had gone through and how they felt a connection to that animal. The warm meat on the counter strongly reminded them that this came from a living breathing animal.

    Much like the smell of sheep reminds me that this wool comes from a living breathing animal. I mean, I *knew* it did before -- wool comes from sheep after all. But the smell make me seriously GROK that fact. I know that once I finish spinning this wool, then going through the process of making it into a sweater, that it'll mean more than just the time & effort required to spin & knit the sweater; I'll feel that connection to that dark BFL sheep that provided its fleece for my wool.

    I think we all need to be reminded that our *things* must come from somewhere; be it a tree that was felled to make our spinning wheels, or a sheep that was sheared for wool....or even a sheep killed to provide a meal. Children should be taken to a farm to show them where our food comes from, or to a mill to show how cloth is made for our clothing.

    We need to connect with what we have, to know where things originate from, so that we can truly appreciate what we've been given.

    Tuesday, November 17, 2009

    Learning Projects

    Since I'm a relatively new knitter, there's a lot of things I don't know how to do yet. What I've found that if I make something that teaches me a new technique, I get a finished product AND learn a new skill at the same time.

    This is the reason that I am partial to dishcloths. They are relatively simple, require a relatively cheap form of yarn (cotton), and dischcloths are knit up quickly with minimal effort.

    Currently, I am learning to do two different things on my dishcloth:
    1) I am "testing" a chart of a design I created. I think it'll work, but it might need a bit of tweaking..

    2) Steeking. I've heard a lot about it, and I *like* doing things in the round (I detest miles of purling as I have learned as I am currently knitting a cardigan "flat" and it seems to be taking forever!)

    I originally learned of it, by listening to the Stitch It! Podcast when I first starting to knit. I was curious about it, but felt that I should probably learn the basics first. Now, it's time. :-)

    So, I cast on the dishcloth in the round with a 3-border stitch using some generic cotton yarn I picked up at Joann's with a coupon. I'm about halfway through the discloth -- which is my sitting at the computer knitting because it's pretty brainless -- and I'm looking forward to steeking it!

    I've found a good website on steeking, which I'll be making use of later: Eunny Knits on Steeking.

    Oh, and after doing a bunch of Google searches, including a browse through Ravelry's Stitch It Podcast forums, the website is the one most often referred to when it comes to steeking.

    Monday, November 16, 2009

    A Tongue Twister; Knotty Knitty

    A friend of mine, Amy, inspired a bit of a Tongue Twister. (As I loved Tongue Twisters as a kid, this only seems fitting....)

    Knitting is knotting, just not only knotting.
    Crocheting is knotting, but it isn't knitting.
    So it's fitting that knitting could also be called knotting,
    although if crocheting is knotting
    then shouldn't it be knitting?

    Recreate & Replace

    The one nice thing about knitting is that you can fix or recreate something you've done before, or make something you want, but can't find anywhere.

    In this case, I had to replace one of my fingerless gloves / handwarmer (Dashing from that I lost last Thursday while on the train. I had been wearing them getting onto the train, but it probably dropped out of my pocket while in my seat.

    Dashing Handwarmers

    I could have called the train's Lost & Found, but I wasn't too hopeful. On Friday, my hands were *frozen* in the morning, so I just decided to re-make the one I had lost.

    Luckily, I still had two skeins of the same yarn already cake'd, as well as the pattern (with notes on my modifications for it. So on Friday night, I cast-on, then finished about 80% of it on Saturday (as we had a two hour drive for an event).

    Sunday evening, I worked on it while some friends were over, then bound off as well. Unfortunately, the new glove is ever-so-slightly larger than the original. I didn't write down one of my modifications to the pattern, and was only following the pattern and not looking at the original. But this is a minor nit, and since I am an "organic" knitter, I am not going to worry too much about it.

    I also didn't wash & block the new replacement, mostly because I wanted it to wear to work on Monday morning.

    But now I have one finished product, and my hands were nice and warm on today's work commute.

    Friday, November 13, 2009

    A Backlog of Fiber

    I have a backlog of fiber that I need to spin. I had bought a bunch of different 2oz samplers from Spunk Eclectic some time ago, and I've managed to get through only have of the different wool types I purchased!

    I'm currently working on each one diligently (on the drop spindle) and taking notes on each one. I also bought a Phat Fiber Box sampler one month, as it was all *non* sheep wool fibers, and discovered that I don't actually like spinning pure silk, pure bamboo, seasilk, mulberry, or any of the "slick" fibers. (At least not yet).

    AND, there's the spindle and fiber club from Butterfly Girl Designs, and I just got this lovely blend of fiber & spindle for the November club.

    Butterfly Girl Murano Drop Spindle

    AND I just recently acquired 8 oz (1/2 lb) of dark Blue Faced Leiscter, which is just so YUMMY which is getting spun on the Kiwi. I'd *like* to be able to have enough yarn to make a sweater, but in reality, I probably wont...but I'm hoping.

    This doesn't count the Japanese Maple I'm still spinning on my Butterfly Girl resin spindle, OR the Shetland roving on my Kundert.

    Have I mentioned that I knit too? and have several projects on the needles? OOF!

    Wednesday, November 11, 2009

    The In-Between Projects

    Ever have those really big projects that you know are going to take a lot of time, or projects that have miles and miles of boring stitches? In my case, I'm working on my very first sweater, the Slouchy Cardigan by Helene Roux from the book, Greetings from the Knit Cafe, and it's taking "forever".

    At this particular moment, I'm on miles and miles of stockinette stitch, row-by-row, in making the hood. It's not very exciting knitting and really should be done in the presence of other knitters because I can talk and knit without thinking. I didn't even have the foresight to knit the hood in-the-round so I wouldn't have to purl.

    But, I really want this cardigan. So, I'm doing small "in-between projects". If I finish XX inches, then I can do a small quick project before doing another YY inches. It's my "reward" for working on something so "boring". LOL

    Consequently, I'm looking at a small project, maybe handwarmers or a pair of socks, that I can churn out quickly before going back to the drudgery of miles and miles of stockinette stitch.

    I *did* start a small experimental dishtowel (subject of another post, methinks), but that's my in-between project for my "home" knitting -- the Hemlock Ring Blanket by Jared Flood -- because it means looking at a chart.

