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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Blogger Nancy said...

Exciting new projects! Hope you have the happiest of fibery birthdays!

1/07/2009 5:53 PM  
Blogger Siew said...

That spinning is so beautiful. And those little rolls of fibre, just waiting to be spun - amazing. The pure white of it is fabulous but I'd be afraid of a white sweater as well.

1/07/2009 6:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday!!

1/07/2009 7:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday!

1/07/2009 7:52 PM  
Blogger Becki said...

Happy birthday to the most inspiring knitter and spinner I know! :D

1/07/2009 8:13 PM  
Blogger knithound brooklyn said...

Happy Birthday! Mine was Sunday and spent the day with other knitters at my house, eating and knitting. Pure bliss! Your day sounds blissful too!

Love the spinning. Love the white.

Good luck on the sweater.

1/07/2009 8:22 PM  
Blogger Shaina said...

Happy birthday! Those singles look breathtaking. You could always dye the finished garment afterward.

1/07/2009 8:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy birthday! Your combed top is making me want combs, which I feel may be dangerous. I'm glad you're excited about your sweater projects!

1/07/2009 8:38 PM  
Blogger Elinor said...

Happy birthday! I love your aran sweater! I hear you on it taking a long time. I have one that's 3/4 done and it's dragging on forever. They get too hard for me to knit consistently as they get bigger and take up too much room! I hope your snowy day went well!

1/07/2009 9:35 PM  
Blogger Molly said...

That fiber, and that bobbin, look fantastic. You're making me want to buy some combs, but since I've barely touched fiber in several months that would be silly.

Anyway, you can always dye the sweater---a little scary, but totally do-able. (Although take a tip from someone who's done it: you have to gently stir the sweater for even color. VERY important!).

You can be scientific and do a test-run with your swatch(es), measure the dye powder, etc. Do you dye, ever? My only other tip/trick is that you need a contrast color (green for red/brown, yellow or red for blue, etc) to give the dye a more adult look; by themselves, the dyes I've seen all come out very "I bought this for my 8-year-old": kelly green, electric blue, firetruck red, etc. For a nice forest or cornflower or brick, you need to mix. But it's pretty intuitive, really.

1/07/2009 10:57 PM  
Blogger Kirsten said...

Happy Birthday!!
I completely agree about that book. I love every sweater in it. They are all so beautiful, and beautifully presented.

I admire you for spinning yarn for a sweater. I'm not sure I have the persistence required to see such a project through.

1/07/2009 11:52 PM  
Blogger Theresa said...

Happy Birthday! That book is so gorgeous, I'm stalled thinking about what to knit first.

1/07/2009 11:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

as a fellow spinner, i must say that that is some of the most delicious-looking top i've seen. i totally agree with you about combed top vs. most of the commercial stuff. i had a lot of combed top from lorna's laces if you're looking for a commercial combed wool top. it's about 10oz so yuo get a good amount.

that sweater looks amazing, too, and cascade 220 heathers is such a good yarn...220 yards of heathered merino for $7. how could it get any better?

1/08/2009 12:09 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Beautiful fiber!

Happy Birthday! Enjoy it!

Ok, that was actually yesterday...

1/08/2009 12:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh I love corriedale - yours looks great - soft and fluffy. Very nicely spun!

1/08/2009 7:14 AM  
Blogger Andreapgn said...

Happy birthday!

I love the picture of your combed top, I think I would have saved on of this balls just to look at and squish it every so often!

1/08/2009 7:46 AM  
Blogger mel said...

Happy Birthday!

And, Wow, that's some lovely spinning - I haven't spun in so so long. I have a really hard time finding a balance of knitting and spinning time - I have big spinning dreams, but I can't seem to make time for it. Someday ;) This will make you a beautiful sweater - your combed bumps look luscious!

1/08/2009 8:00 AM  
Blogger Anne P said...

Happy birthday! (Belated tho it is).

Is that book not absolutely fantastic? I think it should be a staple on any knitter's shelf. It has a ton of information PLUS great patterns. Can't beat that!

1/08/2009 8:27 AM  
Blogger Donna said...

Happy Birthday! A Fine Fleece may be my favorite knitting book as well, though I think the Halcyon Aran might be my first choice. Have fun with Staghorn...

1/08/2009 9:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday! Thank you for posting so much of your spinning adventures -- I can't wait to see how it all turns out!

1/08/2009 9:40 AM  
Blogger YawnOver said...

Your sweater looks fantastic - can't wait to see the FO :)

1/08/2009 10:58 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Happy (belated) birthday!

Your combed top looks simply divine -- like squooshy little clouds! It must be great to be able to spin from fiber that's prepped exactly as you like it.

I'm looking forward to seeing how your sweater spinning goes in the months ahead! (And I completely empathize with your feelings about white sweaters; if I wore a white sweater, I'd be guaranteed to drop something on it in five minutes!)

1/08/2009 11:04 AM  
Blogger wiscjennyann said...

Happy (belated) birthday! The sweater is beautiful and, oh man, that basket of fluffy goodness looks like a dream! (Happy new year too!)

1/08/2009 1:45 PM  
Blogger auntiemichal said...

Hippo Birdy to Ewe!

I don't buy many books anymore, but A Fine Fleece made the cut; every pattern appeals to me!

1/08/2009 1:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday ;D Very interesting sweater you have on your needles :D

1/08/2009 2:33 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Happy Birthday! Have a great day! I'm with you about the book.

1/08/2009 7:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday!

What great projects to start the new year with:)

1/09/2009 1:20 PM  
Blogger ktb38 said...

Happy birthday! Your sweater looks lovely!

1/11/2009 8:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A belated VERY Happy Birthday to you! Yours is 1 month, 1 day after mine. The bobbin full of white yarn is beautiful -- represents all kinds of possibilities. Also, love the texture of the sweater. Beautiful!

1/25/2009 12:44 PM  

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