Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wind Knitting Machine

Okay, I thought this was pretty darn cool.

Wind Knitting Machine

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Cakes versus Balls

I wonder if this classifies as an age-old question that knitters might have? Which is better? Cakes or Balls? Honestly, I'm a big fan of cakes, myself. I can make two-things-at once (like socks) with a large enough cake, plus there's no rolling balls of yarn to wrangle with a bowl or whatnought. AND, winding a cake with a ball winder + swift is a lot faster than making a ball with a swift & hand-winding said ball.

However, I do like my yarn balls as well for certain types of yarn. There are some yarns, I have found, that like to grip itself, so when you pull from the center of the cake, you end up with a snarled blob of yarn that's managed to wrap itself around and you have to sit there and unpick that snarled mess out of its tangled state.

Also, as I've started spinning, some of my more energetic handspun is much happier with a bit more tension. Those curly-qs would really wreck havoc by looping around each other in the middle of the cake.

So, for my Japanese Maple, I rolled them up into yarn balls. I popped in an anime CD and spent about 30 minutes just winding 3 skeins into balls.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Ditty Bag Sewing

I have a fondness for bags, because they're useful and I can put things in them, like knitting & spinning projects. I also use them to store a variety of things. Plus, I can churn out a ditty bag, small reticule/purse, etc in a very short amount of time.

Bags are great for first-time sewers because they are simple; you can make something functional; and you can make something that matches your outfit. PLUS, it doesn't take a lot of fabric, so you can easily use fabric scraps from bigger projects to make your bag.

On Saturday, I went over to JoAnn’s crafts to pick up a few things, and I passed by their clearance aisle, and decided to take a look. They had a whole slew of their swatch samples on sale for $0.97 - $2.99. These are about 24 x 24 inches of some nice fabric -- everything from silk to brocades to jacquards to cotton to wool.

So, I went through their bin to grab some, because I thought these would be perfect for little project bags or small accessories where I didn’t need a lot of fabric (and the price was right). And I thought I’d let the fabric dictate what it would look like in the end. (I had no plan, really, as of yet)

When I got home, two pieces of fabric, a sea green in a poly-rayon and a dark forest green in a loose weave jumped out at me. Two different fabrics with two different textures. PLUS, as I remembered I had some sea foam ribbon from a previous project (teaching ribbon flowers)

My first plan? Make a circular bottom out of the dark green. Use the light green as the body of the bag, and then maybe use the dark green as trim. It didn’t work, because I mis-measured and cut the light green yardage too short to fit around the circular bottom. So, instead,

1. Made strips of the dark green & light green,
2. Alternated them to make a single piece of fabric
3. Treated that as a single piece of fabric for the body and cut out what I needed
4. Seamed up the sides, and attached it to the circular bottom.
5. Got some left over fabric from a previous project, and lined it.
6. Added a ‘casing’ to the top of the bag so it’ll cinch close
7. Used the green ribbon and pleated it for a decorated top…which also hides the casing
8. Used leftover of the alternating fabric to make a “strap” to add to the side of the bag (which also hides the string for the closure.

Shopping time: 30 minutes
Sewing time: 20 minutes -- mostly to reconfigure the original bag and having to seam rip 2x!
Uses: knitting-on-the-go, drop spindling, or basically anything where you need a ditty bag…..


Friday, April 23, 2010

Sheep Pigs

The problem with the Internets is that once you follow a really interesting link, you kinda want to do more research, which leads to more interesting links, naseum...until you've found that you've wasted several hours doing "research".

Luckily, this only wasted about 15 minutes of my time, but it IS fiber related:

A friend posts this link about sheep-pigs. They really do look like sheep.

So, I google the sheep name, "Mangalitsa" & "spinning". Why? Because if pig looks like a sheep, then SOMEONE has got to at least tried and spin this fiber, right?

Which leads me to this page, along with the following comment

Here in Lincolnshire, England the wool of the Lincolnshire Curly pig was used in the 19th Century for spinning and then knitting into waistcoats for workers in the fields. The wool is not only warm but hydrophobic and we can speculate that,after getting caught in an English rain shower, all one needed to do was shake the waistcoat vigourously to get it dry. When carding the wool the bristles should be discarded. To make the wool easier to knit, by decreasing the risk of breaking, some longer fibres were often mixed in from e.g Lincolnshire long wool sheep. The Lincolnshire Curly Coat went extinct in 1972 but earlier in the 20th century they had been crosss bred with Mangalitzas which were very similar. Today we have reintroduced Curly Coated pigs, ie Mangalitzas, to Lincolnshire and have experimented with knitting up their wool. The small quantities available have necessitated small scale demonstrative pieces so far but we hope to do more in 2010. For those interested, we will post more details of our activities during the summer on our Blog at

So, of course, I have to go look at that particular URL, and they have only a little bit of information, but I found this one fascinating.