    My cardigan is my "train" knitting because I can get a lot done on my 2-hour commute (one hour each way). Now, I just need that in-between project for my train knitting.

    Tuesday, November 10, 2009

    Spinner's Study: Shetland

    As a mini-break from the Japanese Maple spinning, I opted to start spinning the lovely brown Shetland I had gotten from Spunky Eclectic

    Shetland Roving

    I had always thought that Shetland was a somewhat scratchy yarn with a high micron count, and I was expecting it to be about the same as the Icelandic wool that I had spun up, but OMG, this stuff is so much softer than Icelandic...almost as soft as merino....not quite, but it's a LOT softer than I was expecting.

    I took a quick look online, and according to the Wild Fibres Website

    Icelandic's micron count: 22-28 for the inner coat 55-65 outer.
    Merino's micron count: 18-24
    Shetland's micron count: 20-33

    So, Shetland *can* be as soft as a decent merino. And the stuff I have is definitely falls in that range. (The merino I am comparing it too is definitely 'softer', but it's pretty darn close.)

    Shetland on Drop Spindle

    As I am still in the "Spinner Study" phase, I have no idea what this will make as of yet. I'm wondering if I should ply it with the merino or lighter brown alpaca that I have. So many decisions!

    Monday, November 9, 2009

    Micron Count System

    As a relatively new spinner, I had to do a bit of research on this concept of ‘microns’ as it relates to wool softness. I’ve seen how some on Ravelry use micron as a determining factor for their fleeces, wools, etc. So, I did a bit of research on the subject.

    In general, the Micron system uses the measurement of a micron (1 millionth of a meter or 1/25,000 of an inch) to determine how the type of wool (either ‘fine’ or ‘coarse’). However, the “micron” count does not necessarily mean is of good quality. The micron count of a lot or fleece of wool uses the “average micron count”. But, apparently, this count can be deceptive.

    For example, if you have a lot of wool, where
    • 50% of the fiber = 35 microns
    • 50% of the wool = 15 microns,
    • the average micron count for that LOT is 25 microns.
    • So, you’d have a lot that’s a mixture of both “coarse” and “fine” wool.

    Consequently, the additional measurement of the amount of variation in fiber diameter (the Standard Deviation Column) can give you a better insight to the quality of wool. So a fleece or lot of wool with its individual fibers closer in diameter could be considered a more “quality” wool [1]

    Type of Wool

    Micron System

    Maximum Standard deviation (microns)


    Under 17.70



    17.70 - 19.14



    19.15 - 20.59



    20.60 - 22.04



    22.05 - 23.49



    23.50 - 24.94



    24.95 - 26.39



    26.40 - 27.84



    27.85 - 29.29



    29.30 - 30.99



    31.00 - 32.69



    32.70 - 34.39



    34.00 - 36.19


    Very Coarse

    36.20 - 38.09


    Very Coarse

    38.10 - 40.20


    Very Coarse

    Over 40.20


    There are no hard-and-fast rules on how different types wools should be used, but there is a general guideline: [2]

    • 16-19 Fine worseted & intimate wear
    • 19-23 Apparel, outerwear, quilt batting / felts
    • 23-28 Sweaters, light upholstery coatings, fiberfill
    • 28-32 Upholstery, tapestries, some carpets
    • 32-38+ Carpets, industrial use.

    Of course, from reading various articles, going micron mad is probably not the best way to raise animals or determine the best wool needed. There’s the role of “crimp” in determining uniformity or density in wool, and is a factor in selecting a fleece. But that’s another topic for another time.

    So conclusion? Micron count should be used as a guidelines for merely determining “softness” of a given wool or as a consideration when selecting a fleece or wool. It shouldn’t be the end-all-be-all of the decision process.

    [2] From the Navajo Sheep Project:

    Sunday, November 8, 2009

    Japanese Maple

    I'm still plugging away on spinning the Japanese Maple colorway from Butterfly Girl Designs on the lovely resin spindle she had sent me.

    Butterfly Girl Spindle & Japanese Maple roving

    However, since the spindle is less than an ounce, it gets very wobbly quickly, so I have to wind off onto a bobbin so I can spin more (as I had gotten about 3.1 ounces). Consequently, I have about 2 full bobbins of the Japanese maple.

    Japanese Maple

    And I still have a lot left to go through. I figure I might be able to get another 1.5 bobbins out of the 3.1 oz of fiber. I'm still not sure if I'm going to keep this as a single or ply it.

    I definitely want to make a shawl out of it -- probably a "flame" pattern shawl, because the colors of the fiber remind me a firey autumn.

    Thursday, November 5, 2009

    My Very First Hat

    Just before Halloween, I cast on my very first hat using left over sock yarn (Socks that Rock Heavyweight). I know a lot of people like to knit hats as they are very easy and very quick to knit, but I hadn't yet. Plus, I seriously needed to get away from the endless rows of stockinette stitch of my cardigan and do something "quick" that would satisfy my 'finished project' need.

    So, a quick look on Ravelry found the no swatch, Lifestyle Top Down Hats (link to Ravelry. The actual website is here. Of course, I'm a sucker for not having to swatch for a given project, so this was perfect.

    I carefully measured my head, and started knitting in the round. When I got to my actual head size, I stopped the increases, and started down the sides of the hat. Then I tried it on, and realized that it was just a *tad* to big.

    Being somewhat of an organic knitter, this didn't bother me "too" much, so I opted to create a "pillbox" style hat. During one point, I asked a friend who regularly does hats, and she told me that she normally takes off 20% off a head measurement to account for yarn stretch. Well, I'll keep that in mind for the next time.

    My very First Hat
    (Photo of it being blocked on a stainless steel mixing bowl)

    The top portion of the hat is follows the pattern, then I did a basket weave stitch pattern along the straight portion of the hat. I then ended with a rolled brim.

