Thursday, September 13, 2007

No Banana!

The annoying, secret, new pattern knitting is almost over. I swear! The AntiCraft project is even more thrilling than I anticipated it would be, the sock design has been submitted to Knitty, and I'm about to rip out the only recent knitting you've seen a photo of. (The Monkeys were too busy. Bad Monkeys. No banana!)

I'll be back to the Autumn Color Cardigan soon, just in time for the real arrival of the season. We've had several days of rain that broke our recent heat wave. The rain stopped yesterday, and autumn arrived. The air was crisp and cool, plans for apple picking were made, and I took a walk around Robin Hood Pond. The trees are still mostly green, but every so often it's possible to find a beautiful red leaf that's ahead of schedule.

Autumnal Preparations

That's Shetland on the spindle, from the sampler pack Brenda sent this summer. And how happy am I that I had a friend to treat me with great wool as I was learning to spin! I recently discovered that the 8 oz. of Romney roving I bought at NHSW feels just icky to spin. I'm not experienced enough to know if I it's because I don't like carded wool, or if there is a problem with the preparation or quality of this roving. Whatever it is, if I hadn't had a pile of nice wool from an experienced spinner to start out with, I fear that I may have given up on spinning!

The wool in the photo above is more brown than it looks. The silvery bits were really picked up in the photograph, but in real life it's quite close to the color of my own hair, which is not yet silver. I've already finished spinning the singles for the grey wool from the sample pack.

Salt and Pepper Shetland Singles

There are 2 more colors of Shetland left after these (cream and very dark brown), and then I'll work on plying the singles and coming up with a pattern for them. I think it's got to be colorwork, and that a hat would be nice. I may be tempted to buy a small amount of a soft fiber to spin up yarn for a lining. Shetland isn't the softest stuff, and I figure that my first handspun Shetland will be a real wildcard when it comes to next-to-the-skin wearability. Plus, trying out a small bit of merino (or merino/silk!) on my drop spindle will surely be a character building experience. Maybe I'll try to find the brightest colored roving or top possible, for some fun secret contrast.

To get those grey Shetland singles on the niddy noddy, I had to skein up the yarn that was already on the niddle noddy. I knew I liked it before, but after it was skeined up I just fell in love.

The first yarn I've ever truly loved.

That's half of the Blue Faced Leicester, not yet set, but looking absolutely perfect in my eyes. It's been so long since I spun and plied it that I don't remember the weight and yardage. After I set it I'll get all the measurements again. I plied this batch using the hand plying method I found on Knitty. After trying a center pull ball (complete disaster) and Andean plying (numb digits and messiness), I think this is the plying method for me. I have a feeling that it works best with "old" singles, which is what the BFL was, having sat around for weeks. The Shetland will be old, with relatively little energy in the singles, by the time I ply it. I hope it works as well for that yarn as it did for my darling BFL.

I've been struggling with what to do about the book reviews I mentioned previously. I decided that I really didn't have strong opinions about either of the books I had originally been planning to review, and I feel that a review without strong opinions isn't much of a review at all. One of them may still merit a review, but for now I'll write a little about a book that I do feel strongly about.

I recently found a very cheap copy of Montse Stanley's Knitter's Handbook, a book I'd heard about but had never actually seen in a store before. This book is about as complete a technical guide as I can imagine. I prefer illustrations to photographs, and this book is full of amazingly detailed and clear drawings. Most of the photographs in the book are of finished garments, many of them historical or "vintage", that illustrate specific techniques. Check out the stockings on page 53 -- doesn't it make your jaw just drop!

What's amazing about this book is the variety of options it gives you for so many of the techniques. I'd have bought it just for the chapter on casting on and binding off, which contains techniques I'd never even heard of. Reading through the book made me want to take out a fresh skein of yarn and try out every technique described, including the ones I already knew how to do. The book will make me a better knitter and a better designer, and is cheap enough that I think every knitter should own a copy. The only potential problem with the book is that it uses non-US terminology, which may be confusing for knitters in the US who are first learning and have only see US terminology elsewhere. But even that isn't a huge hurdle, and shouldn't be a hurdle at all for anyone who's information savvy enough to be reading blog posts about knitting.