Records for the Lincoln Show of 1911 show that 123 Curly Coat pigs were entered with Class 25 having five entries for “three clean washed Lincolnshire Curly Coat

And, this is where I hit a dead end, because the website has not much more and googling Lincolnshire pigs leads me to nothing except pages about the extinct breed.

Now, this only makes me curioser on whether or not the fiber can be spun from the new breed of Lincoln-Mangalitizas woolly pig. I think I shall have to email the Rectory Reserve.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Perfection is the Enemy of the Done (or The Best Camera)

As a very wise and accomplished costume designer once told me, "Perfection is the Enemy of the Done."

These words were said to me during one of her corsetry classes as she watched me painstakingly work on some fiddly-bit on the project. Her words shocked me, as it was probably one of the best pieces of advice that I had ever heard. She was right, of course. If I continued trying to get this one teensy thing right, I wouldn't be done by the end of the class -- and as the purpose of the class was to understand the basics of creating this particular corset, I could worry about the fiddly bits later and ensure that I get help & feedback on the big parts.

I've taken her advice (and dispensed it, as well) on my sewing projects. Yes, I should do a very good job on ensuring that everything fits, is well tailored, and that there are no loose thread ends to be seen. HOWEVER, if it's going to take me 4 hours to *perfect* one small part of a costume and I only have 6 hours to finish? Well, why would I spend 4 hours to perfect something when spending one (1) hour can get me "good" enough until I can make it better later? Besides, who is going to care that the inside lining stitches under the arm aren't 100% straight? Who's going to see it?

So, I've become somewhat of an "organic" costumer, in that sense. I've also carried that philosophy over to my knitting & crocheting. Dropped stitch? Easily fixed without tearing my hair out. Did I end up with 1-2 extra stitch in a row? Not a problem. I'll just K2TOG or P2TOG it out of existence (as long as it doesn't completely mess up the pattern)

I'll use lifelines, stitch markers, and all other manner of tricks just to save myself time and frustration *when* I make a mistake. (I'm not vain enough to think that my knitting is "perfect" and that I won't make a mistake.)

However, I've seemed to *not* taken that advice to heart when it comes to photography. (And you may ask yourself what this has to do with costuming or knitting or crocheting, but I'm getting to that....)

Specifically, I won't mark a knitting/crochet project as 'finished' (on Ravelry) until I can get a photo of it up onto the project page. HOWEVER, sometimes it takes me a while to get the photo because I'm too busy or the outside light isn't good enough or I just do not want to take out the lights and setup a whole photoshoot because I'm lazy.

Consequently, I'm missing photos of various projects I have finished because I haven't gotten around to taking those photos. Dragging out all of the professional gear can be sometimes a hassle and not to mention heavy/bulky to carry around ALL THE TIME.

Chase Jarvis, who is a very successful photographer whose work I do admire, said that the *BEST camera* is the one you have with you. And, nowadays, most people actually have their camera phone with them at all times. Chase even has a whole website dedicated to iPhone & mobile camera photography.

Sure, mobile or smartphone cameras don't have the bells & whistles of those fancy professional cameras (like my other ones) but it IS a camera. And if you HAVE a camera on you, you'll be more likely to use it.

So, this morning, before rushing off to work, I snapped several photos of myself wearing the sweater in the mirror using my iPhone, did some *minor* post processing on my special photo iPhone app, and now, I have a decent photo of my finished project.

Mondo Cable Pullover

Eventually, I'll get around to taking a better photo with my camera gear, but now I can consider this *DONE*. After all, perfection is the enemy of the done.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Casting On!

I love starting a new project; it's like sitting down to a new dessert that you know will be absolutely fabulous!

I had been pretty monogamous with my Mondo Cable Pullover, but have been jones-ing for a pair of socks for the past month, but I knew that if I put down the sweater, I wouldn't get back to it in a timely manner.