    My own version of the pattern is thusly:

    1.    Start the hat per the instructions, and knit until it's your head size.

    2.    Purl one round.

    3.    Count the number of stitches between two markers (They should all be the same number).     Call this number Z

    4.    Divide that number by 2. This is your new stitch count.

        * If Z is even, you have one new stitch count. Call it X.
    (X * 2 = Z stitches)

        *If Z is odd, then you'll have TWO new stitch counts. X1, X2.
    (X1+ X2 should = Z stitches)

    5.    Knit as follows for either odd or even.

        For EVEN Z --> *Knit X stitches, then purl X stitches.* Repeat * for the entire round.

        For ODD Z  ---> *Knit X1 stitches, then purl X2 stitches*.
    (X1 + X2 = Z)  Repeat * for the entire round.

    6.    Knit in the round

        For EVEN Z: Knit X rounds.

        For ODD Z: Knit whatever number of rounds is bigger. Either for X1 and X2 rounds. You want a "square" shape for each weave.

    7.    After X rounds, switch purls & knits.

        For EVEN Z --> *Purl X stitches, then knit X stitches.* Repeat * for the entire round.

        For ODD Z  ---> *Purl X1 stitches, then knit X2 stitches*. 
    (X1 + X2 = Z). Repeat * for the entire round.

    So you basically have something that looks like:
    (x = knits, 0 = purls)

        X X X X 0 0 0 0
        X X X X 0 0 0 0
        X X X X 0 0 0 0
        X X X X 0 0 0 0
        0 0 0 0 X X X X
        0 0 0 0 X X X X
        0 0 0 0 X X X X
        0 0 0 0 X X X X

    8.    Continue knitting Steps 5 - 7 for however many rounds you want. Stop when you're X rounds from where you want to end.

    9.    Change to knitting in the round for X rounds. (You're trying to keep the symmetry)

    10.    Bind off.

    Wednesday, November 4, 2009

    Wheel versus Spindle

    I have a tendency to spend a lot of time on the computer. We don't really watch t.v. so this is our substitute. However, usually, computer time involves some form of either work or play.

    I've taken to keeping my drop spindle right by my computer. Anytime anything takes a bit of time to do (i.e. waiting for something to load up, or if I'm just reading an article online), I use the drop spindle. I have a knitting project usually by my computer, but the problem is that if there is a pattern of some sort, I have to pay attention to the knitting rather than what I'm doing on the computer. Sometimes this is not a good combination. However, I can put down my spinning at any given time and not have to worry about remembering where I left off.

    This also means I get in a lot of little bits of time spinning in between projects. Now that I own a wheel, I realize that if I only had the wheel, I wouldn't get as much done. Don't get me wrong -- I *LIKE* the wheel. And, I'm getting a bunch of spinning practice done on it -- about 10-15 minutes a day. But, it sits in the living room isolated from most of the bustle of the household, which is nice when I want to get some alone time. It's a nice quiet form of meditation.

    However, when I'm with DH or on the computer or on the go, it'll be the drop spindle I reach for the most -- it's very portable. And I know that plying will be more of a "breeze" on the wheel than on the spindle.

    The wheel is going to get a lot of use; but I think the drop spindles are going to get much more used just because of my lifestyle.

    Monday, November 2, 2009

    An Unexpected Twist

    This lovely thing is an Ashford Kiwi.


    I was trying out wheels at Purlescence Yarns because they were having a sale on the Louet Victoria. However, it didn't 'work' for me at all. So, the Purl Girls had me try out several different wheels, and only two of them 'worked' for me.

    -->A very large Ashford "Fairy Tale" wheel -- which was HUGE and is what most people imagine when they think spinning wheel. Honestly, this wheel was a dream to spin, and worked the "best" for me overall.

    -->The Ashford Kiwi which worked also really well for me, as a double treadle.(with the Schacht Ladybug a close second after that).

    I opted for the Kiwi because its footprint is considerably smaller than the Fairy Tale wheel, and cost a LOT LESS than I ever expected a spinning wheel to cost. Plus, it was the best fit for me (I really wanted to love the Schacht Ladybug, but the Kiwi felt so much better!)

    So, it came home with me. I sanded it down, stained red (of course), then stenciled in gold paint, which, although a LOT of work (mostly waiting for things to dry), was a *lot* of fun.

    The drop spindling really helped me pick things quick on the wheel. And I'm still reaching for my drop spindles a lot more, as they are more portable, but I can seriously see this helping me ply, because plying on the drop spindle can be rather difficult as things get very very heavy.

    They say that I should probably pick out a 'name' for it...although honestly, I don't name my drop spindles individually, but I'm debating on Cassandra or Arachne.


    Thursday, October 29, 2009

    Loving Hand-Knit Socks

    I've been pretty much ga-ga over hand-knit socks since I started wearing them. Prior to this, I'd wear your generic white socks that you can buy in a 10-pack at your local Mervyns or Target.
    However, since I started making socks, I've pretty much only worn hand-knit socks (except at the gym, where I still where my generic white socks).

    While I don't have as many as the more experienced sock knitters around, I have quite a few considering how long I've been knitting (less than a year at this point), which is enough for me to rotate them whilst I make yet another pair of socks.

    They give me such a warm & fuzzy feeling (and not just around my feet). Consequently, I've been accumulating random sock yarns to see what I prefer.

    Currently, I've tried:
    - Socks that Rock heavyweight
    - Colinette Jitterbug
    - Dreams in Color Smooshy
    - Sheep Feet
    - Chirapa Mirasol Yarn

    I've liked all of them thus far, but have really enjoyed the Socks that Rock & the Jitterbug yarns. I tend to like 'heavier' sock yarns, because I can't really knit on 0-2 needles.

    Jasmin at the Knitmore Girls podcast has recommended Regia yarn for iron-wearability. So, that will be next on my list to try.

    Here's a photo of my last pair of socks that I finished knitting for myself. I have to cast on a new pair very soon, as I find that I have more sock yarn than any other form of yarn thus far (in terms of number of skeins versus amount IN skeins....)

    Yellowstone Socks

    Wednesday, October 28, 2009

    Train Knitting & Idle Hands

    I have a commute up to work. Luckily, the train & bus are readily accessible and save me from having to drive (and pay exorbiant parking fees) up in San Francisco. The commute also means that I have approximately 1.5 hours in which I get to knit every single day. This knitting time means that I've gotten a lot more projects done (provided I don't spin on the train as well!).

