Thursday, July 17, 2008

Albino Bees and Twisted Yak

In case the title doesn't give it away, this is going to be a fiber-focused post. First, let's get to the Tour de Fleece update. Here's where I am as of yesterday afternoon (Wednesday):

Tour de Fleece Progress

I've been trying to test the thickness of my singles periodically as I spin, and it looks like my singles will only give me a fingering weight if they are done up as a two-ply rather than three-ply. It's been much easier to remember to check since I'm spinning a little every day instead of spinning a ton all in one or two afternoons. This poses a bit of a color problem, as I had originally planned on slow-color change, navajo-plied yarn. Both mitts would start with the beautiful light sand color and end up with the dusky dark blue, and be nearly identical twins. But that won't work now that I've started and must have a two-ply fingering weight, unless I want the mitts to be extremely fraternal twins instead of just slightly fraternal (like one would have all the blue or something similarly strange).

My solution? Fractal stripes. I learned about this technique from the fabulous Jen at the Color Fiber Festival. The basic idea follows, assuming you're starting with a multi-colored roving and want a two-ply yarn. Let's say your color change is green-blue-purple.

1. Spin one bobbin (half the fiber) so that it goes through only one cycle of the color change, that is, the color goes green-blue-purple.

2. Take the other half of the fiber and split it lengthwise into three (or four or five or however many you feel like and how long you want your stripes), and spin the bobbin so that it goes through that number of cycles of color change. For example, this bobbin will go green-blue-purple-green-blue-purple-green-blue-purple.

3. Ply! You will get interesting color changes, some barber pole looking sections and some sections where the yarn goes solid.

This will work great for me, because I can use my spinning so far as the one-slow-color-change part. So in the photo above, you can see how I've managed to divide up the locks into three piles that each contain enough yak fiber to make one smaller color change. Hopefully the two plies will have about the same length, but I'm not too optimistic about this.

I've managed to keep spinning a little every day, although yesterday I almost forgot to spin! I was brushing my teeth before bed, and suddenly remembered that while I'd meant to spin all afternoon, I'd never actually gotten around to it. Mostly because I was too busy with the Honeybee Stole.

Honeybee Progress

I decided that since the pattern calls for 1400 yards of yarn and I have 1410 yards between my three skeins of Malabrigo lace, I should do maybe one less pattern repeat in the first section (Beehive section). So I did 9 instead of 10, as insurance. Also, I realized when I read the dimensions of the project, I mistook the unblocked measurements for the blocked measurements... and there's no way I need a 7-foot-tall stole. I'm 5'6" on a good day. 7 feet minus two pattern repeats will still be plenty big.

The photo shows my progress (again as of yesterday morning), and this pattern has an uncanny ability to hold my attention for hours. HOURS! I kid you not. I've done a fair bit of lace knitting, mostly stuff that has minimal patterning on the wrong side rows, which is significantly easier. The Beehive section was no sweat, the only issue was making sure I'd cast on the correct number of stitches initially. I kept myself busy in the car with the Beehive section while we were driving around Italy and France. The Bee Swarm section (first four pattern repeats visible on the right side of the photo) upped the ante: extensive patterning on the wrong side of the knitted fabric. I don't think I've ever had to do the reverse-side decreases and yarnovers before in a project. The shawls I've done were all either "purl back all even-numbered rows" or circular, so you never worked on the wrong side. This morning before writing the post I got excited and decided I was going to brave through the first Bee and Honeycomb section pattern repeat. There's dropping three yarnovers, casting on extra stitches in the middle of a row, tons and tons of purl-two-togethers on the wrong side, and it is intense. But I adore the little knitted bee outlines, so it's easy to push myself onward.

The crazy part is that I sat down with a calculator and figured out that I'm more than a third finished with this project! I kind of want to start another pair of socks, for bus and insurance knitting (in case something goes horribly wrong with the stole... knock on wood!). I'm fairly certain that the airlines will not allow my lovely Addi Turbo Lace needles on the plane, with the long-enough-to-choke-a-guy cord and extra-pointy, gold-plated needle tips... so the question is whether I can finish this before I leave in two weeks. I kinda doubt it, and the kicker is that I would LUUURRVE to take this project on the plane! It's perfect plane knitting, except for the sad fact of the Addi Lace needles. I try to stick to bamboo double-pointed needles for the plane, because at least I can argue that they're about as harmful as a pencil. So I might have to stop this project while mostly finished, stuff it into my checked bags, and start something else for my plane ride home.

Lastly, I bought yarn while in France. Most of the yarn shops I've visited in Germany (with the exception of the place that was closed in Freiburg) haven't really had any yarn I couldn't find at home or couldn't live without. The yarn I got in Munich has no tags, so I kinda wonder if it was processed locally (like really locally). In Lyon, we passed a hat shop (Florimode near la quartier de la Croix-Rousse), and I noticed they had yarn so I popped in. Luckily they had something that I probably won't be able to get in the States:

French Yarn

I picked out colors that I think would make good Endpaper Mitts, although not necessarily for me. Alright folks, it's time for lunch so I'm gonna let you go here. Hopefully I'll have some more exciting weekend adventures to share on Monday!

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