The day after finishing the pullover, I cast on for my 'vanilla' pair of socks (Cat Bordhi's Coralis sock pattern) with some Blue Moon medium weight sock yarn I had.


When I put the skein onto the swift, it looked like a veritable rainbow of colors. I loved looking at it. The resulting cake wasn't too attractive, but I'm keeping in mind the colors I saw on the swift. These will end up being a rainbow or "clown" socks, but I like having the motley of colors, especially after having only a few thousand stitches only in shades of red --- not that I don't like red; I love red, however, I do like variety!

I'm already 1" up on the toe.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mondo Cable KAL

I *finally* finished the Mondo Cable pullover late, late, late last night. I had a heckuva time with the neck band following her instructions. It just wouldn't come out correctly on one side. So I had to frog it at least twice.

(This is probably me not understanding her instructions because everyone else seems to grok it well enough). However, on the left hand neck edge, everything worked out well, and I could see what Bonne Marie wanted to do.

So, I just replicated that affect (which reminded me a lot of entrelac -- something I am wholly familiar) on the right hand neck edge.

And it worked beautifully. I tried it on last night and it fit perfectly, which pleases me to absolutely no end.

This morning, I wove in most of the ends, washed the sweater (which needed it after being dragged around for the past month), and set it out to dry. It really didn't need blocking -- I had steam blocked the body ribbing and it no longer curled.

AND NOW, since I had been so darn monogamous with this project, I get to work on a pair of socks! I wound a skein into a cake and cast on my favorite vanilla pair of socks with some very colorful Blue Moon medium weight.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Mondo Cable Pulli: KAL

Last night, I had my very first set-back on the Mondo Cable Pullover. I had modified the sleeve pattern slightly to include extra stitches for the left sleeve, and thought those modifications would suffice for the right sleeve.

However, I did not remember that my right bicep is ever-so-slightly bigger than my left bicep, which can make a huge difference when doing a somewhat closely fitted garment. When I sew, I always have to accommodate for a difference in sleeve sizes for both arms; I don't know why I thought knitting would be any different?

So, when I tried it on when the sleeve was mid-forearm, the bicep was a bit too snug for comfort. I thought that maybe blocking would "fix" the problem, but I opted to just rip back as while blocking fixes some things, it would be better if I just corrected the problem.

Luckily, I had put lifelines in at various places, so I ripped back to mid-bicep (about 4-5 inches) on the sleeves and just added about 2 more inches from the previous increase. After trying it on, the bicep area felt much more comfortable when wearing it.

While 4-5 inches might not seem like a lot, it's taking me FOREVER to get through this project, so it represents about 2-3 days worth of progress. Oh well.

Currently, I'm at elbow-length and doing normal decreases at this point.

So note to self: lengthen out the number of rounds before each decrease on the right sleeve.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Spinner's Study: Finn

I often fluctuate between trying to get finished objects documented on my blog...or finishing up objects so I can update my blog. It's a whole chicken and egg thing. :-)

But, here's a recent finished spinning project with Finn that I spun up on my Kiwi. I wanted to spin things a little thicker than I had been lately, so I experimented with about 2 oz of Finn top.

First, a bit about Finn:
Finn, Finnsheep, or Finnish Landrace Sheep, are among the Nordic breeds from which the Shetland, Icelandic, Romanov and Norwegian Spaelsau originate. All are believed to have descended from the wild mouflon sheep. Finn came from Finland to Canada in 1966 then into the US in 1968. In the U.S, their primary use has been in cross-breeding programs to increase lambing percentage of commercial flocks (as they mature early and breed often)

Finns come in a variety of natural colors with white or black being the most common, but they also come in gray, brown, or fawn. While the fleece is lightweight (5-6 lb.) it is highly praised by hand spinners as it blends easily with other fibers, has a long staple (3-6"), and a wool spinning count in the 50's (24 to 31 microns). Finnsheep fleeces are low-lanolin and high-yeilding fleeces -- averging 70% yield after cleaning.

The American Wool Council ranks Finn wool in the fine end of the medium-wool catagory with a micron range of 23.5 to 31and a staple length of 3 to 6 inches. The wool has a well-defined crimp, a very soft hand (feel) and beautiful luster. Finn wool is extremely popular with handspinnners and is one of the world's most requested wools for felting. It is the most lustrous in its class and is quite different than Shetland and Icelandic wool. Most wools of luster similar to Finn wool are from much coarser-coated breeds. (Finn Breeder's Association)

Now, onto my spinning:

I had about 2oz of white Finn top that I purchased from Spunky Eclectic (I had purchased a slew of 2oz of various fibers to try out).