    On the train, there are those folks who work, those that read, those that sleep, and those that just sit there and do *nothing* on the train.

    What bothers me are the people who just sit there doing nothing. Oh, they might be listening to their ipods or other musical device, or they might just sit there staring into nothingness. Now, i know that people have every right to sit there and do absolutely nothing. It's not so much that I see it as as a waste of their time, but more that I see it as a waste of time in general -- all those idle hands which could be doing *something*.

    It's like when I see someone wearing bright flourescent orange that is not a hunter in the woods, a construction worker or somesuch similarly dangerous profession that requires being "seen". I get twitchy. NO ONE looks good in bright flourescent orange.

    Part of it is that I am extremely active and do so much; either crafting, sewing, DIY-stuff, hiking, being outdoorsy, or whatever. So, seeing so many 'zoning' out into nothingness for an hour gives me that twitchy feeling. I know it shouldn't bother me, but there ya go.


    Tuesday, October 27, 2009

    Spindle Club & Spinning from the Fold

    Back in late August, I joined the Butterfly Girl Spindle & Fiber club to get my fix of spindles. For September, she sent me this lovely black & gold resin spindle, along with some very tasty roving (a whole 3.1 oz) of the colorway Japanese Maple.

    It was 70% merino, 20% bamboo, 10% firestar (angelina). The colors are just *GORGEOUS* (and my favorite colors!).

    Butterfly Girl Spindle & Japanese Maple roving

    I just got around to trying to spin it (after finishing Nightsky project, I felt like I deserved a bit of different fun.

    However, with the different types of fiber in the roving, I wasn't quite sure how to spin it. I broke the very HUGE carded batt/roving into small sections (lengthwise), and spun up the first one as I normally do (about 1/8ths of an ounce). The colors were getting *too* blended and muddied, and there wasn't any clear dilineation between them; not to mention the firestar was being blended only in one area.

    So, I thought, why not spin from the fold? Abby Franquemont wrote a wonderful article on spinning from the fold and she has this to say:
    you get different colour effects spinning from the fold than spinning from the end.... if you have a fiber which has multiple colours running the long way, spinning from the fold can let you control the sequence of those, and keep discrete colour changes so you don't end up with muddied colours.
    and this:
    in blends where you have really different fibers, or widely divergent staple lengths, you may find it easier to make sure you are keeping the blend blended as you spin.
    Well, in this case, I have BOTH of those issues going. I haven't quite spun from the fold yet, but I like to think I'm doing okay spinning wise, despite only having done it for 3-4 months.

    So, I took the next section of fiber and spun it from the fold. Viola! The colors were coming out more and the firestar/angelina was being blended a lot more into all of the yarn instead of just one section.

    Currently, I'm very happy with the results. I've tried to spin straight bamboo and was very unhappy spinning it (too slick for me!) but blended with the merino makes it just absolutely love.

    And the Butterfly Girl spindle SPINS LIKE A DREAM. It's super light (less than an ounce) and spins fast. I'm spinning a lovely heavier laceweight yarn with it. The colors definitely remind me of a Japanese Maple or a very colorful sari.

    This is going to become a lovely shawl, probably a fan/feather, just to show off the various colors. I haven't picked out a pattern as of yet, I want to wait until I finish spinning more of it to see how the colors play it out.

    I can't wait to see what this month's spindle / fibers are going to be!

    Monday, October 26, 2009

    The Top Whorl Spindle in Ancient Times

    I'm a big history buff, especially Ancient Egypt. So, imagine my pleasure at finding some actual text at spindles in Ancient Egypt in the book, Prehistoric textiles: the development of cloth in the Neolithic and Bronze by E. J. W. Barber (The link shows a preview of the book. You won't get the whole book, but enough to whet your appetite!)

    Now, I've always thought that low-whorl spindles were the most commonly used *everywhere* and that top-whorl spindles were more 'modern' (as modern as spindles get). However, imagine my surprise at finding this bit of text:

    "European peasants since Classical times at least have used low-whorl spindles. ......[but] Herodotus added to those manners and customes of the Ancient Egyptins which exactly contradicted the common practice of mankind the fact that their dropped their spindle whorl uppermost instead of whorl downwards. Ancient Egyptian paintings of spindles in use invariably show the whorl at the top of the shaft; the very clear hieroglyph of a spindle in the sign-groups for spinning shot it there too."

    Not only that, but preserved spindles show a notch or groove to catch the thread in the whorl!

    Not only did the Ancient Egyptians used it, but also in the Middle East in the 4th millenium (3300 BC) by women in Khuzistan (Iran), by Bedouin women, in ancient Persia, and by the Hittites in 800 BC.

    The book, thus far, has been a very interesting read. It covers textiles from domestication of fibers, to spinning, to weaving, felting, and dye'ing. A must for any given person interested in the history of fiber. :-)

    Saturday, October 24, 2009

    The SF Opera Sale

    Today, we ran off to the SF Opera Sale. I won't bore you with the excrutiating details, but the poort SF Opera Staff were completely overwhelmed by the SHEER NUMBER OF PEOPLE who had heard about the sale via Twitter, Facebook, etc. They *thought* they were going to get the same turnout as 2004, which was to say, not very much.

    The line to get in went around the block. Luckily, we didn't wait as long as some folks there in line. However, how does this relate to fiber-y goodness, you might ask?

    I figured there might be a line (but not to THAT exctent). So I brought my knitting project with me (which I always carry. But, because we were going to be out all day running around (which at the time, didn't realize that meant spending almost ALL day at the SF Opera Sale), I brought two knitting projects and my drop spindle...just in case I got bored. Because, gawd forbid I not have something to do with my hands.

    I finished the second front piece of my Slouchy cardigan while in line (admittedly, I had only about 9.5 inches left of stockinette stitch), then proceeded to spin my Coopworth while waiting in line. And, I managed to finish off 1.5 oz of fiber spinning a laceweight yarn while waiting in line.

    AND, while perusing the racks of costumes for sale, I found a box containing CONES of Jagger Maine line lace weight yarn (5000+ yards on each cone) for $5.00 / cone! I called a friend over (who also knits & spins) and we oogled the find. There were only several colors, but they were almost all of the same lot. As she loves orange (and this was a lovely orange), she bought several cones, while I took the gold color and cream color cones. There were also two bags of several cakes of about fingering weight yarn. She took one bag and I took the other bag.

