Thursday, January 15, 2009

Baby Baby Baby!

Well, only one baby. A very good friend of mine, as I type this, is in a hospital in NYC, bouncing on a yoga ball, and trying to convince her daughter to join us here on the outside. C'mon kiddo! You can do it!

Of course, I have knit.

Baby Yours

Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's Baby Yours sweater, in Socks That Rock mediumweight.

Baby Yours

I've settled on the yellow buttons.

February Baby Sweater

Elizabeth Zimmermann's February Baby Sweater, also in Socks That Rock mediumweight.

February Baby Sweater

This button's twin will live on a project for me. (More about that in a future post.)

Really, there's not much more to say about the sweaters. Straightforward and beautiful, and I really do need to get them in the mail.

Watch out, world. All babies are special, but this one will be extraordinary. I promise.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Snow Day

It's my birthday, and the wintry mix outside meant that I got home from work early. What a treat! (I do enjoy work, but I also welcome surprise birthday early closings.)

As I wrote a few days ago, I have a long backlog of projects to share with you guys. But since this is a special day for me all around, I'm going to temporarily skip over the stuff that's done and write a bit about my two long-term ongoing projects, both of which I find quite pleasing and exciting.

I am delighted to be working on a sweater again, after a very long break from sweater knitting. Too long of a break, really. A few months ago I bought Lisa Lloyd's book A Fine Fleece, and promptly fell in love with just about every project in the book. It's a fantastically beautiful book, and everyone reading this should buy a copy. Immediately. (And if times are tight and you can't afford to splurge on a book, go look for it at your local library.) The idea behind the book is to provide knitters who spin with patterns for their own handspun. Each of the projects in the book (most of which are sweaters) are knit in both a commercially available yarn and a handspun yarn. The projects are tasteful and wearable, and full of just the right amount of texture. I have chosen, as my first project from the book, the Staghorn aran. I'm knitting it out of Cascade 220 Heathers, in the Sapphire color. Here's an old photo of the back, about halfway done:

Staghorn Aran

I just finished the back, and have started on the front. Arans take a long time to knit, with all of those cables, but I'm not yet bored or tired of knitting on this sweater. And best of all, it should be done in time for there to still be cold weather here in New Hampshire. Here's an artsy detail shot:

Staghorn Aran

Really, this book deserves a more thorough review, because it is that good. But I don't have the book in front of me, and I admit that I haven't read through all of the text yet, because I still haven't finished completely drinking in all of the patterns and the pattern photos. But it is rare for me to find a pattern book where I am so gaga over so many of the patterns. I can be very picky. And, well, I pick this book. It's probably my favorite pattern book, and that's saying a lot.

I did feel a little bad that my first sweater from the book was in millspun yarn. Not that there's anything necessarily wrong with millspun yarn, but it seemed a shame to have this book full of information about how to best use my handspun for a beautiful sweater, and to be taking the easy way out. But then Amy started the January '09 quarterly spin along in the Spinner Central group on Ravelry, and I knew my sweater's time had come. The goal of the spin along is to spin yarn for a cabled sweater during the first 3 months of 2009. I had all that beautiful corriedale that I washed, and decided to jump right in.

I'm not being as thorough about my yarn planning as many of the other participants of the spin along. I haven't chosen a sweater pattern, and don't plan to until my yarn is done. I am letting the fiber be what it wants to be, and will figure out what the yarn is best suited to later. I did know that I'd want to spin a 3 ply yarn, which is ideal for showing off texture, and I did a small sampling before starting to spin in earnest, just to make sure I liked the yarn I was making.

I'm working with combed top, which I have made myself. Actually, I've probably only combed about 1/3 of the fiber, so I'll have to take some spinning breaks to get the rest done. Here is a photo of just a bit of my combed top:


Isn't it heavenly! Spinning with hand combed top is much different than spinning with commercially prepped top. It is lighter and fluffier, and much easier for me to draft. I often pre-draft commercially prepped top, at least a little bit, because I find it unpleasant to work with very densely packed fiber. It would never even occur me to pre-draft my hand combed top. It is perfect as-is. I honestly wish I could send every spinner in the world a little muffin of combed top, so they could experience it first-hand.

I finished my first bobbin a few days ago. Here it is, in all its glory:

And so it begins.

I'm not sure how many bobbins I'll have in the end. I estimated 9, but it's hard to tell, because I honestly don't know how much fiber I have. I think I bought 3.5 pounds, but that was before it was scoured. It loses weight in scouring, and then there is a lot of combing waste. It might turn out to be a bit less than 9, but at the moment I really don't care. Mostly, I'm enjoying the spinning. I was concerned that I would get bored spinning this much white fiber, and while there's still plenty of time to get bored with the project, I'm cautiously optimistic. Most of my spinning projects are only 4 oz, total. Yet this first bobbin felt like a beginning, not an end. I'm about 2/3 of the way through my second bobbin, and I'm still very excited about the project. No boredom, yet!

In case you're interested in some technical info., I'm spinning my singles to match up to the 28 wraps per inch line on my spinner's control card. I don't find my spinner's control card to to be that accurate (I usually get a different wpi than it says I should for a given thickness of yarn), but that doesn't matter much. All I need to know is that my singles should match that particular line, so I can periodically check to make sure my singles are fairly consistent. I have three kinds of bobbins: the regular Schacht bobbins, WooLee Winder bobbins, and high speed Schacht bobbins. I plan to only spin on my regular Schacht bobbins, and re-wind all of my bobbins onto other bobbins for storage. I'll probably ply on my WooLee Winder bobbins.