Since I had just finished spinning merino before Finn, this wool felt a bit 'scratchier' (but then again, anything after merino is scratchy). But when I began spinning it, I found it to be quite enjoyable.

Currently, I'm spinning this on my Ashford Kiwi with my largest whorl at 5:5 ratio. As a result, I'm spinning a bit thicker than I have been spinning other wools thus far. I'm spinning it at about a DK-sport weight as a single.

The staple length is about 4-5" long, so I'm experimenting with a "backdraw" worsted drafting instead of a front-draw worseted drafting (since I'd like to learn how to do a long draw later and I want to get used to doing a backdraw). I'm pulling the fiber hand back, while my passive (hand closest to the orifice) slowly lets the twist go into the fiber (and I'm careful never to have twist in the drafting triangle).

I spun up two bobbins of 1 oz of Finn, and created a 2-ply.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Mondo Cable Pulli

Currently, I'm still plugging along the Mondo Cable Pullover (KAL).

(The Mondo Cable 2nd Sleeve)

March 28th -- I finished the body on March 28, and used the prescribed 5/1 ribbing on smaller needles. I've also picked up the sleeves and worked on a few rounds. I increased the initial stitch count by 2 on the sleeves because I work out and my biceps are…well, large for my size. (Whenever I sew, I always have to modify the armscye & sleeves.)

March 29th -- Well, the sleeves are going a lot faster than the body. I tried on the sweater just before the 1st Decrease, and realized that if I followed the rest of the pattern, the sleeves would have almost no ease and maybe even negative ease..

So, I added another 4”, before started the 1st Decrease. And I’ve mapped out where to put the other decreases (approximately every 10 rounds with my modifications) so that it comes to the right length with approximate finished stitch count. I added a whole bunch of lifelines at various places just in case I need to frog back.

April 4th -- I finished the first sleeve. I shortened the sleeve just a tad and used a 4-2 ribbing (on same size needles) instead of the 5-1 ribbing (on smaller needles), and after trying it on, it’s only a tad bit longer than perfect, which is okay by me.

I’ve picked up the stitches on the second sleeve and am into the first few rounds. I’m still loving the pattern and will definitely make more. (It’s just a matter of having time to knit nowadays!)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Spinning a Japanese Maple

So, a while ago, I received this fiber & spindle from Butterfly Girl Designs:

Butterfly Girl Spindle & Japanese Maple roving
Japanese Maple - 70% merino, 20% bamboo, 10% nylon firestar

It reminded me of a Japanese Maple in the fall. Much like this:

(BTW, I love Japanese Maple Trees)

I used the pictured drop spindle to turn it into this:

Japanese Maple

And then, the poor fiber sat resting all this time, because I wasn't sure what to do with it! I wasn't 100% happy with how it turned out, because the colors (at least to me) seemed muddy, even though I loved the fiber colorway. I wanted more of the gold to pop.

However, I know that sometimes how the fiber looks prepared is a bit different from how it might spin up...or even how it might knit up. So, I wasn't ready to trash the project.

I debated plying it against itself or maybe spinning something to match or maybe a commercial yarn. In perusing through my stash, I remembered that I had this:

Jagger Main line Merino Gold
Jagger 100% Wool Cone -- 5000 yards

Certainly, I could spare a few hundred yards for this project? LOL. The coloration was close enough to the gold bamboo in the batt, so I opted to give it a go. So, I prepped up the Kiwi wheel for plying.

And at first, I wasn't too happy with how it looked, except for certain spots. But I opted to keep trying. I *knew* that the gold would bring out the colors and to trust myself on my knowledge of color theory. My plying wasn't the greatest, but a little help from Jasmin and I got this....

Japanese Maple

I am definitely in love. The gold really made all of the colors pop and tied everything together. I currently have 495 yards of laceweight/fingering weight yarn. Plus, I still have some of the batt left over. I think I might be able to squeeze another 50-60 yards out.

And think I've found the *perfect pattern* to go with the yarn. I'm not wholly sure how well this yarn will look in this pattern. So I will try a pattern swatch. Now, I just have to figure out how to knit up this pattern (coz after reading it, my head is spinning!)