    Needless to say, we did our little dance of joy at the yarn find.

    Thursday, October 22, 2009

    A bit of Knitting & Spinning...

    Spinning: I washed both "Night Sky" skeins last night, snapped, whacked, and hung them up to dry. So far, they look lovely, and I'm going to have to find *something* to do with them. I'm thinking a small shawl of some sort. There's about 200 yards of the yarn over 2 skeins. It's very lovely, and I'm rather pleased with it

    Handspun: 3ply Nightsky

    Handspun: 3ply Nightsky

    Knitting: I started the 2nd front piece of my Slouchy Cardigan on Oct. 15th. I had to *frog* nearly half of it on the 20th because I mis-measured. However, today, I am only a few rows (about 20 rows) away from doing the shoulder shaping and binding it off. YAAY.

    This cardigan is taking a lot longer than expected. However, it is my train knitting (I primarily only work on it while on the train) so I shouldn't really be surprised. I still have to knit the sleeves & hood. Then it's blocking and finishing!

    Speaking of projects that take Hemlock Blanket (by Jared Flood) is progressing very very slowly. I have about 5 pattern repeats left, but there are 5 rounds of stockinette between each repeat, PLUS there's over 500 stitches in each round. Consequently, each round takes "forever".

    But, this is my "sit and talk" knitting (usually in the company of friends) because each stockinette round is pretty boring. So, it's taking longer to knit. However, the blanket looks lovely, and once I get it blocked, it should be pretty darn warm!

    I'm itching to make another pair of socks because they're such a quick knit. I'm not usually prone to doing a lot of time-consuming projects. My need for quick completion of projects (and the satisfaction that goes with it) is all-consuming.

    Either that, or I should stop spinning and knit more?


    Wednesday, October 21, 2009

    Finally Finished

    I am *finally* done with my overly ambitious spinning project (1/2 lb of yarn spun into a 3-ply).

    It took a little over a month to spin that much on my handy-dandy Kundert spindle, but there you have it. I finished the last skein two Saturdays ago (10/10), created my Peruvian three-ply ball, then finished plying the second skein this past Saturday (10/17) while walking around the Renaissance Faire.

    For plying, I used my very heavy Ashford spindle (my first spindle) and realized how much I don't like doing that because the spindle gets very heavy very fast. I had to make two skeins because it was getting much too heavy. I might have to consider getting a low-whorl spindle (as suggested by Abby Franqumont) and ply that way.

    However, the finished product (2 skeins @ 100 yards a skein @ a sport/DK weight) is lovely, and sitting on the niddy noddies, as I have not had the time to wash both skeins as of yet.

    Thursday, October 15, 2009

    Half a Pound of Wool & an FO

    Last night (10/14), I (more or less) finished the final skein for my 3-ply sock yarn that I've been working on for the past month. I *suspect* that I am a wee bit short on the final ply, but I still have roving of that dye lot so I can make more if I need to do so.

    However, I'm *itching* to finish the project, dammit. My patience is thinning as it's been over a month since I started it. Nearly 1/2 pound of wool is a lot to get through. You wouldn't think so, but when you only spin about 10-15 minutes a day, it's a lot of wool to get through (on a spindle).

    On the plus side, I finished DH's heel-less / toe-less socks last night. That man has very large feet, and it took *forever* to get those darn things done.

    Unfortunately, as I finished casting off the socks, I got a ping on Ravelry from another knitter asking if I would be willing to part with some of the Purple Smooshy yarn because he needed my particular colorway for a pair of socks *he* was making. Of course, this was the same yarn I had *just* finished using on the aforementioned socks and had about 8" of yarn left.

    So I let him know the unfortunate news then tried to retrieve said socks so I could properly block and finish the ends....alas to no avail as he didn't want to take them off. So I settled on taking a photo instead.

    Circus Socks

    Cats & Yarn

    I am very fortunate to have some wonderful cats that don't look at yarn as a plaything. I have heard many a horror story from friends whose cats got into their Stash, and they have come home to find a tangled mess of some of their best yarns.

    The most my cats ever do with yarn related things is to swat at my drop-spindle as it's moving towards the floor. However, I've quickly stopped them from doing *that* with a gentle nudge / kick with my foot*

    My cats, however, do like fabric. Anytime I lay out fabric in order to sew, they are inevitably right on top of it looking at me with innocent eyes. They do the same anytime I am looking at any piece of paper on the desk or table. Luckily, they have learned to sit quietly in the corner (after I pet them vigourously) so that I can cut my fabric in relative peace and quiet.

    The most any of them do is play with my measuring tape because it's very long and has a tendency to slide around.

    Pima & the Measuring Tape

    But, my cats are older (14+ years) so they might be beyond kitten antics of playing (and disemboweling) with a skein of yarn. So, I guess if and when we ever get a new kitten, I might have to seriously start locking up my projects and my Stash in rubber bins to prevent them from making a gnarled mess.

    *I'd never ever kick a cat on purpose**, but a gentle "nip" with my foot keeps them away from the drop spindle.
    **I have accidently kicked a cat, because they got very much underfoot just as I was moving my foot forward.

    Wednesday, October 14, 2009

    Sweater Season

    In our area, the weather is starting to turn from Summer to Fall (including wet stormy weather). The only good thing about this turn of events is that I can start wearing sweaters, scarves, and gloves

    The scarves, cowls, and gloves I've knit. I'm still working on my very first cardigan, and have not knit a sweater as of yet. I should really rectify that.

    Saturday, October 10, 2009

    Ambitious Spinning Attempts

    As mentioned in an earlier post, I dyed about 6 oz of roving into various color lots in order to spin into a 3-ply sock yarn.

    So far, I've managed to finish spinning the first two lots:
    Lot 1: Colors: dark red/burgandy, dark blue.
    Lot 2: Dark blue / sky blue

    I'm still working on Lot 3 (which I had attempted to dye black, but came out dark blue/black/grey)

    The white splotches in the fiber were spun in nicely, so I got a very interesting mottled affect in the yarn for lots 1-2, and lot 3 is also doing nicely.