My other review is a product review, and not quite as glowing. I finally got the chart keeper from Knitpicks, after using the ratty old sheet of metal that I bought a couple of years ago at a yarn store. You know those metal chart holders -- the ones that are just a smidge too small for a standard 8.5 x 11" sheet of paper, leaving you with frayed edges? I foolishly didn't look at the product description for the chart keeper, and admit that my disappointment at its size is my fault. I just assumed that each half of it would be large enough to hold a standard piece of paper, making it a chart tool that would improve upon the one I already owned. Unfortunately, it's half that size. It does open up to a size that would fit an 8.5 x 11" sheet of paper, but that's not very useful because the middle, where it needs to fold, is obviously not backed by metal. (Plus, I'd rather not have to fold my charts.) I've found a few uses for it, but am truly astounded that they decided to make this item so small. Yes, it's more portable. But it's not going to work with most of the charts I'd want to use it for. I suppose it's not worth the expense of sending it back, but I really hope they come out with a larger version. Portability is meaningless if the item you're carrying around doesn't provide the functionality you need it for.

So as not to end the post on a downer (really, the thing is great, if you only ever use teeny charts!), here's a sneak peek at the sweater I'll likely be knitting after I finish my cardigan. It's what Alex requested, and the fall weather is putting me in a back to basics mood. It may also mean another trip to Harrisville to choose just the right color, which is always a good thing.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love your spinning results. When I hadn't yet learned to spin someone offered me a drop spindle an I was all "Eh. I've never seen anything that I want to make come off a drop spindle. I think I'll hold out and take a class with a wheel." But you're making exactly the kind of yarn I want to make. It's very lovely.

Also, try emailing knitpicks about the chart keeper, and the idea for a bigger one. They seem really responsive to things - I just emailed them the other day about a crochet tip for the options set and they got back to me right away about how other people suggested the same thing, and they were looking into it. So it might be worth an email.

9/13/2007 8:29 AM  
Blogger Pumpkinmama said...

Great spinning! For what its worth, I cannot stand spinning romney, no matter the prep, its just a wool that never feels "right" to me.

9/13/2007 8:45 AM  
Blogger Stacey said...

good thing you mentioned that about the chart keeper - I almost bought one and also NEVER looked at the size. I found one that was 8.5x11 in an office supply store for holding up documents while you type. I've been stalking a few copies of the Knitters Handbook on ebay and a few other places. Good to know it will be a worthwhile purchase!

9/13/2007 9:03 AM  
Blogger The Digger said...

I did the exact same thing with the Knitpicks chart holder. Never even crossed my mind that it would be that small. Which really sucked, as the chart I needed it to hold was *2* 8.5x11 papers side by side.

9/13/2007 9:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like Montse Stanley's book, but I find that when I'm trying for the first time a technique she describes, I need other sources to complement it. The pictures don't go far enough, nor do they show step-by-step instructions. Although not nearly as comprehensive, the book by Katharina Buss has much better diagrams. I have also relied on videos. What I do like best about Stanley's book is that it shows the many options available for a technique and describes its benefits or drawbacks. But then I've got to research further. Before this book came out, she had a series of articles in Threads magazine that often explained in more detail the reasons, say, for using one cast on method instead of another.


9/13/2007 10:28 AM  
Blogger LaurieM said...

Perhaps a photocopy of the chart (that you can cut to size) would work better?

9/15/2007 3:33 PM  
Blogger pamela wynne said...

Oh, beautiful spinning results! I'm also a big fan of the Montse Stanley book -- I can even get past the cranky judgmental prose, since the technical stuff is so, so good! :)

9/15/2007 9:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your spindle spinning is wonderful. The singles are so fine and even! :-)

I've also spun some Romney that was highly unpleasant to work with, but I think it was just badly prepared. I'd like to try some more from a different vendor before writing the whole breed off. ;-)

9/18/2007 10:30 AM  

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