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.