    I had originally started this project for the Ravelry Group, Spindles, as their September challenge was the "Night Sky". I had gone over to Google Sky for inspiration and saw lovely magentas and blues mixed in with black/dark blue.

    I might have been a little bit overly ambitious in my goal to spin about 6 oz of fiber on a SINGLE drop spindle in 3 weeks. Ugh. It's already October, and I've still got about 1 oz of Lot 3 left in a little baggy waiting to be spun.

    However, I'm trudging along. Lots 1-2 have been wound into Peruvian balls and are now sitting idly in my Monster Yarn bowl, awaiting for their final brethen to be spun then wound, before I begin the 3-ply

    Friday, October 9, 2009

    Quviut on the Brain

    I appear to have quviut on the brain. It's a fiber I've been *itching* to try ever since I saw it at Stitches West 2009.

    Of course, it's *expensive*, plus since i don't like lace weight yarn, I'd have to get the fingering or sport weight yarn, which is less yardage per weight.I don't even want to contemplate trying to spin it! Oof.

    So, I started looking at various places that sell quviut and their relative prices. Not looking good in terms of expense. I might just wait a little while longer, at least until Stitches West 2010 and see how much Windy Valley MuskOx is selling them for there.

    Thursday, October 8, 2009

    My, What Big Feet You Have!

    Admittedly, I am a 'selfish' knitter, much like my sewing & costuming. I usually make things only for myself because they take so much time.

    The only exception is making things for my DH. (However, I don't usually sew anything for him, because he already knows how to sew!) Lest you think I'm very selfish, I *love* to bake and cook for other people and give those away as gifts, so it balances out.

    But, I did ask him if he wanted anything knitted because I'm always making socks for myself. He did admit that he wanted toe-less/heel-less socks for use during his classes at the Circus School (DH does aerobatic stuff on silk, rope, etc. No trapeze work because he's too big for the actual trapeze bars.) Plus apparently, socks are *very* big at the Circus School and he wants to show off his own pair.

    I figure, how hard can it be? (I know, famous last words). After all, it's merely a sock where you don't knit the toe and don't knit the heel. So I decided to wing the pattern based off Cat Bordhi's Spiraling Corialis socks (of which I've made several pairs, so I'm familiar with the pattern). I have plenty of left over sock yarn. He okay'd the Smooshy Dreams in Color purple yarn, so I'm using that for him. Plus, I already had noted the gauge & needle choice for my last pair of socks using this yarn.

    Actually, it's turned out to be a relatively easy pattern to wing.

    First, I got his master numbers, then I started off the pattern as follows.

    1) I started his socks right after the "finished" toe portion. Cat's handy-dandy charts told me I should have 66 stitches after the toe, so I cast on 66 stitches on a magic loop and divided them evenly into 33 stitches for sole & instep.

    2) I knit up the expansion rows to fit over the arch of his foot, and ended the arch expansion rows to the prescribed number of stitches (98)

    3) Just before the start of the heel turn, I knit several ribbing rows on the heel, then bound off the sole stitches, but continued knitting several rows (ribbed) on the instep.

    4) Then I cast on the same number of 'sole' stitches that I had bound off and began knitting in the round again.

    5) I worked up the leg.

    It's worked out relatively well so far on the first sock (normally, I knit 2-toe-up at a time, but I wanted to make sure I could test the pattern first!)

    The pattern is working out well, except for the fact that DH has:
    a) very large feet (size 13s) so it took forever to get the foot completed, even without the toes

    b) his ankle tapers very quickly so I had to decrease a few rounds then rib in order to make sure that the cuff of the sock doesn't flop over.

    I've pretty much finished the first sock, and started on the second sock. Although the Smooshy Dreams in Color is a HUGE skein (450 yards), I was a bit concerned that I don't have quite enough for two socks because of aforementioned large feet. So I stopped knitting the 1st one (which he wants another inch on the cuff) and cast on the second sock at the other end of the cake just to make sure I can even up the length of the cuffs before finishing both off on 2 circs.

    Wednesday, September 30, 2009

    Airport Spindling.

    We had a long wait for our flight out of Bozeman, MT. So, I opted to use the drop spindle instead of knitting in the restaurant & terminal. It was nice because I didn't need to pay that much attention to what I was doing, and could pack it up quickly without the need to finish a row.

    The waitress at the airport restaurant exclaimed she hadn't seen a drop spindle in nearly 25 years, and "did people still do that?!?" I most assuredly told her they did; I think she might be getting one relatively soon because she kept coming by and just pelting me with questions.

    In the terminal, spindling got me strange looks from one of the airport TSA officers (male) who was walking with his partner (female). He just kept staring and I did my best to not stare back. As they walked by, I could hear the female officer explaining that it was to make yarn and how it worked. LOL.

    The airplane to Seattle was super tiny (being a prop plane) and there was hardly room for DH to sit comfortably, so I put away the drop spindle and opted to just work on the slouchy cardigan. I got a bit more spindling in while at the Seattle airport, waiting for our connection. However, on the plane home, I put away the spindle again, because I was in the middle seat between DH and another gent.

    Monday, September 28, 2009

    Yellowstone Sky Socks

    Lots of traffic conjestion in Yellowstone had me finishing my lovely pair of socks while *in* Yellowstone. I'm rather pleased. A lot of the knitting was done at night before bed while waiting for photographs to download onto the hard-drives.

    I even got to work on a few rows while sitting on a river bank waiting for the light to turn so I could take a photograph. There's something rather "zen" about sitting in nature and knitting. LOL

    Luckily, it was a small project that fit into my camera bag very well.

    Therefore, I'm dubbing these my "Yellowstone Sky Socks" (Photos to come later...)

    Friday, September 25, 2009

    Bison Fiber!

    In Lamar Valley, where a lot of buffalo roam, we wandered some of the fields before Lamar River, taking care to stay away from the bison on the *other* side of the river.

    We were avoiding bison patties, when I saw them....fur. Specifically bison fiber. I nearly jumped up and down in excitement. DH laughed at me. I picked up a bit of down -- very soft; as well as darker fur (probably the hump fur) which was very very coarse and very very dry.