I don't know if I'll be keeping the yarn white, or if I'll dye it. The idea of a white sweater makes me a little nervous (I'm not good at keeping clothing stain-free), but I'm not sure if I could dye a sweater's worth of yarn evenly, and I don't like the idea of having to alternate skeins every few rows of a knitting project. I probably should have dyed the fiber before I combed it, but it's too late for that. And I'm very reluctant to dye my combed top, because I suspect that it would lose a lot of its airiness if I did.

That's my exciting new stuff. I hope you all are also delving into exciting new things at the beginning of this new year. Or at the very least, enjoying the not so new things you may be working on.

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Thursday, January 01, 2009

You are in for a treat.

You are in for a treat, because I haven't blogged for 5 weeks, but I have continued to make things. Yesterday I flipped through my Flickr photos, and made a list of all the things I have yet to blog about. There is so much to share! Some of it still needs to be photographed, which is very hard for me to do in the winter, because I need to count on having a clear day with good sunlight on a weekend day. But I'm getting there, and am going to kick off what I hope will be a collection of somewhat more frequent catch-up posts with some plain old spinning. Yarn I've made, not attached to a specific project, not necessarily with an interesting background story or tales of techniques learned. Just some good old fashioned handspun.

Glowing and Squishy

Wensleydale Singles

Wensleydale Singles

The last of my small Hello Yarn fiber stash, this beautiful skein is Wensleydale Singles, in the Illuminated colorway. About 9 wpi, 116 g., and 202 yd., I'm thinking it will be great in a simple roll brim stockinette hat. It's very loosely spun, though I achieved that effect by running it back through the spinning wheel in the opposite direction, to take out some of the twist I put in when I first spun it. Worked like a charm! I haven't really thought much about this yarn since I spun it, but writing this up, I'm tempted to cast on for that hat today... perhaps even without swatching. Wild and crazy, I know.

This is the Yarn That Never Ends
(It just went on and on, my friends.)

green merino bobbin

green handspun merino

This is green merino, dyed by Crazy Monkey. I bought 8 oz. of it on a whim, and started spinning it on a whim. For some reason, finishing this spinning project felt like pulling teeth. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the fiber. It was all me. But it's done, and while it's not nearly my favorite yarn, ever, I think it will make great knee highs some day.

I admit, at one point I got so bored spinning it that I decided to spin some of it long draw, from the fold. Which is only a problem because that's not how most of it is spun, so obviously I had given up on any hope of getting a very uniform yarn. But at least it was a fun learning opportunity, bundled up in an inexplicably boring project. It is 17.5 wpi untensioned, 22.5 wpi tensioned, and feels like a heavy fingering weight. The skeins are not equal in size, but total up to 195 grams and 812 yards. More than enough for knee highs!

Yellow Is The Cure

Handspun Pulse BFL

Handspun Pulse BFL

I was feeling in a bit of a spinning slump, and the cure was to pull this Spunky Eclectic BFL top out of one of my fiber drawers. It had been a very long time since I spun with BFL, and I honestly don't know what I was waiting for. I still love the fiber, and the moment I started spinning it, I was already dreaming up the sweater I would knit out of handspun BFL, one day.

The yarn is a 3 ply light worsted weight, 12 wpi, 111 g., 178 yards. I was thinking of knitting a Koolhaas hat with it, though I'm not sure if the colors are too variegated for that. I might just start it, and then continue in plain ribbing (instead of the twisted stitch pattern) if it seems like that would be best.

For the record, the handspun BFL sweater I am dreaming of is in the Spunky Eclectic redwood colorway, and mostly stockinette. Perhaps turned hems, maybe using EZ's Seamless Hybrid pattern as a starting point? BFL tends to be fairly dense when spun up (at least the way I like to spin it) so something plain, without a lot of texture, seems to be the way to go. (Though I suspect there is also a natural colored, hand combed BFL sweater in my future. Grey or brown, with some cables here and there. Must keep my eye out for BFL fleeces this Spring...)

My Eyes Were Bigger Than My Stomach

spinning silk

I bought 4 oz. of beautiful hand dyed purple silk top from Julie Spins. It came in 2 ounce bundles, but I wanted more than that. The idea was to spin each bundle separately, and then ply them together for a 2 ply laceweight yarn.

I learned that spinning silk takes a lot of concentration. Julie's silk is gorgeous, but silk likes to fly away and bunch up and do all sorts of other things that wool doesn't tend to do. But the other good thing about silk is that a little goes a long way. I decided to stop after just short of 2 oz. I will ply this on itself, and I'm sure I'll have enough for something wonderful. The other 2+ ounces will sit around for a while, until I figure out what to do with it. At the moment, I'm thinking that it could be fun to blend with something. I bet a silk/wool blended batt would be easier to spin than straight silk. I don't have a drum carder, but I have been saving up pattern sale money for a while now, and perhaps I'll eventually use it (once I have enough, which could take a while) to buy a Strauch Petite. Or maybe I'll use it for heating fuel later this winter. We shall see!

Happy new year to everybody. It's nice to be back, and I just know that 2009 has to be better than 2008. (My year starts out with my birthday, then inauguration day, so things are looking up already!)

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