    There were a lot, but most were all matted. But I managed to get some that looked relatively clean and mat-free. I didn't get enough to spin a lot, but maybe if I work it in with other fiber?

    Thursday, September 24, 2009

    Trip Knitting & Spinning

    We're off to Yellowstone for the week. I've packed two knitting projects & a spindle to go with me...just in case I get bored.

    Project A: A new pair of socks using Colinette Jitterbug. I've just recently cast on both socks at the same time, and have worked my way through the toes.

    Project B: the Slouchy Cardigan. I'm currently working on the front right piece of the cardigan

    Project C: The last 2 oz of the night sky project I'm currently *trying* to slog my way through. It's on the Kundert Spindle.

    Thursday, September 17, 2009


    Blergh. I had to frog way back on the cardigan front I had been working on for the past week, because, I , like a dumbass, did not check the measurements between decreases; I just blissfully kept knitting stockinette. So, now, it was at least 2 inches larger than the back piece.


    What I should have done is double check the measurements given in the pattern, then made sure I had the right length before moving onto each section of decreases. As it was, each section was about one inch too long.

    I had to frog nearly 1/2 of my work.

    Saturday, September 12, 2009

    Spinning at the Ren Faire

    We spent most of the day at Ardenwood Ren Faire, where I basically got to spin all day yesterday whilst walking around (with the drop spindle, of course) and be ‘period’. LOL.

    I got stopped plenty of times mostly by little kids, thinking I was one of the performers. I gave them quick introductions to the art.

    And I got to hang out with a few of the Ren faire guilds who had spinning stuff (yarns, spinning wheels, carders, fleece, etc) out in front. They’d see me walking around and wave me over then we’d geek out on fiber.

    All in all, a lovely day.

    Wednesday, September 9, 2009

    Bits & Pieces

    On the train, I finished the back piece of my very first cardigan. Then proceeded to cast on one of the front pieces. As it's an asymmetrical front, I have to do it piecemeal versus steeking it.

    I'm sorely missing having a pair of socks on the needles, and will probably cast on a pair tonite at one point.

    This past weekend, I dye'd up some superwash roving that I had. And discovered that the crock pot is *just* a wee bit small for 2 oz of largish dth wroving. The coloration wasn't as consistent as I wanted (being white splotches in places), but still the final product looked kinda neat, and should spin up nicely.

    What's nice about crock pot/kettle dye'ing is that once the dye is mixed in and the roving added, you pretty much leave it alone until the dye is completely absorbed, which can take several hours.

    It's like a stew you have to only check on every now and then to make sure it's going well.

    The mohair I started spinning last week was starting to become a severe PITA, and I haven't even gone through the first 2 oz! It's starts out nice to spin, and then it turns on me, and I start not to like it as much.

    I had to put the project down and started spinning the sky blue roving I dye'd last week JUST to give myself a break from the mohair. I finished the sky blue roving this past weekend, and am going to trudge back into the mohair.

    I think that while I kinda like mohair, it'd be better for me to have it in a blended roving with a lot of wool.

    Once I'm done with spinning the next 2 oz of mohair, I will probably ply it with either alpaca or merino. I keep waffling between the two.

    For fun, I took apart the sweater I picked up at the thrift shop last week. It took a while to pick out all the seams, but it wasn't too bad. Then I discovered that it was knit double-stranded.

    The yarn is a beautiful soft chocolate tweed. The back piece, I simply kept as two strands and will knit something out of it like that, but I'm trying to separate the two yarns on the arm pieces (each strand is probably a fingering - sport weight) and being a swift PITA.

    I finally put it down after a bit of frustration.

    The sweater was *huge* and I will hopefully get a thousand yards of the yarn out of it. Unfortunately, I accidentally cut outside of the seam, so there's one skein that has a whole bunch of little knots that I'll spit splice later.

    Sunday, September 6, 2009


    I dragged my DH over to Purlescence yarns today in order to pick up some more generic Louet wool so I can show W how to use the drop spindle. They only had a superwash wool, so I picked that up (1/2lb).

    Why the 1/2 lb?
    Because I also wanted to try my hand at making a 3-ply sock yarn and keep in the theme of the Spindler's group Sept. challenge -- the night sky. I don't know if I'll be able to spin up 1/2 lb of fiber in 1 month, but I'm going to try!

    So, I got it home, and started the dye'ing process.
    I broke up the whole thing into 2 oz lots, and then went ahead and dye'd them separately

    Lot 1: Colors: dark red/burgandy, dark blue.
    Lot 2: Dark blue / sky blue
    Lot 3: Black & Blue
    The last 2oz are being saved for helping W learn how to drop spindle.

    I used the crock pot I had gotten at the thrift store several weeks ago, and I've discovered a small problem -- it's too small. It was fine with smaller amounts of fiber or just yarn, but this fiber is really "thick" so I had to really push it down into the crock pot.

    All of the fiber didn't fit well in the pot, and after removing it from the crock pot, I noticed all the white splotches of undyed fiber. Being an "organic" type craft person, I decided to just let it ride, and hung up each lot to dry. We'll see how it spins up.

    Wednesday, September 2, 2009

    Just a few photos

    Since the evening's plans fell through, I took some photos before practicing the fiddle. This is especially for those friends *cough* who complain I don't take enough photos :-P And, for those of you on Ravelry, I managed to actually update those projects & photos.

    Sky Blue Roving -- It's some generic Louet roving I dye'd a Sky Blue.
    First Dyed Roving: Skyblue

    Icelandic Wool Skein = ~ 162 yards
    Icelandic WOol

    Brick Red Corriedale = Worseted
    Corriedale Dyed Brick Red

    My First 3 ply = ~15 yards
    My First 3-ply

    Mohair I'm currently spinning

    Tuesday, September 1, 2009

    Wrong Wool!

    I *finally* finished spinning my wool late Monday night(I had 1/2 oz left, and wanted to finish, dammit!) And, it turns out that what *I* thought was Finn, turns out to be Falkland wool. Oopsie!

    I ended up with 264 yards of laceweight yarn from the 2 oz top I had bought, of which I am very very pleased. Once I ply it with itself, I'll (hopefully) end up with about 132 yards of wool of fingering - DK weight, which I think I'll be doing my first 2-color project with it and another yarn.

    I'm debating on whether to dye it a nice dark blue or keep it the lovely natural ivory white. Hmm. Decisions, decision.

    I also attempted to spin a sampling of mulberry silk on the lighter spindle. I have not had really great experience with the "slippery" fibers as of yet, and this was really no exception. I went through half the sample, then wound what I had onto an empty thread bobbin and put the un-spun half away. Ick.

    I might just stick with wool or wool blends.
    Tonite, I did try out the new-to-me-crockpot dye technique, while I made dinner.

    I had about 1 1/8 oz of generic pencil wool roving I had (unknown sheep). I used a little bit of Jacquard blue, and set the thing to "HIGH". I'm deathly afraid of felting wool during the dye process, so I figured this was a good test run.

    By the time dinner was done, the wool was pretty much done, so I let it rest while I ate dinner, then rinsed it out. Now it's hanging, and is just this lovely lovely sky blue. It's got slightly darker blue patches here and there with bits of white and light blue.

    I can't wait for it to dry and see how it spins out. I know dye can make something a bit more difficult to spin, so I want to see how this pans out. I know I'll probably have to draft it out more than its previous cousins whom I spun THEN dyed.

    Also, I made myself a small distaff from some of the practice spinning I had done a few months earlier. I had a small skein at about 50 or so yards, which makes for a perfect size distaff. I'm hoping that it makes using the drop spindle a wee bit easier.


    I *love* thrift store shopping. It's always amazing what you can find. I wanted to get a used crockpot for dye-ing purposes. It was the first time I'd been in this particular thrift shop, although I keep driving by and thinking I needed to go inside.

    Yeah, I came out with more than I anticipated and spent > $20.00. LOL
    I found a lovely wool fair isle cardigan made in "British Colonial Hong Kong", which fit me, and will be nice for winter. It's only a little bit itchy (heck, it's wool), but won't be so bad with long sleeves. And I found a lovely tweed men's cashmere / mohair sweater made in Italy (SO SOFT!) that I plan to totally unravel and re-use the yarn. Oh, and I did find the crockpot I wanted, which works just fine. The crock pot was the most expensive thing at $8.50.

    I had to drag myself out because I still had grocery shopping to do. I love treasure hunting in thrift stores.

    Wednesday, August 26, 2009

    What I don't Enjoy..

    I finally finished knitting my little neckerchief (Lacy Baktus). It's a bit smaller than the sample photo listed on Ravelry, but it's nice because you can make it any size depending on how much yarn you have. The pattern is relatively easy to memorize which makes for good train knitting.

    However, I did have to frog several rows because I was screwing up decreases AND because I was running out of yarn and had to be more aggressive in decreasing rows. But, it's my first FO from spun to knit.

    And, because I need for something to work on while on the train, I started knitting up my very first cardigan using Cascade Eco Baby Alpaca. OMG, this stuff is amazingly soft and an absolute pleasure to knit up.

    This past weekend, I actually managed to get a bit of spinning done. I had several small samples of non-wool fibers; I thought to give them a try.

    The samples ranged from bamboo, mulberry silk, tussah silk, etc, mixed with nylon or alpaca. And because the samples were relatively small in size (anywhere from 1/8 - 3/8 oz) they spun up relatively quickly on the drop spindle.

    Mini-Batt Sample

    The colors aren't what I would have chosen for myself (pink, a pinky salmon, and a pink/blue combo), but three of the samples from different fiber artists actually meshed reallly well together. So, I did my first 3-ply, which actually came out very nicely. I was rather pleased.

    Each of the samples was spun to laceweight (yaay!), and I managed to pull about 15-20 yards out of each one (depending on weight). The 3-ply after the twist had been set came out to a fingering/DK weight (Yaay) @ 20 yards. For now, it'll just act as a sample skein for a 3-ply.

    I'm rather pleased with the whole experiment that I can attempt to do a nice sock yarn and knit that up. :-)

    I tried two other samples, including one that uses a combination of bamboo, mulberry silk, and sea cel, and I had to put it away because I ended up fighting with it and did *not* enjoy it at all. I think partially because each different fiber was just 'laid' ontop of each other and not blended well.

    Note to self:
    I did not enjoy a straight mulberry silk, straight bamboo, or straight tussah silk.

    AND I do not enjoy roving where different colored fibers are just "laid" ontop of each other ESPECIALLY if each of the colored fibers are actually different fibers. It makes drafting a PITA. However, I did enjoy a really good blended roving (like the alpaca/silk/bamboo combination)

    Friday, August 21, 2009

    Knitting & Spinning

    For the colored BFL, I'm currently making a lacy baktus scar as I have just enough yarn (110 yards) to make it long enough to wrap around my neck with a button for a closure.

    However, today, while waiting at the doctor's, I had to frog to the half-way point, because I totally messed up my decrease rows. I was trying to work through the mistakes I had made, but realized that blocking was not going to hide them. Ah well. Luckily, it's a quick knit.

    I finished spinning up the Icelandic wool, which was absolutely fun to spin up, but now that it's on the niddy noddy, it's going to be a very scratchy wool to anyone who has the slightest sensitivity. I would like to spin more of it up, but am pretty sure that it's going to be too scratchy for something close to the skin -- it'd have to be a bulky sweater of some sort.

    Regardless, I managed to spin up about 132 yards out of 2 ounces @ fingering weight.

    Icelandic Wool

    This is still a steady improvement of overall yardage from last month. I'm getting the hang of spinning 'thinner'. Right now, my 'fingering' weight STILL plumps up to about a worseted weight or heavier once I set the twist with washing. *sigh* I really want it to remain within the sport/DK weight range. I don't know if I need to add more twist or just draft thinner in order to keep it at that fingering weight so I can ply later.

    Also, I am debating what to do with the yarn I dyed this weekend. The skeins plumped up considerably after the dye. I'm thinking I'm going to make a handbag then felt it. One came out a beautiful blood red, and the last skein put in came out a faded red -- like a red shirt left too long out in the hot sun after too many washings. I might overdye it to see what it turns into.

    I am finding myself reaching for the spindle a lot more frequently than the knitting needles as of late. I'm still knitting more than I am spinning, but I find myself mediating more with the spindle.